In fury—haggard—flailing—weary. Thus were his energies depleted. There was confusion of a bipolar nature. He could not choose an extreme, and both claimed him. They divided him up between each other. They cooed, he gibbered. They named him: one Bellum, the other Bloom. Naturally, he did not know which to prefer. At times he was Bellum, at times Bloom. More and more, he came to be both simultaneously; he accomplished this by splitting into two distinct identities, by no means mutually exclusive, but independent and unique of each other nonetheless.
There were great wars in the ancient times. Bellum fought them. He examined their qualities, and reproduced them in his mind, and rebuilded them anew: modern, lethal. Bellum was history’s tactician. His insight into the martial philosophies was so keen and artful that had he been both generals in the first war, there would only ever have been fought one war, and that war would still now be raging in stalemate. His every defense perfectly checked his every offensive, and his every counteroffensive was perfectly checked by his every reciprocal defense.
Bloom filled out forms. There were blank spaces on these forms, crying for calligraphic opacity. He made every underlined space mean something. He gave each its due, and its proper respect. He deliberated all the potential inksweepings through those spaces (positioned carefully atop those lines), their form suggested by neatly printed subline (or sometimes supra-) instructions. Through a complex process, he calibrated the journey of his pen, the exact yet meandering route, the country through which that nib would trek. He negotiated with native bearers, calculated distance so not to overshoot the objective, maintained the integrity of his ink supply (for ink was his medium, and no other would suffice).
This was what Bellum carved in that tree: I am immortal. When the tree was chopped and converted to lumber, Bellum traced the distribution of its boards and planks. Each building, and every furniture piece, and all the objects fashioned from that tree: Bellum burned them. He inhaled the smoke of all the blazes. His lungs turned black, and shriveled.
One day in the garden, Bloom sipping his wine imagined that a fine day was: precisely one such as he was experiencing: yet the day did not to him feel so fine. He pondered this for a while sipping his wine until the wine was finished. Then he went to sleep and dreamed of Bellum.
Bellum waited in the shadows. Finally, a petite woman walked by, and Bellum leaped out, took her struggling limbs in his arms, closed her in his body, entered back into the shadows. There he subdued her. He pierced her bright eyes with the twin brass wires he kept coiled in his belt. He sought the secret of her brain. She did not relinquish it. He wondered what Bloom was doing right now. This woman’s brain was frustrating him. He devoured it, and when he was sated he played with her breasts.
There is something perverse in the way that man watches me, thought Bloom. The man in question had been watching Bloom for over an hour, without blinking or nodding or changing the position of his buttocks against the hard chair surface. That chair is constructed of steel and cold iron, thought Bloom. His muscles must be in agony by now (as mine are). But the man still did not move. Bloom watched him for a long time.
In the witching hour, Bellum carried a heavy sack. It undulated languidly, bulging and flattening in unexpected places. Bellum utilized his own sharp fingers to dig a hole deep in the soft loam. He tossed the sack, which was by now writhing, into the hole. Quickly, Bellum refilled the hole, then made away into the woods as dawn approached.
Occasionally Bloom induced a promising girl to fall in love with him. He utilized her for purposes of masturbation, for he found it much pleasanter to stimulate himself in the orifice of a young girl than in the orifice of his own hand. When he broke the girl’s heart (as well as her hymen), he was careful to effect a lasting and utterly permanent damage, so as to be certain that she never would be happy with another man. This increased his pleasure in the sexual act. He felt he had one up on Bellum.
There was a place Bellum went to when he needed of rest. It was a place of bones and cobwebs, mildewed, mossy, rank. The bed there was soft, however, and the blanket provided a surprising share of warmth considering how patched and thin was its material. Yet Bellum slept fitfully. He was comfortable, and this made him uneasy.
Once Bloom stubbed his toe and wept for three hours as a consequence. He vowed never to stub his toe again, but it happened again, and this time he wept for four hours. He did not know what to do, for it seemed quite possible that he would stub his toe a third time, and what if he never stopped weeping? This was a potentiality he could not allow for, so he borrowed an axe from his neighbor (an executioner by trade) and with it removed his toe. Bellum would approve of my solution, he thought. He returned the axe promptly.
The liquids surged into frangible forms. The metals fucked the light prismatic. He rose up through the trees to look out over the landscape, but saw only the white beauty of the villas. His body varied in density as an oscillating function of time. He wept, and this was painful, for his tears were crystal.
Bloom hired a servant to clean after him. The servant, of indeterminate gender, face pallid and immobile, followed Bloom throughout the mansion, mute, somber, in its hand a dustpan and a rag. Bloom grew so accustomed to the servant’s presence that he forgot he had hired a servant. One day Bloom thought, I ought to hire a servant to clean after me. That very day he did so. When the servant, of indeterminate gender, arrived, it joined a troupe which followed Bloom, making the number thirteen. The others, superstitious of the number, killed it that night while it slept. They were efficient in their disposal of the body, since cleaning was their métier.
On a road, Bellum encountered a boy with broken legs. The boy breathed only faintly, too weak even to raise its head, yet it regarded Bellum with insolent eyes. Bellum took sticks and tied the boy’s legs into splints. The boy found a voice to say, Thank you. Bellum did not reply, but continued on his way.
Bloom devoured an entire pheasant in one sitting, yet he was still hungry. He went to the icebox, but there were no more pheasants to be had. His craving for pheasant consumed him. He searched the icebox again. He thought, Save me Bellum. Bloom pondered the pheasant situation until, that night, he slept. The next morning he resumed his pondering.
Bellum fell through a space which was located in the center of a gorge. There was more space below him as yet than above, but this proportion was steadily reversing itself. Soon he would be at the ground, and the lip of the gorge from which he had leapt would be but a tiny memory, never regained, for he knew that no one may climb the cliff but only leave it, as he had done. It occurred to him that Bloom might be up there, but it was too late to meet him. Perhaps Bloom would be down there. All the while, he continued to fall.
The poem spoke of beauty. Bloom remained unmoved. He turned the page. The next poem spoke of eternity. Bloom remained unmoved, and turned the page. The next poem spoke of seven diamonds in seven corners. It spoke of: the faces in the facets; the cleaving silence; the lethal angle; the eye which migrates through the structure. Bloom turned the page.
Bellum slogged through the marsh. The waters stank, these weeds rank, these swamps permeated through with the discarded waste of every living process and the putrefied remnants of every living organism. The matter soaked his clothes, seeped through his open pores, toxified his fluids. He grew ill, and slogged on. He grew cold, and slogged on. He slowed, but on he slogged. Bellum thought about Bloom.
There was a rotten board in the house of Bloom. Occasionally Bloom thought, I must replace the board. But the board remained in place, for Bloom always forgot. One day, the board stove in under his weight, and Bloom fell, dislocating his thumb. After he had shifted the thumb back into its socket Bloom thought, I will replace the board. Bellum must not know.
In his pocket, Bellum carried a silver locket. The locket was important to him, although he did not recall how he had acquired it and he did not recognize the man and the woman whose pictures adorned the interior frames. The day came when Bellum reached into his pocket to touch the smoothness of the locket only to discover in its place a ragged hole. Maddened, Bellum struck his chest and into his own flesh embedded the locket which he had earlier removed from his pocket and draped around his neck. After this, Bellum’s attachment to the locket dwindled. When he really did lose it some time later, he did not even notice.
Bloom purchased a brand new deck of playing cards. The first time he shuffled them, he thought, Once is not enough, so he shuffled them again. Bloom regarded the cards, and thought, If once was not enough then why should twice be? So he shuffled them again. Bloom continued to shuffle the cards well into the dawn of the next day. His heart pounded, his fingers were numb and stiff, his eyes contained denser orbs within them: and he continued to shuffle. He did not stop until he fainted from exhaustion.
Bellum’s clothes dissolved in the sandstorm. When the gales abated and the sands settled, Bellum trudged naked through the desert. A scorpion lanced his Achilles tendon. Some parasite invaded his genitals. His eyes crusted shut with a mixture of mucus and sand grains. Eventually he made it to the trading post. He purchased what he needed, for the proprietor accepted his credit. The proprietor mentioned Bloom, but Bellum made no reply.
He lay on the water and raised his arms. He shut both eyes against the sky brightness. He felt weak, yet something was building in his belly. There was a toothglobed entity revolving in there. He moaned with two voices.
Bloom lay abed, feverish. He had been thus for a week now. His fever would neither increase nor decrease, but remained exactly as it was. In his brain there was a vision in thirty dimensions, vivid and terrible, accreting detail with every instant that passed. He saw a statue in his garden, one which never had been there before. It was noble, and venerated. It would be remembered, and people would come, passing through the garden, to see it. No one knew whose garden this was, but inscribed in the pedestal which supported the statue was the word Bellum.
Bellum hewed down the orchard. His hysteria did not abate. The field next to this one was splendid and beautiful, but there was a fence between the fields. Enraged, Bellum flung himself at this fence, chopped at its posts with the bare blade of his hand. When the fence was razed he felt tired. He noticed that the trees in this new orchard provided shade and lush bedding. He climbed into one and went to sleep in its branches. He never saw the feral girl who came out of hiding when he was finally unconscious and crawled onto his chest to feel him breathe. She bit off the tip of his nose as a souvenir and scampered away, but Bellum did not even wake up.
At the theatre, Bloom fell in love with the actress. He recalled the blaze of his fever, and preferred that to this blaze. He imagined the tortures of the profanest mind, and too preferred them to this torture. He waited in the wings, a shadow in the shadows, until he saw the actress alone. From his wings of hiding, Bloom watched her in her boudoir. He waited all night until she was dead. In the morning he went home and made breakfast.
All the rocks were tumbling around him, but Bellum continued unharmed along his way. Once a stone the size of a pheasant’s egg struck him in the back of the head. He touched his fingers periodically to the lump which there developed, but he continued along his way. After a few hours he became woozy and disoriented. There were no rocks anymore, so he lay down in the grass and went to sleep, even though the sun was still high in the sky. He slept for thirty hours.
Bloom knelt at the window which overlooked his garden. He had not moved from this position all day, not since he had noticed a movement down there this morning. He did not dare to move away from the window for fear that the moment he did so the movement down there would resume. I will see it, he thought.
Bellum came to the city, having heard the stories. The bustle of the crowds baffled him, though, and as the day wore on he found himself more confused and more flustered than he had ever been. No one stopped to gaze on Bellum. He was carried along on the street tide, only flotsam in a tremendous ocean. The faces he glimpsed (the crests of the waves) were impassive and absorbed: pallid, immobile. But one face in the crowd terrified him, so that he left the city immediately.
Feeling not himself, Bloom paced restlessly through his mansion. He came to the conclusion that he should join a mountain-climbing expedition. He signed on to one immediately. The expedition was preempted halfway up the mountainside when a flaw in the rope claimed three lives. Enraged, Bloom demanded a refund. Bloom returned to his mansion feeling not himself, and he paced restlessly through the corridors. (He noticed that every room was very clean.)
Bellum moaned and shivered in the dark. There was pain in every element of his flesh. His organs swam within him like lethargic eels. His eyeballs were expanding their size to compete with his brain in the categories of ponderance and sphericity. Sudor crawled across his skin leaving itself behind in chilly traces which he had not the strength nor the will to wipe away. A woman visited him in his dream. She told him of the galactic column. Bellum wept when he heard. The woman told him, That column will never move. Bellum’s bile leaped up within him, leaped down without him, stayed spattered on the tattered carpet.
Bloom burned his garden to ashes, but this did not satisfy him, so he burned down his mansion as well. Still, Bloom perceived within himself the quenchless agony of time, and that was burning madly, so he went in search of cities to burn.
Bellum descended through the levels. There was no bottom here, and there were always deeper levels. Bellum devoted all his attention to the procedure by which his legs conveyed him from level to level. The levels were evenly spaced, and each appeared exactly similar to the others. There was no way to know how many levels he had descended, for he did not count them.
The world was depopulated. There were only two men left, and they were on opposite sides of the globe. He bellowed their names, but neither heard him. He beat his own head with a planchette he found in one of the deserted towns. He screamed, and screamed, and screamed: until his voice failed. At this point, he went into a deli and made a sandwich. He began to appreciate the silence.