Art by Anselm Kiefer, German painter.
Plugging away at my book today (because class for this evening was canceled), I found I really liked what I wrote a few days ago (while re-reading), so I decided to drop the snippet here. Quick backstory: post apocalyptic scenario where flu kills most of the population of the world. .001% of population becomes creative-obsessive zombies until they die. Antagonist and Man of Questionable Motives, Marlin, runs a town of survivors, but collects zombie work. MC Susursal peruses the gallery with the Met twins. (Note: Paragraph break mid-sentence in the excerpt was intentional)
“Marlin calls this one The Scented, because of the smell,” Metempsychosis said in a whisper so loud it echoed the halls with lingering sss-sounds. Susursal closed his eyes and sought a fleeting scent through olfactory, through cilia-tastes. He found hickory smoke: everything was hickory smoke. Leaning farther in, he smelled coriander. Leaning farther, he smelled apple sweet. Nose almost touching the canvas, delicacies swirled around in his head: a muskful phantasm of unplaceable smells, gilded in motor oil or cat dander or a freshly shampooed shag carpet. The scent of pure clean, not cotton, not lemon, only identifiable by what it wasn’t. Like ionized air, or charcoal filtered water taste. Here, curled dragon teeth char-dripped in sycamore saliva. There, stained-glass crabapples ringed in a very specific caulk, soaked in paper pulp and corded hemp oil.
It looked like myriad mold rings and discolorations.
“And this one,” Metempsychosis’s voice shook through Susursal’s inhalations, “Is The Rain.” A whole forest arun to the base of the canvas, pooling colors from the same three mixed colors: moss, gray47, and aegean. And trailing flowers of vibrant purple wisteria. Mixed with lingering scents from The Scented, Susursal caught himself shuddering against a saltblue stairway of seawaves built by blackening truffle, oak barrel, and olive pits churned with grape leaves. And yet he stared at a forest, faded colors dripping behind wisteria as if the artist returned with a second decision, as if this weren’t a Creative’s work at all, but a master painter. He’d worked at a Lowes when he was young, too young to finish school, and had memorized all the color names from palettes present in the paint shop. “The blue was mixed with the artist’s blood to make the flowers,” Metempsychosis whispered, ripping Susursal from his thought for a second time.
“Should be called Morbid,” Metamorphosis said, his voice disturbing austerity. His mouth rolled around morbid as if he sired the word with the action of eating a pear. Scented continued to have an affect on Susursal: the word pear split into a tortilla tan flower, seeds and all, and gossamer dragonflies traded stance upon the juicy petals. “Do you like Meta talking so much? She’s an extrovert. She’s not for everyone.”
“I’m not for everyone. Hi. I like your shirt.”
Metamorphosis slurped water from an aging energy drink can, silver separated by reflective blues and reds, a brazen bull across the front. “Water is better in cans.”
Metempsychosis slinked to the next canvas. “Yeah. Adds minerals. Energy minerals.”
Metamorphosis slurped a second time, and with the same mouth movement he made for morbid, he said, “Oil. Oil.”
“Have a heart.” Glowing-eyes, and crystal, unstonelike in any way, Metampsychosis flashed laughter toward Susursal.
Perhaps still the magic of these canvases pervaded, but Susursal shuttered his mind’s eye from that wanful hurricane. Lo, she shone violent sun.
Dusty backcountry roads in a pickuptruck, guest in the country, soybean and corn husky and broken, runoff from tiny rockfetishing, she the flannel-wearing cousin he wished he’d known, tiny waist with smooth and worn carpenter jeans against single-straightacross seat, 1985 Ford F150 restored with red-and-white stripes, careening across field and a flurry of stark, slake-less sun. She the brownhaired skycloud against cloudless sky, framed against windowless door, cracked windshield and everything, a cloud, a layer, a thick impenetrable thing of corndust. Corndusk. Engine roaring blissful, frightening, she the masthead. Metempsychosis languid like underwater kelpbeds bouncing in the rolling current; behind her, reaching from the wall, an arch of amalgamous stuffs in gruesome gothic fashion; and she said, “Here is The Knifeguardian.”
Sususral stopped before the stop, a cut drywall wall of intricacies, fifty feet high, a dazzling window installed behind the wall opposite the hall to let sun fleck in, a crushed thousand skulls in the shape of a larger-than-life skull, a god. This, a god, Susursal thought, studying blurred lines depicting arms attached to shoulders askew like some Hindu relief sporting shades of reflective shimmering silver, bones delineating to antler handle, delineating to blade. A halo of blade: swords and bootknives and switchblades and filet and sabre and broadswords three behind and above burgeoning halo smeared murky yellow across drywall, wide-spread and glistening silver polished sharp, splits of blood, dabs of blood, either stainless steel or blued steel or titanium reflecting blood—waterproofed against the saltsea self—a wild, carnage-wrestled visage,
half-finished, skull sunken in on the right, of form like an oversized vole—large, open left eye socket, protruding and curve canine bone-teeth polished like ivory—candle-wax burned and dripping a long, sloppy waxy grey tear stalagctite overflowing from the crushed socket, long femurs of dog, horse, deer, antlers blooming like trees from its unfinished head hung tiny napkin silver rings a pagan Christmas decoration. Ten total. Yes, this half-realized god, unfinished before terminal creativity took the creator. Reflecthing, it should be named.
Susural bled tears: they came with a cut feeling, held back with all dedication and presence of mind, yet the muscles tore from around his eyes and he weeped. Milk from a fig, he weeped.
Over the hall, fastened by tape and glue and blood-smeared, bones jagged wired together with antlers wired together with knives, like bladed scales, a single seven-fingered hand opened, hovering, hale and harkening to any what passed beneath. A candle holder secured beneath, fastened to the underpalm, purple glass decorated by tiny, tiny animal bones, and teeth, candle long burned away. Susursal shuddered.
Undaunted from tethered memory or his many turbid thoughts, Metempsychosis traveled under the arching hand, finger-blades tiny and seemingly articulated reaching toward, she did not shiver nor stoop. Did not steel herself against the possible drop or scrape of candle-prison. She the guide, Metamorphosis behind sucking slow water from his brazen bull, Susursal followed in procession.
Virgil-like through this circle of personal hells made beautiful, Metempsychosis. Chiron-like, Metamorphosis supported from behind.
This, the frightening meter set. This, the lucid and elucidating prison of thought, released in rays of the psychic and balled about the halls in sacred silence, near-sleep of silence, sacral enlivened silence and, like calming whispers, Lalatu her long night breath, crept warm silk about his shoulders, cradling his skull, dropping her proud mantle about his neck and cascading long ribbons down his back. “And here,” Metempsychosis said, “is Pantheon of an Eastern Memory.”