Daggerfaced Lunatic by Heavy Chew

I spend my days working with fish. If you do this, you’ll start to learn a lot about them, especially the way they think. I'm employed by a Whole Foods in Williamsburg, New York, where I serve happy trophy-wives arm-in-arm with happy trophy-husbands. No one knows whose trophy is whose. Perhaps they’re happy not knowing, perhaps happy because they don’t know that they don’t know. I suppose the distinction is a bit fine, but if you know anything about the way fish think, and the way they move, then the distinction becomes as marked as that of two remote sandbars divided by a chasm of underwater movement and thought. Working in this particular place, it seems, you learn less about the people close to you. Like the person I'm going to tell you about first: Bouncy Herbal Jaybird. I could give some manner of description of the man, but I doubt I'd be confident for very long in anything I said.

At the time he was seeing this young woman who lived somewhere near there; they'd stopped in to shop once or twice, and once I recognized him as he passed by my fish.

“How are these?” he said, indicating to some fish or other. “Any good?”

“What do you mean by 'good'?” I said.

“I mean, would you recommend them?”

“Are you asking me if I'd ‘recommend’ them?”

He flushed, “Er, um—hey, that's no way to speak to a customer, Gerbil.”

He looked around to check for this young woman, in that way that suggested that he would balk at the idea of her in any way becoming involved with or aware of this unexpected reunion of him and I. As for the reason, it was unknown. Because only so much conjecture can ever be conjectured, and just the right amount will fall on numb and disinterested ears, as though the skies had parted to just let one massive fart before turning to stone.

“So,” he said, “I see that you're working in a place.”

“So do you want anything?”

“Perhaps if I knew what you’d recommend.

“Now wait a second,” I said, “because, dammit, you knew full well I worked here. Well, isn't that something? Now you must have something to tell me.”

“The young woman,” he said, gesturing towards her as he did, “lives around here. She picked this place.”

“So it’s an accident, you’re saying?”

“No. Not yet.”

We both knew full well that accidents were only fate's little excuses that never held up very long.

Bouncy checked for her again. She was looking over some squashes.

“That thing about accidents might be true,” Bouncy said. “I'm as yet unsure. But, as I'm here before you, possibly accidentally, and regardless of any of the implications of accidents, I might as well tell you that there's been another appearance by your friend, the DFL.”

“Has there been? Was it at a nightclub? One of the ones I frequent? Why didn't anybody tell me?”

“No, Gerbil. That never happened. But, soon enough, something else will.”

I caught his meaning but now he had to leave. I asked him where I ought to go and he told me. At five p.m. I boarded the subway train that would take me there and, at Bouncy’s suggestion, swallowed seven of the nineteen green pills from the black plastic vial.

Once debarked and on my way to the place, there was a young woman I knew, passing me, going the other way, riding two bicycles.

“Two people are dead, and two people have disappeared,” she said. “I think the cops are asking the same questions as you.”

She was only riding two bicycles in the sense that she rolled one alongside her as she drove the other. Her name was Karine. Her bottom was big so she sat rather tall. She didn't tell me to stop looking so I asked her if she wanted to go out some time. We were set to meet at where she worked in East Village a few days later. But as for the police thing, I might have said something snide and juvenile about the police being idiots who would never catch the Daggerfaced Lunatic. But I'd seen crime, and I'd never seen a criminal who wasn't eventually punished. I'd spoken to the cops on many occasions, possibly an inordinate number of occasions for someone who worked with fish. I knew eventually they'd find and fry him, but I wasn't going there to tell them how to do it. Because it was the DFL to whom I had things to tell. About who was alive whom he might not have known for living. As Karine slowly shrunk, going the other way, I turned the sound up on my headphones and began to sing along:

Like a fish under
Troubled water
I will swim around. . .


The scene of the crime against the two dead, the scene of the appearance of the Daggerfaced Lunatic, of the disappearance of the two undead—the scene in question was a renovated loft across the street from a low-rise housing project built into which was a Brooklyn Intermediate School disconcertingly inactive in this early weekday afternoon.

“Undoubtedly,” to myself, “a cheesy soiree on the fourth floor.”

Nothing more than a door left unlocked, the lobby full of buzzers which anyone could buzz around on until some resident let them in to kill the noise. A few cops hung around, blood blackening the thentofore unpainted brick of one wall, blackening in the shape of—what?

“It looks like an X.”

He won't be returning and neither will the two disappeared.

“Are they missing persons yet?”

“No.”

“What are their genders?”

“Males. Male.”

“We've got it from here.”

“I know how the cops work.”

“Clear out in ten minutes.”

Now a person of interest. Interested, for some reason, in what he left behind; whom he left alive. Both tonight, and all those years ago.

POI examines the crime scene, the black-blood-X on the wall; opens the bathroom door, but struggles. From fear of porcelain?

This was where had transpired the bloody and the horrible things of three years ago. When monsters leapt through dark mirrors to slice throats or claw off faces with big-cat's big talons. Spirits of other destructive shades were channeled, with blood everywhere, sticky thick and shining on every surface bare; fully absorbed capillarily by everything fibrous, toilet and cistern coated, toilet overflowing with blood.

I walked back to the train station. No one was killed in the bathroom, I knew. I turned the sound up on my headphones and began to sing along:

Mind was aching
We were bacon
When you
Cooked me all night long. . .


A Quick Gloss on the Daggerfaced Lunatic

This fellow walks into the shop of one of these weirdos who’ll give you titanium devil horns on subdermal plates and other nightmare stuff if you want it. This fellow walks in with seven knives, none longer than three or four inches, some of them eerily crisp, eager to slice and slice still-bleeding collops; or through bone, gristle; others, jagged; others, finely curved. The procedure took who knows how long, and he came out of there only slightly uglier than he went in.

The most beautiful of the seven knives was a small dagger, which, once the procedure was complete, protruded from the tip of his snout like a razor-sharp beak for picking seeds out of tiny holes in the jungle floor. He had facial tattoos of more knives, hooks, wires. I'd only ever known him in this incarnation of himself. But I knew he was born ugly: a nose more snout than anything else; an overweight bottom lip always overdry from constant salivating and wiping; tiny black eyes and almost no hair. And no visible upper lip, for what he had was hidden by his mustaches, which, even-trimmed and made neat, circled wide his gross mouth and turned outward where they met with burnsides seamlessly. Mostly bald, as I said, but he sometimes wore a bihawk, sometimes uneven patches of bleached hair like a child's mutilated doll. At times he wore a blue-gray wig, which appeared to be fabricated from some kind of polymer or other and resembled a soft wooly hat; this he may have manufactured himself.

Furball could have been at that cheesy soiree-turned-crime scene, but hadn’t been, and so wasn't taken, and now sat at his studio worktable drafting designs for artisanal dildos sold in Park Slope sex shoppes for seven hundred bucks a pop.

Courting the DFL was never easy, nor would it be to find him. But as the nectar of those seven pills left me through the tip of my penis, splashing against the wellingtons of an incapacitated subway platform indigent, I ate the remaining twelve pills in the vial and cast it away. A statement of truth then I beheld, in a vision of whip-scars on stretched-to-dry animal hides hung in succession moving north along the platform. And it was this: that to find the Daggerfaced Lunatic, I must, somehow, simply go to his home and call upon him, as that was where I would find him.

He would never keep his captives where he lived, he would have said the idea of it made him sick. So they would be in a rented room somewhere remote, sans windows—don't bring your work home with you.

As I made my way to the DFL's house, I turned the sound up on my headphones and began to sing along:

The meat of a meatball (ooh-ahh-oh)
The meat of a meatball (ooh-ahh-oh)
The meat of a meatball (ooh-ahh-oh)
The meat of a meatball
The meat of a meatball. . .


After knocking at his door some thirty times, I tried the knob once more to find that I'd been answered: it was now unlocked. I made my way to the basement hallway: dark, its walls lined with lurid miniature recreations of Roman statues in attitudes of despair. Some sound or another urged me deeper, nearer the darker of two corridors, urged me subsume myself to its darkness. Feeling my way along finally smacking my face against a door of a very hard wood, I resumed my knocking.

“The door's open, Gerbil,” he growled at me low, but without great anger. I knew he wasn't close to the door, more likely some distance away, perched on a mantel facing the doorway as he liked to be.

I ran my fingers along the panes of his door in search of a knob: panels of woodcut scenes. Focusing deeply, I saw, as I felt, scenes of the supplication of the purgatorial defeated.

To myself, I, Gerbil Haybird, said, “Yes, this was the place where I would find the DFL.”

And I watched, and I felt, the eschatological parable unfold, as Furball Mouncie left his apartment in a change of clothes and departed for a cheesy soiree on the fourth floor of a renovated loft.

“We team up,” I said.

“‘Team up?’” DFL said.

“See, you left him alive.”

“I did.”

“Him. None of the others.”

“He's last on the list.”

“You wanted him dead. He's alive and eating to the beat as we speak. You would never resign yourself to failure. But to try again means admitting that you tried once and failed once.”

The face of the Daggerfaced Lunatic finally showed in the dim light between us. He was completely bald now and covered in black blood.

“You haven't had a chance to shower. You didn't let me finish. It's fine. We can pretend you let him go for a laugh. But let's say you help me get him. And I'll help you.”

“With what?”

“With whatever you're into. You're always into something, DFL.”

He thought for a moment in silence and “It's doable,” he said, “but not without difficulty. There's another party. He's an indoor kind. More of an investor. Has something. A business venture. So I'll see what he says.”

“When?”

“When he wakes up.”

“You know full well—as well as I know—that Furball Mouncie is forbidden to breathe.”

“That may or may not be absolutely true.”

Furball Mouncie awoke one morning in the past, breathing borrowed air. His destiny was at that moment set: to be destroyed in retaliation for his involvement in a criminal act—one unprosecutable, which he would help to commit later that day.

Because some weirdo had been snatching kids from the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park, leaving behind notes like

Grilling is easy with nine cloves
Don't overcook the rice and beans
Al dente's hard to get right
Better let that sit out all night. . .


Furball heard all about it that morning from a friend who would be dead in just one week. His and this friend’s friends knew a fellow, a weirdo; he hung out in back of a tattoo parlor.

This gang of children waited for him long after dusk and chased him down to the river.

They beat him for hours, eventually retreating gradually and in small clusters when their victim ceased to scream or call for help and seemed to accept their beating. The worst of the damage was only a punctured lung, three cracked ribs—but this fellow had been innocent. What followed was only a weighted response. Just as they knew who he was, he knew who they were: the young skatepunks of affluence who hung out in the Strawberry Fields section of Central Park.

He still has nightmares of the attack. It was no ordinary beating. Through his bleeding he was sure he saw young couples copulating wildly in the shadows, others standing around laughing and stroking their enormous erections of affluence as they watched luridly his agony. The sort of pipe for smoking crack, burning: a few of them being passed around. Local slices of pizza from paper plates. The Upper West Sidean skatepunks of affluence.

Once they had all graduated from college and returned to New York to live in renovated outer-borough lofts, each was dispatched by murder, in bathrooms, at cheesy soirees. Now Furball was the only surviving implicated. Each was found bled to death on a toilet.

I (Gerbil) met Karine at her job. She came out of the door without her two bikes. This was one of her two jobs. She didn't have two first names, only one. But two eyes, two ears, two cheeks, two thighs, two breasts, one peachy big bottom with two pretty cheeks. Gerbil (I) knew these full well. Two roommates—so some time there before he could get her alone, if that were possible.

They walked through Tompkins Square Park, past jockos deep into extremified hybrids of popular sports. Gerbil thought, “She seemed drugged.” Certainly he was, himself. And, “What if someone somehow set all this up?”

“And to what end?” she said.

“To create the illusion of an accident,” he said. “An accident: an apology, excuse, by fate,” he said.

“You make very little sense,” she said. “Though I suppose there's something comforting about it,” she said. “Sense moves toward linearity, the discovery of a linearity. Towards acceleration of that.”

He nodded serenely, knew that now she would try to bring him home despite the known roommates in his head comfortably equipped sitting folded-leg on couches eating ice cream, watching some movie.

“Ice cream is very cathartic,” he said to one of them.

“Oh?” said one of them. “Do you know all about things?”

After a time he found a way to get up and catch Karine in a corner.

“What's this about?”

“What's what?”

“Brought me to sit here on the sofa with some ice cream to scoop? Lovely pita / beef filet / cheese will perspire in heat, dear?” 

“What's with the Eatles references?” she said. “What are you trying to say?”

“Karine, you with your peachy big bottom, you treat me like a freak with an infantile sexuality. I'm so flustered that I can't tell if you’re interested. I can't make out anything you're saying or not saying.”

“Relax, Gerbil. I am interested. We're just going to stay here for a little while longer. I want to go to your place. I want to see where you sleep. I want to sleep there. Don't worry. They’re just roommates. Take these pills and all will be all right.”

Gerbil Haybird’s Postcoital Dream After Karine Has Gone

It wasn't very distinct to what had actually happened that night, except that at the end Karine sang a sad song which told of her dissatisfaction with Gerbil’s lovemaking, and together they danced and wept. But every time he called her by her name she shrieked like some terrible bird to correct him: that her name was Karina, not Karine. And then Gerbil screamed, in the voice of a cartoon mouse: “I know what this is! I've been here before!”

He looked to the doorway and there stood Furball dressed like a farcical imp. Then came shadowy figures who held Gerbil down and forced him to watch as Furball grabbed Karine, or Karina, and disappeared with her into the blood-soaked bathroom. He listened to her happy song of lovemaking as the shadow monsters pinned him down, groping his bare stomach, their fingers going everywhere. The song grew louder until the walls themselves sprouted their own hideous hirsute ears which bled. The fat shadow monsters grasped for Gerbil’s penis and out of their dark mass emerged a blubbery man-mountain caked with rouge who immediately began to fellate Gerbil, hard as he fought. The ears of the walls bled with the agony of Karina's happy song of lovemaking until they rotted gangrene and popped their pustule-lobes like fleshy balloons sending a chowdery pus everywhere.

Furball awoke with this. He thought he heard rustling on the fire escape. He climbed out there into the dry humid night, looked up and, “Hello?” he said. Then he looked down at the nothing there. He returned to bed and stared at the moonlight shapes on the ceiling, unable to get back to sleep.

For hours he lay like this, until he heard a “Psst!” from the window, and leapt out of bed. Nothing in the window, but something was on the fire escape, he knew it. And he could feel something breathing through the walls. Thinking to surprise the presence curled up under the windowsill, he lunged at the window, smacking his head into an intervening dresser, and found nothing. He returned to the bed and finally slept. As he slept the faucet in the bathroom sink turned itself on and laughter reverberated deep and rich in the plumbworks.

“Where does one find a virgin,” Gerbil thought. “‘Must be twenty-one years-old.’” He called on Bouncy and asked him who we know who's a virgin or has the potential to be one. Bouncy recommended the dating app.

The young woman Gerbil pulled off Tinder was twenty-one, majoring in the history of something at NYU.

She hadn't had a relationship before, did she want to meet Gerbil for dinner sometime?

Dinner seemed like a whole big intense thing, maybe they could meet for a drink.

Well, you're only the first person I've met off this dating app thing. Well, of course you're a virgin.

High volume craft beer out of wine bottles. You want to dine with me now? How can you be sure it's only dinner you’ll have?

Won’t you make a meal out of me?

Somewhere damp and dark Gerbil’s new benefactor, this so-called other party, laughs at the young woman’s irony-unbeknownst-to-her. Before his laughter turns to the tears of the nightmares of a decade's worth of sleep.

“Some part of you trusts me more than you know you should,” Gerbil said.

Her name was Isabelle. He ran his clean, gray fingers spidery along her forearm, to the wrist, then to the nape of the wrist. “You've never met anyone like me.”

“No.” She played along. He wasn't like all the other boys, didn't just want what they wanted.

Isabelle was blondish. She somehow had a blonde face, which was damp now, like her eyes. When she blinked now it was slow motion, with thick Dutch lids of a sleepy wooden doll. They stood outside some building or other now, at some place or other, on a city street in complete darkness save moonlit.

“How can it be so dark here?”

“This is a very special street.” Now he touched her there and there, drew her to him. And she seemed to soak him up, draw him nearer in turn.

“He would have,” he thought, “rather liked to screw her.” But if he could, that meant that Furball would breathe a little bit longer.

She pressed herself to him, now safe, warm again. She might trust Gerbil. She didn't know his name was Gerbil.

In her declension, looked up into the oblong shadows of his eyes. Yes, she knew, finally, now, him, he, this boy—weep for joy! Slowly she drifted into strategic unconsciousness and the side door opened. Sleek shadow figures took her from him into the depths of the cellar. The benefactor emerged from the front entrance and took Gerbil by the elbow.

“I'd like you to come in. Through the front.”

“I thought I was done.”

“Just for a quick chat. I know what you've been told. But I have something I want to add.”

It was a dim foyer. Everything maroon. The banquet doors bolted. Not a precaution, only an amenity: the clubgoers would remain unbothered and depart in pairs at sunrise.

The benefactor drew him into an even darker corridor; through that to an office where they sat and spoke.

“I'm told you work with fish.” 

“Yes, nominally.” 

“You have a very special gift, I'm told.” 

“A gift?” 

“For cutting. I'm told you've studied—zoology, anatomy, the history of—something. At the graduate level. You're no ordinary fishslinger. You know the secret. Can cut around the major nerves and arteries. Cut meat off the animal and leave it living. Like the master itamae.”

Gerbil laughed. “It's a sick and evil practice, I’m told.”

“You have disproportionate empathy for fish.”

“Well, if you spend your days working with fish, you start to empathize with them.” The terror in its eyes as the laughing patrons ate its still breathing flesh. The fish comprehending somehow the perversity of the ritual, watching itself being eaten to death.

Furball wasn't going to allow this paranoia of his to keep him from the cheesy soiree. Especially since he learned Karina would be there. He owed it to her to show her his face. Good and drunk an hour in, he stayed by the bar, watching the door. It was Gerbil Haybird, must be. And Gerbil was harmless, but Furball must still make him harmless—Dutch courage!

Flashes of Karina's magnificent gums as she smiled at whatever she was smiling at; laughed, spoke. She must have made Furball twenty times. She must acknowledge him soon, give him something.

He walked to the dance floor as she stepped away, so he danced with the smallish olive-toned young woman who went on to dance with a long gray elegant boy. Then Gerbil danced past a tall, thin blonde, who smiled, then disappeared when something brushed against him for the third time, then disappeared. Was Gerbil here now? No one had seen him around, no.

He returned to the bar and felt a pinch, small and young-womanly; heard a body scurrying off. Yes, now it was clear. He sought the body in the crush of couples dancing. Had it been she all along? Had she invisibly winked his way?

He walked to the bathroom, did it so she could see him. He could wait there for her.

Isabelle had been unconscious for her procedure. Now she was gone. But Gerbil could not help but hear inaudible screams from the banquet hall, see invisible eyes bulging in horror from her skull. How they planned to finally end it he hadn't any idea. He swallowed what remained of the orange pills and began to sob uncontrollably, continued until he laughed uncontrollably. He stumbled along the parkside street till Upper West Sidean church bells tolled midnight and he knew that Furball was dead. But now in the fiery pit it wasn't enough to merely know. He ran for the train. He would see the porcelain brimful of Furball’s blood, see the terror of the scene, see the moment of death agony suspended in time like thick molasses.

The cops hadn't cleaned up much but the body was certainly gone. He burst through the bathroom door. As the cops dashed for him he was still weeping with laughter.

"We'll catch this bastard," said the detective, who hugged this young man tenderly.

"I know how the cops work," Gerbil said.

He found Karina, Karine, his ex-lady-friend, in the living room, full-moon pale and chattering. She ran to embrace the familiar figure.

"It was horrible," she said.

He pressed her to him. But was it enough that Furball was dead?

"I can't be alone tonight," he said.

He woke up, beside Karina, to a rapping at the window.—Nothing.

“You got me up,” she said.

She rolled over him and the softness of her calmed him. His penis grew tumid watching her trip her way to the bathroom in the nude. “Do you want anything? A glass of water?”

The blinds drew themselves shut. Darkness and Karina's yelping. The room pitch black, he felt for the light switch. Now the bathroom door slammed itself shut and he heard her death agonies. The shadowy figures burst through the glass and made for him in his bed. They held him fast and waited for the lunatic to emerge from the bathroom, which he did, still covered in black blood and now sporting a rainbow afro.

He walked to Gerbil’s bed, removing from his pockets a small vial.

“Where's Furball?”

“Furball’s dead, Gerbil.”

The DFL smeared onto his nose dagger what appeared to be some kind of unguent.

“Where am I?” said Gerbil.

The DFL plunged his beak into Gerbil’s chest.

And as we twine our fishing poles
Our shadow henchmen sucking poles
There swims a mermaid we all know
Who drinks white wine and nibbles roe. . .


Gerbil awoke entirely numb, strapped to the groaning table. He looked down to the end, down below his neck, at who was there, and he didn't stop laughing until the dawn.