Kaytes, perhaps through accident or else some unspecified design, had a peculiar way of seeing things. He was an oddity in that he had some strong belief in the mystical but yet an aversion to anything which smacked of the strange, the unreal, the fuzzy. He would often also rant, after a few swigs of some intoxication, adding a third feature to his thinking.
If we sigue to him in such a state, bear in mind the slow, laboured, plodding speedlessness of his talk, the strain and heaviness of it all, the stresses plugging it and stuffing it with an unearned crushiness.
‘I cannot, you know, bear all those shaman techies who sit in the poverty of their own dull, retronymed minds and stream out to anyone who’ll listen their extreme examples of coincidence and outright falsehood. These are ah-hum The Bodies Innumerate, these are ah-hum The Sheists Tranquilised, whose illiteracy cannot work the simple numerous arithmetic of, say, the lottery games they online. And full of concept greed deficit and hocus symbolist pocus, dreaming of millions to be won against fictionist odds, they in their dismal fortitude cannot find it in themselves to do the biz, ie calculate.
Ignorance breeds their contemptible Ideas Tranquil, strange un-name-tagged dreams, banal unhinged - from - metaphor hopes and but feed the unskinned dematerialised suprises which often come to them in the quidic night, suprises viably and even easily processed were they to spend their energies finding things, & these precisely, out.
But instead they prefer to mither on blah blah blah & it’s just mind candy. Tired in their denied bloodstreams. Branded with the blurred niggly factitive of their aweful dumbness. But never mind, when challenged by someone with metafictive powers eg or ie positivist logic, reason, a few facts, they dissolve all argument with a sly tap of their noses and a dreamy, faraway look, muttering cunningly of things which cannot be as yet understood by any scientific, empiricist, Russelian method and so on and on and on etc murmuring even the odd counterfactual smokily over their breathing beer stink eg the name Heisenberg . Ah, the ignorance, the terrible, frightening and perplexing energy of it, like desert landscape gratis. Theirs, the valium procedure of con - men and emulsified liars, straight-faced’
and having ranted thus would sit quelled in a pool of his own self-righteousness (a nasty end of round nineteenth hole corporate managerial spectacle) and drink some more, and then again some.
His reputation, however, was that of the dreamer , the soulful type deranged. He would moon around throughout the day, his long black coat flapping like the wings of some dreadful untimed yet dead thought, finding out lonely and unlovely spots in the city where he would sit and scramble ideas and calculations, his body crumpled up and creased like a discarded first summons, caught out somehow. His face was covered in small warts and cracks, the temper of its surface was that of something old and abused, its bones seemed to sharpen its contours as if blades covered in a thick leather pouch, something vivid and ill. His movement was jerky and spasmodic from the waist upwards, yet he seemed also to glide over the rough surfaces of the ground like a liquid rolling over a bed of small pebbles, thus the weird movement of something out of geography or Discovery Channel.
But people kept their distance not merely because of his unhealthy looks nor foul reek, though these were surely part of the cause, nor memories of lessons in high school where listing ox-bow lake formation and underwriting coffee trade coordinates were prime directives. There was also his reputation as an ugly Burroughs spirit, a creature aligned to wicked thoughts and ideas, criminal objects even criminals found too bleak and logical to properly consider, illogically, like sly Beats. And so he was alone for vast acres of time and he spent his hours speeding from one back yard to another, checking out lock ups which no one visited, parked cars no one drove off in later, rooms vacated in dismal hours of the day and night, left without anyone ever coming back, time capsules and hidden monsters awaiting his final recognition, reclamation, something, anything eg passion. A sort of subliminal consumerist of sorry naff.
And there were the people he dredged up on too, people he began to notice with increasing alarm and consternation, using the altruistic gaze of what he might speak of in low growls as a diminished vector of responsibility. The first one was a vagrant trying to scoop out trash from a bin in one of those back streets which run as if in panic along a loaning bank’s severe facade. When the vagrant’s face looked up out of the heartless shadows Kaytes wailed in horror as he saw, beneath the flat, broad forehead, an eyeless socket which had been plugged by a piece of grey mechanical gadgetry, a steel cog surrounded by black gouts of dried and flushed out blood, like a Japanese surrealist monochrome freeze frame out of Tetsuo only slower, more Hardcore Sheffield type of consumer item high tech thing.
The shambolic figure darted this way and that like a buzzing shit fly gorged up and was gone before Kaytes could notice anything more, his retina slides bemused and unnubbed. Yet the impression left was so singular, a drained inwardly light flash targetted like an advert for just that unique moment, but ever repeatable, that Kaytes slumped onto the kerbside and took some time to recover an equilibrum of extreme economy, his type ‘A’ favorite.
Finally he moved off but the metal cog ratchetted into the stranger’s open socket, its image qua memory, his, seemed wired into his, Kaytes’s, brain and would not go away, and quantifiably more than subliminally, strangely so, therefore stayed. So that then was the first such sighting but soon he began to see more - sigue to horrorised
Figures with a strange afflicted face socket, the fleshy egg of its eye removed and replaced by in each case an identical machine unit something vaguely reminiscent of military hardwear bits, dull metallic - sheen rib take - outs of Giger Alien sci-fi grisslies, or Nazi executioner hanger shed roofing material you always imagine in winter rain, grey drissle, the black forest designer drabness of Hitler convergence routines ie Nature/Fascist/Heiddegger/Paul De Mann etc ,
seemed to scatter before him as he trod his dismal foreign pathways through the afflicted city, no longer in his mind, summerisable. It bit his head like needle teeth, it stuck him into an epidemic, some underworld affliction spreading like a maniacal disease amongst the down and outs, it poured its deadly serum into his veins and began to work him over, everything suddenly poppy juice emetic.
He began to make calculations, draw up grids and trace patterns of discovery, zones whereby his sightings could begin to be organised and provoke understanding, perception and finally a kind of truth the facts alone would not and could not reveal. Here his mystical inclination revealed itself, for here was precisely how it engaged with his life, a predilection for clarity, for honing things and making the most precise connections/disconnections between diverse objects light up and shine. And here also, therefore, his hatred and dismissal of fog and pother and dark vagueness.
And it was during this palaver that he met with Baillie. Baillie was a young and fine creature with an indolent air and a humour which belied a deep sense of sorrow, an indefinate but engaged sensitivity which drew Kaytes to him with something akin to charm aligned to necessity.
‘You,’ scoffed Baillie as he listened to Kaytes’ dementia. Kaytes found the young man’s amusement in turn amusing and smiled a narrow smile which ran across his face’s lower quarters like a thin trail of dust along the copper spine of a water pipe.
‘I’m in a mist, trying to propose what I imagine whereas you seem to stick close to what you merely see,’ he muttered. Flying the flag of noiseless cool Baillie just sat in the belief that here once again was human nature in its most striking light, a fusion of
un-tax funded struggle investment in the global free cognitive market and its regulative single currency
the seed beneath the snow the beach beneath the road.
Baillie - ‘I eat to persuade myself that I am someone staying neutral, though an observation I quote, namely, that Talmudic societies take to science with a breeze akin to one searching out the bull market peak top, that credence is something worth struggling for, ipso facto, legitimation of belief. Fact, criticism and testing, the insane pressure that comes from frost on the plant leaf, that bends its frond into the buckling dark sludge, wintereisse, its borrowed turnover, its exceptional items of reconstruction with a loss, in the process, of fee income... shit, I should wear horn -rimmed glasses, and see into the printof things clearer. But then, they’re so gross, fashion-wise,’ and feels dwarfy and nerd-welcoming all at once which adds to his sum total of emotional response which amounts to negative stock surfeit.
He looks sidewise at Kaytes as if he’d like to apologise, but there’s a whole book written on why he should not, including the artful one, again a Human Race type of thing summarisation, which says never own up before the price has been declared, like, how much is it going to cost. So nothing else gets said in that particular direction, its a dead trail end.
Baillie has a job to do, a quick piece of dissembling for the face of his Company which, after all, does happen to pay for the car, the hotels, the hygiene factors which make it all seem on the surface to be not a bad life choice he’s taken after all, given his definately ambiguous take on qualificational, professional and otherwise pending needing, and his mixed ability attitudisation re: intimidation simulation scenarios and smokescreen bullshitting want . He puffs himself up and asks ‘Where shall I learn to get my peace again?’ with an inward sigh debilitating behaviourist analysis because on the surface nothing happens. Nothing ever happens.
Kaytes and Baillie, using multi channels of multimedia data down standard copper phone lines together using ADSL where information travels over wires and lines not through them, a clarification which got them both to talk in the initial relationship formation phase-in and then to seemingly join up, partnership wise, though Baillie was interrupt-driven and duplicitous, secretly,> they try to make the bitstream sensible whilst creating a firewall viz unauthorised users Stay Out!
Those faces, the chrome eye figments, the perplexing monstrousness of them, like victims of a technological advancement evolution session in the field of machine genetics which left them backwards, technologically speaking, to wander around in underworld imaginations only, like Mainframes the size of fridges after the 80’s PC revolution were left so too, that is, out of it. Neurobotic old-hat, where real time never counted enough, opposed to store - and - forward time which counted too much, in other words, there was just no place to show compassion here, which in these situations is akin to mere gossip to scornful people who say they have definitely no time for that kind of stuff ie gossip that is.
‘Great unerring nature once seems wrong,’ Baillie unsummarises with a tight smile which to Kaytes could mean just about anything and therefore rounds off as being zany meaningless. He leans against a wall where there are dots of green mould like some frozen screen saver all over its spaggy surface and in turn looks himself both the deft & enigmatical. In him there’s a heavy dull ache, a longing that pines around him like a mooning lover or something vaguely Romantic, yet more at home among men and women more Chaucer than Ariosto, weirdly.
Engulfed in the moment, he hops over to Baillie to muse aloud at the strangeness of the end-time crock-out atmosphere viz those monsters in the alleys.
‘They’re remnants already. Like left-overs of a meal no one even finished cooking yet. I had a young thought once, how there’s something a little mad about the way when an author dies the books don’t. Free-floating thoughts, existing in a ghost world. That’s what I call pure. You feel ashamed at being embodied. It sent shivers down my spine when it first came to me, though now of course its just banal, three dimensional acknowledgement.’
In all that Baillie hears something vulnerable and boyish under the abrasive. He tries to find something to counter the sympathy, something like a blood-surge on nicotine, sleep-dep argumentative shit from the more ungleaming quarters of his hidden undersurface, but its too late and he feels a warm glow towards the man, like instead, he feels connection.
Fatal. He swallows and curses his weakness.
A mental phthisis grips him, substitute mind for body in the definition ‘...a diminution or shrinking of the body.’ He trembles in his own self-assessment which is just pure small small small. He has to work against his inclinations, his deep soul areas, must screw down his soft palpyness and kick, as the manuals queue up to orient him and all his ilk, ass. He hauls up a frown and evolves a wretched asterix emphatic to his tone, as if there’s some important rat dragging itself through the sewers, kind of self-referentially. He twists things to suit his view as he has to see it, though really, he’s not at all seeing it like this but just needs to because of his job.
‘You see these people alone yea? Because there have to be many things taken on their own which in the end have to be discounted, you know, stuff that hysterics see, or people full up on chemicals because of their lousy life falling in on them, which of course you can understand right, because we all have a heart and all, but nevertheless , the truth of what they say they saw, like, some angel glowing over the mud of potential battle at Mons say, or the Loch Ness phenomenon underscore or the Bigfoot WADR no. NO.’
Kaytes full of unhelpful sweat, the sort that seems stale right from its very inception, like immediate history. He shimmers in it and walks to an aside, where Baillie cannot see the full expression over his face which is caught in a wilderness of blood-red freshness, an embarrassed irritation he is trying hard to submerge in the shadows all around, like trying to cover up body odour or worse, emission.
Baillie feels the palpable hit of his nerveless accusation and the hysterical re-evaluation and revision its thrown up in Kaytes who cannot erase everything he’s loading quickly enough to evade Baillie’s prying condescension.
‘We’re talking online context here, pixel persona, a space in the hyperreal in the weightless Coyle world, the place hole and then the place holder, the avatar right?’
‘Woah there fella!’ then Baillie adds,
‘You see ghosts of your own mind, your own anime fantastique, you stroll in the hive cluster which shares you around with the other rest of , like, you. I mean, there’s no chance here of any chewed over satisfaction, just a klugey effortless lurking, which seems more and more like, you know, somewhat a dis. Dissing you.’
Baillie felt stiff, like the fun had drained itself all away and he was just a dry rot fibrous thing, a nightly deadness which he found hateful and cruel and roughly was the main item causing his to be feeling right there and then deeply alone and well hacked off.
Kaytes explained slowly as if trying to give directions to some one with a definite mental age of, right, three or some IQ figure which had trouble walking into double figures, the picture being he’s moving everything the vowels up really slow and cautious and somehow has brought his voice down to a deep resonance a timbre he’d have been proud to own in a less extreme situation which is as he is beginning to see panning out into urgent and sinister.
‘Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn’s knowbot, the intelligent software agent brought up to Dicky Dawkins’ biomorph Explain a living structure generated by a computer in term introduced to On MUD and variants all MutiUser Domain organised round the metaphor of physical space stop dot’
It floats away from sense into more like a rough sketch of what he might have said like he was testing out non-propositional language or else seeing how little you need to boot up sense thus testing out how much is just as in merely noise as in < the signal to noise ratio is plummeting> example.
‘It’s a matter of mistaken identity,’ Kaytes blurts out after a silence dangles like a piece of spit on a drooping lip whist Baillie is fishing out of his orange bag some papers.
‘A name is just a word. You represent yourself as G and that’s what I’m here to stop,’ and Baillie’s voice tone was hand - written like law.
‘You’re closing me down, wiping me out so in the end what ? I am a virus a contagious idea, some meme spam ? You’re saying the sysadmin virtuosi must die, shut down everlasting?’
‘You’re doing mad here. Don’t do mad.’
‘I’m not mad. I’m calm.’
‘Well that’s good.’
‘I should kill you to the soul, like cut out everything which helps you function.’
‘You are mad. I don’t want you to be like, this, like, upset.’
‘ I’m calm.’
‘You shouldn’t kind of froth in that dog manner as if rabies, you take my point here, spraying out the disease in outward signs and irrational behaviour patterns for which there is only one conclusion, to whit, a bullet blam blam blam. Think of Atticus Finch in the lone dog ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ scene and you get the picture of how you look to an outsider just passing by curious say, you growling and frothing, and spewing out invective of imagination and concatenation into a meatworld you hardly use anymore, and Atticus Finch as Gregory Peck so me playing the Peck character which is really cool really because that guy he’s just one of The Greats in my opinion from the Gunfighter on the nonpareil so I’m happy.’
Baillie is holding a definite but nameless gun to Kayte’s head and is fixing some virus killer into Kayte’s system with a wry look and a spooky calm.
‘I call this system Reichmann. It’s going in there to kill all your files, one by one and then you’ll be free of all those monsters those nightmares those strange sights. The limitations of your equipment will be exposed, each of the worlds in there, one by one, they’ll be taken to pieces, the whole place will be cleaned like a stable cleared of its shite. Then we can go home together not in a literal sense you understand but it suggests what I want to crossover here a sense of no hard feelings, bonhomie buddydom in the end even perhaps brotherly love.’
‘One hundred and one nights. It’ll take that long and maybe Reichmann, maybe Reichmann will die before the job gets you know finished. Then , let’s see, then you get a different ending, and I get to kill you, bury you out in the snow and ice some where else and no one finds your disposed body ever.’
‘Nice dreams. You should chill. There’s always a disgust with a killer app and sure I can reach your feelings and you know empathise and bond to a certain level. But one hundred and one nights is a bandwidth hog and here we go into the trough for feeding time.’
The Reichmann app moves into the spaces. Each night a new story like the Arabian Nights keeping off the infatuated promise of execution. Kaytes and Baillie begin their journey watching the files trawled. Kaytes has never had an ironic moment in all his walled in erasured life and he refuses it even here and starts to cry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Angharad Myfanwy Catherwood is twenty and is currently studying at Cardiff University. She owns a pet iguana and is a computer programmer. Her favourite film is the Orson Wells classic ‘A Touch Of Evil’ and she dreams each night of making love to Joseph Cotton. Her desires are all black and white.