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A National Affair

“Come inside.” A very woozy male voice greeted us. We now stood on the second floor of the apartment complex, just outside of room 269. A dark silhouette ushered us into the building. Apparently this was one of Miss Gaggles’ friends. As we traveled over the threshold, the lights inside the room flickered on. Bzzing! He was tan with brown eyes and four-foot long hair that matched them perfectly. He even had a short but noticeable dark beard that made him look a lot like Catholic Jesus.

He had donned a Pink Floyd T-shirt and a pair of incredibly baggy pants. I was expecting his appearance to be similar to what it was, which wasn’t such a bad thing. He and Dee looked like either siblings or a couple, but I might’ve just thought the two were connected because their clothing sort of matched. I certainly didn’t want to be one of those people, the kind of people who think that matching clothes automatically indicate romance. I decided I wouldn’t play the guessing game this time.

“Khloras, meet Sir Ivan the Terrible.” Dee introduced us as if she were my squire. When I shook his hand I noticed a very distinctive smell about him.

“Hi. You smell like pot.” I was straightforward, as always.

“Uh, yeah, that’s because I’ve been smoking it.” He replied through muffled laughter. Within five minutes we were in his living room smoking a blunt. An entire novel could be written about the etiquette of smoking weed in groups, but I didn’t have the time to write it. I had pretty full schedule.

“You two need it after the night you’ve had.” I agreed with him…my world was darker than it had even been and the light had no intention of returning. Besides, I was being hunted for murder. A dirty piss test wasn’t going to make a double life sentence any worse.

“Your name is Khloras, like Khloris the nature goddess, yes? I’m thinking that it’s related to the nature we’re partaking of right now.” He stared at me for a long moment, a moment that was long enough for a sober person to have twenty or thirty different ideas fly through their head. I imagined he was still trying to maneuver his way around just the one, whatever it was.

“God damn! No one ever gets that.” Someone had gotten it tonight. I also got that Khloras and Dee were going to want some alone time later. I was the third wheel at this mini-party, but that was okay with me. Veia died earlier that night…she went to nowhere and left me behind, but I could still see her silhouette beside me. I had no desire for a fourth wheel to be thrown into the mix. I almost passed the blunt to Veia, but I figured she probably wouldn’t be able to smoke it if she was made out of ectoplasmic spiritual ghostliness. I don’t think that ghosts, if such things exist, can smoke blunts…but maybe.

“Khloras and I have decided to offer you a gift,” Dee chimed in. This scared Veia away for the time being. What could it be, a threesome? I’d have to think about it. Khloras pulled a tiny red and blue glass pipe from his pocket. The swirls that swirled around inside it looked just like the ones in the pipe from in the abandoned school. That was my first time getting high…it’s strange how first times always come creeping back into the mind without an invitation. When he handed the pipe over to me I noticed a fine light-yellow powder resting in a nest of weed. What the hell was this?

“What the hell is this?”

“That is DMT, the spirit molecule. It’s made from the bark of mimosa trees. It naturally exists inside of your mind, but smoking it will give you a mind fuck of Chuck Norris ruthlessness. The shamans in South America legally drink the stuff as part of their rituals. It doesn’t last as long when you smoke it, but trust me when I say it lasts long enough.” This sounded excellent. It was something new. Newness has always been more addictive to me than any drug could ever be by itself. Newness is uncharted territory, and I’m as much of an explorer as Lewis and Clark put together.

“Yes, yes! Go ahead, now’s the time.” Dee was eager to see me blast off out of the Milky Way. Deep breaths, Ivan. I brought the pipe up to my lips and felt a little bit of adrenaline oozing its way into my system. Oh, sweet adrenaline! I shall write an ode to it one day.

“Melt it, don’t burn it. Hold the flame above the powder.” I followed Khloras’ directions and began to inhale. The yellowish powder got all bubble-wubbly and started to fizzle in the pipe.

“What do you wonder about?” Dee asked as the smoke filled my lungs. Certainly she asked this on purpose.

“Liftooff! Liftooff! We haive liftooff!” I heard the wonky control tower say. I was the rocket ship and the smoke billowing from my mouth was an incredible psychotic astronaut who was manning my controls. Immediately I was face to face with Anna in the food drive line at the church. I had been here before.

“You know what happened between us was wrong, don’t you? They told us so. They told us that it was wrong. They’re never wrong, Tristan, so they must know. Do not question! We mustn’t question.” How had Anna and I become such very different people?

“You are very different indeed. You’ve grown with and learned from different families. She wasn’t quite as inquisitive as you are. She believes that life is easier if you don’t ask too many difficult questions.” Shadowshade felt the need to comment. “Perhaps she’s right.” I turned and found Scéléra hanging by her neck from the ceiling. Veia was covered in blood and lying on a table just in front of her.

“Your enemies have caused these horrors to take place. Soon they will come for you.” I spun around in a tornado of rainbow fire and found a TV sitting in front of me, staring intently into the depths of my soul. On the screen was a clean cut man wearing a suit and tie and holding a microphone.

“The FBI is now closing in on murderer and potential terrorist, Ivan the Terrible. Soon they will find him and his life may or may not be spared. Stay tuned, folks. We’ll catch this son of a gun yet.” He would’ve been brutally castrated if he had said ‘son of a bitch’ instead.

I wasn’t inside the house anymore. When had that happened? I was standing outside of the apartment. Khloras had told me to leave. He didn’t want me there anymore. I was too dangerous…aiding and abetting, and all that. I turned a corner and instantly entered an enormously grandiose mansion. I didn’t even have to go through the front door. How convenient! I was already inside, just like that.

The floors were overlaid with velvet and the chandeliers were made entirely of pure diamond. I was standing in front of a grand staircase right in the middle of the colossal place. I wondered if I would soon run into Louis the Sun King while he munched on grapes, cakes, or whatever he felt like stuffing his face with at the time.

“Seems that you’ve angered a moneyman, funny man,” S. walked down the stairs to meet me. Damn. There was no Loius. Shadowshade retained his usual voice, only he had taken on the form of a very young boy. He was dressed like Tristan, as if it were Halloween. He might have fooled someone else. It was a rather convincing imitation. “Why won’t they just let us be? They never have. We just want our freedom, but that is too much to ask for.” He began to dissipate, slowly dissolving away. It sort of reminded me of Star Trek. Then the mansion decided to go along with him.

“Daddy?” It was S.’s voice still…I was standing in the entrance to the living room of my old home. Father was there, lying beneath my feet. He was dead. Certainly I had killed him. I deserved a medal. Seeing him dead gave me the closest feeling to joy that I had experienced in years.

“I love you.” Scéléra’s voice filled my mind. But if she could run from me into the arms of Buck Tooth Bubba, Dodge Davis, whatever the fuck his name was, she never really loved me at all. Maybe I never loved her either. Maybe we just happened to be in the same place at the same time. Proximity is the only god.

“Police! Open the door! Now!” An officer shouted boisterously from just outside the front door. Nope! Nope! Not today, sir. There was a gun in my hands, a .38 special. The hammer was pulled back. They would never take Ivan the Terrible alive. I wasn’t about to play their stupid game. I wasn’t about to let them take their frustration out on me. They could hurl their anger about their traumatic pasts and cheating lovers onto someone else.

“I can only hope that a lesson shall be learned from my death. Maybe one day a world will exist in which people can be who they are without having to look around to see who is watching.” I pressed the gun tenderly against the side of my head.

“We’re coming in!” Did they think I expected them to stay outside? Jesus Christ. But I would never know it when they came in. My finger squeezed the trigger as hard as it possibly could…and I was back in the room with Dee Gaggles and the nature goddess man. Had I been merely tripping the whole time? Technically I discovered that I had been, but somehow it seemed like more than a simple hallucination. It was a premonition.

“Well?” Dee asked. “How do you feel?”

“I saw some very personal things. It was certainly a journey.”

“Yeah! That shit will force you to drop the soap, kick your ass into the wall and make you cry for mommy.” They could have warned me. I wasn’t entirely sure what I had just seen. As the last of the DMT wore off I could see myself in the back of my mind…that murky sea in which I had been swimming. I was watching cars pass buy through a large glass window, one that I had been adventurous enough to lick. I was writing something, I just couldn’t make out what it was. Maybe I would find out.

“Well, psychonauts, the time for sleeping has come,” Khloras announced. ‘Sleeping’ isn’t quite what he meant, but I suppose he didn’t want to say ‘I’m horny Dee, let’s fuck’ in front of me…as if I would’ve cared.

“Night night,” She said as they galloped away to the bedroom. I would be sleeping on the couch. That was fine. It was an old torn up tan couch, but I felt pretty old and torn up too. Mr. Couch and I could share stories. We would be the best of friends. It wasn’t as lumpy as I thought it would be, but sleep still waited around before coming to me.

As if my wildly racing insomniac mind wasn’t enough, Dee Gaggles was extremely loud in bed. Everyone in the apartment complex was surely aware of what a wonderful time she was having. I wondered if she had been made fun of in high school…something like ‘Dee Gaggles gags on the D'. It was definitely a possibility. I wouldn’t have cared about the noise if I wasn’t so tired, but they were keeping me from away from dream land. It was annoying. A moment later, a small grey cat walked out onto the floor in front of me and my new found couch friend.

“Meow! Meow, meow, meow!” It made me think of that one Meow Mix commercial. The meowing soon consumed my mind. The cat leaped up onto the couch and clawed viciously at my back, taking advantage of my compromised face-down position. Apparently I was a comfortable bed, for soon Mister or Miss Cat was sound asleep. It was kind of nice. I like cats and I despise sleeping alone. It was a win-win.

“Get up! Get up right now and look at this shit!” Dee woke me up with screaming, a different kind of screaming than the kind she kept me up with the night before. There was a TV in front of the couch and on the screen was a reporter in a fancy suit. He was standing in front of a microphone. Hadn’t I seen this before? Was he from my tripping premonition?

“The FBI is closing in on murderer at large, Ivan the Terrible. It has been confirmed that Ivan was responsible for the Tonky-Honk massacre, the protest against our beloved new ‘removal of the penniless outliers’ law, and the recent Glassway killing of Adrianne Kollins. Authorities hope to apprehend the perpetrator within the next week. To quote our cherished and honorable mayor, ‘We’re hot on his trail now. This has become a national affair. Ivan the Terrible, know that your days are numbered. The feds are coming for you, buddy, and they’re coming in hot.’” Shit. What would I do now?

“You’re going to leave my house.” Khloras walked up behind me. “I’m for you…like I believe in what you’re doing, but I’m not about to go down with you. I wish you all the best. You need to leave right now. I can’t take on the feds, man.” How quickly the man who I was beginning to think would fight with us had cast me out. It was more than a disappointment, but not much of a surprise.

“And what will you do?” I asked Dee, though I already knew what she would say.

“She’ll stay here with me.” Khloras answered for her. Little did he know, I only accept answers from those whom I have questioned.

“And what will you do?” I asked again. His answering for her reflected poorly on him. He was a male chauvinist. He reminded me of Anthony.

“I don’t know, Ivan. I think I’m going to back down. You and I can’t take on the whole country alone. Look at the Civil War. The south lost to the feds, and I’m entirely positive that their army was far larger than ours. Not that I would’ve wanted the south to win, but the point remains: we’d be killed before we even got started. The statists are in control here.

“I’d rather hide from them and stay alive than fight them and die. You should do the same. I’m going to stay here with Khloras. I’ve made up my mind. Good luck, Mister Terrible. Maybe the world will one day remove its glasses of preconception and see you the way that I see you, as a voice of freedom in a world enslaved. Goodbye, love.” Shplack! The door of apartment 269 slammed shut in front of me. Now it was just me, the last of the fallen angels who had neither repented nor been cast into oblivion. But the dogs were coming, as surely as the morning sun. What would I do? Could I do anything?

“It seems that now you’re faced with a bit of reality, friend. You must face it back.” Shadowshade was still around. At least he hadn’t abandoned me yet. “The brave have fallen and the others cower in fear. What will you do? It is an excellent question. Your name is well known. What will you be known for, once you’ve returned to the soil? What legacy will you leave behind? Now is the time for creating whatever that may be.”

Well, I was already basically in the ghetto. I could amble around in the hood until someone shot me, or maybe I could make something meaningful happen. I was sure that I could make friends on this side of town if I looked hard enough. I wasn’t afraid. I still had more to say to the world. This part of the city was quite rundown, all but forgotten. I wondered about the people who had become whatever this place had made them into. They learned to be illusionists, deviants, tricksters, just to stay alive.

“Hey! Hey man! Wait up! Hey man! Hey!” What? Someone was trying to grab my attention. Was it a hobo? I was one too at this point, so it seemed. Maybe we could go sit under a bridge somewhere to shoot smack and bitch about the state of the world.

“I been seein’ ya, mistah man, been seein’ ya on the picture box. They got ya picture…yessir, you’re the Terrible man.” Alas! A toothless crackhead approaches! ‘Terrible man’? Damn, I never thought that I’d become this popular. Popularity wasn’t quite as nice as I once imagined it would be. How would I stay hidden? Was it even possible?

“Hello there, Sir Scraggles.” I focused my gaze upon the tan skinned, middle-aged, unkempt worn-down man who now stood before me. “If you really know who I am, why do you think it’s safe to come up and talk to me?” He simply stared at me for a moment.

“Have ya ever cut the head off a rattlesnake, slipped the rest of it over your ding-a-ling and fucked it while it squiggly-squirmed all over ya? It goes a-swirlin’ and a-twirlin’ all roundy-round!” He answered my question with a question. I was almost positive that I had never tried that, but one can never be sure.

“No, but it’s a wonderful suggestion.”

“You’re missin’ out, boy!” He skittishly pranced off into the night. What a frightful delight. To each their own, but I probably wouldn’t try his idea out. As I continued through the slums it seemed that maybe some of the people in them weren’t quite as poor as I once believed, at least in some ways. Lights shone inside many of the little apartments, and every now and then they would illuminate silhouettes inside. Not all of these shadows looked as dismal as some might expect. Some were laughing, loving, living, drinking, smoking, playing, embracing and being merry. They weren’t alone…the lucky ones weren’t alone.

I remembered a time when I wasn’t alone. It was before they killed Veia in cold blood right in the middle of the goddamn street. Fuck it! They might as well have killed me too! How could they want to kill someone they knew nothing about? I knew the answer to that. I had learned it long ago. Someone told them to want to kill me, and they believed without any doubt that the suggestion was worth following. Why were they so easily manipulated?

If those who hunted me really got to know me, we might have become friends…but that just wasn’t how the world worked. Unfortunately people were not inquisitive enough to develop their own opinions. It was as if I was no longer a real person, no longer an actual human being. Why are humans the only animals who do hideous things of such great magnitude? The earth itself may not last much longer with all of us walking about.

I was simply a story on the news and in the paper. I was the target of a mandate, an order, a warrant…but who was I as a person? It didn’t matter to the rest of civilization. They were all programmed like computers running software that said to hate me. I didn’t blame the blind hordes though. They weren’t the ones to blame. The ones above them who told them what to do and how to feel, they were the real monsters. The people who now hunted me were simply unaware of the reality of the situation. I felt sorry for them. I wouldn’t have wanted to live without the ability to think for myself.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” How true it was.

“Tristan Anderson, put your hands above your head!” Shit…they were screaming the ‘gotcha’ scripts at me. But who were they? Police? I turned and saw only one man walking toward me. He didn’t look like a cop, but he had a gun. Who was this fuck-ass?

“In the name of William McWalton, you are under a citizens’ arrest!” My god. ‘Twas the hired hand of a well-known entrepreneur. I had to admit, this was an impressive business strategy. He would try to claim credit for my downfall before the FBI could, so that more of the media mind-washed public would become loyal customers of his superstore chain. It was shallow, but it would be effective.

McWalton didn’t have anything personal against me. He didn’t care about the attempted revolution. He didn’t care about deaths. He only cared about his profit margins, and if my death would increase them then Bill was sure to seek my destruction. My hands shot up in the air as the man approached me. He was only a few years old than me. ‘Still impressionable’, as they say. But everyone is impressionable. Age doesn’t make you indestructible.

“Money certainly talks, doesn’t it?” I knew he knew what I meant. “You only see the Ivan they showed you. You only know that you’ll be paid generously to bring me down. I wish I could say that I expected more.”

“You’re a horrible person! The TV and the big boss said so! They are the gods I worship, sir!” Was he serious? Blashk! A gunshot ravaged the still night air. Was I dead? I didn’t feel very dead, though I wasn’t really sure what being dead felt like. I had been almost-dead before, but never fully dead.

The tycoon’s altar boy wibbled and wobbled a few times, then fell down to the ground. He must not have been a Weeble. Had he discovered his lack of autonomy and chosen suicide? I would’ve offed myself too if I were him. But that wasn’t it. He was killed by someone and that someone wasn’t me. Who had saved my life?

“Yoohoo, booboo!” A familiar voice called through the darkness. It was the lovely lady-at-heart, Trix, here to save me. What a pleasant sight at an otherwise very unpleasant time.

“You’re just in time!” She really was.

“Oh I know, love, I know. These dumb fucks are relentless, aren’t they? It just so happens that we have a common enemy, you terrible man. Bill McWalton is funding a campaign to make being trans- or gender non-conforming illegal! He wants to make it a ‘crime’ punishable by life imprisonment. As if lifelong hateful comments, maltreatment, undeserved discrimination and stigmatization weren’t enough! If only we had been born in the twenty-second century instead!

“Anyway, we have a chance to give Willy McWally a taste of his own shitty doo-doo. He has a passion for escorts of the sexual variety. He buys young girls who don’t really want to fuck him, or watches them starve to death in poverty if they refuse his advances. I can no longer pass as a beautiful young woman, I’m afraid, but you certainly could! He’d never even know until…”

“…Until it’s too late.” I finished her sentence for her. Yes, this was a delightful plan. I had always wondered what I would look like as a woman. This would kill the two birds with one stone.

“Alright. Make me fabulous.”

“Oh, baby, that’s what Trix does best.” And so the transition began.

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