Another evening wake up call, eight o clock, my friends already at the bars. The winter virus has got me. Am I going to party anyway? Probably. No coffee necessary, just three bottles of Robitussin liquigels – should be enough to make things interesting. With luck, they’ll cure my cough at least.
Open stage at Finley’s. The only person bothering to play is Malik and a friend. They improvise a Christmas carol, finish to scattered applause, come back to our table for drinks. Seems so sadly predictable, goofy, Malik’s happy. ‘Tis the season.
Liquigels take hours to start working, I’m not feeling anything yet. A call from my roommate Noah. He thinks he can get us ketamine. We score and I walk home as the DXM takes effect. Soon I don’t care about the cold – I’m floating above the streets, my legs a blur of auto-function. I get home to find my roommates K-ed out on the floor with a movie playing. There’s a pile on top of a book which I cut and snort. Never tried DXM with K before. I expect to get fantastically fucked. I’m...
… pulled …... in . . . . . . . . . . . . t o . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
a . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
s . i . n . k . . . . . . . . .
s . i . n . k . . . . . . . . .
h o l e
wake up in bed with triple vision. Irritated I can’t remember what happened. I’m more K-ed out than DXM delirious. Maybe it’s time to add LSD. After much confusion, I remember it’s in the freezer. I crunch up a sugarcube, then forget I’d dosed. I want to do more K so I riffle through every secret drug cache. Nothing. Remember I’d taken acid. Too bad I can’t find more K to take the edge off, but oh well, guess I’ll just be fried tonight.
Half an hour later, I’m looking down at my floor, hoping I’d dropped the K baggie somewhere. The texture jumps out at me: a blue forest of ruglets shimmering like a lake. Here we go. Better lie down. I’m still sedate from the dissociatives but starting to lose my cool. Okay, just ride the waves. Colors bleed through the walls and one of my drawings comes alive: the musical staff in the foreground wriggles and tickertape notation scrolls across. My small self-portrait is nuzzling a syringe. Yes, this is how I meant it to look, the acid is manifesting what I couldn’t put across in sobriety. The paper reveals sediment of hundreds of paintings beneath, old master variations on my vision. My drawing was the latest in a lineage. The visions reach an intensity I’ve never known on any psychedelic and keep building. Patterns emerge from peripherals. I blink and they’re still behind closed eyes, so dense as to form an oil of melding colours. I’m buried in a Pollock splatter, will I ever get out? Feels like drowning. The wave abates and parts of the room return, but I’m hardly sure it’s my room anymore – the composition is a surrealist’s collage.
Blotches on the wall from a former tenant are colonies of bugs. Armies of them pour onto the ceiling, growing in breadth and depth to a jungle of antennae, mantids, ant-covered caterpillars. My room comes back except the colors are shades of phlegm and shit brown. LSD is removing the doors of perception that protect my eyes from the dread of pestilence. Shrouds of insects criss-cross in rippling veils, darkening the corners of my room, each layer more microscopic than the last. I’m seeing on a cellular level. I feel my pores clogging, nostrils and throat caking, tar in my tear-ducts, body cavity a nest of bacterial goo. I’m seeing what I’ve denied since moving into this grungy room: that my lifestyle has been killing me slowly. Virii, parasites, they’ve taken their toll. I believe this utterly and begin to freak.
The bugs color brilliant rainbow glows, they’ll blind me, surely. They crowd in from the corners till they’re all I see, brighter and brighter, solid white light. Fuck - am I dying? The light is all I see, can’t blink my bedroom back into being. Blissful and scary – a classic satori trip or the brain aneurysm I’ve feared would get me in the end?
Vibrating walls, bouncing floors, flying furniture. Earthquake? Cacophony from outside. I’m sitting in my chair, tapping into a newsfeed: it smacks of 9/11 panic, a multimedia webstream patchwork of hi-res and compressed video.
Something huge happened. A major world power fell. Others are tumbling like dominoes. There’s no coming back from this. Large swaths of the planet have realized the implications in unison, breaking our telepathic hymen. We hear each other’s thoughts in random flux. My psyche is a seismograph. We wondered when it would happen, the next terrorist attack. Holy fuck, it’s an H-bomb, multiple fusion blasts and they’re close too.
Several “facts” are apparent. It’s the dead of winter, the coldest winter in decades. It’s both the solstice and the stroke of New Years’, 2012. There’s no acid trip anymore - only calendrical confluence. It’s undeniable, the prophets were right. It’s the Gregorian and Mayan calendars, December 21 and January 1, all rolled into one. It’s not only society that is coming apart but the laws of physics. Time melts in the fires of cumulative energies. The System’s imbedded time-bomb will destroy everyone, even those who opted out. It got over-complicated.
The precursor we called the World Wide Web is newborn virtual reality in exponential growth, sprung from text-based HTML. We’re atoms in its DNA knot, neither in control, nor under control, ripped from the womb to an alien atmosphere, what is there to breath? Feels airless and unreal but it’s here. I’m a fish out of water, gasping. This paradigm shift is no salvation, just the flash before extinction. The blackest irony imaginable: a glimpse of a glorious future boiling away in the energy that brought it briefly to existence. If we’d created this thing in an organized way instead of by accident through warfare and gluttony, we could have lived it out, but that won’t happen. Networks of voices wash over me, people trying to make sense of the catastrophe, no one willing to accept the magnitude. The sheep are looking for an anchorman to tell them what parts of the world are still habitable, but no one’s on the switchboard.
Wait, isn’t this what was supposed to save us from disaster, transference to pure mind? It’s the peak of Terence McKenna’s novelty wave, utopia really exists and it’s more exhilirating than I can stand. I’m the vanguard, the first to stick his head out of the mud pile. I see every citizen of the world stumbling astonished over political boundaries and artificial categories, joining hands, locking minds. In virtual reality, we can make this anything we want!
But nobody knows how.
The bliss is nausea. Where do we go from here? We’ve hit a wall. This is it, life’s destined dimension: our stunted paranoid imaginations. It’s a merciless test of mental strength. I search through networks hoping some far-sighted group is taking leadership, so we don’t scare ourselves to death. But consciousness won’t step up, therefore the nuclear-triggered inertia will shape us. We’ll be chemical footnotes, stains on oxidized polyalloys. Something else will inherit the ruins aeons later, some intelligence that might as well be dead as a doornail in our human value system that is so precious but so random, so transient. This is how a muon feels as its millisecond life ends. Nature gave rise to this order but she won’t care how good-hearted we are or how much we hurt, if we can’t learn fast enough to turn it into something that supports mass consciousness, we’ll die, or worse, become pistons in a machine aloof to our desires.
I’m the zeitgeist as it exists this eve of apocalypse, absorbing dialects, ebonics, franglais, aboriginal syllogisms, cyrillic acronyms from slavic militaries, the emotion of raw panic amplified in a billion variants. Only I possess the big picture, proving what I suspect in grandiose moments: that by virtue of cock-eyed aesthetic righteousness, I’m the messiah. But I can’t accept this role – I’m not worthy, not CAPABLE fuckdamnit! This is how the bitch-goddess works: I’ve been naturally selected as a random mutation, a sample of my species, and I’m not up to the task, therefore we fail, collectively.
Virtual reality isn’t going to save me, I decide, trying to unplug and get back to the world. What’s waiting for me there is even worse: my bedroom, no longer dressed in pretty colors but skewed, pock-marked, plastered with grime, dyed tumour-red. There’s a hole in the floor – I can see downstairs but it’s only dark mounds of drywall. I can’t unplug myself from the metaverse entirely, information is still coming through. Details are sketchy. There was a terrorist attack a few hours ago, probably Muslim extremists. Western powers retaliated, rival states responded. A peaceful resolution is impossible – nuclear winter is upon us. The era of biology is over. Even alarmists underestimated our environment’s fragility.
Here in Nelson British Columbia Canada the grid is smashed, but isolated pockets of people are watching burning cities and warzones. There is some mercy in being at ground zero, I think, and not seeing the geopolitical scope. Do I really want to know what petty squabble caused this? Even in my cynicism I’d thought the apocalypse would be a slow burn, but this is the truth of the villager under the landslide. It’s my turn, it’s karma. I should be awe-ful and appreciate the symmetry. Naturally, the devastation would center on this wealthy part of the world, my privileged life now paid for.
Out of the blue, I remember I’m on acid. Of course! This is why I’m in the vanguard of new thought - because when we hit the singularity of novelty and panicked and nuked ourselves, I’d just happened to be on a megadose of LSD, the most stoned person on the globe. Coincidence deputized me captain of the Titanic. I sit back in my chair, head in hands, vowing to keep my eyes open but soon regret this choice. The room brightens and brightens, it’s the next wave of nuclear attack. This is it, no time for goodbyes. The walls bubble and warp inwards. Every surface melts together and turns white. I’m going to feel it as I’m crumpled into a chemical cave. Just let it be quick, I pray, but I don’t really mean it because I’m not ready to die.
After being “crushed” I cease physical awareness but thoughts continue. This is what happens when you die by nuclear fire while tripping on acid, apparently: my corpse has curled into a plastic/glass hellscape, but because of the tracer effect of lysergic consciousness, my final thoughts have spilled over the expiration date of my body. The world is realizing what’s happening, we’re experiencing our own deaths. A full spectrum of reaction in a million different voices: hysterics, stoics, adrenalin junkies enjoying the rush. There are some who wanted this and some who caused it, chortling nihilists. I’m floating in our short-lived VR superspace. It’s contracting as its residents die.
I still see the molten casket I’ve fused into. This is the last thing I’ll ever see – except, a final embellishment from my brain: beamed onto the wall is a flat projection of my bedroom as it used to exist. The image wraps to the cave contours, and overlaid are visions of cosmogonic theories stitched together in shoebox dioramas: stylized god symbols and prophets, everything we thought life and death was about parodied as the rationalizations of a bundle of neurons, no connection to reality. Every facet of the tableau expires differently, nativity scenes blow over in duststorms, human figures shudder in the cold and shrivel up, color drains, it’s a sped-up newsreel nightmare like holocaust footage.
The garden of my home appears, a spring day with my mother in a sunhat pruning the apple tree. This is how she celebrates what she thinks of as God’s gift. The trees strip bare, the ground dries up, and her face sags with age, dripping off a skeleton. Her priest, the good shepherd crumbles, and I know she’s seeing this too, her own faith voiding – why must she see it? I realize she sees it because I see it, it’s genetic entwinement. Her presence fades when she’s accepted death, she’s gone. This is what death is, first the body, then the mind’s artifice. Everyone is seeing some version of their participation in mass-delusion. Whatever you have on you spiritually at the moment of death, combined with your physical location comprises your credit roll. Maybe religious people who haven’t been cursed with traitorous offspring are clinging to their faith for the last few minutes and dying in peace. They were the smart ones. All I get for my realism is a horror-show.
All that remains is a wisp of collective consciousness, thinning out as the population dwindles. Some metizens scattered arbitrarily near my path are witnessing the same scene or lack thereof. Smug atheists are using their last few moments to say “I told you so”. One personality comes to my attention, a black-haired, copper-skinned goth from a trendy district of London, her tone a fatalist swagger. She’s talking to one of her less-hip friends: “Yes, we were the only living things in the universe and now we’ve blown ourselves to hell. Sad, poignant, absurd.” She’s informing anyone still around to listen that the nuclear war set off a chain reaction. The biosphere is toast and in a few minutes, the planet itself will be pulverized, then space-time will collapse, then... what?
“Imagine there’s no heaven,” she says. “No salvation for us, unless we forget the soul and praise the singular legitimacy of information. Equations are living things, superstring vibrations.” I take no comfort in this. Maybe the science lady can retain some shaving of conscious continuity through her darkly enlightened understanding of the basis of whatever. I imagine her eking out existence on a lifeboat of subatomic information bonds, straining to retain identity as her body burns and spaghettifies, pledging allegiance to shearing molecules, atoms, constituents in the void as infinitesimal vibration. But me? I’m ego-bound and that will be my death, still trying to remember my name as I boil away to nonsleep. That’s how it works. The universe doesn’t care that I honored my father and mother. I didn’t get smart enough to save something of my mind and will therefore be gone. I lived too long to hold onto the gnosis of the newborn, long enough to be corrupted by material glammer, not long enough to wise up.
I should go to sleep but I’m not tired. A void of everything except thoughts. This is the fundamental level of reality, what I saw bits of on previous trips. I’m all that is, a lonely God sans creation, the alpha and omega of perception, wanting a hug, wanting a mother, but there is no mother of God. This is what being God is like and it’s worse than death, an eternal cosmic cry. I’m chasing my own tail trying to conjure company, but this fading memory of a world, friends, family, strangers, was a pathetic fallacy and the bubble’s burst. Reality is not rich but infinitesimally narrow. Once I built a world as a floating mind, an ego-flattering world with myself at the center – it was a clever trick, but I forgot how to do it and I’ll never remember. I’m stuck in solipsist’s hell. Please let there be an Other, something outside myself, something real!
By touch I surmise I’m in a tiny chamber of cold glass. I try to blink but my eyes won’t work. There are shadows in the mind’s eye, shadows that mirror my thrashing. This is all there is, me in the dark screaming to a reflection of myself. This is death. I’m dead. I’m dead! I scream and rage and punch the walls.
There is an Other somewhere, I sense, that is everything else. I’m left for dead in a dumpster. This is the literal truth, I realize, it’s where I’ve ended up. I’m awash in sludgewater, sinking, mind’s eye a soiled lens. There’s a sky above, but my only chance to survive the next minute is to prove to the outside world that I want to live, more than anything. Seems futile but I must try and someone must hear, one of those real people.
“Hello! I’m alive! Can I get some help? Anybody, please! Living creature here!” But I’m screaming on granite frequencies to those sense-dead humans up there, walking past my trashed raison d’etre. My voice is fading, breath waning. I’m garbage pretending to be alive, lying scum. Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. The bottomless sadness of being an object. It can’t even occur to the Others that I’m real. I’ve fallen from the grace of being seen and heard. The most maligned person in history seems regal to me just for being considered alive. To be an object is to be in isolation forever, and it’s my punishment for never taking objects seriously, for eating conveniently wrapped butcher’s cuts, for being the lowest-ranking member of the worst race, and falling short of sainthood, the only path worth taking.
I’m suffocating on refuse, blacking out, I don’t want to die! One more try... force eyes open to dumpster walls, a tiny convex window of clouded alley sky and grubby apartments, brown hoses dangling above, respirator tubes? Maybe I’m in a bladerunner-basement hospital. I’ve been left for dead on the abandoned ER bed. I must will my body to breathe. I try to raise myself, knowing this has no connection to reality – I’m still near dead in the dumpster, these are garbage suction tubes here to clear junk. Perhaps I can escape through them to gasp whatever foul air is waiting on the other side. I must degrade myself beyond all limits to live.
Someone resembling Noah is pulling me out but I don’t believe it’s him, just my mind in half-assed association. It’s really some surly stranger in the alley, reluctantly coming to my aid, but soon he’ll decide I’m not worth his heroism, and he’ll dump me back in the bin. I have no drive to live, I’ve lost grip of the force. I feel his arms – but the dumpster death’s gravity is pulling me back, a tug of war, please stranger, pull harder! I grasp his arms. I think I’m kneeling down, he’s standing in front of me. I’m still flailing for the air pipe of life, which is his cock. This is the price of salvation, the devil’s bargain, I must suck his cock to live! I can only see the shadows of this degradation but I hear Noah’s voice, stutters of confusion as I lunge for the pipe, crying - I’m so sorry Noah, you must think I’m a sicko! But I feel life flow into me again as he screams: “What the fuck are you doing?”
This dark corridor is a stage, I realize, and we’re being filmed. Scattered laughter. A violent phase-shift, the ontology has drained from flowing rapids to a cold, lucid, five-sense construct. It’s gone beyond mind travel, I’ve materialized in physical space to a long room in a crooked reality, just the latest consequence of the metaverse run amok. So something exists but I’m lost.
Vision is impaired but sound and touch are vivid. There’s a closet crammed with microphones and cameras. A ceremonial group is present. I hear Chad’s gruff voice, he’s the tech. I’m still kneeling in front of Noah. There’s an awkward silence, broken with shameful mumbles – everyone’s slightly sorry for me but angry that I got into this pathetic position, thereby forcing them to play their roles. Oh Chad, not you, you’re such a nice guy! But I can’t refuse this narrative, it’s the only one in which I get to live, at least a while longer. So he’s Satan and I’m The Saint and it’s nothing but self-interest. I’m the wobbly wheel-axle, rattling, annoying, bound to the masochistic half of the S&M equation, enabling, enabled. Foam devil horns are placed on my head. This is my crucifixion and crown of thorns, king of the psychedelic fools. Some dark figure films me as I kneel and suck a sterile agro-pacifier. Chad checks the decibels. These people I knew were players in secret societies all along, coldly watching me, waiting for the moment they would bring me down in the form of reality TV, a poly-universal broadcast.
Maybe I can tweak the metaverse for a livable future by believing, through force of will, this is just a mean prank – but I’ll be a good sport and play along and we’ll laugh when it’s over. I’ll join the sophisticated meta-media society and prank others. But I’m only pranking myself. I’ve fallen from ego control and am lost in the maze of brain, not my brain, just a brain. I’m a thought running haplessly through a distant neural net. I see inside the brain as an electrical impulse shooting synaptic gaps in dilated time. I see this from a cell of translucent crystal. I’m back in the tiny glass chamber. I’m a lanky stick figure with a grape head and no face, a sketch Johnen Vasquez might have drawn at his misanthropic worst. My name is K’nit-scile, this much is obvious. I’m a body of taut black noodles, the only one of my kind. My denial of Godhood has led to the only alternative – this pathetic creature on a forgotten level of existence, hostage to the over-brain’s sub-enlightenment.
There’s a telepathic hemorrhage: my friend Tony talking about his schizophrenic ordeals. He’s describing my situation exactly and how he gets into these cages, but he always gets himself out. I hear him but he can’t hear me shouting back: “Tony! I’m in your head! Let me out!” He won’t say how he’s escaped, only that there are some who never get out, and how horrible. Tony’s friend shakes his head, yes, dank brain cells, chuckle. Dim glimmers of blind dendrites in synaptic caverns regress to the horizons while I bang at the walls. Tony and his friend are creating my situation with their thoughts. They believe in me, a victim of paranoia in the abstract, like sure it “could” happen but how likely is that? The conversation has moved on, they’re returning to their lives and our connection will be severed for good. They’ll never think of me again, this thought of theirs is my only chance to get through to them: “Hey! You’re leaving me here! Don’t walk away, I really exist! I’m in here! Get me out!” But they’re done and I’m left to live out eternity as a knitscile in a box.
One day, a force of nature acting randomly will crack the cell and I’ll be free. One day a dim reverie will convince me that I’m coming out. One day this is interrupted by me being in the cell. In these back and forths is an audible confirmation of Tony’s knitscile experience: “I’d get so lonely sometimes that I’d make up a whole life in Edmonton and forget about the cell entirely... then BAM, I’d wake up back in there.” That wormhole to hell was/is etched on his/my brain.?
I’m crawling / stumbling / dragged through a series of basements and up an outdoor staircase of creaking slats I fear will collapse under me. Now I’m being carried like a child down a hall. Deposited in a room. Noah and his girlfriend Nikita are discussing me in grim tones with some old bald guy.
“What should we do?”
“What CAN we do?”
Shadowed figures, a gathering of elders, the secret society I didn’t know my friends and family were a part of, the one I’m excluded from.
“How much acid did you take?” Noah asks me.
I can’t speak.
“Who gave you the acid?”
Noah is on the case, he’s going to crack this cosmic riddle. For some reason, the first step in solving the mystery is figuring out who dosed me. He takes out his cell and phones a friend of a friend of a friend. Apparently, he might know somebody who knows something about the product.
“What kind of acid was it? Was it a barrel?”
I picture a wooden rain barrel sloshing over with a colorless, odorless liquid. Yeah, maybe. Must have been at least a barrel if not a wheelbarrow full.
“I think it was Barrel,” I manage to say, as interested in finding out the culprit as Noah. “Or it was Blotter. No, it was Cube. No, I can’t remember. Somebody dosed me.”
I blink back to the blotter basement where I’ve been ducking under leaky acid pipes. My baggy shirt dipped into a bucket of liquid LSD. It got soaked and I got slammed through the skin. I got
dosed,” I manage to say, as interested in finding out the culprit as Noah. Somebody must have spiked my drink or dropped a vial in my dinner. Noah looks pissed off, I think it was a relative of his who dosed me.
“Who gave you the acid?”
I don’t know. Why is that so important? The best explanation I can give to Noah is: “I came through the basement.”
This doesn’t satisfy, so I tell him that I’ve seen things man was not meant to know. Really deep dark down ugly things, people aren’t supposed to know these things, so uh... let’s pretend I never... uh... Uh oh, it’s too late. The insect shrouds. The room is a tomb, I’ve brought sickness into our house by speaking of the Depths. The Basement. Soak in acid and curse Creek Street, any fool knows that. Nikita is here, as any concerned resident of the house would be. I apologize profusely to her and Noah for bringing this plague on them. Noah’s face is a poor attempt at stoic acceptance. Poor guy, I should have kept my shit mouth shut.
“Well when did you take the acid?”
Suddenly I realize, it was given to me by an order of monks. Spoilsports. Travel agents. I don’t remember booking a flight to Deep Self Knowledge. They didn’t say in the brochure that it was Death, a political boundary. I’ve come back but can no longer participate in life. Innocence isn’t naiveté as it turns out, only wisdom. Just that. I should have held on to it, even through the pseudo-sophistication of half-assed adulthood. Instead I chucked it away thoughtlessly and let it dissolve in acid, in the Basement.
Then I remember Rufi, the guy I got the acid from. It was him, yes, he’s the leader of those monks. He’s responsible for this outbreak. But why would he do this to me? Didn’t he know it would spread beyond my brain to envelope the whole world? I’m a hapless catalytic agent. It was his idea of a prank, I guess. I thought I was buying a “hit”, but that hit was at least a thousand times stronger than your garden variety dose. This is no exaggeration. This is what they mean by a “thumbprint”. This is what it does. I’ve been initiated. That prankster bastard! What is there to do but take it like a man. I salute him with an imaginary shot glass and manage a laugh. A shout-out instead of a freak out. It’s a Kootenay welcome into the extreme hallucinator’s club. And they think hippies aren’t hardcore! But now that I’m here, how can I get back? My personality has shed like a chrysalis and I’ve emerged as some new species. It’s lonely here.
The walls are swirling trailers and I can’t see Noah anymore. I’m in a hall of mirrors. I’ve been printed. It’s a lysergic scar that will never disappear. I’ll have this rainbow tracer smudge forever as a retinal tattoo. It’s internal! I laugh hysterically. How psychedelic of me. I’ve been hollowed out to the shell of a person – an artifact. It’s a body-brain apparatus with psychedelically smudged retinas that vibrate and change color when pressure is applied. If the metaverse can sustain itself beyond the wreckage of the Earth, this dilemma could be a path to riches. I’ll market myself on Ebay to collectors of the weird. I’ll be someone’s furniture. “Look at this thing I got,” they’ll say. “It’s a burned-retina acid casualty. VERY rare!” Somehow I don’t mind being furniture, I can imagine living on as that.
“Yes,” I say out loud, hoping my roommates will hear me through the tracers so I can spread some good vibes and live by example. “I’ll make something good out of this clusterfuck.” I’ll be clever. I’ll be furniture. I’ll be prized and taken care of. I’ll be worth millions! It’s an entrepreneurial scheme. But I’ve been left alone. The walls are billowing sails, sporting horizontal ribbons oscillating red to blue. The red-blue pulse covers the room and all its objects in microcosm. Red-blue, red-blue, and bleary sirens from outside. Heat! I’m bringing heat down on us. We’ve been caught at bending reality and we’re going to pay! And it’s my fault. I yell at Noah and Nikita to hide but no one answers.
Fuck. I climb onto something that looks vaguely like my bed, but I know it’s a simulation made to trick me. The pulsing light becomes a blood-red ambiance. I hear scraping metal and voices, growing bestial as the sounds of mechanical catastrophe continue. It must have been a neutron bomb – a flash of brain hemorrhage and an image of death. Now the apocalypse is closing around me. It’s right outside the house.
The bed-side window is a mirror. I see myself but I’m a hybrid. There’s no other way to put it, I look like a beaver. My arms have sprouted bits of fur. I’m still thinking complex thoughts, but I’m a fucking beaver! I don’t want to be a beaver. No, I’m a coyote. That’s closer to the mark. But I’m not the dignified kind, howling at the moon from a romantic precipice. My fur is matted with blood and I’m human in patches, a little here, a little there.
There was an accident. A coyote got plowed by a truck. It’s still stuck to the grill. I tunneled through a limb in the tree of life through lysergic force and merged, not with the truckdriver but the truck itself, and the half-dead organism smeared on its face. The consciousness of the truck is cold chrome apathy, it’s wearing the coyote on its fender as it continues down the highway. I’m not the soul of the coyote or the truck or the driver, but the soul of the accident. I’m lying on the bed looking at my arms. They’re bent at weird angles with irregular forests of thick hairs. My hands are claws. My teeth are sharp and I’m feral. My paws are smashed. Half my vision is my broken coyote body. I hear myself emitting muffled cries and snarls. I’m wrapped around the truck, twitching. Oh poor coyote, poor me.
The accident happened somewhere nearby, but now it’s peeling off my existence. It was Indian mischief, forcing me to discover the rich tapestry of nature and man and our demon creations. All that stuff mystics talk about, it’s REAL! What a chump I’ve been. What a chump I’ll continue to be. I’m supposed to learn how to deal with this? Who do you think you’re playing with?
I look down to see my friend Luc sitting on my armchair. Was he here the whole time? His face is mangled and he’s smiling his Luc smile. I climb off my bed to greet him – maybe he can make sense of this. But the chair is empty. The rug is wrinkled. There’s debris all over the floor, wreckage of unknown origin and a powder coating everything, my electric piano sheared in half. There are chunks taken out of the bedframe. An impact crater has plowed rubble to the sides of the room. There are pieces of a vehicle, an SUV: broken glass, car seat stuffing. It’s a hint. Somewhere in this confusion, I get the image of a man with a white moustache. I spin around and around trying to put the pieces together but the spherical core of the destruction is a blind spot.
Well, what I can’t understand I can’t freak out about. There are voices outside the bedroom. Nothing here but sinister riddles. Dawn filters through glass panes. It’s early morning in the nuclear wasteland. I hear rotors and reporters. There’s a news helicopter and someone being interviewed. I leave the bedroom and head for the living room, stopping short of entering. I don’t know what I’ll find. I’m not sure if the chopper is on TV or hovering above the roof of the house.
A practiced voice cuts through the chaos: a perky American anchorwoman reporting on this disaster area. It doesn’t matter if it’s on TV or right outside, I’m hearing it through what remains of the thought-net. Could it be that the apocalypse is confined to this area of Canada just now? No, you wish, I tell myself. It’s everywhere. If not in America, it soon will be. For now, we’ve got the dubious distinction of being a focal point. Nelson? The Kootenays? Who’d have thought?
I enter the living room. I can see the chopper through a large hole in the roof. I feel like I’m being studied. It’s not here to save me – except for archival purposes. This upper floor of the house has been reduced to a frame. The news reporter blathers on. I feel a sudden kinship with civilians of Vietnam and Iraq. We’re devastated wretches under mildly-curious American eyes. For a second, it’s a rush, and I’m on the verge of laughing. I’m not so isolated anymore. I’ve got a place in post-apocalyptic society, that of being a victim. There’s a venue for me, a refugee camp or something. I’ll be rescued. All I have to do for now is wander around looking appropriately shell-shocked.
Then I hear a series of explosions and screams. I can’t see the chopper. Things got worse, the news crew is dead or evacuated. We’ve been left to fend for ourselves.
I’m standing in the living room doorway when I see Noah by the fireplace smoking a cigarette. He takes no notice of me. I emulate his nonchalance by plopping down on the couch. Immobility amplifies dread. Nikita enters the living room from her adjacent bedroom and mills about aimlessly. Both are grim and silent.
I guess it’s on me to offer words of encouragement, even though it’s obvious we’re doomed. Can I get our minds off this mess? What could I talk about? Ravenhead, our band that we’ll never play in again? Something even more absurdly removed from reality – a movie? In bad times we would watch DVDs, but that doesn’t seem sane. I babble about the track I’m working on, minimalist synth drones over baroque chord progressions. I keep talking in my stilted, mannered language, a pseudo-intellectual fop-speak. A look of disgust on their faces. I’ve become obsolete. There’s no role for me in this stripped-down society.
The earth has churned. What remains of the Creek Street house is a few crumbling walls next to the gas fireplace, the hearth. It still burns, now with real wood, pushing a smoky pine scent through smashed glass. Noah’s uncle looks at me with a scowling moustache from across from the coffee table, crouching, cleaning a hunting rifle and loading it with bullets. That old bald man is standing outside Nikita’s bedroom, standing guard. When Noah radioed to find the one who dosed me, he must have contacted survivors. Some have congregated here. It’s the Creek Street Militia. This is the rally point, they’re here to protect the house, and its precious heads Noah and Nikita. And this acid-damaged rainbow smudge? He can be jettisoned, they’ll agree.
“Are you gonna be like this for a long time?” Noah asks, exasperated, barely tolerating my presence. I’m going to be shot for food when the famine begins. I figure he’s making a mental list of potential soldiers for the militia. What about Rufi, is he still alive? Or is he in the enemy camp? Oh, I hope to be accepted by these non-acid-trippers who’ve sort of got their shit together, they might keep me alive, but if I can’t claw back my sanity soon, I won’t be endured.
“Yeah,” I finally answer. “I’ll be fucked for... probably a few... weeks I guess.”
More like years.
“A few weeks?!”
Noah’s appalled. He’s summoned my jury by radio. I could have taught him to use the metaverse, but so what? What good’s it doing me, or anyone?
I’m so ashamed. It’s the new world disorder and we’re shedding our bourgeois skins. We could abandon all pretense, the bubbles and economic delusions. We could become the authentic people we always wanted to be, deep down. We could learn trades that have bearing on the elemental level. We could get down with the ground. And we will, or at least, they will. But I’ve gotten hopelessly fried. This is the trip that will goon me forever. Of all the times to get heroically dosed! And my friends and neighbors will have to deal with it, assuming they’re charitable. No, charity was for people with a power grid. We’ll see how charitable they are now. We’ll see what happens to druggies. Booze and opiates will be popular, there’ll be a lot of pain to kill. But psychedelics? Useless. Acid heads? Untermensch.
A few minutes to ponder and I’ve got a glimpse of the political situation. Alliances of the pre-apocalypse are dust. Turns out that a nation has two or three hours before disintegration after the nuclear spark. There’s omnipresent tribal warfare: Christians hunting heathens, atheists turned eugenic “realists” exterminating the “weak-minded spiritualists”, America reduced to block-by-block violence between liberals and conservatives (“This is all Bush’s fault for inflaming the world! – “No, this is Obama’s mess!”). Gender equality is dead. Men have become misogynist dominators or rank-and-file followers, enslaving women. Armed enclaves of feminists have themselves degenerated into all-women hierarchies of strong and weak.
I see the new power structure: an alliance between the toughs / assholes / survivalist gun-freaks – and the cyber-punks who may know how to make use of what technology remains for salvage. The alpha geeks will apply their knowledge to resurrect some computers and tap alternative energy sources in a pale facsimile of the grid we once relied on. The militias will guard it from the raiders who will soon be at our borders with what weapons they’ve scrounged up. After the raiders dominate and set up their fascist city-state, the coalition of stronger raiders from places as-yet untouched by devastation will wipe out the city-state, purge undesirables, and rebuild a world based on their cut-throat ethos. Us Nelsonites will be destroyed and forgotten.
If history is to be written, that’ll be it, and I doubt I’ll live to see much of it. But I begin to feel that even history is history. Nukes have fallen. This already bitter winter will plunge to sub-arctic temperature. Any fuel we can find will run out in weeks. Where’s our final drinks? Has some merciful person with a drug stash made euthanasia kits? Do I know any herbalists? Someone who might have belladonna?
Suddenly, I know: I won’t ebb away in hypothermia. Not even that. No one will. I’m getting that gnosis again, it’s faint, but the metathreads put together a picture: after the international incident, the terrorist response, the nuclear strikes... those far enough from the mushroom clouds, observing on TV and in a position to react... just went bonkers. Couldn’t deal. Decided the world wasn’t worth saving, and in fact, deserved to die. By extension, every person in command of a nuclear arsenal is right now launching the payload, all of it, anywhere and everywhere, in a fit of madness – collective, angry, self-loathing suicide.
This thought is confirmed on the TV Noah is watching: palm fronds, concrete walls, and two teary-eyed men speaking panic-stricken Spanish to each other in a stairwell. No, it’s not quite Spanish but some global-village inflected mutation with imbedded whispers of associative metaverse fragments. I don’t know what they’re saying - I don’t think they know themselves - but we get the gist from their tone and mannerisms.
“Adiogolos mayanech manaverack muchachos!”
They know the nukes are on the way. They’ve seen a feed from the broadcast patchwork - a nuclear shower summoned with the twist of a nozzle – and this is the moment before it falls. Someone on the old network managed to link to a mounted camera somewhere. The two men are about to share a shot of tequila, then shoot themselves – it’s happening that quickly. They must act in minutes or feel the flames. The man cries and loads a clip into his pistol. His friend whimpers, too afraid to shoot himself. The other man must do the job.
“Turn this off!” I yell at Noah. He doesn’t seem to hear me. I yell again: “Fuck this shit! I won’t watch this! I won’t believe it!”
It’s white flag pessimism, I decide. We can’t accept it, we must believe there’s a way. Even if it’s denying reality. This will be my death routine, re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
“I’m not watching TV!” I say. “You fuckers can watch TV. I’m going outside, I’m gonna do something.”
I’m gonna see what it looks like, the end. I’m indignant at those immobile TV watchers, voyeurs, as if they weren’t doomed themselves, as if they’re saying: “I can’t die, it’s not real, it’s TV!” Yeah, I’m a weak modern wastrel but I’m not THAT bad. At least I’m facing reality. That’s somewhat dignified, even if I’m as terrified as those latinos on the screen.
I stumble in front of the TV to the sliding glass door and scrabble at the curtains. I feel the approaching end in psychic shock, distant waves of fire tearing through the first impact sites. I manage to get the curtains half open and pull at the door to the balcony. A gust of air and I see the tall mountains of the selkirk range, looking humbled, like cowering victims before a firing squad. Some unknowable ecostrophe has been sparked, eclipsing nuclear holocaust. I’m facing the final biblical moment and it’s a rush - so far beyond my ken I can only succumb. People from nearby houses are gathering in clusters to witness. My vision is expanding to 360 degrees on every axis: I see Noah, frozen at the TV, couch potato till the end. I hear rumbles outside. The sky is glowing with deviant hues of yellow and orange, veiled by sooty clouds. Moaning sirens, commotion, rumbles – it’s the rumbles that chill me the most. This is it, the big one, big lights, big sounds reverberating. I expect to see a tidal wave swallowing the valley – the whole planet is coming apart, I may catch a glimpse before the toxic pre-shock annihilates my CNS. We won’t have time to say goodbye to our families - we have whoever we have. Bye Noah. Bye Nikita.
Another one of those white flashes that envelops me in dead-light, leaving only thoughts. I think, the TV watchers, the people un-hip to the new VR meta-reality, they’re dragging us all down with their negative imprints. If enough of them believe in the pessimistic scenario, it will come true and we’ll all go down together. It’s quantum darwinism, consensus reality coalescing to uni-reality. Un-used realities will wink out of existence and be lost, permanently, to the realm of possibility. And I’m no better than those TV watchers, because I can’t escape my own imprints, as much as I’d like to. As much as those optimistic philosophers exhorted me to faith my way out of this mess, I can’t. I’m part of a majority that will fuck it up for the human race. How infinitely disgraceful.
A vague sense that in some adjacent universe, I’m acting like a maniac, confounding my roommates by tearing off curtains and slamming open the sliding door to the balcony, letting in cold gusts of air and stumbling on the snowdrifts of the deck in stocking feet. This is desperation in the seconds before my death – I’m hoping there could be some other universe where this is just an acid trip.
But... If I pretend I’m just a crazy doomcryer, as opposed to a rational man in a dying world – then maybe the pretense will become reality, assuming that other universe could exist outside my mind. Maybe that’s how you make quantum darwinism work for you: fake it till you make it. I could be on the side of the optimists – just one pebble in a levee blocking a flood, but I have to try, because what if nobody tried? It’s like casting a single vote against a crooked government – feels futile, but it’s my duty, to try. But how can I do this? I can’t even fake it, the apocalypse is too real, it’s in my face, filling every sense organ with fractalized destruction. The possibilities are tauntingly close but my sweaty fingers slip off the handrails.
I’m drifting in a paranoid blaze of white light. This must be death, the real one. Or insanity, but what’s the difference, really? I’ve seen the truth, that there is no such thing as hallucination, every perception is equally real and unreal. The multiple universe model is the only thing that could save me, maybe. Could I get out of this through sheer force of insanity and pop up in another world? Even if by some miracle that was possible, I’m no inter-dimensional traveler. I’m bound to mortal mind.
Chaos rushes in, the noisy state of multi-mind re-coalescing in random scabs, merged with post-apocalypse. It’s accessible. Everyone’s cultivating a different version of their VR-paradigm selves. It’s terrifying, this freedom – to live as you want to live, until you’re impaled on someone’s new rule. It’s so sudden, this shedding - is everyone forgetting their pasts, can they do it that fast? Cause I can’t.
The living room comes back to me, transfigured. I must have lost time, it’s hours or days later and my roommates have discarded the identities I knew. The curtains are no longer cloth, but animal skin. Nikita has become child-like, pouty and wordless, gathering bits of junk to herself like toys, yet she has weird dignity, like a pre-pubescent survivor from a mad-max movie. Noah stands in front of the fire (his handiwork, I’m sure) tribal, muscular, in loincloth. He looks at me with contemptuous eyes, seeing me for what I’ve been all along, a faker, possessing only pretty words. He will abandon his trappings and become authentic. He’ll thrive in his preferred environment, his Conan the Barbarian fantasy made real, and my weak self will become part of it, a bit-player, a little bitch. His bond with Nikita has cemented through apocalypse, she’s submitted to him utterly as protector.
I try to talk but Noah cuts me off with a brute-speak I can’t understand. It’s his new private language. Other barbarians appear in the outer chambers of the house-cave, still strewn with remnants of our living room. They share in the language. Noah has emerged the victor of a local territorial struggle – but I sense he’ll soon lose to someone more ruthless. Well, at least he gets to be king for a day. I see a bone club with spikes lying on the ground, hear thrashings of hand-to-hand combat in distant hollows. I should say something, do something, but what? I’m frozen.
The cave-dwellers are sitting around pensively, like soon-to-be-evolved apes from “The Dawn of Man”, but they also happen to be hooked into what I can only surmise are VR devices. It’s the Creek Street Militia re-ordered, in loincloths and rags, hunched over slabs of plastic that are glowing and emitting color-coded holographic projections. It’s collapse and technological maturation superimposed. I’m not in the club that has a line on the distribution of this new paradigm technology. All the same, looking at the faces hovering over their devices, I see it’s nothing more than distraction. The currents of collapse sweep through every space. They think they’re “early adopters” if they’re thinking at all – early adopters, poor adapters, as doomed as me but able to find anesthesia in the firelight. Wish I could do that, but I’m weary of trying. Anything.
The VR visions fill me. I’m sucked into an omni-cerebral network of consciousness and communication, exchanged non-locally. Order forms in foam, crashes back in jungle voids. It expresses the staggered blinking of the awakening few, coalescing into the awakening many. The chaos is a terrifying undertow, but preferable to nuclear apocalypse. And yet it feels like a billowing mushroom cloud. I sense the presence of Chad, once again. He’s managed a mode of transportation, I suppose. I feel desperate to communicate with SOMEBODY, but I fear his rebuke from the memory of that cock-sucking Satan prank, the degradation I had to accept in order to save myself from the dumpster and breathe again. The next breath is worth just about anything, I’ve found - even hexing my friends. And there’s no forgiving that.
But there may be forgetting. What I sense is more than Chad but the crude scaffolding of a virtual shantytown – he’s my “in”, somebody I half-know who’s got a handle on enough surviving technology to accidentally contribute to a local BBS in the metaverse. Our searching, tumbling courses have intersected, and whatever’s gone before is irrelevant. I figure my splattered brain is learning how to focus on a more utilitarian level, from cosmopolitan chaos to local networks. This is the first promising development since that death flash. Instead of watching VR-drunk cavemen from a Creek Street vantage, I can connect with people in the area and compare notes on metaverse navigation. Chad’s got a similar idea, I sense, but I think I came up with it first, he’s lagging. I still don’t know how to move here, or how to think and feel, but I see the contours of the local bulletin board taking shape haphazardly, in angular grids tangled with knots and aborted conduits at perpendicular non-sectors. Synesthetic text splays this way and that, but rarely amounts to anything, mainly marching in hackneyed rhythms and rigid lines.
I sense all this in a half-materialized snapshot like a Polaroid, no time for exploration. I should propose ideas for what to do with the emerging network. We’re in the midst of nuclear disaster, ecological crisis and who knows what else - rather pressing, wouldn’t you say? But trying to solve that is daunting. Instead, my mind alights with hedonic schemes. I’m slightly bolder thinking this net is confined to my hometown. I grasp at Chad’s presence to see if he’s thinking my way. I can’t tell. I suspect he’s trying to impart information, but what lingual intent I’ve managed to emit is bouncing back as indecipherable strings of gruff-voiced characters. Nonetheless, I press on. We’re rebuilding, or at least contemplating the possibility of survival. When the dust clears, void-willing, and we see the full extent of the devastation, it’ll be depressing. We’re going to need music, something to sooth the soul. Chad is a soundman. So, the first thing we should do is set up a sort of 24/7 jam space where anybody can log in and play together - an open mic online. Right Chad?
Most of those who’ve stumbled in here are mute and vaguely aware, hardly believing this exists but on the off-chance, wanting to be part of it. Scattered voices burble up but the only clear ones are me and Chad and a few angry assholes wanting to wrest control from us. Somehow I push back, straining cyberdelic sinews. I feel silly taking authority, but no one else is effectively doing that, so I might as well. I jumped out to an early lead because of my being in touch with the emerging realities of the metaverse and psychedelics and the 2012 paradigm. I feel sick as I know I’ll likely have to take on the role of tyrant, lest more ruthless minds impose their crooked schemes on the local metaverse. I’ll be as benign as I can. Though surely I’ll be ousted by the next power player. My rainbow-smudged retinas won’t help me. Perhaps, at least, that quirk will grant me more than a footnote when the history books are written.
Well, let’s do something. I sense Noah is in there too, not cro-mag Noah, but the friendly roommate I knew before – maybe something of his mind sloughed off and latched onto this bulletin board before he made his transition. So maybe he and Chad and I can start setting up the jam space. But the most I can expect of this venture is a lifeboat. I don’t know how long it’ll float.
In any event, it’s lost in a sea of cacophony. I can no longer sense my friends. How to make something useful of this biodigital apathy? Others are trying, stepping up, better minds leap-frogging over each other. I’m left in the dust - whatever power I had is irrelevant in this ten-seconds-later iteration of the metaverse. But these better minds, while more suited to catalyzing a utilitarian restructure, are getting questionable results in a simulacrum of my bedroom. There’s a herd of half-phased couch potatoes. Round, dull-eyed people are popping up, ppp, PPP, pPp plumbers, the characters whirl around me in alliterative synesthesia. These peoploids are weighing the scales of hypervolution toward brainless, tasteless schlock. With their girth and gravity, they force creative minds into tailoring emergent architecture for over-consumptive idiocy. I’m subsumed by lowest-common denominator “ugliness”, the word I grab on impulse to designate “the masses”, the ones who’ll weigh us down with mediocrity and sink the lifeboat. It’s a snobbish reaction, stripped of the nuance I would apply in peaceful days. Nuance has vaporized in these time-rending energies. Stereotypes float freely in base-thought globules, fair, unfair, no justice to appeal to. A swarm of quotidian egos, the PpP paradigm, twenty plumbers for every room. Maybe that’s the ideal, who am I to say? What looks dull-eyed to me is actually recognizance of the hydraulic flow of the future, popping and plopping on emerging meta-couches, a plurality of Al Bundies and plenty of TV.
I’m flowing upstream, downstream with nationalities and ethnicities. These worldly attributes stick to minds here and there, identkeys that have fused in the fires. There are a lot of really dark Africans, Indians and Asians speaking native tongues. It’s culture shock for me. Most of these foreigners are arrogant and hostile. Us crackers, we didn’t realize how primed they were for the new paradigm. We were using the internet for porn and jokes and shopping, while they were preparing their evolved entry on the scene. Now they realize how far ahead of us they are, and how they’ve got us cornered as a doomed imperialist culture. They’ll take over without apology. We won’t be given mercy, us “masters”. We’ll be relegated to a slave caste, and it seems fair to me - why should they treat us as equals? It’s payback time, because I’m not just little innocent me, I’m actually the whole of my race, culpable for ancestral sins. Time isn’t linear. Lynching blacks in the eighteen century is something my genetic uber-self has done and will do.
I’m trying to go certain places, a foot in the associative matrix, a hand in geography. Toronto - maybe I can find my sister, she must be scared out of her mind if she’s still alive. There’s awesome transportive power here, but I’m not allowed to find my own way, being jostled by the traffic of these new metizens stampeding through the pathways I’m struggling to create. Maybe I can find my parents through the metaverse at least, if they’re inaccessible by phone or foot. The rush of self-important megalopian pedestrians is steering me senselessly. My search for sanctuary is rudely derailed by others running intersection circuits, pursuing agendas.
Some streams are more focused than others - there are motorists and manipulators, trying to control the new disorder, like they’d controlled Earth before the nukes went off. But they don’t understand what they’re dealing with. The geeks and visionaries are a step ahead of these creeps. But the manipulators are using their control of the remaining media and information systems to beat hackers at their own game. I can imagine company men resurrecting corporate structure, retro-fitting the manifested overmind to petty monopolies. Their strength lies in access to industries still existing on the earth that are currently necessary for the metaverse to exist. If we think it’s pure mind at this point, we’re deluding ourselves.
I’m floating above a street corner at night, wondering how I got here. I don’t know, but somebody knows. Jive-talk 3.14 and dark laughter, too cool for school. Through no act of will I’m granted broader context. This bit of crumbling real estate is rife with spies, intelligence agencies working for the corporate-owned militaries. An outfit of American origin, whatever that means anymore, is observing street-level chaos with a team of up-level eyes, pending decision on how best to make use of the global collapse. They’re keeping tabs on black and latino gangs that have taken control of some ruined cities. They would like to co-opt the flimsy shanties of early adapters, but the traffic is too heavy, fast, and random. I imagine they found their own way to hook into the metaverse from their bunkers under Washington and Cape Canaveral – slow pokes but moving faster now. For a while, I become engrossed in this game of espionage. I have perception of some of the players and rules, but no role in any of it.
A group of punks, holed up across the continent, are being rounded up for interrogation, will they collaborate? “Fuck you pig,” one says. I’m in a commandeered mini-mall, hustling for food and fuel, a weary automaton, dissociated, more of a self-spectator, merged in a mass of next-gen kids. We’re techno-savvy, smart but not smart enough. I’m the first to acknowledge what’s happening. I say aloud, whatever that means anymore, that we’re being studied, to see who has telepathic ability, and tested to see who will play ball with the agency. Those creeps may be old paradigm but they’re working hard to get a hold of the new one, sifting through the talent pool for turncoat material and deciding who should be “dealt with”. I feel the response of the agents who are watching me. They’re fascinated that I found a way to look back at them, but I’m still a bug under their microscope and will be crushed eventually. Still, I’m proud I caught a glimpse of what was really going on. As far as that goes.
Epileptic lids flutter open to my bedroom again. Here I find that there’s not only a neuro-digital level to the new paradigm but a micro-physical one as well: the invisible mists of flying nanobots. They enter my body through pores in my skin, changing my blood chemistry. They re-program my central nervous system, convincing my brain to run scripts convenient for those who’ve leapt ahead of me in pursuit of the future. Am I doomed to become their drone? I feel violated and enraged. These aloof hackers are sending swarms of nanobots through my body by remote from their computer chairs. Now they have access to everything. My skull is a sieve, DNA downloaded – sovereignty means nothing anymore. I’m as good as inanimate, information for the plucking in a pitiless hierarchy of controller and controlled. In trying to protest audibly, I’m suppressed by an edit-pencil icon, pending a critical mass of unified code. My own will to speak is one of many routines competing for my vocal cords.
Ewwww! I’m being manipulated by throngs of comp jockeys wrestling one another for control – over me! From my perspective, these exterior minds are “elite”, but to themselves simply “literate”, in their element now, far surpassing my rainbow-smudged understanding of this reality. As object for control, I’m nothing special, just one of millions in the inanimate half of the hierarchy, a device improvised from roadside litter to be used for this purpose or that, work or play, good or ill. I could be an agent, or a brick in a wall. My mental faculties could be useful, or might just get in the way. I could act on behalf of an individual or committee, or convulse inconsistently, part of me doing this person’s bidding, part of me doing that one’s. The balance of bots shifts in high frequency oscillations, always trending back to the vital locations. I can expel some swarms through twitches of body consciousness, but most remain.
My arms are yanked into drawing words in the air, words that won’t quite form coherent sentences. These cyber-fucks can’t decide what to do next, so they’re making me a puppet parody of their conflicting ideas. I jerk about doing various biddings that never add up to anything. The ones in my head have discovered I can talk, and are trying to change my speech patterns just to see if they can. I’m talking in fonts, colors, and sizes, encrypted intent conveying visualingual information like source code. I’m acting it out in charades. My hand keeps twirling in the air – it’s not my idea, but since it’s there now, I try to nudge it my way. I can’t make it do what I want, but I can mess up the commands of the manipulators, a bit. My hand twirls faster, tracing words that materialize in the space of my bedroom: pixilated loops of opaque digital handwriting. Layers of these things appear and disappear rapidly in a three dimensional cloud, some more prominent than others, strong signals reaching me, weak signals missing their mark. The word-cloud grows super-dense, becoming almost solid. Soon I’m engulfed in a scratchy cyclone. I’ve become a strange attractor. Currents of nano-meta-manipulation are converging on me like liquid to a funnel spout. There is no exercising intent for anybody, the cumulative chaos is too great.
Wait... I’m the guy. The ground zero guy, caught in the bull’s-eye when we hit the singularity, right? I’ve been broadcasting my thoughts this whole time, leading survivors to the new paradigm as possible escape from nuclear annihilation and society’s collapse. All my confusion has been necessary, to serve as template for the steps involved in evolution from matter to spirit. When the dust settles, I’ll be a hero! Hence, celebrity status.
Some of those I share this loop of metaverse with are resentful of this aggrandizement, but others are supportive: “-fuck yes, you’re the man-” “-saving my life, and my child’s-” “kudos, friend-”. It’s too much, this praise, it’s embarrassing. I’m more comfortable in obscurity. Nonetheless, I’m pleased to hear that the most literate and confident voices are the ones propping me up as messiah. “Well I wouldn’t go that far,” says one, “but you’ll have a prominent place in the new order.” I don’t seem to control anything. I just became a cosmic prototype through a natural disposition of mind, primed to unfold like a flower, into the sunlight of spirit. I guess.
“Sounds like something you’d say,” she says. I know her. The eyes on me aren’t entirely strange. Finch, Lynze, Tasha, Paulette, friends who sometimes read my blog have just now found their way online, amid the waking multitude. Even Raz, my frigid ex-lover, is here and amicable. She’s the one who recognized my thought as “something I’d say”. Fonts, text, and faint voices flash from the coils of the cloudy chaos, symbolizing the arrival of this person, that person, each set of attributes an individual aesthetic. In setting up their metaverse space, they found me. Undoubtedly, they’ve caught word that I pioneered this new form of being. They’re surprised and respectful: “Oh Johnny, you’re here and you’re doing well!” Am I?
Nanobot emissaries of higher social sophistication than I can manage post-apocalypse move through me - I’ll be ripped apart by intent, groping, interloping. The lovers will crash my server with their love, and the indifferent will use my remains to furnish the rooms of their virtual condominiums. As for my body, it’s shriveling up with radiation burns. The world might survive but I won’t. My tenuous link to the metaverse will end after my poisoned lungs have drawn their final gasp.
Please, if these are my last hours and I’m so important, could someone give me painkillers? “Oh yes,” sultry dreamgirls chime in, secret admirers, female fans - the hotties I’d hoped I truly deserved for being such a groovy guy. “We’ll take care of you.” They’re in the online nurse’s union. “You’ll be set up in the metaverse once we get our shit together.” The clouds thin to reveal a private hospital room. I’m lying on the bed with needles and veins prepped for morphine drip. They know I love euphoriants. “We’ll take care of you, you drug fiend, you.” My blog readership is a pink procession of caress, I hadn’t known I was so known online. It’s beautiful but I can’t face the tragedy of death, even opiated!
The feminine chorus offers me soft pillows and a song to sleep, but the hard voice of a scientist beckons me away from the hospice table. “The planet is freezing and burning,” he says. “Our salvage operation will be delayed for decades. But in the future, we who have taken the baton of metaverse administration from your dying self will begin the project of preserving and RESURRECTING information.” So they’ll do what they can to save me after death, I surmise. Perhaps in time, I’ll be reborn to a hero’s welcome and preserved in virtual perpetuity.
Gentle female voices tell me there’s no such luck: the scientist is a victim of post-apocalyptic mania, barking up a dead tree. “You must die a real death, but you’ll die a hero. This is the way to earn real love.” So I get to be a hero for a few hours. But it seems like a rip-off. I want to live, damnit. Who do I pray to? Even now, I can’t believe in anything except chaos and death. I turn away from the sweet-voiced stoics.
Mother Mary comes to me with a witch’s cackle echoing from the bloodbank past the doors. The surface under me is a comfy hospital mattress, first class care. There’s a bloody wound in the middle of a white cross, angelic contours radiating outward to the edges of my vision. From this wound sprouts a rose. Its contours pulse outward, turning into the outlines of syringes holding pink fluid. The nurses of Christ have taken mercy on me - they’ll fill me with life if I give myself to them utterly. But I feel craven and used. I’m a passive host of the virgin vampire. I’ve sold my soul to God, in weakness and terror. Now I must bleat like a sheep in His flock forever, or they’ll revoke their gift and I’ll crumble into the void. There’s a heavy price for this mercy.
My bed rolls down a spiral tunnel. I’m riding the gurney through space and time, circuits of angelic assistance, toward a real hospital, where the metaphor becomes literal and I am Saved, in hock to Jesus for eternity. The scene sharpens to a very real looking room with a steel gray door. There’s an ECG to my right. Concerned faces fade in and out but they’re nobody I know. I’m out of body, a ghost among ghosts, floating in the soft natural light of morning. It’s a mortal morning of toxic mist, the last morning. Death by insufficient gratitude. If the hero dies, all hope dies, and all humanity. Fine, this drama has strained me to the limit. Let us die, and let it all hang on me.
The scene is my living room but it’s off somehow, a scrambled simulation by the condemned corporeal. It’s like a stage – for the curtain call. It’s all that’s left, because this is the virtual end that follows physical finality. There’s a force compelling me to say the final thing, like I was fated to get the last word. This is convincing in its surrealism, a weirdness equal to the creation of life itself.
I’m in a vast Escherian hall with marble bleachers at every angle. Ahead is the gravitational source, a rippling tunnel stretching forever, the bore of an interstellar megaphone. Sitting in audience is the entire world, here to witness my farewell speech on behalf of the human race. It better be good. They resent me being their spokesman by virtue of LSD-induced malleability at the moment of the 2012 singularity. I’m no hero, the crowd laments, my trek led them to a dead end. They followed my confusion hoping it was enlightenment. The metaverse is still dependant on our technological grid and biological underpinnings. Too bad we slacked on space migration as we destroyed the planet. Education lost the race to catastrophe.
So it’s time, the bugles are calling, and everyone’s waiting for me to sum up the situation with poetic and noble words, to make it seem okay somehow. The only thing I can think of is to define the new paradigm, though it has only minutes to live. What are we?
“Maverick,” I spit out, stumbling over sentence fragments and sounding like a dork. I’m trying to get points for style, and not managing even that. If the people still sweating over Hail Mary survival tactics somehow snatch victory from the jaws of my defeat, I’ll enter the post-war metaverse as the biggest joke ever, the fool who accidentally wound up spokesman for the end of the world, and blew it with inane trying-to-sound-cool bullshit. Maybe some intelligent life will rise from the dust aeons later to build an antenna, and hear my pathetic final message bouncing off the shell of the universe. And laugh, or shrug.
The marble bleacher float turns into a downward spiraling escalator with crowd after crowd of people crammed into handrail compartments. We’re tumbling down and down and down. This is the avatar for the collapse of the world’s remaining infrastructure. Will the sun’s light still exist in the absence of eyes? I’m at the head of this swirl down the drain, I’ll be the first to go. There is opportunity for one more attempt at heroic speech. The mass of humanity can hear me, but they can’t talk back. It’s so lonely, being their voice. Everyone I know is in that mass thinking: “Wow, my son, my buddy, my classmate, my patient, HE would up being our captain, what’s he gonna say?” So I’m stumbling again, saying a lot of nothing and drawing the world’s contempt, because everyone knows they could have said something better, and a lot of them are right. The poets, the academics, the scientists are sharing their witty gallows humour with each other as they snarl and mock me, what a putz!
I can’t seem to muster any dignified approach to this down-the-drain ending. Fuck, I should give a shout out to my friends and family, because they’re out there listening! I can feel their poison dagger eyes, waiting for me to mention them: “C’mon egotard, this is IT, can’t you spare us any thought?” Flustered, I try dredging up a roll-call for my loved ones, but where do I begin? Uh... uh... too much pressure!
If you can’t beat the void, join it. In exhaustion of every option I greet the drain’s dark maw with a black comedic embrace. We had a good run, us humans, good times, good times. In the end, I’m an artistic surrealist, I can use that angle to bring significance to the last second, improvise a broken ode to absurdity: “Heh, hey, look at this, how about it, well, that’s how it is, what can you say? Isn’t that something? Yeah, it’s something I suppose, ah, sorry, well, fuck it.”
But my body is in the living room. Noah, Nikita, the Creek Street militia, and the barbarians are gone. Orange light burns through the windows. Eerie calm. I notice that the doorway to Noah’s bedroom has huge chips splintered out of it. The ceiling above is partially caved in and plaster litters the floor.
Suddenly, I remember the sphere of destruction in my bedroom from hours ago, mangled-face Luc, the CAR SEAT STUFFING! With the dramatic screech of a Shyamalan turnabout, I rip back into my room. Twisted metal and glass are everywhere, as before. There’s a bloody driver’s license at my feet. THE MAN WITH THE WHITE MOUSTACHE! And oh no, pictures of his kids! This must have been the driver of the SUV... that crashed into my bedroom from the road-bank above. That’s what those sirens and helicopters were about. IT WASN’T A NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE. That was a product of blind-sight, my traumatized brain filling in the blank, to interpret the blow that came out of nowhere. I couldn’t encompass the shock because it was so out of everyday experience – but a nuclear war I can imagine, I’ve seen all the Terminator movies.
So how did this car crash into my bedroom? I’m not allowed to know. Because, oh fuck, it’s somehow my fault. I’m responsible for this man’s death and the grief of his children, but my mind has been protecting me from that information because I can’t handle the truth. It’s psychological anesthesia. Life isn’t such a bitch that she’d deny me the opiate of amnesia in my last moments - but the acid I took has plowed through her defenses and I’m about to learn what I’m not supposed to know.
The mustached family man, good husband and devoted father, is my dad. Luc was involved in the accident too, somehow. Maybe me and him were drugged and joyriding. Dad was a passenger. Oh good God, I killed my own father. That’s why I can’t know the truth. But because I dealt with the devil and ate of the fruit, I’ll die screaming in shame. Poor Jonathan, crushed against his own computer desk. There’ll be no saluts.
Could it be that I’m already dead and don’t know it yet? Yes, I’m a ghost floating through my death scene, surveying the wreck. This is how life works, there’s a kind of mercy in dilated death-time, granting me a few hours to piece together the mystery and come to terms with the end before I go.
I turn away from this scene to re-enter the living room. Noah and Nikita are there in angelic form, looking at me pitiably. It’s not contemptuous pity anymore but aching mercy and love. Perhaps they were victims too. They could have been in my room as they are sometimes, checking email, looking for rollies, when the crash occurred.
Well, it turns out that when you cross causality streams of lethal intensity with acid thoughts, realities split into quantum fragments. The timeline is hovering over a junction. I can switch this train of misery to a different track, tying all those concerned to its trajectory with lysergic association. It’s hardly moving mountains – only willing some miniscule change of behavior in my recent past, thereby having some minor incident turn out differently, and aborting the chain of events leading to my stupid drug-fueled blackout, during which I caused the SUV accident. It never needed to happen. It serves no other purpose than confirming that I’m more of a fuck-up than anyone suspected – to die in pursuit of hedonism, denting my family, manslaughtering friends, and spoiling the hope of those left alive.
Thus, I could provide a clean future for them – a less ugly one at least, untainted by that car wreck. NOT TO MENTION, FREE OF NUCLEAR APOCALYPSE! However, the gnosis tells me, this playing around with reality would demand I re-enter the chaos where causality is non-linear, leaving that good future behind me, for others to enjoy. This familiar life with its sudden tragic twist is my reprieve from nuclear disaster. But if I make the alteration, I’ll have to venture back into the anarchy of the post-apocalyptic metaverse and take my chances in that glitchy wasteland.
No, I won’t go back to that – it’s just a never-ending series of deaths, I can’t take it anymore. So then, stay here and accept the real dishonorable death? That’s why Noah is here. I realize what this is about. The gnosis tells me, through him, that in this reality, the accident is a gear on some impersonal cosmic wheel, and must happen. But I can change the outcome slightly by balancing an incomprehensible scale with my own death in the SUV. Willing some miniscule change of behavior in my recent past could result in my friends and family being elsewhere at the time of the crash. I would die, but they would live, and I would remain here for the last few moments of my dilated death, where there never was a destructive singularity that brought out the worst in humanity.
Oh, such purity. Self-sacrifice, but no more nuclear apocalypse. It’s the only choice, really. In exchange, the gnosis says, I would get to review my life, and learn why all the paths I took were so right and true in light of this cumulative decision. I would get to say a brief goodbye to my loved ones. This is what my life has been building towards, through all the pain and disappointment: finally, something meaningful to pledge allegiance to. This isn’t God, I don’t think, but a universal mechanism that kicks in at the extremities of being. God enough, I suppose. I could make life meaningful only by accepting death, true death, the end of consciousness, forever.
But... I don’t want to die. I don’t want to take life THAT seriously, to have to have it end, utterly, with nothing after. I love you, my friends and family but I don’t want to sacrifice! I want to live! Even in the apocalypse? No. No.
Reluctantly, I agree to the bargain. Some cosmic authority accepts my decision. Noah and Nikita glow in gratitude. I feel beatific and terrified.
The gnosis tells me, no longer through Noah but transpersonal telepathy: “You don’t yet comprehend the exchange for saving your friends.” In dilated death, I’m going to get to live all life, from the mythic beginnings of mind, Adam and Eve, through the fall, to every moment of human triumph and pain, the whole shebang, the entire spectrum of consciousness in all infinitesimal facets up to this year of our Lord, 2008. Or 2012, I’m not sure. Well shit, maybe that’s worth it. After millennia of experience I will finally catch up to this hour of my death, and have to die, for real, for good, for ever, but what a journey! I could do that, for my family and friends. Oh, it will be so sad to have it end when it ends, but what a trip it will be before then! I’m game. The tour begins
with me moving to the living room couch to await the flash. The house is amalgamated with ancient ruins, populated by metizens fumbling VR devices and mutant cell phones. There are people on the living room floor, but they’re not here mentally. They’re performing crazy gyrations thinking they’re somewhere else. There’s a jungle palace, walls of bark and palm bows, paleolithic floors, and a green pool between this room and the kitchen. It’s post-Eden but paradisical by proxy - lush foliage presses through the cracks from outside.
A black form rises from the green pool, foreigner, heathen, interloper, aggressive in passivity, goddess of femininity, naked and voluptuous, carved in ebony, waiting... for me? I’m supposed to take charge and be the man, the prototype for all masculinity, the white man, the yang for the yin. I should embrace the Other fully in the purest of contrasts, white on black, a fucking union. This is my chance for sexual conquest, that ever-elusive glory. It would assuage a life-long guilt of being a ball-less non-hunter, of being gathered up and then discarded in one relationship after another. To bang the exotic is no doubt superior to banging heroin. But if I pass it up someone else will take the opportunity. There is still a power vacuum - I can usurp Godhood from the void, but other minds will catch on and seize this opening if I don’t hurry up and steal the goddess.
But I’m a wallflower, bound to the couch. She stands in a graceful pose, half risen from the water. Who am I to pursue this, much less consummate? She’s three-dimensional flesh, while being so much more than just a beautiful woman. It’s not the easy pallor of a wet dream – it’s wetter than that, I can see the pool-water running down her body in rivulets. The representation is overwhelming - in being unable to interact with it, I become her, the goddess.
Hence, my attempt at signaling the masculine forces around the poolside harem: If you want it, take it, I’m yours. That’s what I need, them, for the completion of the ego – the craving is ravenous, the satiation previously unimaginable. I’m shamed for abandoning manhood - but I’m getting off on the perversity of the reversal. Still, I’m not summoning my full feminine allure. I’m holding back, a failure at one game and then the other. Does no one want me? I could be a good girl, goddamnit. To hell with you then you fucking faggots, I’ll be a bad girl. I’ll make you want me, and then I’ll lead you on to your graves.
That’s it, the last hurdle in this obstacle course. I had to make myself desirable by playing hard to get. Plus I turned them on by dropping the F-bomb, and talking like a whore. Jesus, now they want to jump on me? After I found dignity, at last? Yeah, they’d like to pound that dignity raw, and come all over my stiff upper lip. How degrading... the best way to stroke the male ego. Upon accepting defilement, I’m pumped to bursting with female energy, the interlocking wavelength. I’m twisting in flirty half-willingness, thousands of girly mannerisms, a fog of receptive pheromones making me giddy. It’s better than being on the other side, this secret ride. The blinding white fills me, making me his bitch.
Rapture consumes self in silent darkness. It’s not scary, but the profound calm of understanding. I GET IT. It’s an expression of the fundamental duality. The eternal “I” is the only thing there is, creating conflict and resolution to amuse itself. I grazed this revelation when locked in the crystal cell, thinking I was dead - or that I might as well be, having only myself for company. But I don’t feel so solipsistic after this experience in the flesh, with a convincing Other. Wow. I feel like I’ve been through an initiation. I say out loud: “I see. That’s essentially it, the cosmic dichotomy.”
Now I’m sheepish with the sense that sharper chips off the eternal self are watching my dawning awareness of this lesson and laughing at my naiveté - like, duh! I’m so slow, I had to take a psychedelic to find this out. Heh.
I’m in the middle of the poolside orgy, omni-erogenous, fucker and fucked, tasting the shaman’s statuette, plowing the blond virgin’s pussy from behind, guzzling her pleasure-moans, voyeur to the pair, banging meat, a drumbeat of snaking synesthetic eros, floral labia, pooling nectar, frothy jizzfalls, asscheek mountains, weeping willows, golden curls, forest thickets, the deal was worth it, to see and know what it’s about!
I think my roommates are here but I can’t help myself, I’m possessed. Hopefully they’re not watching me, but hooked to their own reveries. I figure they’re phasing back and forth, so they can see me in my depraved convulsions, but I can see them too, so... Yes, they’re half-here, and they’re writhing and licking their lips, clutching themselves in fits of ecstasy.
The setting doesn’t look so ancient anymore, but it’s still ruins. There’s more technological detritus and the people seem strung out on VR devices. Some of their reveries are spilling outward as projections in a holographic clusterfuck. I realize that I’m actually holding the good-for-nothing cellphone I haven’t bothered using since the towers failed. It’s in a strange shape, morphed into gray lumps with reptilian tails. The LCD screen is a cluster of refractive eyes and a wireframe interface. I realize I can plug into channels of porn by mind-linking with the metaphone. In fact, it mind-read me to advertise this feature. Before I can opt in or out, I’m shot up with sensuality.
I’m drowning in a pornographic flood – no air bubbles, but plenty of holes. It’s gone beyond the living room. My tour was detoured, now I’m in a metaverse that re-ordered itself to survive. Men and women everywhere are tapping into their fantasies. I hope it won’t be like this forever. It’s hollow – there’s no social dimension, only sex. This is the snow crash of the metaverse, like the prophet Neil Stephenson envisioned. It could be a terrorist weapon, the fundies would love to use our sexual freedom against us. The lure of the honeypot will become static, then death. Once you’re here, there’s no resisting it.
In this rush I become a roster of alpha male assholes macking harems of hos. Then it’s lesbian lust. Then I’m squeaking stupidly in the language of little girls, soft, pretty, adorable, flowing pre-pubescent hair, relating to adolescent conversation, like totally, and their fledgling proto-romance with the boys. The scene is taking place in the North Shore mansion of a grade-school friend who once showed me her My Little Ponies collection. Then more advanced coupling, made-up sophisticated women courting dashing leading men. I’m one of the ladies to the point of parody, a posh lady of antiquity, a lady of the night, flirty eyes, frilly hat, flowing gown, a southern debutante, a creole prostitute, a geisha girl, a nubian princess.
I become aware of myself in my bedroom with the pornophone, a helpless addict like Vonnegut’s “euphio” victims. I’m hooked on a transmission from inner-space. This is what next-gen VR has unleashed because hedonic impulse is our immediate ambition. We’re too quarrelsome to co-operate in common life, but we can make the metaverse work as circle-jerk, pleasuring ourselves until our CPUs short out. Perhaps this mental orgy is symptomatic of a neurological spark preceding braindeath, like an asphyxiating man’s orgasm. It has a scary ring of truth, like the metavisions were delusions of connecting with the whole world, but actually my brain operating briefly past the specs in lethal overload. This is all part of the 2012 paradigm of course, the common denominator being that the old epoch ended, and the new one is unlivable by sedentary hobbits like me.
What about the Mayans, weren’t they planning on living past the turning of their calendar page? But I’m not good enough for them, I don’t “know shit”. Thinking of them, however, I feel strained mercy from across space and time, like there’s a tug of war for my spirit between shamans and demons. It’s out of my hands. Please, friends: I know I’m a hypocrite, a weakling, a self-absorbed sell-out, but consider me worth fighting for!
It’s an ancient ritual that requires a purge, all the more appalling as it’s taking place in my bedroom, facilitated by family and friends as well as distant shamans. All must stomach the stink of my spiritual rot and how it reminds them of their own possible downfall. I’m a living example of what no one should ever witness: the filthiest possible state of a still-functioning human. Their attention is necessary to save me from self-poison. They’ll try their best, but they know as well as I do that it’s a long shot. I’ve squandered too much to have any hope of getting right again. I almost resent their heroics. I’d rather die than have my base self exposed like this, and then owe them my life besides.
Nonetheless, I’m caught in a feedback loop of progressively uglier self-regard. Pitiful fantasies fill the room, objects of love and hate reduced to caricatures, clunky avatars masking insecurities, killing fields of easily slaughtered scapegoats. More perversion than I ever knew existed pours out while I moan in trans-gendered lust, expressions of sodomy, pedophilia, bestiality. I’m flashing old ladies, chasing little girls, abducting rape victims, drugging club-goers. Noah and Nikita are close, trying to keep me alive as I retch and writhe, grimacing at the hallucinations spilling out of my head for all to see. They’re disgusted but will try and save my soul anyway. I wonder, should I commit suicide so as not to taint these well-meaning friends? The demons should be quarantined, not released, otherwise they could kill everyone around me.
The thoughts have no bearing on my slimy sweaty strokey strokey stroke. I’m masturbating and accepting the sickness, getting off on it. This is my release, how I must continue to degrade myself to expel the disease and find wholeness again. I’ve lost awareness of Creek Street, this is happening on the third story deck of a house in Fairview, near the lake, in the woods, at night - a rustic, shabby, soulful house from a more civilized shelf of the post-apocalyptic future. The rules change during these ceremonies, especially when you’re the object of an ayahauscero’s trip. It comprises Noah’s down to earth decency, Nikita’s headshop spirituality, Noah’s hippie dad from the valley, and everything my friends and family have absorbed from our new-age tourist town. Haesel and Toumbi are here, lending expertise with false modesty. A coven of wiccans are chanting, and I hear the spells of an exorcist – I wonder how my Catholic parents feel about that? They’re not crazy Christians, but given the severity of the situation, I guess they’re willing to try anything. Indian ancestors give watch with their contemporary descendants, what remains of the Sinixt. These people have banded together at personal risk to recast an ancient healing ritual for a new time – to save my sanity, which is more important than my life. I could die happy if I died in sanity, that heaven I was tucked safely inside ages ago, in blissful ignorance.
I’m puking, jizzing, drooling, pissing, shitting, reverting to infancy. I suppose the shamans have seen it all, but it’s mortifying beyond words to soil myself in front of friends and family. I must sit in the center of this wooden deck and let it out, and it just keeps coming. Grim-faced, my healers continue the ritual. Their part is to keep me strong enough to survive, through their painful awareness of my struggle.
The eyes on me have disappeared. The ones in touch with the earth deities got me through my quandary, with the inclusion of others who are spiritual, or care enough to try spiritual intervention despite their doubts. The pagan ritual that brought me out of space and time has deposited me back in a bedroom which feels comforting in familiarity, yet fresh and immaculate, hung with festive decor.
I’d forgotten the season. Malik’s improvised carol. Every day’s a holiday when you’re in a tight loop of drug abuse. Easy to have missed that it’s a few days to the 25th. I’d jumped the gun on January 1, through New Year’s associations, to conflation with 2012, the solstice, and all that catastrophic calendrical thinking. I’ve read too much Terence McKenna, and could easily interpret things as a shockwave from the future singularity, a concept that sounds cool in theory, but impossible to deal with in reality.
The pagan healing ceremony was a Christmas ritual, and re-affirmation of the holiday I turned my back on, in an effort to distance myself from childish things. It was also a reconciliation between the warring factions of the One True God and Polytheism. It’s the True Meaning of Christmas, haha! I wouldn’t expect most Christians to accept this - they’d call it “secular” - but in fact, it’s generously spiritual. And I’m giving Christians their due: they may have co-opted their holiday from the pagans, but with all the blood and toil they’ve put into following Christ since His birth, I have to acknowledge their relevance in the mix. Christmas has become the worldwide sacrament, even for those in the southern hemisphere, because we need a yang on the bottom of the world to balance us out. Every culture has a line on it – collectively we’ve combined the earthy awe of the solstice, Jesus the sacrificial savior, a pure-hearted European saint, kitchified folklore, and Norman Rockwellian nostalgia, with rampant consumerist gluttony! It’s the beauty of the sacred and profane co-existing. Materialism in the literal sense: loving material, the bright wrapping paper, the scrumptious turkey dinner, everything tangible that makes life worth living.
I see Nelson on Christmas morning from above, snow-covered evergreens, carolers, chimney smoke, a bright winter sun, kids opening presents. It’s that one measly day of the year when we agree to set aside our grievances, get together, and express gratitude for creation, community, family and friends. It’s an appreciation of life, for having given us another year - the solstice signpost to healing warmth over the horizon - the worst is over!
This becomes the overarching duality of existence: dark enabled light and all creation which insisted on saccharine love – thus falling prey to moorlocks who devoured it for the sustenance of critical rigor and realism - which allowed the intellectual renaissance necessary for new ideas and new methods of appreciation which thawed the frozen hearts and started the cycle again. We’ve earned this jolliness after nuclear armageddon. That was the nightmare before Christmas, the depth of depravity necessary for salvation of this magnitude, a Christmas miracle!
Like the holiday cheer of every season past, this soon gives way to broken ornaments and hangover remorse. Cynicism – my clean up chore. I don’t like to be cynical, but some twisted morality in me demands I coolly shrug off anything hopeful, sweep up superfluous charms, and calculate. Anything good is guilty by association with wishful thinking. Paranoia is a solemn duty, and of course I was confused, being brain-damaged by trauma and fallout. I can’t be expected to make sense of what’s happened since the singularity - but it sure as fuck ain’t Christmas, that’s old paradigm - time doesn’t even work right anymore. The nuclear exchange seems more and more likely the more I think about it. I can’t shield the awful truth from myself anymore, I’ve seen too much. The Christmas decor fades like a mirage.
“Paranoia is reality enhanced” my friend Rich used to say, and he was right, the jerk - he’s one of those better people than me, who are always right when I don’t want them to be. I guess I should consider myself lucky that I got to experience one last Christmas, in fantasy form, before returning to the ravaged world. Now there’s that sinking feeling of having finished the feast. The toys are played out, and I have to go back to serious business.
I turn to my bedroom door with the silly hope that it will open on a new world, one with a Christmas tree. But it’s the hallway of the house, scarred with post-nuclear damage. I can’t make it go away. God, I wish this was just a hallucination! I slump against the wall and cradle myself, and wish wish wish it was just an acid trip, please, I’ll never do drugs again, just let this not be real!
But when I open my eyes, the floor is strewn with rubble and the walls are tilted. There’s still that spooky rumbling outside, and through holes in the ceiling I see flashes in the overcast sky. I return to the living room. Noah is lounging around like he was earlier this morning. I drop onto the couch in sarcastic leisure. Well shit, should we...
“Should we admit what’s happened?” I finish my thought out loud, already wishing I hadn’t. I don’t know end-of-the-world etiquette, maybe we’re not supposed to talk like this. Noah replies with a sentence that makes no syntactical sense to me. I figure he’s talking in code. He’s caught on to the new paradigm quicker than me, it’s a language I’m expected to know. I interpret it to mean that we should prop up a pretense of our life before the nukes fell, to cheer us up a little. A pitiful gesture, but something. We may have a few hours before conditions become unlivable. So like, maybe we should put on a movie. Maybe he’s got the television hooked up to a battery pack, or a generator in the basement or something. He’s probably more inventive than I’d thought – good in times of crisis, unlike me.
Nikita is nearby, talking about something I don’t understand. I can’t relate to these people. They’ve been shocked into dissociation. The only sentence fragments I can understand from them refer to worldly things, movies, music, food. Absurdly, they seem to be discussing their plans for the day as if there was still a functioning world out there.
Oh. I get it now. They’re doing it - the pantomime of the good old days, but they’re being so casual about it, like they’d managed to dream themselves back there. I can’t even conceive of doing that. I’m SO not cut out for this apocalypse. But I still have a connection to metaversal gnosis. Our last weeks turned into last days turned into last hours. The situation has degenerated to a mad dash for our loved ones, and a final resting place.
“I guess I’m gonna go... you know,” I say in cracked speech. I can’t complete the thought aloud, it’s too horribly real to actually SAY the damn thing.
“Families,” I finish, missing some words in between. I feel sick for saying this. I should just go. Find mom and dad. They’re on the other side of town. Noah and Nikita have got their family – each other. Three is a crowd. It’s expected that I go and find mine, if they’re still alive. I feel stupid for not having done it sooner. Instead I hung around here with my roommates, wasting precious time. I’d better go, NOW! I see myself dying in a snowbank under rubble, having made it halfway there.
Turning away from the roommates, I read our epitaph in the wounded walls. We’re individually isolated in useless suburban shells, starving spiritually. What a joke, this modern society. And I’m nothing more than a product of its decadence. I never built any character that wasn’t dependent on the gross domestic facade.
Back in my room, I plunk down on my armchair, get up, pace, sit on my computer chair, get up, riffle around aimlessly through my things. I should set out now, but I can’t think of what to do first. I’m frazzled. A voice from within roars: “Stop crying and waiting for death. Be optimistic and resourceful – it’s the only way you’ll get out of this alive. And enough of that namby pampy philosophy too, you can’t afford it. You’re a survivalist now.”
I am? This turn of thought surprises the hell out of me. Suddenly, I see myself in context, analogous to survivors of Hiroshima. People have been nuked before – is it possible there’s such a thing as living through it? Do I dare desire to make it?
I’m a child of the nuclear fire, a scarred victim of unspeakable horror. But I’ll get out alive, damnit! I’ll be the plucky young lad who kept his head when all others lost theirs. I’ll struggle through fire and ice and poison and roving bands of maniacs to get to the warmer climes where society is rebuilding. Crisis precipitates change. My self-hatred will become self-reliance and self-respect. The weak bourgeois I’ve devolved into will acquire warrior skills and zen sublimity, the things I’ve always deemed unattainable for myself.
It won’t be pretty. I’ll be a rat. I’ll do what I have to do, to stay alive. I’ll double-cross my friends, and keep a utilitarian charm about me the whole time. I’ll be a scurrilous rogue, a lovable pirate. Later, I’ll brood on my deeds and seem all the more dark and mysterious for it. After the ordeal is over, in more stable times, people will look upon my survival with wonder and inspiration. I’ll be pitied, but respected.
And I’ll be set for life! Visions of the post-post-apocalyptic future, of being a war hero, a raconteur with a book deal, a player, a ladies’ man. Cashing in on my suffering and milking the accolades: the boy who pulled through his traumatic early life to became a great man... I could do this, for real! Or I could die trying, but I have to try.
I scrabble through the ruins of my room for a “post-apocalypse kit”, but there’s nothing that would be of value in the wasteland, just a ridiculous assortment of modern material. Pitifully, I gather a ten dollar bill, a few coins, and my useless melted phone. I don’t stick around to dress myself sensibly, just slip a coat over my T-shirt and enter the hallway in ratty over-sized cargo pants.
Fuck. The second story floor is shuddering. The foundation must be crumbling. If I stay here, in a matter of minutes I’ll collapse with the house and end up impaled on a load-bearing splinter. Overwhelmed by the miserable situation, I duck back into my room, waiting for the whole place to come down around me. I’m still bracing for nukes that have yet to fall, expecting a flash or a blast wave any minute.
My electric piano is distorted like a cubist painting. My computer is bent out of shape and smeared with grime. Every object is junk. I realize it was like this all along. Our gratuitous gadgetry, ever cheaper, ever slicker, the digital revolution – nothing but a con game. We’d found a way to believe it worked and made us comfortable, but it never did – that was only pretend. It took a nuclear war to burst the bubble.
Is this my final resting place then? The idea of me dying alone in my bedroom is too much. I stagger out into the hall and open the door to the back stairs, peeking into the neighborhood. Everything is broken. Modern amenities were far flimsier than we thought. A few hours without electricity or supply lines and it all falls apart.
I think I should look for people. C’mon, we have to form units, crews, to resist the breakdown. With the door still open, I head back into the house, going from room to room pushing socialization, shouting hey! People! Where are you? C’mon, let’s group together. Hello? Do I have to do everything myself? Join me! But nobody answers. Noah and Nikita are gone. I search through holes in the floor for our downstairs neighbors, but I’m the only resident left.
The prospect of fixing this mess is daunting, nobody has the will. Turns out we’re a more decadent race than even our self-hating stupor allowed. Upon catching each other’s eyes, we’ll look away, chagrined at this naked appraisal of our failure. We’ll separate in shame and walk alone to our individual deaths.
I wind up on the deck at the other side of the house, stumbling noisily over snowdrifts and junk.
“Stop trying to come inside!” Noah shouts from below in an irritated parental voice. The smart people, which is everyone else, have stopped clinging to their powerless ruined homes. They’re out there, braving the cold, setting up tents and huddling around kerosene fires.
Okay. I’m heading out, for real. I’m not hanging around with them, they don’t want me. Get on with exile, then. Goodbye Creek Street.
Back through the house and down the stairs. I trudge awkwardly through a thick blanket of snow and up the driveway. I don’t see the neighborhood youth gang, they’ve probably hidden themselves. A wise precaution. It’s going to get rough.
This is the skids. We’re all skids now. Cyberpunks and burly survivalists and feisty women with mothering skills. They’ll live on as breeders and caretakers. Heading up the road, I see the occasional person by a stagnant truck or broken home. They’re not happy about the new paradigm but they’re finding their groove. When I catch their eyes, they look daggers at me. I’m not part of their thing. I’m obviously unable to adapt, and therefore a remnant of the failed society. They’ve separated me out as one of those responsible for the disaster. My inability to become a cagey survivor symbolizes the old decadent ways.
My saliva tastes wrong. I feel radiation in my body. I’m half-hairless, getting the burns. My cells are crapping out on me. Maybe in distant lands, there’ll be healers or wonder-drugs. Yeah right. I reach the top of the driveway and walk on down the road.
Bitter cold, freezing my will to live. I hear conversation and argument from the streets and houses, but it’s a mesh of colliding dialect, serpentine whispers and bird clucks, slithers of pointlessly sarcastic smarm, animal grunts, hyper annotated musical nonsense loops. Everyone has forgotten how to communicate, they’re speaking their own gobbledygook and wondering why they can’t make sense to themselves or each other. It’s a language of mutant cellular noise, the sound of people losing control, a liquidation sale. Organs have invaded the CNS, heart-spleen with half-spine twisting frontal lobes to transient control. This is the immediate consequence of poison rolling over the mountains from devastated cities beyond. Trail had the bad luck of supporting a smelter, it’s now a crater of black glass. Clouds of fallout billow over the valley.
It’s a modern day Babylon, we can’t even say goodbye to each other, we’ll just wander in circles like idiots until we collapse in the cold and freeze to death or burn from the fissile material that is still flying toward every corner of the earth in ICMB arcs. I think, maybe our internal organs planned this uprising all along. Maybe they actually took over the world’s militaries and prompted this apocalypse, a Skynet scenario except with rogue cell clusters rebelling against the human egos that deigned to control them. Life will survive but humans will die. What’s left will be a new form of life sprung from the wrecks of our chemed-out bodies, phosphorus phased, trampling on human corpses and using them for fertilizer.
What am I doing? I’m not sure – just going forward, somewhere, anywhere. There’s the vague hope of finding my parents, but I’m overwhelmed by the momentum of death, certain that before I get there, I’ll be swept away in some cataclysmic event.
This city block I’m crossing never seems to end. I thought I was almost at the intersection, but it turns out I’m just at the start. My town no longer adheres to coherent geometry. It’s an Escherian knot of associations and combinations. Unfortunately, this is the way the universe really is. Having comprehensible rules, maps, memories, was a pleasant fantasy, but I’m in touch with the fundamental level of chaos now - no more luxuriating in the illusion of order.
I can’t remember what street is supposed to intersect Stanley, therefore this walk will be an eternal golden braid of Stanley-Delbrook / Stanley-Sixth Street / Stanley-Lyndock. I cross the block and walk into some random association a dozen times, one of them being the house I used to live in during my year in Australia. The metaverse is fragmenting and fusing with parts of the real world, trapping me in little mind loops. There’s no God of this, not even a shitty government. People could fall through the cracks and never come out.
There’s the occasional morning person in peripherals. I’m looking for firemen, cops, relief workers, refugee camps. I’m expecting to run into a scene with doctors, authority figures with bullhorns herding survivors into shelters, soup kitchens, school gymnasiums. Nothing like that appears. No one will talk to me or even look at me. I see only desperation, desolation, and debauchery. Cars speed by – nearly every one dented and trailing debris, driving recklessly, cutting corners, throwing out the rules of the road.
No one will take any responsibility. He hasn’t, she won’t, therefore I can’t afford to bother. Everyone has realized this is the prevailing attitude, which means there’s nothing to be done but to look out for number one, a selfish frenzy of securing personal comfort zones before the final curtain falls. It finally happened, the big apocalypse like we figured must happen with all this crazy technology and twisted psychologies, but couldn’t really, not like in the movies and the bibles – and it’s the worst case scenario. No love and understanding, no enlightenment in the face of death, nothing to take the edge off.
I can hear the sobs of my poor sister in Toronto, away to face armageddon without her family. My poor mom and dad, now senior citizens, holed up in their house, waiting for me to come see them. And I won’t make it, I don’t even know where the house is anymore - my town has morphed into a mobius strip of half-remembered city blocks.
I’m walking down a flight of stone steps for the third or fourth time when I think, maybe, just maybe, I can break out of this reality which the hedonistic consequences of my universe have led to, and phase into an alternate one - by accepting the crystal thumbprint prank. Acid is not an accident, Albert Hoffman’s lab creation served a cosmic purpose whether we know it or not: the rite of passage for all cognizant beings. This must be the culmination of my trip. Everyone who goes on a journey of this depth faces a similar drama, but the solution is individual. All along, my brain has been cooking up the one thing I needed to become a better person, which is: letting go and succumbing to the universe, all the pain and bliss together. I must abandon the ego with its will to power and BECOME the universe. It could be bliss but I’m struggling, terminally, how can I accept? I WANT to accept but I’m blocked. I have to DO something, release the tension, but it’s like trying to move a mountain, tunnel through the crust of the earth. I drop into visions of geothermic energies: I’m burrowing through the ground, floating into the mantle, fusing with the molten core of the earth, but where is this getting me? I’m subsumed in a solid mass of rock, I don’t want to be this – I want to be back on the surface, how can I escape this objectification?
Where is the tension? I must do something, puke, shit, have an epileptic fit, the terrible seizure I’ve resisted all my life, and give in to the ultimate act of crazy, become an authentic schizophrenic. Awareness of the sidewalk returns, and I know what I have to do – PISS! I’ve been holding my urine ever since the apocalypse began, my bladder is going to explode. I’ve been politely waiting for a toilet to show up out of nowhere like a proper civilized citizen of the west, but this is the end of the world, I might as well...
My half-tied pants are falling down. I let them drop, take my dick out of my undies, and blithely piss into the alley from the last sidewalk tile – a Canadian wake-up. With an arrogant smile I mark my territory in the snow, in the now - this is my birthright as a northern mammalian creature.
A man passes me, averts his eyes. I say something like: “How about this? You like that snow? Yeah!” I let out a pervy laugh, haha. Some neighbor lady sees me. My face wriggles into a leer while my waste runs down the sidewalk in foaming rivers.
“You see something you need?” I ask her, who cares? We’re all doomed, the inertia is turning me into a savage despite my wish to go gracefully. In peripherals, I hear neighborhood stragglers cursing, laughing madly and being wicked. We’ve become another pack of animals, succumbed to an amalgam of instincts and technological addiction. We still have gas tanks and cars, there may be enclaves of electricity, and guns and ammo. We’re an armed colony of snow-monkeys going berserk in toxemia. A snowmobile with a whisky-swilling driver careens down a perpendicular street at a hundred clicks an hour, I think he’s racing to steal his friend’s drug stash, fuck, why didn’t I bring any drugs with me? Did I have enough aspirin to OD on? I imagine breaking into the hospital up town, but it’s probably swarmed with people trying to nab morphine or begging for help from the staff who have boarded up the windows and are injecting themselves with painkillers.
I thought maybe this town was different, good people, well-meaning hippies trying to wean themselves off the grid in pursuit of sustainable lifestyles. I’d thought we were trying to re-create community, but no, that was self-delusion and self-congratulation. Our efforts were paltry – under that thin veneer, we’re still products of this narcissistic age, dependent on corporations and institutions that could only sustain us out of capitalist self-interest. Being right about the decadence of society brings no comfort – after all, what did I ever really do to change things? I was a part of it all along.
The third world might hold out a bit longer, they’re used to chaos and poverty – they don’t have as far to fall, nor as many dependencies. A lot of them were off the grid already, therefore they may transition to the next phase of human deprivation without hysteria and murder. Those lucky bastards in warmer climes. Well, they’re doomed too, I suppose, the nuclear disaster will catch up with them – but they can sit on the beach for a while, gathered together with loved ones, and comfortably philosophize about how we fucked ourselves, as the fallout approaches. Here in the glut of the north, in the dead of winter, we’re fucked without fuel. We probably won’t last the night. Looking around at the remnants of car-accommodating culture, I see all metal surfaces crumpled and oxidizing. The chemical plague of a novel nuclear weapon is peeling my skin back – it was something developed in secret behind the bamboo curtain. Or it could be from a former Soviet bloc, those slavs really know how to ruin natural beauty, our Kootenay lake will go the way of the Caspian Sea. Most likely, we’ll die of radiation before the cold kills us - fitting, I suppose: to freeze is a pure animal death, us humans will die bubbling up in hyper-tumours, synthetic bio-suicide.
Someone is running out of Burrell’s Grocery, head down. He looks like a figure from the Battle of Berlin. Burrell’s has been converted into a storehouse, I take it as a rally point for survivors. I won’t dare enter though, I’m in exile. My only hope is family.
A car rounds the corner on the wrong side of the road. Oncoming traffic doesn’t honk or anything, only frantically corrects course. There’s no pretense of rules anymore, nobody cares – we all accept that it’s anarchy. The car is roaring towards me, but I cross the street casually. I realize in this new disorder that it’s not hard to get around. People were paralyzed with rules and it hung them up, made them freeze in panic a thousand times a day when their instincts should have kicked in. But it’s sad that we’ve dumped the pleasantries of order. Surely we could have made an effort. But this is how it’s gonna be.
Piles of debris are everywhere. No attempt is being made to clear the wreckage. We’re not even talking about the radiation problem yet, first things first, shelter from the elements, and hopefully we’re not all cooked anyway. I hear giger-counters going crazy, helicopters, cars crashing, shouting, screams and sobs. I don’t actually see a lot of people though, I figured there’d be more of them out there. I guess a majority have made their shelters. No one wants to be out here, it’s so bleak. This already-cold December is as warm as it’s going to get. Nuclear winter is doing its work. Minutes from now, the temperature will drop like a stone. The pipes will crack, and those who haven’t made it to underground bunkers or electric generators will perish where they are.
The rich will live a little longer than the rest of us. They’re in a better position to survive, more food, more resources. The ring of yuppie homes on the edge of town won’t be much good, but temporary salvation. The armed owners will defend their families or their priceless antiques or whatever they hold dear.
The people I’ve seen so far are going apeshit, running off to fuck their girl or their boy or the person they wish was that, going on a drug-binge, a shooting spree, a thrill-seeking suicide. But most have wizened up as the hour approaches. Now the entire town has coalesced into a charade of normalcy. If this is our last day alive, damnit, we’ll pretend everything’s okay. But it’s a shabby spectacle. The sky is gasoline swirls of toxic clouds. The nuclear devastation is not ignorable, to me.
Hummers and luxury cars pass me on the road. A huge truck with the back open is burning up Latimer trailing fumes. Somebody is frantically transporting food reserves or survival gear to some other place in town, not to help the community but to feed his little circle of family and friends. It’s survival of the fittest, ie, the ones who found themselves on the levers of plunderable industry when the shit hit the fan. Those toxic fumes – somebody is getting rid of deadly byproducts from the nuclear rain.
Beside the fire hall, I see a worker in reflective city clothes, spraying the ground with white gas, moving hectically, not noticing me, backing away from the cloud. He must be sealing the area to create a buffer zone from the coming toxic storm. I take a wide detour, pass the Mary Immaculate Cathedral. I remember Mother Mary’s bloodbank – but that was just a vision, there’s no healing elixir from the brides of Christ.
Could I at least communicate... but what’s the point? Nobody will talk to me or offer assistance. And hell, why should they? I’m an acid freak. The strong people are too busy trying to rescue themselves, and their mothers, and their children, and folks that are worth saving. The more scrupulous members of the post-apocalypse could be setting up something in the faint hope we might survive a few months – and why aren’t I offering assistance? I’m a young man, I should be helping out, not LOOKING for help, but I’m useless in my ragged clothes, pants still falling down, delirious hydra head. I’m so ashamed. I just want to find my family before I freeze or burn, they’ll take care of me – I should be taking care of THEM, but I’m dosed and can’t even remember my name, Christopher? What does that mean? Why is that in my head?
The horrific thought of my dad being the man of the house, comforting my crying mom, shaking and saying a prayer to his god, then opening the medicine cabinet to find out which jar of pills might kill us most painlessly.
I’m passing the school by the church. Some children are inside classrooms, some are playing in the playground. They seem happy. I get it – they’re oblivious. The adults have contrived to protect the kids from the knowledge of what’s happened.
“Oh, it’s just a thunderstorm”, they’re saying through clenched teeth. “The worst is over, go back to your play.”
“But it’s class time!”
“Go back anyway! Enjoy yourselves, you get the day off. Everything’s alright honey, I promise.”
Heroically, they’re keeping the little ones in the dark, privately anticipating their end. And then there’s me, dosed on LSD, unable to summon the presence of mind to go along with the charade, bumbling aimlessly, playing every part the hysterical refugee, having to be explained away to the kids, oh, he’s just a crazy man, look away.
I’m hoping for someone I can discuss the situation with honestly, to at least make sense of it. Just out of curiosity, who nuked who, anyway? How did it start? Did India invade Pakistan? Was it terrorism? Did we suddenly reach a global warming tipping point? Did world governments succumb to mass insanity and launch their nuclear arsenals? But I’m not allowed to do that. It would only make things worse.
At least I recognize the street up ahead, Josephine. I’m heading in the right direction, if there is one. Oh, isn’t that – yes, Haesel’s house. Haesel and Toumbi, I wonder if they’re there. I don’t expect they will be, but if there’s a chance of getting with people I know, I’m going to take it. Not that I know them well, but acquaintances are good enough to suffer the apocalypse with, better than nothing, if they’ll have me. I stagger through the garden and bee-line to the door. I knock loud and long. It opens and I let myself in. Haesel greets me, looking surprised. I peer into the living room - Toumbi is looking back. They seem to have found their comfort zone.
“I’m on acid,” I tell them, cringing in shame. Like that’s all they need during a nuclear apocalypse, a fucking lysergic invalid. I can’t think what else to say. It doesn’t matter, they know who I am. Surely they’ll accept me here. Thank you guys for surviving, I think. I won’t die alone. I stumble into the living room with muddy shoes on, stand around awkwardly for a second, then crash on one of their couches, clutching myself, eyes darting around. Maybe I should take my shoes off.
They’re saying things, these two, but their speech seems cryptic and inconsequential. What do you say at times like these? Philosophical things, I would have thought, but their choice of words is much like that of my roommates: vapid small-talk. I won’t dare mention what we all know to be true, immanent death, and the collapse of everything we hold dear.
The first sensible communication is Haesel offering me tea – I accept, and she goes into the kitchen. Toumbi comments on the tea. She comes back into the room, placing a steaming cup on the couch-side table. Drinking tea, how absurd. Something to do, I suppose. We still have tea, we should be glad of that.
We’re sitting around, doing and saying little. Toumbi disappears and returns with a couple of devices. I don’t know what they are. He places them on the floor beside the couches and sits back down. This is obviously new paradigm technology. I can see the glow of morphing wireframes inside their grills. They’re emitting holographic projections, but I can’t encode the data, it’s a noise of high-frequency, primary-colored static. Haesel and Toumbi seem to be getting something out of it though. Distraction, entertainment.
I imagine that some organization found a way to distribute this technology to those left alive, through the metaverse, perhaps code that endows home appliances with the advancements of technological possibilities. I’m not hip to this exchange of information. In fact, I’ve lost connection to the metaverse - I didn’t think it was around anymore. But some people still have a line to it, which makes me jealous. I assume they’re being informed of the global situation, through VR broadcasts. The news can’t be good, but their expressions are casual. The broadcast is an opiate. They’ve adapted to the new paradigm and are getting on with life, such as it is.
This involves linking up with the facade of normalcy, which has gone metaversal VR. Figures that virtual reality would be the place to pretend everything’s just like it was yesterday, before the nukes fell. The metaverse has become stable, in the combined will of survivors to dream themselves back to their old lives in the short time remaining. There’s no thought of evolution anymore – the prevailing desire is to make the metaverse a facsimile of the old paradigm, familiar comforts, back when the possibility of avian flu was the worst of our fears, and a television series finale was a relevant topic of conversation. It’s almost parody, I can tell by the strained expressions of Haesel and Toumbi, their twisted smiles – there’s a desperation about it. They’re cycling rapidly through every scrap of stimuli they can find from metaversal memory banks, to prop up a convincing facade. They prefer associations relating to their unique slice of life, but they’ll take whatever they can get, more generalized, Betty Crocker-ized patterns. It’s sad to watch, Haesel throwing away her intelligence and sophistication and crawling into a barbie dreamhouse. I guess she’s happy though, she’s smart to do this. I can’t hook into the facade, I wish I could.
I notice the TV is on, I guess I could watch that. There’s a disheveled newsman on the air. The language is garbled, like everything I’ve heard from everyone since the singularity, but I get the gist – that we’re due for another wave of nukes. It might be a minute, it might be an hour, they’re not sure. But these ARE the final hours. We won’t live past nightfall. The tragedy is more than I can bare. There’s no verbal or physical way to express it, except clenching on the couch.
Haesel and Toumbi seem to have gotten the gist too, through their VR feeds. They aren’t spared the trauma, I can see it pierce their facade. I feel so sorry for them, especially Haesel. She’s just as lost as I am. She doesn’t know how to handle this. Nor does Toumbi. We’re just a bunch of young people, playing at adulthood, frozen in the face of global catastrophe. This is pretty close to how I imagined the world would end, if it did so in my lifetime.
I look again at the two cylindrical devices, standing on the floor. I know now why Toumbi brought them out. They’re anti-nuclear stabilizers. They could potentially blunt the impact of a shockwave, reduce the heat, and purify the fallout. But I can tell they’re flimsy bulwarks, probably from Wal-Mart. They might stave off the effects and slow our deaths by a few hours. I hope they do, I’m not ready to die yet. But I dread the pain I know I’ll feel. This waiting is a kind of horror I’ve never known before. And it’s only the first order of magnitude – the real suffering lies ahead. I knew I would be here someday, it’s my turn to feel this.
I’m desperately grateful to Haesel and Toumbi, for letting me into their home, to share the end with me. It’s hardly a social thing, there’s no talking or love or support, but it’s all I can cling to, the presence of friends. But now that it’s confirmed, that I have only hours... I can’t justify staying here. I have to try to get to my parents and say goodbye. Toumbi and Haesel have got their family – each other. Three is a crowd.
I stand up and make another cracked speech, failing to spit out the words: that I have to go even though it’s probably too late. They seem to understand anyway, that I’m going out to find my parents. Haesel asks if I’d like Toumbi to come with me. Um, sure, I say.
We head out the door, into the winter. Cars pass, pedestrians amble about. They’re performing the facade, resolutely acting as if the end isn’t hours away, going to WORK even! It’s heroic, I suppose, this agreement to pretend, and enjoy one last day, untainted by hysterics. It’s all we can do.
Toumbi is with me, how did I finally find someone to come with me? God bless him, he’s got a heart of gold. Or an entrepreneurial instinct, that’s the reason – he’s coming with me because he’s surmised my parents have something him and Haesel might need – fuel, food, something. If he figures there’s a possibility of surviving for longer than a day, then maybe there’s permission for me to hope, a little.
Toumbi seems nice in a cagey opportunistic way, but that’s something, anyway. I try to build on this relationship in the hopes of nudging him toward a communal mindset – this, I realize, is self-interest on my part, I need someone to cooperate with so I don’t die. It wouldn’t do to look like a helpless baby, I must appear to have some strength and ability so I’ll be valued in the hard days to come.
So I don a mask of confidence and say, well, this is gonna be hard, but we’ve got to make the best of it. In tragedy there’s opportunity. I worry that he thinks I’m claiming to be someone who’ll prey on the weak. Like, “You and me buddy, let’s team up to loot and plunder.” So I talk of re-forming community, getting the power back on, finding alternative fuels – and of course, raising defenses. Toumbi nods and says: “Hey, maybe you’re alright”.
He says nothing else as we ascend the steepest part of Latimer. People are out with their snow shovels, I think they’re digging trenches, latrines, wells, fallout shelters, fortresses. Nelson has begun to hunker down.
I’m coming up to Park Street where my parents live, or was it Hoover? The neighborhood still shifts. I see Toad Mountain in the corner of the valley, ah, my favourite peak in bales of mist, an epic vista. I’m lost in my head. I can create whatever I want, I realize. If I want this next block to be Times Square, it will be, I say aloud. I look to Toumbi. He doesn’t seem fazed by this pronouncement, I think he wants me to try it. But no, I want to see my family. It turns out that the reality I want more than anything else is to see them again. No need to conjure castles in the sky.
I walk up the front steps while Toumbi waits in the yard. The door is unlocked. The house is quiet. The cats are napping in the living room, unaware of the end of the world. I search every room. No one else is around. Fuck, they’ve gone to some other rally point, I guess they got sick of waiting for me. I exit the house, feeling dejected, and embarrassed for having dragged Toumbi up here, on a futile mission.
We walk back down the street, toward Haesel’s house. I make a stammering apology to Toumbi for being on acid, hoping he’ll cut me some slack, share a few scraps of food. Not that I’m the least bit hungry. The barrier to communication is too great, I can’t seem to reach out and say what’s really on my mind.
“You do realize what’s happening, don’t you?” I ask, gritting my teeth.
“The nukes... I mean, can we talk about it? Can we be honest? Is that so wrong?”
“You’re on acid,” he replies.
“Yeah, I know. I’m sorry. This is so fucked. I don’t know why I did that. It’s just gonna make things worse.”
This confusing exchange at last gets around to the crux of the issue, which is that the nuclear apocalypse is my reality. “Are you proposing there’s another reality?” I ask.
“There is,” he says.
“Really? But... that can’t be. I can’t delude myself anymore. Like, society is DONE. I mean... isn’t it?”
“Not as far as I can tell.”
“Are you saying it’s just the acid?”
I’m not buying it. God, I wish I could, at least as a comforting delusion. But there’s no way I could have made all that up, it’s too real. How it tied into VR and human consciousness - that was the most convincing angle of all. How the events spiraled out of control, surprising and astounding me. Sure there were hallucinations in the mix, but that was just the acid trip, and probably stress on top of that. Underneath it all, the nuclear damage and subsequent collapse of civilization - that wasn’t in my subconscious, but out here, in the real world, the place that all hallucinations spring from. THAT could not have been a mere acid trip. Could it?
“No,” I say to Toumbi. “It can’t be that easy. Just an acid trip? No way.”
He’s trying to comfort me by offering a fantasy to cling to – hush now dear, it’s only the acid. I’d love to believe it’s only a trip, but that would be denying everything I’ve learned, all those hard lessons. I feel obliged to acknowledge the awful truth. That vast consciousness could only have been triggered by the singularity and the world-destroying energies unleashed. No way I could chalk it up to something as frivolous as taking too much LSD.
“It can’t be that easy, can it?”
“Yeah, it can,” Toumbi says, calm. He’s not pushing the idea on me, just letting me try it on for size. The garments of my old life, can I even remember how they fit? How could I ever go back to that, assuming it exists, after all that’s happened?
But I want to believe it’s possible. I’m almost ready to accept, if it’ll grant me exit from this nightmare. We get back to the house and lounge in the living room. I’m offered more tea. I find I’m able to have actual conversation as opposed to easily misinterpreted fragments. Finally, Haesel and Toumbi understand the magnitude of my trip, and how it has become my whole reality. Gently, they remind me that acid is a very powerful substance, isn’t it? They don’t speak from experience, but haven’t I described it as such? They hope I’ll come back to the world, but they’re not freaking out and calling the nuthouse just yet.
“But what were those devices?” I ask. They’re still in front of the couch. They still look like new paradigm technology designed to combat the effects of nuclear radiation.
“Oh, those are floor heaters,” Haesel says. “It was chilly in here.”
I suppose they could be.
Oh boy. I’m still on acid. I’ve said goodbye to Haesel and Toumbi. It’s getting close to noon, I’d guess, the sun is bright. I’m heading back to my parents’ house. I don’t know if I’ll ever come back to normal consciousness, but I suspect the world might be waiting for me there if I do.
My parents are still out somewhere. I sit back on the living room couch, relaxing, finally. Christmas cheer, it’s all over the house – ah, my parents, they still celebrate the season in a traditional way, how adorably quaint. I feel their presence in the room and am connected to their soon-to-be-retiredness. This is their life, what I’d naively dismissed as submission to tired mediocrity. It’s more than turning to the television to pass the time. I look around the room again. It’s revealing things to me, the zen mellow of old age, the textured appreciation of the little things. Rico jumps onto the arm of the couch, greeting me with his warbley meow.
“Hey kitty-cat,” I say. It’s a technical term. I understand now why my dad takes such pleasure in talking to the cats, as I pet regal Rico. They’re feeding him gourmet cat-food now, I realize, no longer the bare essentials. His fur is glossier than I’ve ever seen it. They’ve become luxury cat owners. And it’s not a decadent bourgeois thing. I see these feline residents exercising the divine right of cats. They’re not just furry mammals but almost people – better maybe, up the karmic ladder. Cats are to be worshipped.
Rico slinks about under my hand, back and forth. Coquettish demeanor. I GET IT! He’s cattish, he’s got cattitude. I understand what the musical “Cats” was about. They really do have personality, it’s not projection. They’ve fulfilled their masters’ expectations, and shaped them through natural behavior, in evolutionary symbiosis. Cats – the longest running show in human/animal history, a project now into its eight or ninth millennium. When treated as aristocats, they thrive in the role, giving us the pleasure of obliging, feeding them well, loving them, petting them as they primp and preen in personification.
Becker slinks over to say hello. Petting her is a dance of give and take. She marks her territory on my shoulder with her cheek gland, solidifying our relationship, refining the partnership. Rico struts in circles on the couch, on the catwalk, catty. I fall over laughing. Suddenly I’m endowed with new lingos, a new humour, bonds I can now share with cat-loving friends confined to niches previously unknown.
I get up, wander the house, sketchy, acid-amped, room to room, circles, thinking I should leave before my parents return to find me a freak – I couldn’t fake my way out of this psychosis. First I try to find a sweater for the cold trip back to Creek Street. I can’t find one so I set off anyway, in silly post-apocalypse attire.
It is cold, but I’m not complaining. The sun is shining. The sky is clearing. Toad Mountain is gleaming in the corner of the valley, I salute the peak. I’m so glad to be alive. My gratitude is boundless. I’ve been given a second chance, by who or what I don’t know, but I’m the luckiest motherfucker on the planet! Everything is beautiful.
Kitschy Christmas decor smiles at me from suburbia. Words roll between my synapses, a Brit vernacular, happy Christmas lads, let’s all go for a pint then, aye? An Irish Scot Cockney blend with a bit of middle-American, rivers of nonsense prose trickling through my head, baroque crinkles. I laugh and laugh. I must look a sight.
Back at my house, I walk the steps to the second floor, nervous. This was ground zero of the nuclear apocalypse. A part of me is expecting to find the house as I left it, with Noah and Nikita hostile tribes-people. Even if that isn’t the case – what the FUCK did I do last night? I’m missing so much time. Crap.
I open the door. The hall is dark and pock-marked. It looks like a flop-house. Every surface is amazingly scummy, every corner chipped. But it’s not a nuclear war. I know it’s not a flop-house either. I guess that my mind is still unfiltered and HIGHLY perceptive to details. This doesn’t flatter our housekeeping. But I’m not perceiving so highly that my brain is inventing details on top of details that adhere to a consistent pattern denoting apocalypse.
Noah is in the living room, vegging in front of the TV. He’s half asleep, but startles to attention when he sees me. He gives me a hard look, then his face softens into the friendly rascal he’s supposed to be. Nothing need be said, I feel absolved of the dirty chaos. We shoot the shit for a while. I tell him I’m sorry for whatever I said and did last night, I was REALLY FUCKING HIGH on acid. I’m coming down now, I think.
“Did you learn your lesson then?” he asks.
“Um... yeah. Yeah I did. I guess. Yeah.”
Whew. I need to take a load off. I’m still acid amped. I can’t imagine really relaxing, but I could try. Lie down at least. I head toward my bedroom, pause, and turn back to Noah.
“Hey... if we ever had... like, a nuclear apocalypse or something – like if society crumbled and it was every man for himself... you’d have my back, right?”
“Yeah, of course I would,” Noah says.
“Thanks man – I’d back you up too.”
My room is a shocking sight. It’s in disarray, but that’s not what’s shocking. It’s that it barely reads as my room. Proportions are off, angles are weird. I’m goggling at some contraption leaning against the wall for a minute before I realize that it’s my electric piano, the Nord Stage 88. But it shouldn’t look like THAT. No matter how many times I blink, it won’t look right. I pull up my computer chair thinking I’ll go online, but the keyboard is curved. Keys are recessing and popping out at strange angles like shark teeth. The idea of navigating this apparatus is daunting. The monitor screen is covered in sedimentary strata of varying opacities. I can’t deal with this room.
I decide to take a shower. The bathroom is just as bad. It looks almost apocalyptic, but everything is functional. I throw my filthy clothes on the filthy floor and let the warm water flow over me. It’s actually rather nice in the shower. It’s like a little hideaway from the devilish details of the world. That big ugly world out there – it didn’t die, perhaps, but it’s hanging on by a thread. There’s still all this momentum toward collapse, all these hazardous energies, toxic chemicals, overpopulation, power trippers, economic chaos, religious fanaticism, environmental devastation, ignorance and delusion. But this shower still works. It rinses the filth off my skin.
Patterns of light and moisture play on the wall, shifting soft and intricate like a kaleidoscope in muted pastels, geometric rhomboids, paisley swirls, Dali landscapes. It’s mesmerizing. I stay there awhile.
When I get back to my room, I pop a dramamine, hoping it will help me sleep. I absolutely must sleep soon, or I could go permanently insane. Hopefully a world I can cope with will be waiting for me on the other side of sleep. But the acid is not going to give up any time soon. I feel like my eyelids have been sliced off and I’ll be awake forever.
I lie down in bed, put on earphones, and listen to music. Every second is a revelation, and divinely chosen via Winamp’s shuffling algorithm to reveal something new about the nature of existence. First is Chopin’s Ballade No. 4, which takes me through a romantic narrative of colossal scale, filled with discernible characters that express themselves through melody, harmony, and rhythm, and act as archetypes for the primary qualities of humankind. How could I not have heard this before? To call it a “piano piece” is a disservice – it’s one of the greatest works of literature ever written.
Next comes a sonata by Eliot Carter, though I don’t figure this out until days later. It’s a sneaky dissonant piece that I assume is being improvised by some incomprehensibly brilliant pianist at some elite hall where all the geniuses hang out to hear in each other what the common people can’t. This music draws characters as well, but they’re darker, weirder, aliens. I can’t get what it’s saying, only that it’s terrifying in its implications and I wouldn’t want to know. In silence between the figurations, I can hear, in the subtleties of shifting seats and breath, the crowd reaction, which is just as anxious as mine – it’s the sense that simply hearing this music could be fatal.
Having survived that hell-ride, I’m swept into the ocean of a Bach choral fugue. It’s overpowering. The trip is getting way too profound again, which scares me, makes me feel unprepared and unworthy. But I try to give in and go with the flow, even if it’s philosophical dread. It’s dreadful grace, what the saints were in touch with – in the experience of it, there’s no choice but to give your life. Through half-lids I see the ceiling of my bedroom collapsing and expanding in veils and arches, a milky celestial vault of angels.
I see that these towers of seriousness require the silly for their divine proportional balance. The paradox is hilarious. I can laugh at it all, that pompous profundity. How nice to laugh again, to identify with the silly miniatures snaking through the cracks of the tower. I’m an insect, an insignificant bug, and I love it. I’m not God anymore, no macroscopic being fretting over the certainty of invasion, succumbing to thermodynamic inevitabilities. Instead, I’m one of the invaders! I’m free of responsibility, a bacterium, agent of nature’s eternal tilling of the soil.
I can feel the drammy kicking in, hazing my thought a little, but damnit, I’m still amped. Maybe I need a cigarette. I reach out for an ashtray, grab a half-smoked rollie, light it up, inhale deeply, and again. Uh oh. That one had hash in it. Fuck. I know what happens when I mix pot and acid, and it’s NOT GOOD.
I lie back in bed, steeling myself against the onset of schizophrenia. I form a tighter seal with my headphones. Maybe I can audiophile my way out of this. The THC-induced body tension / paranoia is creeping in, amplified ten times by the acid still in my system. A new track comes on, diabolically programmed: “The True Nature of Pain” by Devil’s Rejects, brutal drum and bass, crammed to the gills with horror movie samples and freaky percussive assaults.
For some weird reason, the tune counteracts the fear. It’s actually comforting. It’s like coming home to the dark side and letting Satan into my heart. I don’t have to fear the darkness, I can become it. This is glorious.
I’m brought out of the Satanic ritual by an endless Grateful Dead jam. The pot is triggering a series of stunning open-eye hallucinations. The sandy texture of my ceiling forms a network of three dimensional swirls, spirals, tunnels, and rivers. Tiny stucco chips jiggle about, turning into thousands of green and red glowing psychedelic ants which arrange themselves in symmetrical patterns like iron fillings under a magnet. These trails of glowing bugs swirl into the contours of the ceiling pattern in churning circuits. Veiny trails branch off the central vision and crawl down the walls.
Somehow this reminds me of salvia scales – an angular trip. This is no longer the alpha and omega of consciousness. The mind is not traveling up and down hierarchies anymore, but being made to identify with nearby dimensions normally imperceptible. I’m that which is not supposed to exist. It’s eerie, but livable, barely. It’s some kind of life.
The drammy is beginning to work. I feel the possibility of some kind of death, sleep, please and thank you.
Two days later: I’m still rubbing fractals out of my eyes. I flash back to the feeling of global panic at times of anxiety or light-headedness. The other night, I happened on a Salon article about the evolution of the internet creating a downward spiral of distraction, shallowness, and homogeneity, resulting in the implosion of civilization – BAD IDEA.
Obviously, being on DXM and ketamine before taking acid was a huge factor in the trip. It allowed me to disconnect from my world completely. Even my friends, who know acid, had no idea how severe my dissociation was, or how to help me. I hadn’t even the presence of mind to ask “Is the world really ending? Or am I just high?”
I can’t help but take the threat of nuclear apocalypse more seriously now – and not just that, but any world-ending scenario, ecological, political, financial. I feel like I’ve lived through an atomic war. Part of me still believes that it could go down one day, exactly as I imagined it, like it was premonition.
All that being said, I’m grateful to be alive, oh fuck yes. My world is still here. I didn’t have to die, or worry about surviving devastation. I still feel that I’ve been granted reprieve by the grace of the universe - like this reality and the one I experienced on drugs are equally substantial, but some greater beneficence allowed me to go back to the one I prefer – this tamer way of life. I won’t question why, but I have the nagging suspicion that I’m supposed to do something in exchange for that gift, like preventing the one from becoming the other.