My oh my.
Tickle me Tamerlane. I wish I were part of a religion important enough to have my God housed in that thing, thinks the pilgrim as he looks up at the sprawling temple complex on the mount in this little desert town.
This is the Pale City in the badlands.
The streets are dark. An eerie twilight dances upon the cobblestones and the happy laugh of children is missing. The pilgrim senses that this place is just no good. There is no moon and someone has turned off the stars. He has been here many times before. He has wandered these cobblestone streets lost while searching, drinking deeply from the puddles of his own soul. Time has no meaning here. There are only the ghosts and the growing darkness surrounded by an endless desert of the mind. Each time he returns to bow down and to venture towards the light glimmering in the darkness. He is no longer sure this light even exists. Behind every locked door is some route to the horror freak-show of his subconscious, some lurking subterranean display of rape or torture. The place is good at making a religion out of violence.
The pilgrim passes by a towering Ferris wheel at the town wall; a Bregna barrier, an apartheid separation wall made of pyramid bricks and barbwire. The wheel sits in a thorn garden. Its operator is a hideous harlequin whose face is painted white, red, and black and who laughs like a mad man carries himself like a pederast.
There is no way out.
Every night the pilgrim returns to this personal hell, this Pale City in the desert, this home of perpetual blackness. His pilgrimage begins anytime he goes to sleep causing him to return to pay homage over and over again, to bear witness to hell as he understands it.
Tonight there is a great commotion coupled with alarm. The town’s transient population waits on the central square called umslagplatz. Their faces are twisted in grimaces too close to death to be truly alive. Everything appears grainy, toned in black, white and gray scale unless it needs to bleed. Then it is the color of bright red arterial blood, like a 1970’s B movie grindhouse.
The temple looks like a cross between the Hagia Sophia and the Luna Park housing projects, or maybe the Alhambra mixed with Astroland in its heyday. Robed clerics on the balconies of the temple drone out prayers from behind their grey hooded robes. One can never see their faces, accuse them of their crimes. The holy men are never from the pilgrim’s tribe.
A tall and twisted tree stands in the center of the square, bulus and ghatly. It looks like the last standing cherry tree in the parking lot at Chernobyl. It has flowers, but not the kind you would give a loved one. The pilgrim knows what is to come for he has read about it in a banned book called the New Testament. You can’t get a good translation of it within ten thousand miles of Brooklyn.
But most versions agree on one detail at least. When the messiah came back, well the forces of evil got him, got him good.
An illiterate and rowdy mob has assembled around the main square. A large garrison of foreign troops forms ranks and bars all the entrances and exits. A big black man crowned in barbed wire, already beaten nearly to death, is being dragged through the streets as the people pelt him with rocks and garbage screaming for his blood. The crowd exists as a single entity, a twisted sweating creature of manipulated rage. The black man carries a long wooden board over his muscular African shoulders. Grisly avulsions run down his back. His blood and sweat only lubricates the mob’s resolve to hurt him further. It emboldens them. Many would have begged for mercy or made an indignant show of fortitude toward their captors but this man simply marches along with a sad look in his grey eyes. His humility makes them hate him even more.
The pilgrim is watching the spectacle from his hiding place in a bombed out café at the edge of the square. He is too scared to get much closer. Finally, the man is lifted by the mob onto the tree. The beam is fastened. They begin nailing his hands to the ends of the board. Then they nail his feet with one great big rail spike right into the tree. Two more pitiful figures, some alleged criminal that the pilgrim didn’t know and some revolutionist are fastened next to this dying rebel. Their bodies form a triangle above the base of this crucifixion tree. The mob is cheering with an orgiastic glee, dancing about the tree. Soon they begin fucking each other right there on the square.
The pilgrim shudders. He is only thirteen and can’t speak the language much less really protect himself from that mob. He uses a pair of binoculars to look up from behind the counter of the derelict cafe into the eyes of the man. There is no fear or agony on the man’s face, simply the grim realization that he has failed in his mission. The black rebel spasms and coughs up blood as life drains out of him.
A soldier stabs him with a bayonet to seal the deed.
A young girl in a dirty white dress is hiding in the bombed out café also. She is only sixteen or seventeen and pregnant. She could be Arab or Puerto Rican but passes for blan. She has red hair like Jessica Rabbit, bright died red hair. She is sobbing quietly. Her hair is tied in the light grey wrap that pilgrim women wear.
She whispers accusingly, “Collaborator.”
The alarm rings. It’s an air raid siren blaring the pilgrim out of slumber.
I wake up quickly in a pool of sweat. I nearly fall out of the bed that is a raised bunk bed with my desk underneath. It has been another in a string of nightmares. They all started sometime in 1997. I never remember most of the details, only the horror.
It is 6:15 am on a Monday morning of a new school year. I live at Waterside Plaza on the island fortress of Manhattan. My school is an hour north by subway in what some call the Boogie down, but what I call the fucking Bronx.
It is time to go to school.
My name is Sebastian Adon. Believe as much or as little as you hear about me. That goes for the things I tell you about myself as well.
The mind works in cycles and patterns, innate behavioral conditioning brought about through external governing factors that mold response and reaction. How strong or beautiful a person appears is genetic, but that the mind is a clean slate, a great evolving tapestry, a mostly unused muscle. With discipline, this muscle can be harnessed to radically affect a person’s surroundings, sense of time and ultimately, the character of an individual’s life. The mind is a beautiful piece of organic clockwork that we are largely unable to understand, regulate or control.
I’m sure that I’m not using more than 8% of my brain, but like all things that will change.
I get up quickly and shower. I jerk off in the shower thinking about my dick with two chicks–one Black-Irish, one Asian. I towel off. I dress in whatever is lying about. Some days I undress again when the socially conscious part of my brain realizes my threads look ridiculous. I run back to the bathroom. I throw Queen Helene, that thick mix of hardening green goop, into my hair, slick it back, spike it and sculpt the devil horns that swoop and curl. I use Scope instead of brushing my teeth because it is quicker. If I’m late the teacher will make me sit in the corner.
I run down the stairs and drop by the steel shutter coffee stand to wait in line for my morning fix of that nasty, bitter stimulant that will keep me awake long enough to do last night’s homework on the train.
It is “essential” that this work be completed, because it is essential that one finishes high school. That’s the place you memorize facts you do not need to know in pursuit of a so-called “body of knowledge” necessary to be considered a civilized member of Western society. This is nation-biased bullshit that paints our consumer-frenzied culture as truth and light to the brown barbarians. But learn it you shall, for college is only four years away. There you will be further tuned and refined into a cog, screw or girder in mainstream society. Eventually you will choose a career you hate, making enough money to one day join that promised upper middle class bracket of the American socio-economic stratosphere. You will marry, have 2.3 kids and move to the dream home in the suburbs. You will go on vacations to places with beaches or European cities you can’t quite pronounce and hopefully sip fancy drinks. Your children will grow up to be accountants, doctors and lawyers if you’re a Jew or athletes, musicians, or entrepreneurs if you’re black.
But the main goal is to get rich. This is the American Dream.
I board the uptown #6 train on 34th Street and transfer at 42nd to the #4 Bronx-bound uptown express. The train is packed like a fetid Polish cattle car, a sea of inter-tangled flesh, crammed into a metal can and shipped to its respective destination. People push and shove, fighting over every inch of cubic space. The heat is unbearable. The stale air is cross-pollinated with the odors of aftershave, raw armpits and cheap cologne.
Right now all I am thinking about is the history homework I didn’t do, the sleep I didn’t get and the utter monotony of the life I am currently leading. The roar of the train car through the underground tunnels is deafening. People peer through the glass divider giving me annoyed looks as I finish off my cigarette. I once read a story about a boy who was thrown to his death from the train while riding between cars as the train made a sharp turn. I am sure these rumors are propagated by the old to make the young less daring. Wouldn’t want to be fucking statistic!
I arrive at the Bedford Boulevard station at 8:30 am. It’s the second to the last northbound stop on the #4 train. I’m fifteen minutes late. It will take another five to ten minutes to cross Bedford Park Boulevard and Harris Field and smoke another stoag.
My school is the Bronx High School of Science. I have been going here for two weeks. I spent the nine years of elementary and middle school at the private United Nation’s International School. But it was pure luck that I tested into this school a month before UNIS suspended, then expelled me.
Bronx Science is a magnet school. The school draws its roughly 2,400 students from throughout New York City. Like many other New York City Public magnet schools, the classes are over-packed and the kids are largely middle class. Unlike almost all other New York City public schools, Bronx Science will, in theory, get you into a good college. I took the admissions test back in 8th grade. I got in by a single point.
I am walking through Harris Field, the dilapidated expanse of gnarled-down lawn that is a massive sports field where teenagers smoke pot. This morning students are clustered across the field indulging in the morning reefer madness amid patches of dying grass. There’s no cover, just gonna-see-the-law-coming-from-a mile-away cover. A part of me notices that it isn’t even 9, so what is there to celebrate? Maybe they have first period off because they commute from Staten Island, but they’re probably cutting. Maybe they just like the green.
The school is a T-shaped, red brick building that is three stories high. The object is not to learn, but to absorb it sometimes seems.
There are exceptions. My first period teacher, the one who is about to put me in the corner, is rather on point. His name is Dr. Maskin. He wears real tight pants and has crazy person eyes. I keep falling asleep in his class, even if it ain’t so boring.
I run up the down staircase as I rush toward Dr. Maskin’s first period global history class. I dash past a group of Asian schoolgirls sitting in the corridor talking. They are legion at this school. My homework is only half-finished. I will most definitely be placed in the corner. My only hope is that he will have checked the work already. There’s a slim chance. I have another worry as well. I push open the door.
“Good of you to join us, Mr. Adon,” he says sharply. “Your presence and your homework were greatly missed.”
“Quite alright, Mr. Adon. Your homework please.”
Dog ate it, I think to say but mostly give him a stupid look like it was news to me we had any. It was me or the dog.
The class is staring at me. I look for the sympathetic eyes of Case Yadger, another sometimes denizen of the corner. I see him smirking in the back of the classroom, his blue baseball cap pulled tightly over his brow. Also smirking is Tamar Dreyfus; the Greek-Jew girlfriend of my latest friend Donny Gold.
“Sit in the corner. You’re late and unprepared.”
“Stop calling me sir.”
“Yes, Dr. Maskin.”
The theme of today’s class has something to do with cavemen and fences. My eyes feel heavy. Sleep begins creeping into my mind. The room periodically blinks out of existence. The class drones on. Reality melts away. I slump over at my desk. The room fades to gray. I fight it but just can’t win.
All I see is the great desert expanse and the Pale City, dimly lit in the never-ending twilight of my mind. I’m on the tree. My hands are nailed to the branches. I look to my side at the Black man nailed next to me. He eyes pop open and his head swings in my direction. Although his mouth never opens I can hear his thoughts in my head.
“Collaborator, do you see it?” he questions me in rasps.
I awake with a sudden start. I have fallen asleep at the wheel once again, with too many witnesses.
“Mr. Adon, perhaps you could give us some insight into this subject,” says Dr. Maskin smugly. I have been caught sleeping in class yet again.
“I can tell that you are particularly enthralled by the discussion and won’t hesitate to add some of your own vast wisdom to our dialogue.”
The class bursts out in faggot chuckles.
“Well, I suppose I could repeat the question for you, Mr. Adon. I know a mind like yours requires periods of, thoughtful hibernation.”
“Yes sir, it certainly does,” I respond to the amusement of my peers.
“We were discussing early human socio-economic development, Mr. Adon. As you know from last night’s reading, which I am sure you read in depth, hunter-gatherer societies evolved into the classic city-states of antiquity. We are now debating how.”
“Well, um. I suppose when the rich folks started building fences around their homes and telling all the little brown people what to do, tricking um like to relinquish control over property that nobody really owned.”
Dr. Maskin looks vaguely intrigued.
“So, like, society evolved from a concept of ownership and property, a mass theft really. Hunter-gatherers did not understand the concept of property. But it was this concept that created the early foundations of the city-state. The moment the biggest, toughest caveman built a fence and declared that the land inside was his, modern society was born.”
“Once again, ladies and gentlemen, the young philosopher king redeems himself. He may pass this class, yet. You may return to half salute slumber, Mr. Adon.
I lean back in the chair with a smug grin.
Only seven more periods to go.
I hate school. If there weren’t girls here I wouldn’t probably even show up.