We are walking through a deserted town almost 500 miles from The City. We had been riding for days. Chancellor Nirenberg ordered all the major ports closed, walled off The Capital, and retreated to an undisclosed bunker, leaving us to deal with the Zombies. What he didn’t tell the survivors was that it was the Vampires we really had to worry about. “This set is amazing. It even smells like a street,” says Justine, who is 17 and who I picked up along the highway. She was camping, after having run away with her sister, Juliet, who used to work for some asshole Hollywood screenwriter (who once brought a roadkill squirrel to a party at Mario Batali’s house, who drunkenly cooked it and served it to Gwyneth Paltrow, who ate it, thinking it was tofu) before the Terror. What was left of Juliet had been roasting on a campfire and I was starving.
The bar at the end of the block looked harmless enough, though someone had scrawled on the wall “I smell the blood of les tricoteuses.” And I should have been paying more attention, ‘cause it’s not like you can’t miss a Vampire -- they dress up like clowns ("Untitled #417" , right) and travel in packs. Like sucking blood isn’t bad enough. Justine was rifling through the bar and I was checking the small kitchen in back, which smelled like salted famine and disease, when one of them hit me from behind and I went down, smashing a table and chair ("Untitled #94" , below).
I am dreaming. Everything is quiet. And I am dreaming of before the Terror. Everything smelled like rain and cinnamon, and even though it is always sunny we never saw it because we lived in The City and the buildings always blocked it out and the girl I was with used to spend all day in bed ("Untitled Film Still #34" ), smoking cigarettes and waiting for me to get home from the Agency and when I did we would both get high and she was always so paranoid afterward that she would draw the curtains and turn out the lights ("Untitled Film Still #31" , right) and say, “Hey Dirty, I want you.” And I would smile and say, “When it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s bad I go to pieces,” and there was always Skrillex or Hotel Costes playing somewhere in the apartment and there were empty Chinese food containers everywhere or passes to a new club or piles of burner cell phones on the table or the new Coldplay CD or Kleenex or extra banana clips or small envelopes of Neroin.
My head is pounding, but we are running. Justine is pushing me out the back door, and we see pieces of bodies everywhere ("Untitled #263" , left) that the Zombies left behind, and ("untitled #175" ) I slip in something that might be human but isn’t anymore and we are running for the Ducati and there is something following us and it may be Vampire but maybe not and neither of us wants to turn around because it sounds wet and fast and not very human, but I can’t help it and turn back for a second
("Untitled #140" , right)
Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck and it isn’t and oh fuck oh fuck
We are on the Ducati and we are riding and the highway looks like a black gash as we race down it through the bright daylight, the sun blistering our skin, but we don’t stop and there isn’t any water anyway, and we have some vague idea that when we get to the South that everything is going to be different and it is going to be just like it used to be and there will be big houses and there will be Mother at the door to greet us ("Untitled #465" . left) just like she used to and even though I thought she was a fucking bitch when she found the Neroin and flushed it down the toilet and I said I would fucking kill her, I take it all back and am sorry I ever left and I am sorry for everything I ever did and all the people I killed.
And maybe there will be an ocean and maybe Justine and I can swim like I used to and I will have the red towel I used to take to the beach ("Untitled #137" , right) and we will sit in the sand and smoke cigarettes and stay high forever just like we used to and none of this will have ever happened and it was all just a dream.
Up ahead it is the water and we were riding all night and the sun is coming up and the Ducati hums and I turn back to look at Justine and smile at Justine through cracked lips and put my hand on her leg and I hope that there will be fish. - Bradley Rubenstein
The Museum of Modern Art is at 11 West 53rd Street in New York, New York.
Image at top of page: "Untitled #299" (1994).
Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.