As gleefully, vividly, hilariously obscene as you'd expect Irreverent and hugely entertaining." —NPR From the bestselling author. Also by Chuck Palahniuk Fight Club Survivor Invisible Monsters Choke Lullaby Fugitives and Refugees Diary Stranger Than Fiction Haunted Rant Snuff Pygmy Tell-All. Copyright © by Chuck Palahniuk All rights reserved. Jacket design by Rodrigo Corral Design Library of Congress. “Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison,” declares the whip-tongued thirteen-year -old narrator of Damned, Chuck Palahniuk's subversive new work of fiction.
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Damned - Chuck Palahniuk. Anwesha Dutta. I. Are you there, Satan? It's me, Madison. I'm just now arrived here, in Hell, but it's not my fault except for maybe. Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club · Read more · Palahniuk, Chuck - Invisible Monsters. Read more (eBook) Chuck Palahniuk - Invisible Monsters v Read more. Editorial Reviews. Review. Praise for Chuck Palahniuk "[Palahniuk] throws his punches, but he's been working on his technique and they hit you in new and.
There two men fight "as long as they have to. Invisible Monsters She's a fashion model who has everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But when a sudden freeway "accident" leaves her disfigured and incapable of speech, she goes from being the beautiful center of attention to being an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge that she exists.
Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from becoming a real woman, who will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing your past and making up something better. And that salvation hides in the last places you'll ever want to look 6. Lullaby The consequences of media saturation are the basis for an urban nightmare in Lullaby, Chuck Palahniuk's darkly comic and often dazzling thriller. Assigned to write a series of feature articles investigating SIDS, troubled newspaper reporter Carl Streator begins to notice a pattern among the cases he encounters: each child was read the same poem prior to his or her death.
His research and a tip from a necrophilic paramedic lead him to Helen Hoover Boyle, a real estate agent who sells "distressed" demonized homes, assured of their instant turnover. Boyle and Streator have both lost children to "crib death," and she confirms Streator's suspicions: the poem is an ancient lullaby or "culling song" that is lethal if spoken - or even thought - in a victim's direction. Abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, she dies over the holiday, presumably of a marijuana overdose.
The last thing she remembers is getting into a town car and falling asleep. Madison soon finds that she shares a cell with a motley crew of young sinners: Together they form an odd coalition and march across the unspeakable landscape of Hell—full of used diapers, dandruff, WiFi blackout spots, evil historical figures, and one horrific call center—to confront the Devil himself.
The daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire, Madison is abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, while her parents are off touting their new projects and adopting more orphans. Madison shares her cell with a motley crew of young sinners that is almost too good to be true: Madison and her pals trek across the Dandruff Desert and climb the treacherous Mountain of Toenail Clippings to confront Satan in his citadel.
This is the afterlife as only Chuck Palahniuk could imagine it: He makes eternal torment, well, simply divine. He is also the… More about Chuck Palahniuk.
A winning and funny book. The Judy Blume book from hell, just as Mr. Palahniuk intended.
How can you not be instantly transfixed by an opening like this?: I remember him opening the rear door so I could step inside; after that was a way-long drive with the windows tinted so dark I couldn't quite see out, but what I've just described could've been any one of ten bazillion rides I've taken between airports and cities.
Whether that Town Car delivered me to Hell, I can't swear, but the next thing is I woke up in this filthy cell. Probably I woke up because someone was screaming; in Hell, someone is always screaming. Anyone who's ever flown London to Sydney, seated next to or anywhere in the proximity of a fussy baby, you'll no doubt fall right into the swing of things in Hell.
Especially if your in-flight movie was The English Patient. It's never The Breakfast Club. In regard to the smell, Hell comes nowhere near as bad as Naples in the summertime during a garbage strike. If you ask me, people in Hell just scream to hear their own voice and to pass the time. Still, complaining about Hell occurs to me as a tad bit obvious and self-indulgent. Like so many experiences you venture into knowing full well that they'll be terrible, in fact the core pleasure resides in their very innate badness, like eating Swanson frozen chicken potpies at boarding school or a Banquet frozen Salisbury steak on the cook's night out.
Or eating really anything in Scotland. Allow me to venture that the sole reason we enjoy certain pastimes such as watching the film version of Valley of the Dolls arises from the comfort and familiarity of its very inherent poor quality. In contrast, The English Patient tries desperately to be profound and only succeeds in being painfully boring. If you'll forgive the redundancy: What makes the earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it ought to feel like Heaven.
Hell is Hell. Now, stop with the whining and caterwauling. To scream and thrash seems Or like the people who travel to Las Vegas only to harp about how it's so tacky.
Of course, even the casinos that take a stab at elegance with crystal chandeliers and stained glass, even those are crowded with the din and cacophony of plastic slot machines flashing strobe lights to seize your attention. In such a situation the people who whine and moan might imagine they're making a contribution but really they're just being another petty annoyance. The other most important rule worth repeating is: Don't eat the candy. Not that you'll be even remotely tempted, because it's scattered on the dirty ground, AND it's the candy even fat people and heroin junkies won't eat: Given the fact that you, yourself, are still alive and Black or a Jew or whatever—bully for you, you just keep eating those bran muffins—you'll have to take my word for all of these details, so listen up and pay close attention.
Flanking your cell, other cells stretch to the horizon in both directions, most containing a single person, most of those people screaming. Even as my eyes flutter open, I hear a girl's voice say, "Don't touch the bars There really is the most dreadful mildew problem in Hell. It's like an entire underworld with sick building syndrome.
My neighbor I'd wager is a high school junior, because she has the hip development to hold up a straight-line skirt and she has breasts instead of just frills or smocking to fill out the front of her blouse.
Even with smoke clouding the air and the occasional vampire bat fluttering through my line of vision I can see her Manolo Blahnik shoes are counterfeit, the kind you might download sight unseen over the Internet from a pirate operation in Singapore for five dollars. If you can stomach yet another piece of advice: Do NOT die while wearing cheap shoes.
Hell is When it comes your time, when the proverbial bell tolls for thee, seriously consider wearing a basic low-heel Bass Weejun penny loafer in a dark color that won't show dirt. This teenage girl in the next cell calls over, asking, "What are you damned for? They cost a fortune. In Hell you'd be foolish to count on people displaying high standards of honesty. The same goes for earth. The girl in the next cell takes a step closer and, still looking at me, she says, "You know, you're really pretty.
With one dirty hand, the girl waves for me to lean my face between the bars. It's my experience that girls tend to be terrifically smart until they grow breasts. Both girls and boys. Not to boast, but I believe a person is her most truly exceptional at the age of thirteen—look at Pippi Longstocking, Pollyanna, Tom Sawyer, and Dennis the Menace—before she finds herself conflicted and steered by hormones and crushing gender expectations.
Let girls get their menstruation or boys have their first wet dream, and they instantly forget their own brilliance and talent. Again, here's a reference to my Influences of Western History textbook—for a long time after puberty, it's like the dark ages that fell between the Athenian Enlightenment and the Italian Renaissance.
Girls get their boobs and forget they were ever so gutsy and smart. Boys, too, can display their own brand of clever and funny behavior, but let them get that first erection and they go complete moron for the next sixty years. For both genders, adolescence occurs as a kind of Ice Age of Dumbness.
And, yes, I know the word gender. Ye gods! I may be pudgy and flat-chested and nearsighted and dead, but I am NOT a moron. Yes, and I know that when a supersexy older girl with hips and breasts and nice hair wants to take off your glasses and to paint you a smoky eye she's merely trying to enroll you in a beauty contest she's already won.
It's a kind of slummy, condescending gesture, like when rich people ask poor people where they summer. Either that, or the attractive older girl is a lesbian. Either way, I don't offer my face even as she stands ready, brandishing a gloppy mascara brush like a fairy godmother's magic wand, to turn me into some floozy Cinderella.
To be honest, whenever I watch the classic John Hughes film The Breakfast Club, and Molly Ringwald leads poor Ally Sheedy into the girl's bathroom, then brings her out with those hideous s smears of rouge under each cheekbone and Ally's hair tied back with that preppy ribbon and her lips painted that dated red-red like a cheap China doll version of Ringwald's own sellout Whorey Vanderwhore Vogue magazine conformity, poor Ally reduced to a kind of living, breathing Nagel print, I always yell at the television, "Run, Ally!
The Avon eye shadows and lipsticks all clatter back into the fake Coach bag even as her eyes squint, searching my face for signs of inflamed, red, flaky skin and open sores. It's like my mom will tell you: You have to stay smart and not let yourself be pushed around.
No doubt the football jock, the rebel stoner, the brainy geek, the psycho, all serving detention here, forever. No, it's not fair, but chances are good that I'll be in this cell for centuries to come, pretending to suffer psoriasis even while hypocrite people scream and complain about the humidity and the smell, and my Whorey Vanderwhore neighbor squats down to try to spit-shine her cheapo, white plastic shoes with a crumpled wad of Kleenex.
Even against the stink of poop and smoke and sulfur, you can smell her dime-store perfume like a mixed-fruit flavor of chewing gum or instant grape drink. To be honest, I'd rather smell poop, but who can hold their breath for a million-plus years? So, simply out of courtesy I say, "Thanks anyway, about offering the makeover, I mean. All breasts and hips and high-heeled shoes, now obviously, pathetically grateful for my companionship, she grins to show me her every mass- produced, porcelain-veneered incisor.
In her pierced earlobes, she's even wearing diamond earrings—so very Claire Standish of her—only vulgar, dime-size, dazzle-cut cubic zirconium. Saying, "I'm Babette," dropping the wad of tissue, she thrusts a smutty, stained hand between the bars for me to shake. Please don't feel hurt, Satan, hut my parents raised me to believe you didn't exist. My mom and dad said you and God were invented in the superstitious, backward pea brains of hillbilly preachers and Republican hypocrites.
According to my parents, there's no such place as Hell. If you asked them, they'd probably tell you I'm already reincarnated as a butterfly or a stem cell or a dove. I mean, my parents both said how important it was for me to see them walking around naked all the time or I'd grow up to be totally a Miss Pervy McPervert.
They told me that nothing was a sin, just a poor life choice. Poor impulse control. That nothing is evil. Any concept of right versus wrong, according to them, is merely a cultural construct relative to one specific time and place.
They said that if anything should force us to modify our personal behavior it should be our allegiance to a social contract, not some vague, externally imposed threat of flaming punishment. Nothing is wicked, they insisted, and even serial killers deserve cable television and counseling, because multiple murderers have suffered, too.
Put yourself in my penny loafers: I'm locked in a barred cell in Hell, thirteen years old and doomed to be thirteen forever, but I'm not totally self-unaware. What's worse is how my mom even said all her Gaia Earth Mother baloney in Vanity Fair magazine when she was promoting her last movie release. The magazine took her picture arriving at the Oscars red carpet with my dad driving them both in a dinky electric car, but really, when nobody's looking they go everywhere in a leased Gulfstream jet, even if it's just to pick up their dry cleaning, which they send to have cleaned in France.
That one film, she got nominated for playing a nun who gets bored and unfulfilled, so she ditches her vows to do prostitution and heroin and have some abortions before she gets her own top-rated daytime talk show and marries Richard Gere.
A total of nobody went to the film in theatrical release, but the critics creamed all over it. Critics and movie reviewers really, really count on there being no actual Hell.
In Vanity Fair my mom said the only true evil was how big oil companies were using global warming to push innocent baby polar bears closer to extinction. Even worse was she said, "My daughter, Madison, and I have struggled for years over her tragic childhood obesity.
Other kids went to Sunday school. I went to Ecology Camp. In Fiji. Other girls learned to recite the Ten Commandments. I learned to reduce my carbon footprint. In our Aboriginal Skills workshop, in Fiji, we used certified organically grown, sustainably harvested fair-trade palm fronds to weave these crappy wallets that everybody threw away.
Ecology Camp cost about a million dollars, but we still all had to share the same filthy bamboo toilet stick to wipe our butts. Instead of Christmas, we had Earth Day. If there was a Hell, my mom said you'd go there for wearing fur coats or downloading a cream rinse tested on baby rabbits by escaped Nazi scientists in France. My dad said that if there was a devil it was Ann Coulter. If there's a mortal sin, my mom says it's Styrofoam.
Most times they'd spout this environmental dogma while walking around naked with the curtains open so that I wouldn't grow up to become a little Miss Whorey Vanderwhore.
Sometimes the devil was Big Tobacco. Even worse, it's not as if we traveled to Ecology Camp aboard sampans, gently pushed along by the Pacific currents. No, every single kid got there on a separate private jet, burning through about a gazillion fossil-fuel gallons of dinosaur juice the likes of which this planet will never see again. Each child was borne aloft; provisioned with his or her body weight in organic fig bars and free-trade yogurt snacks sealed within single-use Mylar packaging designed not to biodegrade before the future date of NEVER, all of this burden of homesick children and between-meal calories and video gaming systems would rocket toward Fiji at faster than the speed of SOUND.
What a fat load of good that did Surrounded by a million-million stale popcorn balls. On the plus side, in Hell you're no longer slave to a corporeal self, and this can be a blessing to the truly fastidious.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you've no more of the tedious, endless stoking and scrubbing and evacuation of the various holes required to keep a physical body functional. Should you find yourself in Hell your cell will feature no toilet nor water nor bed, nor will you miss them. No doubt my mom and dad meant well, but it's really hard to argue with the fact that I'm trapped within a corroded iron cage boasting a scenic view of a raging excrement waterfall—actual poop, I mean, not just The English Patient—NOT that I'm complaining.
Trust me, the last thing Hell seems to need, in a coals-to-Newcastle way, is one more complainer. Yes, I know the word excrement. I'm trapped and bored, not brain damaged. And it was my parents who told me to act out, a little, and experiment with recreational drugs. No, it's not fair, but I guess the worst thing they taught me was to hope. If you just planted trees and collected litter, they said, then life would turn out okay.
All you had to do was compost your wet garbage and cover your house roof with solar cells and you'd have nothing to worry about. Renewable wind energy. That's what my parents considered our spiritual salvation. We'd see approximately a quatrillion Catholics throwing incense at some plaster statue, or a billion-zillion Muslims all lined up on their knees and facing New York City, and my dad would say, "Those poor ignorant bastards They placed their bets with such self-righteous bravado, but I'm the one who lost.
We'd see Baptist people on television waving baby dolls impaled on wooden sticks and dripping with fake ketchup blood in front of some doctor's clinic, and I really could believe that all religions were way-bat-shit loony. In contrast, my dad always preached that if I ate enough dietary fiber and recycled any plastic bottles that had a neck, I'd be fine. If I asked about Heaven or Hell, my mom gave me a Xanax. Now—go figure—I'm waiting to get my tongue yanked out and fried in bacon grease and garlic.
Probably demons plan to stub out their cigars in my armpits. Don't get me wrong. Hell isn't so dreadful, not compared to Ecology Camp, and especially not compared to junior high school. Call me jaded, but not much compares to having your legs waxed or getting your navel piercing done at a mall kiosk. Or bulimia. Not that I'm a totally eating- disordered Miss Slutty von Slutski. My biggest gripe is still hope.
In hell, hope is a really, really bad habit, like smoking cigarettes or fingernail biting. Hope is something really tough and tenacious you have to give up. It's an addiction to break. Yes, I know the word tenacious. I'm thirteen and disillusioned and a little lonely, but I'm not simpleminded. No matter how hard I try to resist the impulse, I keep hoping I'll still have my first menstruation. Or reach a hand into my skort pocket and find a Xanax.
I cross my fingers that if a demon dunks me in a vat of boiling lava I'll get thrown together naked with River Phoenix, and that he'll say I'm cute and try to kiss me. The problem is, in Hell there is no hope.
In a thousand words I don't have a clue, but I'll start by abandoning hope. Please help me, Satan. That would make me so happy. Help me give up my addiction to hope. Thank you.
I thought I saw you, today, and waved madly like some fevered groupie to get your attention. Hell continues to unfold as an interesting, exciting place, and I've begun to learn some rudimentary demonology so I won't feel like an idiot forever.
Really, there's almost no time to feel homesick. Today I even made friends with a boy who has dreamy brown eyes.
To be completely technical about the matter, time in Hell doesn't consist of days and nights, only a constant low-light condition accented by the flickering orange glow of flames, billowing white clouds of steam, and black clouds of smoke. Recognizing that, thank God I wore a self-winding calendar wristwatch. Sorry, Satan, my mistake, I said the G- word.
Don't count on getting any cell phone reception in Hell, and don't think for a second you'll have the forethought to die with your charger cord in hand or even find yourself locked inside a rusted jail cell with a compatible electrical outlet. That doesn't mean go download a Swatch. Swatches equal plastic, and plastic melts in Hell. Do yourself a big favor and invest in a high-quality leather wristband or the springy expandable metal kind. In the event you neglect to equip yourself with an adequate wristwatch, do NOT scope out some bright, proactive thirteen-year-old chubby girl wearing low-heeled Bass Weejuns and horn-rimmed eyeglasses and then keep asking her, "What day is it?
I may be a tad annoyed and defensive, but—no matter how nicely you ask with that wheedling tone in your voice—I am NOT your little timekeeping servant bitch slave. And before you make the effort to give up smoking, take note that smoking cigarettes and cigars is excellent practice for being in Hell. Even now I can hear my mom saying, "Madison, you're dead, so just calm down. In the cell next to mine, Babette exhausts her time by examining her cuticles and buffing her fingernails against the strap of her white shoulder bag.
Anytime she glances in my direction, I make a big show of scratching my neck and around my eyes. It never seems to occur to Babette that we're dead, so conditions like psoriasis would be fairly unlikely to continue into the afterlife; however, when you consider her choice of frosted-white nail varnish, it's clear that Babette is no one's idea of a scholarship girl.
A Cover Girl, maybe. Catching my eye, Babette calls over, "What day is this? The last problem I need is an infection in such dirty, filthy surroundings. It's like Christmas Eve Eve, you know, December twenty-third Alone in their cells, other people slump in the classic postures of catatonic stupor, wearing the soiled costumes of Venetian doges, Napoleonic vivandiers, Maori headhunters. They've clearly been able to abandon all hope and clutch their filthy cage bars.
They've flailed and thrashed in complete resignation, and now lie stained, staring, and motionless. The lucky bastards. Painting her fingernails, Babette asks, "Now I counterlie, "Your perfume smells so good. A towering figure steps out of the darkness, striding down alongside a distant row of cages. His skin sparkles with fish scales. Great black-leather wings sprout from between his shoulder blades—real leather, not like Babette's shabby, fake Manolo Blahniks—and thick horns of bone burst through the scaly surface of his bald pate.
Forgive me my possible breach of hellish protocol, but I can't resist the opportunity. Lifting one hand, waving it above my head as if to flag a passing taxi, I shout, "Hello? Mister Satan? With jagged eagle talons instead of hands, the horned figure flips the lock on the man's cage, reaches in, and snatches about in the small space while the screaming football man dodges and evades being caught.
Still waving, I call, "Over here! This seems like the polite thing to do. Finally, one talon clutches the panting, breathless football man and withdraws him from the iron cage. The captives in all the surrounding cells scream, pulling themselves as far away from the action as possible; each huddles and shivers in some far corner, bug-eyed and hyperventilating. Their combined wails sound hoarse and broken from effort.
Repeating the process, the figure removes each of the man's limbs, lifting each to his own mouth of jagged shark's teeth and biting the meaty, hypertrophied flesh from the man's bones. All the while, I continue to call, "Hello? When you have a moment, Mister Satan After consuming each limb, the horned figure throws the remaining bones back into the football man's original cage.
Even the screams are drowned out by the wet sounds of sucking and lip smacking and chewing. Then a thunderous belch. When finally the football man is reduced to a bony thorax, much like the picked-over carcass of a Thanksgiving turkey, all white rib cage and hanging shreds of leftover skin, only then does the horned figure toss the final remains into the cage and once more lock the door. At this lull I'm spastically leaping in place, waving both arms above my head and shouting. Ever mindful to not come in contact with my own dirty, filthy iron bars, I shout, "Hello?!
Madison, here! His hunger seemingly satiated, the horned figure turns and begins walking into the distance. In desperation, I scream. No, it's not fair; I did tell you that to scream in Hell was to exhibit very bad form. I consider screaming to be a complete impropriety, but I scream, "Mister Satan! From next door, Babette's voice says, "What day is it now? It's a system not without both its comfort and its monotony.
A voice says, "That's not Satan. He wears a thick submariner's wristwatch with deep-water diver chronograph functions and a built-in calculator. On his feet, he wears crepe-soled Hush Puppies, and his chinos are hemmed so short you can see his white sweat socks.
I point a finger at myself, such a lame gesture—even in the sweltering heat of Hell I can feel myself blushing—and I say, "I'm Madison. Ahriman, he explains, is nothing more than a deposed deity native to ancient Persian culture. He was the twin of Ohrmazd, born of the god Zurvan the Creator. Ahriman is responsible for poison, drought, famine, scorpions, mostly stereotypical desert stuff. His own son is named Zohak and has venomous snakes which grow from the skin of his shoulders.
According to this teenage boy, the only food these snakes will eat is human brains. All this Babette buffs her fingernails against the strap of her bag, ignoring us.
The teenage boy jerks his head in the direction where the horned figure disappeared, saying, "Usually he hangs out on the far side of the Vomit Pond, just west from the River of Hot Saliva, over on the opposite shore of Shit Lake Even as the stinking, poop-scented air around us swarms with fat, black houseflies, I ask the boy, "What's your name?
I ask, "What are you condemned to Hell for?
Leonard says, "Jaywalking. He glances at Babette. He looks at me, again, his eyebrows jump up toward his hairline, wrinkling his forehead into long accordion folds. He smiles, but shakes his head, No. After a somewhat rocky start, I'm having simply the best time. I continue to meet new people, and I'm sorry about the mix-up I'm learning something new and interesting all the time from Leonard.
On top of that, I've concocted a way-brilliant idea for how to overcome my insidious addiction to hope. Who could imagine that cross-cultural anthropological theology could be so absolutely fascinating! According to Leonard, who really does have the loveliest brown eyes, all the demons of Hell formerly reigned as gods in previous cultures. No, it's not fair, but one man's god is another man's devil. As each subsequent civilization became a dominant power, among its first acts was to depose and demonize whoever the previous culture had worshiped.
The Jews attacked Belial, the god of the Babylonians. Satan is depicted with cloven hooves because Pan had them, and he carries a pitchfork based on the trident carried by Neptune. As each deity was deposed, it was relegated to Hell. For gods so long accustomed to receiving tribute and loving attention, of course this status shift put them into a foul mood. And, ye gods, I knew the word relegated before it came out of Leonard's mouth.
I might be thirteen and a newbie to the underworld, but don't take me for an idiot. Looking up from her reflection in the tiny mirror, Babette calls to Leonard, "Could you possibly BE more boring?
As battles raged and kingdoms rose and fell the god Aryaman was replaced by Sraosha. Mithra supplanted Vishnu. Zoroaster made Mithra obsolete, and with each succeeding god, the prior ruling deity was cast into obscurity and contempt. Originally the word meant 'muse' or 'inspiration,' but its most common definition was 'god.
The yelling erupts from the jail cell of the football man, where his bare bones foam with red corpuscles, the red bubbles running together to form muscles which swell and stretch to attach with their tendons, the white ligaments braiding, a process both compelling and revolting to watch.
Even before a layer of skin has fully enveloped the skull, the mandible drops open to shout, "That's bullshit, geek! That's exactly why you're stuck here.
Leonard shouts, "Why am I here? Curly, coppery hair. Gray eyes inflate within each socket. Even his uniform weaves itself whole from the scraps and threads scattered around his cell floor. Printed across the back of his jersey is a big number 54 and the name Patterson.
To me, the football man says, "I had a part of my foot over the scrimmage line when the ref blew his whistle to signal the start of play. That's 'offsides. Sixteen, maybe seventeen years old. Even as he talks, little silver wires weave themselves between his teeth, becoming a mouthful of braces.
Now, I'm here. Now that he's covered in skin again, his new eyes keep glancing over at Babette. As my mom would tell you, "Nobody stands that straight when she's not on camera. Babette loves the attention. No, it's not fair. From within their respective cages, Patterson and Leonard both stare at Babette locked within hers. No one looks at me. If I wanted to be ignored I'd have stayed on earth as a ghost, watching my mom and dad walk around naked, opening the drapes and chilling rooms as I bully them to put on some clothes.
Even that Ahriman demon showing up to tear me apart and devour me would be better than getting no attention whatsoever. There it is, again—that nagging tendency to hope. My addiction. While Patterson and Leonard ogle Babette, and Babette ogles herself, I pretend to watch the vampire bats flit around. I watch the surf crest and break in rolling brown waves on Shit Lake.
I pretend to scratch the make-believe psoriasis on my face. In the neighboring cages, sinners huddle, weeping out of old habit. A damned soul dressed in the uniform of a Nazi soldier smashes his face, again and again, into the stone floor of his cell, crushing and collapsing his nose and forehead as if he were tapping a hard-boiled egg against a plate in order to shatter the shell.
In the pause between each impact on the stone, his crushed nose and features inflate to their normal appearance. As I watch, the leather- jacket punk reaches up to his cheek and flicks open the safety pin. He draws it out from the holes in his skin, then reaches through the bars of his cage and pokes the point of the open pin into the lock of his cell door, working the point around within the keyhole.
Still gazing at herself in her compact mirror, Babette asks of no one in particular, "What day is it?
Three-oh- nine p. In the same manner you might nibble grapes from a bunch, the demon's lips close around the man's leg. The demon's furry lion cheeks sink inward, hollowed, and the man's screams grow louder as the meat is sucked from the living bone. With one leg reduced to hanging bone, the demon begins to suck the meat from the second leg. Despite all of this ruckus, Leonard and Patterson continue to watch Babette, who watches herself. The Ice Age of Dumbness.
With a muted clank, the punk wearing the leather jacket pries the tip of his safety pin, twisting it sideways within the lock on his cell door to trip the mechanism. He pulls the pin free, then wipes it against his blue jeans until the point is clean of rust and slime before thrusting it back into its previous place, piercing his cheek.
At that the punk swings the cell door open and steps out of his cage. His Mohawk stands so tall the blue hair brushes the top of the doorframe. Swaggering down the row of cells, the blue-Mohawk punk peers into each cage Inside one lies an Egyptian pharaoh or somebody who went to Hell for praying to the wrong god, crumpled on the floor, gibbering and drooling, one arm sprawled so that the hand rests near the cage bars.
A fat diamond ring glitters on one finger, the stone in the four- carat range, D-grade, not cubic zirconium like Babette's cheapo earrings. Next to that cage, the punk kid stops and stoops. Reaching through the bars, he slips the ring off the wasted finger.
The kid pockets the diamond ring inside his motorcycle jacket. Standing, he catches me watching him and saunters toward my cell. He wears black motorcycle boots—note: Pimples swell into red points dotting his pale chin and forehead, in contrast to his bright green eyes. From a long toss away, still walking, he says, "Catch," and his hand swings, tossing the object, which flashes in a long, high arc, flying between my cage bars, falling to the point where my hands clap together to catch it.
Acting the part of a complete Miss Slutty Slutovitch, Babette continues to ignore Patterson and Leonard but holds her compact angled to spy on the punk kid, scrutinizing him so closely that when the thrown object flashes, the bright flash bounces off her mirror, reflected into her eyes.
He struts up to the bars of my cell and winks one green eye at me, but looks at Babette without looking directly at her. He's clearly touched the dirty iron bars, then touched his face, his jeans, his boots, smearing the filth all over himself.
No, it's not fair, but dirt does manage to make some people look more sexy. I may be dead and jailbait and boy-crazy, but I can still be used to make another girl jealous. Warm from the punk's pocket, lying in the palm of my hand is the stolen diamond ring. My first gift from a boy. I assume that membership in Hell gives you access to a zillion- million A-list celebrities About the only person I'm not excited to meet is my dead grandpa.
My long-dead Papadaddy Ben. Long Story. Please credit the impulse to my youthful curiosity, but I can't resist the opportunity to get sprung and take a quick look-see ramble to check out the lay of my new neighborhood. Spare me, please, your dime-store psychology, but I really do hope the devil will like me.
Note, again, my lingering attachment to the H-word. My being here, locked in a slimy cage, it would seem a foregone conclusion that God isn't my biggest fan, and my parents, it now appears, are largely out of the picture, as are my favorite teachers, nutrition coaches, really all the authority figures I've tried to please for the past thirteen years.
Therefore it's not surprising that I've transferred all my immature needs for attention and affection to the only parental adult available: There they both are: To be honest, all my effort thus far to remain spotless, mind my posture, present myself as perky, affect a cheerful smile, is calculated to endear myself to Satan. In my best-case scenario I see myself assuming a kind of sidekick or comic- relief role, becoming a perky, chubby, sassy girl child who tags along with the Prince of Lies, cracking wise-ass jokes and propping up his flagging ego.
So ingrained is my spunky nature that I can't even allow the Prince of Darkness to indulge in the doldrums. I truly am a sort of flesh-and-blood form of Zoloft. Perhaps that explains Satan's general absence: He's simply waiting for my verve to exhaust itself before he makes himself known. Yes, I understand that much about pop psychology. I may be dead and vivacious, but I'm not in denial concerning the manic first impression I can make. Even my own dad would tell you, "She's a dervish.
I tend to wear people out. It's for that reason that when the blue-Mohawk punk unlocks my cell door and swings it open on creaky, rusted hinges I step back deeper into the cage rather than forward to gain my freedom. Despite the diamond ring the punk's just tossed me, which now resides on the middle finger of my right hand, I resist my wanderlust. I ask the kid his name.
He says, "Just call me Archer. I slaughtered my kid brother and sister. After them, my granny. Then our collie dog, Lassie With each trigger pull, his shoulder jerks back as if pushed by recoil, his tall blue hair fluttering.
Still sighting through an invisible scope, Archer says, "I flushed my Ritalin down the toilet and drove my folks' car to school and took out the varsity football team and three teachers In one hand, he carries a helmet. His feet scratch the stone floor, the soles of his shoes tapping and skittering with sharp steel cleats.
It said you're nothing but a lousy shoplifter. Archer snatches a rock-hard popcorn ball off the ground and wings it, line-drive fast, against the geek's ear. Leonard falls silent. Serial Killer, here, was trying to steal a loaf of bread and a batch of disposable diapers.