Jozef

He was a tall man. Thick. Dressed completely in black pinstripes. He looked like a circus freak. A dark one. A circus freak in chains. The clown perhaps. But the clown who dares you to keep on looking. To take a step closer. Entrances you with his invitation  to heavy burdens and to sorrow. The clown who laughs and makes you feel clattering inside.

He played the lute. An electric lute. How contemporary. In case you’re wondering, a lute is a rather large instrument. Larger than you’re imagining. Especially when it has about 24 strings. It looks more like a guitar than you’ve been led to believe and it is not a guitar. It is a moaning instrument. A lute suffers at its players hand. It is a strange and evil instrument. It is on fire. Rome is burning.

The name lute is an etymological derivation from an Arabic word. I didn’t have to look that one up. I remembered it from a few years ago when I first discovered the musical tradition of the oud. Yes I’m bragging but I’ll stop right now. The oud is a guitar-like instrument that predates the guitar. It has a shapely bodice like a pear or a pear shaped woman. I am not a musicologist but I gather that the oud has more strings than a modern day guitar and never had any frets. As an instrument, the oud  was open to interpretation, as any pear shaped thing should be. Half steps break what you think you know about music. Then come the fourth steps. Then eighth steps. All the sorrowful, undeclared, unresolved feelings that the string of a heart contains but never materializes in those “four-to-the-floor” beats and lurid pop songs about pussy shanking or whatever is in vogue these days for bankrupt western audiences.

So the oud. What does it sound like? It sounds like you’re by the ocean. It doesn’t have to be a pleasant day by the ocean. It is perhaps windy and rocky. Five centuries ago, a ship broke into a million pieces on that particular rock over there. Do you see it? The great black one with white crustacea foaming on its brittle back. If you listen closely you can hear the dead of the wreck singing their favorite love songs. They may be dead but they are singing if your oud player is skilled enough.

So, al-oud takes a little trip, she does. Pear shaped and all, across the abbreviated Mediterranean. Do you see where this is heading? Why Spain, of course. Al-oud to el oud to l’oud to –aha!– our lute in question. It’s a rather quick dissolve of salt in water. Could have happened over the course of a single port deal. Hands shaken, blessings said, mi casa es al-oud.

Fast forward only about 500 years. A few more ships have crashed. Planes were invented. Those crashed too, incidentally. Near the same rock. Can you believe it? A very strange chorus has erupted in that exact spot of the double ship wreck and plane crash. It’s difficult to categorize the genre exactly. Sort of a dirge meets rock opera ballad. In any event, I went to a concert in Los Angeles a few weekends ago.

There he was. The Dutchman. Sitting cross legged in his black, pinstriped clown suit. His lank hair falling in his face. Everything about him looked so greasy. His hair, his pants, his slick and beautiful red lute. You couldn’t look away. You wondered, is this guy for real? And then he started playing.

He’s playing the lute. The electric lute. A gross contradiction in terms if you’re just reading about it. And yet. Is painful feeling — when it’s truly felt — dulled in its magnification? Or is it simply louder? Louder than all the plane crashes. Louder than pop songs raging their insolent substitution for substance. Louder than Spain. Louder than al-oud. Loud. Loud. Loud as we want to feel about our own private, drowning love songs.

 

brine

Sit in your house. Sweat. Come on now, sweat it out. Droplets form all over your skin in the oppressive heat of your un-aired room. The laundry gently bakes at the low grade convection of 75 degrees and the natural humidity of you and your other housemates. There may be sourdough naturally occurring in all the peripheries of your room.

Sit down harder. Sweat it out. Think out loud. Harder. Yes, that’s it. Now you’re getting it. You’re a concentrate. You’re stewing in and of yourself.  You’re in brine.

What ingredients are you adding to your brine? Everyone’s different. Me? I like a little garlic. Not too much. I know some people spoil for garlic. If given half a chance they would whip up toxically garlicky mascarpone to slather everywhere, all over their bodies, laying down scent trails to attract every other garlic nut for miles around for an indulgent orgy of pungency. Now, I wouldn’t say no to a morsel from the garlic of earthly delights but I’m not about to hand over my golden apple either. Sorry, where were we. I hope I haven’t lost you yet? At least, not on account of the garlic?

I like peppercorns in my brine. The jagged little black spheres always remind me of asteroids. Like space rocks collecting and spacing themselves out in an elegant ring around Saturn. A crackling spice loud enough to be tasted in the vacuous dark. So, a half dozen whole peppercorns into the boil.

Next, red pepper flakes. Mostly for color. They are just so darn autumnal. And how like leaves they are, drifting lazily to the bottom of the mason jar. Like a salty, spicy snow globe, enveloping an untouched little domicile.

Of course there’s other things you could put in: Bay leaf, coriander, a hot chili or two. But what are you pickling? Is it cucumbers? Is it mushrooms? Is it a vegetable that shares your name which contains multitudes? That’s interesting. A vegetable with unknown properties. Untested mettle. One that has never had to stew so long in its own juices, in such a tight and compacted space as this one? Hmmm. What will we be at the end of our brining?

Human person. Beautiful and strange. Combine with several heaping tablespoons of coarse or Kosher salt. Lightly boil and seal it all inside. We shall see in 18 months.

Minifesto

A while ago, I laid X9 down gently into stasis, cooing over her delicate tendrils and beautiful iridescent scales even as I punched in the code that would freeze her brain activity and glass over her myriad eyes. I didn’t know if I would come back for her. If she would drift forever in undead sleep, nestled cozy in a single strand of wire.

I thought about x9 from time to time, her shallow breath lightly frosting the inner lens of this device. But now I think it’s time again to wake her. Time to play in our little Dreadspace.

New Dread’s Eve

But what really happened to Aamer when he fell into the Goonscape? We know what happened before and after. His work, his son, his suicide. But our cherished explorer and philologist never did reveal what he heard or saw during his long stay in that strange and far away place.

Far away only in a sense. Since, as any Goonscoptic physicist will explain to you, the Goonscape is right here. Right on top of us. A sympathetic vibration, unseen, unsmelled, untouched unless… Well, unless you run into a sweet spot. A place where corners meet, where systems jam, a slurping bog where you fall forever and ever –until, of course, you stop falling and you are simply somewhere else.

New research into Aamer’s private papers reveal a new possibility. Something overlooked. Maybe it’s nothing. Or maybe, there’s another object that came crashing through the boundaries of time and space along with Aamer on his journey home.

Epilogue

Welcome to the end of x9dread. I’m glad you could make it. Though this wordpress is no longer updating, I am in the process of transmogrifying many of its elements and characters into a novel. Maybe someday it’ll get published and you’ll find it in a bookstore. Wouldn’t that be delightful and unexpected?

If you have found your way here because of the zine I authored (Three Types of Tension) then I recommend reading on. I think you may like some of these posts. The written work here is strange, somewhat funny and, at times, bilious.

 

Thank you for being someone who reads.

Part II

Dear Reader,

I would first like to thank you for going on this journey with me. I had never been to the future before, nor to the Goonscape. What’s more, I am fairly certain I would never have gone to those places or met the people who live there if you hadn’t come along with me. I am sincerely grateful for your companionship.

I imagine that at times it was a bit tedious having me as your only translator for strange peoples and places so I do apologize for any plot lulls or poorly written sections. We all try to get it right the first time but I know I failed at it at least a few times. In spite of those errors, I have decided to push myself to do more challenging work with this story. I’ve been developing a new avenue for some time now (behind the scenes– although there were little breadcrumbs along the way) and I think it is fitting and appropriate to call it Part II.

The Monopoly Machine + Portage Park

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Dear Reader,

A long time ago in August, a monopoly machine fastened itself to the top of my apartment building. The weather was mild and I remember I was cooking onions when I heard its jittering joints as it crawled up the side of the building, mounted the roof and penetrated the brick walls with the spines of its legs. Then it was still and did nothing for many months. I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you to worry.

But three days ago the monopoly machine began squeezing. The steel bracing of my  apartment building wails all day and all night. The edifice is crumbling. Nightly, metallic claws have been probing all our units, searching for prizes.

So far I’ve managed to dodge the mechanical hydra but I am forced to flee my home. I am now headed to a strange new place on the far west side of Chicago called Portage Park. It seems really nice. There’s a creepy old movie theater, a grocery store and my new landlord is shaped like a refrigerator.

I am very excited to get back to work writing x9dread. There are currently 20+ entries queued up for later in the month but please give me a chance to stitch them all together. I do not have the brainspace or timemaneuvers to write these as I simultaneously paint, clean, move all my belongings, and unpack myself. No doubt, I will be inspired by these experiences to write more cramped, panicked entries for your entertainment.

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