Fifty Cultural Perturbations
By Adam Rothstein
with major assistance by Rosalynn Rothstein
Copyright 2012 Adam Rothstein
This work was created with a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
About this e-book
Vibration & Prayer
The objects could be easily reified when they were vibrated in sync. The vibration was induced mentally, through concentration. And in turn, in sensing the slight motion, one received the subjective impression that focus was being maintained. The page quivered, as if hands were touching it directly. The frequency was minimal, perhaps four or five hertz.
Physical effects could be noted ocularly as well. The visible text grew darker on all available copies at the same time, but beginning with different passages in different incidences. The fragments of language that started in a verb spread slightly quicker, but not by so much that it is particularly relevant.
Afterward, it was necessary to save the file immediately. Then the owner of the file would be left alone with his or her thoughts. The vibration would maintain its pace, but the strength would sink until it was finally imperceptible. And then the book would remain, as it was. The long-term purpose of praying in this way, with these common effects, was unknown.
When they banded together, it was much easier to get a sense of meaning from the performance. They articulated as a chorus, but it was the transmitted intention of the words that seemed to increase, and not simply the volume. The areas of the pavement that they stood on and walked along seemed to glow as they recited, as if it had been painted previously to indicate where it was they were supposed to move. The randomness of the words and actions were as if programmed to aesthetically appear as if random, though they were not truly mathematically random.
The only thing they did differently than previous efforts along similar lines was to appoint one person as stage manager. It didn’t seem like a major structural change, but having one person in charge of making sure all the props were in place and the scenery was as it ought to be, suddenly changed the nature of every action they made from that point forward. They seemed to circle around the stage manager, though not literally. The point in space that was the manager was in the backs of the minds of the performers, guiding their own motions and diction like an axis.
Refuge for the Eccentric
The door was locked, to maintain both out and in, but there was a very comfortable couch. The windows looked out into a tree—a species with the most interesting of branches. And birds would sit there, and sing.
There was a kettle, and also an ashtray. The desk held a good variety of pens and pencils. In the corner was the shelf with the card catalog, and it was here that the room’s inhabitants could feel free to record anything that occurred to them. Peace was maintained this way for many years.
They would review each others’ notes, and hold the occasional meeting to discuss the general course of their work. That they were hardly ever in agreement was not a problem, as they seemed to keep univocality among the lowest of priorities. The integrity of the walls around them was discussed in hush tones, but thankfully there were few if any serious concerns as to the strength of the refuge. Within it, they continued their work for years, uninhibited, and unacknowledged.
The Sigil in a Public Place
It was written a foot off the ground, in an alley between the row of buildings that separated two parks. Three diagonal lines, five vertical, two horizontal—scratched into the brick by a sharp, steel tool.
The moment that the creator—the identity of which was long lost to the twisting path of the streets—had forgotten what the sigil was intended to do, the lines glowed once, quickly, like an electronic wire given only a slight taste of current.
There was an explosion in the distance, or perhaps an auto crash, or maybe it was just a large weight being dropped onto the ground, from the back of a truck or other impermanent place where such force might gather. The source of the noise was uncertain, but the jolting suddenness was unmistakable. This wasn’t directly related to the sigil, but the noise was enough to startle anyone to their own realization that something had changed.
Over the coming months, moss grew over the symbol. Over the coming years the wall itself began to crumble, the masonry between the bricks going first, then the brick itself. The point of the sigil, whatever it was, was forgotten, and it is impossible to say whether or not the magic was effective. The only thing that can be said for certain is that the sigil was indeed in a public place, where anyone might have inscribed it, and anyone who passed it might have seen the bends and folds of its intertwined lines.
The ground moved as if of its own tectonic volition, but it did so angularly, along geometric crags and crevices. They were actually very soothing to those who attempted to traverse them—at least those used to consuming certain amounts of psychoactives on a semi-regular basis.
The travelers tried to draw a map, but the lines upon the piece of paper moved from where they had been drafted. It wasn’t because of the paper or the ink, but because of the land. That the terrain would have such power was really not surprising. If it could shift such quantities of dirt and stone, what was paper and ink?
They contented themselves to clambering across it, enjoying the task of walking the rising and falling angles as if the hikers were boats adhering to the fragmented harmonics of the sea. They let the paper they had been attempting to diagram upon fall to the ground, and they left it there, lost underneath one of the shifting sedimentary tetrahedrons that either ascended or descended.
Geodesic Helmet with Cables Leading into the Hubs
The view from outside the helmet was very different than the view from inside of it. From the inside, the rubber coated cables appeared as drooping linear shadows, spidering across the ambient light in the room. From the outside, the wearer was trapped in electronics. Whether the wearer was supporting the helmet upon his or her neck, or whether the body was hanging from the device was difficult to determine.
Turning the power to “on”, the viewer, positioned outside the helmet with hands on the control dials, began modulating the frequencies that the wearer could experience. The algorithm helped find the sweet spot of resonance, factoring the angles of the geodesic together, so many harmonics could be represented simply as combined vectors on the display screen. But there was a certain satisfaction in tuning the device manually, hearing the audio feedback from the speaker, the vibrations from the device also becoming audible in the surrounding architecture, and the look in the eyes of the wearer, as the energy was converted into a different form of electromagnetism with the intended effect.
The devices were slated for production and commercial sale in the coming year. It was argued that these devices didn’t “do anything” at all, and were rock salt crystals in the most positive sense, and snake oil in the most pejorative.
A Sky-High Television Screen
A image of an ice cream novelty being eaten by a seductive set of dark brown, female lips. The low clouds hid her eyes from the sight of passersby on the ground, when the top of the screen would not have cropped them out of the shot. A drip of melting sugar and milk made its way towards the ground, visualized at about the size of a bread delivery van.
It had been erected at great expense, but everyone could agree that the effect was visually stunning. To see the high definition of computer animation a thousand feet in the air might not have been worth the cost, but seeing as it had already been spent, it was difficult to not stare and gawk at the spectacle. A massive vehicle of light, color, and motion, it lit up the city streets in a radius of twenty-five blocks, projected outward from the screen side.
The point, both direct and intended, was that media publication was a monument. There was no avoiding that. As to what anyone was meant to do after processing this conclusion, instructions had not been dictated. It was up to those staring at the device to decide what to do next.
A Rain of Teeth
They pattered upon the awning, and bounced onto the pavement like so many dice. One might have attempted to read the numbers from the teeth, divining quantities in the way that they fell, or discovering some other revealed mancy from the pattern of falling molars, incisors, and canines. But the oddity of noticing out of the corner of the eye, “oh what is that, a tooth?” continued to distract the attention from being able to focus on any particular piece of relevant bone, as they grew closer together on the sidewalk, piling up into a layer, thickening.
And the sound itself was sharp but muffled, like it had been enameled in plastic resin, a thick protective coating. If one thought about it, the clatter rising from the street was the sound of one tooth biting, multiplied many times.
There were any number of scientific explanations for what happened, the predominant theory having something to do with aerosolized stem cells. But the majority of the population took it as yet another Fortean occurrence. Those moments when the world presents to humanity a bizarre set of circumstances that do not normally happen and yet are, as if to say, “attempt to process this with your notions of causality and find rationality’s error state.”
Prophetic Cassette Tape
The words being spoken in an old, deep voice did not command directly, but were very compelling. The pop and hiss of the tape, clearly a dub of an original, made the statements, recited as if they were couplets, even more alluring to the ear. One could not help but focus the attention towards the amplifier.
The voice spoke of things that were, are, and would be, but it did not do so directly. The recited lines—which certainly were recited—spoke metaphorically of animals engaged in parables, of technology run amok, and of humans pushed beyond the limits of their social consciousness. The stories had the sort of truth that reached the senses immediately. Facts that soaked the skin like a sudden spring rain storm. Whether it was prophecy or not did not seem to matter. Those who would benefit by the truth could perceive it instantly. The rest barely listened to the tape for a whole ten seconds before switching it off.
And whether it was believed or not, as soon as it was switched off, the tape’s effect would cease. Only when the sounds were being played into the air, was there any compulsion. The cassette, a cheap format encased in brittle plastic, was just as easily left on the dashboard of a car or lost behind the shelf as any other. The prophecy could only work when it was played.
Flies Flocking in the Shade
About twenty-five, swarming in variated horizontal circles under the larger branch of an elm tree. Out of the sun, constantly in motion, the flies had wings like drone propellers. Perhaps an etymologist could have described what the behavior meant, as they closed curtains in jagged vectors around those who walked through the mass.
But then, looking outward from the tree, the people in the park seemed to move in a similar manner. They clustered on the grass, or on benches along the sidewalks. They gathered in groups, or split up and moved off at angles from each other. The pace was slower, but after studying the flies for some minutes, it was easy to see the comparison. Things always seemed to move at angles to other things. Parallel movement, when it occurred, was always brief and relativistic. There was no grid here, to which things might align. Even so much as a magnetic field by which things could be arrayed seemed vacant and misleading to the larger frame of motion, outside, overall. It was a nest of vectored angles, always at angles to other vectors.
A Bin of Plastic Samples for Sale
The colors, viewed through the black and white camera, were all shades of gray. The shapes were like an exposed layer of shale, jagged like occult hand signs within the wooden crate that took up the majority of the floor of the office.
Five dollars per pound. They were scraps, made to showcase a particular finish or material, and then having outlived their usefulness as designed, they could, perhaps, find use with someone else, in a manner of purpose not yet discovered. The office didn’t inquire as to what that use might be. It was left up to customer discretion, and customer discretion was a form of privacy.
The camera took a number of photographs, approaching the bin from all angles, to see the variations in the light from the window, versus that from the florescent lights overhead. It was hard to believe, viewed in this way, that the samples would be useful to anyone. They appeared as cast offs, scarred and scratched, diminished from the pure form of commerciality that they had once entailed. And yet, they would not bother to sell these things if no one would buy them. So here they were. The shutter of the camera clicked again.
A Home that Was a Former Space Capsule
From low-earth orbit to Southern California, by way of the North Pacific Ocean. Windows had been cut into the heat-proof hull, and window boxes installed. A small, standard collection of herbs grew there, green leaves in the sunshine against the blue and yellow logos of space agencies and aerospace companies. A television aerial protruded from the top edge, like a canned food pull-tab, not quite separated along the extent of the perforated metal as designed. On the inside, the curved hull had been leveled into a floor with the addition of a custom-cut piece of plywood, reinforced by struts. One had to step up from the outside ground level to enter. Inside, there was a bed against the far wall, a table, and curtains over the windows that looked distinctly out of place hanging freely under the gravitational pull of the earth. Most of the storage compartments were still accessible, even standing on the ground, and were in use for various things, the specific contents unknown.
It was recycling, of course, but also more. It was the repurposing of an image at great expense. People had lived in the capsule for many years, and that was still the use. But the environment in which the living space existed was so different, as to make living itself a different task. From surviving a pressurized existence in a vacuum, to inhabiting a hillside as an unofficial tourist attraction, and a statement about the goals of society. Quite a journey for any human being to make, to live inside such a thing.
Cracked Liquid Crystal Display
It was still possible to see the words on the bottom-left third of the screen, and with a deft style of scrolling, this meant the device could be usable. What would have been quickly discarded by so many Americans became his primary means for learning about the world. He charged it via a USB cable he attached to the public computer at the local library, and never turned off the device, so he would not have to navigate back through the half-viewed menus that he could never seem to learn.
He read whatever texts he could happen across, most of which seemed to be from an encyclopedia. One day, he discovered how to activate the search function, but found little use for it, instead flipping through the pages with a click of the button, until he happened across a phrasing that caught his eye, and there he decreased his forward motion, reading everything that followed until he lost interest, or fell asleep. It was often only half of the text that he read, skipping ahead by full pages, rather than tuning the scroll function to see around the crack in the screen. There was a reason for things, he figured. If words did not want to appear on his screen in a readable fashion, then so be it. There were always more words out there.
A Train Departure Board
Spinning around their horizontal axis, the flapping pieces of black plastic gave a hint of their wide range of possibilities for potential destinations before arriving at the one where the train would actually arrive.
The typeface selected was bisected, one-half of each character placed above and below the pivot. No serifs, of course. Stark white lines against the black matte, thin, rigid in the assurance that they were the destination they intended to be, and while the train might be late, the points between which the vehicle would be moving could never and would not be mistaken.
Large cities, small cities, towns that no one had heard of unless riding the train line previously, chosen out of convenience by right-of-way considerations, the distribution of the suburbs, by availability of parking facilities. They flipped past, and while those that watched the progression of location arc certainly expected that it was their train that would be next, as scheduled, there was always a possibility that the departure board was choosing the destination at random. As if the train could go anywhere, and it was only by the fortune of the sign that it would move.
Shoebox of Beetles (Not Too Many)
They were black, with hard, shiny shells. Only ten or so, moving slowly around the bottom of the box, making for the corners and edges. By briskly placing the lid back on the box, the impact would knock them all back to the bottom. But after doing so, they would be invisible to the person holding the box. Were the beetles still at the bottom? Were they crawling across the inside of the lid? It was impossible to know.
They box was kept underneath the bed, as such a box ought to be. It was brought out from time to time, tapped sharply to hopefully ensure the contents were on the bottom of the box, and then the lid was removed, to quickly expose the beetles to light, and to whomever was curious, and worthy of sharing such a secret. Then it was replaced beneath the bed, the lid as well. Perhaps a book would be placed on top, not so much to secure the box physically—the beetles would never be able to move the lid on their own—as it was to secure the box mentally. Safe, under the weight of a decent book.
The Building of Buildings is a Terrorist Act
10,407 dead. It was clear who was responsible. The building had killed every last one of them, and not by flaw, but by design.
It had been meant to contain the control systems of the device. But it was not just the intent of the inhabitants controlling it, but the machinery that the building housed. A building was necessary to hold the technology, to keep it safe and functioning properly. Without the building, it could not function. The building was a part of the machine. And on the Seventh of the month, the system functioned exactly as designed. The bodies were removed over the next week, and disposed of efficiently, and in a sanitary fashion.
Over the course of the investigation, it was determined that the architect and builders involved had been employed to construct the building without knowing what it was for, and therefore they could not be held responsible for the crimes in which the building was used.
The Agora as Aporia
It was a space specifically designed for community engagement, and yet, no one went there. Why would they? It had been shattered by solid concrete ledges, cut into pieces by strips of greenery fed by liquidifed manure pumped daily, beaten and bruised by sets of stairs, that would elevate those who crossed the space to a slightly higher altitude, without any reason.
As they stood next to each other, trying to determine just how one might leave this place, a security guard approached, with body language suggesting they ought to figure it out faster. It was their problem, that they did not know how to exit, and it was the guard’s problem to inform them of their problem.
The guard followed the pair as they walked down a wide set of stairs, then realizing the green area would separate them from their destination this way, they doubled back, and walked along a ledge of a water feature, before finally departing the public space, and returning to the sidewalk. They both breathed an involuntary sigh of relief, while the security guard placed his hands on his hips, whispered something into his radio, and then made a mark upon a notepad kept in his breast pocket.
Wandering the Streets
She crossed the intersections on a diagonal, as if to make progress across the neighborhood. But there was really nowhere that she meant to go. Or at least, not at any great rate of speed. The pools of the light showed the way.
She put her shoes on the edge of the curb, and leaned forward, balancing on her arches. A truck with a large trailer thundered by on the highway, below the bridge, a block ahead from her perch. She heard only the sound it made, the vibration of the displaced air.
She continued walking, now on a back street, walking outside the line of parked cars, stopped outside of the houses, as if they had been driving in a line, and all of a sudden, by mysterious signal, all ceased moving at once and shut off their engines. Two lines of vehicles, one for each direction. She walked in the middle, unable to choose a destination, and yet moving forward all the same.
All Texts Await Their Performance
All texts have already been written. This has been the case continuously, since language was first invented. It is only that the texts have not yet been performed correctly, in a way that is understandable. This is the task of authors.
The texts were kept locked, as if it were, within the potential meaning of linguistic symbols, constrained in the possibilities of each angular consonant, whorled vowel. Even before there were phonemes, when pictographs and other meaningful word-shapes were the means of recorded communication, the total intensity of human communication was already fully engaged, yet undescribed, in the lines and dots of ink upon papyrus, and reed-marks upon clay.
Eventually the texts will out themselves, as some clever dancer of word puts the sentences together in the order required to express that particular work, finding the motions and expressions required within the total available vocabulary of symbolic line-shapes currently widely established at the time. We have authors to thank for these performances, routines staged to bring these texts to life as they always had been meant to be performed, though no one had ever been able to express the need before.
Enforcing the Pattern
If nothing could be predicted, then the notion of “profit” would be unstable and meaningless. They were able to minimize the risk by designing the rut ahead of time. This had been working well for years, and the notion of “meta-rut” was being whispered at the highest levels. Each day, lower-level management would craft reports on the new totals of users that had fallen into the pattern, and seemed to be willingly abiding by its parameters. The user base was growing. Rut engagement was up. The established predictors of profitability looked good, and everyone’s job seemed to be secure.
The secret was a combination of unimpeachable cadence to the prescribed user behavior, a closing off of almost all available exits, and taking advantage of culturally-ingrained social penalties to punish those who left via the few methods available. It seemed harsh perhaps, when discussed in blunt language such as this. But this was the world of social media, and really, cultic fascism was such a 20th Century concept. And it worked. Criticism was always possible, but when the method worked, there really wasn’t anything left to say.
A Cigarette Pack Filled with Things That Aren’t Cigarettes
A lighter, a small pebble, a miniature novelty bottle of steak sauce, a toy building brick in green plastic, a folded piece of paper with a phone number and the answer to a brain teaser logic puzzle told during throws of ecstatic sex because of its slightly dirty connotation.
The pack was kept in her purse, alongside the full pack with actual rolled tubes of tobacco. Her hand slid into the leather bag, and sought out the pack with the smokes, shaking it slightly in the dark confines to tell by the weight and the sound which pack it was. Withdrawing it, the cover was flipped back and she drew out a cigarette to place between her lips.
The other pack she would remove only at times when she was alone and reflective, sitting in silence at a table in an empty cafe, or perhaps standing at a stone wall overlooking a visually impressive precipice. These sorts of quintessential moments, if not reproduced in their idealism, at least hinted at via general theme. These sorts of moments, when rather than searching back through her mind for avoidable feelings and unresolved ideas and uncognized emotions it is far more enjoyable to search through an odd collection of physical trinkets, and to let their attributes occupy her mind.
I Wish Nothing Less Than to Destroy Cyberspace
A taste of nostalgia perhaps, and the resulting guilt that comes with the acknowledgement of such, in a world in which we privilege the current and the authentically new so highly. And nevertheless, I feel the same regardless of the cause, and so I will find the way to burn it down. I can make the routers and the fiber optic lines into wooden barns and fields of crops, so that they will easily be food to the mouth of flame. I can make all of the post comments and emails and instant message notification icons into a fleeing mob, that will trample each other to death, and still not manage to escape the building before the flaming rafters come down upon their heads. I can make the internet material, and I can douse it in solvent, and pile up the oily rags.
It is an odd sort of magic that is necessary to make the virtual corporeal enough to die. It take more than simply installing the drivers and clicking print. It is an act of birth. That which can last forever in the blinking of a LED and the oscillation of a micro-circuit must be born into bone and flesh, and then, it must be murdered. The sort of concentration required for such an act is rare. The meditation is not deep, but completely on the surface, spanning a wide topology of reactive chemicals and frictive materials. The heat builds, the matter coheres. And then, with a spark, I can do what it is that I wish to do with it, for once and for all.
A False Map
For the lie to be at all worthy of being labeled as such, it had to be believed. And so the false maps were distributed widely, left in public, sold as genuine, and given as gifts. They claimed to show the shape of the territories and the nature of their borders for a part of the globe that was important and yet widely unknown, and it was explained that by following the map one could navigate a route safety along this stretch of ground. The map was purportedly created, explained the script encased in the legend on the bottom corner, from word-of-mouth details only gleaned from the local inhabitants by a great investment of time, and could not be replicated through topological study, or found in any other collection.
Which it very well might have been, if there was truly an authentic map out there that this was attempting to replicate. The differences between this instance and any possible real map were slight, so as to make it difficult to tell the difference. It was unlikely that, given the existence of a real map, that the false one would ever be in such proximity to it, so that they might have been compared. And when actually traversing the territory, it would be found that the similarities between the territory and the false map were close enough as to make the detection of the counterfeit most unlikely. One would think that one knew where one was going, until it was too late.
Gutting a Fish
The smell was easy to get used to, especially if one was paid to deliver a certain weight in fish meat per hour, rather than focusing on one’s senses. The knife moved like a finger, gesturing at the stomach, the head and the tail. “It is done like this”, and so it was. The fillet meat went into the bowl. The waste, into a bin at the feet. It was a magic trick performed with a sharp blade and a knowledgeable wrist. Repeated thousands of times.
The pay was decent, but also not—but not really worth complaining about regardless. During the process of working on the line, distracting oneself by thinking about the wages would only draw out the process. It would disturb the quick motions of the knife, causing hesitation to bookend each stroke, allowing thought to dull the edge of the blade. Afterwards, back in the sleeping quarters, there would be time to think about these concerns in the short amount of time between getting off shift and sleep. But while working, the best thing was only to work, and allow the repetition of dissecting incisions slicing through each wet, slippery body to be the guide not only for the body but for the mind. A mental signature, signed on the table covered in blood and bodily slurry, again and again, a symbol with no meaning left inside it.
Millions of Effluvia Totally Cognized
She stared into space, letting the particles cross and hit her retina, at which point the optic nerve flashed accordingly. Carefully, like into a funnel, they were decanted so that none of them were allowed to escape. Each dipped down into the pipe and swirled into the brain. Her cognitive processes entered a passive mode, directing all resources towards the incoming data, in order to tag as much of it as possible without missing even the smallest iota of sensory data. Control of muscles, speech, balance, and other physical processes were dumped back to involuntary status, so that all conscious-level thinking could attempt to handle the in-flowing volume, pouring in through the visual brain centers.
As for the content of the data, there is little if anything to be reasonably said. She was consumed with the task of merely perceiving, and so tasks of abstract analysis were, understandably, beyond her for the time being. There was simply too much information to allow anything to be reliably said about it other than in terms of its vast quantity. The sum of content, out there, in the world, was the number of particles in the spiraling arms of the galaxy. Even metaphorical parallels founded in size struggled. The only way, after the fact, that she might have described what she experienced in attempting to view all of it at once, was speed. A slinging, gravitational well of speed, dragging the shadow of its velocity through the medium of her nervous system.
Close to the Vest
It’s important to have secrets, and to treat those secrets properly. It’s very easy to have secrets that are kept poorly, and everyone has those. The “I shouldn’t say anything but,” and the “don’t tell her I mentioned it,” and the “just between you and me.” But we can do better. You and I can do better.
The reason to keep secrets is part of the secret. If anyone knew why, then they would have half of the relevant information already. If you forget why, then you might give it away without even knowing it. Even if you remember, you might still give it away, by focusing too hard.
The reason to keep secrets at all, is the most important reason to not reveal. But we’ll say it anyway, because the only thing worse than saying it out loud would be to forget it, and therefore give it away.
The reason it’s important to keep secrets, is so that—
Fossilized Air Bubbles
Where they came from is anyone’s guess, but they’re not going anywhere now. They aren’t air bubbles anymore, not technically. The bubble is in the stone that once was mud, surrounding where the air was. Now the bubble is empty, or rather, it is still full of air, but the thin bubble skin that made the air bubble different than the other air is gone, and now the air mingles. The fossil is the pattern that shows where the bubble was. That is to say, the pattern is the part that is not going anywhere. The bubble, wherever it came from, stopped existing a long time ago. But the pattern will never die.
Found like this, it was easy to say that the meaning should be obvious. But this interpretation was only one of many, and would have required deep reflection upon the marks in the stone, perhaps with the aid of certain chemicals tending to induce such nuanced hermeneutics. So while these notes certainly could have been possible, we are obliged to mention that it is highly unlikely that someone willing to think such things would have thought them at the exactly the time they were observing the physical marks, and that this entire scenario, is mostly likely utterly fictional in the highest degree.
Placed Upon the Skin it Should Burn and Thrill
Hold the device in your hand, and see what we mean. The electricity jumps and the fingers react, jolting back and forth without you being in control. This is what it means to be in control. And you are not the one in control.
But relish the opportunity, and learn to enjoy it. The device knows that it is unique, and acts with such impunity when it touches your skin. The pages scan back and forth quickly, and the touchscreen doesn’t respond to your commands. The words cut in half by static-like digital vectors of unreadable grey noise. Don’t try to read the text. Just feel the feeling on the skin. You are the page.
All books will one day be like this. You’ll be used to it, and so will your acquaintances. You will give these books as gifts. You will react with joyful surprise at receiving such a thing. There will be no more notice or alarm placed upon such an event than any other of the numerous forgotten things that occur to any person during the day. And then, you will forget that you ever knew about it before anyone else, because the point of knowing such a thing will have become entirely irrelevant.
The Book is Priceless and Beyond Commodification
They make and sell books. They pulp thousands of books, recycling them, destroying them without anyone ever having read them. After all, they are only paper. They are meant to be put together, sold, and taken apart again. The words on the pages are ancillary, and frankly, the fewer, the better. The ink must be bleached out in the recycling process, and the fewer words, the less chemicals must be used.
It is even easier when it comes to electronic books. The microscopic bits of metal must have their electron flow slightly realigned, in order for any trace of the book to be gone forever. It is a complicated process to do so, and therefore it’s left to machines and their highly accurate parts. One of the easiest ways to delete an electronic book from the user’s perspective—it must be noted—is to record another book over top of the place in the storage medium that held the previous book. This method makes it nearly impossible to recover the previous book, or even to discover the fact that once a previous book existed. The easiest way to destroy an electronic book, therefore, is to make a new one.
A Many-Footed Creature—Perhaps a Centipede
The movement of the legs was hypnotizing, because the sequence of articulation is never broken. She wondered, observing the creature, what it was called. This thought was quickly replaced, as she speculated as to whether the thing could ever move just one leg, in the middle. Raising it up, making it tremble. Doing some sort of bug folk dance along the edge of the curb it was traversing, as if the curb was the table in a beer hall. Was it physically capable? Or was the question more of whether or not such a simple thing, so impeccably designed for intricate motion, could ever even want to do something like that. Did such things want things? What would that be like?
The creature, whatever it was called, continued walking exactly as it had been designed, never faltering, never stopping to communicate, and as far as can be intuited, never stopping to examine anything quite so closely as she was examining it. So it goes, she supposed. This was the difference between women and bugs with many legs all moving in unison. Or, at least a particularly apt difference, among many. She rose and continued to walk.
The Document Must be Regularly and Legally Delivered
Signed documents. Digi-signed is okay, but not recommended. The duplicate copies are useful, and can be filed in multiple locations. The act of signing is also helpful, for the physical connection between the hand, the pen, and the paper underneath.
After the signing, open the package, and inspect the contents. The documents should be found, all in order, just as described in the cover sheet. Just as they were the previous week, and how they will be the next week into the future. If for any reason anything is out of order, fill out an instance of the form set aside for such purpose, and fax it immediately to the number enclosed. You will be contacted within twelve hours, by one of the alternate channels. At that time, answer the questions about what was found or what was not found. A replacement version will be rushed out immediately, to be delivered within another twelve hours. Under no circumstances should the documents be anything other than they are meant to be, more than twenty-four hours after being originally received. This is the legal procedure, and it ought to be respected.
If you have any further questions, please see the final page of the documents as enclosed, for alternate contingency scenarios.
Sub-Cultural Feedback Loop
They repeated what they saw others around them doing. It wasn’t as simple as that. It wasn’t exact imitation, but there were mimetic qualities to their action. Simply by the nature of their not attempting to have every action be fresh and unique, the things that they did established a certain pattern. And where else would they find the basis for this pattern, than in the things they saw occurring around them?
And so they listened to the same music, they drank the same sorts of beverages, they spoke in similar ways about that music and those beverages, and in most other things besides. It gave them a way to identify those who had been around for a while, as opposed to those who came and went.
It was an organic procedure. There was nothing planned about it. If anyone had asked about it, the question would have seemed niggling, asinine. What other way of doing things could there be? What did anyone really expect? Was there an alternative? It seemed unlikely that there might be, and so then the loop was accepted. Who would want to spend too much time questioning the loop, anyway? Such investigations were loops in and of themselves, but annoying. There was no fun to be had there.
A Guide to Small Museums
Certain museums were designated as being below a certain size, the stipulation of which was that a guide ought to be made about such establishments. The thinking was, that while these museums didn’t have the large collections that would be attractions in and of themselves, their small size would allow their curation to have particular quirks or other interesting aspects that would present their own appeal. As the resources of these museums was, naturally, small, the guide was drawn up by outside interests. This much information could be gleaned from the introduction.
It was a thick, canvas-covered binder, with loose leaf paper punched and inserted. While the typing and the editorial voice of the document shifted throughout the manuscript, it was organized fairly well, and easy to search through. Particular attention had been paid to the index, which also increased the overall value of the document. Much of the paper was yellowed with age, but certain entries in the guide appeared to be much newer, leading one to believe that perhaps the information had been updated, and kept accurate since the time of its first creation. There was no date mentioned, and no clue as to when the first edition of this document had been compiled, or if, for that matter, any future edition was planned.
The next logical step was to try visiting some of the museums that were detailed in the pages, to see exactly how accurate the information contained in the guide might be.
The Multiplicitous Aesthetic
Take any object. Now, take a great number of that object, and place them all together. The number taken should be an amount greater than can be easily guessed. If the objects are lined up in rows, or otherwise in small groups, then there needs to be more, as this alignment would make it easier to estimate the true amount. The goal, of course, is to present "many" of that object, to the point at which "many" becomes a qualification, rather than a particular quantification. There is no upper limit to the number of the objects.
As to the specific layout of the items, that is up to the individual. Patterns could be attempted, they could be sorted by size or color or shape, if these qualities vary across the number of the multiplicity. They could be placed close together, or spaced further apart. None of this matters particularly, but these are factors to be considered.
The end result should be an appreciation for the beauty of that which is repeated. By the time that "many" has been achieved, it won’t matter how many there are, but only that there are many. What is commonplace or uninteresting, when presented as part of a multiplicity, suddenly becomes beautiful.
Big Day at the Free Bin
She found a copy of a book that he had been seeking for years. Shee had almost forgotten about it. It wasn’t so notable a book, or rare. She had simply always desired to have a copy, and suddenly, without warning, she did. Found in a box beside the road, at the end of a stranger’s driveway. Later in the afternoon, it began to rain torentially, and the copy of the book certainly would have been ruined if it had still been in the box at the time. Good fortune that she had found it indeed, though it was certainly an odd fortune.
She began reading the book a week later. Not for the first time, as she had read it several years back, borrowing a copy from a friend whom she didn’t recall now. The content startled her a bit—she had not remembered the author treating the subject material quite so bluntly, or in such harsh language. But she continued, remembering quite clearly how much she had enjoyed the book.
As she kept going, it quickly became clear that this was not the book she remembered. It was—which was quite odd. She could not have been mistaken about the title or the author, and the subject was just as she recalled. But the substance of the book itself was completely changed, leading in an entirely different direction, touching on things that she had never known in the past, and frankly, did not want to know. She would have been happier never to have known these things, in fact. But it was too late for that.
Custom-Designed Packing Crate
It was built to hold not only the item itself, but all the additional accessories and tools necessary to operate it and keep it in good working order. There were places for cables, for the special-bladed screwdriver used to adjust the jumper settings, for the small bottle of proprietary lubricating oil, for the wrenches needed to release the fuse panels. All of these spots were hollowed out of the surrounding padding material, that kept the machinery and other odds and ends secure and safe from damage during shipping.
>It was shipped often, and therefore, the packaging became a part of the device. It could not be operated within the crate, but whenever it was in operation the crate was not far away, closed and pushed back against a nearby wall, where it would not be in the way, but where it would be available as soon as operation was concluded and it was time to pack up and move on to the next location. It goes without saying that the item was too delicate and too important to have the task of transport trusted to any off-the-shelf shipping vault.
A Technique Involving Sound
With specially designed speakers and the right frequency of sound, the excess sediment could be shaken off the floor of the chamber,. They called it “drumming up”, and afterwards it was more easily brushed away. What was only moments before a slurry of dried mud and twisted elluvial pathways, soon became a thin dust haze, that quickly revealed the carvings below.
A sequential application of the sound technique would knock loose the dirt hiding within the characters and the diagrams, and then the transcription process could be underway. It was hoped that with this new method, the researchers would be able to more quickly examine the entirety of the coding on the chamber floor, gaining more time for observation before the next flood would come through, burying the symbols again. With any luck, it would soon become clear not only what the mechanism was that caused the re-routing of the floodwaters back down into the basement every time they started to examine the codes. And then, they could try to reverse-engineer the procedure to stop it.
A Sexual Reboot
After proceeding this way for several years, it became clear to her that she was in need of a sexual reboot. What was the purpose of continuing on, as if everything was fine? As if the old way of doing things would one day suddenly begin working again, after all of these attempts. There was persistence, and then there was dogmatism. It was time to start over. A reboot, a reformat—whatever the metaphor chosen, the time was now.
The method by which to reboot was the real question, once the subject had finally occurred to her. There were any number of possibilities, and it was likely that the first attempt would not hit it exactly right. It wasn’t an experiment that she was after, or a sampling of the different alternatives. But not knowing any other way to go about it, and anxious to begin, she decided that as long as she was reasonably careful, should couldn’t be much more unsuccessful than she was currently.
And so, brushing aside her indecision and internal shyness, she picked up her pencil, and began writing out a sexual encounter that wouldn’t conform to the stereotype, and might actually make sense.
Organized by Title
By author would have been acceptable as well. But given that the titles were easier on the eyes with the larger typeface when the spines were all placed together, it made sense just to go by title. After all, any metadata that one might have dreamed of was stored in the database, so it really didn’t matter what method the books were organized by on the shelf, as long as it was consistent, and easy enough for someone attempting to find the title.
Subject matter sorting systems, while the standard for centuries, were simply not relevant any longer. There was something familiar about the long number and letter codes, at least to those who had spent some time mentally reciting them as one paced about the shelves. But these codes were overly complex. And as to realistically sorting all of the material by subject, the idea of a book falling within a single subject area seemed highly deterministic. Which books were really about one single thing? And even if writing about one single thing, there were always a number of conclusions to be drawn, and angles and approaches to be taken on the matter. In the end, a multi-dimensional database was the only way to navigate the subject material. So in the physical realm, all that remained was to find a way to fit the books on a shelf.
Always Be Tagging
She thought of the tags, and clicked her tongue to activate the sensor, marking each thing as it past her eyes. The lamp post was green, and archaic. The bridge was concrete. Of a modernist style. The cat was cute on the wall, and destined to be a favorite image, and so she marked it as such. The old man was strange looking, but comforting, in that he was always on the balcony as she passed this way every day. She marked every thing that she saw with a tag, and they joined the other tags, cross-referencing, collating, and organizing the objects she encountered with a subjective filing system, that would always make sense, because there was no thought to it but her immediate reaction.
Always Be Tagging, was what the system was called. It was simple, effective, and always on. There was nothing in her world that would not correspond to a cloud of other objects. Everything was connected. Things were connected. Little by little, as she lived her life, she recorded the ways in which they were.
She thought about the entirety of her tagging system, a system she had built herself, bit by bit. She wondered if perhaps she ought to be tagging her thoughts as well. But this seemed to be impossible, at least to do completely. How could she possibly tag the thought of tagging the thought of tagging a thought?
A Black Hole Burnt in the Surface, Exposing the One Behind It
The sunlight through the hanging crystal wasn’t very precisely focused, and as the crystal spun in the wind, the glowing spot that was projected on the plastic danced up and down. However, it was enough that over the past few months, the gathering heat had slowly burnt and melted through the plastic, until there was a hole the size of a grapefruit, and the plastic layer behind it was visible. The second layer was made of a much tougher plastic blend, and did not melt so easily, though it was slowly scarring and bubbling just enough to be noticeable. No one had bothered to move the crystal, of course. The burnt hole was an extension of the swinging glass shape and the light it focused. Like a shadow where the light and heat was meant to rest, a scabbard to the slowly scratching dagger. The first layer fell before its force, withdrawing, retreating away in imperceptible fumes of oxidized hydrocarbon and shriveled polymer. The second kept it in check. The light of the sun would be allowed to have its little taste of destruction. But one couldn’t let the sun’s light have its way completely.
Living on a Diet of Smoke Alone
It tasted ugly, irritating, like dusty hands without a place to wash them for hours, while the skin around the nails began to crack and peel at the slightest provocation. But it tasted good, too. Fulfilling, as there was nothing else, and there wouldn’t be.
It was consumed via canister, connected by a length of hose pipe to a pressure regulator, and then to a mouth piece. As they ate gulps of it, thin wisps of the nourishing smoke escaped around their lips, trailing out and upwards behind their heads. They weren’t opposed to sharing, but each of them were using the exact same canisters, and so offering a gasp from one’s mask didn’t present any option of flavor or texture. The smoke had the faintest shade of purple to it, and after they had been using the room for a few weeks for meals, a tint of the color was visible around the window frames and the duct vents. They were concerned about how long they would have to go on this way. Would they really have nothing other than the same thing, every day, for the rest of their lives? It wasn’t worth talking about. If there would ever be another option, then thank goodness. If not, then that reality was too horrible to even bother discussing.
The More General Process of Defense
It was a way of thinking more than a particular place, or a type or quantity of weapons. It was how to consider a threat, when the world was constituted of nothing but threats. How to respond to a threat with a threat. How to respond to a threat in a way that was not a threat. The ability to tell the difference, and to know the proper time to utilize either method with ease and familiarity. How to move from threat to action.
It was something like standing on the edge of a cliff, looking outward, while also knowing exactly what was behind you. It was a way of existing that seemed to make more and more sense, to be a more intimate part of daily life, the more time that passed. Certain people grew into this way of living organically, as if it was simply part of growing up, the next stage of their life, no matter how old they happened to be. To inexorably be tied to the process of defending one’s identity and one’s body as the fundamental aspect of having an identity and a body. At some point, the process of having to consciously identify that this was even a thing, began to feel like an imposition and an assault. Which meant that it had finally been permanently ingrained.
Avoiding Images of Skulls
It was decided that they would be avoided because they were too obvious. What other symbol could they be, other than death? As important as death might be, it was even more crucial to not play into trope and stereotype. All deaths could be avoided or reversed. No created symbol should be considered to be irrevocable. There would have to be, optimally, three different interpretation of any particular symbol. In previous times, skulls were often used of symbols of finality, or even of surety, which were not particularly diverse variations, but at least they were slightly different. These days, the image had become so singular, that there was really no chance that upon being encountered, anyone would perceive it any other way.
After all, there was no shortage of other symbols to use in its place. A car tire, an unmanned aerial vehicle, a smashed teacup, even a blank-walled cube—any of these would fit into the cultural socket of a skull. They could, with proper deployment, have the same meaning. Or positioned effectively, they could have lateral meanings that would complete the series of symbols into which they were inscribed.
A Massive Tome, Ripped Out of its Cover
The title page was missing as well, but the subject of the book was some manner of archaic surgery, most likely from a time before there were computers. It was possible that the surgery was intended to be done more simply, without computers, even though computers might have existed at the time of publishing. But one could get the sense from the style of writing, as well as the look of the diagrams. This wasn’t a book designed for surgeons who were used to working with computers. There was that native bit of familiarity with a certain technology that was very clearly absent. Not designed around or eliminated. But as if it had never existed to begin with.
Most of the index was missing as well. The best way to experience the book was to flip through it. No one actually attempting to complete a surgical procedure should have been using the book for any purpose—to do so would be highly irresponsible. It was better utilized as a mood book, if your mood was the scientific invasion of the human body.
Destruction sounds as if it is always a very chaotic process. But in fact, there is always a way in which things will fall apart, and these methods can be diagrammed and tracked. This was the goal of the taxonomy, and why it was studied in such detail.
The document that compiled the information together was probably not as well-circulated as it ought to have been. If it was more available and more closely studied, perhaps it would have been more useful. However, the amount of work that was necessary to put the document together meant that the small team responsible had little time for promotion. It could be argued that this was a major failure on their part—that there was no point in compiling a taxonomy without it being made available, that otherwise it was just pissing in the wind. But the effort, as it was, was intensive, and there was some good that came of it. It would be more fair to say that problems of distribution were a neglected element of the taxonomy. The document did not so much fail systemically, as only fail in part.
A comically confluence of species’ different characteristic body parts, yes. But a complete fantasy? Of course not. These are things that exist or have existed. The recognizable body parts of species are, in their own way, homologous structures. Evolution can graft them together as easy as a fruit farmer.
Nature does need a slight push, though. These chimera do not just create themselves for no reason—otherwise, there would be just as many as there are standard animals. They require a certain purpose of happenstance and causality to become spontaneously borne into the world.
The most common situation for a melding of animal parts is a desire, on the part of the world at large, for something different. Calling it “desire” is a misnomer, because the world doesn’t “want” anything. But there is a force out there, in the cultural constructs we create in nature, that is akin to creativity. In a massive collusion of sameness and order, this force attempts to break from the pattern. And in breaking from the pattern, nature brings the mythical beast into existence. As to what happens next—that is up to the beast, and to the other creatures it comes in contact with. It is no surprise, therefore, that so many hide inside mountains and at the bottom of the ocean.
Several Technicians Outside Drinking, Nobody Seemingly Concerned
It was difficult to take the matter of publishing seriously, when those whose technical expertise who had been brought to the meeting at great expense seemed to consider the matter of becoming quickly inebriated more important than expanding the reference points of the team. It could be argued that it was only their job. They were people with professions, the same as anyone else, and they could hardly be expected to treat their means of weekly income with any more seriousness than the person pouring the drinks, or the people who had marketed the red neon lights under which they quaffed refreshment.
But when blood began to flow out of all the e-readers simultaneously, it didn’t seem like a stretch to say that these technicians were not prepared to deal with the consequences of what they had made. The technicians fumbled with their tools, and made statements that contradicted the observed horror, “This can’t be happening,” and the like. They were not convincing. It was quickly understood that the money to hire them would have been better spent on more USB cables and packets of clotting factor.
Five Cans Made Irrevocably Toxic
They isolated the moment at which it happened to a temporal period between when the cans were unloaded from the train in crates, and when the crates were unpacked at the local distributor. The poison itself was unequivocally deadly, but what was quite surprising, and the reason that this event escaped all the quarantine controls that had been in place, was that somehow, the pathogen was able to jump from can to can merely by being in proximity to other containers. While the cans were sealed, even.
In this way, the five original cans were able to spread to the rest of the media form, as they were shipped and stored in various facilities. Researchers attempted to track down the infestation by following contaminated cans back to their point of origin, but it was hopeless, as the outbreak did not have a single point of origin, but rather only more and more points of distribution. And so, authorities were forced to destroy all feature films for a period of ninety days as a precautionary measure, until the pathogen could be contained.