No one coddled the workers quite like Eichmann
up against the darts board
It was a faint blip on the engrams now, but EK vaguely remembered Scientist 3, 1 and 2 talking about Fo Tan once, saying it was a place locals used to shoot everyman porn, but when he checked the map outside the MTR all he saw was industrial units.
Picking one near the edge of the slope leading up to the mansions of the infamous spectral tycoons, EK walked past the security uncle without hassle and took the stairs to the 16th floor. There were twelve units along one corridor, lots of crates and tubing lying around outside, and two of the doors were open.
One was Redder Rum Post-Future Gallery, which shut at 9pm, and the other was YAK DESIGN LTD.
EK tried the gallery first, looking for sockets and places to conceal himself, but there was nothing concrete, only a few loose cushions and a green “winners” podium placed in the centre of the room. A tall, foreign woman, possibly Kenyan, stood by the far wall, back turned, touching the edges of a painting. By her feet, a laptop with a cable running behind a taped-up box…wah, a socket. Had to be. And the woman still hadn’t noticed him.
Creeping up behind the woman, EK positioned his hands an inch away from both sides of her neck and initiated ‘twist’ mode…but, as soon as he rehearsed the killing, a shock of green hit, lighting up his forehead and forcing his arms back down to the side.
The faint ‘grah’ sound EK emitted got the woman’s attention and, when she realised how close he was, instinct threw out a claw.
EK dodged, thanks to his LIV-LET reflexes, and took five steps back, almost tripping over the ‘third place’ block of the podium.
‘Waaa…’ said the woman, dropping the claw and quickly reclaiming it.
‘Sorry, I walk very quietly.’
‘I don’t intend to hurt you.’
The woman said something in an unrecognised language a few times, possibly fuck, then hurried over and half-offered a hand.
‘Are you okay?’
‘I did not fall.’
‘You startled me, coming in like that…’
‘That was unintended.’
‘…but it’s my fault too…’
‘…I left the door open and had my back turned.’
‘Just…try to make louder footstep sounds next time.’
The claw in her hand wasn’t a weapon as EK had suspected, it was actually some kind of artisan tool, and she returned to the canvas with it.
‘Is this painting yours?’ EK asked, delaying his real questions.
‘Mine? No, no…my brain is far too banal for this kind of…’
‘Would you say it is creative?’
‘…work. Creative? Yes. Very. It’s one of our most popular pieces.’
EK nodded, checked the room was still empty then took another look at the painting. It was nine circles of different sizes with a blue line running through all of them. The meaning appeared clear: poverty is an ongoing project. No point studying further. Screenplays were the focus. The betterment of LIFE SHIP.
‘How did you find us?’ asked the woman.
‘I was looking for YAK DESIGN and I saw you. Do you know what time YAK DESIGN closes?’
‘The next door place? I’m not sure.’
‘You can stay here a while if you want…we don’t get many visitors.’
‘Err…a handful a day.’
‘Are you Kenyan?’
‘Finnish. My parents are Kenyan.’
‘I’ve never been assigned to Kenya before.’
‘That’s too bad.’
‘Within Africa, only Somalia and Egypt. And I was supposed to go to Algeria next month but it was cancelled.’
‘You’re well-travelled…must have many stories.’
‘Especially Somalia…hey, your foot…’ She bent down, putting the laptop on the box. ‘Sorry. It was about to step on my work…’
‘I didn’t notice.’
‘My fault. I should’ve cleaned up a bit before.’
EK tilted his head right, following the laptop cable back to the predicted socket. ‘Do you know any Arabic?’
‘Could you attempt an Arabic accent?’
‘Hm, strange question.’
‘It’s for my friend’s research. He’s trying to find out how clear certain accents are. It’s important work.’ EK looked back at the open door. There were no noises from the corridor. No surprise late visitors. ‘Can you repeat this sentence in an Arabic accent?’
‘It is the opinion of the Algerian Government that all natural resources should first and foremost be used to benefit the Algerian people.’
The woman tried the first few words then stopped, examined EK’s emotionless mask and laughed. ‘I can’t…’
‘It’s okay, I’ve heard enough. Your accent is inauthentic.’
‘Maybe you can give me a better example?’
‘I should go.’
‘You haven’t checked out all our art yet.’
‘Wait.’ EK walked to the exit, popped his head round the corner into YAK DESIGN, saw a shirtless man staring at plank of wood, evaluated his Algerian potential and frowned. He turned back into the gallery and said, ‘I will stay.’
‘Great. To be honest, it gets quite boring here, especially around evening time. Do you want tea or coffee?’
‘I don’t drink.’
‘I also don’t drink water. It is degrading.’
‘Err…I don’t have anything else.’
‘It’s okay. I will look at your art and ask you more questions.’
‘About Arabic accents?’
‘No, that is impossible.’
The woman smirked. ‘It’s good to be encouraged…’
EK stayed near the door, keeping an eye on YAK DESIGN. It was 8:15 now, so all he had to do was wait for the shirtless man to go to the toilet then sneak in and hide himself behind some of the loose wood. If the man didn’t go to the toilet…
‘What do you think of the hanging art?’
EK turned, blinking. ‘What was your question?’
‘The hanging art…the chain of red hands…’
EK looked up and saw what she was referring to. Seven red hands connected to each other by one vein. Meaning: Humans absorb capitalism.
‘…most people don’t spot it at first…even though it’s bright vermilion…probably the green podium getting in the way…’
‘It’s quite bold.’
‘I prefer screenplays. In fact, I’m writing one now. It’s called LIFE SHIP.’
‘What’s it about?’
‘Narratively, a Nazi ship that kills people. Thematically, I don’t know. Theme is difficult for me. Creativity too. In truth, I don’t know what I am doing. Perhaps you can help.’
‘I’m just a curator…’
‘What is the best way to write something creative?’
There was noise from next door, a sliding gate, loud Cantonese, footsteps. EK peeked round the door and saw that YAK DESIGN was shut for the day.
‘Well…from what I’ve read…there’s drugs…by that I mean dropping acid and sitting still somewhere, possibly a bench…not sure how effective it is.’
EK turned back and nodded, repeating ‘acid.’
‘Then there’s the connection to mental conditions…the idea that you create out of depression or insanity…I believe that’s been debunked though. Pretty sure. What else?’
‘I can’t feel depressed.’
‘Psycho-geography…going to random places and picking out small details. Restructuring your environment. I think the reasoning behind it is…your routine limits you…so you need to abandon routine…which is quite hard for humans. Danger too…that’s similar…put yourself in some kind of danger…not sure if that’s creativity-inducing or just something people like to read about cos it’s not physically them…but they want to experience it…’
‘I don’t know if I can experience danger.’
‘I was shot at earlier today. And my leg has been blown off before.’
‘Shot at? Your leg?’
‘It was annoying to carry it back to Manizales, but apart from that it was quite routine. Grenade. Leg. Repair. I don’t think it has much to do with creativity.’
‘That really happened?’
‘Unless it wasn’t true danger.’
‘It sounds terrifying.’
‘Maybe. I don’t know.’
‘Like a war story. Have you thought about doing one of those?’
‘To write it?’
‘They would switch me off.’
‘It’s better not to talk about this.’
‘Someone would switch you off?’
‘Right. Okay.’ The woman looked at EK’s face, possibly noticing the ash-grey aesthetic for the first time, then switched quickly to her mug. ‘Well…the only other thing I can think of creativity-wise…is confluence theory.’
‘Confluence of events?’
‘Kind of. Like, if you’re looking to write a novel about…I don’t know…Mars, then you should do three or four activities that are completely unrelated…for example, go to an exhibition…or watch a film about the Russian Revolution…learn a language…then, when you get round to writing, it’ll all connect together in some odd way and your story will be…creative…different.’
‘This is good.’
‘I will try all of them. Except danger.’
The woman drank some of her tea and looked up at the hanging art. ‘Maybe I can ask Tariq when he comes in this weekend. He might have better answers.’
‘I must go now. Thank you for your help…curator.’
‘EK. Is that Greek?
‘I don’t know.’
‘Or Iranian maybe.’
‘I really must go now.’
‘Come again…if you ever have time.’
EK stopped at the door, his circuits releasing a strange charge, making his arms relaxed and not quite as cold as usual.
‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m relieved…I think.’
Maneka smiled. ‘To be leaving?’
‘That you were poor at an Arabic accent.’
drop outta warp
put Nog in the salt box
The lock of YAK DESIGN wasn’t complex, but it would be visibly broken when the owner came back in the morning, so EK went down the corridor and waited in the stairwell, trying to come up with a new plan.
After forty minutes, Maneka closed up the gallery and left.
EK waited until the elevator doors touched then walked back down the corridor and examined the lock. It was about as weak as its neighbour, but the same problem remained.
How to deal with it?
EK stood rock-still and thought. Or computed. He did that for over an hour then deserted the lock problem and returned to LIFE SHIP. How to make it better? Take drugs and type. No money to get the drugs. Which drugs? Maybe write something else. A confessional. The killings I’ve done. But there’s nothing interesting in that. It’s a job. Mundane. A banker doesn’t write about opening a bank account. Confluence Theory. Using what activities? Stop. Don’t think, just type. Don’t compute. Think or compute. Compute. I’m a machine. Made by a machine. But that machine doesn’t know its maker, I do. Therefore I’m mundane. Mundane as the programming. There is no thinking. I don’t feel scared of anything. I don’t worry. No. I worry about LIFE SHIP. Being creative. Is this worry? I don’t know. I say that a lot. EK-BOTs shouldn’t say I don’t know so much. Am I malfunctioning? Is that why I escaped? Scientist 4 said LIFE SHIP was shit. My circuits told me to hit him with a stool. Is that thought? How would I ever be able to-…
EK’s stream of computing was broken by an internal beeping sound, warning him that his battery was dangerously low.
EK gripped the lock of YAK DESIGN, crushed it and slid open the gate.
There were plenty of sockets to choose from inside, so he plugged into one next to a wooden chair and, before switching to sleep mode, calculated.
6 hours recharge.
3 hours to finish LIFE SHIP.
10 minutes to sign up to WordPress and publish.
Lay out feminism
on a submarine
Back in the Science Park, on the roof of the lab, Scientist 4 smoked his seventh cigarette in a row and tried to make sense of the story he’d just downloaded from spunkdaughter.wordpress.com.
Serfidious Weyoun glides over firmaments of content, magic box, magic in the rabbit-hole, magic outside of Vietnam. Check Off sings but will not act. Audio bought tissues, candid blinker.
Whatever it was, it was different.
EK could never make something like this. He wished it could, wished it with the four levels of consciousness he was cognisant of, but deep, deep down he knew it couldn’t.
You wouldn’t ask a dog to make a watch-tower, as his grandma used to say.
But he had.
He’d asked an EK-BOT to morph into James Joyce, and now he was probably gonna end up in Greenland, designing new shapes of fake ice while the others…those cautious motherfuckers…started on the Jupiter project.
He threw the cigarette over the railing, imagining it as a neutron bomb dropping onto Scientist 1’s head.
There had to be a way out of this, he thought as he headed back inside. A way that didn’t end in Greenland.
[ONE MORE PART TO GO]