By: Cooper Hufman
I’d just graduated from the brainstorming process for a wand that freezes. Made from a lint roller, ice pack, two D batteries. The idea was to self-Arcticize on an unfinished deck when the forecast called for swift breeze with the intention to shatter into a million pieces upon impact with the ground. Three weeks of dabbling with the threads of a deconstructed American flag yielded a windsock for second opinions.
I am not a very good suicide engineer. All the best are gone and immortalized by 27, usually at 27, or else transition to the plain old mechanical variety of the greater discipline. Really, Human Beings are only designed with capabilities in mind not surpassing three-ball juggling.
I am Pierrot. I like black and yellow.
Suicide engineers enjoy discussing the grammatical intricacies of Platonic Forms. The beauty (or Form thereof) of Plato’s grammar is the expansiveness of the subjects over which it resides. The ethical, political, metaphysical, and the nature of Greek hygiene, their bathing routines, with their olive oil wrestling and caverns in which to retreat from the sun—everything under the kosmos. I am not a very good grammarian within the tradition of Plato on account of my foray into Aristotle prior to my involvement in suicide engineering, myself square and devoutly in the camp of scaffolded hierarchies (which are better), where forms are lowercase and merely substratum.
A suicide engineer must engage in planning with the utmost care, for second guessing is indexed beneath failure in introductory texts and seldom anthologized. I was in the midst of drafting a blueprint on a largish piece of graph paper, drawing up the wand in my usual 3:4 scale, when a octopus of monstrous proportions and eight appendages breached the door of my workshop. As it slithered toward me with the limited mobility of a beached jellyfish, it left behind that brown trail characteristic of hamburger patties. The bully upturned my ergonomic desk and punted the yoga ball I had been sitting on, proving himself bipedal, perhaps crawling as a scare tactic or introduction more in line with what would be expected of such a creature. It grabbed me by the torso with its sloppy joe tendrils and shook me in schizo-rhythmic triplets, as if I was a maraca wielded by infant hands. Because its meat arms had the cool quality of recent refrigeration, it would’ve been easy to confuse them for instruments of pleasure. Only when the novelty of my kidnapper’s identity wore, and it had then absconded with me to its underwater cave network beneath Mexico, did I become seriously worried.
I was bound and gagged and placed alongside the other prisoners. The wall in front of us and our figures backlit by a Brookstone salt lamp I’d spied in transit. Stalactite formations occupied the top and bottom borders of the wall giving the whole ensemble, including the mouth in which the octopus would project shadows between, a dental dimension. There were its two-sort-of legs; it used another four of eight for kabuki puppetry whose content clearly supplemented by cultural moralities from the stack of Curious George books to the medieval plays in which both Evil and Good were presented to us as shadows. I initially thought up rather comprehensive concepts to distract myself. One which I was particularly fond of: a tortellini gun in which to blow out my brains—gunpowder hurling carbohydrate munitions through my frontal lobe with the quickness of a lobotomy. Occasionally, I’d hear the complaint of chapped knees from other prisoners—no doubt commenting on how we’d been placed in front of the cave wall as if posing perpetually for team photos. Usually accompanied, more often than not I’d notice, by a Southern accent first and gag-impediment second. The regional blood from their wounds wetting my own to prove it. Occurring to me then that the fruition of my weapon and the goal it sought to accomplish depended on the platonic seduction of the monster after sufficient speech therapy in the Form of small talk with the cohort.
And will the detective, seeing what I’ve done in correspondence to the teachings, histories and moralities of our many, having reached into my wallet to see I’ve registered a name in the state of Arkansas, feel personally some Injustice to have been done? Or ought he to not repine at the prospect of death?
A Brief History of Suicide Engineering as Exemplified Through Numerous Oral Histories:
Consolidated and Recorded in Print
After the OSS and before a loosely centralized organization called the Kamikazes became what we know presently as the occupation of suicide engineer, there was the era of the gently fanned sideburn when at least one-hundred strange men named Ted owned Volkswagens in Seattle. A libertarian tax evader, Blotto, wore a talisman around his neck: twenty toenails from the paws of half as many polar bears whose necks he broke one evening in Vietnam after optically ingesting eight hundred micrograms of LSD—400ug per orb. They want these eyeballs! At the time, the Kamikazes were starved for a more effective means to end lives of the large groups of participants present at their annual suicide parties (an innovation itself, suicide typically being a solitary affair). Their preferred and only method at such events being honorable Seppuku, where the subject not only disemboweled, but was then decapitated by a close friend of their choosing from behind. Parties would create a sort of conga-line, each dying one-by-one. The problem being, that even in perfect execution, the caboose would always be left alive. And yet the entire enthusiasm of the movement depended on the sole survivor spreading word and managing the logistics of a new gathering where he now being in charge, could be the very cowcatcher of this season’s seppuku, but only fixing his highly private issue of living, the burden of which now unloaded on a caboose whose assignment the whim of seating charts released a week prior to each party per a scrupulously adhered tradition passed from one surplus to the next.
Blotto had hired a blaxploitation-flick stunt double trained in taekwondo to kick the stool he was tied atop. Whilst the stool was kicked out under him (we’re talking milliseconds), he stretched back his eyelids and through a roped off trachea, screamed robotically, Bitches want these eyeballs!, then puffing up his cheeks and releasing flatulent noises from his puckered lips. The singular Miro Chagi-kick rendered a technical blow to the shin of the furniture leg and provided sufficient inertia to instantly snap Blotto’s neck. His birthday marked by clock stroke at midnight, 15 minutes prior to being declared dead, a pocket edition of Crito tucked into his waistband. His innovation being assisted suicide involving individuals with no intention to die. And though the addition of third parties administratively planning suicide parties quite an ordeal, to his credit also necessitated more structured leadership as Blotto had increased the efficiency of local chapters to 100%.
At the emerging prominence of gluten allergies came the next great innovation in the medium, when a salad bar manager Carba was told to limit her bread intake. Please, my allowance has been cut in half! Without assistance she drowned twelve loaves of French bread in garlic butter and broiled them in the oven, in the meantime creating a plate of sliced ciabatta to eat over should any cloval leakage reach the table. She’d placed and then blown a figure of candles odd and divisible by three before gorging with plastic utensils until her heart seized. Carba’s demise and what followed, individualism, blurred the newly focused engineers to the extent of not only pre-Blotto, but to suicide even before recorded evidence of Kamikazes, but this time beneath the umbrella of a post-Blotto structure where engineers belonged prominently rooted in academia or as temporary contractors for think tanks focused on links between mental health and adequate social safety nets. The individualism movement (sometimes called egoism by ethicists whose views more closely align to small contingents of utilitarians or deontologists that make exceptions for suicide), still popular within contemporary practice of the science.
Thirdly, the latest stride within suicide engineering, the bumblebee barn: the 100ft tree. In the tendrils of an eight-tentacled octopus who he had been kidnapped by months prior, Pierrot soared through the air cradled by six. The malleable property of the ground beef that composed its limbs accounting for the other two reshaped as wings. While contemplating a lacquer to preserve the integrity of fragile pasta, No one can tortellini my tortellini gun!, Pierrot spotted the tree—the uncut block to carve his masterpiece, which until that point he had assumed would be the firearm. With its guard down due to adequate platonic seduction back in the cave, Pierrot was able to access and tickle a barnacle growth within one of its armpits with a page he’d torn from Curious George Learns the Alphabet.
When he’d escaped with certainty, he felled the tree and ate picnics on the stump each Sunday. Having been pronounced dead after exhaustive search efforts, Pierrot had to announce residency at his local DMV to get his name on the books because in the event of his death it would not have been official otherwise.
If I plan to hang myself, it’d better be spectacular. Eschewing the culinary-theme to focus entirely on Carbian individualism while simultaneously maintaining the grandeur of early-period seppuku, Pierrot erected a grandfather clock from the tree and super glued it back to the base of the stump. To recreate the sensation of bungee jumping, Pierrot would then tie into the center cavity of the clock, himself becoming the weight to carry the pendulum from side to side.
It was a detective who first observed the oeuvre. He kicked in a door at the foot of the clock to observe intricate support beams and access planks made entirely of cardboard. He then faced the barn to the east while the sun set on the whole of the West, and if it's not the shade of the sun’s color against striped shadows on the barn’s face, then it must just be painted like that. It was rumored the wood that composed the barn was the gutted planks of the ancient Greek vessel Delos.
Not only did Pierrot’s hybrid cross-pollination elevate suicide to art, but his exploits within the cave fictionalized on forums dedicated to Japanese porn (category: Hentai), deficient and rhetorical like an Athenian senate. Their stories being the third sin against philosophy—
Cooper Hufman studied at James Madison University.