Almost Squamous and Milk of Human Kindness

By Anatoly Belilovsky | April, 2020


Artwork by Jose Baetas.

Almost Squamous

Bands live for a night like this: perhaps the stars aligned just right, or the percussionist smoked just enough weed to slow down to where the bassist can keep up, or lead vocals discovered a place within them from which pure magic issues forth--

Ichor Stravinsky led with drums, starting with time signature 17/37 and getting weirder from there, and Ms. Katonixxx followed in Locrian progression, and Mauna Loca retuned and blasted the room with subsonic reverberations that made eyes bleed, each new clef coming from no human octave, a babel of more ghostly voices than there were fingers playing all the instruments combined--

And then a shriek from Burt Batrachian to make the pandemonium complete, in a timbre not only fit for a castrato but hinting at the state of disrepair of the tools of his emasculation--

And, oh, the audience!

The eldritch light that kindled within their eyes, their howls that could issue only from vocal cords sewn through with rusted piano wires, misshapen, impossibly deformed faces that brought to mind creatures extinct long ago and for good reasons--

From that day forth, no one would speak of Cephalopunk but think of the Arkhammers as the band that defined it, and know band members' names better than their own.

*****

The hotel room was a Platonic solid, an Aristotelian ideal, of what a hotel room is: an embodiment of hotelroomhood with few if any distinguishing characteristics save for those the Arkhammers brought with them, chief among them cigarette butts and bottles of Stoly.

"You didn't actually think," said Mauna Loca, "that you could've actually, you know... summoned... what's his face..."

"Cthulhu," said Ms. Katonixxx. "Yes, I thought I could."

"Does this Cthulhu actually, like, exist?" Burt Batrachian asked.

Ms. Katonixx shrugged.

"I think," said Mauna Loca, "that if he does not, our music may bring him into being. Right? What if he lives between the chords, in the stops and pauses. Wouldn't that be awesome?"

Ms. Katonixx nodded.

There was a knock on the door. The four Arkhammers looked up as one.

"Is this, you know..." said Ichor Stravinsky, "actually... him?"

"I hardly think Cthulhu the Elder God would be this diffident," said Mauna Loca.

"Come in!" Ms. Katonixxx shouted.

A very ordinary man walked in. "Hello," he said. "Do I have the privilege of addressing the members of the great rock band known as The Arkhammers?"

In the silence, Ms. Katonixxx nodded.

"Allow me to introduce myself," the man said. "I am Ryleev, fifth secretary of the Russian Consulate. I bear a personal invitation from a personage of great importance. Here are your tickets to Novosibirsk, first class. Here is your honorarium check. And your hotel accommodations. I have taken the liberty of ascertaining that this would not interfere with your touring schedule." He bowed and departed.

"What just happened?" said Burt Batrachian.

Ms. Katonixxx nodded and looked at the check. Her eyebrows rose. She whistled.

"In Soviet Russia," she said, "Cthulhu summons you."


Milk of Human Kindness


Artwork by Jose Baetas.

Mom, I'm home!

Paul and I took Reggie to the vet. No, Mom, there won't be a bill, I've been saving up my babysitting money. Yes, people still hire babysitters. Yes, people who can't afford Dawwwgs.

You suppose correctly. Poor people are people too.

I know how old Reggie is, Mom. She is a year older than me. Over a hundred in dog years, yes. Mom, it's not money down the drain! It's breast cancer. Mammary cancer, fine, in that case, she mammary-fed me, paw-raised me--

Yes, it was you who changed my diapers. After Reggie cleaned me off. Of course I don't remember, Mom; I've seen the documentary. "Dawwwgs (tm): Fact and Fiction: Everything you need to know about transgenic ridgebacks." Yes, it's in her genes: loving babies, loving wiping their bottoms. That's what "transgenic" means. Ovalbumin and casein and lactoferrin, too. And Immunoglobulin A. All indistinguishable from human. She lactates human milk. And milk of human kindness.

Macbeth, Mother. We had it last year. Ninth grade English. No, only honors English does Shakespeare.

Yes, Mom, I'm taking honors English. Thank you, Mom. Yes, breeding will tell.

What about Paul? Paul and I are friends, Mom. No, I'm sure he is not your first choice. Yes, I remember Jordan. Yes, very nice boy, very well dressed. Impeccable breeding. I'm sure he'll grow into a very adequate young gentleman some day.

Mom, listen--

She's been on chemo for a month now, Mom, of course she looks mangy. No, I didn't think to include you in the decision. We are not putting her down.

Two years. The vet says two years. Give or take.

Babysitting money, birthday money-- I'll sell my hair for wigs if I have to, but I'll take care--

No, I would not presume to ask you to invade my education fund. Though it's all been very educational. Yes, Mom, I'm being smart. Breeding will tell.

Mom, have you ever loved anyone? Other than me, of course. And your parents. Yes, I'd love to go visit them in the summer. Just not this summer.

Mom, I'm not in love with Paul.

Mom, I appreciate everything you've given me. Life. A good life. Genes. Stuff. Lots of stuff.

Yes, you gave me Reggie. I appreciate that, Mom, more than you know. Paul was a formula baby, I remember him in pre-K, sick all the time and covered in rash -- he used to want to play with me but I was scared of his cooties and-- but then Reggie let him pet her when she dropped me off at school so I figured it was OK--

No, Mom, I didn't turn down a date with Jordan just because Reggie growled at him. I can growl just fine myself.

Yeah, Mom. Quality of life is important. I'm very glad you brought that up, because--

Yes, hounds are happiest when they chase, shepherd dogs when they herd sheep or cattle, and Dawwwgs when they have babies to take care of. I'm so very glad we all agree on this.

We all is you, and Paul, and I. We are going to make Reggie happy. She's going to have the happiest two years any Dawwwg ever had.

No, I am not doing this all by myself. Paul helped. Paul helped a lot.

Mom, I'm pregnant.