The Devil is a Loser and He’s My Bitch, Or Maybe I’m His?

Mood: Bitter, but amused.

One of my favorite bands is Lordi.  They have a song called “The Devil is a Loser,” and they scream in monster masks “The Devil is a loser and he’s my bitch!” and oftentimes I find myself humming along to it when Samael’s trolling is particularly intense.  Then I threaten to brand his pale bony ass with a copyright in the shape of my initials and write more romance novels about him, replacing his name with Old Gregg, considering I made him up when I was 12.  He’s a lot like Old Gregg – lonely, likes Baileys and shoes, and oh so fucking desperate.

I’ve met all the Satans.  Beelzebub the Albino, Lucifuge the Ice Queen, Belial the Stoner, Azazel I’m Usually a Goat But Also a Rapist, Lucifer the Blond Red Eyed Wonderboy, Asmodeus the Thicc and Hell’s Biggest Dick – I could go on.  It’s a title.  But the one who plays the fiddle (and piano) and the stereotypical Black Man of the Crossroads, accuser, seducer, destroyer, tempter of man, demigod of the wind and seas (wait that’s Maui, and I just saw Moana) – is Samael.

He’s the one that sits on the throne in Hell and judges the Damned, the one who goes around the Pits of Abaddon lashing his snake tail to whip sinner’s souls, the one who takes Naberius on walks and is himself a great wolfish hellhound sometimes with dinner plate red eyes and other times a great black snake or dragon.  As in the Beast.  As in the Great Dragon.  As in the Nachash, the beguiling Bright Enchanter, the Fettered One, Ye Serpent of Olde, Shapeshifter, Demigod of the Wind and Sea, Hero and Man – fuck it’s Maui again.

I think Satan is dumb.  I think Hell is dumb.  I think angels are dumb.  I think demons are dumb.  I’m Pagan, damn it.  I worship dirt and trees and the Norse gods, not fucking Yahweh.  I begrudingly admit the Abrahamics exist in general, am very close with the archangels and drinking buddies with a few Goetics and archdemons, but more or less I’m Hell’s dancing monkey.  Demons push drinks on me and I get up on the tables in Asmodeus’ bars and dance and sing badly and embarrass myself.  I go to Beelzebub’s parties and Samael trolls me as a corpse or mummy or Cthulu and I run away screaming and everyone laughs.  He pretends to be Alucard  or Kylo Ren or Reaper and I throw things at him including shoes, books, and drinks and he laughs, like, well, Satan, because he is Satan.  Sometimes I feel like his lapdog.

But I invented him.  I pulled his name and character out of my ass when I was 12 for of all things, a demonic Twilight ripoff.  Then my computer got possessed.  But whatever.

He’s my bitch.  He bends over backwards to impress me in the astral because he is desperate for approval and love.  He literally scrapbooks and bakes us cakes and I’ve read in his fucking journals poetry about me and entries like “Allie got an A on her test today.  My heart swells with pride.  It is raining today.  Perhaps we will go for a walk.”  He even has creepy framed pictures of me on his desk.  He’s a fucking nerd that takes me fishing on the Styx and flying on his stupid dragon back and feeds me fucking tacos.  He gets drunk on my future grave and waxes poetic about my soul and reincarnations and when I’m driving he’ll appear in my third eye with a rose between his teeth looking like Pete Steele, because let’s be honest, Pete Steele was his earthly avatar, in a black velvet robe laying out seductively trying to get my attention when I’m trying to get past a yellow light.

When I check out cute guys  on the Metro he sends cold spots and gooseflesh and electric energy over my body as if going “Don’t even think about it, you’re mine.”  He likes it when I yell at him and call him names and slap him.  Spirits are fucking dumb but Samael is literally the dumbest spirit I know with the sickest sense of humor and horrible taste in clothes.  I wish I could take him shopping but he wouldn’t be caught dead in chinos and a nice white starches shirt.  Satan only likes black.  Maybe some red.  Red and black.  Possibly some silver.  Maybe he is colorblind.  The Devil is a loser and his fashion sense is Gothic and emo and Victorian.  He literally looks like Dracula.  And not in a good way.  Other times he’s a punk with piercings everywhere in leather and jeans.   And who could forget his disgusting death robes.  His closet is full of them.

I hate Satan.  I hate him.  He is the dumbest spirit in existence.  You’d think him being your bitch would make you like at least somewhat powerful, but instead he just gets triggered when Trump got elected and spent all day sending me emo music and messages through divination then going off the rail in my dreams.  Samael honestly can’t do shit for wealth or fame or whatever the hell he should do – Michael does and has literally saved my life, meanwhile when I’m suicidal and parade my guts in front of Sam he gets his fee fees hurt and sends me visions of me being tortured in Hell for taking my life, literally scaring me into being alive.  When I was 12 and Sam properly introduced himself, I was pissed he wasn’t Athena and said he was Satan and didn’t trust me and he told me that I read too much and not to trust Wikipedia.  When I asked him about shinigami because I liked Bleach, he turned into the Grim Reaper, said “Allie, I’m the KING OF SHINIGAMI,” made me hug him, then hid me under his cloak when angels appeared because once again, the Devil is preying on twelve year olds and god we have to get Samael to stop bothering minors.

It’s always girls on the cusp of puberty that get possessed, and for good reason.  We are all undergoing our Twilight phase and think vampires and fairies and demons are oh so cool and what if we could date them?  Some of us don’t grow out of that and thus paranormal romance is born.  I for one hate bad boys in real life.  Sure, I like the Grey Man in The Dream Thieves by  Maggie Stiefvater and the Darkling in the Grisha trilogy, but I exclusively date computer programmers/engineers who are my emotional rocks and do things like play basketball, sail, run HAM radio stations, program in their bathrobes, fix cars, or cook steak.  I have never so much as rode a motorcycle or kissed a smoldering musician or brought home a man with tattoos and a bad attitude and dark brooding past, and as an artist and writer, I would hate to date another artist or writer because we would just feed off another in an endless manic loop.  I need a boyfriend that is logical, sweet, and stable, considering being grounded is not a concept that exists with me as a bipolar roller coaster of a woman.

Bad boys are not cool.  Demons are not cool.  Satan is not cool.  He is lame, lame, lame, and he can’t even take care of his alcohol tolerance, let alone all of Hell.  That’s what Beelzebub and Rofocale and Lucifer are for.  The Satan that plays the role of the Devil is an emo alcoholic edgelord that rants about the occult but probably couldn’t fix a toaster.  Michael could fix a toaster.  Michael could fix your whole life.  That is why Michael is venerated by billions of people and the general occult consensus about Samael is that he is a dangerous spirit that can drive you mad and not suitable for public ritual, much less being in the same space as a minor.  Never let Samael near a minor.  Never let him near anything that looks like a minor.  Don’t even let him near a goddess, because he’ll just use a bad pickup line and get smited.

I joke, but Samael is very powerful.  The two most powerful spirits I know are Michael and Samael – as powerful as the gods – and they are constantly at war.  There is a 50/50 chance either will win – I’ve been tormented by Samael in dreams and invoked Michael for help only to have Michael banished by Sam, and I’ve seen Michael head stomp Sam until his brains leak out his skull.  Other times they act as my weird “dads” that hate each other but come together for the sake of their spiritual daughter’s betterment while fighting over my soul.  Sometimes I feel like when Samael and Michael got into a bitchfest over Moses’ soul, only I am not Moses just a memelord with too much lipstick whose greatest achievement in life is that I can whistle any blade of grass very annoyingly.

Samael is the most dangerous, vicious, cruelest, psychopathic spirit I know.  He has his good moments, but the good moments are often a trap.  The Devil comes disguised as an angel of light, and if you think Odin will do whatever he wants to get his way, you haven’t met Sammykins.  If you think Seth is ruthless, if you think the other demons are frightening, if you think Loki is chaos, if you think Cthulu is madness incarnate, you haven’t met Bonebutt.  He is a cannibal.  He is literally evil when he wants to be.  He is why I don’t want to exist when I die.

Because eternity with him?

I wouldn’t wish that on my greatest enemy.

I love him, but I hate him.  I always try to save him, and I will try still – the mem may disappear from his name and he may become Sael, the Purity of God, but that is so far away, and for now, my mind is in the pit, singing men’s song in the Devil’s cruel embrace.

Dream Diary: Orias the K-Pop Demon?

My friends Aradia and Adrian and I have all met Bune, and whenever Bune is in proximity, so is his spoiled son.  Let’s call him Demon G-Dragon.  Bune is decidedly Asian and delights in Japanese water gardens and peacocks and oolong tea and to me either appears as a hot samurai look-alike in silk robes with long flowing black hair and jade green eyes or, in the case of his birthday a few months ago, in his Old Man Bune form like a middle aged Han Dynasty emperor with a pointy beard.

I met Bune when I was like ten and see him around Hell occasionally but we aren’t by any means close.  Adrian is his one-man fanclub and in my dreams is always writing poetry about Bune and fangirling over him and even apparently buying catnip at witch markets for his many many cats.  Adrian writes couplets in my dumb dreams like “Bune’s hair is like moonlight” and even paints portraits of Bune and jasmine flowers on rice paper walls.

Instead of Bune, I get his dumb son the K-Pop Idol.  He’s extremely slender and beautiful and looks like, well, a K-Pop star.  Either spiked dyed orange blond hair in his teenage form or long black hair and leather jackets and looks like Atsushi Sakurai from Buck Tick in his older hotter form.  I met him once when I was 13 and he flirted with me and gave a middle schooler plum wine and took me to his apartment, which was white and gaudy with bunches of gold trinkets and kind of wannabe K-Pop gangster-ish.  If you’ve seen K-Pop boy bands you know what I’m talking about.  The American hood doesn’t translate very well in Seoul and neither does it for poser Demon G-Dragon.

Anyways, last month Adrian invoked Bune in one of my dreams and instead of him showing up, Demon G-Dragon appeared in my dreams and took me shopping for gaudy clothes and “saved me” from other demons which meant pushing anyone that wanted to talk to me out of the way and insisting on carrying me in his arms and he kept talking obnoxiously on his rhinestoned cell phone whose ringtone was Demon G-Dragon singing.

I hate him.

Anyways, last night I was at some kind of celebrity party in dreams with Samael and we were drunk and Bune’s son was posing like a high fashion model for a photoshooot in leather pants, bare-chested, in sunglasses and white wolf fur, and looked, again, like Atsushi Sakurai.  He kept winking at me and introduced himself finally as Marquis Orias.  Sam was flipping pissed because he interrupted one of Sam’s dumb jokes (he was ranting about Pokemon and pinching my cheeks and saying I was like a Pikachu.)  Sam pushed G-Dragon Orias into the punch bowl and G-Dragon Orias just smiled all seductively and flicked his tongue at me and I blushed and hid behind Sam, who was no better behaved.

I’m sorry, but I can’t take Orias seriously.  Even less seriously than Samael.

How do I exorcise a demonic K-Pop Idol?

Dream Diary: Graduation Day

For some reason, in dreams I find myself back in monster grad school, only today is – wait for it – graduation day.  Classes are wrapping up and my friends and I spend most of the time partying.  For our final rite of passage, we must perform a display of our mastery over our chosen course of study – mine are apparently “death angel” and “warrior angel,” each majors Samael and Michael sponsored me to enroll in, apparently, according to my little schedule of graduation.

Apparently anti-angel sentiment is high at the school, as angels are seen as uppity and xenophobic to other races, so I’ve been masquerading as a demon this entire time.  I, however, cannot hide my power-up on the graduation stage as white wings shoot from my back and my aura fluoresces yellow and pink and that goddamn LED halo sputters on.

The crowd boos and my friends gasp: “We never knew!”

Michael and Samael are in hiding in elaborate disguises, shades on, otherwise they wouldn’t have been let into the ceremony.  Samael drinks punch with his pinky finger out and Michael is reading a paperback.

First comes my death angel demonstration: I take my white and silver scythe from Samael and twirl it around like a crazy baton master, shooting blue lightning clouds from the blade.  Electric static makes my hair stand on end.  Samael smiles.

Last is my warrior angel suite, with my flaming sword brandished high – I execute thrusts and parries, fly around the stage stabbing the air, and things kind of catch on fire.  I fan them with my shield to put them out.

Crickets.

Embarassed, I take the scythe in my left hand and sword in my right and start circling them around like numchucks, which Baba Yaga’s granddaughter had used a few shows before me.  The crowd is rapt, finally, as orange gold and blue energy forms a sphere around me then crescendos in a pillar of light to the heavens.

The audience is blown away.  No clapping, just dumbstruck.  Michael and Samael give me a standing ovation, making sure not to stand to  close to each other because they hate each others guts.

The headmaster claps me on the back and puts my graduation cap on.  Blushing, I shake his hand.

Samael, Michael and I grab platefuls of refreshments and hightail it to Michael’s van.  Sam begrudgingly sits passenger seat, ever the terrible driver, stirring the paper umbrella in his alcoholic punch.  For some reason it is a green VW Van.

“You did good kid, and I don’t say that often,” Samael murmurs.

Michael nods his head.  “I’m proud.  Maybe graduate school wasn’t a waste of money after all.”

Clearly my subconscious is thinking of next week’s finals…

Dream Diary: Graduate School for Monsters

I’ve been reading too many fantasy novels again, the only explanation for why I dream I am in a graduate school for monsters. My friends and I are vampires, fairies, mermaids, angels, demons – the list goes on – and the faculty are angels and demons, with Michael as headmaster. We do the drudgery of classes, flirting with boys with fangs and comparing the color of wings and lipstick, spend late nights in the enchanted library pouring over living tomes as we cram for finals write foot-long essays with parchment and quill – clearly my subconscious still wishes I could have attended Hogwarts. I am Jophiel, par for course in dreams, with a pink and yellow aura and opalescent white wings, and my best friends and I laugh over drunk antics and party like there is no tomorrow in between the heavy load that is a magical monster grad school.

We learn ceremonial magick, sacred geometry, astrology, potion making, spellcasting – all taught by different angels and demons, but mostly we are on our smartphones texting each other about how hot the professors are and where the next kegger is located. Spring break finally rolls around and we pile like sardines into a VW Bug with shag carpeting and drive to an old English estate that’s doing the magical equivalent of an Air BnB.

Unfortunately, as we learn from the staff of the English mansion’s bed and breakfast, there has been an outbreak of vicious vampires who move fast as lightning unseen, do not pause for rest or sleep, only to eat, but thank god they cannot enter rooms uninvited. Instead they linger outside your doorway, starving you out, and the staff begin to fall like flies with bite-marks on their necks and blood at their feet.

We take it upon ourselves to use our magick to fight the vampires, and we think we have succeeded in an epic battle of silver against pale skin and ivory fangs, but they follow us somehow back to graduate school after break. The archangel professors hold council and summon me and my friends, then charge us with eradicating the vampire infestation as our final thesis before graduation.

We lay out traps for them, dummies stuffed with blood, and the vampires will pause momentarily to bite the necks only to find they are plastic, not flesh. Then we strike, stakes in hand. We pour over coffee and arcane grimoires on this ancient race of vampires unlike our fellow students – the Nightwalkers they are called – heartless and without conscience, killing machines.

The days wear on and finals draw close. Our thesis is due. One vampire is left. I am the decoy, a pretty blonde bombshell that cuts herself on her hands to lure the vampire in. He arrives, but before he can bite me my friends and I attack, staking him through the heart. We present the desiccated corpse to our thesis council and we pass with flying colors.

Dream Diary: Archangel Uriel

I spoke too soon about never meeting Uriel. What has always been a rather mysterious angel to me, with me always wondering where Uriel was, I met her (yes, a her, I was quite surprised) in a dream of a tropical paradise in Heaven with crystal blue oceans, sunfish, starfish, and coral reefs, pink sand beaches and verdant Pacific island greenery. I was flying around in my angelic form and she waved at me from a beach where she was practicing martial moves. She was dressed down in an azure blue top and pants like Grecian women wore when competing in athletic events, complete with a spear by her side. She had sandy brown skin with adorable freckles, hazel eyes, dreadlocks to her shoulders held back by a golden headband, and the cutest, most relaxed smile. She talked about how she was the angel of the earth and good to call upon for peace, inner guidance, and settling disputes with friends. Just my own UPG. Strange enough, she looked exactly like an OC, Lira, I made up in elementary school, who was the angel of the element earth and the universal defender in my fantasy space opera that also starred Ariel as the lion angel of fire and destruction. They were… a big thing… I distinctly remember 11 year old Allie writing make-out scenes between the two angels and shipping them hardcore as only a tween can ship… I don’t know how I feel about this…

I Hate Pink

A freshman year college dream from the old blog.

I’m in my dorm, uneasy.  My “friends” have come in trying to beg money from me, in a completely nonsensical situation.  We’re engaged in a shouting match, but I don’t have the guts to stand up for myself.  The sunny sky outside my window suddenly turns pitch black, and a tall figure walks down the hall.  Enter Samael, looking rather drunk.

Samael: (glares in distaste at my “friends.”)  “What are these worms doing here?”

Me:  “I don’t know!  They’re trying to mooch off me, and I don’t know what to do…”

Samael: (Strides down hallway, lip curling in irritation)  “If you won’t scare them away, I will.”  (Books go flying off my desk, smacking them on the head.  The door rattles as the sky darkens with thunder outside.  A vicious wind picks up in the hallway.  Samael laughs)  “Begone, pests!” he booms.

My “friends” run away screaming.

Samael: (settles into my fluffy pink chair)  “Sometimes, you just have to be mean.  Grow a spine, maggot.”  (He appraises my dorm room, looks down at chair in disgust)  “Why is everything bloody pink?” he says in distaste.  “Oh well.”  Yawning loudly, he relaxes like a king on his throne, and leans back, knocking his head on the mirrored door behind the chair.  He growls in irritation.  “This is ridiculous,” he groans.  “Girl’s dorms are set up idiotically.”

Me:  “There isn’t enough space for the chair anywhere else!  Stop complaining.”

Samael:  “See?  There.  You were mean.  Now all you have to do is tell people to shut up every once in a while, and your life will infinitely improve.”

Space Oddity: Chapter 1

Ziggi is a manic pixie dream girl that went on a bender and never recovered.  At least, that’s what her bandmates think.  Pink-haired with a moonbow on her butt, Ziggi is your average punk barista searching for meaning in suburbia.  Too bad her artistic roommate Cyrus turns out to be an alien who, when not smoking weed, is busy manipulating Ziggi’s genome in order to accelerate humanity’s evolutionary conga line.  Oh yeah, and he’s been at it for centuries, meddling with human biology so long the Sumerians started a religion after him.  At least he makes a mean fettucine alfredo?

After a concert goes sour, Ziggi and Cyrus blast off into space in Cyrus’ VW Beetle when Ziggi tries to turn off the radio.  Stranded on a spaceship suited for amphibians, not punks, Ziggi learns that her new tenant Cyrus, real name Enki, isn’t remotely human.  Gone are his good looks, replaced by tentacles and, well, he basically looks like a sewer mutant.  To complicate things, Enki is the heir to the Milky Way’s dysfunctional overlords, the Anunnaki: shapeshifters who feed off information.   In order to sexually mature, Enki has to shepherd humanity into his parent’s galactic dictatorship via good old genetic manipulation.  Too bad he would rather make trippy artwork or eat pot brownies.  A leader Enki is not, thus he is stuck in perpetual puberty, with the crown always just out of reach.  No wonder he likes to get high.

As Enki gives Ziggi a tour of his spaceship, she is thrust into a world of intergalactic intrigue where the universe is in turmoil, thanks to Enki’s ruthless parents.  Opposed to Enki’s genetic tinkering is his sister Ishtar who, though against interfering with species’ evolution, will do anything to take the throne.  Soon the Brood come, and Ziggi, Enki and Ishtar are sold to the highest bidder, who happens to have a personal vendetta against the Anunnaki.  Assassination plots are hatched, space pirates abound, and Ziggi discovers her talent for survival.  She’s not alone for long, however, as her bandmates soon wind up in space, stranded on an outlaw planet after they got caught in Enki’s tractor beam.  Forced to battle in interspecies cage matches and entertain their captors, Ziggi and her friends struggle to find a way out of the gladiator ring.  Their solution?  Form a space band, Anunnaki included, and rock their way to freedom.

Music is Ziggi’s ultimate salvation, and soon entire galaxies are salivating over her riffs.  But will her new supernova stardom be too hot to handle?  What about Enki’s despotic family?  And what will Enki do when he runs out of weed?  In this spoof of alien conspiracies, all these questions, and more, are answered in this Bowie-inspired mix of Lilith’s Brood and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  Enki ascends to the throne, having overthrown his parents, and Ziggi, now a cosmic rock star, can finally quit her job at Java Lava and move on to bigger, better things, namely a record deal.

 

Chapter 1

“You’re full of shit, Ziggi.  My new tatt doesn’t look like text from a crappy printer.  It’s based on Otzi the Iceman’s ink.  This stuff has history.”

I looked at the black bars on the back of Carlos’s neck.  All I could think was lame.  “This is like a step above tribal tatts, is all I’m saying.”

Carlos adjusted the volume on his bass.  “Whatever.  You have pink hair and a rainbow on your ass.”

“Hey,” I said.  “My rainbow isn’t a rainbow, it’s a moonbow.  That’s why it’s in black and white.”

“Would you two shut it?  I’m trying to get in the zone,” Spike said.  He twirled his drumsticks in the air.

I plugged my guitar into its amp.  “Right.”  I turned to Carlos.  “Forget what I said.  Your new tatt is cool.” (It wasn’t.)  “We good?”

Carlos nodded, wary.  “Whatever.  I guess.”

On that discordant note, the Iguana Knees jammed.  

Cyrus wandered in halfway through our set, smoking a pungent joint.  He scoured the floor of Carlos and Spike’s garage.  He found a rusty nail and a dented bottle cap.

“Would you guys mind if I kept these?” Cyrus yelled over the blare of my riff, pocketing his newfound treasures.

Carlos eyed Cyrus’ toned arms.  I wasn’t exactly immune to them either.

“Sure thing, man,” Spike shouted over my solo, making a V with his drumsticks.  “Mi casa es tu casa.”

Cyrus smiled his lazy smile and settled into the threadbare couch near the entrance.  He closed his eyes and took a drag from his joint.

Set over, we packed up and parted ways.  I ferried my stoned roommate back to our apartment, wondering the whole time if the tattoo on my ass really was just a rainbow.  

At home, I floated through a sea of Cyrus’ junk to my room, determined to pen the final lyrics to our new set.  I was just reaching the bridge, where the suburban dad from our concept album commits suicide with a George Foreman grill, when Cyrus’ drilling from his makeshift studio broke my concentration.

Ugh.”  I crumpled up the eleventh version of my lyrics and tossed it into the wastebasket.  

The drilling continued.  I banged my head against the desk, wondering how I would ever sleep with Cyrus working in a stoned haze on his newest art project.  

I looked in the mirror hanging from my inspiration board and spoke to my baggy-eyed reflection: “Get it together.  You’re days away from performing your new set.  You’re a broke musician.  Do the thing broke musicians do and write a killer song.”

Despite my best efforts, no inspiration came.

The drilling grew louder.  The girl in the mirror was on the verge of breaking, ready to kick her roommate out, wondering why she had ever let him move in in the first place.

It began innocently enough.  I was short on rent, and my old roommate had just joined one of those totally-not-legit completely white Buddhist monasteries, so I put up an ad on Craigslist for another occupant.  

Cyrus was the first to respond: a tall, quiet twenty-something with long ringlets of black hair like something from a romance novel and skin like sandstone in shadow.  I had initially liked him because he said he was an artist.  It also helped that Cyrus, as I said, looked like something from a romance novel, one with like a millionaire sheik on the cover or hot Bedouin warlord.  Maybe that was kinda racist, but that’s what I instinctively thought when I first saw him in all his glorious hotness.  Harlequin had, after all, stolen my teenage years, besides the Beatniks.

Cyrus had proven soft-spoken and charming when we met up in the local library.  His fingers had been stained with paint and he was dressed in all white, down to his Doc Marten’s.  I thought his paint-spattered clothes an endearing quirk.  

Things were roses for the first weeks – he kept to himself and his studio – but then I made the mistake of taking him to one of the Iguana Knees’ after-parties, where Carlos introduced Cyrus to weed.  

From the moment Cyrus toked his first joint, he was hooked.  The weed had a weird-ass manic effect: he scavenged for trash and channeled bursts of creativity into his found art.  Me, it mellowed me out, but it turned Cyrus into a shinies-hoarding magpie.  He would collect cast-off shoes from the gutter and cardboard from recycling bins, then go dumpster-diving for more materials. Come morning, the haphazard objects would be forged and soldered and sewn together into new creations and displayed in his studio at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town Alexandria.  There were mice made of broken batteries and bits of cotton, whole dioramas of little puppets made from forgotten knickknacks that danced thanks to solar panels, even a life-sized panther built from scrap metal and tires that smoked water vapor when it growled like an automaton if you pet it.

Over the course of a few days, Cyrus had turned into a regular pothead, smoking joint after joint, stinking up our apartment.  I had never seen weed work so quickly, not even that potent dispensary shit from Colorado.  He worked furiously, so often that I never heard him pause for sleep.  He welded, glued, sewed, and forged together new objects each day, crowding our apartment with his supplies.  The living room was filled with boxes of broken things, our small kitchen near bursting with stacks of stuff.  

Stuff was all I could call it.  Stuff.  I saw no potential in it and felt I was living with a hoarder, but Cyrus begged to differ (“It’s all material, man.”)

The night dragged, and the day dragged even more as I worked a double-shift at Java Lava.  I managed to burn myself thrice on the coffee machine and was completely drained when I clocked out.  After working the front counter all day, I could barely stand, let alone write a new song about a suburban relationship on the rocks.  Potential lyrics taunted my mind, mocking me as the sky grayed.

It was a short march out to my grandmother’s hand-me-down Pinto, which was the exact color of manure.  I grew up on a farm, so I knew what type of cow crap my Pinto was: it was the old shit left rotting in the fields, long after growing season was over.  A car on its last legs that sometimes got stuck between gear shifts.  

I’d named the Pinto Gerald because that seemed like the name of an old man with dementia.  Gerald and me, we’d been through some rough patches, but I liked to think that in his senility, I was finally breaking him in.

I turned the key in the ignition.  The engine sputtered.  I drove down commuter-thick streets to my apartment, past cars full of young professionals making their way back from congested D.C..  Maybe I would be one of those commuters if I hadn’t studied music and dance at college – maybe I’d actually have a career in this stupid job market instead of working at Java Lava.  Instead, my band never took off, I’d injured my ankle and ended any prospects of a dance career – so, lo and behold, I ended up stuck in a dead-end job, barely able to afford rent, not to mention ramen.  

Truth be told, Java Lava was one of the few places that would hire me.  Apparently pink pixie cuts and eyebrow piercings didn’t appeal to most employers.  At least they couldn’t see the rainbow – no, moonbow – on my butt.

I lived in the run-down part of Centreville, which was basically the East Coast’s Koreatown besides Annandale closer in to DC, with an Asian mart every five blocks and a Korean megachurch every two.  I loved the red bean pastries and the bulgogi was outta this world.  People of all strains liked to crowd Costco at 10:00 in the morning, eating free samples and navigating their extended families through the warehouse aisles.  I went there when I was bored and people-watched, mining the local community for album inspiration.  

I was ruminating on the one time an elderly lady tried to force me to join her ballroom dance studio while I was in line for a $2 hot dog drink special when Gerald’s engine sputtered on the back road that led past the shabby park to the barrio.  I knifed back to the present, pressing down on the accelerator to get over Gerald’s hiccup.  The Pinto shuddered and began to slow down.

“Damn,” I said, shifting down a gear as smoke came from the Pinto’s hood.  The engine whined as it died, and geriatric Gerald breathed his last.  

I barely managed to pull over to the packed dirt side of the road, in the shade of a tulip poplar, when the car died.  I slammed my hands on the wheel and cursed imaginatively.  

“Gerald,” I pleaded, turning the keys in the ignition, “c’mon, you geezer, if Frankenstein’s monster can come back to life, you can too!”

Despite my tough love, Gerald gave no reply.

I called Triple A.  Leaves rustled like bones rolling in a grave, and rain began to fall.  They said a tow truck would be here in a few hours.  I dialed Cyrus.

“Ziggi?” answered a voice like chocolate.  “What a pleasant surprise.  I was just washing my palette and listening to Prairie Home Companion.”

“Hey.  My car broke down.  Could you pick me up, Cy?”

“Oh.  Sure.  Where are you?”

I told him my location, and soon he arrived in a beat-up white VW beetle.  He stepped out into the rain, ivory umbrella in hand, dressed in his usual – milky skinny jeans, a snowy blazer, and shiny Docs like ice.  The rain didn’t even touch him.  Cyrus smiled and tucked a loose black lock behind his ear.  His hair was in a man-bun with a paint brush stuck in it, at the sight of which my heart palpitated.  I adored man-buns.  I adored art supplies.   I didn’t adore Cyrus.  He had an undercut which made it even harder not to be attracted to the walking weed joint.

If only I could use alchemy to transmute his consciousness into that of my ideal man’s and swap my soulmate’s mind for his.  Then I could live in non-matrimonial bliss with his clone, because marriage was only for reptiles – cold-blooded ones that dress in human skin, have 2.5 children, and incubate their eggs in nursery rooms whose walls are color-coordinated with the bassinet.  Reptiles with dead eyes that eventually ended up eating their mates.  Or wait, was that spiders?

Cyrus knocked on the window.  “You alright?  You’re staring at me,” he yelled into the glass.

I shook my head like a wet dog.  “Oh?  Sorry.  Just thinking.  Don’t spiders eat each other?”  

Cyrus opened Gerald’s door for me and handed me a spare umbrella.  His lips quirked.  “Only if they’re hungry.  Must be hard to be a spider.  How did the Itsy Bitsy Spider go?  Perhaps I could rig a Rube Goldberg machine for my gallery based on that… with a spider made of sandpaper and titanium… spiders have always reminded me of something rough yet steely, I am not quite sure where I am going with this.”

The rain was a constant drip, like a leaky faucet.  Cyrus’ car was hotboxed.  I choked on the wafting smoke.  It was cluttered with art supplies.  A smoked joint rested in the cup holder, and several extras were already lit.  Cyrus gave a goofy smile as he turned the keys in the ignition.  I was in one of the less-serious levels of Hell – the one where dank hippies went.

We drove past the barrio to the end of the street, where our shabby apartment resided.  Twisted trees grew around its perimeter.  Cyrus parked.

“How long will it take to get your car fixed?” he asked.

I sighed, squeezing a soda can on the floor between my feet.  “I think this is the end for Gerald.  I’ll sell him for scrap and beg my parents for their old farm truck.  No one uses it, so it should be fine.”

Cyrus nodded as we walked into the lobby, then took the elevator to the third floor.  Cyrus unlocked our door.  

“So, I think you’ll like the new piece I’m working on.  It’s an interpretation of bee dances using cigarette butts I found on the sidewalk-”

I tripped over one of Cyrus’ sawed-off pipes and went flying across the living room, landing askew.  I heard something snap, and my ankle throbbed.  I rolled onto my side, taking pressure off my foot.

“Ow!”  I clutched my ankle, which was beginning to swell.

Cyrus was by my side in a flash, his face strained.  “Oh no.  Oh, no no no.  Sorry – let me see your foot.”

“No, ow.  This is enough.  I’ve had it with your stuff.  It has to go.”  I sobbed from the pain.  “I think it’s broken.”

He ignored my warning and rolled up my pant leg, then pulled down my sock gingerly.  “It’s not broken,” he said, his voice soft, and placed his hand on the joint where my foot bent at an odd angle.

“It is,” I whined.

Shh.”

Heat seemed to flow from his palm to my ankle.  The swelling went down, and the pain vanished.  My foot bent back to its natural degree.

“What did you just do?” I said.

Cyrus looked at me with stoned, blank eyes.  “What do you mean?”

“My ankle was broken.  Now it’s not.  How – what – how did you do that?”

“Man, am I high.  What just happened?”  Cyrus gently rolled my sock back up.  

“My ankle, Cyrus, you fixed it.”

“Jesus, I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Like I said, your ankle was fine.  You were just shocked.  That’s all.  Have some salvia.”

I narrowed my eyes.  “No, I wasn’t.”

“Ziggi, Ziggi, relax man.”  He smoothed my pant leg.  “Everything’s about perception.  It’s what I explore in my art.  People’s beliefs about reality differ, and they’re challenged all the time.  Reality is a shifting thing.”

“Look, I can’t deal with your pot-fueled bullshit.  My ankle broke.  I don’t care what you think you ‘perceived.’  It broke, and now it’s better.  That doesn’t happen in any reality I know.”

“Whatever floats your coat – er, boat.  Yeah, boat.  A coat’s for when it’s raining, and I guess it could rain on the sea, but that’s where you humans float your boats.”  He smiled faintly and helped me to my feet.  “I made fettucine alfredo for dinner.  Help yourself to it.  It’s in the fridge.”  He began to walk back to his room.

Before he could disappear, I grabbed his shoulder – an act so at odds with his graceful nature – and pulled him back to me.

“Cyrus,” I said, “what did you do?”

His smile faltered.  All in white, he looked like a deflated swan.  “Look, I have to finish up a piece for an exhibition this week.  I promise I’ll clean up the apartment tomorrow.”  He clasped my hand in his and held it for a moment.  “Thank you for being so forgiving of my clutter.  You’re a great roommate.”

My anger drained.  How could I bitch at Cyrus when he was always a gentleman, despite his mess and 420 being his favorite number?  “Thanks.  But I could have sworn my ankle – never mind.”

Cyrus let go of my hand.  “Maybe it’s the stress of your accident.  I’ll be in my studio.  Knock if you need anything.”

He left, whistling.  I stared at my faded poster of Ziggy Stardust on the wall, at whose concert I had been conceived.  My parents never grew tired of telling me that particular story.  

My ankle was still hot, like it had been plunged into a sauna.  I ambled over to the kitchenette, fixed myself a plate of cheesy fettuccine, and popped it into the microwave.