HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for The Brutal Issue – sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website.

Keep an eye on our social media for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release of The Brutal Issue…

Donation to the Void of Matter

Kevin Lankes


Not long ago, after workaholic reclusion had carved a cavernous ruin into the continuity of my life, I became convinced that existential contentment of the sovereign individual was a state of being so malodorously false that it could only be propagated for the sole purpose of moving the innumerable surplus of nonfiction prose. The drive for collaboration, I came to believe, is what makes men tick – the drive for systems and for order and for conflict with the deep overbearing nothingness that swamps our very being. This sense of disillusionment and subsequent desire for purpose is what led me initially to the Church of St. Aloysius Goldstein of the Temple of Our Mother of Satan, where my coconspirators have just concluded a rousing discussion of my perceived lack of dedication to our latest fundraising drive, which consisted entirely of poaching unsuspecting organ donors from the DMV to our own proprietary and completely aboveboard – we even have the paperwork to prove it – volunteer body donation disposal service, whereby all of our volunteers would be subject, upon death, to the most worthwhile postmortem vacation package experience offered anywhere this side of Paradise, right after, of course, we’ve had our complete and total way with their earthly remains as established in the contractual fine print that is coincidentally so fine that it doesn’t technically exist on the visible spectrum. This lack of dedication, it goes without saying, is total bullshit. I always drink deep of the darkness.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to fight to clear my name, but it is likely to be the last; as long as a certain Deacon Bradley remains in the leadership, the very same instigator responsible for misplacing one of the Church’s most sacred artifacts during the bakeoff against the Methodists – the blame for which somehow came to rest squarely upon me – my deep well of evil will forever be stifled. This transfer of blame, notwithstanding, did not succeed in returning the Trusty, Battle-Weathered Pie Pan of Beelzebub to its holy nook in the fiery sepulcher.
We reign, each of us, my darlings, in dreary isolation for a brief moment in time. It’s true that once I doubted my place in the Universe altogether, yet now I have seen the light, my brethren – the dark, dark, light. The structure of the Church, as I’ve come to know it – a symbolic microcosm of the Cosmos, that senseless floating pile of consumer goods, is a deadless void, an unfeeling, self-perpetuating system, and systems regurgitate nothing but ambition; my own insides are aflame with a glow of aspirational drive toward a state of humanity wound up in gears and reflected back at itself, ad infinitum. I realize now that collectives are never wholly free of the individuals from which they are formed, and can therefore be only as strong as the will of those in control; and Deacon Bradley, as vapid and ineffectual a leader as the Church has ever known, will drive the last bit of holy flame from every dustcaked corner of the membership until he is stopped. Having noticed his power evaporating into the ragefilled void, Bradley has begun to single out and cast off the most wellregarded among us, encouraging the others to loyalty, obedience, and fellowship, all while disregarding our own Luciferian will and blindly miscalculating the imperative of systems to self-correct. Now that I have become the prime victim of his treachery, it is I who shall selfcorrect, it is I who shall regain equilibrium and inflict Agaresian woe on our shortsighted leader.
This is why, at this very moment, I stand in line at the DMV posing as Deacon Bradley, wading, as it were, through the purgatory of the most inauspicious office of wasted human efficiency, in order to change Bradley’s organ donor status to a resounding “Yes.” In so doing, no one shall think twice when he fails to turn up after his fall, sudden and woeful and untimely as it may be, and oh how easy it will be to log him into the Church’s donation system, seeing as he is the very man in the leadership who began the initiative and to this day pushes most vocally for its success. With Bradley gone, and my evidence of his treachery at the loss of the Trusty, Battle-Weathered Pie Pan of Beelzebub exposed, my place as Most Holy Deacon of Fire and Sadness shall be secured, ushering in a new era of purity in our most dark and ancient craft.
In the case that I am challenged and ultimately apprehended, a manila envelope proceeds en route to a prominent member of the press with such damning evidence buried within its pages that the Church will forever fall, never to rise again. For if I may not remake the Church in my own image, then I will expose its inner workings and condemn its esoteric secrets to the most obscure and shuttered corridor of the universe. A piece of my statement reading:
“The letter herein contained and read by you, Prominent Member of the Press, will ultimately succeed in bringing about the doom of the Church, and through it, perhaps render void some tiny bit of the exploitative power of the systems of man. Though it must not be said who exactly it is that’s penned this letter, hopefully the condition of anonymity will not be seen as somewhat of a detriment to the validity of its contents. Think about it this way; I’m trying hard to level with you, and equally hard to screw over Deacon Bradley. And there’s a good chance that peeking into our secretive and highly guarded initiatory organization might crack open the door to its ultimate demise. Or to my ascendance – with obvious preference given to the latter.
Yours in the Mother of Satan,
P.S. The Trusty, Battle-Weathered Pie Pan of Beelzebub shall be avenged.”
The Prominent Member of the Press scans the letter once, a smile cradling his lips like an infant nurtured by flickering shadow, lets it fall to his side and takes a long pull from his cigar as he leans back in the velvet wing chair and embraces the relief of the coming external distress of night. He listens, ear stretched to the window of his posh study, to the raucous cries of stealth-stalked mammals, to the owls and bats feasting on the lesser creatures of the dark. Casually, he picks up and turns over in his palm the ceremonial pin received during last month’s initiation into the Church of St. Aloysius Goldstein of the Temple of Our Mother of Satan, and he slips the letter into the filing cabinet next to the blood-black ebony desk upon which his feet rest, to await a time when he himself might test the inevitability of systems.

KEVN LANKES studies creative writing in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College and pens content for clients in the science, tech, and healthcare industries. He grew up in a small town nestled in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and now splits his time between central Pennsylvania and New York City. In his lifetime, he has toured the U.S., lived on couches, and survived cancer.
Website: http://www.kevinlankes.com/