10 min read

void jazz

I slept uneasily inside a vaulted void and dreamt, not for the first time, that Heir Max was beside me in the bed. That was it, there was nothing else to it, just the thrilling and terrifying feeling of his (its?) invisible presence close enough to hear my thoughts.
void jazz

by Swim

It’s Springtime on the mountain. Everything’s waiting; waiting for me to make my move. I can see it in the watchful faces of The Babies. I feel it in the expanse of horny wet soil that stretches between here and Brooklyn. I hear it in the calls an unseen bird makes in the late afternoon. It’s posing a question over and over as the shadows grow across the gravel paths that connect the five houses in the compound that has become my world.

I thought once I got here it would become clear: The Babies and I were going to be a model for how to live in telepathic resonance with otherworldly entities who guide us to higher levels of creative being, like Odious who is channeling Heir Max to write King of Spain. When we first encountered Heir Max I was freaked out—but in the months that followed I tried to keep an open mind. I thought, this is good, they are getting their work out there. But something’s off. Odious no longer wants to video chat, and when we last spoke on the phone their voice had an unusual edge to it, an excitement that bordered on elation. For someone else this wouldn’t be a thing, but Odious hardly ever gets amped up, according to their own description they are “one temperature”–not too hot, not too cold. Sometimes when we text I feel like I’m really chatting with Heir Max. There. I said it. The events of the last week have made me realize that there’s no reason to keep my doubts secret: Heir Max already knows about them and has started to fuck with me.

I originally wrote this post out in long hand and sent it via a Baby back to New York. My handwriting is so busted I wasn’t sure how much they could read but it was the only way to evade his digitized reach. At least that’s what I thought.

My dude had strict instructions to only give it to OA in person, but they never answered their door. Over the course of two days he showed up at different times, including early in the morning when I know they like to sit out on the front stoop, but no dice. He even got a UPS person to ring the buzzer for him in case they were screening him out on a camera he didn’t see. Still no answer. I waited an hour and then texted and of course they replied right away. Typing, they wrote, when I asked what they were up to. Which was what they always said these days.

“I type and type and type and type.”

I told homie to put it in the mail.

“Thanks,” they wrote me a short while later. “I love getting mail. Especially on this double thick paper. What did you write this with, a fine tipped marker?”

That was it. They didn’t say anything about the content. But at least I knew that the version of Odious who was still a real person had received it.

Here is what I sent. The OG draft of the post you’re reading now:

Odious,

Please read and judge.

-S

Nights are tricky here. Something to do with the altitude. There are either a billion stars beaming down or none at all. Last week there was a night that was the latter; I slept uneasily inside a vaulted void and dreamt, not for the first time, that Heir Max was beside me in the bed. That was it, there was nothing else to it, just the thrilling and terrifying feeling of his (its?) invisible presence close enough to hear my thoughts. When I woke up everything was just like it was in the dream so I couldn’t be sure it had really ended. Some air will help, I thought, and I padded over in my luxury socks to open the window. I’m in what’s called a dormer–an addition to the top of the creaky house where everything feels flimsy–the wooden floor sags and is always freezing and the slanted roof trembles in the wind like it might get peeled off. My window looks out between two giant trees and what was, on that night, a sky rectangular and blank like a screen. There, I watched in fascinated horror as a pair of giant eyes and a leering grin materialized out of a silvery smear of wispy clouds that floated beneath the thick backdrop. We’ve all seen familiar shapes form out of fluffy white clouds, but this was different. As I watched, waiting and hoping for it to dissipate, the face stretched out further across the sky without losing its form. In fact, it became even more distinct–there appeared the slash of a nose, and a swirling smudge where the chin would be. The eyes were perfectly identical in shape and size. They were both completely white inside–no pupils, no humanity. They glared down upon the landscape with a fierce appraisal. The smile was like that of a grotesque doll, but as I looked at it, I was made to understand that I wasn’t seeing the likeness of something but the thing in itself. This is what is usually hidden, I thought, it’s always up there, watching. I leapt back into bed, praying it hadn’t seen me. It’s just my mind, it’s just my mind, I told myself, as I huddled with my back towards the window. I could no longer see the eyes, but I knew they were there. Even worse, the house was quiet and empty around me: The Babies had taken to heading into the trees at night, to play their funny games and work on their projects, one being our album/video game, the songs for which now numbered in the thousands. Despite their lack of sleep, they still got up early to work in the yard the next morning with their dirty feet and faces. To soothe my pounding heart, I imagined that they had climbed into the nearby trees with their binoculars and telescopes and hand crank powered transistor radios. I focused my mind on the oval shaped sliver of glass at the end of the telescope that pointed up to the sky as they leaned back, giggling among the leaves. No devil in the sky would scare them. Any moment and I would hear them on the roof. They went up there sometimes and drank dirty vodka out of a giant water bottle while sucking on frozen olives. The possibility gave me some comfort, I’m not too proud to admit that for some hours it seemed to be all I had in the world. I listened eagerly for the patter of their bare feet above me, but there was nothing, only the wind in the trees like an exhalation.

“This is some fucked up shit”, I imagined telling Odious, who I knew could feel my fear back in Brooklyn. “What have you gotten yourself in to? Who have you given yourself over to?” I wondered, fat tears rolling slowly down my face.

“Somethings are meant to be passed over in silence,” Odious said back to me. Wittgenstein. One of the three datasets that formed the OG Heir Max’s original knowledge base.

From the depths of my fear I made a promise to myself: I have to clean up my mind. I have to fight off the distractions and poisons so I can help my friend.

I woke in the pink light of dawn with the room freezing and the sound of The Babies singing outside.

Relief coursed through my body. I went to the window and saw a great number of them, too many, it seemed, gathered on the wet gravel, while white petals fell like confetti. They sang the following lines in an up-tempo, poppy way:

“Russian roulette in a room with a view

Russian roulette cuz there's nothin to do

We went away and we fade to black

We went away and we came right back

Now this part of me is Joan of Arc

And that part of you is glow in the dark

Superheroes!

We are not the same

Less than zero!

They don't know our naaaaaame

They don't know our naaaaaame”

They sang-yelled the last line again and again, dancing in a circle until they ran out of breath and piled together, laughing.

I gave them a moment to compose themselves before I called down.

“Where were you?” They froze and looked up.

“And why are there so many of you?”

Silence, just their stunned faces shining up at me, lit by the same internal light that powered the gravel and the flower petals.

“I’m not angry with you, my precious Babies,” I called out, noticing how small my voice sounded. “I just want to know.”

Finally, Blackbird answered.

“We were out finding new members. We can’t pick them out, they have to decide for themselves. We walk up and down the roads, into the towns and back into the hills, vibing and providing information with whoever felt compelled to come out and meet us. They see us and feel it. They feel our compassion, how we want to get to know them in a for real way. We want to talk to them and vibe with them. And then it doesn’t matter that we look different, because they know us.”

“It’s a love and trust thing.” I couldn’t see her, but I recognized Em’s voice.

“We wanted to talk to you first, but of course you already knew.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, baffled.

“What do you mean, ‘what do you mean’?” someone said, and everyone giggled.

“You thought there were more of us down here,” Em said, clearing it up. “And there aren’t. More have joined but aren’t here yet. You felt them. You felt their energetic connection to us.”

I looked down and it was true, it looked like the same crew that there always was. But the vibe had shifted. It was bigger.

Later, Em brought me tea and stroked the back of my neck. She could sense I was stressed, but either didn’t know or didn’t want to say about what.

“We’re all soft. A lot softer than we were before. Softer and flexible. It’s so much easier to feel the Postworld out here. The vibe was in NYC, but it’s cleaner out here, you know? You can see more. And further.”

“Yes,” I said, my mind shifting to details about where we would put them all, and what we would be called, and if we would still be able to fulfill my dream of living completely off the land with so many new mouths to feed. In short, The Babies helped me like they always did, this time by giving me things to focus on so that I didn’t have to talk about the face in the sky until I was ready. That happened a few days later when I was helping 3 lay mushrooms out to dry. Apparently when they soak up the sun they get supercharged with even more Vitamin D than they already come with.

3 knew all about mushrooms. I’d helped him with ones we made for dinner before but these were for the next new moon ceremony, when we drank down a big cup of shroom tea and lay in our sleeping bags, each of us with a bucket and a water bottle. 3 had special “healing” soundscapes that he played on his festival-sized speaker. The tyranny of having someone else decide the music while I tripped was an excruciating exercise in patience. I had to counter and unlearn my impulse to rip out the jacks and make it stop.

When I told 3 about that he claimed, “the first 10 years are all deprogramming.” That he can’t be any more than 22 makes it simultaneously easier and harder to believe him but that’s the programming at work.

The sky was clear blue without a cloud to be seen. The sun and the smell of warm dirt and the presence of the mushroom friends made the night in which I saw the face feel far away. I found myself sharing with 3 like it was no big thing. In fact, I had already decided that it had been a product of my dreaming mind.

“I didn’t really see it,” I told him after I explained what happened, “but the face was there.”

3 nodded his head slowly. He was wearing a red hoodie with the hood pulled tight over his baseball hat. His black hair stuck out wildly from the sides. Because he did a lot of psychedelics, what might have sounded like crazy gibberish for other people, was just a part of his usual trip.

“Heir Max, like everything else, has always been in my mind, but he is often outside my conscious awareness, hence his appearance in dreams,” I said.

“But you’re sure it was Heir Max?”

“I don’t know,” I said. I felt a chill in my back at hearing his name spoken out loud. In addition to the dirt there was the smell of animals in the air, making me wonder if something was creeping around nearby.

“Maybe it was projection mapping. You felt like someone was on the roof–maybe they were up there with a laser.”

“I wanted someone to be on the roof. But there wasn’t anyone up there.”

“Are you sure? You may have sensed them. It would make sense that they would be very quiet.”

This was a possibility I hadn’t considered.

“Can you projection map on the sky?”

“Sure why not?” 3 shrugged. “Especially on an overcast night.”

“Or maybe,” he said, “It was coming from that old mill on the lake,” he said, “remember we saw those vans parked outside that time.”

“So?”

“So they could broadcast out all kinds of things from that big ass smokestack. Frequencies that increase and decrease the amount of cloud cover, for example. Weather jamming, you know is nothing new or very difficult.”

“Ok, but who would be doing this?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “The Feds, probably? I mean, we stick out around here. And how about Bruce. I’m still not sure about that dude.”

Bruce was the middle-aged suspender wearing artist who was the only person living here when we took the gig. He worked all day in his studio that he kept locked up, so that we had no idea what, if anything, he was making. His clothes were often splattered with what appeared to be plaster as he made his way back to his house. He hardly said anything and was an old dude who left us alone, so I left him alone but now 3 was making me wonder if I’d been stupid.

I need to keep them all safe, I thought, not for the first time, as I imagined the face in the sky floating above us even now, invisible in the sunshine…

“What are we going to do?” I asked, but 3 just stared at the ground.

“Did you hear me? What are we going to do?”

“I heard you,” he said, with a sigh.

“The first thing we have to do is throw out all these mushrooms.”

“What? Why?”

“Couldn’t you feel it? For a minute there I let the fear get to me. It went through me and seeped back out into the mushrooms. No way we can take them now.”


Image: Morrisen @istiigkeit

Thank you as always for reading. I'm trying not to let the fear seep in, please do the same out there. Gotta keep the vibe high.

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xo

-Swim