In honor of H. P. Lovecraft’s birthday, I refer you to an article of mine from a couple of years ago from my old Letters from Heck column over at The Footnote:

Today’s sermon is taken from a passage in the Necronomicon, which translates from the Greek roughly as “The Book of Dead Names” or “An Image of the Laws of the Dead” or somesuch. Originally the text was in an Arabic-language incunabulum titled Al-Azif, which, depending on your idiom of preference and/or your emotional state, translates either as “The Sound of Wailing Djinn in the Darkness” or “The Sound of Crickets and/or Other Nighttime Noises, Probably Just the Wind.” It’s possible that azif and hatif are somehow linguistically related, as hatif means “to cry out” and also “telephone.” Al-Hatif is a telephone company in the Middle East and not much loved.

It’s probably most accurate to say none of the above matters as the book mentioned above is an artifact of fiction that originally appeared in the early twentieth-century short stories of H. P. Lovecraft. But a lot of what passes for modern religion these days has a significant basis in fiction, so I don’t care.

This is the passage:



August 20, 2009 · Posted in Everything Else  
August 4, 2009 · Posted in poetry  

Free fiction in the most annoying format on earth: first person, present tense. Also, depressing as fuck. Enjoy it if you can.

This minute was pretty much like the last one. I’m sure a connoisseur could tell you the difference, but as far as time is concerned I’m no connoisseur. I’m a gourmand.

I bite off time in huge chunks and devour it without much regard to fine detail. I have learned to prefer a good time to a bad time, but that’s all in keeping with the gourmand thing. It’s a matter of lifestyle and affordability. Gourmet time in such quantity that it is wasted on the palate, and one untrained at that. Experiences hand-crafted by an artist and a team of artisans, flung down the gullet of a glutton. That’s my diet; that’s me. I am what I eat.

I am fat with time. Fifty million minutes down my gullet so far.

Does this make me a bad man? For taking more than my share? For being temporally wealthy?

I’m not the worst in the world. There are people who have lived more.

I have spent a whole year on a luxury cruise liner. I have been beaten and raped in Calcutta and paid for the privilege. Children carrying knives have climbed me. I have sat in solitary confinement, in sensory deprivation, in vats of caustic filth. I have served as a soldier, as a nurse, as beast of burden. I have had my brain deliberately damaged to remove memories, to make room for more, like visiting a vomitorium so I could enjoy another huge meal.

Regardless, those days are over. Now I sit in meditation, the equivalent of sipping bland tea and gnawing a handful of rice for daily sustenance. I no longer remember whether I am unable or unwilling to stand. I sit in a chair with wheels. People move me around as they see fit, dress me and clean me and position me in harmony with the décor. Or so I imagine. I don’t pay attention.

A minute. Another minute. Another handful of rice, another sip of tea. Another ten strokes of the cane, another eyewatering twist of the nipple, another ten miles of diluted airline whisky, another hundred meters of dodging debris left behind by the parade, another rinse of the remaining hair, another six snores. Another algebraic solution mapped out to the satisfaction of a nun. Another pullover tried on, frowned at, and discarded. Another four bowls filled with uproarious laughter at the soup line. Another pop-fly into the stands. Another thirty-secondth of an inch in the rain barrel. Another paper bag stuffed with leaves and small branches. Another six blocks in the taxi to nowhere. Another ten sutures to the stab-wound in the thigh. Another water-balloon filled with cow urine, tied off, and handed to a child. Another marshmallow roasted and sent in a flaming arc into the deep woods. Another gurgling rattle in the throat of a dying wife. Another five exposures to the laugh-track. Another advertisement for the Saab 900S. Another stick of incense turned to cinders. Another cigarette suckled inside-out. Another minute squeezed from the throat of a woman who begged you to murder her anonymously in an alley, and another minute of her drumming her heels as you hold her. Another half-inch of tattoo. Another half-inch of skin graft. Another, another, and another. Each minute identical to the last, at least in terms of the most important detail.

Fifty million minutes, all alike. Fifty million minutes burned to the ash we mix with whisky and drink down.

Another minute of sunblock applied to the face and arms before I am wheeled into the garden and left on the path to burble to myself and leave an anonymous puddle in the growing shadows. Another minute of the smell of cherry blossoms and woodsmoke, of the feel of musty quilt, of the sound of outdoor nothing when the birds are quiet and the traffic is distant. And another. And another. Another minute of dozing. And another.

And another minute awake staring at a golf-course lawn and a dry fountain. Another minute watching an airplane cross the sky. Another minute rolling my chair in a circle. Another minute remembering how to stand and pushing my chair in front of me like a toddler with a walker. Another minute of standing in an anthill I found to better remember when I did it before as a boy. Another minute of stinging and burning, reminding my legs and calves what it means to feel fire. And another minute. And another.

One minute is pretty much like another.

The staff here, the tenders who water me and turn me so that I can grow toward the light, watch in confusion as I shuffle my way down the hall, trailing ants. Someone notices, shouts, and starts slapping the ants off my legs, lifting my pants legs to slap them off my calves and thighs.

Once they are done, I resume my journey. It takes a minute, two minutes to get to the elevator, a minute to take the elevator up and shamble down to the lobby of my floor, another minute to orient myself and locate my room. By now I have a small entourage of attendants who are marveling at me doing this for myself, hovering out of the way, ready should I slip or need assistance.

I am sorry to disappoint them, but I and my flaming legs are just going to bed. Someone helps me off with my loungewear, helps remove the last few stray ants, summons ointment for the stings. There is mindless chatter about how the ants invaded my chair perhaps and induced me to get out and walk for myself. I do not correct them. The ants are becoming heroes as they tweak and revise their fantasy. Who am I to interfere?

Another fifty million minutes pass and they are leaving me alone. I pull off my t-shirt and wave off the attempt to help me on with pajamas. I climb into bed and lie atop the bedclothes, cooling and burning from the numbed ant venom. My legs feel like heavy wood.

Fifty million minutes is a very long time to wait to be born. I am sure it will happen tomorrow.


August 2, 2009 · Posted in Everything Else