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Brainstock > Young Husband Arms > My Journal: An Introduction


Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 7 2006, 04:42 PM
My name is Calliope Grieve, and my parents were Deadheads in the 60's who dropped a lot of acid. As a result, I'm the oldest daughter in a family of four girls who're all named after Greek muses: Melpomene, Thalia, Clio and me.

The first pet I ever had, a hamster, I named Steve. Throughout my life all of my pets have had normal names. My cat's name was Steve. He was an Abby (an Abyssinian) with a proclivity for Cheez-Wiz. I left him in the care of my sister Clio when I went to grad school for advanced Forensics. Oh yeah—I’ve been a cop for about 10 years, since I turned 20--but I'm kind of leaning toward forensic pathology as a career bent. I could always deal with messed up people much more easily than messed up pets. Pets don’t know better. People do. Pets don’t deserve abuse. Some people do. Especially the dead ones.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not, like, a huge animal rights/fur is dead/save the fish freak. I eat meat. I’d hunt if my life depended on it. I’d rather eat a cheeseburger than tofu on any given day of the week. But people can be cruel. They have the capacity for evil that animals don’t. Animals do what comes naturally. People have agendas. That’s where the separation lies: we execute our atrocities willfully, giving them careful consideration before subjugating others to their ill effects. Animals just eat, have sex and sleep when they’re not defending their territory. People plot.

Sorry if I sound bitter. Someone killed my sister. Someone human. Someone that let themselves in and left without so much as a footprint or a lingering scent.

They killed my cat, too, and that’s when I lost it for a while.

I’m one of those people who can look at the rasher of human fat that spills out of a deep abdominal laceration and am reminded of the low-fat cottage cheese I had with my turkey avocado sandwich they sell down at Jerry’s Deli on Ventura. No, it doesn’t make me hungry—but it doesn’t make me any more nauseous. Blood’s blood, nothing to cry about. I don’t cry over diet cherry Coke either.

I like guns. Why? Not sure. My dad taught me to shoot when I was 7. I did biathlon in high school. The skiing/shooting event they show at 2am during the winter Olympics because it’s a pretty stupid event and totally impractical, but it keeps you in shape. It keeps you steady, focused. I like steady and focused. Which is why I make a lousy date to 99% of the population. Don’t get me started.

Wait. Well, okay. I guess the population has changed a bit, hasn’t it? Your mileage may vary.

This morning I woke up with two strange men beating at my face and chest, trying to tear my clothes off my body and grinning like hyenas with their lips ripped out.

A few minutes later I found a toilet in the men’s restroom at Denny’s with clean water in the holding tank and rinsed their blood off me with a sippy cup I found near a broken changing table. My eye hurts. They broke the frame of my glasses—alright with me, at least the lens popped back in alright.

They were human, too. I think they wanted to get off. They got what they wanted. They're way off now.

Well, that’s me in a nutshell, I guess. The light’s dying here inside G.I. Joe’s off Sherman Oaks. The sun’s too low to really get through the skylight. I should keep moving. Dead folks coming for dinner and I don’t care to be invited.

More later, probably. I have to have someone to talk to.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 7 2006, 05:10 PM
Later.

There’s something really odd about watching a half dozen naked human beings squatting over a screaming Chinese man, clawing at his face and skull.

I’m at Van Nuys hospital now, looking for stuff to stitch my brow with. I packed it with petroleum jelly but it keeps bleeding down into my eye—salt and Vaseline together is like an optic napalm where the burning refuses to go away.

It was stupid of me to pick Denny’s to sleep. I figured with all the windows no one would expect anyone to be there. Corpse logic, you know. Old grease and rotted meat throws off the scent, and lack of places to hide--the intuition.

The guys who found me probly watched me enter and just waited, taking their time til they could scout me out in the powered down freezer, sleeping with Vicks up my nose to obfuscate the smell of rancid animal parts.

Silly me.

Found some orderly scrubs. They’re clean. Also found an emergency eyewash, the kind with the 10 gallon reservoir, down in the morgue. Yeah, I went to the morgue. The bodies in the drawers weren’t going anywhere, and the folks on duty have presumably sought greener pastures. Or they’re the half-naked people subduing the Chinese man for his brains upstairs. Beats me. No pun intended. I showered in the eyewash and got myself somewhat rid of the lingering odor of maggoty pork chops.

I think it’s because he’s Chinese that it felt strange. His screams are in a language I don't understand, but as familiar as my own voice waking me in the night for the couple of weeks after my mom died in a motorcycle accident. I was riding sidecar. She was decapitated when an eighteen wheeler jackknifed in front of us—she was looking at me, making sure I was alright. It happened too fast for her to react.

The helmet didn’t save her.

Now that I'm older, I’ve been able to control the screams when I wake up. But when I have those urges, they’re always having to do with my mom…

Oh, hey, it’s quiet now. Took a minute to notice…

Somehow, I don’t think a helmet would have saved the Chinese man, either.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 8 2006, 02:02 AM
Who am I, really?

I’m at the Sherman Oaks mall in Ventura now, the place is pretty much picked clean save for few safes no one has figured out how to crack.

No acetylene torch vendors nearby, bummer for everyone. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

There are 17 others here. 17 others who, for the most part, seem to have forgotten that the time for surprises are over, that the time to say irrational things was up about 2 weeks ago, that now every new obstacle should be expected, every setback par for the course, and every measure, no matter the cost, ready to be taken.

Almost.

There’s a baby here, of all things. She’s about 3 months old. More suprising, her mother and father are here as well. There’s also a guy here who’s probably about 250 pounds of solid muscle. It’s this guy who says, in a voice like Joan Rivers on a helium binge,

“I’ve got Xanax. You know, for the baby. Think about it—it’s probably for the best. Look at the world she’s in—let her sleep…God will forgive you, you know?”

Evern after all this, I still believe in God. I know. Still. Yeah, makes no sense—I just can’t see throwing Him out just because I don’t agree with the direction humanity has taken, or blaming Him for letting us learn the hard way. Tough love, right?

But this—this guy here, with the lime green neon biker unitard boasting a bulge that some girls would find most appealing, even if he’d never glance in their direction—this guy who would never be a father, this guy here has decided to deem himself the Spokesman for the Creator of the Universe in Matters of Killing Another Family’s Baby.

Irony here: The father is Sikh. Somehow he’s kept his turban clean. And if he understands the guy, he gives no sign.

But I understand him. I understand this amalgamation of Schwarzenegger, James Dobson and Richard Simmons all rolled into one. I understand him all too well.

I have a Sig-Sauer P226. I also have an HK automatic shotgun with just enough shells to keep me always looking for more. I’ve a couple of Tanto blades as well as a K-bar my sister Mel(pomene) brought back from her stint in the Marines. I’m pretty good with a blade; my Escrima instructor at 20th Century Martial Arts puts more welts on me with a rubber knife than James Caviezel had on him via latex for his few days as Jesus on the cross. I need to add that, if I had the choice between the last 36 days I’ve had and the few hours he hung there with nails through his hands, I’d trade in a heartbeat. I think I truly would.

There’s a place at the uppermost point of the spine called the dens, which sits right beneath the base of the skull, inside. Everyone has one—even this guy in the biking outfit. I actually decided to make his the first spot I’d go for with a .12 gauge round from my shottie, then decided it would be much more satisfying to slip the Tanto blade in there, just so, right above the C2 vertebra and twisting until it made that sound chicken legs make when you pull them out of the thigh socket. That would be a good place to start with him. Even with the oversized trapezium he wouldn’t be on his feet for more than three or four seconds. Thunk. Twist. Thump. Wipe. Done.

But the family just sat there on the defunct fountain, the father staring straight ahead, the mother rocking her baby back and forth, soothing her, shhh-shhh. To the sound of her heartbeat, shhh-shhh. The sound of the grotesqueries of humanity smashing their rotting frames against the barricades down in the garage, shhh-shhh.

The sound of my blade severing a man’s life from his meat, shhh-shhh.

But I don’t do it.

The Muscle Beach man with the bulges goes off to try his luck again with the safe in Eddie Bauer, shaking his head slightly in wonder at their cruelty.

I don’t do it, because I’m cruel, too. Just like them, I allow for the suffering of the weak. For that, I'm cruel. For that, I let him live.





And because he’s probably right.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 8 2006, 10:37 AM
The good news is…

It appears looters don’t really care about eyeglass shops. You’d think they’d just go apeshuckle (a term my dad used to use, ‘apeshuckle’, as a kind of acceptable hybrid between the profane and absurd) and destroy everything that might create a pleasing crunch underfoot. I guess Sherman Oaks folks are ‘above that;’ the cases on the wall holding the frames are pretty much intact. The register is gone, the freestanding racks toppled, but they didn’t trash the wall displays. Wonders never cease.

I spent some time crouching there in the dark of the second floor, using the Surefire light on the shottie to make sense of the sizes, and finally found a pair of frames similar to mine. I’ll save them until mine finally fall apart. I decided to check out the back on the off chance there might be a cabinet with a drawer labeled Calliope Grieve’s Exact Prescription Replacement Lenses. No such luck. Not much to the place, a small office enclosure with cabinets boasting a lot of lenses in boxes with part numbers on them that, had I the battery power, I could sort through one by one, putting them up to my eye and seeing if the world cleared.

Now that’d be a neat trick, wouldn’t it? ‘Oh, hey—everything’s back to normal…I’ll take two pairs, please. No, better make it three—do you have tinted?’

What I do find is pretty cool. Up top there’re more little boxes, plain white with part numbers on them like all the rest, but I notice they’re a little larger so I stand on the desk to take a look. More of the same—but behind them I find four boxes of ‘Microlite Reading Lamps—Clip on anywhere!’ Looks like they didn’t catch on because of how functional they look (rather than Sherman Oaks chic) and got squirreled away up here. They run on two of the coin-shaped lithium batteries—four per box, sealed in little packages like electronic drugs. I load one of the lamps—they’re about the size of a keyless entry/car alarm keychain—and clip it to my glasses, the good side (and the one I’m not wearing the eyepatch on. I always wear one at night when I use flashlights—the blind eye retains night vision for when I kill the lamp) and kill the Surefire. In the dark space, the glow is decent enough for limited vision, about 8 feet, maybe more when my eye adjusts to the new candlepower. Not bad, not bad at all. I’m using it to write with—I don’t need both.

Didn’t find much else in there—looked for a book that might explain the part number/prescription codes on the boxes.

You know, the one that says ‘Calliope’s Convenient Translation Guide So She Never Need Worry About Breaking Her Glasses.’

You can guess how that turned out.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 8 2006, 12:15 PM
From the Flight Deck...

I thought about making this entry one, long expletive on how badly I want a Venti Iced Latte with nonfat milk and sugar-free hazelnut, but then I realized that doing such a thing might make you, the reader, whomever you’ll be when you find this (or when I lurch up to you and hand it to you before I numbly try to eat your brains) feel that I am compulsive.

Therefore, no expletives. I just want the coffee. Right now, please.

Right now, as I recline here suspended 5 stories up in the hanging exhibit above the atrium of the mall. One of the great things about being my size: most suspended ceilings and large exhibits are rated to carry a load with a differential of at least a hundred pounds or so. I’m about 120 usually--probably less right now (the Outbreak--best weight loss program ever, ark ark) so I tend to err on the side of the engineers. Right now, I’m in a biplane. I slid down the tensile steel cable from the 4th floor, same way I’ll use the cable to the 2nd floor mooring. It’s about 2AM. Below, they’ve barricaded themselves into Weiss’ Jewelers—it has the strongest gate.

I don’t know where the family with the baby went. It’s mall, yeah. But it’s a small mall. Meathead Muscle Man is in Eddie Bauer; that gate’s down too.

I keep hoping she’ll start crying soon. Early morning feeding. Croup. Anything. Just cry, you know?





Where’s my f—king latte…

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 8 2006, 02:45 PM
Morning.

I had one of those ‘blink-and-3-hours-have-passed’ naps.

The gate to Eddie Bauer is lifted maybe two feet from the floor. The jewelry place is still gated shut. The sun is rising. Everything is quiet—even outside.

I didn’t hear the baby at all last night.

Not a peep.

All quiet.

I’ll make my way down now. I need to get out of this place.

The sun is rising, but it’s dark in here.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 8 2006, 05:04 PM
Mark

The jewelry store’s gate rattled quietly when I came down from the biplane yesterday morning. A lot has happened since then.

I think this might be hard to write. I used to always keep a journal. When all of this stuff (‘this stuff’, she says, like it’s snow or something) happened, I stopped writing…life took over. And I didn’t want to think about it any more than I had to live it, you know? But writing isn’t something you just put away. It eats at you. Some call it a muse—since I’m named after a muse, it’s all very amusing. Ark ark. Thanks, I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your waitstaff. Give her a hand! Or two hands, if they come off easily! –rimshot— Sorry, that was way over your head. Yeah, you, the guy on the floor lying in a pool of his own feces and cerebrospinal fluid—way over your head. Get it? Hey. Dude. Where are your eyes?

God, I’m…

Ok, I need to just figure out what I’m going to say here.

The gate opened and a guy a bit younger than me crawled out, carefully lowering the gate so as not to disturb the rest of them. He stood up, brushed himself off.

“Not much fear to you, hunh?”

I don’t trust people right away—I sent that message with silence, sizing him up. Abercrombie and Fitch sensibility, though I’d have walked immediately if he’d been wearing Fierce or any of the other stuff most of the Bébé boomers find scintillating when a man rolls in it.

“Staying in the plane, I mean. That’s just crazy. Never would have thought of that.”

It wouldn’t have held you, I give him as I go back to pulling my shottie from my bag. It’s one of those Capezio dance numbers, big enough to carry the HK, ammo, food and sparse clothes—and a cat, if need be. Ha. Ha.

“No, you’re probly right,” he’s looking up at the plane which still vibrates a bit from my sliding down the guy wire. “Damn, though—nice.”

I look back and he’s looking at me. In the eyes—which is actually worse than if he’d been staring at anything else.

Thanks. I say, and head toward the stairwell to the roof. I get about a dozen steps before

“Hey, I have a bike. Where you going?”

Great. A bike.

What kind of bike?

Turns out he has a Triumph Scrambler. A twin carb, 865cc character piece that speaks more of taste than testosterone. I told you my parents were Deadheads, right? Well—let’s just say I grew up with a healthy infatuation with the method of modern transport known as the motorcycle. They were our only means of travel as kids—two sidecars, two girls apiece. Dad and his muses. His friends at the country fair called him Zeus.

“I’m Mark,” the Abercrombie kid says as we take off, heading east on Ventura toward Coldwater Canyon that’ll take us up and over the hill. I’ve got his helmet that looks like it’s taken a spill or two and a picture of Alex Trebek on the side. There’s a Buddy Jesus doll glued to the top of the forks, giving the thumbs up and winking. He adds: “Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

I fight the urge to ask him if he’s gay.

Instead, I tell him my name. And yeah, for reals.

“Great name.” is his only reply; he’s concentrating on movement ahead.

The roads in the Valley are pretty clogged with what are now very expensive sculptures. All the cars of the elite bourgeoisie that occupy the hills are nothing more than memorials to their opulent end. A flipped Beemer here, a gutted Jag there, an H3 buried in a Blockbuster Video storefront. Up ahead, there’s a group of things thrashing about with other things—

Hang on, there’s something outside

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 9 2006, 01:22 AM
This is so messed up.

Nothing is coming, Calliope. Read that back.

Good girl, you read it silently.

We took side streets up behind the strip, passing the remains of neo-suburbia, the homes of former television actors and folks who made it to the top back when salaries were lavish but still in the realm of believable, when actors did more than pose and take their clothes off on camera.

I lost my virginity to an artist, a guy named Stefan. He’d changed his name from Paco because he didn’t respect his hippie parents. Don’t worry, I didn’t make the connection either.

He could draw photographs with a pencil, the shading absolutely spot on, the depth of field and textures startling. Dark hair, brooding eyes…everything I knew I should stay away from and yet fascinating in that as well as having the ability to draw what you or I can see, he drew the most striking characteristic of each—it’s soul, if you will. The nature, the essence of the object of his attention shone under his hand—and I guess I wanted to shine as well, because I found myself under his hand during the golden hour on the Oregon coast, up behind a lighthouse on a hidden bluff, pinned to the earth by his stare and the rhythm of his hips and hands, gazing over his shoulder as the sun tossed a billion gold coins into the ocean while I made wish after wish.

A few years later, Stefan hit a low point in his life and shot up a couple of times. One of those times someone forgot to bleach the needle, I guess, and he watched his T-Cell count drop for a couple of years. One evening, during golden hour, he decided to join my wishes in the sea and swam out to greet the sun.

He didn’t want to be a burden, he wrote, and left it at that.

Mark hit the apex of Coldwater at West Mulholland Drive, pulled up and over to the scenic overlook there and paused for a bit, appreciating the view and, I assume, leaving opportunity for me to do the same.

Your mind fills with all sorts of things now, you know? How many times will I see the mist settle into the nooks and crannies of the scrub-infested Hollywood Hills, how many times will I look out on the waste of space that Los Angeles is and consider it precious…it like memories as they fade into a finite number of vague references instead of poignant, vivid imagery that define who you are.

I sound like I’m high, don’t I?

He nodded and sighed, shaking his head.

“Beautiful,” He said.

And then,

“You want to do it?”

His question poured out pretty unexpected and completely understandable. I had almost asked him the same thing. Motorcycles, you know. I just looked at him, my hands already on his thighs from the ride along the twisting turns of the Drive, my body already alive from the engine under me; he turned his head and I saw his mouth for the first time, and my clothes felt too restricting, and I’m hating the helmet I’m wearing, and I’m suddenly very warm, and then they hit us.

The noise of the motorcycle had alerted them from the housing above and cul-de-sac behind and they wasted no time in descending, taking advantage of the object, and objects, of our attention.

It was the first time I’d seen them silent.

I wrote before about being prepared, you know—but they were silent. We heard their feet hitting the pavement and then the bike was over and we tumbled down and down, breathless, the wind knocked, yanked out. I’m wearing his helmet so my glasses stay put, nestled in the foamy approval of the Division of Motor Vehicles, and when I finally come to a stop I’m 30 yards down the slope, the bike half as far, and Mark—

They managed to keep hold of him. He made sounds I’ve heard restrained men make when finding their spouses dead and the killer in custody before them, sounds demanding release, demanding justice…bloodthirsty sounds some animals make when they know life is at stake.

There’s a difference between thirst and lust, however. And I’ve found bloodlust will always trump a mere desire for vindication.

The silence is something new and terrifying. Something that suddenly, inexplicably makes this whole damn thing very, very unfair.

Shhh-shhh.

They’re still silent as they tear his cheek from his skull as I’m pulling the pistol from the holster on my leg; it tears out and up, like a bad hangnail, all the way to the corner of his eye and across the lid to his forehead.

Shhh-shhh.

They’re pulling him in several ways at once when my bullet hits him in that newly exposed eye, the deep crimson of the wound affording me the grace to sight my target more fully.

Shhh-shhh.

Unfair. Not at all funny. You hear that, God? This is no longer funny.

My shot echoes down and along the Drive and through all the ghosts of all the famous and unwashed who’ve made the trek to look out over the City of Lights. Somewhere Bob Seger plays on in a deserted bar with a never-ending jukebox, singing about wondering if he could ever go home.

When finally I hear them, they’re behind me, trying to get up the scree and detritus littering the hillside. The grunting, gurgling, sputtering choke-spews I’m used to, the guttural snarls and malformed cries that accompany me to sleep every night are finally presenting their case. The ones up above are clearly disappointed at the sudden lackluster attitude of their prey and decide to join me where I am, launching themselves pell-mell higgledy-piggledy down the hillside as cheerful as Little House on the Prairie kids.

Which leads me to here, where I am, only a few yards away. I’m still in the helmet I hated—a very good thing, or I’d be deaf now. I’m in a culvert, a drainpipe running from up the hill to prevent flooding on the street itself. It’s a little wider than I am, and goes back into darkness. My shottie is empty, I can’t pull my bag from behind me, but I’ve another clip for the pistol right here under my chin.

They kept coming. One after the other, scrabbling, clawing, pulling the body of a peer back and out of the hole to get to me, leading with their gaping, senseless faces for a moment until the next shell shreds their skulls into so much mist and history. A housewife pinwheels back down the hill with a twitch of my finger. A boy of perhaps 12 is reduced to a neck and one collarbone. A black man with one eye grins from a jawless mouth before he’s propelled into oblivion. A musician. A mother. A doctor. Another. On and on until the only sound I hear is ringing in my ears, the only thing I see is smoke and cracks of sunlight through a pile of twitching, misshapen refuse. My shotgun empties. My pistol takes its place. A crack widens, a body is yanked away, and another replaces it with a face that I remove from this world’s photo album.

They keep coming, filling in the cracks, making new ones, until I can’t see anything, I just hear them, shuffling, grunting and then I realize the sun has gone down. A hole has opened and time took its leave. And then I hear something right here, right now, right in front of me—

I fire into the darkness and the muzzle flash reveals a little girl of maybe 8, someone more suitable to navigate the close quarters—and then it’s dark.

She has no eyes, and she's grinning.

I empty the pistol into the void, flashes of the remains of the child in varying stages of decimation. I might have screamed. I can’t hear anything but ringing.

Ringing in the silence. Shhh-shhh.

My whole body is one high note on the piano struck repeatedly by an angry, willful child, but I don’t make a sound, Shhh-shhh.

I finally, briefly, toggle the light on the shottie.

What I see does not reassure me and I will not describe it. Suffice it to say, nothing will crawl through here without making noise. Unless…unless they somehow come back to life.

To keep from going mad, I fished out my journal, fumbled for the stupid-looking-but-highly-functional Microlite Reading Lamp™, and voila! Instant tether to a dying world.

In the dark.

Until a spear of light, and then another, and then another, begins to glow before my eyes. It doesn’t make sense and for a few moments I become afraid, for the first time, terribly afraid, curling up in dread—and then feeling such a rush of terror that I scream but no sound comes out.

Curling up?!?!

Imagine crawling through a narrow tube all night, the claustrophobic, crushing sensation of being buried alive stealing every deep breath—and someone suddenly turns on the lights, revealing that you exited the tube long ago and you’ve been inching along a vast open space.

Not funny, says the woman. Not funny ha ha, but funny ironic, says God.

I thought I was hallucinating, but somehow during the onslaught of carcasses I inched myself so far back into the pipe that I reached the cistern below the street; for hours I’ve believed myself to be in the same confined space I crawled into, completely unaware of the space reaching out and up the ladder above. At any time they might have figured out the back route. At any time descended, and silently, to where I lay.

It’s morning again. The spears of light are from the manhole high above.

It’s quiet here.

I need a few minutes to get myself together, and then I’ll see what’s up there.

Yes, I guess I will.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 10 2006, 06:37 PM
Disquieting.

The word is a definite understatement, but it’s the only one my brain could come up with when I looked down the hill at the mess I made at the other end of the pipe. It’s like Satan's toilet sprung a leak.

Guess who decided not to stick around for the repairman.

I decided to see if I could salvage Mark’s bike; I made my way down the short section of slope and found it a bit scratched but seemingly fine—unlike Mark.

The key, still in the ignition. I expected it to laugh at me when I cranked it over, but it started immediately, making me jump. The sound of it rolled down the hill, over the rocks and dirt and scrub and sprayed innards and limbs and carcasses…

So I didn’t waste any time in hopping on and tooling off down the slope. Catching myself in the mirror, I found I was completely covered in gore from the shoulders to about my waist.

Without thinking about it I rode here, to the Medieval Times hotel, where they used to put on jousting and swordplay and all things magically Renaissance.

Of course I rode it here.

I need a little magic, right?

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 11 2006, 12:50 PM
Huzzah.

There’s a man here at Medieval Times who introduced himself as Coruscant. Looking him over, paunch stuffed into his chain mail under a t-shirt reading ‘Kevin Smith! Take Over, the Time Is Now!’, I decided to refrain from asking about the Star Wars reference. I’ve seen the films, but am by no means a fan-girl.

He’s got a small cadre of Renaissance Faire types at his beck and call, the kind who say very little to newcomers but sing songs and crack in-jokes incessantly amongst themselves. Power to them—at least they stay amused. Coruscant shows me around the place (“The fortifications! You gotta love fortifications!” he beamed, at which one of the younger guys chuckled and added “ForNIfications would be better, indubitably!”), all the while using a voice that I think he thinks is Darth Vader but sounds more like the dwarf from the Lord of the Rings. Balin? Dwalin? Gimli, that’s it.

What surprises me is the armory.

“Jeneria has a scrying stone,” he explained, unlocking four deadbolts and lifting back a large iron bar from what used to be a cold pantry. “We knew what was going to happen before the New Times began, so we all stockpiled and kept everything in my grand-dad’s mobile home. When everything started going south, we came here—a defensible and symbolic stronghold of the times that once were. We loaded in, and the rest is—WILL be—history.”

I expected lances, swords, plastic lightsabers and maybe some foam nunchakus.

I was wrong.

“We have enough here to fend them off until the Whitecoats figure out how to get everyone back to normal and fix what they screwed up. Me, I’m not sure I’d want to go back to normal after knowing what I ate. We’ve got autos, semi-autos, shotguns, pistols, crossbows, a couple of sniper’s rifles, C-4, pipe bombs, grenades—white phosphorous, frag and concussion, BOOYAH—and of course blades of every caliber.”

Weapons everywhere. Ammunition. Posters of Jay and Silent Bob. In the back of my mind, Groucho Marx waggles his cigar and eyebrows: Now I’ve seen everything!

“Blades don’t have calibers,” says the Funny Right Hand Guy, and Coruscant rolls his eyes. “We basically Googled up, if you know what I mean. When it all came down, we were ready. Snootchie bootchie!”

His entourage repeats the war cry a couple of times, then high fives and secret handshakes. One makes a farting sound. Raucous laughter, then we all head upstairs to the arena, where all the tents and bedrolls are laid out. Coruscant comments that I’ve got a great disguise AND I’m perfectly walking like the dead. One of the girls, Faramie, offers me her tent—with a caveat.

She leads me to an exit off the large arena space where jousting and battles of honor, valour and glory were fought for a mere fifty bucks a pop.

“Fenris got the showers working in the dressing rooms; he was a Pipesmith in the Old Times. Um...have you seen your face?”

We find the mirror. There’s a perfect oval of gore around my eyes, nose and cheeks—the area the helmet didn’t cover.

The shower is amazing—they have a generator powering the heat pump, and for the first time in three weeks I feel warm water on my skin. I could die and be fine, I think.

Faramie’s left one of those long, flowy white gowns you see in those Mappelthorpe prints. I can’t help but laugh.

Something about the meek inheriting the earth…

I wonder if that was a typo.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 12 2006, 02:50 AM
I'm drunk.

Damn you all, I'm drunk.

No, of course Captain Kirk and his Merry Men don't know it. Of course the fiddlers three, his ladies resplendent, the nymphettes of the necrotic world can't presuppose my state of mind.

Forgive me while I wax eloquent. Wax on, wax off. Paint the fence! Paint the fence!

I'm so tired. I don't know why I'm fighting sleep, leaning in the glow of these funkidelic clip-on glozzies, ohyes. Canyousayhalleelooyah?

Oh, wait, something's coming to me...yes...yes, it's--it's the little girl with no eyes, grinning in the dark before I blow her preadolescent brains from her frontal through her parietal lobes...a little girl who'd yet to bring home one of those annoying My Child Is An Honor Student At BlahBlah Middle School stickers, one yet to graduate, or get laid, or push a child from between her legs--

God, I drank mead. And yeah, they have the real stuff. And yeah, I drank it, because damnit everyone, I'm thirsty for ignorance for a little while. I want ot let go of this f--king responsibility to carry on, of this pretentious, stupid, infallible, indomitable human spirit and wallow in escapism for a few hours.

Just a few hours.

Damn you all, just a few, short, motherf--king hours not think of my cat. My cat, my sister, my sisters, my mom's head torn from her shoulders by the underbelly of a rampaging truck--

Deep breath, Calliope. I'm sorry. I'm sorry, forgive me.

When you read this, what will you do?

Will you laugh? Shake your head? Wonder who I was?

Will you look me up online?

Will you wish you could hold me, touch my cheek, tell me it will all be okay?

Will you?

You'll be too late.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 12 2006, 03:48 PM
Ugh.

Maudlin, party of one? Your table is ready.

They let me sleep for 12 hours. Now my whole body hurts, everything catching up to me. I'm waiting for the world to settle down a bit before coming out of this tent.

Yeah, right.

More later.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 13 2006, 11:45 PM
Reflections in e minor

Half the kids here aren't old enough to drink. At least not by previous legal standards.

They call it 'Old Law.'

I'm inclined to agree. Anyone old enough to put bullets in the face of a rotting cop is old enough to drink that memory into some semblance of rational acceptability. I don't tell them I'm a cop after they fill me in on the details of that little soiree-- only because they don't say it with any sort of glory-seeking cavoire-faire; just the staid, matter-of-fact delivery of those who have seen it, known it, and accepted it as history.

A couple of the boys have developed a 24 hour crush on me. Meaning, they've known me for 24 hours: I'm fair game.

You want to do it?

Cheek torn from jaw to brow, not a sound, not a sound. Shhh, shhh.

The thought of intimacy right now is about as important as, say, the Daytime emmys. Lowercase, no less.

I think I want to see the ocean.

Commandeer a cruise liner, a group of survivors, load it up and head on out to sea, away form this. Just stay adrift the rest of my days....without having to watch my back, only watching the sand run out of the glass...like Anna Nalick wrote, an hourglass glued to the table.

Cruise liner. Sure.

Right now, they're playing Worlds of Warcraft on the LAN they have set up and having a blast.

I don't think I remember how to play anymore. Not Warcraft--just play.

So when Genevieve asks if she can braid my hair, I say sure. Why not.

She asks me if I want it up, since I always wear it in a ponytail. Like Princess Leia, I ask. Coruscant turns from his game for just a moment and says

"What was that?"

Genevieve says No, less cinnamon roll, more latticework. Think waffles, she says, and for some reason that makes me laugh.

I'm wiping tears from my eyes long after I've stopped laughing, wondering how I've come to be here, where I am, and where I'm going.

I was older when I got here.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 14 2006, 02:22 AM
In brief.

Everyone's alive.

Well, all but present company excepted.

They came mid-day, sounding like rainfall. It was their bare feet on the concrete outside, running at high speed to crash against the front doors.

This episode furthers my sense that the tide is turning, and not in the favor of pink-meat homo-sapiens.

First, silent assaults. Now, salvos of bodies at high speed slamming obvious ports of entry, forcing attention.

On a whim, I called Legolas (yeah, that's what he calls himself 'as homage') and Devlin to the rear wing. Coruscant looked at me like I were some sort of strange crustacean but ultimately, within about ten seconds, conceded.

Forty minutes later we had 17 repelled bodies strewn about the rear loading dock in varying states of dismembered array.

There is only one, one HUGE looming problem I see impending:

1. They've begun to organize.
2. They've learned silence.
3. They've learned distraction.

Which, ultimately, means 4. They're implementing leadership. If they can implement a tactical assault, they have a leader. I'll bet everything I've ever called valuable on it.

On second thought, that's not a great bet.

Regardless, this isn't my biggest problem. No. My biggest problem is the trend I'm seeing.

It's not structure that bugs me.

It's the understanding that the bellowing, shuffling dead are learning surprise is the greatest initiative.

And, God help us all, they're implementing the knowledge.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 16 2006, 01:53 PM
I can’t help but envy them and their Kevin Smith/X-Box 360 mentality.

“Come back, you’ll always be one of us!” Coruscant nodded solemnly, still trying to pull off a Commanding Tone.

I thanked them genuinely and, genuinely, said I probably would.

Putting distance between me and the Medieval Times I took La Brea down to Santa Monica and cut west, jogging back and forth on parallel streets but counting on the mentality that most would avoid the main strips due to the obvious exposure factor. It’s been a while, though—the main hordes have gone off toward the metro areas rather than the trendsetters’ café-and-boutique-lined streets. I avoided the mall at La Cienega, cutting up to Wilshire and then Sunset and then back down once I got into the Hills, then down again through the semi-urban crawl that is Santa Monica proper—down, into the fog.

Plodding from the early morning sea the fog is a pallor of grey-blue covering everything inland for about two miles. In that perimeter, visibility is about a hundred yards.

I could only hear the engine through my helmet so I killed it, rolling for a while, then propelling myself manually, drifting along the deserted side street running parallel to the main drag.

The mind plays tricks on you in the fog. I kept believing I heard the ocean just ahead, knowing the impossibility of that in that I’d just crossed under the 405 freeway, still some distance from even smelling the sea…which is why I was very skeptical when I heard someone speaking until it grew more intelligible as I pushed the bike along:

--ough to eat
Somewhere old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud
About your doubts and fears
And what's more no-one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door.
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don't blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no-one kills the children anymore


Pink Floyd. “The Gunner’s Dream." Quite clear, drifting out from the mist, not sung but spoken like a true beat poet...

I thought of someone taking a huge shower and I’d just opened their bathroom door…

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 22 2006, 05:18 PM
Hieronymus Bosch has a new canvas: downtown Westwood.

The mist rolled away before me and closed in behind as I walked the bike along streets quite different from the usual fare—they contained none of the usual post-Event detritus. Not a car, nor newspaper stand, garbage can or litter…instead, these were shunted against the base of the Westwood at Wilshire like a tide had swept along the canyon between the buildings to deposit the great drift of wreckage.

Piled upon these, a fused, charred mass of post-human refuse, stretching up the sides of the building for nearly thirty feet, like a great wound had opened in the hotel and poured ichor in all directions before staunched…

Several floors above this, a ring of broken out windows along the entirety of the glass-and-concrete perimeter.

And up there, looking down upon all, a middle-aged man in a leather recliner, footrest stretched out over the precipice, holding a microphone, naked but for a towel about his waist and binoculars about his neck.

...I have
come o’er moor and mountain
Like the hawk upon the wing
I was once a shining knight
Who was the guardian of a king
I have searched the whole world over
Looking for a place to sleep
I have seen the strong survive
And I have seen the lean grown weak


Here, he stopped, and silence only followed. He then took up his binoculars, training them upon me. His trailing hand released the microphone and disappeared from view.

“That piece sounds familiar,” I called. “Who wrote it?”

The binoculars came down halfway, then retrained, scanning the street.

In the other hand I could now see the stock of a rifle.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Aug 31 2006, 12:26 PM
Presently, he spoke.

It is not in the writing, dear girl.” came the missive, his (hours? days?) of ‘public speaking’ seeming to have had no effect upon his cultured voice. “But in receiving the offering.

His rifle now across his knees, he sat as though reflecting upon choices vast and deep.

Thinking on it now, had I not seen what I have seen these past weeks, I might have been alarmed at the situation. From where I stood, mounting the bike, running for shelter or drawing a weapon would have left me entirely at his mercy for at least a few seconds. As it was, I felt nothing of fear. Am I jaded?

Tell me your name.

I told him.

He paused.

Again.

I told him. Again.

…no middle name?”

No, I told him.

(My parents only gave one of us a middle name: Thalia’s middle name was Circe. I still don’t know why, and neither does she.)

Calliope Grieve…do you carry a tablet to write your sorrowful poetry upon?”

Now that I think about it, it seems I do. At the time, I shrugged.

“My parents were hippies.”

He found this amusing, pulling the microphone away from his mouth to laugh loudly, ethereal as it echoed along the empty street. He presently cocked his head again, the rifle still on his lap.

Hippies. And what are you, young lady?

“At your advantage.”

He nodded with a sad sort of smirk.

Where are the hippies now, with their free love, their aromatic herb and protestations of war…

He gestured to the rifle, holding it up, examining it.

I see no flowers in the barrel of this rifle. I hear no songs of giving peace a chance…

He closed his eyes, and then:

In the streets the children screamed,
The lovers cried, and the poets dreamed,
But not a word was spoken,
The church bells all were broken.


Silence.

And for some reason, I guess I just don’t care anymore…for some reason I picked up where he left off.

“And the three men I admire most,”

Strange, to hear myself sing—try to sing. I used to enjoy it—in the shower, in the car, alone...having a couple of beers and doing karaoke in dive bars with guys from the precinct who found it bizarre I could carry a gun AND carry a tune…but here it was again, drifting down streets with no light or law to regulate its passing.

“The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast—“

Here, he joined me.

“The day …the music…”

And neither one of us would finish the line…we stood there, looking at one another, him high above, me below in a landscape alien and dead and hostile, and neither would say it.

I tasted the tears before I knew I was crying. I didn’t feel them.






And then he said, eyebrows raised:





So…


So we skipped to the chorus, singing for everything we were worth. Which might be very little, or everything left on earth. It's weird even writing it down. You did what? Oh, you sang a Don McLean song with a naked man who wore nothing but a towel, a rifle and a microphone....yeah, okay...makes perfect sense.


But sang we did, and I could have sworn I heard an acoustic guitar floating somewhere far and away, through the past to meet us there on those deserted streets.


…Bye-bye, Miss American Pie,
Drove my Chevy to the levee,
But the levee was dry
Them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye
Singin’ This’ll be the day that I dieeeee
"

Am amazing dichotomy of magnificence and sorrow I sang, grinning, crying, sharing a stupid meaningless moment that might be the most alive I’d been to date, and as the song ended he stood, leveling his rifle at me, and fired three shots in quick succession.

A few yards behind me I heard something hit the pavement and roll; I turned, and out of the mist they came, nearly a dozen of them, now shrieking and gibbering at the sound of the shot. And some could run, and were.

Now girl, up the pile! Up!!!

I wasted no time, dropping the bike and bolting for the drift as more shots rang from above. Casings rained about me as I relied less upon consideration and more on sheer faith that whatever surface I grabbed or stepped on would hold without shifting and throwing me back to the street—or snapping off a foot at the ankle, or slicing fingers off, or, or, or...

About halfway up I heard something strike the top of the pile with a dull thunk, embedded in the ruined, cooked flesh burnt and caked in layers atop the pile. I looked to see a length of nylon climbing rope attached to a rappelling harness attached to a hand weight, presumably to speed the descent should need arise. Which it had.

Get up there girl! Move!!! MOVE!!!

I did.

Somehow I achieved the top of the rubble without impaling myself on the metalwork. I released the karabiner holding the weights, slipped into the harness, and before it was fully fastened I began to rise, and then my right foot snagged on something, and when I looked it was not a something but a someone that had lain in wait in one of the burnt out vehicles. Correction—someones.

It hurt incredibly when the first bit into my calf. After that, the pain sort of becomes a facilitator for adrenaline—all of it is at one, constant level. The burning in my shoulders and armpits from what I assumed was a winch attempting to haul me up. The fingers digging into my ankle, pulling my shoe off, my pants yanked down and torn away from my waist. The burning sensation in my calf as the teeth tore in and would not let go, rend from side to side like a shark, feeling the muscle tissue separating.

I pulled my sidearm and fired. At my foot, at everything around it, fifteen rounds of hollow point 9mm Parabellum ammunition shredding bone and flesh and tissue and cartilage, turning it to shard, to powder, to mist. I vaguely remember yanking suddenly upward, pulling the trigger to clicking and reflexively reloading my weapon, watching blood pouring from my right leg like a sieve to spatter the pile below that now resembled a wasp’s nest with worker drones pouring out after the scouts have been compromised, regarding my naked legs and remembering something about having clean underwear in an accident. Upward, bumping the glass of the building as I rose, my leg burning with what felt like molten mercury slipping through my toes and up my thigh and higher as my heart unwittingly pumped the infection home…upward, into the sky.

Thank God for training, because it’s what takes over when the mind shuts down.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 5 2006, 03:54 PM
Getting up to speed.

I mentioned before that after Steve was butchered (Steve, my cat) I lost it for a while.

When I finally made it back to Clio’s after everything went to hell, I followed a wide trail of blood from the hallway into the kitchen and found her slumped in the breakfast nook of her apartment with the cordless on the floor between her legs. She’d bled out from two shots to the stomach and from a brief once-over I figure she’d been gone for at least two days, since right around the time the rioting began. A torn perineum and bruising on her thighs confirmed without even a second glance that whomever(s) had taken her had penetrated her as well, and had I been able to get her to the proper facilities I’d have run the samples left behind and the blood under her fingernails.

Seeing as I’d already seen a score of corpses far more animated than hers I dismissed the probability of ever finding her killers.

I dealt with that in a reasonable way, I guess. I know I cried, but right in the middle of my examination of her I realized Steve hadn’t come to greet me, and the front door had been closed (and locked, which made me believe whomever did my sister knew her and she’d let him (them?) in), so he was probably hiding, freaked out.

I didn’t even have to look for him. I glanced in the first doorway leading into the bathroom and found that they’d shot him too. Large caliber, either a .45 or a 9mm, maybe a .38.

When you hit something that small and wiry with something with a bore that large, it tends to leave an exit wound resembling a small country. Steve was pretty much torn in half save for a swatch of fur and skin along his spine, and the momentum of the bullet’s passing had twisted him into something of a Möbius strip. He’d been blown into the tub and the fluids that hadn’t spatter-pattered the tile walls had gone neatly down the drain.

I figure he’d been drinking from the sink as was his habit; we used to leave the water running slightly, just a trickle, just for him, and I remember turning it off for some reason.

After that, a period of time elapsed where I couldn’t truthfully recall many of the details other than hitting Van Nuys PD at Sylvan, letting the CoD know my sister had been murdered in the same way I’d let her know I was taking an extra half hour for lunch, and gearing up for my day without resistance.

The Valley had gone to hell, and my handbasket overfloweth. I went to the locker room, changed, went to the ordinance room and stood in line with the rest of us that weren’t saying anything, and then…then I remember waking up on the water tower at the Warner Brothers lot, home of Yakko, Wakko and Dot. Waking up with my whole body aching, bruised, battered and beaten.

According to my watch, I’d lost three days. Three days I figured I’d never get back, and probably for good reason. The mind is helpful that way at times, sheltering us from what we really don’t need to hang onto.

Well, it’s been a week since my feet have touched concrete, a week since Raney (the guy with the towel) pulled me out of the arms of my dead suitors. I’ve undergone two transfusions, my ankle is the size of a Volkswagen Golf, I feel like utter hell. I figured I’d finish that previous entry and move on from here, but I feel I need to get something out of my system. Call it an act of contrition, a confession, or a voiding of my psychological bowels, whatever…

Since coming out of the infection-induced coma, I now remember what happened during those first three days since I said goodbye to my sister, my cat, and the life I used to know.

God forgive me, I remember it all.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 8 2006, 01:26 PM
THE FIRST HOUR

Marcus Wright was a good guy, a 6’4” brother boasting two-hundred thirty pounds of lean muscle mass. When he wasn’t on patrol he was at the gym or pushing for a shot at the UFC, something he got me hooked on out of sheer tenacity. Watching it, not participating, thanks.

I never found men violently groping other men to be anything more than amusing in a ‘boys will be boys, and most men will still be boys’ kind of way. Marcus harangued me incessantly until I gave it a chance, so over a pitcher of Hefeweizen he introduced me to Joe Rogan (who I knew from Fear Factor), Dana White and Bruce Buffer on the big screen at Corbin Café on Ventura. I then watched a country bumpkin named Matt Hughes and a school teacher (uh, yeah) named Rich Franklin try to teach a bunch of punks to believe in themselves enough to foist their will upon one another through varying methods of physio- and psychological techniques.

Once I got past the whole ‘beating the hell out of someone sure is civilized entertainment’ perception I found the sport to have a good deal more heart to it than I’d ever wanted to admit. Just between you and me, patient reader. Don’t tell anyone. And yeah, Marcus made fun of me when I relented. And no, Rich Franklin isn’t disgusting to look at either. School teacher my ass.

Anyway, Marcus was the kind of guy you could argue things into the ground with and he’d never stop smiling a huge, toothy grin that either completely diffused the situation or pissed you off so much that articulation went right out the window. Either way, between his demeanor and his stature he pretty much controlled every situation he found himself in before ever having to lift a finger. Even drug-addled tweakers experienced a sudden drain of adrenaline when Marcus stepped into the picture.

Which is most likely why Commanding Officer Miller (“James, Jim, JM—call me anything but Chief when we’re off the clock, okay?”) put the two of us together. At a full foot shorter, European-fishbelly white and obviously female about the only thing I had over him was seniority. That, and I went to Reed before coming down south to USC.

Totally incongruous with our ongoing debate as to whether or not Stephan Bonnar was robbed in the decision against Rashad Evans in UFN 5, or whether the Gracies should even attempt to get their name back in the octagon, or whether or not black fighters have a natural propensity for physical conflict or, or, or…

But I digress.

Did I have a crush on Marcus? Yeah, I guess, in a way. A healthy respect coupled with fascination with a tinge of compatibility-curiosity. A guy who could rip phone books in half fighting toe to toe with some of the most violently capable men on earth shared my patrol car for 4 years and I never saw him lose his cool outside of the ring, even when physically subduing a man who’d gunned his poker buddies down over a bad run of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Never lost his cool, save for the last time I saw him.

After my cat died I went to work. I told CO Miller (Jack, Jim, JM) that my sister had been murdered, and apologized for my tardiness. Miller wanted to say something. He really did. At that point, the switchboard was off the charts, the radios a regular cornucopia of carnage and confusion, the monitors showing every news station picking up the mass hysteria in the streets, the rioting, the looting, the chaos…and the surreality of the dead rising to reclaim their place among the living.

He wanted to say something, some word of solace. Instead he nodded, looking me over, and told me I could do what I needed to do. I told him I needed to get out on the street. He nodded and went back to staring at the televisions.

I suited up, checked my shottie out of the cage. No sign of Marcus. Went back to the main pen and found he’d already taken our vehicle out half an hour previous. On a whim I took the elevator to the garage and wasn’t surprised to find the car there, idling, with Marcus inside poking at the laptop. I slid in beside.

“Hey girl.” If Marcus’ attitude was at all shaken, it didn’t show. I’d been gone, the world had gone to hell, and he sounded as though he’d been comped for his coffee at Starbucks that morning. “Radios off, kinda busy right now.”

I nodded and decided to leap into the blithely oblivious seat with him.

“Yeah, I noticed. Crazy morning.”

He chuckled, finishing up his typing and looking at me for the first time. Not saying anything, just staring.

“What?” I said. “Yeah, I picked at it. Sue me.”

I was referring to a pimple I’d found and attacked on my forehead yesterday morning that had decided to scab and I hadn’t really cared to cover it up.

Thinking on it now, it’s pretty stupid, isn’t it? Hours of each day applying powders, liquids and colors in some sort of effort to hide anything we don’t care to admit we feel ugly about, things we feel we’ll be rejected or looked down upon for. We’re trained from the beginning to hate the imperfect in ourselves--even if the imperfect is perfectly natural.

Right now I think those things out there are closer to what we really are than we’ve ever cared to admit.

But he wasn’t looking at the zit, of course. Just me. Me. Which made me really uncomfortable. So I stared right back at him and we just sat there for five hundred and sixteen years until he simply reached out and touched my cheek. I saw it coming and I still flinched when he connected, which made him laugh.

“It’s gonna be alright, girl. This is all taken care of. Just you wait.”

I have no idea what the look on my face was, but he winked, grinned that huge grin and put the car in gear, still grinning even as the gate went up and we headed into the maelstrom of the San Fernando Valley.

I think I know what it was, though.

I think he knew I believed him.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 12 2006, 02:12 AM
BRIEF INTERLUDE

Another transfusion. God, they hurt--I mean, like, really hurt. The kind of hurt that leaves you wondering if death would be any worse.

It amazes me that the concept of what Raney calls revivifying seems to be a run-of-the-mill notion to several living here (There are 9 at last count, and I haven't left this room), as though they haven't actually admitted that, for a time, they desired nothing more than tearing the flesh from humanity's bones in order to suckle the brains from any available orifi. And I wasn't even technically dead; the infection, Raney admits, had poisoned a decent amount of my central nervous system, but hadn't advanced nearly so far s to render me hostile.

"Just a bit temperamental," he added with a wink.

Raney assures me that's the last one, and a precautionary measure to boot.

Right now, I feel like I've chugged a bottle of Patron Silver on a dare and awakened the next morning under a flatcar.

More later. Sorry, but I think I'm going to hurl.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 14 2006, 01:25 AM
THE SECOND HOUR

I don't know when you'll be reading this. How far in the future are you? Did you find this the day after I left it behind, be it out of necessity, tragedy, or simple misfortune or accident?

I want to describe for you the atmosphere of what came to pass. Of what many might only notionally accept, or take for granted as a side effect of this plague.

I read a book called The Stand, by Stephen King. If I were to compare my life at the moment to the novel, I'd actually say there are some moments that are uncannily accurate. I'm not saying you ought to run out and find the novel, but if you have read it, and you know what Captain Trips did to the general populace, allow me to reassure you that what happened those first couple of days are somewhere in the vicinity of dead on, except without the sickness and with many more of the inconceivable horrors.

Inconceivable!

Damnit, I'll never be able to hear that word again without thinking of Wallace Shawn in the Princess Bride.

"You keep using that word...I do not think it means...what you think it means..."

Within moments of pulling out of the station we were met with a busky, black haze of soot drifting onto the windshield--something like the one that inspires people to use CarCondoms™ due the layer of sooty ichor every morning from the smog that blankets the City of Angels--except I'd say the usual pollutant decided with the advent of fresh chaos that it would forego the subtlety of gentle poisoning and thoroughly dominate the world under its carcinogenic influence.

Long story short, the city burned.

You may not fully grasp the implications of a city on fire, but imagine 16 square blocks of a metropolitan area (such as Ventura) ablaze with only a remnant of a fire department to keep it in check--this, while attempting to answer every emergency call choking a system that had effectively been blacked out due to volume. Also imagine receiving hundreds of calls from citizens throughout your city--hell, even throughout your neighborhood--and then attempting to answer that call only to find numerous atrocities occurring before your eyes every step of the way.

Yeah. Getting me? I mean, honestly--really think about this.

Now add the fact that the city is on fire.

And add the fact that you are attempting to drive through crowds of very confused representatives of what you might have once called humanity. And recognize that those crowds are somehow disconnected, in no way attached to the realm of reality you're used to. So much so, in fact, that every exam you've ever taken to determine your ability to assess the psychological makeup of individuals based upon telltale signs that are easily recognized throughout the fields--so much so, that the evidence points to the assessment that these packs of human beings have succumbed and are responding to a mass psychosis, one that is of an imminent threat to the safety and well-being of any rational soul residing within their path.

They’re all out for blood.

The city is burning, and the residents attack anyone coming to save it.

In short, anarchy of the worst kind—the kind disregarding any sort of moral, ethical or biological value of preserving human life.

So in the second hour, we drove out into it.

Mothers and sons, someone’s daughter, another’s grandfather—those who’d seen and survived the struggles in World War Two, in Vietnam, the Falklands, Desert Storm and the MidEast crisis—here they threw themselves upon the car, gnashing teeth, gibbering—some hysterical, some weeping, others shrieking from slack-jawed holes where once a voice had been.

I pushed all thoughts of family away as we crawled through panic-choked streets suffocating under the forceful hand of circumstances beyond our control. You train yourself to do that, you know? Objectify it. Somehow align it with "The Human Condition" and move up from there.

Marcus said nothing. I said nothing. We drove, the radio silent, both of us assessing the insanity and simultaneously agreeing on some silent, subconscious level that unless there were a clear, concise reason to step out of the car, we would continue to drive until there were no recourse but to do so.

Around us, the world coalesced into a mosaic of such stuff as the nocturnal emissions surrealists experience before embarking on a new, obsessive work.

A cloak of flesh enveloping the car, hammering, bludgeoning, prising—reaching to crack the shell and cull the dark, sweet treat from inside…the only commonality between them being an abject, disconnected hunger, something I had and have never seen until that day of my life. Unrelenting, constant--

The worst part wasn’t the "End of Days" feel to it all.

It was the abandon with which each of them had given over to their hunger.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 26 2006, 01:32 PM
THE THIRD HOUR

At CBS-Radford just off Ventura Blvd. it looked like the special effects had gotten out of hand and spilled into the streets, and all of the made-up extras were confused as to where the set actually was.

Only these weren’t extras, and their set wasn’t locked down to a soundstage.

The shopping center at Laurel Canyon blazed into the afternoon sky, vomiting noxious, black smoke as thousands of compact discs and dvds fused into the ultimate compilation album. The Wherehouse, the Coffee Bean, Magnolia Hi-Fi—an inferno unchecked, dropping leaflet-sized ashes and soot over a several block radius. Commercial establishments had taken the low rung on the priority list as residential areas suffered similar fates, the so-thin-as-to-be-non-existent fire support forced back from their duties by the throngs of madness shrieking to consume them more stridently than any flame.

We crawled into the CBS lot toward the security gate, halting about 20 yards from the guard station. The gates were closed, a writhing mass of lunacy trying to squeeze, bludgeon or mash themselves through the bars. They swarmed the guard station like insects, perching atop, stuffing the interior—as we watched, one young woman launched herself from the roof in effort to clear the fence. She hooked her heel in the uprights above the bars and experienced a short wrench, like a hook jerk-setting in a fishes mouth before it attempts to flee; she struck the bars with her face and hung there, upended and shrieking, her leg a twisted wreck above.

Her compatriots on this side of the gate lashed at her, pulling at her, tearing her clothes from her, digging into her face, her chest—I don’t need to describe the rest.

Marcus drove on, rounding the access drive to the rear lot reserved for loading. Another gate. Another throng. Another problem.

“So?”

All the questions summed up in that word. What now? What do we do about this? How do we fight it? Who do we protect?

Marcus pulled around, heading for the next gate, driving slowly. He hit the wipers in futile attempt to sweep the cinders away, succeeding only in creating dual, greyscale rainbows.

“Way I see it, we keep our eyes open,” he said presently, still maintaining the calm, practical tone. “We see anyone…rational needing our help—“

“Like that guy?” I cut him off. He didn’t object, the sight ahead deserving of one’s full attention.

An 18-wheeler, possibly one used to transport large set pieces to and from the various lots, had jackknifed in attempt to back out of the rear gate. Now it sat perpendicular to the access road, its front half effectively blocking entry into the gate save for going underneath—which not a few had undoubtedly discovered, as perhaps a dozen “people” crowded around the container—but the real attraction was the leather-clad barbarian atop the trailer swinging the sword.

Those on the ground seemed less interested in getting into the complex than in achieving the man above. They leapt, they flailed—those more spry attempted to climb.

Hence, the sword, one of those two-handed blades taller than I am. From either end, he appeared to be negotiating all comers—as we arrived on the scene he met an eager opponent in the process of pulling himself up, met him with a downward, diagonal strike that our angle obscured; regardless, it was quite effective at clearing him off, and he fell motionless to the ground.

“Yeah, rational like that guy.”

Under normal circumstances we’d have called for backup, hit the lights, tweaked the siren for attention and perhaps used the intercom to call for dispersal. Under normal circumstances, drawing attention to the badge and authority was the first step in asserting control over the situation. Obviously, things had changed, and we determined to draw as little attention to ourselves as possible.

Unfortunately, the Rational Barbarian did it for us. Upon seeing us, his screaming at the attackers became screaming for our assistance; this did little to distract them until he began jumping up and down, waving his massive arms. A few of them caught on at that, making noises of their own and diverting their attentions.

“THIS IS THE LOS ANGELES POLICE DEPARTMENT. I ORDER YOU TO LAY DOWN ON THE GROUND, HANDS FLAT OUT IN FRONT OF YOU.”

No one obeyed.

“Well, y’know,” Marcus toggled the intercom. “Just had to see.”

“SIT TIGHT, SIR. DO NOT COME DOWN. WE WILL COME TO YOU. GET ON OUR ROOF AND HOLD ON.”

The man nodded vigorously, looking about before running to deflect another amorous climber. We pulled the gas masks on, cinching the straps snug and taking up the shotguns. A handful of the “rioters” (as the realization of their true nature had yet to be determined) made their way toward the car, now at about 20 yards.

The look in their eyes—beet red, craven, feral…

“I don’t think they’ll be open to cuffs,” I said. “Do you?”

Marcus put the car in gear.

“Honestly, I don’t think anyone’s gonna even get out of the way.”

He stepped on it.

He was right.

They didn’t scatter, didn’t hesitate. We accelerated into them at a modest 15 mph, knocking them aside, over, and under like stalks of corn--as though the concept of gross vehicle weight coupled with momentum had never occurred to them.

The Barbarian cheered as we achieved the group before the trailer, leaping to our roof without hesitation (and with much weight, bowing it slightly as he landed); the small crowd reached for him but we were already rolling through them, buckling their ranks and peeling off the way we’d come.

I caught sight of our reflection in the glass fronts along the rear administrative offices. The Barbarian crouched atop our car, one hand on the lights, the other swinging his sword, a triumphant grin on his face as black snow swirled about and he screamed his battle cry to a world at war.

“Los Angeles, California,” said Marcus. “Anywhere else, I’d be surprised.”

His was the first life we’d saved, and as we stopped briefly for him to take the back seat and the huge man broke down and cried, revealing himself to be an actor on the wrap day of a 6 week shoot and it didn’t look like it would be his big break after all until we showed up—in those moments things truly looked hopeful.

That was the third hour, and by the end of the fourth everything would drop straight into hell.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Sep 29 2006, 04:00 PM
THE FOURTH HOUR – AND THE BEGINNING OF THE END

It’s weird, I feel like I have to go somewhere with this, like I’m writing a novel and all the characters are needing some sort of story arc, that they have to have identifiable lives packaged in neat boxes with a beginning, middle and end. I keep having to remind myself that this is real, that the only end of the story will be the end of my life—or I accidentally drop the book somewhere, or something less drastic than having my head torn off and sucked on.

Speaking of which, I can walk again, if you call loping along a treadmill like a hyena walking. (Bared teeth, tongue hanging out at times, fits of manic laughter--you get the picture.) My leg finally looks less like an oversized blood sausage and more like something that actually belongs on the rest of my body, the bruising and viral hematoma faded to a sort of jaundice-yellow, sweet-pea-mash green…like someone replaced the tanning oil with succotash. Apparently Raney more than toyed with the idea of removing it but told me I was somewhat against the idea, referring to a frayed 3-inch canvas strap that I’d apparently torn through in effort to kick him—a blessing, he said, because he knew then and there the leg would be just fine.

So I’m here on the 17th floor, for all intents and purposes ‘safe from harm.’ It’s about 1:30 in the morning and I’m listening to an iPod Raney gave me. An iPod. I actually smirk when I say it, thinking about all those commercials with funk-a-delic dancers in silhouette grinding their hips, shaking their hair, letting it all hang out because Hey, they have an iPod, and don’t you want one too? And yeah, I did want one, and yeah, I bought one, and yeah, I wore it religiously. My little iPod Nano, no less. To the gym, running, on breaks…

How utterly senseless. How somnambulistic. How patently absurd. Ad nauseam, ad infinitum.

And now that I have one on, and I listen to David Bowie’s Five Years, how utterly sublime.

Am I digressing? Yeah, I think so. I think I’m stalling again.

I don’t really know how to put it into words, or if it will even matter if I find the right ones. Am I going on the assumption that, at some point, things will return to normal? That you’re reading this in a world with downloadable music, self-cleaning ovens and trips to the aquarium on weekends, looking back at something like the medieval dark ages and thinking Good Lord, how did they ever live like that?’ Or is this going to be one of those ‘you had it easy, everything still sucks and it’s much worse now’ prooftexts that frustrated scientists pore over looking for some clue to the past, some reason why, some indication of what masterful f--kery brought it all crashing down around our technoxicated heads?

The lyrics to this song…have you heard it? Well, if you have, and if you’re out of this mess and reading this in a LA-Z-Boy, find the song, download it or something, and have a listen. If not, read it like poetry—written 40 years before any of this.

Pushing thru the market square, so many mothers sighing
News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in
News guy wept and told us, earth was really dying
Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying
I heard telephones, opera house, favourite melodies
I saw boys, toys electric irons and TVs
My brain hurt like a warehouse, it had no room to spare
I had to cram so many things to store everything in there
And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people
And all the nobody people, and all the somebody people
I never thought I’d need so many people

A girl my age went off her head, hit some tiny children
If the black hadn’t a-pulled her off, I think she would have killed them
A soldier with a broken arm, fixed his stare to the wheels of a Cadillac
A cop knelt and kissed the feet of a priest, and a queer threw up at the sight of that

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour, drinking milkshakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine,
Don’t think you knew you were in this song
And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor
And I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there
Your face, your race, the way that you talk
I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk

We’ve got five years, stuck on my eyes
Five years, what a surprise
We’ve got five years, my brain hurts a lot
Five years, that’s all we’ve got

Five years
Five years
Five years
Five years


Conan was bigger than Marcus by around six inches, give or take. He hunched into the back of the interceptor and after his adrenaline backed down a bit he wept, shuddering, all seven-ish feet and 300+ pounds of him.

The barbarian’s name was Lawrence Timmerman--people call him Lor, he assured. He made his money in the WWF as “The Lor of the Ring”, doing movies when he could to supplement his income and hoping to break in as an action hero. He lived in an condo complex in Sherman Oaks just off Riverside Drive. I knew the area—they had an El Pollo Loco near there next to a Blockbuster where I’d catch a late dinner sometimes before bringing home something to occupy my mind like a Coen Brothers movie. The Big Lebowski or O Brother, Where Art Thou?…Clooney. Hmm. Wonder where he is. Maybe he needs my help. [INSERT LAUGH TRACK HERE.]

So we pulled up at Lor’s complex. And sat. And sat. And eventually pulled away.

This was in the beginning, remember; and in the beginning, I hadn’t experienced death in more than a one-on-one, sometimes one-on-several-in-a-tragic-accident of way. At this point, as I lie here at 1:30 in the morning with my leg itching like hell but healing due to the half mentholatum/half goat feces smelling homeopathic poultice Raney’s smeared over the bite scarring wickedly on my leg (It’s pretty messed up looking, I must say. The perp had broken teeth but a perfect bite)—at this point I’ve seen enough to become jaded, I guess. But at that point in time it was…a bit different.

Like I said before, people are basically flesh and bones to me, no real sentimental or moral distinction from one biological entity to another. Yeah, I believe there’s a soul, which is why the body, while amazing, doesn’t really ‘mean’ that much to me other than something to keep healthy and from harm for as long as the spirit calls it home.

But when you have more than two dozen bodies of all walks and ages littering the courtyard of a once idyllic little urban community, the objectivity tends to slip a bit into the realm of disbelief and a creeping miasma of something between skepticism and outright denial settles in. The mind can’t really find a good reason why it should believe the information before it, and after scrabbling around the cliff face looking for that next toe-hold, it simply backs down or finds another route. Or falls off the mountain entirely.

Which, little by little, was what was happening to Lawrence “The Lor of the Ring” Timmerman.

Hang on—Raney’s asking me something.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Oct 19 2006, 01:12 PM
THE FOURTH HOUR, CONTINUED

It’s hard to sleep in a comfortable place.

I just told Raney I’m not tired, and he didn’t press—but it’s true: it’s quiet here, the bed is soft (but not so soft you get lost in it—hate that), the generator’s far away on some other floor...it’s like the Hyatt Regency of post-cataclysmic chic. When the door is closed the only sound is my own breathing.

It’s really hard to sleep like that. For moments, the silence is good—and then I become aware of how loud my head is, and I need something to distract me. Right now, it’s the iPod, and the scratching of this pen across the page.

“What am I seeing here?” was the first thing Lor said. “What’s happening?”

I didn’t have anything. Leave it to Marcus.

“Well, Mr. Timmerman, I don’t have an answer for you. I think most of us are trying to figure that out. Do you have any relatives or friends you can stay with?”

“You don’t know?”

Marcus regarded the rear-view. I watched the sky steadily blackening from multiple columns of black smoke; it looked like the San Fernando Valley had been carpet bombed. Something, I’m sure, that many had wished upon it before today.

“I’m sorry?” Marcus clarified.

“You’re sorry...sorry that you don’t know, or that you can’t tell me?”

I turned to find Lor in textbook shock. Pupils dilating, eyes tracking slow, face ashy...and no, I didn’t blame him. I think I hadn’t taken a look in a mirror specifically because I was worried I might find the same thing. But here’s this giant hunched in the back of a squad car with the world turning into a fustercluck of biblical proportions and I’m watching his tether to the mountainside slowly growing taut—and hoping in that moment it isn’t attached to me in any way.

“I’m sorry we don’t have any information yet other than what you see out there, man. We’re in the same boat you are—all we know is everything was fine this morning, and in a matter of hours it wasn’t...God’s honest truth man, that’s the skinny. We’re right there with you.”

Lor’s head, now lowered, swayed from side to side, the Plexiglas between us turning him into an exhibit.

“This morning...every. Thing. Was fine.” Lor repeated as though tasting a strange food. “And then. It was not.”

“Lor, take a deep breath.” I watched him swirling down, down, further into the rabbit hole. “Look at me.”

He did.

It was the first time I saw what now I expect from every stranger out there. His eyes had yellowed the color of scrambled eggs, shot through with deep red subconjunctival hemorrhaging. The arteries in his forehead bulged visibly, the muscles of his face twitching, jaw spasming...my first thought was a grand mal seize, except he appeared to be quite conscious, staring at me through the glass, regarding me as something utterly foreign.

“Marcus.”

The tone of my voice brought his eyes first to me, then the rearview, then the road, where he sought a place to pull over. We were near the Westfield Fashion Square on Riverside, eking our way west towards Van Nuys Blvd and back to the station. Marcus pulled the car onto Hazeltine heading north; I released my shoulder belt, reaching for my holster, and that’s when the sword came through the seat and into me, halted by my Kevlar vest but shoving me against the dashboard nonetheless. Marcus, for the first time in our travels together, was completely caught off guard.

Fortunately, the length of the sword prohibited swinging or an easy redraw from the seat. Unfortunately, Lor’s brute strength had me pinioned effectively against the dash with a great deal of pressure. The standard issue tactical vest was good for stopping bullets and blunt trauma and was effective at reducing the risk of slashing wounds; a sharp point, however, has been known to pierce the armor...

Marcus whipped the cruiser to the right, throwing Lor against the driver’s side door. The pressure reduced long enough for me to push the blade back a foot or so, coming out from beneath the point and enabling me to draw my weapon.

During the next few seconds, the cruiser banked into the parking lot of a small business complex where a young man in a late model BMW through some remarkable twist of fate had decided to exit in a hurry, his 2-seater slamming head on into the grill of the cruiser at a high rate of speed. Both airbags deployed, and if I’d still been under the point of the sword I’m fairly sure things would have gotten a great deal worse. As it was, Lor’s face struck the Plexiglas hard enough to smear his nose and upper lips into a pastiche of blood, bone and mucous.

For my own part, the impact might’ve thrown me through the window had not the airbag spun me sideways into Marcus even as it exploded on the point of the sword. Marcus later told me he'd experienced the sharp impact of the bag in his face and my shoulder to the side of his head. I don't remember it.

I awoke disoriented to the acrid haze of nitrogen and talcum from the airbags lightly clouding the interior of the compartment, which shook and rolled steadily. I heard screaming from somewhere through the ringing in my ears; I tasted blood, my neck ached, and Marcus was not in the car beside me. Sitting up, I found the source of both the screaming and rocking of the car: Lor, his face unrecognizable, his head hanging slack on what looked to be a severely broken neck, throwing himself repeatedly against the door.

To my left, a familiar voice accompanied a hand gently touching my thigh.

“Hey partner, can you move?”

I think I nodded and said something.

“Come on outta there. Easy. Come on.”

I turned to find Marcus, that preternatural smile back on the face of a saint—a face abraded across the cheek and forehead from the airbag. I took his hand and allowed him to lead me from his door into the parking lot, where fluids from the impact trickled down the graded slope of concrete into a storm grate. Steam hissed, engines ticked, the screaming continued, and the driver of the other vehicle was nowhere to be found.

“Just a few seconds, long enough for me to make sure nothing was gonna blow. Driver took off.”

I realized I must have asked him how long I’d been out.

“...you mean you didn’t chase him down?”

He took me seriously for a moment. Only a moment.

“He made my list.” he reassured me, grinning. “You’re one blessed lady, girl.”

The rear door banged loose beneath Lor’s attentions, the giant toppling onto the macadam. He clawed at the ground, head lolling on his twisted neck. I noted a severe chunk missing from the back of his thigh — it looked as though something had taken a healthy bite out of him — and as he stood, still screaming, I think it was the first time I made a connection between the condition he was in and what was happening to the populace.

Without thinking I drew my weapon, but Marcus blew him backwards against the car with the riot gun; Lor paused, the screaming ceased—and then he lurched forward, hands clawing at the air.

Marcus actually froze in disbelief.

So I put three bullets in Lor’s face before the head tore free and hit the ground, the body dropping soon after, still clutching at a fading memory.

I nodded, taking in the ashes drifting in the air below the darkening sky, then observing the wreckage, realizing we were now on foot. Marcus stared at the body, his smile gone.

“Yeah,” I nodded. “I’m pretty blessed, alright.”

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Jan 28 2008, 02:32 AM
My right foot.

I've heard tell that swimming through a pod

(I think it's a pod. I know whales come in pods, but...wait, no. Whales come in gallons. -rimshot-!. But seriously, I think jellyfish might travel in pods. I can't remember. Sue me.)

--anyway, I've heard tell that swimming through a pod of jellyfish can produce really nasty results. Like, life-threatening results. That the tentacles the unwary tourist (because people native to the area never do that sort of stupid crap) clumsily breast-strokes through not only attach but rip off, injecting such toxins into the unwitting host as to render them paralyzed--if the victim doesn't die, there's a real good chance of drowning. Meanwhile, the jellyfish just kicks back and waits for the new recipient of its love juices to become stunned supine--and then invites all and sundry to feed on the quarry.

Well, I can honestly say I know how that feels.

All of it; the stinging, the stunning, the drowning and the feeding.

A lot has happened since my last entry. The virus that had taken my ankle was actually in remission for a bit, then inconceivably (Raney's word, and I keep coming back to, you guessed it, Wallace Shawn's character in The Princess Bride) became malignant again.

Apparently, I freaked out.

Apparently, I killed someone.

Apparently, it was inconceivable, because the methodology I used was a hybrid of the virus-induced stupor and my own inherent abilities and/or training. Training involving calculation, speed and reflexes.

If you've read this far, you're already nodding your head. You might even be saying 'Um, duh.' like I did. Only in my mind, of course, because I didn't feel real good about being told I offed someone and don't even have the slightest f--king recollection of the act.

I woke up. I was tired, felt like I'd been drinking graveyards all night and waking up ten years younger to my roommate saying Hey, Cal, you got twenty minutes to haul your ass into your 7am Psych class..

Yeah.

I woke up sore. A little confused because I couldn't move and realizing Oh Hey, I'm Strapped To A Table.

Raney's in a chair and looks exhausted. He's looking out the window and muttering to himself out loud that I recognize but the synapse doesn't fire because damn, it's been years--

not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to

He sees me and his breath catches. Tears. A really bizarre grin that I couldn't place at the time.

He starts laughing, tears streaming and he's hopping like a kid being told Disneyland TODAY!

He undoes the straps and hugs me like Lazarus resplendent.

He looks into my eyes--literally pries them open, staring--then sits me back and goes for a bottle of water.

I hit the floor and felt very little. Moving wasn't really an option.

I do remember seeing my right leg for the first time.

I've gotten used to it since then, but nothing anyone tells you really does justice to understanding the effect of a serious bite.

The flesh about the original wound was now a shiny, pufferfish of two 'C' marks meeting in the center--

It's the veins leading away that really wig your mind out.

Every single one, every vessel, becomes pronounced, like a topographical 3D rendering of a map of Los Angeles.

A bite doesn't just go away. Ever. There's no shrugging it off, no Brett Ratner asinine 'We'll forget that we were mortally wounded five minutes ago' recovery.

My leg is still disgusting. I keep it covered. It works fine now, sure--


But I digress.

Raney realizes I can't move much, scraping me up and replacing me on the table with the precise care of a wet nurse. He covers me with a blanket, props my head and puts the Safeway Select water to my lips. It's liquid gold.

Raney tells me it's a miracle. That I'm a "rare and radiant maiden." That my recovery affords promise, that hope has a new daughter. He babbles about all sorts of fringe dwelling newspeak that would surprise me only if I hadn't sung American Pie with him as he sat naked in a La-Z-Boy recliner with a rifle in his hands.

He goes on to say that despite my 'regression,' my stamina has proven the perfect facilitator for what he knew to be the correct antigen to the predominant pathogenetic adaptive strain.

The only reason I remember that? The first words out of my mouth:

Say that again?

Nothing more than a croak from me, but he thought it was better than that flick about all the famous comedians telling the same joke.

He repeated it. He then told me what had happened, that once he weaned me off the Necrobiotics that the MegaCorporation ™ had developed to staunch the active strain, I had shown typical promise of normal re-integration to normalcy.

Then we hit a 'bump'.

If anyone reading this understands HIV, you'll know right where this is going.

He used HIV to explain what happened to me in layman's terms. He said something to the effect of:

HIV isn't deadly because it's a "really bad disease". HIV is deadly because it adapts to each new host. It effects each host individually, based upon their physical makeup. There is no 'common AIDS' in the same way there's a 'common cold'--

(Actually, that's not true. We haven't cured the cold yet either.)

--but putting it simply: every case of HIV/AIDS is different. This is what frustrates science. It responds to an individual rather than having a global, predictable effect on the short-term level, like Ebola or Malaria. The effects of HIV are malleable to the individual's physical makeup. The behavior of the virus is the same, attacking the immune system and breaking it down until the white blood cell count--the cells that fight off things that might normally hurt the body--is gone. But the overall behavior of the virus is solely contingent upon the actions pursued by the host--there are drugs, lifestyle shifts and behaviors which can stall the virus into seeming remission until the T-Cell count drops below a certain level, the T-Cell being the deciding factor whether or not the body is able to say yea or nay to any form of disease...

In short, people think they can die from AIDS. They fear it. They shun those infected by it, and refuse to accept the deus ex machina, which is this:

No man has ever died from AIDS. AIDS is not the monster they believe it to be.

The monster,
said Raney, , is the final disease the bearer contracts from his or her common walk through a world rife with impurity. Perhaps it is food poisoning. perhaps it is influenza. Perhaps it is...the common cold.

I asked Raney:

"What happened please?"

He stopped.

Your virus adapted to the treatment and lay dormant until such a time as to overwhelm your natural defenses, weakened by the first infection. It sought out the structural deficiencies among the vestigial strands emanating--ah, it basically had already developed immunity to the common virus and was waiting to see what inherent defenses your body was able to manufacture to suss it, and acted accordingly.

I asked him what he wasn't telling me.

You know, or have guessed the rest. Unless you're a kid who's found this journal in a pile of trade magazines, porn or comic books and have no clue what the hell I'm talking about. But I doubt that. Out of sheer, incoherent hope, I doubt that.

But just in case. Just in case. I’ll spell it out.

The virus is mutating. It's adapting to the measures developed by the experts du jour. I was cured, and it came back because it just waited for the traditional antidotal cycle to end. Most of humanity will revert if only administered what NecroTech is putting out.

Raney has something else, something he believes works, Truly. And apparently, I’m living proof.

Those two words, though—to me, they’re real close to being just shy of naively ironic.

More later. I need a drink.

Posted by: Calliope Grieve Feb 18 2008, 04:32 AM
Intimacy.

Raney gave his blessing to "go west, young lady," meaning, "check the place out."

For the first time I've explored several of the sixteen floors that comprise this 'complex.' And yeah, it's complex.

There are actual full families here. Like, several generations all wrapped up in one showing.

All Hispanic.

I told Marcus a while back that they corner the market on the whole family thing. I think they edged out the Italians after the third Godfather movie.

But yeah--grammas to kids, they're here, ekeing out their existence by being helpful to the 'ragtag fugitive fleet' humanity has become.

Most of the folks just take me in like anyone else, another wayward soul drifting into a layby en route to the afterlife.

A few of them know better. A few of them keep turning up whether I'm in the gym, the spa, the cafeteria or the green/pent/house.

I know I could take at least three of them before they knew what hit them.

But that kind of thinking is a no-no, certainly. Something dredged from the bowels of the primeval swamp of survival. Self-serving. Non-egalitarian.

Vicious.

So I let it go, and when they stare, I pretend it's out of familial concern. The same type these south-of-the-border types genuinely embrace and should be commended for.

--------

Back in my room I'm all screwed up.

He asked me if I wanted to do it. I don't even remember his name. I wrote it down, I'm sure, and if I really wanted to know it it's just a matter of turning the page.

Here I am
on the road again
Here I am
Up on the stage
There I go
Playing star again
There I go
Turn the page


I don't want to know, but I want him to say it again.

I want to feel the heat of him. The surety.

What is this, really, I write, and watch the pen drift over the Steno book...

Right now, this moment...more ink. More stuff. More blahblahblah

blahblahblahbyadayadayadayada

------

I hate how my leg looks. It works fine, but I know how it looks. It really pisses me off that I even care, but damnit...I'll never forget now. Really.

I'll never forget anything anymore. They have become a part of me, a sebacious, festering reminder of subjugated possibility, of feral, carnal abandon.

I wish you'd never shown me Hollywood, wish you'd never parked your bike, Mark.

...

Damn you.

Your name was Mark.

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