The Witch King of Williamsburg
Black drops of blood sizzle and spit:
The Witch King is cooking breakfast.
Boudin noir to be exact. A good name for a male cabaret, he thinks. He’s squatted low over the pan, smelling it, letting hot grease sparkle his skin with feeling; his cock dangling dangerously close to the open flame, his balls unhindered by cloth.
It is 6AM in Bed Stuy, and the day must begin.
He eats his boudin noir on a jagged lump of concrete. A mother and two children walk past the abandoned lot where he leaves his lean-to and skillet and she directs their attention away from the naked stranger. His fork digs deep into his sausage; he relishes the final bite. Then he claps his hands and stands. He wraps up his loins in their cloth; he dons his malformed helmet, one horn of buffalo and something like an ibex.
He’s on his jog; he’s running under the el, longleg fleetfoot that he is, passing all the earlied and betrayed. He is the long slick sight of their every morning; he is the incessance of the world itself, hot with running blood. Those who’ve never seen him look twice, and them he looks straight in the face as if to say Voodoo is serious business.
After a few indefinite miles he must be done. His enemy has long been dressing, filling the air with the grainy light of hope, and now his radiant face crests over the Arby’s.
“Curse you, maleficarum!” the Witch King yells, pointing at the sun, waking the man beside him, sleeping in a pile of trash. The man opens a crusted lid to see who’s yelling now. The Witch King returns his gaze.
“I’m going to get him for us,” he says to the man and nods slow. “I’m going to eat his ass,” he yells. He takes off at a sprint; he’s back to his lot in instants, leaping the chainlinked fence. The sun is more than peeking now; the brazen slut is staring. At him. Which is to say it’s hot, very hot, and not yet even noon.
Good thing Witch King left his fire roiling: work awaits. There is no time to spill.
He collects his cauldron quickly, a little metal bucket, and he opens a vein in his hand to spill the spurt in the pail. He pours distillates on top of the blood, then pours on top of his hand. Wraps it. Looks at the sun. Mouths Fuck you. Looks around for something more. Think, Witch King; think, look. An action figure of a construction worker peaks out from the rubble. At last. He adds the plastic figure to the soup. He catches a flying pigeon like he’s holding a hot dog, breaks its neck, severs and adds its feet.
“Thank you pigeon glizzy.”
He stares at his concoction.
“This is it,” he says. “Boil me up some havoc, bitch.”
He spins up from where he’s crouched and points at the sun.
“Today I strike ye where ye dangle.”
Now there is time: the concotion must concentrate before it affords him powers. And he is hungry. A single sausage serves little purpose to him; he’s a caloric man. And it’s hot, and he ran; imagine the metabolic stress. He needs food, for which he needs money.
He will sell blood.
He opens the bandage on his hand, squeezes the glut to an empty beer bottle.
Then he is off again. He must ply his wares in Williamsburg. He mounts his stray citibike, and flies.
He throws the bike on the ground when he arrives at McCarren Healers’ Market. The throng is rich. Adult children abound seeking tinctures for maladies that absolve them of self. But what’s this: Chiaroscuro Lovelace has beaten him here.
“Scralagisticum,” says the Witch King snarling.
Chiaroscuro has a small crowd around him, claiming different crystals carry different frequencies which are readily received by water.
“And the body is 98% water,” he adds, smirking, like he’s eager to be someone’s hatefuck.
Chiaroscuro sees the Witch King, and his face crumples. The gaggle of young women turn to observe, and the Witch King stands sweaty, exceptionally so, and staggeringly cock-forward in posture and costume.
“Blood magic ten dollars a pop,” he calls. “Ten dollars general revelation; twenty I read your fucking stars. And I’ll let you buy my blood for a hundred.”
One girl is staring at him. No one moves. Chiaroscuro smirks and mandrill color flushes the Witch King’s face; he feels his blood tell him to jump and mangle the smiling little mystic, to palm his face and mash his head against the sidewalk until he turns back into teeth and bones and little harder basic things.
Instead he blesses Chiaroscuro with the sign of the cross. Chiaroscuro shrinks. The Witch King points to the girl and says I got you. She points to herself to confirm and he nods his head and waves her over into conspiracy and she laughingly consents.
“I will and I mean this kill that guy one day,” he says to her as she arrives, and she nods, squinting, to humor him.
She looks back at a friend, a beseeching glance, a call for confidence if not aid. The friend hesitates to quit C.L.’s speech on moldovite and the ways its stringencies can ready her for sharper engagement with anticolonial praxis. The Witch King senses growing hesitation in his customer and pounces.
“You know he’s lying.”
“Are you not lying.”
“No I’m telling you I’m lying except for the part where I kill him, and that’s what makes all of it true.”
“What are we talking about here chief.”
“I’m not a chief I’m a king and that was kind of racist. But I don’t care, not really.”
“I didn’t mean it like that at all.”
“Sure. You want to do blood magic or not.”
“How am I supposed to know. What is it.”
“It’s that samedi magic, whatever you need it to be. That’s the point. It is the logic and method both.”
“What do you need it to be?”
“Me personally I’m going to use it to kill the sun. I’m going to murder it, with my hands.”
“Alright I’m going back to crystal guy have a good time sir.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Cause I keep my heel to the skyscrapers’ spine. Cause I know how it plays out.”
She squints again.
“I guess not,” she says, and walks away.
And that makes him angry, because it quiets this morning rage he’s enjoyed, and now his rage feels thin, and sideways, or like a razorblade turned from its edge, all fat and easy to fold. He feels it folding, wanting to snap and release.
He smashes his heineken vial and lets the hot blood run. That makes him smile. Mandrill smile. The sound makes him smile and the sight makes him smile and playing with the bits of glass in the blood makes him smile, because he’s making jigsaw patterns to read, and then he has to consciously block out external attention for just like two minutes before any original intent dissolves, and the pleasant absence of hunger dissolves, and then he can make two more geometric overintricates with shard, to satisfy hecatic need, and finally allow himself to fingerpaint with red, at first working fast against thirsty porous concrete but then relinquishing the fear because he knows he knows how to tap a vein. As he works, a passerby stops to watch, and then really watches, and then takes out some dollars and looks for a cup.
“You can just put it on the ground,” the Witch King says. And he does.
The Witch King is eating back to back whoppers in the myrtle burger king. A cashwad is tucked into his sweatdamped diaper and he is dripping despite the artificial calm of conditioned air and he bites three times the meat in the sandwich then unwads a dollar and slams it on the table.
“Who can boast of being better off than I?”
A man in a bk shirt is sweeping and as he walks by the Witch King catches him by the sleeve.
“These are good fucking burgers.”
The man nods and the Witch King releases and the world is returned to its natural motions.
“Hot october,” he says to the back, then forces water into his throat and crumples the wrappers and tears them to pieces.
He leaves and starts running immediately. He forgot his bike but he’ll steal another but not right now there’s no time again. The sun is swelling into heavy red, because it knows he’s coming and it’s scared, and also because the air is filled with smoke that refracts its light more aggressively than plain natural atmosphere but no one cares, it’s cheap aposematics and none of it matters because the Witch King sucks avaricious lungs full and feels the particulate ire, the tearing open of tissues feeding new streams of blood. He is grateful.
He runs ineluctably but the world tries to slow him, with miserable, petty swipes; it sends red lights which he ignores and moving cars that try to break what he is doing and the cars yell and he stops traffic to yell back at all or any of them because he knows they are of a single and unimportant mind:
“Anything that afflicts itself on my trajectory is an insult, and I will take this into me, and put it in my legs, and I will mash its face into the concrete beneath my feet and I will throw each of these shredded bodies into the next intersection along with myself so you all see it and see that I did it and you will stop when I want you to, because then you will you know that no amount of metal can you hide behind—I can eat it all; I can eat all of it and I will and I will make the pedestrians watch as I do it. And if I ever looked at a pedestrian and it wasn’t afraid of me I would take it as an insult to rectify.”
He finishes his speech as he streams past broadway. A car screams and its driver whips around and it puts the window down to yell You dumb motherfucker and the Witch King moves to the driver’s side door and punches a swallowing dent and looks at the man in the face as he continues running. The man stops the car. The man leans out of the window and he tells the Witch King to come back here right now so he can put his teeth in the street and the Witch King doesn’t break his stride, he doesn’t even look.
He climbs the fence to his lot and looks at the potion where it sits; it’s black now and thick like tar with a white skein of plastic lard skimmed on the top, and it simmers so slowly that each infrequent bubble is opulent and large and patient in self-destruction. The sun is massive now; it is at the edge of the world and it quivers in its schlerin and howls toward its line, the line the single line it thinks it can hide behind and the Witch King grabs it he takes the horizon in his hands to throttle it and then looks directly at the sun and screams I am going to fucking murder you, with my hands, and he knows that whatever just said that is so much larger than the feeble star in front of him, so much more capacious and swelling.
The Witch King picks the tin cauldron up and pours it onto his head. It slathers his face and falls to his shoulders and he screams in the heat of its scald; he loves its dripping painting him red beneath the burning black. He feels almost nothing now; he has more heat in him than any body, celestial or not, and so he climbs a fire escape to the adjacent building’s roof, where the sun is pacing away, and he laughs black joy. It is time to work.
Now the Witch King walks to the edge. He opens himself, as far as he can, and looks at the screaming thing inside. He watches it taking its collar off. He watches it walk out of his mouth, ready to smother the sun.
Now the world is dark.
Arthur Boyle is a bike messenger in New York.