Serialisation: ‘Astral Deaths & Astral Lights’ By Rick ACV (PART THREE)

August 26, 2022

NOVEL SERIALISATION
AUTHOR: RICK ACV

Following in the wake of his debut novel THE GREAT IMMUREMENT, which we serialised during the summer of 2020, Vukovar helmsman Rick ACV now follows up with the surreal, esoteric and challenging Astral Deaths & Astral Lights. Playing with format, language, font, with half-thoughts of waking hours and occult merge with dream-realism and a languid sense of discomfort: a sorry state of existence. William Blake and Austin Osman Spare meet Kōbō Abe in the hotel lobby portal of the never-world: personal and universal. Parts One & Two were debuted earlier this week. We continue with the next chapter, HOTEL NOTHING/III, below:

HOTEL NOTHING

I’m stooped and my joints don’t seem to want to acknowledge my directions for them. 

I gather my thoughts. All there is, is nothing to me. 

A phone rings and I answer it, but for a few moments the words spoken appear in vision as a series of symbols and guttural colours. Flashes from the language axis. The world has spun in a new direction without me and I’m left behind; in a strange place and a strange time, now I can reach towards something new. 

Then I am comforted as everything falls into place. Those symbols I saw before me, as that mysterious voice spoke, shift into something I understand a little easier and then turn to vapour, finally vanishing as I reach out with a curious finger.

Almost suddenly, I fall back out of a comforting understanding into something terrifying as I actually listen to the voice. This is a panicked unknowing. I have never felt this way before.

In response to my ‘hello’ the voice says “Good afternoon. I hope you are well.” I see strange flashes of someone and something. “I hope you are well.” it repeats and continues “I assume I am speaking to Mr Hanshiro?”

“Yes.” I utter, in the almost-exact same voice as from the phone, only mine isn’t as deep.

The voice continues to tell me about an important letter I will receive and to make sure I deal with it immediately.

The someone and something I see without seeing is a man in a back room. I recognise the man as myself for some reason, though his features are obscured by bright light.

I am aware of this self as though I have lived it all my life. My stomach turns.

“May I ask to whom I am speaking?” I say with as little suspicion as I can muster. My opposing line responds with a polite ‘of course’ then on to “

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

My ears may bleed. My brain may catch fire. My limbs may collapse in on themselves.

The answer was drowned out by a bell sound so abrasive…. I briefly lost myself.

I come back to myself, This Self.

A letter drops to the floor in this neat, bare office-house. As I read it, the inner voice is one I don’t recognise and the disturbing biloquism only further serves to disrupt my adaptation to my new surroundings. 

The letter:

Dear Mr Hanshiro,

I write to inform you of the regrettable and unfortunate death of your dear insert family name. In his her will, he she passed on to you the UNRESTRICTED ownership of the Hotel Nothing in the [REDACTED] district in [REDACTED].

Under his her instruction, the keys will be passed to you by ourselves, [REDACTED], on his her behalf. Please come to us at your earliest convenience in order to conclude this matter. We are situated on [REDACTED]. I look forward to meeting you.]

Yours Sincerely,

[REDACTED].

***

I arrive as a recipient of a substantial inheritance outside the vast building. There are swarms of people around the entrance. I make my way through the crush, passing hot flashes of hot fleshes. I come to a corridor full of people only occasionally moving forwards – I spot the door behind the reception. Only one sweating, stinking shape of human is permitted through at a time. 

I need some water.

I am old and tired and hot. This airless hole will be the death of me, I begin to not-even-worry, and instead just accept the fact. The noise is deafening.

***

The receptionist and I shout to no avail as she allows me through the door.

There is only one chair in here and another door. I make to sit down but a young woman, drenched in sweat, angered and flustered points to the door.

“I’ve been sent this letter…”

My voice is weak and pathetic before it’s cut off by her simple, straight-to-the-soul statement:

“Yes, that’s why you’re here, you have no more relatives, go through the door.”

I do so and find inside a cavernous room an empty desk, atop of which is the keys to my new empire. I am so tired. 

I am so tired of being close to death that I ignore my own hesitation, take the keys and make my exit. There is no-body and no-thing and I am back in the cool rain that has shifted here from another day.

X X X

I arrive at the place. It’s an imposing, pristine concrete thing, looking for all the world like a Las Vegas hotel stripped totally bare, picked up and left to just simply exist in some industrial wasteland purgatory. There are well-tended gardens that are clear boundaries between two worlds, from the Hotel Nothing to the wild and overgrown wasteland that surrounds and suffocates all else. The extreme and striking border forms a perfect square around the hotel, even taking in some woodland, and I can’t help but allow my mind to wander and wonder about halos… their meaning… what shapes they may take and any significance of any of this.

Taking a slow and ambling walk around the grounds, stopping to smell the roses, it crosses my mind; an old creaky man such as this-myself is just as easily pleased by the gentle and pleasant as the ease of the confusion that comes to the limbs at the end of their use. There is a remarkable freshness inside the Lines and I could swear that it’s brighter than I have ever experienced, whereas as the whole of the sky, all within and without it, was pitch grey just a few metres and moments previous. 

There is a pond and marsh which I cross over on an immaculate wooden walkway, feeling no effort in my movements and have to check I am not floating into the day. I haven’t felt this graceful for years. The path I am on takes me back towards the back of the hotel, but in my way is a maze. 

There is no way around; all-ways seem to lead up to and then away from the building so I reluctantly enter this maze that has somehow bloomed from nowhere. I walk and walk and walk and I encounter no Dead Ends. I do-not and can-not understand. I am walking in circles, the length of which are undeterminable. I think as quickly as my slowing mind will allow: I put down my hat on the ground and walk on.

I carry on for several minutes, still gliding, effortless, and can feel panic rising from the very soul of me. Suddenly my joints ache, my breathing is hard and the Glory Of The Day becomes as a recurrence of a terrible memory. I go to lean upon the hedge-wall and find myself going through a door right to the centre of the maze. All centres. All things must have a centre or they are unthinkable. I have found this one. In this centre, a strange man is sitting at a small table with an empty chair facing him. Upon spotting me he pours us both a cup of tea and beckons me to join. I shuffle forwards. His face is powdered white. A brilliant white. Total white. I want to feel apprehensive but can’t. I feel nothing. I decide I will decline the tea, remain standing and simply ask for directions.

Now I am sat opposite him.

Now he stares. His features seem to change. 

Now he speaks.

The Mystery Man greets me. I ask him for directions. 

“In time. Why not take the tea? It’s hot and delicious.” He smiles. “I insist you join me.”

I ask about the maze and its impenetrable nature. Or actually, the ease in which it is penetrated but the difficulty of getting out. 

“Surely the new owner is not in a rush? The place and employees take care of themselves.”

His smirk bothers me now. Feelings, all feelings, are slowly returning.

I agree in supposition and ask how he knows who I am, careful to mask my un-nerve. 

“May I ask how it is that you already had the keys? Or how it is that two versions of you held a coherent telephone conversation; both in the present but one in the past and one still in the future?”

I take notice of his voice. Something about the thick-lightness makes my stomach knot in almost-nausea. 

I can no longer mask anything and I make my confessions to Him, of how bizarre I found his question and how confused – to the point of fear – I am. All of this without saying a word.

“I may not. Drink your tea, Mr Hanshiro.”

I do so and it’s delicious and warming. Just as he said. I tell him. 

“It’s a recipe I’ve had for hundreds of years.”

I suggest he misspoke and assume he means his family have had it for hundreds of years. 

“If you would prefer, sir.”

I wish he would not speak. That voice. That voice of all-substance and no-substance. 

I put all thought out of my mind ask how to get to the Hotel Nothing from here once again.

“Look to your right.”

I open my mouth to speak but the mystery man so forcefully stares into my eyes and it feels he is controlling them, directing them to where he instructed.

The maze is no longer there. Well, it is, but it’s nothing more than a painting upon the ground. An optical illusion. I turn back to the Mystery Man, dumbfounded, but find nobody there. I sit in silence. I do not care for how long. I go to put the cup on the table. There is no table.

The table is not a table. That, too, is a painting on the ground.

Along with both chairs.

I’m squatting mid air and at this realization I recognise the agony most of my body is in.

I slowly make my way to the hotel. 

A SHIFT.

Huge, open hotel lobby. There isn’t anybody. Any-Body at all.

A pressed bell.

A deafening noise.

The noise down dark corridors. The noise in the hidden staff spaces. The noise everywhere.

Abandon hotel lobby.

A story of an old, disfigured ex-prostitute on a radio.

Sleep.

A RETURNING AND RECURRING SHIFT.

I enter my hotel and find a row of people all in a line awaiting my arrival. All are hotel staff it seems and all are ignoring the growing, silent queue behind and beyond them.

A man with a young face and an old body approaches me. 

“Welcome back Mr Hanshiro! Glad to see you’re better.”

His eyes widen with horror. 

Everything but his face is old, decrepit almost, in ways that are obvious yet these ways I cannot process.

I have to ask what he means. I have to. So I do.

Please forgive my ignorance, sir, I meant to simply say ‘welcome’. I am the manager of your Hotel Nothing, my name is Mr John; you may call me Mr Manager if you find it difficult to recall names.”

I do not like these people.

I assure him I can recall names perfectly well. I ask Mr John to show me to my quarters. 

He seems affronted.

He pleads.

“Well, that really isn’t part of my job… besides, there are things we must see-to before anything else.”

His suit is sharp and expensive looking. It appears to me as funeral attire. I understand nothing of business. For now, I’ll agree to whatever I’m told. I just want to rest.

His countenance is changed and becomes abrupt and impatient. He storms to the employees and angrily urges me to follow. 

One at a time the employees bow to me and walk away without saying a word and without looking back. This takes a long time and then all is finished. 

I ask Mr John how useful this time was spent without learning their names. 

“Mr Hanshiro, please, that introduction was just fine. You will learn the names over time, and even if not, you probably won’t need to anyway. 

I nod. 

I have no energy, none to waste on further questioning. 

I’m taken into the office behind the front desk. Here, there is a familiar looking young woman; she seems shy and speaks to me in a language My-Self in This-Self understands. She tells me her name – Catherine – and that she is the junior manager. This exchange is easy and welcome. 

“I will show you around and to your room if it pleases you, sir.”

I would be pleased to go straight to my room and gather in my rapidly fracturing being.

She looks unsure and explains they aren’t the orders she has received, but will make an exception.

I should think so.

We make our own way without Mr John and come upon a lift, into which I happily step, thinking of a time in the coming futures where I will be well-rested. Catherine tells me of how she rose to her position through merit and excellency, whereas…

“Mr John took advantage of your absence to seize control of the running of this place…”

There is a blackout for less than negligible amount of time. Or maybe it was just me. Or maybe nothing at all.

“Mr John took advantage of The Owner’s absence to seize control of the running of this place.”

I do not feel this is appropriate. 

“I hasten to speak ill of my colleagues – or indeed anybody at all – especially if they are not present, sir. But this may be my only chance.”

This is too much stress for today. I try to tell her she may see me first thing tomorrow and tell all so I may sort all.

“Please! Mr John is a degenerate and a deviant. He claims to love me, that he can’t be without me. He is probably watching and listening in to us. Right now. He just wants to control me. He spies on my everywhere I go. There are cameras everywhere. Everywhere!”

I’m aware of Catherine adjusting her breasts but I ignore it and tell her I will sack the disgusting pig. 

“You can’t.”

“Why not?”

“He is… irreplaceable… it isn’t possible.” She says this with a disarming nonchalance. Just a few seconds ago she was begging for my sympathetic ear and now she is completely and totally resigned to her treatment. “A necessary evil.”

I start to press her further on this but notice she has now bared her breasts and I become enraged. I express my contempt. 

“He’s watching even now. My flesh will blind him to our discussion, blind him to his own fury. I think he’s gone. Would you like to touch?”

She turns to me with sparkling eyes. 

I am filled with horror. 

No…

Please no…

She approaches and presses up against me. I weaken. I try to push her away and in doing so I touch her naked skin. It burns me. I retch and cower in the corner. Catherine is concerned and strokes my hair, unknowing of the panic I am stricken with. Her breasts are in my face. The air is unbreathable and I can no longer cope. 

The lift doors open.

I run.

I am in a room with only one door. Catherine is looking on, uncomprehending. 

I force my way into the darkened space. Harsh pulsating lights begin to flash on and off, strobe-like, as a gently throbbing music plays, quietened, as though through water. The room is covered from floor to ceiling with breasts. I vomit uncontrollably. It lands on the ceiling. It stays there. I see a door and crawl towards it, pulling myself along, wishing for nothing but the retching and heaving to subside. The door is a towering vagina and I have no choice but to have to go through it. 

I am birthed into a blinding whiteness.

My senses come to me intermittently. 

A crowd of women.

They fuss over me.

They clean me.

They cut the newly attached umbilical cord from me and I scream in agony. 

I am put onto a moving surface and am carried away into The White.

I drift.

I am moved.

My existence is vapour-light. 

I am in yet another room. Everything is monochrome. Empty but for two small tables, each with a telephone atop. An old man. I think of him as Il Duce. He is at the furthest one. He faces me.

Il Duce indicates towards the phone on my table.

Pick it up.

His lips do not move but his voice comes to me down the phone.

He stares into the whites of my eyes. He stares into the total depths of me as he un-talks.

“Do no fear me.”

Who are you?

“I will not answer.”

Why not?

“There could be any number of reasons, but I am not here to discuss them.”

How come you have appeared to me?

“I am to recite to you a warning, from a different story, from a different time, but it applies to all human life at some point in different ways and the point has now come in yours. Will you listen?”

I will.

I awake in my room.

I think about what he said. 

There was a story of a gatekeeper and a man seeking passage through the gate. The gatekeeper denied the man entry on unknowable and unchangeable grounds. 

I recognised this as a story from deep within another story. 

X X X

I arise, I dress, I stop; I feel eyes upon me. I allow them to continue for a few moments and I begin to hear a rising, heavy breathing which digs its way just so into the centre of me, forcing itself through ears, through mind, as though this is all I have ever heard. It becomes piercing as I search for the source and I in turn become manic as it turns to pain. This is unbecoming of me. I burst out of my room and with this expense of my energies I fall to my face in a silent living area in a confused St Vitus dance. Catherine is sitting on a couch, looking me over. 

“Come here Mr Hanshiro.”

I respond with a blank look. 

“Come on, it’s okay.” She is insistent and I lose myself to her maternal authority. I go over to her, childlike and pathetic.

“Rest your head upon my lap. Shh. I’ll make it all better for you.”

Catherine starts to sing softly a lullaby as I comply and, soon, she is stroking my hair.

I tell her I think I am getting a cold.

She leans down and starts to kiss me sensually. Paralysis and transfixion.

“Poor baby. Do you want a feed?”

“Do you want a feed from mummy?”

This is not what I want. She begins to take out her breasts. Again. What does this life, this myself mean? Why is she starting with this indecent nonsense again?

The shift.

“Mr Hanshiro?”

“Mr Hanshiro?”

We are sitting on the couch, together but apart, still in this silent living area that is nowhere. 

“Do you want to get some food? From the bar?”

Confused and erring to begin with, I respond in agreement. I want to get out of this dark room.

Catherine smiles.

“I’ll organise some company for us.”

I’d much rather you didnt, Catherine.

“I’ll organise some company for us.”

I am so taken aback by the strength in her will in just those six simple words that I don’t argue.

These people have total control over me.

This place has total control over me.

And every-thing and every-one else.

Total Body Control, whether in-body or out-body.

Hotel Restaurant:

This is viewed from outside this myself, at times.

Catherine and myself sit at a table with a couple that look exactly the same as us. The setting changes from time to time between two places. It starts as normal, smoky restaurant and bar, high-ceilinged and large with constant chatter, waiters milling about busily and there is a band playing some unintrusive music on a stage. The other place is a tiny, perfectly square room that contains only our table and a bar that isn’t quite right. On the wall in front of us is a projection showing the ‘rest’ of the restaurant and all its inhabitants. 

Catherine: I’ll do the introductions then shall I, darling? (I see myself begin to stir as though woken from daydreams long and old) I’m Catherine and this is my husband Mr Hanshiro. Nice to finally meet you.

Mirror Catherine: It’s lovely to meet you, too. I’m Catherine and this is my husband, Mr Hanshiro.

Catherine: (Turning to me) Catherine and dear Mr Hanshiro live in the hotel. They’re high up in a sub chain of command here.

The constant state of confusion I am mired in within my hotel is starting to become tedious.

I view ourselves and theirselves through tired eyes slowly burning as they discuss how it is that both sets own and run the place in parallels without any knowledge of each other’s domain. This goes on for a while until Mirror Catherine suggests and hints at things of a sexual nature, before Catherine confirms it without me understanding the real meaning. We are all turned towards the idea of going to our room under the pretence, in my unaware understanding, of continuing our meal there. 

Catherine violently rides me in a rape that I cannot and do not fight against. I watch this and can do nothing. 

X X X

This is now the next day or the next time or the next whenever it is. I seek out Mr John and try to make a complaint about Catherine. He calls me a liar and we argue until he tells me she has already been removed and hidden away somewhere. I am ill and I am tired and I care little for any of this. I dismiss him. The room behind the office simply marked ‘Manager’s Bedroom’ appeals to me. 

Inside the tiny room is a human sized nest on the floor. There is little to describe about the rest. It feels so empty and so bare that I cannot help but question its existence and quantum lack-of-presence.

There is a phone. I am drawn to it. I pick it up. The voice on the other end sounds familiar.

“Hello?”

Good afternoon. I hope you are well. I assume I am talking to Mr Hanshiro?

“Yes that’s correct. What is the nature of the call?”

Information. You will receive a letter in the post today that carries with it some weight of importance. Please pay it with your upmost attention.

“May I ask who I am speaking to?”

I do not know. This Self is no longer My Self. I watch myself disappear from my own view as I slip away.

III

The partner sits upon a step.

The partner is upset.

The partner weeps and lets the realism that THEIR partner is less and less present become the biggest prescience. 

I am further and far removed from the usual world and it has its effects and affects. I understand that there are consequences to every action as I am not a moron.

However, which place is it whereby the actions count for anything? Even something… It feels less and less like the usual world.

I must try and make it up to the partner in this world. Just in case.

One Response to “Serialisation: ‘Astral Deaths & Astral Lights’ By Rick ACV (PART THREE)”

  1. […] personal and universal. Parts One & Two were debuted during August, followed up by Part Three. We continue with the next chapters, EVERYONE IS ENDED and IV […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: