Sunrise Conflagration

June 24, 2012

It said on the news that the mistake had been done in some research facility out in the middle of Ohio. Some well-meaning farming operation wanted their plants to grow during the night as well as the day. They wanted to capture the power of the daylight for the nighttime, to pump out twice as many genetically-modified tomatoes as before. Huge, swollen, prehistoric tomatoes that should maybe never have been places on a plate in front of a person.

The little nanobots they crafted so carefully ended up out of control. They were supposed to self-repair, but the self-repair ended up in self-replication. Given the power to fix each other, they collectively suddenly decided that the best way to fix each other was to create another just like it. Taking the basic elements of mineral and oxygen that lay suspended in the air, they had all they required to evolve and spread. Cloning away, these little sunlight-nanites spread like a bacterial mist into the atmosphere, breaking from the compound in the middle of the night easily, to spew up and out in an invisible swarm. They spread in a digital instant throughout the world, replicating faster than we ever thought possible.

However, once they hit the other side of the world, the air was so heavy with nanites that it instantly burst into a wicked flame as the sun hit them. They grew too thick and strong and the heat of the sun was too much for their fragile exoskeletons. They were like grain dust in a grain elevator, miniscule and volatile, flashing into flames at the slightest spark. And so the rest of the world lit up like tinder, billions burned to cinders in an instant.

The world turns slowly on it’s access and with each sunrise rising in the face of a new person, their screams were quickly quenched by the lack of oxygen as it is instantly consumed by the wall of flames travelling over the earth, following the curve of the sunrise in a fierce and vicious line of burning death. Hopelessly standing, their bodies were seared then quickly charred to a crisp until all the air had been consumed. The east coast of the USA watched the shimmering on the horizon light up into a deep blue then crawl closer and closer as a wall of vivid, swirling flames.

It hit the seaboard in a wave of death and destruction, every city filled with screams and agony before flashing beyond. A devastating swath of fast flames followed by smoke and ash and then black, crumbling silence.

I see the skies lighten and look around at others stepping out into the streets to see the oncoming calamity for themselves. Suddenly, the horizon shimmers here as well, and then flashes over my face, and before I know it, I am aflame, screaming. I fall to the ground but the world is suddenly like hell. I cannot escape and screams choke out of my throat before the flames push down through my throat and into my lungs, consuming the oxygen as my body exhales it’s last flaming breath before turning to ash.

My death rattle never arrives, and neither does anyone elses. We all die, painfully, horrifically. The last swath of this earth falls to the flames. The world burns on for a brief moment before falling into silence.

We are done. It’s over.

Final Exposition

June 21, 2012

I step sleeplessly out into the cool, primeval, midnight air. The door shuts and buzzes shrilly behind me as the locks slam home, the noise echoing off the brick walls of the brick building across the street. The street lamps flicker and moan their dejected electric grumble, the lone guardians over empty, broken streets.

I button up my jacket and affect a calm, collected walk over the cracked concrete to my waiting car. I glance around but do not see anyone, so I stop pretending and walk normally. The machine sits there in a row with its brothers. But, for this one, I hold the magic key to the lock that says it is mine to use and abuse and destroy.

The vehicle starts up with a gasoline cough and I flip on the headlights. My purported path is illuminated through sheets of ubiquitous mesh fence, the base overgrown with tired weeds oozing up through the cracks in the carelessly-laid asphalt. The clock blinks a digital-green 1:40 AM at me. I hit reverse and pull out, then drive down to the end of the street. I idle at the intersection, looking down the empty streets and sidewalks. The buildings are dark, and the forlorn trees motionless, as if even the inanimate are exhausted of this daily struggle.

I pull into the street and roll slowly down it. The occasional flicker of a shadowed figure hurrying by in the distance tickles my peripheral vision, but when I try to focus, they have already turned the corner. The streets lie dormant and I marvel at the absence of revelry and despair. The silence is impregnated with shame, people unwilling to go out to face one another fully. Unable to face the reality of the situation before us.

I cruise through the barren city, through flashing red lights ticking away into the night, passing the rare car passing in the opposite direction. Small eyes stare at me from back-seats and I envy them. I am jealous of their safety, in their positions as passengers, not understanding, or not knowing, but trusting their drivers, the panicky ones at the wheel. I nod to them but they don’t see me, they fly by without any acknowledgement, their eyes clouded by the light and the dust and the mechanical noise of steel trains on rubber wheels.

Passing through the last intersection at the city limits, I turn on the radio. The tinny voice of the late-night radio personality announces the next song, speaking inanely over the lead-in about last-minute precautions before being muted suddenly when the first lyrics glide into the air in a hushed echoing whisper. “Fugue. State.

Prairies are all the same, vast and unfathomable beasts. I have a day full of them ahead. I breathe in shallow gasps of a rumbling night storm, the air heavy with rain and immense hidden pressure. The black night sky stretches down on every side to meet with the black earth, my existence sheathed in a cone projected from my headlights. The center-line whips by steadily, each little strip of glimmering warning-yellow combining to form a steadily increasing beat as I accelerate. I need more time.

The sun rises slowly as my car flits over the earth, the dark sky above shifting from the deepest of black navies to a deep purple to a warming red that leads into the last sunrise I will ever witness. The clouds lie passively above, limned in liquid gold. The world expands and blossoms to encompass a wide, empty expanse of fields and trees in a dull greenish-yellow. All these unnecessary locales pass me by, although I wonder about their internal dialogues, of the importance contained within each farmhouse that I will never know, of worlds alien to mine, each one home to scared, small people.

Each stop at a gas station is an angering delay, the seconds and minutes ticking by before I throw down bills on the glass counters inside. I stare at the attendants ringing up my bills, wondering why they are there, what could possibly keep them here, doing this. The last refuge of a soul with no hope and no idea of what to do now. Never mind next. Why do we even bother continuing with this charade of social behaviour? Some things remain eternal and undying. Essential.

The sun reaches it’s zenith then reaches down towards the opposite end of the dome of the earth and still I drive. I no longer pass anyone on the highways, they seem to have all settled down for the evening. The sunrise from this morning plays out in reverse, and the rain still hasn’t fallen. The sky darkens and I flip my headlights on once more, the universe dwindling into my shallow little pocket of light.

I slow down to approach the city and watch the glittering houselights emerge from behind mountain trees. I slide into the quiescent city and look at the note on my dash, checking the address with the map lying atop the debris of the day’s drive on the passenger seat. I find the street I’m looking for and take a deep, shuddering breath before easing onto it.

I stop to park the car on the street out front. 11:47 PM. I get out and stretch my sore legs, rubbing my pants down with my hands as I look around at the houses nearby. People inside, holding each other, leaning against each other, whispering secrets, some faces lit by flickering televisions, some not. I check the address and the first drops of midnight rain begin to paint the pavement black.

It lies there, dark and ominous. I can’t see the house while standing in the orange glare of the street light so I step closer, onto the grass, into the yard, suddenly feeling a shivering sense of my displacement and not-belonging. My eyes adjust and the dark house fades into grainy view through the glistening raindrops.

I see her figure nestled in a chair on the porch, still and silent. Her dark hair cascades in curled waves over her shoulders. I smile at the thought of her, the sudden overwhelming remiscence of the smell of her, the feel of her, the taste of her on my lips. I stumble over the wet grass and I try to catch her gaze, but she does not see me. I make it to the wooden steps and I look closer at her form. She does not look up at me. She sits there.

I move towards the balustrade to lean against it, but something stops me from placing my hand on it. I feel tainted and wrong. I rest my hands on my knees and bend over to exhale, looking up at her through the railing, waiting for her to say something, to move towards me, but she doesn’t. She sits and waits. I stare as the last plumes of smoke curl up from the cigarette at her fingertips wash away in the rain air. The last traces of her vanish with it, taking with it her soul, her essence, her memory.

My memories extinguish one by one, flicking into raw detail in my mind before vanishing like smoke, my life, my childhood, each second of each day suddenly flashing through my brain to etch it raw and pulsing before turning off like a switch. I remember everything and didn’t know it. And finally, the moment, the moment that brought me here, the moment I had to remember, that I had to return to. That I had to share again with her. That memory that I tried to recreate.

That same spray of light in the deepest night, illuminating the trees on each side, ours the only place in existence. The feel of her mouth on mine, the hot ticking of the car cooling down from its labour behind us, my arms around her soft, warm body, like the clicking of a key into a lock. The sound of her voice ringing pure and unhindered for the first time. Each sweet moment afterwards lost into the pleasure of each other.

And then the memory is gone, my mind blanking out in my last moments, the final seconds dragging out like a taut wire before snapping, my body falling into the soaking grass with it’s last gasp. The foretold ruin of our doomed species gnaws at the chemicals of my brain until my neurons slow down to a sluggish churn then stop abruptly. The warm summer rain falls against my blank, unfeeling face and I finally join the rest of us in our embrace of death.

The radio plays on in the car. Rain drums violently against the metal roof and from the radio, the singing spills out into the forever-after, unhearing night.

… Dark star, just an eye that’s closing…

Excerpt 1

June 19, 2012

“I’m sad. I’m the saddest woman alive.”

She looks down at her hands and continues, “I live my life dreaming of the future, but when tomorrow becomes today, tomorrow is another day.”

I nod. “Tomorrow could kill you.”

“I want to live now.” She shakes her head, “Today.”

“Then you need to be prepared to die.”

“I’m scared of tomorrow – of death.”

“So am I.”

Week 109

April 14, 2012

I wake up in the early morning next to her and lie here awake, sensing her nearness. She radiates warmth and breathes steadily. I sit up in the darkness, peering over her black form at the clock. 3:59 AM.

I slide to the edge of the bed and dangle my legs over the side. She stirs in her slumber and I pray that I don’t wake her up. I sit there hunched, listening to her breathing, before getting up quietly and padding out of the bedroom with a feeling of relief.

My bare feet pick up sand and dust from the smooth floor as I walk into the darkened kitchen. I run my palm over the soles of my feet to brush off the unpleasant grittiness. Outside the window, the streetlights hum and spew forth an unnaturally brilliant orange wash. Parked cars on the street gleam sleekly. I wonder how often people must wash their cars to keep them so immaculate.

A couple strolls by arm-in-arm on the sidewalk, laughing and talking loudly at each other. I bite back a feeling of revulsion at them, at their drunken carousing. Enjoying the good life, heading somewhere private to press their genitalia together, fait accompli. These are not my people. I feel no affinity towards them. And it bothers me.

I envy them. Their position in the world seems certain. I want to be certain like they are. But I can never be satisfied. I can’t enjoy my happiness. I can never be carefree.

I run my fingers along the counter, feeling the cool surface beneath them. I know this. I know this room. I know these objects. My mind wanders to her, sleeping in the bedroom. She is safe. I hold all the cards. I grasped at her to clutch at the escaping concept of belonging.

Two years ago I started on this path. No, I was always on this path. I did not know it at the time, but this was written in my mind from the moment I was aware of having one. I was constructed by a broken god.

The only option is to let my fate play out the way it will.

If you ever felt that you didn’t belong, that you existed in a society that abandoned you, that there had to be a place for you yet never found it, then you need to listen to what I am going to say.

I am an outsider and a prophet of the unheard.

My name is Matthew and today is my last day with her.

It’s four in the morning and I am picking up my parents to bring them to the airport.

I love driving at night when no one is around. I feel free when I see streets devoid of people. It is as though I am no longer being seen. Evaluated. I worry about what people think about me. I want to appear as though I don’t care what people think about me. How ordinary.

My parents tell me fragments of dreams they both had. My mother tells me of a dream where her boyfriend is a black singer. She says she felt like she didn’t fit in with his friends. That she heard the women around him talking about her, wondering who she was, and where she came from. My father tells me his dream of holding a tiny baby, a newborn. The baby is red and wrinkled and hairless and my father thinks that it looks like a penis. He and everyone around him are amazed when the baby starts babbling things at such a young age. The baby, suddenly aware of this new attention, becomes more vocal and grandiose.

I don’t know what to make of the dreams so I do not comment. We drive in silence, my stereo crooning quietly. I manipulate uncomfortable thoughts of phallic signifiers in my father’s dream and my mother’s dream of a new lover, an emotive man. Ordinary World comes up on my iPod and I wonder if my father can make out the faint voice of Simon LeBon.

Papers in the roadside
Tell of suffering and greed
Here today, forgot tomorrow
Ooh, here besides the news
Of holy war and holy need
Ours is just a little sorrowed talk

And I don’t cry for yesterday
There’s an ordinary world
Somehow I have to find
And as I try to make my way
To the ordinary world
I will learn to survive

I drop them off at the airport and help them load up all their huge cases on a trolley in the bitterly cold wind. I hug them both and tell them I love them.

On the sedate drive back, a memory flashes in my head, one that has been lingering at the edge of my thoughts for a few days now. It is an old memory, I would guess from when I was around 10 years old. This was a time when I was probably a bit of a bad little kid. Not following rules, staying out past my curfew, not eating my veggies, and so on. I remember this in strange detail. My mother told me about something she read in the newspaper.

“I read about a man on death row. Before he was to go into the chair, he asked to see his mother. And when he saw his mother, he asked if he could suckle at her breast as his last dying wish. When she allowed him to do so, he then savagely bit off her nipple and spit it on the floor.”

My mother then went on to tell me how she didn’t want to be that mother when I grew up. That she didn’t want to be the one who gets punished and violated by a vile son filled with hate.

I’ll never remember why she told me this story. But I’ll always remember it now. And I know that I remember it clearly, for a reason. But why?

Sometimes when you drive out into the Great Plains, you are overwhelmed by the flatness stretching interminably in every direction. Tufted remnants of crops gasp at the sky, struggling into the air from the cracked earth, drowned in stretches of wind-strewn snow. The sun perches high in a barren, brilliantly bright blue sky, throwing it’s pallid light resentfully at the earth. Any warmth is stretched out and dispersed in an atmosphere miles above, yet the air is dry and empty. The bitterness of the cold leaches all moisture out into the struggling crystals of snow lying dead and dying on the dirt. Lips stiffen and crack with each shivering inhalation.  Gazing out onto this expanse, it seems to lie almost on the brink of existence, choking in the pale sunlight. It blurs out like an image of distant space, of places so unimaginably far away that the eyes struggle to hold it and force it into reality.

Mirages reflect the pale sky on the horizon, glittering on the broken, untended asphalt, perpetually beyond reach. The occasional distant dark blur appears, leaping out of that mirror-world to roar suddenly by, passing in an instant with a growl of tires on pavement. Faces in windows focus on their own illusions gleaming so enticingly in the distance.

I stare straight ahead. I keep my hands on the wheel. I wonder.

I wonder what it is out here that scares me so much. Here where there is space to be free. To stretch out ones arms and reach, reaching as far as one can, in every direction, and still not touch another person. I should be thrilled by the idea. Because I fear people. I fear the ease with which I am damaged. At how much I crave interaction, but do not know how to welcome it on it’s own terms. I am a child, full of pride and righteousness, placing myself high on a pedestal for all to marvel. For an audience of no one except my doppelganger applauding at the base, sneering up at my vain display.

The snow glitters coldly in the waning sunlight, and when I take a deep breath, it feels like the most pristine breath a man has taken since the dawn of time. The coldest, freshest, cleanest inhalation in the universe spills into my lungs and shocks my core. The dome of the world stretches out above in the palest gradations of blues. My shadow stretches out over the earth in a long, skinny black line, the edges sharply pronounced.

Solitude. Myself and my shadow. Yet I cannot live in that place. It is my only bastion against harm, but I must be harmed. Because I can’t stand myself. All that pain is my own shadowboxing willingly concealed in the actions of others.

The dreaded realisation sinks in. That I inflict pain on myself because no one else will. No one else is paying attention.

What do I do when no one is watching?

Indoors With You

February 9, 2012

Can you not see?
Our unlikely symmetry:
Partly bad psychology
And probably temporary;
But mostly dividing me.

Isn’t it frightening?
How very enlightening
Our hyper-ventilating
And urgent love-making
Seems in pale early morning?

Diffusion and Refraction

November 30, 2011

Click to enlarge.

My father, myself, and my brother (Stephen). South Cross Lake, Whiteshell Provincial Park, Manitoba. 1987.

We would go on a several-weeks long canoeing / camping trip up into the wilderness every summer. It was a very typically Canadian thing to do.

When canoeing, the person in the rear of the canoe guides the boat. They must navigate and steer. There is something immensely satisfying about stroking your oar through calm waters and watching the twin whorls of water dance off of your paddle as you slip it out of the wet.

We had a little island we would set up camp at. I would fish but didn’t actually want to catch anything. I just liked the act of fishing. I would built my little twig and stone forts and play out the lives of their inhabitants in my imagination. I was fascinated by tiny, mysterious worlds that could be hidden in a crack of a rock, or just below the surface of the water behind a log.

My father always looks unhappy or strained in photos. This is one of the few where he seems content. He had this photograph framed in his office for 25 years before he brought it home after retirement. It is now in his home office. That makes me smile.

I have an odd relationship with my father, and I don’t quite understand it. There is a strong, obsessive drive on the Chinese side of my heritage to respect your elders. I am combative with my father and I feel like I have to prove a point with him. I feel like his opinions are so extreme that I have to balance them out with equal and opposite viewpoints, even if I don’t even believe them. He is a man of very strict principles and stricter judgements. I believe he would do what is morally right before doing what he wants, or what his family wants. I don’t trust him because of this. I never have.

I love and respect and honour my father. I wish I could be more like him.

Modern Geometry

November 28, 2011

I live in a box fort in a box building. My box car drives down box roads in a box city.

This box city lies at the end of a long highway with 12-foot standard lanes. The highway is a testament to an old and desperate stab through the frozen, wooded wastelands around us.

I take my box car out, and trundle, arrow-straight, through this gaping wound of nature before grinding to a halt. I watch the other boxes flashing by as I stand on the side of the highway. Shining eyes peer back at me through dark breathing holes.

I pour out my box drink. FD&C Yellow Number 6 stains the struggling grasses that clutch to the edge of the asphalt. I remember a different time.

When corners weren’t so sharp. When the edges blurred together. When things weren’t so certain and proud of themselves. When my fingers rejoiced at soft surfaces and felt them yield. When I did not know, and mystery laid in wait at every touch. When it didn’t matter what we had to say, but we said it anyways, and that was enough. When my mind drew circle after circle after circle yet never sought to enclose the other.

When the corners of these boxes were still fresh and far apart. Before I built them.

“It happened so slowly. Delicately and instinctively. The book just wound itself shut.”

A nod of recognition. “It all sounds very familiar.”

“The more I struggled against it, the more quickly it would close. I could not speak words fast enough.”

“We all spared the words for those within the lines, brother. Now, it is too late. Our pages will remain blank.”