ISSUE 2 - THE HIGH PRIESTESS
BECOME WHAT YOU ARE
- Alkaline Trio
"He's a magic man, ah, Mama,
He's a magic man."
- Heart, 'Magic Man'
"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."
- Henry David Thoreau
“I've never been exceptional, but this is...
- John Doe from the film
The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.
The Joker says that in 'The Dark Knight.'
That's the furthest out I went.
I stopped seeing movies after that one. I
figured popular culture... see, I see the whole thing as a very distinct
singular consciousness. Partly because I am mad in particular. But I figured
once that much was expressed, the rest of their expressions would be useless to
a sane person. There is a wealth of history to live in, that makes now
PART I - HOT SEAT
Briton is sitting in an ornate chair next to his best friend Josh, also in a ornate chair, in the center of a large room in a large hard-wood floored loft in downtown Chicago, with feelings of incredulity at the situation he finds himself in. Close up on Briton's eyes looking tightclose to his right where Anne is biting into his neck, to drink his blood.
He speaks softly to Anne:
"I don't want to come off sounding vain, I mean, by being presumptuous about your interest in me. See, I don't know if I'm your type or anything, but I feel pretty sanguine about our chances of hitting it off after tonight. I'm sure you get this all the time, but I can sort of feel a connection to you, you know? On like, a blood level."
She withdraws her teeth for a moment, saying, smilingly:
"You are so lame. Now, quiet, I can't hear myself drink."
He blinks as they both settle back into the drink, and he then remembers some lines from Shakespeare and thinks them as if they are his:
'Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
of mine own eyes.'
'It worked for Horatio with Hamlet's father's ghost, it can work for me with a pretty girl's fangs sheathed in my f-ing neck.'
'What am I doing?' His eyes dart around.
'I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing. Smart decision. Smart guy. Good call. Live forever. These are good kids. Good, vampire, kids.'
'I'm doing the right thing. I wanted this. And now that it's possible... there's no way I could have left a truth like this behind.'
Still thinking: "Even though that slow draining feeling tells me that I'm losing life, it's ok, because I know this blood. I know what it is. I know the life I'm losing was a cheat. This blood which has this far lied within me. It held a promise, every time I felt it flow quick through me in moments of fun or moments of love, of life sweet and beautiful... forever. It made me believe there would always be more good times, that the feelings it fueled would never end. But it betrayed itself long ago. It gave itself away to my brain, and my brain found it out. It learned that this promise of forever was a promise this old blood of mine had no intent to keep.
So, I'm taking it up with nature. Claiming false advertising. And exchanging a defective product.
"How you doing Josh?" - Briton says, across to Josh in the other chair. (WIDE PANEL, LOOKING ACROSS LIKE IN HOSPITAL BEDS, ALMOST GET THE IDEA THEY SHOULD BE HOLDING HANDS OR SOMETHING, BUT NOT QUITE)
"Oh... I'm Okay. How are you?" - Josh
"Eh, I'm starting to feel a little drained. But this is a pretty cool party, don't you think?" - Briton
Some men claiming to know the good for all say to live forever is a curse.
But they have not yet met the likes of me and these.
I wonder now how I came to be here, this loft, this night, this midnight crew and chosen two, (SHOW VAMPIRES STANDING AROUND THROUGH BRITON'S VIEWPOINT, SOME ARMS FOLDED, ALL SMILING LIKE THEY'RE SEEING IT FOR THE FIRST TIME, LIKE AT A CONCERT OF A FAVORITE BAND) the throng of hang-oners watching like expecting parents. They beckoned us to join their ranks. But it's not as simple as that, for a chance at immortality asks for the prepared mind. A mind of mature youthfulness.
I realize now that I had asked for this. My whole life's been a dance with themes grasped here: the infinite, the fight against death's sick power to stop the lives of men before complete. (A state, with life, I never wish myself to reach.)
Franz Kafka said, "Youth is happy because it has the ability to see beauty. Whoever keeps the ability to see beauty never grows old." When I first read those words at age 16, I vowed to never lose the ability. (SHOW HIM CLOSING A BOOK AND LOOKING AT IT, MAYBE, OR READING IT A LITTLE EARLIER) But there's a possibility Kafka forget to mention. I kept the ability, and my eyes were wide. (SHOW MARY AND BRITON HAVING FUN, PLAYING AROUND) I reveled in the beauty of this life.
And my eyes were wide too on the night that beauty died. (CAR ACCIDENT). My first love. Mary Kidd, my world. It was a car accident, not my fault. I was driving with her and four friends when we were hit on the highway.
I woke up in the hospital, where I would stay for a month. Four friends died. Mary lived through the crash but died in the aftermath. I wasn't really there. I was in the emptiness that she, that they, used to fill.
More than once in my hospital bed I went through a conversation with myself in my head.
"I want to die." (Briton bandaged)
"You can't just die. Not after you loved someone like that." (Briton pre-accident)
"But without her, what's the point?" (Briton bandaged)
"She would want you to live on." (Briton pre-accident)
"But I can't without her." (Briton bandaged crying)
"If she could, she would tell you to live on, for me." (Briton pre-accident melting into Mary Kidd)
"You see how that's impossible." (Briton bandaged, trying and straining and a little scared)
"For me." (Mary Kidd)
My heart was broken, and yet my body healed. My heart was broken, and yet I was able to walk out of the hospital, to see the world, 'unchanged.' It didn't seem right. Nothing seemed right.
As Ben Gibbard sings in one of my favorite songs, 'Carolina,' "I will never forgive a single day." I think that song's about a break-up. Well... I was sort of going through a break-up with my old self. I had a hard time seeing the friends who were also friends with Mary. I had a hard time being a "fun guy." I used to love life without reserve. Just, love it. Want to, you know, eat handfuls of grass or something while dancing around and smiling like my head was about to explode. But now... well. We do the best we can. (With: "We do the best we can" , Show him in summer, walking through a crowd in the loop with no smile, tons of happy people walking around him and he's staring straight ahead, looking just sort of there. His right hand is clutching the strap of his should bag as he walks. THE DRAWING HAS TO SAY IT ALL FOR THIS PANEL: WE DO THE BEST WE CAN.)
In the song 'Carolina', the 'hero' runs away to Carolina. I ran away to Chicago to a new apartment with a friend from high school, Joshua Briggs. We moved about a month and a half ago, eight months after the accident and a one month hospital stay. The very beginning of the new year after my graduation from high school.
Though I may never forgive the world, I've also learned it's true what they say, that it's no one's fault. "That's just the way it is." Except, there's a bit of a fault there if you ask me.
(PUTTING UP PHOTOGRAPH OF THE TWO OF THEM IN NEW APARTMENT) You know, I could see myself married to this girl one day.
What happens to this kind of dream deffered?
It'll make you crazy if you think about it too much. Sometimes you've just gotta keep walking, and tell yourself, "I am a badass. I am the strongest man alive. I am stronger than all pain. I am above pain. My heart is a nuclear reactor. My heart is stronger than God." (SHOW HIM WALKING AND BEING A BADASS, SMOKING) And sometimes you've just got to hold your arms and rub your arms and hug yourself till you feel alright. (SHOW HIM SMALL, HOLDING HIMSELF, KNEES UP TO HIS CHEST)
I guess I've learned to love some things again. Coffee. Good movies. Reading. Music. Music never left. Some of it at least.
If you want to know who I am. I mean, really. You've got to look me in the eyes. There you might catch a glimpse. Through those wet globes you get a certain kind of view that you don't get with the worried smiles, the autumn clothes, the mannerisms where love's trying to break out but the mind isn't able to let it yet.
In my eyes you might see me.
(CLOSE UP OF FACE WITH MOUTH OPEN, SPEAKING, TELLING AUDIENCE:)
The base is all hope, but it's been scorched to the core and only shows through on about 10% of the surface, the 10% being the parts of the hope trying to shift and grow out of the cinders of devastation, which is in the nature of the hope. (When I was a kid it actually used to shoot out of my eyes and sometimes things would catch on fire. It was sort of dangerous before I learned to control it a little, I admit.)
30% is rage at the stupidity of pointless death and the ridiculous circumstances the world throws at us.
50% is pure distilled love. That wasn't all there naturally. A lot of it was, but a lot of it was put there by other people. The main source is gone but her love had a way of sticking with you.
6% is anxiety, a.k.a. the dizziness of freedom.
And the remaining 4% is split between general alertness and the constant vigilance of one who thinks himself witty, and likes to make use of this supposed wit.
I find myself wanting to live. Hm. Strange, the way we cling to what we know, even if it hurts sometimes. Good times may be a consolation prize. But flat out losing this thing, well, I'm not willing to accept that. And since I've decided to go on, (Yes, it was a decision. A judgement call. As Camus said: To breathe is to judge.) I've decided to do it right. I had inklings of immortality before the accident, but now, it's grown into something else. It's sort of like a mission. I can't really explain it entirely.
One thing it's good for is a safety net. Like, when I get depressed I can fall back on my plan to keep going on, indefinitely, and am able to pick myself up that way. But there's also a part of me that's the O.G., the kid who wants to conquer the world with beauty and truth. Some of that me is still left somehow. The real me.
To those who say that death gives meaning life, I believe in the freedom of belief, and I will leave you to make your meaning your way if you leave me to make my meaning in mine. For me, the day I die is the day all meaning ends, for I believe in the end there's nothing left but sad goodbyes and thrift stores gaining clothes. If I do have to go someday, make it someday so far from now that it will never come.
PART II - NO CURE FOR POLAROIDS
AT THE VAMPIRE INITIATION PARTY
“I just remarked that, the things we love are only as good as the love we have for them.”
“You were admiring the photography.”
I was looking at the photographs on the wall of their home, pictures of members of their clan, hanging out, doing all the kinds of things I like to do, wish I did more of, wish I did to a photographable extent.
“Yeah. Looks like you kids have fun.”
SHIFT TO BRITON AND JOSH TALKING TO MELISSA AND ANNE IN COFFEE SHOP A FEW DAYS BEFORE
“We do. It’s always fun to play music.
“What’re your names?”
“And you are?” Melissa asks.
We decided to play music together. We had been in a band together back in high school, before Josh graduated and started college. We resurrected a few old songs and wrote some new ones, and started looking for other people to play with. About a month in, the newly christened 'Underwriter' begins its music career at a pretty large coffee shop, on the night of an art opening, with just me on guitar and vocals and Josh with brushes on drums. We have a few leads for bassists, and thoughts of a second guitarist. Before the show starts I walked around the coffee shop checking out the place. It's a cool coffee house that I've been a regular in for the few weeks I've been living in Chicago thanks to Josh. The clientel is mostly hipsters, artists, and college kids. We often get into discussions with strangers here, catch up with the other regulars, or meet with friends. The girl in the crowd who stood out to me immediately for her simple beauty and striking dress (SHE'S WEARING ALL BLACK BUT NEITHER GOTH NOR MATRIX NOR FUNERAL)sitting near the stage, off to one side, alone with just a book and a coffee cup, A twenty-first century Edward Hopper dream girl, I'm actually in conversation with now. As I was walked by looking at the art on the wall I snuck a glance at the book she's reading. I don't want to bother her, but she catches me looking and I smile.
“Briton," I say. "Briton Davis. So, 'Eyeless in Gaza'?"
"Yeah, Aldous Huxley, Have you read it?”
“Actually, that’s really weird. That’s the book over which Josh and I met. Josh, the drummer in our band.”
“Hey Josh, come here.”
“Yeah, we met in a book store a few years ago whenever I asked my girlfriend then what the title meant, and Josh knew what it was from. I have read it by the way. It’s pretty good.”
“Yeah, I like it so far.”
“It’s one of those books you sort of have to apply yourself to.”
“I’m finding that to be the case.” she says.
“Do you wanna sit down?”
“I would love to, but we’re supposed to be on in like two minutes.”
“Oh. … What kind of music is it?”
“Uh, I call it squalor rock. It’s sort of indie, I guess. Um… it’s crunchy.”
“Hmm… sounds good.”
“Well, maybe I’ll talk to you afterwards.”
I looked over at her a few times as we played and she seemed to be listening ______ (not exactly “intently” but pretty much), sipping her coffee every once in a while. We filled our half hour a opening band with seven songs and a minimum of self-abasing stage banter, finishing with our newest, ‘The Love Life.”
"You know I'm doing the best I can
I'm learning to cook for real this time
I'm making coffee at my house
Come over we'll watch a movie that doesn't suck
Trying hard to be a real human being despite
how sometimes my smiles seem like a pose
what with all my smith corona clothes
You know I still get all dressed up for you
we can go out sometime to watch life
get itself off all night and day
yeah, I still wonder if it's love or if it's lust
but I have faith in the benefits
of giving the benefit of the doubt
and I love so much when you bring me flowers
yeah I love it when you shout
bout how much you love the sun
just for rising in the sky
and how we're gonna do it all
and how we're never gonna die
And sometimes it seems like
everyone's serious but you and me
then it occurs to me that I'm like Ginsberg
And you're my crazy Cassady
I didn't come here to solve anything
and I hope you're just like me
cause you know all I want is to sing
and for you to sing with me
so what do you think?
and what do you feel?
and should I dye my hair?
I've felt it before
and I wanna feel it again
Life's a damn good thing to share
You know it’s easy to give up
But that’s not why we’re here
The truth is its so easy to give love
It’s just hard to find a place that will receive
A Me as a me
The reservoirs of hearts on sleeves
Or a broken heart that doesn’t want to bleed
It’s true I still believe in the truth
Of fighting the good fight
Some things will never go away
As long as you fight to trust
It’s faith that makes the sun rise in the sky
And it would still rise without you or I
Yeah some things they will never change
No matter what we do or say
So why not try to see through loving eyes?
I’d rather fall in love
Than fall from somewhere up this high
I shift my feet, and squint into the distance
I see something good, and I don’t want to miss it
I know where we’ve been, and I know that we meant it
But some of it, you know I still regret it
What can I say, but it’s okay
We’ll make it through if we take it day by day
Take my hand
We’re on solid ground
And I’m not afraid"
Anne walks over to where Briton and Josh are sitting. They have just gotten coffee after putting away their instruments and are prepared to sell demo cds and buttons.
"Hey." - one panel
"That was really good.
"How much are the CD's?" \
"Five bucks." - one panel
She gets out a five and hands it to him, saying, "So, you know someone who says they want to never die?"/
"That's a penny in the fountain song. I write quite a few of those. A wish for a place I'd like to be in. That particular one's a sort of a love song to a girl I haven't met yet, with the world as inspiration. It's a dream of the possibility of happiness. But the immortality thing is my idea."
"That's interesting. And you'd really want to live forever?"
"Yeah, why not?"
"Because... because there's so many things here I want to need. There's just... I don't want to stop seeing and experiencing. Life has enough to it to keep me interested, especially with, well... you know my main reason is, OK, when I was fifteen years old, right, I was on the bus on the way home from school, and the bus stalled on some railroad tracks. Now, there wasn't even a train coming, but I instantly just assumed we were going to die, and the first thing that popped into my head was, 'think of all the books I won't get to read.' And that's still my main reason, reading everything that's ever been written, becoming an intellectual badass, learning everything, seeing everything, going everywhere, doing everything. All that is good and holy."
"Well at least you've got a good reason." They look at each other. "I'm sort of into immortality myself."
"I wonder if you've heard all the arguments against it. Such as, without death or an afterlife, life has no purpose or goal as such."
"I've thought about this, I really have. And I think it doesn't have to be true. I mean, since I don't believe in an afterlife anyway... I can still give my own life purpose by directing my own experience towards a type of progress. And I decide what my own life means, and what I value, and I've sort of figured out my own... well, here." He unzips his shoulder bag and takes out a black journal labeled 'Individual Manufactured Teleology.' "It's my IN.M.T. project... Inempty... (she looks up from the book at him) ...yeah."
"I've decided to value all the best in humanity. I value goodness, and honor, and nobility, and sincerity, all that. And my life can still have just as much meaning if I never die. I've got my plan. I've got my goals. To become a true human being, with knowledge spanning all of history, all cultures. Here, check this out."
He hands her the notebook. She pages through it.
"I can see you've thought this out."
"Yeah, Josh and I are pretty into immortalism, though it only figures into our songs a little bit."
"So you're an immortalist, too."
"Yeah, I'm into it."
"For the same reasons?"
"For the most part. My main thing is to keep developing as a person. To say yes to life and all that that entails. I'm also a writer, though the lyrics are Briton's department. I write other things. I study philology and philosophy in school."
"That's cool. What do you write?"
"I've written a few articles for some journals. Briton and I both write some, but I'm the only one who's been published," he says, joking with Briton.
"One of the things I'm working on now, with philology, is, since I believe that in some ways eventually the stock of truly interesting objects will be exhausted, writers should begin to deliberately recreate minds, events, and characters poetically, focusing on the great thoughts. If art incorporated these things from life, and used them creatively, the art that could be created would truly be infinite."
"That's been done a little, but not nearly enough. Have you written anything in that vein yet?"
"I've written a few pieces with the Titans as characters, when I was a little younger. Retellings of certain myths. Also, I have beginnings of a novel with Ayn Rand as the main character in a sort of 'A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man' , or woman in this case, slash Ayn Randish 'Catcher in the Rye' story. More than just an exploration of her life and art, it's a story which takes quotations from the characters in her books and transposes them into the story in some ways, and uses her ideas as plot elements.
"Anyway, I've got a lot of writing possibilities at this point. I'm also studying Greek tragedy and the elements at work there. Most of my general short writing I self-publish in a zine that I put out every once in a while in various lengths and formats, called "autumn walker."
"That's a great title."
"I stole it from a great song.*" (add in caption box - *Jets to Brazil - Autumn Walker)
"Well, it seems like you guys have enough going on that you probably wouldn't get tired of life anytime soon. Still, eventually, don't you think you would get tired?"
"Well, you might get tired of life sometimes," Briton says. He thinks for a moment. He smiles. "But see, I used to be a starving filmmaker living in a loft in New York, and as I observed and filmed my bohemian friends over the course of a year, I sort of instinctually knew in the beginning, and then learned, sort of like a refrain, that it's best to measure your life in love, and that really there's no day but today, and see when you think of life that way..." (WRY SMILE)
She laughs. "You have a really dry sense of humor, don't you?"
"Yeah? Well... Sometimes it's a dry world. Anyway, I'm basically saying, if you live for today, during the best of times, even forever seems too short."
"So you would seriously want to live forever. I mean, you've thought just about that idea, seriously."
"Yeah," Briton answers
She looks at Josh.
"Sure," he says.
"Fair enough, if you can make it work..."
The main band takes the stage and starts playing. They've got a dark and shaking sound, look like the same.
"But still," Briton starts, "even in just my imaginings, I've learned, say it were actually possible, which I dream it may be in my lifetime, hopefully before I get too much older.. but then again they're supposed to also be able to reverse aging eventually, too. Anyway, at that point when it becomes real in your mind, you've got to almost take it for granted that you're going to live forever, much like people do now anyways, to make life retain it's normalcy. You can't base your life on immortality as a given, because then you might just become either an immortal procrastinator, or, say, like, infinitely jaded. Instead you've got to work toward it like a goal, and make your every day meaningful, and instill your work with purpose. Live as if you could die at any time. And live as if you'll live forever."
A comfortable silence.
"So what do you guys do for a living?"
"I play bass in a jazz band. We've got a pretty steady gig at a restaurant, and get some other gigs on the side," Josh says. "And I've gotten a little money from being published. I'm working my way through college." - Josh
"I work at a bookstore. I'm not in school, but I'm thinking about it. What about you?" - Briton
"I work at a coffee shop."
"It's called 'After Dark.' It's sort of out of the way, but it's a nice place." She checks her cell phone for the time. "I've got to get going in a minute, but what are you guys doing next weekend?"
They look at each other. "I have a gig Friday night," Josh says.
"I work on Friday, too, but I'm off Saturday and Sunday."
"Good. There's a party at a good friend of mine's house on Saturday, and I think he'd really like to meet you. Would you guys be interested?"
"Let me give you directions."
PART III - NAME STAKES
“Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.”
Miles Davis said that.
It’s a famous quote. I wish I knew the exact origin. I did some digging and read that apparently he said it to a bassist in one of his bands, but I don’t know the exact circumstances. Like I said, I wish I did. I can only speculate at what it means, to me.
To drone, or hone.
Don’t play what’s there, cause that’s not where it’s at… not yet… because you haven’t played your part yet, haven’t contributed your verse.
Play what they’re not expecting. Play the notes that are missing, the spaces not yet explored… push on… don’t stagnate, what’s there is already there, we know that… or we should, it’s already there, or if we don’t know it, then it’s not there, so play it. Play it like it should’ve been played when it felt like it was already there and then you lost that feeling… make it, mark it, note it down, low… high… right in the middle where the sound just floats…
Play what’s not on the surface. Play what’s disguised. Play disguised. Dress up.
Play the ecstasy… make the ecstasy. Hold that horn like you’re wielding the opposite of a weapon. What’s the opposite of a weapon?
The boy wants to know if it’s got soul.
Don’t play what’s there, play what’s not there.
Gotta play something.
Without music, and I don’t just mean music. I mean music. Without music, life would be an error.
Play whatever music you play.
It’s the spark.
The divine light from within that fuses confusion with salt. From the sweat of the heart, which never grows tired, never expires, as long as you do it right. The sweat of the heart is the mind. Know how good it feels to sweat? Sweat’s a sign of health. Lick that water bomb from your lips. Spit it when you breathe. (IMAGE OF PRINCE OF DARKNESS MILES DAVIS PLAYING AND SWEATING) The pulse of the beat. There is no by-product. It’s all why-product. Or else why are we here? Ask a question and you’ll get reasons. Look for reasons and you’ll get questions. Dance the dance and you’ll make songs. Read the words to sing along. Kiss the lips. Lips are seasons. It’s all in, baby, the truth is out there. You in? You’re either all in or you’re half doubt. Critically speaking everyone’s a critic. Keep your mind alive. Our bodies run on electricity, don’t let anybody tell you differently. Dylan went electric because he knew the shockwave seeks a current, but that don't mean folks can't move to turn it.
But still the roots need light...
thy electric, somehow His,
And God said, Bring in the base. (IMAGE OF COSMIC BAND, DO IT RIGHT, NOT CHEESY AT ALL, LIKE THAT ONE CALVIN AND HOBBES GOD IN SPACE IMAGE) Dead or alive? Who am I? Where are we? Where aren’t we? Why aren’t we here?
It’s better to light yourself on fire than for the world to fall asleep.
I’ve been having this ongoing conversation for about a month. It started in a coffee shop the day a friend of mine, Jonathan, met his new girlfriend. Jonathan and I were sitting at the table next to her and, you know how it happens… if together all of us are a brain and a couple of neurons happen to be strangers in this pink skull of a world, and we should happen to fire a spark at the pretty eyes at the table next to us, neigh, the ears just when the eyes are elsewhere and we know the ears are on us, all neurons open for action, waiting to take part in new chemical bio-electric neon dreams. She turned her intelligent-cool dopamine eyes towards us and we were on.
When she found out my full name, Briton Miles Davis, the topic of the musician was broached. I asked her if she thought if Miles Davis were born and there was no such thing as a trumpet, would he have known something was missing?
She asked me if I thought something was missing.
“Like in the book ‘All the Pretty Horses’, by Cormac McCarthy, when he said if there was no such thing as a horse he would have searched all his life, knowing something was missing, and then if he found a forse he would have known that’s what he had been searching for and it would have been.
“Do you think Miles Davis would have invented the trumpet? Or willed it into existence or something?”
“Or maybe picked up another instrument?” Jonathan asked.
She started looking up the origin of the trumpet on her laptop.
Does art give birth to the artist, truth birth to the philosopher?
And our lives are labors of love?
Struggles to get back to our source, the river’s head that we can never reach because it is living within us and changing as we search? So we are either on the path, of our love… we are getting born… or we do not know where we belong, where we long to be… we do not know what world we long to create to live in, or river to drink from, swim in, get clean in, get food from.
I scratched my head and wondered whether we start from scratch, or itch?
“Kind of like the Lester Bangs’ character says in the movie ‘Almost Famous,’ “good music, you know, it chooses you.” ”
She said she had a semantic problem with music choosing you.
That day I ended up walking to the library up the block to get out some books on Miles Davis. When I got back I found them kissing outside the coffee shop. Jonathan was in a holy shit! mood. The neuron going by the name Amelia was going to be around for a while.
We talked about it the next day sort of as a joke, continuing the conversation, ha ha, halfway inside a doorway joke. By that time I’d purchased the album “Move” by our culprit. I already owned ‘Kind of Blue,’ which I love. I was beginning to think about what this conversation means.
One of the many things life is is a search. But you don’t want to find, really, what you’re looking for. If you do find it, you should be fine, as long as you don‘t go thinking you know everything. And you want to keep finding new things to look for.
It’s been probably three weeks since that first encounter. We’ve talked about it probably six or seven times since then. The solos are good, the harmony’s interesting, but the melodies, all of it together, it never seems to come clean.
I guess it’s about finding your true self. But then again Max Ernst said his greatest success as an artist was never finding himself. So, huh. Maybe it’s about finding your truth. Or, what’s missing.
I’ve been sort of obsessed with meaning in my life recently. You know, truth, the big questions. I don’t want ultimate truth, that‘s a trap, a copout. I want truth in moments, play by play, color.
I have this picture of myself at age 15 or sixteen. One of my friends took it. I’m sitting on an out of commission howitzer cannon in front of a VFW hall where we’ve just played a concert. I’ve got a shaved head and it looks like I’m firing it, doing a war cry, the veins on my neck sticking out. Ha, and I’m wearing a dashboard confessional shirt and flip flops. It’s the perfect capture. I mean, because of how I’ve grown up and things I’ve been through and my whole attitude about everything. It’s not quite a paradox I don’t think, it is a contradiction, but… it’s a type of beauty that strikes the heart full of meaning, if you’re aware. . I mean, it’s a piece of life that’s a part of a story. It turns things into something more than real. It turns them into… I don’t know… It’s crazy to think about.
It occurs to me I’ve spent my whole life looking for a horse that can play the trumpet. And in the meantime I’ve been playing trumpet, studying Magick, and reading Animorphs books like they were ancient Codexes. And trying to play what’s not there.
PART IV - SNAKES' FLAME
She moved across the bar wood floor like a snake s-ing across the desert. 'Left a trail of missing eyelids on every scale of man. And she was headed toward me.
I had ordered a bottle of wine for the evening, sitting alone at a booth in a dark corner, writing some prose for the evening, doubling for the evening in the fictionuture. For some reason I had been chosen.
I swear it did. I saw it happen. I sighed from unknowing what the answer was to this next moment, and somehow my creative energies and all sorts of bounded up lovely frustrations soaked out of me into my concert-n-tration as I stared at the candle on my table and then lit a cigarette off it, looked up, brushing back my hair with my forehead frustrated hand, splayed, like a painter cleaning his brush in thin air. And I saw her watching me. She stood up. Walked across the room. And asked if she could light her cigarette on the candle.
I turned into a cartoon character, but it was too dark the room for the type I was, so there was a blown fuse somewhere, underneath the light. I hate that.
She leaned over like a flame catching a hint of purer air. The cigarette touched the lick of flame and she inhaled, stood up straight, and smoked for a second. She looked like a gypsy with coins in her hair, minus the actuality needing to be there. I wanted her like wine wants a drinker. I stared into her and a blush was all I would ever need. But she was aloof. I understood nothing at this moment.
She said “Thanks” and walked back over to her table, the men's elevator eyes took the stares back down now as she returned across the room. Never enough time to savor when you need it, and when you do...
What the hell was I gonna do? That was some crazy shit. I sat there just trying to comprehend what had just happened, and what I wanted to happen. I had just moved to Chicago, and if this enigmatic pop tart of a full moon owl-beast (I don't intend to ever make sense when it comes to women) wanted me to talk to her, then god damn... did you see those eyes? ...And that perfectly placed mole that's so perfect it would have made Marilyn Monroe gasp so she would have stopped holding down her skirt over that grate to do a home-alone face, under the sheet?!
I got up, and sauntered over to her table. No really, I did... I sauntered. It was both an effort, and something I couldn't help but do.
“How's the smoke?” I asked her.
“It's wonderful,” she says, with a little dark lushiousness, then touches her tongue to upper stage left eyetooth in smile. She has the look of one with an inside joke among herself.
“Do you mind if I sit down?”
“No. Go right ahead.”
“What're you drinking?” I asked.
She was on her second bottle of Liveli wine.
I ordered some more.
“Can I ask you why you lit your cigarette off the candle at my table?”
“You can ask, but that doesn't necessarily mean I can answer.”
“Did it have something to do with me?”
“Sure, why not.”
“Did it have something to do with the candle?”
“Maybe,” I said, miffingly.
She smiled like I might be a person for the first time.
“So you're into it?” She asked.
“Whatever it is... I see what you're talking about. But then I could call the aether cops and tell them I've just been robbed.”
“I only took something from you if you want me to have. I took it from 'us', or, if you don't believe in unlimits, maybe, from.. Him,” she says, motioning with her eyes toward the ceiling.
“You know what they say..." I said, " 'Jesus wrote a blank check'..." I smiled. "It's whatever. I don't really worry about accounting since no one's asking anyway. Besides... I exercise regularly.”
“You are one of us, aren't you.” she asks.
“Who's us?” I wonder, aloud.
“Maybe not. Anyway, I've got to get going.”
“Ah...” protesting. I began with the lines: “Woudst thou leave me so unsatisfied?”
She surprised me, I admit, in a good way,
“What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?” she asked, turned sideways, returning the lines from Romeo and Juliet.
“Will you dance with me just one time?”
“Aw... Do I have too?” She said, like she'd known me for years, and I could tell somehow she really wanted to.
We stepped into the tiny space where people were dancing. The music was a jazz combo set off above the ground floor on a small enclosed stage, an area which looked like the performance space you might find in a poor school's gymnasium. There were a few tables and chairs between the band and the dance floor, and with the decorations on the walls and the lighting and the way everything snaked upwards and around and toward the ceiling, you got the feeling there should be leaves on the ground and a moon overhead, like you were in the midst of the forest in a dionysian festival of wine and dancing... the overdrunk and still purring from frenzy momentarily in a contemplative mood, that deepest of energies, or should I say highest? But if highest, enwrapped in something that holds it in so it does not dissipate in the high light wind, up where you might see a passenger jet cutting through clouds, waving to you as you climb, or superman turning against the earth to save his love, or a boy named James piloting an exceptionally sized peach.
Just slow dancing. Do I dare to kiss a cheek? She still held her wine glass, and offered me a drink. I--
“Wait a minute! I don't know your name!” I said suddenly.
“I don't know yours either,” she said, as if she had already thought this.
She was putting her elegant arms into a dark blue zip-up hoodie.
“What's your name?” I asked her.
“I'm Abigail,” she said, “But you may call me anything you'd like.”
I didn't get her number. She said she was leaving town in a few days to go back to Portland. Damn you land of ports!
- heard shouted by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when one pauses a certain Ninja Tutles video game.
You have to feel like your life makes sense. You have to at least be in there somewhere.
If you at least are lucky enough to have people to talk to, for God's sake, keep something to talk about.
Some part of "say it all" must remain.
My life is like a play more than anything else. I feel my body like a coat hanger must feel a jacket... stuffed between the rest of my life I drag my purpose. Surreality is right at home with me. Which is surreal. Which is frighteningly scary.
We got to the party at 10pm, like Anne had told us. It was storming outside, and the inside of the loft, with the smell of incense and the sound of liquid music, felt like a strange sanctum. The loft was full of interesting looking people, talking and holding drinks, and it seemed like a good party. But something was a little off. We realized it wasn't just a party pretty easily. (SOMEONE RANDOM HANDS THEM BOTH CARDS AT 10:30 THAT SAY: "THIS ISN'T JUST A PARTY"
"What is this?" Josh asks Anne.
"I don't know. Where'd you get that?"
"Someone handed it to me."
"I got one too. The same."
"That's really weird. Who gave it to you?"
"I don't know. It was a girl in a black dress. I don't see her," Briton says.
"Yeah... You don't know what this is about?" Josh asks.
I was intrigued, and wandered the party wondering.
Mingling with people, with a heightened awareness.
At 10:45 we were both handed new cards. I tried to stop the person who handed me this card but they broke away and quickly left. I read the card. "If you want to live forever, stay and inquire. The invitation for immortality is for you and the friend with you only. If you choose this path, you can tell no one. Think out all of the consequences and stay or go, before 11:30 tonight."
Now my interest was definitely piqued.
"OK, now I know you know what this is about," Briton says to Anne. Josh is hovering pretty close by, looking around.
"Maybe I do."
"Well... so someone knows the secret to immortality? Is that why you invited us? If that's true, why doesn't the world know? Why would they keep it a secret?"
"Maybe it's something only certain people could handle. Maybe it takes commitment, and sacrifice," Anne says.
"What do you mean?"
Josh steps into the conversation from listening.
"Maybe they're vampires," Josh said jokingly.
Anne reacts accordingly. A curious look.
"And if we were?"
"Wait. I was kidding. You can't actually believe--"
"We don't have to believe it." Aurele says, stepping into the picture. "We know it."
They stare at him.
"Briton, Josh, this is Aurele. This is his place."
"Hello. Don't be afraid, we're not going to hurt you." They shake hands very apprehensively.
"So you're vampires. Could you prove it?" Josh says.
Briton says: "You say you're not going to hurt us... and yet you feed on blood. If, what you're saying is even true, which I'm just going along with for the moment. So, who do you kill? I'm not interested in killing anyone." Thought continuation: "And I can run pretty fast. But that girl with the card was out of here before I can even oh man we're fucked." He looks around nervously, looks at Josh.
"We're not interested in killing anyone either."
They visibly relax. "Oh. Good. To non-homicide." He raises his glass and does a strange smile.
"But then how do you get blood?"
"There's no rule that says you have to drink all of someone's blood. And there's no rule that says a human cannot give their blood willingly."
Briton releasing some of the anxiety the past moments had built in him. "Hey, now we're thinking. So you've got blood donors. What do they get out of it?"
"There is some monetary compensation, but also friendship. We have built strong relationships within our collective. But don't start thinking all vampires follow so humanitarian a path. There are vampires who do not follow the code we subscribe to. Not that any of them are members of this collective. It does take a certain degree of self-control to follow our path, but not a terrible amount. Still, we carefully choose who we let become members of our group, and have no tolerance for those who break the code."
"Ok. Before we go any further with this, could you prove it somehow? Just so we know you're not full of shit?"
"Certainly. Let's sit." He calls over his shoulder, "Peter, would you mind getting me a drink?" They sit at a table in a little alcove part of the largest room.
"Not at all," Peter says.
Peter sits next to Aurele and pulls down his collar, offering his neck. Aurele's eyeteeth grow into fangs, and he drinks softly from Peter for a few seconds.
Aurele withdraws his fangs.
"That was insane," Briton says.
"Please. Don't call it insane. Call it strange. Call it incredible. Just not insane."
Aurele focuses on Briton's eyes, speaking. "So, what do you think? Vampires. Creatures of the night. The damned. The lost souls. All that bullshit. Are you interested?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you like what you see?"
Briton's eyes search the room and see a bunch of cool kids having fun, dancing to good music, drinking a little and having a good time.
"Looks pretty good from here."
"What's it like?" Josh asks.
"It's not too different. There's a bit of a buzzing in a part of you, what one might want to call your soul, if you want to call it that, so that sometimes if you're paying attention, you get the feeling like something is happening. It's actually quite pleasant, to tell the truth. Like a memory of a favorite summer song."
"All the time?"
"One sort of creates and sustains the feeling for oneself, but the blood brings it on."
"Oh shit, the blood."
"Oh, yes, let's not forget the blood." Aurele says, smiling.
"You drink only from donors?" Josh asks.
"Or from another vampire in an emergency, But the donors mostly. We have quite a few good friends who offer their blood willingly. Many of them are here tonight. Everyone here is either vampire or donor."
"You never kill?" Briton asks.
"No. It's against our code." He looks at them. "We have a code."
"How many vampires are there?"
"In total? Worldwide? No one knows. Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Maybe up to a million, but I doubt it. Still, that's only an educated guess. Contrary to media depictions, there are no ancient houses, no vampire plots to control the human population. And we haven't yet been asked to participate in a vampire census."
"So, how are you organized?"
"Well, there is no 'we' beyond the collective you see around you. There's us, and then the rest of them. There may be other collectives, but we don't know of any at this point. We've got a stable community going here, complete with donors so that we do not have to kill. Some of us were turned by circumstance, making the choice after being bitten by a predator vampire, to become a vampire rather than die. We save some humans that way. Others among us chose to become vampires, for immortality's sake and the lifestyle. We are a community of people united by a desire to live well. But make no mistake, we are for the most part very selective about who we let in."
"Well, are you 'letting us in'?" Briton asks.
"The invitation has been sent. We await the reply."
"But why us?" Briton asks.
"A collective can always use more artists." He says smiling. "And thoughtful, sincere people. After Anne saw you play the other night and the initial interest was sparked and the invite given, we did a little research into your backgrounds, and decided to make this 'more than just a party.' Would you like to meet the other members of our clan?"
Aurele introduces the other vampires and donors. They meet around forty people, vampires and donors, people who they are told serve functions also as archivists, accountants and investors, soldiers and guards, counselors, and creative planners... and all of them are artists of some sort.
Afterwards, they sit again on an L-shaped sofa.
Josh asks "How are we supposed to remember all these names?"
"Just consider it like being in high school again," Briton answers. "First day, or night rather."
Briton asks Aurele,
"So what kind of research did you do on us?" Briton asks.
"We found out what we could through our sources. We know about the band you used to play in together, previous to this one. We know what activities you pursued in your respective high schools, test scores, and a few other things besides."
"Ha. So do you guys have a minimum admission requirement on the SAT?" Briton asks.
He smiles very wryly. "We try to look at the overall person, taking into account extracurriculars and certain unquantifiable qualities."
"I forgot my letter of reccommendation" Briton says, spinning out of his chair and starting to walk the room. The party has died down a little and most people are watching and listening. He seems to be looking for something.
"What are you looking for?" Aurele asks.
"Something suitably innocuous to throw at you."
"So, how does this work now?" Josh asks.
"That depends what you've decided."
"It's a little much to take in," Briton says.
"We've found the first instinctual reaction is usually the one to go with."
"My first reaction would be to say yes," Josh says.
"Same here," says Briton. "Mainly because I can't see myself saying no and not regretting it until I die."
"And you've considered all you're leaving behind?"
"You must accept that first. You can, of course, still see your families under certain circumstances, but it will be with a certain difficulty. And there will be much secrecy in your new lives. We are able to go out in the sunlight for short periods of time, but it causes extreme fatigue. So, we know the night for the most part. We've found a working method of functioning within society by running a coffee shop that's only open after sunset. "
"I want to keep my job at the bookstore," Briton says. "I can work it out so I only work at night."
"That should be alright."
"So, I guess we're in," Josh says.
"Yeah. Let's do it."
"And you agree to live by our code? To not prey on human beings, to drink from the donors, and to keep our group a secret except to those we all agree on letting know. And to basically try to live peacefully with all members of the clan."
"That sounds reasonable. I agree." Briton says.
"I agree to the code as well," says Josh.
"There's one more thing that you should know."
"Vampires are unable to reproduce."
"I'm sorry, but it's a part of vampirity. Since our species does not age, we cannot produce developing offspring. However, a big part of reproduction is the feeling of having a part of you live on in another person, so there is some compensation in the fact that you yourself will never end."
"Yeah. I hadn't really given much thought to being a father someday. I mean, I assumed someday I would be, but, I guess..."
"It's a bit of a disappointment."
"I guess I can deal with that. With time."
"I suppose that's not a problem with me, either."
"Also, you will have the joy of seeing new initates become vampires, as we will experience tonight. Are you ready to be initiated?"
"Yeah, but, OK, how does this work?"
"Your begetters, Anne and Lyndsay will drink a certain amount of your blood, but not too much, and then offer you their blood to drink. While you are drinking, the transformation will begin to take place."
They sort of stare back.
"Don't worry," Aurele says. "You'll come through alright."
Stop frame transition into further ahead: meeting begetters, taking off jackets, being ushered to chairs, sitting, looking up at the girls, nodding. the fangs coming down, then:
(Show this part like a rant in comic form, slowly degrading into more and more chaos, the blackness closing in until it finally shows an outward shot of Briton in a spotlight-like shot in total silence and Anne speaks the final words of the issue at the end).
I'm dying. I feel like. I'm dying. I will live if I hang on. I have this chance. The opportunities of a world. The possibilities of all life.
What is this world to me? Wher... I remember, eight years old my parents took me to the science center and the sign, said it was a playground for your head. And what are books? And where are we? And who are these people and what could we do? Oh think of it just the ideas, I mean. It's fun, the books. I love the books. It's just so cool. The world. And the postcard my sister sent me with the little kid looking at a bird through glass and the caption says "show me a day when the world wasn't new," and do it! You can't. It's not possible.
But sometimes in the newness you get old, and you think it's too late, it's all over. It's not, but sometimes it just seems like the end is here or should. seem. like it. or some big change. but really who is it up to for me to feel new if not me... and there's the people! And Henry the guy I work with who is always yelling things and telling me about new books and his adventures with Eric and Ted who work there too when they're in town, when they're not out travelling and writing and just being young. And how they just want to wander and see. To see everything, and I want. I remember his poetry and all the talks we have and I think. No, I know that what we've always had, we've always been, what... maybe wanting more is all we've ever had... But God damn you've got to be smart in this world to get anywhere... Forever.
Forever. Forever as an oath, as a pledge, as a promise to each other. Forever was written in our hearts from the first moment we learned to look inside them. As we stalked through the subcelestial basements, the music clubs and the all night diners as teenage truth machines, with eager longing in our eyes in search of all that there is to be and do and see, all that is "good and holy" we used to say, we felt that these days and nights would never end. And we were told that this was only a dream and that we would one day learn, grow up, etc. In other words, stop. seeing the beauty, I mean.
"You'll learn," they say. The world will teach you. Well, I admit it, I have learned. This world wasn't kidding around. This world sometimes teaches you the harshest lessons in the harshest ways. But if this life sometimes seems an enemy of those who are alive, you can learn something when you love that enemy. By becoming a student of life, you can learn its lessons and glean its secrets, to use them for your own purposes which further the good parts of life, so as not to remain subservient to such a harsh mistress. I'm studying to become a master of my own life, learning to keep my hope close to my heart, to use my sorrow as fuel, and to keep my love alive. And I refuse to get old. Or, rather, I've learned to be both young and "mature" at the same time. I've learned to live despite life trying to crush the life from life... It's not over until it's over... and these kids, we have, all the chance ses and God I'm gonna make the most of . . . I just wish Mary were here, I just wish, this fucking world, fucking death. fuck you just want to live and the world doesn't even let... you... all I wansh, I , love is gonna.. pass out I can't... breathe... I can't... I can't... What can I?... What can?....
Anne has withdrawn her fangs from his neck. She stands over him, bites into her wrist and then extends her arm and the wound hovers, dripping over Briton's slack-jawed mouth.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------FIN---------------------------------------------------- To Be Continued in ISSUE 3