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Famine Speaks

I do what's not there. I hollow out the eyes and make the intestines echo (Petey’s phrase). I force strong men to eat dirt. I did it to your ancestors, and I'll do the same to you. You remember when the Lamb opened the third seal in the Book of Revelations. A voice roared


and out of the ground I rode, holding a pair of scales. So I read, a lot later. Another voice said that the Roman denarius would now buy less than a man could live on, and... you see, that's a disadvantage I have. Then it gets kind of dark on me. I'd also like us to tell you what we did the first 500 years or so we stained the realities gray and red, but in that time we were monsters with empty heads. Which is what the Lord G-d made us. I remember flashes, yeah. We leaned down from the sky and were as hail amongst all the Earths. Something like that. I turned my scales on their sides, okay I remember that too, and they became morning stars. But that's about it. You know, the 'medieval' weapon, the stick with the metal chain and the spiked iron ball on the other end. I tore out stomachs left and right, front and back, above and below. Yeah, I take away. But when I am gone I'm not unlike War when you see what I've left behind.

So how did we grow brains? Sorry, metabrains? To not be too specific... it may have to do with what you leave behind. When from above or from upon your earth we cut your ancestors in two with a stroke of the blade edge or when Petey let fall viruses and fleas, ticks, mosquitoes from his bag... snippets of fear and skin and bloody cloth stuck to us. Anger. Random thoughts of the kind that accompany a death, expected or not. More and more of it slathed us over our first centuries. We didn't understand yet about your affect. Weighted down with it, we eventually sank to earth, awakened. Seen from above, we're now barely visible. Most of the time.

"Now we're everywhere... thanks to your kind spreading of our 'legend'.”

How has that changed things? Now we're everywhere. We can fit into smaller spaces, you see. Like your head. There are only four of us, but thanks to your kind spreading of our 'legend' (whoever compiled the Bible didn't do their descendants any favors, putting our book at the end), we are in every reality almost without having to be. You might remember our original selves in Revelations, or you've seen a political cartoon with us in it, you've read sci-fi books with us in them (some of them not bad, actually), or you saw four actors pretending to be us in that TV show with the three witches... and so forth. Our fore-images or afterimages are now as dangerous as we are! Your best weapon - your sentience, your imagination - threatens you just as much as it does us. Pretty funny. Occasions have come and gone within absolute Time, you know, that I think we've bent your arm with that weapon in it to a sparrow's wing's depth from your throats. Why did your ancestors do that to you, anyway? Why didn't the Bible end differently? Why wasn't there maybe another Gospel or something less terrifying than the End of Days? Were your ancestors ticked off that you were going to be around to see the descent of the New Jerusalem but they weren't? I don’t mean our old man St. John, I mean the Council of Carthage that assembled the Bible in its current form. Just wondering.

And then there are other intervals when I feel it may be our necks which will be slashed, not yours. Yeah, we have necks, now and again. We didn't expect to have them or to have descended as we've done, but it's just as well. Here I have to say I disagree with Petey. The upper air as crisscrossed like it now is with Mirage jets, weather satellites, 747s, hot-air balloons, C-130 gunships -- some of those might be looking for us,too -- I don't know there'd be much room for the Horsemen up there any longer. Surprise. We owe you one. And we'll repay you, don’t worry.

Yeah, I do what's not there. I'm Famine, but you can call me Frankie if you want. So how many different kinds of 'not there' exist? Given how I lost my scales centuries ago, I had to find a new set of morning stars to replace them, so here's one I learned not so long ago: when you haven't eaten in a long while, you start to hallucinate. Did you know that? Your brain cells begin digesting one another, and the walls that hold dream and nightmare away begin to dissolve. I've watched a countless number of personalities drown in their own vats. Any number of them. Learned a few things. So I've had no small bit of experience in watching hunger drive one mad. In fact, now I can do it to somebody on a full stomach! I'm almost a Lord of Dreams! Self=taught, natch. And I can make you dream when you aren't even asleep.

Music can do the same thing, did you ever notice? Strange how it can cause hallucinations of a kind. Try Beethoven's 6th sometime, or Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time." Alfred Schnittke's late string writing, maybe, or any Joy Division record. If those don't make you close your eyes and see things, you're already dead. I had to learn how to write it to supplement my old methods. Lose a horse and a morning star, gain a metaphoric set of blades! (Petey’s phrase again; he can be useful).

Would you like to hear some of my work? Sorry, I don't get performed in concert halls. You are all my instruments. I kill the crops, I make the sheep and cows fall to their knees. And the situation is the sheet music. I'm not published by Boosey & Hawkes. Walk through a rural village in Chad or the Congo, Tannu Tuva or the Indus delta and hear the moans of the starving. Some of my better attempts at, er, what do you call it? A threnody.

Or here's another. Listen to the sounds of a West Virginia shantytown, after the rain and the sunset, after all the transistor radios are turned off for the night. One door after another opens. One red burning eye after another frames the dooryard. Listen to what comes after. An oratorio.

I've also arranged a similar piece for a ghetto in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, directly in sight of the statue of Rabbi Joshua bar-Joseph. Some of you call him Jesus. Some of you call him the Yoizel. Some insist he is 'the Al-masih.' Well, whatever his name is, the statue and what goes on in the streets below make for an interesting set of thematic variations.

So. Listen. Closer! You can hear them from wherever you are.


Do you like it?

Well, you must have appreciated it somehow. You never tried hard enough to stop it from being performed. That's another one I owe you. Thanks.

But it looks like we've started to repay you already. How so? Close your eyes! Go ahead. Whether dreaming, starving, going mad, or something other, you might see one, some or all of us there, looking back at you, from within any of a billion masks. Some of them will have your face on them. You see? We've become you. Welcome.

To what's left of you. –F.
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