the file is titled "exquisite corpse", which would imply that it was something i intended to write in conjunction with someone else. that's not impossible by any means, seeing as this is an experiment i've tried with different people over the years, but what is mysterious is that none of it seems to have been written by another person. in fact, almost all of it is lifted directly from parts of my life: there was a game of playing private detective that involved writing down license plates, there was a family named hamm, one of whom yelled at me for attempting to "record" them. there was even a sinister plot [in my imagination] involving a boat dealership. there was even a friend named anne. take those bits out and there's just not that much that anyone else could have written.
so it's possible that this is some sort of exquisite corpse experiment that i did with my own dissociated brain. which would be super-creepy.
at any rate, the bottom line is that this is one more thing that i started and didn't finish, but i still do think that it's a fascinating idea. how does someone remain the central character when they've been killed off at the beginning? i'll get back to figuring it out some day.
in the meantime, please feel free to write me with your ideas.
They’ve lived down the street for as long as I could remember. My parents tell me I should always be nice and so I greet them with “Hello Mr. Hamm, Hello Mrs. Hamm”, but they’re creeps. And I know this for certain because, when we were playing private eye, when I was the detective who was investigating a series of thefts that had taken place in the neighbourhood, thefts which were connected to a high-stakes kidnapping, when I was carrying out my investigations as a matter of course and copying down the license plates of cars parked in the streets, theirs was the only house where someone screamed at me to stop what I was doing. Come to think of it, that constitutes some pretty suspicious behaviour. I was only doing what I was told to do. Those were my orders. I don’t think that this individual was of any threat to me. My superiors on the other hand. They would have castrated me on the spot.
They obviously don’t know how deep this goes. We thought that it was limited to the neighbourhood, thought that its boundaries fell within the areas where we played on the weekends and during the summers. Not so. This was a mystery that was going to follow us from our halcyon summers to the first bite of autumn winds. We passed it every day on our way to school, although, until we had started our investigations, we didn’t know the crucial role it played. There they were, in plain view, laughing at us through their clever disguise as motor boat vendors, as normal schmoes selling water-borne race cars to the suburban elite. They flashed their steely grins and thought we could never figure out what it was they were actually up to. It would take some doing, and a fair bit of imagination for us to shine a light on to their hellish plan. But this was a rare instance where our collective paranoia would help us rather than make our lives a waking nightmare. They’d chase after me with butterfly nets and lock me up in a rubber room if I had thoughts like these in the so-called Real World.
I don’t kid myself. I’ve tried explaining to my parents, to any adults in my life, about my imaginary friends. I see the looks on their faces, like they’re being nice to me by listening. That’s what they think when I tell them I’m imagining things. Can you imagine what they’d say if I told them these things were real? That they drove by them every day? That the same people whose hands they’d shaken to buy their motor boats were the faces that had looked into the terrified eyes of a kidnapped girl… They’d laugh… I know they’d laugh because whenever I’ve tried to say anything important, laughter is what has greeted me. Maybe they don’t want to know. Maybe they’d rather have their motor boats and live that life, without wondering what happened at these places when they weren’t looking. I can’t live like that. I can’t look forward to a full life in a world where no one cares if there’s a drop of blood on their luxury boat. Blood is funny that way. I’ve watched enough CSI episodes to know that you can never get all of it out. There’s always an insignificant little spec left behind, ready to tell all your secrets to an all too curious crowd you don’t really feel all that comfortable sharing with. Christ, if they only knew the half of it. We all have our secrets. We all have our skeletons. The only problem is that mine aren’t in my closet.
I woke up screaming night after night and my mother would come running only to tell me that she could see nothing, that nothing I saw was real. I looked at her kindly, everyday face and tried to see it as I did in the sunlight. I tried to see her as the powerful being that she was in the day and I couldn’t. In the dark she was nothing. A handmaid cowering in the corner at the sight of a spider, a toothless nanny pretending that all would be well. What the hell did she know? What could she do against these dark armies when she couldn’t see them, when even when I told her where to look, she insisted there was nothing there? I looked into her untroubled eyes and saw the empty future, unobservant, uninterested and unimaginative. You cannot see what I see. You do not know what is happening at that sales office by the bridge the way that I do. They kill hope in the young. Old-timers like me would do anything to get it back. Anything. Hope is a valuable thing to the hopeless. It’s as valuable as the air that we breathe. But even that vital necessity’s gone to shit. All in a day’s work in that air-conditioned nightmare. My head is usually throbbing by ten thirty. By noon, my lungs want to break out of my chest. By mid-afternoon, all hope is gone. You wonder why people don’t brown bag an A.K. for lunch and start shooting their co-workers Polytechnique-style. You wonder why it doesn’t happen on a weekly basis. On a daily basis. Christ, on an hourly basis.
I don’t know at what point that occurred to me. I wanted to think of my parents as infallible, as the ones who organized the universe. But that’s not how it works. And once I realized it, I knew that there was no turning back. Sure, the world of those greasy men at the boat shop was something I never wanted to be involved with- I wanted everything to be as clean as out living room and as removed from dirty reality but there is only so much that you can take in, so much that you know cannot possibly be the result of your imagination, before you have to take a deep breath for yourself and realize that, no matter who is with you, you must take a stand. I knew that this operation was wrong. I knew from the time we were playing in the neighbourhood writing down licenses to when we were skipping by the Marina Sales office daily, my friends thinking there was a game that had ended, that there was something wrong. I knew there was something that I had to fix and it didn’t matter whether or not there were people to agree with me because I knew, I knew from watching hours of television and from hours of hearing the adults in my life voice their points of view that to be a hero was to stand against what everyone else was saying, to insist on the fact that you were correct, even if all you had to go on was your gut feeling. I had more than that. Maybe not much more, but probably more than they were expecting. That’s why they are out to kill me. I’ve voiced my opinion, which I consider gospel, and I am persecuted because of it. I am not a hero, I am a radical. I am one of those crazy people you see prancing around outside of shopping malls, pacing between rows of parked cars, muttering to themselves about the microchips that the government has implanted into their cerebral cortex. The only difference is that I know who I am and I know what I am saying and what I am saying is The Truth.
This is the day that I go to find out their secrets. It’s easy enough. I just need to convince Anne to let me sleep over. Then I slip out. I don’t care if she comes with me. In the end, I know she’ll come as far as the boundaries of her back yard and no further. I’m different. I’m on a mission now. I crawl through the hole in the fence that separates our yards and the rest of the world. I hear her sobbing as I leave her by the fence and I hope that she won’t run to tell her mother, her despicable mother, before I’ve returned.
“Wait here,” I reassure her, “I’ll be back before you know it. Just wait for me.”
I know better than to tell her to cry out to me. I’ll be out of range. I’m headed over the hill. I just need her to wait for me, so that we can just crawl into bed afterward and think of it as one big, long, ugly dream. I have to pull the plug on their ugly scheme, I just need to pay attention to where that plug is found.
It seems so much longer getting there at night, so much stranger and more nefarious. But, as I expected, the office is there, undefended. I approach, aware that these guys could have dogs the same as those creeps down the street from me, but in the end, there’s nothing. I’m able to maneuver my way through the speed boats to the ramshackle office and, with little difficulty, into their private sanctum. Now, I can feel it all around me. Now, I know, I’ve penetrated the heart of their operation. I have only to find the record of everything, all their nefarious deeds. I need to find that and get back before I’m discovered. What? Where? Why is my shirt wet? Did I spill… Oh. Wow. Stings. How did they see me? Unless… You. You told them. I had a feeling that…you couldn’t be…trusted. Wow, it’s starting to burn. I’m making…a mess. Breathing…hard. Air-conditioning…off. Nightmare. Figures. Burning. Fire. Burning. Wow. Pouring out. Air. Out. Hard. In. In. In…You…