Hollywood horror is not the knife. It’s not the acid-green pus oozing from a finger stump. It’s not a zombie fetus eating its mother inside out. It’s not that sinking feeling before a corner, it’s not even the cat who jumps from the bushes. Hollywood horror is not a dead goat’s eyes hanging dangling from their sockets, it’s not blood and it’s not other.
Hollywood horror is a kickboxer with a hole in his heart. Hollywood horror is a case of mistaken identity in which an unlikely union emerges between a Prince and a woman who just can’t catch a break. Hollywood horror is knowing the plot but being stricken dumb, unable to alter, not even the parts that scrape. The scabs are what we gather to watch, a callus accelerated by the magic of Maya. And because it’s better to roast than to bore, we immolate ourselves. This is Hollywood horror: watching yourself cook, slowly, set it and forget it, convincing ourselves of the version where we get to sit at the table after. There’s no place setting, not even the one you carved in your desk. The horror is this: time doesn’t work like you’d expect.
Hollywood horror is a blind pig led by a quaint Frenchman, who tugs on his rope with an unkind phrase in his mouth. A sign of the times, as the credits roll in. Context. It’s a bird in a tree too far to see. It’s air conditioning in winter. Context. It’s a window that only opens to another room, never outside. It’s a self-administered fishhook. Context: it owns the context, which is worth far more than the problem. It’s a projection of the moon on the sun for an instant. It’s a listless camerawoman who films porn in her off hours. It’s noticing the cigarette burn on a reel, it’s the thought that noticing is enough: it’s not. Hollywood horror is a flood in the kitchen when the folks are over. It’s a sad man on a Segway. It’s Stone Hands, unable to love himself so that we must all endure his one-liners and wish that Juliann Moore was Our Mother.
This is a new series I’ll be writing in which I describe modern, mundane horrors.
A woman stands ticking by the cooler dipping tea in a cup for so long she might as well be a perpetuity, investment property, steep and steeping and charts and accounts and one HR rep who pretends to don the bells of caring with her brash grin. Then, a flood in the basement, a series of rolled nebulae, an orderly shuffle for the doors like, this time it’s just a drill so that when we burn there will be no learning in it, only habit. Office horror is the horror of waking up in a sweat of forgetting to take the test. There’s always a test to forget for the unvested. It’s the horror of mouthing kill yourself just to see if anyone notices but of course they don’t because they’re too busy mouthing kill yourself. It’s the horror of commuting and the cuteness of complaining. It’s the horror of staying hydrated and lumbar support and trees in the parking lot uprooted in the spring to make way for other trees. The horror of packaging. Logistics. The horror of lost staplers and inky fingers.
A woman stands ticking in the kitchen. Her gears have gone feral, clank shuddering shut, a clutter of nails clippings under her keyboard she can’t bear to clean. What’s the next move? How much grease lives on her keyboard? How many deaths in a deadline? The bossman won’t say. Coworkers meet to mourn the dude from three cubes over who perished in a scuba accident but all that’s mustered is passive as a chess pawn, a yawn that’s meant to say we’re next or whatever so might as well learn to love the rotten coffee and the mocking songbird perched upon the pear blossoms currently parked in the parking lot.
Office horror is in the rotting. The Chinese man sequestered in the locker room paper toweling his head dry, rustling like cowbell until his gnash leaves nail clippings on the tile. The horror of bestowing ignorance like a white elephant gift. The existential dread that lives just under a button-up. How close we come to riot when they take our paper plates; how far from hoisting a boulder on our shoulders. The best response is always to save the blossoms we want to bury.
There’s a manner of being where you swift like a skimfish across the molecules. Burgers and pill parties. This is my preferred method: a revival fleet of nostalgia curled up beside the toilet. A blood stained hanky in the denim. I don’t want to wear logos anymore, I just want to join the wallpaper for a long discussion about pattern recognition, my new religion, a premonition of innocence that hunkers backwards, the first slab of meat caught in my teeth. Maybe a tattoo of a unicorn or something as stern as a nurse. There’s a box of discarded ivory in my nightstand. I wonder how many wishes I’ve lost to the offhand.
Tis the season for bleeding. Tis the season for fleet footed misfit rebar swung like chariot over throat. You can’t say Christmas anymore, is the claim, but vanity’s okay so long as your blessings come as head shakes. So long as the fig tree ceases its fruit and the moon casts shadows on your drawbridge so long they might as well capsize. Light a fire under your mistlefoot. There’s no soot left to burn.
Yesterday, I drank a potion in a green vial and I didn’t shrink and I didn’t sprout wings but now I see auras and it’s not what you think. It’s not pink and purple and blood red. It’s not halos and astral butterflies. It’s not a third eye—it’s not even the first two. It’s trauma pinned to the skin. It’s an earworm eulogy, it’s carpel tunnel on a Tuesday, it’s the anxious smile of an out-of-business baker. An empty wagon before the chicken coop, a decommissioned fire truck.
Yesterday I poisoned myself with knowing. Yesterday I was a child who hummed. Yesterday I built parapets not knowing weaponry. Today I see the pierce of history, the long arrow of murder, and I cannot bring myself to check the balance of my savings account or hope for a promotion or answer the phone that rings for no one in particular.
If a birch rejoins the peat, will you know the bark that came before?
Sweater weather is a sentiment best left for nesting dolls. Don’t get too cozy. It’s a cold thumb that weighs the scale, betrays the layman from saying he never loved his mother as much as he should. Stuff as many stockings as you need, Steve: you can’t eat proverbs. You can’t even eat poetry, can’t shuck its pips into a metal bowl, can’t stain your fingers pine red with it, no matter how cracked the skin, no matter how buried the kin, no matter no matter.
The layman becomes a nomad for a season, seeking wonder in wandering, but finds only a set of checked boxes and a discarded pair of boxers. And a Boxer named Frank with a heart of gold, which means he’s a dog who smells names on the wind. The only joy is something new. Alas, it’s too late: by the time you’ve recognized it, your eyes have crusted over. Your eyes have crusted over and you’re all fingerprints on a mirror now, all sleep, pressed against a cold winter wall, all dreams of alleyways groped in pitch black night.
Sorry. I don’t mean to descend into nihilism so quickly, though I find it happens inevitably, eventually, inexorably, synonyms.
Writing is excruciating, particularly when reaching for a goal, when trying to direc the subconscious. It’s sometimes better to let it flow unencumbered.
This is a space where I can safely spew my nonsense, where I can play with words bereft of meaning, pre-cognitive, fingers dipping into the non-Newtonian goodness of the obscene. Attempting to cross the Bering Straight of the subconscious into the child-mind, Shunryū Suzuki’s beginner’s mind. Soshin. To swim in the not-knowing.