Superman: Por: Stephen Lucas.
-And then we started photographing each other – blind-folded, pulling haunted-slash-insane faces – in the middle of the acid trip, pasting ourselves over images grabbed from the internet of a blind-folded Iranian boy being hustled towards a noose – he´d done his hair and starched his shirt. I died in the desert too, on my knees, head bowed, a man in a white-robe raising a thin arc of blazing steel behind me. That one had been taken furtively, from a distance, so we blew it up – the outline of the executioner ended up grainy and mirage-like looming over the high-definition pic of me on my knees. It looked cool and arty we concurred, but the woodcut, where we died together, heaped beneath a wizard´s feet, aced it somehow. 2D drawing´s are difficult to think yourself into, so it seemed like a good idea to burn each other with cigarettes – to have something to work with. Strange to single out these pictures. There were hundreds, left like a residue. The starched shirt and waxed hair unhinged something, I don´t know. That boy, all dressed up to die. Or the guy in the desert: that seemingly private scenario, nobody there but the far-off photographer. That could´ve lulled me. Whatever it was, I superimposed my face over an executioner´s, shot my friend a sly, side-long glance, and – that was it. The trip went bad, and-
( Stephen Lucas)
Superman. By : Stephen Lucas.
I´m slow to get started. It´s a year since I did what I did, a year of sharp-edged, barely coded dreams. Tonight I´m at a cocktail party that´s been bled of colour and sound by the flare off a popping flashbulb. All that´s left of the guests is a carousel of red pin-holes where their eyes once were, circling me like rifle-sights. I see a dark smudge off in one corner of the room and move towards it; the pin-pricks squall above my head like electrified midges, and spark when they collide. The smudge is a roped-off VIP room. Inside, a miniature lioness clings to a wire bird-feeder hanging down out of the shadows. She pushes her snout through the small square gaps and takes seed. When my presence is sensed, she ignites quietly, like paper. Words fall out of a hot blue sky: if you were God, God would be dead. I´m inches above a mud swamp, wire netting cutting into my face. Slow currents have found a zombie, lying lost in dreams on the swamp bed, and are buoying him upwards. Air pockets slowly inflate and break out on the surface as he rises. It´s time to make things right, do good, fight evil like a superhero does. I´ll stumble out of bed and pick up my boombox and step into the worm-hole that´s opening in my room while I sleep. A hoarse voice, not of this dimension, is tearing into my dream: «Their music is a near-extinct language.» An explosion of sound follows the words: a broken roar over guitar-like screeching, black metal but not of this world. The zombie´s face cracks the swamp´s surface and dries Geisha white in the sun, and – that´s it. The metal cuts abruptly, like someone´s pulled a plug. I stumble out of bed, leaden panic in my head as per usual, pick up my boombox, and head for the wormhole gaping at the edge of my room. Its circumference moves like a stingray swimming; currents of mist, behind which the room shivers and loses definition, lap its edges. A pire of the stuff rises like a charmed snake, or fun-sized tornado, up top, ´till I´m looking at starless space framed by a noose.
Inside the wormhole, I move at several times the speed of light, shedding skins: anxiety, the tick that´s burrowed through every detail, is thrown off now, a heavy, awkward thing it turns out, flapping over my face and heaving itself into the sky like a fucked-up crow; a stack of manipulated, corny-looking images are peeling off a plasma screen, spiralling out into space, shrinking into a lone constellation of stars I might look at coldly. I am pure thought, an image of rejuvenating cells, swarming unstoppable.
I emerge from the wormhole feeling coked-up and invincible. I´m sitting on a wooden chair, emperor-like, a conquerer with a boombox on his lap, surveying a vast plain of ice. The air´s dim, but strobes intermittently thanks to veins of electricity that surge amongst the thunderheads above. I make out waves, frozen mid-swell, a soft undulating topography racing off on all sides to a horizon that´s blacker. The plain´s shot-to-shit, full of puncture holes spilling inky trails of smoke. Aware of my body now, that my right hand´s colder than the rest of me, I look down and see a translucent cuff of gunk hanging off it. Violet-tinged, it could be amniotic sack, something shot through with explosions of capillaries. It´s seeped out from under my shirt-sleeve and crept over my boombox. I´m thinking newborn calf, dinosaur chick: left-field thoughts bred by the change in dimension. I carefully scrape whatever-this-crap-is off the stereo, not wanting it to get inside the machine.
There´s a glint, a star inside the brightening air. I turn in time to catch something silver zip down into a hole that´s, say, twenty feet off. I stand, hoisting the boombox onto my shoulder, and head towards it, thinking fast, aware, if I peer into the hole, a bullet could hit me between the eyes. I´m down on my belly, inching forwards, eyes fixed on the hole, when the tips of four talons emerge from it. The air´s magnesium white and I see my face, gaunt and circus-mirror stupid, duplicated in the talons´ glassy convexes. Then the hand´s palm-up, resting on the dark ice, a pale grey palm, leathery and ape-costume fake, mapped with indentations. The talons twitch, beckoning me. I reach forwards, and run my fingers lightly along the troughs and furrows. As if magnetised, my figertips pull images, a whole history, from them. The story of a race being wiped out, winged creatures, glass-skinned giants afloat with kite-shaped panes of glass, hunted down and tortured for the whereabouts of remaining tribes, executed once the information´s retrieved.
Snarling, fanged animals have been employed, hoods, goggles, disorientation techniques, stress positions, suffocation, sexual humiliation – the hand snatches itself away and the images cut abruptly, as if a plug´s been pulled. There´s a sound like tarpaulin buffeted by wind, and the creature rises out of the hole. The cracks of electricity overhead mist behind its translucent form. The body, slung between its wings, is pathetic and wasted, its thin-as-polythene skin stretched to breaking across a rib cage smokey with fissures; chipped panes of glass, its internal organs I guess, rotate in the water sloshing around inside it, appearing and disappearing as they´re caught by light. It lands off to my left and sizes me up with four domed, insectoid eyes. It´s sliding a thin steel tube into a silver holster slung over its shoulder. Its dangling scrotum and flacid cock flap loosely as it hops from one foot to the other, its talons clacking on the ice. Edging forwards, it offers me its palm again. I see a fleet of space ships this time, moving quietly over the frozen sea, expelling a dark gas that curls across the grey plain and sinks into the blast-holes.
I see angels backed up against walls, the gas tumbling silently towards them. Then an earlier time. Stilts rising out of a gunmetal sea, precariously stacked with houses, vast estates balanced one on top of the other. The angels, strong and agile, traverse rope bridges, fly from windows, move towards a platform, some kind of stage, out at sea above which four angels hover in a kite-shaped formation. The panes of glass inside the angel at the formation´s summit are sinking and moving inside it, positioning themselves so that they mirror how the band hangs in the sky. The other angels are stroking columns of glass, dropping deep melodious notes onto the crowds below. The glass sheets inside the lead angel are turning now, and as they graze each other they emit chimes that peel off into the sky: faint barely-there cries that metamorphose into flickering hexagonal lights, burning hard as the sounds build, and then dying, like fireworks do, as they peter. I hit record, and the music I´m pulling from the valleys in the angel´s palm feeds into my boombox.
The angel´s wings are around me and I´m leaving the ground, my fingers still plugged into its palm. I´m descending into the hole, moving through a network of tunnels, the music – still downloading – has a darkness lurking in it now, traces of the alien black metal that woke me this morning. Then we´re inside some kind of chamber awash with ultra-violet light. It´s all tilting batmanesque angles – a stage, angels hunched and cowering on it – as I come to a sea-sawing stop. I´m set down in front of the stage upon which the three angels stand, off in one corner, worn and paranoid. They give me sly, side-long glances. I avert my gaze, sit cross-legged on the floor, and flip the tape. Again, the sound of wind on tarpaulin. The angel that brought me here is half-hopping, half-flying across the room and hauling itself up onto the stage. It stands apart from the others, the cracked panes inside it adjusting. After a few attempts at a geometric alignment the angel gives up, and the glass sheets start to turn jerkily. When they collide its a broken roar that spews into the chamber, the last vestiges of those ethereal cries, stunted and malformed now, jacked up into an anguished shout. The other angels clutch glass columns of different widths. They scrape their talons along them and extract guitar-like screeches which circle the vocalist´s roar. The three «guitarists» have their backs against the wall, are so closely huddled they seem to have melded into a multi-limbed crystalline form, half angel, half mineral, wings splayed against the ice, a crown of translucent marble kicking out from their bodies like a giant calcified exit wound. Their domed eyes bore into me. They haven´t got long left, and they know. I avert my gaze again. I know that look: a crater in an eclipsed star. The music cuts abruptly. The lead angel´s off-stage, clacking towards me. The chamber´s vibrating, cracks opening in it. I manage to press stop and clutch the boombox tight before the angels´ wings wrap around me again, and the room pitches. We head up through the maze of tunnels, and as we break out I see the prophesied convoy of spaceships moving slowly over the plain, a tsunami of gas churning across the ice beneath them. I´m deposited in front of the worm-hole. The angel retreats a few steps, motioning with its claws for me to exit its dimension. I sit on the wooden chair, place the boombox on my lap and wait, shooting a last look at the angel. Its brow is smoother maybe, its eyes clearer, I´m not sure. A wall of coal-black gas is quietly building behind it. I´ve done good.
On my return journey, I see the pictures we took: pin-holes, as good as invisible, pricked into the firmament. And though the planet they orbit is still too bright to look at, I kid myself that, like all stars, it is dying.