by Zev Gottdiener
Nnenna began to see all the dyads and networks fighting between one another. They exercised their cliometrics like a heteroglossia of bathhouse cherubs, contemplating the conversive virus that had so recently appeared on the scene and/or universe. There was a noticeable contamination at the engine level. From the mitochondrial level up it was all doppelganger, but down in the boiler room the game had changed. She watched them dance around the neon break pit with angel wing stumps. The brightest nodes winked at her from starry distances. She ate her simple food by for the light in them. They rose and performed, glistened by her imagination into rosy thorned light ringlets, permanent and forlorn. She thought – these are the spirals of a foolishly still-empty notebook, what a grand and profound waste of space and time.
Nnenna woke at six-thirty regular, coffee etcetera, morbid Excedrin and all about this whirlwind wept to leave, risking life and limb to reach the machine lying under her apartment to reach the door – to see the road – to be on time – to speak the code – to give all of her to the god of perfection. That said, she was disappointed most of the time. Not surprising. Work was a squat concrete rectangular prism with overhung loading docks carved into the geometry like mouths for rectal tubes to shit their goods through-and-in to the processing core. This core was located somewhere thousands of feet below the basement and her office where she scanned documents in the basement, filing each one into a spreadsheet before destroying the hardcopy. Eight hours a day erasing history.
When she broke up with Elle she figured it would be a clear slate state. She would enjoy time by herself, like a cat – yea – she thought – like a cat. But like a cat, within a few months of that she began tearing the walls for company. Two one night stands later and she knew she threw the lots crooked and luck sucks anyways, but to her it was like being back in adolescence again. You crane your neck to see the limits of everything – that’s exactly what they want – and suddenly your heads chopped off, tampered with and reattached while you were busy decapitated animal farming. Conflagrations, you’ve won surviving.
She found herself around the streets at ghost hours, looking into closed buildings and trying to taste the air. Befuddled why the people around her were speaking in a language she couldn’t place, let alone understand, Nnenna swam about like the immortal jellyfish Turritopsis dohrnii in that warm old mother body of water the Mediterranean Sea. Yes piglets, the see life is nice like that racist crab stereotype said, down where it’s wetter. Wetter still Nnenna found the world, drowned and bloated. She wished for Costner gills and rat-a-tat-tat urine purifiers and pontoon boats with secret crayon stashes, Robin Williams look-a-likes screaming Paper! Have you ever seen paper, meanwhile scheming to rape the women like any good Hollywood story drifter would.
She got text messages from boys in neither verse. She pulled out her hair in clumps and it grew back by the time she woke up. She called old friends on a frayed plug rotary telephone and tried to acquiesce appearances that never had the pleasure of existing in the first place. She used to see this:
Figure 1: Symap resembling Abraham Lincoln or Pauly Shore
…everywhere she went.
Not that this was bad. Fairly ingenious considering its dot matrix transcription of space, but the question remained for her, locked away underneath a Jules Verne Earth, why this and now with everything stacked against her does she have to deal with such a limited symbology. Imagine what dating is like in this world. The idea of fun here resembles sorting old knickknacks for nostalgic purposes and drinking apple cider vinegar. Vine gar, the genus Vitis and embers of the Lepisosteus family.
She felt stretched out, thinned along a spit over flame. There were velocities behind her actions, g-forces in the tilt of her spinning hands furiously signing helix in the air. She thought of her mother without remorse or malice and it frightened her to pieces. A pure blink of look back black came about without warning. Was she passing out?
She thought she’d been Shanghai Dorothied off to a green sick-land bred beneath filthy pools in what is left of Lorax territory. She saw the peeling of the trees, the kneeling down with wrists supplicated upwards like Pauly down there. Halving the peach again and again into the bowels of eternity’s dark waterslide. Chainsaw carved effigies and Indian smoke shop drive through bobble heads, merchandise of the lost American mythos. There should be a Vegas casino to store all our venerable garbage, teams of scientists to do the dirty laundry and hot pants for all participants.
Nnenna thought about the tree people, thinned out, decimated. She thought of marphan syndrome 2, carving your name on your lover’s chess. Shitting on their board. Walking the plank. Fronting the snowy lawn, limbs cropped out of the frame. There was a bench hiding behind them with a fresh kill, skulking in the background with the hyena’s gory muzz – Laughing at everything, sein nothing. If it wasn’t bad enough as it is, there’s a million or so of their kin lining the hillside behind. They’re all there I that virginal green expanse, every bully, wondering – how did you four get in the picture? Those four can’t even grin all sly and make a subtle snide accusation about the others. They’re trees, trees cant talk.
Nnenna knew this, all at once waking from unconsciousness when the static pulls back slowly and you see the person over you, hopefully. For one second, you don’t know where you are and who or what. Then it all snaps back like tar cubes. She knew something was wrong. Why am I thinking about this? – It was like asking a memory except Nnenna didn’t remember this. It was not hers to give. It is the gift no one can give anyone else because it is the ultimate gift of mystery.
You can’t give your death to anyone else. You can die in their place, but you are only exchanging your unique self with theirs. See the difference in this.
It extrudes self; gorging on the fear and anxiety we feed it to create anew. Rerun. Static. Blank verse-screen. See you on Venus. Goodbye. Inauthentic. Where has it all gotten us but to the gallows ourselves? Nnenna knew this, slowly over a period of several weeks and one feverish night. She learned what it means to be dead.
Look at them down there, at the bottom there where there’s no letters anymore. Are they dead? Trapped in history, in a history without meaning because it lacks context? Are they context without context? Are they each unique, outside of the boxes and arrows and paper? Don’t they deserve their individual moral economies, ones that break through mythologies of secrecy to authentic dissimulation of event horizons?
Imagine you know them, or some of them at least. One. Fine. In fact, it’s best to look at the children separate than the father. They lean with their personalities, each reacting to the photographer’s impose, their masques. How their flesh is presented, displayed through the darkness and contrast. The period morality of it, yes, the flash bulb and charcoal paper background. The experience was not necessarily new, but it could have bee the first time they experienced science.
Them the trees too, being forced to act dark and tree-ish not caring about you even though you’re taking a picture of them without their permission. Don’t, understand? They really don’t care and in there are laughing at us all. In fact, I bet they see the humor in that bench right nears them. But after all who cares. Nnenna learned this, everyday. She woke knowing what it was like to be dead.Tags: Short Story, Zev Gottdiener