9 min read

Antenna

I’m back and getting ready--getting ready for the main act! Not only with my friendship with Odious but with my life. I’m decades late but I’m finally primed for celluloid stardom despite how I murder every line.
Antenna

It was like a dream. I crossed oceans of hard brown dirt between patches of grass in the scraggily park where I know the view from every bench by heart. The autumn sun looked like white paint on the branches of the old elms; those grand creatures made it through the scourge of Dutch Elm disease in the 80’s, they survived a pandemic and try in vain to impute their lessons down upon all of us wandering lost staring at our phones. When I got to the avenue the same light expanded across the slanted and enchanted sidewalk that glittered with mica dust. It’s mixed in the concrete to help rainwater run off it more easily, but that’s just an excuse. It’s really a reminder of the magic all around us, the opportunities for alchemy, for money and fame and gourmet everything—anything you want.

People have been coming here for thousands of years for the magic, ever since the native peeps. It seemed like it was because of the natural port but really it’s because this place is a giant antenna, broadcasting out its seductive signal to the whole world. The metal and wire antennas that triangulate and transmit signals from the tops of buildings are merely an outward manifestation of the invisible one running beneath the whole city, an ancient trident left behind by some long ago skyscraper-sized underwater god that still hums with supernatural power.

I’m back and getting ready--getting ready for the main act! Not only with my friendship with Odious but with my life. I’m decades late but I’m finally primed for celluloid stardom despite how I murder every line. My hair was slicked straight back heavy and bright with coconut pomade. It’s taken me years to find one that actually works but doesn’t stink too much. I need a cut, but I had Jesse James buzz the back and sides to clean me up a little. “It’s good,” he said, as he ran both hands with thoughtful stoner slowness through my sloppy pompadour, “I like the way the grey strands stick out a little crazy.” For this momentous moment I wore thick-framed vintage Persol wraparounds that cost a mint, a full length thrifted mustard colored trench with the sleeves pushed up, vegan Reeboks to appease Odious, puffy pink and green pastel headphones to let everyone know that on the one hand, I wasn’t taking any of this too seriously and a mask with a black fringe hanging from it a la Orville Peck to show that on the other hand, I sure as fuck was. I passed hard femme persons wearing tight punk tees under delicate jackets, and pretty boys profiling with chunky bangs and coke bottle glasses that made their eyes deliciously googly. Props abound in this part of Brooklyn. So do aesthetics, especially the kind that celebrate imaginary disadvantages. I’m personally rocking a post-road trip blend of blindness and extra sensory perception: I can ascertain details that are hidden from view, but I’ve lost the bigger picture. I walked the block with a quick glide and a bounce on beer and LSD, my open coat flowing out behind me like a cape as I took the long and winding road to Odious’s place. After all the speedy mind, late-night highway rushing and turnpike busting to get back to Brooklyn, I found myself slowing down on the last mile to a chain-smoking crawl, putting off the inevitable uncanniness of finally being in the spot that was in my dreams ever since I left.

I didn’t even bother bringing along my moleskin, any recent notes are a drunken scrawl. Genius shit or so I thought at the time but it’s illegible now, maybe a rhyme or two can be excavated… all that vaporwave that Jesse James played had me in a loop. My mouth is starting to look twisted when I catch my reflection …stoned and nodding off I came in at different points on the hero’s arc of whatever we’re watching… some mission, some fate, some destiny. All this time’s gone by and I’ve gotten so little done, I thought. Only these doodads I wrote in between scenes, shows, highway miles and naps, planned and unplanned.

When I got to Odious’s place I took a deep breath. It was all muscle memory as they buzzed me in, and I jogged up the stairs like I always did. The old knees doing their thing. My immediate impression was that the place was darker than I remembered. And so quiet. There was a ringing in my ears. Everything seemed so loud on the way over, but up here was an oasis. Had it always been like this?

I texted them when I was a few blocks away and again before pressing the buzzer, so they’d know it was me. They sat in a folding chair in the first bedroom, off to the side of the front door. I jumped a little when I saw them there, this room had always been my office and in the million times I’d imagined how it would be when I came back they were always at their usual spot on the couch in front of the giant screen in the living room. I muttered hey as I took off my mask and the Reeboks and sat in the loveseat in front of them. We were closer than I’d anticipated us being, but either because of the drugs I was on or the very low lighting in the room I could barely make them out.

I was nervous, so I spoke first:

“I read your last post, and I noticed, you know, that you got the VALIS acronym wrong. You had it as Vast Active Living Information System, but it’s supposed to be living INTELLIGENCE system. I don’t know if you saw, but I changed it for you.”

“Thanks,” their voice came from deep in the void. It sounded raspy and they coughed to clear it.

“Oh sure, no prob. I mean, it’s a little funny, though. I mean, you were literally carrying that book around with you 24/7 for all those months, remember?  And then you go and get the meaning of VALIS incorrect. In the title of the post, no less.”

I stopped myself from fake laughing.

“You’re probably one of the only people who caught it,” they said.

“Yeah, maybe. I don’t know. I mean, we have some real PKD heads as subscribers. But whatever, I should have probably asked first, but I figured you’d want me to fix it.”

“Yes, of course. We should both have one another’s backs with regards to the posts going out to the public. Especially from here on out, when shit gets really real.”

“Hey, listen!” they said, their voice suddenly breaking out of monotone. Without moving they turned up music that I hadn’t realized was playing until that moment. Maybe it had been on their earbuds, or perhaps it was just beneath the threshold of being able to hear it. A singer I vaguely recognized crooned, “I don’t want to swim, I don’t want to swim, swim, swim in the waters that you claimed or that claimed you.”

“A pretty good sync, don’t you think, Swim? That coming on now right after you arrived.”

“I’m not sure, I mean, you knew I was coming over...”

“Ha, yes. I can see why you say that, but this wasn’t queued up. The mix is on shuffle as is the impermanence of the present moment. The waters that we’re swimming in… We’re on shuffle, Swim! Even what we call the past is a gooey, plastic situation. You might think you know it, you might feel you are certain of all that’s happened, but then, when you least expect it, it bends and bruises and changes according to the insatiable whims of the indefinite blob known as now.”

“Our loves and our losses, all the passions of people just like me,” they said, coughing again. They told me later their voice was “rusty” from barely using it.

“Ok, that’s true,” I said, wondering if they had purposefully modified the LED preset in such a way to cast shadows between us.

“Have you considered that maybe VALIS originally appeared as Vast Living Intelligence System but now it’s changed to Information.”

“You mean in the book?”

“I mean everywhere.”

“So, if I find your copy of the book somewhere around here it’s going to say ‘information.’”

“My copy, your copy…the copy in the library down the block. It’s entirely possible. Another possibility is that when you read it that way it will seem correct. You won’t be able to remember it having been another way.”

“Because of Heir Max?”

“Maybe.”

“But he wasn’t around when PKD wrote VALIS.”

Odious laughed, the whites of their eyes flashed at me in the darkness.

“C’mon, Swim! You must be getting it by now. Though I admit it’s only really started to click in for me super recently. Heir Max is Phil. At least the version that appeared in my dream. There’s another version that seems to have died in the early 80’s, but that’s merely one possible outcome of a story that includes the one in which he appears to me in a dream. As well as one in which he’s my father, or the aging enemy that I must find and kill. That’s the thing, Swim: time is an illusion, just like a dream. A story is only complete when it contains every possible plot twist. All the entranceways to all those other universes! Heir Max 98 has always been here, even though it seems like he just arrived. He is my WIP—all those pages, all that different media…it’s all him, and it always has been, even before I wrote a single line. We do this silly thing and sign the works of art that are in our possession, as though they are really ours, but the truth is that each book contains all others, and that there’s only one author of them all, who is a temporal and anonymous.”

They leaned forward into the light, and for just a moment I could see their face. It was small and delicate, like it always had been. The face of a child who could still remember being old in their last life. It was a relief, after all this time of not being able to remember.

Oh, my friend, I thought. How I missed the strange comfort of being near you and your easy wild weirdness.

“That last bit’s familiar,” I said, “you’re paraphrasing something.”

“Nearly always,” they said, chuckling again, “I’m nearly always paraphrasing--when I’m not plagiarizing outright, that is.”

They lit a match with quick flick, illuminating their face and the mapacho that hung from their mouth.

“Yes, it’s funny, actually,”” they said, exhaling that old familiar smell, “because as I’m speaking to you now, I realize that’s the best way to describe it. Plagiarism—but not in a bad way. You see, in the past week while reading more of Phil’s Exegesis I realized I’ve been called to perform what can be called a kind of divine plagiarism.”

“Of PKD’s writings?” I said, emphasizing the P-K-D having noticed how they now referred to him as “Phil”.

“I won’t be copying his writing, as such. I’ll be re-presenting the living information that was given to him and was the seed from which his work germinated. The same information that is now growing in me. The scroll that he handed me in the solstice dream and the strong feeling that I had that he wanted me to write something—it turns out that was on point but it wasn’t his unfinished work that he wanted me to complete or some already published manuscript he wanted me to revise, but rather he wanted me to remix the living information that merged with him and became the seed from which his works germinated. And the reason why I know this with certainty is because even though I didn’t yet know what I’d received, the process of the transfer healed me, in the same way that Phil said his famous 2-3-74 vision healed him. It was immediate. Powerful. Like a light switch being flipped. When I woke up it was like a thorn had been pulled from my heart and I could happy. Phil described it as the longstanding rift between himself and the world had finally been bridged. Like him I’d always felt apart from everything and everyone. I’ve tried but never been able to do the grind or vibe with my relatives—the idea of going to work every day and coming home to a family has always seemed totally alien to me. The structures of the world and the way people seemed to think we should live our lives through them always seemed…off and incorrect. The way we live is fundamentally unhealthy—even the most privileged are wracked with disease and delusions, and now I know why. The world and all of us were built wrong. We’re stuck in a messed-up illusion that we’ve all been fucked up into believing. We are literally suffering and dying in this terrible hologram, while the real reality is there, outside of all this shit. Like The Matrix except this illusion is implanted deep in our minds.”

“Let me see if I get it: Heir Max healed you so you can put the Work In Progress out in the world.”

“Heir Max healed me so I could finally be fully in the world while still being free. Whatever I do after that, even it's just sitting here in the dark, is going to be purely next level.”


Image: The Wachowskis, The Matrix

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