A BLACK CLOUD FOR ST. LUCIA DAY

Everything that comes into being has a purpose, a role, a place in the web of existence. A horse, a tree, a stream, the grass, the sun…
What is the purpose—to enjoy pleasure? See what reason and common sense have to say about that. Nature doesn’t just create and sustain things; it directs them to their purpose.

Am I what they call an egoist? Or am I the opposite, a man of excessively weak spirit? I really don’t know myself, but since I seem in either case to be a mass of vices, I drop steadily, inevitably, into unhappiness, and I have no specific plan to stave off my descent.

Mystical knowledge is dark; it is obscure; it is knowledge found in a cloud.

Dedicated to N.H.

11/7

It was his, Lawrence Sluzarski, first day off of 7 from a continuous 14-days 10 to 12-hour workload; standard scheduling for Central City Drilling, LLC. Slu planned to eat with him, his father—former cop—current washer of dishes and taker-outer of trash. His mother, who cut hair, would be too tired to eat the monthly free meal the father received as a benefit. $40 for two. A feast. He drove home quickly and briefly prepared for the 6-hour drive ahead of him; both freak nite-owls which operated perfectly fine on only a few hours of sleep.

He rolled towards Baton Rouge, making planned stops along the way, and arrived without incident. It was 22:30pm. His father clocked out, they ordered; then they found a booth to sit and chat.

“How’s work, son?”

“Fine, Dad.”

“You look tired.”

“I know, Dad.”

“When did you get off work?”


“Today.”

“And you drove here immediately after work?

“Yes, Dad.”

The father, clearly worried, looked for the right words to say.

“What kind of hours are you working?”

Lawrence blew air through his nose; an attempt at a laugh for his father.

“Same old hours.”

“What are you going to do… with your time off?”

“Drink.” He joked.

“You sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Lawrence replied glumly. “Just a joke, Dad.”

“I know you’re a sarcastic ass but sometimes people say things like this as a cry for help. If you want to talk or we could do it later if this isn’t the–”

“It’s just a joke, Dad.” Slu stopped his father from speaking. “And I’d appreciate it if you stopped making a scene out of nothing and get a sense of humor. You’ve been getting real emotional lately.”

The father said nothing—choosing his words carefully—then took a bite from the free food.

“You’re right, son.”

“I know.”

***

Slu brooded in his vehicle for a moment before returning to Central City. He popped a caffeine-tablet and downed a coffee from the gas station. Slu—full of fuel—rode back onto the interstate and head-longed as fast as he thought he could get away with.

He rolled delirious on the lightless and wooded stretch. There was a strange and jittering high to be had when sleep deprived for this long. He was entering a threshold that made him feel more alive than he had in months. The danger of potentially crashing into a side rail or—god forbid—a tree roused that adrenal part of his brain. It was a similar rush to the dangers of oil drilling coupled with high speed; something only possible while simultaneously exhausted and sedentary. Only two hours out, still within Louisiana state limits, he saw something.

Out in the middle of the asphalt, a big road-colored boulder sat in the left-hand side—the one he was in—of the road. Slu tried to rationalize it away at first but steered off to the right to avoid the head-on collision. The vehicle nearly veered off into a small ditch but he managed to slam the breaks in time. The car settled. Slu angled his rear-view mirror and stared. He could just barely see the silhouette of it, the boulder,  from the break lights. Slu—music off—shifted gears and rolled backwards, angling his vehicle parallel to the heap.

It was, from his estimate, not a big deal, perhaps a very decrepit cow that wandered off from its pasture and died on the left-most side of the road; or neither; maybe some tree branch fell off a truck. Or a big swamp boulder. He lowered the window. There was no odor except that of a late autumn bitterness which was abnormal for Louisiana. He hoped to catch the great mass in his headlights but found there was nothing there and rolled backwards further. The tiremarks from his vehicle indicated to him that he had gone too far.

High-beams on. Nothing. Again. Nothing. On. Off. Nothing.

He sat in the darkness stunned for a minute. Slu had the thought to not say anything just in-case anybody would hear him. Must be the lack of sleep, he thought and turned the ignition on. Nothing. He tried again. Nothing.

“Fuck!” He screamed. He tried it again; nothing happened, just clicks. Slu slammed his feet and thrashed around in his seat madly. His bottled-up rage had finally bubbled over. He punched the dashboard; then again and began assaulting it furiously. Slu stopped, panting from the exertion, to investigate. Now unbuckled and with one foot out of the vehicle, he smelled it; some heinous and primordial potpourri. There was the smell of mildew and fungus. There was the smell of rotting orchids. There was the smell of sour milk. There was the smell of crude oil, of rancid figs, of horse shit, of dust, of pennies, of toxic smoke, of stinking ponds, of blood. Slu vomited upon exit. He fumbled to the rear of his vehicle and opened the trunk. He found a road flare and illuminated his surroundings through a semi synthetic pall of fire. 

He was right. The obstacle on the interstate was a rotting carcass of some bovine creature. Slu investigated further with the light. The blood was a dirty brown color—not the deep sanguine that he was accustomed to—and shimmered greasy upon refraction. He covered his face with his shirt sleeve. Flies ate away at every part of the animal. The eyes, face and tongue were eaten entirely; all of it red and buzzing like TV static.

Slu scanned for oncoming cars but none appeared. Someone is going to die with this thing blocking the road, he spoke out loud to himself. He was answered by a susurration at his feet. The sanguine-torch revealed a squirming in the guts of the corpse and—with a sickening pop—it writhed in rhythms that never repeated measures.

The intestines squeezed out a breath through a cholic-trumpet. It was alive. Slu saw a perforation that almost looked like a pair of human lips. It mouthed something to him. He couldn’t hear it.

Slu woke up.

He scraped the guard rail—smacking his head on the interior—and woke up discombobulated with panic overtaking his nervous system. Slu steered back into the painted framing of the highway. His heart hurt in his chest; the exhaustion truly getting to him now. Slu pulled off to a nearby exit and slept in the parking lot of a grocery store.

***

I am reminded of an incident from my childhood. Something that I may have forgotten about—or even completely fabricated—until the dream. I don’t remember how old I was but I was very young. Couldn’t have been more than 6 years old. My father and I were in the grocery store. It was nighttime, I believe, or very few people were there in the store. I know now that he worked nights at the time but am still uncertain of when precisely this happened. I haven’t asked. We were getting cereal. Now going completely off of memory, it was a fairly typical errand until my father decided to try to coach me on my right and left. It was the first time that I can remember being afraid of my dad. We faced each other. He asked me what direction the chocolate cereal was in-relation to the cinnamon-sugar one. I said left. It was his right. We did this a few times and he got visibly angrier with each wrong answer. I had no idea what was happening at the time. I remembered what I learned in school. I wasn’t trying to upset Dad but there he was lumbering over me until he finally smacked me.

“Did I hit you on the right side of your face or the left side?”

It was my left but his right. He smacked my face harder this time.

“Larry,” he said exasperated. “Are you being stupid on purpose again?”

The memory ends there. I assume he stopped, apologized and we got cereal and drove home without further incident. Part of me laughs at how some fathers express their impotent rage. Part of me imagines how much worse my dad would have gotten it from his father. My own pathology made sense in a way that I hadn’t realized. I feel more open to interpretation now. 

***

A week had passed. He looked up at the auger which was suspended in the air. Like a massive acupuncture needle that stabbed the earth’s ancient hide, he thought,  it bleeds and bleeds and we go and siphon that blood over to the vampire’s castle where they weaponize that blood for the purposes of black magick. Slu stepped out of his vehicle and walked towards the site. He was greeted half-heartedly by his coworkers.  

***

11/21

Lawrence Sluzarski—in the bathtub—considered the reason why, at some point in their life, all of the women that he ever loved were sexually abused. It was a morbid pattern but wondered if it said anything about him. It was something that his moral self felt disgusted with for having noticed. Yet it was unfortunately true. Slu contemplated their pain and varying resolve. He stewed in assessment of his own life as well. Result: Dissatisfied.  So, he gazed over at the modestly sized bathroom-spider that he shared the latrine with. It—Slu never named it—held on to the same bits of web that it always had. He consulted the spider

Sometimes he thought the spider might be dead. It wasn’t. Slu poked his finger into the spider’s web before to ensure its status as living.  Into a small corner of the toilet fixture—marooning itself—was the spot where he talked but it never spoke. It was—like most nights with the creature—a lengthy and existential conversation which yielded no answers.

He was off to bed and suffered restless dreams.

Phantasmagorical overture. Screaming hymnody. Shattering beatitude. Seven Satan-2s. Bombardments that fractal into seven golden infernos. Life and death an unfathomable ambiguity. Fire, smoke evaporating, churning vaporous; clouds that split to reveal a crash landing of seven falling stars fractal peals of world shaking magnitude, lightning piercing through a horizon-less flame over a sea of glass. Ungeziefer amalgamoid, full of surveilling eyes in front and behind; a demented caricature of all: lion, bovine, man and eagle. It drowns. Dozens of vestigial wings crashing in the twinkling crystal, raining fire, screaming into a world without sound.

He woke up screaming.

An eye, possibly bovine, was spider-webbed with blood—burned into his mind’s view—and frantically darting in hope of finding an escape from the suffocation. The vividness unnerved him.

He sat in silence and stared off into the light polluted sky bleeding in through the parted blinds. An hour passed and he was still restless. He got up and drove out of state to get Chivas. The only known cure. Slu was drinking before he sat back down in the driver’s seat. He chased the scotch with a cola. Another hour passed. Slu attempted to double the speed limit.

A light chased after him. He moved from the left to the right lane. The light followed. There were no sirens or flashing lights. He looked back and saw that it was a single yellow light that tailgated him. He braked. Red light flooded behind him but revealed no source to the trailing light. He cut back into the left lane. The light followed.
He sped up. The light maintained speed. They rolled along hills for a few minutes but then it just stopped. No mass looked as if it had halted suddenly. He stared at the rear-view mirror and watched the light shrink into darkness.

Slu woke up on the floor of his living room with a pounding hangover. He had no recollections of the past night beyond a fragment of the drive home and was not certain if all of it was memory or dream. The pain was unbearable. It took him an entire day to recover. He went back to the liquor store.

***

12/12

Lawrence Sluzarski thought about the day when all spiders would be extinct. He was certain it would happen in his lifetime. Everyone, he knew, hated spiders.  However, he remembered most small spiders were harmless. He also remembered that their mandibles weren’t strong enough to pierce the epidermis. He wondered if those people would eventually miss spiders or maybe even cherish them if they saw one.

“I think it’s programmed, the reaction to kill spiders.”

There’s no real reason to fear a spider or most spiders. Some are dangerous,” he conceded. He was uncertain if he had ever seen a deadly poisonous spider in the flesh. The speculation on half-truths like this made him thirsty. He poured himself more Chivas and gulped it.

“Then the spiders all die,” he continued, “then the birds all die; then the house cats get bored. Programmed self destruction. But why? Did we, as a species, just decide to wipe ourselves out subconsciously?”

The spider sat.

He went on

He grew more uncomfortable as he spoke fathoming all of the things left to unlearn. He stopped speaking aloud. How much of his life was programmed by something that most people didn’t understand? Was this strangeness his creation or just partially? Did he choose Chivas because he liked it or because of the perceived image created by a marketing department?

He drank more.

***

12/13

Lawrence Sluzarski—hovering his hand over the phone—contemplated whether or not to call Alex or his mother. He decided against it. The call or calls may muddy the perceived intent when future archaeologists try to piece together my state of mind, he thought. The house was spotless. Even the spider was escorted off the premises. It was cleaner than when he moved in. The large wall of his living room towered over Slu like some big tablet ready to be impressed upon. He considered what to write. It would be read. He knew this.

So many choices. He contemplated the myriad with a marker—hovering above the wall—in his dominant hand. And the future archaeologists would eventually sluice through his search results and reveal the fact that he didn’t have as much to say as he thinks he did, he thought, inarticulateness would outlive me. He decided against the pivotal last words. However, he still felt the need to express himself.

An homage to The Garden of Earthly Delights, crosshatched and burned into the house-canvas in a baroque style fevered by someone akin to Robert Crumb and Francis Bacon, was Lawrence’s last message to the world. An ouroboros of lines roped together to form a series of countless female silhouettes; or necks of a hydra; or arterial geysers of blood. This Gordian knot of entangled meanings continued. Disembodied cocks—operated by daemons via chain-pulleys—stabbed the earth. The earth’s surface—still screaming—was lousy with stigmata. No green in this garden except for the stares from the daemons which were all cut-out from the $1 bills that he never spent—a money saving tip that his Mother passed on. All of them gleefully watched through tiny eyes of providence. The gaze of these beings shifted to every remaining negative-space of house-canvas and Lawrence filled them with vignettes: a man eating his dog, a woman holding herself under water, a couple—burn victims—eating grains from a field, masses—choking on fruit—wailing outside of a vampire’s castle and filled the remaining gaps with gestalt-faces trapped in bubbling pools of black.

Hieroglyphics, he thought, might stay in their minds longer. Words lose meaning easier than images do.

***

“Hey, it’s me, I just wanted to check in with you before the end of the year.”

“You’re probably asleep,” Alex said sarcastically, “so, call me when you get this.”

“It’s been a while since we talked, Larry. I saw your dad—the other day—and he said that I should call you. He said that you’re always talking about me.”

‘That’s probably why I haven’t been able to sleep, huh?” She said; a smile parted her face. He could tell over the phone.

“Anyways—call me when you wake up, Larry.”

She sealed the message with a kiss.

Slu—drunk—screamed into his hands and assaulted his vehicle’s interior like in his first premonition. He sat, in-view of the Aegis Oil headquarters,—the parent company of Central City Drilling—and ruminated on what to do next with his stolen explosives.

Could he return them without anyone noticing? Impossible, he thought. They’ve already noticed. 

Call Alex? And say what, he thought.

He listened to the voicemail again and thrashed harder. After a few minutes of painful deliberation, he finally decided. They, the future archaeologists, would know him as a martyr. They would not know Lawrence Sluzarski as a man. He would live forever as a fractal that belonged to the spirit of something vast, powerful and incomprehensible which was better—Slu concluded—than his alternatives. Lawrence Sluzarski found a deep place to bury himself—like an ember for a log fire—amongst Aegis Oil and listened to the voicemail one last time. He drifted back into restless dreams where he imagined black smoke, fire and that same demented caricature from his nightmares was what he knew to be prophesied.

BDP is a horror fiction writer.