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Moan

The title of this poem is an allusion (maybe not anymore) to Moan by Trentemøller.

The journey well charted
Everything had its place
Until she came along
She was all I needed
She was all I wanted
The everything in my world
Everybody loved my baby
She came to the other side
But she saw madness and flew
My everything became black
My world suddenly so empty
Feeling she would return
Days become years
And silence a cold winter
The flame within my heart
Only memories to keep me warm
All the lonely ones
In the graveyard alone
I belong to them now
Ravens forming an unkindness
The black sentinels
We with sorrow laden
Daggers from the past
Moving ever forward
Remember and we are there
Haunted
Melancholy
Still
We will never know love again
At least we have each other
We are The Wretched
We are The Kindred
And in the end
We still pretend.

Neverwinter

Eternally burning in the darkness
Is Lord Neverwinter the ember
He is not in the slightest heartless
For while the snow falls in December

He is reminded of a love that burns
A love that has kept him alive
And it is for this love that he yearns
So he is ablaze in the cold, and thrives.

The Fire Line

Inspired by the events of the Fort McMurray fire and a story heard on CBC’s “The Current”.


Breaking into houses, it’s not a crime,
To rescue animals on our down time.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Family photos burning in the fire,
A motorcycle with melted tires.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Taking our trucks back to refuel,
The high revving ever so cruel.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Heavy hose full of rushing water,
In my suit thinking of my daughter.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Pure adrenaline keeping us going,
Exhaustion creeping, raging fire blowing.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Apocalyptic scene, we protect what we can,
Bulldozers pushing car, truck and van.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Brands floating through black smoke,
It stings my lungs, it will make you choke.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

We are retreating as it’s taking houses,
People are lucky to be with their spouses.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Burning embers allowing it to travel,
Yelling over it, we will not unravel.
Everything will be fine,
Just hold the line.

Things Still On The Surface

I remember,
the little lizards on the bathroom window
them eating the bugs attracted by the light
the smell of her shampoo on her wet hair
standing there putting soap on her back
when she was sick and throwing up
holding her hair back and watching helpless
her stomping upstairs clearly upset
waiting a few minutes before knocking
when she opened the door, a hug and a kiss
the skeleton that used to hang on the door
hearing The Planets for the first time
laying in bed, completely lost in the music
standing and being bit by many mosquitoes
when we took photographs in the backyard
the way she used to put on Burt’s Bees
a popping sound that indicated she was done
her tapping her thumb on the steering wheel
while she drove stick, all over the place
when she cried in my car, and I kissed her
I would cry, like I’d never see her again
I used to think she lived in a desert
with cacti, wearing cowboy boots and hats
when my body was just too slow for me
and I missed an opportunity to talk to her
feeling terrible for going out and leaving
when she called me and I was having dinner
there was a time when I wasn’t afraid to call
the often long and comfortable silences
being requested to do an asian accent
eating pizza while sitting on the floor
big spooning, not knowing where to put my arm
and the way her hair would tickle my nose
burning incense and her dad hated it
being a terrible gifter, but not her
getting her one good gift, a black dress
then not knowing where she could wear it
driving to Montreal, and having crepes
and the traffic jam we experienced
having beignets in a most familiar kitchen
all the many, many great home-cooked meals
when you would get drunk, quite easily
and not wanting to take advantage of you
even though we were lovers, it felt wrong
thinking not everyone felt that way
when I thought that she’d always be there
and the comfort that would bring me, always

The Compilers

Chapter I – “My Wetware”
Chapter II – “C++”
Chapter III – “The Players”
Chapter IV – “The Cutter”
Chapter V – “The Fortress”
Chapter VI – “Ben”
Chapter VII – “A Strange Protocol”
Chapter VIII – “The Halting Problem”
Chapter IX – “Torpor”
Chapter X – “The Compilers”

The air is filled with mingling aromas. Sweat, colognes, perfumes, and the overpowering smell of marijuana smoke. Ambrosia is making its way around the crowd and people are slotting it in and passing it along. It messes with your brain somehow, all I know is that you’re filled with pleasure and happiness for a while, a euphoria. It must use up neurotransmitters, because a second dose doesn’t do anything. This makes it non-addictive— a pirate’s grog that is often shared at events like concerts, amongst friends and not under the purview of the Police.

There’s an opening band playing right now, I haven’t heard of them before, but they’re not too bad. “The Martian Dream”, from the Mars Colony I bet. People don’t seem super into them, you know, they’re mostly just smoking marijuana or slotting Ambrosia and otherwise just standing around, waiting. I feel sorry for them, but at least people aren’t throwing things at them and booing— they’re good enough that that isn’t happening.

If the Cyber Division wanted to get rid of a bunch of their problems all at once they’d blow this place up with all of us in it. Thankfully, entrapment seems to be more their style. They could still bust in here any minute and start arresting people using their drones. Shit. Why did I come here it’s the perfect place to get caught. I need to get close to an exit.

I make my way through the pit to the stairs that lead backstage, I was given two backstage passes one of which is scanned by a bouncer standing at the bottom of the stairs next to the stage. I could have invited someone, but I don’t know many people who aren’t busy with work and their relationships these days. I could have invited Kagi, but I doubt she would travel from Toronto for a concert with someone she just met. Besides, I didn’t get her number.

We’re at stage right, me and the bouncer, he verifies my Apple chip containing the ticketing information and nods and steps aside. He’s a hulking mass of flesh and muscle— bald wearing dark sunglasses. I walk up the stairs and down a short corridor that opens up to the backstage area. There are people lined up along the walls, talking to each other. They momentarily glance my way when I enter and return to their conversations. I don’t see any of the band members, but there is an exit to the left. Perfect, if the Cyber Division busts in I’ll be on the street in a matter of seconds and they will never find out my plug has gone missing.

I look to my right and see The Martian Dream doing their thing on stage, bright coloured lights illuminating them, traversing the spectrum, morphing, changing, making them seem etherial and other-worldly. You know, they probably are from Mars, so I guess they technically are “other-worldly”, but you know what I mean. The bass line hypnotizes me and I stare at the bass player, watching him do his thing on electric bass, he’s at stage right.

Instruments haven’t changed much since ancient times when they were first invented. I mean, there are optical pickups and stuff now, but most people still use round wounds over magnet poles that are wrapped in copper wire. The tradition. Music is highly nostalgic in that sense, musicians honour those who came before and use the same tools. Pedals modulate and manipulate sounds, and those have gotten pretty fancy over the years with many boutiques like Earthquaker Devices creating progressively more advanced effects for the discerning musician.

I can’t imagine myself striking up a conversation with anyone backstage, even though we share an interest in The Compilers. I don’t know why, but I find it difficult to approach people I don’t know. Most people don’t even make eye contact with me. What is it about me that makes this so? I don’t know. My best guess is that my face doesn’t express emotion or interest as well as others. I don’t know. I’m shy.

The song changes, a really slick bass line leads the song in then drums, followed by guitar. It reminds me of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem”. This band isn’t that bad. The guitar is highly manipulated, etherial tones and wales that evoke a vast spacial soundstage. “Everyone. Everyone around here. Everyone is so, near”, I hear. No, it’s a cover of “The National Anthem”. Wow. It’s done in their own style, their flavour, it sounds different, but the bass line is the same now that I can piece together the layers.

I look around and people are staring at the band on stage, no longer interested in their conversations. Some are nodding their heads, tapping their feet, excited by the familiar track. They are killing it. I take some Apples out of my pocket and sift through them until I find an Ambrosia program. I slot it in and my head jerks back, overwhelmed. I am filled with an artificially produced euphoria and exhale slowly through my mouth.

The National Anthem is the band’s last song and they take their leave after thanking the audience, bright white spotlights now shining on them. Soon the roadies are tearing down their setup and preparing for the main act. No Cyber Division yet. As the Martian Dream comes backstage they are crowded with what I guess are fans, although you would never guess based on how they were conversing during their set. They play it cool and shrug off most of the crowd, except for the young women, who they magnetically attract. Soon they’re followed by a group of women who they show genuine interest in. Blow jobs and sex, you know how it is.

I wait in the backstage area, finding a place along a newly liberated wall. I watch the roadies pulling out an coiling cables and carrying equipment off stage towards me. There’s one unscrewing the high hat and cymbals, I watch him. He’s a slender, good looking guy wearing a t-shirt and jeans with tattooed sleeves. I wonder if he’s in a band, he probably is. As he tears down the drum set I begin to think about Kagi. I wonder what she’s doing right now.

After the last piece of equipment is carried off stage they begin to carry on The Compiler’s gear. The curtains are still open, so that the audience can watch, albeit now in almost complete darkness— I don’t know how the roadies work in this kind of lighting. Their gear is mostly black, black guitars, black bass, black drums, black keyboard, black laptop. Once the gear is loaded on stage I hear the crowd hush and a quiet anticipation comes over us all.

There is some music playing during all of this, I don’t recognize any of it, but I bet it’s some of the inspiration for The Compilers, you know, their favourite tracks and stuff. Anyway, I don’t recognize any of it and I pay attention to the movement of bodies and equipment. Then I see from my left a small group walking quickly towards the stage. It’s them. It’s The Compilers.

They walk past me in slow motion, I take in each member and imagine what they’re thinking; “Let’s do this! Right on. Wait till they see us. Are my pants too tight?” The crowd cheers outside, a loud applause and much yelling and whistling. “Ladies and gentlemen, the Constructs of the Machine, The Compilers!” The cheering gets louder and the spotlights are shining on the stage. They open with “Into the Machine”. I’m instantly drawn in.

I watch them on stage, lasers and a much fancier light show against a canvas of dry ice sublimating in water are synchronized to the movements in the song. First all red, then violet lasers flashing quickly and moving across the fog all enhancing and drawing my attention to the changes in tonic on Jager’s bass. The fog rolls over the crowd and lasers and lights follow it, covering the crowd in colour as the lead singer Xavier says “She was the Deus Ex Machina”. The crowd cheers as there is a pause in the song after Xavier’s words, and then the band in unison comes back with a visceral bass line and screaming guitar solo.

Their next song is “Turing Test”, another great song— all their songs are great. This one is about a girl who finds out her boyfriend is a robot. I think it’s a metaphor for an emotionally distant, tech-savvy lover who is predictable and whose intellect doesn’t match your own. You know, “I like him, but he’s a total robot”. It could also mean someone who isn’t very creative in bed, and has a routine. You know, start with this, then do that every time and then move on to the next thing…boring predictable foreplay. I don’t think the song is literal, but it could be, what do I know?

They go through their hits and sprinkle in a few of their lesser known songs. There is even an instrumental jam that seems to go on forever. They end their set with “Foundation’s Edge”. “They are on Gaia…WE ARE ON GAIA!” Xavier yells. The crowd cheers and all the lights begin to strobe, so that we can only see glimpses of the band; it’s like watching photographs. “Welcome to Galaxiaaaaaaaaaaaa!” the song goes into an outro after Xavier’s words.

The lights turn bright white and you can see everything. Xavier thanks the crowd for coming, “Thank you New York City! You’re beautiful!” And they all walk off stage. With the crowd cheering loudly the drummer (Atom) throws his sticks into it. They all gather nearby backstage as the cheering continues. And the cheering continues. And it continues. The band is standing in a tight circle, facing each other. They are discussing something, but it’s way too loud to hear anything. They all huddle together with their hands on each other’s backs, all of them slightly leaning into the scrum. Soon they break and head back to the stage. They’re playing an encore.

When they begin to walk back on stage the cheering inconceivably gets louder. There is incomprehensible yelling. They begin to play “The Solitary Walker”, which is well received. It is about wandering the streets of Neo Tokyo. They end the show with “Nightfall” a song about seeing the stars for the first time. You know, “the Galaxy Rise”. They now end the show as the white lights come back on, Atom throwing multiple sets of sticks into the crowd.

The band gathers backstage once more, this time with fans approaching them. I approach as well and catch Xavier’s eyes. “Great show!” one fan exclaims. There are more comments in this vein. I think I hear one of the band members say “Uriel” and the band members heads all turn towards the bass player Jager. “Did you say Uriel?” I blurt out. The crowd cheering progressively getting lower and softer, receding into the background. All the band members turn to look at me and I feel someone grab my sleeve and begin to pull me. The band begins to walk towards the dressing rooms, I guess, with me in tow behind Atom.

Words and Images

Fibres stretching and compressing
Sodium and Potassium creating potential
Dendrites detecting metal
Round-wound around a hexagonal core
It’s rote muscle memory
B flat, C, B flat, A flat
Mucosa shedding epithelial layers
Cytoplasm rich with saline
Void of mitochondria
Carrying hemoglobin within plasma
Dermal corruption treated with Hydrocortisone
Glycolysis using Glucose rings
Producing Adenosine Triphosphate
Ribose sugar forming the backbone
Of the amino acid codons
Microglia macrophages using phagocytosis
On my shadow
Paranoid delusions created
With ersatz Serotonin and Dopamine
And ion pumps
Receiving auditory messages
Total bypass of the tympanic membrane
A sinister cochlear silence
The phantom in the Inferior Colliculus
Lets us speak without speaking
Reminding me that I am not alone
In the body which I inhabit
Waking dream in the Cerebral Cortex
Amygdala triggering memories
The phantasmagoria of her
The doctrinal schism
Conscience inhibiting actions
Or behaviourally conditioned
Desires emotionally driven
A protein rich conveyance
That is her lover
Layers of emulsion and dye
Capturing this moment forever
A key to a forgotten lock
Now kept safe within my heart
A consolidated area of neurons
Or the very essence of myself
Filled with regret
A temporal rift between us
And the fragile bridge
Made of words and images

Torpor

Chapter I – “My Wetware”
Chapter II – “C++”
Chapter III – “The Players”
Chapter IV – “The Cutter”
Chapter V – “The Fortress”
Chapter VI – “Ben”
Chapter VII – “A Strange Protocol”
Chapter VIII – “The Halting Problem”
Chapter IX – “Torpor”
Chapter X – “The Compilers”

I’m in the shower letting the hot water warm my bones. I’m on complete auto-pilot, my mind wandering. Why do insects sleep? I mean, aren’t they just a collection of impulses responding to external stimuli? It’s not like they can commit things to memory, dream or anything like that. “Oh man, oh man, oh man” my mind is hijacked by these words, repeating themselves over and over. I don’t know where the hell they came from, maybe my deep subconscious. Do you ever wonder if our brains are able to receive external thoughts?

After my shower I dry myself off and get dressed in my pyjamas. I haven’t slept all night. That’s alright I think I’m operating on a surplus of sleep anyway. I don’t know why, but I suddenly feel a crippling, crushing loneliness. This happens from time-to-time. I want to call her and hear her voice, but she doesn’t respond to my phone calls, they end up in voicemail, or maybe they’re completely blocked. I can’t think about calling her, the Babel Fish might interpret it as an outgoing call.

Usually when I feel this way I turn on the radio and enter the sonic world of a disc jockey. Music is highly emotional, and I get lost in it easily. I have a couple of radio stations I have relationships with; I mean I listen to them very often, but there’s one I primarily listen to. Both of them play similar songs, so they’re targeting the same audience. There used to be only be one, but then there was this big change in management and some of the disc jockeys were let go. They eventually moved to a new radio station, and they started playing the same music. It’s like the station was riven, and a new station emerged from the chaos.

So I follow these two radio stations, but I mostly listen to the newer station. They’re playing a song about pining for a lost love. It soothes and warms my soul, an emotional resonance. It makes me feel less alone, you know, that someone else out there may feel the same way I feel, at this very moment. Even if it is just the disc jockey, that’s a connection that I would not trade for anything at this moment.

I need to load the programs back onto my deck and customize the UI again. I hate mixing logic with emotion, I feel like I should be able to compartmentalize my feeling when I’m working, but I can’t. It’s especially hard with this emotional language entering my mind. I like a challenge though, I am masochistically drawn to suffering, it makes me feel alive.

The old Sony unit is a few years old, it’s water cooled, and these units were notorious for being hacker friendly. Suddenly a song comes over the radio that I don’t particularly like. I think about changing the station to the secondary station, but I resist, it’s momentary, the song will be over in a matter of minutes; I can tune it out for the most part while I work. I know they’ll fall back into emotional resonance with the next song.

I used to only listen to the bass lines in songs, trying hard to learn them regardless of the lyrics, but that all changed. Now I am drawn to the message of the song as much as the bass line. Yes, I can hear the bass in most songs, which I know most people can’t do. The bass is a rhythmic instrument not often demanding attention from the listener, not like the electric guitar. I don’t know why I chose bass, I like the visceral character of the lower frequencies, and I always wished my voice was deeper, more sexual. At any rate, four fat strings in my mind can do as much for a song as the modulated and manipulated sounds of six thin strings.

As I connect my deck to my terminal I am focused on my task. The UI doesn’t readily allow access to programs, I need to use widgets downloaded from the old internet, which is still frequented by pirates. It’s very important that I have access to Silver Angel, and the Apple Decryption programs. I still need to download all of my other programs, like traceroute detection, to my deck. This process takes a few hours of typing and gestures.

I tune into the radio when I hear something that catches my attention “You just sit there wishing you could still make love”. It’s an ancient song, but it’s still played on this radio station. I wish everything was the way it was when I was a teenager, everything worked when I needed it to, but not anymore. It’s like I’m on drugs that control pleasure. Maybe it’s better that I don’t drag anyone else into my problems, after all, I don’t want to be a burden on someone I love.

After the programs are loaded and the UI updated I take a break to listen to the music being curated and lay back on the floor with my my hands behind my head. Ahh. I can completely lose myself in the emotional waves crashing against my one good ear. I think there’s a mod that uses the microphone on the cellular receiver to allow you to hear from your cyber ear, but I can’t afford to buy another modification.

I think “Call indie radio station, call indie radio station, call indie radio station” and the Babel Fish appropriately responds “Call Indie Radio Station?”

“Yes, yes, yes,” I think. I’m going to request a song. Maybe other listeners will feel connected to me when the song plays. I’ll be less alone knowing someone out there is comforted by my selection.

“Congratulations! You are caller eight! You have just won tickets to see ‘The Compilers!'”
“Wha-What?”
“YOU just won tickets to see The Compilers at Terminal 5.”
“What? I didn’t want to enter a contest, I wanted to request a song…”
“You are caller eight! You are our winner!”

A winner, that’s not something I’m used to hearing. There must have been an announcement I tuned out while I was working. The Compilers are a totally hot group in the indie scene. I like some of their music, a mix of electronic and traditional rock, kind of like that old group Nine Inch Nails. I haven’t been to a concert in years, should I go?

“Yes, yes. That’s great news!”
“Can we get your name and email address so we can send you the tickets?”
“Sure!”

This is great! I haven’t won anything in my life. The Compilers. What a trip. They have that song “Into the Machine” that is always played. It’s about a love lost and the resulting descent into the machine world that results from the void left by your love. Awesome. The show should be full of cool people, I mean, as long as their fans aren’t aggressive.

After I relinquish my personal information I receive an email that blinks on my deck. It’s the tickets I was promised. Wow. I can’t believe I’ll be seeing a live band that I like. It’s been years. I’m still laying there with my hands behind my head. Maybe I can meet the band backstage, I think these contests include something like that, a backstage pass.

My deck is completely set up to enter cyberspace, but there’s nowhere I want to go at the moment. I can’t access another pirate server for the fear of being caught again by the New York Cyber Division. What will they think when they find out my plug has gone missing. That’s their strongest form of defence against Cyber-Terrorists. Kagi. Oh Kagi, you beautiful saviour. I can’t believe the plug is gone.

The concert is two days from now. I need to choose something to wear and lay low until then. That’s not a problem, I’m used to being a hermit in New York.

The Halting Problem

Chapter I – “My Wetware”
Chapter II – “C++”
Chapter III – “The Players”
Chapter IV – “The Cutter”
Chapter V – “The Fortress”
Chapter VI – “Ben”
Chapter VII – “A Strange Protocol”
Chapter VIII – “The Halting Problem”
Chapter IX – “Torpor”
Chapter X – “The Compilers”

The Chinese and Japanese have been competing in what some would call the Cyberwar. They have unprecedented knowledge of the human nervous system and therefore have been able to develop the most advanced cyberware. The wetware is cutting edge, years beyond what North America now produces.

This war drew in many corporations and took place on a global scale. R&D departments still try to get an edge on their competition in an attempt to create the newest, hottest chrome for their customers. The two powers have also been instrumental in the development of cyberspace.

Some of the big players, American corporations, have moved their headquarters overseas and settled in China or Japan; their American ties now just a distant formality. Apple was the biggest company to move, taking their Design department out of One Infinite Loop and settling in mainland China. They said it was to get closer to the manufacturing, but everyone knows it was because of the Cyberwar.

During this time people with skills in Coding, Design, Engineering, Medicine, etc. all became very desirable to corporations. It was also during this time that hackers started to emerge, and form their own collectives. At first the hacking groups were property of the corporations, creating new technologies through highly synergistic teams. But that all changed.

When the corporations tightened their grip on their most valuable assets, their employees, there was a counter movement to become free from the bonds of gainful employment. Soon hacktivist groups formed that fought against the desires of the large conglomerates. Freedom fighters…revolutionaries. You know, the morally gifted. Still, this wouldn’t last and there were eventually those would would seek to undo the cogs of the mighty machine, and be labeled terrorists.

This is when the Lords of Karma first appeared. They leveraged the bad relations between the two competing countries and handed over valuable Japanese intelligence to the Chinese Government. This, as I’ve said, lead to Japan paying reparations to the Chinese Government for their past War Crimes. Kagi claims to be a member of the Lords of Karma, wouldn’t surprise me, she seems highly intelligent and skilled at what she does.

Regardless of these tensions, cyberspace still continued to develop and grow. From a place where your consciousness could freely browse data to the avatar dominated representation of the world it is today. When you plug in, a digital projection is generated– a representation of your consciousness in cyberspace. There is a bond between this digital projection and yourself that cannot be removed. Everything that happens is fed back into your central nervous system. All the pleasure you feel when you’re in a brothel with a prostitute, all the pain you feel when ICE is operating on you, and even the temporary loss of consciousness that occurs when a program prematurely terminates.

All of this digital activity points directly to the major lobes and structures of the brain. Everything except the motor cortex, you can still move in the real world while you’re plugged in. You also receive simultaneous inputs from the real world and cyberspace, although I bet they can make it so that cyberspace hijacks your entire nervous system. I don’t know why you’d want that though.

Somehow all of this is accomplished while avoiding the Microglia’s natural response to destroy foreign bodies. The neural implants that make jacking in possible are a very advanced combination of neuroglia and electrodes. Some ICE are modelled after the Microglia’s phagocytosis response to invaders. To be honest, I don’t fully understand how it all works.

Cyber implant operations are extensive, requiring a lengthy stay in a hospital and a lot of credits. You can have surgeries performed all over the world these days, and aren’t limited to China and Japan like you used to be. Chinese/Japanese corporations have arms in all countries and hire the best medical professionals, leaving the trauma centres very understaffed. We call trauma doctors “vets”, because that’s essentially what they are. “Don’t make me send you to a vet” is something you hear quite often on the streets.

I think about placing a call to my parents, and the Babel Fish interprets the signals in my brain and translates them into a digital response. I think continuously about this one thing and finally I hear the words “Dial Parents?” Yes. That’s exactly what I want to do. I think “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” and nothing else until my desires are recognized by the software inside the Fish. It’s crude technology, but it works all the same.

The cellular receiver starts to dial and I hear a ringing. “Hello” my mother answers.

“Hi Mom, it’s me. I need to come home and pick something up. I’m in Toronto for the night.”
“Will you be staying with us? Please say you’ll be staying a while.”
“No, I can’t, I need to get back to New York.”

There’s silence on the line for a few seconds. Must’ve hit an infinite loop. I’m sure the subroutine is her heart breaking, over and over. I don’t come home often, and when I do I don’t stay very long. I don’t call home often either. I know you must think I’m a terrible son.

“Okay…” she finally responds.
“Great, I’ll be there soon.”

I think “End call, end call, end call” It only takes three consecutive thoughts to prompt the Babel Fish’s voice:

“Terminate call?”
“Yes, yes, yes” I think.

Finally the sound of an open line is gone. I’m deaf in the ear the implant is installed in, you know because the Fish’s tail goes directly into my Organ of Corti. I don’t mind it though, one ear is enough to hear plenty. It’s just like living with one kidney. Everything still works just fine.

Conversations ultimately suffer from the Turing halting problem. Never know when or if they are going to end. I don’t know how my parents are going to react to seeing me in so many years. Will they continue to talk my ear off? I don’t know how desperate they feel. I know my two brothers don’t visit often. They’re busy with their girlfriends these days. I’m the only one who isn’t coupled, and that’s a problem in their eyes.

My two younger brothers are in happy relationships. They have been for a while, and I suspect they will be getting married soon. Married before me, their older brother. But they’re waiting, waiting longer than they would usually wait. Maybe it’s because I am not yet married and they don’t feel the pressure because of it. My parents are concerned only about me being alone.

I hop on the subway and head North. When I reach the end of the line I hop on a bus that heads east into the suburb of Markham. I could have taken the light rail instead, but the long bus ride gives me an opportunity to look out the window at the streets, at all the cars and buildings.

Soon I’ll be at my parents’ house. It’s an older house in the suburbs. Not ancient, but pretty old. It’s a two-door garage attached to a 3000-something square foot home. Nice for a family, a little large for a couple. My brothers have moved out already, I don’t know why my parents stay in such a large home.

I hop off the bus and walk a short distance to the front door. A trip I used to make very often when I’d return from downtown Toronto. I used to ride a bicycle a lot, all around the city. Exploring, you know? Looking for something, but I wasn’t sure what. Anyway, I’m soon at the front door and I ring the doorbell.

“So, how are things in New York, you have lots of work, yes?” My mom answers the door and immediately asks.
“There’s some work, but not as much as you’d think…”

They think I’m a freelance writer living in New York. What a dream. Most writers live in abject poverty. “Yes mom, I’m doing fine” I lie. I just need to get my deck and I’ll be out of here.

“Say, you kept all of my old stuff, right?”
“Yes, it’s still upstairs in your room.”
“Good, good. I just need to pick up something before I head back.”
“Stay a while, we will feed you and take care of you.”
“No, I can’t stay, I need to catch a train tonight…”

I can tell they’re both upset by my impatience. My father standing by the stairs with his arms crossed. The Planets by Gustav Holst is playing in the background. I can’t tell what planet, but I definitely recognize the music. I can’t stay long, they’ll start asking questions I don’t have answers to. Like where is “she” and why aren’t you married yet. We can find you a lovely girl, don’t you worry. You know how parents are, always worried about your life, sometimes even more so than you are.

“I’m just going to grab some old equipment and I’ll be leaving.”

I head upstairs, undisturbed, and turn into my old room. Everything is how I left it, as though they were hoping I’d return some day. My old deck is in my closet, and I walk over to it and open the door. It’s cooler in the closet, cooler than the rest of the room. There it is. Right where I left it. Right beside my beer brewing kit. Homemade moonshine, those were the days. I pick it up carefully and remove it, hanging it under my arm. Okay, now I’ve got a way back into cyberspace.

I’ve got to load all my programs onto it, and I need to re-customize the UI. That shouldn’t take more than a few hours. At least I won’t have to see a dealer to try and get a second-hand deck of some kind. This old Sony unit will do. I head back down the stairs and see my parents waiting at the bottom, holding each other.

“Well, I got what I came to get…”
“Are you sure you won’t stay?”
“Yes, I have a train to catch.”
“Oh…okay.”

Their guilt permeating every fibre of my being. Shit. I can’t stay I need to get back on the trail of the Seraphs. I need to make sure my old job is still secure. I need to contact my boss. I have a lot to do.

“I have a lot to do, I can’t stay.”
“That’s fine dear, come back to visit soon…”
“I will, you know how writing is, there’s always deadlines, you know…”

I walk out the front door and am back on the street. I feel relieved that I got through my parents. I didn’t think it would be so easy. Soon I’m on the bullet train back to New York, the train is almost empty at this time in the morning.

A Strange Protocol

Chapter I – “My Wetware”
Chapter II – “C++”
Chapter III – “The Players”
Chapter IV – “The Cutter”
Chapter V – “The Fortress”
Chapter VI – “Ben”
Chapter VII – “A Strange Protocol”
Chapter VIII – “The Halting Problem”
Chapter IX – “Torpor”
Chapter X – “The Compilers”

What would anyone have to gain from impersonating Kagi. Besides, the protocol to contact him (or her) is the same, albeit the machines are different now. I remember long ago having to contact him to create access keys to a private server, before encryption was easily circumvented by the average hacker.

Still, she could be taking me to a secondary location to steal my organs. Healthy organs sell on the black market, as does stolen cyberware. But she seems too innocent to be involved in a scheme like that. The gatekeeper is a Schizophrenic old man with a penchant for the Necropolis, and she’s a, well I don’t know that much about her.

“What is it you do Kagi, when you’re not being Kagi.”
“I work at Google. Unofficially, I install back doors in servers and spy on users. Anything to gather keys. Keys are my fetish.”
“A fetish? You mean they turn you on?”

She remains silent. In the array of streetlights I start to get a look at Kagi. They must be hooked up to a centralized power source, all on the same circuit. Although each seems to be controlled by its own ambient light sensor. Not one of them is off, all reading the darkness of the cool summer night.

She’s walking beside me. The breeze blowing her hair back slightly, sending out tendrils that dance in the light. She’s beautiful, you know, in a way that memories are beautiful. She reminds me of her. I want to be holding her hand, but I don’t even know her. I’m so lonely. She has red hair, not bright red but a more natural red. I wonder if it’s her real hair colour. I dare not ask another stupid question.

We walk a way down Sumach Street. We stop at a little house I don’t take notice of the address, I should have, but it’s something I forget to do sometimes, my mind racing with thoughts. The front door is on the left side of the house. There are circular windows, at the very top of the house. There doesn’t seem to be enough room for an attic but that’s what I imagine they open into. She says “This is where I live.”

Why would she take me to her house? Doesn’t she know it’s dangerous to invite strangers to your dwelling? I could be a murderer for all she knows. Maybe it’s Ben, maybe he’s the moat to her castle. Still, it’s awfully stupid to bring someone to your residence. A strange protocol.

“Why would you show me where you live?” I ask.
“You aren’t going to hurt me, that much I know.”
“How do you know that? I could be out to murder you. To murder Kagi.”
“You don’t seem the type. Not an American Psycho, just an ordinary hacker looking for a way out.”
“Who said I’m American?”
“It’s a figure of speech.”
“You can never be too careful. I mean you could be out to steal my organs, I don’t know yet. But I’m ready to run.”
“I have my ways.” She says.

We walk up the stairs to the front door, she opens it with a touch of her finger. An old biometric lock. “Come in” she welcomes. It’s an old house, stairs on the left leading to the second floor, a hallway to the right opening to a den and terminating in the kitchen. “Take your shoes off” she requests. I do as she asks. The Japanese always request that you take your shoes in the genkan. I’m not used to a North American requesting this of their guests.

“You live here alone?” I ask.
“No, of course not, such a big house to myself?”
“Oh, just wondering.”
“That plug in your head, who put it there?”
“New York Police.”
“New York…Okay. That’s not a problem.”
“Oh?”
“Yeah, most of the Great Cities use similar plugs, each with their own customizations. New York is no different, we have unlocked their plugs in the past.”
“We?”
“Yeah, me and my associates.”
“Kagi used to work alone.”
“Well things change, and I’m Kagi now, and I don’t work alone.”

I take in my surroundings as we’re walking through the house. It feels ancient, everything is made of wood and the hardwood flooring creaks under our feet. We go through the kitchen which is tiled and into a locked room. Inside there are screens glowing and a rack of servers in the far left corner, network access lights flashing constantly. An old HTTP server array. Nothing to do with cyberspace, the machines are too old. Really ancient technology. I wonder why she’d be running servers and why they would have so much traffic.

“Really old equipment you have in here.”
“Yes, it’s ancient but it serves our purposes.”
“You keep saying ‘our’, and ‘we’, who is it you’re working with?”
“That’s not going to get your plug out.” She responds, pithy.
“Fine.”

“Sit here,” she pulls out a chair it’s got casters and no armrests, the padding visible through the fabric covering. I sit in it. “Let me see…” She tilts my head forward and looks at the jack behind my left ear. “It’s blinking red. This is one of the newer plugs.” I have no idea what she’s talking about, it’s news to me what colour the LED is.

“Do you think the bees are sleeping tonight? Tired from gathering pollen, you’d think it would be more efficient to have a night shift of nocturnal bees. Why haven’t they evolved to have bees that see in the infrared spectrum that follow the aromatic hydrocarbons created by flowers? The Benzene rings. I think they’re Benzene derivatives. And you’d think they would have heard of Herschel’s work by now.” Her words a koan in my mind.

I hear a muffled conversation begin upstairs. There are other people here. “Say, who is upstairs?” I ask. “My associates, but don’t worry we won’t need them for such a simple request.” I am ready to get out of this chair and bound out the door, through the kitchen and hallway and out the front door. I see it all in my mind. I look around the room for anything that can be weaponized. There is a pen on the desk in front of me. I’ll grab that, and stab it into their eyes. The provocateur awakened, injecting his venom.

My heart beings to race, and I my hands become clammy. “How long is this going to take? And how much is it going to cost me?” I inquire. I should have asked the price upfront instead of waiting so long. Shit. “One thousand credits,” she responds “which is reasonable, if you shop around.” That’s close to a month’s rent. I can afford it, but since I’ve probably lost my job it feels like a huge dent in my savings. “And to answer ‘how long’ it should be out in a matter of minutes. Just relax.”

I can’t relax, I still think those “associates” upstairs are going to come down and restrain me while they inject a tranquilizer and then I’ll wake up on the street, with my organs missing. Or worse, I may never wake up and be dumped like trash. “I can’t relax, I still think you’re going to steal my organs,” I blurt out. Something about her makes me trust her. I don’t know what I’m thinking, but being honest can have its benefits. At least it’s out of my mind and in the open.

“Don’t worry, we aren’t animals.”
“How do I know that, that’s exactly what an animal would say.”

She walks over to another desk and opens a drawer and pulls out something that looks like a large pistol-like soldering iron with a screen attached to it. It glows and comes to life as she touches it carefully. “Don’t worry. Just relax.” She repeats. I sit there, a nervous wreak. What is she even holding, it has wires all over it, they couldn’t hide them inside a friendly looking interface? Do they know anything about Design? Maybe it’s stolen from the New York Police department. Who knows where it came from, all I’m sure of is that I hear people walking around upstairs.

She walks over to me, staring at the screen on the device and I begin to hear a sinusoidal frequency rising and lowering in pitch. It’s a dark song, syncopated and frenetic. I feel and hear a click with a wet sounding slide. “It lubricated your jack, how nice.” I feel behind my left ear and I feel as gooey shaft with a familiar head protruding from my head. I pull it out carefully and bring it into vision staring at the shaft and head, very phallic. “It’s phallic” I say.

She remains silent and walks back over to the desk, replaces the device after turing off the screen and closes the drawer.

“I mean, thank you, is the lubricant dangerous, can you clean it out?”
“No it’s not dangerous, but you can clean it with any degreaser you can readily purchase from almost any shop. I’m not entirely certain why it releases it, but maybe it’s like coming inside your head.” She made a sexual joke. I am caught off guard and don’t have anything witty to say. “How gay.” I say.

She remains silent and finally says “that will be one thousand credits.” I take off my backpack and unzip the secondary compartment and pull out a credstick, I slot it into the Apple jack behind my right ear. “One Thousand Credits,” I think and the number 1000 flashes in my minds eye. I unslot it and hand it to her.

“Domo Arigatoo,” she says. Japanese, everyone knows what that means.
“Dou Itashimashiite” I respond.
“Been to Neo Tokyo?” She asks.
“Never been, just interested in languages.”
“Oh…well I’ve never been either, but you pick it up on the streets.”

I like her. There isn’t some complicated neurosis to deal with, she’s direct and apparently good at what she does. “Thank God you got this thing out. I don’t know what I would do without access to cyberspace.” I’m genuinely thankful, but I knew Kagi would be able to open such a simple lock. That’s what Kagi does.

“Say, you wouldn’t happen to know anything about ‘Gabriel’ would you?” I inquire.
“Where did you get that name?”
“A ship being sucked into the Maelström.” I respond.
“What did you find out?”
“You know, that will cost you…”
“Five-hundred credits, if it’s worth my time.”
“Fine. It lead to a server called Moskoe, but the New York Police knew about it, and questioned me, before they put this plug in my head.” I throw the slimy plug on to the desk in front of me.
“Must have been a Police server.”
“Yeah, no shit. There was a librarian there, it responded to input and was scanning books–”
“They are watching him.” She interrupts.
“Who Gabriel?”
“Yes. Gabriel.”
“He your boyfriend or something?” I ask, like a juvenile.
“Don’t be crazy, I’m a Lord of Karma. He’s one of the Seraphs. But the Police know about him and are apparently spoofing messages from him.”
“Yeah, apparently.”
“Look for Uriel. He can lead you to the Seraphs, if that’s who you’re looking for.”
“Yeah, that’s who I’m after. So are you going to give me my five-hundred credits?”
“Yes.”

She slots the credstick behind her left ear and a moment later removes it and hands it back to me. I take it and slot it behind my right ear and the number 500 flashes in my mind’s eye over and over. I think “transfer” and it disappears. I remove the credstick and replace it in my backpack, and zip up the secondary compartment.

“It’s best that I don’t know your name, so please don’t tell me,” she says. Well how will she ever be able to look me up, you know, if she’s interested. Don’t fool yourself, Kagi wouldn’t want to associate herself with such an average hacker. I know I’m not the greatest, I know I’m not the best at what I do…I know I’m just average. My ego isn’t that big.

“Fine,” I say. “That concludes our business, unless there’s something else you’d like to discuss…” I am fishing for any feelings, anything that will indicate she finds me the least bit attractive. “Yes, that’s all” she responds, “you can leave, I’ll show you out.” Shit. She’s not even the slightest bit intrigued by you. Where did I go wrong? I thought I was being mysterious enough. Shit.

I get up and stare at the plug sitting on the table in front of me, the LED no longer blinking. The slime, the lubricant, pooling on the desk. “Sorry about the mess” I add. “Don’t worry about it,” she responds. “If you ever need the services of Kagi again, don’t hesitate to contact Ben using the same protocol you did.”

That’s it, our time together is ending. I want her to think about me. I want to be the dark under-song in her mind. “I’m mostly nocturnal, and I only collect pollen from the sweetest of flowers. Yours being the most coveted of all,” shit why did I say that. She remains silent. She raises her hand gesturing to the door that leads into the kitchen. I walk towards it and open the door, the kitchen is quaint, not much counter space for the preparation of food, but a double sink for cleaning up dishes.

I walk out of the house regretting what I’ve said. Why did I have to make a reference to the bees, couldn’t I think of anything original to say? Whatever is said is said. I need to leave a lasting impression. “You know, I really like you, Kagi, better than the other Kagi.” I say. “Thank you,” she responds. I’m out the front door and back facing Sumach Street. “You know, you remind me of someone I once loved. I mean I still love.” I tell her. “You’re confused, and you need to check your head.” She closes the door and that’s the last interaction I’d have with Kagi for a while.

The stars are coruscating. The air fragrant with summer flowers. This new Kagi is going to keep me up all night. I know how to contact her now, and that’s subject to abuse, especially if I let my impulses get the better of me. No, I can’t make myself seem too desperate for attention. So needy. Shit, what about her, what about my love. I am riven. There’s the past and the future.

A Skylark In My Care

Inspired by The Crane Wife by The Decemberists which is far better than this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPOMHM6waxk

The contours of this earth, in a white embrace
And the trees they stood, buffeted by the North Wind’s face
Peculiar in their posture; boughs were so bare and barren
Oh the sweetest name, the sweetest name Karen
Who was to become, the reason for much depression
A skylark, a skylark in my possession

Oh I am a poor man, I’m without wealth or fame
I’m skill-less, and not a thing to my name
When this chapter, the chapter on my youth
Came crashing down, came crashing down to truth
And the time it came, to become a fine man adorned with carnation
I knew inside, with me you would only live in privation

What was I to do, with a skylark in my care
My heart never before, so heavy with despair
I was never meant, no I was never meant to keep you
So my loving hands, I so painfully withdrew
And I set you free, and through the Winter you flew and flew
A voice so soft and so fragile, and a love that was so true

But the Winter’s chill, it was so bitter, and so cold
And the distance, you alone were to hold
Your memories of me, to forever be erased
From your heart, a painfully complete waste
Oh how I selfishly wish, you could have stayed
You always stood to fly away

And where once you, would sing and sing
I would never again, feel the spring
Because of the timeless Winter, the Winter in your heart
That may, that may now forever keep us apart
After many a year you must be, better by now
As a free bird, no longer a slave to our vows

But I do long, and I do yearn
To feel the sun, upon my heart burn
Like once it did, when I kept the skylark
When we long ago, on this journey embarked
I can still hear, your beautiful song
But the Winter’s so, the Winter’s so long