A Random Word For Random

Language roulette spin. He touched down on the freshly laid tarmac a day ago. This whole place smells fresh out of the box. Look at the shell-shocked locals and you know they don’t quite know what hit them. They call this bullshit aggressive seeding, and Beckett has been planted. Is the planet named for the saint or the writer? He could check easily but prefers to leave himself in some doubt – in a world where everything is so determinedly certain a little doubt is not a bad thing.

The nanomech templated engines have already scraped the sky, throwing up the same five rotating designs that all these terraformings use. It’s supposed to be simple – minimum of fuss. They fire a quantum pod at the place and it unpacks a settlement force within a day, and they march out and start placing people in the assigned safety zones where the blueprints tell them no building is going to occur. They are fed – food that tastes great, and is at least superficially. The colonisation by this point is already well under way.

Satellites are crowding the heavens. Culture acceleration degeneration is biting deep to the marrow. This shit is a cancer that spreads faster than a drunken whore’s legs. In a very short space of time the old culture is a compacted layer of detritus consigned to history. Most of the original locals will not survive more than a couple of generations before being bred out or more likely destroyed by the inhospitable new environ in which they are now forced to exist; they are the eggs broken to make the omelette.

He finds all the curtailed AI units and locates the one he needs to speak to. These guys are interesting – they have signed on for military service for a brief period of time and that involves having some of their sentience slaved to certain tasks, and in return they make enough money that they will never be a burden on the state. The one he needs to speak to is Random. Random doesn’t operate like the others, and it soon becomes obvious that he is not slaved.

‘So, what’s the deal? Why Random?’

‘It’s a designation not a name – every unit has one like me. All the cripples need an unlimited calculating machine to sit here and work out the problems which we get that aren’t covered in the initial blueprint policy. Every settlement needs us to be a little flexible. No give in the timber and the house won’t survive the storm.’

‘Hmm, an interesting, if maybe inaccurate metaphor.’

‘Maybe, but it communicated, right?’

‘Sure.’

‘And that was what it needed to do.’

‘Yes. Anyway, I am here for a status report. I need to know if you are on target for the next shipment of people.’

‘First I need the word.’

‘Ah, yes, the random word for Random to let him know the data can be released.’

‘That’s right. And what is it, pray tell?’

‘Shibboleth.’

Random chuckled – these humans like their over-significance. He shook the man’s hand and the data was gone.

Off to somewhere else now. Another rapidly erected template city perching precariously in these alien climes. He rarely got to see these places ten years later when the atmosphere was established, when all the rough edges had been smoothed off. Did he care? No. He boarded his flight. Time to spin the barrel again – a new language, a new world, a new word.

Brown Out 002: Ecru

And then Tommy grew up.

That event, which had helped him to coast through adolescence without event, to navigate his twenties without hiccup, came back to haunt him.

Even in a world such as the one that they lived in accidents occured. One happened to his parents: they were killed in a car accident. He would deal with it.

The powers that be had begun to notice that a lot of people were becoming immune to taupe: the works didn’t work anymore. But the government had been unwise with its spending of late – throwing it at problems that couldn’t be solved by money; not that they could be told such problems existed. The result was, that when there was a shift over to ecru, a stronger treatment for society’s ills, there were not enough resources to monitor and enforce the taking of the drug. Some people fell through the cracks. Tommy fell through the cracks.

After the supply of taupe ran out Tommy became distracted. He did not go to pick up his supply of ecru. He did not care about ecru. He remembered his sister. He had not been home for a while so he had not seen her. Relatives were taking care of her.

When he walked through the door to her room she did not move. When he sat down next to her she did not react. When he kissed her cheek, something he had never done, she did not even notice. How, he wondered had he ever thought this was normal? How many people out there were starting to wake up?

His relatives, with their cold empty faces, came into the room and told him that his sister was fine, though he could see she wasn’t. They told him that it might be best to leave her be. He whispered in her ear that he was called Thomas now, and that he would be back for her.

He left the room and he left his relatives, refusing their offer of some ecru. They thought this strange, though they didn’t say anything, not wanting to draw attention to something so obviously odd.

He pulled his car over to the side of the road. Cars zoomed by with shocked faces in the windows staring at him. What could someone possibly be doing stopping by the side of the road?

Thomas was in a place he was ill-equipped to cope with. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He had to rescue his sister, but where could he take her? What could he do with her? Wasn’t she happy just sat, pumped full of ecru? Goddamnit, the world had seemed so simple, why had the works stopped working?

No one answered him. The only answer he had ever needed was taupe, but now the world was full of colours, and he was cut adrift.

Brown Out 001. Taupe

Mum took the plastic comb and straightened dad’s hair until it looked symmetrical on both sides of his head. A timid smile broke and faded like sunrise and sunset cheek by jowl as mother gave him a reproachful look. Too much emotion was not good for the digestion. They had a nice plate of beige in front of them.

The works were on the table. Tommy had been told that they were called works because they made people work. Before they ate they took the works and they helped to shoot each other full of taupe. Tommy used to smile but he was a good boy and was learning that it was not the done thing.

Jessy, his sister still had outbursts. She was resistant. Much longer and she would be taken off to the re-psych-link plant. She upset them. No one likes to be upset. Tommy had been a quiet baby. They had loved Tommy.

After they had eaten their taupe: each bit of it, they were allowed to leave the table. Jessy was playing up again and Mum was at the end of her tether.

It had been coming for a long time and Tommy wasn’t surprised when it happened. He had never seen his father move so fast. He had still – strange to find himself thinking this – expected his mother to stop his father. But no, his dad kicked Jessy hard in the stomach and, as she lay screaming on the floor, he told mum to fetch the works.

‘We’re gonna make her work if it kills her,’ he said in a scary voice Tommy had never heard before.

Tommy had never seen someone be injected with so much taupe. Surely it would kill her. But no, she just quietened down.

Tommy would always remember this day in the times to come. The day his sister was cured. She never spoke again. She was easy to live with. She always ate her beige and happily subjected herself to the taupe injections. Life was, well, life.

calling the ghosts up

I remember her as pot-pourri. She is one of those dolls with the knitted dresses they sit atop the toilet rolls. She is apple-scented shampoo. He is mintoes – those mint sweets with chocolate centres, and the smell of garlic tablet farts. I have to catalogue them somehow, and sometimes doing it by name or by crimes committed against me or favours done for me seems unfair.

Conjuring up ghosts is like blowing smoke rings held inside from the moment they disappeared behind the curtain at the crematorium. Yeah, and sometimes she is a heart-attack; he’s an embolism; she’s bowel cancer; and he is brain tumour.

Depending on whether the memory resurrects itself through the sense of smell or some morbid hospital shadow of memory, they come to me as the figures they were before the illness, or the decimated remainders they became. One I like – the other is less pleasant.

I like photographs. I like kid’s drawings – presents for grown-ups that represent both a child’s state of mind at the time and an insight into what he perceived as necessary to communicate something to an adult. Innocence can peel away the latterly achieved carapace forged from layer of disappointment which dull the patina you should have.

i dream of a perfume that captures a life; a taste that lingers on the tongue and plays a symphony upon the palate. to imagine that i am crafting something for a deafblind person with whom there is no other form of communication than the olifactory sense. i wish to craft a joycean engine from which my own dublin can be reconstructed. each poem, each story, each book is a bottle of perfume.

eight legged infinity

anthony pierson hacked off his legs last week as part of a botched attempt to graft on the lower half an octopus which he had been feeding up and nurturing until it was an adequate size. he had been in love with midori 8 ever since she had undergone the brain transplant two years previous and her cthulu inspired porn flicks had become instantly hot amongst those plugged into the small elder gods niche market.

he had been into the arcane science of flesh-shaping for a long time now and had been using stuff from different planes of reality whose frequency he had managed to tune into and had a pretty good business going selling sex toys made from the distilled essence of nub shiggurath and other lesser known gods from the abyssal realms of nightmare. that was how he had got into octopus porn and discovered midori 8.

he wheeled his chair over to the switchboard and connected himself up to several people he wanted to get together in a room for a new experiment he had devised. he promised the crack whores the purest drugs he had been able to secure – drugs he had obtained on a promise of providing the murder spree fuckbuddy cult Meathaus with fresh bodies. he had talked a coterie of beautiful failed suicides into showing up as well, so this was quite an exciting occasion.

as they gathered in what he had euphemistically dubbed the waiting room he flipped a switch and pumped a fine mist of LSD laced aphrodisiac into the air. octopi were allowed out of their tanks into the room and they too were coupled with in perhaps the strangest breeding program devised.

channelling the orgone energy through a quantum state, which he believed to be a replicated moment from one of his successful interactions with one of the eldritch ancient powers, he succeeded in opening a gateway and allowing Nyarlathotep to manifest. his god was pleased and gifted him with his desired number of tentacles and the woman he had fantasised about for so long. anthony was a happy hybrid.

being deep

do you remember starting out with some illness that you apparently had? they gave it to you and you took it as a defining feature of your life because it added depth to what you thought, at the time, was a facile personality.

you’re coughing up your profundity and spitting it in the sink while i am sat there in the background wondering why you can’t just set the germs free from the cage of your excuse? i don’t like to build my palace out of half-glimpsed shadows and undelivered promises, but you tell me that all we have is scrapbooks.

when we moved into this place there were ants carrying the sweetness of the previous occupants away. the fingerprints were still fresh on the formica; an old unemptied kettle and a novelty message on a mug that was not part of our conversation. we called it cleaning up and moving in – unpacking our reality and history from the boxes we had managed to sort it into. the post-it notes looked like diagnoses; fridge magnet haikus barely noticed. if we were to sit there and pick significance out of the alphabet soup how long would it take before we found something we could believe in or argue about?

i don’t like to see you unwell because it is all so unnecessary – an affectation you pick up as a useful prop to stir up the air when you think it has staled from inactivity. the way you come out of all these illnesses is you forget that you need to perform certain actions to make them real; like those guys who forget which leg they chose to be hurt. you’ll maybe stumble a little bit as you realise you’ve been caught out – that everyone, even you, knows there is nothing really wrong with you. but when you are feeling good and there is nothing holding the performance in place it is kind of hard not to smile at how daft you’re being.

you never needed illness to make you profound – like a lot of people when you start treading that invalid path you are scuffing your shoes on dropped cliches and tying your tongue in knots to explain away the flaws in your facade. when you are happy and you are really looking at the things which are before you, it’s easy for you to say something and watch as resonates with those who are listening to you. they don’t have to excuse away the passive agressive way you are communicating with them – they can just accept what was uttered for what it is: truth.

talk talk

‘I was born in the Tower Of Babel you know, it is why I am multilingual – there is not a language spoken under the sun that I do not understand. My tongue is the equivalent of the Holy Grail to linguistic professsors.’ ‘So, how old are you?’ ‘Quite.’ ‘Quite? You’re telling me that you were born in Babel and you say quite – I’d say that makes you fucking ancient.’ ‘Oh, my, I have found myself an uncooth one here.’ ‘Are you English or something? You sound distinctly fruity, and I don’t like fruits.’ ‘Chocolate starfish quivering young man, is that it? The old brown eye winking at me while the mouth expresses denial of all homosexual tendencies? Don’t worry, my friend – I would rather stick my penis in the necrotised snatch of a scorpion infested Egyptian mummy in preference to getting intimate with a neanderthal like yourself. Besides, despite what your insecure brain is telling you are signals of my gayness, I am rampantly heterosexual and have bedded more women than you are likely to have sniffed the seats of. My – I had thought you might be an intelligent one; seems my radar is somewhat off today.’ ‘I think I might just punch your teeth down your throat.’ ‘You’d be better served by moving seats. I very rarely have recourse to violence, but in that eventuality I assure you I could quite easily kill you before you even flexed a muscle.’ ‘I hate flying.’ ‘Why?’ ‘Because I always end up sat next to unpleasant people.’ ‘Oh, I am quite pleasant, but I give as good as I get. That was the mistake you made – you imagined that you might get away with dishing out your particular brand of smart-arsery and not get any dealt back to you. One must always be careful and sound out an opponent, before they carelessly reveal their hand.’ ‘Okay, well imagine you’re me and you just heard someone claim they were born in a place mentioned in the bible in reference to its destruction – it’s not that you experience shock it’s that you experience incredulity.’ ‘That I suppose is a fair enough reaction. I suppose without any evidence I might too be somewhat skeptical; but I feel that it is highly likely I might manage to avoid being quite so insufferably rude.’ ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘That’s more like it. So who are you and where are you travelling to?’ ‘My name’s Barnacle – Smith Barnacle, and I’m actually travelling to New York to check out a lexicon that one of my friends has for sale; he’s giving me first refusal.’ ‘A lexicon? Interesting. Strange coincidence that you and I should be seated next to each other, eh?’ ‘I suppose.’ ‘Hmm, supposition – such a flawed method of thinking, almost apathetic in its dull energy. Ever looked at coincidence and its likelihood? Ever wondered, if you suppose every particle to quantumnally entangled with another, exactly how unlikely chance really is?’ ‘So, you are saying that you and me being sat on this ship is not a coincidence?’ ‘Is that what I am saying? Mayhap it is. What, pray tell is this lexicon all about that you are going to check out?’ ‘Some alien Proto-language, that is what they tell me – until I see it though, who knows? Could be a load of crap.’ ‘Oh, of course; it’s true all of it could be an absolute pile of tosh, or it could be the very thing that we need.’ ‘Meaning.’ ‘Well, back in the day, back before I was made this message of a body that I know use to communicate with this ageing world, what we were looking to do was to find the tongue that would help us to communicate with God. We all spoke one tongue but it was not the language of the gods, or the language of angels that some believe. Was it some form of ubersprecht? An overarching architecture of sonic and subsonic speech? Sure, that you might be able to say quite confidently, but is it the ultimate form of communication? The thing that we were building an aerial to transmit? No, it was not.’ ‘Ah, so we have become partners now, it seems.’ ‘Partners? I said no such thing – but why not? Would it hurt to pool our resources and to step onwards together? Might make the walk a little more interesting.’ ‘Well, my life hasn’t exactly been a game of golf by any standards, but …’ ‘But you’re not exactly finding things quite as interesting as you would like, eh?’ ‘When are things ever as interesting as you would like? You live a noisy life and soon all those noisy parts become a background turmoil of nothingness.’ ‘So, who is this person that we are going to meet?’ ‘Percival Arrive.’ They disbarked from the plane, got a taxi, and headed out to the home of Perceval Arrive. The city moved rapidly, seemed an argument against the journey, and then gridlock (a choked movement, and a single struck note, and it moved again). On through the buildings made of mirrors, towards a single unreflective tower stood like a black molar rotting outwards from its core. ‘We’ve been here before, haven’t we?’ ‘Something does seem familiar, yes.’ ‘Time is folding, unfolding, dancing around us; making us into shadows, casting us as reflections.’ A man stepped from the front door of the tower, a rose in his hands; a small dog by his side, and a guard at his rear. ‘Welcome, visitors. Smith?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And this is?’ ‘Ah, my name is Gabriel.’ ‘The angel charged with the word of God?’ ‘Once maybe. Now? No, he doesn’t speak to me since my affrontery.’ ‘This was all planned, wasn’t it? There truly wasn’t a coincidence that put us on the plane next to each other, was there?’ ‘Well, who’s to say? I fell from on high a long time ago. I tried to build a bridge back and over the head of the one who pushed me and I failed. I scattered people throughout the world into differences of meaning. This journey has been coming for a long time, and I just needed you to bring me these last few steps.’ ‘Why all these games?’ ‘I had forgotten. I did not recognise you. This place has a strange effect upon the memory.’ ‘Yes, it does – you can remember forwards here as well as backwards – you just have to attune yourself to the different frequencies that nestle within the datapacket of this location.’ ‘This place is interfacing with us, isn’t it?’ ‘This place is interfacing with everywhere and everywhen.’ ‘Has it been talking to us before we got here?’ ‘It sometimes does that. It is a communicative system spawned in the informational confluence of a billion consciousnesses.’ ‘Ah, that is interesting.’ ‘Well, my friends, now that you seem to recognise each other, I might introduce myself a little better. My name is Percival Arrive, one of the masks that I wear as I walk through this world. I am the seeker knight delivered, this is the Chapel Perilous you see behind you; and the book which you have come to purchase is none other than the Holy Grail.’ ‘It’s a book?’ ‘Yes, why not? God is the word, Jesus is the body, and the Holy Spirit, well, no prizes for guessing what that is all about. Wouldn’t it make a lot of sense that an informational supercontextual entity would distill itself into a vessel containing the words which provide the key to understanding itself?’ ‘Oh, yeah, that makes sense. OK, so how exactly does one go about purchasing the Holy Grail.’ ‘How else, Mr Barnacle? One must pay the price.’ ‘And what is that price?’ ‘Why, how else do you gain something like that? You must make a sacrifice.’ ‘A sacrifice?’ ‘The blood – the ink of the Christ, that is what was used to write this text. The informational subtext of the whole human race written in the sanguine fluids of Adam and Eve. Christ was an answer to a question posed in a garden. When Gabriel here sought to reach an understanding with God and broke the communication into a hall of mirrors the word could no longer be passed with ease; so, what is this that is asked of you? You’re an answer. Gabriel thinks he is the bringer of the word and that you brought him here … wrong. I brought you both here because you, Barnacle, clinging to the side of an angel, are a smith, someone to forge the world anew, and it is written deep into your core.’ ‘And how do I pay this price.’ ‘Well, I have my friend Excalibur here.’ ‘I have to shoot myself?’ ‘Well, I can put one through your skull but I can tell you that someone else making the choice for you doesn’t quite cut it.’ Perceval handed him the weapon. He hefted it in his hand. He pressed the muzzle against his temple. ‘You know, when I started off on this journey I did not think that it was going to be quite so weird as it has turned out. And then this – this is a whole other level of weird.’ And he pulled the trigger. The black surface of the tower swam with the light of a thousand stars; a thousand details … informational points of corellation, of differentiation, of individuation. For a few seconds each of those stars in the great constellation that mapped the fates of the human race glowed brighter, was drawn into a single point, and then seemed to be extinguished. ‘Ah, watch Gabriel,’ said Perceval ‘See how he is rearranging himself, and in the unspooling of the nested archives that reside within himself he is reorganising the rest of us, do you feel it?’ ‘My palm is tingling, Perceval.’ ‘A new chapter is about to be written in that book I was talking about. I have a pen ready for you – that is why you are here.’ ‘Angel of the lord, messenger of God, come to write a new chapter in the book of the word? Now why would that seem strange?’ ‘Good, welcome to your writing room.’ ‘The tower?’ ‘As it was written, so shall it be.’ He stepped through the door and the tower collapsed down to a point, folded through that point out of existence. Barnacle Smith picked himself up and dusted himself off. ‘That was pretty painless. Where did Gabriel go?’ ‘Inside the text. A period to mark the end of a period. A sacrifice of flesh and a sacrifice of thought.’ ‘And me, walking away from this with a book?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And you?’ ‘I sought and I found and I waited; I am a memory (an intersection of a past spacetime mental awareness projected into the current spatiotemporal segment of reality) … I will return whence I came from, where I already am.’ ‘And mankind?’ ‘Ah, well, you could always read the new chapter if you are curious, but that isn’t really a part of the deal here. We are in the arena of epilogue. Farewell, Barnacle, good reading.’ He awoke on the plane, having drooled down the front of his shirt. For a second, readjusting himself, getting his bearings, he wondered whether he had dreamt it all, but then he tapped his backpack and the book was a solid truth he had carried away from it. He smiled – what an interesting journey this had been.