The air smells like shit. A skunk took a dump in my boots.
On the way to the coffee shop, a podcast tells me I can be rich. Me, Trent Lewin, a rich man with no worries. I like it. I really do.
“What would you like?” asks the speaker.
“Fill a garbage can with coffee, speaker. Add one liter of cream. Fifty packets of sugar.”
“We can’t do that, sir. And I’m not actually a speaker. I’m a person.”
“The hell you are,” I tell speaker, as I screech the car to the kiosk and pull myself through the window. A frightened freckled sixteen-year-old shakes in his frock. “Where is he? Where’s speaker?” But there’s no speaker. There’s no speaker! The garbage can dumps its contents on the ground and I fill it with coffee, cream and sugar as the staff look on. But still no speaker. Doesn’t exist. Never existed. I pinch the sixteen-year-old’s cheeks. Knee him in the balls.
Coffee-filled garbage can sits in the passenger seat. Plastic tube sucks juice into my mouth. All is fine. All is so fine. But really, it’s not. Because I’m not rich. I’m not comfortable. I’m not liberated from desire, need or the conventions that define how my life is supposed to work. I pick up speed. Speed picks me up. I’m driving fast. I want to ram a Mormon, but there’s none handy. In this day and age, at this time in my life, there is not a single Mormon handy. And that’s just how it goes.
At work, Umba from Strasburg calls me. “Trenty! How are you? Did you hear that North Korea has discovered secret kingdom of mole people?”
“That’s not true. That’s ridiculous.”
“I send you link! Read it!”
And in my office, I’m reading just that. In North Korea, a group of mole people was found in an underground cave. They’ve never seen the sun before. Lived on insects and mushrooms. They’re human beings, the article claims, but not exactly like us. No, they’re mole people, and that is pretty different. It really is.
I call in my assistant. “Jane, go to every costume store in the city and buy every mole outfit you can. Then round up the troops.”
“Sir? There’s no such thing…”
I get on my desk. It’s nice up here. I kick a computer. Frag a stapler. Hang from the ceiling tiles until they’re raining dust all over the carpet. Someone is holding onto my feet. I’m positive something just glanced across my crotch. And all this serves to illustrate the basic point: I’m redacting myself and diminishing my potential as every moment without an army of mole people ticks by. It’s 9:30. It’s 9:34. It’s almost ten o’clock, and nothing’s getting done. It’s just not.
But by eleven o’clock, I’m in the parking lot standing with my moles. Some are tall, some are short, and a few are the wrong colour for a subterranean animal. I hose the ground. The ground hoses me. “Roll in the mud, you filthy beasts!” And the moles roll until they’re covered in sloppy dirt, and look like the animals they really are.
I open a sewer grate and tell them to drop in. One by one, the mole people fall into the darkness. I’m the last one in. I just am. There, in the darkness, I tell them to scatter – to go back into the disgusting, polluted depths from which they came. “Go home, ground creatures!” I scream, as I take photos of their flight. Here I am, Trent Lewin once more, taking pictures of a new species, a revised and revamped form of life from which possibly we once diverged. I should mate with them. They should mate with me. It doesn’t matter who mates first, just that it happens. The flash blasts the darkness as the mole people scatter.
In the sunlight, I call Umba. “Hi. It’s me. Trent fucking Lewin.”
“Trenty! I cannot find any of your staff! Where are they? We have business!”
“Doesn’t matter. Fired them. Or they fired me. Check out these photos I’m sending you.”
A moment passes. “Trenty! You have mole people in America too? I thought only North Korea…”
But I’m not listening anymore. The photos are going out as I proclaim the discovery of an army of mole people in America. I’ve seen them with my eyes. I smelled them and visited their home. I communicated with them. Even took photos. And so the new news blasts into the ether, and suddenly I become indispensable – Trent Lewin, discover, biologist. News-maker.
And the money rolls in. It’s that simple. I made truth. And truth made me. Now I’m rich, and I’m indispensable, and I’m a properly-functioning member of society that is following the correct upwards curve to a life that we all want. All it took was this. Just this.
North Korea calls to confirm my discovery – I tell them to shove a ballistic missile in their butts. Someone from Homeland Security shows up, and I crap on the hood of their car.
I take off my clothes. My clothes take me off. They lie in a heap. I lie in a heap. The sunshine of fall is warm, and I am rolling in the mud and the money and the detritus of modern life as the news goes out further and further: here, there be moles, and moles there may here be.
I run to a bar. The bar runs into me. “Scotch,” I order. “Drinks for everyone.” Everyone cheers. Money goes flying. I go flying. Here I am, naked and covered in mud but rich enough that they feed me scotch. The television blinks. There are moles in the darkness of America, playing on a loop, over and over again. But then static for a moment, and a new shot of something. It’s Asia. South Korea, apparently. And there, in the darkness of a deep cave, are dolphin girls walking towards the camera, their cute noses sniffing at the human beings who have discovered them.
The room goes quiet. I go quiet. Everyone is watching. And then people cheer, because this is happiness, isn’t it? The next bit of televised revelation. The subsequent fable we can wrap around our testicles and squeeze, until the pain is so severe that we’ve no choice but to adopt this reality as our own, as we stretch and stretch for the new news.
And this is the way it is. I can be drunk. I can be high on caffeine. I can be both at the same time, trying to stay ahead – to make and unmake reality, to do something that then does something to me, all in the pursuit of a life I don’t have. You don’t have it either. I pull up my socks. You pull yours down. But neither of us needed them in the first place, because socks are just an invention. And I’m an invention too. And so my friends, so are you. We are invented, and the invention goes along. Picks up speed. Rams a Mormon all hopped up on coffee. Plants some seeds. Eats some cow. Celebrates on the weekend, because we know we’re un-free for the vast big majority chunks of our lives, and live for that moment each week when we’re away from it all.
We are invented. And the invention is us.
We are drunk and crying and poor and filled with the thought that when someone tells us that dolphin girls are real and coming to the surface of the world to breed with us, that maybe we should be the ones who are first in line for that slippery bit of mating that would likely result from such a carnally-historic event. Maybe it should be me. Maybe it should be you.
Dolphin girls on the television as I slip off the bar stool.
Outside, it’s very bright.
In a sewer hole, I find my mole people. They were real for a while, now forgotten. They’re in a cave, copulating with real moles. It’s a terrible noise. It’s the most incredible sight. I take a few photos. And a few photos take me. I’ll send these out into the ether and take my chances, embedded as I am in the news I make myself. You better believe me. I better believe you. We had all best believe each other.
I head home. Wave to some neighbors. Umba calls me and tells me that they’ve proven the Earth is flat. That the Earth is also hollow. And that the sun is spinning around us again – just like it used to do. Everything becomes old, and normal. Just like I do. Just like you do too.
Gravity isn’t real. We don’t have a common ancestor. The world came into being a few thousand years ago. Climate’s not changing. The world isn’t getting polluted. This is all true. I know this because I’ve read it. And meanwhile, dolphin girls and mole people are going to breed with us, and that is in fact the reality in which we live as I, Trent Lewin, muddied and naked, drunk and high on coffee, arrive.
I arrive. This is my street. There is my home.
Scratch my butt. Empty my thoughts. Plead for mercy.
Throw away my phone. Run through a sprinkler. Eat some grass.
Get home. Shit in my work boots. Cuddle with a skunk.
And the skunk?
Well, it cuddles with me.