Palmer and the
by Cpl Ferro
Paranoia prickled Palmer in a synaesthetic resonance with the snoring of
Childs from the next bed. Crazy day, stupid tv show, chill out with a happening
doobie, now Das Commandante even murdered someone. Heavy. That
kind of tight-assed, itchy-fingered response wiggled around in Palmer's mind, reminding him of authorities past, that riot cop with the mole on his
neck rapping on the window of his ‘‘69 Charger like it was a bongo drum.
Bop-bop-bop ba-dop bop-be-dop, dusting the window with a little glass spider. That was the first and blessedly last joint Palmer ever ate, and
fortunately for him the only one in the car, thanks to his genial largesse
earlier that evening in the park, awaiting the fireworks. Now he remembered
that awful black riot club, poking around inside his car, looking for an
excuse. Palmer, suddenly saintly, stood at attention while his custom beauty got the once over, staring with cocked head at that huge mole on the
cop's neck as he worked and grunted. He wondered if it was really a tattoo,
put there to make him look uglier. "Don't look at me, you grassbag dork. You're lucky the drunk truck's full. So beat it." Palmer shifted out of
there like oil, and once home shop vacked his car's engine for the next hour.
The memory got sucked away leaving a reverse-polarity mole stuck to his mind. His eyelids lifted in revived awareness. Garry might come picking
around in here, he thought. Privacy was a scarce commodity round these parts, and lots of stuff ended up being open secrets that you learned to see
without watching or hear without listening to. But Garry had shot a man, and everything suddenly got a lot heavier. The camp felt smaller, a plenum
of constructed objects pressed together into a perfectly interlocking puzzle. Everything touching everything else. And everything searchable.
Palmer could feel the tiny bubbles of privacy intercalated into the corners
of camp space-time suddenly implode with audible pops, punctured and filled
by Garry-fingers. "We found this in your room, Palmer," Garry would say.
"We aren't exactly sure what it is. Childs said it was yours. Now, I'm no
chemist, but I'd say we have a dangerous substance here, and a danger to us." He felt this crazy jag of laughter try to split his mouth open as he
looked at Garry, and Garry had these huge brown moles all over him like
polka dots, but he was standing there so stern, like he could really kick Palmer's ass into jail. How's /that/ for a welcome home? Nice warm cell in
frigging Illinois State.
Palmer suddenly asked himself, plainly: Why the hell did you bring LSD to
Antarctica? He could almost hear Dr. Copper ask: Good God, what /possessed/
you? Possessiveness and fear of possession, actually, he thought. He didn't want to leave it at home, in case he had any unwelcome visitors. But
it was a unique blend he didn't want to giveaway. Better safe on me, he thought. I can burn it there if I have to. Burning it, now, that sounded
like a very good idea. Let's burn it, and live life in peace, how about it? Yes, mucho grande good idea senor. Ariba, ariba! Andalez! Get your
greasy-monkey ass outta bed, gringo!
Palmer sat up in bed, now fully alert. The videotape had finished, filling
the screen with snow. He went to turn the tv off, looked at Childs still snoring, and thought better of it. He crept over to some pinups near his
bunk, and extracted numerous pins from the ugliest girl, freed the clipping
and peeled off a small thin paper package taped to its reverse, grimacing as
the clipping crinkled and threatened to tear. Back up went the photo, and
then Childs coughed and shifted on his bed. Into a pocket of his hung coveralls went the package.
Childs turned to him. "Not tired?"
"Uh, hungry, man. You hungry?"
As the note of adrenalin faded Palmer gathered that he indeed was hungry. Maybe it can wait, he thought. I mean, Garry ain't gonna be crashing down
the door right this minute, now is he? Take care of it tomorrow, bring it
to the shop and test the icing torch on it while Childs is checking on the
plants. Yeah, shit, sure. I gotta get some food.
Palmer wandered out into the dorm corridor, and turned toward the exit when
Norris came through it, clutching a cloth bundle. "Oh, hi Palmer. Excuse
"You got anything to eat there?"
"Yeah, some leftovers."
"Spare me a trip, will you?"
"Only if you do me a favour."
"Fix the vent in my room. It's too cold in there."
"Ah, shit. Alright, lemme get some stuff."
If it's too cold in your room it's gotta be a friggin freezer, fatso, Palmer
thought as he returned to his room.
"Nauls chase you out?" asked Childs.
"Nah, Norris's vent crapped out. He's extorting me. Ah, save me a trip."
Palmer threw on his coveralls and left. "Sucker," Childs said.
Knock knock knock. "Come in," Norris said from within.
"It's under the desk," Norris said. "Let me see what I have for you." He
shut the door and undid the bundle, sorting through some rolls, cookies, leftover meat pie, a package of chocolate cooking chips.
Palmer pulled out a lighter and bent down under the desk. The vent looked a
little bent. There was a weird noise like wind. "I think this thing is
Something grabbed his ankles and he started, banging his head on the underside of the desk with a star-spangled yelp, eyes squeezed shut. Norris
was shoving extension cords up his pant legs for some unknown reason. The
weird noise became a rattling like a snake. Extension cords were around his
neck, choking off his shout of inquiry, "Nor–!?" Two heavy, padded, pliant
weights like sacks of meal thudded onto Palmer's thighs and upper back,
pinning him to the floor, squeezing his lungs like balloons. He smelt an awful smell, beyond alcohol-enhanced halitosis, more like advanced pyorrhea.
Fear-born strength surged through his limbs, and he thrashed maniacally, cracking his head on the under-desk and floor many times, dazing himself,
wrestling with these weird wet cords that jumbled around his head, down his
collar, through his pockets. Warm fluid soaked his clothes and he felt tearing at his undershirt, then great many-angled pain, and then
Ashagura the Snake Demon hovered over him, wearing a blue sweater, mouth opening wide enough to swallow a car. Palmer felt cold and exposed and very
there. "Don't eat me!" he said, terrified.
"Who are you to tell me whom to eat?" asked the Snake.
Palmer looked down, and realised that his own body grew out of Ashagura's tail. For some reason he found that so funny that he started laughing,
shaking, and screaming all at once.
The Snake moved closer to him, and swallowed him. He couldn't see and couldn't move. He existed in some kind of wet, disjointed, awful,
suffocating place. Strands pulled at him for a long, long time, until chunks of him were all over the place, yet connected in the darkness.
The Snake's stomach gurgled in the darkness, and he gurgled with it, as everything got larger and larger and he got smaller and smaller. He could
feel a pulsing, then, rush...stop...rush...stop, and he pulsed around through tiny tunnels, glowing in delight, breathing one molecule at a time
like swallowing a pill.
He heard voices, chattering, always chattering, like silver epistles catching him in their web of words. There was so much light! He found a
home among friends, sharing his pills with them, and they talked with him,
soaking him in their fulgent radiation, filling him up with words upon words
which told him he must walk to the silver highway. He realized that he /was/ the silver highway, and he left to rush upon it into stillness.
One hundred trillion cells formed this stillness, a single prismatic Calculation formed of biophotonic resonance. Is this eternity? he thought.
Time measures change. Infinite time must measure infinite change. Yet eternity is changeless. So eternity must exist in no
In that instant he knew where Ashagura had been. He knew where it had come
from, and why it had come, hungry, to the world. Its mind was its body, as
was he. He knew the forms it held within it. He knew that they were trapped there, eternally.
He also knew that Lord Krishna would not save him here, and that the old tale had lied. The Snake was the world-devourer, a servant of Hell. In his
devourment, the Snake's body became his own mind, and he realized where his
soul would go once this eternity had passed.
THIS WAS REAL.
The profundity of his predicament fed itself, amplifying meaning throughout
his hundred trillion-celled brain, shocking him into ever-greater awareness,
like awakening from a night terror into the alarm clock of a bugger's prison, only immediately to awake from that into the cyanide chamber as the
pellet plops, eyes bulging open, a hundred eyes, a thousand eyes splitting
open simultaneously, pupils dilating into absolute fear.
The closer a mind gets to realising it is approaching Hell, the faster that
mind works, seeking escape, fearing the worst, imagining Hell. If, even for
the briefest instant, a mind truly awoke to the threat of Hell, truly believed in it, that mind would go mad, and begin to work faster than it
ever consciousness works, calculating, calculating endlessly, imagining endlessly the terrors of Hell. The more meaningful, the more novel a
situation, the slower time flows. Anticipating Hell, time would slow.
Time would slow.
Frozen in a block of eternity, Palmer's soul screamed, and screamed, and screamed.
* * *
As he was coming out of the washroom, Childs met Palmer in the hallway, carrying some meat pie and a fistful of cookies. Childs carried a brown
"You look like /shit/," said Childs.
"I need some shuteye, man."
"Well get in there and give me some of that."
"Norris said he ain't feeling so good."
"That right," Childs said, holding the door open mock courteously.
On his bed, munching a cookie, Childs looked over at his assistant flaked on
"Sonofabitch. Norris gone and bought something from him."
Childs sighed and turned out the lights.