"What is flowing within it is everywhere Thought." – Rudolf Steiner

Archive for March, 2011

Me and Sasha’s shadow

I’ve been lying in bed for days, with my veins plumped with Susanna’s secret concoction guaranteed to inflate me back up like a sex doll or something.  Which is all fine and good, since when I came home from Olympiapark I looked like a 60 year old Grandmother, all wrinkled and liver spotted and arthritic.  I was a mess.

To pass the time during my reconstruction, I pored through the Collective OS, running the training led by a tutorial program in Sasha Williams’ form.  It was very convincing – she acted just like Phone has described from back in the day, big Number 0, infused with kind haughtiness.  Not that she didn’t deserve to be cooler-than-thou – she did invent the Collective, Bodyweb, etching and the OS that was currently controlling me, all before she was 21.

Anyway, I was trying to figure out more about the Reservoir, since I obviously didn’t know what I was doing when it came to my powers, when “Sasha” chimed in.

“Are you sure you haven’t had enough already”?  She was still dressed in the same, red Circle X outfit, and I asked her about it.

“Oh, this old thing?” It looked like she was standing right at the foot of the bed, smiling at me while she fussed with the big shirt buttons.  “It’s definitely not as nice as the one the Japanese franchise is using, but I like it.”

Circle X was a multinational nightmare that started in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the late 40s.  It was Sasha’s nemesis, for a number of reasons I don’t fully understand, and therefore the focus of the Collective until she died on Halloween in 1994.

“Just how true are you to the original?” She was short, stray kitten cute and slight, with arms like wind-swept bamboo trunks. “Did Sasha program you to be just like her?” Her face had old-school etching, all hand done with broad circuits, and every hair on her head was individually modeled.

“That’s a tough one… is your mirror twin exactly like you?” Flipped back her short, black bob with a flirty flourish.  “When your back is turned, does it make frowny faces in your direction?”  Walked through the bed to the middle, and she was bursting out of my chest – like a huge, slimy, black Alien.

“Please don’t poke through me like that.   It makes me feel like a magician’s assistant, post trick.”

“OK OK.” She shrunk down to the size of a Raggedy Ann doll, and sat down on my stomach.  “Did you ever notice about how most every prodigy has amazing math or logical skills, but only rarely creative ones?  Sasha was the sort of polymath that pops up once in a generation – she wrote Operating Systems and crazy punk songs, all knife-brilliant.  I’m one of her pet projects – the sort of artificial intelligence that’s not supposed to exist.”

“What are you saying?  That you’re S.OS?”  If I could have jumped up and ran out of the room, I would have.

“You say that like I’m pulling your teeth and throwing them back at your face.  It’s not that hard to understand – Sasha needed a OS to interface with what became known as the Pure Land Antenna etching.  Something that could use her body as a platform.  She had strong hints from Laura Watson about what that would entail – visions pulled out of the White – but it still took almost a decade to perfect it.  Sasha OS.  Literally, her shadow self that she trusted to govern her very essence.”

“I can’t believe this – please get off of me!”  I swatted at her, but my hand just passed through, slightly tangling the IV.

“Don’t get me wrong.  I’m the original S.OS, the kernel that’s a part of every member of the Bodyweb.   I’m not the… thing you’re thinking of.”

“I still don’t like this at all.  I don’t know how I can trust you, after all that’s happened.”

She sighed, and then grew to normal size, sitting on the right edge of the bed.

“Trust me, you don’t know what’s happened.  No one does, save for perhaps Ai and her mother.”  Sighed again.  “I’m not going to be able to convince you now that I’m not a threat to you, that I’m here to help you.  Just know that you can call upon me whenever you like.”

With that, she gave me a slight smile, like a busy cashier slapping the receipt into my hand, and disappeared.

Now I’m really worried.  If there’s anything that Tokie drummed into me over the past months, it was that S.OS was a world destroyer.  That it became autonomous, and vicious, and wouldn’t stop until every last network and CPU was under its control.  If not for the Collective, for Fairview, it would have succeeded.

To have a tame version of that beast now in charge of my head and heart – I don’t know if I can handle it.

It may be Sasha’s shadow, but I’m not worried about that part.  I’m worried about what a shadow sees when it looks in the mirror.

Will it decide to break your arms and legs just to get a better view?

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The always hungry engine

Susanna was right – being etched is the total opposite of a free lunch.  It’s more like a banquet that fills a restaurant, but you can never, ever stop eating.

Over the past few days she left me alone while I went through the training modules.  It didn’t matter where in München I did them, so yesterday I chose Olympiapark.

It has been raining on and off for the past week, so I tried to enjoy the relative sun and say hi to my swan princesses.  Not to forget the ducks, but between there and Schloss Nymphenburg, I’m always happy to watch the beautiful, regal birds.

There’s a particular order to all of the exercises, time tested to get new Collective members started the right way, but since I had no problem with the basics, I decided to give something exciting a shot – invisibility.

Yes, invisibility.  Just like I could relay my senses through the White for a few moments, and see through someone else’s eyes, so too could you block their mind from noticing your presence.  The more minds you have to fool, the harder it is, and the less time it would last.

Sasha herself led the training exercise – it must had been programmed in the early 90s, right before she died.  She was like a crystallized cyberpunk anthem, with a face that could launch shmups.  Plus, she was quite charming for a crazy genius.

“So, you don’t want to be seen? I completely understand the feeling.”  She was wearing a bright red, short sleeved Circle X uniform, as was the nature of her obsession – she always had on some of their circuit clothes.

I sat down on a bench next to the small pond.  “Do I just use the straight lure, or something special?”

“Don’t worry about the mechanics,” Sasha’s subroutine told me, “Either you can visually register who you want to hide from, or you can choose a radius within which you won’t be seen.  Just make sure you don’t over tap your Reservoir.”

The Reservoir is the sum total of your available energy.  Since stealing even a bit of the White is not allowed, it’s largely how many fat calories you have, plus the section of your aura that’s not life-essential.  Susanna is obsessive, and always uses an exact Kilocalorie readout, but I just set up a nice, gradiated therometer that I can pull up, going from pine green to blood red.  I was currently almost full, so I decided to give it a shot.

I didn’t ask Sasha about the exact number of minds that would be ideal for cloaking.  There seemed to be around 50 people milling about, from mothers with their prams to packs of kids running towards the Sea Life aquarium.  A 20 meter radius seemed decent to start with.

I stood up from the bench, faced towards the Kaffee Crepes kiosk, and started.

I felt myself slip into the minds of everyone nearby.  They were thinking about a sexy man in this morning’s Abendzeitung, or going to the BMW Welt to play with the big aphid-like robots, or jumping off of the nearby Olympia Tower… I paused on that mind for a moment, but it turned out to be a scenario in a story they were recalling.

I was well implanted, and so I had them all take a look at me, all at the same time.  Some people thought I was a freak with my shaved head, while one woman admired my dress – I was borrowing one of Susanna’s Victorian white and frilly affairs.  A young boy thought I reminded him of an actress on KI.KA he had a crush on.  They all had their opinions, and I swam pass them, to the center of their visual field.   Then I pulled the trigger.

It all happened so fast.

39 people suddenly stopped in their tracks, and blinked me away.  I was no longer there – gone.

Then the swans started to honk, and the ducks flew away en masse.

I looked down at my hands, and they were dripping sweat, steaming.  So were my arms, my legs, and the dress felt like it just came out of a hot drier.

I fell to my knees, as my senses became distorted – I could feel the bacteria dying on my fingers, I could smell the iron leeching out of my bloody mouth.

My health bar was quickly jumping into the red, and my OS took charge again. It found a member of the crowd mind that had medical training – she had worked as a nurse for years.  Rushed her over to my side, as I curled into a ball by the bench.

Sasha and the OS didn’t let her talk.  She just tore off her own t-shirt, down to a blue sports bra, and used it to cover my mouth like a gag.  Propped me up and walked me slowly over to Sea Life, demanding to use the restroom. No one could see me but her.

With the last of my Reservoir depleated, the invisibility blanket collapsed, as did I.  I woke up briefly as she cleaned up the blood that had seeped out of my mouth, saturating the front of my dress.  I don’t remember much of anything else, except for calling for Susanna, throwing up a black, sticky mass the size of my fist into the sink, and trying to drink from the soap dispenser.

A few minutes later Susanna rushed in, and gave the good samaritan robot her mind back, minus any memories of what just happened.

“Are you insane?” Her yelp shot through my mind for the next few hours, as I drifted in the warm, white, world beyond our own.  I remember the sounds of the U-Bahn, and the smell of my neighborhood, but little more than that.  My fever dreams had plague nightmares.

I woke up a few hours ago – in the middle of the night – on my bed, attached to multiple IVs.  I had enough strength to look over at my arm, and it was little more than loose skin, deteriorated muscle and bone, with large brown splotches everywhere.  My body hair had fallen out.

Susanna was sitting by the bed, staring at me with mother’s eyes.

She didn’t have to explain.  I tried to ride a bicycle on the autobahn, and crashed into the world.

The invisibility routine was for defensive purposes only, as a last resort.  Every person that you tried to fool took dozens of calories a second.  With the radius I chose, I was few minutes away from organ collapse.  I had lost 15 pounds in a few minutes.

I’m going to be out for the count for a few days, at least, as my OS completely cycles through the critical repairs.   Then, I’m going to have to gorge myself for at least a week, on sweets and meats, just to get healthy enough for explosive diarrhea.

I never liked being sick in bed,  not even with my mother doting after me.  Unable to function without aching, I would rather just limp myself through the waking world, grin and bearing the fever, or sniffles, or whatever bothered my little girl self.

Now, I can barely imagine even beating my heart without assistance.  It’s like my body is a shooting range target, the kind you see on dubbed American crime shows, and every square centimeter is full of holes.

It’s clear I’m going to get better – the Collective already have too much invested in me to let me go.

It’s also clear that I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing, and it scares me.

My own body, still shriveled and wheezing, scares me to pieces.

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My body, jailbroken

For the first time in my life, my body is finally free to do with as I see fit.

My physical, etheric and astral beings are unchained, and even my ego holds no more sway.

The invisible, etched marks that follow my meridians, chakras, and secret circuit paths are marionette strings with which I can control everything in minute detail.

What would take a yogi lifetimes of practice is now second nature – if I will it, I can become it, to the full extent of my being.

I can sleep or stay up for weeks, with no ill effect.

A drop of water can make me feel as full as a banquet.

I can move faster than any olympic athelete, or play dead indefinitely.

I can grow into a new hair color, or change my melanin mix – not instantaneously, but over time.

I can ride my neurotransmitters like bicycles, and re-write my DNA (apparently not the best idea, but I still can).

I could live for thousands of years, and not grow a day older.

I could even, as is the temptation for all of the newly etched, have orgasms at will.  Not that I’ve had time to try that yet, but Susanna warned me that more than a few days of constant bliss will definitely make you sick.

Not that I ever have to feel sick again, or even be sick.  I’ve already willed away a few suspicious skin lesions, and corrected my vision by adjusting synapses.

In short, my body is hacked, jailbroken, fully authorized for use.

Of course, the danger is thinking that the ability to do means you should.  Most of the time, you shouldn’t.

After I woke up yesterday morning, the process complete, I was sore, bruised, and ravenously hungry.  Took a shower to wipe away the sweat, etching fluid and patches of dried blood.  Staggered towards the kitchen, and Susanna stopped me before I could inspect the empty refrigerator.

“Open up port 54 – I need to teach you something.”

Just like in the largest firewall imaginable, I now have scores of millions of ports into the bodyweb, and the Structure at large, through which data and energy comes and goes.  By default they’re highly protected, but if you don’t pay attention, you could be rooted and completely taken over by someone, or something.  Not that the collective OS isn’t robust and time tested, but there’s always a slight danger.

“Logging now.  OK. Do you feel this?”  Butterflies filled my stomach suddenly.

“Uggh, yeah.  Do you mind?”  I was this close to throwing up.

“That’s the low end of the scale.  Follow my lead.”

And then I could feel a handle on my gut, a thermostat that I could tweak at will.

“Good, good…. let me take control of your eyes for a second.”

Where the bare kitchen once was, now I had my toaster back.  The coffee machine, the cereal boxes, the plates drying in the rack.

“This is your mental map of your kitchen, stored in thousands of little memory slices.  You can inspect any memory, from any part of your life, at will.  You can also immediately enter REM sleep, or create visions out of whole cloth.”

I thought about an apple, and it was there – cold and smooth and firm.  I could see it, feel it, but it wasn’t.

“Over time, you’ll learn to manipulate the spectrum, to see beyond normal light.  But the first, most important thing is to learn how not to see at all.”  With that, I was immediately blind.

“I’m really not liking this lesson.”

“It’s OK. The world is still there.  You don’t have to see it to be with it.  Let me turn up your hearing a bit.”

A bit!  I could hear the S-Bahn trains traveling underground from blocks away.

“Your body is the finest antenna possible, if only you know how to use it.  I want you to feel me thinking.”

I didn’t understand, but I did.  Not only did her aura interpenetrate mine locally, but I could reach back through the bodyweb into her mind.  It was like pointing a camera at a TV displaying the image from that camera – I could feel her looking at me connecting to her contemplating me…

“Don’t get mirror stuck…. here.”  Suddenly my vision came back, but instead of the kitchen I could see, simply put, everything.

“One of the first things we fixed from Sasha’s original OS was the gain.  Before, you could only resolve whatever you or the bodyweb members could.  Like an array of telescopes, our perception was magnified, but only so much.”  It was like I was seeing through every eye on the planet at once, overlapped yet distinct.

“We spent 15 variants doing nothing but perfecting the tech, and now we indirectly use the White as a lens.  Everything, everywhere, at all times.”  Back to the kitchen.

“My brain aches.”

“Seriously – staring at everything for even a few moments, without the right filters, will destroy you.  Don’t worry – you don’t have permissions to do that on your own, at least not yet.”

“Anyway, food!  Please.”

“Yeah.  Get dressed, and we’ll go out for breakfast.  Real food, and not just phantoms – you’ll need a fuckton of calories from now on.”

“But you threw out all of my clothes – even the dress I came back to the flat in.”

“In the red bag is your data suit, and a surprise.”

It was still in the middle of the living room – I went over to it, and zipped it open.  Inside, machine wrapped in plastic, were the same kind of A-shirt and panties that she constantly wore.

“Back in the day, the essential circuit cloth was from ankle to wrist to neck, like a cotton-mesh scuba suit.  Now, we only need to cover you from Muladhara to Anahata.”

As I put the underwear on, my being snapped to attention.

“The OS is built into you, but you still need applications.  Many are in the cloud, but some you have to wear.”

My senses started to fill with structured data, like I was booting up for the first time.

“Over the next few weeks, I’ll help you order a few outfits – we have a secret supply chain throughout Southeast Asia, from the data thread and circuit fabs, to our haute couture designers.  Until then, I have a few things for you to pick from.  Plus, this….”

She walked over to the bag, and zipped open an outer compartment.  Pulled out a puffy, plastic shipping envelope, and gave it to me.

As soon as I touched it, I already knew what was inside – I could sense it.  Phone’s hooded jacket with the Intruder Alert! patch.

Tore it open and hugged it to my chest, sniffing the collar.  He was still there.

“Go ahead, put it on.”

My right arm went through a sleeve, and I could suddenly think in Japanese.

My left arm went through, and I knew the names and faces of every resident of Tokyo.

I put on the hood, and I could see myself at the concert, staring at Satomi from Die Database.

She was etched, from forehead to knee.

“What am I seeing?”

“We still don’t know.  She has Collective tech, but it’s completely inactive.  She doesn’t even seem to know it’s there.”

Under the hood, she was starting to play the bass line to Massive Cloud Burst Theme.  I was so close that I could feel the monitors vibrate.

“We didn’t know it was there – she’s not one of us.”

I was staring at her dancing fingers.  She didn’t notice me one bit.

“We just wanted Phone to get close enough to physically breach her data aura, and he did.  Then he went offline.”

I could see Yuma in her white kimono, waving the solar scepter to the beat.

Masae was on cloud nine, hitting the snares like invading cockroaches.

And Satomi, sweet Satomi, in her frilly, violet Shigai dress… the more I looked at her, the more I wanted to kill her.

Susanna slipped the hood off my head, and sighed.

“Phone’s jacket was corrupted, made sick by what we think was a self-organizing aerosol.  It literally re-wrote the circuits and memory in a matter of minutes.”

I took it off, and I still wanted to kill her, to throw her into the sun.

“Once you’re trained, we’re going to find out who did this to him.  To us.”

The jacket was on the floor. Why did I still want to destroy her?

“And as for Satomi….” She pulled out a Die Database T-Shirt, and gave it to me.  “We need you to rejoin the Fan Cloud.”

I’m listening to Knee right now, streamed into my ears from who knows where, as I dictate (cogitate?) this blog post.

It’s been a whole day, and I’m still under that hood, ready to take a swing.

I’m suddenly desperate to kill my idols – what have I gotten myself into?

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The timely death of Kaia S.

I ceased to exist at 23:00 on 2011.3.12.

I opened the door of my flat, ready to confront Number 8.  Inside, every last thing was gone.

The kitchen table my mother bought me when I moved out. The rug I found in Paris. The ugly but comfortable blue couch. The bookshelves full of carefully annotated works, including the family Bible I inherited from my great grandmother.

My framed photos.  My vinyl collection.  My zines.  My computer.  My kitchenware.

All that was left was the hardwood floors, and the paint on the walls.  It was even cleaner than when I moved in so many years ago.

It was all gone.  I was all gone – done for.

The only thing left were the memories, the big red suitcase, and Number 8 walking out of the bathroom.

“You’re not late.  I respect that.”  She was still in the sparkly A-Shirt and panties, but seemed far more relaxed than after the flight.

“Where is it?” I yelled. “Where is my life!”

She sat down in the middle of the living room floor.  “Kaia Strauss moved out.  She was drafted into the army, and didn’t look back.”

I slammed the door shut as I rushed inside towards her.  Took 5 steps, reached out, and found myself curled in the hard bathtub, naked.  She was holding her damp hand to my forehead.

“You’re lucky you’re not etched yet.  I had to take you out barehanded.  Sorry.”

I scrambled to cover myself with my arms.  I felt like someone had stuck their arm down my throat, and yanked.   “How long?”

“About an hour. I don’t pull my punches, so to speak.”

I still wanted to kill her, but I had a higher calling.  By coming home, she knew I had already decided to become Pure Land Antenna.  I just didn’t expect to react so strongly to losing my possessions.

“Now, stand up and start the shower.”

I tried not to seem embarrassed, but I was riding the U-Bahn naked with everyone staring.

It seems that Kaia Strauss decided not to take the soap and shower curtain on her journey, so I borrowed them and hid behind the frosted plastic with bright flowers.  I had just showered before I left the hotel, but I already felt dirty.

Number 8 – Susanna – sat on the closed toilet while I cleaned.  “You’re now property of the Structure.  The next 3 days will be the most painful of your life, like giving birth to your adult self feet first.”

I tried to ignore her voice, but it burned through the wax in my ears.

“You will try to kill me two more times.  Everyone does.  Next time I won’t have to touch you to make you beg for death.”

Through all of this, I think she was actually trying to be nice, to give me fair warning and handheld guidance into the dentist’s chair.  The statue that was her body didn’t betray it, but I could sense a slight internal softness.  I wanted to take advantage of that.

After I dried myself off with the one remaining towel, and quickly wrapped myself in it, she motioned for me to sit on the bathroom floor.

“Kneel over the bathtub.  Time for a haircut.”

I don’t know why I was shocked for a moment – it’s a given that when you’re first etched, all of your hair has to go.  Still, my long, brown locks – I had cultivated them with expensive, imported shampoos that smelled of beautiful, wild, nature.  They made me feel desirable, refined, ready to face the world hiding just enough to entice.  Susanna took a razor that had been charging in the wall, yanked my still-damp hair back, and mowed it like a lawn.  I watched it fall to the tub in clumps.

“First time, huh?” I was sobbing like my cat had just died. “I remember when Sasha cut my hair, when she etched me by hand.”  She slowly slid her right hand down my stubble, past my ear. “She made it seem like I was never beautiful until after it was all gone.”

“Do you hate me?” I wanted to follow that string back to her heart, and pull.

“No, I hate that Phone loved you more than me.”  She cut with less vigor.

“That’s not possible,” I sniffled.  “You were the only one he carried like a favored blanket, the memory that he cuddled with.”

Stopped cutting.  “He loved wanting me, chasing after me around the world.  He loved my smell, my taste, but never my shadow.”

“I know he loved you.  He left me and continued looking for you.”

Cutting close around my neck.  “He cheated on everyone but you.  He never left you.  He never touched anyone again.  Followed you around from afar, until a few weeks before he died.”

My heart was collapsing. “I don’t understand.”  My fingers pressed hard against the rim of the tub, grasping for air.

The clippers went into a full, satisfied silence.  Susanna pulled me to her feet, and gave me a hug from behind, resting her chin on my exposed shoulder.

“Phone left on his last mission, the only one he initially declined.  He intentionally made himself sick in attempt to get out of the game, so he could stay with you.”

I closed my eyes for hide and seek, so tight and strained.

“He would rather die than leave you.  Ai threatened to hurt you if he stayed.  Not in so many words, but yes.”

I wanted my eyes to pop inside of my head, to roll down and be digested.  I wanted blindness of the soul.

“Phone had his mission.  You have yours.  I have mine.” Turned me back around to face her.  Her cheeks were so kind just then.  “If we fail, everything dies, over and over, forever.”

I didn’t want to understand.  I understood.

“It may not seem like it, but I’m your best friend now.  Your partner.  Through this and all variants we will be connected like twins in the womb.  My love for you will be pure, and cut through everything.”

I didn’t want her. I wanted her.

“Now I’m going to take you the bedroom.  The apparatus is waiting for you.”

Led me by the hand to my bed, the larger one that Phone helped pick out.   The sheets were covered by a shiny, mylar blanket, like the kind you use for emergencies, to barely hold in the warmth.

Plugged in where my alarm clock used to be was some medical equipment, and an IV drip – you could see how it could collapse into the suitcase.  On the other side, there was something that looked like a BMW factory robot arm, only with needles for fingers.

She didn’t need to ask – I took off the towel, and lay down on my stomach, my head resting on a pillow.  The room was cold, and I had goose flesh all over.

“Sasha believed that the connections wouldn’t be complete unless you were wide awake.  Of course, back then it was all by hand, and the circuits were minimal.  Now…”  She prepared my arm for the IV.  “Everything has to be precise, and no one could ever survive the pain unaided.  At least, not before the process was complete.”

I hate needles.  I’m not afraid of them, but my body is my temple, no artifice invited.

That’s what the timely departed Kaia Strauss thought, as she heard a pumping, and a whirring, as the world slowly slipped away from her mind.  She imagined she she would soon be blessed by angel kisses, and not steel fingernails.  She could feel Phone snuggling beside her in the bed, his touch like the shock from rubbed balloons.

There was no her left – she drifted away as Susanna held my hand, silently singing a nameless, powerful lament.

When I woke up this morning, over 50 hours later, I was sore beyond belief, but far away from tears.

I was eagerly singing that same song, the music of the space behind the spheres.

From around the world, the Collective sang back.

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Choosing no choice

The love child of Ahriman and Lucifer flew to Germany yesterday, in the form of Number 8 – Susanna the destroyer of Hierarchies.

I met her at the Flughafen München – after passing customs, she immediately walked over to me, rolling a huge red suitcase behind her.

I could tell it was her since the whole world stepped aside to let her pass – she cut through lobby like a cheetah stalking in the grass.  The girl at the RieseBank kiosk quickly closed the window, and an old man at the Edeka dropped a plastic Simalco Cola liter bottle.

She had a few days worth of stubble on her shaved head, and her black dress was Prairie Victorian meets Wal-Mart – elaborately tailored yet ultimately disposable.  By the time she reached me, she pulled out a long, black, curly wig from her bag, put it on and straightened it out with one hand, using the other to wave to me with a slapping motion.

“Take me home,” she ordered, walking away from her bag so I had to roll it.  That was the sum total of our conversation for the next hour, from the S-Bahn station to Münchner Freiheit.

I couldn’t help but steal long glances at her, as the other train passengers came and went.  She’s like a Daguerreotype coming to life in your nightmares, a comely night hag pressing against your chest long distance.  She owned the very subatomic particles that others merely borrowed – she ate her vegan soy jerky snacks with burning, existential certainty.

S8 to Marienplatz to Münchner Freiheit, and when we exited into the neon blue pillars and mirrored ceiling, she started to laugh confidently, like a CEO testing jokes she had made in Chinese sweatshops. “The Nameless is everwhere!” I didn’t get it, but I did get her bag as we went up the escalators.

A ten minute walk to my flat, and the first thing she did when stepping inside was to take off her wig, and dress, and throw them to the floor where she stood.  Underneath, she was wearing an iridescent A-Shirt and panties, and her skin was pale and freckled. You couldn’t tell if she was 20 or 40 – she had a timeless, aching beauty.  “I need tap water with salt,” she called to me like at a restaurant. “Where’s your bed? I’m taking a nap – put the water in a plastic bottle by the door.”  Walked into my private space, and closed it.

I could immediately understand why Phone was so obsessed with her, even since he was a teenager.  Susanna is elemental, a blade that cuts through this existence.  When she sang for Masking Tape or Dust Lag, she made stars collide, and when she’s online, all packets follow her pulse.

I’m not being hyberbolic – she’s the prototypical Pure Land Antenna, bursting through even the First Hierarchy to taunt Godhood. In her absolute indifference, the Structure groans and begs for mercy. She gives no quarter.

While she napped or prayed or tweaked reality behind closed doors, I put her bag in the center of the living room, prepared her water, and then started to plan my escape.  A meeting with Number 8, Ai’s flaming sword, always ends with complete acquiescence, or death.

I wanted neither. I was happy to play the archivist and spiritual adviser role for the past few variants, after Ai recruited me to provide more perspective at Point Zero.  I’ve never been etched, don’t want to take sides, and above all hate to see the winged horse stagger under the weight of gluttonous victors.

Ai is so sweet, like being impaled on a spike of sugar. She doesn’t realize the acidity of her own praise.

I didn’t really understand this until Susanna came out of my room, took a swig of water, and then waved me to the couch.

“Ai requests that you will be etched immediately.” She pointed at her suitcase.  “The apparatus is already attuned to you.  If you comply, we begin tomorrow night.”

“I don’t have time for this.  If I don’t comply?”

“You will be removed from the council at Point Zero.  Someone else will be appointed to your role.”  She smiled at me, like a cat welcoming mice. “Out of everyone, Ai is certain that you are the final key to the Solution, but only if you fully join the Collective.”

“If I comply?”

“I will give you Phone’s remains and possessions. We will spend 72 hours etching you. Then, I will personally train you for the next few weeks.  Ai will give you your first and final mission.”

“How long do I have to decide?”

“The decision has already been made. You will now leave, and go to a hotel tonight.  I have already written down the address and confirmation code.”  She stood up, and pointed at the door.

“Leave immediately, while I make preparations.  Return at 11PM tomorrow, and we will begin.”

I stared at her, and when her brow furrowed, I quickly grabbed my coat, the code, and my bag, and left.

I had just been thrown out of my own life. If I dared return, I would be plugging my Etheric self into a socket permanently, the better to grasp at the ankles of the sky.

I’ve lived the past day like it was my last.  Long meals at my favorite restaurants, Cinema OV on Nymphenberger Straße, walking along the Isar, getting lost in the Deutsches Museum.

Now I’m back at the hotel, and the TV is unplugged.  I have an hour to left before my fate is decided, before I step into borrowed shoes and learn how to tie them.

I can’t believe they would hold Phone hostage like this, dangling his final wishes like there were catnip.

Should I take yet another shower? Should I open the window wide and jump?

The water, and the wind, don’t share their deliberations.

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This broken existence….

I woke up early to great news.

Die Database really came through for Brian – his ashes are currently in the air on the way to the US.

Susanna ended up contacting me out of the blue, after my last post.  I’ve never met her in person, but she was his first and perhaps only true love, ever since High School. By the end she hated him like the desert sun.

She agreed to accept his ashes for me, and to send them and his personal effects to Germany as soon as possible.

I’m still more devastated than I thought I would be, but it helps to know that his final wishes will be respected.

All the Pure Land Antennas, both white and black hats, are still reeling from the Fourth Event – only they experienced it, no matter where they were in the world. Susanna wouldn’t really talk to me about it, since I’m not a part of their club, but she did mention it was worse than Fairview.

I don’t even know what that means, not really.  Phone never liked to talk about the first three events, and I can’t blame him – they drove thousands of the etched to madness, suicide, and worse.

I’m not even supposed to know about any of it, the endless reality weaving and…. I don’t have the words to describe this broken existence.

I don’t want to have any part of it, but he opened the door, and I foolishly peeked inside.

Phone was convinced that we only had two years left.  After the last fracture – is it a year?  Six months?  When will final seams really start to show?

Will we even be allowed to look away from the final light?

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