[Void Galaxia] Chapter 45: Waste Of The Witch

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It took about ten minutes to find Lexi hiding out near the fringes of Kip’s garden, and another ten minutes to convince her not to hitchhike back to Fresno.

My main argument: you’re not thinking rationally right now.

The argument in my head: you might get kidnapped by another Reagan fanatic.

Obviously, she didn’t agree – my boss keeps trying to eat people’s brains, is it rational to stick around? – but something in her brain, possibly a Nick Stahl-influenced neuron, carried her back to the car, and as soon as we were in the back seat, away from all the lunacy, she put her head on my shoulder and said, ‘better when it’s just us.’

‘Yeah, quieter.’

‘No weirdos getting in the way.’

I stroked down the side of her face, stopping at the shoulder. There were no sounds from the party in the housse, by the pool, no sounds from the overgrown Bonsai trees to the side. If I’d closed my eyes, we could’ve been anywhere.

Naturally, the silence was short-lived.

The door on the passenger side opened…then slammed shut. After several muffled shouts in Spanish, probably insults, it opened again, with Juana being pushed down onto the seat, the top of her Moon Factory Ø hoodie awkwardly scrunched up on one side of her head.

‘Lexi…’ she started, turning to the back seat, but was interrupted by the click of the driver’s door, and then Nick barking Herzog-like to wipe the fucking blood off her chin. Then softening instantly…to a jarring degree…and adding, ‘in case it drops on the upholstery.’

‘It’s all done?’ I asked, not really sure what done meant in this context.

‘Some on your hood too,’ he said, reaching over to Juana and scrubbing it off himself.

‘Head spurted…’ the Mexican replied, glaring at his wrist.

‘Hmm. Kip is an unorthodox guy. Don’t worry, I’ll get you a new hoodie back at my place. Give you a proper bath too.’

‘Is it all taken care of?’ I tried again, leaning forward onto the shoulder of Nick’s seat.

‘We’re getting to that, Keni, relax.’ He steered the car through the gates [clipping the side of one of them] and out onto the racing circuit road, its dark blue light and tree combo oddly comforting. ‘Yes, in answer to your pedantry, everything has been taken care of. Kip is resting after a serious fall. The head wound is not as bad as first thought. No need for medical attention tonight.’

‘Won’t someone come up and find him, see all that blood?’

‘Already fixed.’

‘Huh?’

‘Witnesses, dude. Got three of them to corroborate the fall story. Another two to feel guilty about not stopping it.’

‘They really believe he fell?’

‘Of course, saw it with their own eyes. Fuck, this road is pretty at night. Look at this turn coming up, the oval window gap between the trees…’

Out of toy soldier habit, I followed his command and looked across at the lake view. The alien was right, it was pretty. You could see the DINER caffé and VR plaza as block silhouettes on the other side of the shore, singled out by their green neon glow. Alluring. Monopolistic. Exact same place Lexi had got abducted from ten hours earlier.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 44: Baudrillardian Group Fun Time

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A full loop of the lake was a must, according to Nick, in order to fully appreciate the difference between daytime Arrowhead and nightscape Arrowhead, though the only real change I could see was the weird roadside lighting system – dark blue strips attached to promo-boards every ten metres or so – which, in effect, made it seem like the whole place was a closed-off racing circuit.

Somehow, I’d ended up squeezed in the back with Juana, head against the side window, arm at a right angle in case she tried anything.

Luckily, the Mexican cannibal was pretty lax for most of the first loop, though when we passed the turn off track for the Reagan Cult Hangout, she put her nose against the glass and asked what the [something Spanish] that was all about.

‘Wacky memories for Lexi down there,’ replied Nick, accelerating another 10km. ‘Best not to dig too deep.’

‘Wacky? asked Lexi, frowning.

‘In a Debordian sense. Bathtub you were in, the dim lighting, blonde wig…all spectacle, no real violence inherent in any of it.’

‘Are we stopping somewhere soon?’ I asked, leaning in between the two front seats.

‘Wah, I thought you were asleep.’

‘That diner caffé maybe?’

‘Startled me. Nah, not in the same day. Too desperate. Besides, I’ve got somewhere better in mind. Over on the other side of the lake.’

I checked past Lexi’s shoulder, catching a flash cut of another blue light strip. ‘You mean we’ve already been past it?’

‘Don’t get bolshie, Keni-cat,’ spat Nick, half-throwing an elbow back, clipping the back of his own seat. ‘I said we needed to do a full loop first and now we have. Next stop, the Barn.’

‘Is that a restaurrant?’

‘At the front, yeah. Barr and MMA out back. Mostly ex-filmn stars waddling around drunk, but now and then they cast some voodoo…reel in a couple of semi-pros.’

I glanced at Lexi, who was staring left at the moon-sheened lake, rubbing her temple again.

‘You want me to massage you?’

‘Yes.’

‘Wah, quick answer.’

‘At the back, hard.’

I put my hands on top of her skull and slowly made my way lower down. After a minute, her own hands dropped and she started making ‘ahhhh’ sounds.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 43: Trauma That Just Wisps Away

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No warning sign in the swimming pool, and in she dropped.

Half a minute later, the yellow floating bots appeared.

Trying to drag her under.

I knew the episode well, must’ve watched it at least fifteen times, yet I was still fixed meerkat-like to the screen as Lexi nudged my arm and asked, ‘what happened earlier?’

‘Today?’

She nodded. ‘Feels blurred.’

I adjusted position, almost giving in to the idea of crossing my legs.

Nick had told me that, post-readjustment, she would be able to accept the truth without traumatic association, but I wasn’t convinced that any human could do that, especially after only two hours, so I went with my own, slightly tamer version.

‘Well, you walked into town, which was quite far. You checked out the VR plaza. Then you drove to a local tourist spot…with a photographer you met…and did some weird poses. Artistic poses. In a bathtub.’

She looked at the towel around her neck, feeling its texture like it was a stranger’s skin.

‘Then the photographer guy left…and we all came back here for relaxation and GENTE+.

‘Where is here?’

‘You don’t remember?’

She paused, searching the walls of Nick’s living room for an ownership plaque or giant envelope with the address on it.

‘This is Nick Stahl’s housse,’ I continued, for some reason gesturing at a vaguely Celtic-looking decoration nearby. ‘He’s a friend of mine.’

‘The movie guy?’

‘Before, yeah. I don’t know if he’s done anything recently.’ I frowned at the Mega Man cushion behind her, picturing the blue-skinned guy in the bucket upstairs. ‘He invited me to come here and…you decided to tag along.’

‘I can’t remember.’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 42: Reagan Cult Hangout

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If I’d been expecting a high-speed chase around the loop road of Lake Arrowhead [and half of me was], then I was quickly put in check. Not only did Nick’s Lego car lack mass and horsepower, but the engine seemed to be on the verge of exploding whenever it crept over seventy. And the road itself was practically deserted. Just the occasional car going the other way, towards the town centre, and one vacant-looking elderly man watching his dog take a shit beside a Pluto 2280 promo.

‘They’re not even in sight,’ I moaned, essentially planting my face against the windscreen. ‘Can’t you go any faster?’

‘Speed limit’s fifty, dude.’

‘So? It’s already on sixty-five, and they’re miles ahead of us. They must be…unless they turned off on one of these side roads.’

‘Impossible.’

‘Or changed to another car. Or bike. Or speedboat.’

‘Even more impossible.’

‘Okay, maybe the last two…but there’s been about twenty side roads already, they could’ve easily taken one of them.’

Nick made spluttering sounds, possibly laughter.

‘What, they couldn’t?’

‘Come on, this is my neighbourhood, dude. I know this place like the back of a human hand. All these little turn offs you’re seeing, they lead to one single housse, sometimes a grove…and all the ones we’ve passed so far have been pretty good friends of mine. Definitely not the types to pick up a random girl from outside the local VR plaza.’

‘You know all of them, from all those side roads?’

‘Names and character flaws. See, that lane we just passed, part of Morris Chestnut’s estate. This one up ahead, that goes to Karen Fukuhara’s housse. Ah, she’s quite funny, one of my favourites actually…like, there’s this huge artificial lake in her garden, all these robotic piranhas swimming around…and every time she has new guests round, she’ll wobble near the edge of the lake, act panicked and, boom, just fall in…then, when she’s under, she’ll send these cheap, little blood packets back up to the surface, pricking them so they leak out. If she’s feeling really dark, she’ll skip her own drop and push a guest in instead. Did it to me once, right after I said her nose looked weird.’

‘Can we focus on the other car?’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 41: The Lake Arrowhead Experience

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      Fifty-four years ago, in a Ljubljana barr…

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      ‘So fucking tired of all this cowshit, comrade. Nobody listens to philosophers anymore. Nobody cares about cultural theory or Hegel or Bōl or Kapok or anything. Why do we bother? I could’ve been an architect. Could’ve redesigned this whole pocket city, but no, no, I chose the insanity path. Cultural theory. Who beyond Allah has time for that? Ah, I know, I know, English graduates, reams of them. Infinite chutes pumping them straight out into my seminars. Honest talk, comrade, you have no idea how small the philosophy circle truly is…no idea how wankish it is. How chok. Sorry, Cantonese word, my fault.’

      The comrade took a sip of his cranberry juice and told Žižek not to worry, there were always ways to become relevant.

       ‘Yes, I know. I could go on TV, say something provocative. Get my dick out and-…’

       ‘No, not that.’

      ‘What then?’

       The comrade smiled. ‘Movies.’

       ‘Huh? Make movies?’

      ‘No, talk about them. Write about them. The proles watch movies, you analyse them through a theoretical lens, there’s your relevance.’

      Žižek stroked his chin and nodded.

      ‘Also,’ added the comrade, staring at Žižek’s chin. ‘Grow a beard. A giant one.’

‘Hmm.’

‘And spit more.’

‘Eh?’

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      One year later, after taking a stab at Die Hard and the comfort of crisis, Žižek broke out of the small [wankish] circle of philosophy and became an international luminary.

       In the same barr, with a bear-like beard, he told his old comrade he was a genius.

      ‘It was a simple idea, really,’ replied the comrade, stirring his cranberry juice. ‘I’m just glad I could help.’

      ‘No, not you…me. It was my idea if you recall.’

      ‘Fairly certain it wasn’t.’

      ‘What, do you not remember? You said, movie reviews are interesting, then I said, ja, why don’t I analyse movies? And then you said, ja, it could be a good idea.’

      ‘I remember it quite differently.’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 40: Nostalgia In A Bucket

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‘…after the double strike of Post Office and Dead Bitch On Pluto, an ageing Stahl abandoned LA and moved out permanently to the Ray Chandler lakes, lighting a match on his career comeback just as it was about to fizzle out anyway.

In the years since, there have been sightings, rumours and little else. E-mails are sent and not replied to. Phone calls are unanswered. Agents have even gone so far as to visit his new housse, but are always left sweating on the doorstep, waiting on a disheveled mess that never materialises.

Some people say he’s taking a rest. Others claim, more realistically considering the history of H-wood, that he’s had a nervous breakdown. Stephanie Clattenburg, his close friend and former director, believes he’s just sitting at home, learning French, watching old episodes of Stargate.

It might be true.

After all, actors are rich enough to do that and nothing else, and Stahl did miss his entire childhood.

But, for most of the movie industry, the question still remains: just what the Bōlian hell has happened to Nick Stahl?’

The star that extinguished itself, Ho-Watch online, August, 2035

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Things were cold yet comfortable on the ski lift, though Lexi was only covered by her Tenebrae t-shirt

and I was in shorts

but it was better than Juana, who was still crawling up the slope

in that yellow jumpsuit

and every time we tried to shout encouragement down at her

Ryu would pop up on the second tier of the lift and tell us to stop cos

‘it’s only real help if you get off and carry her

and neither of you is that good.’

He was right.

so right that as soon as he said it, I was off the lift and on the slope

crawling next to the Mexican psychopath

and when I told her to get on my back, she laughed

held up a spoon and

dug it deep into my calf and

Lexi

Lexi help, she’s

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The Unending Case Of Lenin’s Sincerity

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Chapter 1: Sorry He’s Out

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Flaps of neck

armed in retrograde

no sign of up or down

spa-less for months, years

piled into the sitting room of a fogged-up Baker Street, demanding an audience with the great funeral-eyed detective Sherlock Holmes.

‘Sorry, he’s out.’

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Chapter 2: A Catalogue Of Doubts

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Five historians, four anarchists, twelve fascists and seven randos on the brink of Sorel sat on the stained pine floor, dodging pot-shots, stroking Watson, trying with alacrity to present to Sherlock Holmes their litany of evidence.

Banned other parties

stopped visiting factories

went bald

eyeballed Bukharin

shat on Red Star

refused to eat out Fanny Caplan [before and after]

obsessed with tomorrows

speaks to wife

sent Stalin to Perm

ovulates

but the most cunning part, Mr. Holmes

if you’re listening

is the ratio

four days authoritarian, three days hippie

four being more than three and therefore cementing things.

[SHOTS HEARD OUTSIDE, ORPHAN TROUBLE]

‘What say you, Sir, can you assist?’

Holmes scratched at his violin

‘Put a bullet in his brain,’ said the fascists.

pulled out the syringe and cocaine

‘Expose his two-facedness,’ said the anarchists.

shot up

‘For the future of us all.’

and void.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 39: Artificially Psychotic

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V

on the back of a neck, license plate

scalp off

spoon dipped in and

suplex yellow eyes

sub-neon

no sign of struggle or

Tenebrae shirt

on the floor

it’s okay, I’ve got the meds

don’t stop

stay

here with me short-term

Nightmare Castle

absorb Portuguese juntos

you can be my

Adjani screams collapsed in on the words.

Lights at the screen ahead. Blue dress woman bleeding milk and blood from all orifices. In a Metro with zero commuters, zero life, zero

Wait, I know this.

This filmn.

Isabella Adjani and the-

My eyes adjusted.

I did a full circle with my head, taking in the wine glasses on the floor, the non-moving fan on the ceiling, the projection screen putting out Possession.

Kuso, it wasn’t a dream, this was-

A sleeve appeared from my left, pulling me back down.

‘Lexi…’ I said, checking the doorway behind and almost falling off the couch when I saw the Mexican cannibal poet leaning against the frame, eyes glaring yellow.

‘Are you awake?’ she asked, in the strangest tone.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 38: Milk On The Metro Walls

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Lexi opened one eye and mouthed foda at the box with MACA stamped on the side.

Warehousse?

Corridor floor?

Planet MACA??

It took a second eye to confirm that she wasn’t in any of those places, and then a quick backward scan to understand that Mark was tucked in behind, hand on her stomach, dick resting flaccid against the back of her thigh.

Ah, the store room.

Sofa bed.

She pushed off her share of the covers and sat up, looking at the door to the left. Then down at the floor, where their clothes were.

The connecting memory brought with it a sharp jab, forcing her hands up to both temples, grinding into the bone pocket.

Images of Mark on top of her screened inside.

Then her on top of him.

Swaying back and forth.

Hair clutching.

Inane dialogue.

‘Like that.’

‘I can see it going in.’

‘Where are the tissues?’

‘You should stay longer, move in with me.’

‘Is this sofa clean?’

‘What’s that mark on your knee?’

‘Foda foda foda foda foda…’

She reached down for her loyal Tenebrae t-shirt and put it on, then looked back at her new Japanese-Scouse lover. Boyfriend. Temporary sex partner. Ship in the shortest of nights.

Something in her brain told her it wasn’t right.

This isn’t really him.

This isn’t really you.

And she tried to push it away, throw it off a cliff, drown it in the sea, but it was insistent and when she pictured again the scenes from the night before, it wasn’t her playing the female role, it was someone else, someone with the same dark skin, a Brazilian model, speaking fluent Japanese, fluent Portuguese, fluent Slovene, fluent…

‘You getting up?’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 37: Grape Valentine

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Nas ultimas duas semanas, eu tenho lido sobre Carl Jung e sua teoria do inconsciente…’

Lexi followed the line with the tip of her pen, eyes narrowed, the rest of the video caffé a Man Ray haze.

‘In the last two weeks,’ she said quietly, ‘I have…lido…seen about Carl Jung and his theory of the incon-…unconscious.’

Putting pen to lips, she revised her translation.

Lido…lee-do…

Was that seen or read? Logically, it had to be one of them…you wouldn’t do anything else to a theory of someone except read or see it…or trash it…would you?

‘I think that guy wants a coffee,’ said Mark, from the other end of the counter.

‘What?’

‘You want me to serve him?’

Lexi put the pen down and looked over at the only booth with a live, human shape. Foda. One of the art students, a regular, in a green beanie that was seemingly glued to his head.

‘I’ll do it.’

She picked up the pad [and pen again], and went over. As usual, the guy ordered a caramel latte with zero sugar and then coughed, muito artificial, before asking if she’d ever tried the VR plaza across the road.

‘Once or twice.’

‘They have Pluto 2280 now…probably gonna give it a shot later, if you wanna co-op?’

‘Is that the sci-fi game?’

‘Yeah, sequel to Pluto 2270. Muito légal, muito hype. Heard they’ve jazzed it up a bit too…more missions, more crisis events. Huge-ass servers.’

Lexi flinched at the Portuguese then glanced over at Mark, who looked, for a brief moment, like a rabbit in a fox-run pool hall, before blinking himself out and scurrying back to his phone.

Okay, so he’s still looking, she thought, turning back to the customer. Even if he’s barely said a word to me all morning.

‘Sorry, I’m not really a big sci-fi person,’ she replied, adding the same sympathetic smile she used on the elderly.

‘Yeah, me neither. Just the newness factor mostly.’ He nodded to himself and looked left, at one of the GRAPE FEST stickers Juana had stamped on the table. ‘How about this grape thing? Any interest?’

‘Only if I’m cultivating a migraine…’

He tilted his head, eyes squinting at her neck as if that had the answer.

‘I mean, I’m not good with large crowds.’

‘Oh.’

Lexi tapped the pad with her pen and said, ‘caramel latte, coming up,’ then made her way back to her side of the counter. Surprisingly, Mark was there, sitting on the stool next to hers, going over her Portuguese notes.

‘Think I can actually read some of this…’

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