Fisherman

A man was night fishing at surf’s edge in the darkness of a new moon.

He felt a strong tug on his rod and the battle began with what he thought must be a hammerhead shark. But as he began to win the contest and reeled the creature to shore, he saw a tumble of arms and legs. These were so pale that they glowed with their own sort of moonlight. These human limbs were almost phosphorescent.

It was a boy, he figured a corpse, some luckless soul drowned at sea.

As he pulled the body onto dry sand, using his hands now, he heard a sputtering, and fish-like sounds came from the mouth. Though it appeared to be a boy with long jet black hair, webs and fins were all about the body. This “boy” had human legs. It was not a merman. The creature seemed stunned from having been pulled from its element.

“Speak!” the man commanded the creature.

But it could only gurgle in the air. Perhaps, he thought, it could speak only underwater.

So the fisherman took his club and beat it to death.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

When the fisherman served the flesh of the sea creature in a soup to his son, the boy was puzzled by the strange taste.

“What sort of fish is this?” he asked. A clear distaste was evident in his face, the twisting of his handsome features.

“Monkfish,” the father replied, without looking up from his own bowl.

They had only each other as family. The boy’s mother had died in childbirth. He had learned to trust his father. Though the young man did not like the taste of the strange “fish,” in fact despised it, he dutifully finished the meal.

Soon after that night, the fisherman’s son fell sick. He fell into a torpor and then a fever. He raved in his bed as he tossed and turned. He talked constantly of the sea. He told his father he would die if he were not placed in the sea.

A doctor was consulted but could do nothing. The father felt great shame for having fed his son the flesh of the creature. Oddly enough, he himself had not fallen ill, though he had eaten the same meal.

After more than a week of his son’s suffering and worsening of his condition, the father took his son to the sea. The moon was now restored, bright. He carried the boy to the surf’s edge. He laid him in the soothing, wet sand.

As soon as he began splashing some water on his son’s face, the boy seemed to improve a little. He said it helped.

“These clothes,” his son moaned. The father understood and helped him out of his sweat-drenched vestments. He was horrified to see the fins that had sprouted on his son’s arms, on his legs near his ankles, the webbing between his toes and around his neck.

The boy began to crawl towards the sea.

The father saw him struggling and helped him to reach a depth of water where he could float. He could feel his son growing stronger by the minute as they went further into the ocean.

His son smiled. Then he laughed.

“Thank you, father. Thank you thank you thank thank you….” he said as he swam away.

(This is my adaptation of a Japanese folktale of which countless versions exist.)

Future Nights

Bred nights to have night
ideas, night worlds.
I get only a fish glimpse
of my dreams. Some of them
are on treadmills, I think.
Tower debris, tower static,
this is how I wake up.
Every which reptile while
behind the time-lapsed traffic
there’s a flashing repetition
I might confuse with your name.
New self-replicating transits
appear right outside this window,
behind the Basquiat plant’s steam.
The State has these god-like captures,
satellite selfies give me screaming mimis.
Of course, I feel hella Neolithic
living here in all this space garbage.
Did you know red is fatal to birds,
why they fly into those radio and t.v.
towers blinking like Mars all night?
Go look at all the dead warblers
at their bases if you don’t believe me.
We’ve scrambled their magnetism up.
I know an artist who is making a cape
from these. A king of Easter Island.
Soon, moai will start appearing
all around your city. They’ll rise up
out of the earth into the night,
as cyber-bees that will be launched,
fly around the bodies of nightwalkers
to advertise with small beams
of white light. Face of Wm. Burroughs
will be on a candy bar that makes
all the faces melty cheese. Children will stay
in transit tubes at all times, going
from home to work or school.
The animal fringes are coloring
our future, the entire atmosphere
just an interplanetary pinwheel.

After Philip K. Dick

I brought in an agency to study my agency.
I had to hire from outside, “off the street”
so to speak. I had to fill these chairs
with otherness. How can I trust these strangers
to represent the agency I think of as mine?
I worry about the foreign interest problem.
I wanted my business to run smoothly as the Cogito,
in a cool circle. What if I told you my business
is recycling my business, and that’s all we do here?
We never need to open or close the doors.
We never gain new employees or lose one to attrition.
We break down the formulas, furniture and other infrastructure
and produce new offices daily from that. Growth
is the least of our worries, since it’s entropy’s best friend.
Ever since we shut our doors forever, business is booming.

Archibald’s Skin

scifi

Archibald’s mother was looking for him. She went into her son’s bedroom to find Archibald’s skin, but not Archibald, lying on the bed.

She hadn’t known that boys could do snake tricks like that sometimes. But it didn’t really surprise her. She had learned not to be surprised at anything boys do. She ran in her silly, marvelous little heels to the back door and put one hand against the wrinkled screen. Her fingers nervously tapped across the gritty, orange-rusted, orange-frosted metal of the screen, as though it were a decayed typewriter. At the same moment, her other equally manicured hand went up over her brow to perform the function of a hat visor as she stared into the full-bore assault of a summer sunset. She was trying to see if Archibald was playing in the field of wildflowers behind their house, as he so often did.

The glare was too much, so Archibald’s mother had to step outside. She could see that many boys were playing.It looked like a spirited game of tag. But she still couldn’t make out any details yet. They were all just silhouettes against the ridiculous histrionics of light the sun was engaging in as it left the earth, or rather, as the earth left it.

Then she saw that all the boys had shed their skins. It wasn’t just her Archibald. All the boys looked like mice that had just been born. It disturbed Archibald’s mother when she realized how much all the boys looked alike now. Which one was her Archibald?

But  she had her answer as soon as she asked, since one red (well, actually, his exposed musculature was almost pink) boy came zipping over to the woman, only to laugh, “Hello, Mother!”

She was not amused.

“Archibald, I’m going to make a roast, and when I stop in your room in fifteen minutes, I expect to see you in there and back in your skin. You will be going to bed early. But I may bring your supper to you there if you’re there the first time I check. If not, not.”

And then she turned and stalked off to her kitchen. She wasn’t going to dignify any possible disagreement by listening further.

Archibald’s mother trusted that he would be a good boy and listen, so she prepared a plate for him. The generous slices of tenderly bloody roast were still steaming among the baby carrots as she carried the plate up the plush stairs, walked it down the plush hallway and entered Archibald’s plush room.

Archibald was in his bed, a stuffed animal laid over his face like a mask. He looked like a little shaman. It was a raccoon. The fake animal covered his eyes. The tail hung down over the side of his face, the side of the bed. It was a realistic looking tail.

“Now that’s my boy!” said his mother. And she brought the plate to his side.

She saw that Archibald had not only gotten back into his skin, lickety-split, but he had also discreetly put pajamas over it. She loved how the pajamas had feet in them that glowed in the dark. They glowed a shade of green that only exists in the movies.

Mother served Archibald in bed. She even tucked his napkin like a bib. It was the royal treatment.

She had been stroking his belly while he ate. The child found it disturbing. The mother did not.

“Mother?”

“Yes, Archibald?”

“I’m quite enjoying your roast, Mother. And the baby carrots are sooo succulent.”

“Good. I’m glad you’re enjoying it, sugar flakes.”

“But, Mother, have you looked in my eyes?”

And it was like a lightning bolt. Archibald’s mother looked into the eyes inside Archibald’s skin. They were not Archibald’s eyes. They were the same color, almost the exact same hue, but they did not have the sparkle unique to the eyes of her son Archibald, which was a bewildering sparkle like lightning in a lake where somebody is politely drowning. These eyes presently inside her son’s skin were more mischievous eyes. They were more monkey eyes.

“Bobby? Bobby Wilkins? Is that you? Is that you inside my boy’s skin?”

He giggled like a drunk in Las Vegas then, though he was just a boy. He felt himself an accomplished prankster, a Loki, the monkey at the top of the tree. And he had even gotten some mature female companionship out of his shenanigans.

“And I have something else to tell you,” Bobby said.

“Go on,” Archibald’s mother said, seemingly without trepditation.

“My Daddy has been wearing your husband’s skin for a week. And you never even knew! Aren’t daddies funny?”

Bobby threw himself back on the bed, clutching the stuffed raccoon, and squealed like a freak.

“Bobby, I knew. Look closely into my eyes now. It’s Mother.”

Bobby leaped forward, puzzled. He realized she spoke the truth. His mother was now wearing Mrs. Hassenpfeffer’s skin. How had he missed that one?

“I’m sorry to inform you, Bobby, that your father is dead. Now we need to get our things together and get out of here. Please run to wherever Archibald is and tell him you need your skin back immediately. Tell him we’re going on a family trip.”

Bobby hesitated. He was to the door but he hadn’t exited yet. He stared with horror and fascination as his mother slipped out of the dress and skin of his best friend’s Mom.

He stared at the crumpled breasts lying on the floor.

He wondered whether it should have turned him on. He was at that age. After all, wasn’t he someone else? Wasn’t she?  But wait. They were both the same.

“I mean it!” Mother suddenly bellowed at him. Bobby saw her teeth had blood in them. Or was that just lipstick?

All he wanted to know, really, was who started it.

But that would take thirty years.

And by then, he would have started collecting skins. Skins nobody really wanted to give him.

“It all began as an innocent prank,” he would often be heard telling anyone who would listen to him. But this was on death row. And he had written a celebrated book about tattoos by then. He had published it the year before the FBI closed in. Nobody reading this bestseller had realized at the time that their enjoyment of the erotic images contained in the book was actually necrophilia.

The name of the book was Skin Jobs.