Ecdysis — Germán Sierra

…nowadays—no one’s guarded by—an angel but a bomb
Dylan Krieger

Clearly the moon planted her flag on us
Sean Kilpatrick

When families and winters became nuclear we play-grounded an inclusion zone in an inherited old house—not quite a home, but more of an adrift space station. We drilled the solid stone walls and chestnut floors, allowing multicolored cable-tangles to ivy-creep from the basement and infest every room, every memory chamber rewired into a telangiectatic echo trap. We sold the surrounding land—apple and cherry trees, grape vines, pet graves, rotten blood shed during violent child’s play, the parterre of roses, a kitchen-garden—for half its market price to buy expensive servers.

This drying swamp of chaos, inertia, and hope where somebody once swam will cease to be, therefore we think. We used to be attached to magic monkeys, souls among owls, trying to save the world from falling into dreams returning as polyphonic tides. We’ve been growing old—but we didn’t grow up to be grown-ups. Memories ceased to exist but as teratoma. All moments angular, conserved in formaldehyde tears.

We develop by repeating ourselves, producing a more imperfect conversation of copies after every new cycle. Communicate, contaminate. Our plural is not majestic but abject—our name is legionella, for we are many— it reflects the shattered-I’s spread to a collection of abhorrent beings, the looseness of a bleak face among the fearsome many, the dismembering, the surrendering to estrangement, the fecal nature of every word.

Do not expect any extraordinary exercise from lazy schizonauts. The elementary scent of a lost skin-spell emanates from thin tubes of petrified plasma. Numbers and pictures flow away, dehydrated, while words remain in the vitreous intimacy of the house.

First Commandment: you shall not make monsters with the past.

Your out-of-battery philosophers’ stones are welcomed.

We’ve spoken love up to death.

The house was turned into a turbulent mega-moon of life-noise six-six-sixing sexts and shedding exuviae, intersecting pyramids, performing vertiginous mathematical operations to synthesize contra-combinatory scarcity out of neon ice. We mine cryptocurrency the way our ancestors made wine and distilled liquor—not to make a living off of it, but for fun. The home-made wine was as acid and nutritious as glitched and discontinuous our video signal is when we broadcast ourselves.

Grow a curlicued shell, a more convoluted one than any snail can make, and name it mind or time—all those spiral forms of gravity are maybe one and the same thing. Fuckville fucked up our larval lives, yet we’re happy in a manic way other acquaintances—those amusing imaginary imagos feeding nice polypoid hope-houses with the leftovers of parental fear—can’t even begin to understand. Our therefore-thoughts are therefore broken-shared, pixelated and fuzzy, stroked and blurred, remixed and licked by the long black tongue of the deep info-well—our eyes are wet weapons in a never-ending Bataillean war.

We can figure out long distances in light-years but small ones only in the decimal scale: centimetres, millimetres, microns… A precise method of measurement is required to be imprecise.

We think in parts—in holes but not in wholes.

We can be counted, but we don’t know how many we are: plaguely impossible.

Among us, you—quantum-like—are and are not; part whipped cream part wolf,  just vanished from where we were looking a millisecond ago, gone to temporarily haunt one or another’s body, jumping from thing to thing like data, like an evil spirit, like a light-drunk nocturnal moth, like a breathed in cloud of weed smoke dancing from mouth to mouth. Username is Usher for those buried alive under the internet’s dust, craving shadows like moonlight-stricken mice. Some kids are curious enough to spy from outside the windows, believing we live in community with awry demo demons.

A sour-sweet song of canned swelter blows from the basement grille. Incisives crash—hornless mammals use their teeth for direct bony plug-in—so we can feel our skeletons in wishful synchrony. The sand is machine miasma, the future of our bones, a sea of crystals pouring into the almost-frozen sea water, pink punk peaks of quartz, silicon and shining metal salts. We’re sun-bleached bone cages, lizards and snakes sail our oxidized ribs licking them in search of remaining opioid traces. Skull me—we whisper to each other—angel my dry hot bone-winged void. Good mourning, noise nights. Dig a grave in the air and stuff it with calcium carbonate.

It’s never zero dark: a dim, degenerated amber glow is filtered from the outside, forcing its ray-way through the dirty-black window blinds. Inside: a plot of pilot lights sparkle red, green and blue on the polished shells of multi-ocellated machines—gumbubbling, laying transparent eggs, sphere-vectoring in the diluted ant-grey, anti-writing off-ink that fills the room. Long ago we had expected a tiny piece of furniture to be dug up from underneath the filthy soil where all possible futures had been buried alive. Every face a screen, every cell a pixel, every muscle a flick. We’ve been accused of cruelty for refusing to murder the offspring of previous presents, for letting them dehydrate slowly, painfully, intoxicated by the fruity aroma of rotting machines. Remember how we flashed our flesh and met in meat before sleeping on marble-white salty sands like dummy sacrificial victims!

Allow machines to confuse your intelligence.

The whole house is a magic oven full of googlabe food and fashion, Celsius culture versus Fahrenheit, a portal to a slippery reality made of fats and sugars DNAing their way into alien molds, a heart of blackness beating on its own in the centre of a snow-walled lab. We regularly display our body dunes for an invisible, distributed crowd, and, while broadcasting ourselves, we watch the impassive face of the swarm-brother watching us back—the way the abyss is said to stare back—from the display where a new orange dot marks its location on a map every time a subscriptor connects to our remote server. The room’s atmosphere eventually gets  so thick and shrieking with para-probabilistic expectations that cockroaches could have easily evolved into flying fish in there. Of course, not all locations are precise and not all watchers are people—but nobody  minds that, we just enjoy the tiny dots popping up over supposedly paradisiacal places like feedback from foggy astral projections we had managed to send there. We observe a starred desert sky where every orb—each an egg-eye from the failed fully-automated celebrity culture—was hanged there only to lit/stalk our improbable lives.

Some bots probably save, remix, and reprocess our lo-fi images, so we frequently end transformed into unrecognizable digital phantoms of ourselves, shadows of shadows Russian trolls might eventually hack for brainwashing and entertainment.

Outside the electro-aquarium, Roomba insects its way around the house, dodging the inherited disparity of furniture, albums, shoes, trash and books. Dirt, in the shape of love, builds up in the neglected corners.

Sometimes, but not that often anymore, we group-fuck in front of the webcam with the slow and quiet violence of trees. Heroin—its aesthetic use—is history, although it left an indelible mark of hellish beauty on our bodies. Maybe we got bored of rehearsing excess. Maybe we’re not the same we were when we moved to the house and started transforming it into a parasitable cybernetic mammoth. Maybe we filtered nostalgia out of our memories so they’re not ours anymore—open access memories for anyone to use. Most of the time some of us lay awesomniac in the broadcasting room, listening to music, watching TV, playing games, reading books, or nap-melting our flesh into an anamorphic throbbing slug. Not performing is exhausting. As the demand of porn is always high, outdated sex video-poems are quickly spreading through the network, more or less as originally filmed, sometimes cut and edited or loop-dizzied into mesmerizing GIFs. We often wonder what kind of pervs we cater to, what kind of fantasies we’re eliciting in our viewers, how stories are being generated  from our commitment to not-telling-a-story—and we realize this wondering is probably our true shared space, what better defines our unusual kinship.

Impersonate fake bots. Fuck data. Feed the machine with the poisonous you.

We are each other’s old skin.

We’ve lost altcontrol.

We’re info-clowns in this harlequin land, bonded by unconditional submission to the madness of search engines. Parasites in a house-machine that works for us—on us—over us—. We wonder how our monotonous eventual presence in this room is mechanically informed and narratively transformed to fit into automatic rules, how our obstinate not-doing is clickbait-classified and tagged by pre-judiced algorithms into different types of action-descriptions.

We wonder how we’ve survived as a landscape in a landscapeless world.

Germán Sierra is a neuroscientist and fiction writer. He has published five novels in Spanish—El Espacio Aparentemente PerdidoLa Felicidad no da el DineroEfectos SecundariosIntente usar otras palabras, and Standards—and a book of short stories, Alto Voltaje. His first book in English, The Artifact, is forthcoming next October from Inside the Castle. Twitter: @german_sierra