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Fiction by Arzhang Zafar

Academic

My flesh wilts. I laugh. I have given up keeping time, but now am reminded of its passage by my own decay. The cruelty of inevitability engorges my glands and I begin pleasuring myself. I am interrupted by a phone call from a man claiming to be a literary agent. I am overcome by a vision of the Atlantic Ocean swallowing the entirety of Western Europe. I reach climax. A voice tells me I have missed a deadline. Bile rises in my throat and I swallow it. I crawl into a hole and simmer in my filth.

I am delivering a lecture. My stench overwhelms the hall. While I am in the middle of eviscerating the post-structuralists, a boy named Module and a girl called Knapsack are so utterly traumatized by the experience of being near me that they leap into each other’s arms at impossible speeds and combust on impact. I explain that love is a side effect of desperation. I am awarded tenure. Due to emotional setbacks I am no longer considered a human being.

I bathe in brine. I feast on rotting meat and drink medical-grade alcohol. I collect detritus composed of unknown materials and smoke it in my ancient clay pipe. I encourage others to emulate my lifestyle as a form of protest. I live for their disdain and pity their admiration. I am making myself abominable for the sake of apotheosis. I study my own degradation.

I slither along cobblestones. I leave in my wake a trail of abjection that infects everyone who crosses my path. It makes me giddy to think of upended potentials. I am easily aroused, despite my exhaustion. Some have called me the most accomplished pervert in the tri-state area. I was once called a philosopher. I wrote about ancient proto-existentialisms as evidenced in Mesopotamian religious and mythic texts. I was derided as unserious.

I have given myself over to entropy. The sores lining my body speak to me as a lilting angelic choir. I slurp the remains of someone’s half-eaten lunch from the corners of a garbage can in full view of my colleagues. I cannot be defeated. My aura is powerful enough to wipe memories. I regularly plan to hurl myself from atop the clocktower at the center of campus at noon on the final day of the spring semester, and just as regularly am talked out of it by the manifested lump of spite sitting atop my brain.

I break bread with fellow ghouls. We are ensconced in unrelenting mutual loathing. We read to each other from unpublished manuscripts and sneer wildly, creating facial expressions that have never been seen before. We drink gallons of whiskey and finger unwilling holes. We communicate our distaste across spacetime and manufacture disaster. We sing of the blistering eternity of ex-wives. Our foul insight fuels culture.

I scream and bellow into the night. My flesh ripples and my skin peels. I molt and take on newer and more hideous forms. I am interviewed by fringe presses and speak about the violence of self-actualization. I mock and psychically harm my enablers. I skulk away from my handlers and enter various bathrooms where I turn the expulsion of bodily fluids into an artform. I demand a return to normalcy despite my own nature. I am unfettered and weep, prophesying censorship.

I dream of catastrophe and it excites me. I am hunted by packs of hounds with young faces and shrill howls. I throb with delight. I am mutilated regularly. My abdomen is an open wound. Outraged reviews of my life’s work are etched into my back. I am incapable of standing still. I am incapable of standing upright. I reside in hospitals. I will not die soon.

I whisper to no one in particular. I want something else. Dissatisfaction is the springboard to magnificence, yet I define myself by my wretchedness. My pitiful existence is simultaneously a symbolic gesture of immense power and a symptom of the degradation of all that I hold dear. I ooze toxic waste. I hold nothing dear. I want to thank my haters for this incredible opportunity. I whimper.

I am asked to read a dissertation. The boy is gentle and anxious. He has no eye for depravity. He believes I represent the great mass of alienation and neglect clogging his own heart. He believes I am open-minded because I speak often of free exchange. I want to taste his vulnerability. I want him to discover sadism as he enters me. I am distracted by my spiraling thoughts and accidentally agree to his request. I am trapped by my longing. I will not go easy on him.

I am faced with a confounding thesis. He says his goal is to deconstruct contemporary social epistemology through the lens of the Illuminationist school of Islamic philosophy. I cackle. My gut recoils. I prepare to indulge in my most pretentious impulses. I sharpen my teeth and my prejudices. I briefly morph into an avatar of the most racist man alive before absorbing him into my bones and adding him to my catalog of selves. I read. My sweat turns black and sizzles.

I slurp up concepts. I trace familiar vestiges of an impressionable larval moment. I become nauseated. To my horror, I become enraptured. Something here is resonating. I resist, but my withered synapses are lubricated. I gag on a thick balloon of exegesis as it slides down my astral throat. I pray for relief. I reflect on my own corrupted thirst for knowledge. I reckon with a certain atomic curiosity buried deep. I scratch and claw and sense a hidden realm of light somewhere out in the enormous expanse of viscous nothing all along my periphery.

I am young. My heart is bare. My skin is unblemished. My mind is willing to accept what is given. I approach an altar and light five candles and brush dust off of a weighty tome before opening it. My eyes scan pages of names. I know their bearers intimately. I know they exist. I pine after them. I have not met them and never will. I covet ideology and flesh. I fall to my knees and suck the cock of a Prussian astronomer. I am brought low by my desire to please and he destroys my relics. I rest my head on his self-made substance. I acquiesce to the rising sun.

I am younger. I crave certainty. I detest nuance. I am drowned by undifferentiated love. My exoskeleton is a pistachio shell. My capital is held tenderly by virulence. I am present for the division of autonomous selves into procurement. I am nursed by a Dutch widow as her husband’s bloated corpse is pulled from a canal. I am turgid with milk. It seeps out of my pores and drips onto the mosaic floor of my crib. My thoughts are wet. I focus on an incomprehensible object of desire. I am apprehended. The creases of my dead mother hold nation-states. I am transcendent. I am unborn.

I glide over history. I become angelic. I tear at the edges of peeling wallpaper in a brutal attic revealing vertices of information. I am thrust back from the land of francs into an ancient cosmopole. A shimmer guides me into bathhouses and mosques and ziggurats. The environment is moist and caked in dust and idealistic. I am transmuted into an eel-like device attuned to forward momentum. I enter narrow holes. My eyes see in the darkness. I learn to attain. I burrow. I penetrate. I drill into the truth of matter. I grasp the light of celestial knowledge.

I emanate. I accept the universality of concepts. My glands are turned inside out and become organs for the perception of new heavenly senses. I embody hindsight. Evidence of solidarity pools at my feet and I lap it up with astral tongues. Oil seeps out of the earth and forms my primordial spouse. I laugh with joy as we consummate our relationship. We dance. Everyone dances with us. I join the many populations of dead worlds in a grand ethereal quest for understanding. I am no longer my body. I am no longer my shame.

I feel a tug. I am gently restored to myself with a nudge and a word. I sit at a desk in an office. I ache. My obligations which had become parodic once again feel worth tending. I ache less. I am face to face with a beautiful young person whose irises are colored like faded turquoise and whose complexion is desert sand. My thoughts suddenly disgust me.

I praise my protege with tears in my eyes. I tell him I have found the solution to life’s ills. I want to kiss him. He thanks me and says he will take all I have said into consideration. My notes are meaningless pablum but he accepts them regardless. He doesn’t know better. I remember deviousness. Clay falls into my hands. I tell him to find a new calling. I tell him life is more than this. I breathe in my own pheromones and tell him to do the same. I tell him his education must begin anew, he should become something else.

I call my agent and tell him I have new work. I explain that I have been inspired by recent transcendental experiences to apply mystical Islamic philosophy to contemporary epistemology. I add that I will be giving the text a more edgy, cynical bite, in line with my existing reputation in academic circles. I am going to turn my life around. I am going to become immortal. My theft of brilliance will grant me everlasting life.

My bones rattle as I mock the prospect of growth. I am ecstatic. I reiterate to myself that life is a series of comical eviscerations. I envision my own expanding genitals. I prepare to regurgitate novel ideas. I prepare to reinforce my walls. I will not change. I know that change is not possible. I will become more. I will be enormous.

I am once again called a philosopher. My new book is a success. I speak at slavering audiences. I have become a guru to a sect of reactionary new age grifters. I am embroiled in controversy. It reinforces my exoskeleton. My body becomes dense and indestructible. My skin becomes supple and smooth. I am obsessed with consuming dairy products. I am compelled to drink crude oil. I smell like a newborn baby. The public’s memory is erased.

I am ancient. My soul encompasses modernity. I command armies. I excrete new lands and piss the sea. My flesh is constantly regenerating. I feast on willing catamites. I will soon swallow the entire West Coast of the United States. I will soon fuck the Rocky Mountains into oblivion. I will soon make an investment into New York City real estate. I am the only man who has ever lived. I am the most pathetic creature on the face of the earth. If you decide not to love me, I will kill myself.

Arzhang Zafar

Twitter: @vomunculus

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