Amber’s booth swims up in front of her. Her head clears somewhat. She gazes up, locates him, and watches as he works, buried deep within the mixing of the music and the lights. Huddled in a hole made of black coiled wires in a whirlpool of switches and red winking lights, Amber grates laughter of charcoal in his throat, feels the mirror mist licking at his eyes, behind his fingernails and coiling in the notches of the walls of his windpipe. The thrill of the mist in his lungs is a thrill like the blood-flecked coughing of a skinny Siamese cat whose ribs his fingers circle… He flicks a switch, pushes up a slider and listens as the pounding of a new music merges with the old and overwhelms it.
A sound in the new track starts through the din and throws him down into horror, with a shudder as at something that was ancient and primal, with the words rising up, the adventures of the little girl, the girl from Virginia—the little girl called Num-num! Demons seem to giggle, and his eyes water freely. Another’s eyes flash, those of somebody unseen, now remembered in a horrid blaze as Amber shivers inside his flesh. That name—yes, the little girl’s name!—cuts his stomach open, burrows deep inside, laying bare a brood out of some deep well. No single image, but a shadow-play of downward-pointing glee and fear: down, down deep, with the squeaking of an injury, the mewing of the dead girl, the laughter of goblins… We’ve had one or two little girls expire of water, says the other with the eyes—so let me cut the eyeballs of your feet, would you like that, Amber? So now he strokes his skull, as if to stroke the lobes inside it. Here it comes! From the undershaft, intoxicating evil creeps, taps him on the shoulder, whispers Go! in red and bites him sweetly on the neck.
[…] and replaced with slate, which congealed with the rest to form the Black Slab inside his chest—the Slab that provides him with the body and the mien of death and flavours every single thing he ever says or does or feels or sees. The Black Slab is sensed, like a metal bar through plaster or a tendon glimpsed through milk, by all who meet him. All in all, it opened up a new life for Amber: infernal dark cabaret of Amber disease, lemons hatched in metal corners, barking spiders, blood as thick as cheese and even worse, with a permanent erotic grinding pain within his spine and a colour in his skull beyond admission. Cutting through the city in the night, as a boy, Amber knew he was pursued through the grid of ash and stone by a single hairy human leg, knew that disfigurement lay just around the corner like a kiss, knew he’d sucked his lemon-whiskered heel dry in childhood. Time was a pump pulled behind him by the leg; pressing on against its drag with unrelenting effort, Amber struck sparks, yellow spasms in an endless procession made of charcoal and loss. Hearing Num-num! giggled out across the gulf of death at him; in bookshops, going blind; smile of evil and jelly in his knees as he turned to find a rotting swamp of dead twin foetuses, an intimate Sargasso in a wider sea of slugs. All his brothers! All his twins […] just before the sky went out, the bulb fell out, the Slab forever night—
A pale fleshy spider scuttles over the equipment in front of him: his hand, flicking slide-controls, manoeuvred by the long dead finger bones inside it (his nurse once confirmed, upon a close investigation, that his skeleton was black). He smiles as the speakers belch a bolt of thickened sound to stain the mirror mist, pushing like a worm’s head, honeycombed with loathing. The worm pulls its black scaly shaft above the dancers, turns in his direction, feels the billows with its eyes as if with tentacles of darkness down a tunnel, finds him—locks his frozen gaze into its own, until he moans… Catch you later! mouths the worm, winks and unhooks its jaw, sicking grey ropes of gristle through the air at him. Delusion! he shrieks at the worm, you’d rather see me paralysed! Words surge up his throat: You wanna see a slice of my insides, freak? Feed me razors—what’s the matter, has my face changed? The worm’s head dips now, fading as it chuckles; but its chuckle hovers on, glowing blood-red and gibbering towards him through the gas. (Oh, to hear one’s own blood-rush among the worm-ropes! Oh, to hear one’s own death-rattle, amplified; see the black fungus sun revolve; and worship…)
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