sickness in the dark

Sickness in the dark was written in November 2007 for the Best of the Slams Poetry Evening at the Front Cafe. The texts I have sampled, in order of appearance:

Roald Dahl – The Witches (1983) the beginning of the Grand High Witch’s speech to the assembled witches of England
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Hobbit (1937) from Chapter 6: Riddles in the Dark, in which Bilbo finds the Ring in the caverns under the Misty Mountains
David Finig – A Most Curious Dream (eight and a half pesos mix) (2006)
David Finig – Disease Play (2007)
David Finig – Food court disease computer game (2007)
ID Software – Cheat codes to Doom (1993)
Lew Welch – I Saw Myself (1956) poem written several days prior to a severe nervous breakdown

You can download an extract of the performance here:
blind – the grand high witch.mp3 (5:24, live Nov 2007 at Front Cafe)
.

The doors – are they chained and bolted?

you may remove your gloves! you may remove your shoes! you may remove your wigs! remove your wigs and get some fresh air into your spotty scalps!

witches of england! witches of england! miserable witches! useless lazy witches! feeble fribbling witches! you are a heap of idle good for nothing worms!

I am having my breakfast this morning and I am looking out the window at the beach, and what am I seeing? I am asking you, what am I seeing? I am seeing a repulsive sight! I am seeing hundreds, I am seeing thousands of rotten repulsive little children playing on the sand! it is putting me right off my food! Why have you not got rid of them? Why have you not rubbed them all out, these filthy smelly children?

I am asking you why?

Children smell! They stink out the world! One child a week is no good to me! Is that the best you can do? I demand maximum results! So here are my orders! My orders are that every single child in this country shall be rubbed out, squashed, squirted, squittered and frittered out before I come here again in one year’s time! Do I make myself clear?
(when bilbo opened his eyes)
Who said that? Who dares to argue with me? It was you, was it not?
(when bilbo opened his eyes he wondered if he had)
You dared to argue with me!
(for it was just as dark with them shut)
A witch who dares to say I’m wrong
Will not be with us very long

(when bilbo opened his eyes)
An idiotic witch like you
Must roast upon the barbeque!

(he wondered if he had)
A foolish witch without a brain
Must sizzle in the fiery flame!

(when bilbo opened his eyes he wondered if he had for it was just as dark with them)
A STUPID WITCH WHO ANSWERS BACK
MUST BURN UNTIL HER BONES ARE BLACK!

When Bilbo opened his eyes, he wondered if he had; for it was just as dark with them shut.

Very slowly he got up and groped about on all fours, till he touched the wall of the tunnel; but neither up nor down it could he find anything; nothing at all, no sign of goblins, no sign of dwarves.

He guessed as well as he could, and crawled along for a good way, till suddenly his hand met what felt like a tiny ring of cold metal lying on the floor of the tunnel. It was a turning point in his career, but he did not know it. He put the ring in his pocket almost without thinking; certainly it did not seem of any particular use at the moment. Down here, nothing moves except one drop of water which drips
drops
drip
drop drop
drop

Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was a Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face. He had a little boat, and he rowed about quite quietly on the lake; for lake it was, wide and deep and deadly cold. On that lake, nothing moved except one drop of water which dripped
drop
drip
drop drop
drop
It spells out D.A.N.K. in morse and it drips from puddle to puddle never at
drip
drip drip
drop
drip drip

He paddled it with large feet dangling over the side, but never a ripple did he make. He was looking out of his pale lamp-like eyes for blind fish, which he grabbed with his long fingers, throttled them and it drips
drops
drip
drop drop
drop
and it drops from puddle to puddle never at
drop
drop
and it drops from puddle to puddle never at

Gollum: Bless us and splash us, my preciousss! What is it? I guess it’s a choice feast; at least a tasty morsel, gollum! Perhaps we sits here and chats with a bit, precious. Perhaps…
What has roots that nobody sees
Is taller than trees
up up it goes
and yet never grows?

DOWNSTAIRS IN THE CITY CLUB – KAREOKE NIGHT – DO WE HAVE A MICHAEL Z IN THE HOUSE? GIVE IT UP FOR MICHAEL Z!

That’s Cancer – sitting at a table downstairs in the City Club – and that’s Smallpox. Two of the human species’ worst enemies sitting having a drink downstairs in the City Club –

MICHAEL Z’S ONE OF OUR FAVOURITE PERFORMERS ON KAREOKE NIGHT – HE’S GONNA KICK IT OFF WITH CORNERSHOP’S ‘BRIMFUL OF ASHA’, GO MICHAEL Z!

this is Cancer. this is Smallpox.

Cancer: So I’m stirring the cream into my coffee, and she’s just sitting there with a folder on her knees, not saying anything. And I’m not saying anything. I wasn’t about to talk first.
Smallpox: No, it’s bad policy to talk first. They should understand that.
Cancer: Well most of them do. Most of them know that to even meet with one us is pretty serious business. So they do their research, they bring all the information, and usually all you have to do is agree on a price. This girl, I don’t know what the fuck she thought she was doing.
Smallpox: How’d she get in touch with you?
Cancer: TB. She had TB when she was a kid, and she kept his details after they antibioted him.

What has roots that nobody sees

Smallpox: So what did she want with you?
Cancer: Well that’s what blew my mind. When she finally does speak up, she tells me she wants to hire me to tackle a city for a month. A city. For a month. I said ‘Girl, I’m Cancer.’ She said ‘I know.’
Smallpox: She clearly doesn’t know, if she wants you for a month.

Is taller than trees
up up it goes

Cancer: I said what can I do in a month? Start a few tumours, get the ball rolling here and there, but then what? I’m a craftsman. I do good work, irreversible work. But it takes time. What am I supposed to do in month – to a whole city? I can’t just run over the rooftops dropping tumours down the chimney into everybody’s christmas stockings.
Smallpox: If she wants a city she should have spoken to Pneumonia.
Cancer: Or you. I told her, why not speak with Smallpox? You come in to town, forty hours later everyone’s dripping with sores. Forty hours again, gutters lined with bodies.
Smallpox: Not quite that effective…
Cancer: No, take the praise. You’re good at what you do.

and yet never grows?

Cancer: I’ve always said, Smallpox is an artist.
Smallpox: Thank you.
Cancer: No thanks required.

Riddles were all Gollum could think of. Asking them and guessing them, had been the only game he had ever played in the long, long ago, before he lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down, into the dark under the mountains.

Bilbo: Easy! Mountain.
Gollum: Easy? Does it guess easy? Then it must have a competition with us, precious. If it asks us, and we doesn’t answer, then we does what it wants, eh? We shows it the way out, yes! But if we asks, and it doesn’t answer – we eats it, my precious.

Smallpox: So what did she say?
Cancer: She said she wanted to speak with a couple of other people before she made any decisions.
Smallpox: Do you know who else she’s speaking with?
Cancer: HIV.
Smallpox: Serious?
Cancer: Pretty sure.

– Dear Michael Z. I am stuck in the City Club on kareoke night. I have infected the bartender but I can’t make him come out from behind the bar to infect anyone else.

Smallpox: This girl must be offering something pretty special to get HIV to the table.
Cancer: She is.
Smallpox: Do you mind if I…?
Cancer: I’m not going to tell you.
Smallpox: Fair enough. But HIV…

– Dear Moran, the bartender never leaves the bar, no matter what you do. To spread the infection, you have to inject a spray of germs into the beer glass as he is pouring it. When you’ve infected the beer drinker, get him to request a song for kareoke, and jump from his lips to the microphone. From the microphone, you can infect more than half of the Club by jumping into their mouths when they come up to sing.

YEAH, GIVE IT UP FOR MICHAEL Z! ALL RIGHT, WE’RE GONNA GET MICHAEL Z BACK UP ONSTAGE LATER ON TONIGHT TO SING A LITTLE BIT OF JOHN CAGE, BUT RIGHT NOW, CAN YOU PLEASE WELCOME DIORRHEA TO THE STAGE! HERE YOU GO, UP YOU GET. THIS IS DIORRHEA’S FIRST TIME SINGING KAREOKE, SO LET’S GIVE HER A BIG CHEER AS SHE PERFORMS AN OLD CLASSIC BY JRR TOLKIEN – TAKE IT AWAY, DIORRHEA!

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless mutters
.

– Dear Michael Z, I have just passed 20,000 infected victims and I’ve got enough experience to level up to Epidemic status, but how can I increase my infection rate? I’ve boosted all my virulence points so I can infect people through skin contact, but the infection is growing so slowly that I keep being quarantined. Are there any cheat codes I can use?

– Dear Retard, why are you made of fail? There are cheats which can boost your infection range, but you don’t need them. At the moment, your germs are being carried on and delivered by physical contact with infected people. There are a heap of other ways your germs can spread, and the most effective one if you need to get through quarantine barriers… I’ll give you a clue. Right at the beginning of the game when you’re stuck in the cave under the mountain, the gollum thing asks you a riddle. Do you remember the riddle?

Voiceless it cries,
Wingless flutters,
Toothless bites,
Mouthless
for fuck’s sake, the answer is wind. Wind cries but it doesn’t have a voice, it doesn’t have any wings but it flutters… Clear? Just keep mutating and experimenting with your 20,000 victims until you come up with a strain of germ which can survive being carried on the wind.

– Dear Michael Z. I cannot become a legendary epidemic because I am stuck under the mountain right in the beginning of the game and I can’t answer Gollum’s last riddle. Is there a cheat that gives you the answer?

– Dear black underscore angel 39 at hotmail dot com, do you seriously need a cheat to solve
This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grind hard stones to meal
;

Smallpox: You know Anorexia and Parkinson’s told me that last job HIV did, she got paid 900 square kilometres of temperate forest?
Cancer: Can we not talk about her, please?
Smallpox: Yeah, no, forget about her.

Slays king, ruins town;
And beats high mountain down
.

Smallpox: She’s been lucky, that’s all she’s got going for her.
Cancer: Don’t bullshit me, Smallpox. She’s brilliant.
Smallpox: Yeah.

Slays king, ruins town;

Cancer: She’s not coming tonight, is she?
Smallpox: Christ no. She hates kareoke and she can’t sing for

drip
drop
drop drop
Slays
drip
ruins town;
drop drop
And beats high mountain
from puddle to puddle never at
drip
drip
and it drips from puddle to puddle never at rest

Gollum: Well, is it answering?
Bilbo: I’m thinking – who slays kings and beats mountains –
Gollum: Is it nice, my preciousss? Is it juicy?
Bilbo: Half a minute, I’m-
Gollum: Is it crunchable?
Bilbo: Give me more time! Time! It is time! It is time.
Gollum: It’s got to ask uss a quessstion, my preciouss, yes. Jusst one more question, yes, gollum.

– Dear Michael Z, is there a cheat to give you a riddle question that Gollum can’t solve?

As Gollum’s hissing grew closer and sharper, Bilbo imagined he could see two small points of light peering at him, Gollum’s hunger burning in his eyes with a pale flame. Bilbo was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness. He must think of a riddle.

– Dear arse ream anal fuck, since you can’t play a game without cheating your way through every single challenge and puzzle – get your pen ready – here are the cheats:

Bilbo: Thirty white horses – uh – a box without hinges and three legs… What have I got in my pocket?
Gollum: Not fair! not fair! It isn’t fair, my precious, is it, to ask us what it’s got in its nassty little pocketses?

– IDDQD – god mode.

Bilbo: What have I got in my pocket?
Gollum: S-s-s-s-s…. It must give us three guesseses, my precious, three guesseses.
Bilbo: Very well! Guess away!

– IDKFA – weapons, keys, armour, ammo.

Gollum: Handses!
Bilbo: Wrong. Guess again!

Gollum was more upset than ever. He thought of all the things he kept in his own pockets: fish-bones, goblins’ teeth, wet shells, a bit of bat wing, a stone to sharpen his fangs on, he tried to think what other people kept in their pockets.

Gollum: S-s-s-s-s… Knife!
Bilbo: Wrong! Last guess.

– IDSPISPOPD – no clipping. walk through walls. the world is your oyster.

Gollum: String, or nothing!
Bilbo: Both wrong. Now what about your promise? Show me the way out.
Gollum: Yes. Yes. But what has it got in its pockets? Not string, precious, but not nothing. gollum! My birthday present. My birthday present, my precious, what has it got in its pocketssss? What has it got in its pocketses? Oh we guess, we guess, my precious. He’s found my birthday present. Curse it! Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!

I saw myself

a ring of bone
in the clear stream
of all of it
and vowed,

always to be open to it
that all of it
might flow through

and then heard
“ring of bone” where

ring is what a

bell does

.

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