act 2, scene 3 (The Pentakotic Gateway: The Cosmic Christ)
Around a caged light bulb hung an aura of smoke that grew thicker and darker as cigars were smoked during the course of the evening by two very large Italian men seated at a fold-out card table. Underneath the caged bulb their faces looked swollen from alcohol consumption, their skin yellow with dissipation, and their eyes bleary and water-soaked. The air was foul when a slim, attractive, fresh-faced Italian, in his twenties, entered the room and begun coughing excessively as if to protest the smoke.
"Look at this room," he said between coughs. "How can you stand it?"
The men were playing poker and looked up all at once, saying, "How can we stand you?" Another added, "Hey Gio, what's up?"
"Not much," said the kid.
"Go sweep the loading dock and you won't have to breath our air, Sunshine."
"But I wanted to play cards."
"After the shipment comes, and you unload the truck, you can leave."
"What a crock!" said the kid.
"Ahhh, go sweep the floor before I belt you one."
"Ahhh your self."
The kid went for the broom in the shadowed corner. Wafts of cigar smoke hovered in the air, which the boy blew away with his hands in exaggerated motions expressing the same disgust. The room was small and cloudy. The tortured body of Billy Bayber hung upside down by its ankles from the ceiling, limp and lifeless in the smoke.
"Is he dead? He looks it," said the Italian kid.
The man in the bloody shirt removed the cigar from his mouth, saying "Maybe, maybe not," then reinserted the cigar and smiled. A five card flush. The poker chips were amassed on his side the table.
It was after 7 PM and the Italian boy begun sweeping a section of the warehouse where cigarette butts were scattered on the floor. Now that the tortured cries had seized, the long aisles, in-between the tall twenty foot shelves were silent and the big cast iron boiler in the basement could be heard rumbling. The decaying, dusty, lumber-brick structure conveyed the ghostly, time-filled essence of a buildings filled with memoriesa century of crime.
Before Sergei Rostropovich helped introduce the Russian Mob to the cityplacing the Italian Mob in direct competition with the fiercer, stronger, better financed Tin Clan of Moscowmillions in drug money flowed through the warehouse. The Tin Clan had maneuvered their way into the Kansas City drug market, and it was mainly because of Billy Bayber's uncle that this amounted to millions in lost revenue for the Italian mob.
At half past the hour a honk signaled the arrival of the anticipated shipment. The boy, in his disco attire, propped the broom against the wall and pulled up on the garage-style door; once the door was slid all the way up it revealed a decayed parking lot behind the warehouse and an eighteen wheel tractor trailer reversing straight back towards the rubber tires padding the loading dock.
The rain-sweetened air blew the swampy-smelling scent of the Missouri River into the warehouse, along with the smell of diesel smoke. This was because the driver never cut the motor. Oddly, he remained in the cab the entire time, chain smoking cigarettes in the side-view mirror as the tractor trailer was emptied of its cargo; electronic equipment from Mexico, color TV's, small engine parts, Mexican picture frames, and excellent counterfeit medical equipment. The boy compensated for his lack of expertise with loading equipment by driving with sheer joy and aggressiveness; a cocky grin on his face; the top button of his shirt exposing his gold necklace; occasionally spinning the tires when an innocent spirit of recklessness moved him to do so.
The truck was emptied and driver pulled away as anonymously as he came, like the anonymous tug boats moving up and down the Missouri or the anonymous jet craft hovering in the midnight air above the downtown airport across the river.
The boy seemed eager to leaveat first. After parking the fork lift he hurried toward the smoky back offices; he was sweaty from work and seemed overly concerned about his appearance. In the office, he started combing his hair.
"I'm leaving now," he told the fat men.
"Then go, no one's keeping you here."
But then his eyes locked on Billy Bayber once again. And again, the spectacle amazed him. "Are you sure you want me to leave?" he said, pocketing his comb without losing eye-contact with the dangling body.
"Sure I'm sure," said the fat men. "Are you kidding? Imagine the vanity of this kid. How do you live with yourself?"
"I manage just fine, thank you. Damned if he doesn't look dead."
"I think he is dead," said the other older, fat man.
But the other disagreed. "Huh, uh."
"No? Are you sure?"
"Sure I'm sure. I see him breathing. See. . . his ribs moved a little bit."
Now they were looked at the dangling body. The thick gauge rope was tied to a wooden rafter that extended across the ceiling, around Billy's ankles. The Bayber kid was clothed in the same black leather pants that he wore when he was kidnapped ten days ago, and had grown bony and emaciated since then. He was shirtless and welted whip marks were visible on his back, from which ribs protruded. A current of suffering permeated the pale, thin, dangling body. Yet the face was shrouded in peace, conveying tranquility in the midst of physical agony.
"I don't see his ribs moving. To me, he looks dead."
"Nah, nah. You don't understand. He's not dead."
"His eyes are open!"
"I know that. He's some kind of freak, though. That's the way he sleeps. Maris didn't tell you? We beat the hell out of this kid."
"And?" asked the kid.
"And nothing. He did nothing. He moaned at first. He cried. And he screamed. Man, how he screamed! Then nothing. He slept. It's as if a trance fell over him. From then on it was like beating a mannequin. Nothing was there. You see? Nothing was inside. His body seemed un-occupied, yet was breathing. Every now and then his face would show signs of life: his eye lids would shutter; his finger would bend and un-bend; his chin elevated then fell to his chest. Nothing seemed to connect, and he would sink back into some kind of weird trance all over again."
The Italian kid laughed. "That's amazing!" he said.
"The boy's a freaka fucking freak."
"What did he do?"
"He's the nephew of Sergei Rostropovich. That's what he did. He was born. Anyone for another hand of five card stud?"
The floor was littered with food wrappers, empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, and electric cables that snaked through the room, connected to a car battery. Chains dangled from the ceiling. A bull whip lay on a crate. Hung on the wall was a baseball bat. A .45 magnum lay on the floor, just outside the sphere of light that surrounded the card table. The floor was smeared with old blood. Fresh blood continued to drip from Billy's scalp as the body moved faintly in pendulum motions; rocking gently back and forth a matter of inches; the finger tips dragging limply against the floor; the face white and corpse like. The half-closed eyes, without blinking, stared opaquely, catatonically, glowingly, on the man named Vince whose massive three-hundred pound frame consumed a dainty fold-out chair.
When the mafia kidnapped Billy Bayber they stole his belongings and confiscated his art work. The stolen canvases now filled the crates where he hung. Most of the crates were nailed shut, ready for shipment overseas to a French buyer. The open, un-nailed crates overflowed Styrofoam popcornthe canvases defamed with a knife blade. The vandalized canvases lay on the floor or were propped against the crates in open view.
The boy's art work was a grand gallery of supersensible dream worlds that he knew from first hand experience, by immersing himself in the astral world and seeking Christ there. Ten times he crossed and re-crossed the black impious gulf between the Earth and the shining orb of Algol; explored the perverted kingdoms of Nib and Quatzotle; witnessed first hand the burning lakes of fire flaming in the lower hells; in Gheanna saw Ahriman's gigantic astral body, revered and worshipped as an omnipresent god. Billy Bayber's astral body totally consumed this non-personal, amoral, space-orientated, Cosmic Christ, which the heretics of old worshipped, and for which they were persecuted by sword and flame.
As an astral traveler of worlds beyond the earth, of non-human kingdoms of far off galaxies, the earthly human form into which God descended was of secondary importance to him. It's not that Billy Bayber was a stranger to His miracle Birthfor Christ's incarnation was a celestial event etched in the Akashic Etherbut that the boy was more acquainted with the Other Christ, the Cosmic Christ preceding Jesus.
The Son that Billy loved was the non-humanized form that God assumes when, by His Power, He weaves His Spirit beyond the temporal worldoutside human evolution. In the light-filled space of the supersensible dream world, he discovered God; not upon the earth plane, but in spectacular crystal forest in Omicron's Valley Nib, where liquid, gem-like waters cascade over mountainous waterfalls; he found God in Omicron's triple-tiered sun, Ra, which pours its life-giving rays over lush musical fields, composed of sound. He did not find God in His embodied form anywhere, as a human.
Stacks of cardboard boxes stood in a dim, gray haze of light, and thicker, dimmer shadows covered the canvases stacked against the bare cement wall. The canvases that were light enough to see made it plainly evident that Billy Bayber had yet to completely master his craft; and that the daily struggle for perfection occasionally ended in failure. The strange beasts and mystic figures were unconvincing; the faces, plastic and expressionless; the futuristic architecture showing signs of having been painted and re-painted numerous times, creating a muck. Still other canvases were brilliant. The heavenly spheres that he painted were produced in vague, misty colors conveying the musical quality of the devachanic realms. His mother preferred the paintings that were aesthetically pleasing and fretted over the dreary, monstrous, violent, grotesque, homicidal canvases that now lay strewn amid the crates.
Nobody in the family understood why Billy Bayber chose to paint evil and wickedness over beauty and grace; waste his talent on the despicable and the atrocious, and not encourage the early results of his student years when he painted Jesus. Billy Bayber seemed to exist in a permanent state of depression. But it was not the type of depression that left him sullen and passive, rather than the type that fueled his creative passion; it was a contemptuous depression repelled by the superficialities of life; an irrational, chaotic, impulsive, world-rejecting depression inspiring metaphysical ponderings upon the true meaning of life---life as it existed at its fundamental core, stripped of pretense. The type of depression that he suffered inspired creation, feelings, thinking, a desire to know, to believe, and most of all the desire to reject and deny. It was the cataclysmic world of the future that occupied his mind as he stood before his easel, day after day, blinded by visions.
The disco-attired youth stood at the edges of smoky aura, mesmerized by Billy Bayber's intense, piercing gaze. The inverted body moved gently to and fro within the dark recesses of the room, nearly invisible among the shadowed crates. A canvas propped against a crate clearly depicted Dr. Jundi Saburthe man who ordered Billy Bayber's torture and execution, and the death of his uncle, Sergei Rostropovich.
The creaking sound of the rope's pendulumic motions, incrementally increasing in amplitude, did nothing to distract the card players. They were oblivious to the fact that Billy Bayber was stirring from his trance and, in the dark, increasing the pendulumic motions toward a four-inch box-cutting knife lying on the floor. The men sounded inebriated and their voices were slurred.
"Another hand?" one asked, the caged light bulb shining on the roundness of their cheeks and brows, dropping shadows beneath their chins.
"More gin too, please. Gin and cards, cards and gin, day and night for over a week. You have to laugh, huh? How much gin can one drink, and cards can one play, before enough is enough? I'm telling you, I'm sick of it. Let's burry the dreamer tonight."
"We can't kill him."
"If he hasn't told us already, he never will. Anyway, the God talk drives me mad! I can't take it anymore. All this talk about the Anti-Christ makes me want to hurt him more, do you know what I mean?"
The dealer had chunky, liver spotted hands. "People say crazy things," he said. "The kid's nuts."
"No, no, he's not! His art is evil, Johnny, evil! For God sake, let's burry him. Let's end the nightmare once and for all. I can't go on like this anymore. The sleepless nights, the rants about the Anti Christ, and these, these, pictures every where, evil, blasphemous pictures, which stir something in me and make me want to do bad things. Besides, I don't want the kid being apart of what we're doing here. He's too young. He's twenty, but inside he's ten. Get out of here, kid, won't you? You're annoying us. I thought you had plans tonight. Huh?"
The kid stood there, his back turned on the card table. His mesmerized expression remained unseen by the fat men. Cards were being dealt behind him. But before him, unseen in the dark, Billy Bayber's knife-bearing form approached. A deranged, almost clown-like smile was on his face.
"Huh kid?" the fat men repeated, their backs still turned.
"The kid's deaf," said the dealer. More gin was poured.
"What's wrong with you kid?"
The kid stared into the dark. Then he fell to the floor; his knees buckling, he landed straight on his buttocks and flopped backwards onto his back. All four inches of the knife blade was impaled in his forehead, all the way up to the hilt. The eyes remained open however. Billy Bayber lurched from out of the darkness, into the light. Just as the .45 magnum filled the room with bright flashes, psychotic flashes erupted in his mind; huge half-word, half-picture, mental hieroglyphs pouring down upon him from the Astral Realm, igniting the outlines of his etheric aura. The flashes were the fragmented memories of Astril Johnson and the empyrean kingdom in which they had met and partedwhat seemed seconds ago.
Glowingly beautiful memories intermixed with the horror of stabbing and shooting one man and this man's blood splattering the walls. Flashing through his consciousness were endless images of Astril moving enchantingly through a mystical dream forest; yellow daisies, fox gloves, lilacs, blue bells pricking through the grass underneath her feet; crystal trees rising overhead; heavenly winds of colored light blowing through the boughs; bright green underwater grasses swaying beneath the current. The images hovered as if in infinity, even as he chased down the other fat man, caught him, and stabbed him about the face and throat.
Copyright 2008 Mathew Morrell