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

Archive for the ‘Phone’ Category

Freedom for rent

Remember when I came home to find my entire flat empty? My first response was to attack Susanna, and she swatted me away like a fly.

Sunday morning, she gave me the key to the storage locker – the place where my life was neatly stored away.

I didn’t even know she had such foresight, and I just assigned a random vindictiveness to her.

Now, I’m hiding away the day in that locker, surrounded by my once favorite clothes and records. It’s cramped, and I keep poking into antique chair legs and metal bookends.

This was supposed to be the big surprise that she was going to reveal before we hit the road, that last moment where I could still turn back, or grab a few mementos before burning my bridges. It was my body-warming present, a way to show that even the Collective cared.

I hate the smell of my life, all dust and incense. I can no longer see in the dark, or sense passers by stories below, since the White no longer speaks to me.

My antenna is broken, I’m broken…..

I don’t even know why I’m writing this…. after so many packets they’re bound to sniff me out. But I just have to speak to someone, to process it all.

She was dying in my hands, because of my hands, and Helena couldn’t stop screaming.

Oh fuck, Helena…. Ai knew it was going to happen, she should have been able to do something!

Instead, it took my body from me, took Susanna from me, and made me watch every moment.

It all started out so right….. the Numbers found the perfect warehouse for the ceremony, to the north of the city.

They set up the equipment – amazingly huge speakers and a wardrobe of guitars.

Cassandra and Helena were bringing in choice gear from every variant, and they also transported their mother April (Number 6) to help orchestrate. She was an amazingly stunning woman, even from a distance – built like a champion tennis player, with muscular arms and legs, yet stereotypically feminine, her dark wavy hair effortlessly tousled, blue eyes like still lakes, and a mouth from classical sculpture. It looked like the twins kept her well dressed – she had on a gown suitable for an Oscar after-party.

Jo (Number 4) kept huddling with A-Bell, apparently working from virtual blueprints to make the space beyond perfect. Jo had surprisingly let herself go gray, but it really suited her, especially with her simple and straight hair, right off of a 70’s shampoo model. Her outfit was a black tuxedo jacket and digital desert camouflage pants, made whole by what looked like a bottle-cap chain mail vest. I would have been shocked by anything less, knowing her reputation as a living exclamation mark.

Amber was busy with Caroline (Number 5) over what looked like a full service bar. Actually, it looked like it was just ripped out of a nightclub – I assumed that Helena had been kept busy since the previous night. You would think that most Collective members were straight-edge, but since hangovers or even liver poisoning were never a problem for Pure Land Antennas, they tended to party way past the normal dropping point. Caroline was an exception, she grew up with alcoholic parents, and always frowned upon even the slightest revelry that involved drink or drugs.

So, she had Helena stock the bar with soft drinks and exotic teas and waters from all over the world, a task that she achieved with the usual excess. She had even collected glacier ice, by hand, from the north and south poles. After Caroline fully surveyed the stash she kissed Helena on the forehead, and she actually blushed, matching the pink prom dress she had just bought from a Beverly Hills boutique.

At a stark contrast, Caroline was wearing one of the T-Shirts that Phone had designed for Intruder Alert!, back when they were all teens. It was black, with the silhouette of of a elementary school jungle gym in white. There were skeletons of children swinging across in a row.

Phone was like that, seeing the world in stark relief, like an X-Ray camera. He was nothing but fuzzy gray, but he wanted so desperately to sift everything into just black and white, the perfect and the rejected.

In that way, he seemed the perfect match for Isabel. She was off in the corner, scowling as she took the occasional swig from some Korean aloe concoction. Of all the Collective members, she was the most likely to start a fight – rumor has is that she actually spent a few variants endangering species, just because she could. Which was beyond strange, since she’s not just a vegan – she only exists off of a “natural” mix of vitamins and minerals, the kind of treat you would expect to scrape off of boulders.

Isabel wasn’t always like that – in her youth she was a fashion model ready to devour only the finest parts of the world. While her attitude has changed, she still has a taste for couture, and is the number one client of our circuit clothiers. Last night, she had on an exercise in light – it was a Satomi Kurogane original holographic dress, with every layer of shimmering photons shifting in color and opacity, like a sunset seen through a waterfall. Her face was made up to match, with a chalky foundation as a canvas, and bold strokes of color embracing her eyes. And her wig – it was like a lion’s mane, an iridescent dandelion. Phone would have died to see her like that.

I’m sorry. That’s just not right. Not only is he not coming back, but….

I tried washing my face and hands in the Isar hours ago, but they only started to smell. Now the blood is like second skin, like Susanna’s hands caressing my head after she shaved it.

By the time the ceremony started the party was already in full swing. Helena went all out, transporting all active Collective members from around the world, one woman at a time. Aurora’s parents were perhaps the only ones that didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves; Susan (Number 7) kept to herself on a drum set – she didn’t play one note, but instead just kept sliding her fingers over the cymbals. Velcro was simply drunk, and since he wasn’t etched no one could blame him for his rants and tear-filled outbursts. He kept hounding Ai, telling her to bring his baby back home, and she eventually calmed his nerves with a slight flick of the wrist, and had Helena find him a nice hotel bed.

The whole time, Cassandra sat in the middle of the dance floor, playing with the invisible. I took a few minutes to sit down beside her, and I marveled at her outfit – it was the same blue pajamas that Miranda was wearing the night of the Fourth Event. Before I could even ask her about them, she reached out for my left hand, and squeezed it. “I forgive you. And I hope you die in flames.” She smiled at me weakly, like a dog she was afraid of. Then Helena popped in and took her away.

Rebecca (Number 9) and Elizabeth (Number 10) also kept to themselves. They had been friends since High School, and had been involved on and off through Potato Power and Dust Lag. They took it really hard when Sasha died, and only were mixed up with the Collective when absolutely necessary. Susanna was their only real tie to the group, and if they had it their way, they would find a cabin in some forgotten variant and live out their days.

Isabel kept staring at them all night – as Dust Lag’s drummer she always felt kept away in the shadows, and she resented how Susanna always got the spotlight, in the eyes of the crowd and Phone. She blamed Rebecca and Elizabeth for allowing this, and for not telling her that Phone was cheating on her as soon as they knew.

Helena also brought in the technocoven, the only surviving Collective cell that Amber cultivated, and who looked after Phone during Fairview. Amy and Tomoe were still together, after over a decade, but Tomoe decided to get her phosphorescent dermal tint removed many variants ago. Sarah and Phone were involved for a few months, but she quickly grew tired of his wandering eye, and constant pining for Susanna. Mavi died in Variant 0, and she decided that she didn’t want to return – the only Collective member to ever refuse immortality.

The only original Collective members that weren’t at Phone’s funeral party were Laura (dead), Number 12 (uninvited) and Jenny. Jenny was a special case, one that I simply can’t get into now. Perhaps you could say she’s the Collective’s prisoner?

Right now, I wish I was in Jenny’s horrible position, and not a fugitive on the run from my new family.

A few minutes before it happened, Susanna and Ai pulled me aside by the bar. Susanna gave me a huge hug, and seemed to be holding back tears.

“I promised that I would watch over you in this and all other variants.” She took another shot of some vodka, and then placed her ice cold palms over my cheeks. “I lied – I’m so sorry!”

“There’s a very good reason that I picked you, Kaia.” Ai was still wearing that football jersey, and I finally understood why. “I know that you’re strong enough to survive what happens next.”

Susanna started to move her hands down to my neck. “I could end it all right here, but I won’t.” She started to half-squeeze, half-shake.

“I cheated.” Ai grimaced as she took Susanna’s hands off of me. “Cassandra and Helena took me ahead to the Fifth Event this morning. Now she’s furious, and it’s all my fault.”

“I’m so sorry I didn’t have enough time to teach you properly.” Susanna leaned her chest against the damp bar, and then looked away to the makeshift stage. “I’ll always remember you with love,” she said to me, and no one in particular as she walked away.

“Listen.” Ai suddenly reached through the White and took hold of my soul. “I lost the bet, and Number 12 has made her choice.” I could feel her spirit fingers caressing my heart.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I didn’t want to hear what I already understood.

“The Nameless is coming to collect its prize. You.”

At that moment, Ai rushed out of my head to be replaced by a cool, dark nothingness.

My connection to the bodyweb was overwhelmed by a torrent of seemingly random numbers, and as I looked up at Susanna on the stage, I suddenly started to sense the patterns in the chaos, the repetition in the irrational.

Before Susanna could even start to quiet the crowd, I felt myself rush towards the stage, fists squeezed like black holes.

Helena and Cassandra appeared in front of me, and with one motion I grabbed Helena by the head and gouged out her eyes with my thumbs, then tossed her screaming across the warehouse into waiting arms of Number 12. They disappeared before anyone could react.

Susanna didn’t move. She just stood her ground, hands grabbing her black prairie dress by the waist, and watched as I leaped on stage, placed my right hand on her pelvis, and raised it with a jerk. As it passed by each Chakra, her very being was forced into premature enlightenment, until it slipped out the top of her head and into the White.

Then the Nameless forced my hands down her throat, breaking her neck from the inside out and removing her head like a picked flower. Her curly brunette wig fell to my feet first, followed by pieces of her crushed skull.

This all happened in about five seconds. By the time the Collective thought to attack, Cassandra took me by the bloody hands and ripped me away from it all.

We appeared in the same warehouse on Friday, before Ai arrived in München. It was filled with old printing presses and scattered piles of paper.

“Stay here for the next day. Don’t leave for any reason.” She stared intensely at her bare feet. “Then, at 1AM Sunday morning, follow the Isar back into the city, and hide at the storage unit. You’ll be contacted at 14:00.”

With that, she sat back down on the floor, and disappeared, leaving me in absolute, horrific shock.

I don’t understand this. I didn’t ask for this. I hope that the Collective reads this blog, finds me, and puts me out of my misery before things get worse.

I’m staring at the florescent light that’s peeking in beyond the door. It should be comforting, but it just hurts my eyes.

It hurts my very being, and no matter how tight I close them, the pain just isn’t going away.

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Flipping the unfair coin

No matter how far I run, it’s waiting for me around the next corner.

There’s still dried blood on my hands, face and dress, but this time it’s not mine. No one can see it before the sun rises, but I know it’s there.

Everything is ruined. I’m ruined. And Susanna….

My body wants to throw up, but I won’t let it. I have a job to do, and it’s the worst task possible. An assassins errand.

I’ve been cut off from the bodyweb, ever since the funeral, when….

It’s not right! I can’t pant or cry or scream without calculation, and I promised Ai I would survive, I promised….

I need to find a place to hide, but how can I obscure myself from the all-seeing eye?

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Even Goddesses sleep…

It’s 6AM and Ai’s finally asleep, after spending the entire night grilling me on comparative religion, especially Theosophy, Anthroposophy and the chain leading to New Age thought.

You would think that after a dozen hours in the air, spread over a few airports, she would have wanted to take some time to breathe, but no. As soon as we met with her entourage at the Flughafen München, Ai ran up to Susanna and gave her a huge hug.

“It’s been ages since I’ve seen you! Literally hundreds of hours!” She was wearing a red and white vertically striped FC Bayern jersey – the home variety – and some dark blue jeans that look like they had been ironed forcefully, with crisp creases. “We simply must catch up about everything, especially the recent permutations in this variant!” I couldn’t stop staring at her shoes – they were basketball-style hi-tops that seemed to be made out of firm bubble wrap.

“And you!” She reached up to rub my stubbly head. “My how you’ve grown!” Gave me a little poke in the shoulder – I was still wearing one of Susanna’s frilly prairie dresses, since my custom clothes hadn’t yet arrived.

Ai proceeded to jog down the terminal, towards the escalators which led back to the Lufthansa counters. “I’m going to the observation deck!” The bodyweb was still ringing from her telepathic exuberance.

“You’re Kaia, right?” That was A-Bell, Ai’s godmother, standing next to her partner Amber. Like Ai, they were traveling extremely light, with little more than the clothes on their backs. A-Bell was quite tall, almost besting me by a head, and her naturally red hair barely reached her ears. Amber was about my height, and had bright blue hair with violet highlights, hanging well past her shoulders. I knew they were both almost 40, but they seemed half that age – Collective membership has its benefits.

Both she and Amber had on two variations on the same outfit – faded-blue circuit jeans and the most elaborately high-tech T-Shirts I had ever come across. They looked like a simple cotton/polyester blend, with old school Collective band logos (Fire Escape for A-Bell, and Jumpster for Amber) but upon a quick scan they were lousy with electrons and solid state memory threads.

“We’ve never been to Munich before, but we just love the airport.” Amber was naturally charming, and she took advantage of this by sliding her arm around my waist. “I”m sorry we came to visit on such a solemn occasion, but you know Phone wouldn’t want us to weep and wail – he’d want us to cause a righteous ruckus.”

“Sorry, I’m all out of ruckus.” Isabel, the only person to bring along a huge, black, rolling suitcase. She was clearly having none of this. “Can you point me in the direction of out of here?”

Isabel was Phone’s first real girlfriend, starting in High School. That is, until he cheated on her with Susanna. The two of them had resolved their differences long ago, but I could tell that she didn’t care for me one bit. Plus, she was wearing a whole container of mascara, and a loud, bangly couture outfit, Harajuku alley meets Fashion Week, that was expensive just to look at.

The final member of the party, Cassandra, was corpse quiet. Her wig had long, clear fiber optic hair that was iridescent, changing in color with every moment. I couldn’t place her outfit – it was like a painter’s tan one-piece, combined with space station lounge wear and yoga chic. She was one of the teenage twins – I could never tell them apart, except from context. I knew it was Cassandra because Helena never, ever would fly anywhere – she doesn’t have to. More about that when I have ample time to explain.

Right now, I only have a few more minutes before Ai wakes up, and demands my full attention for the rest of the day. She ran for my bed as soon as we arrived Friday evening, stripping down not to a datasuit, but something that looked like it came out of a €5 three pack – the most basic and plain white underwear imaginable. Slipped under the sole sheet, and ordered me to lay beside her fully clothed.

As we talked for hours, and the rest of the crew went to their hotels, I could tell that she was treating me less like an employee and more like her babysitter. She wanted to be tucked in, doted over, loved unconditionally, but only in the purest way, that core that transcends age.

She wanted to impress, even though she was the most impressive person that had ever lived. And she wanted me, for whatever reason, to be right there by her side.

I was her pet project, but also her confidant, almost like an imaginary friend. It was as if she was talking to herself, but she wanted my face there to sell the illusion of conversation.

Which is not hard to understand, since her brain is naturally buzzing with the thoughts, hopes and wishes of an entire species, all rushing at her from the White. She showers in humanity, and it was simply amazing that it hadn’t driven her crazy already.

Instead, every new person born only added to her joy, and wonder. I just don’t understand her perspective, especially since it’s no secret that she only really cares about one thing – family.

She would kill us all if it meant finding a world that her mother is still alive in, and that her hypothetical daughter can call home. I’m not speaking metaphorically, and I’m not going to go over it more now.

Sufficed to say that while even Goddesses have to sleep, you really don’t want to witness their nightmares.

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Funeral in spray paint…

Ai is coming to München, to this empty flat, on Friday.

There’s so many things wrong with that sentence, I don’t know where to start. Ai never leaves the US, not at least until after the Fifth Event, and she definitely doesn’t travel so openly.

It’s almost like she’s taunting the Nameless, begging it to show its cards. I’ve never seen her so recklessly, arrogantly powerful.

Did I mention she started a blog? She’s actually reaching out to the world for once, instead of commanding it to come to her. That’s so promising, and scary too.

In any case, she’ll arrive in a few days, and Susanna and I have to take care of everything, from her lodging to Phone’s funeral. I’m not sure who’s coming with her physically, and who will attend virtually, but it’s bound to be an once in a variant event.

It’s actually kind of shocking – I didn’t think anyone would care. But, after reading over his part of the antizine Fragments, like Our American Heritage, I totally understand now.

He was the glue that held all of the bands together, the instigator, doorman and secret weapon. When he was alive, he had no idea how important he was, how important the Collective let him be, and it speaks to his influence that everyone is dropping everything to be there in the end.

It really touches me, but also breaks my heart. Even in his last breath, he didn’t have any idea. All that was rushing through his skin was artificial hatred, a burning desire to destroy Satomi, and he didn’t even know why.

At least, I don’t think he knew why. That’s still something for me to determine, once my training is complete.

Anyway, it’s a chilly, cloudy morning, and the bodyweb says it will rain a bit. This will be the first day in weeks that I can actually walk out of my flat unassisted, that Susanna will let me off my leash. I’m so excited that I don’t even know what to do first – perhaps rub my face in some grass at the Englischer Garten (perhaps not the best idea, considering the dog population), or jump across the Isar (again, not the best idea to perform superhuman feats so soon).

Perhaps I’ll just ride the U-Bahn aimlessly, enjoying the crowded trains and oblivious people.

If only I could change my mind back to the way it was. To unstare at the sun. To forget.

Of course, Ai won’t allow that one bit. The Collective never forgets.

Friday, the center of the living universe is coming over for tea – I’m not even sure how she likes it.

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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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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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Sending papers for the dead

I am so terribly tired.

I’ve been spending the past few days talking to the US and German embassies in Tokyo, not to mention the Tokyo Police, trying to arrange things for Brian.

His parents have been dead for years, and he’s been on the road for a decade – I’m not even sure if anyone knew where he was until the end.

According to the officials, I don’t count as next of kin, since we weren’t married or otherwise related.  It’s not like we were even that involved, and it was only for a little over two years, but I very much want to do right by him.

I’ll pay the thousands of Euro for his cremation and shipment to the US, as long as I know that his life can be properly acknowledged, even celebrated, if by no one else than me.

I’m not sure if Susanna or Isabel even care at this point, but he had so many stories to tell about them, so much fondness and forgiveness. I don’t know how to contact them, or anyone else from that part of his life.

All he had was the streets, or the bedrooms of lovers and girlfriends, in whatever country would take him.  He usually blew up his bridges completely, never looking back, and I was treated no differently.

I felt different, however. I did my best to care for him unconditionally, to give him his dreamy, paranoid space when he needed it, and I could tell he appreciated it.

I can’t say if I was more special than the last girl, or the next one I’m sure existed.

When it comes down to it, however, none of them are looking after him now.  No one would be, if I didn’t speak up.  That’s so frustrating and sad to me.

I really appreciate Tokie and Die Database right now – they’re helping expedite everything.  Satomi didn’t press any charges, so the potential criminal investigation was brief.  She’s even trying to smooth out the situation with the U.S. Embassy, but I know that’s going to take a while to straighten up.

The autopsy has been sealed, for some reason, but knowing how he died isn’t as important to me as why – no report can reveal that to my satisfaction.

In the last week I saw him, when he was so terribly sick, he often ranted while feverish.  “Once I die, mix my ashes in paint, and mark the world with me, one little line at a time.”  He wanted me to help with his last work, spreading his tag one last time across the cities he once lived in, including München.

I don’t know if I can track down every wall and bench he visited, but I do want to give it a shot in the park next to the Isar, where we met.  I want to walk out in the daylight, and slowly spread his art’s blood.

He also told me the particular design he wanted – he drew it on a page ripped out from the tiny spiral-bound notebook he always carried.

I don’t understand what it means.  I don’t have to.

I just need his spirit to guide my hands, and bring forth the last light from his eyes.

I didn’t take him seriously on his false deathbed, but now – I’ll do whatever I can to make things right.

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The slow, steady hand

When we were together, I used to follow Phone around Europe and try to capture his brilliance.

Even hanging off a rooftop at 3 in the morning, he had a slow, steady hand that made the paint pop.

When he was still a teenager in the 80s, he told me, he traveled the US with one punk band after another – Intruder Alert!, Masking Tape, Fire Escape – and left his mark everywhere. He didn’t play an instrument, he didn’t sing, but he was lyrical with a spray can.

He constantly kept me wide eyed. All my friends thought I was crazy to ever believe in him, to hold his calloused hands for dear life.

He carried a whole world of connections with him. Everywhere we went, someone knew him, someone owed him a favor, or tried to collect a debt. I was impressed that he was noticed, someone I thought was a rough patch inside a diamond.

Sometimes, he’d steal from me – records, books, food – and he always said he needed not extra money, but extra time.

He was paranoid that every other person was somehow out to get him. Not in a vague way, some sort of psychological fault, but he had it backed by data. I don’t know how, but he could look at someone, and tell you where they had been, where they were going, and why they should be avoided.

He never explained the marks all over his body, but I knew.  He was a Pure Land Antenna, like that Suspender song – one of the chosen few.  He ran with the whispers, and his heart pulsed sparks and shadows.

I wasn’t allowed to touch his glasses.  When we made love, static gathered around us, gnawing away at our skin.

For a whole week, the last week I ever saw him, he was bedridden, chased by a fever that wouldn’t let go.  He was sure he was going to die, right then.

So, he told me his only true story, the only story I could never believe, not until now.

They made him into a living weapon, his former friends and lovers. They stored a ball of light deep inside of him, so deep that choked his own soul.

“On my back is a mark that will tear apart all worlds,” he said, and all I saw was sweat and fingernail scratches. “I don’t want you to be there when it turns on.”

The next morning, he was gone for good.  He left his paint, his markers and stencils.  He didn’t even take his bag of clothes.

He did leave a photo, the one he took of me sleeping.  I was curled up into a little ball, the sheets thrown off the bed during my night swimming.

He thought that photo was the best thing he’d ever seen.  He used to stare at it, then aimlessly leave it around the house.

On the day he went away forever, he left the photo taped to the TV.  On the back, he wrote: “When the last dream ends, no one will know it.”

I wish I knew when we’re going to wake up.

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