CHAPTER 37
THE LOCUST HAS NO KING

Sometimes consciousness is too much to bear, and I don’t mean the art of staying awake, just the contemplation of too many things. I’m reminded of what old people say sometimes when they are asked yet another inane “how are you” by someone they can hardly claim to know. They will answer something akin to “keeping busy” which will invariably be rewarded by the receiver — “that’s good” they will say and the day moves on. And so activity replaces thought — this is worthy of congratulations? The implication is clear. Too much thought is dangerous to one’s health, for it surely must be the leading cause of death in old people everywhere.


Today I am old, and my age is sixteen years. As I think upon my present mutilated bodily state, rendered to live in a capacity of thought and nothing but, relieved from the burden of what is busy — how is it not ironic that forced with little choice I am nevertheless at peace with obligatory meditation, whereas on that day in that basement with two compromised bodies at my feet, demanding my urgent devotion, I felt imprisoned by my own device, a victim of my own will, flagellating myself in ever-increasing accretion with every passing millisecond, knowing that whatever I had attempted in my search for inner peace had delivered unto me a horror infinity-fold worse than my previous life could ever have imagined. So I too basked in the congratulations of activity, as I began my bokor duties anew, and methodically, with no great haste, sent Mr. Spellman down the path to new life. I won’t bore you with the details that by now you are familiar with, and you’re right to make certain assumptions as well. No, I did not enjoy disrobing Mr. Spellman and anointing his body. Yes, I was aware that he would reawaken in a state of extreme insanity, his final dying breath spent beholding myself and zombi Chloe standing over him side-by-side. He knew the ramifications more than anyone, for hadn’t he once lectured me on the “nothingness of death”? He would come back pissed off and wanting answers, and I for one was prepared to give him nothing. How was it my place to be his spiritual guide? What was he to me? Just a mere few minutes before he had threatened to destroy whatever was left of my pathetic life, and even through the prison of my own self-pity, my spine grew stiff, for only I can be the author of my own demise.


So I hog-tied him hard to some thick pipes on the wall opposite my mother. I double- gagged and bound them both so they would stay just out of each other’s reach. It was a geography that caused no small amount of curiosity, like the Devil’s own science experiment, something Mr. Spellman himself might be proud to have participated in, someday. I allowed my mind to run to any matter of possible outcomes, though I have to admit, the end result of all of them were broken chains, followed by the participants’ mutual destruction, usually by cannibalism, gnawing at each other’s flesh until a very messy dual expiration. (In that scenario, I would surely be miles away by then, if only to avoid the sight and the cleanup.)


In the latter of stages of the ritual, just as I was beginning the incantation, I noticed something that would make the experiment even that more dangerous and intoxicating (if only temporarily). My mantra stirred something in Doris, so that her eyelids fluttered, and squinted open. She was still groggy, and lay motionless where she fell, but she was watching me, of that I was sure. And curiously enough, I felt no pang of panic in her watching, from within or without. Conversely, the effect was almost like a parent watching her offspring give a public performance, like a recital, or a little-league game. I was there to show off my prowess, and she was there to feel proud of me. As I uttered the final two blessed words, the words of my own invent, and Mr. Spellman snapped to life, it was like the final flourish of a Chopin ballade, the game-winning goal kicked from afar, the last pirouette before being caught in the arms — it was all those things but not — because it was mine, something only I could do.


Mr. Spellman behaved much like my mother when he rebirthed. He toiled and chewed and railed against his chains in vain. He spied me with a thankful amount of disregard before turning his attention to Doris, who was watching him as well. Then they froze for a moment, and that’s when the obviousness of the situation really took roost for me. We were a family again, father, mother, errant child. Though one could quibble with who begat whom, this was mere technicality. The fact was, in that moment, we formed the essential family triumvirate upon which foundations could be laid. It wasn’t long before Mr. Spellman and my mother were lunging against their restraints toward each other in the grunting hysterics of longing. They seemed to possess some understanding of the other, as if their shared pain was subliminally apparent — a bond, to be sure, perhaps the only thought they knew. Then again, it was now possible to surmise how their relationship might progress, should they be free to explore it — now that I saw the pain of their separation, I feared a fate worse than cannibalism — it might devolve into something so much more degenerate, it might become — old person zombi sex.


I had to get out of there fast, and I did, locking the door securely, putting them out of my mind entirely, which was not hard to do, as I walked back to the front of the house and entered. Inside was empty and quiet. I sat in the living room, alone.


What a waste my life was. How many low points could I experience? Forced just a few weeks ago into a new home, I had to stand by and watch my pre-zombi hated/loved self/other go from nobody to Queen of Everything, and steal away Adonis to boot. So what did I do? I murdered her! Ha! Okay, I would probably always live in a self-appointed shadow of mystery of what really happened on that rock face, if only to lighten the burden of my conscience, I mean, we’re all programmed to survive, right? I had to wake up every morning and convince myself I wasn’t bound to Earth by Pure Evil, that the Daemon Inside was not me. Other people handle that omnipresent spirit with a daily assurance, so why not me?


To atone for my sin, which I accepted despite its ambiguity, I bestowed unto my precious missing self/other the greatest gift any mortal had ever given — existence itself. Had there ever been anyone in the history of All who had performed such a miracle heretofore? I had no evidence to support such a claim, only fables and fictions and wild affirmations.


But whence did my sister’s resurrection come? Was it truly my penance for her demise, or was there something else at play here? Would I have brought her back to this realm, had James accepted my offer to usurp her as his lover? So deluded by love was I, that in my perversions I saw myself ease under James’ chiseled flesh, replacing a ghost as simply as taking a shared breath. To think I held any hope of union! That James would shrug off the past, and slander the spirit of the woman he claimed to love? Could I myself love such a beast? The answer, sadly and perceptibly, was yes, for I was dependent upon his grief, that here was a soul just as broken as I, and only together would we find respite, compromised as it may be. Such rationale, even in hindsight as it was, revealed to me once again that which I had always known since my first day at Griffin Hills High — that I was in love with James, most utterly and completely, and this would never waver, always fall, like rain upon my heart.


Which made my current predicament that much more astounding. Zombi Chloe claimed to be in touch with my heart, so she brought James to me, and who am I to doubt this truth? And yet, where was James now? At school with Chloe, parading around as boyfriend and girlfriend, effectively erasing everything that had happened the week prior, for weren’t we right back where we had started? Sure, Chloe was called Anna now, and the Anna that writes to you here, she doesn’t exist — but these are trifling details. The summation of a series of the most extraordinary events to ever befall the world was a spectacular nothing, like they had never happened at all.


So as I sat alone on the living room sofa, with the funk of this stench taking over me, and it wasn’t long before my own self-inflicted conundrum embarrassed me into quietude.


Why did I care?

Hadn’t I given up on James?

Wasn’t this why I brought Chloe back?

Why would any of their revolting gesticulations trouble me in the slightest?

My first answer to this riddle was a matter of proximity. James had been in my house last night. All night. He was there in the morning, having breakfast. And, of no minor consequence, he had professed his love to “Anna.” Who was either me (for I was still me), or was my very creation, a creature with no right to be here but for me. Hell, I even told that bitch that I would call her “Anna.” (Which, I had to admit, didn’t last very long.)


It wasn’t long before I was running through the events of the previous night all over again in my mind. Why did I surrender to Chloe’s plan for the ritual? Could not I have done it myself, and commanded James to love me? Chloe had convinced me that James would need physical restraint, and that she was the only one who could provide this. I had no argument for this specific tenet. But what if I had been able to prevent any physical outburst in the main? What if James had come back without violence, and fell into my arms, my lover and mate?


How did Chloe turn me to her scheme?

Did I convince myself that James wouldn’t love me? Did James’ previous rejection of me lead me so? Or, was I just a coward, intimidated by Chloe’s wrath toward me, her own physical prowess which had manifested itself just an hour before, when she had laid me with a blow unconscious to the floor? Did I fear that I had lost control of my zombi Chloe, that my bokor powers had waned? I had found this later to be false, yet at the time…?


And why did she have to convince him that he loved her? Couldn’t he have just come back the same as when he left, his mourning for Chloe fading, his anger at Anna diminished — just James, Appleby-unburdened?


What the fuck was Chloe up to?