Tatter: Chapter 35

Previous chapter

In the wide black holding cell, only a single ray of light; a woman there illuminated. A shackle upon her throat which meant pain should the shadows be tread. She sat upon a soft, dark cube, hands folded upon her lap. No sound save a faint mechanical groaning; rhythmic sheering of metal on metal. The hiss of the chamber’s handless door opening. Footsteps reverberated upon the pitch and polished floor as the thin slats which ran-parallel about the room faintly illuminated, casting wide a sombre bluish glow.

A slender female figure stood the space before the woman on the cube and carried a large case the width of her own back-lit body, which she set at her feet and opened, revealing a soft, dull-black oblong artifact. The shadowed woman removed a small, handheld device from the left inner pocket of her long elegant coat and pressed it to the object, prompting it to shift and grow. The case-borne object hummed and slowly assumed the form of a trim, elegant man, wan of complexion, whose eyes gleamed like young twin suns, filtered through the lattice-work of burnished heliodor. After a long silence, the man-form spoke, his voice low and measured, pooling in sonorous strands throughout the ambit of the penitentiary murk.

“Greater in inequity is the well-intentioned deceiver than one ill-intentioned. The former has conviction in the rectitude of their wickness. The latter labors under no such illusion.”

Soriya Haldeck looked to the floor, her lips writhing, face creasing with anxiety, unable to meet the man’s luminous and unwavering gaze.

“Would you say this is so, Doctor Haldeck?”

“What does it matter now?”

“It will always matter so long as we can exercise moral judgment.”

“Only God can judge me. He’ll judge us all. Eventually. Even you.”

“Convenient that the judgement of all should be raised in a discussion of your crimes.”

“Freeing a slave is a crime?”

“Your mouth moves, but it is the dead who speak.”

Kryos leaned slowly toward the woman, her eyes yet averted, hands working together as if covered in nettles. The avatar assumed a rigid posture and gestured to the attendent behind him, who withdrew a telepad and held it nine paces before Haldeck’s anxious face. On the screen a shaky video feed of the central sector played. A pile of smoldering rubble. Screams of men and metal. Weeping. Officials rushing, frantic, to and fro, some cursing under their breath, others subsumed in focus. Civilians rooted to their shades, dumbfounded by terror. A elderly woman on her knees, covered in dust and blood, a old man before her, silent and still as statuary. A child, no more than seven years of age, broken and battered beneath a mound of rubble, one arm missing, replaced by a phantasmal sanguine trail. Haldeck’s eyes grew wide as she took in the carnage. Her lower lip quivered like a water-soused worm. Abruptly, she looked away, vainly attempting to quell the rising sense of terror that writhed within.

“That footage was taken directly after the destruction of the central reactor.”

“I’ve seen it before.”

“A teacher and her class from the local school were on a field trip. That’s her body there. In the red. The dress, a gift from her husband. They’d been married three days.”

Soriya began to weep.

“Why are you showing this to me? I didn’t do it. I didn’t set the bombs.”

“If your mind was guiltless, you’d not offer defense.”

“I was only doing what I thought was right.”

“This I have addressed. Your actions aided the group responsible for the destruction of my reactor. Central sector’s reactor.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I selected you to oversee the DS program due to your intelligence. Deduce.”

“You mean Vangr? Vangr was working with Aestival?”

“Well done.”

“I… I didn’t know.”

“That is obvious. Had you the full picture, you’d have blown the whistle on the entire enterprise and would likely now be dead. In this way your treasonous folly was fortuitous. For you.”

“Where is she? Did you find her?”

“She’s safe. Due some unexpected intervention. And my director’s perseverance.”

He turned emotionlessly from the woman, speaking into the hazy azure reach.

“The partisans planned to turn her into a weapon. One which Grazen planned to sell to the Eastern Federation. Were the scheme successful, millions would have died. Instead, only hundreds.”

Kryos then melded into the penumbral expanse as the woman’s sorrow echoed throughout.

Next chapter

Tatter: Chapter 23

Previous chapter

One chair remained empty in the flickering Reiks Consortium boardroom. Ermin Gild stood attentively behind Chancellor Richter, silently observing the chamber occupants. Environmental Commissioner, Ponos Akantha. Economic Commissioner, Garlan Hayl. Security Commissioner, Galton Raka. Vilar Corp CEO, Julian Salis. Stellarin CEO, Telfyr Vays. Numerous secretaries, carrying capsule drinks and printed biscuits, moved in and out from the table, keeping their voices low and doing their best not to intervene in the council’s burgeoning discussions. Tensions simmered and discontent was clear-writ upon every creased and somber face.

Kryos was late.

Momentarily, the doors to the dim-lit chamber were pushed open by a young woman who held in her hands a firm yet pliable obsidian globule. Upon her belt she wore a small, silver scanner. She placed the globule upon the lone empty seat and removed the device from her belt. She pressed the machine to the amorphous mass upon the chair and held it there until a low and peculiar beep sounded from the scanner, whereupon the woman straightened, respectfully inclined her head to the council and retreated from whence she had come, hands behind her back. As the chamber doors hinged closed, the thing upon the chair twisted and quivered and rose, assuming the form of a man with a slender frame. Steadily, the obsidian coloration of the entity gave way to the pale palette of the human.

The spectre opened its eyes.

Terminated heliodor, lambent in the denim murk.

The chancellor raised her hand slightly, a call for silence, and turned to the porcelain spectre.

“Thank you for joining us, Mr. Kryos. I do appreciate how valuable your times is, given your commitments to the colonies. I take it your emissary briefed you on the nature of this meeting?”

Kryos’ avatar placed its hands upon the arms of the chair, palms down, and stared at the gleaming finish of the table.

“Few are the hours to act. No time remains for trivial, internecine dissent.”

“Errant disregard for law and order is hardly ‘trivial.'” Raka contended dourly, his hands flexing with agitation.

“Nor is your company’s rapacious extraction. The people demand more environmental oversight,” Akantha enjoined, leaning over the table with considerable animation.

“There are no resources that are not created. Order foremost among them. So it is order I prioritize. Inter arma enim silent leges.” Kryos responded evenly, without glancing to either of his detractors, his hands moving slowly over the tabletop, as if memorizing the subtle curvature of its dark and polished surface. He paused and looked at the domed ceiling. “What you decry shall be your salvation. Should you choose to listen.”

A murmur went up around the table. Raka shook his head as Vays arched a brow curiously.

“Salvation? What hubris…” Akantha proclaimed with a disdainful tilt of her graying head.

“Enough.” The chancellor shouted suddenly, straightening in her seat. “Let him speak.”

“Indeed.” Salis enjoined calmly. “We can’t criticize what we’ve yet to hear.”

“If we cannot govern ourselves, how can the public expect us to govern a city?” Vays interjected sardonically.

“I said enough. All of you. Now – Mr. Kryos – explain yourself.”

The spectre of Kryos looked from the tabletop to the surrounding faces, taking the measure of each with dispassionate perspicacity.

“The partisan grid attack was a diversion. Disruption of energy flows was not their aim – rather, the procurement of a synthetic virus. This event coincided with the theft of an object from one of my research bases. When combined with the aforementioned virus, the object would produce a bioweapon of considerable potency. One capable of eradicating all human life upon the continent.”

“W-what?”

“Why did you not come to us with this sooner?” The chancellor inquired, her stoicism giving way to grave concern and something else, twisting in her visage. Something that looked to Ermin very much like fear.

Kryos looked toward the woman without emotion. “I needed time to verify.”

“Time to verify what?”

“That the virus was manufactured by Vekt Corporation.”

Kryos held the chancellor’s gaze as the other members of the council looked to each other and then to Ermin Gild, who stood in the corner, hands in his pockets. His face bore faint traces of annoyance, but was elsewise impassive.

“Don’t look at me. I’ve no idea what he’s talking about.”

“Is it true?” The chancellor demanded.

Gild shrugged. “I don’t run the institute, I just fund it. Professor Grazen is the lead researcher there. I’ll speak with him immediately.”

“How can you not know?”

“I’m not a scientist, chancellor. I try to keep out of my researcher’s hair. Obviously, a investigation will need to be carried out. You shall have my full compliance, of course.”

“Good.”

The chancellor returned her attentions to the machinic phantom.

“You said this virus had the potential to wipe out all humans on the continent if it was combined with a piece of your technology. Explain.”

“That which was taken from me was a synthetic organism, purposed for prolonged deep space exploration. The nanites developed by Vekt specifically target living human cells. The cells of my creation are incompatible for replication of the nanites. The organism would thus prove a reliable long-duration carrier. Though it is not needed to transmit the nanites, which suggests the partisan’s goals are not continental, but global.”

“I don’t follow your reasoning.”

“If Aestival merely wished to infect the city, they would not have bothered stealing my creation.”

“Why is it you believe they stole it?”

“After Aestival’s first attack, they starkly laid out their desires. An end to civilization. All civilization. The single most extensive transport system is the intercontinental hydrorail, which finds its nexus in the deep colonies. Given these facts, I concluded their plan was to utilize my creation as a international carrier; infecting it with the virus, then releasing it into the city, given its sentience, under its own power, it would be swiftly discovered by my operatives and transported back to base; from there, infection would rapidly spread to all of the colonies, and once that happened-”

“It would be a global pandemic.”

“Yes.” The spectre paused, raising a hand to its left ear. Mask-like face creasing momentarily with intense focus. “Fortunately, my director has just located the aforementioned organism. I will have her forward all of you a brief of the situation.”

The chancellor nodded. “That would be helpful. Tell us, what course of action do you recommend, Mr. Kryos?”

“Keep the city open and the matter quiet.”

The chancellor opened her mouth to speak but was waylaid by Akantha, whose face bore traces of rising vexation.

“I’m surprised you’d pass up an opportunity to advance marshal law. I thought you liked playing God.”

“Human action is chiefly framed by ancestral duolithics. Natural, or Unnatural. Authentic, or Artificial. God, or Devil. Yet. Seldom are those revelatory spaces between known and unknown so mythopoetically enshrined.”

“I’m not talking about the history of human action, I’m talking about yours. Your hubris, your blithe effrontery to Nature.”

“Eyes preoccupied by looking do not see, Commissioner.”

The woman’s visage clouded with perplexity as the lights flickered once more and failed completely. Darkness fell across the room. Vays cursed under his breath as Akantha shouted to her attendant to see to the generator.

The spectre calmly observed the ire-contorted woman and gestured through the gloom, spreading his hands, visible only through the illumination of his wide, heliodoric eyes.

“This sightless pall, a paltry imitation of cosmic predilection. Shorn of the demense of Man. No eyes to spy the firmament. Nor hands to scrap it. No tongue to taste the ichor. Nor will to shape it.”

Moments later, power returned, bathing the room in azure luminescence.

Kryos was gone.

USA-Japan Nuclear Alliance — History, Importance & Prospective Policies For Technocultural Exchange

This text endeavours to lay out the history of US-Japanese nuclear relations, the geopolitical implications thereof and some tentative policy proscriptions pertaining thereto for maximally mutual advancement of both nation’s interests.

Table of contents

  • Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations
  • 2018 US-Japanese memorandum
  • Importance of the alliance
  • Reasons for the durability of success
  • Geographic particularities of the alliance
  • Tentative policy proscriptions for further US-Japanese technocultural development & geopolitical stability

Background on US-Japanese nuclear relations

Civil nuclear relations between the United States of America and Japan began with the signing of the US-Japan Nuclear Research Agreement in 1955. Japan’s first long-term atomic energy plan was deployed the following year, 1956. Throughout the 60s and 70s bilateral operations between US and Japan increased.

Nov. 1987, Japan and the United States signed a nuclear cooperation agreement: Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy. The agreement went into effect a year later in 1988 and was set to expire July 2018. The deal afforded Japan the unique distinction of being the only nation without a nuclear arsenal which was allowed by the nuclear-armed powers to produce plutonium (with the stipulation that such material be produced solely for peaceful purposes), obviating a lengthy process of step-by-step verification which would otherwise be required. This allowed Tokyo to pursue nuclear recycling.

July, 2018, Agreement For Cooperation Between The Government of Japan & The Government of The United States Concerning Peaceful Uses Of Nuclear Energy is renewed. The agreement meant that Japan could receive special nuclear material (reactors, whole or in part, fuel, etc.) from the US so long as they kept to the non-proliferation standards of Section 123 pursuant to the US Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1954 which was amended to better account for nonproliferation (NNPA) in 1978.

2018 US-Japanese nuclear memorandum

A nuclear cooperation memorandum between the United States of America and the unitary, parliamentary, constitutional monarchy of Japan (which needs to import 90% of its energy requirements) was signed Nov. 13. The memorandum was signed by Japan’s METI and Ministry of Science and the US’ DOE and Department of Commerce. The purpose of the memorandum was to “promote the global leadership role” of both sovereignties in the arena of peaceful nuclear advancement.

METI stated: “With this memorandum of understanding, we will further advance cooperative relations between Japan and the United States in the field of nuclear power.”

Importance of the alliance

This is a significant partnership given that as per the WEF 2018 Global Competitiveness Report, The United States of America is the single most competitive economy in the world (85.6‡) with Japan trailing only slightly as the fifth most competitive economy in the world (82.5‡), pertinent for the obvious reason that the respective countries economic effectiveness will directly factor into their nuclear research, development and deployment (RDD). Further, as per the WEF 2018 Regional Risks Of Doing Business report the top ten risks, globally include:

1 Unemployment or underemployment
2 Failure of national governance
3 Energy price shock
4 Fiscal crises
5 Cyber-attacks
6 Profound social instability
7 Failure of financial mechanism or institution
8 Failure of critical infrastructure
9 Failure of regional and global governance
10 Terrorist attacks

… whilst the top 10 risk of doing business in East Asia & The Pacific are:

1 Cyber-attacks
2 Unemployment or underemployment
3 Asset bubble
4 Energy price shock
5 Data fraud or theft
6 Failure of national governance
7 Failure of regional and global governance
8 Fiscal crises
9 Failure of critical infrastructure
10 Manmade environmental catastrophes

Thus, the USA-Japanese alliance signals a potential, if not solution, mitigation to most of these issues in varying ways, especially as pertains to unemployment and energy price shocks (via obtaining energy independence). Further, the successful renewal and re-commitment of the Japan-US nuclear agreement is the single oldest civil nuclear alliance in the world, which serves as a example of bilateral success which other developing states and non-state actors can build upon.

Reasons for the durability of the alliance

In 1274 Mongol Khagan Kublai launched a military campaign against the Japanese archipelago. The Mongol fleet was initially successful and conquered the Japanese settlements of Iki and Tsushima but met fierce samurai resistance at Hakata Bay and were forced to withdraw and as they did so, the fleet was struck with a kamikaze or divine wind which some believed to have been sent by the god Raijin; the fleet was decimated and most of the Mongol ships were swallowed by the sea. The Japanese then began to build high walls to prepare for future invasions. Seven years later, the Mongols returned but could not pass the walls. The invading armada stayed afloat for a long period of time before Raijin sent yet another kamikaze which destroyed the fleet. The mongols never launched another invasion of Japan.

Since this time Japan has become a formidable maritime power in contestant with China over the Indian Ocean (via their OBOR and String of Pearls initiatives), a further strain on a already sour relationship, given the historical contestation of the Senkaku islands. China/Russia and Japan/America now sit on opposite sides of a newly congealing international order with the former as a rising superpower at the head of the Eurasian Bloc and the latter at the head of the new Atlanticist Bloc (which maintains economic dominance via the encapsulation of 7 of the top 10 most competitive economies). Japan also shares numerous attributions with the United States which makes for a durable alliance; for example, both share democratic principals and both have strategic investment in the trade routes in and around the Indian Ocean. It is more than “just business,” a relationship built upon mutual understanding as opposed merely to trade is invariably more lasting, provided those values stay within a certain threshold of alignment. There is no clear indication that they will be shifting any time soon.

Thus, it makes practical sense for Japan and America to work together, given their history, amidst this turbulent and accelerating reshaping of political geography. This analysis is accurate but not sufficient, given that it does not account for the emerging synnefocracies — non-state actors which rival or surpass traditional Westphalian states — such as The Party of Davos, Amazon, Google, Facebook, The Omidyar Network and Open Society Foundations, among many others, a issue which, sooner or later, will need to be addressed with considerable resources, given the way that such organizations obviate or undermine sovereign totalities (both intentionally, in the pursuit of a new international order, and unintentionally, in the reckless deployment of resources, policies and philosophies without accounting for their attendant, spider-webing effects).

Geographic particularities of the alliance

The Indian Ocean region is of considerable strategic importance, given that its sea-lanes form the world’s single largest trade route and account for 14% of total ocean-surface, globally. As of 2018, approximately 100,000+ vessels, including oil and LNG tankers and container carriers, were active in the region. Nearly 80% of the world’s oil tankers pass through the Indian Ocean. Of relevance to these facts: Japan is a large purchaser of Iranian oil yet Iran is at cross-purposes with the USA. 2018 US President Donald J. Trump backed the Saudis against Iran, condemning the latter as the single largest state sponsor of terror, world-wide (a dubious claim). Iranian-US diplomatic disintegrations began after the overthrow of US-sympathetic Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This transitory period beheld the rise of religious fanaticism and the re-instantiation of islamic theocracy syncretically fused with republicanism. Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini, known in the western media simply as Ayatollah Khomenini, an usuli of Twelver Shia, became the country’s supreme leader. The same year the shah was overthrown Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took control of a US embassy in Tehran, holding the 52 US workers and citizens there hostage for 444 days. Khomenini was unaware of the the student’s scheme but supported their actions once they came to light. Shortly thereafter, the US shut down all diplomatic relations with Iran. The event still resonates discordantly to this day and, when paired with religious tensions, the US-Israeli alliance, past US support of Saddam, interventionism (on both sides) and posturing, a deep-seated animosity has blossomed between Persia and the land of the free and the home of the brave. This simmering hostility requires rectification, regardless of Japan’s relationship to it or the US, if a lasting middle eastern peace is to be established. Through Japan, this is possible.

Tentative policy proscriptions for further technological development & geopolitical stability

Accounting For Global Perception

A 2018 poll aggregation by Pew Research Center showed that the US is still generally viewed favorably and, of particular importance, globally, more countries prefer the US as the world’s superpower over China. Globally, the American People are still highly respected for their accomplishments and their dedication to liberty, however, global confidence in the Trump Administration is quite low (lower than both Bush and Obama, generally). Further, there has been a long-standing trend in other countries of a perception that the US does not adequately take other countries’ interests into account when making foreign policy decisions (a perception which is obviously laced in much truth, though the same may often be made of those who leverage the accusation). The US is generally viewed very unfavorably by Western Europe and very favorably in Asia. When the polled countries were asked who they would prefer as the world leader 81% of Japanese stated they would prefer the USA, indicating a extremely positive view of the USA. Additionally, the USA also holds a favorable view of Japan; a 2018 spring survey by the Pew Research Center showed that 68% (roughly two-thirds) of US citizens polled held positive views of Japan, a view Americans have held more or less consistently since 2005. Given this favorability and the history of US-Japanese relations, both nations should move forward, together, in a re-commitment to a rules-based international order.

PG_2018.10.1_U.S.-Image_4-3.png

Japan & Iran

Given the trade and lasting 90 year diplomatic relationship between Japan and Iran and the centrality of Iran and the Shia Crescent more broadly to stability in the Middle East, it would be preferable for the US to renew its commitment to diplomacy with Tehran, if stability is desired. This will require a tempering of Israeli/Iranian proxy aggression and a mitigation of hostilities against the US and the west more broadly. This may be accomplished, slowly, by, first and foremost, ceasing all unnecessary military adventurism in the Middle East and making appeals to Khatami’s unrealized dialogue of civilizations initiative and the organizational aspects of Köchler’s dialogue entre les différentes civilisations. To this end, a inter-cultural institute, whether digital-only or both digital and brick-and-mortar, could be created as a tripartite cultural hub to advance a working knowledge and of Japanese, Iranian and US culture and history. Enlisting the aid of pro US-Japanese education, research and policy advocacy organizations such as the Sasakawa Peace Foundation may be helpful in realizing such a project if it is found to be desirable.

Even if this plan proves fruitful, the question will still remain as to what is to be done concerning China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Issues which should be kept in mind and integrated into further diplomatic ventures.

Indo-Pacific Strategy: Building Upon The TCTO

In 2016, during a speech in Kenya, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expounded upon a Two Oceans, Two Continents (TOTC) strategy for stability and growth in the Indo-Pacific region. Abe’s plan centered around Africa, which has tremendous potential for growth, and Japan, which had been experiencing rapid growth. It would be beneficial for the US, Africa and Japan to, at the very least, encourage this arrangement along.

Bilateral Fusion Advancement

Nuclear fusion is a extremely promising technological possibility, one which is increasingly feasible qua the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator and China’s EAST reactor. Given this, it would be reasonable to propose a joint nuclear fusion — of a breadth acceptable within the constraints of the time of initiation — R&D venture between the US & Japan as a avenue of technological collaboration outside of the parameters of the EU-hosted ITER program. Co-development of breeder reactors or SMRs may also be beneficial to increase the speed at which these technologies are developed, the venture would also allow for mutually beneficial cross-cultural exchange outside of just energy development, a exchange which could serve to further cement positive relations between both powers. As of the spring of 2018, 83% (roughly 8-in-10) Japanese held negative views of the workforce, fearing that automation would increase income inequality between rich and poor, 74% thought that ordinary Japanese will have a hard time finding jobs. Japanese’s population is in decline and expected to decrease from 127 million in 2018 to 88 million in 2065 from low-birthrates and emigration, which only contributes to anxiety surrounding automation, among other issues. Without significant immigration or a sudden and marked spike in birthrates, a employment deficit is probable. Further, though the Japanese have a favorable view of immigrants, they do not wish immigration to increase and view emigration from Japan negatively. Given these factors it is preferable for Japan to initiate a multi-pronged approach to job cultivation to inspire confidence. It is here that a international, bilateral arrangement between US and Japan could prove fruitful, not just for economic ends, but for markedly improving the lives of the forgotten citizenry of both countries and the knowledge of all mankind.

There is no purpose without power, and no power without resources. Here the alliance finds its purchase.


Numbers given are ratings based on a 0-100 scale – the USA is 14 away from 100.


Sources & further resources

  1. Paul Kerr & Mary Nikitin. (2018) Nuclear cooperation with other countries.
  2. WEF. (2018) The Global Competitiveness Report: 2018.
  3. WEF. (2018) Regional Risks Of Doing Business Report: 2018.
  4. Phyllis Yoshida. (2018) US-Japan Nuclear Cooperation: The Significant of July 2018.
  5. SPF. (2018) Policy Recommendations by Quadripartite Commission On The Indian Ocean Regional Security.
  6. SPF. (2016) Japan-Russia Relations: Implications For The US-Japan Alliance.
  7. Tomoyuki Kawai. (2017) US to renew nuclear pact with Japan.
  8. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The Strategic Implications Of American Energy Independence.
  9. Joseph V. Micallef. (2018) The South China Sea & US-China Trade Policy: Are They Becoming Linked?
  10. Kristen Bialik. (2018) How The World Sees The US & Trump In 9 Charts.
  11. The White House. (2018) Statement From The President Donald J. Trump On Standing With Saudi Arabia.
  12. Carol E. B. Chosky et al. (2015) The Saudi Connection: Wahhabism & Global Jihad.
  13. Kara Bombach et al. (2018) Iran Sanctions ‘Snapback’ Finalized Nov. 5th, 2018.

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Spectral Horror & The Insurrectionist Charnel House

Spectral Horror & The Insurrectionist Charnel House

Eyes preoccupied with watching do not see.”  Carlo Michaelstaedter.

In the golden cage of modern society, the very notion of the application of human power and its intensification, carries with it such a stench of mental putrification, that only the most brazen noetic scavengers would dare approach it in a positive and forthright manner, even as everyone does the same (quietly, or as quietly as they can manage), for such a vector of action is perceived to be the intrinsic forerunner to jingoism and ruin; a barbaric backslidding admitting of no positive exceptions; a prospect so terrifying that it appears almost cartoonish and as a consequence, unserious. Rather, the egalitarian model holds that if the powers of Mankind are to be intensified this is only to further passivity and indirectness and thus, weakness; under this regime, paradoxically, one is to accumulate strength1 only to better allow for weakness. Worse, the retrajectorization from man-ascending (as during the Industrial Revolution) to man-balancing (with the world at large in the conception of the envirocrats, or with the whole mass of humanity, in the fever-dream of the utopians) is a phenomenon which has spread all throughout the western world, one which is increasingly standardized at every level of society; it is this reconceptualization, this largely unconscious de-vitalization, that forms the groundwork of the charnel house, the belief that one’s society is a largely unintelligable disaster of increasing magnitude in which one is wholly trapped. Society as a livestock barn aflame. The pathology of this dispensation is summed up under another name by the Italian philosopher Carlo Michelstaedter in his book, Persuasion & Rhetoric, wherein he writes,

[men] let themselves sink into words that feign communication, because none of them can make his world be the world of the others; they feign words containing the absolute world, and with words they nourish their boredom, making for themselves a poultice for the pain; with words they show what they do not know and what they need in order to soothe the pain or make themselves numb to it.”2

Michaelstaedter is here concerned with rhetoric and its perpetual antagonism with persuasion and dream-actualization, a dichotomy which he saw at the heart of all human action. To utilize rhetoric is to attempt to persuade first and foremost one’s self(ves) as opposed to some other(s), for even if one does not previously believe in one’s own rhetoric it were preferable (for the purposes of successful persuasion) to attempt some self-hypnosis, if for only the briefest of moments. To fall so completely into one’s dream that it becomes a extension of all further action and thus becomes of the world itself is the end goal of all rhetoric. The failure of communication, of rhetoric, that is, the inability to make one’s world another’s, forms the backbone of the move towards increasing degrees of relativism and – as we shall later see – sufficiently widespread relativism invariably gives way to the horrorism of the charnel house. Urged on by our spectral present. Historically haunted by the future’s seemingly dim horizon. Psychologically disoriented by the distance of our closeness. Shocked and confused by the ever-increasing intensification of our technological prowess which is a development that flies in the face of the lion’s shares of established neoliberal and progressive orthodoxy (humans are supposed to be equal, not powerful, given that if one affirms the mantra “diversity is our strength” then what one is really affirming is that collective fragmentation is a strength; thus, that weakness is a strength) every bit as much as it defies traditionalist expectation and so-called “natural law” and the dictates of divine providence (for man is not supposed to have so much sway over the “natural world” he is not supposed to be as a providence unto himself, for if he can actualize the power of the gods, what need have we of them?).

Due this existential confusion the denizens of the charnel house are left vulnerable to the fickle disasterism of the day (and I include myself in the critique); a celebrity makes a racial joke concerning some immigrant population: It is clear he wants to kill all minorities! Scientists have uncovered a mild semi-global warming trend: The world is going to burn! It’s Gaia’s Revenge!”3 China’s economy still exists: Its the end of the west and the rise of a totalitarian Eurasian hegemony! GMOs: Murderous eugenics program? Nuclear proliferation: Strontium in every watershed and nuclear winter! Immigration pro and con: You just hate X group of people!

One of the most bizarre manifestations of modern catastrophism comes from a article published in Scientific America, wherein Kate Marvel compared climate change to dragons (the scaly, winged, fire breathing kind). She wrote, “And so it was. The reports were hazy at first- disappearing sheep, scorch marks on the ground, huge lizard footprints in the forest. But soon it became clear. The evidence was incontrovertible. A dragon was loose in the kingdom…”.4 Of course, by “dragon” she means “climate” and by “kingdom” she means “our current civilization.” And what do dragons do? They burn everything in their path. Another example the end-of-the-world churnalism that has grown out of every new IPCC report (a group which has been saying that everyone is going to burn up in a decade for decades). Though the IPCC is widely regarded as the foremost scientific authority on climate change the organization has a long history of not auditing their own data-sets (such as the HadCRUT4, which forms the basis of many IPCC reports), which makes sense of many of their faulty past predictions. Whilst pro-IPCC organizations and individuals, such as Common Dreams, constantly state that the IPCC’s predictions are extremely conservative (meaning the state of climate is far worse than they claim) the group’s previous failed predictions are rarely ever taken into consideration, for instance, in 1989, UNEP5 (which co-created the IPPC) declared the world had witnessed a global warming tipping point which, if not checked and reversed by 2000, would cause massive sea-level rise which would wipe entire nations off the face of the earth. 2000 came and went and this scenario, obviously, did not materialize.

The aforementioned kinds of over-the-top, evidentially unfounded, proclamations instills widespread psychic trauma, desensitizaion and ultimately, despair, upon the inflicted populace who then create feedback loops with the aggregated white noise and the matrices of their promulgation, pushing the message back to the media-government-NGO complex, on all levels, demanding it receive more – not less – play. In this way, the illusion of disaster creates a real and ever-intensifying disaster (because even when the initial doomsaying is found to be unverifiable or outright fraudulent, the next new disaster is the desire for revenge against the fraudsters by the formerly naive public; ie. The proud declaration of anti-journalistic sentiment in the wake of the 2016 US presidential elections has now spiraled into outright class warfare).

Yet to draw back the smoldering shroud of this apparitional charnel house is to reveal a maze filled with a near endless number of increasingly sightless brain-mules who mouth the facile doom-saying of the criminal, the mad-artist and the revolutionary – which are, really, at base, all one and the same, for true revolution in the classical sense is itself criminal and must have some aesthetic potency with which to instantiate itself. “Everyone agrees. It’s about to explode… there is a certain pleasure in calculating the risks,” writes The Invisible Committee in their bleak, paranoically overwrought (if occasionally insightful) manifesto, The Coming Insurrection, thus, declaring that things were terrible but that this was profoundly exciting. Terror as a portal, rather than a wall: a common trope of that doomed creature, the revolutionary. If only their footsteps were followed, the path out of the maze would be hastily actualized, and damned be the consequences, because, following Che, it is, of course, an act of love6. Heart shaped truncheons and smiley-face execution pits.

Advocacy of any ideology (with few exceptions) is, at base, really just the declaration, “On average, people should be more like me. I am better than most, hence, such an eventuality were better.” Public intellectuals, often, are merely second-hand thought dealers, passing on, or playing with, the concepts and words of others, without their own thought there being critically applied – which appears as a sort of mental volleyballism (working similarly to the self-enclosed philosophy of pure textual reading without recourse to external verification) – and when such cognitive mercantilism involves itself in the bloody business of overthrowing society, the already vexed problem becomes profoundly more so and generates all manner of illusory landscapes within the ideologically captive mind; dystopias which must be overcome, lest all be lost, which are transmitted both as sincere beliefs concerning future problems and insincere or half-sincere tools for political control (to keep a population within the charnel house one must first convince them it exists).

Always the revolutionary commonality: remake society by remaking the man. Homo sovieticus. Homo Americanus. Homo texticus. And so on. One can scarcely find a venture with a more spotty track-record. However, the true stuff of man’s composition – his biology – in the schema of the revolutionary, is rarely brought into question (for various reasons that are more theological than evidentuary), they are not evolutionary enough to stage a true revolt, a self-directed morphologically transformative break-with-the-past, which, of necessity, would be required for any long-term, wholesale societal reformation. Ideology is downstream from character, as politics is from culture. All are expressions of biological units interacting within an environment. Here we return to the beginning, for it is the would-be revolutionary who promulgates the aforementioned image of the maze and the haunting and the dim horizon, who lobs innumerable catastrophism upon his readership (whether real or imagined) all the better to foster the crucial moment which never comes when all the petty folk take up arms and surge out upon the streets and fill it up with the carcasses of the class-enemy and the detritus of all their machinery (which is evil, because the revolutionary does not understand how it works). Then there is the mercantile class, who are more interested in stuffing their mattresses and climbing the social ladders of their respective and ostensibly respectable milieus than they are with positive societal change and, as a consequence, repackage and peddle the revolutionary’s story to members of the population who want all the feeling of heroic struggle without any of the unpleasant business of fighting, killing, exercising or studying (charges on which we all might be brought up – we have it easy and wish to keep it so).

The revolution is spectral. The predictions of doom, often spun out of nightmare and desire. The catastrophism, even when based-upon real and present or soon-to-be present problems, is invariably overblown and societally damaging, mentally distabalizing. Things are rarely as terrible or as good as they are believed to be. When the techne of forecasting and the evidence of socioinfrastructural generation or degeneration, is shunted aside (to make way for the righteous revolutionary canon), one has only the vagaries of feelings and superstitions to rely upon, which are wholly insufficient for validly and soundly determining what is, and is not, likely to occur in the future. The question of what will happen as pertains to societal development from the post-modern, neoliberal model, what should happen and, what is happening, should not be confused, as all bear some distinct elaboration; at the very least, such a interrogation gives us a expanded roadmap and, at the most, if we are sufficiently creative, will give us precisely what we (that is the domesticated stock) need to see beyond the veiled horizon, beyond the illusory horror of the charnel house, towards a forthright contestation with all external processes which trend to human dissolution.

Sources

  1. Alex Newman. (2014) Embarrassing Predictions Haunt the Global-Warming Industry.
  2. Anthony Watts. (2018) UN Warns Climate Change Will Destroy Earth By 2005.
  3. Che Guevara. (1965) Socialism And Man In Cuba.
  4. Egil Asprem. (2014) The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900–1939.
  5. Francois Laurelle. (2010) Philosophies of Difference: A Critical Introduction to Non-philosophy.
  6. Gordon Clark. (2018) 2100, and the Fundamental Fallacy of Climate Change Predictions
  7. Hartmut Rosa. (2013) Social Acceleration: A New Theory Of Modernity.
  8. Justin Clemens. (2013) Vomit Apocalypse; or, Quentin Meillassoux’s After Finitude.
  9. Kate Marvel. (2018) Slaying The Climate Dragon.
  10. Michael Tennant. Climate Alarmists’ Temperature Data Erroneous and Incomplete, Says Researcher.
  11. Massimiliano Moschetta. (2007) Carlo Michelstaedter: Persuasion and Rhetoric.
  12. Peter J. Spielman. (1989) U.N. Predicts Climate Disaster If Global Warming Not Checked.
  13. Peter Stallinga. IPCC Climate Predictions Continuously Fail.
  14. Thomas J. Harrison. (1991) Carlo Michelstaedter and the Metaphysics of Will.
  15. Tomislav Sunic. (2017) Titans Are In Town: A Novella And Accompanying Essays.
  16. The Invisible Committee. (2009) The Coming Insurrection.
  17. Wouter J. Hanegraaf. (2017) The European New Right Doesn’t Get It Right: The Danger Of Manichean Historiography.
  18. Yuk Hui. (2018) On Cosmotechnics: For a Renewed Relation between Technology and Nature in the Anthropocene

1Strength and weakness are here utilized in a general capacity, encompassing the total human animal, not merely physical acts such as lifting or running.

2Carlo Michaelstaedter, Persuasion & Rhetoric, p. 68-69.

3This is not a overstatement, for in 2006 scientist, James E. Lovelock published a speculative work entitled, The Revenge of Gaia, which popularized the notion of positive feedback loops in earth’s climate system which has since formed the core of contemporary climate disasterism (ie. a run-away hothouse earth). Important to note is the distinctively anthropomorphic quality of Lovelock’s title as the tendency to treat complex non-organic systems as agents (who invariably behave very similarly to humans) is widespread amongst climate activists and ecologists and environmentalists more generally.

4Kate Marvel. (2018) Slaying The Climate Dragon.

5UNEP is the United Nations Environmental Programme.

6Che Guevara. (1965) Socialism And Man In Cuba.

‘Defamation Factory’ Now Available

Defamation Factory: The Sordid History of the ADL by Kaiter Enless (preface by Tomislav Sunic) from Reconquista Press is now available on Amazon. It is the only book which documents the colorful history of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, from its founding in 1913 amidst the furor surrounding the trial of Leo Frank, all the way up to their present campaigns of internet censorship, in detailed chronological order. The book is presently available in paperback format.

Defamation Factory Full Cover
Full jacket cover for Defamation Factory.

Pick up a copy from Amazon or Book Depository.

 

Philosophy Circular 8/18/18

W E E K L Y   P H I L O S O P H Y


ARTICLES

Historian and philosopher Richard Carrier has penned a fascinating article – Could Be A 38% Chance We Are The Only Civilization In The Known Universe – discussing a paper on the possibility of presently existing, otherworldly civilizations, that is EM-radiating societies. Carrier’s principal point of reference is Dissolving The Fermi Paradox by Anders Sandberg, Eric Drexler and Toby Ord of the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University. One of the more interesting ideas expounded upon by Carrier is that “maybe civilizations all reach a point when they don’t radiate [signals which are perceptible by instrumentation].” Quite a bit of background in the Drake Equation, the Fermi Paradox and the monograph of Sandberg et al. is required, but for those who take a interest in the extraterrestrial, it is worth combing through the necessary back-catalogue.

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The Drake Paradox is a argument based upon probabilities which seeks – through their utilization – to determine the number of “active” extraterrestrial civilizations within the Milky Way galaxy. The Drake Paradox was formulated by the American astronomer & astrophysicist, Dr. Frank D. Drake.


BOOKS

I have recently finished reading David Peak’s The Spectacle Of The Void (Schism Press, 2014), which, though brisk and, perhaps a little underdeveloped, was a truly fantastic text. The beautifully covered 96 page book principally concerns the inter-relational development of philosophy and horror fiction and why certain forms of fiction “work” in the domain of the macabre, unsettling or terrifying. Through the application of Nietzsche, Bergson, Brassier, Meillassoux, Kristeva and others, Peak examines, sometimes briskly, sometimes in detail, a procession of horror creators such as Dante, Brian Evenson, Roman Polanski, H.P. Lovecraft, John Carpenter, Laird Barron, Georges Bataille and many more. I was pleased to see the film Martyrs (one of the most unnerving films of the 2000s) receiving a sizable and fascinating exegesis in the tome.

voidsphere
“Reality is not what it used to be – this has never not been true.” —David Peak

The general thesis is that the trend in horror has been away from the particular and towards the all-encompassing, from known threats to the unknown. From being-thought-of-as-such to being-without-thought; to encapsulate and instantiate this uncovered progression in horror lit, Peak advances the notion of “the horror reality” (as typified in Martyrs or In The Mouth of Madness) as the new paradigm. It is no longer the masked killer one most fears, or even planetary extinction, it is knowledge itself. Some truths, as they say, are best kept secret. The Spectacle Of The Void is more descriptive than proscriptive and ends without really coming down upon whether the reification of this “horror reality” is bad or seemingly paradoxically, good; that being said, its potency (and utility for writers) lies in its ability to explain why and how a piece of fiction achieved its effect and thus, how one can also do the same. Highly recommended and the best of the week.


VIDEO/AUDIO

Having seemingly shed the rebarbative snake-skin of Randian Objectivism, Alex Epstein continuously impresses me in his on-going discourses upon energy (a subject which has been covered before in-depth on this website) and human-centered thinking. Ever since the 70s, various different “green” or “environmental” movements have sprung up, one of the most profligate (and often implicit, rather than explicit) today is the notion of deep ecology, the idea of the total equalitarian nature of all life on the planet seems to permeate in every single widespread discussion, almost regardless of the initial topic of the discussion itself.

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As a consequence, the centrality of energy infrastructure to civilizational integrity has fallen by the wayside in popular discourse; worse still is the fact that the environment without-us is increasingly becoming the paradigm (which is, I have argued before, intrinsically suicidal), thus, it is extremely refreshing to hear Epstein attempt to reframe the entire discussion in terms of what is good for us, rather than what is good for some nebulous conception such as “mother nature” (blatant anthromorphism) or “the environment” (which is just muddy, as it says nothing about particular ecosystems or indeed, arcosystems). The video below showcases many of Epstein’s central arguments concerning energy and anthropocentrism and was filmed at the 2018 Energy Disruptors conference. Long, but well worth it.

 

“Energy is the industry which powers every other industry.”

– Alex Epstein


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The Iron Garden: Part.12

Campaign

Angela Vikander stood anxiously upon the balcony of her expansive highrise, overlooking the main thoroughfares of the city. She wanted a cigarette badly but had decided to quit, a move to improve her image; it had been Erlen’s idea. Vikander cursed her campaign manager under her breath. Damn him. Why the hell do I need to quit smoking? No potential voters is going to know or much care what the fuck I do in private. No one cares what people do in the privacy of their own homes. Look at those genderqueer freaks… no one bats an eye any more about them and their bizarro protests, their period fetishes… any sane person would gag seeing those loons. Yet you see the news hen-pecking them, Erlen? Fuck no. No one gives a shit.

These were inappropriate thoughts, she well knew, thoughts which, if given voice, would sink her campaign almost as quickly as the CAF albatross which had been thrown about her neck. Everything was coming apart at the seams. She inhaled deeply and leaned against the cool steel of the balcony as a voice echoed from behind.

“You look a little stressed. Did I come in at a bad time?”

She turned to address Erlen Straik. He was a short, thin man, with immaculately styled hair, designer glasses and a swooning way of moving that Vikander had always found infuriatingly effete and affected.

“No. What is it?”

“You need to see this.”

He moved to the table in the middle of her make-shift conference room and laid out a news article. The headline read: CAF Attacks Art Gallery. What Part Did Vikander Play?

Angela sighed, “That from The Trumpet. They’ve been pro-Layne since he announced his campaign.”

As Straik pulled his phone out of his pocket and swiped the screen, illuminating his face with dim, blue light.

“That isn’t all, it gets worse.”

He showed her a online article from his news-feed, the title read: Prominent Democrat Backer, Damien Holt Declares End of Support For Vikander Campaign.

“That bastard… He didn’t even call me!”

“It’s pretty bad. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way but… what were you thinking? Arguing with Layne in the middle of a public gala?”

“He made a snide remark. When he saw me he smirked like the smug fuck he is and said, ‘Surprised to see you here, figured the Epstein Institute would be more your speed.’”

“I don’t get it. The what-now?”

“The Epstein Institute. Geez, you’re supposed to be my campaign manager how do you not know this?”

“I’ve been busying doing damage control all morning. So sooorry.”

“Don’t do that.”

“What?”

“That bitchy little lisp thing.”

Straik shook his head and then looked to the would-be mayor once again.

“So why’d this make you angry again?”

“The Epstein Institute is some weird art center, all contemporary abstract stuff, you know, paintings of white squares and statues of police men beating immigrants, all either on-the-nose or political propaganda or some kind of “deep” art that is beyond everyone but the artists who make them.”

“So he was saying you were a pretentious snob?”

“God you’re slow… yes, Erlen, he was implying I was a pretentious snob. So I made some quip back at him, I can’t even remember what I said, it was all a blur – the doctor put me on these shitty pain meds, been messing with my short term memory –  anyways, we were there arguing one moment and then those CAF freaks broke in and-”

“Those CAF ‘freaks’ are some of your biggest supporters.”

“Unfortunately.”

“Their vote is as good as any. Besides, we can turn this to our advantage. We already know how this is going to play out.”

“Do we? I was never much of a student of history but the one thing that I learned from reading it is that assumptions concerning the future almost never pan out accurately.”

“Almost. Pretty big almost.”

“Ever heard of Nostradamus?”

“Who?”

“Nevermind. So what’s rattling about that devious brain of yours?”

“Well, like I was saying, we know how this is going to play out because we know Layne and his base. Nativist populism almost always manifests itself in the exact same way. They’ll say that CAF are terrorists, that they’re threatening the public’s safety – especially after the recent cold-cocks which Layne’s taken – and they’ll try to directly tie you to CAF so that you take responsibility. So we can then say that if you are to be blamed for the unurged actions of your supporters, then Layne must be blamed for the actions and words of the actual Neo-Nazis and fascists which support Layne. We just have to be sure that we pound the table the loudest.”

Vikander nodded in silent affirmation before responding.

“Put out a memo.”

“You should also probably drop this thing with Partridge.”

“The fuck I will.”

“You can’t beat him in the press.”

“We’ll see about that.”

“Why are you so dead-set on getting to him anyways? Because he supports Layne? I mean, ok, but I just don’t get it.”

“Lynder Partridge is one of the most influential people in this city, he’s the one who put Layne up on the pedestal he now precariously occupies. If Partridge goes down in flames, so does Layne.”

“I don’t know that that is necessarily true. I mean, Layne has kinda become his own thing. His supporters – I mean his die-hard supporters – at this point would follow him for him not because of his big backers or even for the change they think he can bring.”

“Yes, all those slavering “patriots” consider him their dear, little leader… But he’s not really in control. He’s just a puppet.”

Erlen gave a sudden wry chuckle.

“Aren’t we all?”

The Iron Garden: Part.11

The knock came late at night, sharp and sudden as the deluge that followed it. Skies loosed their astral tears upon the tumble-down motel as Afua stirred and wrapped her aged bones in a tattered shawl.

“Who is it?” Kojo rasped from the bed adjacent her own.

“I don’t know.”

“Well go and see, woman.”

She nodded dutifully and rose from her bed in the left corner of the motor inn and rubbed the sand from her eyes as thunder roared in the distance with Apophitic fury. Pulling back the curtain no forms revealed themselves to her. Nothing and no one stood beyond in the frigid downpour that coated the gray gravel drive beyond the abode’s confines in a sheen grayer still. She looked through the view-hole of the door and beheld a tall man standing in the rain, he wore a dark navy ball cap low over his face and a albescent jacket of white with red geometric patterning upon the shoulders and elbows. Afua straightened and raised her voice, taking care to abate the fear that rose within her soul.

“Who is it?”

The door caught her in the face from the man’s kick with such ferocity that it took the frail old woman off her feet, the whole of the world spinning to a singular blur; nothing but motion, sound and endless fright. Kojo leapt up from his bed and lunged for the lamp which stood upon the nightstand adjacent the bed. With a grunt of exertion he swung the artifact at the intruder’s head but connected only with the powerful right hand of the intruder who ripped it from Kojo’s own and dashed it back against the wielder. Kojo staggered which gave the trespasser all the time he need to swing a haymaker into the dark man’s gut. Kojo dropped to his knees, recovered and with a howl of rage charged the entrant. The tackle drove the intruder up against the wall, from some hidden belt-sheath the intruder produced a black-glistening combat knife and drove it into Kojo’s shoulder, retracted it and then kicked the African in the gut where the punch had previously landed. Kojo fell to one side, gasping for air and bleeding out upon the carpet, groaning in pain.

“What do you want!” Kojo sputtered, straining against the searing sensation in his clavicle.

The man with the combat knife did not answer. His ghastly xanthous eyes shining through the dark, his body ferine in the flashing emergence of the tempest. Lynx-like in its limber austerity.

“We have n-nothing! We’re poor. There is nothing to take here. We have nothing!”

At last the man responded.

“You have your lives.”

Kojo, eyes wide and breath erratic, sprang for the door as the xanthous eyed man made to piece his spine with the deadly blade. Before he could reach his quarry the old woman latched on to his leg, crying hysterically. The blade whisked through the air, slicing nothing but shadows.

“He’s all I have! He’s all I have!”

The woman distracted the xanthous-eyed man just long enough for Kojo to make his escape and vanish into the gravel drive, now fogged by skyfall. Spiraling black arms and expanded brown eyes and the sound of rain and footfalls of the harried and then Kojo was gone.

The man turned and watched Kojo flee; Afua could see a strange sigil upon the back of jacket as he crooked. A red and mathematically perfect chrysanthemum. Then the man with the chrysanthemum jacket returned his attention to the old woman and removed a small drawing from his back pocket. It was the artwork of a child, drawn in crayon, it depicting a scene of three adults and a little brown boy. One of the figures born a considerable resemblance to Afua herself. The drawing was signed: Adam. Afua began to cry again, shaking her head, eyes shuttered, grasping the man’s leg in vain entreaty.

“He was a cursed child!” She looked up pleasingly into remorseless yellow eyes, “We h-had no c-choice… no choice…”

“There’s always a choice.”

Then he plunged the knife through the top of her skull.

*

Kojo pulled over at the curb of the highway which let back into the city, cursing under his breath and attempting to calm the frenzied buzzing of his mind. He looked to his bleeding shoulder and rummaged in the glove box, pulling out the bottle of rubbing alcohol he’d kept there for Adam who had sometimes cut himself playing around town in the rubble of The Tombs or the ramshackle odds-and-ends of the Old Wharf. A momentary grief seized him and the whole of his consciousness began to shatter as a building rent by the roaring earth. Tears filled his eyes as poured the liquid upon the wound, half from the searing pain, half from memories and dreams remembered. He closed his eyes and leaned heavily against the leather upholstery of the car-seat and thought of Afua and Adam and their times together and of his homeland, the harsh and overbearing light of the suns upon the Safari and the chattering of his fellows where they had gathered around a late-night campfire and told stories up unto the moon and of the warnings of the wise oracles and of the witch doctor from Uganda who he had once conferred with and of the Evil Forest where he had buried three children at the behest of the concoction men of his village in Bongo. He had resisted – at first – but the elders had convinced him that administration of the poison was all that could dissuade the evil spirits. He knew they were right. Knew way back then that what he had done, no matter how trying, was necessary to secure the welfare of his family lest they starve in the coming of hard times. He was less sure now of the validity of the elder’s wisdom. At length he collected his wits and dug his cell phone out of his pocket and punched in a number, the call was answered in a matter of moments.

“Yes?”

“It’s me. Someone is after me.”

“I fail to grasp how that concern us.”

“Karol owes me. He owes me after everything I’ve done for him. I need help.”

“Whoever doesn’t?”

The line clicked off to silence. Kojo looked to his phone in disbelief and then gave a howl of despair and slammed the steering wheel with his rough and battered hands and then fell silent as the downpour redoubled beyond the stuttering, little machine.

At length he stilled the raging flux of inner mind and pulled off the curb, vanishing into the pall of the rain-cloaked waste. Back to the city.

The Iron Garden: Part.10

*

Kojo sipped whiskey out of a mason jar and then stubbed out his cigarette in a small, tin peach can as the fan whirred about his head, fanning the air and a mechanical waspish whirring out into the cloister of the old, decaying motel. The inn straddled the intersection of The Tombs and the docks, near to Vandemburgh’s principal thoroughfare and the great bridge which let out of the city altogether. Afua was crying again. Head in her hands. Such behavior came and went in sudden spasms, like the ebb and flow of the lunar-tide. She sat now, bleary-eyed and muscle-tense, a bag of bones and sorrow, in the far left corner of the sparsely decorated living room. Kojo lit up another cigarette, ignoring the woman’s plight. He’d quite enough of it. Was tired of it.

“Adam… my little Adam.”

“Adam is gone. Your tears won’t reach him.”

“How can you be so cruel?”

“He was a cursed child.”

The woman shook her head. Though she agreed, she was loathe to admit it.

*

The television flicked as the news anchor read from the teleprompter, “Good evening, I’m Ted Braston with News Tonight. First, our special report, and I must warn you this report contains graphic images which you may find disturbing. A mysterious fire has engulfed the Johnson Tenements of Lowtown, sometimes known half mockingly as The Tombs, in the eastern district of the city of Vandemburgh. Two bodies were recovered from the smoldering remnants. One has been identified as Edward Joseph Brine, a member of the Counsel of Human Rights. The second, Catherine Reilly, a student of the Vandemburgh Institute of the Arts. What was most bizarre was that both individuals were confirmed to have died before the fire. Reports from the scene state that Ms. Reilly died of burns from a propane operated steel-cutting device of high industrial grade. Brine’s cause of death was also due to this same device which was found at the scene. Both were found chained and bound, we will spare you the… truly horrifying details. The Vandemburgh police department have stated that the fire was caused by leaking gas from the stove which was turned on by a person or persons unknown. Upon the wall was carved the words: Fire finds the filth. Only one bystander, Liet Harkness, a independent journalist working out of Midtown, was there immediately after the explosion and saw a man walking away from the tenement, they exchanged words and then the man walked away. It is believed that this man was the one who caused the fire. A police sketch is currently being compiled and we will keep you updated as the story develops-”

The phone rang like a gunshot, drawing the man with the chrysanthemum jacket’s attention away from the TV screen. He reached over to pick up the phone on the table adjacent the bed upon which the watcher sat. Placing device to ear. A mechanically distorted voice issued forth.

“Reckless behavior. They’ll have your face, sooner or later. You know what this means. Go subtlety in future endeavors.”

Then a hissing; the line went dead.

The man with the chrysanthemum jacket nodded in affirmation of the order and then gingerly hung up the phone. After a moment of contemplation he shifted upon the bed, sitting bolt-straight, legs firmly braced to the floor and returned his attention back to the television screen where the news still played. The anchor had moved on to the next story.

“Well, there was a bit of a dust-up today at a art gallery of all places. For the past ten years, the Partridge art gallery has held an annual gala featuring the work of a hand-selected group of talented, up-and-coming artists from all around the city. The most recent gala debuted the work of three students from the Vandemburgh Institute of the Arts but it wasn’t them or their work which caused the uproar. As many watchers will known, its election season and the two principal candidates for mayor are Angela Vikander, a democrat known for her environmentalism and pro-migration, open borders advocacy and Aiken Layne, a member of the republican party who some would call a paleoconservative, others a reactionary and others still, a out-and-out fascist. Both are controversial figures in their own right and both have personal scores to settle, as they’ve a long history of public disagreement. When both appeared at Lynder Partridge’s gallery a argument quickly erupted between the two prospective politicians. Some members of a grassroots political movement called, Citizens Against Fascism, otherwise known as CAF, then entered the building and a brawl quickly broke out. Reports from the scene stated that they had targeted the gala because they believed it housed what they called, ‘Fascist art.’ Our reporter from the event, Andrea Azikiwe, has more on the story.”

The screen split and a middle aged and dark skinned woman with dreadlocks and massive gold earrings appeared upon the screen adjacent the prim reporter. “Thanks for that Ted. I’m here at the Partridge Museum of the Arts with Brandon Chase, the son of steel magnate, Edmund Chase and one of the artists whose work was being exhibited during the brawl. So, Mr. Chase, can you explain what exactly happened here?” A tall, muscular blond man with a winning smile and bright, twinkling eyes and the clothes of a trust-funder sauntered into screen, the whole of his form forcibly amiable and open.

“Yeah. Well, I was just standing in before my exhibit, talking with some of the fine folks here at the gala, speaking about my work, my inspirations, art history, business and so on and so forth when Mr. Layne walked in, that is, Aiken Layne-”

“Your father, Edmund Chase, is friends with him as I understand.”

“Uh, sort of, honestly I’m not really sure. My father doesn’t really share a whole lot of his work with me, they’re familiar though, yeah. Did some business together and, because of that, I went over to say hello, before I could even reach him Angela Vikander came over and started arguing with Mr. Layne. Very nasty. And then, out of nowhere, a bunch of people, well I should just call them what they were, thugs, busted into the gala, all in black, red bandannas around their mouths, like half-masks. Some of them wore sunglasses too, I imagine to protect their identity. And they just started shouting and stomping around. I kinda thought they were drunk at first. Aiken called for security – they had apparently waited until the doorman went to use the restroom before entering – and so security came up and someone threw a punch. Honestly happened so fast I don’t know who struck first, the protesters or the guards, but a bit of a fight broke out and it kinda spilled over into the gallery patrons who you can see are still behind me over here and there. Absolutely crazy stuff. I mean, I understand that everyone is a little heated right now over this political race and some of the crime that has occurred and, ya know, other stuff, all that stuff, but everyone just needs to take a deep breath and calm down.”

The man with the chrysanthemum jacket looked on, unblinking, unmoved by the words and images upon the screen. He heard the words, processed them and began to wonder of the lives of the art patrons and the artists and the politicians and the protesters and the security guards who had repelled them. The grand wheel of their lives and the delicate weave that bound them all together seemed superbly laid out before him, in the endless sprawl of his mind’s eye. Floating. High above the city, far beyond his body where it sat upon the bed, so small and weak and susceptible to the vicissitudes of time. He imagined the soothing caress of the wind, the buffeting moisture of the wastrel clouds and the thunderclaps in the distance, clattering away like the war drums of some olden god, nameless and terrible. Down below the endless sky, the city prominent, glistening with muted radiance and seeping up out of the ground like some aberrant and mechanical mycelium. Rooftops vanished and the lives of nine million squirming souls were laid bare before him, as a ant-hill cleaved in twain. There they were, naked and clothed, lazing and productive, scheming and bequeathing, hurting and helping, lying and fucking. Killing. Killing. Killing. Nine million swelled to ten and from ten to twelve, twelve to twenty and on and on the city swelled until the limbs wild twisted up against glass panes and fences, forced by other bodies, eventually spilling out unto the street and ghettoizing. Money war, religious war, class war, ethnic war, race war, war for fun and for living space within what they were told what was already their own living space. More rarely, a war against lies. Even deeper than the surface strata was a hundred billion, billion different tunnels leading to a billion, billion worlds, all ever-shifting, turning, inverting, vanishing and re-emerging. Phonelines and wirelines and wireless trajectories of ascent and spread and interwebs within cybernetic systems that were as much a part of the hyper organism as the flesh and blood which had built them. The man thought that some foreign interstellar intelligence, if ever they had or would chance upon humankind, like as not, would view cities as a biologist might regard a coral reef, seeing only the surface structure and failing to grasp, upon first glance, those intricate and tiny begins which wormed within, sustaining it.

At length he broke from his reverie and stalked to the middle of the apartment floor and bent his body out in a straight-line, allowing himself to topple, face-fist, towards the floor, halting his fall with powerful arms before he struck the carpet. Two hundred push-ups later he showered in silence and contemplated the stillness of infinite space.

The Iron Garden: Part.9

Hunter

The tenement was tumble down and filthy, located in the decaying heart of the slums which its denizens had unceremoniously dubbed, The Tombs, and was covered over with discarded papers and the remnants of the rain. The man who stood before the door was thankful for the rain; it washed away the filth and smell. The filth of stale soda and beer and tampons and shriveled up used condoms and the smell of piss, defecation and dead animals now was but faint background, no distraction to the task at hand. He paused at the door as an old drunk stumbled across the trash strewn ambit some fifty paces off, groaning and coughing like a man beplagued. Some kids appeared about the corner of the alley and accosted the doddery rednose, laughing and prodding. They wore chic and spoke with affected slang. None had known hardship. When they noticed the light glinting off the chrysanthemum jacket they paused. The man held their gaze until they turned and left out of the passage, shaken by a placeless fear. Red nosed swiveled to behold what manner of beast had secured his salvation and raised a half empty bottle of vodka in thanks. Footsteps clattered in the din, one set departing the alley, another entering in from the door to the crumbling tenement. When the door opened, the man with the chrysanthemum jacket, looked up into the thin, squinting eyes of a huge man of indeterminable ethnic extraction, some forty years of age.

“Yeah?”

No response. Fist to gut and the big man went dropping to his knees as a knee met his skull. When the big man awoke he was in a damp room that he recognized as his basement. Ropes secured arms and feet to a steel chair bolted to the floor. Beside him was the dismembered torso of a young twenty something. Her blood spread out across the floor; now hard and dry and stucco’d like coral in the foam of the sea. Behind the foam, eyes of topaz glinting in dark.

“The fuck is this?”

The xanthous-eyed man did not reply but rather titled his head upwards all the better to study his subject, fixing the slightly ruffled sleeves and cuffs of his immaculate, white jacket, smoothing them out. Heavy breathing came and went from the chair, small eyes twitching back and forth, side to side, seeking escape in nervous tandem with the arms that strained their bonds. All movements in vain.

There was no escape.

At length the prisoner spoke once more. His desperation increasing with every passing moment.

“Who the fuck are you? What do you want? Did Karol send you? Fuck. Fuck. He did, didn’t he? Its fine. All cool. Tell him its cool. Ok? Tell him. I’ve got the money,” a nervous chuckle, “Eddy Brine has always got the money. Its in the safe. Ok? Ok? You just untie me and I can get it and we can bring it to him together.”

The xanthous-eyed man gazed silently to the bloody, dismembered corpse which hung in suspension from the rafters of the low, musty ceiling, flesh seared from face, breasts melted into stomach and a retching odor filing up out from that horror. The man’s movement was neither a question nor a indictment, but merely a shuffling of consciousness, the renewal of immediacy, the return of the real. Brine squirmed. When the xanthous-eyed man picked up the propane burner Brine gasped. When the flame began vaporizing his hands he screamed. None to hear. None but two.

When the man with the chrysanthemum jacket had extracted all required information and carved his message he turned to the dead woman. She was wearing a bracelet. The small silver ring dangled limply against the small mass of her upper arm out. Xanthous eyes studied it through the gloam and left off out the basement as a stream of vain blubbering echoed from the pit.

“Where are you going? Hey. Hey! Heeeeeey! You can’t fucking leave me like this, you can’t fucking leave me like this! Help! Somebody heeeelllllppp mmmmeeeeee!”

The man with the chrysanthemum jacket moved up to the kitchen. The sink was filled with blood. His eyes widened with boundless intensity and his hand moved to the stove dials. Turned them on, all of them. Gas flooded the room.

*

Liet Harkness spit up his coffee outside the laundromat as the blast rocked the street. A great ball of flame gushed up into the phantasmal horizon and beyond it, resonating a furious howl. Fire glistened above stocky tenements and birds scattered from catastrophe, squawking as if in warning.

“What the-”

He jogged down the shattered sidewalk, to the south, to the heart of The Tombs, past the old industrial factory, now defunct, past the cast-off shop, past the curio where a strange old man watched him from the window and then took a hard left to behold a great c-section housing block consumed in flames. Blackened detritus lined the streets and twisted, exoskeletal re-bar dull-shimmered in the midday light. A figure stood before the building. A man. Of indeterminable age, quite tall and well built and wearing a jacket of white, xanthous eyes half-hidden by a plain navy ball cap, low-pulled over the face.

Harkness took a sip from his paper coffee cup, took a deep breath and walked forth along the thin alley way which let out to the blasted tenement. When the man with the ball cap heard Harkness approached he paused.

“What happened?”

The stranger regarded Harkness keenly a moment before responding and when he did the voice was like mist.

“A star wandered too close to a black hole.”

“The hell does that mean?”

The man with the dark ball cap ignored him and passed by and vanished out the alleyway. When the fog had cleared from Harkness pounding brain he ditched his cup in a nearby trashcan before the alley and ran after the mysterious stranger. Upon emerging out into the street before the tenement only the old man from the curio shop could be seen, starring with vacant eyes.

“Fire hazard. I warned um.”

The Iron Garden: Part.8

Museum

The Partridge Museum was a massive building, a construct more akin to some kind of techno-futurist military compound than the staid and neoclassical constructs of the other buildings surrounding. Clair Andretti stood before the plain, unadorned facade of the massive, brutalist monolith and inhaled deeply. Excited, emboldened and hopelessly nervous. She hated being nervous. Then she passed within the huge, electronically released double glass paneled sliding doors and moved down the wide, onyx tiled foyer, her reflection following like a inter-dimensional shade.

Past the foyer was a gargantuan gallery, of stark white concrete, the floor, like the lobby, all of black stone. The sound of gritty electronica rattled over the massive bio-flow, a modulated moog-wave synth leading the aural assault in undulating filtered crescendos.

Andretti was surprised, she had expected Debussy or Rachmanioff, not EDM. She paused in the middle of the wide, semi-circular gallery and surveyed the jostling crowds. There was Jonas Beach and Brandon Chase, chatting with Hiroko Akane, a second year journalism student from the nearby University. The threesome stood in the center of the vast vestibule, Brandon dashing and randy as ever, Akane, giggling stupidly at his bawdy, purposefully bad jokes and Beach looking to all the world as if someone had placed a squid upon his head despite manifold protestations. In the far right corner, observing a series of speculative architectural drawings was Cole Hathers with a young, curvy woman who Andretti had never seen before. Something about the woman’s ceaselessly dour and drained expression and lifeless, unexcited movements caught Clair’s eye. The fragile little creature drifted past the portraits lining the alabaster walls with the listless moroseness of a funeral mourner, as if every work of art were a soul departed. A lonely sort of passion in which there was some peculiar beauty. Andretti normally detested any woman with a better figure than her own but some nagging fragment of inborn, instinctual sympathy prevented the formation of any such scorn, yet it did make her self-conscious. She looked down at the dress mingling with the body below, ankle-high leather boots, black jeans, tight, black T over which was a thin gray hoodie; wonders on matters of decorum filled the ambit of the thin and frigid creature’s cerebral ambit. At length she determined that it didn’t really matter; all that mattered was that Lynder noticed her and that the crowd noticed her work. An artist was nothing without her public.

Suddenly a figure appeared at the top of the upper landing, peering down at the insignificant host collected in idle study below. Lynder Partridge was of middling height with tar-pitched hair, cut short on the sides and wide at the top, dressed in a black overcoat, tipped at the collar with white fur. His face was pale and sharp, lips, blood-red and his eyes catching the light with the pale glinting of topaz. His posture was slack, yet ferine, as if at any moment he might pounce with sudden and terrible excitation. All about the man, a retinue of wealthy social climbers stood, taking in the crowd below a moment and then raising champagne glasses to lips and moving out their line against the balcony, waiting for their boniface to speak. Suddenly, the music ceased and Lynder raised his smooth, sonorous voice, which echoed throughout the entirety of the hall with regal splendor.

“Greetings and salutations, ladies and gentlemen, I am so pleased to see you gathered here before me for this momentous occasion. Now, to some, the unveiling of a series of drawings and paintings means little enough. They’re just pictures after all. Same as any other. But we understand the truth of it, that these are no ordinary pictures, because such pictures were not crafted by ordinary hands. Nor were they conceived of by ordinary minds. They were conceived and forged by visionaries and dreamers, by those bold enough to ask the question: Of what use is the art which does not ceaselessly seek to force life to imitate it? And to respond: None. To no one! So, without further adieu, it is my great joy and pleasure to introduce you to our three newest additions to the gallery, Jonas Beach, Brandon Chase and Clair Andretti!”

He gestured one by one to the three young artists as he spoke their names and upon finishing, the crowd erupted into applause. After the applause had died away, Partridge continued, raising a glass of sparkling moscato and smiling cheerily.

“To our new friends health and the flourishing of all!”

Those below who had glass in hand raised their goblets and toasted likewise with a practiced ritualism, as if this were some lauded tradition. Clair was surprised at how reverent the response was, how sacral and mirthful the unfolding of the scene was. After Partridge had finished his toast he moved to the leftmost stair and, along with his cortege, descended to the gala floor as the museum goers moved about from alcove to alcove, gazing with wonderment at the elaborate sketches and illustrations, of charcoal and graphite and paintings of multifarious palettes and sculptures of brass and marble, alabaster and quartz. As the crowd dispersed out across the great U shaped ambit of the gallery Lynder coolly traversed the clacking marbled floor with a broad smile, crystal goblet held up beside his breast like a royal scepter.

He paused a respectable distance before the young woman, inclining his head, low, but not too low, as if greeting some lesser nobility.

“I’m so pleased you could make it, Ms. Andretti.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for all the world,” she cursed herself for such a bubbly and ill controlled response. The excitement was palpable all throughout the school-girlishness of the culled response. The legs close together, arms clasped together before nubile, lolling breasts, mouth slightly parted in a innocent and attemptedly beguiling smile, teeth white enough yet slightly yellowed by a penchant for coffee and sweets, eyes twinkling with longing and admiration. All of it ostentatiously performative. Clair cursed herself doubly at the visuality of the scene which anteceded the mental formations. I look like I’m trying to show off my bust. Like I’m trying to fuck the teacher. What disturbed her further was the uncertainty concerning whether or not that was necessarily false. Lynder was unaffected and wholly unconcerned with the impression he’d made upon the young artist as well as the impression which she attempted to make upon him. His bright eyes and sharp features impassive, unsettlingly opaque. The industrialist raised his free hand and gestured to one of his footmen who stood dutifully behind his master with a tray of silver upon which several glasses of champagne, half filled, rested.

“Would you care for a drink? Celebration without libation is such a sorry thing.”

Clair nodded thoughtlessly accepted one of the small, dainty glasses from the footman. She would have preferred some whiskey or Cognac in a fine little snifter but felt it rude to refuse. At any rate, she was thirsty.

“Walk with us, Ms. Andretti, I shall introduce you to my friends as we do so and you can tell us of your current and future projects as we admire the fruits of endeavors past.”

She wordlessly obeyed, fascinated, not just by the tumbling and spinning surroundings but also by Lynder’s catlike and slinking gait, an easy cavorting, a languidity rare amongst the tense and squeaming populace. Introductions were made; first Clair was acquainted with Jill Habermass, a nebbishy and elderly curator for the Institute of Urban Design, next Danny Price, a fiery, youthful mestizo and the owner of Price Construction, the second largest construction company in the city, then Domnal Eins, a middle-aged man of indiscernible ethnic extraction who did something with marketing analytics and crypto-currencies that eluded Andretti’s ken and, lastly, Mariana Ester, the chief officer of the Vandemburgh Consortium of History and Heritage. They all asked a plethora of questions about Clair’s life, half-disinterested but obliged, the rest genuine; they asked of her upbringing and whether or not she was seeing someone and what got her into art and what she wants out of life and what she thought of the heated political campaigns of the ongoing mayoral race. Clair answered all of the questions in vaguest and most passing and from-the-hip of fashions, trying to give as little away about what she actually believed on any given topic as possible; largely succeeding.

“Deplorably perfunctory!”

Lynder erupted suddenly, waving a hand in the air as if dispelling some arcane conjuration. All present fell silent as he spun upon them, expression showing mild disappointment and motioned to Clair’s panel alcove which occupied the leftmost portion of the great U of the gala. “It is of her work itself that you have come, for that is what is on display, not the woman herself. Tell me, Mr. Eins, what do you make of that one,” Partridge gestured to an enormous, hyperrealistic drawing of a futuristic cityscape with multiple layers, each of which was suspended above the other and each serving a distinctive function; the bottom layer for agriculture and food production and waste disposal, the second layer for transportation and distribution, the third for housing and socialization and the fourth for governmental administration and aerial defense.

“I’m not sure I understand it.”

Lynder’s face phased back into utter opaqueness.

“Then it wasn’t for your understanding. I find it most wondrous. Past patterns for future eventualities. The present is nothing without its visionaries.”

Clair was struck by the intensity of his tone, despite his ostensible lack of expression. He looked to the elaborate drawing as if it were some sacred image, a totemic idol of direst consequence. The young woman’s technical skill had been impressive from an early age and her choice of subject had long been lauded, but no one, not even her most admiring professors, had ever spoken of her work with such sacral appreciation. It caused her heart to flutter and a smile of self-satisfaction to ever so briefly flicker across her smooth, colorless face.

“Clair, Mr. Partridge, other, uh, people-to-whom-I-haven’t-yet-been-introduced, hello,” Brandon Chase sided up behind the gathering, Jonas and Hiroko Akane trailing, nervously, uncertain of whether or not they should speak.

“Ahhh, Mr. Beach, Ms. Akane and the dashing Mr. Chase,” Lynder enjoined warmly, “So good of you to finally join us. From the looks of the crowds surrounding your respective works, I’d say that your public has properly found you. Most wonderful!”

“Yes, yes, well, I’m all for an admiring public but goodness these people are chatting my ears off.”

“The graphic artist is not nearly so lauded as the film star but both, upon finding sufficient celebrity, will quickly come to be the subject of desire for all their envious admirers; it must be realized that the reason for such admiration is not to be found in the actual works, or at least solely within the works of the artists themselves, but rather in the fact that they have achieved such social laddering-up by the creation of such works. Art ever seems easy to those who’ve never had a hand in its creation and thus the public at-large erroneously tend to believe that such a life is one to be envied and so they become envious themselves, failing to realize that were such a life their own they’d despise it with every fiber of their being.”

Eins gave a little chuckle, “That may well be the case but there aren’t a whole lot of artists who make the kind of cash I do on a regular basis, good art requires willful ignorance of the market, otherwise you’ll always be beholden to your audience’s whims, which means that to be a good artist, or at least one with integrity, you’ve gotta take hits to the wallet like a kevlar vest takes bullets, that is, with grit-teeth and frequently.”

Clair felt a welling distaste for the currency trader, she knew his type, trust-fund kid, smart, but not too-smart, educated but not well read and aware of it, always attempting to insert himself into a conversation if there was the possibility of pumping the ego and convincing all the rest of the conversant his intellect leveled up to his bank account.

Lynder didn’t directly respond, instead removing a small, gilded pack of 100s from his inner jacket pocket of his overcoat, lighting up the fag with languor and returning his attention to the artwork of the long, white stand-up panel, expectant of future innervation.

Jill Habermass was the first to pick up where Eins had left off and the two quickly fell into a good natured argument about the relationship of the artist to the market and various metrics of success. It was all rather staid and boring to Clair, who sided up to Lynder where he stood still admiring her work, seemingly unconcerned with the argument spreading out behind him.

“Um, Mr. Partridge.”

“Yes, Ms. Andretti?”

“I just wanted to thank you, personally, for all that you’ve done for me. It really means a good deal to me. So thank you.”

He turned to her and smiled ever so slightly, but his eyes didn’t laugh.

“Unnecessary. Go and met your public. Mingle. Network. Have some fun.”

Without another word Lynder returned briefly to her work and then departed to greet a group of well dressed philosophers from the nearby art school.

Clair turned to behold the crowd behind her which had grown doubly in size since she had moved to stand at the leftmost corner of her selfsame project. Half of the crowd glanced on in wonderment at the intricate series of buildings, her ideal sky-cities and mechanical sprawls, whilst another half had fallen into debate concerning the content of the drawings themselves. Even in art school Clair had very rarely ever seen such boundless vigor for creation nor such interest in its manifold applications. The scene filled her with wonder and mirth even as she moved away from it, wary that her presence and the questioning thereof and of the extrapolation of her creation would someone diminish the exhibit. The feeling pulled the woman back from all crowds and all the artifice of the museum the better to observe the objects and their relations. It was only then she realized the worth of her own work. Drawing, illustration, painting, all had been a venture undergone for the pleasure it generated, for the thing-in-and-of-itself, there, a quandary, for the essence of a thing could never be gotten at. Could not be unearthed by digging. There was no shovel for it. What she sought could not be found by looking. It arrived of its own accord. As if by some alien intelligence.

Lost to time a clacking of soles ruptured her reverie. She turned to behold a familiar face. Aiken’s face. A thick bluish bruise marred his otherwise handsome, blocky face. His eyes were foggy, faraway; a hidden sadness leaking through with jellied light.

“What the hell happened to your face?”

“CAF fanatics. They blind-sided me on my way to the campaign office.”

“Did you file a report?”

“Nah. I probably should. Too busy. Seems like your work is getting the attention it deserves,” he gestured to the crowd still huddled in gentile argumentation around Clair’s exhibit, “I’m glad. Clearly you are as well.”

“What makes you say that?”

“You look happy.”

“Is that so unusual?”

“You want me to answer that honestly?”

She smiled wryly and punched him lightly in the arm. Gaze to gaze, face to face. She wanted badly to kiss him but knew better than to do so in public. Together they walked back to the seething crowds whereupon they crossed paths with Cole Hathers and a dire-eyed young woman with long, dark hair and pure, Italian features.

Cole stopped short, shocked to see his foe standing so comfortably beside someone so well known as Layne.

“You’re Aiken Layne.”

“That’s me. You a friend of Ms. Andretti’s?”

Hathers shot Clair a embarrassed look and ran his tongue quickly across his lower lip as he always did when he was nervous. Clair was pleased.

“I know her from school. From the college. I’m Cole Hathers. Graphic Designer. Uh, this is-”

The young woman cut him off and moved forward with a forced facade of amiability and conviviality.

“Anna Campana. Nice to meet you two.”

One by one in turn, Layne and Andretti took the woman’s hand and shook it warmly. The four shared stagnate conversation, walking in a tandem with the curvature of the great U shape of the gala, from left to right, surveying Clair’s exhibit, then Jonas’, then Chase’s. Upon passing Clair’s work Hathers clenched his fists, lip twitching, upon passing Jonas’ he shrugged, upon passing Chase’s he nodded approvingly as Eins turned greeted a short, garishly dressed blonde.

“Well, well, I didn’t expect to see you here, Ms. Vikander.”

*

Jonas Beach stood before his exhibit. It was a tall white assemblage of three matte panels upon each of which hung his varied works. From somewhere nearby he heard a young woman cackle, “What the heck is this stuff? I thought this place only put out the ‘finest’ up-and-coming artists. Fantasy art… I mean, really? That’s so a decade ago.” Beach could feel his blood pressure rising, his brow furrowing; a serpent of endless rage uncoiling from his reptile brain. The woman was young, pretty and exceedingly banal. She was thin and wore a fake tan. Spray on tan. Cheezy smile. Over-sized and superfluous scarf wound about the neck like a great desiccated python. Eyes blitzed out from marijuana consumption, donned in pop-fashion chic with a fake alligator bag slung about her bare, left shoulder. Cell phone blue-glowing in her free right hand. She was perfectly normal by the standards of the city.

Jonas Beach wanted to bash her face in.

*

Lynder Partridge swilled the last of his champagne with relish from the heights of the second-floor landing overlooking the gala floor. His eyes swept over the teeming multitudes below, stopping upon the unfurling forms of Angela Vikander and Aiken Layne. They were arguing. A throng gathered, some laughing, others enjoining, still others dourly observing in silence. Clair was aghast. Chase looked amused. Jonas was nowhere to be found.

“Well… that was quick,” The footman intoned with mild surprise, “I knew they didn’t like each other but I didn’t expect things escalate like this…”

Lynder handed off the empty glass to his loyal attendant without removing his eyes from the scene of chaos playing out beneath him. Almost instantly a guard walked up to Lynder as the footman departed.

“Mr. Partridge, you’ll want to see this.”

The guard handed off a small digital tablet displaying the security cameras which thronged the outer facade of the museum. Upon the camera-output screens were numerous black-clad CAF members assembling; the motley assortment carried flags and picket signs, a couple had rough-hewn sticks as makeshift weapons. There was no sound but they were clearly chanting in something approaching unison.

Lynder turned to the guard without expression.

“Call security.”

The Iron Garden: Part.7

Anna gazed out the window and watched the people below, so tiny and distance-blurred. It was passe, she recalled, when viewing people from great heights, to say they looked like ants, but they looked like nothing of the kind. They were smaller than that, less vibrant, yet more noisy. How was it they could carry on in so blasé a manner after what had gone before? In a city plagued with religious and political hysteria, crime and murder aplenty, they chugged on as if nothing whatsoever had changed. Perhaps, she pondered, it had not, perhaps she herself was the one who had changed. The thought terrified much as it motivated. She spent the entire morning in her cramped and cheap-paneled apartment loft studying stories of crime all throughout the city, looking up newspaper archives and political blogs and city statistics and federal surveys and think-tanks, combing through every niche and cornice of every relevant information vault for ritual murders and cases of dismemberment and abduction, especially those cases which involved children. She was shocked to discovered that what happened to Adam was far from irregular. It took some digging. Much digging. There had been seven such instances in the past five years. She had heard of none of them. She was further horrified to discover that, despite a profligate number of suspects, absolutely zero arrests had been made in any of the cases. Every single one involved a child, later found dismembered, in three of the seven cases the blood had been drained like as to Adam’s own. When she broadened the search to include adults and teens as well as children the number of murders increased by four to eleven dating back ten years. Ten years. She muttered the words “ten years” to herself, over and over as thoughts crystallized across the mine field of internal cognitive weave, synapses firing like the jarring pistons of a great clockwork machine.

How? How was this even possible? How could so many people just up and vanish? Children no less? Was no one looking after them? Was no one curious what happened? How few must have been aware for this to have gone on so long unchallenged…Did no one care?

Vain thoughts. The asking thereof alone would yield nothing which well she knew, yet still she was compelled. She had to know. For if this had occurred before then the ones who were responsible might well have been responsible for Adam’s death. If she could find a thread and seize upon it then the truth might be made clear.

Suddenly, a ringing. High, shrill and somewhere nearby. Phone. She answered with a harried, “What?”

“You okay, Annie? Haven’t been to work for a couple of days. I called up Mike. He said you were feeling ill. Come down with a bug or something?”

“No. I mean, yes. Yes. Just not feeling very great. I have to go. I’ve got things to do…”

“What? What’s the matter? Come on, you can talk to me.”

“I’ve really got to go.”

“I’m coming over. You’ve got me worried.”

“No. Really its fine. I’m fine.”

“Uh huh. I’m still coming over. I’ll be there in under an hour.”

The phone clicked off into silence. She cursed under her breath. Cole Hathers arrived half an hour later. Anna rose upon his rapping and cries of, “Annie? Its me, Cole. You’ll never believe the traffic. Sea of cars. Everything all backed up.” The door of the loft open under the force of the woman, before he stood a short man, skinny, freckled and red headed. 27 and well dressed for someone so obviously poor, a certain disdainful smugness perpetually playing across his rounded baby-face.

“You doing okay?”

“No. Cole. Frankly I’m not. You know how I sometimes take the cast offs from the Community Center to The Tombs, to the Ghanians there, the migrants.”

“Yeah.”

“One of them was recently murdered,” she watched as his plucky face fell and then moved to her laptop where it lay upon her work table. Turning the screen, Anna gestured to a recent news article from The Vandemburgh Daily which prominently featured a picture of Adam Delle.

“You knew this kid?”

“The boy I told you about. The one who wanted to become an artists… this was him.”

“Fuck. That’s awful. What happened?”

“No one knows. He… h-he was cut up into pieces. Drained completely of blood.”

Cole screwed up his face in visceral disgust, shaking his mane of curly rust colored hair.

“The hell would someone do something like that?”

“The police think… they think it was organ traffickers. Likely from Africa. They’re not sure. There are rumors that Ghanaian migrants from The Tombs are responsible but there’s no proof of anything yet. No one is talking.”

Cole pulled up a chair and sat down beside his friend, eyes affixed to the screen, to the thin black face of the dead boy. He looked quite happy in the photo, a wide, blissful smile breaking out and ruffling the smooth youthful skin, revealing two rows of teeth, crooked, immature and still falling out and growing back in. Anna studied Cole’s face, he wasn’t sad, not really, she could tell by the listlessness about the eyes and the nervous, impatient tapping of his left foot. This wasn’t a issue upon which interaction was desired. He wanted to flee now. Flee back to comforting her. Anger began to boil in her blood, rising up and threatening to tear out of her throat with a harsh vocality. At the last the woman stilled the clangorous ringing of her soul, inhaled and exhaled meditatively; she had to focus, it wasn’t his fault, she told herself, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t his fault. The one to blame was somewhere out there, out beyond her shabby loft, out beyond the soaring apartment complex that sat near the border zone of The Tombs. In that moment, as she looked again to the picture on the screen, observing Cole’s lack of concern and morbid curiosity, she vowed she would find the killer. She would find the one’s responsible and make them pay. Dearly.

At length Cole turned in the creaking, leather-bound swivel chair, his spindly, yet well muscled hands twining together with queasy excitement. He wanted to speak. To comfort his friend. Words failed him. Finally he mustered the courage to vocalize, “You know today is the big unveiling of the new gallery at Partridge Museum. I… I’ve been thinking of going. Would you like to come with me?”

“Yeah, I’d like that. I could use something to take my mind off of,” she gestured at the screen, “All of this.”