American Book of the Dead: City of Pain and Loss

Protagonist and Love Interest:

Eye knew love, and loved Love.

Love, who had failed to complete her kid while splitting the prime infinitive (well before “white” turned “off-white”) that was her task: paint the damned kitchen.

Thus Love’s wretched life direction – murdered Self, aborted Other – and subsequent residence in The City of Pain and Loss, where Federally funded ghosts roamed tax-free.  Same apartment, else eerily similar, one might conclude upon even a brief, but discerning, inspection of the half-baked paint-job in the kitchen.

Ten million stories in this city, none fulfilled. The Past won’t change, not anywhere-ever, nor will What Is, nor, for the denizens of Pain and Loss, What Is To Come.

Whether it is possible to alter patterns of action that comprise most Lives (or these facsimiles? recurrences? forged repetitions?) in Pain and Loss, has not been determined; but it’s certainly something those poor bastards find extremely difficult to pull off…


Eye watched Love transform, utterly, utterly transformed: six months pregnant; minutes later nine months gone. On the nest certain soon to — mustn’t it be? certain? n’est pas? — hatch. Stroke of heartless drift, Oh City of Pain and Loss! Empty as Memory of Eye’s shadow — grim stranger in the mirror.


Eye wandered, rested, entered a bar of sorts, all sorts, and sat. One such sort entranced and enchanted, effused rich musk lure to both her being and her telling, her priceless telling, telling, re-telling, in the way of Pain and Loss, vernacular of consequence, dialect of repetition, repetition, speech-tick sign to others, to oneself, that this tale, the My-Tale, evidence of Self, bears repeating, for it is imperative for all to understand, as all must explain, each in his turn, that this all, all of this all always repeated, cannot be understood, for anyone who could understand, would know, if anyone could, but no one did, that these had been, or should have been, lives without consequence, lives that should have been, should indeed still be, continued, extant, driven by Time if not events — “No more drama, please!” cry The Citizens — for it was all, all of it, this consequence, these consequences of each and all, so unnecessary, so… meaningless, ridiculous really, so absurd and undeserving of this deep consideration and reconsideration – unto what? death? — for really truly honestly: when viewed in pull-back, the Big Picture, by the always all-seeing Cosmic Eye, really, truly, what harm, relative to all that’s said and done and suffered under the gaze of Cosmic Eye, was actually done?

Drama, Character Development, Dialog & SuchSuchSuch:

What harm did Love bring to The Cosmos through one freak accidental house-paint-overdose double-demise and forced relocation to Pain and Loss — nothing much to schlep, really; in an instant she and her son-as-yet-unborn were just … there, along with apartment and furnishings down to every last hand-made glass-blown-porcelain-miniature-type flub-dub ordered on-line, the stuff of coziness and relative calm, down to the embroidered “Home is where the hearth is” door-mat; but the outrage, the indignity!

So sudden-unexpected; all of it.

Perhaps it never happened. Possibly. Hypnosis. Dream. Some new, perhaps illegal, form of psych-profile cum market-research experiment in purchase-full technology.

“Real consumer stencil stuff,” Love said directly to Eye’s eyes. “Outline yer likes, dislikes and what-the-heys on charts and graphs, then let the networked digi-brains give it a good think. Scary shit for real, you know?”

No. He did not know, merely believed what he was told. What options did Eye have, at this point in time and place? He who entered Pain and Loss that very morning in a rented car, the simple mistake of a lost traveler, surely; perhaps a misread road signal or gross mishearing of the disenchanted voice – female, he always selected female, with a “foreign” accent, if available, and of course it always was – emitting monotone direction from the rental’s (deliberately?) damaged GPS?

The Kid had not been born alive on earth; now he was five.

The house-work, which Love had not expected to continue, remained unfinished (the wall half white, half off) like all projects begun prior to residence in Pain and Loss, Tour-guide-touted get-away for souls condemned to grapple with unfinished business and long-unspoken — so long, so long, so dangerously long for so much so abundantly not said: untranslatable? — desires.

Conflict (of Interest?):

Love and Eye tried: to talk, to fuck, completing neither. Pain and Loss resembled the city Eye witnessed as a student, where trees bloomed sooty flowers in the park come Spring.

Eye smoked cigars, attempted resolve, or even solve, if possible. He cogitated, for the first time in this world, cogged hard and deep.

Love read poems aloud in languages Eye did not comprehend. The Kid was at peace in the kitchen, familiar to him as the only one he’d ever known, splotched walls and all.

Night entered with His usual drama, sporting a black velvet cape of terrifying atmosphere. Fashionable, but unfamiliar.

Eye became confused and frightened. He did not know how to interpret this situation. Specifically, Love’s mental, and to a certain degree, considering the relative brevity in which Time passed, physical decline.

The Kid believed Eye was his Dad.

Wherefore why-for whence this vanishing of Home, the land Eye’d loved, the acreage on which he’d hunted, loafed, kicked footballs with his brothers (gone, gone to “memory,” interpretation, documentary mind-stuff of what had “never happened;” or worse, “prove it”)?

Blessed soil of Home untempered by cramped-quarter, spectral street-banquets of Pain and Loss, that day-by-day, year-by-year, everything-everywhere-and-all-consuming vampire that sucked all life-blood from what lived, had lived, was living.

Suddenly the Kid had not been born, not to the City of Pain and Loss, nor any other.

Love, pregnant, splashed her smoldering glands with cold white paint.

Love went dumb.

Cagey ruse to dodge all pain and tedium of explanation: how heinous conceptions had rendered her thick and agonized with child, her un-blessed, unwashed, bastard token of lunatic dreams sown amid alien sites and sounds – so faraway and long ago indeed was the proximity of Home, from Love as well as Eye.

Disgust distorted the unborn. The Kid stared accusingly at Eye, with full intent to mock, humiliate, deny, possessed of a hate too close, too intimate for one not yet – nor ever to become – exposed to life and consequence.

“This is a situation,” said Eye.

Love, mute, gestured: command.

“Absurd,” Eye muttered.

Absurd — and comic? — proprioception of Love’s womb. Fragile membrane – shaped like a pear, Eye’d heard (but pair of what?) – furious to camouflage, or better yet, if possible, erase so many dead moments etched on skin; face-index altered, twisted, rendered weird and worse, ridiculous, by Time (Papa Time seed origin of the Kid if true paternity would be, could be, should be known), progenitor of Pain and Loss, grim patriarch of us, of all.

Eye sat alone with the Kid in Love’s botched kitchen, too exhausted to scatter ghosts who laughed at his once stylish sport-jacket; ghosts similarly wasted from long, forced marches across Time-past filtered through night-prisms of Pain and Loss, amplified by thunderous, unseen speakers. Rancid meat-mold night-routine: experience repeated — still, yet, again – and exchanged among citizens like prisoners trade cigarettes, common dream-time currency of Pain and Loss. Eye’s confusion joined the pack and staggered through the night without him.


Eye rummaged his travel-sack for an answer to the feral, threatening, real or imagined, pounding at the door.

The weight, the palpable metal thingness of the weapon, jolted him from the day’s daze of wandering among discarnate words and signals – misheard, misread, misunderstood – into the steel-bone brilliance of his recognition.

He was not a citizen of Pain and Loss, not like Love nor any of the others, merely a traveller who would remain until, and only until, he completed the task that was his charge.

He turned to Love to bid her “So-long,” say one last, or possibly first, thing, but could not locate the words that would complete his sentence. Not yet.

He “slammed a slug into the chamber,” as he recalled hearing in some movie, cocked, aimed, fired.

Beau Cephalus, Writer-in-Residence at /dev/null, is not afraid to speak the Truth to Power. So long as there's a viable exit-strategy. Read other articles by Beau.