Mike Corrao: “MANCER,” a new short story for Haunted Passages

Haunted Passages: Mike Corrao


The subject denotes themself as a collection of individual objects. Each organ and limb and vein its own sentient mass. And as such, the body becomes insufficient. Its whole not whole enough. More matter must be accumulated. The subject enters new yet under-materialized spaces. They observe the geomantic qualities of this environment and then, when each element has been fully constructed, they begin to remove objects from their allotted positions. The subject attaches these objects to various parts of their body and their body responds with excitement. A spell falls from the proximal face of the tongue, curling as it hits the floor. Veins and tendons grow around the newly added organs and appendages. Sinew closes the gaps between systems. Tissue grows and reproduces in the matrices connecting inanimate components. Air floods the diaphragm and purifies each empty space. Bricabrac is mangled into artificial limbs which sprout in clusters across the torso and hips. Ilium unfurl and straighten. The body of the subject quickly becomes unrecognizable. An arcane machine made under precise ritual and procedure. The now fully-formed space is stripped of every signifier. It becomes a void. The subject converts place into object (collection of). Occultation along the horizon. Geographies flatten and the sentient accumulated mass stiffens into statuesque positions. Alive and dead or alive and inanimate. A mantis dressed in exoskeletal proteins. Birthing and stretching organs of brass bone plastic paper tissue. Skin blankets the exposed contents and flattens the surface. But the new flesh is brittle and you (the subject) must be careful. The unevenness of the ground or a shiver along the spine could release the girth of that weight. The sentient mass is reduced to what it initially was: Simple biology. Simple flesh. And then all has passed. Tedious construction becomes a mound of decomposing materials. But this does not happen. The subject yawns tightly and initiates themself into the mythopoeia of cumulomancers.

Pleasantries aside, this subject is the practitioner of an outdated art. They are a stranger stumbling upon a graveyard of witches. Cumulomancy is the arcana of gathering. The act of uprooting your environment and suturing it unto your own body. Incantations and conjurations develop in order to ease the process. Magnesis to lure objects out of their alcoves and load bearing spells to align and invigorate the spinal fluids. When these do not work, before their corporeal qualities manifested, the body suffers from a sluggish fragility. It cannot withstand the rapid movements its capable of performing. And without a foundation, the amassed girth of their assemblage will collapse. Without objects, the cumulomancer is rendered a pile of mush, powerless and meek. Incantations embolden us. Let them fall out of your mouth under the weight of gravity and form fully on the ground.

In this new existence, in the burial site of older witches, the subject doesn’t really know what to do with themself, they remain in stasis, but only insofar as they are unable to stop their own inertia, they crawl towards their own death without the explicit intent to die, but the object remains, the object continues this inertia until another subject materializes and absorbs them into their own growing being, I don’t know what to make of myself, I see, I repent, I perform the séance, I birth the object, the new object—to be of a larger collection—and then there is nothing, I give birth to the greater landscape, I die, I return, I resist my own inertia, I grow and shrink again, my body feels tainted, like that of a leper or plague victim, but I remain, and I give birth to these somethings, and they pour out of me, fusing into the collected subject or lying dormant, something wants to come out of me, something abstract, a string of words, but I don’t know what they’re supposed to look or feel like, what they’re supposed to encapsulate, I am compelled to continue, to find them, but here is where something happens, the new object is born, the conception is immaculate. It swallows the exposed air. It emits a holy emanence. Then my baby is eviscerated, open dove-cote. Each object, removed its context. Removed of its coordinates in space. The duration of our destruction is visible from afar. Every leap from past to future to present. Algorithmically organized collages. The labyrinth is unnavigable. I am lost the moment that I enter. The act of turning around is out of the question. Teeth drag across the surface of my skin, tearing dry patches and revealing the meat underneath. In one of the galleries of an art museum (dream or not dream) a woman tells her friend about a man who combusted under mysterious circumstances. I try not to eavesdrop but every new room I enter, the woman and her friend are already there. I take what I have collected and form a ring around our bodies (our position in space). An image flashes in my mind of the unfathomable mass. I see the orb as it drifts over the horizon and rises from the darkness over your shoulder. I debate new additions to my vessel, but it is not time yet. The materials churn inside of my stomach.

You are composed of encyclopedias, manuals, asymmetrical furniture (couches, end tables, chairs, wall mirrors, desks, an escritoire), pamphlets, silverware, plates and bowls, miscellaneous tissue, data servers, embryonic fluid, fields of lavender, honey, porcelain urns, glass pitchers, empty space, cataplasm, composite plastics, toilet paper, charcoal utensils, televisions, silk and linens, mattresses, coffee machines, unidentifiable garbage, hard liquor, medicine, smartphones, glass bottles, gasoline, cloth rags, biological materials, food scraps, trimmings and fat, iron shards, houseplants, awled leather sheets, fractured ice, pools of oil, cinder blocks, paint pails, algae, coral, silicone molds, dried leaves and pulp, severed genitalia, gutted veins and capillaries, coagulated black blood, bile and pitch, loose threads, torn pages, jaundiced flesh, tallow, unstable proteins, frayed wood, sawn tusks and antlers, stolen tibia, unthreaded bindings, broken columns, tempered metal plates, unholy apparitions, candle wax, raw gemstones, fibrous sinew, brass ornamentations, floating malachite, astral projections, strewn placenta, torn irises, tufts of animal hair, chitin and keratin, chipped bark, the flesh of stone fruits, more.

Another vessel falls apart. The meat turns iridescent, the fibres constrict. The air between matrices is compressed into pellets of mud and dry skin. Water seeps through membranes. Congealing adipose, dripping oil from each pore. And I watch as my spine begins to curve. As load bearing spells begin to fail. The weight changes my body into a new kind of object. I do not know what to do. I do not know where to hold tight, or where to apply pressure. But, that does not matter. It is you who must reconcile with this slow decay. The flesh as it accelerates towards death. In a new vessel, I flaunt the modes of my younger pre-corpse. I let more spells fall from the proximal face of my (the subject, our) tongue. The intricate systems of this environment curve and bend. I feel the surge when these words hit the ground. I feel my spine emboldened and my frame root into the ground. My ribs unfurl and the contents of this new plane are dragged into me. My weight burrows into the soil and my appendages become rhizomatic. There are no ends or beginnings to my shape. The subject is not a tree. The subject is not arborescent. Each newly constructed ligament remains itself. I am a whole of wholes. Cumulomancer crawling across strata reorienting my ontology. In my largest capacity, I become environment. An assemblage spread in new geographical formations. Occult ceremonies performed atop my stomach. Gaia in fluid motions. A graveyard of witches planted along my skull. And I continue to expand.

Mike Corrao is the author of Man, Oh Man (Orson’s Publishing) and Gut Text (11:11 Press). His work has been featured in publications such as 3:AM, Always Crashing, The Collagist, and The Portland Review. He lives in Minneapolis where he earned his B.A. in film and English literature at the University of Minnesota. Learn more at mikecorrao.com.

Image: pixabay.com

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