Spook Show

Mary stood in front of the oval mirror, before which she dressed and arranged herself as a person before the world each day. This was a meditation for Mary, and just as one woman will feel a reflected sensual delight when she takes her clothes off with calculated effect, and another will feel the assurance of virtue when she covers herself with a thoughtful modesty, Mary navigated easily among possible worlds.

"There are people from all over time here in Ash Fork," she said softly, to her reflection.

"Did you say something to me?" The voice was too high pitched, like somebody was strangling the woman in the other room, whom Mary was trying to escape long enough to recompose herself.

"I'm icy," Mary called. It was derived from "in communication," which meant she was talking to somebody else, privately. The receiving and sending was now direct and invisible. If a line of evolution were drawn, like the one from chimp to man, it would be of somebody on a wired phone to somebody on a wireless phone to somebody on a cellular phone to somebody talking with hands-free technology to somebody with DNA organizational injections. The intention of calling somebody was enough, though vocalization was required. It was the organizational patterns of the jaw muscles which were received and decoded in the section of the brain involved in speaking.

Things thus came full circle, and people wandering about talking to Hamlet's father were the norm. There were interconnected patterns through which the awareness of life was organized, in Ash Fork, and that's what held it together. But just like in any society, most people are living in the past. Some are only a few decades in the past, but some are hundreds of years in the past. Maggie was like that, and Mary was having to control an impulse to be condescending and rude. She watched the muscles of her chest expand now as she inhaled carefully, consciously, and then released, feeling her weight balance down her body, knees over feet, hips over knees, torso over hips, all the way to a point above her head, from which she was suspended.

Then she smiled and gave herself a little wave for luck before she returned to her guest.

Maggie was as devoid of sensuality as she was of modesty, always sticking her fingers in her mouth instead of using a napkin to clean them of bits of sugar or cream when she was eating the cake, always making little slurping sounds when she drank the tea. She was like an animal. She even looked like one, with the dark hair under her lip that would be easy to remove. Like anyone else in Ash Fork she had available to herself injections to customize her DNA for appearance as well as vocal and sexual communication. There was no need even to "learn" something in the conventional sense of having to move it from conscious patterning to a gradual unconscious background organization. It was all done by the organization of DNA computers inside the body itself, connected to a communal network in which all characteristics of the group were available.

Genetic information could be turned on and off directly, through the use of emotional connections. Desire was direct and it was not tied to organic reproduction. What once evolved through a million years of unconsciousness now evolved instantly. It was no longer an adaptation to a gradually changing environment, but rather an adaptation to what could be imagined, and which was available in the collective psyche.

People were creating themselves according to what they imagined themselves to be, and here was Maggie, with her frizzy black hair and her thick, slightly mannish features, with her legs absently spread apart and her left one bobbing up and down like she was treadling a sewing machine. She sucked some melted chocolate off her fingers and talked while she was chewing. "It's short for Magdalen," she said. "Isn't that funny? To think about somebody in the Bible named Maggie? I mean, if the names weren't so fucking pompous, would we be in this shit? Bill or George or Harriet or Bubbles, that's what they should change the names to. Otherwise, you know, you get caught up in ancient history, before the discovery of a sense of humor."

"Yes," Mary said, "a sense of humor is essential."

"No it's not," Maggie countered. "It's existential. At least abstract humor is, and that's where the line is that we crossed when we came to Ash Fork. Essential humor is just exaggeration, which is why all religions exaggerate their own importance."

"They're being funny?"

"Hilarious," Maggie agreed, straight faced, and pausing only to observe with consternation half her cookie break off and dissolve in the hot tea. "Do you have any more of those cookies? Mine melted."

Mary silently got up and took the package off the counter, put it on the table in front of Maggie. She intended it to be an insult but if Maggie got it she didn't miss a beat. She was sliding out the plastic tray of cookies and lining them up for baptism in milk. "So that was me. I was a diminutive of Magdalen, a woman so fucking hot even Jesus wanted her. But did it go to her head? Hell no. When you met her she said, 'Just call me Maggie.'"

"I think the point was that Jesus resisted temptation," Mary said, but her voice had lost its edge. For the first time she was beginning grasp that Maggie wasn't letting herself go so much as she was being ironic. With that realization the irritation drained out of her and as soon as it did she knew it was a defense against the attraction.

Maggie was watching her, black eyes absorbing her image in bold relief. "How do you know Jesus resisted temptation? He might have been tempted by things that didn't interest his friends. You know what I mean?"

"I think so," Mary said. In the periphery of the scene before her the bobbing of Maggie's left leg was like the fluttering of a moth against a lighted window, and she even imagined that she heard the sound, the beating of wings against the hardness of a transparent barrier. "You mean, like if he was tempted to martyr himself? He didn't resist that one."

"Yea, something like that. So, do you want to try it or not?"

"I heard that once you do it, your brain is never the same again, that's it's a permanent alteration."

"So are DNA organizational injections. You know what they'll do because they give you conscious control over your own evolution. You create yourself with a decision. But when you look into a black hole, you don't know what you'll get. It's five card stud, everything on the table."

"I'm not ready for that," Mary said. The moment passed during which another Maggie had appeared behind the image of the woman at her table, some old, wise woman and an erotic young woman sharing the same space and time. There was no way for her to remember what was larger than herself, and as she rested back into the safety of her cage there was a depression, a sense of having lost something. It was like a dream that had been important, but which escaped on waking. And the intense snuffling around of the bloodhounds in the filing cabinets couldn't find it. It was a hidden file, not allowed into consciousness.

"What are you thinking about?" Maggie asked. "You look a million years away."

"A million years? I guess you can be a million years away from somebody else, and be sitting here just the way we're sitting here, in the same space. And it's knowing about that that got me here. Knowing that that knowing that that knowing that that, is what got me here. Shit, listen to me."

"You're in the bargaining stage."

"That trumps the denial stage, anyway."

"But acceptance takes everybody else's money and goes on her way."

"Okay I'll do it but, Maggie, I want you to know I think you look like an animal."

"I am an animal. It's instinctual."

Transportation in Ash Fork was not material because it did not have to transport material. All it had to transport was information. The principal of traveling in dreams was known to almost everybody, once they realized that their normally conscious state had no memory of the other side of itself. How could it? When the light shines on one side of the mountain, the other side is in the shadow. So it was only when people trained themselves to think abstractly that they could see the entire pattern of light and shadow, and begin to arrange it aesthetically to please themselves.

Mary and Maggie could use intention to navigate the program in which they were ensconced, packets of information fused with DNA organized to process information as one giant computer. It was like in a dream when you want to move down the street, you can walk if you want to walk, and you can even make the walking very detailed. But you can also just appear in the future, like edited film. So the two women were standing in front of the railroad track, waiting on a train.

There were parts of Ash Fork that were independent of the Space Race migration, presumably created by the mathematicians. The train, for example, was a replica of a steam locomotive pulling rectangular passenger coaches. It was an art object, however, designed to overcome the disorientation of there being no distance between things. Inside the program, the linear logic had to be formed, like a track, for the information to process along. There was nothing except information; identities were information.

The process of information flowing had to be related to some mythology, a symbolic place populated by symbolic information. The spiritual base of the United States was not in something imported from the Middle East. It was in the Western expansion, toward the Pacific ... toward Asia. It was orphaned kids riding through Indian territory with sacks of mail, schooners coming around the horn with luxury items for rich homes overlooking San Francisco Bay. It was gamblers and river boats and gunfighters.

People couldn't exist as unorganized information if they were to create stories, and the alternative to creating stories was a proliferation of laws to try and control the resulting chaos. There were no laws in Ash Fork, which meant that everybody was responsible for his or her story, realizing that it was organized information, and if formed around a nucleus of archetypal symbol, could exist as an independent consciousness. This was necessary to exist as a free person.

The actual railroad was not made out of iron and steel, but out of filaments of light in luciferian reaction with absolutely nothing. The train ran across what appeared in the visual program as a trail of poppies, flashing with light, and the bottom of the train was a reactor which, when viewed from below, was invisible. It was invisible because it absorbed all light and without reflection, there was nothing there. The visual perception simply could not differentiate it, and so filled in the space with what was there a moment earlier, and a moment later.

To the viewer in Ash Fork the evening train was flowing along a set of tracks around which grew millions of yellow poppies. They were the poppy trail that connected the missions of the southwest, the roads leading from one to the next, all named for Spanish saints, the nobles of the Catholic armies. Fragments of bone were carefully guarded at the alters, and rituals were spoken in magical tongues that transported them back to earlier civilizations.

To the abstract intelligence there was energy flowing along a path, carrying information.

To Mary, there was her first adventure into spook society.

She'd heard story of the first spook, who became one by accident. The trains always ran on time in Ash Fork, and everybody knew when to stay away from the tracks. You could not see a black reactor if you were on the track itself. It would look like nothing at all until it passed through you and collapsed your logic. Nobody could survive being hit by a train. But seeing something isn't the only way to sense it, and a man named William Fly was right in the middle of the trail when, as he described it later, "Some invisible hand just shoved me down to the ground, and the next moment I was looking up at what I know now was the bottom of the train, but at the moment, I just dispersed. That's the only way I can describe it. I knew things all of a sudden that I couldn't ever put into words."

"If you can't put it into words it becomes impossible to discuss, doesn't it?" the editor of the Ash Fork Bugle asked in a front page editorial. The community pretty much agreed with that, though some of the younger people began to circulate a rumor that there were invisible creatures living among the poppies, and that it was one of them that shoved William Fly to the ground and saved him from becoming disinformation. That he couldn't put his experience into words made some of the most adventurous of the kids curious enough to try to repeat the experience. They began to crawl into the poppy bed before the train was due, and deliberately look up into the reactors.

At least one of them was more articulate than Fly, and explained the effect as being conscious of the appearance of things and of the illusion of things, simultaneously. "I was able to shift from being underneath a train that was passing through, to just looking up at nothing but billions of twinkling lights exploding into blackness."

Mary was laying in the poppies, beside Maggie. Their hands were touching. It was time for the train to come through. Whatever anybody said about the experience of looking directly into the reactor, there was no separated observer during the experience, and so there was no point of view. She couldn't imagine that, and she had never been able to go beyond imagination before. And then everything shifted.

With a separated observer there are unlimited viewpoints. But because everything is information, you can't separate anything out and retain the original object, or the original information packet. When the train was overhead, and she was looking upward, she knew that the sensation of the train was her creation, and she could stay in the experience if she wanted to and it would pass as an explainable event. She felt Maggie squeeze her hand slightly, a reminder ...

Then there was nothing. She was an object in space, and then she lost personal identity and was a larger object in space and then it expanded, suddenly and unexpectedly, and she disappeared as an object in space. And the next thing she knew she was laying in a field of flowers looking up at the darkening sky where a swarm of small black birds moved like a kite in the wind, swooping and climbing as one object. She turned her head to look at Maggie. "I understand," she said, "but I can't remember it in words."

"Welcome to the Spook Show," Maggie said.

Posted: Thu - September 13, 2007 at 10:40 PM