I am alone.
I have always been alone.
I am two hundred and forty-three years old, although I’ve been told I don’t look a day over thirty.
I am exceptionally good-looking for a man of my age.
I credit my exceptional good looks to a special exfoliating salve I have developed in my basement laboratory. The salve is made from aloe vera, blue-green algae, and cucumbers. I rub it into my skin every night. It keeps me young.
How does this salve work? you may be asking. This is an appropriate question. Salves like mine can’t be bought at the local drugstore and your curiosity is only natural. So I will indulge you, but only for a moment. My salve is extremely complex. I don’t have the time nor the patience to sit around here all day and talk about how exceptionally good-looking I am, which I fear we could easily do as I am, in fact, exceptionally good-looking.
I rub the salve onto my face.
Utilizing an arsenal of miniature shovels and pick-axes I handcrafted specifically for this purpose, the blue-green algae digs its way into my pores.
I chose blue-green algae because it is the most industrious of all the algaes. When my salve was still in its developmental stages, I had experimented with many different substances: chewing gum, pencil shavings, potato salad, crack-cocaine. I had some promising results when I stumbled across red algae. It made me look younger, yes, but it also dyed my face bright red. My head looked like a giant tomato. In itself, this would have been fine. I like tomatoes. I might have even continued using red algae indefinitely, had I not looked in the mirror one day, mistook my head for an actual tomato, juiced it, and then drank myself. It was not a pleasant experience, as you could imagine, and I only mention it out of respect and humility towards the scientific method.
Once the blue-green algae has made its way into my pores, it begins feeding on my wrinkles. It eats up the bad skin and poops out the good skin in its place.
The process burns.
The aloe vera soothes it.
The aloe vera caresses my body with what feels like a thousand tiny kisses, during which my genitalia usually becomes aroused. Because of this, I must apply the salve fully in the nude. I’d ruined many pairs of good pants before figuring that crucial piece of information out. But, as with any endeavor, a certain amount of expendable losses are to be incurred.
On the plus side, it was my massive, veiny, throbbing erection that single-handedly kept Levi-Strauss in business during the Great Depression.
The next step is too pornographic to describe in intimate detail, suffice it to say, I once videotaped myself applying the salve and won three Adult Video News Awards, including Male Performer of the Year.
I keep the trophy on my mantle.
The cucumber lends a pleasing aroma to the whole ordeal. I’ve been told I smell like a garden.
The blue-green algae is highly temperamental. It has to be kept at exactly thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit. Any hotter and it will transform into a gigantic amorphous blob that will devour men and infrastructure alike as it terrorizes cities. Any colder and it dies. It is a very complicated salve, one that, without a comprehensive and working knowledge of quantum mechanics, could not possibly be understood. In fact, it took me until my eightieth birthday to finally hammer out all the kinks.
Literally, on my eightieth birthday I took a hammer to my face until all the kinks were gone.
But this is the price I must pay for beauty.
Now you may be asking yourself, Is it worth it? The pain? The punishment? The countless pairs of punctured pants?
Check out these abs. Look at this mug. I haven’t seen tighter gluts on an Olympic track star. And I check.
Is it worth it?
I’d say so.
I am the loneliest man to ever live.
This is not a matter of opinion. It is a fact. If there were a prize given out for bleak, soul-crushing loneliness, I would undoubtedly win it, year after year.
Of course, no one would come to the ceremony. Which is exactly my point.
I live alone in a castle made of human skulls.
My castle sits atop the highest mountain in the world. I have to use binoculars just to see the clouds below me. From the top of my castle, the people look like ants. The ants look like atoms. The atoms look like quarks. And the quarks look like those tiny rainbow-colored M&Ms you buy on an impulse while waiting in line at the corner store.
I eat the quarks. I watch the ants.
I call this place Planet Earth.
The tallest of my castle’s spires stretches upward like a crooked finger and pokes its pointy nose into the endless void of outer space.
To outside eyes – eyes that aren’t mine – the silhouette of my spire against the night sky may be frightening. It makes backs that aren’t mine crawl with chills. It makes palms on other hands grow moist with sweat and hairs I haven’t grown stand on end.
But don’t be scared.
Nothing roams these empty hallways. Just loneliness so palpable it fills the empty air like honey. Not a specter nor spook nor goblin nor ghoul has the common decency to come here and poltergeize me – just the echo of my own voice, haunting me with the stories that I’ve already told. It repeats forever and ever as the sound travels around the acoustic vortex of my chambers, cubbyholes, and passageways. Sometimes I can hear my childhood laughter. The ghost of myself. But he doesn’t scare me.
He’s already dead.
Everyday, as the twilight melts into the western horizon and the weight of my eternal despair reaches its execrable crescendo – around 7:30 in the evening, EST – I will climb the spire.
There is no staircase that leads to its apex. I must scale the walls from the outside. As I climb, my muscles burn. My fingers bleed. There’s a bottomless itch at end of my nose. But hand after hand I continue my ascension, undaunted by my body’s pleading.
“Give up,” my body says. “Give up and let go.”
But I fight through the pain with karate and power tools.
I fight through the pain because this is who I am. And I must accept it.
When I finally reach the top, fatigue has seized me. The sweat that forms on my brow runs thick and greasy. Up on the top of the spire I fall to my knees and, with arms outstretched beneath the unwavering sky, I muster up the last bit of energy I have left inside me, and I cry.
The tears I cry fall from my eyes in torrents.
I have rigged up an irrigation system to carry my tears away. They flow down the mountainside in a large, concrete aqueduct and collect into a reservoir below. Fibrous tumors instantly erupt on the skin of any animal who dares drink from my reservoir. So caustic is my sadness that it can kill the hardiest of beasts. Using my binoculars, I can see the cancer-stricken animals lining its banks. They ooze pus, black toxic slime leaking like an oil spill from every open lesion. And I hear hacking – muffled, desperate hacking – as they choke hopelessly on their own poison blood.
I watch the animals below me die and I can’t help myself. It makes me cry harder.
My spire is so tall it pokes holes in the sky.
As evening falls and the landscape is soaked in unapologetic shadow, my spire rips through the sheet of night. It creates a tapestry of pockmarks that sparkle above me.
I have named these holes. I call them stars.
The stars salt the darkness with their faint white light.
I look at the stars with the melancholy sort of stare usually reserved for doctor’s office waiting rooms. I look at the stars like the pages in a magazine I’m not interested in reading. Such is
loneliness. It can hold you in its marmalade grasp as the world above you twinkles and shines.
When you’re alone, nothing beautiful seems to matter.
Up here, in the spiresphere, the wind blows chaotic. It lashes at me from all directions. The cold breeze bites at my skin, freezing my blood. Snow-coning my soul.
I could probably piss ice cubes.
I could shit a refrigerator.
The wind is so cold, I could probably be a refrigerator. I could be your refrigerator. Would you like that? I would. If you wanted me to, I could be the best appliance in your house. Just plug me into the wall and I’ll live in your kitchen. My belly full of casserole. Mixed greens in my skull. A bottle of Merlot jammed into my asshole. You can ask me what’s for dinner and I’ll vomit up some cold cuts. I’ll vomit up some bread. I’ll vomit up some cheese, lettuce, onion and mayo.
“Sandwiches! Yummy!” you’ll gratefully exclaim, and I’ll smile back at you in that way only a refriger-mister can.
As the breeze twirls around me like an overweight ballerina missing her cue, I am able to discern a familiar odor amid the bedlam, but it is only for a fleeting moment. The wind merely teases before tearing it away. My nostrils flare like parasols. Go wide like owl eyes. I chase the phantom scent through the air. It blows to the right and hovers slightly above. I tilt my head and stretch my neck, the giraffe DNA I spliced myself with finally coming in handy for once. The scent dashes left. I tuck and roll and spring towards it. I catch it just before it disappears over the edge of the spire. Inhaling deeply, I suck it all in.
The odor is unmistakable:
It smells like roses.
The ground is miles below. Not even an updraft of the most virulent design has the fortitude to carry a smell that far. Most updrafts don’t have the stamina to make it past the 27th floor.
I trace its pathway with my nose, following its turbulent route up, down, left, right and sideways, only to realize that it is coming from above. Through a parting of the clouds I can smell it. It is leaking through the holes.
It is the stars. They smell like roses.
My eyes bend upward. My mouth hangs open.
All above me, the sky is lit up like a field of incandescent flowers, illuminating the darkness like neon potpourri. Each tiny sphere my spire has torn lies a million-billion miles away, and, yet, they’re lending me their sidereal scent as if I were holding a bouquet right here in my arms. I breathe it in, until I can feel the stardust tickle my tongue. Across the endless pinball machine of space this smell has journeyed, just to find this moment. Here. With me.
And without warning, my tears suddenly dry.
I poke myself in the eyes repeatedly. I put on my spectacles. Take them off. Put them on again. I pull one eye out of its socket and use the other eye to examine it. What the fuck? What’s going on? Are these things working properly?
Why aren’t I crying?
I need some eyedrops. Where’s my Visine? Through my thirsty vision – vision dried for the very first time – my surroundings come into acute focus. Everything gets crisper. Lines become defined. I’ve never seen the world around me above water before. I’ve never seen it with so much clarity. It’s giving me a funny feeling. It’s making me wonder what else I’ve been missing.
My brain starts working, rolling like a wagon wheel, and it takes my thoughts in a strange, new direction. I find myself thinking, what if it’s not the stars that smell like roses, but the roses that smell like stars?
Hmmm, I go, as my hand meets my chin. That’s an interesting question. I am reminded of that innocent grade-school inquiry I was once asked, that frustratingly circular dilemma of cause and effect, that futile metaphysical ecological predicament:
Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
This is the type of question I dare not answer so brazenly, because if I do, I’m bound to be wrong. For every Answer only begs a new Question. If the creature was not born of egg, can it technically be called a chicken? And if it were the egg that came first, what the fuck laid it? I have always had an admiration for these types of Questions. The ones that don’t have easy Answers. I admire them the way I’d admire a venomous snake. I stand at a safe distance and poke at them with a stick.
I am very smart.
I have read many books.
If you were to collect up all the books I’ve ever read, the room that housed them would be bigger than a library. I keep the books I’ve read in my study, lined on shelves two-miles high, alphabetically arranged by the author’s last name.
I remember every word of every book I’ve ever read because I have one of those memories that allow me to remember everything. If there were someone around to ask me questions, I’d know all the answers. I should go on that television show where they ask people questions and they answer them for money. The host would be all like, “What’s the capital of Burma?” and I’d be like, “How dare you insult me with such a pedestrian pursuit? It’s Naypyidaw, you fucking moron.” The studio audience would be like, “Wow, That exceptionally good-looking man is also so smart,” and I’d be like, “Duh!”
In every sense of the word, I am a genius.
I can’t help but feel that I’m wasting that genius, rotting here in my castle, alone and unloved. The world needs my thoughts. It needs my views and opinions. Maybe I should use some of my unsurpassed genius and write a dissertation on the star/rose conundrum:
The Olfactory Correlation between Distant Celestial Suns and Earthbound Flowers.
I could use that dissertation as my thesis paper and receive a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix. I could hang the diploma on my bathroom wall so that every time I take a shit, I can look at it and be reminded of how profound my genius truly is.
Or better yet, perhaps I’ll write a novel instead.
Yes, a novel! I think that’s what I’ll do!
There could certainly be a catharsis in that. The Universe wants to test me? It thinks I’ll be stumped? It thinks I won’t be able to unravel its smug, little Question? Because I can. I can do it right now. And while you fritter away your days trying to ponder the impossible, it’ll be I with the Answers. It’ll be I with the Truth! My novel will illuminate! My name will be praised! And when they speak of me in generations to come, when you’re reading about me in your textbooks, examining my life and deconstructing my words, you’ll speak of me as a martyr. A hero. You’ll speak of me IN ALL CAPS LOCK! My words will be harsh, yet forgiving. All-encompassing, yet personal. Bitter, yet palatable. And I shall call my novel A Dozen Wishes because I’ve been told that if you wish on a star, then your wish comes true.
And because roses, like eggs, always seem to come in a dozen.
Like it? Of course you did. So how about showing that affection monetarily and pre-ordering Love Me today? All the cool kids are doing it.
DANGER_SLATER is the world’s most flammable writer! His work has appeared in several online magazines, offline anthologies, audio podcasts, and porn dialogue voice-over sessions. Danger_Slater is also extremely toxic, so it is advised that you do not approach him unless you’re wearing a Level A hazmat suit or have had some sort of wizard cast a spell of protection on you.