I Not Only Live in a State of Confusion, I'm the Fucking Governor
A Short Story by Jeremy Benjamin
Written using the suggestion "Mars"
Originally featured on 04-02-2009
As part of our series "Where the Wild Words Are (Words Gone Wild!)"

I’m not sure what I am. White-coats from the institute come around once or twice a decade with gadgets that measure irregularities in electromagnetic field or some waste of time. I suppose it’s about me. All I know is, I live here.

They’ll probably make a movie about me. If something big enough happens. Something interesting enough. Stupid of people to think I have anything to do with the shit that goes on around me.

Maybe I used to be one of those stupid people. Maybe I got murdered in my sleep and people are still shaken up over it. I wouldn’t remember.

To say I remember something like that is like a newspaper saying it remembers existing as a fibrous slice of a tree. Everything gets processed and gelled together until it doesn’t matter where material came from, a thing just is what it is. Industry, metaphysics, it’s all the same; so I’ve got a few atoms of primordial ejaculatory photon matter in common with the spirit of some dickwad who kicked the bucket last century, who gives a shit? If you spit on a hamburger, that doesn’t make it related to you.

Got an answer, mister white-coat cheat-on-your-wife-with-post-docs-when-you’re-not-busy-sniffing-glue-before-lectures smarty-pants booger-licker? Forgot the question? The question is, what am I?

A ghost. Good for you. Shiver me fucking timbers. If there happens to be a journalistic record of why an ectoplasmic inhabitant would be a probable conclusion. Maybe. I see and hear everything that goes on, but it’s like I hear it in a foreign language that’s so foreign it doesn’t even sound like sound, and the shapes I see are foreign in the same way. I’m probably just as disorganized to anybody who tries to observe me. Except that once in a while, I do know certain things. Like when a new family moves in, or a new baby is born. I’m aware.

Maybe not a ghost. Maybe they think I’m something more general, like a malevolent spirit. Or perhaps a benevolent spirit. Have I harmed anybody? I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Maybe I’m a demon — that sounds sexy. Or better yet, a demonic presence. That makes me sound glamorous, like something they’d make a drive-in movie about. It gets…boring sometimes.

Tonight the youngsters seem bored too. Maybe we can play a game together.

 

Harvey shook his head. “Jews don’t go to strip clubs.”

Jason’s eyes lifted and made a flying arc around the room, seeking support. Jason spoke with a thick British accent that everybody adored. “Fabulous. Black people don’t hike-” Kenny grinned. “I’ve never been partial to smoking herb, which apparently makes me an outcast, and Semites have an aversion to the female body. Aren’t we a lively bunch.”

“Hey, you’re the one who shot down my idea,” said Kenny. “Harvey’s cool with starting a bonfire in the yard.”

“Right, and Harvey doesn’t stay here,” said Jason. “Harvey doesn’t have to explain himself to my bloody landlord. I figured a strip club is a sure-fire last resort for a group of blokes to piss away an evening as a lowest common denominator. I give up.”

Kenny beamed. “Funny, you’d think I’d be the hard sell on the strip club, but as a matter of fact, that sounds pretty appealing right now, the sensuality, I mean, not that…”

The two turned to Harvey incriminatingly.

Harvey threw up two hands that had been playing fetch with a phantom dog and tiring of it. “What?”

Kenny said, “What’s wrong with you? You jack off, why not admit it?”

Jason said, “Why not be agreeable?”

Harvey said immediately, “For the same reason I clip coupons and drive a small car: the thought of an establishment wherein my presence is welcome on the condition that I reach in my wallet on the stroke of every other heartbeat is not my idea of a good time.”

The two looked at each other and back at Harvey. Jason said, “Shut up, that’s every establishment. That’s the world.”

Harvey shook his head. “Trees don’t expect you to tip them, and they’re naked.”

Kenny folded his arms. Harvey was the only one facing his direction. “Nice try, Harv. If you want to go drag your sweaty ass up the trail with a flashlight and get eaten for dinner by mosquitoes in the name of a good time, you’re on your own. So let me get this straight; it’s not that you don’t like tits, you just don’t like spending money?”

“That’s what I just said,” said Harvey.

“And that’s, like, part of your religion? Frugality as a virtue?”

Harvey started to take a deep breath and then bit off a small chunk of air and held it between his teeth, arms raised. “Christ, don’t gang up on me. Note that I would have been perfectly content smoking herb around a bonfire.”

Kenny patted Harvey’s shoulder. “What I’m getting at is, didn’t the Old Testament Jews have their version of exotic dancers? Wasn’t that historically proven? Because I promise you, brother, if Moses were here in this room, he’d totally buy you a lap dance.”

“Good point,” said Jason.

“Or maybe he’d give you a lap dance,” Kenny continued. “Those biblical figures were all flaming queers. Knappy hairy face, walking around in robes with a staff that turned into a snake—if I had a magic snake staff, you know damned well what I’d be doing in my downtime when I wasn’t parting no seas.” Kenny was openly gay, and it was no stretch of the imagination for the rest of them to picture the act Kenny was alluding to.

Jason shuddered. “Which brings us back to the quandary of what to do tonight?”

Harvey said, “Wait, did you just say flaming queers? Don’t you find that offensive?”

Kenny smiled and rubbed Harvey’s collarbone a little too gently for Harvey’s comfort. “It’s offensive when you say it. I wasn’t offended when I said it, though.”

Harvey wriggled away from Kenny’s caress and chewed his finger in consternation. “Oh, I get it. It’s like the same thing as if, say, like I called you a-”

Kenny reached and pinched the lateral fold of fabric in the crotch of Harvey’s jeans as he said sibilantly in his ear, “Exactly.” He winked. “Keep being untactful, I like it.”

The dusty orange box sat high atop a bookshelf, wedged diagonally between an encyclopedia and an antique chess set. The label on the side of the box was worn.

“Hey, what’s that?” Harvey pointed to the dusty orange box.

Everyone quieted. Their eyes fixed upon the same object for an instant. Jason said dismissively, “What?” He knew what Harvey was pointing to without having to look.

Harvey said, “I think I’ve played that before. It’s like Ouija Board, but different.”

Kenny said, “Hell, no.”

Harvey said, “Why not?”

Jason walked to the bookcase, carefully fished it out and brought it to the table. It smelled like suffused, musty dried fish.

Kenny said, “I thought I had a voice in this democracy, and I thought I just distinctly said haaaaaaaaeeeeeeelllll, no.”

Jason said, “Like we have anything better to do?”

 

Am I a ghost? What the fuck kind of question is that? Great conversation starter. Idiots. If you even had any concept of what that word meant (and I sure as hell don’t). If you’d gone to the strip club instead — which, by all means, you should have—would you be going up to women, saying “Are you a stripper”? Let me answer that with another question; are you a dumb shit?

Oh, here comes another brilliant query. Is this house haaanted? A better question would be, can I spell haaanted? How could a house not be haunted? You live in it, so technically it’s haunted by your stupid ass. Is this house haunted? Gee, I don’t know; is there hair on your nutsack? If I could answer you by moving those little wooden pegs around the board in your dumbass game, I’d say, “NO.” You like irony, right? Of course you do, you’re college boys; you’d be rolling on the floor laughing yourselves to tears.

Now here’s an intelligent question; can ghosts get stoned? That one might actually be worth answering. A ghost has no physical body, it’s body is the atmosphere itself, therefore whatever’s in the air is part of the ghost—I guess that’s how you’re thinking of it. I probably used to think of it like that too. A ghost has no sensations, no nervous system, no lungs, so the answer would obviously be no. But on the other hand, a ghost is perpetually high all the time. If that makes any sense. Do ghosts think thoughts? And if they did, would they be logical? Are they the same as normal live people, just operating on a different frequency? Or are they something unimaginably different?

Something’s happening. I’m feeling- I just asked myself questions. I don’t ask myself questions. I forgot how to ask questions a long time ago, and forgot what questions were until I started thinking them just now. Something’s happening to me.

It hurts.

 

Kenny was crying. The shadow from the table hid his face. Jason and Harvey slid slowly along the wood floor away from him. They could tell Kenny was crying because his cheeks were shaking. Kenny made no noise.

The whole room felt tight and tighter, like the inside of one’s chest can sometimes feel tight. It stopped being funny.

Harvey looked at Jason, but Jason did not see Harvey. Jason wished they had made a bonfire. Harvey wished they were stuffing dollar bills into bras.

Kenny was sobbing. And then he stopped. His eyes opened wide, looking straight at the wall through excess secretions, looking comfortably, not blinking and not lifting his hand. He looked straight ahead, seeing whatever he was seeing more clearly than he saw most things that were in front of him. His mouth settled, his lips relaxing and parting.

Nobody in the room would remember what Kenny said. Kenny said, “If we were on Mars, you’d expect everything to be different. That’s bullshit.”

Read More By Jeremy Benjamin

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