There was a hole in my ceiling, directly over my bed. I’d been awoken from a deep and nurturing sleep by a whooshing sound. Air pouring in through the hole made this sound. As I rubbed my eyes, I wondered if a meteorite had smashed through the roof. I live on the top floor of my tenement and have often speculated what would happen if a meteorite were to blaze down from the heavens and smash through the roof. I arose and thanked God for no rain. Had it rained that morning my bed would have been doused. But as it was the sky presented a plentifully blue bouquet, with feathered boa clouds gently snaking over the city ramparts.
They call it the Fully Automatic Cathedral (FAC). It’s .45 caliber and can deliver the gospel at a rate of six-hundred rounds per minute. It takes wadded up pages of the Bible as ammunition and needs to be reloaded about once in a generation. The ex-Marines I sometimes go shooting with say it takes one kind of courage to shoot someone and a whole second kind of courage to get shot. The solemn promise of the FAC is that as long as you use it you’ll only ever need that first kind of courage. It’s so accurate it could send a bumble-bee to insect-Heaven from half a mile away. I currently have it set to Roman Catholic but there’s other settings. Lutheran, Pentecostal, Episcopalian, Mormon, even Mennonite. Hit someone with this they’ll probably die, but if they don’t you can bet that whatever’s left of them will be coming to church next Sunday. It looks like your average machine gun. That is, if your average machine gun were twice as big, made of solid marble, and had Aramaic verses inscribed across its barrel.
Silvia said that from some angles I looked handsome; she left me when another man convinced her that she was beautiful. I tore her picture and put on a kettle of tea. I munched a corn muffin and contemplated my fate. I’d exposed my heart like a puppy’s underbelly. Emotional involvement was the problem. I’d begin a no-female diet. I’d tone down all my relationships and avoid acquaintances whose neck veins bulged in discussions over gay marriage, climate change, or how to cultivate tomatoes. I’d develop a Solomon’s coolness in the face of thorny disputes. My wisdom was often ignored, so I’d stop giving advice. I’d be cheerful because likeability was the most important quality. My superiors would dote on me. Even better, I’d enter politics. Why sweat when I could earn money for flattery and smiles? I’d inflate others’ self-importance. Praise would be the opiate I dispersed; I’d seek people for whom no complement was too grandiose to swallow as truth. My face would be a smiling mask; no one would see behind the image. Insult and injury would be swirled and swallowed. Like a jagged rock plunged into the belly of life’s giant mixer, I’d smooth myself into an indistinguishable shape.
I was on the moon all alone. Looking out the window the weather was always the same—moony. The terrain, too, was all moony. It could have been lovely but for the utter mooniness of it all.
The city outside of The Seventh Circle was a furnace whose incomplete combustion rendered spent, fetid air. Each time the bar’s door opened, squalls of ash and heat punished One Ball. He ignored the oily soot that coated his skin and leathers. This was where he sat. His headaches bloomed every day and were getting worse.
Hundreds of hermit crabs wearing toothpaste caps as shells shuffled through the dirt at the construction site, dirt so full of broken glass that it sparkled even at night, even with no light. Aref knew probably only he saw that seemingly infinite sparkle, just like he knew the hundreds of hermit crabs were really only one because you’d never find that many crabs wearing toothpaste caps for shells.
Jock’s folding his pyjamas back under his pillow when he hears it. A low, growling hiss. His twin daughters are elsewhere, probably playing in the walls, so it’s just him and the mannequin dressed as his wife in the bedroom. He’s searching for the source of the noise when the duvet shifts on the bed. It’s a slight movement, like wind-ruffled marram grass, but it’s something. Carefully, he pulls back the covers, revealing the green and yellow-chevroned scales of a king cobra.