Flesh – A Bacchanalian Tale Of Paranoia
“She looked like a blue orchard on a hot summer’s day with that blue dress that clung to her body that was shaped like the ripest aubergine, with chestnut hair, GODDAMN!” screamed Garrett, rising from the sofa with his glass of whiskey. In a volcanic fury, he launched the glass against the wall. It splintered. Brown liquid slithered rapidly down the mauve wall like blood in a murder house.
He ran his hands through his thick, curly, dirty blonde hair and thought about the girl he couldn’t have.
He was unable to control himself any longer. His town was under orders not to make love with anyone while the government tried to bring the relentless balsa virus under control.
The balsa virus was serious stuff; transferred by bodily fluids, it turned people into raving lunatics whose mission it became to destroy every living thing around them. A grandmother had been the first to show signs of the disease eight months ago. After she had strangled her cat, set fire to her husband’s beard and tried to throttle the mail man, the local authorities knew something sinister was at play.
She was found with a handgun in the mall, her face peppered with craters, lumps and hideous boils that were spurting pus like a volcanic eruption.
Garrett, a self-styled womaniser and sex addict, hadn’t touched a girl for six months.
“I cannot take this much more,” he said to his friend Leroy. “I’m sorry that I’ve just redecorated your living room, but I’m at breaking point.”
Leroy nodded sadly. He wanted to mop up the mess. But he wasn’t sure that his friend was done.
Garrett inhaled and exhaled like a sex-starved lion. His life had been a zoetrope of bed hopping and wonky values.
“I can’t take it,” he said, tears in his eyes. “I can’t.”
Leroy thought this was it, his friend was going to kill himself this time. It had always been his thought that Garrett would one day kill himself.
“Dad, how do you do it?” Garrett asked the next morning over eggs, mining for empathy, digging for inspiration to help him get through this. “How are you keeping your hands off mom?”
“Have you seen your mother lately?” replied his dad with a cheeky smile. Humour was Garrett’s dads way of dealing with things. It always had been.
Garrett toiled all day on the building site. The days when his buddies wolf-whistled at the porcelain girls that passed them were over. Nobody had the desire to do it anymore. Nobody could see an end in sight to the masturbatory limbo they had been forced to enter.
“This doesn’t make any goddamn sense no more if you ask me,” said Garrett to his work buddies as they ate their lunch in the searing heat.
He missed the undulations of pillow talk.
He missed kissing a girls’ pebble-like toes.
He missed a girls’ cosmic jazz singing to him as they swayed under the silvery light of the moon.
He missed losing his mind in their eyes, getting caught by their dad who returned early from a vacation, euphoria, energy, passion, torn blonde hair on his bed sheets, bodies full of heavenly promise, moist gazes, ballerina heels, emerald earrings on his tongue, a kaleidoscope of butterflies in his abdomen.
He missed their devotion to him.
“This don’t make sense no more. Six months? How the fuck haven’t they contained this goddamn virus? Who the fuck is in charge of this country? Bunch of useless pricks if you ask me. How many times have I gotta spank my monkey? For Christ’s sake.”
“Garrett. Stop talking,” said a builder older than him. “We’ve all had enough of your whining.”
“Yeah, boy. Quit yo jibber-jabbing.”
Garrett shook his head.
The truth was that his buddies had been left beaten after six months of deprivation and had no more to give. Hal, relieved of his patriarchal role, had seen his wife replace the need for sex with a need for stimulating conversation. No longer able to satisfy her, he had to watch as she moved in with a mathematician.
“Perhaps one day, when this crisis is over, and I need a man and not a mind anymore, I’ll return,” she had told him before going off to discuss numbers in the library with Tristan.
Garrett had thought about taking the risk of hooking up and just seeing what would happen. But he hadn’t met a woman who was as willing as he was.
“Come on, baby. We’ll be like Romeo and Juliet,” he cooed in the ear of one girl. “I’ll die first and then you can follow me. We’ll go to heaven together. They say it’s worse for the man. Our balls shrivel and then explode. You just fall asleep after maybe killing one or two people. I got the bum deal here. I’m the one who’ll have a goddamn forest fire down there while trying to cannibalise the populace.”
She knew Garrett. She knew he was just trying to get into her pants. She said he might already have the balsa virus for all she knew.
“I don’t want to die,” she said sadly.
“Do I look like I have balsa, goddammit? Look at my skin, look at it. It’s fucking beautiful. My arms have never been better. You don’t know what you’re missing.”
He returned home from the building site and made a decision to go to Leroy’s that evening. Still at breaking point, he was going to once and for all suggest they both try to break out of the town. It was under martial law, and he knew it was an insane idea. If the guards didn’t shoot them in the face with their Kalashnikov’s, the helicopter would spot them.
Or the snipers. He knew they were the ones you had to watch out for. Desperate, sex addict hustler-types before him had already tried to escape from the town but had met their bloody end in the nebulae of red night.
“No one gets out of here until the virus has been entirely eradicated. Anyone who tries to escape will die,” was the the stark message from the police and the government.
“Leroy, you home?” asked Garrett as he knocked on the door for the seventh time that night. There was a light on, but Leroy wasn’t answering.
“Leroy? It’s your boy Garrett. Come on. Open up, dude. We gotta talk.”
Garrett looked up and down the heartless street that only took on a dreamy complexion when the sun was setting. He saw a cop on patrol across the road and nervously offered a smile and a wave. The cop cocked his gun and pointed it at Garret’s head.
Then he smiled, held up his hand and admitted he was joking.
“You gotta do something to keep the old spirit going, right?” shouted the cop.
Still Leroy hadn’t answered and Garrett was growing frustrated.
“You looking for Leroy?” asked the cop.
“Oh, man. I don’t know how to tell you this. Leroy’s dead, buddy. We had to shoot him.”
“Why do we shoot anyone? He had sex. I guess he couldn’t help himself. We had to shoot them both. Yeah, it was a sorry sight. She could only have been nineteen. Whole life ahead of her.”
The cop shook his head and looked thoughtfully at the ground, as though having cinematic flashbacks of what had happened in No.44 Riverside Drive. Then he smiled.
“Okay. I guess I should head home then,” said Garrett.
“Sure. And don’t go chasing any girls, Garrett. Otherwise it’s bang-bang. We got you,” said the cop jovially, smiling and waving his gun carelessly in the poignant June air. “Take care, Romeo.”
Garrett had always sensed that he was a marked man. Everyone knew he was a sex addict. He had already been in rehab twice by the time he was twenty, and had been arrested for holding an orgy in a church. Everyone knew he couldn’t keep his hands to himself.
“I can’t understand why they haven’t just shot me yet,” mused Garrett the next morning over eggs with his dad. “If anyone is going to turn this thing into a goddamn epidemic it’s me. Not Leroy. Leroy hadn’t been with a woman for three years. He wasn’t interested. It doesn’t make no sense.”
“It’s because I raised you the right way,” said his proud dad before taking another swig of coffee. “You’re a smarter, disciplined and rational young man than anyone would ever give you credit for. This is a test from God. And you’re passing it.”
The old man’s eyes filled with tears. Garrett was moved but told his dad to stop being silly.
“Your boy Leroy was human like the rest of them. Where he was weak, you’re strong. Me and your mother are very proud.”
Garrett was inspired by his father’s words, but just a few days later he was mournful again. He was missing an ecstasy of the blood, the timelessness of sex, sweating in motels with strangers, making love into a boundless void.
He met his bohemian, paranoid friend Alan in a draughty pub, who told him all about his newly conceived theory in a quiet corner.
“This thing with the government, it’s never going to end. They’re trying to stop us from having children. That’s what’s really going on. This is elaborate birth control. They know there are too many of us in this country and this is their hare-brained scheme of controlling the population.”
“So, there’s no virus?”
“Of course there is a virus, keep up please. But they planted the virus.”
Garrett listened with interest but told Alan he was a crackpot and asked if he was still taking heroin.
“Then why are we the only town with this virus? Why has no one else got it? Why is Boston still having sex, and Denver and Michigan? Why just Orlando?”
“This is an experiment. If it works, if it stops us reproducing, they’ll spread the virus to other places. It’s a caper alright. We’re just the guinea pigs.”
Garrett was unconvinced.
Then he felt Alan’s hand touch his thigh underneath the table.
“Come on, Garrett,” whispered Alan, sweat steaming off his forehead. “We’ve got nothing to lose. They’re not after us. They just don’t want men and women to indulge in coitus. I know how you really feel. I’m here for you. I can give you what you want.”
Garrett smacked Alan in the face.
Two days later, Garrett was told that Alan had been shot dead.
He felt uneasy and anxious. He sensed that the police were getting closer to him. People he knew were dying. He was surely next.
He looked himself in the mirror and thought about the ageing process. It was approaching seven months since his last lay. He was seven months older, and he looked it. One day he would be too old for the women he dreamt about.
He thought about the undulations during pillow talk. Subsiding undulations. Softening, slowing down. Until they stopped forever, like permanent creases in time.
He brooded and called up an ex-girlfriend he hadn’t seen since he broke her bed springs and refused to buy her a new bed.
“You want this as much as I do. I know you do,” he said to her. “I’m not even just about the sex anymore. I want marriage, Amy. I want marriage and I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. This thing with the government, it’s never going to end. They’re trying to stop us from having children. That’s whats really going on. There is no virus. That old woman who started it all, she had dementia. That’s all. It got blown out of proportion.”
It didn’t work. Amy refused.
Two days later, he got a call telling him that Amy was dead.
“I am slowly going insane,” he told his dad over eggs the next morning. “It’s not even just the lack of sex anymore. I’ve become useless. We all have. We have no use to each other or society at large anymore. We’re trapped in this virus-infested bubble with no way out. Who gives a shit about us? I’m going out of my fucking mind.”
The town had been all over the news for the first three months after martial law was imposed, but now it didn’t appear on the news at all. They had been forgotten about.
“Stop yo whining, boy” said his father tersely. He coughed and scratched his crotch.
Garrett noticed that his dad’s eyes were bloodshot.
“You okay, dad?”
Without any kind of warning, his dad leapt for him across the table and tried to strangle him. Garrett, the stronger of the pair, managed to free himself from his 67-year-old dad’s, arthritic grip.
The ageing, pot-bellied man wasn’t to be outdone. He grabbed a fork and began to slash the air with it like a lunatic.
“Bruce Lee, eat your heart out!” he hooted before trying to pierce his son’s stomach.
“Dad, what the fuck?!”
His mother entered the scene with her own weapon – a shotgun.
“Mom! Dad’s got balsa!”
“Step back, Frank,” she advised.
Garrett’s mother aimed the gun at her own son and fired. The bullet cannoned through the shelf to the side of Garrett, smashing her favourite tea cups, and he made an escape through the back door.
He was informed later that day that his God-fearing parents had been shot dead by the police. They had given into the temptations of the flesh.
Weeks passed and other people that Garrett knew were killed in cold blood. His work buddy Hal had apparently tried to break into his wife’s new apartment during dark nightfall and attempted to kiss her. Her mathematician friend, who was reciting algebra in the bathroom at the time, called the police and Hal was shot sixteen times.
Ex-girlfriends he had made it with were shot by police.
His old headmaster and his wife were killed after they couldn’t take celibacy anymore and stripped naked in front of the police in an act of martyrdom before copulating.
After two years of living in a virus-infested, marital law-controlled bubble, Garrett was a broken man. He had been beaten, his colourful essence dragged out of him.
He no longer desired sex at all anymore. He no longer desired protoplasmic fantasies, or shapes melting into one another on mattresses.
Flesh, he no longer wanted.
Instead, he was ready to settle down and get married in a no-touching relationship with a woman who was as sexless as he.
It wasn’t long until he met and married Tina, a colossal woman. Neither was sure that they didn’t already have the virus, but they didn’t care.
He worked, she washed the dishes and cleaned.
He went to bed while she stayed up doing puzzles with a lodger called Harry. He didn’t have to worry about them having sex.
There was no such thing as jealousy anymore.
There were no emotions.
It wasn’t an ideal situation for Garrett, but he no longer cared.