You change the stations as if it will change the train of thought in your head. It doesn’t work. Only more of the same, the same thoughts clawing at you. You stop flickering through the radio static without making the conscious decision to stop, without realizing you have stopped until you find that the speakers have ceased to drown out the war raging outside, the twisting trees and blurring rain, the ungodly distortions of the road beyond. Still the thoughts press in with a will of their own, impervious to yours.
You take account: The face is broken, the nose collapsed, a rib splintered, and the welt that’s now your left eye smears the world further toward irrevocable and so you are beginning to unsee it, to unsee everything. You’ve failed. The wheel, greasy in your hands, sticky. Stop. You must slow down. Regain control.
But he pushes in like a mantra, over and over, his name engendering dissociation between thing and word, the repetition disconnecting the word from its meaning, which in turn reinforces the presence of the thing itself, transcendent of symbol. The meaning multiplies. Manifests physically. The actual thing, voluminous and jagged, nameless, is tangible in your thoughts, weighted. Pushing in of their own accord, not yours, the thoughts propel themselves through silent tongue, manifestations of dimension into your heart.
Stop it. Stop this. Calm down. You find that somehow the radio is babbling again through its static veils, and you are mindlessly pushing the dial on through the voices futilely, again, until you don’t realize you’ve stopped searching, again, in order to think some more: Our actions are only reactions to the grotesqueries of our inheritance, and certainly he’d surface, come out of the woodwork to mash your face into your failure. The man Himself would deign to step from his throne, condescend to walk among mere mortals to gawk and point at you: Abomination. Unless his shame outweighs his self-righteousness. We react.
This is the legacy and our drive, our collective drive. Sex? No, it’s not sex. We are driven by the destructive impulse to spite our ancestry, to destroy our ancestors. Wait. Stop this. What is that?
A form appears on the road, in the distance, growing in your headlights. Jimmy. Don’t swerve, hit him. But you do, you are swerving, avoiding the collision, because reflex is nature’s jester and instinct is tied to our ludicrous notions of fate. If you’d react with any shred of cognizance, you would deliberately and with great zeal erase him right there on the road where he stands, his blood a joyful splash, the musicality of his bones and flesh colliding with you, your metal. But no. You are swayed from your path. Again. The chance then. And now here. Now, twice wasted. Time slows now. Now, stops.
Now: the yellow raincoat, shock of hair fire-red, despite flaring white headlights, glasses as thick as jelly fishes, the childish dumb-faced Jimmy passing by the window in a blur, a blur that’s regret instead of murder. A failure even in this. Goddamn you and your fleeing. Goddamn your failures.
Take account: You yanked hard into the oncoming car and now the wet skidding, the narcotic adrenaline of impending death. No. Stop. Your headlights set the cab ablaze and you see the flash of two panic faces. They are young, a boy and his girlfriend, perhaps. Just before all things quake and stretch, they hurl at you, promising the crash. Time is concrete on paper, stretched rubber before black and then suspended black.
The honey black.
The night dawn.
Are you awake? You are tactile with vinyl dashboard, odometer inches from your broken face, the turn signal blinking click, click-click, click. You laugh, unable to restrain it through the pain that hints at emergence as you rupture. And you live.
The two bulks of vehicle are sideways and upside down incarnations of themselves, grotesque imitations of what was just moments before. You are inside one of these vehicles. They have become. We all move accordingly, become. According to what? Become what? The reaction to inheritance. Monstrosity. Stop. Think.
Focus: A flash of body that snaps in the drop of dew. Outside in the black sky the flailing power lines crack bitterly in chorus with lightning. You are no longer driving.
The storm, a demon’s cacophony. You, a failure. Alive, still.
Move: The body holds within it an infinite supply of pain, a fuel to harness. The leg is broken too now, a blanket of nails, an army of masked surgeons bearing down, rust in hand, the tortures interconnected while the instant bends under its force.
The moment begins: The windshield conveys the carcass of the boy driver torn open on the asphalt emitting steam into the liquid air. You are not him. Rain is falling.
The girl is suspended halfway through the upside down windshield across the road, impaled in glass, a broken doll in tears of crystal. She moves. An arm twitches. The head tries to turn. These are the mere movements of death as it draws her away. You almost see her leave her body, mindless death absorbing her into its instant that never ends, and you attempt to climb toward the sky, up through the passenger window, while Jimmy, idiotically unscathed, babbles to himself on the road.
What is this Jimmy that he is of your thoughts? What strange power does this child possess that he has the right to be intersected with you? He is a jackal, picking up the videotapes that have been ejected from your van, your videotapes, the business of the scavenger, the thief, the hyena whose lips glisten with organless sex. You witness his prattle with astonished wonder, the movement in his mouth, the sonorous fear conjoining with air. This is his reason trying to reason with him but it can’t allay the idiot compulsion coursing through his thoughts. He needs those tapes, you tell yourself, your own reason limping forth now, even at risk of what must be for him unthinkable consequences. He fears you, there is no question of that. So what does he think they are, those tapes? What meanings has he formed in his brittle mind that drives him to such daring?
He has the tapes and flees for the darkness of the forest lining the road but lingers at the grizzled edge of the furtive glare. Again that compulsion takes hold. You know him: he watches, the invisible gaze lingers like windless smoke as you emerge contorted from the crabwise van. You feel the weight of his eyes impelling you.
You hear yourself say, “Later, we’ll finish this business, child.”
The promise articulates into objects and then evaporates.
Again, your voice surprises you: We will meet on the pinpoint of our collapsed culminations and I will end you of their accord.
You will become. We all become. We move.
You don’t vomit. Wounds pile upon your wounds. You limp, away from the broken leg, toward the rear of the van to find what you feared most and probably expected if you could admit such things to yourself: the collapsed door emptiness of the rear compartment.
It is gone. Like that. Eighteen years of work escaped like darkness into a night.
Christ. Stop. Think.
You turn. It’s here, unrestrained, open, isn’t it? It is free.
Your senses snap, insects in dry cocoons, nerve-endings sobering from the inebriated ecstasy of pain, and the clarity of survival again takes command of your body as you control yourself from above, devoid of internal conveyance, and hobble quickly back to the sky-facing passenger window, the gaping mouth of the vehicle. You reach in against the storm of hurt. Reach in for the tranquilizer gun. You stretch downward and the contortion sends banshees caroming through your veins and you howl, howl with the rigid tentacles of earth, bending wet with trees.
It is this howling that gets its attention, certainly. You feel it move. Feel it like a premonition. You are connected, entangled like roots among worms, coiling silent utterances to one another in an ancient code. What is this creature that has been stripped bare, who has no thought, who you feel as if its mind were yours? You are suspended in its gaze, dictated by its destructive desires.
Its eyes erase you and you move according to what can be seen, absent of motives that are yours. Its eyes were meant for this blackness. Its vision drains the world of almost all color but it surely conveys the objects of night to its animal brain with a remarkable, inhuman clarity. When you turn toward the woods, it surely sees the weapon clearly. It is an object familiar to it. One of the few.
It lets out a growling protest, an ululation of fear and fury mixed in equal measure, delivered from some primeval subterranean recess, and you find it among the entanglement of trees, a heaving silhouette.
You reach out, gun in hand, pointing at it in judgment. Its outline making a void against the black, it gives no ground.
This is good. Salvaging the project is a possibility yet.
You limp slowly through your scheme toward it, whispering aloud, despite yourself, a prayer of sorts: What you’ve become. Evil. My God, what you are, a monster.
The voice plays obscene on your ears and perhaps it is to yourself that you direct this condemnation. Can you admit this? Guilt plays out in alternating waves of irony and hypocrisy, after all, and you are a projection of an imagination you cannot know.
The finger squeezes down on the trigger and time stops again while the green pinpoints in the black squint, closing the aperture of its animal sight, reflecting the tiniest amount of light necessary to see its prey, you, in the sharpest of focus, a focus no human can possess without the aid of instrument.
The dart flies through the air as it leaps.
The arrow misses. An ineffable movement manipulates the air before you.
It is upon you, enveloping you.
You think, in a language, of a confession, of absolution. Forgiveness emerges as possibility.
No! You will not blaspheme. You will not reduce yourself to contrition. You will not play the part of repentant heretic. You will not be the fool.
No, you are Frederick Avery Shattuck, certain of predestination, assured of greatness.
Now you are reduced to broken fingertips on asphalt, a collection of flailing limbs beneath this heaving mass enraged. You are an open throat spilling silent screams of red into rainwater. Nerve endings ring out, high-pitched screeches on shivered cords, untuned, beaten out with hammers and razors. And you are hinged on this here, now.