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

Archive for the ‘The Structure’ Category

Munich, Germany – November 20, 2011

Like I mentioned earlier, my Ariel has a twin sister that was born from another mother. Miranda.

Well, maybe the same mother – it’s a painful chicken-egg situation, not really knowing who came first.

Miranda is the bride of the Nameless, and the two of them together are destined to destroy everything that has ever existed. She controls Matter in all of its forms, and the Nameless force that puppets her body has no respect for our material world. They’re universal pyromaniacs that wish for fertile ashes.

Ariel was meant to be the anti-Miranda – someone that was just as powerful, but more focused on maintaining the continuity of material existence.

We’ve spend many lifetimes trying to prevent Miranda from coming to power, but it was a foregone conclusion that someone, somewhere, would mess up in the worst way, and let the Chosen Light shine forth. Her mother Cathy is as good a person to blame as any.

Which makes me equally culpable. I’m no longer sure if I’m just a Variant of her, or the other way around. We look the same, had the exact same daughters, but have lived immensely different lives.

Whatever – I’ll spare you my moebius philosophy. I promised you an Apocalypse in parts, so here is the first one.

I first confronted Miranda in Munich, on November 20, 2011, during Jenny’s resurrection.

Cassandra sent Douglas Waters from Berkeley to Germany, so he could meet with me and Ariel. He’s one of Cassandra’s life-long errand boys, but he means well.

Douglas has already shared his version of what happened that day on his short-lived blog.

He had a piece of Jenny Samuels’ DNA, from when she was 12 years old, and Cassie wanted us to resurrect her. It’s a long story, but let’s just say that Jenny is extremely important. She has always had literal angels and devils sitting on her shoulders, fighting for her attention.

We started the process in an underground parking garage on the grounds of the Allianz Arena – the home of Munich’s soccer team, FC Bayern. It was Sunday, and not a game day, so it was completely empty except for us.

Miranda appeared during the resurrection ceremony, interrupting the process at the worse time, after Ariel had turned her body into a biological machine devoted to replicating Jenny. Ariel was an unzipped collection of bone, muscle and nerve endings, and Miranda almost tore Ariel to pieces just as Jenny was born again.

I was only concerned about getting Ariel her body back. She was still turned inside out, yelping for air on the cement floor of the parking garage.

Once I forced Douglas to run away to safety, I unlocked the first level of the Golden Sphere – the light of creation emitting from black flames.

We had stolen the Golden Sphere from Miranda. Simply put, it’s a weapon of mass insurrection, suitable for fighting the Creator of all things. Miranda was the rightful owner, but could do little more with it than make kids pee their pants.

As I brought out the Golden Sphere, the Nameless just growled through Miranda’s teeth. “If you don’t return what is mine, I’ll destroy your daughter and the rest of this groaning world.”

Before the air around us caught fire, the Grand Supreme folded into the fray just long enough to take the newly created copy of Jenny away to Goddess knows where. She wrapped up naked Jenny in her punk patch dress, and gave an empty-eyed grin before she cut away.

It was so bright – I was breathing flames instead of air.

“Cathy was never quite enough for me.” Miranda started to grow taller, until she had to hunch her huge, bald head underneath the cement ceiling. “She had the will of The Black, but not the way to The White. You, on the other hand…”

Ariel was flopping around on the floor, throwing off her skin and muscles so that her spine could be free.

“Your connection to Spirit, and to The Black, makes you a bridge between the two poles, and we intend on climbing you to take our rightful place at El’s throne.” Her breath was excessively sweet, like granulated sugar quickly caramelizing in the intense heat.

I only had moments to act. I willed all microscopic life still alive in the Allianz Arena complex to converge upon Ariel, so she could feed and escape. Massive waves of bacteria, amoebas and dust mites were pulled by my power over Spirit, amplified by the Golden Sphere, so that the winds darkened with trillions of congealed cells rushing towards what was left of my daughter.

“I will take one hundred steps before leaving this world in ashes. Follow me only if you want to witness the end.” With that, Miranda punched a hole in the roof, and pulled herself up to the surface.

I burned away the falling rubble, and then tended to Ariel. Her spine was growing in fits and starts, until it reminded me of a dinosaur’s, except with unnatural flesh and organs growing out of her back. I could feel that her essence was still there, still fighting for a familiar shape, but all she could manage in that moment was to generate dozens of arms up and down the length of her broken body, which were enough to propel her through the far wall of the garage, and eventually up to the surface.

By then, I was naked and burning black from head to toe. I was try to process what the Nameless had told me – that the transference of Ai’s Spirit power into Cathy, into me, meant that I was a nothing more but a tool for The Black’s long wished for insurrection against The White. My blood brought forth a perfect vehicle for the Nameless, for The Black, and my connection to all life was just the hole it needed to punch through this world, and into The White.

I didn’t want to be a tool. I didn’t want anything except to be left alone, and to raise my daughter in peace. No more missions for the Collective, no more swimming in the hopes, dreams and fears of the biosphere, nothing but a calm stillness that I deserved to taste at least once.

Explosions from the world above took me out of my pointless thoughts, and I levitated myself up through the hole that Miranda created, only to see Ariel’s spine wrapped around Miranda, who must have been two hundred feet tall at that point.

I quickly flew up towards the Allianz Arena, which reminded me of a huge, white bird’s nest mixed with a honeycomb. I entered via the large opening at the top of the structure, so I could situate myself to open the second level of the Golden Sphere.

I could feel Douglas and a few other spectators watching me as I floated down to the grassy field, which was already charred black due to my aura. I burned away half of the stadium walls just by looking at them, leaving a pool of melted plastic and twisted metal, and then focused on Miranda as she tried to rip the arm-legs off of Ariel.

I didn’t want to hurt any of the bystanders, but I felt I had little choice if it meant I could stop Miranda in her tracks. So I knelt on the steaming dirt, palms sinking into the ground like sand, and sensed deep into the planet until I could feel its radiant life blood. It noticed me back, and rushed upwards with glee towards my intended target. I grabbed Ariel’s nervous system and forced her to flee, just as a geyser of magma one hundred feet wide enveloped Miranda.

Her clothes burned off instantly, and as her skin blackened, she staggered around the pool of yellow-red lava for a few moments, before teleporting away, followed by a massive amount of wind that spread the magma far and wide into the nearby area.

I tried to call off the mini-volcano, but the Golden Sphere didn’t seem to listen. It wanted chaos, and it wouldn’t rest until the greater Munich area was overcome, first by massive earthquakes that felled office parks and historic churches, that collapsed all U-bahn tunnels and buckled streets and highways. Then the lava intruded, seeping out slowly in some places, and bursting forth with reckless abandon in others.

Swans boiled in the lakes at Olympiapark.

Flocks of tourists buried under the rubble of the Rathaus at Marienplatz.

Airplanes and model ships burning in the ruins of the Deutsches Museum.

U-Bahn and S-Bahn trains melting into slag deep under Haupbahnhof, as passengers claw against the immobile windows and doors.

The Isar river evaporated, replaced by a lava flow filled with half-submerged building fragments and cars.

I could feel the screams as thousands of people died every second, and I tried to ferry their souls safely to the Structure, but the Golden Sphere twisted my intentions, and just swallowed their energy for kindling.

I could also sense something very strange going on at the Münchner Freiheit train station – everyone in the general area was scared out of their minds, but not because of the earthquakes. Something immense was streaming out of the station exits and into the sky – a cloud of liquid metal spheres, varying in size from the smallest pin prick to a soccer ball. They rushed upwards and outwards, following a carefully orchestrated flight plan around screaming children and Sunday window shoppers, and past the falling rubble. It took less than a minute for the thousands of mirrors that lined the ceilings of the station platform to disappear, leaving little more than flames behind.

I didn’t need any more information than that. A major node of S.OS had quickly left the underground complex that sheltered it for decades, headed for safer points unknown.

Everywhere I looked, burned. I couldn’t turn off the light. I couldn’t stand it, and so I jumped out of the remains of the Arena, the whole complex already overrun by magma, and found Ariel on the top a nearby hill, near the stump of the wind turbine.

As the tide of flames rose steadily, as the waves of destruction pulsed over Bavaria towards the rest of Europe, I was overwhelmed by the millions crying out for their imagined saviors, only to be met by a swift and voracious death. I was supposed to be the guardian of their shining spirits, but all I could do was watch them suffer, and cry burning black tears of failure.

I grabbed Ariel by the base of her brain stem, and searched deep inside for any remaining connection that I could use to bring her back to me. She was like a huge, dissected snake, coiled around my glowing, midnight skin, and I sang her a song that contained all of the addresses we ever lived at while she grew up, all of the cities and countries we secretly called our own. I just kept my eyes closed as I felt her flesh twist and reshape around me, as her spine shrank and her arm-legs became her rib cage. There was so much heat everywhere, and the sound of air raid sirens and fighter jets whooshing overhead, quickly replaced by a bubbling silence.

I opened up my eyes to find Ariel whole again, naked and clinging for dear life onto my back. We were surrounded by a half-solidified bubble in the molten rock, that had long since enveloped the hill. I was no longer burning, but the Golden Sphere was still holding back the Earth’s blood, since it still thirsted for destruction, and intended for me to be its final vehicle.

“We have to get her.” Ariel’s first words as she awoke, as I could feel her engine revving up.

“We’re going to get her, dear. Where is she now?” The two of them were more than twins, and Ariel could always sense what Miranda was up to.

“She’s destroying Tokyo… so many dead!” She let me see through her eyes. It was just before Midnight in Ikebukuro, and Miranda was as tall as the Sunshine 60 tower – 60 stories up to her eyes. Her flesh was repaired, but she was still naked. She was kicking the Animate building to pieces, leaving 9 or 10 stories of broken glass, blue rubble and anime goods that she was wading through like toy blocks. Broken bodies and smashed cars littered the streets like wind-swept sakura petals.

“I need you to take us there, now. Can you do that for me?”

Ariel nodded silently as she tightened her grip around my back. There was a sharp, wrenching sensation, and then we appeared on the sidewalk, near the East exit of the Ikebukuro Train Station. Ariel was on the ground, growling in pain, holding her head between her two elbows. When she looked up at me her nose was bleeding out of the left nostril.

“Fucking head explosion! My big sister is really playing for keeps.” Ariel stumbled to her feet, wiping the blood away with her arm, and once she realized we were naked she covered us with off-white, old school Collective bodysuits, lousy with circuits. I could feel the extra code in them – bespoke pathways designed to slightly minimize Miranda’s growing influence over all Matter, including our aching bodies.

Once the bodysuits rebooted our OSes, I suddenly realized that the sidewalks all around us were covered by hundreds of fresh corpses. There was a blocks-long trail of bodies from Sunshine 60 street, right around the Humax movie theater and Book Off store, all the way down the stairs and escalators leading into the station. There wasn’t a bit of blood on their faces – it looked like they just immediately crumpled to the ground like tossed jackets.

Carefully made up young ladies headed home after a casual night on the town. Stinky young men who just finished spending hours drinking. Shop keepers, waitresses, and unobtrusive homeless men. Everyone fell over sucked dry of their souls a few moments after Miranda arrived.

Neighborhoods full of proud electric signs were now dark, and sirens pervaded the chill.

When we left Munich it was early afternoon, but now the last Narita Sky Access Limited Express train had just arrived in Ikebukuro, right on time at 23:48.

Every jet lagged traveler who spent an hour on that Airport train, and any person within a hundred mile radius, was already as good as dead.

Not that we knew that then. I was busy calling all of the Japanese Collective over the Bodyweb – Satomi’s secret army of former Agartha Labs employees.

By the time even a few of them arrived, our failure was already so complete and catastrophic that it’s hard to comprehend.

I’ll give you all of the tragic details next time, but just remember – this was still only the beginning of the end, and it is going to get unimaginably worse.

Click to continue RGA

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The World Of The End

I have a phobia about storage lockers; to me they are like huge leeches latching on to my life’s ankles.

You may think that last sentence to be problematic, but likely for the wrong reasons. The real issue is that I no longer know who “I” is, so to speak.

“I” is certainly not the woman that last wrote in this blog last April. She didn’t like storage lockers either, especially after having to hide in one after committing murder.

Not that it was really murder – is it your fault if someone sneaks a pocket knife past your body’s security checkpoints, and then forces you to pluck out eyes and smash in heads?

Trust me – I know all about murder.

I’m losing the thread here. It’s a very tenuous connection now, between me and “reality”. Now being on the platform on the formerly non-existent Point Richmond BART station, as I cradle my daughter in my hands.

Back to an important point. I’m not the Kaia Strauss that you knew from this blog, and I’m not Catherine Koehler, either. I’m supposed to be Cathy’s clone, her mirror reflection cut out like a huge paper doll and told to be fruitful and multiply.

That’s another problematic concept, but no more troubling than the life of a Pure Land Antenna in general.

I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m obsessed with things I no longer control.

I don’t have time to pontificate, to count the mass of unmanned drones hovering overhead like huge horseflies. Silver spheres, multi-rotored helicopters, and other treasures from Ariel’s imagination.

All I know is that I’m deathly afraid of storage lockers, and our treatment after entering Joey’s unit only accentuated this.

My dear Ariel was right about many things, especially when it came to the seemingly empty space in that unit. It was filled way past the brim with stuff, like a plastic bottle over-inflated by a muddy garden hose. I don’t know who was initially responsible, but it was clear that the plastic Cassandra with boiling flesh borrowed us all for a very specific reason – to create a new, temporary world within the confines of that locker.

A world that took a sharp turn in the early 1960s, quickly diverging from “normal” reality until it takes a mental spacesuit just to exist here.

I’m ahead of myself a bit. I’m behind myself a great deal. Let me start over to a certain degree.

I was born on Halloween in 1994, with the body of a woman in her early twenties. Catherine Koehler’s body.

I was born pregnant, carrying a girl conceived by Catherine Koehler and Brian “Phone” Thomas. She called her daughter Miranda, and I called mine Ariel.

Ariel just turned 17 a few weeks ago.

Ariel just died a few minutes ago.

Don’t worry, Sarah promised that she’d put her back together in the end.

I’m holding her remains in a small rectangular box, about the size of a complete Tarot deck. It’s matte, silver metal and slightly warm, but that might just be my imagination.

My OS is going overtime, trying to hold everything together, to prevent me from actually feeling anything right now. I don’t have time to contemplate this box, and I certainly don’t have the time to cry, or scream, or slap Ai silly as she just sits there, talking to Emily like nothing even happened.

Back to the spirit of starting over. Let’s go back to Joey’s storage locker.

Susanna Eck rushed into the locker first. Ai ordered Ariel and I to follow, and the experience….

If a simile is a comparison, and a metaphor is a transformation, then that locker was the next logical step – we swam through a murky grey concept, and our lungs filled with the spit, sweat and semen of voracious machine elves.

I couldn’t see Ariel in those infinitely long moments, but I could still feel her wrapped in my arms. I could hear labored breath, filled with esoteric swears and angel sparks.

We had to consume our own bodies, only to give birth to them anew. Take a spoonful of The Black like a fiber supplement with flax, and vomit up weird and forgotten mythologies.

The one true end was right there licking our cheeks, while the changing now pierced our navels maliciously, and held on for dear life as it ran away in every direction.

If there’s a tedium in excessive novelty, then I wrote epic poems about it, only to have to recite them in reverse to the shadowy figure approaching the final throne.

I can’t. Every time I think about that transition into this pocket world, I get headaches that quickly rush up and down my spine.

Ariel had a worse time than I did. When we ended up back in the Storage Center, she kept changing her physical state, randomly cycling her limbs and fingers through the Periodic Table. I had to talk her down from grey Selenium arms, and a bumpy, yellow, crystallized Sulfur face drooling Mercury. We have special songs for occasions like that, mantras I taught her from birth to come back from The Black and rediscover flesh.

Susanna wasn’t waiting for us on the other side. The Plastic Robot Sculpture (PRS) remained, a few steps down the dark hallway, wearing a huge, pink backpack that contained the Titanium PRS seed that had attacked us.

When Ai finally stumbled out of the locker, she was enveloped in a membrane of living, fluid light. She was choking on a concept I couldn’t even process, until she used the Golden Sphere to tear through the shell with fingers burning black.

“Where’s…. Susanna?” Ai was still gasping for breath as she wiped the golden liquid off of her bald head.

“Not here. Fuck it all, here isn’t even here anymore.” I had already done enough scanning of our surroundings to know that we weren’t in the Berkeley we just left. This was only a dollhouse the size of the Universe, a well-constructed fake ship in the bottle.

“Wrong kind of matter, and we’re breathing blood and pumping air.” Ariel was almost back to her usual body, but with swatches of exotic fabrics growing up her sweaty back like wild grass. “Everything is a big bouncy castle filled with rainbow plastic balls, so unsubtle and hard to control.”

Ai didn’t waste any time. Raised herself to the floor, stepping out of the sticky puddle of light, and limped towards the nearest Exit sign. Didn’t look over to me, didn’t even speak out loud, and instead used the static-filled Bodyweb to strongly suggest for us to follow.

The PRS quickly snapped to attention and trailed behind her a few paces, just as Ariel finished singing the matter mantra, shifting back to costumed skin. She was wearing a cosplay outfit, a patched together remix of the Die Database outfits from Massive Cloud Burst – the top half of the white kimono with rainbow accents, combined with a frilly purple skirt and red, armored leggings. Her head was now bald, except for a few strands of purple hair sticking out the front in a powerful curl, like a surly baby doll.

“I’m getting up.” Still on the floor. “I’m up.” Wobbling to her feet. “Giddyup!” She jumped square on my back, like she was seven again, and I could tell from the sickly sweet smell of her breath that something horrible was happening.

It was the smell of the Chosen Light, as we fought to the death in the Allianz Arena parking garage.

The Grand Supreme had reset that reality, but only I still remembered what happened, as the Earth burned to ashes with Munich at the epicenter.

The other Kaia would say München, not Munich. She was German through and through, or at least so I’ve read.

I really don’t have time for this now, to try to explain the last 17 years. I don’t know how much time I’ll have left – a few hours or days, perhaps.

So I’m going to use all of my time to hold tightly onto Ariel’s miniature coffin, to do what Ai says even though she doesn’t even respect me as the holder of the ultimate Spirit power. I can tell she thinks of me as a fleshy bag that temporarily contains her birthright.

I carried Ariel outside – I could feel her heat against my back, like a too-close hallway furnace.

When we entered the storage center, we were a few dozen feet away from Highway 80 and the Bay. Now, we were right across the street from the North Berkeley BART station, and the air was saturated with weird WOF marks and broken transit maps that only we could see.

Ariel coughed like a crow was flying out of her mouth, and then she handed me a BART pamphlet over my right shoulder. Something was extremely wrong with it, and Ai spoke up as she studied the one that Ariel transported into her hands.

“This is what I was afraid of. Nick Junk Magnet had all sorts of files on the history of BART, from when the 9 counties that surrounded the Bay started to hash out the details in the early 1950s.”

She pointed at the BART rotunda that was across the street, while I looked behind us for the storage place that had now disappeared. We were about two miles away from our initial location, on a residental street across from the BART parking lot.

“In June of 1961, a fancy consortium of engineers and other folk from three firms – Parsons Brinckerhoff, Tudor and Bechtel – submitted an elaborate report that carefully showed how Bay Area Rapid Transit could be spread across Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo counties. BART would go North into Richmond, Northeast to the suburbs and Concord (digging a hole through the Berkeley/Oakland hills right by the Sibley Volcanic Preserve), and Southeast to Fremont. It would also cross under the Bay from Oakland to San Francisco, and continue on down the peninsula to Palo Alto. The final masterstroke would be a branching path that went from downtown San Francisco, right by the current Montgomery station, and up through the Northern part of the City so the trains could travel across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin, and eventually past San Rafael to Santa Venetia.”

Ai was really getting worked up now, and she waived us across the street and into the BART parking lot, which was completely empty of cars.

“By the end of 1961, Marin had dropped out because they didn’t want to modify the Golden Gate Bridge in any way, and San Mateo didn’t think they could afford it. So the engineers tried to save face, and kept a modified Northern route in San Francisco, the Geary line that ran under Post street from Kearny to 25th Ave. Station. Eventually, that route was axed as well, and Embarcadero Station was added right before the Bay Tube to Oakland. This less ambitious system went on line starting in 1972, just over 10 years later.”

The PRS with huge pink backpack took point, apparently looking for trouble. We were approaching some small green shrubs and purple leaved trees that dotted the barren parking lot. Where were all of the cars?

“As you know, BART was Cassandra’s pet project. She championed for the original design that crossed over into Marin, as necessarily strong scaffolding over the thin border between our world and the Structure. It was supposed to be a huge band aid that kept trouble away, and that eventually kept Jenny and S.OS imprisoned. The loss of the Marin and San Mateo lines was enough to cause instability, specifically in the Marin Headlands. The Black has been using that hole for years to influence the whole Bay Area, and also to slowly make inroads into the Structure itself. Simply put, BART has terminally bad Feng Shui. Or had….”

I looked down at my pamphet again. There clearly was a violet train line that led from San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through Marin all the way to Novato. There also was an Orange line that led West past the Richmond station, through a previously non-existent Point Richmond station, and under the water to San Rafael. There were extensions from the current Milbrae and Fremont stations, both terminating in San Jose past the Southern tip of the Bay. That’s not even counting the tracks running from Livermore directly Northward to meet the Pittsburg/Bay Point line.

“I don’t know how Cassie failed in the real world, but she clearly succeeded here. The Bay is completely encircled, and the Black contained. I think Joey and her used Ariel to re-write history.”

“This isn’t her story. It’s a pop up book!” Ariel suddenly jumped off of my back and ran angrily towards Ai, leaving a trail of dead frogs in her wake. The PRS moved to defend her, but Ai waived it off.

“Kaia, you have to control your daughter.”

“Don’t you tell me how to raise her!”

“I can already hear the whispers. At the storage unit Cassie infected her with the Black and S.OS.”

“I don’t believe you!” I believed her.

“We don’t have much longer before the Grand Supreme comes to anoint her as the second bride of the Nameless.”

At this point I was right behind Ariel, as she growled at Ai. I held her shoulders before she floated away like a raincloud, or sank down past the cracks in the asphalt. Her mind was all earthquake spasms, and forceful commands from a fragment of the Black that wrapped around her spine like a cobra.

“Control her!”

I took Ariel’s spirit and sheltered it away from the constant attacks, leaving her body as little more than a blank shell, like the fleshy PRS that Cassie made.

“Thank you.” Ai was clearly upset, but not at me. “Joey can never follow instructions… he was supposed to hide Emily in a neutral Personal Pocket Reality, one where neither the Grand Supreme nor the Black could get after her. But he had to go to St. Cloud to get that fallen PRS…. always too damn clever for his own good. Come on, we have to make it out of this place before it collapses. Ariel was holding it together with her powers, but now that she’s out of it…”

Ai was looking behind me so intensely that I turned around to see what was up. Instead of the Berkeley neighborhood, there was just a white haze surrounding the BART parking lot. When I faced the station again, the rest of Berkeley, including the hills a few miles Eastward, were completely replaced by nothingness.

“The last train out of here is entering the station under us – you have to force Ariel to take us there now!”

The station rotunda that used to be a hundred feet away – gone.

The sky was white. The asphalt was fading away under our feet.

I grabbed onto Ai’s spirit, and used Ariel to latch on to our bodies like security blankets. We used to practice teleportation in little fits and starts – it always gave Ariel such a headache, and made her hands tremble as she cut us away from the world.

When the whiteness started to eat away at our skin, I cut us away from the parking lot, underground dozens of feet, and onto the BART train that had just started to leave. Ariel vomited little twitching globs of The Black all over the carpeted floor, as Ai scoped out the train. It was empty except for us. But not for long.

“This car is infected.” Ai reached in her leather satchel, and took out what looked like a ray gun. She shot a red beam at the black constructs before they could start to spread, and they disintegrated. “Not enough. It’s like mold, the air is full of spores just waiting for a stray thought to set them aflame.” The windows started to cover with a film of black spots, like from the damp corner behind shampoo bottles. She looked back at me as she ran for the door to the next train car. “Control her, now.”

As the train exited the station, there was only about a thousand feet of tunnel left, before it exited into what should have been the bright blue sky of North Berkeley, by Gilman Street. Instead, there was the same whiteness hugging the train, as it howled over the tracks and shot forward into the almost unknown.

I had already picked Ariel up, and sat her on one of the seats – it had a vinyl snap on cover with Twister style polkadots. Ai was near the front of the car, pacing back and forth over the dingy carpet between the opposing exit doors.

“We’re not anywhere right now,” she yelled over the Bodyweb. “Without our memories of BART, and the neighborhoods it passes through, we would be completely stuck in this dying PPR.” I hadn’t experienced a Personal Pocket Reality before, but Sarah OS had some generalized schematics – they’re related to Variants, but much more localized and controllable. It’s really quite disconcerting to be in one, especially if there are conflicting versions of what reality is supposed to be inside the bubble.

At that moment, all I cared about was Ariel, and trying to save her from the slow and steady invasion of The Black. I could barely hold on to her hands and wrists; she wasn’t feverish, but she felt ungrounded, like she was wearing gloves made of static electricity. Her eyes were watering and fully dilated, and she was whispering in a language I couldn’t place. It reminded me of sunlight just before you’re about to burn. Once my OS started to understand it, it was too late.

“Shut her up!” Ai started to sprint down the car towards us. “She’s issuing commands in Sarah’s language of creation!”

Before I could stop the forceful flow of words, now shouted at my right ear like a sidewalk sermon, the whiteness that surrounded the BART train quickly evaporated, replaced by something I’d never thought I’d see again.

From the train to the Bay, from El Cerrito to the Berkeley hills, the entire landscape was ashen and broken, with trees and houses burned beyond recognition. Albany High School, which passed on the right as we approached the El Cerrito Plaza station, was a series of cement pieces and rebar, along with a mass of decorative metal bars painted red, a bouquet of huge flower stems that were curled and bent by the massive heat. On the other side of the train, which I could barely see past the windows covered by a growing black film, San Pablo Avenue was piled up with broken cars, and Albany Hill was bare, except for the slight stubble of trees and formerly expensive homes.

Someone or something was using Ariel’s connection to the Black to revert things back to the shape they were in when Miranda, Ariel and I burned it all to hell, starting at the Allianz Arena.

As the walls, floor and ceiling of the BART car were almost completely hidden by the sticky and undulating Black infection, I could feel that we weren’t just dealing with a PPR anymore. This pocket reality was a seed that wanted to germinate and spread the final world of the end.

Once, that tiny thing was nothing but a Variant among trillions, a quick test by the Grand Supreme to see just how much more quickly two copies of Miranda could bring about the end of things, as opposed to just one Chosen Light.

I just wanted to protect Ariel. I got too wrapped up in the orgasmic heat – my flaming sword turned out to be just the right size to cleave the Universe in two.

I’ve thought long and hard about what happened in that dead place, and this is as good a time as any to share it.

It’s going to take a few posts to get it all out, a few thousand painful words to map out our fatal mistakes. As is my eternal curse, each etched moment has all of the time in the world for sorrow.

Give me a few moments alone with Ariel’s ashes, and then I’ll tell you about what really happened in Munich.

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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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Protecting the council

Is it alright that I hate Helena?

All day she’s been popping in and out of our meetings, taking away Cassandra for hours at a time.

Each time she’s carrying different shopping bags from major cities, wearing progressively more amazing outfits and hair styles. A few hours ago she stumbled back into the room in a sakura-covered pink and white kimono that she picked up in Kyoto, unwrapping a brown candy cube before stuffing it into Cassandra’s mouth. “Bontan Ame, ne?” The universe is her playground.

That’s not the part I hate about her – she’s actually quite cool, and much more grounded than her sister. It’s just that she’s everywhere except where she’s supposed to be.

The Structure assigned them particularly choice roles at birth – Helena has dominion over Space, and Cassanda is in charge of Time.

The current theory is that complete mastery of Space/Time is too much for any one living being to handle, so their duties were split in half. However, neither of their powers really work unless the both of them act in concert. Helena can “teleport” anywhere in the universe, while Cassandra can stay in one place and yet travel to any moment in any variant. Get them together, and they can not just travel to anywhere, at any time, but they can literally modify the fabric of existence.

They can tap into both the White and Black to varying degrees, and as long as they’re not carrying too much extra mass, and stick between Point One and Point Zero, they can flaunt their powers at whim, with no negative effects on the Structure. Well, they did almost ruin a few variants with temporal micro managing, so Ai tends to keep them on a tight leash.

They have 65 distinct secret twin languages, and a connection between them that’s impossible to sever. On the other hand, they’re restless, and never can stay in the same time and place for more than a few minutes.

When she wants, Ai can change all of that in a second – her domain over every living spirit is absolute, and while she rarely revokes free will, she’s been known to puppet members of the council at Point Zero when it meets her needs.

“Helena dear, come sit down next to your sister. We need to talk.” We were all in my flat, sitting in the empty living room on the wooden floor. The Numbers were out getting everything ready for tomorrow, while I stayed behind at Ai’s insistence.

“You all know that we still haven’t found Aurora.” That was Tokie, with her Ghost visiting all of our minds via Agartha Labs tech. Instead of using pico projectors to make a hologram, she just setup a bridge into the bodyweb. “Helena has confirmed that she’s nowhere in this variant, and Cassandra?”

She was lying on her stomach, still wearing her futuristic one piece jumpsuit, playing with a cellophane wrapped piece of candy. “Aurora’s not here now. She hates October and loves December.” Helena laughed as she sat on a random, one of a kind silk scarf she took out of a baby blue paper shopping bag. “She’s hiding in a far off star.”

Aurora is the mistress of energy, with perhaps the most raw power of any of us. She can tap into the Black and siphon out all sorts of electromagnetic force.

“Miranda is still missing, too, but at least we know who has her.” Tokie looked even more annoyed and upset than usual. She started to pace back and forth, her high cuffed brown slacks showing glimpses of Halloween themed socks, with black cats and cartoon witches.

“The current question is what Number 12 has planned for her.” Ai kept brushing back her curly hair with a plastic tortoise shell comb. “My best guess is that she wants complete control of her power.” She seemed intent on straightening it by force.

The power that Miranda had to be compelled to forget was over matter. She could use the Black to change the Universe wholesale, from the smallest quark to the largest galaxy cluster. Apparently too much power for one girl to consciously handle. Whomever controlled Miranda had already won.

“I think it’s more than that.” Tokie again, now fussing with her hoodie, a virtual replica of what Phone was wearing when he died. “I think Number 12 is after the whole council, either as a free agent, or acting on behalf of the Nameless. Ai?”

Ai and the Nameless were separate, yet two sides of the same coin. The Nameless has control over what you can simplistically call “Information”, but in reality it’s the original agent of entropy. It knows everything, and seeks to subvert it for its own ends. Ai, on the other hand, is an agent of the most absolute order, life of the flesh and of the spirit.

The Nameless is the wild card that makes everything possible, more than just a perfectly balanced, homogenized steady state. It’s hard not to try to anthropomorphize it, especially when it takes human form at the end of each variant.

In any case, Ai is in constant communication with it, to make sure that neither army has broken the truce.

“Number 12 is acting on her own,” Ai assured us, “but she’s going to have to pick a side soon.”

Helena suddenly grabbed her sister’s hand and whisked them away.

“Don’t worry, I sent them on a mission. They’ll be back tomorrow.” Ai then stood up, and bolted for the door. “Now let’s square the circle!”

I looked at Tokie for guidance, but she only shrugged. Ai then slowly opened the door.

“Pizza!” The delivery man was startled, since he didn’t even get a chance to knock. Ai quickly took an €100 note out of her pocket, placed it in his left jacket pocket, and took the pizza box away with a door-closing flourish.

It was a simple, steaming margherita, baked into a perfect square.

“Sorry cousin, I didn’t order you one in Ikebukuro, but you can watch us eat!”

“I think I’ll sit this one out.” Tokie logged off with a particularly disgruntled flourish.

Ai placed the box on the middle of floor, and motioned for us to gather around it.

“Now that we’re alone, I need to tell you something with super seriousness.” Picked up a square slice and ravaged it. “Things really aren’t going well at all.”

I nibbled on a slice while I watched her wipe her hands on her FC Bayern jersey.

“Please don’t tell anyone else, but I don’t think we’re going to win this time.”

What?

“Cassandra has seen the end, and it’s not what I expected.” Another slice, slight pause, then another.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I tried to look her in the eyes, but it was as if the light just kept on going and never bounced back.

“That you are very important. That we all need you to be brave, especially when everyone’s lives are on the line.”

She gave me a hug and greasy kiss on the cheeks, and then without additional comment went back to the pizza.

She never brought it up again all night, not even when Susanna came back to check in on us. By then Ai was already asleep, and I was curled up in the corner of the room, staring at the shadows under the bed.

Ai knows exactly what’s going to happen, something terrible, and all she can give are comforting, vague platitudes. That’s more scary to me than the most obscene horror movie – what could possibly freak out the immortal girl that rules us all?

Susanna just sat down next to me, gave me the last piece of candy from Kyoto, and said nothing while we watched Ai sleep.

Even in her dreams, Ai watched back.

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Rewinding the tape

I’ve been body bored but mind over-stimulated lately.

I only have to use the IVs a few hours a day now, but Susanna still won’t let me out of the apartment.

So, I’ve had nothing but bare walls in the here and now to entertain me, like a never ending flight circumnavigating the world, and you’re strapped into your seat with no possibility of almost new movies to view.

I’ve allowed Sasha OS to interact with me again, and it’s – she’s – pretty reasonable for the end of all things.  She really doesn’t like it when I call her that, since it technically wasn’t her that caused all of the trouble, but still – it’s like playing solitaire against the Devil.

Anyway, she was kind enough to gather up the antizine fragments from Variant 0 a few minutes ago, and put them on a blog.  I’ve already read them like you would a tall glass of cool water – in quick and satisfying gulps – but I need to sit down and actually go over the words with my eyes, and not via my data sockets.

Today I’m obsessed over the fragment code-named Into The White – it recounts the night that Sasha died, at the last Suspender concert ever.

Jenny Samuels taped those few hours on a camcorder, and Laura did her best to pore over the footage, after it all happened, to look for clues.

Of course, the Collective has long since digitized the tape, and I plan on going over the footage myself soon, since I already can see many parallels between the events of that night, and what happened with Phone.

That’s one weird thing about going through the old fragments – Phone’s is either in a lot of them, or he actually wrote them.  I love seeing him in his prime, but it’s also so terribly sad – I think Sasha was trying to give him a warning even then, a prophecy that no one could really understand.

In any case, if you have been following this blog for the past few weeks, I think you’ll get a lot of perspective from this fragment that Laura wrote.  It’s also a great way to keep track of who’s who in the Collective – Sasha publicly revealed the Numbers that night, namely:

Sasha – Number 0
Laura (Frisbee) – Number 1
A-Bell (Annabelle) – Number 2
Jenny – Number 3
Jo (Joan) – Number 4
Caroline – Number 5
April – Number 6
Susan – Number 7
Susanna – Number 8
Rebecca – Number 9
Elizabeth – Number 10
Isabel – Number 11
8-Track – Number 12

She clearly did this for the video’s sake – the numbers are actually the order that each woman was etched over the years, and brought into the Collective, with one important exception – A-Bell. I’ll come back to that later.

I think it may also help to better understand who was in what band, something that the fragments really don’t cover, so I wrote up this little summary:

Masking Tape (84-89)
Susanna – vocals/guitar
Isabel – Drums
Becky (used to be Betty) – vocals/bass
Doug – guitar

Intruder Alert! (85-88)
Joan Gordon – vocals/guitar
Circle X (m)  – guitar
69rpm (m) – drums
Caroline – everything (including bass)
(Joan and Caroline head their own label, 2nd Going).

Eskimo Guy (84-85)
Joan – vocals/guitar
Susan – drummer
3-Way Tie – bass, vocals
Plug – vocals/guitar
(splits and becomes Intruder Alert, Slow Cone, Vacuum Chamber)

Slow Cone (85-88)
Velcro – guitar/vocals
Susan – drummer/vocals
Gary – bass/vocals
Tina – guitar/vocals
Inches – keyboard.
Sister band to Intruder Alert!, also on 2nd Going. (Becomes Photocop, April is part of it).  Susan and Velcro don’t get along, temporary break up.  Get back together in 86.  Gary, Tina and Inches each go their own way.

Potato Power (85-88) (Flake)
April – vocals/guitar/cello
8-track – drums
Rebecca – bass
Elizabeth – vocals, violin
(April goes on to Photocop after breakup)

Vacuum Chamber (85-87)
3-Way Tie – vocals/bass
Plug – guitar/vocals
Alex – drums
Theo – trumpet

Fire Escape (86/87) (Flake)
April – vocals/guitar/violin
Joan – vocals/guitar
Susan – drums
Caroline – everything
A-Bell – clarinet/vocals.
The supergroup.

Jumpster (86-87)
Sasha – Keyboard/Vocals
Joan – vocals/guitar
Susan – drums

Fuck Traffic (87-91)
A-Bell – clarinet/guitar/vocals
Frisbee – vocals
Jenny – drums
Sasha – keyboard/vocals
The official antizine band.  First gig at the antizine headquarters.

Dust Lag (89-94)
Susanna (Masking Tape) – vocals/guitar
Rebecca (Potato Power) – bass
Elizabeth (Potato Power) – vocals/violin
Isabel (Masking Tape) – drums.
Masking Tape meets Potato Power.

Photocop (89-94)
April (Potato Power) – vocals/guitar/cello
Susan (Slow Cone) – drummer
Circle X (Intruder Alert!) – guitar
69rpm (Intruder Alert!) – 2nd drums
Theo (Vacuum Chamber) – trumpet

Suspender (89-94)
Joan – vocals/guitar
8-Track (Potato Power) – drums
Caroline – everything
Velcro (Slow Cone) – guitar

It might seem like trivia now, but believe me – how these 12 bands turned into the Collective is key to everything that’s going wrong now.

You may want to look two other fragments now, since they cover the bands in more depth:

antizine 5
Yard Stick Vs. Tape Measure

I’ll definitely come back to these later.

I’ve been paying extra special attention to Slide Rule School, the “orchestra” made out of the Collective members – I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but I have a feeling that something was going on that night, that rewinding the tape will never show.

Sasha OS has been mum about the whole thing – I get the feeling she likes to feel my brain squirm.

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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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