Recently my buddy Duke Miller sent me an excerpt from his WIP Spider in My Mouth which, given the constant turmoil in the world, seemed an appropriate thing to share with all of you. Duke was an aid worker for over twenty years and has circumvented the world at least four times, often to some of the most dangerous places imaginable. In his book Handbook for the Hopeless, How to get a job in a War Zone and Hallucinations he describes how relief agencies operate and why so many of his former colleagues end up suicidal. His brutal vision is not for everyone but for those of you who like his dark wit, I’ll post excerpts when I get them under the Read Free tab that way you can read the work in succession and not between my otherwise silly rantings. Without any further commentary, here t’is:
Chapter 7 (unedited) of the mythical Spider in My Mouth
by Duke Miller
Let me run beside the vehicle and look through the window at the glow of the dashboard and analyze my own shadowed face: the one recovering from dengue and a long drunk on volcanic rocks with a group of naked goat herders. If I guessed who I am would you care? Probably not, you have better things to do like finding yourself in the mirror or asking a stranger to put a warm index finger up your ass.
That’s funny he thought. What the hell is that? Jesus, it’s a pack of wild dogs, maybe hyenas. They jumped up like a flock of very large birds. One bounced off the reinforced bumper and he watched as a black stripped body flew passed, taking his side mirror with it. The headlights shot through the curve and then the animals were gone; other sentient beings failing to avoid fear and pain.
So who am I? Let me explain between rapid breathes and these fucking holes in the ground.
The man driving was a representative of the djinn; son of a djinn in fact. His life was like the aftermath of a miracle-less airplane crash and he was looking for the war; searching for the good side and he felt that it was just ahead. He had a sense of knowing the good from the bad and was attuned to well-educated killers as well as the insane ones and those who thought of themselves as gods. It was important to make those kinds of distinctions and he preferred the killers with advanced degrees from the States and Europe.
Desolate roads, remote thoughts: the girl’s voice was reading a letter he had written many years ago. She was naked under a white sheet in a hotel bed on one of the Honduran Bay Islands. He had nicknamed her “Parking Space” in the local vernacular. He was confused about who she was, and how she was so perfect, despite the poverty and the father who raped her from time to time. Maybe he should kill the old bastard; one whack in the head while they were fishing, sure, why not? Better the sea take him. But then, that was the way it was if you looked hard enough. You could see possibilities, and it was usually beyond the normal way. “What are you doing?” said the voice on the other end of the phone. “Don’t ever try to contact me again.” He was slowly jogging along a jungle path, trying not to kill butterflies, ingesting the smell of the sea as medicine for his injury. The little group in the pickup was blown to bits and he could see them now, there on the road, the other road, a million miles away. With every footfall and flash of color he imagined where he might be going and then the girl overtook him and she looked back over her shoulder.
She was wearing sunglasses on a cloudy day. Her hair was cut very short and it reminded him of silence.
Few knew of his plans and hidden aims. He carried a safe conduct pass, a letter of introduction to a commander who was the friend of a friend, and bundles of large denomination bills. Taken together they would allow him almost unlimited access to the misery and death created by out-of-control militias, child soldiers, and officers trained in foreign lands.
He didn’t think of it as work. No, it was fun. Still, one needed the packet of pills and bottles of booze and no sleep and out of touch doctors and walls of crooked Picasso whores. Yes, one required all that and more; but where were the ideals or the patriotic thoughts? Gone, years ago; fuck religion, fuck Buddha. Where was the good reason to take another step?
“Don’t ever try to contact me again.” He listened to her in his mind and then the click, the silence.
There was a round moon over the purple-blue bush and the light splashed down as if from a connected pitcher overhead. The road moved in front of him like sluicing milk toward vanished mountains.He could see the infinite horizon in the half-dark. Thoughts bounced back and forth between the Bay Islands and his feelings of self-hatred.How did he get here? Everyone eventually asks that question, yet he felt very alone; alive to the first mystery that pertained only to him.
Border lines to be crossed: one day you are healthy, the next sick; day-to-day. You can see, and then you are blind; moment-to-moment. You are happy and then in a flash you are sad. Birth, death, the yellow line in the middle of the road, the smile, the tear; the start of the race and the finish; always one moment to the next and who can see across the divide? Who can tell the future? No one and there it is, yet we make plans and act as if we know; it is our collective magic and we are absurd in our unbound ignorance. After all, love is overrated and does not conquer evil. Maybe evil might have a setback, but eventually the empire falls and the babies are carried on pitchforks. Face the facts, we’ve had it; and he drove on for a few more hours, lost inside, traveling toward the barefoot army, the one killing indiscriminately and they were the good ones; and everything was out there, moving across rivers and through villages, stealing cattle, taking revenge, kidnapping, raping; and the whole mess following old trade routes, moving somewhere out there. He only needed to find the horrific circus and inspect the madness and then get out.
A distant click in the motor caught his attention. Nothing; it better be. The expensive vehicle that he drove was worth many people. If he sold it and added the money to his funds, he could purchase a large number of slaves. He had witnessed slave auctions before, but only as a spectator. What sort of a buyer would he be? At the first one he was surprised to see the stocks, chains, and neck collars. Slave technology had not changed much over the centuries. Prices for young, healthy adults were high. Most of the men were dead or fighting, so women were the main commodity. Large numbers of children were present as well and it was no longer just the rich Arabs who traded in starving human flesh. Political and military marauders of the most outrageous kinds were in the game now. Adding the value of the vehicle with the cash in his bag meant he could probably purchase as many as 200 slaves, which meant he would have to visit a number of auctions. Negotiation tactics tumbled in his mind. Depending upon how many he bought per lot, he reckoned that the individual price per head would be fairly low. Even the stupid bastards who captured and sold slaves understood quantity discounts. Of course, he would need a vast estate to work his people upon and he imagined land with fruit trees, animals, crops, and honey pots. Perhaps he would take a few brides and use then as managers of a sort. The others would comply and slowly he would build an empire on a river or near the sea and he would rule with unheard of benevolence. He would also need a shaman to divine the details of the paradise. He would play the role of king and import teachers from the outside to educate his people and he would not be afraid of the rising expectations that education brought to slaves since by that time other options on the planet would have been few. He understood that a blinding false religion was necessary. He only needed the time to write a new bullshit order of how people and things moved together. Gasoline would be an essential ingredient of the faith. Wood would be stacked and soaked in gasoline. Ceremonies would be short, but enthusiastic. Orange balls of flame would blast up into the air and monstrous faces would appear and the eyes would look down upon the dancing slaves as they cut flesh and slung blood on top of hot rocks and the smoke would rise upward, toward the meteor showers that consistently ignited the nights of his kingdom.
Unafraid, he would organize his people to dare the converging doom of the world with gasoline fires. “Pour salt into the wounds,” would be chiseled into the large stones that lined the border of his land.
A slave-owning king within seconds and he never heard the removed shot and he did not know that a native had gone into his hut and retrieved a WWI, bolt-action rifle and fired a single round at his speeding vehicle; the running wild streak of djinn in the night. The bullet split apart when it hit the steel frame and a small fragment glanced off his head. He was immediately knocked unconscious and the vehicle turned sideways, ripping through the bush and finally slamming into a long trench that had been lined and marbled by the dry wind and a primordial flood known only to the people of the fire; his people, the ones who would give him a second life.
That is who I am, but I am only guessing, since that is all I can do.
I don’t know about you guys – but I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. What do you think?
5 thoughts on “Excerpt from Spider in My Mouth”
He is a master storyteller.
That’s some story…
He had me at the title. Cool concept.
Just seeing this now. Love Duke’s writing and am looking forward to Spider in my Mouth.
Currently he’s switched to writing poems which he hopes to someday convert to prose.