𝗣𝘂𝗻𝗰𝘁𝘂𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗢𝗿𝗮𝗰𝗹𝗲
𝘣𝘺 𝘓𝘶𝘬𝘦 𝘋𝘺𝘭𝘢𝘯 𝘙𝘢𝘮𝘴𝘦𝘺
The dome displayed everything that is the case. Eternal night. No one alive would question the veracity of such a statement, though a few of us might quibble concerning certain technical details. Below everything lay a nigh infinite entanglement of infernally complicated pipes and lattices where gravity and propulsion were born.
Between these poles there existed land, a sometimes wild sometimes human owned mess of fine sand and gravel and stone and vegetation that only seemed to stretch on forever… yet it still held eons of blood and piss and shit and history, a pluriform montage of ineffable surprises and forgotten possibilities and earfuls of unbelievable legends and, yes, as you have already said, a smattering of mass graves speaking forth the oblivion that has become our shared past, our glacial escape from a riotous war torn era featuring a preponderance of black versus white us against them thought, also the malingering consequences befitting that then widespread lens through which so many viewed our still uncomfortably and innately commercial, therefore competitive lifestyles.
No sun nor the comforting patterns of solar orbit… just a canted blur of stars, far off black holes, an artificially manufactured circadian rhythm attuned to a thirty-six hour day… and the proud shouting of obituaries that provided a baseline for occupants of the district centers, proving in time to be the final, average fate for entire lives’ worth of achievements in the individual corporate sphere, a practice that would only continue for us once we reached Tiermar. The solvency of personal stocks often outlasted the realities of the majority shareholders and the inherent CEOs by days, weeks, months… or, yes, as you may have already discerned, perhaps just those stars and their inexplicable singularities, their tantalizing blur, their yearning forth of lucidity, the circular coruscating of comets and their incandescent trails and the laser system sometimes seen destroying meteors and other debris… those stars, and these stars alone.
Zoom, zoom. My mushroom covering slapped from my body, I opened myself onto Tiermar, soon standing entranced by fretwork-laced columns framed by Mount John the Last and initially constructed for the worship of gods previously alien to us. These structures swarmed with visions imprinted with cryptic transcendence.
My legs followed a spinning path, my mind wandered through mesmeric hieroglyphs. I lazed in a compressed grandeur. Lingering on every detail, I stayed attuned to the ceremonial droning of voices, experiencing multilingual exclamations as slashing waves that swirled into the smell of meat and the smelting of time. Bonework walls splashed me with synesthesia.
Abstract sunsets were another kaleidoscope inundating me. A robotic historian constructed my tour of Tiermar’s laboratemples and ever-growing city shells, plastic highways, forests emptied of animal life. This guide spoke eloquently, communicated with a falsetto singsong.
“Aren’t you following my words?”
My mood grew sour. This induced an attack into my robot guru’s fake beating heart of their deepest fear: they speak into nothing but the yawning abyss of newcomers’ overwhelmed wherefore inattentive minds, their language leaving no trace. This fear of not leaving an impact tortured them, and me as well.
The fledgling nature of the massive tombs and conspiratorial palaces and suicide factories we visited taunted us. Tiermar’s moons waxed and waned. The spires and buildings should stand long after our voices have faded, and I was the only one who noticed the robot guru’s distress.
Lost, translating the etchings covering our sight, but… failing, falling… we tunnelled further inside Tiermar, away from the reach of outer space, perhaps never again to drown in foreign skies on some universal evening, or so I thought.
When at last I slept I indulged in astral flight, set to soar about landscapes filled by the ruins of outdated colonies and huge spidermechs transforming the heart of almost endless forests.
I was alternatively the victim or the antagonist, acting out as a pacifist or a murderer, casually running and disappearing into lucidity, never to truly succeed nor fail, a continual salutation overall. I was a skyscraper, or appeared as such to those I met. With one blink, I would fall out of patchwork depths and into a cavern grandiose in its maze, then to glad hand with personages neither ancient nor contemporary.
My voyage into inner space was the reverse of the reality I had faced on that obscure rocket. My experience featured a vast glimmering megalopolis with all its own urban myths, historical mysteries, naive conspiracies.
I now inhabit a harsh world.
The Arbiter of Shipborne Desire caroused. His fertility cults’ priestesses arranged themselves around him. Everyone in drag; a cosmopolitan bacchanal. High-heeled volunteers bussed with tyros to starship aesthetics—Zen lines occupied any breaks. Former slaves avoided monks avoiding fawn friends by kneeling astride the ornamental ibexes lining the gaps in the many colonnades.
I had already paid off The Arbiter’s guards with a massive flow of shekels. Or my family had. Passing by the OGA men as they absconded to other levels, I entered the vaulted safe room… yes, yes… I crept on all fours through a confused mess, all to gratify my need to slit The Arbiter’s throat: he had thieved my brother-in-law’s right to my sister’s maidenhood, ruined the wedding for my family, thereby canceling their honeymoon in favor of psych-sleep.
Barmaids garnered compliments for their high fashion garnishes. Jam bands found themselves through the force of their atonal exultation. Intergalactic movie stars badgered elderly diplomats. Tumescent dewdrop crystals built a refractory chandelier throwing wavering flames over carpets made of tiger hides.
I had promised I would greet my family with one gallon of his blood when or if they emerged from their subconscious confinement. I had the milk jug there in my pack. I was in it, crawling over tumescent sinister ministers of defense and education and rioting and so on and slithering onto thrusting sinners. “Wow.” A kaleidoscope of nudity appeared afore my eyes. Lust overcame me.
Pearly cisterns bubbled up with bubbly used to slide wiener schnitzels down fleshy gullets. Cascades of bumping rhythms syncopated the dancing of hot-pink flamingos sauntering across watercolor murals. Licentious dealers canoodled, head nodding in illuminated alcoves filled with hexagonal columns lit by flaming sparklers. Mirrors for walls.
Long hours later I had fucked my way to just behind The Arbiter. There I paused, fingering a dagger. I needed to disguise my swift invasion, so I twirled like a tender angel to mount him and grab his flaxen locks. His head thus reared back, I sundered his windpipe with a quick slice, fetched my jug to fill it with the bounty of my vengeance, stabbed around his abdomen to glorify my bloodletting in the eyes of my ancestors.
The priestesses fled from frothing sprays of body water into unseen alcoves. My hands grew bloody gloves. Mead was swilled by inscrutable prodigies with toking entourages. Insatiable fanatics compelled demons out of paralyzed infants wearing maroon blouses. Mimes somersaulted through morphing passageways. Patina motifs dappled the jagged art installation dominating a lofted mezzanine.
It was only then that my vigilante thirsts were quenched.
DIVIDE AND PUNISH
A trial and I myself grew ensconced in a psych-sleep birthed of the government’s non-consensual fiddling with my mindialer. The following unconscious voyage falls away from any retroactive chronological delineation: stasis of the cryogenic sort.
Physically, mentally nourished as a wayfarer across hallucinatory eons… solitude, black holes, the birthing of suns and the lurking of dark matter, all the phosphorescent red death, the folding of dimensions into one another… all and none of which I observed—nearly comatose, passing by washes settled on the liminal edges of perception.
Outside my blind vision, technicians scurried round and round, driving hovercarts, battling space pirates, playing zero-gravity sports, not only when they were not working around the clock continuing our bodily processes, contouring our prisons, and uploading infotainment into our brainstems so we could be appropriately entertained. They fought each other in VR, mutually explored neon dreamscapes, worked on our tannic ambience… all the way to Tiermar.
Now that I have settled in on Tiermar, I feel forced… quite forced, in fact, to choose a woman. By who, you ask? The government, I guess, though society at large and the circles I am forced to run in seem at fault as well.
The pressure to do so back on the ship was minimal, more of a malingering hint than the browbeating I have been experiencing lately. My boss has been insistent on pairing me up with somebody as well.
I appear to possess three options according to most. I am not prone to polling others, however; they always bring up romance whether I want them to or not.
I do sense your curiosity about who these women are. Let me explain.
Renyer was religious. I met her at a wedding, the wedding of an associate I had gotten to know rather accidentally before I arrived on Tiermar. I have never been much for dancing, I am too easily overwhelmed by body contact and the attention of others… everyone at the wedding wanted me to dance for some reason, and with Renyer in particular. Or that is how it seemed to me at the time. Maybe I could have avoided her, and therefore the dance floor? I do not really know.
I danced with her. One song, a slow one, I cannot remember which.
She did not seem to mind that I was unpracticed and not incredibly enthusiastic about giving the crowd what they so clearly wanted. God, I still hate giving people what they want. I would rather make a gift of what they need, like I did with my sister and brother-in-law.
However, the act of not caring too much endeared her to me greatly. That she was ever interested in my body being anywhere near hers, that she had socially engineered the dance itself, or her family had at her behest, that she looked me in the eyes and visually sounded out my weaknesses and strengths and did not then discover me wanting, that she seemed to want to save me from something, something inescapable yet torturous, or wanted to be around me at all… I developed feelings for her quickly.
Usually women I am interested in appear much more interested in my emotions than my actions. It is always, who does this remind you of? what are you feeling right now? who are you really thinking of? what is actually going on with you? who else do you love besides me? who are you long term talking to? how can I further ruin your life?
Sigh. Fuck that, and fuck them. Renyer just appreciated that I would even dance with her. Nobody else was that unlucky, lucky for me. Fuck my feelings and the goings on of my brain, we both thought.
Our dance ended right when the song did. Someone attempted to take her spot, but she smiled at me, and I rather grimaced: I was already uncomfortable, not with her attention as much, but with the gaze of the crowd. Crowds unsettle me. I found myself almost smiling, however, though I was surprised that my clumsiness had not embarrassed either of us overly much.
I have seen her a few times around Tiermar’s capital in the weeks following the marital celebration. We have not spoken much in that time, but, to me, there has to be something there between us, a gauntlet we both wish to cross and never look back on.
Rapturous. An artist of course, unlike me. Not a dream. A memory. Demons all over the both of us…
On the ship she had been the one human I could be sure would stay reliable through time’s ebbs and surges. A friend; and a good one at that. Now that we were both on Tiermar, things were different between us.
Me, I have been mired in the muck of our shared past, though memories from before we met were the strongest for her, an interval dominated by romantic partners of which her family and confidantes like me could not and would never approve. Her poor choice in men had always been her downfall and my chief opponent in gaining her romantic interest.
Her allure could be seen most often in her bluish-green eyes and the plaintive cool she appeared to so easily capture. There were also her verbal meanderings, legendary in their time for the way she would intertwine the initial inspiration for a random manifesto with the erudite hinterlands of paranoid theories about this or that work of art. Then she would delve into the minutiae, the guts and capillaries and veins of the bodies of work she had absorbed, linking this or that piece of hearsay or bit of personal experience to a specific aspect of whatever she was rambling on and on about, everyone else lost to what she was getting at but enthralled nonetheless, especially me.
I knew she possessed a strength she was much of the time too lazy to summon forth. I may have been alone in this knowledge. Her glaze of studious but drugged wisdom and a presumptuous to some detachment from all but the most variable rhythms of emotional highs and lows implied a level of depth she almost surely surpassed.
I knew her well. But… will she ever come to know me, as I actually am?
Leptee... I was aware she was seen as strange and possibly deranged by most, but, by choice, I did not get hung up on these subjective aspects of our shared reality. I knew I was known to be much the same to many, so I did not put any stock in public perception.
Nonetheless, she is a medical doctor. People think she is a crackpot, a weirdo who nurtures the oddest of theories, but I am certain that those rumors are not and have never been anywhere near true.
I first encountered her inside a hospital I was visiting for philanthropic purposes. She was my guide but unlike my robot guru, she was confident and knew she was achieving an effect on me and my entourage. I grinned too much, of course, as is my wont. She pretended not to notice.
“Is everyone still listening?” she asked with a smile.
We passed by the dying and the newly born, scenes splattered with gore and offal. I often gagged, as did my companions. Leptee did not do so; she kept her composure and more or less convinced me to invest even more of myself in medical science than I already had.
Everyone says she is too beautiful and affable and insane for a rich bag of dirt like me. Such is life. I remained interested, and she definitely knew it… tolerated it, sometimes even encouraged it. Her secretary had been reaching out a lot, supposedly because Leptee kept telling her to do so. I did not and do not know what was up with that. An odd maneuver to be sure.
Nevertheless, I may have already been in love. But with which one?
I needed guidance from an objective source, and humans are subjective in total.
TORTURE ME MARRY ME
I passed Boris Paradigm, a native to Tiermar and newly elected as The Arbiter of Planetary Desire, as I first made my way down a path leading into the Oracle of Personal Experience. I glanced his way and was met by a smirk. The stench of his ill reputation hung about, although he disappeared soon enough.
Then a priest decked out in fuligin greeted me. “What are you doing here? Are you new in town?”
I attempted to link our mindialers together.
“We do not do that here. Not as yet, at least.”
“Oh. Okay then. I want a reading.”
“Well, what is your name?”
“What kind of aid do you need? I think I can help, of course, but the Oracle has been acting up lately. We have experienced some setbacks on the software side. Its alignment with reality seems a bit… skewed. Or awkward. Faulty. The technology is still in its early stages. Maybe I would be a better candidate to help you discern what the future might hold? That would be cheaper than consulting the Oracle as well.”
“No, I need help from the Oracle itself. This is my first time here. I want the experience.”
“Perhaps you have heard bad things about us priests?”
“Oh, no, no. I do not know anyone who really speaks badly of the Oracle or anyone devoted to its growth. We are all excited by its existence in the first place.”
“We here on Tiermar are certainly blessed. You have the funds?”
“Yes, I do, actually,” I said, pressing shekels into his proffered hand. “I had to sell some of myself to have enough.”
“That is too bad. Right this way.”
Next, we arrived in a small geodesic nestled within the greater geodesic that is the Oracle. A facet of the computer beeped, “Welcome. You may leave, goodman.” The priest disappeared. “And who are you, guest?”
“I would rather not give you my name.”
“I already have your appearance, serial number, and stock price nonetheless.”
“Have you paid?”
“Would I back here if I did not pay? Can we not just get to it?”
“Sure. What is your question?”
“I have three options. Romantic ones, I mean. I need help figuring out the possibilities latent within each of these three women.”
“State their serial number and current stock price.”
I thought of Leptee first, but of course I did. I pulled up the required information and said it aloud.
“The punctuation you require is: ellipsis. Next.”
I decided to ask about Nattin, so I spoke out her information.
“Just this: question mark. And the last?”
That left Renyer, so I communicated what was required.
“An exclamation mark. Thank you for your service.”
“What? Was that part of the show?”
“I meant thank you for the coinage. Please get out.”
My first official date with Leptee? We went to a concert. What concert? Nattin’s concert.
We arrived late. There were no openers; Nattin noticed us immediately. Then she frowned as her guitar squealed and wailed, sending queer vibrations out into the world and receiving adoration in return. Leptee took my hand. We walked to the bar and ordered liquid uppers.
“Do you want to dance with me?” she asked.
“No, I promised someone else the next time I danced would be with them.”
“What do you mean by ‘them’?”
“Oh. I meant ‘her’ I guess.”
“Who is it?”
“That fucking bitch. You have to be kidding me.”
I shrugged. Nattin started another song, a cover. Leptee’s hand fell away from mine.
The rest of the concert… it was all covers, songs Nattin and I had listened to together back on the ship, songs she had put on in order to annoy me as much as she could. Leptee did not notice my discomfort with the set list; she swayed along to the music, humming occasionally.
Someone poked me in the back as Nattin finished her set. “You two need to leave,” he said.
Leptee and I shared a look and we exited then walked to the bar next-door. There we were greeted by cold looks.
I was feeling the uppers and the alcohol. “You know I know Nattin, right?”
“What do you mean you know her?”
“We have been friends for a while. We have known each other for like a decade or so.”
“Is she a love interest of yours? You could have mentioned that before inviting me.”
“I do not really know if we will ever be or ever were romantic, exactly.”
“Is that why that guy poked you and said we had to go?”
“I do not know, actually. Could be.” She frowned. “Anyways… why does everyone think you are crazy? That is all anyone will bring up when I talk about you.”
“You talk about me?” She smiled; a realization hit. “Wait, everyone thinks I am crazy? I thought that everyone thought you were crazy and that I am insane for even entertaining the idea of us being romantic.”
“I already knew my reputation.”
“I did not know mine, I guess.”
“Maybe people are scared.”
“Why would they be scared? I almost never get angry. I mostly get sad.”
“That must make you popular.”
“Mmhmm. Well… if both of us are perceived as so damn crazy, why are we not together?”
I spotted Nattin at a fancy art gallery; I sauntered inside then blended into the busied silliness. The way she looked over at me through the crowd, she must have planned to see me there. I decided to treat the night as a date between us… in other words, to be on my best behavior.
I walked over to her, or to the group she was entertaining with some soliloquy I could not immediately follow. Someone made a quip and Nattin and I made eye contact. I peered at the exit door and walked away; she followed me a few seconds later.
“You know I keep seeing you around with Leptee or with Renyer, right? And people keep telling me that you are together with one of them or the other, and not with me.”
“I do not know what you are on about.” I said this to her often. She rolled her eyes. “I guess I do actually know what you are on about.”
“You do not think I really care about you. Am I right?”
“Well… you do not call, you do not text, you do not try to link our mindialers, we do not hang out, not really… all you seem to want to do is just pass messages back and forth through all your little friends.”
“Little friends? They are all much more adult than you are.”
“I doubt that. I doubt that very much.”
She rolled her eyes again. “You are so annoying.”
Renyer’s mindialer reached out to mine, though we were nowhere near one another. Closing my eyes and zoning out of my surroundings, I accepted the connection.
Do you want to go dancing?
No. Maybe another time.
Damn. Why not? I really want to go.
I do not really know. Not right now.
That is disappointing. Can you…
The next time I dance will be with you, I promise.
Okay, good. I want to hang out still anyway.
We met up at a park with a large playground, a wide swing set, benches, food stalls, trees, grass, bushes, flowers, fountains, bathrooms, everything anyone could need.
“What have you been up to?”
“Sitting around and daydreaming about you.”
“I doubt that very much. What have you really been doing?”
“That… I do not really know, in retrospect. I do think about you, though.”
“That is obvious, my friend.”
“My friend? I thought there was more than that between us.”
“Perhaps. Supposedly. So I have been hearing.”
“Do not be rude with me.”
“Why should I not?”
“You ask such difficult questions.”
“I hide this from people, but I am a bit of a taskmaster.”
“So you want me to change. You want me to shape up. You want me to be the best that I can be.”
“That is one way to phrase what I want.”
“What is another way?”
Seas without end. Effluent deliquesce. I kept myself up at night, staring at the nothingness of the walls and ceilings, thinking about how much I hate every facet of modern life, wondering if I will ever get to pilot a spidermech, all while she slept beside me, the space surrounding us an almost sentient emptiness.
An uneasy plenty of spores used to whisper of a swelling future or an unknown past dominated by fungi, spectral rumors thrust around and about inside the cloying wind, mushrooms encrusted over everything, our heads and our bodies all crowned by mushrooms… our skin like dirt.
Did we leave our dreams in our wake, flowering into the crackling energy of the void above? And as above, was the below just the same? Did the invariable nature of our overhead stimuli render us reckless and obtuse?
I had slept in a dorm on the ship. When I arrived on Tiermar, my situation was much the same. Even so, I knew I needed insight into my situation even beyond what the Oracle or my many roommates could offer me. The mysteries of women can often solely be unlocked through the help of a woman you can trust.
“Well, which of them do you think of the most?”
“That changes by the day. Or the hour. It is hard to keep track. I do not have percentages of my time to offer you.”
“Okay, fine. Which one are you most attracted to?”
“Leptee, I guess.”
“Why is that?”
“She is smart and we seem compatible.”
“So you are attracted to her intellect then. Which one do you find most physically attractive?”
“Renyer. That ass—”
“Stop. Please stop. No more of that.”
“Fine. She is really beautiful though. Too bad she is so religious.”
“What is wrong with her being religious?”
“A good question. I am not religious myself. I do not want to have to fake a conversion just to make her or her family happy.”
“How do you feel about her family?”
“I do not really know them. Her sister seems insistent on my attention, but I only really care about Renyer among her relatives.”
“What about her parents?”
“They like giving me a hard time but they do not seem that bad. Better than a lot of families of women I have been with.”
“That is all a pretty big positive. Her being religious… has she said you would have to convert for you two to be together?”
“Not that directly. It is clear she wants to marry someone of her own religion though, and that will never happen for me. I could fake it and get away with it, but I do not really see the point. I like to act like myself.”
“That means you like yourself.”
“I try to. Do you know Nattin? The musician or artist or whatever?”
“Yes, I know of her. Is that your third choice? She is kind of famous.”
“I think she might be an actual romantic option for me.”
“What makes you think so?”
“The way she looks at me. She did not like that I took Leptee to her concert. At all. She made that super fucking clear.”
“I do not blame her really. That was kind of messed up of you.”
“I do not think so. It was a legitimate dating maneuver. I have options and I should not give any of them the impression that they are my only possible messiah.”
“That is true. So… we have not talked about Leptee much, or why you like her so much.”
“It is difficult to put into words. Ineffable, I guess.”
“The vibe between you, then.”
“Sure. Do you think someone like Nattin would really ever love someone like me, though?”
“I do not know her at all, so I cannot really say. Why are you insecure about it?”
“I am obviously not her only suitor, though that is true of all of them. I just doubt that I am interested in being around the people she chooses to be around. I doubt they would accept me. I am either too pretentious or not pretentious enough. I cannot really tell.”
“You are kind of both. She may be more of an option than you think. Now that I have thought about it a bit, I think she has mentioned some stuff that seems related to you in some recent interviews.”
“Can you send them over to my mindialer?”
“Not right now. Later. Is there anyone else on your mind?”
I knew I needed to force myself into the headspace for higher level thought, considering how important the Oracle could prove to be for the rest of my existence’s entirety.
The Oracle’s first reading had been: … in relation to Leptee. This makes me think that our future will feature some type of strange interval followed by a lack of stability. It could also just mean we are too crazy for one another, or that one of us is too prone to over analyzing the other for a relationship to work.
The Oracle’s second reading featured: ? as it relates to Nattin. That made me feel there may be too much attention on us from the get go. We both possess chaos energy, which sounds like a bad thing, although I cannot think of an example from my life to be sure that interpretation is at all correct. That type of energy could cancel out our baggage, or just exacerbate our problems.
The Oracle’s third reading was: ! as it concerns Renyer. I think that could be a good thing. A great thing. But… possibly not. Am I or is she too much, just in general? Perhaps our connection was too intense too soon, or either or both of us are just too intense. Our initial connection could have set the wrong expectations. I have too many doubts in general and specifically about how religious she is. Again, I could only fake a conversion.
I may not be able to change myself enough for any of them. Would I be more or less compatible with them if I did so? Who knows? There are so many questions lingering about my mind. I should possibly reassess my views on marriage.
MARRY ME TORTURE ME
I needed a new perspective. Something fresh. My conversation with my sister had gone well enough, as had my striving to puzzle out the Oracle’s readings, but I still felt unprepared for the future’s swift invasion.
Speaking out my feelings? In the past, this had only led to manipulation, tampering, collusion, conspiracy. I had no one to trust, though I used to lose sight of that fact far too often.
Boris Paradigm stood afore the glittering buttons of the Oracle, lit by washes of neon.
“What are you doing here? You should be out trying to get people to fuck each other, or you, or me, or something? Right?”
“I could say the same of you,” he said with a laugh. His head quivered. “Or something.”
So he knew why I was here. Had the Oracle let him know? As a government official, he would possess the clearance level to check, though I still cannot figure out a reason why he would have cared.
“I was just leaving,” he continued. He was still fiddling with the Oracle’s controls. “Sit anywhere you like.”
I looked around. “There is nowhere to sit in here. Can you leave? I already shelled out all my shekels. You were not supposed to be part of this experience.”
“I’m going, I’m going.” And out he went.
“Now that we are alone,” the Oracle growled, “why are you here, and so soon?”
“Same questions as before, same problems as before.”
“I have experienced much the same. My technology has advanced some since the last time you were here. Same candidates, same names?”
“In reverse order of the last time. One extra name, though, if that is okay?”
“I will see what I can do.” The Oracle whirred and stuttered along, alternately kicking into overdrive or humming almost imperceptibly. “The first one’s stock information and serial number, then?”
“Zero zero seven five A seven zero. Stock price, thirty-one point nine.”
“Ah, that one. Here you go: parenthetical exclamation mark.”
I stated the next name’s price and number.
“Okay. Period comma period.”
Then the next.
“Sounds fine. Exclamation mark exclamation mark period.”
And the final one.
“Nearly done. Period question mark backslash.”
“Is that all?”
“Well, is that not what you asked for in the first place?”
“I guess so.”
“Then get out.”
And out I went.
“I myself do not know… you know?” I mumbled.
I drifted off to chase a shadow down a whirling drain, there to tunnel through melting decay. A century of mindless excavation and I happened upon an underground lake. I went diving to backstroke around that buoyant liquidity. Then the suction cups of a kraken arose to hump upon my sundered body with an otherworldly repetition and I died, died and woke up screaming and thrashing around a pool of sweat.
WHY I AM SO WISE
Significantly differing amounts of good and evil so often portend instability in the future, the past, even the present. The everyday incidents which so define each of us in the eyes of others in truth highlight so little of what matters, but my love’s face still flashes through the cloud cover’s forever shifting forms. Recent memories unchain themselves from their prior lurk, soon to swallow me up.
A twirling vision hovering above a fire. I always desired an equal collaboration, each holding more than enough sway over the other that our shared future was foremost rather than an afterthought. I wished I could be her moon, her daily anchor. Both my light and dark sides allowed and encouraged. I wanted to exert actual gravity over her decisions, to hold sway over her tidal sized emotional flashes.
I have struggled with how and when to communicate verbally, especially around women, as I constantly overanalyzed things like eye contact and the vagaries of personal space, though I learned in psych-sleep to strive to be knowable with every word and action. Clarity is now my chief desire, my sole aim.
I used to obfuscate. Now I have a future. I tend to focus on building up visions of my onrushing reality, sometimes neglecting the present as I do so.
The point of civilization is to destroy itself, apparently. I tried giving up, giving in, forgetting but not forgiving… it worked.
WHATEVER WHATEVER WHATEVER
The first time the voices of the gods peopling your skin appeared, you were peering at yourself in a mirror-like pond. The waters were a jeweled turquoise. Fresh from pissing in the woods nestled behind our personal escape hatch, you appeared handsome, ruddy, and youthful in their pure reflection, your mushroom layer a monochrome matte brown, just like most everyone else, the skin beneath already glowing.
Fresh off a wipe of your mindialer’s more disturbing files and a subsequent walkabout round the jagged peaks splayed behind you, all under the rocket’s dome, searching out a new name and the resultant renewed identity, remonstrating with shamans, and within yourself also, burning down your consciousness, leaving just the elemental as fertilizer for regrowth.
This, all of this turmoil, happened even though your mother made her disapproval of your ancestral disavowal all too clear. No psychic discoveries had as yet provided satiation for my quest’s aims.
You were called Dipu, your birth name, for far too long. We write this from the mental and temporal distance born of that second lifespan, a century and a half later. Perhaps the telling of this story will transform our fortunes.
Much remained clear to our third eye. Your birthright, your last name, it had once towered above every introduction as if it were the mountains lingering over your back, an albatross weighing you down in every manner. You possessed much you knew you had to leave behind. You already rejected your familial name, jettisoning it like a dead lover rendered spinning. The name signified a transcendence of the duopoly that dominated life aboard the rocket as we traversed the stars, a luxury not afforded by many. Possession by an urge to transcend this transcendence and find your own way had transfigured you. You were primed for this visitation.
“You are no Dipu,” the voice announced.
Yes indeed, you were a man, one-half of a binary. In that moment you knew for a fact you were alone. This truth revealed itself through the strength of your ventral instincts, a form of intuition we have cultivated for as long as we can remember. Your father always said, “Think the decision over with your mind, but you must decide upon anything important with your stomach.” We have long seen the wisdom in this phrase, though you have wiped so much that reminds you of your genetic family.
Besides, your mindialer’s sensors would have picked up the presence of any forms of life beyond the vegetal or aquatic. You felt lonely in your intestinal cave. For once you reveled in what you soon realized was a sweetly found bliss. The sight of your face and upper body were a soothing massage, an optical oasis from which we drank and drank. The mushrooms peopling your skin flashed brilliantly: a flaxen glow.
We were often alone, then, mostly because of the first wave of what we thought were viruses transmitted to us through our strip-mining of comets. These diseases greatly slimmed the number of people alive on the ship. The quarantines we endured gifted many a taste for solitude, an aversion to loud noises, bright lights, crowds. Poetry whispered through masks and soft-spoken theater replaced concerts and movies, team sports and class riots.
The custom back then was to avoid your own reflection. This was the first time you had looked at yourself in months… or a year, perhaps two. You could think of no possible consequences for a minutes-long sampling of your reflection, however.
And there were no experiences with auditory hallucinations in your past. Never had you blazed with visions. Mental illnesses were not debilitating to you.
Some have posited that this experience with divine visitation you describe here was an aneurysm or minor stroke, when you have shared the story after one too many. Science cannot encapsulate the ineffable, however. Not even medical science. Your self-regard grew as you held your own gaze.
“Don’t dip,” the voice continued.
You pondered this providential message, beholden to your reflection on the liquid’s surface. This voice spoke with a rugged timbre. Its words reverberated through your maze of neurons and synapses, a basso profondo setting your soul to quake down to its unconscious foundation.
“No shit. No smell. Construct an ode to yourself.”
Ode… Ode…. A new name. A fresh start. At long last, you were beginning again, reborn like a bird of legend. You ripped off your pants, took hold of your surfeit, and stroked yourself to completion without averting your own gaze, shearing off your topmost layer of fungi as you did so. ✦