I’m getting stressed about publishing my book. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me!
Chapter two, Professor Akayama. This is a strange, strange book!
I’m publishing a book! It’s a strange, strange book, so I thought I’d read a little of it aloud.
I had a lot of fun writing Akayama DanJay. Now I want to move it from my website to actual shelves!
“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.”
“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.”
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?”
“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.
(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.
“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.
No response came.
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.