War of the Walking Damned.

“When I was a kid, I asked my grandpa once if he ever killed any Germans in the war. He wouldn’t answer. He said that was grown-up stuff. So I asked if the Germans ever tried to kill him, but he got real quiet. He said he was dead the minute he stepped into enemy territory. Every day he woke up and told himself, ‘Rest in peace. Now get up and go to war.’ And then, after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive. That’s the trick of it, I think. We do what we need to do and then, we get to live. But no matter what we find in DC, I know we’ll be okay. Because this is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead.”
— Rick Grimes, The Walking Dead (episode 5×10).

Smoke and fire.
Channeled rage.
No choice left for us,
so war, it must be waged.

Pretend to know we win;
that today,
we build a better world;
that you don’t die
and make it
through to the end:

and in that order.

Camaraderie.
Determination.
No mercy…

at least
until there’s no
choice again…

Who are we?

So we were cornered
into this, understood,
but now

we are left to question
where we all draw
our limitations,
or if we save

the chalk to outline
the silhouettes
of the enemy:

how much of ourselves
do we sacrifice on our path
of death and destruction
to liberate ourselves?

Fighting fire with fire,
striving to ensure
that we’re never too far gone,
never stray too far

and become the enemy
in order to defeat them,
for even

if we meet with triumph,
who is truly left
when the war is finally won?

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The Plague of Devia Mara.

1/4/99

Effectively divorced from my skin and all sensory stimuli, I felt myself descend as if into the proverbial rabbit hole, leading me towards what either constituted a lucid dream or another plane of existence. The debate is still raging. In either case, I was awake and knew this was not mundane reality I was literally falling into, and so I feared the entity that had attacked me so often when this sort of thing happened might lunge at me, so in response I resorted to a technique I had picked up in my Occult readings and refashioned to my own satisfaction. Chanting the made-up word only I know three times, I summoned my protective shield. Evidently, the conditioning I had subjected myself during my ordinary, waking life paid off, as it occurred without effort in precisely the way I always imagined it to function. Starting in my chest area, a white, glowing ball of energy swiftly grew to encompass my entire form, cocooning me in a protective bubble of energy.

To my relief and amazement, the vicious entity without certain form never showed. Though I could be mistaken, I do believe that this was the first time that I had found myself awake within an otherworldly space and not ultimately been subjected to his relentless violence. As I continued to fall down this nonphysical well I saw floating Gray alien heads strewn all about as if I was underwater, which did not seem to be the case, until I ultimately came to rest in an alternate version of my bedroom. There, my lucidity depleted significantly.

What followed, at least in the notes that, judging from my handwriting, occurred immediately afterward, constituted various non-lucid but certainly vivid dreams. I cannot be certain of their chronology, the degrees to which I succeeded in remembering them or whether they were separate dreams or part of a single, enduring narrative, but they were of an uncommon clarity and an eerie, dark overcast. Two scenes have direct relevance here.

Inside what I know to be a long building with a large parking lot that in retrospect I surmised must have been a bar or restaurant, I am sitting at the bar, a friend to my left and a girl sitting to my right. She dragged off a cigarette held between long, frog-like lips positioned beneath buggy eyes, and I got the overwhelming feeling that she was depressed. For some reason, I also felt that she looked like a Jennifer.

In the next relevant scene, I am introduced to what I explained in my notes as a sex-crazed girl in a dark room. I saw her as if from below, sitting on her sofa chair as if it were a throne. Leaning back, sprawled on the chair quite comfortably, she had her right leg bent at the knee and leisurely aiming to my right, with that foot resting on the chair, the other leg casually hanging off the edge. She was clad in a black shirt and pants, her shoulder-length black hair the only discernible feature when I focus on her head, which is entirely draped in darkness.

Though I would much prefer to think that I walked, given the position from which I initially viewed her I would have to say that I was on my hands and knees and crawled toward her, eventually atop her, though her position did not significantly change as I did so. Looking down, I spied her belly, as concave as my own at the time, and her comparatively loose black jeans, void of any belt. So inverted was her tummy that I could not only discern that she wasn’t wearing any underwear but clearly see her finely-shaven vagina. I then asked her a question, I think whether or not she would be my girlfriend.

“No,” she replied. “No Sex.”

In the dream notes, I mentioned that she for some reason looked as if her name would be Devia, though I have never, up to the time of this writing, known any girl by that name.

***

Sometime after having this dream, when I again decided to try my hand at fiction, I wrote a short story inspired by the dream, which I entitled The Hole in the Universe. It dealt with a group of guys who hung out at a bar based partially on the one in my dream, which was run by the girl I had called Jennifer. Their typical, end-of-the-workday routine was interrupted one evening when a biker entered the doors, offering cautionary tales to the group regarding a girl he was attempting to hunt down called Devia Mara. He claimed that though he had never met her himself she had taken home some of the guys at the biker bar down the street and brainwashed them, drained them of all will, and those that returned to the bar after nights with her came back changed, not at all themselves. After ascertaining they had not seen or heard of such a woman before, he told them to be careful and departed.

As the story progressed, his dire warnings proved to have merit, as she had evidently moved her territory from his biker bar to their own and started plucking them away one by one — though in this case, none of his friends ever returned to the bar or were seen again. The last member of the group and the one qualifying as the protagonist of the story feared she was seducing and then killing them and, despite the fact that he had still never laid eyes on her, soon became obsessed with hunting her down himself.

Ultimately he encountered her on the stairs at a bar, where she bit his lip and he passed out, only to find himself bound in duct tape to the passenger seat of a car upon awakening, with her in the driver seat. They engaged in a rather aggressive conversation, during which she insisted she had not killed his friends but only helped them to accept their true, individual natures and open up to life, leaving their group and the bar behind them in the wake. Though she eventually releases him and they walk together along a bridge, he stubbornly refuses to trust in and be swayed by her as they allegedly had.

Up to this point I feel my story was okay — not great by any measure, but all right — though in retrospect I certainly feel as though there was far more I could’ve done with it. I am, on the other hand, entirely unsatisfied with the ending, where she revealed herself to be something akin to a psychic vampire or parasite of the soul and left him alone on the bridge, paralyzed, slowly disintegrating into dust, falling into the water below. It seemed dreadfully inconsistent not only with respect to the promise I felt she had in the context of the dream that inspired the story but in the story previous to that point. For her to reveal herself as some simple personification of evil after teasing true depth and complex motives through their conversation seemed cheap, and the ending rather predictable, at least in essence.

To make matters worse, there are suggestions that this was my intent from the very moment I began writing the story, though I can neither recall any specific intentions nor have I managed to uncover any suggestive notes.

For instance, I do know that there was a good reason I chose the last name Mara for her. By the point I had written the story I am sure I knew that a mare or mara was said to be an evil spirit essentially synonymous with mythical creatures such as the succubus, Incubus and the old hag in that they were said to straddle the chests of people as they slept and suffocate them, giving rise to bad dreams or “night-mares.” It should come as no surprise that they are currently thought to be hallucinations caused by sleep paralysis. I knew all this as I had one such experience myself in March of 1995 and had subsequently engaged in obsessive research — and in an era that was BG (Before Google), no less. The sense I got from my research was that such entities were essentially psychic parasites, which is clearly reflected in the ending of the story.

Though I am fairly certain that I had no knowledge of it at the time, I have also discovered that Mara was the name of the demon that tempted Siddhārtha Gautama on his path towards enlightenment, which is to say to the trajectory that terminated upon him earning the title of Buddha. Mara is therefore considered in the eyes of at least some present-day Buddhist sects to be the personification of all that seeks to keep one bound to the wheel of death and rebirth.

In essence, my intention seemed to ultimately present her as a seductive entity that enslaved others and drained them of their power.

***

Though her face remained concealed within the dream, once I introduced her in the realm of my writing I gave her definite features. I was rather taken aback when I read it again, as it seems to describe Hypnotic Haylee, who I only stumbled upon far later, rather accurately:

“Her green eyes dug into me like a knife,” I wrote. “Her forehead was tilted further outward than her chin, and locks of her black hair fell across her face, reminding me so much of a predator fixating on her prey.”

While I never delved into how it was Devia changed those who became entangled in her web, hypnosis would fit nicely, and had I known enough about it at the time I feel certain I would have included it in the story as the means by which she “brainwashed” the guys at the biker bar. In any case, I’ve come to suspect that this is why I ultimately gravitated towards Haylee so many years later. She fit the profile of Devia in the dream to a startling degree and at least physically in the story that it inspired, suggesting that I have been psychologically projecting Devia onto her.

On Focus and Structure in Daydreams and Writing.

After having written about it recently, I’ve come to wonder if my automatic thoughts, specifically those regarding explaining or justifying my behaviors towards authority and visualizing myself being interviewed, function for me in much the same way that I have found writing a letter to someone seems to. I remember how Vonnegut once said that whenever he writes, he imagines writing to or for a single person. In my experience, it helps my writing, my thoughts, gain focus and structure.

This makes sense, as communication first developed in a face-to-face context rather than the kind of abstract way we are capable of imagining, or even speaking on
stage in the form of a monologue or soliloquy. It is more natural for us to have a particular person in mind — real or imagined — to whom we are writing. This may also be why I default to explaining my motives to authorities or interviewers spontaneously in my daydreams: its a means of self-analysis, with focus and structure further provided by the questions involved. I’m asked question and actually strive to provide an honest answer (unlike, for instance, a fucking politician), as challenging as it might be for me to formulate it.

Of course, it is also true that I much prefer this explanation to the notion, at least with respect to my justifications to authority, that I am some spineless slave with a pasty, empty sack hanging below me, flapping in the breeze…

How Nora Broke My Heart.

It was about two years ago when Claire, the love of my life, suggested the show The Leftovers to me, which was then, if I recall correctly, at the very beginning of the second season. I was a bit wary at first, as this seemed to a bit too “rapture” theme for my atheistic taste, but after the first episode, I was hooked. Having binged on the first season, I then began watching the second, though quickly got frustrated with having to wait for the next episode, having grown used to watching the show in bulk. My only option was to distract myself, to ignore the show for awhile — which I did quite successfully until a few weeks ago when I finally came back to the series. It had been so long that I felt it was best to start at the very beginning and work my way up to what I discovered was the third and last season of the series.

It was an epic show.

My most beloved scene in the entire, three-season series comes at the very first scene in the second episode of the second season, entitled “A Matter of Geography.”

“Look, this — if we’re going to be, um… We can’t just,” Kevin pauses, considering his words, digesting his emotions so he can better articulate himself, inevitably landing on: “We don’t really know each other.”

“Okay,” she says, with an apparent frown, and at this point I expect her to either get pissed off or tremendously hurt, ready myself for her to make a scene or convey herself in a more extreme fashion by saying nothing at all, and in any case ultimately exiting the house in response. Instead, she does this unexpected and somehow vaguely sexy maneuver of the neck and head and continues with, “What do I need to know?”

And bam, he tells her. Lays it all out on the table. That he’s been walking in his sleep. That he had been taking medication and, thinking that this might be the cause of it, tossed his pills — but then he had woken up in his car in the wood to find that he had kidnapped Patti Levin while “sleepwalking” and brought her to a cabin with the intention of killing her. When he tried to release her unharmed, she ended up killing herself, and so he had buried her in the woods with the help of Nora’s brother, a preacher.

“And nobody else knows,” he was sure to explain.

Just when you thought he was done with his confession, he added — not arbitrarily, either, but as if he were saving the worst for last — three gentle words: “And I smoke.”

Cut to Nora and Jill sitting on the couch across from him, silent and unmoving, the expressions on their faces dangerously ambiguous, reflecting both your hopes and fears simultaneously as you view the scene and anticipate their response just as Kevin would have.

Nora’s response? “I hire prostitutes to shoot me,” she replies, and then turns to Jill and confessed that she lied to her about the gun she kept in her purse, promising to never lie to her again. Looking her in the eye, Jill says that it’s okay, with Nora echoing her words involuntarily in a voice that conveys the extremes of both surprise and relief. And Jill’s response — “it’s okay” — seems to make up for any confession she might have made on her own part, and there was certainly a good deal of material that she might have drawn on. Regardless, it all manifests as the perfect expression of the general consensus in this holy fucking trinity of dire fucked-upness, a fact that became clear when Nora then turns to Kevin and tells him, “it’s okay.”

And yeah, I cried. Fuck you, I wasn’t sober.

So Kevin left out shooting the dogs. And hallucinating Patti, the woman he buried, if indeed that was happening at that point in the series (that’s what I get for indulging in The Leftovers over a single weekend like I was cramming for a goddamn exam). In any case, it was Kevin who really ignited this group confession. He broke the ice of honesty and delivered the heaviest load to the collective depth. He accepted them as he was accepted by them. It made my ocular cavities ooze fluid because it’s all one could hope for in the social sphere: to have a sense of community like that in which everyone accepted the wounds and mutations they fought with every inch of their might to conceal from the eyes of the greater society. They had a tribe in this maddening wasteland where they could be honest and yet somehow still expect support — not through pity, either, but through mutual understanding.

And then Nora just had to fuck it all up.

She had to handcuff him the bed-frame in a not-at-all-kinky-and-therefore-inexcusable way during the seventh episode of the second season, “A Most Powerful Adversary.” Why? Because as difficult as it was for him, he was upfront and honest with her. He told her that he sees and speaks with Patti. Her reaction was to simply condemn him as crazy and take his family away from him as he slept.

He interprets this as her being mad at him for having lied to him, but her ultimate response, as exemplified in the “deal” he made with her that assured a route by which he could come back to her, necessitated him getting rid of Patti. It was not that he had, at least by omission, lied; nay, it was that he had the experience in the first place. She left him because she considered him crazy because he was talking to someone no one else could see — a hallucination, a dead person, it made no difference, and that was plain and simple to see. After all, he had to get rid of that clingy ghost before Nora would accept him again. For Nora to abandon him and — albeit unknowingly — seemingly validate the perspective offered by his heckling hallucination in the process, increasing his trust in this seeming ghost to the point that he subsequently risks his own life in the hope of getting rid of Patti just so that he can honestly tell Nora she is gone all to get Nora back… it strikes me as betraying the trust that seemed to be generated and mutually embraced in the earlier, tear-jerking episode.

You broke my heart, Nora.

Inconceivably More.

Garden of countless, diverse seeds,
do you dream
of stars in the visible spectrum
of the sky

and would you innocently laugh
at the notion
that it represents the infinite?

Equipped with sudden, direct
eye contact
and a seductive grin,
she says, “Take
the power

I have awakened
in you and concentrate,
open your inner eye,

keep it steady,
so as to see
that you are inconceivably

more than you took
yourself to be.

Rise above yourself.
Listen to yourself.
Question yourself.

Become who you are.”

Alchemy of Heisenberg.

Intended to unfold
the path from Mr. Chips to Scarface,
what you got in the end
was a character carved from the blade

of far more realistic means,
the world, the path you came to follow
just in order to reshape him:

black and white organically
bled into gray, revealing the spectrum
underlying the rigid polarity:

consequence of open eyes
coupled with honesty, I suppose.

Protagonist transforms
into antagonist:
insight,
synthesis.

Post Glen. 

Blade to jugular.
Moment of truth has come.
What side are you on?

Barbwire bat bleeding.

Ignoring sharpened steel
to the skin, he speaks
his mind, screaming:

do it. Bring
it if you
have the balls, just

know I never crumbled
beneath the pressure,
that I chose
integrity

despite the consequence.

It grins, pushes
me down. Beats and cuts
me, yet leaves
me breathing, bleeding.

Suppose I deserve this. 

My rampage has left
a stick
in your eye,
but ultimately:

I will kill you.

By my hand,
you will fucking die.

Folly of a Preemie Precog.

She became everything.
The excuse I needed.

Her death
was the biggest
conceivable blow
to me, and I lurched
back, wind
knocked out

of me, and I came to rest
in a comfy cushion of: 
Well Then,
Fuck It.

Everything is gone.
Return to dust.

Nothing left
for me here. Gloves
are off. Everything
is permissible.

My future
is already history.

I know when I’m going to die.

So right now,
I own everything.

Drumpf.

Yeah?
Good for you.
Now:

Eat my asshole.
Pox on your first born,
scum of the earth.

Don’t just bite
the bullet:
no, no:

fucking eat it.

Narcissistic
puppet-master. Savior
of the paranoid

ears fixed
on conservative
talk radio. Go ahead,
widen the divide:

it will only lead
to our demise,
inevitably
leading
to your own.

Empathy
could have saved you.

Selfish and shortsighted
aiming towards
blind arrogance:

sure to get
there: in an important
way, subliminal
self mutilation

along the path
to unconscious suicide.

Make your choice,
sociopath:

I’ll be busy loading my gun.