Garbage Bag Johnny
The great thing about it all–and I’m talking about everything here–is you get to keep starting over, albeit always somewhere in an endless middle. Outside of whatever you experience within yourself, or whatever limited thing you construe to be yourself at any moment, there is you at every moment, within any experience of anyself. Insomuch as we can be technically inaccurate for the sake of relatability, when you die as whoever you feel like you are now, you’ll be someone else until you’re everyone else.
The things you feel like you’ve chosen aren’t so much individual choices as they are amoebic maneuverings orchestrated by so many simultaneous versions of yourself in concert. That’s not to say that everything is predetermined. Rather, every choice you make is part of a collective decisioning process, the result of which is purely mosaic. And it’s always the same image. It’s just a matter of whether the colors are complementary or disharmonious.
A complete simulation happens when all lives have been lived through. There’s no count of how many complete simulations there have ever been or will ever be. However, it is never or always none or infinite, but most likely, somewhere in between–unless it all has no meaning whatsoever, which, while equally feasible as any other explanation, would be quite a shame.
“I got a fifty that says we got a stiff one.”
It’s a game McClanahan and I play every time there’s a 10-55 at one of these hotels. It’s the kind of thing that happens a lot more often than you think, especially here. A lot of times, it’s an accident, someone having a better time than they can handle. And then again, a lot of times it ain’t.
“Sure. I’ll take the longshot.” I wasn’t born yesterday. I see the Do Not Disturb sign hanging from the door handle clear as day. I just figure that this way, I win no matter what. A corpse is a corpse. It may not look or smell too pretty, but it’s predictable. You just hold your nose and follow procedure.
But if it’s not a dead body, you don’t know what kind of batshit nutjob you’re gonna run into, even at a nice place like this. That’s when shit can go real sideways. No thank you. I’ll take a dead one any day of the week. That way, shit’s already gone as sideways as it’s gonna go.
Besides, neither of us ever pays up. We just keep a running tally, and by my count, the potato-faced son of a bitch owes me a new goddamn deck. He’d probably tell you it’s the other way around, but the thing about McClanahan is–and in spite of it he’s good police–he’s about as dumb as you can be without it being some kind of medical issue.
“Sir, this is the Las Vegas Police conducting a wellness check. Are you alright in there?” McClanahan bangs on the door a few times to punctuate his question, but there’s no response. Big surprise, right? “Sir, if you’re there, we’re going to unlock the door and come in to ensure your safety.”
The brass at the MGM Grand gave us a master keycard and said this guy’s staying indefinitely for the PRIME reunion they’ve got booked in residency. I don’t know. It ain’t really my thing. McClanahan says his kids watch that shit. They ain’t the brightest either, and the poor brats look like him on top of that. Give it a decade and they’ll probably be wearing the blue like their pops. Either that, or they’ll be behind bars. They ain’t cut out for much else.
“Ready to see what’s on the other side?”
McClanahan grins and nods as I pull off the Do Not Disturb sign and insert the keycard into the slot. I hear a click inside the mechanism and see the tiny square LED bulb flash green.
There’s no better time than now to bring up the elephant in the room, the clarinet player, the one who runs the simulator, the only one through whose being we do not experience. For the sake of simplicity, that whole separate entity will be henceforth referred to as The Handler.
Quite literally, The Handler is in a top secret medical facility on a remote compound somewhere in the country, or at least somewhere in some country, or maybe not even that. Maybe The Handler gets moved, and maybe decoys get moved, too, or maybe it’s only decoys. It has to be only decoys. The Handler is very sick and hooked up to machines that perform bodily functions that The Handler can no longer perform autonomously. Very sick and very old.
When The Handler dies, so, too, does all else. All at once.
The room is a mess in such a distinct way that it distracts me from noticing any smell. Usually, it’s the stench that hits you first. Each one has its own personality if you can sniff past how aggressively it hits. In any case, the place isn’t rock-star trashed. There’s a certain order to it, rather a tableau than a suicide note.
We have to push our ways past a train of room service carts just to get through the door. There’s a bathroom to the left, but straight ahead, the carts lead out of the narrow entrance into the main section, past the bed to a small couch that’s positioned to face a flat screen TV. The cloches on all the carts are turned open, and the meals are in various states of completion. Some of the plates have been repurposed as makeshift ashtrays, and when that became too much effort, the tenant started putting cigarettes out right there on the carpeting. Empty packs are everywhere, crumpled and tossed, and empty liquor bottles decorate the places within arms reach from where they were finished.
“Hey, check this shit out.” I see McClanahan coming from the bathroom, and he’s holding something, but before I can make out what it was, a burst of flame spits towards me for a moment. McClanahan stands there with his mouth agape like the imbecile he is.
“The fuck you doing? You almost singed my fucking eyebrows off!”
“Ah, gee. I’m sorry about that.” He holds an erotic lighter up in front of me, fashioned to resemble a blond lady with an exaggerated backside wearing a thong. There’s a structural hole, so the flame comes out right where the anus would be. “I just wanted to show you this lighter I found. It’s really something, huh?”
“Put that back where you found it. You’re not supposed to be touching shit.”
I can see into the bathroom over McClanahan’s slouched shoulders as he returns the lighter to where he found it on the edge of the sink, next to the toilet. Wadded up tissues surround the toilet’s basin. Gastrointestinal residue coagulates in the sink in such a way that it looks like someone tried to puke in it while sitting on the toilet. Streaks on the bathroom countertop support this theory. McClanahan finally notices when he puts the lighter back and he shrieks and jumps back, almost tripping over the lip of the bathtub.
“Ah, Jesus! There’s fuckin’ puke in the tub, too.”
I leave him to recompose himself in the bathroom and wade my way past the carts towards where the room opens up. On my way deeper into the main part of the room I notice receipts on some of the carts. They all have different room numbers, so this guy must have been poaching food, sometimes half-eaten, from the hallways.
I can see the television screen now. Cracked glass spiderwebs from an impact point in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. The image is stuck on a single frame. It’s one of those masked wrestlers like they got in Mexico, but this one’s a white guy. There’s a referee raising his arm victoriously. It’s burnt into the screen so deep that it looks tattooed. Must’ve been left like this for days. The remote is on the ground just in front of the stand. The battery cover is popped off and the batteries have rolled away for housekeeping to find.
Further towards the couch, the population of empty liquor bottles grows denser. It’s quite a diverse collection of libations, and some of it’s decent, but most of it is run of the mill, bottom of the barrel brand stuff you find behind the window of a gas station kiosk, like money started tightening up mid-bender. There are lots of cigarette butts on the carpet around the couch and on the coffee table, and there are a lot of wadded up tissues here, too. There are vomit stains on the couch cushions. One cushion is missing completely. There are vomit stains under where that cushion would’ve been.
A pair of boots pokes out from behind the side of the couch. I can see some tattered brown fabric, too. I hear McClanahan shuffling between some of the room service carts behind me.
“Oh, don’t tell me this fuck shit himself.” McClanahan’s making a face like he ain’t never smelled shit before.
“This fuck shit himself.”
The Handler must be protected at all times, and operating the life support machinery and guarding the Handler are two of the most important duties a Volunteer can perform. The more Volunteers there are, the easier it is to share the Responsibility of keeping our simulation alive so we can experience the Pleasures of True Freedom! Recruitment is another very important duty for Volunteers to perform, and because all life is the same spirit shuffled through different vessels, backwards and forwards across time, being a Recruiter is as simple as recruiting yourself.
So, whether you’re looking for a fresh start, a greater purpose with a more profound sense of connection to life, an environment where you can live out your most perverse fantasies so long as they do not endanger the Handler, or just the comfort in knowing that death is not the end, it’s time for you to come home. Please visit one of our physical locations in the area nearest to you for an in person consultation.
The body is wedged between the couch and the wall. It’s a white male, maybe in his 40s, wearing a bathrobe over some long johns and a sleeveless, white undershirt. He’s got long greasy hair and an unkempt beard, both marbled with patches of crust from what appears to be a variety of fluids.
One hand is still holding a half smoked cigarette. The other one’s wrapped around a bottle of discount gin. A couple fingers remain undrunk in the bottle. I grab his wrist and feel for his radial artery. It’s weak, but there’s a pulse.
“Hey, Mick. Looks like you owe me fifty more.”
“No shit?” He’s waiting for me to tell him I’m just fucking around with him, but I don’t respond. “Come on. You gotta be shitting me.”
“Call in the EMTs. Let’s get this guy a ride to the hospital.”
“He still shat himself, though, right? Not just a dead body thing?”
“Oh, absolutely. He absolutely shat himself.”