Friday, December 25, 2009

Rare and Unusual Christmas Train Sets

For Tom Ronca,
Is one of your most precious Xmas memories your stubby fingers helping (or trying to help) lay out the tracks of the family Christmas train set, while a beloved parent or older sibling set it up, prying little people and fences out of your paws to set up a tiny automated transportation nexus that connected the provinces of delight and wonder in a giant circle that was whole, that was Christmas? Me neither. Yet, apparently it’s part of someone’s memories, probably someone who didn’t wake up to find their Christmas gifts had been devoured by spiders, or had to eat a horseshoe crab for Christmas dinner because you lived in an abandoned lighthouse; someone who sleeps well, has a steady job, a spouse and children and never gets in trouble for downloading Asslicula, even though it is something you are researching, for the stories you write, you know, for the internet and that’s important, Dad.
Anyway, apparently the great lines of the Christmas trains extend all the way here to Bangkok, where there is an exhibit of rare and unusual Christmas train sets here at the Siam Paragon, where I go to the gym and download various pieces of important research while writing these informative pieces. It is the sort of recherché and outré exhibit the Paragon seems to specialize in, like displays of golden Chinese torture devices and powered hang gliders. I will not bore you with the many examples in the catalogue that were merely expensive, owned by famous people, or made of bones of extinct animals and jewels. These are the ones I found interesting. Unfortunately, photography was prohibited, so we will just have to make do with the exhibit as I recall it.

The Monster Poops Christmas Express
Based on the popular Revell Monster Poops! series of model kits (featuring a determined, yet sad, anxious and lonely Creature surreptitiously taking a nocturnal dump at Dr. Victor Frankenstein’s door, a surprised Dracula soiling Mina Murray’s nightdress and her balcony, a sad throned Mummy contemplating the sphinx of how to hang the toilet paper roll (over or under), the Werewolf lovingly decorating his favorite fire hydrant, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon just standing in the Black Lagoon looking sheepish), the Monster Poops Christmas Express features the classic creatures each straddling a different car on the train in the posture of relieving themselves as the train itself shoots across a Halloween themed graveyard landscape of tombstones, mausoleums, outhouses, latrines and commodes.
This set has the strange representational conundrum common to themed train sets and old school children’s Halloween costumes: the characters themselves ride the train past tableaux of themselves that light up and make the appropriate noise the creature makes while evacuating (Frankenstein’s Creature bleats with Tolstoyian suffering, Dracula ejaculates something Yiddish sounding something like Count Floyd, the Werewolf yowls, the Mummy makes the same pathetic tongueless phatic he uses for everything and the Creature from the Black Lagoon makes an adorable sound like a baby raccoon on the toilet). The possible psychoanalytic dimensions of monsters riding a train watching their doubles poop remains unexplored outside of the still unpublished Sylvia Plath. It does not help that the train set only plays one song, an unlicensed cover of “Jingle Bell Rock” with the words “Monster Mash” incoherently substituted on the chorus.

Sha Na Na vs. Happy Days: The Final Conflict Christmas Set
Twin “hot rod” trains chase each other through the town and the charred hell hole their rivalry has made it. Notable details include the pathetic chimerical comfort that Mrs. C is offering a disembowled Ralph Malph, who is clearly going to die from his Bowzer inflicted injuries and his communication of this horrified realization back to her; the possibly not coincidental resemblance between Tom Bosley and Slobodan Milosevic and his expression which seems into indicate he always knew this was going to happen; the conflicted Squiggy.

The Mitchell Brothers' XXXmas Express Train Set
Predictable and tasteless interpretation of the Mitchell Brother’s careers in terms of a Christmas train set, Mitchell Brothers’ XXXmas Porno Train makes its prurient turns around Toluca lake with obvious homages to green doors and all the obvious visual puns trains, tunnels and an engine with a likeness to John Holmes with real hair can lend itself to. The designer (if he can be called that) seemed to be torn between as to whether the whole device was to be more of a tribute to sexually explicit films or cocaine and so has devoted equal space to both, the result looking like someone had an “O scale” set, a box of nude Barbie dolls, a case of hand mirrors, fake snow, issues with the breast and a glue gun.
Worst of all, upon close inspection, it is, in fact, simply the Berenstain Bears’ Hanukah Train with garish stickers applied to it.

Our Gang Old Timey Decorative Christmas Train Set: The Little Rascals Assemble the Ancient Pyramids
This “H” scale set is noted for it’s considerable detail and historical accuracy seemingly based upon actual scholarship, with the exception of the presence of the Little Rascals and a their snow capped train.
At top the pyramid itself is Buckwheat in his rightful place, Pharaoh among men, next to a chubby bald shirtless Spanky serving at his side as a competent and cruel administrator. Only nominally a Christmas train set at all, with a great deal of the display given over to the intricate details of worshiping Ra. Supposedly part of The Little Rascals explore the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a rare series of sets much sought after in the Thelemic and Occult communities.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Xmas at the Gym In Bangkok

I had started exercising beyond doing fifty push-ups in the morning, because that's what you're supposed to do when you're looking for work, do lots of reps while shouting out your objectives and qualifications, so when the interviewer asks you what your greatest weakness is, you can reply: pity for mankind. Besides, living on 20 baht a day had thinned me out somewhat so I started to look like John the Baptist and exercising gave me at least 45 minutes a day where I did not feel worthless.

There is a charming outdoor gym in Chatuchak Park สวนจตุจักร that looks exactly like the sort of gym the Flinstones would have had, if the Flintstones had been set in prison, complete with barbells made from poles set in two buckets of cement at either end, lots of broken mirrors and a wrecked car you are allowed to pick up. Refreshments were just around the corner, in the form of a girl with braces mashing papaya and her cooler. She asked where I was from. I explained that I was Thai, but I grew up in the United States (not everyone in Bangkok knows this yet, only every single person I've ever talked to). I added that I had come to Thailand to learn Thai. Oh really, she said, what's this then?

She was a pretty harsh instructor: it was cute. She asked if I had come with my girlfriend. No, I said, I came here to exercise. I exercise alone.

I haven't been back to Chatuchak Park recently, because my cousin Pui was kind enough to get me a free month's membership at her gym, The California Scarface Xperience. It's not really Scarface themed, but it is a something of a theme gym and an experience.

When I told my father that I was going to the gym he took one of his noted unspoken rhetorical stances where he doesn't actually speak, but it is clear that what you are suggesting is both stupid, dangerous and certain to fail, like taking a cab or getting a haircut by yourself. He said to be careful and see that they don't rip you off. Curious about his reaction, I googled the gym and found that indeed, there were complaints about memberships in an unrelated Korean company.

Thus forearmed, I was determined to give the poor staff there nothing during my induction, which featured me standing in my socks holding on to some Hubbard E-meter which measured the amount of body fat and true grit in my system. When it came to paperwork, I managed to maintain that I had no cell phone and did not know where I lived or what email was. This is one of the few times that fact that I sound like a complete idiot in Thai and have the demeanor of a simpleton really paid off. They smiled understandingly and as they took me through the gym to orient me, stressed that none of the handles were for the mouth.

They also asked me what my fitness goals were. I said I wanted my torso to blaze like the Face of God. What about your legs? No one should live to see my legs. I'm not sure that they understood, but they smiled again and gave me over to the trainer that had a bracelet made from real barbed wire.

This first time at the gym I discovered that the lock I had wouldn't fit on the lockers, so I had to work out in my slacks. This really isn't a problem in Thailand, where people can be seen working out in track suits, suits, jeans, and the denim outfit Neil Diamond wears on the cover of “Hot August Night.”

My biggest disappointment is that I'm not the biggest guy in the gym, not nearly. Once, at midnight in the Shanghai Hilton, on a weekday, I was the biggest guy in the gym. The other people seemed tiny and confused and pinned beneath the foreign equipment. I was magnanimous: helped them up and pointed out that they were flexing on a stapler. If I could work out in a retirement home, I probably would: lord knows, it's the only time I lap anybody in the water.

No, instead, the California Scarface Experience, being a really expensive gym, has some really huge dudes in it, guys who have like Anime-style muscles, or look like they came from Street Fighter II. In fact, the guy from Fist of the North Star is here and it looks like he's benching twice my max. On the other hand, it turns out we're both about the same height.

This was kind of a revelation, as what you generally hear about the youth of Bangkok is that they are spoiled, shiftless, lazy and girly. I contrast this with what I know to be best and truest about myself, namely that I am spoiled, shiftless, girly and lazy. Yet here I am, stuck between Sagat (สกัด), Blanka and Guile, who are doing concentration curls with depleted uranium.

The music is bad. BAAAAAD. The kind of pointless techno that lays eggs in your head that hatch hours and hours later, so this insipid thing with no memorable beat or melody becomes inseparable from your precious engrams and waking thoughts, cysting throughout your ganglion to gloat: I will always be with you. When age and senility have rendered your head and empty ruin I will be its final immovable tenant. On your deathbed, I will be there. I will be the last thing you hear. WOOOT-WOOT!

Things that make good gym songs:

  • Songs about being a vampire.
  • Any song about the First World War and What it's Done to the Narrator of the Song.
  • Slavery Work Songs, particularly those dealing with the construction of railroads.
  • And song where the lyrics about how much blood there is and how it won't stop coming out.
  • Bernard Herman: Psycho, Taxi Driver
  • All Songs About the Devil
  • Devil Music
  • Songs by and about Satan
  • Rap songs about Mongols and Lane Bryant Models
  • The Three M's: Monarch, Mortician and Black Sabbath

I don't care for the trainers they offer, though. I work out alone. On my headphones I have Rob Zombie to spot me.
“Pussy” he says, spitting tequila on me.
I do a few more reps and he gives me a swig.
Then he goes: YEEEEEEAAAAAH! on extension.
URRRRRRRRRH! on contraction.
Then AAAAAWWWWWWWW MAAAAAAAN! on extension again.
Then there are some chainsaw sounds and Sherri Moon moaning.
"Nexus 6!" he shouts, "Get it up there, Nexus 6!" He's gone from ashing on my chest to hanging and unfinished six-pack off one side of the bar. He's dropping dead soldiers all over the place.
"Come on man, get that axe up there! Chop 'em down! Chop em all down! Come on slimeball, you rinky-dink, CELTA having piece of shit! Don't you quit on me! Don't you quit on me! Don't you quit on me! You carpetbagging, fleabagging, no iPhone having monster poop eating loser!"
I'm tapped. I tell Rob as much.
"How'd that Halloween remake of yours, do Rob?"

I like to mediate in the sauna after my workout. This was more freaky back in Chicago when I had the long hair and Mongolian mustache. In Thailand mediating is about as unusual as wearing flip-flops. In the sauna it feels a lot like sitting in the sun, on a very sunny day. Then the sun gets much, much closer. I feel like a dripping statue, my cupped hands fill up with sweat. People talk about how hot it is and decide to go to Sizzler. I let all such phenomena go and sit and concentrate on my breath, which becomes tricky as my nose starts to burn with each inhale, like the shuttle on re-entry. All this time I have a familiar sly beatific smile, right up until the moment I snatch up my key and shoot across the room like butter on a hot skillet to the showers.

The shower room is vast and spectacularly lit. It's like an automobile showroom. There's a chandelier. The circular floor rotates and takes one past different nozzles. This is one's moment of victory, where one celebrates one's body. Between the many mirror on the walls there are also flat screen LCDs showing clips of shower and muscle scenes: Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct, Christian Bale in American Psycho, as well as Conan the Barbarian and Al Pacino's counterattack from Scarface.

This is a critical moment, because sometimes at this point I feel like I am not ripped enough. I feel small and vulnerable among these titians, grunting, posing and shaving by just using their fingernails. I feel I want to cry and hide, but I know I can't. Sometimes I have to go run back into the gym and do a few more sets, but the truth is that I'm tapped; so I get caught in a cycle going back and forth from the gym to the showers sometimes until the place closes.

Christmas in Bangkok is a fine time to go the gym. Most of the equipment is red and white anyway. Being a very expensive and theme driven place, the design staff have done a nice job of decorating the place for Christmas, wrapping the weights in paper, and the bars in tinsel. The dumbells are hidden under a little drift of fake snow. I have a creatine egg nog smoothie at the bar and a monohydrate martini. I get offered some sort of free shooter. I'm not sure if it's alcoholic or not, but it's holiday green and tastes like Red Bull and ground Centrum. The bells on the barbells tinkle as I cheat out some reps.

They also have a “Fitness Santa” You can sit on his knee and tell him whether or not you made your fitness goals and what your goals are for the future. Then Fitness Santa explains that it's up to you and not him to make these goals come true and either punches you in the stomach or tweaks your bicep. Then he gives you a Cliff Bar.

It's not that unusual that Santa is here, since the California Scarface Xperience is run a lot like a theme park. That's why it's an "experience." Sometimes there are even trainers in plush character suits to meet and greet you, but they're really for the kids. I've only met the Ab Crab, but that's because we tend to work the same machines, over by the wall-sized poster of Yukio Mishima. I try not to get in the way of Sharky the kick boxer. That guy is ripped.

For going to the gym on Christmas is really the ultimate in nihilism. It is Christmas from the Angry Naked Way. You know that Santa isn't real. It doesn't even really matter if you've been bad or good. This is real, it says. You don't want promises, you don't want wishes. You know you don't deserve anything that you can't carve out of space and time with your fingers inserted into the busted gouged sockets of the face of existence. This is how Conan prays to Crom: grant me revenge or to hell with you. You'll have that milkshake when you're good and dead. Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Avatar Spoilers

  • Less like Aliens, more like Titanic, especially with all the Celine Dion songs.
  • Not advertised as musical
  • Film begins with James Cameron in an empty studio asking audience to close their eyes and be open to the power of “wonder and imagination.”
  • 3-D effects impressive: blue people's tounges feel like sand paper.
  • Subplot involving kid on 1980’s Earth trying to help by reading magic read-a-long book seems forced and really drags.
  • Less like Terminator, more like Fraggle Rock with boobs and VTOL.
  • Interactive part of movie allows audience to "get down" and dance with aliens.
  • Lance Henriksen surprisingly limber during final dance showdown.
  • 3-D glasses comfortable. Revolutionary technology involves putting tiny magic ticket under tounge.
  • Main theme song "Avatar" is just the 1980 ELO/Olivia Newton-John single "Xanadu" with the word "Avatar" dubbed in.
  • Alien planet: clothing optional
  • All in all, James Cameron's edgy high-tech re-imagining has heart and some the charm of the original, but is incredibly violent compared with the original Smurfs it is an adaptation of.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hollywood Bablyon

For NK

It was Hollywood and she was the real thing, except for the parts that were made from cartilage and fat sucked from other bodies. That part was a dream, like the sun setting between two hills that were like firm nipply breasts that were on fire and all the kids danced the sock-hop, they did the fug and walked through mirrors with slicked hair and the smell of Fresca. She had a convertible; I had a motorized surfboard with wheels. I had a switchblade, she had pregnant nunchucks. Pregnant with what? Pregnant with “WaaaaaaaaH! Blam!” : parking meter decapitated.

We went to club and danced aggressively, like a bear and a shark that spot each other across a crowded gym and the air is filled with bad techno and they keep working out until the machinery breaks down and everyone is dead and they have no choice but to fight it out with weights snapped in half and dead fit people. Yeah we danced like that. Other people’s faces melted off. People shook like planes coming apart in our turbulence. I bought her shots of whisky. She said she had never drank no whisky before. She said it tasted like her mother’s blood.

We danced hard. I made that move I make where it’s like I shoot beams out my eyes and she danced like she was like blinded. She danced like she had one roller skate on and was being chased by a terrier. I danced like I was a ship and the shipbreakers. She dived in the lap of the guy in the wheelchair and rode him across the bar. I punched the saxophone and dented it. It was a crazy scene. Eventually we had two fire extinguishers and were just whaling on each other.

After the club closed we walked down the street. She was glimmering with sweat. The stores were closed so I broke into the Natural History Museum to get her a soda. I took the mammoth coat off the caveman and put it over her shoulders. She knocked me into a dinosaur and a space probe. I told her that I wanted her to be the empress of the empire development project deal thing that I had been working on that some really important people had expressed some interest in. She didn’t reply, and instead cuddled with the stuffed penguin and Eskimo she was holding. We didn’t go to the Egyptian wing. It was time to go.

I slid into the seat next to her. It was still a fine early morning. As we drove along the grey ribbon of highway we listened to oldies, broadcast to us from distant galaxies, millions of light-years distant, singing songs of love and loss in vanished civilizations and extinct species with too many arms and eyes. And I wanted her then. I wanted to make love to her so I could show her the happy trusting face I make after making love as well as a little house I had made out of peanuts. I wanted her, in the sheets next to me, looking at my peanut house.

I held her hand. I tried to pull her close, but she pulled away. I felt it then, the curse. The mummy’s curse. She was his girl. Toungless, eyeless, dry as dust. Old money, the oldest. But what was all that now? Could she really be into him just for a few gold trinkets and a social set and cache that was millennia out of date?

Oh, he was elegant in his shuffling, tongueless way. The way he wrote her little notes on papyrus that were all just squiggly little pictures. The way he moaned when she came back to him. The whole I-came-back-from-the-dead-to-love-you routine. Even now, he’d be back at the condo, lounging about in a track suit he filled out like a bag of bones, watching the History Channel. It made me mad, just thinking of his old man stinky hands all over her, smelling of frankincense, myrrh and dead, dead man.

And so we drove on, into the valley of kings that came and went like the waves of box office returns.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleeping at the End of the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

When your computer goes to sleep it randomly displays pictures from your photo albums as a screen saver. You realize that your computer is dreaming; further, that your computer is dreaming that it is you, from fragments of birthdays and trips to EPCOT with your family.


You dream you’re stuck at the bottom of a pit, like in Silence of the Lambs. You come across your father’s stash of pornography, only it’s really weird, like babies with shoes and stuff and you want to get out, but you can’t.

At the top of the pit stands Tori Amos. And she just laughs at you, looking down at you from the edge of the pit.

Then she strokes her enormous 18-inch penis that looks grey and wrinkled, like an elephant’s tail.


You suffer from “restless phantom limb syndrome.” On an internet forum you discover the following herbal remedy: eat an entire GNC container of Creatine Monohydrate (blue raspberry flavor), 100 tablets of Ultra Iron 65, tramadol, oxycodone or methodone, and a sheet of acid while watching DVDs of featuring people without 2 or more limbs: A Zed and Two Noughts, Boxing Helena, and Cremaster 3. You follow this recipe with the addition to a box of Triscuts, some fish food and amputee porn you decide to take in once the acid hits.

The next day you cannot remember if your phantom limbs gave you any trouble. You do discover, however, that you have made yourself an impressive full set of gladiatorial gear from jagged glass in which you slept outdoors in your backyard in an equally spontaneous creation apparently called “the octopus’ garden.”


Your Real Doll sleeps on an air bed in the guest room.


You buy a white noise generator with inverse phase sound cancellation. The settings are:

  • Peaceful waves crashing WITH SEAGULLS.
  • Peaceful waves crashing NO SEAGULLS.
  • Amazon Rainforest
  • Rain
  • Bubbling brook
  • Stormy Night (THUNDER AND RAIN)
  • Crackling Small Fire
  • Medium Size Campfire
  • Large Fire
  • Major Conflagration
  • Distant Falling Bombs
  • Gravediggers Working Late
  • Man Chuckling to Himself
  • Clown Laughing
  • Money Being Counted
  • Audience Applauding Your Comeback
  • Applause, End Credits Bumper for Next Show or Episode
  • NPR
  • Names of War Dead
  • Audio Captchas


You dream it’s your funeral and you’re lying in your coffin, only your heart has been replaced by an extremely dark chocolate replica with only 0.00001% sweetener filled with a raspberry coulis and raccoon droppings.

A line of ex girlfriends take the podium to explain how you touched their lives. Some are clearly overcome with grief and comfort each other with hugs and embraces. Then some of them start making out. You know who I’m talking about.

At the reception there is black coffee, spicy hot wings, stale wedge fries, and despite your specific instructions, meatballs in gravy. You want to get up and swap out the stale wedge fries and meatballs for some Dim Sum and Oysters, but you can’t because you’re dead. Things only get worse when KC and the Sunshine Band Plays.

Upon waking, you immediately google “how to write your own will free” and confirm the worrisome fact that KC and the Sunshine Band are still around.


Though you are single and have no children you buy a baby monitor and place it in your other guest room.


In the morning when you check the pornography you’ve been downloading over night, you fast forward through the whole thing, as though the download window were a dream catcher, to see if you are there.

Monday, November 9, 2009



Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace after dying in peace from whatever is killing them in peace up there on the moon.

These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery. But they also know that there is hope for mankind in their sacrifice. And whatever they do now, alone on the moon will be A-OK, because no one’s going to judge them.

These two men are laying down their lives in mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding. They are not the first explorers to venture out into the unknown, nor the first to be eaten alive by some horrible unknown creature against which shovels as weapons are useless. Nor, we may hope, will they be the last.

They will be mourned by their families and friends; they will be mourned by the nation; they will be mourned by the people of the world; they will be mourned by a Mother Earth that dared send two of her sons into the unknown. We will not let their frantic and panicked pleas, their ill-chosen words, or their disturbing admissions sully our true memory and knowledge of these brave men.

In their exploration, they stirred the people of the world to feel as one; in their sacrifice, they bind more tightly the brotherhood of man.

In ancient days, men looked at the stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood, trapped and alone, running out of oxygen, fleeing some terrifying moon creature that eats return spacecraft.

Others will follow, and surely kill the thing that is killing them now. They will kill the thing and all things like the thing, whatever it is that the thing is. Man's revenge will not be denied. We will show those things pictures of Neil and Buzz as we kill the thing and the children of the thing (if it has any) in front of the thing. If it is necessary, we will learn to communicate with the thing just to explain to it why we are killing it and all others like it and how long it’s going to take and how they can’t do anything about it and how much we enjoy it. But however many of these things we end up killing we will remember: they started it by eating these two great pioneers.

For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world newly stained with our bravest human blood. And every thing that lives upon the moon should see Earth rise and know: here is your executioner.


The President should telephone each of the widows-to-be. He will probably need a FEW stiff ones.


Either astronaut drops the f-bomb again.

Neil begins calling for his mother again.

Buzz sings.

Crunching or chewing sounds are heard.


A clergyman should adopt the same procedure as a burial at sea, replacing “sea” and “deep” with “hostile airless moon” and concluding with the Lord’s Prayer.

Sonny and Cher sing “Space Oddity”

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part IV

Of the great Doctor Martin Hesselius’ awful victory over the Comte, much has been written, an adventure so terrible, he had sworn it to be his last. The great doctor, however, never disclosed all the details of what he had found in the Comte’s castle, nor why, the Comte and his associates already vanquished, he felt it necessary to dynamite the bridges, the crypts and the charming old mill downstream, not even to my master that night. The authorities had agreed to ban all access to the region. Already a remote and ill place, traffic, human and animal, needed little discouragement. For this reason also, the authorities had not perhaps followed through on all of Hesselius detailed prescriptions for the complete effacement of the structure, a possibility on which our endeavor depended.

Hesselius, I believe, was true to his oath and his prescription. He did not show my master what he asked to see. Hesselius’ own despair and proscription of going there was all the proof my master needed. The good doctor all but forbid us to go, but knowing my master well, resigned himself to our adventure. Before we left, he favored me with a brief interview as to my intentions, complimenting me on the service I had given Doctor Brown. We discussed Socrates and Plato. “The great students,” said Hesselius, “only follow so far. And none ever save their master from errors.” On departing, he was most kind and enormously generous to us, though, I thought, informed with some solemnity and misgivings.

Nothing marked the boundary to the keep and its surroundings except absences; absences of habitation and traffic and upkeep on an increasingly difficult and vanishing road. The Comte’s ruins were deposited upon a seat of natural hostility and treachery, vertiginous paths prone to simultaneous avalanche and flooding, ridden with fissures and caves that could not be mapped or exited, well supplied with poisonous subterranean muddy springs, natural foul chthonic miasmas and reservoirs of tar. My master expressed some anxiety when it was clear we would have to leave the majority of the collection secreted in such a chasm. It was clear to me, however, that no one came to bother this lonely place, and my master’s treasures would be secure enough. It perplexed me that he had not left his storehouse of knowledge securely with Hesselius, but over his creation my master could be jealous and peevish, to the point of insisting on taking some of his most prized possessions with him, even as we had yet to cross the ravine whose bridge Hesselius has annihilated.

Once we stood there, I felt no overwhelming dread in the great hall, despite its infamy. I knew the most awful things had happened elsewhere. Stripped, it was still regal and the eyes still leapt to the torn and chipped spaces where they pennants and heraldry should be. Those arms should never be seen again, on that there was universal agreement. Surprisingly, much had been left untouched, including such items as usually attract the pilfering soldier or municipal authority. Here and there, it seemed items had been collected for removal, but their collectors had somehow thought better of it. The treatment of the castle seemed to imply a strange deference and haste upon the soldiers that Muinswerke had sent Hesselius.

On a landing, I poked about a piece of cloth and found a water tin and a stick. Perhaps the castle had had at least one tenant since the Comte. I hastened to tell my master, but he had no interest in the structure above ground, but rather raced it its foundations.

There, in the darkness of the cellar, my master would have his moment of truth. As Hesselius had described, the casks were overturned and split. The cellar was ancient indeed. The air was foul and faintly redolent, but I was used to such strong odors from our work. We found the doors of the secret chapel, as described. My master rapped upon the doors. It was mute. My master rapped harder. The doors absorbed all. We pulled the doors apart. We faced a wall of sandy soil and rock. As Hesselius had directed, it had been filled in.

My master stared at it a while. I was afraid to speak. He called for a shovel. I gave it to him. He began to dig. As I could not let him dig alone, I too, dug. I could not persuade him by any means to let me do the digging alone.

For the first hour or so, I thought surely he would relent and realize his folly with every shovelful. Yet he persisted. For the next two hours I considered what to say to him. By the fifth hour, I hoped he would fall asleep, so I could stop digging. Yet he never stopped or paused from digging , and so we persisted, incessantly, interminably. The air was quite stale and I grew dizzy, my limbs numb with exertion. I felt as though I were falling asleep, dreaming, the shovels cutting and dumping with the regularity of weary breath, a tiresome aching dream of attacking an endless black wall.

Finally, I know not how much later, the shovel nearly flew out of my blistered hands –into a void. My shovel had struck black, empty air, from which emerged a breath of strong foulness.

Hesselius’ instructions had been incompletely followed. Perhaps even Hesselius himself did not wish the way forever blocked. My master did not wait for the passage to be fully cleared but squeezed himself through.

I followed as soon as could.. Groping along the ground, my hands slid on fine cloths and knocked against shoes. We stood in the unholy antechamber, where the initiates disrobed before proceeding past the threshold to greater obscenity. The entrance to that lay before us.

The temple was as monstrous as Hesselius had been silent. I was glad our feeble torches could not show more of what remained in that place. I did my best to keep my light off the thing in the center of that star shaped chamber. I turned instead to face the walls. The weak sun of my beam fell upon a horrific creation: the acute walls of that awful place were decorated with murals of a perverse and blasphemous cosmology. The dark and grotesque figures were hard to discern as to their evil meaning. An ancient colossus, himself made of muck, it seemed to me, voided himself, producing the gods, who he then ingested, only to void them out again, who in turn slew and devoured the titan and evacuated him. The gods then proceeded to endlessly slay and devour each other, their eventual externalizations of their cannibalisms depicted in great detail. The products of their digestion in turn became infants composed of filth, who in turn, struggled and fought and devoured and excreted. In one corner, one such child, afflicted with idiocy, plays with his wastes, rolling out the arms and legs and of some infinitely inferior creation of degenerate discharge. The identity of this first golem of excreta I inferred was Adam.

Worst of all, however, the crapulent race of men, their idiot creator, the gods and the titans all knelt and bowed and scraped before the rising of a black sun, a dark asterisk, whose radial arms were brown streaks, whose visage was a faceless gaping concavity from which endless filthy issue poured forth: and this disjecta was the universe.

My master was uninterested in such details. He was looking for the restroom. At length he found it.

The latrine was the true secret temple of the Comte’s baphomet. This odious chamber was the size of a banquet hall and used in the Comte’s scatological orgies. Around its circumference were ringed toilets. Each seat was ringed with the pattern of a constellation set in precious gems. The Comte’s blasphemous company would seat themselves on these commodes, decorated as the seat of heaven and together fancy themselves so relieving their abdomens upon the upturned and innocent eyes of God’s creation, depicted in the sunken center of the room.

It was to these ancient seats Dr. Brown directed his attention, poking his head in this hole and that hallooing. He bade me also to do so. Though surely unused since the eviction of its bad tenant, the gaping mouth of the seat seemed newly rancid. With some reluctance, I placed my head through that orifice and felt the yoke of the seat around my neck. With some surprise I heard my master’s voice and saw his light before me, his head also inverted through another seat. He told me to get the picks and axes. I righted myself and did as he asked. He then began to tear at the seats with the picks and axes, and then thrust himself and his light into the opening he had made. Excited, he stood and bade me take his place.

The jeweled seats voided upon a still more ancient chamber: an ancient crypt or catacomb. It seems it had been the Comte’s blasphemous delectation to defecate upon his very ancestors with his guests. The obscene evacuation hall we were in formed the ceiling of the old crypt, into which we now lowered a line, hoping to descend upon the pinnacle of the fantastically enormous pile of coprolite and desiccated manure that bluntly peaked beneath us.

It was a tricky descent, as the accumulated waste formed a soft and immaterial layer on top, which was prone to break off in great clouds of dust. We both skidded and fell on our descent many times, soon totally covered with the powder of broken coprolite. Though the great mass of waste appeared dead and dry ejecta, paradoxically, the rank and evil smell of inhuman evacuations grew stronger and stronger the more we descended. As we made our unsteady way down this mountain of ancient filth, it became clear that it was not merely the refuse of the Comte’s orgiastic guests, but the refuse of ages that was accumulated here. The crypts themselves had been built upon the remains of some still more ancient midden.

Even in such a mass of sedimented impurity there were things still more awful. The Comte’s crimes were limitless and every vile thing he and his ilk had done had found its final issue here. The filth of an evil creature is unimaginably even viler and in that mass of crapulence there was evidence of crimes more terrible than even the Comte had been condemned for. It would do the world no good at all and not a little evil to detail them; I will suffice with a single detail, with some salience: before we had reached the base of the midden, we found some human remains. These were by no means the only human remainders (and things we hoped were human) we had encountered on our descent, but this body was notable for it condition: the legs has been severed at the knee, the left arm at the elbow; all the fingers of the right hand had been removed, save the ring finger. The seal on that remaining finger made manifest the corpse’s identity. It was the Comte’s father. By the location of the body and its condition, it was obvious that he had lived for some time after being cast down into this fetid pit, the conditions of his survival best not imagined.

Once we stood at its base, we exulted, as though we as reached the summit of the Mount Olympus itself. I felt giddy and lightheaded, as though so deprived of atmosphere. This unreal mass of crime and excrement transfixed my master. He walked around and around the base of the midden. This was the treasure beyond treasure. He did not even think to stop and scoop the specimens for which he had come. As he walked the base of the mass, over and over, seemingly dizzy as a drunkard, I began to wonder if he did not consider somehow collecting the whole thing.

His reveries were distracted by something wholly anomalous in that anomalous place. Something flew by my master’s face, illuminated by the beam of his torch. I, too, started. It was white. Our searching lights finally managed to intersect it again. It was white. It was no living creature, but some sort of cloth, paper or tissue caught in a draught. We became aware, at once, of a slight and capricious breeze that drove the scrap this way and that, like a willful thing, or puckish spirit. My master stumbled about trying to follow it, even running after it. I thought us quite mad until I realized that it was being animated by a steady current of air.

But the air was not fresh, far from it. It carried with it an increased tang of corruption.

The scrap flickered in and out of view. It seemed that the catacombs opened onto or had been built into some still older system of a natural caves and fissures whose origin lay in prehistory. We followed after the scrap, quite recklessly, I realized, as we had left no marker or means to find our way back. We turned this way and that in some unknown system. The scrap would vanish from view and we would fruitlessly struggle to find it again, only for it to whisk right by us.

Many times during this strange chase I moved to consult with my master. I even placed my hand on his shoulder, only to have him pull away, chasing the scrap.

As we proceeded deeper and deeper into these caves, the breeze and the caprice of our scrap did indeed grow stronger, as did the diseased feculent smell of ordure, stronger and stronger, until I expressed my concern that we must be heading into pocket of pure methane. Still my master persisted. I could not let him wander alone in such peril. I followed. God help me, I did follow.

I do not know how much farther we were able to track the scrap. The smell became overwhelming and unmistakable. It was difficult to breathe and one’s eyes burned. My throat and nose were raw: I should have supposed we had wandered into the sewer of some enormous city of lepers with diarrhea. Every breath inhaled filth. The air around us grew distinctly warm.

Our torches were nearly gone. Soon, we would be groping in the dark, the warm rancid darkness. Finally, my master fell to his knees. I fell too, exhausted. My master snapped off his light and sat in the dark. I did the same. My mind boggled at our misadventure and our certain doom and the man I had given my life for, to share in his great understanding. My feelings were extremely conflicted, when, to my horror, I heard my master rise and begin to run in the dark. Without thinking I chased after him. As I stumbled and called after him, I began to notice a faint visible glow within the tunnel we were in. It was this glow he pursued, this glow and, as I became increasingly aware, a vast sound, the sound of something moving; something like the sea.

The glow grew more and more distinct. It must be moonlight, I thought. We were saved! My master reached a glowing opening and vanished. When I caught up with him, we stood on the shore of a vast dark body of water. My relief was overwhelming, so overwhelming it took me several minutes to take in the strangeness of the view. We were on the shore of an enormous river, or lake, whose current was swift and terrible. The air was unimaginably foul and choking. Everything was illuminated by a faint glow, but looking heavenward, I saw no orb. I calculated the time we had spent in our explorations. It should have been daytime by now.

My master told me to send up a flare. Considering the atmosphere, I considered the risk of immolation, but I, too, had to know what shore it was we had come to.

The flare reached its zenith and disclosed an incomprehensible spectacle. The sky was hung with stalactites. What we thought was a river or lake appeared now as a vast ocean, stretching to the horizon. Yet more incomprehensible and impossible was what this ocean appeared to be. It was dark. It was liquid. Its stench gave no alternative as to its composition.

Yet, surely it was impossible! All the sewers of human civilization routed into one septic flow could not produce such a volume as this ocean! Every poop from every creature that had ever lived in Natural History could not account for such a mass. We were faced with an impossible cosmological revelation: the Earth was hollow and filled with a vast mass of odorous sewage, its waves rushing headlong to some still unknown abyss.

The arc of the flare gave us this impossible spectacle only a few seconds to consider, then came the darkness again into which to disbelieve.

In the faintness of whatever glow hung about the cavern I could not make out my master’s expression. I felt he had none. We walked like ghosts along the shore of this impossible and obscene sea, damned like wraiths in a Sheol that was more foul than anyone had ever imagined.

We walked I know not how long when my master stopped and snapped on his torch. In the distance, some hulk sat on the shore. The doctor snapped his light off and hastened toward it, pausing every few paces to illumine again. As we got closer to it, its unlikely design became more and more certain, despite its improbability. It was a boat.

When my master stepped into it, I thought I knew already his nightmarish intention. Nothing but our certain destruction could be gained by such travel. We stood on the shore of something unclean beyond imagining. How could we go further? This I plead silently with my slow reluctance to join him. He replied with his obstinate silent occupation of the prow, looking out. I acquiesced. I stepped into the boat. I pushed off. My master turned abruptly to regard me, but I dared not look at him.

I did not row, but sat there regarding my soiled trousers. We drifted, carried by the current. I looked up at a sky that was cold, hard and incalculably cruel, sealing me down here to sail on an endless sea of shit. Something deep within me rebelled. I would row back. I would somehow see the surface again. I would survive. I would report our findings. I snapped on my light. For an instant, I saw my master’s face, but so transfixed, I could but hardly recognize it. His face was wrenched with terror. It was pitiable. He looked to me, as though pleading. Was this final journey not his intention, his goal?

Suddenly, there was a knock on the underside of the boat. I was alarmed as to what we could have possibly struck. But the knock came again, and clear in its pattern. As clear as a nightmare. Something was rapping on the underside of the boat.

At this Dr. Brown stared. He looked at me. I was dumbfounded. At the third knock, he kneeled and knocked in response.

The answer came in the from of single forceful blow that stove the boat. Dr. Brown fell back. The boat began to fill rapidly with dark liquid filth. I scrambled to avoid the flooding muck. Dr. Brown stood up. I regarded him one last time. I spoke, but Dr. Brown, turned and jumped off the boat, into the dark awful mass.

I rowed. I knew not how far we were, but I rowed will all my might against the filling boat. The liquid sludge rolled toward me, lapping up my waist, my torso, my chin. I was futile, the boat began to slip under. I began to swim, straining with every stroke to keep my head above the excremental waves. I struggled to swim in this fetid nightmare. I knew not which direction. Waves of foulness slapped into my face, my eyes and mouth like an obscene insult, a rebuke of my will to live. Still I swam in this muck, swam and swam, my arms growing more and more heavy, my head dropping again and again into that vast and terrible toilet, until my arms no longer answered, my legs ceased to kick and I sank.


They say they found me when they were searching the sewers for another one of the victims of the killer known as the Stile. When they found me my flesh reeked so badly they were sure I was a corpse. The doctors evacuated the wing I was hospitalized in because of the outbreaks of disease around me.

The doctors say I am incurable, which is to say they cannot stand to be near me. Even the other lepers on this island shun me and flee from my stench. They have placed me on a tiny atoll where no wind stirs.

I try and live by my master's words, but my body disgusts me. I cannot help but think that the best part of me, the pure and holy part, my soul, was somehow squeezed out of me on that ocean of indescribable filth.

I have reported the details of our misadventure here and elsewhere in complete and truthful detail. Every authority insists that Hesselius’ orders were followed to the letter: the crypts were dynamited and the chapel filled with rock and sand and sealed. They suggest our vision at most represents some phantasmal re-imagining of an ill-considered descent into a gaseous fissure filled with tar or mud springs, our perceptions disordered by hypoxia into a fantasy land organized around our scatological obsessions. My condition they attribute to some unknown and aggravated eczema from the sewers. I am beyond disappointment: from such an obscene and impossible revelation there is nothing to report and nothing can be concluded.

And what we saw, what we experience, what I have written is as real as my rotting flesh, the worms of my own breath.

I put my head to the seemingly solid ground: and yet it moves.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Unmentionable, Part III

After such persecution and ill-treatment it was good to be received again by a fellow man of science and friend in knowledge. At his very comfortable lodgings, Dr. Hesselius gave us the kindest and most refreshing reception and respite from our investigations: in food, in drink, but above all, in the hospitality of his open and commodious mind.

After dinner, my master could but hardly resist unwrapping some specimens of note for Hesselius’ revelation. This my master did with a childish and pure enthusiasm for sharing his holdings.

Upon a sheet of brilliant damask my master rolled out seven uneven obsidian plugs.

“These are the ancient crustings of the minotaur. Scraped, they say from the sides of the labyrinth by Theseus himself and worn smooth by the hands that pass it to us from myth into history.”

Hesselius smiled indulgently at the preface, but noted with interest the skipping spin of the compass he placed next to it.

My master next rolled out a dusky brass cylinder, from whose ancient cloth sand yet slid. I knew this one well, for it was one of the first mysteries he had disclosed to me.
Hesselius knew it, too. “Ha,” he cried in recognition. “The egesta of the yellow sphinx. Once a rarity, now hocked at stalls throughout the Levant.”

“Mostly poor fakes, made from fool’s gold, wax, hair and bismuth,” replied my master, “this one has the mesmeric properties Mon-Raban describes.”

As though in rebut, my master skipped over the Etiudros Alberti and the "sweet smelling stone" of Rhazes and hastened to his greatest prize, which sat recessed in the blue velvet of a jewelry box, beneath the flip of its twin locks.

“The uric crystal of the Blue Naga!” announced Hesselius, “This one is enormous.”

“Yes, exactly. I had heard of an enormous eel being captured from the Mekong. For weeks there had been no fish; when this titanic eel was captured, it was thought to be the cause. It was a scaled a deep blue that shone like metal. The king ordered it slaughtered to replace the missing fish. Its flesh filled every pot in the kingdom and more. They fashioned armor and roofs and tiles and even clothes and combs from its scales.”

“By the time I reached port, there were unclear reports of some total catastrophe befalling the kingdom. Some said earthquake; others said darker, less reasonable things. But the entire kingdom had been wiped out overnight. In fact, by the time I made it up river, there was nothing at all to be seen: the whole city had been wiped flat into the mud. Not a thing lived.”

“However, coming ashore, in a trench of sucking mud where the palace should have been, I found an enormous deposit of this crystallized acid, stretching as long as a field. Excreted from what, none has dared say.”

“Incredible, my dear Norman, incredible and most praiseworthy. You have done rare and signal work in a field none have dared to tread, no matter how carefully. From such a collection, a remarkable new science could yet emerge –like a phoenix.”

“Ha! Hesselius. Yes, that is my intention. As you well know, the phoenix is no creature, but a riddle. And I believed I have solved it.”

At this Hesselius smiled kindly and bade my master sit with him. But my master was too excited. Hesselius reclined alone, over his glass.

“You, Magus Hesselius, know the object of all science and philosophy.”

Hesselius was silent.

“The Great Work,” hissed my master “the philosopher’s stone. These are just words, secret words we use to cover the true phenomenon. Transformation.”

“Transformation of what is without to within, to without. The phoenix from the ashes indeed. The secret of all life, the universe. And why has it eluded us, Hesselius? Because of shame! Because we have turned out backs on it, it is obvious, too obvious!”

Hesselius began to shake is his head demurringly, “My friend, my friend...”

“It is true! I have grasped it, felt it with my fingers, smelt it. Man seeks truth eternally, but in reality he flings it from himself.”

I could not follow all that was said. My master was wild and expansive in his gestures.

Hesselius silent and unmoving.

“Diogenes did his all his business in public. This is his lamp at daytime. This is the last taboo, the greatest, most primary, most buried treasure.”

“Accept it, Hesselius, the truth is already inside of you, inside all of us. Every legend of every nation has spoken of it, how we were fashioned from clay, of how the prideful, willful one was expelled, of how the gods themselves were devoured by time –only to be excreted. The ritual of the phoenix has been before us, before we had names for anything, but we refuse to name it, to speak of it.”

“Norman, Norman, the truth is not so simple. A taboo is not a proof of anything. Wisdom is not merely the reverse of common folly or practice, or simple perversion would be genius. What is high and low cannot be reconciled, transposed or made equal. Were all things equal any asshole would be as a just man.

“Don’t be ashamed Martin! We men of science cannot spare it! It is the source of all power. Defiance. Mastery. Will. It is the key of creation and destruction. It is what makes us human and animal -and would make us a god if we dared grasp it. All fruits were forbidden man, save one, so that he might not recognize himself a creator.”

“Please don’t ask me, Norman. I shall not. I cannot. I’ve seen it. I’ll not die a cheerful man for it, in this life or the next for having seen it.”

“But you know what it would mean. The dead poop of something not dead, but undead. The impossible poo. The soul of the unsouled. It is logical that if the creature drinks blood there must be some excreta.”

“Evil leaves a stain. A stain that seeps to the core of the earth. Don’t go chasing that stain, Norman. It’s just as deadly and as evil. The Comte is vanquished, of that I am sure. But it is still a terrible place that I would not go for any reason.”

“Hesselius, you must show me! You know the Comte’s practices. The secret was his as well. You must have seen it.”

“I did what was necessary and departed. No pillar of salt am I.”

“Shame and superstition from a man of science!”

“Fear, call it what you will. But not without reason. The sort of reason that keeps a man alive and sane and indoors on a bad night. You want to look into an abyss, Norman, but not every secret holds knowledge. Some riddles, like the sphinx, offer only destruction as an answer.”

“This would be the poo of poos, the great work, the unnamable offspring, the baphomet. I must have it, Hesselius. Where others have seen just muck and dross I have seen the trails of a great secret. And I will have that secret, Hesselius. All this, all this…” said my master spreading himself wide to encompass his life’s work.

“My God, can’t you understand Norman? There’s no knowledge here, no secret no mystery, just Scheiße, merde, shit, Norman, you’re just collecting shit!”