Focus your audio. Unhook your ears, Clyde. Stand by while I pad your skull. I don’t know how much of this is for real—I only heard it secondhand myself. But the fella who told it to me was creeped out—that much is for sure. I was late to the picture, and it’s a good thing I was cause nobody who was there was ever seen again—christmas cancelled—except for Socrates, and like I said, he got all buggy from it. Fuse blown, permanent.
I was heading out to the Flats. We used to play out there, break out like the measles. It was a good place cause it was all lunar and crazy and you could get away from the cubes. Salt Lake was squaresville. Strictly Podunk. But the Flats was berries.
So, like I was saying, I’m on the way out there on my scoot, amped up on airplane glue in the early brights, figuring the scene would still be going. I see something out on that salty psychocolor horizon, a fire ant on a cocaina sand dune, way out there on the salt checkerboard, squares as far as you could see, and that one spider out there, like, crawling.
I motor down there, a bit twitchy, wondering what’s up. As I get closer I can see it’s one of us. You can tell from a distance. Dark clothes, and that freaky aura. Turns out it’s Socrates. Normally his claws are pretty sharp, but I scoot up and he’s all wigged out. Out there in the salt among the glass puddles, biscuit snatchers clutching at his kneecaps, and some kind of yellowy goop on his sleeves and his shirt and his shoes and the backs of his hands. He gets spouty, in snatches, all out of order, but this is the sense I make out of it, some of it his words, some of it mine. Hope you got a lot of room in your ears.
It started out a dig same as anything else, out there on bennies and glue, bongos and bonfires, maryjane. Bikes and hotrods chrome and candy-apple-everything, resting out there on the salt cubes.
Willard read one of his poems. Yeah, I wasn’t there to hear it, but, I’ve heard Will often enough and he’s all
Cat with a spider for a heart
The man in a wheelchair of hypodermic needles
Spider spins a web in the frame of an hourglass
So there they are, all sitting around their fires and getting sweaty and slimy and smelly in their sleeping bags, rods and cones and mushrooms, or listening to Willard with his beat king’s jive and the racket coming from sax and bongos and axe. Swapping yarns and manifestoes and smoke and body fluids. Cosmic goo. Firelight fireflies trailing up into the night.
Then someone sees these orange lights in the sky. Casual like, like what’s that? Moving snarly orange against the purple night. Like, cool, pretty. What is that? Three lines squiggle and spark forward and backward. Mostly forward, closer. Some kind of crazy sputnik up there. And then they aren’t lines but dots. And then they aren’t dots, but these glowing spheres. Then they’re not glowing, but chrome, chromium, as the sun starts to eyeball that gang of gawking beats from the horizon.
Like it’s xmas, three silver spheres hanging in the sky. Ezekiel’s chariot. The comrades are starting to freak maybe a little. And one of the things lowers itself down, quiet like, real slow. So now there’s this big globe sitting on the salt like a chromium planet, not a dent on it, just a dark line down the middle, a groove. This thing is a slinky piece of homework. Sharp enough to shave. Nobody moves for a second, except maybe to stand up, step back a step, shuffle, eyeball each other, smoking ciggies. They tilt their heads. Is the thing, making a noise? Like, a whirring horror-flick sinewave. An inside out clanging. Bounce bounce bounce bounce clunk.
And then…something blasts out the top of it. Orange lightning. Blurts up all squiggly, jaggles around in the air for a while, wiggles out in different directions, a hypnogogic jellyfish, just spurting around, all sloppy. Then it sort of settles down. It has something in mind. It starts to, like, sniff around, first seven-eight tentacles, then more like just one, curly-queuing and doubling back. It sniffs at the crowded beats, who are now really getting freaked, but too freaked to make for it. This sparkly meat hook right in their faces, checking out one comrade and then another. After a few tics it gets bored with the humanoids and turns mostly to the hot rods and bikes arrayed all helter skelter on the salt, chrome green and exhaust pipes and spokes. It checks em out real close, then it stops to focus on one—Ben’s flatblack t-bucket. It looks at it like it got a bad smell. Then it, like, stomps it, squashing it a little and sending small parts tinkling off in willy nilly directions. Ben, he like, gasps. Then the x-ray sort of sparks and buzzes all up and down, from tip to where it’s extending out of the silver xmas ball. It inserts, what, a hypo needle maybe, into the t-bucket, and Ben’s Ford turns blue orange, then sort of melts and explodes itself inside out.
The buzzing white-orange tentacle thing starts to get pissy then, moving to another hot rod and another, then to a bike, blasting them and turning them fiery blue and orange and white and exploding them all over the salt, melting them, insiding them out. This goes on for a while, some of the beatnoids now turning tail and running. Sparky noises and explosions and parts flying and bouncing and metal sizzling and leaking, until it looks like there are no hot rods left. The squiggly raygun thing checks out all it did, like, pleased, swelling up like a poisoned pooch. But then one tentacle seems to catch a whiff that some of the comrades are escaping, running for all they’re worth—which aint much—as far and as fast as they can get from the glowing squid and all its nasty higgledly piggedly explosions.
The thing stretches out an orange tendon, elongatory, thinning, toward Joan, who’s huffing and puffing and swinging her arms, tight black pants and fuzz black sweater, glancing back all freaky from time to time. So this orange sputtery buzz chases her down, not going much faster than she is, and she lets rip a scream and starts pulling with all she’s got. In the end the thing sort of hauls back and pokes at her like a needle, and that’s all for her. Scratched from the big race. Turned her inside out, was what Socrates said—sputtered something about scattered little slimy bits.
Then the thing moves on—to Newman, and Jukie, and then Phillipa, and all the other beats who are in a state of mind what which they can run. Stops everyone in their skinny tracks. Socrates had a hard time talking about it, eyes shiny. Wasn’t pretty.
Then, dig the chromey globe thing. This platform slides out, slow like, even though there’s no crease for it to slide out from. Parallel with the ground, mostly. And now there’s this opening. It’s hard to get a sense of scale—the sphere is big.
Something—a bunch of somethings—start to squiggle down the ramp, like rats from a ship. The comrades are glazzing, getting spoogy now. Whatever these things are, they reach the end of the ramp—which isn’t really a ramp cause it doesn’t touch the ground—and walk right off it to plop on the salt. The beats back away in little half steps. One of the things patters up close to Socrates. It’s a blob of eyeball spheres—twelve, thirteen—with multi-colored irises, and lotsa rubbery grey tentacles curling out.
As all this is going on they hear a motor turn. So, there’s a hot rod that wasn’t exploded, and Milt is in there, trying to get it started. He’s got it going, he’s jockeying forward and back among the busted up parts and melted chassis. But it’s like the fiery tentacle thing hears it too, and it aint pleased. Not to trip you out too heavy with details, but, in sum, the thing fries Milt up together with his wheels, melting metal and burning old Milt and mangling the whole mess together.
Meanwhile the little squirrelly eyeball things are running around, getting closer to the bugged out beats. Scared like. The beats try to get skinny, peer around themselves.
Then Krebs, he pulls out a pistol. He’s a nickel rat, a two-bit porch climber, so nobody’s surprised he’s got a piece. Thing about Krebs is—a little aside—I’ve never seen him blink. Like, blink his eyes. You gotta blink right? Moisten your glazzies? But this cat, I never seen him blink.
So anyhow, Krebs starts taking potshots at the globey thing. The bullets just bounce off, ricocheting siren song silver streaks across the cubist flats. I’d like to say they don’t leave a dent on that chromium globule, but the truth of it is is—they do. Tiny dents on its shiny white surface.
And the little eyeball rodents, now they’re ganging up on people, attacking. Thing is though, these things aint that tough. People squash them under foot, under fist. Krebs shoots at them. They never seem to die, but they do lose the ability to ambulate, so they just wiggle around plastered in place by that yellowy goo. But Jeannie, she’s in shock. She aint fighting back like the other dopeniks, and a handful of these eyebally creepy crawly octopi got her by the scruff, by the collar, by the sleeve, by the hair, and they’re dragging her back toward that silver ball, toward the ramp what’s sticking out of it.
But there’s a hitch because the ramp—not really a ramp, per se—doesn’t touch the ground, so the eyeball buggers can’t drag her up it. The spaceship, cause that’s what it is, I guess, lurches up into the air and then down, crashing in the salt, gonging out hollow, making halfassed bonking attempts to get the ramp and the ground lined up right. Once it veers way diagonally left-right and Bug Phillips gets crushed under the thing. Ripe for the lilies. Socrates got choked up over that. Bug was a good guy, straight from the fridge.
Finally they—whoever’s driving—get the ramp lined up, but the opening the eyeball conglomerations came out of isn’t big enough for humanoids, so the eyeball things try to drag them through, screaming, like big beatnik pegs through a small hole. And all the while, thither and hither, there’s this battle going on between the eyeball rats and the beats. The eyeballs, crushed all over the place, writhing around, tentacly, seem to be losing, slated for crashville.
Then—tune me in—the second sphere makes an appearance. It descends from that dark and scary sky and cronks and bonks and settles on the salt. First it sits there. Then there’s that noise again, a sideways busted sax. It’s accompanied this time by a hole opening up, aligned trippy with the ground, tilted away from the staring, fighting, screaming beats. A big hole this time, like you could walk through standing up, and then some.
This part here—just telling you—this is where it starts to get freaky. Up jumps the devil, and something starts to like, excrete from the big hole. Transparent blue and tobacco jello, and there’s this…stuff in there. Don’t know what. It glip glops out, spreading and burping and plopping, shiny and droopy, swum through with prehistoric dragonfly nymphs, with cubist spiders, with cephalopod hearts and transparent steel bones, something out of some paisley cave.
It oozes and spurts out of that hole, toward the tripped out dopeniks, who are like, now what. It’s strictly horrorshow, surgical waste galumphing out and spreading, but—here’s the thing—it aint fast. The beats can outrun it, and so they peel off in all directions. The blob, it spurts toward them, but it’s like frustrated, too slow. The quarry’s getting away. But what happens then is, it starts to grow legs. Big angular thorny centipede legs, germinating and worming out, wriggling, anatomically configurating. So now it can drag itself along, spurt and puddle forward, sections of it almost running, dragging the rest behind, still drooling out and stretching.
The thing aint efficient, but it’s picked up some speed, and the beats, glancing back, huff and puff as best they can. It’s catching up. It slips and slithers right up to Gina, slowest of the bunch, and sorta plops onto her back and pulls her—screaming and wriggling arms and underpinnings—off her feet. She’s stuck there, like a fly on paper.
The thing creeps and crawls toward Mayfield, grabs him too, and Velvet, and Oscar, and one beat and another. The blob’s barely faster than the screaming comrades, and the whole proceeding takes a while, but eventually it’s accumulated all of them, except for Socrates, who somehow outruns it.
The thing stops short, backs up a bit, glares at Socrates—and Socrates glares back, just out of reach. The blob sort of shrugs almost, then rolls and plops and drags itself back to the ship. It sucks itself back in through that aperture, like backwards toothpaste—together with the shrieking, squirming beats.
The hole closes up behind them, and everything’s all quietlike for a bit, Socrates the only one left to see it. Then there’s a noise. An upside down creak, a screechy compressed explosion, and one of the globes, the one from where the eyeball spiders came, shoots back up into space. Split. No-tomorrow style.
Then the other globe starts making noise. A slithery crank, an ugly backfire, and then it takes off too. The silver ball gets smaller, passes that third chromey sphere, the one what never came down, then it’s an orange dot, then an orange line, and then it’s gone, with the blob. With all the beats. With the whole cookie factory.
Socrates stares up at the third sphere, which hangs there, maybe staring down at him. Wound up like an eight-day clock. The way he tells it, Socrates starts to howl at it: Take me. This place is cubesville.
And sitting here on the salt, covered in that yellow goop, after bumping his gums, telling me the whole story in chunks and ugly disjointed pustules, he starts screaming about it again, right here in front of me. Take me. This place is cubesville. Take me. Over and over. This place is cubesville.