9front | rss
cat-v | rss
flames.gif | rss
img | rss
inri | rss
massivefictions | rss
okturing | rss
other | rss
stanleylieber | rss
the abandonment of cruelty
the green children
the vicar of megatokyo | 1 | 2
thrice great hermes
bwhah @ fwc, portland
xenomorphs @ fwc, portland
katamari @ fwc, portland
tokyo art beat @ superdeluxe, tokyo
full of pryde @ fwc, portland
psychometry ii @ arratia beer, berlin
psychometry @ exile, berlin
found photos @ fwc, portland
rom spaceknight @ fwc, portland
caleb hildenbrandt, 2012
tokyo art beat, 2009
pete toms, 2006
by Stanley Lieber
"If everybody’s from Megatokyo then nobody’s from Megatokyo."
Nistopher again. He’d come over to SL’s apt after his last day at work, and now, beer in hand, he held forth on matters personal and political.
"Citizenship’s not a zero sum game," SL offered, evenly. "The whole world could join Megatokyo, who cares?"
"Everybody who lives somewhere else," Nistopher countered wistfully and sipped his beer. He poured some of it out on his hand, made a fist. Slammed it down on the kitchen sink. "I used to live somewhere else."
"Well, now that you’re no longer tied to the company maybe you can think about living somewhere else, again."
"In this economy?" was all Nistopher could muster. He stared out the kitchen window, straining through the greasy fingerprints on his visor. His eyes crossed.
SL stole a glance at the wall clock.
"Say, why don’t we move this into the living room. Maybe we can pick up a signal from the office before they start shutting down for the day. I’ve got something I want to show you."
"Don’t let me catch you off that Internet again." Nistopher was imitating the raspy, cigarette ravaged voice SL affected (SL had never smoked) with his subordinates at work. He staggered and nearly toppled SL’s rickety old CRT display. Haha.
"Okay, good one, buddy," SL said, patting his old cubemate on the shoulder. There had to be some way to get him out of here before he puked on the carpet, or on one of his vintage mechanical keyboards. In addition, SL still had to go to work in the morning. What to do?
"I tell you," Nistopher told him, "I don’t know if I’ll be coming back." He was bargaining now with chips that had already been taken away from him. "And that woman can kiss my ass." Here Nistopher referred to their mutual manager, whom SL had also found it hard to get along with. He seemed to be reaching the series finale of his long-running soliloquy, piloted and premiered so many years ago, so SL nodded one last time and patted his ex-coworker’s arm a bit more firmly, locking the door as Nistopher finally exited the apt. Roll credits.
That could have gone better, SL thought, but at least it was over.
SL tapped his visor and shut himself down for the night.
Fell asleep thinking about his 401K.
Promotion. They moved SL up to the second floor. It was very much like the first floor, only with windows. From his desk SL could just make out his car in the strangely-extant, open-air parking lot. There were not a lot of two-story buildings left in this part of the city.
Work was okay. Now he managed the fellow who had moved into his old position down on the first floor. His one and only direct report. Not a recipe for swift advancement, but he’d been promised more direct reports in the next quarter.
On the day of the big fire SL tried to make sure his man made it out of the building safely. That was what you did and that was who you did it for—the man beside (or in this case, under) you. Managers on the second floor were able to break their windows and leap onto the street, some suffering broken ankles, but all surviving the calamity. Most everyone on the first floor was trapped, locked in by the failing security system. Those few who dared venture up the stairwell would later find that their employment had been terminated even before they had jumped out the window. Insurance would not cover their injuries.
SL’s man did not survive. He’d seen a handful of his coworkers running up the stairs but elected not to deviate from company policy. SL had already decided to let him pass, but his man never appeared.
SL’s hands were tied. There was nothing he could do.
A year or so later, promoted again. SL now had his own button on the lateral elevator, which transported him directly to his desk. (All right, everybody used the same button, but when SL pushed it he was delivered to his own desk.)
The building was further downtown, in the heart of the city, and was very much taller than the firebombed wreckage of his old office in the two-story walk-up. This place had history. Gravitas. Balls. A hundred years ago it had been hoisted up, twisted on its base, and then drilled back down into the earth nearly a block down the street. And that was only foreplay, foreshadowing the renovations that would ultimately climax in its grateful reception as the tallest building in Megatokyo, fully six times its original height, eclipsing even the twirling spire of the Shit Emoji Tower across the street. In a city full of tall buildings this place was very fucking tall, indeed.
Advertising on and around the building was minimal, smoothly textured, and mostly generated in-house, which distinguished his company from its many neighboring competitors, each of whose headquarters stood veined with uncurated spam, great marbled sprouts straining futilely towards an indifferent gray sky.
SL’s new job was hard to pin down. He came in to work. He logged in to his meetings. When it came his turn he read form his notecard, valiantly straining credulity, but he had no clear sense of his task. As a senior executive he enjoyed the use of a bunk in the penthouse dormitory, so even the ride to his desk every morning seemed pointless, ostentatious. Why did he bother coming in at all? He always arrived at the same conclusion: his desk was too large and his chair was uncomfortable.
But, it seemed to suit him, and generally he was not unhappy enough with the trajectory of his career to try and make any drastic change.
In his spare time he began to work on his resume, surrendering to the contour of his immediate past, typing and re-typing each draft on his absurd manual typewriter, feeding each resulting hardcopy into his personal paper shredder. He captured one such performance in a picture frame and set it up to cycle indefinitely, facing in toward himself on his desk.
Occassionally he thought about West Berlin.
by Stanley Lieber
Note: You can’t find this shit in a handbook.
— Ice Cube, How To Survive In South Central
Megatokyo, Indiana. 2049.
SL was back at work. Tough interrogation re: his furlough in West Berlin. Well, it sure as shit wasn’t this place, if you know what I mean. They knew what he meant. He was already sorry he’d come back. Well, at least the bandwidth here was civilized.
Most of the work he’d left on his desk was still there, now buried under yet more of the same sad stuff, striated sediment that had accumulated through the usual organic processes during his authorized absence. SL waved it all away with a single gesture, slashing at the horizon with his shimmering, gloved hand. Better by half to start from inbox zero.
"Have a good summer?" SL’s friend looked refreshed. First he’d heard from him since the kiss-off in West Berlin. How long had it been, anyway?
"Shut the fuck up," SL said, and emptied his styrofoam cup onto his friend’s new shoes.
Nike AJV. So-called "Moon Boots."
SL was not impressed.
Multicolored tendrils snaking, now vibrating, suddenly tilting ninety degrees to flash on a cross sectional view of flat squares, arranged in an ordered patchwork of checked, fluorescent light. SL could tell because he could see some of the pixels. He moved them around with his eyes, dumbly relying on his gloves for context. Whatever you called it.
Drilling down, he paused intermittently to evaluate random bullet points, loosely guided by company policy and haptic feedback. Some of the material he would ingest consciously, but the bulk of it was archived for later offline perusal. Of course, he’d never get around to it.
At last he unmuted the audio and shuttered his visor, bounding through the remainder at 2.5x suggested playback speed. Continuously distracted by unrelated matters, he had to start over four times. The repetition impacted his retention.
The backlog was brutal. Even with the mandatory six months re-training, he’d still be expected to pick up some of the leads his people had let drop. High risk credit ratings desperate to... whatever it was they were desperate to do. The relevant factor was that in their desperation they were most likely to go in for the pitch—a high interest, unsecured line of credit that stood up pre-charged nearly to its limit. Exceeding the cap incurred exorbitant fees, which was where the company realized its profits. Something like seventy-eight percent of new customers immediately charged their account to its upper limit, which, since they reliably failed to read the fine print, actually pushed them far into the red. Transactions were never denied, and thus the fees began to mount even before the virtual ink on their credit agreements was virtually dry.
SL didn’t care about the minutiae. His actual job was managing the comfort counselors, who serviced the technicians, who in turn interfaced directly with the customers. Most of his time was spent manually copying their efficiency reports into spreadsheets that he e-mailed to his own boss, or, increasingly, firing them for not having logged in that week.
His arms were waving around like there was something wrong with him.
Nobody approached his desk.
The stairwells were left unguarded. As far as SL could tell there was virtually no security, no countermeasures had been deployed to prevent unauthorized staff from moving freely between floors. But this couldn’t have been the company’s intention, and so it simply wasn’t done. By some silent consent to the non-existing policy, managers never even attempted to go upstairs.
Nistopher, one of SL’s peers, was curious. One afternoon he waited until the corridor was empty and casually Nis-walked to the second level. You’ll never believe what happened next. It surprised him, too: a corridor identical to the one he’d just left on the first floor. "As above, so below," Nistopher muttered to himself, and silently returned to his desk, depressed at this inescapable confirmation of the universe’s natural symmetry.
The moment Nistopher had entered the stairwell his employment had been terminated. Owing to a glitch in [redacted] he was not informed for three weeks. He was not to be compensated for the shifts he worked during the interim, either, even though they continued to let him into the building and he continued to do his job.
Nistopher didn’t seem to mind. When they finally got around to telling him he’d been fired, he simply stood up, leaving his desk and personal effects as-is, and walked silently out of the building.
Just like the Rapture, someone cracked, unhelpfully.
SL counted the days until his next vacation. As a manager his time off was subject to the needs of the business. He didn’t have a contract (management were employed "at will"), so all he could do was submit his request and hope that it didn’t get overtaken by events in the field. That was the price of sitting in the big chair with the shiatsu massage.
But there was always a bigger chair. SL’s own boss, when she was not on vacation, wielded her admittedly limited power with a wild and unpredictable caprice, carpet bombing from high altitude. He tried to stay off her radar, even though he was still obliged to touch base, insert input, massage the numbers (shiatsu or no), and reconcile his own receipts at simultaneous, pre-programmed intervals.
He’d better take this train of thought offline.
Megatokyo nodes were popping up all over. Zoo York, ATL, STL, Texas, Michigan, and Oklahoma. "Hell," SL thought, "If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere."
Unigov, the colloquial name adopted by the city of Indianapolis to describe its ever-widening consolidation of node cities worldwide, was finally beginning to function as intended. Better access to EMS shipping leveraged lower prices for everyone. And autonomy had long ago been proven not to work.
West Berlin and other points south had so far escaped being swallowed up into the Yellow Belt. This generated certain opportunities for trade. Margins that could be skated to slice out a meager living, for those unfortunate enough to be frozen out of the Unigov’s sphere of economic influence.
SL was itching to get back.
by Stanley Lieber
The buildings were connected. (All of them?) Underground, like with the forest. For SL it was just another rumor, but he intended to find out for sure.
The foundations of an old school building still occupied the equivalent of a full city block overlooking the town. Here SL located a service tunnel that supposedly joined the school to the covert subterranean network.
Crosstown traffic was light, so SL was able to confirm that the school connected at least to the abandoned hotel-cum-apartment building down the street before he decided it was time for lunch. He unfolded the sandwich and apple slices from his backpack and unscrewed his jumbo thermos of tea, admiring the decrepit architecture of the vast ballroom into which his tunnel had opened. This place, too, was falling apart. He could tell no one had been in here for a while. Even the trash was obsolete.
Same time, different day. SL was having his lunch in the basement of another abandoned building, also connected to the network of tunnels, though this time he wasn’t yet sure exactly which building he’d stumbled into. Ambient lighting was nil. He ate in total darkness.
He could still hear the traffic.
After a month or two he’d managed to map a lot of tunnels. He set it all down on a big piece of graph paper that he folded into triangles and stuffed into his backpack. Sometimes when he’d go to pull out the map, it would snag on one of his contraband pairs of data gloves, dumping them onto the floor. He’d dutifully pick them back up, but there was no signal down here in the tunnels, so he’d just shrug and stow them away again. It did make him feel more secure, knowing they were in there.
Why was he doing this?
By now his map was crisscrossed with densely annotated routes to and from various tourist traps throughout town. He had no intention of ever visiting any of them again. He had no one to share the map with, nor any desire to do so, which he regarded as a sign of progress.
He folded up the map and stuck it into a crack in the tunnel wall.
Back to his previous routine, sitting on the balcony from breakfast until lunch. SL ate his eggs. There was nothing else to do but think. There was nothing else he wanted to do but think. Was this, too, a sign of progress?? The flame of addiction at long last extinguished?
He found that he couldn’t care. The only thing for him to do was to walk into town and search for a new subject to master and then drop. He was confident something would present itself, because something always did.
It might finally be time to go home.
by Stanley Lieber
Knowing himself, SL wandered the countryside. He’d leave the hotel before dawn, while the coaches were still asleep, and break for the woods. In these parts there were no isolated stands of trees. Every branch of the forest connected somehow back to its trunk. You followed the seams.
Within the forest one typically found more trash than on the street. An auction catalog of discarded items, some of them immediately saleable, some useful personally. Today SL encountered both varieties of green trash, and immediately he made plans for its dispersal.
The creeks were also full of litter. Sometimes SL would find piles of unopened MREs. He knew which shops back in town would be interested. Caches of crap turned back into cash.
SL would sit on an outcropping alongside the creek and feel the cool water soaking into his shoes. Mosquitoes skipped across the reflecting surface, not even trying to avoid him when he swatted them away. Moss, everywhere.
He had no memory of why he’d come here.
Twenty minutes deeper into the woods (though somehow still within earshot of rush hour traffic), the trail opened onto the abandoned ruins of what had once been a house.
On days when it rained the whole town stank of cat piss. In reality it would have to have been something else because SL had never even seen a cat here. Or maybe it was just that they had all been hiding from him. Whatever the cause, the air, and everything else, was stifling.
SL steered himself into the shower.
Breakfast was a cul-de-sac. He steered in, turned around, and steered right back out. Another routine successfully subsumed into the blank, gray background of his user icon. This, too, flew in the face of recovery theory. The automatic mechanisms he had hoped to escape were replaced with labor intensive equivalents—though these, as well, were beyond his willingness to contemplate consciously. Life imitating farce.
It had all gone quiet enough that he was once again prepared to contemplate the fate of his friend, who heretofore had served chiefly as an anchor to his rapidly fading memory of life before the hotel.
He found that he could no longer remember his friend’s name.
That would complicate a search.
by Stanley Lieber
The lateral elevator was still stuck on sideways, so SL had to take the stairs up to his room. Coaching staff was strangely absent.
The cleaners had moved all his books. And, it seemed, removed all his bookmarks, he supposed as a sort of commentary upon the general state of his room. Fair enough.
SL colonized the balcony with a minimum of support equipment. Just him and his cup of tea, not even the folded daily newspaper. The indigenous population of his little table had scattered at the sight of his tattered boxer shorts, surrendering whatever claim they might have otherwise held in the absence of universally recognized property rights.
SL sat down in his chair, feeling anything but the conquering hero.
The town had changed since he’d arrived, he surmised. Nothing he had actually observed, mind, but it stood to reason, didn’t it? Even if only by virtue of his sudden appearance there. Anyway, whatever.
Dull care washed over him and then subsided with the smog.
From then to now he hadn’t allowed himself to approach the memory of what had come before. Masking his awareness with the background clatter (such as it was) of the hustle and bustle here in town. Subsumed by nothing much, at least it was a quiet day. The ticker tape advanced at intervals, now faintly audible in the cradling semi-silence.
The sound was annoying.
Who had he been? No one here seemed to recognize him, so that ruled out intersectional fame. There were no clues as to his interests amongst his few personal belongings, unless you counted the books, which he had never attempted to do. The lot was distinguished primarily by its failure to establish a clear pattern—this scattershot identifier seemed to be all that remained of him. In any case, by now he had forgotten the question. he completed the apparent inventory of his room and decided it was time for lunch.
There wasn’t much, in all honesty, that couldn’t be conveyed through simple language. This was a cornerstone of recovery theory, even though every patient immediately recognized it as bullshit. There was nothing that could be conveyed through simple language, nothing that could be conveyed at all. Each new advance in technology revealed this poverty of capability anew through the increase of immediate— literally, cybernetic—feedback.
Just because few of them could express it in words didn’t make it any less true.
Just look at his friend.
by Stanley Lieber
"Do you put on your data gloves before or after you piss in the morning?"
There was a reason SL didn’t attend these meetings. Hadn’t, since he’d arrived. He’d been warned in advance.
"Both," he interjected. Of course, he’d take them off to piss. Unlike these cretins, he guessed.
He stood up to leave.
No paper today. Something about a general strike. Apparently only observed by the press.
Otherwise, exactly the same. Tea, eggs, stretch, walk, linger, watch, walk, stretch, sit. His rhythm barely broken by the absence of printed nothingness. Maybe he should save his money.
Welcoming faces down at the VFW. He shot some pool, asked the old men questions about California. They were generous with their stories. One of them had been to the Mission District before they got rid of the bars. A place with comic books varnished to the men’s room walls.
None of them used anymore.
SL had never served so he didn’t have much to contribute in return. He’d mention his father and they’d nod. It was usually good for a couple of drinks.
By Christmas time this place would be full of kids trying to climb onto Santa’s lap, but today it was just a bunch of guys trying not to mention the Internet.
What had really happened back in 1993? By early October the war had kicked off in earnest, but no one seemed to realize it yet. At first the change was gradual, then accelerated smoothly until even before the reboot, continuity was arcing, spiraling gregariously out of control. New voices, new talent. No longer the staid, predictable march from trope to cliché to signature recurring boredom. This was all new. Here was the final dissolution of reading comprehension— e pluribus nullus—ad infinitum.
For SL’s part, he was glad the paper was back in print. It gave him something to do with his hands.
VETERANS OF FOREIGN WIDE AREA NETWORKS
SL stared at the tarnished plaque while the other guys took their shots. He guessed this was an example of their oft remarked upon humor. He missed the jokes they were making in real time while he was busy standing slack-jawed. Someone had just mentioned "Bay Area rents," and the place fell silent as a pre-war visor.
SL edged his way out of the room and made for the front door.
This wasn’t his fight.
Back at the hotel, SL fidgeted nervously, unsure if he should break into his emergency supply of disposables. He’d been doing so well these past weeks. Not even checking his stocks. Here he was contemplating an entire evening drowning his many sorrows in everything he’d been missing during the interim. Like nothing at all had changed.
Well, it hadn’t.
by Stanley Lieber
Friends had been trying to convince him for years that he should come to West Berlin. "It would be good for your art," they all said. Well, now he was here, and there was nothing going on. There was no scene. Had there ever been?
Maybe a scene wasn’t what his friends had been talking about, after all.
SL was up early to do his stretches. It went okay, but he thought he might skip the next session. The pain had inspired his reticence. Thus enlivened, he sat down with his tea and the newspaper. As usual, nothing was going on. What had he expected?
Most of the bars and strip clubs were closed, this early in the morning. Even the drug store and the VFW. Sometimes, someone would be working at the VFW during the day and would let him in anyway. No such luck, today.
For a city of three million (SL could scarcely believe such a small place could still exist), things were awfully quiet during the day. Where did these people go when they weren’t shouting in the streets? Also of note: the homeless were virtually non-existent—or at least, he almost never saw any. Maybe here they actually executed their war on poverty.
The town appeared to be run with strict, German efficiency.
No, there was no scene to speak of. As a consequence SL was left to make his own trouble.
That should have been easy, but it wasn’t.
From one end of the city to the other was a journey of about eight miles. SL walked it every day, trying to soak up anything that might make his recovery journal more interesting. Whatever it was his friends had been so insistent he needed to absorb, he wasn't finding it. His calves always ached but his health didn’t seem to improve.
He’d finally stopped bringing the data gloves. Along with his wallet, keys, and water, he had also chosen to leave behind all of his contraband gear. It was all too heavy. He never knew when he was going to have to try and outrun a giant pickup truck.
The traffic moved—and smelled—like a herd of animals. On their way to be slaughtered, SL assumed. He could only hope.
He hadn’t figured on spending so much time here alone, in this ridiculous little town.
Well, here he was. This was what he always said he had wanted, if perhaps not specifically these specific surroundings. There was no point in pretending he was here against his will. No one else was around, so there was no one else to blame.
SL drained the remainder of his tea onto the sidewalk and returned the plastic saucer to the sidewalk vendor.
The buzzing of cicadas put him in a strange mood.
by Stanley Lieber
It would require some unspecified effort to find out just when he had arrived at the hotel. SL no longer had any earthly idea. It would have to have been before Christmas (he remembered attending a Christmas party in the hotel lobby), but beyond that, he could recall nothing of his arrival in the little town.
His friend might remember.
He knew why he was here, in West Berlin, and that was to forget about things like this. Like his friend, he’d find something else to do with his time.
Today he ordered lunch in his room and settled in to review more corrections from his journal.
In the afternoons he would sometimes walk into town to gaze at the traffic as it meandered by on the main road, or to purchase additional items at the drug store. Today he needed blank cassettes and chewing gum. And they were all out of gum.
SL ignored the spinner rack of comics that had imposed itself between him and the register.
Nobody asked to see his ID.
Walking around town would have been almost pleasant if not for the overzealous NPCs chucking beer cans at his head at suspiciously equally spaced intervals. Too bad.
SL varied his route. The algorithm he chose was effective for only a few iterations, so eventually he had to alternate algorithms via an additional, algorithmically generated algorithm.
All of this was possible only because he had held on to the data gloves.
When he was finally caught he had to plead with the hotel administrator to keep his room. At length the stern twenty-something relented, but required him to hand over the contraband data gloves. He went along with it, for now. What else was he going to do?
Owing to a lack of material, he wrote what he knew. Presently this consisted of various ephemera: shopping lists, song titles, ideas for t-shirt slogans, character names and tentative biographies, what he could remember of his family tree, reviews of local shops and eateries, profiles (with analysis) of local politicians, a short inventory of the contents of his room, and a new draft of his final will and testament.
Satisfied with his progress, he closed the journal and returned to his search for the secondary backup pair of data gloves that he was sure he’d stashed around here somewhere.
NO COMPUTER #1-8 complete series
Personal writing and collage by Stanley Lieber.
2.75" x 4.25", 16 pgs per issue
$8 post paid
THE GREEN CHILDREN
by Stanley Lieber
Dawn, but not down here. No windows in the silo. Tommy switched off his daylight lamp and slipped under the covers. It was time for bed.
Dreams, obscuring like an anti-glare filter, mediating the sensor intake. Who needed it?
Up again at dusk.
Hm. What’s for breakfast?
Nobody wanted to be in the silo, he realized. Life down here had become a necessity if you wanted to stay alive at all. Dad had said so, and it was clear everyone believed him, because their ignorance of the world above was near total. Haha, it almost seemed wrong to take advantage of their frustrated curiosity.
Tommy didn’t believe a word of it, of course. It had become obvious early on that the threat up top had been wildly exaggerated. Sure, there were bombs, but he knew which streets to avoid. If the enemy wasn’t working off the same intelligence then Tommy was clairvoyant.
And Tommy wasn’t clairvoyant.
Dad mostly turned a blind eye towards Tommy’s "wheeling and dealing," and in turn the profits kept rolling in, mostly unchecked. Peter found he was happiest in these moments when the traps were getting money, and Peter was happy a lot these days. That left Tommy to his own devices, which were many and various deployed throughout the silo. Even his dresses were selling.
Still, it would never be enough. Tommy would never settle for mere silo supremacy.
He wanted out of the silo for good.
Bear was still trying to find a way in. The green children weren’t the only morsels on the menu. But getting in was easier said than done. By now he’d been saying so all year.
The father was vulnerable.
"Fired? For what?"
Sounded like Dad was in trouble.
"For letting your son in and out of the silo as if this were some damn revolving door, minimum security prison!" Dad’s boss screamed, boldly pronouncing sentence into the inadequately concealed room mic.
Ah, a new assignment!
Raccoon would survive. No matter what they did to the tree he’d lately managed to scramble up into. Chop it down, see if he cared. These bloodhounds didn’t frighten him. Push him much further and he’d jump right into the river.
All right, he was pumping himself up. The river was poison, much like the home environment from which he’d just egressed. And just like home, he wouldn’t be able to stand it for long.
Well, if he could escape that shithole...
Raccoon closed his eyes and jumped.
Dad’s comics were almost loaded up. His work gear and a few personal effects were pretty much all that remained in the family’s quarters. Tommy blanched as his father rested a big hand on his bony knee.
"Son, I’d like to tell you a story."
"Sixty years ago, none of this could have happened. Religious authorities wouldn’t have permitted it. But the war we’re in now... It’s not what any of us signed up for. I don’t want to bleed for copyright."
"Dad, I know," Tommy said, not wanting to get into it.
"With that in mind, I’d like you to have this."
From a small metal box that Tommy hadn’t noticed before the monologue began, Dad produced a worn leather belt, married to a large brass belt buckle that read BORN AGAIN in bold print. Intricate leatherwork reproduced scenes from the classic tale.
"Back when I was first in the Service," his father began, but then trailed off, neglecting to complete the by now familiar introduction.
Tommy prayed to a non-existent God for leniency. What had he done to deserve this? But the absentee God didn’t hear him, or was otherwise unable to respond.
"Let me tell you about a man named David Mazzucchelli..."
And so it began, again.
Raccoon was less experienced than he let on. In and out of trees, in and out of the river—that just about covered it. But he read a lot, which in his estimation counted for something. The green children were more than enough to keep him busy, to give him a sense of what might lay beyond his narrow field of vision.
Bear had spotted him more than once. That was a concern. But time and time again Raccoon had bet everything on his seemingly infallible ability to evade capture. By now he’d lost track of the odds.
Raccoon crossed the meadow in broad daylight.
So Dad left. It happened. A month or so later, on his first visit back to the silo to retrieve the scant personal belongings he’d left behind, Tommy saw fit to brag, "...And I haven’t cried at all since you left." His father was duly impressed.
This trip, Tommy was awarded a medium-sized, gold lamé box filled with half-empty bottles of Testors model paint.
It would keep him busy for a while.
ACTRON vy6, #1-3
by Stanley Lieber
2.75" x 4.25", 8 pgs each issue
$3 post paid
by Stanley Lieber
SL’s friend followed him around with a camera. Offline, so it was technically permissible under the hotel’s ToS. Didn’t stop SL from getting annoyed.
"Quit pointing that thing at me," SL would say, and his friend would quit, for a while, sometimes for the rest of the day. But the camera always returned.
SL had got enough of this treatment at home.
Breakfast now consisted of reading a paper newspaper, alone. Half the paper’s weight comprised loose leaf advertisements printed on slick paper that stuck to his fingers when he tried to remove them. Coupons for stores and restaurants that did not have operating locations in this tiny resort town.
It was a local paper.
The supposed news itself was all too relevant—hyper specific POV reporting that relied on an intimate knowledge of local personages and customs. SL possessed neither. He poured over the paper anyway, enjoying the certain je ne sais quois of this textual delivery system for... nothing. Anyway, it passed the time.
In the afternoons he could often be found by the pool. This unlikely juxtaposition found him defending his sketchbooks from the regular interpolation of screaming, splashing children. He wanted to give them back their visors.
He was settling into the routine, and yes, he was still cheating.
SL’s friend had found other things to do with his time. He was not even showing up online anymore. Zero contact for the last month. SL had stopped keeping track.
He had contrived any number of schemes for tracking his friend down, but frankly concluded that he might be better off simply letting the friendship go. Lately, he’d noticed himself contriving ways to avoid him. That seemed to suggest perhaps the partnership had run its course.
He wondered how his friend would react when he found out SL had stopped paying the hotel bill.
SL wanted to think this would work. So far, being dropped into an environment of strict network non-availability had to cut his daily time online in half. Without the visor, and without authorized access to the local mesh, he was slowed down enough to discriminate carefully between potential activities. He planned in advance.
No logging. Bandwidth wouldn’t permit it.
Remembering what he was doing still proved to be a challenge.
by Stanley Lieber
SL, protagonist. "Every novel is somebody’s first," SL said, by way of introducing the present storyline.
SL’s friend, supporting actor. "Sometimes I think I don’t know who I am anymore," he mused, and happily downed his coffee.
Preamble concluded, the main cast got on with their tale.
The hotel was a couple hundred years old, give or take a few decades. Not that a casual would be able to tell, after unending waves of renovations. The parts that looked the oldest were in most cases the most recent facelifts. The hotel restaurant, for example, had been rebooted just last month.
SL liked the hotel restaurant. He’d pack up his supplies and sit down there in a booth for half the day, reading his comics and sketching the other guests. Most of them would calm down if he showed them his work.
SL’s friend didn’t like to be sketched. When SL picked up his pencil, his friend would usually up and leave the room, often without saying a word. Suited SL fine. As time wore on he began to regret inviting the imbecile along. And he’d even offered to pay. Idiot.
No bacon this morning. It had only taken them a month to figure out he wasn’t going to eat it.
The fines for attempted network connections were accumulating steadily. Fortunately he was fucking rich.
He’d sit down there in the restaurant and wait for something remarkable to happen. Something rarely did, so he didn’t make many remarks. During the interim between minor piques of interest SL would maintain his recovery journal. Filling page after page with minute details of mundane memorized responses to the predictable plot machinations. He supposed this was what they wanted. He described what it had been like to probe the shared hallucination for the familiar topography of his face.
Nowadays he just looked in the mirror.
Or in this case, a salt shaker. His reflection bent and wobbled as a server knocked it completely horizontal, bumping into SL’s table on her way through the dining room to put out a small fire near the smoking section.
The quiet here was unbelievable. SL found it was conducive to memory, which was something of a mixed blessing. On the one hand he needed to keep in mind why he was here, but on the other hand he didn’t really want to be here.
He was out of hands.
Most of his personal equipment had been confiscated upon arrival, but SL still carried concealed within his shirtsleeve a backup pair of data gloves, folded neatly into a tiny green square and pressed into an equally diminutive Faraday pouch.
Hastily, he ripped open the pouch and slipped them on.
by Stanley Lieber
Every moment of his youth apart from its dream was forgotten
— Bertolt Brecht, Baal
West Berlin, Indiana. 2049.
It was time to dry out. Like so many of his contemporaries, he had made his way to West Berlin, to take in the waters, to suffer the moribund, exquisite desolation, to luxuriate in the low bandwidth and utter lack of interest in—or from—the outside world.
Newcomers recognized each other easily by the pale strip of tender flesh surrounding each set of eyes, where their visors had been attached, never before removed. The visors would be useless here— they didn’t even work as sunglasses.
Blue ridge, no antennas. The town was situated in the cleft of an ancient river valley. It was easy to forget sometimes that anything lay beyond, if in fact anything did.
Everything felt familiar.
SL had never seen the place. Not with his own eyes, anyway, and his pale strip was starting to heal over.
He stopped the record player and returned the vintage pressing of Scott Walker’s Tilt to its pristine sleeve. He liked the record, but the input was overwhelming him.
He needed silence.
He’d come to West Berlin with a friend. Perhaps friend was too generous. A contact. They shared an affinity for a particular misconception of West Berlin culture. Old books, music. Of course, that world was long gone, if it had ever really existed. Which, now that he was here, seemed increasingly doubtful. Still, they were interested. You could say, willfully credulous.
They’d met online, many years ago, and now it was time to dry out.
SL sipped his tea.
"What’s your name, anyway?" his friend asked. "I mean, your real name. In real life."
It was a dubious question. What constituted real life? Also, did SL sound like an alias?
"Ray," SL lied. "Call me Ray."
"Okay," said his friend, satisfied with the singular morsel of misinformation.
They rode the lateral elevator down to breakfast in the hotel restaurant. SL asked for his usual scrambled eggs with toast and instead received a small round plate heaping with bacon.
"You gonna eat that?" asked his friend.
The poor fool was oblivious to the spiritual implications of consuming swine flesh. SL nudged his plate across the table, careful to avoid spilling his tea.
The morning sun ducked behind a smear of clouds and the pair soon followed suit, finishing off the remainder of their meal in silence before making their excuses and retiring to the darkness of their separate rooms.
Hotel surveillance promptly detected network traffic passing to and from the rooms, a blatant violation of the terms of service.
The response was automated and immediate, brooking no appeal to due process.