More in this series
Every New Moon
Do you want to save the world? Do you believe terrorism, if thoughtfully directed at the wicked and greedy, can be a good thing? Do you want to participate in dangerous, clandestine operations without sacrificing romance, good grammar, and community? Then you may already be a member of Global Awareness In Action—GAIA! Come join the movie we’re making. Wake up and play!
But an arc formed. Lo and behold a second last chance. Gold and good it swam up from the medulla of Gaia and into the campus colossal of the collective mind. Into action. Bugle sounds under the sun.
Of course I tell my interrogator that my first act was under a New Moon. It seems he follows me better if I use a smaller alphabet and so I tell him that I dressed in black, I squeezed into my climbing shoes—my climbing shoes from college—and snuck through the streets under hoodie. I tell him that I quickly reached my target---a twelve-story sandstone building. A sandstone building from a century ago. A century of weathering. This worried me, I explain, because of the expectable effects of a century of weathering on the block edges---my handholds, my footholds.
My interrogator stops me. Interrupts me. He does not want to know about the effects of a century of weathering on a sandstone building. He is uninterested in my handholds and footholds. “GAIA,” he says.
I stay in pause. I look at his face, carefully searching. I am, in fact, trying to fully cooperate with his query but his instructions are imprecise. As a questioner, he is astonishingly unfamiliar with the prerequisite of well-posedness. In this ill-designed inquisition, his queries lob lazily over the net where they land woolly in my court. He leaves it to me to not only provide him answers but also first discover his questions. From the little he gives me, I must use context and empathy to anticipate his real interests. “Capabilities?” I ask.
He nods, slowly.
I nod back.
“Global Awareness In Action. GAIA?” I say with inflection. He hears me, nods that he hears me. I feel we have a huge starting point in our common understanding of this acronym. “Tactical?”
I nod back. Our lips are mostly in our mouths right now.
“Truth is,” I say, “as far as conventional fire power goes, it is no secret that across the map we are everywhere outgunned.” He nods again, clearly concordant with my assessment. “And we have nothing in the works to change that.” His nods continue, seemingly pleased. “Even if we had the guns, we have no regiments training up for that. No guns no trainers. No regiments for that matter, as you know.” I have synchronized my nodding with his. Or he has synchronized his nodding with mine. “But as it turns out we hear the signal from space better than the clowns do…” My interrogator’s eyes close. Not in a usual way but rather through a sphincteral succession of tightening apertures “…and so we have a tactical advantage.” My nods no longer entrain him. “On top of the superior intelligence we extract from the collective consciousness.”
We continue but the face on my interrogator becomes ever less posted. There is an increasing irritability and jitteriness under his skin that sends him through a migration of micro expressions. And although I just gave him a deep revelation about GAIA he appears unsatisfied. Perhaps even ungrateful. So I return to talking about myself. I think it is important for him to understand me better. I tell him that I gave up my life. My whole self. I had no choice. It had reached that point. “You must understand that I had fallen into a deep existential crisis,” I tell him. He should have sufficient details on this painful chapter of my life. “I could not just keep my head stuck down in the science and ignore what was going on. GAIA found me.” I push my face toward him, as far as my restraints allow, and say it again. “GAIA found me.” My interrogator does not respond. “Saved me.” Still silent. “What is the point of continuing with climate research when the resulting message is so easily jammed by the nefarious sects of Big Business?” I ask him, relaxing my head back. “The money grubbers, I mean. Do you know what I mean by jammed?” I repeat this word because I saw a quick pulse of circulation in his throat and face. “Jam---as in yelling over the top of a message so that nobody can hear it.” His face and throat pulse again but less pronouncedly this time. “Jam---as in coyotes casting their mariachi music over a rabbit so that their closer-creeping paws cannot be discerned.” No face and throat pulse at all now. “Jam…jam, jam, jam.” Gone. I have lost the brief and partial control I had over my interrogator’s face and neck.
But my interrogator does move around the room more than he did earlier. He is still very quiet and so it falls on me to fill the vacuum. “You see the activities of man up on the surface began to so concern Deep Earth that she rescinded our autonomy. The autonomy of some of us anyway.” My eyes glow proud. “We in the hive are happy drones for the spangled and invisible queen. Worth and meaning in the cowboy position. This relationship is serious.”
My interrogator has turned from me. Angrily. He is behind me now and I cannot see his face. So I tell him that my climbing shoes from college were even more uncomfortable when I learned that they were not even needed. I tell him that once I arrived at the building I saw I could indeed climb up the block face. If I want. But I could also just walk up the fire escape. Turns out the only set up needed was for me to just clamp the projector onto an outer strut of the fire escape. I clamped it far enough away to keep at least ordinary people in high heels from taking it down.
The projector played for three hours before it was stopped. A corrupt congressman cycled through an incriminating four-story loop on the federal building across the street. Over and over he bends at the waist as he accepts the bribe. Until, from stories above, buckets of water fall on the projector of his light and the politician finally goes dark.
But he does not stay dark. In fact, the movie gets fucking fat and hysterical. The congressman endlessly and multiplicatively growing. Simultaneously accepting bribes all over the world. A coordinated bow every New Moon. It is everywhere to see. By now you can lie in the park and watch it projected on the underside of a cloud---you can watch it big. Key-ring projectors project it onto taco-stand napkin holders---you can watch it small. Everyone in the world is watching. Everyone in the world is creating. The poor congressman is forever bribed.
I take a brief aside. I digress. Because I think we can go so much faster if my interrogator will first simply understand that I do not keep secrets. There is no fundamental obstacle between us. Efficiency can be ours for the asking. We may skip the questions and go directly to the answers:
“I can tell you are one of those people who cannot understand why this bribe went viral,” I say. “Officials have been paid bribes by polluters since forever. And so why was this bribe so special?” I rock my head proudly. “Well, let me tell you. This bribe came along right at the very moment the world was learning a new fundamental lesson of awareness---the Tragedy of the Commons.” I remind myself I should slow down for the non-scientist, be more story-like: “Four pi radius squared. This is the surface area of the Earth, in a spherical approximation. The radius of the Earth is six times ten to the sixth meters, and so with all that radius there is some ten to the fifteenth square meters upon which spread unevenly are some ten to the ten homo sapiens. At any moment those ten to the ten homo sapiens are often thinking ten to the ten different things. But once in a while there is a collective click.” I lower my voice. “A global ah-ha moment.” I pause. “The reason why the congressman’s transgression is all over the world right now is that the congressman happened to take a bribe right at the very moment the whole world was waking up and coming together, coming together to decide he should not do that. The world as a quorum woke up to see that there is little difference between someone who steals from your wallet and someone who leaves you to pay their bill. Polluters are thieves. Profiteers in the matter are the same.
My interrogator is quiet. Still. I am not sure he understood me. Perhaps he has not himself experienced the ah-ha moment that I described. Perhaps he does not like numbers. “The clowns on the fire escape did try to put it out,” so I say. “Right from the beginning. And they have been riding in on the same circus firetruck ever since.” I illustrate riding a firetruck with my free fingers. “They finally figured out that they could pour water onto the projector from the roof. To stop it. The movie stopped. But by then a real fire crew was already collecting the whole projector with a high ladder anyway.”
Of course the movie did not stay stopped. This was a tiny story screaming to be further told. When you are in GAIA, you accept fully and on faith a single fundamental ethic that guides you in any operation to best guess your next instructions: More awareness is better than less awareness.
Packed with this sole prejudice and an otherwise open mind we prowl. The next New Moon I went down as a simple citizen to the same building that had been my target the Moon before. Except I sat across the street. With a bag of popcorn. The establishment trying to halt these globally coordinated movie nights were very poor at making even the easiest predictions. Mine was not the only popcorn bag there. We were hundreds. Blankets and foldable chairs. Spread out and facing the brick building and fire escape from which I had projected a Moon ago. Drinking from thermos cups and giggling among ourselves. As we wait for the movie to begin. As we wait for projected light to return the clowns from last Moon to their fire escape and animated window sills.
The clowns came in stereo this time. Swatting again their mops at the projector. Throwing again bottles at the projector. Talking between floors on hand radios about the projector. Devising plans to get that projector. The clowns from last moon repeated their escapade luminescently on the fire escape while fresh flesh forms of the same clowns showed up below to unwittingly provide the movie for next Moon.
The fresh-flesh clowns were not here to cameo their previous performance. They were here to attack the new projector. The projector on this side of the street. This projector was straight above my popcorn bag and not very high. It was on a flag pole. Angled and coming out of the wall and all, but seriously the clowns should have been able to pull it down much sooner. Someone had simply clipped the projector to the draw rope. Pulled it out to the end. And then cut the rope.
You see I think a clown should have been able to lasso the whole thing and pull it down real easy. I tell this to my interrogator. I think the clowns are scared. Scared of the symbolism. That would be pulling the national flag down too. So instead the movie keeps going and growing while they wait for authorized step ladders. Meantime, the congressman they were sent to rescue becomes volley ball between the buildings.
The clowns did finally get the projectors at the two buildings under control. As a result, the movie simply squirted out of that little venue and headed down radial streets, a whole city to explore. A parade of projections towing clowns on an architecture walk. An accumulating movie crawls out of the city and over the globe. All exploded from the singularity of the once and inappropriate act of a single elected official. Every New Moon a new installment.
“Me? I was a climate scientist for years. Until I finally found my place in GAIA. My place as a CCN---Cloud Condensation Nucleus’ is what that stands for.” I think my interrogator is asking me what I do. “I make it rain. Explosions from latent energy that is already there waiting and ready to blow.” I turn to him as much as my restraints will allow: “Sir, I start storms.”
I admit to my interrogator that I let go this movie up there on the fire escape and it has been romping the world ever since. But I am not really responsible. With one eye, I see my interrogator flinch. Many told me that such an endless movie could be launched in such an easy way. The world was ripe and ready for it. I just delivered the package. I did not even use my climbing shoes really.
My interrogator insists that I am responsible. I can read this on part of his face. I respond again with words that I am not. I tell my interrogator that I am no technician. I just turned the projector on. It went brilliant and global all by itself.
My interrogator interrupts me. He nods again to the adjacent room of torture. An extra spotlight has been lit. Not all by itself at all, he appears to think. This was a terrorist act. Involving others. He wants me to know the consequences for me are serious. And that I can help myself.
As with the movie I branch. I will lead my captor up telescoping creeks until he shoals. I will then grin and snort as I hop away over the quick sands with my nimble because underfed body. For now, I concede. I reveal to him some actions he may not already be aware of. He appears with new interest. Comes around to face me again. I tell him of a barhopping element of GAIA that hunts for bad breath most nights in many major cities. Collecting samples from executives and dignitaries in the finest restaurants and limousines. Claiming with smirks that spectral analyses of such can detect lies and bad behavior. Scaring the shit out of very powerful people.
Under knives I tell my interrogator that GAIA is set up with a cartoon hammer. Always exactly five times bigger than whatever the clown pulls out. The more you try to squelch the movie, the faster out into the city it trots. Splaying seed in every direction. The projections are all over the world by now. Going stronger than ever. Every attempt to slow it down makes it more excited. The clowns who had trouble chasing a projector off of a fire escape now face projections from base jumpers and wing suiters. Swaths of moving light over city night and high pastures. As recorded from a higher Cessna. GAIA has a way of holding up a picket sign that makes people notice.
My interrogator has become impatient, maybe even angry. It seems he wants from me deeper intelligence on GAIA. I think we argue about this for four minutes. Because I feel I have been making every attempt to be fully forthcoming and now, before I can continue with him any further, I need to know with his full sincerity just how deep he really wants us to go. Reality and facts live distorted on many levels. From which level does he wish me to provide my report?
My interrogator sighs, and then shifts to draw a sample of my blood. Not a sample for him to look at but a sample for me to look at. Drawn using a cheese grater against my left tit nipple. So I tell him that I biked for years. Before my knees got bad. Through suburbs, mostly.
Always in the middle of the night. No moon, of course. I rode through suburban neighborhoods with a basket full of shaving cream cans. I could get at most one longish sentence out of a single can, and so many cans were necessary for the types of discussions I participated in. There was so much to say and so many sprawling lawns to say it on. “The two are related,” I tell my interrogator. “The message scales with the size of the lawn, I mean.” I have him think about that. Within the yardiest of lawns I provided history and background, starting with the Chateau de Chambord and charting the unexpected rise of disciplined grass. From the early times when lawn was very expensive to mow because it was done with hand scissors. While on the smaller trac-maison plots of the petit-bourgeois, I stuck to the simple statistics describing the absurd proliferation of this inedible crop that by now requires resources second only to wheat fields. As the lawns began to die under my poisonous letters, neighbors walking dogs were the first to notice. Unholstering their electronics to take pictures of the messages, posting the pictures, chatting about the messages, laughing about the messages, ultimately purchasing poison cans of their own and creating their own messages. Everybody finally poisoning lawns and laughing about it. Everybody recording everybody do this. All posted and available. It was like adding an ornament to a Christmas tree. The movie just gets bigger and bigger.
After my knees got bad, I worked from a sedan. Every New Moon I started a new movie. I made projectors with a magnetic foot to set on my car top. Then I’d drive the movie into the city. People would lean out car windows or dash over with strollers, grab the projector and haul it off somewhere to slap on a new car. From then on the city made sure the movie never stopped. People really get into it. Most of the projections I started are still going. The once looting anarchists now perform ninja flips onto moving cars to replace projector batteries, becoming stars in the offshoot movies showing them do this. The movie just gets bigger and bigger.
Every New Moon the world says enough. Throws a Big Brother backward. Global Awareness In Action. I see you there Mister Working at Cross Purposes. I see your greed. I see you from high in your church and from low in your toilet bowl. GAIA makes movies of this too. You are not needed if need be. The choice is yours. Relate in a new way with the world or become cat food. To my interrogator I smile at my own completion. “Wake up and play,” I say.
In his quiet way, my interrogator tells me that I am too presumptuous. I do not in fact have the body strength to break this tape. He lets me splash around in the sink for now. But soon he will come to push again my head fully under the water.
I must try to communicate with him better. I see the severity of my situation now and tune down to him on my own volition. I first draw him to me and then in notches I turn down the spark in my eyes until I reach the infrared glow of his low tines. We intensely stare at each other with our almost closed eyes. I am mirroring him.
My interrogator burns his own self with the same cigarette he intended for me I think. My breath gets an impertinent spasm and he immediately slides up meanly to my face. But, mean as he be, his posture is still too still. While the filter-free fire in his fingers continues. And so in just seconds he burns his own self with the same cigarette a second time. He cusses and leaves the room. I feel partially responsible.
Soon he is back with more equipment. I do not think I can stay much longer with my Interrogator. He keeps hurting me. I am not here for that. I want him to untape me. But right now I can see he is scared. I have discovered his shallow jurisdiction and I think he knows this. He only has authority to rubber hose me in rather light ways. While taped into this chair with me I may have everything I need to make him willingly take his own life. I do think it is this that most scares him.
I am burned, my interrogator again reminds me. I know he says this just to make me sad. My face is tagged with a past and each time I am discovered I have to leave whatever home I was building and move on. He is reminding me that I just lost my home and friends. He is right about this. My cover is blown. But his overall strategy in this room lacks at least coherence and so I tell him so. He threatens my life and then suggests I should be concerned with others knowing who I really am. I think about this further. Shit, that is scary. I tell my interrogator so and suggest to him that killing me could be a favor. We both understand I am kidding and so my interrogator moves to show me a photo of myself taken from a surveillance camera. In the picture, I am in an alley. And now that they have captured my physical face they surely have an association. Now they can look through the trove of data to discover my habits and history. My associates. I am the first high-value GAIAn the clowns think they have captured. But because GAIA is essentially a global flash mob with no membership roster nor leadership hierarchy, I have no rank for my captors to record in their registry. They are not really sure what they have caught.
I am pretty sure it is me in the images. The street is very dark. But I am quite sure when my interrogator reminds me of the context. Yes, that is the manhole the two clowns fell down into. I remember. I describe to my interrogator that, from the legal point of view, me not being the one who uncovered the manhole is very pertinent. My interrogator simply wants me to confirm that the man in the image is me. I do. I cannot lift my hands of course so I point with my brow. Right there. That is me pulling the manhole cover up just an inch with my rebar. Yeah that is me. And then I let it drop back into place. Yup. I just wanted the manhole to make a sound, you see. I leave the rebar right there and hide behind a car. The first clown in chase right behind me makes the corner. He stops, figures it out, he thinks, and grabs the rebar to immediately pull the manhole cover off. He pulls his gun out and deftly, with sort of only one hand, goes down the ladder just as he has been highly trained to do. The second clown skates around the dark corner and immediately falls down the manhole on top of the first clown. I only pushed the manhole cover ON, I tell my interrogator. Not OFF. I am still worried he does not appreciate the distinction.
If my interrogator only knew how to interrogate me a little better. He accuses me of a planned ambush. And I try to tell him that I picked up the rebar already two blocks earlier in the chase. I did not really know why. No, I did not expect to benefit running with extra weight, and, no, I did not plan to defend myself from guns using a bar of construction steel. It just seemed sort of right to pick it up for later. Nor did I realize I was running around for blocks looking for a dark and well positioned manhole. I can only honestly tell my interrogator that running away was not precisely what was on my mind. And that I was not precisely surprised when the rebar became perfect for prying up a manhole cover that I came across in a dark side street. No, I have not done this before. No, I have not seen this done before. No, this was not planned out. I tell my interrogator, on the how I did it, that it just sort of felt like I was following my heart. This makes him angry and he again leaves the room.
About an hour later I get a new interrogator. He has a colder look and bluer eyes. I think he is the boss of the first one. It feels like we have all been waiting for his arrival. He slides over a chair and immediately expedites the interrogation to a top concern he has at present. He does not care about manholes nor the perpetually bowing politician. He is here because powerful people are suddenly scared. He makes it very clear that he wants to know exactly everything I know about how GAIA is getting what they are getting and especially what it is they are getting and who they are getting it from. He demands this.
With this tougher interrogator I know I cannot play dumb. I know exactly what he wants. But for the sake of clarity I stall until he must pronounce it shoutingly:
“How does GAIA hear the…hear the outer-space signal!” The extraterrestrial transmissions are a relatively recent discussion point on Earth and in reference he still struggles for appropriate vocabulary. I fear even my new interrogator will tire fast.
Although I am currently captive and under hard times, my inner faith reassures me that the message from space continues to be delivered across my planet. The message of three letters—projected now from the tops of taxis from Tangier to Tokyo, reiterated in newly stacked rocks at Stonehenge, discussed within the pillows and butterfly kisses of lovers, and copy-that confirmed from the former fields of crop circles—three simple letters presenting a deep thought for us all to ponder.
Far away as the senders be, they must have learned to wrangle time dilation to bring us this message so responsively to current events on our planet. And yet, wormhole or whatever, the bandwidth seems surprisingly limited to just three repeating letters of one particular alphabet. Of course this distorted snapshot of the signal does not really reflect my own cosmology and understanding of this fundamental mode of communication. I have adopted this simplistic description and fabricated clasp on meaning simply to speak into the tiny undeveloped ear of my captor. This level of ignorance seems expected of me right now.
To demonstrate full cooperation, I bring my interrogator up to speed on what I do know. What I do know is that I do not know. I am not really sure of anything in this world, you see. So much of it is an illusion. “You, and all of this…” I say, gesturing at the majestic accommodations in this basement with my trapped fingers, “…it’s like you’re all part of my movie, man.”
I can tell now that I went to far with him. I was too honest. But I see that now I must, for my own safety, retreat into the lies he expects. I see this as he gazes thoughtfully at the bench of power tools across the room. “I do not know how GAIA hears the signal,” I admit. “We just sort of do.”
“This hello from another world, it’s still pretty new, you know.”
“I am not even completely sure that it is not just others in GAIA making it up. A hoax. It is the kind of thing GAIA would do. Some of the youngsters are even mischievous.” I explain to my new interrogator that exactly this question is why I am here in this basement with him. To get to the bottom of this.
“Magnetic storms. Explain the magnetic storms.”
Man, if my first inquisitor was bereft of well-posed questions, I2 is barely better. “Okay. Do I start with a coronal mass ejection or do I just jump immediately on down to…”
“The magnetic storms interrupt the signal.”
He says this like a statement that he wants me to affirm. So I do. “Yes, hearing the signal is hard some times.”
“During storms, sure.”
“Yes, magnetic storms. Noise, I guess.”
My interrogator pauses, then seems pleased. Pleased about the magnetic storms. The noise. His thoughtful gaze has even returned from the power tools.
But then I make a mistake. I should have simply kept my mouth shut. It was stupid. It is not like a GIBbon is going to share information, why did I even ask? Now my interrogator has not only returned his gaze to the power tools but rolled them over to our side. He selects a cordless drill, sounds it for healthy batteries, sets it down. Then picks up a red box of tiny drill bits, opening and folding out the stair of sizes, holding various examples against my thumbnail to gain an estimate of the hole it would make. In the end selecting the very smallest bit. “It sounds like you are not sure yourself about the magnetic storms.” He powers the drill’s maul until it bites down on the bit and falls into unnecessary clicks beyond the drill’s torque threshold. He turns. “Am I wrong?”
“You are not wrong,” I say. “I am indeed not sure. That is why I asked you, asked you if GIB had come up with any statistics on the matter. Strange as it probably seems, we do not closely track our own behavior in GAIA.”
“I have heard there was a correlation but do not know how strong it is. Or if it only applies to the three letters or other parts of the signal too. Has GIB found that GAIA behaves more coherently on solar quiet magnetic days, I guess is the question.”
“Other parts of the signal? Tell me about the other parts.” My interrogator straightens.
I try to tell him about the other parts but this goes quickly sideways. In his mind, there are either other parts of the signal to be heard or not other parts of the signal to be heard. I try to tell him that this really depends…but this confuses him. My description of a hypothetical rose that only begins to smell like a rose once there are enough people in the garden to smell it is entirely unhelpful, maybe even irritating. I back out and end up insisting that yeah, of course, it’s just those three repeating letters…just the three letters coming from outer space.
He wants to talk further and I provide him this. I am still taped to the chair after all. And he has rolled up the tray with his prepared drill. I meanwhile have lingering thoughts on my simplistic description of the three letter message, finding unexpected momentum gather. The more I think about it the more it seems reasonable. The message was sent by a rain maker. A rain maker just like me but alien in some way or another. An alien CCN so concise and elegant as to send only a simple set of three letters---WTF. And then the downpour starts. Electronic devices of all sizes and in all places lighting up. A global quorum simultaneously resending the letters as a vow: WTF. It’s so non partisan. Simply forward these three letters to friends to be counted among the many who also live on this planet right now and who also right now think WTF.
I ask my interrogator if he thinks the message was sent because of the recent election. He does not answer. Just think of what they see from their side, I add. At the last chance of avoiding our own extinction, we elect insanity. What would you say to a planet like that?
“Hey, I bet GIB would like to make a magnetic storm all the time, eh?” I jab a free elbow at his distant ribs. “You would like that. Am I right? Eh?”
Nothing I can do seems to lighten the man up. Getting anything out of a GIBbon is hard.
I need to go. The conversation has become stale. I do not tell my interrogator this directly but instead tell him that the movie we are making right here right now is waning. We should wrap it up. “That’s a wrap, I say.”
“I said that’s a wrap. We really need to clear the stage. Move along.”
He pauses for a long moment…then very suddenly seems to agree. Or at least a sequence of facial expressions abruptly breaks his ceramic face and shows up his whole thought process. He is now aware that the here and now involves at least the two of us in this black-site suburban basement. Slowly and suddenly he is aware that there is essentially zero chance that this here and now is not here and now being recorded---at least by his own bosses. GAIA is probably already hacking into the feed and broadcasting it. He realizes I have even been telling him as much. Maybe my interrogator’s very pondering face is already projected big screen onto the track home roof above us. This is something GAIA would do. Maybe the house is already surrounded with cell phones. Neighborhood skateboarders arriving first. Texting up others---strange movie tonight on the roof of the house nobody lives in; some dude getting tortured. Perhaps my interrogator is already a giant in Time Square. If his face were to become so advertised as this, his employer would surely and quickly eliminate his availability in this world. Vaporize, as immediately as possible, this whole operation. Such a safeguard would very likely already be built into this house. We feel a shock in air pressure. My interrogator’s mouth, big and many now in its projections, can only open to swallow one short breath.
My ears ring. His too, I suppose. Before I have gained orientation, I can see my interrogator intends to cut me loose. Because he needs my help. He simply cannot lift the fallen wall off of us by himself. We have been both blown over by a surprise explosion and we are now trapped face to face under debris. It is sort of like being under a bed together.
But when my interrogator cries in pain it tortures me. It hurts me right in the face. Both of his arms are broken and he should be lying completely still, waiting for help. Instead he has, screamingly, scooched over toward me to gnaw me free of my tape.
The girth of the chair I was taped to protected me from the falling wall and so I am completely unhurt, I tell my interrogator. Once he has chewed me free, I slide the wall off of us. I drag my interrogator out of the rubble by his ankles. I pause to notice that his face is extremely red. Especially around his mouth. I ask him about this but he does not answer. I think about this curiosity and eventually decide that it interestingly demonstrates that you cannot chew through sticky tape without losing pieces of your own face. Each time my interrogator bumped against the gluey tape he lost atoms. No one bump hurt and yet his face eventually goes missing.
He wants me to help him stand. He wants us to get out of this basement immediately. He tells me the others in the house above are dead. He tells me we must get out of this house. Out of this neighborhood. Out of this city.
This makes me uneasy. My interrogator seems so dissatisfied with the present place and time. If I help him run, where does it stop? Out of this state? Off of this continent? Far from this world? Run run run. Such ontology does not recapitulate our phylogeny and the world is, after all, decidedly round. But of course after some consideration I drag him out of the house and load him into the passenger seat of his own car. He has me drive fast for a bit and then suddenly duck in to the drive-up line of a fast-food restaurant.
My interrogator wants me to find the little screwdriver, the little screwdriver with the short handle under my seat. I do. I find the little screwdriver. He sends me out of the car to remove the license plate from the back bumper. I do this. I remove the license plate from the back bumper with the little screwdriver. I bring it up to the window. He tells me to throw it into the bushes and go take the license plate from the car in front of us. I throw it into the bushes and go take the license plate from the car in front of us. He tells me to go put this license plate on the back of our car. I go put this license plate on the back of our car. When it becomes our turn, we pull up and order two fried apple pies.
I drive us out of the fast-food restaurant and onto the boulevard. My interrogator has not told me which way to go. He seems exhausted. I go left across the center divider. I am not watching where I am going very well because one of my hands is offering fried pie to my interrogator’s armless mouth.
We hit a car. Our collision quickly becomes multi-car. Our accident then blocks the road. Additional cars pile up. We ride out of there on a police motorcycle we found fallen over, my interrogator biting my shirt collar to hold on. His arms can only dangle.
We speed away but within a mile we become shot at by a trailing SUV. A helicopter appears suddenly over us. The helicopter shoots at the SUV. The SUV shoots at the helicopter. The helicopter shoots more at the SUV than the SUV shoots at the helicopter. The SUV is now disabled, people burning inside. The helicopter comes over us to match our speed. It lowers a rope ladder. I brace my passenger and climb my feet up onto the moving motorcycle seat. I step a foot onto the ladder, bend and lift my interrogator by the back of his waist belt. He doubles over, and as the abandoned motorcycle pursues panic nods before crash we are lifted on our ladder into the sky.
The breadth of city and human busyness becomes astonishingly clear from the air. I think of this every time I fly. Each of the tiny ants below pushing their very important little loads around. But with incredibly thorough consequences for the broad landscape. For better or worse, my species is surely accomplished. “How ya doing down there?” I yell over the helicopter sounds. “Your belt seems to be holding up. Genuine leather?”
My interrogator cannot completely turn his head around to look up to me but I can see he is terrified. Terrified with everything he sees below him, surely. But he seems terrified even looking up at me. His meek and incompletely turned upward little look is submissive in a way it was not earlier. “Thirteen!” He shouts. “Okay okay, there’s thirteen of them!” he says, almost crying. “They’re all going to be turned on when the final one is complete.”
Thirteen? He said this like it was an important admission. Like I had asked him a question and he was finally, after strong reluctance, responding. I want to tell my interrogator that this is not the venue to send me solving puzzles---stop being so cryptic and speak more clearly. But before I lash out at him it dawns on me that he may have been having the same frustration with me earlier. Really just a communication problem on both sides.
Once I am thinking of his side, it takes me just a moment to see that he must be telling me something he thought I wanted to know. Some piece of information I wanted from him…but he previously withheld. This is an important asymmetry that tramples a bit my compassion for his side. GIB is all about controlling information, restricting access—a piece of information is only as powerful as the number of adversaries deprived of it. I do not share this world view. Neither does GAIA.
It pains me that he still does not understand this. The torture was unnecessary. GAIA is all about sharing information, not restricting it. It seems so unfortunate and unnecessary that my interrogator and I have had this communication problem. I blame the culture that has sadly developed inside GIB. I once had high hopes for the Global Information Bureau. I tell my interrogator this. But by now I view it as merely a bolt, wedge, or pin for holding part of a machine or structure in place. I thank my interrogator but let him know that with his “thirteen” he is, from my side, making little sense. Because of the helicopter above us, I have to shout and perhaps this makes me sound angry. My face moves to terminate the discussion.
“Wait!” he yells desperately, “We have thirteen sites, thirteen broadcast sites. GIB is going to jam the signal!”
Jam. There is that word again. While I recall its place in our previous discussion, I am suddenly distracted by the realization of my own strength. This flatters me and therefore takes priority. I have enormous strength. Incredible strength. But I feel like the only reason I have this strength to hold my interrogator with just one hand by the belt like this is that it is right now cinematographically important to do so. With a bulging bicep, I single-handedly ride the rope ladder, carrying my man like a satchel with my free arm. Under other conditions I could surely not carry a man this way. I tell my interrogator this. I tell him that I have just discovered that my own arm strength depends on my sense of purpose. I tell him how impressed I am that I can hold him in the sky like this.
“Auroral electrojet!” he shouts. “Auroral electrojet!”
I indeed hear his words and confirm this with a nod. But to be honest this embarrasses me. Although I am a highly trained Earth Scientist, over specialization and compartmentalization have left me with an incomplete understanding of what this word means completely.
“There’s a river of electric current high up in the sky!” My interrogator wants me to understand. Wants me to understand quickly. “GIB has ground transmitters that will modulate it and use it as a global jamming antenna.”
I start to get it. My interrogator is telling me that this is how GIB will create the jamming signal. With this auroral electrojet high up in the sky. My interrogator anticipates my next and most important question. He may be overestimating my speed of comprehension. “There’s no filter key! Once it’s turned on, even GIB won’t be able to hear it!”
It. Hear it…the outer-space signal, I suppose he means. Nobody will be able to hear the outer-space signal. Once GIB starts jamming it, nobody on Earth will be able to hear what the extraterrestrials are trying to tell us. If this is Earth’s response to a message from the heavens, it seems optimally stupid. To understand how such an approach to information could have evolved, one would need to deeply consider the contingencies that have led to the ideology presently permeating GIB. Issues of information as fundamental currency, the control of which is power. One would need to study such details to hind-cast the crucial path twists that could lead to such a preposterous world view in which denying this important information to everybody could be the selected choice.
But there is not the time for that right now. We are only half hoisted on our ladder and the helicopter has taken fire. It is not operating properly. The valiant pilot swings us over a hotel swimming pool as he heads to his own firey crash. I line my jump on the pool and fall with my man satchel.
Mid fall, he tries to clasp me. My interrogator tries to clasp me with his broken arms. This disgusts me and I reflexively kick him away. I am immediately sorry for the way this affects our trajectories. Because now it looks like we will miss both falling in the center of the pool as I had intended.
I fall out of the sky and into an air mattress floating in three feet of water. I make a big splash. I am fine. My interrogator falls right into the center of the deep end. Perfect. Barely hits the diving board. Just his right butt cheek against the sandpapered end. He will need a skin graph. At this incomplete collision with the diving board, my interrogator’s two butt cheeks are sent on divergent paths and my interrogator experiences, if only for a very brief moment, the most elliptical butthole of his whole life.
“That’s when big business swupt in,” I tell her.
“You can’t say swupt. It’s Sweeped,” she responds.
“There’s both swupt and sweeped.”
“What’s the difference?”
“Swupt is more in the past than sweeped is.”
“So says you, but I think swupt is in the future. And that we’re supposed to keep it there. It will be centuries before the world needs the word even once.”
I brush back the hair on my palms and grab the chain link to follow her up. “That’s when Big Business---let’s call her ‘BB’--- sweeped in.” I return. My feet are too furry. I can only get a big toe in at a time. “BB sweeped in and took over states. Took over national governments. Courts. International unions. BB demolished her last power rivals. BB got the bridle on the beast.”
“Or is it swept?” She says this like she could accept being wrong.
“Finally full control of the whole world.”
“I hate how you speak about the future in the past. Get up here,” she says, now at the top of the fence and laying a rug over the barbed wire. Though it is dark, I know the rug to have green paisleys. And I also know her Chewbacca costume to be snug on her ass.
“They nominated an orange masthead for their ship,” I continue.
“You know what? I think it is swept. Get up here.’”
“And rammed their ship through the last sutures holding on the last skin graphs of opposing authority.”
“Will BB be better once she has had a nap? Get up here.”
“No. Unfortunately no. Power mongers never tire.” In the dark I see her up there at the top of the fence. Expectant. She must understand that I need to work out my clasping technique down here before fully climbing up there. I need to comb my hand hairs. “BB has pulled all the reigns back to her bunker. And while the cartel inside is right now lit up on champagne and back slaps, well we know BB---how do you get your leg around…oh, I see---BB isn’t going to stop the power consolidation.” Quickly, I arrive at the top of the fence. “In the end, it will be one final hand in the bunker stabbing to death the other.” I settle in.
“What do you think they think when they see that? Them.” She nods skyward with her chin. We sit a second, at the top of the fence together in an unexpected nest formed from green paisley rug and barbed steel wire. Our furry suits inquisitive under sky. No moon, of course.
“They see us splitting atoms. While still shitting in our cave. It must be confusing.”
I can tell that she sits leaning on hands behind her. One leg bent at the knee and horizontal in the calf. The other flopping freely downward. She is beautifully comfortable.
“Maybe it’s not confusing,” she says. “Maybe they just know it to be all too tremendously typical. All the different worlds they can be watching, and they select our channel. Start rooting for the characters. And then in the second season all the main characters suddenly melt in the sun. Typical.”
“So they’ve been watching the Earth Channel since we were salamanders, really grew to root for us, and now it looks like we will succeed in strangling ourself as a species. They must be getting ready to turn the channel.”
“Or maybe this is exactly when they most tune in to watch us. Planet Earth strangles self---tonight on Channel 7.”
“It is very hard to strangle yourself. In nature a hand releases its own throat before unconsciousness is reached.”
”Yeah, exactly. Hands like that don’t exist in nature. On Earth we had to develop the technology for such a hand. Therefore the delay in our mass strangulation.”
We are silent a moment. Above us the stars read some sadness. My suit itches me. She descends the other side of the fence. Through the dark I observe, best I can, her clasping technique.
Under bright lights we dance on the face of a dam together. High and slow bounces over each other, as would underwater octopi in sideways gravity. Our long ropes are so tangled now that we know we can never climb back up. Elastic smirks, we collide sweetly, repeatedly, double helixing down until our foreheads park together. Finally, I say to her: “I know you are the explosives expert, but aren’t your bombs a little small? “
She looks down her chest, thinks about this, Chewbacca face paint showing concentration. “What do you mean? My bombs are big enough.”
“Yet small enough that you pulled them out of the cleavage of your furry suit. Your little bombs will make only pock marks.”
She is first confused by what I say. And then, “hahum. No.” She laughs hard. Harder harderer. “You thought we were going to blow up the dam!” So funny. “The whole dam! No, you idiot. We’re just here to take out the antenna. Not blow up the whole…the whole…” She is jolting in front of me like a puppet on a jittering rope. “… the whole dam.”
I shove the vertical horizon of concrete and spin myself around. The wider and more carefully I look the harder she laughs. I am really looking all around for the antenna, trying very hard. It does indeed make more sense that we would be here for an antenna rather than a dam. But if it really modulates a river of current high in the sky---the auroral electrojet thing---I expect the antenna to be large and hard to hide. Perhaps because there is so much light in my eyes, I do not see it.
She brings her lips to the earhole of my costume. “It’s built inside the dam, dummy. Just below the surface.” I think about this. I nod. She nods back. “We’re just going to break the antenna a bit,” she whispers. “With my little bombs.”
I have wanted to know her real name since years. But some in GAIA won’t do that. A name is just a label anyway. I never know when I’ll see her next. Working with her is always fun. I want to marry her.
A real man would have seen something wrong with the two Chewbaccas coming over the fence. Surveillance cameras saw it and then ignored it. The computer paid to monitor cameras at all hours and all days saw the objects on the fence. The motion. But tripped on a piece of code that essentially registered---if gibbon then not suspect. Wrong texture.
Once in his glass office, I do everything the odd man tells me to do. I give him my ID. I sign the papers he gives me. In the color pen he gives me. But I do say to him: “Once upon a time it was probably enough that nobody in the tribe wanted to share a teepee with you!” I rock my head. I think he knows what I mean. “Back then the consequences for you were not slippery. Nobody was asked to build a prosecution or defense. The tribe just quietly convicted you and sent you to live with the squirrels.”
The man gives me back my ID. But I know I am not free to go. So I continue: “But as societies developed and the typical number of people in a tribe exploded, it became harder and harder to know for sure just exactly who was farting in the teepee. Even after asking around you cannot find out. The most advertised facts are the most confident lies. People are paid full time to keep you thinking the wrong way. Keep you from knowing who is really farting in the teepee. Big Society has diminished our access to the truth.” I bob my head in tired resignation. “We must compensate by becoming a more clever species.” I reach forward and finally take the motel key from the motel clerk’s long open hand.
Neon lands from the roof as blues and yellows across the middle-aged immigrant’s face. I should now turn but I don’t. I ride us two. I ride us face to face like this a little longer. I don’t say anything or alter my expression. I just watch him. And listen to his face as he figures out that we are not as fully sorted out as he thought. Weh woont dat man go away? Wefer he wait? Has key. Wut he want? I ride him into a little panic. I loiter in his air space. I lean closer. The composition of light on the man’s face changes and I finally turn abruptly toward the cash register.
Beside it is a dish of hard candy. I pick up the dish and tilt the candy into my blazer pocket.
I need to be coming out of the motel office exactly now. I need to cross under the car awning just like this. I need to open this gate. I need to walk along this swimming pool. I need to bounce on this diving board and look all around at the cars in the big parking lot. Now I need to go to my room. I need to bring this tall ashtray with me.
This night I am woken up by a bounty hunter---an assassin, if a clause in his contract is activated. He is opening my motel room door with a key he may have obtained from the now-dead clerk. I am rolling off the bed. He is creaking open my door. He takes a step in. He is standing on the hard candy that I have earlier strewn in front of the door. I have my ashtray and am waiting for his second step.
The hunter fully accepts the lumps under his shoes. Right now. But with his second step his brain goes a nanosecond offline. Perplexed. Needing desperately to know before doing anything else how the same exact lumps from last step have followed him to the second step. It is in this nanosecond that I joust his face with my ashtray. I leave the man with sticky feet and dirty face and I steal off into the night.
Each time my cover expires, my identity is stolen. My authentic identity. The person I really am at home. I lose this each time. And then I have to go build a new honest-to-goodness self all over again in a new city.
There are beautiful photo collages forming online. Seeded from outer space. Anyone with a phone flashlight and a little paper template is projecting the letters WTF. These three letters have started a boiling dialog here on Earth. Everyone repeating exactly the same letters but in light and setting of their own choosing. Inside of elevators and subways. Onto the walls of coal mines. Onto the foreheads of each other while they drink big beers. Building bouquets from twisted bundles of projected light. Some of it erotic --- ‘From six of us in Taipei toilet.’ Some of it sad---‘From eighteen micro-projectors inside mum’s coffin (note: Bluetooth through the Earth works just fine.)’ Every New Moon our hands collectively raise for roll call. Every New Moon GAIA is quorum sensing.
By day I’m an earth and planetary scientists. I specialize in dynamics—the study of motion—and I do this from a quite motionless posture in a windowless office at a NASA center. (I have to waive my arms periodically to dispute the assessments of the motion sensors controlling the lights.) I ply professionally through tedious calculations to better understand the tides in Europa’s ocean, the jets on Jupiter, and, most endearingly, the drastically irreversible effects of our short-sighted, monkey-ass antics on this planet.
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