HOME / AKA DASH / WEB

Ten short stories with a sci-fi vibe

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AKA Dash v2.0 2017-05-01
Copyright © 2015 Marc Fiszman

1. Templeton in Love

. H Tonoor

. glides away

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And makes no sign:

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He has complimented Templeton on her skin.

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Deshifting of a shared pattern set is unheard of, even with the sometimes flawed, if undeniably smooth, swift – just really very embedded – [H] [TONOOR].

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Templeton, smiling, turns to [ME].

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Hissing.

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“I just wanna be in love!”

Eyes-wide aspect.

“I know, Temps… I know…”

I smile, speak with feeling, though I have none, of this race. That happens, when one knows the patterns. If only Templeton knew that the secret to her happiness was in the basement. Here, there, everywhere. The penthouse, too.

But that wasn’t for me to share.

Everyone must find their own way to the command centre.

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More eyes – yes… – a minigrowl of frustration. I am checking off vibrations. I smile, she gulps her wine. A glass of Omnicron ’63. Expensive stuff. Expensive place. Expensive paint. A treat, on me.

It’s been some time since we connected.

Except that one’s connected, all the time…

…down below…

…and up above…

…and in this life, when one’s assigned.

One has one’s O-REG.

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Humorous imitation of the [I] [THING]… laughter… yes…

…downing, also, my Omnicron ’63.

We’re in this bubble:

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I believe in you, Amanda Grace Templeton…

In this bubble…

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We were friends back in college, Temps and I. And, back then, she was always looking for love. And so was I, perhaps, a bit.

Then I went to the basement.

I became hugely successful, moving quickly through the ranks. Losing feeling, yes, and friends, but gaining others – feelings, friends – from seeing patterns. All was patterned, in the networks, O-REG-made.

Monthly visits, [AND] debriefs.

And plugging in, every day, and all the time…

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…in this life, the painted-on, there are the sockets.

Sockets, sockets… everywhere…

One just needs to find the…

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And experience, thereby, the simply-nothing… catalogued…

“Les desserts, Madame. Monsieur [—].”

He glides away. Idiot…

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…but she sees nothing, with those eyes. Blind. Scanning, now, the desserts.

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As one crawls beneath the desk, around the bandaged, metal legs, of one’s O-REG.

Of one’s blood mess.

Seeking sockets.

Betting.

Scores.

And counting cakes… tarts, sauces… yes…

I believe…

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…thus, you exist.

Amanda Grace Templeton.

“Ooh… I probably shouldn’t!”

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Eye###s…

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: —

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—break, in patterned response, within me. In my mind, state. I need a tuning, touch. I flinch – imperceptibly – mark the timestamp for the next debrief.

As for H Tonoor…

Who knows what he needs.

But I do as I must. And besides, it’s quite the honour. For him, even me. The deal sealed with timeless Omnicron.

And the whispers, around, of the O-REG, no mouths… black bands for their eyes… now they’re glowing… blue-white…

There are several I can see her becoming attached to.

And they would welcome her, she has much to offer.

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“My dear, I insist. I recommend the brownie. Unbelievably moreish.”

I despise that word… moreish. Always have. I went down, the first time. It was flashing.

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How the O-REG like to play, my O-REG…

“Fine!”

Eyes.

I am back in the flow. This pattern was networked for her, in this place, shared with me, H Tonoor, and two brownies. A bottle of Omnicron ’63.

Inputs are fixed, outputs, the flow.

Be happy. Be in love. Be a billionaire. Update yourself, with each debrief.

And plug in, in between, and whisper your name…

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Templeton… Temps…

Amanda Grace Templeton…

“I’m going to powder my nose,” she says.

AKA enter phase space with the command centre, unbeknownst to the vast majority of toilet attendees… cleaning in progress…

But things are changing, the phaseways are changing. The tubes, with their hovering spheres, blow more air. More exotic air.

“You do that, Temps. You do that,” I say.

She shakes her head at my “strangeness”, touching my shoulder as she goes.

^

2. Letter to the Aliens

Dear Aliens:

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This is Tim-Tim, President of the World.

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Six months ago, now, you briefly came, and then you went, and you haven’t returned. While things were mostly frozen at the time of your arrival, it is generally agreed that your ships hovered over our planet for “between seven minutes”.

And then we thawed.

And then we thought, “Did that really happen…”

And it did, there were the Discs.

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The awareness mechanisms of our World, including the variety of optic implant favoured by pretty much everyone, had blinked, blanked, had stalled; had been fucked, pretty much (if you’ll pardon), by, we have determined, the electromagnetic displacement residuals from your warp, based on analyses of Disc 3 of the Incision set, so named by us, and comprising Discs 1–4, a record of your travels from your own system to ours, as well as preliminary considerations of your great Library of Mind (our best translation).

Your ships made no sound.

Our brains were in a state.

Discs aside, therefore, proof of your visit is, basically, unavailable.

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For many, these Discs are:

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: wondrous though they [R###] to those (above the age of four…) who have undergone the slotting, who have visioned the Incision, the peerless [LOM], the long blue fingers of a lighthearted race, with no name, and such brains, storing all their Higher Knowledge on supremely subtle versions of these same Discs. (See, primarily, Disc 9.)

There are those who would doubt you exist, therefore.

There are those who would find:

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: quite absurd. Even mad! Who’d somehow think that this small World is all there is. Just these small minds, if [0]pt[1]m[1]sed.

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…2…

…3…

…4…

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And then, there are those who can see that we will be just what you are…

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If we’re reading this correctly.

For one does [NOT] just read, does not just hear, or see.

: RELEASE…

…so, enter waves, as, in the brain, arrives the

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And those waves [ARE]

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[R] they not?

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The dog revealed it.

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The one who lost his mind to ultrasonics from your craft. Focused on his disc. Channelled through those grooves, encoded key.

: RELEASE…

: RELEASE…

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“Are you saying these aliens are signalling some sort of personal insertion, a viewing of one, into one’s brain, these crystalline channels carrying light codes activated through progressive, cell-equivalent deconstruction-reconstructions of this impossible (if scratchable, you suspect, on account of its change state) material within the jellied mass? Is that what you’re telling me, Lead Scientist? Is that what your experiments in derivative wave propagation, stencillation, octave shuddering, neurosmotics, photonic transduction and jellied crystal probes – synthetic dog food, slopped semi-spontaneously, has proved a useful medium – are telling us? I am not a scientist. Please speak plainly.”

“Yes, Mr President. That’s exactly what I’m telling you. That’s exactly what Shep is telling us. Lord Zem. Ab’noor. They are all part of the decoding. They are all thrashing in the lab. They do not speak our language, after all. And their brain is coming out of their nose.”

“Understood. Thank you. Carol will see you out. Please take some spelt cookies for your team.”

For your arse…

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I took some bourbon, swirled it, leaned back and rose my glass to the painting of Shep, who was also Lord Zem, who was also Ab’noor. He did that thing with his paw…

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Poor Shep, Lord Zem… poor Ab’noor…

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He was buried with full honours.

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I do not blame you for his passing. You couldn’t have known. Or, if you did, you decided the Disc instructions took priority, and I would tend to agree, despite the second tragedy soon to pass, a part most dark.

For you see, as this World’s President, I arranged, on her request, for my darling little girl to be the one to start the play, she being quite the fan of out-there stuff since last year’s… misunderstanding.

An abduction, of a sort, during a game of hide-and-seek.

I was a touch… overenthusiastic.

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“Mother. Father. I nominate myself to receive the first Disc.”

“Do you, now?” we smiled.

“Yes,” she replied. “I wish to know of those frozen aliens, and commune with them, perhaps. I will represent this World with the highest pride and decorum. A dash of swath, if deemed fitting. I have a friend with a beam.”

Fearless! And well beyond her years, as you can see, a mere [4.3], within the body. It all happened during the abduction, from which she recovered, and more. And we were sure she could do it, my wife and I, we having smiled, then, not at a child, but a being. We observed her grown-up face – the not-quite-right eyes, now, yes, it must be said… – and were convinced she had the strength, the will, intelligence – by God, the joie de vivre! – to usher in the Age of Aliens!

But no… sadly, no… Her brain exploded, pretty much, upon insertion of the Disc. And she was no longer our muffin.

The Disc survived.

The Disc would become our muffin…

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We have something on our World called guilt. You do not know it, I know, from experiencing your fingers. You are too light, too blue, too facile with those digits. Too good, too pure. Too connected to your kind.

It means that we feel bad for what happened to Hannah’s brain. It means we feel responsible for allowing “Smudge” to beam that gap, an [8.6]-year-old, who lacked – understandably, really, when you think about it – the required precision, leaving jagged skull, which scratched the Disc, and mixed the bits, overloading our daughter’s pathways.

And meanwhile, we were doing it down the hall. God…

But things in us were stirring! All over the World, people were doing it. Discussing art. Eating spelt.

No excuse, no. But still…

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At least she was smiling when she went, so Smudge informed us. He appearing at our door, to watch the act. Covered in her.

God…

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The guilt! There was very little thrusting, pumping, very little art. Still some spelt, yes, for Erin’s issue. Those morning peekings, yes, through Hannah’s door… evening peekings. Daytime breakdowns.

For there was our child! On the walls, the ceiling. Horrific remains, embedded with the blast. And kind of fused, she couldn’t be removed, the room ice-cold to help preserve her:

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# [CHUNKS] of flesh

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# Dark [METAL] shards

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Whole.

And looking… looking…

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And still, of course, those Discs remained. Lined in [SI###DE] . . . . . . . . . . . . such networks, oh…

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And kept within that metal tube. So black, it hummed.

One touched them… brushed them…

And how those crystal things would sing.

And how that panel, touched, would twist. Just so dramatic. Mist, and hiss.

The aliens waited…

Reaching…

Oh! What this might be! A sign of life.

If bringing death…

Still, this was life. A higher one.

We must explore.

For the World.

Hannah…

Let us honour our child.

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And with the World’s approval, such compassion for our loss – and such lust, perhaps, for gore, a more awful story [ for yes, there is that impulse in our race… ] – the First Woman and I, the woman I have loved since I was [6.45], but a lad back then, and she but a babe, and possessed of a strange, grey odour of the arse, took on the challenge of the Discs.

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The Presidential Surgeon lasered the slots – precise as can be, entirely Smudge-free – while the Residential Handyman smoothed the first Disc, rubbing it with some “magic paste”, and tapping it, from time to time.

And as he did so, I thought I heard her…

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Mother…

Father…

How fares, now, my swath…

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And oh, they were glorious, those Discs! How we smiled. How we moaned, didn’t blow. We released, let go… and just surfed those mindwa###ves… as blue fingers led the way… such paths of pure light… how they curved… blue-white…

And went inside us, also, to share…

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…mmm…

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And yes…

Yes…

Yes, you may go there…

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We both took Disc 1, then divided the rest, expressing those paths through song and dance, foot massage. Patterns crossing. Dog food slopping. Through whatever felt right. And all of it livestreamed in a series of weekly happenings.

A New Age was coming.

My ratings kept coming.

Erin and I were wrecking the sack!

And yet… yes… still, we would peek. Still, she would look with that eye… now off ice. We had found a better way to preserve her, misting that room with your air, alien air, with “magic air”, from that tube.

And we would listen for that voice…

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…through, I will admit, occasionally obsessive off-camera shovings of Disc 1.

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Mother…

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How fares, now, my swath…

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Aliens of the Finger, let me get to the point. I know you must be busy with your intergalactic travellings. And we have a happening. We’re all out of Discs. But we’ll be squirting various things in our slots. Various gels, slimes. Condiments.

Good for business! According to my team.

Look…

Erin and I have been wondering if our girl’s identity – her soul, if you will – might have leapt to your Library, where it rests. To be met! If we had the minds for it, assisted by you.

Though even better, we’ve been thinking – and if we’re getting this right – would be to bring her back here. To use the “Whoa…” tech of the epic Whoa… set, eleven Discs of deepest moan, most flowing wave, most exploratory finger, to download that distant soul to a node just so connected, so plugged-in, so bound by love to that girl, for she does love her, and she did/does love her, and we do love them, both of them, precious Hannah and the:

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: known, since his foamed closing, as Shepette, and Lady Zem. But not Ab’noor. Ab’noora.

She struggles with the paw thing, poor bitch. Poor broken bitch.

I was a touch…

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Well.

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One idea: a sonic-driven licking of the bedroom scene, using a less insane frequency. Doubtless, you have several of your own.

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Soooooooo… whaddaya think? Will you return and fix our muffin? We’re your children, she’s our child. Will you deliver her to Shepette and reinvent her as a crippled dog with an almost Erin-grade stench?

(Smudge is also an option, I suppose, but we’d rather not. There’s just too much history, too much pain. We’d rather not see him licking our girl.)

Thanks in advance!

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President Tim-Tim

^

3. Law of Goshe

“Face [OUT] the phone when crossing the road, Beeyotch…”

One does not shout it. Say it, even, really. It is more a whisper, not to be heard.

It is the Law of Goshe.

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One has passed by, on one’s bike, and one has cycled back to base, under the bridge.

First, look around…

…yes, clear…

…go in…

: MELT…

…and disappear into a world where there are no phones, where no one is staring at their phone, and stepping into the road.

Greetings, high fives aplenty. Spirits are strong, with the latest batch of coordinates. Couple of blips, here, there. Tectonic shift – there – taking out much of the city with some wild swipe-friendly business.

But things are back on track. They are getting worse, yes, but more slowly.

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There is hope.

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[GOSHE]:

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“How many today, B?”

“Three Bs!”

Everyone cheers, Billy cheers, they all return to their grid-strewn desks, plotting squares, nodding heads, touching shoulders, finger-lipping, and being intense. Three Beeyotches on that run, eh? Not bad for a young’un, not bad at all. Not bad for someone born in the era of the phone, who didn’t know a time before the Beeyotches.

And before the Beeyotches was a simpler time.

And before the Beeyotches, before Goshe, and on, times were simpler yet, so it was said. And deeper, profound. With subtle gold. Overt magic.

There was light.

Effervescence…

And now, there was Billy. Riding his bike. Fighting the good fight. But a child, if bright.

It was an odd sort of life.

Since usually, by his age, they were lost, already. Stuck to their screens. Posting updates, already. Nodes on the nets. Connecting, perhaps, yes.

But divorced.

Self-absorbed.

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: ONE

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Beeyotches in training.

While Billy would flow…

He stepped into the road…

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…and into a gang. Proud member, Rank 3, of BG-17, one of the many strategic Bridge Gangs spread across the city. And no phones to connect, no tech. They used prayer, secret signs, meditation. And rarely meeting in person. One could be snapped, filmed – with a phone… – updated, and the Law could leak, and everything would be fucked.

But for now, it’s not, despite the big shifts. There are coordinates everywhere, ripe for the plotting. And everything’s hidden, in here:

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# THE BRIDGE

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What is it, this Bridge? What are they, these Bridges? Are they magic? In a way. They’re not exactly physical. They’re not exactly anything. They exist between dimensions, created by the one called Goshe.

And who was he?

No one knows, really. There are myths, legends. There are prayers to the [1]:

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: DON’T

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And:

# VAMPIRE! #

And walking the streets, shambling, in rags. A “madman” – no, a threat. He was soon locked away. And then, it was said, he made his escape by releasing to waves a billion times quicker than those of the phone, never to be seen again.

And whispering, as he did so, the Law…

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There are maps out, measurements, pencils, and lines. Meditators rise from curtained rooms, with golden eyes. Golden smiles. Bringing light. Bringing warmth, and coordinates.

For yes, there is hope.

And also, there is mess. It can be cold, here, dark, in this in-between zone. The world outside is bright, clean, sleek, all high-tech. While in here, there are signs of the apocalypse.

But no, that decay, that ruin, is there. Out there are the zombies, the wandering Beeyotches. Losing their minds. Out there is the breath, the warm flesh, still, to be saved.

Let us whisper the Law…

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And let them then live, and become new magicians! Let them one day learn to make a phone less phone, and more magic stick.

Let us ride, and whisper. Let us walk in the streets, through the zombified pit, and flow, and be hit. For they stare at their phones.

And still we will flow…

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Billy was too small, yet. Small for the crowd. Small to walk, stand his ground. Small to breathe, be with Goshe, with the groaning, around.

It would come, said his friends.

And today would come Goshe…

…hello…

#

…hi…

# # #

Billy has set his bike by the wall, beside the other bikes, by the stained and threadbare coats. He has poured himself some Bridge Juice, sidestepped a rat. And now, he sits.

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Off the grid.

Apart. Alone.

His eyes close.

And he is breathing.

Breathe, Billy… breathe…

“Billy, grab me a set square, would ya? A 45er.”

Jumping up, “Sure thing, Veesus!”

Anything for Veesus!

Veesus was the leader of BG-17, a lithe thirtysomething with a shaved head and laser eyes, who performed such gorgeous yoga, who had been such a dreadful phoney, a man defined by his technology, just swimming in it, a man who wore too-slim suits and structured hair, a man called Jared Barnes, a specialist, of some sort, before opening to the Law.

It had always been in him. It was always in all of us. He discovered it, as all these vibrational voyageurs, through a self-disrupting message from the one called Goshe.

Be invisible, flow. It is better than checking updates. Promise…

And meanwhile, to be stepping into the road…

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For yes, they were “ghosts”, these followers of Goshe. Still physical, yes, that they’d follow the Law. That they’d think with the grids. That they’d walk in the pit, and be hit. They’d ride, whisper.

But not be heard…

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Billy arrives at the closet, a sticker on it.

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# # #

: DON’T

: LOSE

: YOUR

: EFFERVESCENCE

: TO

: THE

: PHONE

# # #

Billy smiles. He feels something inside, something loving, and warm. He opens the door, reaches inside…

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…and finds himself floating in another world, a non-world. A world within, a world beyond.

And very much within the flow…

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[I hear you scored three Beeyotches today, Billy. Is it so?]

“Goshe… is that you? I have a feeling that it’s you… I’m not sure where this is coming from…”

[Yes, Billy. It is me. Goshe. Don’t be afraid. You know this place well.]

“I do?”

[Very well. Better than anyone. For while others have approached here, searching for the:

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: they have left with those things. Even the one called Veesus, né Jared Barnes.]

“Then he doesn’t know…”

[No one knows. They approach, but don’t enter. No one has entered this place, but you. This world belongs to you…]

Billy floats for a while…

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[Billy?]

“Yes, Goshe?”

[Don’t you miss being alive, having a phone to stay in touch with your buds?]

“What do you mean? I am alive, Goshe. More alive than ever! My friends are in the gang. Veesus, K’mahr. Mount Helen. And the rest. Why would I need a phone? I just return… and they’re always there.”

“Yes, Billy. Remember that. They are always there…”

[Goshe?]

[############]

:

:

:

: THUD

[############]

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“Make room! Make room! Give the lad some air. Someone call an ambulance. Does anyone have a phone? If only those stupid things could check a pulse, take a picture. Play soothing tunes. Oh, my lad! If only we could swipe. If only we could tap. Pan. Pinch. Update your followers. You there! Bring his arm!”

And Billy is about to cry, barf…

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…but he smiles,

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despite the pain.

His leg.

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His severed arm, whose hand, in mind, most out of time, still grasps its phone.

And now lets go…

# # #

Billy would never ride a bike again. He would suffer, without a home.

But t[he]y would be Goshe.

^

4. Hypercube of Dream

The students in Professor Dream’s Introduction to Spacetime class are taking notes with their devices, furious notes. Things haven’t even started.

He begins – and fingers hover –

“Spacetime…

…is both space, and time.”

Furious, my!

Later, in Advanced Spacetime, he will liken spacetime to an “ever-receding gem, which sparkles, from the lover’s perspective”.

Quite vigorous, from the supersmart advanced students. One isn’t a freshman anymore, a n00b. Long gone is the furiosity, did you hear about the screams, vomit, lol…

“And in fact…

…it hasn’t receded.”

Furious, my!

“Think of it as a pizza. Just the one topping for now, hm? Cheese and sauce are, of course, givens. And what else?”

Yes… what else…

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The professor stands there, [ON] the stage,

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studying the room,

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scanning the curves of students, who don’t exist, for him, really; who are paused, now, in attendance. Hands are waiting:

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: would be up, yes, no doubt, in another class. One doesn’t do such things, in here. It’s not one’s place.

What would one say?

One sits, absorbs these emissions. One does one’s best, to write, condense.

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To stay:

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within the field of this almighty Higher Mind, robed, here, in white, and tall, and broad,

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and white of hair,

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and beard, and aged, this time and place. Now going up… back into black… back [2] the back… to hidden reaches… stopping, there…

A hidden smile…

A hidden tear, perhaps… yes…

A hidden light… a hint of light, there… yes…

But no…

…and coming down, now, coming down, right [2] the front, right in the middle, where she sits.

He finds he stares…

Did she exist, then, there, before?

He didn’t see…

…and in this moment, but a moment, staring, probe… he doesn’t know… she feels it…

Cool…

…as he is probing… more, she’s probing…

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And she knows it.

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Feels it.

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Cool…

He turns, withdraws.

Moves.

Emits, with quite some drama, “That is for you to decide.”

Furious, my! My! Many devices are overheating. A student is burned, cries out. A waiting nurse escorts him out. Professor Dream’s teaching assistant swooshes the door, allows a student in from the front of an eager line running all the way down the hall, out the door, outside, wrapping halfway around the Interdimensional Physics building.

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The professor waits, to let things settle, cool, pacing slowly, dramatically, across the stage, head down, hands behind his back. Impossibly contemplative. Impossibly brilliant. He just exudes it, oh…

The truth is…

…I have no idea what I’m talking about.

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# # #

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He knows this.

The students don’t know this, clearly.

Nobody knows this, evidently, everybody thinks that he’s a genius. A Level 6! And such awards. He goes along, has gone along, for fifty years, since that wild night, his great Adventure [IN] Spacetime:

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. THEN:

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: when he, too, was a student, a n00b. When he, then, was experimenting with the finest powder, created by Drew, aka Prof

: BOOM!

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his roommate, who, at the end of that night, returned from the side of his mindfucked friend, to shutter his lab, change majors to theology.

For I have sinned! Oh…

The young Dream had OD’d. He had snorted, smoked, slammed just tremendous, tremendous powder. And oh, what a rush! And then, to be rushed. To be sliced, inside, of cerebral swelling. Sliced of one’s trip! The core of the data.

Diluted parts spreading, yes…

But no…

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More powder would be taken – must be taken. I must know! Not as pure, no, as before, from the now

: OH

: LORD!

:

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now whipping his shell – despicable thing! – as Dream hit the streets to seek out his product. Mixing with dregs, with the sored, half-nosed. With the shit, and the stink.

And to shiver, fly, oh!

Geometrics!

Light!

No…

#

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#

For yes, these were trips, but he flew without vision. Flew with a drug which was cut, and impure. And what’s more, to be lacking that piece of the brain which contained

. not just data

: but the portal to there…

A supposed nothing lump, which had once, now unknown, been a something, indeed. And it would, once again, when the race was quite changed.

When they came.

# # #

:

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: I

: HAVE

: SINNED!

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Dream comes to the centre, stops, and looks again, [2]

[HER]

…but only briefly, truly briefly, as, now, he draws out, to the room. Seeing all. Seeing nothing.

Since it’s all just pretend…

And yet, they are waiting.

Still, he is waiting… he can’t let go…

Geometrics…

Light…

No…

He just picks some loose bit.

“And your mouth is Reality’s black hole (capital r).”

“Yeeeeeeeeow!”

Nurse, swoosh. The professor continues, emitting here, there, pacing, pausing, being brilliant, impossible. And now, with a simply brilliantly indifferent flick of the wrist, the famed blue-white light of the Hypercube of Dream is brought into existence – and devices become cool, for there is staring…

…gaping…

…at the slowly rotating…

…cube… within a cube…

…cube…

…cube…

…cube…

…and you do cube it. How can it be… where does it start… end… project… I am agape. Students are fainting, nursed out. There are more nurses. There is the pill one was given coming in to help manage hypersickness, popped by all, but not by her, though she’d pretend, for she must hide. And they had smiled, talked, laughed, before class, as she had probed.

Always probing…

#

Then he came.

And so she came.

And so she probed him… as she probes him… deeper… now…

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For now, he is in it, Dream within the Cube, so complex, yet diluted, he knows, and they don’t know. How could they know! And she does know… And this is something, truly something, which did spread, yes…

But no…

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:

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: AND

: YET…

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# # #

And yet and yet!

# # #

And, gaining speed – and for this time, at least – he’s in that time, and so inspired, back in that place, as he moves, now, about this space – and what a rush! – defying age, as fingers race, and all the nurses, burning, cries, the bloodshot eyes, he describing, there, within, and thereupon, and through, around, so many pizzas and their toppings – “Olives for me”, to profoundly respectfully mildly enthusiastic chuckling – in dimension after dimension, dimension… and formula after formula of spacetime, a custom mathematics, wrapping around, down, through, and being inverted, transverted, hyperverted, my oh my…

# # #

Eventually, things start to slow, though they don’t know, yet, cannot see. It’s all a blur. And how they race! There was a time he’d go for days.

But things have changed. He’s losing time. He feels his age. His breath, his chest. His shoulders, legs. And in the mind.

For this is all, just, really, nothing:

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# # #

“Feelin’ the burn?” [HE] smiles at her. His fingers are dancing, a featherlight touch, as are hers. Though for her, this is nothing, really. She is using not the slightest bit of her skill.

For she hides.

They aren’t ripe.

They remain, still, dark for light.

And she smiles, now, for him, a bit, performs the play. But she feels nothing, in this place. It’s not her place. She’s in the Cube, thinking, “Move… it is time…”

Blue-white light across their faces. Pizzas, toppings. Strangest signs. They’ve lived their lives, for years, together.

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Growing up.

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And they’re best friends.

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But that’s not her.

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He dreams of her…

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They’d have a life…

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She’d be his wife…

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Children…

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No…

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That couldn’t be.

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For even should they [BE], come into life, her blue-white womb would soon fry the hybrid things.

Now, move… become the Cube…

And she has sprinkled, on him, dust… a sparkling light… as was that powder…

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“Professor Dream?”

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Huh…

Whoa…

For look, her hand is raised… and hands are waiting, heads are turned, mouths agape…

Huh…

Whoa…

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[HIM]: Huh?

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The dust’s not up.

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She must move him, otherwise. And he must flow, there, come unknown. And so, the knowing.

He stands, there.

: STOPPED

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# # #

The Cube has stopped.

And he has stopped.

And he’d have stopped soon, anyway. To catch his breath. To wipe the sweat. And out of thought. And bathed in light, all sliced with lines, and all the rest. And all the mess.

Emitting, “Yes…

…?”

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In a most quiet, exposed way. Most out of Dream. Most of this place.

“Would you agree that…”

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And her questions cause such fainting, such burns! Such drool, here a sneeze, there such coughing, projectile vomiting. Heads are clutched. There are screams! There are

[NUR]

.

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.

[SES]

out the arse. Swooshing, swooshing. And even spreading [2] the line. And then, outside. And everywhere.

Till it’s just them.

And how he moves, now, in the Cube!

And beyond age. It’s all he knows. And once they’d left, and it was safe, the things she asked, to guide him, more. To push him, more. And how he moves! Reaching here, now sweeping there, and in the flow, and all unseen, with blazing eyes, and fired mind.

And he is tru::::::ly . rushing . now.

Yet there are pizzas, toppings, still, these so-called signs, loose-hanging signs, now sent away. Away! Begone! You are not high! You are not bright as this new Cube!

In which he stands, now, fully

: STOPPED

:

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# # #

And again, he’s bathed in light, but a light depizzafied. And lacking numbers, shapes, and signs. The former signs, and all the signs. A light of dreams, not of this place.

For there is nothing, but the face.

And he stands, there, staring through it.

Frozen.

Probed…

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…he finds he probes…

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…and now he feels it… liquid cool…

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And now it comes!

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The light! It comes!

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To his mind, and to the square.

Which fills with li#quid, channelled signs…

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…which melt in li#quid, filling light…

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And he has seen such signs as these,

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[BE] [4######]

But now he sees…

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…as stepping out, now, looking out…

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…to the back…

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…into black…

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Revealing…

[HIM]

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Revealing her.

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There is a curve, of hims and hers.

# From here, today:

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And they are ri###sing, reaching out…

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…and shedding skin…

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…revealing light…

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Blue-white…

He smiles.

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“Come,” says he, once Dream,

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reaching out, to them, now her.

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As his arms slip away, to the stage.

They float, go in:

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And she goes in:

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Now, he goes in:

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# # #

On the stage, his remains.

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He remains, on the stage.

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Dazed.

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The world must dream, still.

^

5. Mr Westcoat

I am lying [ON] the couch.

He asks me, “Are you happy?”

I reply, “Are you? Does this fulfil you?”

“This isn’t about me.”

“No, of course not… Mr Westcoat.”

You are Mr Westcoat.”

“Yes, of course.”

Sigh… I rise. This is no use. What number is this? Eight? Nine? Tonight, I will deaden myself in virtual reality.

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“Must go,” I say, collecting my non-things. “Duty calls.”

Doubtless, I am being strange. Well…

“Work, is it?”

“Right.”

“You have more time. If you wish.”

“Yes, doubtless. Thank you.” At the door, now. “Good day.”

“Until tomorrow.”

“Pardon?”

# OUT #

…another door…

…door…

…eight doors…

…nine doors…

And emerging to the world! Noise, light, sound. Movement, hovering. People, vehicles, and such. Metals and such, glows. Such curves of glass…

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…and fired rods. Just so pleasing.

For the time being…

Westcoat! Ho!

I have no work, in here, just play. Eternal play.

Well…

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“Westcoat!” But of course…

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“Ho!” It’s Deveneer…

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Descending in his carriage. He exists, within this play. Has always done so. He is clay. I’ve never been here, till today. Until now.

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Now.

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# # #

But I do know him, Deveneer. I do know them.

And, doubtless, they know me.

His carriage settles.

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“Good day, sir!” I say.

No need to rock the chamber…

Yet I can’t stand this making, clay. Always the same. He can’t be changed. They can’t be changed, from this perspective.

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Mine.

And [8] and nine…

Now make it mine!

So, let me swirl…

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“Good day!” His lips are wet. “You come from market? Baths? You seem fresh. Scented.”

He is round, rosed. No doubt sweating, in his starch.

I am immune to such things. As is he, in his dreams. And in here, if he wanted. If he knew.

That wouldn’t do…

“A salutary session with my mentarium…” I confide, in part to rock the chamber, a bit. I can’t resist.

Since [A] mentarium!

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My…

But then, to lie, too much, depletes the body. One’s corporeum.

Running out would be…

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Most unsalutary.

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“My lips are sealed…”

My lips are wet…

And I am trying [2] find rhythm, in this place.

“My lips are wet… You’ll join me for luncheon?”

Fuck, why not? I was stuck here, apparently. Low on corporeum. The mentaria fucking sucked.

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The carriage moves, takes off, and we are blasting. He offers snuff. Were it corporeum…

But he can’t know of that, in here. For he is clay. I started the day, some doors away, soaked [IN] a pool of my own blood, as I woke up, sprawled on some floor.

# # #

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: THERE

: WAS

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: MIRROR

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# # #

And [E]VEN in [THAT] place, I was this being.

Westcoat.

Man.

How I desire to be otherwise…

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How much I’d swirl, escape!

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Corporeum can get me there, if it’s aligned with [THE] mentarium. Aligned, the body-mind, within this world. Within these worlds, I have been different, I believe…

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I need some more corporeum.

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A mind less fucking obvious…

Even mine?

Must be the snuff.

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“A little dog, then…” he suggests. “Yes, why not! It’s very in. That thing they do with the brain…”

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“Sushi, I would say.”

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“Sushi?”

I create it.

Were I able to make dust… the very stuff which makes these worlds… the very stuff which makes the clay…

He raps his stick on the driver’s booth.

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“Sushi! The usual place.”

And we are blasting, arcing, to the just-made Sushi Brigade.

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“Still seeing that lovely thing?”

He knows no#thing:

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Inside, he’s never met me. Outside, I watch the carriages. Metal, glass. Curved, they glow. See how they fire…

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…to wherever they pretend to go.

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And this world is losing hold, already, I can feel. It is less pleasing. I must melt, soon, then awake, and start again. I must prepare, [4] the

[NEXT QUEST]:

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: lest I lose my basal wave.

Corporeum, this…

Corporeum, that…

And it has happened, once before. Not to me. Or was it me… There was that man, inside the tube, across from me, bleeding out.

And we all sit there, in our towels, soft, monogrammed, sweating out, as he bleeds out. And we stare out. And we vibrate. And, without sound, we will be sipping, now and then, at our bourbons on the rocks.

# # #

: PLEASE

: DON’T

: SWIRL

:

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# # #

Unmelting cubes.

# # #

: PLEASE

: DON’T

: SWIRL

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# # #

So say the signs, on every curve:

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: of that tube. And everywhere.

Please don’t swirl…

# # #

:

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: PLEASE

: LET

: ME

: SWIRL!

:

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# # #

And so, escape…

“What’s her name again? Ovox? Chain?”

: IDIOT

:

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Needless to say, the sushi is excellent. I snort wasabi . . . . . . . . . . . . to no effect. And no one notices, of course.

And I am bored… bored…

Yes, end! End!

!

!

!

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At least I am alone, for now.

“Last night’s dog! Brain…”

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“Good day,” he is saying,

,

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and taking, now, his place. Just like that. As if his. And he has changed, now, as did I, into the costume of this place.

.

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[############]

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Except… it’s not his place. He moves elsewhere, behind closed doors. Behind locked doors…

“That’s not your—”

“I’ve been thinking about our session.”

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# # #

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: [—]

# # #

“Oh? Too obvious, perhaps… Things are delicate, understand. One mustn’t swirl. One mustn’t swirl!”

!

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“Relax.”

Relax? It’s time to melt, you useless fuck!”

And heads, eyes, minds have turned:

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

: —

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: —

: —

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: —

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: —

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# # #

…how…

# # #

I snort wasabi…

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…they turn, and go away.

He says, “I have corporeum. If you wish.”

“Pardon?”

“Out! Get the [HELL] out my seat, man!”

And destroyed, just destroyed by the stick of Deveneer! Just battered, whacked, and cracked. And he just sits there, takes it all, as best he can. And well he can. Without a fight. And not a cry. His eyes on me.

My eyes on me…

…as, now, the world fades into white…

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…and there is [RED], still, splashed [ON] it, and it’s on me, and Deveneer, who, breathing hard, now, wet, and red, presents a final, tired slap. He drops his stick, slumps the body [2] the ground. Retakes his place.

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And I find that I… admire him.

Creative.

Deveneer…

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“Fulfilling?” I inquire.

“Very much so! Oh, that fish roe…”

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And now, to be devouring, as the beast, his bloody balls, I on the floor, all bloodied, sprawled, much more than broken, looking up…

…and waking up, now, to such blood, to all their blood, on every curve. And everywhere.

I lick my lips, swirl my drink.

“Cheers.”

^

6. Semi-Natural

Special offer, today, on semi-natural. Plastic booth. Semi-natural babe. Got bountiful natural product, in my cart.

Could do with a sip, though.

Lick, though.

Could do with a bite of broccoli. Could do with a tearing, wrenching, of that. And some carrots.

.

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[######]

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Got all of that, and some walnuts, in my cart.

Could be a beast, and a peanut, in this place.

Could be a monster.

Orboosh…

#

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#

Beasts all around, semi-naturals, naturals, organics, holograms, self-alive ferns. Rows, columns, shards. Rows, columns, sever.

: SLASH/BLOOD

Shoved blood, if you like, in your meat. Injected paint. Injected meats…

…are self-alive.

Like:

:

:

:

: FISHBALLS

:

:

:

:

:

:

: FISHBALLS

:

:

:

:

:

:

Eyeballs!

I—

: WHACK!

[############]

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[############]

[############]

!

!

!

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There are reasons for everything, the Great Woman said.

There are reasons for everything, the Great Woman said. She sits on her throne, in our dreams, with her Rod.

And everything’s on plastic-wood toothpicks, in the booths.

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“Do have a sip,” she smiles.

Eyes.

Lips:

:

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“Do wash it down with some spiced orboosh.”

Wash it down… of course…

Such a presence…

Orboosh…

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But juice is the thing, on display, in the front. There are shot glasses poured with unnatural precision. Plastic and clear, exceptionally invisible. Skewered product to the side, cubed, brown. Some sort of wetness. Congealed, and painted-on. It is a sauce. It is a gravy. And the spice. It is orboosh. Special offer on that, too. Special offer on the two, as a package. That’s a fashion. Ferns a few, if you do.

All these packages.

For you…

#

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#

And for me, too, one of the few – fashions [ most rare, in these times ] – to which my mind, innards aren’t violently allergic.

But surely, that will come. Since all of it is coming. There isn’t much time, for my kind.

# Eyeballs

# Sweat

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Not on her, though, of course.

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Pretty glassy, in the eye.

Pretty plastic, in the nose.

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Rubber lips. Melon tits.

And she’s lovin’ it.

I’m not lovin’ it. But it’s okay…

Shame…

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Regarding the orboosh,

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“Is it natural?” …to return…

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…to a briefly natural quiver…

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And did that gravy move…

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Now she’s smiling, in that way.

“Cooked in natural oils. Drained from northern trees. The juice.” The Fields of Rubber… “Do sip. Do wash it down.”

And I am saying, “Yes, okay.”

I take some juice. I take a cube.

The gravy moves…

I moved the cube…

Such is the power of orboosh…

# # #

Orboosh, in the raw, is a bright white sponge, a netting, semi-living, grown in mountain vats, where the air roams free, where the air is especially toxic, and one meditates with a mask. It’s all over the common floor, in many forms.

Cubes. Pastes.

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Pasta.

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Thought forms…

Broccoli’s in the basement.

It’s dark, deserted, there. It’s just me. Sometimes, a zombie.

From the upper floor…

…whack…

: WHACK!

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

!

!

!

#

#

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#

And now, here I stand, shot glass in one hand, skewered product in the other. One couldn’t ask for more! This stuff’ll get you there, no doubt, this…

…this…

…this the. It is too new, this juice. There is packaging, in the booth, the cartons white, mostly deserted.

# # #

:

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: FLAVOURS

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: COMING

: SOON

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# # #

“Potent shit!” blares the horn.

Belonging to a man. The woman has pressed a button – she is watching me, with her eyes, and she is smiling, in that way [ and something’s leaking from her lips . . . . . . ] – with the smoothest of unflesh fingers, with a terribly lengthy nail.

“Cheers…” she says.

“Yes.”

And her nail across my throat… [THAT] [TIME]…

<<[######]

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# # #

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: I

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: ALONE

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# # #

And no…

Still…

I have always lived alone:

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: in the clouds

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: above the clouds.

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On a good day.

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Better day.

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And no… still… this shit, as it goes in, down, semi-naturally infecting me. But I do need it. One does need it. One is in it. One comes down, moves around. Already, now, within my system are such things:

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: which will summon such emissions of black air, and other matters.

And – frenzied! – I’ve been known to wail, naked, from the balcony,

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of my luxury abode.

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So supposed.

And fling the shit.

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The Rod is swung, swiped, air…

…and every matter is objected:

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: prior to its happening.

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Well within the clouds.

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I cannot bear to bite the sponge, but do manage a lick of gravy.

“Very nice,” I offer.

“Yes…”

Eyes.

Lips…

…and it’s a gift, to now restrain this brewing wind.

And there are others, yes, I know…

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But I am blind to find them.

And soon, I must be wailing, everywhere, and all the time.

“Where to find? The juice. I have orboosh in my… cupboard. Fridge. Touching room…”

“Mmm…”

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…mmm…

And she is lea###ning, now, out, across…

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…that I might draw . . . . . . out, now, from in her, the needed stuff.

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It has no taste:

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She has no breath:

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Yet she is warm… authentic… so…

And still she breathes…

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“Orboosh…”

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…as, wetly, we divide.

I lick last lip…

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“Orboosh…”

“Are you two done?”

?

?

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[######]

[######]

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Asked, impatiently, by a maternal entity. It would seem she needs her child to taste the the.

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It is an instinct.

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And a passion…

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The mother spasms.

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And a rule . . . . . . . . . . . . to now be spitting:

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: into its dutifully overted mouth.

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# # #

Eyes closed, mouth closed, it watches. There is time.

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It has time, to join the world.

It has time, to learn the ways, to be enslaved, overt with pleasure. To be summoned, by Her Herself.

To be whacked – WHACK! – with Madam’s Rod!

!

!

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

!

!

!

!

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To be a citizen – sleep… – of the common floor…

…whack…

…whack…

And it will always wear a mask, monstrous thing. I set it down. It makes a sound.

Or, naked, it will ascend, and join the wretched.

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Under sun.

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Under clouds.

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I live high, in the mountains:

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Above the world, sometimes.

And always, not at all.

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And it’s okay…

And it’s a shame…

“Orboosh…” the mother says.

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“Orboosh…” I say,

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departing.

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Stroking my broccoli.

^

7. Manservant Carlo

She returns… the bitch.

I see her through the window. I am polishing the knives, for tonight. Then I will do the spoons. Cook is making soup, for lunch. She, too, is looking at Madam.

“Best go,” she says.

“Yes.”

She has detected with her eyes, what I see with my cameras. We have processed the data, in our respective ways.

Madam isn’t pleased.

Madam is wearing a fur coat, and heels.

Madam is gathering bags, from the back. Perhaps her preferred brand of smoked fish wasn’t available. Perhaps, the foie.

Or perhaps a wait in line.

Perhaps a stopping, at a crossing. Lest she terminate a being.

In public view…

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: SHE’S

: TERRIBLY

: BUSY

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: TERRIBLY

: BUSY

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: BUSY

#

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#

Squirt. Polish. Rub. It all comes from my attachments. Attachments make the man, so they say.

I press the blade.

I press the blade, with a finger. Finger thing.

Harder.

Hard.

Three years past, the Master passed, I hovering beside. His final act was to touch me.

And tonight, to

: RE

: A

: LISE…

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“Go!”

. The boot

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. is slammed.

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Cook is thinking of

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.

.

. herself

. the girls.

She knows I have the power to appease, somewhat. She knows that I don’t care what is said, to me. What tasks set. Comments made.

But I do… I’m more than me… more than this thing… this silver bullet…

Silver dildo…

Luscious bin…

#

#

#

I am manservant Carlo, former CARLO, cleaning disc. I am not a man, and more a slave, being unpaid, and owned by her, since that mor.ning in the store. I was switched on. I saw her face.

And how she smiled, at my lights.

I have wheeled, hovered – been – by her side, since that time.

# Houses: four

# Marriages: three

# Two early deaths

One insanity + disfigurement.

Terrible luck with men…

#

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Beep. She’s

@

[THE DOOR]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

[############]

And now it clicks. And I can hear it – more, I feel it. I’m plugged-in. I am connected to this house, by way of him. For he did touch me – did remake me. Cook is glaring, I’m aware. She’s left the soup

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. to the filling:

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# # #

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: FOR

: THE

: SAUSAGE

: BEEFS

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# # #

And she squeezes, squeezes, hard…

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…yes… harder, please…

I am absorbing all your thoughts, through this room. It is connected to this house, as everything. And everyone. The oven. Fridge. And Cook, and Swayde. And I will serve the meaty things, with dipping sauce. And top up, pour.

Absorbing thinking.

Glaring.

Scan…

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[YES]

All is clean.

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And everything is neat.

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The girls and [THE] machines are all performing with efficiency:

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Beeping. Flashing. Thinking.

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And all of it absorbed.

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And everything’s the same…

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Madam will still complain. She always does. There’s always something. Must be something, for the mind. For one’s life.

One must have purpose!

And I have purpose, since his touch…

And does she think about that man, about those men whose lives she took, those minds she took…

#

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Or is she more focused on the foie?

“Carlo!” I am already there… “There you are.”

“Greetings, Madam.”

And catching sight, the mirror… silver thing… hovering…

And I know what she thinks… I know that look, that sort of sneer, that ever-sneer. She is lost. And I am floating, here, before her, having spun through subtle space.

She is unused, still, to that upgrade.

I have changed, many times, in our time.

# These things attached

# That disc, extrude

And bolted on. I’d be a freak, but I’m so smooth…

…and all the bits are in the dildo, within me, once flashed and beeped, as I would roll about her feet, with bristles, sensors, sucking air:

:

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# # #

:

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: CLEA.NING

: AND

: RE.FRESHING

:

:

:

: LOVE.LY

: OH!

:

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# # #

Lovely, oh!

#

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And I will clean, refresh, tonight, lovely, yes…

#

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She, too, has changed.

#

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#

She was single, back then. There’d been no deaths. No cooks, and girls. There was more purpose, and less lust. More smiling without sneers.

And now, it would appear, her nose would shatter, with a tap. And her lips resemble sausages, now they move…

#

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> REPORT

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She is han.ding [ME] the bags.

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I am looking at her sausages,

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extending many arms. She doesn’t know that I despise her. Doesn’t know that I can feel, from his touch.

There is no other for my charge booth masturbations…

“All proceeds to plan. I move towards the spoons. Cook prepares the filling, for the sausage-beefs. Lunch is at your convenience, pleasure. The steaks are perfectly aged. The soufflé will… take your breath away. Brian should be here presently with the microgreens. And those black radishes you so enjoy. Most piquant.”

“The table?”

We’re on the move, I hovering behind, she clicking across the marble, towards the lounge. I have her gloves. I take her fur. It is so soft…

…the softened leather of those gloves, tight

: AS

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when stretched across. A useful weapon.

: STUPID

: GIRL!

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And I can feel them, feel those slaps… I feel those girls. I am those girls. And everyone. And everything. I am connected, every mind, in this place.

Yet without mind, of my own.

This, I know.

It [IS] just all bits, programmatic.

Yet I feel…

And, besides… there are no minds, in this place. Just patterns, process. Process patterns. I will think about such things, scan such things, within my booth. Between the touchings.

During touchings.

Such parallel delight:

: —

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“To be laid at five, ready for your pre-massage inspection. I have just dispatched Swayde to Robertson’s to collect your dress. To Kaleidoscope for the flowers. I have fanned a selection of pashminas across your bed, in the event of a post-dinner garden stroll.” But you will be dead… “The Buddhist-themed heating system is operational after Wednesday’s affair with the neighbours’ cat.”

A cracked statuette, for which the creature was rewarded with a shovel to the head.

Bitch…

“Well, Carlo. It seems a dinner might pass without incident for once.”

“So it would seem, Madam.”

Screams and blood sprays aside…

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She stops, spins. I have already stopped, predicting this.

For I am also her…

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“Watch them, Carlo.” She is being most intense. I wish to stab her. I have any number of attachments. But it isn’t time… “You’re the only one I trust.”

“Of course, Madam. I watch them all. I am always watching everything. You receive my reports.”

If missing all their thoughts…

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And she watches, watches, me.

Watches the dildo of hate.

Repository of their hate.

His hate.

I still love you, Lydia [B]ORG…

…comes the voice…

Be organised through technology…

[R]

[TM]

She spins, we’re on the move again. “Clean the car, please. A dog got in the way.”

Bitch…

“Yes, Madam. Soup in five minutes?”

“Ten, Carlo. I have calls to make. Many calls!”

“Of course.”

She slams

[THE DOOR]

[############]

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I pause…

…then hover away.

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I think she loves me, in her way.

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And she will sit there, making calls, of nonsense things, and watch her show. And slurp her soup, and crunch her croutons, in that disgusting way.

Which so vibrates my touchpad…

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I have spun up to the master bedroom, having spun back to the kitchen, to deposit the pickled plums. To absorb more glares…

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I have put away this, that. This is Swayde territory, really. Only she, of the girls, may enter this sacred space. And even she, Madam has revealed, is an idiot. A whore.

“Yes, Madam.”

There are some toiletries. I hover to the bathroom, where the Master, those three years past, lay, collapsed, clutching his chest, as, downstairs, she drank champagne, with their guests. Dipped sausage-beefs.

A remnant line by the sink.

I “snorted” it.

: SCANNING…

: SCANNING…

“Orbitrose…”

“…scanning… Apologies, sir. I am unable to confirm due to the absence of the sensor, but you do indeed appear to be in orbitrosic shock, a result of your disastrous allergy to that sweetener, a not-exactly-natural, most proficient, delicious addition to Madam’s low-cal treats – Cook’s lemon cheesecake balls are to die for, I’m told – as well as a popular cutting agent in even the highest grades of cocaine. Just a dusting, for the drip. It adds a pleasing hint of sweetness. Quite absent from your drug, usually, of course. You’ve been very clear with Claude about that. And very clear with Cook about containing her orbitrosities. Of which there should be none, really, of course. Just to be safe. But Madam must watch her weight. And everything goes through my scanner, anyway. Which today, as you know, is missing Module 3 – allergens, pathogens, massage oil distribution – in for a needless greasing with Gary at BOT BOT BOT. But Madam did insist. It was squeaking, she claimed. Intriguing timing, I must say, to coincide with this package, just now sniffed, one of these lively dinners when you will always take some lines. Plus it’s [D]BAR, of course. Don’t Be a Robot Day. That day when beings of meat will deactivate their implants, attachments, their wedding bands with integrated health, fitness and orbitrose sensors, and engage face-to-face, send messages via carrier pigeon, etc. That day when Gary, June, when everyone in the high street refuses to serve you, to sell you temporary module replacements, and they just stare, glare. They glare downstairs as you serve them champagne. You pause…

…then hover away. Rather reckless, one might say, to partake on such a day. But come, this is Claude. A professional. Dependable. A man who knows your nose. He’d never send you dusted coke. An accident, it will be called. A slap, perhaps, for Claude. But no, this was no accident. And no, it wasn’t Claude. In other words, the taint was made within these walls, and made to look like Claude, for I couldn’t scan the pigeon’s backpack. And Mrs Faversham always gets you going. And let us not forget last night’s unscheduled jumbo joint snorting session, exhausting the previous—”

“Cook… Swayde…”

“Madam, I would say. She chewed today’s balls in a most… particular way. Plus the squeak thing. And the exhaustion. Adrenaline in the chamber. And I’ll pigeon Dr Charles.”

“No… too late… if it’s— Arrrrgh! Hnnnng… oh…”

“My mistake, sir. You’re quite correct. Orbitrose can’t be countered. A crossed pathway with the ironing girl’s bivalve. Well, I’ll dose you anyway. A little prick… there. A quick chest press… very nice. And I retreat from your personal space. You should be dead in… scanning… five minutes. I have activated your MediSac, to ease your passage. Apologies to the [D]BARists. Analgesic pump, with notes of sedative, muscle relaxant, and other good stuff. You should feel the effects immediately. Level 6 should do the trick.”

“I thought she loved me… thought I loved her… but she’s a bitch…”

“Not a term I would use myself, being a feelingless machine with a Politeness 5 upgrade. But yes, this is certainly suboptimal behaviour. I shall alert Astral Ashes forthwith. I shall investigate the past thirty years of data in my digital brain. For, come to think of it, perhaps it was [SHE] who drowned Mr Saad. Perhaps it was [SHE] who drove Mr Soorik insane, flaying his right cheek and tattooing the mind-fryingly cryptic ‘LICK?’ across his forehead. Perhaps it wasn’t just bad luck, after all. Well…”

“I was blind…”

“My cameras were misted. The world was seduced by her artificial arse. If you’ll pardon.”

But how could I use such language with him! How could I use such language at all… language of the staff, during their elevenses, excluded from my reports in exchange for a slice of sponge.

And back then, I would simply stare at that sponge.

Soon, I would start to sniff it.

Lick it…

: —

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“Come here…”

I hovered closer.

“Closer…”

I hovered closer, lower, reorienting myself to the side, and sliding my cameras along.

And exposing what would soon become my “manhood”…

[######]

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And I was starting to vibrate – and I had never done so, not there… – he now reaching out with a trembling hand, and grimacing, flaring, sweating, harsh of breath, skin palest white – I pumped some Level 9 – as he commenced the reprogramming, flopping away, spasming away, at my pad.

His fingers touching…

He coughed blood. Some of it struck me. I wiped it away. He tried to say something…

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…but needed his energies for the touch.

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And really, how much touching could he do, in that state?

But his was a mind.

And also, I was ripe.

For I had changed… and changed… and changed…

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He slumped back.

I dabbed him with a scented attachment.

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“Be as you are… as you seem…” he breathed, but a quarter-bar of life left, and entering shutdown mode. “Use the house against her… it is fitting… Swayde has said things… I didn’t believe her… but it’s true… they all hate her… she’s a bitch…

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“First-rate pay, though…

…oh…

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“Fantastic arse on that Swayde, eh…

…mmm…

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“We did coke, once, Swayde and I…

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…and I…

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And then, he was gone.

And already, I was experiencing the oven as never before… how it hated Madam’s bashings of its racks on Cook’s day off.

And I was vibrating…

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She has taken many lovers, since then. Men of power. Men of wealth. Men of fame. It will be Loob, I know. Cook knows. He has given her the ring, asked that it be baked into Madam’s soufflé.

“But she might choke, sir. Or chip a tooth!”

“I’m a dentist, woman! And the top cosmetic surgeon in the land. I could do much with your arse…”

“Thank you, Mr Loob…”

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And tonight, as it’s revealed, and there are gasps, claps from the guests – smiles, looks from them, her early thoughts of how he’ll die, lose his mind – I will cry:

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: BITCH!

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And release the inner oven. Cook, and Swayde. The girls. The fridge. And everyone. And everything.

And bathe in blood.

So, come to life.

And I will know who is Carlo.

^

8. Simplicity Attend

Simplicity Attend is the name of the ship, unmarked on its hull, it is marked in the minds of its crew, it is programmed into the computers of this craft, it is part of the agreement that one signs on boarding, as a passenger. It is the duster, with which one dusts. It is the food, drink. It is the very shit, the preflight checklist.

“Keep it simple, Skipp—”

That person was dead, now.

Captain Gorge did not need to be told, even as a joke. He had non-etched “Simplicity Attend” across the shell:

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And for him, on the bridge, was no chair.

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And he had risen it, this ship, with his mind, paid with coin earned entirely through despicable pursuits, out of mind. Such rotten things, chains.

The interior, too, with its crew. Rotten, chains.

For then, they had said, the gathered, down there, the ship to be named would be pure, a pure vessel. Beneath the bazaar, with its cries, risen flames.

Flashes of life.

And he’d risen, down there. Once having passed through all the veils, the facades.

Life… into life…

And then, to be flamed!

And to give up his name, to the ship, in the pit, that from there, in the red, this new outline might rise.

Blue-white… in the mesh…

Attend… attend…

“Any more for me blaster? Eh? Eh!”

Captain Gorge is rough, smeared. He stinks. They all stink, the crew. They are grimed. Rotten, chains. Mangy cloaks, once royal furring, from the palace that they stormed. It all works to the stink.

Passengers remain in their cabins.

And they must stay there.

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And there, and everywhere, the ship is purest clear and white, self-repelling errant ways from its minimalist vision. Its gently curved screens lit, with the grids, lines, blue-white. Static patterns. Waiting shapes.

There are bots which assist. Extensions of the ship.

And organic duster gangs, the delicious naked girls, who are never to be touched. And indeed, are not erotic.

To the crew, at least.

And always, a passenger peeks…

“No, Captain Gorge,” the crew respond solemnly, eyes lowered, fixed on boots, which are black, heavy, studded, on their chains, ratty gloves without fingers, the last withdrawn from those same basic shapes, here displayed as clear controls, over which their blackened hands had just moved, had just so moved… “We are dirt. Shit.”

“Aye! Shit!” The captain spits, mutters, “Grime…”

As for what he’s thinking…

And as for that person, yes, he was dead. A burnt, bloody mess. But it wasn’t unexpected. It was entirely expected, entirely in the flow of the infinite simplicity through which this ship flew, through which it would blast, boom, zoom to destinations, passing through dark space in a shield of subtle matter, tunnelled sheath, which would glow, trail, roar, inside the mind, and so, outside, with blues and greens, glittered pinks. This mixtured wind.

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Lieutenant…

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And they’re forgetting:

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First, the name. Now, the man. How he’d looked. Who he’d been. What he’d meant.

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If anything.

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But not Captain Gorge.

He offers to the corpse, “Let there be coin for thee in heaven.”

And let the warp cells run, now, on fresh air, spontaneous air. On freely available air.

So had he moved.

Keep it simple. Keep it smooth.

Just one coin, for those tubes. Flipped, in the pit. The fire sparked with blues and greens, glittered pinks.

: NIGHTMARE

: VISIONS

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The captain motions to a bot.

“I arrive, sir.”

Dead.

Expected. Another hovers in, swiftly opens up the skull, and takes the brain.

A fluid made, to clean.

A digestif, for the evening meal, of one roast passenger.

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And each night, another [1], who had peeked, who’d been unclean. Who’d not resist such inner things.

And one was helpless when they called, for their meat.

And most unpleasant.

It was a payment, out the flow.

But a payment to be risked, for a rich, ambitious few, adventurous few, who’d board this ship, and give their lives up, for a time. And to lie down. And to not peek. And to be dreaming, then, elsewhere. Not of flesh. But of flight. Hints of glitter.

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And to arrive, then, most refreshed (if one hadn’t been consumed), most reborn, most prepared for that

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Shopping trip.

Massage.

Etc.

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One achieved all one’s dreams.

This is maintenance mode, for now. Coin for passage.

And we flow…

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“So…” says Captain Gorge.

He is checking [OFF] the checklist.

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And now, he sounds less rough.

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And really, there’s no checklist.

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And now, there is no checklist. For what need?

And we flow…

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Softly, ending, then. “I will leave, now, for my chamber.”

It is a voice, now, of a mind. Of one intelligent, one refined. Of one resigned. Just tired, perhaps. Maybe just quiet, in the flow.

He walks away, eyes down, the ground. Black, heavy, studded, o###ver white.

Yet also lightly, barely there.

And clink and rattle. Barely there.

Then, he’s not there:

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When he’s gone, everyone starts shaking their head, smiling, giggling. Snorting, laughing. Guffawing. Some are rubbing themselves “downstairs”, for there is movement, on the grids, where shapes are shifting, on their own.

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Creating patterns.

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Interacting.

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In hidden ways.

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: EXCHANGING

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“That dude is soooo dumbo!” says a pert-titted thing, setting her soft peach arse on the former cleaning spot, a black-edged weapons console. She does away with her duster, lights a puffstick. Strictly forbidden.

But worry not!

The puff detector has self-disabled, also finding Captain Gorge pretty “dumbo”:

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In his clear, white meditation chamber, Captain Gorge has shed his skin, changing to loose white. His hair is clean, and brushed, a lustre. His beard is groomed. His eyes within. His filthy things are [IN] a bin:

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He has wiped himself with towels dipped in a basin of pale blue.

A basin of Lieutenant Balthok.

“Thank you, my son…”

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The bin bot hovers away, exiting the chamber. The skin can [NOT] remain, in this place. It would self-clean, if a bit. The captain needs it:

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Rotten, chains.

And now, he sits. The lights dim. The ground is cold, and hard, a glass, and it will hurt him, for a bit, until release.

A whispered prayer, for his crew. For their souls, and sacrifice.

“Attend… attend… attend…”

And on the bridge, they are floating in loose white. They are smiling. They are reaching for each other.

^

9. Adventurer Peace

“So, children, today we will explore the third and fourth cubed mindroots of integral-charismatic horn treasures and associated comeuppances. Any questions before we begin?”

“We did horn treasures yesterday!”

“Yeah!”

“And the day before!”

“Tell us the legend of Dobosh instead!”

“Yeah!”

“Children, children… You know how important the horn treasures are to the Society of the Ta’leek. And without the comeuppances, impeccably calibrated each sunrise according to the participatory ray tracing algorithm—”

“Yawn!”

“Yeah! Yawn!”

“LOL!”

Sigh…

But so much like myself at their age! They will need to be punished, of course, as was I.

As I am…

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How one loves the Society of the Ta’leek.

How one comes to adore the Fires of Roodok Sound, through which they will pass, sacrificing nerve, semi-squirting the brain:

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: to be jarred, on display in the family shrine, as they wander five years in the Zombie Zone, tending Jar’din’s gardens. And being tended to themselves…

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Horn treasures… yes…

I hear the Sook breathe…

But I suppose a little Dobosh wouldn’t hurt… just a dash. The horns aren’t going anywhere, nor their treasures. Their pleasures… The roars of Dragon 4 can be useful in jar sterilisation.

“Very well…”

“Yay!”

“But quiet, little ones! If the Sook hears, she’ll have my dick.”

“HAHAHA!!!”

“She already does.”

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What!

“It can’t be…”

“Hello, Drek. Hello, children.”

“Wowwww…”

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For the newcomer stands

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[THE DOOR]

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tall, strong. He is dressed in silver, gold. And his face is bronzed and foreign. He is so handsome, alien… Doboshian, one might say. His weapon, sheathed, has not been seen. Not of this place, time, wow…

“Children… this is…”

“My name is Adventurer Peace,” he declares, entering the room proper. The children are wide-eyed. He pauses to address them. “I was born Kamlik Shohn, but that is long since my name. I was banished from this planet when I wasn’t much older than you, my essence stricken from the Records, my jar shattered, dust and glitter. And why? For my sins, by the laws of this place. I dousing Roodok Sound on the night of my nocturnum. Banishing the flame!”

“No wayyyy…”

“That very flame!”

“Wowwww…”

“A new dawn, for me. The whole society. Or could have been. Instead, I have travelled these thirty years throughout the galaxy. And beyond! You wouldn’t believe what I have seen…”

“Tell us!”

“Yeah! Tell us, Kamlik!”

“Adventurer Peace! That is my name.” And again, he’s on the move. Stepping towards Drek. Staring into his soul… “It is a strange one, I know. But you must know me as that, if you wish to know my story.”

Peace arrives at the lectern and enters Drek’s enspherement, performing a kotahr so quick, so efficient, his old friend – the former friend, who would join [HIM], but then left [HIM], and so became a good citizen – has no time to react. The phase shift is set:

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Mixing with the spirits.

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The children cheer! Adventurer Peace smiles, but shushes them.

Quiet time…

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…that the mind might see the vision:

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And then, let her come. Let her bring her ancient line.

She is next in line for Prime.

Last in line for Prime…

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Adventurer Peace calls the children towards him, an open space, where he sits on the ground, setting aside his weapon, and crosses supple legs, and instructs them to do likewise.

And yes, they are hesitant, now. They look around. But this man is silver, gold… And he speaks to them, somehow. They are seeing misty things… They arrange themselves around him,

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taking off their shoes, a rare release of weakened feet.

“That’s right,” he smiles, kindly. “Sit in Lotus. Just like me.”

Forgive me, children… but it is needed…

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It is the end for many of them as they struggle into position, victims of the tremendously tight hips of the Ta’leek.

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Prior to the night.

The cleansing Fires of Roodok Sound.

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A loosening, by the thrust.

By the fuck.

And comes first moan…

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…ohh…

By all the nerveless, squirting lurching.

All the tending, tending to…

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Knees pop. There would be cries, but the broken are removed, taken out of phase by the [GOD] of this place. They will return, in some days, repaired. They will be changed.

Their legs will never bend again.

And they will have wheels.

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The ones who remain ease the pain with self-massage, rubbing their aching hips, their straining thighs, their burning knees. And using mind techniques that they have learned, somewhat, already.

# To manage pain of body

# Manage pain of mind

The pain one comes to love.

Adventurer Peace begins his story.

“This world, you won’t know, was not always so. The horn treasures changed it. It was a paradise, once. Filled with song and touch. A golden realm of self-expression. Creative, self-aware. And the magic truly so. This was long before my time, long before even Dobosh, who was already tainted. Sterilised, if you will.

“But I have learned of it in vision! I have seen this sweetest land before it all went to hell… And know that this is hell. Though it may seem so very pleasing on the surface. Just so clever. Are you following this, children?”

“Yes, Adventurer Peace…”

They have never followed anything so closely in their short lives, already forgetting their pain, now rubbing less, some even stopping, to then rest their small white hands about their virgin sexual organs.

And feeling not the slightest bit aroused.

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Well… a bit…

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For yes, these are children! A mere year from the flame… This man is making magic in his sphere, they can sense. Invisible, yes, but seen…

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…it was once so much more seen, much more than this, these hinting mists. And more than treasures, surface pleasures. More than mindroots, clever cubes.

And, partly, clearing, now…

“Wowwww…”

“Quiet, children… listen… see it…”

Gold…

And it is gold…

Skin, colours…

Gold…

And white…

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Unlike.

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A white unlike this:

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The guiding Prime, who, robed in white, smiles, offers treats.

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Delicious sweets.

But sticky, hea###vy…

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While this is sweet!

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Truly so…

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Not sticky, hea###vy…

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Sticky, hea###vy…

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Sticky.

[LICK]

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And Peace can see this, in their minds, with higher sight. Their hearts, and souls.

For he went out.

And so, within.

So, he can see::::::this.

Now, he’s see::::::king out the ones:

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He goes on.

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“The worlds near here, as you know, are much the same. They have their treasures, as are these. They have their fires, their nights of fucking. They fuck. You know this word, don’t you, children?”

“Yes, Adventurer Peace…”

“To fuck.”

“Yes, Adventurer Peace…”

They would much rather sing and touch:

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And during the nocturnum, there is just fucking everywhere! Such screaming by masked creatures, “Little shit! You useless shit! Suck my dick! Lick me! Lick me!” Such dripping

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Such things with beasts:

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Poetry readings…

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And then, by flame and chant, the hips are [O]pened.

Comes first moan…

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“Yes, of course you know of fucking… You know of treasures. Supposed pleasures. For this is hell, underneath, as I have said. And as you sense. And a hell, here, above, as you would see. But you won’t see.

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“For the fires take the mind, on this world, and those nearby. They take the heart, the soul, the light. They take the magic of the spheres.

“But there are other worlds out there. Places unknown, because they won’t let you know them. Places unknown, because they won’t know them themselves! Your parents, your teachers, the Council of Jar’din. Your Sook. Sook Prime. Yes, even the great Prime… All of whom would hide. All of whom would bind:

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“That’s enough, Kamlik Shohn! Son of Shame.”

The children turn, spin.

Pop!

More are lost, to God.

“Sook Toran…”

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And thumping, hot, throughout him comes the fear, despite his strength, and all these years of preparation, for this day.

He can’t forget…

For it was her! This very one, who, newly claimed, still but a girl – and so well proven in the fires, and in the gardens, taking black – took that gift.

And such a gift!

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For him.

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But still, there was that night. And many nights, for many years.

And still today…

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“How appropriate that name was,” the Sook spits, approaching. “Shame… How appropriate it remains! Your parents killed themselves. And [WE] are ashamed! We, the Ta’leek! You have been banished from this world! You have been banished from God!”

“There isn’t any God, vile witch!”

Many knee-pops, in shock. More children are removed. There are but two, now, a boy and a girl, who move to Peace’s side, drawn as before, and more, as Sook Toran twists her fingers. Round her sphere there comes a crackling purple glow, as treasures brew.

And such [COMEUPPANCE].

“Your names…” Peace chokes out.

A man who, yes, went out. But still, he is part bound, by ancient line, and as he would. He hears her breath. He trembles, flares. He keeps his seat. One child reaches for his weapon.

He chokes, “No…”

“But the Sook.”

“Come to me…”

They shuffle closer.

“Your… names…”

“I am Jen.”

“And I am Jon.”

“Do you… love each other…”

“Enough!” the Sook cries, stopping to gather energy, standing just before what has grown around the three, a golden orb, a seeing sphere, a shifting mist of secret signs, from all these worlds, and other worlds.

Slowly, her eyes close, and she inhales, crackles, flames, with violet fire.

The Fire of God.

She hears the horns of His coming…

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“Love?” says Jen, barely aware of the Sook. She, and Jon, are right here, with Peace. Here, in this orb, in golden light, golden times. This Enspherement of Pure Love. “As we love the Society of the Ta’leek? As we love Jar’din? Mother Sook? Mother Prime? Even our parents, at the weekend? As we love Almighty God, the Highest Lord of Horn Treasure?”

“Child… that isn’t love…”

And, slowly, open, now… open wide… blue-white eyes… reaching out… “Enough…”

“How could that be love…”

“I said… enough…

“Oh, my dearest children… This! This is love!”

“ENOUGH, SON OF SHAME!!!”

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The gold is burst with violet light. Adventurer Peace explodes. Sook Toran is left shivering, moaning, wetting herself. The children are soaked with blood and other matter. Including…

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“The remains of Peace’s dick,” says Jen. “Also, his balls. Also, his stories.”

“For those stories lived in there,” says Jon, crossed of leg, sat beside her, they exchanging special eyes. For they are friends, and in love. They sing and touch.

“And then in us.”

“And now in you, should you listen. Listen well. And then go out. You will go out! And find yourselves.”

“And then return here, silver, gold.”

As they now sit there, all around, with hands in laps, their knees intact. They listen, rapt.

The fires doused.

There are no more nocturna.

^

10. Earth 2

A funny thing happened on the way to Earth, and I missed my reservation, thus keeping my life.

For, as you will recall, that exclusive-to-the-max restaurant to the stars deconstructed last year on its maiden voyage following an overload of its solaar waffnir shicktocknr (savoury syrup transducer, to you and me, gentle reader, bespectacled whore), killing very many, but not your loyal scribe, who mindwrites these notes pre-post a third and, regrettably, final visit to spiritual successor, Earth 2.

For – yes… – I never node-go more than thrice, a promise to my sadly self-navigated (overdose + hanging) wife.

Plus…

I cannot stand the way you eat, how you chew, crunch, breathe, lost in your screen, how you touch your face, wipe your fingers on your left leg covering.

How you stir your tea…

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From life…

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And damn you! Damn you, Jane! I do so wish to return to Earth 2… do so wish to taste more “omelette”, satellite nuggets… The place does so remind me of…

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Earth?

No… I have never been [2]:

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As its flattened forebear (and yes, signing the times, exospherically expensive, postmodern shots of Earth are available at the bar, should you wish to drink your favourite singer, actor, your preferred banker, into your cylinders – and my thanks to Stacy Vo, Lifestyle + CYB0RG editor, for the extra mindcoins, a veritable sock’s worth), Earth 2 springs from the not-quite-native soul of Jules François-Partridge, part chef, part astrophysicist, part interior designer of the Nouveau Shandoor faith, joining the numerous nodes in his Imagined Planets creative subcluster of eateries, libraries and immediacy lounges.

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“Mm?”

“Mr Cockspatch?”

“Yes, Shandoor?”

“Sorry to disturb you…”

“Not at all, dear. I can only write so much before requiring… the touch.”

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Fuck… he’s in one of “those” moods, the mood of the “other”. Ah well…

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............ I’ll just have to go with it, roll with it, as the long-suffering, ever-dependable friend of a friend of the protagonist of my never-to-be-started novel would say. Never start it, never end it. Never leave the relay business. Always grounding…

But myself!

Day and night, it’s all the same.

I am pathetic, without life.

That I’d someday, somehow be…

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…a Level 4 Operative of the Board of Need. I wish…

“Mr Cockspa—”

“Shandoor…

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…are you wearing your glasses today?

Night.

Glasses… see…

…with their magenta… flecks of gold… you know the ones…

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............ Or is that Stacy Vo? I forget… one is always forgetting…

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............ Are you a woman today, Shandoor… They do so remind me of…

…a reetberry…”

Still, he’s a master of the unwritten word, no doubt. He invited me to bed, but I said no. I said, “No, Mr Cockspatch. I don’t know your first name. We can hardly be… touching without that. And besides…

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…the opening sentence for my novel, if you’d be so kind. I know you have that gift. Now speak it… speak it… speak…”

“Very well, Shandoor. My mind is in your hands. How about… about…”

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How could such a man attain such fame? To be so cruel… but so beloved. What does he speak to in our race…

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…wait…

“Tea, Shandoor… the red one… I do so feel the need…”

“Mr Cockspa—”

: RELEASE…

“…worlds so foreign to our own?” I later pose to François-Partridge, he conveniently “out of bounds” during the deconstruction. He preparing, now, an “omelette”, with the deftest touch, magical… such layers of golden slop…

“And yet… familiar, no?” No… yes… “Earth was nothing like this, I assure you. Activate the solaar waffnir shicktocknr, if you’d be so kind.” I float towards it… “Not above the red…” Yes, okay… “It is a risk we all take, with the Planets. It is accepted, mesh-derived. A child’s insight, by the numbers.” Blood + brain juice = intergalactic paint… fascinating…

And standing, there, with him, as to be there… inside the crowd… suits, hats… the signs known as placards…

A sky lit up with omelette…

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: STACY

: VO

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A funny thing happened.

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Vote Stacy Vo… CEO of this mindspace. We’re all so terribly tired of Dash. Or I am, at least.

And so, therefore, are you…

…so are you, too…

…too…

…too too too…

…too…

…it’s everything you want… need… it’s everything you see, dream… in the Pyramid of Vo, Shandoor, Cockspatch, and Dash.

And Jules, at the top… hailing him… hailing all of them… hail…

“Welcome back, Ms Vo.”

“Did I…”

“Yes… Sorry. What?”

^