[Void Galaxia] Chapter 10: Why Did You Play In Hell?

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Surprising even my own subconscious or Other-Scape or whatever the philosophical term was, I woke up at nine the next morning

      dozed a bit

      imagined forest sex with Asami, an army of purple eyeballs watching from the canopy, a spiraling vortex to cartoon Pluto

      then finally rolled off the bed around eleven.

      My head was still fuzzy from getting a patchy amount of sleep, but I remembered very clearly the thing hovering outside the window. And the paralysis that came with it. Hoping it was just a variation on immersion haze, I went online and searched shadow creature with purple eyes that floats outside windows. No results except 18+ fan fiction. Okay, immersion haze then. Good.

      The VR server made a beeping noise, winning my attention.

      Right, time to play that ridiculous-…

      I blinked several times before the message on the screen sank in.

      Installation Failed. Try Again?

      Again?

      And stare out the window for another four hours?

      Kasu…

      I reached over and removed the game.

      What I had to do was go back to Yosh and see if this really was Pluto 2280. My gut said he’d given me a knock-off by mistake, an ambush rip-off from a smaller developer maybe, and if I showed him some of it, his gut would say it too.

      He might even feel guilty about hassling me so hard for the games yesterday.

      As if it was my fault Ryu decided to be so fucking lax all of a sudden…

      I picked up my phone and checked my messages.

      Kuso, still lax.

      Not even a forgiveness emoji.

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[Destiny] Chapter 46: Reason Alchemist

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Thousands of light years from your home, from where you were born, from other people who resembled you

YOU

YOURSELF, ALL PARTS, ALL SCHISMED ASPECTS

sitting in a hidden basement behind a broken wall in an abandoned pueblo behind a Portuguese hill in the middle of an imitation desert near a decrepit service station called Almodóvar Chicken

realising in spurts where you were, where you truly, physically were, how isolated that position was, how weird the purple mineral deposits in the walls looked

enervated, drained, relieved

all cowed by blankness, body strangely there, real skin an inch behind, gone in the Baudrillardian sense, laughing, an ironic simulated atom thatch

not only lost in place

but lost in concept

stranger in a Star Trek cave

any series.

~~~

Sitting with her back arched was sustainable only for latter-day nihilists, and her left knee had been digging in so hard so long to a jagged chunk of earth that Joanna had no real choice but to give up on the pit stakeout and pull herself over to the nearby wall.

Which is where the counter-thought hit.

What if the moment you left, his eyes had appeared, or Søren’s eyes, glowing purple, begging beacon-like for a hand up? Or another hand to drag down…

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 9: Days Of Grey, Nights Of Neon

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My dorm VR server was dead.

      Or it may as well have been. Four hours to install a fucking game?

      Was this real?

      Didn’t it know I was already pissed off?

      Muttering, ‘fucking Martokras,’ under my breath, I switched to my game-card version of Moon Factory 7 and patched in. It functioned okay, no frazzled weirdness…until the background scenery starting flashing green and the NPCs walked on air like it was the floor.

      Okay, that definitely needed to be fixed. Another game?

      I scrolled through my cards – Harem Survival 4, Quarter-Life, Pluto 2270 etc. – and struggled to put colour to any of them. Too familiar. Played to death and beyond.

      What else?

      Dorm version of Moon Factory 7? Tomomi or Sachiko would probably be on, I could do some crater watching with them. But the lag would be pretty bad…half-filled in background, NPC buffering freeze…unless I detached the install?

      I checked the timer on Pluto 2280. Three hours and fifty-eight minutes left.

      Fuck. Four hours.

      Everyone knew dorm servers weren’t the fastest, but new games never took that long to install. One hour max.

      Kuso.

      I looked at my phone and saw it was already eleven.

      What was I gonna do for four hours?

      Forums?

      Vlogs?

      Sleep?

      Opening a new tab, I went to 100 More and scrolled down the main page. Apart from a video about what it would feel like to fall into the atmosphere of Jupiter, there was nothing of interest.

      And didn’t wanna look at my phone anyway.

      That’s what addicts did.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 8: Copy Of A Copy Of A Copy Of A

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      ‘Where the hell did all that metal come from?’ I asked, not really caring if anyone else on Tsunashima bridge heard or flinched or flailed.

      The cover came out of my bag again, mock innocent.

      ‘Metal land? Pluto scrap yard?’

      No answer.

      ‘Fucking kasu…’

      We were walking home-wards, myself and that disgrace of a game. The assistant had kicked us out, ignoring my one plea for leniency and then the following seven threats to have him subpoenaed [I meant fired].

      ‘What then? Permanent ban?’

      ‘This is a first offence so, no, not permanent. Just take a rest for a few days then you can come back.’

      ‘A few days? Three? Two?’

      ‘I think a week would be better. And when you do come back, no game, please. And no more aggression. Okay?’

      I’d told him I would come back whenever the will took me, which meant there was no point going back at all. It’s not like there was any work due. Or there probably was, but that was way out of my orbit.

      A couple walked past on the bike lane side, fondling each other and, when they got about ten metres ahead, it finally clicked in my brain that the girl was Tomomi.

      Wah, my Tomomi. The third most chilled-out player on Moon Factory 7. The girl I sometimes hung out with at Clamo Sha Sea Food. Did she know how dumb this new Pluto game was?

      I turned onto another road, walked past the new karaoke building and then Saizeriya. The addict part of me, a smallish part, thought about going inside and patching in, swallowing their dumb 4900 yen deal, but then I remembered the caveat: only games in the Saizeriya catalogue can be used. Okay, then I’d go in and scrawl out some napkin messages, notes for the designers of this game, telling them every single thing that was wrong with the fucking thing. Number one: it lies.

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[Destiny] Chapter 45: Portal Perpetual

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The landscape surrounding Almodóvar Chicken wasn’t as barren or desert-like as it had seemed from the service station car park

not superficially

as over the first set of hills lay a small pueblo, white walls and dustbowl ground, abandoned

but not historically without hope

at least in the 80’s

cos when the service station was originally built – at the start of that decade, twinned with Almodóvar’s second film Laberinto De Pasiones – there had been plans to bring the place back to life, mainly through film tourism.

The idea wasn’t a hundred per cent clean, as it relied heavily on mimicry and low information tourists, but if those tourists had been unable to locate the castle from The Fearless Vampire Killers and somehow found themselves in the Portuguese countryside, then they could potentially be tricked into thinking this village really was the same place Sergio Leone had dragged Lee van Cleef and Gian Maria Volonté to duel object-erotically in For a Few Dollars More, with the pea-brained American fascist with no name lurking off at the side somewhere, ready to slap anyone with tits and a Sontag zine.

To buttress the deception

there were promotional signs copied directly from the pastiche-approximation of the real shooting location near Almeria, Spain, placed at the entrance to the village, boards with hero-size shots from the final shootout, other locations from earlier in the Agua Caliente scenes that had been recreated with a layman-eye substitute level of detail.

They’d even brought giant stones in from the nearby desert and made a circle out of them, plus two life-sized dummies modelled on El Indio and Da Colonel.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 7: Pluto 2280

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      When I got back to the Computerr Research Lab, my number was up, so I waved the Pluto 2280 game-card – the non-labelled side –  at the admin guy and walked deeper in. Straight away there was a problem: some kid was sitting in front of my screen, playing one of those classic half-bit, non-VR games. I checked the ticket. Yup, it was definitely mine. What the fuck was this little trog doing?

      ‘Hey,’ I barked, waving the ticket above his head.

      No response.

      ‘Time’s up. Finished.’

      Nothing, no head movement, barely even blinked.

      On the screen, there was a beach and a man running up some steps onto a promenade. Behind him, someone yelling, off-screen, then gun-shots. So loud I could hear them through the guy’s headphones. Which I decided to yank off.

      ‘I said, time’s up, kasu. It’s my turn.’

      He looked up, dazed. ‘Five seconds.’

      I spent the five seconds looking at his build. He was sitting down, but I could tell he was small. Arms pretty thin…chest covered in an over-sized Critters 6 t-shirt…probably no work put into it.

      ‘Five seconds gone, kasu. Get off.’

      He shook his head and kept playing.

      It was probably wrong to start a fight in the computerr lab, but he was pushing me, and he was skinny, and it would be over quick.

      ‘You deaf? I just told you to get off .’

      My hand pushed his bony little paw off the keyboard. He tried to slide it back, but I blocked, cuffing him on the temple as an exclamation mark.

      ‘It’s not saved, abuzere.’

      ‘Don’t care. Move.’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 6: Sounds Like A Death Cult

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The sky was streaked with green slashes [safe pollution, the media called it] as I got back on the train and out of Jiyugaoka.

      Just like before, all the seats were taken by a mix of school kids, mums with prams and geriatrics staring off into space, so I stood by one of the poles in the middle, thinking, semi-scrambling.

      Yosh was right. It had been over three months, almost four. Never usually took this long to send out new games. Even during the bosses’ strike last year. Shit, Ryu, what were you doing over there?

      A baby cried out from one of the prams, getting a quick, ‘there, there,’ from its mum before she looped back to her phone.

      Wah, forget Ryu, what was I doing? I knew Yosh, knew him when I’d started this shit, where he was from, who he was with, the shit he’d probably done in Ikebukuro.

      But, Yosh…he liked me, didn’t he? At least a little, and enough not to…not to what? What would he do exactly?

      The train stopped and more people got on.

      A man in a Silent Crimson 8 vest, carrying a guitar case on his back, moved in front of me and filled up most of my space.

      Fuck, no apologies, no gestures.

      ‘Hey…’ I said, firm but not aggressive.

      He shifted his feet, turning further away. The guitar case pushed against my chest, forcing me back a little. What the-…was he drunk?

      I steadied myself against the bar behind and examined the intruder. Two, three inches shorter, weak shoulders, skinny arms…

      Running off a lunatic hit of adrenaline, I moved forward, pushed the guitar case to the side and off his shoulder. The guy turned, annoyed, his mouth already open to call me something…then closed it fast when he saw how close I was.

      No words back on my side, just a focused glare.

      Tsukubashi’s potentialism.

      Kristeva’s abject.

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[Destiny] Chapter 44: Almodóvar Chicken

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The next morning, the reunited trio checked out of the unburnt hostel and headed over to Sevilla’s main bus station, aiming one more time to buy tickets without showing their passports.

Una tarea optimista at first but

with no air-con

30 degree heat

a queue of ten propped up behind

it soon sank into pale farce, Joanna trying to put a new plaster on Sila’s leaking arm wound as he said ‘too young to do passport’ to the ticket guy, and Søren picking at the dry blood scabs, whispering something in old Danish.

The final result, no tickets

no sympathy

and watery coffee in the bus terminal café.

‘Really, really don’t want to drive,’ started Sila, scratching his plaster, eyes on the Debordian hole in the station wall.

‘No car,’ replied Joanna, taking her coffee cup back from Søren.

‘… … … …’ in raw Danish.

‘It’s my drink.’

‘… … … … …’

‘You’ve already had half.’

‘… … … …’

‘That’s my finger.’

‘… … … … …’

Sila told them both to stop in Danish, pulled out his phone and stared at the blank screen. Then the hole in the bus terminal wall again. A local was bending down, placing a toy sledgehammer like a bouquet of aware that you’re dead lilies.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 5: Dragon Centre

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I stood with one elbow on the counter, next to a completely incongruous rolled-up stack of fiberglass, staring at the game posters on the nearby wall.

      Robot Diablo [Argentinian]

      Le Regle De La Jeu Medieval [French]

      Harem Survival 4 [Iranian-Guangdong collab, ridiculously popular]

      Kokoro no iron [One of ours]

      The last one had the best art, a pretty realistic image of a heart being crushed by a giant metal claw, but the concept…still generic. Young teens, robots suits, battles spilling over into high school girl changing rooms.

      I heard a noise from the door and looked over, but it was something happening in the corridor outside.

      Quick check on the back room doorway.

      No Yosh shape.

      Back to the posters.

      Ah, Harem Survival 4…the one that finally took the subtlety away…played by gamers with absolutely no sense of shame…

      Another noise from the corridor, followed by a rough shout of NOT THAT WAY, YOU SPOON.

      I tried looking out through the window, but there was too much promo stuff blocking the view. Just a head or two bobbing past.

      It was weird, the centre was fairly active, but none of it seemed to be spilling over into Yosh’s place. Like someone had drawn a magic circle in invisible chalk. There were one or two kids slumped on the VR dentist chairs in the corner, but compared to normal, the place was practically derelict.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 4: Hiding Out In Moon Factory 7

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…dimmest court room I’d ever seen, darker than Tento’s Horror Dome, with Yaphet Kotto ordering me to the bench, without my lawyer, and before I knew it I was over there, staring up at him god-size above, blank-eyed, facially retrograde, listening as the alien-hassler recycled for the seventh time that I was guilty, amoral, hangable, and what did I have to say about that?

‘Still not true.’

‘Insufficient.’

‘I didn’t do anything.’

‘Precisely. You failed to help him.’

‘What? The noodles.’

‘Not good enough.’

‘But…’

‘Where’s your conscience, Keni?’

‘Who?’

‘You’re guilty.’

‘No…’

‘You truly are.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Don’t obfuscate.’

‘Ob what?’

Something at the back of the court started emitting beeping noises and my hand moved vaguely towards it.

Another few beeps and it stopped.

Kotto stared at me [and my hand] as if I were a necromancer then asked for an explanation of my actions that night. Stalling for time, I looked at the painting lurking behind, split into three panels, two men eating, something broken up in the middle, and then, accompanied by sudden industrial wires sprouting from the ceiling, the electronic screech from Tetsuo on the court speakers, my mouth opened and a new line crept out. ‘He wasn’t a man. At all.’

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