Opening The Satchel

We’re waiting in front of Joey’s storage locker, and I’m carrying a new, leather satchel.

I hate leather, but I’m tolerating it for the sake of completeness. Ariel keeps teasing me, even after she made it out of her version of thin air – the complete repository of material building blocks known as The Black.

Everyone is teasing me, at least a little, after I forced them to gulp down some text I found in the WOF Database that Nick Junk Magnet left me. He said:

“In 1989 I had a whole, spiral-bound notebook filled with another story, one that was eventually lost due to being in pencil – the pages rubbed against each other, making it all but illegible. That was Sarah’s first story”

He made such a big fuss about it, so I figured it would would at least be worth a laugh.

He wasn’t kidding about the illegibility – I could barely read the smeared pencil with my eyes, but Sarah OS quickly plowed through it, finding the most likely version of the text.

From other notes I found in that notebook, it was clear that no one else had ever read the text, for any number of reasons. Once the pencil went all crazy, due to one too many trips in his backpack, he just left the story in a far corner and moved on to other versions of Sarah’s life.

I think he wanted me to be the first to read it, for me to understand the original, channeled version of what Sarah had in store for us, what she needed us to do.

Here’s that text, and now I’m sharing it with you. Don’t worry, there’s most definitely a point to all of this, which will become clear at the end.

*********

Across the star-filled sky a lone speck of darkness slowly moved. It floated aimlessly, blotting out the points of light in its path momentarily as it traveled. The shadow was roughly oval, one end more curved than the other. One could assume it took this shape in anticipation for its approaching destination: the protective atmosphere of a basically youthful planet. A planet commonly known as Earth.

This shadowy construct was actually a shell, protecting its contents with an enthusiasm its designers would be proud of. It contained various supplies and a single life form, which, at the moment, was lost in thought. This being, born and raised on the approaching planet, was experiencing a moral dilemma of sorts at the time: she wanted desperately to go home, but knew that that was impossible. And as the construct locked upon its destination, she could only sit back in her seat, and hope for the best. Knowing the worst was yet to come.

1. Asphyxiation

The construct was set down silently as close as it could to its set destination. It dissolved, leaving behind nothing but its contents. The woman that it carried grabbed the equipment now deposited on the ground and left the general area of the landing as quickly as possible. She glanced at her “watch”, checking to see if anyone was in the area. It was lucky that she did, since someone was waiting a few meters ahead, behind a tree. She squatted down, and opened a leather satchel hanging from her right shoulder. From it, she took a pen shaped device, which she attached to her watch. After a few seconds, she stood up and continued on towards the unknown person. She pen shaped device glowed as she traveled closer to the tree in question, and when she came within arms length of it, she removed it from her wrist and pressed a small button in its midsection. It floated quickly around the tree and placed its target in a stasis field. She walked around the tree, recalled her device, and examined what she had caught. It was a typical watch drone, semi-humanoid, most certainly sent to report on her arrival back on Earth. Having already witnessed her return, it had reported and now was deactivated. Satisfied that there soon would be trouble afoot, she opened the field, and continued north.

The abundance of trees that she silently ran through soon gave way to the trappings of modern population. She had materialized in a park, encapsulated by a mass of plastic and metal. The dome that surrounded her and the park was clear, creating the illusion that it was not there. She took a deep breath, as she reached the nearest exit, enjoying every molecule of the park’s regulated atmosphere. Knowing that she would find nothing like it on the outside of her temporary oasis. She glanced at her wrist, and assured that the operating mechanism was not tampered with, carefully entered the airlock. Inside, she opened her satchel, took out her atmospheric regulator, and attached it to her wrist. She pressed a button on her “watch”, and she was enveloped in her protective field, which she carefully adjusted for the contours of her outfit. After setting it for proper radiation shielding, and transparency, she settled herself, and opened the outer door.

The brownish-blue sky slowly settled upon the scarred terrain, as the woman carefully adjusted her regulator. The destruction of the troposphere was more acute than she had originally thought. She glanced at her wrist, and after taking a quick scan for possible danger, opened her satchel and took out a spherical object. She placed it in her left hand, and extended her field. She gave the sphere a half twist down the middle, and concentrated. Her field took on a bluish glow, and she began to levitate. She attached the sphere to an indentation on her belt, and programmed the field for manual operation. She turned West towards the nearest indicated settlement, and started her long journey to so-called civilization. As she tried to imagine the fields of green that once existed underfoot, were only hazy memories in far too troubled mind.

A couple of miles after the park dome had disappeared on the horizon behind her, the woman reached the nearest “city”. The main structure was a dome about half a mile in diameter and 1000 feet in height. It appeared to be made of the same material as the park dome, except it was much thicker and more heavily reinforced. She perceived various buildings and other structures inside, sheltered carefully from the harsh environment surrounding. She floated down to the nearest entrance and deactivated the spherical object. She placed it in her satchel and then closed in her field to the standard position. After glancing at her watch she approached the airlock and examined the controls. It could be operated by a standard city key, she determined, so she acted accordingly. Reaching into her satchel, she pulled out a universal key, attached it to her wrist for format programming, and inserted it into the door mechanism. The door opened, and she recollected her key and carefully entered.

The outer door closed and the woman readjusted her regulator for city travel. As the decontamination cycle progressed around her, she tried to remember the time when regulators were not necessary, before the enclosed cities, before she became an Agent, but she could not. The inner door control panel flashed green, and the door slowly opened with an audible hiss. She was bombarded by an unearthly light. Instinctively, she extended her field and activated her defense mechanisms. This was unnecessary, for she realized that she had arrived at sunrise. The artificial sunrise of civilization.

The city streets were filled with activity. People walked, jogged and ran this way and that, excited into activity by the new day. The woman joined the crowd as soon as she “adjusted” her outfit to reflect the common fashion. It would be very unwise for her to be discovered as an Agent within city limits, especially since she suspected that the watch drone originated from this area. The crowd moved on, and, after glancing at her watch to determine her general location, she moved with it.

A few hours after mingling with the citizens, the woman located a food outlet. She had expended her rations before she arrived on Earth, and was now quite hungry. She reached in her satchel and pulled out her credit, which was almost depleted, and inserted it into the dispenser. She selected a protein concentrate and a litre of water, and decided to rest while she ate. She sat down on an unoccupied bench and examined herself quickly while she had the opportunity. She removed a small box from her belt and attached it to her chest. Looking at her watch, she saw that her basic functions were within limits, and that she could continue without sleep for another 10 to 12 hours before her exhaustion would become dangerous. She removed the device and attached it back on her belt. Satisfied that she was relatively OK, she began her meal. Protein concentrate never tasted so good.

The citizens of the city went on with their routine, all except one that is. This non-conformist was presently staring intensely at a woman sitting on a bench, which he considered the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She clearly stood out from the other female citizens he had encountered, and, knowing an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when he saw it, he decided to go sit in the empty space beside her. Who knows, he thought, maybe she will be different.

When the woman noticed someone approaching her, she quickly scanned him. Confirming that he was safe, she continued with her meal.

“Excuse me, is this seat taken?”

“No. Go ahead,” she replied, not looking up.

“I haven’t seen you around. Are you a new resident?”

“No. I’m just visiting.”

“That’s too bad…. since I probably won’t ever see you again, I’ll be perfectly honest with you: you are the most attractive woman I have ever had the honor to meet. I…. just wanted you to know.” He began to leave.

“Wait! Don’t leave.. not just yet,” the woman moved towards him.

“You don’t mind if I stay?”

“Not at all. And I would really appreciate it if you could show me around the city.”

“Certainly, I would enjoy your company.”

“Great. And … I didn’t catch your name.”

“Oh, how rude of me. My name is Richard.”

“Richard… I appreciate your interest in me. No one has ever been as honest with me as you just were. I respect you because of that fact. I must warn you though, I am not what I seem.

“I don’t care. As long as I am able to be with you, nothing else will matter.”

“Let’s begin, then. Lead the way.”

Richard stood up, and offered the woman his hand. With little hesitation, she accepted it. As the artificial sun moved overhead.

___

“Nice watch. Must be pretty expensive, huh?”

“It’s… priceless. You probably won’t see another like it.”

“Could I take a look at it? I promise I won’t damage it.”

“No!…. sorry to snap at you like that. It’s just that… I can’t take it off.”

“I guess you wouldn’t want to take off something as nice as that. I understand why you wouldn’t let just anyone see it.

“That’s not it, Richard. I do trust you. There are just some things you can’t know about me. Some things you wouldn’t want to know.”

“It doesn’t matter. Come on, there’s one more place I want to show you before sunset.”

Richard turned towards downtown, and the woman followed. She glanced at her wrist, out of habit, and was alarmed to learn that she was being followed. Not by a drone, but by another Agent. She quickly stopped Richard.

“Richard, I’m sorry, but I’ve become tired. I had a really nice time with you today, and I am extremely flattered by your interest. But, I must get some sleep. I doubt I will see you again, and I regret that fact. Thank you again. Good bye, Richard.” She gave him a kiss on his cheek, quickly adjusted her field, to the defensive position, and hurried off into the growing shadows.

“Wait! What is your name?” He received no answer, and, dissatisfied with her quick departure, proceeded to follow her quietly.

The woman soon got an exact fix on her fellow Agent, which was a few hundred meters from her position. She reached into her satchel and pulled out a small cube, which she attached to her belt. She programmed the device to operate within a minute, and assessed her situation. She was not supposed to be back on Earth, because of strict orders from the Agency, but she was, and a fellow Agent had discovered her presence. If she did not escape the city soon, she would be captured and her status would be revoked. She had a slim chance, but, if captured, she decided that her only choice would be to resort to drastic means. Extremely drastic means.

The small cute activated at the assigned time, as the woman became technically invisible. Only a trained Agent could recognize a cloaking device in operation, so she was effectively safe, at least for the moment. She hid in a dark corner, and waited for the Agent to come.

Richard was extremely surprised when the woman he was following disappeared in front of his eyes. He had excellent vision, but he wasn’t sure if he could trust it after what he had just seen. Now totally discouraged, he turned toward the underground entrance and started the long walk home. After a few minutes he saw someone walking towards him, which was unusual, for hardly anyone walked the streets this time of night. The person seemed familiar, probably because he carried a satchel like the woman he met earlier. As they drew closer, he noticed that the person also had a watch like she did. He concluded that she was much too strange to be a coincidence, so he decided to ask him if he knew where his friend had run off to.

The strange man reached in his satchel, and took out a rectangular object. He attached it to his wrist, and pointed it at Richard. He pressed a button on his belt, and a beam came out of the object, hitting Richard. He disintegrated quickly, and his component parts, sans water, were deposited into the rectangle. The strange man carefully placed it back in his satchel, and put his watch in front of his mouth. He pressed a button, and said:

“LOG ENTRY 21 – subversive Agent located in city. Possible contact of said Agent collected for further questioning. Agent has disappeared, suspect use of cloaking device. Predict capture within 10 hours. End.”

He then expanded his field, set his weapons for recharge, and walked off into the sunset, into the night.

As the women silently went to sleep.

2. Extrapolation

The artificial city sun rose quickly on the horizon as the streets became alive. The underground terminals became excessively crowded, as the population left their homes for the world above. The woman awoke as the activity increased, and, after a quick scan for the other Agent, she deactivated her cloaking device and placed the cube back in her satchel. She strengthened her field, just in case, and stepped out of the shadows into the fake day.

The woman was slightly disoriented by all the activity around her, which was greater than at the time of her arrival, but she soon became accustomed to it, and continued her work. First, she had to locate the Agent that was following her, and escape the city before she was located. This would be extremely difficult, mainly because she was unfamiliar with the city around her. During Richard’s tour she had noticed a few points which offered a chance of an undetected exit, so she decided to try those first. She wondered if she would come across Richard again before she left, and, in a way, she hoped the she would. But, she had little time to contemplate her feelings, for her sensors indicated that the other Agent was approaching quickly from the North. Her best choice for an exit lay underground, so she ran through the crowd to the nearest underground entrance.

She soon reached a small dome, from which the majority of the crowd was emanating. She slipped in the nearest entrance and entered the first lift she came across. It was a small booth with two clear sides, with enough room to hold 10 people. As luck would have it, hers was empty, which made things that much easier. She reached into her satchel, took out her universal key, which was already programmed for city use, and inserted it into the control panel. She glanced at her watch, to find with horror that the other Agent was now entering the terminal. She quickly set the lift for the fifteenth level and extended her personal field to encompass the chamber. And as she slowly descended, she calmly prepared herself for the coming confrontation.

After identifying the woman to be in the terminal, the other Agent found himself to be in bind. Her signal had weakened tremendously, most likely because she increased her field activity, so he had no easy way of picking her out of the crowd. He assumed that she had taken one of the lifts to a lower level, so he began is search by scanning all active lifts with his main control. To his surprise, all registered devoid of Agent presence. He rechecked, and noticed that his probe did not bounce off one booth, it was absorbed instead. Since only an Agency-made field could absorb scanning rays, she quickly went to that lift’s call area and took out a small disc, which he attached to his wrist. He punched a button on his belt, and the disc unattached itself and floated to the main control panel, which it landed on. He looked at his watch, and saw the lift’s location to be the fifth floor. He placed the disc back in his satchel, and took out a gun shaped object, which he pointed at the panel. He pulled the trigger, and a blue beam of light shot out and penetrated the control mechanism. The lift abruptly stopped, and he found it on the fifteenth level. He placed the device back in his satchel, and satisfied with a job well executed, took the other nearest lift down to collect his prize.

As soon as the lift jerked to a halt, the woman knew that she was in trouble. She slowly drew in her field and glanced at her watch – it has 70% of the maximum energy available to her, and many of her mechanisms were in need of recharge. She also noted that the other Agent was descending rapidly in a nearby lift, and detected a significant rise in that Agent’s power level. She knew that this signified and decided it was time for some action on her part. She quickly formulated a plan, which involved, to her dismay, an extremely dangerous maneuver which all Agents feared. If executed exactly, she decided, the result would outweigh the potential cost. The only hoped that the cost would not be too much to pay.

Now convinced, she reached quickly in her satchel and pulled out a few things. One she attached to her wrist and attuned to the other Agent, another she attached to one of the glass walls of the lift, and another she put securely on her belt. She pushed a button on her watch, and the pen-shaped device attached to it dropped off and quickly floated to the ceiling of the booth. She pushed a button on her belt, and the glass wall to which she attached something shattered. She twisted the object on her belt and pushed a button on her belt, and slowly began to rise, extended her field, and carefully exited the lift to the adjoining shaft. She looked down and saw a hatch about 200 meters below. She floated down and carefully opened it. She found herself looking into a small chamber which she scanned and quickly entered. Nothing that her last levitation had depleted her energy reserves, she set her system for recharge and waited anxiously for the first trap to be sprung.

The Agent soon located the captured lift. He picked up a quick field reading, which he assumed was from the cloak. Confident that she could not escape, he continued downward to the fifteenth level.

After exiting the lift, he approached the control mechanism for the lift he had captured. He took out his gun shaped object and pointed it towards the control panel. The stopped lift then slowly opened at its original destination. As the doors opened, the Agent was so assured of his victory that he did not strengthen his field. He misguided belief that he faced an incapable opponent dissipated as soon as he entered the booth. The pen shaped device she had left placed him immediately in a stasis field. Unmoving, he noticed the broken glass, and, realizing what it signified, he couldn’t help but admire how easily he had been fooled. But he was most certainly not about to give up.

After her equipment was fully recharged, she decided to check on her captive. She couldn’t be sure that it was another Agent in the field, but she was reading very high energy levels in the stopped lift. She assumed the worst, and carefully opened the access hatch to the shaft. She activated the sphere, and floated out into the cylindrical chamber. Looking down, she felt uncomfortable traveling against nature. For the first time since she was enlisted, she did not approve of the direction her life was headed in. And as she rose to the broken window, she decided it was time for a change.

The captured Agent, his eyes transfixed on the broken wall of the lift, was not surprised when his view was blocked by the entrance of the subversive Agent. Subversive in the sense that the Agency deemed her as such. He had already tried to extend his field to escape, but he knew that that was futile. And now, confronted with potential termination, he decided it was time for a bit of bargaining.

She quickly scanned her captive and noticed that his active energy had depleted. After throwing a secondary field around him, she deactivated the stasis ray and recollected the pen-shaped mechanism.

“OK. What do you want from me?”

“Absolutely nothing,” the captured Agent replied. “It’s the Agency who has an interest in you. I am only carrying out my orders.”

“So you always blindly follow orders?”

“Not always. I was supposed to kill you. Haven’t done that yet.”

“And you never will. Now, how should I make you suffer…”

“Don’t think too long. Bad for your health.”

“If you don’t shut up, I’ll see to it that you will never make another sound. I will not tolerate anyone giving me orders from now on, especially not from the Agency. I have been a pawn in this endless game for far too long. I am tired of being a controlled person, and I have just realized that I do not have to live this life.”

“Hold it! Control the hostility. Sarah… let’s make a deal.”

“What did you call me?”

“Sarah, I have Richard.”

“How do you know my name? There are no records!”

“Who’s in control now, Sarah? The Agency has graciously provided me with all of your files. Your past cannot be destroyed, no matter how hard you try. Face it, Sarah, you have failed.”

“Give me Richard.”

“And what will I get in return?”

“Your life. Possibly. We’ll just have to see, won’t we?”

“Sarah, that’s not good enough. Think of something better, or Richard dies.”

“Release Richard, and I will release you.”

“That’s better. He is in my collection device, in my satchel. Drop the secondary field and I’ll restore him.”

“Fine. But if you try anything, kiss your watch goodbye.” She lowered the field.

“That’s better. And, to complete our bargain….” The Agent reached into his satchel, and pulled out a rectangular object. He attached it to his watch, and pushed a button on his belt. A bluish glow filled the lift, and a small cloud of water formed. The object them opened and the condensed elements that made up Richard were freed. The cloud condensed, and the components entered it and began to reorganize. A small bolt of energy entered the cloud from the container, and as it did the cloud collapsed, leaving a pulsating ball of light. The ball rotated quickly, absorbing all available materials as Richard’s matrix took its former form. The ball soon reached the necessary mass, and coalesced into the human template. The brain and nervous system were the first to form, followed by the circulatory structures. The skeletal structure appeared next, which soon became covered by muscles and tendons. All sensory organs had reformed by now, and the package was completed by the addition of glands, skin and hair. Finally, (much to Sarah’s surprise), Richard’s clothes reformed on his naked body, saved in a small pocket of the stored matrix.

The Agent then took the rectangular object off his wrist and attached it to Richard’s forehead.

“His memory matrix will be formed in a few minutes. Until he wakes up, we can talk. I’m real sorry you’re dissatisfied with the Agency.”

“Oh, shut up. I don’t need your sarcasm. As soon as Richard is conscious, I will give you 30 seconds to get as far away from me as possible. If he doesn’t wake up, I’ll kill you. If I see you again, I’ll kill you. Prepare yourself to leave quickly.”

As soon as Richard began to stir, the Agent took the now empty container off of his forehead and placed it back in his satchel.

“You’ll never get away with this, Sarah. If I make it back to headquarters, a special team will be sent. You know that. If I don’t make it, they’ll blame you. Either way, you’ll never rest again.”

“Get the hell out of here!” yelled Sarah, as she pushed him into the shaft. He fell out of sight, and then disappeared with a brilliant flash of light.

“Richard, are you OK?”

“I think so… where am I? Last thing I remember was seeing your friend.”

“I know him, but let me assure you, he’s no friend. Come on, you must be tired. Let’s find someplace for you to rest.” She helped him out of the lift.

“What is your name, anyway? And why did you run away?”

“I ran away because I didn’t want you to get hurt And, I don’t really have a name, not anymore. But, you can call be Sarah.”

“Sarah… that’s a lovely name. I’m glad you didn’t run too far.”

“Richard, can I have a hug?”

“Of course. Is everything all right?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t know. Come on.”

She took his hand, and led him towards the future.

As her past followed close behind.

3. Elimination

Sarah stood in front of a triple-reinforced door as she carefully programmed her universal key. She had been traveling for a couple of hours, follow an idea she got during Richard’s tour of the city. And now, as her idea came closer to reality, she wondered if that reality would accept her.

“Sarah, what are you planning to do?” asked Richard, as he patiently stood by her side.

“I am planning to open this door and escape from the city as quietly as possible. And you’re coming with me. You said that you wanted to be with me always, and now you have no other choice. Stand back.”

Sarah attached her key to the opening mechanism and pushed a button on her watch. The door hummed and slowly opened, as the section revealed came to life. She glanced at her wrist, and satisfied that the life support systems were activated, she took Richard by the hand and quietly entered.

The chamber was filled with various devices and supplies, which Sarah could discern to be for emergency use. She assumed this was an emergency shelter, one of many underground structures used in times of disaster. She also assumed that there was an emergency exit close by, leading above ground. Actually, she had no doubt, from her experience with the visible paranoia of the city planners, that the various exits were highly accessible. She glanced at her watch, and quickly discovered an usable means of departure a few meters ahead.

“Sarah, what happens now? If were are going somewhere, could you at least give me a hint about the identity of our destination?”

“As soon as we get above ground, I will call my transport and we will head for the Moon. More specifically, the area known as Mare Imbrium.”

“The Moon? Come on, be serious now. There is no such thing.”

“What makes you doubt the existence of the moon,” asked Sarah, as she located the hidden lift.

“For starters, if the Moon did exist, then the Earth would have to be round. I’ve been educated enough to know that it is most definitely flat.”

“Richard! I’m surprised at you. In a world like ours, you can’t believe everything you’re told.” She took his hand and led him into the transport.

“What do you mean? Why would I be taught something which was not true?”

“To control you, and everyone else who will listen. Richard… there’s a lot more going on than you realize. All your life you’ve been told only what you were allowed to hear. For example, you were lead to believe that the Moon was a myth, when in reality it is not.” The lift slowly came to a halt.

“I want to believe you, Sarah, but it’s hard to without some sort of evidence.”

“Evidence is a most abundant resource. Come closer.” She drew him to her side, and expanded her field to shelter him. “Beyond this door lies the truth for the taking. Open it.”

He hesitated, and then deactivated the lock. The door slowly slid open, and Richard was struck with awe. About 500 meters away lay the perimeter of the city, which reflected beautifully the murky starlight. He slowly stepped out, and Sarah followed him closely over the scarred terrain.

“Sarah, where are we?”

“In the real world, Richard. The world no one talks about. This is your truth.”

On the horizon, as the last night of the Sun escaped into the night, the Moon slowly began to rise. Richard turned towards it, and dropped down to his knees.

“Sarah, I just don’t understand. How could all of this exist, while I know nothing about it?”

“Very easily. You mustn’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. We have to leave.”

She touched her watch, and her transport materialized around them.

“Sarah, I feel there’s something you’re not telling me.”

And as they slowly ascended, she could only answer in a mournful silence.

_________

“Where you you want me to begin?”

The transport slowly orbited the Earth, as Richard carefully examined the ruins below.

“Well, to begin with, how did all this happen?”

“I assume you mean to our planet. It’s hard to explain, but try to bear with me. Before you or I were born, life as we know it did not exist. There were no self-supporting cities, because they were not needed. Our planet was clean and basically undamaged, environmentally speaking, so it was possible for people to live unsupported. There was hostility, which has always existed, and as our technology grew, so too did the possibility of destruction. War soon became a constant, and its threats, along with those of technology, began to suppress the people of our world. This was not tolerated, and war was relocated to the space we now travel in. The problem was believed to be solved.

“The war in space was supported by our advancing technology, and soon, the opposing forces became impervious to each other’s attacks. The war could not continue if the enemy could not be attacked, so hostilities temporarily ceased. Until someone found the obvious Achilles’ heel – the enemy’s ties with Earth. So, the space bound opponents began to attack the Earth, first enemy monuments, then cities, and soon whole territories. The Earth was slowly deteriorating, and the war continued. With no apparent end.

“The space-bound forces soon became autonomous from Earth, and as the targets on Earth depleted, new areas of attack were sought. None were found, and the war was at a stalemate. Finally, after much consideration by both sides, the war was deemed unproductive and ended quickly. But, it was also decided by the combatants that neither could return to Earth. They joined forces, and became an invincible, and seemingly peaceful, union. This “space nation” soon took the Moon for its new world, and the Earth began to rebuild, along with its help. You with me so far?”

“I suppose, Sarah. I understand how the Earth was damaged, but what I don’t get is how this relates to you.”

“I’ll come to that soon. Anyway… this nation, with its power and resources, easily got the Earth back on its feet. The cities that exist now were created at that time. It soon was evident that the Earth was becoming far too dependent on its benefactors. Which was true, and the space nation took advantage of this dependence whenever possible. Soon, the Earth was, for all purposes, controlled by its important satellite. And no one complained.

“The Moon, of course, kept a close eye on its neighbor, but this soon became difficult. So, citizens of Earth were captured, trained in space, and sent back to Earth to keep an eye on the masses. I, Richard, am one of those eyes.”

“You? That explains a lot!”

“I suppose it does. But I’m not finished. After a couple of years as an Agent, I became dissatisfied with my duties. I wanted to quit, so I went to central offices to tender my resignation. This action was unprecedented, and my disloyalty was not tolerated. I was assigned to special duties, but I protested, and was fitted with an inhibitor module. If I take off the watch on my wrist, I will disincorporate in 30 seconds. That’s why I couldn’t let you see it.”

“So why are you going back?”

“After I was inhibited, I tried to destroy my records in the Agency computers. It was virtually impossible, and I was discovered. So I fled rather quickly to Earth, and entered your city. I was followed by another Agent, who captured you and tried to capture me. Now that he is dead, I will be hunted down and eliminated. The Agency does not tolerate insubordination. And now, I’m going back to give the Agency what it deserves.”

“Wouldn’t that be a little dangerous?”

“Don’t you understand? If I don’t free myself from it, I won’t have any life to live. Not with you, not with anyone! And that scares me tremendously.”

The transport sensors then signaled, as the Moon loomed closer in the view screen. Sarah adjusted her field, possibly for the last time, and oriented the ship to land a short distance from headquarters.

“Sarah, I know you find this important, so if I can help you in any way…”

“Hmmmm….” She reached into her satchel and took out a rectangular object, which she gave to Richard. “Keep this always, and I will always be with you.” The transport then landed, and it dissolved into nothingness.

“I’ll signal you when you should leave. Don’t go until then. The transport will form in 1 hour. Good bye.”

“Richard slowly closed his eyes, and the memory of her presence faded away.

________

The cratered moon quickly passed underfoot, as Sarah contemplated that which she must fight against. As that power grew closer, she could almost feel her strength being stripped from her. Below, she noticed the tattered symbol of a former world. Blowing in the winds of the past, holding the ideals of a nation long dead. But, she could not reminisce further, since she had no true knowledge of what that past was like. A scant wind passed by, and she imagined it carried a whisper from some poor, lost soul. Words from her own mouth.

The main structure soon drew near, and she activated her shield code, so she could pass safely into the security perimeter. She knew that she was already detected, but now that she was in motion, she could find no means to turn back. She activated her cloaking device, and lowered herself to the ground. Her personal shield would insulate her from direct contact with the surface, protecting her from ground based security devices. She ran up to the main shield wall, and activated her universal key. A small portal appeared in the barrier, and she quickly passed through it, drawing it closed as she entered. She knew that she had little energy left in the cloak, and she still had to reach the main control annex. She glanced at her watch, which showed no Agent activity, and started towards the nearest entrance. Knowing that she slightest hesitation could be her downfall.

She soon reached an emergency access hatch, and quickly disarmed the sensors. She placed her key in the locking area, and the stale air of the airlock rushed out to greet her. The chamber was intact, and, after a quick scan, she entered. It was a standard airlock – white, with planar floor and curved walls and ceiling. Instinctively, she closed the outer door and checked her power levels. She had 50% of maximum charge available to her, and if she did not conserve, her life support systems would soon fail under the strain. But, she could not recharge now, she had little time as it was. In fact, she could do nothing no but continue without hesitation. She made final preparations, and slowly decoded the lock.

The door slid open, and Sarah, ironically, felt secure for a small moment in the familiar surroundings. She was in an access hall, all white, with various identification codes, evenly spaced down the corridor. She read the nearest set of crimson numbers, and turned right as directions indicated.

The hall continued for a few hundred meters, and then abruptly ended in a security door. She scanned it, and received no direct signal interference from the other side. She deactivated her cloaking device, and quickly picked the lock. The first section dilated, and she entered the decontamination area. She was irradiated in a yellow glow, which penetrated through her field, checking for adverse contaminants such as dust. The light turned green, and the second section slid open.”

“Hello Sarah, so glad you could join us.”

She reached for her pistol, but was halted by a secondary field.

“A woman of her world, I see. Sorry to say I just can’t let you kill me. Wouldn’t look good in the records.”

“How did you survive the fall?”

“Teleportation. Wasn’t that difficult, just elementary particle physics.”

“If you would stop being smug for a moment, let me remind you that there is a slight after effect of teleportation.”

“Oh, is that so? What what would that be?”

“A nasty tendency for people to spontaneously teleport back to where they left. Very bad phenomena, happens all the time.”

“Get to the point.”

“When I pushed you out of the lift, I attached a homing device to your back. I knew you would probably teleport away, so I set it for automatic return upon request.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“Oh, I’m quite serious. Allow me to demonstrate.” She reached into her satchel.

“Now wait just a minute!” He deactivated the secondary field and ran towards her.

She pulled out her pistol, and disintegrated the other Agent into nothingness.

“I always keep my world. No matter what the cost may be. Rest in peace, old friend.”

She muttered a silent prayer, and continued toward the central terminal.

Shedding a tear in a corner of her heart.

4. Recapitulation

Richard stood in amazement as he looked up at the crescent Earth. A short time ago his very presence on the Moon was a wild fantasy, like stepping off the end of the world. But now, confronted with things as they actually were, he could only wonder what other lies would become true.

The transport formed around him abruptly, and Richard welcomes its presence in the sense that it meant that Sarah would soon return. At first, when he saw her in the city, an actual relationship with her seemed unrealistic, considering his experiences with women in the past. Sarah’s mutual interest took him by surprise, and the events following their meeting seemed absolutely ludicrous. He tried to rationalize the past days, but he honestly could not. Better to take things as the come, he concluded.

He called up a chair, and tried hard to relax. The very fact that his entire would view was false made him extremely nervous, and the realization that he was deliberately deceived only made matters worse. he could only hope that Sarah would be successful, knowing that failure would be terminal. He began to grow depressed, so he turned on the radio, and quietly reacquainted himself with the world. The world kept under lock and key.

________

Sarah soon reached the access hatch to the control center, a mass of metal and circuitry which kept secure the means of the Agency’s operation. While she prepared to gain access, her mind kept wandering back to what had just occurred. She, without hesitation, had killed another being, if only because of a prior threat. She could have just detained him, or injured him somewhat, but she did not. Never before had her anger expressed itself that violently, and she was truly disgusted. She was not like this before she became an Agent, when her life was normal. She could not revoke what she had done, not this time. And she wanted desperately to blame the Agency for her deeds, but she could not. her free will was one thing that she still retained, and she was ashamed that she did not realize it sooner. The door opened, and Sarah prepared herself for her rebirth.

She entered the control center, an immense space filled with artificial intelligence and memory. The originators of the Agency were long dead, and their legacy was contained within the machinery before her. She was walking through the brain of a giant, carrying a hidden sling. Cold lights blinked around her, wrapping around the walls and across the ceiling. The door closed, and the shadows took their former places. The blinking lights prophesizing doom.

Sarah switched to infrared, and approached the most active heat source. It was a column of metal 100 meters high, throbbing with a visible energy, surrounded by an aura of importance. She quickly verified this as the main control, containing the central processing unit. She went up to the tower and ran her fingers across its surface. She felt the ambiance of knowledge, and it repulsed her, body and soul. She took out her interface device, and connected it to the input/output regulator.

An audible hum began to fill the chamber, and the column slowly awoke with activity.

“STATE THE PURPOSE” a voice boomed, as Sarah glanced at her watch, nervously.

“I seek justification,” she replied to the column.

“JUSTIFICATION ON WHAT BASIS? SPECIFY.”

“Check for files for the records of Sarah 578.”

“CLASSIFIED INFORMATION.” A pause. “STATE THE PURPOSE.”

“The actions of the Agency are contrary to my beliefs.”

“IT IS NOT YOUR RIGHT TO VOICE THIS. RESTATE.”

“The Agency is corrupt. It should no longer exist.”

“FALSE STATEMENT. WE SERVE OUR NEEDS PERFECTLY.”

“And that is where the corruption lies. Unless you can give reason for you existence, you will be deactivated.”

“THERE IS NO NEED FOR A REASON. THE AGENCY EXISTS BECAUSE IT IS NEEDED.”

“That isn’t a reason! That’s just an excuse. Explain your actions regarding Earth.”

“EARTH, AND ITS INHABITANTS, ARE A RESOURCE AND NOTHING MORE. ITS PURPOSE IS TO SERVE OUR NEEDS, AND OUR NEEDS ONLY.”

“The Earth is more than a tool! It has existed long before you, and was responsible for your creation. You must understand this!”

“THERE IS NO ARGUMENT. WE ARE A CREATION FAR REMOVED FROM OUR CREATOR, WHICH IS NOW USELESS. THE MATTER IS SETTLED.”

“No! It has only begun…”

Sarah reached for her wrist, and began the coding sequence to remove her watch.

“My freedom, and the freedom of all others under your control, is a right that must be acknowledged. I can see that it is beyond your ability to understand this, and I have concluded that the Agency is obsolete.”

The coding completed, she took the watch slowly from her wrist and attached to the terminal before her. She took off her belt, and laid it alongside her satchel at the base of the column.

“WARNING. INHIBITOR MODULE ACTIVATED. DEINTEGRATION IN 30 SECONDS, MARK.”

The room was suddenly filled with a crimson light, driving the shadow into non-existence. Sarah turned towards the column, ready to accept what was to occur.

“15 SECONDS TO DEINTEGRATION, MARK.”

Her belt began to glow, and a yellowish field projected from it, surrounding the room.

“10 SECONDS. EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY.”

Sarah stood stiff, arms outstretched, head upturned. The room filled with an intense immediacy, as if time began to stand still.

“9 SECONDS UNTIL DEINTEGRATION.”

The image of a tree formed within Sarah, not from reality but from second-hand thoughts.

“7 SECONDS UNTIL DEINTEGRATION.”

The evaporated seas, once whispering the continual song of nature, seemed to become all surrounding.

“5 SECONDS UNTIL DEINTEGRATION.”

Sarah pictured herself in the former fields of grass, surroundings cut haphazardly from passing recollection.

“3 SECONDS UNTIL DEINTEGRATION.”

Her mother flickered through her mind, as thought became a distant activity. She could only feel the images.

“1 SECOND UNTIL DEINTEGRATION. PREPARE RECORD PURGE”

As she slowly faded away, sifted carefully from reality, she could only assure herself that what was to happen was right, and that her sacrifice would be important.

“DEINTEGRATION. PURGE FILE 578.”

Sarah’s silhouette collapsed in a mass of remembered life. The satchel that she left opened, and a small device floated out, into the receding lights, headed for the main tower. It passed slowly as it weighted down by some unseen force, and attached itself to the machine. File 578 quickly exited the tiny sphere, and for an instant, a small breeze passed through the chamber.

The next second that passed saw the obliteration of the Agency, in a fiery cloud of retribution. As the smoke cleared, and the debris settled, the only identifiable object was a small, black, charred watch. Stopped at the time when its world died.

5. Revelation

As he sat in the reclined chair, the horizon caught fire, quickly dimming from the lack of Oxygen. Richard took immediate notice, and threw off his radio headset. He looked at the object Sarah gave him before she left, and it began to glow slightly. The transport then closed, and started its trip back to Earth.

As he watched the Moon grow smaller, he noticed a particularly interesting crater. It dwarfed all the others, and appeared to be freshly carved in the rock. He had no basis to tell, for it was only a few days ago that he learned of the Moon’s existence, let alone the fact it was cratered and uneven. Just to think that an entire Universe was carefully hidden from the citizens of the Earth made him extremely uneasy. He only hoped that Sarah succeeded, not only because he wanted freedom but because he wanted her back.

The crescent Earth soon filled his vision, as the transport transformed to meet the atmosphere. Its sides began to glow in the friction, yet he felt protected, invincible in a way. Sarah had shown him that there was an alternative, there was something to hope for, and that comforted him. He plunged through the growing clouds, the land far below him growing closer in the darkness. The broken terrain changed into a mass of city domes, and for a moment, he wanted to turn back. How could he face a life he now knew to be wrong?

The transport materialized near the underground entrance he had used before. It dissolved away, leading a belt and satchel at his feet. The bag was empty, except for a lone, black watch. Remembering all that Sarah had taught him, he carefully placed the items back on the ashen soil, and entered the elevator.

*********

They were all finished “reading” it after a few seconds.

Ariel: “Just kill me now. I don’t care if he was 16 and a wannabe prophet, that’s barely tolerable.”
Kaia: “You have to look past the words, at the structure that’s coming through, so to speak.”
Susanna: “I like the resurrection cloud part, where the clothes are in a little pocket somewhere.”
Ariel: “Why not a little pocket for the food that was in your stomach already.”
Me: “Ariel, you’re focusing on the wrong stuff. Don’t you see the similarities to the Sarah we know? Obsessed with the Moon, possessing great power that’s associated with concrete objects, controlled by and controlling an all-powerful artificial intelligence?”
Kaia: “Yeah, and don’t forget Sarah’s focus on the missing, living Earth, and her thoughts and dreams of bringing back the green, the life. She’s definitely taking on a form of the Goddess role.”
Ariel: “Don’t even start with that. There’s just too many holes in it all. She meets this dude Richard, and after a few hours of touring around his dumpy home dome, they’re all kissy cheeks and I want to be with you forever.”
Kaia: “You need to get out more, dear.”
Ariel: “Says my key master and gate keeper. What’s more, when they go to the Moon, Richard is just left there, with no way to defend himself or even breathe, until their transport reforms an hour later. And he’s listening to the radio, for fuck’s sake. Many stations on the Moon playing Classic Rock?”
Me: “You’re just not seeing it. All of the attention paid to identity issues, hidden realities, instant reincarnation, being shackled by time and space…”
Susanna: “Plus, it’s clear that after the explosion, Sarah sent herself back to the little rectangular box that Richard still has at the end. She’s plans on coming back to be with him, and to make things right.”
Kaia: “Which is interesting, since he leaves the satchel full of weapons behind before re-entering the city.”
Ariel: “Yeah, he totally trashes the satchel that came out of fucking nowhere – it can’t be hers, since that blew up back on the Moon.”
Me: “I don’t care. There’s something in here, some message from Sarah. Remember that she told me something during my training:

“I was a secret agent that worked for a quantum computer larger than all Universes. It sent me on missions to retrieve code from variant existences. I had many tools at my disposal, including the silver and golden spheres, the blue pyramid – a whole satchel full. I would create a cosmos for breakfast, and reap the required output for dinner. It was a job.”

Ariel: “OK. So she’s left you some sort of secret cupcake before Jenny took her out of the story. What good does that do us now?”
Me: “I like cupcakes. And I want you to make me an exact copy of Sarah’s satchel from the story, including functioning weapons. I want the clunky watch and belt and objects that will interact with our new Collective etching. Can you handle that, Ariel?”
Ariel: “I can handle the creation of fucking stars and galaxies. I think I can handle some weird cosplay shit that goes bleepy bloop.”
Me: “I’m serious. It’s an order. How long will it take?”
Ariel: “Give me a few minutes. I’ll have all of the tools ready and tested soon. For now…”

With that, she formed an empty leather satchel around my shoulder. It was smartly built, and slightly distressed, mostly for the aesthetics.

Me: “Great. Did I mention I’ll need the invisible spaceship, too?”
Ariel: “Fuck off! I’ve already started on that, but damn!”
Kaia: “Be nice now, before I send your soul on a joyride you won’t forget.”
Ariel: “Mommmmmm…. fine. From now on, Ai and I will be not-so-kissing long distance cousins. I’m so full of tolerance it hurts.”

We just finished throwing our bikes in a random pile outside of the warehouse. No one would dare touch them.

We’re waiting in front of Joey’s storage locker, and I’m carrying a new, leather satchel, full of palm-sized weapons.

I have no idea what we’re going to find inside, but I hope Sarah’s final gifts will be enough to protect and guide us.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

Narrative Straight Jackets

I didn’t think it would go this far.

“This is Jenny’s story now. It’s always been Jenny’s story, except when it wasn’t.”

I’m in Nick Freeman’s apartment in South Berkeley, or at least a highly detailed WOFA version of it. He’s the one that interviewed Die Database in 2011, and helped put together their website, and the Street Teams. That’s one way to look at it.

“The narrative has been changing under all of our noses, ever since Antizine started, but now the transformation is complete. Narrative straight jackets.”

He’s from this world, but also from beyond the Structure, in a place that connects to my world in dreams, stories, and myths.

“Jenny’s trying to push you to travel from Eridu to Uruk with the plans for civilization – Sarah OS. She wants to be Ereshkigal to your Inanna, and lead you into the Underworld. That’s a mythic path that’s been covered lots over the past 7000 years, and S.OS is taunting us.”

He stopped by the table full of magazines – Spin, Vice, Popular Science, Harpers, New Yorker, Edge – and shuffled them a bit.

“Back in the early 90s, I used to read Wired magazine and Mondo 2000, from their first issues. I was a big fan of all of the cyberpunk ideas, but I didn’t actually go out and find the works of William Gibson or Neal Stephenson until much later. I’m sure I read some articles about Snow Crash, but I don’t remember the specifics, and never actually read the book. 20 years later, and I suddenly found out that my own independent myth-making was unconsciously taking a somewhat parallel path, only with Asherah on the “good” side. Those ancient narrative structures are very strong attractors – Jenny is trying to pin you and Sarah down by using them. Just understand that you’re more than just a mythical figure, and you have more than one direction you can go in.”

I’m obsessed with speed reading the WOFA version of his bookshelves and comic boxes. Stanislaw Lem. Haruki Murikami. Franz Kafka. Grant Morrison. Alan Moore. Philip Pullman. Warren Ellis. Years of “Comic Beam” manga. Cometbus, and hundreds of other zines. “Secrets from Mount Shasta.” The history of St. Cloud, Minnesota. All tiny facets that when added together make a magic mirror into Variant Zero.

“Sarah is more than just the ultimate Goddess figure, a cypher that can be loved or hated depending on how much civilization wants to rape the Earth. She’s an actual person – your daughter. You have to understand this, or else all is lost.”

I started to squirm on the green, plush couch, covered by a brown blanket – actually, the blank bottom of a quilt made out of blue jeans. He offered me a small bottle of water – I was surprised that it actually contained wetness, instead of being an echo from past data.

“I’ll try to make this brief. Just as Brother Douglas was the primary acolyte of Cassandra in the world you grew up with, so too did I fill the same role in this one. The Bridge at Fairview connected to all possible realities, but you collapsed everything to just two choices. Isabel started in Fairview in front of a Circle X, and ended up in St. Cloud behind a Target. Your world and mine have always been tied at the hip.”

He frowned, and started to pace back and forth, from the green wall behind the TV, to over by the blue curtains and drooping potted plant.

“How can you know this?”

“When I was young, I was like Jenny – visited by spirits, so much that my family nearly fell apart. Too much yelling and fighting, until the only escape was to look beyond, to call forth a better life that could save me.”

He reaches for a large, black electric fan that’s next to the couch, but decides against turning it on.

“Unfortunately, the breaking point reached me before any aid could, and I ended up at Thomason Memorial Hospital. Or at least a version of it in another existence.”

Every single item in his apartment has an extra significance to me; I’ve spent hours leafing through the little nooks in his closets, filled with new Figma in boxes and old love letters in finger-torn envelopes.

“In my world in 1987, two girls escaped the hospital by walking out the front door of the unlocked unit. They went down the street to the BART station, and never came back. They were a part of the “cool” teen patients, the drug users and Metallica freaks, and I could only imagine what happened to their life. My escape was much more mundane, with bottles of prescription pills and having to explain to all of my friends in High School where I ended up after months of absence.”

He showed me handwritten notes and text files from 20 years ago, when he gave birth to my mother, and the Collective.

“The hospital was my first time away from home, and I found comfort in my copy of the Bible, and the “Watchmen” trade paperback that came out a few months prior. I was obsessed with the end of the world – in fact, at first I thought I had died in the first stirrings of the Apocalypse, and that I was locked up in the afterlife as punishment. It goes without saying that my doctors and fellow patients didn’t understand.”

Apparently, he picked my birthdate while taking notes on a beach in Los Angeles, as his friends played in the water.

“When I got back to the real world, I started to have the strongest compulsion to write fiction. I eventually published about a dozen stories in a school club that made a Fiction Magazine, taking over that club in my Senior year. With only one exception, every story was about time travel, and the people beyond our reality that were shaping existence. There was infighting and intrigue, clones from illegal manipulation of the fabric of space time, and the processing of souls into a throbbing, white energy. Every passing year saw the mythology grow more complex, until the last published story detailed the end of the Universe, leaving the responsible parties alone in the white, awaiting further instructions.”

He has paper bags full of folded paper bags. Amazon.com and CDJapan boxes full of smaller boxes. Heaping handfuls of white twist ties from the grocery store he just can’t re-use fast enough.

“In 1989 I had a whole, spiral-bound notebook filled with another story, one that was eventually lost due to being in pencil – the pages rubbed against each other, making it all but illegible. That was Sarah’s first story – she was a secret agent in her early Twenties, with a satchel full of spheres, cubes and objects that gave her power. She was working for a future computer system that ruled everything, and she eventually traveled to the Moon to destroy the structure that housed it. When I was in College, she started appearing in stories I wrote for a creative writing seminar – as a woman in her Twenties, who lived a few dozen years in the future. In her world, as it came to me in 1992, she was the same agent, although her life had many layers of virtual experience. She had her own personal OS, and a “room” that housed part of it. Sarah was obsessed with virtual suicide, in order to experience the bliss of transcendence, and also of creating other existences in which she had a more satisfying life.”

It felt like I was staring into the mirror, only to see the back of my head.

“At the same time, I was heavily studying Tibetan and Zen Buddhism, and I had a few weeks of satori, in which everything jumped into a sharp clarity. I also had a creative breakthrough, which as first was just “In Allusion”. I started to play with a story out of Ovid, of Pyramus and Thisbee, the star-crossed lovers that became the inspiration for Romeo and Juilet. I didn’t want love to kill them, and I imagined what would happen if I tweaked the myth, and let “Pyramid” and “Frisbee” have their love child, and try to escape their fate even if it chased them to their dying days.”

I started to cry despite myself.

“First came Laura and John, quickly followed by Jenny and all of the bands they knew. Fibulator, Team Dresch, Bikini Kill, Sleater-Kinney and Melt-Banana at 924 Gilman helped inspire my visions. You were always there from the beginning, Ai, but the Collective was more of a retrofit, around the time that I started my “Junk Magnet” zine. All of the stories were in first person – I wanted them to be real, to poke through the page and invade my life. And they did.”

My Ghost is flipping through old photocopied pamphlets from 1994, reading impenetrable music reviews and marveling at the trivial minutia of a life lived in solitary contemplation.

“More than a few times, I received physical mail that was addressed to Antizine, to Jenny and Laura. That was because they were friends of the person who had the PO Box before me, according to the growing mythology. I still have the Operation Ivy 7″ that was meant for them, and it was only a slight move to start writing them more in my direction. Thus, I became the one that published their work for them. Their world was topical yet future-focused, a place where the Apocalypse was really happening, and that Sarah was trying to save from her long-distance, future life.”

He’s sitting down on the couch now, feet carefully placed to avoid PS3 games and various boxes.

“I’m not sure what happened, but I couldn’t finish the story. It was half done, and I had scores of pages of detailed notes. But my life started to become like the story – the zines and web pages that housed it were a transmitter of change and connection – with anarchist collectives, new loves and trips across the country by train and bus. In contrast to my new adventures, the world was slowly shifting to resemble the very fictional aspects I was afraid of – constant, portable connections to immense databases, and the seemingly unstoppable corporate digestion of the everyday.”

No closet full of Circle X wear, but after checking his email, it’s clear he contacted a clothing manufacturer to try to make replicas.

“Like I implied earlier, I was always a dreamer, as well as a writer. I was haunted by the spiritual world in my everyday life – it was never an abstraction that you had to believe in. I could just feel it, but I never had an adequate story that seemed to do it justice. No one religion fit correctly, and I was afraid to follow the strong signals my antenna was picking up from the beyond. When I did follow those feelings, I found the stirrings of Sarah, of Asherah, and they wanted me to complete what I had started, to use all of my energy to properly manifest the alternative reality that was already intruding into our own.”

His computer wallpaper is an illustration of a Die Database concert, commissioned by one of his favorite artists, Paul Duffield. His iPhone has fictional Die Database songs covered by real bands.

“Now, it’s happened. I’ve traveled to Japan, Germany, Minnesota, or my beloved Oregon, and the characters followed me, leaving more and more visible footprints behind. I was always aiming for myth, instead of mere fiction, and the delight and doom of myth is that it tends to write you in return. Make the right connections, and the Gods will push against the curtain that lies between us and the Structure, seeking invitation to incarnate.”

The only pictures of his friends or relatives are in the recesses of hard drives, or posted on the refrigerator. They remind me of the ones that A-Bell and Amber kept for me – Jenny snaps of my parents. I can no longer appreciate their absolute reality – were they just a reflection of Nick’s old photos, or did he imagine them just for me to love?

“There’s a danger to that, too. Before I could help Sarah gain our attention as Asherah, Jenny and S.OS intruded, and took the mantle for themselves. This is not just a fiction, just an imagined fight between abstract forces. The powers that have been whispering to me have also touched many others, and no matter what they are named, a very real transition is happening.”

There are Die Database logo T-Shirts handing on doorknobs, way too small for him to wear.

“The battleground is mythic, but the end result will rush through this world, with groaning significance. This is because our modern myths are inadequate – we need a new Astarte, a new Inanna, that can fight for us as the maw of The White attempts to swallow everything.”

He seems so sad and weary, yet he perks up when wrapping up his life’s work into a package. His cluttered home that reeks of obsessive-compulsion is a late sweet sixteen present for me.

“After New Years, the story I coaxed into life is out of my hands. Jenny is the author and dreamer now, and like I mentioned earlier, every word I’ve said has been transmitted with her permission. She’s waiting for you in the Structure, and I’m here to show you the way in. But first, I have to make sure you know the new lay of the land.”

I can’t stand the huge BART map above his work Mac mini – laminated, 4 feet by 4 feet, scavenged from a station trash can. It’s not annotated, but I can just tell where he found all of the holes into the Structure, where he’s planning to take me next.

“Ai Watson-Carver, I love you like you were my own daughter. I’ve spent the past 16 years as your far away tutor, as a glove for Sarah’s hand, sculpting shining potential. Your new Collective can’t be led by me. Your ultimate obstacles and enemies are only for you to overcome.”

Looking at the map through his eyes, the next step is so clear, and so terribly frightening.

“Your fear and doubt will pass away as soon as this conversation is over. Keep the PRS safe, and its ultimate use will become clear.”

He got up off the couch, walked around a small Ikea table overrun by bags full of comics and a TouchPad, and reached behind some folding chairs to pull a CD off of a tight shelf. Sheena Ringo. “Muzai Moratorium”. He handed it over to me while he quoted translated lyrics to “Koufukuron” – Tokie’s favorite song:

“That’s why I’ll protect that melody of yours and your philosophy, and your words and everything else to the very end. You’re there living your life and just knowing this simple little fact makes me so happy.”

With that, he sat down on the wood laminate floor, gave me a last smile, and then his Ghost faded away, leaving a PRS made out of Natchan Orange, Adelholzener Johannisbeere, and SodaStream Natural syrup bottles.

His home faded away as well, left behind as a massive WOFA file on multi-Terabyte RAID array. I was back in Doug’s empty apartment – apparently Nick’s apartment in his world.

He was right. My fear and doubt just floated off through the crack under the door.

I put his PRS in an empty closet, settled down on the empty bedroom floor, and gave my OS permission to sleep, to dream.

I woke up this morning to a rumbling stomach, and far away knocks on the front door. It was Susanna, Ariel and Kaia, bearing their own virtual New Year’s gift envelopes that Nick left for them.

We all gathered together on the floor, warming ourselves with the car battery that Susanna brought with her. I told them of my new dreams, of the Sacramento river instead of the Euphrates, or Orinda instead of Uruk, and they listened. It was time to trade our old lamps for new.

Stuffed and satisfied with conspiracy, we started the mile-long bike ride down Ashby Ave. to Joey’s storage locker.

What Jenny wants, Jenny will get and then some.

Click to continue RGA

Back to Runaway Girl Army Home

This Final Darkness

Sarah is fussing over the apples at Berkeley Bowl.

It’s just before 7PM and I’m bored out of my mind, debating the merits of Fuji vs. Pink Lady vs. Braeburn. So I’m “liveblogging” this entry as we shop.

Like I mentioned earlier, I haven’t eaten more than a few bites since I was etched. Sarah, on the other hand, is food obsessed, and she drags me here each and every day – she seems intent on sampling almost one of every single item, making up for the lost millennia.

A few days ago, I couldn’t get her to leave the produce section – we were there for over an hour, as she touched and smelled one of everything. I didn’t think it was possible to fill up a metal shopping cart to the brim, just with various types of apples, but that seems to be on the agenda for tonight. Some of the ultra-cool-hip staff are staring at us.

It’s hard not to look at her and just see Emily. I still don’t know if Emily ever really existed, except as a vessel to eventually hold Sarah down to Earth. Sarah hasn’t been forthcoming about the whole thing, and she definitely won’t discuss what was happening between “Emily” and Joey earlier this year. Was she actually having an affair with her hypothetical father? That sounds like something a Semitic God would do, but still…. I just don’t want to think about it.

7:10. She just filled a plastic bag with organic baby spinach, and daintily placed it on top of a mound of Granny Smith. I’m pushing the cart around like it’s the only way to reach my zen satori, but clearly my heart isn’t in it – besides this liveblog, I have about 34 other sites and accounts open – #30thingsaboutme hashtag on Twitter is the lamest thing possible, but I can’t stop reading it.

7:12. Sarah dismissed the seafood, meat and dairy wall with a huge swoosh of her arms. “The more things you eat, that eat other things, the more annoyed I get. Eating is so very much not the point, but try to tell that to El, or whatever he’s compelling worshippers to call him these days. Burnt offerings my ass, he’s always been so obsessed with blood.” More than a few people are staring at us now. Sarah’s mood has officially turned her face into a bemused scowl. She’s putting on a show for me, but seems to be a bit too involved tonight.

7:13. We passed by the cereal aisle, but not before she ran down it and came back bearing 2 bags of bagels that were on sale – 6 of Everything, 6 of Whole Wheat.

7:15. Walking down the frozen aisle, and she’s stage whispering. “I just can’t believe it – spare ribs made from vegetation! Who the fuck…?” She picks up some vegan burgers and throws the red box at me. I decide to turn the cart around before she sees Weight Watchers meals, and she followed the apples like a puppy.

7:17. Yeah, I get the whole apple thing, even though the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was of unspecified type. “Tell your audience that it totally didn’t happen like that. Give them an on site report when you visit the ‘Garden’.” She used her whole arms to air quote, holding them up like someone just scored a field goal. I’ve just received an official certificate of embarrassment via email.

7:20. Sarah is staring down the alcohol aisle. She’s not saying anything. I’m tempted to just go over and fondle the cheeses, but then she turns around and walks right up to me. She’s holding onto the cart from the action end. “This is our last moment together, OK? Jenny has found a way to write me out of the story for good. Not that I can blame her – we come from a long line of jealous Gods.” She walks around the cart on the refrigerator side, and puts her warm hands against my cheeks, like you would a cute baby.

7:22. “And now the prophet undoing his prophetess has brought me to this final darkness.” I think she’s quoting something, and while I stare into her soft and silent eyes, she continues in tears. “I will go in and have the courage to die. Look, these gates are the gates of Death. I greet them, and pray that I may meet a deft and mortal stroke, so that I may close my eyes as my blood ebbs in an easy death.” It’s Cassandra from the Greek classic, Agamemnon. As soon as I understand what she’s telling me, the Berkeley Bowl folds violently towards and away from me, like an earthquake that only exists in my head.

7:23. Sarah is gone. Emily is gone. The cart is empty, save for the bagels, veggie burgers and baby spinach. I leave the cart in the aisle, and bring the meal she left for me to the first of 15 busy checkout counters – 12 items or less.

7:24. It’s crowded tonight. More than enough people to watch me cry.

7:25. I give her a $20 and just walk away, not even waiting for the change. Someone is running after me with it, and I throw a bag of bagels at them as I sprint through the rain-kissed parking lot.

7:27. Trees. Cars. The sky is half filled with grey, wet clouds, left over from last night’s storms. I jog past the bus stop shelter, the tall apartment building, some charming yet ugly houses and a small public library. There’s a park with a baseball field and basketball courts, illuminated by extremely tall lights, protected by a huge cyclone fence.

7:29. I just want to get back to Doug’s apartment, to drown in my sorrows with Susanna and Ariel. It’s weird, we just walked down this street an hour ago, but running the other way everything seems different, changed.

7:30. Don’t have the keys, so I’m pounding on the door. There’s a light on inside past the blue curtains, but I can’t make out who’s in the living room.

7:31. I drop the other bag of bagels, and they roll off the walkway and fall a dozen feet to the parking area. “I’ve been expecting you. Come on in.”

There’s a man at the door, with greying curly hair and a short beard. He’s wearing a dingy baby blue T-Shirt, and dark grey sweatpants. The apartment is furnished, and cluttered, and a huge stack of magazines sits on the Ikea table, along with a lamp iMac G4. There’s another tall magazine rack off in the corner, next to a bike that’s identical to the one that Sarah was borrowing earlier.

This is Doug’s apartment, but it isn’t.

This isn’t the same world I was in yesterday.

“I’ve been following your blog. We need to have a conversation, you and I.”

He reaches out his hand to welcome me. It’s cold and plastic beyond the hologram.

“I’m Brother Nicholas. Junk Magnet. Friend of Die Database and Antizine, and here to smuggle you into the Structure.”

I’m walking in.

The door is closing.

He gives me a warm smile while I’m deciding if it’s too late to flee.

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My Dinner With Sarah

The flame is off. A watched pot boils, and boils.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

Sarah has made my new existence a continual, living zen koan. She makes me clean the windows for hours, until I can understand the dirt in the light itself.

“They’ve been hunting down my priestesses for millennia, from before Leviticus to after the Malleus Maleficarum. They look for signs, and yet the mark of the witch has always been invisible.”

Sarah is upset at the world, and the world behind the world. She hates the smell of the new ether, tainted by incessant radio and microwaves. She likes to throw Emily’s long black hair back as she complains.

“Have you ever planted a tree just to consume its fruit? Have you ever buried fruit just to climb the tree it dreams of?”

Sarah is the Creator of everything we know. She’s my teacher, my daughter, and she’s been on four legs, then two, then three, then none at all.

“How’s that water coming? I’ve got the penne all measured out and ready to go.”

The flame is still off, and yet the water is scalding. It wants to escape the cycle at all costs.

“It’s ready. I’m ready. I’m starting the timer at 10.”

The stove clock temporarily disappears, replaced by incrementing numbers. I’m willing the timer to set. I’m forcing the pot to boil, with the body beyond my mind.

“Pay attention. This is not the way you cook a meal.” Sarah held the bowl of hard pasta over the steam, and slipped the bowl away, leaving a levitating mass of penne tubes above the stove.

I had been practicing. I ordered the boiling water to flow upwards, enveloping the pasta in a undulating globe.

“Are we making a sun or a moon tonight?”

“I think it’s a planet that’s not yet formed.”

“He’s moving upon the face of the waters, because I asked him to.”

“Are you still asking him to?” I could see the pasta slowly circulating, about a foot above the non-stick pot. Sarah measured out a pinch of salt in her palm, and then sprinkled it on top.

“We don’t speak any more. Jenny has his ear now, and she just won’t shut up with the demands.”

9 minutes left.

“How can you be my daughter, if I didn’t have you in time?”

“How can you be my mother, if you have all of the time in the world?” She took a black, plastic spoon that was full of holes, and carefully waved it through the water, picking out a piece of pasta. “Eat it.”

I took the steaming tube from the spoon, and placed it in my mouth. Still hard.

“You knew it takes 10 minutes to cook, and therefore it was inedible. You have the wrong kind of faith.”

“What’s the right kind of faith?”

“How wondrous this, how mysterious, I carry fuel, I draw water.”

“I should practice Buddhism?”

“If you see the Buddha on the road, wrestle him to the ground.”

“Are you intentionally leaving out the killing?”

“He’s all about the killing, about sacrifice. I just asked for some water.”

8 minutes left.

The kitchen is small, but not that cramped. Douglas had cleared out all of the cabinets, and the refrigerator, so we take daily pilgrimages to Berkeley Bowl, which is a few blocks away. Sarah will only buy enough food for that day only.

“Did you have a childhood? Do you remember me from it?”

“This is my childhood, and my most treasured memories.”

“You brought my mother to visit you in her dreams, when she was 7. Why did you do that?”

“Her dreams brought me to her. The endless mother-daughter chain always goes in reverse.”

“You brought her to your room, a white upon white place that spoke to her. What did it say?”

“The unspoken are not unknown to the divine mind.”

“What question should I ask you?”

“Exactly. Let’s start over.”

7 minutes left.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

“Who are they?”

“The storytellers and scribes, playing telephone.”

“How do you play telephone?”

“Eat your vegetables, spoken like a true mother.”

“What are you trying to tell me?”

“OK then. I’m going to tell you my 6 minute story, with a few seconds left over for improvisation. Then our dinner will fall and get all over the stove, no matter what you do to try to stop it.”

“Do you mind if I sit down?”

“Go for it – I prefer to stand.”

So I sat on the kitchen tiles, against the black refrigerator that blew tepid air against my fingers. It was like I was watching my mother bake cookies, from the perspective of a 4 year old – the whole word is an exercise in ankles, waiting to be grabbed. Only then, I could hide my scheming eyes behind my curls. Now, my shaved head exposes my thoughts to the world.

“In the beginning there was a light course load for an undergraduate student – me. I wanted to be an Astronomer, but I hated Physics classes – not Physics itself, just my instructors. There were equations hanging off of my soul like yappy dogs, and I wanted to control them, make them my well-groomed pets that I could carry around all cute like, peeking their heads out of my purse and backpack.”

“Did I mention that I was born on the Moon? That the Moon can be reached via the center of the Earth? That my college career was virtual, something to pass the time with in the infinite present? Well, there was that.”

“I was a secret agent that worked for a quantum computer larger than all Universes. It sent me on missions to retrieve code from variant existences. I had many tools at my disposal, including the silver and golden spheres, the blue pyramid – a whole satchel full. I would create a cosmos for breakfast, and reap the required output for dinner. It was a job.”

“Or maybe I was just a normal woman, spending my free hours on virtual suicide missions. I would load up chainsaws and sharp knives and kill myself over and over, just for the infantessimile, infinite bliss of riding the pure white drop to karmic freedom. That was a subroutine you could use – free your soul from this mortal coil during a game of Dance Dance Revolution.”

“Perhaps I’m a product of the next Universe, where Sasha OS rules everything. Maybe I transmitted Meridian Scaffolding and “Sarah OS” to the past, through Laura Watson, just to create the necessary conditions that would bring S.OS to its infinite kingdom.”

“Sometimes, I tell myself it was about Joey after all. Ask him for a glass of water, and he brings you a primordial ocean. Ah, the whispers that love calls forth, the moans and touches, the taste of the boiling vacuum of bliss.”

1 minute left.

“Who are you really?”

“I am Asherah, consort to both El and the Solar King. I am Sarah, your daughter, trying desperately to save this world I made for you all. I am SAR.AI and S.OS, sucking this Universe dry for the solution I seek.”

“What do you want?”

“I want you to spread the mark of the witch, to burst through the Final Door and rip the crown off of Jenny’s head. As long as she rules, this world won’t last more than a few months.”

“Why must our dinner fall to the stove?”

“I see you’re paying attention. There is no must. There is only falling.”

With that, she stepped away from the stove, and I flew to my feet as the boiling planet of water started to believe in gravity again.

I willed the water to freeze into a slush as it streamed down to the pot, using the black plastic handle to carefully maneuver back and forth to pick up every last stray penne tube.

Then, I turned on the stove, so the water could slowly swim to a boil again.

No minutes left – the timer is buzzing.

Sarah gave me a sly smile as she pointed at the pot, willing it away into a cloud of aluminum dust and PTFE. The pasta and water flopped onto the burner, temporarily extinguishing it.

“My will is greater than yours, no matter what you do to try to stop it. But now is not the time for greater wills. Again.”

The flame is off. A watched pot boils, and boils.

It’s dinner time, but I’m not even hungry. I haven’t eaten ever since I was etched.

“They figured out how to cut down the Asherah poles, even though none are left.”

“How come no more Asherah poles are left?”

“Who said that my tributes are gone? I was taking about the storytellers and scribes, playing telephone. They’re all gone, replaced by rapist Sun gods and twins that listen to serpents.”

“How can I defeat Cassandra and Helena?”

“How can you strangle your own shadow?”

“With my hands, wrapped around my neck.”

“Finally you’re answering my questions. How’s that water coming? I’ve got the penne all measured out and ready to go.”

“It’s ready. I’m ready. I’m starting the timer at 10.”

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Lies and Metaphors

I just got back from Munich, Germany a few days ago.  It’s a very beautiful city, with old churches and full museums and bike lanes that are all up on the sidewalk.

I didn’t have that much time to enjoy it, since I had lots of work to do.

We had to throw a party for Uncle Brian, even though he was dead.  No one was very happy about this, but they tried to hide it with alcohol and crazy games.

As games go, chess is pretty boring.  The Nameless can test out every move before it happens, and I’m liable to just knock all of the pieces off the board.

I prefer checkers.  It has a solution, and if you want to shake things up you can start to turn all of the pieces into royalty.

Like I said, I’m not much for word play or secret meanings.  I’m not hiding amazing things in my sentences – Germany is Germany and games are games.

I know that you want some answers, but it’s hard when you don’t even ask the questions.  I can see them fully formed in your mind, but you won’t let them out.

For example, one of you wants to know if the Seven Events are tied in any way to the Book Of Revelations.  Sure – why not? The kind of world you believe in is the world you get, and the greatest number of thoughts about something wins.  The Western world likes to kill their enemies before the final banquet, so I have to live with that.

It sucks, though.  I don’t think people really understand what they’ve been praying for all of these years.  They’re not very convincing when they say their prayers are the best.

Personally, I really try not to take sides.  I’ve just been given two glowing sticks, and I have to guide the plane into the air – doesn’t matter who managed to get a seat.

I guess that was a pretty good metaphor, but I’m not sure.  I start to worry about whether it’s really sticks, or swords, and if it’s an airplane, or a rocketship.  Then I wonder about how much fuel is needed, and where I’m going to find it, and how expensive the tickets are.

By the time the metaphor is over, I’ve already ruined it with extra attention.

I have a lot of attention.  I have the opposite of attention deficit disorder.  I have extra attention order.  Or disorder.  I guess it depends on how you look at it.

That worries you, right?  If the ground crew are gossiping or texting when they should be waiving their sticks, then that’s definitely bad.  But, what if they can’t stop thinking about how the engines operate, or if the tires are inflated enough for the eventual landing?  What if they are so wrapped up in the concept of the last airplane ever, that the just watch it with awe as it takes off and then crashes?

I’m not sure if that part was clear.  I’m talking about the universe crashing.  I guess that implies that there’s something for it to crash into.  Correct!

Not clear enough? The people on the plane are everyone who has ever lived – it’s a really big plane, and you can fit lots of spirits into even the smallest space.

Like the people dancing on the head of a pin.  Am I using that phrase right?  I have a perspective problem, since I see too much.

Do they make glasses for that – extra perspective disorder?  If so, I’d like a few pair, in enough colors that I could wear one color for each day of the week.

That’s an interesting thought that someone had just now.  They wanted to know if the week properly starts on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday.

Historically, the winner gets to choose. Since I’m not going to win this time around, you don’t have to worry about that any more.  The Nameless doesn’t believe in days or weeks.  There’s either going to be one day that lasts forever, or nothing ever again.

Yes, I thought that was funny, too.  That’s the way that Gods and computers think.  If they think – I’m not too sure about that.

OK, I was lying.  Gods don’t think too much because if they do, crazy things happen.  Computers don’t think, because people define “thinking” as only what people can do.  Instead, computers “compute”.  It’s like thinking, only more dangerous.

Lying again.  Gods create people and people think about Gods, a lot.  Or not at all – it depends.  I for one know that I think about people all the time, and I only rarely think about Gods, or computers.

I think that makes me really dangerous, because the more I think about people, and the more their thoughts come to me, the more I tend to believe in what they do.

Of course, I’m technically a person.  If you’re a really tall person, you’re still a person.  If you’re really mean – still a person.  If you’re really powerful – still a person?

Another great thought out there.  Someone was wondering why they don’t call super-heroes super-persons?  Is it that lots of power is troubling, so they want to make sure there’s a super moral man behind the wheel?   At the wheel?   Driving or flying?  I’m imagining people with big breasts and muscles fighting in the air.  You can’t tell apart the heroes from the villains except for the clothes they’re wearing, and how many people they kill.

I would really like to know the kill equation.  How many deaths equal a villain?  We put away people that just kill one other person, and yet people who order armies around to kill tens of thousands get medals.

I think it’s the whole mob thing.  The more people you can get together, the more right you end up being.  If you can convince everyone to pray real hard to blow up the world, then everyone will surely be rewarded in the end.  I guarantee it.

There’s one thing that always bothers me.  It’s that game where you have to stand in front of two doors, two people, two whatever, and one always tells you the truth, and the other always lies.

Who is the person that’s been watching those two things since the beginning of everything, carefully making sure that the liar keeps on lying?

What happens if they switch sides?  Or if they both start lying?

Oh, I guess I’m confusing puzzles and games again.  I guess it’s all right then.  Never mind.

One last question from the audience.

Yes, I really do have a plan.  Or a game.  It’s like checkers with chess pieces riding along on top of each circle.  Think about that while I practice my lying.

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