the scene up on screen transitions to an old '20s black-and-white featuring a steaming oncoming train, a damsel in distress tied up on the tracks, an evil villain in a Lincoln hat twirling his mustache, and our hero in baggy beige pantaloons and Stormy Kromer cap trying desperately to untie the maiden before it's too late. no talking is necessary, which is a nice change of pace.
the woman of course is Mama Fuerza. she is tied up not by coarse burning rope but by spools and spools of tendons swirled together made up of billions and billions of Red Strings of Fate, all of them in fact, all of them in the universe, which is all known now. they come out of Codrus's left hand, his unique hamsa. Codrus is still leaking gold throughout all this but no one seems to notice.
Fuerza: oh mijo, save me! either one! sacrifice me as a martyr, that is the fate of all mothers with angry sons. or save me so i may exist one more time to show you all along.
the actors can still talk you see, the audience sees placards with their words on them under organ music, but the actors are talking to each other in real time, if not real life.
Cotard tips his cap to the fourth wall to the silent roar of the empty movie theatre. he quickly takes off Codrus's hat while Codrus is distracted twirling the handlebars on his nose and replaces it with a Gravity Falls Grunkle Stan fez, the one with the Pac-Man fish gobbling the one pellet.
Cotard: that's more you, cryptic yet symbolic. you shouldn't sully the legacy of the stovepipe hat like that.
the movie always ends the same, whether you watch it from the beginning or the end or in medias res. the villain wins. the villain always wins. bad triumphs over good. the train hits Fuerza and the screen fades to black cos that's too much violence for young eyes. when it resumes the camera pans to the face of a giggling Codrus giving one hell of a prolonged evil cartoon group laugh with himself. Cotard can only feign fainting by putting up the inverted palm of his hand to his forehead, his hamsa out, and shouting up to the ever-clogged heavens:
oh woe! it is not fair. why are we born to die? what is the point if death erases life? time is not the ultimate currency, memory is. what kind of man am i that i could not
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Cotard: i tried, Mama, i tried, but i am not strong enough. you kept all the strength in the family for yourself. damn genes. you showed me the way but kids are contrarian by nature. i tried to fight Codrus but when we engaged, the punches took on a rhythm, as they do, we went back and forth, punch and block, feint and counterpunch, a fence on the fences. back and forth, back and forth, oceanic. we never landed or missed, we danced for eternity. seriously, though, what's up with those group laughs at the end of cartoons? nobody does that. one person laughs, then the next person, and it catches on like wildfire till the whole room's laughing.
Codrus: they fascinate me, i pattern mine after them. so collegial and strange. not something you see in the real world but imma change that. if real life were more like cartoons.............
Cotard: you want a medal?
Codrus: a trophy filled to the brim with olive oil'd be nice. but you see mon ami, every story has the other side. i wasn't laughing, i was laughing. who you saw as Fuerza i saw as my beloved mother.
Cotard: the block of stone over there?
Codrus: exactly. i mean no. that is my mother. i know two things about her: she's a Greek Empress. my queen. and she's beautiful. i'll never forget her. that's why i keep carving her. so i don't ever forget. i love to burn things so. i could never burn stone in my youth so i made up for it in adulthood. i didn't have much of a teenhood, there was no bumpy transition. i'm not a pyromaniac, i just like to watch things burn. so this train here acted as the perfect giant chisel. it pounds against my mother and shapes the block in one fell swoop. much easier to mold after it's been hit like this. so hard to affect that first crack. now it's manageable. you need to get hit on the head to see things clearly for the first time. the image comes into your head finally, it's already there hidden in the cold block of nothing nondescript stone, you just have to remove the extra pieces and caress the face till it's smooth. i came up with that, you know, Michelangelo copied me. he was always the most annoying Turtle. and he worked in bronze, that's cheating. i had an overactive imagination as a child, imagining everything inside everything. this isn't the end, it's the beginning!
all the planets and alien skies and ARVs and creases and comets and anal probes and white and black holes and superclusters and novas and doublelarities and dimensions and space zones and outer time and airless atmospheres and red dwarves in the entire known and unknown universe have converged on this one point in the crowded private movie theatre. they are tightening into one small yellow pellet on a Pac-Man grid.
Codrus lines up exactly one thousand matches all along the area of the train tracks. he waits for the movie to start again, the train to start back again and zoom toward woman.
MEANWHILE Cotard manages to find the ballroom again. he has to stumble through many dark rooms before he gets there. crawling entirely on instinct. he sees Fuerza slipping forever on that puddle, it's become a welcome sight for him now. it's comforting in its metric. he looks at her face.
Cotard: come on, mama, now you're being ridiculous. before you were wryly smiling, sticking your tongue out, but now you're straight-up gurning.
Fuerza: whatever's going on in my life, i go with the flow. it's all you can do, mijo. touch my shoulders. steady me, son, as only you can. go on, give me a good shove.
Cotard does and sees his mother stop swaying. and her arm is cold stone.
Fuerza: see that? my shoulder healed, better than ever. it's stronger than it was before. the tendons are less sinewy, more like thick spaghetti than spaghetti. if i hadn't strained it, it wouldn't be as strong now. i dislocated it only to locate it again. that man with the mustache was right. now can you help dress me? i haven't showered in weeks, well except my feet here. wait till i come out of the bathroom. i'll lock the door and be away for awhile but don't you worry, i'll open the door again. and it will be gray all over. but think of it as steam, not fog.
Cotard: i can't, mom, i'm tired of this. i'm busy with the world.
Fuerza: it's okay, Cotard. i see your brother coming on the train over there. on the caboose, that's where all the sleep railcars are, right?
Imzhan is indeed sleeping on the top bunk of the car furthest away from the action on the railroad track. he rubs the sleep out of his eyes, his most hated activity, and some of the dust from his eyes powers his bed which glides out the car window and flies over blackened rooms to Fuerza. the rest of his eye dust turns to monsters offscreen.
Fuerza: mijo, help me with my socks. they're bacon socks as you can see.
Imzhan: yes, mama. your toes are wrinkly like bacon slices.
Imzhan licks Fuerza's feet, savoring the grease on her ankles.
Imzhan: your calluses taste of bacon bits.
Fuerza: that's why i named my daughter Calli.
the train hits the matches at lightning speed, igniting them, bonfiring them into linked chains of comets shooting all over the sandy desert. the path of their fireball bullets exceeds the design of their pistol as they leap off the screen in realistic 3D into the universe cramping together, setting ablaze all of old creation. all the lines come together in geometric gentility, the invisible fishing lines no one knew about, circle back and all coalesce around one bright bulb, the flash of the camera readying to take one more photo for antiquity before the end. one last shot...
Codrus: with the fire of a thousand matches...
the fire spreads to the yellow spot on the water by the invisible castle where it stays lit on that spot for all time, constantly motivated by a spark of new creativity, oiling it, motoring it along. the sandcastle where our surfer heroes were gets washed out to sea on the next wave before the hopping fireball has a chance to reach it. it bounces on their vacant spot and into the invisible castle, exposing it for the first time. the flames outline all the edges of the huge castle on the hill by the town by the sea of Creation. the castle takes after the Pillars on which it stood, purple and gray and majestic, all the turrets are there, the drawbridge, the stone bricks unevenly stacked, the windows shaped for arrows to get through, amber arrowslits, like a Castle Grayskull playset. you can see the thing for the first time! it lights up its own existence, an inferno illuminating sense, as a protest against the everlasting night sky.
Kenyatta: i'm just starting to get into social media again after a much-needed absence. break or broke. yeah all you really need to do is follow all the rappers. they make the wordplay in this age. they've come up with a cool new catchphrase before you even knew that was a thing you could do sexually or in the business world. poetry has come to the streets and not a moment too soon. it was stagnating in its ivory tower.
Kenyatta (with her eyes reflecting the fire like glass): and what's up with this fire? is anybody gonna put it out? you wonder sometimes when a fire just happens someplace in the world. you hope there will be people there to handle it. but what if there are no people around? what if no one knows about this particular fire burning in the desert? what happens to that fire?
...the train comes out of the silver screen, crashes the dot, and breaks on through to the other side. it seems to be on invisible tracks in space. soul train. at the helm blowing the whistle is the bald-headed Bum.
Cotard: you look different with a conductor hat on. i'm recognizing you better now that your face is framed. who are you again?
Cotard: that's it! yuge fan. you are my spirit animal. messianic music. i knew you but could never place you. you were always on the tip of my tongue. you know, you should go monk and let your hair grow out.
Moby: i did go monk, i shaved my head. people always forget that the last car isn't the sleep car, it's the car with the furnace in it, where you shovel in the coals.
the immense heat of the traveling fireball tries to burn the train down but it can only hop on the hopper cars and is successfully absorbed by the oven in the end railcar, with steam coming out of there, and smell-lines like in a cartoon. the train ends up on the dusty gray surface of an unnamed moon in the middle of the edges where it brakes without a brake and slowly lies on its final repose by a stone, the coal-furnace boiler-room of the end car sticking up like a butt.
the universe is an eternal row of rectangular apartment rooms, packed like space sardines, a furious favela, one complex with everyone and everything inside, darkened, no lights.
light is having a hard time playing here. it is completely light and completely dark at the same time.
all of Codrus's red strings glow, encircling the heart in his head as it pumps burning yellow.
JUST THEN the homesteader enters the theater and transforms himself into a giant gun that shoots a warning shot over Codrus's shoulder. Codrus startles and his light turns orange.
homesteader: heh heh. now THIS is a gun you can't take away. mama always said to believe in yourself. that's what i like to see, i like my gods to retain a bit of their humanity.
Codrus's red light emanates all around and goes towards the yellow light in the middle.
Fuerza's yellow light, her favorite color, emanates from her bunions all around and goes from the yellow light in the middle.
the sky is midnight blue. you can't see anything but you can still use your other senses. there's a distinctive smell of pizza wafting from the end oven of the train. pizza with those pepperonis burnt to perfection, lined with black, pools of grease, tasting of coal.