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The Testament of Abraham Gesner
As I came into this world as a bloodied, coddled babe, I choose to leave it as a bloodied, broken man.
I, Abraham Gesner, being of sound mind and able body, do decree this occasionally meandering document to be my final will and greatest testament, though some will certainly question the validity of my claims and the veracity of my story this night.
You see, as I came into this world as a bloodied, coddled babe, I choose to leave it as a bloodied, broken man. I suspect no joyous occasion in the other side and no firm slap to my boney posterior when I arrive as a mangled corpse, full of maggots and other unpleasantness as I assume my body shall not be uncovered for at least a week. I suspect another court summon on that, my 78th birthday, on the spate of recent developments.
I find it best to start somewhere in the middle, as the beginning is uneventful and the end too confusing to be a place for beginnings. This is not some cyclical fiction of middling writing one might come across in the back of a rotting copy of Strange Tales one might find exorbitantly priced at an antique mall - known to the children as the dens of depressing septuagenarians clutching onto the pearls of their memories. And what of memories? You may find me mad, but I promise that I too considered that but, the pictures! Oh, yes. You may find the evidence of my suffering in the form of photograph so kindly developed by an overweight trollop at the five and dime store. They are on the mantle, directly adjacent to my community activism award (as hypocritically faulty as it may be), and under the butt end of my favorite hunting rifle.
As a young child, I was on the path to true mediocrity and obscene poverty. Lifelessly festering in an ethnic slum thanks to my parents' unfortunate lineage, neither parent being a worthy scion, I found myself more drawn to petty thievery and fornication with local harlots, than the learning that would come to bring my life into the public eye and thrust my family onto the world stage.
My father, clever but a bit of a dullard, managed to work and weasel his way into a position of powerful trust at the docks, and my mother, bless her weak heart, clawed her way to the top of her office from a position of powerless uselessness. With that, I was dragged away as a fiery teen and set loose into a much nicer school where I would come to find bullies and books; both changed me into something a bit more, shall we say, fitting of my aspirations without belying my heritage. With a thick, robust accent my father dropped me off for my first day of class and simply said to me, "no failure." This motto, as you all know, is now carved eloquently into a silver plaque still hanging above the door to my old office in the League Building but, oh. I shall stop here as the visions and apparitions have come early. My burning thoughts can take no more today.
...on the morrow.
I continue now my will, and remind you of my plight. Miraculously I, once being dumbed a dolt of low-bred achievement and learning disabled, managed to leave school and enter college at the top of my class. My summers wandering the museum, just blocks from our home, drove my interests towards a geological nature. I loved the idea of rocks, seemingly timeless but constantly transmuting, and the facts of earth's long geological history as an affront to the ignorance of religion. I would delve deeply into gems and igneous rocks for hours, forgetting all of those pleasures that world afforded me. To this day, I still poor many hours - when my mind is clear and my hands steady - over the forms of solidified chemicals and their magnificent properties.
It was here in college, the summer before my internship at the museum began, where I can truly say I had some semblance of happiness. I met my beloved wife- who now spins slowly in the cold ground, no doubt waiting for me to return my trembling fingers to hers- in an inorganic chemistry class. Though the class was often pointless and taught by a Lebanese fool with a rudimentary knowledge of the topic, it proved to be fruitful to my love life. We spent a good, long life together and she blessed me with two children...
...Blessed is not an honest word. I am here to tell the truth and present the facts of my darkest hour, and yet I speak with the tongue of the serpent who spoke to Eve. My daughter is a drugged-up halfwit, and my son grew into his own as a bumbling dolt who managed to squander away all of these things that I so graciously gave to them. They preferred to live the life of lushes, and not ones of nobility and dignity. For that, they shall get none of my estate.
Let me reiterate for the legal types who may gaze eyes on this: My children get nothing.
Their children, with rosy cheeks and ample posteriors, get nothing.
The entirety of my future, roughly 6.7 million dollars, goes to the natural history museum where I spent much of my youth and interned, that they may maintain and expand their geological and gem collections, as well to educate those who wish to better this planet. Do not think of the irony in that last statement based on my time on this forsaken rock.
Now that my ignorant children have surely stopped reading, I can get to the point of my vitriolic words. The haunting visage that mocks me, following me in the evenings and bringing only horror to this empty, echoing home...
It was in my tenth year with Cornerstone Petroleum and I had fought, bit, spat, and intertwined my way to the top of the company. My intelligence coupled with my profound inability to care for other human beings allowed me to rationalize all of misdeeds. I had become the poster child for denial. I would produce questionable research results and fiddle with numbers, mustering up the best possible paint to plaster on the side of a feckless and vile organization.
It was around October, though the exact year escapes me, when the first leak appeared on the pipeline that I had so wholeheartedly endorsed.
Backing up a bit, I realize the Liberal media dogs called it a spill. It was no spill. It was a tiny leak. A trickle, really, in a pipeline that was a marvel of modern engineering. Stretching nearly across the continent, it flowed like a brilliant straw, sucking up the gastric goo from one point and bubbling it along to a busy harbor where it would be sold to an aggressively greedy world. Were we so evil, providing a mere service?
The dark one, he won’t answer this. He just comes in the night, clutching and screaming...
The pipe was a magnificent, phallic achievement the likes of which not seen since the aqueducts. But there was a tiny flaw. I hesitate to even use the word flaw in this sense, as it was more of a purposely designed issue that should not have needed to be addressed at any point in the future when completed. The bolts used on some stretches of pipe that we, at least management, considered seismically stable and unlikely to slide against each other; well, those bolts were just a bit cheaper than the rest and a bit less resistant, much like designed obsolescence. But oh! How we made a fortune off of those bolts! By cutting back on a few bolts here and there, outsourcing their development, we saved the company – a company that had inky tentacles across multiple states, employing hundreds of proud Americans – almost 16 million dollars on that decision alone. Imagine it. A few sloppy bolts, and we saved enough money to fatten our calves beyond understanding.
The first apparition – seen by Rupert and Warren mind you, proving my sanity! – appeared not long after the leak, wailing in the night like some monstrous wind whipping through this empty house. This baffled me to no end, as there was no life lost from this tiny drip.
The environmental damage- and let me remind you that those damned environmentalists got their payday- was minimal. We considered it an acceptable cost to do business. A few dead birds and rocks covered in gunk is a small price to pay for progress, is it not? A country that slaughters birds by the truckload for their fattening, greasy snack sandwiches, dares to be outraged over a drop of oil onto a wilderness!
See, there were no lives lost. Much of that area of the pipeline (miles 600 to 654) ran through nothingness. The kind of bleak, incidental wilderness that permits a driver to zone out and pass on by without much thought. Not that those drivers had much worth thinking. A few trailers scattered around of long forgotten squatters and some farmers on an Indian reservation was all to be found without a day’s drive of that drip. What care was it to us, or them, when it was harmless?
Sometimes after, though not so long as to be out of the public eye, I awoke to the smell of putrescent, sulfuric...I can’t even describe it. It smelled of burning flesh and gasoline. The smell permeated everything in our beautiful manor on some nights, but would be gone by morning. Rupert reported a similar issue when prodded, though at this time he was too busy reminding the unwashed masses of rancid reality show consumers that they still needed their massive utility vehicles and plastic trinkets.
The smells came at random, seemingly. My nose would burn and I would arise from a deep slumber. Sometimes door handles would seem hot to the touch, or smoke might waft down a hallway. A blur from the corner of my eye...I’m not mad, I remind you. Kindly, I am not suffering from dementia or any disease of the brain. Aside from some arthritic issues and the occasional lapse of memory, I am as spry and knowing as I was when I would run my hands over obsidian in the museum basement.
Warren, that old bastard, he never smelled the burning, mephitic pollution.
Now, as you all recall, there was a second incident. Hard to recall the details, but I was awoke from a brilliant slumber, some years after the first incident – I scoff at the idea of calling that one a spill – to a panicked Rupert. Some bit of pipe had burst, probably due to union worker incompetence, and poured foul blackness all over the city. Little did we realize but the fool engineers had chosen, despite their college educated pea brains, to run the pipe directly through a school and, thanks to an unusually hot summer full of hearty storms, there was a bit of a fire. Now, lightning is not something one would plan for in a pipeline, especially one that ran below ground for much of its distance but here, thanks to my beloved geology, we had to run it above ground and...
God, the burning, bubbling fleshy smell filled my nostrils those first few years. I can still taste it, like crusted death.
It was only a few lives, children mostly. Fie on them! But, despite our best efforts to calm the public and issue some kind of statement, those terrible shadows started to come in the night. With the smell came sounds. Sometimes almost like footsteps, but so very faint my ears could barely discern the sound above ambiance. Then, after some time, the screaming and waling came, like tortured souls roasting in some hellacious place. Even moving did nothing to quell the terrible sounds and smells, torturous though they were. Foolish Warren, he moved clear across the country to escape, believing his house infested by some kind of rodent or grotesque insect.
There was no escape for us, old and bitter.
Aye, we lied and did our best to tow the line. We continued to make money. Money was a salve for us, and the more cash that flowed in, the easier it was to ignore what was happening to us. Oh! Ask Rupert’s wife. She saw it too. She felt the creep of the unholy nothingness that came.
Pity though, I just reminded myself she passed some time ago with Rupert. Fell asleep in their spacious garage with the car running, no? It was a brilliant car, too. Solidly built and sensual lines. Rupert loved his red little number – the car, not the secretary – so it was some strange twist of fate that would make it his tomb. Warren and I slumbered on, however, and the worst horrors were yet to come.
The first time I saw it, it was just a speck out of the corner of my eye. It was impossible to say for sure, as it was a fleeting glimpse into evil or another spectrum of time. I’m unsure, even now, but that thing would creep into my vision like a flag in the breeze. Almost unnoticed and, when I would dodge my eyes or entire head in that direction, it would evaporate. This continued for some time, and I had to have my eyes checked. I thought perhaps that I was becoming a schizophrenic or some kind of paranoid lunatic. Luckily, the doctors assured me of my sanity and no medication, legal or otherwise, could quench the fires of the mind and that hideous...thing that came to me.
Ah, I remember exactly. Four weeks before my birthday it finally materialized. My wife, my beloved partner, she saw it. She saw it first and it just stood there (if it even had legs; it was hard to say what it was other than a mass of ghostly terror) and screamed, crackling like wood in a fire. The smell was so putrid and unworldly that my wife vomited. It was then that she started to heavily medicate at night, much to the chagrin of her family. My children, my ungrateful rats, never saw it or never spoke of what they might have seen.
Some nights we could sleep in beautiful silence. Then, some nights it would show up. First, a noise in a hallway would send me from my slumber and into the darkness. Then the smell, the stench of death, and then wavy figure. It would filter into reality, like a cloud covered in paraffin wax passing through the night sky. Crackling, burning flesh – assuming it even had such a thing at any point in its unearthly existence – was the only sensory result of the entire show, throbbing in the brain with imagines of immolation and frying creatures. Eventually, the uncomfortable heat would blast like an open oven door directly into the eyes and send painful shivers through the body.
When she died, this frightening vision stopped. For a while. Both my beloved and this thing of evil left me to my sadness and drink alone, here in this creaky estate. Those terrible children never came to visit anymore. They cared more for their stumbling idiocy than their father who worked so hard, sacrificed so much, to prop up their frail egos. And in that loneliness and painful silence, I had hoped to find some solitude.
Not many weeks later I got the news that Warren had passed. They said he crashed in a snowy accident, losing control in billowing, blinding white and wandering off into the wintery fog only to succumb to the cold. His body was found stiffened and contorted as if someone had attempted to make a man from discarded parts. His face, twisted as it was in the frozen morning, looked so placid and peaceful. They said he had a stroke or some aneurysm that caused delirium, but I reiterate what I said at his funeral. Warren was escaping the heat. That blasted, scalding heat that the thing brought in the night with the suffering insanity.
Weeks passed on, and things went unattended in the home. Unlike me, but I apologize now for the disarray you will find this place. Grass will need trimming and furniture may need repair. I know my rocker twisted and broke some time ago and will need repair. The chair itself is worth quite a bit, being very antique and of a tree species long extinct. I suggest a qualified repairman and some elbow grease before auctioning it. That rocker, handmade in Belgium, should fetch no less than 700 dollars. On a good day, quite a bit more.
Ah, but then I saw it. I was quick of wit and sound of mind, knowing well enough to take the pictures. I dared not look into it for fear of losing my will or composure, but still snapped a picture. When it was developed by the aforementioned trollop, I saw it. There in the wavy, hazy, blurry images was it. The thing I had feared. It first came in stenches of unearthly, blistering pain. It followed with heat and sounds of unspeakable cries, unable to be deciphered as a human voice of a suffering animal. Then it came as a complete, nightmarish apparition. The wraith mocked me. With fiery eyes and burning flesh it mocked me and I refused to believe.
Check the pictures! You’ll see. You’ll understand and see and know. Those ghostly images...
I finally, in my last days on this bitter rock, gathered what was left of my nerves and wit and looked up my unholy visitor. I did not just gaze or gander. I stared. I contemplated and I understood. Before me stood myself. I assure you! It was me, naked and covered in a thick and viscous fluid, slowly burning. Flesh bubbled up and dripped down my lanky, formless limbs. The screams were my own warnings. The translucent horror standing before me had an identical face as I. It coughed and hacked and stood there, swirling in the fog. I swear it said something about the oil but I paid it no mind. My shock was too great. My pain was too expansive.
Check the pictures! And my children, they get nothing.
They all saw it, I think, but maybe not the same evilness. At first I thought it was some kind trick of the light and my brain was not in order but, as I drew closer and passed my trembling hands through what was – and was not – there in front of me, I knew what this was. It was a page out of Dickens. A warning to myself of what awaits. Fate...
Alas, I can go on no longer in this fleshy prison at the end of my days, my candle burnt to a nub. I bid you all adieu and confirm your suspicions. When this testament reaches you, I suppose the maggots will have made their home in my hallowed out eye sockets, and the bloat will have set into my corpse. Treat it with respect as I know a kind person should, but do not pity. This choice is mine, being of a control mental state and born of good stock, but heed the warning. Should the nightmarish shadow figure show for you, do not weep. Do not shudder. I embraced the heat, the darkness, and the oozing oil.
I remind you, the children get nothing. Give it all to the museum.