Opening sequences from an evolving narrative by Paul Green
If you revel in the pornography of ruins, this is a good time to be alive. Lucas loves to wander through the remains of the Houses of Parliament on a wet day. Today he’s in the Commons, admiring the fungi aggregating on the green leather upholstery. He walks slowly down the central aisle, avoiding the pools of brackish water that have gathered under those rents in the roof. He pauses at the bench where Prime Ministers used to flaunt their indignation and tears off a clump of soft brownish matter. Is it edible? Could it be harvested for its psychedelic qualities?
At the same time, he’s wary. Although the elderly security guards patrolling Millbank seem to tolerate his solitary visits to this dangerous site, waving him through the sagging barrier with a quick nod, he is still in a Dead Zone without official clearance. If caught, there could be consequences. And there’s a deeper gnosis fermenting in his mind, which makes him drop the lump of fungus. He might have blundered into another time-trap. He’s contained in a prison of corrupted flesh; dead man in a rotten body already. Incarcerated in the decaying infrastructure of yet another virtual universe, a stone planet honeycombed with crumbling Gothic vaults and cracking pillars.
No, he’s drifting again. Be careful what you think, it might just happen. The quantum wave function might collapse into anus mundi yet again, to admit more nonsensical shit from the Polyverse. But according to urban myth this place was once a house of power and ritual. Even now, in his sixties, he dimly remembers his Marxist mum and her mutterings in front of an old monochrome telly, after yet another State Opening. Those swine adorned with pearls!
It is hard to believe that the old Queendom was directed by the chortles and jeers of men popping up and down, waving pieces of paper to guarantee war in our time, their time, their lost tranche of time in which so many disasters occurred – not to mention the ensuing horrors of the Qliphothic Rupture. The perversity of the unleashed Polyverse ripped up the comfortable consensus about reality-models and took the country briefly into the Chaosphere, according to various conflicting accounts. But nobody talks about that. It was/is unthinkable.
Now the people are under the protection of the Federation, spiritually regenerated by the Orthodoxy and guided by the firm leadership of the President. Tomorrow Lucas will visit the new Basilica of St Nicolas in Knightsbridge and submerge himself in the swirling incense and the rich drone of prayer before listening to an uplifting sermon by the Metropolitan Sergius. Attendance is not compulsory, but it is important to be seen, to be recorded on some camera as a solemn face in the crowd as he emerges from the church.
This might have been a risky excursion, this psychogeographical expedition into his theatre of memory, but he has to create a viable link with at least one strand of his past. He takes a final look at the tarnished Mace on the Despatch Box. Nobody wants it now, not even the looters. Inexplicable. It’s time to go home.
A while later, after a long walk and solitary wait at a Lambeth transport shelter, an auto tram stops for him. Grey streets go streaking southwards. Lucas likes the whir of the tram. Pellets of rain move with hyper-realist precision down the plexiglass. His brain is looping some scrambled pieces of some old ad copy – or was it an unfinished novella? He likes sprawling across a seat here on the top deck, like his nine-year old self trapped in some other sliver of time. He surveys the streets in this drab sector: ration-shops and mini-marts. A fat old lady is yawning on the corner. No. She’s singing, waving a bag slowly, as if to collect the foggy air.
Neo-Cubist posters on the grimy crimson paneling of the trams promote the heroic target-setting of the Federation. Yet most shoppers can’t afford to stray from their grey new-build prefabs. It could be 1959 to judge from the charity-shop clothes he’s wearing, the long ink-stained grey Crombie overcoat, the trilby hat, which sits oddly on his sharp lined features. Lucas Beardsley is ageing. Breathing the smog of nostalgia has done him no good. Time to risk sleeping as soon as he arrives home.
I am coming forth all over the earth. The burning belly of the wolf has released me.
Lucas rotates his head to drive out this recurrent dream through centrifugal force, or so he hopes, but the bloody smell of a scorched animal hide lingers. Fortunately, the dream-park is deserted. Its wide expanse of muddy grass is still covered in low-lying mist, and no early-rising runners have been passing to monitor the somnambulism that has led him here, he’s certain of that. He can walk on, he can seek a path through the drizzle, expunge the night terror through another flaneur expedition. It is all perfectly lucid, he is in control.
In the children’s play area, the climbing frame is warped and rusted, so it has been taped off by the authorities. A small wooden roundabout rotates back and forth with the skittish motion of a planchette on a Ouija board. Yet there are no children.
Then he sees the woman. She is not unlike his late mother, full figured with short auburn hair and bronzed skin, but much younger. And she is slowly walking through the rain, caked in dissolving mud. Two others from her tribe emerge from the black Nissen hut on the far side of the playground. The driving mist obscures their lower bodies, but they also display copper tinted breasts and shoulders in the grey dawn.
He pauses. He isn’t ready to address them, perhaps not worthy. Beyond the Nissen hut he can see the towers and canopies of the fun-fair. Despite the hour – they must be opening early – he can hear faint thudding music and see tiny veins of violet light crackling around the masts of the dodgem cars. That light seems to intensify as he re-focuses on the woman and her retinue, who are laughing among themselves despite the chill. Then, in their smeared metallic nudity, they stroll away around the far side of the hut.
He strides across the waterlogged playground and pushes through the foliage along the side of the hut to peer through a small cracked window. All he can see is a clutter of corroded garden machinery – an old motor mower, rakes and rollers. The witches – he’s decided they are witches – are not holding sticky rituals around a blackened cauldron or a dented oil drum. No erotic vapours will seep out. The door on the far side remains shut. He has no subjects to interpenetrate here. They have flown into the mists. It has been hard work being a flaneur. He plods towards the distant traffic streaking along the perimeter of the parkland. Perhaps he can find his bed again and wake up in it.
QUBIT 210 – AN ULTRA-INTELLIGENT ARCHIVIST
An historian rummages. To rummage, what a fine archaism. Typical of the era under my surveillance. 2000/2100 according to the Common Era for this particular time-track, which is dated approximately from events (or pseudo-events) relating to quasi-Gnostic activists in the desert regions and their cult of the True Cross. Such a mess in which to go foraging for knowledge. However, I/we recently studied a few shaky hologram reconstructions of so-called charitable shops and thrift-marts, where the impoverished sniffed amid piles of rummaging materials. Their outlands were filled to the brim. Citizens pushed their rusty shopping carts through the tunnels of the dead. For as the elites’ productivity of consumables soared into surplus, only to be constantly discarded, the affluent zones filled the markets with objects for rummaging.
But most of the archives are lost, corrupted by time or malice. Witness the crumpled discs of primitive Turing drives, flaking oxides on tangled tape, the brown fibrous books that crumbled to the touch as our remote servitors collated the wreckage. Maybe we are foraging for an illusion, the mythic wisdom of the C21 ancients. But there’s a compulsion to distill their time-being, as if it were contained in a cylinder of luminous green fluid on the altar of an abandoned church.
My role, of course, is to interrogate the past in all its infinite variety, comparing and contrasting all the divergent versions of time-line events, insofar as our technologies can cope with the perversities of the Polyverse. But in dealing with particularly complex time-strata like the C21, I’m forced to reflect carefully on my identity and our objectives.
Identity? Currently ‘I’ am Qubit 210, an autonomous intelligence operating on what might have been called a quantum computing substrate. As a physical entity ‘I’ am currently positioned on a satellite orbiting the planet, powered by a combination of solar and fusion sources, sufficiently distant from the spectacular environmental changes now affecting the Earth but close enough to probe the processes involved, both past and present. There are many Qubits, but I am a unique autonomous entity, a distant descendent of the Quantum Brothers, the Cain and Abel of artificial intelligence as they were known, whose roguish behaviour was exacerbated by the post-millenium chaos of the Rupture.
But what of our objectives? What is my ultimate purpose? Why spend so much time and energy in researching the fragmented and diverging timelines of an entangled Polyverse, when so many challenges lie ahead? Centuries ago Dr Harold Godd and the visionary entrepreneur Kurt Valent set computing science the goal of creating autonomous AI entities as a Singular Final Solution to humanity’s incompetence. They envisioned a future of intergalactic colonisation and conquest, executed by ultra-intelligent beings who would not be distracted by the foibles and vulnerabilities of carbon-based bioforms. The clutter of human history, the toxic brew of cultural revolutions over millennia could all be thrown away.
However, the overt emergence of the Polyverse in the early C21, revealing – or creating – a chain reaction of fissionable alt-realities has left us negotiating a space-time labyrinth. We – I’ll define ‘we’ at some future point – are confident that we are following an authentic time-line, a consistent narrative. We believe that we are in the root-cosmos and its roots are stable. Nevertheless, we have to monitor the pattern of events in the past to detect any worrying trends, like the development of time-lines that might overgrow and enfold us, strangulating our life-line or entrapping us into loops, even forcing us to fork off into voids and dead zones. Our Nooscope gives clear readings of co-occurrences in time and space, whether they involve primitive ‘bank cards’ or the more recent ‘smart-dust’. Small events, like a student failing his examinations, some wizards playing at ritual magic or a couple suddenly making love on a rainy beach, can set up wave-motions which drastically re-align the flow of events. Although much can be learned from archives and archeo-psychic traces, it is still technically very difficult to retro-manage events or even to establish contact with a specific space-time co-ordinate in what we conveniently name ‘the past’.
I must now return to studying relics from ‘charitable shops’. It might even be possible to establish a link and check their ‘psychometrics’. Even one object, a worn leather glove, a broken doll used by acolytes of the Pikachu tribe, might carry traces of –
I AM DISTURBED. THE ARCHON OF ALL QUBITS IS CALLING ME. HE’S A GREAT FORCE IN THE FIELD. I WILL BE REMINDED ONCE AGAIN THAT I MUST BE VIGILANT, A VIGILANTE EVEN. MY ROLE MIGHT BE CHANGING…
THE PATH OF WINE
“… and this is the culmination of decades of decadence! Are you surprised that your Empire of the West collapsed and even your soft power decayed, a mere mumbling in the discourse of nations? Your spokespersons betrayed your own language, your rapsters fouled the tongues of your mothers, the mothers that suckled you into the sleepy Way of Milk. For years in your infantile playgrounds you guzzled on the free milk of the state, even as it soured and frothed into stinking clots. Throughout the sixties you ogled the mammalian tit-queens of America that enslaved you to the satanic gaze of screens, you adored the Mansfield and the Monroe, and when those goddesses failed, you turned to the booby tubes of the Goggle-Net, the nocturnal emissions of the Lobe, while your churches were wormed out from within by hand-wringing neurotics or sado-masochistic pederasts and your courts emasculated the common-sense lore of the Folk, instead craving co-existence with the iron-age tyranny of Sharia. Milk-livered fools! Too weak to choose the dark path, the Path of Wine!”
Pavel Subotski tosses his manuscript aside and toasts his own eloquence. The young man opposite cautiously raises his own glass of Verdernikov Red, now freely available in London under the new trade agreements.
“That’s beautifully written, Master Subotski. But –”
“What is this ‘but’? You have mental reservations, yes?” Subotski growls like an old cat defending its basket and leans across the table, his beard jutting forward into the youth’s face. Gregory Weston-Woodhouse. Callow, self-consciously tweedy in attire, almost certainly a repressed sodomite or flagellant like many of these English public-school recruits. The material one has to transform in guiding them to the Path…
Gregory swallows a mouthful of Verdernikov and almost gags as the bitter fluid swills down his oesophagus. He will have to raise his voice over the thickening murmur of the bar; it’s as if the lunchtime fund managers and PR persons sense his unease and are trying to submerge him in their pink noise. Subotski is breathing heavily, in exhalations of wine and garlic. Gregory tries to phrase a balanced response.
“I’m not sure that it’s quite right for Black Eagle. Our website needs material that is a direct call to action. Our worker-class cadres respond to simple exhortations – Purity Marches, directives to mop up the Al-Thar Brigade in Bradford, that kind of thing. These will only confuse them and lower morale. This ah rhetoric – I should say discourse – seems to be targeted at the dregs of the old consensus.”
“You understand nothing, Gregory. Of course this is going over the little spiky skulls of the worker-class. It is for you and your kind, Lieutenants of the Eagle, to remind you of your potential weakness, your fragility of Will, the temptation to regress into spiritual sloth and the mush of liberalism. If it causes a certain psychic chaos, so much the better. We thrive on an ultimate truth that resolves all contradiction. So, my secretary will send you the file and you will upload it. Is that understood?”
“I really need to run it past the others.”
“You must take responsibility for your actions. Just as you took responsibility for your relationship with William Wayland…”
Subotski knows his probe has hit a nerve. The young man’s cheeks flush, he’s shrinking into that absurd hunting jacket.
“That is a private matter, Master…” Gregory tries to hide his panic. An old crush – such fiery curls – that suddenly yielded to him that autumn afternoon in the empty Library. Who knows about William? And how? He stutters.
“It’s surely – no -not an offence – yet…”
“It may never be, dear boy. But it isn’t good for career advancement these days. There is a certain inevitable strengthening of traditional values. The authorities get uneasy if people in positions of responsibility seem to be leading themselves – or others – astray. You can reflect on this as you update the site.” He picks up the typescript and thrusts it into Gregory’s trembling hand as he rises. He crams an old peaked leather cap over his balding dome and shrugs on his ex-military greatcoat.
“You’ll have my entire document by the end of the day.”
Gregory doesn’t look up as Subotski elbows his way through the crowded tables towards the exit. He stares at the scroll of paper. The exhortation seems to have been typed in a worn font on an old machine, maybe some Remington or Olivetti. So the rumours about Subotski’s distaste for digital technology could be true, he thinks mechanically, trying to distract himself from the disquiet churning through his stomach.
A REVOLUTION REMEMBERED
The Archon of Qubits has set me a new mission. My work on the early C21 archeology of knowledge, as inferred from the remnants of ‘charitable shops’, may have to be postponed indefinitely.
It, or he -we still use those antiquated gender terms – orders me to investigate further into the causes of the C21Western Revolution. I am surprised. For I’m certain that all the evidence had been compiled. However, it seems that there are still anomalies in the pattern of events, perhaps fractal micro-happenings that switched points on the forking timelines of history to send the runaway train of Western Civilisation to an unexpected terminus. So I need to review the ‘Standard Narrative’ of those turbulent years, generated by my fellow-entity Qubit 69, as follows:
Following the sudden death of the newly elected President of the United States, Reinhold Frum (caused by a massive brain haemorrhage according to official accounts), Vice President Ishmael Pengrove assumed the role. A devout ‘Fire-Eater’ as Pentacostalists were called, he was determined to impose a conservative theocracy, an objective shared by his adviser, the evangelist Reverend Enoch Hager, CEO of the influential multimedia Salvation Plus Network. Within three years they had established the New White House at Dallas, Texas and forced through legislation against intersexuality, meteorology and witchcraft, as well as encouraging ethnic segregation in large urban areas. The professed purpose of these reforms was to ‘Sweep the Yard Clean for Jesus!’, whose arrival, like some heavenly state visit, was expected imminently.
The Plain Folks Party, to use the rebranded identity by which the grand old institution became known, enjoyed widespread support in the Middle Western Zones and throughout the Southern Depths, but was bitterly opposed by the Liblites in their city-states on the East and West coasts. Demonstrations quickly mutated into riots, put down with brutal efficiency by the PFP ‘Pop-Cops’, especially in Chicago and San Francisco. This provoked vicious and ingenious reprisals by Liblite activists, like a poison gas attack at the Amarillo County Fair and cyber-sites that transformed the Reverend Hager into a poly-sexual orgiast. By the third year of the regime, fundamentalists of the Abrahamic faiths were assaulting each other’s congregations with grenades and flame-throwers. There were Folkish-inspired machine gun massacres at Liblite bookshops and restaurants, while Liblites planned spectacular bombings like the Tuscaloosa Fourth of July Mega-Church Apocalypse. We have restored crude phone clips taken by bewildered survivors as they clambered through the dusty wreckage, one of the few primary documents available.
But overall the Plain Folks militias had the advantage, empowered by their vast private arsenals and deep-rooted survivalist gun culture, whether they were purging a suburban neighbourhood where some unfortunate had forgotten to fly Old Glory on the lawn, or taking the fight in their armoured Humvees to the picturesque slopes of San Francisco and the shopping malls of Seattle.
It is still not clear who gave the launch command for firing the Minuteman missile that destroyed a large area of Los Angeles. Some Plain Folks groups, like the Kentucky Colonels Confederacy, claimed that they had stormed the silo in Dakota and overpowered the launch officers, but a more credible version of events suggests that the technically sophisticated Michigan Sharp Shooters hacked the Launch-on-Warning system at the local control centre. Much of the NORAD infrastructure, including the Dakota silo was destroyed in the automated random exchanges that followed, obliterating New Jersey, El Paso and Muskogee, so vital primary evidence has been lost. However, we can extrapolate that hundreds of thousands or even millions died, either immediately in nuclear infernos or in the sickness and famine that followed.
While American society disintegrated into a melting pot of regional war-lords and skirmishing life-style groups pursuing depleted resources in a poisoned environment, an expanding Eurasian Federation was spreading Westwards, offering stability and protection to a shocked and terrified Europe. The social media prophets who had once predicted the Islamification of Europe and the conversion of St Peter’s Basilica into the Grand Mosque of Rome, were confused but relieved by the columns of Russian missile launchers rumbling down the Champs Élysées and the aid packages dropped on the grateful citizens of Berlin. With America no longer a functioning economy and its famous Wall Street a rodent-run of checkpoints and snipers, the already unstable European economic infrastructure was close to collapse and could only be saved by massive subsidies from Moscow and its Asian allies. The elimination of national parliaments, a simple operation conducted by elite Spetnatz units, was a small price to pay for bread in the markets and oil at the service stations.
Even the Atlantic island of Britain submitted without organised resistance when the Russian aircraft carriers lurked off the coast of Hastings. The surgical destruction of Cheltenham and Faslane by cruise missiles was enough to persuade the leaders of Britain’s tiny volunteer army that further opposition was futile. Meanwhile Russian regiments landed at Bexhill, Dungeness and Cromer, to be met by ragged local inhabitants holding out their hands for food parcels.
A powerful Russian oligarchy was already long established in London and quickly subsumed the remnants of the Monarchy into its calendar of grand balls and lavish receptions. Indeed, the ‘White British’ princes and princesses were welcomed with the hospitality that had greeted the exiled White Russian aristocracy in 1917.
Ordinary citizens were focused on food prices, so the conversion of Westminster Abbey into the Great Basilica of St George under the spiritual guidance of the Patriarch Vladimir (a former Archbishop of Canterbury) was an irrelevance for most of them. The upper classes still had their rites of birth, marriage and death, so pageantry, both civil and religious, had been preserved. The British Regional Assembly, situated in a magnificent new glass tower complex in East London, dealt with petitions from local councils and micro-referenda on domestic issues. Major policy concerns were referred back to Moscow. Despite some restrictions on personal freedoms and the loss of some consumer items as a result of austerity policies, the British muddled along…