Fallen Nation: Party At The World's End by James Curcio on the Independent Author Index
Fallen Nation: Party At The World’s End is a mad ride past the event horizon of sanity with a group of young, escaped mental patients that come to realize—or believe—that they are demigods. They form Babylon, a band that captures the spirit of the age as sex, drugs, and chaos reign in the final years of the American Empire. This is the beginning of a modern mythology that spills off the page: the ticket to the Party At The World’s End is inside, if you dare to search for it. It starts right here, but it won’t end here–
Routine said today was Wednesday: one-on-one time with Doctor Fein at noon. I took a quick glance at our ticking overlord. It was eleven forty-five.
At eleven forty-seven, the first glimmer of hope arrived in an unexpected place. A package from FedEx. I was scrawling another page in the journal Doctor Fein had asked me to keep for him. (Instead, he got a jaunt through my head. Poor guy.)
As I looked up and paused to chew on my crayon, I locked gazes with a familiar, mischievous face. Loki. He gave me one of those “don’t blow my cover, asshole” stares. That is how he usually looks at me, though.
I lean back and take in a deep breath. The first full, down-to-the stomach breath I’ve taken in months. Loki was up to something, and if anyone could spring us, it was him. Birds flutter outside the barred windows of the commons, the first signs I’ve seen of spring. Suddenly, time was on my side.
The orderlies walk up to me; two shambling Golems with brains rendered little better than off-brand Jell-o by years of American Idol and a strict diet of high fructose corn syrup. They drop a sorry-looking teddy bear. It stares back at me from the ground with button eyes. I’m not sure how buttons can look simultaneously cute and forlorn, but these do. Just a little lost Mr. Teddy.
“This came in the mail today, it was from your family,” one of them said.
I picked it up.
“Mr. Teddy! You’ve come back to me!”
I ambled back towards my room and try to look like I’m having a conversation with little men in the ceiling. My fingers run a pattern across threadbare fur. They come to something solid, deep inside its fuzzy little belly. Oh, Loki. If these are as good as the last batch of psychedelics, then the staff of this ward are in for an interesting evening. I’m sorry Mr. Teddy. It looks like it’s time for exploratory surgery…and I’m no doctor.
Doctor Fein sat at his desk, rigid as a statue. The late day sun filtered into his room through the slats of the blinds behind him, revealing all the dust, fragments and detritus freely dancing in the air. Filth. He paused from writing and ran his hand across his desk, leaving a trail of dust behind it. Filth.
He sat in front of his journal, reading it over and over again, looking for signs of mental illness. It was a project he’d secretly started since certain irregularities had appeared in his behavior.
03/15/12 11:39:31 AM. The Journal of Dr. Fein, M.D., Ph. D.
Here is the life I have chosen for myself: I arrive at the hospital every morning at seven. I am not expected until eight, but I use the time to digest the reports from the evening staff and have a cup of coffee in my office. Pink, blue, yellow pages, I match checked boxes and phrases of jargon with known faces and emotions. “Unusual or excessive emotional reaction” dryly encapsulates bloody shrieks and hoarse-voiced prayers for death. “Weapons prevention violation” neatly condenses hours spent patiently honing a length of table leg, visualizing my face slit to ribbons.
This new patient — he has a gift for lessening the self. I have been sorting for references to him. The reports indicate that he has quickly gained rapport with the other patients in the ward. They shuffle into a loose circle to hear him rant, whether his glazed eyes focus on them or not. He draws diagrams on his body and shares self-coherent madness with paranoid schizophrenics.
I imagine their thin hospital robes transformed into vestments. They become agitated when staff acts to redirect them, protect them. Shared Psychotic Disorder is interesting. It is unstable, contagious, like a virus. The carrier, the new patient, is calm. I believe he plots.
I open my desk, pop out a sample of Wellbutrin, and drink it down. Wellbutrin is indicated. Clearly.
Dionysus slouched in the door-frame. He was flanked by orderlies, but despite their hulking menace he seemed to somehow strike a casual pose somewhere mid-way between Shaolin monk and Hunter S. Thompson in his prime. The orderlies glanced at Doctor Fein in concern, but he waved them off.
“Won’t you come in?” Doctor Fein asked. Dionysus nodded and sat. “What is your name?”
“Same as yesterday. Dionysus. Well, Dionysus Chthonios, but we don’t need to be so formal.”
“What day is today?”
“E Tu, Brute?”
“It’s the Ides of March. That line is apocryphal, anyway. Can I ask you a question?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“What experience gives you the right to be my shaman?”
Doctor Fein blinked for several moments before replying. “I’m sorry? I’m a psychiatrist. And I’m here to help you, but only if you want it.”
“Alright. Try to follow along with me here. I’ve been driving myself nuts trying to figure out why my stomach was in knots last night. Could be repressed childhood trauma, right? Could be the awful ‘food.’ The meds. It could be the displaced, angry spirit of an Ibo tribesman who, for reasons passing understanding, feels the need to take out his vengeance on my bowels.” Dionysus was gesturing rapidly with his hands as he spoke, his enthusiasm building. Plunk, plunk. Doctor Fein, in his distraction, didn’t notice pills popping in his coffee.
“This is the problem with diagnosis. Any excuse we use to explain the sensation begins as an excuse. And then it is a guess. Have you heard of Chaos math?” Dionysus asked suddenly.
Doctor Fein stared off into space.
“Figured not. Linear cause and effect is the result of short-sighted presuppositions. Our bias determines our attribution of cause. Now,” Dionysus leaned forward suddenly. Doctor Fein jumped.
“You seem tense today, Doctor. Now… if you don’t know what is giving me heartburn, then how the fuck are you supposed to treat me?” Doctor Fein shook his head and made some quick notes in his file. His delusions are getting worse. The patient-doctor relationship is clearly breaking down in a fundamental way.
“Scale. See? Scale is the key. Nothing in the limited span of a human life amounts to anything…if it wasn’t for the secret that eternity hides in the smallest spaces between each moment.”
A fly buzzed on the wall. Filth, Doctor Fein thought, swatting at it. Chaos and filth. He took another slurp of cold coffee.
“Think of rain drops falling from the sky. Splash! They hit a windshield, grip on, slide down slowly, mingling with dirt and grit. Things behave differently at different scales. Sub-atomic, atomic, molecular…this room here. The fluid and sedimentary dynamics of a riverbed. An ecosystem. A fucking solar system. Galaxies! Scale is a frame of reference, an idea, much like molecules themselves. Some things recapitulate on any scale, and some things change. The matter that composes this desk is mostly empty space. This is just basic physics. They didn’t teach this to you in school?”
The fly was rubbing its legs together, and it was cacophonous. Like steel wool on a rusted pan played through the speakers at an AC/DC concert. Its eyes were huge, a fractal rainbow of fruit flavors. Synesthesia, a new symptom. Time is passing, but how much?
“Find it, Doctor Fein. Find eternity,” Dionysus said, tapping on the desk.
The tapping snapped Doctor Fein back into time and Euclidean space. His hands bit down on themselves, curling into tight balls, as if his fingers desired escape from servitude to the almighty Hand. Fingernails parted flesh.
“NOW!” Dionysus screamed, slamming his fist on the table. Files flew into the air, containers full of pens and the Doctor’s remaining coffee toppled end-over-end, crashing to the floor.
Dionysus paused, his arms in the air, waiting for the great reveal. There was none. The Doctor stared dully at the droplets of coffee on the ground.
“I’m sorry, Doc. You missed it. Maybe next time around. Just pray the Buddhists are right about that. Sorry about the coffee, by the way. Oh, have you heard of the Zen stick of encouragement?”
“See the way you attain Satori, that’s what they call enlightenment, is by sitting. Just fucking sitting. But you need to be constantly jolted into the present, so that you can grasp it. Grasp eternity now. It is here, or it is nowhere. So the Roshi, the teacher, walks around and whacks students with a stick. The stick of encouragement.” They locked gazes. A rivulet of sweat dripped down Doctor Fein’s nose.
“I can talk at you all day. There is only one way to really show you.”
Dionysus grabbed a pen and drove it into Doctor Fein’s chest. It stuck out like a mini-erection, a Bic Priapus, spurtingⒸ blood instead of semen. The Doctor screamed and flailed, ripping it free.
“Breathe, Doctor Fein. You are alive!”
“HELP! GET IN HERE!”
“Oh, calm down. I didn’t stab you that deeply. You’ll be fine. Now take this opportunity–”
Two orderlies burst into the room and grabbed Dionysus so forcefully that the chair beneath him spun and crashed to the floor.
He offered no resistance, but looked at Doctor Fein with concern. “You tell me I’m sick and need to be cured but you’ve got issues, my friend. I think you should talk to somebody.”
Copyright© James Curcio. All rights reserved.