“THE PAEDOMORPHS” by w.t.

You don’t need your dick to be too big, said Reo, caring about feminine sexual pleasure is the mark of a dying society. Elm and Reo and Davis and Rogers sat in the Conch, watching light play on the false nacre of the subterranean walls, levitating trash with their minds, and smoking pot. They had all been relegated to this place by their hormonal profiles. Elm yawned and straightened out his fingers again, trying to keep them from curling when relaxed, which he believed was brought on by a youth of playing video games, and constantly beat himself up about. He was going to leave the Conch today, but he changed his mind. What is there to do, he thought helplessly, and there was a twinge of anxiety in his gut at this, but he let it sink into his bog-like stone, and forgot about it. The structure rumbled as the metro passed overhead. You get in and get out, said Reo, it’s about you, women will only ever respect you if you look out for yourself first, regardless of what they say. Elm felt he agreed, and nodded, but it was electrical, there was nothing in his thoughts that captured Reo’s statement, only smudged shards of nostalgia, mental clips of bus stops and highways and passing buildings, faces and conversations, sad little fragments as might be found in a child’s shoebox beneath an old bedframe, and a library of slights and embarrassments that produced almost physical pain upon recall, interspersed in more narcotic memories like burs hidden in down. The stone picked up and Elm drifted into a pre-personal state. Mute intensities, furniture visions, ecstasies of a foyer. A realm of unbroken blue light, slow-motion revelation, filled with oracular mutterings that, upon inspection, meant nothing. It was timeless, it betrayed its emptiness with every rotation. Davis mumbled something about being hungry. Rogers moaned in pain, hugging his stomach, and Davis slumped to his side, urgently comforting his friend with a hand and an inaudible drawl. They telekinetically swept streets and alleyways and basketball courts for a living, but their work rarely fatigued them, and they slept little, suffering from vivid paralysis nightmares induced by cannabinoid withdrawal. You adopt the right posture, you lift, you don’t look like a slob, and you act like an asshole, there’s no reason pussy shouldn’t be yours, unless you have an octopus instead of a skull, said Reo, then his voice lowered as he choked up acid. Elm fell into a vision of himself moving back and forth between two places, from his bed chamber in the Conch to the park, engaging in a gauntlet of complex interactions, silent and full of exaggerated gestures, mouthed in a nonsense language, a deaf inexplicable stunt course that ended in mocking laughter and a rebuttal sharp as the slamming of a door. These ghost people assumed an evil grin and gave up on communicating with him, and this evil grin seemed to separate them with such distance, as if he were some fat sea creature and they patrons of a massive cruise ship watching from a height as he was javelined by burly sailors, honking and thrashing desperately, a defenseless, endangered, and stupid species. Sort yourself out, he remembered an older co-worker pronouncing lastly on him, and there was in this statement a soft magic, the real conviction that something once thought impossible could be surmounted, which he suspended in a solution of sympathy and hatred at the same time. What is there to do, he thought again, but without helplessness this time, with the sense of having arrived at his destination, and the honesty weighted him. Where is there to go in this place, he thought, not to a job where he would have nothing to work for or a date where he would have nothing to say or a school where he would study a field that he would have nothing to add to, having no creativity or passion or fire within him, only a vague disgust, and a mind grazing through the hours with an intellect that was just above the middle, just above average, just not quite where it ought to be to make something really special happen. And all of this was not something he apprehended but rather something he took into his body and made a mounting tension through the gut outward to the wrist, culminating in a closed fist fantasy of stabbing someone, maybe Reo, maybe himself, that quickly saw its reflection naked before the light of his mind and lapsed back into sadness and exhaustion. A poem he wrote in primary school, an assignment about animals, for which he selected the crab: “the tireless sea / is what you ride / in and out / on the tide”. Crude crayon claws hung in his mind’s eye, amplifying to the washing sea recordings throughout the Conch, and finally exploding at a pop from somewhere in the room that sent Elm’s whole face into contractions. Reo was blasting dubstep from his laptop. I know, I know, he said, but I wanna be a producer and this shit’s only good when I’m high.