by Frank Endert
Issue 1 : The IMAGO MUNDI
The Crawfish Dream Asylum:
A manufactured realm connected to Earth
The latch screeched in pain to the turning of the iron key. With the tumblers compromised, the first intruder pushed the large door open. The noise of laughter and loud conversations ushered the two strangers into the large room.
The couple looked to each other and entered. Disguised, her mask was made of bone ash porcelain with oval eyelets; a series of red painted hearts dripped down her right cheek - emulating tears. His mask was made of latex, dark, and molded into a snarling visage of a wild beast, with a canine snout and white pointed teeh.
As he held her hand, he approached an antiquated machine Beneath the half-mask, he spoke, "Well, here it is."
In the dim room, she nodded, affirmatively.
He let go of her hand and searched for the main kill switch on the device and flicked it. The room ignited with a carnival of lights and electronic noises.
The bright glow from the machine licked into her face as she took in the glamour of the apparatus. Moving her gaze upward, she saw a dominant metallic sign with the words IMAGO MUNDI branded on it.
Below the sign, a large primal Tiki statue stood, perched on a pedestal that was attached to the wall. Arms stretched out to the ceiling, the Tiki god held an old train station clock over its head. It chirped methodic tics to affirm the passing of time. Below all of that, was a huge wheel fastened to the same back wall. Two glass deprivation tanks were bound on the wheel with horizontal straps made of brass and capped on the bottom and top with brass lids. Each tank was secured to the opposite sides of the wheel.
The man spoke, "This is her masterpiece."
The woman spoke, "Is she an artist?"
"Who, Natasha? Yes. Well - kind of."
"The Imago Mundi, huh?"
"Yes. I believe it is Latin for 'imagine a world' - or something like that."
Admiring the detailed hammmered-metal craftwork of the IMAGO MUNDI, the women nodded in silence. She glimpsed at its foundation. A heavy cover ,made out of slabs of obsidian marble, was mounted to the floor. Trapped inside, the hidden bowels of the machine hummed in electronic protest.
The woman tilted her head to the side, "Impressive."
She marveled at the visible murky waters within each deprivation chamber; one glowed with a creamy amber hue, while the other brooded a deep indigo color. The dark blue chamber resided at the bottom of the wheel, while the brighter one Ferris wheeled at the top. Each tank had a title plate. The placard on the top tank read 'DREAMER', while the plate on the bottom tank read 'DESTROYER'.
As she drew in for a closer look, the nose of her porcelain mask clinked against the thick surface of the tank. She saw nothing, but an abyss; palming the glassed portion of it with both hands, she welcomed the cold touch of it. Spellbound, she breathed measured meditative breaths.
"It moved," she screamed, backing away from the wheel.
"Yes, yes. It moved. He, I believe it is a he," the man pointed to the other tank," And she, they are alive in there." The man tapped on the glass. A fleshy body flopped and struggled within the waters of the 'DESTROYER' tank.
"I, I do not understand."
"I could explain it, but it would only alarm you - further."
"How can you imprison them in there? Like that?"
"Imprison? Are you serious? It is considered a high honor to be chosen for one of Natasha's works of art."
"Yes, in a sense, they are both immortal. Chosen stewards of the Imago Mundi."
The woman looked to her left and right, hugging herself.
The beast masked man stared with disapproval, "This was your idea. I am taking a big risk to bring you here."
The woman said nothing.
"Well. Maybe, we should go. This may have not been such a good idea."
"No? No what?"
"No, I want to try it; you didn't tell me about them. They scared me." She could sense a smirk behind the man's mask. She pointed to the only door in the room, "There is nothing for me out there. Please continue."
"As you wish," He pointed to a display above the wheel. It was another wheel, a smaller one. It was covered, except for a cut out rectangular window at the top. The card showcased in the window was the '5 of Wands'. The card illustrated five men waving around long quarterstaffs without any regard for each other and engaged in a conflict. The men appeared to enjoy the chaos of this battle. "The pattern is already set."
"What does the picture mean?"
"I am not sure. Natasha knows the esoteric meaning of the destiny cards."
The man flipped another kill switch on the Imago Mundi. The ' 5 of Wands' spins away into a visual vortex. Walking to the Tiki idol, there was a digital control panel at its feet with strange symbols for numbers. Turning knobs, he customized the time device to his preferences. The hands of the train clock spun and locked into a five minute angle, the big hand set on '7' while the small hand set on the '8'. The space between the two hands glowed red.
"Take a seat."
The woman looks about. There are six chairs surrounding the machine.
"It doesn't matter."
She pushed two chairs next to each other and sat down in the left chair.
Pulling at the control panel, he unlocked it from the monkeypod wood Tiki god. After mutter something under his breath, the panel slid out further. Long thick wires were attached to it and they seemed to effortlessly stretch as the man walked with the device and sat down next to his companion.Two long brass levers grew up and out of the control panel.
She questioned her memory as the console split apart. Each piece contained a lever and one of the parts sprouted a shiny green jade button.
Offering her the panel without the button, "Grab hold of the lever." As he grabbed his lever, "So, are you ready?"
Before she could answer, the man pressed the green button. The Imago Mundi roared to an exalted degree of activity. The deprivation chambers spun furiously, creating a duo colored whirl. Harsh thumping mechanical sounds pounded from beneath the marble foundation.
The man glimpsed at the clock as a bright pain seared into him. Seconds felt like hours as he watched the red glow between the clock hands convert into a vibrant green hue. At that moment, his elbows locked up and he felt as if someone was running a vacuum within his intestines. A micro second later, his neck got stiff and his brain could not catch up with his other senses.
Unconscious, their bodies slumped in their chairs. Their hands remained locked, gripping their levers, as the room hummed and crackled with unusual fields of electricity and magnetism.
Santa Rosa , CA 95409
Unable to speak a word, a man wearing a worn out T-shirt with the image of Yoda giving any random passerby the 'finger', drank from a half gallon of orange juice. His impulses had gotten the best of him and the deranged mage went too far, again.
"La, la, la. Who is that? There you go. Oh who is going to get up, today?" A woman cooed and cajoled a toddler from behind the park bench that the mage slouched in.
His head throbbed in a shattered realm of stasis.
Charlotte was back. He knew it would be even harder, possibly impossible, to get rid of her this time. She walked around the bench with her professional camera wrapped around her neck. Supposedly, she was a great photographer - mostly portraits.
The toddler was speaking in garbled high pitched noises.
Pulling the camera up to her face, she pointed it over the mage's shoulder and clicked a few shots. "That's right. La, la, la. Oooh, you are so strong. Look at you. That is right."
Too focused on a painted bench, twelve feet away, The mage was distracted.
She invaded his concentration. Her voice was syrupy and sunk into his entire being - haunting him with a melodic sound of estrogen and condescension. It was meant for the child, but in his condition, it cut into him like a psychopath singing love songs to their newly captured prey.
Charlotte smiled at him warmly, "Hi, nice day isn't it."
The sweetness in her voice revolted and excited him. He started to keep track of the trees behind her that hissed with green tongues and spiraled with pine tree branches stabbing into the sun. He held vigilant and tried to remain calm. The mage said nothing. Charlotte tormented him; she knew that he was unable to speak and he was hers for the taking.
"The quite type, huh?" Charlotte licked her blue painted lips. "I like that," moving closer, Charlotte whispered, "I like that, a lot." Her bottom lip rubbed against the outline of the mage's left ear. The wet feel of her mouth made him shiver.
The sun was shined like a floppy gooey jellyfish, an egg yolk that had been perforated by a fork - bleeding sun trails of light, watered with primary colored pigments.
"Look at you, who wants to speak? Who wants to use his words?" Charlotte pulled the camera up and snapped a few more shots over the mage's head. "That's right. La, la, la," She ran back to the toddler. "You are so strong, and look at you - you can do it all by yourself."
The mage's movements were stunted in his mind, like a low level shutter speed. He would look to the left, wrapping his fingers around each other in tight knots, to the point of almost breaking them. His left leg stretched out, defiantly, as if it had a mind of its own.
It wasn't until his left foot flinched out and to the right, that his focus slammed into another direction: the painted park bench twelve feet away from him. The artist had painted a 'Día de Muertos' mural on it. The fountain, behind the bench, accommodated three separate spouts of city water shooting up into the air - proud and unfaltering with motion; the light of the afternoon fell into the background as the bench thudded with deep resonant sounds of dominance.
The images on the bench were dancing. Cheek to cheek, skull to skull, the skeletons held each other close, with passion, with fervor, their skinless smiles clacking with exotic ecstasy. Colorful, like their yellow, orange, and viridian costumes, their love for each other festered - frozen in time and worn down with the use of the public park bench. The mural images changed their moods and glowered at the mage: shaming him for his non-existence.
The mage surrendered, I love you too.
Yes, we know you do, the mural thought back to him. The mage laughed and then went dumb, shocked that he actually made a noise. It seemed like years had passed since he heard his own voice.
In a lurid instant, the next f stop shutter speed shunted the mage into a new physical position and focal point.
Two overweight girls, with bright patterned baseball caps inspected the mage as he sat alone on his bench. His hair was bedraggled and shown a common brown while his jeans were clean,but baggy and distressed. He sported a ragged moustache, full and booming, like something you would see on a highway patrolman, if it was the 1970's, or if the patrolman still lived in the 1970's, in his own mind. His cheap prescription glasses flashed, greasily, at the girls, showing faded blue eyes - friendly, yet awkward.
One of the girls looked to the other and made a rude 'Phhht' noise with her lips, conveying disbelief. She said, "Psych. Psych." and walked off, ignoring the mage trapped inside his own miasma of reality.
In static violence, the mage propped both of his hand behind his neck and stared up into the air; his focus was on the town square clock. Only minutes had passed, but he was already sorry for what he had done. He wished she would leave, but he knew Charlotte was not going anywhere.
Her hands touched his from behind. They were cool, so soothing, so demanding. Charlotte reached further. Racing her pale hands across and down the front of his neck, she draped them, lazily, around Yoda's image.
"You know, I used to be a witch."
Yes I know, he had heard it before.
"Wicca." Charlotte rubbed his chest in sweeping sensual patterns, "It is a very peaceful, harmonious and balanced way of life. It promotes oneness with the divine and all which exists."
The mage's hands broke from the back of his head and slammed down on the seat of the bench, palms open and fingers stretched out. Pretty. He could not stop thinking of this word when he thought of her. He didn't have to look at her to know what she was to him.
She was everything. Everything, everything, everything, it echoed in his thoughts. Her kindness resonated into him, drowning his senses with safety, with comfort.
His thoughts changed and his head shifted focus, again, as his fingers re-locked around each other in contorted formations. The poison is strong. Wow, so strong.
Charlotte let go of him, snapped a few more pictures of the toddler, as the clock tower swept a few more minutes away into the day. She walked in front of the mage, blocking the view of the fountain gurgling absurdities to him, "How do you feel, Samuel?"
Samuel looked up at her: a face - smooth- round dark eyes, lacking pupils, little lines of powdery light blue accentuating them from the bottom of her eye lids. She blinked.
Samuel spoke, "I feel insane."
"Of course you do." Charlotte planted Samuel with a soft full kiss.
It had been so long, too long, since he tasted Charlotte's wet kiss, a signature, a renewal of a dark contract, a bond of destruction, so he could begin, again.
The farther he fell, the longer she stayed and he truly loved her for it.
Pretty. So, pretty. Never stay and always betray - endlessly.
Charlotte pulled away and said, "Come, Samuel. Get up and look at what you have wrought with your abusive magic."
The madness of her and his awakening, again, distorted the city park into flames - a visual atrocity. The toddler sat before him on an indigo blanket,crackling with electric stars and swirling with persimmon colored comets.
The pudgy child had the skin color of a milked down tangerine; eyes an amber brown, projecting forgiveness and untold fortune. Two eyebrows flowed into high pointed semi-circular landmarks; they were the only common features that Samuel found recognizable on him. A red tattoo of a red trident, lacking a handle, mantled the child's forehead; he lacked a nose, but furbished a thick and luxurious trunk-like snout.
The toddler gooed in an unintelligible language, as his trunk reached out and encapsulated it's favorite rattle. He vibrated with a unnatural glow of health. Using two of his four arms, the toddler pushed himself up into a standing position and trumpeted a loud song of deafening joy.
Charlotte mounted and caressed Samuel in a wrestler's embrace. "There he is, my sweet. You have killed Monday and we will be with you for a very long time."
Samuel nodded foolishly, feeling his powers beginning to return.
Samuel knew that he fractured this world to a point of no return. He would have to finish what he started - for the love of everyone, for the love of all.
He remembered when he first met Charlotte, as an afterthought, attached to a casual friend; they were heading their way out of the theater and back to the commune. His child-of-hippies friend, Gabrielle, introduced her to him. She was calm and Samuel looked her directly in the eye, as he did with everyone. It hit, without doubt, that she was not a 'Mundane'. Samuel, soaking up her energy from those dark eyes, said, "Yes, Gabrielle, I can tell that she knows her worth." Charlotte looked back observantly, sizing him up. Her look was deviant, covetous, yet light and unassuming; she was not asleep.
Gabrielle chuckled and agreed. He was used to such odd behaviors, and considered the strange response to be Samuel just being 'Samuel'.
The town was small, but he soon found Charlotte, everywhere. She collected friends like purchasing bags of cheap candy and ran in social circles, similar to Samuel's circle of friends. Without thinking about it, intuitively, Samuel knew, as he entered a shop, turned a corner, or entered a class room, when Charlotte would materialize.
Samuel thought he got away with it, but the stars in the sky were always watching. He was sloppy and many of the 'Mundanes' saw him bend the school's oak tree into unnatural formations with his mind. Later that night, he created an additional taboo spell and set the monstrosity on fire, purging it from existence. Those two flagrant hexes on reality locked him to her. Unknown to himself, Samuel was a marked man, Charlotte found her query; he reeked of obscene magic.
Walking down a country road, late at night, walking back from the downtown area and back to the commune, Samuel remembered the bizarre bleeding of headlights behind him on a moonless night. The stars glared down and spoke to him. They whispered and mocked him by tutoring him with his own personal thoughts and theories.
"Yes I know. I know that already. Please do shut up."
The sparkling sentinels refused to stop babbling in his ears. They prophesied doom, loss, and love.
That is when a boat of an old beat-up luxury car pulled passed him and parked to the side of the road.
Great. Here we go.
Samuel's intuition was ringing. Shelly, a class mate, was waving at him and calling his name, but he already knew who was driving the car. The two girls semi-kidnapped him and took him on a ridiculous ride of misadventures, including: chasing chickens in a barn that blared red light bulbs as porch lights, snuck up on a cow that had a huge window in the side of its stomach where you could see hay being digested in one of its guts, followed by dumpster diving behind a brand name grocery store; Shelly new the exact hour they dumped all the fresh left over doughnuts from bakery. They, eventually, drove Samuel home. She, now, knew where he lived.
Weeks of coincidences piled up and nature ran its course. In each others arms, they would wax poetic on how they have always known each other. Rambling nonsense, Samuel would proclaim to Charlotte things like when he was eight and she was four, they would fight over who got to sit in the 'Dog' chair.
They were spies, interlopers, looking in through the 'out' door at a humanity consumed by its numbness. Their bond enhanced everything, distracting Samuel from his mystical practices, confusing him further from paths unexplored. The world was licking its minor wounds as the 'Mundanes' grew bored of being ‘aware’ and fell back to sleep.
The further Samuel grew comfortable in her box of love, lost, anesthetized, and smothered in happiness, the less she respected him. Soon, Charlotte's gaze began to find faults; they were faults that were always there. Charlotte re-discovered them out of convenience to initiate the next step.
Where, once, Samuel was a flawless gem, he was now a scourge of annoyance. They fought, they cursed, and they abandoned each other. Love's victims embraced each other's demise and spread their pain into others, as it was intended, forever unresolved.
Charlotte was no accident, she was a debt collector for those who don't abide and respect the delicate threads that keep everyone in this world from spinning out control - unraveling into incalculable series of chaotic oblivions. The cycle of this world was not complete and further such interruptions would snag the progress of the future, at least, according to the 'Weavers': her boss.
That was when Samuel learned there was a price for everything. It took him a decade to disengage from his love for her. It only took tearing the variable ‘Monday’ apart from the time continuum of Earth to bring her back. As a punishment and redemption, balance had to be met and all accounts had to be paid in full.
Charlotte laughed at him, hearing his thoughts.
"It will be an eternity before you are rid of me, lover."
Remembering how much he enjoyed her company, Samuel smirked and said, "So, how do we work our way to Tuesday?"
Thank you for reading my work.
If you are interested reading the rest of the first issue of Clown World or the second issue, you can check out links to these ebooks.at happydaggerpress.com