Inland Empire 2 // Gary J Shipley

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Note: this was originally featured in a larger collection called 30 Fake Beheadings, published by Spork Press. It posits imaginary, ludicrous sequels to 30 existing films, including The Holy Mountain 2, Happiness 2 and just in case war trauma didn’t stick the first time, Come And See 2.

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Mine is the longest running sickness in history. I contracted it in the Baltic, in an old hotel, with dark hallways leading to an exaggerated darkness that I didn’t recognize. On my way in to watch this film I ask where I am and the same kind of darkness pervades everything. I ask if I’m in the right room. I’m afraid if somebody answers they’ll know who I am. And they’ll know from that what it is I want—before I do. The screen appears when I sit. It’s the same kind of hallway and the same kind of darkness. This sequel’s like me: it’s afraid of itself. It understands how people sit in rooms wearing the heads of the same animal. It understands how in looking for a way in the audience will find a dead person in the seat next to them. I face the front; I face the screen. The film has just started but I think it will be over soon. It may help me. You see I have a new neighbour I’m planning to murder over coffee. The problem is if I enjoy it very much. The problem is unless I murder her I’ll be forced to say hello. It’s rare but it’s nice, this aversion to dishonesty. And the film knows which house I am living in. It’s the woods around it. It’s difficult to see because I’m afraid, and the film is afraid, and our being afraid is feared by the people living inside our being afraid. The film and I make an evil marriage. We are both the worst kind of memory we try hard to forget. A little boy is born, goes out to play and does not come back. I’m sorry to see his reflection still breathing. I’m sorry that his murder is still not part of the story. I’m sorry I can’t seem to remember the things I’ve been saying, or how it is this film deviates from the first one. If actions have consequences there’s a chance I’m purposeful. If it was tomorrow this film would be watching me. Oh my God! You’re not mine after all! We are happy if our roles don’t kill us before the end. And yet, I’ve never felt better up to my neck in another film’s caviar. The woman on the screen says if you pull her hair she’ll tell you where she lives, and she’ll feed you her daughters out of professional courtesy. It’s Hollywood, where how you feel is perfect and incredible and dreamt. I’m stuck watching a scene apologize for its seriousness. Hollywood is eating husbands. Hollywood is finished before it’s unfinished. Hollywood is lovely weather. Hollywood is going to kill someone. Hollywood is millions of bad stories. Hollywood has the nicest ass.

She’s front of stage. The acceptance speech is a remake. Her Academy Award is puking its guts out. Another woman makes love to her cappuccino for fear of dying. Inland Empire 2 was never finished: the characters all left to raise more humans to sit and watch the end of the world. Because the audience is not a free agent, it watches under a curse. It has a lot of nerve either way. My head talks in dialogue from the script. I exercise. I talk too much. I build a nice fire from my wife and children. I watch the characters relax by drinking coffee till their ears bleed. ‘Sorry, baby, there’s nothing left to ruin,’ says one man to another man, when the light should fade. And now a month later, it seems like only yesterday I was hypnotized foreign. But thanks, you were all so wonderful, all so sweet. When a face on the screen says, ‘Look at me, you fucker!’ I’m pregnant with how much this sucks. How much tits and ass I’m not getting. Still, rape is a long way off in my mind, and so strange, this thing that happened, that I don’t really understand. I gouged a man’s eye out when I was seeing things that weren’t there, but I don’t mean anything by not being who you think I am. Look at me! I’m not even here. From now on, someone else will have to father my children. This screening: it did some sort of thing on people where it’s no longer possible to murder animals. Someone is still going to kill me though, but I won’t notice till afterwards, till the film comes out. I’m trying to tell you so you’ll get it—same way you get Inland Empire 2—how you can go all around Hollywood and never find me. Just like a movie star. Just like a monkey shitting all over the place. Just like a horror movie in which I do not care.

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Gary J. Shipley is the author of numerous books, including On the Verge of NothingBright Stupid ConfettiTerminal Park30 Fake BeheadingsYou With Your Memory Are Dead, and Warewolff!. His monograph on Baudrillard, Stratagem of the Corpse, is available from Anthem Press and Cambridge Core. More information can be found at Thek Prosthetics.

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