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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

Two Stories | Langdon Hickman

A Series of 26 True Statements

Everything I am about to tell you is true. I am relating this information to you plainly, with no embellishment or editorializing, so that I might induce in you the closest approximation to what we might term the truth, or the real shape of things, especially things as linked in sequence and network with one another rather than alienated and disjointed into wholly separate parts. I do this that the truth, when emerging, is one that confirms and assures that which I know to be true and so to prove inwardly within you, without explicit provocation on my part, that I am not a killer.

1. The body found in my bed has been termed “the Angel.”

2. I spent three days in bed with the Angel following the ceasing of its brain, lung and heart activities, which is to say an event we might term “death” had the Angel been a closer approximation of a man.

3. On autopsy, it was discovered that the Angel possessed no such organs nor parallels to those organs but instead a constancy of matter, a singular material comprising everything within the skin.

4. Brain, heart and lung functions in life had been observed, by which is meant that respiration had been measured and experientially felt by multiple observers, a roughly steady but non-uniform rhythmic throbbing had been sensed and measured in what might be termed a pulse, and electrical activity from the location of the skull had been measured previously replicating what we might know as brain wave.

5. The Angel’s body had laid in my bed between the edge of the bed and the window, head resting on the pillow, for the three days following its death.

6. No wounds were found on the body of the Angel.

6.a. This in turn proved a lack of foreknowledge on my part of the constancy of matter that made up the interior of the Angel.

7. I had met the Angel either two or six years prior to its passing, depending on your count.

7.a. Six years ago, we attended the same party following a gallery showing of some local short films, where the Angel gave me a dose of heroin on request.

7.b. Two years ago, we spoke together at great length during another gallery showing at a different gallery, the previous having been closed after a police raid discovered salacious materials and paraphernalia after being discovered by locals as a hot bed of homosexual activity and drug use which was, in those days, frowned upon.

8. The Angel expired in my bed.

9. The Angel had been in my bed for roughly two weeks prior to its death, staying there with me through a prolonged period of drug use, homosexual acts and the writing of poetry.

10. It is unknown given its internal consistency whether in retrospect our behaviors constitute homosexual activity.

11. No one else entered or exited my apartment during that period in which the Angel died and none others were present save for us.

12. We each consumed roughly similar amounts of heroin and consumed roughly similar quantities of calories and nutritional elements during that period.

13. When the Angel died, it opened its mouth and vomited out a ball of light, which remained on its chest for between one and two hours before evaporating.

14. While I was not distraught in the immediate days following the passing of the Angel, I was shown to be despondent in the various locations I was seen until I was arrested.

15. We once traveled by train together to Washington DC to watch a play together that had debuted and was written by a friend. We stayed with that friend for three days, drinking copious amounts of red wine and listening to jazz records we bought from a local consignment shop. We do not know the provenance of those records nor did we record their names. When the Angel died, the sounds of jazz music were noted by neighbors as playing from our windows and door but, given the lack of record of which records had played plus my level of intoxication at the both times, I cannot truthfully say that it was the same music as what we listened to that day. We owned no records or record player in the apartment of mine nor did we bring the jazz records back with us after that visit.

16. I was never present with the Angel when it would procure it’s tinctures and playful chemicals, nor did I ever carry out a chemical or purity test of that which it provided me. I have described it as heroin due to my previous experiences with the drug and parallel experiences with what was provided, rather than a certitude of its chemical provenance.

17. While I have testified that I have seen moving balls of light in my apartment following the Angel moving in with me, no light has been noticed outside by neighbors.

18. The poetic works of the Angel, found as a portfolio in my apartment, featured no reused lines or recycled material from earlier archival poems, indicating that the poems were original creations rather than programmatic repetitions of previously experienced works.

19. The works do describe a contentious relationship between myself and the Angel, including feelings of resentment, hurt and fear.

20. I have before been physically violent with the Angel in an episode witnessed two blocks from a bar we would frequent. I was on the sidewalk while the Angel was in the alley; I was histrionic though my words were not intelligible to passersby or friends and the Angel was sullen and weeping. I would intermittently lunge to strike the Angel, who would not defend itself, and then I would go into a fit of crying before the process repeated.

21. The Angel would refer to me in public and in private as “Usagi”.

22. The Angel’s pet name for me derived from how small I was compared to it, specifically that I was small enough to curl up and almost entirely fit on its chest and stomach, which reminded the Angel of a rabbit, hence the name.

23. The Angel’s poetry that was found in my apartment following its death contained lines referencing dead rabbits, feral rabbits, skinning rabbits, myxomatosis, rabid rabbits and rabbits wounds.

24. The Angel’s poetry also contained lines referencing halos of rabbits, rabbits adorned in gold, rabbits swaddled by angel wings, rabbits resting in warrens, rabbits mating frantically and rabbits exhibiting a natural unmarked animal love.

25. No bruises or other wounds of the type were found on the body of the Angel.

26. Despite my statements that we would use heroin together, no injection sites whether infected or not were found on the Angel nor, due to its internal consistent matter, was any vein or nerve damage found to indicate intravenous drug use.

While I do not believe this list of facts, told to you in bare language with no editorializing, exonerates me from all suspicion regarding the destitute nature of the final weeks and months of the Angel’s life, I believe they also paint a portrait that makes it clear that I did not kill the Angel. Regardless of our squabbles, the Angel was deeply loved by me, as attested to even in moments of pain and violence. Furthermore, the nature of the Angel’s body leaves no forensic evidence of any wrongdoing on my part, a fact i additionally could not have been aware of prior to its death and autopsy, thus also prohibiting me from tampering with its body in any way so as to obscure wrongdoing on my part. The location of its death paints a nasty picture of me, as do the circumstances immediately preceding and my actions or lack thereof immediately following its death, but while the testified and verified action show me to be unstable and emotionally ferocious, it does not show a capacity or will to kill. I am as unable to comment on the cause or nature of its death or of the light it ejected upon death, visibly witnessed by neighbors and passers by outside my apartment at the time, nor can I comment on the composition of its body. That it dissipated, turning to dust and sticks before blowing away on silent winds within the room it was left, leaving only a stain of light and a pile of living insects in the medical examination room, is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.

The Clothing Rufus’ wife was out of the house and he was wearing her clothes again. This was his delight, a home away from home, like a private seaside vacation. His wife knew, of course. The signs at first were imperceptible but grew over time; a stretched shirt, a distended arm of a blouse, skirts and hose and panties not quite returned right. Sarah had told him some time later it caused her concern, not because she was displeased but because she didn’t know how to respond, whether to acknowledge it’s presence or continue to ignore it, to pretend it wasn’t there, not for her sake but for his, to allow him this privation, an occultation of his secret shape, a shape known only to him and shared with no other, a totally private self. But it was Rufus who brought up first, coy, half-smiling, the same look when he told her he’d bought a cat without her knowledge or had knocked over a vase while cleaning while she was off at work, somewhere between the mischievous smirk of a child at play and a panther about to bat a paw gently through the bars of its cage. There wasn’t shame in his face, which she told him later was a relief. She loved him. There was no need for shame in their home. So, terms having been set, this became his private world. The walls are erected: silence, isolation, sunlight. A roofless building, a bed with no ceiling above, and inside, Rufus in his wife’s clothes. She once asked if this meant, well, is he, you know. And he filled in: a woman. And he added: I don’t know. I’m following something. A brave explorer. I watched Indiana Jones films as a child, you know, he said, read Allan Quartermain, studied anthropology and archaeology, dreamed of pith hats and machetes in the jungle, the stench of rotting vegetation and animal matter, the curve of the green river alive with moss and fish and porpoises and crocodiles and serpents, insects buzzing like those avant-rock records we both love. I haven’t found it yet, he said. Whatever it is out here. In this jungle. Perhaps it’s just a safari, something to be returned from, the journey a souvenir. Maybe a new life is hidden here, ruins caked in vines, something buried inside. Or maybe you can build new temples in the jungle. Not everything has to be old, you know. Change over time. Sarah had promised to love him forever, and Rufus returned that promise, and it was kept true. Rufus had to admit he had anticipated at some point for something discrete to emerge, the spare and spartan modernist geometry of his barren soul giving birth to corridors and shafts of light, new shapes in two, three or four dimensions crawling around corners shy and confident and speaking in tongues. In his wife’s clothes he felt instead the paradox of flesh and metal, a sensuousness. In truth, a part of him felt nothing; clothes were clothes were clothes, and in a pitch black box or in the blinding light of heaven who is to say what is woman or man or something in between or else entirely different? But in another sense it was like an actor taking the stage on Broadway, on the Globe, at the Metropole or Radio City Music Hall or the great Shanghai theaters of the 1920s, before the wars and bombs tore them down and replaced them with factories. Something takes over you, a spirit, the way you never name the Scottish play. You do not simply change your name for an hour or two; you inhabit a new soul, feel the boundaries and extensions of your own. You gaze out briefly at the crowd which extends wall to wall and to the infinity beyond, an ocean unending, and you can imagine yourself as seen from each of those seats, can hear the words as if spoken by someone other than you, can extend some grace note of yourself into the center of their chests and with a white gloved hand, opera gloves, high class, leave a rose or crystal ball there inside them, something with which to understand themselves, to speak with god, to reconcile with the rabbis and priests by suddenly grasping the silent holy words that get trapped in holy teeth. Rufus could feel his skin different in those clothes, could anticipate the kiss of lipstick against his own lips, felt a metal pour out through him, a liquid mercury man. An alloy of the two into one. Not quite leopard and not quite human.

Langdon Hickman is a writer of fiction and art criticism based out of Alexandria, Virginia, where they live with their spouse and two pets.



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