I’ll be damned to hell for this, no escaping. I’m ready, I say – stupid me, a cockroach walking into a roach motel. Nothing can save me now. I’m ready. I’ve fucked everything. And everything up! And now I’m just ready to walk straight into hell’s gaping maw with the flames burning and a multitude of x-humans with charred unearthly flesh all screaming at the top of their lungs. Strike the harp and join the chorus!
But no time for that, Jeoff is telling me as he cradles me through the longing crowd waving their hands and handkerchiefs at me, their new hero, the new David having slain Goliath!
“He was a dinosaur who outlived his time.” Jeoff is saying to me. “He had it coming. Never mind. A little spilt blood, a lot of spilt blood, some cleaning take care of it. Chef Black will take care of him. A bunch of new recruits will gorge themselves on fricassees and stews and steaks smothered in crème au flambé. No one will be the wiser. Face it! You’re a hero. And Mogul is the stuff of legend.”
Jeoff is very kind, I realize as my head wobbles somewhere above the dreadful milieu encased by fog. Everything is a fog. The whole night is a fog. Now the people and the women throwing themselves in my direction look like ravens with long beaks glowing red hot. Jeoff, dutiful Jeoff, kindly, suspicious conniving Jeoff – rigged this whole thing – steers me past these horrors and we soon find ourselves negotiating past eagerly accommodating patrons of the bar who look at me as if I was made of gold. I sit down on one of the cushy bar stools and Jeoff orders me something dark and syrupy that tastes like tar and molasses and goes straight to my head. We chase it down with vodka and tonic and lime. We have three of these and before long we are sitting in puddles of our own urine talking about the good old days, heads swimming on ocean waves like buoys beneath large threatening cumulonimbus clouds.
And pretty soon a tear comes up in his eye, and Jeoff starts telling me about his poor mother who died of cancer back east, and how he and his younger sibling were the only two who could take care of her, and how draining it was watching after her and putting up with her mood changes and her angry shouts about their father getting killed in the war, leading a bunch of love starved boys around the jungles of Angola, marching around booby traps and land mines high on LSD fresh from an R&R stop over in a local village where three daughters gave blow jobs to the whole bunch, and pretty soon got himself killed during a post orgasmic LSD delirium by stepping on one of the aforementioned land mines that blew his leg clean off and sent a molten iron shard through his aorta.
“I know it sounds crazy,” he explains, “but my mother could see microbes fornicating on an aardvark’s ass on Pluto. I’m telling you – this woman had vision!”
Times were tough back then and Jeoff was starving to get his life on the wagon so he snuck out and left his sibling and his mother and went off to Hollywood to pursue his acting career. He worked in a book store coffee house on Melrose. He did local inprov theatre and worked for fifty bucks a day as a movie extra and sold miscellaneous controlled substances on the side, got arrested at Musso and Frank’s for possession of heroin and served six months in jail (with early probation because he saved his cell mate, in for securities fraud, from strangling to death at the end of a belt strapped to a water pipe in the ceiling, something about auto-erotic asphyxiation that would have had William Burroughs wazzing all over his cockroach dust). And here the story disintegrates and Jeoff falls into a fit of despair about his beautiful cell mate and his dead mother and his sibling who will never forgive him, no not in a million years, for being such a selfish prick rat bastard and leaving his poor widowed mother dreaming about her deceased husband’s dismembered leg on her deathbed.
He cries incessantly about all of this while I hold him in my arms – me insipid, vacuous, and not at all incarnate – so his head rests on my shoulder. He says he wound up here to get away from the bad dreams and the memories and to find peace in his life for once.
Poor Jeoff. We close the place down. Soon the last of the dazed affected onlookers poke off, whispering behind us, and the last of the klieg lights snaps off. The whole room goes dungeon quiet. Everyone seems to have gone off to their rooms except the two of us to amuse ourselves with absurd jokes about monkeys who piss into beer bottles and fuck donkeys, and skeletons that have to clean up after themselves when they drink tequila.
I am so stinking drunk and blasted out of my mind with exhaustion. It feels like two days have slipped since I slept properly, and I haven’t eaten a thing. Jeoff somehow rallies and leads me out of the bar.
“Let’s eat,” he says. “We have these, remember?” He says, waving the invitations in the air. “That’ll help us.” The invitations look like doves’ wings to me. “But first let’s get cleaned up.”
Down a hallway through a turnstile, Jeoff tips an attendant and we go through a door into a dark tiled room filled with steam and a bunch of men dressing themselves from racks of dry suits of clothes. FBI men are posted ominously near all the doors. Their shoes gleam against the swirling chocolate vanilla terrazzo tiles beneath them. I start to creep out, but Jeoff gives me a robe and tells me to put it on, I’ll feel better when I get in the shower.
A shower sounds like a really good idea. I follow him through the door past one of the austere FBI men and he leads me into a stall and turns on the water. I am looking at him as he does this and I start to wonder. And as he turns he takes the soap in hand and starts washing me with it. I open my mouth in protest, but he’s so insistent, and he goes about it business like, and I’m fumbling and goofy and don’t really know what to think, but let him do it for whatever, what the hell, he’s getting the job done, and the slick bar feels right anywhere he puts it. I start to think to myself, this could get a little hairy being that Jeoff is about as hairy as a man can be, and I don’t really find him the least bit attractive. I begin to feel a terror closing over me, but the water beats down hot and steam routs my senses and fills the stall so that no one can see in and I can’t see out, but I can hear some guy moaning in the next stall and a lot of smacking going on.
Jeoff gets on his knees and says, “I’ve been waiting all night for this.” My eyes are closed and my head is up against the tile. My mind is fluid and dark and I’m totally open to whatever he has in mind. He traces his finger along the back of my scrotum and deeper into that darkness. He breathes on me and soon I feel his mouth wet and warm and reassuring slide easily over my glans and I feel his tongue begin to flick the golden triangle beneath. And my whole body flares with the toe curling awe that swells through me like and wave. His lips are pliant and moist around my center and he’s gentle and he doesn’t move, but just a little so that the sensations are easy, smooth, and powerful. He’s not desperate, but tender and patient. And I swoon so much with pleasure, my god I’ve never had my dick sucked like this! I feel like I could explode! But he continues gently sucking me off, and my cock gets thick and meaty and I look down and his mouth is on it and the veins are standing out. And in this heat it looks red and purplish at the end. Jeoff runs his lips and tongue up my shaft. My eyes close and I get lost in the black world of orgasmic sensations as I begin rocking between his lips. He takes me in and keeps me steady. The rhythm moves back and forth and builds momentum after long moments at just the right intensity that goes on, and on, and on with the hot water draining down my backside, down my legs and between my toes. And soon the pressure builds where his lips and my cock meet and I explode all over the shower.
Jeoff swallows me whole, then looks up through the steam and smiles at me, and I smile back. My buddy. Done. I’m a little more sober now, but reality is still way, way off.
At the shaving mirror it hits me; Helen, the kids, the guilt. Who am I? What am I doing? I wipe the steam off the mirror and look closely into my own eyes. I have gone way beyond everything I thought was red white and blue about myself. I don’t recognize me. I just let that man suck me dry. How could I allow this to happen? Why did I allow this to happen? I have sinned! I see headless dragons floating in the mirror. Their heads cascade down in a maelstrom of blood. I’m shaving my face. The white lather is consumed by the razor cutting through every single tree stump whisker on my face. I should slit my throat with this razor, and make a head-long plunge into non-being. Jeoff is going on and on and on about the banquet.
“I hear the banquet chef is light years ahead of our temperamental friend downstairs. My god, what a sociopath! This one is reported to be Russian. Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘Oh my god, we’re in for kaschi, vodka, and borscht!’ No, no! This one’s French trained, makes rich pate and soufflés, and roasted duck you can sink your teeth into, and cheese blintzes to die for! Oh! I’m so excited I can’t wait. I know they say a late dinner wreaks awful havoc on the digestive system, but with such delicacies, what’s a little indigestion, eh Johnny?
Oh, but look at you, so thin. You’re like a humming bird. Now I want you to enjoy yourself. I want you to forget all about your troubles.”
No troubles. That would be nice. Get a hold on yourself. Apes do it. People have been doing it for millennia. A voice in the back of my head says it was innocent, it was nature, forget about it, you’ll get over it. I get worked up about marriage vows. It’ll pass, you won’t be the first and you won’t be the last… I remember what the old man said, “Purity is for children…”
We are lead out a doorway into a shallow dark foyer with two doors marked by a figure eight infinity symbol that glimmers from an unseen light source. We wait for what seems like hours, as Jeoff smiles and wiggles his eyebrows at me. We are dressed in tuxedos complete with white carnations pinned to the lapels. I’m feeling anxious and edgy. The alcohol I’ve consumed this night is a heavy incessant cloud permeating every cell of my body. I’m weary from all the excitement, a meal might revive me, then sleep – dear god – to sleep off this night of lust, drunkenness, and murder and to wake up as somebody else – redeemed. Jeoff is smiling like the Cheshire cat. I want to leave. Finally a small staff waiter appears and opens the doors.
The world beyond these doors is bright as a bell, at least that’s what my eyes tell me as I am blinded by the headache-starting glare of the next room. It takes a second before I can see inside into what that bright world consists of. Jeoff marches right past me into a large room, his feet clapping resiliently on the white terrazzo floor bordered by a colonnade overlooking the terrace and a nighttime sky. The room is lit by a shining chandelier hanging above an immense table richly furnished and loaded with a cornucopia of various meats and vegetables, wine, bread, and pastries. Huge bowls of gravy and soufflés litter the table with trays full of stuffing and sauces, chipotle, compote, casseroles of every conceivable size and variety, trays lined with quail and pheasant, a huge turkey, two or three ducks, a pig, a gigantic London broil, and cakes and Jell-o molds, and pies abound along side huge stacks of butter and whipped cream, biscuits, stuffing, baked potatoes, stews, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, pan cakes, kegs of syrup, kippers, salmon steaks, sour kraut, peanut sauce, butter milk corn bread, deviled eggs, mustard greens, craw fish, a gigantic vat of pickled beets, cheese grits, carafes of wine, tea, sangria, pitchers of beer, pate, crackers, trout almandine, chocolates, candied fruit, doughnuts, spotted dick, hot soup, cold soup, sour soup, noodles, kimchi, raisin bread pudding, sour cream, a huge salami, lentils, gumbo, and heavenly hash. An eye catching flower arrangement is at the center of it all, refracting light like a huge mirror ball. Jeoff claps his hands together like an orphan who’s suddenly gotten everything he’s always wanted. He hops enthusiastically.
“Can you believe this, Johnny?”
One of the men looks up happily at us and waves a fork in greeting, “Hello there.” He chirps, chewing on a noodle. A crawfish leg dangles between his smeared lips. His wife is my first clue that something is off. She looks ill and a mess and has a mucousy tendril dangling off her face. She smiles uncomfortably as she stuffs a giant silver fork in her mouth with a mish mash of some ungodly savory substances.
About ten guests are already seated at the table. Two men and a woman are digging into mountains of food. I notice, by chance, that the other seven are grossly malformed, transmuted, or disfigured in some way. They have one thing in common, they all look dead and bloated, except they are seated upright in their chairs, being fed through various apparatus. Two of these seven are pasty white and green around the edges. Their eyes have turned up in their heads as they sit immobile in their chairs. They have somehow become glued and cocooned with the food they have been eating through various connective tissues, which seem to be carrying the required nutrients beneath their skin. The others are more dark and disturbing, a collage of black neoprene, and leather, sewn up eyes and ears. A few are trapped in violent protest to their chairs. Their faces are masked in leather, their heads strapped down, and a tube has been surgically inserted into their esophagi or bolted to their main facial orifice through which the food moves of its own volition into the participant. I gape in awe of this, and wonder if Jeoff sees it. The moron is completely oblivious. He’s rushed right to the head of the table and sat himself down in a dining chair with fat cushions.
Needless to say I get an odd feeling about this. But I am happy to write it all off as some fetish society gathering of gothic swingers. You never know what you might come up against in the world these days, especially here. I just decide to look the other way, what the hell, the smell of the pheasant is mighty pleasing. I’ll have mine with wild rice and gravy! Pretty soon I’m sitting diagonally from Jeoff, next to the poor woman with the blotches and the tendril. On closer inspection she really needs to wash her hair that looks to have bits of lettuce and spaghetti crawling through it. At some point, I’m sure, she dunked her head in a garden salad – must’ve fallen asleep between courses, and woke up pinned down. Easy to understand how such things happen in a place like this, they keep you up for days with no sense of time and bring you up here for stuffing.
“How long have you been here?” I ask.
“Oh, about four days,” she says meekly.
“And how long have they been up here?” My eyes wander over to the fetish crowd.
She shrugs with an odd intensity about her, as if she has some secret to tell, but won’t. Her face is gaunt, her eyes buggy, and I think she must be a meth junkie.
Wow. So here comes the first round. A waiter sets a large silver tray down in front of me and removes the lid. “For starters,” he says. Underneath the big silver dome is an immense salad. I’m hungry for meat! Why do I get the salads? I look over at Jeoff, and his waiter is taking the dome off a big pork roast garnished with garlic, carrots, and potatoes. What gives? I’m not a rabbit! But this thing is huge. It’s more than I could eat in a month. It’s got about fifty different lettuces and leafy material in it and peanuts and walnuts and cashews and just about every kind of nut, and gorgonzola and tomatoes and sun dried tomatoes, chunks of Portobello mushrooms and feta cheese, carrots, caramelized onions, mint leaves, olives, anchovies, pieces of ham, cottage cheese, croutons, sour crème, bean sprouts, brussels sprouts, beets, corn, beans, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumber, cheddar, Swiss, grilled chicken, caviar – my god! For starters!
The dour woman next to me has finished off the flesh of some bird. The bones are all that remain. Before she can swallow a waiter swoops down and puts a new plate in front of her, some kind of pie with a thick pastry crusting around the edges of the tin. Her lips are red from all the chewing, and she looks up at me pathetically, slumping from her distended middle. “I’m Bulimic,” she says, and burps atrociously.
Jeoff is heartily at his pork roast, having already downed a full glass of vintage red wine and carving the thing with a bowie knife. He slips a dangling piece of the flesh into his mouth and squirms and says, ‘My! Isn’t this delicious?”
That terror feeling comes over me again, a painful sense of dread and foreboding that wants to send me fleeing from the room. I’m okay. I try to reason with myself that all of this is figment, and that I’m just here for a meal and then to bed. There’ll be no tendrils and tubes down the esophagus for me, thank you. I just came to get sober.
The man across from me is wearing some ancient maritime uniform with bars and medals, and is gobbling down a plate full of bacon and sausage with such zest, he hasn’t bothered to wipe his greasy fingers and face, or remove the bubbles dribbling across his swine tallow smeared lips in the last hour.
“My name is Dr. Ponsle,” the chap with the gorged mouth full of ham is telling me. “And this is my wife, Georgetta,” indicating the bulimic near corpse on my right, the one who just burped poison gas in my face and is now slurping her way into the pastry covered hodge-podge. “Could I perhaps interest you in a few of these blue capsules? They make a lovely complement to the – ”
“He brings them to all the parties,” Georgetta cuts him off. “That’s how we got invited,” and her face falls back into the pie.
“Hi, thank you, nice to meet you.” I’m tripping badly enough, I don’t need blue pellets, thank you! I feel like I’m on an LSD panic as it is. As these thoughts spiral into darkness I nod my head and smile and look down, determined not to let any of it get to me. I rifle my fork through this salad. It looks safe enough – no fuming bits of rotten leaves. I’ll just have a bit of it, then gracefully and quietly take my leave.
Well these are all fine and good things to tell oneself after a night of nightmarish ecstasy, torment, and murder. Right now I feel as acquainted with those things as any asylum inmate in four point restraint. And Lord! I’m famished in the midst of it all, surrounded by horrors I’m too numb to mention. And now the damn salad starts moving! Whatever the kitchen staff put beneath it isn’t dead yet, and godammit – it’s pissing me off! It shuffles and I wonder what it could be, and I fall prey to an aching paranoia that has me thinking I’ll be trapped here forever, food for the beast, and this feeling triples and quadruples exponentially through every molecule of my marrow when a face appears in the salad, and a pair of eyes blinks up at me! The face becomes a full head, rising from the debris, with eyes and make-up and hair done up just so, with shoulders, arms, and breasts dribbling caramelized vinaigrette, bitter green leaves, juicy roma tomatoes, walnuts, and gorgonzola, right down to her bare navel. Oh fuck, it’s Helen! I sink in my chair, terrorized, and try to hide impotently, teeth chattering, behind my napkin.
“Hi, Baby.” She soothes, reaching down, she pulls the napkin away from my face so that one lone eye turns in its socket to meet her.
“Helen, is that really you?”
“It’s me, Sweetheart. Don’t be afraid. Come up here. I forgive you.”
“Mhmm, I do.”
I uncurl myself from the chair and come upright. I’ve never seen her looking so ravishingly seductive. I think to myself this can’t be right. Maybe Dr. Ponsle slipped one of his capsules in the salad when I wasn’t looking. Maybe his wife burped some toxic hallucinogen directly into my brain.
Helen looks me straight in the eyes without a hint of anger, but that look women get when they’re ovulating and get the urge to breed. Her breath is hot and reeks of that hunger. “I’m your dream boat, aren’t I?” Her breasts are poking right into my dinner jacket. “Kiss me so we can make it better.” But she plays it convincingly, and I begin to think of all the things that happened tonight, and about all the dreams, and everything I want to tell her out of guilt and out of need to connect and validate my experience. This is the Helen I can talk to – this yang mistress from the depths. This Helen will understand my plight. She’s waiting, goading, desiring to hear all the juicy caramelized details.
Her lips move into orbit over mine, the gravitational pull is intense. Her eyes are dreamy and I am mesmerized. Perhaps this will work, I tell myself. She’s changed for the better. I hope. I kiss her plush lips. They seal against mine with a vacuum and her arms fall around me and tug me close to her so that the tuxedo and the jacket get all mixed up in her salad dressing.
“I’m sorry for the way I’ve been lately.” I begin. I know she’s too intoxicated to care, but I start to babble. All of it goes by like old newspapers in the wind and she stops and she says:
“It’s alright, Jonathan. I forgive you.” Her tone is sharp. Something about it sends a spike of panic up my spine. The signal routes into my pelvis and we go right on, full bore, with our make out scene at the dining table.
“But I don’t understand.” I can hear myself say, or did I just think it? “I care about you so much, I don’t want to lose you.”
She strokes my face with her fingers and looks tenderly at me and purrs that I haven’t lost her and she’s right here. And I start to feel strange, as if I am oozing phlegm from every pore of my body. At first I think I’m in a guilty sweat, but the sweat is sticky and it starts to dry, and I try to shake it off. But I can’t. Soon I can barely move. When I open my eyes Helen’s arms are coiled around me, and I’m tied to her with ribbons and tendrils of this snotty glue, hardening us both together in a death grip if hard resin. I panic and jerk and pull my arms, but I can’t break loose. I’m so tied to her. Her eyes flash and turn to a hell tide and her teeth fang out. Certainly this is all Dr. Ponsle’s fault, or his wife’s. And as soon as I get free of this hell I’m going to give them a sure piece of my mind. This is a trap – the end of the nightmare. The more I struggle, the harder it is to break free. The ties that bind are truly fierce and growing at an alarming rate. My heart struggles against its moorings inside my rib cage, flailing against my lungs for escape, as I struggle for dear life in the clutches of this hideous foul beast – this wife – this Helen – this vampire.
We twist and grapple, knocking plates and candle holders all over the table. I hope I’m not hurting anybody – not that it matters. I’m in the struggle for my life here, my eternal life. It now seems to me this has been the pinnacle of Mr. Blix’s plan all along; get him drunk, fuck him stupid, and feed him until he is too fat to move, tied to a chair for all eternity, force feeding on the cuisine of man’s earthly desire until the beast, whose chair awaits at the head of the table with dark solid wood makes his millennial return.
Well, if this is hell, I want out.
Somehow, I’m able to grab a large carving knife out of a honey slathered ham nearby, and I begin to cut my way loose from the hell wrap. It’s fairly easy once you get the knife angled properly. But it’s too difficult to discriminate against bands of resin and Helen’s petulant flesh. She starts screaming and spitting blood and tearing at me with her fingernails ripping my cheap suit away like tin foil. And my blood starts finding its way out of my flesh. I’ve no choice but to stab her. So I plunge the knife over and over again. She makes an ear splitting screaming and hissing sound, like a dragon having its heart cut out. And she pitches and rolls in a lunatic fit. She tears me. She pounds me. And more showers of blood erupt across the table, onto the food, onto the guests. After I have cut her open enough the demon disappears and there’s my Helen, looking at me with sorrow and a pitiable questioning. Her knife wound riddled body falls on top of all the food, crashing against the silver service making an abstract expressionist miasma of blood and fine cuisine, to a soundtrack of loud fateful noises.
I am reduced, absolutely, to a state of quivering exhaustion. I drop the bloody knife onto the table, breathing monstrously, thanking God for the preternatural determination it took to murder my way free again. That’s twice in one evening – a personal record. I look around me through blood soaked eyelashes caked with panic and gorgonzola. The admiral and Mrs. Ponsle are both unconscious in their chairs. Lucky break. The admiral appears to be transforming into a wobbling glob of lard. Dr. Ponsle has disappeared. His wife is now unrecognizable in a cocoon of mottled flesh. And the pork roast is eating Jeoff’s head.
Poor bastard couldn’t see it coming, I tell myself. The desperate fool has tossed himself headlong into darkness. I pick up one of the large table napkins and wipe the blood off my face and hands. My shirt is covered in it. The stings of my wounds grate inside my shirt’s torn remains. I feel no guilt this time. Rather, I feel more or less vindicated. I collapse in my chair, exhausted, and push away from the nightmare on the table.