HOST: a short story

I was stirred awake by sounds before unheard. Gonging flinching rhythmic pounding aching switching soothing—all in one, one in all—is the only way I can describe them. Individually, they were distinct as could be—polar, in fact, related in no way—but they came together and melded into one liquid fluid flowing floating form that roused me from the depths of sleep to unprecedented tranquility. If I could find one relative word to describe this euphoric orum, I’d call it “music”. But how far it was from what we call “music”!

…“Bring ‘em over here man! Come on”…

I opened my eyes. Color. Color upon color, beyond color, within color. Color birthing color birthing kaleidoscopic color. Light. We speak of dark and light, but here light has character. Light has size. Texture. Shape. Language. Fashion. Belief. Attitude. Light doesn’t give a fuck.

…“Hahaha! Dude you really gonna finish ALL of that?”…

I saw. I heard. I motioned to lift myself from my bed. I was in no bed. I was on a floor. “Floor” is not what this was. It was like a floor, yes, in that it was the solid flat surface beneath me. But “floors” don’t move. “Floors” don’t judge. “Floors” don’t care about your day. “Floors” are supposed to shut up and stay there, firm and eternal, helping you defy gravity. “Floors” do not flirt with gravity. “Floors” don’t make love to gravity.

What. The FUCK. Is THIS.

I stood up. I was dressed in an immaculate glistening tuxedo. Since when?

My shoes glowed like moonlight in a feisty new color I can only describe as a blend of green, purple, and silver. How?

I was surrounded by an infinite sea of faces: all happy, electric, alive. Who?

…“Do that again! Ah, you missed it man! Do it again”…

Music. Color. Floor. Tuxedo. Faces.

“Hey!” It came from behind me. “Hey! Hey man!”

Was he talking to me?

“Hey! You’re up, man! You gotta fuckin’ try this!”

I turned around and was beckoned by a welcoming flood of smiles, calls, and cheers. I approached the crowd within the sea.

“Here you go!” he said. A woman to my right kissed my cheek.

I took the glass. It was shaped like a blizzard. It contained a drink of red angle syrup.

I drank. To the cheers of colossal orgasmic joy, I drank: Trumpets. Firework ice. Balloon horn towers. Chocolate mountain Easter sky. Bongo perfume pineapple crystal blue-bellum. Bobble blum crickcan sman fukkake.

I wandered away and approached a short man in a candle hat. I screamed “WHAT IS THIS.”

“WHAT.”

“WHAT IS THIS? WHAT IS THIS PLACE?”

“GROPE MY TIMBERS.”

I moved on to another man. He was seated to my left sipping socks. “HELLO.”

“Howdy man.”

“What’s going on? What is this place?”

“What do you mean?”

“I was asleep and I woke up here. What is this place?”

His face lit up, swelling with wonder and elation. “So you just woke up!” He motioned to our surroundings as if to introduce me. “Isn’t it great?!”

“WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS!” Just give me something I can understand you son of a bitch.

He looked surprised. He presented our surroundings once again. “Come on man! It’s a party!”

 

●●

Sound Music Color Light Floor Gravity Tuxedoes Shoes People Laughs Drinks.

Party.

“So you just woke up, right?” he said.

I nodded.

“Me too,” he explained. “Woke up dressed like this and all of it was just here. I’ve been here ever since!”

Behind him two girls sat exchanging slaps across the face and laughing. A midget kicked an old woman in the crotch and then tore off her wig. She responded with “Eat Fuck, Morto!” Three couples made out against the wall. First in pairs and then the six altogether.

“But what is this?” I asked. “How did I get here?”

“Beats me, man,” he said and walked away.

 

I approached what seemed to be a counter and a truck. On my way a nude toddler handed me another drink. I set it on the counter and addressed the young man behind it.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Could you tell me where I am?”

He eyed me quizzically. I asked another way. “Can I speak to the owner or manager?”

“There is none,” he said.

“What do you mean?”

“Nobody ‘owns’ or ‘manages’ a party, dude. What kind of fuckin’ party would that be?”

I gritted my teeth and pinched my eyes. A fat lady slammed into me as she fled a nun dragging a wheelbarrow bearing a paraplegic who screamed the National Anthem.

“FINE,” I cried, losing all patience and composure. “Then who’s the fucking host of this party? Let me speak to the HOST.”

He pointed straight across the endless hall. “Right over there.”

I turned around and scanned the ocean of color, light, and mayhem. I dove back into its depths. A man congratulated me on my new dimples. Another offered me a ride. Another declared that he could see the ceiling and then fell sobbing to his knees. Two women were miming a competition of who could choke the hardest.

And there was movement. Cyclonic swirling waves oozing through the molasses mist. Synchronized chaos and mellow love. Circling sphering whirling looping disking reels.

“Excuse me!” I called to a man churning beside me. Dervishing to the orbit of the universe. “Do you know where the host is?”

He pointed to a man some twenty feet away. A tall man standing on an icy pillar, doused in honey and gold, etched to perfection by the chisels of the gods. It was The Host.

 

 

●●●

I rustled my way to The Host on the pillar, unwisely resisting the current of the movement. When I reached him, I waved my arms to get his attention. The entire hall cheered and imitated my motion.

“Excuse me! I’d like to speak with you!”

The Host heard my call and descended the pillar. Still he towered over me.

“Pardon the interruption, but I have a few questions. I woke up here not too long ago. I want to know why I’m here. What is this?”

The Host gave no reaction. He just stared blankly back at me.

“Hello?” I said, looking into his crystal eyes for a response. “What’s going on here?”

“Party,” he replied in a foreign accent.

“Yes, I understand,” I said. “But why the party? And how did I get here—”

He reached for my hands and held them, interrupting me. He pointed at his ears and then at his mouth. He was telling me he didn’t understand.

As best as I could, I tried to mime and gesture my questions: Sleep. Wake. Light. People. Tuxedo. What— finally, he smiled and nodded.

“Me come too,” said The Host. “Me [sleeping gesture] same you. [waking gesture] party!”

There was no way he understood me. “You’re not the host?” I pointed to him. “Your party? Host?”

“Me party!” he exclaimed, as if blown away by the absurdity. “Host! No! Ni!” He pointed at me with both hands emphatically. “Same you! Same you!”

So I gestured with my hands, my arms, shoulders, hips, thighs, bones. My body quaked the big question: “Party for WHO?”

Smiling, he shrugged his shoulders and ascended the icy pillar.

 

●●●●

Six men exchanged a crystal pot of flaming grass. A young girl in polka dots cradled a puppy and wailed each time the puppy barked. A man followed me for what seemed like an hour, demanding I give him cookies.

“It’s fine with me if you don’t wanna give me some,” he would say. “But I’m offering to buy them. I don’t care what you charge; just give me all you’ve got!”

At some point his request grew absurdly philosophical: “How they give that shit to kids blows my fucking mind. You ever had a fucking cookie before, man? Nobody eats a fucking cookie, man; the cookie, it fucking eats you! Soon as it hits your tongue it’s like a colony of fucking ants nibbling you from the inside out. I swear to God I’ll kill you right now for some fucking cookies.”

Eventually he gave up and went away. I encountered a pair of women dressed in silk glass. “Would you ladies know where I can find the host?” I asked.

“Nope,” one replied. “I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. I hear he wears lots of quintillion.”

I encountered an old man in a turtle shell. Hoping for some elderly wisdom, I asked him about the host. After minutes of trying to understand my question, his only response was a reeking belch into my face. I shoved him off of his stool as I stomped off.

I finally found a group of men and women who looked remotely normal. “Could you folks direct me to the host of this party?”

They seemed puzzled by my request. “Hmm,” one woman replied. “That’s a great question.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever thought of that,” added a man beside her. “The host.”

“Not sure,” said another wonderingly. He turned to the others. “Do you think there’s a host?”

“Do you think there’s a host!” I was outraged. “How can there not be a host? Where did this humungous party come from? Who started it? What’s it doing here! And how did we get here!”

The question fascinated them. It hadn’t ever crossed their minds before.

“I have no idea,” said a man in a blue-yellow tuxedo. “I mean, you’re right. We all did find ourselves here in the same way. But a host?”

“I haven’t seen anyone like that around here,” said one of the ladies. “Have you tried the other floors?”

My heart sank to my stomach. My bones locked. I was violently warped away to silent oblivion. “What other floors?”

“Yeah. Apparently, there is more than one floor.”

In this whole entire setting, there was not one wall, one corner, one door in sight. The whole place extended boundlessly as far as the eye could see. Eternal and constant, vibrant and whirling. And yet there were floors?

“One hundred, actually,” said a voice which now seemed infinitely distant to me. “Or so I’ve heard. I’ve never been beyond the second floor before. But they say it goes all the way up to one hundred.”

“Yeah. If there even is a host, he’s probably somewhere up there.”

“I wonder what he’s like. You think he’d have…”

If anything more was said, I was not there to hear it. I had been whooshed away by the doom of infinity.

 

On the second floor, I encountered a narrow but endless cavern made of substances akin to cotton. I had very little success finding the host there, since no one there spoke at all.

 

On the seventh floor, I had better hopes upon discovering a gigantic crowd of nude masked youth encircling an unidentified attraction. When I asked about the host, they directed me to the center of their ring. I squirmed squeamishly by, flinching through every touch, stroke, slap, suck, grope, and lick. After a vast journey, I finally reached the center. Lying on the floor was a shattered photograph of Jo Beul, the late rock star.

Closer, but not quite.

 

On the twelfth floor, I met an old woman who claimed to be the host. She offered to answer all of my questions, but each answer would cost me a drink. After eagerly acquiring the blue-plaster jagged milk-syrup that she’d requested, I asked, “What is this place? Why did you bring us here?”

Her response: “Hey diddle diddle…”

 

When I asked a man on the twenty-first floor if he knew anything about the host, he gasped aloud in outrage.

“No one has ever seen The Host. No one! How dare you speak such nonsense?”

When I tried to clarify, he cried, “No one! Ever! The Host is beyond sight, beyond sound and word! Get out! OUT!”

 

On the thirty-ninth floor, a group of suited bespectacled bookworms explained to me that each of us was the host. We were the hosts of our own parties. Though we may all be in the same place, this is a different experience for each of us. The nature of that experience is ours to own, to direct and decide.

It was a cute notion. But it answered none of my questions.

 

On the forty-second floor, I was told that this wasn’t a party. In fact, none of it was real. It was a meaningless delusion which was ending very soon, and when it was over we were all going to be sent to a real party that would never end and had lots of toys and games and all the ice cream you can eat.

 

The fifty-fourth floor was unusually quiet. Indeed, the party carried on there like it did on the other floors, but everything there seemed muffled. Sounds were softer, lights milder, colors blander, movement gentler. There I was told that the host was something I must find inside myself. Searching for him in the party would only cleave greater distance between us.

“The Host,” sang a chorus in unison, “He lives in You.”

 

On the sixty-eighth floor, an old sage adorned in lengthy fabrics and exotic jewels embraced me dearly.

“Welcome,” he said, smiling. Gleaming. “The Host apologizes deeply for your troubles, but he is unable to meet with you. He has sent me on his behalf.”

“Thank you,” I replied. “But I would appreciate speaking to him in person.”

“My apologies,” he said solemnly, his polished smile smearing further across his face. “He is not available now. Please direct your concerns to me.”

This did not satisfy me. As I turned to leave, he took hold of my arm and kindly but fiercely requested some money. “Parties don’t finance themselves, you know.”

 

I crawled the last bit to the eighty-second floor, dropped into a seat and let my eyes collapse. Mallets rhythmically thumped my temples. Minced muscles unraveled to string. I melted into the seat and soaked into its fabric. I feared to see again.

Then I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder, and before me stood a stunning woman of boundless beauty. She kneaded my mallets into cream, tethered my stringed muscles, kissed my flesh back to clay. She harnessed the universe in her lips, and then daubed its warmth onto my neck.

“Come with me,” she whispered.

We retreated to a silent dark vacuum, deep and distant from the chaos of the party. We leaned against a railing that overlooked the galaxies. She stroked my arms and caressed me with her gaze.

“You are troubled,” she said. “Tell me why.”

“I don’t know anymore,” I said. I tried to explain my angst, my despair and frustration. What was one to make of these impossibilities?

“Why make anything of them?” she said. “They are here. You are here.”

“But what is ‘here’?” I cried crossly.

“Look,” she said.

So I looked. I looked at the ordered violence of anarchy; the billowing bedlam of cyclical stability; the orchestrated mass fellatio of wheeling color; the skillful swordsmanship of sparring lights; the unabashed entropy of frenzied perfection.

And for the first time since I had opened my eyes to this cosmic mystery, I saw.

“You opened your eyes and you were here,” she said as her lips brushed my ear. “You will close your eyes and be somewhere else. Why not just be here while you still can?”

She was correct. But still…

“But how? Why? Who?” I insisted.

“Why does it matter?” she responded.

 

○●

She touched me and I rippled away. My eyelids drifted shut with a coasting flutter, settling neatly in their place. I pulsed through time, a moment endless and milk. I opened my eyes.

I was on the one hundredth floor.

 

THE END

 

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