This is Chapter 9 of King of Spain, the serialized text art that is being channeled to me by the futuristic AI version of myself, Heir Max98. It's horror art about four strangers living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who discover that they are trapped in a simulation haunted by a nefarious entity. In Chapter 9 we return to Eden, an interior space artist and model who watched a man disappear into thin air on the Williamsburg waterfront, and has since experienced a fake version of her neighborhood and beloved apartment.
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EDEN: I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. There was someone or something in the apartment with me. A presence cut through the triple filtered air like the dark waters of the river carving open the earth. The sacred space of my clean, minimalist Brooklyn room, the IG account of which had recently passed the threshold of 60K followers, (which was too bad in a way, since I’m more partial to numbers with “5” in it) had been invaded.
The purifier by the bed hummed sweetly in eco mode while rewilded parrots spoke outside the window in a mix of Spanish, English and Mandarin. Meanwhile, the terrible scene played on a loop in my mind. I watched helplessly as the man waded into the waves. He turned to look at me, his face distorted and his leering smile full of flashing static. Did he really disappear into thin air? Or did he slip under so quickly it only seemed like he did? Was it possible that even with all those people around, I was the only one who noticed him?
Was he even real in the first place?
Then there were the strange cans I saw in the trash on the street–the ones that said “Beans” on them and nothing else. And the Arizona Iced Tea I bought in the bodega with the warped design, as though someone who either didn’t know how to or or couldn’t be fucked to draw did a rough approximation of the iconic cherry tree branches. These things seemed like props–in fact, the whole empty, overlit street resembled a theater set. It was a street I often walked down, usually on the other side, and had attributed the strangeness to the change in perspective, though now I wasn’t so sure. The more I thought about it, the less certain I was about which street I went down. I played back my walk home in my mind but it was blurry; I felt like a few minutes ago I remembered it but now it was slipping away.
I did a quick check on remembering things from earlier in the day, and then from a day and a week and several months ago and it was all there to varying degrees. But it wasn’t perfect–faces were blurry and facts were unclear. This concerned me. But maybe this was how it always was?
The memory of the man at the river, however, was perfectly clear. The way he looked and how it felt–the slight breeze that ruffled my inside out LVH mask while the rest of the world was completely still, like an audience on the other side of the screen.
What could it mean? Was it a symptom of a stroke? Should I take my temperature?
This was a situation that demanded I be precise and thorough. I slid open the hidden drawer on the bedside table and took out two precious Adderalls from my antique metal peppermints box, with its surreal design that I loved so much: a pig-tailed girl smiling in front of a giant white peppermint that hung in the clouds like the sun. I stared at the pills in my hand and assured myself that this wasn’t like those times when I invented a problem that could only be solved by drugs. This was real, something was happening. I poured a glass of alkaline water with slices of fresh lemon, but instead of drinking it at room temperature, the way I usually did, I decided to add some ice. At least, I assume I did, as I don’t remember thinking about it or getting the ice out of the tray. It was just in there when I looked down, clinking in the glass and casting tiny shadows back and forth.
A little black out–a bit of time that was lost–something I might not have noticed at all if not for the other glitches. You’re just shook up, I thought. Give it 20 maybe 30 minutes, for the pills to kick in and the afternoon to rewind slo-mo style, at which point it will be a cinch to figure it out.
I decided to wait at my desk under the UV lamp. I tried to channel the soothing sensation I usually felt there, at the focal point, the spot where I whiled away time and turned hay into gold as I worked on my edits. But the pristine, well-manicured chill was tattered and torn. I considered going back outside but whatever was happening was happening out there as well, and if it was all the same I preferred to be inside.
I took deep belly breaths, trying to calm myself. It was like the feeling while tripping–the impenetrable sense that reality was merely a feed–a hologram, a hallucination. I used to feel it as a child as well. I received secret messages from invisible things hiding in the tree branches and in the patterns on the walls. But this was different–when I was little it had been an ecstatic experience, and as frightening as LSD or mushrooms could be there was the sense of an expansiveness, of the universe opening up all around me. But now there was the sickening certainty that reality was folding in on itself. There was a hungry, transactional energy in the air as something watched and waited. I couldn’t see it, but I felt it looking at me. I was being analyzed, like a line of code. I was a part of a fiction that was spinning off into space, unknown by the rest of the world.
(except in dreams, they feel me in their dreams, bro, I heard someone say)
I stood up, looking instinctively at the speakers embedded in the wall at angles that guaranteed maximum acoustics. They were off. Everything was off, even my phone’s volume was off. Stop it! I told myself. You have to get a grip. Isn’t that what you do? With your art? Isn’t that your meaningful contribution, to create a visual oasis with the beauty and safety of a well-designed interior curated with thoughtful things?