Rain and cliche opening lines, mixed metaphors and giving up on pretense of wit. Heart strings of a small viola, swelling up in music on soundscapes – peaks and valleys, mountains rising and capped in snow and ice. Coffee at the summit, just a long walk away to angel songs and dust. Heady scent like sex, drugs and violence. Knight fall brings out the moon, crusading for the holy land and breaking the grail upon arrival. No jihad to resist, just the ritual slaughter of an innocent soul. As ridiculous a metaphor as all can see, the eyes of the beholder turn away and find beauty. Drenched in the blood of the infidel, my own, my fall brings out the moon and with clawed fingers I pull my own heart. Strings on the viola, played to my own demise. The rain song played for the moon wells up in a death throe.
The vibrance of her skin against me,
tangled up in interstellar fabrics.
She is the sun
drenching me in her soft black light
gravity drawing me in.
I lay head against her pillows
and ink on her skin.
Pale white and pockmarked,
toothy grin and elation.
Tell me, where do you see this going?
“The moon, the stars, I want to die with you.”
Die with me?
“In like eighty years, when we’ve had a long happy life together.”
In like eighty years, when we’ve had a long happy life together. I’ll lay you down for the last time, and kiss you gently, and hold your hand as you fade away.
“You won’t die with me?”
Someone has to make sure you stay dead, I don’t want to be responsible for the zombie apocalypse.
*snort* “You nerd.”
In eighty years,
we won’t know ourselves.
So much can change
in a much shorter time.
The vibrance of her skin against me,
tangled up in interstellar fabrics.
Nuclear fires burned up
drenching me in warm red and orange
gravity pulling me apart.
I lay her head against her pillows
and lipstick on her cheek.
Pale white and pockmarked,
serene smile and adoration.
And will you cry when I am gone? Will you see my disappearance for what it is, or let it consume you in another way, or better yet ignore the fact I am no longer here?
And will you cry when I am gone? Will it even make you wonder, make you sad, make you happy? Do I care anymore? Do you?
And will you cry when I am gone? Or are you as tired as I am of all this fighting? The stress of hair falling out and mouth always dry. The constant never eating, feeling sick and waking up at three AM to throw up and fall asleep exhausted on the bathroom tiles. The toxic feel creeping across your body, the glow of another vain battle.
And will you cry when I am gone? Or be relieved my paranoia is finally gone? Will you move on? Will you find another? Will I stain you in my radiation and leave you just as sick as I am? How many pieces of myself can be amputated before you waiver and wander and leave me for another? Another woman, another man? Am I the only, am I even special?
And when I’m gone, I want you to remember me. I don’t care when I am gone, when you leave me. Remember me please. Don’t ever regret falling in love with me.
It is sunny out, so I’m making hay for my strawmen.
And math is not my strongsuit.
Not usually one to avoid politics, it had surprised her how long it had taken for this conversation to come up with her friend. He had a business idea, it was a good one, and as they arrived at lunch one day wide-eyed and excited. Lily sat down with him, spoke with him at great length and when he asked about her day she initially tried to avoid it.
She had very recently given up corporate law to become somewhat of an activist, and while he liked to hear about it he also had some very strict ideas on what constituted morality. She steered it back to him, it was less likely to cause an argument than what she was doing at work.
But no matter how it happened, it inevitably always came back to the same discussion.
“I’ve got some shopping to do after this.”
He feigned a smile, it was a dull and safe choice of topic, “Groceries?”
“No, Issy needs a new bath-robe so I thought I’d look around.”
“Just use amazon.”
“I don’t like amazon-”
“Oh, right, because it’s owned by a rich guy.”
“No, it’s owned by a monster who profits off of slavery and who abuses the so-called free market to make himself obscenely rich at the cost of others.”
He scoffed, “He had a good idea, he earned his money.”
Yet for some reason, unlike usual, she did not change the subject. She wasn’t sure why.
“Okay, so your argument is that if you have a good idea you are entitled to your money, right?”
He nodded, “Of course you are, you earned it.”
“Just, follow the logic for me. You are starting a business and it’s a good idea.”
“I think so-”
“Okay so, how much do you think you’ll get as a loan to start your business? Let’s say ten thousand so the math is easy, right.”
“Now, let’s say that some nameless rich guy has the same idea and he has ten million dollars in his pocket that he’s going to use to start it up.”
“Okay,” he raised an eyebrow.
“So you let’s say you spend half of your money getting your business up and ready to make your product. The rich guy does the same. And we’ll be generous to you and say you have the vastly superior product.”
“What’s your point?”
“I’m getting there. So you now both have a product, how do you start selling it?”
“Sure, but I mean how do people find out about it?”
“I tell them,” he snarks just a little.
“So advertising. You’ve got what, five thousand dollars left in your bank account and he has five million. We’ll be super generous and say you manage to get the best advertising company money can buy and for every one dollar you spend on it, you get one person viewing your product – that’s five thousand potential buyers. If he spent all his money advertising, he would need to spend a thousand dollars for every one view to do the same as you.”
“Then I’d beat him in the long run.”
“Do you really thing he’ll get such a shitty advertising agency? No, let’s be realistic for the rich guy and say he gets a decent agency and for every ten dollars he spends he gets a view. You got five thousand views and if he spent all his money on advertising he’d get five hundred thousand.”
“Wait, why is he getting a view for every ten dollars?”
“You want him to spend a hundred for every view, he’d still get ten times as many views as you got. If you sold to every person that viewed your product, which is ridiculous, he’d only need to sell to one in ten to match you. If we’re realistic and say you sell to one in ten, you’d sell five hundred of your product and he’d sell fifty thousand.”
“But my product is vastly superior, even you said so!”
“Alright, so you sell to one in five, that’s a thousand of your product sold. He still outsells you fifty to one.”
“But, mine is better so… word of mouth.”
“Sure, but there is a finite number of people in the world that want to buy your product. Let’s say a million people want it. And lets not factor in stuff like declines in sales and trends and stuff that’d be negative to you – let’s just say you a thousand a month and every month you gain a ridiculous amount of extra sales and you double the amount you sell right.”
“So by around week seven you’ll have taken over them in sales – if they don’t grow at all – and by about week ten there will be no more people to sell to. You’ll have sold around five-twenty thousand and they will have sold around four-eighty thousand.”
“So I won.”
“That’s only if you grow like crazy and they don’t at all. To beat you they’d only need to grow by ten percent to beat you, and we’re talking something like six-thirty thousand to your three-seventy thousand.”
“I did pretty well though.”
“Sure, but your product was vastly superior right, shouldn’t you be on top? And that’s only if we’re super generous to your sale skills. If you don’t double your sales every month, you’d get virtually nothing.”
“So what are you saying?”
“The rich guy, who did average, can beat you when you are beyond exceptional purely because he has money. It isn’t a competition, so much as it is a knife-fight. Even if you wise up and bring a gun, he’s going to show up with an army.”
“So you’re saying I shouldn’t do my business idea.”
“No, you should, but be realistic. No-one really ever makes it rich, the best they do is make something someone else wants to steal, so they either do or they buy it off you for a millionth of what the idea is actually worth. The entire system is rigged against you to keep you from success and the sooner you realise that the better.”
“So what’s your solution then, we all become communists?”
“Yes, pretty much exactly. If we all had the same money to start with, we’d all have the same chance of success and good ideas would rise to the top. People have this dumb idea that communism is anti-competition when it is pro-competition.”
“Communism is all about robbing from the rich to give to the poor.”
“I just explained why that is a good idea, do I need to repeat myself?”
“So, because people are too rich, no-one should be rich?”
“Yes, exactly. If you distribute wealth evenly you know what happens? People spend money and buy things, and the entire economy grows. When the rich have all the money you know what they do? Only spend it to make more money, and the stuff they don’t spend gets locked away in a safe somewhere.”
She gestured to the coffee shop, “If the workers owned the coffee shop, the local management would be accountable. You wouldn’t have some rich guy in some office a world away telling them to pay their workers a few dollars plus tips because management has to work with the people under them. They’d want to invest in their shop and make it better, the workers who work there every day would do the same. Your business would grow exponentially purely because no-one wants to work somewhere they hate.”
“But if the business doesn’t make enough money-”
“They go out of business, or they join a worker union that allows them to pool their resources so that one business has some insulation from bad sales or issues with worker compensation.”
“If this is so wonderful-”
“Stop, I know what you’re about to say and you’re wrong. The Soviet Union was barely communist, it’s economy was feudal and its state was fascist masquerading as communist. It was as communist as the United States has ever been.”
She pushed her empty coffee cup across the table, “If you have a system where you effective enslave workers so that they are forced to work the land over punishment of death, and where the only form of mobility out of their rigid class is to be so exceptional that you break from your mold and redefine the society itself – that is wrong.”
She stood, “And I’m not just talking about the Soviets.”
He gave her a puzzled look, but she placed her money on the table and smiled, “It was nice talking to you again, we’ll need to do it again soon.”
“Uh, sure-” he stood, and she left to go shopping.
Come here and dance for me, honey. Come here and dance. They’re all waiting for us, babe. They’re all waiting. Don’t keep them in suspense, let them see you smile. Let them know who you are, keep them lingering. Be the bitch on your own time, be the bitch some other place. Come here and dance for me, honey.
Come here and dance.
‘Her name is Lily, she is a contract lawyer.’
Lily smiles for the camera.
‘How’d you meet?’
The lights leave her burning, the eyes leave her pale.
“A friend introduced us, we were at a bar celebrating a friend’s birthday and she was there and apparently famous.”
She laughs, just a little, let them know she is joking.
‘You didn’t know who she was?’
“Not at the time.”
‘Well she knows me now,’ they kiss her, and she can’t help but blush. Maybe it’s the lights.
Back at home, far from the lights and the crowds, Lily sits upon her lounge and watches the television.
‘What’s it like to have the whole world jealous of you?’
The news is on, nothing is news. It is stranger to see her face on every channel, than to know that there are people jealous of her.
“I’m used to it.”
From the kitchen, her girlfriend laughs and makes them coffee so they can stay awake. A long day of carefully conducted interviews with paparazzi and the strange man that her girlfriend calls an agent. She would have to remember to tell them to get a new one, there was something very off about him.
Do you feel used, do you feel violated, is there something off about our love. Do you lie awake and feel sick that you have fallen for a hoax. Do you lie awake and wonder if they love you back?
Lily lies awake, nice to share a bed again, strange that she came to where she was. She knew they loved her, it was the desire to be open about it that made Lily sign away her life. She had dressed like a man, and that had somehow made her what she was. A suit garners more respect than a dress.
She had never imagined she could be gay. She isn’t even sure if she is, or if she just loves them.
The news plays, and she grows sick of seeing her name, she knows there is something in the world more interesting than her. Luckily football season comes and everyone forgets about her, and life goes back to how it was. Then the latest television sensation pops up and everyone forgets about football, and life keeps going as it is. Then the latest movie craze swings around and everyone forgets about television, and life keeps going as it is.
And Lily lies awake at night, trying to sleep, her mind too full of her fiance.
The news plays, and she wonders what else is out there. Contract after contract, the words blur together.
“Let’s go to Europe for our honeymoon, I’ve always wanted to see Moscow in the winter.”
“I love the cold, it gives us reason to keep close.”
They place a hand on her shoulder, smile gentle, ‘We can’t go to Russia, there is a war remember?’
No, she doesn’t.
‘Besides, we’re gay, Lily.’
‘I’ve always wanted to go to China.’
“We can’t, we’re gay. Plus there is a war isn’t there?”
‘We’re at war with China?’
Lily nods, now that she is reminded of it.
‘I’ve always wanted to see India as well, there is so much history there.’
“We’re illegal in India as well, babe.”
‘Is there anywhere we can go then?’
“Europe,” she offers, pushing her own agenda, “or New Zealand – that’s where they filmed the Lord of the Rings.”
‘Europe has actual history though.’
Lily planned it all out, and booked the tickets, and read about what they could do. Every day the list grew shorter, until in the end they could only go to France. At least it was pretty in winter, even without snow.
False memories is the name of his business. All he had to do is word things differently but keep the same message.
‘Russian chemicals used in assassination attempt in Salisbury.’
‘Russian chemicals used in chemical attack in Douma.’
‘Russian chemicals discovered in water supply of western Ukraine after toxic spill.’
In twenty-seventeen, as he well knew, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons oversaw the dismantling and destruction of all known Russian chemical stockpiles. Including those of the chlorine gas allegedly used in Douma.
He also knew well that it the chemicals used in alleged assasination attempt in Salisbury were neither ‘novichok’, nor solely produced by Russia. There’s better ways to kill a man than to unleash a nerve agent upon a city – one that only you and Iran can produce.
It didn’t matter to him that the very same people who had a year ago watched the Russians dismantle their chemical weapons and agree to never make more, now screamed at the top of their lungs that there was only one possible voice in this bipolar world.
‘Russian nerve agent linked to assassination attempt in the United Kingdom, experts confirm.’
Joseph enjoyed the dance.
‘Fifteen dead in school shooting.’
Thoughts and prayers for the victims, but may it never change.
‘North Korean missile test.’
‘Chinese aggression in the Spratly Islands.’
A talking head comes on to discuss the evils of communism, long after the ideology is dead. Neo-Soviets, Neo-Ottomans, the empires of the enemy ideas and there was no way to define the past threat of the next Great Satan to challenge the rightful place of the Godly Peoples. They look upon his work as the words of Babylon, as a corruption of the soul, but he is not the corruption he is the salvation.
“The obliteration of the self has no name yet.”
‘The latest news on the hot new celebrity couple.’
And they shall know his name only as hate, and deny to him the righteousness of his work. He sits in his office, long beard, no suit, worn out shoes and old fashioned trousers. By his pen, he conquers the sword and unleashes it upon the infidels.
‘Russian fighter-jets shoot down American aircraft over the Baltic Sea, act of war.’
He is well aware, the American aircraft were in Russian territory. Tomorrow they would finally have her name, so they could debate what to call the new couple.
The status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.
Lily signs upon the dotted line.
She straightens out her collar, makes it comfortable, adjusts her tie. Then she signs upon the dotted line. Her signature, her contract given, an obligation to the man sitting behind the desk who has agreed to see her for what she is.
He doesn’t wear a suit or tie, he stares at her with cold dead eyes and then strokes his beard. Curious, then curiouser, a woman in a suit talks to a man in rags and the two seem to fit together like the slices of the loaf of bread they are carved from.
“Judge not unless you seek the judgement of others.”
She glances at him, he taps his temple and grins.
“Welcome sojourner, step into my office.”
She stands upon a stage before the world. They do not pretty her, nor mar her with the trappings of the woman beside her. They do not call her Lily, they do not seek to out her for what she is. The lights turn on and she is before the crowd, she straightens her tie and the camera is live.
He stares in the back, watching her. The woman beside her is flush, they are not shaking as Lily is. Relax, it will be fun.
Nothing is more natural.
She signed the contract, they handed her the money.
They kiss her cheek, they run their hand under her suit and feel her heart thumping. A man screams at them from behind the camera, she is wooden, she is simply standing there and not moving. Her soul is breaking.
“Let yourself be lifted by the weight of your sorrows.”
Lily looks to the woman, kisses them, runs her hand over their hips, feels their body press against her own. The man screams again from behind the camera. The lights go out and the crowd applauds in lock-step and the camera shuts off. She straightens her collar and leaves the stage.
Adjusts her tie and leaves the building. She goes home, sits on her lounge, watches the news for the first time in many, many, many years. She watches as they speak about her, about not knowing who she is, but they know who she is kissing. And they sit beside her upon the lounge and watch as well.
‘BREAKING NEWS! We interrupt our ongoing coverage of the crisis in-’
He sat in his office, typing slowly. No rush, no need to make pointless errors. The sun had set and he was taking his time just making sure his work was done properly.
His name is Joseph Lamb.
A man of humble origins, a clerk by another name and a typist whose sole job is to write clearly and coherently. None mistake him as important, he does not wear a suit and tie, he does not wear a clean shirt or shave his beard. He just writes. Slowly, carefully, thoughtfully. Every word he writes is crafted, selected perfectly from a vast stock of phrases in his mind. He is the man you must go to see if you have trouble with a phrase.
He works in the news room, he is the chief editor.
His superiors do not consider him as important as he is, but they pay him exorbitantly. It is obscene the money he can make for simply paraphrasing an article in his own words. At the end of the day, he places his work into a pile and leaves the office to head home.
He sits on his lounge, cycles through the stations and listens to the different ways a thousand voices sound reading his work out loud.
His craft is subtle, blink and you’ll miss it.
As a child they told him that there was no such thing as mind control. Then he studied Russell, Saussure, Eco and Orwell. Less skilled writers made things more clear, less veiled. All that he had to do was turn on the television to see that. The lesser news, the outlets he did not edit. This however was his greatest moment, his masterpiece was being unveiled.
“Fallen is Babylon, and it has become the habitat of demons.”
‘There is no indication that chemical weapons were used on civilians in Douma, this was a false reporting by Russian spy agencies in an effort to draw the United States into a conflict in the region in an attempt to distract from the increased aggression we are seeing from China in the Spratly Islands. The People’s Republic of China has very recently begun to redouble its efforts to annex the islands – something it has been doing since twenty-thirteen. Two years ago, it was found by international tribunal that their actions in the region were illegal, and yet they refuse to back down. That land officially belongs to the Philippines, an ally of the United States of America. They are an occupying force, and we’ve allowed ourselves to be distracted by Russian aggression in Europe and the Middle East.’
He leans forward in his seat, anticipating the big moment.
‘Russia is a state that promotes and spreads terrorism across the globe. Their current campaign of global anarchy began with the invasion of Georgia in two-thousand and eight, where in they invaded and annexed territory from the Republic of Georgia. In twenty-fourteen, the Russian Federation continued their goal at annexing their neighbours by funding fascist groups closely aligned with the Russian President to orchestrate a take-over of Ukraine. They then infiltrated the country and annexed Crimea and began a war in the Donbas region.’
He took his drink and sipped.
‘Vladimir Putin has systematically turned the Russian Federation into a theocratic dictatorship. His obsession with Orthodox Christian ideologies have given him the power to dominate his country illegally for decades and has encouraged violence against minorities, LGBTIQ individuals and has given him a sense of divine authority to interfere with the rest of the world. He will attempt to destroy the West, it is his very identity. It is why he courts fundamentally anti-Western dictators like in Iran, Syria and North Korea. It is why he has interfered in elections in the United States, the United Kingdom and France. There is only one solution to the problem of Russia.’
It is, in his mind, as though he turned Oceania against Eurasia and Eastasia all at once.
Pitch-black, fading into the sunrise, the flicker of a television screen turning itself on and the feeling of static on the early-morning skin. A bottle in one hand, the body slumped against the lounge, snot nosed and congested. Skin raw from self-immolation, bloody minded and bruised from liver to livery. All metaphorical because today is just another day.
Lily sits up in her seat, five AM Jesus-thumpers selling bibles on infomercials no-one cares to watch. Dumb cult fucks shirking shit and ignoring the true meaning of the words they preach. What greater sin is there left? The vibrancy of life is lost to them, so they speak down to her through the television screen.
Work begins at seven. Work ends at five. Life begins at seven, sitting on the lounge watching nature documentaries until ten.
Work begins at seven. Work ends at five. Life begins at seven, sitting on the lounge watching old movies until ten.
Work begins at seven. Work ends at five. Life begins at seven, sitting on the lounge watching reruns of sitcoms until ten.
Jesus needs his planes, trains and automobiles. How else can socialism spread if not by the sword, the gun, the bomb. Freedom is only achieved through shackles. Every morning Lily puts on her dress suit, eases into her heels, paints her skin with warpaint, chains her wrists and neck with gold and silver trinkets. Her ears weigh down with the weight of blood diamonds, her teeth sparkle with the silver of the dead of Mexico.
Work does begin at seven. All dolled up, she hands her soul to the puppeteer and stands pretty beside a man as they argue the defence of another man. The vibrancy of life has clouded the minds of those she stands behind, and pretends as if they have morality. What greater sin is there left? It pays well to keep her mouth shut and close her eyes and give what is taken.
Work ends at five, a twelve minute drive turns into an hour. She thinks, she shops, she buys the necessities for another night. She has dinner around six, settles in by seven and watches TV with a bottle in one hand and the remote in the other. Never changes the channel, never changes. Her bedroom gives her insomnia.
God is on the television, seeking your faith, grinding it into your skull. You are a sinner, you are evil, you are wicked. Nothing can ever be good, death is your salvation – repent and die. Drink the punch, however it is spiked, this is not an acid test this is the end.
Lily sits up awake, unable to drift into the unconscious. What is this life if not a challenge, a struggle against the savagery of the Gate and the primacy of the Temple. Abducted or suicidal, mind-washed or gas-lit. For whatever reason she did her shopping late at night, the irony of using Amazon to fight the system.
A week of work and life passed her by, then her delivery sat on the kitchen counter for another week before she was drunk enough to try it on. Sometimes Lily was sick of high heels and suits and shackles and chains and lipstick and looking like she belonged. To someone, to some place, to anything. Respectability through attire grows tiresome.
Life begins at ten. A nice bar downtown, middle-class and average drink selection. Ordered an old fashioned and sat down at a bar by herself. Dressed in a jacket and a shirt, jeans and sneakers. Hair hidden under a beanie, fingers hidden by light gloves. It’s cold out so no-one thinks twice. She drinks in silence, headed home by twelve. Lays down in bed, sleeps until seven. Calls in sick, watches television with the sound off as she scrolls through job listings on her laptop. Sits in her lounge room all night, turns the television off, goes to bed.
Wakes up, heads to work in a suit and tie.
Freezing waters that flow too quickly to solidify into ice. A line on a map and not much more to those preparing to cross. They clutch their rifles, make sure the canisters on their grenade launchers are loaded. The lieutenant barks orders, getting the men into position and making sure the ammunition is passed around. It’s a buffet to the newcomers, all the guns you could ever need and then some, handfuls of bullets plucked from the backs of trucks and shoved greedily into pockets and pouches. Smoke and chemical grenades line benches, the barricades at the edge of the river are heavy metal and backed by the cannons of the warmachines resting on the higher ground with perfect vantage points. The battle is about to begin, and in the enemy lines a man shouts and screams at the brave souls about ready to storm the beach. A shot rings out and everyone ducks for cover, then from down the river boats move up at a clip and breach on the sands. Grenades flash amongst the grounds of the enemy, and they fall and scatter. Those who were prepared still stand and wave their shields as the muzzles of the rifles light up the early morning and the cannons roar. Dozens down in an instant as the troops storm the beach, shields and sword, battering aside the defenders, rubber rounds smash bone and bloody organs. Tear gas burns lungs and throats. Freezing water blasts against the blankets and signs, but at least there is no dogs this time. Skulls crumble against the clubs, jackboots dig into ribs and bruise hearts. All for a little money, cents on the dollar, for the corporate profit. Until the earth reclaims them, until the river swells in anger and washes away the thugs and their shiny toys. Until the men in warpaint are swept away by the surging waters. Frozen river runs high and rapid and in the early hours of the morning the battle is over as they retreat. A small toll of a dozen lost, to the hundreds wounded and killed in the storming of the beach. Frozen souls that stand in the ice and hold up signs so the eyes of the nation can see their plight – while the world forgets about their sacrifice.