1.0 nudist dramatis

My body is hairless.

Smooth, rounded surfaces, stomach
(like lunar bloat) protruding
skin warm
(there can be fine sand on my body when sprawled)
but here, I’m upright, shoulders back, spine curvature

calves, elbows, pubis — angled perfect, soft to touch

This is my performance,in the central business district
Building facade filthy with black grime and unclean capitalism
6pm. Everyone else is going home while I am home
among currencies and crisis management units / strategic business empires unawares of my hauntology

I move between dinner tables full of hunger.

Afterwork professionals/ middle management / executives / junior ad men search for empty seats
waiting to order dead animals (fried , boiled, steamed)
(the four living creatures, restful in my arms, before the throne of God)

i smell carbon monoxide from dark grey tarmac
double decker busses lurching

faces full of fatigue staring out
but
None—shocked by my nakedness

People pass me by,
grazing the tips of my limbs but
they do not see me

The camera man sees me
perched in his corner
stooping low, low-light settings, filming my slow turn and step and lowering of body and temperature

regulated breathing

I am looking for water, a white shower from trees
dark canopies screeching with carrion birds
a blue black bruised sky
Skin moisturised but dry

This is my celebrated act

Specific gestures for the masses
A movement of arms and hands
from rib to ear, a metre away from chest and nipple
veins and palm, holding a new bottle of
cool
fresh
antibacterial body wash

I put it on empty tables then take it away
before people could sit down with
Chinese tea and braised peanuts in saucers

Soap for you, soap for him, soap for her but no one sees me.

They just sit there in social configurations,
people layered with soot and paper cuts and pantry smells
dried biscuits gone stale…

I want to bathe them with trembling hands
wash the sins off their feet but they do not undress for me

I wish to lather myself
but the air is too dry
nothing descends from the sky

So I pose by roadside
profile, (exhale, distend gut), bend legs and barefoot
musculature, thighs untouched by the sun

no one can see me except the filming man
red light, high definition, on board mics tuned to traffic
and steady murmur of eating

Then the students come, recognising me.

For several terms I had studied with them.
The girl from india, flashes her white teeth, excited by my presence and progress.

We speak without speaking

They had seen me on stage several times before
and now they gather about my fresh flesh
in awe of hairlessness, my mythology, the epic blood and sweat, the light in mine eyes. One of them is studying the bottle of body wash, reading the labels, prime texts of my poetry,

“The long roads,” I told them, “it’s hard to go without transport. I walk. I walk, curved streets, past vintage shophouses. I aim for the buildings on the horizon, financial district. I follow the money.” I point and everyone looks. the camera pans. the sky is ominous, blackness devouring penthouses.

“Those moguls, they pray for shower so I am here, with the soap, but they do not see me…”

“We see you,” the youngest girl says.

I follow them. Young, tender rabbits, I follow them.

Through glass sliding doors, up black escalators, past the princess loaded with youthful gold and dinner dress and treasury, the students bring me to their classroom.

Part-time evening lessons had begun
running perpetually
for hours on end
tuition stuck in the blue-grey dusk, everyone is tired.

But I am here now.

I’m at the back of the class. The camera man waits outside, stealing found sounds on black boxes poised against closed doors – recording.

I’m too late, scattered chapters and discussions were missed
but i’m settling into the middle of a topic:

Top of the line automobiles:
– sections on insurance numbers, velocity philosophy, paint jobs, oil grades

So many words on white trash paper clipped to white boards

hasty handwriting
axis mathematics, rotational physics, chemical emissions, street conditions

There were photos. Blurred, iso too low.

Several car models were identified,
trapped in unmoving traffic outside the building

There’s a ghostly image of a naked man posing,
profile, left leg thrust out in semi-falling
tendon taut, knees wobbling
hairless artist evolving
from grotesque sculptures
skin the colour of pastel afternoons
squatting, pre-leapfrog, post-landing

he’s there but also not
an enactment / an audience

Copies of the photos were handed out earlier but I cannot find mine.

I need to make an announcement to the class.
(The lessons don’t end, no clocks on the walls )

My core sketchbook is missing.
I only have black folders, loose sheets in between hard covers
half drawings of fully nude selves
tone, nerve groups, exoskeleton, varying degrees of body tension, sexual positions, a mimicry of god forms.

‘assembly required, assembly required’

The lecturer is missing. He sits at the back of the class. Or he is by the roadside, moving between people eating…

The recoding artiste is editing a sound clip.

who_has_my_sketchbook_?.wav

He loops that existential question, syncing it to the grainy, monochromatic video of a man in dramatic movement, gripping a bottle of soap in his hand

I know that this man dreams of bath in the city

– but the air is so dry

– there is no water from the sky

– no one is looking…

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1.1 amniotic women

The camera man is showing me a monochrome scene on his cctv monitor, in an unidentified room:

(It is night, false hollow light —the whites burn with over saturation—a full moon )

There’s only half a basketball court, crowded with followers in dark clothes, all in profile— the blacks are deep and solid—

An unknown cult? Neighbourhood watch? Citizens together for celebrations?

They are praising, perhaps cheering before an unseen stage (just out of frame) No other voices can be heard — no discernible words —just a jumble of human noise from male and female, no children.

There is certainty with this. No children on site.

(Lens flare)

The concrete floor is wet. Either rain, or spilled drinking water, or most likely, amniotic fluid.

There are pregnant women present, four or five of them, unmoving figures sitting upright and scattered among the crowd) They appear elevated on chairs carried by men, liquid dripping, two heads higher than the others (who are standing)

The pregnant women are wearing white maternity dresses but the designs on them are different

floral, shapes, batik, minimalism

The common denominator are embryos, suspended in bellies, listening. This is important.

Four or five of them in one space, connected by an unseen cord, as if the sum was greater than the all.

I don’t feel they are going to be sacrificed. Maybe worshipped. They do not speak and no sound comes from them.

Serene. Unafraid.

(I believe them to be receiving the sounds of the crowd)

(The unborn, listening, their mothers, receptacles)

The scene ends there.

1.2 myth of the cameraman

He is daring.

Out in public, in sunlight like this. Along common areas in a common neighbourhood, he, with his dark and tall priestly stance, his finely shaped beard, his snake charm eyes.

We cross path outside a grocery store. He is talking to three girls. Too young to be mothers, too old to be students. They are already exchanging contact details with him.

Plain white name card. Poet. Filmmaker. Producer.

I have no reason to warn them. (Does that make me complicit?)

The false name. Cell number off a burner phone. A website siphoning private data.

I look into the face of one of the girls. White dress, long, black hair, eyes lit up with laughter. Conventionally pretty.

She does not see me. But he knows I’m there.

He always follows a familiar, similar aesthetic. I know the type he likes. Fair. Asian Chinese. Unblemished. Slightly meaty.

I prefer the petite.

He promised me videos, when he was done. I say to him, “You know I like to watch.”

He understands but offers something else…

I’m behind a two way mirror. I’m looking into a well lit room. There are beds. At least six, if not eight, or nine, neatly arranged in rows. Headboards facing west. Plain white sheets.

I cannot tell if the three females, in oversized pyjama pants and shirts, sleeping soundly, are the same three I had met. (If so, where were their corporate clothes? The white and black dresses?)

How does he make them all feel so comfortable? Comfortable enough to sleep with all the lights on?

Are they drugged? Is there a specific kind of soundtrack he’s looping through unseen speakers that lulls them to natural sleep?

I do not see him enter the room, but he is there, standing between the beds.

I see him cock the black handgun.
.45, no silencer.

He is daring. Wearing no gloves or mask.

They are sleeping so softly. No distress.

I do not actually hear him tell me, but I know he speaks these words.

“You fire into them, when they are in deepest sleep.”

I do not actually hear the double shots. I just see ripped cotton drifting back down onto empty beds.

Where are the girls if not bloodied or dead?

I do not see him leave the room, but he is no longer there.
This makes me realise how time and sound can vanish, that
I’m actually not watching through the two way mirror.

I’m watching a video of myself watching the empty room, with one of the beds ruined by two bullet holes.
The other beds remain vacant and untouched.

This is who he is.

The cameraman. A thief inside my head. Planting and extracting spectacles, scenes, evidence of other lives.

He lets me see him.

He is daring.

Showing me the subjects from his films.

1.3 the hospital

I don’t know how many girls made it out.

The nurse at the counter tells me to fill in the ‘crash report.’

Everything is white, bleeding into each other —the nurses station, uniforms, swinging doors, walls and ceiling and memory, even the car ramming into large cubical objects, the remains of engine parts,oil and glass— everything is a singular white blur, like a sun of halogen instead of fire.

Had the doctors checked me? My head?
No.
I doubt I was involved in anything. (I doubt I am complicit.) I couldn’t even say if the girls were in the car.

I’m outside the I.C.U.
Isn’t that severe enough? How many of them are in there?

Hospital staff won’t let me in.
(A line cannot be crossed.)
I watch the door swing open and I steal a glance. There’s only a white wall with a white painting of a girl on a bed. I watch the door swing shut.

“I’m their father,” I lied.

“I’m sorry sir, your I.D cannot be verified,” they know.

I feel the cctv studying me so I stare back at it. He must be watching the feed. I want him to know that I know, that I’m expecting videos with names, height, weight, age, condition.

The doctors won’t tell me a thing.

I leave before other authorities arrive.

How many girls made it out of camerama?

1.4 from the fringe of Carni Mortis 

I remember chains on my feet, crouching in the dark of a cell hewn from rock, under the earth, far from the sun.
My hair and beard is a wild thing, untamed as I pray in my own filth.

A heap of hay is set on fire, so I know my captors want my strength again, to hammer steel into blades,shields, knives, arrowheads and other instruments of death.

I have become a slave to them, serving the ungodly king who lives above in gold and royal sunlight.

I am a prisoner but have no pain in my heart, no true loss of freedoms.

Sleeping in the dark, I disperse to other realms where I awake in the bodies of poets and shamans and gods from other times and places.

Only to be pulled back when the fire starts again and my hands are needed for wars.

—armour, axes, swords —

For years I live like this, but I do not die in this cavern.

It is on a full moon like tonight when I retreat into the dank darkness where my body and spirit disappears, displacing to live among dark matter that is dimly pierced by the farthest stars.

It is on a full moon like tonight when I come back, pulled from my house in oblivion after centuries, decades, days,seconds.

It is not the fire that pulls me back.

I am counting in seconds, eyes attuning to the blackest of basements. I somehow possess knowledge about an ancient prisoner.

How many years, since the war ended ? Am I a prisoner here as well? Was I complicit? I look and see no chains on my feet.

He is kept here to die,beneath the earth, in the cave that seem familiar.

I know I must go to him.

Was I to see to his body?

To take him into the darkness that claims me? To house him in the void that knows my name?

I sense no other people, air cold and abandoned, an unending cavern lit by distant fires.

I make my way, barefoot through the yawning space, sidestepping empty bullet shells and drying blood. No smell of gunpowder, echoes of those final gun shots long ago gone into wet walls.

In the distance I see the death slab he is chained to. I am expecting to find him dead, having died in sleep, body shrivelled from disuse, skin and bones and clumps of hair fallen unto timeless stone.

But when I reach his side, I find him struggling to breathe, coughing, a raw skeleton loosely covered by fragile paper thin skin, wrinkled and crushed by the weight of time.

I then understand the man from the west is also here. A bearded gunman with long blond hair, unchaining the dying prisoner of war.

I ask without saying, ‘who is he?’ then scrawl the answer on paper, in blue ink, the name Axiiom. The double ‘I’ is specific to me. Somehow, this is important.

I understand without knowing he is fighting for Axiiom, that I am following through, the second wave, and that the allies had lost the war.

The iron mask the prisoner had on is removed.

Loose, dirty plastic tape clings to his shrunken cheeks.

Weakly, he points to a window in the far wall, tattered, dark blue curtains bloating in slow motion, a stale wind circulating like thick blood.

“Open…” he says, the sound like a dying creature. I go the window and find it already open. Outside is eternal night, black and starless.

He will not die in a place like this, like how I do not die in that cave.

His voice is becoming more alive.

“I dreamt of walking the grounds of my castle,”

I share in the vision of his dreaming, seeing the walls of his high court, the fireless dearth, massive oblong blocks, stacked and structured.

He says, “In my Fathers house, there are a thousand doors….”

He is visibly becoming younger, fat and meat filling out around his bones, flesh, losing translucence, color returning, wrinkles vanishing, voice growing louder with youth.

“I dream of walking the grounds of my castle.”

I know he is both far yet close.

A fire burns in the dearth of his castle.

His castle revives him.

He reaches the prime of adulthood, sits up and gets off his death slab. I dress him, in a ripped dark green robe made from scales of a dead dragon, surface shimmering, despite the Aging of time.

No more is he dying.

His castle remakes him.

We leave his tomb together.

We walk through thin air, the cavern better lit by the invention of electric light. There is an arch like opening in the wall. It is near here where I lose sight of him.

Approaching the gaping maw, I look in and find two Viking like warrior women rising from sleep. Their breasts are robust and European. It is the female room of sleep and I am considered an intruder.
Turning away, I find the others.

Transvestites, seven feet tall, dressed in tight straps of gothic leather, red hair high like totems on their chiselled heads. Black tattoos of cults and horrors stand out against porcelain white skin. Their fingers and nails, elongated, foreign and painted. Their bodies, taut and stretched, alien and anorexic, bent and posed and painted for me.

“I know a friend who will love your work,” I say, to the tallest and the oldest of the suicide ones. She just smiles at me, not saying a thing.

I then see the cameraman.

The tall dark stranger, the one who was not caught, approaching me. He shows me a pair of tickets to a 4 pm film called WANTED. The profile shot of the man from the west is on the poster. Blonde, long hair, unkept beard, face well burnt by the face of the sun (the type of fire and not of halogen.)
I calculate the timing, and find we can catch the carnival as it begins at 7a.m
The carnival has taken over the cavern.
The allies have lost.
Old prisoners are set free.

I am just passing through once more (for this cavern will always know my name.)
I don’t  know where the ancient (now, young) prisoner has gone, but I believe I will not see him again.

1.5 the incident

It’s minutes to show time (in a world untouched by the sun.)
We are underground – air conditioned, top level liqueur in crystalline bottles line glass shelves pierced into mirrors-
We see our faces,

painted, powdered, hand drawn with black pencils (we swirl nameless beverages in the chalice)

A spoken word troupe will take the dark stage first-
Reading, acting, gesturing to tuxedos and perfumed necks of families from old money.

-I am to go up next but:
-I forget the words, once written by my hand
-I forget the entire story,
-beginning, middle, end, completely erased.

I tell the girl this, near the bar, near the other three or four performers she works with

I do not drink the whiskey circulating in crystal cups
Searching for the name of this basement bar, I come up blank. I do not recall being brought here, nor was I led.

I am here, written into context, in-situ, in spectacle.

We are going to perform in a few minutes, telling our stories. Clearly, I have forgotten mine.

She tries to help me recall. The lighting here, dim orange, dark wooden panels on the walls, no paintings, no smoking room, everyone well dressed, speaking in dignified voices, unhurried, softly.

We are going to perform our tales, in our dinner jackets, evening dresses, polished shoes.

The girl, she’s in blue, like all the other girls I meet from different times and places. She is the archetype. The girl in the blue dress. Always near me but never saying anything.

She tries to help me remember but nothing appears in my mind. She gives me a three-fold flyer for a spectacle i had appeared in previously. I believe i have re-found my work but when i open the document, I find my section blank.

No bio, no name of work, no conceptual synopsis, no transcript or excerpt.

I pace the length of this bar. An elite establishment. Gentlemanly, wealthy, jazzy, untouched by sunlight. This seems to be important. Other life grows in such a faux-lit place.

Spectres, moving images, wisps, a brief articulation of air, unseen breathing, an eco-system of ghosts, ectoplasmic thought..

I pace the length of the basement, drawn to other lights from other entrances

Entrancements.

A dual presence, then quadrupling.

There is a room. Lavatory, bathroom, white tiles polished shine, brand new. Is this is an extension of the establishment or an invasion?

There is a room. in its center, a circular pool of steaming water. There is a panic in the room. A rush of events.

I am at the mouth of this room but I am also running to this room from the length outside.(we are minutes away from performing, i see the girl in  the blue dress, the indian man in his editor jacket, other muses and young intellectuals)

 

I am running to the pool room. I must stop something from manifesting. Three quarters of it already happening, Seconds are depleting. I am at the mouth of the kill room, looking in.

There, one of three young adults is dying, body half submerged in the bubbling pool, his head mostly skinless, his skull, a creature I do not recognise from earth zoology. It is struggling, gruelling, pulling its convulsing body out of the broiling pool. I see oval eye sockets but no eyes. The water around the skull is steaming, like something solid dissolving into liquid state.

There is a second figure in the pool but I cannot understand its facade. A jumble of clothes or drapery, hanging on a humanoid formation. I cannot understand its face.

There is a third figure. The core reactor.

He poses outside the circular pool. Flexing muscular arms, ribs, angling his sinewy, steroidal legs. I see through his darkly browned chest. I sense the nuclear reaction inside me and know it’s mimicking the fission inside him.

I am yelling, yelling,“Shut down your energy! Shut down your energy!”

This is happening:

  • An otherworldly psychic manifestation is going awry.
  • Feeble human species toying with power drawn from unfamiliar planetary centrifuges.
  • Hadean, underworld voltage is hijacking and climbing the DNA structure

I am shielding my solar plexus with an invisible hand. I am blocking access to my body map. I am preventing fusion of my core with the rampant diasporic forces.

“Shut down your energy center!” I am deaf to him. His core star chakra is compromised.

I understand the egoism of the third man, the showing off, the daring pose, the excessive self worship

I remember the formula of my story. Not so much the narration or poetry, but the images. The film. The Influence. 

There is a stairwell.

Mass evacuation from a 25 storey apartment block, the firetrucks and disaster response teams, the neighbours streaming down anxiously as I ascend against the tide, against the noxious, nameless smell,.

The missing girl and the warning she had given.

The adversity of the painting hanging in the room…

 

1.6 we are close to understanding the boy

Let the boy in white scream in the convention hall
Let the high lights of halogen illuminate his hemp shirt and baggy trousers, to mimic contact with something foreign in the sky
Let the wire in his ear, the mic near his lips, be checked for loose connections
Electromagnetic waves from his cells might disrupt communication links

Let him create a significant wall of sound from his body

All the technicians, accounts execs, stage managers—
with radio headsets, blue tooth, cardio monitoring machines
wires, antennae — are moving around him, trying to manage the meltdown.

Keep him calm, ground his strange vibrations

Let the boys’ blood pump where it may

We will monitor, follow him wherever he wants to go

We know he won’t listen to us

He listens to white noise moving through his body, through the ear piece tuned to a channel only he can hear, through the undiagnosed cracks in his skull

We try to find the source code:

Track, map, pin—point on sonar, predict pulses with fractal technology, give it names or codes or graphs

Try to understand it.

In hotel rooms we discuss him, shuffling through reports, projections, theories, hypothesis

We are here, waiting for the right hours, the right mix of people in one room adjacent or opposite another room with another set of people. Numbers matter, different dimensions, configurations, chatter level, ages, hours spent exposed to pictures of the boy.

We are here waiting for the alignment to happen

– Radio-in on his whereabouts.
– Keep a safe distance.
– Report his movements consistently.

Hall, loading docks, conference rooms, rest rooms, sick bays
CCTV continuity is a must, watch the boy and the entourage assigned to him.

Check the staff for fevers, hallucinations, diseases. Stand by biohazard suits, counsellors, evac protocols.

Try to measure and understand the importance of his signal bouncing between nodal points within the superstructure of the convention center
Calculate, ask questions.

Who is his ombudsman?
What is the current temperature of the halls? Is it spiking? Dropping? Has anyone felt an usual surge or loss of appetite? Sleep? Fatigue?

Which of the women was he born to? 

We must understand his codified form of expression before we can speak the correct statement or phrase about him.

This is important.

We cannot make a statement if we are unsure of his status.

But we are close.

Very close

in the middle of this late night, in this hotel room, plugged into the convention center.

TV is switching channels, montage of adverts and documentaries, stock reports, unusual glitches, weather forecasts, scattering of unidentified broadcasts, images of the new found planet.

I think that’s the problem, beaming those photographs back. No one else agrees with me.

They are only interested in the boy.

There is beige light seizing the room, neon signs from a block away spilling its electric mass onto our walls, onto our beds and sofas.

We are close to manifesting full knowledge of the boy, to focus him into the room using the patterns of his prior articulations.

No more screaming but a clear statement. We do not know what to expect. We do not know the nature of his message.

We are very close.

Everyone is anxious.

1.7 we both dream

It’s getting complicated.

Is my colleague at the motel in the neighbouring country?

I am travelling along the highway, greenery, new roads into old filth of the city, 8 hours from homeland.

I sit in the yellow opiated room. On the bed where we once slept or are about to.

We are talking.

“We are both asleep…”

I am also talking to him, back at our shop of employment, 8 hours after the city.

“…we both dream of her but she chooses me.”

I think we are awake.
Or we could be inside the dream where he is asleep and I am talking to him.

I am not chosen to wake. My colleague is sitting in the store of our employer, remembering our conversation or the dream he had where we were both talking, in a bedroom, in a motel, in the city, 8 hours away.

The 8 hours seem so long ago but it is not. We are still living out the eight hours.

“…but she chooses me.”

The stores are closing down one by one. The shutters roll down with stock and furniture, cashiers, sales team, delivery persons inside and the lights go out and they disappear. Nothing left but wires and debris, yellow dirty sponge from aircon ducts, rusty bent nails, faded receipts, memories of people. The store is dreaming of its contents.

I did not wake but my colleague did and he is remembering our talk.

“Two of us dreamt of her.”

I’m telling the girl who chose me that different messages will be going out to different clusters of people. “Package the statement according to communication needs.” She reclines on a sofa. I see her handwritten memos go out in stacks, in groups, angled at different degrees, shooting forth from her chest like email.

It’s getting complicated.

The colleague can’t tell if he is remembering or dreaming or actually having a conversation with me. He’s either 8 hours out into the city or is spending 8 hours returning from it.

He finds himself in the store where we work. He is alone.

I am not with him.

1.8 return to stranger mall

They put me in the mall again.

Full of fleeting figures, sparse movements on unaccountable levels.

The woman, the silent partner, the manifestation of hidden desires, lurks at the back of my awareness, on a swift and quiet train, gliding into future city.

They place me, wandering in the hive mind of stores.

The video man, who was absent in prior days, return (though I do not actively see him)

He gives me the recording device.

I am given no clear instructions, so I film sporadically on the camera phone.

There is no living line, no signal to voice, no two way comms.

I just film.

From outside the labyrinth mall, the mansion of occult architecture, I stand with my back against the timeless tree.

I see the first storefront is all glass with no doors.

From wooden patio I begin filming, the walls of the store are illuminated yellow.

All yellow, the altar, like monk robes, religious skin, prayer paper for the dead, I move in, filming.

Here lies The Ritual room, i’m drawn into the core altar of papier-mâché, perception of its depth shapes changing, observational quantum flux.

Octagonal, hexagonal, square turned, cubes inside cubes, then the roots, sucked into spherical, the tree of life deformed and skewed, entering / exiting the window inside cardboard spaces, deep illusion, perspective lengthening, shortening, every angle changing its face and features.

I pass through glass, into funereal air, all bright, beaming beige and yellows, I greet directions, every turn lingering, false plastic candelabra light, left and right guarding vacant pedestal on risen table, no gods on site (no coffin where there should be.)

I watch a paper Canary attached to fishing string. The faux bird flies, hunting in circulars, wings extended, swirling above my head like a dizzy spell. I pass under it, through the unseen door.

Into corridor, before another faceless store, dark unlit, hardware house with coloured wires in rolls, in gordian knots, greens, yellows, hanging on hooks.

There is no power, no electric.

The next store is a glass cube, a room sized tank, dry hay,

Cobras. Twins. Head bloated, fanned out but its body isn’t erect or ready to strike.

Then from blindside, a large creature moves. A bulk of light brown fur, headless, heavy, stomping on serpents.

At the far right, in rows, in stacks, lie crushed snakes, just their skin shells, outer forms, hollowed out with pink insides, cut open, contents removed, sleeping dead on high hay.

Wild brown rabbits scatter. The huge creature crushes them under innocent gravitas, skulls smash

Snakes die. Pink blood muddying dead straw grass.

I film it all for camerama.

On other levels in the mall, a basement with heavenly lights, I am searching for Codex.

I know I’m collecting thin tomes with pictures, printed speech,single issues (only 2 released) of the title in need.

On a display board at the entrance, I find my black book, previously lost, pages intact, sketches of various killers, creatures, forbidden texts.

“This is mine.” The storekeeper demands I prove it. There is a number advertised, writ in blue ink. I tell him to dial it.

The camera phone rings, I show him the store number I.D.

“This book is mine.”

He agrees. I take the white plastic bag of books and leave.

1.9 prologue house 

I never see the matron. 

She is following me through the confusing mansion. Wires to electric lights are cut by a masked hand, hunting blade. Been in the dark for hours. 
She’s like a breath, hot and sudden on the nape of my neck, always close. 

I pass rooms hidden from curious eyes. Inside, I believe there are urgent prayers being said, tenants on their knees by the edge of unmade sick beds, sweating profusely. Afraid. (Are the doors locked to keep them in, or invaders out?) 

A bloodline runs dense through the mansion (I have read ledger books, historical accounts from burned down libraries, names of cousins, uncles, grandparents, elders, younglings.)

I remain within this mystery because I am the best man of the friend who married into this family. He is no where, possibly far away with his pregnant wife and their first child. This is a good thing. I am not given the chance to go with them. Or I choose not to be given this respite. I remain, wandering the dark hallways, listening intently to the clocks that outnumber me in the family house. 

Somewhere is the right time. Not at midnight, not at three. Somewhere in the death throes of four. 

There is this inexplicable family smell of talcum powder, piss, age, greydom, antibiotics seething through skin, wafting down narrow flights of stairs, secret passage ways, bookshelves that twist into walls to reveal hidden rooms where other tenants reside, unknown to the owners of the house. 

There are other people still, unbound by kin, strangers on floors above, the unregistered, ushered in by furtive lords, sent quickly through unmarked doors to basements undisclosed in original blueprints. 
The main door has moved since I got lost upstairs. Days, weeks or maybe just hours ago. 

I don’t know which level I am on now. 

There are no numbers on the doors. 

There are voices just beyond the reach of human hearing. I suspect they are pre—recorded, speaking vaguely about treasure chests…

The matron follows me, I can smell the lilac of her hair but no matter how many times I turn, or glance at a mirror as I pass, I cannot see her. 

I do not hear my own footsteps, but I can hear the heavy footsteps of others. Sometimes running, two or six floors above…

Fleeing nowhere, room to room…

A bed is creaking from one of the hidden rooms. There is an intimation of moaning. I follow the sound. The matron feels denser, an almost solid thing behind me, the hair on my arms stand, a chill closing in. 

I find an open door. I do not recall if I had opened it. Figures are moving in the unlit, bodies writhing in bed. 

I crawl in. I join them. 

It is the helper, with the sir. 

The father—in—law who knows me, surely, from the days marrying off his only daughter. I was there, drinking tea with him. Now we’re in the same bed. His face is a pale worry. 

He looks past my naked shoulder. The maid, undressed, has no meaning in her face. 

He looks beyond me, trying to sense the lurking of his wife. He speaks softly, concerned. 

“Don’t tell her you have the key.” 

This is clarity to me. I am here to open the locked chamber, to find them nude but never in disarray. 

He points to his own face, then to the face of the helper. I see the resemblance. 

The father loves his daughter. 

She is showing him photographs, blindly and furtively taken. The pictures are blurred, dark, angled wrongly, poorly reproduced. It’s hard to extract real faces. Only bare skin, inner thighs, a shadow hanging over supple breasts. 

How did she end up in bed with her father? In this house which she cleans for less than minimum wage? No one knows if the matron knows, but if she is really following me…