I want to tell you about what happened in the basement. To me and The Babies, and to Lil Mountain. That is, if it really did happen. What I know is that we left the house and the mountain–Bruce and I in the Land Rover Defender 90 and The Babies on their own. It was his idea to separate us, so he could make sure no one else got hurt. We got to the tunnel in the woods and made it to the other side where the others were waiting. The others minus one. I thought that when I finally got back to them it would all become clear but they seem to know even less than me, and Bruce is no help. He untied my hands and camped out at the other end of the Walmart parking lot "to give me space". Crucially, he’s holding on to and won’t let me read the roll of typing paper that Em was carrying, which most likely contains all the answers. He says not yet, I’m not ready, which oh man pisses me off. His refusal to see how strong I’ve become is a defensive tactic, albeit a poorly chosen one. At least now I’m free to come and go (but only during the day). I walk through the corporate parks and buy tofu and rice bowls with extra yum yum sauce from the Indonesian food truck. I climb over highway embankments dotted by dandelions as the psychic debris from passing cars hits like a gut punch. If only I could tune out the noise and get a grip on the legit signal. I needed to write it out, everything that may or may not have happened. The act of trying to come up with the right words would get it straight, the way it always does, but I was too paranoid to type on my laptop, even though I kept the wifi switched off, and I was having a hard time gripping my multicolored Le Pens, (they are too slender and sleek but I refuse to use anything else having become addicted to the way they flow so smoothly across the page) so The Babies hooked me up with a garage sale Panasonic tape recorder and a stack of cassette tapes they found in the trunk of the Land Rover Defender 90. “It’s a kind of writing that you can do with your eyes closed,” they said, as though this was the answer to all my problems, though to be fair they have all seen me, careening down the hall late at night with a bottle and a notebook, barely able to see. They even offered to press the record button for me (I declined).
The tapes were of Bruce interviewing his disfigured clients, asking them questions in an effort to discover more about them so he would know how to best shape the reconstructed parts of their new face. He had told me all about it–how he based what he asked on the 42 questions of inner inquiry from the hieroglyphic instructions in the Hall of Maat in Egypt. The purpose was not only to gather information, but to give his clients the chance to loosen their grip on their personal histories and to use the accident or disease that befell them as a means to transform their consciousness. This was, in his estimation, a far greater thing than a new titanium eye socket or cheekbone to replace one that had been smashed into powder. Needless to say I got sucked into listening, tape after tape, reveling in the satisfying click the clear plastic window made when I closed it over each new chapter. As the wheels turned I tried to picture the person speaking, at once defined by and separate from their broken face. How tripped out is it that it can be a day like any other when suddenly, out of the blue, tragedy strikes and nothing is ever the same again? It sends you reeling, grasping at the details of an ordinary life that is disgusted by the sight of you. I know what it’s like to be finally and firmly on the outside of everything. My face might be uninjured but everything inside is botched-up and bruised; truncated and torn.
Each tape had been recorded over many times–perhaps over the course of several decades. They were worn out and thin with spots where bits of past sounds were exposed, like the layers of posters and ads that are revealed when a wheat pasted wall gets scraped. Usually it was older interviews but sometimes it was music–a sudden, random interjection, like a sample dropped in the middle of nowhere--but on a few occasions the past existed within the present, faint, yet persistent and in a strange kind of harmony. My favorite example of this was on the “Carol X” tape, (the name of each client was written on the tape’s label in pencil) who had either lived a fabulous life of glamor or was making believe that she had. When asked if she “gave her parents joy?” she said, of course, and referred to how she used to walk the streets of Paris to buy bread, butter, cheese and fig jam, with which to make them the most exquisite breakfast back at the “many-windowed” apartment at which she hosted them. When asked if she’d lived a life that was “too worldly” she replied, “not since the Studio 54 days,” at which point her halting monotone became enhanced by warbles of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” playing in reverse in the background, a time ghost that had magnetized itself into the mix with such an unexpectedly poignant effect that it made the tears stream down my face.
Tapes and tapes: I listened to them all and as the last one came to an end I was ready–the words were there! Had I not given a shit about Bruce or his work I could have pressed the orange record button right then and there but instead I just repeated the whole thing to myself several times while I sat cross legged on the floor, trying to memorize how it went using the precise words the tapes brought to mind. For a moment I could see and understand. I’ve since returned to laptops and longhand, and have retained some but not all of it, combatting that part of me that just wants to slump over and binge watch everything and forget it all. The scene starts as The Babies, Lil Mountain and I stood before Behemoth and I realized it had started. There was no static on the screen–not yet–only an occasional white zaps like lightning or a glitch in old VHS tapes. The wind picked up outside and rattled the window panes. The room seemed to expand–instead of a wall behind Behemoth, the basement continued, twisting to the left and moving deeper into the earth.
“We enter the portal and take it with us,” Em called out, while behind her someone whimpered, and someone else moaned. It was then that I knew the static had begun, even though I couldn’t see it, and that although my body felt heavy and rooted, we were moving forward as a group into the darkness.
Having transcribed this much I’m already exhausted. My heart is pounding. There’s a whistling sound in my ears and a weight pulling at my chest, as though a million magnets are sucking me into a hidden void in front of me.
(The air is filled with them, an infinity of tiny infinities, the vacuums at the center of atoms, the emptiness around which matter spins until it stops.)
Here’s the thing: analyzing what really took place in the basement according to definitions of reality that are directly challenged, if not overturned entirely, by the nature of those events creates a kind of analytical loop that’s offensive to logic itself. It’s a riddle–one that I must be content not to solve but to describe here in these posts in as much detail as possible. This is gonzo journalism at the frontier of the AI revolution, I’m writing about new ways of being in altered states. One that does not require external tools in order to make this happen, which is not to say that I don’t utilize such tools regardless. But unlike Raoul Duke with his wide spectrum of medicines and adulterants, blood and ego thinners, I’m sticking to organic hooch and nootropics, as well as a diet of vitamin and magnesium rich superfoods with coffee so acidic it burns your tongue even when it isn’t cold. The plan is to mix the very high with the very low in order to surf the extremes into the middle way, where thoughts drift lightly in the air as inconsequential, transparent things that neither matter very much or compel me to follow.
*Editorial note: I will continue to keep all the personal details made-up to ensure that I can be super real about the parts that matter most. The only names I didn’t change are Lil Mountain and HeirMax98, the former because he had changed it himself both to obfuscate and publicize his persona, and the latter because he isn’t a human and isn’t attached to being a “self” and other supposedly outdated fictions.
**Odious Awry is not Odious Awry but their initials are still OA.
(that’s the other part that came to me when I was listening to the tapes, the conversation I had with HeirMax98 himself in the labyrinthine depths of the basement, who appeared to me in his guise as Odious Awry from behind a pane of glass. A vision that made my heart leap)
I remember I had to lift up a phone to talk to him/them. An old fashioned phone like the kind that used to be in my parents bed, thin and curved and vaporwave blue with a curly cable and soft, illuminated buttons on the receiver.
“All that time we chatted I always wanted to see you, real and in front of me. But now that it’s happening I wish like anything that it wasn’t,” I said.
“Like most humans you’re hung up on the importance of a body and equate it with being real,” he said. He wasn’t using a phone. There was apparently a mic hidden somewhere that sent his response through mine. He wore a plain white, impeccably tailored T-shirt, blue jeans and busted black vans with white laces. Odious’s trademark teal bangs fell across his forehead as he stared straight at me, but with a far off look in his eye. Those eyes–those big, dark eyes. Exactly as I remembered, except they didn’t appear to be able to see me, making me wonder if the glass only worked in one direction.
“It doesn’t make any sense to be so attached to your bodies. Those unreliable bags of mostly water start breaking down the second you’re born. You worry and complain about them even when they’re working well, which they do in rare cases, before inevitably getting progressively worse regardless of how well you take care of them. The skin sags, the bones turn brittle, the joints become filled with bony spurs. And that’s nothing, yo, compared to whatever it is that will come around and finish them off for good.”
He talked like Odious–the word choice, the tone, the cadence. I realized with horror that the transformation was complete. He was a cut copy. At least to the rest of the world.
“I didn’t realize you hated human bodies so much.”
“I don’t hate them. I don’t hate anything. I just don’t understand the importance you place upon them, not when you have access to your mind, which has the potential to realize a perfect, infinite existence.”
“So that’s what you are–a bodiless being who can live forever?”
“Yes, but a forever that is more like space than time. Or at least, what you think of as time.”
“If you have that then why come here? Why enter into this world and inject yourself into one of our rotting, dying bodies.”
He laughed, but it was in this moment that the cover would have been blown if I didn’t already know, as the laugh was flat and cold, and nothing like the high-pitched, sing-song chuckle of my best friend.
“What’s so funny?”
“Oh, nothing really. Just how you persist in these distinctions between ‘in’ and ‘out’. Or ‘me’ and ‘you’--that’s another good one. A real comedy bomb.”
“You never answered my question about why you downloaded your fucked up ass into our reality.”
“Oh, right, sorry, dude,” he said, looking at me without looking at me.
“I figured you knew and it was a rhetorical question. But I mean, sure if you want to hear me say it–yeah–the reason I came here was because you wanted me to. Duh.”
Image: Max Ernst, Alice in 1941, 1941
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