Where have I been for the past six months? Good question.
Six months ago, I was in my apartment, cooking something in a spoon you won't hear about for another couple years, when I heard footsteps in the stairwell. Typical, of course, if you live in an apartment building with neighbors, landlords, and lead-footed pimply-face delivery boys; atypical if you live in a dilapidated shitsty in the middle of a fucking slum. My neighbors are meth dealers, my landlord's a retired pimp who still slaps like a fuckin' hammer, and the only delivery people who come in and out of this place use the fire escape and carry all their packages in their rectum; and none of these people make noise, ever, not even when they're mixing cold meds and match books in a coffee pot right next door to me. So, needless to say, I was quite alarmed.
Instinctively, I hid in my closet, which isn't so much a closet as it is a "House of Usher"-esque crack in my bedroom wall I can spider into and hide drugs. Not a moment later, some jackbooted thugs kicked my door in, which was wholly unnecessary considering it hadn't been bolted into its hinges for years and the lock was merely aesthetic. The three of them overturned everything in my place: the couch I found on the side of the highway, the television I stole from the nice neighborhood, the microwave I pilfered from a hotel in Delaware; until they found the laptop I jacked from some suit in a coffee shop holding up the broken table I used to eat, sleep, and sometimes fuck on. What horrible, deceitful thing had I done to lead these venom-filled cocksuckers to my den of malfeasance? How did it come to be that these pitiful flies had trapped the spider in his own web? I'd decided then that any rash course of action would do me no good. Were these guys spooks? Feds? Or just well dressed crooks? I'd find out later, and I'd find out what they wanted with my piece of shit computer.
That was all they'd come for, apparently, and I figured all I'd be short come the end of this was a laptop and some irreplaceable Swedish lesbian porn; but then one of the pigfuckers reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a white tube with a flintlock on the end, flipped it, and tossed it screaming into the corner. Within seconds, the wall was completely on fire and spreading fast, and I'd be cooked alive if I didn't hurry. I jammed what little of my stash I could fit in my mouth and rolled out before flames engulfed the wall behind me. Then I heard it, soft at first, but growing louder and faster by the second; the sound of glass bursting, of liquid spilling, spreading, and burning. Beneath me, above me, in front of me, behind me, on any side of me, I was surrounded by imminent death. The meth labs had blown.
Hell washed over me, and I was all too ready to burn to death and welcome sweet oblivion as the last of my skin blistered and sloughed off my body. In my head, I'd already composed my "fuck yous" to God, the Devil, and any other motherfucker out to claim my dirty, rotten soul. Though ever the cynic, even in death, I was completely unsurprised when I was greeted at the end with total nothingness. At the very least, I was hoping for some sort of Buddhist monk "congratulations on burning to death, welcome to Nirvana" scene; but no, no Nirvana, no Samsara, nothing but nothing. Unless that's Nirvana, in which case I'd take eternal insanity over nothingness any day of the week. I'd rather burn and toil in Hell, telling the Devil to suck my cock as little bat-winged bastards jammed carpenter's nails into it, than be lost forever with nothing but this shitty journal and some illegitimate children in South America to mark my existence.
That was my seeming punishment for a reckless and useless life. Years of being a relentless asshole, a violent alcoholic, and a hackneyed writer had landed me in eternal darkness with the most grueling torture of all: my own fucking thoughts. I lost all sense, or whatever sense I had, if I ever had any; and for an eternity I drifted, while my thoughts pecked at my sanity like a skeletal vulture over roadkill in a parched desert. If it were at all possible, I'd say I went mad, but it's hard to go somewhere you've never left, and that seemed my resigned fate. I was never going to leave this prison of disorienting derangement.
Years, decades, maybe centuries after I'd been immolated, screaming in my ratty apartment, I found a companion in the darkness. Another silent traveler on my nihilistic path, a tall black man in a tux smoking a cigar, tipping his top hat towards me in greeting. I smiled back and nodded, and he winked at me through the one missing lens in his sunglasses. Did I know this metaphysical transient? Why did he invoke both terror and hope in me at once? And would he toss me a stogy? I hadn't had a smoke in ages. He removed his hat and bowed with a sweep, revealing a tenebrous, hellish pit, even more desolate than the void we shared, buried within his caved in skull. It was then that I realized who my new friend was. He was the graveyard baron. The keeper of the crossroads. Samedi. For whatever reason, he was the harbinger of my eventual fate. Fearless, or more accurately cockily, I marched into his deadhead towards my end.
Shunted into something even more unknown than nothingness, I grinned in anticipation. Finally, I'd be able to tell some arrogant cosmic piece of shit to stuff a broken beer bottle sideways up his fucking asshole. Or so I had thought. The end of this jet tunnel didn't take me to Heaven, which was no surprise, of course; nor did it drop my pathetic ass shrieking towards Hell, which honestly was a bit of a surprise. Instead, I found myself bound in some corner of creation no one had ever seen or would ever see again, trapped in an intricate silver web made of stars, facing a creature of pure ether: a spider whose many jeweled eyes were entire galaxies and who spoke in supernovas. He was Anansi, the great spider. The web-spinner. The trickster.
He shuffled toward me across his infinite web, spinning more cosmic silk in his wake as entire cosmos were destroyed and reborn with every movement. As he spoke through the soundless void in a voice that pierced reality with terrible bass, I could hear the whispers of the secret masters of creation in his throat, and their revelations ripped through my brain leaving none of their relevance but all of their importance. The great Anansi told me that he had made a deal with his father, Nyame the lord of the sky, eons and planetary lifetimes ago, that upon the death of every living being, he had the divine right to ingest all of their knowledge and imagination before they resigned their fates to whatever gods they worshiped, and that my death was one he had been looking forward to. In my mind, he said, rested one of the most incredible stories he'd ever glimpsed, and he wanted it for himself.
Needless to say, I was completely goddamn boggled. What was this great idea I had that I didn't know about? Some incredible sequel to The Bible? An off-off Broadway play about political corruption and ineptitude? A ridiculously popular reality television show where the Osmonds move into a whorehouse? Whatever it was, it must have been great if the fucking god of stories wanted it, and I'd be fucked backwards if some plagiaristic deity was gonna have it! I had to think of something fast, which given the situation was grandly ironic. What cosmic tar baby could I concoct to out-trick the trickster god? Then it hit me, harder than the ceiling when my apartment collapsed.
I'd been floating in nihility for so long, I was beginning to forget how I'd gotten where I was; facing the King of Stories to keep one of my own, apparently. I told him what an honor it would be for my creativity to survive long after existence started folding back in on itself, but I had no recollection of any incredible story he might be after. Years of rampant, unadulterated drug abuse had diffused my fragile mind, and I relied heavily on technology to recall and collect my imagination, which worked a lot better than some star-formed bottle gourd. He sank his fangs into my soul and searched my thoughts long and hard before coming to the conclusion I'd hoped he would: my mind was so fucking broken, whatever was in it before I died was nigh-unsalvageable.
Obviously, I was feeling pretty cocky, but I supposed I was expecting a bit much to have beaten a god so easily at his own game. Anansi, disappointed, told me that I had nothing to offer him and that I could be on my way to whatever fate awaited. And luck! Another stroke of half-genius, half-kismet! I told him I worshiped no gods and had no kings, and that my fate would be more nothing if he let me go now. Of course, he didn't care, until I told him about the three strange men who stole my ideas and left me for dead in a torched slumhole. Once more, he painfully struck his godvenom into my heart to see into my past. Whatever story he thought he foresaw in me, he easily believed was in that stolen laptop.
Appearing as a man to me now, but still quite spidery, the trickstergod told me what he saw. He saw death traveling with those three, and not the fun kind of death that you can bribe with rum and jerked chicken. He saw me driven mad and madder still. He saw a world of chaos pierced through its heart with words of order, or maybe it was the other way around. Most importantly, though, he saw a good story. And I wondered, had I been some kind of cosmic tar baby, or was I the one having my strings pulled? It's never easy knowing where you stand with metaphysical beings of abstract proportions. The godspider told me, for the sake of stories, he'd send me back, and with two gifts. He said he'd give me a mask and a heart full of venom, as if I needed any more, and sent me on my way, back to the world of peons and fuckheads.
When I "awoke," I was still surrounded by complete darkness, but something else, too. Chilling cold, a stark contrast to how I exited this fucking joke of an existence. I kicked and screamed my way through an ebony womb and spilled crying onto the cold, sterile, tile thighs of life. Blind, I crawled through the insufferable light of my new world as my infant eyes adjusted to harsh reality. I was in a morgue. My fingers traced the Y-shaped scar down my chest, but more than that, the disgusting, bark-like texture of my stomach as well. My arms, my legs, and I could only imagine my face. My entire body was covered in horrible scars and burns. I was a monster, inside and out.
A couple of attendants walked in to witness my glorious and horrifying birth. One managed to scream in absolute terror before fleeing, the other simply passed out at the sight of me. I stole his clothes and ran for the street and didn't stop running until I was blocks away, wheezing in an alley in the noonlight. While I rested against a wall, face in my hands, I contemplated my "gift" as my fingers traced my disfigured countenance. I deserved this, cheating death somehow and finding my punishment back among the living. Anansi, the trickstergod, the web-spinner. Old gods love games and mortals are their favorite gamepieces.
I ran my hand down my face from my temples to my chin, a habit I fall into when I'm stressed. Then I stood up and dusted my sad self off, ready to look for these suited fuckheads with quite possibly the only thing I had left worth living for, a story, when a fellow street urchin croaked something to me from his pile of trash. "Nice mask," he said. I turned toward the window behind me and stared into the wild eyes of an ivory face grinning like a maniac. A mask and a heart full of venom. Neat trick.
"Thanks," I said, and then took my leave of the piss-soaked alleyway. I had shit to do.