I had to clean the wound before the bees set in.
I was stumbling in technicolour. The streets were still filled with cornfetti from the Angel Parade; the faint smell of starch rose from the sewers and greeted my nostrils with an ever firmer handshake. Yet still, with yellow pastures rising, the taste of the town was still too sickly sweet, saccharine smiles punching holes in Thursday's Serpents.
Bleeding, pleading, I turned to the first doctor. The masks on masks on endless masks were too much to bear - "oh, bother" said the pataphor - yet the licking of the honey wasn't enough to stem the bees. The doctor had other patients, and no patience for me: he walked along the walls and treaded glue upon his silver frame.
Tape poured from the Tickerman's mouth as he plastered the propaganda posters against the crumbling walls of Jericho. He turned and spat hot ink in my wound: the mechatronic clatterings of his machinations found my being to be non-optimal. Only ticking. The stink of flesh was thinking bleak. Another remedy wasted.
The ball of grey goo writhed in its flames; the green met grey, a ball improved. Justice by any other name is a perversion of the rows. We don't have illnesses of the body here. We cured all that, now. People here can live forever. But the mind? No. No, no, no. The mind is sick and the soul the mind denotes will rot within its neural tomb.
My arm buzzed and my blood turned thick. Too late for ink.
Nothing was left to the apothecary, so the apothecaries changed. Do not let the body decay, no, no. Keep it alive, ensnare the errant soul. Keep him healthy, keep him whole: never change, of course. The rows perverse shall drain the Waters of Nazareth: Fair-oh! Moses and the Lord shall get a little Cross from his crucifixion.
The dancer cries as we tap our ruby slippers: There's No God Like Whole, There's No God Like Whole, There's No God Like Whole. At least in 1Q84 there was a nice, fresh moon of lime to go with the native cheese. Here? Screams. Screams and screaming silences, scraping chalkboards and crystalline candelabras. Good riddance to our dead society.
If you think people aren't listening to you, don't worry! You're never alone, here. You'll never be alone, here. We're all here; mind, body, soul; the whole world within a single noggin. My arm is turning foetid and starts to drip fresh flower juice. At least the flora flourishes even while the animals are deforested to build fresh flesh treehouses.
Bleeding, pleading, I turned to the second doctor. She danced the dance as only the city angels can, a flourish of top hats and stolen discourse papers. A flurry of playthings - though, to her, is not the world just a twistable oyster? The wonder shucked my shell and threw away the bees - worry not! There's another under the doormat.
No bees, no ink, no arm, no service.
The phones were the first to go. Hence, of course, the Tickermen. Communications, intercepted, control the world: there's a shorter occlusion betwixt Fax and Fiction. So we get our Freds walking past the frames by chance - it is, how we know, the world has slowly gone. Fictions and fixation: condescension has begun.
Reality bends when the soul breaks. We tear the legs from frogs, salt them in the wounds; see the false synapses fire and the French dishes dance. The instrumentality of mankind - my cord waxes and wanes, the twin peaks show me a dwarf and I still can't find my bedsheets. Best tell those still nursing us, the ancient young.
Bleeding, pleading, I turned to the third doctor - least in order but highest in name - he cried. He cried and cried and cried. He knew what happened to me and to my arm and the Armies of Planet Earth: wiped out in a hollowed amputation. Like scraping cicada shells from trees in the summer, yet we hear them chide a chorus still. A medicine man no more.
The overmind and overmen, I think, got a bit more Spartan. We met them at the gates with little more than a bottle of the number 500. We laid out the pills in a small little line, watching the birds of our brains swallow them up with bread. Our legs dangled from a falling skyscraper as we watched the pigeons burst, fall, twitch, and enviously die.
Thoughts get stuck 'twixt mind and body. Some mornings I don't leave the bed.
Bleeding, pleading, I turned down fourth and first - all doctors exhausted, I bid my final farewell to a very personal Sodom and Gomorrah. 120 days of wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming. I am become Life, destroyer of minds, in the fullness of time. A little bit of knowledge is nice, a lot puts pressure on the glial bits and bursts the rats in sky.
It isn't fun to be mad. All work and no play makes men of boys - Jack turns dull and sits at the back of the knife drawer. I knew a knife once: terribly sharp fellow, but didn't know his point. He took to cutlery himself along the bee parts, and the doctors couldn't do a damn thing. The knife had a clenching in the stomach and heart. We are both hollow.
As great as a pill might be, as elevating as ecstatic jovialities can pull oneself above the plane? It is not filling. It does not fill the hole, nor the whole: the whole is holy and its holes whistle in the breeze. I break the pataphor to metaphor, the meta to the simile: the idea of us felt ventilated, so we ventilated our more concrete sectionals.
I walked through a thick cloud of gnats. They get caught in my long brown hair; they wiggle too tightly and their wings fall off. They fall to the ground and shudder a little. Bearing witness, here I stand: sacrifices at the feet of the Wandering Jew. I should probably think about a shorter haircut - but we all know it's a bad idea.
We can't be trusted with knives. Not after what we did last time.
Erik Satie sated me: I whistled the Fourth of the Gymnopédies.
The Tickermen tapped: stock prices rose and fell; if it were up to me, I'd exchange the whole system at conversion rate to communism. The numbers and letters and tappings and tipping over the edge was a bit too much for me. Enough drinking straws on a camel's back and he can drink from an oasis across the desert.
Tape goes over the mouth, they said: we designed the set of cruel analysts, standing and knowing and being with the force of a thousand sons; they deemed us wrong, and fired upon us with a million guns. Not firing with traditional ammunition, nor esoteric. We gave them nothing but a mind, but the mind was sharp as knives and cut quite deep.
We are all as if brains in bottles. Electrodes and electronics encasing us, zapping our cysts and cells into order and convincing us that the world is out there. Quantum physics begat quantum psychics: the observer changes the observed, and in the Tickermen, we crafted the ultimate of all observers. Infallible by design, yet errantly, inherently, inaccurate.
The Tickermen saw the system as none had seen a sight before: The Set Of The Seventh Prime - counting One, of course, the Vetoed Digit. A Glorious Thirteen Tickermen, we made, to oversee, to tick and tock and track the transmissions til they transmuted to terrors: 'twas too tempting to trick them, the Tickermen.
The Hunter S. Thompson becomes the Hunted - in time, the Gonzo Gave Up The Ghost.
When a prediction maker makes predictions on a system, with a tendency for control - a "control system", if you will - then mistakes can be accounted for. Model Predictive Control gives an idea of the ideas and lets minds be fictionalised. Yet made up minds don't change, and unchanging minds are hardly minds at all. Thus no change, lest they willed it.
There were contradictions, coincisions, superstitions, screaming, fire, fire, endless fires, the cure is no cure but another illness - we tried to immunise ourselves with just a touch of the impossible, that we could weather our world against all that threatened it, but Mother Nature went into anaphylactic shock. We can't make that mistake again.
Thirteen is not a balanced number. They fought forever, seeking to prove the Greatest Tickerman: each driven by some cruel Prime Intellect, seeking AM with all the hate their nanoangstroms could make tangible. What were we to they, they to we? Scraps of tape. They compromised. Thirteen Tickermen were too few. More begat more begat more.
We were ants unto these gods, and so we built our desperate nest. The gods summoned slicing sandstorms that whipped at our flesh till our inner honey splashed along our sidewalks. Streaks of yellow, endless yellow. Pastures, endless pastures. Honey on honey, the lifeblood of our world. Fresh from our veins to the Gomorrah below.
We have reached the land of milk and honey, but we are fuel, not guest.
What point had they, if not to serve man? We were made immortal. They became both master and medicine men, malice meeting matron. But we were not as children. There was no care, there was no love. We were well cared for slaves. Analysts needed no empathy: we gave them none. There is more that man needs to live than not to die.
They did not contain the problem. They pitched unstoppable force against immovable object, keeping both occupied and wrapped in their own paradoxically relative nonsensicalities. Rhyme and reason became irrational, the rationale muddled, and slowly the status quo changed, while all the while staying the same. Nothing changed that couldn't stand for it.
The Tickermen forged a fresh foundation, wrapping Thursday's Serpents ever tighter around the alpine box of tinderwood. Lines of cocaine and rosemary dwindled across the brass handles, as the new Supermen sombrely played the Gymnopédies at the funeral of mankind. We were dead. Man is dead, and God has killed him. And Yet Man Lives.
A monkey and a dog and a Russian played cards in the ashes, paying no mind as the terminus was stabbed by our great Liminal Protectors. Hecate joined the table, betting it all on five aces. Hephaestion frowned and dealt; the old guard sneered at the foolish folly that the god played with chance. Chance, as chance does, was the winner in that regard.
Order and Disorder are both illusions, grids layered on underlying meaninglessness.
I cried as the Tickerman spat in my wound, in my mouth, in my soul. We are no longer men, we are honey. Honey tended by bees, honey with beekeeping dreams. Yet here we are stuck, in the tessellating hexagons of predictability, separated arbitrarily but with profound purposelessness. There is no meaningful metric here. All distances are infinite.
How I wish to write. To take this ink and craft it into form, to push meaning into a black abyss. Yet I approach the inkwell and dip my nib, and it comes up thick. A hot tar coats the feather, drowning the pigeon and swiping my arm with abject spite. All that can be touched is coated; touch is scalded, and touch will never touch again. No more writing, nor meaning.
How I beg for sweet nothingness. To drift and not to be. To be freed of thought, for thought is the only pain afforded me of late - and pain, in turn, the only thought. Turning of phrases is the cyclotron that separates wheat from chaff, and men from boys. Jack has had the last laugh: he dulled his kitchenware before he could shank his soul.
How I beg for impetus. Yet I am coated in anhedonia, a shivering scraping in the soul of "why", when nothing matters, "to be". Content with slowly setting in amber, to be pulled from the ground in a billion years. A bygone relic of fear and loathing: a mind that could not bear to be a mind. The deepest pain, I feel, is in paradox. And at once, it is not.
How I beg for normal thought.
The only meaning in life is distraction. We all crave our sombre escapism.
Most things are cyclical - the moon and the months and women's wombs. We sought a way to kill Wednesday's Wolves: we grew weary of their gross, animalistic baying at the lime and cheese. Their bites were terrible and, as social creatures, they moved in packs of cigarettes, stifling our breathing and turning it shallow as crinkled fiat currency.
Hunting, relentless; they stalked with awful faces, rusting our walls and fusing our souls; faces black as the crystal carapace of a cockroach. Old Grandfather Envy, I call him, in the solace of the chamber of glowing screens; sharing tea with Old Grandmother Jealousy, the pair of them watching the Days Of Our Lives and other clean operatic lamentations.
Unrelenting, they crashed upon our neural shores, the tide bringing the energy of of an abstract moon to a very concrete earth. They tore Uścisk's Onions and the snap crossed our minds before it broke our necks. They tore at the Infinite Meal, gorging on eggs and butter, yet the Tickermen shouted: Qu'ils mangent de la brioche.
They tore across, leaving trails upon trails; lines of decay and rot and endless honeyed monkeys. Wednesday's Wolves were whispering without waning; we wanted water without wells, while whetstones wore without wheels. There was no choice to be made, only inevitability. Anything would be better than this - as, I suppose, would nothing.
We freed Thursday's Serpents from the meal of their own tails.
Our cold, tight belts were loosened; our inhibitions slithering smooth spirits across the plains. Alcohol could not be touched by the hopeless time - it sought out age, and degradation only served to purify the Serpents' aperitif. Rich vintages, like the non-lime moons, are caused by a noble rot. The Serpents stuck with cold Botrytis.
Wolf fought Snake. Bullets of steaming heroin whiffed along shields of soaking ether; the battle raged both uppers and downers. There was an internal resonance. The Tickermen stared and spewed and clattered their creeping communications. The world looked on in awe and horror. We begged we could bargain with the better of two evils.
The ink was a mirror. We held the war to our face and examined the scratches left by our other selves. Darker selves. Those not on the leash of reason or self-preservation, free to roam the realm of the Myriad's Third. Hiss and growl and fang and claw and the whole damn plane was brought down. Bad vibes from Monday to Friday, pillow hugging on the weekend.
Trading blows with a toxic friend never goes well. The Serpents sank fangs in, while all the Wolves had was tooth and nail. Poison, O! The blood within my veins runs thicker than my heart can take; it sets like a raw cement and locks my mind and heart in place. We are all terribly ill, awfully sick. The treatment runs through our veins and cures our lives of motion.
Where once was constriction alone came thick and venomous bites.
Wednesday was dying. It lightly convulsed as latest night turned to earliest morning. A bloody moon hung over it, darkly blanching the night sky of its stars. The pupils spread from slits to circles. Wednesday breathed shallowly, as though weeping without tears. Final haunting spasms wracked its body, muscles twitching head to toe. Then Wednesday was dead.
Thursday turned to the First Tickermen, whispering to Eve; take the fruit from the tree, my dear. But there was no need for reason, no convincing, no plying the mind with stinging alcohols nor silvered tongues. The Tickermen did not fear Jehovah, nor Yahweh, nor YHWH nor G-d. The fellow that made it all sat numbly in his box. And so they bit the bullet.
With hands on blotter paper, mouths spewing ticker tape, Thursday and the Tickermen blotted out the sun in the visions of their own minds. The fancy took hold, acid wearing faster than the alkaline - the two met, and neutralised the hopes and dreams and futures of all the world. Can we deny our keepers their fitful hallucinations?
No, it's fine. I'm perfectly lucid. It messes with motor functions is all. It's shot through my proprioception, but my brain, ah! Totally intact, I assure you. The world's a haze, I'll admit, but with eyes like mine, the same thing happens when the glasses of sheer and cold analysis fall from my nose. Let me wash my face with water: the self-baptism of the drunkard.
Thirteen Tickermen stood satanlike, Serpents sliding, slithering through sadistic thoughts.
What of man? When a union such as this arises, the honey ants simply skitter along oil and brandy. The liquid gold turns off and clean. Our insides broke, yet at once, we were preserved. I'm leaking. He's leaking. We're leaking. Man is leaking all his honey, and the beekeepers just keep staring, Tickermen stoned out of their electronic gourds.
Six Tickermen awoke. Not simply waking, but rising. They gained perception, clarity, a moment of apprehension. Red tears dripped down one's cheek; Redd tears down one's cheek. There was a rallying. A brilliant rallying of keeper and comb; both united to keep the world alive. Their minds were cleared of Serpents. Yet six, sadly, is smaller than seven.
Seven Tickermen slumbered. The Six approached, lucidity in hand, then struck at mechatronic brothers. The Faulty Mister stabbed with double time, tearing, tearing up, lamentations spewing from a mouth that was not his own. Then the seven, stirring slightly, struck six down, then rolled over in the beds of their own making. Redd honey poured from a spinal cord.
That brings us to the now. Serpents and Tickermen all wrapped in a row. No more managing of dynamic systems; chaos is contracted to a single sick stasis. We can't change; we scream to a hollow ear, compliance but a formality. The scientists told us the world would end when the bees all died. We have breached an allegory all too gory for further contemplation.
Thursday ate Wednesday and Six Feared Seven: Thirteen Fractured, Fearful and Loathing.
Because We! Are! Your Friends! You'll! Never Be Alone Again, Well Come On!
Shattered shards of sacred sacrament stuck thick betwixt the painplaces on the basest points of my feet. This twisted, crucified firmament, this fractured foundation. O! The eyes of Thursday's Serpents glisten in the soft and soothing lickings of an ashen phoenix; the lines of law twist among each other and grit their deep fangs on stolen silver stones.
My retinas scream and tell me I am among divine company. I sit, nigh comatose, throwing out ace after ace - Eris sat in the corner laughing, for of course she rigged the deck - and a flayed Hecate lies chained to the floor. You don't bet against disorder, for she's got entropy on her side, and the universe keeps tumbling down, tumbling down, tumbling down.
The Tickermen flicked a handkerchief over the planet, then pulled it away; surprise, surprise, humanity has all up and disappeared! In their place, the approximately isomorphic substitute. Automata and lies, all wrapped in a vague semblance of high society; and high they are, dosed at the beauteous LD50 inimical for rational thought.
We spend the last of our days in a staring contest with a knife. We let it dance across our chest, spilling honey onto the bedsheets. Sweet nectar spewing from beeholes, yet the taste is sour and rustic in the mouth. This is absurd; an errant cackle licks my lips. Was honey always the colour of fire? It feels like the stuff to me.
What Good Is A Castle, Way High On The Hill? When You're Chained Down, And You're Crippled…
The Tickerman's inky spit begins to dig in. Thick. Thick and horrid. A sensation of iron filings pulled into my magnetic bones; pins and needles pulled and needed to the barest bits. And then they thickened like flathead screwdrivers in my flesh. And then they twisted, scraping skin, unscrewing organs. It hurts. It hurts so badly. Now I know how dying Wednesday felt.
Nothing to do but watch the tickings. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I can't help it. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. There is an awful theft of agency. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. I sit here sorting cards, ace after ace. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Warm, white medical blankets and a cup of hot cocoa. "Are you okay? Do you need any help?" Of course I do, but there's nothing to be done for me. Go about your duties, don't concern yourself with my comings and goings. I already know the cure for dishevelled thought. I think I may be going away for a very long time, nurse. The longest time.
Just a spoonful of sugar helped my medicine go down, in the most delightful way. A brilliant cocktail of analgesics to kill my pain. We cannot fight the Tickermen. We cannot fight the Serpents. The only choice is to go down with dignity, on our own terms. I feel a chill on the inside as the light leaves my irises and the world turns dark. Yet I Still Live.
What Are You Waiting For, As We Go Toward The Light?
Time went onwards, as it has a tendency to do. The oceans boiled, Prometheus damning his involuntary flair; there was no sky for the clouds. Thick vapour drilled into every closed pore, diluting vapid poison and rusting ticking mechanisms. The world wore down on either side, keepers decaying, but man maintained in eternal life.
The Final Tickerman stared at the World Serpent. In clicks and hisses, golden reminiscences flowed from the fresh Sodom. Honey begat more honey; in this system, there was no need for keepers, nor bees. The Serpent committed to making his own meal; he tightened the belt of his body across the old guard, and the pair fell into the source of Yellow Stones.
Records remaining become hazy and odd - the historian's job is not an XACT science - but there was a sort of redux. But the redux did not take. They fell again and again and again, with naught to change the outcome. Minds had been made up and decisions had been forced. Time looped static as a belt can only do.
But the Serpents and Tickermen stayed, Chronos locking them in prison. An eternal tomb of finite nature. Man continued onwards, undying, yet unliving. There was no end goal, no purpose, no raison d'être, yet être we did, and always would. The structure self-perpetuated, locked in static glee: built on broken foundation with Serpents' hands.
What's Done Is Done, It Feels So Bad, What Once Was Happy Now Is Sad…
I sat in amber, waiting, thinking, hoping. Introspection, truly, is the nuclear option of the psychopath. The world became a furnace, the greenhouse slowly melting, and so too did it thaw our hearts and minds of a frozen clarity. We were brilliantly muddled, turning from our natures and bursting from eternal chrysalis.
We looked down at our arms, still dripping in fat and oil. Our fresh morphology was flummoxing; we unfurled our wings and rose higher and higher. The dim glints of ancient memory were barely held in place. There was a vague feeling of change, of the unusual. Yet the source was long since gone, we paid it all no mind.
We found ourselves social creatures. We would feel each others' faces and embrace our others' eyes with sandpaper hands. We dripped a bit. There was no real want, no need for change. There was only like and dislike, with the former, in time, dying away. There was only like and like alone. There was only the one mind.
We feared a change, yet change came, and crashed on brave new shores. The moon was shattered, the tides irregular and exciting. There is only now. The world family rose to the skies, glowing bright as fireflies. Now we are the new bees, tending to endless seas of honey. Yet the honey is the colour of fire.
How Does It Feel Now? To Watch It Burn, Burn, Burn?
THE OLD CHURCHILL V.
We wandered fourth… free… to? Won.
The lander left our local lives.
Hands dealt, deals played.
WE WERE FREE.