“Another Dead Empire,” by Aladdin Collar, 2017

New Babylon rises from the ashes of another dead empire, and I can barely afford a studio apartment with a kitchenette and shared bathroom.

At sunrise, I say my prayers to Aka Manah, ejaculate into the old chalice, and gather my things to go to Office. I present my tribute to the doorman. He scatters my seed amongst the bones of lesser fellows that litter the patches of dirt and garbage around our building.

It’s hard to breathe amid the heat and dusts. In the flesh park, the statues of Solomon’s Goetia melt faster than the emaciated body-slaves can re-figure them. The cellulite tallow from which the demons are rendered smells familiar, not unlike a girl I once loved. Perhaps a dollop or two of this thick mess once belonged to her hips or thighs.

The street on which I walk is covered with torn, scorched papers. I wouldn’t dare to pick one up, but, watching my feet, I catch glimpses of words and phrases, symbols of a forbidden language I can barely remember.

The dead letter office is quiet when I arrive, and, will likely remain so. No one comes here. The verification process to claim one of our undeliverables requires a valid birth certificate, six month proof of residency, and a live sacrifice of a ram to Hermes Kriophoros. Anyone who does not meet the criteria is executed in the back, their body catalogued in frozen storage.

There are nine soggy bags of post to sort – the markings indicate that all items were once bound for Arcady, in the West. As I begin to separate envelopes from parcels from dead bats wrapped in shipping labels, a small convoy of Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks pulls up in front of our complex, and women in apothecary masks & rose colored lenses begin tossing bags of mail, and wooden caskets, into the cracked parking lot. All of these addresses, too, are marked for Arcady.

“Tis truly the best of all possible new world orders,” one of the women insists, her voice muffled by the long beak packed with ambergris and cocaine.

The coffin lids bulge, nails barely holding; they are overstuffed, and ooze black viscus fluids with matted lumps of hair. Some of the caskets burst when they hit the cement, spilling the corpses of a nymphs, satyrs, and a single figure that looks to be a composite body sewn together from charnel fragments.

“Arcadia is no more,” woman explains. “The great god Pan is dead. All hail Aka Minah!”

I would prefer not to, I think to myself while raising a salute in solidarity.

I do not weep for Pan, or his noble, fallen courtiers. When the trucks depart, I pour a little of my vanilla diet Pepsi on the ground, instead, for those of us left behind – the senders to whom a scant few letters and packages might yet be returned.

Story by Aladdin Collar, for “Where the Wild Thinks Are,” 2017.