The Ecstatic Climate Change Porn Machine

Dark Mountain: Issue 18 – FABULA

This year’s autumn issue, Dark Mountain: Issue 18 – FABULA, is our first book dedicated entirely to uncivilised fiction. In its pages you will find short stories, flash fiction and excerpts from novels and longer pieces, as well as artwork and illustrations specially commissioned for this book.

Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing a selection of stories from its pages. Today, we bring you Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer's 'The Ecstatic Climate Change Porn Machine', accompanied by Luisa-Maria MacCormack's 'The Great Beast'.

 

 

is the author of the novels All The Broken Things, Perfecting, and The Nettle Spinner as well as the story collection, Way Up. Her short fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in various journals including Granta, Storyville, The Walrus, The Lifted Brow, and The Letters Page.

As we were fucking, I noticed a tiny black spider entering a hole in the wallboard ceiling and it made me laugh. Later, after the other guy left and Hank arrived home from work, we watched the dog circling his tail for a minute, and then another minute and then, miraculously, another one, his tail sprung with doggish desperation to mouth it. When he finally succeeded, Hank muttered, ‘Ouroboros,’ and I pretended not to understand because it was at that stage in our marriage that I enjoyed the feeling of finding him insufferable, and this was one way I orchestrated this feeling, by goading him into lengthy mansplainations about arcane mythology. I would nod and think, while he droned on, about having sex with the other guy while spiders built their homes in the roof pitch. 

The interactions with Hank had become so samey – one time to the next – that I barely registered them. My Hankish orgasms were as morning tea: pleasant, necessary, but barely caffeinated. It was as much as in life, as soon as you noticed something, like really made note, you began to see it everywhere. The roof pitch beadboard gap, by way of example. Because where was that wolf spider heading with such diligent intention? That spider had me thinking about portals. Ways out. 

Later that night, the night after the spider sighting, I took my cellphone flashlight and then my Maglite and peered into the hole. I saw nothing but a wisp of Tyvek and the taupe of ancient mildewy beaverboard, some pink fluff. Half despairingly, half resignedly I jumped off the bed, flipped the flashlights off, and then the bedroom switch too, and was about to fully abandon even the lingering image of a spider glancing over its shoulder as it tucked into the roof’s abyss, when a glint of grass green evanesced at me from the gap. Naturally, I furrowed my brow, climbed back on the bed, peered back into – nothing – just a cloud of insulation. My fervent imagination, I thought, and – goodnight, spider.

 

Folks put great stock in love, and I am one of them. I pursue it everywhere. In the heart of a wee wolf spider heading home, in the other guy, in Hank (and especially his skivvy choices, about which more later). It was not always thus; my heart was once encased and locked as much as the next person. But then, some two years ago, I participated in an ayahuasca cura of botany and chant from which I emerged three thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three times remedied. It’s impossible to articulate this to most people but you get it. Most people reckon out of only one hundred but you (and I) know better. In that ceremony, I did not see the fractals of the fractals of the fractals so much as I knew them. They hunkered without and within me. I spent the night prying my ribcage open in order to let more of it in, to let it all in. The outcome of this now long-ago experience, as you well know, has been profound. I won’t distress you with the details again, the shocking biological alterations, the shivering sudden flutter and then wild riving of my heart chakra. 

I did just now hesitate to use the term chakra since I know it troubles some, pegs me as a lunatic, or else an American – the enlightened sort. I do not wish to alienate the already alienated. Let the pink rush into you as liquid marvel and let it race about. 

Like I said, words fail. 

 

The other guy: I met them on Tinder. It began as a thought experiment and ended in a roadside motor inn, a streak of their mess across the sheets while their muted conference call babbled on in the background about subclauses and actionables. El dorado. Egress. I did not know myself. It would be a lie to say it ended there. It continues on into this day still. Hence, the miracle of the spider sighting in the marital bed. I like to think that if you can let even a spider into your rigorous sexual relation, then if that is not love, love is bunk. I was just and always following the trail. What marriage cannot withstand a little bliss?

 

Note: there is joy in mockery. It is not the holiest of joys but harmless. Do no harm, manifest no injury! My baiting Hank is just such harmlessness. One, he likes it, gets off on it even. Two, he angles for it the way a cat presents its asshole. Three, we make space for this just as a blanket provides comforting weight. There are myriad ways of loving and this is one. We wrap ourselves in this marital ritual and find something there. Ask him if you like. He tells me he finds it cheeky, sexy even. 

 

The glint of green reminded me of something. Some far away something that was never meant for me until that moment I saw it again. I tried to forget it, to leave it alone for the spider and her kin but it crept and flashed at me now and again in that strange space between waking and sleeping when the brain comes to know all things. I even thought that I was going insane. But it came back fleetingly in other moments of intense languidity, too: in the calm before orgasm, the second or two after a first sip of coffee, the clarity of vision after a rigorous jog. That green was unmistakable. The next time with the other guy, after disrobing them of their motorcycle leathers and after I caught their flaccid sex in between my teeth and they arced into it and hardened, I saw it again.

‘Green,’ I said, ‘I see colours,’ which was not exactly new.

‘Green.’ They pulled away and squeezed themselves in a way that looked as if they were closing a ketchup cap over and over again. ‘Grass green, right?’

And I had to admit that, yes.

‘The colour of grass and leaves in the earliest manifestation of life in springtime,’ they added, and gave a wee frown in the direction of their member.

‘How?’ I asked, because how could they know?

And they, horny, smiled and told me that I shouldn’t worry and then they leant over me and performed a small benediction on the new tattoo I had just acquired. ‘Thank you,’ I said. And then, ‘There is something beyond me, interstitial…’

‘… in the layer that expands into infinity, yeah, I know,’ and they nudged my mouth back over their now flaccid-again thing. 

There is nothing I enjoy more than the feeling of the other guy growing tumescent in my mouth. That sense of being filled. That power to bite or not. A grand thank you right now to all the glorious energy of the universe for the nothing that becomes something. 

‘You OK?’ the other guy said.

I gestured with my eyes that I was.

‘I’m going to come,’ they said. 

And so I stopped and said, ‘No, you fucking well are not going to come. You are going to hold that thought.’

The other guy nodded with a solemnity one generally finds only in altar boys and girls circa 1960, an era now lost to irony and fretfulness and video gaming. I wished I had a handful of holy hosts to feed them in that moment. I wished I could remember the words to the Lord’s Prayer but instead I hummed it and they watched their glorious member hold itself in suspension, while I occasionally licked its tip by way of encouragement. 

 

By comparison, my relationship with Hank had become an exchange economy – I do not recall when this happened to us. In our sex act there was nothing but the tawdry remnants of capitalism playing out as tit for tat. And so I had come to seek joy in the comedy of his underpants, which was all he dared by way of self-expression. The hidden delight of three hundred dollar undies he would shard up by day’s end. He preferred wild patterns of robots and sneakers, effigies of extinct animals, and for the sake of all the saints, I loved him for this. This private scatology. And it was, along with the mockery, enough to keep me in his orbit. Or enough of his orbit that it was still marriage. That sort of love was still love. I let it hope for nothing, tried to let it tell its own story, let it vibrate at its own distinct frequency, however unremarkable to the rest of you. 

 

Let this heart beat in my closed fist.

 

The other guy had their palm now on the outer clit that climbed around my vaginal tract—in that spot just above my pubis and was rubbing there while their other hand plunged heaven into me. I felt only gratitude rising in me until I caught sight, in strange repetition, of the wolf spider looking both ways and deking into the roof. The other guy smiled; they’re tracking my eyes, I realised. ‘Yes,’ they said. ‘That’s right,’ and that’s when the green flashed again and I jolted through my whole being because of what they were doing to me but also because of the colour effusing me from tip to toe.

‘Do you like it?’

‘Yes, I like it,’ is what I would have said if there was any chance a word could come out. No word could come out. And the green became me in a new way. Synesthesia 2.0. I was gone. I do not know for how long. And where I went to I’m not sure I am at liberty to tell you. I struggle here to amply contain it in words: it’s like the old Hebraic edict to not name the sacred. To speak around it by way of forming some ineffable whirl of love. But this holy was not what you’d expect. No central unnameable. No guy in robes, his hands in supplication. It wasn’t like that at all. 

This holy was not what you’d expect. No central unnameable. No guy in robes, his hands in supplication. It wasn’t like that at all.

It was a network. The green entered and exited as a convulsion. I could hear the other guy gently laughing – a soft south-eastern breeze and they were riding this thing with me – a crest, a fall, a new crest, rolling over first me and so on, as if they were subsumed in this thing along with me, with the bed, the house, Hank, the spider, and the wolf from whencesoever it achieved its name, plus the hole in the roof pitch, all of nature, and the Morris pattern on Hank’s newest underwear. A network that had no border, lines that didn’t have breadth or width but rather articulated a shape that shifted even as I began to note it. It was effusively green, shades and hues that existed only in some mad Pantone innovator’s fever dream. As it changed so did I and, here I came and came again. 

Thank you, other guy. 

 

There are all manner of folk in here. They scrutinise me from shy distances; they applaud the way the words collide in my mind as if they can read me as I narrate them. They can. One is little and girlish, cocking its head and nodding, but when I reach out it pulls back, aghast.

‘Hello,’ I venture.

It shakes its head and laughs, looks around at the others as they chatter out their green green language. It is a lexicon of leaves and organs – hearts, nerves, systems, tumbling out of them all at once, like some unfathomable communal joke. It is a chatter to which they begin to dance. It’s hard to describe. But it rains their vocabulary. It torques and plumes as pollen and clouds. A green so green it is here yellow and there black and now I smell the other guy breaching into this realm. Their sweet reek repeats, ‘Are you OK?’ and I nod, because the creatures have come closer and I can see that there is moss growing from their eyes and there is soil caked in every rugged crevice of their faces. It makes me smile. I’m there and here. The other guy slows progress and I think that they are humming along to the discordant movement of the faery talk.

‘Not faery,’ the other guy says. The words come as wafts of body pong. The creatures, too, are tut-tutting, waggling inky thought and facetious root in my direction. It’s impressive. And that is when the wolf spider reappears through the wee triangular gap in my heart that I had not ever before noticed. I hear it at first – an ululation of passionate mourning, a chant of gravel that splays me wide open, raw meat tending toward bacterial decay, to sink and rise as fruity toadstool, the gills of which are too sublime to be reckoned in this alphabet. Have you yet felt the spores descend upon you? Pay attention because they fall as the tiniest hum erupting along your flesh. You notice it first through the skin that circumnavigates your toes, it is as life, is it not? The other guy has located the melody and glottals me along its meaning. I taste wet earth in my mouth. I smell it all. 

Is this not story?

Is this not the story into which you always wanted to be written? 

Be not afraid. Plant this seed into your belly button, the divot there. An acorn, the roots anchor first and look! The folk are clapping little tongues and anuses, asterisk-like puckered mouths, a hieroglyphic of joyous appetite and it occurs to me before another wave of something I’ll call beauty roils me in its embrace: where has the other guy gone to? 

The room comes into pink focus, linen and bed and flesh, my pelvis, their nipples, a small stack of Hank’s briefs folded but not yet put away on the dresser. 

And the other guy is already back and ‘Can you see it?’ they are crying. And then I do; do you see it? 

The first meaty leaves sprouting from the oak. A tree birthed out of your stomach. How pretty! Can you feel its power, the way it gives and receives? Can you feel the water it soaks up in order to smile from its branchlets? You grow beneficent. You are tree. A body, true form, right there. Reach.

Reach. 

 

And I need a goddam hug. The folk have dipped down so that I can now hear the worm gossip and the lichen hearsay, the suck of rain back into itself. An inbreath that articulates what? Good. Goodness. I can’t explain any of it. And I am trying so hard here.

The other guy curls around me like bark around a moose maple, stippled, and now I am wallpapered, treed. Who is this other guy?

‘Shh,’ they say. ‘I’m not another guy, not an other at all. I’m your whencesoever. Grit. Stormwater, the river rising. I’m that overtaking you. The unruly crest from a passing car through a fast moving puddle. You are wet.’

‘Lol,’ I say. ‘No shit.’

‘If you want, we can remove his underpants from the vicinity,’ they say.

‘It would make this all more legible,’ I say. ‘More acceptable.’

‘No,’ they say. ‘No, it doesn’t.’

Can you feel the ache of it, I want to say, but the sap strangles the words as they rise up. I am choked with sweetness. Overtaken with the lust we call spring. The other guy urges me along. To be honest I am not even sure they are a guy. They are a nugget at the centre of my orbit. Something I created but that preceded me. ‘Do you never ejaculate?’ I ask, and they open their hands to show me their plasma. Green. It makes me laugh because why not? 

‘Is this the best you’ve got,’ they ask, and it’s a goddam joke, like the one about the fastest way to a man’s heart being to chainsaw straight through his ribcage. But then the other guy gets serious and says, ‘Do you know that in the spring the bark softens to let up the sap.’ 

‘I do not know it.’ 

‘Feel it, smell it, is there another sense that you have forgotten?’ they say. ‘The one of the fine fine hum that graces your feet, the one the folk call the sense of knowing? The good sense.’

‘The Good,’ I say, and the whole of it burbles over me and up me until my sternum hurts with it all, then opens and opens and opens. 

‘The sense that has no metaphor,’ the other guy and the folk are singing, and all I see are signifiers bursting their limits, words turned to air, and wind, pin cherries, lambs quarters. ‘Scan the earth for better. Build your underwear from shit, search until you forget, the rain licks your mossy heart,’ they sing, they blast.

 

Image: The Great Beast
Luisa-Maria MacCormack
Pastel on paper, 2019

‘And the Beast which I saw’ is a series of works that takes its inspiration from a variety of apparently incongruous sources: the bacchanalian scenes of excess so ubiquitous to Baroque era art, antique ‘erotica’ of the seventeenth century, Assyrian relief sculpture and our own era of extreme and catastrophic consumption. Considerations about climate change, the ravaged natural world and the fast disappearing ‘ethnosphere’ are questions never far from the minds of our generation. These works act as an allegory for our current state of being – a species lost to its own hedonistic self-absorption, sleepwalking to the edge of an irretrievable precipice.

 

Dark Mountain: Issue 18 – FABULA

The Autumn 2020 issue is dedicated entirely to fiction, featuring short stories, illustrations and colour artwork
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