“Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature’s inexorable imperative.”—H.G. Wells
It isn’t widely known that H. G. Wells, the futurist, in the middle of his years, informally adopted a boy he called Kip, a boy of about 12, who Wells claimed was half-Hindoo, though the friends of Wells who actually met Kip claimed the boy looked more Negroid than anything else. In a letter to Cecil Rhodes, Wells wrote that Kip [was] “an experiment pitting Nature’s dithering melody against Nurture’s persistent drum beat.” Wells kept a fastidious journal of Kip’s daily experiences, tracking the boy’s progress in new surroundings. Wells’ quasi-scientific journal would seem to impute feral-child challenges to Kip’s negotiation of Edwardian London. Contrary to that, it was rumored that Kip was the exotic indiscretion of an Anglican minister, bringing with him, when he began his stay with the man who wrote “The Time Machine,” a valise of well-made clothing and some charter school Latin, having come from no further abroad than Chiswick .
All that the world generally knows about “Kip” comes from Wells’ journal, and certain letters exchanged between Wells and Rhodes, GB Shaw, Margaret Sanger and Rebecca West (and some secret, rumor-mongering letters between Shaw and West) before Kip moved with Wells to Spade House, the mansion Wells built at Sandgate, 8 Vicarage Road, in 1901. There are also fleeting echoes and shadows of the boy that are traceable through Wells’ fiction after 1890, most notably “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, which Wells began the month he and Kip first met.
“That’s fucked up,” says Sanna, combing her hair.
Yanking that thick black rope of never-ending taffy out of the top of her head. It’s the only hair on her, which is glaringly obvious as she sidesaddles the ottoman in front of the vanity, dividing her attention between me and the mirror. Her wishbone legs hide nothing, presenting a slit, though less a slit than a fold, a bored fold in a dingy bisque napkin embossed with the faded heraldry of the bed sheets she’s just climbed out of. The last living bulb in the circle of frosted lights ringing the mirror burned out last week, finally. Even Sanna’s eyelashes are gone. We had a little ceremony for the burnt bulb wearing the interior smudge of defunct spirit and I teared-up a little whereas Sanna tends not to. Sometimes I just sit in the library and blubber and Sanna does neither. Ever.
But that was Babsy’s vanity. That was the tool of her trade. This is where the magic fails to happen Babsy joked daily in the years (and years) before her end, three times older than Mark Twain when she bit it but looking pretty fertile still. She continued to receive a dozen proposals every day. A sex doll in its box in a glass-lidded satin-lined coffin I haven’t had the nerve to visit, up there, in a century. You have to get pretty old before the dead stop scaring you.
“How so?” Sanna mocks what she thinks of as my pretentiously formal diction. Affectionately. “How is it fucked? How is it fucked? Tut tut. The guy was all alone in the world ferfucksake. I swear sometimes you’re autistic.”
“Oh. Oh. Kip. I thought…”
Wells refers to Kip, in a letter to Sanger (his mistress at the time) as “endearingly ugly and too clever by half yet blissfully unaware of either limitation.”
“Cut the little savage a break,” sneers Sanna, braiding the taffy with an old fashioned thing, a Bobby pin, between her teeth. Why would she give a damn about Kip? It would be good to know.
Does he have potential?
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.“—H.G. Wells
I can remember my first potty poo like it was yesterday. Probably because there was a photographer present. In subterranean Africa, Bobby pins are still very much used to systematically repair inoperative sandals, as I read recently. Sanna’s skin is tea-toned and her eyes are, too, and they are Siamese, exaggerated with the help of smidgens of the kilos of century-old makeup our Mommy left behind. There’s the good old endlessly 130-mile-per-hour wind tearing at the sides of the house, causing the rafters in the enormous attic two levels above us to channel the roar into the moan of a crowd of permanently horrified voices. Welcome to Planet Windshear. You could play soccer up there and we did once and never again because Babs is up there. The ball hit the catafalque and I swear I heard her hiss at us. Maybe it was gasses escaping. Every window in the attic and all over the rest of the house has been bricked in since forever.
It’s been so many years since I’ve seen Sanna with any clothes on that that’s how I filthy-fantasize her, lifting a skirt or rolling some stockings down but never all the way off. Just enough, never enough to show the slit, which I’d be happy to lose sight of forever, but it’s never not there because my adopted sister Sanna lives in a prehistory all her own, the Eden of forgetting what clothes do, whereas I guess she’ll end up burying me in one of the six pairs of silk pajamas I wouldn’t be caught dead out of, especially as my teen belly grows to mock the flatness of Sanna’s permanent immaturity, the animal ripeness she’ll never know.
She needs to start believing in something.
This mansion, not much less grand than Wells’ Spade House (when it was built), was paid for with movie star cash and lies and glamour. I was there when the ribbon was cut and the roomfuls of flowers were delivered and the flash bulbs popped, blissfully slow-shitting my pants under the already non-nurturing, cataract sun. We had moved up the hill, so to speak. Imagine renting a moving van after the apocalypse; imagine having more money after the apocalypse than you had before it. And all those really close stars, arm’s length, the little blue novas, boosh boosh boosh, from high exploding foreheads of big-toothed Mexicans. El Paparazza. I remember those flashy things would pop out and sizzle and burn a kid’s hand like a bee. Nothing funnier than defunct technology, right?
“The only true measure of success is the ratio between what we might have done and what we might have been on the one hand, and the thing we have made and the things we have made of ourselves on the other.” —H.G. Wells
It was only about 60 or so years, not quite that, after a few of us got the one-time so-called Immortality Shot (and just one follow-up, if it hadn’t killed you, six months later) that the World came to an end. “Immortality” had been the goal all along, right? When we finally reached it, what was left?
(Although, to be sure, “Immortality,” in scare quotes, is just where the cruel wit of the researchers was at the time. What they meant, I am coming to understand, is that round about the 220-to-270 mark, it feels like you’ve been living forever… and then you’re relieved when it all stops and you relinquish structural integrity in spasms of dry diarrhea and sort of implode and choke to death on your breastbone or one of your eyes or something. A bad movie you stuck around for just to see how it ends.)
First there was the apocalypse, then there was the greatest scientific discovery in the history of creation and then the world ended. You have to keep the chronology right.
We got our shots because Babsy was so famous and iconic and beloved but the others had to pay absolutely blinding sums for the privilege. Special discount rate for extended plutocrat dynasties. Fewer than a million people I’m sure. You’d be a fool to admit it to the public but I know for a fact that Mamie Gummer’s kids got theirs. The shots freeze you wherever your physiological development happens to be when you get them, so Sanna is perpetually pre-pubertal and I’m perpetually adolescent, voice breaking and weight fluctuations and everything. I never stop breaking out. The term is “forced telemere stacking”. I don’t think it’s been quite a hundred years since we got The Shot. Or maybe two?
And there are you reading this one hundred or two hundred or whatever after I finally checked out thinking “What does he mean, the World ended?”
Because you never knew what the World was. Never experienced it. You think of the space that you inhabit, wherever and whatever that is (I’m sure it’s very nice), as you read this text written in reeking shoe polish on fucking bedsheets, as being “The World” and that is a touchingly understandable error. Q-tips and shoe polish from me to you. Let me tell you about the World before it ended. Before Babs and I moved uptown. When Babsy was still young, and I was nothing, just two big eyes and a brown thumb, before the other kids came into the picture, we had a bungalow at Mission Beach, a cute little house in a row of cute houses facing the Ocean.
We had Cinnabons.
“The past is the beginning of the beginning and all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn.”—H.G. Wells
I’m trying to remember. I’m trying to get things straight. Get them right. Before the move. Some of my unrelated siblings hadn’t even been born in their tragic villages yet. I can just about conjure the hum of the highway. To the airport. We are surging toward JFK and some of my unrelated cocksucking little brothers (RIP) have been born in their filthy fucking little villages but are undiscovered. Phuket. Peshawar, right? Burkina Faso. Lima. Port Au Prince. Tbilisi. I am remembering. One by one they came into my life and one by one I removed them.
I am the first in a long line of examples of what proved to be Bab’s most embarrassing addiction. Next to the plus-or-minus titjobs. Babs popped for so many seasonal breast augmentations and swung-pendulum reductions that I can no longer recall how big her breasts really were in the original or if they always tasted like that. I had those joybags when they were real. Babs let me (she cajoled me to) suck to calm us both and I think Babs even ringed the nipples with maple syrup or am I imagining that? Right after I learned to talk. She was mine and mine alone for years. Which is why I remember. No milk. Sweat (a flavor I learned to respond to) and syrup. Maybe it was sticky booze. Which would explain…
(But I am not drunk now. I never write “drunk”.)
Back to Babsy’s addictions.
More embarrassing than the ten-speed bra cycles: the psychics. When I was five or six I thought Babs was saying “sidekicks” and I thought it was “sidekicks” until I was about twelve and I was irked for six years over that because I thought I was her fucking sidekick, what other sidekick could read her palm… the palm in the kitchen under the neon skylight, I thought… better than I could? And jealous love taught me that, to literally read a potted plant.
But even more embarrassing than the psychics and the greyhound track-hunts, the group frappaccino colonics, the cow collecting, the charlatan-guided ghost-fucking, the public shoplifting and skirt-pissing humility-exercises dictated by Childe Guru in a trance over Skype, the gardener-BDSM, the competitive cupping, the artisanal bleeding, Kabala-Max, flesh-transfer tatting, Abramovic discharge-brunches, Ozone soirees and waterboard-rebirthings etc. … worse than any of that was her compulsive acquisition of debris-brats.
There couldn’t be a financial crisis, industrial accident or natural disaster anywhere in the Turd World without me getting a bankrupt, mud-covered or irradiated sibling out of the headline. With a lag of two or three weeks, usually. The shammy paperwork and noble baksheesh. I was the first and only kid she picked up from what they used to call a First World country which being the broken toy we call the Northern Homelands (bordering the Canadian supercrater): home. The star and stripes. Babs didn’t fill out a single form for the first kid, for me, she just picked me up right off the sidewalk, I think it was Chicago, maybe it was St. Louis. Lucky penny.
Future-thing with eyes and a mind to read English, you should have seen it back then.
I should have seen it back then. I have. I’ve seen so many pictures. Not a curlicue of barbed wire for as far as the eye could see.
If you were planning to make a religion of this material, which one would be your Messiah? Which one’s prophesied return would you build your holidays and sacrifices and spiritual longings around? If you were bored, I mean. And you needed a religion for two.
Kip or Wells?