Survivor, p.15
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       Survivor, p.15

           Chuck Palahniuk
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  According to Fertility Hollis, there is no chaos.

  There are only patterns, patterns on top of patterns, patterns that affect other patterns. Patterns hidden by patterns. Patterns within patterns.

  If you watch close, history does nothing but repeat itself.

  What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized. What we call random is just patterns we can’t decipher. What we can’t understand we call nonsense.

  What we can’t read we call gibberish.

  There is no free will.

  There are no variables.

  “There is only the inevitable,” Fertility says. “There’s only one future. You don’t have a choice.”

  The bad news is we don’t have any control.

  The good news is you can’t make any mistakes.

  The waitress across the dining room looks young and pretty and doomed.

  “I pay attention to the patterns,” Fertility says.

  She says she can’t not pay attention.

  “They’re in my dreams more and more every night,” she says. “Everything. It’s the same as reading a history book about the future, every night.”

  So she knows everything.

  “So I know you need a miracle to go on television with.”

  What I need is a good prediction.

  “That’s why I’m here,” she says and takes a fat daily planner book out of her tote bag. “Give me a time window. Give me a date for your prediction.”

  I tell her, Any time during the week after next.

  “How about a multiple-car accident,” she says, reading from her book.

  I ask, How many cars?

  “Sixteen cars,” she says. “Ten dead. Eight injured.”

  Does she have anything flashier?

  “How about a casino fire in Las Vegas,” she says. “Topless showgirls in big feather headdresses on fire, stuff like that.”

  Any dead?

  “No. Minor injuries. A lot of smoke damage, though.”

  Something bigger.

  “A tanning salon explosion.”

  Something dazzling.

  “Rabies in a national park.”


  “Subway collision.”

  She’s putting me to sleep.

  “A fur activist strapped with bombs in Paris.”

  Skip it.

  “Oil tanker capsizes.”

  Who cares about that stuff?

  “Movie star miscarries.”

  Great, I say. My public will think I’m a real monster when that comes true.

  Fertility pages around in her daily planner.

  “Geez, it’s summer,” she says. “We don’t have a lot of choices in disasters.”

  I tell her to keep looking.

  “Next week, Ho Ho the giant panda the National Zoo is trying to breed will pick up a venereal disease from a visiting panda.”

  No way am I going to say that on television.

  “How about a tuberculosis outbreak?”


  “Freeway sniper?”


  “Shark attack?”

  She must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  “A broken racehorse leg?”

  “A slashed painting in the Louvre?”

  “A ruptured prime minister?”

  “A fallen meteorite?”

  “Infected frozen turkeys?”

  “A forest fire?”

  No, I tell her.

  Too sad.

  Too artsy.

  Too political.

  Too esoteric.

  Too gross.

  No appeal.

  “A lava flow?” Fertility asks.

  Too slow. No real drama. Mostly just property damage.

  The problem is disaster movies have everybody expecting too much from nature.

  The waitress brings the chicken stir-fry and my lemon meringue pie and fills our coffee cups. Then she smiles and goes off to die.

  Fertility pages back and forth in her book.

  In my guts, the cherry pie is putting up a fight. Spokane is outside. The air conditioning is inside. Nothing even looks like a pattern.

  Fertility Hollis says, “How about killer bees?” I ask, Where? “Arriving in Dallas, Texas.” When?

  “Next Sunday morning, at ten past eight.” A few? A swarm? How many? “Zillions.”

  I tell her, Perfect.

  Fertility lets out a sigh and digs into her chicken stir-fry. “Shit,” she says, “That’s the one I knew you’d pick all along.”

  So a zillion killer bees buzz into Dallas, Texas, at ten past eight on Sunday morning, right on schedule. This is despite the fact I only had a crummy fifteen percent market share of the television audience for my spot.

  The next week, the network slots me for a full minute, and some heavy hitters, the drug companies, the car makers, the oil and tobacco conglomerates, are lining up as definite maybe sponsors if I can come up with an even bigger miracle.

  For all the wrong reasons, the insurance companies are very interested.

  Between now and next week, I’m on the road making weeknight appearances in Florida. It’s the Jacksonville-Tampa-Orlando-Miami circuit. It’s the Tender Branson Miracle Crusade. One night each.

  My Miracle Minute, that’s what the agent and the network want to call it, well it takes about zero effort to produce. Someone points a camera at you with your hair combed and a tie around your neck, and you look somber and talk straight into the lens:

  The Ipswich Point Lighthouse will topple tomorrow.

  Next week, the Mannington Glacier in Alaska will collapse and capsize a cruise ship that’s sightseeing too close.

  The week after that, mice carrying a deadly virus will turn up in Chicago, Tacoma, and Green Bay.

  This is exactly the same as being a television newscaster, only before the fact.

  The way I see the process happening is I’ll get Fertility to give me a couple dozen predictions at a time, and I’ll just tape a season’s worth of Miracle Minutes. With a year in the can, I’ll be free to make personal appearances, endorse products, sign books. Maybe do some consulting. Do cameo walk-ons in movies and television.

  Don’t ask me when because I don’t remember, but somewhere along the way I keep forgetting to commit suicide.

  If the publicist ever put killing myself on my schedule I’d be dead. Seven PM, Thursday, drink drain cleaner. No problem. But what with the killer bees and the demands on my time, I keep stressing about what if I can’t find Fertility again.

  This, and my entourage is with me every step of the way. The team’s always dogging me, the publicist, the schedulers, the personal fitness trainer, the orthodontist, the dermatologist, the dietician.

  The killer bees got less accomplished than you’d expect. They didn’t kill anybody, but they got a lot of attention. Now I needed an encore.

  A collapsing stadium. A mining cave-in.

  A train derailment.

  The only moment I’m ever alone is when I go sit on the toilet, and even then I’m surrounded.

  Fertility is nowhere.

  In almost every public men’s room, there’s a hole chipped in the wall between one toilet stall and the next. This is chipped through solid wood an inch thick by somebody with just their fingernails. This is done over days or months at a time. You see these holes scratched through marble, through steel. As if someone in prison is trying to escape. The hole is only big enough to look though, or talk. Or put a finger through or a tongue or a penis, and escape just that little bit at a time.

  What people call these openings is ‘glory holes.’

  It’s the same as where you’d find a vein of gold.

  Where you’d find glory.

  I’m on a toilet in the Miami airport, and right at my elbow there’s the hole in the stall wall, and all around the hole are messages left by men who sat here before me.

  John M was here 3⁄14⁄64.

  Carl B was here Jan. 8, 1976.<
br />

  Some of them are scratched here fresh. Some are covered up but scratched so deep they’re still readable under decades of paint.

  Here are the shadows left behind by a thousand moments, a thousand moods, of needs traced here on the wall by men who are gone. Here is the record of their being here. Their visit. Their passing. Here’s what the caseworker would call a primary source document.

  A history of the unacceptable.

  Be here tonight for a free blow job. Saturday, June 18, 1973.

  All this is scratched in the wall.

  Here are words without pictures. Sex without names. Pictures without words.

  Scratched here is a naked woman with her long legs spread wide, her round staring breasts, her long flowing hair and no face.

  Squirting huge teardrops toward her hairy vagina is a severed penis as big as a man.

  Heaven, the words say, is an all-you-can-eat pussy buffet.

  Heaven is getting fucked up the ass.

  Go to Hell faggot.

  Been there.

  Go suck shit.

  Done that.

  These are only a few of the voices around me when a real voice, a woman’s voice, whispers, “You need another disaster, don’t you?”

  The voice is coming through the hole, but when I look, all you can see are two lipsticked lips. Red lips, white teeth, a flash of wet tongue says, “I knew you’d be here. I know everything.”


  At the hole now is a plain gray-colored eye made big with blue shadow and eyeliner and blinking lashes heavy with mascara. The pupil pulses large and then small. Then the mouth appears to say, “Don’t sweat it. Your plane will be delayed for another couple hours.”

  On the wall next to the mouth it says, I suck and swallow.

  Next to that it says, I only want to love her if she’d just give me the chance.

  There’s a poem that starts, Warm inside you is the love…The rest of the poem is washed down the wall and erased by ejaculate.

  The mouth says, “I’m here on an assignment.”

  It must be her evil job.

  “It’s my evil job,” she says. “It’s the heat.”

  It’s not something we talk about.

  She says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

  Congratulations, I whisper. About the killer bees, I mean.

  Scratched on the wall is, What do you call a Creedish girl who goes down?


  What do you call a Creedish fag who takes dick up the ass?

  The mouth says, “You need another disaster, don’t you?”

  More like fifteen or twenty, I whisper.

  “No,” the mouth says. “You’re turning out just like every guy I’ve ever trusted,” she says. “You’re greedy.”

  I just want to save people.

  “You’re a greedy pig.”

  I want to save people from disasters.

  “You’re just a dog doing a trick.”

  This is only so I can kill myself.

  “I don’t want you dead.”


  “Why what?”

  Why does she want me alive? Is it because she likes me?

  “No,” the mouth says. “I don’t hate you, but I need you.”

  But she doesn’t not like me?

  The mouth says, “Do you have any idea how boring it is to be me? To know everything? To see everything coming from a million miles away? It’s getting unbearable. And it’s not just me.”

  The mouth says, “We’re all bored.”

  The wall says, I fucked Sandy Moore.

  All around that, ten others have scratched, Me too.

  Someone else has scratched, Has anybody here not fucked Sandy Moore?

  Next to that is scratched, I haven’t.

  Next to that is scratched, Faggot.

  “We all watch the same television programs,” the mouth says. “We all hear the same things on the radio, we all repeat the same talk to each other. There are no surprises left. There’s just more of the same. Reruns.”

  Inside the hole, the red lips say, “We all grew up with the same television shows. It’s like we all have the same artificial memory implants. We remember almost none of our real childhoods, but we remember everything that happened to sitcom families. We have the same basic goals. We all have the same fears.”

  The lips say, “The future is not bright.”

  “Pretty soon, we’ll all have the same thoughts at the same time. We’ll be in perfect unison. Synchronized. United. Equal. Exact. The way ants are. Insectile. Sheep.”

  Everything is so derivative.

  A reference to a reference to a reference.

  “The big question people ask isn’t ‘What’s the nature of existence?’” the mouth says. “The big question people ask is ‘What’s that from?’”

  I listened at the hole the way I listened to people confess over the telephone, the way I listened at crypts for signs of life. I asked, so why does she need me?

  “Because you grew up in a different world,” the mouth says.

  “Because if anybody is going to surprise me, it’s going to be you. You’re not part of the mass culture, not yet. You’re my only hope of seeing anything new. You’re the magic prince that can break this spell of boredom. This trance of day-after-day sameness. Even there. Done that. You’re a control group of one.”

  But no, I whisper, I’m not all that different.

  “Yes, you are,” the mouth says. “And your staying different is my only hope.”

  So give me some predictions.


  Why not?

  “Because I’ll never see you again. The world of people will eat you up, and I’ll lose you. From now on, I’ll give you one prediction each week.”


  “This way,” the mouth says. “Just like right now. And don’t worry. I’ll find you.”

  According to my itinerary, I’m in a dark television studio on a brown sofa, a 60⁄40 poly-wool blend by the feel of it, a broadloom weave, treated to resist stains and fading at the center of a dozen stage lights. My hair styled by. My clothes designed by. My jewelry provided by.

  My autobiography says I’ve never been more joyful and fulfilled in my joy of living life every day to its fullest. The press releases say I’m taping a new television program, a half hour every late night when I’ll take calls from people needing advice. I’ll offer new perspectives. According to the press releases, every so often the show will include a new prediction. A disaster, an earthquake, tidal wave, rain of locusts could be headed your way, so you’d better tune in, just in case.

  It’s sort of the evening news before the fact. The press release calls the new show Peace of Mind. If you could call it that.

  It’s Fertility who said I’d be famous someday. She said I’d be telling the whole world about her so I’d better get my facts straight.

  Fertility said, after I was famous to describe her eyes as catlike.

  Her hair, she said, was storm-tossed. Those were her exact words.

  Yeah, and her lips were bee-stung.

  She said her arms are as smooth as a skinless chicken breast. According to Fertility, the way she walked was fun-loving. “After you’re famous,” she told me, “don’t make me look like a monster or a victim or anything.” Fertility said, “You’re going to sell out your entire religion and everything you believe in, just don’t lie about me. Okay? Please.”

  So part of my being famous is I do this weekly sit-down program with a famous television journalist to introduce me. She segues to commercial break. She feeds me the people calling in with questions. The Teleprompter feeds me the answers.

  People call in on the toll-free line. Help me. Heal me. Feed me. Hear me. It’s what I used to do in my dodgy apartment at night only broadcast nationwide.

  Messiah. Savior. Deliver us. Save us.

  The confessions to me in my apartment, the confessions to me on national telev
ision, they’re all just the same as my story right now into the cockpit flight recorder. My confessional.

  With the kinds of drugs I was taking at that point in my career, if you want to sleep at night, you don’t want to read the package insert. The side effects include nothing you’d do on national television. Vomiting, flatulence, diarrhea.

  The side effects include: headache, fever, dizziness, rashes, sweating.

  I could tick them all off:





  Taste perversions.

  According to my personal trainer, it’s the Primabolin that’s making my head buzz. My hands shake. Sweat stands on the back of my neck. It could be a drug interaction.

  According to my personal trainer, this is a good thing. Just sitting here, I’m losing weight.

  According to my personal trainer, the best way to get illegal steroids is you find a cat sick with leukemia and take it around to veterinarians who will prescribe preloaded syringes of animal steroids equivalent to the best steroids for human use. He said if the cat lives long enough, you can stockpile a year’s worth.

  When I asked him what happens to the cat, he asked, why should he care?

  The journalist sits across from me. How her legs look with the rest of her body is not too long. She shows just enough ear for earrings. All her problems are hidden inside. All her flaws are underneath. The only smell she gives off, even her breath, is hair spray. How she’s folded into her chair, her legs crossed at the knee, her hands folded in her lap, is less good posture than it is some flesh-and-blood origami.

  According to the storyboards, I’m on a sofa in the island of hot light surrounded by television cameras and cables and silent technicians doing their jobs around me in the dark. The agent is there in the shadows with his arms crossed and looking at his watch. The agent turns to where some writers are marking last-minute revisions to the copy before it appears on the Teleprompter.

  On a little table next to the sofa is a glass of ice water, and if I pick it up my hand shakes so much the ice cubes ring until the agent shakes his head at me, his mouth making a silent no.

  We’re taping.

  According to the journalist, she feels my pain. She’s read my autobiography. She knows all about my humiliation. She’s read all about the humiliating ordeal it must’ve been to be naked and sold as a slave, naked. Me being just seventeen or eighteen years old and all those people, everyone in the cult, being there to see me, naked. A naked slave, she says, in slavery. Naked.

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