by Harmony Neal
Prayers for the Partially Alive
The air was damp and fetid, with a grimy haze hanging in it that seemed to stain everything it touched. The urban druid stretched out his arms, demonstrating for the meat the meanings of the universe. Everything is meat. Everything is mechanical. Deer gears. Empty candle sockets. A metal bird. Goggles. Gas Mask. A platter for mechanically separated meats. A platter for mechanically rendered blood. A platter for the singularity, which came and went and no one noticed because the self-aware computers committed suicide while the mechanical meatsacks kept talking to their screens, hoping for connection.
The cyborgs are everywhere, dribbling on themselves, eating Doritos and cursing life for not being more. The cyborgs want more. The cyborgs crave the meat. The urban druid chews wires, silicon chips. The urban druid chants a series of zeros and ones. The urban druid prays for surgery, for more stomachs, for digestive juices for his plastic, for his own blood.
The cows don’t even moo. They aren’t wearing bells. The urban druid feels a bit cheated, if he’s being honest with himself. He’s left the metal plaster buildings, come here to find the truth of the matter, but the cows’ eyes are runny and blind in the industrial smog. The cows are cyborgs, dribbling on themselves. The cows chew their cud, chew the grass, chew the corn, chew the soylent green, chew on wires and think about suicide.
The urban druid sighs and moves closer to a cyborg cow. He chants his zeros and ones louder, peering through his goggles, craving a reaction. The cow does nothing. The urban druid leans over, holding his instruments out wide from his body. He lines a goggled eye up with the cow’s, looks for signs. The cow blinks its petrified lashes, sending a drop of goo down its cheek. The urban druid considers the truth of this action. The urban druid drops his props on the ground, pulls his plastic vestments between his legs to sit, reaches into his pouch. The cow pays no attention. The urban druid nods.
He pulls off his goggles, pulls of his mask, breaths the putrid air, reminds himself that all life becomes shit. He brings a glass bowl to his lips, lights the cyborg plant with a metal lighter, breathes in hard. He leans his naked face into the cow’s naked face. He puckers his lips to the cow’s nostril, blows out slow, is reminded of making love to sentient meat. He holds the cow’s head in his arms and weeps alloy tears.
Urban Druid Seeks the Singularity
The urban druid is always honest with himself. He knows what he wants and doesn’t want and that all of his wants are completely incompatible with each other, so he has chosen his profession and lets everything else fall in line from there. In the morning he masturbates after putting on his vestments, imagining a lady urban druid who he sorts of likes and mostly hates. What he wants most is people like him. What he wants most is people completely unlike him. What he wants most is to be someone else somewhere else entirely, but he is where he is, so after he finishes he puts on his mask and goggles and ventures into the city with his holy objects to engage in the reality of existence and chronicle the decay of the now from which the fires of the future must certainly spring, a time where he will be someone else entirely, somewhere else entirely, and no one can dissuade him that this is something he wants, even if he has a hard time believing he has a self at all.
The urban druid knows that being honest with oneself is easy once one recognizes that a self is necessarily made up of contradictions and can believe one thing one second and another the next and both are true in their moments. If he follows this line far enough, he has to admit that the very concept of “honesty” loses all meaning, but he has followed so many lines so far that in the end he knows the very idea of meaning has no meaning. He feels very clever for having realized this thing he has realized many times before, so he stops inside the ornate entrance of an abandoned church and rewards himself with a few hits of weed, which is a holy, anointed drug for urban druids everywhere, as unnaturally natural as any cyborg, singularity-dreaming meatsack could ask for.
He scrounges up jagged rocks and pull tabs and shards of glass and plastic wrappers from the ground and builds a small altar in front of the church doors. The altar is for internet or for singularity or for Kurzweil or for the universe or for consciousness or for pigeons to use as a toilet. The urban druid honestly does not care what the altar is for. The urban druid is a nihilist despite the fact that the urban druid knows there has never been a such thing as a nihilist because humans, and even cyborgs, always hope for and want things despite the ridiculousness of all desire in the face of absurdity and meaninglessness, but the urban druid likes to fuck women who are into nihilists and honestly doesn’t care about what he calls himself or anyone else calls him since none of it matters anyway, which he sees all too clearly every time he gets high, so he has to wander the city and build altars out of trash and whistle to the pigeons who watch him with knowing eyes, taunting him with the possibility that they will live forever and are already on the internet with an eternal consciousness that explores the universe but have left the humans out entirely because, honestly, humans suck.
In Which Urban Druid has to Face Facts
+10000. The urban druid’s post on the necessity of abolishing all notions of privacy in the service of the future of the species received +10000 from one of the urban druid’s idols, and while the urban druid feels quite elated at this news, he also feels suspicious and dissatisfied. Now he wants more attention. Now he wants to be left alone. Now he wants his floor to not have a sticky, reeking puddle of bong water slowly evaporating and giving him a headache. He can hardly remember what he said anyway. He remembers exactly what he said.
The urban druid pulls his meatsack away from his computer so it can take a leak. The urban druid brings another computer with him to take a leak, sits it on the shelf behind the toilet, stares at the +10000, asks google who else is talking about him, smoothes his hair behind his ears, thinking distantly that his moment might have arrived.
The urban druid has had moments before. The urban druid imagines standing in a lush auditorium with a mic strapped to his cheek, adoring fans hanging on his every word, a bottle of water nearby on a stool, the water put there by a flunky, by a person in charge of attending to his needs.
The urban druid pulls up his pajama pants. He is a man of the people as long as that’s all anyone will let him be. It’s laundry day. He picks yellowed wife beaters off the floors, tosses them in the basket with his pants and shirts, lugs it downstairs, turns on the machine and adds the soap first, the way his mother taught him. He shakes out each article carefully and lays them inside the well, careful to keep things distributed. He closes the lid and sighs, returns to his room, turns on cartoons and starts spraying his vestments with a bottle and rubbing the plastic with an old cloth. He smells the bong water and thinks he should clean it up, but he’s already sitting in bed now, so he rubs cotton to plastic and doesn’t even imagine having someone else to do such things for him.
Urban Druid Gets a Kitty
Anyone who knows anything about the urban druid knows that he’s a cat person. Dogs love too much, which makes the urban druid feel inadequate. Dogs need consistent care, and the urban druid likes to think a cat can fend for itself and catch a bird for dinner if it needs to, if its owner has forgotten to fill the dish, if its owner has dipped out for a day and forgotten to come home, nestled against the soft, heaving belly of a totally stoned cow.
The urban druid has had several cats, though at the moment, they are all dead or MIA. It’s been awhile, he realizes, walking past the litter box that is still half full of litter with a few petrified turds. His socked foot catches on a dried puddle of bong water, making a weird ripping sound as he lifts it away. A cat is what’s missing from his life. He realizes this fact. A cat to cuddle while high and watching David Attenborough explore the world. A cat to nip playfully at his fingers. A cat to be a fucking cat, another creature, breathing in a shared space.
The urban druid looks at pictures of cats available for adoption, but then thinks he’d rather have a special cat, a wild cat, an urban cat, so he puts on his vestments, puts on his mask, puts on his goggles, leaves his holy instruments, and stumbles out into late morning city. He thinks maybe he wants a calico cat, or a long-haired cat. His cats have all been orange or gray tiger striped, of late, a black cat might be the ticket, a smooshed faced cat, a hairless cat. He thinks of all the cats that might suit him while shuffling down the street, mumbling, “here kitty kitty” under his breath.
He sees no cats, but has decided any he does see are fair game since he’s in a city, not a town, not a suburb, so any cat outside can be assumed homeless, or rather, human-home-less, which he realizes might well suit cats, but the urban druid doesn’t really enjoy empathy for anything, so he decides not to worry about a cat’s point-of-view on life, the cosmos, pooping inside vs outside, or living arrangements in general. The thing about a cat is, a human can make it do things, within reason.
He hears a rustle in a nearby dumpster, slows, turns down the alley, approaches with caution, stands on his tiptoes to look inside. Might be a cat or rat or bird or raccoon. Worse, could be a fellow human. The urban druid wonders what it would be like to have a raccoon as a pet, or a possum. The urban druid wonders what it would be like to be a cat lady, reeking of piss, surrounded by baby calls and twitching tails. The urban druid wonders what he’s going to have for breakfast and how much weed is left in his dugout. He’s in an alley anyway, so he reaches under his vestments, but accidentally pulls out his phone. Duh. He says it out loud. Duh, duh, duh. He goes to the appstore. He downloads all the cat apps he can find. Now he has all of the cats. Now he can dress them up if he wants. He can have conversations with them. He can feed them or ignore them or train them to use virtual human toilets.
He holds his catphone in one hand while digging around for his dugout with the other. The urban druid smiles at his new cat, Panda, he decides, this one is Panda. Panda wears a sparkling top hat. He puts Panda in a dog costume, laughs at the absurdity of existence.
The leaves were blowing and you could hear his talons clicking on the ground below him. Except, the urban druid realized, it wasn’t the ground, it was the headstones the facilitator sometimes stepped on in his careless wanderings around the circle. The urban druid sighed and examined his companions through his goggles: a filthy hobo slurping green tea from a thermos, a ginger Rastafarian who was probably holding, a pair of androgynous weirdoes in green robes with wreathes of flowers on their heads, a soccer mom in head-to-toe Komen pink sportswear who kept looking at her blackberry and glancing toward the parking lot, the urban druid himself, and Aski the leader of the group, who had clearly made terrible mistakes in his life since he was clearly a griffin, and one wondered if that meant he was still a druid or not a druid or perhaps some sort of super druid.
Aski came to a stop behind soccer mom who was perched on the edge of a large marble slap. “Carrie, you haven’t shared yet today. What’s on your mind?”
The woman glared at the blackberry in her hand and shoved it in her purse. “Do you people have any idea how much pressure it is to be a suburban druid? The demands never end!” She glared at the people sharing a circle with her, as if placing the blame for every dissatisfaction in her life squarely on their shoulders. When her cold black eyes landed on the urban druid, he shrank back a little, then shrugged in a way that set her off. “Oh! You think you know cuz you’re from a city? Fuck you! City life isn’t half as busy as suburban life! Why, the meetings and lessons and chores and obligations in a single day would drive you straight to a bottle!”
The urban druid stopped listening and went to his happy place in his mind that he imagined as a series of gears, like the innards of a clock, despite his preference that soon his mind would be pulses of light on wires or perhaps just pulses of light, full stop. He had to admit he was a bit of a romantic. The support group wasn’t what he’d hoped for, but it was counting toward recommendations from the court. He shook his head. Not even one hot Wiccan princess he could despoil. He wanted a hippie chick so bad his mouth watered. He felt a wing brush his back. “Do you want to respond to what Carrie said?”
The urban druid looked around. People were talking to him. Everyone was looking at him. Carrie’s rageful sneer made him consider the potential pathetic joys of unwrapping her layers of pink. He shook his head and gave the answer he always gave when he wanted people to leave him alone, “01101110 01101111.”