This is still the late 90s. Nothing ever changes, except for the parts I had to change because they were too horrible..
Therapeutic Skin Jobs #3
By Max Zero
Turned out nicely again. Old songs still spiral down the corridors of time, in search of an audience. Sometimes they find one. Most of the time they don't.
But that’s neither here nor there.
Hope for the future, because the present never lasts. Long for the past and the glories forever gone because now is just a dream.
A stray thought shot down like a plump pheasant: A time machine is the scariest thing in the world. Contradictions galore as the call is made to forget the past, ignore the future and embrace the present. It's the only one that truly matters.
Two separate schools of thought. Two different ways of thinking. Needless to say, Doctor Skin and Claudia subscribe to neither. No time for thinking about important matters like that. Not when there's too much stuff to do.
Case in point - yet another absurdly sunny day on J Street. Nothing to do but sit on the bonnet of your Car With No Name, dressed like two extras from Barberella, and argue two entirely different arguments.
"No, you're wrong and I'm right!" hoots Doctor Skin with untainted joy. "Battlestar Galactica has a far more important role in the development of the young people of today than Star Wars ever could."
"You know perfectly well I'm never wrong," says Claudia in a tone that would turn hellfire into strawberry flavored ice cream. "Individuality is the only truth. The idea that when we die we become part of God is a strictly asinine idea. Why should I give up all my thoughts, experiences and memories in order to become part of our creator? I prefer things the way they are."
"Yes," retorts Skin, reading a lot more in Claudia's mad ramble than you or I ever could. "But good old Glen A. never made any pretense about his story being the ultimate saga. It was simple fluffy fun, constrained only by the budgetary constraints that humble all television shows."
Claudia's excellent reply remains the knowledge of your humbly arrogant creator, (though I will tell you that it involves extreme violence to a number of cute little bunny rabbits,) for at that moment the conversation is interrupted by a noise behind them. To Skin's delicate ears, it sounds like ten thousand thousand people burping at the same time.
Together, our dastardly duo turn to see a white wall of energy rushing down the street towards them, eating everything before it.
The Doctor jumps to his feet and hollers his delight.
"Brilliant! Crises after crises! Does the fun ever end? Can you find a more gratifying and delightful place than this? Nothing is sacred! No taboo exists! And one can't even take a moment to reflect on more important matters without a battle for life and death striking its blow!"
"I'm happy for you dear," whispers Claudia, hating to interrupt her lover in the middle of his rant. "But don't you think we should try to get away?"
"Absolutely!" replies Skin with a grin larger than that damnable red spot that defaces the perfect surface of the largest planet in our solar system. "WE MUST OUTRACE OBLIVION!"
"Darling," purrs Claudia as they get into their orgasmotronic car seats (Ad Hook - 'For When You Don't Just Want To Drive Really, Really Fast') and strap themselves in, pulling the seatbelts tight. Remember kids! Safety first! "You're not in a Bob Haney comic now."
Skin sulks for a nanosecond before noticing how perilously close the wave of destruction is getting.
"No time! No time! Prepare for vaporous velocity, rapturous rapidity and spectacular speed! Fire up the cronoton particles, kick in the axle grease and let loose the dogs of war! Sit back, relax, let me do the driving & you just do the thinking for both of us! Smile when you say that! Get ready for pure pleasure! Fun, fun, fun! Prepare for the ride of your innumerable lifetimes!"
And so Doctor Jacob Skin, professor of nothing and lord of all he surveys, pulls his head out and stamps his booted foot down upon the accelerator, sending the Car With No Name leaping ahead of certain non-existence.
Zero to Infinity in less time than it takes to tell, but the energy wall keeps up with them, every step of the way.
"Damn, blast and bugger!" curses Skin just loud enough for the nuns in the van they're passing to hear. Catching the eye of the saintly driver, he comes up with an idea that can only be described as splendorous.
"Hang tight, baby!" screams Skin at his companion, who is still finding time to apply her cherry red lipstick in a pleasing fashion. "I'm going to try something splendorous!"
Doc spins the steering wheel, sending the Car With No Name slamming into the nunmobile. The van swerves and flips, sending penguin impersonators flying in all directions. Not to worry, for any broken legs and necks are soon forgotten as the nuns are swallowed up by the wall of nothing, along with all the other sinners.
"Well, that didn't work," sighs Doctor Skin, glancing back. "I was sure God might intervene, if only to save his own, but it appears we can't count on any divine intervention this time."
"We're divine enough as it is," replies Claudia, leaning out the side window and letting off a few shots with the Testosterone XL they keep for emergencies. The bullets hit pure energy and fade away.
Pull back, get a clearer sense. There's the Car With No Name screaming along J Street at considerable speed, deftly avoiding a dozen collisions a second. The wall straight out of a horribly expensive comic book threatens to swallow them up at any moment. Strange thing is, nobody else seems to be worried about the danger. People walk along the sidewalk, oblivious to the blankness bearing down on them, and are swallowed up without a sound.
Dr. Skin realises he hasn't been looking where they've been zooming for a minute or so, and turns around just in time to see a heavily pregnant woman push a baby's pram out in front of them. Collision, it seems, is utterly unavoidable. But it isn't and the Car With No Name slides around the pram at a gazillion miles per hour, almost ripping it from the mother's clutches and sending it flying into the air, but not quite.
Claudia ceases fire and watches the wonderful grace of the arc and feels the need for toast with some innocent raspberry jam.
"Oh wow," utters Claudia. "I still had some hope for a favourable spin on the karmic wheel, and after that little incident it seems that maybe I am not doomed to live the next few lives as a worm with no taste."
"Quite right," replies her companion, gritting his teeth, squinting his eyes and doing his best to look just like Clint Eastwood, despite the fact his chin in far too pointy. "But did something change just then? Was that right?"
"Nothing changed. Nothing ever changed."
"Well, we're still screwed, good and proper. Only one thing for it. Claudia! Endtime music!"
In one swift movement, Claudia kicks the stereo into full gear and the very last Manic Street Preachers album, stolen from the future, roars into life, drowning out our subject's cries with white noise, too loud to be understood.
And with that, Doctor Skin turns the car around and drives straight into the oncoming wave; a laugh torn from his lips as everything fades away.
Everything must go.
The sensation of entire physical being melted down into pure thought stuff and sent screaming through the void is a strangely pleasant one. Destination unwise.
Reconstitute! Reimburse! Revitalise!
Doctor Skin untangles himself from Claudia’s naked raw clutches and stares about in confusion. All is ending, with only two men sitting nearby (All lecherous grins and popcorn) to break the monotony.
"This isn’t right," murmurs our hero.
"Of course not," comes the breathless reply from below him. Skin glances down to see Claudia lighting up her post-coital cigarette. "It never happened. This isn’t real."
"It never is," winks Doc, already knowing the sensation of distruth.
In again, out again, gone again.
Know this truth. The love Doctor Skin shares with Claudia is extraordinary. You know that feeling you get when you’re with your own love, where you know you are two who belong together? You know that feeling that burns like lava deep, deep within your chest? You know that feeling that leaves behind an empty void when you’re apart for any length of time?
If you don’t know it, the author of this shoddy work implores you to go and find it.
For those who do, try this: Take that feeling, add two sugars, a lot of cream, pump it full of pure nitro and set it on fire. That’s as close as us mortals will ever get to knowing the bond between our two protagonists.
This has absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand. But it was worth pointing out, wasn't it?
Stay on target.
Different track. Oblivious and obnoxious levels.
Doctor Skin is sitting on a throne, listening calmly as a list of crimes are read out in the courtroom before him by a man in a freaky mask. Black and white and read all over.
"The Prisoner has been charged with the most serious breach of social etiquette: Total defiance of the elementary laws which sustain our community; questioning the decisions of those we voted to govern us; unhealthy aspects of speech and dress, not in accordance with general practice; and the refusal to observe, wear or respond to his number!"
Confident that this heinous list is dispensed with, Doctor Skin rises, pulls the Testosterone XL handgun out from behind him and shoots his accuser, William Burroughs like, straight between the eyes.
The accuser falls back without a sound, seemingly unwilling to accept this deviance from the script. Either that, or he's annoyed that his death is so rudimentary.
To tell the truth, he's actually horribly disappointed. To bring a gun into the proceedings is frightfully predictable. To once more interrupt the cerebral with pure, untainted violence is only to be expected, but it wasn't a necessity. Still, only the remarkably stupid bring a knife to a gunfight.)
"Don't knock yourself out," whispers Skin, blowing the sweet smelling smoke wafting from the gun barrel.
The audience standing behind Skin rise to their feet to applaud their champion, who bows humbly before them.
Everything starts to fade away again, but at the last second before zenith point, the Doctor turns and sneers to his audience.
"Thanks for the trip, Dad."
Then you went and gone.
Skin’s spectacular spirit, despite being free of any earthly constraints, feels a pulling in another direction. Another truth. Less real than the last, but a truth nonetheless.
Skip the tracks! Switch the characters!
Try something new!
"Max? Are you okay?"
Doctor Skin opens his eyes, and finds it horribly difficult to focus. He’s lying on a sticky floor that smells bad – all vomit and oysters and beer.
And someone is talking to him. But they don’t know his name.
"C’mon, Max. On your feet."
Skin is helped to his feet and leans against a bar. With concentration, he finds he can focus his eyes and he looks at his companion.
"Do I know you?" asks Doc, looking at the young, dark-skinned man wearing a leather jacket.
"I should hope so," comes the reply. "I’ve saved your ass more times than I can remember."
The good Doctor knows this is all wrong. This body isn’t his. His voice has changed. And his thoughts are as clear as exceedingly thick porridge. (Just like Matron used to make.)
"I feel like a pig shat in my head."
Skin’s current comrade sneers and opens his mouth to say something when he freezes.
Dr. Skin feels himself disengage from this strange, dull point of view and float away. His primary feeling is one of utter relief. Obviously.
He is once more without a body, but still manages to voice his thoughts on the matter.
"About bloody time."
Fiction within fact. Dreams within reality.
Worlds without end, forever and ever.
And so on…
It’s getting boring, so let’s just look at the edited highlights.
And so on…
Doctor Skin runs through a forest full of sentient trees, knocking over a small, ugly person and stealing his precious ring. It will go nicely with Claudia’s earrings.
He finds himself in a dark place, all smoke and blood and thick, red wine. Skin laughs as he realizes he's switched mediums yet again and is now living in an Angelo Badalamenti album.
The Plagiarizing Police publicize their presence and Skin is forced to defend his right to exist by partaking in a Sergio Leone graveyard gunfight: Facing off against Luther Arkwright, Gideon Stargrave and Jerry Cornelius, all wit, charm and itchy trigger fingers.
Claudia joins him and they sit on the deck of the most fabulous ship ever constructed, sipping martinis as chaos erupts. No escape for our heroes, so they sit and debate which fiction they’ve been forced into. Skin is sure it’s the recent abomination, whilst Claudia insists it’s the dry fifties version. The presence of a bunch of dwarves sitting nearby in fine evening dress is clue enough, if they’d only care to look.
A climax is looming.
Change channel! Change channel!
Nearly time to go!
It's hotter than hellfire in the desert. Dr. Skin finds the idea of perspiration upsetting, so moves off towards the only shelter available - A small hut sitting all on it's lonesome.
Walking in, it takes an eternity for his eyes to adjust to the gloom inside On the table in the middle of the room sits the obligatory pack of cigarettes, bottle of wine and long lost comic books. Someone is seated behind all that.
Skin knows instinctively who it is
"You took you time," bemoans the creator, pausing to spit upon the dusty floor. "What kept you?"
"You should know," yawns Skin, sitting down and examining the label on the wine. It's nothing more than cheap gut rot. Anybody can pick it up at any self-respecting supermarket for $5.00. But in the circumstances, it's perfect. "What do you want?"
The creator fidgets and runs his hands through his hair.
"I'm losing it. I think I'm going mad. And it's a horrible feeling."
"So that's what that white wall was? A metaphor for the deterioration in your own mind? The loss of self? Writer's block? A symptom of growing old?"
"No," replies the creator, looking a tad confused and sucking on the cigarette that somehow ended up hanging from his lips. "It was just a cheap plot device. But that's beside the point! You must help me!"
"Why?" winces Skin as the first mouthful of wine slides down his gullet.
"Because I don't want to go mad!"
"Oh, don't worry about that. We're all mad here."
"Stop that!" cries the creator, standing up and pointing at Skin with a long index finger. "Enough of the endless fucking pop culture references! I know this is the ultra post-modernistic decade, but we should be above all that!"
"Calm down, dear boy. Quite frankly, I don't give a toss about your mental situation. So if you'll just send me home again."
"Yes, yes, I'm sorry," mumbles the creator, sitting back down again and shakily lighting a cigarette. "I just wanted to talk to you. You, my most perfect creation."
"Really," mutters the good Doctor, glancing down at his watch.
"Yes. Really. You're the one perfect thing I've come up with. The one thing I've created with no flaws, no doubts. You have extensive knowledge of everything. You have an utterly open mind. There is nothing you cannot do. Nothing you do not believe in. You are, in a word, perfect."
"Not quite," says Skin, getting to his feet and slowly walking backwards to the door. "I don't believe in everything."
"Yes. Yes, you do. I created you that way."
Doctor Skin stops at the doorway and drinks yet again from the bottle, before letting it tumble to the ground.
"Oh, I believe in just about everything, Robert. I believe in Santa Claus and UFOs and true love and the fucking tooth fairy. But there's one thing I can never believe in."
"W-what's that?" asks the creator, suddenly strangely fearful.
"I just don't believe in you."
And with that, Doctor Skin turns on his heel and stalks out into the world outside, leaving an empty room behind him.
Doctor Skin opens his eyes again. He's seated on the bonnet of the Car With No Name. It's a bright, breezy day on J Street and Claudia is seated next to him, blathering on about some ridiculous seventies movie.
"Claudia," interrupts Skin right at the point where his female half attempts to replicate the noise of an Imperial Walker. "Did something just happen then?"
"Well, yes," replies Claudia in tones so cold you could stick useless wings on them and call them a penguin. "I was entertaining you with my thoughts on the Holy Trilogy when you butted in."
"No, no," says the Doctor, defusing Claudia's TNT temper before it can be lit with a single wiggle of his eyebrows. "Didn't we just get eaten up by a wall of white energy, sending us bouncing through realities, finally ending in a confrontation with creation?"
"No," replies Claudia, looking at her lover like he just leaped out of the loony bin. "We've just been sitting here talking bollocks. It's been an entirely fruitless afternoon."
Skin ponders this as he watches a convenient van full of nuns drive slowly by. The driver winks at Doc, letting him in on the secret.
Doctor Skin leans back on the bonnet of his car and starts to laugh.
It's a smooth laugh, full of the joys of infinity, a laugh which celebrates the existence of all things, a laugh that bodes well for the future and the paths not yet trodden.
It's a fine, sunny day on J Street and things have worked for the best.
Turned out nicely again.