John graduated with a BA in American Literature from UC Santa Cruz. He has spent the last 13 years working as a bookseller. When not writing, he enjoys painting abstracts and monster heads. His other interests include comic books, metaphysical weirdness, and Japanese food. He lives in San Jose, CA. This is his first published work.
It was there, resting on the kitchen floor like something that had always been there. A giant, red high-heel shoe sitting as proudly as a ship about to be christened, gilded in red quicksilver. It glowed in the dim orange light of dusk. Its ruby brilliance sent hazy aquatic shapes around the walls and ceiling. The shiny metallic surface seemed as if it was covered in a swift current of running water, or maybe an impossibly fast lava lamp. I stared, transfixed. I was startled at the sound of soft clicking of claws on the linoleum.
Pickle, my roommate’s ginger cat, loped over to the heel and rubbed against it. He looked up at me and gave a little meow. “Hey, Picks.” I returned my gaze to the gleaming red shoe. “What the hell is this thing, anyway?”
“It’s my latest piece.” I was startled again, and turned towards the voice. Saul came into the kitchen, carrying an empty mug and a plate of crumbs to the sink. His hair was all over the place and he hadn’t shaved in days. He was wearing an open robe over his boxers and his pale gut stuck out. There was a stain that looked like mustard on his left sleeve, and stains that looked like something else on his underwear. In short, he looked like walking shit. “I made it while you were in Fresno.”
“What the hell is it?” He was intently cleaning his plate. His face was tense; almost glaring at the dish.
“Peg’s gone. She left me, Jimbo. She said she couldn’t handle it anymore.”
“Jeez, man, I’m sorry.” I hoped I didn’t sound too disingenuous. I had always hated Peg, and she never made any attempt to hide her utter loathing of me. I don’t think I pulled it off, because his reply was just a little snort that wasn’t quite a laugh. I watched a translucent squid-shape playing back and forth across Saul’s face, then I went back to staring at the heel.
“Anyway,” he said after drying his dish and putting it away, “it doesn’t matter. I finished my work. This is all that matters to me now.”
“But what the hell is this thing? How does it do that?” He didn’t reply, and I just kept staring at the fluid surface of the heel. He eventually responded with the loud crack of a cigarette lighter. I looked over to see him lighting the end of an large, badly rolled joint. I watched him suck, head tilted slightly to the right, then exhale a pungent cloud about his head. Seeing this was almost as shocking to me as the crazy shoe, because I knew it had been about seven years since he’d smoked anything.
“I’ve been studying the Kabbalah. This is the result; this is my Philosopher’s Stone, my Homunculus. I’ve combined the loving waters of Netzach with the disciplined brutality of Geburah.” He took another huge hit. “Mars and Venus, dueling it out between the ears and between the sheets. Endless linga and yoni. Endless fucking and fighting.”
“So… why is it a shoe?”
He reached into the pocket of his robe and pulled out a scuffed, red high-heel. “This was the only thing she left. Her one-line note and an old shoe. But it’s okay. I could forgive that dumb bitch anything now, because by leaving the shoe, she left me the Key.” He put the shoe back in his pocket.
“So, when did you start smoking pot?”
He exhaled the hit he had just taken. “The day after she left. I went to sleep that night with her fucking shoe on my pillow. I had a dream that a golden angel visited me with a flaming wand. It flew over me and handed the wand to me. At first I was scared, but it told me not to be afraid. It said it was giving me a boon. When I went to grab the wand, it had turned into a joint. I started smoking, then woke up and saw the shoe by my head and I knew what to do.” He took another hit. “I got some shit from Alfie’s little brother. He happened to be back from Santa Cruz for spring break or something.”
“But how did you make this thing? How does it do that?”
He smiled a big smile that did nothing whatsoever to comfort me. “It’s magic, Jim. Magic.”
“What the hell does that mean? What is this thing even made out of? What the fuck?” I was starting to get pissed and freaked out at his goofy answers.
“Ok, ok, I’ll tell you. I got the weed and got really high and took the shoe into the garage, and sort of made an altar to it. Then I did this kind of ritual thing from some Crowley book I have that allowed me to contact the angel from my dream. It came to me and showed me how to combine the Sephiroth of Netzach with the Sephiroth of Geburah to make this. It started as chicken wire covered in canvas and lacquer. Then I painted it red. Then… magic! That’s it.” He tittered a strange little laugh I had never heard him make before.
“You talked to the angel?” I was back to staring at the shoe.
“In our garage?”
“Ok. I guess that explains it.”
“Look, it doesn’t matter where this thing came from. It doesn’t matter what it’s made out of. It doesn’t matter who or what showed me how to make this thing. It doesn’t even matter that Peg’s gone. I’ve got this. This beautiful, crimson monstrosity shooting the light of love and war around our kitchen. That’s all that matters.”
I looked from the shoe to the shapes on the walls. I had been so transfixed by the surface of the heel that I hadn’t paid much attention to them, except to notice that they were aquatic shapes. What I hadn’t noticed was that they were eating. An oval of jellyfish-light on the ceiling engulfed a splotch of clownfish-light. Near the floor, little crab-lights fought and conquered and devoured each other. By the sink the squid-light was busy gobbling a mackerel-light. I stopped focusing on details, and tried to take in the whole room at once. All around me, there was an orgy of gluttonous death. A fish-light would eat a smaller one, only to have itself eaten a second later. Tiny pieces of meat-light drifted about to be attacked by the small shapes of fish and brine shrimp. Vicious deep-sea jaws snapped at wavering tentacles. Little worms wriggled frantically, as if in pain, helpless fodder. All around me, it glowed in the color of a light bulb dipped in blood.
“God, Saul, this is horrible.”
“Yes. And beautiful. It’s very horrible and very beautiful.”
I looked back at the shoe, heavy and severe, as if at every instant it had just completed a tremendous stomp. All around it, the electric carnage simmered. It was like a giant, high-heel sun, radiating destruction. I went to the fridge (ignoring the hideous silhouettes on the door) and found a beer. I opened it and sat at the kitchen table. Saul sat down next to me, smoking his joint. I watched the shapes gorge, realizing there was a pattern to this. It was chaotic, but there was a warbling pattern to it. Endless eating and death, yet the shoe always made more. The waters never ran out of life. All the death was actually a plentitude. I was quiet, just watching for a long time.
“Yeah, you’re right,” I said finally, “It’s beautiful.”
Saul nodded his head, grinning at me while expelling another thick cloud. He patted me softly on the shoulder, then stood up and headed back to his room. I watched him slowly shuffle down towards his door. Just as he reached it, he noiselessly folded himself flat into the black shadows at the end of the hallway.
In the corner, Pickle tried repeatedly to catch a minnow on the wall. I watched the lights and finished my beer and hoped there was another one in the fridge.
And there was.