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01.07.03 11:42 p.m.

Sunday is gloomy
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless
Little white flowers
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coach
Of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thoughts
Of ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you?
Gloomy Sunday

Gloomy is Sunday
With shadows I spend it all
My heart and I
Have decided to end it all
Soon there'll be candles
And prayers that are said I know
But let them not weep
Let them know that I'm glad to go
Death is no dream
For in death I'm caressing you
With the last breath of my soul
I'll be blessing you

Gloomy Sunday

Dreaming, I was only dreaming
I wake and I find you asleep
In the deep of my heart here
Darling I hope
That my dream never haunted you
My heart is telling you
How much I wanted you

Gloomy Sunday

 -Sam M Lewis  

Previously in Xenology: Conor was fascinating. I was alive and occasionally magickal. Emily knew famous people.

Death Takes a Holiday
I almost died today.
I imagined near death to be a bit more cathartic, frankly. I didn't get so far as to seeing white lights or being greeted by departed pets. There was just a very pronounced break between the reality in which you are reading this and the one where I am hanging on for life in an intensive care unit with numerous broken bones, punctured organs, and massive internal bleeding. It is still close enough that I can see into this other reality and know its aftereffects. By tomorrow, I will be far enough away from this reality that it will be very difficult to understand it but the veil is currently thin.
After attempting to contact Conor for weeks to no avail owing to his just being missing from the apparent universe or being in Pennsylvania meeting with a lass named for a goddess of the sea, Flynn importuned Conor to contact me. Brilliant. Plans were quickly made, though the plans consisted of the words, "I dunno what to do, something will come up. It always does."
Contemplative Conor
I arrived at his house, doffing outward occult items (which, at the moment, consisted of a tan medicine bag with various herb and stones I created a few nights ago. I am trying to get back into magick and can always use a bag of shiny rocks) because I think they worry his mother, whom I like. It is not that she doesn't know, it is merely that she is like a second or third mother to me and I don't want her to cast disapproving glances at me before I abscond with her only begotten son. However, she was not in.
Conor handed me darkly wrapped Christmas gifts for Emily and me, the former still in sunny, upbeat Absentia (North of Orlando). I nodded gratefully and took mental stock of my car to recall if I had M's and my gifts for him. (I did, of course. The gifts were next to the fake welder's gloves and under the Fearless Leader doll.) He then handed me an envelope of photos and led me to the sofa. Before delving into the photos, I noticed a Xenex logo on a slip of paper on an end table, a printout from the forums. Through the photos, the story of Marina and he poured forth slightly faster than honey and nearly as sweetly (though lacking in the actual regurgitation to pupae).
She met the Conor and Flynn at Adventure Game Theater and the three grew close quickly. Over the course of their mutually acquaintanceship, Marina grew to have a deep fondness for our dear Conor. We certainly cannot fault her this, for he is Conor and thus inherently good. For various reasons, though the fondness was not unreciprocated, Conor was not comfortable with the idea of satiation of this mutual ardor. Perhaps high among these reasons is the fact that I can count the dear lasses age on my fingers and toes, if I happen to lose a foot in an industrial accident.
Still, this attraction was palpable and much as Conor was reticent (for Marina is rather maturely attractive for her fifteen years), he intended to explain to her over the course of New Years Eve that the two should be nothing more than platonic friends. Yes, over the course of New Year Eve. One of those national date nights where strangers scramble to have someone to kiss at midnight. This was when he was going to tell her they should just be friends. Seriously.
He explained to her his unreliability in romantic situations. She already knew. He tried to give her examples of girls with whom the romance had turned ugly. Evidently she knew these, too, for Conor is a forthright lad with good stories. She knew all about his romantic history and evidently didn't wish to be the one that changed him or "cured" him. She was comfortable with Conor exactly how he was. All she wanted from him was "one mistake," appealing to the logic that - at the very worst - a kiss between them would be a mistake so he might as well oblige her. This logic, along with a heart tripping on hormones, withered Conor's arguments and he allowed the kiss. For quite a while. Interspersed with her mewing "Please..." and his occasionally trying to remind her that he was trying to prevent their becoming so enmeshed. Flynn walked in the room moments before Conor was to reach the glory of perfection under the wishes of Marina. Several times, in fact, Flynn arrived in the room to interrupt this intimacy. In response, the lovers flew to the seabed of Marina though no laws of the fine state of Pennsylvania were infringed unless Conor turns out to be Marina's long lost uncle. He felt that this was one of the most badly written, albeit arousing, experiences in his life.
This is, more or less, the story he told me as we traveled back toward Fishkill to an unknown destination. I was playing a CD I had just had Bryan burned for me of a song called "Gloomy Sunday" that was supposed to drive people to suicide. As the tale claimed, Reszo Seress's lover had just unceremoniously dumped the composer. He was suffering from writer's block and was quite morose as he looked as the gray Paris day. It was, of course, a Sunday. Suddenly, as though seized by a force outside himself, he wrote all of a song that came to be known as "Gloomy Sunday" in under half an hour. My favorite English translation of the lyrics is above, though it should be noted that the final stanza only came into existence because the song was seen as so utterly depressing as to kill and thus shouldn't be considered an actual part of the original song. The first company to whom he submitted the song replied with, "Gloomy Sunday has a weird but highly depressing melody and rhythm, and we are sorry to say that we cannot use it." The second publisher bought and distributed it. Almost immediately, stories appeared claiming that people had committed suicide shortly after hearing it, were gripping the sheet music as they dove to their deaths, or quoted it in their suicide notes.
Not going there yet  
Heaven in a Wal-Mart parking lot
It is pretty much like a prewritten suicide note anyway, so I cannot blame them for making use of it. The most compelling story of this sort featured a hobo humming the song as a young boy rode by on his bicycle. Upon hearing the hobo's humming, the boy got off his bike, handed the hobo all of his money, and dove into the nearby river to his death. The BBC banned it for several years, but eventually decided to allow the instrumental version to be circulated. This version, too, was banned when a woman's neighbors complained that she was playing the record over and over again loudly and wouldn't heed their advice that she turn it down. When the police broke in, the woman was quite dead, of course. Reszo Seress's lover committed suicide with the sheet music to this song next to her limp, dangling feet. Reszo Seress himself took his life while holding the sheet music and quoted it in his suicide note. To this day, according to the sources I have found, this song is banned by the BBC. However, this has not stopped numerous artists from 1935 to the present day of singing versions of it. Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Elvis Costello, Bjork, and Sarah McLaughlin have all done so and the latter three live to tell about it. And now my precious few regular fans are all going to see out this song and die by mass suicide. Great.
This is the song I was listening as we drove. We were in the middle of the Bjork version when I was startled by the Doppler-ized horn of a plow moan by my car, the body of the truck missing me by a foot only because I had been reversing at the time. Had I done so a second later, the actual plow would have hit directly where I was sitting and done grievous harm to me. I was relatively calm, as my brain just wanted to get somewhere safe. I turned into a gas station, gave my medicine bag a soothing squeeze, and ejected the CD of the suicide song as I inserted the Buffy soundtrack because, as Conor aptly put it, "undead is better than dead."
He explained that he had been learning new things about his friends and see things being thrown into contrived dramatic tension. He refers to this as Sweeps Week, given that the Powers That Be have seen fit to make his life more chaotic and clichéd in order to bring better ratings. The Marina situation is an excellent example of this. What had been building since the beginning of the season (technically it occurred over the summer, but this can be explained through flashback) was exploding into passionate but ill-advised romance. Originally, Flynn had been wholly behind Conor ending this situation before it escalated but, on the way up, began asking Conor if it was honestly for the best. Once this loaded question entered Conor's head, his arguments and logic began to suffer. Damned hack writers.
This was only the beginning of the strain of death on the night. It wasn't the shock that I had almost been sideswiped by a plow, it was that I felt the bristles on my neck of a brush with death.
We drove further on until we arrived at the Dirt Mall's McDonald's, which is very much functional. I suggested that we stop to open gifts and talk a bit facing one another, though I was most definitely opposed to buying food. They merely provided us hard plastic chairs in which we could share our stories. I was also quite tired of driving for the moment and welcomed the respite the presence of greasy food would grant me.
As he unfolded Emily's book on calligraphy and my writing set, he told me more of his tale, mostly as it pertained to Marina. I listened with rapt attention, as it had been months since he and I had really spoken with any depth. However, I have related to you the encapsulation of her tale (more or less) and will thus spare you further details. Conor gave to Emily and me The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vampires and Spells for Protecting Your Space. He knows us well.
After leaving McDonald's to escape a manager repeatedly yelling "Sir!" at no one in particular, we went to that fellow bastion of the white trash experience, Wal-Mart, where Conor had to pick up more photos and then to dinner at Cracker Barrel. I commented as we entered that the last time I ate there, the waitress had been someone who had known me when I was an overly gregarious youth of fourteen or so years and had tried to react to me as though I were still this person, much to my befuddlement. Conor laughed in identification and laughed more when the wholly different waitress asked me how my younger brother faired in the world.
We sat and immediately took to talking again. Following Conor's example, I removed my glasses so it would be quite difficult to recognize anyone more than ten feet away and thus have a very good reason to not be engaged by unwelcome acquaintances. Conor revealed to me that dear Marina is quite a fan of this journal and has read quite a bit of it. I wrote it all and I find that to be an astounding feat. Furthermore, she enjoys the writing so much, evidently, that she hopes to write like me in the future. I was five distinct shades of flattered. Flattered happens to look a lot like a light pink. I revealed to Conor, in turn, information about Emily. However, despite the fact that he found it startling, it did not qualify as Sweeps Week material. We had gotten on the subject of brushes with fame and acting, which is a valid enough conversation between us.
"I really feel that Emily has a destiny of sorts, and I don't think it is nursing. I mean, James Lipton gave her accolades." I explained.
"What? Really?"
Affecting the proper intonation to imitate James Lipton poorly, I gave Conor my idea of what happened. Approximately, James Lipton had encountered Emily and her father at the latter's gallery exhibition. Remembering Emily from her off-Broadway work, he asked if she would sing a song for him. Emily, having not yet developed her stage fright, belted out a tune for him. "Delightful!" I sighed in my James Lipton accent. He rewarded her the next day with front row seats to Les Miserables. He has faith in Emily's abilities and his job is to kiss up to major stars. I think that is a rather clear message of ones destiny. Not to mention the fact that she was Kevin Smith's New Year's Eve kiss one year, insulted Arthur Miller in his presence while a techie for one of his plays, was Christina Ricci's childhood friend, and got her first agent by asking her friend's father Frankie Faison.
Conor was impressed with this, just as I was impressed that he had a legitimate Kevin Bacon connection through his friend who works on Sesame Street (it turns out that Elmo is voiced by a large black man, which pleases me immensely). As my closest brush with fame is that I once slept at James Earl Jones's house, not something particularly startling to Conor as he was there, I kept this to myself. I shared with him my belief about cultural and social epochs always happen among groups of friends. At least this is what my English classes have led me to believe. As such, if one person in my immediate social group achieves creative success, the rest will follow. It is all a matter of placing your lot with the right people.
White Devils  
I'm not much for sports
After we ate (and Conor beat me to paying the check), Conor informed me that we needed to go to Haldane's basketball game to see his sister dance at halftime. I asked him to clarify to make sure that dear Margaret was not doing the frightful dances the cheerleaders at my high school had done, which I described as "lap-dancing without the lap." He explained that Haldane had done away with cheerleaders, as none of the girls wished this mantle upon them. However, they were not opposed to simply being called dancers. Nor did they do the type of erotic dancing to which my high school accustomed me. Excellent, as I didn't really wish to see post-pubescent Margaret to be doing sexy dancing. She will eternally be the twelve year old (who looked seventeen) that I originally met.
As we drove, Conor told me of the concept of "benders." No, this has nothing to do with alcohol. I had been telling him that I occasionally notice buildings where I never saw buildings before or other slight changes. The shifting of reality, he claimed, caused these. Half seriously and half in fantasy, a world where Conor resides, he explained that there are people who will say things like, "I would very much like a shadow to appear that is about three feet across and trapezoidal." Suddenly, they will stumble across such a shadow from an unlikely source. Were the bender to ever actively try to tap this power, they would quickly blink out of reality accidentally and the bending power would pass to a new person. Conor claimed to know two benders who were stabilized enough that they could still change reality and not vanish. One is a friend who read an article in Seventeen Magazine about tapping ones cosmic potential. He consciously and literally decided to do this and discovered his bending power on purpose, thus becoming inoculated against suddenly deletion.
Could it be... SATAN?  
I always root for people backed by the Chilly Prince of Darkness.
The other is a math teacher of Conor. The teacher had done half of an equation and asked Conor how it could be finished. Conor meant to suggest that A and B should be reversed and solved but instead said, "Just flip it around." Conor knew this to be wrong, as did his classmates, though the teacher insisted Conor was correct. As the teacher wrote, the problem shifted so flipping it was a valid answer that the mathematically adept Conor was certain this was not so when it began.
As we entered the school, Conor was as a caged animal. He had to verbally remind himself that anyone who might recognize him had long since graduated and that he might even only be known at "Margaret's brother" to his delight. Still, he harbored an illogical fear that Alison or Kendall would be present. Though he had attended this school for years, it served more to shackle than free his mind and it was difficult to justify willingly reentering it for any reason. I shared some of his fear, as I had been well known in this school in my day and didn't wish to have this revived in any fashion.
We got into the auditorium where the game was being held with little problem and seated ourselves quietly. Conor's mother saw us and acknowledged us with a wave, but did not sit with us. As I watched the game, I noted with some trepidation that the Haldane team was solely composed of Caucasians and the opposing team solely African Americans. Furthermore, the Haldane team wore white jerseys and the opposing, dark blue. Given that the mascot for Haldane is Satan, this makes the Haldane team The White Devils, as I noted to Conor. The blue stripes on their uniforms represented their blue, inbred blood. All very clearly symbolic.
"Conor, how long does a match last?" I petitioned of him, as I had thought Margaret and the other dancing girls would have earned that title by now.
From my right, a fair girl with tea colored skin and dark red streaked hair kindly answered that games could last for quite a while or be done in a short amount of time. I smiled gratefully. I next incurred her help when I made some comment about the plane on which the game is played. She corrected me that it was a court.
"Ah," I explained, "I was stuck between a field and a board, actually. I'm not much for sports."
Smirking gently, she purred sarcastically, "Really, I hadn't noticed."
Shake your groove thang!  
She twirls
After a bit more playing and the opposing team taking a surprise lead, the girls were led onto the field... err... court. It was a common enough dance routine, but still nice. Margaret seemed to be the only person actually enjoying what she was doing however. The other girls seemed to be counting the steps out in their heads. "Conor, I am keeping my camera trained on your sister dancing." I muttered as I snapped photo after photo in hopes of getting a successful one without having to use my flash. Realizing the connotation of that statement, I added, "In the non-creepy way."
As the lasses finished their routine, Conor smiled and exclaimed, "We have seen them dance. Now we can say goodbye and leave." We met up with Conor's mother and sister, the former of which gave me a strong hugged and said she missed me. After she made sure we had eaten and would not starve, she allowed us to go back to my house to watch Donnie Darko, which Conor had not yet seen.
On the way out of the building, I passed a machine onto which a black hat embroidered with the word "Dragon" and what suggests to be the Chinese character for the word. I contemplated, without missing a step, whether I should take this hat and decided that this hat was specifically intended for me. My own little reality shift, if you will, to prove to me that there is a benevolent force out there that prevented me from dying in a car accident. Had I been hit, I certainly would not have ended up at this basketball game and this brand new hat could not have been found by me. Clearly, I was meant to find it so I couldn't die yet.
Plus, it is a really cool hat.
On the way to my house, Conor told me that Bard had been impressed by a movie called Shaolin Soccer, the premise being that Shaolin monks must use their martial arts skill to defeat an evil team using "the American drug" to win games. When the evil team kicks the ball, black clouds that follow it around the field surround it. In no way does this sound like a bad movie.
Once at my home, we watched Donnie Darko. Conor was disappointed by the end as, he insisted, "there should be more" though I don't think we were clear on what more was needed. It is a bit of a strange movie, given that this was my second viewing and I grasped at a lot more of the subtlety of the film.
Now, as my writing style will attest, I am a sleepy monkey. It is past midnight, and I have not died. Had I died, you obviously would not be reading this now. Please do not take this as some creepy, dramatically ironic prophecy. Sweeps Week is also over.

Soon in Xenology: Time without M. Kate's dates. Sweeny M (Hook will end up in a meat pie!)

last watched: Donnie Darko
reading: Porno
listening: Rarities, B-Sides, and Other Stuff
wanting: more fans (I almost got squished, I get to be shallow)
interesting thought: Death has a sense of humor.
moment of zen: finding a new hat.
someday I must: use my shiny rocks.

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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