“Place the bag upon your head, child, and you shall know which is the way you must go. And we shall raise you in the way you must go.”

So the bag was placed over his head, though he wasn’t a child any longer. The Scottish woman enunciated her words carefully, as though pronouncing a death sentence, the secret of a smile flickering at the corners of her mouth. The policy had initially been developed to help identify workplace bullies early on, with the goal of keeping them as comfortable as possible. But the idea had been, if anything, too successful, and now the bag could be placed on anyone, everyone, at any point, for any taxonomic purpose one wished. It was well known that there were four paths out of there, escape routes if you like, though only a minority of those onto whom the bag was placed knew more than the bare minimum. 

There was a rumor, and wasn’t it true, that the first of the paths was the straightest, a path of leonine strength. Those who took it were life’s winners. When one is dealing with a sociopath, one keeps things steady. The man forever trying to bite his own nose off, lips stretching and jaw clenching as he sucks his face in through the hard palate. The lion-man is a vacuum in the mouth: the corresponding flavor is Salt. Lion-woman, though cruel in her own way, had bent herself into a brittle, fuckable sneer. Of the pair, she resembled a lion the more: she shook her mane fiercely, and she told her lovers that she loved fiercely, although it was not love. There was a third, a lion-runt, a lion-grunt, a lion-gimp, who proved the rest; onto him they pushed themselves, into his mouth were spat the cruelest jokes, the meanest and sharpest words. “Cunt,” they called him, “you stupid cunt”—even in front of his mother, who laughed along because she preferred his brothers. Later, they said of the runt: “he truly was the bravest one of all,” which was true by default. The idea being you keep everything cozy until you can get close enough to put one right between the eyes.

The second path out solicited the soft ones. The marshmallow boys and the simple plain girls with their loopy handwriting. These gentle creatures were used to test vaccines, and their arms were needle-freckled, every now and then a blotch where some spike or other made pollution. Flowers of clotted blood clung on under the epidermis. These soft ones lived pacified lives, speaking perhaps in rhyme, perhaps in childish, vacant alliteration: “my parsley petals primp up fat!,” one such used to say in joy, a reference to his bulbous, itching hemorrhoids. And they loved onomatopoeia. They named themselves such: “Mungo Flopsy,” “Petit-four Puggleton,” “Weebling Wally.” And they they walked by sloping: they sloped through the woods, towards the logging plant, heavy-shouldered. When they had to be moved it was night-time; you could not move the soft ones by day: too lobotomized, too druggy. Spherical, they rolled. 

For each path had its inverse. Nothing was accomplished by accident in the School, the School of the Pig Scar. Very little was accomplished at all, such was the state of permanent embattlement, and that was by design, since despite the rather puckish title of “School” it had acquired from one of the elderly commanders (a roughly sentimental old fellow whose peccadillos were neither more nor less than what one would expect), it was clear that there was no longer a pretense at an educational mission. What was the mission, someone sometimes wondered, and the wise Scottish woman replied “sorting.” It is a vague word, perhaps, but nonetheless she meant something quite specific by it: the School existed to separate, group, taxonomize, and hierarchize every soul ever clasped in flesh. That, she concedes, is a rather ambitious goal for a single Institution, and yet it could be achieved with patience—one does not choose, after all, whose bodies shall pass under one’s roof, pass through one’s metal detector, or shred flesh on one’s razor-tipped barbed wire, but one certainly can choose how to dispense with them. When she reached this part of the spiel, the Scottish woman would sprinkle one of her trademark half-smiles onto her lips: “indeed, how can one do anything but choose?”

This all being so, the third path was that known as “sky burial”: it was reserved for the beaks, the peckers, the sharp-clawed ones. Not the rascals (rascals were usually sent to Placating) but the intellectuals, if you like—the dreamers, the black-wearers, as well as (bit of an odd one) the sluts. This was the path of secrecy, the path of excavation, and those who were set upon it were carved in one place only. Can you guess: yes, it was carved in the solar plexus, in the center of the body, tiny little “x” marks, little crosses, one each Monday morning, to mark the work ahead. Their bellies grew mottled and tight through the astringent property of scar tissue; when it was time to terminate one, it would be by the careful removal of the scar-plug and the gradual draining of the arteries. The Scottish woman, who admired much about each of her charges (though they each caused her trouble too) did not care for the sharp ones, and rarely attended to them personally, preferring to dispatch after them the quick gentleman, or “Old Blobface,” as he was known. 

The fourth path was misnamed, for in truth there was no path, merely a stile, and a large gaping hole in the universe where the money used to be. Choking and choking and choking on the money-hole, spluttering and squirting one’s everything into the hole, those sent on the fourth way were quickly driven to despair (and sexual mania) by the stickiness of it all, the adhesion, the glue of body and body. They were forced to drink bleach—small quantities of bleach, or to snort little crystals of bleach up their cocaine-hungry little noses, sharp as you like. I don’t even believe they ended, the bleach team: I believe they are still out there, howling and sticking their dicks into the black hole of the void, electrical sockets, books that chap them with paper cuts by the dozen. 

For the Scottish woman, there was no pleasure in this, only the truth: we are all, are we not, different from each other, and wouldn’t we be happiest to be among our own kind? The logical force of that syllogism did not bring her joy, it simply persuaded her, and sat in her like a rock. For the bag itself? Deep joy. The bag that was plunged around the body of the sortable, that gripped and clenched with hard membrane and soft, and that knew, as soon as the plunging had begun, what sorting awaited. For the bag, sorting was like birthing: “once you enter me,” it seemed to say, “i know your future and your past.” And there was nothing to apologize for. Some are meant for greatness, and others are meant to serve as pusbags in drug trials: each has and all have been pushed out of a pussy and cast in a bag, each shrouded in liquor and squeezed until every chromosome had been read and accounted for. For the bag, pulling was the same as pushing, fucking was the same as eating, killing was the same as curing, motherhood was the same as crime. And truly, it really was like nineteen eighty four.