This is the suicide note of Cinderella of Phantásien. Imprisoned within this note, like the unopenable rebenok in a matryoshka doll, is a true story—with a true title: Therapeutic Fantasy Epic.
I toyed with different titles, such as Visions of Hyperborea—and throwaways: Too Bitter and Impatient to Write, Another False Start, Restlessness, Breakdown Fantasy, Beyond the Fourth Wall,and Bastian Balthazar Bux at 35. But I chose the most throwaway of these, the placeholder name of this word doc, a title I spun impromptu as a mission statement: Therapeutic Fantasy Epic.
This is a true fantasy, a chronicle of concrete, non-actual events. Everything happens at least once, my stepfather Kenny once said to me. This story happened once upon a concrete, non-actual time.
How do I know this? Depression. The seventh sense. Depression views the world-scenery from below and behind, sees the roots and the quiet capillary action of serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins, etc., the fairy sustainers of limb and leaf—of life’s healthy mint, emerald, and shamrock greens. Depression sees fantasy everywhere and fantasizing everywhere; my black widow has such specialized pupils, eight black scrying pools to divine by dissociation the black light and nothing else. We eight eyes see all lies. Depression and fantasy are mother and daughter, with sixteen eyes between them.
As bonus evidence of this story’s truth, this story, as I’ll present it, was presented to me by the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet, who nightly moaned to me while I laid awake. She buzzed hatefully around my head. Sekhmet’s lioness breath, pregnant with the perfume of soured blood, is hot on my face even now, hot with sacrificial demands, bestial revelations, laments, and—.
To the Savage God,
Ashley or Cinderella
What, Sekhmet, will our fantasy be about? Perhaps it will be about a world where “insensate” fleshy clones can be printed easily and cheaply for customers, such that celebrities, one’s coworkers—anyone whose DNA may be obtained—can be cloned and their insensate clone bodies “treated as one desires.” Perhaps we follow a protagonist who fucks then eats his way through everybody he knows (their clone versions, that is). Towards the end, he hosts a dinner party where each guest is presented with a dish that is, unbeknownst to them, their own cloned flesh (which our protagonist carefully preserved). And he gleefully confesses “I’ve fucked all of you and eaten all of you. Fuck all of you! I’ve fucked you all in brutish ways! The standard orifices along with a few new ones.”
Or, is that too savage?
Perhaps a fantasy about endings. Here is Henry. In his deepest temperament, he had relinquished, or perhaps unwillingly lost, his sense of buoyancy, of the propitious search for safe, buoyant, important things. That this buoyant sense was missing, that he felt the numb, rhythmic tug and nodded to the good sense, or at least the practicality, of the abyssal depths, did not stir anything in him. Some weights on his ankles, some bindings on his wrists, some opiates or dissociatives in his blood—technical preparations for a plunge, he imagined, sufficient for his purposes. The ocean at night seemed to him more appropriate; perhaps the sentiment was prompted by a dream he had suffered the week before, in which he felt uncomfortably warm as he gurgled downward; in this dream, the heat of the sun, not particularly its light, followed him to the abyssal plain, and even increased there on the blind, muddy floor, until the most intense heat gathered in the most intense pressure and stabilized into a state of perfect, boiling, airless equilibrium—as though he were stuck, without even the slightest millimeter of slack for relief, in a vast, pitch-black piece of smoldering glass. The ocean at night, then, seemed to him more appropriate—colder, softer, calmer, perhaps even thirst quenching, and, alas, absolutely bottomless—bottomless, he murmured, and allowed that final sound, that final word—bottomless—echo down the drain of his memories (most of which had little value or too much).
Yet a story about suicide is too “on the nose” for a suicide note. I need a girl sitting and watching a television show about zoo animals; when a giraffe appears, she crinkles her nose and asks her mom, “Is that like a camel?” I need a woman with a cup of tomato juice play-talking to a finch that perches on a branch above her; the finch darts off and the woman sips her juice, then rolls her left wrist to alleviate a dull pain in her hand. No. Nothing in media res. I need an origin story!
Our fantasy begins as every fantasy begins: an author escaping itself. Into oceanic uncertainty, her skiff is cut free. He declares light, but what is light without anything else? With a shiver of cosmogonic morning energy, she begins to dictate: “The deeper dreamer interprets the interpretation of dreams and far less the dreams themselves.” Then he erases those first missteps.
“Our dreams wash over with faces: faces with fingernails for teeth and toenails for eyes.” No, he erases that too, then tries again: “I wish every art form, every medium, every instance of beauty, could rise all at once, in one infinite form, as one expression, and drown me.” She erases that too.
Finally, now that he has cleared her conscience, acquiesced to his creative limits, doodled her worst efforts, he can finally, finally proceed to write her fantasy:
I can think of nothing more sublime than a universe coming to know itself, only to realize that it will lose itself, will forget itself entirely, will become “never was” and infinitely less—will slip from its own fading touch, to be nothingness again and eternally—to know: “I am this.” And, without an answer from itself, from its own silent universal body, to die in the singularity of its own heart.
Do you hear the split of lyre strings? Do you see unfurled in royal ribbons our red volumes? We have no secret name, just a skiff that cuts no wake. No antechamber to blinkless beauty. No communion of family fumes. No pouring forth of returns. Therefore, why do you dwell on the origin? Do you wish to cradle in your arms your parents as newborns? Don’t. Learn how to be an animal, banging quietly, gripped by a sorting machine and randomizer in a corner of Gloryland.
Jonathan van Belle is a copy editor for Outlier.org, an online education platform. He previously worked as a bookseller at Powell’s City of Books. Jonathan is the author of several books, all available online, and is currently working on his first book for Deep Overstock Publishing.