:: Article

Glitch in the Machine

By Tom McCarthy.

The following story is an extract from the Denizen of the Dead anthology, edited by Stewart Home.

Tom McCarthy
[redacted] strasse [redacted]
10[redacted] Berlin

Dear Stewart,

I enclose the file that I found on my laptop after walking with it past the Clarendon Court site on Fann Street.

As you know, I had been working on two quite separate files at the time: one containing the text of Dante’s Divine Comedy, a new critical edition of which I was editing for Vintage; another containing that of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, on which I was writing an article for the London Review of Books (my article drew attention to the fact that the Fortune Theatre in which many of Shakespeare’s plays were first performed was located in our neighbourhood — as chance would have it, mere yards away from the planned site of Clarendon Court). These two documents had been open at the time, as had (in minimised form) a digital copy of the Corporation of London’s planning regulations, and another setting out the by-laws governing the movement of contractors’ vehicles, the management of demolition dust, and the like. All these documents were saved in quite separate folders.

As I mentioned to you (forgive my rather distraught state when we met in the street): after returning to my house and opening my laptop after passing the building site, I found to my dismay that all these files had, inexplicably, disappeared — or rather, had become amalgamated into a new one that I had never seen before, let alone composed. In this new file, the contents of the old ones seemed to have become scrambled, hopelessly entangled; moreover, they seemed to have been augmented by promotional material, penned by the proposed luxury flats’ developers, which I had neither downloaded nor, to my knowledge, ever been sent.

I’m not a superstitious person. Unlike you, I don’t believe in ghosts. However, I’m at a complete loss to comprehend what has taken place here. To be honest, the whole thing is freaking me out. I’ve rented out my flat on Golden Lane to Brian Dillon, and moved to Berlin. I’m sending you the file, which I have now deleted from my laptop. I suggest you do the same after you’ve read it.

Tom McCarthy

VI, The Third Circle, Denizen, City of London, 3 bedroom apartments offering cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces, with carpet to wall bedroom, integrated dishwasher, glass shower and bath screen to ensure an adequate water supply and water pressure for effective dust or particulate matter mitigation by the powers conferred by sections 19 (4) and 60 and Paragraph 3 of Schedule 3.

VI, The Third Circle, London’s innermost layer, the Gluttonous, Cerberus, Ciacco, a creative hub, immersed in culture, of eternal, cursed rain, cold and heavy; huge hail, foul water and snow pour down through the gloomy air, and the ground that receives it stinks; fitted with fine mist sprays during dust generating works, new souls in torment erect solid screens or barriers to ensure fumes do not escape site, and share Heaven’s sweetness or the bitterness of Hell.

8.1 City Procurement is responsible for an eloquent articulation of contemporary city luxury, underfloor heating, finishes, light, colour, texture and tone blend harmoniously to create an atmosphere that both uplifts and calms, carpet to wall, the baseless fabric, solemn temples, the great globe itself, yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, fine mist sprays in accordance with Local Government Transparency Code 2015, Bribery Act 2010 and Fraud Awareness Policy 2012.

7.1 Any personal conflict of interest arising out of a procurement exercise must be the damning fault of gluttony, for which I, Ciacco, as thou seest, lie helpless in the rain, and in my misery I am not alone, for all these denizens are under the same penalty for the same fault. Failure to adhere to these conditions will result in disciplinary action and in the most serious cases criminal investigation and prosecution. Distances are straight line measurements from centre of postcode. Computer generated image is indicative only: discover the life within.

6.4 My leader spread his hand, took up earth, and with full fists threw it into the ravenous gullets, setting our feet on their emptiness, which seemed real bodies, profane wretches turning themselves to ensure pedestrians are kept away from trucks and lorries. All equipment must comply with the EC Directives set out in BS 5228. The straight way is lost, but concierge services are your ally to help navigate life in the world’s most exciting city, carpet to wall, bespoke drawer set, mirrored vanity unit, cinema room, the baseless fabric of this vision are indicative only and are melted into air, into thin air.

PM2.5 Air Quality index, SO2, CO: Concierge services, responsible for managing freedom of information: Tell me, if thou canst, what the denizens of the divided city shall come to, Temp, Pressure and Humidity. And he said to me: PM10, N02, after long strife they shall come to minimise the need for reversing operations with one-way systems, turning points and vehicle signalling. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, by statutory instrument, site boundary, held within it the bright life, death had undone so many, and leave not a rack behind.

Tom McCarthy by Nicole Strasser

Tom McCarthy‘s novels include Remainder, C, and Satin Island.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, August 27th, 2020.