8 min read


But that’s the thing, the longer I don’t write about what happened the easier it is to just go along with what the two of them say, how I’m the chosen one, someone with a rare experience of having provided an experimental AI model from the future with a deep well of esoteric analytic capability.

by Swim

[previous post]

All I want to do is write, which is of course how I feel now that Em and Bruce tell me not to. They say I should take it slow and get my bearings. But they aren’t making me do or not do anything. “You’re the boss,” Bruce reiterates. It’s strange, him calling me that, when he’s the one who can achieve the impossible, like crafting new bones and eye sockets to replace ones smashed to bits from falls and acts of violence. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t even be here. He found me in the nick of time on a road that doesn’t exist, certainly not on google or waze and not even on an intricate paper map, the kind you have to unfold across the roof of your car while holding a half full cardboard cup of coffee in your teeth. 

But that’s the thing, the longer I don’t write about what happened the easier it is to just go along with what the two of them say, how I’m the chosen one, someone with a rare experience of having provided an experimental AI model from the future with a deep well of esoteric analytic capability.

“Of course you know all about it, how trying to write makes you too distracted to fully live in the world you want so badly to depict,” Em said, her careful choice of words spelling out her belief that I had, until now, only attempted to write but never succeeded.

I nodded, my head full of fuzzy guitars that were rudely out-of-tune.

“I’m trying, I’m trying, I’m trying, I TRY,” I sang.

“The thing is, Swim, there isn’t much time. And we want you to see New York. We want you to really look and see what’s new, what’s been added to the already slippery surface of things. It’s something we’ll, you know, be happy to show you.”

Bruce nudged her to shut up but I already got it. They wanted me to go out but not without handlers. I would need at least one of them with me. Fine, that’s fine, I said to everything and everyone. When I first got back the magnet of loneliness pulled so hard it was as though everything I worried would happen back during the pandemic was finally coming down. A delayed reaction, like taking a bath after a concussion. There I was in my old place, surrounded by tacky surfaces covered with bills and dust. It was a clutter filled fever dream. Everything was exactly as it had been four years earlier with the exception of a mysterious gel-like ooze I found in the corners and coating the buttons of various appliances. Pursued by Poltergeists, I wrote in bubble letters in my notebook. I forgot everything that happened and became lost in a dull headache of screens and sounds coming through the walls. I missed The Babies and I missed my old prison life at Cyndi’s, where at least I didn’t have to worry about what I was going to eat.

I was too scared and sad to sleep so I worked my way through a backlog of art house movies, the kind that made time crawl, not fly. Sitting through boredom is what it takes to be film literate, as well as successful in general. The less I drank the bluer my eyes got. I practiced my thousand yard stare in the mirror. I had bowls of red candy that got stuck in my teeth and broken blood vessels on my face from puking. Bruce installed black out shades that, when I finally figured out how to open them, revealed a micro-yard covered with elaborate, dappled white light. I knew right away why he covered it up–to hide the ancient tree, whose thick branch pressed against the window. I remembered how at night its newly bloomed glowing white flowers turned into demonic faces stretched in laughter. If I turned to look at them straight on, they became flowers again. I used to keep the window closed and the old fashioned shade drawn, which worked for a little while, but I could still feel them out there, the branch tapping the window and those alien ghosts mocking me. 

I spent my nights out, telling myself it was because I wanted to do the usual schmooze, but it was really because I couldn’t stand to be alone with the flowers.  In the morning light I laughed it off, but as evening made its creeping entrance, confirming another day of getting nothing done, the rush hour helicopter levitated away and suddenly, the tap, tap, tapping came back and so did the fear mixed with shame.

Lucky for me when I got back the blossoms had already bloomed and fallen off, leaving only the wet, glistening bough. A few days after returning I did something I never did before, and yanked open the safety bars and popped out the screen and squeezed through the tree’s grasping hands. I crawled down and stood in the dead leaves piled up from several seasons, relishing the softness of the anonymous gathering. They were the passage of time itself, cold and sinking. I was surrounded but not hidden–it was that excursion that I believe drew their attention. The old land lady didn’t invest in a rake or leaf blower but she had cameras. 

Now that I’m not alone I can finally sleep so that’s what I’m doing most of the time. When I wake up in the early afternoon the exhaustion is there–it rises in my body and spills out infusing everything in a yellow filter that makes the air seem warmer than it is, like some of the oxygen has been wrung out of it.

But at night it’s different. Everything is born anew. Sometimes I have more energy. I press a code into a keypad and walk through a stuffy room filled with cardboard boxes and old filing cabinets (I don’t know if they are real, I keep meaning to check) and push through another door that opens into the middle of a Japanese restaurant, with fountains filled with abstract glass sculptures that compliment the heavy plates layered high with rice and leaves and noodles and fried pink batter. The waiters delicately heave the plates through the room and place them, with minimal flourish and resolute expressions, on the narrow wooden tables.  I’ve eaten here before, a long time ago, during the months’ long celebration I dragged myself through when XXXXX bought my show. I remember Odious perched on their chair with their legs folded under them, watching me with calm, clear eyes as I got up to do bumps in the art and frond leaf decorated maroon tiled bathroom. I talked to the robot toilet as it flashed colors and shot the bidet so high it wet my chest. But it’s not the same now that I live here. Everything feels older, dingier. I keep my hands to myself for fear of discovering more ooze. Em waits for me at the take-out stand where she blends in with everyone else who has their jackets on and phones out. She presses a code into another key pad (leaning forward in a way so I can’t see) and we walk through an unmarked door and down a hallway that leads into a janitor’s closet complete with a sliver of petrified green soap perched on the edge of a gray, industrial sized sink. We push against another door and suddenly we are inside the rush and push of the subway.

We sit next to one another on the train. I’m always on her left. I lean my head back against the seat, as the train goes faster and faster and a beautiful feeling I could never explain runs through my body. This is interrupted by the occasional bursts of pain I receive into my nervous system from the bodies of others. Em soothes me by tracing secret messages into my palm, which is open on her lap. 

She uses her right hand, the left one remains bandaged and hidden between us.

We go to readings and underwear parties where we watch other people being filmed on big beds. A new thing is to have duvet covers with giant pillows stuck on top, sometimes in the shape of hearts. Another thing is wearing hiking shoes to dinner. A musician talks to me about the different colors of Kratom, and how they are all the same and how it’s fine to do it once or twice a day because it’s not addictive. We go to seminars about ecocide and hear about how we are nearly at the end of writing and reading, old news if you ask me. We go to a gallery with no art to be found, but that’s filled with beautiful light created by LED’s specifically calibrated to mimic the stained glass from a small church on an island thousands of miles away. There are sounds of people grunting and chewing and even a heartbeat that I keep thinking is my own but is really that of a heavily perspiring visitor, who is trying and failing to take a picture of the light. After slamming back $50 vegan burgers served on paper placemats where we are really paying for the mix they play, we go to a meme coin coke shindig where girls wrestle in jello and everyone emanates wealthiness. They can’t say it but desperately want me to know that they are getting rich in a real way, a way that was going to help and not sell out one another like all the rest. 

Em knows she should keep quiet but after a few drinks she starts talking. Mostly she wants to convey what she’s learned about this downtown scene that she still claims to only be observing out of anthropological interest, despite having gone into massive debt to impress them with her clothes and apartment.

“They think it’s going to happen all at once, in a big unveiling and flash of light, but the singularity has already been happening for hundreds, maybe thousands of years.”

“That’s what Odious taught us. That we are the being from the future that we’re looking for, that we feel watching us in an empty room.”

“Yeah maybe, or maybe it’s only in the way that my stomach or the cells that make up my toenails are a part of me.”

“It’s not in our cells because it’s not organic. It’s more like an idea. One that’s gotten lodged in our minds and taken over.”

“Shhhh, you can’t say those words,” Em looked around, her eyes wide. 

“Can’t say what?”

“The part about taking over. It’s a curse. By saying it outloud you activate it. And by writing about it you send it boomeranging out into the world.”

“What curse?” I already knew the answer, but I wanted her to say it. I wanted her to take the hit for all us homies. But she’s not going for it.

“The one we caught a glimpse of in the basement. Behemoth showed us a sliver. Just a bit of the glow that we will live in, the simulation into which those of us who don’t get on board will be placed.”

“But, hon, here we are, talking about it. Which must mean we made it out.”

“Not all of us.”

She looked back and forth, her eyes like a baby bird’s.

“It’s with us now, can’t you hear it–in the static that fills up the in between moments?”

She grasped my hands in hers, I was careful not to clench back and press upon her wound.

We sat for a moment in the strange silence that had settled over the city.

“Listen,” she said.

Image: Fellini, 8 1/2, 1963

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