Selected Fiction by Adam Graham
The Artist[ A markedly lethargic and corpulent German boy, whose father managed a local motel, the Sandman Inn, trudged towards the studio of Ian Lokdon, the world renowned artist. The stout boy carried under his pale flabby arm a monstrously thick tome with an ostentatious title scrawled in gold gilt across its leather cover: A History of the World. The work was given him by Lokdon. ] [ The boy’s chin, rather, chins, plural, wobbled, in a gelatinous manner with each step and had smeared upon them what appeared to be this morning’s breakfast: multiple eggs, slabs of oily bacon, and white-bread toast. The boy was involuntarily selected for this particular performance from a list consisting of the names of all the young males of the city. ] [ The corpulent German boy, with his breakfasted jowls, his smeared jiggling cheeks, entered the studio of Lokdon through the westernmost door. ] [ Is not the mirror image your slave? Is not the control of that image granted to you? And so a mirror, of sorts: A skinny, see his ribs there, lad of English origin entered the studio of Lokdon from the easternmost door. His shirtless form revealing the boney xylophone of his anatomic torso, upon which the melody of want was played da Capo al Coda ad infinitum. His skin an unnaturally sallow hue, an oysterous yellow-grey that gave his eyes the look of large rotten eggs. His pants, three sizes too large for his impecunious form, were bunched about his waist with a length of frayed rope; the legs cuffed over and over to reveal two bare and filthy feet. Under his arm he carried a titanically scaled tome with the title The Nature of the Modern Prison handsomely forged upon its own leather cover. This boy too was selected from the list of names, and too was given the book by Lokdon. ] [ The audience to the performance was already seated when the two boys entered from opposite sides. The crush of three hundred pairs of eyes bubbled anxiously in the guts of the boys as they made their way to their respective podiums and hefted the heavy books atop. The German lad was much too short for his podium and glanced about in a seizured panic until one of the artist’s assistants fetched the youngster a folding chair to stand upon. ] [ Each audience member gripped an unopened envelope they were given when they entered the studio to take their seats. ] [ Between the podiums was an elaborate set-up of medical gurneys, leather straps, syringes, intravenous fluids in vacuum sealed bags, latex gloves, antiseptically clean jars and vats of varying sizes, and other medical and scientific apparatus necessary for the artistic performance. The artist’s assistants, a well-trained staff of various medical expertise, wore immaculately clean white medical gowns. Surgical masks obscured their faces. The artist himself stood in the middle of the studio, stark naked, shoulders back, staring directly at the audience. His body was completely shaved. ] [ The clock struck. The performance began. ] [ The plump German began to read from A History of the World : “In the entire scope of History we see time and time again the wonderful sacrifice of Man. The great Man ponders his existence in the universe and paves a path of thought, the Great Man creates the wonders of art, and beauty is discovered, the Great Man leads his solid soldiers into the glory of battle, and victory is grasped, and the Great Man steers his nation ever onward, and abundance is realized. All
this the Great Man…” ] [ As the German boy plodded on in his reading, the poor, emaciated English boy too began reading aloud from his erudite work, The Nature of the Modern Prison : “The modern prison system is a marvel of visibility, optical in both psychological and physical modes. The prison (as a concept) consists of taming and the forced sublimating of the self, of putting the self on display for…” ] [ As the two young lads read aloud their scholarly works in reluctantly timid stutters, stammers, and stops, the artist began his part of the performance. He lay down on the white gurney. Two of his assistants strapped his arms to the metal side rails with leather bindings. Two others did the same to his ankles, while another strapped his waist and neck down. The artist was completely immobile. And the dissection began. ] [ The medical staff first cut off each toe with a mother’s tenderness. Into its own separate jar each toe was deposited. The jars were then arranged, one next to the other, in the correct anatomical order and position. Next, using a modern bone saw, they removed each foot at the ankle bone. Placing the toeless hunks of meat in their own separate jars, then positioning the jars next to the amputated toes so as to look as natural as possible. A machine sucked up the artist’s blood as it gushed forth, and recycled it, pumping it directly back into his heart via surgical tubing that had been inserted through an incision in his chest’s pectoral muscles. ] [ Notwithstanding the efficiency of the machine that recirculated the body’s fluid, the white gowns of the medical assistants were covered with blood by the time they had amputated the leg beneath the knee, then at the hip. These parts were placed in their respective jars and arranged in their proper place next to the foot and the toes. ] [ All the while the German and English youth read aloud from the texts. ] [ In the end the Artist was just a head. His genitalia had been castrated and placed in a jar. His torso had been disassembled, organ by organ, kidneys in their jars, the stomach in its. His intestines were placed by four careful assistants into a long, twisting glass vessel that surely took some artistic talent in its making. His lungs, heart, etc., etc. All of them deposited in glass jars and arranged in their natural anatomic order, until in the end he was just a head. The machine now pumped blood directly to his brain. ] [ The audience was engrossed. This was history in the making. This is how history unfolded, unfurled itself in Time. The two boys read on and on as the assistants sliced out the tongue, cut off the nose, scooped out the eyes, peeled away the scalp, shaved off the skin, sawed open the skull, unhinged the brain. Placing all of it, the meat of the self, in clean, transparent jars arranged in precise bodily order. ] [ Finally, the droning on of the boys ceased. The final page was turned. A spokesman, a young Canadian boy, too chosen from the list, instructed the audience to open their envelopes, in which they each found the following, from the Artist Lokdon, typed in a pleasant and popular font:
“Hello. Thank you for attending my transformation from Artist to Art, which is, of course, the transformation of all artists. For Art is a destruction of Self for the public. After this presentation my body will be transported to the University’s Library where it will be catalogued and stored with all other
bodies of the Public, the bodies of the artists, the philosophers, the politicians, etc. With proper state identification anyone and everyone will be able to check-out of the library my body for further study. Thank you.” ] [ They lined up, the three hundred spectators, in a long curious queue. They were just the start, for the over the next week thousands would flock to the great Artist’s studio to do what they were now to do: one by one, the spectators, giddy with urge, passed by and petted, stroked the hairy scalp of Lokdon which sat upon an ornate pedestal in the middle of the studio, like an obedient dog. ]
Of Nature[ It was a buzz, buzz, buzz that tickled, alerting the ear of the woman on the blue inflatable raft floating in the infinitesimal currents of a blue pool reading some pustulous tabloid magazine on a warm sunny afternoon in June. A shallow, but persistent, stream of sweat bubbled from her forehead’s skin and oozed its trace bodyward from forehead to cheek, the dribble gaining the slightest bit of speed as it trickled under her jaw and down her slender neck. ] [ “Former American President Harry S. Truman, according to anonymous sources deep within the Central Intelligence Agency, was part alien. The revelation comes after decades of speculation and recent disclosures that the former Commander in Chief had multiple top-secret conferences with numerous alien species .” “The President and his closest advisors used a special ‘telepathic language’ to communicate with the aliens during the galactic conferences. In his most recent book, A General History of Political Labyrinths, the writer and scholar Silas Haslam claims that “Truman’s use of telepathy and various cyphers and cryptography, usually based in biblical passages, such as Exodus 8:21 allowed for a seamless communiqué.” ] [ The shadow of the fly that buzzed fell upon the page of the magazine her fingers held. The flat double of the shadow, the murky pullulated overspill of all objects consigned to exist in the eye of light, zig-zagged across the page at, seemingly, spontaneously generated intervals, and accompanied with the increasing, then, subsequent decreasing pitch of its buzz, an entomologic Doppler effect, that crossed the soft threshold of the woman’s awareness, but only to such effect that she causally connected the buzz to what her eyes watched as they, her lovely, sunglassed eyes, followed the fly’s shadow-scribed hieroglyphics across the glossy page in a manner that sketched the resemblance of an A for alpha. The filter of the blue pool gurgling in its machinations. The water moved. She turned the page. ] [ “Leading experts in the field of Semiotics and Gamma Ray Detection have recently warned leaders of the world that enigmatic messages have been detected across the globe. The messages are appearing in varied forms, in the steam rising from bowls of soup, in the foam of the ocean’s waves breaking upon the shore, and in the cries of birds. The prominent linguist Fran van D’Myn has deciphered many of these messages and has recently released a transcription: ‘At present we cannot know of God but through a mirror and beneath darkness; but soon shall we see him face to face.’ Biblical scholars and other religious leaders are preparing for the worse.” ] [ The fly landed upon her shoulder and titillated her with a sensation that she had long forgotten. Her eye distracted a moment she watched the fly crawl across her skin. Should I divert my eye? The eye
surveils. In my eye the world becomes inverted and the shadow is what is real. The eye veils. The pool pump gurgled. Her hand rose and she shooed the fly away with her tabloid magazine. ] [ “The Pope is a sex maniac. Vatican surveillance cameras, recently hacked by the international network of hacktivist known only as L’Bloy, reportedly show the Pope being visited by no less than twelve different leather-clad dominatrix. Descriptions of the recorded events include, ‘The Pope can be seen being penetrated by various sexual devices, at first seeming to resist, but, eventually, and inevitably, overcome with the deviant assault, the holy leader succumbs to the feeling and seems to relax into the situation, his face expressing a sort of fulfilment.’ ” ] [ The fly settled again upon the woman’s shoulder. She waved it away with a scowl. It buzzed and landed once more. She flicked it gone. But the lust drew it back again and again and again. Then there were two. A pair of flies that alighted then shooed by her graceful hand. Then three, then four, then five, then ten, then fifty, buzzing, buzzing, hundreds of them, thousands of them, buzzing, buzzing, landing on the panicked flesh, the flailing arms, the screams, the repugnant smear of millions of flies tracing their shadowed texts across the skin of the terrified woman, all thrashing motion now in a final despairing effort to drive the onslaught away. ] [ The slight current circulated about the pool, the sun cooled behind a series of clouds that held the shape of goblins and gods, though she couldn’t delimit which was which. I am all , the woman on the blue inflatable raft thought, floating in semaphoric patterns across the surface of the blue water. I am my own entomology. I am cut off and cut out. I am fallen. She submitted, and was now still, now quiet, now unfazed, now completely covered, not one glimpse of flesh to be seen, in a black swarming, steaming, buzzing riot of flies. Millions of them seething across her obscured body in a covetousness boil. Billions of eyes watching the watching. She was a new foundation. A primordial steaminess exuded from her disappeared form, as the form moved what was once slender bejeweled fingers to turn a page in its magazine. ]
To Earth[ it snows here every morning. My jobs are to bury the dead birds and kill the crabs. Bury the birds and kill the crabs, it is what I do ]
[ I deal in the hollow isolation of this icy arrangement. It is the rules we created. There are so many birds, softly, white and dead ]
[ I bury them in the backyard every morning. One by one. With a shovel. I wear my leather gloves for the work. In the afternoons I bring my hammer to the shore. I crush the crabs, killing them ]
[ I am uncertain of whose job it is to bury the crabs. I only bury birds. I kill the crabs with my hammer. I leave them on the shore to rot in the cold winter sun. everyday I do this. Bury the birds, kill the crabs ]
[ whoever’s job it is to bury the crabs must do his work at night. When the stars only seem to scream. I am unsure who it is that kills the birds. It is not good to ask questions such as this. Whoever does it does a very good job ]
[ there are so many birds to bury. Every icy morning. Dead birds. There is always so much to do ]
[ at night I cannot sleep.
I wonder about things.
I am afraid to speak aloud.
I question whose job it is to make the stars scream.
Who is it that makes the women cry?
Who is it that cuts the thumbs off the writers?
Who is it that deals with the children’s eyes?
Who is it that crafts loneliness?
Who is it that pulls hearts into their hands and squeezes every bit of feeling out of a man
[ until nothing is left ]
….the heart is just meat…I suppose it is unneeded…here…now ] [ at night I hear whoever it is that kills the birds outside my house. I hear the learned joy of his occupation. The gun shots. The birds falling & crashing to earth ]
Of Dark[ William James: “The last lecture was a painful one, dealing as it did with evil as a pervasive element of the world we live in.” ] [ for instance:
the young doctor retrieved
a scalpel and cut a very precise
and determined line from the neck
to the belly button of the cadaver
laid out on the dissecting table ]
“what we have here, ladies and gentlemen,” the young doctor spoke, wiggling his fingers deep into the incision, “is a perfectly normal male specimen of the species. Later we will inspect the female.”
“Disgusting,” spoke an observer. “Quite the opposite, my dear man. The specimen is beautiful. So natural.” ] [ the young doctor had his tongue clamped between his lips. One hand held the incision open and the other was elbow deep in the various red things that make us tick. He fiddled around within the chest cavity of the cadaver, grunting as his hand searched about ]
“Are you ok doctor?”
“Perfectly fine. Ah, here we go!”
“Now, watch this”:[ it is cold in the field this winter. The man has placed the heart on the stumping block. The whole parish has gathered around to see the revelation. The wind blows from the north. No bird sings in the leafless trees. The woods watch ] [ with might, the man swings the mallet, crushing the heart. It explodes from the impact, getting on everyone. Yet, no one turns away ] [ what has been revealed is amazing. A sickening black stone, no bigger than a bb, lies at the center of the pulverized muscle.
“What is it?” someone in the crowd asks.
“We’re not sure. We think it’s in all of us.”
“What does it do?”
“We don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“And that’s in us ?”
“… ” ]
Fiction by Adam Graham