Forge Netting 39: Spade Marks

He was a cockroach – he always had been. He could, he was sure, if put to the test, survive without his head for a few days. Dropping him in the middle of a desert … what the fuck was that supposed to do? he had survived way worse shitstorms than these pre-programmed fucktards were capable of dreaming up. It pissed him off that they were not more imaginative and it also pissed him off that they thought someone like him could be gotten rid of quite so easily.

How were they to know that he had a repeating signal antidote push built out of gene-hack flesh where the spleen used to be? Sure, he had forgotten everything for a very short period of time, but then the antidote had kicked in and the whole shebang was resurrected.

Funny, they still didn’t actually know who or what he was. This had been a fruitful exercise for him … his disease had worked. This thing that he had engineered to destroy memory had worked.

‘I didn’t trust it,’ said Berry. ‘I never trust these things. A bullet through the head is always the most effective end to a conversation.’

‘Funny, I always thought of you as the logical one – but the one incapacitated by wings as swift as meditation.’

‘Ah, well therein is the thing to catch the king, eh?’

‘I am no king, and you are saying your whole thing was a ruse to fool me? Interesting idea, but I wasn’t watching you.’

‘A giant that cannot see its own feet I see.’

‘Can you stop being cryptic and get this over with? I think I have mentioned my intolerance for long-winded bullshit before.’

‘There’s a localspace distortion field put out by the LEthe, and we found a way to hack it. We found a way to disrupt your spatiotemporal index and disconnect the causal blockchain of your central reality.’

‘OK, and you couldn’t do this remotely? You had to come here and bore me to death before you press the button?’

‘No no, I had to be in close proximity. I volunteered. My Callsign is Bury. Like Bury St Edmunds. There is something of the martyr about me.’

‘So you are going to be killed by this too?’

‘Neither of us will be killed, but we are going to be scattered out through time.’

‘All these dead-ends, it must be tiring. You can’t destroy me – there are safeguards in place to prevent that.’

‘Sure, if the back-up systems can find you.’

‘Your spatio-temporal disruptor? Go ahead, let’s see it in action.’

‘Oh, it already is in action – have you failed to notice the distortion already creeping in? Have you not noticed the reversal of the rejuve job? Haven’t you noticed your irregular heartbeat? You’ve been castrated, Mr Spay.’

-*-

The localspace crumpled, Berry felt like his ribcage had collapsed and his lungs were collapsing into suffocation. He watched the confusion wash across Spay’s face. How had they found him out? How had they outplayed him? Where had this game of chess gone south? Berry’s awareness shredded, and he tumbled out through the Dissociation Gates that dissembled all travellers; out into the reverberating echoes that the hallways of time were built from.

Spay clung to the notion of himself, latched onto some sense of himself as a cipher for something greater; his was a super-positional life; his destination was to leap into the mirror at the heart of The Metaphor House.

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Shatter

You don’t really learn how to shatter someone’s skull – they tell you all about it, they give you all the information on where to hit, and how to hit, but at the end of the day it is something you find out for yourself. Some things are so close up and personal that you have to get your hands dirty. He got his hands dirty.

He stood there looking at her laid naked on the bed, her eyes REM-sleep ticking through Meme Dreams, slightly frothing at the mouth, her ident-mask on the bedside table. She was supposed to help him forget what he had done; some people liked drugs to blot it out, and some people liked women.

She didn’t come anywhere near scratching the colossal itch that was shivering through him. He dressed and he stepped outside, chameleon fractal camera projectors booting up and reparsing the environment around him so that no one could see him. Well, unless they were digging with the kind of spades that the people he knew were going to be using – still, it would slow them down at least.

Barron, his commander, circled around the block where he was stood, in out of the rain and the refraction index issues caused immeasurable stutters in the chameleon suit he wore. He smoked a cigarette while he waited for the rain to ease.

All of them were intimate with the act of fist fighting – they had names to match; they were intimate with shattering someone’s skull. Barron had sent Donkeypunch in after him because the man had had success before; for the lack of subtlety in the method of his kill-strike he was harder to see approaching than a cat in hunting mode.

That thump, that fist, that punch – that thing which you had worked so long to perfect, you always knew that some day you would end up on the end of a similarly fashioned blunt weapon.

‘Jerome,’ whispered the man, as his knuckles connected with the back of Jerome’s head.

Jerome thought of the girl again, and he wished he were sinking into the Meme Dream. But his sleep would be so much deeper than that.

Defect

He was an on-target Communist who regularly hit the Marx. Sat there, stroking his prodigious beard with his tattooed hand, he wondered about all those visits to Lenin that he had made. So long ago. Now he drank vodka in a bar in St Petersburg, Florida, and pondered how little return he had got on the investment of defection.

Vladimir was smoking cheap Russian smokes and watching the bar’s regulars mill around, turning circles through the dullness of their daily routines, until the momentum petered out and they pitched forward into their pitchers of beer.

He didn’t work now – he had invested well, and he had an amazing amount of resources. He had been a heavy in Mother Russia, and he had used his tendency towards mercy to garnish his pay quite handsomely – let someone off, take a little bit of information, and go and invest based on it. If it worked out badly and the information was bad, you could always locate creatures of habit easily, and you could break a few bones until they either paid up or remembered how to be useful some other way.

People came to ask him questions – students mostly. He was a swarthy good-looking fifty, and he bedded some of the sultry language students looking for a bit of danger. It was not how his life was supposed to turn out. He had been a straight up gangster since he got kicked out of school, and he had been building something of an empire. That period when the underworld was suddenly flooded by ex-KGB was hard though, and he had pissed a fair few of them off. He had to leave – given the death threats and the injuries he received, it did not take much to convince his liaison that he needed asylum.

It was cold outside, but it was bright, he walked down past the art museum to the park, where they sometimes showed movies, and he sat under one of the trees, looking up at the fairy lights, thinking about all he had lost; thinking about how long he had mourned those losses. It was time to go home, time to walk through the town, get on the bus, and make his way back to that little room. He never escaped his Russianness – it was the first thing anyone here noticed about him. He was proud, but it made him sad. Sat on the bus, he fell asleep, as he always did, and he dreamt of walking across the permafrost, seeing the twinkling ice crystals in the air before him – he woke up remembering how warm he always felt in Russia; he thought about how cold he felt in Florida. He laughed – life was a joke most people didn’t get. How often he was one of those.

Strangespace

Strangespace – some kind of exotic byproduct dimension made of stuff that started to foam around the drives which tore apart dimensional properties to get from A to B. The first time it blipped on anyone’s radar was when someone picked up a distortion clambering through the SOS frequencies that mirrored something they had been using in their distress beacons, but with something extra layered under it; almost like it was backmasked into there.

Calumn Storing was the man who named it – Strangespace. More incidents started to get reported, and suddenly you had someone pushing out a communication on a neutrino stream that claimed to be coming from the other side of a dimensional tear.

Calumn moneyed up and funded an expedition into the territory – the territory fought back – it was almost as if an intentional push into the space was antithetical to its very nature, and it therefore pushed back. Calumn coined the term spatio-temporal pollution, and from there came supra-dimensional fragmentation, and a whole philosophy built around the idea of not travelling in the way they were travelling.

Bearer Quinton came up with the notion that the space was being manipulated by a person, rather than any kind of interference from the destructive engines they used. He fingered Calumn as the kind of patient zero that had somehow infected the materials of the localspace he had been studying with destructive intentionality … it worked remotely too … apparently. Fingers were pointed.

When asked what had happened to Calumn Storing in the years after his disappearance, Bearer Quinton was said to have coyly remarked that perhaps his expedition into Strangespace had finally been successful.

Was it that people stopped reporting it thereafter, or is it that it actually dissipated as the engine designs improved. Or was Calumn Storing’s absent intention the reason it vanished?

A New Eden

Weedbed – he’d hacked in deep and left all the routes lying around. We’d bed down as the sun boiled the horizon orange, looking at half written scripts that unspooled into abstract matter. This was supposed to be a place for sunflowers – an abstraction bed, a metaphor chassis for running some larger system on.

Hackspace dug into the reality riptides, and hack-objects provided concrete interfaces through which one could manipulate the world. Some days after a hard day of trying to configure the space, ocular migraines misting at the edge of his perception, he’d activate the hack-plugs embedded in his own flesh, and he’d mess around with himself like he was a chemistry set.

Dandelions and ragwort, little seeds dusting the place, scent strangely strong, and for  moment he couldn’t remember the larger function they’d been assigned. Carlos was named as Chief Gardener, and he liked the littoral territory his job allowed him to occupy. A strange job for a strange man – all quantum entangled deep-ware – move it and write it on a larger scale. He could think with a garden; it was sometimes harder to think of a closely linked ideational space that would fructify with seeds for real world terraforming. It was like being God in denial.

The weeds tested the larger machinery for flaws, and as each diagnostic procedure was carried out, they had to be removed. Flowers were kept, separated off, and passed on to various diagnostic teams – this was harvest three, and with some of the tweaks and experiments he had been able to carry out, he was convinced that they had been able to build a very effective universal engine that they were going to be able to ship out to the edge of scripted space, and plug it in and start generating some deep beds for reality to grow in.

Carlos pressed the end cycle button on the mini-vironment, and watched on his screen as a reality was zipped down, and what physical matter couldn’t be zipped was ported out through the tesseract translation engines. It all looked so simple – building universes. Eden was a crucible – he believed that now; believed that they had developed something analogous to it. He was proud to be part of it.

Or Mr

Smiles. Through flames. Yes, he does. A picture develops under a skin of chemicals. Snap. The moments aren’t quite joined up, fragile like a baby’s skull; pressure distorts the shape. And he moves through images like someone bursting through one of those hoops with tissue paper they sometimes use in clown acts, he thought it was.

He knew that somewhere scripts were pushing the direction of his footfalls. He knew that somewhere edits were pushing back. He was not a sympathetic character – he knew this, but he hadn’t run across many heroes … they were few and far between as far as he could discern.

He pressed each finger against the glass carefully – he did not wish to smudge the prints. Treat every act in your life like it is a potential crime scene. Why was that important? He wanted to make an impact, always. He had a strange sense of the world around him and himself.

The newspaper talked of him – a constant chatter which he had to work hard to tune out. How could he be villain though, if there was nothing he was doing except following around? He circled the word thoughtcrime in his battered copy of 1984. He thought long and hard about many things.

Death came from a rumour. He wasn’t sure who spread it, but it pushed out of the cocoon of its quotation marked genesis, and flapped its chaos butterfly wings to push towards oblivion on eddies that became tsunami. Bang bang. His suit ignited. And he dreamed that he was a phoenix, in moments where he was bleeding out, and … and … back to the beginning. The worm swallowed its tale.

What had he been doing? Who was he? Fingerprints in a room where nothing happened.

His sister wrote a little story about him where he had learned to eat fire. He fell asleep every night in a bed full of ribbons. They had said that he had done things – stolen ideas, wrote them out as his own – but the truth was, his death was the only act of plagiarism he had ever been involved in. It was strange. It was strange.

The gun fires. The fires burning. He gets fired. He gets shot. A photograph.

 

 

Outlines

He was an Outline, some kind of reality glitch, where the continuum rejig hadn’t erased a non-person completely. Logically they shouldn’t have existed, but somehow there was residual data stored in the signalling part of some of the upper dimensional particles that had been quantum entangled with the individuals.

He could see others like him easily – he knew none of the non-Outlines could really do that, but where did that get him … unless there was some kind of quantum physicist genius who had been outlined as well, they weren’t going to be building any escape routes any time soon.

He knew his mother had christened him Christopher, but he felt that the fact he no longer technically had a mother meant his name seemed a little invalid too. Screw it, might as well call himself Christ – who was going to oppose it?

It was maybe his third year of trudging through this half-life. It seemed longer – relativity took hold of the experience and stretched it like taffy. It was depressing – reality was a vestigial limb of his perceptual apparatus that itched like hell, but which he couldn’t get in a position to scratch.

Christ sat down and wondered how this had come to pass – what thing had been bumped aside or erased from the continuum preceding his existence that had wiped him out? What if he could skirt back down the loop of infinity, through the eye of the needle singularity, and unstitch that event horizon slipslide drown into oblivion? There was something unphysical about him, so what if the logical constraints of the physical universe were not binding to him? He felt no concern about theoretical Hawking radiation or unilinear time. What did he care for the postulated universe of some quantum physicist? What if observer influence and intention had made the first time travel machine possible, and what if, here on the outskirts of the real, his own perceptual push could undo something … could unmake some newly minted absolute?

He had once listened to a cassette on the power of positive thought. He had once managed to get his foot behind his head after a particularly limber yoga class where he had spent over an hour sat in the vedic position doing circular breathing – so he could focus really hard … he was good at that shit. So he did it.

One man can make a change – he had been an author back before he was wiped out. He had ghost-written before, so he was used to working with outlines. He sat there and he reconfigured the localspace around him into a script, digging in down deep and dirty into the heart of reality, and he had started to fill in that outline. He sat there and smiled as he thought about how all works of art are, in some small way, a self portrait, and he wrote himself anew; he wrote himself back in.

He sat there writing, burying himself in the work, excavating himself from the shadow world he had slipped into, and when he felt the soft pressure of a hand on his shoulder, and when he smelt the familiar perfume that his mother always wore, he knew he had travelled back to reality … one he had put there, and he fell in love with his life and the world again. He knew it loved him back, because he was the one who was the beating heart at its center – he was the engine of this place, and as he drove it on it rewarded him back.