Sunday, November 6, 2022

ThEraPeutIc sKIn JobS #18

I never got around to Everybody's Fucking At The End of Time like I promised here, but I still listen to Johnny Dowd. He's a deadset legend.

    Same old song....


    The door is open and he's free to go whenever he wants to. It has only just appeared in the middle of the darkness, a fierce white light emanating from the other side, promising everything. The blackness on this side of the door is total. This is nowhere, no place.

    If he still had a chin, Doctor Skin would have stroked it thoughtfully. In the darkness his body doesn't exist, a condition he's been trapped in for an eternity. Living on as pure intellect is nothing new for Skin, but that still doesn't make it any more enjoyable. He's in love with the physical nature of reality, and all those gnostic teachings Matron drummed into him from an early age can't change that.

     He doesn't know how long he's been in this place, but it feels like forever. He can't remember how he got here, or what he's supposed to be doing, but he holds onto the blind faith that these things will work out. Somebody will explain everything. It will make sense in the end. Everything will be all right. It usually is.

     And now, his confident nature has been rewarded with this door. Skin tries to perceive what lies beyond it, but the light blinds him to everything on the other side. After another eternity of contemplation, he realises he can hear voices from the door. He attempts to hear what they're saying, but the voices are just below his audial threshold. He can hear talk of cascades and a metamorphosis, but the context remains elusive.

     It all seems so familiar, and Skin is still thinking about that when one of the voices speaks up in a deep, clear baritone.

     "Come on," it says, the sound reverberating through the darkness. "She's waiting for you."

     Skin is delighted with the recognition of his existence, but still feels uneasy about crossing over. He's safe here in the dark, protected from the horror of the world. Nothing can touch him, nothing can hurt him. He can stay here forever if he wants to.

     Fuck it, he thinks. Hoping for the best, he steps into the light. 


ThEraPeutIc sKIn JobS
Number Eighteen


     The glare is intolerably bright, but soon dies down. Skin wipes the last spots out of his eyes and takes a look around.

     He's standing in a desert, a massive sand dune the only feature. There isn't a cloud in the sky, and the slight breeze does little to alleviate the heat. There is no sound, outside Skin's breathing. No vultures, no insects, no life.

     "At least it's not a bloody quarry this time," mutters Skin, moving on to more important matters. His body seems the same as the last time he used it, with a small scar on one of his knuckles the only deviation. He's dressed in jeans and a coarse shirt. Workboot chic.

     Worried that his latest incarnation might not have the exquisite features he's become accustomed to, Skin leaves his face until last. Gently examining it with the tips of his fingers, he is delighted to find his chin has been reconstructed at the right angle. It's his proudest feature, and the one constant in every one of his twenty-seven bodies.

     Sorted and sated, Doctor Skin moves towards the sand dune. Looking up to the peak, he sees a figure waving down at him. Too far away to be easily identifiable, Skin can't help himself and waves back. It's only polite.

     After one last glance around to make sure he has no other option, Skin begins his ascent. The climb is an ordeal, with the sand slipping away beneath his feet, stealing two steps for every three he makes. Thirst and gravity are his enemies. Unfashionable sweat breaks out on Skin's forehead, and his clothes stick to his skin. He tries to get a decent mantra going, but he can't concentrate.

     Finally, Skin makes it to the top, stopping just short of the zenith. The figure standing above him is hidden in shadow, an angry, red sun directly behind him. Skin shields his eyes from the glare, but can't make out any details.

     "This place used to be called Trinovantum," says the stranger, blocking Skin's access to the peak. "It had a lot of other names after that, but none of it matters now. It's all just sand. The death of the city was predicted by many people, and it's inevitable fate was tied up with stones and ravens."

     Skin remains unimpressed, and crosses his arms. "Yeah? So?"

     "I did have a point," admitted the stranger, stepping closer to Skin. "But it wasn't as good as I thought it was. Believe it or not, it's all about books."

     Skin begins to reply, but is rudely interrupted when the stranger suddenly lunges out and kicks him in the head. He hits Skin right above the left eye, and the Doctor falls back, hopelessly unbalanced. He tumbles to the ground, the impact knocking the breath out of him. After a moment of stillness, Skin groans and gets to his knees, a bastard behind the eyes flaring up.

     "I'm sorry," says the stranger, instantly at Skin's side. "I didn't have a point at all, but I figured violence would do instead. I don't really want to hurt you."

     "It's not that bad," mutters Skin, getting to his feet. "I always knew it was good idea to have that miniature morphine factory installed in my spleen. Shame it can't do anything about the sand up my arse."

     "What fucking sand? asks the stranger. "There's no sand here."

     Skin looks around, and realises he's right. They're not anywhere near a desert, they're sitting in a deserted movie theatre. He glances up at the screen and sees a woman with one orifice peels off parts of her body. "I've been here before."

     "You have," says the stranger, not taking his eyes off the screen.

     "I've seen this movie before too."

     "Yeah, you have. It's 'Three Crowns Of The Sailor'. Raul Ruiz. I'm on a real Euro kick at the moment. All those cunts: Tarkovsky, Angelopoulos, Rohmer, Pasolini. Fucking brilliant."

     "There's also no point here. Is there?"

     "There's never a fucking point," snaps the stranger. "Not unless you want there to be one."

     Skin's phone rings suddenly, the stranger's rant cut off before it can begin. Skin is surprised to find the phone in the pocket of his jeans. He pulls it out and watches it's jelly-like surface pulsate in rhythm with the ring for a second before answering. "Hello?" he says, hoping he's talking in the right end.




     "Whatever you want, my love. Where are you?"

     "I'm not sure. There's an awful smell, it's too hot, and there's all this meat floating through the air. I think I'm in Hell again."


     "Yeah. Don't worry, I'll just get out through the exit behind the Faith Abattoir in Dis. You know the one. Where are you?"

     "Hang on a moment, baby," he says, turning to the stranger. "Look. I need a moment of privacy here."

     "Not a problem," says the stranger, getting up to leave. "I need some chocolate anyway."

     Once he's gone, Skin tells Klaudia of his recent experiences. She listens patiently, and offers advice when he's done. "I think you should listen to the stranger."

     "Yeah, I think I should too. I trust him for some reason. At first I though he was the Phantom Stranger, but he's too short."



     "Don't you know who he is?"

     "What? No! Who is he?"

     "The ego is its own stranger, baby. I'll see you later."

     "B-but..." stammers Skin, but its too late. He's already talking to dead air.

     "What's the score?" asks the stranger, sitting down beside Skin and handing him a ice-cream that's already beginning to melt in the sun.

    "I'm not sure," answers Skin. Tossing the phone away, he tries to see the scoreboard on the other side of the stadium. "I think we're winning."

    "Great," says the stranger, grinning happily as he watches the intricate ritual of the game play out beneath him. "Look at that. All that work, all that effort, and it always comes down to a perfect moment in time. All the rest is just preparation for that moment."

    "Sport," says Doctor Skin, nodding enthusiastically. "It's a big, fat metaphor for everything."

    "Fuck yeah!" hollers the stranger, getting to his feet and joining the roar of the rest of the crowd as the first points are scored. Skin claps happily, but slows down as his head begins to feel heavy.

     "I think I'm going to be sick," he moans, getting to his feet, desperate to get some privacy before the inevitable. He staggers away, but the stranger stays in his seat and watches him go, chewing on honey and toast.

     Skin heads for a tunnel, and almost falls on his arse when the floor starts moving beneath him. For one single, dreadful moment, he's convinced he's riding a giant red tongue, and he can't get away. But he blinks, takes a deep breath, and gets a grip. There is no tongue. The escalator beneath him hums noisily and is far from smooth, but there's no saliva.

     The nausea has passed, but Skin still feels exhausted, and he sits down on the moving steps, content to rest for a while as they move downwards. The escalator descends into darkness and Doctor Skin goes along for the ride.

     But nothing lasts forever, and the escalator ends in a dark hallway, with a single window at the end of it. Curious, Skin gracefully steps off the escalator and walks down the hallway. Squinting into the bright light coming from the window, he moves closer and takes a look.

     On the other side is a single cot set in the middle of a bare white room. Lying on the cot, covered by a single blanket, is a young baby boy. He looks up at Skin with big blue eyes and smiles. Doctor Skin returns the smile and raises one hand up against the glass.

     "You don't belong here!" screams a shrill voice behind him, and Skin spins to confront a huge creature walking towards him. Twice the size and bulk of Skin, the demon conforms to all the obvious demon cliches, and has all the required spikes, tusks and red armoured-plated skin. The torn nurse uniform it wears is a little strange, but Skin has seen a lot worse. Then the demon lunges forward with large, thick claws and almost takes Skin's head clean off.

     "I'm sorry," says Skin, ducking below the lunge, hoping reason will prevail. "I don't know how I got here. I mean no harm."

     "You don't belong here!" screams the demon again, and charges towards Skin. He steps aside, and nearly goes over the side of the mountain. A harsh, biting wind cuts through him and his feet are getting numb in the snow. He can barely walk, and has little chance of beating the demon.

     "Just shoot the fucker," says the stranger, suddenly at Skin's side. Skin looks down to see his favourite gun in his hand, and he has shot the demon right through its third eye without a second's hesitation. The demon disappears into a gold dust, which disperses in the cold breeze.

     "Right," says the stranger, stepping off the peak and onto the nearest cloud. "Let's get this over with. Come on. We've got work to do."

     "Sure," says Skin, following him into the sky. The clouds are surprisingly firm, and Skin soon catches up with the stranger, who is busy writing things down on a piece of paper.

     "First there's the J Street thing," he mutters, more to himself than anybody else. "Then the nostalgic bullet, then famdamily, then everybody's fucking at the end of time. Though I'll probably change it all before I get there. Shit! I didn't get that Johnny Dowd reference in. Hey. Can you speak in script?"

     "What are you talking about?"

     "Don't worry," says the stranger, stopping and facing Skin, putting one hand on his shoulder. "Let's just get this bastard out of the way first, yeah?"

     Doctor Skin realises the stranger isn't looking at him anymore, but just over his shoulder. He turns to see a large wooden door sitting in the middle of the cloud. Through the door, Skin can see a woman sitting at a park bench. She looks engrossed in the cheap paperback novel she's reading, but her body language screams impatience.

     "Klaudia," whispers Skin, moving toward the door. He's about to step through when he turns back toward the stranger. "Be seeing you."

     "I hope not," says the stranger, but Doctor Skin is already gone. The stranger walks up to the door and leans on the frame, watching the inevitable joyous conclusion.

     The stranger watches their reconciliation, his expression unreadable. He's about to shut the door, leaving them to their lives, when something catches his eye. Looking past the words, looking past the screen, he looks right at his audience. He's got so much to say, and doesn't know where to begin. Finally, regrettably, he breaks contact. There's still a lot to get across, but he figures he's said enough for now. Moving away, he disappears into the void, closing the door behind him.

The End

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article! Thanks for sharing I added some thoughts on skin wipes sometime ago