The Bishop Needs Skin (WIP) (Excerpt)

Innards, mixed media on heavy paper, 1993 copyright GPD

Frater Phalanx is chewing on the end of his ferula, deep in thought and mesmerized by the floaters squirming in his one good eye. His household prefect, Elkin Smudge, who operates as the Frater’s left eye and a clean, auxiliary set of hands, sits awaiting pressurized tautology from the master. He’ll eventually whittle the entire script down to three steps and a paragraph. In the flickering candlelight, his bulbed, pinked face is set, eye reddened puddles staring at the mostly blank page before him. He’s wishing he had something to spray in the air to make Frater Phalanx’s study smell better. The words ATTENTION VOLUNTEERS! are scribbled and bolded in manic etching across the top of the legal pad in a hand so heavy one might clearly read this text on the last leaf of the tablet. He has to bold everything, scratching each letter into the page to darken it, running the nib of his plumage through the paper unto the pages beneath. He fashions his nibs using heavy duty paper clips and squeezes them close to the point with crimson fingers on a drained white hand. He’s gone through 45 quills and three hundred jumbo clips already this fiscal year. As a scribner, he’s become finely attuned to Phalanx’s atonal wheezings, word salad bars and polysyllabic eructations. He’s using a quill and ink well instead of a G2 gel pen. In Gagwon, it’s simultaneously 1799 and 2030. Granted, their milieu is tilted more favorably to the 18th century. The flame of the candle distorts their faces, making both appear more deformed than they are under normal lighting conditions. Smudge is well used to this gloom; artificial light having been banned in the temple and offices at Cemetery Shores, i.e., Gagwon, for nearly four decades. Smudge sweats preternaturally and all he can hear is the sucking and chewing of the ferula and the tiny sound of his perspiration popping as its droplets hit the legal pad. Phalanx yanks the ferula from his mouth with a pop and schluuupp! as his teeth come with it. He begins to strain his words through a soggy vent framed with loose lip and jowl. Smudge etches his transcription: a call for volunteers to patrol the graveyard and do some light housekeeping, yet it’s somehow off track due to Phalanx having fallen into one of his typical acroamatic torpors. It could be the mold spore interactions, the flukes or the special tea pinning them in a state of ataxia, again, for in Gagwon, it is said that ‘only the profoundly muddled, deranged or ill know the truth’.

There is, what some may call, an extreme vetting process for potential Temple staff and volunteers. Smudge’s dictation is endless; he’s nearly moribund with mold spore fallen from the stone walls, stacks of fusty tomes and Frater Phalanx’s shedding vestments. He’s Fr. Phalanx’s fifth scribner.

Phalanx rises releasing a fetid wave of runch spice into the study. He paces using the ferula to gesture and punctuate his memorandum as well as to occasionally strike Smudge.

‘Dearest… errmm.. Attention Mister, Misses, Mizzzz or Mistermissesmizzzz… no no no.’ Phalanx cracks Smudge across the back with the ferula. ‘What The Bishop needs from you as a volunteer, as a potential soldier for Mythrax is the following:

The pet name you’d like to be given by The Bishop and a saucy yet reverential photo. Any kind of brief, yet effusive, paragraph exulting The Bishop that you want posted for your ‘blurb’ in The Daily Neurosicrucian. It can be as graphically detailed as the limits of the law and a thirty character limit allow. Decency has no place in The Bishop’s apse. However, sending him your well-used briefs is oft the best way to ensure a spot there. Last pair he received had been worn so long they looked like the Shroud of Turin. The Bishop was ecstatic!

You cannot refer to him as you would a peer or neighbor. His identity is written in rainbows, contaminated pulverant… and he remains innominate… like the empyreal one with the timepiece in one blackened claw, a dinged noddle in the other… The Bishop is signified by the roiling shadow he splashes; a phantasm stacked of raw iron and creosote flake with a dainty Calvary influenced cake-topper cresting his ‘mile high’ mitre.

Ideally, you and your loved ones should always be underneath The Bishop as he is underneath The Host. So we’ll need a photo of you with something about to go in you to post as well. These gestures are great supplements to your weekly monetary tithes.

PLEASE BE KIND! IT STINKS UNDER THE FLAP, which is why he has those scented blocks of wax melting in the folds neath his cassock. The Bishop takes not kindly to that which is not flattery.

Scrawl any names of administrative staff you may have zip-ties to on Charmin parchment. It may be appropriate to call yourself out using the eighteen names of damnation as you do so. We will need numerical identities to provide to both The Bishop and Our Host, so have your paperwork filled out in advance of intake. Through your multiple goregasms, we shall steal your fingerprints, strengthening our titles. We are always watching; mind your pussies and queers. Stay on our anfractuous path, in the flickering candlelight of our moldering purgatory and, there, you shall find delights beyond inculcation. Mind you, if you are a cunt- and when, your betrayals come to light- it will be our divine duty to eat you asshole first.

The artifacts of your old personality shall be isolated and neutralized utilizing a step system of tech fuddling combined with the compulsory performance of odious tasks which may threaten your very sanity.

If you want in, refusal is not an option.

Emergency administrative interventions, another means of transinsubstantiation, are available for a nominal pound of rendered flesh. Petitions to the counsel may be submitted via Ouija board, blood sacrifice or official Request For Abuse using our hot and glitching portal. We think this will make a real and lasting difference for us by means of you. This is YOU being the change you want… er… jingled.’

At this point, Frater Phalanx is stomping his cloven hoof like a horse counting. Smudge has swallowed another feather.

Neither man likes the Bishop, let’s be clear. Frater Phalanx is simply biding his time before he can bust his move, unseating his superior and filling the gape with his own flubbery brand of holiness.

‘To Cleveland with it!’ Spittle flying, Phalanx whirls, in a swipe clearing the desk under Smudge’s chin with the ferula, before flipping it over to smack him on the mouth with the business end. ‘It’s all wrong! We’re going to try something new, now!’ He slams the blunt end of his holy instrument onto the floor sending a puff of dust into the air. ‘There are no new recruits! There is no leadership, anymore!’ Smudge sits back, his chins vibrating to his heart beat which is quite fast. ‘Shall I begin again, m’lord?’ Phalanx casts a glare at Smudge who prepares for a ferula gum massage. ‘No… I think a new approach may be in order…’ His expression evolves into one that Smudge finds more than a little alarming, ‘… get your overnight bag. We’re hitting the streets.’ They hadn’t done face to face recruitment in decades and the temperature of the social environment was rising. ‘It’s a good time to make our presence known again. No more flyers. We’re taking it door to door.’ Elkin Smudge didn’t know what this meant. He hadn’t dealt with the outer world that often. The feathers were stuck in his esophagus and he found himself wishing he were still a custodian at Camp Mary Orton.

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