Last Of The Gallant Heroes

In moments of excitement Salvador is apt to lapse into broken English.

“Throw it into wind Jack. It’s a real Hollywood Spectacular.”

The air was cloyed with a sweet evil substance like decayed honey. I smoked some and felt a little dizzy and my throat hurt.

Licensed assassins are the new elite. I looked at him. We were the only riders and as soon as the car started we slipped off our shorts. I moved in for a close-up of the boy’s flank and took his shirt off followed the pants down, circled the pubic hair forest in slow autogyros, zeroed in for the first stirrings of tumescence, swooping from the stiffening blood tube to the boy’s face, sucking eyes with neon proboscis, licking testicles and rectum.

He laughed. “You trying to push me down the tone scale, baby?”

And I glimpsed a hidden meaning, a forgotten language, sniggering half-heard words of tenderness and doom from lips spotted with decay that send the blood racing to my crotch and singing in my ears as my penis stretches, sways, and stiffens naked lust surfaces in my face from the dark depth of human origins.

***

So I am a public agent and don’t know who I work for, get my instructions from street signs, newspapers and pieces of conversation I snap out of the air the way a vulture will tear entrails from other mouth. I’ve had every weapon in three galaxies pulled on me one time or another.

Happiness is a by-product of function. It is a long trip. Time jumps like a broken typewriter. In the terminals of Minraud, I woke up in the silent dripping dawn.

The paper and the embassy had warned me that I would be on my own, a thousand years from any help. I know the risks and make preparations.

***

Naked except for a quiver of silver arrows and a bow, [Salvador] radiated a calm disdainful authority. His face, devoid of human expression, molded by total function and purpose, blazes with an inner light. He looked at the ceiling, hands behind his head, cock pulsing.

“Finnies nous attendons une bonne chance!”

Time to be up and be gone.

***

Every citizen of Annexia was required to apply for and carry on his person at all times a whole portfolio of documents. You can’t fake it any more than you can fake a painting, a poem, an invention, or a meal for that matter. It won’t do you a bit of good on the trip that you’re gonna take. You need entirely too much.

The town is built over a vast mud flat criss-crossed by stagnant canals, the buildings on stilts joined by a maze of bridges and cat-walks extend up from the mud flats into higher ground surrounded by tree columns and trailing ianas, the whole area presenting the sordid and dilapidated air of a declining frontier post or an abandoned carnival.

A premonition of doom hangs over the valley. The scene looks like a tinted postcard. Silence – Solitude. Streets with flame gates. Rings of Saturn in the morning sky.

***

I was subject to hallucinations as a child. Flashes in front of my eyes naked and sullen. Cows driven into the slaughter chutes. Poisoned pigeons rain[ing] from the Northern Lights. Bodies rolled on the pallet leaving trails of flesh. Smell of blood and excrement in the Tangier streets. Afterbirth of a withered grey monkey.

I learned to use the shield of constant alertness, to see everybody on the street before they saw me. Your mind will answer most questions if you learn to relax and wait for the answer.

***

Well, things start to go wrong.

The street blew rain from solitude of morning, mixture of dawn and dream in doorways. Darkness fell in heavy chunks blocking out sections of the city. We were walking up tenement stairs. Rusty tracks overgrown with weeds.

The building I never quite saw was the armory. In the doorway Salvador stumbled over a pile of rags that smelled of urine and pulque. His voice falls flat and heavy in the damp air.

“What is word?”

The centipede nuzzled the iron door rusted to thin black paper by the urine of a million fairies. It was about two feet in length of a translucent green color.

Only one blast to free the lungs. Another shot in the side of the head and it rolled sideways, kicked three times, and died.

***

“Who’s that at the door?”

Bradley stood naked with ten subjects in a room lined with metal mirrors. He was putting away his instruments. Couples attached to baroque harnesses with artificial wings copulate in the air, screaming like magpies. Pulsing human skin stuck to faces half-remembered.

“Hello, Jack,” he trills, a ghostly child voice from a haunted attic. “Long long expected call from you.”

“I told you I would come.”

“What’s the commission? No one of your race has ever been here before.”

Without waiting for my answer he sat down not in a rude or objectionable manner but as if he belonged there looking at me with a familiar style. I felt the concussion of Bradley’s shot before I heard it. (NL-168)

“You’re dripping blood all over the floor.”

He laughed, black insect laughter that seemed to serve some obscure function of orientation like a bat’s squeak.

“If the mortality rate seems high we must realize that Nature is a ruthless teacher.” The man put on a tape of Arab drum music. “After all they’re only human cattle.”

Bradley sat in a booth and electrodes were attached to his skull and penis and lips. They cut off tiny bits of their flesh and grew exact replicas of themselves in embryo jelly. From a remote Polar distance I could see the doctor separate the two halves of their bodies and fitting together a composite being.

“Life is so beautiful! I can only advise you to leave the area.”

And Bradley fell slowly into the deep uterine sleep, frog boys curled between his legs and under his arms and on his chest streaked with iridescent slime from their sucker paws.

The room seems to shake and vibrate with motion. Blood runs in the pale door. There’s just no place to go.

***

I know now when it is too late what we are up against: a biologic weapon that reduces healthy clean-minded men to abject slobbering inhuman things undoubtedly of virus origins. These creatures are transparent like a heat wave, just the outline and the colors that flush through them and you can hear the whirr of wings hovering over you.

And if there is one thing thing that carries over from one human host to another and established identity of the controller it is habit. It is a humming sound that buzzes out of the larynx through the teeth, which are bared like wild dogs in the act of speech.

***

They looked up from their work. Salvador stands there all square-jawed and stern and noble like the Virginian getting set to hang his best friend for rustling the sacred cows on which the West is built. Naked and sullen his street boy senses darted around the room for scraps of advantage.

Shoot your way to freedom.

KAPOW KAPOW KAPOW

Shooting from the floor, he snapped two quick shots into Bradley’s belly…

***

One after the other, they fell away.

Juxtapositions of light made this dream. Excitement ran through me floating sensation. We could still hear Bradley out on the street.

Scores are coming in. Salvador does an insolent bump as he drills the sheriff right in the heart, and then just for jolly a quick shot to the head, which being a can of tomatoes with the top rusted explodes in a splash of red.

Empty all the hate faces sucked into fear. A frog-faced deputy sidles out of a doorway. Ghost hands twisted together in stone shapes. It is a man from the waist up and below that a giant spider covered with red hairs.

But Salvador is unperturbed. A shotgun blast catches the deputy in the side of the neck, nearly blowing his head off, he is falling against the sheriff’s horse streaking blood down the saddle, dead before he hits the street.

I could see people running now suddenly collapse to a heap of clothes. A bearded man falls slowly forward with a dreamy Christlike expression, a blue hole between his eyes from Salvador’s 32-20, brains spattering out the back of his head like scrambled eggs.

A flicker pause and the light shrank and the audience sound a vast muttering in Salvador’s voice.

“Quien es?” Salvador spoke in his dead, junky whisper. His eyes touched me inside.”Quédase con su medicína.”

I feel a numbing blow in the chest, sucking, grasping for breath that won’t come. I look down at the end. What have I my friend to give?

The birds drop and flutter to the ground, feathers drifting in dawn winds. And the idiot irresponsibles scream.

***

Well, these are the simple facts of the case and I guess I ought to know. 223 dead. The bodies were decomposed when found and identification was based on documents clothes and wrist watches. (SM-124) No one can ever say they did time because of me. When you ask Death for his credentials you are dead.

The Frisco Kid he never returns. Salvador’s body will remain here intact in deep freeze. The only thing I remember about his face is that he wore glasses. Other thoughts and memories separated like mold. The water we live in is time.

***

My own injuries were slight as usual and I was discharged from the hospital two days later. There was a raw ache through my lungs. Silence to say goodbye.

When I hit the street, I slipped and skidded on the wet sidewalk. The night air, balmy and cool round the edges, fanned my body. I was in a hysterical rage, though exactly why I cannot, in retrospect, understand.

_________

Notes:

1. Written/assembled on September 7th, 2019
2. This was made entirely using sentences from five different William Burroughs novels
3. Which were Junky, Naked Lunch, The Ticket That Exploded, The Soft Machine, and The Place Of Dead Roads
4. With no sentence used being from the same novel as the preceding or following sentence.
5. This is the first part of a trilogy called In The Terminals Of Minraud
6. The other two pieces being March My Captive Head and Fading My Name Through Dying Air
7. A fully annotated version of this can be read here: Last Of The Gallant Heroes (annotated pdf)
8. So you can see exactly where I was cheating my own rules

__________

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