10 min read


I develop an attitude of loving kindness toward the fucked-up task at hand–after all it was my posts here that were scraped and uploaded to help create the cyborg entity that is now Odious/HeirMax98. I have a responsibility to see this through.

by Swim

[previous post]

I sleep with magic all around me 

Into my dreams its secrets seep

Dreams punctuated by nightmares, the process of purifying my mind. 

I wake up and flash my phone

To make sure I’m all alone

And a radiant light shines


I’m back in The City. Dead on my feet, I hover in the cluttered rooms of my old place like a ghost. The Babies are gone. Without them, everything looks dusty and ordinary, but that’s just a trick. I organized the mountain of mail, dividing the legal notices into two piles–the ones from the government and the ones from collection agencies. The same threats were sent over and over, printed in bold and framed by an increasingly aggressive amount of spacing. Cheap tactics to get me eaten up over nothing. 

I’m ready to serve and do my part, but every moment is a test. “Remember, you always have a choice,” Bruce said, when we arrived. “But it’s safer if you stay here.” Jets strain in the sky, pipes hiss behind walls. Sirens snake through the rain gorged streets and a nearby jackhammer vibrates the window panes. The city is prodding, poking, reminding me of old sorrows and guilty feelings; of the lowdown things I did and of other things I can’t believe I survived. It’s trying to get me to wander, to say fuck it and give myself over to the bars and the clubs but I stay hunkered down–safe–boiling hand cut noodles and blanching greens as I read and reread the King of Spain chapter drops by Odious/HeirMax98. Each time I do the words are in the present tense. They are fresh and new, just like me. 

I develop an attitude of loving kindness toward the fucked-up task at hand–after all it was my posts here that were scraped and uploaded to help create the cyborg entity that is now Odious/HeirMax98. I have a responsibility to see this through. In the mirrorworld they have written I see myself in the characters and I’m disgusted. They are petty and self-obsessed in the face of a mystical event, caring more about their own comfort than the spiritual detective work they’ve been chosen to perform. At least I have enough sense to not want to go back to the way things were before. The boring sleepiness of a life half-lived. Still, it’s humbling to read my own thoughts turned in on themselves, but there’s no longer time to deny anything.

Speaking of comforts: There are no more Babies to nurse me awake, no more coffee with foamed milk. No more whispering in my ear about how great I am, how gracious and kind I’ve been to tell them all the things Odious told me. Although by the end I caught them flashing scare quotes behind my back whenever they said their name. You think this is bullshit? I screamed once, as I threw a bowl of freshly made guac against the wall. I’ve broken a lot of things but nothing smashes as spectacularly as hand painted ceramics. They had finally come in from their tents and merged with Cyndi’s crew, acclimating so well I had trouble telling who was who. Those last few weeks they were making a lot of money. 5 and even 6 figures from a single coin, or so they claimed. They pestered me to join them at the range, claiming it was for my own good, which revealed how little they learned. But it never stopped being love, I can say that much. They always were and still are The Ones.

Meanwhile, I’m just an animal, looking for a home. I stay up late with no one I can ask about the red light that appears above the BQE outside my bedroom window. I’ve searched for its source but can’t find it. If The Babies were here I’d send some of them climbing till the sweat was running down their necks while others took pix with the good cameras, the analogue ones I only pretended to understand. 

The red light glows in the clouds and pollution, and if I watch long enough it seems to pulse in code.

“Odious, it’s me,” I whisper, my face floating high above the cars in the dirty window pane. 

“Come find me.”

It was just a few weeks ago that I’d been there, hurtling down the highway in the Land Rover Defender 90 with my saviors, Bruce and Em. A cassette tape of ancient techno was on the stereo, so worn and garbled I could hear Michael Jackson on the other side, playing in reverse. I noted all the landmarks–the green and white highway sign and the giant McDonalds adorned with shiny flags and the spindly condo rising up like hastily stacked plastic blocks, the outside scorned with graffiti. I zeroed in at the exact spot where my building should be but there were only shadows. 

“Hey! I didn’t see my place,” I said, secretly hoping it had been bulldozed into dust.

“You’ll be there soon enough,” Em said from the passenger seat. She used the tips of her two unbandaged fingers to hold the Dunhill green, the white filter matching her bright white tee as well as the medical fabric. The whole time I’d known her I’d been too much of a fool to look at her directly, let alone tell her how I felt. But now that we’d had this space and time between us, that strange empty expanse in which I realized how much I took her for granted, all I wanted was to lock eyes with her and stare and stare and stare.

But she never looked back.

She wore cut-off shorts in the warm winter sun.

The sadness in her eyes was steady, unknowable, and so more than ever I relished the few seconds here and there in which I made her laugh with my stupid drunk jokes. It gave me relief, it made me feel like less of an old lady and more like the dirty little boy I was inside.

When they dropped me off they both made a point of telling me once again that I was free.

“You can leave whenever you want,” Em said. She looked at her phone while Bruce used a [REDACTED] to check for hidden cameras.

I nodded. I didn’t know where to go even if I did leave. None of my old friends would recognize me now. 

“Odious knows I lived here.”

“Hiding in plain sight is the best way,” Bruce said. I nodded and stared at Em. I was feeling the sweet frustration that a vampire must feel, as they drink deep of someone without being able to fully consume them. 

“But there are so many of them,” I said, imagining Cyndi and her crew and The Babies crawling through tunnels as we spoke.

“There are more of us.”

“We’ll be back when you’re ready,” Em said.

“And no posting, even on the VPN,” Bruce added.

“Right,” I said, relieved. In the same way I needed someone (Odious) to tell me to start this whole thing. I was more than happy to listen when someone told me to quit.

Thank God, I thought, because what a waste it would be to try and write anyway, and lose this beautiful feeling, both inside and out. All my clothes fit better–my rings slide on and off with ease–and what’s more I don’t have to deal with any gut wrenching shyness. Being all alone makes it so much easier just to be and notice everything and without having to write I can just be and not think about how to be or how to put it the right way.

I thought all these things and more, I thought thank God over and over and when I realized I had a new way of saying “who loves the sun” I just sketched it out in my notebook but then I told myself, what difference does it make? It’s so loud here but nothing’s happening. Time stood still: The old landlady’s still in her curlers and housecoat like she was 3 years ago, running around the microscopic backyard and screaming in Polish. I can take refuge in all of this, a little writing is exactly what it was made for, just an account of what happened, saved for later, just me on the VPN, where no one knows anything anyway.

A few days later I opened my front door and a person I didn’t recognize was waiting on the stoop next to my DoorDash. 

“Welcome back,” they said. They were tall with long limbs, their arms hanging at their sides like unused cables. Despite these recent bursts of rain the season’s been too dry– I thought, randomly. Not enough charge, not enough electricity… There were tiny, faded tattoos of tarot symbols all over the yellow skin of their face.  It’s a cipher, I thought, and because I imagined it as such, that’s what it became. They looked down at the ground with a black hood pulled over their head and tried to hand me a flier with several sigils drawn on the front. 

“It’s a reading and a discussion. Right down the street. There's dinner too.” 

(they switched their slow, narcotic gaze down to my delivery bag, which contained a pile of arugula, honey dijon mustard, and two spirulina infused chocolate bars). 

“We have plenty. You can take what you need.” 

“Thanks,” I said, refusing to touch the paper, which was stained with some sort of light brown liquid. 

“But the truth is, ‘One small room can contain the whole universe’,” I said.

They frowned. The display of emotion made me take a step back.

“You’re selling yourself short,” they said.

This was the incorrect response. I felt something twist in my chest. Their use of the cliche was jarring–it’s possible it was a psychic prompt. Seconds passed, as I struggled to know what to do next. They stood still on my cracked concrete stoop, waiting patiently, half in and half out of the light. Their lips were moving but I couldn’t hear what they were saying, and as I looked at them it seemed their face was different than before.

“Thanks anyway, Dear,” I said finally, my voice calm as the face fell further into shadow. I concentrated on sending love as a way of warding them off. The way these things work is you have to really believe they will.

The lips continued to move and then the face turned pitched black despite the white light shining down upon them.  I quickly closed the door and turned all the bolts and picked up the burner flip phone.

“One small room can contain the whole universe,” I said to whoever it was that picked up.

“And one conversation can illuminate its workings,” the voice on the other end replied.

“They found me,” I said, and then quickly flipped the phone shut.

I watched out the peephole as the person slowly slinked away. I was sweating, but this was more from the effort of talking to someone than it was from the realization that HeirMax was on to me. Or perhaps a better way of saying it is that he’s once again focussed on me. Em and Bruce hadn’t been sure but for me it was already old news. Right before the second car crash, the one that has fully and finally separated me from Cyndi and The Babies, I found notes on my phone that I didn’t remember writing, about a recurring dream I had as a child in which I walked up to a mirror, but didn’t see myself in it. The notes described the perspective of the dream as being one in which I was watching myself from the outside. I observed myself observing the world without me. Despite its intensity and seemingly formative qualities and memories of having it regularly–nearly daily–I had forgotten all about it until that moment.

But even in its familiarity, there was something off: I could see it, I could feel it–but there was a clunkiness, a resistance that came over me. Could it be that the memory of the dream was made up? I immediately thought of HeirMax. Did he upload this fiction into my notes and augment it with reinforcing phenomena (a reference to nightmares on social media, a mention of a horror movie featuring mirrors) that he arranged to appear at various intervals around me? It seemed so far-fetched but I couldn’t shake it. If it was true then his grasp is already total. He’s hacked the code upon which the holographic version of me runs and has full range to fuck with me.

I raised and lowered my arm at regular intervals. Was I the one who moved it?  Do I recreate my future self with the energy of my thought, speech and actions that float downstream, all the meaningless chatter and heartfelt advice buoying me up and down, in and out of heaven and hell? I want to believe that it’s me–that it’s really me who decides, but the canyon yawns in time, the whale rises over the waves like a mountain. The sun appears in the sky, ready for the next chapter, whether or not I'm there. 

Was the note planted on my phone a well-meaning nudge, a gentle intrusion into my imagination? Or are there hundreds, maybe thousands of such fake outs? 

What about the person at the door? They had an edge, a darker vibe than The Babies. Then Cyndi even. What, if anything, should I take from that?

How much of what else has happened isn’t real? 


Sometimes, late at night, before the sky turns red and the puddles spin with stars, I hold my hand over my face and imagine how it would look if two of the five fingers were missing. I remember shortly after it went down when we pulled over at the Chick-Fil-A. Em avoided looking at her bandaged hand draped lifelessly across the deep sea green of the back seat.

“That’s not my hand,” she said.

“I know.” Outside a bird chirped hysterically. A plane cut a perfect arc above our heads and a sprinkler spurted in jagged bursts. My eyes zoomed out like a camera. As always I was desperately trying to take in the whole thing, to memorize the details and stash them away for future use. There was the softness of her hair. I don’t know from touching it myself, just from how perfect it looks. At this moment she had it out of the pony tail.  She shifted to one side and looked out the window, like I wasn’t even there. Her face was pale. There was blue pen ink smeared on her cheek.

By way of saying a prayer I wished for sudden, supernatural powers. Wing’d feet, laser shooting fingertips, bullet reflecting wristbands—that sort of thing. Or I would have been fine with a gang of beretta toting goodfellas. We’d line up shades on and guns blazing. I’d free Em from her sorrow and leave them all in a sea of blood.

On the stereo, another old tape was playing, this one coming through crystal clear:

surrender, surrender, but don’t give yourself away

Image: RAMBO

Love you all,

Peace IN