Outsider Art

In Scream at the Sky the Galaxy Zephyr fails to defeat the Enemy Hurricane. Readers of Akayama DanJay might remember that Dan collapsed into a tooth-ball when he smoked centipede. Now the pilots of the Galaxy Zephyr meet a similar fate. I wanted Dan’s struggle as a tooth-ball to be like a horrible drug-trip, emblematic of his mental-state at the time. Now I want the fate of the Galaxy Zephyr to symbolize an even more oppressive mental-state.

Consciousness is weird, no one can explain it, and we’re stuck with it until it’s over. We make art to cope. Art from most people is allowed to be called… “art.” Art from people who aren’t allowed to produce “real” art—people with no formal training, probably struggling with psychiatric disorder—that art gets to be called “outsider art.” Outsider art is often associated with mental-illness and extreme, unconventional fantasy.

The most famous example of outsider art might be Henry Darger. His story of thousands of pages about the “Vivian Girls” in the “realms of the unreal” was only discovered after his death. In it, the Vivian Girls are sweet and perfect and engaged in a constant war against evil adults who kill and torture them, which I can only interpret as repetition and resolution of Darger’s childhood of institutionalization. At the end of the story “Crazy House,” the Vivian Girls fail to exorcise a haunted house, but manage to rescue Darger himself from that house. In his autobiography, Darger details his frustrations in early life before segueing into a fiction about a tornado. All these stories are accompanied by illustrations made partly out of magazine clippings, combining pop-culture and personal struggles in an unforgettable way.

Henry Darger. a) The Vivian girls nuded like child slaves b ...

I don’t think making this connection between art and mental-state belittles Darger or his breathtaking work; rather, I think that connection is empowering and indispensable. I’d argue all art is secretly about the mental-state of the artist (whether the artist intends it or not!), and outsider art in particular can present unfamiliar mental-states front-and-center in a way I want to imitate in the Akayama DanJay series. Outsider art presents new mental-states in ways we didn’t know were allowed.

In the next chapter of Blind Faith, we’ll see that this first chapter has actually been a dream-sequence. (I’m not a fan of dream-sequence openings, but anyone who’s read the first book probably intuits it’s not just a dream.) Lucille, who was only 19 when she became Commander of the Galaxy Zephyr, is haunted by visions of torment after fighting the Enemy Hurricane. While she struggles in the “real world,” her visions of this hell-scape will become worse. When she overcomes in the “real world,” her visions of this hell-scape will become more optimistic. Eventually she’ll use her visions of this hell-scape as a real awesome sword. Akayama DanJay should present a pipeline from trauma to art to empowerment as a method for accepting the existence of suffering. Lucille’s “art” is just gonna be a sick-ass melee-weapon for a giant anime space-robot.

I don’t have Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder from a fight against a giant, evil anime space-robot, but as a kid, I occasionally found myself worrying about unspeakable supernatural torment as punishment for minor failures or for no reason. (My family isn’t religious, just obsessive-compulsive.) In a way, Akayama DanJay and this sequel are my attempt to process those experiences into cool stories anyone can use to better understand themselves and escape their own mental gulag. I want to provoke the aesthetic of outsider art to build a Jungian ordeal which is unbearable, liberating, and rad.

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Meaning in Fiction

In the second section of Akayama DanJay: Blind Faith, Jay is pretty blunt about what he represents in Akayama’s cosmic plan. Then that cosmic plan hits the fan.

In English-classes everywhere, there’s much discussion about what authors meant with a book. Two readers can disagree with each other (and even the author), which effectively means that each reader has their own private edition. Like blind men describing an elephant based only on the portions they can touch, we interpret stories from our own perspectives, and can never really share them.

I want readers to be painfully aware of this when they read Akayama DanJay and this sequel. The books morph from scene to scene, and scenes impact each other in ambiguous ways, so no two readers should agree on what I’m actually saying. I’d like this to encourage readers to pour over and argue about the texts like holy-books even though the stories are explicitly secular, which should, in turn, make readers reinterpret actual holy-books and their own relationship to the universe.

In Akayama DanJay, Dan’s dad argues that all texts, even texts from authoritative sources like science and religion, are empty of inherent meaning, but that that very emptiness unites us in exactly the way science and religion often claim to. Then he jumps out a window and dies. This leads Dan to frustration with Leo, who cites his own supposedly-wealthy-but-actually-absent father when he demands a station above reality, beyond consequences for his actions.

How is the reader meant to interpret this? If Dan’s dad is to be believed, it’s got no inherent meaning, so we should jump out windows to get it over with. But Jay’s understanding of emptiness lets him save mankind from itself. That’s my attempt to turn the lack of a message into a message about coping with the lack of a message. From where I’m standing, the book says “everything is empty, especially this book about people who interpret emptiness in different ways and where those interpretations lead them, wink wink, nudge nudge.” This puts the reader in a hard place, deciding how they react to the emptiness presented, because that emptiness doesn’t go away when they put the book down.

But anyone can interpret Akayama DanJay in any way they choose, and my argument is that ALL those interpretations are all equally empty. So, for maximum pretentiousness, I want this sequel to make readers reinterpret the first book, resulting in a deeper, more detailed outlook. I don’t really care what that outlook is. I just want readers to be unsettled as their point-of-view shifts underneath them. That shifting point-of-view demonstrates the real message, the emptiness of all messages, and therefore the importance of unconditional compassion.

In DanJay Blinks, Jay loses his staring contest with Anihilato. The only difference between this alternate universe and the original universe is a single coin-flip, so both universes seem “valid” or “plausible” in the context of the fiction. In the last book, Jay’s sacrifice worked. In this book, it didn’t. We’re left to ask, “what do we do when our compassion isn’t unconditional enough?”

I couldn’t have written this version of events first. Jay is only allowed to lose in this sequel because readers of the first book have already seen him win. They’ve gotten the message: love is good, yada yada. With the message across, I can knock it down to show it was empty the whole time. If love is really good, the emptiness won’t keep it down for long. When Jay explains his role in the cosmic plan, then bungles it, he’s showing the imagery he represents is empty. Over the course of this sequel he’ll prove that the emptiness only empowers the imagery, corroborating the first book from a fresh perspective.

Likewise, Faith is blinded. In 1678’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian allegory is spelled out with obviously-labeled characters like “Mr. Worldly Wiseman” and “Mr. Legality.” In this secular book which steals and violates religious imagery, I want to provide such obvious labels but twist them around so readers have to argue about what they really mean. What does it mean for the character Faith to be blind?

Well, in the last book, I wouldn’t say Faith had faith. She told Anihilato to “fuck off” and was happy to leave it behind in the desert. Rather, Faith is faith, and other characters have her. Beatrice obviously “has” Faith. Dan “has” Faith sometimes, but sometimes loses her. Dan wants to be with Beatrice, but his only way to her is through Faith. Anihilato tried to “have” faith by grabbing her, but she slips through fingers. Faith doesn’t work like that.

So, in coming chapters, Faith’s blindness will test other characters as much as it tests her. What will it mean to “have” Faith when she can’t see if you’re her friend or a giant worm-monster?

We’ll find out soon enough. Remember, I’m just making it up as I go. Chances are I’ll change every word of these early chapters eventually.

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Start Again

You probably haven’t read my book Akayama DanJay. Not many people have. But I’ve been submitting queries to publishers, and I’ve heard a query sounds better if there’s a sequel in the works, and I’ve have some ideas kicking around anyway, so here we are. In the first chapter of Akayama DanJay: Blind Faith we see what happens to Jango after he sets Dan on fire.

In this commentary I’d like to outline my hopes for the book. That way, if I mess up, I can point to the commentary to explain what I meant.

Akayama DanJay is a faux-anthropology psychedelic trip a la Carlos Castaneda, wrapped in a giant anime space-robot fight which provides a tangible secular mythology. My goal was to mix religious iconography with cheesy pop-culture to provoke the sensation of spiritual experience in people who don’t think they can have one. The winning robot is obviously the one whose philosophical outlook matches my own self-righteous worldview, preaching kindness eternal and niceness when circumstances permit.

The book is politically masturbatory at times, with Dan’s arguments with Leo, but I tried to restrain that political masturbation to a context which clarifies that neither of those characters has it all put together. The overall message is (I hope) a non-partisan treatise on how to exhibit unconditional compassion without being a doormat.

If someone read that book and enjoyed it, then I think they’d enjoy a sequel which got even more pretentious and meta. At the very least, that’s what wanna write. The first book was all about accepting impermanence, so Blind Faith will be about accepting the existence of suffering. A third book in the series would be about accepting non-self to complete the whole wabi-sabi aesthetic I’m spinning, but that’s for another time.

It’s easy for Jango to accept the existence of suffering, because he’s a Virgil who spent decades studying the Mountain. He screams when Nemo eats him alive, but he knew it would happen and climbed up to Nemo anyway. Being eaten alive is Jango’s role in a cosmic plan he’s proud to take part in, because his suffering will lead to others suffering less.

Not everyone is so selfless. There are people who would gladly let others suffer out of convenience, or even cause suffering for profit. Akayama DanJay: Blind Faith must be about dealing with those people in a skillful manner.

To convey such a message about suffering, we’ll dig into Professor Akayama’s past. Akayama confessed to causing a whole lotta suffering by creating the Hurricane, but even that will pale to what we’ll learn. I want the reader to condemn Akayama for her involvement in atrocities, but feel uncomfortable doing so because of her role in rebuilding the universe. As a symbol of the godhead, Akayama has an implicit get-out-of-jail-free card because her actions have metaphorical heft—but I figure any godhead worth its salt should be able to handle all the punishment it knows it deserves. When we eventually forgive Akayama, we’ll be forgiving a secular image of the creator for the suffering we must endure as sentient beings (or, if not forgiving, hopefully at least understanding).

I also want to continue blurring the line between the mundane and the divine by having the “real world” characters like Dan, Jay, Faith, and Beatrice interact with “actually real world” characters like Lucille, Akayama, Charlie, and Daisuke. This should tie the esoteric fights between philosophies (represented by anime robots) to the interactions we have every day. Like in Akayama DanJay, small things in the mundane world should have big consequences in the divine world (of anime robots).

In the end, I want the reader to have endured the unspeakable, but feel stronger for it. I want you to feel like you’re a giant space-robot, because in a pretentious cosmic sense (my favorite kind of sense!), that’s exactly what you are.

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Scream at the Sky

(This is part three of the sequel to Akayama DanJay. This one’s a little disturbing.)


“This is it!” said Lucille, at the control-panel of Zephyr-Alpha-Blue. “It’s now or never!”

When Lucille pulled levers, ZAB sent signals to Charlie and Daisuke, who directed the Galaxy Zephyr’s arms wielding the Wheel. When she stomped metal pedals, ZAB sent signals to the bird-like pilot of Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, who relayed them to Eisu and Fumiko to direct the Galaxy Zephyr’s legs into battle-stance. In total, Lucille led ten thousand pilots plus a principle component of Earth’s population which gave her giant robot sixteen wings. The Galaxy Zephyr was countless light-years tall, but it was barely bigger than the Enemy Hurricane’s fist descending over them.

“Bird-thing!” she shouted. “We need another Zephyr from the Wheel for our Hurricane Armor! We need to pull the Chain!”

“We can’t!” said the bird-pilot of ZAP. “Something’s wrong!”

“We don’t have time!” said Lucille. “This is the end, one way or the other! What did you bumble and how do I fix it?”

The bird-pilot stammered. “It’s complicated! My cosmic plan is falling apart! Humanity’s unwillingness to work together just ate humanity’s understanding of reality’s interconnectedness!”

“…And that’s bad, I take it?”

“It was supposed to be the other way around! Nakayama can’t collect the last of humanity like this!”

“…Nakayama?” Lucille tssk’d. “Your cosmic plan was too complicated if you’ve gotta keep making new names and talking in the third-person, Hakase. The buck stops here! If the Chain won’t work, the Galaxy Zephyr will reach into the Wheel and collect the Zephyrs manually.”

Charlie and Daisuke appeared on Lucille’s monitors. “Commander,” said Charlie, “we’ve been slinging this Wheel around for a while, but we’ve got no clue what’s going on inside it!”

“Failure is not an option,” said Daisuke. “Akayama—Rather, Nakayama—Rather, the professor, in whatever form she’s in—has given us a great and complicated tool. We can’t risk damage to it or us by reaching into it out of ignorance.”

The Wheel cracked and stopped spinning. Its hazy green color split into a yellow side and a blue side. Nakayama was ejected from the Wheel into the Galaxy Zephyr’s Hurricane Armor; she deposited herself in Zephyr-Alpha-Purple, reuniting with the bird-pilot. “It’s ruined!” she cried.

“That great and complicated tool just collapsed on itself.” Lucille twisted a dial and Daisuke begrudgingly prepared the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand to reach into the Wheel. “Let’s loot it for parts.”

“There are pilots in that hand, Lucille,” Charlie chided. “Speak seriously before you send them into a minefield.”

“On your order, Commander,” said Daisuke. Lucille nodded and the Galaxy Zephyr’s left hand entered the Wheel’s side. The Wheel was two-dimensional, but the Galaxy Zephyr somehow inserted its arm deeper than the elbow. “Oh no. Oh, no!”

“What is it?” asked Lucille, but before Daisuke could answer, the left arm was sucked shoulder-deep into the Wheel. The whole Galaxy Zephyr contorted and spun. “What the hell!”

“It’s flipping the Zephyrs inside-out!” said Daisuke. “It’s—”

He couldn’t explain before the entire Galaxy Zephyr was sucked into the Wheel. After much shaking and spinning, all ten-thousand pilots lay bruised and battered on a sandy red desert-planet with a mustard yellow sky. The Galaxy Zephyr itself was gone.

Lucille tried to stand, but couldn’t. Born on the moon, she wasn’t accustomed to such gravity. “Charlie! Daisuke! Professor!” She didn’t see them in her valley between dunes. “Eisu! Fumiko!” No sign. The few pilots around her wore different-colored bodysuits—the Galaxy Zephyr’s multi-colored crew had been thoroughly mixed. Lucille crawled to the most injured pilot near her while activating her bodysuit’s built-in communicator. “Charlie, Daisuke, Professor! Eisu! Fumiko! Report!”

Her comm clicked. It roared like a storm. “Run!” said Charlie.

“It’s too late to run!” said Daisuke. “Cover your mouth!”

“I’m sorry!” said Akayama. “I’m sorry!

“What are you talking about?” asked Lucille, but she soon knew. The yellow sky melted black and outrageous winds whisked her and her crew miles and miles over the dunes. The swirling sand suffocated her. “Don’t let it separate us!” She wasn’t sure if her shout was audible through the unstoppable typhoon, or even through her communicator, but when her body slammed against another pilot, she grabbed them and they sailed through the air together.

When the wind died down, Lucille and her ten thousand pilots hit the sand rolling. “Aaugh!” Lucille grabbed her arm. Her shoulder had dislocated. “Shit! Are you okay?”

The pilot she’d collided with was a boy in a lime-green bodysuit. He didn’t respond to her; he was agape at the sky.

Lucille flipped on her back. The sky, once yellow and then black, had turned red—the same red as the sand. The Enemy Hurricane was watching over them with too many eyes, grinning with too many mouths. It was holding their Hurricane Planet with too many hands, and when it shook that planet like a snow-globe, the wind restarted. Lucille flew away from the boy in lime-green until the wind stopped and she hit the sand rolling again.

The planet’s thrashing was hellish, but Lucille’s stomach really turned when she considered how survivable it was. She could barely breathe, but she could breathe enough. The sand was soft and deep. The constant winds made pilots roll when they landed. The Enemy Hurricane wasn’t doing this to kill them. It was doing this for fun.

After hours of uncontrollable tumbling, the wind stopped and the pilots hit the sand rolling for a final time. Lucille was surprised by a voice from the sand beside her. “Boo!”

“Whoa!” She scurried from a mouth the size of a manhole-cover which smiled up at her sadistically. “Are—Are you the professor’s Hurricane? The Hurricane which made the Galaxy Zephyr’s armor?”

“That traitorous Hurricane has been assimilated and homogenized,” said the mouth. “You’ll wish you could join it. Your giant robot has been obliterated. You’ll wish you could join it, too.”

Lucille struggled to sit up. “Do your worst.”

“My pleasure!”

She heard screams over the nearest dune. “…Charlie?” She crawled toward the screams quickly as she could. The sand beneath her churned and flowed uphill; the Hurricane was speeding her along to the scream’s source. The mouth followed, giggling gleefully. “Charlie!”

Charlie’s legs were replaced with teeth which chewed his body and each other in high-pitched cacophony. “Huuaaaaugh!” When he tried to shove the teeth away, the teeth ate his arms. Soon his whole body was a ball of screeching teeth.

“Charlie!” Lucille slid down the dune to be with the tooth-ball. “What did you do to him?”

The mouth just smiled. Lucille went pale when she heard another scream over another dune—this one definitely Daisuke. And another scream. And another. And more. “All your friends are screeching teeth now,” said the Enemy Hurricane.

scream at the sky

“And I’m next?” Lucille guessed. The mouth chuckled and returned to red sand. “…And I’m next!” she demanded. “You can’t—You can’t torture them but not me! I’m the Commander!” She screamed at the sky. “I’m supposed to face the worst of it!”

The sky’s eyes tilted with joy. Lucille curled into a ball and cried.


“Commander?” Daisuke snapped his fingers over her head. “Commander!”

Lucille opened her eyes. She knew she shouldn’t sleep during important video-calls, but extended time alone in the moonbase with Daisuke left her perpetually beleaguered. She stretched and wiped drool from her chin. “Sorry. What did I miss?”

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DanJay Blinks

(This is part two of the sequel to Akayama DanJay.)


“Martyr me, motherfucker.”

Years prior to the end of the eternity, in a Wyoming motel-room, Jango stabbed Jay to death.

Jay opened his eyes in an egg in the afterlife. He gasped amniotic fluid. He whipped off his loincloth with enough force to crumble Anihilato’s endless caverns, collapsing the rust-red desert to his level. He retied the cloth like a blindfold when he heard Anihilato rush toward him in a flurry of flightless wings. “Jones! Dan Jones! You can’t run from me!”

“Why would I? I’m right where I meant to be.” Jay pulled the blindfold taut.

“In my limbo you’ve been blunted.” Anihilato untied the blindfold with six feathery hands. “Blink and be mine, as mandated by the Eternity Cards in my box of souls.”

“You still think I care about your stupid box?” Jay laughed. “If I found your box, you know what I’d do? I’d piss on your box. What worthless trash!”

Anihilato removed the blindfold. Jay’s muscles locked under the scrutiny of Anihilato’s six eyes. Anihilato’s muscles also locked; perhaps the power of Jay’s vision had amplified in the egg, or perhaps Anihilato drew too close untying the blindfold and was now paralyzed by its own reflection in Jay’s eyes.

With its last moment of movement, Anihilato swept a wing, spewing sand in Jay’s face. Jay grunted. His left eye clenched painfully shut, but his right eye held open strong.

This was the first time Jay saw Anihilato in direct sunlight. The King of Dust had a yolk-yellow beak and a mane of red feathers. “You can’t win, Dan Jones.”

danjay_blinks

“My name is Jay, now, but call me what you want.”

“You can’t win, DanJay.” Anihilato closed its bottom pair of eyes. “Remember teaching me this trick?” Anihilato opened its bottom eyes and closed its middle pair. “With this technique, my vision is eternal.” Anihilato opened its middle eyes and closed its top pair. “Blink, DanJay. I’m waiting.”

Tears streamed down Jay’s left cheek.

“Whimper, mortal. I’ll savor squashing your hubris.”

The tears carried sand-grains from Jay’s left eye. He reopened it, winkingly.

Anihilato scoffed. “Crying won’t save you.”

I’m saving you, Anihilato.” Jay squeezed his knees. It was all the movement he could muster. “Your purpose was to forget your purpose. You’re every aspect of humanity which would never make it to the Mountain. I’m bringing you in.”

“Don’t talk nonsense about doctrine you’ve no part in.”

“I am part in all doctrine.”

“What a big head!” Anihilato licked its beak with a long, long tongue. “Your ego will be delicious.”

“I celebrate myself, but every atom of me as good belongs to you.”

“Too true. I’ll devour your every atom soon enough.”

“I was waxing Whitman. You reject unity, but I unify with your rejection.”

The desert sun shined in Jay’s eyes. He squinted. Anihilato’s eyes tilted in eagerness, but soon its mane of red feathers shaded Jay’s face, and he stopped squinting. “You make it all sound so simple,” said Anihilato.

“Life is as simple as you choose. I choose for me and you choose for you. That’s the way it’s always been and the way it will always be, even if you waste your choice demanding more. Our choices have led us here. God waits between us now.”

“Is that your God, on your forehead?”

Jay shivered with fear. Sweat was dripping down his nose and around his eyes. “The sweat on my brow is me, and you, and God, just like everything else.” He cringed when the sweat pooled in his right eye. When he couldn’t handle the salt, his right eye closed. His left eye, red and quivering, was all that restrained the King of Dust. “The way it stings was made for me by the Mountain.”

“Then whimper, mortal. For the Mountain.”

Jay whimpered.

A drop of sweat dripped over his left eyebrow, toward his only open eye.

The drop froze in a cool breeze.

Faith Featherway, snowy white fox, exhaled icy comfort over Jay’s face. “Is that better, JayJay?”

“Perfect.” Jay opened both eyes. “Thank you, Faith.”

“Hey!” Anihilato inhaled, but couldn’t suck up Faith’s powdery form in the open air. “Don’t meddle, you frigid rat!”

“Everything meddles with everything,” said Jay. “If you understood that, Anihilato, you’d know you already contain me, without devouring me. I am the all, and so are you.”

Faith turned to envelop Jay’s head with her cloudy tail. It cooled and cleansed his tired eyes. “Bug-Bird told me to keep an eye out for Anihilato. I gotta report this.”

“Okay. Thanks again.”

Anihilato thought quick. In another universe, where the King of Dust was a little less bird and a little more worm, it wouldn’t have tried exhaling. It blew Faith’s tail far over the dunes.

“Oh! It’s alright, I’ve got you, JayJay.” Faith grew another tail and left this one over Jay as well.

Anihilato blew this one away, too.

“Don’t worry about it, Faith,” said Jay. “Just fly to the Mountain and get Akayama.”

“Akayama?” Faith gave him another tail. “Who’s that?”

“Bug-Bird,” said Jay. “The Biggest Bird. The Heart of the Mountain. Akayama, Nakayama. The professor who destroyed the universe and is now rebuilding it.”

Anihilato blew away the third tail. Faith gave Jay a fourth. “Isn’t she from that anime you and Dan like? LuLu’s?

“Yes,” said Jay. “Like everything else, that anime is part of our omnipresent reality.” Anihilato blew away the tail. “Faith, don’t give me another tail. I’m fine. Just go to the Mountain.”

“Hold on, I can do this.” Faith concentrated to produce a longer, thicker tail she hoped wouldn’t blow away. “Here you g—”

She stepped between Anihilato and Jay. The instant its eye-contact was interrupted, Anihilato swiped a wing through her. It stole her eyes, but the rest of her was ungraspable powder. “Faith!” Jay and Anihilato regained eye-contact through Faith’s cloudy form. “Are you okay?”

“I’m blind!” She deposited herself meters away, scrambling and pawing at her empty face. “Oh, JayJay—I’m so sorry! I should have listened to you the first time!”

“It’s alright, Faith,” said Jay. “Just go back to the Mountain and get Akayama. Bring her here and we’ll assemble the godhead.”

“I… I can’t see! I don’t know if I can navigate!”

Jay cried. “Try, Faith! Please, try!”

While Faith flew away, Anihilato and Jay just stared. Jay felt sweat drip down his face. The sweat pooled in his left eye and he had to close it. ” ‘Assemble the godhead?’ ” asked Anihilato. “Do you really think this is turning out the way your creator intended, According to some cosmic plan?”

“Yes!” said Jay, absolutely.

“Are you sure?”

Jay nodded.

“Then watch, DanJay. Watch very… very… closely.”

A feather fell off Anihilato’s red mane. It drifted aimlessly, yet inevitably, to stab Jay’s right eye.

Jay blinked.

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The Other Way

(This begins the sequel to Akayama DanJay.)


Jango warmed his hands by the monastery furnace. Dan had finished screaming, so now the only noise was crackling kindling and popping fat.

A few years ago, burning his favorite student alive would’ve made Jango bawl. Today, his tears were quiet and empty. He donned his silver bird-mask and left his monastery. He didn’t descend the mountainous main island of Sheridan. Instead, he ascended above fields of centipede-bushes into the peak’s eternal cloud-cover.

He discarded the name Jango Skyy. He discarded the title Virgil Blue. He discarded the silver mask and navy robes. He limped up the island nude and cold.

Still, one thought he couldn’t discard, and it brought the name Jango right back to him. The very night Nemo, the first man, finished eating Jango’s body in his dreams, a drone delivered him a collection of his brother’s manga. There were no coincidences, so Jango couldn’t help but ponder. Was he supposed to read the manga, or was leaving it behind unread a final test? Would anyone ever read the manga, or would Jango’s upcoming death lead to the world’s literal end, not just a metaphorical one?

He discarded even this when he saw, through the fog, a pile of bones on the rocks. He held his arthritic hip when he bent to them, checking if they were the bones of a human—some trespasser on Sheridan’s sacred peak—but he decided they were the bones of a Sheridanian Big-Bird. The smaller skull and leg-bones suggested this was a male bird.

Jango had never known a bird to survive hiking up the island all the way above the clouds. He didn’t have a porcelain egg to mark the bird’s place of death, but was that truly necessary here, where proper laymen would never see it, and no one who did see it would live to report it? He sat beside the bones for a while, wondering.

What would Virgil Blue do? Jango’s teacher, also titled Virgil Blue, retired from this eternity decades ago, just like this. Traditionally, when Nemo eats a Blue Virgil in the dream theater, the Virgil dons the silver mask. When his teacher first donned the mask, Jango had asked, in jest, how anyone could know what they were thinking without seeing their sour expression. How would a new monk know the Virgil’s gender? How could they even be sure there was a Virgil in the robes at all? Virgil Blue squawked back at him, “flip a sand-dollar.”

Flip a sand-dollar. Jango hadn’t understood then, but now he laughed. The Islands of Sheridan used sand-dollars for currency instead of coins with heads or tails, but learned the phrase “flip a coin” from the library of books left by the Biggest Bird. Both sides of a sand-dollar are the same, so Virgil Blue had turned Jango’s jest into yet another lesson. Existence and non-existence. Male and female. Thinking. These were problems only from the mortal perspective, with no meaning to the Mountain. Flipping coins gives representations too much credit. Flipping sand-dollars was appropriately condescending.

Jango stood and marched a few minutes back down the slope. He picked up the silver bird-mask he’d discarded. “Heads,” he said to the mask’s face. “Tails,” he said to the back. He tossed the mask in the air.

It landed with the bird looking up.

other_way

“Hm. So be it.” Jango gathered the bird’s bones. He noticed some had been broken and partially healed; this bird had survived something.

In life, the bird would be bigger than Jango, but Jango was impressed how light the bones were. He had no trouble carrying the bones up to the peak, where he found a cave. Jango entered the cave, blind. It was dark as night. His one good eye was almost useless.

He sat with crossed legs. “Nemo?”

No response came.

“Nemo?”

No response came.

“Nemo?”

Something rolled from the dark and bumped against Jango’s feet. It was Nemo’s head, with wide-set eyes and a swastika between them. “Oran dora!” Nemo had three rows of shark-teeth.

“Oran dora. In my dreams, you’ve eaten me alive. I assume now you’ll finish the job corporeally?”

“Correct! What’s this you’ve brought?”

Jango rest the bird-bones next to Nemo. “I found these on the way up. I was impressed a bird had climbed above the clouds.”

“Did you really think I’d want a gift?”

Jango and Nemo both laughed. “I debated bringing it or not,” said Jango, “but eventually I flipped a coin to decide.”

Nemo soured suddenly. “You? Virgil Blue? A coin?”

“It wasn’t really a coin. I flipped the silver mask. It landed looking up, so I called it heads and left the mask behind.”

Now Nemo laughed again. “You flipped the Biggest Bird like a coin, and discarded even her! You’re ready!” Nemo ate Jango’s foot. Jango screamed and thrashed as blood spurt out. Nemo’s mouth opened wider than a bird-bath to catch it all.

“Hnng—!” Jango groaned. “Are you eating the bird-bones, too?”

“Sure! Why not? You brought them, after all.” Nemo ate Jango’s other foot.

“Haaaugh! How will that affect Anihilato?”

Nemo chewed up to Jango’s knees. “Where did you learn the name Anihilato? I heard it straight from the Biggest Bird, and I never mentioned it aloud.”

“Nnng… A bizarre young martyr told me about Anihilato when I fed him a centipede, just before I stabbed him to death. He was quite concerned about the King of Dust—but if I understand, Anihilato is you, isn’t it? And soon me, too, and this bird?”

“Correct, correct!” Nemo gnawed Jango’s hips. “As the first man, it’s only right for me to carry all the sin the world has to offer. Every Virgil Blue, and this bird you’ve brought, will help me bare the brunt of it.”

“There are no coincidences,” said Jango, too delirious now to even feel pain. “The bird must be meant for Anihilato.”

Nemo ate Jango’s arms next. “There is no meant. When you flipped the mask, there was just this way and the other way.”

Jango was already pale with blood loss, but became paler with fear. “But… things will be okay, right? Heads was the Mountain’s cosmic plan, wasn’t it?”

“If it’s not okay, then that’s the Mountain’s cosmic plan!” Nemo finished eating Jango’s torso and finally started on his skull. “There’s nothing left to do but see for ourselves!” Nemo licked Jango’s remains off the cave-floor. Then he ate the bird-bones. Then he ate himself, head warping into his own mouth. His teeth exploded in a flurry of particles and antiparticles. Then eternity ended and the next eternity began.

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The End

Okay, so Scumbug Scrambag is finally over. I’m not really happy with it, but that’s how things go.

My favorite story on this website is Akayama DanJayand I’ve written that twice. The version on this site is nothing like the first draft, or even the second draft—the second draft was chopped up and sewn together to make the latest edition. Maybe the best story on this website is Mas VS Horse, and I’ve written that three times. The Minotaur’s Board-Game is alright, I think, and that’s a second-draft, too.

My point is, Scumbug Scrambag didn’t turn out like I wanted, but that’s just the nature of writing. Now I’ve got a bunch of characters, scenes, and ideas, so if I ever decide to rewrite the story, I’ll have plenty of material to work with. My next attempt will hopefully have more well-directed intent.

But my next writing project, I think, will be a sequel to Akayama DanJay. I’m actually working with an editor on Akayama DanJay, and a sequel in the works will probably sound like in a query-letter. The sequel will be called Akayama DanJay: Blind Faith and it will be at least twenty times more pretentious than the original, somehow.

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