PANGBORN, a story by Greg Tate

black fembot grrlPANGBORN

Once again, Hera was hungry.

Once again she deeply longed to gnaw on her own flesh. Never mind how technically speaking it was not really her flesh.

Or that this flesh, newly acquired, was not the only stolen flesh she had ever longed to rip into as if it were her own.

In truth she had no flesh she could truly call her own.

This had never stopped her from masquerading as a woman or being mistaken for one.

She did have a raced and gendered identity, a raced and gendered consciousness, a very very strong and determined will, and yes, even a job, of sorts, to speak of. But as to skin there was none that she had actually known to be hers since her awakening.

That sort of flesh a true soul was wrapped in until the day one died and such.

Now you could say her ravenous claims on this body or any body she happened to appear in were, as always, rather dubious.

Once upon a time this particular body, today’s body , had belonged to a woman who made her living as a corporate management troubleshooter.

Hera had taken the woman’s body from her at gun point, (or really by way of gunbutt) using yet another stolen body.

The body she held the gun with was the same one she’d returned from the moon in.

The hijacking of the new body took place right before the old body had given up the ghost on playing host to Hera’s murderous imagination.

The original owner of her new body was now dreaming quite pleasant artificially induced dreams whose soporific effect Hera checked up on periodically.

The dreamer wasn’t thinking much about being hungry but it wouldn’t matter much if she were. Being that Hera the compulsive eater of host-flesh was the one in control of all bodily functions, they’d eat when Hera said she’d eat, whether her host was hungering or not.

Though it was only dawn and though she had eaten twice on the redeye from Chicago, (for the host’s sake, knowing what a long day and night lay ahead), there was no denying her own real hunger either. Or the knowledge that only feeding off her current body’s extraneous parts was going to satisfy that craving.

Problem was she could not start gnawing at this too- too-tired flesh until after the job at hand was over and done with. Hera knew she’d be stark raving mad by then but what could she do?

Generally when her hunger jones came down a lightheaded, dizzying feeling liked to follow.

Hera had been made acutely aware of her hunger’s capacity to induce vertigo on her last job. The unusual duration of the gig had exhausted her , shredded away all the patience she had in reserve. When she was no longer able to hold herself back she did the unthinkable: fed off her stolen flesh while she worked.

It had not been pretty and it had not been cute.

(Imagine having to watch your entire family dying at the hand of a woman who was biting off her free hand, finger by finger, knuckle by knuckle, backhand by backhand).

 

As morning painted itself in, Hera couldn’t help but notice the moon.

Once again the thing was right above her head rather than just below her feet.

This moon was the real deal: that fabled pie in the sky moon, A blood-orange cuticle of a thing. It was also refusing to leave the stage.

As the sour stew of Harlem’s summer stench rose from the pavement as nature intended, this moon was refusing to do what it was supposed to. Fade, vanish, evaporate.

The new day’s sky probably didn’t care to see the moon holding on by a sliver but there it was anyway: holding firm above Harlem while vainly exhibiting its milky red orb

 of an  eye a wee tad too long.

   Like most of us, Hera believed her perfect lover would be a more generous, evolved, expansive version of herself. On the moon that turned out to have meant a version of herself more generous with more expansive criticism of Hera’s state of evolution, or lack thereof, than Hera could use.

 

The morning’s blue canopy had replaced the night’s black curtain but this devil moon, scarlet and pompous, was refusing to take its marching orders. Something in the moon’s refusal to leave struck Hera as a bitter reminder of obnoxious things past.

Once upon a time Hera had gazed upon the earth from the moon.

Once upon a time had only been a mere summer ago but it still felt epic and eons-ago to Hera

Everything was artificial then:the green grass, the not so low gravity, the robot girlfriend. The girlfriend unit she’d purchased for the trip turned out to be a real pain in the ass. Robot girl had been given to a lot of rhetoric and speechifying about the natural way to live.

Problem was her mechanized significant other had not provided any of the nurturing or comforting Hera so desperately needed from her at the time. Instead the thing just incessantly bitched whined and needled Hera. After two weeks of listening to her shit Hera had dismantled the contraption’s throat, fucked her speechless machine-ass a few good times and returner her to the mechanics in tatters and shreds.

She decided the next time she provided specs for a mate she’d make sure she got one that came with hella less lip.

The kind of girlfriend whose talent for stealth and silence outstripped her gift of gab and her desire to make home repairs.

“See thing is I know what to do with a sneaky, shystie bitch. You just sneak too and a certain equilibrium is achieved. But it’s always those ones to out to make you a better human being who confuse the issue. Because they think they’re so perfect they want to raise you to their level and that’s what makes them such a pain in the ass. Bitch gonna try and fix me when I’m the one brought her broke mechanical bride ass home from the shop? Oh hell to the no.”

 

Manufacturing ideal lovers was an imperfect science but the hairy-chested old mechanical  boys in the shop assured her they’d one day get it together.

‘Mark our words, Hera, one day we’ll have it down. Right down to the nearest bloody tearjerking decimal point.’

Hera took it all with a grain of salt. She believed nothing lab-assembled could ever simulate real human love, freely and desperately given, freely and desperately recpirocated.

Only a creature assured of dying could surrender enough of themselves to the self-martyrdombeing  good lover required.  No robot girl she’d ever owned had ever seemed an ideal candidate for romantic suicide.

 

The body Hera was currently in possession of was frailer than the one she’d taken to the moon. This body shivered more easily but ate and slept less.

Some weird kind of neurotic feedback loop went on there. The body in question wasn’t very good at hiding its apprehension and sense of oppression by the world and all the things in it. You could scope out everything it was feeling just by staring in its eyes. It was most likely scared of its own shadow even in the most serene of settings.

It seemed to be an incredibly honest body though—one that was earnest, forthright, full of conviction and integrity with the reflexes of a born scrapper to boot, no matter the odds.

Hera had a feel for bodies by this point.

A feel for what they could would and wouldn’t do based on their DNA, their brain folds, and the fired neurons skipping to the loo  around their heads.

This time she knew she’d gotten the body of a fierce spirit, a warrior-spirit, the kind she would have wanted beside her going into battle.

Though hardly fearless, this body knew something better: how to use her fear to utterly focus on surivival. This body might start shaking if confronted with an animal attack but it wouldn’t back down from the fight. Not even if she was staring the animal right in the face.

 

Hera’s employer was an animal who liked to bare his fangs whenever he told Hera how she kept surprising him.

By which he meant he always expected her to be the one to fuck up a mission.

By which he meant he expected her to be the one to ‘derail n’ bail’, not the older, more experienced guys he kept sending along to shadow her.

Those guys tended to be the ones who actually did all the fucking up. Not being able to keep up with Hera had everything to do with why.

They would be made pay for their lagging behind by not coming back home in one piece.

Eventually, after the loss of several human operatives Hera’s employer had gotten the message.He stopped sending anybody out with her.

She took it as the lefthanded compliment it was—one she knew not to expect to be followed up by rewards, bonus points or any greater recognition of her skills and kill ratio.

 

Being out in the field on her own had its good points and its bad points. She worked better alone because she could improvise as much as necessity demanded and because she didn’t have to worry about destroying a wounded, torture-able colleague before

the enemy got to him.

But working alone also meant she had to manage everything, no matter what else was going on.

Everything as in the handling of all comers, job related or not.

Everything like restraining herself from her feeding on herself until the job was done.

Restraining her from cannibalism was the only strong argument in favor of her going out with a partner.

She had barely managed without a partner on her last job– so gruesomely at the end of the day that it still haunted her.

This go round she had planned on arriving early enough to answer the call of the wild but her plane had been delayed and then boarded by police at the gates.

Her schedule was now off by about two hours. This meant there’d be little to eat before or immediately after the job.

She needed to do something about her hunger sooner rather than later.

Personal flesh eating might not be an option until her next body. Could she manage it? She had to. Her closing performance on the last gig had been sickening. It also left her vulnerable to attack at the end of the day. She could not hazard a repeat.

This time she hoped to head off the disaster of hunger demanding her attention when she could least afford it.

She was between the proverbial rock and a hard place.

She felt like she was being crushed from the inside out.

Hera often imagined her hunger as a swollen beast, coiled, knotted up and lodged somewhere between the esophagus and the intestines, destined to come roaring up out of her gut whenever it got good and ready.

She imagined a beast who was not going to take no for answer.

A beast who could be counted on to drive her to self-destruction.

So it was that once again she found herself on her way to a job trying to talk her hunger down.

She had taken to calling her hunger ‘baby’ because she saw it as a kind of jealous lover who wanted all her time, all her attention, all her affection. It also helped her imagine the beast as an evil lover, hair-trigger violent and deadly but still available to seduction.

‘Relax baby, relax. You know we’re in the danger zone here. We get caught feeding ourselves around these parts and the game will be up. The job has got to come first. We go make a good clean kill and an even cleaner getaway and then we chow down. This is a good deal we got this time. We make good on our part and we can feast to our hearts delight. I mean for as long as we bloody well like. Listen, baby, listen, don’t growl at me like that. Let’s use this hunger we got for flesh bone and blood to strengthen our thirst for the battle ahead. Let our great beast roar but not be distracted by him. I know we’ve fed on nothing for a while now but let’s hope and pray we’re done before it begins trying to feed on us. For soon come a kill and after the kill we’ll eat a nice fancy meal off these parts and then we’ll suicide this body and the company will have us resurrected in another one lickety-split.’

 

The job was way way uptown, in some project buildings besides a place called the Macombs Bridge, within spitting distance, the specs said of Yankee Stadium and The Bronx. The grizzly old man on the D train who she double checked her perfect directions to the Bridge Apartments had told her, ”Soon as you come out of the train station you’re gonna be right in those projects so stay alert, look alive and grow some eyes in the back of your head.’

As if she her s.o.p.was in need of a consultant.

 

Coming up the station’s stairs Hera could already tell old grizzly was neither lying nor exaggerating. There they stood before her in all their high rise welfare prison glory. The PJs. Your mamas prison pajamas.

Like all public housing projects she’d seen from Algiers to Oakland these seemed windswept and bleak even on the sunniest and stillest of days. This one was likewise was strangely desolate and deserted for all the bodies she knew to be packed in them. An existential no-man’s land set on concrete and lifted to the limit of the city’s air housing rights. She knew projects always seemed emptier than they were. The trick was to see what was lurking on the edge of visibility around the edges.

There was a method Hera had for scouting out camouflaged hostile terrain: give the area a 360 degree scan and pretend you can’t locate a soul anywhere. Absorb the environment in every detail then render the human elements visible, pull them clearly into skulking and hiding view.

Human elements like those junior thugs over there in yonder lobby there, the one with no front doors. Thugs openly engaged in laboriously loading and counting bullets, cleaning barrels and scopes in the lobby’s dying florescent gloom.

As Hera scanned twenty feet in any direction she saw that such life forms abounded here—clustered in twos and threes near bushes, building corners, lampposts. Soldiers, dealers, runners and all kids, juveniles, for the most part.

The kind of kids Hera loved to lump together under the general category of ‘Teenage Armageddon’. Hormonal apocalyptics whose aim she believed was not only to dispense chemical death but to help terrorize and maintain the misery index for those she identified as The Regular People, The Good People, The Hardworking Normal

People.

All the folk who later that evening would be heading home fast from work hoping only to scurry out of the underground and speedily shuffle across wide, angular walkways to their building doors. Praying all along the way they’d make it up to their floor unbloodied,unbowed, unscathed.

‘Lord, just this one more night let me get in that building up those stairs into my multiple lock home Jesus thank you.’’ All they wanted was to burrow deep inside their shelters and dig in tight for the night. Slip past the gauntlet of rude boys and fall to sleep perchance to dream with one eye open. All the while knowing that those wilted flowers of evil they’d passed on the way in, those ragtag bouquets Hera had tagged ‘Teenage Armageddon’ were taking on their night blooming guises—that of African Violets, African violence.

As always, Hera had been given a mantra. Code words especially related to her mission. One phrase that had been intercepted from the opposing team. This time it was: ’I’m here to buy a violin from the man.’

 

She’d rehearsed the line so many times, delivering it myriad ways, hoping, as always, that she’d wouldn’t have to say any more than that.

Because the minute you got to say more you’re opening yourself to whatever’s waiting on the other side of door number one– some fools disbelief, an ambush or worse of all, that most unwanted byproduct of bad intel–nobody home or an obsolete address.

Given the resident population, this was not the kind of mission where there was much room for deviating from the program. For finding herself having to deal with a bunch of doubting Thomases. All of that Teenage Armageddon over there who surely packed heat, ignited easily with attitude, and who’d likely never believe a slight, wiry bitch could cause them problems.

The manual would call that the wrong way to spend Christmas, even Christmas in the PJs.

Only, sure enough, as soon as the thought was thunk. up rolls a specially elected representative of the Teenage Armagedon crew. He appears suddenly at Hera’s blind side and just eyeballs her in a way that really gets her goat. ‘Just look at him baby, looking at this young fool. Looking a womyn up, looking a womyn down, looking a womyn all around town. Look at him: Rolling his eyes, licking his lips, stuffing his long arms and big manhands down even deeper into his mineshaft-deep black denim pockets.

Look at him:looking for the slightest hint of afraid. But I bet you he’ll move his narrow ass right the fuck along when it becomes clear Hera aint gonna do so much as blink.’

And so it was.

Not that it meant he wasn’t going to tell his higher-ups a strange female was in the courtyard, one who carried herself like she might be packing.

Something in Hera said Run for the building, skip and sprint if you have to, just go. Run like a bitch then tell yourself how, You’re made of some stuff gal. Tell yourself how we’ll be needing more from where that came from later on. But she realized that direction wasn’t coming from her gut but from host. Or what was left of her, survival impulses peeping through the thick veil Hera had draped over her REM phase with chemicals and nanobots

This breach of the host’s interior fourth wall couldn’t be totally disregarded though . It told Hera how much her hunger was about to be making a major comeback.

Hera’s belly took to rippling spasmodically.

Something that seemed like the clatter of cold knives began wildly flip-flopping down there.

A familiar muscular tension was dribbling and rebounding all over her neck and shoulders.

There was an undeniable chilling goose pimpling effect that was out to make itself felt right down to her toes. Frozen fingers would be next and what about that?

 

Hera knows from frozen fingers.

Frozen fingers were what she found herself clutching when she woke up just before they took her last body away from her. Because in the hours she’d been left to die on a lunar- lit beach in the cold, she had severed that body’s left hand, gnawed on it for sustenance and comfort and then fallen asleep. While she slept the molecular killing machine that she was, a few thousand

beaded and microscopic strands of sentience slithered out of the woman’s mouth.

Unfortunately the host woke up before she did and began screaming while Hera’s machinic form slipped off her tongue.

The host screamed loud and hard and then begun her slow motion process of fast-dying. Hera’s air support finally arrived around that time. Her beaded self was quickly scooped up by the support team then injected into a host-lozenge.

She could have let her former host die alone in that alley but she didn’t. Not this time.

She had made a promise to herself. Never again would she up and leave a body that had served her so well, abandon it to die alone.

And so a new Hera, one full of incomprehensible compassion and grace sat down beside the woman until she finally expired.

It was an autumn day she knew she’s never forget.

One that provided Hera’s remarkable powers of recall the never to be forgotten sound of her delirious, drooling and screeching former host begging Hera to please somehow stop the flow of red red wine hemorragging out of the broken bottle beside her.

A bottle the host thought had fallen or been thrown from a high window to splatter in the alley besides her expiring body, little recognizing that what she identified as a bottle was her own bitten-off arm.

Hera hadn’t always stuck around to comfort them or watch them die ( nor had she always mutilated them either, for that matter).

But doing so had become her only solace of late, a newly triggered concern for the quality of her host’s death experience.

It was truly a novel desire among her kind of nanozombie.

One that had suddenly shown up late last year for no good reason she could discern.

Why now, after so many years of contract killing with other peoples bodies?

More than likely it was related to her programming, this embrace of another’s fleeting mortality. She suspected it meant she was soon to be retired herself and was intended to soften the ride.

 

From where else could these feelings have come–this errant, incipient desire to make her hosts curtain call be as love-filled as possible? Given the nature of her business, this was as close to angelic as Hera figured to get.

Especially since she hadn’t otherwise developed any new scruples around killing in the bargain.

Waiting around with the dying did have the benefit of making her feel like something human, or at least like what she felt humans to be—a messy tangle of emotional attachments and anxieties.

Hera cherished the experience for that alone.

She hoped the extreme calm she displayed in the face of her hosts demise was truly a comfort.

Hera’s makers had programmed into her a healthy respect for the glorious after life of human beings.

She hoped to impart that knowledge to her fearful and trembling hosts, fast aware as they were of being mere seconds away from using up their earthly time.

And having spent probably a lifetime unaware that there were other so many more lifetimes out there her soul might explore before all was said and done, Hera hoped they’d learn from her soothing touch that death was to be understood as a new beginning and not as ‘The End.’

 

    Hera knew better than to talk to the dying about the actual afterlife though.

She had been taught to believe that only after coming out on the other side of the light and after many howling nights in the dreadful realm of Bardo would the host be ready to reckon with the facts.

Only after being forced to endure dark nights with other terrified spirits would they grasp what kind of living was possible after a violent death.

Hera hoped her presence eased their trip to other side nonetheless.

That was then.
And This is now:
Incoming:
A present from Christmas in the PJs:
More Teenage armageddon, this time at twelve clock high.

Hera’s mission beckons.

Hera wants only to answer it’s call and not waste time

entertaining or wasting the local hoodlum population.

Building number six was where her assignment was holed up.

Unlike other buildings in the project compound’s courtyard, number six was heavily decorated for the Christmas season, sporting more ornaments in its lobby in fact than armament-carrying youth.

Strobing bulbs glittered and slithered down the exterior brick, wrapped around a rainbow of glowing glass and insulated plastic ivy.

A manger scene was somehow surviving on the lawn too.

A pack of hormonal apocalyptics who’d somehow themselves avoided martyrdom rotated between buildings five, seven and nine but for reasons unknown avoided six.

Guard duty was life’s reward to them for being quicker with the Glock than the brainstem but something told them to stay away from six too.

Were they bad boys? Sure, but certainly not beyond redemption in Hera’s eyes. Even if they were appeared interested in seeing who could obtain the worse reputation in the PJs. Socially, emotionally,intellectually.

 

Hera knew they’d been reared too far removed from much in the way of viable alternatives.

Suggestions as how they might pursue a change in occupation would seem laughable, even to her.

You might as well tell them go to Mars as tell them to try a life unrelated to being a ghetto criminal.

Any souls salvaged here, Hera reckoned, would have to be highly self-motivated, highly self-medicated and highly delusional all at once.

Among the ranks there would always be those rare ones who’d figure how to put all the pieces together. Gather all the necessary fragments of the truth necessary to overcome their tragic circumstances and early death. She’d met more than few of them in her time with the company. All had come from PJs to not so different from the one whose grounds she dared to tread upon now.

 

Hera loved the way a body could come back to the same PJs for years thinking they were seeing the exact same faces they’d seen their last time there. Until it hit you that those faces who looked to be dead ringers for old ones were just their younger kith and kin.

So a body might ask after so and so just to be polite, only to find out so and so was doing a 25 to life bid or was dead or nearly dead from having served their country and come back in more than one piece.

A body would then also be informed, ‘Now see that boy over there, the one packing heat and prisonyard muscle? well you know he’s old dead so and so’s baby brother, sisters husbands kid from they first marriage’ and so forth.”

 

Looking at todays collection of the quick and the living dead Hera amused herself thinking, If there’s enough time, on my way out, I’ll pull one of them aside. Whichever one seems intelligent enough looking to be preserved and exploited as a host. Offer him some alternative career options. Zombie assassin for the state, that kind of thing.’

She felt it was the least she could do since she figured anything had to beat living and dying a typical nigga death in the PJs. Such generosity always

strangely seemed possible around the time of a kill– any kindness, any benevolence, as long as it could be done with the quickness.

Who knows? Maybe this time she really would take a bad boys or two out with her.

Drag them away to sunny So Cal for a day and fully exploit their bodies before the company came knocking.

Or take them someplace like Rio where the sheer danger of walking around in an unauthorized body would make her escape seem that much more delicious. The danger only matched by the pleasure that would come from defying the company.

Hera waded into the lobby of Building Six right before an exiting mob of civilians on their way to work. They surged out but already looked haggard and anxious in anticipation of their rush hour commute. She got on the elevator in Building Six before she realized another Teenage Armageddon rep had flown through the door right behind her. Swooped in actually. Looking for all the world in her peripheral vision like wraith and vulture rolled into one.

She reached for her knife, hoping to stab first and ask questions later but Teenage Armageddon spoke first. “You’re here to see a man about a violin, correct?” Hera took a deep breath, prepared to lose an arm and grace upper Harlem with the sight of an inferno, but before initializing that countdown Teenage Armageddon spoke again: “I’m from the company. Page sent me. Said to tell you stop before you do something we’ll all regret. Page sent me to alert you. He’s withdrawing company authorization from this job. The job is freelance now. You’re free to go through with it, even track down the money, if you like but the company’s involvement has been, as of this conversation, officially withdrawn.”

 

Hera immediately knew what that meant. It meant if she was captured or killed the company would disavow any knowledge of her actions or existence. It also meant any vendetta which grew out of the hit would be settled with her, not with the company. It meant this was now a mercenary gig.

 

Meaning she’ have to go collect from the client herself, meaning she’d be stuck rotting in this body until another assignment came in.

All in all, things were not looking good.

Hera was pissed, dizzy and she realized, suddenly deaf.

She saw more than heard Teenage Armageddon throw her a question. She heard him barely. Something about the conservation of energy clause in her contract.

She didnt have to hear much more than a word to know that Page’s flunky was asking what state of combustion she’s in . Hera lets him know: ‘I’m fourth stage. About ready to jump out of my skin if you must know. You tell Page that, okay? Tell Page that when he finally got word to me to abort the gig I was fourth stage, about to jump out of my fucking skin. I also haven’t eaten all day and when I get off this elevator I may not know where my life ends and my incendiaries begin. Tell Page, I’ve got no choice here because his timing sucks. That this eleventh hour shit came way too late for me to be calling anything off.

He know’s how Im built. He knows the deal. He knows how I work. There’s a beast I’ve been keeping in a dungeon all night and day. The beast needs to be fed so I can maintain my sanity on this job. There is no gentle way to say it, to do it, or to be it. I am of the flame. I shall begat the fire. I’ll be getting off on 19. I suggest you get off on 12 and take the motherfucking stairs to the basement’.

 

So on 12 Teenage Armageddon books from the elevator, his shuffling feet no poor substitute for the proverbial first thing smoking. Those feets won’t hardly fail him nowHera thinks. Soon as he’s gone though Hera realizes she’s got questions no one can possibly answer for her. What if he’s lying to me? And who’s betraying who here? Was Page betraying her on the clients behalf or was Page betraying the client? Either way it was all politics again. All the trifling shit that never had nothing to do with her job, her simple part in the scheme of the thing. All the trifling shit that was never so clean and simple as the business.

The only question was whether the set-up was coming from the front or the back end of the job though from where she standing that hardly mattered.

She had just been fucked out of a good paying no- brainer of a company gig. Now she had to think like one of them, like a groveling political animal, like a Page who she had never so despised as much as she did right now.

Page’s messenger boy had just handed her a pink slip. One that came with a unspoken suggestion she exercise her contracts suicide clause. An escape clause, really, for the company should any of her friends and relations come snooping around.

Teenage Armagedoon probably would have tried to kill her if she hadn’t let him think she was going to do it herself. Go head up to the roof, do the honorable thing and go airborne over the PJs. Light the sky up like a one-woman Chinese new year. But there was always time for that. Right know she needed a plan.The target she knew couldn’t be changed. Her whole body was still aching, as programmed, to bring down the target.

 

She knew she didn’t have to kill the

target so much as decimate his contaminated living space.

But if this target was game and handled himself with enough finesse he could even be brought in and possibly bartered with down the line.

The target could be swallowed up into the current fucked up state of things, and if he was destined to be as lucky as that Biblical Jonah who got spit out of the leviathans belly, coat all shiny and bright, halo of fire around his eyes, things might work out better for both of them, him and Hera, all the way around.

Of course the target could also cold refuse to be brought into the game but like the real Hera’s daddy used to say, You don’t ask, you won’t know.Stepping out of the elevator onto the 19th floor Hera found herself right in front of the target’s apartment. Some notion to pause stopped herand from rapping above his keyhole. Her once confident hand suddenly became doubtful, hesitant.

Something in her didn’t savor as she typically did that charged moment right before she rapped gently on a target’s doors, hand

suspended in mid-air, ready to smoke them as soon as they appeared at the peephole.

This had become a new game entirely. So let’s have a look at this target and let the farce began. She knocked, heard him shuffling to the door.

I’m here to see the man about a violin’, she shouted,

‘Best offer so far has been $1300. You prepared to double that?’

He’d answered her codephrase correctly.

Now he just needed to seal the deal and open his door. Only it was the door behind her which opened instead. Hera swirled about at the sound of it.The man who stood there looked exactly like every picture of Albert Einstein she’d ever seen only a wee bit browner.

‘You cant be too careful up in here nowadays you know.I had to devise some safeguards.

They just failed you miserably old man.

I was sent here to kill you then got told in the elevator my company was no longer under obligation to satisfy the agreement. I have however been programmed to

detonate this arm in the next 30 seconds. Therefore I need you to jump outside when I step in. You’re an old man but you don’t look like you’re ready to die or too feeble to jump if you have to, and believe me, you have to.

When you blow up, what happens to my neighbors below?

Nothing if they’re not home at 8 in the morning. Luck of the fucking draw is what happens to them. Ready to jump old man?

Hera leans in across the threshold and points her arm at the ceiling.

She hops into the old man’s room and he hops out. Then the fun begins.

From 20 miles away people will report of seeing the fire-crowned roof of a skyhigh public housing building blast 50 feet in the sky.

They report of seeing it arc out and then come back to earth like a drizzling meteor, all small whisks of fire streaking from red to black. A sharpeyed few will even report the sight of an old man being dragged down the side of the three story building and then led

across the courtyard by the good hand of a wildeyed and skinny woman whose stumparm was aflame, aimed and raging at the heavens.

 

PART TWO OR ARZNEVARKS LOVE SONATA FOR HERA

Just one lousy message. The full bounty of a seven hour lag between voicemail checks had yielded just one lousy mesage. Predictably it was from Arzvenark. (Of course.) Once again recommending yet another disc of passive-aggressive and depressive laptop music.

Sounds certain to pacify the already down and defeated and surely describable by some oxymoronic subgenre label like German dub.

Arzvenark had been a roll lately when it came to digging up this kind of stuff.

Barney was sick of the stuff quite frankly but because he loved his friend, and knew how much he treasured their connectedness through exotic sounds,he indulged his buddy’s file-sharing.

 

Barney was actually really more interested in hearing how Arznevark’s daughter Shala was holding up after her divorce.

What kind of life she was piecing together for herself? Had she made any new friends to help whittle away the long Icelandic nights now that she and her husband had split up?

Twas a season for breakups in Barney’s world.

A constellation of broken homes and broken hearts was forming around their loose little circle.

So what do people listen to when they feel all alone and dangerous to themselves? Introspective dance music decided Arznevark.

The sound of falling bodies under arrest.

Music that approximated that feeling you get in a really happening club when everyone is dancing but you. When the whirligig world has sped up and you just keep slowing down before you finally sit down and began observing from your perch.

Taking note of all around you from inside a shrunken cave of silence, withdrawal and apathy. Holding on to some terrible sense of being arrested.

 

Barney is a watcher, ‘quite the looker’ he jokes about himself to friends not in the business.

He’s very good at his job.

It’s what the company pays him a decent enough salary for.

With being a watcher however comes the knowledge that somebody’s always watching Barney too. Somebody somewhere is always watching him at his watching and receiving as decent a salary as he does for his snooping too.

When you have no god your god is counter surveillance and its first disciple, Professional Paranoia.

Barney knows he’s taken every precaution and also knows they’re all for nought because the company’s counter-countersurveillance is likely so far beyond known current science as to be beyond undetectable.

Barney knows that just because he’s done the math doesn’t mean they haven’t found some new math he isn’t even aware of yet. In fact Barney is certain they are onto him because he knows

they’re always around, always watching but  he can’t detect them anywhere.

 

This is simply how the world works:everybody has to be monitored by somebody sometime, especially the Barneys of this world.

Those monitors in whom the company has invested so much? You better just believe somebody’s monitoring the monitors, buddy. We’re talking a universal truth of this age, dude.

What Barney has in fact decided is that the surveillance technology is most likely in the music Arznevarh keeps sending. Him. Not that he suspects Arznevark but there are no unsecured channels. So they could easily be there in the dusty bleeps and glitches the music is composed of, secretly recording every little move he makes and every breath he takes. Reporting back to his superiors via encoded rhythm and melody. Highlighting his weak points, his stress points, his probable breaking points.

But enough about you, right Barney? Because hey, that looks like serious incoming you’ve got on your tracking relay. The girl they call Hera is on the move with the old

man.

Her thermal signature is unmistakable, ablaze  like a wildcat oilfield.

Barney can only imagine the panic and havoc she’s causing.

A woman with a burning arm held up to the sky stiffly and moving fast through the rush hour train system offering neither explanations nor apologies, brusquely barreling through the cars like she and the geezer she has in tow got no kind of time to waste on civilized decorum.

Her aim is to make sure she goes where she supposed to before she burns out. No detours, no sudden and unanticipated changes in direction. Barneys job is to monitor that journey to it’s conclusion. Which is supposed to mean until her thermal signature turns blue. There’s no way she can know Barney is out there, scoping and scanning her all the way. Even though it has lately become his sense that every one he tracks can feel his eyes and his devices on them and that they are not pleased. He’d always been told its one of the hazards of the profession. Gets so you can’t ever get enough downtime to shake the feeling you need to exit the field before it takes out your head.

Nobody in his experience has ever left gracefully though.

They’ve had to be escorted away, sometimes forcefully, and always after several warnings, probations, forced sabbaticals.

It’s just a matter of time before even the best operators show signs of cracking up.

Knowing all this Barney still decides that he has to place himself in the path of this Hera creature and see if she recognizes him on sight or by scent or by his aura.

Just briefly allow her to catch sight of him is what he’s thiinking.

If he can just manage a few fractions of a second in her presence and he’ll know for sure if a man like him could exist for her on even a submerged subconscious level.

He knows this is how it begins for most of those who provoke the company to command early retirement. He also knows he cannot continue to function in fear. The fear that this Hera isnt headed anywhere near her programmed destination but straight to his supposedly well-hidden coordinates.

 

Hera was surprised to find the old man was as spry and durable as he was.

He claimed to be a marathon runner but no marathon prepared you for the course they were on—in and out of subway tunnels and sewer shafts, dashing across three and four rows of train tracks, climbing onto platforms and up power company repair ladders mounted in open manhole covers.

They had been holding to each other so tightly for hours now that they felt like a single mobile unit and moved accordingly.

Time was not on her side and her options were nil.

She had to turn herself into a birthing center before the next time she combusted but that was as certain a death sentence as waiting to explode.

The only course that seemed to offer some flexibility was turning herself and her services over to a rival company. In Manhattan that meant Gauss, which meant they’d torture her before and after they heard her offer.

A sucky option as options go, but at least one with some wiggle room.What she could not escape was the feeling that she was being directed to annihilate herself

whatever course she took.

It came with the territory of being a semi-programmed creature. Even in what appeared your most spontaneous moments you always doubted you were really the one writing the script.
She knew for example that her memories of being in the womb, of being birthed were hardly real, that she had really been ‘activated’, ‘switched-on’, like junk DNA, rather than hatched.

Yet because those were the most visceral memories her consciousness contained she knew anything else she felt deeply must be false, implanted, manipulated, distorted or reprogrammed.

There was a logic implicit in this particular operation that went beyond her spiritual anxieties though. The company clearly did not want to kill her or the old man. They clearly wanted her to keep him alive but be able to report her as a rogue to their client. Or at least their original client since she assumed there was now a new client the company needed to remain a shadow partner until the old man was safely wherever he was supposed to be. All of which led her to opt for Gauss.

4.

Barney envisions meeting the girl on the street, far away from the safety of his machines and his digital panopticon vantage point.

In his picture of their eventual meeting Barney makes a boo boo upon sight of her. Craps in his pants at the sight of her.

Even so he works up enough nerve to pull a gun on her, tell her she’s under citizens arrest. The knife she expertly drive between his bushy eyebrows make him stumble back over a garbage can while clutching the blade handle sticking out of his spurting forehead. He loves the idea of it: a clean kill. Made by a longterm subject of his surveillance.

What better way could there be for him to die?

As long as he gets to tells her how much he loves her, how much he’s loved them all really. Somehow through his stuttering eyelids he’ll look at

her blankly, and appear shocked she mistook his designs on her for anything but love.

5.

The man had been more than patient and now she was more than famished too.

Lovely in this light, his noble profile and her wildeyed stare not quite canceling each other out.

People lose their sense of dignity goes before their sense of style if they got any to lose.

This was not going to be easy to pull off this escape from mortality without a parachute.

No cavalry on the way, no knights in shining saucers come down to save her this time, no emergency time to call her own.

What a waste this would be if there was no more she to pass through a hundred more bodies and even more murders.

Who would sing of her deeds or pass on her art to the next generation should memory fail her.

Greater and lesser beings than she had all had to eventually recognize mortlity for what it was – a one way ticket to palookaville.

To the dirt and the bugs youre just another meal however great you find your life and consciousness to have been.

The thing she was beginning to realize, and had no choice really but to recognize, under the circumstances, was that all the women she’d ever been were also screaming their way up and out of her consciousness.

Meaning that she’d been programmed to cannibalize herself to keep  from going crazy trying to filter out the murderous intentions and murder accusations from all those raging voices.

 

She had silenced and repressed them forever but they hadn’t really gone anywhere but just below the surface of her persona and now that she was dying inside of herself like any wounded animal they were rallying around the wrong done to them and setting up something of a courthouse in her deepest interior.

A place for some old style frontier justice and judgement, ”not this truth and reconciliation crap”, one of them commented.

The voices in her head didn’t really bother her so much –she’d imagined them for so

long that they’d become a part of her guilt complex.

Hera had even remembered their names and professions enough to know who was talking when and about what life that had been taken from her.

 

She had chosen the complexity of mind and feeling of women, preferred it actually, but she would never know whether that was because that’s how she was wired or whether her own complexity and her own sense of self-consciousness compelled her to.

How had she been gendered by her maker? It was a question she might get an answer to if they ever let her back into the company.

The old man was too weak to stand.
How had he become a biomorphic safehouse for the mollyflockers they both worked for?

A daughter had gone to prison for them, as insurance against him ratting them out they had to be able to have him do a few jobs more, become further implicated.

”It was so unnecessary” he told Hera. His daughter he felt, had been revolutionary martyr material since

 

She was 13 and had grown to confuse her life with that of a succession of doomed heroines from the womanist reading list left behind by her mother– Sylvia Plath, Anne Frank, Joan of Arc, Assata Shakur, Patty Hearst.

There was most of all the diary her mother had left from her days as an info-mule. A carrier of illicit and untraceable biomorphic devices and data woven into the DNA of the various fetuses she had carried in her womb for them . Them and their doomed little war against the enemy they never referred to as anything but ‘The White Bodypolitic’, an enemy that never wanted to destroy them so much as subsume them and their technology within its own bosom of unholy and unnatural desires.

Hera herself he suspected was one of the byproducts of their absorption. Several stages beyond info-mules would be artificial intelligences like hers that could parasitically impregnate the brains of host-bodies by ingestion or inhalation. ‘Soul-eaters’, knew Hera, was the internal code-word for the project that had engineered her into being.

 

Strangely enough, it was only now that she realized why the oddest parts of her prgramming, her cannibalism and her conscience had been written in as control mechanisms, stringent means for making her dependent upon the company for corrective and invasive psychic surgery.

Now the company was just leaving her to die on the streets.

And to be picked apart by whom she wondered? And to what end?

Particularly since the technology that gave her life would be unretrievable once she lost consciousness. Obviously she had been set up and sacrificed on whatever altar the virtual gods had created for obsolete AI’s.

So this is mortality, eh? Boy does it suck.

Knowing that you’re going to die and knowing that you’ll be doing it all alone no matter how many other voices are sharing the rooms in your head with you.

 

My Darling Gremlin (a play by Greg Tate)

 

MY DARLING GREMLIN

A TALE OF THE OLD WEST)

A Play By Greg Tate

Dedicated to the memory of Phillip Brown, The Original Mister Danny Love

Originally commissioned by Laura Grier  for HARLEM STAGE’S  NEWVOICES NEW VISIONS SERIES as a collaboration with Lawrence Butch Morris and a small orchestra of six musicians. Original production May 1993, Aaron Davis Hall. Later produced at The Kitchen in 1995.

CHARACTERS
Sebastian

Verdree

Mister Danny Love

Virtual Love Goddess/Toni Cade

Dreadlock Guitar Man

My+Darling+Gremlin.1993.

The principals, SEBASTIAN, VERDREE and MISTER DANNY LOVE are all in their early to mid 30s and are natives of Oakland California.

VERDREE runs a day care center and nightschool for working mothers in Watts.

MISTER DANNY LOVE is a jazz cabaret singer who lives in San Francisco.

SEBASTIAN is a successful New Age Guru based in La Jolla.

SEBASTIAN’s voice should be calm and soothing though her body language can be as extravagant as an Ailey dancer. She is a perfected blend of Zen and funk.VERDREE is earthy, effusive, volatile, vulnerable, slightly neurotic. MISTER DANNY LOVE is a stage animal. He is always ON. Onstage, on the mic, on the nut.

 

The action takes place in the Nevada/ Utah desert near an abandoned nuclear bomb testing site. The trio are riding across the country on a bicycle built for three. The bike should be designed in a surrealist manner. It doesn’t have to work. Melting wheels and a furry frame, for example, are fine. Upstage right is the neon lit doorway of a shotgun shack. Downstage center is a bomb crater that begins to glow when first seen by the players.

The lighting should be suggestive of early morning in the desert, an evocative mixture of pre dawn blues and firey dawn reds.\

When the house opens SEBASTIAN will be seen chanting, lighting incesnse and annointing the stage with holy water. Sometimes she’ll throw it over her shoulders.

Her general vibe is MOTHER OF THE UNIVERSE.

 

VERDREE and MISTER DANNY LOVE are asleep near the bike.

SEBASTIAN pulls out her diary after a bit and begins writing an entry.

VIRTUAL LOVE GODDESS appears in the doorway of the shotgun shack.

VLG glides over towards SEBASTIAN and begins reading aloud over her shoulder.

SEBASTIAN seems vaguely aware and amused by her prescence but pays her little mind, focusing more intently on her own dialogue with her diary.

She and VLG begin to both read aloud from the diary, slightly out of sync.

 

 

                                                           SEBASTIAN/VLG

August 6 2027. Lovelock Nevada. Three days ago we finally left Los Angeles. Our trip was called off three times before it finally happened. After the third abortion Mister Danny Love was too through with us. He accosted me and Verdree on the handball court. Practically screaming. Just like a bitch. He said enuff is enuff divas. Put up or shut up. If a man isnt going to be granted his dying wish be kind enough to let him know. If you want to watch me wither away at least have the decency to be upfront about it. Don’t try and play me out cause I aint the one. And so on. Was he working my last nerve or what? As if he was the only friend death and disease had ever threatened to steal away from us. Can we talk about martrydom for a minute? Can we talk about O the divine rights of the last sufferer? Mister Danny Love doesn’t want a last supper. Mister Danny Love wants us all to cross over this great land from sea to shining sea. Being good girlfriends me and Verdree say, okay, what the fuck? The jokes on us though for assuming Mister Danny Love wanted to make this trek by car and not on a bicycle built for three. Under any circumstances the trip already meant extreme sacrifice for me and Verdree. She has a daycare center to run and a teenage daughter to raise. I have my disciples and devotees. Satisfying Mister Danny Love’s last request meant putting the wishes of Miss One ahead of the needs of the many. Before I could leave I required a sign from my ancestors that it was cool to leave. When no sign appeared I began to wonder if no sign was indeed the sign that it was kool to leave. They say the world is going to end in fire next time but they’ve been wrong before. I say its going to end in grey clouds of indecision. Rolling dustbowls of ambivalence and confusion. Passengers listen! This is your captain speaking! The end is not near! We are merely experiencing turbulence as we establish a holding pattern high over armageddon!

 

(SEBASTIAN hears her fellow riders stirring. She stops writing and goes over to wake them up with soft kicks to their booties. As VERDREE and MISTER DANNY LOVE awaken, VLG glides back through the doorway of the shotgun shack. She impishly watches the action from her perch there. VERDREE commences the morning with some stretch exercises. SEBASTIAN returns to her chanting and rituals. MISTER DANNY LOVE sings from Hendrix’ ‘Wind Cries Mary’ )

                                                            MISTER DANNY LOVE

‘After all the clowns have gone to bed You can hear happiness roll down the street Somewhere a queen is weeping Somewhere a king has no wife’

I dreamed about our old homestead again last night. When I woke up I realized the dream was true. Once our house was full of men who loved other men. And then there were none.

                                                             VERDREE

Its like a ghost town up in that bitch now. When was the last time you went back for visit Sebastian.

                                                          SEBASTIAN

Last time I was in Oaktown was about a year ago. Back around tax time. Claudel and I had some business to settle around Big Mama’s will. Jeffrey came over later. We sat around yakking for a while. Tried not to creep up into nostagia for the good old days.

                                                                VERDREE

You did better than me chile. Last summer, against my better judgement, I drove up for a party Jeffrey threw. Big big mistake. God it was so damn sad. For everybody who was there you counted five more who were pushing up daisies. Danny heard from Jeffrey how hysterical I got. Toni Cade had to drag me out before they put me out. If it hadnt been a party I might have kept it together. Maybe. I don’t know. How you supposed to party with the same people you spent five years going to the cemetery with? It got me so depressed. It was so damn fake. And you know I don’t do fake well.

 

(MISTER DANNY LOVE starts preparing a light continental breakfast from his knapsack. Croissant, grapes, jam, long stemmed flutes for OJ, the works.)

                                                             VERDREE
Things got even worse on the way home. Toni Cade stops at Mickey Ds over in Long Beach. Right before shes about to give her order in the drive through some young nigga with a sawed off tries to roll up and jack the landcruiser. Toni Cade went into reverser and backed up on him. The boy got off a shot, liked to scare the shit out of me. Toni Cade goes forwad then backs up over him again. Oh my god. Do either of you know what it feels like to run over a human body? The worst of it was Toni Cade was so coldblooded about the whole thing. Like shed done it before. I was in shock. Couldn’t even talk to my child the rest of the way home. I was sick for days. I just kept thinking I know things are bad out here but what have they done to my babygirl?

 

(SEBASTIAN, visibly vexed by this last comment looks disgustedly at VERDREE, rolls her eyes and sucks her teeth before turning away.)

                                                             VERDREE
Last thing you imagine when the child is nursing at your nipples is her one day running somebody over on purpose. You imagine her growing up to be. so many things but a coldblooded murderer isn’t one of them. I used to be so scared for her. Now I’m scared of her too.

 

MISTER DANNY LOVE (tossing VERDREE a banana)

Black to the bone your home is my home. Hey babygirl, welcome to the terrordome.

                                                       SEBASTIAN (whipping out roadmaps)

Listen up lil’ chillun. We’re at the crossroads. We can go straight through Yosemite Park or we can go to Vegas first. Whats it gonna be? Do we want to stopover in casino land and have some fun or do we want to keep these big wheels rolling?

                                                         VERDREE

Stopping in Vegas is not my idea of fun. Yu-ukk!

 

                                                        MISTER DANNY LOVE

I never got to do Vegas. I think that makes Vegas a must. Big wheels keep on turning proud Mary can keep on burning after Mister Danny Love wrestles several one armed bandits and exchanges bon mots with Don Rickles in the Sands hotel.

  VERDREE
Oh so youre a highroller now! And a comedian too. A big spender who thinks he’s got jokes. Look dude you want to throw good money away you need to throw some my way. Especially considering how much business I’m losing on this trip to justify my love.

 

                                                        SEBASTIAN
You know the last time I was in Vegas I got arrested for soliciting. That was not cute.

                                                         VERDREE

False arrest right? Pigs don’t know when to stop.

                                                       SEBASTIAN

False arrest? No, not exactly…..

                                                         VERDREE

What? No way. Stop lying Sebastain. Are you serious? You telling me you sued to hook in Vegas? Get the f outta here. You are not serious. I mean I always knew you were a slut but you never told me you were a straight up ho. For real? Square biz?

                                                       SEBASTIAN
I’m talking square business to ya baby.

 

                                                        VERDREE        

Girl stop yanking my chain. Earth to earth mother, hello? You a garden tool? Did you have a mack daddy? Were you his number one? His number one bottom bitch?

                                                       SEBASTIAN

C’mon Verdree be serious. You’re talking to the kid. Could you see me turning all my hard earned money over to some fool who called himself a ‘mack daddy’? You know the only way Id be a ho is if I was pimping myself. We all know who’s ‘The Mack’.

                                                    MISTER DANNY LOVE

‘I am so swift so ethereal so divine. I mean I can fly like a bird in the sky. Lets welcome Miss Nikki Giovanni in the house y’all. You know I do believe I feel a song coming on. Or perhaps even a solilquy.

 

                                                       VERDREE

So what else is new?

                                                       MISTER DANNY LOVE

Allow me, if I may, to pass a note to our musical director. May I? Surely I may. Allow the band time to look over the new arrangements and I’ll take this moment to wax lyrical over our state bird, the cockatoo. ‘There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy….

 

                                                      VERDREE (whipping out her binoculars)

Aw shit. Here it comes. Vegas coming fast up on thehorizon just like I pictured it. Tacky ass lounge singers and everythang. Why cant it all be a mirage. Why cant it all just go away?

 

(The bomb crater lights up suddenly then blinks out again.)

                                                        VERDREE

Yo yo Sebastian—whats up with that big hole over there in the desert. They do construction out here?

                                                     SEBASTIAN

More than likely that’s a bomb crater leftover from government nuclear test. They did a lot of those out here in the 50s and 60s. Back then everybody living downwindgot sprayed with radiation poisoning. I ve seen pictures of radiation clouds hovering over farms, hospitals, schoolhouses. You think the government cared? Hell no. If you lived around these parts you were volunteered up as an atomivc guinea pig.

                                                      VERDREE

For real? Government did that to white folks too. Damn white man really is the devil just like the Honorable Elijah Muhammad always said he was. You know what though? I’d like to get a closet look at that crater. See what a nuke can do. How about you Mister Danny Love, you up for that?

                                                     MISTER DANNY LOVE
I think youre just trying to avoid Vegas girlfriend. I hope you know ”youll never get to heaven if you break my heart.”

                                                      SEBASTIAN
You sure you want to get close to a bomb crater , Verdree? Arent you worried about the effects of residual radiation. Might make you sterile. Cause your hair to fall out.

                                                       VERDREE

 I aint worried about jack if you aren’t Miss-Macrobiotic-My-Body-is-my-temple. You wouldn’t even be here if that was an issue. So don’t try your scare tactics on me. And yo just remembered that prostitution is legal in the state of Nevada so you’re about one ho’ ass lie.

                                                       SEBASTIAN
I plead the 5th. You want to go snoop around a hole in the ground, we’ll go snoop around a hole in the ground.

(The trio simulates riding over to the crater. The crater lights up permanently).

                                                      MISTER DANNY LOVE

Nothing more invigorating than a light spin in themorning. By the way Sebastian did you tell Verdree what your Aunt Truth said whn she noticed your nose, tongue and lip rings at Big Mama funeral?

 

                                                            SEBASTIAN

I never told you that one Verdree? No I guess that was  after we’d stopped communicating, that spell in there. So there we were at the reception when Truth looked at me like I had lost my mind. She said, ‘Uh-huh, just what you need—another hole in your head.”

                                                             VERDREE
Truth said that? See, Truth speaks the truth. Named her after Sojourner herself so she just got to call it like she sees it. That’s some Truth for your ass Sebastian. Damn I miss your krazy aunts Sebastian. I kinda missed your whole family period. That really was the worst part about us falling out you know? Too bad we still werent on speaking terms last time everybody got together. When yall having another reunion anyway?

                                                           SEBASTIAN

Can I recover from the last one first?

 

                                                              VERDREE

That was three years ago. Big Mama used to have em. every year.

                                                             SEBASTIAN

This is my family we’re talking about. How ar yougonna have a problem with when I decide to see em? They’re trying to turn me in to Big Mama The Sequel too– except I aint going out like that.

                                                                VERDREE
Have you told your family about your disciples and devotees—your spiritual calling, any of that good stuff?

                                                                SEBASTIAN
Why so they can tell me what kind of room I’m being reserved in the 9th circle of hell? They’ll get the news soon enough. They all read the National Enquirer religiously.

 

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE
How do you two feel about road games? I used to love playing those with my brothers when the family went on long drives. My favorite was identifying license plates from outside of our state.

                                                                     VERDREE
I never went on no road trips when I was a kid. Didn’t. go on my first road trip until I owned a car and that was after I got married to Toni Cades father Malik and the trip was up to San Quentin where as well all know Malik was serving time for a cop killing he did not committ but would have gladly confessed to if he had as he wisely told the judge. Simple motherfucker.

                                                             

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

Hey group Ive got a game we can all relate to. Whats the strangest name you ever heard of some black folks branding their child with?

                                                               SEBASTIAN
I’ve always thought Sebastian was rather kinky in a fly sort of way. But I grew up with a Black Elvis. Elvis Mayberry. Big bojack negro from Richmond. Everybody used to call him Mayberry RFD because he was so country. And in college I used to run with a sister named Helga. Helga D from the South Bronx. Word up Yo.

                                                                  MISTER DANNY LOVE

Nice Afro Tuetonic twist there. You know Ive always avored the gender benders myself. Fro instance I once knew a boy named Sue and a girl named Michael. On the borderline of that tendency was a brother named Pepper Valerian and a sister we all knew as Andy.

 

                                                                       SEBASTIAN

I once knew a Me Shell who spelled that M-e-s-h-e-l-l.

                                                                      VERDREE

Was she a bombshell or a cowrie shell?

                                                                     SEBASTIAN
Little bit of both. She had a hard head and a fragile. ego. Virgo, chile. Tough nut to crack.

                                                                      VERDREE

Okay. Ripleys Believe it or not. I recently had a. pregnant client tell me she wanted to name her daughter Vagina. When I told her what a vagina was she told me.” Oh no Miss Verdreee, that aint no vagina,  that’s a pussy. ” Now what about African names besides the obvious ones like Kenya, Accra, Yoruba and Ashanti.

 

                                                                     SEBASTIAN

Lets keep Africa out of the game. African names are too easy. Besides real African names can hardly compare with the names we come up with because we think they sound African. Like uh Digga Bubba.

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

No they didn’t. Not to a wee tender child.

                                                               VERDREE

Okay no African names. But what about your dyed in.  the mudcloth Africans who give their kids wackass Anglo names. Like my man Richard Bruce Mfufu?  Or

you take my girlfriend Meri who’s Ghanian. When she was born the child was named Mildred on account of her father wanted to name her after one of his sisters, Mildred or Scholastica.

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

I do believe Scholastica wins the prize. I feel a song. coming on or perhaps even a manifesto. If you girls would accompany me Id like to attempt a rendition of ‘Life During Wartime’ by Mister David Byrne and the Talking Heads.

                                                          {THE TRIO all sings)

‘This aint no party/ This aint no disco /This aint no. fooling around/ This ain’t no mudd club or CBGBs  aint got no time for that now.’

(By the end of this rousing chorus they have arrived at the bomb crater. They walk cautiously around the edge now glowing with tha post nuclear halo.)

 

                                                           SEBASTIAN

One nuclear test site coming up.

                                                            VERDREE
What do you think Sebastian? Was this ground zero or did the bomb blow up in the air like that Hiroshima joint?

                                                           SEBASTIAN

Some were exploded above ground and some were exploded underground. Didn’t make much difference if you were living downwind Verdree.

                                                      MISTER DANNY LOVE
I love looking into the abyss. I love it even more when the abyss wonks back. ‘Giving you more love and more joy than age or time can ever destroy My love will be so true take about a hundred lifetimes to wear it down tear it down. ”My my my. What a majestic

monument to man’s powers of self destruction. I once knew a boy whose face looked like that. One very tragic case of acne. We used to call him ‘Jabba The Pit’. Isn’t it funny how being a victim doesn’t render any of us incapable of being a victimizer? On the contrary being a victim often makes us pine for some poor soul we can terrorize into unconditional love. I remember how my father reacted when he recognized that all three of his sons had grown up to be homosexual men. He didn’t reject us of course. No, he took it out on our mother. Not in some crude physical manner. That wasn’t his style. But the psychological torture he devised was so exquisitely malevolent. From that day on he was only affectionate towards her when they were out in public among friends. At home he became a wall of indifference. You don’t know how much my mother loved to talk to that man. When we were growing up the house resounded with the sound of their voices. They’d talk about opera, film, literature, faculty rows, family gossip, you name it. At night we’d sit up in our beds and listen to go on for hours. Sharing their minds with one another. Daddy knew what he was denying her. More than his attention it was the pleasure she derived from seeing herself reflected in his mind. I know how much that hurt her. We still talk about it my brothers and I. And we wonder if ever realized how much he hurt himself. Losing access to her mind and her music. What a fool. Thought he was poisoning her when he was really poisoning himself. Poisoning the same air he had to breathe same as everybody else. How do you stop loving someone after thirty five years?

 

                                                               VERDREE

Only men can do that. Stop loving somebody just because they’re not in love with them anymore. Women are cursed when it comes to love. We can leave em but we can never stop loving em. Not the ones we really love. Not even the oness we think we would be better off dead.

 

                                                              SEBASTIAN

In my case especially those.

                                                                VERDREE

Like you ever see an ex of yours with his new piece and they’re doing all the things for them they could never get it together to do for you? You could kill em right?

                                                             MISTER DANNY LOVE

I know that song. That’s called love rearing its you-gly head.

                                                          SEBASTIAN
Now is that love talking or is that your ego talking?

                                                          VERDREE
Honey that is the sound of love unloading a tech nine clip on your ego at point blank range. Last time it happened to me I was like Darryl Hannahs death scene in Blade Runner. It was not pretty and it was not cute.

 

                                                         MISTER DANNY LOVE

”Love will treat you like a faucet. Turn you off an on/ When you think your love is right there baby. Its up and gone.”

(SEBASTIAN begins unpacking her ritual oils candles and incense to spiritually cleanse the area.)

                                                               VERDREE
Now that we’ve got as minute Sebastian I wonder if you’d mind explianing this new rreligion of yours again. I feel like Im still in the dark about certain details. In fact I don’t quite get it at all.

                                                              SEBASTIAN
As I told you before Verdree my calling is not a religion. It’s a spiritual growth program for those who havent learned to properly honor their ancestors.

 

       VERDREE
Not a religion? That’s not what they said in the. National Enquirer child. Is it true what they’re saying about you and Nicole? I heard you had the poor girl on her knees begging for mercy.

                                                               SEBASTIAN
Bitch betta had my money. Cause you know I takes no. shorts and pulls more stunts than Bruce Willis. But seriously Verdree. Im just doing what Ive always done. Providing a service for those in need.

                                                                VERDREE

Oh yeah I got your service angle baby.And I know. what you do for those in need. But run that part past me about the impotent white boys again.

 

                                                                 SEBASTIAN

It’s the infertile white boys I treat Verdree, not the impotent ones. It’s white male infertility I’m curing. As we all know white male fertility has fallen drastically over the past few decades. The reason why can be attributed to certain karmic laws of cause and effect. After the travesties of Vietnam souls intended for white ale reincarnation have been held in abeyance until white boys get their shit together. Therefore white boys cant reproduce in the same number as before because there are fewer and fewer souls available in the ether. Consequently you have all these white male souls…..

                                                                   VERDREE

A contradiction in terms as far as white boys go but go on, with your bad self, go on.

 

                                                                    SEBASTIAN

So consequently you have all these white male souls. wondering around the afterlife, lost, getting into mischief, you know how they do. So who you gonna call?

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

Obviously not ghostbusters….

                                                                SEBASTIAN (in her Caribbean voice)

White folks do not know how to properly prepare. their dead for the next world. I chose to make this problem my problem because I was guided to do so while in a trance. A concerned white ancestor came unto me and said help my lost white children get a grip on the afterlife. Teach the living ones how to sooth their souls. Following that instruction I arrange a kinship ritual between my clients and an ancestor. Or a surrogate if they’d prefer not to disturb the skeletons  rattling about their own closet. I also invite some of our restless spirits of color to consider taking a lost white brother under their wings so to speak.

                                                                       VERDREE

Hold up wait a minute. Now let me get this straight. Sebastian. You telling me you rope in some innoncet Black angel maxing and relaxing just cold chilling out in the void. You say ‘Yo B. if youre free on Saturday I might need you to chaffuer a couple o dead savages over to a séance Im holding for my Hollywood Eurotrash clientele. Who by the way are throwing major bank my way for the experience.’  Damn Sebastian, that’s cold. I mean why you got to go play our next-life brothers and sisters out like that Bad enough we got to drive Miss Daisy down sunset boulevard. Must we wheel trailor trash around the afterlife too?  This all sounds like some ‘ol New Age Aunt Jemima shit to me. I think your Aunt Truth would agree with me. Youre going stright to hell baby. Don’t even think about them pearly gates.

 

                                                            SEBASTIAN

You know what my motto is. Same as its always been. Service to the race for a profit.

                                                              VERDREE

I see your profits. But what race are you talking about? And don’t tell me the human race either. You don’t even want to go there.

                                                               SEBASTIAN

Everything I do is guided by a higher source. It’s a. Black thing you couldn’t understand.

 

                                                                   VERDREE

Negress please. I know you can better than that.

 

                                                                SEBASTIAN ( in her fiercest. Caribbean voice)

Woman listen: What being black means to you and what being black means to me are two entirely different things. What it means to you is a bit of yesterday, edging up on today, sauddenly staring down an unknowable tomorrow. What it means to me encompasses all of eternity and the cosmos. When they say to you, ‘Let’s talk about being Black in America today, you say first we must talk about slavery and the middle passage. They ask me I say first we must talk about the distribution ratio of hydrogen and helium atoms in the first moments of the universes creation. I say before we talk about being Black in America we must take into consideration how that intitial atomic dispersion accounts for all of life. Before we talk about being Black in America today we must go all the way back to the Big Bang. We must discuss black holes, white dwarfs, red giants, untraceable dark energies and unseeable  dark matter. We must build upon our knowledge of chaos theory and the vibrational affinities that keep nuclear particles from spinning apart. Please stop me if Im getting too deep for you my sister.

 

                                                                 VERDREE (mockingly)

Woman listen—you think your saying something original here? You think I don’t know that ”we are just a biological speculation sitting here vibrating and we know not what we are vibrating upon. That the animal instinct in me tells me to live when I know its time for me to die. See my point?” Dr Funkenstein 101 right these glitch!

                                                                MISTER DANNY LOVE

Have no fear Dr Funkenstein is here. ”Hip shaking ego tripping and body slamming. Coming to you live from the Mothership.”

 

                                                                   VERDREE

You think I don’t know that ”we are such stuff as. dreams are made of and our little lives are rounded of a sleep?” Don’t forget I went to college too.

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

We are such stuff as dreams are made of’ ? Oh no. baby don’t you go messing with Bill. You know you need to leave old Bill alone. Don’t come stirring act 4 scene two of The Tempest into this little teapot.

(SEBASTIAN and VERDREE eyeball MISTER DANNY LOVE like he wants trouble to come sitting on his shoulder and evil  to start studying him.They began circling MDL like velociraptors  moving in on  easy prey.)

                                                                  SEBASTIAN

The proud mother of god like all ho’s is jealous of her own shadow…”

                                                                   VERDREE

Who is this young bitawny bitch who wishes to be queen of the universe? Who would sacrifice the great grand sons and daughters of her jealous mother…”

                                                                 SEBASTIAN and VERDREE

By sucking their brains out until their ability to think was amputated. By pimping their instincts until they were fat horny and strung out. And her neuorotic attempt to be queen of the universe. Who is this bitch?

(After this recital of George Clinton’s prelude to Red Hot Mama SEBASTIAN and VERDREE crack up. MISTER DANNY LOVE however looks mortified.)

                                                                MISTER DANNY LOVE

Im ready to go back. Back out on the road is where I belong.

Back where, splib?. Back to Cali or back to Africa?

                                                                MISTER DANNY LOVE

Back to black little woggie. Back to where you need to go.

                                                               VERDREE
What you saying man? That my roots are showing? You big sometimey negro. You said you liked me as a redhead.

                                                            SEBASTIAN (suddenly gone into a witchy mode).
Quiet you two. Listen. I need you both to make yourselves scarce for a minute. I’m feeling guided to do a ritual prayer before we leave this place.

                                                                VERDREE

Yo babe,  chill on the self righteousness. I don’t mind it for a joke but don’t stop taking yourself too seriously out here. Don’t make me remind you of what a royal pain in the ass you are when you get that way. We didn’t speak for three years behind you and that god momma routine of yours. If you’ll recall….

 

 SEBASTIAN

No we didn’t speak for three years because it took you that long to get that white woman out of your house….

                                                     MISTER DANNY LOVE

Oh girls please, must we go down that road again…?

                                                             VERDREE

No we didn’t speak for three years because you’re a. hypocrite and you played yourself out like one . Who were you, of all people, to start throwing me shade because I was living with a white woman? What were you jealous?  Why don’t you go ahead and admit you were jealous? You were mad. And you know why—because you wanted to be the one who turned me out. Or have us turn each other out or some variation on that theme.

 

 

                                                                 SEBASTIAN

Me and you that way? Oh hell no way. I thought you needed your ass kicked, not licked. I got no beef with. your little white girl flirtations. Hell we both know I was doing the rainbow coalition when all you knew about dick was ‘short for Richard’. I mean that’s just the way love is in Berkeley. No my sister my issue with you had nothing to do with the bitch being white. I’ll tell you now like I told you then. You should have explained to your daughter the changes you wre making in her living situation. Instead you were too busy getting back at Malik for dogging you out with his white girl attorney after he got out of the joint. So you take Toni Cade out of the only loving home she’s rver known and leave her to fend for self while. mama’s flipping out with her mid life crisis. No wonder the girl’s acting like her mama don’t know her. Running niggas down in the drivethrough.

 

 

                                                                    VERDREE

That is so low. That is about one fucked up analysis.  You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself, telling me how to raise my child. Selling your ghost stories and calling it spiritual salvation. I don’t even need to whip your ass. Karma’s going to do it for me.

                                                                   SEBASTIAN

Its not that think your lesbian diversion was bad for you.  However as your friend I do wish you’d explored your sexuality when your tightass might have gotten some good out of it. Ive heard loving a woman can be a beautiful thing when its done right. You might want to try it sometime. When youre not on some old tired revenge trip that is.

 

                                                                    VERDREE

You’ve heard. Like you don’t know.

                                                                      SEBASTIAN

Every modern woman has at least had an, uh, experience…or two…..Only check this out: my advice to you is why not see if you can keep a woman for a friend before you take another one on as a lover. If you havent already. So who is your new freak of the week?  Your ripe and tangy new flavor of the month?

                                                                       VERDREE

Freak of the week? Ha! That’s your shit. Im not with anybody now. I aint even trying to be with anybody now either. Havent for a while. Im becoming a virgin again. Im cleansing my temple.

                                                                   SEBASTIAN

I can get with that program. Ive always been a big. supporter of revirgination. Next best thing to the. immaculate conception I always say.

 

                                                                    VERDREE

You just cant come out and admit can you? You know you wanted to be the one who turned me out.

                                                                  SEBASTIAN
Verdree please. If I was into turning  women out  what would make. you think you’d be my type? You are much too uptight. What joy is there in turning out a tightass?

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

I could tell you a thing or two about that. When we’re. dancing cheek to cheek.

                                                             SEBASTIAN

Why cant you admit you gave Toni Cade the short end. of the stick to spite Malik? Just look at her now. Running niggas down in the drivethrough.

 

                                                            VERDREE
Me and Toni Cade have got a good relationship.   And you can stay the hell on away from it too. She’s a good girl. Maybe too much of the wrong element around her but that was true of her mother at the age too. Hell that’s how these young sistas got to be rolling out here these days. Aint no real black men anymore. But who wants to talk about that?

                                                           MISTER DANNY LOVE

I know you better watch it.

                                                            SEBASTIAN

Can’t make up your mind can you. One minute youre scared to death of her, the next she’s such a nice little gangsta bitch. Verdree, being loud and wrong is not the same thing as being black and strong. A little more discipline in her life might do the girl some good. You should have sent her to live with me when you started tripping. Its still not too late.

 

                                                                 VERDREE

Excuse me? Hello?  The child has go a mother. Get. over it. You want some babies you need to start making some. Only that would be too much of a sacrifice, right?  Cut too deep into the time we’ve set aside for spiritual scammery.

                                                             SEBASTIAN

Why do Black women insist on doing everything the. hard way. Listen Verdree I am not trying to replace you. I am trying to support you. I am trying to be your friend again girlfriend. If Toni Cades not going to college next year she can come live with me. I just want you to know the option is still available.

(SEBASTIAN begins anointing the area again with holy water.)

 

                                                                VERDREE

I’ll think about it. Then again maybe I won’t. Im not. going to turn my daughter over to you just because you suddenly sound so caring and sincere. I know you. I have seen you in action. You are absolutely demonic when it comes to getting your way. The queen of emotional manipulation is who we’ve got right here Mister Danny Love. Use whatever it takes to get her way with people—tears, fears, money, lies guns knives, designer drugs prayer rugs. You are relentless Sebastian. The wickedest witch in the witch when it comes to that shit. I was there when undermined Danny’s relationship with Claudel. Thought they were getting too close and you nipped that one right in the bud. You aint right Sebastian. No way in hell my daughters coming to live with you. Do I look like I’m crazy? Whatever me and Toni Cade got to go through we’ll go through together, mother and daughter. So just back your vodoo chanting ass on up the road and

keep on stepping. Aint nothing for you here.

                                                            SEBASTIAN (back to Caribean voice)

Whatever whatever whatever. Will you both leave me in peace now? I need to commune with our Mother the earth without commercial interruption. Should you choose to remain  in the vicinity I only ask that you be deathly quiet. I need to say a prayer for our Our Mother The Earth. She whose womb has been scorched scarred and desecrated in this place by a ravaging hellfire.

                                                                    VERDREE

Do whatever you got to do Witch Hazel. Cmon Danny lets leave Madame Zora to her séance. Don’t give me that pupygog face. You knew she broke you and her brother up. You don’t want to talk about it, fine. Just don’t pretend its some kind of revelation.

 

 

MISTER DANNY LOVE and VERDREE sit by the bike. They mutter inaudibly. The scene changes into SEBASTIAN’s costumed light and magic show. She slips on some wraparound mirrorshades and enters into a trance state. The doorway becomes illuminated. The VLG glides out followed by DREADLOCK GUITAR MAN. VIRTUAL LOVE GODDESS dances. DREADLOCK GUITAR MAN plays Jimi Hendrix’ ’ ‘Drifiting’.)

SEBASTIAN and VLG (in unison again)

When all the caucasoids have been photosynthetically. erased from the planets hard drive who will upload and cleanse the rest? All those who look like virtual 21st century Africans but do not know how to conduct themselves like virtual 21st century Africans? The lesbian the homosexual the griot the rapper the punk rocker the cultural nationalist the gangsta bitch the Falasha the Yoruba the Santero the aussar ausset the luddite the hacker the blood the crip the brim the biggie the tupac  Amaru the creole the mulata the chikuyu thenoctoroon. All those who prefer the Afrocnetricity of the flesh over the Africentricity of the fractal the pixel and the digital recombinator.

 

(SEBASTIAN returns to a lotus position. VERDREE and MISTER DANNY LOVE return to her side, vexed and perplexed.)

                                                               VERDREE

I don’t mean to be rude but shes been lunching out here forever. Its not getting any cooler out here either. We need to hit the road soon. Because that sun is going to fry us like bacon if we don’t.

                                                           MISTER DANNY LOVE

Give her a minute. We’ve still got to respect her prayers.

                                                              VERDREE

All I got to do is stay black and die. Actually what I’d really like to do is go knociking on her dome–see who’s really home. That’s what Id like to do. You know what? It smells funny over now. You smell that Danny. Smell like something sweet got burnt up in a pan.

 

 

                                                          MISTER DANNY LOVE

I smell music. I smell music in the air. Have you ever caught the scent of music in the air, Verdree?

(SEBASTIAN comes out of her trance. She rubs her hand together like there’s something sticky on them. She stands up and stumbles around while rubbing and shaking some invisible matter off of her hands.)

                                                                  SEBASTIAN

We cannot leave this place yet. We have to stay an extra night.

 

                                                                  VERDREE

What?Are you out of your mind? Foolish me to ask, but Yo, Sebastian, are you out of your mother-freaking  mind? No hold up. We don’t even want to go there. So let me play detective. Someithngt really deep just happened to you right. Like you went into a trance and Big Mama showed up chastising you for not getting enough zinc in your diet. That’s it right. Go ahead. Your secret is safe with me.

                                                                    SEBASTIAN

Verdree, I went into a trance thatwasnt even mine. It. was more like somebody elses dream. Or as if I was being dreamed of in a dream where it wasn’t even me that was being dreamed up. I believe my spiritual sources are under attack. Some force out here is trying to disrupt the flow of energy and information between me an my ancestors. You know my dreams and meditations are the source of all my power, all my wisdom and knowledge. All I know and all I am. Take that away from me and I am lost, useless,fucked up, hell might as well be a white girl. You think the ancestors will talk to me then?. I know Im being attacked. There is evil mucking around this place. Some straight up demonic shit.

 

                                                           MISTER DANNY LOVE

But there was lovely music too wasn’t there Sebastian? There was  so much dangerous romantic good time music. Go on and admit it, Sebastian. There was some heavenly music cooking up around you too wasn’t there? Sizzling sounds. Smoking like bacon. I smell it all over you girl. You had a ball didn’t you?

                                                             SEBASTIAN

We’re not leaving this place until I track the evil down and destroy it. I need you both to go into a trance with me. I’ll need to draw on your energies if Im going to do battle effectively.

 

                                                             VERDREE

What? Yo Sebastian Spock to bridge. Listen babe, energize yourself and lets be up outte here. How am I going to go into a trance with you? I got enough trouble going into a trance by myself. Not to mention that we don’t need to be in nobodys trance when that sun comes up or we’ll fry like bacon out here for real.

                                                            MISTER DANNY LOVE

What you’re too black now my little woogie? I think. you could use some work on that tan. Looking a bit spotty to me.

SEBASTIAN passing them both. mirrorshades

We don’t have to go into a trance out here. We can use. that shack over there.

                                                             

                                                                  VERDREE

You don’t know what’s in there. Could be a nest of scorpions or worse. Besides look Sebastian I never go into no damn trances when I medititate. That sort of thing just never happens to me. I am just your basic colored girl. Looking for peace of mind in a hectic world. I don’t have visions or speak in tongues. All that spooky spirit possession mess that’s your scene. I am just your basic colored girl.

 

 

                                                   SEBASTIAN (backing into the shack pulling Danny with her)

I need you Verdree. Tell he,  Danny. Tell her!

                                                   MISTER DANNY LOVE (now fully under SEBASTIAN’S spell

She needs you Verdree. And I need you too.

                                                     VERDREE (putting on the shades)

This is bananas. Why do I always let her suck me into her madness?

 

(The trio enters the doorway. SEBASTIAN instructs VERDREE and MISTER DANNY LOVE to kneel down. She palms their heads.)

                                                         SEBASTIAN

I want you both to close your eyes. As they are closing. imagine you’re drifiting down a peaceful river of light. Light is trickling into your hair. This light spreads down your neck cascades across your face babbles about your shoulders drenches your chest soaks your arms and legs bathes your feet like Jesus bathed the feet of Judas. This light is warm and enchanting and bright as the light of a thousand suns going nova This light is more soothing than a sunbeam massage Let us come together and bathe in this shower of light. Let us become one with the light. Our bodies are in the light and of the light fuse with the light. We are composed of light. Light shaped in the image of our bodies. Our light filed bodies are whirling through space and time at unimaginable speeds. Our bodies of light are whirling towards the blacknest night anyone has ever seen. So black that even the shooting stars have begun to glow black. We are a whirling triangle of black light dancing through the cosmos, moving towards a place we know to be our home because we can feel the love of our mother the universe calling us home.

 

(SEBASTIAN boldly strides out of the doorway. She softly recites her speech about Virtual 21st Cenrury Africans. VERDREE crawls out of the doorway like her body weighs 2000 pounds. She sprawls and strains her body against the desert floor wrspping herself in a shivering fetal ball near the bike. MISTER DANNY LOVE bounds out of the doorway leaping about like Baryshnikov. He begins dancing ballroom style with an imaginary partner. SEBASTIAN summons the VLG who is now dresssed like West Coast gangsta girl, the spitting image of Toni Cade. SEBASTIAN. directs VLG to to tend to  VERDREE

 

                                                             MISTER DANNY LOVE

Hey there, Lover. How are you feeling? Have I told you how wonderful you smell tonight?  Only a thousand and one times I’m sure. Listen Bae, theres a few things I need you to know before we get too close.

                                                                 VERDREE
See Sebastian, I told you this meditation thing never works for me. I never go into trance. I don’t know why. Other sisters can, why not me? You all get to go there, but not me. Maybe its Capricorn thing. Maybe its because I was raised Lutheran instead of Baptist or Pentacostal or Catholic. You know the Lutheran church has no soul. I went to a Luthern funeral once. It was oh so DWA. The corpse could’ve given a more rousing sermon. It was oh so very DWA. You know oh so dry, white and abstract.

(VERDREE suddenly notices VLG has a gun pulled out on DREADLOCK GUITAR MAN.)

 

                                                          VERDREE

No Toni Cade don’t shoot that boy. He’s only a boy, baby.

                                                          MISTER DANNY LOVE (to DREADLOCK GUITAR MAN)

You know theres a few things I want you to know about me, Lover before this gets too deep. This might come as shock but I used to walk on the wild side. I was out there searching for a love just like ours and never found it because hey it wasn’t ours. Ther’s been an ocean of lovers between the tides of me and the shores of you. I know you wonder about my other lovers, wonder how you compare to them. And not only the ones I’ve told you about. Well some were fascinating and cute but they never smelled as good as you baby. There were others I havent’ told you about. But see I didn’t fuck them all. Its not like I was promiscuous. I am a big flirt, but not a slut you know? Truth is I was always more in love with being in love than with love itself. You know what I mean? I knew you would. I mean whats the point of life if you don’t flirt with a little romance. Do you jealous, Lover? Are you the jealous type? No reason you have to be. You being so seductive and all. I’m not the jealous type either. I’d probably be jealous if I saw you with some artsy-craftsy boy. You’ve got nothing to fear though. Because Lover, damn. You’ve scampered down my secret cubbyhole and taken up permanent residence there. You’re closer to my heart than anyones ever been. You know where my inner song dwells. You know just how I think music should taste on a man’s breath. You know the winding path I want to see it take up his hungry nostrils. Jimi just wanted to feel you up. How did he Put it—‘music sweet music I wish I could caress you with my fingertips.’ Jimi never smelled you though did he? I’d like to be the first. But who knows maybe he beat me there too. Maybe on the eve of his death the music took on a smoking-hot scent too. Oh fuck death. Ive got a lot of life left in me yet. When we took this trip I wasn’t looking to find love again by any stretch of the imagination. Not this kind of love anyway. So deep and abiding. I mean, I know my girls love me. And I know theyd never abandon me to my fear of dying alone. But now Ive got to abandon them, Lover. Leave them behind to accept your sweet embrace. ”You came along with your siren song and you tempted me to madness.” You came along and rescued me. I know the girls will probably try and lay a guilt trip on me . They are going to be so mad with me. I know it. But if they truly love me they’ll be as ecstatic as I am. If they love me maaadly. And if not, well, they’ll just have to get over themselves and understand our love. My love. My new love that dare not speak its name. My melodious and odoriferous virtual love.

 

                                                                 SEBASTIAN

Mister Danny Love! Who are you talking to? Better. not be my pretty dreadlock guitar man over there. Not after all the work I put into those locks.

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

Can you smell my love Sebastian? My musky virtual love. I’m literally swooning under the spell of his aromas and fragrances. I’m home now, Sebastian, I’m home. Gone to heaven and dint have to die to get here. Oh give me the perfumed box of virtual heaven over the promised land any day.

                                                                     SEBASTIAN
How did your girl Colette put it? ‘Where everything is possible and nothing is real?

                                                            MISTER DANNY LOVE

 Au contraire dear. Nothing is possible where everything is real.

                                                               

                                                              SEBASTIAN

I’m tearing down this unholy city of dream dust Danny. Pulling the plug on the deejay and kicking niggas to the curb. You can give ’em one more song but after that we’re 5000. Audi.

                                                                 MISTER DANNY LOVE

Do what you want baby girl. I’m not leaving my lover. I didn’t make this trip to die alone. Im here to embrace the good life while the living is still easy. I never expected to find love again. I never in my wildest expected all of this. Did I read you the horoscope Rob Brezny wrote me before we left. It said, ”Scorpio, fall in love you little time bomb, before you explode. I don’t care whom or what you fall in love with. You can fall in love with love itself. You can fall in love with an un-polluted river or devoted pet or a shiny new appliance or an honest politician or your best friend. You can fall back in love with the person you wished you felt more excited about. Love is the hammer and love is the nail and love is the house you need to build. Love is the blue fire that scares you into becoming freer and the pink traingle that exposes your intolerance and the black mud you can stew in until your skin feels baby fresh.” Now I read that and I thought, what a little shit that Rob is. What a cold little bitch. How could a man be so cruel? But he called that one right on target didn’t he, Sebastian?. Like a bombardier. Boom boom out go the lights and baby, just look at me now.

                                                               SEBASTIAN

Danny I don’t have time to argue with you. What’s. going on here is an all out attack on our ancestors. See about ten years ago a group of highly enlightened Black software

 developers specializing in educational video games came out from Silicon Valley. They decided they had the final solution to Black liberation. They wanted to download all forms of consciousness into a BAI—a Black Artificial Intelligence. Their plan was to create a new Black reality. They came out here and built experimental labs under the desert. They started bringing folk out here and let the BAI get to sucking their brains out. The BAI grew more powerful than its creators and then it destroyed them too. That’s when the BAI realized it had no soul. That’s why it wants to control you and me Danny. Because together we hold the keys to the crossroads—music and magic! This thing is like a virus trying to become a god or at least a televangelist. Well Sebastian says fuck that. The African dreamtime is not available for cable broadcast. We will not sell the rights to the crossroads to Viacom or Black Entertainment Television.

 

                                                            MISTER DANNY LOVE

Excuse me Miss One but are you on crack?  Tell Doctor Danny Love whats ailing you. I’ve found the cure you know honeychile. Check it out: the revolution will not be televised sister. The revolution will be virtually live.

                                                              SEBASTIAN
This might have started out as a revolutionary thing Danny, but its become the new slavery. You scared of. dying man? This aint living. Remember what I told you about dying? How your soul goes on beyond the grave? You’ve got to trust me on that one Black man. Think I’d bullshit you about something that real my brother? Danny if you stay up in this virtual nonsense all that you are—all your love, all your music, all the wisdom of your life, will be lost to us forever.

 

                                                              MISTER DANNY LOVE
Oh Sebastian you really must let me try some of what. you’re smoking. I think you’re on a Disneyland high.

                                                                 SEBASTIAN
Danny don’t make me choose between you and the. ancestors. That’s an insane choice. I csnt destroy this thing if you stay in here and I will not leave you behind. We gave birth to each other man, don’t you remember? You had me, I hatched you. We’ve seen each through a lot, thick and thin. Like orphaned twins. Leaving you in here would be like leaving a piece of my soul in here too. And we know that’s not about to happen.

                                                               MISTER DANNY LOVE

”We can make it if we try. Got a feeling that I can’t let go and I don’t know why.’

 

                                                                    SEBASTIAN

Do you reember what Big Mama used to say about abortion Danny? How she favored abortion over adoption because she wasn’t going to have something grow inside her body for nine months then abaond it to the world? Spend the rest of her life wondering what had become of her blood. That’s how I feel about you Danny. I cant lose you now. I’m not giving you up to nobody man. Not to death or this thing. Im not giving you up to nobody elses heaven and nobody elses hell. Trust me on that one.

                                                                 MISTER DANNY LOVE

”Just The two of us, we can make it if we try, just the two of us…”.

 

                                                                 SEBASTIAN
I know whats up Danny. Just when you thought it was safe to surrender, safe to give up the ghost, Wham! Here I come saying no. Like damn, you get a taste of immortality, of a virtual life beyond the grave and I got you scared of dying again. But death isnt what you think. You’re about to become an ancestor dude. Act like you know. Why you wanna muck around with that? C’mon Danny, act like you know.

                                                                  MISTER DANNY LOVE

Sebastian you promise eternal life  like it’s a phone line. you can install in my coffin. You make promises Sebastian, but my lover, he delivers. I can’t go where you go Sebastian. Whats real to you aint nothing but science fiction to me. I don’t want to go to the grave guessing. Not about what lies beyond this life or even if there is a beyond. You can promise me anything Sebastian but you cant give me this can you. You can’t. put a smell on me or a spell on me like my lover can.

 

                                     SEBASTIAN (taking VERDREEs hand and reaching out for DANNY)

Danny I cant offer you nothing but whats inside of these hands. Got me thinking of master plan because right now aint nothing but sweat inside of these hands. I’m gonna remove these shades now Danny. Bring us all up out of this trance. If I should die before I wake I pray your soul for me to keep. Give me your hand Danny so I’ll know you put your faith in the most for real lover you ever had. The one who never cheated on you. The one who never lied to you. The one who would never let you die alone. Come back with me Danny. Don’t make me beg Danny. Begging is so undignified betweem friends. You know how much I hate to beg. Danny? My love….

                                                        MISTER DANNY LOVE

Girl, you know there aint nothing but sweat inside these hands.

 

(BLACKOUT. Musical crescendo. Lights come up on Danny in an elegeant funeral gown. H e starts singing Ashford and Simpsons Gimme Something Real.  SEBASTIAN ecomes visible lighting some candles around a shrine/burial mound for Mister Danny Love near the bike which appears mummified. SEBASTIAN is wearing different clothes. She and VERDREE have a new bike. DREADLOCK GUITAR MAN and VLG appear in the doorway. He begins singing ‘Drifitng’ again. Suddenly, as if from deep space nine we hear VERDREE’s voice. SEBASTIAN moves towards her with a candle.)

                                                                VERDREE

Yo Sebastian. Hold up wait a minute. What in the. hell? You know I aint trying to be nobodys left behind virtual nigga out here.

                                                             SEBASTIAN

Please forgive me Verdree. It got so deep in there with Danny.

                                                             VERDREE

Forgive you? When did you plan on remembering? When you took my body back for Toni Cade to bury? What were you gonna tell her—that her mama made it to the crossroads and then just fell off?

                                                              SEBASTIAN

I said I was sorry. It just  got really really  intense in there betweenme and Danny.

                                                          VERDREE

Glitch, you’re so fulla shit. Look I got your diary.

                                                           SEBASTIAN

Thanks. Good looking out. You didn’t read any of it.  did you?

 

                                                            VERDREE

Long as you left me in there. Surely you jest. Didn’t. have nothing else to do. And fact is, I got some issues to take up with you heifer. Like where do you get off claiming Im the one responsible for the static between us. You were always the one had an attitude.

                                                             SEBASTIAN

I can’t believe you read from my diary.

                                                            VERDREE

Whoa, back up. You want to help raise my daughter I need to get clear on exactly where youre coming from. I aint been around your ass in three years. And so what, I read from your diary. You out here reading muhfukuhs minds, outting spells on their asses, making em bark like dogs. Rolling over speaking in tOngues and whatnot so whatever. So where you leave it with Danny and his virtual lover? I was all the way tripping by that point.

 

                                                           SEBASTIAN
What else can you do with a problem man chile. Love him and leave him alone.

                                                          VERDREE

So you were never really worried about losing your awesome superpower were you? That was all hype huh?

                                                          SEBASTIAN

Okay, so maybe like some MC’s,  I did get a bit dramatical.

                                                             VERDREE

A bit? ‘I must find the evil and kill it.’ Negress please, I was going to cry foul if you didn’t take home an Oscar. Call Spike in to lobby on your behalf. ‘Sista wuz robbed. The Academy is still racist, Halle, notwithstanding.’ I’ll hand it you Sebastian. You had Danny believing it was all his decision to stay up in there. You’re such a crafty little witch. How you ever get anybody to trust you I’ll never know. Am I the only one who questions your bullcrap?

 

                                                              SEBASTIAN

You know my motto, service to the race….

                                                           VERDREE

Yeah yeah, service to the race  for a profit. But how you spelling that? Ph or PR?

                                                              SEBASTIAN
My sister that’s between you me and the lightbulb—

                                                              VERDREE

And the lightbulb don’t talk. Right. So whats up.  between you and that pretty dreadlock man with the git-tar over there?  Yall got a thing going on. Is he coming back with us?

                                                               SEBASTIAN
Him? Come back with us? Child he aint real. How he’s gonna be real with all that pretty long hair? You didn’t think all that long hair was real did you? Yes you did. Fess up.

                                                         

                                                             VERDREE (hi-fiving SEBASTIAN)

Well virtually real if nothing else.

(They walk off together  into the nuclear sunset.)

 

Sex Pistols(A Ballistc Affair), a story by Greg Tate

SEX PISTOLS (A BALLISTIC AFFAIR)

      In Marina’s experience, the boys with the most guns were always the most beautiful boys, the most game boys. 

    They only boys she wanted to talk to at the parties,  the only ones she could see herself going home with at the end of the night. 

   Marina always demanded they wear their little buddies to bed, holstered and strapped across their bare nekkid chests.

She loved the feel of grooved, tippled metal grazing her stomach, breasts and ribs.

 She lived to absorb the lovetaps a weapon’s icy weight doled out when her one-night beaus took to tossing and tumbling her around. 

    One fellow, a true professional, revered among his cronies as a killer’s killer, brought three sidearms when he came to bang and gt banged in return up against her—her: the 38 he kept strapped across his chest, the 22 he’d taped to his thigh, and this oldskool miniature, tubular zip gun of a thing which he kept clipped to the Prince Albert piercing  clamped onto his phallus.  (She told best female friend Duck that she had never, ever, in her frothy recollection, come harder. )

       

    She didn’t keep any guns in the house. They meant nothing to her if they didn’t come with a simmering male body attached.  

   There was one guy  who spoke of a desire to rub his unholstered weapon’s barrel round and round her clitoris and then pump it’s clipless stock on her labia majora, but she refused him. She liked the idea but instinct told her to save it for a less gung-ho guy–the kind of guy who’d have to be convinced that was such a good idea.   

 Marina refused to acknowledge her ‘taste in men’  as a fetish. 

She could recall having sex and even enjoying it without guns being flashed or being used to fondle her.And  when her work required it she could even manage a projectile orgasm without a firearm grinding against her ribs. For this reason she refused to countenance the notion that the pleasure she took from sex with gunmen made her some kind of addictive, freaky gun moll. As always with Negroes, it’s the reductive label that they hate (straight, bi, gay, dominant, submissive, fetish freak) more than the act itself. This is why we so commonly hear things like ‘I fuck men but I’m not gay’ and so forth. Labels tend to read like prison sentences to Blackfolk who often find their freedom in fluid states of being. This is even more true of Blackfolk like Marina who fancy themselves a breed apart. Her, a fetishist? She just couldn’t see it, no matter how often friends called upon Freud for backup. It helped that what she knew about fetishes, in a clinical sense, was next to nil. This is why, to her  mind, if there were no elaborate rules and no special make-up or studded leather harnesses  and no feverish theatre of the repressed mind going on when there were small arms centerstage, then she was no fetishist. As far as she was concerned it was simple: she just liked boinking guys with guns strapped on because she mightily liked the feeling of those hard, slick, powerful, life-determining things bumping and jumping her bones. 

She would admit to loving the element of risk involved.  Some of her guys wanted to remove their bullets first, and she would let them; that was no biggie for her. Registering the click of the safety was as close as she came to  security measures. What she didn’t always like was the extreme roughness of some of the more stubbled grips or when some of the left handed guys wore their pieces with the grip pointed inward as that made her feel like her titties were being hammered against..  

    The few and far between occasions she had slept with women let her know her taste in girls ran towards nothing more deadly than spiky jewelry and small blades–preferably unsheathed since she didn’t mind a few nicks and cuts here and there and favored the shiver she caught whenever she spied small streaks of blood splattering the sheets. Nothing her regular cleaning lady wasn’t used to or couldn’t emotionally handle. 

  (In her time with Marina that poor woman had had to clean up far worse stains. None worse than those left behind after her Guinness book escapade–a 72 hour stunt involving live chickens, lusty robot zombies, roman candles, and a steotypegically-correct Talking Hottentot Booty doll. This performance is now officially recorded as the world’s longest continuous work of  performance-art. 

   One critic even went so far  as to  describe the piece as ‘bridging the gap between Yoruba, necrophilia and the African genome’. That fanciful prose description was much to the disgust of her Yoruba practicing father, mother and two older brothers, all of whom were forced to hear about it in grand detail a self-congratulatory dinner in the Hamptons Marina threw for herself after not being nominated for a Tony award that same year.

(‘ I mean,  really, a Tony, Duck? I mean, C’mon, how monumentally uncool is that? They day I quit the business is the day they hand me a Tony. I mean, I’ve had my un-acceptance speech ready for years.’)

   

    If Marina would not admit to being a textbook fetishist, she would cop to being a very Wild girl– ‘Yes, I’m that perfect heretic that stereotype tells us every upright preacher’s daughters must turn out to be.’

   

Marina had long ago decided that embracing the stigma of being seen as a godly man’s wildchild demanded much from her outrageous imagination. 

     In her late 20s she  became fond of saying to friends and (always-kept-distant) relations how, ‘Having discovered my role early in life I decided to give it all I had. What was left,  I gave to Off-off Broadway.’ Her current show was a faux-feminist extrapolation, The Virtues and Varieties of Our Virgin Mother’s Orgasm’. 

      In it she and 27 other women  portrayed a composite of orgasmic states that had been dutifully researched by Marina and her co-writer/ best friend Duck over a five year span in several predominantly Catholic countries. Holy and unholy states of ecstasy were all given their due in the course of the performance’s thirteen  hour run.    

   

     Marina herself played two roles in the production. In the opening minutes she played a kidnapped nun named Mariah who develops Stockholm syndrome and has sex-starved visions of dressing her captors in robes and habits and humping them to death.

     In the second act she came on in the role of an East Harlem woman not so unlike herself who was going for the Guinness Book world record in projectile-orgasm yardage from her low-rise futon. 

      Though all of Marina’s understudies required  a fluid-shooting harness and unsightly catheter tubes taped near their private parts, Marina was a natural at long-distance female ejaculation. On her best nights she could fling precious bodily fluids  just a few inches shy of the light array mounted ten feet above the  set. 

      According to the skit’s plot, the day a Guinness film crew arrived they’d find her character’s  prone form set to erupt like a volcanic geyser or a gushing whalespout. One  all too ready to shoot off at a moments notice and head its spew directly for the heart of the sun, or at least the set’s  backprojected reasonable facsimile. 

     

       Somewhere during the middle of  the  run Marina was approached by the enterprising young photographer and filmmaker Aron Dearborne to star in a fictional documentary he was shooting on a group he described as ‘the Busted Afro-Victorians’. 

      This motley crew of  scenesters based their exploits on a mutual exploration and exploitation of  Wharton (and Scorsese’s) The Age of Innocence and Chester Himes’ scandalous Harlem Renaissance novel Pinktoes. 

       Marina was not part of their set but she knew most of them by sight from various venues found in Black Bohemia at the time.  She naturally found perverse joy in the irony of going from nudity on Broadway to being corseted, mummified and strapped into the longflowing raiments of  the Afro-Victorian’s salon straitjackets.    

 

     

       It was at one of Dearborn’s photo shoots that she met Bono Pruitt, another beautiful star/outsider Dearborn had brought in to break up the drawn-and-puckered monotony of the underage Afro-Victorian clique. 

     It would be through Pruitt  that she’d became acquainted with the Chimurenga Twins (later known as ‘the Robo Coptic Boy when they abandoned theatre for music) who kept an  Afro-Warholesque enterprise on Governor’s Island.

     Thus it came to pass that while performing on the Chimurenga’s catwalk our Mz. Marina made indelible eye contact with three massive ruffians who insisted they only be addressed collectively and indiscriminately, as The Big Truck. 

(Never  as just ‘Big Truck’, either; even if they liked you they had no tolerance for people who got too familiar too fast and rushed past the definitive article.) 

    It further came to pass  that  while hanging out and about with The Big Truck that Marina became introduced to their little brother, The Definitive, a solo act who naturally, only allowed himself to be addressed as ‘The Definitive’.  

      The Definitive would turn out to be, point-blank, the only man she would ever meet whose sex-with-guns desires rivaled, if not outstripped her own. 

    

     Their ballistic love affair  began when The Big Truck having learned Marina was a gun freak brought  The Definitive to catch her on Broadway.  

     Having been informed by his brothers of her adoration for men who carried heat to bed, The Definitive flashed her from the fourth orchestra row with some of his most prized pieces. There was the transparent glock with all synthetic moving parts he kept in a shoulder holster. There was the midget sawed-off he barely concealed bulging beneath the thigh  of his tear-off cargo pants. There was the loaded and fully-operational toy derringer locket which swung from a chain to the left of his heart. There was also, lest we forget, his piece de resistance, a row of powder-packed gunshell-shaped fronts fenced across his front teeth.  

    

      Marina, who could barely contain her delight in this exhibition , raced through her first ovation, skipped the company bow, and  barely said goodbye to anyone before running off into the night with The Definitive. That night, for the first time in the show’s two year run, her vaginally projected spume was seen arcing high enough to bounce when it splashed onto the  catwalk.

The Definitive lived in a private building just across 110th Street. 

     His bedroom turned out to be a gun toting shrine. It was indeed, a veritable firearm lover’s temple; one that came replete with several seven foot glass gun racks.

      These were wrapped around  the room’s cylindrical circumference and stocked with every sort of rifle, pisttol, gunmount, and ammo-belt imaginable. 

      The bed itself was designed after the rounded recoil chamber of a Tommy Gun. The  curved walls and ceiling were pasted with several of The Definitive’s  personal-best target-shooting posters. 

     Between two of  the gun racks there was an polished ebony bureau, a special holding place, he told her, to memorialize all his one-time only pieces–all the ones that had bodies on them  that in his humble opinion, ‘would never be found,  least not in one piece.’ 

        An altar sat atop this bureau laced and littered with dead looking metallic flowers and an Ogun-like statuary figure carved from an alloy she couldn’t place. There was also on the bureau’s top  a necklace composed of animal fangs and bronzed shell casings.  

    While Marina undressed and freshened up, The Definitive dumped the red silk sheets draping the tommy-gun mattress with a treasure trove of weaponry from various nooks and crannies. He then sprinkled another sprawling selection of ordinance around the bed as if they were  romantic rose petals, (his ‘petals of evil’ Marina called them).  

     

     When she got naked and came to embrace him he turned his body into hers in a manner assuring that the sawed-off on his thigh would lean in hard against the side of her buttocks. 

    Then, as she wrote in her diary the next day, ‘he lavishly stroking my liquefied bushy meadow and lusciously lubricious pudenda with an unmistakably expert knowledge of tension and release.’

        Over breakfast the next morning The Definitive asked Marina to pass along a letter he’d written to her producer, the one and only Malcolm Jack Spratt . 

     When she asked what was in the letter he told her it was confidential, a correspondence between Gentlemen. He added somewhat ominously how he hoped she would honor his wishes and not break the seal because ‘discovering you possess any capacity for betrayal of my trust in you might one day prove fatal.’ 

She assumed he was joking and tittered. 

She further assumed that the letter contained warning of some ridiculous gift he was going to have delivered to the theater for her. 

   When she turned the letter over to her producer, Spratt opened it quizzically, read through it with  a look of incredulous consternation and then guffawed bitterly in her face. 

          “I’d say you’ve really gone and done it this time Miss Gunswoon. You really havent read this have you? Well listen to this my friend:your pretty boy gangster friend has been kind enough to let me know that since you’re ‘His Woman’ now, it’s no longer appropriate for you to continue in my– Ha!, get that!, ‘My’!– show. 

     I’m  to sign my understanding of such, release you from your contract, then send you home to him this evening before curtain time, after having informed you that your understudy will be taking over your part. Where do you find these rubes babycakes? I mean really?”

  

       Marina nearly fainted. 

Less at the threat of violence implied than at the threat of actually becoming party to that dreadful  state of interpersonal coupling known as A Relationship. 

     As best she could remember she had only been in three of those ‘bejesusgawdawful  thingees’, as such,  in her life. 

The first had been shortly before she graduated from high school. 

   That spring she had gotten very close to a once lovely Serbian boy, one possessed of  a ripe and hungry mouth which had been malformed into a  permanently twisted grin by a nasty car collision the previous winter. Their three month tryst had only been set in motion by her desire to disgust her parents and her entire graduating class. 

     The second time had been her marriage to a hook –hanging sadomasochist who turned out to be battling a bout of abnormalcy before returning to brokerage, much to her disgust. 

The third had been an unrequited lesbian entreaty involving her co writer and best friend Duck who formed her only true female infatuation to date. 

 

       Marina, she had to admit to herself, had indeed thought about becoming The Definitive’s  steady woman for a brief but oh so brief time after their first satisfying night together but never, ever, had she considered becoming his longtime concubine. And she was certainly not the kind of woman who could be traded between fellow patriarchs in some sort of  pimpological auction block scenario.

         “So  call me a drama queen”, she declared to Duck, ‘but yes girl,  I nearly fainted right there in Jack’s office. I mean this barely out of high school barely post adolescent fool actually assumed Malcolm Jack owned my ass because I nightly perform naked in his house.  Then he’s furthermore got the nerve to think  I’m Spratt’s property like the man can just unload my ass on the open market? Oh, no. Oh, hell, no. Just what kind of  antebellum throwback is this young nigga?. 

      Okay,girl, yes, the kind who shoots people for a living but still, this is the 21st century and  certain forms of politically correct decorum need not be discarded .  So while, yes, he is precisely my kind  of  throwback, you know I’m not one to deconstruct basic feminist principles, especially at risk of my career. 

    ‘So here’s what I’ve decided: I’m going to send my understudy over to invite The Definitive to tonight’s show. She’ll request how  I’d so love it if he could bring another copy of his letter over as I seem to have lost the original in the cab I took on the way over.  Meanwhile Duck I’m going to go find The Big Truck and see if they might be able to talk some sense into that boy’s head before things really get out of hand.”

      As luck would have it though, fate kindly intervened. Duty called, and The Definitive and The Big Truck had to suddenly leave town,  therefore making Marina’s  subterfuge unnecessary. 

     Just before curtain call Marina received a message from The Definitive saying he and his brothers had a business trip but ‘don’t bother calling because we’re traveling Incog-negro, way under the radar. I’ll ding you when we get back which should be in about two weeks.”

 

      With that mysterious, serendipitous adieu The Definitive was virtually gone, leaving only worrisome vapor trails and big, Roy Lichenstein sized thought balloons of anxiety to form over Marina’s head. 

         

    “What the hell is this shit, Duck ? Two weeks of him having the upper hand, the element of surprise? Oh, no. Oh, hell no, I’m not with that”.

      Marina now had no clearcut way to outfox The Definitive and counter his insane demand for her retirement. 

The stress alone was enough to make her think about quitting the show and even show business.  

   

 “Call me a drama queen but I am ready to just quit this whole highfalutin Broadway diva life. Just take all my savings and run off  for a spell. Like go see some friends in Sicily or Sardignia or Dakar, or Bari or…Hell, even Albania might be relaxing this time of year.”

    

      What she chose to do instead was to go into her own form of protective custody, a witness protection program of her own invention as it were. One where’d she’d take the low roads, do a brief supper theater  tour and  stay on the downlow until she’d gotten word The Definitive and The Big Truck had definitively returned to Gotham. 

     After that her plan was to come back and cross that bridge when she came to it.

     Exactly how long to stay away was a question that got thrown into confusion by hearing from The Definitive via postcard that his disappearance from the city might now extend itself from two weeks to six to three months.

    

     The depression and indecision which ensued from her desperation and anxiety over his unknown date of return had the desired effect of forcing her to resign from her own Broadway hit. 

     Now she had only to extract herself from the Relationship as easily as she took to her bed of malady, vapours, and depression in the face of career-suicide.   

    Once again however, the perpetual good fortune that came with being a show biz gypsy  gracefully intervened,  showing up at her door with news of a touring production of an earlier Marina work called ‘Killer Dykes of the Ki-Kongo’. 

     Marina had concocted this production nearly a decade ago. It was largely about an imaginary troupe of legendary African amazons who became, in the mythical story, hooked up with Harriet Tubman during the Civil War. 

      Alerting the production’s management of not only her approval but her availiblity for the cast, she set about relearning the piece.

     Joining the company automatically meant weeks of travel out of the limelight. The goal was to hit isolated, culture starved, lesbian dinner theater spots around the country. 

    What it would mean for Marina though was not sitting in New York fretting and sweating in a panic and waiting for The Definitive to show up again. All gun-toting 6’3 of him and his expectations for  her to run away from the circus, come home to poppa and wait on him, and only H.I.M.,  hand and, surely, bound, foot.

     On audition day, Marina sauntered into the theatre, idly  basked in the glowing awe the young idolator of a director shined at her, quickly plotted and executed  usurpation of said director’s authority, then took it upon herself  to run an abridged version of the whole show. Thereby masterfully showing producers, directors, cast and crew not only how she expected every role to be played, but how she expected the parts to be passionately surrendered to, mind, body, spirit and Kirlian aura.

     

     Her five fellow thespians, already cast, consisted of  one hardrock girl named Cookies who believed the term thespian meant ‘theatrical lesbians’, a transplanted South African aspiring hiphop singer named Ndebele who was toying with changing her MC handle to either MC In De Belly or MC  Gutt ;  two around the way girls from Gary, Indiana, Pam Mella and Marzipan, and an unusually Zen, unusually sanguine she-male named  Julia Roberston (‘of the Poughkeepsie Roberstons’ ) who refused to relent on the claim that Julia Robertson was her birth name for all the surgery she’d obviously had done to make her resemble the film star whose name she had, tackily and far from cleverly,  grafted a ‘son’ onto. 

 

     

         After a shaky week of rehearsals the troupe piled into a large passenger van, to be followed by an even larger props truck. They  then hit the road for parts previously unknown to Marina in the wild midwest. 

      In the show Ndebele played Harriet Tubman  while the others, led by Marina, paraded around  in faux spearchucking Zulu warrior gear, kidnapped Miss Julia Robertson from the plantation,  and, thanks to the magic of audiotape and slides, lynched various massas,  rubber-necklaced hordes of informers, set trained backwoods dogs on dogged slave catchers, and kept on keeping on in their march for The Great White Way on a North Star lit yellow brick road to freedom toward the other Emerald City, New York New York.  

   

      The ‘Killer Dyke’ threat of  the show’s title drew the target demographic in but when it turned out to be more killing than loving going on, and killing of white women at that, complaints began to pour in from patrons who felt ‘eaten alive by the show’s ‘incomprehensible anger at progressive women of  a fairer color’.

  

      Ndebele took up the braveheart task of representing the cast and producers in asking Marina to consider toning down the anti-white female violence of this early work, and perhaps consider inserting a sympathetic white woman into the character line-up. Under other circumstances Marina might have ranted and raved until the poor girl congealed into a jello like state, but as this was one show she needed to go on and on, she chagrinned everyone by  revising an early piece of juvenalia which she too in all honesty, actually found as insufferable as any of her critics did. 

      Marina even gave the good white woman not only a speaking part but a love affair with her own Amazon leader  character. It had originally been her stance that she did not want sexual escapades overwhelming  and obscuring the history lessons she hoped to impart  about African amazons and the precedent they set for Tubman. 

              

“Now however”, she wrote to Duck,  “there’s a silly fertility dance scene where all us big buck women  bare our breaststesses together, bay at the moon,  shaketh our derrieres, basically just shake that azz,  and generally,  show these cloistered huddled lesbonic masses what we’re working with.’ 

     This scene had the powerful effect of driving all the ladies in the house wild and getting some of their crowds hopeful for some even more bawdy, integrated afterplay during the afterparty. 

     After their fourth Pennsylvania-Ohio rust belt town bacchanal Marina came to conclude that the Midwest, and by default middle America, was actually more decadent than she had been led to believe. New Yorkers might have been more overt and stylish while in public pursuit of getting their freak on but they were certainly no more aggressive than their party-hardy Midwestern counterparts.

  

     What she also realized, after sighting the frequent odd groups of thugs in every house, was how much criminals, and especially the pretty ones like her type of man, loved to hang out in man-friendly girlbars.  

    The disastrous law of averages and rude coincidences being what they were, she knew it was only matter of time before somewhere out there, in some under-the-exit ramp roadhouse establishment, way out in no-man’s land , she was going to look up and find The Definitive and possibly even the whole The Big Truck clique “fittin’ to drag me off stage, toss me into the trunk of their vehicle and haul my ass back to be wall-chained and chastity-belted in  the efficiency sized wardrobe closet of The Definitive’s Gotham budoir.”

 

     Week four found the troupe just outside of Toronto in a supersmall suburb that had once served as the setting for an X Files episode. This claim to fame was extolled in the local diner’s star-worshiping menu where ”David Duchovny Spinach Salad’’ held forth with  “The Smoking Man Smoked Trout Sandwich”. 

     The script for the episode in question had required building a large scale model of an alien spaceship that came with surgical tables and an array of operating instruments of extraterrestial design. 

     Many of the townsfolk who’d been recruited as extras had idly taken to returning to the abandoned site after the show aired. This soon turned into the longest wrap party in show biz history before finally becoming a regularly scheduled local ‘X-files themed rave/cult. 

    The event and the tribal gathering it jumpstarted both went on to survive the cancellation of the program. 

     First time initiates at the rave  found themselves made to stand alone in a shaft of light before being hoisted by a crane into the bay of  the fake mothership which was itself suspended by yet another crane. 

        Once inside newcomers allowed themselves to be alien-probed, plucked and messaged to the musical  accompaniment of the ‘burbs resident gothic-triphop genius, DJ E =mc Spock, all while conveniently  tripping on Spock’s other homegrown invention—an ecstasy derivative which one only needed mightily sniff to get sent into groovy elation by. 

    As Marina’s lifepath would have it, this Spock fellow also happened to be the region’s number one inspired-amateur manufacturer of hallucinogens. As she and Spock’s commingled pot of luck further insured, The Definitive and his brothers The Big Truck had been hired to make the young funk doctor Spock an offer he couldn’t afford to refuse.

     Their employers, it seems, were a shadowy, quasi-revolutionary, and some thought, pseudoscientific group known as the  Quantum Black  Movement. 

    This group was bent on taking over the Midwest’s lucrative white trash drug trade and using the illicitly gained loot in support of their own probing, prodding and scraping Mengeles-like genetic experiments on a political opposition they freely and liberally dubbed ‘the whitebodypolitic’. 

      Marina and young Spock’s  parallel trails would come to a crossroads the day of the troupe’s closing party. 

   

   That small, intimate affair had been organized by Dame Robertson who, upon deciding she’d missed the company of good friends for too long, went on line, to chicks-with-dicks-andthe-womenwho-love-them.com and invited half the she-male population of the East Coast to the affair.  

    It further occurred that when Dame Roberston went down to the local Greyhound station to pick up the meagre party of seven who answered her E-vite, Marina came along to drive the second car. 

       Thus our heroine came to see that when Roberston’s colorful, caustic, estrogen injected crew (somewhat stiff necked from traveling 18 hours) de-bussed so did The Definitive and The Big Truck. 

     She also noted that the team of assassins had that world-weary look, which we all know so well from the movies, of slick killers who come to an absurdly hick town and find that their already high quotient of meanness has risen several notches due to the general shithole quality of the place their work has taken them to. 

      

     Since The Big Truck didn’t see her she figured she was off the hook, not knowing that The Definitive had made friends with the she-males on the bus and had promised to demonstrate his expertise in shiatsu message after the long trip from New York.

      Imagine Marina’s surprise when The Definitive came ambling over to her vehicle. 

    Her first thought was to jump the curb and run him down, but she wisely thought the better of it. 

    When the group began piling in she made a point of looking out her window as long as she could, hoping he’d somehow wind up in the back seat. “With those long legs of his Duck, ha, fat chance.” 

     And so they soon found themselves staring into each other’s eyes again for the first time in weeks.          

       “Girl, I come back home to no note, no call, no news at all. I go down to that theatre, you’ve blown the coop, nobody knows where you are. Some people had heard you had a nervous breakdown, and had wound up drugged-back in some clinic somewhere. And here you are here still gallivanting. Damn,  I thought we were soul mates.”

    In response to this earnest outpouring of love Marina, gave it her all and responded in kind.

        “I love you baby, I really do, and we are soul mates. But I can’t stop being a hoofer in the name of love. That would just be a slow death. And I’d want to kill you. And everything just wouldnt really be that much fun anymore.”

       

 But you understand my position don’t you Marina?  I mean I can’t have my woman flashing her pussy for porkchops for the world at large. People would talk. I might have to hurt a civilian or even a smart-mouthed relative or colleague or two. Or three.” 

       “But baby this performing thing is what I love to do. I’d never ask you to stop popping strangers if that’s what makes you happy.”

         “Woman, how you gonna go there? I mean, that’s so different. You’re mixing apples and kumquats now. ‘Cause I don’t like what I do. Its just something I’m really, really good at, and the pay is nice, and I don’t have to deal with a lot of bullshit interference and whatnot. But I don’t make people pay for the privilege of watching me do it and I wouldn’t get off on it if I did.” 

        “So is it the money or the exposure that bothers you?

        Baby, no. “It’s you telling me it was my pussy and then selling it to the world. And don’t tell me that was just pillow talk.”

        “No dear, I meant it in more than just a romantic sense, but what I do onstage is just a show. Its not my love for you I’m giving away. Baby, you’re my last gunman. I only wish you had been my first.

    The various sexually ambiguous parties from New York in the back seat oohed an ahhed at every sick twist and turn of this unbashedly icky conversation. 

     Given other circumstances, Marina and The Definitive might have soon found themselves in her motel room getting it on with lots of guns around. The winds of change however had other ideas as Marina, caught up in The Definitive’s web of ill logic, found herself sideswiping  an oncoming Chevy van which piled into a parking meter backwards and quickly spilled out of its busted innards DJ Spock, two Vestax turntables, four Bose monitors and a few thousand chemically dipped sheets of his choice synthetic drug product. 

       In the ensuing bedlam the he-girls from New York snatched up every sheet of the stuff they could manage. DJ E = mc Spock, showing little concern for the fruits of his labwork, locked  his fingers tight around the handles of the two  aluminum roadcases which contained his rarest vintage vinyl (virgin pressings of Earth Wind and Fire’s score for Sweet Sweetback’s Baaadass Song, producer director and writer Melvin Van Peebles own score for his stage musical Aint Supposed To Die A Natural  Death, several original, warped pressings of  Sun Ra white label singles from the 60s and 70s, Kool and The Gang’s Live At The Sex Machine, and the Lyman Woodard Organization’s Saturday Night Special ) 

    Upon retrieving this case Spock then shot like a bat out of hell into a nearby stripmall that had seen better days, while The Definitive, immediately recognizing his prey took off after him like a silver bullet.

      Meanwhile Marina, having rethought the prospect of spending a lifetime with a man who shot other men down in the street like dogs, just kept driving until she found herself in Satketchawan, where she took one look around at the tundra and rightfully believed herself in desperate need of a well stocked fur trapper and a respectable black box theatre.

ALTERED SPAYDES: FABLES OF HARLEM& RACE-MUTATION Stories by Greg Tate

This is the post excerpt.

 

ALTERED SPAYDES by Greg Tate 

‘It was the time to hear things and talk. These sitters had been tongueless, earless, eyeless conveniences all day long. Mules and other brutes had occupied their skins. But now the bossmen were gone so the skins felt powerful and human. They became the lords of sounds and lesser things. They passed nations through their mouths. They sat in judgement.

Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

You sit there like a great black hound spiked to an ivory pedestal. An all night long I heard you murmurin that devilish word. They thought I didn’t hear Y, but I did. Mumblin, feedin that ornery thing that’s living on my insides. Father John. Father Satan. What does it mean to you. You’re dead already. Death. What does it mean to you? To you who died way back there in the sixties. What are you throwin it in my throat for? Jean Toomer, Cane (1928).

”Desire, my dear Sphinx, is the ultimate form of vulnerability, and the most democratic. The only weakness shared equally by the postal worker and the great dictator. Desire is remarkably fluid. Sometimes it turns up as an object, sometimes it turns up as a circumstance. Sometimes it’s just an excuse to behave badly, to act out. Sometimes desire comes cloaked in a pre-emptive strike. Sometimes desire is a blonde girl just bright enough to be verging on catatonia and utter vacuousness while rapidly losing lustre everytime she opens her mouth. But when the blonde is brown,smart, sexy and lotsa laughs’ then what?

     Desire should not be confused with fantasy. Desires should be firmly possible to grip. Desire should reside squarely in the realm of the probable. Desire should require some sacrifice. A gamble. A walk on the wild side. Desire should appear as a chance operation full of dicey prospects and a narrow margin for acceptable error. Desire inevitably fails the test. Desire demands lusting for something that when gained will turn out to be worth far less then what you sacrificed to obtain it.

Babylonia Free/Inside Out:A Womb For Homegirls Prison Journals.

Darling Sphinx, We need come clean. (As) two black women. who. Argue. Constantly. About the womb for hire homegirls. Black women of color for whom other black women dissaprove. Those of my mother Nada Free Mayor of Gothams ilk. Those who say ”Those girls are Out There.” Though the truth is they are ”In Hear.” Listening to things nobody else wants to.

Like’Those Voices’.

All our transcorporeal generations.

Sisters wailing and orbiting the earth in search of an inviting hearth.

A basket of fruit laid down in an out of the way corner or upon an altar. A promise of remembrance. In pushing them out of our busy lives we knew we were hastening our own demise.

Isn’t this why we became Womb For Homegirls? (To) answer their calling?

Calling all black women. Calling all black women. Lettered and unlettered.

Titled and untitled. Forbidden and unbidden. Corseted and uncloseted. All kinds except your kind Sphinx.

Calling that freak of nature who listens only to her own calling.

The one who could somehow levitate beyond reach of Those Voices.

Why do no entombed grandmothers ever come around clamoring for your soul darling one? Perhaps since all you ever do is fight. Night and day. T

hey know to leave you alone and worry more about the rest of us who require the strength of numbers and superior technology.

No matter how often you scrape out Your Womb, you’ll be fine, remain fertile That being your nature, Nature leaves you alone.

Not at the mercy of Those Voices.

But let me tell you something about Those Voices In Hear.

They tell us a great and terrible army will be raised against Us. They tell us that in that time of slaughter our bellies shall autonomically open and unleash our militant and vengeful progeny. And they will fly out of us with their swords and seraphim wings and firelicking tongues and obsidian tails and they shall raze this world of hypocritical Christians, mocking Muslims, un-gentle Jews ,illegitimate Coptics, false worshippers of Kali artificial Nubians, cloned Egyptians. You know of whom I speak.
Love from Dachau, Babylonia

Darling Sphinx,

We all put on genocide alert today. Some kind of renegade circus for the truthful soulful and soon to be multiplying fruitful.

Cigarettes and wooly blunts burned down to nervous fingertips. Studying the smudges and burn marks we’ve reinvented the lost art
of divination.

How many angels can dance on the nubs of these pawed and spavined hands? All these shaking hands. There will be no rowdiness in the lunch hall today.

No lost weekend cuddled up in the game hole with my idol Bunny Primus.

Nada Free Mayor of Gotham. The mother I thought was a cipher, a blank space in my life. She wants us all dead, my sisters and me. Wiped from the face of human memory and reproduction.

I remember the night she became mayor.

Quite vividly actually. I remember admiringly watching her and her campaign manager kissing quite passionately on the lips from the other terrace balustrade. I could see them but they couldn’t see me.

I made myself the lookout posted while my father read the little ones to sleep in their bedroom far down the hall.

I could have told him then that she was well practiced in the art of deceit, surveillance and sabotage.

That she had even trained me to believe she kept her eyes on me at all times.

That I never ever went anywhere without believing her gaze was fixed on me from some secret cubbyhole somewhere inside the walls.

Not until I became a Womb and rebirthed myself for the revolution did I stop believing those eyes continued to scrutinize everything I did.

Where once there were those who considered The Wombs a lunatic fringe of dubious and delusional females now there are teams of doctors gathered around the clock to ascertain how soon we might cesarean ourselves and give birth to sword swinging Coptic death angels who will bear the three sided faces of Marina, Romeo and Mandela Aint Free.

At the end of the day it matters less whether we will or we won’t. What matters, what threatens the status quo is that we do believe we can.

What they all refuse to understand is that the Quantum Black Womb does not carry the seeds of a race. The Quantum Black Womb does not carry on a culture.

No, The Quantum Black Womb is A Dangerous Idea.

And Dangerous Ideas have a way of spreading themselves around like a pestilence. And if we don’t have the science to do this monstrous thing we fantasize about it all the time why be afraid of us?

Because they know one day the will and the way shall come together.

We believe the day is coming soon when we shall hack our babies out of our insides and they shall be airborn and swinging sharpened steel and Coptic rebuke. I know They have begun to marshall forces against our Idea becoming Reality. Tell them I said, bring it on. Tell Nada I said, Bring it on. Come bring it Nada. Come to Harlem. Experience the magic. Feel the thunder and the metallic and acidic rain.
Love from Auschwitz Babylonia.

OF SPHINX, BABYLONIA FREE, CUT-CREATION CAPOEIRA AND THE ROBO-COPTIC BOYZ

Sphinx  had blown into Gotham from Boston scarcely expecting to be spreading her wings and shaking a tailfeather in Harlem proper come Saturday night.  The rainy Tuesday of her arrival had been all about schlepping trunks and other assorted luggage up to the third floor of her Aunt Snead’s South Bronx brownstone. By Sunday she had moved into the Harlem women’s shelter where her song and dance idol Noona counseled abused women and taught them martial arts. It wasn’t adoration for Noona alone which prompted this change of address. The need to move came after hearing Aunty relay to Mother the news that Daughter was keeping strange hours and even stranger company for a Barnard girl. After two hours of pacifying Mother, Sphinx got mad, got quiet and decided to get out:

`There and then I decided whoa, heifer-ho, time to go. Aint having no Aunty Snitches all up in my bloody business. That’s how my Barnard days got to be over before they’d even begun.’

On this point Sphinx  has to be exposed as being disingenous: dropping out of school was actually a decision she’d made long before she got to New York. College had already been rudely shoved out the frame long before Sphinx had swiveled down Club Satana’s burgundy crystal staircase and spied Nona in the crawlspace.  There sat The Woman, holding court, and smoking the biggest prayerstick  Sphinx (or probably anyone else) had ever seen. Not generally known as one for mystical speculation, even Sphinx took this first sighting for an omen. After all she had only come to Gotham for the express purpose of finding Noona. In her mind going to Barnard was  nothing more than a tactic to evade static with Mother about going somewhere as ‘dangerous’ and ‘faraway’ as Gotham. In pursuit of her goals Sphinx knew herself capable of any lie, any subterfuge, any deception. Not even in her wildest dreams however had she never imagined she and Noona would become running dogs right off the bat. Back in Boston folk older, wiser, and more widely traveled had told her ‘miracles happen on the regular in the big city of dreams’ but she thought they were just trying to fill her young head with  bunch of old nonsense.

On her first night in Harlem Sphinx stepped up in the club and started up  a conversation with an old Pretend Friend. Took him aside and liked to rag his ear off. Her Pretend Friend was named  ‘Revelations’; she turned to him whenever she needed some instant agreement. He had come in handy for her somewhere around the age of ten–roughly about the same time she figured out that the life she wanted for herself was going to be vastly different from the one her mother was dreaming of for her.  That first night in  Harlem, The Sphinx and Revelations got to carrying on about girlhood dreams and the promises they were supposed to keep. This tete a tete between woman and epiphany occurred at roughly 3 am just inside the pearly gates of Harlem’s Club Satana. By 4pm Sphinx would be completely drunk and carting Noona to Nona’s place in a gypsy cab. Eighteen months later this very same Club Satana, a tiny but historically significant square of underground real estate, would be under new management and renamed The Bomb Shelter. The name change would occur shortly before Babylonia Free’s mother Nada, then mayor of Gotham, would call in an airstrike against her renegade daughter’s adopted community.  Momma Nada would be specifically targeting for extinction Babylonia’s newfound comrades, the Womb For Hire Homegirls. The rest of Harlem be damned. Same as it ever was.

The night Revelations popped back into Sphinx’s head our heroine was not prophesying future wars. She was instead dancing wildly, wickedly humping her unzipped pantaloons against the backside of  Noona The Body, easily the flyest butch in the house. It was while bumping and grinding her groin against the retrorocket ass of Noona  that  Sphinx realized something more precious than cotan. That something was the power of her own dreams to trasnport her mind, body and spirit from one place to another. What else, she though, ‘could have taken me this far but my dreams?’ How else could she explain that once upon a time her every waking moment in Boston had been spent in misery. Now she was not only forever gone from the dreadful Beantown but living the life she’d  imagined for herself  since she was thirteen.   Everything that had happened since she arrived in Gotham  seemed strangely familiar. Not so much predestined as presaged–déjà vu’ hardly did justice to the feeling.

”This was actually a more fugitive  sensation. The kind that ran along the border dividing the imaginary from the prophetic. It was, as feelings go, this nimble sort of  dream-ninja thing. It was quick, it was stealthy. It was capable of deftly dodging the border guards of the unconscious and slipping into your waking life under cover of night.”

Thanks to her quick and stealthy night visions  Sphinx felt something divine was being presented to her, a naked window on essential truths. These truths might not have been carved onto stone tablets but she imagined they were of the kind that could lead people safely across desert wastes  and even part Red Seas if need be. She felt she was having the kind of appointment with one’s self that could transform a poor girl from Roxbury into a sporting queen. Given enough time her desire for a goodtime in Harlem might even morph into something resembling a mission from god.

There was one problem though. A nagging belief that her visions of Harlem had arrived at the party way before she did. She suspected that they had come early, ripped and roared with abandon, slimed and grimed up the joint and then y broke the hell on out just before she showed up. Clues had been left behind in her mind. A certain foreknowledge of the décor, the floor plan, and even some of the principal players. Sphinx began to have more maddening suspicions. Been here-done-that  seemed to be whispering from the shadows in a voice that sounded a lot like her own. These out-of-body sensations amused at first but soon proved not so amusing at all. She saw all the hot air come whooshing out of her birthday balloon. Scant minutes old, her grand entrance now began to feel like a repeat performance. ‘Sure it had gone according to plan,  but for that very reason it all began to seem anticlimactic as a motherfucker. I mean, c’mon, girl, hadn’t you outlined the entire scenario in your damn diary two years before?’ “fade in: (teaser) Sphinx’s high yella frame falls into Harlem like an astronaut upon re-entry. our heroine drops in with a blast. makes the proverbial big splash. swivels every head in the house with a reckless display of beauty and beatitude. camera freezes on Sphinx holding every hipster’s attention from the word go. many patrons are left stuttering and mumbling blankly to themselves. Not unlike her mythical namesake Sphinx possesses the power to stop men and women on the road of life and make them think twice before making another move. force them to reconsider their claims on cleverness and mortality.”

Though her arrival on the Harlem scene had made good on those adolescent power fantasies, all she felt now was sort of blah, sort of so what? She was becoming so unimpressed with herself on several counts. For one thing the joy of turning adolescent dreams into reality actually turned out to be quite fleeting. Doing the damn thing had proven more shallow than the daydreaming that preceded it. So here she was–sort of happy, but nowhere near as happy as she thought she was supposed to be. Her skin was decidedly not tingling with any sense of triumph or ablaze with an afterglow of transcendence. Where had she gone wrong? In a near-drunken stupor she wouldnt bet on coming to any profound conclusions. Making sense of things was a task to be reserved for a later day and a later diary. (When later came she soberly recalled how ‘in a last, pathetic gasp attempt to ra-ra myself i drunkenly shouted out, `am i the shit uptown or what?’. Uptown, of course, collectively smiled back, cooly winked to others at my expense and then rolled its eyes at me! After riding my own ego-train a few miles, i quickly reversed course and humbly thanked my ancestors for getting me this far. maybe I’d been plotting my escape, my arrival and my grand entrance for so long and in such graphic detail, that i lacked any perspective on how common it would seem to Harlem. Even to me it lacked for much in the way of novelty or surprise–with the exception of meeting Noona.’

Sphinx was not prepared to discover that Noona was the type of woman who let her man use her for a punching bag. That revelation came hours after she went to bed that first night at the shelter. Rattling, simpering, heavy breathing and a dull sort of pounding had all broken into her sleep. She rose to locate those noise’s source and was led to the upstairs kitchen, two flights up. Leaping stairs three at a time, she emerged on a landing to see Noona tied to a heating pipe with inner-tubing, her puffy bruised head hung low as she kept taking even more punishing bodyblows from a squat, elegeantly dressed European male with gauze wrapped around his fingers. The only thing that stopped  Sphinx from rushing him was Noona’s withering glare and a ragefilled reprimand–gasped, shrieked and stuttered out between an assortment of thuds and whacks that not even  Sphinx’s  attack-dog stance served to halt the force and repitition of. “Dont you come up here judging us, no. This is how we love. No bloody business of yours. Get away.”

Noona was not the first kickass woman Sphinx had met who believed violence equaled passion in a relationship. More novel was her mentor’s belief, related the morning after, that being abused helped her better understand her battered pupils.  Noona told Sphinx that she experienced her beatings as a  “a form of astral travel, really. Out of the body experiences that allow me to empathize with weaker women’s pain on a higher plane than may seem evident to you.”

Her abusive manchild (‘Elan’  a name  Noona liked to whisper with more creamy sentiment than Sphinx could stomach) was a banker of Serbo-Castillian birth who resided in a bunker beneath Battery Park City  reachable only by boat. Elan visited Noona only once a month but Noona talked about him as if they were attached at the hip, as if they were soul mates who shared a sadomasochistic lifestyle only they understood as one of love’s many splendored forms. In their dominance-submission scenario Noona could not imagine visiting violence on him. The suggestion alone, she said, was akin to advising she amputate a limb.  Sphinx pushed the idea no further than to raise the question. She had heard enough insane love-stories in her time not to allow Noona’s pathologies derail her own romantic quest–milking the woman for every iota of information about technique that had once made her the reigning queen-champion of ‘cut-creation capoiera’.

Sphinx’s obsession with Noona began and ended with their mutual passion for the sport where DJs in programmed fabric sparred in a deep pit kept ablaze by crossknit particle beams.  Movement and position of the whirling DJs body  relative to the streaming lightrays determined the sound-mix. The goal was to simulate murderous combat while choreographing a party-rocking symphony. This meant never losing the groove and thus incurring the wrath of the tribal dance floor–a writhing mass who would throw whatever was at hand into the pit should you stumble. Sphinx had dedicated her life to the sport after seeing Noona perform in the ’57 Olympics. In those trials Noona had demolished her competitors–some suffering injuries so severe that the sport would be subsequently banned in thirty states for nearly a decade. Noona had brought her rage and well-coordinated recklessness to a sport that up until her arrival had required about as much cunning and competitive spirit as synchronized swimming. Her fury had raised the stakes and made her a role model for edge-driven young women like The Sphinx. She was also the first women anyone had ever seen who sparred completely nude after being the first to have sensors surgically implanted in her body.

Noona’s love for Elan’s abuse aside, training with The Woman made  Sphinx feel blessed,  like her life was finally on the correct course. Yet even with her luck running so high, the whole dropping out of school thing meant finding a job and a domicile to call her own as well. The need became acute once she realized how tempestuous shelter life could be. All those enraged spouses attempting break-ins at all hours, all those shell-shocked fugitive wives having to be kept from shutting off the y-chromosome alarms. “Too many female problems up in this camp” is how Sphinx broke it to Noona after two sleepless weeks of repelling invader boyfriends, husbands and lovers and comforting the braindead manpuppets who loved them

Noona graciously accepted  Sphinx’s decision to leave (‘Girl, I didn’t think you’d last three nights’) When  Sphinx professed a desire to find gainful employment Noona suggested security work with one of the gypsy protection services who ‘regulated’ parties in the neighborhood.  “Hazards of the trade”, Nona informed her, “insure a high turnover rate, so generally speaking, there’s never a lack of openings. Plus, besides regulatin’ being the kind of job that’ll keep you in training and on your toes, doing security is about the best introduction to life uptown a curious and adventurous little butch like you could ever ask for.”

The first security outfit  Sphinx called went by the name Rick’s Mother A Bitch. Ricks directory advert had read Let Us Lockdown Your Function And Even Your Mama Won’t Be Startin None That Stupid Mess’. When she informed the dispatcher that she was training with  Noona the woman up and offered Sphinx a job that very night.

We’ll let Sphinx’s diary pick up the action from here:

“The party site turned out to be turf along the Riverside Drive Promenade between 155th and 161st streets.  Supposedly I had some  long lost cousins up in that area, members of the Jumel Terrace Death Squad. They were fabled as far as Boston for the wreckage they’d put on your function if it was judged ‘interminable’. I wondered if they’d show me love should they turn up. Given my past experiences with roughneck relatives, I tried not to keep my fingers crossed.

I arrived at the bivouac flying Rick’s flag and got surprised by an all woman security crew. I’d never seen a Lockdown that was what me and my girls, in less enlightened times, used to call ‘strictly-clitly’. In  Boston boys tended  to stay more in line when a few butches were present at  events– nobody wanted to be out-stomped or out-shot by a bunch of females in front of his boys–but there were hardly enough real women in Boston to build an entire squad with. Nona told me later that in Gotham they believed that while a dick might maim you for stepping out of line, the going opinion was, based on their need to overcompensate, a gaggle of psycho-security butches  was likely to panic, swarm and kill a nigknack. That line of reasoning struck me as odd since none of the women I’d seen doing the job in Boston had ever put any party people in the grave. On the other hand, these New York butches did look more than capable of putting a hurting on someone if they chose to. They were taller, sturdier and more limber than their Boston counterparts. They also clearly meant business from the showy combat exercises they put on once they’d zipped into the trade’s armored bodysuits. Stuff like bullseye shooting the short cannon while performing backflips, show off-y stuff like that. Even so I have to admit I was truly impressed by their rough and ready physicality. All in all it actually made me feel, like, for once I was among peers.

Rick’s  ringleader turned out to be this buffed middle-aged butch with a brunette topknot named Tunji-Ola-Ola-Ola. I rolled up on cronegirl as she was locking metal braces around thighs  about as hard and faceted as polished onyx.She stopped dressing long enough to give me a vicious once-over. I returned fire with a stare that stated, Don’t even try and get evil with me oldass butch because I’m down for whatever, wherever, whenever.’

As we drew blood with our optical daggers, I noted that Tunji’s hair was unnaturally streaked with grey and white highlights. The streaks made her look like even a much older woman, somebody maybe in her late 40s, not 30s.  This struck me as odd after we’d had some loose conversation.

Tunji, I soon realized could not have been that much older than me. Twenty-seven, twenty eight, tops.  I could  tell she’d led a hard life;figured she’d probably hoped to soften her rough features by appearing far older than she was. It wasn’t working. I knew it, she knew it and she instantly knew that I knew and had thus detected a minor chink in her emotional armor. Knowing she had a vulnerable side probably wouldn’t hurt down the line. Especially since her first take on me seemed somewhere between begrudging admiration and mild contempt. When she came at me verbally, the Virgo in me came out without hesitation. I gave as good as I got, gambled being blunt wouldn’t cost me the gig.Quite the opposite in fact, if a butch played it right.

-So you the one who lives with Noona The Body? Office told me you’d be coming down.

-Correction I trains with Noona. I’m just living there until I can afford to move. This is where you come in. You got work for me tonight right?

-I didn`t think Noona could stand having even one real strong woman up in her space. Not seeing the company she keeps. That little Serbo Spanglish speaking boy she likes to have beat on her, you met him yet?

-Comes to lovers we all get to pick our poisons, dear. Noona probably be with a woman who liked to kick her ass if she swung that way. Some butches just funny like so. So you all are what, some bad ass bunch of straight hets or ambidextros up in this camp or what, huh?

-Some is, some ain’t. I like dick, she likes clit. Whatever floats your boo. Long as everbody knows, you know, like how the saying goes…’

-Who you fucking don’t mean jack. Long as you got your sister’s  back.

-Eggzakatakly. You got a problem with butches who glaze the clit?

-Naw. Back home plenty of my running dogs was basters. I am looking for a room mate though.  You know sometimes butches who baste don’t care to shack up with those of us who go in for that big black dick.

-Where did you say you were from originally?

-I didn’t. I got here about a week ago from Roxbury. Roxbury, Massachoochoo, that is. The big RPM. Thirty three revolutions per minute baby. Roxbury M.I.A.

-Well, mmph and my, my, my. So we got us a radical butch on our hands.

-That would be me. The Ism Radical kinda like Alzheimers. Kind of runs in the family.

-Your people, back in the day, were they part of the Quantum Black Movement?

-Were they? In a major way. You ever hear tell of Romeo Void? Mad pimp killer of Harvard Square? Though you mighta. Well that ignay was my great uncle on my mother’s side.

-Get the phuc yung sung out of here. Your people were QBM like that? Damn. You know I’ve heard the Quantum Blacks are making a comeback. Just like Mandela Aintfree promised thirty years ago.What you know about that?

-No, question iswhat do you about that? Aint nobody oustide hardcore fam supposed to know the deal for real.

-Oh girl, you know I only know what you hear out here–and you know out here you’re liable to hear loads of fanciful bullshit.

-Well, I been hearing that Quantum Black comeback shit since I was old enough to suck milk from the tit. Where that’s concerned I come from a long line of wishful thinkers. If I won the lottery every time I heard The Quantum Black Star liner was coming back I’d be one paid out the ass butch.

-Then you must have family down here you don’t know about. Because I been hearing that Quantum Black comeback shit a lot lately. A lot. Too much for it to be mere hyperbole.

-Oh yeah. Don’t let me be hearing it  from you first if it is true. Cause ignays down here need to know. Me and mine will be mad as a mother if they’re re-starting the revolution without us.

Tunji didn’t look like she knew I was lying about having  Quantum Black blood ties but she wasn’t supposed to. So what if my bloodline was too street-orientated to have ever really been down with them stuck-up Quantum Blacks? So what  if my boast about Romeo Void being an uncle was something  I’d once heard a classmate say? My tales of Quantum Black  ties might have been bold lies, but planting them in Tunji’s brain made me feel less anxious about my money getting funny at night’s end. Never hurts to have an edge over these roughneck strawbosses, I always say.  So let Tunji believe I belonged to a secret society of militant black mutants and assassins rather than my real-life family tree–that droopy assortment of played out players, overage gangbangers and hirsute hustlers if the truth must be told. When it came time to dole out the dollars there don’t need to be thoughts of shortchanging the new girl. ‘

Like most of  her generation Sphinx  had acquired her knowledge of the Quantum Black Movement from reading the collected prison letters of movement leader Mandela Aintfree. Formerly a reknowned sculptor of recombinant DNA, this historic figure had first come to public attention describing himself as “The race’s foremost esthetic terrorist” and as ”The Black Mengeles”. Before his capture, conviction and interplanetary deportation Aintfree had performed grusesome experiments in mutilation, scarification and genetic mutation on the bodies of captured enemy. This enemy he and his comrades in the Quantum Black Movement Race Wars  identified as “the white body politic”. Sphinx actually found Mandela’s writings hysterical, frightening and enigmatic, pretty much all at the same time. The letter he wrote to his 7 year old daughter Nada Aintfree while locked under the Brooklyn House of Detention is fairly typical of his ouevre:

”Dear Daughter, We kept waiting for Childhoods End but the extraterrestials never showed up flapping their forked tails.  When our show got running their speaking parts were not dubbed in. Too late for that little sister. Jonah and The Whale was a closed chapter. No man from Mars coming to play Messiah and we’d blown our chance at Black Moses back in 1929.

We told the old guard (Camelot Drexel’s disciples and that lot), Astral traveling can’t save your ass, and the 13th Pan Afrikan Congress aint never gonna happen.

Our solution was Race War. Guerilla warfare and extravavgant weaponry implants for the body. We converted our Brooklyn studios into genetoxin factories and munitions plants. Had bionic Swat teams shooting up everywhere.

We blossomed into poison mushrooms, microscopic Hiroshimas.

We inducted the apathetic through sheer terror.

Airports began belching hand grenades.

Bodies turned up splayed in the terminals like crippled umbrellas.

We were the ones who blew up the Brooklyn bridge and  burned Harlem to the ground.

We were the ones who said, gentrify this motherfuckers: try moving your leisure classes into rubble and ashes.

Your generation makes me laugh.

You lean left, then duck for cover, or you make tracks for the underground railroad.

You’ll learn. Nevermind you’re no apologist for random slaughter. Nevermind you hold onto the concept of innocent bystanders. This is war, and since The White Bodypolitic never distinguishes between hard and soft targets, why should we?

You might as well be Mandela Aintfree as one more freak nigga caught straddling the fence.  They’ll bring their rabid packs of modified Dobermans down on your ass quick as they will mine. Clamp on hydraulic incisors with a bent towards evisceration. Now go appeal that judgement in World Court. Make a case for the Geneva Convention under suspension of your right to bear genitals. When we came on the scene they were in the process of making BLACKNUSS the legal defintion of madness and disease.

They were making BLACKNUSS synonymous with insanity and the plague.

We were the ones who stood up and said, you want to see sick black and crazy we’ll give it to you in spades.”

As perverse, entertaining and odd as The Sphinx found Mandelas’s prose, the Great Mans’ writings never perplexed her like those of his granddaughter Babylonia Free. Babylonia, Nada’s offspring, was a candidate in  Cultural Anthropology at Barnard, and a scandously unauthorized family biographer. Through a bizarre set of circumstances Babylonia became  Sphinxs’ best friend in New York and in so doing provided Sphinx with quite a leg up onto the stage of world  history. In her own memoirs  Sphinx laughed at herself for having once found Babylonia’s work impenetrable. By then the other woman’s writing style had deeply affected her own.  In fact  Sphinx easily acknowledged that whatever talent she displayed for critical thinking must have come from ‘hanging around’ Babylonia. The debt was plainly revealed in the lines from Babylonia’s ‘Preface To A Proper Hagiogrpahy and Historiagrpahy of Quantum Black Theory   Sphinx quoted  freely from in her memoir Baby Took My Good Side:

“ Only the naive or the duplicitous will tell you that the Race Wars hadn`t been fought over race and power. They’ll try and convince you the wars had once been nothing more than an intellectual game played between two opposing systems of signification :the Quantum Blacks and their theoretical soft targets, the whitebodypolitic. Only after the dialogue left the academy, so they story goes, did things degenerate from the eloquently figurative to the brutally literal. This escalation saw debates  over matters of interpetation dissolve into disputes the Quantum Blacks settled by bloodshed, bombings and assassinations. The fact of the matter was that Race War was the inevitable course of the Quantum Black Movement from the moment of its inception. After all, what movement for Black self determination could not end up at war with the state? The Quantum Blacks defined themselves as ‘Super-Nigknacks’ even though they’d acquired their ultra-BLACKNUSS from  Camelot Drexel’s race-memory implants rather than street-knowledge. They indeed saw themselves as a Black and learned breed of Ubermensch apart. Therefore it should come as no surprise that this self-canonizing cadre pronounced that since they did not know their place relative to the whitebodypolitic, they would find it by bearing their signs of negation to a theoretical black hole. Not to a collapse in the fabric of space-time, dimension and gravity, but to a fold in the curtain of race memory. In effect, this absurdo non reductum meant adhering to the faith that the white bodypolitic did not exist, could not exist, had never existed, and therefore should not exist. That this negation returned the whites as a critical prescence by absenting Them as a a thing to be voided was less a contradiction in terms than the trope which commenced the psychological phase of the Race Wars. In essence the Quantum Blacks were signifying that since they did not believe in the existence of the whitebodypolitic, that bodypolitic could not impose its definitions of BLACKNUSS upon them or the world. This left the Quantum Blacks free to define BLACKNUSS for themselves as opposed to having it defined for them by the cave-boy, the other-man.”

After falsely informing Tunji of her Quantum Black roots,  Sphinx  inquire after her new boss’s lifestory too. Bonding with Tunji she decided might prove useful later for apartment hunting and other stuff. Before  Sphinx was able to work those budding buddy-buddy sentiments Tunji toughened up again and gave her her marching orders for the night.

‘Go introduce yourself to the rest of these ugly butches over there before you see wardobe about a suit. After you’re suited up, wander around some. Get a feel for the landscape. We’ll rendezvous back here in an hour.’

Sphinx replied ‘aye-aye mein commandant’, and thought, ”Well d honeymoon is ovah now chile’. Tunji might have been impressed by my phony genealogy, but it was my tight, flexible body rather than my Quantum Black Movement backstory that she was paying for tonight.

The squads armored bodysuits were kept in a gargantuan, hovering winnabago, a mother ship if there ever was one. I was suprised at how many of their uniforms costumes had been elaborately customized by previous wearers. According to the sign-out log, many had been worn briefly–some for only one Lockdown, some, with no sign-out signature, I suspected, for even less. Many carried medallions honoring Regulators killed in the line of duty. All flashed colorful insignias. A whole load of them were from ancient,mythic Bronx, Brooklyn and West Coast protection crews: Savage Skulls, Decepticons, Zulu Nation, The Bloods, The Brims, The Crips, The Pirus, etc. Emblazoned on many were hand-drawn mystical symbols and Islamic calligraphy. I decided on a black kimono draped affair done-up with orange and crimson flamebursts. (Dragon’s breath?)  The previous owner had laboriously removed generations of patches from the outfit and left it dotted with raggedy stitched-in outlines. Seemed the last woman to wear it was either an extreme minimalist, or, like me, a new girl in town who didn’t want some idiot up in here face over nothing. The costume’s helmet bore an Eye of Horus that flashed blood red lashes. This was considered a neutral symbol as every faction gave love to Metu Neter Divination. The wisdom of those legendary Harlem metaphysicians was respected by all.

Dropping from the vehicle in full armor made me feel like a fullfledged member of Tunji’s squad. It also made me feel more cautious.

I strolled over to the guard rail overlooking the deserted West Side Highway.  Peering down I caught the rest of Tunji’s detachment removing particle-beam projectors from the truck at a snail’s pace. Look at those lazybones go, I chuckled. I remembered the work slowdowns I used to stage in performance of the same grueling task. Never again. No more brute manual labor for this DJ Star. All the same, looking at those projectors being set up left me feeling conflicted.  Admittedly I was hungry for the arena again and  bored with not competing on any level. Here’s the thing: becoming a Gothamite meant becoming a true professional and becoming a true professional meant never doing anything related to cut creation capoiera that was not sanctioned by the Olympic committee. A bootleg gig like tonight’s they saw as only fit  for beginners, hustlers, and thrillseekers.

I had already paid enough dues to be way beyond giving some young fools their initiation rounds. Being good enough to train with Noona should have confirmed for me that I was all that and had nothing to prove? So why was I so feeling like a trapped tiger?  Ego of course: I wanted to play a set just to destroy some  lil rookie nigknacks for the hell of it. Run all the posers out of the arena and strut the circumfernce of the pit projecting all kinds menace, machismo and bad-ass mojo. Since I was working that wasn’t going to happen even if I wasn’t a bona fide Olympian. I knew my skills so were far beyond anybody who was going to show up here anyway. A streak of easy wins in a place like this would only have started me on the road to ruinous distraction. Because what I ultimately longed to do was what Nona had done:create an original style–one that left such an indelible impression on all future practitioners  of the form that they would copy it assiduously and bow down whenever my name was mentioned. Noona was considered the form’s Billie Holiday, the woman who had lyrically translated her emotional traumas into the spine-tingling movement vocabulary and musical syntax of cut-creation combat. My own desires were equally ambitious .I wanted to become nothing less than cut-creation’s Miles Davis :the performer whose lyricism singed her audiences souls and made them shudder to the core. I wanted to be the sort of artist who left her fans mouths agape, eyes looking as if they were in the throes of ecstasy or the depths of a family tragedy. Like my man Miles, I wanted my every gesture in or out of the arena understood as a reflection of my haunted, prickly aura. My goal was to always leave the folk unsettled and swooning in my presence.  ‘As if they’d caught themselves salivating over a beautiful corpse’, I’d tell the New York Times right before my Lincoln Center debut a year later.’

‘Anxiety, alienation, pronounced fear of abandonment, a sense of being an absent even when she was  seen as quite the dominant presence in many a room.’ Sphinx suffered these not just in public but in the privacy of her bedroom. She knew these were a bizarre bunch of issues for a woman who planned to spend her life in the limelight. Over the years she would come to be described by friends, lovers and relations as someone who was ‘There And Not There At The Same Time’. So often did they describe her this way that she came to insist that phrase be used  as her epitaph. The words friends actually chose for her headstone were more provocative but less poetic: ‘Dancing well is the best revenge’ So much for honoring a fading diva’s last request.

Long before she was warned to forget everything she knew about everyone she had ever known,  Sphinx was crafting discrepancies between her memories and her stories. Between what she knew she knew and what she claimed to know. Having become well-versed in the art of keeping her lies straight, she never got confused as to what was fact and what was fiction. She did however leave historians a nightmare to sort out in the form of three memoirs (written during widely disparate periods of her life) and two authorized film versions. At least three of these contradicted as to how she lost her virginity. At first she was an incest survivor. Later she was devirginated by a man she humiliated into having sex after she buttfucked him with a strap-on dildo. In the final telling the dildo wearer became Mother’s boyfriend, ‘encouraged’ by Sphinx to “do to me what he routinely did to Mother”. The only thing which remained constant was her age of deflowering:all of 13.  This slippery way with matters sexual was less aggravating than her prevarication when it came to Babylonia Free. A cunning maneuver since those episodes formed the basis of most scholars interest in Sphinx’s young adult life anyway.

Early on she recognized the need to complicate her herstories and keep the academic squirrels guessing as a kind of insurance against becoming only a footnote in Babylonia’s vaster epic.  The false modesty, grandiosity and muted plea for immortality already present in her first book of memoirs embarassed even her most sympathetic reader, the Franciscan brother, Clay Riley. When  Sphinx insinuated that she and Babylonia had been more than just friends Riley declared her reminescences “certainly untrue in this regard as no evidence from Babylonia’s extensive diaries confirms this point”.   (Riley made his feelings about this matter public at an NYU Africana Studies conference before he’d even finished reading all of Babylonia’s papers. Immediately afterwards, a court injunction was brought against him, halting  completion of  a Sphinx biography he’d been researching for a decade. That injunction was brought by  Sphinx’s daughter Circe Buchanan who was also, bless her soul, the mother of the author of this account.

As best I can ascertain Sphinx’s most honest account of her years with Babylonia Free can be found in Baby Took My Good Side:

“You can call me Geza or you can call me Skeeza. I’ll answer to either knowing, as my grandmother knew on her deathbed, That I have lived the life of a queen and have no regrets. Unlike grandmother, I am not on my deathbed and my memoirs are a work in progress. A neverending saga that will go on long after this body has given up the ghost. This is not my story.

This is the story of Babylonia Free and the Womb For Hire Homegirls. Those coltish, cultish women who always gave Babylonia a hard way to go, even after she’d saved them from her evil stepmother, Nada, mayor of Gotham.

Before she became a Womb, The original Wombs, never really liked Baby (my pet name for her). Mainly because after Baby’s man, Black Snake Dick Head, got chopped up into 13 parts and dropped on her porch in butcher paper minus face and phallus, Baby began scouring the ‘hood for her honey’s lost portions. The Wombs would see Baby out there looking for the dick and the head and laugh. They liked to break-til-broke on the child most viciously. They’d say things like, ‘Lord, look at D gal. ‘Lord, what she looking for now?’ ‘She say she looking for a dead man’s dick.’ ‘Seem to me that mans one broke dick of a fella. Lord That gal. She need to fix herself up and get herself some new dick, some working dick connected to a whole intact working man.’ ‘Hell, that gal aint looking for no man, she looking for chopped meat.’

And so on.  Yet though The Wombs could call Baby a freak to her face she wouldn’t care. Partly due to her anthorpological discipline, and partlybecause she was insanely adoring of the Wombs. Truth of the matter was, Baby loved the Wombs more than  she loved life itself (and went on to prove it as we well know). Baby actually did not think she was so different from the Wombs. Not, said she, when the matter was viewed objectively. I agree that this seems somewhat bewildering, but when your pockets were as fat as Baby’s were then, life is how you flake it, shake it and bake it.

For richer or for poorer, our poor little rich girl saw it like this: she was living out her dream life and the Wombs were living out theirs.  In Baby’s dream life she was Isis to the deceased Black Snake Dick Head’s Osiris, a tragic goddess doomed to wander the earth until she turned up her murdered lover’s missing body parts. (For more on Babylonia’s relationship with Black Snake Dick Head see below, Appendix A, You Can Build And Bone Your Cipher***).

For the record, The Womb for Hire Homegirls were artificially inseminated black market body factories who’d farmed themselves out to an infant mercenary project cooked up by remnants of the Quantum Black Movement. The Wombs ranged in age between 15 and 40 something. They had all been carrying their pregnancies for at least three years. This was nobody’s science fiction to them. In their minds they were the last sisters truly down with the Quantum Black struggle; heroines on a mission, ready willing and able to breed tomorrow’s African revolutionaries. All things being equal, Baby reasoned, I’m carrying on after a dead man’s dick and so are my sisters, The Wombs.

The Wombs took to dressing shabby the winter Baby moved up into the ‘hood.That summer their fashion had been hooded black leather warm-up suits. Come February I was mourning their sacrifice of style for signification. Snowbanks six feet high and the Wombs were draping themselves in billowing expanses of burlap. Nilly little maternity gowns razor-slitted and gilled to ventilate the spine and the tummy. Baby read this gesture as ironic rather than tragic. So that where I saw a banged-up gang of urban bushwomen, Baby saw, `feminist semioticians mocking expectant motherhood as a form of martyrdom. Note the crocus sacks, the crown of thorns, the whole nine yards’. Every day the Womb platoon barreled across the drifts, moving down Harlem’s white peaked boulevards like a batallion of chipper tumbleweed, bare asses flapping in the breeze like it wasn’t really no thang. All I could think about was frostbite and frozen embryos, but Baby saw a runaway fashion show. Or so she described it for Essence:`Stepping smart and satying trim despite a bellyful, our ragass fashion girls continue to look good. Hanging together no matter any kind of weather.” Out on manuevers the Wombs wore their monsta-weaves knotted into a rope-train 30 mamas to be long. Where I saw a chain of male identified fools, Baby saw, a sisterhood of sidewalk mountaineers scaling the streets along cable lengths of artificial human hair’. Whenever the Wombs spoke it was en masse. They sang, cursed and chanted in rude harmony. Theirs was a cacophony of goat-mouthing you could hear for miles. Even at a murmur their approach announced a Babel of bad attitude and enough verbal artillery to take down any man’s army. A rough and riotous black noise was their sound and it screened out the ears of the curious. Outside their circle they sounded like a clarion of idle chatterboxes, talking loud and saying nothing. Baby heard differently of course.

She believed that what went on inside their cabal was an exchange of information rivaling Wall Street. In her mind, they were women clear on the power of the word and the womb to organize the world. ‘Course I never failed to challenge this bullshit line of thinking. I know Baby enjoyed these heated interjections because they displayed a crack in my legendary facade of cool. Everybody you truly love knows how to truly push your buttons, and Baby always pushed mine with a vengeance whenever she went into Womb For Hire Homegirl mythification mode.The girl just plain never tired of confessing her faith that each and every Womb’s pooh-naan was more than–my words here—‘a lower jawbone sewed on a monkey’s ass.’ No, declared she, each Womb For Hire vagina was in fact a mouth of God, immaculately genetically redesigned for spewing out the next line of pro-Black radical prophets.  To really get me going Baby  would also express her desire to one day join the Wombs and carve out a new identity for herself among their `muttering cult of merchandised fertility.’ Damn if she didn’t, too. (Damn her, damn her, damn her).

Baby also liked to conjecture how ‘if nothing else Sphincter-lips, I know you’ll concede the Wombs possess a sense of style and mission missing from the other uptown sisters.’  Well style or no style I did not buy into their mission or their mystique. I’d come up in the same kind of streets the Wombs had and much to Baby’s chagrin, I had no problem calling them ho’s, cows, women of low intelligence and breeding. Not to mention willing victims of a reactionary masculinism bent on reducing black womanhood to the status of commodity-uterus for yet another male dominated master race plan. We had the same argument so many times you’d think we’d have wanted a new script., but you know how those games go. –you don’t want your partner getting all new on you.

Whenever I went ballistic on Baby’s Womb For Hire idolatry she would coyly ask whether my anger didn’t derive from how many ass whippings  I’d taken from sisters like them when my lightskinned longhaired cateyed ass was coming up in Roxbury. And didn’t I think the Wombs made race consciousness pale as a measure of blackness besides the capacity to bring blacker than black babies into the world? And didn’t I therefore think their black woman’s experience carried more weight than mine, no pun intended? I’d fire back  how only a rich, pampered, Ivy League butch like Baby could confuse black womanhood with being a barefoot, raggedyass, knocked up and pimp-dependent ho’. Then I’d howl how my self respect alone makes more more of true black woman than they’ll ever be. Don’t care how many mud puppies they litter up and down the avenue. And so on. At that point in the discussion Baby liked to ask, ‘Could you explain to our listening audience Ms Sphinx, why so many light bright  damn near white sisters  like yourself imagine themselves as five shades darker than their true colors? And I’d say, ‘kiss my ass butch’. And she’d say ‘nobody does it better’. And we’d go on like that all night long, snacking on our own homemade hot buttered soul and candy popcorn. Cause beat dont stop until the break of dawn, beat don’t stop until all the freaks are gone. Yeah, once upon a time me and Baby were girls together and we liked it like that.”

Thus spake Sphinx in print. But on the fine spring night that found her patrolling the Riverside Drive promenade under the command of Tunji Ola Ola Ola, The Sphinx  didn’t have a clue as to where her life was headed other than training.Beyond that, she didn’t much care either. She was too busy living for the moment. Down on the abandoned highway sonic booms were melodiously erupting every twenty seconds. The sweathogs were testing their elaborate rig of particle beam projectors. Soon they’d be spraying  plasma-threaded crossbeams across the padded playing area.

The sounds of armed projectors made Sphinx excited agianst her will. She wondered if her hard and fast rules about not engaging in street level competition would hold up with a contest going on literally below her nose.

“My adamant refusal to fuk with cut dancing unless major money was on the table was crumbling. I could not help admitting to myself how much I was missing the whole proverbial roar of the greasepaint and smell of the crowd thang. Was the mercenary position costing me some good old fashioned fun?  I began to wonder if I wasn’t on my way to the same nuthouse Noona had checked into years before. I had already resolved not to become another Noona:cutting off artistic options to spite my anti-commercial face.  Noona’s refusal to cut-dance for all but the super-rich esthete crowd had left her without a venue. She had become an exotic phantom who sat high and mighty out along the margins of her artform on a lonely Harlem throne.  The prospect loomed of her being forgotten in another generation. She had to know this whether she publically admitted it or not. Noona had not benefitted from cut-creation capoeria’s rise in popularity and patronage after her Olympic triumphs. For reasons still unknown, she had immediately checked into a mental health facility and missed out on the feeding frenzy. While she languished there for two years, players who were her inferiors scooped up endorsements, wealth and fame. When she returned however it was to advocate a return to purity that decried players becoming corporate puppets for chump change. Her fee was in the multimillions for one bout which assured that only extremely well-endowed conniseurs of the artform would ever see her again. I was both more of a populist and more of a freaking exhibitionist than Noona ever was.

Noona was still the champion in my eyes but I longed to find a middle ground between insanity and integrity, oddity and commodity. Neither living like a slave or dying like a high paid geek could do much to make my nipples hard.”

It was while mulling over career options that  Sphinx got rudely drawn into the acquaintance of Medea and Melchisedec. These two fly by night characters, soon to become central to our tale, considered themselves retromusicians, (“singers of the songs time and most people would rather we forgot”) They were collectively known as the RoboCoptic Boy. (“No plural `S’ on the marquee, thank you”, read their contract rider). Later that night they would introduce  Sphinx to Babylonia Free and irrevocably alter her destiny. Right now, merely for the sake of making her introduction, they wanted to drive her to distraction before the party started. Two decades later on her first broadcast special,  Sphinx recalled being sunk deep in thought when “suddenly a fog of metallic vocal tones began steaming up my cranium. Though only  at lowpitched, whining ambient levels they crashed into my meditations with the force of tidal waves. Somehow the low pitched voices became discernible syallables and then a monsoon of shooting stars. The sensation was annoying, disorienting, but also somewhat orgasm-inducing. I wondered if one of my sister Regulators hadn’t slipped me an ill-subliminal mickey. I was randomly chopping at my helmet with the edge of my hand when I saw them:Two dreadlocked jokers at the periphery futzing with piled-high stacks of silver chokers slung Ubangi style around their skinny little necks. From their hair alone I knew they were retromusicians. No style slavish Gotham kid would be caught dead sporting an over and out of here doo like dreadlocks. (It went beyond tacky, bordered on gauche). The only style more offensive was no hair at all. What I could not figure out was how two low lifes had gotten enough money together to cop such high end telepathic music technology. Even on the street, a Subvocalese unit cost an arm and a leg (and sometimes literally those limbs if the exchange went down at an  bodyparts swap meet.)  Clearly these boys were trying to mack me out with the thing and clearly they werent doing such a bad job either. I’d heard better but they were smooth enough. Certainly smooth enough to wet my dried up aint had none in six months pooh-naan. I got impressed by their balls and brazenness. So much so I didnt even think of putting a foot up their asses. See the dicks who came onto me after my divorce (and after I became a fullfledged capoerista) were few and far between. Here I was, giving em my best  madface in full Regulator gear while slinging enough ammunition to bang-bang whole gangs of nignoids into oblivion and these Robo Coptic Boy were still trying to get in my pants. I cut them some slack but I did manage to shake them up a bit though.  I barrelled into them sideways when they thought I was still dazed and said, `You fellas must think you’re mighty cute, but fortunately so do I. They call me Sphinx. Now that you’ve gotten my attention, you should also know that you’re getting on my nerves. This is not a good thing. I’ve been known to beat rude boys to the ground for just breathing wring on my direction. And you two want to do some kind of romance number up in my head?  Rather than have a butch like me smack dem head up the Robo Coptic Boy opted to slyly and seductively change their pitch up. They were clearly bent on causing puddles of melted butter to run from my increasingly volcanic vulva. Besides reanimating my carnal aspect, the RoboCoptic Boy were also setting off feelings of unconditional sister-love as well. The whimsy I heard in their song was not only intoxicating but familiar, familial even. I got to thinking how they were really just big kids, like some of my rowdier young boy cousins. My lust for the Boy then began to take on incestuous overtones. I now longed to discipline these RoboCoptic Boy nigknacks in every imaginable sense of the word. I wanted to protect them from all possible harm as well. I knew the danger of making new friends or taking on lovers in the city Id come to realize my dreams but pushed it to the back of my mind where it kept up its danger signals. Please note that this muted sense of alarm was soon given due cause. Thanks to my passion for the RoboCoptic Boy I soon found myself out fired from Ricks Mother A Bitch. Things you see all went down the tubes when word got around the party regulating profession about how Id beaten one of my security sister’s senseless. This sister you see had gotten to smacking the pea water out of Medea and Melchisedec for trying on her what they’d already tried on me except to far less enamoring effect in her case.  Afterwards I tried telling Tunji my boss that the Boy were family. To her credit, she wasn’t trying to hear that mess. ‘WHAT happened to who you fucking don’t mean jack!’ I had no answer. If I hadnt been Noona’s trainee and on the outside chance, a Quantum Black descendant too, I knw Tunji wouldve had my ass beaten to the ground or worse. Whatever credibility my family fib was ruined the next day when Tunji of all people stumbled upon me and the Boy cuddled up in Central Park two days later.

The upshot of my stupid stupid stupid rush  to save the RoboCoptic Boy was that I now had to new line of work. The obvious options were strip-fighting or fuck sparring both of which were too sleazy for me The Sphinx next proud ruler of the cut-creation throne. There was always bnodyguard work if I could latch onto a rich client. Except up here in Harlem that would mean some thug ugly nigknack and I wasn’t about to go dow that road for love or money again.( I’d had my fill of that life when I went into a green card marriage with my lunatic hitman secodn cousin Keef, one crazy Trini boy if there ever was one).  Until I secured patronage for my art  what seemed the most do-able was dealing prayersticks downtown. As opposed to uptown where it was known to be strictly deathsquad business.

On the upside this meant Id have plenty of time for training. The downside was the potential for being kidnapped tortured and possibly terminated. There was also the fact that for lack of a sponsor Id also have to deal with police payoffs and  bribes out of my own pocket. Dealing was something I’d plain avoided in Boston if only because just about everyone we knew in my family—except for my saintly mother of course—was hustling one drug product or another. After turning pro when I was 18 I had stayed as far away from family tendencies as possible. Today was a brand new day however. I was in love and trouble and broker than a broke dick dog. I suddenly didn’t care about proving I was a better human being than my guttersnipe relations.  The closest Id come in the past to dealing preayersticks was rolling prayers for my Uncle Jojo when I was about eleven. Since he paid us kids off in sweets, and me in contraband asthma medicine, I thought I was getting the better part of the deal. Mother whipped me and my younger brother Dupree quite viciously when she found out about our descent into the family-run criminal underground. Mother vexed on two counts. She had always todl us not to get mixed up with street trash like Jojo. She also couldn’t believe we’d let her spend money  on medicine we were getting for nothing. Only a mother could make you feel guilty using logic that skewed. Since I smoked prayersticks I didn’t have any ethical issues about to consenting adults and all that blasé blip. On the other hand I did not want to get a reputation as a hoodlum since that might stymy my chances at pulling in a deeppocket patron. Nobody wanted to invest in an artist bent on heading for a spot under the jail. Without the right connections Federal sentencing for dealing prayers could be a bitch. At the end of the day however I’ve never shyed away from living dangerously so what the hell? The Robo Coptic Boy spoke of a friend downtown who had more business than she needed. They claimed she might be willing to pass work off to a stranger who came with good references. I was dubious of their claim of being those good references but what did I have to lose by checking this girl out? Famous last words right? Firther investigatiion meant rowing downtown to this club in Soho called Nuryev via the flooded IRT subway canal over on 158th and Broadway. As luck would have it, Nuryev was where I would first lay eyes on Babylonia Free.

I heard Baby before I saw her. I was on the roof playing footsy with the RoboCoptic Boy. A screeching came across the skylight. It commanded the space like a judgement from which there was no appeal. Baby’s annuciatory exclamation pierced my  eardrums like a flaming javelin, one launched by a champion lancer.  This was becoming my night for obnoxious assualts on my delicate auditory organs. Baby’s banshee wail was one of her choice theatrical bits, reserved for greeting her best friends or letting a crowded club know what delight she was taking in her own fabulousness. Reeling from her din I sought out the source of this Siren call and wrecked my bulging sockets on a short and curvy half naked brown girl with darting eyes and a page boy. Stripped to the waist ina sarong  she was stomping her feet on the shoulders of four buffed seven foot bucks like it was everybody’s business if she did.  On several occasions she nearly fell off of her trusty stallions but without failure they stopped her fall upholding Baby’s position bestride their necks.  From her tottering stance when she actually tried to stand still and the general look of obscne madness in her eyes Baby appeared to be quite drunk and yet strangely clear of purpose and mind. She was so manically focused  on her performance I surmised the liquor had gotter her there quicker. I was held in suspense waiting for the muscle boys to tire of her losing battle with gravity and set her down easy. Instead they started walking towards me and the RoboCoptic Boy. They became all smiles then vanished giggling into an alcove behind some nearby curtains. I became s sight of laughter and disbelief myself Im sure as Babys walking pyramid act became 10 imploring hands. They were inviting me to come dance with them. I was looking foxy enough I guess in my sar mimiskirt and this violet neon coil I had slung over one shoulder and one breast while jewel encrusted  ankelts and thighlets shimmied up just below my crotch. Not that that made me more foxy than any of a dozen other women in the place. The morning after Baby claimed it was my big barefeet that had drawn her to me. The most beautiful Ive ever seen on a dancer she gushed. Much to my chagrin Babys handlers said she he recognized me from my Riverside ‘bout’. Apparently my legend was growing as the security butch who had not only bashed one of her sisters but whom Tunji had let live to tell the tale. Meeting Baby did not at the time seem as special as meeting Noona. It smeeled fishy in fact hardly weighted with a similirly simmering sense of predestination. There are no coincidences though at the end of the day  and all of our most brilliant encounter  no matter how manipulated into being bever really belong to the realm of  pure chance. There are always higher forces at work.

When Baby jumped off her companions clavicles and labded gracefully at my feet  she stayed down on all fours for several luxurious minutes recklessly eyeballing my pedal extremities. I knew something magical was happening but exactly what I couldn’t yet say. As I helped her up she regained her composure and a nearly sober posture fronting like a soldier whod been caught looking sloppier than amug by surprise inspection.You’ she snidely cracked, ‘simply must be the lovetoy the RoboCoptic Boy went out to fetch with my Subvolaese thingy. Since they’ve already told me about my wants and needs lets just cut to the chase shall we? Can you start tonight? And by the way since youre so atheltic would you mind doing a little bodyguard duty as well? I’m going on a fishing trip tomorrow and could some more personal muscle besides me . Now do I pay rental fees to you directly or do I deal with monies through the Robo Coptic Boy?’

At which point little sisters I wheeled around to throttle two RoboCoptic necks but they were nowhere to be found.’

FROM THE WOMB TO THE BROOM

Whistles, jeers, catcalls.
They’ll tell you everything about who’s coming for you from just around the bend today. You know how to whistle don’t you Miss Busybody, Miss Know It All, Miss Delphic Oracle?  You just pucker your big Ubangi lips and you blow out a jetstream of guff. You just spear-chuck profanity at everything within earshot. You screech and roar at the dick-swanging dogs and their peeing trees, at the haughty-bitch cars and their slouching lamp posts, at the squawking munchkins and their half- deaf dimwit housewife mammas.

To whistle is to expectorate tornadoes.

To funnel coiled gusts of wind that will get the whole damn world quaking in your footfalls. To whistle is to begat the fear of armageddon.

Inquiring Minds get to trembling.

They want to say, Where the hell is all that noise coming from?

Inquiring Mouths fix to ax their neighbors. They want to ax, Who’s responsible for that infernal racket? What they’ll do instead is sweat into their palms and whisper, ”Can they hear us talking about them?”

Will we hear you? Human we can practically smell you.

You and your fear and all the other stenches you carry around with you. The stink of the unimpregnated.We are not your friends, no. We are, after all, The Wombs. Short for Womb For Hire Homegirls. This is good information to have. A useful bit of knowledge you and yours can profit from.

People under your care will be forever grateful, perhaps even consider you a savior and compose detailed hagiographies after you’ve ascended the stepladder of the gods and hung yourself on the first bright star you see tonight.

These are the facts:
There are thirty of us. We have all been carrying ourpregnancies for at least five years. We have been described as duped, delusional creatures who believe ourselves to be ‘black market baby factories farmed out to an infant-mercenary trade running between Bahia and Luanda’.

This is not correct. We are just a rowdy bunch of military wives combating boredom and nature with an artificially induced form of  prolonged gestation.

People in the neighborhood consider us bullies.

They have their reasons.

Our bellies are hard as titanium and we can sling them around like wrecking balls if we have to. If you want trouble with us, we’re not hard to find. Because real bad girls are never sneaky.

Because real bad girls are bullies not snipers. Because real bad girls want you to fear them on sight. They want you to quake before their wrath.To bow down. To get out the way. To cower and tremble with respect. All of the above.

All our power comes from our brazen ways and our barbaric love for open- air combat. Know that whatever terrorism we do will be done in plain sight. Know that we as a collective have never lost a fight, fair or unfair.

We like to form a gauntlet and then shove, not ease, your ass on down the line.When we bend over with our asses in the air and poop, there goes mud in your eye.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus I say please don’t let me be misunderstood. I was never one of the angry ones. Yes, I did my dirt and was known to jump into the mix when it looked like fun, but I was never vicious out of any political motives. I was there only for the drugs and the sisterhood and the asylum.

Your average regular everyday throw-a-nigga-down-to-the-ground- stomp-his -guts-out-just because-it-felt-good kind of heifer. That was never me. I was never one of those raging against the state-machine type breeders.

No, Lord that wasn’t me.
In those days I was a needy little kitten.
A baby-junkie for my midwife’s affection.
First thing in the morning, I would dive headfirst into the nest she would build for me between the swell of her arms and the cushion of her breasts. I would collapse safely into the pillow she made for me using the wingspan of her broad belly, find a warm quilt in the muscles that ripped out of her spine. Eat every last morsel of strawberry and oatmeal out of her loving spoon. Such were the minor pleasures that made my stay among the Womb For Hire Homegirls the most treasured event of my rather medicore and typical young life.

(Years later, after I became an adult, and had to tolerate more than a little foolishness from my mate, I would retreat to the memory-cave. Choose oblivion and selective memory over castrating him or sifting and sieving powdered wineglass into his cornbread. I would reflect back on the power and pleasuring  I enjoyed when I was a Womb.

Our fish fries and cowgirl dances. Our hair-braiding races and steamy piss competitions. Who could hold it the longest after a day of not pissing.

The latter event always occurred in the itchy-twitchy weeds that grew in the backyard of our glorified nunnery. Shumeya always won those because her water-holding was akin to a camel’s. DJ Chlorine liked to say, “That Shumeya’s hiding two humps by her twat. How we supposed to compete with a damned desert beast?”

Slow boulevard-roaming days and rowdy shut-in nights defined our rhythm and our blues in those times. Between those two extremes you had no other option unless you also ran with one of the neighborhood deathsquads as Shumeya had done before she became a Womb. Every so often she’d have to sneak out of the Wombhouse and float across Harlem with her boy-creatures. She’d come back just before dawn, loudtalking, rushing stories of the night’s adventures out of her mouth before the words could even be properly formed.

One time she told us about stumbling on a nest of sickly mutated wombs. Wombs that were all stomachs and claws and one-eye so low on the side of their faces almost like to be almost on their necks. Barely any faces or no legs to speak of she said. ‘And these butches were so despondent they had committed the ultimate sacrilege: cutting their stomachs open, allowing The Beloved Cherubim to prematurely batwing out into the world and go slicing up everything in sight–including their mamas– before asphyxiating because their lungs weren’t fully formed. ‘

‘They’d likely only had a year of gestation. Hardly enough time to make a warrior. See those type of Cherubim, the type who weren’t soup yet, came out swinging because they instinctually know they’ll live for minutes like fruitflies, but in those minutes can do plenty damage if they’re within stabbing range. Stabbing range was nowhere most of us ever wanted to be so we were forever declining Shumeya’s offers to see Harlem by night, to go out in the urban bush where all sorts of such wild things were.

Staying out of stabbing range was reason enough, but an even greater fear  was of Shumeya ditching my ass if it came to that. Of me maybe moving too slow or too suddenly or too stiffly or me being too tongue-tied or too graceless to be saved–fat bull in the china shop unable to find grace in a space where every swish of my nervous tail was likely to destroy things by barely grazing. Besides, Shumeya being a friend and so generous with her storytelling, how I could enjoy her tales without having to have any of my own and so I thought, Why risk a predicament?

There was also plenty to do in our house when the sun went down. There were games and gossip and sewing teams and bakeoffs. And every so often Shumeya might bring a boy creature home for us to molest and harrass through a hole in the fence in the alley before one of our midwives came after him with a pitchfork and a broom, making us all sigh about the big fish that got away.. Those were good times. The times before we allowed Babylonia Free to wander in and turn the Wombs into enemies of the state.

The wombs, who had never hurt nobody that hadn’t annoyed them first.

But Babylonia had made us enemies of her mother Nada, the mayor of Gotham, who decided we and our Beloved Cherubim to be a clear and present danger to the smooth running of civilization. And that was that. Same as it ever was with those evil Frees.

Crazy Babylonia. We used to see her out the looking for the dick and the head and laugh.We laughed the way kids anywhere laugh when they catch sight of a woman who’s fallen to the base of the evolutionary tree. Fallen down so hard she can’t get up.

You can’t put fallen women in front of children and not expect them to erupt in mockery. Nothing is more guaranteed to provoke the evil, mocking laughter of children than the sight of a fallen woman. We didn’t need to know anything about this womans’ life, her

pain, what had caused her fall, nor did we care to find out. All we knew was that her name was Babylonia Free and that she was so ridiculous she made us laugh.

Babylonia had put posters up all over the neighborhood about her slain lover, Black Snake Sick Head. This Black Snake Dick Head was said to have been assassinated by parties unknown though even then she had to know it was at her mother’s behest. In any event these parties had sliced and diced his body up into 14 equal segments. Twelve of these were wrapped in butcher paper and deposited on her doorstep. The missing pieces, as illustrated on her posters, were the decapitated and castrated parts.

Everybody in the neighborhood knew that she wouldn’t stop searching for those parts until she found and buried them with the rest, or die trying. Finding the dick and the head became her mission in life before she found her way to us in misery, madness and sorrow.

Before that hardly blessed day though, Babylonia could be seen climbing down into the sewers, foraging in abandoned buildings, drunkenly wandering down the most desolate of streets. Her pursuit was relentless, left no stone unturned, observed no boundaries; was fruitless, was frenzied, was wasteful and deliriously unbecoming for such a beauty as she somehow strangely remained throughout this travail.

What did we know about such love? We knew about rape, yes, and we knew about foolish passion and could tell you a thing or two about abandonment and panic if pushed on the subject. But we had nothing to contribute to a conversation on the clauses in the romantic contract which obligate a lover to sacrifice her sanity to honor her lover.

Besides, we were on our own mission of destruction. Barefoot and pregnant, some of us were highly educated, others of us barely feeble-minded, most like moi, falling somewhere in the middle but yet, and still, we were all the prisoners of our bodies, victims of the crudest sort of biological determinism.

Babylonia’s brain might have been stewing in it’s own juices for too long but we somehow knew she was freer than we would ever be. Instrument of a self-made delirium rather than the kind that came with being violated and having nowhere else to turn but the House of Wombs.

(Sure, we could leave the Wombs anytime we wanted but for what? To exchange one locked cage for another? Trade in the bad mother figure who spit you out for the one who adopted you for the genetically altered contents of your swollen belly? Where was the choice in that? None at all, so you stick with the one who has some use for you at least.)

Once upon a time the house of The Wombs had actually been a shelter for battered women. We found documents proving this shelter had been a viable safehouse back when there were men in Harlem. (As you well know today’s young Black man avoids Harlem as much for the memories it contains as for it’s race mutation afterbirths–both products of the war their forefathers in the Quantum Black Movement had  nearly lost to The White Bodypolitic.)

The thirty of us who lived in the house had been raped and impregnated by wizened men who carried the Quantum Black sperm, the Movement’s last standing soldiers of the cause. We had arrived on the Wombs’ doorstep because we were told there really was no other choice after such a dreadful occurrence and because we believed the myth: that our only other option was death by spontaneous combustion in the third trimester.

My best friend Amaretto claims to have seen such an event, though my midwife Queen Moor later told me, after Harlem had been turned to ashes, that this was nothing but a lie the State had put out to insure that all those so violated would march straight into a state-run natal care facility rather than the House of Wombs.

The girls Amaretto  had seen were likely women who had made the wrong choice.

Amaretto persisted in the lie even after I told of her of Queen Morr’s take. Mainly because she’d attached a good story to this lie and had told it so often and so well that to her audience it had become as essential to her mythos as the sound of the and the falling and proverbial unseen  tree in the forest.

Her belly was just about ready to pop”, Amaretto says. “Thing drooping down to her knees. Lady felt so heavy dragging that thing around she couldn’t stand up straight. Like Pithecanthropus Erectus she had to stoop and crawl with every step she walked.

So she crawled into a hole in the lobby of this abandoned apartment building. Laid down shaking. Got to feeling that starvation and passed out, lost consciousness and shit. Then she woke up sweating, in a panic, started steaming and sparking, caught fire, burnt to a crisp. I seen it all. You know I even got the footage to prove it all back home. Say I don’t.”

Back home was Nebraska, was Toronto, was Pontaic, was Stoopenville, Pittsburgh, Wilmington, Cherry Hill, wherever Amaretto decided to arrive from in her storytelling on a given night. During my seven years carrying weight for the Wombs, I was second youngest after Amaretto, my junior by two and a quarter years.

Amaretto had huge globular eyes that poked out of their sockets like a Japanese cartoon character and extremely long eyelashes whose shadows fell so long on her face they looked like tall grass pushing up and flung back by a strong wind somewhere way out in the wild. Those eyes of hers were so unreal, so big, wet and Bambi-ish with extra large egg-size whites. Two milky pools hypnotically swirling around two stark islands of hazel moss.

I remember the day she came to the House so vividly. Breaking wind the second she stepped across the threshold, dragging the floor with this raggedy scarred brown leather floorlength coat that draped around her ankles and made her look like she had dooky-drawers. Big belly poking out from under this too-tight halter top which seemed descended from a tore-up Puerto Rican flag. The sheer sight of her got me immediately happy. See, I was 15. The next oldest girl after me was 19. We’re talking a

gulf of years so vast not even blood ties would have drawn us closer.

Soon as I saw Amaretto I realized it is so much easier to invent a little sister out of virgin cloth than lay claim to a real bigger one. Because with that big one, no matter how desperately you grab at her ankles and embrace the back kick of rejection, that big old half grown girl think she a woman aint never gonna be no real sister to you.

Amaretto I instantly knew was all mine.

Like all of us Amaretto had issues with this space- time continuum. Unlike most of us she decided to do something about it. See, Amaretto took to living, when she chose to, in a pocket universe of her own making. This allowed her to observe the world at an angle that displayed information well-concealed from the rest of us.

In other words she liked to trip out on occasion.

Like you’d be sitting on the galvanized toilet bench with her in the dark and all of sudden she’d saysomething weird like “Here they come, Calletta Those happy girls with the smiling faces. The girls with the ruffled shirts and pleated plaid skirts. I bet they’d like to carve a notch in my brother Harold’s banana. But Harold refuses to be a victim anymore. Harold used to be in their gang but they violated him and so Harold has no balls, and therefore Harold refuses to be a victim anymore.

Now you know Calletta, I don’t mind being a victim. You know I want to go to Mars so bad I’d sleep with an army of sailors like Mz Tralala-la-la- la-la. Two times, even. Girl you know I’d get gangbanged overtime in a heartbeat if it would only get me to heaven. Some people gonna say `That was just plain silly’ because they’ll say you could purchase a ticket for pennies these days, just real cheap. But you know Calletta I don’t want to go to Mars without my drugs and you know if you go with gangbanging sailors then your drugs can come with you too.”

Amaretto and I had the same taste in psychedelics. Actually all the Wombs except Shumeya liked the same thing–Temporal Lobe.

We liked it best because it scrambled your days into random patterns.

Made you confuse a couple of your yesterdays with about three of your tomorrows.

It induced narcolepsy and vomiting but kept you from feeling trapped in the repetitions of the House of Wombs, with its long, locked-in bookings of nights and days.

Lobe is also a prophesy drug.

Lobe is how I know that thirty years from now when they tell our story, they’ll it differently from how I’m telling it to you now. and that it won’t even be our story, that it’ll be the story of Babylonia Free and  she who’ll tell the story of me won’t know a damn thing about what she’s talking about, but because I’ll be dead and the she who’ll tell the story of me will be but half dead, and clinical in her reasoning, and emotionally detached and incredibly more determined than I ever was to misunderstand the whole truth.

She’ll also jot down notes to herself that say things like “A revolution is like a novel. You can start anywhere as long as you overcome the terror of starting at all”

And this confused and conflicted little one, she will also be trying to imagine herself as me in her notes and she will fail miserably. She will be unable to find words that ring true and adequately express my experience. but even so she will still go on scribbling her error packed fictions in the filthy parlor of her great aunt’s house while waiting for her other aunts to arrive.

(Note to self: Remark on the narcissism and reliability of the so-called unreliable narrator. Reliable because you know everything she says is a lie.)

***   APPENDIX A: YOU CAN BUILD AND BONE YOUR CIPHER.

   Samuel Valerian nee Black Snake Dick Head became known during the Quantum Black Movement’s  war against The White Bodypolitic as the most significant combat photographer the Movement was to produce.  He was also, for a time, one of my grandfather Mandela Aint Free nee Bono Pruitt’s closest associates. This friendship actually predated the formation of grandfather’s Quantum Black Movement by several years. The following interview concerns itself with Mr. Dick Head’s first meeting with Mandela at grandfather’s debut exhibition at the Andrea Rosen fils Gallery. I’ve chosen to share this transcript with Artforum subscribers because of the magazines longstanding support of my grandfather’s work and it’s continuing patronage of my fledgling efforts  researching his life, art and activism. Some readers already know that Mr. Dick Head was rediscovered, reconstructed and reactivated by me after three years of arduously and assiduously tracking down the dis-assembled and widely scattered parts of his mutilated bionic bodyparts, all considered lost since the Race Wars. In seeking out his remains, I only sought to reconstruct them in the interest of art history and science. Nothing in my reading about this magnificent man prepared me for the lucidity of his memory, the scalpeled edge of his wit or the charms of his conversation. Those who crave more details will have to await my next book, Fables of A Nigger Faustus or Whatever Happened To The Quantum Black Movement On The Way To Becoming A MOMA-Fucker, scheduled for publication in the spring of next year.

BABYLONIA:You left the Quantum Black Movement  at a critical juncture–just prior to the Movement’s transition from the symbolic and gestural Style Wars phase to the soft-target  Race Wars period. It’s been said Mandela threatened you with death if you left the organization.Did he believe you’d betray the Movement to the white bodypolitic?

BSDH: Click bang, what a hang, your granddaddy just shot poor me. By that time the question wasn’t who Mandela wanted dead but who he thought still deserved to live. Just about every living thing reeked of cowardice, connivance and corruption in his eyes.  He tried to quarantine me  in Harlem until certain operations were completed. I was not having it. I could read the handwriting on the wall. I did not want to be there when the white bodypolitic swept through Harlem  the way Sherman had swept through Atlanta.  Of course Mandela beat them to it. As prescient as my escape was , I ended up going back to shoot the whole shebang for my agency anyhow. And, as you can see, lost my humanity in the process.

BABYLONIA: Give me your opinion on Mandela as a military strategist.

BSDH: In those days I thought Mandela was a revolutionary manque. History has proven me incorrect. He was clearly as much of a military genius as he was an artistic one. Just not very good on the managerial slash political infighting side of things unfortunately.

BABYLONIA: What brought you two together initially?

BSDH: Oh his art work, of course. No doubt about that. I was there at his first exhibition like every other would-be hip Gothamite, black, white, or indifferent. Hysteria had been mounting for months. See, no one but his assistants and his dealer had seen the work in development. The dealer, not a woman usually given to hyperbole, claimed Mandela’s work was the most important formal breakthrough in the plastic arts since Cubism, liberating the visual field as it were, from the wall to the genome. Like Cubism the work was more shocking in form than content, though that’s debatable by somebody’s ethical standards  I suppose.

BABYLONIA:That sort of market-driven manipulation was all it took to get jaded New Yorkers out of their summer homes back then?

BSDH:Other bits of information about the artist leaked out in dribs and drabs. All deliberately blown  into the atmosphere by the dealer, of course. We found out, for example,  that Mandela was a former student of genetic software pioneer Camelot Drexel, that he had a degree in cosmetic surgery and that he had come to art-making for political reasons. We also heard that his politics were a throwback to 20th century black cultural nationalism. And so on. It was rumoured he had wanted to mount a piece at the Chicago Art Institute with his own castrated penis and had been expelled for merely proposing the idea. We didn’t know for certain that he was a brother until those first photographs appeared in Flash Art. You’ve seen them of course, the blurry black and whites  vaguely reminiscent of Joel Peter-Witkins work, and Gerhard Richter’s Bader-Meinhof series.  Mandela crouching with his back to the camera in a Frankenstein lab setting, Mandela leaning on table teaming with maggots and  recently cut clumps of Negroid hair, micro-surgical implements at the ready, Mandela posed against a smudgy pile of humanoid figures stacked in a manner evocative of the mass graves the brothers discovered at  Auschwitz.  With all those gothic trimmings you could almost have missed the creepy and provocative title etched into invite’s black area:Reparations 1-9, Courtesy of The Black Mengeles.

BABYLONIA:What were your first impressions of the man from those pictures.

BSDH: From the git-go I thought Mandela was strikingly ugly. What with that half bald, badly shaved cadaverous head of his, and those ratty braided-hair implants. Not to mention the broad barrel chest way out of proportion to that puny neck. Everything about him was way out of proportion. He was Victor Von Frankenstin and the monster too. A genius who looked stitched together from the body parts of many deceased men. He had the thick forearms of a longshoreman but then such delicate, spidery fingers too–they wouldn’t have been misplaced on a concert pianist. He also had soft watery eyes–crinkly-winkly, just like a Santa Claus, only maybe more discriminating. Eyes all the more chilling for being set under those bushy demonic eyebrows. Mother Nature had clearly had a field day when she blew breath into the form of Bono Pruitt a.k.a. Mandela Aint Free. I’m sure his own physiognomy made it easy for him to freely imagine recombinating someone else’s.

BABYLONIA: Tell all you can remember about the opening night of the Reparations exhibition.

BSDH:There were lines stretching down the boulevard for a good seven blocks. No more than fifteen people at a time were allowed in to view the show–that took about 30 minutes at the brisk pace the guards ushered you along at. My party arrived fashionably late, so you can imagine how long it took us to get in.

BABYLONIA: Were there people out on the street talking about the work when you arrived?

BSDH:No, because the dealer had made special arrangements to house each procession of patrons in a warehouse until all had gone through. We also had to sign consent forms to this lockdown before being allowed into the show. The point was to build a critical mass, heighten the tension and mystery and not spoil the element of surprise for others. In the waiting rooms there was a squadron of security dressed in uniforms resembling those of Kurdish warriors. They escorted you to the restrooms, fed you, or got you out of the building to a private ambulance– if you had, as many did, a medical emergency. Extreme nausea mostly.

BABYLONIA: What was your response to the exhibition?

BSDH:I just made it in with the very last group to be admitted in that day.

Since the groundfloor windows were frosted black we had no way of knowing it was pitch black inside as well. Luminous strips on the floor served as an illuminated footpath. The path led you to a roped-off, white-curtained area  that glowed from within and almost possessed an ultraviolet radiance. Suddenly the curtains parted and all that stood between us and the work were the veils covering the entrances to the shows nine exhibition rooms. Each exhibit–or specimen in Mandela’s parlance– was on display behind glass. Among them was his most famous one, then titled Cultural Properties,  but later renamed Cubist Face Bitch. It or really she was blonde, heavily Nordic featured, half seated, half standing on a surgical table with her back to us.  Her figure was lithe and stately.

 A spotlight was trained on her rippling back and revealed it to be hideously disfigured. I mean the woman’s flesh had literally been scraped, shredded, torn to shreds. We’re talking a lunar surface of scars, welts, bruises, peeling rolls of dessicated skin. After a minute or so a levitating hologram came into view beside her. It held a replica of the infamous 19th century portrait of an ex-slave named Gordon. Gordon had been a gentleman perhaps in his early 50s when the photograph was taken. His nose was aquiline, his posture  stoic yet almost effeminate. He and the blonde were posed in exactly the same way and the scarring on his back had clearly served as the model for the work done on hers. Several epiphanies came to me at once. The exacting quality of the scar tissue reproduction, the nobility of long suffering Gordon combined with his utter lack of shame, rage or visible melancholia. It was as if the violence done to him had only heightened his regality. It brought to mind Toni Morrison’s comment that the remarkable thing about slavery was that beastial treatment had not turned us into a beastial people. Ironically, it would take commodity-fetishism to perform that Americanizing deformation on our folk. The disposessed becoming demonically possessed by their desires for factory-wrought possessions.

BABYLONIA:Elaborate, if you will, on how that idea resounds through Mandela’s art.

BSDH:All of Mandelas work was a critique of the Americanization of the African soul, both the voluntary and involuntary forms of that corruption, and most especially the genetic.

BABYLONIA:Continue on about the show.

BSDH:The blonde pivoted around so that we might see her facial features. Her nose had been scraped off–a homage I immediately knew, to the nasty bit of work Napoleon  had performed on The Sphinx at Geza. She only had one eye, positioned on the far right side of her face. It was streaked, outlined and adorned with kohl, Egyptian style. After a few seconds the lights suddenly dimmed on that spectacle and we were all left violently, nakedly , aware of our selves. Our shaken, shuddering selves. The second curtain parted and we saw a living tableaux, a black man and a  white  woman in togas.An overhead lamp flicked on to reveal that they were Siamese twins, joined together from the hips to the lower cranium.  A caption floated in the air besides them–“Integration is Misegenation is Mutation”. The couple blithely toasted us before their mis-en-scene faded to black. The next installation displayed a movie screen after the curtains went up. When the film began running we were shown Mandela in a doctors smock holding a chalkboard pointer. Titles came up reading Mirror, Mirror Who’s the fairest of them all? A very pregnant white woman who could have been blonde before the surgery lay on a canopy bed. The camera moved in for an extreme close-up on her exposed belly. Her torso dissolved to a vibrant color field  and we were taken inside her womb. She was carrying twins, one black, one white Both were male. In a time elasped sequence the black child grew monstrously larger than his white brother and threatened to crush him at any second. We braced ourselves for the worst, but the film ran out and thrust us back into our stinking fear. We heard the spinning and twirling sound of an empty film reel and it’s full cousin whose celluloid tail had taken to air, flapping away as it made it’s final revolutions . To say we were shocked, outraged, enraged and energized by Mandela’s work would be an understatement. We felt terrorized and victimized. More by the how of the exhibit than even the why. We knew tortured living flesh had been put forth for our delectation. Flesh transformed by monstrous science and artful skill into an objet d’art by an inhuman visionary and racist lunatic. Was the work done under threat of death or done with the consent of the participants? Were those twins real or a  graphic hallucination?  Were these objectified subjects of experimentation, victims or sadomasochists? Was the work reversible? I had to know. It seemed unconscienable,  and even preposterous, that these ‘works’ were on sale. Yet each  was tagged and priced–a parade of mutilated, mutated  and deformed human flesh available for purchase by well endowed customers. The systematic fury of Mandela’s project went beyond nihilism in its vicious denial of human dignity. I knew by then my dear sweet Babylonia that your grand father was the most diabolically brilliant man I would ever meet. I also knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life documenting his career and working methods. I’ve had more insane ideas since, if you can believe that. Excerpted and abridged from interviews Babylonia Free conducted with Black Snake Dick Head  as originally published in the Winter Solstice Special Race Issue of Artforum.