I don't remember dying.
The last thing I remember I was walking the
hallowed halls of higher learning, making my way to the crowded classroom
where I daily endeavored to teach World Lit to muzzy-headed students who
cared more for their cell phones than for sonnets. Then gunfire erupted
in front of me and a young man in sun glasses and a hooded parka sauntered
toward me, shooting anyone who happened to cross his path. A most pleasant
smile he had on his face as he raised his pistol and shot Judy Deakins,
professor of Economics and mother of three. The back of Judy's head
came off and flew at me with a comet's tail of blood. A piece of
her skull struck me in the chest, bloodied my shirt and power tie. The
young man with the gun turned his head toward me and I saw my two faces
in the twin mirrors of his shades. His gun came up and my eyes were sucked
down to the dark hole of his pistol's muzzle. Looking into that universe
of spiraled darkness was my last act as a living being, and it's the last
thing I remember of my nasty, brutish and short life.
For the moment -- as moments "exist" for the
dead -- I remember a great many details of my life on Earth, but I won't
burden you with those. What I'm setting down here is my necrography --
not my life story but my death story, thus far. But for the recent advances
in microchipery and the advent of the GreatNet, I wouldn't be able to tell
it at all, short of ouji boards and table rapping. Thanks to the demigods
of cyberrealm, I'm able for a time to be the ghost in this machine, making
dead lines by sheer want and will of the soul.
My lovely killer took me down with a headshot;
how else to explain my sudden end? I never even heard the bang. I was standing
there staring into the darkhole deathspiral, then I was nowhere, lost in
blackness deeper than any in sleep, untethered in the space between inhale
Mean Old Transmigration Blues, talking blues, bluefunk
dues out on the highway to hell and gone, lowway to Elysium and all points
in between, blue highways, black death, veins pumping their last back in
the harrowed halls, Valhalla-bound for Glory or ground for the bowery of
heaven's subcellar, bowery bums bowdlerized by guardians of taste and on-high
style, laid low by archangel's fiery rapier, sliced, diced and deloused,
the singed soul at least cleaned up if not sanctified. Cosmic madness in
the method. Methodist Mugged By Heavenly Host. God's Dog Dogged By Dogma
In Life, Doomed To Doggerel In Death's Dolorous Dominion. Talking Dharma
Bum Blues, eh, Jack? lowdown and nasty...
Mystery my mistress now. I digress:
The great mystery of life, to me, was why
the male member must sponge up to uncomfortable size for the nightmind
to set sail on the dream mare. Try explaining to a woman that your erection
had nothing to do with the content of your dream.
--Having sex dreams again, eh? she would say.
--No, dear, it was a sexless nightmare.
--Then why were you hard up?
--Dunno. Just was.
The way it works. Stiff ticket to dreamland. No
admittance without a stiff; ticket. Inflate the old inner tube and
float on the sea of dreams. Turgid, tumescent, tumid, swollen-near-to-bursting
with blood, riding the tumultuous waves, surfboard bone, boneless meat tender-tough,
roughcut and rowdy but hardly randy. They say hanged men sprout boners,
and you know they aren't thinking of the beast with two backs. Perhaps
they're dreaming their last at death's doorway, plumbing the depths of
the soul's dark demesne as they near the nightmare/deathmare nexus. Erecting
dreams out of soft tissue, ethereally rising up to prick the ether and
pierce heaven's heart. Mystery of mysteries: myth-muscled monster
moored to the moon, mossbacks and mountebanks alike, mirroring the masqueraders'
matrix and tempting the immortal muse.
Perhaps the ancient ithyphallic statue of everhard
Priapus and the pagan worship of the phallus itself might be explained
by the myth-dream-erection connection. Christ Himself came late to the
pagan party as a phallic god with the Holy Prepuces guaranteed to make
women conceive; those foreskins enshrined at the Abbey Church in Chartres
generated thousands of miraculous births, they say, and one saint went
so far as to claim that Jesus bound her as His bride by using His foreskin
as wedding ring. Add to that the fact that early Christians hid stone phalli
in their church altars, and you have a fairly accurate picture of religion's
fascination with the phallus (fascinum being Latin for erect penis) and
it doesn't take too great a leap of logic to land in the Phallic Land of
Fascination and Fantasy, the male's dream-hard legacy of spiritual physiology.
Unless of course I've come down in fallacy, in which case I beg your patience.
Forgive if you will any ensuing phallacies. My musings along these hard-by
lines may be little more than a dead man's penis envy...
...and a momentary distraction from the mistress
who takes me unto her dark waters and into the churning backwash of remembered
moments strung together like bones wired each to the other so the skeleton
may dance and rattleclackclack all the lovelong night or day as bones are
wont to do if they are of a mind and a will apart from the world's willingness
to move forward in illusory time, dancing to the beat of the exalted one
who calls the tune, imprinted melodies that stick in the craw, remembered
by bizarre association, coddled like babes given suck, but down there in
the muck and mire is where I no longer am, being dead and privy to secret
senses unknown to the living. Snatches of careworn words from the funeral-goers
lips find their way to my occult antennae:
--Oh, he had big plans, they just never panned
out. Them as can't do, teaches, don't ya know.
--Dabbled with powers of darkness, I heard.
No sense really in knocking about here when here
is so very there and very much down; the living have little choice in the
matter. They move from place to place with solemn purpose and a sense of
self-importance, never arriving, always pushing off, careening madly from
one drama to the next, looking back and losing the way they thought they
had at last found, sad foundlings taken in, nourished, fortified with a
semblance of love, then cast out again, adrift, at sea, sailing round the
horn, round and round they go, hither and yon, till they're bald as billiard
balls and swaddled in diapers in the Old Folks' Home, waiting to die, awaiting
deliverance to the Promised Land or at the least an end to their suffering.
They say that when you die your dead relatives are there to greet you and
take you once again to the dead bosom of familial bliss, that shriveled
pap from whence the bloodmilk of human compassion must flow. Thank the
gods that was not my fate, for what family isn't cursed with a thousand
little cruelties and wicked digs in the flesh dispensed in the name of
love, or with self-fulfilling prophesies of doom, legacies of despair,
failure hidden in every proud success. I'll have none of it, thank you
very much. Don't bother to write; where I am the post office doesn't deliver,
come Hell or high water or whatever. No check in the mail, no official
notification, no You're already a winner, because there are no winners
here in this ethereal locus between line and shadow, off and on, pain and
pleasure, knowing and unknowing. The soul doesn't move in linear fashion.
You don't go from place to place or moment to moment because there are
no moments, no places, and if you should see God you probably wouldn't
recognize Him/It/Her anyway because you will be blinded by the immensity
of everything happening all at once, history and future folding and unfolding
before and after your soul's secret eyes, eyes multifaceted with sensory
organs evolution never dreamt of, never leapt to, your old body down there
in the box, little more than a quaint relic now, if now even exists. They're
moving it, see? Loading the box into the hearse, mourners dabbing eyes,
blowing noses, clasping hands. Talking in whispers as though they're afraid
of waking the dead. Don't worry. No sleep for the dead. I'm awake! And
caught in my wake they march to the cemetery, cake-walkers moving mournfully
amid stones and markers, watched over by guardians of sculpted stone and
marble, fierce angels and fat cherubs, Mother of God in need of a good
scrubbing, weathered to a sad fair-thee-well, no longer immaculate but
pretty just the same. Hail, Mary! Hail and farewell. Another hale fellow
well met, then kissed off the planet, and more's the pity. No, not really.
Pity doesn't append (useless appendage if it did). Planets are just rounded
places, blobs of space debris trapped in random orbit, some infested with
life, some life invested with abstract thought and self-awareness, cursed
you might say, and fearing death, but take it from me, death is nothing
to fear. Death is nothing. No thing. Life is some thing. The things we
are. Things that cry. Bleeding objects.
Caution: Objects may appear more solid than they really are. When you're
dead you can go to your own funeral and see the circus. The prayers, the
tears, the pain, the spectacle of the last rites--it makes you want to
scream: Stop your blubbering! (cold and heartless of me, but I am dead).
I'm right here and here is fine while it's here. But soon enough I'll be
elsewhere in that place that isn't a place, in a time out of time, where there is no where, no now, no then, no thing. I don't think I'll remember much then
(no-then) and I may get a chance to start over again (begin?) in an embryonic
shell, once more into the breech, brave lad, and then be squirted out in
a new time and place, one more forlorn human toss-pot overwhelmed with
possibilities and cursed with budding spiritual yearnings and a biological
imperative to return to the womb and spawn offspring of my own, but for
now I'm beyond all that, cast adrift once more, buoyed by divine magic
and borne up by forces unseen, hovering above my hole in the ground, riding
irresistible currents of a Stygian river without beginning...
Germans have a word for the space between
things: zwischenraum. The realm of the dead is zwischenraum. We dead reside
in the in-between, the null & Void, the great empty spaces in mind
and matter. To us the living are hazy spirits, while we dead are starkly
detailed in the rich hues of the soul, decked out in the colors between
the colors of the spectrum. When you speak we hear a faint buzzing as from
a fly trapped between the window glass and screen, and your footsteps fall
as silently as the fly's. To the dead you are shades and shadows of that
which we once were and may never be again. You are shallow, dimensionless
creatures glimpsed from the corners of our soul's eyes, standing on the
corner of Dead & Gone, waiting for the bus to the boneyard. Between
the dead lines you may find us if you peel the blinders off your eyeballs.
We roam the zwischenraum, rangers and rovers who don't, as a rule, say
Boo! to you.
I find I'm partial to churchyards, feeling
right at home amid the markers and stones. These places are rich in souls,
fertile ground for growing melancholy flowers or sipping the Zeitgeist like
vintage wine, imbibing the Weltschmerz like world-weary Nazis overseeing
death camps. Gott im Himmel, those jerrys were good at stamping labels
on things! Jerry-rigging the world to suit their operatic view, but deaf
as old Beethoven to the cries of the world. Still and awe, I'm all a twitter
and rosymarble cozy passing through these tombstone rows and townhouse
mausoleums, necropolitan nightscapes under the midday sun, sad son of lost
souls and random coupling, my spirit shaped by each life lived or touched
to the heart, a soul apart, yet leaking into others and sucking up
intimate essences at great personal risk. Ghost-nook necropolis my dark
port of call. These sad shadelings alive and carrying our coffins to the
grave, backs bent in mourning, these grim-faced bearers of pall, somber
sorters all, deep in contemplation of their own mortality and thirsty for
stop in the local pub, hardly able to wait till the first shovelful is
tossed. Weltschmerz schmaltz is the fashion of the day. Maudlin mourners
in monotone uniform, black as ravens' wings, their metaphorical feathers
metaphysically ruffled by death's passing breeze. I'm quite at home here,
nevertheless and less the never.
When I first died I hovered beneath the flickering
florescent and looked down at my dead body bleeding its last on the checkerboard
tile of the harrowed halls, unmindful of the mad melodrama still playing
itself out down by the biology lab door: the gunman still going gangbusters,
busting caps, as they say, and freeing more souls from their mortal coils,
slinky springs no longer doing tricks on stairs for the amusement of spoiled
children or cruel gods. Deliciously detached from that course world, I
saw that I wasn't alone; Judy Deakins hovered nearby, taking it all in
like a kid in a front-row seat at a Saturday matinee, a horror doublefeature,
starring herself and yours truly unruly, pass the pop porn please. But
it wasn't really a horror show, no; it was altogether wonderful to be so
detached from the world left behind and below and in awe of the fact of
our departing. But dear Judy was having none of it. She seemed appalled
by the bloody spectacle and genuinely aggrieved by her murder. I wanted
to reach out to her and tell her that it didn't matter now, that where
we were there was no need to be distressed. Why didn't she see that? Didn't
the same rules apply for both of us? I did try to touch her, to comfort
her, but somehow I couldn't connect. She didn't seem to see me at all.
What to make of this? A spiritual anomaly? Some apocryphal aberration?
An oversight of God's? Or was it true that we create our own heaven or
hell and that it's all in the mind/soul? Who knew? Not me. So with a soulful
shrug, I got on with my death, leaving Judy D. in her dithering tizzy.
But our paths crossed again at the cemetery.
Her funeral procession followed mine by several
solar declinations, a paltry few time-measured degrees after my interment
in point of fact and in lieu of fiction. And there she was, her soulbody
striking in its brazen sexuality--and there was the rub! Praise be to God.
Sexlife in the afterlife? Could this be so? And I saw right away I would
have to revise and extend my musing suppositions and amusing extrapolations
concerning the afterlife. There were more dramas to be played, more strutting
and fretting across the phantom stage, more bumping and grinding in phantasmagorical
footlights. Hallelujah! You hobgoblins of boredom be gone! Shades get laid!
Judy came on like sinuous smoke, curling and
twisting sensuously closer and I fairly crackled with something like electromagnetism,
shooting off a jagged bolt like a Van de Graff generator discharging a
stinging bolt of little lightning. The churchbell rang and changed our
hue to rosypurpleindigo, hearing it as we did with our numinous molecules,
resonating spheremusic ecstasy as our souls came together, intermingling
coefficiently in numbers infinitely excited, united as only souls can be,
sharing sums greater than the hole of old and soaring high above lowlife
slug strata until we were sated among the stars, snuggled cozycomfort in
a fiery bed of shared secrets, languidly longing to prolong our crackling
We disengaged, she softsailing away and I,
priapic soulson of Aphrodite, sliding limply, limping along the blazing
What I think I know: There are three species of
1. Walkers are the deformed
or incomplete spirits, earthbound vagabonds doomed to go on foot or belly
while awaiting another shot at an unbungled life. They are the ghosts of
hearthstories, vengeful, self-absorbed, still all-too human and living
2. Floaters inhabit the middle
distances of the in-between; they've glimpsed the light and touched the
Void, but haven't learned to soar, either lacking faith in their soular
powers or remaining tied to the living, or both.
3. Soarers have learned to
let themselves go and slip the bonds of the hierarchy, limited only by
their imagination--for what can be imagined can be made real in the upper
reaches of the vaulted realms. When you share your soul with another you
soar together, two-gathered, cosmically orgasmic, showering divine light
upon eternity for all the gods to see.
What I know I think: I think those voyeur gods are
themselves illusory, as delineated in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The
planes of death are populated by demons spinning webs of illusion, eaters
of dreams who imprison unwary souls. What is needed is a spirit guide to
get one through the Bardo's storm of illusions and soul traps, triptrapping
like trolls beneath the
bridge over bloodied waters.
In search of a sign I ceased my soaring and
drifted deep into the catacombs below the dark river, my rosypurple afterglow
lamplighting my way. Here there be walkers reduced to stumpy knees, crawling
in grottos, snuffling in the dirt for the spoor of boudoir grimoire and
necromancing scribes who carve their cryptic script in living flesh. It's
said that legends live in the catacombs. Mythical characters formed from
dirt and clay and stone with river mud for blood come to life here in these
demon-haunted grottos beneath the watercourse way. Hysterical histories
tripdrip from poets of the black pen. Ozymandias in his pleasured doom
bites heads off chicks, geekstreaked carny barking at Bysshe's bitch's
monster while the 'eadless 'orseman forgets where he parked his 'orse.
Po' Poe dead in a gutter by undersea sewers sloshing...
Odysseus never makes it home....
Entropy taking its toll in this dark entropical
garden of grotesque grottos. Get my bearings straight. Damned eerie 'ere.
Black water from the riverrunning above drip
plip plop plipping, building stellar stalagmites like dragon's teeth to
keep the tanks from overrunning, heavy armor behemoths thunderrunning on
bloodied tracks, blitz babies leaving brown skidmarks, pacing snails' slime
trails. Catch the spoor. Foul wind. Shift of wit. Wiff of --
I made my way to the surface, leaving a trail
of crumby molecules for the black crow sisters to follow. Came upon a sacred
grove of skeletal trees filled with hanged men, ravens picking their eyes
and making foul feast. Consulted the bloat-neck oracles. Read the tea leaves
on their protruding tongues. One of them spoke: Get thee the hell gone.
Back to the black river banked by the boundaries
of the in-between.
Back in my old abode where flakes of my dead
skin feed microscopic mites, the cyberchine hums, taking down these transposed-from-beyond
dead lines. Net-connected, Netted-up, nattering ninnies lost in the Nineties
narfing it up like wisecrack junkies.
Eye dive into the tenebrous currents, shooting
ebonyivory rapids, mooning the shoots, dumped humped and thumped by moonless
waters. Eye for an I. I-balls swooshed out and bum sludged up with rivermuck,
can this be the way it ends? On the river with no beginning/no end? Crooked
watercourse way of the whimpering worlds in between... worlds apart again... begin without fins... web-footed floozie forwarded to the next worldless world... lines dead... busy signals... systems down... underground wellspring... stoppered
up bum cork... eye core gored ... deathrealm doozy... glut of grotto guts
spilling...brainmatter spattered back on the hallowedhalls tile... blood
mixed with chick's pix in crimescene photoplasma framed, blowing cork and
crack in 6-D glasses, scammed crammed shammed shamed mainbrainframed message:
Cyber dime dropped: This program has performed an illegal operation
and will be shut down....
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