Selmerville: this is the name of the week of the experimental post-punk post-music post-mortem jazz group that I play the electric drill in. Andrew beats on drywall. Donna plays keyboards, sings, and amplifies her jew's harp with a bullhorn she stole from the police during a hostage situation in another city. We are playing to an unamused crowd at a nameless host’s party. Only my jaded sweetheart is listening, really listening.

My girl blows smoke rings from candy cigarettes. I watch her as I sip tonic water from the bottle, but no connection is ever made. Had we met under different circumstances, I'm sure we really would've hit it off, but I only caught her as she was leaving the party.

"Abdominal pains," she told me with a lusty indifference, "and I must find a way. Any way. Humanity must be destroyed."

I go home still drunk on her apathy and nonchalance. No one drinks alcohol in this town. We are more concerned with politics and fixing the few woes of the world than looking at each other's private parts. We are all still young beyond our years, we boys and girls of the decency era.

By two in the morning I am suffering from social withdrawal and a lingering sense of self-fulfilled emptiness. I realize what I have caught: a sudden lackluster, a stirring in the crotch, possibly a cold, but not her name.

--

"Robert. What is it?" Andrew is speaking through cheesecloth. I gather that he still isn't quite awake, but is on the right train.

"The party last night--"

"At the Collie?" The Mull & Collie. I'd explain the name, but it's a long story that I've forgotten anyway. "What about it?"

"You were there. Did you see that girl I was talking to?"

"Who. Arnold?"

"No. The girl, not the pig." I twirl the phone cord around my finger and secretly imagine painting my room in exciting neon colors. "She was shaved bald and hated everyone."

"Oh, her." Andrew is a flashback from a black and white movie. "She has the prettiest scowl."

"Yeah. That's the one. You know her?"

"Sort of. We went out once. Then she told me she couldn't see me anymore because she didn't believe in kissing outside of art."

"What's her name?"

"You got me. She said she hated names, labels, icons. She called names 'our age's golden goat.'"

I leave early for work just in time for the morning traffic jam. I wouldn't miss these for all the apathetic women in the world. A car choked freeway is a menagerie of Car People. I see these people every morning and evening of my weekday life. The playful ones drum on their steering wheels and lip sync to invisible tunes.

The game I play is this: I try and guess which of the Car People have guns. Guns under the armrest, in the glove compartment, behind the child seat.

Sawed-off shotguns in the trunk where a spare tire should be. Tiny derringers in the seat pouches between the magazines and road maps. A road cannon that Dirty Harry would be proud to use thrown haphazardly on the passenger side floor, daring anyone to merge improperly. Go ahead. Merge. Drive on the shoulder. The imaginary gun dares all of you.

--

Our fourth manager in five weeks is starting today at BeverageTech. We are theoretically rich, avoiding responsibility, and have our hair dyed to our natural colors. He and his ilk are hateful creatures who wear their credentials on their sleeves. His speech is long-winded and seems especially prepared in hopes that no one will actually be listening.

"We've all had troubles recently, seeing as how our e-commerce main product line has taken a dive during the most recent fiscal quarter. Rejoice, however, for I have taken a demotion to end the endless chain of middle managers and intrigue that have plagued your menial lives.

"I hate the military. I despise discipline and order. I loathe fascism. If you know what's good for you, you, my fellow co-workers, will hate these things with all the core of your being as well. Hate as I do, and your potential here at our fine company will know no bounds.

"We all went to college. We all went through the process. We've thought of having children, playing golf, and enjoying autumn, but we know that all of these things are impossible if any work is to be done. We make the noble sacrifice that none of those dropouts and queenies ever will. We put our freedom on the line every day so the world can be a finer place. Let us wear our diplomas around our necks. Let us steamroll over those who would eliminate the red tape we wear to bed.

"You wear your punch cards on your sleeves. You linger at the water cooler and live for casual Fridays. I'm more than embarrassed to be associated with such a ragtag team of philosophy majors and art fags."

Someone near the back of the board room cheers. I don't care who. I'm more concerned with whether our new manager's blatant homophobia has to do with not making the varsity football team in high school or if he has the hots for me.

"Twelve times seven is eighty-four. I know that without my multiplication tables. Do you? Do you even remember multiplication tables? Slide rules? Here's one: what ever happened to the CCCP? You don't know, but I do. That's why I drive luxury sedans and have conference calls. None of you will notice that I loosen up around the holidays and wear argyle socks. None of you have yet pointed out that the pattern on my power tie is paisley."

Someone touches my elbow, and I find myself whispering, "Howdy, Mr. Olvidos," without any other contextual clues.

"What do you think?" Johnny Olvidos speaks in the same hushed tones of conspiracy that he always uses in these periods of corporate instability.

"I don't know. He doesn't seem as timid as the others. What are the odds on him?"

"Three days."

"Three? Nah. Nah nah. I think this one's going all the way. At least a month or two."

"I disagree. Look at his mustache, his brylcreme hair, the way he breathes through his eyes. He might even snap during the open question seminar."

"What say the masses?"

"Most everyone is putting down on twenty-one days, but there are heavy odds in the lower numbers. I think days four and five are still empty. Someone who is willing to give just the right amount of push stands to see some mighty returns."

"But you say three days?"

"Three days."

I pull out my plastic Lone Ranger money clip and handed him a fifty. "Set me up for day five."

"Your patronage is appreciated. Hopefully this time your horse will come in." Olvidos lets go of my arm and is absorbed into the thick crowd of punch-in punch-outs.

The speech seems to be winding up. "Kill the Arabs for the oil. Exploit the Sri Lankans for their workforce. One of these days, the liberals will get on their knees and beg us for one last shred of decency, and we will tell them what is at the core of all human knowledge and civilization: never touch the principal.

"Any questions?"

Here it comes. With those two simple, fatal words, the graying old bastard has unknowingly unbridled the fury of the hell that is one hundred office lackeys asked to do something more menial than what they are normally paid for.

"Can we go home?"

"What is the role of demand in a regulated market?"

"Where do babies come from?"

The opening salvos. Warning shots, fired across the bow. They are just inane enough to make the manager stutter before realizing they aren't worth answering.

"What time is love?"

"What happened to the Snowdens of yesteryear?"

"If an Amtrak train leaves Kansas City, Kansas, at ten in the morning and is scheduled to arri--" The question is cut off by zealous corporate lackey vampires, thirsty for the taste of blue blood.

"Will you marry me?"

"Why does the sun shine?"

"Define violence."

"--will the conductor be drunk and will my luggage be intact?"

His face floods ruddy and he begins to understand one true thing: he brought this on himself.

"I hate my job. Will we ever have day care?"

"Can I call you when I get lonely at night?"

"Are you going to be a hard ass, but still insist you come drinking with us?"

"Or would you prefer the illusion of superiority that allows you to wallow at home with a bottle of duty-free twelve-year scotch?"

"This is important: boxers or briefs?"

The frontness and personal touches to these questions make the manager realize he can only do one thing to bypass further scrutiny: force a stroke.

"Will we be quizzed on this?"

"Why the hell does the caged bird sing?"

"If tin whistles are made of tin, what do they make fog horns out of?"

"This affair that you're not having -- is it not with a woman, or not with a man?"

I sink and stumble back through a labyrinth of carpeted cubicle walls. As much as I appreciate my fellow man's flair for the inane, I need desperately to slam my head against a Xerox machine until I slip into a fully-paid coma.

Five days. Three days. Twenty-one days. Bastard won't even last one hour. I can't wait until the layoffs begin.

--

I leave my car in the parking lot and ride the bus home. Bus People are different from Car People. They are better. Car People are separated from society, have no organization, and generally can't think under pressure. Bus People move as a unit. Bus People care for other Bus People. Bus People are a nation.

While every bus is populated differently, they all have the same archetypes; therefore, I know everyone on the bus before I even situate myself on one of the blue bondage dream seats. Hello, Mr. Driver. How are you? No time for chit-chat, you have people to deliver! You have a bus to drive! Don't forget to hand me my transfer!

There's Mr. Fatso. I've never seen him move. Some have been led to believe that he moves by pseudopodia, consumes by phagocytosis. I like him because he's asleep, snoozing deeply as he is carried past the nightmare of traffic and into the dreamland of suburbia, protected from harm by a pair of discount headphones, only noticeable as nubs of black with wires hanging out of either ear.

I walk down the aisle and nod to Token Minority Woman With Wide-Eyed Child. Wide-Eyed Child and Minority Woman are two pieces of the same unit. I never see the Woman without the Child or vice versa. Token Minority Woman is laden down with shopping bags and thirty or forty years of hardship and prejudice. Wide-Eyed Child is still young and free of burden. Wide-Eyed Child crawls over people, makes himself heard, has already seen too many action movies and can act all of them out. He is blowing up aliens as I walk past. He eyes me suspiciously. He wonders if I am one of them. Better blow me up just to make sure, Wide-Eyed Child!

I pass Drugged Out Walkman Listener and Disenchanted Student, all the while wondering where Driver's Buddy is. Driver's Buddy is an integral part of the bus people caste system. Who else will regale the bus driver, and thereby the entire bus, with tales of his corns, his schizophrenic wife, all the places he could've been, all the women he could've had. Driver's Buddy needs to exist to make us feel better. "At least we're not Driver's Buddy," we can all safely say at the end of the day. "At least we don't complain about the goddamn pinko commie Martian Klansman invasion to the bus driver, for Christ's sake. It's good to be alive! It's Miller Time!"

I, personally, am a huge fan of Driver's Buddy. He is a lone wolf, adrift in a scared world, unafraid to make his purpose known. His callous disregard for the sign that reads "Federal Law Prohibits Conversing With The Driver" marks him as, perhaps, America's last hero, her best hope. I hide my silent fear that he is gone forever, finally consumed by a life of would-be hedonism and chronic stuttering. No one else is showing signs of distress. By the time I've worked my way to a nondescript seat in the center and let my vision lose its focus among row houses and power lines, my panic has been successfully subdued.

Disenchanted Student is conversing loudly with Awkwardly Attractive Friend about the finer points of taking anti-depressants instead of antibiotics. "It is vital," she says, "in our ever growing media culture that we know exactly how we feel so that we may more efficiently communicate our desires to our fellow person. What better way to be sure of our own emotions than through the steady, controlled administration of mood altering medication?"

Friend replies, "But don't you see? If we do that, we aren't experiencing emotion. We're experiencing chemical reactions."

"Isn't that all emotion is? Oh, it's raining. Better administer a heavy dosage of sodium di-down-in-the-dumps-ate. Hey, look, my favorite band is coming to town. Get ready for a steady stream of chloro-flouro-giddiness. If you eat enough chocolate, you feel the same way you do as when you're in love. That's because of the trace amounts of cocaine." Disenchanted Student looks like the mystery woman from the party the other night. Vaguely. If I tilt my head and squint. If I want to, I can see her (and Lord, how I want to).

"Doesn't it disturb you to think all we are is just one planned chemical reaction after another? Doesn't that distill humanity to a blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." Suddenly Awkwardly Attractive Friend is just awkward and I don't care what they're saying anymore. My mind is more concerned over debating whether my distopian dream girl is Bus People or Car People.

At the next stop Testosterone Droid and Loyal Greek Organization Sidekick enter the bus and take the seats in front of mine, loudly conversing on lewd topics to demonstrate to the world that they are only here because their Saab wouldn't start or because they feel like humbling themselves.

"She's such a skank. Did you see her putting spaghetti through those teeth? Man, I wouldn't even touch her with your cock in a rubber. That's how nasty she is."

"Huh. Huh huh."

"I'm serious, man. Get that chick drunk and she'll show you her tits. Happened to me last weekend. Not that I'd touch that nasty slut."

"No shit? Huh huh huh."

The bus stops at a light and I try as hard as I can to tune all of this out. Gazing outside the window, I imagine a glimpse of a feminine shaved head, disinterested scowl, punk rock breasts. My heart and hips motor themselves up. I signal my stop and leave.

The letdown was inevitable. She is nowhere but in my mind. I still have a long way to walk. Walking People are better than Bus People anyhow. I hate Car People.

--

As I had exited the bus it had been the brightest day in years, but by now, just a half mile from my house, clouds have swallowed the world again and a steady swish of rain is threatening to tax the town's retention qualities once again.

I've been mulling it all over in my head, the third compartment of a cow digesting Jung or Kirkegaard. Strange girl; strange world. Disappointing band; disappointing life. Uninformed friends; unenlightened times. Idiot boss; idiot box. Betting against the odds; living against the odds. The only reliable group left in humanity is just like all the rest; worse, really, even when looking at the bright side of things, when painting their roses red. Humanity must be destroyed.

I wonder what she's doing now.

Humanity must be destroyed.

Humanity must be destroyed for her.

Roses. Orchids. Carnations. Any asshole can give a lady flowers, but who would scratch the itch that cripples us all? It's crazy, of course. The thought of a man depraved, a man depressed.

She'd put out, of course, though. Who wouldn't? Who else would be around? The old joke. If I were the last man on earth, would you, nameless, wonderful creature, go to dinner and the late night Hitchcock cinema with me?

Nuclear annihilation is right out. Not only do I lack the means, but I lack the protection.

Airborne biological agents could be interesting, but, again, there is the problem of immunity. How hard could it be, though, to build a virus in the privacy of your own home? There must be a send away course or something. Malicious Genetic Engineering For Dummies: Biological Warfare In Just Fourteen Days. I nix this plan because of the distinct possibility that its initial implementation requires the viewing of late night television, and who wants that one on their credit statement? The FBI catalogues everyone who checks out Catcher In The Rye and the Anarchist's Cookbook. You bet they'd be tracking something like that. Gravity's Rainbow, too.

Some low-dropped, fringe-cut, neon-lighted monstermobile passes by and all I can think for about two seconds is that my organs are being practically liquefied by subsonic frequencies. At first, I'm pissed.

I stop walking. My twitching eye stops, widens. My mouth, locked tight and true grit, eases up on the saddle and rears itself into a smug smile.

I break into a run. After a quarter mile to my house, my lungs are titans of carbon dioxide; my heart, a tar animal that exhales mercury. I have broken my five-year long embargo on exercise. Humanity must be destroyed.

--

"Robert. Are you having sex?" Andrew was breathing through a smoke factory on the other end of the phone. It is dinner time, so I guess he is entertaining himself by huffing a mix of bleach and marijuana.

"Andrew, I'm going solo."

"What?"

"I'm leaving the band. I've got bigger plans."

"Pretentious fucker. Is it the ladies? You know I can cut you more ladies."

"It's not the ladies. It is. Sort of." I can't breathe and think at the same time. My brain is a tumor of a tumor of a tumor. "I've just got bigger plans. That's all." My legs are vulcanized nothing.

"Well, best of luck," drones Andrew. "Is this what's called an amicable breakup? Will we still be friends? Do you have stuff over here that you need to sort out? Years from now, will we meet in a coffee shop and talk wistfully about how good old times were, all the while wondering if we should have sex with each other?"

"Andrew, shut up. It was just a band, and it was a shit band."

Ladies and gentlemen, please pause for station identification and reality check. "You're right. It's probably for the best."

"In the long run, yes." My mind is Dickensian Waif brand gruel.

"Just one question."

I have no patience. I feel as though I must act now, don't delay, call within the next twenty minutes to obliterate all of China at no extra cost. "What?"

"You haven't been playing in other bands behind my back, have you? Was it better?"

"Good-bye, Andrew."

"I'll always remember the way you s-click." His voice is vapor, his message lost somewhere on a twisting length of copper wire between his house and mine, lost for all eternity.

Donna won't care. Donna hates music and all it stands for.

I spend the next days of my life plunged deep into the pits of today's radio. I sell my television and buy every compilation at the local consumer market record store that has the words "Now", "modern" or "hits" in the title, especially if there is a volume for every year, starting with the year of our lord nineteen-ninety-seven.

This is not torture. This is research. I find myself swimming in plagiarism, songs that work on classic formulas of groove, a groove that has been repeated through decades because it works. I am not aiming for art or lasting improvement. I am designing a weapon. I want something that works.

Aretha Franklin becomes disco as Gloria Gaynor attempts a delicate triple soul bypass. James Brown goes primordial, reemerges as Menudo. The original artists are sampled to death because nobody nowadays can do it better. Groove is sifted through machines, calculated painstakingly to the very point of optimum booty shakitude. Most of the artists and record companies making money nowadays are just rehashing the classics, making McMusic from tried and true recipes. This is common knowledge. This is why pop music works.

Olvidos calls, leaves a message on my machine. Where was I? Was I coming into work? I wouldn't have to worry about being fired, the last boss only lasted seven hours, but I was missing out on some major bets. I laugh to no one, tell Olvidos' tin voice that I'm going for the big jackpot. He's missing the best bet of all time.

I find myself thinking in horrible mutations of bible phrases. Asses to asses, bust to bust. Yeah, though I dance through the shadow of the valley of def.

The world homogenizes itself. It takes every innovation, everything original, every wild pitch, and distills it into a perfect little notion. An idea, pure squeezed ambrosia brandy, is the temperature of the core of the sun, but by the time it drips into the martini glass that society, a novelty flamingo, drinks and drinks and drinks and drinks from, it is a refreshingly brisk seltzer. It is liquid nitrogen nothing, carbonized for easier consumption.

As I listen, as I stay up nights in my laboratory, constantly shuffling around bits and bits of infectious songs, I am adding arsenic to society's soda water. I am adding iocane powder and I am building an immunity for myself all the while.

--

Billboard Magazine:

"Mystery artist Shamoo Shazzam has brought the world on its knees and back to the dance floor. His hit, the indescribably sublime 'Hand on Hip (Shake a Little More)', has such raw potency, such sheer sexual energy, and, let's face it, such a good beat, that it's no wonder even the sticklers that hate having pop music stuck in their heads have been tuning their radio to their natural enemies, the top forty station, to listen to this, easily the most quintessential pop song ever.

"Darwinists have a problem. If evolution has taken us this far and has presented us with this pinnacle of perfection, where can we possibly go from here?"

Nowhere, that's where. We could all consume mass quantities of liquor and wait until we feel our livers forcing our eyes out of their sockets for all I care.

Or we could go to BlastFest in Irvine, California, which threatens to throw the earth off its very axis due to the sheer gravity caused by the Leviathan mass of people who came all this way just to hear little ol' me play my little ol' song.

I'm happy to say that my little ol' song, mere minutes away from being unleashed in its full fury upon the world, is being broadcast and rebroadcast, shot into space and bounced back with dynamic force. There isn't an Eskimo or pygmy or aborigine that won't be tapping its feet before a specially tuned subsonic frequency introduced between the bridge and the second chorus causes their internal organs to make the transition from functioning biological machines to useless, fetid goo.

I come onto stage wearing a gold lame executioner's mask. The crowd thinks I'm doing this out of shock value. Nothing can shock the American people. I wear what I wear because it is my duty. This is not irony. There is no such thing as irony: there is only accidental wit.

Right before I press the magic button, I think about money and success and stardom and all the things I now have that I'm supposed to ever want. I imagine my former office mates melting into one another, Bus People and Car People finally intermingling in glorious symbiosis. I catch myself in the very mark of time that denotes that which is irrevocable. This moment, not the sights nor the sounds nor anything else, but the actual moment, drawn at long last from a mere concept, will play in my mind for the rest of my life. This is the moment on which morals are founded, the moment that I can view in the future with either regret or pride. It hangs in front of me, a Christmas ornament, a star, fourteen points and scintillating.

Then I think of her. The moment has passed.

She, my nameless golden calf, is, according to the always reliable Andrew, nautical miles away and leagues under any possible source of transmission. Thinking of her eliminates my pause. If there's anything I've been supposed to learn from a lifetime of fairytales and made-for-TV movies, it's that love is greater than money and all that, right? Right?

Humanity must be destroyed. Press the button, Frank.

The funny thing is: over the music I can't hear their screaming. The crowd becomes a Dali landscape. Organs into organs. Flesh into flesh.

--

It takes me months. I wander what was once the continental United States. I see imploded moose. I stop at all the great roadside attractions and think how they are no longer tourist traps, but historical monuments. Alien archaeologists will arrive here and find these amber encasements of human achievement, trying to picture a species whose society was based on giant balls of twine and mystery spots.

This is all strangely freeing.

I don't know how I find her. I want to think personal magnetism, a guiding hand, proof of a higher authority. We're in Boise. I've lit many fires. The entire city is ablaze with the authority of my love, fueled by the gelatinous corpses of pop fans everywhere. I see her walking, slinking, up to me and experience a temporary bout of synaesthesia. The sight of her smells like clothes drying on a springtime line. The smell of the city sounds like a malnourished infant. The feel of her lips on mine is the hue cast off the clouds when the sun sets on a city ablaze.

"You did it. You did it all for me." She is smiling.

"Surprise," I coolly manage. She is so mine. "What do you think?"

"The complete destruction of humanity. I am so impressed."

Visions of carnal celebration dance in my head. Flesh to flesh.

"However--"

I hear a needle being pulled across a record as she pulls out a pistol and presses it against the high point of my widow's peak.

She breathes in. The fires, the ashes, the oceans, the world inhales with her in testament to She who would find fault with love's greatest accomplishment.

"You left the job unfinished. You can't very well have destroyed all of humanity when there's still two people left, can you?" I have trouble understanding if she's being sarcastic or dramatic or serious or flighty or psychotic. Her emotions are Mona Lisa's smile.

"Just you and me left," I say, my voice ringing through whatever tunnel my confidence has departed and uncomfortable silence has entered. I smile, feel myself sweating and tell myself that the fires are getting to me. She smiles back, Death leering out of her gorgeous green eyes.

In my imagination, not just Boise is on fire. Idaho, the west, America, the world and all its oceans are covered with a living flame. The earth is trying to become its own sun. It consumes itself and passes softly into space, ashes to ashes, dust to the solar winds.

We, she and I, also in my imagination (albeit a different realm, galaxies away), have found a cottage. We make love constantly, stopping only to plunder what remaining food stores are left. Eventually we run out of food. One day, both of us will fall asleep, alone or in each others' arms, and never wake up, passing softly into the sigh of a summer wind.

She exhales, a ring of sugared smoke trailing from her lips to the sky. That gun in her hand may as well be a cigarette. She hands it to me with all the gravity of a black hole and it's now my decision. Here is love, served up to me like the strangest appetizer, and here is the incomplete deed I've used to achieve love.

A gun in my hand and a candy cigarette in hers. "Love is meant to be incomplete," says the cylinder of sugar.

"Love is meant to be perfect," says the gun.

The fires around us say nothing.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.