A L I E N | by Ali Raz

Someone’s blowing a leaf blower. On and on for hours. The sound drives me out of my mind.

 

A few blocks down, the construction crew has blocked the whole street. They’re setting up new traffic signals. A bunch of men in crane-like things. I stand on the sidewalk, in the sun and noise, watching the work. I eat a tub of popcorn as I watch.

 

It’s not my fault. I’ve been hungry for a while now. A long, long time. The freezer has been full to capacity – for months – but I can’t bring myself to open it. Not a failure of nerve! It’s just that I like thinking about it, full as it is, the organs lolling inside it, tongue over toe over eye, over kidney, over spleen, over kidney again, there were many of those, a much confused mess.

 

I buy icicles. I eat these in the sun. I love it when the sugar drips on the sidewalk.

 

Don’t look at me like that.

 

When it’s evening I go for a walk, in the cool light. The neighborhood kids are out. On their bikes and with their baseballs and baseball bats. Much festive. I walk through them patiently. I’m not going anywhere. I just walk a random path through the fucked streets. Feeling it. The blood between the sidewalk cracks.

 

That’s where I am. In the sidewalk cracks.

 

There. That’s a goose. In the sky.

 

You don’t know the half of the abuse.

 

René was right, René is always right. We are all more or less syphilitic.

 

And here I am, in the hotel now. Checking into a room I don’t need. I take the most expensive one, the room with the best view. It has a sprawling double bed. Balcony. Bathtub with ornate, eagle-claw feet. I soak in it and sip a daiquiri. Feeling pretty sleek right now. And in the mood, the correct mood, finally, at last.

 

I tip the bellboy with spit.

 

They built this hotel over a span of many years. Before, there was a park here. A public park. With a duck pond and guava trees, and benches.

 

The children’s park used to be a few blocks from here. It wasn’t large, it was secluded. Swingset, slide and sandpit. The police took over in small incursions, now the plot is walled and constructed over.

 

I put my bomb in the lobby, then I dance in the disco. I get all hot and sweaty.

 

I could walk, but I take a cab. The cab drops me off at a random spot.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m hunting for aliens.

 

It’s a difficult endeavor. It takes all my time and energy. I’m exhausted, sitting on the curb at 3 am. My legs won’t stop shaking. I’m dripping with sweat. Something runs over my feet, fat and prickly like a rat.

 

The transmission came to me early, but it took me these years to decode it. Now I’m here. Tingling with a cosmic sensation.

 

In the morning I lie in bed and read. It’s a crime novel written two centuries ago. A language I don’t understand.

 

Then I smoke a cigarette, outside on the sidewalk, and chew a soft-boiled egg. In dreams, I eat unfertilized eggs with the chick still intact, almost alive, desiring birth at the moment my teeth close down on it.

 

I pluck a newspaper from a passerby’s hand. He keeps walking. Eyes glazed with blood or sleep.

 

I use the newspaper to wipe my ass.

 

A man selling eggs walks by. He keeps the eggs in a water cooler, bright blue. I stop the man, buy an egg. It’s black.

 

Tonight there’s a supermoon we won’t be able to see. We’ll be in the fog instead, smothered in it. Lightning, when it strikes, dissipates within this fog. I don’t know where it’s coming from, then I do. It’s coming from my organs, of course.

 

My steaming kidney.

 

The radio crackles, hisses, breaks. I listen to the static. The noise is profound and operatic, I parse it effortlessly. Making notes on my napkin. Then I end it. The radio returns to its show. The others in the café go on without a clue.

 

I sit back further in my booth. Eating my ice cream.

 

It’s hot out. Cool in here with the A/C. When I leave I take the A/C with me.

 

Jung says that the ubiquitous shape of the UFO, the ellipse, is an unconscious emission of our shared symbolic inheritance, unity herself, the mandala.

 

The air is buzzing with bees. They slip out of the smoke, their fat bodies, discretely.

 

I see some tumbling from the exhausts of buses. The large, grey buses packed with shit. Those mobile asses. I board one out of sheer disgust.

 

The stench takes me and I vomit over a woman’s’ shoes. She looks at me with eyes brimming with love. I drag my finger through my vomit, then over her face. The bus moves in hard lurches.

 

No one leaves the bus. More people board on every stop. This bus has infinite capacity.

 

No one sleeps hungry in this city. We have a robust economy of alms.

 

I want a milkshake.

 

That’s me, in the mango tree. Looking for mangoes to pluck before they’re ripe.

 

A mallard duck bumps into me. Blinded by the fog.

 

I beat the duck up for bumping into me. I write it a ticket for its traffic violation.

 

There’s the pregnant woman, the one they’re kicking in the gut. Not randomly, never randomly. With precision and care. The toe of the boot is lined up with the protruding navel, the apex of her pregnant bump, then brought into contact at just the right velocity.

 

I take a video on my phone. Sometimes I get bored, even in this city.

 

I walk by the woman, making careful eye contact. I recognize those eyes.

 

Also, Jung, the paranoia of perfect surveillance.

 

Jung was talking out of his ass, mostly, but sometimes he got it right.

 

This day of extreme heat.

 

Those are bodies, melting on the sidewalk. That puddle. My friend.

 

I scoop his remains, arrange a half-dignified burial. I pay for it with my remaining teeth.

 

I undertake this thankless task in the expectation that my chisel will make no impression on the hard stone it meets.

 

That, there. The blurry marble bed, in the center of the red brick rotunda. That’s him there. The first emperor’s slave. The emperor who was a slave to his slave. I know the emperor, and the slave. I see them in my dreams sometimes. Everyone else has forgotten them. This rotunda in the marketplace. It’s covered in pigeon shit. The plaque went missing decades ago.

 

My menstrual city.

 

Then I see her. After all these years. I see her on the other side of the street and I’m struck, in shock, then I tear myself from the sidewalk and bound towards her, unmindful of the traffic coming at me.
My femme fatale!

 

She is as I last saw her. But slimmer, and sleeker, and more dangerous somehow.

 

I stop in front of her. She blows a smoke ring in my face.

 

The filter of the cigarette, red with lipstick.

 

We exchange stories in the bar near here. She’s bored and keeps yawning, legs in my lap. They’re looking at us, everyone in the bar, with their dirty hostile eyes, and it feels like we’re back in the past again, our past, my glorious femme fatale.

 

I found a four-inch alien mere miles from here. It had been issuing distress signals for hours, and unluckily for it I intercepted them.

 

Blue body stuck in the mud, alien obvious for all to see. In the back alley of the slum.

 

It evaporated the instant I touched it. Leaving, on the tips of my fingers, scorch marks.

 

There is an explosion.

 

I steal some bricks from the rubble. I throw these at the next person I see.

 

Femme fatale and I have sex that night. I flicker in and out of an ultraviolet haze.

 

I am alone and there is no one like me.

 

When I walk down the street, eyes slink sideways to follow me.

 

You were here in earth – in cities –

 

Raindrops battering the roof of my mouth.

 

I sleep to the sound of opera, language I don’t understand. I blink awake with every aria.

 

A neighbor brings me blood sausage, for breakfast. This is after I told her, a week ago, never to bring me blood sausage again. We stand looking at each other, perfect eye contact, for several long seconds. Then I grab the sausage and slap her with it, first across the right cheek, lightly, then hard across the left. The sausage breaks in my hand.

 

I am looking for it, my stigmata, and I can’t find it. This brings me to the brink of tears. I am missing my stigmata, and this loss is just unbearable to me.

 

A single red rose, wilting in a small glass vase.

 

I take this rose and force it into a vagina. I make sure to insert it high enough that the thorny stem makes contact.

 

We are waiting for the downpour, me and the rest of my city. Hoping – us vain hopers! – that the rain will erase the smog, at least for a while, if just for some hours.

 

It was in the smog that we met. Once, one century ago.

 

A pigeon burrs outside my window. I wake to the sound of the pigeon. It passes through the wall, steps inside my room.

 

I boil the pigeon and eat it. Feeling perky today. It’s a big day.

 

Look at the sky. It too is brimming with the expectation of today.

 

I touch my forehead with a tuning fork. Waiting for the waves.

 

Bad idea to have eaten the pigeon. It brought its paranoia inside me, mixing with my cells. I forcibly vomit the pigeon from me.

 

Then it happens. In that moment. As I’m lifting my face from the sink, shaking and sweaty, taste of undigested pigeon on my tongue, the fog clears for one single second – and the vision is electric, magnetic. I see my face in the mirror and the face in the mirror sees me. We’re never the same again.

 

There’s a forcefield around me. I burn everything I touch.

 

I can do it now, traverse space and time like it’s nothing, here now and now there, the two are in face the same, overlapping and identical, everything is one to me. Now.

I will find them now. I will. I’m buzzing with a newfound confidence.

 

The email comes in the morning. Informing me to abort mission.

 

I put my fist through the screen, insubordination.

 

I’m on my own now. I know. I open the freezer, let out the organs. Out of spite, and to continue my insubordination.

 

There isn’t a language in which to put it. In fury I cut out my tongue – then, in repentance, glue it back on.

 

Or the man whose teeth were removed with pliers, whose tongue was replaced with a wooden stump. The man who cut his own tongue with a scissors. Here, in this fortress, this one, here where I am now, passing this aimless day.

 

Black day.

 

Look at it, these families. Hordes. The sky blackens with the filth of them. My pores clog up with their grease and stench. I slip in and out of the muck of them. Slicing with a knife here and there, quick superficial cuts.

 

I descend to the lowest part of the fort, then further still. I skulk about the dungeons in anger, feeling the force of those past centuries, dead prisoners, stepping on a skull now and then, now a femur, that’s an ulna.

 

The prisoner who was chained to that wall, the one whose wrists still hang from the handcuffs. The rat’s ass protruding from his mouth.

 

That night, needing love, I go on a date. She’s young and unsure. I sense her nerves from across the room. It makes me hungry.

 

We eat clam, lobster and oyster. It’s a very fancy place. Look at the tablecloth. It costs more than me.

 

She tells me she’s seventeen. Then we have sex, and I put my sock in her mouth.

 

Pigs are capable of long, extended orgasms.

 

I envy the pig this and other things.

 

I curl up on a sidewalk and fall asleep. I wake up cuddling a homeless man. He’s nice.

 

This is it, here. I stopped outside it to retie my laces, then I recognized it. The haunted house.

 

Everyone knows about the haunted house. I stare at it in awe. It’s as always. Untouched and undiminished.

 

I will go inside the haunted house one day. One day in the long future. Not tonight. I bow my head in reverence – hear the wind pick up, the house is speaking to me – then walk on, walk away.

 

In the morning, temperatures reach historic highs. I can feel my bones melting.

 

There’s a green spot on my door knob. It’s a lizard that liquefied on contact with the metal.

 

Someone knocks on my door. It’s the neighbor. She’s brought me a blood sausage.

 

I invite her inside. We have tea.

 

Then I go to the brick kiln for kicks, but it’s empty. Littered with corpses. One’s still alive, but barely, a sack of bones panting in the heat.

 

I put it out of its misery.

 

Something twinges in the air. The heat’s visible, but this wasn’t the heat. I follow the undulating wave.

 

It takes me to the edge of the city, but the city has no edge. I’m further than I’ve ever been. It ends. It’s been playing with me. I sit down on the ground, in exhilaration and defeat.

 

The river used to pass through here.

 

A vulture in the sky. Circling. Circling. We make eye contact, the vulture and I.

 

It is my familiar. It acknowledges me.

 

There she is, femme fatale. I see her in a diner this time.

 

We talk for long, extended hours. The devil shining in her eyes.

 

I touch her knee under the table. Softly. Quietly. She leaves.

 

We weren’t afraid of anything.

 

There’s music. I follow it. Kids playing in the street. I play with them. They’re thin, underfed, and missing their teeth.

 

I grab a bat and smash a kid’s face.

 

Music by candlelight. We’re on a friend’s rooftop. He inherited his father’s money. This is the oldest house in the city, even he doesn’t know that. I know because the house told me, in whispers. There’s a group of us on the roof, he’s set up chairs, cushions, a rug. Tables spread with food. Waiters to serve it. A woman on a small wooden stage, dancing to a snakelike beat.

 

Her navel is pierced. So is her nose. She’s wearing an expensive red gownlike thing. She’s wearing anklets and no shoes.

 

Now there’s moonshine. Fresh from the bus driver’s bathtub. This moonshine has blinded many of us. We don’t care.

 

It is often a blessing, to lose one’s sight. Yes, yes, a manifest blessing.

 

They killed her with their concepts.

 

Concepts, when ingested, work more damage than bad moonshine. Everyone knows this. Anyone who’s anyone will know this.

 

I take my coffee black and my tea milky. I’ve showered. My hair’s slicked back. I’m sitting in my favorite bookstore, by the window, browsing books.

 

It’s a secondhand bookstore and all these books are musty with age. I touch the pages lovingly. Inhaling the dust.

 

A photo falls out of a book. It’s a polaroid destroyed by age, the image totally corroded. All that’s left is a series of chemical dots, traces of its decay.

 

I close my eyes and touch the dots with my fingertips. And my fingertips burn. I pull my hands away, examine the skin.

 

They’re back. My stigmata.

 

Today is a black, angry day. I feel joy like this. As a variant of anger, also grief.

 

I buy the book with cash. I make sure to keep the receipt. Then I eat the receipt. The book I tuck under my arm, stroll down the streets.

 

It’s a volume of poetry.

 

I rip out pages and scatter them in the streets. It’s a careful implantation, disguised within randomness. Nothing about me is random, except my whole self. I choose my locations with utter exactness. It’s a cosmic vibration. Like a sunflower. Turning to the sun.

 

I put a page in a trashcan. A page in a drain. A page in a blind beggar’s hand. I leave the city buzzing with an entirely new pain.

 

There is a tectonics to this art. One is setting up plates, organizing forces, then waiting patiently for the moment of organic orchestration.

 

Like everything else, it’s like sex.

 

Femme fatale likes my plan. She smirks at it. Shares a drag of her cigarette.

 

My lips come away stained red.

 

Do you see me now? Am I well understood?

 

It sends a bolt of light crashing at my feet. Another step and I’d be missing my toes.

 

The thing is angry with me. But I am blameless. It was not in me, by the constitution of my cells, to abort mission.

 

I was wrong all along, except sometimes I got it right. Aimlessness and futility, for one, and defeat that precedes all endeavor.

 

Emotions that take on physical form and shape. There is nothing new in this idea – it’s a very old concept – but look what it’s done to me.

 

They caught the couple who’d been cooking kidnapped people. In their backyard, in copper vats.

 

I visit them in their prison cell. They’re identical twins.

 

I had a Siamese twin. It was amputated in our infancy.

 

Another twin I swallowed subsumed within my cells.

 

For some lifeforms the concepts don’t yet exist. So when the form precedes the concept – it’s a wretched hell, constant oblivion, eyes without sight.

 

Femme fatale. We slink down the street, hand in hand. I don’t know where she’s taking me. She’s taking me.

 

I tell her about the couple. The twins. Femme fatale listens with careful, close attention. She is the only one, ever, who listens to me.

 

It starts to snow. We continue through the pathetic snow.

 

On the way back, blood in our tracks. It’s me now, alone again. On my own again. I stop at a diner for tea.

 

Exhausted, and weary in my bones. I tip the waitress with a page from the book.

 

She’s a schoolgirl, and still in her school uniform.

 

There has been an epidemic lately. Of dying birds. Vultures. And my favorite birds, geese. They’re dying of some terrible disease. Their organs uniformly covered in a smooth black substance, like paint, or like pitch, an internal blackness of unknown origin, all the birds in the city are turning black secretly.

 

I pick some dead ones off the ground, slice them with my meat cleaver in the garage. I am a delicate dissectionist. I remove the kidney from this vulture. Genitals. Guts. Everything slathered an identical black.

 

I fall asleep to opera. Imagining violent crime. In my dream I’m a kidney, killing myself with moonshine. Provided by the spleen.

 

The sewers overflow.

 

An error in the sewer system. Streets of shit and slime.

 

A bird’s beak, there. Next to that turgid shit.

 

The cloth market. I will set it on fire. First I buy matches and gasoline. I buy them with pennies, which I hoard meticulously.

 

Then I return to the cloth market. I set it on fire.

 

Whole acres of wood and cloth, roofs of tin. It creates a delicious smoke, shapes like arabesques.

 

In a bar a woman dances with me. I surprise her and stick my tongue in her vagina. She slaps me. I amputate her hand.

 

The temperature spikes, again. The lizards have died out.

 

They serve eggs and coffee here, and nothing else. I like this. It’s my favorite café.

 

I order coffee and eggs.

 

I read the newspaper as I’m waiting. I press my stigmata to the paper and it singes, tries to burn.

 

Today I only want to smoke. That’s all I do today. I buy cartons of cigarettes and I smoke them in my room. With the windows closed. I smoke till my throat begins to bleed. It’s a strange sensation. I can’t taste the blood but I feel it, wet and dripping in me.

 

A single array of colored dots, like a switchboard for the cosmos.

 

I play the switches in a nicotine daze.

 

There.

 

The mothership.

 

She’s come for me. At last. She’s come. I fall to my knees in tearful hallelujah.

 

The edges of vision turn black, crumble, drip away.

 

There’s a blinding flash of light, and it whispers –

 

I am cloaca now.

 

Thunderous, I rend the ozone layer. I shred it like skin.

 

My femme fatale consoles me.

 

I weep in her bulleted chest. My tears soak into her wounds, and they glow a little.

 

She slips off her stiletto heels. I put one in my mouth. Like a pacifier.

 

Femme fatale. Her soft black hair surrounds me. I lose myself in her porous edges. I strive very hard for oneness and unity, but she’s gone before I can, as always, gone.

 

This is my strange damnation. It just happens, I don’t understand it.

 

Rip open the freezer lid. Dig out a kidney and spleen. I eat them raw, unsalted.

 

The life force pulses in me. I want to smother it, I have been trying so hard, but it’s stubborn like cockroach and won’t succumb, resists my exertions.

To salve my new wounds, I make a visit to the tomb. I sit with the nightworshippers. I listen to their drunken verses but I don’t join in.

 

It plays with me.

 

I resign myself to being a plaything.

 

That’s the smell of my organs, burning. Adding volume to the fog.

 

Fog is a white phosphor haze.

 

I bullet the whole city through. Acquiring speed and direction, like a hurricane.

 

I will happen.

 

Only the cockroaches will survive my apocalypse.

 

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Ali Raz’s work has appeared or will appear in Queen Mob’s TeahousePlinth, and Cosmonauts Avenue. Tweeting @trashy_chicken.

 

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