The Thin Multi-Hued Duke

July 1, 2009

It was spinal, they said at first. But I knew otherwise. I was becoming one.
The tongue, my tongue served notification first. Four weeks ago I licked my lips. I was feeling thirsty and cold, an odd combination because usually heat induces thirst. But despite the chills that wracked me, my mouth felt like the interior of a Sahara cave and it needed succor.
Anyway, that day I licked my lips and the tip of my tongue just kept going, outward past my face with each swipe of its pink/red form. I was startled at first: It looked like some serpent flailing skittishly around my head but it was part of me. But drinking with this new muscle felt good.

Things got fun for awhile. The next day I found I could climb walls, without assistance like Spiderman or a lizard or something and I took the day off from work to climb the walls around my apartment complex. No one was around for most of the day, and the eight flights of stairs that wound from the guts of the foundation to the building’s roof had this great stucco surface that felt scratchy and sensual underneath my finger-and-toe-tips. And that was another thing–my fingers and toes began to feel everything, only amplifed by about 100 times. Every bump, contour, and crevice of the apartment building was nearly orgasmic as I shimmied across it.
Soon after, I noticed my back beginning to form a strange arch. Somewhere inside my head came the notion that I should go to the doctor about my back. I didn’t want to mention the rest: It just felt too good. The internal medicine specialist at Mercy General said he thought I’d contracted some sort of spinal meningitis. “You look kind of yellow. We should run more tests,” the doc intoned solemnly.
I didn’t need a test: I knew what was happening. The office waiting room, you see, was yellow. And right after leaving the exam room I noticed that my skin was the exact same hue as the waiting room walls.
Thankfully, I had a lot of sick leave stored up at work, and I used it all. Not that I felt ill, just…different. My last day on the job prior to my leave I walked alertly among the cubicles at the office, each of my eyes deftly, separately surveying the maze before me. When no one was looking I used my tongue to knock Liz the vapid accounting assistant’s collection of multi-colored Beanie Babies off the narrow cubicle ledges: That my saliva now left viscous stickiness all over the cloying stuffed toys filled me with something approaching joy.
Never did I have so much fun just…well…fucking around. I’d walk the streets at night in a peacoat jacket–nothing underneath–and when no one was around I’d lay against some poster or billboard and minutes later be walking around with detailed, multi-colored images adorning my bare flesh.
It was obvious that my condition advanced so much that I could never inconspicuously function in a conventional workspace again. At first the death of my normalcy depressed me a little, but soon I became ecstatic at the possibilities. No more clock punching; no more ass-kissing; no more forcing my soul into the cookie cutter like so much malleable dough for someone to cut , cook, and devour.
The Change liberated me. Old Me would have never dreamt of anything less than kowtowing and quietly festering miserably in that ergonomically-designed mausoleum ’til I died for real there: New Me went in, on the day he was supposed to return to the job from sick leave, in his peacoat jacket–and nothing else. I let Chas Lustgarth, the needle-nosed prick who supervised our department, have an eyeful as I unbuttoned the jacked and exposed myself: I’d just laid against some hip-hop crew’s billboard, and the words ‘Fuck Yaself’ stretched across my torso in full ghetto-tag font. Then I leapt to the ceiling of his office and hurled his Hooters coffee mug into his expensive flatscreen monitor. Blue flames shot up, and Chas’s beady eyes turned into giant sunny-side-up eggs. Scared pissless, he fumbled for the phone and called for security, but by the time the primates in gray arrived I’d hurled myself out the fourth story window and scurried around and away from the building on my fingers and toes.
I had to move, of course. I’d burned a lot of my bridges, and didn’t give a shit. More importantly, the weather was getting colder and my now-cold blood couldn’t take it. One day in October, as the leaves on the trees began to turn caramel-amber and drop off, I packed my car full of my few possessions and hit the road for California.
After two days of driving south on 101 my thirteen-year-old Ford Taurus gave up the ghost and expired on a remote stretch of the freeway. I filled a backpack with the tiny amount of things I really, really needed–it surprised me how easy it was to leave 90% of the earthly possessions in that lifeless automotive husk–and started walking.
It was late at night but it was warm. I was in Big Sur, and the ocean lapped away curtly just a few hundred feet away from me as I walked unhurriedly along 101’s gravel shoulder. Shadows hid the massive forest area just beyond the advance guard of a few large redwood trees as I continued wandering. Damned if I knew what was next, but it’d be an adventure.
After a few hours on foot I walked into a vacant lot next to a Motel 6.  The sun was just starting to stir the clouds into a post-impressionistic pink/orange/blue soup. The sky stood out because that combination of blues, oranges, and pinks made the army of circus trucks, motor homes, and tents squatting in the unoccupied clot of property pop like a bunch of odd flowers in a spring-kissed garden.
The people occupying this network of vehicles and makeshift shelters swarmed around busily despite the fact that it was, maybe, 6am. This small army moved about with such silent grace that a plastic bag rattling at the wind’s mercy nearby stirred more decibels than they did. Most of them were dressed for hard work–all worn jeans and coveralls, functional T-shirts, toolbelts swaying noiselessly with each step. Three of their number emerged from the crowd and began walking towards me. They each held tools and looked ready to knuckle down alongside their peers to set up carnival shop.
The first stood at least 7.5 feet tall, his shorn head bobbing over the other two (and everyone/everything else) like an ambulatory, smiling flagpole. To his left was a beautiful young man with smooth caramelized skin, shoulder-length licorace-black hair and an equally black beard so long that he’d braided it and wrapped it ’round his bare and slender neck like a scarf. And to the hirsute Hindi’s left was a woman in a one-piece bathing suit. Her lithe form appeared to be completely covered with hair, and two horns erupted from her temples and angled gracefully backwards–she looked like a gazelle.
The woman spoke first, her chocolate-drop eyes appraising me as she guilelessly reached out to touch the scales on my arm. “I don’t remember you,” she said with a smile.
“That’d be because I’ve never been here,” I replied, trying not to sound like a smart-ass.
“Anyone who looks like you will fit right in with this crowd,” the Hindi said with a chuckle. “I’m Rishi, this is Armando,” he said as he pointed to the tall man, “And the lovely lady is–”
“Louisa,” the lady gazelle piped in cheerfully.
Armando emitted a low, hearty chuckle and tossed a rubber-headed mallet at me. “Catch, and give us a hand!”
My tongue flicked out, snatched the mallet mid-air, and deftly placed the tool into my right hand–all pure, blind reflex. The very unique trio before me all nodded appreciatively in unison. I’d found home.


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