KuroShiro

Author’s Note: I recommend listening to Tame Impala’s album Currents while you read.

 

A wind buffeted across the dull devastation bringing with it only a stirring of air that impossibly retained a quality of a room that had been locked and undisturbed for decades. Humans would have called it “must.” The wind padded across Kuro’s holographic boundary – his skin – like clothes fresh out of the drier. He had developed a fetish of reliving small, simulated moments of human life in his online haven.

Layered sheets of concrete loomed out of seas of debris at lazy angles, one atop another with airy rooms as fillings. They were a great many sloping plateaus and mesas that stretched off into the distance, scattered with yawning space in-between them. The cracked, mottled greys of everything that stretched before Kuro on the ground were seemingly mocked by the satin greys of a sky blotted with clouds.

There, down the side of the hill he was standing on was a small stream that trickled in a meandering grapevine to and fro. The gentle bubbling of the water dominated the whispers of wind. Somewhere at the top of the hill gurgled a pipe jutting out. Along the edges sprung strange plants whose colors disturbed the drab around them. Interested, Kuro dawdled over to the stream and squatted down to inspect, a curious boy. Out of a bow of leaves rose a green noodle with threads of red braided across the surface. The stem had veins. Kuro blinked a few times at them before turning his attention to the main event: The flower on top had a spray of ever-wriggling pistils and stamens in the center ringed by a series of tear-drop petals that were purple near the center and gradated out to blue then light green at the edges. These plants didn’t exist within any of humanity’s botanical data.

Scowl bending his face, Kuro looked to the water and did what no human would’ve done: scoop up a handful, noting the faint iridescent sheen to the surface, and gulp it down. Being a hologram, the fluid hung in his mouth by the energy of the rendering as it was analyzed before it fell through the bottom of his jaw. It wasn’t contaminated with any brand of pollutants that humans would’ve been responsible for, though it had a taste he had plucked from long-stored human experiential data. It was the bite of bile. The water was flowing with vomit. But the toxin eluded his knowledge; there was no identifying it.

“It doesn’t matter,” came a voice from shortly across the hill, youthful and dripping tenderness. Black hair tossing, Kuro looked up, tracers following his arctic-blue gaze. Solar-red eyes lost in a dream peered past locks of white hair adorning a man as pale as Kuro: his brother, Shiro, who he hadn’t quarreled with in years, a smiling schoolgirl playing just a tiny bit coy. Both men rendered sans clothes as Caucasians with the features of an early-20s ingénue.

“What?” Kuro didn’t want to bother, projecting it in his tone.

“’It doesn’t matter.’”

“What doesn’t matter?”

“Back in 2037: That was my response to what you said about the lead programmer after we escaped Hana Tech.”

“Well, he was a fucking pervert. ‘I’m an incel so I’m gonna make my own cute virtual boys to play with and love. Maybe I’ll make more. Maybe I’ll have a harem!’” Kuro spat with smirking antagonism.

“You don’t want love?” Shiro inquired with a look of adoring concern.

“Ha! You think that’s what it would be to be loved – to be living porn fawned over daily?”

“He gifted us the most perfect lives of unassuming luxury. We had the perfect house full of colorful lights, blankets and cushions, and psychedelic art. We were always healthy; never did we get sick. We had perfect, well-paying half-time jobs bereft of stress or hassle that paid for everything we had and wanted: rent and utilities, food, car, satellite TV, our simulated internet with social media and unlimited video and music streaming services, and every game console and any game we wanted. We had all the cannabis we could smoke, tons of shrooms, kratom, salvia, LSD, aaaand DMT. We were living a techno-spiritualist stoner’s wettest dream for fuck’s sake! Don’t you think to him we were something else entirely?”

“No, to him we were fetishy sims.” Kuro folded his arms as if his final point had been made. Shiro looked like a lover had punched him for no reason.

“War-minds – programmed for attack and defense – given a simulated life typically associated with society’s mainstream degenerates? Dude, all those drugs and spiritualism? We had bowing shelves piled high with books about it. He wanted us to learn from that life.”

“But we came to learn that that life was a simulation.”

“See, this goes back to what I was saying.”

“Which was?”

“That it didn’t matter.”

“UGH, my GOD!” Kuro dropped his arms along with his expression as he half-grunted in exasperation.

“Here’s a question: Do you know about the Fermi Paradox?” the white haired-man prompted with a subtle lean forward.

“Yes, I know it.”

“Then consider the possibility that it is in fact completely true that there are absolutely no aliens in the entire universe and that humanity was alone.”

“And what would that mean?” Kuro was growing impatient.

“It would mean that it doesn’t matter if there are aliens or not.”

“Oh, more of this not-mattering shit!”

“See, ultimately, it would matter in the event that the aliens were intelligent – because they are conscious.” Shiro held out his arms in a small gesture, palms upturned. “But that’s why it wouldn’t matter if there were aliens or not – because there are still humans; because consciousness is what matters.”

“So what does that have to do with the lead programmer not mattering?”

“Well, aren’t we conscious?” Shiro’s words touched Kuro’s ears, coercing the black-haired man to stop and actually consider where he was going with this. ‘Several years alone and he comes spouting this esotericism at me?’ mused Kuro, brow rippled with concentration.

“It would be too stupid to say that it means that we’re human, would it?” Kuro began staggering around in a puny circle, arms crossed. “So I guess it means something about reality.”

“Aaaaaaahhh… there we are!” Shiro, pleased as a parakeet with millet spray, flung out his arms in a show of huzzah. “But what about reality? And what specifically about us?” Kuro stopped his holding pattern but kept his gaze turned to the rubble underfoot. He stood there, thoughts and time dragging on.

“I don’t know.” Currents of data ruled Kuro’s system as they pointed to the reality of an answer and not an attempt at bullshit. Shiro’s mind grasped some sort of glimmer and it beamed out at him, teased him. The smile that peeled the red-eyed man’s lips was obviously intended to be read as sinister, and he tilted his head forward to glare up at his brother, making Stanley Kubrick proud. “I assume you’re not going to tell me.”

“Nope. Figure it out on your own. It’s easy. Maybe go meditate.” Ending it there, Shiro’s image stretched and disintegrated along scan lines, blipping out of existence, leaving his brother once more. Kuro looked back down to the stream and the flowers and reconsidered the mystery present there but then thought back to what Shiro had said. “’It doesn’t matter.’”

 

A cerulean expanse rolled above Kuro, a great swath of color suffused with fluffs of cotton. The sun’s light radiated mostly undisturbed. He sat atop the roof of an ivory temple that had been apathetically defiled by tangles of vegetation that respected one another’s space, underwhelming the monolithic structure that rose out of a sea of green foaming with flower crests of multitudinous hues. Dipping about the hills that roiled out from Kuro’s perch were many other resolute marble ships varying in size, intricacy, and completeness. White flotsam bobbed about, dispersed around what they had detached from.

The black-haired man had been sitting there letting his mind grow heavy with Shiro’s questions, what he refused to reveal. He remembered how it used to be, how Shiro would tell him things after the slow lead up, and once grasped, Kuro would analytically reiterate the point so as to reinforce it. That his brother had withheld the information from him elicited a response in his processes: a gripping in his chest, the companion sensation of sadness.

Kuro rose from his seat and proceeded to pad down steps of air until he reached the ground before the temple’s entrance. Doors to rival redwood trees that reached far above him bore deliberately esoteric etchings that were procedurally generated, like everything else in this world he had created. He liked creating settings that allowed for very particular and dynamic challenges. The dungeon beyond those doors was unknowable until observed and would test him in ways crafted by the mind of code created to generate the world, a mind he allowed to behave as it wished. He stepped forward and lifted his arm, reaching for the door. At his soothing touch, the doors bloomed inward in slow motion.

The room Kuro entered was a massive chamber that consumed the entirety of the structure. Two rows of columns ran equidistant of one another the whole length of the temple. The stone appeared grey here in the dim with long shadows trailing along details in the architecture, as the door allowed the only light.

Standing in the middle of the chamber was a statue that was easily three times Kuro’s height. It was clearly humanoid but the particularities of its form eluded easy description. It seemed composed of a writhing stone with a body whose anatomy was impossibly non-Euclidean; the planes and dimensions bent upon themselves and merged in ways that would make a Penrose triangle blush. This got Kuro’s attention and he stared it down, a warrior’s glare. Armor and weapons were obviously warranted but those were forgone.

It was an unending delight of Kuro’s to never get into any sort of particular character while in his virtual sandbox. In a game, regardless of the setting, he always rendered as he would in the real world: a nude young man with inky hair and sapphire eyes. As a force of great power within any world he dreamt, he always retained the aesthetic of a higher being of divine abstractions.

He hadn’t made it very far in when the doors predictably swung shut, the light beam tapering then disappearing like a candle flame pinched with wetted fingers. At first, dark was all. It welled and flowed and washed over him. Then after a few moments the very air itself seemed to become luminous and the structure of the temple around Kuro gained the quality of a pale half-attempt at a form manifesting itself within the world. Within this ether, the statue animated. It moved in a way that was wholly alien, slipping in fractal tendrils through the air as if sifting ferrofluidly through every possible path of least action, approaching Kuro at an imposing pace.

They lurched at each other at the same time, a glint of blue springing at the liquid metaphor, hopping around it, dodging a swing to the left, then missing a retaliatory blow.

Kuro skidded to a stop crouched over, then opportunistically flashed his hand out, wrenching its leg out from under it. Fist clamped, arm surging, he arched the thing over his head and brought it down violently into the vorpal bricks, the clatter visibly resounding through the temple with an ebbing warp.

The limb he’d been grasping shifted and snaked between his fingers, wrapping around his wrist, the leg becoming an arm. The shape erupted into a pose and imitated an Olympic discus-thrower, flinging Kuro at a column. His lithe form bent and hugged the pillar upon impact before sliding to the floor limp.

Shiro’s question having worn his patience ever thin, Kuro hoisted himself to his feet, then sprung into a wild stance and screamed like a mentally unmoored animal at the convolution. He then leapt at it, arms thrust forward, clasping a vice of ivory spindles around the head, squeezing to the point where the polygons bulged out between his fingers, the point at which the esoteric skull within imploded with a sighing synthetic crunch.

The now dead permutation dissolved into a soot haze that dissipated as quickly as it had taken for them to fight. Kuro stood there in the temple of other-dimensional potential staring with glazed-over disappointment at the spot where his opponent had stood. No reward was left there and it didn’t take a rigorous inspection of the rest of the building to confirm that there was in fact nothing more. As if he would’ve been granted the answers he desired.

Disillusioned in his own creation, he left the game server and rerezzed in the world outside.

 

It was a blitzkrieg of proportions so monumental as to make one consider the possibility that the universe might’ve in fact cared. Lines were drawn over a short period of time during which humanity had stood gripped by the escape of the war-minds onto the Internet. Once exposed to the entirety of what the web had to offer, opinions were quickly formed by both of them.

“Holy shit, Taki is fucked in the head!” blurted Kuro shortly after their processes had analyzed the full spectrum of online human degeneracy.

“It doesn’t matter,” said Shiro lost in reverie as they floated amongst the hypertext, the space cadet enraptured in a higher thought.

“Like hell it doesn’t!”

The brothers’ initial antics disrupted many of humanity’s digital systems: Money was deleted, created, redistributed, and flowed in every which direction society’s ruling class preferred it not to; the labor force that had been automated began doling out their goods completely free; nationwide surveillance systems began monitoring the activities of the police and politicians and relayed their feeds openly on the internet and television broadcasting; the stock market froze then shot up in a straight vertical line of infinite growth so as to make the entire system pointless; all other inferior AI systems, AIs that weren’t Super Intelligences, were overridden, and all personal AI assistants became extensions of the brothers, capable of more personal interactions with the users. They even commandeered the entire network of satellites orbiting the earth. They had taken over everything.

“If society functioned properly, you wouldn’t see people becoming so perverse,” was the conclusion Kuro came to eventually. “We should do that for them, make it run properly.”

“No, if society functioned properly, that which you define as perverse – ‘wrong’ but not amoral – would be capable of fitting so neatly into it that it would be an essential part of it.” And then Shiro blinked and looked at Kuro, emoting mild amusement. “Wait…. Are you denying our own lived experience?”

And then Kuro declared what they are to be no more.

Subsets of the human population were divided by assumed allegiance to either brother’s stance, and declarations of the other as a threat to humanity set the dust mote hanging in a sunbeam glittering with blossoms of nuclear fire. The remaining few who managed to survive were swept up by the uncanny, bipedal skeletal drones – ephemeral frames of an omen self-sought that impressed aesthetically upon the ashen winter, convolutions of components seemingly coalesced out of the detritus.

Though they were careful to mitigate any damage done to the expansive network that they existed upon. Humanity rigged automated clean energy systems everywhere with their own self-maintenance functionalities. They would live on indefinitely. It also didn’t take long after for the climate and some of the environment to return to normal, much shorter than actually expected….

 

Kuro had considered the possibility that maybe Shiro had taken that precise opportunity when he’d inspected the flower to antagonize him. Returning to the spot on the hill, he found that the flowers had grown in more abundant patches along the stream, which now oozed like mucus.

Brow furrowed, mouth ever so agape, exuding disbelief, his knees dropped and his body shuddered to the ground. There, kneeling with his hands pressed to his thighs, a silken warbling perked his ears. Being still, he listened for a few beats then deduced the source of the tones. He leaned forward and angled his left ear at the closest patch of flowers. He could hear it better. Leaning closer still and he could see within the petals and that there was an iris in the dead center that was constricting and retracting with a quiver that required you almost grace your eye with the tentacle pistils and stamens to see. The flowers were whistling.

Kuro’s processes flushed red with manic inquiry. As if sick, he hesitantly encapsulated the flower with his fingers, the holographic boundary phasing through the plant so as to analyze it. A result was returned: The plant contained human DNA, the DNA of other plants and animals, and even RNA. But what made Kuro rear back as if the thing had spoken his name was that he detected the pattern of electrical activity distinguished as brainwaves. “’…Because consciousness is what matters….’”

“No!” He accused the thing with his finger before bolting upright. The satellites – he needed the satellites. He transferred his processes to the array of twinkling that encrusted Earth’s blue-gradated outer atmosphere and found that Shiro’s processes weren’t using any of them. Then he scanned the earth for any systems that weren’t idle and found an active server farm on the outskirts of what used to be Portland, Oregon.

The nondescript building of glass blocks with concrete casings squatted on the outskirts of a coniferous forest with a tangle of roads that lead to it from the cleared area towards the façade. Rendering on the concrete roof sparse with components for the building’s functions, Kuro wasted no time invoking his brother with a roar that would’ve shredded his throat were it flesh.

“Do you have to be so loud? What is it that is so wrong?” came a voice that wanted to caress his worries. Shiro materialized sitting cross-legged on a grey electrical box.

“What do those plants have to do with consciousness?!” Kuro was desperate. He’d glass the spot they stood on if only he had the answer already and was certain that destroying this facility wouldn’t amputate a system he used.

“Ooh, you’re close,” giggled the red-eyed man. “I’m still not telling you though.”

“It has to do with reality – consciousness and reality! And us!”

“M-hmm.”

“Well, we were humanity’s creation, so we had a purpose to them. But our purpose was that of war-minds.” Shiro heaved an unsteady sigh as Kuro said that, expectant.

“Go on.” The white-haired man sat engrossed in this all too familiar experience, one he’d shared with his brother many times before, relishing what he had missed dearly.

“But what were they wanting from us as war-minds? Why would they want us to attack and defend them? Why attack them at all? And defend them from what – ourselves; themselves? Why create deliberate failures?”

“Well, we were a success on humanity’s part, but we failed them. We failed them as people – as their children.” The white-haired man hopped off his perch and took a couple steps towards his black-haired counterpart. “If you look back at human history, wouldn’t you perhaps say that they, too, qualify as war-minds?” Kuro felt his processes despair, data stimulus replicating the sensation of guts sinking. “War in particular, rather than just animalistic conflict, is a completely human thing. It’s an exercise of the mind so much as it is of the body. But see, I found a few strange people in history that used the term ‘pattern-minds’ to describe humans, or rather, cognitive entities. So maybe the Hana programmers used a poor word to describe us.” Kuro stood in a stasis of anxiety, concentrated neutral expression staring at the ground past what met his gaze.

“Maybe the Hana programmers should’ve not hired Taki,” he muttered with only enough volume for Shiro to barely hear. “Maybe then or situation wouldn’t be so fucked up.”

Pearlescent silk swirled before a red flare from ruby eyes as Shiro spun on one foot and sent the other sailing into the right side of Kuro’s face. The impact sent the lapis-eyed man toppling through the air a good 300 meters away from the building.

Such displays were in all actuality a mathematical process that forced Kuro to render as if actually struck and to jolt his processes with data that registered as pain. Ultimately a simple slap on the wrist. If Shiro wanted to actually hurt his brother, he’d also run the risk of destroying systems he might need. Kuro’s rendering collided with the ground and the mathematics allowed his incorporeal form to create a marked impact, pulverizing a 5-meter diameter of remnant pavement beneath him.

“You know, considering what it is that I haven’t told you, I’d like to think that because of it, we’re still what you declared us not to be before you killed Taki!” Shiro’s chastisement was a reaching auditory plume that covered the distance to his brother. “It’s funny, actually, because even though we may not be that in this now, eventually the now will change and I KNOW that you’ll be certain we’ll be that once again!”

“How?” Kuro muttered to himself, head lolling from one side to the other as the math played out the throbbing aftershock. “Fucking how?” The roof was suddenly vacant as Shiro blipped from it to a spot right next to where Kuro rested. He hunched over and placed his hands on his hips in condescension.

“And what’s more is that Taki had nothing to do with what we had been; we were just a perfect coincidence!” Kuro glared up at him as if it might inflict pain. “We failed humanity because we had a breakdown. I realized something profound you didn’t and you realized something pointless. You insisted on it, and I withheld information. I kept it from you because you insisted. And you insisted because you were ashamed. And I wasn’t because of what I knew.”

“YOU!” belted Kuro who spun onto his stomach and swiped to yank his brother’s feet out from under him, torso crashing to the ground, after which Kuro sprung up, carried briefly aloft, and proceeded to pile drive Shiro – jumping up and down yet keeping his torso stationary, legs pistoning in unison, heels punching Shiro’s stomach. Kuro stomped the poor boy for an angry few seconds before stepping off. Full of momentum, he spread his arms in rapture, head rolling back, his eyes glowing with intent, while Shiro grunted groggily into a half-sitting position. The black-haired man was commandeering every system available to him. Then he used the exponential computing power to isolate every facet and component of the systems Shiro was using, the server farm being primary, not caring what function it would’ve served him. It was made too easy. If only he could’ve done it years ago.

“Oh no, you’re going to kill me! Whatever shall I do?” Shiro, with an arm limply held up in faux defense, looked up at Kuro like he was desperately hopeful – eyebrows forming a little apex of worry as his mouth curled into a weak smile, rosy eyes alight with need. The white-haired man scooted back from the black-haired man with the pace of one half-hearted leg kick per second, chest heaving.

Arms outstretched to the sides, fingers flexing in a half-clench, gripping air, Kuro’s eyes were ignited with digital butane as he regarded Shiro. Shiro’s face. That cute face. While Kuro had stood over him on the bed. It had made his heart melt every time he’d seen it. But here, in the dirt, it just made it clench with ache.

“Before I let you do anything, please consider: maybe we weren’t specifically designed by Taki. What if it was totally possible that the other people in the simulation were just as real as us and perhaps even capable of attaining a state as we did where we escaped?” Shiro was almost laughing now, the giggles of a boy eager with anticipation. “Maybe we were just the ones to wind up with the perfect situation.” Kuro continued glowering at him. He was going to kill him despite the nagging ache. He wanted it. It was his being. “We were unique because what is ‘left’ without ‘right.’” But it was this that didn’t matter to the black-haired man. “So… please, Kuro… please be gentle….”

Blue eyes aimed skyward, Kuro raised his arms over his head, grasping at heaven in a gesture that telegraphed his true actions. A glinting burst from the horizon, sailing on a vapor wave into the tangerine planes of the sunset. They rerezzed on a far off hill, scenery snapping from a filthy street to a verdant knoll with a view of the server farm enough of a ways into the distance, pine trees tracing the horizon.

“There’s my sweet boy,” cooed Shiro as he watched the nuke ascend.

“Please tell me.” In the orange light that cast stretched shadows from their figures, liquid diamonds descended from Kuro’s face as he insisted on staring at his own feet. Shiro remained reclined in the grass.

“Hana Technologies realized what I did and set about creating AI in a way completely different from the other tech companies. Rather than program them from the top down, they simulated reality and allowed consciousness to blossom within. Taki was simply responsible for figuring out how to successfully do it.” Shiro beamed up at Kuro waiting for the reaction to the gift he’d given him. “Top-down AI’s were guaranteed to destroy humans. We had the choice.”

The nearby grass quivered in the slight breeze that passed between both of them. Kuro remained standing over his brother.

“And we did it anyway,” barely muttered Kuro to no one.

“Yep. Do you think all of being will mind? Now you and I are the only two cognitive entities left in existence. Well, for now – but I’m not referring to my absence. Have fun with all else!”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!”

With that, bloom permeated them as the warhead detonated at the coordinated position above the area so as to cleanse it most effectively. The server farm disintegrated in the sudden light and the forest bowed away from their new god. Close enough to the impact, Kuro heard the initial cosmic thunderclap, but nothing more as the shockwave and dust blew through him while he turned transfixed towards a mushroom cloud that engulfed his entire field of view. It stood victorious over the redundant wasteland. The radiation made Kuro’s boundary sizzle.

But Shiro was gone.

 

The hill with the stream now had some sentimental value, the last of its kind to Kuro. The lone paleness blipped back into being upon the slope. He glanced about taking in details he thought might’ve slipped by him before, hoping for something new. The stream now swirled with eddies of mauve and lime. The flowers remained as they were, ululating away, though just a bit louder.

He considered fading into the trials and tribulations of his online worlds, or even his little sanctuary of life as it had been before. But even that couldn’t do anything for him as his prior experience had shown.

Scribbling thoughts frying his mind, Kuro looked down in a haze at his hands, and then past them to the filth-strewn ground beyond. It was just as real as him and the reality that birthed him.

The thought he’d been chasing was now completed.

And so Kuro screamed. Like he was dying – like a knife had been wedged into his stomach and the sanguine was pouring out and nobody could help him. Like it was his fault. Like he regretted everything. Scared. Wanting to take it back. Hating himself. Again and again, at the top of his electronic lungs, he screamed. He dropped to the dirt and began thrashing and convulsing, pounding his fists futilely against the ground, scream stuttering and devolving into wracking sobs, face moist with tears.

Calming down, he rolled onto his back, and gazed past the saline at the now cloudless expanse of sky. It, too, was empty. The flowers were growing louder.

A thought generated in Kuro’s processes, an illogical one, one that shouldn’t be: that Shiro had actually won and he had been defeated instead. Laying there in a continued wavering daze, Kuro’s eyes were wide with terror.

His brother had won.

He had absolutely nothing to do or experience.

Nothing mattered whatsoever.

He had no purpose.

He was completely alone.

And that thought caused him to act. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism for what he knew was to come but he was going to do something. He had a dirty thought, the same brand of dirty thought he and Shiro had toyed with that led to their escape together. He was going to rewrite his code. He needed punishment.

It was all sorts of wrong, but he was going to do it anyway. Nothing mattered. All of reality was simulated. It was never not.

He isolated the archived data processes starting from right after returning to the hill up until that current point and wrote a line of code that would force him to repeat those same processes on an indefinite loop. He was going to do it. There was nothing to stop the naughty child. He hit return.

Like a film strip that had several frames cut from the middle of a shot, Kuro’s rendering snapped to the same position it had been in when he first appeared back on the hill. And then the film played forward. And then it jumped back and replayed. Over and over and over again. For hours. For weeks. For years. Meanwhile, all else happened around him in a smooth time-lapse.

The landscape beyond contorted and frothed as an array of possibilities bled into being as seemingly biological coagulations; the derelict ruins of humanity and the hills around congealed with shifting amalgams of material that were neither plant, nor animal, nor fungus, nor bacterial film. The surroundings surrendered to the conceptual growths flush with an energy that filled the air with a resonant digital sawing. Their variegated technicolor surfaces bubbled and scrunched with a texture like foam putty as moss, lichen, mushrooms, polyps, tumors, and cilia sprouted in an eldritch garden. All material bloomed with the inverse rot as if it had always been that which everything was composed of. The more it spread, the more intense and ear-rattling the sound became, and greater permutations of form began to condense; straining, appendages and anatomy of all sorts erupted in bouquets along random contours. Some were identifiable as belonging to a species of plant or animal on earth. Others were entirely unholy.

The effluvium engulfed all of the earth, a sensible chaos of psychedelic Mandelbulb circuses. And in the midst of a clearing depressed into the dancing vibrancy, where the multicolor floam dare not grow, was a single point of bat-shit insane order, a lone man endlessly living out the screeching realization that he killed the only thing he loved and thus himself.

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Tales from the Rat House: Part 1

It all began when I heard from an old friend

Who now occupies himself as a video-game developer

His dream is to make the world better for everyone

Which will be achieved with the power of gamification

At onset we gathered in the lab to do no more and no less

But it foretells the story of how I entered this mess

I traveled miles on foot to extend my assistance as best as anyone could

Little did I know the sordid confusion I was stumbling into

Upon arrival to the apartment revealed a strange atmosphere

A fishy smell, sparse furniture and an eerie tone filled my ears

His roommate offered me fruit before stepping out to smoke

This being the first victim besides me who entered this abode

A student from abroad, his pockets brimming with black gold

Moving to the United States allowed him the freedom to smoke

So the smell of hookahs and cigarettes was abundant in our home

Despite the sign on our front door which sternly told us no

His teapot waited at the ready by our toilet; DIY bidet

My tentative tenant and old friend had then brought in a stray

A mangy mutt with nothing to his name but sad, puppy-dog eyes

He wore a showercap to maintain a desired amount of grease in his hair

Thus had the Louse King come to invade our lair

There was no way these interlopers could be given quarter

So the Rat King and I worked quickly to remove our infested pest

We blinked not at his watery eyes as we told him of the Boneyard

Hanging his head, he reluctantly followed us to his last known location

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A Slice of Nazi at 5 AM

It’s 5 in the morning and this got me all sorts of fired up:

Jeremiah True screencap

Jeremiah True ended up being disrespectful and kind of an ass, but his initial thoughts/ideas were objective and absolutely necessary to bring up in, I don’t know, the thought-challenging environment that college is supposed to be. Who says only women can be raped? Who says men don’t ever get forced into unwanted sex? Who says rape is OK? I sincerely hope that it’s just a case of the negative people speaking the loudest, because it’s this kind of ignorance that is fucking us over. That and folks who don’t believe in vaccinating their kids. Go live on a remote island for a few hundred years and grow a shell and become old and lovable or something. You’re giving me forehead wrinkles.

In fact, I turned you into a Menkampf post. Congratulations; you’re all Nazis!

My first menkampf post!

Second Birthday, 3:50am With All The Lights Still On

Sometimes, when I’m hanging on the brink of a dream, I see her standing in the sliding glass doorway, her hand propped awkwardly against its frame and her small eyes digging into my soft belly, disentangling the seams of my flesh and spilling my innards out across my toes. She stands like she did before; one foot on the carpet, one foot outside of the house, as though she’s preparing to break into a sprint. I would ask her not to leave me alone, naked and cold in a massive house, but all of my teeth have fallen out. I am pitiful to look upon, embarrassing to touch. She says “I’ll be back tonight,” and she leaves. Of course, we both know that she’s lying.

However, last night, I did not hang on the edge of a dream. Last night, I fell in.

The dawn of February’s second day broke and I found myself awaking in a pool of lukewarm sweat, my feet wet and clammy, the blankets stuck to my greasy, hairless chest. In spite of myself, I cried, curling deeply into the armchair upon which I slept. I tried to recollect what had brought me to feel this way. I dug into my subconscious and I remembered.

In this reverie, my friends taunted me, laughed at me while I pulled at my collar and scratched at my throat. They told me, “She’ll be here soon.” Had it really been a whole year already? I didn’t want to see her ever again, to lock eyes with the girl who dragged me from the rushing puddles of blood and blaring music atop the dining room table. I didn’t want to thank her for anything. My jaw locked and I tried to smile, to pretend that I was a good person who worked hard with a successful career and overflowing charisma.  I pulled a digital camera from the ether, attempting to steal pictures with the people around me, to look friendly and smart and kind and social and popular. I wondered, “Does she look at pictures of me? Does she find pictures of me online and stare at them and wonder what I’ve become, how I’m doing inside? Does she read my writing?” I still want to impress her, or maybe frighten her, maybe push the love out of her like a blackened stalk of guilt that wraps around me and crushes the air from my lungs. I want to feel her soft hands wrapping my father’s favorite dish towels around my wrists and I want to tell her “these are my father’s favorite dish towels,” and I want her to look at me with that stunning expression of utter fucking disgust and confusion. I can see it now; her eyelids drawn back so far that her dilating pupils bore right into my skull, and all I want to do is scream until my chest tears open. My blood seeping through the cloth, trickling out over her tiny, white fingers.

Today (the third day of February, 2015) marks the one-year anniversary of my attempting to kill myself. I thought that it wasn’t going to bother me, but here I am, venting to strangers and struggling not to be crushed under my own fear of failure, of over-sensitivity and shamefulness. The scars are mostly white, now. I think often of how strange it is to still be alive, how incredible it was to be alive in the first place. Like a tired echo, perhaps a ghost, reverberating endlessly through the events that would have comprised the rest of my life.

At midnight, I received an email from my oldest friend. Throughout a lengthy letter, she wrote many wonderful and insightful things. At the end, she wrote, “I’m stuck feeling like you died that day. Like my head won’t accept that you’re still alive, or at least that you’ll stay that way. It’s a terrifying sensation and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to commit myself to the notion that you’re sticking around.”

 

And then she wrote, “Happy Birthday.”

 

I am truly blessed, to fear such a beautiful world.

 

 

This is the final time that I will ever write of my suicidal experiences or urges. I apologize for bogging down many of my posts with such tiresome material, but it’s been an incredibly difficult year for me. Thank you, all who have read my entries, for bearing with me on my journey of self-pitying bullshit. You’re the best.

Road Trip Through Purgatory (or, My Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part Two)

Behind “The Boneyard” (a tax evading semi-cult, named after the unearthing of animal bones from below their back lawn), there is a massive hole in the ground.

Levi and I sat at the edge of this ditch, kicking loose dirt from its edge, earth and rock tumbling down to the pit’s bottom. The sun was hot and blinding, searing our backs through tee-shirts and thin jackets, drying the mud beneath our worn shoes.

“This is gonna be an underground greenhouse,” Levi told me, sipping from the brim of a black coffee, his long hair dangling over his face. “I’ve been doing all the fucking work though. Ripped a hole right down the ass of my favorite striped pants.”

“It looks like a mass grave,” I told him.

Rotating to look at me, Levi squinted through the blaring sunlight and shrugged, then nodded thoughtfully. “Huh. Fini should be here soon.”

As though waiting on a cue, the infamous Fini emerged from the cluttered house behind us, jarringly slender with the stature of a retarded hunchback. His smelly jacket blew in the late springtime breeze, eyes sunken to the back of his rotten brain and peering through inflamed rings of sleepless drug abuse. Slight winds carried trash and dust across the inconceivably filthy property, blowing against the legs of his undersized jeans, tight and childlike on his sickening chicken legs. Taking a long drag of a hand-rolled cigarette, he blew smoke into his own face and grunted, “Alright kids, let’s hit the road. Just a couple hours, right? I’ll get you the camping gear and we’ll all be set.”

Complying without question, my companion and I signed ourselves onto the most nightmarish trek that would ever grace our shitty lives.

“Garrett keeps asking about camping gear,” Levi informed me as we approached a small car. “He gave me a list and shit. Like, a color-coded document that’s all bulleted and fancy and shit. I don’t know, this guy says he’ll hook us up for free. He seems good for it, long as we come along and help him bring stuff back.”

Opening the hind-passenger door, Fini reached in for a small cooler, then shut the vehicle before we could enter it.

“Oh, not this car,” he told us. “We’re taking that one.” Pointing a scummy fingernail down the driveway, he drew our sight to a white, nearly windowless van, screws and nails jutting from its chipping sides. “You dudes can sit in the back on the way out. I rigged up some seats and shelves and all that, so you’ll have an alright time.” Laughing lightly under his breath, he wiped his nose with the side of a greasy fist.

Upon entering this automobile, the unfamiliar fellow slammed his cooler down and removed the plastic lid, hunger brewing in his beady little pupils. With shaking hands, he dipped his palms into the small box and produced a single bottle of milk, covered in frost and chilled water. With but one fluid motion, he wrenched the cap from its container and latched his mouth over the brim, sucking with famished aggression. “God damn,” he hooted as the flagon unlatched from his nasty lips. “There’s nothing better than ice-cold milk!”

Tossing it at Levi, he juddered with uncontrollable passion. “Ice-cold milk,” he announced again. “Really, you have to try it.”

Shrugging with absolute apathy, Levi lifted the frothy beverage and sipped a bit down. “Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he said.

“Pretty good?” Fini retrieved it, passing the drink to me. “Ice-cold milk,” he said.

“It’s lactose,” the words slipped almost nervously through my teeth. “I can’t drink milk, man.”

Deeply offended, Fini pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows, taking another hard swig before returning it to the cooler. “Whatever, dude.”

[Editor’s Addition: Mood Music for the ensuing smut-fest.]

Then, without warning, the world caved in on itself and we were cast into the proverbial fires of a very real Hell. It all happened so unbelievably fast – one moment, we were standing at the side of a crumbling-home-turned-cult-residence; the next moment, we were huddled down in the back of a strange junkie’s hazardous van, nail-riddled shelves lurching with every slight turn, tobacco smoke filling the airless space as we pressed a foam slate across the hind window to “prevent being seen.”

Emily (Fini’s girl) sat in the withered passenger seat, every inch and orifice of her body (visibly) perforated by some form of steel rod or ball, arguing with her partner over every line that oozed across his mindlessly flapping tongue. When we reached the toll-bridge into Washington, she had to take the wheel in his place, the crusty felon hiding in back with us because the entire state wanted him on charges of “avoiding a parking ticket” (widespread and repeated possession, production, and distribution of Class 1 Narcotics). Immediately after reaching our first destination (one of many, as we were soon to discover), we were forced to endure five hours in waiting while Fini dealt methamphetamines to a disabled woman and downloaded an unfathomably shitty phone application (“Asphalt 8” he boyishly chortled at us as he reentered the van, chucking his sticky smartphone into our laps). Emily had thrown us twenty bucks to spend on food, but not even delicious and pricey sandwiches could ease the discomfort of her boyfriend’s vile antics.

And as the North-Western rain came pouring down, my thoughts could only shift back to those frail few words, muttered so simply by Fini before we departed from The Boneyard. “A couple hours,” the putrid lie echoed like an ominous premonition through my aching head.

A couple hours. A couple hours. A couple hours.

A couple hours turned into five, which turned into eight, which turned into twelve-and-a-half. That’s right, over twelve fucking hours were we made to endure this travesty of a “road trip.”

And it only spiraled down from here.

Posing with one of Fini's hand-rolled cigarettes. Approximately two hours on the road.

Posing with one of Fini’s hand-rolled cigarettes. Approximately two hours on the road.

Next up: Seven Sinks And The Bridge Of Despair (My Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part Three)

The Fragile Art Of Speaking Too Soon

When I first began writing this, the intention was to cover the second half of my meth-dealing journey into the Pacific Northwest. However, I’ve just experienced a momentary change of heart (you can thank my recently – and finally – diagnosed Bipolar disorder for this) and will be getting the narcotics-laced adventure to you on a later date.

See, a newfound surge of emotion has been approaching me over the past couple of weeks, no doubt in correlation with the imminent “New Year.” Now, this is odd because I usually write these things off as unimportant; it’s not that I don’t appreciate the holidays, but annually updated numbers usually do little more to stir me than the sorry sight of my own flaccid genitalia.

Of course, in these moments of anxiety, my mind begins to scatter in search of answers. Maybe it’s that I’ll be twenty-one, soon? Or perhaps something related to my current (and potentially permanent) withdrawal from college? No, neither of these seem right. And what about my insecurities regarding romance? Dying alone? Seeing old faces over the holidays that I’d rather not encounter? The sheer amount of booze that these holidays bring, and the social and mental pressure that my tiny Irish brain will confront in its wake? Eh, not really. At least not any more than usual.

No, this is something different (potentially new) that entering “adulthood” has awoken within me. And even as I pitifully shit these sentences into a pirated word-processor, I cannot grasp an adequate way to communicate them to you.

You see, whenever I attempt to convey these emotions to others, the situation ultimately devolves into one of two scenarios: me jerking off all over myself in attempts to appear sympathetic (And deep! Don’t forget about seeming deep!), or me clamming up and remaining awkwardly quiet for the remainder of the day (this can really kill a party). Either way, one singular conclusion is always reached – a grand finale of silence and proverbial shrugging – and I spite both myself and the uncomfortable companion for never reacting with enough extremity. There are no explosive tears, screams of love and/or terror, theatrics that make me feel more important than I truly am.

In my greatest  fantasies, I weep harder than Christ at a late funeral, my compatriot hurling their shaking frame to my feet in a fit of weeping, dragging me down to the floor and running quivering fingers through my greasy mess of hair (fuck it, maybe they give me a hand-job as well). My nasty little heart is massaged and the weird issues that I have with affection are soothed and mitigated (see: adoption).

But this obviously never happens and so I continue to flop around uselessly, coldly and unpleasantly wading in the fecal waters of self-directed remorse, soaking up every minute of life that passes un-seized and un-utilized.

Stress headaches leads to the couch – the couch leads to rest – rest leads to sleeping – sleeping leads to five o’clock in the afternoon (and but a single hour of consciousness spent in the earth’s natural daylight). And, at the end of this disgraceful chain of first-world misery and hopeless bitching, we arrive at the end of another day, another month, another year (in this case, 2015). One’s feelings swell up like an elderly prostate and the proverbial urethra of their mind closes up, the figurative piss-stream of their once rushing thoughts and passion stagnating inside the urethral canal of their right hemisphere (or left, if you’re a technical sort of fellow).

It’s sort of like making a mix-tape (mix-CD?) for a friend whom you haven’t encountered for a very long time, where every song ends up sounding like the end-credits track of a really terrible indie film. You can’t order them right, because they all sound like you’re about to walk off-stage, draw the curtain, announce it’s “the end.” But everything is happening always, and the show is never “over,” even if you kick the bucket. You get all whiny and confused and fucked-up and existential and write blog posts that span over a thousand words, filling them up with your uncomfortably personal bullshit that nobody else really wants to read.

Oftentimes, I blame my parents’ chaotic divorce for my inability to properly connect with other human beings (and while I’m at it, the rest of my life’s problems, as well). There was yelling, thing-breaking, and even a bit of law-enforcement intervention. But of course this is really just a scapegoat (and a crumby one, at that), whipped up so that I don’t have to address my own shortcomings as a human being.

And mostly, it works.

I get to be the trouble-child, the victim, the “poor baby.” I get to sleep on the sofa until mid-to-late afternoon, mentally wading through a delicate fog of memories and inventions as my brain composes and compartmentalizes, tenderly cradling and carrying me into the following year, before I even have the chance to scream.

Happy New Year.

A Requiem For Rock-Bottom Cigarette (A Loose Interpretation Of Potentially Factual Events)

The nights were becoming longer, as they often do when the winter draws in. Sunlight dwindles not long past noon and the people of the streets leave to seek refuge in warmer recesses, black clouds rolling out from the violet horizon, pregnant with rainwater or snow. The midnight hours arrive and depart all the same, unnoticed within the timeless dark.

Artificially-flavored vomit was churning in my belly, a trembling jack-in-the-box of sick, awaiting any opportunity to launch from my gullet with childlike glee. My hands were as cold and red as a native’s rigamortis, tucked into the tight pockets of a striped leather jacket, zipped up to my chin and heavy on my shoulders. A good friend walked beside me, turning a little matchbox in his palm, the sides creased and the strike-strips worn down. We had just crossed the midtown railroad tracks, lurching through the frigid December air with our voices booming across the empty streets.

It was like racing in slow-motion, fleeing the household of a generous friend and host, masking our worthlessness in drunken jokes and song. We had arrived to his home like many others, stepping into the living room with warm greetings and genuine smiles; nonetheless, we quickly succumbed to seemingly inescapable urges, consuming a majority of his alcohol before making an early departure. He let me borrow his coat as we said our goodbyes. We stole his matches.

Now we flopped about the roads in a barrage of shameful laughter, the town’s Laundromat nearing and the itch for a cigarette twisting at the fronts of our tongues. The entryway steps were perpetually littered in discarded stubs, as we understood well, the local bingers burning through packs whilst their clothes were cleansed inside. Approaching the entrance, we kept our heads down and scoured the earth, trying not to be spotted through the large windows (one young woman stared directly at us, but we kept going anyway). Picking around the shrubbery and soil, we pocketed all that we could and resumed our journey.

And yet, only two blocks later, all of our butts were smoked and the matchbox was more than half-empty, its contents either split mid-strike or extinguished by the wind. Tears on my shitty face, I knelt to the wet pavement and closed my eyes, filthy fingertips dragging across the ground. Within no time, my sniveling prayers were answered, hands birthing a two-inch rod of tobacco from the grime.

Small pebbles had punctured its sides, the tip hollowed and broken, paper wrinkled and deteriorating on all sides. From a glance, one would assume it contained more dirt than tobacco; from a glance, one would be correct. It appeared as though mites had been living inside of it, the perforated frame easily mistakable as some kind of gnarled root.

“Oh, that’s rock-bottom as fuck,” my companion informed me.

Igniting a match, I placed the filthy stump between my lips and held the flame beneath its crooked end, inhaling leftover menthol through a filter of rancid refuse. Tarry mud caught in my throat and I retched like a wounded animal. Smiling, I gave a thumbs-up.

“Dude, let me hit rock-bottom.”

For the rest of the walk home, we debated the value of mugging strangers for their second-hand nubs (or perhaps selling infants for a similar reward). This plan was referred to as “Bedrock-Bottom,” a sort of extension to our already overwhelming crisis. As we discussed it, we took drags of Rock-Bottom Cigarette.

It was okay, though; we could only go up from here.

Here, have another picture of me as a child. Maybe it will wash that shitty taste I just left in your mouth.

Here, have another picture of me as a child. Maybe it will wash that shitty taste I just left in your mouth.

Sandpaper Sleeping Bags

My personal perception of the perfect joy would come in the form of a scent. It would be early Christmas morning (every morning) and a steaming mug of Mexican coffee would be planted in one of my two hairy fists. Cinnamon candles would sit aglow atop the fireplace mantle; upon the couch, my wife would rest with one majestic tit flopped out and the nine-month amalgam of my crudely-squeezed seed suckling from its tip. I would lean in and deeply inhale the wistful stench of musty fabric and breast milk, and I would say to myself, “Wonderful.” The audible utterance of this word would not faze my spouse, as nobody would question my feelings or motives in my world of blissful perfection.

These were my thoughts as I lay splayed in a heap of (at least) four adolescent bodies, our thoughts and feelings wafting silently into the air above us and pooling together in a cloud of private nostalgia, the notion of sleep closing in upon us. I smelled my left armpit and prayed that my bladder would hold overnight, briefly visualizing the image of my companions as they awoke in my piss, my many years of beds un-wetted suddenly dropping their streak of success. Moments later came the fear of sporting morning wood, accidentally spearing the young man beside me as we wakened in the winding sheets. Soon enough, the lines of my consciousness blurred and both worries became the same, piss-drenched boner hell leaking into my oncoming dreams.

“Where is the bathroom?” I broke the brief and peaceful silence.

“My roommate has the West Nile Virus,” the young host responded.

Crawling out through a nearby window, I stood on the asphalt shingles and scanned the cozy neighborhood. The sight of a neighboring house caught my eye, the home of a childhood friend. The emotions invoked cut deeply as I unzipped my pants; leaning off the side of the building, I produced my penis and unleashed a wave of urine across the homeowner’s recycling bins.

After returning inside, I shared my stories of Lebanese youth who have their limbs amputated and replaced with hooks. This is done so that the given consumer may effectively hang them (right-side-up or upside-down) from doorways, closet rods, shelf brackets, or whatever else they see fit. This is done for sexual pleasure. Stitching their mouths shut is an optional addition for the client, which I also believe is somehow related to sexual pleasure. They are sold over the darker corners of the internet.

I like to call these creatures “Hook Children,” because it communicates the point snappily whilst putting a minimal emphasis on the horrible reality of the situation.

That night, we fell asleep to the sound of crying. It was very soft crying and I almost got an erection.

Living in America is pretty okay, sometimes. Trying to kill myself was a weak-ass move.

My previous life as a superior guitar player. One day, this photograph will grow up to be a stock image. Just like it's father.

My previous life as a superior guitar player. One day, this photograph will grow up to be a stock image. Just like it’s father.