Chabin Beach Pier
“Okay, Bobby Lee, give it to me straight!” We sat at the edge of the pier, legs dangling over the edge, looking out over Shark Bay where nothing at all lived or could live. Everything was coated in bronze, the clouds flowing down over the waves like thick honey as if the world were being dipped in amber for some eternal grave plot for the anonymous souls of some watery Apocalypse.
Bobby sat there like a stone, a stone at the bottom of the sea, that is. His eyes seemed glued to something far out beyond the horizon, blank and lifeless. He wasn’t ready to say a dam thing. I knew that. He knew that. Yet, it had to be done.
“Bobby, I liked Talia, you know that, we were close for a long time. She needs help, and I can help her. But I need to know what happened. I need to hear that from you. You understand. I know it’s hard. I know you’re hurting. Pain isn’t a nice thing. We all know that.” His eyes softened, his lips began to tremble, he was coming back from whatever dark place he’d been to. He’d speak to me now.
“I told her not to go…” he stuttered.
“Go where, Bobby?”
“You know, down there…” He turned his head as if I could see the place his mind was taking him. “Down by Tol Glavin where they keep the ghosts.” He spoke like he was a ghost himself. Voodoo. Dead things that wouldn’t stay dead. Wired freaks. Old war tunnelers, drone frogs. Mind merged and brain dead ghosts who gave their all for a lost cause. Half-lifers now in a frozen world. A city below a city where dreams affected the real world.
“What the hell, Bobby,” I almost hit him. “Why the freck you let her go there? What kind of idiot brother are you?” He jumped, and slammed his head against the pier’s break wall. “Why? Why’d she go there, Bobby?” He sat back down, rubbing his scalp, and started to weep all over again.
“She… she met him,” lips moving like a robot. “Falcon.” He said that like it was an ultimatum; a death warrant, a judgment.
“When the freck did he get back in town?”
“Two days ago,” his tears turned to anger now. “Called her up, asked for a place to stay and some money.” His lips curled back now: “Said he had a job in the enclave waiting for him. Fucking lie that’s what it was…” he sat back for a second, eyes almost epileptic, the whites drawing up into his skull as if he were having a seizure, then he slumped down and passed out.
I sat there for a few more minutes watching the muddy water, the sloshing of the kelp and dead fish eddying around the old pier’s logs. Trash and poisonous waste in globs of oily slime lay on the surface. Only thing alive in these waters was the bottom feeders, everything else kept to the outer banks except what the current swilled in. I remembered swimming in these waters long ago. No one would do that ever again. At least not in as many generations as I could count on my fingers. Nuclear waste. Biochem warfare… the detritus of governments gone wild. Politics as usual. Things lived under those waves that had no names. Things that even horror writers never dreamed of in their worst nightmares. No one gave a shit until it was too late.
I wasn’t going to get anything else out of Bobby Lee. I left a few bucks in his jacket pocket. Nothing much else to do for him. I wasn’t going to carry him back. He didn’t have much left in him anyway. He knew it. I knew it. All he had was his sister, nothing else. I was going to find her. Not for him. Not for myself. But for a woman who once gave a shit. A woman who pulled me out of the abyss of my insanity. Gave me my life back. I owed her in more ways than I’d ever be able to repay.
I sat in the truck for a while watching the scorched sun go down under the brown haze that always seemed to settle over Grunge City. By the time it was dark I was out of cigs, out of patience, and out of time…
** ** **
My old man used to tell me things, things that would curdle the back of your head right off.
“You know, boy,” he’d say, a little devilish gleam in his eyes, “Utopia’s a state of mind, a no-man’s land between reality and hell, a sort of infernal zone where people go who need to know things, terrible things, things that can kill. Yet, in this zone one can find other things, too. Beauty and life and magic…”
He’d smile then, knowing I was hanging on every word: “Living sentient beings: buildings and sculptures, alive and full of wondrous power and music. Things that speak to you of ancient worlds, time’s out of mind.” He’d wink: “Sometimes if you dig real hard, go way down into that darkness you find things: treasures, thoughts and ideas so powerful they’ll haunt you, deliver you to the ancient powers of time, space and destiny. Ideas, immanent forces before the world of light, old things living in the sea of chaos and night, things that can move out and shape the world, change things, move people and assemblages. Ideas are magical living machines, abstract things that eat away the darkness and replace it with knowledge and light. Things that can think, living intelligences, that come to us from the far shores of the future sending us messages, luring us onward into the final push: the convergence of all things toward that point, a singular place, an empty site, a kenoma. Here, just here, everything that has ever been, everything that will be, and everything that now is comes together, and in the blink of an eye changes, transforms, mutates into something else, something wild and free. A metamorphosis like the chrysalis of a butterfly that turns to beauty and flies away from the hard encrusted armor of its earthly existence into the purity of space, and light, and time…”
He’d get real serious then and his eyes would narrow down to two thin slits, and he’d lean over and whisper in my ear: “I’m the keeper of an Idea, a treasure that’s been passed down from the beginnings of Time, an Idea so terrible it could eat our planet alive; or, it could transform it into a paradise, a garden world, a place so beautiful and full of wildness, untamed life: animals – tigers, elephants, zebras, antelope, and, yes… even horses roaming the empty lands, the wastelands, the western lands where love and peace still find their abode.”
He’d wait. Silent. Knowing I was too afraid to ask the question, yet patient, knowing that sooner or later I’d get up the courage to finally ask it, demand it, cherish it: “Dad, what’s this terrible Idea you hold way down in the crawl of your Mind?”
He’d laugh, then. His eyes would begin to glow with those nanofilaments they’d been made with, sparks of gold and blue light twittering in out of his pupils, then say: “It’s a secret, son, one you must earn. I can’t just give it too you. You’ll discover it down the way, when you become a man. It’ll find you, you want have to go looking for it. It’ll come so swift and powerful it’ll hit you right between the eyes like a shotgun blast. You’ll know it by its dark power, the edge of its magical light will enter you, change you, make you one of those who know things, terrible things. You’ll know what I mean son. Someday you’ll know what I mean.”
He’d leave it at that. His eyes would turn fierce – and yet, there would be in the midst of those flames a pain and joy at the same time, a sense of sadness for all things, a sense that this was a knowledge, a burden, an Idea he hoped I’d never have to carry in my head.” He’d turn away then and go quiet, meditative, and still as a predator.
I now know what he meant. Yet, one thing he left out, one thing he never mentioned: such knowledge comes with a terrible price. Yea, he never told about that.
** ** **
China Miéville writes that “[w]e need utopia, but to try to think utopia, in this world, without rage, without fury, is an indulgence we can’t afford […] we cannot think utopia without hate.”
A Near Future post-cyberpunk “Grunge” or “Salvagepunk” Noir: bleak and pessimistic, yet full of hope for all that. A broken world full of our own world’s dark truths, dreams, and nightmares. Schizoanalytic psychoscape of tears done up in dark humor and cataleptic laughter. An anti-hero you can hate and love at the same time. A sort of Warren Ellis Spider Jerusalem reject bound to a anti-consumerist / anti-corporate media-scape slippage. It goes against consumerist society and fights for our rights to be free from the ownership of corporations, media and society.
Grunge is about freedom, pure and simple. It’s stepping away from self-absorption and starting to care about the people around you. It’s protesting against the fixation of beauty and perfection and letting us know that appearance doesn’t matter. Ugly is the new beautiful. It’s realizing that happiness doesn’t come from fortune and fame, rather the opposite: the guttersnipe dreams of fools and madmen, lovers and old hags, children and mothers. The punk of salvagepunk is what makes it revolutionary.
Punk is not the commodified and commercialize image of Mohawked teens with pins through noses. It is certainly not the PVC slick technological wet dream of cyberpunk with its Deleuzian ‘intense’ nomadic multitudes and immaterial labour. Nor is it the “false dream image” of steampunk,where “its falseness lies in it being the wrong dream image, the ideological blind that is the dream image proper to the liberal escape plan for the contemporary crisis and its envisioned fall-out”. Punk is thus the “deep fidelity to its historical moment and the fact it no longer believed in a future – the present is already the hollowed out present of that future”.
– Steven Craig Hickman ©2016 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.