General Fiction, Short Fiction

Only a Jellyfish Would Live Forever by Leila Allison

The Scenario: Part I 

He crushed two pills between his teeth and swallowed. That made four in an hour. A stomach that wanted to stay alive would have objected; but for once there was consensus. He believed that two more similar doses within the next thirty minutes should punch his ticket to the Undiscovered Country. Perhaps such an important event as flirting with self destruction should come accompanied by an unfilched metaphor, but when in doubt go with Shakespeare–Besides he’d used up all the sparklers in his suicide note. It was a fine suicide note. Well written, streaked with effortless pathos and humor. It was the best thing he had ever written. “All show, no tell,” he’d said after lighting it on fire and watching it curl to black in the kitchen sink.  “Best punched ticket ever.”

He repaired to the drawing room because ever since childhood he liked to think that better than “let’s go to the front room.” In happier times, when he had friends, he even said “Let’s repair to the drawing room,” often, too often. It was one of the small things that people disliked about him. He got it from the vividly colorful Hammer horror movies, which starred Cushing and Lee and ran endlessly on Saturday afternoons when he was a boy. Upon sitting down in the easy chair where someone would find him, he wondered for the first time in all those years if he had heard it wrong; maybe the actors had said something else other than repaired. Maybe he had got it wrong the same way that people who speak more than write put down “should of” instead of “should’ve” on the rare occasions in which they must write. For anyone else it might have been awfully late in the game for such a banal triviality–but as it had stated in his burned suicide note, “I’m not like other people.”

Although his head was getting fuzzy, he opened his phone and Googled “repaired.” He felt ignorant until he thought to Google “repair(ed) to the drawing room,” and found it proper. Then he Googled  “Hazel Court”–a Kapow! “Eyes Up” British actress who appeared in Hammer’s version of Frankenstien, as well as some of Roger Corman’s Poe pictures. He wanted to see if Hazel Court was still alive. She wasn’t. He then immediately Googled “Barbara Steele,” another Kapow! “Eyes Up” sort of actress from the same era. She was alive. Although knowing that Barbara Steele was alive came as happy information, it didn’t gentle his grief for sudden loss of Hazel Court.

He opened Word and wrote: “Dear Someone: I refuse to live in a world without Hazel Court in it. Thus I have repaired to the Eternal Drawing Room. No offense to Barbara Steele.”

The trouble with attempting suicide via happy pills (which were the nature of the unnamed stubstance) is pausing too long during your deliberate overdose. This allows the pills time to show you the reason why people get addicted to them. He had come across such during his suicide research. He figured that Kurt Cobain used the shotgun soon after injecting enough heroin to drop a boy band because of the drug’s charming effect. He figured that Cobain had foreseen such and had taken the preventative Hemingway measure, just in case the smack coerced him into changing his mind and calling 911 to get help for the overwhelming amount of heroin in his system. Shotgun blasts to the head change your brain, but not your mind. Not with the organic computer needed to do that dripping–

“No! No! No!” He said, snapping off each “No!” like it was also a gunshot. He was in the habit of snapping off three No’s whenever his ever incessant mind took an image too far. 

The First Intrusion 

The preceding scenario has been freshly concocted by me, a Pen Name. The Pen Name appears at the top. The reason for this intrusion, and for the others to come will be made clear to you, by and by. Vanity tells me that the appearance of my name might be the reason why some of you are reading this. It could also be the reason why more of you aren’t reading this, which, of course, renders this sentence meaningless. If the latter is the case, I humbly beseech the ones who are reading this on the strength of my name to deliver a message to the others who avoid the piece for the same cause. Tell them I said “I know who you are and it’s high time you learn that I only scan your stuff and check the categories before I phony up a seemingly high-minded, positive comment on your behalf.” You see, the main reason why Pen Names exist at all is to catch the hell-fallout produced when the real person behind the veil exercises the fallacy called Free Speech.

Wait a second–veil gives me a big idea. Let’s return to our unnamed, insincerely suicidal hero and see what he can do with it.

The Scenario: Part II

He had researched how many happy pills it would take to kill a man his size. It was a mathematical, time dependent equation which had factored in the prevention of vomiting, and had a tipping point of no return. Whilst in the chair where someone would find him, he envisioned himself running blindly toward the end of a great cliff, then coming to a devil may care skidding stop, just standing there with his toes hanging over the crumbling edge, only one forward urge of weight standing between him and eternity. There are things further from the truth than what he had imagined; mainly, he was actually more like a man on his hands and knees creeping up to the safety rail at the rim of the Grand Canyon.

Still, the pain caused by his incessant mind was real enough. Since he was eleven he had been plagued with a horrible twisted perversion of something called “Cherophobia”–the fear of happiness. Whenever he got too happy or witty inside, a dark amorphous shape that he uncreatively but accurately named “Black,” would rise from his subconscious and negate the positive with a hellish image. Although there is nothing funny about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, his little touches of “enough heroin to drop a boy band,” and  “Shotgun blasts change your brain, but not your mind” had helped. But the visualization of the ruined substance that had created Come as You Are “dripping” from the wall behind Cobain’s exploded head was the work of Black.

Usually, the conditions present in his Black attacks were much wider set apart than what appeared in the Cobain thing. Instead of getting nipped for whistling in the graveyard, a true Black attack would manifest itself when he’d be doing something like joyfully opening a birthday present and then suddenly remember the time he had entered the kitchen and saw Mom’s latest insane, grinning boyfriend holding a bread knife to her throat. And a great shame would encompass him, as though he had done something wrong. That’s an example of a major Black attack. All Black attacks  great and small always ended with him biting off “No!” aloud three times if alone, and in his head if in public.

He had grown up surrounded by hellish images not of his own creation. His beautiful, mentally ill mother attracted abusive men. Although no major event such as murder had ever happened, the threat of such was always there. He was a caged rabbit housed between a wolf and a stoat enclosure. Funny thing was that none of it was really anyone’s fault, or so he had reasoned. But the worst part was how everything had a way of falling to normal afterwards. Not ten minutes after the bread knife episode the three of them were eating dinner as though it was just another day.

Over time he developed a defense called a “Tuesday Dream.” There is a metaphysical, non linear reason for the name. Yet nothing felt truer. He once theorized that Tuesday was the one day of the week in which things were at their most settled. Unlike most other children he feared the weekend, for that was when alcohol was added to the craziness. And in that sort of world, the weekend begins where Thursday gives over to Friday, and leaves too big a stain for Sunday to hold on its own, so it dribbles into Monday.

A typical Tuesday Dream required a brightly lit, bizarre yet sense-making vignette of his own creation to take shape in his mind. It had to be comedy, made by him, thinking up the Marx Brothers didn’t help much. You must slay your dragons with your own goddamn sword. No! You must hit the villain in the face with a pie you baked. He considered the last two items, and although the pie thing was truer, the dragon one sounded better.

He sat up in the easy chair and said, “Betcha’ ain’t heard this one. It’s a real side-splitter, an aisle roller. Imagine uptown New York on a sunny day in 1962. And imagine looking at it as though it were a movie. Then the camera catches the ogling reaction shots of men in the streets. Each guy catches a glimpse of something that turns him into a human boner–even though something that crass was only inferred back then.

“Anyway, you get a  low back shot of the commotion in a skirt as she goes up the front stairs and enters an office building. She’s a Kapow! ‘Eyes up’ sort of girl, who does things to an arch business suit that are unholy. She really swings it. And how.

“You then see the Kapow! ‘Eyes up’ woman passing out more boners when she gets on an elevator inside the building. All the guys–including the elevator operator–a balding guy wearing an organ grinder’s monkey type of suit–gawk at her even though her face is hidden by a light colored veil that obscures her face. The few Plain Janes around glare at the woman with jealous contempt. The Kapow! Woman in the veil seems oblivious to all of them. But she knows. She knows. This role usually went to Marilyn Monroe or Jayne Mansfield when the producers didn’t have Monroe or Mansfield money. This time the mystery actress behind the veil is Miss Hazel Court.

“Anyway, there’s a cut to a shot inside a plastic surgeon’s office. The plastic surgeon is played to the hilt by Tony Randall. And you know that he’s a plastic surgeon because of the witty repartee exchanged between Tony and his nurse/receptionist who is either Eve Arden or Thelma Ritter.

“For plot reasons it is necessary to get it across that the plastic surgeon is bored with his family man life. Maybe he does this during a phone call while he’s seated at his desk. Then Eve or Thelma buzz the doctor and tell him that his appointment is here…

“No-wait! Tony buzzes the desk to ask if his appointment is there and the next shot is of Eve or Thelma wryly looking up at the veiled mystery woman. Eve or Thelma says ‘Yes. And how.’

“Tony gets an erudite boner when he sees her. There was nothing boring about the shape in front of him. After the perfunctory stuff is out of the way, Tony says, “How may I help you, um, (he consults her name written on something on his desk) Miss (he says hopefully) Aphrodite?

“Her cultured, flirtatious, yet oddly muffled English accent comes from behind the veil and informs Tony that it’s ‘Just Aphrodite.’ Before he can respond she speaks mystically into his soul. ‘I am the Goddess Aphrodite. Immortal and all powerful in love. Yet, alas, this mortal shape I occasionally must take currently requires the services of someone like you.’

“And as she unclasps the veil she says, ‘It’s been a thousand years since I last took this mortal form. And as you already must know, dear Doctor, the ears and nose never stop growing.’ The veil falls away.

“Jeezus! Get a load of the look on Randall’s rubber face when he gets a load of her and her thousand year nose and ears. She’s about as likely a boner passer-outer as a Mrs. Potato Head…”

Then he faltered. The animation in his voice and form dissipated. It was as though he had become unplugged. The imagined image of Hazel in prosthetics reminds him of Mrs. Doubtfire, which immediately dissolved into the thought of Robin Wiliams with a belt around his neck…

“No! No! No!”

Second Intrusion 

The notion that people might be characters of writers’ invention is as old as thinking; I suspect that it came about the week philosophy was invented. Writers taking up the safety of the nom de plume is nearly as ancient. There’s nothing philosophical to be found in that. At one time there used to be physical penalties dealt out for the trap called Free Speech. A head in the basket here, ten years’ hard labor in the gulag there. Although getting dragged out into the cyber-public square for a virtual stoning proves that the soul of intolerant stupidity travels from age to age as immortally as the Plague, most nations now have laws against inserting heretics into the iron maiden. But maybe that would be more merciful than nailing a Bad German to a cross planted in the never-never wasteland called Social Media.

There isn’t an even distribution of pain and happiness in the Universe. There is an equal amount of those two qualities in the Universe, but it’s pain that is found everywhere whilst happiness tends to be found in globs which are separated by eons of spacetime. Most of those thoughts, too, are hardly original. Still, like the inclusion of slavery at the founding of the United States, the uneven distribution of equal amounts of pain in the Universe is probably a condition that could not be eased prior to the start of the Universe, lest there be risk of there being no Universe at all. A compromise, however, was hashed out between unknown factions. One side wanted an even distribution of both pain and happiness. The other said they preferred the concept of cause and effect. As it goes with political compromises, everybody shook hands and announced a Great Accord; which meant that one side gave up on its principles and returned home smiling and reassuring and waving a document as empty as that brought back to England by Neville Chamberlain, after he’d been sold a pot of magic sauerkraut by Adolph Hitler.

All the preceding gobbledygook results in as good a definition for the meaning of life as a human being deserves to get. Cause and Effect. Plain and simple. Life is like floating through a sea lightly, yet always poisoned with pain, and very few of us run into the widely interspersed islands of happiness. Such is the case of the “he” in our scenario. His life has been a horror show put on by Cause and Effect. But something, if not new, at least rare is going to happen to our anonymous, hapless hero. He is going to run smack into a glob of happiness. For I am the Pen Name who created him and his history and pains and his various strangenesses, and have endowed him with a will, if not exactly free, is, at least, had at a steep discount. Unlike the gods real people beseech for help, I am going to take responsibility for this guy I have created today.

I could just go in and change both his nature and nurture, but since he believes that he has accrued his scars honestly, it would be as unfair an action on my part as was my drawing him up out of boredom because I could not think of anything else to write about in the first place.

The only difference between a hallucination and reality is the ethical, if not moral, choice, if any, made by the god or Pen Name in charge of a particular person or persons. The preceding sentence is of the kind you have to read ten times for it to almost make sense once, for it is similar in flavor with this current sentence, which is about to end, without actually saying anything useful, right now. With all that left rattling about like ghosts summoned from the grave only to discover that their necromancer might be high on something, and that she has no idea why she had called them forth from their cozy holes, I exit and present a implausible/plausible happy ending for this nameless soul conjured by my indiscrete scribblings. Since I drew him up I feel responsible for his well being. Alas, I don’t want to deal with him much further, so here goes with the implausible/plausible happy ending. It’s an open ended happily forever after. All writers do such as means to get the reader’s imagination to do their work for them.

Scenario Happy Ending

Too many happy pills too soon tend to make their takers dozy. Many honestly suicidal people who consume them as a means of discovering the Undiscovered Country pass out before they have paid the sufficient fare. They usually awaken confused, many hours later, perhaps half-wondering why the Afterlife has the same stuff in it that they have at home… 

Sincerity-Challenged Afterthought Intrusion. Or: A Pen’s Attempt to Cover Her Ass   

Suicide is plain wrong. It is a preventable tragedy. Although it seems like people care more after the fact than they did before, and tend to lay dollar store votives and fake flowers in the typical barn-door-after-the-cows response inherent to the human race, trust me, doggone it, people care. Giving a fuck about the pain of others is what people do. So, don’t forget to wipe and stay off the pipe, take your vitamins, say your prayers, take everything you read literally and give obsequious props to whatever geographic-dependent god your ancestors told your family to believe in. It’s gonna be (: (: (: (: (:!!! 

Happy Ending Continued…. 

Such happened to our hero, who finished four tablets shy of Nirvana. Whilst he had been studying Hazel Court’s image gallery, he fell into a sleep so profound that his building’s fire alarm didn’t stir him when it went off due to a neighbor’s misguided attempt at cajun-style blackened chicken. Although the First Responders put the fire out quickly enough, there was much smoke and confusion. The EMT’s went from door to door with a master key provided by the building’s super to check out unanswered knocks.

As he slowly came to with the aid of an oxygen mask, he saw a beautiful angel with red hair and green eyes in a Torqwamni County Fire Department uniform. She was holding the mask to his face. She shushed his first attempts at speaking. Her name tag said V. Aphrodite. And she gazed into his eyes, glanced at the vial then back at him, then said, ”Do you know that the nose and ears grow forever?”

 

Leila Allison

Image by tanya nova of Pixabay

4 thoughts on “Only a Jellyfish Would Live Forever by Leila Allison”

  1. Hi Leila,
    What I like with this is the balance between the story and the ‘intrusion’ is perfectly judged. There are so many thoughts from one played out in the other but neither interferes with each other. We’ve used the word complex so many times but anyone reading this would find layers and things to think on.
    In most of your stories there is an idea of fate and free will no matter how slight or what the premise and that always interests me.
    The reader could sit with a highlighter and mark anything that stood out or intrigued as they read. I reckon most of it would be highlighted.
    I was wondering about your use of the certain celebrity references? Did you start out to use the tragic, or was that just the way the story took you?
    Jayne Mansfield had her own scandals, addiction and horrific end. (I didn’t know until only a few weeks ago when Gwen told me, that her daughter is Mariska Hargitay, who is in one of those Law And Order programmes. When you look at her you can see the likeness.)
    And the idea of Curt Cobain, well I suppose you could argue about what idea was stronger, the want to kill himself, to get high one last time or as is touched on, the initial overdose being the intended end but the shotgun was insurance. There is a finality in that thinking that is cold but very clear.
    I just get the impression that you have a reason for using every single reference in your stories.
    When we read any section of this our minds go into overdrive.
    How you tie this all in together, is a mystery to think on but a delight to read.
    Hugh

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    1. Thank you so kindly. How I wish I was that intelligent! Anyway, I’ve discovered that any reference I use is usually the first to come to mind. I see all people as tragic. What else can a creature with a non-linear, unseated in time mind, yet is forced to exist in a one way passage that always ends badly, be?
      There is this old falsehood that says Mansfield was decapitated in her fatal accident, when in fact it was just that her wig had come off. Always wondered how that affected the three kids (including Mariska) who were in the car at the time.
      Thanks again.
      LA

      Like

  2. This kind of reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s style and black humour…. the uneven distribution of equal amounts of pain in the universe riff for example. Cherophobia is not a good thing to have. Kurt Cobain had a chronic stomach ailment which caused constant pain so he got addicted to heroin when other pain killers didn’t seem to do the job. That likely caused some of his Cherophobia. The protagonist here seems to be playing a game, for him, the game is a survival skill..eg. the whole thing about the Tuesday Dream…. I like the bit about the pros and cons of trying to kill yourself with pills (happy pills that kill, reasons for why you shouldn’t pause too long during your overdose) and the riff about the Aphrodite with the big nose and ears.

    Liked by 1 person

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