Featherbeds

by dschapman

I laid upon my feather bed and felt myself drifting through space, every direction at once (directionless), staring through the plaster ceiling and tin roof and straight into the face of the stars, every direction all at once, and all facing towards me. Gravity thinned, my senses erased themselves, and regained my physicality like I was re-entering the atmosphere; I felt myself spinning in a broad, persistent circle, stuck in an out-of-control furious cosmic blast and disruption, always floating, unable to come to a stop. If I stopped I would end it, all at once and for good, and the people of the earth, whom I love, would be thrown and incinerated. As children, who saw angels in the sky, they could see how good it was to die; but that doesn’t mean they wanted to stop moving. Sometimes to stop, though, just to stop and take a breath, for one moment – sometime it might feel nice. Even Atlas handed the earth off and walked away; but he is back now, and he is a spinning force, a gigantic motion whirling mindlessly through an inexplicable void – not a word to describe it, not one word beyond the usual suspects – God, Jupiter, Gravity. Who is God, and what is gravity?

Moving so slow, too slow to even feel it; but fast, faster than we’ve ever moved; voices carry, and the boxes fall out of place across a field of clover, crushing the young dandelions and buttercups under their weight. A life-size alabaster sculpture of two gay Romans laying together and fondling themselves is left under a barn whose roof blows away and the rain melts the stone like it was melting wax and the when the sun dried it off there was nothing of two men remaining. The horses, full of clover and dandelions, pranced over the barbed wire like gymnasts and grazed freely in the roses and lilies that grow wild in this sacred place. A sweet mist cools the back of your neck and the familiar scent of molecular diagnostics returns over the hills from the ocean. A factory produces nothing but perfect grey smoke, silver columns rising in parallel from every chimney, like a Doric temple in the sky. When the smoke dissipates it travels inland and breathes its fruitful labor into every pair of lungs. Cities across the universe, and they are all connected, all monuments and villages and slaughterhouses for sacrifice. I submitted myself as a donation for the slaughterhouse, applying based on my credentials as an artist. “I only exist because of the generosity of this institution (society). It is a wonderful world in which animals can survive solely by acting, and painting, and making other animals laugh. A civilization which pays people to do nothing but produce music; what an impossibly wonderful kind of place!”

They did not slaughter me – not yet. They let me continue, unattended but scathed, while watching from their cameras and windows. I walk like a human and I talk like a human, but we all know that, left to my own devices, I slip back into my natural form again – limestone.

Aluminum and gold pierce the sky from the tips of the towers and monuments. “Tower-builders,” I said, shaking my head in bewilderment. “A planet full of tower-builders.”

Back home, in the shower – a planet full of shower-takers – I scrubbed my back until the scars opened and I the sensation of blood almost made me faint. The feeling was morbid. It felt like a loaded gun had been introduced into the scene.

If I stopped it, just to take a breath, would I end it all? It is all so runaway now, it just keeps running, dizzying and grueling. Thank God for the things we do not understand – if we understood then we would asphyxiate from exhaustion and panic.

There were towers of malice and valor. In one tower someone cooked pasta and in another somebody licked a heroin needle clean and then buried her face in an asshole. There are towers full of corpses and towers full of water and some are full of nothing at all, but rebar and cement. Towers in fields conduct beams of information and electricity, pushing light and sound through a web of perpetual connection. Towers chained in single-file, marching into Exodus – as though the Titans, stolen fire, and punished; carry the celestial sphere on your shoulders, slave to the whole human race.

In 1997 she hung herself and her seven dogs in her one-room trailer. The cookies tasted like tar and I gagged. The yard was full of dog shit, with little white worms in the freshest pile.

In 1999 I swallowed a mouth full of mud and worms from a worm-infested riverbed. Fishhook-like worms dangled off my lips and fell back into the mud, into the moist, salty safety of the beautiful world.

Was that what it sounded like played over the radio? I hadn’t been listening very close. My thoughts were on the cemetery again, and the things that we did in those coffins – naughty, juvenile things. I disgraced myself. Charcoal stained my tongue and they drilled the nerves out of my teeth, filling them with gleaming metal. Four sharp razors were pushed into the soft of my back and dragged slantwise over my pulverized bones. A rasp was used to remove uneven bone tissue and the screws were ripped out of the fusion. The heads of the screws stripped out so they had to use a power drill to drill the titanium out directly, filling my back with metal filings. They used a small hose to spray the filings out of my flesh and across the operating table. I laid there, blank-eyed and miserable, while they chopped me and screwed me like a kitchen cabinet.

“Take me home, I want to go home,” said my grandfather. He will go home, and he will die there, and his son will be miserable, and I will be miserable, too. We have fished our last catfish or bass together, and there will be no one there to string my worms along my hooks for me. I will have to use lures, because I am civilized, and I will never catch another fish again.

“Wait a minute – this bed isn’t made out of feathers!”

 

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