Sunday, 2 May 2010

Part One: The Fear


This is a copyright check. The rights of the author have been asserted, copyright act… uh, etc, etc. Someone’ll put all this in, right?


Arlo Makepeace Dylan. I am telling it myself for the first time anywhere.
[keep reading after the jump]

Twenty-twenty hind sight and all that, but I think the day that really sticks in my mind as my first brush with my new form was the media-cast of the crucifixion of Pope Franky IX, the twelfth pope to crucify himself following a few years in office. The world was so sinful, they said, that regular sacrifices were required to keep things OK with GOD. It made a lot of sense, theologically speaking, and was a total ratings winner for the Catholics. After Trevor XIII announced the first Golgotha Festival, subs to the conversions multiplied like the loaves and the fishes. New worshippers crammed the church mosh pits, and recorded their sins into confession booth voice mails that went straight to Trev. On the big day he recited every single one from memory over the three days it took him to die. It was a cathartic moment and it made great media. Everyone who was anyone had confessed something and many turned up in person to hear their sins expiated to a papal soundtrack over the marshall stack in St Peter's Square. It was like a telethon with the added spice of celebrity gossip and a dash of old-time-spooky.

with it by the time Franky IX came around, though. After all the whole idea of GOD seems a little far-fetched when you think about it, but I logged in anyway, nothing else was happening that night, so why not? Only one hundred and fifteen thousand turned up on the day to witness the event real-time, well down on the quarter-of-a-million ravers who jammed the streets when Franky VIII got nailed up six years ago. None of the big players had shown up this year. Capo Capo, Baron Jed Winter, the Groovy Shop Crowd were all visored into the media from other, more fashionable venues. On the other hand, the hit rate was good, and the demographics – relayed to me in real time through the ticker open at the left of my main visor - looked right for my profile.

We were all logged on, our humble little group - me, Katy, Jenna and Scott, Lee, Peter C, Anna Spanna, Princess Princess, Arthur, Howard, and the loathsome Jaffa - but I made a mental note to cross it off my list of fixtures. Everything has its day.

on the fringe of the visual bandwidth. I twisted the vertical hold on my set, fiddled the tuning, even switched networks a couple of times, but nothing got rid of it. The whine on the soundtrack got steadily worse, and then the blur twitched and arced across the entire field of vision as the sense-track went cold and the sound crackled and moaned.

It came up from nowhere, just seemed to squirm in from behind the scene, oozed out like transparent gel squeezed from a tube, distorting everything around it. I felt it come in from the top of my head, eating into my brain like a great soft worm. Muscles in my chest cramped and my hands and feet started shaking. The live crowd didn’t seem to notice, but the viewing figures dropped immediately, first a couple, a few, then the soundtrack positively crackled with the sound of subscribers all over the world switching channels.

“Whoa.” I pulled off my set and rubbed my eyes with the ends of my fingers, which soothed my itching eyes but exacerbated my headache. Katy tore her set away and shook out her long black hair.

“Metzger! Nearly got me.”

We were at the Yucatan Lounge, a nasty but atmospheric booze hole in the bowels of an ancient, dilapidated building on Victoria Street. It must have been over a century old, a big deal in its time I guess, but now the offices it held stood mostly empty, a few Cuba Streeters occupying the lower floors and the Yucatan Lounge filling the old Mall that held the Cubacade Gate.
“Fuck, my head,” said Lee.

“No thanks,” I said, getting a small smile and a shove out of her. My cam was still running from the Crucifixion, so I pulled out a tube of Belloc’s Jelly and passed it around, keeping the bright logo in sight. “This’ll make you feel better, guys. Rub it into your head and the ache’ll go. Don’t be silly, use Belloc’s Jelly.” They all squeezed from the tube and rubbed it in obligingly.

The broadcast had been terminally corrupted, exploded into millions of tiny viruses that brought the down in a few seconds. Twenty punters were wiped out, fully reformatted as it were, and a half a dozen of them were now just jammy smears on the inside of their sets.

Links connected the previous appearances on the media of what they were just beginning to call “the Fear”. Several weeks back, three subscribers in Thailand died from bizarre internal injuries while enjoying a small private ORPG on Fox Star. Since then, a number of unexplained deaths had come to light from the previous few months which were concluded, in retrospect, to be caused by the same phenomenon. People came forward claiming to have encountered strange forces on the edges of the media, and two weeks before Franky IX’s ultimate sacrifice, a ManU fixture saw a massive wave of Fear pass through it, leaving over forty thousand subs dead. Since then, there had been two more huge attacks, but most subs were now aware enough to disconnect in time.

The News interviewed a pipe-and-elbow-pads in Toronto, Professor Radical Authority, who said the Fear was an electromagnetic pulse, a pattern of interference bouncing through the wires around the global media. It blurred and distorted the sound and vision tracks and disrupted media traces. More seriously, the sudden burst of uncontrolled input on the sense track was sufficient to cause fatal trauma as the body struggled to incorporate a myriad of contradictory sense data. They produced some medical shots: exploded heads, rib cages pushed out like racks of lamb, eyes popped out of sockets, the usual sorts of thing.

“Eee-yew! High UV!” said Katy, frowning.

“That it is,” said Howard. “The media’s becoming a low burn-time ecosystem.”

“Hey,” Anna Spanna shot back at him, “the media’s totally Metzger, OK, DEREK METZGER.” Anna was the station ID for Server-One, one of the big local networks, and had arranged the Crucifixion pay-per-views.

“Probably a set up,” said Lee with a sneer, “media people are doing it to drum up publicity.”

“Well, that I couldn’t comment on that,” said Anna, as if any of us would believe it for a second.

“Funny way of attracting people...”

“Look-” said Anna.

“You notice it’s only been subs who get blanked? None of the big media stars have gone?”

“It got Jolly Rolly last weekend,” I pointed out.

“I said big media stars. He was going down the drain, I reckon he was a sacrifice.”

“Metzger, guys, Metzger. Everything’s totally sustainable, ok? Do I have to remind you what we all depend on for our livings?” There was a silence while this sank in.

“Maybe they simulated the whole thing,” Jaffa cut in, “I mean, it wouldn’t be hard. Rolly could be enjoying a quiet retirement in Delhi or Brazzaville, and if the only other victims are subs, who’s to say they’re real at all?”

Anna took a deep breath and I could see there was an explosion imminent. In an effort to sidetrack any ugly improvisation, I fell back on a bit of old script from my ongoing storyline with Jaffa.

“Ooooh!” I said, “Tin foil hats on, everyone! It’s a cover up!”

“A bit like Frenzy, eh?” Jaffa took a big-mouthed swig from his Dr Scholl’s, finishing the bottle, keeping his eyes on me.

He’d been a policy analyst for General Motors Road Transport Authority, pushing new cars and fashionable, high-speed toll roads. His Wild One brief was similar to mine, though more of a boy-racer type, and so we had niche-protection issues right from the start. Recently he’d been picked up by my old enemy the Watties, for the traffic enforcement section: poacher turned gamekeeper, was the idea, aspirational model for all those “I-was-a-wild-kid-but-more-responsible-now” bods settling down in the claves around Tawa and Johnsonville. Watties set their boy at building a classic rivalry: reformed but still funky Jaffa against wicked, irresponsible Dylan.

It wasn’t a bad idea (and I knew there were high-level editorial meetings between DeBenoit and Watties on the subject) but I just couldn’t get into it. Compared to the Magic Bus crowd Jaffa was an amateur, no finesse, no subtlety. Neither did he complement my own thin, pale, big boned look. I always hankered for a latin or Polynesian rival, someone who’d look good with me on posters - Turangi had been perfect before he deserted the scene. Jaffa was big, clumsy, wiry red hair with freckles and an unpleasant face dominated by a blobby bulging nose. He had a kind of redneck look that, I guess, the Watties liked.

getting his cam switched on. “Can we go back? I’d just like to get that first bit on tape.”

“Nah,” I shifted to a flat-footed, defensive stance, chin pushed forward, “You can use my footage if you like, let’s get on with it, you cunt.”

We’d all lost a bit of recording time after the crucifixion was disrupted, so I let Jaffa go into an extended lecture about my general lack of respect, how sad I was going to be when I was old and alone, all the usual crap, encouraging him with the odd sneer and gibe, letting him make a dick of himself. This stuff worked for both our subs: mine got to laugh cynically at the dickhead, ie him, while got to feel righteous over the dickhead, ie me. Dickheads all round and everyone's happy. I will not bore you with the details: vocalising was not his strongest skill, and I did feel kind of guilty lumbering my subs with this noise, but I had space to fill and one can only do so much with the material that presents itself.

Katy caught my eye, and I grinned. She licked her lips, brown eyes glittering.

“You’re a junk old ludd, Jaffa, you bore me.” I yawned, reaching behind my head as if in a stretch. Jaffa knew what was coming and swung his fist round at me.


I can appreciate the aesthetics of it, and as an engine of change I’m all for it, how could I not be? The only thing about violence that disturbs me is... well, the physical risk. I mean, only a mad person wants to get hurt, right? The several violent highlights of my career, not least the decapitation that launched me to stardom, the legendary three-day siege in the Paua Cafe against the Nomads and my famous torture of Hohepa Simpson (I still get royalties from the soundtrack album) were merely theatrical sadism, entailing no real threat to my person (although I did catch a tangler in the Paua Cafe). Fighting was not really my bag, not my bag at all.

However, the viewers demanded action, and action is what they got. Part of the fantasy, I guess is this the desire to be physically fearless, to hit someone if you want to shut them up, not put up with any bullshit. Generally, we all tried to keep it low key, just a bit of a dust up, flesh wounds and bruises rather than anything really nasty, more like dancing than murder. But then accidents did happen and there were always the occasions when tempers frayed and deaths occurred: I’m sure that these moments were what kept many people paying their subs.

a little jump, just a matter of tensing my calf muscles, and skidded a few inches back from the blow. I brought my razor from its pocket in the collar of my shirt (all my clothes had this special feature, an idea I’d gotten from a western novel I read when I was a kid) and swung it down at Jaffa. A red trail spread across the chest of his white skivvy.

Jaffa grinned. I grinned back. We’d held back our first blows, didn’t want to finish it off before we’d had a chance to build up some tension.

“You’re a dead man, dolphin breath.”

Theatrically, I gripped my wrist like I was taking a pulse. “Wrong again.”

His fist came up at me and I took it on the chin, rolling with the punch across the floor. I got up and rubbed the bruise: “Not bad.”

There was a circle now. The usual collection of wannabes, hutties and subbies, watching us longingly, wishing they had the nerve and the glamour to fight like us. Jaffa and I smiled: we’d had the desired effect, the encounter would be in the Social Gallery, and our subs would tuning in to the pay-per-views in their thousands.

I jumped forward and slashed up. The razor met resistance, not much more than a change of consistency in the air, a slight thickening of the medium. An arc of blood followed the path of my hand, momentarily caught in the strobe. A long red gash opened Jaffa’s face from chin to brow. He put his hand up and blood poured between his fingers.

“Fuckaargh!” He ran at me. I stepped aside and grabbed his arm. Momentum carried his body forward and, with a little twist, the arm cracked like driftwood popping on a fire. Nasty stuff, but he walked right into it. “Farrrk!” Jaffa dropped to his knees and Scott ran over to check him out.

The circle cheered and a couple of people I didn’t recognise clapped me on the back. A wannabe with a wisp of blonde moustache, leaning against the door jamb, chuckled and waved at me. Still wired, I stomped over and smashed him in the face, mashing his nose to the left, knocking him to the ground. He gave me the thumbs up, and choked through his bloody nose. “Nice one, Dylan, good one.”

wrapping a tanned arm around my waist, looking up at me. “Why Dyalan, that was high-fibre stuff.”

I turned off my cam and ordered a drink. The action had left me breathless and sweaty, my jaw was beginning to throb. But I was exhilarated, the warm rum of adrenalin coursing through my veins. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah.” I popped a few Motocans, to keep the rush on-line.

Jaffa came over, white skivvy held over the gash in his face, the red stain beginning to drip. The wound on his chest wasn’t nearly so deep, just a red line really, trickling blood here and there. We shook hands, guardedly. “Nice going.”

“Thanks. You did OK, but you lost your rag, man.”

He jabbed his sausagey finger at me. “I’ll get you next time.”

on fast forward. It looked good, so I dumped it onto the hard drive implanted near my liver. My recording log was back on schedule for a while, so I ordered another beer, and leaned back on my stool.

Katy leaned over and whispered in my ear, hot breath dripping down my neck. “Why Dylan, the Love Cinema has re-decorated suite three, what say we go along?” Katy was wearing a filmy green sarong, hair flowed down to her ankles in effervescent black streams.

In her left eye, at the very back of her retina, I could see a red light flashing - she was recording, trying to drum up a little business for her Love Cinema.

at this stage, how many of you even remember her, I wonder? After she left Watties they eliminated all trace of her from the archive and her pre-Watties stuff was only available from Public Records. Setting up on her own hadn’t gone well: she’d made the mistake of thinking that they would leave her alone. She figured that she could be a high-class independent operator, Carrie Bradshaw meets Holly Golightly, but there was no way the Watties were going to let her take a fraction of their business without a fight. She did get some time on Jaffa’s sub, but his editors constantly sabotaged her pay-per-views with leaks and spoiler clips. They characterised her as a faded tart with a heart, and she was forced to tolerate long intimate chats with him about how she should clean up her act and settle down. She’d told me one day that her old manager at Watties had suggested she come back to the company and marry Jaffa. She’d told them to forget it, of course.

And this really pissed me off. You see, me and Katy had history. We’d been at Tawa together, lovers for a little while at the beginning when we were young and idealistic, thought we were king and queen of it all. I still thought of her as my closest friend and ...well, maybe, you know, one day and all that...

some unbiased media exposure for her Love Cinema and I was happy to oblige.

I sighed and put my half finished beer on the bar. “Let’s do that again, I’d like to get the whole sequence.” I flicked my cam back on.

“Oh sure, I didn’t get the intonation quite right anyway.” We re-arranged ourselves, ordered new drinks (Kafka Cola for me, I didn’t like it but it was on the list, so had to have one) and took a couple of Purple Strangers, just to get in the mood: this would be edited out later on.

“Why Dylan, isn’t the atmosphere in here getting a little hot?”

“Try one of these, Katy, it’ll cool you right down, right down.” I held out a tube of Knights in White Satin, the latest thing from the Ministry.

For me. Because of the Jaffa connection, I’d inevitably end up with a few clips on the Watties subs. I had a sort of Robin Hood image going that audience, the rebel, lovable scamp, that sort of thing. De Benoit could easily have changed the regulations, it was their law after all, but the image suited their Marketing Plan: this little niche still represented a significant sector of the drug-taking public.

Anyway, I’d done a lot of plot development around Katy in the last few weeks and this was the denouement of our story - it had to be something good.

from the packet I held out and put it in her mouth. “It’s the latest big thing in Denmark,” I told her. She kissed me, forcing my lips apart with her tongue. After a moment I broke away and gave her another of the sweets: hers was now in my mouth. She laughed and ate it, crunching it to fragments then washing it down with her drink. As I chewed my own, colour drained from the world, and the fringes became blurred, soft focus. The drug was working. I offered her a Motocan, to pick it up a bit (the boffins never could seem to get the mix quite right).

“Let’s go.” Outside, I pressed the stud for my car and it came down in front of us.

[The journey in the car took about 9 minutes. Contraceptive and STD jabs edited out.]
Street outside the Love Cinema. The night is clear but a pale grey mist bleaches everything it touches. The streets are wet and shining under harsh white street lights. Cut to neon sign: “Love Cinema” colour bleeding into mist. Sense track: Cold 18, and Zap (Neon) 61 between ears. Dylan’s sky blue Mazda 959 streaks under the down-screen street light and stops on a reckless angle.

Interior of car, Dylan and Katy. Sense track: Leather-musk 6, Pheromone 987. Dylan leans over and kisses Katy who responds passionately. Dylan produces roll of Knights in White Satin and takes a vivid blue ring shaped tablet from the packet. He and Katy have half each. Sense track: adrenal 927.

Katy: Let’s go.

Dylan: Yeah!

Street outside Love Cinema. Dylan and Katy get out of car and trot up to door where they stop and kiss. They enter.

Interior of Love Cinema, tiled completely in dazzling white. Sound track: Mystical Crystals sample. Sense track: heat register 29+, pheromone 242, jasmine.

Dylan and Katy walk in, totally nude. [The tangle-scar across my stomach is routinely shoppped out.] Dylan takes Katy and kisses her. Katy breaks away and kisses Dylan’s chest. They walk to great white fur in centre of room. Billowing sheets of white satin drop from the ceiling.

Katy: Dylan I-

Dylan: Hush.

Dylan presses finger to Katy’s lips. She pulls his hand away. Sense track: adrenal 214, pheromone 242, body tingle.

Katy: Could this - ?

Dylan: It always has been...

Katy leans back, Dylan kisses her nipples. Katy rubs hands down Dylan’s back to buttocks. Dylan sits on white tiled step, Katy kisses down his body to groin, licks head of penis for 90 seconds or so. Dylan brings Katy’s head up and kisses her on the lips. Katy gets up on step and stands in front of Dylan, thrusting groin into face. Dylan kisses and licks labia, clitoris. Katy grabs bar hanging from ceiling and places feet on wall, rubbing herself into Dylan’s face. Laughs near hysterically. Sense track: sandalwood and almond, spine buzz, pheromone 249.

Dylan stands and guides her onto his penis. She uses her feet to thrust from wall, he gyrates in way familiar to fans. Sense track: pheromone 242,249, adrenal 218, sandal wood, bitter lemon. Sound track: Giant’s Brass overlay. [Delicate matter of unknotting from this position edited out. Dylan slips and bruises buttocks, also edited out.]

They lie on the white fur and rub against each other. Dylan rubs penis over Katy’s clitoris. Sense track: pheromone 111, endocrine 9a, burnt umber. Sound track: Cry of the Goddess. Katy runs hands over Dylan’s shoulders and down back.

Katy: How long -

Dylan: How long to forever?

Scene ends. Debit user seven minutes.

but the pager behind my ear was gently, if insistently, informing me that I must report to my manager at the Ministry immediately. Katy and I shared a Grok-o-lade as I waited for the Anti to counteract the Erecto I’d injected just before.

“Not a bad little scene,” I said. My manager had given me the bits and pieces of dialogue that he had worked up with his sister, and we’d improvised off some of these. As it turned out, the sense track was a little on the subtle side for my tastes, but alas “the talent” weren’t given much say in these creative decisions.

“Maybe.” She picked a piece of glitter off one of her big brown nipples. “How long have we known each other, Dylan?”

“A while... twenty years, probably. Metzger!” I laughed and shook my head. “That long? Sometimes I don’t feel older than twenty.”

“I’ve been doing this for 17 years.”

“Yeah, I’ve been doing it for about 16. It’s not a bad racket, eh?”

She looked around. “This place isn’t doing what I’d hoped.”

“It’s a great place.”

“Yeah, it’s those meaty Watties.”

“I’ll have a word with Zac. Maybe you could get some sort of deal with us.”

“I’m thinking of getting out. I could sell-up and have a pretty good life on Fiji or Nauru.”

“Fiji or Nauru?” I laughed. “Come on, I can’t imagine you sitting around on a beach on your own. No cams, no media, no drugs, no one around - you’d go crazy.” Katy nodded. I gave my dick a rub. It was soft now, ready to squeeze back into my silver g-string and black levis. “Oh well, back to the coalface.”

We got up and dressed. My grey linen surcoat was a bit crumpled, so I tossed it. Katy got re-togged in a yellow strapless, golden platforms and moulded neon tiara. “I might hang out here for a while,” she said.

“Yeah, okay, well I’ll see you later, maybe tonight.”

“Okay, I’ll be at Flicker Flicker Flicker from about eight.”

okay, I’m getting through it. Don’t take this personally, but my heart isn’t really in this project. Print is dead, right? So why flog a dead horse?

Well, because my agent sucks, is why.

I’m sorry Zac, but this story has been told and retold in every medium that exists from big-budget virtual-drama to broadway show, improvised LARP drama, a multi-media installation in France, “Dylan World” being carved out of the foreshore at Day's Bay (on the site of “Katherine Mansfield World” which never really took off like the Menton site),and a pop-up-book with cardboard with sticker dress up dollies. But still I have to endure this torture and squeeze out the story in this most primitive method of communication. “Market saturation,” says Zac, shrugging his shoulders.

Metzger’s holy ivories, no one reads meaty books! Well, okay, a few old fuckers, and some of those young-fogey nostalgic types (and not even all of them), but none of them are part of my market. My people are the up-to-the-minute, forward-looking futurists: post-physical bon-vivants who would no sooner pick up a book than grow vegetables.

If it weren’t for the Thought-to-Text engine, I wouldn’t bother, honestly, I’d rather pay damages and get on with my life. The thought of sitting hunched over a computer, or a typewriter, or worse still, a pen and paper, for hours, maybe even days, horrifies me. Fortunately, all that’s required of me is to remember, and that, my friends, is all I’m prepared to do.

give me the opportunity to set the record straight on a number of matters, perhaps only for future scholars of history and pop-culture. The other versions of my story have all been produced by other creators, usually taken from media files, where the reality has already been chopped and edited. The real story has never been told.

This, though, is the lot of great heroes. Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, L Ron Hubbard: they all had similar problems. I recall something from my Varsity days, a snatch of text: “...the names and figures of the great and little heroes of the world act irresistibly as magnets to those floating filaments of myth that are everywhere in the world. ...Through such a process history is lost; but history is also made.”

I shall unmake history if I must. I shall present the true and actual record of what really happened, with no thought for my personal image.

My real name is Philip Cornelious Lieber. I was 32 when this was happening, not 27, as is popularly supposed.

There, that wasn’t so hard.

NEXT: Furthermore...

In the meantime, here are The Cramps with Oowee Baby...

Header image from flickr user 111emergency, and used under the creative commons license.

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic! I'm not done with the whole story yet but I wanted to let you know that I am reading it and I love it. It's a fine work, in my opinion.

    I wouldn't change the content but you could do with a bit of copy editing. Just some grammar (like missing words here and there, a plural and singular cross-up, that sort of thing) and minor spelling typos.

    Your short story links in the sidebar are broken btw.

    You might wonder how I ended up over here reading your story. Well, I saw you post comments here: and I thought to myself, that is a literate and witty person! Who is he? So I had a look at your commenter profile and here I am.

    Also, well done on sporting the bow-tie. The Doctor would be proud.