There is much to do. All the nights are cold, and the darkness is marked at intervals, neon lights pulsing, changing everything around them for a moment. Life is like that too, sometimes, for a moment. A pulse can change everything around it. Pulses of love, or hate, pulses of machinery or sound, pulses of water or fire. Pulses can beget rushes, and rushes, if rushes of love, can linger longer than say, the echo of a pulse of sound.
Long after that song ended, the one playing at the club the night he met her, past the echo of the melody in his head, his captivation with her resounded. Rushes of feeling, to infatuation, to love, to resignation – a sequential rite of the afflicted. Under a neon pulse, as under the earth’s satellite, all things are colored by a light refracted from a third source. The light of the moon is given by the sun.
There is much to do. He cannot light himself – he is crippled that way, a dead rock stuck in orbit, a moon. His light, in his vampiric existence, came from the city’s neon display, and now he seeks more. A pulse can change everything. In the darkness he moves, lit up in a rainbow of colors, a Lite-Brite animation with a paper in his pocket bearing the address she gave him.
Smashing bottles in the alley. His feet, cold and wet from the slushy pavement, give him a strange sense of comfort. This is what Christmas is supposed to be like, like it was when he was a kid, sneaking sips of liquor behind his uncle’s tavern, running back inside to warm your feet and watch the holiday revelers drink their bonuses away. He’d learned to smoke at the bar, and to play dice in the back room behind the register. When the holidays came he made extra money walking the inebriated to their apartments. They’d tip him, if they were awake when he slumped them into their beds, and if not, he’d reach into wallet or purse and tip himself.
There were no Christmas songs on the jukebox back then, so the drunks would just belt out carols all night, accompanied only by laughter. Now, he hears them inside, blending their voices with this year’s Christmas tune, playing on the new stereo sound system. Not bad, he thinks, as he raises unsteady fingertips to the night sky holding a butt still lit, a holiday light, a Christmas star.
Somewhere in an apartment high above, a kid looks down at the lonely little light in the dark alley. It reminds him, somehow, of the star of Bethlehem. He thinks, because he sees this, that perhaps he will someday be a king.
Continuing the expeditions of Jeff MacNelly, James J. Kilpatrick, and Eugene McCarthy, with apologies.
The Algorithmic Bias
A thoroughly modern creature with a backward-looking perspective, the Algorithmic Bias operates with an invisible hand to serve an unseen master. Unfortunately for the curious, the obscure methods of the invisible hand are sufficiently complicated as to render them inscrutable. The AB is thus an enigmatic magician playing in a sandbox of real world information, and making a mess. Logical conclusions find themselves subjugated to the AB, as do aspirational ideals, whimsy, inspiration, and blind pursuits. Investigational rigor is nothing next to the bedazzling charm of AB magic, and slow due diligence is detritus in the wake of the AB’s speedy retrieval of results. What’s more, since the creature feeds on its own speed, it grows continuously stronger within its infinite lifespan, which, in turn, increases its speed, which feeds the creature – a continuing cycle of growth, power, and influence that is unmatched in the Bestiary. Its only natural predators, crusty tweedy researchers, can, at best, cull only one AB every so often, with great effort. This lopsided dynamic is thought to have wide effect, exampled by the strange phenomenon of overvalued tech stocks and the surge in the sale of black mock-neck pullovers.
Reflecting an uncritical disposition, he took on the patterns of the life that was offered him. He slept in his room, he drank in the saloon, he attended church on Sunday, though that diversion was not offered, but rather, insisted upon by Pastor Welsh. He loved the way the sun came through the pointed windows of the church, and the smell of the pines that rushed into the place after a hard rain. At Christmas time, Ozwald would sometimes help the Pastor decorate the church with ribbon.
Then there was the digging.
The undertaker was distant when he was not drinking, but Welsh was always accessible, so much so that Oswald found himself talking to him even while digging alone. On cold nights, when the hard ground gave itself grudgingly, often the conversation was profane and unbecoming, but it was genuine. As Ozwald got knee deep and further, he was taken away from pretense and propriety, deeper into his own mind, and then away from there, to a place where his gut and his aching arms, and his cold, wet feet, were given voice.
It was strange to see it there, this seemingly misplaced artistic sentiment. It so contrasted its surroundings – it seemingly came alive among the dead darkness of the alley, morphing from flatness to relief to a real guy sitting there, in that chair. And he just sat, silently meditating, or mourning – who can say for sure? We were all intruders in his space for a moment, a moment of zen, in alley in a dirty city, where all sorts of things are alive and beautiful.
The club entrance was in a gangway off a side street, and was lit by a garish bulb. Dirty and exposed to the elements, it provided atmosphere, but little illumination. Almost as if keeping with that theme, the place had hired a doorman who spoke in scat phrases, sometimes wore a topknot, and even in temperate weather cloaked himself in a black leather duster that made everything but his face and hands disappear into the surrounding darkness.
The place was popular with club kids and local toughs, but, curiously, there were spaces in the nights were has was alone, or nearly that, and he would sing, or kind of yodel into the empty gangway darkness. In winter he would sometimes spell out the name of the club in the snow with his Dr. Martens, or burn a girl’s initials into the accumulation with the cup of hot tea they would bring him from inside.
He carried a piece of chalk in his coat pocket to write song lyrics, The Clash, mostly, on the black walls of the doorway. On the rare occasions that they’d play such a song inside, he’d go at the wall in a frenzy trying to keep up with the cadence. Once, hearing Morrissey’s crooning Girlfriend in a Coma, he drew a simple heart on the wall and then ran to and fro in the gangway like a caged animal for a moment before reclaiming his station as if nothing unusual had just happened. Rumor was that he’d had a girlfriend, or a sister that had died long ago, but nobody asked him. Even a gangway performance space has some rules of decorum. Besides, the show he put on each night was part of the reason one visited the place, sometimes even the only reason. Many partiers would divert through the gangway while on their way somewhere else, just to see what he was doing, which was sometimes nothing. They would search the wall for his chalk marks, or the snow for his tributes, and finding nothing, look up at him with a smirk as he held his teacup and saucer in fingerless gloves, pinkie out, quietly sipping.