Leila Samarrai


The unrest of the soul which pushes us towards the quest of the subconscious, or even unconscious, maybe that’s just traces of bygone pasts, or maybe just long forgotten images of our ancestors…

Long ago, there was nothing but Senses. Senses, like a dreaded, pungent Fire of rotting meat which, at times, wind would carry away along the tracks of the dim ancestral silence. Within us were monsters – our forefathers. They were animals, decked in fur, like our scalded skin. Then they rode giant horses and descended onto the passes of mutilated dreams, their presence sharp and glistening like a blade. They stepped into our tendons. And from the bits and pieces of our dreams remained bloody sinews they use to strangle us as they speak in an unintelligible tongue. During sacrifices, powerful senses bound hands to wild tribes. Set about a grand fire pouring onto the faces chafed by heat of molted wax, they were hissing voodoo mantras from their melted throats as well as chakarias (two-verse poetry) through which they spoke to the gods of the Threesuns, resting on the gigantic Platana beach. They too were skinning apples with their roasted hands and their hardened, horny nails – yellow scaly wrinkles creating with their overlap a cracked, horny layer, and turning the hands of Their gods into the monsters of the night.

The darkness of my soul was the darkness of the night. Visitors of other worlds also sought salvation in prayer, those exiled tigers and men with their nails deeply ingrown. Their fangs scraped the apple whose foam sprayed back into the womb, into the nails jammed into it, onto which a crow was giving birth, a child of death, a croaker of horror. Times flew by. Wind sprayed the coast of silence and bloody rains put out fires. Men found mercy with gods and the liquid fire – the aphrodisiac collected in their dirty, aging skin of giant fish and reptiles. They became men, but lost their gods in the process.

And now it’s all over. Desert everywhere, unending. Vera is waking up, feeling like a light knife jab at her temple. More precisely it could be said that Vera was at that crossing point between dream and real life when, while opening our eyelids, we simply admire all the shades. And over the shapes in the semi-darkness, these shades clasp their ghastly claws. Perhaps we fancy we can hear in this delirium of awakening amid the driest of nights the drumming of rain or a bang of someone’s bony hand against the window. After such oneiric daydreaming and flirting of our senses with the nonexistent vistas, we awaken, with the prior unclear signs of dreaming. Where were we? Did we go somewhere? What foggy lands of dream did we lose forever by waking so suddenly? And Vera was so tired out by archetypal dreams of her ancestors that she didn’t notice droplets of dried blood from the loud, leaned knife which came closer to her throat. When? Who? Where? Once more, within her head a mask rotated, a mask with wax dressing of rosy candles which her cousin Eulalia, a dream witch, used to clean her entrails while chanting her sins and yodeling. What kind of powerful shriek is that? Exhaling painfully and clasping her throat, she jolted up. Something was grabbing hold of her, like a mare which sat on her breasts , propping up its flowing garb, or like fear that boded the upcoming unrest.

The light glow of the sun reflected against the shiny hilt, the sun which gnawed at the sheets tossed over the messiest parts of the brothel where emerging female flesh rested, as if clad in diapers. She was nude, with a spattered sheet flung onto her body. Dark circles of perquisition and carnality were on her face, tattooed onto her by the Prince of darkness, trying to cut off her toes, jamming a cloth into her mouth and shouting ‘Swallow, you white bitch!’. This is where Vera thought of her parents, of the empty table where the clay of evil was smoking, rolled up in a piece of barren bread where an old man was testing his gums.

– Abrahamosvaldo, where is our daughter?-Almalikai asked.

– Ah to hell with her- The stern voice of the old man growled.

Abrahamosvaldo is the father, with bronchial asthma and frail lungs. Almalikai is putting the tequila onto the square tablecloth, wearing a bound kerchief and a black dress with a knitted collar and curlers in her hair. She rose her hand, which sucked up the thick light of the tiny holes through which a piece of the dim sun burst through. Her hand is soft and pale, veins swim along it, colorful, green, purple, knotty. Her clothing is nothing but rags, torn and cut up like ingrown claws, and her skin is tiger-like, with implanted tattooed flesh. They say Fernando Puerto Vallarta himself imprinted the wrinkles with rhetoric of blood, sweat and stench. But she awakens, and there was no freakish unrest to her. Her chunks of flesh are, however, still in place. The dress can be sown back together. Ah, the mouth, she needs to put on her mouth, pushing the web-like bundles of pus towards her esophagus, some of that pus from the lip cut open with the knife. Slops of blood poured from each pore. And the tracks were deep, and going all the way to the uterus they caused her that key nausea that tightens hoops around the head, when one thinks that he has precious little time left to live. She also had a toothache. She picked at the rotting enamel and pulled out bundles of ash, little charred bits of metal, and took them to her wide-open eyes. She then removed her blood-hued darkened dress and wrapped herself with the salty sweat of her bite mark-covered body. She’s shaking. Eyes?My eyes? Tense from the thoughts in her head, she wondered where her eyes were. What she sees are two bloody slits through which the light of darkness pierced. She remembers one of her customers. A giant hairy animal onto him whose hands clasp a butcher’s knife, and whose teeth are tiny like those of a bloodthirsty beast. Fangs are there too, biting into the clasped stomach.

– No, I don’t want to remember! – Vera speaks, nude as the day is long. The sight of this lustful battle with the animal that tore into her with anger and the knife at her throat, squeezing it tightly, was now merely a series of troublesome floating images painting dim and dead matter, unusual and colossal things. These were controlled by time flowing on the clock on the filthy wall. Drapes were pulled up on all four sides like semi-spheres, there were pictures of whores with bound hands lining the walls, and the dry faces of martyrs in the dark, tobacco laden night. The light bubbled on the clock’s flywheel endlessly ticking away, handles moving and sharply casting the shadow at the last demission of the customer.

Silence ensued. Dusting off the chair, she sat down buck naked. She then started lulling, breathing in the romance of the remaining musical beats, the music which, played during someone’s departure, was slowly dying off. She too dug her head into her hands to hide the raspy howl implied in her lips chapped to the point of bleeding. Yes, she was good tonight, still on that crossroads of an older girl, with her reflection and her spent, burnt form. Her lips were wet. Using her hand she was scraping off something invisible from them, wanting to ignore the blood. It was all the same to her if she could get up and reach for the mirror, but the half-pierced glass flipped in her hands, seeking an answer. She looked at herself. Now that was an ordeal, dreaded ordeal of self-knowledge. Something secret was buried in that mirror, like a secrete heart, a place where pain ended, and silence started, a place where light and shadow met, coshering each other. Down the filthy glasshouse across the bed, where she was lying powerless and bloodied up until that point, tiny terracotta figurines of lions and tigers were hanging about, as well as some other wild, African animals which tore into her mind. And she saw the shapes of fantastical figurines from her dreams – the famed Alebrijes, restless spirit from Native American Zapotec tradition. Its light wings were like bird feathers, with that same feathers adorned with colors which shone as if oiled. Each feather was rosy from the inner tissue degradation, as if a crafty carpenter made tiny bones in Vera’s flesh, making figurines from her dreams with a brush and a chisel. And then there were the patterns which bubbled after a sleepless night that were on the back of her hand like an undead spirit like Alebrijes. He is a burning soul – Fire. He only comes when the dead die. He is someone who had a hard life.

– Alebrijes will burn him with his eyes – Almalikai spoke, leaning over the candelabras, wearing tiger skin traje[1]. This was how Alebrijes lived in her imagination, since her childhood, while she was grinding her soul fleeing from one mythology to the next. His Pegasus wings were a continuation of a horse’s head, unwillingly turned from her child stand to her tiny, curious head. This was her mother’s gift for her 13th birthday.

– Let VirgenMorena protect you, and let Alebrijes do so too – she told her then, kissing her on the forehead and she then dreamed a blissful dream. Not long after, heavy shadows were creeping over and waking her, and a heavy body stood over the door in a cape and walked as if on water. She would scream in the dark, and saw him on the floor chasing under the shadows, under the light, trudging gelded and bejeweled, pricked with voodoo dolls, splashed with bucketfuls of blood. Then a scream, an ending to the dream and the first bedwetting stream.

– One day, when I will be dying, I will see his face in my mirror – she would say to Eulalia the fortune-teller.

When Alebrijes got into battle against the dark forces (and she could never tell which side it was on), it would turn into a young white man with a poncho around his starched shirt and a cheap sombrero. They say it sometimes appears at early dawn, like a young man wearing a gold necklace, or a copper necklace but gelded. His belt buckle had the head of a snake on it. And at times it would appear at night, black-cloaked, and many believe that in this form it comes to hold off death. She didn’t know why Alebrijes came to her dreams, whether the violence was in her or whether she, as a victim, managed to bite the magic twine from the violence ball of yarn which Eulalia shoved into her hand the night rivers of blood flowed atop her bedding, and an unknown fruit wiggled out of her womb like a monster with tentacles, while Eulalia fell backwards with her eyes rolled up. She was kicked out, no questions asked. They called her a witch, and she knew that Alebrijes twisted her mind.

– Alojandra! Alojandra! – she clapped her hands. She would at times touch her lips gently, swollen from the blows and cooled with ice from the tequila which was now foaming, like a puddle of blood, in the filthy decaying glass.

– Give me the Meskla (scorpion juice) – she is somewhat curiously listening to her raspy voice coming from a different throat. How long was it since she saw Rigoberto who came to her room one lonely night with masks of religious monsters on stone walls? And now , clasping her hands in prayer, directing her gaze at the Virgin Morena, she felt all the repulsiveness and emptiness of her life.

– Yes – she whispered, downing the brandy – This is the end, and that end is the most wondrous road I could have taken.

– I summon death – she theatrically raised her glass, almost with a mindless indulgence to the Great Shadow. – Alojandra, I summon Alebrijes! – she shouts while her face flows on the cracked mirror like a drunken sea, or a scorpion’s tail in a sandy hole in a desert. Alojandra, in a state worse than she was, entered the room somewhat fearful. She wore a woolen dress and a golden pearl necklace. Long dark hair fell onto her shoulders unbound. A dark-red, crab-like face aflame bears wrinkles just about ready to worsen her countenance. It was a grand mother walking along the desert with a bucket. Her hand is on her mouth, her eyes flung wide open.

– I’m telling Puerto Vallarta.

– No, I’m fine – she’s looking into her eyes and wants her to also feel everything being fine.

Alojandra is nibbling on the almonds digging around her right hand for some and lookingat her while her eyes kept increasing in volume.

They sat at the table. Both leaned over the cup of brandy. Silence. Vera’s gaze turns to Alojandra, and then like a beam of light drops onto the doors open ajar.

– Close them – she said abruptly.

The brothel has two floors. The second floor rooms are completely empty save for their. The two are separated from the outside by strips woven by Chincha Indians, role models of the long-gone world, greatest masters of silence. Suddenly, due to the silence, only pieces remained, like the gnawed strips making up the protection at the door. Something like a Shadow ran down the silence and the edge of the bed, and the Shadow went for the windows, and the ground floor doors slammed open.

– There is no wind here – Alojandra stood firm and grabbed firm of the smooth cover.

Between two tightly clasped fingers a few pebbles were sticking out, barely scraped by fire. Her hands were hot from anticipation, and her breasts grew in small kinks.

– Vera, the gods are here for you – she said and screamed, knocking over a lantern from the wooden, moth-eaten table.

She became tiny and hunched as if she were a terracotta statuette. Her eyes were red-hot like chili peppers. Fear completely encompassed the two women.

– Someone is watching. Maybe it’s Xolotl, the Grand monster – Alojandra shrunk, while her chin quivered. A powerful howl of wind. – A dog-faced god, Quetzalcoatl’s twin. A grand monster. – she shook with swigs of hysterical crying.

– Stay calm, Alojandra!

– We need protection – she screamed. – Someone’s coming.

Vera looked in the mirror. She saw all. She saw Vera. Her face a voodoo mask.Fluids on her – black, blue, white (of questionable purity) and red.

– I can’t see my face, Alojandra, I can’t see – she fixated onto her wrinkled bra.

– Xolotl’s spells. – she leaned to her conspiratorially. Vera shrugged it off.

Again silence, for centuries, years, that howling silence that smudges the lip-liners of whores and flips their brassieres. Suddenly some change dropped, bouncing off with a tap taptap. There they are, rolling like penitentiary machines and sprockets cutting mercilessly and moving the wheel. There were rotations. The clock is ticking – the mechanism one gets with a brothel in the same manner one gets nightmares with age. The two women are aging in an obnoxiously fast rate. Vera is sipping the final shot of brandy, at the same time fondling the slim, torn dress, bargaining with impulses of showing nudity which got under her skin. And as if in a hurry, she lifts her head up high, diagonally a bit, her eyes rolled back because she felt a shadow above her, unthreateningly bathing on her cheek.

Alojandra’s hand is back on her mouth, and she moved past the Stranger squealing. His eyes followed her with contempt, contracting. He wore a shirt and jeans, with a cheap sombrero on his head. He took the mirror form her hands and observed his bony face. Partly animal, the stranger, for a few more minutes, intently stared at his reflection. She was observing him. Indeed, his ears would make a great pair of shoes, a potato from his nose, she thought numbly. He made a ball of his long, serpentine hair, which gave him the clairvoyant Westerner look. He smiled for a second, as if he had concluded this ironic thought himself, and then with a few short, sharp twitches of his wrist the mirror was flung away.

He was observing her gently, as if the two were the only ones conversing in the entire world, somewhere beyond the desert, in the hills miles away. The look was almost apathetic, as if her shameful nudity was but a battered landscape meant to photograph or paint. His grey eyes feign a bit of a mocking smirk and a mere look is enough to her, a look crossing his – a look known to all the fornicators of the night, all the brothel whores in this little desert town of Oaxaca. He also somehow kept retreating, shuffling some box in his hands which kept on buzzing, and then going silent again.

– Maricón![2]– she thought bitterly, but without delight. She knew her nudity left him completely holy and clean.

– This is unworthy of me – he said turning and twisting all over the room. He then sighed and sat where Alojandra was sitting up until a moment ago.

– Were You sent…? – she pauses, because she forgot the name of her Benefactor. To her he was a reflection of a man with butcher-like arms, broad shoulders resembling mountains, all but neckless. This was Vallarta, the man who brought her here. For a moment it seemed to her that Alojandra was looking beyond the stranger’s back and she managed, with her eyes closed, to imagine here lovely hands clapping, calling for her to wake up. And where is she? In what odd landscape? Did she finally decide to let go? She too realized that she can hear a horrible trudge of shamans dancing around the flames. She saw a few charred masks onto the sliced faces bouncing in their cramps.

– You can offer much more – he said and started dressing her slowly, without lust, and she was letting go, like she did to Eulalia when she revealed to her father, a man eagerly demanding to kill Rigoberto and his unborn son,  the shame of baring the hips. And then she heard the father’s breath and saw an extended palm. Vallarta, grinning, responded in kind.

– We had a deal, old man.

And here they were,Alebrijes came for her, Vera thought observing the stranger’s sensual lips. He held her hand gently, with his collar digging into his neck. He spoke with a somewhat robotic voice, and she was listening and drinking it all in. Truth be told, Vera did resist a bit  (and this resistance was rather pathetic and unconvincing). Namely, all she did was cross her arms and bow her head while the for og the early morning madness mixed with the breath of brandy. Still, trying to stave off his face by constantly flipping her head left and right, she managed a question.

– And you are?

– An amateur artist – he said.

Suddenly he was erect and all but pounded his chest with a fist, like a hammer, wanting to confirm the dignity and vanity of his words.

– A visionary.

– Ah – Vera sighed.

– You can help me to make a short film or something. You will be paid well – He then took her out of the brothel, shielding her as if instead of an arm he had a bird’s wing with golden, brown and red feathers. His hands became a bird completely moving closer to her, a black cloak down his back which had a snake symbol woven in.

– Alebrijes – she said silently. – Where are we going?

– Down a dark path.

They moved onward, but she did not see the road, but a stream where their seemingly fused bodies moved. She grabbed his hand more firmly. As it was morning outside, both it and the camera lens were extinguished at the same time and the sun disappeared behind a cloud somewhere. They disappeared too in some skim of bright purple night. The sky covered the bleeding sun, and its bloodthirst fused with the horizon, and but a mild, bright-brown light cast his grotesque potato face and yellow cheeks smudged in shoe polish. He was nearly ashen.

– Is this what the Ritual Death Mask looks like? – Vera wondered.

It was like a dream, but much more…dream-visionary, she was looking for the right word. For, death was like a flash of a long lost dream – magnificent vistas, mosses rolling on the road and entwining with the face, a complex universal harmony, stopped time, her hand in that of the young man. All of this reminded her of a wondrous, compliant game of surrealist colors and images. Is this what death looks like? Is this the end, like when I accidentally choked on tequila, when I was burned by my own breath from within my esophagus, vacuuming and soft like a pipe? This is how they walked down a dark path with greenery and many-colored leaves multiplying on its sides.

– Where is the desert? – she asked seemingly curious, playing with the tapes on her most lavish of dresses, an imitation sari flowing down on her moccasins, her hair in a merry bun filled with hairpins and colors.

– In our eyes. We’re almost there. – his hands clapped and behold, a corner materialized, and in said corner a house, all of this a weird image Vera met with a sudden relief and a jolly squeak. His long, capable, gentle hands, rigid with a row of pink scales covered in skin-colored smooth flesh are messing about with the key while his lips open slightly. She notices the mark on his hand – that of the snake.

It was evident the young man was into important things, although the rather sizable house had no furniture, but only doors, bare walls and cameras across the ceiling where gray light seeped from, like warmth of his yellowy eyes. Vera accused herself for not evenly applying lipstick, like on that fateful day when Vallarta came for her. One of her moccasins was so softened by her sweat and moisture evaporation that she felt every dull gust of air with sharp pain. One of the cameras was set up high, and the stranger, moving another camera closer to it, unpacked something akin to a purse containing a bowl. He then set the bowl on the floor, a vase next to it, and this was all the decor he had. He then lined a few huge dishes which he pulled out of a hole in the wall dressed in snake skin and stretching up to the ceiling in the form of drawers, which seemed modern to her. From each of the dishes he picked an apple, the fruits being large and scarlet-hued, muscly and sunken into his soft hands and hard, then he began stroking them and shifting them, which went on for an entire hour. Then the stranger approached two steps away from her, looking gently at her while gnawing at the fruit, his eyelashes making fantastical reflections on her chest, analyzing and observing her hips, her buttocks…

– You have the face of an actress – he concluded his analysis of her aging face, with eyes like pasta dented into her sockets, and her nose in the shape of a chewed-up sausage, her face was far from beautiful. But the young man found something in her, a game or an adventure of the spirit, a redness of a virgin, not caring about the childish mockery of nature which destroys beauty stamping wrinkles on like seals.

– There is something lavish in your physiognomy, like a hazard that wins some and loses some. You are perfect. – She feels the old man’s pleasant voice, and melts, spreading her legs like a peacock, staring at his face and, no less thrilled than before, merges with him in ways unknown.

– Come here. Your task is actually rather easy. All you have to do is chew apples, like so. – already he is gnawing at a piece of the halved fruit making his cheeks swell up and contort. She listens to him and he passes her the bowl where she picks one, the biggest one, takes a bite and chews, staring him square in the eyes.

– There you go. Now take more. Take two. Swallow faster. – She swallows, her eyes bulging, shoving apple pieces into her mouth, ripe, red, juicy. Droplets of its sauce are moving down her slim dress. The stranger turns to the big camera covered in some black cloth, uncovers it and eyes her while turning the handle; the camera captures her smudged lipstick on the outside, her excitement on the inside, and she is overtaken by hunger which, strong as it is, poisons her mental faculties, making her shove quite a few apples while the stranger is recording and speaking to her.

– Swallow more apples. This is all I ask for. – he spoke in a foreign accent. – Many apples, more apples! Slurp, suck! – She swells up like a frog, unable to breathe and guzzling three apples. They drop onto the ground, and she gathers them up with her mouth wide open and her eyes poking out, as if she is sucking the very last vestiges of her soul out of herself.

– Do not question it. Keep swallowing. Many apples, many red, juicy, sweet apples, alabaster ones, emerald ones, nacre ones, like mother’s milk. Speak while you eat! – he yells, and the contrast between the soft dreaminess and his impatience made her eyes bulge out all the more. – mmm… I like apples, there we go… – he turned the bolt on the camera harder. Only buzzing and her huffs in the air. – Now! Now, darling! – the young man is yelling as if wracked by insanity, grinning.

She felt a hum, a squeak, more like a murmur, and it was not coming from the camera, but more like buzzing turning into a roar. She turns and sees an enormous serpent, an anaconda wrapping around her thighs, mouth, crushing her skull, and without fear she observes the winding wing of the creature descending onto her stomach, onto her chest, and crushing them with a powerful force until half-eaten apples started bursting out, in all their sweet inglory. Geysers sprayed out of her lungs and in the end only here bloodshot eyes remained. While juices flowed down her chin, she was choking and dying, and the stranger was looking into her dying eyes with delight. He then clapped his hands and the snake retreated into the wall, merging with it. The stranger takes the strip and exits singing and throwing money onto the prostitute’s mangled body. And the monster kept floating onto the nude water amid the unbearably endless desert. And thus for an eternity, for many a millennia to come – this was Alojandra’s last thought while she shook the corpse in the Indian sari already worm-ridden.  Next to the butchered body on the bed with two pink canopies was a twenty dollar bill, a prostitute’s wage as per the darkest nights’ criteria.

[1] (in Spanish) Clothing

[2] (in Spanish) Faggot!

Camera 22

I do not claim that this tale will disturb many a heart, end an endless fear, nor lap up your blood. Besides, many have had stranger tales happen to them than this one of mine, wherein an unending fear reigns. Yeah? On Christmas Eve, no less? This is what you wonder. You, smiling, story-intoxicated reader souls. Should dark wonders emerge from the colors of Christmas trees, betwixt laughter and kisses, the flying confetti? People with no prejudice, I’m talking directly to you now, you that were touched by Pluto, perhaps cut off at the waist by his hand, or pointed by it to the road of an eternal weather wane.

During the Christmas Eve party, in the villa on Gravity Hill, I was invited by Oliver Daldry, a controversial horror director, a master in his field. His amorphous creatures were capable of shapeshifting human organs in Ineffigatius on the Blue Hill, which was selling out packed theatres. He weaved tales later in Reanimated Beasts, the colossal Amorphoso, and the cult classic Hand Shape. All four films were banned after the first screening.

I drove to the villa in my Polo, driving in neutral on the inclines of odd gravitational pulls. I saw streams flowing upstream. I heard rocks ringing. I spotted wavy trees, growing crookedly and its old, knotty branches pinned to the ground.

– Eh, nothing Escher had not already painted – I thought. I was hitting the brakes uphill, meandered circular roads of Danteian architectonics. At long last I made it to the top, parked, managing to wedge my car between two other vehicles. One was a Lamborghini of a plastic surgeon. An attractive purple-haired Mexican girl talked him into, just in case, turning the front tires “hacia el centro de la pista, con el fin de asegurarse de que nada va cuesta arriba”.[1]

I laughed at her superstitious comments, shifted gears and stopped the car in front of the castle gates.

The castle towered over everything, surrounded by pine trees, towered over the villa, shining with the light of the intersecting light beams. Dressed in satin-like soil, umbra-hued villa was filled with numerous guests. The reflectors on the pyramidal roof were squirting droplets of light onto the limos, adding shade to the hue of the horizon.

I exited my car and, as my nose was assailed by the wind from the mouth of a sculpture on the porch, cast in bronze (a mere porch figurine, a misshapen Aeolus), I was welcomed by Daldry, a merry Hitchcock, in a strange way merging with this whole powder keg of a scene.

– My friend! Duck head, rhino neck, horse ears! We lose life illusions, but not optical ones, never those, ha ha ha – he clenched my hand heartily, while his eyes kept check, it seemed, of the items in the background. – Why do you think I chose Pasadena in the first place?

I shrugged.

– I see you have no response. Strange things make up life, my friend, and the creepiest of those have long been swallowed by celluloid – he mumbled with melancholy, only for his face to again be adorned by a smile of a Santa Claus.

– But, do you believe…if you don’t mind me being so personal – he had his hands outspread and whispered to me in a conspiratorial manner – that I feel repulsion towards the dreamlike, to the banal dreamlike. In a paranormal experiment lies the key. I want to assault the world!

– And if the world strikes back? – I followed, hands in pockets. Daldry moved quickly, hunched again, like a determined primate.

– Bingo! – he drummed on my forehead with his finger. – When it strikes back, then, at the very least, the seats are full. – He giggled while we were climbing the stairs up into the inside of the castle.

I was welcomed by a sight of shiny dresses of the female Guests, interspersed with a cacophony of voices.

The ladies were nonchalantly handling the Swarovski glasses. The conversations of various frequencies were intertwined with a lush color palette of the inside of the castle. The enchanting aura of the eve was intersected by Auld Lang Syne.

At times my lust for the film was grand. Oftentimes, as a lad, I went to the local cinema which had a small yet always packed room whose walls were laden with movie posters. While I was sucking up the magic from the big screen, like a vampire, the images merged with one another, like one shape submerging into the next. Enchanted by cabaret dancing, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, I became a boy-worker in the dream factory. As a kid, I was distributing mail, did odd jobs which were still of importance, and as such had the opportunities to be part of casting tryouts – I was excited by the chair creaking when shooting began as well as the canned laughter. And the cameras… ever moving, living, fisheye. After the war, a strange set of circumstances and decisions led me somewhere else, thus having lost nearly all illusions about life, and consequently about art, I was satisfied with an occasional hangout with the film’s greats. After a decade spent in banking investment, with maps of financial schemes as focal points, my war siege on the Big Apple ended in a Caesarean manner, I became a benefactor and collector of film paraphernalia.

Recognizing this passion of mine from my words, the host, followed by a Jew-nosed butler with a tray filled with glasses where we drank large sips from while conversing, quickly and not too formally took me through the villa towards the upper rooms, where many a cinematographic miracle was hiding away: from a vast cinema-for-one built in a surrealist style, to museum props from some ancient and unknown times.

– You know, Jack, this castle belonged to a famous director who died under mysterious circumstances – he gulped – they claim he is the true author of Nosferatu!

I stared through him with an eye of an impressed interlocutor when my eyes rested on an old camera model in the middle of the showcase.

– An this?

– That’s…a very rare model – he said.

I felt the magic of the evening tightening. I took one look at the camera. It was an almost forgotten film projector model, made to shoot silent films, a 9.5mm recorder. I was looking at this appliance of unusual craftsmanship, its round fluorescent lens, its spiky rodent-like tip. As if it were shaped in magma and cast out of the boiling innards of this Earth by sulfur. What are eons but a whisper of living dreams? The reflection of the fluorescent night, snatched away from Nature, was caught in the Shape.

This camera is an artist’s revenge. Down the camera’s lens flowed tears of souls sleeping frozen in time. The walls were the dance floor of purple shadows, as Daldry scraped about in silence smiling.

– Reality checks and checks and checks! – a twisted giggle continued. A Daldrian surmountable gap of comedy and horror. Devil’s teeth.

– Is it working? – I downed another glassful of champagne.

– But of course. Push the button at the back of the thing and you get a frame. The most natural movie action, my friend. Using this Old Shatterhand I made a pure cinematic beauty last year on a… hmmm… a lady. The damned motor of this thing! – my merry host giggled.

– Who, the lady? – I downed the third glass too, but my sight was clear and sober inasmuch that I could not miss the fine print on the camera’s back. It said: Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, 1922.

– This is one aging lady… for a Sony CA d50…

– RCP… HDV… HDCU… Ah, those modern ones, and yet her acronyms, opposite an old glow of Antiquity. I guarantee you that this age-old camera, and even the models predating it, contains the elixirs of cinematic youth. To replace living human beings with amorphous actors, or rather, to replace a seemingly staged order with a chaotic form, but with a very non-chaotic fixed function, does that seem not-artistic to you? A howling old machine contrasted with the power of new diagrams. The grotesque, bug-eyed larvae, shells of amphibians, formlessness, outline-lessness!

– But…where is the life?

– Life? – Daldry was confused. – Life is merely a function. I merely replace the logical function with an illogical one… I don’t understand…

– Life, a message to people, even if it bleeds, the artistic act and means, unacceptable to many, but safe in the hands of a humane master of horror.

It was as if he was holding back until that point, Daldry burst into laughter and covered his eyes, while his shoulders shook at the same time.

– A humane…master of horror… hahahahahaha, say it again, my friend! If they find it so confusing, why are there so many rows of ticket buyers, standing before the bizarreness…

Suddenly he got more serious, rubbed his bald spot, stared at me with his tiny peepers and mumbled with his lips tightened.

– Why do you think that Cronenberg did not make his new film with this camera in particular? –he pointed to my new metal mistress. – with Camera 22. Maybe a strap or coil were missing here and there, but Tesla managed to fix that for the filmmaker as well. – he said and devotedly looked at the ceiling.

For a moment I thought this man was not about his wits. Too much Socrates in the afternoon heat, perhaps.

– Because it is unbelievable! Those are two mutually exclusive alternatives – I rationalized.

– What if there’s a third?

Wishing to end this conversation that went nowhere, I said this with a funny accent.

– If so, I would love to use it to snatch the fruit of fortune on these faces – I was pointing, over the terrace ledge supported by steel columns, to the merry guests were, entranced as if tangoing, dancing a furious waltz.

– If the perforation between those two images (considering your stance) doesn’t bother you, go on ahead…But, a few more words. You say something is incredible. Is Necker’s cube impossible? It is, but again not as a product of optical illusion…Excuse me a sec. – Daldry went for a couple, a senior gentleman wearing a cylinder hat a la Vienna which, somewhat, covered the entire forehead of deeply sunken black eyes, accompanied by a gorgeous photo-model.

The last thing I caught with my camera’s Eye was Daldry’s hawkish semi-profile enough to uncover a wide smile and extended hands in order to greet the Newcomers. Both directors wore expensive black leather gloves and a similar earring whose shape I could not discern… I looked at the woman. She did not look back even though she was aware of her female power. She shook the hand of another director somewhat more intimate than before. A response, maybe?

– Dario, il mio amico, come stai. Benvenuti nel mio castello di Dracula 3D. Questo deve essere Tania, la nostra bellezza.Miriam, one of numerous Spanish actresses you wouldn’t believe!… Mirriam, darling! Abbi cura di lui. Se lui non è mangiato da un lupo o Dracula, Mina’ll lui mangiare.[2]

While the voices swung like the gowns of gracious ladies waltzing like Furies, I was flipping the wooden box of the old Model, immensely curious yet without someone to share it with. I clicked the button. The camera buzzed.

It captured pompous faces in an unusual clarity of colors, or did the pompousness touch the mystic coil in the rotting idol of technology. It captured the flash of a firecracker, the shining of a distant star. I shot a lady with a generous cleavage trying to hide the dimness of melancholy sprayed in her eye, opening it widely, supposedly impressed. Her husband flirted with some minister’s wife, listening to her interested on the surface while she spoke of secret arrests.

I turned the lens towards a bearded man with gray eyes, inebriated generously, unaware of his surroundings, at the same time gritting his flimsy teeth to giggle, toothless, at the joke of a she-dwarf with a stiff and ridiculously bleached hairdo, mumbling all the way.

– A trinket lady, wee lady, lady…

The rest seemed almost happy. The minister and the she-dwarf danced a primordial tango. The children jumped out and let loose purple balloons from their launcher. It was a specific plastic funnel down which heads of water balloons rolled, sliding down the tube.

– Aim! Fire! – the children were dancing around the popped balloons, tapping their little hands. One tried to save the last balloon. The others chased after him. Someone spoke of da Vinci’s flying contraption, when suddenly, suddenly… The Camera stopped buzzing.

I looked at it from all sides, but found nothing that would stop the hum.

Recording was still happening. I had already downed the fifth glass of champaigne, then spun my head like a proper drunkard, sticking my camera anew into the she-dwarf, but instead saw a centipede crawling on the dance floor of Macabre! I shook my camera with all its might and looked at the recording. Instead of the insect, I saw a geometric abyss where it crawled, vanishing in the macabre darkness. I then spotted a female creature and pointed the camera at it, while my hand shook but faintly. I saw the miracle – instead of a smuggled smile, in the corner of the lips I spotted something inhuman, girlotesque, which increased until a spider crawled out of her mouth. The minute she saw me record, her tongue darted out while the spiders contracted their legs. I grabbed the doorway, frail, dazedly observing the tiny bubbles of the intoxicating drink, while water and latex balloons surrounded me.

– They must put something in this drink. It might be a better idea to go outside, to sober up. Fresh air, lighted area, that’s what I need.

I moved cautiously to the alley… But instead of crushed quartz, I saw a trail spotted with amphibians’ husks. I saw ancient things on the guests’ faces, The important director, an archeologist in his spare time, sat on the bench and slowly turned towards me giving me something resembling hands mumbling with his face in utter fear. The retired general was now a centaur. I set the camera down. The elder centaur was smiling at me, a bit confused because I was already lead by a dark force, on the road to horror, upright on my feet. He fixed his shoulder straps and turned his head to the side in disgust, mumbling.

– Drunkard…

The bench mumbler shrugged, pointed to my camera and giggled.

Again I raised my lens – instead of a mouth it had a small chasm. It was the blackness that sucked up trees while blood moistened his forehead… With dim swipes the black shades were running, animals from the eon of horror, ancient beasts, devourers of time, furious zombies of women with eyelashes, the size of a small sea star, three more othercentaurs.

A white-skinned child, whose face was chiseled into a mythological construct with two all-white eyes, was smiling at me. It was blond, with a red bump growing out of the top of his head and splashing around. It was his brain! I pointed my camera towards the second child which stumbled about, even more disgusting and deformed than the former…

– Diablo, Akuma, get away from that man – a voice of a concerned mother whose face was on the wrong side. Worms crawled in her hair.

– Why, mom?

– Something is wrong with him, on.

– Indeed, kids, look at his face.

– What’s with his nose? It’s bubbling up.

– A Tuber-man – the doppelganger of the first degenerate child laughed disgustingly.

I lowered the camera and turned it to me. I then recorded my own hands while getting confused, still going around and recording the monsters and the rot. They grew, matured, festered, mated, held hands, Hitchcock’s birds on a single wire.

All I could see was all the guests looking at me with open bemusement. I took the lens to me and recorded for a while. I caught nothing, for I had no face, but a fog, maybe a halo.

Horrified, I lowered the camera again, until maddening fear shook me by the shoulders, I saw corpses lined up and cannibals ripping their flesh, while merry people danced around them, and I was crushed by madness, it grew roots in me and was swallowing me whole…

– No, that’s not possible, no! – but, something still made me record it all, was it the summoning of evil in the heart of man, a built-in wicked matter egged on by curiosity and finally hope for an acceptable explanation? Maybe a quest for irony to justify my orgy with averageness. I was an artist, a fascinating Creator archetype, creator of symphonic fantasies at film studies. My shots even impressed prof. Eckhart, an old pro who was now less than a phosphorus mist of memory.

The tape branched into foils of engraved imprints of a decent master of my Nightmares. They were after me ever since I got rid of illusions? That maybe? Conscience?

No mythical foreheritage nor amphibian heroines. And he, Daldry, the merry beast, looked like my role model, the professor. A merry little imp. In a weird way things are becoming set, suppressed anguish grow through the cracks into optical legends viewed through the disfigured noise and theatrical Repentance. But why like this? How come?

I saw the recording, while guests looked at me strangely…Kids played about the corpses.

All of this outside the chasm, the dread, innocence replaced horror, and mouths breathed through the deepest pits.

Within them, oh how strange, in the rhythm and beat of the First of the Ancients, live modern men and civilized thought – fascinated, I looked at the camera. Instead of my face I saw a lichen.

– Where is my face? – I shrieked, to which some ladies fled, and the octopus-man crawling atop some Sisyphus-like rock, as recorded by me, was a gracious gentleman, sober, ever-sober and disgusted by my drunkenness.

– Sir, you’re scaring the children, step away!

– But they’re not children! – I lifted my camera again to see tiny monsters. I felt someone’s enormous hand on my shoulders. I jerked. It was Daldry.

I feverishly pointed the lens at him and saw, not without relief, that his face was his own. The only one, the only…

– My friend, please realize. These are not your friends.

My host fidgeted and looked at them with unease as they stepped away. A mother took her children staring at me with disgust and horror.

– Jack…

– This… – I did not even know how to say this to him. – These are not humans.

– If not, who are they?

Should a genius ask me this? Who are they? Monsters. The price of secrets, all of our hiding, which the lens uncovers. Camera is God, it contains truth of the Guests, this night, the noise, the glimmer, the cold night of warm colors…

– You had a whole bottle of Daniels, Jack.

I grabbed his lapels and shook him.

– Snap out of it, man, look for yourself, look at your friends through the lens of truth an you’ll see. Degenerates, passed through the wall of the paranormal, extended their hairy hands, found the broken window separating man from ancient beast!

A lucky firecracker exploded in the distance.

– It must have something to do with the story of the dead director. He saw what I saw, and THEY killed him – I was waving my arms, getting in his face.

– Shall we call the police, Jack? – he took me down the Amphibian trail, while a wrinkle of unease dominated his forehead.

– Grand idea! Two of us, it will be easier to prove?

– Two? – my friend turned to me, while his bald spot shone on the moon, tearing the whole of his head suddenly split in twain by the butcher’s knife of moonlight. I saw his head top and a tunnel dug through it – At least four, my friend, at least four – he laughed maniacally.

I fell to my knees, barely breathing, mind and body collapsed, with me, on the ground.

I was covered in husks. Daldry took the newly-abuzz camera. I looked at him with hope. He was recording a child. As its facial structure changed, an impish smile emerged on his lips, and tears of joy moistened his cheeks.

– Such wonderful amorphous shapes tailor-made for my flick. Such fungi! All dead, yet living, living! Ah, Rheta of Gable, you will dance again for me!

I was enveloped by non-epitomized fear. With feeling totally disoriented, I felt a sad apathy towards death. While nerves were running down to my feet, I ran as fast as I could, looking for my keys mid-flight in my pockets. I found them, but they fell out of my shaky hands and onto the ground. I got them back up, while a fish-scale monster was coming closer, but they fell again and several times more until the lock snapped them into place.

In that time, the Creatures were coming closer. Various creatures they were, from Volvoxes, following corals, to El Chupacabra.

– Get him! He’s ours! – a woman said who had cilia instead of hair. A half-man, half-sponge was following her. A producer-euglena pointed at me – There! He’s getting away!

At that moment my gaze was directed at the hidden tunnels of the Pasadena forests, so I went on with effort through the trees, chased by euglenas and ciliates, with antigravity tugging my legs back, towards the filthy visions.

My limbs were rods of concrete. Shaking, drenched in cold sweat, I went head first into some endlessly muddy pipe rotating around its axis, with neck-break speed, until it made a powerful gust of wind. Aeolus cast whirlpools, while my scream charged from my tortured consciousness’ deep, until the muddiness stopped, and nausea kicked in. Then, my nostrils swelled up and spread to make room for two nasty tarantulas.

They started lunging. Wicked spirits soon all in my face, shifting, stepping forth and back, hissing and tongue-darting of swollen snake jaws, iris-less eyes covered in cracked skim. What posed as faces would stay for a short while, only to disappear, sucked into the whirlpools.

With my remaining strength I hugged trees in order to use them to stand up to the power of inertia dragging me back. But the trees, demonic allies of my pursuers, either moved away or turned to plastic flowers. The moment I made a bigger step in my inert state, the more the Force would get me back. They were about to get me, but I managed to run uphill and roll down at the end of the path, at the very entrance to the circular forest, a circle above the Upper woods that surrounded the castle.

The Grotesques were sunbathing down roads. Midnight sun roasted the ice land. Pasadena turned to an oven. For a second it was as if I were at the very edge of Calahari, grabbing the mystic heat with bloody fingers.

– Some vector must have twisted, and the sexes switched, ghoulish points dug deep into the dark heart of Pasadena – I mumbled at the mirage, while pine trees rose, stately like tombs. Mid-laughing maniacally, I let out an eerie scream under the nightmarish sky of Gravity Hill.

I ran down the snowy road with tire tracks OF ONE CAR! – nigh fanatically images of a surreally packet Daldry villa parking lot came into reality, towards which only one road led, one tire track.

While running up one of round inclines, I was encouraged by a cynical voice – Daldry’s.

– Against the wind, yes, my Friend, run like the wind, for only Aeolus can save you. Hence why we cast him in bronze.

I was out of breath, while my desperate face was dyed titan-white by the ghoulish light of the moon.

– None can save you. No one. Ever. – spoke the spirit calmly, his voice sprayed by winds.

I pressed myself against a tree, sweaty, shivering, gradually calming my breaths, my heart pounding, when suddenly a leaf-cloaked serpentine apparition materialized and spoke.

– Go on, Forest, a good jump! Though you are already rather deep in the forest…

From the treetop an anaconda’s ancestor descended, wrapping my body along with the entire tree trunk. Shrieking I tried to get free from the powerful constrictions, while something within me was being choked, dehumanized. My mouth agape I too darted my tongue which fused with the Serpentine tongue, which made me puke on the wet grass. Suddenly, it let loose and I dropped to my knees, troubled, at the very edge of my life and sanity.

I got up. Anew. Followed by a symphony of shrieks and laughter mixed in with dread which condensed within, like a hot, culminating note.

I tried to move in a straight line, looking for anything to serve as a landmark. I looked skyward. No clouds, nothing other than the full moon. I moved north (or south, I thought desperately, amid the abnormal forest) when I saw the broad mountain path with marked rocks. I followed them whipped by icy wind, their red arrows and numbers going in this sequence: 4, 3, 2, 1 (spaces between rocks were about a hundred-ish meters each), and each number was punctuated by a geometric shape, only for the final stone to contain 01 and a figure of a tetraxis.

– It’s the reverse Pythagoras’ theorem of matter. It shows laws of matter don’t matter. Matter falls apart…into – ROTTING MEAT! – growled a dog-headed man and barked a few times, licking my face and breathing at me with the breath of a rotting corpse.

The creature lunged several times, and it was incorporeal and said – Have a grave!

I was writhing in pain, screaming, my eyes already sunk and arms before my knees, waiting for the bastard to stop barking. When he did, a strong wind crushed the head in a whirlpool, which made me realize that trapped Aeolus was protecting me. I stepped into the forest and saw round water shining in the dark, and above it a far more shapely girl, bedecked in flowers.

Leaning above the lake, enchanted with her reflection, she touched the icy water with her breasts, dipping her sandy hair in it. I approached, enchanted, while twigs cracked under my light steps. Taken by these feelings, I moved my hands towards her, while branches bent towards the nubile body, wishing to pounce, to the safety of her hips, her wild eyes, o let her hands console me… Her indigo eyes looked at me askance and she got up, revealing a cow’s tail. At that moment, a rotten function started disfiguring the flesh of her face, shifting it into a complete mineral, polyhedron in shape, malachite green.

Fear not. It’s just me. Your Hydra. Marry me, marry me! If you don’t, I’ll turn you into an elephant – the degenerate nymph threatened.

No! Flee! As far from the cow bride, this Night, this merry, cadmium night, as soon as possible, leaving giant elephant footprints behind –while the mythical Hydra chased me with a desperate shriek “marry me, Jack!” I was destroying bushes and with my tusks plucked trees from their roots, but the green lined behind me suddenly grew from her vengeful hand, a nude girl alone for eons, threatening to cover me up and stop my elephant heart.

At that moment, in my unending joy, I spotted the Light shining through everything, and while my dark elephant skin was dyed in albinism and my trunk ripped, a degenerate baby passed by me with even steps, at least a thousand years old and forty-five centimeters tall, wishing me good luck, toasting me with a Swarovski glass, while a pungent cloud of champagne breath steamed from its fangs… Through all of the firecracker and banging noises, suddenly a car went for me, rammed into my semi-open body and I did not hear the Warlock’s final words to his butler, which were as follows.

– This Jack dude has no sense of art. Get the camera back to its place, Peter, and call the Next one. But, hold on…

He smiled watching the projected model on the Camera’s recording, isolated from nature.

The thing, stuck in the recording, forever at its new home, was yelling in the chamber.

-My friend, you’re having a catharsis Antigone would envy you for. – Daldry uttered these mellifluous words to the bizarre creature banging on the eternal glass with human hands, pushing it with its trunk.

– An antique ideal – he was impressed. Looking at the Elephant-man, the uncompromising director wiped a tear discreetly.

– Pure fascination! – a fourth person added, a woman with the brain of an amoeba in the body of a giraffe.

– Still, at the end of the day, he wasn’t that bad of a sample – the long-nosed butler joined the observation, touching my trunk in envy.

Daldry removed his gloves and scratched the glass.

– Do you hear him screaming? He speaks! He says I trapped him! No, I didn’t trap you, my friend. I put you in the film’s context, the context of the role, the impossible, heh, impossible. The things he comes up, I swear… Anyway, your reaction is merely a phase. I’m sure I’ll find a good role for you. I will install such a diffusing system in your body that every single hydra will envy you.

The Elephant-man was howling, trapped in the camera, while larvae crawled over his eyes, and tentacles of the bride-to-be-hydra jabbed into his salty wounds.

– Why lament? – Daldry wondered. – You’re not alone. Your darling is budding with you. You married her, and didn’t even invite me to the wedding. And he wants me to free him!

On the other hand there was a begging, muffled sound.

– Please let me go. I didn’t want to be an actor anyway, but a director. What will come of me now?


– Ah, my friend, you’ll get used to it, others did. Trust your Creator. It’ll pass. The Chinese said so – the giggles were now becoming howls – But if you insist, I love to mold you rebels into statues. Dionysius rebelled, and look what happened.

– What?

– Theater! – Daldry nearly swore.

Daldry then used harsh words to reprimand the present bastards, contextuals, actors, extras, all as Your Grace commands.[3]

– What, you monsters? What is this procession silence? You’re not in Les Misérables, but in a stinking film on rotting tape. Let the fun continue, for…this’ll be a long New Year’s Eve – he mumbled, covering his bald spot with a Santa hat, going back inside with claws in his pockets.


[1] Towards the middle of the driveway in order to make sure that nothing goes downhill for them.

[2] (in Italian) Dario, my friend, how are you? Welcome to my Dracula 3D castle. This must be Tania, our beauty. …Miriam, darling! Take care of him. If he is not eaten by the wolf or by Dracula, he will by Mina.

[3] Directed at the reader