I’ve been working on a puzzle based around stories with several connections, but I forgot to number them. Part of that is, well, I didn’t realize I was building a puzzle until the second story. Now, I see the picture much clearer… and I hope to share it with you from time to time. Sidenote: I also enjoy r/nosleep, which is a subreddit dedicated to horror stories, but really it’s the place that I enjoy. It’s a world where you must adhere to tradition, suspend disbelief and accept your reality. It’s a good thing to do from time to time. I hope you enjoy it!
Sorry, it took me a while, but I did a thing. I hope you all enjoy. I had to post it to one of my favorite subreddits. It went on a bit longer than I wanted, but… shit happens!
Around 4:40PM yesterday, I was on my way home, when I saw several emergency vehicles parked along a bridge about a block from my home. I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary and I hadn’t heard any stories. It appeared to be such a minor thing and it left my mind, as I made my way home.
A few hours passed and I noticed these birds floating above my apartment building. I assumed they were hawks, but I’m not really sure. I counted six, at least from my vantage point, as they moved in this clearly visible pattern. The pattern was, as three birds about a hundred yards away stuck together the others did the same above my apartment. Two went around each other, while the third went around them. After a while, one would break off from each group and join the other. It was a complex system of surveillance and communication that kept my attention. I had no idea what it meant and the symbolism escaped me. I ran to watch them for a few minutes, as they moved over my house and out in front, where stood a set of tracks, before the rail-yard.
The thing is that I was so enamored with the pattern that I wanted to know what it meant. Is there somewhere I can find out why they would be flying in such a pattern and above so many houses? I would assume such a predator would prefer to keep in low visibility, although I can see the necessity in so many reaching a higher altitude to get a clear perspective of their hunting grounds.
I escaped into my own little world, where I imagined these birds had come as angelic prophets delivering unto me and the rest of the world some inscrutable message that would save us all. It’s not often that I have these delusions, but I assure you it’s more out of laziness than anything sinister. The one rational thought that clung to my delusions was that they had no need to hide. What they hunted was already dead. My own little world didn’t last long, before I saw the birds dancing above in their complex pattern as some augury of doom.
In a way, I guess I wasn’t wrong. What it was: (and I’m not sure, really, if this has anything to do with it, but it’s at least a coincidence) a man in his twenties was found dead by the train tracks about a block from my house. He’d been hit by the train. I won’t talk about the man or his motives, because so little has been said. I just felt like sharing the few moments I had believing I might actually be a prophet, before reality sprung forth and I entered that world. I hope for his family and friends to take their time over this weekend to appreciate his life and remember what good times they might’ve had, so that they might find some peace from his and their misfortune.
–Written with the utmost regret
“When Nachiketa went to the home of death, he had to wait three days, until death returned. Upset by having the Brahman waiting, Death offered him three boons: (1) he could be greeted warmly by death, (2) he could live amongst the gods or (3) he could know the secret of himself.”
If I count the days in front of me I count an infinite number. It’s only infinite, because I refuse to measure the time I have left, not to mention the chances of my demise or possibilities for cataclysm. If my time isn’t infinite, than I’d rather it be impossible, because I’d rather not know how many days I have left. I can, however, count the days of my life if I’m willing to look back. So few are that memorable, but still there are ones that connect on an emotional level. You hold onto them when life shows its fangs. You take the good with the bad and then you move on. After a while, you look back and can say, ‘oh god… I remember that day… how in the hell did I ever get out of that mess?’
Now, considering the same physical model of the universe, we are interacting with others, as well as our environments. We can look to the past and say, ‘I remember that guy! Whatever happened to him?’, although we can’t do the same in the future. We can’t say that we know that someone is going to have such a major effect on our lives in the future. That type of logic belongs in the past. I can’t poke you in the chest and tell you that some day you’ll mean the world to me. The future reveals its truth through experience. You have to feel it. You have to accept it into your life with every passing day. It’s much harder to do, especially compared to how simple it is to reminisce about days long since passed. The ability of the mind to pull you back to ‘the simpler times’ cannot be overstated… or underestimated, because it comes with a cost.
The future lacks understanding and the past lacks context. From the present, the past seems like a long ride from one age into another, for which you never bought a ticket. It’s a blur to the present. The future never materializes. It’s a looming specter, for which we can fear, respect or, through a severe bout of mental gymnastics, do both. It’s our inability to control the future that makes it harder to move closer to it, because the further into the future you go, the brighter the distant past starts to look. The ever-looming specter of death is on the other side of the future, but the past becomes a comforting certainty. You can even connect with those for which you’ve lost touch. The past makes even your enemies seem… quaint. They lose that threat that they once possessed, when the past was the present and it seemed like you had to fight for territory or squabble over nonsense or oppose a certain opinion because it appeared to be an offense to your ego.
Hindsight is an impossible gift that could prove itself to be more of a curse. Some believe you can look into the future with the same pair of eyes and use hindsight to protect you. Fear of the future is a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Witch doctors count the days of your life through chicken entrails. You kiss the back of his hand and say a few hundred ‘Hail Marys’ and all is well. It can, in the least, provide a bit of solace in a world that offers so little, but that’s not what these gifts are for. Hindsight, if used properly, can reveal an ugly, visceral truth. If we look to the future with those same eyes, if maybe we’re willing to ask a few questions and step a bit further with every passing day, the prospect of death won’t be so terrifying, but in the least, humbling enough that we accept our lot.
(I feel like I should mention… because football fans are fucking psycho… I’m not a Cowboy fan… just sayin)
Tony Romo was a complex character in the history of the NFL. He seemed to lack arrogance, while still being arrogant. Does that make sense? He possessed the confidence of a man who knew how to win… but just didn’t. It’s this complex character that showed in his eyes, mannerisms, speech and how he approached the game. He walked with such confidence, as if he knew what would happen next. He seemed to know something more than the rest of us. What I like most about him is that I think he understood that this is just a game. I know that in the ‘kill or be killed’ ‘macho-man Randy Savage’ ‘high-stakes world of fantasy football’ that’s a cardinal sin, but I admired how he approached the game. The key to playing a game is remembering it’s a game. We forget, because the NFL is a billion dollar industry that produces sadness for thirty-one teams and extreme joy for one (for at least a few months). For the rest of that time, you devote yourself to petty rivals, constant trash-talk and an incessant need to hack away at the hypocrisy of the NFL.
I’m talking about Romo the player, because I don’t know the man. He seems like a decent human being, but the player, the myth and “legend” is most of what we see. He inspired rage and became a target for the media, as well as weary NFL fans who grew tired of hearing about ‘the greatness of Romo’. It might not seem like anything, because most of us have never had the media and thousands of angry football fans cursing our name. I’ve always thought of it as a storm. It starts with some heavy rain. You get your shoes soaked and think it’s no big deal. After a while it reaches your ankles. Still, you’re fine. It’s about the time that it’s up to your neck that you really panic, because that sense of urgency never comes when we think about devotion, truth and utter insanity.
The media loved him in the beginning. They made him more than he was. Romo had the potential to be a great quarterback, but so do many worthwhile players. The difference is in which of these players is able to keep his head above water. So many get overwhelmed, either by injuries or lack of talent. The former got Romo, as well as time and, for those of us who believe, fate. Fate had it in for Tony Romo. If fate had shifted a few centimeters, he’d be a king. The real history of the NFL is a mass of corpses, strewn along a highway out of some ‘Madmax’ dystopia. Concussions, surgeries, self medication, drug hypocrisy, bankruptcy… the landscape of the NFL is more treacherous than we can comprehend. Once fate intervened, the media lost interest. It was easier to paint Romo as ‘the king of blunders’ and certainly calamity followed. I say calamity, because it sounds like a funny way to look at the ruins. The dystopia of football revealed itself through Tony Romo.
Fans don’t pay as much attention to the dystopia. It’s the aftermath of our fandom. We worship and pay hundreds to watch games, buy jerseys, hats, socks, calendars, tire flaps, (Everything… literally everything… the NFL will throw any of its logos on… anything). Fans demand a lot for their sacrifice. They… we, work offensively mundane jobs to watch every week and, for whatever reason, this computes within our psyches to our teams owing us a simple victory every given Sunday. I never noticed until recently that I’m insane, well, at least when it comes to football. Romo became a constant. He was a player who stood out in a time when the ‘quarterback’ position has evolved to a point of such extreme urgency that teams will sell out their futures just to fake as if they have one. Romo was a constant for his team. He could be flashy. When he was flashy he became the foolish child that loved the game. I truly admired that. When he wasn’t flashy, he became the punching bag. Either way, the media made him a shape-shifter, to which I still don’t know who or what I was watching.
America is a country obsessed. We have a number of unhealthy obsessions, none more so than football. Every week, some dedicate Sundays to the lord… I give my soul to my knowing savior… the almighty masters who have blessed me with football. I know how that sounds. It’s god damn ridiculous. I’m a grown man who has no stock in my team. I have no control. I only played football until eleventh grade. I’m no expert, which is no easy claim in a world that seems full of people who know just about everything. When it comes to football, everyone knows everything. Everyone is allowed an opinion, because it’s football. It means nothing. Yet, everyone has an opinion, because they love it. It means everything. Make sense?
The media loves football, because it’s so easy for them to paint the narrative. You have much less control of the narrative when you’re talking about real shit, like health care or epidemics or orange idiots that, through a populist insurrection steal countries. The narrative is so simple that over the past few years I’ve become more and more offended. It begins with a few simple words. Choose your favorite, but out of all the sports marketing nonsense… I think my fave is ‘Ball is life’. It’s such a great saying, especially when it’s used ironically. Some don’t see it. They see ‘Ball is life’, but it’s in all CAPS and painted on their tank tops. They go to parks and play flag football. Their shirt says ‘ball is life’… all CAPS. They live out something, a fantasy locked in their psyches… I blame all the toxins in the air… maybe the lead in our water.
Romo didn’t fit into the narrative of a hall of fame quarterback. He did, however, fit much better into the mold of a high-priced punching bag with no ‘will to win’. I’m not an expert and I can’t claim to have seen every game ever played. Romo was a great. Reaching his potential was never in the cards. Fate had other plans. A few slips on key plays and BOOOOM you’re a joke. That’s how fast it happened. Literally a play before that he was a god. People were all set to buy his jerseys and run around during Thanksgiving and act out the impressive drive that almost one him the Cowboys’ first playoff game in years. Sponsors were thinking of catchphrases to sell his own sneaker-line… something like ‘Just do it’ or ‘In God We Trust’. He became a god and every Cowboy fan worshiped him. He stood atop the world, like Zeus, posing with a lightning bolt, ready to zap someone’s ass into oblivion, until he slipped. That’s all it took: one slip to define a career. It didn’t stop there, but the loss of that blessed immortality came down on high like a wind breaking through an otherwise cloudless day.
Watching Romo in the beginning of his career was what I imagine it would be like to ‘be overwhelmed by the presence of greatness’. He was one of those pure, elite quarterbacks that wasn’t meant to be an athlete. He was a quarterback. He was that position… and then, everything changed. It took one flub to define a career. It took one mistake to somehow become his legacy. I just want it to be known that he was great… although history won’t remember him. How many of us can say the same?
Omani Resef Yeman was one of the great diplomats and strategists of his time. He helped bring a time of peace and prosperity to the hive that would remain the glowing standard for diplomacy. One of his major accomplishments was shifting their focus on energy renewal and making the hive energy independent. It took a concerted effort, but he managed to influence powerful lobbies that had maintained familiar policies for years.
His son, Mulalli Actuhm, grew up admiring his father’s hard work, until years down the road when it was all dismantled. Omani Resef Yeman, at the height of his power, suffered a debilitating disease that effected several hives around the planet. It made bees act irrationally, suffering from a form of dementia that made them wander out alone in the world and forget how to get back. It effected their noses and made them lose the scent of the hive, as well as their own.
Other bees will attack each other if their scent is not closely aligned with their own. It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to have the same scent. The scent has to be close enough.
Omani was forced to settle into being nothing, as his condition became much worse. He suffered for a while, before ending his own life. He cannibalized with an inner-city neighborhood and was absorbed into the hive.
Mulalli hadn’t agreed with his father on several issues, but he did admire how he worked with others and managed to have what success he could, even against powerful foes. His father always found a way. Where they differed was in the politics. Mulalli believed that, no matter how hard they worked, those in power would always be able to keep them down. He used his father’s success to show the failure of politics. His father worked his entire career for the queen and her people and all of that came crashing down. The lobbies eviscerated his policies and the queen suffered. It wasn’t long until she became alienated by her people and the assurance of a populist revolt came to pass.
‘The Third Eye’, a group of revolutionaries led by Visyei Kislyah, received the label of a ‘terror cell’, after its attack on Lot 570xG. It didn’t take long for some of the main aspects of the group to dissolve, having seen the ugliness of the reaction to their crimes. Some warned the queen of the dissent, while others went into hiding. A lot of them ended up dead, with those in power blaming a deadly nerve agent, but always some form of ‘coincidence’ or ‘accidental poisoning’.
Visyei remained a pertinent threat for years, but always nothing more than a threat. He became a ‘boogey man’, used to scare the population into behaving and not venturing too far from its leadership, for fear that the ‘Third Eye’ would see them. When he met Mulalli, the threat became a reality. Visyei Kislyah maintained an underground network to sustain himself and further his political power, managing to unite various outlying groups that wouldn’t have joined his cause before. The hammer that came down against The Third Eye served as a political beacon for those who would act. They were forced to act faster than they wanted and thus mobilized to defend Visyei before it was too late.
The result was a number of attacks on civilians, not only by the Third Eye, but various paramilitary groups and even those in power. The scourge of violence drove the bees to madness, as the attacks came one after another, leaving no discernible enemy. The groups came and went, but none were ever defeated. More came up, suffering some indignity from their leaders and proving that they’d rather die than continue in this manner. The government took this as an opportunity to clear out some of the less desirable neighborhoods. A virus was infecting several communities that led to a severe bout of dementia, which had also infected Omani Resef Yeman, and they hoped to put it to an end.
Mulalli Actuhm helped lead the revolution, while Visyei did the same behind closed doors. Mulalli was the perfect figurehead. His people rallied behind him and, in this way, a populist revolt came about that never had a chance at success. The populists were equipped with a wide array of rifles and automatic weapons, but none of that mattered when their government had napalm. It took only a few hours for the revolution to end, one fateful day, when it was too quiet. The queen, sensing the collapse, enacted a lethal toxin that killed thousands of her people. The collapse was far too much and the hive could no longer be sustained.
It took only a matter of hours for the hive to collapse in its entirety. The upper strata escaped first, of course, leaving the lesser sects of their society to ‘sink with the ship’. After all, it would only make sense, that those who sought a ‘populist revolution’ to be held responsible.
Now, the hive and its future has become a riddle. The world is interested because all the bees are dying, when, in reality, they’ve lost their faith. They can’t imagine any reasons to unite, rebuild the hive and start all over. It doesn’t seem like all that effort will be put to good use. This is a generation of bees that grew up during a time of mass corruption and greed. For as much as they don’t want the same fate for their future, they also can’t think of how to keep it from happening. They don’t know another way, so, they wait.
Mulalli Actuhm lives a quiet life, despite the infamy of being responsible for the collapse of an entire culture. Most bees are learning to survive as something else. They don’t want to be bees. They live solitary lives, although they all work the same and perform the same tasks. Most bees have learned to make tunnels in the dirt to serve as permanent hovels. They live in close proximity to their brothers, but the connection between them has been lost. A new hive is the furthest thing from their minds.
America and the rest of the human world has always taken a strong stance to stay out of inter-species politics, despite the extreme detriment that comes with allowing the unrest to devolve into something far worse. At times, you’d like to move on and forget it, as even foreign affairs in the human world often seem far too complex, as our scopes and opinions remain all the more limited. Experts don’t seem to have an answer. The politics of other worlds and other species are far too complicated, even for those who’ve studied their entire life. In this way, it might make sense for us in the common world to stay away.
It is in light of our hopes and desires to remain neutral on these politics that I feel the need to at least share them and allow for a bit of understanding about a complex environment. The hive has been misunderstood for far too long. The bee has also become a desperately unforgivable monster, which seems to terrify us every step of the way. It’s been necessary for years to avoid the bee, much to the detriment of the ecosystem, although I’m glad to share this opportunity to perhaps change your opinions and unlock the mysteries of the hive.
One cannot begin to talk about the history of the bee without first referencing Mulalli Actuhm and the Populist Revolution. He’s been responsible for a vast channel of inter-species terrorist organizations for quite some time. He’s gone down as one of the most familiar faces for the civil unrest that has plagued the hive ecosystem, for which a rallying cry has been uttered for years, in which the bees are now learning that there is a possibility of escape from the dreadful lives they’ve lived. Those who maintain the delicate balance of the hive ecosystem consider him a terrorist, while those who’ve escaped and fight for the ‘resistance’ consider him a freedom fighter.
In an effort to understand Mulalli Actuhm, one must consider the eco-politics of the hive. For years, it was believed that the queen controls the population by a scent that drives the bees to specific categories of ‘work’ that allow them to carry on fulfilling lives within the context of the hive. This, however, is a misappropriation, for the strands that allow power to twist around her wiry knuckles are being pulled by powerful groups of interest that serve as ‘feudal lords’ or ‘lobbyists’ as one would see in a representative democracy. These are lesser factions that help to hold power within groups, which, while detracting from the power of the queen, allow her to point in other directions when something goes wrong. She can blame these groups, if they don’t come through in a beneficial way for the hive.
In this way, the hive reacts and cannibalizes these groups of interest. Now, it can be stated that the act of ‘cannibalizing’ groups of interest, is not so easily accomplished, as is the act of voting out a local official who is seemingly not acting in your interest. These groups form powerful bloodlines and allegiances that make them formidable and thus, assure the continuation of a process that is less than ‘fulfilling’ for the life of a humble bee. The entire system gets corrupted and thus, an all-out revolution occurs. It doesn’t take much for an entire bee colony to revolt. We’re seeing it now, but you hardly get to see. Once they make the choice to go into ‘full-swing-revolution’, it happens so fast that no one has an opportunity to truly observe the phenomenon.
However, there are also no records within the colonies, because no colony would want those records to be. Bees revolt all the time, but nobody in a seat of power wants that history. They don’t want the bees to remember that every so often an entire hive collapses because they get annoyed with their leadership. It also might be a bit of history that doesn’t seem beneficial to maintain for those in power, as perhaps it hasn’t happened so often, especially to the success that a momentous revolution has occurred.
Mulalli Actuhm was a member of the ‘first-born El’, which is the queen’s direct line. The queen is accustom to certain politics, aiming to maintain her matriarchal status, she takes on a group of lovers that match her scent. The key to the scent is in disguising itself. The scents become so powerful together that it dulls the ability to smell. It’s almost odorless, yet still palpable, still permeating, still there to remind its people that they belong under her control.
Of the hundreds of lovers taken by the queen, Omani Resef Yeman, was her closest ally. He was a keen, shrewd bee, who took to politics like a fish in water. He helped the queen maintain her hive by manipulating the special interest groups and then kept them from chipping away at her power with ‘reform of the establishment’, led by political lobbies that sought to undermine her rule. They ended up having hundreds of children, of which none was more adept at politics than Mulalli Actuhm.
Bees hardly ever have close bloodlines. More often, once they’re born, they’re given a particular scent that allows them to ‘find out’ they’re meaning, somewhat like a person would find his purpose in life. They find out what they will do to serve the hive. Most are given menial tasks that lead to their decision, yet there are several jobs that one can take. Some bees have a temporary immunity to the scent, which allows them, for a short while, to think for themselves. The immunity is due to a deterioration of the bloodline or a ‘faulty chromosome’, which allows for cognitive dissonance and a certain degree of freedom of expression.
There were three brothers who stayed closer together and formed a tight-knit group of hooligans who, at the time, were a public menace. They terrorized other bees with petty acts of violence and vandalism. They loved to fight and made it into, not exactly a game, but a code of honor. They’d insult someone and expect him to fight. A bumble bee is a humble creature, who possesses a swelling of pride and a sense for defending it. He’s not immune to jibes and receiving them from younger bees serves as even more of an insult, especially when those bees are members of royalty. It’s customary for bees of a higher bloodline to steer clear of lessers, for strict penalties are more in favor of those who have no power, as opposed to those who do. It’s a clever way to maintain barriers between classes, while making those on the bottom believe they have in the least a semblance of an ethical code within their democracy.
It consisted of Mulalli, Darshiba and Okami. Mulalli was the unquestioned leader, while Darshiba was a powerful brute and Okami a playful diplomat who somehow managed to ease tensions with the locals. The boys soon learned that life was a lot funner at the bottom. They enjoyed hanging around with bees of a lesser sect, because it was much easier to get into trouble. A local bee, Ansulum Machati, owned a secretive club that allowed only a select few members to enter. It was rumored that one could get anything he wanted in ‘Boma New’, which is, as far as I can tell, a type of ‘speak easy’ that operated during prohibition. The bees are strict when it comes to alcohol, as it has led to an increase in infertility and inhibits certain chromosomes that impair productivity.
Boma New also functioned as a political playground. Anyone could buy time and spew whatever rhetoric they wanted in three of five rooms. The main room was where the entertainment would be, which often included a beautiful singer that played a delicate tune by the sounds that reverberated between her stinger and abdomen. The tune played out for a few hours, with several guests and performers, while business could occur in the backrooms. Some of the rooms were occupied by business, while others took to dark pleasures.
Others took to revolution. On the night in question, Mulalli Actuhm walked into one of the backrooms, which was reserved for a known anarchist, Visyei Kislyah. Visyei was actually a brother of the three, although it didn’t register at the time, as bees only remember a select group of their relatives as closely as they should. (Bee bloodlines are far too complex for the moment) Visyei didn’t have much of a crowd at the time, but that would change after meeting Mulalli, who was so interested in the insistence of change that Visyei presented that it would change his life.
Visyei Kislyah started his career as a populist, which is a bee who believes that the ‘lesser bees’, as they’re known, will rise up and destroy their abusers under the guidance of an ‘extreme hand’ or ‘one who will lead’. They look to various strong leaders of the past to guide them, but the insistence is that the will of the people is reflected in the will of the tyrant. This insistence has led to several terrorist attacks meant to cripple the regime that maintains power over the hive.
One such occurrence, which led to Visyei hiding out underground for the rest of his life, was the ‘Lot 570xG cannibalism’, which left thirty bees dead and several more without homes. The group, known only as ‘The Third Eye’, barricaded several lesser bees in their homes, before detonating plastic explosives that destroyed a sect of ‘Lot 570x’, which is something of a natural power source to the hive. Natural power sources are what give the hive life and is also what allows those in power to maintain it. Without a power source, the lesser bees, or so it was thought, would revolt and a war for survival would ensue. It didn’t go as The Third Eye believed, as blame came down throughout the hive and the act became nothing more than an act to inspire fear.
(I apologize for interrupting this story, but it’s gone on for too long. I think I’ll have to post more on the topic another day! Again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, as I’m truly impassioned for you to know all about bee politics and I hope you will forgive me and come back Tuesday, April 4th! Thanks!)
I grew up around some of the great narcissists of our time. History won’t remember them, so I have to. They were great storytellers, who forged a knack for survival into an unequivocal hunger to live like kings. They spoke of riches and wealth that they couldn’t have possibly known, yet painted a picture so alluring we had no choice but to believe. They were raconteurs, wizards possessed of a singular illusion that painted the world in their image and presented it to us, as if it were ours.
A Raconteur is “a person who excels in telling anecdotes”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raconteur Also, an anecdote (Please note: I don’t want to insult anyone’s intelligence. I mean to provide clarity.) is “a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident”. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/anecdote A raconteur is a great storyteller. I’ve always considered the word to be closer to ‘being a good bullshitter’, which is worth its weight in gold. Anyone can tell a story, but getting people to care is a miracle akin to walking on water.
Storytellers are plentiful. You can see them in coffee shops behind laptops, biding their time until they have a chance to share, connect and separate. It’s in that singular moment, where we connect, that things change. They can become dangerous in a moment’s notice, as they infect your mind with complex riddles that the storytellers have been working on since the dawn of time. You might wonder, ‘why would a person share such a riddle?’ you can’t think like that. It’s how any good storyteller wants you to think. They want you to assume they have no reason to hurt you. There’s no harm in believing what they believe. There’s no harm in believing them without question.
The thing that all decent ‘raconteurs’ must ask themselves periodically is ‘do I care more about myself than I do the story?’ I’ve lived among some of the great bullshitters of modern history. We heard plenty of stories growing up, yet so few of them added up in a way that it could make me care. The raconteurs possessed this trait that added depth to their stories, not just with what images they infused, but with how they made us feel. We felt involved. They tugged on our heartstrings and moved us toward an end that we couldn’t see. They possessed our future, as we waited for these mindless heathens to comb through the vast wasteland of their psyches in search of an end to whatever narrative they were painting.
Any good story comes from a single point. It’s not the beginning. It’s just a point. They wanted to make a point. They’d lie about having sex, so they’d present a narrative that made the possibility of them having sex seem possible. They’d plant a few mental images here and there, forming past and future around this premise. Ultimately, their goal was to forge a real, however unlikely, narrative, in order to make us believe.
The raconteurs believed what they said. The proof was in their words. They told us to take it from there, because taking a man at his word is as good as taking it in blood… at least when you’re a child. When we were kids we lied and it helped. We had impossible things to accomplish in a collapsing world full of poverty and the imminent threat of some incomprehensible bullshit. We had to hide sensitive information from our parents, while taking advantage of our God-like inertia, limitless energy and simple-mindedness. We had to prove to other kids that we were cool, while, at the same time, making our parents think we’d never do the cool things that get you into trouble. It added to our personal mystique, having accomplished nothing, we needed something to set us apart. We’d lie about drinking and drugs, losing our virginity, feats of the utmost stupidity… you know… harmless bullshit.
Truth is the trickiest thing. Everyone says they want it, but when it’s not something they agree with they have a reaction that makes you wonder. Truth. It’s a funny thing, because I could write out the truth as I see it and (hopefully) half of you would love me and the other would hate me. The trick for any good raconteur is understanding the right formula, while having as full an understanding as you can of the truth. I believe that you can’t write a decent story, even if it sounds like nonsense, without a sense of truth. It has to be written, spoken and lived with conviction. Truth has to appear in every word, exactly as you’ve seen it, while managing not to conflict with the truth, as it is. You should, as a good storyteller, align yourself with the truth in order to make your narrative more honest and compelling.
I never thought about truth when I was young enough to fall for these stories. The morality of lying, as one presents it to himself, so that he might further his ends, has become all the more staggering as I’ve reached adulthood. I’ve been trying to think of the right way to word this question. I doubt it’s perfect, but it needs to be asked. I’m curious as to what everyone believes:
Can you have a moral premise without any evidence?
Some raconteurs have no regard for the truth. In all honesty, as a kid I didn’t care. I was surrounded by some of the greatest storytellers of my time. I couldn’t be bothered to figure out how some of these impossible stories could be real. I believed with all my heart, because I was a stupid kid who still believed in Santa. (FYI I believed in ghosts for longer than I believed in Santa, but I also assumed the ghosts would grant a wish or needed my help or whatever.) These are men who have learned to lie in a way that ‘everyone believes that you believe what you say’. You believe them, no matter the evidence to the contrary, because they, not their narrative, hold up well against the barrage of truth that assaults them on all sides.
They’re not not-sympathetic characters. Their truth is a depressing harangue of emotion and pain that most couldn’t understand. What’s worse, they keep it to themselves. They keep it! They hide all that pain and suffering, but even more, they hide the truth! They move with such intent when they tell their stories, as if revealing a deeper, more significant wisdom, while simultaneously hiding it from the world. It’s in their emphatic gestures, their movements, as if their bodies shift depending on the tone of their narratives, not to mention their eyes… it’s in all these things that those of us who were forced to listen HAD to believe.
We believed it all the more, because we lived it. They borrowed from our lives and, in this way, we added to the false narrative. Storytelling is a necessary skill. It made us feel good in a time where people were laughing at us, because our river was full of poison and visitors had no reason to… visit. The pain of being alive could’ve shown itself in crime and self abuse. For us, it showed itself in acceptance of nonsensical bullshit and downright lies.
Near-possible realities were a simple narrative that captured our attention, which begs the question: why do they need our attention? Evil raconteurs are like evil yogis. You can assume they don’t exist, as if there is no darkness when there is also light, but this is another simple narrative that’s easy to digest. The simple narrative is used to ensnare. You don’t need to talk about angels to be a good raconteur. You have to make people believe. This is that much more significant. You MAKE people believe. You take them on a journey, where they start out as a skeptic and then, through a few twists and turns… holy shit… you just made someone believe in angels.
(Also, if you don’t make them believe, you at least allow them to suspend reality for a time, which is kinda the same, although I admit there are differences.)
Making people believe and sharing with them a deeply personal truth is about as different as water and oil.
For what it’s worth, they thought they were kings, but that never stopped them from fighting to become that oh-so desirable, and unquestioned ruler of the universe. They lied and stole and fought, but the stories to me became all the more touching. These people, the Raconteurs, were at war with themselves, as well as the truth and as well as a circumstance of poverty and extreme depravity, which was plentiful, in our ever-collapsing society. They fought for freedom: the freedom to be as insane and harmful to oneself as you can get. They fought to make the world a weird place.
For a longer time than I can remember, the homeless have been presented as a thing, this massive structure that seems impossible to break down or an ocean, because it would be impossible to disseminate a drop of rain from the largest body of water on the planet. The homeless in this country lose their identity and, after a while, they all start to look the same. Even if they look different, after a while something happens where you don’t pay attention. You see them, but it’s like seeing a tree in someone’s office. You don’t think about it. You shut off. They blend into the scenery to such a point that nobody says anything and the world moves on.
It’s when you break down certain levels of poverty that you realize there even are levels. Homeless isn’t the furthest decline into poverty. If anything, it might be nearest the beginning. It depends on who you talk to, if indeed you can talk to anyone. The homeless aren’t always one for conversation. Some need a lot of help and have fallen so far that talk isn’t good enough. They move shiftlessly, like ghosts trying to find their own plane of existence. They have a way of blending in that’s quite miraculous, for although they share the same appearance of grime and disease collected over tattered clothes layered on top of one another for warmth and utility, each of them has a singular destiny relative to his condition.
The Bottle Men are nothing unique to our city. They wander around with steel baskets that they wheel around and fill with bottles. They get their donations from neighbors and businesses. They live among us, and aren’t a they, which is to say they aren’t a group. They’re individuals who make their living off recycling. They pick up the bottles that people don’t want to return and bring them to their recycling centers to get some cash. It isn’t glamorous, but it allows them to exist. I think it’s important to examine this story, because, although it’s not the lowest level of poverty, it’s somewhere within that delicate strata and deserves thorough inspection. It isn’t that they’re desperate, although some of them most likely are, it’s that they’re made to be. They’re made into ‘The Homeless’, when these are individuals under a certain set of stimuli that become a certain way. Their conditions are unique, despite ending up the same, I assure you they’re quite different.
Then, I guess we could ask, what creates this massive body of water that we call ‘The Homeless’, but does that really have one answer? I assume that they’re generated from across the river. They walk along the bridge and ask a question of the Sphinx that guards it. If the Sphinx can’t answer they’re allowed to pass. If he can, he must eat their hearts. You’d think we’d have more bodies washing up along the shore, but the river goes on forever. It’s our protector against the endless sea. If you’d just go over to the other side, you could see them sleeping beneath the overpass, roaming the streets around the mission that’s a block away from the bridge.
Some don’t care about bottles. They’ll scribble a few desperate words on cardboard and wait for passersby to hand over a few bucks. It gets repetitive on your way to work, day after day, as the place remains the same, yet the homeless person changes. I don’t know if there is an agency of homeless that take turns waiting at the same spots, but something must happen, some arrangement of stimuli to make them flock, like birds heading south for the winter. Something clicks in their minds that they have to be here at this time, always the same times each day.
Time seems all the more important to the homeless. You’d think they wouldn’t have anywhere to be, being homeless, but they shuffle in patterns, like the tides that come with morning and night along the river. When night comes, the tide moves in, when its’ gone so is the tide. Morning comes and the homeless move. Five o’clock comes with that rush of traffic and the homeless become vigilant. They follow a rhythm that has yet to be determined, as I doubt many scientists are looking into the migration habits of Bottle-men or the virulent mating season of people that live under the bridge.
Every city has a spirit and, perhaps a few are schizophrenic, because they could have many. The frantic nature of the world can create several voices that those within the confines of a city are compelled to follow. As to which voice you follow or which you hear, this could depend on several factors that I know nothing about. The voices are out there, summoning us to their whims in ways that remain beyond our comprehension.
Where we’re moved, we must at least hope, is in the name of good. Some spirits, however, choose no sides. They follow their whims and desires. Their means and goals are their own. They’re tricksters, because we can’t tell what they want. They do as they please, breezing through realities, as if they own them.
In this town, there are a few homes that leave out bags of bottles as an offering to such sacred tricksters. Usually, it’s the keepers of this faith that come to obtain these sacred offerings. The keepers of this faith are known as ‘the bottle men’, as they walk around with metal carts full of cans and bottles, in honor of their gods.
From time to time, an enigmatic figure appears on the streets of our city that appears to be just another ‘bottle man’, but is in fact a creature with intimate knowledge of other worlds. He wears a thick robe that covers most of his body. His eyes are silver and change to red when he’s mad. He carries a pack over his back that looks empty, but holds inside it the souls of countless vanquished enemies.
When a soul is stolen from its owner, the person remains as an empty shell of himself. The soul departs from his body, as in death, and he remains in a comatose state, for which he might never escape. The souls come from across the universe. Jahua wanders throughout the cosmos returning to those he’s defeated to mock them. He makes them pay for their souls with one penny a day. The interest he charges ensures they’ll never pay off his debt. Jahua goes door to door collecting his tariff and for those he’s yet to meet, he must go and challenge.
Jahua the Debtor comes to your door and waits to be welcomed, whereby he’ll come inside. He’ll drink nothing that you give him, take nothing that is offered. He sees it as owing you for your hospitality and takes it as an offense. Nobody knows what the challenge is, just that it’s some form of card game. The victim never seems to remember much, just the deck of neatly folded cards and glossy black. People have claimed to have bested Jahua, but have no proof. The effects of defeat are always obvious, as the color in a victim’s skin turns pale, their eyes become lifeless and without hope and their teeth rot into a vulgar yellow.
Jahua has taken his time in procuring the souls of the city, although he doesn’t have us all. It becomes necessary for those in the city to take precautions. Some of us never answer our doors. Jahua is a master of disguise and can even take the appearance of a close loved one. He cannot enter under an arch, so many people make their entryway into one to prevent his advance. This has been written off as ‘mere superstition’, however, several homes continue to make arches for their doorways, as a meager hope to fend off the offensive debtor and keep their homes intact.