Sinister Rex: The Early Years / 2 August 1998

My parents were big proponents of hydroponics and as a result they birthed me in a large, cylindrical tank filled with deionized mountain spring water. They were attempting to create a smooth transition from the calming amniotic fluid to the harsh, dangerous air that surrounds us all. Doctor Pepe was amazed at how long I managed to stay submerged, seemingly at ease there in the tank, drifting lazily, anchored by the umbilical cord, glancing around with a mien that was described in his bestseller as “insouciant.”

In the weeks and months that followed, I was surly and uncooperative unless in the bathtub or having my shrunken, barely-formed body slipped inside a waterwing and set adrift in the baby pool at Dorlerlor Park. I developed a hacking cough which my grandparents, who, unbeknownst to all, were on a collision course with Fate (a.k.a. double pneumonia and a garbage truck with a faulty axle), found “precious.” I gave mama a big scare one morning when she found me headfirst in the toilet, arms and legs akimbo, bubbling happily.

I first appeared on “The Elder Mo Show” when I was two-and-a-half years old. Stagehands built a giant fishtank for me, complete with faux algae and exhaling treasure chest. I was dressed in a rubber suit with sewn-on flippers and a tail, then lowered into the tank by a rickety assemblage of plywood, pulleys, and rope. The lid of the tank was closed and I swam around for a few minutes. As the seconds ticked away, the onlookers became more and more quiet. The audience was small, their faces wretchedly distorted through the blurred, silent glass.

June 11, 1978:

ELEANOR: My brother tried to do that and he almost drownt.

ME: He’s dumb.

ELEANOR: He’s a big dummy.

ME: No one can do it but me.

ELEANOR: How does it work?

ME: [shrug]

ELEANOR: Maxine and all those other kids hate your guts.

ME: I know it.

When I was five I took to running away to Lake Alaquin, gathering up several large rocks into my arms and sinking myself to the marshy bottom where I would sit almost motionless for hours on end. It was during one of these sessions that I first got the idea of building Plexiglas spheres, constructed like geodesic domes, that would use magnetic power to float at a constant level underwater. That’s all it was, at first: a vision of these perfectly-round structures, moving forward gently and surely like a school of fish. It was only years later that this dream became a reality, though used for motives so insidious, so horrific, that my nights from then on would be filled with saltwater sweats, ablaze with nausea.

Joshua Green Allen

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