Some Whole Wheat Words

And Other Up-Lift

Archive for January 2007

She’s A Null And I’m A Void

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Part The First: Lower Bay

I got a ride into Toronto with my parents Yesterday. They dropped me off at Keele, and I would have taken the subway direct to Bloor-Yonge if I hadn’t suddenly had the most intense urge to disembark at Bay.

At first, it felt like I had to go to the bathroom, and so I started to look for one. I began to climb the stairs into the station proper, when the feeling changed. I stopped climbing, and reversed direction, skittering back down. I hate when that happens, when you forget where it was you really wanted to go. People smiled.

It felt right to make my way to the end of the platform, and so I walked down, my boots thudding wetly on the tiles. It was unusually quiet. I reached that metal divider that keeps people from going too far, and climbed over it. There was nobody around.

For whatever reason, the hum in the tunnels became exponentially louder once I crossed over the divider. There was a heavy bass undertone to it, the beginnings of rhythm.

I’m okay with rhythm, just not great at applying it to dancing. Just ask Renée or Tanner: they accompanied me to the Dance Cave and were lucky enough to catch my innovative blend of off-beat headbanging and tap.

There’s still a little bit of platform still left after you cross that barrier, though it’s much thinner than the rest. It’s darker, too; the only illumination comes from an emergency light. There was a door. As I approached it the rhythm picked up, pulsing deeply from somewhere too dark to see, down the line. It was suddenly very warm.

I put my hand on to the door, which gave back a slight buzz, almost electrical. It was unlocked. The rhythm was very loud now, giving the space a feeling of closeness. I walked inside.

The walls were grimy, slashed with stained steel at regular intervals. They ran with beads of moisture, and the peeling paint was dotted with little colonies of water-eyes. The light was fluorescent and dim, and the corridor smelled very strongly of the Subway. Which was fine by me; I like that smell. It was hot. I unbuttoned my coat.

I walked through other doors, down other corridors in a haze. My senses felt dim and were flecked by little explosions of light. The rhythm drowned out all other sound; all footsteps and breathing. I began to hear a faint voice in between the pulses.

C’MEREc’merec’merec’mereC’MEREc’merec’merec’mere,” it said. So I followed.

I walked for a long time. Eventually, the floor changed from tile to rock, the tiles ending abruptly and unevenly, like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. It was sweltering. A thin film of something clear and sticky covered the floor. The character of the smell had changed. It had become some version of the Subway smell; some evolutionary predecessor. Oil and dirt, very strongly, but also a sweet, metallic smell. Blood.

I came to the bottom of a long and winding tunnel, lit by mining lights and lined with cables. Moisture dripped like rain from the low ceiling. I pushed through some greasy plastic strip curtains, the kind you see in the back of the supermarket, opaque and milky with grime. My senses rushed back all at once.

The terminus of the tunnel, of all the tunnels, was a central chamber. Humans had no hand in its construction. All the lines were smooth, worn down over hundreds of thousands of years. What looked like liquid tar descended from the ceiling in long, ropy strands, unwinding in slow motion into pools on the floor. In the middle of this space, connected to the top and to the bottom, was the Toronto Transit Authority.

Much of it was obscured by machinery: huge computer equipment, all blinking lights and tape reels spooling and unspooling forever. Old; thirty years or more. Tens of thousands of rotting punch cards littered the ground, floating like little manilla rafts in puddles of grease or slime or whatever it was.

I thought of a National Film Board cartoon I’d seen as a kid, the one where the little boy finds out that his basement has been turned into a subway station. People come out every five minutes and fuck up his house, and since he’s a latchkey kid and his parents are coming home, he goes to the city’s central planning committee to get things sorted out. My memory is hazy on how he gets there, but when he does, he finds out that the committee is actually a huge computer, advanced technology the way it was imagined in 1978: big as a wall, covered in lights and mysterious gadgets. The computer asks the little boy for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and the boy says no, that’s nonsense, clean up this mess with my house. Inside the computer lives a lonely old scientist who looks like Einstein– the computer was a sham. I forget how it ends. With friendship, I’m sure.

In the middle of the hulk of spinning and whirring and flashing, something had been grown over a lattice of machinery like a hothouse rose– Flesh. A bloom of it, the general size and shape of a human torso. The rhythm stopped.

It was a torso. I looked closer.

It was pale pink and covered in grease. There were mouths and eyes strewn across its skin haphazardly, as if a box of body parts had been upended over it while it was still molten. The eyes blinked, narcotic, unfocused. The mouths were butchered in, improvised; indiscriminate machete wounds zippered with sharp teeth, teeth in profusion, like yellow porcelain shrapnel.

At the top of the torso, a muscular neck led into a tapered metal helmet. On this was emblazoned the logo of the Toronto Transit Commission.

Data tape slicked its way in from the machine proper in every direction, wrapping around the Authority, cutting deeply grooved wounds into its body. The tape moved in variable rates. When it sped up, it was accompanied by a sound like a thumbnail dragged across an air mattress. The lump of flesh shivered rhythmically with the stop-start motion of the tape. It was, I realised, reading it.

I moved a little closer. It extended an arm, its left, its only limb, which had far too many of everything. Joints, wrists, fingers– especially fingers. A ring of them encircled a final wrist like the petals of a flower. A bouquet of knuckles moved slowly a metre away, not reaching me.

“You seem to have made a mistake of scale. How’s your depth perception with all of those eyes?” I asked. All of the eyes snapped to me, focused. The tape stopped moving. Why do I do things like that?

Recently, someone asked me if I’d like another someone to attend a party. “Q~?” I replied. “Fuck no! Are you kidding me?” Then someone moved to one side and Q~ was right behind them. Serves me right.

The Authority screamed like one thousand suicides. The plates in my skull ground together. A voice like animals hitting the third rail exploded from everywhere. Millions of useless conversations crushed together at earsplitting volume.

“:(” Said the Authority. “>:S”

“HEY,” I yelled, my ears ringing, “I’M TRYING TO FIND THE FUCKING EXIT ALREADY, SO DON’T GIVE ME ANY SHIT.”

“>:(” Said the Authority, and reached for me. I ran.

There was only one person on the platform at Bay when I got back outside. I was out of breath. I slammed the door behind me.

“You weren’t talking to that thing, were you?” He said. He looked at me quizzically.

“Kind of. It didn’t like my line of questioning.”

“Never trust anything that looks like that. They’re swine. They’re reptiles. They spend all of their time naked– they’ve got no dignity, man. Most of them are Hoosiers.” He brought out a cigarette in a long cigarette holder.

“They were people?” I asked.

“Likely,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to talk to them enough to find out. Sometimes you can’t avoid dealing with them, especially considering the state I’m in. Bad craziness, I say.” He lit his cigarette with a match, examined a “no smoking” sign on the tiled station wall.

“How many arms did it have? Three? Four?” He asked.

“One.”

“Good God, man. And you talked to it?”

“I had a couple of questions for it, yeah. Hey,” I said. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about social networking and its effect on interpersonal exchange and friendship, would you? I’ve kind of got a class”

He stopped in mid-drag, adjusted his sunglasses.

“Of course not, I never touch the stuff,” he said. “Disgusting and bad for your morals besides. What are you trying to do, make me kill myself?”

“Sorry.”

“Watch your mouth next time, then.” Something occurred to him. “You wouldn’t happen to have a fifth of Tequila on you, would you?” He asked.

“‘Fraid not. What are you doing here? You never struck me as the public transit type. And the Dream’s to the South, last time I checked,” I said. “Not that I’m not happy to see you.”

“What are you talking about, boy? You can’t observe a phenomena from the inside! I needed to get away from it, utterly away. Sometimes I think I’m not far enough,” he said, looking around at the grime in the station, at a little pile of multicoloured puke on the floor. “One must be impartial, scientific. I am after all a Doctor. I have certain standards.” He looked at me suddenly.

“Standards which you lack,” said the Good Doctor. “It’s disgusting. I had the common decency to lie about everything, and let it come out in the wash later on. I never insulted my audience’s intelligence with obvious talk of Snowrunners or tape drive transit mutants.” He reached for his Mace. “Now get out of here and unhand me, before I give you a taste of Chemical Billy and alert the authorities.”

“Okay. I’m sort of… late for a class, anyway,” I said. I took the next subway to Dundas station and walked to Great Writers of the 19th Century. I was almost on time.

———-

On to the fiction!

Part The Second: Some Stuff I Made Up

I put my hand on the shoulder of a chipped blue statue in a niche on the side of the building.

“Seems real enough to me,” I said.

“That’s because you are like unto the proverbial amoeba compared to the entities for which this simulation was called into being.”

“What?” I said, noticing a mulatto kid eating a can of something under an archway on the side of the building. The writing on the can looked like equal parts Hindi and Italian.

“You are slime mold,” said the Professor, in my ear. “You are the Super Mario to their player figure– you are equally powerless in their equivalent to our physical world, and proportionately self aware. Codes and data, and simple data indeed, you must seem to them. There are flaws in this world, if it is indeed a creation and, like Super Mario, an imperfect simulacra of a higher reality. But these flaws will never be apparent to you, because they will take the form of spiritual problems, metaphysical problems…”

“Dreams in the mind of God,” I said. “I like Berkeley. What version of Mario are we talking about, here?” The kid looked at me from the stoop where he sat. There was a ring of food around his mouth, coffee cherries or something. I made a face and he smiled.

“Don’t be stupid,” said the Honorable Professor. “You must consider the implications of this. This world that you find yourself in now seems equally real when compared to our own. Are we not, then, also a simulation?”

“We’d never know,” I said. The kid watched me with big eyes. Slowly, his hand made its way up to his ear, and he cocked his head, trying to hear whatever I was hearing. I slid my hand off of the statue and turned around, rested my back on the wall. The brutal heat of the day was cooling now, in the lukewarm evening rain. I watched through the narrow slit on the other end of the alley as people with paper umbrellas and lanterns passed over the azure street-tiles. The sky had turned a light-polluted violet around its edges. There was a chorus of bird calls, the birds unseen, the sounds strange.

“I want to see the maker’s fingerprints, Joe. I want to know. If we are all part of a construct, a simulacra, and we are allowed insight, however slight, into our cosmic position and nature, what does that mean? If we can travel, as you have, between simulations that run parallel to our own, is this, too part of a grander simulation? What does that say about the Creators?”

“What if God’s dying?” I say. The kid has given up on hearing anything through his hand but muffled street noise. He apes me, rocking his head side to side, flapping his mouth ba ba ba ba ba. Yeah, kid. I know. I’m crazy. “What if that’s why we can skip between dimensions, constructs, simulations? Someone’s turned off the console, but it’s still warm.”

“Hmm, that would imply the presence of a Golden Age, when the simulation was still run and tended by a capital-g Gardener,” said the Most Honourable and Wise Professor.

“Or a time of terror, ruled by ineffable, inscrutable Gods,” I said. “Gods that take pleasure in turning people into pillars of salt or smiting the heathen, Gods like the God of the Old Testament.”

“Ever the pessimist.”

“I’m just trying to be realistic,” I said. A bike carrying a man with a wicker basket on his head splashed through a puddle beyond the end of the alley. “As realistic as I can, anyway, considering what’s happened so far this afternoon.” A thought struck me.

“Are you covering for me?” I asked. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here for.”

“Of course,” says the August, Wise Professor of the as-yet-undisclosed Temporal and Spatial Studies Department at Ryerson University. “I’m writing the faculty a note almost as we speak. You’re terribly indisposed to do anything, it says, as you are working for me currently and I simply must have your help. I’ll hash in the details later.”

“Good. I’ve gotten my fucking three credits worth out of this already.” I looked over and saw that the kid was gone. The empty can of coffee cherries was sitting in a puddle on the rough concrete stoop, leaking dark crimson syrup into the water.

I swung around and saw the kid at the other end of the alleyway, tugging on the arm of a woman in a long silk blouse, pointing my way.

Fuck. Doc, I think I’ve just been found out. I gotta go.”

“Wait, you should–” I hung up and ran down the alleyway, into a night budding in golden lamplight under an unfamiliar sky.

———-

I think that pretty much does it for me today.

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Written by wholewheatwords

January 31, 2007 at 11:52 pm

Posted in magic reality, prose

Snowrunner, Fly

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I feel like a poorly maintained Lada. My brain is gummed with cracker crumbs and my mouth is full of road salt. On to yesterday night.

I saw the Snowrunner as I was heading down to the café. A local artist decided to open a show there, and I was in the mood for hors d’oeuvres.

It snowed softly and heavily, straight down. The streetlamps buzzed and I kept my eyes on my feet as I picked my way down our front porch stairs. Across our street, two kids from the youth shelter, a boy and a girl, were– I guess you could call it gamboling. They screamed playful obscenities through the snow and ran after each other, their jackets open.

I looked up from my boots and the Snowrunner was passing by, gliding over the road, moving fast.

This one was around twelve feet tall, I’d guess. I could be wrong, it was hunched over. It looked pretty thin; about the width of my wrist. It’s tough to judge size when they’re passing, and they don’t reflect much light.

The boy and the girl were laughing at something in the snow. They didn’t look up.

Usually I don’t acknowledge runners; I pretend that I haven’t seen them. This time, I decided, for whatever reason, to wave. I don’t know why. I was feeling a bit blue, a bit bored.

The Snowrunner stopped in mid-stride, just above the asphalt. They don’t leave any tracks; I’m not sure how. I don’t even know why they’re called “Snowrunners.” They can move just as well over pretty much any flat ground.

It looked at me, its long head moving smoothly, as if on ball bearings. It had eyes; tiny points of light no bigger than pinpricks, widely spaced over the beak, facing forward.

It hadn’t occurred to me previously that human beings were predators, but it’s true. Somehow, “hunt” isn’t connected to ideas of predation in my mind. When you look at a prey animal, like my old pet rabbit, its eyes are on either side of its head, to better see predators. The eyes of predators face forward to focus on prey. Neat.

My breath came out in clouds and the chill began to eat away at the residual warmth on my skin. The Snowrunner cocked its head slightly and opened its beak. The beak itself was a different shape than usual: long and curved, like an ibis. It made no sound. The kids turned for the door of the Shelter. I slid my headphones off my ears and around my neck.

“Hi,” I said quietly. No reaction. The runner was in constant, barely perceivable motion. Not really breathing; more like flickering, like a TV with less-than-perfect signal.

“I don’t want to, er, be a bother,” I said. No reaction.

I’ve been told that I have low self-esteem; I can’t deny that. Lately I’ve been trying to speak and act with more confidence. This will apparently lead to girls liking me for who I am. Yeah, I don’t really get it, either. I decided to keep talking, whether the Snowrunner found me to be a bother or not. I walked to the edge of the road, climbed up on the ridge of ice and sand left behind by the snowplows.

“Fine. I have a question for you. You have something to do with Dreamtime, don’t you? Do you know anything about it? When’s it going to happen?”

The runner reached out its arm and showed me its watch, which was silver and looked expensive. It wore the watch backwards, the body on the inside of its wrist. Its fingers were bladelike, long as my shin. It had two thumbs, one on each side of the palm; I hadn’t noticed that before.

I tried to look at the face of the watch, but my eyes wouldn’t focus and started to water. When I looked away, there was a bright spot in the centre of my vision where the watch had been, as if I had stared into a lightbulb.

“I– I can’t see the hands,” I said. The Snowrunner withdrew its arm. Then it turned away and started moving again. It was faster than a car, but its limbs moved slowly, like a water slider.

It reached the bottom of the hill. It made a left on Ross and slid around an old Taurus. Then it was gone.

The hors d’oeuvres were excellent.

———-

Joseph Yachimec – The Day I Learned To Fly

Written by wholewheatwords

January 28, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Posted in magic reality, music

Necklace, Flagrant Misuse Of The Term “Epoxy”

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A bit of a teaser from something new.

———-

The girl wasn’t struggling anymore. Her back was to Henry, and the muscles of her shoulders were knotted, the gloss of sweat giving her skin a frozen look. She hyperventilated quietly behind the duct tape. Henry’s mind lurched about. He turned to leave.

“Stay,” said Pecan. She grabbed him by the shoulder, sat him back in his chair.

“I… I really…” said Henry.

Jasper finished cinching the girl’s legs to the chair. He ran the fingernails of a tattooed hand along the back of the girl’s neck, affectionate, obscene.

“You wouldn’t refuse a pretty young lady her request, Henry, would you?” He said. A little pink ball of gum peeked out in the corner of his mouth when he talked. His jaw moved up and down noisily.

Henry Brickbat clenched his teeth, swallowed hard. Jasper winked at him.

“I’m glad,” said Jasper, placing a hand on the top of the girl’s head, which jerked slightly at his touch. “Don’t want anyone saying funny things about your sense of chivalry.”

“I’ll keep watch,” said Pecan as she stepped out the sliding glass doors onto the balcony.

“Pecan’s already seen how this goes,” said Jasper. “And just between you and me, I don’t think she likes it much. I s’pose I don’t blame her– it can get a little unsavoury.” He lingered on the word, smiling, putting things into what he assumed were terms that Henry could comprehend. Jasper paused a moment, then flicked his eyes over to Henry’s.

“Too late now!” He rolled up the sleeves of his suit. Tattoos crawled feverishly across his forearms. He blew a bubble. “I really hope you get that promotion, Detective. It’d be kind of a waste if you didn’t, wouldn’t it?”

Jasper gently moved a few locks of brown hair out of the way of the girl’s face, and removed his gum from his mouth. He pressed it into the girl’s forehead with a thumb, pushing her head back. She made a chuffing noise and continued breathing rapidly.

“In any case, this’ll make a hell of a story to tell to the fellas back at the precinct,” said Jasper. “This is how business is done in the Grace.”

Henry Brickbat’s stomach jumped and buzzed. Jasper withdrew a small aerosol can from the inner pockets of his suit jacket.

“Know what this is?”

“No.”

“Epoxy. It reacts to heat and air, expands and hardens. It’s sticky as all fuck when it’s wet. I like to shatter locks and door hinges with it, just spray it in, but,” he said, “It does have other uses.”

“Oh,” said Henry.

Jasper leaned down and looked the girl in the eyes.

“You brought this on yourself, you know. You let an immaculate conception with no fucking papers stay in your house. If you’d taken the time to think about it, that this guy was a fugitive would have been obvious. But sadly you are entirely, unequivocally retarded,” he said. The girl recoiled, looked away. She couldn’t have been more than 20, thought Henry. Brooke would be about 20, maybe a little older now.

“From nothing unto nothing,” said Jasper.

Jasper reached out and grabbed the girl by the hair, pulled it into a ponytail over her head, sprayed two rings of epoxy around her neck and stepped back.

The epoxy bloomed into a yellowish foam with shocking speed. A noise came from the girl which started as a yell, progressed to a wet cough, and ended in silence. Something creaked slowly, like a rope bridge.

The girl’s head jumped upwards with a hideous sound, vertebrae pulled from gristle, and snapped to the left, her ear making contact with her shoulder. The flower of epoxy and her hair obscured her neck, stained crimson and purple.

It was very, very quiet.

Henry ran outside and puked a rainbow of Salad King over the balcony into the street below. Then he did it again, and fell forwards. Pecan caught the back of his jacket, hauled him away from the railing. He steadied himself on the bannister, hacking and coughing.

Their eyes met, and an acknowledgment of mutual terror took place before Pecan’s eyes darkened.

“Your justice is served, Detective,” said Pecan.

“Oh God.”

Pecan leaned in close. Her breath was hot as she whispered into Henry Brickbat’s ear.

“Just remember– ICs, we’re not really people, so it’s okay. Right?”

Written by wholewheatwords

January 23, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Posted in prose