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Fiction by Jesse Hilson

Chicken Soup for the Reformed Death-Cultist’s Soul

In college Noah Turbot fell in with a death cult that did all its recruiting through the mail. He paid them $30 to get the latest news about the end times. Everybody was doing it, it was fashionable to compare Jonestown strategies. Noah’s cult did it all behind a scrim of jokes. IBIBIBTAF it was called. I Believe I Believe I Believe That’s All Folks. He’d drive around in his Buick all night listening to their cassette tapes that gave the doctrine. They said a UFO was coming to save certain human beings before the apocalypse and in order to get that precious spot on board you had to kill your parents. Or surrogates of your parents. Stand-ins. It didn’t matter. Noah imprinted on two friends of his at Dexby College which was near the landing zone of the UFO, coincidentally. It was about an hour away. His surrogate dad was another college student named Joe Sinister who was a hip hop DJ. Noah and Joe Sinister would go to parties and try to block each other’s ascent to social heights with their musical selections. Which one was more dope. Joe Sinister was a Buddhist and wore a saffron-colored puffy jacket and swami headgear. He was drowning in pussy at Dexby College and he patronized Noah like a little brother. He would do things like sit in lotus position on a mat at his apartment and listen to Noah jibber-jabber about his mental TinkerToy constructions. Noah didn’t tell Joe Sinister about IBIBIBTAF. Or if he did he made it sound like a Sufi prayer that he’d learned. Everybody was into esoteric foreign mysticism which was fine for rich trustafarian college students but it proved a fertile breeding ground for delusional mind-warps.

Noah’s mother figure was a folksinger babe from Rochester NY named Sparkle. Sparkle sung songs in an inarticulate murmuring voice that was like a semi-orgasmic gasp. Noah quickly formed a thing with her where he turned to her for maternal energy and advice. He thought he was flirting with her but it was like a sad broken gear whose teeth did not mesh with the gears she had, and he couldn’t sense the grating quality that he brought. It was like being unable to smell yourself because you were always there, wherever you went you never got a chance to step outside your own miasma to get a baseline to compare it with. Sparkle lived in a house with other countercultural women, each of whom competed to answer the telephone with the breathiest, sexiest hello. Everyone was giving each other massages at parties, the women were massage-happy, but when Noah got in line for one, whichever woman it was he talked to would say she couldn’t do it because too much toxicity had built up in her hands from all the other previous massages she gave. Toxic sprites occupied their magic hands like Israeli settlers in the West Bank. No vacancy.

So he was supposed to kill Joe Sinister and Sparkle at this music festival, in order to board the IBIBIBTAF flying saucer. They all went to the festival in a hidden field near Dexby where vendors wandered around yelling Veggie burritos!” and selling glass pipes and chillums out of cushioned attaché cases. Noah had a huge forest green hoodie on and even huger pants, easily the bottom eight inches of which were caked with mud. Joe Sinister had futuristic sunglasses on and his purple swami head wrap that he managed to look suave in, from all vantage points, even from the most unforgiving memory outposts decades later. Sparkle pulled out her guitar and started singing to the children of the world and into this gathering of kids she disappeared. Joe went to off to do drug math multiplication tables which was why he really came, and he and Sparkle quickly lost Noah in the crowd. Dub reggae time distortions leaked from walls of speaker cabinets and fucked him up, suggestions of a sequential discontinuity that was all chopped up, a brunoise of time. The spaceship was supposed to show up that night. Noah had one half of a pair of scissors he was going to strike the fatal blows with.

He was looking for his surrogate parents when he got short-term married to a belly dancer who was walking her little dog. She went one way and the confused dog went the other and to avoid getting tripped up on the leash Noah had to leap up over it, and for that split second in mid-air they looked at each other, man woman and dog, and he was married to the belly dancer in a tacit flash of deep understanding. He didn’t know that he was wearing all the wrong logos for her to be bonded in holy matrimony to him. It didn’t matter. The IBIBIBTAF spell was broken. He became a family man and didn’t need to kill his parents anymore. He got married similarly two more times that night, random arrangements of cosmic objects aligned him with other people, matchmaking on a universal scale. He talked with a hippie lady in her 30s in a field about trust funds and generational trends. Elsewhere, listening to a jam band freaking out he spun a glow-in-the-dark ring the diameter of a baseball on his finger, got it going fast, then passed it to a stoned woman’s outstretched finger: with this ring I thee wed. They didn’t talk or consummate the marriage in any way so it deteriorated like morning dew the moment after it came. But he knew.

He’d bought a 12-pack of beer and got to drinking it. He threw all his IBIBIBTAF death cult tapes and his scissor-knife into a garbage can at the north end of the festival grounds marked TOXIC? People kept their distance from his dissonant vibes as if from a rabid porcupine. He got wasted and danced by himself to the tribal rhythm and fell asleep in the back seat of his Buick (he’d brought no tent), and in the night the alien craft hovered overhead, scanned the crooked cars in the parking lot for lifeforms to save, human animals to let on board, and because he had no blood on his hands it must have passed him over.

He was never really going to kill anybody, he knew that. It was a thought experiment that went just up to the line but never crossed it. Thoughts were flirtations that never requited him. It was just like the other scary cards in his deck that would periodically emerge, do their divination dance on every brain cell of his, then disappear back into the deck to have their position destroyed in an arcane series of cuts and shuffles. Sleight of hand of the psychotic fortune teller Madame Ruby. The card was untraceable but still there, somewhere.

His shadow dropped out of college and he followed it home to central New York where he slept a lot and watched strange films and worked a summer job for the village going to the cemetery, vaporizing weeds with his trusty weed whacker and pouring concrete sidewalks into oily forms staked into the ground. At night he drank Genny Screamers with his high school buddies in fields, tripping out over the stars and looking for UFOs. His parents put on disguises at the dinner table, his dad wore an embittered Roy Clark Hee Haw” mask when he washed the car. His big sister Dawn drove him around to parties and therapy sessions with a sike-ologist in Eureka City and talked to him in sibling semaphore. A big blank spot, in the shape of a crumpled aluminum can fashioned into a hash-pipe, obscured his time at Dexby College.

Jesse Hilson

Twitter: @platelet60

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