Sunday, 4 July 2010

Part Nine: The Not Quite Death of Arlo Makepeace Dylan

There was no sign of Chrissy, but Bobby was in the lounge, robot on the floor, outline shimmering like a vibrating string on a cello. This was something I’d only heard about: Frohedadrine, JJ-180 as it was known.

Frohedadrine had been developed by Hazeltine Corporation in the States before the revolution, its development sponsored by the UN for reasons that had long since been forgotten. It was widely regarded as the most dangerous drug ever invented, and was totally banned, even by Hazeltine itself. It was instantly addictive and addiction led inevitably to death in a couple of months, the drug reacting corrosively on the microtubules of the brain cells. Some people, and Bobby was obviously one of them, regarded the hit as worth the burn-time. The drug apparently transported the taker in time, sending them into the past or the future, depending on the dosage and method of administration. I say “apparently” because there was no definite evidence that the user actually travelled in time. There was enough doubt, however, to have the drug suppressed with extreme prejudice.

How Bobby got hold of it, I’ve no idea.

Bobby writhed at my feet. Nothing to do but wait ‘til it wore off.

I didn’t have to wait long, less than a minute and the several superimposed outlines gradually collapsed into a single coherent form. Bobby lay there for a little while, breathing heavy, eyes opening and shutting experimentally. “How are you feeling?”


“Where’d you go?”

“Future. Year or so.”

“Really? What did you see?”

“The future. Future stuff.”

When I got back Bobby was sitting up, pressing at his eye sockets with the points of his wrists. “This your first dose?”

“Nah. Doesn’t get any easier though. Christ.” Bobby shuddered. “I met you, future you.”

“Oh yeah? How was I?”



“Yeah, you said to tell you something, seemed pretty important. Um....” Bobby frowned, then shrugged.

just like any other meatstruck kid, Bobby just wanted to get high and follow follow the latest trends. I felt my new-found convictions withering. “Where’s Chrissy?”

“Oh, working?” Bobby looked around doubtfully. “She’s had a thing fitted, you know a...”

He tapped his head and my blood froze. “A Janus?”

“Nah. A cam. Hey, that’s what I was supposed to tell you: Chrissy got a new job, she’s celebrating down at the City Art Gallery, that performance thing, you know? The future you said you should go.”

“Oh yeah? Metzger! A message from the future and turns out to be an invite to a party!” I laughed. “You coming?”

“Yeah, yeah.” Bobby got up and began to look around the lounge, under the chairs and the cushions, found a sock, pulled it over a skinny, yellow foot, then sat down again. “Oh, maybe not.”

“Yeah, that stuff takes it out of you. You know it’s poisonous? Bobby?” The black clad body was shimmering again: Bobby was going on another trip in time.

I popped into my room and got into an outfit that suited my mood: confident, in control, unfettered by trivial concerns. I settled, after much to-ing and fro-ing, on deep red padded leggings, tight-fitting green roll neck, and fawn suede jeans jacket. I spiked my hair and anchored it all in place with my good old monster boots. I took a look at myself in the mirror: I can see it now, the it’ll-do glimpse before heading out the door. Perhaps I would have taken more care had I known it was to be the last such outfit I would ever wear!

and hadn’t been much impressed by it, although it was hugely popular. Essentially, it was a laser/dance/rant, the usual sort of thing, with a hard negative edge. Its premise was the end of the world, of course, although this time the theme was puritanical: over-indulgence in fashion and trends, led to fragmentation of history and society, a gradual disintegration of the social connections that held us to human heritage and, inevitably, the end of the world as we know it.

The problem with these apocalyptic warnings, I have always thought, is their failure to recognise ordinary human resilience. If things change radically, then people change with them. Things may be grim in the short term, but, Derek Metzger, life goes on. The end of the world as we know it doesn’t mean the end of life. Think of medieval Europe, the hundred years of famine in Africa, the Eastern European Terror years - in amongst the starvation, disease and war, people just got on with it. These “artistes” see humanity as such a weak vessel that it cannot possibly survive a change from the conditions we now experience. Or more commonly than those we used to experience, because there’s always that underlying note of nostalgia in these warnings, as though things were okay before we started on this road to disaster.

In the social psychedelia courses I did at Varsity, we’d looked at old ideas of utopias and dystopias and how they’d got it wrong. I mean, the social situation brought about by the revolution - heavily libertarian, no centralised authorities beyond corporate monopolies - was something that would have horrified people at one time, but in fact it worked just fine. Sure, at the bottom end, some people found it hard going but, for the majority, things were pretty much as they always had been: Joe and Jane Average toiled in wage slave jobs, lived in junky suburban hovels and were pretty miserable for most of the time. At the top end, at the cutting edge, though, things were going better, faster and more efficient than ever before.

this apocalyptic stuff was usually unnecessary by the time it became popular and even the most uninformed clods were aware of the problem before it bubbled over into the hide-bound world of performance art.

With a small group that included Jaffa, and Billy Tiffin, an obnoxious transvestite from the Watties vice division. Chrissy seemed at ease, in her element. She hardly looked like a new-comer, several old-time sceners were already sucking up to her like she was queen bee, like she’d slipped into the spot vacated by Katy. Arthur, sat by them, a cocktail in hand. This I couldn’t believe: how could he hang with Jaffa, after what’d happened last night?

Chrissy saw me, smiled, waved me over, so I sauntered past the crowd showing the balance of interest and contempt that high art functions require. Jaffa whispered something in Chrissy’s ear and she smiled.

“Hi. Hi everyone. Arthur.” Arthur tipped his glass in greeting, but said nothing.

“Well, well, well,” said Jaffa, “The self-destructing superstar. Have I got a surprise for you- ulp.” Chrissy elbowed him more than affectionately in the stomach. Her elbow-blade drew blood, lots of blood.

“You’re keeping the tissue knitters busy, old boy.” Jaffa, smiled at me through the pain, a strange desperate grimace, and Billy helped him away.

Chrissy laughed and kissed air at me. I put my finger out and followed the curve of one of the blades. “Nice.” My finger came away bloody.

“Fitted today.” She angled her elbows towards me proudly, then wiped the blades clean and slipped them back into the sockets in her forearm. “Got an extra tendon in there. All I’ve gotta do is...” She stuck her tongue from the corner of her mouth and twiddled her thumbs. The blades popped out with a soft click and she smiled, tight and nasty. “Voila.”


“Hey, mate.” He put his perfumed arm around me, and I could see his little red record light flickering at the back of his pupil. “Fuckers, eh?”

“You made a pretty hasty retreat.”

“Dylan, -” He looked down, “I’m Metzgered over this, I feel like it was my fault. I just lost it, man. I couldn’t stay there. Then when Katy-”

“Sure -” I could imagine the scene he was planning

“I heard your lot picked her up.”


“She deserved better. We couldn’t let her-”


I turned and saw Bobby grinning big yellow teeth at me from behind a straggly black wig and big mirror shades. “Hi, man.”

“You made it.”

“Been here for hours - I was just in the loo.”

“Hours? I just – Oh, man it's the JJ-180 recently. You've got to stop with that stuff, your starting to echo, man.”

“JJ what?”

“You know, fo- er fro..., JJ-180. There was all that fuss about it before the... before…” I had a really weird feeling, like waking up from a dream and suddenly realising that no, of course you can’t fly, of course you don’t live on the moon. Of course there was no such thing as JJ-180. I shook my head at him. “Oh, nothing, I just, I dunno.”

“Whatever, man. Wanna drink?”

The device was Metzgering with my memory, rewriting the past to suit plots programmed by the Ministry. Somehow, I’d played right into their hands.

I took a handful of uppers and a couple of hypnotics, and stared into the lights of the performance. I felt like I’d been cut free from the rest of humanity. Their reality didn’t effect me any more, I wasn’t part of the same continuum.

Arthur put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you okay, Dylan?”

“You guys dancing?”

We looked at each other, then Arthur said: “No.”

I nodded. “I’ll dance, when the performance is over.”

“Aw,” Chrissy rolled her eyes. “Who cares about those ludds, load of meaty old polar junk. I reckon we could put on a better show, eh?” She nudged me softly with her fist.

A crowded night in the City Gallery. Art performance in progress, non-aligned aesthetes, cannon fodder. Sense track: general pheromone/adrenal 486 (expectation).

Dylan and Chrissy watch the performance, whispering to each other, giggling. Sound track rhythm picks up, adrenal 486 up by three points. Chrissy grabs Dylan’s hand and pulls him on to the performance area. They knock over one of the artistes, who falls head over heels, pratfall. Focus for a second on artiste’s surprised face. Sense track: adrenal 321.

Other artiste, a horse-faced woman: “Piss off. There’ll be dancing when we’ve finished.”

Chrissy: “Maybe we don’t want to wait.” Chrissy pirouettes, arms bent, palms over breasts, elbows out. Whirling elbow blades knock the artiste down. Other members of the performance company spring from the crowd. Four arties, dully dressed avant garde types, armed with knuckle dusters, bike chains and knives advance on Dylan and Chrissy. Dylan pulls out his razor.

Dylan: “Dare you to say something naughty.”

Sound track: Dylan’s Rumble Theme. Sense track: hot metal, HT 218.

Bike chain whips at Dylan (Sound Track: sweep#4), Dylan catches it in his hand, curling his arm with the force: blunt 2, point 9. He pulls it free.

Arty: Metzger!

Dylan rushes him, grabs him round collar with one hand, slashes several times at face and neck. Arty staggers backwards, blood spotting front of clothes with dark growing stains. Dylan pushes him in stomach with flat of foot, arty falls and rolls in agony.

Sense track: blunt 12, point 96a, HT 966. Dylan spins to see fat woman arty with small club has hit him on back of head.

Dylan: “Dirty cow.”

Sense track: sharp 13, point 45n.

Dylan: “OW!”

Behind him is a second arty, short with a long face and black curly hair, holding a knife. He kicks high at Dylan a couple of times forcing him back at the arty with the club, who swings. Sense track: adrenal 313.
Scene ends - debit user 6 minutes.

please confirm credit details. Always ask the person who pays the bill.

Dylan is trapped between two vicious arties. His side stings from a small knife scratch (sense track: rasp 309, point 45n, adrenal 333). The short arty drops, revealing Chrissy behind her, landing gracefully from a flying kick (slomo 2). Dylan spins and grabs the remaining arty by the hand.

Dylan: “Hope you’re not a violinist.” Dylan drags the razor across his wrist, slicing through skin, muscle and tendon. Blood pours from the wound. He spins, and sees Chrissy throttling the last of the arties.

Dylan: “That was quite a performance.”

Chrissy: “Ain’t over yet.” She pulls the zip on her dress down and it falls from her shoulders.

End scene. Debit user 3 minutes.

and got the injector from my coat pocket. “Hold on a second.” I undid my trousers and pointed the needle at my semi-erect penis. After a moment of pain, a workable erection began to form, so I switched my cam back on and pulled a roll of drugs from my pocket. “You know, this is a Mojo Rising moment.” I took a blue capsule and offered her the packet.

She didn’t take it, but stared at my cock. “Er... no thanks. Hey, I’m hungry.” She slipped her dress back on and walked back to the bar. With difficulty, I forced my rigid penis back in my pants, dry swallowed a relaxant to shrink it and followed her. When I reached the bar, she was turning the menu over in her hands. “They don’t have much here.”

“No, let’s go to Pluto’s Realm. They do a great crocodile steak.”

Chrissy laughed: “That’s just what I feel like!”

was designed using a cunning arrangement of lights and hologram projections, to make it appear as if it was in the centre of a vast black plain, under a bright black sky. The dining area was enclosed by eight pillars draped with red velvet, but all beyond was ominous, barren, infinite. It was a strangely, if not cosy effect.

It was a busy night, a fairly young crowd, I thought, students and such. Pluto’s Realm was an old place, going back before the debt crisis, and it went in and out of fashion with out changing its decor much. The menu was changed regularly, and periodically they would get new crockery or cutlery, but on the whole they left things as they were and it seemed to work. They were undergoing a bit of a renaissance at the moment after a few years of relative unpopularity, especially among the new crowd.

There were a few I recognised, nodding acquaintances, but other than that they were unfamiliar. Chrissy seemed to know lots of them: while we waited for our meals she dragged me around the tables introducing her friends, talking about events and people I didn’t know.

until one of her friends mentioned it. “How’s the new job?” they said.

Chrissy smiled wide: “Oh, great, just great. I’ve got a cam now...”

“Are you recording this?”

“I don’t keep it going all the time!”

“Wow, that’s orrr-some. How much are they paying you?” Chrissy held up four fingers. “Forty? Wow.”

“Forty-two, actually.”

I only made thirty-six!

I'd forgotten about her new job, and when we sat down at a table I figured I should probably get some mention of it into the script, her new employers would be expecting it. “What’s this new job, then? Big corp?”

“Yep. Growing all the time. Service-based, meeting a universal need.”

“Sounds good. Who is it?”


I gave a gallant laugh. “Oh ho. Technically that makes us enemies.”

“Worse than that, Dylan.” She licked her lips. “Much worse than that.”


“Yes “oh”. Look at this.” She pulled a piece of paper from her tiny purse, unfolded it and held it up. “It’s a warrant.”

A set up. I might have known. Still, I thought, Chrissy was a good choice, young, talented, trendy, an association with her could only be good for me. Images of how it could go raced through my brain: a sort of a team up, old-hand shows rookie the ropes. The idea had lots of potential and would be a great way of getting back on side with the Watties, who’d been getting a bit serious for my liking. I’d lose a bit of line-time in jail, but it’d give me time to straighten out a bit, figure out what I wanted to do. As all this went through my head, I grinned confidently. “I’ll come quietly officer.” I held my hands out to receive handcuffs.

“This isn’t a warrant for your arrest. Mong!!” She rolled her eyes.

Manisola the Teacher, sprung from the air behind her, waving his arms and leaping around. As it happens, I probably would have been out of there quicker if it hadn’t been for him distracting me. I watched him for a few seconds until the sound of a gun being cocked broke through my surprise.

“Come on, Dylan,” Chrissy gestured to the door with the big black oiled piece. “Play the game.”

“Fucking run for it,” yelled the Teacher.

a physical shock, as soon as I figured out what was going on. A rookie/mentor team-up was not going to happen. It was more like hot young star wipes out tedious old fart and begins glittering career. I had a weird intuition of how my headmaster must have felt face down on the concrete: not frightened, exactly. Disappointed, a horrible feeling of displacement as you suddenly become a supporting player in someone else’s movie, one’s own plotline having run out some time before without you ever realising it. It’s a complex emotion.

I knocked the head of the person behind me with my arse as I staggered back. I turned around, grabbing onto his shoulders as I found my feet, then pushed off against him toward the door.

It was Peter 6. “Hi Dylan!” he said, as I ran from the place.

I got to the door, and I felt a graze burn into the top of my arm. Chrissy yelled down the stairs as I crashed through the door: “That was a warning shot, turn your cam on.”

Before I could think of a suitable response, my legs had carried me out the door and quite a way down the street. My calves ached from lifting the heavy monster boots. I stopped at the corner and looked back. Chrissy was jogging lightly up the street. She stopped and raised the gun, squinting through one eye along the barrel. The shot ricocheted from the bricks just as I ducked back. I sprinted down the street, pressing the stud for my car.

“The signals been jammed.” It was Manisola. Suddenly he flickered a few meters ahead and pointed down an alley: “Here.” I dashed down the alley, and ducked into a door way, kicked off my huge boots. Glancing back, I saw Chrissy stop at the end of the alley and look around. She raised her gun. I pushed my record button.

Just above the collar bone. I can almost feel it now, wrenching its way through the flesh, warm blood splashing into my face, oozing down my side.

Manisola was frantic. “Try the handle.” The door was unlocked and I ran in. Down a short corridor was a small, deserted office space. I rolled over the reception counter, and staggered between old, hessian-covered partitions. I stumbled and knocked one over, and they fell like dominoes, raising clouds of sweet-smelling dust. An alarm went off.

“Very silly, Dylan,” Chrissy called from down the corridor, “I’m getting a security feed direct from Watties. There are cameras in here, we can see you.”

I crawled around under the desks, trying to stay out of view. I could see Manisola’s blue shins following me around. “Dylan, bloody hell, I should have checked you earlier. I made contact as soon as I found out.”

“Found out?”

“About the murder. I found the story-lines that Zac and his cronies developed around you and they all ended with you dead. As far as I’ve been able to deduce from the meeting notes and memos, your death is part of the price of Watties’ co-operation with the takeover.”

The pain in my neck was becoming a hot, numb ache, and I felt increasingly light-headed. “Great. So this it, I’m going to die? I suppose it’s rather flattering, really, the only thing worse than not being talked about... er” I was tired. “...and all that.”

“There’s something else I found out, about the device.”

“Still recording? Good, this is going to be real solid footage, totally eternal.”

“It monitors all your perceptions and experiences, records and reviews them continuously. It produces images from that input and saves them on the media as data, for reference.”

Chrissy crouched in front of me, the dress undid down the front revealing her almost hairless cunt and small, large-nippled breasts. She tweaked her nipples between her fingers, then put her hand between her legs. She held the gun to my head. “Get ready. How do I look?”

I had to admit, it was a classic scene. “You look real, really real.”

“It's a constant process of writing, reading and writing again. They’re going to use it. Dylan they’re-”

Really, it did. In backward, fast motion, I spun away from the present, back through the experiences of my life. It wasn’t like I actually relived it, more like I was being dragged rapidly backward through a waxwork display reeled in on the end of a rope, getting only a brief look at every scene, just a reminder really. And then it was over. The rest, as they say, is silence.

is floating in absolute blankness, blankness of all the senses. Not only was there nothing to see or hear or feel, there was no hearing, no seeing and no feeling. Those sensations just weren’t possible.

Then light, and forms, things I didn’t recognise, a confusing, cacophonic sensory overload. Gradually it began to make sense. These were people, things, sounds, smells, feelings, and this was me.

I was Philip Cornelious Leiber.

Impressions of my early life were confusing and incomplete, shades, fragments of personality tried and discarded as my body and mind grew. The picture got more coherent as time went on. The revolution played out before me in reasonable detail. I became Arlo Makepeace Dylan, Phil Leiber draining into the background. Years of wandering followed: I travelled New Zealand in the Magic Bus; I was in plays, performances and concerts; I became famous. Then I joined the Ministry, worked through Varsity, the Frenzy business came and went. I had the device fitted and, finally, in excruciating detail, I was shot (wrenching its way through the flesh, warm blood splashing into my face, oozing down my side) in an empty office on College Street.

But this time the most recent events were sketchy and unresolved, and the detail increased as I went back into childhood. As it neared the beginning of my life it all slowed down, the detail became overwhelming, super-real. A youth, a boy, a toddler, a baby. Change became undetectable, but the senses and perception of the record seemed to penetrate everything, saturating it with purpose and meaning, clothing it all in celestial light, the glory and freshness of a dream. At the moment of birth, movement stopped completely.


Next: Now what?

In the meantime, here'sDavid Bowie and Aladdin Sane:

The photo at the top of this entry is by flickr user Br3nda and used under the terms of the creative commons license.

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