The first thing I saw was blue. The second thing I saw was Pops. The first thing I feared was God. That’s how I learned to order the universe. My first memory of a place was Boat-Raft-City. It’s a pretty cool place. Everything’s pretty all right. I mean it’s small. But that’s the deal. We only live in small communities now. It’s considered best for everybody. Stronger individuals. Everybody knows everybody. A healthier zeitgeist. Less schizophrenic living.
We live on a boat. Or rather, more precisely, on boats. Correction. Like, we live on boats that are tied together. So like a raft. Or a collection of boats, that on a macro scale operates like a large raft, and, on a regular level, looks and operates like a boat. On a personal scale I live on a boat called the Haphazard. It’s kind of like the ass of the raft.
There’s other dudes out there. Other people on other raft cities. But we don’t talk to them. It’s kind of culturally forbidden on account of our unwavering need to maintain a healthy communal psyche, which would be in severe jeopardy among the presence of outsiders. Outsiders whose thinking can simply not be ac-counted for. Like one time, I saw a boat of outsiders-whose-thoughts-couldn’t-be-accounted-for throwing babies overboard their ship. Which made my throat tight. I’m glad we don’t do that here. And we do some weird stuff. But so yeah, we don’t socialize. I mean we trade. Sometimes. But we never socialize when we do it. Pops said that’s why guns and armpits were invented: so we don’t have to socialize. So-cializing and unhealthy zeitgeists were the reason the Old World ended. Now we just put supplies in lifeboats and hope for honesty.
Back to the babies. The thing about the babies is population control is super important on Boat-Raft-City. Turns out babies are super easy to make. Turns out you and me and everybody can have a hand in the making of babies, but too many babies on Boat-Raft-City is bad for resources, which creates food and water short-ages, which creates unhappy people, which creates an unhealthy zeitgeist, which leads to wild tribal violence and sometimes, confusingly, even more babies. So we control babies. The only time banging is technically allowed is under an Elder Su-pervised Procreation Session or ESPS for short. I’m a little uncomfortable in an ESPS on account of performance anxiety issues and an atavistic sense that an un-known Elder is checking out my butt. Also, when the participants finish, the Elders do a little clap and sigh wistfully.
Unsanctioned bonking is a big no-no but we do it anyway. The Elders try to catch sweaty teenagers off guard but it’s a hard thing to prove if they don’t witness any penetration. I’m a sweaty teenager and a conscientious objector to the policy. If it were up to me I’d be bonking left and right. Personally, I’ve bonked a sum total of one and a half times. The one time was an ESPS with Lilly Simms. This was, to be honest, pretty much a brokered exchange. I’d speared a bonkers Marlin fish that day and brought it to Elder Simms as a sort of let-me-pork-your-daughter-gesture. What ensued was the best, and only, ESPS of my life with a clap at the end and eve-rything. The general consensus is and was that I’m radically beneath Lilly. In that particular instance I was.
The half time I bonked was just for fun and I remember it much better. Lilly and me were in an overturned lifeboat and even though it was dark the water shone emerald with luminescent algae. I remember how flecks of green peppered Lilly’s skin like stars in a cosmic swirl, her body lithe and barely suggested in a sea of black motion, a human constellation. For me the moment was seminal. Lilly made me finish in the water. Which was painful because salt got in my dick-hole. So it on-ly counts half. But I’d do it again, I’d definitely do it again.
So as I said we monitor procreation. But still, it’s a problem. There’s simply not much to be done about it. I mean people try. We have some pretty strict anti-bonking policies around here. Like for instance, compulsive masturbating is gener-ally encouraged and considered polite. It’s not uncommon to walk through the fish market and see multitasks browsing fish and tugging at the same time. I don’t eat at the fish market. Pops didn’t either. He found it morally incorrect and unsanitary. Pops told me when he was my age, back before the world got blown up and flood-ed, he compulsively masturbated in front of a computer screen. Apparently, this was not only the proper way to masturbate compulsively but also the correct use for computers. Computers don’t work anymore. I’ve tried to compulsively mastur-bate to one but all I see is myself.
Pops hated computers. He called them lie machines. He said they were al-most as bad as television, which he called a sentient lie machine. He told me he was pretty sure that at one point in his life, his TV had most assuredly moved places in the night and tried to kill him with toxic visuals. One toxic visual was this thing called porn. According to Pops, porn was a kind of third-person-fucking-magic-window. If you looked into it you could see beautiful people with large wangs and firm titties compulsively fuck for money. Pops said it was pretty similar to an Elder Supervised Procreation Session minus the clapping.
Pops used to be an Elder. He relinquished his position because he got tired of working for, “The Man.” This was a lie. He quit because people hated him. He quit because some of the other Elders bandied around the suggestion of throwing him and me off Boat-Raft-City for sedition, which, would have been bad for us and nutritional for God. This is how he became an outcast. This is how I came to be be-neath Lilly Simms.
Anyhow, Pops blamed the destruction of our intended life on Earth on lie machines, because lie machines had made the world increasingly absurd. Lie ma-chines made it incredibly difficult for people to rationalize their experiences, and created a communal dissociative mindset. Everything went bonkers. Everything reached and surpassed a bonkers threshold wherein bonkers became confused with normalcy. Then bonkers caught fire and decided to burn the village, so to speak. I asked my Pops what he saw on the lie machine that made him so sure of this theory. He said he only remembered one thing: it was a story about wonderful smoothies that could somehow make women incredibly thin and give them orgas-mic pleasure all at the same time. In the story several woman danced half-naked and made orgasm faces while they drank the seemingly magic beverages. I asked my father what this meant philosophically; he shook his head in a sad way. He was a sad dude. I think he suffered from existential depression. God ate him. He’s not around anymore.
God. God is a horrific, gigantic sea creature who chases Boat-Raft-City around the Atlantic and tries to eat us at night. Between the hours of midnight and dawn God uses its approximately five-thousand suctioned tentacles to grope us away from existence. God has roughly three hundred red spinal protrusions that carve through the water like tower-high swords in a v-pattern. God has a biblical amount of blowholes on its back that eject a million streams of bioluminescent al-gae thousands of yards into the air at the precise moment the sun rises over the horizon, signaling the end of his rampage. This is the most majestic and life affirm-ing vista in the history of existence. I know because Pops told me, and he did a lot of acid while visiting someplace called Yosemite.
We eat the algae. We eat a metric ton of the algae. It’s kind of our spiritual contract with Giant-Fish-Monster-God. But frankly, and I mean no disrespect to al-gae, it’s pretty baseline awful. As soon as God dives for the day we paddle out in canoes and scoop up buckets full of algae to painfully consume. We don’t need to eat the algae anymore, on account of late-stage fishing skills, but we do it as a re-minder that life used to be mega-crazy and we should totally appreciate it not being so anymore. The Elders describe the eating and the puking and the crying as an act of humiliating contrition, of shaming ourselves for the things that lead us here. There’s a chant that happens when we do this, it goes: “Shame! Shame! Shame on human progress!”
I remember there was this one guy who, in the middle of algae gathering, told everyone on the raft that God’s algae was actually this thing called manna, and that he’d read about it in a book somewhere. He was very forceful on this issue, and not big on shaming human progress, and at one point bit somebody. The El-ders said that line of thinking and that kind of biting was perhaps not super-fantastic. They threw him off the boat. Sharks ate him.
After the shark-eating the Elders convened us and told us how important it was not to treat or think about God or ourselves as anything special. They told us to lump him in with boring, every day occurring things like the sun and the moon. They told us to think of God as just another fantastic but completely expected natu-ral phenomenon that simply took its turn telling us what to do. Pops shook his head when he heard this. He spent the next four hours contemplating the move-ments of a cloud. He never scooped algae. We weren’t very popular for it, but my Pops never wanted to be popular. He wanted to be alone and stare.
While God shooting glowing green lava into the heavens is fantastic and life affirming beyond measure, it is for the most part a harrowing terror. God is also the sole reason mankind is alive, on account of it rising up from the irradiated seas and recreating our atmosphere through the spouting of oxygen spewing algae. The atmosphere was gone on account of the F-bombs. F-bombs were kind of like port-able infernos that not only killed everything but also revoked the atmosphere, turning it into a thin mist that made living barely possible. Apparently, the term F-bomb was some sort of joke. Apparently, when mankind invented anything perma-nently-word-destroying a small amount of ironic humor was necessary to validate the process.
Sometimes I think God’s ironically funny. Sometimes when God sleeps its roll-ing slumber pushes us in the direction of land. We get to see the burned husks of cities rising in the distance like little black fingers. So yeah, we begrudgingly put up with God. It was God’s algae that returned oxygen to the atmosphere after we scorched it away. It’s a kind of symbiosis. We take turns eating each other.
Pops’s friend Ken was mega-way-into God. He had what Pops referred to as a theological obsession. Ken wasn’t from Boat-Raft-City originally. He just sort of showed up one day in a sailboat filled with harpoons and heartbreakingly beautiful sketches of whales. We let him onboard on account of him continually throwing harpoons at us while cursing in Japanese. He was a wacko.
Pops and Ken got along great on account of them sharing the same form of existential depression. They couldn’t communicate verbally on account of the lan-guage barrier, but they could grunt and ponder clouds with tremendous synchro-nization. This trait made them useless and extensively unpopular. I’m kind of ex-tensively unpopular too, on account of the fact that Pops was my Pops and Ken was his bestie.
The thing I remember about Ken was his life and his death, which is kind of an expansive thing to remember but also really simple. All Ken ever did was hurl harpoons at God while cursing in Japanese, gesticulating wildly at a whale sketch in reprobation. Despite Ken’s best efforts, God continued to eat whales with what can be considered reckless abandon, which in turn only fueled Ken’s spear-throwing. This was pretty much Ken’s only skill set, asides from the creation of heartbreak-ingly beautiful whale sketches, which, In my opinion, are pretty great. I’ve got a couple hanging in the Haphazard today. They help me with the existential depres-sion.
Sometimes Ken talked about his home through pictographs and grunts. He was like Pops. A man from a different time. A child from a different world, some higher dimension where water and monster weren’t arbitrary conditionals. A place called Japan. A place that had apparently spent millions of dollars predicting the as-cension of God, and practiced fighting it on a daily basis via Lie Machines. The prac-tice didn’t pay off. They all died. Ken’s daughter died in an F-Bomb blast. She was scorched away by a mad wind of fire. After her death Ken could recognize the spot where she had been cremated, her anti-self. He lay down next to this anti-her and in a day or so a great wave came and throttled him out to sea. He would have died if not for the whale that ate him. The whale imparted rare earth knowledge upon him and ejected him out into the New World. I suspect Ken might have been a Lie Machine.
Ken’s dead now. One day he ran out of harpoons to throw at God and found himself to be the next nearest object. There wasn’t a moment of hesitation. No, “Hey guys I’m off to suicide because I ran out of spears and my honor demands it,” which would of been nice for me, although culturally foreign. Given how thorough-ly dedicated Ken was to his obsession I could have understood. It was especially sad for Pops. I think watching Ken gave Pops the idea. I’ve never quite got over that.
As I said Pops was a sad guy. He was also a wacko guy. But he was pretty al-right. I think his problem was he had exhausted himself in his prior life, which made him cranky and aloof. Every morning he woke and expected to be back there, back among things he couldn’t replace. I think there’s a point in life were new things start to crush you. I think an essential part of Pops got crushed. He had managed to repair that part a little, till it worked just enough, but it would never be shiny again.
It was in the beautiful hours that he only ever woke up from his stupor. In the light drenched mornings and dusks, the moments before and after God’s bliss and carnage, I would see him walk the decks of Boat-Raft-City in bewilderment, searching the swirling horizon for something. He looked like a befuddled prophet, his silver hair wild like a starched thunderbolt. In these dazes he would respond to no one. Not even me. Sometimes children would throw fish heads at him. I remem-ber following him around, picking up fish heads and throwing them back. Some-times he would stand on the bow of our boat and yell esoteric things at God as God stirred awake in the red glamour of the setting sun, primed to embark upon anoth-er night of feasting on the bounty of the sea: dolphins, whales, and people. Some-times he’d just stare out into the distance. If there wasn’t any distance to be stared at he would stare at some indoor object and act like it was distance. One time, he looked at a boot for three hours. After two hours
I moved the boot and he didn’t say anything. So I moved it back. After the third hour he asked me if I’d seen the boot moving, which I had because I had moved it. When I remember this moment, his ponderous head heaving left and right from the boot to me, I see him as an an-imal. I think that’s what he wanted. To be something clean and uncomplicated. Maybe that’s why he jumped.
He didn’t say anything. Didn’t say goodbye. But he saw me. And I saw him. Then he was in the water occupying the reflection of the moon. Then he was part of the carnage. One of God’s arms pulled him underneath to what I can only as-sume were waiting jaws. To be honest with you, my world got a little smaller. I miss his ponderous head. Sometimes I have dreams where he returns to me as a wise and scarred walrus, and we talk on a great slab of ice in the middle of the sea. And there’s no great Boat-Raft-City. There’s no horrific sea monster dictating the cur-rent of life. There’s just him and me and we only need to look at each other to ex-change wide swathes of feelings. Sometimes I think my dreams are Lie Machines too.
Listen to me. I want you to understand something. This isn’t a bad life. It’s not an unhappy life. Things go on. People fall in the water and drown. Things go on. People jump overboard at night and let God eat them. Things go on. People grow old and die in their beds. Things go on. And between all the things-going-on, there’s some love, some hate, some fear, some hope. Like, for instance, I hope to spear another choice Marlin so I can pork Lilly Simms again in an ESPS. And If I do a good job porking, and everyone’s okay with us making a new person, I think that would be pretty great. There’d be room for a lot of love there and I could always talk about Pops. And we could go under the lifeboat again and I wouldn’t mind my dick-hole hurting.
Asides from Lilly I’ve got the Haphazard to myself. Sometimes people forget that I’m even here. On those days, when there’s no knock on my cabin, no fishing to be done, I slip out and ride my little boat. It’s an old thing, a smoothed and waxed canoe with a little diesel engine at the back. I give it a few pulls and stand up. Then I carve the blue. I feel the speed of all life. I feel myself come apart at the seams as all the lies that make me a Lie Machine spread out into vapor. Something clean and uncomplicated. And I think about Pops. And we have nonverbal communications, like a song. And when I hear it I go faster, put down everything I have. And when the algae blooms, borne upwards from the body of that great fish, I can feel our dead communicating. In the effervescent dawn I let the glowing-green rain down upon me and test my luck, knowing how I’ll die. I only hope it looks beautiful, my home floating in the distance, lit up and twinkling like a colony of stars, existing for the first and last time.