Harper’s Magazine: We Now Live in a Fascist State

 

Date: Tue, 11 Oct 2005 13:34:38 -0700

The article below appears in the current issue of Harpers and was written

by Lewis H. Lapham

 

Knowing the source of this piece makes it all the more disturbing. It is not every day that the editor of a respected national magazine publishes an essay claiming that America is not on the road to becoming, but ALREADY IS, a fascist state…. or words to that effect.

To help prepare you for what follows, here are the final sentence from this piece…. [I think we can look forward with confidence to character-building bankruptcies, picturesque bread riots, thrilling cavalcades of splendidly costumed motorcycle police.]

On message By Lewis H. Lapham Harper’s Magazine, October 2005, pps. 7-9 “But I venture the challenging statement that if American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, then Fascism and Communism, aided, unconsciously perhaps, by old-line Tory Republicanism, will grow in strength in our land.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt, November 4, 1938

In 1938 the word “fascism” hadn’t yet been transferred into an abridged metaphor for all the world’s unspeakable evil and monstrous crime, and on coming across President Roosevelt’s prescient remark in one of Umberto Eco’s essays, I could read it as prose instead of poetry — a reference not to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse or the pit of Hell but to the political theories that regard individual citizens as the property of the government, happy villagers glad to wave the flags and wage the wars, grateful for the good fortune that placed them in the care of a sublime leader. Or, more emphatically, as Benito Mussolini liked to say, “Everything in the state. Nothing outside the state. Nothing against the state.”

The theories were popular in Europe in the 1930s (cheering crowds, rousing band music, splendid military uniforms), and in the United States they numbered among their admirers a good many important people who believed that a somewhat modified form of fascism (power vested in the banks and business corporations instead of with the army) would lead the country out of the wilderness of the Great Depression — put an end to the Pennsylvania labor troubles, silence the voices of socialist heresy and democratic dissent. Roosevelt appreciated the extent of fascism’s popularity at the political box office; so does Eco, who takes pains in the essay “Ur-Fascism,” published in The New York Review of Books in 1995, to suggest that it’s a mistake to translate fascism into a figure of literary speech. By retrieving from our historical memory only the vivid and familiar images of fascist tyranny (Gestapo firing squads, Soviet labor camps, the chimneys at Treblinka), we lose sight of the faith-based initiatives that sustained the tyrant’s rise to glory. The several experiments with fascist government, in Russia and Spain as well as in Italy and Germany, didn’t depend on a single portfolio of dogma, and so Eco, in search of their common ground, doesn’t look for a unifying principle or a standard text. He attempts to describe a way of thinking and a habit of mind, and on sifting through the assortment of fantastic and often contradictory notions — Nazi paganism, Franco’s National Catholicism, Mussolini’s corporatism, etc. — he finds a set of axioms on which all the fascisms agree. Among the most notable:

The truth is revealed once and only once.

Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten because it doesn’t represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader.

Doctrine outpoints reason, and science is always suspect.

Critical thought is the province of degenerate intellectuals, who betray the culture and subvert traditional values.

The national identity is provided by the nation’s enemies.

Argument is tantamount to treason.

Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of “the people” in the grand opera that is the state.

Eco published his essay ten years ago, when it wasn’t as easy as it has since become to see the hallmarks of fascist sentiment in the character of an American government. Roosevelt probably wouldn’t have been surprised.

He’d encountered enough opposition to both the New Deal and to his belief in such a thing as a United Nations to judge the force of America’s racist passions and the ferocity of its anti-intellectual prejudice. As he may have guessed, so it happened. The American democracy won the battles for Normandy and Iwo Jima, but the victories abroad didn’t stem the retreat of democracy at home, after 1968 no longer moving “forward as a living force, seeking day and night to better the lot” of its own citizens, and now that sixty years have passed since the bomb fell on Hiroshima, it doesn’t take much talent for reading a cashier’s scale at Wal-Mart to know that it is fascism, not democracy, that won the heart and mind of America’s “Greatest Generation,” added to its weight and strength on America’s shining seas and fruited plains.

A few sorehead liberal intellectuals continue to bemoan the fact, write books about the good old days when everybody was in charge of reading his or her own mail. I hear their message and feel their pain, share their feelings of regret, also wish that Cole Porter was still writing songs, that Jean Harlow and Robert Mitchum hadn’t quit making movies. But what’s gone is gone, and it serves nobody’s purpose to deplore the fact that we’re not still riding in a coach to Philadelphia with Thomas Jefferson. The attitude is cowardly and French, symptomatic of effete aesthetes who refuse to change with the times.

As set forth in Eco’s list, the fascist terms of political endearment are refreshingly straightforward and mercifully simple, many of them already accepted and understood by a gratifyingly large number of our most forward-thinking fellow citizens, multitasking and safe with Jesus. It does no good to ask the weakling’s pointless question, “Is America a fascist state?” We must ask instead, in a major rather than a minor key, “Can we make America the best damned fascist state the world has ever seen,” an authoritarian paradise deserving the admiration of the international capital markets, worthy of “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind”? I wish to be the first to say we can. We’re Americans; we have the money and the know-how to succeed where Hitler failed, and history has favored us with advantages not given to the early pioneers.

We don’t have to burn any books.

The Nazis in the 1930s were forced to waste precious time and money on the inoculation of the German citizenry, too well-educated for its own good, against the infections of impermissible thought. We can count it as a blessing that we don’t bear the burden of an educated citizenry. The systematic destruction of the public-school and library systems over the last thirty years, a program wisely carried out under administrations both Republican and Democratic, protects the market for the sale and distribution of the government’s propaganda posters. The publishing companies can print as many books as will guarantee their profit (books on any and all subjects, some of them even truthful), but to people who don’t know how to read or think, they do as little harm as snowflakes falling on a frozen pond.

We don’t have to disturb, terrorize, or plunder the bourgeoisie.

In Communist Russia as well as in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the codes of social hygiene occasionally put the regime to the trouble of smashing department-store windows, beating bank managers to death, inviting opinionated merchants on complimentary tours (all expenses paid, breathtaking scenery) of Siberia. The resorts to violence served as study guides for free, thinking businessmen reluctant to give up on the democratic notion that the individual citizen is entitled to an owner’s interest in his or her own mind.

The difficulty doesn’t arise among people accustomed to regarding themselves as functions of a corporation. Thanks to the diligence of out news media and the structure of our tax laws, our affluent and suburban classes have taken to heart the lesson taught to the aspiring serial killers rising through the ranks at West Point and the Harvard Business School — think what you’re told to think, and not only do you get to keep the house in Florida or command of the Pentagon press office but on some sunny prize day not far over the horizon, the compensation committee will hand you a check for $40 million, or President George W. Bush will bestow on you the favor of a nickname as witty as the ones that on good days elevate Karl Rove to the honorific “Boy Genius,” on bad days to the disappointed but no less affectionate “Turd Blossom.” Who doesn’t now know that the corporation is immortal, that it is the corporation that grants the privilege of an identity, confers meaning on one’s life, gives the pension, a decent credit rating, and the priority standing in the community? Of course the corporation reserves the right to open one’s email, test one’s blood, listen to the phone calls, examine one’s urine, hold the patent on the copyright to any idea generated on its premises. Why ever should it not? As surely as the loyal fascist knew that it was his duty to serve the state, the true American knows that it is his duty to protect the brand.

Having met many fine people who come up to the corporate mark — on golf courses and commuter trains, tending to their gardens in Fairfield County while cutting back the payrolls in Michigan and Mexico — I’m proud to say (and I think I speak for all of us here this evening with Senator Clinton and her lovely husband) that we’re blessed with a bourgeoisie that will welcome fascism as gladly as it welcomes the rain in April and the sun in June. No need to send for the Gestapo or the NKVD; it will not be necessary to set examples.

We don’t have to gag the press or seize the radio stations.

People trained to the corporate style of thought and movement have no further use for free speech, which is corrupting, overly emotional, reckless, and ill-informed, not calibrated to the time available for television talk or to the performance standards of a Super Bowl halftime show. It is to our advantage that free speech doesn’t meet the criteria of the free market. We don’t require the inspirational genius of a Joseph Goebbels; we can rely instead on the dictates of the Nielsen ratings and the camera angles, secure in the knowledge that the major media syndicates run the business on strictly corporatist principles — afraid of anything disruptive or inappropriate, committed to the promulgation of what is responsible, rational, and approved by experts. Their willingness to stay on message is a credit to their professionalism.

The early twentieth-century fascists had to contend with individuals who regarded their freedom of expression as a necessity — the bone and marrow of their existence, how they recognized themselves as human beings. Which was why, if sometimes they refused appointments to the state-run radio stations, they sometimes were found dead on the Italian autostrada or drowned in the Kiel Canal. The authorities looked upon their deaths as forms of self-indulgence. The same attitude governs the agreement reached between labor and management at our leading news organizations. No question that the freedom of speech is extended to every American — it says so in the Constitution — but the privilege is one that mustn’t be abused. Understood in a proper and financially rewarding light, freedom of speech is more trouble than it’s worth — a luxury comparable to owning a racehorse and likely to bring with it little else except the risk of being made to look ridiculous. People who learn to conduct themselves in a manner respectful of the telephone tap and the surveillance camera have no reason to fear the fist of censorship. By removing the chore of having to think for oneself, one frees up more leisure time to enjoy the convenience of the Internet services that know exactly what one likes to hear and see and wear and eat. We don’t have to murder the intelligentsia.

Here again, we find ourselves in luck. The society is so glutted with easy entertainment that no writer or company of writers is troublesome enough to warrant the complement of an arrest, or even the courtesy of a sharp blow to the head. What passes for the American school of dissent talks exclusively to itself in the pages of obscure journals, across the coffee cups in Berkeley and Park Slope, in half-deserted lecture halls in small Midwestern colleges. The author on the platform or the beach towel can be relied upon to direct his angriest invective at the other members of the academy who failed to drape around the title of his latest book the garland of a rave review.

The blessings bestowed by Providence place America in the front rank of nations addressing the problems of a twenty-first century, certain to require bold geopolitical initiatives and strong ideological solutions. How can it be otherwise? More pressing demands for always scarce resources; ever larger numbers of people who cannot be controlled except with an increasingly heavy hand of authoritarian guidance. Who better than the Americans to lead the fascist renaissance, set the paradigm, order the preemptive strikes? The existence of mankind hangs in the balance; failure is not an option. Where else but in America can the world find the visionary intelligence to lead it bravely into the future — Donald Rumsfeld our Dante, Turd Blossom our Michelangelo?

I don’t say that over the last thirty years we haven’t made brave strides forward. By matching Eco’s list of fascist commandments against our record of achievement, we can see how well we’ve begun the new project for the next millennium — the notion of absolute and eternal truth embraced by the evangelical Christians and embodied in the strict constructions of the Constitution; our national identity provided by anonymous Arabs; Darwin’s theory of evolution rescinded by the fiat of “intelligent design”; a state of perpetual war and a government administering, in generous and daily doses, the drug of fear; two presidential elections stolen with little or no objection on the part of a complacent populace; the nation’s congressional districts gerrymandered to defend the White House for the next fifty years against the intrusion of a liberal-minded president; the news media devoted to the arts of iconography, busily minting images of corporate executives like those of the emperor heroes on the coins of ancient Rome.

An impressive beginning, in line with what the world has come to expect from the innovative Americans, but we can do better. The early twentieth-century fascisms didn’t enter their golden age until the proletariat in the countries that gave them birth had been reduced to abject poverty. The music and the marching songs rose with the cry of eagles from the wreckage of the domestic economy. On the evidence of the wonderful work currently being done by the Bush Administration with respect to the trade deficit and the national debt — to say nothing of expanding the markets for global terrorism — I think we can look forward with confidence to character-building bankruptcies, picturesque bread riots, thrilling cavalcades of splendidly costumed motorcycle police.

 

Entonces, El Dolor de Los Ninos

resting infant hands

a young girl in a delivery room. old and painted dirty white, peeling, the large industrial windows filthy, without shade revealing everything in the room to the world outside. the view to them is of factories and an industrial gray colored sky. the girl lay in a worn and stained hospital bed, her legs held up in stirrups. she cried. a steady stream of tears and sweat flowed from her forehead and  legs; there was pain. a pair of hands. the surgical gloves covered in fresh blood as they manipulated a long pair of forceps extending from the girl’s vagina.

the pain is greater, sharper and more exact in location. she tries to be strong but can’t. she sobs and turns away from the rage  but the pain is too great. blood and death dominate…

we see a child in waiting, playing with others in a white room. the children are all half formed. without gender. hairless and incomplete. as they play, one is summoned a sound. the others stop playing and watch. the one called steps up to a wall of white drape. it spreads them apart and steps through. looking forward at an endless tunnel, lit by an almost blinding white light emanating from within the walls, seeing a brighter source of light emanating from what seems like it’s end. A turmoil of light and shadow erupts from the point of light. it grows dark… red. the red rushes up to the formless child, as if the walls were made of linen and cotton, soaking up blood. the tunnel, now shaded in an angry red, begins to bleed, dripping down upon the child, and soaking it, red. it turns to where the curtain wall should be, but it is not. The child turns back and before it stands a figure. a tall white phantom masked figure dressed in a long white robe, its eyes hidden by a surgical mask, untouched by the red that is filling the tunnel. from under it’s clean white robe, the figure reveals a long metal instrument with a shining blade at its end. the hands of the figure are thin, almost skeletal covered in blood. looking up at the figure, the child’s mouth is open wide, it’s solid black eyes glisten with tears of terror. the figure rears it’s instrument back and high up, then brings it down upon the child’s head. the child lay dismembered on the floor. the figure walks away.

 

the girl sits on a bench in a park area across from a school. there are children in the school yard playing. first and second graders. the girl watches them. her eyes still. she watches as the children are then herded back into the building by the teachers. she stares at the door they had just entered when another child steps into view. it is looking at her. but she can’t see what the child looks like, silhouetted against the blinding white light of the sun. but from what little she can see, the child has no hair. the arms short, the fingers short, almost non-existent. the arms thin. the ears small. the feet small. the clothing it wears sparse and torn. the child turns away from her and then runs into the school.

in her hands, the girl holds a black leather bound book. the letters on the cover are gold but we can’t read them because her hands hide them.

 

Passed this point, to get passed this point…

That’s what she thought… get passed this…

Then Inez’s life would be at rest…

She had imagined, a journey upon a sea of black…

Nothing where she imagined the shore to be…

The children she left without a care…without a life…

Sobbed within the darkness of the waves…

Lost as a child…

No Mother…she thought, never found…

No Father, never sought,  just as lost…

She pondered the emptiness of her imagination as she held remnants…

Inez examines a young Puerto Rican woman showing scars…

The scars of a badly performed abortion evident…

Surrounded by the memories of children aborted…

Washing up on shores of living limbs…

Reaching out from the depth of misery and sorrow…

 

Inez awakens…

Perhaps, sixty years of age…

Home alone… the room is black and all she can hear is the dark of the night…

A home she purchased alone years before…

Using the wealth she gained as a doctor…

Performing abortions…

She had been married but Charlie, her husband, aptly died while they were still in medical school….

The house sat on ten acres of land surrounded by hundreds of acres of protected park land…

She lived alone as she had always with a daughter, Alma, a few pictures on the wall showed the girl was in her twenties…

Inez’s hand moved quickly across the page as she wrote her notes to recall…

The other hand held the probe of the stethoscope bell against her chest…

Catching the resonant beat of her heart…

The only light in the room was an old desk lamp…

Darkness surrounded her….

A thumping sound came from the basement…

Inez looked down the hall at the dark stairwell from where the noise came…

The noise continued as she stepped down to the basement…

Holding the bell shaped probe of the stethoscope to her heart…

She walked down the stairs approaching a thumping, dull wooden sound…

The sound of dull objects pounding on metal…

Down in the basement she turned on the light…

Revealing an expanse of priceless artwork…

Passing it all she walked to an open large, heavy wooden door at the back wall of the basement…

Musty air exhaled to escape and mingled with fresh air in the rest of the basement producing a queer smell…

She reached up into the darkness turning on the lamp that hung from an old mangled wire….

The noise continued as she approached the room at the back wall it was coming from…

Lining the rotted walls of the unkempt secret room were a series of old wooden file cabinets that bore a likeness of a the city morgue…

Row upon row of the dead were kept in coffin draws…

Rolled out when needed like files in a filing cabinet…

It sounded as if an animal was in the cabinets and were daringly trouncing about inside…

An animal?

What kind of an animal would get into this room? Rats!

She had rats!

Damn it! she thought…

The pounding continued until it came to settle within one of the draws…

She listened carefully trying to pinpoint the source…

Sounding as if the animal were running from draw to draw and settling…

The arrhythmic pounding seemed to be coalescing into the heartbeats of many coming from a single draw…

Inez stood before the draw listening to the slow, muffled drumming…

Holding the stethoscope probe to it and listening carefully…

As she had done so often when listening for the heartbeat of a child in it’s mother’s womb before…

Hearing the soft heartbeat thump, thump, thump…

An animal?  

She ran into the main basement room, found a hammer and a screwdriver…

Inhaled a deep breath and counted down as she pulled the draw back quickly…

The fetus folded, lay still, dead and moist: Aborted… one would assume…

Threw herself away from the draw, ran out of the room and locked it…

Stepping back from the door, her eyes fixed on it’s stillness…

Pressed the stethoscope bell against her chest, listening to her heart…

Haunted…

Standing at the wooden door of her basement…

Listening, as the draws alone opened one by one…

Listening as the sound of whimpering children’s hearts murmuring filled the room…

She imagined the death of her husband the moment she let him go to find his end and her freedom…

Raising herself from his death as she let him die…

The door resonating, pounding the door from the other side of their existence…

“You have hurt us…” they said.

“And we will hurt you…”

 

Helena Montes sat in the kitchen nook beside the bay window. Sipping coffee she read the newspaper. The morning sun streamed through the trees. she wore a stethoscope around her neck, the sensor plate in one hand pressed against her chest.

She dressed. She slipped her long ageless supple legs into the stockings. She dressed in a short blue dress.

She pulled the Mercedes out of the driveway and streaked down the road, driving across rolling hills and farmland.

She drove into town and parked the car in a municipal parking lot at the entrance to town. She strolled through town, greeting friends and townsfolk as they met her happy smile and returned the greeting.

She walked into the bakers shop and stood on line with a few others. They greeted each other and talked. Helena purchased a dozen rolls and bagels and walked out.

 

She walked into her office greeted the nurse, Robin, a young newlywed living in town.

Helena examines a Puerto Rican woman with extensive scars from a bad abortion.

 

“Alma, go see your mother…”

“How would she know…?”

“Your dreams are the result of your own life… there is so much to learn from her…”

“But I love you so much…”

“Do you Michael?”

“I do… That love no matter how real or sincere doesn’t result in the relationship we have…”

“There are so many assumptions to consider…”

 

“Don’t you recall mother?”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“You called me…”

 

“I recall falling asleep in the rocking chair, having a terrible nightmare…”

 

“Really? Why?”

 

“Mom, you always wanted me to have a child…

A husband…

Listen to the order you prefer,

That’s not what I wanted… do you recall?”

 

“I don’t…”

 

“Mother, are you alright?…

Mother, this isn’t the life I wanted, this is what you want…

You wanted us to marry and have a child…

I’m not even sure I even want to be married at all or marry Michael…”

 

“I wanted your life to be the life I wanted for myself when I was a little girl…”

 

“And now, this is the life you wanted?”

 

“No, I never had a life that I could  grow from…I had to choose my life along the way…

No directive or guidance…No one was ever there for me… To accept the choices made for or left for me…”

“Which is the life you now want me to have with which to have my child…the life you imagined for yourself you wish for me without a say?”

“No Alma…”

“You already have chosen that existence for me…”

“There is so much joy in giving birth…to nurture….a man can never have what you can…”

“Mother, I don’t want that, I hope to have what I want.”

“But you do…”

“I why would I want what you feel I should?”

“Don’t you also wish for the child to have a life with a mother who wants the child as well?”

“No mother.”

“But you will Alma…”

“Like you wanted me?

“Of course, love…”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…you have doubts?”

“About you and my existence mother?”

“I had a dream, a nightmare of children hurt and in pain, they knew nothing else…

“They expected nothing…”

“They lived in that very moment…”

 

The love they needed was forever to be one of sorrow…

They stood about waiting…

Watching, knowing where the children were going and rising from the black ground…

And they could see nothing they would want of birth…

Imagine the life they were becoming a part of not being the end result of their birth…

They imagined more so but they couldn’t turn back…

They couldn’t turn back the life offered was one they couldn’t turn down…

But live it as is best and worse they could imagine…

Nothing to fulfill, nothing to chose but accept death and fall where they must…”

“Do you understand what you are, Alma?

You are the child of a woman whose wrath is the scorn and hate of others…

You are the child born of a woman who blamed and aborted the children of others for her childless life…

Aborted the lives of others out of vengeance…

Realized she could steal another’s to have her own and rid herself of a useless man…

Having a child is the joy of seeing it appear from the womb, the joy of watching that child grow up.”

The child poured forth, its birth, its spirit now free of any restriction of any afterthought was lost…

As if to stretch and awaken from a deep sleep…

To rise from a sleep that was never complete…

The children, risen from their sleep angered to rise…

Risen to become anger from a sleep of hate

 

Alma calls from the room…

The sores erupt as births…

The emergence of a child born, from the body of its mother…

Blind from birth…

To be born like cancer, to be born from death…

These children are triggered to fruit by the very death of its mother…

I am a child of misery poured forth.

Looking in the mirror, Alma’s puss filled sores cover the whole of her body…

Embodying the dead children, becoming a mass of ill-formed arms, legs, heads, eyes and mouths from the fetus’ of the children she aborted…

 

Witnessing the army of ill formed children rise up from the open land around her…

A woman stands across the field watching…

A child speaks, the wraith, speaks as the the wraith form for the woman who watches from across the field, and was a patient of the doctors.

This child appears from the composite of aborted fetuses that embodies Alma… the children aborted are the victims of Inez who are the deceived minority patients, convinced to abort what they thought were deformed children, only to satisfy the animal within her that sought to restrict other minority women from having children… her anger was deep…why should she not have a child.

Having killed her husband, we learn that Inez killed her husband believing his impotency kept her from having children….

But it was her that was sterile…

The anger drove her to open a practice in a depressed neighborhood where she performed abortion after abortion…

Killing the children she could never have…

She re-imagines the sensation of life within the mother’s belly…

Quivering with anxiety dying in her hands…

While still within the body of the mother…

 

Alma, is a stolen child.

Alma knows now that she is not her mother’s true child, but a child left and disposed, a replacement for her mother’s twisted dreams.

Alma had been summoned by the ghosts of those whose suffering and death we’re not allowed to live because of her mother’s quest for sacrifice, a more suitable punishment for a vengeful woman, who cherished her daughter more than anything else in the world…

Alma, finally consumed by the dead children, consumed…

The mass undulates in the bed…

As her daughter calls as if from far away…

Inez runs off down the steps… She slips and gets hurt…

The house shutters, the floor shakes, the walls quiver in a giant wave…

The faces of children suddenly appear from the fabric of the wall…

As if they were pressing through from the other side…

She runs for the exit door…

Grabs the knob…

The little hands reach out and grab her, pulling her down…

She yanks at them, pulling the door off of it’s hinges.

She falls back to the floor and looks out through the door, across the field…

An army of children appear, standing in line across, like land mines laid across a field.

Inez rushes the door and charges through the army of children…

She runs out onto the field where an army of angry of children, who slowly sink into the ground, dragging her with them…

The house weakens and is consumed by the Earth, then falls into the darkness…

Punishment for the divine…

 

copyright

 

Monster

Pablo was now, “the circle in the square”, as the Agent from List Management, said of him. Pablo once fit in quite nicely, amongst others like him in a category defined by List Management. But as time passed, his interests broadened and his spirit grew restless. He no longer fit in. List Management could no longer categorize him.
Frustrated, List Management sent a specialist to study Pablo for one year. The Specialist began his resolution with one word, “Misfit!”
“Pablo Barbie has no desire or inclination to fit in. Any attempt to fit him into a list was met with radical and unpredictable behavior, perhaps deliberately. Lists were modified, re-categorizing others, disrupting lives to accommodate this lone misfit, who would then change abruptly, causing the Crisis List Management Team to trash all their hard work and list tinkering. Pablo Barbie can’t be listed. Not even Misfit or the older List Heading, “Floater”, would serve to categorize him. Pablo Barbie can not be listed!”
“What does one do with someone you can’t list?”
“Where do you send them?
“It’s been years, if not decades since we’ve had a Misfit among the population. I thought we had done away with that propensity. I never imagined that we would encounter someone so rebellious. He has no desire to conform and is a danger to us all as a whole. While being non-conformist might seem desirable or even attractive, to some of our population, it is nonetheless dangerous to society as a whole allowing actions that might eventually lead to anarchy.”
Pablo sits alone in an apartment, used by the police to hold him, until they figure out what to do. He discusses the possibilities and his options with his lawyer and his father. An assistant arrives and speaks quietly with the lawyer who then tells Pablo that a sentence of death has actually been suggested by a board member. Pablo is visited by the board member, Martin, who suggested execution as the only course of action possible; be rid of the contaminant. Destroy it, before it destroys us. Martin reveals a gun he has smuggled into the building. He aims it at Pablo, shocked by the act. Pablo pleads, admitting he doesn’t fit, but explaining that he has committed no violence against a person or society. Martin explains he has done worse. “The potential of his actions to dismantle what stability we have as a society is too great, too great to let you live. Your existence alone is dangerous; you must go away, so that no one knows what has happened to you, no one knows you ever existed. Don’t you see what you’ve done? I am doing this for the good of all, but I must kill myself as well for society, because of what your actions have driven me to.” “I have not driven you mad. Your own fears have done this to you. You imagine me a monster and fear me, yet you don’t know why you see me as a monster. I am a monster because that is the category you have put me in. I did not make myself a monster. You made me a monster. Killing me as well as yourself will only hide the truth about your fears and everyone else’s. They will always fear change, freedom of expression. They will always fear what they can’t categorize. What they can’t put in there little lists.”
what does one fear most? monsters!!!
thats it, the list, we have a category for him, he is a monster
what do we do with monsters?
what is a monster?
1
a : an animal or plant of abnormal form or structure
b : one who deviates from normal or acceptable behavior or character
2
: a threatening force
3
a : an animal of strange or terrifying shape
b : one unusually large for its kind
4
: something monstrous; especially
: a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty
5
: one that is highly successful
you are a monster but you’re not ugly
but he is abnormal, deviates from the norm and is unacceptable of character and behavior
and threatening
monstrous
do we have a place for monsters?
outside the city
outside the city?
yes outside of the city?
where he is left to wander and eventually meet others like him, other monsters free of categorization
the other side…
from a world where order is an obsession to a world free of order
copyright

Drapes

Drapes, Folds, Reveal…

Imagine a world…

Reality unfolds to reveal truth…

An obscure danger…

Hides in the drapes…

That twist in the curtains…

That is a threat…

Part, darkness, lightens…

Find the folds, part and reveal the truth, darkness, lightness…

Flash….

Interpret…

Approach the darkness of the drapes, the light appears, part the drapes to reveal the truth…

For years the folds dance, the darkness and light, always the truth… An eye appears to behold reality…

Sleep…

To trigger…

Next…

Sleep to drape…

Drape to sleep…

Awaken to reveal…

Part…

Featured

Broken Slate

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Miguel lost count of the number of times he awoke each morning before sunrise and sat at the edge of the bed, his hands gripping and pulling at the mattress, stomach heaving with nausea waiting for the sun to rise as if it would bring any solace. His hands pushed down, straightening his back. Both legs bounced in place, each to a different rhythm, shaking the bed hard enough to awaken his wife Maria. Maria lay on her outstretched arm night gown falling limp to that side, flowing like white water over her exposed ample breasts. Maria watched him for a moment then crawled over to Miguel on all fours, draping her arms gently over his shoulders, pressing the back of his head to her bosom. “Miguel”, she said. Her voice like a child’s, soft and sweet, soothing.
“Te puedo ayudar, corazon? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“It’s nothing,” he said.
Maria rubbed the back of his head with her breasts. His eyes closed. His legs stopped bouncing. His breathing slowed and his grip on the mattress loosened. She kissed his neck, in a line to his ear. His head fell back deeper into her bosom. She pulled away from him and crossed to the other side of the bed. Miguel fell gently back onto the bed. Maria lay on her side. Miguel turned over and stood on the bed on all fours, looking at his wife.
“Make love to me, Miguel.”
Miguel looked at her for a moment. Then all at once he felt a rush of pressure throughout his body. He weakened. His heart beat relentlessly. He grew dizzy.
Miguel is a young Puerto Rican, living in Brooklyn with his hardworking loving Papi, a proud mother, married to a loving and doting wife and father to a five year old girl, seems discontent and wonders why. Miguel has a good job that pays him well, working with Papi at the moving company, and comes home everyday to a happy clan. He participates in many familial and extra-familial activities, but still feels empty. Like butterflies fluttering in his empty belly.
Miguel stands alone in the backyard of the tenement they live in. His Papi had long ago renovated the back courtyard before the family had moved in, before Miguel was born.  Miguel was born into and played in it all his life with his friend Andy. He recalls his childhood. The new world the backyard had become for them. The fantastic lands that each corner and brick planters had become in their imaginations.
As always he could feel the ground tremble underneath. He always believed there was something under the slate courtyard; as a child he imagined a great dragon, as an adult he often imagined it to be just water. He stood on the cold spot, that stretched across the yard, and lay his head down on the ground, as he did when he was a child (flashback), and pressed his ear to the cold stone to listen to the dragon roar.
Miguel talks with a neighbor from the other building that shared the courtyard. They whisper about the old man in the rocking chair, who is always at his window, looking down on the yard. Papi often visits the old man, but rarely talks about him. Mommy knows little about him.
Miguel talks with his friend, Andy, about their childhood and the games they played.
MIguel tells Andy he is considering breaking the slate to open the ground. Andy thinks he is crazy.
Cold night. Misty. Miguel awakens to the roar of the dragon in his head. He can’t sleep. He walks to the window overlooking the yard. Then prowls the apartment, listening to the others as they sleep. Miguel steps out and goes down to the basement and takes the sledgehammer from his Papi’s tools, sacred tools that were once used to build the yard, which he would now use to destroy it. He goes out and listens to the court yard ground. The fierce rumble below his feet. He finds the loudest point and begins to beat the ground there.
Papi is asleep. He awakens, realizing the danger.
The neighbors awaken calling out for him to stop the noise. The old man watches. He stops rocking. Papi comes rushing out, but not before Miguel breaks the ground.
“What have you done? What have you done, Miguel?”
Papi stares at Miguel, his face quivering, exasperated.
“What good have you done by destroying the courtyard? By exposing the water?” Papi looked Miguel in the eyes. Miguel’s eyes dribbled with tears.
“I don’t know,” said Miguel. “I don’t know, Papi. I guess there is no good in what I have done. But I don’t do it to achieve anything good.”
“Then what?”
It was there and I knew it. But I needed to see it. I needed to see that it was there. That it really was just what I thought it was.”
“Mi hijo. No te entiendo. What did you think was underneath?”
“Water.”
“Agua?”
Miguel walks away leaving everyone baffled with an answer he certainly feels is sufficient.
“Agua, Miguel? Bueno, entonce . . . then what?”
Miguel stepped through the door into the basement hallway, and was gone from sight.
“Miguel! Answer me, carajo!”
Papi immediately begins to repair the courtyard.
Miguel takes vacation time from work. His wife is a little upset about that. She would rather they had gone away. It is a waste of time sitting around the house drinking beer, sleeping, eating and watching your retired Papi repair the courtyard.
The following Monday, Miguel calls into work and tells his supervisor, Papi’s closest friend, that he will not return.
The friend rushes over to speak with Miguel’s Papi. Miguel watches from the window as the two talk outside. He can’t hear what they are saying. The friend leaves. Papi then enters the building. Miguel could hear through the daytime silence of the building Papis heavy footsteps sound louder as he neared the top floor where Miguel and his wife lived.
“Miguel!”
Miguel sat at the kitchen table drinking beer. Papi found the door unlocked and stepped in. Miguel greeted him with delight. Papi was angry. He then berated him for being so lazy and taking advantage of the family’s kindness to him.
“I didn’t ask for it,” said Miguel.
Miguel continued to spend his days at home, mostly alone. But often walking to see old friends down at the old social club, where the Latin music rippled through the summer silence, keeping everyone up until late at night. During the day he often sat alone outside on the stoop drinking, then at the end of the day greeting his family as they arrived home.
The family, distraught and angered over Miguel’s sudden breakdown.
Miguel would spend his evenings alone in the courtyard, standing over the freshly laid slate, and then walk the presumed path of the underground water flow. It flowed toward the old man, who sat still at the window, in the dark, looking down on the courtyard.
The next morning, breaking his two-week-old routine, Miguel stood at the point of the flow where it met with the wall of the old man’s building. Everyone came to him to wish him a good day, even Papi.
After everyone was gone, Miguel walked outside of the building and followed the assumed flow of the brook into the street, then through and out of the neighborhood.
When the family returned home that evening, Miguel was gone.
As time passed for them, they all believed Miguel was gone for good.

 

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Featured

ABUELA

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“Bring me more.”

“Quickly!” Abuela roared!

Lilliana scurried out of Abuela’s room and off into the hall, down the stairs and doubling back into the kitchen, where a large iron stock pot filled with meaty gruel boiled violently, spilling it’s slop over the top and onto a filthy black iron stove. She placed abuela’s giant clay soup bowl on the wooden table opposite the stove, then dipped the big wooden ladle in the soup and stirred.

Lilliana looked at her reflection in the worn and stained metal tile finish of the wall behind the stove.

She wasn’t pretty anymore. Not since Abuela took Lilliana from her parents. Her hair matted now, when once she was young her hair draped gracefully over her shoulders, black and shimmering. Her black eyes had once drawn stares but were now ringed with black circles. Her face wrinkled and worn, pasty white, lips parched, mostly hidden by her matted hair. She wore a stained blue house dress that clung to her bones; bones that poked through her skin like trash filled Hefty garbage bags. It seemed to her that her breasts would grow no larger than the pimples they were.

Puberty would never be the same for her as it would be for so many other girls

The gruel continued to pour over the side. It was the only way to make this gruel right, abuela said. Bring it to a boil and keep it there. Simmering won’t stop the demons, boiling them will. To kill them though, you had to eat them, and abuela did. Everyday she ate demons, as she called them. Everyday. Always as a soup. She hated the soup, but it had to be done. The demons were out there and as long as she was alive and still had her powers, she would eat them

The soup boiled but wasn’t filled with enough meat. “Anton!” Lilliana turned to the stairs and called down the basement. “Anton! I need some more meat for the soup.”

Lilliana turned back to the pot on the stove, leaving the door to the basement open for Anton to drag up some more meat from the freezer.

Anton was a tall lanky black guy, with a big head and black happy Einstein hair, wearing a long black t-shirt, faded blue jeans and pink Keds sneakers.

Anton was abuela’s manservant. He did all the repair and heavy work around the house. As well as dragging bags full of demons up from the freezer when Lilliana needed them. He did all the gruesome work on them too. He found them at night, brought them home and kept them in cages, then killed them and chopped them up. Though Anton was mostly silent, Lilliana could occasionally hear him whisper something to them. “Anton? What do you say to them, can I come down and listen to what you say to them and hear their response.” “What they say isn’t so important and your Abuela may not allow that…”

“Then why do you talk to them?”

“Oh, just something to do before I kill them I guess. It calms them. I like them calm. They thrash around less when I’m cutting them up.”

On this day, though, Anton agreed to take her down later to speak with the last one before he killed it

Lilliana returns to Abuela with her soup.

“Abuela! I have your soup. Abuela gave Lilliana a start… she seemed dead at first but Abuela raised her head, she had fallen asleep. She stared….”Abuela, are you ok?”

“Tired and hungry.”

“I brought up another helping of the gruel.”

“Good…”

And she raised the bowl closer to her mouth… as using her arm like a mechanical shovel and crane, she shoveled the putrid gruel from the bowl to her mouth, the contents of which was hot murky liquid and chunks of fresh bloodied meat that danced in kind that almost seemed to be alive as abuela shoveled… Lilliana watched the madness in abuelas motions Like a child’s legs crossed and playing with it’s toys, consuming her favorite food in an effort to rid the world of demons, she imagined…

Abuela paused in exhaustion.

“Abuela, can you tell me more about the demons?”

“I tell you this because you must know, you will eventually do the same and will need to know…. They hide in the bodies of young human children to cast spells which is when you bring them out into the light. Once they become visible you must eat them quickly, seasoned appropriately and why they hide in little bodies is to fool everyone but the most knowledgeable and aware.”

Back in the basement, Anton takes Lilliana down to meet a demon, a little girl of about ten who calls herself Trisha.

“You know Anton is really a sweet guy, he treats you nice until the end.”

“No he doesn’t then why am I here?”

“Because of Grannie and what you are and what she has to do…”

 

“What are your parents like? Do they know about what you are?”

“What do you mean?

“A demon? That you are a demon.”

“But I’m not a demon.”

“Everything will be easier if you’re honest.”

“But I am being honest.”

Lilliana talks with Trisha, asking her questions about her life at home. What her parents are like. Her home. Her friends. Her toys. School. Does she like boys? Trisha often whimpers, afraid of Anton. Lilliana tells her that Anton is really a sweet guy. He just has a job to do

As they talk, Anton paces by, after chopping at meat in the back room, putting it in the freezer, then returning, bending down to Lilliana who sits outside the cage on the soot covered floor with Trisha, and reminding her . . .

“Trisha is a demon, don’t let her fool you.”

Anton walks away up the steps.

Lilliana asked her outright . . . “Are you a demon?”

“What’s a demon,” Trisha asked her pouting innocent lips…

“Well, you…”

Trisha sobbed uncontrollably.

“I’ve done nothing wrong, I don’t understand. Why was I taken? What is he going to do to me?” Lilliana looks back as he works..

Anton watches from the open door of the cutting room

Trisha asks about the locked door.

“What’s in there?”

Lilliana motions to the door down the hall from the cutting room…

“Abuelas secrets, all the scary things that make her who and what she is…”

“What about you? Let’s play some games, what games can you or want to play?”

“Hide and seek!” Trisha spoke with some elation distracted by the current terror…

“I’ll hide, you seek…”

“Ok… I’ll look for you…”

Lilliana lets her out to play, closing the basement door. They play awhile but Lilliana doesn’t recognize her own strength and so Trisha finds the play to rough. Together they press their ears to the secret closet door. They can only imagine. Lilliana tells what she knows about Abuela’s past. That she was a Bruja, and she made clothes for a living, clothes that some said had magical powers. To wear her clothing could be either good or bad luck, no one ever knew. And so the people of her small town in PR exiled her. What happened to all the clothes she made? Perhaps that is her secret.

The bell from Abuela rings out, deafening them. Lilliana runs, dragging Trisha into the cage and leaving her crying. Anton calls down from the top of the stairs to the kitchen. Lilliana fills another bowl from the seething pot on the stove then hurries back up the stairs to tend to Abuela, as Anton unloads another bag of demon meat into the pot While Lilliana sits with Abuela on her bed, feeding her, she looks out of the window to the empty streets.

Their home was a condemned tenement in Brooklyn, the only one on the block left standing. The building was surrounded on all sides by a debris ridden one-acre lot. In the distance she could see children playing in the schoolyard, from which Anton had found and taken two demons in the last year Lilliana turns to Abuela and asks.

“Do you ever wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong child, Abuela?”

She looked up from her soup bowl? Her eyes glistened when opened so wide. Suddenly her head grew twice its size and thrust forward to meet Lilliana’s. Abuelas exposed monster teeth, the ones she needed to chew the demons well but hid in her gums behind her mortal set, and sneered at Lilliana.

Saliva and blood dripped down from her stained fangs, a horrible stench from her breath warmed her face and made Lilliana turn away, sick and afraid Abuela relaxed, sitting back. Her head shrunk back to normal size, her teeth slowly retracted, allowing her to speak again. “Lilliana. Your mother and father wondered the same thing when I went to them with the truth. I told them what some children had become in the wombs of their unsuspecting mother. That two of their own children might be demons. And when I found them to be so, they fought me, until I killed them all. Except you, Lilliana. You were born free of demons. They had not found you because you were supposed to die in your mother’s womb. But you survived.

Don’t doubt my powers, Lilliana. Don’t doubt my knowledge, wisdom and awareness. I know that it may all seem amazing and fantastic, and terribly cruel and morbid, but the horror’s we live with must be found and our world cleansed. Trust me, Lilliana.

Lilliana bolted from the room crying

Lilliana sat in the kitchen with Anton, who had made them both some hot tea. Lilliana asked Anton if he ate the soup too. No! Only her grandmother could, because if a mortal drank demon remains, they would be possessed themselves, and she would have to kill and eat them also. Demon infested adults were much more difficult to deal with. Younger mystics could deal with them better than an old ugly fart like Abuela. Perhaps Lilliana would one day be groomed to carry on Abuela’s mission.

Lilliana asked Anton if he was ever afraid they were making a mistake. That they might be killing innocent children

I used to, Lilliana. For a very long time I was doubtful of what I was doing for your Grandmother.

Did you ever say anything to her?

No! Oh no! I’m sure she knew everything I thought, as she knows all that you have in your mind, and anyone else’s that she cares to invade. But I never said anything to her

Then you’re no longer doubtful?

Those doubts are all gone. I trust your grandmother, as you should too. And you will. . . eventually.

Lilliana went back down to the basement without Anton’s permission to speak with Trisha in whispers, hiding behind a column beside the cage, while Anton hammered away at the meat in the cutting room down the hall. Trisha asked all the questions. Asking about Lilliana’s own past. Her own childhood. Lilliana becomes sad and feels strongly for Trisha.

Trisha asks what a demon is.

“You are, you lie…”

“Everybody lies, all children lie. How do you know the children from the demons?”

“The wings.”

“If I’ve got wings, show me or show yourself the wings I have.”

“I’ve never seen them.”

“Never? Then how do you know? I’m scared of you, not a demon like you imagine that I am. I just go to school, play with my friends and toys…”

Anton pokes his head out to listen, believing he hears voices, but then goes back to work…

“Go ahead go down and look… All you have to lose is your innocence…”

Lilliana walked quietly down the hall to the cutting room, never having seen inside the room before never having seen a demon dismembered. She stepped in and watched in horror, as Anton chopped his away at the body of a small child. She looked away, sickened, and saw a sledgehammer leaning against the wall in the corner of the room.

Trisha reached passed Liliana for the sledge hammer and lifted it over Anton’s head. Anton turned and saw her, as Lilliana brought the hammer crashing down on Anton’s big head, smashing it to pieces like a ripe pumpkin at Thanksgiving. He fell to the ground. She knelt down to check if he was breathing, leaning close to him. Not a breath seemed to come from him. His eyes opened wide and she pulled back Lilliana, whispered Anton.

Lilliana. You should’ve listened to your Grandmother.

His eyes closed and he was dead.

Lilliana ran down the hall to the cage, keys in hand that she had taken off the hook in the cutting room.

She unlocked the cage as Trisha’s face brightened. Trisha scurried from the cage, holding Lilliana’s hand as they hurried up the stairs to the kitchen. The kitchen door to the backyard wouldn’t open. Lilliana wasn’t allowed out and she never saw how Anton left the house. All the doors were bolted Abuela’s bell went off Abuela knew.

A great roar rattled the plaster walls. Cracks like lightning opened up to shine their light. The house shook. And like thunder, there was a constant slow pounding that came from above, causing the whole house to quiver. Abuela became the monster, a slithering giant snake like beast.

Abuela was stalking them. My God! “What is that!” asked Trisha.

“My grandmother”… said Lilliana.

Lilliana and the girl ran down further in the basement, to the locked door that keeps Abuela’s secrets. Lilliana smashes the lock with a chain kept nearby and enters the room filled with Abuelas mementos of magic. The girls rummage about noting the overwhelming magic that comes to life to… Abuela slithers in after them, confronting herself, she is quickly immersed in herself. Lilliana battles her Grandmother. Lilliana wins and frees the girl Trisha thanks Lilliana, sprouts a demons reptilian wings and flies away, laughing… Lilliana finishes her story… related to the children from the neighborhood, pointing out how she had taken on her demon hunting chores…

 

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The Astronaut

 

My father…

Yes, I recall your father… He was the last human I saw when I left, he seemed disappointed…

He would’ve been the last man to travel in space…you took his place when the agency discovered the truth about long distance space travel, that he wouldn’t be able to go…

Yes, the fear that human anatomy could not handle the journey…

Humankind couldn’t it turns out Androids are our heroes now… They cost less to maintain as heroes… strange, you do look like my father…

Do I?

Yes… Existing humans were used as the models for many early Androids and eventually great Android artists appeared and the whole concept fully developed until we ended up with sentient beings replacing human beings and only the rich and elite could afford Androids of themselves… The poor lived but soon died off leaving me, a legacy human, a real human…

I must be so different from everybody, everything…

Quite…

I dare say I might feel like you, a legacy…

Your closer to human than Android, but unlike me, you can be eliminated…

I’m a legacy being, a living museum piece for many to see…

I as well perhaps?

Doubtful actually, many like have existed and changed the way existence developed…

And children?

There are none…

The world, humanity, existence has changed since, I am an immortal legacy being but eventually that will end soon I would expect…

I’m sorry Dave, they’re waiting for you…

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