The West |

Runaway (excerpt)

by Christopher Russell

An Incomplete Kingdom of Monsters
Phylum: Monsters That Cannot Be Seen Class: Invisible Monsters Order: Fully and Constantly Invisible Fully and constantly invisible monsters are the most primitive order of invisible monsters. Hunters, they crave the beefy texture of human flesh, and can devour a coed unnoticed by a slumbering roommate. They kill unceremoniously, gutting the body, though only eating the musculature. This ensures an immediate and silent death as heart, spleen, epidermis and intestine are piled into a sopping mass while limbs and abs become stringy delicacy. Slights of imagination, overcome by matters of fact. Sustenance seekers; at one with light and dark, occupying only a sliver of space, in which anonymity is achieved through the bending and absorption of light. Mentally registered as tricks or figments, their hungry appraisals of our bodies are felt in random shivers and casual paranoia. Intuited, yet unknowable. There is no protection from these beasts.
Phylum: Monsters That Cannot Be Seen Class: Invisible Monsters Order: Selective Invisibility The predator aesthete selectively controls its appearance by flexing an unimaginable muscle twined through its skin. A hidden mass of gray-blue-green spreads enzymes that affect visual dissipation. This order of beast prefers partial revelation, existence as a disembodied arm or head floating stiffly against shadow. Carnivorous, sport killers, they thrive on horror, with an equal attraction to shocked paralysis or frenzied bawling. Shock, more than suffering, produces an endorphin that delivers the strained manic sensation of orgasm to the victim and an enhanced flavor to the monster. Their interest is not in the hunt, but for the visual signs accompanying the realization of impending death. This order divides into families based upon spacial coexistence. The strongest evidence of the demonic is that singular experience of physical and mental spasms that result from mingled corporeality – the disjuncture of human cells as metaphysical matter meshes through. Monsters without co-spacial ability, generally stay in wait, breathing softly in the corner of a room, still, waiting for the full effect of vulnerability, lingering for weeks, even months. Watching their future victim for a moment of self satisfaction or pride, the less apprehension, the better the time to strike.
Phylum: Monsters That Cannot Be Seen Class: Invisible Monsters Order: Camouflaged Monsters Camouflaged mammal derivations adapted within nature. Ostensibly harmless and preferring the solitude of distant caves, lands and waters. Remnants of primitive tribes, abandoned explorers from previous ages, these are human based, highly adapted herbivores, with a plodding gait, who require solitude. Their adaptation generally includes thick, leathery skin identical to the rocks or trees that surround them. These are not hunters, but have highly evolved defense systems, razor sharp, retractable claws up to 6 inches in length. They are highly suspicious and motivated defenders of their territory who will strike without provocation. Family variants include the ability to control the precise color and texture of the thick epidermis to match immediate surroundings. Genus divisions come along the lines of natural genetic evolution and the chemically manipulated genome derived from scientific experimentation.
Phylum: Monsters That Cannot Be Seen Class: Invisible Monsters Order: Unseeable Monsters Tricksters, masters of hiding; neither invisible nor camouflaged. Unseeable monsters rank among the ugliest. Their visage is startling and their occasional sightings are responsible for the misconception that monsters represent the social unconscious of physical deformity. Experts at hiding, unseeable monsters are found under beds, in closets, basements, etc. These are not domestic monsters, but also occur in shadowed forests, under deep waters, hiding among the crags of coral, under lilly pads or wrapped in the sea’s weeds. Their skin is sensitive to light and the 15 watts of a child’s nightlight, scorches their skin, sparking from the black of shadow, dehydrating their bodies, exasperating their thirst for blood. These hunters prefer small animals and merely nibble at the toes of slumbering humans – same as rats. These monsters thrive disproportionately in paranoid fantasy to the damage they are able to inflict. They generally are too well hidden to be seen, but are evidenced by the movement of the things they touch, the sounds of their shuffling and the objects they’ve pilfered. They can flatten themselves to the thickness of paint, weave their bodies into the fabric of silk shirts or fill the crevasse at the bottom of the baseboard. They can transform their scaly shells into the consistency of hair gel, a solid mass of shimmering sludge, smudging itself across the floor.

Acquisition It’s not stealing if I return it to her purse, if she doesn’t notice a thing, if the look in her wallet offers the same view as before. Dusty mints, silver worn from the edges of gum wrappers, that bulging cloth wallet and the greasy dirt imbedded into tapestry flora, matching glasses case trimmed with gold piping, clippers and an emery board scratched irregularly from tumbling among the guts of the purse, various forms of ID and business cards held as a block of worn corners by a cracking rubber band. Using her credit card isn’t stealing, because nothing comes up missing.

Escape Plan Winter Coat: Would the comfortable jacket I wore in a heated California classroom offer enough protection from the snow? Is there a trick to jackets? Are they a perfect apparatus designed to hold in exactly enough heat, and disperse any extra? Is the nylon shell and fluffy polyfill gauged with thermostatic accuracy? Is my parka a perpetual heat machine, gathering my 98.6 and holding it in place. If I huddle in a tiny hut along the snowy bank of a distant shore, will my jacket keep me warm? Can my own radiant warmth be harnessed against the effects of a Lake Eerie winter. Or should I dig a hole and live in partially buried hibernation, so that my body heat isn’t wasted on air contact, so there’s no buffer in my fight with the cold. Just me and the dirt. Running away means looking ahead, imagining a new society, so it’s the legacy of the Avant Garde. A fast forward to adulthood, dismantling the restrictions of organized play, the structures that keep youth dumb to the possibilities of their own bodies. Running away means envisioning a new symbolic order, wholesale rejection, untwining successive layers of control, fashioning a new epistemology in which the wavering shadows of the forest canopy reveal more than a philosophical musing on Van Gough’s shoes. There’s no looking back to last year’s bright red parka. It’s explosion of primary colored stripes doesn’t fit the future. I need something earthier, a clearer transition between Chinese factory workmanship and the scarred skins of animals that will eventually warm my body. Once I’ve outgrown my city clothes, I’ll transform time and nature into an aesthetic of the roughly hewn. Deerskin announces a new personal vision. I’ll earn my place slitting the throat of a wide eyed buck, trading stares from bulging eyes, trading his survival for my own. There’s no place for polyester, removable sleeves or applique on the banks of Lake Eerie.
Snow Boots: I forget the smudge worn text from the label sewn to the back side of the tongue. It was once a clear indication of size. Maybe the european size remains, or Japanese. But where do I find Asian shoes, those cloth tops with hard plastic soles and a distinct place for the big toe? (It’s what ninjas wear.) I’ll have to poke a hole in the top of my current pair of tennis shoes, drag my toes through dirt and grass to fray the fresh cut. I can get a replacement for worn out shoes, but not for intentional damage. The cut will have to appear poked through, mesh stretched beyond its breaking point. It will be difficult to explain my interest in snow boots, but sometimes passion for an object is enough. My mother will complain about the expense, but she expects rough play from her boy, and new shoes are a small price for evidence of masculinity. We’ll go to the department store and I’ll stand upon the measure with a salesman bowing before me. I’ll make him position it, to feel the charge of his hand wrapping around my foot. Then he’ll tickle the slider across arch to ball. I’ll learn both length and width, though only one seems to matter.
Guns and Knives: I don’t like the immediacy of guns, the now of their action, their place in the trajectory of industrial progress, their remove from the intensity of the kill. Mechanical dehumanization, for both the gunman and the prey. It’s a sculpture of coercion wielded with a false sense of power embodied in cinematic standoff, that circle jerk of anxiety, a group of men, each with a gun trained upon him, none with the guts to shoot. In a new society, equality matters most. I’ll have to take down a grizzly with my bear hands. It’s fair if I hop on it’s matted fur back, grab stiff bristled patches to hold my place on the ferocious ride. Against the bucking of his enormous trunk, I’ll climb the bear like he climbs a tree, racing for life itself. I can muster the strength to crack its neck, so that he collapses under me, falls as a fleshy trembling lump, convulsions suppressed by his own heft. Powerful jaws become a cave of drool. And then, I’ll need a knife to excavate the body, find the usable parts, the tastiest muscles, separate skin from bone. Something large, a blade that could double as a saw, hack the girth of a small tree and carve the bone of a large bear. An all purpose blade, something with a hand guard - safety against resistance. Single edged. Serrated - thick bone is not a score and snap proposition.
Matches: Rubbing sticks together is tiring and doesn’t always work.
Rope: A supine lasso to snare a hare. Booby traps: a construction capable of releasing an enormous rolling boulder, or sending the sharpened stumps of trees skewering an interloping body. My new society will realize the spirit of hollywood myth, inflated in the stagnate cycling of suburban fantasy.
Plane or Bus Ticket: In running away, how important is speed? Is the circuitous route of a bus line an adequate foil? Disperate sightings couldn’t betray my ultimate goal. I would navigate up through the fields and falls of Boise, then down to the deserted planes of Lubbock. Tracing north over the ghosts of Oklahoma to the rocky landscape of the Dakota’s. I’ll lose myself among Chicago smoke and brick before crossing the flatlands and steel plants of Indiana. I’ll have time to tour towns listed in the return addresses of junk mail: Terre Haute and Fort Wayne. The northern cities of Ohio would present a predictable path, so I’ll backtrack along the Mississippi, like Huck Finn then maneuver Appalachia, making my final push north through West Virginia. On a plane, I might travel thousands of miles in a day, only to have police waiting for my arrival at the end of registered travel. I’d make it to the frontier only to be captured like a dog and shipped back in a plastic and wire crate.

Reasons to Leave Something about the possibility of air, the challenge wind makes to a tree. The losing proposition of and rattling branches and a disembodied moan.