We Have Always Loved Kana
It is 198X and it always will be.
I am the teen idol. I am the chainsmoking photographer. I have worn every face in this city a thousand times and still the Lighthouse calls me back, every gawking bystander & fresh sacrifice a page in my book of self.
How long did I sit, catatonic, by my window, watching the world end? Fire, flood, the godhead unity of an infinite stomach, how many times did it take to get predictable? The joke is spoiled by knowing the punchline.
Did I count the deaths before it stopped feeling like an end at all? The gangster jams a knife into my stomach and twists. I close my eyes. I open my eyes, my body is a stranger’s body. My mind is two rivers, merged by a storm. There is so much ectoplasm smothering me I no longer feel the soul beneath.
The clown-mask stalker waits outside my apartment. I swing the baseball bat. I slice with the scalpel. I break the mask with the carpenter’s hammer and feast on the goo underneath. I have heard their jokes before.
I sleep in a chrysalis of violence. When I wake I become the thing terrifying even to monsters. I find the voyeur in the heating ducts, his snake arms and long body, cartilaginous as a puppy’s ear. I make a knot of his limbs around a ceiling fan. I slurp him out of this building like pervert spaghetti.
I watch this profane winding, this twisting and kinking of spine, with a blank expression. There is no punishment I can devise I have not delivered a thousand times before. Last time I grasped his head and drowned him in the toilet, broke the cistern to flood the entire apartment complex. Before that, the table saw.
While the city flows around me, Kana remains the same. Kana, rock of my anchor, friend to my every face, Kana the True, Kana the Steadfast, tell me, which death will be your last?
I ask Kana to move in with me. I watch as a cultist tears out their throat. I watch as they shoot the Principal in his alien heart. We eat ice cream in the cafe by the park, wearing matching dresses. I tell them why their pervert landlord kept their rent so low. We tear up his pictures and burn the disks. Through every change, we remain neighbors.
Language is dwarfed by the vastness of my love for them. How enraptured I am in the tangle of their life, how even their smallest foibles drive me to fight, to wake up with a nightmare clenched between my teeth begging for mercy. Kana, how many gods have I killed in your name?
Every gossiping student, every drunk old man at the festival, every scared mother at the hospital, we do this for them. Kana, my co-conspirator. Kana, my lone ally. When the water goes foul I cry a river for them to bathe in. No words can possibly convey, so I get up every morning to wage war against chaos, each week a new nightmare. Kana, I love you. Kana, we will form a circle of arms so tight nothing will eat the peace inside.
Even as a girl, my apartment remains a depressing bachelor pad. The shabby posters shift design, suitable to the flesh. The clothes are light and cheap, tearing at the slightest scratch. The records in the cabinets are never proper music, varying between haunted house soundtracks and numbers stations. Occasionally I find albums whose art is just smears of color, the music dreadfully slow and deep-pitched, like a party happening at the bottom of a latrine.
When the bathroom works, it always holds the same two big bottles of shampoo and conditioner, no matter how high maintenance I am supposed to be. I expect I will grow tired of that chemical floral bouquet, though the infrequency of clean water makes every bath feel like a jackpot.
That’s usually what they take first, the water. Fill the pipes with a noxious black sludge, make us stew in our own soil. Leave us all a little on edge, ripe for the coming horrors.
In my study, a network of mysteries align themselves around a giant question mark. Newspaper clippings and red yarn mean “crazy” in every language we speak here. I am crazy, every time I wake I do so with a head full of conspiracies and a body full of festering wounds.
The choice of mysteries rotates without rhyme or reason. Though each investigation is unique in its own way, the conclusions always follow the same broad strokes. There’s always a voyeur in the heating ducts. There’s always an ancient horror sleeping under the forest shrine. The town hangs above oblivion on a glittering web. Grandfather calls from beyond the void. These are the trials of the keys, the only power on Earth which opens the Lighthouse and pushes back the waiting dark one more week.
Stronger than bullets, acid, fire, every spell in every library, nothing else I’ve ever found in all my lives can even so much as touch the locks on that door. Even when Hell arrives, the Lighthouse remains standing. Crazy is the least of my problems.
Kana and I are in the library. They are passing notes into my sweaty hands. I am pouring over grimoires, looking for a spell that will summon a dump truck strong enough to plow a lighthouse into the ocean. We are laughing at the military lockdown, wondering about the ease of hijacking tanks. They smile and touch my hair, I am an entire potentiality of fingertips and cleverness and I lust with the hugeness of all my doings. Their eye glitters with more mischief than an entire sack of stolen jewels.
Kana smiles under their eyepatch. I apologize anyway. They mouth “I asked you to,” I dare not tell them that jamming a red-hot nail into their eye was the less cruel option, that the fate awaiting them in the hospital’s basement would make weapons out of the horrors swimming in their ocular viscera.
Martyr-mother to a thousand shining cranial eels. We are in their neighbor’s apartment, the one with gills not the soft arms, and I am chewing through the bandanna tying them to the bed. I am dragging their limp form into the bathroom, watching horrid little fish-faces press against the swell of their bruised eye.
I pry a chunk of molding from the doorway and bend a nail free. I rinse it in the sink, but the water is thick. I pry a second nail free, the only things in the medicine cabinet are a glass pipe and lighter. I heat the nail. My fingers blister, the nail drops and fuses to the plastic bath mat. I pry a third nail free, wrap my fingers in the bandanna, heat it, and plunge it into Kana’s eye.
Their body flails, sweeping specimen jars into the toilet. They gurgle but do not wake, as their children crawl wetly across their face. I slap with the bandanna, streaking eel-blood on their cheeks, brushing them onto the floor where they are ground into the water-stained carpet.
Three days later, we fail to save the world from an all-consuming fire. I open my eyes, the world is whole again. Kana smiles, both eyes wide, their color dim and grainy. Kana’s voice warbles as behind them, the foliage in the park breathes. The sky blinks out. That was now.
This is a later now. The city is enveloped in a fog of static only I can see. Buildings lose their features, entire blocks simply vanish. In their place, only ghosts. Snippets of scenes from lives long forgotten, children play, Kana eats an ice cream cone and laughs at something I can’t hear. Our time is coming to a close.
I wander into the fog. I open my eyes, the week has started anew. Now, there are no animals. No one mourns them. Kana and I sit in their apartment, watching the ghost of their grandmother teach our echos arithmetic. The stores are sold out of ice cream.
I am a man, a surly gangster with a scar on my cheek. They crack their chopsticks over their instant noodles and say they are not interested in dating because they do not want to build a family with me. My face falls away like molten wax. I am a young woman again. They say they are not interested in dating because their family would not approve. My body shifts muscles like pulling clay from a yielding riverbank. The static swells up around us. The buildings dissolve, leaving the pair of us hanging in a white void. The waters of my flesh pour down upon her. She says she is not interested in dating.