photo by Tony Ord
In a recent periodical, or magazine, or quarterly on the American Dream I read a strange tale of two men who had unwittingly absented themselves from their social spheres for the purposes of pride, or reform, or glory, or more likely, of boredom. One is a man who had seen enough evil, the other a man who had done enough evil. The two cross paths in this story in the midst of their self-abdications, forming a sort of bond based on a terrifying and invisible force that drives them to insanity and binds their fates into one – the thing that binds all men good and bad.
It all starts on the balcony of one of those terrible and great banking headquarters on Wall Street – or maybe Whale Street, I’ve forgotten the spelling – where the king of all crony bankers, Stan Morcan, faces off with a rogue protester named Zach Goldman, who promises to be present at Morcan’s downfall just to see him die.
“All who stand, sit, sleep, and march before the regal throes of Wall Street in this, the Octobereth of two-thousand-and-eleven and beyond,” shouted a proud-looking Stan Morcan to the angry protesters, “are one-and-all hippies of the filthiest sort, scoundrels of no foreseeable redemption, and jobless twerps with no better activity to attend to than to protest the only institution in America that may be verifiably deemed the buoy of our floundering nation: finance. To all of you out there today who whine beneath the helm of the only salvageable ship in this, the United-ish States of America, I laugh in your ludicrous faces.”
Turning back from the crowd, Morcan coolly returned to his office, smirking as he shuttered the doors to the balcony on the 5th floor of the gilded Renaissance-revival-turned finance-wizards Tower of Mordor. An eruption of unintelligible cries mixed with intermittently dropped f-bombs elevated to a decibel level that had not yet been heard at the now two-month long protests at Wall Street, forcing many of the people behind the glass to plug their ears with their “Whine-Not” earplugs that a clever young analyst had been shopping around for $25 a pop. Morcan had no need for such a frivolous whimwham, and chose instead to bask in the din that he had inspired.
Indeed, thought Morcan, a man’s character should be judged on how well he absorbs hatred, as loyalty of any sort is hard to come by in a house filled to the brim with gifted and well-educated money-makers, and any sign of antagonism means that you’re probably doing a good fucking job. Besides, no one down below had the courage to state a claim, a name, or stand out of the crowd as an individual like Morcan had, which meant unmistakably to Morcan that fear had a death-grip on the protesters’ already fragile beliefs. By the time they decide on what’s worse – government or us – they’ll already be incontinent octogenarians with nothing but stilted memories powering their overpriced oxygen tanks.
OK, thought Morcan, perhaps the world had not been kind to some of these individuals, but nonetheless they were wasting their time with foolish idolatry of an ideal so dead that its heart could only be kept alive with an iPhone charger. And even with that it trembled with the haunting anxiety of wasted time.
As Morcan raked his thoughts into a towering pile of self-assuredness where not even the cry of his own child would wake him, he heard his name being called from outside.
“Stan Morcan,” shouted a young man, “My name is Zach Goldman and I will be there at your downfall. I give you my name so that you may play it in your head on repeat until your last breath. But knowest that in my heart and mind resides every bit of strength required to destroy you and yours, and that I will not rest until it is done. My name is Zach Goldman and I will see you soon – expect me.”
The crowd was unnerved, murmuring with a collective disapproval of this sudden display of arrogance in a movement that decried anything resembling individual freedoms. A collective internal groan: today’s new story on Fox was playing through their minds: “Psycho hippie Zach Goldman shows just how dangerous and twisted these fuckety protesters are”. They shied from meeting his eyes like a liberal being offered a pistol, and busied themselves with clever sign-making and other such material.
Five floors up in the Tower of Mordor baked a similar cake of collective reproof for the newly anointed pariah that was Stan Morcan. Despite the fact that nary a banker gave a flying fuck what any of these outdoor mutts thought about their work, and that any naysaying snitch belonged on the wrong side of a police baton, they had a business that was suddenly in the national spotlight and the kind of tomfoolery pulled by Morcan could not go unpunished.
Morcan, thought one analyst, stooped to these losers’ level of whore-grade attention-seeking that made those whiny ADHD-bags in the park look like Japanese comfort women quietly submitting to war criminals. No, Morcan would not be getting special treatment anymore, and the stunt might even cost him his job if he didn’t staple together those flapping labia he called his lips. Time will tell. Scratch that – the news will tell. This isn’t as good a time for us as people think, and this might send some of us to the curb. If that’s the case, Morcan is the first to go.
Down below, Goldman read the clock: 4:20. As the protesters all ran to their tents for unknown reasons, Goldman smoked a roach he found on a dirty park bench, and went over his plans in his notepad and grinned. He’d be investigated in earnest by the CIA, probably the DEA, and whatever mercenary PI’s and ex-MP’s Morcan had on his payroll. Little did they know he had no police record and barely any sign of Internet life, and if plans went well they’d focus more time on that than any physical investigation. His agents and traps were in place and he was ready to enact his revenge.
He had hired a friend to tail Morcan for a week, uncovering his routines from wake to sleep, plotting points out where the opportunity to intervene made the most sense and caused the least hubbub. Driveway, parking garage, elevator, bedroom, the drag bar – any place where Morcan was alone or vulnerable, that’s where Goldman would strike. Nothing headline-worthy though – only subtle tricks or spooky pranks to get the mark wondering what the hell was going on, why his age-old routine suddenly took on random idiosyncrasies. Anything violent and the guy’s security company (he owned the biggest in the city) would be on the hunt – game over via something vicious. No one would take his theatrics seriously enough to invest in a $10,000 hit, so he felt safe being labeled as crazy. Yes, Goldman was sure that watching all the greatest heist movies had prepared him for this type of gig. Goldman felt delightfully mischievous.
After wading through cameras and reporters on his way to the parking garage, Stan Morcan settled into his car, allowing the day to flood through his mind. Big mistake, he finally thought. As he started up the engine and looked into his rearview mirror, he spotted something dart up above his trunk and then shoot back down underneath his car. He opened his window and peeked his head out, hardly shaken at all.
“If that’s you, Goldman,” he said, poking his head out the window towards the ground, “I’m running you right over and I’d claim I didn’t know you were under there, on my property.”
A deep, breathy moan emerged from under the car, echoing throughout the garage and pushing Morcan’s pulse into an adrenaline-infused race pace.
“Whoever’s under there, get out or I’m calling the police.”
Another deep moan echoed out and then suddenly, as if joined in by a small girl, a sharp screeching started and then stopped, all within a fraction of a second.
“Fuck it,” Morcan said, and he started the car, backing out of the space as quickly as possible. When he was far enough away he hit the brakes and looked forward into where he expected to find a mangled corpse, a tape recorder, something explainable of that sort (preferable a mangled corpse).
But there was nothing there. He sighed, assuming whatever it was must have been a CD playing in the car beside him, or maybe it was those thought-ghost echoes his doctor told him about, and as soon as he put his car in drive a blaring hiss exploded from his car speakers at an incredible volume. From the corner of his right eye he spotted a strange, transparent hand slowly emerging from the passenger seat, but when he turned to face it, it had disappeared. Finally, the hissing stopped, but whenever he looked forward the invisible hand drew closer and closer to his face, stopping as soon as he looked its way.
And then that same terrifying screech, coupled with the familiar deep voice, began to rapidly mumble the words:
“STANLEY MORCAN STANLEY MORCAN STANLEY MORCAN”
Morcan exited the car and ran to street level, where he was greeted by a man with a sheet over his body, probably attempting to scare him – which he did to great surprise.
The “ghost” said, “You have wronged the living, and now you must answer to the deeaaaaaaddddd!”
Morcan doubled over and fell flat on his face, breaking his nose and crying out in terror.
“Wow,” said the ghost, “I thought he was just going to say fuck off. Goldman’s really onto something here!”
On the other side of town, Goldman had had a few drinks at a bar in Murray Hill and, without antagonizing a single person (a first in this neighborhood), he slipped out and headed over to the train. Stumbling down the steps he heard someone whispering “ZACH GOLDMAN ZACK GOLDMAN ZACK GOLDMAN” over and over again, rapid-fire, from inside the kiosk. He walked around the kiosk, knocking (obviously no one was there) and trying to see where this was coming from without causing too much stir, as he was being filmed from above. From the corner of his left eye came a transparent hand, rising slowly from the platform just beyond the turnstile but disappearing as soon as Goldman turned his head to face it. He raced to the turnstile, hopped over it, and as he spun around to look for the hand a figure came from the shadows with a hand held out toward him. Goldman leapt back, but it was only a cop.
“That’s a $100 offense there buddy. Let’s see some ID.”
“But I saw a hand,” cried Goldman, “It was a ghost or something –
“I’m a cop, not your psychologist. Go to the MTA office, which is located in Alaska, Brooklyn, then wait for 47 hours in a broken metal chair while they process your appeal.”
“You’re the shit-stain of society.”
“I believe that’s you. Now watch it, shit-head.”
“Eat dog-shit, pig.”
“I would, but I’m still full from eating a giant piece of shit like you for breakfast this morning.”
“I shit in the milk of your mother.”
“That’s it, I’m taking you in. Hands back.”
“Threatening an officer’s family.”
And with that, Goldman was sent to jail, where he would rot for the rest of his life wondering what that strange invisible hand was, and why he chose to say anything to anyone in power ever that wasn’t submissive or complimentary to their authority.
Just kidding, he got out in an hour and went over to the drag bar Morcan frequented to set up his next prank. Unfortunately for Goldman, Morcan had been in the hospital, crying and blowing snot-blood all over himself while being sponge-bathed by his nurse.
“You know,” the nurse said, “a sponge bath isn’t necessary for a broken no –
“Shut your mouth. You’ll do as I say or I’ll foreclose on this hospital tomorrow morning.”
Looking up at Morcan, the nurse threw the sponge at his nose and stormed out, shouting,
“Use the sponge to blow your nose you overgrown toddler!”
“Hmph,” hmphed Morcan, still too shaken by the strange business in the parking garage to follow up on even the most routine of threats. With a deep inhale and a heavy sigh, Morcan slumped back into his bed and thought about the hand from his car, pondering its symbolism, or whatever. Just as he figured it all out, he saw in the corner of his right eye the same hand approaching, and in the left eye he saw its counterpart doing the same. Within a minute he was dead, his eyes oozing out of his ears like chicken fried chicken skin and his broken nose collapsing into his face like a chicken fried chicken breast into a fat man’s gullet.
Because the cop had smashed Goldman’s phone, there was no way of knowing how the ghost prank played out, so he assumed everything went as planned. So, he made his way into the drag bar, dashed into the bathroom to apply his makeup and throw on a sun dress, threw back a vodka double, and settled into a spot at the corner of the bar – within strategic eye-locking distance of Morcan’s favorite spot. Goldman planned on Anthony Weiner-izing him; when you’re in the mud, he thought, playing dirty is the name of the game, as all great action movies had informed him. Hours passed as Goldman drank more and more, glancing in the mirror every few minutes and discovering how pretty he looked. My oh my, what a pair of lips, and so red – red like he had never thought visible, red like in the movies that finally made sense now, now that it was on his lips and he could feel it.
As Goldman slipped ever further into self-adulation, he drifted into a state of half-sleep where the dreaminess of his inward self looking out at his outward reflection caused a complete loss of self-awareness. Oh beauty! How I prior knew thee only on the surface of others but never like this, as from inside of myself! As he came to he noticed that same transparent hand again, this time coming from the corners of both eyes. He looked right and the hand on the right disappeared while the left remained. He looked left and the left hand disappeared, but the right hand remained. This was it, he thought, the judgment of my soul by way of my own insanity. In a moment he was dead, and from what the coroners could tell there was no real cause of death. All they could come up with for the papers was alcohol poisoning, but I knew, yes I, the only other patron in the bar, and also a volunteer nurse three hours prior at the hospital during Morcan’s death, knew that there were stranger forces at work.
Indeed, Morcan and Goldman fell not to broken noses and alcohol poisonings, but rather they were ravaged to extinction by the dastardly invisible hand(s) of the ravaging, dastardly market. Be careful, boys and girls, what side you take, but further, when you have chosen sides, be wary of how to articulate your allegiances, because invisible hands may come out at any moment and put you away – forever.
Written by Jakob Schnaidt