Warren Ellis - Crooked Little Vein
There was actually a porno documentary pasted between the hump flicks as “bonus programming.” A scrawny girl with pretty eyes and teeth like a ninety-year-old chainsmoker cackled to the camera that, while tampering with her female coperformer, her “entire fuckin’ arm went right up there! It was awesome!” Sitting there naked but for a light crusting of popcorn crumbs, I scratched my belly and considered for a few moments the erotic voltage of someone’s forearm suddenly appearing in your abdomen. I just couldn’t see it.
A thin man in a jacket someone had plainly advised him to buy as a sick joke sat in front of the camera next, attending carefully to his 1983 flicked hair with a sensitive palm. He was one of those disturbing people who only appear to have a chin from certain angles. When he inclined his head, his chin became a tiny couch-like thing sitting an inch above his collarbone. He was introduced as America’s premier male adult performer. It was explained that he was a triple threat as producer, writer, and trained cock with body attached. Despite plainly being convinced that he was also America’s greatest comedy genius (“I have two funny voices. That’s one more than most people. John Cleese only has one funny voice.”), he wasn’t entirely stupid. He had a Kim Jong Il–like moment where he seemed to claim that he’d invented anal sex, but he said something interesting after that.
“Anal sex was edgy. It wasn’t a mainstream thing. But time was, cum shots were edgy. And there was a response to cum shots, and then every porno had cum shots, and now there’s bukkake. Same with anal sex. Big shock when it was first shown, and now anal sex is in every movie. The audience takes that on and then says, What’s next? What’s new? So all this stuff, that was hidden away for years, is mainstream now. You know what else? There was a movie in England last year, an arty movie, based on a literary kind of novel. And it has blowjobs. The actress—and this was straight actors and actresses, not adult performers—had to suck the actor off on camera. Porno’s already crossed over, man. We’re mainstream American shit now. If people out there want to worry about something, tell them to worry about what comes next. Worry about what comes after us.”
I had no idea what bukkake was, and absolutely no interest in finding out. But the rest of it resonated with what the chief of staff had said to me the day before. Things people tried to not even conceive of in the 1950s were matter-of-fact daily life in the 00s.
Is it the Oh-Ohs, I wondered? Or the Zero-Zeros? More beer was required to puzzle this one out.
The room service people pleaded with me not to answer the door dressed entirely in popcorn again.
I put the phone down, picked up the handheld again, and sank into the luxurious sofa with it.
If the documents filling the handheld were to be believed, they’d spent the last two years using every paranoia-inducing spook operation you’ve ever heard of in tracking the book down. FBI, CIA, NSA, even ISA, which I knew were the president’s own spooks, formed by Carter in the seventies. Lots of rumors, third-party reports, hearsay and bullshit, and a litany of hotspots missed by months or years.
The book didn’t seem to stay in anyone’s hands for long. It appeared to be considered an asset to be traded. The mysterious Chinese woman from San Francisco started the game by trading it to a rogue private hospital in Texas in return for a multiple trepanation operation. She had a circle of small holes drilled in her head, just below the hairline, that supposedly allowed her to transmit hypnotic mental radio. She died in Guatemala in 1985, attended by eighty-eight Fortune 500 figures, all of whom had enjoyed extended sexual knowledge of her.
The book stayed in Texas for six months, before being traded to an unknown figure in NASA in return for one of their experimental neural implant transceivers. A notation insisted that the patent actually exists, and was lodged by NASA—a two-way radio smaller than a dime and designed to be placed directly into the brain. Space-flight is all about reducing the weight of whatever you’re trying to fire into orbit, and two ounces in the brain has to be better than ten pounds of radio in the cockpit.
Unless you’re the guy having a jagged circle of steel built with lowest-bidder components wedged into your living brain, I guess.
Additional notation explained that a secret NASA memo released on the Internet in 1996 revealed that the TV show The Six Million Dollar Man was actually a CIA blind created specifically to cover a possible breach of security over astronauts with extensive bioelectronic modification escaping the system and going public.
The documentation went on in this style for some considerable volume. I started skipping, decided to just see where in the stack of files I’d land.
I landed on New York City, two years ago.
A private group called NULL (notation: “colossal perverts”) held the book for a month. Traded as a hush payment by a financially embarrassed mayoral candidate in return for silence over unnamed sexual proclivities, given to a major city landlord in return for lifetime free rent on a small building in SoHo.
It was Sunday night. I thought I’d go and take a look at the building, case it for a proper visit Monday or Tuesday, after I’d bought some new clothes.
I blasted the crumbs off my skin in the shower, and got hot water in my beer.
The sun was down by the time I got down to the lobby, full of people who worked for rich people. The rich people stay somewhere else. Their people stay at the Z on the expense account. People, talking about being people with people. People shoptalk. The people community. Magazine-beautiful, but almost pathologically uncharismatic. A swarm of pretty drones. Several of them looked me up and down. I was just unshaven, disheveled, stinking, and confused-looking enough to be Somebody. They weighed my wallet with X-ray vision. Perhaps I needed people.
I navigated past the swarm as best I could. Some of them floated in my direction while appearing to be continuing their conversations. I rearranged my jacket, allowing them to see my gun. Six backed off, but three got erections.
The ninja doorcrew on the sidewalk were scratching their nuts and talking about going to Mulberry Street for some clams. “Ywannacab?” One of them launched himself out into the middle of Lexington Avenue, howled like Bruce Lee being enthusiastically taken from behind, and waved his special ninja sword a lot. A yellow cab swerved over from the far lane and had a good crack at harvesting the door ninja off his left fender.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I didn’t actually want a cab.
So I let the cabbie take me back to the Village, getting into the tangle of it, headed for the backstreet address in the handheld. The cabbie was white and extremely proud of it. He was of the opinion that he was the Last White Cabbie in New York City, in fact, because all of the others were fucken monkeys who got off the fucken boat and the fucken city said welcome to fucken America oh and have a fucken taxi driver medallion while you’re fucken at it you fucken monkey you.
The property that had been held for this group was a narrow building with back-alley access. There was a handpainted wooden sign propped up by the front door. Whoever made it had gotten all their knowledge of the written word through cave painting. A legless guy on the corner, perched on an ancient diarrhea-stained skateboard, watched me as I kind of bent to the side and squinted at the sign, struggling to translate it. The word NULL was clear. The other major term seemed to be MHP BUKKAKE. Bukkake, whatever it was, appeared to be hip among the young folk of today.
So, like an idiot, I went in.
The hall was lit by a single lamp with a green shade, turning everything the color of snot. A large man who appeared not to know he was bald sat at a chair and table boosted from a school, asscheeks overflowing the seat’s weathered plastic. He clanked a tin box full of coins at me. “Two bucks,” he croaked. His neck inflated like a frog’s when he spoke.
“It’s movie night, man.”
“Shit, I forgot,” I covered. I gave him ten bucks. “For the cause, dude.”
“Cool.” He took the ten bucks, made to put it in the box, and then pocketed it when he thought I wasn’t looking.
It was a walk-up—the only way to go was upstairs. Tinny noise clattered down the stairs. I headed up.
It was dark and big. Most of the walls on that floor had been knocked out, turning it into a makeshift auditorium. The seating was several rows of interlocking plastic chairs. Must’ve been fifty people in there, halflit by the glow of the movie being projected onto one long wall, plastered smooth and painted white. I took the first free seat close to the staircase I could find. The movie glow let me read the white plastic ink on the T-shirt of the big guy next to me: NO, I WON’T FIX YOUR FUCKING COMPUTER.
It was a Godzilla movie, one of the old Japanese ones. Some poor mad bastard strapped into a rubber lizard suit and paid ramen money to stomp on a balsa model of Tokyo.
There was a clumsy cut, and then another pretend lizard-monster clumped across a bonsai Tokyo. The picture quality was different. It was cut in from another movie. Cut back to Godzilla; but in slow motion, with a rose filter over the image, and what sounded like Justin Timberlake mixed in over the top.
There was a perceptible shift in the audience. I heard the guy next to me hold his breath.
More rubber lizards appeared, cut in from what could have been half a dozen movies. Then a long, loving tracking shot of Godzilla, from his lizard toes up to his bulging eyes. The music swelled. Another cut; white doves flying. And then a snatch of homemade film, someone in a Godzilla mask, going “Grrrrh” in a way that sounded distinctly American.
Someone across the room said. “Yeahhh,” and I looked across. My eyes were adjusting to the dark now. Mostly men, in T-shirts and shorts. A few women, dressed the same way, obviously there with boyfriends. The only woman who looked to be there alone was a skinny girl on the far side, with dyed-black hair, a dyed-black wifebeater, and what looked like full-sleeve tattoos. I panned back, and for the first time got a good look at the guy next to me.
He was wearing a large green foam glove molded to resemble a lizard paw on his right hand. And his right hand was placed very determinedly on his crotch.
On the screen, Godzilla was wrestling with another lizard monster. Gasps from a porno flick were laid over the top.
Someone groaned in the dark. I looked over to see a woman rubbing her boyfriend’s lap with a lizard-paw glove.
“This isn’t fair,” I hissed, hating the world for insisting on always fucking doing this to me.
The guy next to me turned around. Sweat glittered on his forehead. “Dude,” he whispered, “you didn’t get a glove?”
“No, it’s…no one’s told me what MHP means, that’s all.” I wasn’t going to admit I didn’t know what bukkake was, since it was so obviously a badge of the cool.
He smiled in the dark, showing me teeth that would’ve made Shane MacGowan puke. “You didn’t know we got a word now? Damn, you’ve been away, dude. Macroher-petophile. Herpetophile, for people who, you know, like lizards. Like lizards. And macro for like, big, large scale. So, like, people who…”
People who want to fuck Godzilla.
The sound track erupted with a roar mixed with an aggressive orgasm, and his beady eyes snapped back to the screen. Godzilla had his teeth in the neck of another reptile. The audience was heaving now, a subsonic rumble of deep gasping, fifty people radiating wet heat into the auditorium.
The tattooed girl took out a little handheld, backlit, and was scratching notes into its handwriting-recognition system with a stylus.
Godzilla had a lizardy thing down in the dirt, grappling wildly. The guy next to me groaned, “Yeah, take it, you bitch…”
Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” entered the sound track.
The guy next to me began frantically scrubbing his crotch with the glove. I decided to keep my eyes on the screen. It was obvious to me by this point that I was never ever going to have sex again, and I just needed to get through this until the lights came up and I could find someone to question.
As Donna Summer started into the last lap toward her fake orgasm, the image began to cut back to the new footage of the person in the mask. By this point, everyone else in the room was getting there, too. Aside from a guy in the back, who was being berated by his girlfriend by letting fly too soon. He was getting pissed and growling “You knew not to make me think about the scales.”
There was a flash of white on the screen. It took me a second to realize that, in the new footage, someone had ejaculated on the mask. And then again. Donna Summer let rip. The mask was battered with a dozen ejaculations. And the room erupted. I covered my face as the guy next to me practically bucked himself off his seat.
“Bukkake,” said a voice in my ear. “Multiple ejaculations onto the face. It’s the new thing.” It was the tattooed girl, crouched behind my chair. “This is the only genuine and authentic Godzilla Bukkake night in America.”
I twisted around to look at her, as the rest of the audience squeezed out their last drops into green foam paws. Her eyes were green, too. “You’re not a dinosaur fetishist,” she said, studying my face. “Why are you here?”
“I’ll tell you if you tell me more about this place.”
“Deal. You look a bit pale, and I don’t think you want to see the clean-up session.”
The door guy entered the room, carrying cages of thirsty-looking monitor lizards, long tongues flicking.
I ran so fast there was a vapor trail.
Outside, I scrabbled for my cigarettes, still vaguely angry at the world. The tattooed girl stole one off me and lit up with a plastic lighter in the shape of a baby alien. We leaned back against the nearest wall and exhaled up into the night air, little prayers that our passive smoke would kill someone we didn’t like.
“What were you doing there, Mike? There’s no way you’re MHP.”
“I’m a private investigator. This place was an old lead I wanted to follow up on. But the usual happened.”
“What’s the usual?”
“Doesn’t matter. You stood out in there, too, you know.”
“Yeah, I guess. I’m writing a thesis.”
“Extremes of self-inflicted human experience. It’s not everyone who subjects themselves to Godzilla bukkake, after all.”
She had a dirty laugh. Green eyes studied me from picture frames of intricate eyeliner and shadow. I was abstractly aware of wanting her to like me.
“Got anything about tantric ostrich date-rape in your thesis?”
Her eyes sparkled in the dark.