I’m at a loss.
Not just for words, but thoughts and feelings, too.
A few weeks ago, I was just exaggerating when I said that I would die after attending the Universal Prom on the 4th of July. I just assumed that the Nameless would take me over like it had grabbed everyone else, and that would be that – life as a zombie, as a marionette doing its bidding.
Now I know better. Or worse. I’ve seen what happened, and it really did end with my death.
I always thought of the White as a dense, endless cloud of energy, of potential, that you would enter and never want to leave. I didn’t think of it as the thin skin of a huge apple, of the crust holding a deeper world together.
I’m not in the White now, I’m beyond it, in the infinitely complex space we’ve been calling the Structure.
Back in the bubble foam of the Variant universes, the Structure was just a shorthand way to refer to what seemed to hold everything together. It was where Sarah lived, somewhere beyond Point Zero. Somewhere none of us were invited, and somewhere the Nameless desperately wanted to get to.
Over the past few days, I’ve had a tour of the Structure, and of detailed data I captured of the Universal Prom, and what happened afterwards.
The only way I could have recorded that data was if I was etched. That process was the only part that I didn’t actually capture as a living WOFA, a walking and talking Pure Land Coat rack. I remember how it happened, though.
I have so much to talk about, now that it’s all clear. It’s going to take a number of days to get it all out, to send it back to Variant 237 and hope that the right eyes find my story.
I’ve been thinking about the best way to get it all out, and it seems that it won’t make much sense without the proper context.
So, the second thing has to be Cassandra’s puppet show, and I’ll poke in now and again with additional commentary.
But, first things first, let’s clear away the obvious questions.
What’s the Structure? Didn’t I say that I was in Berkeley?
I don’t have the best metaphors, but I’ll try.
Imagine an analog clock, 1 to 12 around the rim. Now move all of the numbers to the center, so they overlap into a layered mess.
Now imagine that the ground underneath every person on the Earth is a point. Move those points so they are equidistant from each other – some people will be forced to tread water in the oceans, but don’t worry – they’ll be okay. Turn up the gravity so high that everyone suddenly rushes towards the center of the Earth and smooshes together into one, molten point.
Finally, image the entire Universe as the size of an atom – maybe even a tinier quark. Think of all of the subatomic particles in your body, and how they join together into larger and more complex structures – atoms, molecules, DNA, proteins, cells, organs, limbs, and everything that makes you, you. Now think of all of the people on the Earth, and all of the stars in the Universe, and all of the galaxies made up of stars, and so on. It’s all very Theosophical, “As above, so below”, with what we would term an infinite scale at microscopic and macroscopic levels. Kaia could do a much better job describing it to you than I could. Which is not that surprising, since she helped make it.
Please don’t get too hung up on that point, when there are much more troubling concepts and realities I have to describe. Just know that the 237 Variants I’ve been describing are a tiny group of cancerous cells that the entire Structure has been desperately trying to contain. What seems like the best idea ever inside those broken Universes is absolutely the worse thing possible for the whole.
Or maybe best thing. I’ve only been here for a few days, and the only person that really understands how it all works is Joey.
I mentioned that Joey is here. Does that mean Joey is dead, too? No, but he did have to transmute his body a bit, so it could exist at the various levels. He could do that because his power is of the mind and awareness – he literally sees and understands all. It doesn’t even drive him crazy anymore – it’s just like he has a special thinking cap and eyeglasses that no one else can wear, ever.
I’m afraid this just isn’t going to make sense out of context. So, let’s jump back to Cassandra’s show at the warehouse in Berkeley.
Joey and the other e-punks helped extract the WOFA data from my OS on Sunday. I’m intentionally holding back the identity of those “other e-punks” because I’m afraid the significance will be lost, unless you can be there with me, as I finally discovered the secret to everything.
Like the sound of that – secret to everything? This time I’m not exaggerating at all – if you’ve ever wondered why the world is as it is, then you’ll find out soon enough. Not that it’s going to do you any good, but I’m sure it will be great for the water cooler and Twitter.
OK then. You’re going to find out a lot of things all at once, but I’ll try to slow it down to a baby crawl, at least one when they’re flying across the carpet to get at your ice cream cone.
As I mentioned before, Jenny was at the warehouse, and she seemed amazingly happy and lucid. Since Jenny was intentionally kept half-insane in order to supress S.OS inside her brain and body, this was a super-bad sign.
Aurora and I totally got the hint, but as soon as we walked past the red door, we quickly forgot about the most obvious troubles, and concentrated instead on the more esoteric ones.
Die Database was setting up their equipment on a makeshift stage. Since this isn’t from the WOFA data I captured later, I can’t zoom in and figure out when it was made due to the vibration of the molecules or shit like that. It was clear that Miranda didn’t help put it together, because if she did it would have been made out of precious metals and jewels, or some esoteric wood that had never existed on this planet. Instead, it was more of a hardware store project, and I could see an Helena folding in and out by the speakers, bring in the last equipment from Tokyo.
The sheer fact that the girls were here was an amazingly bad sign. I kept tabs on them over the past few weeks, and I knew that they had their long-awaited trip to the US planned, but it wasn’t for another month. Yet, here they were, acting like nothing unusual was up. They weren’t dressed for the show yet, and as soon as Satomi noticed me come in, she jumped off the stage and ran over.
I thought she was going to tackle me to the ground. Instead, she gave me a big hug and kiss, so forcefully that my Kuroneko rose headband fell to the floor.
“If it isn’t my savior! I thought I was dead for sure, until you stepped in.” She waved to Aurora, who was a few feet away by a big bundle of empty plastic bottles. “And you! How can I ever repay you?” Aurora started to shift into ultraviolet, just in case she had to hide away quickly.
“Is it really you in there?” I tried to look for the dead eyes that Harumi mentioned, but I couldn’t find them.
“Yes, it’s really me.” She pinched her wrist as to demonstrate her materiality. “Jenny took care of everything as soon as we arrived.”
With that, Jenny bounced over to us, doing a little pirouette that ended with her palm on Satomi’s forehead.
“She’s like the most perfect flower in a bouquet!” She turned to face me, and every hair on by body stood up and tried to jump off. “Don’t you just want to smell her to death?”
I suddenly started looking for the exits, but there were none. Cassandra appeared to my right, and Helena to my left, like a twisted prom couple. As I quickly turned around, looking for Aurora, I instead found Miranda, who casually walked up to me and poked me on the nose. “You’re still it.”
I don’t want to remember what happened next, but I can’t help it. She reached into my skin and made me sweat etching fluid, as circuits that usually would take weeks to settle were burned in instantaneously. It was as if she held me by the toes and dipped me in hot vegetable oil, until my skin evaporated away, replaced by the essence of S.OS.
For a moment, I knew what it meant to be a Dark Antenna, a bundle of potential hidden away, just waiting for a spark. As she pushed my mind further still, Miranda reached around my shoulders from behind, hanging off of me like a smitten girlfriend. “I know I’m never going to get Aurora, but damn it all to Hell if you’re not the real prize.” She slid around in front of me, holding her fingers to my face as if she was about to snap them. “Can I give you a light?”
I could see her thumb rub past her middle finger, like it was a car crash suspended in time. I was expecting a flourish, and a brief noise, but instead there was a rush of invisible acupuncture needles pushing through my cheeks, my eyes. Every fraction of my being was invaded, and turned irrevocably on.
Before, I was blind, deaf and dumb. Now, the Universe had me for dinner, and I was digesting in the truth beyond truth.
The Nameless was not the enemy. It wanted to set us all free.
Just then, Ai walked in the door, with her long curly hair pulled back in a pony tail, the better to show off her Massive Cloud Burst t-shirt. She briefly nodded at Aurora, who was still in hologram form near the exit, and then walked over me – I was still as stiff as a statue. She looked me in the eyes for a few seconds, and then turned to Miranda.
“So, do we have a deal?” Ai reached out her palm to Miranda. What was going on?
“Oh yes, quite.” She gave Ai a firm handshake, and then made a motion to everyone assembled. Yuma and Masae came down off the stage, and I could tell that they were etched, too. Helena folded away for a moment, and came back with Aurora solid and in her grip.
“I’m so sorry that it took us so long to come to an agreement, but all is well.” She motioned to Cassandra, who then walked over to her pink suitcase, rolling it to the center of the floor. “Now before we celebrate the final armistice, our dear friend Cassie has a presentation to share. Please, everyone take a seat.”
As soon as she said “seat”, Helena has already teleported in the last of a row of comfortable chairs. It looked like they may have been borrowed from a movie theater – they rocked, were upholstered with blue fabric, and had cup holders.
Yuma sat on the left end, next to Masae, followed by Satomi and Jenny (who were holding hands), Miranda, Ai, Helena and Kaia. I was left with a seat on the end, and felt my limbs move despite myself to fill it.
Aurora wasn’t given a seat – she was left to stand over by a far wall. It looked like she was frozen and trying to break free – later on I examined the WOFA data, and found that Miranda had transmuted her brain and nervous system into an esoteric, fleshy alloy that she couldn’t shift away from. At least not yet.
Now that her audience had assembled, Cassandra slowly unzipped her pink suitcase, taking out the torso of the plastic robot sculpture I had found in Satomi’s apartment near Roppongi. The insides were now complete, which I could see as she opened the chest cavity, which was full to bursting with simple yet compact circuitry – the kind found in cheap cellphones. She reached inside, and pulled a open cylinder up and out – it was the thing that I mistook for a bread maker before.
Cassandra then walked across the room to the huge pile of PET bottles, and took one – your typical 20 oz water container, the kind that clogs the storm drains and eventually decays in the middle of the ocean. Cradling it like a baby against her cheerleader jersey, she walked over to the torso, and as the lights in the room dramatically lowered, leaving just a spotlight to showcase her insertion of the empty bottle into the cylinder. There was a slight noise, like steam at a café, and it continued as she pushed the entire bottle fully in, cap and all.
She then folded away, coming back with a green bag from the nearby Berkeley Bowl supermarket. She filled that with bottles from the pile, and pushed them into the torso one at a time – I counted 10. After she pushed the cylinder back in, and closed the chest, she stepped back for a second, and then pointed at the sides of the torso. The stubs of plastic arms and legs were starting to grow out of it.
Cassandra then reached in the elastic band of her neck tie mini skirt, and pulled out a penny. She placed it in her palm, pointed at it, and then it was replaced with a loose roll of coins. Walked back over to the growing torso, opened the cylinder again, and threw the coins inside. A few moments later, thin tendrils of copper and zinc started to push through the plastic forearms and thighs.
Looking at an imaginary clock on her wrist, she waved at the pile of bottles and the torso, and they were replaced with 12 complete plastic figures, standing at attention in a line. One of them was putting the finishing touches on a 13th one, placing one final bottle in its cylinder – the last of its finger joints solidified. You could still see signs of the original bottles, from Coke and Pepsi wrappers melted and stretched around green and clear plastic, to the colored bottle caps adding texture like in a hand-made candy cane.
Cassandra called the 13th figure over to her using her curled finger, and it didn’t stagger or hesitate for a moment – all of the elaborate joints, tendons and pseudo-muscles performed as designed. Its head was a blank face, with no discernible holes, not even for eyes. She waved her hand over the face, and the blank figure was replaced by that of a young woman, naked, bleached blond, with her right arm and shoulders covered with bright tattoos.
It was the girl from the Ghost Auction, the one whose data sold for over $300,000.
Cassandra called over another figure, standing it next to the first to be transformed. With a flourish, it was clothed by Emily’s Ghost.
The two Ghosts quickly rotated through a number of outfits, before settling on iridescent, full body datasuits, like Pure Land Antennas wore in the old days.
The blond figure walked a few steps forward, towards the audience. She reached her hand to Jenny, who eagerly stood up and took it.
For a few moments, it looked like they were about ready to dance a waltz, but then the blond figure put Jenny into a headlock. She countered by throwing it over her shoulders, but it quickly recovered, this time attacking with a burst of microwaves from its right hand – everyone assembled oohed and awwed, and Jenny smiled while she dodged the invisible blast, which our etched eyes couldn’t miss. Jenny then took off the kid gloves and decapitated the figure with a blurry punch.
Without missing a beat, the figure continued to fight, this time cloaking itself from all of our eyes. Even Jenny was taken aback for a few moments, before she felt a rush of air past her face. That was enough to lock on to the scent of the plastic, and she grabbed hold of the invisible figure like a wish bone, and tore an arm and leg off of its body.
Defeated, but still twitching, the figure finally lost its Ghost skin, and came to rest on the floor as everyone clapped.
Looking at the WOFA data, I’m come to the conclusion that this is the same partial figure that I found in Satomi’s apartment a few weeks ago. I still can’t explain why it was brought back in time, or how Harumi’s DNA gets on it between now and then.
In any case, after Cassandra had fully established the combat potential of her plastic army, she got down to the real reason we were all assembled.
The secret puppeteer was finally about to make her strings visible.
I’m realizing that the next part will be way too much for me to share just now, so I’ll get into it next time.
Sufficed to say that you better bring your iced beverage and popcorn – it’ll be a show you’re not likely to forget.