At the round earth's imagin'd corners

At the round earths imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattered bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never tast deaths woe.
But let them sleepe, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou’hadst seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.

-- John Donne

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

26. Joris o' Lantern

[Excerpt from Deaduns: The Donnetown Devil and Other True Spooks of the Southeast by Rutger Frears (Barrow Press, 1989)]

My "uncle", Thoomas Bosch, utterly unsentimental when it came to human remains, was curiously ceremonious about his annual Hallowe'en Jack o' Lantern.  Not only did he make the candles himself, but on each pumpkin he delicately carved upon it (using some of the same instruments he used at Bosch Funerals) a human face, paring the pumpkin walls so thin that the candle's light would make the face glow with startling realism.  He did this each year from the late 1950's until his disappearance in 1978.

Each face was that of a recently deceased Donnetown citizen.  Six-year-old Simoen Joossens trudged up the steps one Hallowe'en, plastic Fred Flintstone mask on his face and paper shopping bag in hand, ready for his Bit-O-Honey (the only kind of candy Thoomas ever gave out).  Having gained the porch, Simoen came face-to-face with, so he thought, the glowing yellow ghost-face of his father Joris, who two weeks earlier had died in a golf ball-washing accident.

Simoen rang the bell, recited the traditional request-cum-warning, received his candy from Thoomas, and thanked him for keeping his father's soul in a pumpkin. Thoomas explained that there are no souls, and people simply cease to exist, like a candle flame.  He illustrated this by snuffing the candle in the Joris o'Lantern.  The smoke made both him and Simoen sneeze together, and then laugh together.

The next morning Simoen came back to visit, and together he and Uncle Thoomas buried the Joris o' Lantern in the back yard.  I (ten that year) was there, as I was every All Saints' Day, eager to wield the shovel.  I couldn't wait, every year, to get those things in the ground and out of sight.  I knew that not only was the carved face that of somebody who'd recently passed through the funeral home -- a sort of vegetable death mask -- but that Uncle Thoomas made each lantern's candle using body fat from the same person.

This made me worry that the buried pumpkin, bearing a dead man's face and saturated with his remains, would somehow be magically reanimated and rear out of the ground the next night seeking some kind of supernatural justice.  But with one exception this never happened.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

25. Confessions, Miscellaneous.

[From the anonymous confessional feature ("Father Bot") on the Donnetown Daily Elegy's online edition (briefly named "Donneline Today!").  Raw transcript.]

I don't live in your town, wouldn't leave this here if I did, and I don't expect any facility in your area could support the level of biomedical research and experimentation I've been doing.  So I've been trying for most of my career, and I mean my real career, not the facade seen by my colleagues and the journals and that PBS show, my real career, so most of it I've been trying to perfect something that will kill specifically H. Sapiens and not any of the other animals, the nicer animals whose planet we're savaging.  Killing everything that breathes is easy, you wouldn't believe how easily I could make that happen, but: no.  Narrowing it to vertebrates, then to mammals: piece of cake, you see how I'm going further out on the genetic branches.  So, well, I got it down to primates, I shit you not, nobody would've believed it except my partner, research partner, well, life partner too, he got cold feet and he's not with us anymore.  Cold feet about the work, not about marriage or anything.  Damnit, no, my mother's not here, I don't have to keep making excuses.  No more excuses, Linda.  So, primates, great, but frustrating, I'm so close to having the world I want, that's a world that's just me and my animal friends, but no, I keep hitting a wall, it's crazy, I've murdered thirty-eight Rhesus monkeys so far and I cannot get the damn thing more specific than Catarrhini, that includes not just the anthropoid apes but Old World monkeys.  Thirty-eight dead monkeys, every one had a face and a name.  [38 second pause.]  Not good enough, not yet, it has to be perfect so, next time you see a macacque or a gibbon or a baboon or a bonobo  you kneel down and thank them for how you're still sucking air, Asshole.