THE FUNK ROOT

By Matt Leyshon

Photo © Russell Allen

Brady awoke to an orange glow melting over his shoulders like grilled Red Leicester. His skin felt brittle like burnt toast.

Early indications were that the latest visitation had been brutal. From his bed he could see that some of the medical outhouses had been crushed to rubble whilst several nearby trees had become elongated and now stretched narrowly upwards into the clouds like aerial masts. He had seen effects like this on news reports of other visits and so he knew what he seeing. I am in a zone, he thinks, although there were so many zones now that it is more than likely a part of the zone. Although it had been a possibility since the visits began, he had never considered that a roadside picnic might occur at the hospital. Until now he had seen the future only as a gloating of nurses and support workers, and of averted gazes and unspoken curses. Now at last things are looking up, he thinks.

Brady sits up keenly in his metal frame bed to properly assess the surroundings. The crisp hospital bed sheets sing with static and the ward walls waver like theatre props. He quickly ascertains from his elevated viewpoint that the visitation has profoundly affected the environment. Like Christ’s breath and Osiris’ jigsaw body, the influences are all around him, both outdoors and in.

When he reaches for the glass of water upon his bedside table it feels heavier than a lead weight and he is unable to lift it. He sees that an area of increased gravity has flattened a chair in the corner of his room and all that remains of it now is a mound of dust. The creak of a bedspring scurries under his bed for cover as goblin spores drift catlike across the tiles and then out of the top window. A dull orange light continues to illuminate the room and he is relieved to see through a gap in the doors that his suitcase is still safely inside the wardrobe. He wonders if any other patients have survived, but the ominous quiet suggests not.

The sky outside is a blank television screen, a muted assault in greyscale that lingers like a shroud. There were no signs of life to be seen through his window; no delivery vans or visitors on the long gravel drive, no sparkling windscreens upon distant roads, and no cattle grazing in the fields. The long shadows shake loose their manacles in silence to wander across the car park and float out of sight. This must be the messiest yet, he thinks as he surveys the desolation. He had dreamed once that the moors were a carpet waiting to be unrolled and tacked across everything. Perhaps at last his dreams were coming true. A damp smirk crawls from his skull as fresh shadows of bread mould stretch and retract playfully across the window ledge.

Brady imagines how all lives but his have been reduced to fading photographs in battered valises that will never now be opened. And so it has all been worthwhile after all, he thinks. He offers the air a celebratory punch and imagines his fist sinking deep into a young girl’s gut, but he pulls a muscle in the process and almost dislocates his shoulder. He rubs his arm and winces. When he raises a hand to his face he finds that a thin veil of skin has appeared over his left eye. His lower lip swells like a malignancy and the orange glow on the ceiling dims as he leans back.

He begins to reconsider his plans for the future now that he has established that there will be no nurses to force-feed him and no mothers left for him to taunt. He is hungry it strikes him that starvation will be no fun without an audience to appreciate his efforts, but his habitual hunger striking has resulted in there being no food nearby. Still, at last the world has become as desolate as his mind. There was a certain irony in the fact that he could feel his old vigour for rape and murder returning to him like the fresh musk of the peaty moors.

“I shall have to build my strength up,” he offers the shifting darkness, but the words linger around the corners of his mouth like limestone spittle.

When Brady reaches for his trolley and turns on his radio there is nothing but the sound of static, but he has heard the news before and listened to documentaries, and he knows that this much annihilation will surely bring stalkers, if there are any left. They might already be on their way, he thinks with an oily gulp, twisting his bed sheet between his fingers.

Then a bolt clatters against his bed leg before coming to a stop and crumbling like ground meat. His heart races and his lower lip trembles wetly like a slug slithering across a salted path.  Brady holds his breath and waits, but to his relief all remains silent and still. His thoughts soon return to happy daydreams of spreading dead children across his hospital bed like jam on toast.

“I’m living the life that other people could only think about,” he says to the ebbing walls, feeling invincible. “I’m bigger than the Ripper.”

Tuesday AfternoonHe imagines a stalker creeping into his room, distorted by fucked fields, shadows flapping like wings at its gnarly, deformed back. Then in his mind he sees himself pressing a pillow into the stalker’s face and watching the life fade from its eyes like a wilting flower. Bravado inflates him until he swallows the world and lies back upon a fantasy bed made from the aborted foetuses of visitation-infected mothers. In his daydream he pulls a quilt croqueted from pale and slug-like zygotes up under his chin before sinking into plump pillows stuffed with the soft blonde hair of unborn infants.

But then another bolt clatters across the floor and the reverie ends abruptly as it settles against his bedside cabinet without turning to powder. Brady’s eye widens and he holds his breath, his thin body taut like a gibbet cage as the door inches open slowly and he hears someone shuffling nearer and nearer. He is not afraid, he says to himself, knowing that he is. He strains his neck to see into the darkness and the orange glow follows his movement.

“This is track four. Get in the fucking basket,” a voice says from the shadows.

Spleenful laughter clouds the wet air like cordial.

“Oh, please,” Brady replies, shaking his head in mock despair. “Who are you?”

“I am Gormo Gloom.”

“Are you a stalker?”

“Yes.”

“There are no batteries here. There are no empties, full or otherwise.”

The stalker rises slowly from the floor, brushes himself down, and stands before Brady. His legs are sausage meat stuffed into trousers. He wears a butcher’s apron. Fat feet spill from his sandals like steak tartare. His face is wide and white like a baby’s belly. Without replying he reaches for the bedside drip and unhooks the funk root from its askew bulk of red cleft briefings. The machinery pleas and Brady laughs boldly, wishing for recording equipment.

“What are you doing? Do you know who I am?”

“Put it in. Keep it in,” Gloom instructs, stuffing the pink funk root into Brady’s mouth.

“Stop it,” Brady spits, struggling to right himself, suddenly panicking like an abducted child. Suddenly he feels weak and vulnerable before the looming Gloom. “Dad.”

“Put it in.”

Brady’s arms lack the strength to push the stalker away and so he takes the funk root obediently between his dry, grey lips. He shrugs in a show of nonchalance, thinking of June 1964 as he sucks the root.

“Wha…  What does it matter?”

“Oh, it matters,” Gloom answers.

The cloudy seepage tastes horrid and bitter but Brady’s wears the blank look that he had once reserved for his sentencing. He waits for Gloom to look away and then reaches for his bedside cabinet, searching with his fingers for something that he might use as a weapon against the stalker. The funk root falls from his mouth with a slurp of plasma seepage.

“Keep it in,” Gloom orders, turning back to Brady and forcing the funk root back into his mouth with pale and podgy fingers.

Brady gags and tries to distract himself with a wet dream of raping the downy butts of post-visit babies. He sucks at the salty warmth of the witches’ jelly and fights to maintain a comforting thought of ejaculating over scared and weeping little girls. “I think I saw a battery over there,” he lies. “Maybe even a full empty beside those old canisters.”

“You said before that there weren’t any. Besides, Old Black Lip doesn’t even pay for those anymore,” Gloom replies. “I’m here for the Golden Sphere.”

“Then why… why are you still here? There’s no Golden Sphere here.”

Brady feels his thoughts soften and fill with obscene colour, becoming malleable to the growing influences of the visit and the funk root that fills his mouth. Skeletal shadows begin to creep up the pale green walls of his room like ivy.  A womb emerges from Gloom’s open fly and hangs from his drip stand like a fruit bat. He sees badgers suckle at the flowering breasts of Gloom’s grubby toes. Moles toll the holes of shoals as Brady flaps away a pecking nightingale in horror. His lips part like an old wound and a scream staggers out blindly and collapses upon his pillow, disguised among the various patches of drying saliva.

“I just want nothing,” he pleads.

A jackdaw mimics his whining to a twittering applause from the varied bird life dotted around his room like Delaware in a country kitchen. The funk root falls from his lips and the wildlife retreats. “Leave me, Dad,” Brady pleas.

Gloom watches him with interest, “Put it back in your mouth and you’ll be alright.”

Brady sobs, then returns the funk root to his mouth and sucks theatrically like a leech in a dried up riverbed. The witches’ jelly repopulates the barren moor of his mind with nature. Baby animals dance their best Disney auditions. Brady screams in terror as honeysuckle blossoms around his headrest. He frantically presses a byre with a soil clime and for a moment the wraith of Gloom lights up in negative, a glimpse of the night in the tangerine glow, clawing the spine of a prayer book, sending the sour music of crumbs mushrooming upwards from the torrent of a nearby trestle. Brady sees sails began to billow too, and the vapours begin to turn, whipping the cornhusks like cream, fading the wraith of Gloom like an old photograph. Field mice play in the hay and farm cats snooze in his orange lambency. His outlook on life turns a darker shade of grey as squirrels forage in his sheets. What have I ever done to deserve this, wonders Brady?

“Have you ever read the Bible?” asks Gloom.

“Unfortunately, many perfectionists sleepwalk through lift off,” Brady mumbles. “I’ve left the light on.”

“You’re nothing but God swill.”

I’ll swear on the Bible,” he begs, pulling geese from his crease.

“Put it in. If you don’t keep that hand down, I’ll slit your neck,” Gloom barks.

The corners of Brady’s mouth bubble cuckoo spit like a nettle at dawn. Spawn dribbles to the floor from his nose like ectoplasm where it morphs into the form of a woman that he recognises instantly, a peroxide helmet and cold eyes. Myra lies upon the tiled floor with butterflies and bees playing in her wire wool hair. A calf drops to its knees and extends its tongue to suckle at the muck sprawled between her lithographs. Her skin glimmers sickly like poison ivy berries.  The event has made a burial albatross of Myra. As Brady continues to suck upon the funk root she ripens before his eyes and sends plaster flakes to the floor like falling snow. He maps her grey lines and in his nightmare mind he is a nesting songbird, peeling her like beech bark. Polish pauses halfway out of her veins and suspends the blossoms of blood for kittens to chase like butterflies. His suitcase in the cupboard leaks memories like an old biro in a detective’s pocket. Buttercups spring the locks and daisies frame his Polaroid’s. He watches in horror as bunnies untangle their headphones to listen to his recordings.

“I’ve no time for your special breast romances, Dad,” says Brady, spitting the root out in the desperation of finality.

“Put it back in your mouth. Right in,” says Gloom, pushing the root back into his parchment face.

“It’s boring with that buzzard from Shaftesbury withering every tinkle,” Myra coughs up the hairball of a suggestion. “What have you got lined up next?”

“I’m not going to do ‘owt,” Brady retorts obstinately. “But don’t undress me. Will you? Mum.”

“Could you help me find a glove that I’ve lost?” she asks sweetly, pointing with her penis in the direction of an emerging trauma above.

“I have to get home before 8 o’clock. I got to get … Or I’ll get killed if I don’t.”

“You’re alright.  Hush, hush,” says Myra.

Every drip of condensation from the funk root is significant to him now, each droplet bears the weight of a baby’s damp and chubby calves. The last time Brady had struggled like this he was squeezing his throbbing cock into the tight pink balloon knot of a pubescent posterior. Purpose is assigned to his blackening toes and there is meaning in every fragrant cusp. Roe deer in rusted traps thrash wildly in his eyes.

Brady stares in disgust as Gloom toes Myra aside and prepares mechanisms until the bed is full of fat and gristle. Hungry birds of paradise swirl hungrily around him like toddlers at a roasted kindergarten. He sees the sweat glisten upon Gloom’s palms like glitter. The stalker swerves through the labial lanes of faecal flood waves to approach the golden globe upon Brady’s shoulders. His throat rasps like wet gravel when he tries to speak. A bed of reeds emerge in the corner of his eye, dripping salt tears of cicada chatter and frog’s croak.

Outside the bumming work begins and the world looks on. He senses the downs mocking him as empty towns plan how best to rape his virgin stairwell. Gloom watches with interest as Brady wails in despair, begging the winding river to sign his death certificate in menstrual ink. A thicket of wiry black hairs grows upon his brow as the chalk hills outside bare their teeth at him. In the roof of the past above Brady the trauma is at last full and wide enough for a petulant fistula. His soul sours like the blood from a lamb’s severed neck and at last, to Brady’s relief, Gloom eases the pressure of the show with a flash of metal.

Brady’s dripping head is in Gloom’s hands. The stalker has found the Golden Sphere that Old Black Lip will pay him well for. Brady’s body lies limp in the bed, a thin white doll moulded from butcher’s off cuts.

Gloom looks around for something to carry his artefact in. He takes a suitcase from the wardrobe. He presses the catch and it springs open, knocking the drip beside Brady’s bed. The funk root spills witches’ jelly across Gloom’s legs and in turn the suitcase spills photographs and tapes, magnesium and screens.

Brady’s head tumbles into a black luggage void and slides between the Blue Vinny lips of a raven’s pineal gland. “So glad you came back,” it squawks, before fucking off sharpish as the zone trembles like a scabbed Gorton street urchin.

“Shit,” Gloom wipes frantically at his trousers, but already it is too late. Starlings take flight and flap merrily into his bladder. Tits peck at the fat balls of his pock marked ass. The funk root twitches like a cat’s tail, ejaculating arcs of witches’ jelly over the stalker like cherry blossom. Two stillbirths and a late abortion later, he stumbles flaying into a meat grinder and is gone.

Brady rests in a melted cheese hue, watching from the shadows of the half open suitcase. So much death had given him a new lease life, but there would be no such fun as murder now.

 

Matt Leyshon

mauvezone@inbox.com

Russell Allen

https://www.facebook.com/russell.mania2

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