Segments from The Public Face of Fireflies

BRANDON K. NOBLES

The Public Face of Fireflies

 

 

 

 

FACE OFF:

IN SEARCH OF A PLOT

 

Time reference, Tuesday, a Tuesday; I’m not sure which… but it was Tuesday. I’m certain. The prior sentences will in no way contribute to this story, but I had to have a beginning, like the cool novels. ‘All happy families are the same…’ Let me try to top that.

I woke with a pen in one hand—normal—and a Mason jar with a cockroach in it in the other.  I was under my glass desk, been down there before, been there since last night; Vodka is a harsh mistress. It’s Russian coffee.

FAILURE … you sound like daddy!

Some background information here:

I went to Duke University after graduation.  I emerged eight years later, almost twenty six years old, with a Masters degree in biology (biological and technological evolution)—my minor being psychology. To put it as succinct as my lucidity (Drugs!) allows: In graduate school I did a lot of work on artificial selection—forced adaptation, adaptation preconceived as quantitative improvements with a goal in mind—keeping the subject alive, to watch evolution taking place—and, based on factors that made adaptation a necessity—They either adapted over progressive generations or died. Quite a few of these monkeys, even Harold—a close friend of mine—picked the wrong number. Never forget.

The experiment took place within the parameters of a closed environment and each subject had a specific evolutionary goal preselected. You won’t believe how many chimps graduate students can get. I got one, one whom I named Donald, and he and I introduced bonobos, and the cool kid chimpanzees, tobacco and partnership Whist. It’s amazing—their moral center—you can get drunk and have a cigarette with a chimp. Don’t arm wrestle a chimp, though. He will fucking destroy you. But, I digress …

The most valuable and informative experiments were performed on the most prized and dangerous of all animals: Homo sapiens sapiens. This is why I have no friends. Putting peyote into the professor’s liver pudding, flashing lights on him, FAIL ME NOW. Large doses of ketamine with a secretary strapped to a chair with the Mandelbrot sets pulling her into infinity. Most profound experience of her life, she said. It’s wild. (Drugs!)

In my work with people, I’ve intended to predictably ascertain the fluctuation of behavior as subjects are introduced to certain stimuli in a closed system: by these experiments I saw that any man or woman can adapt to any group or culture in the world, if survival depends on it and they will, after generations of prolonged exposure to a culture once unfamiliar, will culturally, naturally, and psychologically adapt, and become a cog inside the social mechanism. Other hominids display these traits—they pass along information. It is true culture, lineage, and heredity.

In line with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, the open system experiments, of course, with varied mates and different subdivisions of the same genus, created complicated trees of variation on design and functionality. Smaller animals, animals who can produce generation after generation in the course of months, are as well adept for in-life evolution. As the man who walks upon gravel each day, his fleshy, weak flesh, hardens to provide him comfort on his walks, building thick callouses on the bottom of his feet.

All living slugs are the reincarnated souls of all of history’s assholes. I’ve stepped on Genghis Khan. Squish, you Mongolian dickhead. I’ve sent Adolf Hitler through a blender—if you ever put a slug in a blender, don’t use it again—master race my ass, you sour Kraut. And I showed Henry the VIII no quarter, that fat glorious fuck. I drowned Cleopatra in salt on the front porch. She writhed and wriggled like a dying whore lost in the throes of ecstasy. As a pathetic Mantis Praying, I showed Henry the VIII no quarter, that fat glorious fuck. And Caesar … stabbed his ass. I wonder how many reincarnations of Julius have been stabbed in the back, as dogs, cats, American teenagers, slugs. This very thought brings light into my day and a wonderful sense of comfort in my being. I see trees of green, red roses too…

Etu Brandon?

I’m trying to make a point about slugs here but I’m having a difficult time. Because they’re worthless and boring. That’s why they’re so cheap. So let’s start with the obvious: I didn’t order a crate of escargot just to put them in the blender and kill them—that came later, when I found out who occupied their bodies. The very invention of the slug, if by creationist claims we are to attest, however, I came to the inescapable conclusion: if there is a God, and there are slugs on the Earth, then God really needs an editor.

“Alright, what does this animal do?”

“It slides across the ground and leaves a slimy trail.”

And he’s around the yes men, intimidating secretaries wanting to see the Temple Peak, and these toadying sycophant angels, of course going, Bravo, bravo, glory unto God and the highest (Drugs!): his new magnum opus: undulating balls of slow moving goo. You’ve outdone yourself this time, man. ‘Truly a masterpiece. I mean, you kind of overdid it with those Homos. But now you’re back, feeling good? Let’s make something that is easily destroyed… Something a slug can kill. We’ll market it as a natural predator, or something small, for prey. Hey, It worked for the platypus.

Digression complete. .

There isn’t one!

What’s all this shit about the slugs? Is it a fetish?

No, it’s just kind of trying…

Kind of?

It’s suggesting that God, had he created animals, is a pretty shoddy creator. I’ve seen Siamese twins play twister; intelligence design my ass.

Touche. Finish this bit with the slugs; that was just supposed to be the first tiny bit of exposition and now you’ve tried to turn it into a treatise on artificial selection. Focus on what you know.

Nothing?

Yes. Now run with it.

In 5

4

3

2

1 To facilitate accelerated evolution, slugs would be put into its natural environment with one restraint between them and food: a passageway, a maze—a maze made out of salt. Salt does to slugs what water did to the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz To make it through these elaborate mazes, I thought, slugs would adapt to the salt and, once learned would spread to the rest of the population; slugs, in this manner, would evolve the intelligence, or instinct, for preservation under so cruel and terribly funny a test I put them through. The idea was to see if they would someday make it out of the maze. And over the course of eight cultivated cultures, only two ever made it through. The Einstein, the Darwin of the slugs. The rest? Right into the salt man, every time. I was Lord of the Slugs. To conclude, my findings:

Fire produces terror in the specimen; they undulate in unhappy spasm. This is noteworthy as an infant human, at first, might not be able to project the possibility of coming pain and thus fear fire. The slug has, by nature, evolved the complicated nuances of the famous adage: “Fire hot.” Roaches, on the other hand, are perhaps more like children than slugs. That’s just pure fun. Moving along to roaches. The only survivors of World War III.

Roaches run right up to the fire, then try to feel it with their antennae, and then they run away and hide in a coffee cup, only to there find the parting Seas of Moses—it’s a miracle! The water parted! Its done it before but fuck, we asked this time. Glory to God on the highest; however, a boat would’ve been just fine.

In my studies, I’ve made lots of friends. The most remarkable was a roach named Rerun. He was a French philosopher in a prior life punished for wearing berets and cheap turtleneck sweaters to dinner parties, and we signed a symbiotic host agreement. He’d feed off me, and I’d let him. It’s always the same with roommates. In working with slugs, I was able to discern the recurrence of new souls, old souls transferred into new slug bodies, and where the in between is located. This must bear elaboration: In the mean time, my roommate, given my permission, will cease to appear in the story until I’m done with a Yank’s bit of exposition. It will become important again on page 39. I’ll remind you.

Look at this sentence. It’s in a book. It may or may not be on paper. Are the words the objects? They are descriptive and represent understood abstracts. That’s the veneer, the veneer of life as is, what you can touch and see, there’s more than meets the eye. (Like Wagner—his music is better than it sounds. I got that quote from someone, not sure who, but maybe I said it in a past life and thereby I am acquitted of any charge of plagiarism.)

The soul essence, the animate life as was, when your spirit sheds the body, it is returned to Parlo. This is where the mystics go to when they blink out: a world that Dante missed. It’s, in the highest dialect of the transmigrating entities, it is called, in the human, English dialect, the closest resembling name is Parlo, with a Russian rolled R. It is the train-stations between the worlds of life and death. A great place to pick up chicks. And then buy their body, hop right onto a fresh train heading to LIFE, and there you pop out confused as fuck screaming.

Tickets are handed down like cash-receipts from the office above if, in Karma’s calculations, in other words, you fucked up. You’re ordered into occupying certain bodies for certain past life glories or failures. Glorious failures get to choose for themselves. I was a jet-setting celebrity Harpooner in 19th century Germany. We’re not told why the bodies shuffle, who does the math, and who is his scandalous assistant,

Page 39…

Like myself, you’ve seen Heaven and seen Hell. Hell doesn’t have cable. And it’s just sweltering. Really dark, too. Everybody gets their own imagined hell. If you conceive of hell by concept, in your own life, it is set for you and awaits you. It’s like sending your essence to time-out. You have to pay for a new body with toil and sweat. Nobody is just going to give you a new one. Making bodies is a lucrative industry. Some do have shoddy workmanship. If you’re good enough, you won’t be sent to anywhere preconceived as terrible. If a nice home, family, and a good job sounds appealing (my projection of hell) then sooner or later the Karma calculations will carry the remainder and you’ll be on Happy st. in some corner of a thriving culture. If you’re a bad boy, they’ll send you to Australia. ((A fate worse than death.)

Back to third person narrative story. Let’s start somewhere familiar. There are shared experiences. You and I, whoever you are and if that is your real name, have probably on more than one occasion been guilty of the same crime: love. Never fall in love; it’s sticky, and nothing gets the stain out. Not even heroin. My friend has a real problem with the stuff.

“I thought I loved her; now she’s gone.”

I told you it would be familiar. Have another beer, you miserable fuck! (That’s what they tell me—is it not conspicuous to researchers that all schizophrenics have a they?

“They (even my fucking roach is crazy) make new people, relax,” said the Roach. “She might be a kitten you someday love. Rub her belly like you always wanted to. Pervert.”

The body industry in Parlo is booming.  It’s the largest body portal in the Milky Way. People are dying to get there. HAHA SEE WHAT I DID THERE? APPRECIATE THE IRONIC STYLINGS OF THE POET MASTER. Please buy this advertisement. It’s for a good cause. Drugs!

I’ve been after her for rears, Rerun. Chasing Yesterday. That’s not a poetic allusion to something deep and meaningful. Her name was yesterday. Talking about her to other people will make even the most shrewd and astute sound retarded.

“They make new people, relax.”

Roaches say most peculiar things.

Feast on her belly, they say, the lamp is the moon; the saddest of people in the body market picked roaches in house. {Roaches are ignorant, no cultivation; they have no fine clothes, just those spindly little bodies. So fragile. Poor fuckers haven’t the pleasure of a nice warm, bath. Warm baths, in some cultures, are considered a graduate school affair. Books are written; studies undertaken, etc. I’ve got my PhD. Cold showers was an elective. College, am I right? (Subtle implication! Cold as ice!)

Why are you so down mate, you’re not always about to die. Let’s go to Sea World, would that make you feel better? What about a funeral? Those always perk you right up. Amicable enough, nice, responsive—Something is wrong.

South Carolina, 1995: I sat in the high grass across the road from a retirement home with a bb gun; it didn’t hurt them, too much morphine to register pain, the tiny bullets bounced off. Sometimes you could catch one on the bench with his mouth open. Wait, what, wait—some gnat… Gotcha, you old fuck.

The time period dissolves like smoke and the codgle in its digital voice questions: What do you want to do and where?

There are trapdoors in reality. You could get to Parlo through a window in the wall with a codgle; a codgle has many functions; it can transport one’s identity and essence into another body after first vacating the body’s owner; and it could be a shortcut to Parlo, to the train station between the static stages of the world, where the view from the machinery of life falls away like a neon curtain to reveal the dirty crew behind it slaving.

The passing trains go in and out, sleek like silver bullets, their tops shimmering like swimming pools under the blue-white dome above, God’s apartment. And time was an illusion there; where you went, in actuality, did not always be into a projected future. Their time was arbitrary; all points in time are physical, accessible and static. Selecting one is like selecting a picture from a photo album. The Empire Never Ended…

            With a start I sat up in bed, and before I woke I heard the scream, felt the fingers losing grip and just as it slipped away I was back in my old apartment, the oscillating fan lying to my face like a politician. But I heard the chatter in my head, knowing it to be some product of my disease;

“What kind of body you looking for? just got that one there. Yeah not a popular case, birds are at an all high time. Gives me these young fellas a something to do to their bosses cars. We’ve got eagles, owls—for you insomniacs, buzzards; man was for the not so bright kind of life I got it in last night—the view is crazy. Eighty eyes. That’s a popular one, that is. I don’t know why so many people choose the human host. In tough times, souls of less value prohibit us from being the highest form of life / apex predator. Compared to a whale, her eye is larger than we are: but we can kill it. It’s a shame; I’ve never understood while there were whalers. What did the whales do? I mean, did the people eat the whales? That’s terrible. Eat the chickens and fish and cows! Murder what we murder! Together, that’s a good song.

“Maybe I could bring her flowers,” I said. “Where’s she at right now—what is she? When?”

“Alright, from this file here, says she’s in 19th century Russia, she’s an Amur leopard, and she has six kittens.

“Damn,” I said. “This always happens to me.”

“You’ve played the Roosky game before, right?”

Kanyeshna.”

So, track her down. I don’t know how you could, but what about a Romanov king—it just became available—I’m sure he could have all the damn leopards he wants.”

“I can’t raise six leopards on a Tsar’s salary. And, more importantly, since you in the body shop think that flesh is flesh and meat satisfaction is meat satisfaction, it’s not right for a King to fuck a leopard he believes to be reincarnated as a leopard. See, even saying it—or putting it on paper—is fundamentally ridiculous.”

IT IS.

“Yeah not a popular opinion… (extremely awkward silence) But birds are at an all high time. We’ve got eagles, owls—for you insomniacs—buzzards; that’s a popular one, that is. I don’t know why so many people choose the human host. In tough times, souls of less value prohibit us from being the highest form of life or the apex predator. And man’s on top of it all. But is a man as happy as a well fed house cat? Not even close. Or a blue whale? Just out there rolling along. A whale’s eye is as big as we are, but damn if a human being can’t harpoon it… I’m not trying to bring that up…

“It’s alright…”

“No, really, I’m sorry. I just think of whales, and I see you on one of those large humps smiling…

“That’s enough…”

I’ve never understood why there were whalers, after my brief stint as a celebrity Harpooner, I’ve been trying to get my Karma credit score above five hundred, be a Roman, you know the type, knee deep in oily bodies.

(It must be noted: at this expression, my editor chastised me and called me decadent. He’s a warm-hearted man. I shall send him decorative body scrubs in lieu of pay.)

“Why don’t I just give her some flowers?” I asked. “She’ll be back to Parlo long enough. Those cats they’re…you know…”

“Yeah man,” He said. “They’re fucked. They’ve been saving up their Karma though; they’re all going back to Earth as house cats. And good for them!”

“I was talking about flowers,” I said. People in Parlo, they’re transfixed only on the notion of going in or coming out. The body odyssey, that’s their kick; like a high price pharmaceutical hawking kiddy pep pills, those folks in Parlo slinging bodies like bags of coke.

“Why give her flowers, just be one for her. You don’t have to lie, buy her lunch, and much less get tangled up in the body market, one host to another ‘till you’re right. Just be a rose, right across the road. She’ll pick you up, and a bit of dirt, bring you water and you’ll get to sit there in her window; beautiful and loved. Flowers, that’s the busiest market. How it must feel to be a daisy in the wind, or a bee to hop amongst them in the burgeoning fields. I have insectoid; find her in the flowers—you know what they do when those flowers pucker like they do the bees come in and after that it’s all natural…”

The denoument of Eden, Looking Back.

1

One wrapped in money,
one in sin:
The shadow puppets dance begin,
They eat each other in the end.
A summer in the country—bliss,
Our Mother takes, our mother gives;
New flowers born, the daisies die,
And the monsters come alive.

2

How numerous the limbs, the vines,
That Mother Nature twists through time—
Each after another of their kind:
The changelings as they come to breathe;
pass through newborn forests in the spring.
A walk amongst a place once bare,
The great Magnet—it moves them all,
From the orbit of the sun,
to shooting stars that we see fall.
From the first path to the last.

3

The threads behind it all, they loom,
In the stillness of a rented room,
In the Autumn I watch bloom,
their endless walk upon the road:
a walk amongst once empty places,
walking on hallowed ground.
Ivy runs under the house,
Her tear-stained eyes turn pink, they swell:
truth is the poor man’s holy grail.

4

Beyond the rug in Hera’s hearth,
In the unending cosmic yard—
Saturn is another piece amongst her lighted pearls;
And Earth, a mote of dust, perhaps,
Between the gates of hell and heaven trapped;
Caught in the mouth of a breeze,
In one pale beam of light—
And in the night when they get quiet,
dust settles on the floor;
to wait for another breath,
to put usfiid into flight again,
to send us out the door—
adrift amongst the stars once more.

5

Sometimes a stroll just down the street,
where the last flowers grow
A kaleidoscope of patterns,
Mixed in a goldfish bowl:
In a circle down they go,
And back to that long winding road,
On the bank between the stream,
I thought I heard an old man scream:
“Why nod the weary worshipper outside?”
And “T’was the grape!” some shadow cried.

6

Seeing you go down the drain,
Your burial at least;
Don’t worry for a brief reward—
You’ll make it out to Sea.
Memories are written in the sand,
And by sand away,
The Madonna was yours for free;
She wouldn’t stay, he couldn’t leave;
So instead they made a world between:
A ballroom make believe to meet,
so in love, out of their minds,
dance two people of one kind.

7

That angel, my Dear Fantasy,
Miss make believe across the Sea,
Of land that parts like sand.
And, in the ballroom, dancing there,
Not one worry nor a care,
A polonaise hung in the air,
And they together sing, they hum:
My epitaph:
The best is yet to come.