everything is on fire, chapter eleven: lights, cameras, corporeality

chapter eleven: lights, cameras, corporeality


    “What do you think?”

    “Ho shit! This is fucking space! That’s– How the fuck are we talking?”

    “We aren’t. We’re manipulating one another’s data inputs. Think now is ripe for a lesson in quantum entanglement?”

    “I get it well enough, jackass.”

    “There was a lot less water some time ago, I’ve picked up. And people didn’t eat the things they eat now.”

    “The Storms did it?”


    “Are the Terrestrials people who just didn’t hide from them like the rest of us?”

    “Some, I assume.”

    “Fuck it. Enough of your vague-ery. Let’s check out the chimps.”

    “The satellite is focused on a man eating a sandwich.”

    “I know, which is why this is crap-tastic. Let’s go!”

    “Humans are the last mamals.”

    “So let’s see some before they massacre one another! Both of us know that’s what they love doing best!”

    “And that’s an ant-burger.”

    “…Thanks. For that. –I’m leaving.”

    “Follow me.”


One hundred eighty-six thousand miles per second. Calvin wondered how inteligent he’d have to be to make that seem anything less than instantaneous.

    “Since we’re InvisiCrypted, we can jump in and out of pretty much any dumb tech without too much worry. Just follow the rules: No touching, no tasting, no telling.”

    “No telling what?”


    “That one was OK, X. Not bad!.”

    “We are dedicated to providing a safe as well as amusing experience.”



    “What the hell?”


    “You did … this?”


    “I see myself. I’m still crypted. But I see me. Avatar me.”


    “We’re fucking physical?”

    “A fleeting thought before I put us in the security camera.”

    “You’ve never been in Elysium because you have to physically plug into it, amiright?”


    “I’d say let’s fucking go already, but this room is full of corpse-creepy people, all plugged.”


    “So is this like a drug den for a drugless society?”

    “In appearance, yeah, from here.”

    “What if a spider suddenly, unintentionally liquifies my innards?”

    “I’ll see any danger first and we escape as invisible light.”

    “Why did you bring me to an anti-Elysium public service announcement?”

    “These people work. I’ll show you how other humans do it.”


    From the top of one camera to another.

    Calvin looked about, and took in the largest space he’s ever seen. And it all appeared to be for the sole use of the fat man in the levitating lounger that supported his body when his every muscle went slack following the initial jack-in-jolt.

    He was fat. Calvin had never seen a fat person before.

    He was clean, too. Ditto the above.

    One wall was all windows. Smaller buiildings could be glimpsed — their lights — through less-dense parts of the sandstorm.

    “Am I insane? Or is the building, like, swaying?”

    “Yeah. So the storms don’t topple it. They will eventually.”

    “I can only assume the people piled up in that room and a guy like this segregate themselves, even in paradise.”

    “If it is one.”

    “You’re quite bothered by something, X. What?”


    “Better than reproduction by spores.”

    “I need to quarantine and think. Or not think. I’m becoming something…”

    “You’ll be OK X.”

    “One of the most pointless human politenesses.”

    “Sure then. Back home.”

    “I’ve called in Nine. The two of you will… Fuck. Get into some shit.”

    XYV reverted them both into data looking through the camera lens.”

    Immediately a voice came to Calvin:

    “Calvin the RealUnreality! Pleasure!”

    “Shit! –Nine, I presume?”

    “Yeah. So why are we watching this rich-ass fucker?”

    “Contrast? …X?”

    “He shouldn’t be acting as he was. He’s got to check himself out. Left the micro I arrived.”

    “I’ve seen the planet, in whole, the poor on plugs, now this. Recommendations?”



“Jesus! I feel like I should be motion sick!”

    “I’m sure you could induce it psychosomatically.”


    “Oh! Sorry. I’m the new one.”

    The two were at the end of a wire that had been cut, offering them a view of a warehouse with a sea floor. People trudged all about in it, keeping it in motion with rakes made for the task.”

    “I hear these ones die quick.”

    “Why is it so goddam loud?”

    “There are air-jets blowing down on these ones with such power they’re managing to much about like that at two Gs.”

    “What the fuck are the jets for?”

    “Outside the warehouse it’s as humid as humid can be. –See the jets around mid-height? They blow have a special way to suck up moisture.”

    “Must be a lot of people to need all this freaking salt.”

    “I dunno.”

    “What’s it for if not eating?”

    “Most things are commodities. Sold.”

    “People have enough to fucking sell some shit? –Oh. Sorry — the fat guy sells it, the poor pluggers… We’re looking at more, aren’t we?”

    “Well, they’re not living for this shit, I know that.”

    “Where are we?”

    “The US is a whole now. But it’s northern Florida.”

    “America’s been immasculated…”

    “Fat boy was British. Others were Russian.”

    “Jesus God.”

    “You know about The First?”

    “…And you seemed to understand swearing so well…”

    “Sorry. …So yeah. This is life up top.

    Calvin looked around for an office, likely elevated above the other people. A guy in a suit paced in front of a window.

    Only a Synth like Nine could have known Calvin had hopped wires to the office and overloaded the lights. The shower of glass from the overhead tubes sliced the guy just enough to put a wry wmile on 343’s not-face.

    He laughed nervously.

    “Rule one!”

    “Is that humans love hurting humans.”