Stark threw his umpteenth name off like an ill-fitting and outdated outfit. It was actually a name he liked. He'd miss it, as well as missing the woman who wrote or uttered that syllable to refer to that which was him. He looked out at the overcast San Francisco sky. It was as cloudy and murky as his soul...or whatever it was that he had that could be thought of as analogous to a "soul".
He had been through this similar scenario before, all of this parting-is-such-sappy-sorrow-shit. In his time on the Earth - three-thousand years or more, about five hundred of which he could "remember" - he'd had at least one host and often many more every hundred years or so. He felt no guilt. Mona, the manic-depressive loner with the most intense synaesthesia he'd played or worked with in a sape's brain in three thousand-plus years - well, she was slowly becoming more occupied with the world. She wanted to be with people - real people, that's how she put it. Stark winced...and imagined her doing all kinds of things with humans that he knew that he could do as a sentient virus in a much more superior mode. But she wasn't having any of this; she obviously had an agenda.
"But, you know about power..." she had told him, nineteen candles and electric lamps flaming in her city room. "You used to talk to me at night after you would do all of those...things...to me..." She managed a half-smile. "About how to Undermine and Overwhelm." She shook out a last cigaret and flared a too-tall Bic flame on it. "I need to mingle with them to ...you know. Plant the seeds. To take over their thinking, pattern by pattern..." Mona got out of bed, her black velvet sheet falling to the floor in folds and ripples. She was taking bites out of a red, shiny apple and crunching it with gusto between her sentences as if for punctuation effect. She walked to her stereo, took out that arousing Nitzer Ebb CD and replaced it with some 4AD music..."This Dead Mortal Dance Can Coil" or something to that effect.
She sighed and got back in her bed. He slid up beside her and rested his head of blonde-streaked hair over her smooth belly and collapsed. She started to feel maudlin, and stroked his hair, his back, his legs and arrow-prong cock.
Stark sighed, as if in unison. His kind weren't born with emotions, but tended to develop them over the hundreds of years that they lived in the minds of the sapes. And this was death - that is what all his brethren in the aethyrs told him. Once the will he had to exist in the dimension that was his plane was undermined by feeling attachments to sapes as anything other than strictly a feeding ground, he would slowly be drawn by the unrelenting forces of gravity down into the very center of the earth...but before he reached it, the buckling and breaking of the tectonics of mantle and crust would snap him, compact him, squeeze him into yet another earthquake, a blip on a seismograph, a newborn of his kind. For that was the life cycle of such creatures - the power-eaters, or the Quakeborn...an adjunct to humankind from the first days that humans walked the earth. They lived with people, side-by-side, in their very brains. Very few minds actually contain only the consciousness of their owners. Almost all sapes carry these viral parasites as well, but very, very few of the humans make contact with their mind-roommates, and those who do almost invariably cry "demonic possession!" and ran for the silly tools of crucifixes and the like to rid themselves of their counterparts.
Mona had been different. When a sape acknowledges the power-eater in a positive fashion, a reward is given to that sape that usually sates them for a lifespan - the parasite becomes instead a symbiont. In exchange for the power that they eat - a power connected with erotic arousal - the entity becomes the sape's lover, and always, always the best they'd ever had...or ever would have. Forever.
They were not vampires, his kind; nor were they ghosts. It was to be expected: the sapes knew the species existed, but how do you artistically and dramatically represent experiences in dimensions you can not even imagine, much less experience yourself? You do a crappy, half-assed job...thus the sapes have their vampires and daemons and the like. His kind had a name but no sape could pronounce or write it. "Power-eater" or "Assimilator" were the closest translations.
Stark could see how she could be lured to the solidness of humans. But the humans - sapes - were terminally unreliable, had a habit of lying about how much power they really possessed, and had, since time immemorial, a penchant for getting tangled up in emotionally sticky spiderwebs of uncertain timelines - for they had none of the time-transcendent qualities of the arguably very advanced race of virii. These qualities, and so many, many more assorted random and sundry powers made Stark, in comparison, much more substantial than any sape could ever be. But he lacked the ability to control matter. By manipulating the sapes he could have anything he wanted. But it was not the kind of control he found himself aching for more and more of the time.
Sometimes he wanted to create objects and symbols all by himself, as opposed to doing it through the hands of Mona Lythik or another host. He wanted to leave his mark on the earth. He always needed to have a host - a lover who would trade his or her hands for his gift of awesome sexuality...and his slow and masterful means of making her - or him - ache with overprolonged desire and then taking over in a single invasive manoevre. But no. It wasn't going to last. Wasn't enough for her, either.
Mona! Oh why...why...? He would have cried had he a body; Mona, however, cried enough for both.
She said goodbye to him. He kissed her goodbye with a final jolt to the spinal cord, and dispersed.
Time slashed. Space flashed.
The eigenvector - the Z-Axis of N-space - was for his kind much like an underground Metro train. The operative term with the eigenvector was "to slide". The "view" of the Grid - intersectors, crosshatch, point-to-line-to-cube-to-tesseract - the mathematical cities where numerals lived and alphabets worked to maintain them - could be a fascination even to the jaded Stark, who'd ridden the eigenvector fucking damn near every-when/where that it travelled to (it seemed, but couldn't ever be totally true, for infinity was beyond the reach of even his kind).
Stark went into a loop. He obsessed - for the first time in almost a year - on Malachai. And saddened from a thousand different loneliness-sensations felt by one hundred thousand sets of one hundred thousand sets of one hundred thousand [...ellipses to the exponential power of ellipses...] tinier-than-quark-sized pixel-puzzle-pieces he'd dispersed into. Somehow (an example of the utter illogic of his kind that guaranteed human beings would never even come close to understanding - and thus controlling - the Quakeborn) there existed one dimension in which his components stuck together and he remained sentient. He didn't think with neurons; he WAS thought. Above all else, this quality made him able to communicate with and seduce sapes. And control them. Control was The Prize, the Goal, the Thing To Be Had. Coincidentally, sapes prized control as well; they just weren't able to control the same things, or hold sway over them as confidently as one of Stark's viral kind. Usually.
There was no perfection to be had: by anyone...of any kind...anywhere.
They - the power-eater viruses and the humans - shared the same universe, one in which Order and Disorder thrashed in endless war-fuck-love-hate, and thus no absolute version of anything existed...not even randomness could be counted on to be disorderly. Anything could happen and it usually didn't.
Something else could, and would instead, when and where it was least predicted or expected. Usually.
"Usually" usually meant "most of the time."
Oh Malachai! Stark whispered in his ardour. Where are you? When are you? I miss you. Want you. So much. So tired of sapes. I am coming for you, Malachai. We'll be together again and start all the old plans again...
To find Malachai who could be anywhere and anywhen? It could be done. Stark's kind left tracers that could be picked up while on the eigenvector. If he could find out where Malachai had been five years ago he could get a trace from that point that would lead him, by bioelectric "vibrational scent" to where he was now.
"Where" and "now" confuse the situation as far as any human would be concerned, but Stark instinctively understood...where Malachai was now was not a where, not exactly...but the eigenvector stopped sliding and a where came to exist...and rest upon a when.
Union of the Snake
The girl, 13 or so, was not an Indian but her skin was sun-painted just as darkly as that of a Hopi. She'd been admitted to the New Mexico Institution for the Neurologically Disturbed when she was twelve or so, nobody having anything on the computer about her, no ID, nobody who spoke for her, no family to speak of. All she would say upon her admission was: I am Snake Child. My father is the Diamondback Rattlesnake.
She'd been picked up in a downtown Santa Fe pet store by police. She had been taking white mice out of a back-room cage and eating them. She'd consumed one of the mice already. There was no blood; she'd swallowed the thing whole. Alive.
It had been on a cold winter day. A time when the predators of even the arid environs sometimes had trouble finding enough to eat in the wild.
The police had whisked her unceremoniously to the first mental hospital that they could find in short notice that had any facility for dealing with a little girl whose perception of the world around her was skewed so much as to be practically nonexistent. The grey-souled white-clothed people there, taking voluminous notes and understanding virtually nothing, had not counted on her running astray from their sanctioned and sanitized so-called sanctuary. She had been incarcerated about eighteen months and had been catatonic for most of them...once a month she had a three-day mania during which her behaviour emulated that of a certain reptile - a rattlesnake, to be exact. She would wander into a roomful of people, making noises like dry cornhusks, and bite them - not with her mouth, but with her undulating, copper braceleted and coppery-brown arms, outstretching index-and-middle fingers like fangs.
Snake was crazier than a shithouse rat without a shithouse. Some days she was straitjacketed, hissing and spitting, jerking and thrashing around and making chittering noises with her mouth. None of the doctors had a workable diagnosis. The antipsychotic drugs - the phenothiazine tranqs - Thorazine and Stelazine, even the accursed Haldol- were shoveled into her, but they might just as well have been sugarpills. Snake's blood didn't metabolise them.
Perhaps she simply never revealed the certain intelligence she possessed because if she did, they'd get a clue that she knew how simple it would be to leave, folding her acrobatically-contortable body into a laundry hamper, covering herself over with linen and ending up in a white truck heading to Laundryland. She crawled out while the driver was smoking a cigaret with a laundry foreman.
Snake Child was running FROM nothing, and running TO something - that hummed on her receivers. Technically - as in biologically - she had at least nine or ten sensory organs. A few were things snakes had: pit-viper-like heat-sensors, extravibratory transducers, sensitive belly nerves by which she could hear footsteps from twenty feet away. She also had two or three senses which had absolutely no name, and absolutely nothing in common with anything else alive - at least nothing that had been discovered and catalogued by science. The little girl may not have seemed to be too aware of the world around her, but she was actually much more aware of it than anyone else she came in contact with in her travels.
The Tequila Worm
Her father, in a sense, WAS a diamondback rattlesnake.
Its life-pattern had managed to hitch a ride on a sperm cell driving through semen and participate in impregnating a schitzy, dissolute woman, a 28-year old alcoholic named Jeanine Hollingsley. LSD attempted to unshackle her from the toxic stupor of Bacardi every month or two when the hippies came into town, following the Grateful Dead and spreading outdated versions of the Learyite gospel wherever they went.
The babbley, bubbley spaced-out and spaced-in Jeanine had been sharing a dusty old room at a decrepit little hole in Santa Fe called The Cannonball Motel. In this room she stayed with three boozed-up, shifty-eyed drifters, all on the outskirts of both the law and sanity.
There was an "understanding" amongst them that they'd do their best to keep her in drinks and drugs if she would keep the house clean, meaning in their parlance that she would always swallow when she gave head, and never spit. It was an arrangement that worked for her: her brain was somewhere about as far off as the moons on the dark side of Jupiter, and when performing her housecleaning services her employers were always too drunk to notice that she was too drunk to be really paying that much attention to her "work".
The day it happened, the two hoboes from Alabama were playing poker and getting smashed on tequila. Then the inevitable discussion related to the worm in the bottle occurred. It seems that it is an unwritten and unspoken law of hobos that when a bottle of tequila was the beverage to be imbibed, the discussion of the worm must carry on as if said discussion had never before taken place. That is the way of the memory spans of hoboes - trains of thought hopped onto and hopped off of again without a second look as to their eventual destination.
Ron, the hobo in the red plaid, spoke: "You're s'pozedta eat the worm arencha? Makes you trip and shit."
Usually Jeanine, especially on days such as this when she was on acid and her mind had just about dissolved, kept quiet; she saw cocoonish dark thread-auras enshrouding the faces of the three men she crashed with - especially when they were drunk, which was most of the time. And to her these spelled death in the language of acid, and would tend to disturb her trip. But she brought her head out of her clouds and very lucidly said to them, "There is mescal in the tequila-worm, but not for all who eat it. If the Mescalito wanted a word with you he'd call through the worm, or the cactus, or sometimes just the sun."
Before Jasper, the other player in the card game, had a chance to ask her what the fuck the Mescalito was and how you'd hear it call you, the door opened, then slammed shut on tortured-sounding hinges.
It was Eddie Lee. He was the undisputed head of the "household". In his left hand he held another bottle of tequila. In his right hand he held a potato sack. The big bull-rattler inside was not making a sound like a rattle. It was a whirring, almost mechanical sound, and at the same time it called up the feeling of dead cornhusks in the orange light of a drought-year sunset. The sound could make the smell of death come into your nostrils psychosomatically.
Eddie Lee told everyone it was Jeanine's turn to eat the worm.
They called her over and against her protest performed their sloppy versions of sexual intercourse on her. As was generally her practice, she simply blotted them out of her head, although under the psychedelic's influence it was not as easy as usual.
Thirteen minutes into it she went catatonic or fugued into blackout and she didn't feel a thing. Sometimes the mind knows when to give the body and soul the gift of its sustained absence. When all three of them were finished, Eddie announced that it was the rattlesnake's turn. The other two alkies winced and looked away.
They'd seen Eddie Lee kill people before...in robberies, a barfight...and one particularly brutal fagbashing that had only just recently happened, three days before. Rod and Jasper had decided together that they'd had enough of ol' Eddie Lee, and were going to split when the week's motel rent was up. Eddie called them a couple of Alabama chickenshits for not having the guts to watch. "It's the revenge of the Serpent upon the Woman!" Eddie had drunkenly howled, mocking the book of Genesis, and placed the triangular arrow of the diamondback's head in the general area where where he wanted it. The snake began to actually move inside her of its own volition.
Somewhere...somewhere in the onion-peel-layers of her mind - blighted peels for the most part. ..something happened... Something happened to her that she could not remember upon waking. She did not recall one bit of the night and the tequila and the snake...and it was a good thing. But she might have found it rather interesting that the snake showed no interest in biting her. And once it discovered that the area it had been crawling into wasn't a gopher hole, it instantly withdrew and began to slip away from her and the three men. Eddie kept grabbing it from behind the head and attempting to reposition it but to no avail. Finally it got tired of being messed with. It lurched its head and neck into a lightning-fast S-curve and lashed out at Eddie Lee, who screamed, knocking the tequila bottle over and flinging the snake over his shoulder. In the pandemonium that followed, it managed to escape into a real rodent hole under the bed where it vanished from the den of human insanity that it neither wanted nor needed any part of.
The hoboes had no idea what to do about Eddie's snakebite other than knowing that you're supposed to suck the venom out of the wound. They proceeded to do this, though not with much gusto, being that neither was very fond of Eddie. Besides, he was dying fast anyway. He had already been dead for an hour by the time Jasper had finally sobered up enough to get the bright idea of calling an ambulance.
When the ambulance left the Cannonball Motel, it carried with it two bodies. One was covered head to foot in a sheet. The other was alive, but unconscious except for an occasional moan every so often.
The nightmare had left her slipping in and out of a catatonic coma. Every so often, Jeanine would wake up for about two minutes screaming about earthquakes and rattlesnakes and the end of the world. She stayed in the hospital for almost a year after that day, undergoing psychotherapy and counseling for her alcohol and drug problems, and the traumatic shock she'd suffered from the rape while she'd been on acid. At the end of two months there, she was to find that she had conceived from the incident. Her counselors tried to suggest to her that perhaps the option of not keeping the baby was something that she might consider, but she would not hear of it. She insisted that the child was her own and she was going to have it no matter what.
When the baby was born, it was severely underweight but appeared perfectly alive and healthy. However, the girl's body was a little bit different; she had rather elongated legs and arms, and even though she was a girl, she had the face of a boy. Jeanine didn't notice any of these things. She only knew that her baby was alive and that its cries proved a strong energy had passed from the heavens - and beyond - through her to animate her autonomic nervous system and carry her past the barrier from the pre-birth world into this one. Unfortunately, though, it was the last thing that Jeanine Hollingsley would ever know. She died in her sleep of a brain hemorrhage, very shortly after giving birth to her daughter. A doctor who had been working with the life-support systems thought he heard her whisper something like "My... look high..." He figured it had something to do with her going to heaven, and dearly hoped that was exactly where she was looking, after the plagues she'd suffered in her earth-life.
The little girl was given to adoptive parents and that was the last anyone had seen of her. If the State had not somehow lost these adoption records in the red tape filling reams of disorganised files in a dusty downtown Santa Fe office, it could have been discovered that the parents of the little girl, who had named her Miriam, lost her when she was but seven years old. She had been playing in the sand that took the place of a grass lawn in the front yard of the desert home...but five minutes later, her adoptive mother looked out to where she had been digging deep holes in the ground with a kitchen spoon, and she was missing. The record of the incident officially read "kidnaping", but there were no suspects and the case was closed, after which the girl had never been seen again.
Lushness envelops her in fire-born breeze. It whorls unfurling: grabbed - as if it were invisible frisbee-disks - by her curious hands. It is swirling around her with sweeping steep vertigo. An awakening urchin, with raving mad indigo gun-metal eyes glaring, is blaring her delight with a frothy grin. Her knotted black dreadlocks hang in the hot wind.
She has excitedly exited the civilised world. Now her inner-ear is open for tones in the rocks - the source of that familiar signal-hum blast - a familial sound of keening - an ancient spoor...these things strike her uncharted senses ever more prominently as she passes closer.
Snake Child has no mind to recall past details or make future plans. She is forever in the present - now is the only thing that is tangible to her. Now she is running, rag-tattered and skinned-kneed, to a den of rattlers in the Sangre de Christos Mountains of New Mexico. She bursts loose, and the great wailing wind spirits her off.
She stores no memories; they randomly collect in patternless tunnels in her head like the snakes gather in the holes crossing through the hillock she walks on. A stray memory shoots before her eyes - inciting a deja vu - she knows what it is to feel deja vu without knowing what to call it.
Having found the den she rests in the shade of a half-dead tree. She pulls some roots out of the soil, mashes them with a rock and licks them off her plate made out of shale. Then she coils her long body up to sleep, quiet and content, listening to the heartbeats of a hundred fanged serpents beneath her.
She has come back to the world of her ancestors.
But behind her she feels a new buzz on her tail.
I put my hands in the pockets of my Levis. A stringy streamer of hair breezes across my forehead and nose, and flutters in the desert wind like a flag that stands for the State of Autonomy. My only allegiance is to having no allegiance.
The eigenvector dropped me - no warning - in New Mexico. Immediately sought out the Greyhound station - a good place to find a body. One that was more than adequate was found within a short time... backpack-pillowed, slumbering, on a bench.
I smell him, test him with the other nameless senses. I like him. He bears the image I tend to project into the minds of my allies. This will not hurt a bit. You may just have some...dreams. I'll have you back into yourself, to wake up here on this same bench, by tomorrow. Probably. I reconvene and slip into his spleen. I am quieter than his dream.
Why here? Just another exploration of a place and a year in search of my lost ally Malachai. There were more of us, but something happened that seems to have exterminated them. I have wandered alone for hundreds of years.
We did not have gender then. We did not even have to take human bodies. I run around in a human body now to pass the time away. Being a pool of vibes without others of your kind can bring rampant boredom. I ran with Malachai, and the others - invisible waves long past gamma radiation, much higher than the highest inaudible sound and yet also deeper. It is all a question of bandwidths. The humans have an audiovisual spectrum upon which so many of their measurements of various phenomena are based. What we can do is understand things that would cross through that spectrum on a depth axis; in order to have any hope of measuring them, you'd have to diagram that spectrum on paper and then hold a ruler at an angle to it, standing on its end.
Of course, even if you were to do this, it would be a highly moot point, because then you'd have to know what kinds of energy-form-perceptions to label that ruler with, and where to put them in relation to the pre-existing audiovisual spectrum. If I wanted to, and maybe someday I will, I could make a sape physicist very, very rich and famous.
Malachai liked to take bodies even when we ran as One with the rest of us; he did it for fun, usually taking the ones that sapes call Indians. He would get them as soon as he could after the Rite-of-Passage ceremonies that happened when they were about twelve years old, which pitted their powers against pain, in order to build the adult quality of perseverance. Malachai would come here, to this desert mountain and its many small towns. There are lots of leftover Indians here, nowhere near as proud as I remember them from that glorious time when we were also thriving ourselves...but retaining a trace of a flavour of eternity in their minds. Yes. If he's anywhere, he's here.
I'll look everywhere until I find him. Sounds damned impossible from the standpoint of a sape's mind - but you never question why you can see, to give one example, that a mountain is behind a house, not next to it or in front of it. You just see it that way, automatically. We can follow one of our kind - or a sape for that matter - by unerringly following the "electrovibratory spoor" left on any of several axis lines on the Grid.
I traced him to this area of New Mexico. He was here five years ago...that much I am certain of. He will still be here, or if not I'll find another eigenvector clue - a Z-axis "shadow". We sneak up on both our kind and sapes; we track down our Strange Attractors - a lover's hide and seek of sorts. But only those sapes who have really loved - fearlessly and fiercely - would know why we sometimes come together to tear each other apart. The way we join is different than sape "love" with its many implied responsibilities. There is absolutely no contract between Strange Attractors. We just play with each other's powers...and our own.
Emotion is deadly to us - it can lead to gravity, which is the ultimate force opposed to the very force which holds us together as sentient entities. The way I've been thinking about Malachai, you'd think I was growing emotions. I fear I am...and it is very scary.
Long face, dark skin and long black hair I dream of my hands getting all tangled in. We roll around with each other - sometimes in male bodies and sometimes not - we have no male or female, or we have both all the time. Our essences attract at right angles - four of them at once, all perfectly 90 degrees at each point. One of the angles is impossible by human mathematics - and the interacting we do on "the tesseract plane" is incredibly pleasurable - the ultimate goal of closeness among us. The sapes would never understand it en masse; I know of a few who have. We won't ever be understood. A few people try to fathom us; they should stop wasting their time.
Malachai and I vehemently love and hate each other. When the atmospheric charge is just-so, we'll happen to disagree about something absolutely inconsequential. We'll hash it out forever - thrash meanings to bloody skeletons of definitions. My dear adversary is adept at rhetorically confusing answers. I'm better at asking the kinds of questions that he cannot answer; I'll stare him down, smile, suggest he give it up. This pisses him off - starts us messing around wrestling, laughing the wicked cackle of our kind.
Eventually, if we're in human bodies stolen or symbiotic, our battle of wits gets us hot and bothered and we do things. On this level Malachai has it over me, because of the two of us he's definitely the more physically aware. He enjoys making my ploys dissolve... as his swell to resolve...along with the rest of him. He's godlike when he finally gets that upper hand. I think my favourite part of the entire ritual is noticing - just barely, since it is such a subtle transition - how the little petty war of notions and constructs slowly transfers itself to the movements of our bodies, and then at some point, gives over completely to them and the war is left behind as we grasp each other and just start rolling, over and over. We don't always find penile insertion necessary since most of the sensations are felt prior to that act anyhow. I think when it happens, it only happens to provide a necessary denoument. The discourse and horseplay of attracted entities is hotter than any act of sexual coitus could be. So many more variants, excitements, pathways through a maze of syllogisms both false and true, logics both stunning and stupid. But still...after all that rising power growing in a mad intensity, something has to top off. It is as if an apex is an obligatory thing or we'd just go at each other forever.
Such Easy Prey
Three days of meaningless wandering on the Event Horizon. One day I gazed at two women in the checkout line of a beer-and-guns outlet. They raptly froze at once. I separated them from their money and jewelry, so that I might have supplies for the rest of my sojourn as a human boy. By the time the victims "awakened", I was literally miles and miles away. And they only knew that they'd both experienced something incredible...and probably even forgot about the valuables.
Sexuality controls humans more efficiently than anything else, which is why we've evolved our particular abilities. These ladies had squat for brains. What they had of them they allowed human males to control...that much was obvious from what I could see while I was playing around inside of them. Not a problem. Better me than them. I let them go unharmed, even unhumiliated. Time it was to head for the mountains and look for Malachai - which is what I really should be doing.
But here I am, sitting on a sandstone outcropping in the late afternoon, smoking cigarettes (the boy's addicted to them, so it is compulsive activity) and talking to a stonehome crazy teenager. I cannot discern whether she is twelve or twenty; her age is obscured by this ageless resiliency of hers: a reptilian, spastic tranquility.
For a moment I could smell Malachai's scent; I got lightheaded. I wrote it off as more obsession added to desert heat - when I'm in some kid's body I'll do things like forget to eat and drink, for it simply is not habitual behaviour for a virus. A virus's very life - if you can call it life - is spent in the assimilation of whatever it is preying on.
This girl is distracting me too much. She's warped, and I like that. But I do not have the time to waste. Malachai could be anywhere by now.
Coiling Up Tightsprung
Her raspy voice tells of snakes here: "I feel it. Dry time after years of much rain. Mice and rats and squirrels eat green things. Snakes come for them. They wait. For now. Dry time - orange squash-colour- mustard-summer's end." She takes deep breaths of the air around the grey-green sagebrush. "That smell of death that ain't gone and died yet."
She's raising her long, slender braceletted arms up to perform trigonometry on the firmament. "Angle of the sunrays. They come out just before the sun goes red. The snakes see better in the spectra of indirect light. And so do I. Or else I'd never be able to catch one of them. I'm going to catch one. Soon. Now! They - the Elders - told me if I catch a diamondback with my bare hands, I will become a woman this year!"
She jubilantly slithers in the stickerbushes seeming unbothered by them. "It is time. This year, for sure!"
She speaks of the Crotalusians...a lost nomadic tribe of snake worshipers. Most people out there have no idea about some of the things one might find hidden in these mountains. The Crotalusians have been around since the last days of the original Native American tribes. Now they're a smattering of leftover Indians, old bikers, leftover transplanted flower children from Los Angeles or San Francisco or any number of long-gone communes that once burgeoned in-between those two cities...and a new generation of practically feral little boys and girls who have Something Else in their brainpans... in that huge section of them which the World At Large does not occupy, and probably never really did.
"Probably said that last year." I snap, just to be a prick. Something is aggravating me. I want to leave this spot. But I keep getting ideas and those lead to more ideas.
I'm one of those brats who still gets my igneous rocks off fucking with the pink-skins. And seemingly being the last virus of my kind, I've no choice anymore. That is, I have no one of my kind but Malachai, and he's been gone for so long. I could not have the kind of sexual experience with a sape that I have with other Quakeborn. This is more like a sport, or a blitzkrieg, maybe; being with Malachai is like a strategic coup, or a lesson, or a slow, slow, riotous dance.
But, in addition to adding to my repertoire of means to control matter, and aiding in my study of the keys to manipulation of tools and solid objects, my hypnotic seduction of sapes does have its own arousal value.
Controlling living matter, which supposedly has its own so-called will, is undeniably the most satisfying to control - turns their Will into Won't right away. In our own little way we bring about the nonviolent destruction of humankind. Destruction's gonna happen to this lot anyway, sooner or later. It might as well be slow and painless. It could certainly be worse.
When there were more of us, we had a Plan - we were going to make the world ours. We had it all worked out. Then one day I was alone. For five hundred years or more and no idea why.
Jump to New York City in the 1940's - it was D-Day - I remember that - and I found Malachai in an alley, preying on a street-hustler. Malachai, of all that could have survived - my lover, my antagonist! He dropped his prey the moment he sensed me - poor kid probably figured on Malachai being a figment induced by a drug OD. We pondered the fate of the others in abject wonder - how inwardly helpless it made us feel. Then, for treasured months...we instigated pleasures indescribable. We didn't bother with sapes at all, except for the Days of Bad Pranks.
We spent all our time invisibly entwined around and driven deep inside of each other. We made love - and war, such as it is - without taking bodies...and that is absolutely impossible to describe with language. We conjoined to form the Great Paradox: being as we were the quintessence of pure violent aggression against one another while simultaneously we blended into sweet love Union.
The two of us possessed, together, the depraved urges of one thousand human serial killers. The fact that we could control the urges - that is where the magic was. Of course...though...we did not always control them. Either way, it was miraculous. And then he vanished again. No trace, no warning.
Circumstance metes out pain in proportion to our deepest pleasures. It is those who are most capable of intensely loving life that are most susceptible to its terrors of loneliness and fear and death. Especially those who are Quakeborn, and can be literally dissolved if they feel just one degree of attachment too strongly.
The sky is so red: some goddess must be menstruating, or has cut the throat of a rival god. The wild child shimmers impetuously. The scales on her boots, belt and chest-plate begin to throw off little rainbows.
Stark looks at her - she does not freeze immediately but begins to respond in a few more moments - lighting two red fires with the sun inside her eyeballs. Stark averts his gaze. He has to get away from her or else he'll be compelled to take her. Over the urge to control, he has no control; just another blasted paradox. The idea of raiding the red sphere beneath her navel becomes irrepressible.
Glances lingered seconds too long to escape. Standing between the sun and Snake Child now, haughtiness floods him, tangible as blood. Snake Child sees something of the Rattler in his way . His limbs are sinewy like snakes are. Streaming hair, white-hot and flying around his face, strands fading to orangey-red...like the sky on high.
Sweat soaks some of the wild curlicues, makes them fuse into ropy reptilian masses. He knows she sees him that way. He makes her do that. That was the crux of the power: find the One Desire of the target and make the target's vision see it where desired.
Where desired...and when. Now. The sky so red it looks Martian.
His breath becomes audibly heavier - so loaded with pheromone it could knock out insects and small animals - even some weaker humans, as he has found. Stark is living breathing irony: he can kill with lifeforce. There is never any escape from him. He makes sure no one ever wants any. Smiling now, pouting his lips and staring out of the corners of imperious eyes, he decides maybe it might be good to forget about Malachai for a while.
I'm a spastic mess of paradox and sweat. I want to put it to you right here, now. My sense of discipline removes that from the question. I know how to wait, fix on the perfect moment. Your squirming and your squealing reveal that you can feel me.
You are aware of me in terms of crisscrossing. Like the shadow-stripes of stick-bare trees - naked as I'm making you. Pulling off the limitations to exploration...and then, exploring. Centuries of doing this... and everyone is different, exploration still revealing new discoveries. I feel you everywhere; finding the cracks in the resistance, touching them, pulling you over me, peeling off snakeskins.
A flash of blonde-reddishness attacks you. I flip my head to hair-lash you. You do the same to me, and we fall to the sand and grasses, laughing. Rolling down a hill I clench you tight to my smooth chest and clamp down, grinding you into the sand without mercy - your every move in my influence now.
You're aggressively cute - gritting your teeth and hissing. Flashing your head - hair and eyes swishing side to side. My hand lies upon your rushing heart. My own control I'll lose in minutes, paradoxically gaining it at the same time. From you, of course - from taking yours.
You say: No way, no one tells YOU what to do. Go limp, shut your eyes and feign sudden death. I don't think so. Sudden whirling of limbs and unexpected strength - you break free and run across the dry, endless fields of tall wind-wavy grasses. Well... two can play that game...but my part of the chase lies in not chasing you. I'll see how long you can hold out against these nonchalantly nudging emanations I've already begun to fuck you with.
Oh explosive Chaos that would rip the perfect alignments of Control! I pull you back. You slowly return to me parting the grass-sea with your body. I wait until you step into my periphery before I shall slowly, with silent deliberation, reach out my arms and enfold you. Lean down and kiss your ear. Futile resistance tickles me. I tickle you.
I constrict you. The king snake overcomes the rattler. Go ahead and deny me now. Just try to even think about it. Chaotic one, do your worst to me. Do your best. We'll see.
Your resistance is faltering. I alter you by way of my arbitration. I can rule over you by gently brushing your navel. I could crush you with my eyes...within an inch of your precious life, then laugh like a jackal when I crush that inch with a deftly aimed brainstorm. You are falling into the power now. I can tell, for my hands feel your slackening. I hear a whine emanate from you. You are thrashing, but not fighting me now - you fall with me again into the grasses and the sand - the place where parents tell their children not to play because there may be snakes down there.
Rise up chest to chest and eye to eye...then fall tangled again. Like the rattlers doing their combat-dance. Be still as I align my aim... matters of position make so much difference. Any last words before you won't know if what you say will be your words? You're speechless. I jam my finger in your mouth very softly. Now unfold to me as I slide the awesome power up inside you.
You are coming of age in an electrical storm. Lightning-jags touch curvy wet swirls- a tickling attitude leaps to my mouth to laugh. Your face matter-of-factly expresses a shoulder-shrug and you say: Every man thinks he will be the emperor of this nation. And none ever are. Okay, I say, holding you firmly to the earth...I will show you some of the mysterious aspects of power: golden imperialists we are, reigning these lands called ourselves. I throw one last slashing of my hair at you and it knots in your dusty snakelike dreads.
I yank my head up and bear the rest down.
Hook onto and reel in
I have made you aquiesce.
Down in the clamour and rising dust clouds - Sweet tyranny of me inside your mind.
I act as though it were nothing at all. I nonchalantly slip the phalanx of the forces emanating from me into that well-oiled place of paradox - so cold and yet so hot. I am ultimately tender - ultimately not. Discreet annihilation under the fury of this scimitar.
Your sigh provokes me into mad action. I ram you head-on so fast that it's all just a blur...My voice tickles you like shower-water - virgin pubic dew.
Without warning your final failsafe barrier is breached - Alarming wailing...air raid siren screams "Evacuate!" - too late . Little thing whose void-of-course surrounds the rude fact of my power. You feed my rush. I am ready to symbolically destroy you. I lick your lips and teeth. They glisten red in the sun that's going black. Are you ready to be destroyed?
Narcissistic mania flips into seizure. Poor little power-casualty. Kiss me goodbye. Lightning rod gone haywire in your belly. Sparks of unstatic electricity in your frizzed-up hair. Screaming, I clench your wrist with one hand and make a fist with the other and spit wantonness in your face and all over.
Automatic biologic rapidfire fusillade - everything I am is pouring out -- everything! I can't shut it off! Can't stop now. I cannot! I'm collapsing, I'm contracting. I am draining out - My God what have you done to me?
The irony: I feed on you - yet I am now outwitted by my own spasmodic release. You are indeed part of me but I am not in control. I cannot move. You have turned my lightning to liquid and your bottom lips drink it all up while your facial lips hum sweetly.
You are full of the force which tightened me.
Last thing he heard before he passed out was her laughter and the sound of a snake rattling...the girl running away, carrying the prize of the diamondback that has found its way to her - right after he did. Her totem and omen - her passage-rite symbol. Its curves blend with her sinuous form.
He slept until the eastern line greyed the night with a slight tint of light...then jerked awake suddenly to drumming coming through the ground...drumming, and more rattlings. The Crotalusians - her guardian tribe! They have come to protect her from danger.
Oh no, Oh God...The drifter boy's body! He needed to get out of it and fast. The tribe had its Elders and Shamans, adepts in working in other dimensions - so rare! Some could stop a virus in its tracks with words and wind. He respected these men greatly, but now was not the time to pay respects. They could throw circles, prevent his dispersion.
Oh shame! The beautiful smooth-chested, fire-haired boy whose body he'd borrowed would be attacked as a threat and thrown into the snakes to die of hemorrhage. Stark abhorred thinking of this. Slipped furtively out of the youth's ear as he yawned awake - like slipping out of a window.
Stark dispersed. He felt sorry for the boy. He'd been quite close after all. Stood between time and space, on the exact right angle.
The roar of the eigenvector approached.
The tribe - a lost one, undocumented by the anthropologists - would gather around the fire that night each year, assembling together there with Snake Woman and Lightning Man in the circle's centre to tell the tale of how Lightning Man led Snake Child from the Insane Lands to the Diamondback's Den...and changed her from child to woman with his own Fire Snake. His pale yet darkened skin and sun-coloured hair matched her own. The boy had joined them after waking up from a wet dream. Opened his eyes, having no idea where he was, to find the same woman from the dream standing over him holding the biggest fucking rattler he'd ever seen - and dropping that huge, thick, madly coiling serpent on his naked chest. Boiling like water over fire.
And that was the exact moment Stark had dispersed, shocking the snake with the invisible flash. The diamondback stiffened like driftwood and there were sparks...and then the baffled and tingling creature had slithered away. The shamans had watched, awed. This proved the boy was favoured by the gods of the serpents, so they let him join the tribe. Snake Woman was offered by the Crotalusians to him as his mate. Stunned and shaken he accepted. His other life offered few choices, and none particularly appealed to him.
They named him Lightning Man, and gave him a tent with that intense dark girl. He would never forgot that dream he had been in that crazy evening...in which he'd seen that same girl...hell, he'd done more than just see her! He remembered how he'd made it with her, and all the while was some demon god of ...what was it? Something like controlled confusion. But that didn't begin to explain it. Sometimes he even traced memories of the seductive grin and self-pleased laugh of the god or devil or whatever it was he had become, and found he could emulate them when conditions of various sorts were properly aligned.
In many more years to come Lightning Man would become the Crotalusian chieftain, carrying the most sacred of serpents and torches. Not what he'd expected years ago when he got on that Greyhound in LA, not running TO somewhere, but FROM somewhere. But anything can happen and it usually doesn't - something else ends up happening instead.
Snake Woman's true lover forgot her quickly. He occupied no space, no time that one could know...riding the eigenvector all alone.
His kind could be so tricky. Maybe the virus, the one with the darkhaired ethos, just wanted to remind Stark that his entertainment of delusions of invincibility could be entertaining indeed...but he must never forget that he was most definitely not invincible.
The shrewd Malachai could see that...as he slipped out of the body of the feral Snake Woman just as the tribe arrived to investigate. All they would see was a strange boy, the deflowered and empowered woman and the biggest goddam diamondback rattlesnake ever before seen by the snake's own fan club...there on that Christ-bloody mountain.
Malachai had learned many things in his adventure. Many years ago he came here to study order and disorder in relative isolation. He had chanced upon an Indian boy, hot and beautiful as the desert itself. Malachai was smitten.
Of course his games of charisma worked on him and Malachai taught Fire Flower - named for his face's deep colour - about the preponderance of power, and about its panoply of levels and kinds and measurements. And then, to Fire Flower's ingenuous thrill, about how to use that power. In return, Fire Flower taught Malachai the ways of the reptiles of the area, especially the rattlers. Their movements defined the lives of the other living things there in amazing ways; Malachai quickly learned to commune with them and earn their trust, for the snakes could see the power-eaters much more clearly than the sapes could.
Which was fortunate for Malachai, as the Elders found him one fateful autumn afternoon with Fire Flower, locked in a love-tension hold, writhing in mad mock-evil arrogance on a sacred burial mountain. They rendered a penalty unto the strange one, this Malachai - death in the snakepit. Of course, he did not die - even though the lost human vessel he was riding at the time did. Fire Flower found himself abject...in such travail that he had jumped into the pit himself.
The snakes don't treat their worshipers differently from the rest in most instances. But one of the huge buzzing vipers did not strike the boy. It had a new master, that one big rattler.
That rattler fathered many more generations of rattlers in the century that followed...one of which was later captured by a drunk sicko named Eddie Lee who used it in a very unnatural act. Malachai flew out of the snake and into a just conceived foetus. And this is why Snake Child had such serpentine ways. She was not part snake by DNA - it was by Malachai's ageless spirit, who'd lived in the body of a snake just prior.
Irony captures us all with glee at one time or another.
Stark had been with his beloved Malachai the whole time. And it was that damned clever dark one Malachai who won control - again. Always the trickster...he'd learned to cloak his electrons, so that Stark couldn't get a perfect fix on his coordinates.
Stark, alone and scared and lost in space, time and a hundred other dimensions was about to get an incredible surprise when Malachai reached out in formless-form to touch his oldest friend and last of his own race.
He lurked right behind Stark on the axis of the eigenvector as it made that sound-beyond-hearing - moving spacelessly, inexorably, towards another indeterminate destination.
by Demi Monde - 16 March 1994
For Xanque, who is always there.