Mark Mallman is a musician of great endurance (he’s performed 52-hour marathon shows consisting of a single song) and great eccentricity (he sometimes appears as his lupine alter ego, Mallwolf). Now, as a companion piece to his most recent album Invincible Criminal (out on Badman and featuring guest vocals from the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn), Mallman has emerged as a great storyteller with a graphic novel due early next year. Featuring Marvel comics-style artwork by Stephen Somers, The Incredible Urban Myth Of The Invincible Criminal is being presented on magnetmagazine.com as an audio book with daily installments throughout the week. Read parts one and two.
“The Incredible Urban Myth Of The Invincible Criminal Part 3” (download):
Some people talk about salad days; these were my savage days. My head would throb like a blistery acid trip. Noon time found me with nothing more to do than plot and scheme. Outside, someone was listening to a very odd rendition of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was warbled and distant, yet intimately nearby—sounding more and more like it was coming from inside of the apartment, and less and less like it was coming from outside down below. Yes, in fact, the music was coming from somewhere very close by and began to sound like it was coming to me through a headphone. The more I listened to it, the more it began to sound like the music was coming directly out of me. As if my head were a loudspeaker, and CSNY was being sucked out, backwards, through my left ear. I tried to move, but was frozen still—paralyzed. A horror came over me. Straining to the left, I was witness to a shocking display. A vampiric succubus was hunkered at my side. Jetting from the center of its face was a smooth black cylinder, like a needle. This stinger had been surreptitiously inserted into my ear, and the villain was feeding.
Catalogs of classic-rock albums were being downloaded from my brain into the abdomen of this gigantic wingless fly: Frampton, Eagles, Doobies, CSNY, Bowie—all backwards, alphabetically. The lightness in my head was overwhelming, as all panic subsided. Apathy gathered within me. I looked to my right, and through the doorway, on my bed, an organized assortment of clean, pressed slacks and ties. Certain velvet paintings had been removed from my walls. And, mysteriously, for the first time in years, my bed was neatly made. During this particular session of possession, the creature had begun to physically alter the material objects in my life. There was a box of items on the floor in front of me as well. This box was spilling over with rare concert videos, two of my black studded belts and vintage guitar parts. I gathered that this box was to be taken out from the apartment after the select musical portions of my brain had been emptied for that day. My eardrums pulsed with an uneven gurgle of the downloaded classic rock.
Then, the music stopped abruptly, and from the thorax of the creature came a choking cough. As with my confrontation earlier in the week, I sensed some other presence controlling from inside of the beast. There was a loud mechanical thunk and the crushing influx of liquid pouring into my ear. Certain boring thoughts were blossoming in my frontal lobe. I saw myself behind the wheel of a high-end lawnmower in a peaceful suburban yard. There were children on a swing set and a trim woman, also in her late 20s, gardening in a blue dress. It was a slice of the heavenly Domesticon, which I had all these years abhorred to bits and pieces. Oh, what sweet, sick longing had gathered in my mind? The vision became brighter and soon became that of a dream. Everything was going according to planned for the centipede. After a dozen or so years of bating me on this rock ‘n’ roll scam, its epic task had nearly reached completion. Soon, Mr. M would be dead, and in his place, a smiling beast.
When I awoke, I was underneath a hip Scandinavian floor lamp. The sheets and curtains of my bedroom had been replaced with a new matching set: lime green, with brown stripes. The whole scheme of my partially refurnished abode was off center and somewhat effeminate. The monster was doing a good job of snatching away my existence, but a ghastly job at redecorating.
I quickly left the apartment. In the warehouse district, absolute doom was crawling out from sewer drains. My rock ‘n’ roll radar was mostly functional, and I sensed certain “rock ‘n’ roll activities” at a nearby leather bar. The disco was already half empty. Was it evident in my repulsive, loathsome face that I was at my wit’s end? At the furthest reaches of the bar stood my professor friend from the coffee shop. He looked up at me, smiling. “Oh, we were just leaving.” He swigged back what was left of his beer “This place is dead. We’re all going down to a lake party. You should come with us.”
I simply nodded. In the hallway we met up with two pale, drunken women in Halston dresses. I sleazed up next to them, working my way in with mopfuls of wild promises. The four of us drove 30 minutes out of town to a great stone mansion on a wooded beachfront property. An hour later, we were swimming in typical madness. I stole a paddleboat from the pier at 4:30 a.m. with one of the women. We floated through the trees; her face revealed to me that she was much older than in darkness. She looked 50, maybe even 55 years old, but her voice was soft spoken, like a confused teenager. We were holding hands and spoke in awkward glances. It was the stuff of diseases.
She nodded out in the middle of it, the rising sun pulling violently against pieces of clouds. It was for the better. Night lifted from the quivering lake. I thought of this woman passed out next me, how she drew immediately out of herself, then disappeared again. I was nothing more than a specter in her life, and my misadventure was not something to inflict upon her. I slept lightly with an oar in hand until awakened by strips of squeaking wood lifting together, the stolen boat repeatedly slamming into a pier. I stepped out of the boat and gave it a steady kick across the calm. The party was miles over the water, and whenever she awoke, she would have to find her own way back.
By 7:30 a.m., I was kicking empty beer bottles as birds were making elaborate signals with their eyes that it was time to leave. I spent nearly $75 getting back to the city by taxi. Upon my arrival home, I retrieved a postcard in the mailbox: “Pastries: They bring out the worst in people. On a train from Amsterdam to Paris, thinking of you.” No signature. I climbed the stairway. The building was dank, built out of shoeboxes, dirty magazines and glue. Of all my supposed realizations, life was simply and sadly an untreatable disease. I’d come again to the doorway. As I peered in, the Killer Robot was peeping out from behind a curtain. And in front of it, swayed that terrible insect beast. The two glared back at me, each with its own accusing scowl. I stepped in. My two evil parents had been waiting up all night in anger. But for some reason, I wasn’t bothered by them. Out on the lake, I’d regained a bit of power over my own life. I’d gotten a shred of confidence. Something about the outside world, all the partying, gave me an ounce of hope.
During the night, the monsters had continued whittling away at my identity. My apartment had a shocking change of décor. Ugly, almost-neon-blue curtains had been hung in the living room. There was a thin, white, nauseating flowerpot on the coffee table, and some red sequined throw pillows on the couch. With newfound confidence on my lips, I spoke: “I want this shit gone by the time I wake up. It’s fucking awful.” I slammed the door to my bedroom behind me. Immediately, I could make out the sound of scurrying. I closed and locked the windows tight, but I left the door unlocked. Six months earlier, I’d spent $800 total on extra shotguns to keep in each room of the apartment. I pulled one out from under the bed and put it on my nightstand. I felt like someone had begun to read a fairy tale about my possession: “Somewhere in an uptown apartment, where open bottles of half-price Malbec mysteriously evaporated in less than 10 minutes, Miles Davis did not chirp from an unplugged alarm clock.”
I dreamed of animal locomotion and ancient military operations. And as I did, the centipede was eating at my will. I dreamed of an urban scorpion, whose hat was like a scissors. I dreamed of a prodigal son playing dominoes with a busboy in a Chinese restaurant. And as I did, the centipede was gnawing at my faith. I dreamed of the Morton Salt girl in her virgin raincoat, with a message in a bottle that read, “Meet me back at the apartment for a little one-on-one.” And as I did, the centipede was replacing my thoughts with dread. I dreamed I had a heart attack before I could even check my phone messages. Every night, I dreamed of pregnant virgins from alien ships returning nine months later to steal back the seed in the night. And every morning, I woke up emptier.
Saturday streamed perpetual rain. This Armageddon was a summer thunder, which stirred me awake, not the dense clamor of mad jazz from my usual alarm clock. Aside from the notion that all the blood and fluid had somehow been evaporated from my body, I finally knew how an amoeba lived. It is really angering to have the good times taken away by a monster in the night. I began to reflect on my little world of once glorious unconsciousness, gathering every blackout, every blip of this labyrinth of days that were snatched away by that invincible criminal. Except for one brief moment behind a laundry machine, where I secretly vomited into a salad bowl, the past four days had been more than realization I was being cheated—they were a confirmation. Triumph of man over his own inner monster begins with the man becoming a monster himself. There was a shadow of self-respect within me, clinging desperately. I stood up, gripped my psychological sword. The caveman within exploded out of my weak frame and rushed forward into battle. With a great shout, I kicked the door open.
“Nevvvvver, you friggin worm!!!! Aaarrgrggaagaaa!!!” howled my warrior’s call to battle. But no battle raged. There was only the slap echo of my man-child scream. The room was empty. My monster enemy was gone, and it had taken all my stuff with it. It was so confident of my demise that it had begun redecorating my place to suit its own flamboyant tastes. My precious collection of velvet bullfighter paintings was gone. All those scattered empty wine cases were gone, too. The entire contents of my apartment, aside from my bedroom, had been evacuated during the night. It was as empty as when I first moved in. Hot August rain scorched against the window. It seemed that standing up for myself the previous evening had touched a nerve in the creature. That lemon-fresh smell of Murphy Oil Soap perfumed the air. Even the garbage had been stolen, or taken out, rather. No human being would have the wherewithal to survive such an excavation process. I mean, I’d had delivery guys come inside and simply disappear into piles of half-empty pizza boxes for weeks at a time. Some never returned. But to clean the apartment? There was more muscle to be flexed than I originally had expected in this beast. And what of my fear and misplaced key-sniffing robot confidante? Had it, too, turned against me?
Outside, I could hear it, metal on brick on metal—clomp/scrape/snicker/snort/swipe/shuffle/repeat—it was sort of dancing on the fire escape. Hopefully, the Killer Robot was chasing the vile centipede outside in the night and the window got slammed shut. The death droid got shut outside in the rain, where it stupidly waited. I unlocked the window, and my “associate” came in, dripping wet. I fell sideways, laughing. It positively refused to towel off, leaving small pools around its steel wheels. It seemed offended by the calm. Neurosis spread outward in a wave of awkward glances. We were both very quickly having a confused staring match with the floor beneath us. My fingers had scrunched themselves into clustering fists. Ever since I’d got that stupid feeling I was being cheated, I’d gained one enemy, one confused burden and lost the entire contents of my living room to a phantom. It was complete bullshit.