Mike Zone is the Editor in Chief of Dumpster Fire Press, the author of One Hell of a Muse, A Farewell to Big Ideas and Void Beneath the Skin, as well as coauthor of The Grind. A managing editor at Concrete Mist Press, a frequent contributor to Alien Buddha Press and Mad Swirl. His work has been featured in: Horror Sleaze Trash, Better Than Starbucks, Piker Press, Punk Noir Magazine, Synchronized Chaos, Outlaw Poetry and Cult Culture magazine.
Punk Rock Reaper
….and you wake up without a sense of makeup. What is my DNA? How much of it is determined by brain patterned and external stimuli as eyeliner washes through tears of bitter salt and sawdust sweat from the venue the night before, throat still hoarse from howling at the show, why do I got this bike chain and heart-shaped lock necklace around my neck and was I weeping again in bed not alone looking at someone who may not be a girl in my mohawk skull Molotov cocktailed eyes t-shirt…flaming, stumble back looking down at phantom pants.
A ghost stands before me in the outline of me, pants around ankles. Snicker almost laughing induced to vomit, the bathroom awaits but the body quivers.
Down back on back. A sense of vertigo, we do not die of death, but we die of spinning collisions star dust constructs underneath stars drinking poison, smoking poison, copulating sometimes in back alleys or the grounds of cracked up erupting parking lot.
Missing my pal, Shambles, mourning over a good year straight…they call me Rummy ‘cause I don’t drink or didn’t drink but used to talk like a pirate to the one-legged guy in the bar who never got the joke…was Shambles part of my makeup, is he part of makeup? Is that what the void is, the ghostly hole in my chest where my heart should be draining the color the world away…not really, just numb everything feels like it’s gone television static.
Straight edged ashen haired angels of the moonlit night looking to snuff out the sun, tattooed black magic marker-esque “x” to mark the spot of what doesn’t go through protruding veins: NO DRUGS, NO BOOZE, NO SEX, dangerously blowing away in the windblown world dancing like a Zen leaf propelled by the rapture of life, talking mystic shit, Jesus being Wizard, preaching on corners until one day the notion of a collective came in our minds, Shambles; shaggy haired blue in plaid pants and leather jacket
“We can be like spinning dervishes but punk as fuck with real anarchy in the USA. Get in touch with my old boy from Santa Cruz, we’ll head down there Rummy, make life what it is, spit in the face of this neo-fascist conformity. None of this vigilante sidekick shit for the man anymore, working office supply stores, like shaving legs and wearing chainmail underwear for the caped crusader but not truly making a dent in crime. Get me?”
We raised hell at Knockers, telling people how and where they went wrong and just as the sunrise gracelessness of a brand new day heralded itself as I fell before a porcupine pink haired girl looking all wholesome as a girl scout touched her hair earlier that day, something felt like a loss as I entered her something downcast from chest like an anchor weighing me to the planet as I blasted away prematurely while at that precise moment in time half way across town, Shambles whose life was anything but had his brains blown out on the sidewalk three steps from our door, face down…
NOBODY saw anything, turns out NOBODY happened to be EVERYBODY.
And in the moment when sex and death became interlocked on this mortal plane all sense that made sense of this world stopped making sense and the nonsensical absurdity of it all fell upon me like darkness, nothing star lit with a black canvas backdrop with Hollywood basement lights but an utterly cold onyx thing…invisible yet breathing inside me.
Looking around the apartment we both shared; nails and staples hanging out the walls where old flyers, posters and flags hung…it’s a mausoleum crucifying my mindscape with survivor’s guilt…I creep into the bathroom feeling a razor along my loins and open down below, the cabinet where I keep a jar of dirt intermingled with Shamble’s brains the pigs forgot to clean up, placed next to it is an old school rotary dial telephone-
“In case you ever need to talk.” She says from behind, probing a grating memory as I sit Indian style with a receiver to my ear.
Something causes me to bristle, artic sweat bourbon scented…it’s a toxic flush without vomit or excretion. The subzero blood coursing through my body all of a sudden warms me comfort wise provoking the imagery of a hot chocolate being slide over to me in a bone chipped mug and a hug from behind by unseen hands from the lover never to be and I wonder if death has come for me ‘cause I haven’t exactly been living life…
If this is what you can call “life.”
“But in that great wasteland of desolation slow-death as we grind to a halt growing with cancer the infinite materialistic bullshit stops killing us through blackout where you can see the universe being born.”
Shambles under a streetlamp, on top of me, grinding in an experimental way after a homophobic slur was made.
“It sucks when shambles of memories are the only remains of someone who was anything but.”
She’s trying to get me to look at her and that’s when I remember The Doll House several blocks away and The Doll House looking at me in a series of dreams. I close my eyes and rise, starting to turn around knowing when my lids life, I’m going to be finding something just as depraved.
And I do…it’s what I’ve always suspected the eye-teeth of brain chomping at my soul-essence to be and I can read her mind almost, only it’s like seeing a movie…translated into audio neon light letters exploding psychedelically in a pocket of consciousness as sensory receptors adapt to reality; what happens when he fucks Death to create life in order to slay everyone in the nuclear cold war winter holocaust meant to be?
Maybe Death just can’t take it or doesn’t know what lies beyond those gates.
“Of course I know what happens after you die Henry, I’m Death, not the wholesome girl you saw several years ago during your straight edge celibacy who was killed in that hit and run.”
I remember she looked at me and smiled until the yellow cab jumped the curb and she flipped up in the air landing on her back on the concrete, spike haired snapping at the point of impact like her spine and neck, looking at me with profound loss but devoid of feeling. Black leather coat and skirt with fishnet stockings like a funeral shroud.
Shambles taking me to a show that night, spinning and spinning telling me to focus on that loss and her eyes looking at the house lights coming down on us and even though I hated the world there was a moment of joy celebrating a stranger’s life and the sacred never to fully explored romance we probably would never have shared. Catching moonlight on my tongue as the cold snow descended, Shambles and Rummy arm in arm talking about taking solace in infinite loss where one can find infinite love.
“It may not be hardcore my friend at first glance, but these are the most brutal and sharpest words and experiences that refine our immortal engines into an equilibrium none of us can truly fathom until we die and don’t come back anymore.”
“You’re never going to be hear from him, Rummy. It’s over I suggest you quit trying to call him.”
Her face is the void. It’s a white-hot void, shining like a comet crashed and lodged into someone’s skull, her hair is strands of strands of shadow but shiny and fine. Is the entity Death evidence we came from stars? I know she won’t say as he places two slender ivory hands upon her naked hips making my t-shirt sexier than it ever was even after belonging to Shambles and not ever washing it after he died.
Is this death? Death as an entity talking to me. We all mostly cry when we’re born because we’re on the way toward end and that’s the sweet tragedy of it all as we pretend to live and I realized that despite what Shambles said, everything was wrong turning my black magic marker “X” tattoos into symbols of self-eradication rather than blockading those unholy influences…Give me all the sex. All the drugs. All the booze? Don’t give me no cares or false meanings, we’re all going down the same path…animals in the human in fake cages rendering us savages, savage is the root word for brave so it’s brave to be a savage and-
“Boring Henry, you’ve been given what everyone’s been given, a lifetime and here you go wasting it away. Why? Due to a series of unfortunate events meant to challenge rather than deflate? I know the answer, but I ask you.”
“None of it’s real, why I should pay mind? Punks, posers, and Nazis in the street. I see them all despite all this existential cosmic reckoning Shambles told me about and it’s all a huge zero-sum loss devoid of anything real.”
“So, what do you want, despite having an entire lifetime to craft anything but even though to your mind it’s all meaningless?”
“Something real. Purpose. Meaning. Something where I know, I’m not dying all the time.”
“I’d like to smell flowers Henry, eat a piece of blueberry pie with some black coffee and be able to fall in love, bring life rather than take and when I shut the door to my own existence, leave into an eternity with a smile on the face that I don’t have.”
Something looming over me, picturing myself as a kid in the suburbs crewcut running across the grass, playing basketball in high school, sitting in an economics class in college and one day just getting up to say Fuck it. Was a virgin until Shambles got killed, didn’t become Rummy until I decided to drink and really become a Rummy without the pirate talk and about to say Fuck it again and jump out the fucking window.
“You’re too much of a coward to jump out the window Rummy. Don’t look at me like that, I’m Death as much I despise it and can no longer remain indifferent to it all, I see and know the end of everything which isn’t as pleasant as you’d think it to be even if my existence is saturated with purpose.”
“Do you know about my dream?”
“At The Doll House? Yes.”
“It happens tonight, doesn’t it?”
Goosebumps along my neck as Death seems to be bristle and turn around with either fear or a heavy sense of shame and guilt and I have to wonder why she is paying me a visit, when in fact I have an idea and something like a smile of sickness spreads across the face that I wish I didn’t have and perhaps this is sense coming back and the entire point of things not mattering has brought me to this sensible sense of being right her and now.
Kismet. Death and I at the crossroads. Robert Johnson to the Devil for a guitar on the road to somewhere. Death and me in this bathroom in some sort of just as equally mythic exchange.
“For a man who doesn’t see the meaning of living, you sure have an ego, Henry.”
“I’m not Henry.”
She faces me and there’s a blue nebulous swirling in the glowing white-hot void.
“You’re not Rummy, either.”
“Did you prevent that fire?”
“It wasn’t time.”
“It wasn’t my place to set that fire.”
Punk bastards. They all needed to die.
“Death transcends time, perhaps you’ll get your chance. If you can accept the responsibility, however I have to ask, why you’d take me away and bring me home if you didn’t want to die? Was it the thrill of dispatching various lives and the off chance of creating life amidst it all erotically charging for you or was it just flight or fight…live to procreate another day like another savage animal, a final act of bravery? See, I’d like your take on before moving on.”
“Moving on, where?”
“There are two scenarios Henry. One of them was where you lived to a ripe old age with the young woman you mistook me for last night but that won’t happen, obviously…no Henry, one is where you get the purpose you deserve for wasting a lifetime.”
“You jump out that fucking window, like you were contemplating. Some people can fight so hard, they can change what was planned all the way to their natural end.”
This isn’t real. I start pounding both sides of my head with each fist, feeling nothing. Eyes shut. Teeth clenched. I know my sins all too well and the reward for everything is all too great.
“Or so you believe, and you have to ask yourself, if its’ worth it.”
She’s not really speaking, her speech is invading my brain, I look over and Death crosses her arms.
“On my end, it’s totally worth it” She actually says.
Fuck her. Fuck them. Fuck everyone. Fuck Shambles. Fuck myself and most importantly fuck Death.
I push Death out of the way and fall through someone that isn’t there crashing into the doorway, feeling a rib crack puncture something inside, a wet snapping noise, fluid where it shouldn’t be along the walls of my lungs, there’s no leap of faith but a jump from a fourth story window and it’s like I’m moving and it’s heading toward me like a freight train, numb to impact as glass shatters taking cracking blinds with me as the sidewalk launches upward toward my magnetically animated meet structure…head first melon explosion, there’s an eyeball near the gutter, I’m pretty sure is mine.
There’s shrieking and another yellow cab hits a fire hydrant as I rise teetering back and forth, still able to see out of my remaining eye, I’m not dead yet, somehow walking all crooked like. The cab driver looks at me, and at first it isn’t who I called to pick me up on the morning I saw the girl, knowing the driver would be drunk and what he might do, it’s HER…then it isn’t and there’s the squeal of a tire and of course try to brace myself for impact seeing it my mind as I’m pinned to a shop wall with pink intestines on the hood and some yellow pus green oozed substances from chest, black bile out my mouth.
He gets out the car but isn’t he…Death pulls out a transparent umbrella as I projectile vomit more bile.
“Is this really what you desire?”
Something black like a lung slithers out my mouth, smelling of shit and gasoline.
“You are a wicked creature, aren’t you? Self-proclaimed martyr. Manufacturer of sorrow. Deny yourself pleasure in hedonism, deny yourself pain in the shirking of responsibility but the universe doesn’t exactly work that way, things aren’t as random as you’d like to believe.”
She tosses the bile soiled umbrella and jumps on the hood of the cab, pulling me up by shaggy blue hair, plaid pants ripping, ankles shattering, lays me flat on my back, severed feet underneath the car’s muffler and straddles me.
“Can you believe what was inside you? Does it even matter? No, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t, things that were supposed to happen didn’t happen but something else happened cosmically to sort of balance it out and here we are right now. You’re dying not like you were supposed to because you found a way to sabotage destiny with enough fateful disturbances and while I shudder to offer you an exit for which I know you deeply yearn for, I decided to make you work for it, even give you a way out because it’s more of a mercy than what you actually seek.”
Death begins grinding our pelvic regions against each other. My optic nerves catch on fire as light transforms to darkness and lightness into dark, space into void, void into space. She’s going to give me what I’ve always wanted.
It disgusts her and I love it.
Don’t have to fake nothing for no one anymore. No more lying to myself. An end to bourbon and gin drownings, heroin hazes and sexual distraction from self-deceit…yeah, I guess by chance I killed that girl with the intention of hopefully doing so, I vandalized various members of Nazi homes and punk’s hangouts blaming rival groups to meet up at The Doll House to instigate a brutal brawl to start an electrical fire and cook every last one of them with the chance of tasting a bit of crisped human flesh and lastly, yes I leaked Shambles plan to the local drug-lord because I started to believe there could be meaning and fuck him for attempting to relay it to me as I wanted none of that.
She enters me with something I should have, organs bubbling and skeleton shattering as my blood dries up and prism lightning from eyes and mouth set the landscape aflame feeling like a tidal wave rather than the flames burning away this timeline of what is never to be.
The Doll House is a club for punks: some of the greatest ska and hardcore bands have played here but not tonight. It’s open MIC night but no one cares about your shitty poetry or your pretend skinhead band Reserve Garbagemen.
This is the end.
Death behind me, looking all human and cute with arms around my waist. I can’t see her, but my skull is a glowing white supernova, somehow, I can be outside of myself looking at myself in a leather spiked shouldered jacket, plaid pants, and car part mohawk, comet lodged in face, holding a bouquet of bad wires frayed at the edges and ready to go off.
The pandemonium is brutal: broken bottles shoved into Nazi skulls, Nazis shooting punks, posers hiding under tables being sodomized by Nazis who in turn are being raped for raping others, a green mohawked woman lights a bottle of whisky on fire throws at a bearded leather vested cretin with a blowtorch prying a rude-boy’s mouth open with a pair of pliers. There’s no music but the sound of carnage with skin breaking, veins twisted, furniture cracking and wet crashing.
“This is what you’ve always wanted” She whispers.
I nod and plug the wires into my white-hot face and there’s a flash.
Dazed, curled up fetal on the sidewalk, I see Shambles. He shakes his head and turns away with the rest of them.
There’s some blackened meat hanging on a twisted melted pipe, but I can’t pick it up to taste it.
“That’s because you’re dead.”
I know the voice, I never got a chance to hear but can’t feel myself shudder nor bring myself to weep as this is not the nature of my existence, though still crooked and bloody from memory in only plaid pajama pants, the corpse below with meat I tried to taste is mine, face blown out by frayed, sparked electrical wiring.
She circles around me in her zany spiked universal void hair and white-hot supernova face in fishnets and short leather black shirt with the same combat boots.
“Maybe we could have had something, but you decided to waste what we all got, and you wasted what little of mine I never got to have.”
I want to turn away and go where the others are going as I try to keep my eyes downcast.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
I gaze up and past her to see a beautiful young woman with raven hair and emerald eyes wearing my t-shirt and a pair of black jeans. She buys some sunflowers from a homeless man and enters Clockwork’s Diner, a twenty-four-hour pie and coffee place located kitty corner from The Doll House.
“She took what you wasted and gave me what you didn’t deserve.”
Something whips through me…I feel myself disperse like air and see two shabbily dressed kids on bicycles who apparently rode through me. The homeless man makes his way over, pulls his dick out and urinates through my mid-section.