Max & the Infernal Orchestra of Buzzings by Cody John Laplante

It was there and then it was gone. Gone so far that even when Max tried to recall what it had been like before he could have no idea if what he was recalling was that or just the shadow play of similar shapes. He had finally been asleep, and then not. So not. The mysteries of withheld sleep seem sometimes unfathomable and other times as blunt as a brick wall. Earlier, Max had taken the route of running into the brick wall until he thereby achieved several hours of sleep.

Now his head was pounding and his eyes were wide. When he closed them, he plummeted into his buzzing brain, which he didn’t like at all. He stared at the ceiling, far too perturbed to try masturbating his way out. It was not at all like the ceiling he used to stare at, not even in the deep blue darkness. The old ceiling was perfectly flat. It seemed to glow and grow towards its edges. The new ceiling was spangled with those awful little crumbs that he could never understand. They cast tiny spiky shadows on themselves darker than the deep blue darkness. The ceiling was making a move to consume him.

Oh no,
he thought.
I feel like the ceiling is trying
to eat me.

He groaned.

Oh god,
he thought.
I hope I hope nobody
hears me.

But mostly he thought about the buzzings. They were even more encroaching. It was the likes of them that shook him like a piggy bank. They were the ones that took sleep and sent her so far off.

The shadows in his new room were darker than the shadows in their old room. The streetlights were further off. He used to think he hated their light but now he knew he didn’t. What Max’s body used to do when he didn’t give it enough of the drugs it wanted, it did now. He could never tell if it was allowed. Libby told him it was, and that he should cut it out, but he couldn’t believe that. Maybe he could restrain it with the utmost effort, but certainly the choreography of the spasm wasn’t conceived of in his own consciousness. That seemed preposterous. Some wicked tremor passing through the night, then, just manifested itself inside him when he was a particularly sensitive and vulnerable target. It is not hard to believe that wicked tremors pass often enough through the night.

The buzzings then,
he thought (eureka!)
are coming from without
and, distressed as I am, I
cannot block them out.
Then the only way
to get enough sleep
to live another day,
he thought,
is to destroy them all.

Max lay still in his bed differently now. A bit more electricity was cracking through him. Hopes had inflated his chest a bit. If he wasn’t sleeping now at least he had an idea of what he needed to do before he slept. Like a ghost that had just found out why it’s still around, he stayed still and became the buzzings.

I think,
he thought,
there are about five
one of them so high
I can only hear it
with my teeth, but
maybe there’s more.
Let’s see.

Max’s body (which only a minute ago couldn’t have been fucked to muster any movement at all) suddenly got out of bed without even thinking once. It walked gently over to its desk, recognized the familiar reflection cast by its pipe and the shadow cast by any lighter, lit a little fire, and brought the weed smoke so deep into itself that it and the ash became indistinguishable. Now Max felt more. He hugged his knees on the floor and tried to decipher the layers between him and silence.

The low and therefore slow buzz.

The hum
could be two hums.

The buzz I can only hear in my teeth.

The buzz that just sounds like the air

The far off swarm of bees buzz.
the succubus electrocuting my nipples buzz
that never seems to stop.

Many of these buzzings he had been over before, but never had he attempted a sketch of the infernal symphony in its entirety. Max snapped out of his deep-thought pose jumped to his feet. Then he fell over. For a second he had entered a void and thought there was nothing: not enough blood in his head to keep his body running.

Holy fuck:
I better watch out.

The buzzings came back into focus with the rest of everything. He stood up very slowly. The lamp was off. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the infernal orchestra but when he unplugged the cord he couldn’t detect a difference.

I think something
he thought,
but I don’t know.

The alarm clock made the most awful buzz when it woke him up for work and at all other times it made a quiet awful buzz. He unplugged it. Three o’clock disappeared. Somehow the sound diminished but it didn’t lose a voice.

The orchestra
must be more wicked
than I imagined,
he imagined, overwhelmed but ready for battle.

Max scratched his head, scratched his nuts, and crept into the living room. Whether he was creeping to surprise the buzzings or out of politeness for his roommates he will never know. His spindly figure, darker than the dark blue, picked its way carefully through the unseen obstacles, lifting its legs high and waving his arms not so unlike that of the Grinch as it attempted to steal away a whole holiday.

There was quite a frightful army of octopi connecting all of the televisions, cable boxes, modems and wi-fi to the rest of the world. A dozen different little lights were blinking and various buzzes and whirrs were made. Max went right for the mainline and tugged out the two surge protectors. Then he said “ahhhhhhh” like the monkey had finally been fed and he lay down long across the carpet to reflect.

Fucking Christless almighty!
He thought, I think I’ve ridden
myself of the buzzing teeth.

In fact, Max had wrongly consolidated two separate buzzings. The buzzing he could only hear in his teeth had turned out to mask or have just played a superficial part of a larger buzzing. He tilted his head. He became antenna. He donned this newly revealed buzz as the dentist drill buzz and made his way towards the corner lamp.

I think
it was the reference
that tricked me
dammit! Another one.

The light of this lamp
is awful.
The design of this lamp
is awful.
I should throw it
into a fucking dumpster.

Instead, Max tilted his head and unplugged the tatty corner lamp. Mightn’t the dentist drill buzz have got further away? Nobody knew. Thus began the minor appliance unpluggings, eleven to be exact.

I’m pretty sure
the dentist drill buzz
fades a little
with every appliance
I unplug.

Max was also pretty sure that the majority of the hummings were coming from the refrigerator/freezer but he didn’t want to unplug it. The buzzings were still buzzing up quite a number in his head. Neither could he open any of the doors to any of his roommate’s rooms in which they were all presumably and evidently sleeping. Just imagining the tiny buzzings of all their little machines drove him more than half mad but he could not wake the sleepers, not at this desperate hour, with this desperate mission.

The air is still hissing…

The bees are still swarming
albeit further-off…

The succubus is still sucking…

The drills are still drilling…

A torrential slew of buzzings emerged from every part of the city and traversed every part of the city. They collided, penetrated, diffused and stressed. Max collapsed onto his bed. It hadn’t been enough. He was still overwrought. The cacophony of buzzings was simply too much for him to bear. He scratched his head. He rolled around. He used his feet to wrap the sheet around his feet and then kicked them out of it again. He thought about the buzzings.

I have to try.

The cellar was a no-mans land. Tenants from decades ago had left their mattresses and they had now rotted to resemble the cavities of a sick animal. Spider’s old webs like smoker’s old lungs. Air conditioners melting into black. The dampness of fear itself. But if you just opened the door and only went one step down, you could quite easily access the electric box that controlled the current to the whole property.

Max tiptoed to the cellar door. Blackness poured out, a humming returned, the dentist drill got closer. The air got thicker and wetter. He flicked on the light and it darted down the stairs, burned into his eyes, cast his lanky arm in front of his brow. He opened the electric box for the first time. It was filled with things beyond his comprehension simplified into binary switches. All of the switches were facing one way. Max closed one of his eyes and flipped all of the switches the other way.

Fuck. Off.

And everything sort of did. All the little machines everywhere just stopped, off went their lights, halted were their little whirring parts, silenced were their hummings and buzzings. He exhaled deeply and felt like it was deeper than he had exhaled in a long time. In the same gesture he opened his eye, which helped better define the deep blue but discombobulated his reception.

He tiptoed back to his room and listened.


he exhaled in relief again, because the buzzings were in fact much fainter. In the same moment he realized that he was doomed. This is a realization he came to so often he was amazed that he ever even forgot it.

Inevitably doomed
is redundant.

It was much better. The dentist drill was inaudible and his teeth were at relative peace. He was shaken by no external hummings, perturbed by no nearby swarms buzzing, albeit the air still hissed and he still felt the succubus’s constant sucking.

Even if his little bubble was unelectrified, the whole world was still electrified. All around him. But wait.

The succubus didn’t let up.
Not one little bit.
And the hiss neither.
Is it her?!

The bowl still lay on Max’s desk, still staining the same shadow, still partially packed. Max went over to his desk, took the last crispy hit of weed, and had a revelation. Namely that some of buzzings come from within. Maybe tinnitus, maybe little bits whirring, maybe the moaning of a soul ill-fitting. He inhaled again and though it wasn’t nearly as deep as the inhale which had taken in the weed he felt as if he had inhaled illumination. Like somehow had earned and been granted some mana that would enable him to keep going.

Max laid down in his bed and felt that he had accomplished at least enough to be able to masturbate. He chose a subject very far away, an old favorite. Someone he hadn’t seen since 10th grade. Nothing fancy, just some innocent seduction, some handsy foreplay and, of course, the act itself. At the most rigorous point he realized that his thoughts were so saturated with playground-love that he could not even feel the eternal electrocution of the succubus and that his naming of said buzzing could not have been more appropriate. When he finished it was as if she had stopped, taken a break, gone to smoke a cig before starting up the torture again.


Max was often awake at the precious moment when the birds started singing and usually he even relied on them to overtake the buzzings with their joyous melodies. This moment, unregistered by any clock but nonetheless perfectly on time, tweeted itself into being.

Now that is something
worth listening to.

Even though the air in his ears still hissed, Max had found peace and he had nearly achieved sleep. He closed his eyes and imagined himself balleting around town to the melody of the morning birds, chopping apart every electric connection he passed with giant wire cutters.

Cody John Laplante is a toppling man of letters trying to copy and paste himself into the future. You can follow his eking @ his sloppyblog.