[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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The Shower // Vi Khi Nao

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Only a cat teething could give someone’s skinned knee the color of laceration that appeared so painfully on Manuela’s leg. Manuela moved like a cat. Even when she took off a shirt she declared and acknowledged it as ugly, she was swift and feline-like about it. Her full sagging boobs had an appearance of two tanned, inflated Chinese dumplings. The kind that slid off a Julam bamboo steamer unjubilantly while Elise’s sexagenarian breasts may have spent their long life on a pancake grill. They were flat and antisocial. Nudity in film has casual (is that the right word?) exploitation written all over it. For instance, for a ten minute, independent film — is it worth the risk? To expose oneself to the infinite eyes of the camera? The actresses — terribly unpaid. Even nude models for an art class get paid more per hour for their short exposure. A film has an infinite amount of long exposure. The kind that lives a billion lives. If we view these actresses, pretending to be lesbians, to be cats, their nudity is just an exaggeration of them stretching into full form. And, what we view as nipples may just be hair? Right, in the shower — you can see that Elise is on the verge of a mental breakdown. The cat-she is prepared for anything. To fully love. In taking-the-cat-to-the-vet sensibility. In the I-will-let-you-in after you wander in the night solitarily.

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VI KHI NAO is the author of seven poetry collections & of the short stories collection, A Brief Alphabet of Torture (winner of the 2016 FC2’s Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize), the novel, Swimming with Dead Stars. Her poetry collection, The Old Philosopher, won the Nightboat Books Prize for Poetry in 2014.  Her book, Suicide: the Autoimmune Disorder of the Psyche  will be out of 11:11 in Spring 2023. A recipient of the 2022 Jim Duggins, PhD Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize, her work includes poetry, fiction, film and cross-genre collaboration. She was the Fall 2019 fellow at the Black Mountain Institute: https://www.vikhinao.com 

[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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When A Stranger Calls // David Kuhnlein

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Puffy from goodnight kisses, lit silver by dreams of the screen, your lips pucker in anticipation of my pillow. It’s my turn to talk and you’re hooked. Sex, the most exquisite poison, a toxin to twist both ends of the film. You know the rules. We’ve had enough of your surname. No lie could impregnate you (in the guise of killing ninety minutes together) to eclipse my eye. Still, I jump backward in ten-second intervals to before your tubal ligation. Cutting off my lids in appreciation isn’t inconsonant with reducing your innumerable voyeurs by going blind. Don’t turn up the lights. I want you strangled behind blackout curtains. Admitting this to someone whose body’s a work of art would strip me of the upper hand, and the pillow beneath it, as your eyes go pop.

Hair as curly as telephone cords, stinking like burnt plastic, your mind whirs into overdrive from mere pleasantries. Nothing but dial tone behind the eyes. I also hope to gush through life like a forgotten popsicle. The dead are most desirable woven as the wrinkles on your face. I pray an ambulance will find you recreating our kiss behind a dumpster. No one can see me because I was never born.

Like a good little final girl, you drag your balloon-like dungeon above. Call it heaven, superego, whatever sentiment I experience as your pistol-shaped persuasion. Between your grip and me, the equal and opposite reverberation of silence grants each ring its squeal. From this exterior shot, it’s hard to imagine your palpitations. How many cross fades till we’re codified inside our skull? Imagine the internment of overgrown eyelashes, blinking prison bars.

Your anticipation of my phone calls, the black hole you deliberately open by answering, marries my need to pathologize blood flow. How many finger joints will vanish? Will the wound be cavernous enough to pack?

Nightgown torn to thin strips, I twist the tourniquet around your disembodied arm instead. Voice like uncooked spaghetti, I breathe through the handheld: Nobody can hear me. I assume the bruise across your temple, the remainder of our ten-digit exchange, is indicative of a craving too sinister to solo. The only babysitter we’ll ever know is a scream so loud it casts a shadow. The shadow itself is difficult to confront, much more so than a stranger, and it’s always a stranger, on the phone.

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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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