Chapter 8: Where It Seems Some Clinical Infections Can Produce Performance Impairments
An Artificial Intelligence begins to communicate with a family online. They are too poor to pay for the burial of their relative. Time leaks away into the technology. There are spatial replicas being reproduced, and in time something will have increased its foothold on existence. This terrorizes them through saturation and repetition.
They sell the computer and it’s not enough. The scene of dejection is a violent mirror reflecting all the failures and humiliations of the late biological age. The family sells up, buys a cheap house on the hill over the village by the sea, only to discover that an old cemetery is their back yard.
Tar black rain continues to fall when they are found submerged on the beach , their house lights still shining and reflected in the exhausted meadow grass that runs down through a small bleak copse going further on towards the beach.
It all feels like those years after the zombie apocalypse subsides, where survivors discover that the epidemic was caused by aliens that have appeared to lay claim to the planet. In reality this turns out to be false and is nothing more than a memory of a thousand year movie with a theme requiring the blurring of fact and fiction for manipulations no one can now remember.
Every woman in America has memories of being abducted by aliens — which is just a secret pleasure made from gendered republican malice.
On the other hand, the one about the boy whose tumor slowly grows into his Siamese twin and the older they get, the more evil the twin becomes, that’s about forbidden ambitions, declining hygiene and the refusal to expose a real version.
In her stories Claudette was entering a neuronal time where a geological timescale made more sense of the obsessions than anything else.
Claudette had long abandoned datum pressure setting.
‘I read about a cult that worships history’s deadliest serial killers and begins to kill by copying their methods.’
‘You shouldn’t read such things.’
‘Some people are like lizards with rectangular faces and silt. Some calibrate existence according to immense glittering things. The nominal realities of time and space cease to exist on days like that.’
The stone gargoyles on the top of the tiny church building were covered by mosses and calamites. Claudette walked back up the hill away from the sea , furiously thinking about the obscure words of Mrs Watson.
She was curious and rational and her mind was the kind that survives for decades in dark waters even though something about her belied the fact.
She loved rainbows when they stretched over the bay after a storm subsided. It reminded her of the stained glass windows of the little church, of iridescent lights glowing from within, of the mystical cosmetic that produces each one of her hues in the great principle of light.
Don’t have feelings – that’s a piece of advice we’re used to.
Have ideas. That’s another.
Don’t own anything. Like objects. Refine down until there’s nothing. Basically go into inner space and find the absence there.
So much advice.
Then of course nothing can be more important. Except that. Which makes it a mess. But we don’t seem to care.
Maybe we should just look for a frame and then we’ll understand. Or use maths to count reality out. Or see things from a mad point of view to protect ourselves from being bourgeois.
There are traffic controllers around this sort of thing.
One year a family on a boat trip stumbles upon an old ship. Their common focus is to complete the identity of the wreck. It’s as if a winter snow storm traps a family in an abandoned insane asylum.
The immensity of the confusions rolled in like an irrevocable psychosis. Whatever was there was never obvious but not obscure either. Which is the kind of passionate skeptical thing people like sometimes.
Claudette remembers each story as a horizon shot with crimson.
A little girl comes down from upstairs and asks her parents;
“Can you hear it breathing? I can.”
Out from the sea mists rolled slowly along the wet, cold sands, crossed the thin road and nuzzled against the windows like a slow heinous hag-slug.
To outwit such a horror a girl needs to twist and torture her worst dreams into something companionable though never housetrained. The secrets of Claudette’s mind were more frightening than the terrors that stretched into her world.
But to be honest if they had that meaning no one knew anything more about them except that. And maybe some perverted abjection.
Abjection used to be big but we’re not so used to thinking about it now. Except as a sentimentalist.
Anyway, it was a fantastic jumble with a corridor through the middle. One side got the sun. There were holes in the side. If you were to write a poem about it you’d start intoning lines like: ‘the whole scene here is precarious..’ and it would feel dank and musty like a basement.
There was an excitement of elementary forms in there too somewhere. Scattered about were pieces of cut felt and shards, and a tendency to go for romantic snow and naïve pictures but wittily.
Some days it was as if what she had in mind were incidents and surfaces and differences, even the way there are edges and what edges mean in all sorts of different situations. And sometimes they don’t mean anything, or don’t have to.
And they came with a sense of seething breaking downness, which was also as nihilistic as optimistic. And what was always there was a faint beep on her radar, because she seemed to always be detecting what was the rage behind things.
A town is enveloped in unexplained darkness for weeks. The loveliness is the discovery of its unbearable isolation. In the distance there’s the sound of swing and hammer.
Intersecting roads made strangely happy sights, like sudden grey metal sections in the middle of grim colours. It’s baffling to see this sort of thing although after a while she had a few friends who got used to it. They must have tuned in. They may have documented some of their thoughts and projects from childhood. Some of it is unhinged and fiery with savage poetic intelligence. But no one has read it so it may not be quite as good as that sounds. But we’d appreciate anything I think given what we know.
They would be like maps I think. She could honestly report to her childhood friends:
‘I hear the old lady in the black dress and string of pearls. She is tall and thin – too tall, too thin. Her face is like ash. She stands at the far side of the bay and looks straight at me when I’m by the window to my room, with a horrible smile and wild eyes like minatory specters. And she bends back her fingers and breaks one off each night. I hear the crack across the bay, under the white moon in the salt wind from the sea. And she continues to stare across the bay, from the other side, and I know she can see me when I stand by the window and look out. She stands there as if an elusive final definition of a completed psychic zero. All I grasp in that deathly look is the interior of an absence, a terrible, awful, awake absence of a drained universe lying in the shallows of a lost time. It seems that she’s the future. She is the absence of our universe in the future, when our terminal has been reached and the stars, one by one, flatten and cool to nothing.’
What she also remembered was the telephone booth overlooking the shoreline, a strange remnant of a nearer distance, but just as poetic and deranged, so it seemed.
Claudette’s fate was that of a lost telepath. She inherited the phobias of the storms, and everything triggered a little grief which she fought to suppress lest it all became too unbearable. Through the trees that bent in the howling winds and the sweeping rain streams of coded voltages sluiced through concealed conduits in the dark twists of air, premonitions of disasters, or else memories of time and anti-time, a subtraction from the universe glimpsed first in the Andromeda spiral, in cosmic vastness and the oblate diadem of the looming sky.
The children discover a deep, dark well in the woods . One child sleep-walks into their parent’s room and whispers, “I’m sorry. The devil told me to.”
Another: As a mother showers, a voice comes from the drain whispering, “I see you.”
Another: One child makes a crayon drawing of a strange family — it’s inscribed with the words ‘we live in your walls.’
Another: The night the cemetery’s graves were open, gaping holes with the dirt pushed out from underground, Claudette and her little gang of friends understood that they were swerving over rifled torrents’ beds, the hidden souls beneath ocean-perishing disasters.
The unseen perils came at them and would keep doing so in lashing hate and spit. They keep mystery in to keep meanings out. There’s a sort of radioactive weight and eerie light attached.
Meaning is inevitably only a small human quirky thing. The surface of it is a very quiet colour, and sits without hurting anyone. It can be spun away from rhetoric where the main point has gone and got lost.
It can be lobsters or insects or camp. Anything.
You might have some meaning on your bread one day and then sit around wondering whether you can eat it or not. Perhaps you should just make a different sandwich and eat that, with jam.
Some spiders eat mouse embryos.
This adds to meaning. It might be just a way of dissolving a master-narrative in a very condensed and physical way. When you hear growling its often growling at patriarchy.
On the bus, he's beginning to let his mind wander. So he's thinking randomly about how it’s difficult to know what to make of sex and gender nevermind the business of transgression.
His were modern reflections, the very latest swish, he thought. Pain crawled inside him like a fat rodent.
Claudette sat in her kitchen.
Coffee was her way of fancy ousting memory. She looked into it deeply and believed it could.
Claudette had stayed in the village when her pals had long ago scattered. She had felt it both a necessity and a duty. This place held secrets that went out to appall not please. She stood by the window and took a long look down.
The morning had brewed up a gale and spat rain across. She felt herself a castaway. Yet she answered her mobile as if to comprehend this and her strange motives.
You can’t control a discourse for long.
‘Are you ok?’
The voice was a woman’s, and sounded anxious and aggravated, as if putting up some passive resistance to something obscure.
There was a pause as they both knew the wonderfullest things are ever unmentionable and lie downwards without epitaphs.
‘I think it was she. I can’t be sure, and have seen nothing. But the gossip is scared and few people are on the beach, even to walk.’
Claudette waited for L’s response.
She guessed that L knew this already. She wondered who would have told her.
‘I was thinking of coming down. Staying over a few days. I thought we could talk.’
‘I really am fine.
’‘Still, I’d like to visit. If that’s ok.’
The past is never past, and always moralized. Often adored. Sometimes abhorred too.
Claudette walked down the hill to the bay and stood in the car park overlooking the sea. Drenched by the rain and rattled at by the winds, she nevertheless stood calm. She walked across the bay front to the other side, keeping her eyes on the tormenting mild image of the place, knowing there was something wrong.
This was not the first time. But the howling infinite seemed close at the moment, as if crawling to land having been far out for a while.
Another thing was all the dazzling enigmas that were all around. Good job Claudette was gnomic and zen.
As a child Claudette had been curious and brave. She had walked about this very bay with her friends and taken buses into the nearest town to sit in the library and study. Once she had noticed something wrong with the librarian. The woman had seemed wild and dashed inside somehow. It had got worse each time. The eyes were worm-like, as if crawling to land from some inglorious leewardness. She looked out as if trying to measure something immeasurable, as if everything expressive and elegant and non-hierarchical were angsty and not numbered, and didn’t have meanings, and were mental.
‘Perhaps she’s gone mad,’ said L.
‘Perhaps she always was crazy and now we’ve seen it,’ added A.
‘No, she wasn’t like this before,’ frowned B.
‘Let’s follow her when she closes,’ said Claudette.
‘You’re the crazy one. It’ll be dark.’
They stayed in the library for a bit and then roamed the town but returned at closing time.
And it was dark, a proper part of the place’s essence was what it began to feel like. The librarian locked up and walked rather unsteadily towards the bus stop.
They tumbled on after her, and the bus roared off into the countryside which surrounded the town. Soon they were the only other passengers.
The road ran along the shoreline so the sea seemed to be watching them, tracing their secrets, graves, eternities, gradations, deluges, begettings and begottings with a black hound-like malevolence in the cadence of waves.
A white moon struck at its mask and sly heinous mutability. They felt the longer they rode the more excessive its pressure, as if it was getting inside them and beginning to know.
After what seemed too long a time the librarian left the bus and they followed her off at the last minute soas to escape her notice. But she seemed to notice nothing at all as if in an unconscious reverie so deep that she seemed mired to the rim with elusive enigmas.
The place she lived was even less populated with dwellings than the village in the bay. A few dark houses stood dotted along the road, and a few others lay on the side of a thin winding road going inland, peppered with dark bushes and stretched, reaching trees.
The whole atmosphere seemed one of a devilish lifelessness, inscrutable and thinning out identities and forcasts which if any came back might do so in horror.
The librarian shuffled aong by the side of the road and disappeared into a small house that was like a fin of indiscernible form, as if proof that nothing exists in itself.
The dark swarmed round like a slouched hat.
‘What now?’ asked B.
Claudette however wasn’t looking at the tiny green door through which the librarian had departed the road, but was looking upwards towards the bleak wood that loomed above it, rising on the slopes away from the sea towards a sky that was trying hard to hide its soul. Rooks snaffled around in the wired shadows of the branches like feathered apes.
All the houses seemed to be cringing on the road as if trying to get away from it. Houses always look like faces, and these were all shockingly afraid.
‘We should catch the next bus back,’ said Claudette and she shivered.
‘Isn’t there something we should be doing? Shouldn’t we look in and see?’ asked B.
‘Didn’t you see it?’ asked Claudette, genuinely surprised.
‘Now she has drawn the curtains. There’s nothing more we can see.,' reported B glumly.
As they sat on the back of the bus the windows were all steamed up and drizzle gleamed out the night. There were no other passengers, and the driver seemed far off and outstretched in an upper greyness of space and time.
‘So what did you see?’ asked A finally.
All of them were floundering in the strangeness that seemed to move through everything like a kind of exorbitant drowning.
‘There was someone I have seen before in one of the upper room windows. She was looking at us. I think she wanted me to see her,’ said Claudette and although outwardly calm she was inwardly shivering in sheer fright.
Her mind held the image of the thin tall figure and eyes which were dead and glowing like white, heinous lanterns, a face Noah’s flood wouldn’t interrupt, and a malevolence undecipherable beyond its sheer loathsome fact. And in a moment that seemed like it had stepped out of time, like those mysterious ciphers on the walls of pyramids, beams of startling paleness seemed to shoot out towards Claudette from the desolate eyes as if their thought was to engrave evil upon the body itself.
And Claudette, seemingly instinctually mystic, had removed herself, or that form of the self that the paleness seemed to threaten, finding herself for a moment in heartless voids of shadows that were the immensities of another universe, before returning from the colourless beams that now were shrinking back to their hosts.
It had been a moment, indiscernible to her companions, but not to the watcher in the dark room. Claudette had felt a melting in herself, a kind of indefiniteness as if she had been assaulted by a sense of annihilation, oblivion and immeasurable disturbance.
What had this uncanny watcher at the upper window done?
Then pulled on her long middle finger and pulled it back, pulled and pulled, until it had snapped and fallen to the floor like a stick of chalk.
The heinous smile belonged somewhere else and not on that face, is what Claudette thought.
For a long time no one said anything and the bus hurtled along the narrow road.
Its engine drowned the noise of the sea which is two thirds this earth.
All but Claudette regretted setting out.
They were feeling hysterically light and wanted to chuckle. Claudette had revealed the awfulness and horror which aboriginally belongs to all laughter.
If you like this you might try these other 3:16 novels: