The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

Shaharazad and the 10,001 Diluvian Knights
(link to main page of novel)


August 1, 2020
So paranoid was Cole that he might once again be accosted that he rented a vehicle to reclaim the vaccine. He timed his departure from the apartment such that he drove the ninety minutes out to the rural county early in the morning of the same day as their departure. On a Saturday, traffic was light. He still did not know if Elaine would accompany them. He first passed the abandoned filling station, where he had deposited the second meteorite, before turning around a mile later. He repeated the same rapid maneuver as when the meteor had arrived, just a few nights before though it seemed like a month. Observing no other traffic on the county road, he pulled the car off at the station. With the engine still running, he jumped from the vehicle and raced across the gravel lot, dodging the rain-filled potholes. In the restroom, he lifted the lid from the tank and retrieved the meteorite. Of course it was still there; the future, no less than the past, was known to Shaharazad. She would not have tolerated him abandoning the vaccine in a spot where it would have been stolen. He felt a measure of security once he was back on the highway, driving toward the city to pick up Halley, and perhaps Elaine, before heading directly to the airport.

written while listening to:  Sanhedrin - unreleased live recording, track 1 (August 1, 2020, Goodman, Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan, live streaming)

August 2, 2020
We suppose that Cole then experienced what he regarded as the worst moment of his life. He arrived at the house to find Halley in tears. Elaine had confiscated first her passport and second her cellphone so that she could not alert her father to her mother's abrupt change in plans. He was invited into the front room only so that the spectacle of this family drama should be kept private from the neighbors. Elaine adamantly refused not only to accompany them to Korea, but also to allow Halley to join him. "If you don't tell me what is going on, Halley cannot go!"

Halley stood not six feet away beside her packed luggage. Tears of outrage streamed down her face.

Cole had no time to mince words. They had to leave for the airport if they were to catch their flight. "The world is going to end," said Cole. "There is to be a sanctuary established on the Korean peninsula."

Silence reigned in the house. Halley's sobbing ceased. Elaine turned to her daughter and declared, "I told you that your father had gone mad." Halley fixed Cole with a look of helpless incomprehension. Elaine next ordered Cole out of the house.

"Please come with me," he begged.

"Out!" she shouted as she had never before shouted at her husband.

Cole obeyed. The end of the world was coming. He could not expect it to be anything but horrible.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (May 3, 2016, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 3, 2020
In a daze, Cole returned the rental car at the airport then checked his suitcase and headed to the security gate. He had opted to keep the meteorite in his carry-on bag rather than risk losing it. While he had agonized protractedly over the past few days about smuggling it through airport security, it turned out to be a simple matter. After passing through the metal detector, he was waved aside. One of the attendants opened his bag and observed the meteorite. It was rough and Cole had not had time to clean it; it looked like a rock, unremarkable save for its spherical geometry. No hint of technology could be discerned. Moreover, all of Cole's anxiety was focused on leaving his family behind. He had nothing left to become agitated about the possibility that the vaccine would be confiscated. Therefore, in a disinterested voice he described the object as a stone, a geological specimen, which he was delivering to a friend in Korea.

"A geode?" said the security agent, apparently knowledgeable about such things and of a mind to pass the time in an amiable way.

"Of a sort," Cole agreed with a wan smile. On that note, Cole was set loose into the terminal.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 3 (May 3, 2016, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 4, 2020
The two seats that Cole had reserved for Halley and Elaine were occupied neither on the short flight to Atlanta nor the long flight to Seoul. At this time of year, Seoul was thirteen hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. Combined with the long air time, Cole left early in the morning on a Tuesday and arrived at noon on Wednesday. A day had disappeared in transit. He found himself wishing that all such days ahead of him would similarly vanish.

Having slept fitfully on the plane, he staved off the jet lag as best he could since he had several more hours of travel ahead of him. He was greeted politely by a neatly dressed customs agent, who silently examined his passport. Cole had not endeavored to learn a word of Korean. He had relied on Halley, who had promised to know at least, "thank you" and a few other essential phrases. Still, the signage at Incheon was abundant and multilingual. Without trouble, he was able to purchase a subway ticket from a machine and arrive at Seoul station an hour later. Wandering through long underground tunnels, he found the lobby. The travel agent had pre-purchased his ticket, so he waited until his platform was open for boarding. Through-out this journey, the buzz of a language he could not understand filled his ears. It comforted him since he found familiarity in not comprehending the world around him.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 4 (May 3, 2016, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 5, 2020
Daegu was a metropolitan city with over two and half million residents. In every aspect, it struck Cole as a proper, modern city with a dense population. From the balcony of his fifth floor hotel room, long blocks of identical high-rise apartments dominated the view. The staff in the hotel had been meticulously polite and well organized. They had provided him with paper bills, roughly one thousand won to the dollar, adding the total to the bill for the room. With this money, he had purchased a bottle of whiskey from the bar across the street. Whiskey was apparently an international term for he encountered no difficulty in acquiring it.

Thus seated in a chair on the balcony of his hotel room, Cole poured another shot of whiskey into one of the ceramic coffee cups provided in his room. Setting the mug down, he picked up the meteorite, which had been resting in his lap. He held it between his two hands and with a firm twist, the two halves unlocked. It was a simple matter of unscrewing the two parts, no more than four or five full rotations, until he held a hemisphere in each hand. The contents of the bowls appeared as a cloudy, white, glistening paste. He did not touch it. Instead, he set the pair of hemispheres face up on the table on the balcony. Although it was warm, he left the balcony door open through-out the night.

written while listening to:  Fushitsusha - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April 13, 1983, Jam, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 6, 2020
Because Shaharazad projected a facsimile of herself across cosmic distances, she had no more difficulty visiting Cole in Korea than she had in America. If she experienced a sense of satisfaction that the vaccine had been released, surely a critical step in the relocation process of the diluvian knights, she did not betray it. Cole had neither expected nor desired words of congratulations, but the total absence of any acknowledgment of his actions disturbed him.

"I opened the second meteorite," he said to the pale blue mass of tentacles. "It's out there on the balcony." Even this direct reference to the matter at hand drew no response.

Cole woke to the ringing of the hotel phone just as the sun was rising. A woman on the phone communicated in her best English, sprinkled with Korean phrases, that he was to come to the lobby immediately. The language barrier prevented him from fully understanding the purpose. He dressed hurriedly. As he went to close the balcony door, he noticed that the contents of the two hemispheres had evaporated overnight.

written while listening to:  Nijiumu - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April, 1990, unknown venue, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 7, 2020
In the lobby, a tour guide waited to take Cole and his family to the sacred mountain, Palgongsan, a trip which Cole had promised Halley and reserved through the travel agent. The guide was visibly disappointed to find only one member of the group. Cole repeatedly tried to beg out of going, insisting that he wanted no refund, but the guide seemed to fear forfeiting his fee all the same and refused to take no for an answer. In the end, the middle-aged man's desperate pleas caused Cole to take pity on him. He climbed into a small van for the forty-minute drive north.

The man's English consisted only of phrases he might speak with tourists. Since Cole was the only other person in the vehicle, conversation was sparse. They followed a highway, which soon left the city and began to wind through forested, mountainous terrain. A dense fog enveloped the van, followed quickly by rain. With gestures, the guide reassured Cole, pointing to plastic ponchos stored in the back. He was prepared to accommodate those intrepid pilgrims who sought an audience with the Gatbawi Buddha seated at the peak of Palgongsan even in the middle of monsoon season.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April 9, 2016, Café OTO, London, England, digital file)

August 8, 2020
Palgongsan was a popular trek on sunny, spring weekends, but on a rainy Thursday in August, Cole had little company. "Two kilometers," the tour guide said, then added, "Only one path." By this he intended to indicate that Cole could find his own way while he waited in the van. Garbed in a poncho, Cole left the van.

Bordered by forest and scattered boulders, the path was packed hard with centuries of foot traffic, so the steady rain did not turn it to mud. Not far up the slope, the route entered the front gate of a walled compound containing a Buddhist temple and wandered through it before emerging from the back gate. A few other hardy visitors, equipped with colorful hiking gear, passed Cole, who paused to observe the architecture and decorations of the temple, sights which his eyes had never seen. A lone, gray-robed monk watched him ambivalently from beneath a curved eave.

At least the last half of the trek consisted of stone stairs roughly cut into the side of the mountain. Cole had never ascended a kilometer of stairs before, much less one that was slick with rain. It was exactly the kind of exhausting task, which he hoped would help to clear his mind.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (August 29, 2015, Moog Sound Lab, Ace Hotel, London, England, digital file)

August 9, 2020
A tarp was spread over the stone platform where the faithful could pray, sheltered from the rain, before the stone Buddha. As for the statue itself, it was left to endure the elements. Cut from granite in about 640 AD, it had no need of protection. Sitting thirteen feet tall, the Buddha had a flat square hat on its head, called Gatbawi, or stone hat, from which its name was taken. Shelves of votive candles filled wooden cabinets along the side of the shrine. Another solitary monk solicitously greeted those who arrived, with the exception of Cole who received only a nod, having no common language between them.

Cole wished for fluency in Korean at that moment because he suddenly was overcome by the urge to climb up on the stone platform and lie down in the rain at the feet of the Buddha. He imagined that if he lay there through night fall, then Shaharazad would appear, her body magnified and her luminescent tentacles juxtaposed over the solemn face of the statue. That would really be something. We know Cole to be an intensely private man, who kept his thoughts to himself, so, of course, he did not attempt to express his desire to the monk.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (August 8, 2020, Bar Isshee, Sendagi, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 10, 2020
That night, Shaharazad bid Cole cut short his visit to Daegu by issuing a fourth set of coordinates. He was to be back home by midnight Saturday. When he woke on Friday morning, he immediately rebooked his flight. The earliest available flight left Incheon on Saturday morning and, because of the time change, would but him back in Atlanta by noon on Saturday. He packed his bag and took the KTX north to Seoul. He left the two open bowls, which had once together formed the shell of a meteorite, on the balcony of the hotel in Daegu. They had filled with rain. He wondered briefly what would become of them. Would the hotel cleaning staff, finding them abandoned by a patron, throw them in the garbage? On the exterior, the two hemispheres did not possess any special esthetic appeal, though the metallic interior was smooth and iridescent and in shape reminded Cole of a peach from which the pit had been removed. Perhaps, the bowls would catch someone's eye and be salvaged. In any case, their origin and their role in the deluge would remain unknown. Cole hoped the same fate for himself.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (August 12, 2015, Liseberg Amusement Park, Taubescenen, Gothenberg, Sweden, digital file)

August 11, 2020
On Saturday afternoon, when Cole arrived back home at his apartment, he found the front door unlocked. Exhausted as he was, his pulse quickened as he stepped into the room. He was sure that he had locked it when he left but doubt played with his memory. The apartment could not be described as ransacked because Cole had no furniture, only a mattress and clothes stacked in the closet. The thought that the maintenance man might have forgotten to lock the door after coming by to check the air conditioner or some other innocuous explanation did not occur to Cole. He was instantly convinced that the same group of people who had broken into Elaine's house had discovered that he no longer lived there and had paid his apartment a visit. Thinking of Elaine, he called her to make sure that no one had returned to her house for a second search. When she did not answer, he called Halley as well, with whom he was also obliged to leave a message. He sent them both text messages, which went unanswered, before returning to his truck and heading to the house.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (June 6, 2015, Screamscape, Fribourg, Switzerland, digital file)

August 12, 2020
No one came to the door, despite Cole's persistent knocking. He again phoned then texted both Elaine and Halley from the front porch, but received no reply. He justified using the key to the house still in his possession on the basis that this situation could be regarded as an emergency. Inside, he found nothing amiss. Although his wife and daughter were not present, Cole's being was permeated by the residual signs still present--Halley's jacket slung over a chair at the table, the novel that Elaine had been reading left on the coffee table, the smell of both women that hung in their respective bedrooms. Even as he was inundated with the comfort brought by exposure to the incidental traces of their lives, Cole perceived himself in the role of trespasser, invading the privacy of their home, breathing in their lingering scent without their knowledge or permission. He opted not to leave a note on the counter. Instead, he removed any trace of his visit and left the house in precisely the same perfect state as he had found it.

written while listening to:  Vibration Society - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 19, 1978, Meiji University Kinenkan, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 13, 2020
It drew toward evening and Cole was stricken with a sense of oppression as the appointed hour of his rendezvous with the first meteorite drew inexorably nigh. His anxiety was exacerbated by his inability to reach Elaine and Halley, not that it mattered for any practical purpose. They had foregone their vaccination. Their doom was at hand. Cole would have liked to say farewell or at least to torture himself with their company in their last hours. He supposed that he had time to return to his apartment for an hour or two before returning south to the riverbank where the meteorite waited. Even on Saturday evening, there would be traffic; he judged this a miserable way to spend the final day before the deluge. Of course, Cole maintained by choice as much as by nature a small circle of acquaintances, so his options were limited. Ultimately, he drove unannounced to his mother's house, where the squids of old had once seen fit to regularly pay him visits.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-7 (December 30, 2014, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 14, 2020
Seated across the kitchen table from the old woman, it took an impending apocalypse for Cole to see his mother for the first time. From age four she had raised him. Only she recalled the details of his life before she claimed him, which existed as indistinct, submerged sensations in his own memory. He would never again have the chance to ask her all the questions that he had kept within himself. Of course, Cole did not ask them now. Nor did he confide to her that the distance, which had always existed between them, was due to a trio of squids that had nightly invaded her house. She had not been able to detect their presence much less protect her son from their influence. This oldest of Cole's secrets he would not spoil at this late date. There existed between mother and son only the indisputable bond of a shared history. She sensed something was wrong but did not probe him on the matter; he would speak of it or not of his own volition. Cole told her that he had just gotten back from Korea. He described his ascent of the sacred mountain, where he had come face to face with the giant Gatbawi Buddha who stared at him with his great granite eyes and dared him to cultivate with himself the strength to endure the ages with as much composure as the statue seated before him.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-5 (March 30, 2014, Scruffy City Hall, Big Ears Festival, Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, digital files)

August 15, 2020
Cole stayed with his mother late into the night. It was unusual for him to do so, but both parties refrained from commenting on the anomaly. They parted with a sense of finality that only Cole wholly understood.

His mother's house was located not far from stretch of river where Cole had hidden the first meteorite. He drove directly there. The road followed each curve of the river for a span of three or four miles so he drove slowly in an attempt to locate the precise spot of his previous visit. Alerted by a bend in the road, a sign warning of further sharp turns ahead, and a section of broad shoulder that gave way from gravel to grass, Cole pulled the car over. With flashlight in hand, he clambered down the wooded slope, attempting to maintain a straight line in the dark. It proved more difficult than he had imagined and Cole feared that it would take him hours of over-turning every rock on the bank to find the one beneath which the meteorite lay. He would be late for the apocalypse!

Unfortunately, his prediction of being unable to locate the meteorite proved unfounded. A familiar tree extended over the river. Beneath its boughs, an arrangement of rocks beckoned Cole. One in particular seemed to draw his attention. Shifting it aside, he reached into the small pocket of water and retrieved the meteorite.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (January 18, 2014, Fever, Shindaita, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 16, 2020
As observers, we intrude as unobtrusively as possible, in this moment reserved for moonlight, orchestrated to the night song of crickets and frogs, the rustle of the languid river against the bank. That the world should come to an end disturbed Cole not in the least. Everyone knew that the material that fueled the life of the sun was finite. It was only a matter of choosing one's moment and setting the terms of the exit. Shaharazad had promised a deluge rendered in the gentle form of euthanasia. These terms, as flawed as they were, nevertheless Cole deemed acceptable. Seated on a flat stone on the riverbank, Cole drew a deep breath. Without fanfare, he twisted the two halves of the meteorite until they separated. He pulled them apart and held the two bowls out, one in each hand, exposing the contents to Earth's atmosphere. The white paste within glistened in the light of the moon. When his arms grew tired, he set the bowls down on stones to either side of him. This was the first night since Shaharazad's initial appearance that she did not come to visit him, for he remained awake in the woods, his joints growing stiff as he waited for the sun to rise over a world submerged beneath a cataclysmic flood.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-3 (October 7, 2013, MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), Houston, Texas, United States, digital files)

August 17, 2020
Across the Earth, ten thousand heralds opened ten thousand meteorites, each holding the same contents. The ten thousand points had been selected by the diluvian knights not only for geographical proximity to the associated herald but also to geometrically span all inhabited areas. Moreover, they had crafted a deluge that traveled by all possible means: air, water, touch. It replicated itself with speed from the most common of elements. As it had on countless other planets before Earth, the deluge spread from each release point as easily as the smell of smoke circulated through a house about to burn. Yet the deluge was odorless and its progress undetectable. One can visualize a map of the globe upon which each herald served as the center of a gradually expanding circle. Inside each growing perimeter all creatures were exposed to the deluge. Within a matter of hours, the circumference of individual circles met and merged, one after another. Before a day had passed, the entire surface would be covered.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, tracks 4-6 (October 7, 2013, MECA (Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts), Houston, Texas, United States, digital files)

August 18, 2020
Shaharazad had promised euthanasia, a calm, easy death without physical pain. Mental anguish, however, could not be as thoroughly eliminated. It was true that the deluge only impacted those who were asleep. Once they went to sleep based on their own schedule, they simply never woke up. However, the ten thousand heralds had unleashed the deluge across the face of the Earth at the same moment. As a result, the local time and therefore the relationship of the release to the normal sleep cycle varied. In parts of the world where the deluge emerged at night, a vast majority of the population never rose from their beds. Those who, for whatever reason, remained awake through the night, faced the same prospect as residents of other time zones, who discovered the deluge in their inability to rouse loved ones who had dozed during the day. It is rather a macabre understatement to describe as mental anguish the collective horror of mothers across many lands who lay infants down for a midday nap only to discover that they could not be revived.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (June 30, 2013, Club Mission, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital file)

August 19, 2020
It was to be a short-lived horror. The deluge spread quickly; there was no time for the lords of data analytics to communicate to the populace the message that each individual instance was triggered by sleep. In many places, people did not attempt to stave off sleep. They passed a single day burdened by panic, confusion and grief before succumbing to the relief brought on by weariness, from which they did not rise. Those who were talented at pattern recognition and hypothesized, based on the abundant evidence before them, that sleep was the culprit could themselves only prolong their lives for another day or two at most. Members of the military as well as private citizens who had prepared for the end times hid away in underground bunkers. However, the filters in the ventilations systems of such sanctuaries had not been tested against the deluge of the diluvian knights and proved ineffectual at preventing its transmission. Across the world, within the span of twenty-four hours, the deluge had done its work. Ninety-nine percent of humanity was euthanized. The remaining roughly eighty million people were concentrated on one of two peninsulas.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 20, 2020
This we might regard as the conclusion of the third of the five steps of the diluvian knights in their planetary migration. However, the aliens were fastidious creatures with a vision focused on long-term results. They were not prone to ignore loose ends. There yet remained tasks before they would judge the planet to be properly rehabilitated for their occupation.

For example, living organisms were imbued with a variability that collectively provided species with remarkable resilience. Although the deluge had been engineered to euthanize indiscriminately, sparing only those who had been vaccinated, it was not perfect. The diluvian knights predicted that one in a million unvaccinated individuals would survive the deluge. The particular combinations of genetic material and environmental circumstance that led to survival were too random to be calculated beforehand. However, the diluvian knights, for whom the future was as accessible as the past, knew this outcome to be true. Across the Earth, about eight thousand individuals initially emerged from the deluge outside the prescribed boundaries of the two refuges left standing. Eight thousand may seem a small number, especially when they each woke alone among the corpses of their fellow human beings, but, as we have noted, the diluvian knights were meticulous in their accounting, especially when it came to honoring the sacrifice of those who had given up their lives so that a stable ecosystem could flourish.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 21, 2020
In a country such as the United States with a population of three-hundred and thirty million people, there remained but three-hundred and thirty individuals whom the deluge had left behind. The great metropolises of North America were reduced by this same proportion. Twenty lonely souls, unaware of each other, wandered through the New York City region, from Poughkeepsie in the north to Middletown, New Jersey in the south. In the greater Chicago area, only ten individuals survived, but one was a small child, who proved unable to fend for herself. She expired before three days had passed. Los Angeles, Phoenix and Atlanta had twelve, five and six survivors respectively. Seven survivors lingered in Houston, two of whom discovered each other after days of drifting alone through a city rank with the stench of corpses, only to agree, in their despondency, to a suicide pact. The entire state of Kansas was left with three individuals distributed in distantly separated rural settings. One, the wife of a cattle rancher, found company in a thousand head of feeder cattle and a collection of horses, dogs, cats and chickens.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 22, 2020
The fate of the ten-thousand heralds was to succumb to the deluge along with their fellow human beings. The heralds had found within themselves the strength to achieve a vision for the betterment of humanity, while at the same time recognizing that they could not continue to live having asked so great a sacrifice from so many around them. The diluvian knights had selected their heralds based on these criteria of single-mindedness and humility, knowing that their period of service would be brief. Previous planetary migrations had taught them that allowing the heralds to dwell among the survivors resulted only in guilt-wracked individuals who were unable to contribute productively to society after the flood waters had receded.

There were two exceptions to this destiny, a concession only to practical necessity. Those two heralds who had delivered the vaccine to the two sites of refuge were themselves inoculated. They persisted, two among the eight thousand wandering the abandoned lands, their labor not yet finished.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 23, 2020
When Cole went to sleep, he was not completely certain that he would wake. He understood that he had been exposed to the vaccine while in Daegu but Shaharazad had never explicitly stated that he would be counted among the survivors and, notably, he had never asked. However, she visited him as he slept on the mattress on the floor of his apartment. She presented no sign that anything of importance had transpired since their last meeting.

For his part, Cole had experienced a day in which those residents of the city, who had not yet slept, quickly discovered that there was something terribly wrong. On the television frantic and disconnected reports had appeared, describing the same events repeated across the world. Of the sanctuaries no word was said. Cole had turned the news off and waited for night in solitude.

The tentacles that covered the oral disc of Shaharazad waved languidly, their bioluminescence an alien semaphore transmitting a message along a medium to which Cole, wholly lacking the proper sensory apparatus, was not attuned.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 24, 2020
Cole waited for further instructions from Shaharazad. While he had initially isolated himself in his apartment, he eventually was forced to abandon it because the smell of decomposing bodies in the adjacent apartments moved through the ventilation ducts until the entire building was permeated. That his neighbors had died in their beds did not disturb Cole; that was merely a consequence of the merciful act of euthanasia. They had expired peacefully in their sleep. Moreover, they had been freed from the daily struggle of working multiple jobs, making the rent and all the sundry logistics of surviving in modern society. To be sure, part of Cole envied them their deaths. Still, he exhibited a biological revulsion to the overwhelming odor of putrefaction. If he could not dwell in the apartment, he supposed that he could return to Elaine's house. It was familiar to him and he did not expect to find any corpses there. However, the notion of living within arm's reach of their ephemera seemed a challenge that he ultimately deemed beyond his ability to manage.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 2 (May 3, 2013, Showboat, Koenji, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 25, 2020
Cole was no longer interested in the logistics of living, but, as he started the engine of the pickup truck, he also accepted that he needed gasoline. He knew that larger gas stations were equipped with generators to pump gas during natural disasters but he did not know whether the electronics required to activate the pumps still functioned. Having hidden himself in his apartment over the past few days, Cole could not know that in the ensuing panic, all stations had been drained by unscrupulous men seeking either to secure fuel for themselves or turn to profiteering. These hoarders, regardless of their intentions, now guarded their stockpiles in death.

He drove south, passing no signs of life save the most ordinary songbirds and a stray cat. The streets were perfectly clear. Not a single moving vehicle crossed his path nor did abandoned cars block the streets. The diluvian knights had allowed everyone to drive home and come to rest in the comfort of their beds. Under the best circumstances, they would have been surrounded by family.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Chie Mukai & Masayoshi Urabe - unreleased live recording, track 1 (March 18, 1989, Donzoko House, Kyoto, Japan, digital files)

August 26, 2020
To be clear, Cole's intent was to find a house in which no one had died to install himself. He supposed that he was the only person still living in the city, so he should have had his pick of any such house. However, he did not want to be accused of inviting a global cataclysm simply to acquire greater material comforts. (Of course, there was only one person left from whom he could defend himself.) So, he did not venture into wealthy neighborhoods. His impulse was to return to his childhood neighborhood, though not his mother's house, since she rarely left it; that house surely served as her tomb. Instead he found a similar neighborhood well away from it, with which he had no previous association. The front yards were modest but green. He walked along several blocks. He tried front doors, which were generally locked. He had no intentions of vandalism and opted not to break any windows. In fact, he was fastidious in his efforts to leave everything exactly as he found it. He settled on a one-story house with an unlocked back door and an interior free of the smell of decay. There were two bedrooms, one with a double bed. He changed the sheets with clean ones folded compactly in the linen closet.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & bugs cry what - unreleased live recording, tracks 1-2 (August 18, 2020, Q Art Workshop, Seijo, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 27, 2020
That night Shaharazad had no difficulty finding Cole in his new lodgings. She did not chastise him for acting as if the rest of his days were to be spent in idleness, dwelling in the emptied city of his birth. Instead, she described to him his next task.

The eight thousand Homo sapiens who were presently scraping by in the abandoned lands could not be ignored. If left alone, such a number, or some portion thereof, could aggregate and stabilize, before expanding uncontrollably in population just as humanity had done before. The diluvian knights intended for the effects of the deluge to be permanent. As had been the precedent set by the original sacrifice of their own race, they desired that, on any given planet, the deluge never need be repeated.

As this communication transpired, Cole began to comprehend his mission. He would be asked to travel the world and extinguish those lives who had survived the deluge without the blessing of the diluvian knights. While it may seem inexplicable for a herald who had ushered in genocide on a global scale, this variety of murder, one individual at a time, fell utterly outside Cole's capacity.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & bugs cry what - unreleased live recording, tracks 3-4 (August 18, 2020, Q Art Workshop, Seijo, Tokyo, Japan, digital files)

August 28, 2020
In fact a world tour of murder was not at all what Shaharazad proposed. Rather, this wild fantasy stemmed from the mixture of Cole's natural imagination and paranoia, aggravated by the apocalypse. Before he reached out to uselessly strangle what he knew to be only a projection, Shaharazad clarified his task. He was to collect the stragglers and bring them to one of the two peninsular refuges. While this charge, framed as a rescue mission, was certainly more palatable to Cole than killing the survivors of the deluge, he did not relish it. Immediately, his mind filled with the myriad challenges associated with locating eight thousand individuals scattered across the planet, traveling to them, and leading them across oceans to a sanctuary. He did not even know the location of one of the refuges. On this last point, Shaharazad agreed that their plan had been designed with redundancy in mind to vouchsafe the continuation of the human race had one of the vaccinating heralds failed to perform. Shaharazad assured Cole that residents of the two refuges had already discovered each other, but she did not, at that time, provide him with coordinates to the second sanctuary.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (April 11, 2013, The Empty Bottle, Chicago, Illinois, United States, digital file)

August 29, 2020
At dawn, Cole wandered through the city of the dead. He had risen early, plagued by scenes in which he rehearsed his explanation to each survivor of the deluge. He wanted both to justify his actions at the same time as he had no desire to defend himself. Let all who met him judge him no less harshly than he deserved.

It was an empty act of defiance, to do nothing. For a day, Cole refused to capitulate to the demands of the diluvian knights. Above all he felt that he had left the daily demands of civilized life behind him. He would not on this day bow to practical necessities. He had been freed at great cost, not only to himself but to the whole world. What was the point of a global cataclysm if, as soon as it was done, people returned to the same bad habits? Cole scoffed at the notion of beginning this new age by rummaging through garages or siphoning gas from the tanks of idle automobiles.

He passed a day this way, without eating. Historically, fasting was a practice by which ascetics cleansed the body as an aid to purifying the mind. Cole had no such grand ambitions. He had merely lost his appetite. There was no safe place in the city in which he could shield himself from a change in the direction of wind bringing with it the odor of decaying bodies.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (November 12, 2012, Mandala, Minami-Aoyama, Toyko, Japan, digital file)

August 30, 2020
Gentle reader, we need not praise Shaharazad for her patience; she was not limited to traveling only forward in time. As such, her patience was more akin to one of us standing motionless in the same place. Who are we to elevate inaction to virtue?

Cole spent as little time as possible inside the house, filled as it was with the memorabilia of other lives. Although they had been strangers, he feared developing a disabling intimacy by dwelling overlong in close proximity to their keepsakes. Outside was scarcely better. While the absence of the sounds of cars and trucks and all other human activity was calming, the pervasive odor was inescapable. Reassuring himself that the smell was temporary provided little relief. He had routinely used the argument of human evanescence to put the troubles of his ante-diluvian life in proper perspective with some success. Now, this solace eluded him. The only consolation came at dusk in the form of flocks of birds, synchronized in their motion, a single collective organism dancing over the necropolis beneath them. Of augury, Cole knew naught. All the same, he was able to intuit in their avian movements the certainty that he should not know again the belonging they so enjoyed.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (November 12, 2012, Mandala, Minami-Aoyama, Toyko, Japan, digital file)

August 31, 2020
At night, Cole continued to refuse to perform the task set before him, though the rescue of thousands of individuals wandering the abandoned lands was a noble one. His eyes lost focus and the waving tentacles became a pale blue blur before him. "It is too difficult. I have no interest," he insisted, "in working out all of the details and making all the necessary arrangements." At an impasse, each lay before the other communicating nothing.

Cole tried a new tack. He reminded Shaharazad that she had described the planetary migration of the diluvian knights as a five-step process. Step three was the preparation of the planet. Cole considered that step complete, but for rounding up the wayward. "What is step four?" he asked, though he did not expect an answer, having previously plied the alien with this particular question. However, in this instance, Shaharazad replied, telling him that the fourth step was the material arrival of the ten thousand diluvian knights on Earth. "And when will step four occur?" Cole asked. He was surprised, to say the least, when Shaharazad explained that step four required only a moment and had been successfully executed in its entirety two days earlier.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino - unreleased live recording, track 1 (November 12, 2012, Mandala, Minami-Aoyama, Toyko, Japan, digital file)

previous month

next month

This work is made available to the public, free of charge and on an anonymous basis. However, copyright remains with the author. Reproduction and distribution without the publisher's consent is prohibited. Links to the work should be made to the main page of the novel.