They call him Bug Man, though his flat is polished to sterility, all in place arranged the shelves, in main centred on his Okuno ZN70 flatscreen and the space it takes up which he keeps on aquarium mode as he stumbles through his flat. Through that same screen hacked long ago I can see him groping as if for balance. Thanks to the dossier I know he’s really trying to prise for skullmoths that’ve burrowed and tunneled into his body.
Day by day he lives, he breathes, he survives. When he goes out the lurch is gone; with will he straightens his spine, keeps his hands in the pockets of his dusty jeans. The moths aren’t real. That’s why he only tries to dig them out when no one else is around.
We call them Typals, the schizophrenic wraithform in them choosing to hide itself rather than suffer Sanitization. Sanitization is mandated in the effect you trigger blue on the SchizoTuring, the standard test that detects the wraithform. Typals beat the ST by saying the sky is blue or paveshredders roll on wheels or whatever. Then they emerge from gaunt grey facades or hovels and see dragons and skies of blood.
That Bug Man’s got a nickname is bad news for him. I myself tunnel, burrow, through the infogrid for Typals when there is no dossier; investigate when there is. I first got into Mental Health Administration to be a compassionate voice within it. I soon found the system is full of compassionate voices. As the years drag out, we are all subject to endless directives from above from men who stand elevated with wide-rimmed glasses, opaque lenses, in shadows or in places far away or both. They too were compassionate voices once. But it has become Enshrined Policy that the Typal is the newer model, the threat model, and represents the latest evolution of the schizophrenic wraithform which must be wiped from the greater thoughtgeist of 206X Earth.
I am a Scrape Runner. My job is to hunt the wraithform. My job is to hunt Typals.
Midsummer was the clarity of its own sweetness. We were gentle and careful with each other, stumbling through violet darkness into the forest clearing. We held up a crystal flute and drank the clear fluid inside, a love-in-idleness petal balanced upon the brim. It dreamed of laziness, making love inside perfect azure, each body arched atop the other in meridians exchanged like searing crescents. The thoughts of sleeping and fucking moved through our hands and feet into quiet ground, the silent roots of alder and chestnut. England evaporated and replaced with a black box we could all look inside and see the olde phantoms, an Athens marionette dangled into a bride named B. was in love with D.
we’re kept at arm’s length because that shared rib makes the rush a dance on the asphalt that hammers out our one-two sudden stop
we’re kept at arm’s length because a new heaven and new earth gives us too much to fight about
we’re kept at arm’s length because what other measurement is warranted but the stretch of brushing fingertips against the static of overheard fluorescence, the late-nite cadence of all-you-cans (when you can’t and no one ever has before us), our meetings accidental but never less than exquisite, our familiars etched in glassdust because we’ve no right to speak like this, our dialect more comfortable with us than we are with it and we’re kept at arm’s length because scripture demands it along with the streetlight solemnity that’s held every time we spill out of illicit clubs, our sweat immaculate and reeking of blood, tap water baptismals and sometimes I think every motel room sinks down to the cellular, every one of them, dendrochronological records under no vacancy eye sockets, I think each room is still with us, prisons all of them and us in them, those delicate baggies turned inside out to retrieve the very last of paradise or at least our closest approximation of it, no we won’t have the real presence there, not on any of those execution grounds
we’re kept at arm’s length because we’re close enough to count
They take you in the elevator only this time they tell you you’re going to the 20th floor. I don’t pretend not to know what they mean; I don’t pretend anything this time, I take I my pill and stay silent. The whole ride is an exercise in disbelief. I’ve been told before. Granted access. Smiling faces in the subway are a thing of the past. The lightning-whipped roof of the building reaches well above the threshold of any high-rise in the city or any city. The surrounding sky turns purple at dusk, an effect of the chemicals pumped into the thermosphere every night to add to this unmeasurable determination to reduce the heat. We are all living in a system of overload. I miss a delicious bite or two. How many times did I say I don’t want to do this anymore? A few times. A few times ago, not last time but a few times ago, an arranged woman with alien-face lavish blonde hair a pink little dress big big hair a feather boa the white kind rubbed and grinded her ass into the man she was with, the suit wearing guy, short, though he was handsome. She licked her fingers and closed her eyes and danced. Feet glued to the floor. Hips in-tranced. You all stood flanking me. They got off on the 20th floor. We kept going up. From the outside this building is drab beige grey worn down rotting a carcass a filtered version of the thing. An impossible beacon. A city sculpted out of desert nothing. Someone hung themself on the 46th floor. You insisted last time she gave him a sloppy blow job right there in the elevator when it was much fuller. I assure you I don’t remember anything like that
and that’s what he feels; first in his fingertips, and then in his whole palm when he presses it flat to the ground; the stirring of the dead; not in the sense that things are stirring around them; insects devouring the corpses, damp soil collapsing the caskets; nothing like that; and not in a supernatural sense either; a city of reanimated bodies milling around, a city of the dead beneath the crust of the earth; not like that either; more like the dead never really died, not all the way; like the force with which they lived their lives has continued after their death, the follow-through and resonance of the same motion; and that’s what he can feel humming in the earth beneath him; and he can feel it now in the air around him; and he wanders around touching a tree, a tombstone, and the hum is there too; and if he stands very still and concentrates very intently he can feel the hum of the dead within his own body; not just the dead nearby but the dead everywhere; the lives of millions of dead running through him and running through everything and running through everyone; the dead incorporated all into one body and forming a giant engine which powers the existence of the world; which means that death had to be in the world even before anything existed, before anyone had actually died; death a giant machine sitting at the heart of the universe, empty forever and waiting forever for its first tenants; not in any other universe, any other dimension, any other spiritual plane; but at the same time not exactly in this one either; not exactly; more like it’s something that exists more in the future than in the present; a place he will reach one day but not yet; and even the dead aren’t all the way there yet; and that’s where the heat of the sun comes from, that’s what fuels the action of gravity, the impossibly fast passage of the dead towards a place reserved only for them…