You Wanted To Know
Joel Kopplin

Dylan, the anesthesiologist, told Michael and me that he would make us death masks.
     He said that the face is much different in death, and he’s seen faces of folks he’s placed under and he was sure they were dead. It’s much different than sleep. He showed us a photo from his phone, the photo of a face of a boy from Brazil, from Sao Paolo, a skinny boy with nice skin who’d apparently stabbed a soccer player to death on the pitch and the player’s people had come to pull the boy to pieces. Put his head on a stick and set it in the center of the field. Dylan showed us the photo of the skinny boy with the skin, smiling.
     “Now check this out,” he said and moved a finger across the screen.
     He showed us video of the coroners placing the pieces back against the torso. Women in long t-shirts holding his legs and switching sides to see which went where. The boy’s head with his eyes closed, streaks and spots along the jaw-line, by the slack corners of the mouth, on the eyelids and earlobes.
     “It doesn’t look real, does it.”
     He swore he’d seen faces after he’d put them under, after he sat beside them and watched their features fall away from the bone, and he was certain they had souls.
     “I swear I can see them because I can see them leave. After the needle and they count back from ten their faces fall away.”
     And if their souls step out for the duration, for a penectomy, for breaking the nose so that they might breathe at night when they sleep, if the soul escapes that means that the body is an empty house with an open door and Dylan said he wanted to step inside.
     He said he would make us death masks after he put Michael and me under so that we might know what we were when we were no longer living, when our selves escaped and wandered.
     “You can keep the casts, and if you’re still together years from now you can compare them when one of you really dies. You can compare them and decide whether or not I did a good job.”
     We sat on his porch holding hands, ceiling fan set above whirring away wind. We sat on his porch holding hands and he told the two of us we should hold a séance to see what Amon knows, what he might say to us when he slipped into the room. The sun was down and so we said okay and stood. A light was on in a room upstairs.
     Dylan lit shelves on fire. His room was west and it went black behind shades. He said he spoke to spirits but I suspect Satan because Pastor William said all spirits that speak are Satan: not angels not ghosts not grandparents not God because God does not speak in the words we use to say what we want, and so Satan because he understands, because he knows we will never not want what we do not have. Michael unbuttoned my jeans and slid a finger across the underside of my stomach.
     “He says his name is Amon,” he said.
     We held hands while the boards curled smoke, while books with broken bindings became ash he swept to the carpet. Michael held my cock and I raised my hips so I might slip out my jeans. Pastor William said all voices that tell you things in the dark by the candles and the burning books and sage all say the same things because they are not what they say they are. God does not tell you what you want to hear. God’s is the only voice you seek and He does not speak simply because you say He should.
     Dylan smiled such nice teeth and he held my hair at the top of my scalp.
     He had a book from under the stairs, tucked back in a box, buried in the dark with the dust. He said that it was the lesser key of Solomon, who was so wise he could call forth spirits and keep them still. He said he saw the shapes of so many spirits as seen by the writer of this book. Some of the pages were printed upside down or backward, so he read the book by turning it in circles. He showed us the sketches of spirits, their animal features. Orobas had the head of a horse. Orobas held his arms up and outward and would not suffer them to be tempted of any spirit. I traced my fingers over his form while Dylan said they would all speak of things past and hidden. Pastor William said they would all say the same thing. Michael moaned and arched his back and I flicked his nipples with my tongue.
     Dylan showed Michael and me the sketch of Amon and his face was a fire. It burned like the shelves. We saw the black eyes and the sharp mouth. Amon had the tail of a snake, thick as though made for crushing.
     Dylan held me by the hair and his eyes rolled toward the ceiling with the smoke. He held me there and I held Michael in my own mouth. He reached somewhere behind him, fingers searching the carpet, somewhere I could not reach.
     “Thee I invoke, the Bornless one,” He said after scolding me and telling me to be quiet. “Hear me.”
     Amon slunk into the room and closed the door. “What do you want to know?” he said. “All you have to do is ask.”
     After Dylan hung my hair from a nail above the window he applied the wet plaster to Michael’s face, and I watched it puddle by his shoulders on the carpet. He was careful to keep my hands away while it dried and he told me to shush, so I shushed. I watched the plaster dry in big splotches on his shoulders, in clumps on his chest where there now was a cavity, and I was quiet. I kept my mouth closed.
      Pastor William said that sometimes to speak is obscene, that though knowledge shows you what you did not see, to see is to know that your body is an empty vessel.

Joel Kopplin's writing has appeared in places like Sleepingfish, htmlgiant, and Atticus Review. His novella Spaces is available from Outpost19.