Under night a desert in the autumn. Bright lights. Stages lit and strings’ twang rang, percussion but not from drums, a blast followed closely by another and bodies dropped to the ground. Which faceless avenging angel is it that kills from on high, not from a cloud or from some flaming chariot, no, there are no horsemen of the apocalypse in Las Vegas, there’s just a window bashed out with a hammer in Mandalay Bay, which offers a commanding view of the festival below and each body a target fit to burst like overripe fruit. Next victim! Do you have a wristband? Beer can be purchased at the tent over there next to the temporary morgue, enjoy the show! No one, I certainly cannot tell how loud fear is, how it overpowered music and joy and community, the second the thunder thundered and the moment faces painted with blood began to appear, the masque of the red death, the red death held sway over all!
Did anyone realize that congregating in a well-lit area en masse is a perfect recipe for disaster? Why have we not retreated to basements yet, to bunkers? Why have we not gone subterranean and quit the earth above with its scouring hurricanes, its droughts. Why do we not emulate the noble cockroach, who will one day truly inherit the earth?
Can we finally retire the tired old tropes, the thoughts and prayers? Can science put this to rest, who commissions the studies to track spikes in prayer and link them to actual change, because America is the most sterile laboratory for this particular experiment: Track every last prayer uttered from fools’ lips, from between the lips of slaves, measure the collected weight of intention as it builds in the atmosphere and measure through the displacement of particles the physical effect of every last idiot’s wasted words, I’m sure we’d see that doing nothing is actually doing, or is it? But keep praying, the talking heads say, the flock says, the NRA says, Twitter says, because why not. It’s easier than actually confronting the utter horror of what it means to be a part of the utter waste and mind-numbing senselessness of the greatest society on earth! Reach back through history. Las Vegas. Isla Vista. Newtown. Chicago. Virginia Tech. The Bowling Green Massacre, Kellyanne Conway, you dessicated corpse, you have a future somehow when others don’t? Is justice in hiding? Has justice retreated to a cabin in Montana, stocked to the ceiling with tinned food and guns, is justice a survivalist now?
Who remembers the others? I can conjure them. Without wanting, without trying, just watch, the words pour out of me like blood from a wound, the words pour out like bullets.
Another day dawns red with dead girls sorority sisters blond hair and French tipped nails, acrylics clutching at black earth a bullet hole the newest piercing and blood rouges the cheeks chin tongue and chest. Bright lights extinguished, the latest victims, it’s easily disassembled and cleaned fires auto or semi magazine holds twenty rounds nah, don’t worry about the background check, thank goodness our state still values freedom and will get a gun into a man’s hand provided he’s a red blooded American.
A reptile in Sarah Palin’s skin smirks on TV and whips the believers into the newest frenzy, the only thing she has in common with the most recent batch of victims is the blood in her teeth, though hers is by choice, she is nourished from runoff of altars built for sacrifice, though we’ve run out of virgins in the modern digital age, hookup culture has endangered virgins, and the 24 hour news cycle has endangered the idea of catastrophe, the very concept of perspective. Wayne LaPierre smiles in his sleep, serpent skin dry and warm but not from Egyptian cotton. He knows he’s still necessary! There is rot still to slake his thirst from! Was this news? The nerve, the nerve! The media dares take this latest pound of flesh to Chicago and offer it up there, offer it to people who English has no word for because we simply can’t imagine a word for parents who’ve lost their children — what would we call them? We call them “inner city” people in polite company, we call them “underprivileged” and “urban”. And shock upon shock, the news sells there too, though it’s not an editor or the town crier who’s surprised, no, it’s anyone who actually possesses a lucid eye, anyone who might look upon the latest sacrifices and behold the actual price of living in this country.
There’s all decay and gray around, a moldering damp, organic material that has swollen up and threatens to burst, host to a burgeoning crop of fungus, all curated collected cooked and displayed tastefully with parsley beneath a sneeze guard, don’t put the actual slices of lemon in your water, there’s so much bacteria on them, I saw it on the news!
Purulence never looked so good, be sure to instagram the photos of the meal before you dig in and smear the filth all over your mouth, grab a selfie while you’re at it #fancycooking #metoo. I mean, is it weird that I think the Tsarnaevs were totally hot I mean I can’t believe no girls would go out with the shooter from Santa Barabara, really, his dad worked on the Hunger Games! I love JLaw! She’s like my celebrity bestie. We’d totally get along. It’s weird because like these shootings always seem to happen somewhere else? Like in Chicago? Or Colorado? Or the east coast where everyone’s stressed out and a bad driver? For it to happen in Santa Barbara is like, way out there, I can’t believe it, so yeah, my sorority is doing a bake sale to help raise money for the victim’s families. We’re making a calendar too of the Theta Delts in homoerotic poses, photographing that slight sting of shame that could be the fuel for the next cull.
In California, candlelight vigils are held in front of gorgeous adobe Mexican-era missions, dignified and Catholic settings, appropriate for the so-called unimaginable scale of suffering. You can bet there’s no such thing as wire reinforcements in the glass of windows there, no bars over floor-to-ceiling bay windows that open out onto private beaches, and certainly no loitering tolerated out in front of raw organic smoothie bars that are just upstairs from a yoga studio. The worst part? There is no inequality in grief, there is no greater or less than. No matter whether candlelight vigils are held in decrepit community centers named after civil rights leaders or maybe that black Supreme Court justice or if they occur in lush green parks and exclusive zipcodes, Grief can make equals of us all, in the end, even before necessity does, even before death. But all this talk of murder has made me hungry, did you want to go to Chipotle? I crave meat and a lot of it they’re so good there they do cruelty free meat, almost makes me miss the old stuff, sopping in fear and whatever that hormone is that the Japanese make sure doesn’t get into the Kobe beef — that’s the good shit. In reply, the Midwest roars, That namby-pamby shit might fly for folk in Portland, but here in Kansas we like our meat the way God intended, rare, fresh, still trembling upon the plate, and we make good and goddamn sure that we buy from patriotic farmers, BLM be damned.
Ah, what a senseless tragedy, America will be beside itself trying to find someone to blame, to throw more corpses on the pile, heads must roll, Liberty and Justice for All! And let me tell you another thing I’ve learned about the Negro, No one noticed that in Newtown, Chicago, Aurora, Oklahoma City, they’re well past glutted but keep shoving more food into their putrid mouths, and why you ask? Because misery loves company? Because no one expected there would be another course. And another and still another. Everyone feasts as if it were the last supper, and truth be told, what are we afraid of? What would we do with ourselves if violence becomes extinct? What might happen when they pry the last gun from cold dead hands? I suppose we’ll all just do yoga, talk about how much we love kale chips, and condescend to those who aren’t yet woke. We’ll all grow sallow effete and saturnine and remember with some shame the more robust and rubicund days when the streets ran red with an honest day’s work. Over my dead body!
I did not elect but I continue to live in this age, where it’s perhaps easier now than ever before to find oneself crushed and pulped in churning pistons and relentless gears, even if one once took selfies in first class and broadcasted one’s animus from the leathern interior of a black BMW. Will no one make it out alive? Does anyone think that human sacrifice is a thing of the past? I want to know who honestly thinks that we’re living in an age of reason. Weep, founding fathers, because you knew there were cracks in the foundation, and you didn’t have time to get rid of the mildew before the new tenants moved in.
The tenants in turn are out of luck because they can’t afford to live anywhere else, though to be honest, they believe in a religion where the baptismal font is actually an inclined board whereupon a towel-head is strapped on his back, feet in the air, and gets the shit waterboarded out of him, so on second thought, this neighborhood might actually be too good. But, he says, This is a step up from our last neighborhood, I hear white women jog ALONE out here at night! That’s got to be a good sign, right? I’ve never been so edgy in all my life! Why, just yesterday I saw a SYRINGE on the ground at the bus stop, I swear! Just goes to show you that everywhere has its problems. I think this is great that we’re revitalizing the neighborhood it’s so diverse here! We’re becoming more integrated. It’s just so damn hard to find a barber around here. Crazy, right? Who’d have ever thought? #smh.
A million televisions scream in unison, inchoate chorus, everyone picks a side in the most predictable fashion. Turns out no one actually disagrees with what their parents think, progress is an illusion, and it’s just so much easier to ignore this when you’ve got an Iphone to play angry birds on all day, or flappy birds, or whatever birds game comes out next. Turns out Jeff Bezos finally cured ennui, turns out the stupid are actually happier, you can go ahead and just lop the top off of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, we can meet the food/sustenance needs because the corpses never stop coming, safety is a toss-up depending on your skin color and kale intake (but is that correlation or causation? The best bespectacled minds can’t seem to tell) and reality TV is the high-def realization of our most deeply held desires, that crystallization of id and the defeat of the better angels of our nature.
But I don’t have time for this, I’ve got over $100,000 in loans I took out for another degree AND my dryer is broken #firstworldproblems. Was this worth it? I still can’t tell. I still have no idea if I’ve made the right choices or if I’m on the right path, am I bettering the world around me or am I just another set of carbon footprints that’ll trample down delicate grasses that alone sustained and balanced vast ecosystems. Time’s running out and we can’t even convince Fresno, let alone Houston that the end times are of our own making.
Environmental hysteria and catastrophism falls on deaf ears because it’s not delivered from pulpits nor is it printed in Bibles. Was that in the King James Version? I don’t think it was, certainly not in the Septuagint was it predicted that the Koch Brothers would be responsible for the ice caps melting. Wherever will we be when we’ve cured violence? Where might we find ourselves adrift, would the planet suddenly explode into flower and fertility? Would some golden age we’ve been dying for force itself upon us? So help me I’ll drag you kicking and screaming into that golden dawn, drag you by your ammo belt, over mounds of spent shell casings and sandbags, I’ll drag you down through Isla Vista to gaze longingly at the carcasses spoiling in the sun, feed now for flies maggots vultures and not for humanity! What a waste! A slap in the face of natural orders. And we’ll settle finally for raw bread portabella mushroom paninis and cups of kombucha. I’ll do that for you, friend, because I turn the other cheek long enough to snap another picture from another angle, and love my neighbor enough to educate him about food deserts and the benefits of going organic. Decay just isn’t the same when it’s plants; it’s just compost then. Why, you can chew a rotten peach without teeth, just gum it, I want something to sink my teeth into, let my lizard brain stretch its legs, my cold dead hands. I want it organic, raw, fair-trade, cruelty free, but only if it’s served in a trough.
Whoever came up with this ludicrous notion that we’re somehow better because of the soil we were born on top of, because of some made-up culture permeating our air and filling our lungs particulate like silica or toner? Whatever we’ve breathed in is all sharp edges and we’ve taken it deep within ourselves to our most tender, pink and fleshy parts, and have the nerve to complain about when it hurts. Take another lungful.
We’re all on our way to that golden dawn, or so we hope, at least we hope we want it, because who knows what it’ll look like when we arrive and if Cassandra is to be believed pack a parka, nuclear winter, the cure for violence lies in a simple fungus, the sort that might grow upon carcasses, grand bulbous head rising high above the earth, mushroom cloud, noble spore, the source of all brilliance and shine we’ll momentarily shield our eyes from before collapsing softly into ash. This is the light we crave, this is the light we hope to find!