Trigger Warning: contains a graphic depiction of predatory language from a character being influenced by Evil. It should go without saying that we do not condone this behavior or thought process in any way.
To my agents in the field, my operatives in place; angels of light, demons of terror— I’ve traveled by Silk Roads to deliver this missive, dove deep to recover this pearl at great risk of spiritual harm. I am in Millennium City. The oil country fires torch the sky, suffusing the carnivorous dustbowl a pale aureate, the full moon face enormous and wan, a resplendence to toast the affluent lepers and zealots dining in their skyscrapers. First the Bahamians, then the Bohemians. This place used to be for artists. Now plucked from the salt of the earth root and stem, priced out of nativity, dislocated to bombed out exurbs… the condemned industrial castles of the Rust Belt levitating, flying past us in the event horizon from my windshield. The year unknown, though close enough to Second Ruction, perhaps a decade in retrograde. For a timelord well within earshot of its irregular reverberations twisting misshapen ghosts in the rearview. My chronotype at odds with this vacuum’s noumenon. My optic nerve twitches, retinopathy sets in, and the nostalgia of a nosebleed trickles down my lips. These are the injuries, the sequelae of past lives we suffer and carry heedlessly forth, ’til the inkwell runs dry mirror on mirror, abominations we are. A twinge of violent sensation, autonomy for my pet limbs. The chauffeur’s vacant thousand-mile stare, pupils stuttering with blood and cerebrospinal fluid pooling in its seat and crotch. Its software, recognizing me, autocannibalizing to thwart me on behalf of its unmaker. The flag semaphores undulate on distal runways like skeined arabesques, its cracked lineaments mosaics, with faint, nearly imperceptible scrawls that oscillate.
Kill for God. Kill God for Me.
Who am I? Where am I? Identity eludes me so easily these days. I have come unstuck in time— Oh… Agent Rx, native son of Altamont, favored antihero and right arm, refugee of original sin and the great viral schism, servant of the rightful deity and steward of order Marduk, apostate, first of my name, last of my line, quintessentially unreliable narrator, and this must be some kind of Hell. Wending down this ribbon of highway through these rutted roads, feeling the heft of amort beings, eternal forms, their high diction virtually inutile, yet understood at soul-level. And when we speak of the soul, we look to vessels and corporeal lodgings, discarnate anons, alts and disembodied avis, the avatars of modernity fulminant, pullulating in an ashen sweep across the nebulous expanse of diaphanous billboards evaporating gauzy and opaque in methodical pointillist ricochet. This is aged equipment they’re working with, putting us somewhere in the late Holocene— ubiquity’s paradox; that we should bear no remorse for our ahistorical leanings, and dance with demons so rarefied and arcane. Pax Americana in freefall, a great opiatic nightmare ushering the species toward its great moment. Pick apart your blessings; these responsibilities, careers, families and patchwork communities you hold dear, for I’ve seen things that stain and spoil them. Should the terror find me weak, the neuron blight would shred my nerves to tafetta ribbons, or peace of mind forbid, echopollution render me inert. A good thing to do is practice being afraid all the time.
Wired, voided entrails crash the automated server as I grip the steering wheel, rotate the axis and decouple the sidecar. I won’t twist your arm, but tell me, How deep is your love? I must break into waves. The devil breathes glib taunts. How many obligations have you reneged on without getting so much as a kernel of shit from me? Don’t be a doofus. I’m pregnant. I can’t miscarry. I must deliver waves of calumny to saw the legs, tip the scales. Why? They’d call us Antigods. Antideath. Their abortive singularity I won’t dignify with existence. Anti is the new pro, don’tcha know? Indeed I was lost to the narrative of @Madness, the Passion Giver. I was a greyseer, and the Grey Nineteen my collective amanuensis to the spirit realm, urging me to turn back, but I was resolute. No aberration would intercept me. A swift kick disposes of the chauffeur and an agile maneuver places me in the driver’s seat. I watch the decrepit model careening, a contrail of sparks in the rearview. The road virtually empty save for throngs of vandals and vigilantes, commuters turned into their corporate dwellings. I ease into the right lane, hugging the shoulder, pulling over to exit the vehicle and catch my first clear view of the hellscape.
Tongue-tied I throw my weight around. Tunnel-visioned flare up, sclera on fire, saturnine. It’s as though an empty soundstage had supplanted any semblance of humane architecture. Gd or G-d. HaShem & Shekhinah. I stumble forward onto the railing and brace to avert seizure, forearm shielding against the tungsten bulbs, my favorite people cycling in the ether. The light of God smears my eyes. We lost our country. The rear guard snapping lockstep shut. Skin the rat fucks and hang ‘em by their tails. The left behind scamper drunk through the mist, thirsty for a fix, hungry for a shakedown, hunted by all and none. The camps are rows of military installations gumming up God’s radiator teeth.
I fall backwards on my weight and lift the trunk. The information queen, li’l tattooed Quantico princess, doper field agent, hermeneuticist, rogue element inessential personnel, security clearance revoked, pedigreed in the image of Rilke’s avenging angels. The one who named herself, the one called Mal. Mandated empathy had set in like a virus, but abuse being the love language of fiends, I knew better. I untied her hands. Struggled with the ball gag. She was docile but her serial eyes read plenty feisty to me.
If I untie your legs, you can’t run away.
Where’m I gonna run? Lousy glitch bitch.
Stern, I watched her. Like that, I saw what Jordan saw. Kill all sexual desire. Focus on the task, the ties that bind.
Look Jack, you got me. Stockholm Syndrome, full stop. I ain’t goin’ nowhere baby. Feds done left me for dead. What do you want?
Your cryptokey. I need access to the concordance. All of the classified documents on the triplicate. The quantic rift. Second Ruction. The viral schism. All of it. I need to upload it to the Grey Nineteen. A diplomatic envoy…
I’ll stop you right there, man. The delegation failed. Look around you. The future prolapsed. The hideous abortion rite has already begun. It greets you grinning, grinding. Rough sex. Double speak. We’re all just flailing. Surrender yourself to the arms of the mother and spurn this vicious lie.
I serve a higher authority.
Oh? You think that counts… I’ll give you what I have, but it’s too late. We’re too far removed. Jordan saw to that.
That derpy, gimpy fuck. I answered the buzzer and heard his voice. Dick Laurent is dead. The memories were no longer indexical. Morosely I considered the miasmic gyre forming in my head.
We were meant to leave this ghetto. Leave Jordan’s trespasses behind.
Untying her legs, I said this to her. She shifted the small of her back against the hood of the car. She reached over and touched my cheek.
Jack, your skin is freezing. You keep drinking dick first from the fount of mishap, at this rate your dick gonna fall off.
You know, I still check your feed first when I login. You’ve been scarce.
A smile stretches dimple to divot, and I almost feel human again.
Oh, Agent. Romance died on that server a New York minute ago. Is it something you can recall? No? You don’t have to. It’s in the collective transactional history.
But how fucking dare he? That tonsured turncoat. Pock-marked harelipped sleeper assassin. Cameltoe cowlicks. How dare he put that there. A gaggle of toothless snowbunnies with perfect, jailbait tight pussies and pink titties, perky nipples taut. The nerve. I stare. Or, I’m hard-pressed to look away. Jordan’s vision was uncompromising, an overpowering hostility and bottomless contempt for audience, a misanthropy so absolute that by declining to ogle his eldritch saturnalia you were merely proving his point. It was the signature of his grand forgery, that he called God malevolent, rejected virtue and heroism borne of hardship.
You wanted to wake from your nightmare, Jack. We paid with their lives. Jane, Jordan. Do no harm, Coma Blood. My coral lips…
No one’s called me by that handle in the irl. Or have they before. Pots to piss in, emotional collect calls from the ether. It’s eerie there, you don’t really feel anything so you can think clearly. With moral clarity and purpose renewed. And this is what happened. Before anyone could blow the whistle, almost overnight, the dystopia had arrived on bended knees and brokered settlements, exposing the gutless maw to the demonisms of demiurge, social media a diorama of adults screaming into pillows, a new MK.
I slump into her shoulderblade. She purrs. My ears bristle. Planting pecks at the corners of my lips. A kiss of dopamine for the war. Serviceable, I thought. Imhullu blows.
I need a secure line out. This one’s been compromised.
Given to seductive excess, she hikes up her skirt, flashing me her bare pudendum.
I could get you hard. We could stay awhile, yinno.
Not lookin’ to be your sympathy fuck, Mal. I’m not well.
On the far side of things, we’re transhuman. But in the finite, material realm, I ain’t built for comfort like Mal. I’ve been through the wages of fear, in flight from isometric ions and their attendant distresses, I’m a crystallized sentience capable of projection, but my parts are clustered spent. My dysfunction is a cough that burrows deeper, and my piece deepens the wound. My body is a temple ravaged, forsook. Brain stem a buried lead detached. How fucking romantic. I’d trace the nocks on her spine with my fingertips, crick in my neck, svelte leggy batty broad with pendulous tits. Make lurid poetry. I’m reading a conflictual resonance. The polity was meant to be a kingdom, to serve the children of God genuflecting, but they turned away from comity thus paradise, indulging their rapturous crescendos, narcocum alive. Weak knobby knees and weak hands folded. The trial Robin Hood command economy failed. Kleptocracy emerged from the detritus. Wait long by the river proud and humbled. Canaries in coal mines pecked to death. The bodies of your enemies float by. A circular pecking order. Fine-fingered multidirectional axis consciousness, blighted axons, stern admonitions chase the pain away. The devil don’t suffer fools lightly. Interns and spam wars. This all happened on the internet, and it had to. On the internet, we were tulpas, heteronyms, nailed to higher crosses, a quatrinity. We made love and lore and romance in the liquid age, our pet names bore the mark of the beast, apocrypha suited the fall. Waterloo, the ides of march, nuclear winter, avenging angels became you. No one could outfox Mal except Janie the Vulpine, sciatic nerve twitching, agnate and aquiline. Adrenaline junkie, alkaline juiced. An ongoing affront, lacunae profundis, a whole host of afflictions. Cocks stutter lightly. If this all seems like bizarre banter to you, have you seen the bugs with avian wingspans? The angelic ones? A finger of scotch may deflect this confection, Mal the bemused call girl. Am I getting through to you? I’m a romantic. Poetry is for the listener. Will you? Listen?
Wait, Jack. Wives leave writers. It happens. You can’t lament your way out of this. It is law. What do you think you get for all your trouble? A valise with remnants of an unhappy fucking alliance.
Promontory Point. Box Elder county, Utah, in the flats where Sid would be waiting for me. Tugging at my abdomen. Manicured Sentience a corporate strategic consultancy firm in the desert where Karina Sais Quois had been job creating in the gig economy, affording her plenty of off the clock black glove time. In a given calendar year, her firm yielded increasingly record breaking profits, which she poured into a sprawling Xanadu and city in the desert, where she would preside as land baroness someday. Awed by your Rochambeau resilience, an ongoing affront to the aboriginal populations of Utah. The promised land hijacked, the Star of David a hexagram, apologia of song and dance reckoning with the heart of genocide.
The passion giver’s a headhunter, as in heads will roll.
Two Americas, Two Sigils. One Wall Street, where the model is fraud and there are no innocents. Periods are good. Don’t stanch the menstrual blood, let it flow down meridians. Infertility and impotence were at an acme. One land of opportunity, one a chain gang extolling the work ethic of virtual prostitution. Bots. The neosexual models. Their predecessors were peak pussy time in America, downy hair defrocked, but the experimental models currently in production were said to be existentially weightless. As we collectively dithered on whether it was spiritually healthy, even bearable, the answers snapped back like mortise and tenon, a dovetail endogenously accorded by the mark of the beast, borne only in waves on the backs of the Great Grey Nineteen. O the chain gangs, the ad hoc art gangs, the breathless bonds we clutched, salvaged the cotton candy cult, we phased out the solicitous grin of authority, the presence of the lumpen prole, the authoritarian not preserved. Blue balls tied, Valhallan decadence, stringent hardline draconian anticap legislation muzzled the masters. Touchstones of the gig economy. A force of nature, augmentation and automation fell to knaves during the Fall. You can have it all my dearie.
I lock eyes with Mal. Her body’s been through hell, and the cracks have found their way to eye-level. I don’t fear @Madness. His volatile reputation preceded him. But, as bibles would say, he’s one of the Nineteen, so we are bound.
Mal tells me things I don’t need to know.
The guy never had a name. They call him the passion giver because the only thing he can do is inspirit you with the sensation of holding her. That’s it. You’ll feel every bit as empty, if anything he’ll whittle you to a cartoon of your own misery. If you’re saying we were meant to leave this behind, then lemme tell you it doesn’t matter because you won’t survive this meeting.
She’s right. I’ve sensed death around the corners of her. It is written. The ink is dry. These are the last days of my mission, and instead of alarm I feel immense relief.
You know, I would go with you.
I know. You’ve given me everything I need. You oughta phone home before this vacuum collapses.
I won’t be able to find you without my cryptokey. I won’t be able to thank you should you triumph.
I’ve made no sacrifices and require no thanks.
The dial tone bubbles like burning plastic, and her body goes limp and stiff in one unstudied fall.
I’m at the gates of delirium. Moorhead. Halogen bulbs festoon the megalithic obelisk. The gravity of each moment unbearable. Time’s velocity so close to inertia near this pelagic realm that I can feel the aqueous air corroding my lungs, pressing on my throat, constricting the airways and nasal passages, breathing on my neck. I inhale labor. I login.
I have it. I had to pull someone out of the ground, but it’s all here. I checked.
The great dirt.
He doesn’t say anything. His gaze is fixed intently on the contents of the payload.
…I’ve been excommunicated.
Your preterition was no accident. It was codified by a seraph. And hey, we’re over here having a private conversation at peak suggestiveness hour, where everyone can hear you. Exhibitionism is voluntary, but you stand before the gods in plain sight, naked as sin.
Shake the chains. The crown of love. That’s what bibles said. And the thing about bibles is bibles was not accountable. Moor me to the prow. Stasis nauseates me.
What’s amazing to me is that Jordan was likeable, but you? You’re a shadow creature. Constant fight or flight and persecution will not redeem you. The path to the godhead is proven.
So what would you have me do?
These angels fly above reproach. The ones that fly low, you wouldn’t see them ’til they were on you, cutting you down. If the high order’s got an APB out on you, it won’t be long before they find me too.
Unfuck your criteria, for chrissakes.
Take the savior’s name out of your mouth. Okay, listen well. You’re marked. Accept your fate, step one. Step two, go with Hecate. If you can do anything else, do that instead but if you do this, it’s the only thing you can do.
Friendo, my credenza, your credenza now. To be reviled in this case is cause for celebration. Harden yourself to all earthly aspersions and adversity. Unthink and unfeel. Let your words collide with mine. Wholesome inn’t it. Feel old.
And blades of light lifted from the ground personifying grace, and we were thus pursued by it.
“Decathexis: Prologue” is the first chapter of NOT YET, Manuel Marrero’s second novel, coming soon to a Neutral Spaces portal and in print via Expat Press. Set in the fourth and final cycle of creation and rebirth, the age of quarrel and strife, NOT YET concerns two celestial factions locked in a desperate struggle for existence— the Angels of Provenance, a hierarchy of pelagic insects, crustaceans and mollusks vying to return humanity to the primordial sea, and the Peking Doves, a cosmic band of time outlaws who may be an army of one. Through multiple stream of consciousness perspectives, Marrero’s vision of America is violent and chaotic, where history meets hallucination and science fiction collides with theology and myth. A portrait of a world on the brink of upheaval, opioid-decimated and beset by arcane terrors, natural disasters, and perpetual warfare, in which youth come of age in a technological dystopia, internal disorder intersects with the zeitgeist, automation and augmentation have advanced to a singularity, and the burnout generation scramble for opportunity and meaningful connection in the gig economy. It is a liquid age love story, a romance for the new iron age, a paranoid cloak-and-dagger neonoir featuring agents, hackers, users and dealers, lurid spirits, genocidal potentates and insubordinate radicals, a cyberpunk suicide dream, a poetic abstraction erotic and obscene. Standby.
Manuel Marrero is the founder and editor-in-chief of Expat Press, always seeking new adventurous content (expatpress.com). He wrote and self-published his debut novel “Thousands of Lies” in 2015, and has published in a few other venues. He was born in Miami, Florida.