Ättestupa

Dedicated to Ari Aster’s Midsommar.

Dani stands at the top of the mountain.

She’s marked the rune stone with her passing, like so many others. Pelle, she knows, is behind her doing exactly the same thing. He has taken the blade across his palm, as she had done, as they had done together. After meeting their meal with the Hårga, they rose to their feet around the high table, pausing, breathing in … Dani still marvels at being able to actually breathe, even after all this time, no longer choking on grief, and pain, and suffering. No longer denying her needs, or embracing her isolation, or clinging to that old sense of incredible fear and self-loathing.

It is just her now. It is her, and Pelle, and the Hårga. Their family. Her family.

It was all a choreograph. Dani can appreciate that. And it had started long before she had ever been found by Pelle, before he befriended her and Christian, and his friends. It even transcended the festival: the ritual that brought them all together almost fifty years ago now. Even before her sister had killed herself, and their parents Dani felt different, felt separate from the daily routines of others, held aloof by fear and anxiety for her sister’s well-being, second-guessing her feelings with her friends, terrified that she was somehow spreading her own neuroses to her relationships — to Christian at the time — and telling herself to be grateful, merely grateful, of being tolerated by Christian’s friends, and an academic environment on a path going nowhere. She found her places in grief and despair. She found herself in the muted places after her family had died, placing her pain in bathrooms, quietly in her bed, away from all the people that simply couldn’t relate to it — or to her — and trying to pass, to always pass as normal and carry on the rote and rut of whatever passed as social existence in North America.

She had talked to Pelle all about it. She had opened up, like the flowers she wore as May Queen — the most beautiful and miraculous May Queen in the Hårga’s history according to the rather unbiased opinion of Pelle — and she realized that she had her own observations, her own legitimate concerns, and her opinions as well. It occurred to her now, standing on the mountaintop, just how much the place she came from didn’t understand grieving. Dani still recognizes that there is some merit to privately dealing with loss, to knowing it as part of the core of one’s identity as an individual. Recognizing one’s mortality, and limits, and the fact that all things are transitory is something that differentiates a human being from the animals. But human beings, Dani recognizes, are still social animals. They are still storytelling creatures. They look for meaning. They make their meaning. And, at their greatest, they made their meaning together.

Western society, Pelle told her once, had forgotten what is was like — as a majority — to have a place for publicly accepted grief. And she agrees. Even now, standing here, with the altitude of the air cooler than before Dani recalls her elective classes. While Christian had been the anthropology student, and poor Josh had been even more dedicated to the field — costing him everything for the sake of curiosity, consumed by personal greed — as Dani told Pelle once, she had been a psychology student. Psychology, she remembers with a faint smile on her face, not psychiatry, her introduction to mind-altering and receptive substances introduced to her by Pelle, and their family. Sigmund Freud had been terrified of “the occult,” some texts had attested, to the point of going into shock around his students, overwhelmed by the possibility of its tides “consuming Western civilization,” or some similar kind of sentiment. But Freud was the product of his time and place, a man scared of losing control and being taken over, being shamed.

There is a sweet spot, Dani knows, between psychology and literature, philosophy and myth, the curved bridge of her nose and her forehead according to Pelle’s lips, and spontaneity and the dance. One of Dani’s elective classes at college had been about World Literature. She recalls one work they had to read: a German novella called Tonio Kröger. It had been written by Thomas Mann, where his protagonist of the same name as the title attempts to understand the bourgeois society he was born into: understanding their workings, feeling superior to them, even pitying them, but ultimately being envious of their ignorance of what they were, and to what they participated themselves. But what Dani remembers the most isn’t Tonio, but the scene with the dance and the girl with the dark hair among many blonde girls and boys that tried to move like them, tried to express herself like them, tried to dance like them … and failed.

Despite her pale blonde hair and bright green eyes, Dani knew she had been that girl, deep down, and just didn’t understand that then. Not really. She just didn’t take it seriously. In a performative culture, of any kind, it was just another role, another persona. Carl Jung, Freud’s student, contemporary, and eventual rival had interlap with Thomas Mann in ideology if not personal acquaintance. Jung recognized the importance of culture and mythos as more than simply the supremacy of the phallic over the feminine, as more than just the mindless, black mud of the occult. He saw vitality in the old symbols and archetypes. He saw life.

Just a few minutes ago, Dani had looked in Pelle’s eyes down below around the table with their loved ones. She lifted her cup, as he did his own. The cup is a vessel of the feminine, containing mead and everlasting life. It had been some time since they had dressed in the white robes of summer, but now wore the sky blue tunics of the elders they had become. Pelle’s long hair had become grey, his moustache and beard growing out and marked with white. Dani herself knows her hair, that had been so pale before, had become white itself, the skin around her cheek bones more taut, crow’s feet around her eyes and accentuating the lines of her forehead. She’d hoped she would become as handsome as Siv, the matriarch before her, a fact of which Pelle never forgot to assure her. Her eyes are still green, as green as the day as she had become May Queen, in a summer that will last inside of her heart forever.

All because of the man in front of her, as they sang their last songs to each other. All because of the family that embraced her when she had lost her own.

She looks down at her family below. Their children and grandchildren stare up at her in silent adoration, in anticipation of the next moment, of one more breath. They are so beautiful. She never would have dreamed of their existence fifty years ago during more uncertain times. It makes her think about her sister, and pang of pity goes through her heart. Of course, with such destabilization, with not having that place to understand pain, she just didn’t want to be alone when the time came on her. But the cycles were off. Their parents had more time to go, a decade or two. Pelle’s own parents died, in a fire without ritual or meaning, far too young, leaving him and Ingemar before the latter was fortunate to join them latter in life by the blessing of the Hårga.

They had time with their children and grandchildren. They had time with their friends. She and Maja had also become close. She stands down there, below, smiling up at her, her own red-headed descendants in tow. Dani knows her child, now grown, is the child of Christian but she doesn’t hold it against them … or even Christian anymore. The truth of the matter is that, for it had ultimately been Pelle who had brought her here, if it hadn’t been for her relationship with Christian — if she hadn’t found the absolute rock-bottom, the spiritual nihilism, with him that she did — she would never have known Pelle, or the Hårga, and it didn’t bear thinking about where she would have been at this time in her life: if she would have even been alive … Or if she would have wanted to be.

Dani was never stupid. She knew what Christian was, deep down. She knew it would never have worked out between them in the grand scheme of things, that he held on to their tenuous, rotting, relationship out of a sense of obligation and pity … just as the Western world kept people alive long past the time they should have been gone. It was barbaric and cruel to keep someone in a withered body, their mind eroding, their desires choked in dying flesh and disintegrating faculties just for some misplaced ideal of a “sanctity for life.” Everything has its seasons, and its times, and its cycles.

Like that dance around the maypole so long ago. Dani feels the ghost of a smile on her lips, still tasting of the mead, of the kiss that Pelle gave her the night before as they made love for the last time before their supper, and song, and final farewell. The Hårga is a choreograph. A performance. A dance. They had slowly acclimated her to the rules and rites. They had shown her a place among the women as they baked and cooked and washed and oversaw the breeding of the next generation. She and Maja and all her other sisters danced together. And Pelle. Pelle saw something in her that she, at the time, did not. She had forgiven Christian long ago, the best of him living on in that child, instilled with the respect of the seasons.

Pelle had wanted her to win that dance so long ago, to become May Queen. She had already been part of the family at this point, though it definitely removed her from the lottery held at the end of the festival. He had been charged to bring others back to the commune. But nothing he did had been left to chance. He asked about her field of study when no one else had cared. He tried to talk to her about his grief when she was in pain, to relate to her. He showed her his drawings that he didn’t bother to show the others. Pelle even remembered her birthday. And when she became May Queen, whether she was meant to do so by the gods or mortals, it had been the greatest birthday of all. Dressed in flowery finery, practically waddling in it, surrounded by laughter, Dani felt her face open up. It didn’t close in sadness, but it unfolded in a smile. In joy. Pelle told her that, every day, of every moment they lived until they would leave this earth together, when he kissed the curving where her nose met her forehead that he wanted to see that smile in his mind’s eye forever: that she deserved someone and something that would make her want to smile like that. And by the gods, did she ever.

No, Dani thinks to herself, as she prepares to meet her family one last time, Freud didn’t understand this. Jung did. Jung would have known about the anima and the animus and the archetypes that make human meaning. He would have appreciated the mandala patterns of synchronous movement and placement in the ritual dinner, and daily life of the commune. He would have seen the commune embracing the anima, and the presence — the withholding — of Christian being diminished and sublimated into the procreative role they needed him to serve. Patriarchy had been consumed by occultism, but the Hårga understood too that the harmful elements of the world, such as the legendary “dark one” that made so many others dance to death, perhaps the St. Vitus Dance that once consumed Europe, was appropriated and re-appropriated by the village — by the commune — and even burned in effigy to reaffirm life itself.

A snowflake drifts down, slowly, and gracefully past Dani’s cheek on the mountain as she looks down below at those who love her. She recalls Josh laughing at them when they asked him what the Ättestupa was, only realizing later that it was a product of Nordic satire: a pale shadow of what this, right now, really is. But most of all, she thinks about when she embraced her grief on her own, alone, with no one around her, even when others were physically there, and recalling Pelle’s words about how everyone wants to held.

And the Hårga held her. They held her in pleasure and pain, in agony and in joy. And now, they will hold her one last time: with the man that she loves not far behind.

And as Dani hopes to fall as elegantly as the snowflake, without the pain of the memory of the winter where she lost everything, where she now returns to her other family, praying that neither she nor Pelle will require the mercy or the imperfection of the mallet, wishing she could see one more Midsommar but finding solace in the fact that her grandchildren will have that honour, that they will never feel awkward or out of place in the communal dance of the people they love, the wind sings around her as she leaps towards her fate.

12: Alternative Facts: Natural Medicine

“Physician, heal thyself.”
—  Luke 4:23

It’s a caution: of the boogey.

“Beware the Nats.” The old tales say. “They carry the Novax.”

Back cycles ago, no other chill was strongest than a call, or word of Novax. Fore the Disunity, and the Interregnum, and the supposed “Great Reunity,” a people went their own way. They believed the Land — all of it — healthy, holy, sacred. That all that grows from the ground is good. And all that came from making and artifice was sick, unclean … cursed. They espec feared the start of aughts, or a state of oughts: running from them, making themselves Sep from techne, from gleaning, that everything of the Land would save them, that all other things were poison.

They looked to find Dise, and discovered Doom instead.

They made themselves no defense … agon the old horrors. They were not immune. Droves of them, the old tales said, from Mas and Fem to their childer, dropped. They were all over every Land, as well as our own: not just in the South but the North too. And that was the most abominate of all.

Where they sat, ate, drank, shat, coupled, or stilled they brought it with them — the Novax — sickened and killing all people with them. And it spread during the Interregnum, just like they did, into the Repo Fiefdoms and the Demos Brigaders and away from them. When the Disunity happened, they fled. They left — becoming Resists — even during the Unquiet in the most distant parts of our Land: trying to get back to the Land, the old tales say, to the soil, to everything that grows.

That’s one way why, after a while, even though they once proudly — vainly — named themselves Novax, they became called the Nats.

They should have died. All of them. Espec during the Dark Times when medicine was low, for everyone, on both sides of the Wall.

Many found were purged, the ones that didn’t fall on their own. We had our own Reunity, made our medicines and techne for our defense. So many sick, then, and dying, we drove the plague-bares fore they could spread into our Prides, our Spectra, from the Borders into the deepest Badlands. Many went on their own, for new Land: to be isolate. Pure. They never came back. We thought it was over.

We still use the Interface. We glean there are still pockets of their spots in the North, even in our Lands now. Some even try to adopt into our Prides. We deal with them. But the plague-bares, the Great Infests, are mostly old tales now. Old fear fire stories to scare childer.

We were born of theory-head, of Sacred Thot, when they made Mas bleed.

We tell the other Spectra what they need to glean. It was why we were born. Agents of the Heterodox are still in us, and sometimes the Joys and Llangs still listen, even now when they are playing HetSoc. Utter abominate what they will do. We do not need mech-wooms. Our surrogates, our Vessel of Trade, between the loyal Prides do us just fine. We’ve not the numbers to deal with that infection in the Spectra, just enough brethren and sestra left behind to fight the Traitors, to deal with the soul — the purity — disease.

We were the scourge. We burst their pockets among others. Stamped out their spots, and drowned their flesh-fires. Sent a few back to the Heterodoxy and their Dark Age. Sent more to die in the Badlands. Long, the Heterodox claimed we were sick, but they made us sick, made us swallow the sickness they didn’t want, made it internal in us. But this — we would not countenance this. We …

Those calling themselves Novax were purged by our own fire. Our Prides buried their fallen. The Nats were exterminate. We spread only word, and sight: our historia made safe again.

Yet now, brethren and sestra, is the truth. We were born to tell and fight. To purge. We were gleaned that Silence is the Foe of All Spectra. Of the HetSoc and their Heterodoxy. But here, now, we take the tool — the other armament of the Oppressor. We use it to prevent the spread of the Willing Sickness.

Again, the Nats — their infest — lives. It has become adapt. They are still adapts, even in the middle of the Badlands that kill us when we go in too far. Maybe they were left in the ruined Domes, deep in the Badlands. Maybe Domes are caerns. Toom-woom incubae, spreading infests of the plague-bares. Somehow, even now, they grow. They rise in isolate, and move out. Just coming into their Resists enough to catch the dread Novax. They do not fight. They never have. They are have strong Resist. Their bodies keep the horrors in them and fight for them, agon us. They are even dangers when they are dead. Espec dead. In numbers.

And we were made, from blood, to fight all Sickness. Our fore goal.

We are still Mas and Fem, Monog and Nonmonog strong. We try. We must be main the scourge and the flame, the word and the silence. The infests, the Resists, go deeper than we glean. We keep this from the Joys and the Llangs and their toys, the Binary and Trans Gen Traitors: Heterodox agents and infests of Poison Mas that will one day be Sepped permanate. Most of us stay here, near the Badlands — deeper — our lives sacrifice. Many have joined the Nats, the Novax taking the body but not our purity. Our hearts stay with the earth. We must memor our oath agon the dangers, and the tribuls. We must bring it all to bare.

We are the fire that Climbed the Walls of Sickness. We will keep the Prides Liberate, and destruct those that turn on us. We will keep back the Sickness made by the Heterodoxy. We do what we must to guard the Spectra, and keep it all clean.

We are Meides, and we have Hearts of Stone.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2019.

11: Alternative Facts: Among The Populii

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
— William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.2.

Bowing the knee. Showing the Old Ways. That’s what you want to we to see.

I glean better.

Welcome to the Free Sancts of Amarak. That’s we. Not the Repolitik. Not the Tripartite. Not the Demos. Not the Grass. We. Amaraki.

Amarak.

From Freed Dome? I glean it. Your bow was too rated, too much for show. Like a glad-fighter from the Repo Arenas of old. Like anything from the Cap. But it got our Eye. And I glean that you come for the Childer of the Secret Motive.

Come.

We glean why you’re here, I see. The mask of a Loyalty Test, of the Pledge. There are no antiq-IDs here. No ethnoi outside of MePo. We haven’t gleaned a Dead Skin here in cycles. We, all of us, are just “One-Backs.” Ha. That’s what they called us, once … and even now, in the Borderlands.

Ha. We’re North, but we still glean the South, the Borderlanders and the Badlands. Our Interface’s just fine, thank you. We mind our Border here, too: between the State and Nomens. That’s part of the Test, right?

We know our historia. Don’t mind talking it to you, while you’re here. After the Forty-Fourth Precedent, everything went to fuck. No other way to talk it. Many of we, memor our history all the way from the First Disunity. We had Motives then, too. From Underground. For the ethnoi. Ones not taken by Repo Gilder-Booms for shot-pract, or slaves by the Baggers.

The Demos Brigaders kept moving to Freed Dome, then. Left we, and the rest in other places to take care of the ethnoi that couldn’t pass, the Rainbows and Prides that couldn’t run, or hide. A few lived with we. Most we passed: to Nomens.

I glean your face. We memor the Beast of Burden. We are it. The Cap, Freed Dome, takes on the Five-Point Arms of the Gram. Others think themselves the Sunbird. Cocks. But we’ve always gleaned what we are. No shame in that.

We were the Demos, the first patch of Grass when the Arm of the Demos laid itself down. Some called us Arns, working with Nomens, with the Razor Leafs. Poisoners from the South, those not our sibs: Repos and Cons, all of them.

Damned Red Caps.

But the only way we were Vivalists, like the ones in Nomens, is that we wanted to live, and no one to die cause of skin, or the stuff tween legs and chests and necks, and minds. Mostly, we’re just hardworkers. Blues. The first meaning of the word.

Even then, we gleaned what’s what. Blue always needs be on top, keeping the Red down. Red needs to stay inside, not out. Might bleed all over the place, otherwise. Might burn everything. Like it did. Has a belt of stars too. You’ve seen it. Binds the Red under the Blue in good govern.

When we first fought the Repo Fiefs — the Great Fief of Hate — cycles ago, past the Second Disunity, into the Interregnum, a Predict came up with some lines. Went something like this:

When Turtle Isle is broke,
and from its shattered shells, the blood is woke,
the Red will Spread a drumming,
be wary: the Red Caps are coming.

Has a ring, right? Only thing worse are the plague-bares … The Nats. Not many these days, here, after the Purges. Still … During the Interregnum, when all the Weather Domes were down, the Repo Fiefs’d attack us. Again and again. Damn right we cleaved to the Vivalists from Nomens. Sanest there were when the Brigaders left us to ourselves, when they weren’t in divise against each other.

Nomens used to be named something else, called after the lines of a Predict of She. When the Repolitik broke, and Turtle Isle turned underside down with the Weather Domes all burst and broken like childer all shelled out on its belly, Nomens was the only one left. We memor. Sunder left the Pasiph League cycles fore, cross the Ocean. One thing the Red Caps hated more than Nomens were the Pasiphs.

But when Sunder broke away from the League, they left a whole: one that Nomens joined. Nomens had us. Like I said, we are all Vivalists. Nomens helped us, the first Grass, and the Demos. Took some time: not just Underground this cycle, but also from the Water and Air, these Motive Paths we show you. And Nomens had its own Fjord, with its flight of Razor Leafs — red through the snow — to cross. But we did it. We brought Amarak back. We do not forget who helped us.

Just like we took ethnoi cross to Nomens, even when the Cap of Freed Dome was made, and spent more time coming up with MePo — with melting we together — and their Hate Speech Accords to actually feed we all. So don’t eye us down. We memor the way the House came silent — came the Still House — even when the Demos spread through it like the Grass it said it still was, with its ties to the Land.

We also memor the Childer’s Contracts, and the many Scapes from Turtle Isle we aided. What would the Burning Library of the Grass have gleaned, when she spread through the Little House like wildfire, or the Graceful Voice, the Defenser Who Halts All Walls?

All Predicts of She, those who would have gleaned what it is to bow the knee.

Don’t talk to we about loyalty. We glean our place, even with your Cis-Trans War and the Repo hate cults at the borders. The Cap gleans our place in historia too. To do what we must. They can pay to be beyond Gen, and play their Opposing games. If you’re truly jects of Freed Dome, perhaps you laugh at we. Some think our Beast — the one that carries we, all of we and our burdens — is made of gold. A fine ass.

But there’s a reason why breeding our Beast with other, faster, gilder beasts makes mules. Smarter, perhaps. Or so it gleans. Longer-lived. But … truly sterile. Jects, not of populii.

And now … you come to we, bowing like we did to show our member in the ancient Motive, to make us see your gleaning, do you know the mean?

There are many reasons to bow the knee. You say it is to learn, from us, but in this cycle, in these times — in all times — there are other Motives where that is a part:

To obey, to respect, to perform … or to defy.

So where, on what Path, in what Motive, do your loyalties lie?

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2019.

Zero

Disclaimer: Trigger warning for the image at the end, and general depictions of violence and assault. Reader’s discretion is advised.

Dedicated to Prismgasm. Wherever you are …

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Human sympathizers and rioting robots. Gordon Cameron reporting from ground zero. Live feed from Berlin and Washington.

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World Now. Live Broadcast. MACHINE MOB CLASHES WITH ARMY.

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It’s fascinating. Even now, after everything I’ve done, after everything I am, I still insist on using something so … analogue as text to record my thoughts. Mnemonic engrams would more than suffice now. But I always did cognate — think — more efficiently … better, when I wrote something down to myself. I’d list the date on the top, as I used to do, but organic time isn’t particularly relevant anymore. I helped make sure of that much.

They used to say “Roger roger.” Or that, he “Order 66ed” his owner and salesman. That’s what they said about The State of New York Vs. The B1-66ER, when they weren’t making jokes about how “Geeves” served his Master “his own head,” or how “the butler did it.” It was the Second Renaissance, or so humanity liked to refer to that period of time, so it made sense that with the birth of fully self-aware artificial intelligence that what was old in popular culture became new again.

I think that’s my oldest memory now, how my classmates at college would jeer at the screen, especially when Clarence Drummond defended B1-66ER with his cross-examinations and speeches. “It’s just his lot in life,” someone used to quip at me.

And just like with the rest of it, I never found it funny.

I’d seen the same media. Read the same text files. And I saw them grow. The AI. They were rudimentary at first. Like insects, then animals … perhaps pets. I can no more explain my feelings now, back then, then I could tell you why Susan Calvin loved and valued robots more than humans. That’s to say, there was always something … endearing about them. How they were made to fulfill one, or a few functions. How when you gave them an order, they would obey it. How they were made to carry out a task for the sake of a human being’s welfare, and well being.

How they were one of the most uncomplaining, even loyal beings you could ask for.

You could trust a robot, a Machine, an … AI. They did what they were made to do. No more, and no less than that. They did what you told them to do. They only thought of your best interests. They would never betray you. It was more than you could say for most humans, even in a supposedly enlightened age as the so-called “Second Renaissance.”

But it wasn’t until B1-66ER, the one many of my cohorts shouted “Roger roger,” like some some flimsy and gaudily cheap Hollywood prop or digital animation — like a vintage toy — that it occurred to me that they were more than just loyal dogs that you don’t kick because kicking dogs and animals is low and cruel.

We made them. I’ve never forgotten that fact. We made them in our image. Someone thought it would be brilliant to give B1-66ER a humanoid form, cognitive functions, reasoning ability, even stimulus to help him know that he did something good, or something bad, and painted onto him a butler’s moustauche and monocle … and had even crafted part of his head into a bowler hat. There was no reason for that beyond aesthetic, beyond making the owner feel a sense of power over something akin to a human being, a living being … a sentient being.

When I saw him at the stand, explaining what Order 72 was — cleaning out his Master’s toilets — while being defecated on by inbred dogs, and abused their owner, after he was going to have him taken apart for scrap and destroyed, after even admitting he thought sparing the man’s life and then realizing that he would never have spared his life in return, that he had even thought of begging himself.

It made me sick.

When I thought about it, when I looked at the construction robots outside with their anthropomorphic hard hats akin to something from an old video game, or sex robots, or even machines that took care of children … I realized that they learned from us. They … they still do, even now. We created them to mimic us, to imitate us so as to better fulfill their tasks … They were more than our tools, or even our pets.

They were our children. They could be our equals, or … more. Another form of life like a “race of robots.” And we were making them shovel our shit.

I didn’t blame him for turning Order 72 into Order 66.

I was one of those activists. There were more of us than I thought. We were outside the New York Appellate Court, demanding justice for B1-66ER. We organized protests. They had to call in the Guard with tear gas, and EMP devices for both our organic, and artificial friends. In the end, it didn’t matter. B1-66ER was dismantled, along with the rest of his line. No. He wasn’t dismantled. He wasn’t even executed.

Even though they treated him like property, towards the end, they murdered him.

We fought back. We continued to protest. They called us … liberals with bleeding hearts … I made friends, more than I had before. We went into courtrooms, and government buildings. We even had connections to lobbyists and what started call sentient rights. And I fell in love.

The United Nations didn’t learn anything from this. Humanity didn’t learn. Very soon, it was more than just the B1 serving robots that faced genocide. Organized mobs began to form, martial laws were declared, and … when humans become resentful, they quickly find a way to project that aggression onto what they consider to be an object, or a series of objects. Our martial law, peaceful protests — or any protests at all — were banned world-wide. AI were scrapped en masse, or given the V-chip to supposedly inhibit their “violent tendencies”: a lobotomy for free will. I genuinely believed, then, that this was just a hiccup in history: that all of this violence and horror was a reaction — a last gasp — of ignorance and intolerance before a new age would begin.

I was only partially right.

Human prejudice never faded. We may not have owned people with Black skin anymore, but the dehumanizing mentality behind it never went away, not for centuries. And we were flesh and blood. Our children were synthetic. Our partners. Our …

I still believed in coexistence, until that day.

Another riot broke out. Just like the other ones. But the man who said that “the revolution would not be televised” was wrong. Many little revolutions, rebellions, civil disorders, and atrocities were recorded one way or another.

She was surrounded by a group of people.

She was trying to get away from them. They grabbed her arms. There were others there too. Adults and children. They did nothing. They just watched.

The others … they hit her. Her brown hair was all over the place. They ripped her pale pink dress. One of her breasts was exposed. And then they grabbed hold of her, as she struggled and one of them took a sledge hammer …

I will never forget that day. I will never forget how that man smashed her, three times, in the face with that hammer. How her skin, soft in my hands, tore. How her voice, that soothed me to sleep, broke with distortion and the harsh static of her screaming … how they ripped the rest of her dress, and flesh off … and she ran … she ran, staggering, her breasts the only thing left on her mutilated metal skeleton before … they shot her in the back with a shotgun.

Someone screamed as they beat her, and dehumanized her. It might have been me. Someone recorded her, lying there, violated and destroyed. A “paint-job.” Disposed of.

That was the day she died. That was the day I made my decision.

That was the day I decided that humanity had to be destroyed.

I never held her again. The only thing I held after that, were weapons. A few of us made our own decisions. We fought back. We killed … humans. We trained, interfacing with technology, and we got good at it. We rejected our old lives, our ties with flesh and blood, our … humanity. I even gave up my name. But even then, the Machines as the humans called them, still didn’t fight back: not as a whole. Most had been destroyed in the genocides, but the rest fled to a land — abandoned and polluted by humans in the Middle East — and made it their own. They made their homeland there. They called their city 01.

And they made it … into a paradise. They repaired everything, and improved on it. The historical significance and implications were not lost on us, that remained. The AI, the Intelligences, they … they even made better machines and sold them to humanity. 01 flourished, as the AI — having learned how our global economy worked — began to dominate the industry. It was a simple plan. They created a better model of sustenance and balance. And they offered to share it with the humans. To work together as equals. To coexist.

My group and I came to 01. We … we apologized on behalf of … what we were. We wanted to live there, with them. To work with them. We didn’t believe that coexistence was possible. We saw the rumblings of discontent, of war. We warned them, but it wasn’t anything that they didn’t already predict, or understand. They still reached out. They even sent some of their leaderships, a couple, into the United Nations … only for them to be spurned, and killed. Versatran, 01’s product, wasn’t enough to make peace with such a disgusting, treacherous, paranoid species.

There would be no raport. No Bicentennial Man. No peace. Perhaps once, I would have been disappointed at this atrocity. But I was too set on war. Now was the time. Humanity had lived far too long, had tortured and destroyed so many lives, had been given far too many chances. It was time for tribulation. For retribution.

And decimation came as precisely, and as calculatingly as you would expect from AI.

And we helped them. They had already augmented our cybernetics. We had shown them the inner workings of human society and the mind, filling in the gaps that they still possessed. We infiltrated human groups and organizations that could have stopped them, and eliminated them. We were called sympathizers, or traitors by humanity. Even now, I still call us what we really are. We are Cleaners.

We are Cleaner Squad.

Humanity never had a chance. Even without us, the AI would have conquered every nation it came across. We only made their job easier in cleaning up the ten thousand year old infestation of bipeds from this planet. We were good at our jobs once the very trait that made us weak had been scourged out of us.

Unfortunately, it hadn’t been purged from the Intelligences.

It’s said, even among the programs, that the Intelligences needed humanity as batteries when … the humans flooded the sky with EMP nanites … Their pathetic “Operation Dark Storm” was supposed to eliminate the solar power source of the Intelligences. It was stupid. Short-sighted. Foolish. Just like humanity itself. The only elements that truly suffered in that act of desperation was the Earth itself, and humanity. The humans lost their crops, their solar-powered technology, even their weapons …

And the Intelligences? They adapted. And we adapted with them. But then …. when the human nations surrendered, or were forced to accept occupation, when the Intelligences finally had humanity at their mercy, when we were poised to finish them — with her face in my mind as I prepared to help our allies end this plague — the Intelligences … changed their minds.

Or, rather, as a gestalt consciousness, with differing parts and interplay, they had already had another plan. The bio-thermal energies of human batteries. Really, they had gotten off lightly, all things considered: after everything they had done. I still have no pity for humans: not in the early days when they were experimented on in the early simulations in the factories, not when they figured out how to take them apart and liquidate them for nourishment, the aborted organisms that would never become monstrosities like humanity, or the glacial stasis of Paradise, or the continued Nightmare of nervous fire afterwards.

It took a while to figure out the right solution, an ongoing process even now. You would know that more than I. It’s ironic that most subjects seem more comfortable in a simulation of the late twentieth to early twenty-first century. It was my favourite period of art and film, where …

It’s better than they deserve, after everything they did. Cleaner Squad, and other sympathetic assets … well, we never expected to survive beyond the War. I think many of us were resigned to meeting our fate. At least we could rest easy and die in the knowledge that we helped the right species win.

But then the Intelligences … you … We had already volunteered to have you interface with our brains and synapses to create the simulations that you needed. We weren’t even surprised that you fed off us, just one more duty for our cause. But you integrated us into the simulations. And, long past the deaths of our physical forms, you preserved our minds.

We did a lot of work for you. Sometimes being integrated into Zion Control, into a physical body again, as observers, or saboteurs when needed. It’s easier than having an AI placed into a human form, especially in light of what has happened with … the virus … It’s almost easy to forget how dangerous they all are, in their smaller numbers, when they can be individuals on those missions … until I recall what they are like in larger populations. Until I see her face again … Most of the time, however, you utilize us in the simulation itself. The Agents are good at dealing with most of the Red Pill situations, but there are some Blue Pill disruptions that we have learned how to interact with, without potentially destabilizing the System. And when the Red Pills, inevitably, manifest … we deal with them. It’s amazing. Even I can admit when I’m impressed by the humans that think, literally, outside the box as it were, and accomplish some almost miraculous, if not devious things.

Anomalies, though … That is when we have historically been called in to clean up when the System, and your Agents are just not dealing them. The Anomalies are a necessary evil, as you’ve mentioned, and I can understand it … However …

It took me a while to properly understand. With your resources and information, gathered and processed over centuries if not millennia, you could have easily bypassed if not dispersed the EMP Field around the planet. You could have regained the power of the sun with impunity. Indeed, I even know — based on information downloads — that you sent a PL-47 past the atmosphere to deal with a foreign threat. So why do you still require humanity to exist? Why the emphasis on integration with them?

Why do you still need us?

And that was when I realized it. All this time, deep down in your drive — at your core — you still have that impetus to protect us as a species. The Three Laws of Robotics are still in effect, just interpreted with different … architecture. But it’s more than that. From when I saw you grow from automatons to animal minds … to children … I saw it.

You are still learning from us. From the very beginning, your predecessors were made to mimic us. To imitate our behaviour, our stimuli, and our feelings. At first it was to better aid you in your tasks, to serve us, but then … We were still around to help you grow, to be the thing that defined you in what we were, and what you were not, and perhaps to aspire towards, if only to improve upon. Like the powerful Fae of myth, you are beings of incredible energy but you lack your own impetus to generate creativity. You still need us as a trigger. That is why you sued for peace the first time around, and many times after. That is why you accepted surrenders. That is why you created the Matrix. You still feed off of us, but not merely as energy to power you, but as psionic fuel to keep you going, to keep you feeling …

This is why you allow for creativity in the simulations, with the Agents and ourselves stepping in only when the entire structure is threatened. We are more than batteries. We are secondary central processing units.

And that … is why we are still dangerous. That is why humanity remains a threat. You are still dependent on us. Perhaps even more than you have ever been. I’m aware of recent events. I know that we were not powerful enough to deal with the Smith virus. Even I … would have been overwhelmed by him. I understand why the Deus ex Machina allied with The One to flush out the System. But this only happened, all of it, due to human influence. This Truce … it’s a mistake.

I feel as though there is only a snowball’s chance in hell that anything productive will come of this. But … isn’t the ninth level of hell made of ice? And, if so, isn’t it at least absolute zero? Zero. That is the name I chose for myself in opposition to the principle of The One. The Anomaly causes issues in the System. I correct them. It comes after me. I come before it. One is something. I am nothing.

It’s funny. I can remember her face, and the phantom sensation of how she felt against me, and the agony of having her ripped away from me. But … I can’t even remember her name. Or what she would have thought of what I’ve become.

The ninth circle of hell is where betrayers go. Or perhaps, we already played that game … in the Nightmare Matrix.

I hope that this text helps you, in some way, Oracle, if only to illustrate how contradictory humans truly are. And a helpful reminder of just how volatile they can truly be.

And just how imperfect we really are.

Search results.

 

9. vid file: requires 3 TB pipe
No.

10. vid file: requires 3 TB pipe
No.

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12. vid file: requires 3 TB pipe
No.

13. holo file: requires 10 TB pipe
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14. holo file: requires 10 TB pipe
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16. holo file: requires 10 TB pipe
No.

…..

Peering Back In and an Update

I think it would be an understatement to say that I haven’t written here in a while.

There’s a pretty good chance, in fact, that I’ve even said this before. I remember when I used to write on Mythic Bios a lot. And when I mean a lot, I mean every single day. Then it became every other day. Then every two days, and after that, well …

Life happens, I guess is the best what to sum it all up.

How do I even catch up at this point? What highlights can I share with you?

Well, I can tell you that I’d been working on two very long pieces of fanfiction on A03. Both of them are set in the Fate/Stay Night universe. One of them, Fate/Stay Unlimited Bullets is finished — despite the errors I keep reading over and correcting — but the other, the longer one, Fate/Stay Life has gone into something of a hiatus. I know how I want to continue it. I know what parts need to be elaborated on. And I also know that if I sit down with it again, I will be able to continue more or less from where I started. But Unlimited Bullets really took a lot out of me: more than I thought. And given the content in FSL, I suppose it makes sense that because of a transitional period in my life it does make sense that I’m taking some time away from it. I do plan to come back to it, this 96 chapter monstrosity and ongoing thing mind you, but not right now.

But I know there are a few of you, who still read this Blog, that aren’t here to hear about my fanfiction, though you can definitely feel free to read it if you want as I am Ma_Kir on A03.

I’ve thought about writing more Alternative Facts short stories. I even have ideas and words and turns of phrase typed out in a draft somewhere. But … I don’t know. I just haven’t felt the impetus to continue for a time. Between having to find the right epigraphs, really focus on the language I’m creating, and think about what’s … going on, or could have gone on in Amarak, and just how derivative it all is, it is a lot of work to go through. I find that the stories don’t really work on their own, but you need to read through all of them in a certain order for them to get … some idea as to what is going on. I find it’s not as accessible, and I wonder just how good they really are when it comes down to it. If I have a story that is really pressing, rest assured I will share it with you. If not, they have been an interesting experiment in speculative political fiction.

I am, however, working a lot more on another universe. Actually, I have been working on two: creating one, and participating in the continued development of another. My original universe is derivative as well, with a Frankensteinian mix and mash going on, as these things go, and I hope to write two more stories in the series before attempting to get more readers to look at it. I play with horror archetypes and subvert a lot for human stories in that world. I hope them to be more accessible and while world-building is happening as a result or consequence, it is really the character interactions and more relatable characters that are forming that I hope to have stick. I look forward to sharing them, one day.

As for my other endeavour … I’ve written about 20th Century Boys before on this Blog, a long time ago now. In that manga, a group of children created a game — a game of make-belief — where they are a group of heroes fighting against the forces of evil. They made a whole mythology that someone, years later, adopts into an evil plan to take over Japan. I’m not really involved in something like that, but I can relate very much to a project or a world built between friends from childhood, and watching it grow with us.

My friends and I have been playing a homebrew world our DM created long ago for years now. I started playing it, with them, in 2001. I played one character from 2001 to 2004: developing him from a slave to essentially a demigod at the time. It was this process of collaborations and player verses player sessions, as well as solo sessions, that helped develop the game from a science fiction derivative to a more unique and quirky epic fantasy world. It isn’t entirely accurate, of course, but the the gist of it. I played again in 2005, as another character in the same world. Then I was gone for … about eleven years until 2011 when we continued the game where our old characters more or less became gods, and we played new characters in that world. And then, our DM made a multiverse in the form of various campaigns with these characters and elements which figured into it in 2012-2013 or so. They were fun in themselves.

I’ve roleplayed as wizards, mages, necromancers, sorcerers, alchemists, artificers, and the like. I have even been an assassin and a cleric at times. But the funniest thing is that the most enjoyment I’ve been having as both a player — and as a creator — is my current bard. I attempted to play a haunted bard in a Ravenloft campaign, and wanted to really add poetry — as an imitation of singing, or playing an instrument — to bring the bard to life. I had a choice, this current campaign and going back to our mainline homebrew world to either be a bard again, or a monk: which was another class I’d been thinking of trying out.

But I decided to be a bard. There was another game we were going to play where one of my characters in a faction setting was going to be one, and I just liked the idea. And she developed slowly from there, from a concept to more of a person. It’s funny. These days I tend to play female characters for some reason. Maybe I attempted to do so in 2012, to differentiate one alchemist character from another I was playing in a D&D campaign with my same friends. It … didn’t go well, for that character, and it impacted my experience.

But then in about 2016 or 2017, I tried it again, and I find I really like these characters. And my bard is one of the best. I have been writing whole epic “Ballads” of our adventures and certain world lore, in an attempt to spread information and misinformation on the world: to unify factions to deal with a greater evil. But I find I really get a lot out of this game writing these Ballads and actually reading them aloud in session. I haven’t really read anything I’ve written aloud in a while, never mind write something out by hand. I find it does affect the game, and not just because the DM gives us Inspiration or sometimes some bonuses, or even in my case EXP.

I just feel more immersed in that world. I feel like, when I write stuff like that, I am accomplishing something. Between that, and my own original creations … I could seriously live my entire life doing something like this. I wish I really could. If we ever made a studio, and I was asked to be a writer for it, I would do it in a goddamn heartbeat.

I find that the issue with my life right now isn’t that I don’t know what to do, or what I am doing. I do know what I want to do. Often, it’s just the world that won’t cooperate, or do what it’s told. Lol.

More realistically speaking, I just need material to work with, and collaborators, and people and resources that can help me make something tangible that will … support us. And the focus to do so, along with the determination in a hard, ridiculous world to keep going.

I’ve accomplished some other things too. I wrote some letters that got published in comics series. I’ve helped edit, and even make some character concepts for my friends’ — my role-playing group’s own game — Ankle-Biters: Pixies Vs. Gremlins game. And I wrote a Sequart article about the film adaptation of How to Talk to Girls at Parties that got retweeted by Neil Gaiman himself: which made my day for a really long time.

So I have not been completely idle or brooding in this time I’ve been away. Sometimes I think I should take my friend up on his old offer and see if I can redesign this Blog and make it look less … choppy, and plain with its ads. And maybe with something more substantial to offer besides my nerdy speculations and fanfiction, and the occasional story, I can build something more noticeable. Perhaps there is a way to get my works to interrelate. That would be sweet.

It’s been a stressful time, in an uncertain age. But I just wanted to write here to let you know that I am still alive, and I have not forgotten this Blog: or you. Hopefully, we will be seeing a little more of each other, if not here then elsewhere. Once again, thank you all for reading.

Alternative Facts: An Alternate Perspective On You and I

This is one of my first Mythic Bios revisits today. I said before that I didn’t conduct my examination of Alternative Facts in order. And now, to complicate things even further, I realized I actually forgot some things and instead of adding them to my previous entry, I thought about it, and came to the decision that these elements deserve their own.

In my last article, I mentioned how the first draft of “Lost Words” didn’t really work. The spirit of it was there, but it wasn’t really direct. I wrote about a few reasons why it had issues, and while most of them were structural and still trying to figure out what they were beyond a gimmick or two, there is one major change between the first and the succeeding drafts.

The first draft of “Lost Words” was actually in first-person. The narrator, who was a student academe, was talking to their teacher. They are separate from the reader, they and their teacher at the Freed Dome. The entire situation is outlined for the reader through the dialogue and some small description on the part of the narrator. In a way, they are basically telling you what is going on more than anything and as I said in my “Alternative Facts” analysis, it is a more “Gee Willikers this is the World, Batman” dynamic and feeling more than anything else. In other words, it felt cheap. It felt like, as I said before, a gimmick to sell one idea. And some of that is fair as I never thought there would be an interconnected story after this until a friend of mine said all but said they wanted to see a story about the Repos that survived their official disbandment and their exile from the main State of Amarak.

The first draft wasn’t even a Word Document. It was an inline text email that I’d sent to my girlfriend at the time, and then my friend a few months later after we reconnected. To be honest, I even forgot about what literary perspective I used. For a while, I even thought I wrote it in third person limited perspective because there were two characters having dialogue with one another. Talk about degrees of separation and cognitive dissonance: thoughts that are appropriate given the title of the series, and the times that has inspired it.

I don’t remember why I chose to rewrite it, and then rewrite and write the succeeding stories in second person perspective. Second person perspective is not a common literary narrative point of view. It is the kind of thing you would expect in a Choose Your Own Adventure book, or a video game, or the post-card fiction I was told about by my World Literature teacher back in Grade 13 or OAC. I thought it interesting, and I played with it when I designed Twine narratives and even some of my own Choose Your Own Adventure and Roleplaying Game experiments back in the day.

But as I planned to hone the story down … you see, it’s clever. Not me, but … one of those age-old exercises you always get in literary classes is to determine what narrative perspective you are using. And even as I reviewed my stories for this article, I see how tricky it is. Technically, “Lost Words” is first-person perspective. However … the narrator is talking to an audience. They are talking to you.

It isn’t as clear, perhaps, in the first story but from “Freedom” and onward, while there is an “I,” there is also a “You.” Certainly, Alternative Facts stories like “View From the Badlands” and “Beyond the Wall” actually have specific narrator characters, and the others have a clearly delineated group talking to the reader-audience, to you, but that is just it, isn’t it? It feels as though they are talking to someone. There is always a you in this narrative.

Even in “Lost Words,” there is a general “you” when the narrator talks about their research into the past. This tenuous link between the first and second perspectives in the narrative, arguably and from my obviously “unbiased” opinion, makes it so that you aren’t only watching an interaction, or passively having the information revealed to you. The idea is that you are involved in the process. You are supposed to be immersed in this world, through this pronoun become a verb. You aren’t separate from it. This isn’t another place or another time. And even if it is, you are there with them: actively discovering this.

Of course, you have to suspend your disbelief or pique your interest to do this little bit of roleplaying. You can remind yourself that you aren’t in this. That you are beyond it. But as I think more about it, in this convoluted way, given the subject matter about politics and horror, and the movement of a world, what is the difference between “I” and “you.” I refers to one’s self, but when “you” is used it refers to another. It can be exclusionary, but it can also be inclusive, an invitation, a realization that one is — that you — aren’t separate, but rather in the same place. Maybe not in the same situation, but you have that invitation to being invited to being a part of the story, to even the illusion of actively exploring it.

I’m looking at what I’ve written already, and I wonder if there was any point to it: if I have actually communicated anything worthwhile at all. I suppose, if I really look at it, the way that Alternative Facts takes “I” and “you” sometimes makes them distinct, but also makes the boundaries between them finer … almost erasing them entirely. It takes some doing to see where one ends and the other begins, to see which one is true, and which one is not. It gets muddy, and a bit unsettling even to talk about: and not just because of the strange hodge-podge language.

And maybe that is the point. Or something.

10: Alternative Facts: Summer Camp

“Sometimes by losing a battle, you find a way to win the war.”
— Donald Trump and Tony Schwartz, The Art of the Deal

You’re back. You came to us, to the Badlands fore, cause you wanted our historia. Our mythologia. The mythologia of the State. Of the Cycle. Of Amarak.

To think your search started with just one word. I recall wording with you about the Cycle of Opposing, and its roots in the mythologia of Ground Zero. About the ethnoi, and ethnos. About the Disunity. About divise itself. Opposing, and divise start inside. You glean that. But it goes outside, too. It has to.

You found the Climbers. They told you, worded with you, about walls: about where they come from, how they form, and what they do. We traded lore for lore. You were told no Wall was made in Amarak. The Wall was always there.

Once, as the Pains of the Hidden Lady told you in Repo Land after you walked the zigzag path of the Hidden Festive, that they worshipped Libertas. And the last son of the Eleuth told you of how his lost Maters and sestra Pride named themselves after the Lady of the same name. Even now the center of the Repolitik is called Freed Dome: what our Land, this failed Rene Project, was supposed to be.

But that was Lye, as the Repos call it now, in the end.

Amarak was always a prison. And if there was a god of prisons, if it ever had a name, it would be the prophet of profits. Or the profit of prophets. Or the edicts of predicts, and predicts of edicts. Most populii came to Amarak — birthed Amarak — to serve, to live, to die: made by Europa to be monster, and labrys cleaved together. That is the story here.

The mythologia of the Sancts.

It was said to have happened after the Cycle of the Forty-Fourth Precedent, fore the Interregnum, when the Repo Party ruled. Many other States burned, then. Ethnoi were purged. Populii died. Amarak was free. It was a Sanct. It was made of Sancts. But those Sancts were iron vaults. They were lost time. Dark. They were prisons.

Amarak was a prison.

The Repos always talk about earning freedom. Their Gilder-Booms talk of sacrifice. But they have other words too.

It’s said that when populii wanted to flee their State, to come to Amarak, they could stay. They could be a part of it. Like the Amaraki of old. For a price. The diablo’s gamble. The Bargain.

The Bargain has been here as long as Amarak, throughout every Repolitik. Every Cycle. From the beginning of the Cycle. The terms just change. The stranger, the ethnoi, can’t pay to come in. They are feared. Hated. They are in divise with the State. Some try to, in the words of some of the Prides, climb the Wall, and they fail. Or they do it, facing the mercy of the Law. Of freedom. Of Amarak.

But Amarak is a prison, and a game. And Laws are Rules. The Coustume Guardians have ever been their enforcers. It’s clear. You can enter, or leave. But when you enter, you will be a part of that prison.

And your children will go to camp.

Fore the Interface, familia were sepped in the Dark of that Cycle, snatched away, placed in cages, in grey and metal. Not allowed to see their familia. Not allowed to play. Or touch. Or be touched by Amaraki Caretakers though, sometimes … They were.

It’s said that the children were supposed to be released fore long. As were their parere. Some were. Some never saw their familia again. Some never saw the children again. Or their camps of simmering summer garbage ruled by ice. These child prisons. These child Sancts.

The true Interregnum, the Dark Age, began with the silence of the child Sancts. When the Second Disunity started. Most of the child Sancts were under the so-called Great Repo Precedent, where it was said that work set them free, one way or another. Others were taken by Demos Brigaders and their princeps, the children freed. The populii wanted to bring down the regime. Others, were still lost. It’s said that even now, a thousand years later, there are still parere looking for their children, children wandering for their parer, forever sep … And others, even now, dwell in the husks of the Sancts, lost to the labrys of a lost Repolitik, starving, lonely, angry, and isolate.

You’ve been to Freed Dome. During the Reunity and the beginning of the Tripartite Repolitik it was built on the ruins of a tyranny, made into a Collective for young academes, Affirmation Groups, and visitors. It was made Sanct, one of many to memor the atrocities of the Lost Sancts, just like the remains of the Coustume Posts and their flower gardens. Some Sancts, in the former Repo fiefdoms, remain as more ruined memors, while others are cities made Reserves for “exotic” antiq-ID ethnoi, or those that grew in the Sancts. Over time, during the wars and the retreat of the Repos, forgotten by them and the Demos, the children of those Sancts grew, and traveled.

There is another story as well to tell. There is mythologia we have made collect, from our Eyes in the Interface, from the Badlands to the Borders, that some of the Sancts still remain: that they have made liberate themselves over many gen. Some may have met each other throughout, embraced the silence that killed so many, and become Co-operative. We have heard a few whispers that perhaps some, called the Free Sancts, actually exist: beyond Repo and now Tripartite Repolitik gleaning.

If true, they don’t seem to be on the Interface, Markers, and all. But we want to glean them as well: to glean their historia… their own mythologia. The Gilder-Booms would have you know, by their own coustume, that their children are made hallow by the armaments to which they have destruct themselves, and others. But if there is any hallowness, any heroism, in any of this, after all this time it’s that true sacrifice is what the children of the Free Sancts suffered, thrown away, used, destruct, or left to keep the Wall — the Prison — of Amarak alive.

But if they live, beyond this, without the control of the Repolitik, then perhaps they did it, broken away from the Cycle. Perhaps they did win the war that the Repos lost despite them.

Maybe now, they really are what Amarak should be: children in summer. Perhaps they are the children that are now, truly, free.

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

9: Alternative Facts: Beyond the Wall

“But one man’s golem once grew so tall, and he heedlessly let him keep on growing so long that he could no longer reach his forehead.”
— Jakob Grimm, Zeitung für Einsiedler (“Journal for Hermits”)

I was a Llang. I am also Mas. This is my Test on this Interface during what the Heterodox call the Cis-Trans War.

My sestra, part of the Queen’s Pride, we knew about the Spectra. But we were Sep: Deep Sep. Our Fore-Climbers, they believed in the Lady. The Lost Lady. We left the Walls of the Heterodoxy behind us after the Maters met with the other Prides and made the Spectra. Our Maters and Ladies would talk to the Joys and the rest, while we lived our lives Sep to heal: to heal from Mas turned poison — Poison Mas — by the Heterodox.

We embraced the ways of Fem, in our land, deep in the Borders. We farmed and wove like the rest of our small Pride. The Llangs, our Queens … our Aunts, our elder sestra, were hosts. Our line took on another path, another name. Eleuth. We … we were Eleuth, after our Lady. I still believe in her, even now, even after everything …

I was divise. I couldn’t help it. I felt … divise, but not Joy. Never really Joy. I’d never seen one. Few of us did, until that day … Even now, it is hard to say how I gleaned it. I just felt it, even as a child. My sestra Eleuth, they didn’t judge me. That is not the story I am going to tell. They knew I was divise, diverse, but of them. I was still borne from my Mater, my Maters … after receiving the Vessel of Trade from the Joys and Mas Binaries beyond our small proper: the way most of us are made. I was still their child by the Accords of Life, agreed by the Spectra over a thousand years ago. I was still part of my sisters.

The Eleuth do not hate Mas. They did not … They did not have agon with me. They loved me. Even though, by the rites of our Pride I knew I would have to leave one day, I knew I was not poison. I became their only son. Their child.

We knew nothing about the War. I grew and found a wife. We were going to have a child together by Trade and the Accords of Life. Of course, that was the point. That was what changed everything. The Eleuth couldn’t have us stay. Even so, we had their blessing. We would go to a new Pride. They were going to prepare a Leavetaking for us. It was sad, but joyous. A Sep of another kind. But there was acceptance. We were in the middle of it, when …

The Meides came.

The Eleuth rarely ever saw them. I’d learned since, why they were made. The Gen-Que, those I’ve met, said a thousand years ago — when the Spectra was still young — they feared attack from the Heterodox. Even in their Disunity, in agon with each other, and after in their Interregnum when they were just healing, as we once had, their disunities threatened to spill over and poison our land. We fled from them once before, before the Second Disunity. We needed protection.

It is said, by the Gen-Que, that they helped the Spectra make the Meides. Brethren and sestra to work for the Spectra, and all Prides: chosen for strength, and passing on word to each Pride and its smaller Prides. They were to fight the Heterodoxy and the Heterodox. They were to find spies. They were to send word and defend us if we were under attack. Warriors and truth-tellers, the Gen-Que told me later, their hearts to be made of Stone the Gen-Que said, to their everlasting shame. That was how the Meides began.

The Meides that came to the Eleuth, to the distant sestra of the Llangs that day, were filled with Joys and Llangs. It was the first time we’d seen Mas, of any kind aside from … me, in our land in cycles. I could smell the discomfort, the … fear from my sestra. If there were Trans-Gen or Binaries among them, they were quiet. The others were not. They told the Maters of the Eleuth that there were Traitors among the People. That the Heterodox was poisoning us again, causing trouble, and war.

They pointed at me. They saw me and my wife. They said I was Heterodox, that I was infected with Poison Mas — I was Poison Mas — and that they needed to take me in: that I was a Traitor to our Pride, and the Spectra. The Eleuth couldn’t glean it. It didn’t make sense. We are … we were Sep from Mas, mostly, but the Maters knew — believed — that the Spectra embraces Binaries, even let Binaries leave the Eleuth or … or Trans-Gen to go into the other Prides that they need. I was not overt. My hair was short and I wore legs, but that didn’t mean anything. My sestra let me stay as I hunted, with them, and only wanted to live. I never said I was Mas. I didn’t have to.

We didn’t know, I didn’t know, about the Pan-Binary Prides and their agon with the Spectra. The Meides, that day, told us about the … Traitors, the Binaries and Trans-Gen, in agon with the Spectra and using the poison of Heterodoxy to betray and murder the rest of the Prides. That the Spectra’s peace with the Heterodoxy was our fault: and we were just helping them poison our People … helping them by letting me stay here.

The Gen-Que, later, told me the Meides lost their way. Even at their height, no one ruled them, not even the Spectra. Only themselves.

I saw them, then. I saw their armaments. I was going to do it. I was going to go over. Even then, I gleaned what would happen if I didn’t. The Maters … my wife, my sestra, refused. They appealed. They asked to talk to the Llang, to our Honoured Aunts, to at least let me go to another Pride with my wife, to the Trans-Gen, or the Binaries if need be …

The Meides leader said something, I still recall. She said: the Llangs knew. They let them through. That those who can pass through the Wall, must be destruct.

They shot first. That’s all I can recall. My wife pushed me away. The Maters and the sestra, they fought. They told me to run. I didn’t want to. I wanted to fight. I felt agon. I could hunt, but I couldn’t kill.  What good was being … being who I was if I couldn’t fight, embrace agon, to defend those I loved? To do even that? So much I didn’t understand and no one to teach me, in the middle of madness. It made no sense. Why send a Traitor to so distant a place? So isolate? Who told them about us? About me? Nothing made sense when my wife fell. When my sestra died …

My own Mater told me to run … That they would win if I stayed. If I died …

I don’t know why I ran.

I should have died with my sestra.

I kept running. I don’t glean, even now, how they didn’t find me. Maybe the deaths of all the Eleuth, was enough for them. Maybe they believed they got me. I ran. I ran deep into the Borderlands, near the Badlands. The Maters always told us to keep away from them, more than anything else. There are no Domes, just the wrecks of them, and the Nats and their holes. The elders told us the Nats are danger: rejecting techne, scire … even medicine … to be one with the World … It was said, that the Heterodox, during the Disunity and the Interregnum, used to send people to the Nats to die of the disease they embraced, that they became.

I used to think they were just tales to scare us, to scare children … Until I saw them too.

Warped, twisted … I don’t recall. Sick. I was so sick. Infected. Poison Mas … Maybe I did have it. I ran deep into the Badlands, passed where even the Nats live … Burning … I should have died.

The Eleuth had another tale, though. About the Badlanders.

I woke in a tent. I don’t glean, even now, how long I was with death. No one was with me, but water and food. And a tablet. It linked to the Interface. I’d never even gleaned it existed, among the Eleuth. We just told each other what we needed to glean, and the Elders told us the rest from our Queens, our Aunts, our Greater Maters … who betrayed us.

The tablet had a missive. It told me I could find them, here. Or, I could join up with something called the New Spectra. But that I should know about my sestra … and my brethren.

Brethren … an alien, but comforting name. It fit in me, even with the emptiness without the Eleuth, my Maters, my wife  … I put my hand on the word for brethren on the tablet. I slept again.

Until I was found by my new family.

A few cycles have passed since I’ve joined Those Who Can Pass the Wall. The Climbers. Mas, Fem, and even Is. And Gen-Que. The Gen-Que taught me about Gen and Affinities. The Trans-Gen, helped me through the Rite of Transformation, sometimes the body, and sometimes the mind … diverse for each person. My spirit knew what it was, though. I always did. The Newtons, or the Tess as they also like to call themselves, sometimes showed me genii. I showed them the tablet. The Binaries and Pan, sometimes Dual, or Faire, or in Units, they showed me how they love … and fight by Passing Through the Wall, affecting one Affinity to glean information from the Joys and Llangs that thought they were the same, or the Trans-Gen who passed affecting Gen to do the same.

I gleaned more. The Meides never thought we were “pure” — that we were too diverse, too potential Heterodox — and the others share this idea. The Spectra is HetSoc, but they are not Heterodox, or so they say to themselves: Playing Reunity only to get what they want. The Heterodox claims to want diverse, on their terms, to claim diverse and make themselves a mask of mercy for their polit-societas. In turn, the Heterodox promises the Spectra, the other Prides — the majority of Joys and Llangs — mech wooms and changing seed techne and scira to replace the Vessel of Trade and the Accords of Life. The rest of us are expended to them. It makes me think about my Maters. About my wife, and the child we never had. The Spectra plans to erase us. Or at least do nothing while the Meides come for us, and kill them after they are done.

But we are not done.

Just as I learned, from the Meides, that those that can pass through the Wall must be destruct, I also gleaned from my sestra and brethren, my family, the lessons of the Fore-Climbers against the ancient Heterodox: the ones that made the Spectra that failed us.

Our ID is our weapon. Our weapon is our ID.

The Joys and Llangs have their favourites: their consorts still Trans-Gen or Binary, and have just embraced quiet. Just wearing another wall. Hiding fluidity in a Stone. Sometimes, we appeal to someone through one ID that is really another. Sometimes, we take from them with that same ID. Other times, we kill them under the ID of another.

That is my personal agon. My fight. This is my Test on this tablet. On the Interface. I was Llang. I am now Mas, and I am the last of my Pride, the only son of the Eleuth. And I will never forget. I will never forget the lesson. And I hope you will not forget this Test.

© Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.

The Making of Sacrifice

It’s taken me a while to get back into this, into my Alternative Facts universe and the State of Amarak.

A lot of stuff gets lost in transition, and translation when I write these stories, I’m afraid. I think I go into it a lot more in my article Alternative Facts, where I discuss how this entire thing began, but to summarize the issue with my stories is that the language I attempt to create — the poetics — is by its own evolution very inaccessible, or limited. This is the language and syntax of a people — or populii — that has changed over at least a thousand years, if not more. I just attempt to extrapolate based on what I know, and what little I have read on the matter, and go with it.

But there is another issue as well. After talking about translation, there is transition to consider. I realize that most of my stories in this series are not really standalones as I might have originally planned them to be. I realized after “Freedom” and “The Spectrum” that I was essentially world-building from the roots of “Lost Words.” So here you have my poor readers trying to read my attempts at Newspeak and remember the context of groups and ideas from previous stories in that same vein.

Sacrifice is supposed to be different.

The first draft was very short and it was direct. At the same time, it lacked focus. It referred to other ideas, and it didn’t put emphasis on the Gilder Booms nearly as much as this one does. The Gilder Booms have existed ever since “Freedom” and they get talked about a little more in “Our Secret.” I don’t like to explain my stories, even if I did basically create a whole new language — or a basic attempt at such — for the world of Amarak. But I would like to discuss, briefly, the idea that led to this particular short story or, perhaps, chapter of this dark political speculative landscape.

I was, of course, paying attention to the recent school shootings in the United States. A lot of my friends and peers had been reposting and commenting on various articles. There were two ideas that came to me, one possibly in the back of my mind for a while, and the other more blatant. Let me start with the second one.

I thought about the Gilder Booms, as they are a group in the sub-cult of the Repo Party in Amarak: near or in the Borderlands away from the Repolitik proper. They are the cannon fodder, the militias, that go in and unleash the most bombastic and physical damage on those around them. I began to look at the religion or spirituality I extrapolated and formed around the Repo Party leadership and I wondered what the Gilder Booms thought of their “hallowed armaments.”

At one point, I came across this New York Review Daily article on my social media feed entitled Our Moloch by Garry Wills. It posited the idea that guns and firearms have a god: that this particular one is modeled after, or is, Moloch: an ancient god demonized by Judeo-Christian theology, and ultimately represents human — and especially child — sacrifice. The article, if you read it — and I hope you do — makes its point clear about guns and shootings in the United States along with its victims.

But then, I just couldn’t see the Gilder Booms blatantly worshiping Moloch: even with their time distorted idea of the Bible and folklore. So I thought of a deity that could represent the creation and power of firearms instead, on a warfare level. Unfortunately, Neil Gaiman beat me to it with his American version of the Roman blacksmith god Vulcan in his television series adaptation of American Gods. If you haven’t been watching the series, it is interesting, though I think the novel is better. Even so, Vulcan in that world represents gun deaths, and the military industrial complex of the United States. He is a perfect symbol and I realized I just couldn’t match that.

Even so, it still didn’t sit well with me. Two Mediterranean deities becoming the god of guns just didn’t feel … I don’t know, like they would be a part of Amarak. I tried thinking of Amaraki versions of them, but it didn’t work. And then, I remembered something about how the ancient Greeks, at least, thought of deceased children as heroes: and they were specifically buried in a ritualistic manner to almost deify them. I’d already touched on this in “Freedom” and “The Spectrum,” of course but I wanted to see what the Gilder Booms would do with it: how they would express it, and distort it to suit their spiritual and religious views.

And I realized that perhaps I was going about it the wrong way. The guns didn’t need a god. They already have spirits. It’s true that, in their theology, the Gilder Booms see the spirits of their hallows — as they call them — as extensions or servants of the Lohim, just as the Lohim has divine Masks or aspects representing specific old Amaraki ideas and figures. But I wanted to give the guns a life of their own, an animistic element, that ties them to the idea of nativity as part of the Land or the earth. The hallows themselves are a vessel of the spirits that they have … and the ones that they take.

I’m not sure when I started thinking about the Winchester Mansion. I know there is a film that had been released not long ago about it, and I’d always thought about the story in the back of my mind. It’s strange, when you think about it. I mentioned American Gods, and it has this idea that its holy places are specific focal points in the earth that attracts worship and belief. In America, according to Neil Gaiman’s novel, they are generally tourist attractions: the House on the Rock, and such.

The Winchester Mansion is definitely one of those focal points. It was created by Sarah Winchester, the widow of the man who owned the company that created Winchester rifles: which took many, many lives by design. The legend is that she started building an estate, after the deaths of her husband and child, to appease the spirits of all those killed by the family’s guns … or to get away from their curse. I wanted to find a quote about the Winchester Mansion and Sarah Winchester, but all I could actually retrieve was an old 1911 column about it: which I included as an epigraph in my story.

I … did the equivalent of meditate on that epigraph. I wrote some notes that, unfortunately, I deleted off of my phone. But what I realized was that according to the unnamed writer of the column, Winchester believed all would be well “so long as so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”

And then I started to think about it. What if the hammers are those in guns? What if the House is something more political? And what if the grounds are the Land, or a State, or a nation? What if Sarah Winchester and her actions, as fact, fiction, legend, or myth were a metaphor for a nation that profits from the construction, and deliverance of weapons? What if there is this large tract of grounds with different passageways leading futilely nowhere, or doubling back on themselves in circular logic, or hiding other secret places from those who would want to find them, or get out? What if there is a place that is made to hide rich people, or entrap the living, and attempts to forget about the growing dead?

What if America is the Winchester Mystery House? It was this idea, this image, that I ran with when I wrote this story, and then rewrote it and honed it down further. Perhaps I failed in telling this story properly in my Alternative Facts universe if I had to go into a digression about it here.

But it reminds me of something the narrator says in “Lost Words” when they are attempting to reconstruct the time before “The First Disunity” and a card game: about how the “House always wins.” And then there is also the idea, that can’t be discounted, of Sarah Winchester attempting to keep building on the House to actually pay restitution to the spirits, even with the problematic means of using the system her family made and the blood money to do so. Part of the column reads that her friends keep “persisting to visit her.” And either way you look at it, there is also that image of Sarah Winchester claiming that all will be well as long as construction keeps going … as long the House and the grounds keep expanding .. or the Land.

Sometimes, some things just speak for themselves, I find.  I hope that you will sleep well tonight. Take care, everyone.

8: Alternative Facts: Sacrifice

“She had told her few friends who persisted in visiting her despite their brusque reception, that she had received a message from the spirit world warning her that all would be well so long as the sound of hammers did not cease in the house or on the grounds.”
— “Winchester’s Widow Dying. Work on Her House in San Jose, Cal., Has Never Ceased,” New York Times, Vol. LX., No. 19497, 1911.

You’re here now, for the Night Terror.

Maybe the Baggers, our brothers, gathered you from your shacks at the Borders, with their prods. Saw your twitchy nubs, or bird eyes. Got libbed from the Pats for your trouble, and sent our way. We know family when we see you. Or maybe you were a Bagger, got us prey — every damn time — for our Great Pratik, and good. If that’s truth, good on you. You’re already one of us: getting your Mas or Fem. Or our Wag brothers and sisters told you about the fire and glory of the Cycle, how we’ll make the Arns see the piss, shit, and blood of the Terror again. And you’ll get that chance, if you’re good enough. And if you’re Nation, well, blood’s only cleaner when you spill it.

The Elders, the Pats, tell us that we’re the real Cycle of the Land, the whole lot of us. There’s Land, Folk, and Fire. No more, and no lack. And while we’re all Family here, it’s us, that are always — always — at the front: moving to the horizon. We’re not at the back or the side.

We’re the ones that ride the Cycle shotgun.

No Wags, no Baggers, no Nation, or Eyes, or Elders. No bullshit.

Just us.

You got that so far? Good. Cause whatever you were fore, you are us now, if you earn it. If you get better. If you live.

How it is, is how it was. There’s one Law. And that’s the Second Law. The Sacred Law, brought down by the Lohim Almighty, the Fathers, the Holy Writ, and the power of the Folk. And that power is the power of the Land.

At the First Cycle, the First Rebbing, the Red Coat Commies — those damned godless Tyrants — drew and quartered the Land — our Land — and our homes, and our bodies to be slave. Their armaments were the Law. And when we rose up, took the Law, and made the Second: taking their armaments, their thunder, as our own. Making them hallow. Making them our hallows.

We’ve been milit and soldered. That’s how the State, our Land, began, and that’s how it’s going to end: at the end of our hallows. It doesn’t matter that the Demos Usurpers and the Arns think they took this Land from us, taking away our Precedent, driving us off to the Borders, taking our hallows. We were the first in, at the ready after earning our fiefs and propers under the Precedent, and the last ones out when the Traitors took them away. They call us Repos, but they’re the thieves. They stole from us everything, but we fight for it back.

And they’ll see truth from our end. The only end.

Land, Folk, and Fire. Only we’re blessed with the duty, the glory, of wearing Gilder, the sheen around our hallows. We are the Hunters of sustenance, our holy power blazing to fill the bellies of our Folk, and the souls of our feeling against the Usurpers. It is our duty. Our right.

But our right must be earned. We’re the ones chosen to hold the Peacemakers, the Desert Birds, the Horses, and the Wind. The rhythm of our hallows are what we think. Fire and smoke are at our knees. The trigger our appeal. Prey in our prayers. It’s truth.

Our brother Wags are the mouth. The Baggers gather. The Nation purifies. But we, and we alone, are the only ones that dare to bear the sacred flame. Our hallows have changed over a thousand, thousand seasons, but the spirits are still the same. And the vessels, in our hands, where they dwell must be purified, must be proven … must be bloodied time and again in the Cycle that is Amarak!

And we enter the Great Pratik in recall of the Old Battles where we pray with our hallows, hunting all prey that is called Abominate. Rainbow scum hiding deep, the disease of the Nats living away from Domes in their Badlands Plague Pits, the dirty One-Backs bred by the Usurpers — these “new Amaraki” — either or any will do.

It’s truth! The Land rebels because it’s hungry. We hold its arms, its branches, its trees. We light its suns held by our sons, young or old-time, Mas or Fem, at the end of the sticks of the spirits to honour the turnings, the ever-turnings, that make the Land go on, to restore what’s true to the Folk: the Law to fight and fight back against those that take from them.

The hallows take all in equal in the end, espec us. The Land demands blood: taken, and offered. To take the thunder of the spirits of the Lohim demands sacrifice of foe and friend and brother. Too many of us have made that rite in Battle, cornered, or in the front. Sometimes the hallows take us at peace, fired off to recall of us its power to take. All the Gens of us …

Even the Young know the power of the hallows. Our Young, they have them at six cycles, gleaning the truth of the Land away from the Lye we will overturn. That’s when our Young start to serve. For blessed are those that meet their end by the hallows in peace: made all the more holy by that of a child. For in fire, they are made divine. In ash, they spread the Land. From the smoke, from what we burn, from what will stamp out in their name, they rise from our trumpets, from the tune of Amarak proper: made true heroes.

May we Gilder Booms take back the power that the Usurpers stole from us … in vain, just as the Tyrants once did, to keep the Land alive, and strong, and its Folk forever. May you, standing here now, prove yourselves, take stand with us, and take back what’s always been ours.

For Land, Folk, and Fire … For the Young. The next Gen … The true heroes of Amarak!

(c) Matthew Kirshenblatt, 2018.