Late at night on August 27th, some asshole blew up the entire world. And that asshole was me. I was the one who POPped the pimple we call life. Not that it means jack now that everything has gone all to zit, oilslicked over and bumped to hell, an itchy red deathscape. Humanity’s childhood over, gone, just like that. POP! Welcome to our new teenage eternity, where pimples are forever and the face grease springs like unto water. Hope you like puberty, cause it’s here to stay.
And it’s all my fault. All of it. I lit the fuse. Tripped the wire. Hooked it all to blow and sat back and watched. It was me and nobody will ever know. Nobody except you. Maybe that’s why I’m writing this, why I’m telling you. To cleanse myself of all the guilt clogging me up one artery at a time. To get it all out of my chest cavity before it and the rest of me blubber up with fat and gunk and I croak. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just trying to distract myself while I slowly lose it and pool into the same pus the rest of the world has become. Maybe all I’m really trying to do is kill time before I go squash like everything else. That’s the problem with time though. It just never seems to die.
It’s almost funny. I always thought I was the kind of guy who’d kick it early, go out screaming, fighting, y’know, against something. Against anything. Against the world. The kind of guy who’d go POP all at once, and leave no trace but the only kind that matters. Bang!
Now I know better. Now I know I’m just like everybody else. A sad balloon animal with a fake smiley face markered permanently onto my stupid slowly deflating head. Soon I’ll be mulched, liquified. All I have left is time. Sooner or later, you realize that’s all you’ve ever had.
It was the same for Dingo. All he had was time too. You’d think a guy with nothing but time on his hands would take a minute to rub some ointment on his face at least. But Dingo, he never took anything besides this tripping stuff seriously, so he used all the time he had dreaming up new ways to do it. Dingo was covered head to toe in waxy pimples, endless mountain ranges of raw red snowcapped with hard black. I could hardly look at the guy without wanting to puke. Even worse, he was a moron. I don’t think a coherent thought ever even once passed through his idiot head. He was my best friend.
Still is, actually, even though he looks a little like earwax now. I’d call it an improvement, personally. So would he if he still had a mouth. Well, maybe not. This way he couldn’t do much except sit there and caulk. And that wasn’t like him. To sit still so long, I mean. Dingo was like me, always trying to scream into the face of a world that zippered your mouth before you ever really figured out how to shout back at it.
Besides his blemished face, Dingo was otherwise a pretty good looking guy and he was POPular with the ladies. I’d heard he had a girlfriend for every pimple on his face and two for every one on his butt and I believed it.
Which was exactly what he was spending the last day that ever mattered complaining about.
“Weasel. Weasel! Are you even listening?”
“Yeah,” I lied.
“I think my girlfriend is cheating on me.” Dingo was standing next to me, leaning against the bridge rail. Below, a piss trickle trying to pass for a river crept to the horizon. The river was thin and green like a vein and it looked no different from any of the cracks in the concrete that swept up the riverbed’s paved sides and baked in the sun. It was August 27th, the last day of the world, and it was oven-hot. I was sweating my balls off.
“I didn’t think you thought anything at all.” I’d wagered his brain was just one big zit too. Anyone else who’d known him as long as I had would have guessed the same, but lucky for them, I was the only one who had the displeasure. I’d known Dingo since we were in diapers. We’d been the only two in the entire third grade who weren’t potty trained.
Dingo spat and it smacked into the hot concrete below. “I’m serious, dude.”
I spat. “You have like 100 girlfriends.”
“108 actually. But this one’s different.” His back was a roadslick of sweat.
“This Mystic Eyes chick?”
Dingo’s face squirreled into a smile that meant he had just had another bad idea. “Here’s what we’re going to do. Tonight. You and me. We’ll stake out her place.”
I would’ve rather spent the evening gnawing my own arm out of a bear trap. But it wasn’t like I had anything better to do. The sun was already setting, which meant no more tripping till tomorrow. This was back when I thought I had a tomorrow.
“Where does she stay?” I asked.
I knew the place. It was a filthy graying squat in an ashen part of town, an oversized cardhouse reeking of garbage and neglect. But there were some good catwalks in the area that we could mouse up for a view of the front entrance.
“Sounds like a plan.”
My gaze dropped to the river below, darted up the sorry stream as it zigzagged, no more than a pencil-thin line of damp in places, to the depressing horizon. I could see the smoggy skyline of the city, and on top of it the Drip, that big fat nasty belly button that puffed up and half blotted out the sky no matter where you looked. Like some kind of omnipresent pimple on the pizzaface of the world telling you not to aim too high, not to set your sights on anything but the cracked asphalt, because looking out and up and away and dreaming of some possibility of hope or some hope of possibility was somehow even worse. Somehow disgusting and raw and wrong. Somehow more filthy and stinking and fetid than everything over which that gross jiggly bloat of blight towered. Here there was no room for dreams. When you tried to look to the future with stars in your eyes, all that stared back was a big, hairy sac of pus, fuzzed over with filth and oozing yellow.
The Drip was huge and ugly and was admired in spite of its ugliness, reverence out of fear. Even from this distance I could see it dripping pus. I’d heard some people used the stuff as cooking oil, or cooking grease more like, or used it in home remedies and stuff. Some stuck it on a stick and deep fried it and sold it off street corners for way too much to people in cars who rolled down their windows and grabbed the crud greedily and ate it right there in their car seats, like animals, oil dripping, crumbs flying everywhere, and then tossed the garbage out the windows like it was never their problem to begin with. Those people were nuts, but there were others who were full-stop squirrely. Like the people who thought that the pus and the gas out of the Drip could work miracles. Raise the dead. Let you consort with spirits. The kind of people who trapped the gasses the big pimple regularly farted out in plastic bags and huffed it or let it condense on the sides and needled the resulting juices straight into their veins or whatever. The real crazies.
Speak of the devil, or in this case think of him, suddenly a smell like rotten garbage punched grenadebursts of stench up my noseholes. Which meant it was time to start the meeting.
“Wonderbaby!” Dingo said when he saw our friend and third member, the man we’d been waiting for. “You’re late!”
As if Wonderbaby cared. Wonderbaby was old and dying and therefore by default hated everything young and not-yet-dying, even though he was more of an outcast than I was, and outcasts tended to love everything by default even if they pretended not to. That was the strength of this guy’s hatred. I looked at his long tangly beard and threw up in my mouth a little, wondering how many years it had been since he had shaved. Or bathed.
Wonderbaby always wore the same pair of overalls with nothing underneath and looked a little bit like if Robin Williams was a crack baby. He had that dead-inside sort of twinkle in his eyes. He was the kind of guy who if you gave him three socks he’d put two on his left foot and save the third for later and when you asked him how could you save a sock for later, what does that even mean, what are you, dull? He’d just look at you funny. Even worse, the guy was a jingoist and he was greedy. He would fight you on the spot if it meant he could make 50 cents out of it. Less even. He was my only other friend besides Dingo. He lived under a bridge, not this one, and talked to himself when he was alone.
“Alright,” I said gulping back the bile and mouthbreathing for the sake of my olfactory sanity. “Let’s get this meeting started. I hereby initiate the 283rd official congregation of the Daytrippers.”
“It’s ‘instantiate,'" said Dingo. Frickin goddam Dingo. He always did this and it always ruined it.
“It’s not ‘instantiate,’” I told him for the 282nd time. I lied, he actually didn’t do it the first time. “Would you knock it off?”
I think he just said it cause he wanted to be in charge instead of me. Well tough luck. The Daytrippers was just about all I had and hell if I was going to let him have it. Up until I started this little club I’d been wasting my life, just blowing time and chewing bubblegum. And I’d run out of bubblegum years ago. The Daytrippers gave me something to live for, which was more than anything or anyone else had ever given me. It wasn’t much, but it was at least enough to get me out of bed in the morning. Most days, anyway.
That’s right. The Daytrippers was mine. And it was composed of us three. Me, Dingo, and Wonderbaby. This unnamed bridge was actually our secret hideout. It wasn’t much of a hideout and it was even less of a secret considering we were loitering on a strip of sidewalk that belted a road where all the cars were like my life, going nowhere too slow. But beggars can’t be choosers and anyone who wanted a good place in a city like this was either a powerless nobody like me or was taking their place with a type of force I couldn’t even dream of. Stepping over people, using people. Probably POPping guys left and right, some of them.
It was time to get started.
“Timekeeper,” I said, “read last meeting’s minutes.”
“Uh, my Dog ate them,” said Dingo lamely.
“You took them on your phone. And you don’t even have a dog. You have a cat.”
“My cat’s named Dog.”
“Oh yeah. Ok, fine. Let’s just move on to the numbers.” I cleared my throat. “Two,” I reported.
“Two full, or..?”
“Yes, Wonderbaby,” I said. He didn’t believe me. I mean he was pretty full of himself for a guy whose breath smelled like trashbags left out in the sun for a billion years. “Two full. Faceplants. Want evidence? I have some.”
I had taken videos of the trips. They were really good ones. That was one good thing about the last day of the world, I guess, looking back, the only good thing maybe. I got some satisfying trips in.
“Nice trips,” Dingo said. I was showing him the videos while Wonderbaby grumbled.
“Thanks.” They were practically full-on faceplants. And I got away with them completely. The suckers never suspected a thing. I wished I could’ve seen the looks on their faces as they ate concrete. I’d been practicing jabbing my foot out and pulling it back real fast in front of the mirror. Maybe if the world hadn’t gone to hell and my feet weren’t now shaped like two and half beehives glued crudely together by a five year old with poor motor skills, I’d be even better at it by now. Who knows? Not me.
“Moving on,” I said very officially. “Dingo. Number of trips today?”
His thin wide mouth curled into a smug grin that I sincerely wanted to mop off his face. He held up four fingers. That was double me. I pretended not to be jealous. Stupid Dingo. [REDACTED] [RESCINDED] [REVOKED] [RETRACTED] Dingo. Wonderbaby didn't even seem surprised. Like it was such a given that Dingo could get in four trips in one day. Screw Wonderbaby.
“No way,” I said. “Four? Full trips?”
“Full trips baby. Read these lips. F-O-R: 4. One of them even walked away with a bloody nose.”
I had seen that once before. A guy who got his face bashed in against a curb after I sent him spinning. His nose was like a piñata belching a big cloudburst of blood. You see a lot of things when you spend 283 days in a row trying to trip strangers in the streets and that was one of them.
“Last and least,” I said, “Wonderbaby.”
“You’re not going to believe this.” I forgot to mouthbreathe and got a good whiff of his stink. “Eleven.”
He was right, I didn’t believe it at first, neither did Dingo, but Wonderbaby had photographic evidence of all 11 of the day’s trips. So we had no choice but to accept it. I even congratulated the guy, but he didn’t seem too happy about it.
By then the sun was setting, sinking down behind the Drip, which meant our meeting was adjourned and the day’s tripping was over. That was our only rule: no tripping at night. We were the Daytrippers after all. If you couldn’t get away with a good trip or two during the day, if you had to rely on deceit of dark to see out your stumbling efforts, you didn’t deserve to be one of us.
Mystic Eyes lived in a warehouse that smelled like a sweaty fart and looked even worse. It was on this road with a bunch of other old warehouses just like it, all derelict and crumbling apart. The place was known collectively as Paradise Towers. She lived there with her girlfriends. Dingo was her only boyfriend but she had 107 girlfriends who treated her like royalty. I asked her where they all slept one time. Like in the closets or something? I’d said. On the ceiling, she’d told me. I guessed it was a joke but I never really found out for sure. I mean what did I know? Ever since then I imagined them all as bats, which was fitting since Mystic Eyes herself was batshit insane. She carried around a baseball bat like Harley Quinn. It had nails sticking out of it. Her own nails were sharpened into points. She wore contacts that made the whites of her eyes glow like neon. Purple and blue. She was prone to fighting.
Me and Dingo climbed the dingy catwalk opposite Mystic Eyes’ warehouse residence. Smog blanketed the city like mist. The night street wore a thick cloud of it like a gray cloak so I could hardly see the other side of the road from where we were. We were supposed to be watching the front door of the building, a ruinous slab of concrete, to see if Mystic Eyes came in or went out with a man. If she did, it meant she was cheating, said Dingo.
“What are you going to do if you catch her?” I asked. I was sitting criss cross in filth and grime. The catwalk was attached to some other filthy disused warehouse, someone else’s spot that they’d claimed I guess, and I could hear some noise coming from inside. I wished I couldn’t. It was buzzing like when a fly flies too close to your ear. Dingo was next to me.
“That’s what the stakeout is for,” he said. “To figure out what I’m gonna do if she is. Want one?”
He punched me in the spleen with an aluminum can that felt way harder than the soft dirty night air was making it look. Inside was some sort of energy drink. Dingo had already slugged back three of the things, and shotgunned three more in his smelly car before that. That was how I learned he had brought a butterfly knife with him and I was wondering whether he really didn’t know what he was gonna do when he caught Mystic Eyes going behind his back.
Did I say when? I meant if.
The can said the drink was packed full of taurine, whatever that was. It sounded like something that came out of a cow. I didn’t want to know from which hole, and I didn’t care how much of the stuff was swimming around in this can either. There was no way this slop was good for you.
Oh well, I thought. Down the hatch. It was going to be a long night, after all. I needed something to grease my throat with.
And it was a long night. Me and Dingo sat there for what felt like forever, just shooting it like we always did and drinking those gross drinks and listening to the sounds of the night, loud sirens and the low hum of the highway and the scurry of rats. Looking back, it was probably the happiest I’d been in a long time. It made me even happier than a really good trip. I mean a really good one, like, where the person gets actual hang time and lands almost upside down.
Maybe if I’d known it was the last time anything good would ever happen, I would’ve savored it more. But still, even at the time, I realized that no matter how much we quarreled, no matter what stupid stuff came between us, me and Dingo were friends. To the end, forever, all that gunky stuff. For real. Brothers. No, closer than brothers.
Just thinking about it brought a tear to my eye. “Dingo, how long have we been sitting here?”
He checked his bare wrist. “About three and a half minutes.”
The black silhouette of the Drip loomed over what little I could see of the sky, a giant shadowy nub on the asscheek that was this world, like a softer, stupid, smellier, way bigger Ayers Rock.
Just then we saw movement through the gritty thickness. Two mysterious figures emerged from the inside of Mystic Eyes’ place. Except they weren’t really mysterious, and one of them at least didn’t have much of a figure, was more just a weirdly nebulous lump in the darkness, because it was Wonderbaby of all people. Him and Mystic Eyes, together, were coming out of her place. And they were holding hands. And even grosser, she was stroking his rancid beard, petting it lovingly.
Dingo was on his feet. He looked like he was about to start on fire or something, fury in his eyes. “Wonderbaby!? Mystic Eyes!? Yooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, what the heck!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!”