[Void Galaxia] Chapter 51: Museum Of Negativity


Third loop around Engineering

no sign of loose wire

or suicide plaque

yet the ship insisted both were there so

the body kept moving

ignoring the AH-bot cleaning the spanner box

and a little further on found Charlie

who said the loose wire wasn’t that loose anymore

she’d fixed it with Asami’s help, over on Deck Twenty-Seven an hour ago.

‘Where is she now?’

‘I’m going to the Arka Room, you should come too.’


‘Best seat’s by the port window.’

Body backed off and hit the wall and when it turned I saw a poster saying



and to the left lay the snacks table

Sadia and Juana on top, hugging each other, Nick nearby reading Neuro-Maker

pair of floating yellow eyes

Lyotard, Yosh & Baudrillard

everyone watching my form and field and

a voice behind, Asami the Tease, keep going, keep going, keep


‘All of it, Keni, get it in, deeper.’

Vaguely knowing what she meant, I looked down and saw a fifteen-inch dick that was ostensibly attached to my body, pole-hard, going in and out of a pink mannequin’s cunt

metronomic rhythm

fingers stuck in the


‘Armitage announced an eighty-hour stay in Zion. Molly and Case would practice in zero gravity, he said, and acclimatize themselves to working in it.’

The words were both smooth and bizarro, fitting with the blur of slipstream Id and beginnings of the hostel room reforming around me.

I closed one eye. Opened the other.

The neon was gone, thank gods, and so was Lexi.

Replaced by canned audio.

‘He’d found him curled like a cat on a thin pad of temperfoam, naked, apparently asleep, his head orbited by a revolving halo of small, white geometric forms, cubes, spheres, and pyramids.’

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 50: 97 To Winter Mute


Curved bench looking out at the Byrgius Crater embedded in the ceiling, though I knew it wasn’t really

it was just that gap between the eighth dream and reality

Stahlian reality

and a few screams of drift-cascade later

mixed reality

or ambivalent reality if I went with a matching A word

and then, with eyes staggered open

back room of video caffé reality



little bit cold.


The duvet was absent from my body and, flipping over onto my right side, I saw why; it was wrapped around Lexi again, tight as a Mexican-made burrito, same trick she’d done before. I pulled some back, despite not being that cold, and thought about running a finger down the tabs of her spines.

Maybe not a good idea.

She was still wearing her t-shirt from the night before, one of the Tenebrae work ones she kept in the other room.

And I was still in my Damijana Chu hoodie.

The symbolism was transparent…to me…owner of the cursed double brain. Could not be bothered to fuck. Or in my case, too anxious to attempt it. Even pushing into the mattress and picturing the naked space vampire from Lifeforce didn’t spark anything. Nor did staring at the nine-tenths naked Sci-Fi queen flaking off my top.

Was this the experiment?

Delayed side effects?

I drifted over Lexi’s back and went up and down the spines of the stacked DVD cases. It was similar to looking at my mum’s living room. The other one…not in Liverpool, Japan…my Japanese mum.

Was I close to her?

Or had I been, before the experiment?

Unlikely, given how I could barely picture her face.

Lexi made a moaning sound, hopefully not sexual, and turned to face the ceiling. Her hand foraged for mine and found it, slotting fingers through the gaps.

The eyes stayed closed.

Then opened cat-like at the knock on the door.

I sat up, accidentally doing a stomach crunch, and grunted good morning at Nick, who was already pushing the door open.

‘Go time,’ he said, frowning at something on the bed.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 49: Not Wicked Enough To Eat


Puppet Master 2.


The Running Man.


Something in Spanish with a green-lit cult priestess and two red X’s on her robes.

Hang on…

Wasn’t that…

I left the coffee machine to wring out the last drops by itself and maneuvered round the side of the counter. Santa Sangre. Sangre equaled blood…Santa…no idea, but probably not the Christmas guy…and the name at the top of the poster…ah, Jodorowsky, chief lunatic of bizarro cinema. The director who made filmns I liked conceptually but could never press play on when they were framed right there in front of me, on GENTE+, surrounded by shit like Saving Hannukah and Full Moon Cop and Not My Cousin IV and a dozen other Something IV movies.

The coffee machine whirred down, calling me back to the cup.

Two down, one to go.

Though whether Juana was cognizant enough to drink hers was a different matter. She’d managed a couple sips of water earlier, then went straight into nap mode again. But not napping exactly, more like a trance…eyes opening now and then, arms shooting up, swatting invisible flies…random Spanish and Yaqui outbursts that Nick the sudden linguist said translated into seventeen years and now this.

Seventeen years of her life?

Of no starvation trances?

The video caffé?

I pulled out the cup with foam spilling over and replaced it with an empty one. Then pressed the button for green tea.

Seemed like a safer bet.

Healthier too.

The machine slipped back into routine, the blue lights on the side making me think briefly that there was a tiny human inside.

Same with the Recharge station lights on the drive into Fresno.

And the pseudo race circuit around Lake Arrowhead.

‘Must be made by the same company,’ I’d said to Lexi in the car and got that frozen eldritch face in return. Then her weirdness about the buildings being several inches out of phase. Structures pasted on top of other structures. Fresno not acting like the proper Fresno. Shivering as if we were camped on the summit of K2, squeezing her nails into the back of my hand.

Probably Juana related, the idea of getting her a meal.

The grimness of it.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 48: Alt Route To Fresno


Drunk treading water

mottled blonde hair in the way as

I try to circle round

find the best method to hold her without leaking any more blood.

‘One hand on the shoulder, other on the waist,’ shouts Nick from the pier, dressed in Moon Prison shirt and Moon Prison cap, ‘before the eel comes out.’

I do another lap and try again but

this Lady in the Lake is resistant

almost life-like

her mouth yawning open, letting out the eel

its eyes shark-like and

there’s static from the pier, Lexi hanging down, struggling with the tannoy device, shouting at the wooden boards above her head that she’s nearly got it, just a few more twists of the wrench and

Nick yells again,

‘grab her fucking shoulder, Keni, quicker

before the eel comes back,’

but I can’t

it’s too hard to get a grip, her body’s too

out there

cavernous in a-


At breakfast, we all sat perched on the edges of high stools, studying the nostalgic Arrowhead paintings, hoping the sun flowing in through the patio screen door wouldn’t persuade Nick to lasso us into another day of lake activities.

Actually, I didn’t really care if we stayed or fled – home had been a nebulous thing for a while now, family too – but I knew Lexi’s mind was set.

She’d repeated it three times in bed the night before, and twice this morning before coming down.

‘Need to go home, sleep in my own bed.’

What Juana thought…no idea. She just sat there in her Spider Demon t-shirt, rotating a pear on the table surface, possibly a come down from fucking the simulated version of Maika Monroe the previous night. Or being rejected by her. Rejected and…

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 47: Blue For Human


On the short drive to the western shore of Lake Arrowhead, I reeled back the Jeff Fahey books I’d looked at what seemed like months ago now, vaguely remembering a line he had about the resorts near LA: like VR within VR within a psychopath’s thalamus.

I didn’t know what he meant at the time…didn’t even know what a thalamus was…but as we approached the first of three payment gates next to a fairly typical lakeside beach, I began to get an idea.

‘This one’s for general access,’ explained Nick, taking out his Arrowhead Residential Card and swiping it against the scan-pole. ‘Next one’s beach and swim, last one’s VIP. Don’t worry, Nick Stahl the local movie star can cover all of us.’

I was pretty sure none of us had our wallets, so if he couldn’t cover us then it would’ve been a short session. Nevertheless, we all said thanks and followed him onto the insanely smooth [and imported] sand.

The area itself – or the beach and swim section that Nick stopped us at – was around half capacity, with most people stretched out on the sun loungers, and the younger, sexier ones in the lake. Unlike the beaches in Japan, there was no net sealing off the swimming area, which meant you could pretty much swim as far out as you liked, to the other side of the lake if you had the stamina.

Maybe Nick was capable of such a feat, using his alien physiology?

Or maybe he couldn’t even swim?

I thought of asking him as he picked out a spot on the sand, but then Lexi took off her Xxun Alchemist t-shirt and my mind cut elsewhere. Back to the dungeon of Nightmare Castle. The couch in the video caffé. Her bedroom. Sadia’s bedroom. The tree outside. Sadia’s burning housse poem. The swimming pool in Compton. Syria touching herself under the surface, blood dripping off my knuckles.

‘The old Id finally hacking off the hinges…’ said Nick, yanking myself and the Planet Dark t-shirt back to the beach.


‘Lexi’s t-shirt is off.’

So? came out as a mechanical hum, my eyes still with the Pam Grier substitute, her Coffy bikini…

‘I’m going into the water,’ she whispered into my neck, brushing a hand against the bottom of my shorts. ‘You coming?’

‘In a minute.’


Más tarde’

Lexi looked at Nick, then at the people splashing around in the lake. I followed her gaze. There was enough space in the water to slip into without being hassled by anyone, and all the people splashing around seemed to be in a group already so…not too bad.

Unless she wanted to be hassled?

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 46: Dogged Bikini


‘Didn’t fucking wait for me,’ Sadia wailed, throwing another video case at my head

picking up the next one

shadow guy rowing the boat on her behalf

and all I could say back was,

‘you didn’t wait for me either,’


‘you’re really fucking this shadow guy?’


‘Portland, that shithole?’

The words may as well as have been medieval Urdu

Critters 3 hitting me on the neck

clipping Lexi on the hand as she tried to climb back into the boat

Tenebrae jacket soaked through

eyes flared witch-purple.

‘Don’t even like her,’ I whined, helping her in, another video sailing over my head,

‘that’s why her face is so vague, so hazy, I don’t even remem-…


Eyes wide open

wide shut


The environment re-assembled itself, without sound.

Ah, Nick’s place. Lake Arrowhead. Architectural mishmash. Aliens and lunatics in VR hoodies, copies of copies in ice buckets.

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[Void Galaxia] Chapter 45: Waste Of The Witch


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 inside, 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 dropped 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.’


‘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


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?’


‘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


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?’


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


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.’


‘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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