The Augmented World

The Augmented World – Doublebreeze

The City (obviously[naturally{of course}]) exists in many versions of reality. I don’t like the word “dimensions”, which you might have expected here. It’s too rigid, too quantifying. The City’s existence alongside these axes is much more fuzzy, much less clear than the word “dimensions” would allow; there are no manuals to all the different directions a street can bend within it. However, most (and by most, I mean “almost all save me, perhaps there’s someone else but I haven’t met them yet”) citizens of the City don’t interact with these realities beyond the possession of the knowledge that they exist, a faint awareness of the possibilities lurking just to the side of the cobblestones they know and love. Thus, any exciting tales of travel, whether through time (now there’s a “dimension”!) or the self or genealogy, any exciting ideas of alternatives, of a very safe jaunt into what-could-have-been, are snipped in the bud by the impossibility of access. The denizens of the City continue to live their singular lives, whether boring or exciting, without the thrilling possibility of encounter, of conflict, of friction that is generated when one faces choices they have made and perhaps should have made differently.

Except for on one street. Silver Street lies in the western part of the City, but not so close to the water that you’d call it a beachfront. Instead, it’s one of those winding paths you get in neighborhoods that used to be docks,  a narrow passageway which recalls warrens, carts plodding along and brisk commerce managed from the same houses in which the owners lived (every building was “mixed use” in the past, before the curse of modernism). On good days, when the wind was coming off of the waves in any measure, the smell of salt, fish and wood flooded its air. The people who lived on Silver Street were wholesome if not fancy, dotted with the odd protogentrifier, the smell of money but not too much money mingling with that of the salt/wood to create a weird scent that was not entirely uncomfortable. Now, the area had changed but not all for the worse. Not for the City clear divisions between good and bad, sharp lines in the sand/concrete, easy definitions of what does or doesn’t make sense. Eventually, while the traditional storefronts are all long gone, they were replaced by boutiques of many types, people trading either their niche crafts or the niche products made from said crafts, catering to those who frequented the area for its “charm” and “allure”. Oh, and in Silver Street the veil (“border” is much too tight a word, going well with “dimensions”, which I had earlier discarded) between realities is thin.

It isn’t thin enough to allow people to fall through. It wasn’t thin enough that Silver Street became a hub, a center from which spokes struck out to other realities, facilitating tourism of the oddest kind. No, it wasn’t thin enough for any of that but it is thin enough for oddities to assault the senses and often take those unaware (which again, as far as I know, was everyone but myself) on a heady trip through uncertainty, self doubt and double guessing as they muttered to themselves things like “Argent Street? Pretty sure I turned on to Silve…oh, that’s odd” or “My barbershop is gone! The City changes so fast these days. Oh! It’s…on the other side of Silver Street? What an amusing lapse of memory!” and so on, and so forth. It is thin enough to allow the odd thing to travel its loosely defined tundras and prairie lands (some of the realities had actual tundras and prairies, realities where the City had never come to be) such as small animals, trinkets, food, or even a peculiar smell or some other trick of the senses. Oh, and it also allowed those with the right knowledge, perspective and internal makeup (that is to say, me)  to ever so slightly push on the elusive ligaments of Silver Street and emerge in some other place.

Alright, I’ll cut the flowery structure and get to the point. My name is Edmond Doublebreeze. No, Doublebreeze is not my given surname. Yes, Edmond is my given first name. No, I won’t tell you what my actual surname is. Doublebreeze is what I mostly go by, a moniker I had selected for myself quite a few years ago to play a game with those around me, a game like a decidedly devilish criminal might play on the police before the clever detective comes along to defuse, a game whose central move was to hide who you were in plain sight. Ever since I can remember myself, I was the fulcrum of two, internal winds. Not mutually exclusive, they would often blow at the same time and mingle into a strange regiment of prevalent winds, a barometric map of my psyche. One isthe afternoon/evening breeze, an intoxicating thing blowing off of the sea the City resides on. It is a frivolous thing, like a child pregnant with the mythical knowledge awarded to children which is, at the end of the day, mystery. It leads me winding through the streets, heart full at the sight of a couple kissing, or a tree blooming, or shadow falling on the corner of the street like so, alighting everything by contrast.

Its fellow is, in a city which, again, does not suffer clear divides, a darker but not more malignant type of wind. It is the heavy wind of night, of pre-dawn, a stifling thing all jagged edges and whipping coattails. It sends me into a contemplative mood, a bloated melancholy that feasts on loops and internal speculation. And yet, I have done some of my finest work under its auspices, my eyes made sharp by the churning air, prickled to sensitivity by the acrid flavors of the latter wind. Why am I telling you all of this when you clearly care about Silver Street and its, for lack of a better term, magic? It is because these streams, these double breezes, somehow tie me to that street’s character. How? Don’t ask me; does the sailor know how the wind fills their sails? Of course they do but I’m not a sailor and none of this is a trade or science. It is just the way things are wired; when the breezes blow strongly through me, whether together or alone, I am inexorably drawn to Silver Street and its strange twists and turns and I can make that street twist and turn.

It’s nothing so conscious as those words might hint at; there is no will, no magus’s gesture. Often, when the winds are blowing especially strong and it feels like my fingertips might catch lightning, I don’t even notice I’m there, not to mention heading there. I stumble into the familiar square, where Silver Street adjoins with Coronation, and pass the wide-door’d knick knack shop that coronates Silver Street. I walk a few more steps, laughing or crying or shouting, and, suddenly, I am somewhere else. Once that transformation happens, the breezes disappear as suddenly as they came and my psyche is becalmed, left to motivate itself by its own devices. Usually, that’s not a problem; the alternative to Silver Street is motivation enough by itself. It’s not often dangerous (although some versions I’ve stumbled upon have contained some form of weird, urban violence) but it is always fascinating. The other Silver Streets don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s not a universe full of alternatives of just this one street! How dull would that be?

Instead, the entire world around Silver Street (now there’s a Jerusalem for you) is also alternate, different, reconfigured. Is it because of Silver Street? That is, is Silver Street somehow so important that any changes to it are reflected in the world around it? That thought depresses me and so I answer, to myself since who would I have this conversation with, in the negative. It’s just that every Silver Street needs a world within which to exist and thus, whatever malevolent hand set the world(s) in motion, gave it a place which corresponds to it. On the aforementioned Argent Street, the City is a small commune that lives on the trade generated by nearby apple orchards. On S.I.L.V.E.R St., the neighborhood is dominated by personality merchants who cut and tailor opinions and moods to suit their customers’ wishes for the day. On Sterling Alley, the people wall wear top-hots except for on the 23rd of April where they shower each other with books and gives children roses. On S Way, talk is only allowed in whispers and serifs are currency, the rich owning all the sharp sounds they might wish for. And, finally (and one of my personal favorites) on Mercury Drive, the lights are all inverse and they make the most beautiful paintings in the world.

“Doublebreeze must be rich”, you’re now probably thinking, my dear guest. “How is he living in this, frankly and not to be rude, run down apartment? He has probably traded on the riches of a million versions and made a fortune!” your head is telling you, in that behind-my-eyes voice we all have. But, my dear guest, the fact is that I am not rich, not in the way citizens of our own City think of wealth in any case. I have always had my eyes and ears and olfactory senses geared towards one thing and one thing only. When the breezes blow through me and make my gait light as ball lightning or ponderous as a pachyderm or a mixture of both (resulting in a lurching dance of sorts, one part of me flying through the air after my own heart while another drags itself into the dirt), they eventually take me to the ever-winding ways of Silver Street in search of only one thing.

Dessert. In all versions of Silver Street, like all things are different, there are desserts. There are patisseries and boulangeries and boutique stalls and family owned bakeries and glazers versed in the Seventy Arts of Cooking and wonderful alchemists that wield their science in the ever elusive search of culinary perfection. And I shop at all of their places of business and I take back with me that and only that; desserts. I am the knight of the buttressed cake, a duelist of the rarest Order of the Pastry, a marvelous baron in the byzantine court of desserts! And here, in this shabby apartment, living my not-quite-ordinary life in the prison of my double breezes, I, Doublebreeze, partake and store and catalog said desserts. Come, come my guest, up you go and do set aside that dreadful cup of coffee I make for those not initiated (for I have had this conversation with select citizens of our City before, because eating alone, and especially dessert, is boring) and follow me into the Solarium and gaze upon

Apple dumplings from Eastern Pennsylvania, shipped to Argentate Boulevard at ludicrous expense, sachertorte straight from the hands of Franz Sacher while Metternich calls in at 361 Bright Lane, kunefe from Acre, sweet as dreams, chajá from Uruguay so fresh it still remembers the green plains where its dairy came from purchased at quite a price on our very own Silver Street from a lady underneath a pecan tree, mamounia from Aleppo, cream-y surface steeped in the history of ages pilfered for a smile by me from a lovely gentleman with quite gentle hands on the turn of Pearl Avenue as it spills into the ocean, marzipan from Toledo, still ringing with the sugary love that made it, Saint Honore from the well-lit streets of the City of Light blessed by the touch of the Living Saint who still walks its cobblestones at night, whispering to chefs who come to speak with him from all over the world, and all sorts of cakes, donuts, pastries, chocolate, and delights besides and all of them sampled and returned here by me from the alternate versions of this City. Possessed by my winds, set alight by flickering fire and doused by unplumbed depths, I gallivant from place to place on an endless quest for the perfect Chalice, one which I complete again and again: a quest for dessert.

Now, my guest. Shall we eat? I feel a light breeze blowing from the sea, carrying with it magic and peace and sanity and pleasure. Come, let’s eat! The doublebreezes blow.

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The Augmented World

The Augmented World – Yggdrasil Rising

My personality is a tatter made of bits and pieces of other people. The wind is high in my ears as I step outside of the school, briefly chill before I hug my coat tighter around me; it smells of rain and far away places, maybe the hill I am on acts as some sort of geographical receptacle for other points in space. The sun is setting but it’s not dark yet. Magic hour. I collect parts of people’s personalities that I find beautiful, useful, or fitting (all words for the same thing) and attach them to my own. A tree towers above me and, even though I am not stranger to the sensation, I take special note. This memory will be carved into my narrative, I suddenly know. The chill is heightened by the way the leaves’ green tinges the shade thrown by the tree, pink light of the climaxing sunset scattered between the organic holes in its tapestry. It gets colder but I don’t move; the wind is still blowing. I am a hub; I am the connector of disparate memories, disparate monads, disparate holes in the tapestry of the universe that we call “perspective”.

In the south-eastern periphery of my sight, quite long during magic hour on a hill, lies the City and a tree towers over it. Ağaç Ana reaches its hands into the sky, holding it in place. I smile. My own tree seems smaller (which, like all trees, it is) by comparison and that makes it seem more intimate (which, like all trees, it is). I take a step towards it and the wind increases. It is decidedly cold now. As my personality broke around the hardest day of my life, I realized that in rebuilding it, I could not repeat the same mistakes of my youth; monoliths are too fragile. Hours I set and tried to plan my own self while it, of course, coalesced silently into this hub. The wind suddenly changes direction and the air is filled with pollen; the tree is blossoming in the middle of the snap freeze, an Indian Winter. I raise my chin slightly into the wind and let the air blow around me, drawing tears from my eyes that are then whisked away. The tree stands in the midst of a roundabout and, around us, is a town.

Starting to walk is hard but I manage it. I have appointments in the City, mechanisms of ritual that the social unit does not suffer delay in. My tree walks with me, in the sense that I never really leave it; I leave behind a part of me that I, perhaps, picked up a month or a week or a lifetime ago. The hub molts, periodically (do not ask me of the cycle, I don’t know) and is an agile thing. As more pieces of people are added, so too pieces leave. This is useful; I am in may places at once. The road, slightly in need of repair, curves down the semi-golden ranges of the hill, leading to a highway. A highway towards the City, naturally. I have appointments. Above me, closer now, Ashvattha encompasses the sky, its multitude of branches reaching to the stars themselves. Count them: Cygnus, Alshain, Zhinü ducking underneath the cover and spinning her threads which hand across her million siblings. Walking the road, my thumb out for the kindness of strangers, I hug my tree.

Lights stop and then accelerate again and, suddenly, I am moving much faster towards the City. I will make my appointments. “What do you do” asks a voice beside me. “I gather people’s lives and store them inside me, forever branching into my own firmament” I reply. They nod. “Yes, that sounds reasonable, good idea” they follow up and a warm silence stretches besides us. They can tell my tree is swaying in the wind and they respect that. The cobblestones of the roundabout are welcoming and I feel at home in this town, even though I know nothing of its pathways and alleys, don’t know how it feels on Saturdays, have never seen its park crowded with people, have not tasted its myriad ways of being. It, like all towns and people, is a hub.

In the south-east, Yggdrasil rises and eclipses, finally, the sun. I have appointments and so does the City. I have tasted its markets in full bloom; I know the gentle curves of street and sidewalk. The lights stop and with a “good day”, I depart. Breathing deep, I turn down the boulevard and smile at its shadows waving hello to me. Yes, my friends, I’m back but only parts of me; a part has been left behind. “Yes, of course” they say. They are practical, being shadows and boulevard shadows at that (the most practical of shadows). “You’re a hub”.

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Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo – Severance

The roof is shaped conically and made of strongly translucent glass, throwing the entire room into blue waves that play across the art-deco furniture, like so many children on blades of grass. It is hard to describe the emotions that fill her heart upon this return; she had spent so long in transit, in the surprisingly warm embrace of space, that seeing a scene so dynamic makes her a little bit queasy. That’s another thing which they don’t tell you about space: nothing much changes there. Not only the void itself is motionless, that’s almost too obvious, but ship life itself is monotone, mundane and nonfluctuating. When all that separates you from certain, swift death are thin walls, rickets, bolts and pressure valves maintained by fragile humans, routine has a calming effect. Even as a passenger, albeit a military one, Inerra was merely another set piece in the flow of the crew, something to be navigated around. Options were considered: could she be used as a gravitational slingshot, a motivational force or aid that would make a job faster? Or was she instead the gravity well of a heavy, gaseous giant, inhibiting a person’s drives, making them slower? That was all that mattered.

Now, unbelievably, she is in a room, alone. The luxury of solace, much deeper and more important than silence, is a thing too often taken for granted. Inerra closes her eyes, letting her empty kitbag, a mere formality of military ritual now, fall to the floor as she stretches out both her arms, slowly, gently. She isn’t taking in a specific emotion but the feeling itself, of being alone and unconcerned with others. It has been years since she felt; years since, groped at vaguely by a planet’s gravity, she had any time at all where she could be herself. Not in any psychological sense of false authenticity; Inerra crumples her nose at such a thought, something that her mother might adhere to in her pointless attempts at making sense of life. No, simply the ability to not be dependent and not be depended on. A solitary body, bound to no orbit or other, gravitational effects except the one too large to really be felt or imagined. She smiles briefly and then continues her survey of the room. Under the slight, blue waves (their reflected light originating from the nearby bay) which flood the apartment, lies satisfaction: cold, solid wooden floors, practical yet hospitable furniture and an immense bed that is everything she currently longed for.

Inerra is far away from home, the farthest one can get in many senses. Therefore, she had decided a while ago, lying in bed staring at the ceiling of the Nihil Sub Sole Novum, that she would become her own home; an island of ideas, emotions, and thoughts that she could relate to. A self sustained system, like the efficient drive of the ship that had undulated quietly beneath her. It wasn’t going well so far, as much as she’d like to tell herself otherwise. She doesn’t quite feel lonely at the moment (the hotel room and its many familiarities help with that) but she isn’t at home with herself, a turn of phrase which pleases her vaguely among the general disquiet she is now feeling. Perhaps that, oxymoronically, is the best way to describe what is going on inside her: disquiet. As if something is stirring in the back of her mind, feeding off the empty spaces that still exist there, having been birthed either when the ship had left Episcopal or, strangely, as her skipper had decelerated towards this very planet. As if, somehow, by longing for solace, she had also birthed an aversion to it; the strong, sleek passion mirrored by an equally powerful repulsion.

She understands now, in this blue-washed room on a planet that doesn’t mean much to anyone who matters, that she has lied to herself. All those mornings (and nights) spent walling herself off from the others on the ship. Letting only transients, men and women who had come to the ship with the express goal of leaving it soon, into her bed and into her body. Stretching her arms far in front of her, coating herself in the faint lie that she would rather be alone. Now, she sighs as she folds into a nook that overlooks the recently nameless city that stretches out below the conical window that makes up one of her walls. Now, she is filled with a creeping dread that is all too cliche, a sensation which she tries to combat and fails, a knowledge that what she had sought outside of her mother’s planet and home was really waiting back there all along and was now lost. She scoffs slightly before sleep takes her, exhaustion from the last stretch of her travels finally taking hold. She scoffs at how boring that sounds, like a green-behind-the-ear jumper muttering about adventure over their first beer. She scoffs as her eyes close.

Later, in the humidity drenched streets of the port city, Inerra is lost. Not a geographical quandary nor a simpler, locally spatial one. Instead, her eyes are lost, disjointed from the purpose of her self. They flicker here and there, seemingly trying to drink in the street. There’s not much to sate her visual thirst: the streets are mostly empty, this being the middle of the night, housing only the broken effigies of lives that had once made sense. Coerced via the inescapable, and yet wholly imagined, vector of will, they used to make striking figure as they cut through the stream of life, the wide river of possibility. Now, they are still, decrepit husks of ocean fearing vessels that litter the wide bay that is the city. Inerra walks among their detritus, mixing with that of urban living, much like they themselves; un-tethered, cut loose from purpose, made to await a cue that she had no preconception of but of which she would instantly know. Her hands move slightly, back and forth, as she paces, lost in the memory of the last time she had been here.

She had felt a similar disconnection then but it came from a wholly different souce. Still on her initial vector, heading like a spear of fate deeper and deeper into space, she had been filled with the unexpected shock of exploration. It had pushed everything from inside of her, like a wounded space hulk venting what was left of its artificial air. This had been just a short stop, a stepping stone on a journey farther and farther away from all sorts of things. It had been different times for the city as well, times now lost as a faint, chronological way-point in the deep annals that is, by now, on par with that of her own lifetime. As the disparity between the years she had actually lived and the years that had passed grew deeper, recollection of places and events seemed more and more inherently absurd. Regardless, the city had seemed to her to be more than just a center; it was a hub, a place where so many ideas, words and beliefs changed countless hands, mouths, and ears each minute. Which was, of course, why it fell. Or so her H1F files told her, commonplace artifacts for traverses of the inky deeps. No one ever got past H1 but not more was needed in order to comprehend the historical tragedy of this place. Bullet-point after bullet-point had fired before her eyes as she descended the atmosphere, extolling crackdowns, Artery Law backlashes, ostracization and, finally, the ultimate punishment the Heart could levy against anyone: severance.

Left to drift in the coldness of space without a network, surrounded only by the silence that is most of reality, the city had slowly decayed. Now, Inerra walked where once ideas raced, subtly perplexed at the slow fever with which concepts were now discussed. But of course, she knew why; the first lesson you learn in space, the first lesson that the Heart taught, the first lesson that made anything go, was connectivity. Not a mystical action from afar, not a synchronicity that tied existence into ebbs and flows. No, this connectivity was wholly human but not less powerful; wholly artificial but all too innate, lying as it did underneath all things that aspired to movement. The teacher, the space-farer, the soldier, the pilot, the politician, the lover, the artist, the lawyer, they all needed one thing: context. Most civilizations realized this well before they went to space but in taking that first step out there they learned the second, more terrible lesson. In the universe, context is the exception, not the rule. Adrift in a blankness beyond words, all human ideas, constructs, and emotions fade into nothing, launched into a place that had never known, and thus could never accommodate, their foundations.

Deadspace, depression, The Haze, dedetox, Mercurial, every culture that had ever went out there had a name for the creeping dread that overcame all who traveled the inky waters. Adrift on lack of time, on the death of genealogy and, therefore, the death of culture, a million million civilizations slowly faded. Flaring again and again, humanity tried to grasp on to something out there, to make sense, a sense which would act as a node for their network of connections. Like so many bacteria in their petri dishes, they would reach out spores and seem to thrive for a cosmic moment or two before their center gave in under the lack of context and died as quickly as it appeared. Such collapses rang across human space with the threat of collateral, technology, weapons, finances, and people spiraling out of the relative restraint of civilization. Often, such collapses destabilized other hubs of humanity, initiating a deadly chain reaction. Thus humanity clung to existence in the void, until the answer came, until the answer rang out across the metaphorical skies and, slowly, over millennia, overtook them all. Where there was alone, there was now together. Where there was freedom, a freedom too cold to breathe, there was now Law. Where there had been violence, a desperate attempt to force context on the universe, there was now Language. Together, these two forces reshaped everything, including places like the ones Inerra now walked through. But the answer itself only had one name, even if that name reverberated and came back to everyone in many forms. There was only one name and that name was Heart.

Back in the now of things, Inerra starts to fade into the urban backdrop. Her mind races, vision distorted into the perspective of recollection. Thoughts of the Heart and the civilization which pulsates through and enables Human Space metamorphose into thoughts of her own motivations, objectives and fears. Out there, on the sleek Nihil Sub Sole Novum, en-route once again via the twisting roads in space the Heart had made, things had appeared clearer; she needed to disconnect and what better place was there for that then this once illustrious node, this planet and its two cities cut adrift? As the ship decelerated towards the planet, Inerra had dug deeper into the files, rows on rows of data which even flash before her eyes when she closes them, as if etched on the back of her eyelids. She’s gone off the beaten path, deeper into the ultimate dejection the city’s dying throes spread across all space. Why had she drunk so deep from the well of knowledge? What was she looking to know?

Obviously, why they had sent her on her mission. On the brink of severance, when the bell of the planet’s doom was already rung and they were just waiting for its echo, they had sent for her. A bleak message, asking for an even bleaker thing, had flashed across her work-space. Many questions: why her how had they known where she was how had they known she would go why did she go why did she do what they had asked why destroy something so large, so uncaring, so meaningful? All these cascade in Inerra’s mind once again, as they had when she had been alone, in front of a computer screen flashing with an impossible request, a litany of doubt which loops and loops and has looped for objective decades/subjective weeks as she had sped back and inwards and into the past, hands shaking now and then as the mental barricades she had set eroded underneath what she had done. To an outsider, to an impossible someone from out of the Heart, out of the Language and Law which made existence possible, her actions wouldn’t seem as that drastic; knowledge hidden here, information exposed there. From her own little terminal she set out to shift little pebbles, nudge them into a position where potential energy (purely theoretical of course and more social than physical) would be better poised to turn kinetic. Little packets that had been given to her, attached to the selfsame hopeless message, silver bullets crafted from a knowledge of history and genesis which no one should have had which was, in fact, impossible.

These bullets were even now making their way through the target’s body, the consequences of her actions were even now ringing out across Human space, echoing along the networks which made it possible. Now, as she walks through the blighted city towards the border between it and its sister, her mental defenses collapsing from sheer, internal pressure, Inerra imagines how those reverberations might unfold. Her packets would be discovered by system administrators, curious scholars, random netkids, and all other manner of those who dwell in the network. At first, it would be discarded; the story would be too old, too preposterous (empire from nothing, Language from death, Law from misunderstanding). They would wave it away and discard it into their drives, halting its trajectory from further accelerating through the invisible filigrees of civilization. But enough strains would go on, forwarded automatically or with a flippancy in writing, a careless shrug of characters and protocols.

At some point, someone would take it seriously. Someone would glean the ring of truth vibrating in the words and be shocked. Reeling backwards in their chair/console/creche, they will start spreading it in earnest. From screen to screen, from code to code, the truth of the Heart’s genesis will spread and its inherent paradox unleashed on its members. Was the story true? Enough of it was. Enough of it struck fast and deep, as Inerra soon discovered after reading it, after editing it, after sending it out. Enough of it explained many things which the lofty executors of the Heart’s will had never bothered explaining. In the wake of its blow, what? Nothing more and nothing less than what surrounds her now. Severance. Dejection. Nihilism. Unraveling. Severance, of the basic ties which held Human space together, foolishly predicated on the ability to speak and be understood. Dejection, of and from the Law that was so well founded on those aimless words. Nihilism, as the void which was kept back by culture floods in when shared truth collapses. Unraveling, of everything that had been propped to stand the test of time.

She, of course, didn’t even think for a moment about blaming those who had contacted her. There was no context for such an accusation, nothing small enough for a human mind to cling to and twist into a grudge. Set loose, cut free, floating away, an entire civilization was not only doomed but exposed on the cliffs of the universe, a child (as all human civilizations often are in the face of the ever-aging sage which is the universe) left bereft of all shelter, some deformity not of body as in days of old but of culture, of habit, of language, sentencing it to a lonely death. That might sound excessive, since all death is, essentially, lonely but there are types that are even lonelier, when the individual is left outside the campfire, outside the circle of light. There is no greater need for that fire, for that demarcation of us and it, then there is in space. And so, dying, terrified of the night, they had done all that they could and reached out to her. Not the hare trapped and gnawing on its own foot to get out but the hare confined by its very existence, every breath containing the bitter chill of the vacuum, a hare that is a lacking metaphor for an entire civilization trapped on the fringes that just reaches for anything, for something to do, for something that isn’t stillness.

Inerra looks at her hands and back at the city around her, now shimmering silver as she heads into its sister, back to the same hotel room she had left but also a different one. Back into a mirror, a silver staircase that she hadn’t dared take the last time she was here. It promised answers, introspection, understanding of self. She is ready now. Here, the results of unraveling are perhaps even harsher. The rings which surround the world in this iteration are slower than they were when she was last here, less filled with the brimming commerce of vehicles that had made their engines run. The streets themselves seem fainter, people tottering side to side. Not drunk, or at least not on any material substance, stricken with befuddlement by a force thousands of light years away. Stricken with the more precise version of what she had unleashed when she uploaded those files. Now, faced with the results of the cruelty of her target, mental defenses were long gone and Inerra’s psyche began working on the true bulwark of personality: moralism.

This was her excuse after all, what she had told herself (without hearing it, of course, since she spoke in her most internal voice, the voice which speaks with suggested suggestions, hints of hints and premonitions of maybe feeling something in a few seconds) as she had set in motion a plague which she knew too well, as she reverse engineered the hair of the dog that bit her into the dog itself and let it slip its leash, let it fly its kennel, let it run amok in the chicken coop that was human space. The arithmetic of cause and effect, of punishment and justice, the chains of worth and retribution, the silk shackles of consent, had all helped her move her hand and press the trigger, releasing her tiny, tiny bullets/packets on their civilization killing course.  Here, now, standing in this shadow city which was all too real, those petty reasons fell away. In that moment, swaying through streets familiar to her (as she had just, moments ago, walked their mirror) towards her un-hotel, swaying in beat with the others around her, stricken by the same internal malaise, she would take it back if she could. But that, of course, was impossible. The moving finger had made its always-final pass and no tears nor prayers could reverse even one flashing line, even one sickly, green line of code with which she had executed this most final of sentences.

Lastly, as her hands fumble on the un-door leading to her un-room in her un-hotel, Inerra (or rather, the sleeping part that was un-Inerra, the sister city which lives inside all of us, hazy streets mirroring our waking hours, faintly faded structures which echo our “conscious” thoughts, our inherent sibling, our unconquerable territory, our Tír na nÓg of meaning, yawing doors of not only ignorance but of the terrible knowing of things which we’d rather not to know and which therefore get squashed into the basement of our edifice) reached the volta do mar of the soul, the clasping of the snake on its own tail. Nothing left to burn by itself, surrounded by people so dejected (now outside the room but very much present nonetheless) that empathy barred even the vent of external blame, all argument corrosive to its own foundations, in that moment and place the psyche realizes that there is no one else to blame, realizes, truly, deeply, that there never was anyone else to blame but itself.

Inerra opens the kitbag that she had carried into the room with her in the original city. It had been empty. Now, inside, there is a gun.

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Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo (Interlude): Stars Serenading

They won’t think back on us, those that come after. Too obsessed with the night’s weight which will push down on their brains, they won’t remember all the little things which made up the fabric of our every-day. They won’t spare a second for the rich textures and smells of our cities, they won’t think back on me leaving my mother’s house and walking a narrow pathway in the dark towards the slightly rusty (sorry mom) gate that leads to the front yard, on my way home before leaving for two months to a city which echoes with the boundless lives of millions.

 

Some of them will think back on us, curious weirdos siphoned in some bulkhead on a frayed liner hauling rocks from this outpost to the next. Pouring over screens which echo green in the minor darkness floating inside the greater darkness, their bloodshot eyes will flicker over lines and lines of text that do everything but describe how things are for us. They’ll feign understanding and nod with empathy at patterns whose distorted loops ever so slightly nudge their own out of place. We’ll be their profession, those few of them, the touch of a hand across a cheek sagging with Earth’s gravity (chokehold/bosom), a fact imprinted, a ritual reported, a gesture examined.

 

They’ll all think back on us, buses weaving in and out of the textile of their past, trying to track down the weft which led them to where they are, on a fast(er) trajectory away from sun, from Sol, from Earth, from Cuiviénen, from an imagined lake in the shade of mountains that never existed. They’ll all think back on us, event horizons, disaster thresholds which sent them careening on a slingshot towards their future, their own explosive terminus. Our decisions, our fates, our worries, they’ll all be counted by all of them as the ultimate rear view mirror reflects a fading prison/home, an ever decreasing perspective and peace and pain and heart’s blood.

 

They won’t think back on us. Some of them will think back on us. They’ll all think back on us. I know, because we’re doing it right now, to those who came before: sailors, soldiers, rapists, slave owners, traders, artists, holy people, women, men, children, filth, beggars, traitors, patriots, boring people, fascinating people, houses, carriages, flags, flags, flags, fire, night, morning, bread, oil, meat, spears, chains, freedom, hope, despair, failure, brilliance. We don’t think back on them. Some of us think back on them. We all think back on them

 

the gaps get larger and larger and we spiral in place, gathering momentum for a shift, an expulsion into space/across space, a metamorphosis of wings, a head first dive into a sable deepness from which there is no extraction, a slowing down of thoughts, of ship’s engines, a cerebral hum that engulfs perception, a solar anxiety that hurtles perspective backwards even as tools for understanding (binding words) unravel at the edges and lost descriptiveness, even as the point of egress unwinds further and further back, all perceived continuum of a thing called “human” escaping us it borders (once thought absolute and inherent) collapsing under the night’s weight, pushing down on our brains, erasing a face in the sand drawn in chalk, erasing “heritage” and “clan” and “memory”, leaving so many by the wayside, ending so much fire, so much light, language losing its touch, orbits losing their impetus, lights fading behind us, engines roaring ahead, lives decaying behind us, stars unfolding ahead, stars beguiling before us, stars serenading

Context
Background
Legend

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The Augmented World

The Augmented World – The Complete Garden

She sits in The Complete Garden with the stars singing out the names she had given them above her. Around her, trails bend and weave, quartering grass into discrete, endless segments. Within this fertile, contained, expansive space, dozens of communities thrive. She sits apart. Here, a few friends plant future promises, delving hands deep into the warm soil, a mutual handshake that’s been going on for millennia. There, a loosely defined pack of people hover around a clearly defined group of dogs, brought together by their need of ritual, of shared similarity. Smiling, these things wash over her as she waits for him. They would have washed over her anyway; her lack of motion is not subservience, not a change in routine in favor of a stronger other. It is simply an augmentation, like so much of her life has become now that she had him. Calmly, her days flexed, familiar time stamps and footmaps expanding to encompass this new thing that was coming to life between them. For now, The Complete Garden held her hand and pulsed with her breaths, expanding with the smell of evening citrus and contracting with a soft, cool, autumn breeze.

Above her, the stars sing the names she had given them. A whirl of constellations, a blizzard of choirs, their silver voices dance among the trees and their rough, welcome barks. At times, she paces, circumnavigating The Complete Garden with familiar ease. Of course, inevitably, the question creeps into her mind: “what makes this The Complete Garden?”. She knows that the very nature of the question is futile, its motivations moot and sterile from birth. However, the machinations of asking questions, the settling of mental muscles into well-worn, cerebral grooves, attracts her. It was she, after all, who had named this place The Complete Garden (silut in the magical intonations that made up her personal, universal dictionary). That day was not much different than today except that the sense of wholeness had not yet settled upon the place, reaching supporting hands to give The Garden its own, prehensile abilities.

Was that it? Was this The Complete Garden because it reached out to its visitants, not content with staying passive like its other, tellurian sisters? Perhaps. The idea certainly had its attractive symmetry but the fact remained that whatever responsiveness The Complete Garden now possessed had come after the naming and, thus, could not be its motivation. Such simple laws of causation still stood in The City, although for how long none could tell. Her brow furrows slightly at the idea and at the implicit, subtle, accusing finger pointing from inside of it. After all, was her naming not often in defiance of other rules The City held as fundamental? Did she not break the precious real with her very voice, every syllable uttered against the tapestry of understandings that made up the corpus of contracts called The City (a city)?

Perhaps but what did that matter in the face of such beauty? Furrows now gone, her face lights up in a smile as she notices the children at play, more infinite fields unfolding in their minds than any Complete Garden could ever hope to contain. Her eyes wander across the multiple ponds The Complete Garden contains, waters reflecting the astral litany being sung from above. She wonders how, with their sharp hearts and emphatic relationships, her fellow sojourners in The Complete Garden cannot hear their melody. She could change that of course, she knows, with but a few names sprinkled here and there. But the warm itch across her shoulders which signifies such an event is not upon her and she has learned to trust her body with these things. After all, were not the tongue and the heart which did the naming a part of the body? Most assuredly. And besides, he was coming and her new rhythm urged her to conserve her strength.

She had never taken him to The Complete Garden before today. In some ways, The Garden was her place, an island where her work flowed most vividly. The entity which was The Garden now, having been named, felt so close, so familiar, that she hesitated to share it with any others. This thought brought another assault of furrows; it was not in her nature to hoard. Even when she worked the Orange Market she was forthcoming and welcoming, traits that were among the most precious resources in a market offering everything except decency. In that regard, The Complete Garden was perhaps the opposite of the Market and, alongside her own abode, her own fortress of shadows, was where she felt most at home in The City. That was, she knew, not a feat to be disregarded. The body urbane was home to many castaways, shunted off from the main flow of things by their own aberrations, their own rhythmic inconsistencies. Staying with the community was a balancing act of firmness and suppleness, a give and take of everyday life which could determine your fate for years to come.

And now, she was bringing someone into one of her modal cores, a thrumming beat at the heart of the percussive symphony that was her personality. That was dangerous, for everyone, but doubly so for a Namer. For what are Names if not specific cadences, spoken by tongue and heart in measured signatures? The furrows increase; perhaps this was a mistake. She once again looks around her and feels the warmth exuding from every bend of trail, every cry of play, every soft, murmured, constant humdrum of small community and she is suddenly not sure if she wants to share all of this with him. A bench presents itself at the right time, buckling slightly beneath her weight, burdened as it is by by-now dire contemplation, and she takes it without noticing. The smell of eucalyptus increases around her. Her hands are drumming against the wood, a hollow cadence that rings out only around her but where it is heard, leaves no thing the same.

Which is, of course, her answer. She is not the cadence, nor the fingers drumming. She is not the warmth of The Complete Garden nor is she The Garden itself. She is not the stars, whirling in their dervish dances in the sky, crying out their names. She is not the hands going into the dirt, welcomed warmly back to a contract signed by her ancestors. She is not the small community, nor the humdrum, nor the children at play. She is not even the bending paths, the trails carved into The Complete Garden, segmenting it into discrete parts. She is not, of course, the trees and their ugly, welcome bark or the shade beneath their leaves or their smells, so comforting to aching minds. She is not him or her or a floating piece of rhythm against a common stream of stage directions called society. Nor is she, indeed, the totality of this and its meaning, she is not, after all, The City.

No. She is the wood. She is the substance against which all of this strikes and drums and the Names are the beautiful music born between those things, sweet music born of conflict and meeting. And that gives her no small measure of freedom. The furrows are gone. She sits back in the bench, comfortably ensconced by its structure as only the body can ensconce the self, perfectly fitting and yet not at all there. She is the wood and suddenly he is there and his arms drum against her skin as he greets her and she smiles.

“Hey. I’m Elhar. I believe we’ve never met before, although you might remember otherwise. Will you walk with me in The Complete Garden and tell me who I am?”
“Hey Elhar. I named you, so I feel slightly affronted, but certainly, I will walk with you. But how will I know who you are and how will I tell you when I know?”
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll tell you when”.

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The Augmented World

The Augmented World – Enshrine

The fecund smell of dates assaults my nose as I make study of the night. Long robes of white against me, faint shelters against a deep sky, are wrapped across my knees. I am perched; my chin almost reaches over the railing of the balcony, swirling iron giving precious, and hard won, comfort to my face. Oscillation Tower, my home, sways in clashing fronts of falling and rising winds. This is the autumn-spring, an in between indistinguishable from all other in betweens. You remember the beauty of her face, you’ve enshrined it. The wind is blowing softly, softly, singing faint hymns against the skin of my cheek. I am perched; my eyes survey the city, as the nose basks in the rich rot of dates, and its streets which never end. In these regards I am perfect for the season, the spring-autumn, an accessory well worn for the mood, theme and setting of the climate.

I contemplate turning, for just a moment, but a loud noise from the street below re-holds my attention. A band of youngsters, drunk on an abundance of time, their social nerve ends fraught from an expected catharsis. Some of them wheel side to side, bottles clenched hard in whitening knuckles, an easy going, nervous energy to them. Others are fumbling in each other’s embraces, eager lips attempting to communicate the now, the urgency, the death that’s coming, the release that’s needed as a dike to stem it. You remember the awe of her hair, you’ve enshrined it. As they pass beneath my balcony, sound increasing, I draw a deep breath and take a hold of their scent. It fills me. It enriches me. It turns me into a part of the scene and a part of my memory drifts into it, summoned by familiar traces: trees, wind, humans, sweat, alcohol, dog shit, pavement, neon, sleep for most but not for all of us.

There is a Namer’s touch to them. One of them is related to her, the girl who with a touch and a soft spoken word has changed my life. You recognize her grace, you’ve enshrined it. Here, atop Oscillation Tower, the City in which she resides still escapes me. But her touch is on one of them; perhaps it’s the girl with the frayed pants, knees peeking like submarine eyes on stems, clutching at her other so brightly. With her firm, prehensile grasp she seems to make her realer, as if her kisses anoint personhood, as if her encompassing, needy love describes her objective boundaries like the sea describes a cliff and the woman in her arms exists more for being kissed by such lips. Definitely her touch on her; the power of reality is the power of Names, and in this City she is the source of syllables.

Kfevic. In a half stumble my ears processed the words as I turned, a green park all around. I was sure I was alone but there she was, enshrined in chopped up light. Smiling at me, lightly touching my elbow and saying “kfevic”. I had never heard the word before, not in all the blazing banks and  dusty repositories of Oscillation House but I knew instantly what it meant. “Observer”. Supposedly detached, expectedly emphatic, pathetically imagining myself to be more than what I studied and humanely unable to resist sympathy. Observer. She spoke my being in a few moments and then pushed on, spices on her back and a destination on her mind, her knees in between the three and carrying the first closer to the second via the third. She named me and moved on, leaving me to stand in my own existence, splayed out in the fading light of a summer afternoon, as summer was dying.

It’s autumn-spring now and the coolrushofcoldwater that is existing hasn’t left me yet. I’m more present than before, the contours of my body not ending in a world I’d like to imagine as other. Instead, it’s all a blur and I realize that I’m faintly leaning over the balcony, wanting to join the extrovert bodies below me, wanting to scream wildly and dance and kiss. I draw back. You remember her touch, you’ve enshrined it. Deep breaths run across my esophagus, cooling my insides that would propel my outsides, cooling the kfevic resounding in my head, cooling the implications of being an observer that would use me to become realized. That would have me live out their story, that would have me live out my name. Harshly, I finally turn around, the sound of their revelry now fading down the street, the sound of my own breathing increasing around me. I shut the door of Oscillation House, leaving out the spring-autumn, leaving out the street, leaving out the rotten smell of dates. Bringing in myself and my existence and the power of a Name that’s burning inside me, as much as I would like to be rid of it. Back to the banks and the repositories, back to knowledge and the dissection of lineages, back to a bird’s eye view of a living map that won’t stop churning. Back to Oscillation House and the torpor of detached thought with the Name burning inside me as a contrast, an oscillation of being between what I am, who she says I am and how much I have no idea, not even a faint lead, of reconciliation.

I remember her voice. It has enshrined me.

 

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The Augmented World

The Augmented World – The Ritual of Sight

The thick, soft velvet of the Officers’ Court is like an island unto itself in the thick, musky dust of the Spice Markets. The orange particles of who-knows-what which swim in the crowded alleys bow to its fabric like so many courtiers, innately recognizing the authority which stems from military might blended with nobility. The hands which call the broad sleeves home, infrequently shaded by their cloth and then cast into light by the afternoon sun, flicker adeptly over the materials on display in the Markets: spices yes, but also rarer cloth than even the officer’s coat, delicate foods and flesh. They are strong and skilled, somehow warm in their prehensile strength, the hands of one who is both a warrior and an orator, who uses hands to cut the life from bodies but who also uses them to undercut the rhythm of one’s words. The hands lead upwards to muscular arms, broad shoulders and a gait which broadcasts, effortlessly, complete ownership and command of the situation and the people within the situation.

The hidden/seen contours of the arms, buried as they are underneath all that cloth but also so powerful as to defy obscurity, lead the eye up to the collar where three golden chevrons lie, dotted with silver stars. These tell a story which takes place far from the Spice Markets and the City which houses them. The chevron’s fine, definitive lines speak of a career spent in exile, training for a goal which the trainers feared. They speak, in their golden punctuation marks and sure, firm weave, of one who had identified the silent beat of such a life from the first day. Eyes coldly surveying the fateful scene replayed across a dozen dozen bases, camps and drafting points, that one’s mind had instantly deciphered it all, the discrete relationships of power and oppression which made the body called “military” run. It rightfully discerned the threat in the veteran’s gaze,  and it swiftly broke apart the fears, motivations and emotions of one’s fellow draftees and cataloged them for future use.

It did all this without even noticing it, the forward parts of it which understood things awash in the terror of separation and change. Of all of this and much more sang the golden chevrons, expanding their tune to encompass not only that one but also countless others who had worked alongside them. Their melody extolled ranks, platoons, units, regiments, divisions, whole systems of knowledge and reality designed to make things the same, to erase differences and make sure that unity and the military ontalogy prevailed. They sang of other necks, other shoulders, other strong, impossibly thick arms which led to hands so gentle as to almost make you forget their danger as they sorted through dried fruit at the Spice Markets, with the afternoon sun making particles of the air and the streets ringing with the shouts of the hawkers. They made sure, the chevrons did, that you did not forget that the one which stood before you now, back slightly turned to your gaze as if always on defense, even from spectators, that one was not unique. They were privileged but not singular; many others bore their chevrons, their careers, their memories, their understandings. Their catalogs. And all those mental catalogs were slightly different but quite the same, said the chevrons.

The silver stars sang a bittersweet counterpoint to all of this. They, more scarce in their existence, told discrete stories for the onlooker who spoke their language, the language of heraldry, communal memory and the intricate relationships which existed between them. To such a savvy onlooker, they told of personal sacrifices, missions undertaken and goals achieved which were personal and non-obvious, each one placed on one’s shoulders willingly, without command. They spoke of the City’s Walls, blue-green usually in their metallic somnolence, deep red with the blood of invaders who had crashed upon their ligaments, flesh made from men and women like the one who stands before you. The silver stars chant of the mechanic ease with which those same arms which brought you to gaze upon such astral decoys then rose and fell upon the building blocks of a new bridge, one which would connect the City and a far away, long lost settlement. They whisper, mumble and babble about all such things to the onlooker with the language to listen.

The eyes which do such skillful gazing are, however, beginning to show some hesitation, a slight flicker to their so-far hungry exploration. They know that now, with the deep channels of the arms explored, the broad plains of the shoulders excavated, the towering monument of the neck explained, only one destination remains for their hunger to feast upon. In that realization, that selfsame hunger collapses on itself, avidly attempting to battle the ocular momentum it had, just before, fed constantly with the need for knowledge, trapped forever in the ritual of sight. It knows, this hunger and the onlooker which serves as merely the host to its base intentions, that the only place left to go is the face and it is afraid of what it would find there. Far beyond the songs of chevrons, well past the storytelling of embroidered stars, it knows it will find pain, fear, defeat, horror and resignation, as it has found every time in the faces of the City’s “citizens”, if that moniker even fits any of them anymore.

This shock of disappointment, this death of hope is what it had come here originally to avoid, why it had drifted so avidly to this one, this seemingly unbreakable bastion of the City, made flesh by years of order, years of obeying order (and orders). It hoped, and its host hopes, convincing itself that it and not the hunger was the progenitor of this observance, to finally find conviction in this broken place and now it fears that disappointment awaits it once again. And so it does, but not in the sense which it had imagined, not in the sense which, born from failure as it was, it could ever have imagined. The eyes finally have their way, as they always will, momentum cresting over the moment and a slight wind turning the officer’s cheek ever so slightly in their direction, the afternoon light flinging golden unmasking on the face’s features. And in it blazes that same conviction which the hunger had convinced itself that it sought, that it had chased, through the onlooker, for so many years, bright and mighty and self absorbed. Through their eyes, the officer speaks all there is to know about the songs of chevrons, the chasms of secure arms, the mesas of bulwark shoulders. Their cry glory and honor and the faultless assurance that all is right and so long as the City stands nothing can really be wrong.

And the hunger screams and shrivels and burns in the light of such conviction, consumed by victory.

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