Zomibies will eat you. They will never, ever try to conduct a conversation with you. And there’s hope, good lord there’s a chance you might get away from them. Nut one straight between the eyes before it gets a chance to bite. Break their bones with animal ferocity and stamp the sinew right into the floor. Go down in a cocktail of adrenaline and fear. Beautiful. Heroic. Nobel. I’d kill to be in a tank full of bull sharks right now. A lamp glimmer hope that I might make it.
Nothing lives in this dead green box. Hooked fish lined up for slaughter. Conveyer belt bringing us all closer to God. Here, in this snake coil queue we give thanks, we break bread. We tell the woman that we haven’t worked in a month. We sign the blue slip. We leave after our communion. Feet dragging over white and black tiles. Dirt caked in grids. That same empty feeling as we sit back at our pew and wait for it all to end.
Thanks be to God.
Another welfare cheque.
I’m that damned demographic. We had it all, every sauce we wanted. College admissions handed out to every IQ over seventy five. And if we couldn’t do it? Don’t worry your tiny forehead. Drink father’s money, indulge in fuck and drugs. If the weed makes you anxious take a hit of the Xanax. It was the renaissance and we were the artists. Smearing shit on the canvas and calling it modern. Part time job be fucked, we were going to own it all until they went and burned down Rome.
Ah sure. The reason we’re not all burning out cars and throwing pipe bombs into the Dail. Ah sure, that stupid Irish sentiment rendering us useless as fuck. No jobs, neo-feudal system and blatant corruption. Ah, sure.
I take the one eighty eight. Should I be out there with a no-to-austerity-sign? May as well be denouncing the moon landing or pulling a Corr on it and talking about the shadow government. Us Irish are so deluded we think it’s weird to protest.
Fionn is waiting for me in the field just like he said. Standing around the football like a goth in P.E. Astrophysics. Ask him how much the moon weighs or the trajectory of an asteroid and the chap will give an answer autistic-spectrum fast. Good banter but no one wants to pay for that shite. Fionn’s been on the nat-king-cole for two years now. Family are all minted but the ‘wow’ factor of a Trinity degree got stale fast.
“Have you heard about the ancient aliens?”
That’s another thing about Fionn. Aimlessness got his mind wandering. Fifth dimension ghosts, hollow earth theory, lizard people. That’s the tip, take it with a grain. There’s a leftist view in psychology: when one reality becomes inhospitable we create another reality. Often times resulting in delusional thoughts or fantastical ideation. It’s harmless until you turn schizophrenic. Big pharma cites chemical imbalance as the problem but that just helps them sell the tablets. Jesus listen to me I’m starting to sound like him.
“The pyramids and all that shite?”
“And all the stone carvings of lads on rockets and how current architects wouldn’t be able to build anything like that.”
“Sure Newgrange is the same.”
He half laughs.
“Anyway fuck all that, you ready for this?” I continue.
“You’re sure it’ll work?”
“I think so.”
“And what about your man?”
“He’s loaded, doesn’t have enough life left to spend it all. It’s barely robbery.”
The Dalai Lama says life is suffering. Every moment in Samsara, no matter what you’ve got on the end of your erogenous zone or how many of them you’ve got plunged up it, is suffering. It would make sense then that we have to go through a bit more suffering-suffering to get some happiness-suffering. Injury is the name of the game. If you’re willing to go down in the veg isle and snap an ankle the reward isn’t all that bad. Fionn’s an astrophysicist and I’m an armchair philosopher, psychologist and critic of esoteric essays. Or graduate of Arts to dress it down. People like us do not steal. We plot.
Right now we’re standing by the Devil’s Tree. Every town’s got something like it. Comes in all sorts. Chairs, cliffs, rocks and roads. Wiry-spider-tree in the middle of an otherwise empty field. Nothing grows on the branches. Village whisper stories about a woman giving birth to a winged baby under the tree. Stay out past late and you’ll see it perched on the branches. Red eyed and sharp of tooth. East of the field is an old house with an old man and an old dog. People tie up oldies and rob their shit left and right these days. Few back hands, what have you. That’s the activity of a morally bankrupt individual. The old man’s on death’s doors, no next of kin and the dog’s practically blind. When the old man dies the state is going to inherit all his money.
“So just the same as we talked about then?”
“Yeah, just wait for Mrs. Driscoll to go by on her walk.”
“We should kick around a bit then?”
“No harm, have it all set up for when she goes by I suppose.”
We’ve been at this for about three months now. Passing the ball back and forth. Fionn’s actually getting alright at the taps. Can do that thing where you catch the ball on the back of your neck and everything. Mrs. Driscoll takes the Yorkshire thing for a walk everyday at ten a.m. We get to the tree at least four days a week. She sees us and waves. We wave back. In court she’ll say something like ‘They loved the old football, always at it.’ And she’d be right for three months we were.
“The Montauk Monster is another one...”
Fionn starts clammering, I nod and throw the occasional ‘yeah’ his way. It’s been four years now since I graduated. Second class honours and all I did in third year was get high and sleep. Get high and sleep.
“...maybe prehistoric, but maybe just a badly decomposed racoon...”
The getting high and sleeping was as important as the studying. Not in a hedonistic way but to help you think laterally. You can’t learn anything in school you couldn’t get from the internet. Everyone thinks you need a PhD if you’re going to have an important opinion but that’s bollocks. Anyone with a PhD is as brainwashed as any religious zealot. You shouldn’t believe anything.
“...but it might be a manifestation of our own belief in crypto zoology...”
But then you can’t whole heartedly believe in not believing. It’s like one of those koans the Zen chaps are mad about. If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it can I have a biscuit?
“...like if there’s a news bit on UFO’s and then everyone starts seeing them...”
“You mean a tulpa?”
“Thought you’d know all about this. Alex Jones head on ya. It’s a being that’s constructed from pure discipline.”
“So if you’re constantly thinking about something you’ll eventually create it...”
Fionn goes glassy as Mrs. Driscoll turns the corner. The dog bobs in front of her and tries to grab at the lead with its jaws. Fionn’s holding the football, his eyes focused on the devil’s tree. Drifting into a parallel universe.
“We can’t do this.”
“Sure we can, get your shit together, it’s happening now.”
“But the tulpa...”
I grab him by the arms. Look straight into those teal eyes. Something like warm jam breaks in the middle of my chest. My heart gets tight. Crush. Breath, exhale. It goes away. Me and Fionn weren’t friends in secondary school. I didn’t really bully him, nothing like that. But...he was kind of...
Shut the fuck up.
“It’s just bollocks. God, Allah and all those boys would be casting spells left and right if that was real. A tupla is just an idea, not even a good one.”
“I’ll be the keeper then?”
He tries to hide his fear. That childish, magical fear. He’s still the same...
The wall is about seven feet high. That’s about the height of a crossbar. Professional football players put them over the bar all the time. I toe bog it. Send that fucker for the satellites. The ball lamps off the side of the old man’s house. Mrs. Driscoll looks around. She sees I’ve knocked it wide.
There’s this disease called misophonia. It translates to ‘hatred of sound’. Youtube it sometime and look what these poor bastards have to put up with. Chews, coughs, snorts and sneezes. Mildly irritating for the rest of us but not for the diseased. For them it’s like nails scraping down a chalk board. Chipping further and further as the red mist rises. Now a human’s been civilized by society. Taught to walk away, cool down, look objectively at their own emotions and blah. So a human with misophonia can handle the agitation. Breath it in, breath it out. Dog doesn’t have all that. Dog’s got instinct. I’m hoping a blind dog’s instinct is a little more frayed. For five euros and sixty five cents I ordered a custom dog whistle on eBay. Guess what it does...
We get to climbing the wall. I used to be better at this stuff. Monkeying around trees and what not. Gut on me’s growing exponentially. Arms barely have the strength to lift me over. Leg hooks the edge and I shuffle across like that fat kid you used to make fun of. I land on my feet and quickly fall to my arse. Fionn is standing up. Food flavouring and malt hops haven’t affected him the way they’ve affected me.
He used to be so weak.
The old man’s gotta be as blind as the dog. No one would want to look at an animal like this. Hair is matted together like a dread locked homeless guy. It’s big, not sure the breed, maybe a cross. Shuffles, looks our direction, shuffles on. There’s a gate in front of the drive. Every now and then a car speeds by. It shuffles over to the fence and lies. Those non-seeing eyes staring out. Listening to the Doppler effect come and go. Waiting on something.
“You have the whistle?”
I take it out of my pocket. It’s about three inches long, silver. A small chain hanging from the end. I snigger, no idea why. It’s cold against my lips. Fionn looks at me and nods. No turning back. We were going to take some sedatives before we tried to carry out this plan. Fionn said that they might ask questions about why we’re doped up when we get to the hospital. People would get suspicious. Maybe they’d figure out what we were at. I didn’t know how they’d go about figuring it out but I guess it’s better safe than not. If the doctors needed to put anymore drugs in our system they might mix bad. Might even die he said. Just going to be a few stitches I told him. But that’s Fionn all over. Worrying about the one percent.
I blow on the whistle. The dog turns. The dog runs. Teeth out, jowls bouncing. Saliva caught in the wind. A few seconds and it’ll all be over. My teeth grind against each other. Fionn’s got his eyes closed. Time slows down. The dog gets closer. His dreaded hair rising and falling like anxious breaths. My heart beat fragments and I think of the cash. Money from pain and suffering...can it be made any other way? I picture the dog dragging me to the ground. Imagine the breath on my throat before those canines bite down. Spit and blood pooling in the curve of my collar bone. His paws come down on my chest, my feet slip away. I try to bless myself as I fall to the ground.
The dog loses interest almost immediately and starts dragging its dagged arse around the grass. Tongue hangs gaudy, the thing looks at us the whole time. Those useless eyes stare. Fionn grabs my forearm and pulls like you see soldiers do in the movies. I hand him the whistle.
“You want to give it a shot?”
Like absinthe fixing anxiety our fears diminish. Fionn blows on the whistle. I blow on the whistle. Neither of us hears even a modicum of sound. The dog keeps dragging his woven fur over the cement. He moves away from us but watches all the time. Tongue hanging, head turning. His body moves further and further, his back is almost facing us. Somehow his head will keep staring. Somehow it will turn fully around. Lips curled in Cerberus smile, tongue hanging languid. The white of its eye becomes black. His pupil strains to see us.
Finally the dog looks away.
We keep blowing the whistle but must accept the ruse has failed. Then relief bursts out with laughter. Between angina inducing hysterics we blow the whistle. Suddenly the animal lifts its arse off the ground. I can almost see its hairs stand up, the body becomes tense and it runs.
Not towards us.
Fionn is still blowing the whistle. And I see it all. Chronologically and with devastating clarity. Fionn’s life flashes before my eyes. All the parts I’ve seen, one by one.
One of the kids on the street jumps on a carton of milk in his porch.
Barry O’Reilly clocks him with a head butt in senior infants. Fionn gets in trouble for bleeding on the desk.
Someone makes a joke out of him walking the corridors alone at lunch. I laugh but not because it’s funny.
Our French teacher makes me sit beside Fionn. His copy book is full of pencilled dragons.
On a school tour Paddy Murphy sits beside him and loudly says “What the fuck do you do of a weekend?” Everyone laughs.
Not because it’s funny but because I’m afraid.
I’m afraid of what everyone will think of me if I don’t ruin this kid’s holiday.
I always assumed gun blood would mist out of the body. Whenever you see someone getting shot in a movie the blood shoots out like vapour. Fionn’s chest opens like an over ripe banana. Red and gray meat zip-pop out. Blood trickles down his belly.
“Stop with that fucking sound!” The voice is gravelled and tired.
Smoke rises around the codger as he lowers his rifle. Fionn tries to speak. The dog’s eyes catch mine and I swear to god I see it smile. The flesh underneath its dreaded fur bounces, the skin on its face contorts. The dog is running towards me. Seems like he just realized some asshole was blowing a dog whistle.
I hear Mrs. Driscoll screaming somewhere in the distance.
You never remember waking ‘up’ in the morning. It seems very gradual. Like warming the engine of a car. I usually keep my eyes closed for some time after I’m conscious. Abstracted thoughts come and go for a couple of minutes before you’re really ‘up’. On a quiet morning you can hear the birds chirp before you’re even aware of it.
There’s a sound right now. It comes from everywhere like a series of high pitched explosions. I try to open my eyes, they’re stuck together. When I was a kid my eyelashes were so long they would crust up as I slept. Mornings my da would use hot water to give my back my sight. I use my thumb and forefinger to wipe them. My eyelids open slow, it feels like air is blowing through a small part of my left eye. I put my hand over it and try to figure out what I’m looking at.
Garda cars and ambulances tetris the road outside the codger’s drive. The dog is barking like a bell tolls. The old man is screaming and firing rounds. I can’t feel my arm. Isn’t that what happens when your spine is fucked?! The panic comes on strong until I realize my spine’s fine. My left arm on the other hand isn’t. I’m not sure if it’s broken or about to fall off.
Until it falls off.
I black out again.
When I come to again Fionn’s head is lying on my chest. I run my fingers through his hair and cough some blood onto my bottom lip.
“I’m sorry.” I manage.
The old man takes one to the shoulder. Must be a detective, they’re allowed to carry guns. The codger fires back then takes two to the chest. Fionn turns his head towards me.
“What do you think happens when we die?” He asks.
“That’s where the tulpa is really important.”
The paramedics rush the gate. The guards check the body. The dog drags its ass on the grass. They tie us up with tourniquets and mineral bags before laying us on the stretchers. The dog stares at me as we’re hauled off. They open the back doors to the ambulance. One of the paramedics is carrying my arm out of the garden. I get a fleeting phantom pain.
Everything I’ve created has led to this point in my life. Maybe those tulpa’s aren’t horse shit after all.
From here I can see the Devil’s tree. I’m sure I can make out that small, winged, demon perching on an arthritic branch. It might just be the friendliest thing I’ve made all day.