Ian Randall Wilson
Cassandra And Her Friend Are Performing
The street, at that time of night, stretched its green thumb over the growing line of cars. Valet boys wearing coats the color of burned mink shouted in Spanish dialects unheard since the birth of Cortez. All the houses had names they hid from one another, and since numbers only mattered on checks, they hid those, too. Ivan followed directions and did not take unfair advantage of the clock. He shifted into maybe and the wheels began flying. He drove toward the whispering music and the smell of light.
At his arrival, three anarchists Eucalyptus trees began singing "The Marseilles" as a shower of overripe avacado descended from the clouds -- and Ivan only had two drinks before he got there -- or was it three? Or more?
From a cauldron of air molecules hovering nearby, Ovipides, god of talent agents, laughed. There was a momentary confusion among the flora and the fauna, each unable to remember their position in the Great Chain of Being. Then, because all the sidewalks were swimming in guacamole, Ivan had to leap with a pair of hounds in order to gain the high ground. The dogs ran off to consult the local oracle while Ivan reorganized his emotions according to the Dewey Decimal System. A Trojan woman took his key but said nothing and gave him no receipt nor any other recognition that he existed beyond this second's breath.
--Don't worry, the chorus of valets said, we remember all the faces.
The rocks protested but the men stamped their feet in time to an unnamed jig. Rectangular birds stirred the air like bread mixers and still the valets demurred.
--No ticket? said Ivan, it's a rental car.
--All the faces. Every last fool. Now go inside before the celebration moves to its alternate location.
Or words to that effect.
On the walk upward, he let phlogiston be his guide through the dry night and when the lights turned on, he couldn't see, taking a gin from a passing tray that tasted like first-cut corduroy. The path was a path of smoke, the visionary did not move otherwise he who was the vision might have vanished. Now he had a whole sky needing to be recounted, welcoming his pirouette into new shoes that smelled of chai.
Cassandra and her friend were already performing in a foyer ringed by art pieces for sale. They were very naked, though they retained the film rights to their skin. Knowledge of Doric columns was not required to understand that they were apparently a live sex act -- which everyone regarded with the same interest they reserved for plants incapable of speech. Ivan looked around and recomposed his face into the mask of a face without friends. Cassandra was on her back with her knees up in the formal pose of Scene II from Casaubon's Spanish Pornography. Her friend faced the room chanting incantations designed to control the flow of beverages. The audience watched but made no sound in reply. Ivan consulted his Feodor's but there was no listing for live sex acts, sex acts or sex. The guide did suggest dinner jackets after seven in months ending in r.
Then Cassandra's friend displayed a twelve-inch dildo to the room and the audience, continuing to maintain a set distance from one another as mandated by a new public ordnance, applauded politely when she rammed it -- home -- so to speak -- and the show was over.
Ivan saw dancing fawns head for the buffet in another room and followed. He passed through a doorway manned by elderly Communists and his civilian coat caused them a cat's confusion. They handed him a red ticket and told him to eat to his heart's malcontent. More applause in the shape of fanblades rushed in from the other room causing a heat transfer among those waiting to dine.
Ivan took a plate loaded with inedibles and headed out another doorway that promptly started raining. Between him and the others was a veil of tears through which he could not return.
--Wasn't she incredible? Someone coming from the other room said.
--Marvelous skin tone. There's nothing like the squeak of youthful flesh.
--I especially loved the portion with the grapes.
Ivan turned his attention to his plate which cast no shadow over his lap while he balanced on a chair without legs. He tasted an excess of swamp seasoning in the quiche. And what about the salt he was promised that never came through? Instead he removed all the food additives and scattered them into the portable cosmos by the side of his plate.
Cassandra and her friend, each now wearing loose and gauzy robes, came into the food room trailed by two leashed greyhounds, an armed guard in a wheelchair and a squadron of well-wishers who used their hands in place of lips. Three of the four walls executed a perfect Louis XV bow and then returned to their full, upright position as men and women whom Ivan was sure he'd seen on television or the movies -- but could not name -- arrived.
The room was full now with everyone attacking the buffet table as if the food might at any minute explode in a shower of dollar bills. Ivan took a sip of a dark beverage and for a moment the ceiling and floors exchanged places. Then he finished eating. Without a trash receptacle open for business, Ivan hung his plate on the wall and continued further into the tall yellow grasses of the back hallway. Silent women with tunnels for mouths kept pointing and he followed their insistent thumbs into a room that rhyme forgot. Its dimensions were boundless, its far walls invisible despite theater lighting and the presence of a hundred follow spots.
On a set of risers a portable disc jockey played music to a large crowd of non-indigenous peoples. He consulted frequently with his lightman and in vainglorious effort to reverse the effects of aging the array of lighting changed to match the hue and cry of the downbeat. Without an area demarcated as "the dance floor," people pranced and capered where they stood, gyrating, some as if filled with air, others with smoke. Any number seemed to have lost control of their limbs which began taking orders from a drum machine. Naked women carrying trays on their heads circulated through the room delivering drinks perched on their breasts. There were a few nude waiters but they didn't count.
Every few minutes a runner pushed his way among the crowd tossing press releases into the air which flew about like sad birds at Easter. The dancers beat down the sheets and kicked them off to the side where they languished unread. Ivan picked one up but the information was written in disappearing ink and vanished before he got to the end of the page. He caught a brief mention of Cassandra but no more.
In the corners of the rooms pavillions had been set up as part of the World Debauchery Festival complete with banners and placard and flags announcing the event. Ivan observed copulation in all 979 positions of Burke's Kama Sutra, First Edition. Vegetable oil was dispensed by grease-monkeys in white.
Ivan observed what appeared like gang rape as a line of men waited to have a turn with a woman lashed to a low table. --Is this the best mankind has to offer, she shouted, laughing as each new man pushed atop her.
On the other side of the first pavillion a man and a woman were tied to frames and sexually abused by another line of waiting party-goers who were not segregated by gender. The victims sang Spanish military chants from after the First World War.
Closest to where Ivan stood a crowd gathered. First a sledgehammer came down on the crotch of a cardboard man and divided him in squares. Then his brother stood up and asked to be similarly blessed. Prayers were shouted in a foreign language though they might have been women demanding tea. The Executioner changed places with the milkman and the next record began.
Ivan hung on the outside of the gathering away from unknown water. He carefully kept two fingers crossed to ward off a pack of evil spirits flying about the room. Another press release showered everyone in fresh pulp. Someone murmured in his ear that he was the kind of man who look good with a gun.
It was difficult sawing lace but everyone tried. The three muses of indifference strode by with flaming hair that burst into laughter like candles at the beach. Behind him were more women wearing dresses the color of nice. They had shoes dipped in iodine and left a trail of muddy sparks behind them. This was not the kind of clean living people paid for, their chests speaking circles to anyone with eyes for hands and tin money.
Voices shouted, Oy-y-y--Oy from the speaker system, and the square-four beat never varied in intensity though portable metronomes were available in nooks about the room to confirm the tempo. The lightman favored a red motif and directed his follow spots to slash everyone moving with color.
Ivan sighted a man with the head of a calf on the other side of the room. Balloons in the shape of fifty-two states dropped from the walls. He began a costly expedition to another part of the room. Exhausted by trying to separate his arguing feet, he sat down on a chair that was trembling by the wall.
Immediately a black cat jumped into his lap and meowed.
--You're a nice cat, Ivan said, what do they call you?
The cat spoke clearly in a received English accent. Could the cat be speaking to him? Was the air that spiked with psychedelia? Were the visions that threatened to burn his hair now taking their revenge. Ivan finished his glass of champagne and took another one from a passing waiter.
--Easy, tiger, said Blackie the cat, too much of the good stuff will kill you.
--Okay, I'll play along, said Ivan. Blackie, huh. Oh I get it. Blackie.
--What's that? A racist remark?
The cat arched his back and dug his claws into Ivan's thigh.
--Hey. I didn't meant anything by it. Besides, you're a cat. How can I make a racist remark to a cat?
--I don't call you whitey, or in your case pinkey and if you keep going with the champagne I'm going call you vomitus. From the Latin.
--Are you the only talking animal here? Are there any talking dogs?
--Dogs don't talk, Blackie said, any idiot knows that. They're too stupid. Or didn't you know that, too?
--Are you some kind of robot like I've seen on TV? You must be. The Japanese made something like that. Very clever.
Ivan passed a hand over the cat's back.
--Excellent fur, Ivan said. If you're not real, they've done a great job on you.
--You want to get into a discussion of being and existence in the middle of a party? You must not be from around here. Let me give you some advice. When I was a kitten, I spake as a kitten. But now that I'm a cat, I have put down kittenish things.
--Don't tell me. Don't tell me. I love this party. A talking cat. Catrinthians. Ivan laughed. --Catrinthians. Hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah.
--You must be a dog, too.
--Don't go, said Ivan. I was just making a joke.
The cat had already bounded ten feet off. Amazing how smooth its movements were, how effortlessly it seemed to jump. Ivan had never had good animal experiences, certainly not growing up when a pack of neighborhood dogs chased him to school and home every day for a year. He'd never actually been this close to a cat for such a long period of time. He found himself liking it, a little bit, though a talking cat, well that could get to be a problem after a while. Blackie came back just as quickly.
--If you're considering a career in comedy, the cat said, don't. You have no future in it.
Then for a momoment a river began to flow and the men on the left were separated from the men on the right. Anyone without color had no form. But the water only lasted for a second before the growing heat of all the bodies changed it into low-hung fog. The cat was gone, and though Ivan called for him, the cat was not coming back.
Rested, Ivan began walking again, and drinking more champagne, and walking and drinking. Someone handed him some pills which he sniffed before handing them to someone else. He didn't refuse a joint though and after inhaling, found himself once more alone. Everyone ringed him with their backs turned, moving east to west. The music changed and they started writhing north to south. Ivan, for the moment caught with an inoperable compass, stayed mute.
At the next pavilion a woman was ontop of an obstetrics table, naked with her legs spread to the crowd. Her knees were bent at the same angle as a sectant pointing north. A man gowned as a doctor stood beside her as did another woman dressed as a nurse. At the prone woman's head was a man in the guise of a husband. Ivan closed his eyes to purify himself and when he reopened them, the doctor-figure stood before the woman's legs reaching as if for an offering. The husband-figure shouted, --Breath, push.
--Medulla oblongata, shouted the nurse.
And then the baby was there in a shower of blood and afterbirth. Efficiently, the doctor tied off and snipped the cord. He threw it into the crowd where those gathered leaped on each other like a pack of immature wolves. The mother beamed.
Not much later, Ivan began a conversation with a long line of anatomically correct women, all of whom showing signs of enhancement. He had a lively conversation with the whole line of women sitting there with drinks in front of them and small plates of food which they never once touched. Sad to starve. A strobe light flashed and it appeared to Ivan as if they were nodding to most of what he said. He talked for a long time about what an odd party this was and how different Los Angeles seemed to him. Practiced banalities among strangers, boring to bats.
--You know what I mean? he said, pushing the first woman lightly on the arm. Her arm was solid and unyielding, and he was drunk, enough so that he miscalculated the force. She fell to her left and hit the woman next to her who fell and commenced a chain reaction of falling women until the thirty-fifth mannequin -- it turned out he'd been speaking to a mannequin for the last 20 minutes -- fell off the banquet and onto the floor.
--Dummies, said Ivan.
He left the main room and wandered through the first door off and arched hallway decorated with stone tablets cursing the gods. In a moment, he was in a nursery with a room full of babies. The door behind him locked and he couldn't get out. Many of them badly needed to be changed. They squalled according to the precise plan of a Schoenberg 12-tone piece. Then a nurse came in to feed them all with a hundred individual nipples hooked by lines to a central bottle station.
--Lost? she said, we're all lost.
--Just open the door he told her.
He returned to the main room in time to take part in a ceremonial burning of a library. Books and magazines and newspapers were hurled atop the pyre which set off the overhead sprinkler system. Ivan found himself a prisoner of the dance and he ran between sprayers.
More champagne, more smoke and finally he accepted pills. He was too drunk to know the difference or care.
--As long as they don't put on weight, he said, taking another drink.
And the what looked like a human sacrifice, a man changed to an altar, two priests in feather headdress and business suits, a knife the size of an arm. To his right, a film crew pulled in close on a naked woman being strangled. Had to be fake. She gasped, her eyes rolled back and showing white.
Then a woman next to him took his hand and led him off and then. . . and then . . .
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