The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. And that's why I drink ethanol every night until I fight the television. Because when I do sleep without the aid of spirits, I have evidence that it brings me only horrors: On several occasions, bedmates have informed me that the small amount of sleep-time which is not already dedicated to swearing profusely about (or to) The Smurfs, is instead dedicated to whimpering endlessly, like a dog caught in a thunderstorm. I do not often have bedmates, these days, and sleep now as I do most other things: Completely alone, clutching a length of stolen extension cord, and of course, spread-eagle. And so was my state this week past, on a weekend evening - of that much I am certain, as I was wearing my Weekend Poncho - when I awoke in a primal, unfocused panic.
If the name doesn't ring a bell, this is Mario Lopez. Notice the creepy, carefully constructed smile and dead, dead eyes.
When such irregular oscillations of the human psyche occur, there is a tendency of the mind to put into place a kind of psychic filter: It assesses. It catalogs the contents of the room around it, and cements its bearings. It throws its roots into the opaque world, shedding the translucence of dreaming. And if there are things unaccounted for -- terrible, indistinct objects stubbornly cloaked in the miasma of shadow on the distant borders of perception -- well, those things can be discarded. We awaken into the darkness clinging to the ferocious certainty that a room is exactly how we left it, that we are still within our own homes, that there are no shapes moving in the black. Even if, and sometimes especially if, we are rather certain that we did not leave the laundry just in that spot, that the lamp was of a slightly different shape when we fell into sleep, or that we saw, briefly, a peculiar flicker of movement from that corner, there, just out of reach of the moonlight. Or in some cases, we may be quite sure that the room we left behind to enter our slumber did not contain that character from the popular '90s television show Saved by the Bell dangling from our ceiling, his black eyes glinting sharply in the darkness. But as much as our waking minds attempt to fool us, some creeping truths cannot be barricaded from the mind; they will insinuate themselves slowly, coiling around the base of the neck and exerting a timid, but building pressure until the logical brain simply cannot continue in denial, and we must face what the darkness truly contains: Mario Lopez.
And you shall know fear.
He unhooked himself and fell silently from his perch on my bedroom's ceiling. Partway through the fall, he seemed to reverse himself, but not through movement or reflex. It was as though his state of being abruptly shifted positions, and he was left standing casually upright, as though nothing had ever been amiss. I blinked, and found his face suddenly inches from mine.
And it's name shall be Slater.
"Hi, bro!" He practically screamed at me. I could feel his fetid breath wash over me, and there was something familiar to the stench. Like flower petals, rotting.
"Hello," I meant to respond, but only urinated forcefully and for a great length of time instead.
"You just peed there," he noted with cheer, the unmoving, pantomime smile never faltering from his face, "human beings usually use toilets!"
A very long silence, save for the muffled leaking of my own bladder, settled about the room. I could not hear him breathing, I noted with alarm. When the stillness became too much to bear, and I felt I should cry out if only to verify to myself that I still possessed the power to do so, I realized at last he was asking a question of me. The lack of intonation in his voice made queries almost impossible to distinguish.
"Y-yes. Yes they do," I replied, "you just scared me a little is all. A lot. Forever."
"Hey hey!" He spread his arms in a mockery of good humor, "you're more perceptive than you look, muchacho!"
The smile...every picture. Every picture the same...
I would suppose, at this point in a normal conversation, that he had noticed the confusion on my face and thought to explain himself, but that glass-eyed stare spoke of such complete indifference that I had to chock the following explanation up to mere self-indulgence.
"You should be scared. You wrote a piece about me. You told the truth. You said you wouldn't do that..." again the quiet that threatened to last forever.
"Amigo!" He finally finished, noticing there was something absent from his previous statement.
"Yes, I uh...I felt it was a moral imperative that I warn the world of the many terrible things that you represent. And would you mind?" I gestured to his face and mimicked the horrifying grimace that his television persona sported. His manic grin that never broke, his eyes that reflected only the great apathy of nature; the dull shine of onyx, the depths of the endless ocean.
"Oh. Yes. I do forget," he said, and I realized then that it was I who had forgotten -- forgotten how much worse the blankness of his honesty was compared to the mask. Every word he spoke drew life from the air, consumed it, and defecated it out again as spiritual offal, "is that better. Is that good."
"No," I answered, "but I honestly don't think that word could ever apply to my life again."
It follows. It follows me.
"A promise was made. You broke it. You did not seem the moral type."
"I'm really not," I admitted. I had to concede that point to him. It would seem rather hypocritical of me to deny it, considering the state of my quarters: Scattered all around us were empty bottles, used needles, entire platters of utterly untouched convenience store nachos. No less than three bodily fluid-stained mascot costumes lay in shambles about the floor; no less than two Asian prostitutes of gender indeterminate (it had been a long while since I had ceased specifying, much less caring about that particular detail) lay unconscious or possibly dead upon the floor and across the Total Gym. Also, I had stolen that Total Gym.
"But Jesus Christ," I began.
"Do not invoke its name," he quickly cut me off, then motioned for me to continue.
"But fuck," I corrected, "when I saw you had a baby on the way I felt I had to warn somebody."
I've gazed too long into the abyss; it gazes back.
"The baby makes things different."
I supposed it was a question, but I could only guess by the presence of those long, breathless silences.
"Yeah, a baby changes things."
"We uh, we feel the need to protect our babies," I had to explain to him, though I fully realized the futility.
"You have jeopardized my economic future," he placed a finger lightly on the center of my forehead, and kept it there, unmoving, as we spoke. I knew not the significance of this gesture, but it terrified me to my very bones.
Pay special attention to the dates for the next few tweets...
"How? I...I mean less than nothing! I write dick jokes on the internet, only sometimes about science! If there's something I can do that would make me less relevant to society, I literally cannot think of what that would be!"
"I have a reality show coming up."
Once more the absence of sound showed no signs of abating, and with dawning horror I realized that I could not hear myself breathing any longer either.
"Elaborate," I prompted him, and before the word had finished forming on my lips, he did so:
"They have offered me a reality television show on the VH1 network. The people want to see how I live, and so I grant it to them. I am paid well. It is called Mario Lopez: Saved by the Baby. I would laugh at the irony, but people seem to grow uneasy," and at that he thought to demonstrate; he made a quick, too-loud barking trill that I took to be laughter. Somewhere inside of me, I knew intrinsically that a pure and beautiful beast -- some kind of grand stag, perhaps -- had just dropped dead in a distant forest.
He had signed contracts for his baby to star in a reality show several months before she was born...
"Yes. Let's stop that forever. So, Good Lord," I started, but was cut off again when he twisted my nipple cruelly beneath the sheets; a red spot bloomed there as the blood spread, "sorry! I meant 'holy shit,' you actually had the kid?"
"It is my progeny. It advances me."
"And you think my column endangered that? I promise, dude, nobody pays any regard to what I do. My wife tells her friends I'm a homeless man she's teaching culture to, like Pygmalion. Hell, I tell my friends I clean jerk-booths at the Gothic Asshole. It gets me more respect, or at least they don't want to touch me. That's like respect."
"This is amusing," he laughed again, and I found to my surprise that I no longer loved my parents, "you are entertaining. I could erase you, like you never existed."
His tone was less a man threatening, and more a scientist observing the peculiarities of some small animal or mircrobe through the distance of a lens.
Another eon passed achingly through that absence of noise, and finally his media-friendly mask returned. The stillness was so absolute that I actually heard the saliva slither as his smile took its painstaking, meticulous shape. His eyes, as ever, were the blackness of space eternal.
...and he finished shooting the first episode within weeks of bringing it home.
"Hey yo, bro! Maybe this is a good thing! Nobody cares about you, right, esse?"
"Of course not," I admitted instantly, by reflex. My father and I had this exact conversation nearly daily.
"Well, someday they're gonna need to hear about me! Someday, when my job is done, people'll want to know. You know what I'm sayin', chollo?"
"Ha ha, okay! It's like this: There's unsavory work that must be performed to grease the vast, uncaring cogs that turn the universe. And the mechanics are not always understood while they perform their duties, amigo! Heeyyy, we're just two guys havin' fun!" He faked a few jabs at me, and I began to cry.
Notice how quickly he turns on the dog, his former soul-Beard. But surely he wouldn't...?
"You write about me: You tell them all, and one day when they understand what I have done, I will be the impetus for the world to notice you! We scratch each other's backs!" He danced a puppet's mad jig across the bedspread, and leapt backwards to the floor, where he was quickly smothered in shadow. Two small, wavering glints marked his eyes in the blackness, though there was no light for them to reflect. They quickly dropped in height, as though he had went to all floors, then lurched sideways and were gone.
There is now a stagnation in me, where once there was a bubbling pool from whence euphoria sprung. In large part, I know that it is due to agreeing to this devil's work. Knowing that these words I write are what He desires, fills me with a flooding dread whose tide knows no break. Perhaps it is merely the self-serving optimism of human arrogance, but I continue writing regardless, in the hope that Mario Lopez is wrong; that somebody will pay attention and heed my warnings before His deeds are etched indelibly into history.
...yes. Yes, apparently he would.
I have written this document, and that is all I can do. Now I place it upon the internet, beside images of his dead soul and those terrible eyes. I hurl my words again into the riotous waves of the world wide web, and with it shall go this record of mine -- this test of my own sanity, wherein is pieced together that which I hope may never be pieced together again. I have looked upon all that the universe has to hold of horror, and even the skies of spring and the flowers of summer must ever afterward be poison to me. But I do not think my life will be long. As I am sure many others -- tabloid journalists, Hollywood agents, bitter prostitutes, Mr. Belding and Screech -- have gone, so I shall go. I know too much, and Mario Lopez still lives in that chasm of filth and decadence which has shielded him since the sun was young.
Until his accursed city, Los Angeles, is sunken into the frothing seas, his ministers on earth will bellow and prance and slay around idol-capped monoliths in lonely places. He must be trapped by the sinking whilst within the black abyss, or else the world might meet its end, screaming with fright and frenzy. Ah, but who truly knows the end? What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men. A time will come -- but I must not and cannot think! Let me pray that, if I do not survive this manuscript, my executors may put caution before audacity and see that it meets no other eye.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook or you can fucking read this right now if you didn't get this post.