The sweet smell of DK
He who rules men lives in confusion: He who is ruled by men lives in sorrow. Tao therefore desired neither to influence others nor to be influenced by them. The way to get clear of confusion and free of sorrow is to live with Tao in the land of the great Void – Chuang Tzu
The building was a stocky 23 story giant looming above the huddled rag bag collection of worn out and rickety old low level houses that lay scattered in the charm and confusion of downtown Tokyo. They knelt and cowered in the wake of the giant who saw all. Every road led to his door and every street came under the watchful glare of the flashing red night light that was stationed at the giant’s head. There was no escape, at least from the bent old citizens of Tokyo, in the midst of their illusionary village ideal, from the baleful encroach of modernity.
I approached the monster in the sun shiny morning, pausing to let pass a blur of cyclists, mostly women and their children but the occasional salaryman. Already I could smell it, like the smell of rotten eggs, I didn’t know whether it was the sewers I could smell; it was the same smell that greeted any visitor to an Onsen Hot Spring, throwing its cloying arms around them, and then staying with them for the next week despite the best attempts of a bar of soap and a scrubbing brush to bid them farewell; it was the smell of the Earth’s entrails, and it signaled a site of high geological activity. Whatever it was, it made me think of burning brimstone. I could remember how long he’d been here, exactly six weeks today, but here time meant very little, you could count it but you couldn’t count on it and in the final analysis time in the madness corridors and the frenzy rooms somehow felt different.
I felt as if I’d been here all my life, feeling the same rush of disgust as I came to work, smelling a city’s digested meals, this foul moat that surrounded the building underground, circled it. I looked up at the first story windows, to my appointed place of work, a face in the window quickly darted out of his sight and was gone leaving only the out of hours darkness. So I’d seen him, he knew I was here, I prepared myself for the encounter. I had become quite good at playing the hypocrite lately, laughing with the boor and wishing the devil well. I took out my smile which I kept in my jacket pocket and applied it to my face I then pressed my thumb onto the door and opened it.
I looked in the rooms but there was nobody there, I was alone with the morning sun which shone from between two smaller buildings across the road. I looked at the picture of my grinning boss on the wall: he looked like a maniac. I remembered the tiresome game that my boss had played with my picture – I could always tell if I’d done something to displease the boss as my picture would mysteriously vanish from the wall, leaving only the boss’s grinning face in sole possession of his kingdom, it would be a while before my own picture would turn up again, but even when it did it would still have a long way to go before it found its way back onto the wall. This morning my picture had slowly made its way from the obscurity of wherever my boss hides it; what had I done to deserve that? Oh yes I had forgotten to ask my boss about his weekend, that was it, I didn’t give two figs whether my picture was on the wall or whether it was on an all expenses paid round the world cruise, but my boss did and in order to escape a worse fate, I decided it best to pretend to give a shit about the picture game.
Where had it gone next? Oh yes, next stop was inside the locked cupboard, the cupboard had windows in its doors so I could see the picture which smiled back at me, it then made its way to the next and penultimate location which was were it now lay, face down on the reception desk.Although it wasn’t a given thing, I’d have to be extra nice and courteous today in order to have my picture on the wall by tomorrow, if not I’d go back into the locked cupboard.
Suddenly the office flooded with people and I had to start work. I entered the torture room, the door frame was so low I had to stoop to get into the room, but so doing, failed to notice the raised step so I fell into the room landing hard on my hands, someone laughed by way of ‘Hello’. A voice behind me said “Keep your eyes open next time!” I stood-up and smiled bravely and was met with blank masks, then with a heart stopping suddenness, like a radio alarm clock going off in the morning, the masks started talking amongst themselves, a volume surged from behind the masks. I tried to turn it down, I spoke out but it wasn’t enough: I wasn’t heard above the din, the volume even rose higher, louder and louder, what if I wasn’t here? No madness, of course I was there, I just wasn’t there enough. Sometimes I’m there enough, sometimes they hear me, then they speak spitting words at me and spreading their peanut butter smiles and toasty coquetry all around the room.
Suddenly the door swings open anew and peals a sound of thunder as the Demon King himself enters the chamber and just stands there, somehow bigger than the door, eyes blazing with mischief and malevolence, he walks through me reminding me that I’m not there and opens his golden jaws of his flip-top head and throws words for the masks to catch, like multi-coloured bubbles they pop out of his head and float around the room bringing a childlike glow to the hitherto dull eyed masks. Then he jumps onto the table, or seems to, and dances, pulling tricks from his sleeves, pours himself funnelling into them, riding through their bodies, touching every part of them from the inside and buzzing them to a frenzied ecstasy until he leaves them panting and shrieking with banshees’ delight, and disappears through a hole in a ceiling tile. An incredible ability it must be owned but I see the secret of the trick, what he does is to screw himself up really small and tight like a discarded ball of paper, then he says a magic word and poof! He’s gone in a cloud of ions. The only trace is a waft of sulphur residue searching out the corners of the room with long yellow fingers.
All the while I hid under the table staring into the dead land of their vaginas. Now the coast is clear so I come out from under the table but I can see that he has left his eyes behind , I can see them hiding in the crack in the ceiling tile, they’re boring into me the yellow whites all bloodshot and frenzied. I want to jump up and snatch them and stomp them to hear them pop and burst, shooting the aqueous humour onto the walls with a splat and dribble. I pull out a chair and almost climb onto it when I hear the voice eating into my mind, a voice that asks me what I think I’m doing. It scares me so much that I sit right down almost with the whimper of a beaten dog. Anyway in case of feelings of doubt it’s best to take a seat, I find it’s the best policy in times of crises and trouble, when the blood seems to be lava charged with madness that repeatedly sears into the tectonic trauma of your brain: just have a sit down, things are better closer to the ground, gravity cuts you some slack, I guess that’s why when I was a depressive I used to stay in bed all day. Just stay in bed and keep out of trouble, even gravity couldn’t bring me any further down.
“Would you like one of my cakes?” the mask was removed from one of the creatures to show the face of an unblinking owl. If she blinked she would miss the opportunity to strike, evolution has given her the chance to rip into me with her beak at any time she pleases without pulling down the blinds, nature is indeed a wonderful thing, the blood red of her manicured talons accords perfectly with her blood red beak, nicely counterpointed by the fuzzy brown of her plumage.
I look down at what she is offering and I can only stifle the urge to gag as I look upon a chocolate coated piece of poisoncake with a sprinkling of typhoid bacteria.
“No thanks,” I say instantly, as if to parry a blow.
“Why not? I made them myself,” her eyes shrink into their sockets as if she would ring tears from them.
“And I bet you laid the eggs yourself am I right?” I say.
She sulks and pouts and scuttles into the corner of the room to eye me, and then it scuttles back to its horrid lair until next week. Behind it like the shadow of a shadow, and now exposed to my gaze, lies the other, voiceless dead thing. The owl faced creature with its beak and claws and eyes that seem to follow you everywhere, even inside your own mind is bad enough, but the living dead thing is a horror too much. I am pleased that pity on me has deprived it of a voice for the voice of the dead is the sound of the scream from a thousand nightmares. It too shuffled into its sepulchre and I collapsed into a book.
I stayed sane by doing some minor magic and I winked cheekily at the demon’s tardy eyeball in the crack in the ceiling tile. It frowned and glared at me harder, I felt its hatred beat down on and I felt like a bald albino under a sun lamp. I filled the room with confidence to dispel its power and the eye retreated. Good I thought, alone at last, then the door opened and the long probing nose of the demon king himself entered the room like an unmanned space probe checking for signs of life. It snuffled here and there, into the pages of my notes, sniffed at the book I was reading and the long pink proboscis even prodded itself into my bag. Without hesitating I zipped my bag shut trapping the Demon King’s beastly long beaky nose inside, where I could feel it scurrying about like a trapped cockroach. I cheered at my triumph until the door opened and the Demon King himself peered darkly into the room, wearing a white surgical mask to mask the absence of his nose. Without his nose he seemed almost human, likeable even. He sat down opposite me and said, in a the very strange unformed tone of a man without a nose:
“I din we ha somethi to discuss.” With that he went on about how I seemed to be a very private person, as if there was something wrong with that, and he told me that he didn’t think that I was entirely suited to this type of work, he had the impression that I had something against ghouls and monsters and even the Demon King himself he said, visibly hurt or pretending to be. Meanwhile my bag snuffled and snorted as he spoke, the nose inside seemed to be suffocating in the papery obscurity of the bag. I could hear the nose sniffing with intent and I could hear pages being turned and sniffed at. Damn it I thought, I’d given that beastly big conk just what it was sniffing for, a chance to nose around in my precious private things, so I unzipped my bag and before I could look up it had pooped right back onto DK’s face, and that face was right in my face and was now peeping and peering into my bag. Not content with a mere olfactory assessment of the inside of my bag the DK’s eyes were now wandering about rolling here there and everywhere. I sighed and abandoned my bag to his rolling eyes, I gave a ‘I’ve nowt to hide look’ to the eyes, and, they both winked at me.
Later I met the leased soul people. They were people who’d literally sold themselves. It’s funny how they all look the same, they never smile or laugh because they’re not allowed, at least not during their leasing hours. They all have very long probing noses like the DK himself and they love to snuffle into your private business. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing: you could be having a beer and suddenly there’s a nose underlying the very work you’re reading. If you speak there’ll be a big waggling ear, that gets bigger the more you speak, like it’s sucking up your words, drinking them in to add to its bulk. I met one guy who spent so much time listening that his ears were like satellite dishes on the side of his head. He kept his head down, I don’t think he used his eyes anymore, he used to listen his way around town.
The leased people move out of their bodies and minds and they let the darkness enter. I wonder where they move to when they’re not there, they must be terribly cold wherever they are. I’ve seen leased people talking too, it’s like watching a puppet show, they act like real people and make all the same moves but they were empty and wooden, you wonder who’s pulling their strings but whoever or whatever it is keeps well out of sight.
It’s like these people have given their bodies to medical science while they are still alive. I met one once who was instructed to burn himself red raw right to the roots of his hair just to show a real person what the colour red looks like. Another one was ordered to drink eight pints of beer and eat nothing but ice-cream for two days to try to show another real person that it is important to maintain a balanced diet. The Demon king has many bodies in his possession and I’m so afraid he’ll want mine. Already he possesses knowledge of my secret precious private things.
My face must do his bidding at all times, the plastic smile must be stuck onto my face at all times; only when I sleep am I anything like free, but I am never far from the yellow bloody eye of the DK for it is everywhere.
There was that familiar smell of bad eggs and DK suddenly materialised.
“Don’t forget tomorrow’s disorientation session at 8:47. Have you finished your assignment ready for tomorrow?”
“Yes.” I answer weakly.
“Good!” his eyes opened widely and he stuck on the very brightest and most intimidating smile of his whole collection. In reality I hadn’t finished it, hadn’t even started and had absolutely no intention of doing it. What a naughty boy I was. I was going to tell him all this of course, with steadfast devil may care resolution but his sudden appearance and his best smile forced my strength to sink, capsized by fear. His great nose smelt my fear and he seemed to gain strength from it, growing large and snorting with feral excitation.
However in the semi privacy of the chamber, I re-resolved to tell him to shove that stupid pseudo assignment up his infernal backside. He told me that he wanted me to write a report about an imaginary picture drawn with a broken pencil and coloured it in using only black and white paint. He assured me that it would be a stimulating, challenging and above all enjoyable activity. I decided that it was a fool’s errand, he agreed but I had to so it all the same and do it well.
The little people:
The small boxroom was white walled empty and windowless, there were no chairs desks books posters on the wall, no soothing colours. Nothing but the bright yellow buzz of the electric light. Suddenly a trap door sprang open in the side of the wall and a dozen or so little human beings jumped out shouting and screaming. They looked like normal people except that the scale was wrong, or at least non standard: they were shrunk down to about two feet tall and they hissed like snakes. They turned cartwheels, rolled around on the floor, some started fighting and others yawned and gazed out of imaginary windows. Then there was a screechy howl like a dozen cows being squeezed, then sobbing. I looked and saw two of the little people trying to eat a smaller one. Their little mouths and small white teeth were all over the victim’s hand, chomping onto it and chewing with their molars trying to crush flesh and bone to edible mush. The little person squealed in pain again, “Stop it!” I shouted, “It’s not very nice to eat someone else you know, particularly not when they’re still alive.”
“But she’s smaller and nicer than we are.” The little cannibals protested with bloody little mouths.
“Well, at least keep her quiet so I can’t hear her screams.”
“I don’t know, do I look like an expert in keeping people silent while eating them alive, I think perhaps it’d be best to stop it now.”
In the midst of the violence, screaming crying and vegetative imaginary window gazing, a little black haired boy rose and with a grave air came to the front while the others became silent and cleared a path for him.
“Little ladies and little gentlemen,” He began, “I have the honour of presenting to you today, the Demon King’s company of players.” With a flurry and a hand gesture he signaled the other small creatures to me, then with a self effacing but grave gesture, underlined his own role, “And yours truly, the Demon King’s court magician.”
As he said this he shook my hand as if he were playing an accordion.
“This afternoon I will show you feats of magic that you never would have thought desirable,ethical, or possible, but first…” He clapped his little hands together and the room seemed to move under me, like it jumped in the air like a cigale and landing it wobbled from side to side, oscillating wildly like an over-sprung pendulum, slowing gradually until the room finished by buzzing. The children had during this been rendered mute with fear.
I felt as if I’d just been massaged.
“You see,” said the little creature, “anything is possible these days, and always has been, thank you Mr Tesla. Now for my next trick I shall make a man into a dog.” An awe filled sigh rose up from among the little people.
“First I need a volunteer, come on don’t be shy, that’s it come forward, here boy.” A little creature came to the front, “see how easy it is!” He laughed, “second I need one magician’s dog-collar and lead.” he pulled out a leather studded collar and fastened it onto the volunteer’s neck and then said, “Finally, I need a sense of concern for my children’s future in a difficult and uncertain economic period, coupled to a sense that maybe there is no God after all and that, what the hell, if moral relativity pays the bills then so much the better. Do we have that?” He asked the little people and they answered as one person with a shout of affirmation.
“Good!” said the little magician clapping his hands together. And now, let dog eat dog!”
And with that the little person in the collar attached to the lead in the magician’s hand dashed around on all fours snapping and barking at the others, it was only the magician’s expert handling of him that spared them a severe mauling.
“Now our little show is over, but don’t ask me how it’s done for I do not know,
With magic and money and the powers as above and below,
We raise hell in our midst,
And we’re having a mad old time,
Mooning and mayhem making our only crime,
But you fair watcher, for whom all this is done,
Are you enjoying it, are you having fun?
You look a little unwell to me,
And yet so far from the end,
Shall I call you a doctor or do you need a friend?
How about a taxi to the airport?
No, I think you can be bought,
So keep mum…..and just play dumb
For you’re in our net, freshly caught.”
With that he and his band bowed and vanished in a puff of sulphur worthy of Venus herself.
On the horizon there seemed to be some fabulous treasure; an answer to all my hoped and dreams: money, fame, power and security, all this would be mine but when and why and..so many questions, and what must I do, stay sane or go mad for this surely was the mad Demon King’s club, and he was as mad as trees in the moonlight.
“We only want you to be happy in your work,” said DK’s voice from the ventilation shaft.
I thought to myself how profoundly unhappy I was in my work and that somehow my being unhappy was my fault, a kind of symptom of my faulty psychology, this could lose me the star prize, could I change the way I think to be happy in an unhappy situation, like bending steel, only superman can do that, I was no superman: German philosophy made me paranoid and nervous.
“How can I be happy?”
“Enjoy your work!” came the thunderous reply as if it was the easiest thing in the world.
In order to enjoy my work I would have to believe in what I was doing and in order to believe in what I was doing I would have to close my mind to my doubts to reality and in order to close my mind… so that was it, be a self deluded madman, it was bad enough to lie to others but to lie to myself. How can a mad sane man become a sane mad man?
In the Demon King’s kingdom the walls move and the floor shakes jumps about, the windows wink and the chairs hide when you want to sit down, still not reason enough to be a madman, so how could I get out of this impasse? What I need is motivation and method if I am to join the world and learn its ways, but what do I care? I never wanted it anyway. First I suppose I had to learn to love the Demon King, respect and fear his power and consider him a role model. The only thing I felt for this poor man was pity, pity that at his time of life he was playing silly games with fools like me. I would have to learn to love the smell of brimstone as I worked, I would have to talk to, or try to, find a way to communicate with the strange venus fly trap – human hybrid that protected the holy textbooks and the sacred pens and I would, worst of all have to love the lady monsters and the snake children.
Now they were giving me the squeeze at work, and they seemed to think they knew me from somewhere. Not me buddy, I flunked that test with honours. It’s one of those tests where the more you know the least likely you are to pass. Major bummer if only I knew a little less I might be getting on in life, a little knowledge is dangerous thing they say, only to yourself though. Still I won’t play a game for high stakes when I don’t even know the rules and what the stakes are. DK seems upset about something, I try to comfort talk him but he sneezed right past me, ‘Don’t get too close,” he warns chidingly, “I’m full of cold.” Poor old DK, all he needs is some love but I suppose it’s the nature of the beast and all that. Even evil men get it bad y’know, it’s a simple choice, good men feel good and bad men feel bad, I wasn’t sure if DK was really a good man or a bad man, he says he’s a good man but he feels bad therefore, I suppose, he must be bad man. I feel good, maybe I’m a good man, clear conscience and all that, nothing to hide, I watch it though, gotta stay objective at all times and keep pride at bay, batten down the ego otherwise you float off with it getting higher feeling grander looking down on everyone from high up in the clouds until pop! An arrow of outrageous fortune pops your ego and my dear oops it’s a long way down. They want purity and so they shall have it. Money, position and material advantages I shall deny, and so I will return home empty handed but my soul will be full and it shall remain mine. And so I did and so I am, and you could not find a happier man.