Fading My Name Through Dying Air

So choose your color kid. Stand a little back from the game. Face to the west. Pretend an interest. Get it out of your head and into the machines.

***

Abruptly the city ends. Tentative half impressions that dissolve in light. Grey shadow on a distant wall. The putrid smell of rotten blood hangs over cities of the world like smog.

I don’t know how he got the address. The Empress Hotel is in a rundown shabby area on the edge of a rural slum with shops selling jellied eels and blood pudding.

In a room with metal walls magnetic mobiles under flickering blue light and smell of ozone. There was a jar of KY on a glass shelf. The waiter was singing through his disk mouth a bubbling cave song.

There are two drummers at the bar drinking beer. He looked around resentfully, as though what he saw was unfamiliar and distasteful. She puts on a record, metallic cocaine be-bop. In Minraud time. Screaming neon in the throat.

A portentously inconspicuous man, grey beard and grey face and shabby djebella, sings in slight unplaceable accent without opening his lips. “A violet by a mossy stone/Half hidden from the eye!” I handed him a brief case of bank notes and he faded into the shadows furtive and seedy as an old junky.

“You trying to short-time someone, Jack?”

I look up. Doolie looked at me and sucked on his cigarette. We were both emaciated now.

“You know the answer to that a lot better than I do.” The words came out so ugly I surprised and shocked myself.

I ordered two beers, and he went on telling me how he was accustomed to reciprocate. The waiter set down a flat limestone shell of squid bodies and crab claws.

“Have a cigarette,” he said.

I drew the black berry smoke deep into my lungs and symbol language of an ancient rotting kingdom bloomed in my brain like Chinese flowers. The effect was uncanny. A sweet metal taste burned through stomach intestines and genitals.

Our faces swelled under the eyes and our lips got thicker through some glandular action of the drug. On the smoldering metal I saw a giant crab claw snapping. I noticed that my mouth was bone dry.

“I’m going now. Don’t ever look back, kid.”

I pulled him back and he threatened me.

“Ain’t it a bit unhealthy to know as much as you know? Because all Agents defect and all Resistors sell out…”

Suddenly we are both awake.

“The very same thing occurred to me. When you stop growing, you start dying.”

“Don’t look so frightened young man. I’ve told you ten times. Just a professional joke.” He made a gesture of a plane flying upwards at a steep angle. “It’s more complicated than you think.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about now,” I said.

“The zone has been nationalized. I’m leaving town.”

When I told him of my plan to make an expedition to the interior of the island he said it would be impossible.

“The needle is stopped. We have no such powers my son.” He stands poised on his toes like a ballet dancer. “Return to base immediately.”

Clearly the interview is at an end. I kept on drinking. Empty, sad as the graves of dying peoples.

***

Thawing hurts.

The cellar is full of light. Doolie sick was an unnerving sight. He crumpled there on the steps and now looking at me silent as all the red hair and smudged freckles and red flesh of the world flushed through him blurring his face out of focus the red swirls and blurs. And there was a blast of hate from the heavy heart of an old servant. “We regard it as a misfortune…”

I felt a sudden pity for the violated veins and tissue.

He starts to say, You’ll be all right, bursts into tears instead.

Then the dotted line.

***

“This man is never to be recalled or reclassified.”

This is no longer true. Few beat the house, but no one will talk about anything very long.

I stayed off the junk.

Fadeout.

Shut the whole machine off.

__________

Notes:

1. Written/assembled on September 8th, 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 Last Of The Gallant Heroes
7. A fully annotated version of this can be read here: Fading My Name Through Dying Air (annotated pdf)
8. So you can see exactly where I was cheating my own rules

__________

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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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March My Captive Head

There was not much left of Nick. The face was broken. Huge grey eyes with tiny black pupils that seem to spit needles. From his mouth floated coal gas and violets. He did not have the concentration of energy necessary to hold himself together and his organism was always on the point of disintegrating into its component parts. On his T-shirt is ETERNITY in rainbow letters.

In the distance muffled explosions like dynamite in jelly. The war between the sexes split the planet into armed camps right down the middle. The doctor did not seem to hear.

“When the fog lifts you can see their fucking church sticking up. Let’s have that shot,” Nick said.

The doctor was sitting in a surgical chair of gleaming nickel. “One day perhaps you will learn the meaning of patience.”

The room was empty with white tile floors and walls. As the shot of apomorphine cut through poisons of Minraud he felt a tingling numbness. His hair stood up on end. Conversation slackened.

***

But the subway is moving. Riot noises moving closer. Several nearby fags raise their heads like animals scenting danger. Learn to sit back and watch. Red haired green eyed boys, white skin with a few freckles. Some people you can spot as far as you can see; others you can’t be sure of until you are close enough to touch them. The boys puffed blue smoke two bodies fuzzing the web one shuddering white tile walls in polar distance blue haloes flickering.

The doctor nodded. It’s time. They got off the subway and began to walk on snow-covered sidewalks between tenements.

“Certain things simply must not be allowed to change; otherwise, WE ARE COMPLETELY FUCKED.” The Old Doctor reeled out onto the platform.

“Do I have another appointment?” Hands on his belt Nick hesitated.

The doctor stopped chuckling. “Will you be settling your account today Mr Jones?” The doctor’s voice was barely audible.

The man was smiling, flapping vapor like rusty swamp smell. Sunset through black clouds. It was the end of the line.

“You can’t – You can’t – You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“I’m almost without medicine.”

“Where can you go, Nick?”

“I’m going home.”

“You can’t deny your blood kid,” said the doctor, and walked away before Nick could say anything else.

And there was the dirigible ahead, moored to a tower.

***

When Nick got back to the house he told his father about it in the attic his father used as a studio. Kim noted the frayed cuffs, the cracked shoes.

“In the terminals of Minraud, the car is waiting to take us to the fiesta. As far as the eye can see, nothing but replicas,” Nick says. “Fights erupt like sandstorms, through iron streets a wake of shattered bodies, heads bouncing into the void, hands clutching bank notes from gambling fights.”

Kim sat paralyzed like a man who has received a mortal wound, every drop of life ebbing out of him. It was impossible to tell just how much of this story he was expected to believe.

“The boy ejaculates blood over the flower floats. An orchid with brilliant red and green flowers hanging over the swamp mud.” Nick had a deprecating little laugh that he used for punctuation. “We waded into the warm mud-water. Arachnid is a grimly unattractive young man with a long face of a strange, slate-blue color. He strapped on his camera gun and walked along ancient paths and stone bridges over canals where the fish people swirled sending up color bubbles of orgasm that broke on the iridescent surfaces. He is as specialized as an insect, for the performance of some inconceivably vile function.

“We came to a street half-buried in sand. I could feel the phantom touch of the lens on my body, light as a breath of wind. Recorders of the city rotting. In a dusty shop window of trusses and plaster feet, a severed head on sand, red ants crawling through nose and lips. June, July and August walk on.

“On the sea wall met a boy in red and white T-shirt under a circling albatross. He looked at me, sick animal eyes gone out dying inside, hopeless fear reflecting the face of death. And looking into his bright blank eyes I saw that he was. Too quiet like they say in old Westerns. Time runs out. There was nothing there but cloth that fell in a heap on the floor leaking grey dust.”

The father holds up a restraining hand.

“That’s enough…” He got up, stretched and yawned.

“Well, no, that’s the whole story. The story of a 14 year old boy that died in the invasion.”

“What is it you do, Nick?” Kim asked politely, in the accents of an educated man.

“Only those for whom the knowledge is intended will find it…” He went through a pantomime of fixing his hair. “You must understand that an undercover agent witnesses the most execrable cruelties while he waits helpless to intervene, sometimes for many years, before he can make a definitive arrest.”

“What really happened?” Kim asks.

Nick makes a folding motion with his hands. There was no other place for him to go.

“There were at least two parasites one sexual the other cerebral working together the way parasites will. But a new factor, something that nobody has seen before, is changing the familiar aspect of disaster like the slow beginnings of a disease, so that no one can say just when it began. All out of time and into space. And what is remarkable it seems to be the only or certainly the predominating flora.

“We are turning into plants. You can’t breathe in fake lungs.”

“Are you crazy?” Kim said.

Wait a bit. “Lord, Lord, I don’t even feel like a human.” He looked at Kim and smiled.

“The whole structure of reality went up in silent explosions. The valley was desert, and it will be desert again. Eternity yawning on the sands.

“During the months that followed I worked in the fields. Crabs sidle from cone-shaped nests. Everything looks different, sharper. Pool covered with green slime in a ruined French garden. Surges of silence ebbing from ruined suburbs. Hail of crystal skulls shattered the greenhouse to slivers in the winter moon. Flowers and seeds and mist settle down from high jungle above the city.” He put a cigarette to his mouth, tapped his pockets, and turned his hands out. “Everything is leaking.”

“My dear, it’s quite folkloric.”

Nick was annoyed to find himself blushing. He straightened up and sees a face not tears at first. His father’s eyes are normally invisible behind black glasses.

***

At the end of three weeks he indicated the time had come to operate. He looked like a corpse slumped there on the dirty, unmade bed, his limp arm stretched out, a drop of blood slowly gathering at the elbow.

Kim walked over to the old railroad. He felt the sharp nostalgia of train whistles, piano music down a city street, burning leaves. (J-105) He fled down quintillions of years.

__________

Notes:

1. Written/assembled on August 26th, 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 Last Of The Gallant Heroes and Fading My Name Through Dying Air
7. A fully annotated version of this can be read here: March My Captive Head (annotated pdf)
8. So you can see exactly where I was cheating my own rules

__________

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In The Terminals Of Minraud

In The Terminals Of Minraud is a trilogy of short stories assembled entirely out of sentences from William Burroughs novels. (I couldn’t afford to chop up my copies of the books, so they aren’t technically proper cut-up stories).

The three stories – March My Captive Head, Last Of The Gallant Heroes and Fading My Name Through Dying Air) were assembled using five different Burroughs novels (Junky, Naked Lunch, The Ticket That Exploded, The Soft Machine, and The Place Of Dead Roads), and adhering to the following rules:

1. Each sentence should be from a different book from the preceding and following sentences.
2. Each sentence should be used whole.

(Minor changes to names, genders, tenses, etc were allowed, to maintain consistency.)

I think in the end I broke both those rules once, across the three stories. Please forgive me for my crimes.

In The Terminals Of Minraud

1. March My Captive Head(annotated pdf)
2. Last Of The Gallant Heroes(annotated pdf)
3. Fading My Name Through Dying Air(annotated pdf)

__________

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