You’re Not That Special

12734245_10153855313396341_6434009887217132345_n

For the 2100, June 27th, 2014

Secret Hero, soon before realizing she was one of 2100 of the same human, posted a sign that said, “Needed by the Needy” in front of her DJ booth. “Needed by the Needy” was the title of her mix tape, and the excuse would be advertising this mix tape, but also this was the motto she wanted to plaster on everything as new subtitle to Secret Hero. She put “Needed by the Needy” sat in front of her turntable like a name for it, like knights name horses. The turntable functioned as an exteriorization of this defining power. People shouted at her, she’d tap her earphones. Shrug her shoulders. She’d mouth “Can’t hear you.” It was a loud club, and her job to make it loud and make everyone deaf to everyone else. Nothing she could do. No interaction. Sorry, humanity, out of luck. Keep spinning.

But “Needed by the Needy” was also a hobby in her off hours, as pride driven as big game hunting. The way she’d prey on the Needy Ones developed from simple drink buying. They’d sit at the bar, converse with her. More like converse at her, as unidirectional as dancers shouting up at her DJ booth. Early on she tried to say with her eyes, “I’m using you purely for the self-importance dopamine, so shut up,” but they’d keep yammering. When later at the turn table they tried to talk to, the pain when she pretended she didn’t even see them was delicious.

The problem with this variety of dopamine addiction is the effect wears off too easily. When the simple drink buying failed to feed her like she needed it to, she started the friendship racket. She’d single out the most pathetic ones and say, “You’ve been coming to the club so much I feel like you’re my best friend.” The look in their eyes like witnessing paradise, for Secret Hero this was better than a megahit of any drug. She didn’t do drugs, and she didn’t even drink, but she couldn’t imagine simple consumption could equate to destroying lives.

In the middle of the friendship racket, she’d tell herself over and over as her predatory mantra, “Pretend to Care.” That’s what she was best at. She was the queen of Pretend to Care. If she could have two mottos they would be “Needed by the Needy” and “Pretend to Care.” She’d watch them crumble as they failed to reach her pedestal or get her real attention or know her outside of this. Soon the black ocean when Secret Hero, through force of pure will power, would turn these fake friends into pure nothingness. The total crumbling, from head to toe to soul to will to live, man, it was tasty.

There was this one guy named Arthur she used to know in high school (and she used to know everything about people then) but now not so much and everything she used to know and care about was jettisoned into a waste incinerator in her soul fueled by pure hate. This Arthur guy wanted to meet after this long set for drinks. It’s not like that, he told her. He’s married, he told her. He just wants to catch up, blah blah blah. Turns out after a couple times of Pretend to Care, they’re all of a sudden best friends, and he’s there every night. This would be her masterpiece, almost too delicious.

It got better: his wife beat him, scratched his face until it bled, and Secret Hero was the only one he had in the world who’d listen. He’d come in with scars up and down his body, bruises and black eyes, one time even a broken pinky. “My wife has a bad temper.” Who cares what the ogre’s name was, the more monstrous his stories and scars, the more monstrous Secret Hero imagined her. She delayed and delayed the final breaking, like a great tease artist, but when she cut the tie, ignored him like a nonexistence, it was a masterpiece.

Maybe he killed himself, maybe left his wife, who cares? Secret Hero saw herself as a herd-thinning wolf, killing the weak. If she ever did drive any of her victims to suicide, all the better for the gene pool, but she never cared enough to do follow up research.

But then she swallowed the wrong prey with Eve Eeny. She had the crazed look of a crab snapping but delicate otherwise. When Secret Hero saw that look in her eyes, she wondered if she could finally drive someone to orgasmicly commit suicide right in front of her. Eve Eeny tried to signal “We need to talk,” but Secret Hero was smarter than that (as she was smarter than most things). Later at a picnic table behind the club smoking a secret cigarette (her lone substance addiction she would always only ever do alone and kept secret from everyone for no real reason), Eve sat down beside her. Secret Hero wanted to scream but swallowed it. She’d already hooked Eve with her indifference, and displays of legitimate fear would ruin her hard work.

“Sorry to scare you,” Eve said.

“You didn’t.” Secret Hero looked around for weapons just in case. This could be the karmic consequence of her consuming friendship victims, one wacko she didn’t even know offs her in a back alley.

“It’s just I have…There’s things you need to know.

“Like what?”

Then Eve said, “We are the same person.” She left it at that as if that was clear.

“I don’t follow.”

“We are the same human being.” That didn’t clarify as she only changed one word. “We were born simultaneously. There are 2100 of us. We’re having a reunion.” She gave Secret Hero a flier. “The 2100,” it said. “Reunion of the Co-Born.”

“I don’t understand any of this,” said Secret Hero, giving up the mystique of superior knowledge for the sake of better understanding. Her gut, normally used for optimal predation, told her that this Eve lady was being genuine, and there was some connection between them she couldn’t quite place. “What do you mean we are the same person?”

Eve said, “Do you covet the regard of others just so you can reject them because you get a high?”

Secret Hero said, “Who doesn’t?” as if this was a common practice.

“That’s kind of our signature move. I do it with ghosts. Man, the heartbreak on a rejected ghost, unbelievable.” She was clearly a crazy person, but still Secret Hero wanted to know more.

She wanted to go to the reunion of the 2100 if only to solve the mystery of its existence. She made a mixtape for the occasion called “Myriad Stolen Night Cars,” decided to bring her boombox in her backpack, just in case demonstrating a singular skill could give her any advantage.

For many years, Secret Hero had worked on isolating this one pure sound she heard in a dream. She spent hours every day on that one note. She wondered if isolating this pure sound was her life’s mission, why she’d been given the fuel of misery. In the small part of herself that regretted all her destructiveness and delight, she wondered if this elusive purity could compensate for anything she’d done.

Most of the people at the 2100 reunion (and Secret Hero had noticed only the humans at first) remained isolated with those judgmental eyes Secret Hero must’ve given everyone. Imagine a meeting of vampires who are only capable of interacting with victims. The first step is to find the weak and open. To prey on an equal parasite would be a contradiction to the essential principles of soul destruction. But outside of this, there was nothing there, the 2100 were too untrusting of nonvictims (in this way “bestfriend” was less a lie and more complicated than the prey ever understood).

Eve Eeny was somehow different. This distrust seemed absent. This may be what real kindness looked like, but Secret Hero would never fall for it. Eve introduced Secret Hero to two friends (or “friends,” who knows?) sitting at a table together unlike anyone else there. “This is Dr. Havelock.”

Secret Hero said, “What are you a doctor of?”

Dr. Havelock said, “Just a doctor.” Good one. No hierarchical comparisons plus mystery plus she could go crazy on you any minute. Secret Hero regretted not thinking of that.

Eve said, “Show her your zombies.”

Dr. Havelock said, “Okay but brief background: are you familiar with the singer John Denver?”

“Yes” and Secret Hero rolled her eyes. They were both slipping into subtle habits of soul crushing. She tried to stop herself, certain the other versions of herself must know her tricks.

Dr. Havelock said, “John Denver has tiny people living inside him. Or used to. When he died, I dug him up and stole his tiny people. I made them all zombies.”

She was crazy. They all were crazy. But then Secret Hero saw the first proof that maybe there was a little more to this than some mass mutual insanity. Dr. Havelock pulled a breath mint can out of her pocket and dumped the contents on the table. Zombies. Tiny zombies. Hundreds of them stumbling all over the table as Dr. Havelock gently wrangled them. “I love these guys.”

“I named them all after sitcom characters. There’s J.D. and Dr. Cox. This is Donna and Donna (Donna Reed and That 70s Show).” And so on.

Eve introduced her to another friend: “This is June Einstein.”

June said, “I’m a world traveler. I develop relationships with buildings that become sentient.” She started showing wallet photos of her world travels and the sentient buildings as if anybody cared. “I started out with movie houses, gas stations. Boy those waitresses were pissed when I brought the restaurant home. Here’s me with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

Secret Hero said, “That seems painful.”

June said, “I’m sure he’s still recovering.”

“I’m glad you three are nice,” said Secret Hero. “This whole concept seemed like a terrible idea. Who would even propose this reunion? I mean knowing what we’re like. I mean you bring together a lot of people who define themselves as special and above everyone. What’s the point?”

Eve said, “It is possible to get over this sickness of our shared being. I used to have a ghost addiction, and I’m over it.”

Secret Hero said, “That can’t be common. The only purpose I would imagine for a meeting like this is kill us all. Whoever planned this wants to kill us so she could be the last remaining special one.” With this declaration, Secret Hero may have won the table. Just being a DJ seemed so far below creating tiny zombies, Secret Hero needed something beyond them. She’d be smartest by pointing out what seemed to be an obvious murder plot (but she saw obvious murder plots everywhere). They were silent. They changed subject. There was nothing else to do. “So I hear the monsters and superheroes are coming up soon.”

They spent the following half hour sharing techniques like a professional conference: “My favorite technique is the intervention. I corner the prey and tell him just how wrong and weird he is for his own good.” At “for his own good” the whole table howled with laughter. The old Pretend to Care line. “We should mail each other all our techniques.”

Then it was time for the parade of monsters and superheroes. They came into the convention center accompanied Led Zeppelin music. They probably thought they were original. Superheroes mostly chose “Kashmir.” Monsters mostly chose “When the Levee Breaks” or “I Got a Girl Who Can’t be True.” Most of the superheroes and monsters were males, surprisingly.

There was one called The Wound with a gaping chest wound. The Wound sort of created an “i” with a split through the body from the sternum all the way down so he had long legs and too many joints.

There was one called The Ring who had a shimmering gold ring inside of which everything was indelible and inviolable. Anyone who blasphemed that scared ring was cursed to deteriorate into nothingness to a barrage of “How. Dare. You.” Say, for example, The Ring placed a random fork inside the sacred circle, and even if you joked “Let’s outlaw spoons,” The Ring would say, “How. Dare. You.” and made the blasphemer collapse into a tiny ball until soon there was nothing left. Secret Hero’s table saw this happen. “Serves him right.”

Then there was one called Schadenfreude who was all gray scraggly stone in monstrously strong gorilla proportions. Schadenfreude had porcelain fangs and strapped on his back a sword and a hammer bigger each than most humans present. All his old man wrinkles had humans inside them engaged in trench warfare. “I love Schadenfreude,” Dr. Havelock said and gave a wink like this love was the worst variety. “He’s a Promusaurifex like John Denver. That means he has tiny people inside him.”

Secret Hero said, “But we’re all the same person. That seems incestuous to love yourself like this.”

“Loving ourselves is kind of the whole point of our existence,” said Dr. Havelock.

Next the Lava Popes entered to “Misty Mountain Hop,” the obviousness of which became clear when they formed a lava mountain. Lava Popes were very literal. An army of popes made of lava erupting from the ground. One wall collapsed. But it seemed like a work, like the wall had been gimmicked to collapse this way. All the lava that splashed them was cold. “It’s only bodily fluid. Pretty gross,” said Eve. They formed a mountain so tall, they also disintegrated the ceiling.

Then Secret Hero saw something far above them descending like a meteor. She guessed this is the one who gimmicked the ceiling for this entrance. “My guess is this flying self would be the murderer,” Secret Hero said pointing upward to the meteor.

“That’s the Mountain of Screaming Mako Sharks,” said Dr. Havelock. He was another literal one, a man shaped giant of black stone filled with sharks. The screaming seemed to emit a sonic blast that scattered members of the 2100 to atoms. Witnessing the death of multiple selves hardly elicited any emotions, and Secret Hero was shocked by how cold she had become. She was right about the murder. She loved being right, but she hated being right. The Lava Popes were wiped out first. They collapsed into cave-like wounds. The Wound and Schadenfreude fought valiantly, but they had little defense against the sonic screams and inevitable atomization.

Secret Hero suddenly found herself jealous of this miraculous heroism. If only she could be like that. Of all the feelings she could have felt at this moment, jealousy was the most surprising.

The Ring put the ring around herself and made herself indelible. Secret Hero could understand this.

Secret Hero ducked behind a table with Eve and Dr. Havelock as if this could do anything to save them (June skipped out when business got real).

Eve suddenly started laughing. She said, “‘All the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!” and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”’’” Eve laughed an even louder and crazier laugh. “Somebody had to make that reference,” she said before dissipating as atoms along with Dr. Havelock.

As Secret Hero ran away and ducked into the kitchen, she remembered a story Arthur told her during her friendship racket and the Pretend to Care. He and his wife were going to see Watchmen with some friends. The wife wanted to sit near the aisle because of bladder problems. When the two friends arrived, Arthur stood to let the two friends have the aisle seat, and the wife in rage dug her claws in so deep she drew blood all the while smiling. Four beads of blood remained on his arm even later when he saw Secret Hero. She refused to save him like she refused to save anybody.

Now she put her mixtape in her boombox and fast forwarded to the pure note she found. This was her purpose. Stop the Mountain. Save the 2100. But it didn’t do anyting. Maybe she had to get closer, hold the pure note aloft against the sonic screaming. Maybe it did little good to hide away in the kitchen now. She looked at the door going into the ballroom and the door going out to safety. She could get away so easily, out to a world where there was no more 2100. Except maybe a handful of survivors who would know better now than to have a reunion. Then there was the Mountain of Screaming Mako Sharks who may seek her out some day, but she was so small. Why would he care? Why would he put the effort into finding little her?

The choice was simple really. She tucked her boombox under her arm and got the hell out of there.

The Porpentine Sisters :oR: The Purity of Raining Rainbow Corpses

Milly Triple Sixes had a sister named Josie Porpentine though none of her friends knew she had any family at all. Milly (according to Josie’s accusations) failed to come home for Christmas ever since she dedicated her life to (fake) Satanism. Josie revealed this lack of a Christmas return embarrassingly to Milly’s whole (fakely) Satanic rock band (Raining Rainbow Corpses) during one (random) garage practice (given greater importance (by Milly) considering the impending regional band battle (Band Battle at the End of Everything)). Josie was dressed in thoroughly unSatanic business attire. She could’ve been a legitimate business lady or a librarian or a senator, displaying the sort of conformity (at least according to this first impression) Raining Rainbow Corpses was supposed to rail against, but all in all she seemed like a nice and decent lady.

The problem was (at least according to Milly) Raining Rainbow Corpses might one day have fans. If these Christmas visits became common knowledge among these (fakely) Satan-worshipping fan legions, this would ruin her reputation for bedevilment and badassery (should that reputation ever actually come to fruition).

“It’s what good people do!” was the sort of thing Josie Porpentine would say between screams with the sort of passion incongruous with her put-together demeanor (but similar to Milly’s passion in screaming about “Bastards of Corporate America” (or whatever she screamed about in her ultraSatanic screamery)).

“Fans of Satanic rock bands don’t tolerate anything to do with Christmas!” was the sort of thing (or nonsensical blather (depending on your perspective)) Milly screamed back at her sister (with unsurprising volume).

Chastity Schwartzbaum, the bassist for Raining Rainbow Corpses, told a blushing Milly, “Our hypothetical future fans will understand if you indulge in some seasonal family love.”

“No,” screamed Milly Triple Sixes (though her voice was scream-scarred from the hours of practice she mandated and finally started to show it). “This band is our only family now!”

“Don’t be offended if I fail to actually live like that, the whole family abandonment thing seems a bit icky to me,” said Chastity holding an over-big bass she was not yet used to holding. “I mean bass playing is a weekend thing for me. I love it like a Victorian novel cousin maybe.”

“Few can live up to rock purity,” said Milly in a calmer voice. “I’m no one to judge.”

Chastity’s objection was thusly shut down with only mild condescension. Besides, this conversation between Milly and Chastity only punctuated more explosive fits between the two Porpentine sisters.

By the way (because it seemed like a by-the-way sort of thing) Josie had strapped to her belly by babycarrier a robot plush with long limp dangly arms. Why would otherwise-business-like-demeanor lady carry a plush in this way (like harajuku girls)(or like a baby-less lady who lost her mind and carried dolls around as void filler)(or like–not really like anything Chastity had seen before)?

Josie said, “Your sister wants to sing in your show” (now referring to herself in third person to further the sense of incongruity?)(or perhaps there was a third Porpentine sister?)(It was fascinating how the squarest person in the room could be the most baffling.)

Milly said, “Did Doohickey tell you this herself, or is this classic Milly emotional torture time?”

“She said it’s her only Christmas wish.”

Then the robot plush piped in, “It’s my only Christmas wish.”

A few things now made more sense while a lot of things made a lot less sense. This little robot plush was called Doohickey (Chastity (at least) pieced this together) and she was the third Porpentine sister. Why Milly’s little sister looked like a robot plush was still a mystery, but it seemed rude to ask. (“It has to be a birth defect,” Chastity told herself. “What could it be other than a robot plush birth defect?”)

“Hush now, Doohickey. I got this handled,” Josie said and patted the robot plush like a pet on a belly harness.

Milly said, “I can’t let Doohickey sing in my band. That’s never something I’m ever going to allow to happen as long as I’m alive.”

Josie said, “Why? What reason could you have other than your outsized bitterness about all the world’s crimes against you? For that reason, you’d deny your sister’s one wish, the only thing she’s ever requested in her life?”

Milly (despite all her rock and roll bravado and rage that led so easily to any silent space being filled with her ragey sound no matter how senseless) failed to answer.

The Lava Sisters piped in at this point (Chastity could never tell the Lava Sisters apart (though one played drums and one played guitar, they became a unified entity while standing side by side)): “Milly has never been well acquainted with reality. She’s only so desperate because the Prophet will be at the concert.” (The Lava Sisters always seemed like transcendent entities, like doubling was only a secondary function of their deity status, so mentioning the Prophet seemed only to naturally flow from their lips.)

Josie said, “Who’s the Prophet?”

The Lava Sisters (whichever one) said, “The Prophet is only the local music critic. There’s a lot of onlys in this situation that highlight Milly’s complaint as ridiculous: 1) The Prophet is only a Milly-like self-aggrandizer; 2) it’s only a Band Battle at the End of Everything, not like a real concert any real human would respect; 3) we only got in because we paid a fee; 4) we’ll only be the first of a dozen, and real bands will be headlining. This argument is purely your variety of idiocy, Milly. Let’s let your sister sing. It’s not like she’d be much worse than you. This is a four person band after all, and that’s two votes to one.” (Chastity couldn’t tell at what point they were speaking in unison.)

Milly Triple Sixes stared at the Lava Sisters (whom she’d known since all of them were smaller than Doohickey) with all the Satanic power she could manage to force through her eyeballs: “You don’t know the Porpentines” (one of many falsehoods (presumably (since Milly was full of so many)) but something about this seemed truer than the rest). Milly then turned her Milly gaze to Chastity (the new girl (the one who knew everybody the least)) and said, “What’s your vote, Chastity? Two votes to two makes it a tie, and I’m the tie breaker as the band leader.”

Chastity opened her mouth but had nothing to say. All of it left her boggled and blank. Whatever followed and all its tragedy was now piled on Chastity Schwartzbaum.

Doohickey did sing at the Band Battle at the End of Everything. She sang “Santa Baby,” too low to even make out the words (uncertain of how microphones work or incapable of holding one properly in limp arms). The audience laughed (uncertain of the type of irony applicable in the situation). Even the Prophet laughed. Milly and Josie stood in the back, powerless against the laughter, except for Milly to mutter “Idiots” and “Assholes” too low for anyone but Josie to hear her (more certain than anyone). Chastity could read her lips from stage and knew exactly what she was saying (uncertain of whether it was for the audience or the rest of the band). She and the Lava Sisters likewise did nothing to save poor Doohickey. They barely knew music to begin with, so improvising “Santa Baby” was sapping most of their mental and emotional energy (they usually let Milly’s rage cover any deficiencies).

Doohickey’s voice faltered like she was finally feeling the emotional effect of the laughter (a barelyfalter but the tragedy was unmistakable). She couldn’t leave the stage (legs too limp (hence why Josie carried her everywhere)) but it was Milly this time who rushed to lift her, pushed through the laughing crowd, slung Doohickey over her shoulder like a baby and walked out to the alley, angrier now at everyone than she’d ever been (Doohickey: “I liked it.” Milly: “Stop lying!”) and stomped like she could break the stones beneath her.

Chastity followed her out to the alley and tried to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t even consider the laughing.” But Milly was too fast and too monolithic a force to ever hear something so pitiful (and none of this was about Chastity anyway).

Then Josie passed Chastity, grabbed Doohickey out of Milly’s arms. Milly had no choice but to relent (she was the weaker one)(Chastity imaged a tugging that would tear the little sister’s body to pieces (but of course that wasn’t the real Milly Porpentine)(she became nothing but a crumbleheap the way Doohickey might’ve been had anyone resisted)).

Josie disappeared (as Doohickey’s little voice said “Merry Christmas” to all the new band friends she made) into whatever mysterious and purposeful life she lived.

Milly stood there (Chastity stood behind her) with nothing to say to shatter the world or the pure and silent and cold winter white around her.