“No one has ever beaten Mogul.” I hear someone say as Jeoff drags me off the elevator. The thought goes by without a flag and disappears. At the moment I am complaining to myself about Jeoff’s vice-like grip on my hand. And I am wondering why he is dragging me back upstairs. I should be in bed. I should be sleeping. I don’t need this.
“You really should be at home with your wife in bed.”
“Look at you roaming around here like a degenerate! Put some clothes on and go to bed!”
I see them, a couple of gothic blue hairs casting rays of sunshine through the crowd, looking at me with convicting stares.
“You’ve got no business being here! Shoo, before you catch some disease!”
Jeoff’s relentless pull compels me forward through a crowd of dark faces. I’m in the penthouse again. The bar is still serving. The bartender waves and smiles grimly as if to say goodbye to me forever. Clinking glasses berate my ears and the smell of smoke stings my eyes and irritates my sinuses. The room is packed with smoking martini drinking cocktail dress wearing nymphs and their tuxedo wearing satyrs. As I go past, each of them looks at me like something dead. They’re expecting me to do what?
“This is the end, Boy. You’ve really got it here.”
“But wait! Don’t you see? I can’t. I’m being dragged.”
“What?” Jeoff asks over his shoulder, unrelenting.
“Let go of me.”
“But Johnny, this is your chance.”
I pull my hand away so that Jeoff and I are face to face. “I don’t want my chance. I want to go home.”
“No, listen. You’ve got to do this. If you want to prove yourself to Helen, you’ve got to get in there. You’ve got to fight.”
Fight what? Where? As my bewilderment intensifies, Jeoff turns out of my view. The crowd looking suspiciously at me slowly parts. Behind them stands a stage, ringed by rope, a boxer’s stage, in the middle of which stands a gigantic behemoth, which looks at me through dark sunglasses beneath the shadow of an unrelenting brow. A thick black cigar parts the corner of his lips like a giant smoking turd, and his head is capped insidiously with a tiny black, English derby. His nose is broad and flat against his face and crooked, I take it, from one too many punches. His arms are fearsome sculptures hanging mechanically at his sides. He has the widest girth of any man I’ve ever seen. Short stocky legs support his gigantic shimmering black trunks that go all the way around him like a sail ripped off its mast. I suddenly hear the crowd’s cheers and jeering shouts, “Mogul! Mogul!”
He must be over six hundred pounds and every inch of him a rubbery mass of bone, muscle and fatty flesh bristling with thick black hair. His nostrils flare hungrily at me. He removes a large steel watch from his wrist and hands it to the Piercing Man’s assistant, all smiles and tartly looks beneath her Santa mini suit, in flagrante delicto. Her presence makes the testosterone in the ring palpable and pungent. Eight ball eyed Brutus steps into the ring wearing a suit and a black tie, and massages glistening oil into the Mogul’s massive shoulders while Miss Santa puts the behemoth’s watch into a velvet lined silver keep safe.
I look at Jeoff as a thought slowly dawns on me. He is looking at me with the happiest face I have ever seen, as if to say, ‘he’s a beaut, eh?’ His eyebrows twinkle at me. An uncontrollable trembling ripples outward from my spine.
“You must be mad.”
Jeoff smiles with a nod of his head, and he pulls me away from myself. I feel heavy and lifeless like a sack of potatoes. Jeoff is fawning over me, his selected charge – his champion.
“You don’t really need me to go to the banquet, do you?”
Jeoff huddles near me, his warm body pressing cumbersomely next to mine. His breath falls hotly across my face, stinking of rotting meat and alcohol. His blue eyes range closely over me. His lips part, “I wouldn’t dream of not having you.” He whispers so that the consonants sound quaint and luscious next to the vowels and drip lugubriously into my captive ears. The affect is totally anaesthetizing. I feel that I would do whatever he bids me to do, even though I find him utterly revolting. Where is the key to this lock? How do I get free from this octopus? My eyes meet his and see promises of a wealthy ecstasy raging volcanically on an ocean of tears.
The urge to flee grows desperate and quickly sends me into a panic sweat. My eyes lurch about the room, around the bright lights, and pass all the glowering beautiful faces that look at me as if I will soon pass from existence. I find the exits, two far away, guarded by thin FBI men in black suits, thin ties, and dark sunglasses.
“Hey, Pop! How’s it hangin’? Boy they’ve got a live one tonight. I haven’t seen this many people since Mogul smashed the last guy’s head through the floor of the ring! Ha! Boy, you gotta be psycho to get in the ring with that guy. I really gotta hand it to ya! When Jeoff said you were coming I didn’t believe him! Boy, you sure are a sport!”
Of course Jeoff knew I would come. He had it all planned out. Mandolin is offering me his hand wearing his cute little boy smile and haughty bellman’s cap that I want to just slap off the top of his head. I turn my head and examine his make-up closely. His dark painted lips part broadly with unabashed joy at the sight of me. The boy is a Kabuki nightmare. I worry about him, my god.
He pulls me out of Jeoff’s clutches, and pulls off my robe and offers me a pair of silk shorts.
“They didn’t have any more boxing shorts. These are mine. I hope they fit.”
I step through the legs, and Mandolin brings them up around my waist. They feel nice. Jeoff is painfully assaulting my shoulders with hard kneading thrusts of his hands. Little darts of pleasure break between the tight jabs of his thumbs. His fingers dabble up and down my neck and massage each of my vertebrae. His palms press against my tight spots. Warmth spreads through my body. My senses lull. I float. Mandolin dutifully fits me with a pair of gloves. I’m being guided toward some unimaginable horror, I could fucking care less.
A familiar voice interrupts the darkness.
“Good evening, guests of the Outland. Tonight we have for your special enjoyment, something unusual…”
I wake up. The dream is ended. Standing on the stage looking shining and brushed and neatly coifed is Blix, the clerk. This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. He’s holding a microphone and a piece of paper. He’s reading as if pronouncing a verdict.
“… A boxing match free-for-all between Mogul…”
The crows erupt into a roar for their favorite son, a seven foot tall six hundred pound behemoth with arms like two hydraulic hammers. Mogul raises them up proudly displaying two rugged tufts of black hair in his arm pits, and strides around the stage puffing the turd with draconian fury. He is a gigantic diesel powered robot, a master masher. They love him, their flesh pounding megalomaniacal death machine.
“Are you sure you want me to go in there?” I ask Jeoff meekly.
“Yes! Oh, it’ll be stupendous!”
Blix continues, “…and our newest guest. He’s a man of influence and tremendous intellectual prowess, a giant of the literary world (not really, he’s a second rate one time author suffering an obligatory case of writer’s block – what a loser!)” [Insert cymbal crash]. “No, just kidding, folks!”
Jeoff and mandolin push me into the ring.
“No, I’m not going in there.”
“Yes, you, please just go on.”
“Him? What are you worried about? Come on, you can take him, he’s a puff, a push over. Just think of him as a big fluffy pillow.”
That’s easy for you to say you shit eating hyena!
“Don’t worry, I brought lots of ice.”
“I,” Blix snaps his fingers, “Excuse me, I can’t, I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten your name.”
“Yes. Your name. What is it?”
My name…? “My name is Jonathan.”
“Yeah, Jonathan what? Help me out here.”
Somebody yells out in the audience. The clerk’s face turns to look. Hands are passing an object toward the stage, a square shape, paper flapping. The clerk reaches down for it. It is my book, Paradise Lost. The clerk carefully scrutinizes the cover and the inside where my name is scrawled on the title page.
“Let’s see here… Jonathan Peabody… Oh, yes of course, Peabody. What the hell kind of name is that?”
“It’s the name I was born with.”
“Serves you right.”
He raises my hand high above the ring. “JONATHAN PEABODY!” The crowd roars, flash cubes strobe. I go blind. Jeoff and Mandolin sidle up with their teeth flashing. Beyond the outer darkness a band is flailing, TADA!!! The crowd beyond the ring shouts and convulses in a violent blur. Mandolin removes my robe. I feel exposed, wearing his paisley silk boxers and wing tips without socks! The boxing gloves seem like two balloons surrounding my hands. They weigh awkwardly at the end of my arms, spaghetti noodles next to Mogul’s.
I stand limp and totally alien, bleary eyed in disbelief. Mogul takes up a quarter of the ring. He sits on his stool with his arms spread across the ropes, receiving all kinds of attention from Brutus and Miss Santa. He looks like a giant cigar smoking wart out for a sun bath on the Riviera. My heart is a spasm of anxiety. I feel awful. How can I get out of here? The exits are still blocked by the dangerous looking FBI men. I see one talking into a walkie-talkie, so I know they are keeping communication between them. I’m locked, my heart drowning in an adrenaline flood. I’ve no escape. Jeoff manipulates my arms, fallow toothpicks that they are, and arranges them in sort of right angles so that the gloves block my face.
“You keep them up like that so he can’t get through. Remember to protect your ribs. He’ll go immediately for your ribs and your face too. You can do it. I have absolute faith in you. Now get in there and you kill him!”
Jeoff’s voice dims like a radio signal against the static of the crowd. I hate him. I truly sincerely hate him.
“Okay boys, come out here.” The clerk calls and waves to both of us. Mogul stands up and takes one step across the ring. The floor shimmies up and down with every motion he makes. Reluctantly I come forward, feeling instantly like a fly next to this hulking brute, with huge nostrils expelling hot moist air. My knees feel weak. The clerk looks us both over with a hand on each of our shoulders. “Now I want it clean. No tricks now. I want everything out in the open and direct. This is a fair fight. Do you understand?”
We both nod our understanding. Mogul looks at me with a death ray glare through the opaque glass covering his eyes. Are the doors still blocked? Slowly I turn and slump back to my corner.
“To the death!” The clerk says.
WHAT? “Did you hear that?” I say to Jeoff, “To the death! Is he serious?” I push my way through the ropes, but Jeoff and Mandolin practically poke my eyes out and pick my nose pushing me back in. Jeoff, damn him, is smiling with morbid school boy anticipation of my brains splattered all over the floor.
A bell rings. The ring trembles massively. Suddenly I feel two immense clamps on my shoulders. They spin me around. Mogul’s cue ball head, black eyes, derby, smoking turd cigar – the whole fowl composition makes me faint.
A cannon ball strikes my skull. My knees, hips, ribs, elbows, shoulders, and head strike the floor. By now I am surrounded by darkness. I strain towards black, into sleep and silence, but the roaring crowd pursues me toward that refuge. The smell of smoke and sanguine blood seeps through my lips over my tongue. Mogul’s testosterone musk brushes past my nose, now clogged hideously with blood and mucous. With one blow I am felled. Hurray! Please let this be the end of it. Let it all just stop now.
“One… Two… Three…”
Jeoff is saying, “Get up! Please! You’ve got to get up!”
Needless to say, I don’t feel like getting up any time this century. An odd pain in my balls is making that impossible as I hedge along the borders of consciousness. Jeoff, you motherfucker, I’m going to kill you if it’s the last thing I do.
“Johnny, Johnny, as your one and only friend who loves you, please, please get up!”
I don’t know why, but I am somehow able to power up my arms and raise my skinny torso off the canvas. My head reaches up like a snail crawling out of its shell and I twist and turn, groaning and aching. My arms shake rubber band like and my shoulders quiver as if about to disconnect from their sockets.
Mogul’s shadow falls over me as he reaches his fat arm around my rib cage and brings me standing just as Blix calls out, “EEEEIIIGHT…” I am a wobbling reed on two pins for feet. I’m all topsy turvy and short on breath to keep my head upright. The close ranging darkness still feels like a welcome escape route – the only way out of this whole mess.
I can see him there, through the red swollen slits of my eyes – the large misshapen biped, decked in black shorts, black hat, and black zeppelin shaped appendage wobbling in the middle of his face… “Come on you fat cow.” I command Mogul shallowly. His knobby fat head jerks counter clockwise, eyebrows up in questioning disbelief. Then he rights himself as I am barely standing and twisting like a reed, and rears back with that hydraulic jack-hammer of an arm of his and undercuts me.
“Owwww…” Jeoff smears behind me. Mandolin laughs uncontrollably.
Mogul’s big black rubber gloved hand buries somewhere between the top of my colon and the bottom of my rib cage. Air escapes me. The cabin depressurizes and all the passengers scramble madly for the exits. But the omnipresent dark throws its blanket of non-being over everyone as the ship comes crashing to the shore.
SHABLAKOOMP! This river isn’t deep enough, I tell myself. The bottom is all flat and not soft enough. I want the water to rush over me. Come, please carry me across Styx into Hades. Yes master. Somehow I’m able to gather that the rushing of the river is really the voice of the crowd raised to a deafening siren call. The shouting and the applause strobes my barely awake mind, and I can just make out all four of Mogul’s cowboy boot clad feet circling me, vulture toed, exultant, ready to swoop down and finish me.
Blix bends over me. Thank God for Blix. Quick, get me out of here, please.
“Are you alright?” He asks me.
“The bell,” my jaw grinds heavily in its socket as my tongue lolls and struggles with a mish mash of words forming inside my head. Hell no, I’m not alright you evil bastard, and if I survive this I’m going to rip you to pieces, “the bell.”
Blix leans down looking at my crushed face, my blackened eyes, at the blood running out of my nose and mouth. He rolls his eyes in disgust and leans close so his lips, teeth, and tongue are all I can see. “Listen carefully to me, Mr. J. We’ve given you a little something extra to help even the odds. It’s in your drawers.”
“What is it?”
“Just get it and use it. Remember, it’s for your own good.”
‘My own good.’ Since when have you given a damn about my own good you pusillanimous sadist? I suddenly become aware of something hard in my pants.
“Can you get up?”
The clerk’s words drift through a fog and I feel him lift me. My nose releases from the mat. The clogging in my head suddenly gets worse. I can barely make out his blurred shape, his face staring at me from the corner of my eye.
“The bell… the bell.” I plead.
“No bell, you’re going on.”
“That a boy, Jonathan!”
“Way to go, Mr. J!” Mandolin lets go a piercing whistle.
Mogul is pacing back and forth, sizing me up for another go. I’m struggling, can’t breathe. I’m a poor pitiful wrecked bastard with dead strings for arms dangling lifelessly at my sides tied to cannon balls.
Helen? I whip my head around toward the source of her voice and careen directly into the ropes, my arms dangle out and I look hopefully into a kaleidoscopic ocean of faces. “Jonathan,” she calls, and I hear her, see her face standing still in the crowd. She looks at me, sees me. I’m alive. Her face beams wondrously. Oh, there’s hope yet. I’m not beaten. Not as long as she’s here.
The glowering jack hammer beast spins me with one yank of his neoprene clad index finger. He grabs me by the neck and his other hand squeezes my lazy genitals. The pain is rock ‘n roll excruciating, and he lifts me on the end of his two pillar like arms and spins me high over his head. My weight triples in three hundred sixty degrees. I get dizzy and want to vomit. And before I can muster the courage I feel myself hurled through the air, the lights and the crowd and the smoke going every which way and I land splat, hard on the mat. My noggin explodes with painful throbbing.
“Your trunks!” Blix bellows.
I reach my hand down, struggling beneath my dead weight, into a tiny silk pocket in the side of the paisley boxers. My fingers wiggle in, and there amid the slick folds finds a hard oblong object, a knife, which I pull from the pants and struggle to flick open. With great effort I manipulate the blade. It springs open miraculously without cutting my fingers off.
Mogul is gloating, his back turned to me, his arms raised in victory over his fat brainless derby wearing head. He lowers his arms and the audience goes quiet. I keep my eye on him, the gigantic hirsute mangler, as he turns his loathsome dark bespectacled eye brows toward me with simian ferocity, and he chews the end of his turd and lets loose a puff of smoke that shrouds his head and bleats the air. I hate all three of him, equally. I vow none of them will escape my vengeful wrath, come what may.
Of course all he would have to do is sit on my head and I would be dead in less than a minute. But I have the knife, the very little tiny knife Blix was so forthrightly kind to provide me with. Here it is you fat glob – dinner!
Just as he comes and leaps toward me, I roll and let the knife blade stick upward. In mid air I see him go into a fit of horror as he sees the knife, but it is all too late. Six hundred pounds of man hurtle down upon me and wallow on my pour miserable frame like so much jello. The knife instantly pierces him, and I wriggle it in to tear up as much of his wretched innards as I can. His liver is sliced clean in two, and I lacerate his blithering intestines with zest and a great hunger that pours out of me in a lustful torrent. He wails like a sea lion, flapping his arms and legs and his jelly roll quivers with shock as blood ejaculates from his open side. It is warm and smooth. It gushes onto my hand and coats the knife. It spills out all over the mat, inundating the entire surface. Then he tenses, and his fat raging head freezes over me, his fat smeary lips open and he drools right onto my face. With one last spasm he lets loose, and he falls limp on top of me – six hundred pounds and quite dead.
The crowd noise shatters like a sonic boom that shakes the rafters. Brutus, Ms. Santa, and Jeoff rush as one to remove the hulking corpse. I’m relieved to be alive. My head is lost under the weight of him. The whole world is far away and spinning like a million stars in the nighttime sky. I’m dead, I tell myself. I breathe. The air goes in and out. I’m not dead. Christ, I wish I was dead. I feel dead. They pull me up. My feet struggle against the floor, wingtips intact, legs bandy but approaching straight. I’m breathing, whole – can’t put any of it together.
Blix raises my hand and pronounces me the victor. I look around expecting Helen to charge the stage. The FBI men are there. Their blank faces mirror cosmic disinterest as one of them thrusts a tiny square envelop into my delirious hand. Jeoff snatches it away. I hear the rip, he flips a card open.
“You did it!” Jeoff screams and his lips press impatiently on me and his tongue forcefully part mine. “You did it! See? I told you, you could make it!”
This is all quite funny, isn’t it? He throws his arm around me and jumps up and down like an idiot, brandishing the invitation around proudly and singing my praises to the psychotic crowd. Everyone listens to him and gathers, crawling through the ropes and pressing against me so the air goes hot and I get that queer feeling through my whole body. And a smile creeps onto my face with a fresh memory of that moment in space where I was at one in a sexual heaven. They’ll all go out of here and spin yarns about me, acres about the pale spaghetti armed man who took down a gigantic turd smoking toad, and I’ll become a myth. And I’m happy to be alive.
Then one lone thought slithers snake skinned oily and crude into my endorphin soaked brain: I’m a murderer.