Nomadology

By Chris Nakashima-Brown

I. No money down

"Charlton Heston was my President," said Carol, knitting the second of a pair of his and hers sensory deprivation hoods.

I watched the muted television. On-screen, stop-motion set pieces illustrated a science fiction fantasy of the destruction of the state apparatus and the abolition of private property mediated by alien invasion and natural disaster. The only sound in the room was the soft clicking of aluminum knitting needles, like a DIY Geiger counter monitoring our entropic half-lives.

I met Carol at the Southwestern Regional Conference of Nomadology in Phoenix. She gave a PowerPoint documenting her research on the informal architecture of homeless lean-tos, rich with details of the Dumpster artifacts incorporated as protective talismans. One featured a zig-zag of blue plastic tubing hung over the entryway: the luminescent outline of an imaginary force field, supplemented with a toy lightsaber, a votive 1950s Santa Claus, and a magazine photo of the General.

Later, we made our own fort in her hotel room, using items borrowed from the conference facility's utility closets.

"Next slide," she said, admiring the illustrated Old Testament page thrown against the ceiling of our bedsheet tent by an underused but nonetheless well-maintained overhead projector. With dry-erase markers and the blank pages of each other's bodies, we storyboarded our idea for a new reality show based on the reenactment by B-list celebrities of notable minor disasters of the twentieth century. "The Museum of Accidents of the Stars," Carol called it.

I meant to tell you about all of this.

We talked about moving in together after her work was done. Carol had found an abandoned analog television broadcast facility that we occupied as our secret nest, decorated with furnishings purchased at the weekly foreclosure auctions. On the nights when the power was on, we broadcast transmissions over translator channel 72, wondering whether rabbit ears were still attached out there, ready to receive our signal. Swimming in the effervescent electric bath of cathode ray blue, we rapped subversive genomic limericks for an audience no Nielsen rating could ever capture.

This medium, I thought, was the secret of our revolution. Then I got your message, stenciled on the side of a railcar.

That was before the invasion. Before the tanks rolled down the Avenida Ahmad Chalabi, before the Galleria fell under the bombardment of our unexpected liberators, and all the signals went dead.

II. Is it safe?

At the Royal Brisbane Country Club, the lower level of the clubhouse has been converted into interrogation facilities. Portions of the men's grill and locker room allowed to realize their immanent potential when the Homeland Guard recaptured the western suburbs and set up a beautifully landscaped gulag here, a mile or two outside the area under the control of the insurrection.

I am strapped to a banquet chair with hard plastic ties. On the wall opposite, the elusive face of Tiger Woods watches over his shoulder as my interrogator attaches the electrodes to my testicles. Is that a Mona Lisa smile the golfer wears, or some darker aspect? The predatory seduction of the child star.

The empty swimming pool through the window is a detention area surrounded by concertina. A thousand putative rebels rounded up at night from the surrounding municipalities shamble in the shallow rain puddles of the deep end, watched by black-uniformed sentries perched atop the lifeguard towers with assault rifles that intermittently glisten in the light of late dusk.

As the current starts to run through me, I hear the battery of lawn sprinklers kick in. The cascading shook-shook of watery machined spurts ejecting over the greener-than-real turf, unexpectedly synchronized with the waves of high-voltage spasms as they seize my corpus in a rictus of new pain.

My interrogator is a Teletubby, the television in his stomach replaying some of the great lies I have told in intimate moments of treachery.

Outside, on the 18th hole, the Commandant's BMW explodes, victim of a Home Depot IED. Are they here to rescue me?

III. Afternoon delight

The Scythians seized the opportunity created by a revolution that had already started. Started with burning cars all over town; direct action from the American banlieues. BMWs like the Commandant's commandeered 750Li were the most popular targets, followed by Lexuses, Mercedeses, Range Rovers, and the next generation Cadillacs with their sharp edges and gunmetal paint jobs so well-tuned to the undercurrent of dominion within the morning radio Zeitgeist. Audis and Saabs were largely spared, undeservedly in my view.

It was a beautiful scene looking out from the window of my third story flat over the Rue Wolfowitz that June night, when the power to the city had been cut and the night lit up with cotton candy clouds of orange petroleum flame.

You slept through it, exhausted from your reverse commute through the war zone, past the checkpoints and the smoldering ruins of the mall and the burning tank farms and the piles of bodies accumulated on the intramural fields where the escaped parakeets once gathered to play. It was an ultimate act of love, to leave the anesthetized fluorescent tranquility of your exurban cubicle, your paycheck, your boyfriend's 8,000-square-foot air-conditioned custom home on the edge of the fairway, where the prisoners of war milled in their archipelago of fenced pens and watched the foursomes of Homeland Centurions play through in their armored carts. Not to suggest we were in love, whatever the fuck that really means. Just similarly broken, and alive together in the liberating now of our temporary apocalypse.

As we lay atop the tangled sheets in the hot breeze of a summer night with the city on fire, your acne scars were the oiled chalices into which I poured my pain.

Do you remember running with the student mob, just a few steps ahead of the galloping riot police with their electric truncheons and mirrored helmets? The adrenaline running through us like fresh blood from amped up teenagers? I guess that didn't really happen; a movie memory misfiled in my brain.

And then you were captured, locked back into your cubicle, your big brain plugged into the machine, your love trapped in the shallow company of those colleagues of yours who delighted in the pampered illusions of their servitude. Down the hall, in the law department, they cut product placement deals for your defense contractor clients with America's hottest stars. That is why I resolved to become a strip mall suicide bomber, using the old identity of mine that had been stolen the year before by Russian phishermen.

IV. Regarding middle-class white boys

What a fucking awesome party. Talk about "obscene enjoyment." Who knew the mujahideen assassins would have even better reefer than those Scythian priests camped out on top of the parking garage doing their blood bowls? The whole thing was like a post-apocalyptic Cheech and Chong flick.

Osama opened up his Blofeldian mountain hideout for a house party. The place was shaking with woofed-up synthesized Fezcore running through the rebar. You were kind of spaced out, writing rhymeless poems in your bad calligraphy on the fuselages of the anti-aircraft missiles arrayed for launch. I got lost in the rave Abu Ghraib downstairs, with all the Dionysian Abercrombie POWs acting out their skankiest warporn fantasies. "Frat boys are so much better when they are on leashes," you said. I came looking for the tough-loving Lynndie England of my private midnights, and instead I found you. Who knew a latex Barbara Bush mask could be so fucking hot?

Liberian teenagers toting AK-47s haul ass down the David Addington Allée in an overloaded Lincoln Navigator with the top sawed off, dragging the bodies of a well-regarded architect and your vice president of marketing behind the car. You tell me to throw something at them, but come on, you know what a chickenshit I really am. I could lose my job.

In the bar called Heaven, they have all these Lolita-looking chicks cage dancing over the crowd like a Christmas tree decorated with clips from an old Robert Palmer video. After I drove your exploding X5 through the main reception lobby of your glass and steel office complex in a pathetic but indisputably stylin' effort to free you (or at least get your attention), I hung out in the club until sunup, drinking blue martinis in the hope that they would rewire my brain.

V. Think different

I can't believe you were fucking one of those crazy ass Janjaweed militiamen in my apartment. The guy was wearing a necklace of ears sliced from the heads of junior high school cheerleaders, for Christ's sake! While I was down the street at Kinko's, wearing my Dries Van Noten vest duct-taped over with enough C4 to blow out the windows in the next county, uploading my explanatory last testament video to YouTube, with all its digressions regarding Gilligan's Island, the role of ritual male circumcision in 1950s Presbyterian culture of the Upper Midwest, and my secret desire to fuck the hole left after they remove the Vice President's pacemaker.

"You are such a stupid pussy," you said, egging me on while you pulled harder on the Janjaweed's ratty dreadlocks.

Shock and awe.

Your daughter's body was a lot easier to carry with her legs blown off by the daisy cutters that ripped through the food court. You've never heard screams like that, the scream that's even louder than the one from the pain of two freshly severed limbs, the scream of the psychic incision when the kid sees the bloody stumps where her legs are supposed to be. She wailed louder than the sky-cracking shrieks of the jet fighters as they roared low over downtown, napalming the mob gathered around the Civic Center. You made a slideshow on iPhoto of the pictures of me standing there with her dying wet pink and red body in my arms in front of the tanks and armored personnel carriers, intercut with her puppy and kitten photos and her Photoshopped unicorns and an audio montage of her 25 Most Played on iTunes. I made her death cry the ringtone on my cell phone.

I thought I had you after that. But you kept going back. You rode home with him in his new S8 after the Rollerball tournament. Your tentative efforts at a simulation of urbane domestic life are ridiculous, stepping over the bodies and sandbags to shop for new specialty kitchen appliances at Williams Sonoma. Your trips with him to the new Club Med in Kourou on the Guiana coast, where you watched the Arianespace people launch your new surveillance satellite.

What's it all about, Alfie?

I want you to know that I have signed us up for lessons at the flight school by the old airport. I sent you the information in the mail. In six months we could be in the 747 simulator, marking our targets. I know you said you wanted to take tango dancing lessons, but under the circumstances, this was the closest I could get. Yes, they let you change partners if you want to.


Chris Nakashima-Brown writes short fiction and criticism from his home in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in a variety of anthologies and magazines, including 2008's Fast Forward 2 and Spicy Slipstream Stories. His story "Prisoners of Uqbaristan" appeared in Strange Horizons in October 2004. He also contributes to the group blog No Fear of the Future. For more about him and his work, see his website. To contact him, send him email at nakashima_brown@yahoo.com.