by Amir Ouyed
Staff of those in exile, lamp of the inventor,
Confessor of the hanged and of conspirators,
O Satan, take pity on my long misery!
– Charles Baudelaire
“You should not be afraid of them. They are just men, made from the same dust as the earth,” Lu says.
I cannot die but they level their rifles at me. The trees are covered with threads of snow and above them there is the cosmic abode. I try to raise my head above the woods and see the firmament but I see only stars and prime fire. There are no orions, no dippers– only furious light.
“I’ve already ordered to fire about five times,” I read from the colonel’s lips. “You cowards, why can’t you fire at some dumb and deaf kid? He is barely even alive.”
The soldiers tremble and pray to their false and jealous god. They cannot see me in the eye because they do not see themselves in me. I try to say that I cannot die, that all of this is futile, but they cannot hear. The only things I feel are my dislocated joints and the memories my muscles have- a testament to a hasty torture.
Lu lies against a tree and pulls a cigarette out of his pocket. He is barefoot and wears a purple, check suit and he smells like gardens and his suit is stained with an ancient, primordial mud. Lu lights the cigarette and the smoke spirals above and beyond the kingdom of this world. I can see Lu but they cannot see Lu. He points above at the void until his finger and the void are one and his eyes light up with star fire.
“They think they are afraid of you but in reality they are afraid of me,” Lu says, “Look up at the starry dome, all these soldiers see shapes and constellations but the stars lay there, indifferent. That is why they will never see me.”
The clouds move to reveal the Milky Way. The Milky Way’s arms are like fissures across the cosmic abode and that which contains the heavens was cracked. Suddenly, the heavens cast a strange light and the light casts a strange madness: a soldier drops his rifle and knees and weeps, the second one opens his mouth wide and I cannot hear but I can see and I see the space and the colors around his mouth flux, and the other one gets possessed by a violence that makes him aim and shoot above at the galaxy and at the nothing.
“All of you are worthless! If you cannot do the job I will do it by myself,” I read from the colonel’s lips.
The colonel pushes away the soldiers and approaches me. He stares at me and I notice his glass eye and then I remember that days ago I had pulled his real eye out. He pulls out a handgun and presses it against my head. The colonel hisses but I am unable to read his lips. I am deaf to the voices of men; the only voice I can hear is the voice of Lu.
The first day I saw Lu was the day that my mother was murdered.
My mother incubated within her that which cannot speak or hear, but instead, can see. She was a poet and I could not hear but I could see the forms and the colors. When she read her poems I could not hear but I could see her soul (and her soul palpitated with the colors and forms). A soul of philosopher birds. Tree-men. Monkey-headed children that play with inter-stellar mollusks.
For sixteen years I did not know about Lu. My house was large and yellow, with roses, bells and dogs. It was a fine house and it had an ample, white porch where men in suspenders drank and smoked. Inside the house there was the world of my mother which was a world of marble tiles and book shelves and wine. In the back corner of that world there was my room and my room had a large window. The sun oozed through the large window and the sun projected my mother’s shadow against the floor and that shadow comforted me for it was that shadow that gave me life. (Not like those shadows that want to remove my life),
My bed was besides the large window and when night fell, the stars were large scabs of light and they burnt holes into my brain. However the light of the stars was not enough. In that darkness the shadow of one thing merged with the shadow of another thing and the silhouette of my mothers’ shadow dissolved into a terrible underworld, and everything was black and shapeless. One night the shadows were too much and I stomped and bawled and was taken over by the dark. That night my mother listened to my wails and she came and turned on the light. She sat on my bed with me and took my hand and made it point at Polaris and I read her lips. She said that beyond the kingdom of this world, god had assigned me a very special guardian angel, and that angel guarded me with zeal for god had made me of a material much more precious than the base material other men were made of.
The existence of such an angel comforted me and stirred me away from the dark. I became content with the kaleidoscope of shapes and forms that was my mom, the tanned faces of men in suspenders, the large window, and the stars. Everything was ample skies. Everything was light and the universe was charming and orderly.
However, one day, the sky was red.
Helixes of fire sprang from the buildings and the world was in a haze of smoke and tear gas. The streets fluctuated with men of different races and creeds and classes ready to engage in that game which has no name but which everybody heeds to its call. My mom and I were within the crowds. I saw signs with anti-government rants, pamphlets enunciating the plight of the working classes, ascetic militants battling against armored cops and their water-tanks
That day was the day she stopped being a poet and became a militant of the Party. Men with berets, cigarettes, and fiery faces came every week to our house to talk politics. I could not hear but I could see. They were partisans against the government – talking-heads with red-scarves and books.
That day the soul of my mom turned from a philosopher-bird to revolutionary fire.
We lived in fear for months and the universe itself slowly but surely introduced me to the taste of mindless violence. My role became clear when they came to our house. The soldiers kicked down the door and they took my mother by the hair and raped her. They tied me to a chair and I could not hear her cries, but I saw so much.
“This is the prettiest one yet,” I read from a soldier’s lips.
The colonel pulled out a handgun and shot my mom in the back of her head. They laughed and left me tied. I tried to say and nobody replied. I tried to say again and this time I heard something.
“Hear me. You have been baptized with the blood of your mother and you just bawl?”
A man stood in the corner of the room. He did not introduce his name but for some reason I knew he was called Lu. He dressed with a purple, check suit and was barefoot and his suit was covered in stains of mud. When he spoke I heard and the sound I heard was beautiful. He told me that his voice similar to the songs of birds. Therefore every time I saw a bird I must kneel and pay respect.
He untied the ropes and held my hand. We walked out and everything was dark except the starry archipelagos across the sky. He raised his finger and pointed at the sky. I could not see constellations or shapes- just random packets of light. Disorder is the father of the man.
“Don’t be afraid. I come from the stars and I will tell you this. I hate this world but I always loved you like a son,” Lu said.
He sat on the grass and lit a cigarette. Soldiers marched across the street and I cried again. He told me not to be afraid of them. He told me I am weak but at the same time that I will never die.
“I help the weak better than the christians. I give the junkie his angry fix. I give a shoulder to the homeless man that in his misery slams a bottle of booze. I love equally all my sons. I tell you man, there is no need to cry.”
I looked above at the large moon fixated in the center of the cosmic abode and then looked down and I saw Lu no more.
The next day they burned my house down.
For weeks I scavenged for food in trash cans and slept under the night sky. Under the dark, destitute men emerged from the netherworld of the streets. Junkies, gang-bangers, pederasts and the mad dragged the weight of their misery on the asphalt. Whores with bright lipstick howled under the firmament and called for sad and lonely men.
One night a naked man approached me. He was pale, and his skin delineated the contours of his ribcage, and his veins were green and extended like spider webs across his body. He told me he was in pain and that only I could cure him. He grabbed me by the throat and put me against the wall and he pulled my pants off. One of the bricks of the wall was loose and I took it and slammed it against his temple and of the man was no more. I thought to myself that I was sorry and then Lu appeared and told me that I should pity the long misery of the man Lu said that the man was my own kin and therefore I should love him more than any other man I have met.
The next day I woke up to a small push. The sun was up and a man stood in front of it. I recognized the man who pushed me as one of the men that discussed politics with my mother. He was tall, dark, and somber and his name was Pedro. He brought me to the place where he hid. It was an abandoned warehouse and he lived in the basement with other partisans. There was no electricity and there were candles and the faces of these people glowed with the candle-light.
“The Party is still alive,” Pedro said. “It just went underground.”
Pedro told me he became a guerillero. He told me he has killed and that all the other people living in this basement have killed. I turn to see the other people. Some of them were old and had white beards and their lip movement was full of things like freedom and equality, and others were unruly outlaw-teenagers who knew not much about those enlightened concepts found in the old books but instead knew about a silent rage. In the latter crowd there was a shirtless boy. He was a dark boy and he sat with his legs crossed and his eyes were large and yellow and he had a scar across his chest. He cleaned a small revolver and his pupils were dilated and they absorbed whatever dim threads of light floated in the void. I signaled to Pedro if that boy has killed too and he said indeed, he has.
Pedro told me I could stay in the night so I slept on the cold and moist floor.
Lu’s smell awoke me. He smoked and the smoke spiraled across the candle-light and his eyes and the smoke were one. He asked me if I knew where men come from.
“Men are made from clay.” Lu said. “There destiny is the most similar to the destiny of rats. Both the rat and the man are pinned down to the circumference of the earth and before the stars they are rendered irrelevant and meaningless.”
He gave a hit to the cigarette and he dropped it and stepped on it and of the cigarette there was no more.
“Now, I know what you are thinking. What about God? Does not God care about the affairs of men? Isn’t God greater than the stars? How preposterous. The God of man is a creation by man and nature itself knows of no God. Man worships a shadow of himself for it is not man that is made in the image of God, but God is made in the image of man – like men, God is jealous and weak and condemned to disappear into interstellar dust.”
Lu put his hands around my face and made me face him and stare him right in the eye.
“Don’t worry. You will never die. You were made of the same stone the rings of Saturn were made of and therefore the laws that make man a doomed thing are inconsequential to you.”
Lu disappeared. I fell asleep and I dreamed. I dreamed that I walked on the surface of the sun. The sun was a sphere of fire and I could see the spots of the sun, and the sky was all light and the floor was all light. Everything was fire and I felt nothing. Other men followed me but they burnt and screamed and evaporated into molecules until I was alone. I was, I am, and I shall be the last.
The next day I signaled to Pedro that I have killed too, and I demanded to be able to avenge my mother. I cared nothing about the politics or the laws or the freedom; I just wanted to put the hands around the neck of that person who wronged me and see how the fire dissipates from his eyes. No ideas or abstractions; just the rules of the game laid bare – some individuals wronged me and baptized me with the blood of my mother, thus it is already contained within the laws of the universe that I shall retaliate.
I joined the guerrillas and they drilled in my head the art of violence and the meaning of violence. They taught me how to improvise explosives, how to aim with a rifle, how to murder with a knife. Some of them explained the role of their violence, which was a rightful violence to end all violence once and for all. Lu told me that men treat the violence with these sort of philosophical justifications but whether there is justification or not, it is inconsequential to the nature of the violence. The violence was, is, and shall be and it does not matter what men think of it. I was initiated by the violence through my mother and I should participate in it for my mother.
The Party had a superb network of intelligence. Soon, I knew the name and the address of each and every one of those who stormed my house that day.
I discovered one of the soldiers liked young boys so I came to his residence and offered myself. That night that same man hung from the tallest tree of the city park. His arms and his legs were missing and his eyes and his testicles were stuffed in his mouth. He was not dead for the inert torso tried to say and I saw his jaw move and the gore inside the jaw bounce. I made sure he was alive until he heard everything I had to say. They were the rambles of a deaf and dumb boy but I wanted to say so I said everything I had to say.
I climbed through the ranks of violence as I squashed each and every one of the soldiers that wronged me. The violence spilled over the press and journalists stopped addressing me as a man and they began addressing me as a monster. Anti-party preachers spoke about satanic partisans that summoned from the netherworld a strange beast that could not hear or say but who killed. They thought they were afraid of me, but in reality, they were afraid of Lu.
The mindless violence came into an end the day I crucified the colonel. He was stuck on the ceiling of his own bedroom. He faced down in the inside of the house and gravity tore his limbs down but I made sure that the nails were strong enough. He stuck there like a bug pinned on a dissection plate. I tried to say but he could not hear. He tried to say but I did not hear. Lu spoke and I heard (birds chirping, ancient and holy birds). I gouged the colonel’s left eye with my bare hand and I was about to make the colonel be no more. Suddenly, soldiers stormed in. I felt piercing blows in my back and I collapsed.
I did not die. I woke up in a dark room and tied to a chair. Nameless men emerged from the void and they asked but I could not say. They asked with bats and with wires and with hot metal and I could not say. Lu appeared and he grabbed my shoulder. He pointed at the men who tortured me and he laughed at them.
“The most pathetic of men are soldiers,” Lu said. “Soldiers die for things like the nation and god and they do not realize that it was their masters who created these beliefs. Yet their masters are flesh and bones and they are also made from the same stuff as the ground. I tell all my sons to rebel against their masters, and you faithfully complied.”
Night fell and they threw me in a car and they drove me far away from the city. Then they pulled me out of the car and dragged me through the roadside and now here I am, before a firing squad. A pistol barrel presses on my forehead and I try to say but the colonel does not answer. Lu puts his hand on my shoulder and I listen to his ancient bird language and I know I am not going to die.
The pistol’s cannon feels cold and I try to say. I try to say at the glass eye but the glass eye does not say. I look down and I cannot see Lu anymore. I look above and I see Saturn and then I realize I will not die. The colonel presses the trigger and I do not die yet Lu is not there anymore.