Sept. 20, 2021

Episode 15: KISS ME SON OF GOD

Episode 15: KISS ME SON OF GOD

As we’ve previously established, forward and backward are not necessarily stable concepts. Conway makes a choice. Wren steels their nerves. A familiar face appears. This is the end. (CWs: food, brief allusion to bullying, mild apocalyptic imagery,...


As we’ve previously established, forward and backward are not necessarily stable concepts.

Conway makes a choice. Wren steels their nerves. A familiar face appears. This is the end.

(CWs: food, brief allusion to bullying, mild apocalyptic imagery, death)

Nathan of The Storage Papers as AGENT/DIRECTOR; Jess of Nowhere, On Air as Liz. Go listen to their shows!

https://nowhereonairpodcast.weebly.com/

thestoragepapers.com

Kiss Me Son of God originally by They Might Be Giants (John Flansburgh and John Linnell)

Quotes from Jean Baudrillard's Fatal Strategies and John Stuart Mill.

TRANSCRIPT:

*Projector clicks, a dark smoky room filled with people*

 

AGENT: That brings us to the falling hand incident from a few years back, dead case 0069.

 

*sparse chuckles from audience members*

 

AGENT: *exasperated* Jesus, I’m running a daycare here. Now those of you who were with the office at the time will already know all this. You new guys won’t know anything about it. But that’s why we’re here, right? One of our field agents witnessed the whole thing, and gave their testimony during a thorough debriefing here in HQ. Pay attention to Wren’s account. I’m only going over it once.

 

*slide click*

*INTRO MUSIC*

 

WREN, on tape: Falling to earth from somewhere I chose not to think about was a left hand.

 

AGENT, on tape: So what did you do?


WREN: Well, I tried the one thing I hadn’t done yet. One last shot before the end of the world. I called Conway. 

 

CONWAY: Hard to explain how I got into that lighthouse. Can barely remember it myself through the fog of exhaustion. I was so damn tired. But get in I did. And at the top--or was it bottom?--was a dark, steamy room. An office of sorts, filled with smoke pouring out from some sort of awful machine in the corner. The engine’s shape was irregular, almost hard to look at, but it kept spewing its haze like humid breath. In the center of the office was a desk, set with--you guessed it--a phone, some stationary, a blank nameplate, a painting of an old lighthouse in a gold frame. I sat in the plush leather chair behind the desk. A highly welcome respite after the day I’d had. The woods, the mall, the deerhead priest, the lost fisherman. I needed a minute to put my feet up. I’d earned it.

 

I leaned back and looked at the empty notepad. “Welcome to the Deerland Mall” was printed at the top of each page. I had the materials to send a letter to the DLO, but what to actually write? “Hey, I’m in a weird lighthouse somewhere, come get me?” I didn’t see how that would work. Still, according to the fisherman, I had two paths in front of me: write home and go back to my life as it was, or answer the call and take the promotion.

 

And then it rang. No, not the offwhite rotary phone in front of me, it was my cell phone. Didn’t recognize the number. Probably somebody calling about my car’s warranty or a $50 walmart gift card. But at that point I was willing to take that risk just to hear someone who didn’t talk in metaphors again.

 

CONWAY, on the phone: Hello?

WREN, on the phone: Conway? Oh my god, is that you!?

CONWAY: Yeah, this is Conway. Hard to make out what you’re saying. Sorry, who is this?

WREN: Oh wow, I don’t know how I got through to you but listen: I’m coming to get you.

CONWAY: I don’t reckon that’s the smartest idea. I don’t even know wh--

WREN: I’ve followed your trail. I think I’m nearby now. But there’s something going on. Something you’re connected to. It’s bad. Lucy told me where to find you. I think she’s--

CONWAY: Now what is this about Lucy? You talked to her? Are you with the office? How...how is she?

WREN: I just got a postcard from her. But listen, something’s coming, and I don’t think it’s going to end well. I need you to come out of the cave now. I’ll be at the entrance waiting to take your hand.

CONWAY: Cave? THAT cave? I’m...wherever I am, I’m not in there.

WREN: Where are you? This may be it, Conway. The end.
CONWAY: I’m in a lighthouse. The fisherman in the place that looks just like a blockbuster said...well you know what, that doesn’t make any sense saying out loud...I’m tired, you know? I don’t want to keep going. I want to sit down for a minute. At this desk. I don’t think that’s selfish.

WREN: Desk?
CONWAY: Yeah there’s like a whole swanky office here. Guy said I could be the boss if I wanted to. Kenji didn’t have what it took, but I just might. I’m so damn tired of it all, you know? The grind. And there’s some kind of machine. I think I’ve heard of it before. Somebody called it the lucid engine. If I’m the dreamer, that means…

WREN: Conway I don’t think I follow. Boss? Just come back, okay? We need you.

CONWAY: Now you too, huh? Seems like everyone’s got something for me to do. More work. I don’t think I’ve got it in me. I need a break.

WREN, over static: Conway, you’re breaking up. Come back to me. I think you’re responsible for--

CONWAY: Can’t it wait 15 minutes?
WREN: I can’t hear you--

CONWAY: Look, I’m not sure what you expect of me, but I have a feeling you’re gonna be disappointed, like everyone else. Like Lucy. Even myself...I shouldn’t be reading mail in a damn office. What am I doing? I studied art, I did radio. Poorly, I might add, but I put in the time. Now my dad worked the same job for 40 years, bought a house, got a pension, and retired. I’ve got nothing to show for my labors but a pile of debts and a sore back. Feel like I’m owed something after all this or it’s for nothing. Look, I want to go home, but home kind of blows. Just live to work, work to live...It ain’t human. If I have a chance to get out of that hamster wheel...well, sometimes when an opportunity comes along, you have to snatch it.

 

Take care of yourself, kid. See you on the other side.



WREN: The line went dead. I had no idea what he meant, and it sounded like he wasn’t too sure, either. I left my car parked in the grass. I managed to tear my focus away from the falling hand and ventured into the woods. 

 

I had plenty of time to myself to think as I stepped through the crackling branches and deep grass between the trees. Why was I even pursuing this? Was finding someone I’ve never met before worth losing my job over? What if he didn’t want to be found? Wanted to disappear? Here I was trudging through the buggy forest looking for a cave. What was in the cave? No idea. Why was I looking for it? No idea. Still, I went on with my little task despite everything. Maybe it was the last thing left I felt I had any control over. Maybe I was just stubborn. Maybe I wanted someone to praise me. Well that’s for my therapist to sort out now.

 

I came upon a creek by a shale ridge. I hopped across on the smooth black stones breaking through the water. One, two, and slipped on the third. I fell into the creek. Not deep enough to be dangerous, but it didn’t help my mood. I sat in the muck for a moment. The stream was clear and cool. Looking down at the rippling surface, dappled sunlight bounced along the contours of the tiny waves washing away from me. I watched the light dance on the water for a minute or a year, and then saw something reflected in the water. A break in the sheer stone beside me that I hadn’t noticed before, or couldn’t see before. A gaping wound in the rock. 

 

I slowly rose from the creek, water pouring out of the pockets and folds of my clothes. I kept my eyes on the reflection on the surface, and walked backward to where the cave should be. I saw myself in the water, glaring sun alight on the ripples, my back to the cave. Then I went in.

 

AGENT, on tape: So far I’m not seeing how all this connects.

WREN, on tape: I was only barely starting to then, as well. 

AGENT: All right, go on. What was in the cave?

WREN: Clarity.
*music swells, then abruptly cuts out*

AGENT: Come on, really?

WREN: Yes, really, but more than that too, if you’d let me finish without interruption.

 

*Music continues*

 

WREN: I was surrounded by damp dark stone. My footsteps echoed with such resonance that the cave had to be massive. 

 

After minutes of stumbling through pure black, a dot of light appeared in the distance ahead. It was as good a waypoint as any other I had. So I continued toward it.

 

It may come as a shock to you, but I was a bit of a solitary child. No brothers or sisters. Parents kind, but busy. We rarely did anything as a family or even dined together, other than breakfast. Before they left for work and I went to school, we shared whatever bits of news we had, then parted ways. It may sound less than ideal, but I preferred it that way. I think I did. I’d spend the evenings looking up at the night sky, trying to tune in to astral signals I wasn’t supposed to know about. Surrounded by the hypnotic drone of cicadas and the polyrhythm of cricketsong, I found joy. For a time.

 

Flashbulb memories pulled forth by the cave. Ghostly afterimages and faroff scents. Birthdays, weekends, cardboard castles and polaroids. Enthusiastic child. A butterfly emerging from its chrysalis in a mason jar. Precocious. Singing, learning. Gentle. Someone playing soccer too rough, but only with me. Tackled, pinned, forfeit. Difference. The scratching of nails and humming of speakers. My first dance where I didn’t dance at all. Perfume. Laughter. Clothes that didn’t fit. Words that didn’t fit. Burnt scrambled eggs. Dark poetry and bad movies. Static. Carving sacred names into bedframes. Horizontal lines. Flowers emerging then shrinking. Summers smeared like watercolor into fall. Dripping paint. 

 

A college dropout. Destined for menial labor. A gear dislodged from the system. Quiet. Only a matter of time.

 

But the conjurers of tradition were wrong about me. I wasn’t meant to turn wheels. It took some time to unlearn these thought patterns I’d been forced into by school, work, and law. To undo the oppression of orthodoxy. Time and effort. A lot of pain. Mill said it’s better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. But look at the pig’s face, watch it frolic and splash, and then look at the prisons built for us: cubicles, luxury apartments, retail warehouses, slums, mass graves. If this is what it is to be human...you tell me.

 

At least I knew that as the curtain call approached, I was truly who I wanted to be. I was doing what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t die dissatisfied in a cage. I would die smiling in the mud.

 

Tiny points of starlight flicked into existence in the cave overhead, swirls of constellations and galaxy arms reaching. I heard crickets in the grass that was sprouting under my feet. The dot of light ahead grew into a blob, expanded in a luminescent rectangle a dozen feet over my head, then letters appeared. I smelled butter on the grill, cheap coffee. A beaming yellow sign in front of a yellow building. It was beacon for a wayward ship. Sitting alone at the end of the world, bathed in cosmic glow, was a waffle house.

 

 Of course it would be a waffle house. 

 

***

 

CONWAY: I’d have to be some kind of moron not to answer that call, wouldn’t I? How could I just go back to my life knowing all this? Knowing what I passed up? That’d be like handing back the winning lottery ticket. Though I’d heard stories about what happens to some lottery winners.

 

Of course I picked up the phone. There was no voice on the other end, only humming, crackling static. I felt electricity run from the receiver into my ear, down my shoulders and back, all through my limbs. A giddy bolt. I dropped the phone. Who knows if it hit the ground or disintegrated. I felt energy surge through my body. I was elated, unlimited. I suddenly knew that this is where I was supposed to be. I belonged to it, a missing limb returned.

 

My step was light, like walking on water, to the engine. I felt it calling to me, singing in smoke, waiting for my charged touch. This would be my deliverance and my deliverer. 

 

Lucy, I...Lucy, I couldn’t face you again. I wasn’t ready yet. I had to let that part go. I had to let go all the things that bound me to who I was, sever all ties if I were to succeed. My finger made contact with the holy motor and my body was no more. 

 

***

 

WREN: Buzzing lights flicked overhead inside the diner. I scanned the place for any signs of life, but no results. I took a seat at one of the sticky booths and picked at the duct taped upholstery. I tried to peer outside but all was dark. I could only see my face reflected in the glass. I looked tired. Lonely. Someone was standing behind me in the reflection. A waitress at my table. I couldn’t see her expression, but she silently held out a menu.

 

“Oh, no thank you. I’m just resting for a moment.”

 

Her arm remained outstretched, menu aloft.

 

“You’re the only one here. It’s late. I don’t want to be an imposition.”

 

She didn’t budge. 

 

“So be it. I’ll have two eggs--over easy but not too runny--two pieces of toast on white, a double side of hashbrowns--smothered, covered, and capped with ketchup on the side--and a cup of coffee--black if it’s fresh, a dash of milk if it’s been out a while.”

 

As if I needed a menu. She nodded and withdrew toward the kitchen. I heard eggs hit the griddle, sizzling and squeaking, crisping just so on the edges. My mind left my body for a moment. I floated above the restaurant in the void. I saw a family of possums digging through a dumpster out back. I wondered if I should have gotten a waffle. The clatter of a plate in front of me brought me back. A little smiley face of ketchup on the hashbrowns looked up at me.

 

Tell me, director, have you ever wept over breakfast? I have. There I sat, still wet from the creek and caked in mud, huge streams of tears running down my hot face as I dug into the greasy pile. Someone made this for me. Cared for me. Not in a familial or romantic sense, just in the way that people take care of other people. Nothing else in the world mattered beyond this plate, this place, for just a moment. It’s the little pleasures that keep us going even in the shadow of apocalypse. A waffle house left standing after a hurricane. 

 

Clarity. The odd letter, the directives from above, the fuzzy call. The pieces fell into place. Conway wasn’t coming back.

 

The waitress returned from...somewhere to take my empty plate. I thanked her, but she didn’t respond. Instead she turned to leave, which is when I realized that she was only using her right hand.

 

I tried to ask for her name, but she was gone. A receipt left stuck to the table made the answer clear: “Your server today was: Lucy” accompanied by a smiling face.

 

AGENT, on tape: Wait, Lucy’s real?

WREN, on tape: Real as you or I.

AGENT: But what happened to her? Where is she? WHO is she?

WREN: I’ll get to it eventually. Promise. First there’s the issue of the Boss.

 

****

 

CONWAY: My physical form dissipated in streaks of light, as did any lingering doubts I might have had. My fingers reached out across the beach, bending over the land. My feet were tree roots, ancient and intractable. My heart caught fire and burned eternally underground. Never again did I need to worry about hunger, pain. Money. I’d have people for that. Speaking of…

 

I became aware of all those under my domain. Offices like hives, honeycomb cubicles full of shadows. Warehouses of hollow shells sanded down to nothing throughout this great right-to work-state. Souls destroyed by the midwest burned in the lucid engine, now they were husks, but working husks. All at my command with a single impulse. And if I ever needed more workers, I could reach through the wires, touch some hearts, and set them aglow. I wouldn’t abuse that power, I thought. I’d make a fine boss. Great, even. Pay’s not bad for entry level work so they shouldn’t complain.

 

So what would my first order of business be now that I was the Boss, Wren? Well, it would behoove me to make sure someone like me doesn’t find me and take over. I’d need a way to contain any traces of myself, this place, and its inhabitants. I’d need to prevent word from getting out to the public about...well, any of this. I would need people, not just my shadows here but real hands and feet employees, to do it. 

 

I’d need to form an organization, one dedicated to cataloging things out of place and setting them right. Or at least keeping the things that shouldn’t exist hidden from public view. A web of people all over the country, a low-profile surveillance network, a vault. I’d form The Dead Letter Office of Aisling, Ohio. 

 

It all lined up. All those piled up cliches, the missing person, the mysterious town, the odd letters. Of course they were all a ruse designed to grab my interest and not let go. It’d been me the whole time. I built this place, on the backs of those I used to work with. 

 

To quote a great philosopher, if I may: “Perfect is the event which assumes its own mode of disappearance...Imagine a good resplendent with all the power of Evil: this is God...creating the world on a dare and calling on it to destroy itself...”

 

Once I was gone, I needed to make sure no one went looking for me. I’d have to find some cog and keep them at my old desk to sort through the mess. A real beaurocrat. Tell them they’re looking for clues. Keep them on a track.

 

I’d need an intermediary to pass between me and the membrane of the real. Someone of the dream but outside it. It had to be Kenji. The second man, the son of god. My courrier, my herald. He brought me here--at my own behest I knew then--and he would keep me here.

 

Now all I had to do was sit back and let my word be known. Kenji, take dictation: 

 

There’s electricity in the margins on the page, an atom bomb’s worth. In the space between the words, there’s energy. The things we can’t see are made of that energy. They travel through the wires and hide in stoplights. We can’t see them because we’re not meant to see them. They come out at night and ride on the electrons in the air. We are made of electrons. When the twilight is gone, and no songbirds are singing, God comes through the lines and sits in the streetlights. He waves but you can’t see it (fades into The Boss voice)

 

AGENT, on tape: He told you all that, huh? But he’s gone.

WREN, on tape: In a manner of speaking, yes.

AGENT: Was he ever really there?

WREN: In a manner of speaking, no. He was a mask.

AGENT: What about you?

 

WREN: I walked back through the darkness of the cave satiated, but determined. The stars disappeared, the grass receded, and the balmy woods returned. I wandered back to my car and looked up into the clear blue. The hand above had closed into a fist, and it hung motionless in the air, waiting like the cocked hammer of a pistol. The insects in the woods had gone quiet. A hawk was frozen mid-strike. Everything was still and silent. The missing second that only comes along once in a million years.

 

If the world were a just place, it all would have ended there. The hand would have disappeared, the world would keep spinning, the birds would sing. But it’s not, and it didn’t. The only justice in the world is that which we make ourselves, by olive branch or blood. 

 

You must understand: this is the inevitable outcome when things are out of balance, when we submit to orthodoxy. When we try to drown out that strange frequency. When all is built on bad faith, entire structures in our brain designed to lie to ourselves. It all collapses eventually. It’s fatal. Slow death. 

 

I tried calling Conway again, but he didn’t answer. He made me care about him and then turned on me. Damn it all, I let myself get vulnerable. I couldn’t be afraid to get my hands dirty this time. I wouldn’t be the beetle, devoured by the hungry bird. I would be the wasp, stinging all the way down.

 

I slammed the car door and sped off in a cloud of gravel and dust.

 

It’s fatal, but it is preventable, this collapse. There’s a solution; we’re not yet at the end of history. If I couldn’t convince Conway--the Boss--to face what was coming nicely, I’d drag him out, kicking and screaming if necessary. I couldn’t do it alone, but I could find others. We had the numbers, we could do it. For me, for Lucy, for everyone.

 

By blood it is, Boss.

 

I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage

Called the blood of the exploited working class

But they've overcome their shyness

Now they're calling me Your Highness

And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

 

I destroyed a bond of friendship and respect

Between the only people left who'd even look me in the eye

Now I laugh and make a fortune

Off the same ones that I tortured

And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

 

I look like Jesus, so they say

But Mr. Jesus is very far away

Now you're the only one here who can tell me if it's true

That you love me and I love me

 

I built a little empire out of some crazy garbage

Called the blood of the exploited working class

But they've overcome their shyness

Now they're calling me Your Highness

And a world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

Yes the world screams, "Kiss me, Son of God"

 

AGENT, in projector room: So we’ve covered that Conway was the founder and Boss of the DLO, Wren tried to track him down, and we were all about to die. Any questions so far? No? Good. Now let’s get to the weird stuff.

 

END

 

LIZ, floating in the void: Where am I? All I remember is...fire...am I dead? If I’m dead, how come I’m still like...thinking. Suck it, Descartes.

 

Damn. Does that mean I wrong about the whole god thing?

 

WREN, from the shadows: Who might you be?

 

LIZ: I’m Liz, who the hell are you? Wait...you’re not…

 

WREN: No! No, I’m Wren. I’m looking for collaborators. Shadows with some bite left. 

 

LIZ: Uhh...

 

WREN: I understand this is all very confusing. But if you help me, I’ll return the favor.

 

LIZ: Just tell me this: how’s Priya? Is she okay?

 

WREN: Let me show you.

 

LIZ: Oh god...

 

WREN: I know who did this, and I’m coming for him. Are you in?

 

REAL END

 

OUT OF FICTION CREDITS:

 

Hey everyone, it’s your host here. Thank you for listening to the first two seasons of the show (assuming you didn’t just skip to this episode, that would be a bad idea). Now I’ll be taking a break from here on out to work on some season 3 ideas. I would like to thank my patrons, carriers Flo and Jessica, Receiving clerks Ezra, Elena, Jennifer, Patricia, Paul, Spicy Nigel, and Gadz. Thank you all for your support throughout season 2, and to everyone else sharing and supporting the show. If you’d like to get your name in the credits next season like these fine folk, sign up at Patreon.com/somewhereohio and select one of the tiers there. If you like the show, drop a rating or review on your podcast platform of choice. It’s free, if you do a rating you don’t even have to write anything and it helps the creators a lot (even though it seems like maybe it shouldn’t). Until next time.