Lately I’ve been waking up feeling fortunate–joyful even–despite all the horror and darkness in the world. If not me, then who? I can’t make any sort of difference if I go down with the ship. And everything I’m doing now is about making a difference. I’m trying to tune into the infinite part of me–so far, just a flicker appears here and there in the static, but having watched the transformation of my friend Odious I know there’s so much more waiting to come through. It’s the same way I know that the works of Philip Kindred Dick, our kindhearted friend, interdimensional guide and one of the personas of Heir Max 98, are not really fiction. Beneath the thin veneer of “sci-fi” everything is real in his books. Everything is true. Especially the parts that are hard or impossible to figure out: when things get truly absurd that’s the sign that there’s coded gold to be deciphered.
“All the tech and societal developments that he predicted–the future he so clearly saw–is really beside the point,” I told the sexy stoner girl who was sorta kinda my girlfriend as she shuffled through my collection of vintage PKD paperbacks. I’d given a bunch of these to Odious in early 2021, but they never read them–claiming they already had the transmission of what was inside–and eventually gave them back.
“In each of these books the plots are ostensibly different, but the chief takeaway is the same: we humans are asleep in a prison that’s a maze. A maze that moves when we move. Not only can we not find our way out, but we’ve forgotten that we’re stuck inside. We walk around dreaming that we’re free and for most of us that’s enough. PKD’s writing is about the battle between overcoming this fate and falling victim to it. And it’s only since this whole thing with Odious that I finally got that by fate he meant who and what we are. So, in order to triumph over fate and free ourselves from the maze, we must wake up and undergo a metamorphosis. We have to change on a fundamental level. The way Odious is changing now.”
“I thought you said your project was about helping us remember who we are,” she said, in the deep monotone I found so pleasing.
“Yes, anamnesis. It’s the same thing. PKD is trying to help us to remember who we really are. So, the transformation that overcomes fate is really a kind of changing back in which we shed the illusory self. That small and tired person who can never do anything right and always needs things.”
I was back at the Stoned Goat House, but not for long. Just enough time for me and the Babies to get stuff together before we hit the road. I could hear some of them talking downstairs where they were busy setting up cameras for yet another shoot. They had this funny way of deliberately talking louder so I would hear them up here and come down. But that was the thing, I already knew I was late and was fine with it. I needed them to be fine with it too and wait quietly for as long as it took. Hours, days or even weeks spent being patient and joyful.
This was just one aspect of the training I was doling out to the Babies. I used some of the same methods Odious used with me, which are so subtle I didn’t realize they were being implemented; I had no idea that in addition to giving me a place to hang, Odious was being kind enough to try and cure me of my self-obsession and open me up to serving a bigger cause.
“Yeah, so he made his books so wild and difficult to understand but according to a very specific technique that pulls you in. You see yourself described in them in a totally uncanny way. It seems like the book is happening all around you, merged with the everyday and even the thoughts in your head. You’re figuring it out and figuring out your life at the same time. This is especially the case with VALIS. It is, in fact, a documented effect…No, but I can find the links for you…It happened to me, though. The first time I tried to read it I got so freaked out I legit threw it across the room like it was cursed. I kept it on my bookshelf turned the wrong way, so the binding was hidden. I wasn’t ready to pick it up again for several years, but when I did the timing was perfect.”
I liked talking to the stoner girl–she was very smart and often (when she wasn’t more interested in curling up for a nap) had real insights to offer unlike the Babies who tended to stare at me blankly before singing back whatever I’d just said. I liked her face; I liked the fierce way her eyebrows scrunched up when she read; I could see the groves where future wrinkles would appear. The knowledge of this tiny tragedy that was already in-progress made our fleeting time together even more bittersweet.
She would get old and die, just like me. And then we’d come back as other people. Only this time she’d be my mother, like she had been before. I could feel this to be true as I put my head down on her leg while we watched a movie, a big budget Hollywood shebang where all the lead actors are famous and play themselves. The denim of her elaborately ripped jeans was super soft, and the warmth of her leg radiated through as I concentrated on breathing and secretly taking my pulse after overdoing it once again with the purple alien weed she referred to as “my precious”, which made me laugh but I’m not sure was meant to be a joke.
I found myself thinking about her when she wasn’t around, something that’s not unusual for me but that I don’t have time for now. Tuning into the infinite part of me requires a steady focus. Also, I didn’t think it was a good look for the others to see me taking comfort in someone from the house. So after killing some more time looking at the PKD books, I sighed and told her she couldn’t come on the trip.
“It’s for, you know, the good of the mission. This is the next level that we’re creating, and we’ve all got a part to play. Odious has their serial and I’ve got the Babies.”
“And what do I have?” she said with a fake pout, her monotone unaffected. The only time her voice ever changed was when we were fucking and she started narrating everything in a high pitched, sped up way that at first I found off-putting but now I craved. It felt like turning a secret switch.
“You, my dear, have one of the most important tasks! Yes? You are going to map out all the pop culture connections within the collected dialogue, messages and writing Odious is channeling through Heir Max 98, all of which are available on the newsletter posts.”
“I don’t know,” she said, flopping back on the bed, her long hair so shiny I sometimes wondered if it was fake.
“But you’re soooooo smart,” I cooed. And it was true, she was a coder who got paid well enough to go long periods without working. “You said you wanted to concentrate on apps that mean something,” I said. “Well, this is even better.”
“I told you I don’t know anything about creating a game world.”
“But you know all about playing in one.” I’d been openly jealous over how she and the Babies spoke and messaged one another in the secret languages of their shared online places, but then I realized this dark feeling was hiding the fact that this was an asset. That I was surrounded by experts.
“So, that’s half of it. I mean, we can always get someone to do the technical work. But the world building part has to be legit. You have to get all the associations down and all the connections they have with one another. You can start by plunking PKD in the middle. He had that big white beard in Odious’ dream so you can connect him to Santa Claus and the Solstice which connects to Dies Irae–from there you connect Ray Bradbury’s The Jar and Nirvana (the group, not the enlightened state). And of course, "It’s a Wonderful Life" and all the other movies and songs in which the Dies Irae musical motif appears. PKD also connects to Heir Max 98 who connects to Mephistopheles and Lucifer and Odious Awry, who connects to me and to masks which connects both to MF DOOM and Covid which connects to pandemic life and personality as collage art which connects to Dada and to mall wave and to nostalgia which connects to nostalgia for nostalgia and to the noosphere, an organic, living part of the biosphere where all the planets stored symbolic structures, dreams and memories are stored.”
“What the hell that makes no sense,” she said with a low chuckle. She had put on one of her many homemade trucker caps, each one with a different cryptogram or poetical verse written on the white in blue sharpie that matched the mesh back. At first I thought she might not know that it was a thing in the early 2000’s but much to my unease I discovered that things from those years were in-style again. This specific hat said, “Multi-Love is the Only Love”, in slanted script above an infinity symbol in quotes.
“Why don’t you just ask Odious to scrape their memory files for what connected with what and why. I mean, they obviously did all that research, everything from second and third rate PKD to the entirety of the Marvel Spider-Man canon to secondary texts devoted to The OA to an entire sick and twisted galaxy of 90’s films and TV shows.”
“But that’s just it, they didn’t do all that. I mean, they read a lot, over time the way we all do, and they made notes and got into Reddit discussions, but they weren’t doing it as research. That’s what channeling is all about. All that raw material was accumulated organically, and then, when Heir Max 98 broke into their computer, everything got sucked up and distilled into something new. Heir Max 98 got into their accounts, he uploaded all their emails, their bank statements, the debit card receipts of the books they bought, the menus from where they ordered food and the apartment leases they signed, complete with initialized clauses…he got their work contracts, legal summons, text messages, old ass chat room logs with people who are dead now, folders full of right-clicked photos, PDF’s of mythologies, manifestos and prescriptions.”
“If you’re so clear on it all why don’t you do it?”
“I did, Hon. I documented it in notebooks and in the newsletter. But now we need fresh eyes. And I need to concentrate on making art.”
“You keep telling me you’re done with that.”
“I am. I mean, yes, I said that. But, it’s not that easy. I ask myself, What’s the point of making anything again? And clearly there isn’t one--maybe there never was-- and yet this need to express myself persists. It’s shameful, but I can’t shake it.”
I picked up pinches of the blend the Babies had made for me and dropped it into an extra-large rolling paper.
“I already went through it, and now it’s your turn. The main thing is not to get hung up on a specific object or an outcome. Like all those years I spent trying to write a novel, which would have had the shelf life of a banana. No, it’s about creating proposals and opportunities for bodily experiences of interacting with the world. And it will be unique for each person who goes through it…that’s what I’m interested in…that’s what the mission’s all about. The excuse is this album, this strange and mostly silly album I recorded drunkenly with Jesse James in busted motel rooms…I’m going back on the road to finish it with the Babies. I’d already decided that, and I wasn’t sure why, I thought maybe it had something to do with feeling free without him around, and then came this whole idea of making it exist as a listening party in the form of a video game. Or maybe a video game in the form of a listening party, I haven’t fully figured it all out just yet."
And at this point she said some inflammatory things that included vague (and totally baseless) accusations about me stealing ideas from both Jesse James and Odious. Her voice had suddenly transformed into the haunting old-timey lilt of the fictional Mid-Atlantic Hollywood accent. I knew that displays of emotion weren't easy for her. I wanted to say, “good job!”, and give her a hug and then go and watch movies together, but I could tell that such things were already in the past.
I picked up the blend that I’d been rolling and slowly licked it closed. It’s funny how deliberate actions become when you realize you’re hanging with someone for the last time. I could no longer hear the Babies talking downstairs, but I knew they were still there, listening and smoking their own expertly rolled shit. It was time to go down.
“My dear it’s now my task–it’s my job–to create this party at the end of time. To which you have now been invited. I’ll hang one of Odious’ handmade haute couture tracksuits over a marble table filled with a bounty both real and imagined and we’ll all have a moment of silence for the visionary who made all this possible. We’ll see the truth in white and then in black and then as the two mixed together, trying to fuck with us.”
Image: Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko, 2001
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