Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Team Building



I am building a team. 

My intention is to continue work on a project started a decade ago by myself, Steve RossSimon Edgett, and Michael Gormley. (The details aren't really necessary right now, but it was essential a long-term thought experiment. I am hoping to begin working on a similar process, if not a modified version of the original.)

Anyway, I am looking for individuals with training in 
various scientific and philosophical fields. To begin, the following (in no particular order):

1. Computer Science/Artificial Intelligence
2. Physics (All branches)
3. Mathematics (Geometry/Chaos/Cellular Automata/All Branches)
4. Philosophy (Metaphysics/Epistemology/All Branches)
5. Evolutionary Biology, Biochemistry, Sociobiology
6. Chemistry
7. Linguistics and Communication
8. Anthropology (Bio/Cultural)
9. Performance Theory

That's a start. Ideally we could occasionally meet, but most important would be the creation of a lively digital forum in which we can discuss ideas.

Contact me if you are interested or for more details.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Jump!

Sometimes I do dumb shit like this...

Click the image to watch the video:

Video by Simon Edgett



Monday, October 8, 2012

Fictions

In a fight, to be mean, my girlfriend at the time attacked my fiction, said:

"All you do is write about your life and change the names."

If that's true, I thought, I had better make my life more interesting, become a more interesting character, one that's single, who gets a lot of pussy, and doesn't have these sorts of conversations with women.





Sunday, September 30, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Contact Low Redux [found, unedited]

While on the train, digging through some files I had tossed indiscriminately on my iPad, I came across a prose "novelization" of a comic I originally wrote/drew in 2005 as my submission to the True Porn 2 anthology (It was rejected, by the way. I think for not being "porny" enough). The "created on" date of the prose version is from January 2005, which is the same year the comic was made, so I think I drafted them concurrently. At any rate, below is an unedited excerpt of the piece. There are a number of tense shift issues that need to be repaired (It shifts repeatedly between past and present. I prefer the present tense). I may spend some time re-working/expanding it for submission somewhere.

[If you haven't seen it, you can check out the comic version, which I have posted previously, here]


The contact low.
By mykl g sivak
©2005-2012


“Do you hear the snow against the window-panes, Kitty? How nice and soft it sounds! Just as if someone was kissing the window all over outside.  I wonder if the snow LOVES the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.’ And when they wake up in the summer, Kitty, they dress themselves all in green, and dance about- whenever the wind blows- oh, that’s very pretty!” cried Alice…”And I do so WISH it was true! I’m sure the woods look sleepy in the autumn, when the leaves are getting brown."

-Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


Chapter One.

A series of loosely connected events interconnected perhaps only in that they occurred consecutively, in close proximity of one another in time. Or perhaps, they are more connected than that. Like the individual cards of a toppled card structure, each floating down to the floor. Relying not only upon their respective interactions with each other, but also, their interactions with the forces that surround them.

But I’m automatic. My body runs like clockwork, though my mind is fumbling clumsy.  These cells function independently, yet their needs and appetites are expressed to me somehow, and my psyche bends to fulfill their requirements.  I eat for them, drink for them, hunt for them, and fuck for them. And my mind squirms to stay ignorant of this fact.  I am one whole, an organism not an ecosystem.  My heartache is my own.  My pain is my own.  Not caused by some protoplasmic urge.  I am at one with myself, not ourselves.  Stupidity, fear, and egotism cause my blunders.  Evolution has created me, but now I exist as something beyond evolution. The first “whole” in a long line of amalgamated parts.

These rabbits are running forever.

The Old Church steeple stood above the rooftops, perfect beyond the rows of tilting slanted city walls. The steeple did not tumble, nor did the buildings, but those houses made of cards began to tumble, fall down all around me as I walked between them.  Out from their bases white rabbits fled, darting past me, around me, through my legs and I watched as they disappeared, one by one, down the crooked alleyways, diving like kingfishers into the canals. In fact the motion of their fleeing seemed more like that of birds, and it was hard to tell if they weren’t in fact flying, for it was uncertain if their feet were at all touching the ground.

I walked and the cards tumbled, I walked on unscathed, either unaware of the danger, the razor thin edges, the indiscriminate collapse, or perhaps I did not care, perhaps I had accepted this turn of events, and had chosen to let the cards fall as they may (as it were).

But not a card hit me, and though I could see them at the corner of my eye, falling flat against the wet pavement in my peripheral, I did not turn around to glimpse the chaos that lay behind me.  I watched my feet, and merely walked on.

In a moment she was staring at me, smiling, her soft round buttocks peeking out from beneath the short hem of her pink cotton gym shorts. A white and pink braided sweatband tucked beneath her curled blonde bangs, her loose blonde ponytail.  She was smiling and her blue eyes were sparkling, and though she held a large iron dumbbell, her skin looked as dry and smooth as talc.  She wore a thin white tank top stretched tight between her arcing back and ample swollen breasts, her nipples pushing out before her, her cleavage spilling over above the shirt’s neckline.  She stared back into my eyes and smiled with innocence and purity.

I felt a smile tugging at the corner of my lips, but regained my passivity with the knowledge of her illusion.

“Dude,” the voice behind me spoke. It was the voice of a young man, phlegmy, with the trace of some emotion I could not immediately identify.

“That’s the last card.”

I looked up, saw the scruffy, unshaven visage of Muybridge the American. And then I knew where I was.  Muybridge was my age, perhaps a few years my senior and a fellow border at Bob’s Youth Hostel.

“I’m sorry,” I said, attempting to hand over the naked lady playing card. But he pushed my hand away without touching it.

“That’s okay,” he said. “Put it on.”

He motioned with his hand to the table, and I turned to look and saw the elaborate architectural edifice he and the rest of us had constructed out of playing cards. It must have taken 30 decks.

‘No,” I said. “You do it. It’s your design.”

“No, no,” said Muybridge, pinching the bridge of his nose beneath where his ovular wire rimmed glasses sat. “You’ve got the card. You put it on.”

I looked at the composition, the hundreds of cards perched precariously upon one another. ‘I’m not up to this,” I thought.  I was shaking, or felt like I was, and I sensed the small beads of sweat forming along my hairline and upon my upper lip.

“This room is filled with marijuana smoke. I’ve been drinking beer,” I thought. “I’m not up to this. I can’t do it.”

What happened next is predictable.  The cards came tumbling down all around me.  When they all had fallen, I sat back in my seat, still holding the final card. She was still smiling at me.  She knew I had tried my best.

“That’s alright,” said Muybridge. “We can rebuild. Besides, I was getting a little sick of card architecture anyhow. What do you say we go check out some hookers.”

We walk down city streets. The streets of Amsterdam.
There are animals, pigs dressed as men walking around us, and in my peripheral, I swear I spot vague small white shadows, with ears like rabbits darting in and out of the alleyways, darting behind us as we walk.

Grown men and women behind drawn curtains, inside human-sized terrariums. Well-dressed men, apolitical and unscientific, lick the very breasts upon which small babies have been weaned.  Thousands of gallons of semen spilled and swallowed within the structures of these streets, have held the genetic coding, the evolutionary blueprint of the modern human pervert, and sperms have shriveled squirming in dirty carpeting beneath hard stiletto heels.

Fingers tracing penises, vulvas, scrotums and vaginas, without consideration of the womb, the ovary, the vas diferens.

And I become all too aware that my weak ironic gesture, the soviet hammer and sickle emblazoned across my chest, dissolves into the stark caustic reality of the lives of these women whose lives surround me; their unnamed sorrow humming out from the glowing red windows of these streets and alleyways; their souls, seeds that fell upon the unfertile soil of the former soviet bloc, found purchase there, and grew to weak and weary seedlings.

Muybridge, the American, speaks. “Its weird.” “Makes me feel like I’m walking through some sort of fucked up city zoo.” “You know, that vague nagging unspecific guilt?” “Like I’m doing something wrong by just being here.” “Like, I’m supporting something entirely fucked up and unnatural.”

To which I reply: “It doesn’t even feel real.” “It’s like we’re in a movie set or something.” “Or those world nations exhibits at Epcot Center.

Muybridge responds: “Yeah. But not as fucked up.”
Then adds: “still…I suppose its better than the alternatives.” “But all in all, all the Dutch have done is replaced pimps with landlords and tax accountants.  Any way you look at it its bureaucracy.”

In an instant the prostitute’s hands are at my throat, gripping my scarf. Her long cherry red fingernails are inches from my jugular, beneath her nails thousands of bacteria teem and hum.

“Come inside, come inside!” she shouts, pulling me by the neck ever closer to her box.
“Hey lady!” Shouts Muybridge. “Hands off.”
But she keeps pulling me, not loosing her grip.
“Come inside,” She yells through gapped toothed smile and fat wet crimson lips. Her heaving fat brown breasts pouring out from the hot pink bikini top. “Come inside just talk!”

“I don’t think so,” I say. “I’m not interested.” I’d only come to window shop.

Muybridge slaps her arm and shouts with spit flying, “Bitch! Let go! The man said ‘NO,’ Christ!”

And she shuts up. Says nothing. And we walk away, back down the narrow alleyway from whence we’d come. And as I think of it now there is the image of sperms, being propelled out through a narrow flesh corridor to be expelled with force out into the hopeless future.

Back on the main street, beside the canal, Muybridge speaks: “I’ve had about enough of this. What say we head on back to the hostel? I could use a joint, and we could try rebuilding that card condominium that you fucking knocked over.”

Later he speaks again: “How about when we get back to Bub’s, you let me roll you a big fat joint?”

“No thanks,” I reply.

He continues: “I don’t get it, dude. You come all the way to Amsterdam from wherever the fuck it is you come from, and you don’t even take advantage of the lenient drug laws.”

I reply: “yeah, well…”
Muybridge: “You coming inside or what?”
Me: “I think I’m gonna wander around for a little bit.”
Muybridge: “Alright, dude. Suit yourself.”

And then the snowflakes begin to fall. Like finely granulated sugar, beautiful and crystalline. The city is so quiet now; I can hear each flake as it smashed against the street infinitesimally.




Some quick Stimpies




Thursday, August 16, 2012

Scarlet Letter Redux

Today I came home to find this is my mailbox. Apparently, I'm the neighborhood fornicator. Please direct me to the scarlet letters.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

UPS Birth Certificate

I was once a little tiny thing, devoid of stimulus and concept. I don't know how I should process this. Growth of tissular automata. Expansion of experiential conceit. Time unidirectional and unending. I was small and meaningless to myself. I am larger and continuous though I have been continually consumed. I am amoebic. I expand in concept and in form. Look at me. I am a mass of experience. I was small and am small still. I am an army of cells. They carry on. Pointless, they carry on still.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Show Biz

It's a shame more people in show business don't show this kind of respect when taking up other people's projects: "[Before making 2010] Peter Hyams was interested and contacted both Clarke and Kubrick for their blessings: I had a long conversation with Stanley and told him what was going on. If it met with his approval, I would do the film; and if it didn't, I wouldn't. I certainly would not have thought of doing the film if I had not gotten the blessing of Kubrick. He's one of my idols; simply one of the greatest talents that's ever walked the Earth. He more or less said, 'Sure. Go do it. I don't care.' And another time he said, 'Don't be afraid. Just go do your own movie.'"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Begun but unfinished fiction #005: I wrote this in the voice of my mother


© mykl g sivak 
5:09 pm, December 23, 2005 

I wrote this in the voice of my mother


Up the hill, framed by the downward bowing electric tower lines and the bare arterial branches of winter trees the mall was visible.  My parents’ suburban home sat at the apex of a small hill over which the cul-de-sac ran. The hill itself stood in a little valley between two ranges of slightly larger hills. At the top of a hill of the easterly range the mall sat.  The back porch stood attached and parallel to the second floor of my parent’s house, and I stood there in the light breeze of the atypically warm December afternoon smoking and watching the mall.
Being winter the sun had already arced low in the sky, now hanging only slightly above the trees that covered the crest of the westerly range.  The hill our house sat on and indeed much of small valley were veiled with the cold winter shadows that had somehow always filled my psyche with thoughts of death and fear.  The mall, however, which sit at a higher altitude was still bathed in the sun’s yellow glow.  The reflective portions of its façade, the mirrored glass storefronts and vestibule windows as well as the windows of the many vehicles parked in and moving about the lots gleamed in the distance.  As the trees’ highest branches swayed with the breeze the reflections seemed to sparkle giving the appearance of some minute diurnal galaxy.
I could see people, tiny flecks of color moving in the mall lots.  It was four days before Christmas, and I myself had yet to buy a single present. At twenty-seven, unemployed and living in the basement of my parent’s suburban home, the spirit of Christmas had failed to catch me.   I was near penniless, and during the three month’s since my release from the state prison I had accrued a few thousand dollars of debt on my various credit cards.  When the bills arrived I paid the minimums, which were usually in the area of twenty dollars.  I had yet to surpass the limits of my available credit, and so I knew that I would be able to supply my friends and family members with gifts, but still the idea of sinking further into debt with the purchase of each present bothered me a bit.

In the seven or so years since the deaths of my grandparents, the intensity of the Christmas ghost had slowly declined.  For my family, and especially in the case of my mother, the concept of Christmas was intrinsically tied to my now deceased grandfolks.  Years back they had been famous for their annual Christmas shindigs.  They were working class people.  My grandmother spent years on the assembly line at Shick razor, and my grandfather had been a steelworker whose extracurricular activities ranged from Union involvement to bowling leagues to moonlight TV repair.  They were salt-of-the-earth folks, good people as some like to say, and their friends and relations were many.  They were well loved.  Some time in the sixties, their dreams came to fruition with the construction of the small one-family home built by my grandfather’s own two hands.  I believe it was the first Christmas they spent in the home that marked the commencement of what was to become a much-anticipated yearly custom: the Gallagher Christmas Social.  The party was always held in the basement, the centerpiece being the ten-foot bar my grandfather had constructed of good solid wood he’d retrieved from the town dump.
My mother grew up with this event shaping her concept of Christmas.  And so to her, Christmas was not only the sights of snowfall and garland and silver bells and mistletoe, the scents of pine and frankincense.  It was also the smell of spilled gin, cigarette smoke and old spice. It was aging men in synthetic-fabric suits and women who kicked off their high heels to dance happily and wildly to spirited songs by Ives and Crosby and Sinatra with the husbands of their neighbors, their cousins, each other.  In my youth I witnessed the tale end of the phenomena, before the party regulars began to die off one by one in rapid succession and the yearly event became a low-key event centered more on the giving of gifts to us grandchildren and less on the mirth making of adults.
I soon saw men I’d first while I was only a small child, men whom I could only picture half-drunk, smoking and happy, laying in caskets at wakes and funerals.  The deaths were always difficult for my mother.  She seemed somehow unable to comprehend the transformation from robust living to stone-cold death.  It was her own youth she saw passing before her eyes.  These men and women held iconic, almost archetypal spots in her mind and as those people died the reality of the departed past became all too apparent.  Those funerals signified something else.  They marked the encroaching demise of my mother’s own parents. 

My grandfather died first, my grandmother not six months afterward, and once they were gone we all felt a great absence, especially during the holidays.  Christmas, that once had been electric and merry, became tepid and routine-like.  As I stood smoking on the porch, watching the tiny human blurs shuffle senselessly in the distance I wondered what Christmas meant to them.

I finished my cigarette and went back into the house.  I sat on the living room sofa. Being unemployed, I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands, and since all of my friends and family members had full-time jobs, I spent most of that time by myself.  My girlfriend Katie worked full-time, and since she lived at home with her own parents and generally went to bed early in order to wake up early for work, we did not spend much time together during the week.  We had been together for eight years, meeting shortly before my grandfather’s passing.  At times the relationship had become weird and strained, the deaths and my arrest, court dates and eventual imprisonment were origins of complication.  They served simultaneously as devices of division and adhesion. 
That evening I was to attend a party, an annual Winter Solstice celebration being held by my former professor and his life partner, also a professor of English. As of that moment, Katie had failed to commit to going or not.  I called her….

[She opted not to accompany me to the party, but instead said she would try her best to meet me there later in the evening. I told her I was more than willing to wait for her, so that we could go together, but she insisted I go ahead without her.  She had so things she had to take care of after work and she was unsure of just how long it would take her.]

After the phone call, I walked alone down to the coffee shop on the town green not far from my parent’s home. It was warm for December, and I did not need to fasten the large anchor-embossed buttons of my grandfather’s old pea coat that I had worn religiously every winter since he died.  I was feeling a bit sleepy and the walk set my blood flowing, waking me up a bit. I contemplated weather or not I might have a sleep disorder.

I’d spent March through September in prison for a crime I had committed when I was twenty-one years old.  After years of legal battling, I pled no contest to the charge of second-degree assault for cutting a stranger with a broken bottle during a barroom fight.
Visions of the brief incident still haunt me to this day. Mostly, they come during the night as I lay in my bed somewhere between wakefulness and sleep.  Often, in the instants before the visions slide back over me, I find myself paralyzed, eyes upon, I cannot move them.  I cannot blink.  I cannot move my limbs or neck.  My breath, as it passes automatically from my lungs through my esophagus over my dead tongue and out through dry still lips sounds loud in my brain.  Through that strange shroud of swarming purple, grey and orange pixels that make up almost total darkness I can see the ceiling.  I can make out the cracks I know by heart without truly knowing them, and then the pixels spiral, swirl and explode into a flash of some unreal green or violet.  It is then the recalled visions come.  They solidify out of the morass of psychological color, and then I’m in the memory.  It plays like filmed footage, edited with light that behaves like the proxy of light and shadow of a projected film.  The reds and yellows are nightclub reds and yellows and the yellows are ambient, cast by flickering tea light fires.  I see people in pea coats, in loosened neckties and unfastened top buttons with the white downward smile of T-shirt neck collars.  I see short-cropped haircuts faux-damp with hair gel, and women in silk blouses sitting cross-legged atop barstools their asses and the cushions pressing against each other in demonstration of Newton’s law.  Each one giving just a bit. The cushions are firmer than their flesh.  Beneath the sights I can hear the throbbing beat of electronic bass as if from some distant submerged speaker, and the disco ball’s kaleidoscopic reflections flit and swirl across the varied textures of the humans and their clothing and the glass and plaster of the barroom.  And then I see the bottle’s neck within my clenched fist, the bottle’s broken jagged abdomen. I cannot move.  I cannot avert my eyes as my own hand pushes the bottle forward, as the uneven pointed ring of glass passes through the fabric of the man’s blue rayon dress shirt. It incises his flesh.  Blood flows from his gut down the bottle’s glass.  It coats my hand.  And then the darkness returns and I can sleep until morning.

At the coffee shop I ordered a large house coffee, no room for milk. I added no sugar, and paid for the drink with change I’d collected from beneath the cushions of my parents’ sofa.  I took a seat beside the large store font window and glanced momentarily at the sparse cluster of people who stood upon the railroad platform waiting for the 3:13 train to Grand Central station.
The day’s paper lay tucked between the table’s edge and the window’s frame, and I pulled it from the spot.  The front page spoke of a local boy, not two months twenty-one who died a hero fighting for his country in Iraq.  His mother was quoted in the article, and she said she missed her son terribly, but was proud he died in honor performing a job in which he so deeply believed.  She said that they had birthday presents, wrapped and waiting for his return the coming spring.  She said she hadn’t really been able to bring herself to think about it, but she supposed that the family would probably leave the gifts upon his bed, or perhaps in time they would donate them to charity. “I can’t stand it,” she at one point broke down sobbing. “I just can’t believe he’s really gone.”

The article reported the boy had been the lone American casualty in a firefight against Iraqi insurgents, that he had fought bravely and played a hand in the successful killing of all the attacking enemy combatants.  There would be a closed ceremony held in the boy’s honor at the local Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, the boy’s family asked that charitable donations be made in his name to the American Red Cross. After reading the story, I folded the paper and returned it to its nest between the window and the table.  I sipped my coffee and watched life flow casually by outside the coffee shop window.
I though about the past summer, how I had watched it too crawl past just beyond the bars and glass of my prison cell window.  I would sit for hours reading books I’d borrowed from the prison school where I worked as an English tutor to the other inmates.  I read as much as I could, all of the books I’d been to busy and too lazy to actually read during my tenure as a student of English.  As I read I thought of my meaningless diploma, the B.A. I had never tried very hard to attain.  I wished it meant something, that it represented some actual wealth of earned knowledge and that I could envision some real future use for it.  But then everything had been concrete and iron and the summer was without heat.  It flickered past like a projected image of washed-out green leaves, blue skies and colorless grasses and bleached concrete.  I longed for cool clear streams, hot specks of sun through the filter of a forest’s cool bright green shadows.
That summer, instead, was the deep whisper of institutional A/C ductwork and the allergic rasping scent of the dry rot pages of those old forgotten books.  The books I chose to read had clearly not been prison favorites.  Other books, by authors like Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz and Mario Puzzo, had the appearance of waterlogged lumber, their pages swollen and stained with finger grease, their edges no longer square but rounded blunt from frequent handing.  Often the library slips glued inside the covers of the books I’d chosen were blank or at most held one or two date stamps from years decades in the past.  I’d selected books by authors like Joyce, Steinbeck, Hemmingway and Twain.  Being a tutor I was granted the privilege of taking more than the two-book borrowing limit, and I was allowed to keep them in my possession for as long as I liked.  By the end of my prison term I had amassed an impressive personal library. Every inch of space between my mattress and the bed frame was occupied by a book, some small precious fraction of mankind’s good creation. And so the summer had passed, and when in September it came time for my release I truly found myself sad to have to leave the books behind, to once again sit forsaken upon the prison school’s shelves unloved and unexalted.

I sat there for a long while, slowly nursing my coffee, thinking and watching the people at the railroad platform.  The 3:13 arrived on time and the people boarded and others got off.  By 3:45 more people began cueing for the 4:13, and when that train arrived the people moved on and off the cars as the others had earlier. 
By 4:30 the coffee in my cup had long since grown cold and I removed myself from the chair in which I’d been sitting and exited the shop.  In my mind I considered my day’s itinerary.  I would go home, make myself a sandwich and then shower and dress for the party.
I had not attended the event in at least two years, but when the invitation arrived in the mail the preceding Wednesday, I decided it was a good excuse to get out of the house and actually socialize with some other human beings. As I said, my contact with other people had declined of late. While in prison my interaction with other people had been reduced to little more than the time I spent tutoring inmate students and the weekly visits from my parents and girlfriend.
There had been inmates who reached out to me for companionship, mostly older men who I recognized me as the first time convict I was.  Their advances did not appear to be in anyway sexual. Rather, they seemed attracted to my naiveté for another reason.  I sensed a paternal instinct at work.  Many of these men had sons my own age or younger.  When we did converse, the men spoke of their children the way a person speaks of an ancestor whose story they had heard a hundred times but whom they had never actually met.  Their comments had a far off nostalgic tone, and I came to suspect that they sought to connect with some younger person in way they had never successfully done with their own children.  But I always deflected their fatherly advances. As my sentence went on I came to despise my fellow inmates almost as much as I detested my jailers.  It was not unlike how, during my years in college and afterward, I had come to loathe other English majors.  This was why I had ignored the previous invitation to the professors’ parties; the attendees would be strictly students and alumnus of English programs. I had come to project my own obvious dilettantism upon them. Or perhaps more accurately, I had somewhat subconsciously entangled our mutual incapability in an attempt to deflect my own feelings of insignificance.
Upon this realization, I had decided the best way to cease being a dilettante would be to simply stop writing, abandon art.  And so I did, however, a few of the more tenacious affectations of my writerly past persisted. I continued to look like a writer, at least: the square framed plastic tortoise-shell eyeglasses I sometimes wore instead of my contact lenses, the dollar-store Burberry scarves, the dirt-brown corduroy slacks, railroad boots, the olive and pumpkin-orange plaid flannel shirts.  Perhaps the biggest cliché I was guilty of was the pea coat, but that was purely coincidence.  As I said, it had belonged to my grandfather.  It dated back to his days in the Navy during World War II.  It was my soul inheritance following his death seven years earlier.  My grandmother gave it to me the morning of the funeral. 

Though my mother pled with my grandmother to stay with us for a while at my parents’ house after the death, my grandmother vehemently refused.  She did not have a driver’s license, and without anyone ever mentioning a word, it was somehow understood that I would be taking up the job of providing her with transportation.
When I arrived to pick her up for the funeral the house had been dark.  I found my grandmother dressed in black, sitting in my grandfather’s armchair.  She had the pea coat folded neatly upon her lap. It’s raining out, she said. Take this. I want you to have it.
I remember wishing I had a better car. My bright blue Cavalier seemed inappropriate and insulting to the reality of the situation.  Before then I had never understood the purpose in funeral limousines, but that morning the concept made sense to me.  My grandmother was chauffeured to her last viewing of her husband in a shit box. The thought made me feel horrible.
She died shortly afterward, and at the funeral just as I had at the funeral of my grandfather I served as pallbearer.  In each instance, the fear of losing my grip, of not being strong enough to carry to weight of their bodies nearly froze me where I stood.

The invitation said 5 to 1, and at 5:45 I sat upon the bed in my basement bedroom smoking a cigarette.  The room was lit dimly, a single 40-Watt bulb glowing duskily through the antique map-patterned lampshade of the Spanish galleon-shaped nightstand lamp. I was showered and dressed: Pinstriped blazer, blue dress shirt, solid grey tie, black slacks and black Doc Martin’s.  The blazer fit easily beneath my pea coat, which I had already put on.  From my digital alarm clock radio the voice of an NPR correspondent spoke of John McCain’s take on the American torture of enemy combatants.  I tried not to listen, but found myself too unmotivated to actually flip off the switch.  The rest of the house was empty.

Begun but unfinished fiction #004: Flesh like paper


© March 14, 2005 mykl g sivak


Flesh like paper

Mary stood naked before the mirror, each hand gripping the triceps of the opposite arm, her small breasts pressed between biceps, her nipples erect from the unheated air and cold hardwood floor of her bedroom.  She’d been standing there for minutes, not looking at the mirror but studying the floor with her eyes and her flesh with her fingertips. Is it long enough? She though wincing, resentment pushing her jaw into a imitation under-bite, her lips to a pucker, her full eyebrows down to a “V” between her eyes. Can I stop? The words hung in her mind. How dare it make her plead like this? Fucking tin can. Fucking monster.

Only a moment more. The voice echoed in her mind, more clearly to her than the sound of her own thoughts, like sound through in-the-ear headphones. It was stereophonic, and clearly inorganic. Robotic. In a moment you may stop. Now touch your breasts with your palms.  Tilt back your head. She did as she was told.

She felt her small breasts against her thin fingers, her hard cold nipples pressed into the soft meat of her palms.  For an instant she was back in middle school.  Forced to change naked in the girls’ locker room, forced to shower with the others.  To view their bare bodies, pubic hairs, and vulvas pinched between thickening thighs.  To smell the scents of cheap perfume, powdery deodorant, gym sweat and burgeoning womanhood.  She could hear their comments, the snide gibes that mocked her unformed chest, her unkempt pubic curls, the small white pimples that clustered upon her bony shoulders.  She always felt sick when she saw those other bodies, thick flowing lithe curves, all muscles and fat and plump opulent glands.  It was pure physiology transposed with sociology.  She had always been a genius, and even at thirteen years of age she knew enough to hate her genes.  The ones that made the bridge of her nose angular instead of flowing, her chin sit weak beneath copious bottom lip.  The genes that had failed to tell her baby incisors to fall out instead of simply sliding back to allow the mature ones to sprout from her gums above them.  The ones that made her all ribs and hipbones when she should be puffy fat with pubescent ripeness.

These recollections bled into memories of school nurse inspections, the cruel, indifferent women with clipboards and cold stethoscopes who diagnosed her scoliosis, her acute psoriasis with little more than a click of a ballpoint pen and a check of a box, as she stood there naked and unshod upon the dirty cold institutional floors.  And what good had it done her?  What assistance had they offered? What had any of her years of mandatory institutional enrollment given her in the end? She had sworn that she would never subject herself to such treatment ever again, and yet here she was now, standing naked against her will, forced to look at her body in a full-length mirror in the cold uncompromising grey light of early dawn.

Tell me about this spine. The voice echoed in her mind.  I can see that it veers drastically to your right near the shoulders then arcs lowly back to center at the base of your ribs.  I see a well, from these images you are offering, that this is not a normal configuration for your species.  That at the end of your childhood you were described by a medical technician as being defective, or perhaps more accurately, as possessing defective components.

The voice’s impersonal matter-of-fact tone was at first insulting, but paired against the tone the school nurse had taken years earlier; it seemed somehow less heartless.  She had sensed an air of inquisitiveness in the voice, of interest and naivete, a willingness, no a desire to understand the facts before it.  It was not human and so she should not expect humanity.

It’s scoliosis. She though, not speaking. My spine is bent in a way it isn’t supposed to be.
I see. Said the voice. Unfortunate for you. Does it impact your functionality? That is, does it effect your day to day operations in a detrimental way? Are you aware of your defect?

She did not respond, vocally or with thought, and a strange momentary pensiveness slid across her mind. Then she answered in thought: No.

This interests me. The robot voice responded. An inconsequential defect. A reworking of design, purely aesthetic? Not a defect, then. A mutation. Variety.  There should be no reason that this deviation should impact its own continuation. Given purely random mathematics, it may even eventually become this species norm.  There are other factors however. Please Mary, explain.

She was unsure of the request. It was clear to her now that not only was the voice’s owner able to read her thoughts, but she was reading its thoughts as well. Somehow, an intrusion of this type seemed less uncivil, a strange communion of two sentient minds.  Of course, she thought, it might have been nice if someone had asked her to participate instead of merely assuming it was all right.
I...am...sorry. I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable. Please Mary, dress yourself.  Go to the kitchen. Make yourself some tea. Sit at the table and we will continue this in a more comfortable ambience.

Mary felt a sigh of thanks move through her body.  She lowered her head and peered into the mirror, for the first time looking directly into it. A shock of fear jolted up her crooked spine when she spotted the reflection of the metallic figure sitting in the rocking chair behind her. She turned around quickly to face the robot, but in turning found the chair empty.  She looked back into the mirror, it was there, turned again to the chair, it was not. 

Do not be alarmed. The voice said. Please, put on your clothes.  We will speak again in the kitchen.

Mary looked again at the chair in the mirror and saw that it now sat vacant.  She quickly dressed herself in a loose fitting cotton dress and made her way downstairs.

Begun but unfinished fiction #003: Point-no-point


Point-no-point
©2008 mykl g sivak



(Written in one unfinished draft, early December 2008, on a tiny Blackberry Curve keypad, while lying in bed late at night)

Jess slept. I stood by the window. Watched the new waves. The new waters. The new Atlantic, whose waters and waves now raked and licked our rented back yard, that once had been on a hilltop, a quarter mile from the sound, but now was at the coast's brink. No one could say where it would stop.

I looked past roofs, half-submerged condominiums that once had been beachfront but now were wave swept. The new Atlantic dissembled them, lick-by-lick, plank-by-plank.

Through binoculars, I could see Long Island; or, more properly, where the Island had been. Now it was a long bar, all but invisible, save the smokestacks, water towers, and other taller structures that reached up like phantom towers from the surface of the black churning waters. Here and there, a hillside remained, trees and grass and stones and one or two homes that had been high enough to avoid being swallowed when the hungry waters rose. It was a strange surreal thing. I felt like the end of time, the passing of things human, but really I knew better. I was aware of Long Island's relative insignificance, the ultimate unimportance of the Connecticut shoreline. The places had been defined by their Manhattan connections, the places where New York professionals weekended, or summered or slept. The places had led to the miscategorization of the region, as a place of wealth and opulence. With them gone, perhaps the truer core remained, a core of effluence and poverty. Some of Bridgeport had sunk, but its worst ghettos remained. 

Jess slept. I sat in the armchair I had placed in our bedroom, sipped a cherry coke and watched the waves churn in the gray a.m. She had always wanted a house at the shore; that's ironic. When it seemed like the ice sheet was about to go, we had made the joke. When it started to slide into the sea, we made it again. We made the joke as we drove to the Litchfield hills fleeing the rising tide. In the motel room, as we watched the waters boil and sweep over Long Island vineyards and potato fields, we made it again.

"Let's do it," I said in the motel bed, so she could hear in the bathroom.
"Let's not and say we did," she said back over the cable reporter.

I watched her reflection in the wall mirror; she was partially obscured by the door. She rubbed soap across her stubbled legs, dragged my razor down in long unbroken strokes from knee to ankle, drawing blood with each motion; it ran down from the nicks in arterial patterns. I felt the urge to storm into that yellow bathroom, step full-clothed into the bath and take her, lick the blood from her legs, but instead I sat there on the bed, watched the news, watched Long Island sink like a shitty Atlantis.

We retuned before the evacuation had been lifted, traveled sneaky at midnight, sans headlights, through secret roads via Industrial parks. I’d bought an old bolt-cutter from an antiques man for the trip and used it the gain passage through chained gates and drives. It wasn't easy to pass south beyond the railroad, the underpasses and viaducts dipped low, most filled by water no less than five feet or so deep. Every big storm someone died that way, drowned in their car on Main Street as Metro North thundered on above them.

We drove across the tracks, bypassed the viaducts by steering the old Cherokee up a hillside, even though the trains were still running on an intermittent schedule. For the moment it was thrilling, but when it became clear that the Cherokee's large tires would pass over the track without trouble, that no train would barrel toward us as we passed, the thrill subsided into a strange disappointment. In that moment, I began to wonder why we were in such a rush to return, what we were going back to.

The neighborhood's electricity was off. I broke into a neighbor's garage, borrowed their gas-fueled generator. That evening, Jess and I stalked the neighborhood swam in pools even though it was late September, jumped on trampolines. We broke into one of the wealthier homes, lit a candle and drank bottles of what we figured was expensive wine.

Jess spotted the police cruiser spot shining through the windows on the next street, and we blew out the candle, and watched crouching from the window, drunk giggling, as it finally made its way past us, shined its light right in our eyes without spotting us there.

The generator was loud. I put it in the basement; left the bilco doors open wide for fumes. We ran it only intermittently, to charge the fridge with cold air, to run the electric range and water heater. It was an enjoyable lapse of time.

We slept days mostly, wandered and pillaged at night. Raccoons and feral cats would watch us queerly; seemingly surprised by our presence, as if they accepted that humankind had left them finally, given back the land they had taken. But soon the waters halted and the ban was lifted.

When the people began returning, slow at first, but then increasing, we tried to remain hidden. We kept the Cherokee in the garage, where it had been. But times when I would come in contact with a neighbor, they would seem suspicious, as if somehow they could tell it was we who had invaded their homes, drank their booze, stole their electronic devices.

Jess was unscathed, invoked the "law of the sea," but I was nervous.
"You're paranoid," she said. "They can't prove a damn thing."

One morning we found a jet ski that had washed up at high tide behind the toolshed. We put on wetsuits and galoshes, filled the tank and rode it out through the violent chop. The early autumn sun was high, and the sky was broad, blotted occasionally with high tall clouds. Jess clung to my back as we sped over the surface, first past copulas and ham radio towers, then buoys and lobster floats, bouncing crazy over the high Atlantic waves. It felt like I would lose control, that we would flip and crash into the cooling waters, sink to the bottom beside all the sunken houses, but we didn't. From land, police sirens stuttered and wailed. House fires raged and it seemed as if society's remnants were beginning to break down.

In the distance I could make out the shapes of Coast Guard patrol boats. I feared that they had spotted us, but I sped on, out toward submerged Long Island, toward a pair of tall stacks. It was not long before we reached them.

I circled the stacks, revved the jet skis engine. Through the brown, rainbow-slicked water I could see the sunken plant. Soon the Coast Guard boat was upon us, and I told Jess to hold tight. I felt her arms grip my chest; "go fast," she said, her words warm on my cold wet ears.

As I sped past the boat's hull, I heard a report like a shotgun blast sound. "Stop and turn off your engine," a loudspeaker voice commanded. I looked back at Jess and she shrugged. I did as the voice said.

They took us onboard, said we were dangerous, impounded the Jet Ski, then dropped us off at the Connecticut coast with a warning. That night Jess fucked me for the first time in a long time, then fell asleep naked in my arms. It was a while before I could fall asleep. My heart raced with adrenaline, from the Jet Ski and sex. I felt reborn, as if everything that had ever held me back was slipping away before my eyes. That the very society that had kept me pegged immobile was disintegrating. While the rest of humanity struggled to retain a weak grasp on what they had, I was soaring, unchained from the things that had bound me, that had stifled my development. I felt alone prepared for the new realty that faced us. But in the back of my mind I sensed that the lapse was only temporary, and sooner or later, stronger wills would overcome. I vowed to get the most of things while it lasted.

The following Monday, the news reported that the world economy collapsed. Riots had broken out in every major city, and many minor ones worldwide, and the government declared martial law.

I felt a serge of electricity move through my being. I grabbed Jess in my arms, kissed her hard.

"Things are starting to crumble," I said. "We'll have to be smart now. Use our heads. We best devise a plan, or else we'll be no better off than the rest of the assholes."

The water route was risky, given patrol boats, but it seemed a safe bet than heading inland through the masses. Ultimately, we had no choice be to head inland, but we would travel by water as far as it would take us.

Winter was approaching, so that would complicate things. Food might be hard to come by, as might heat and fuel. The National Guard was patrolling the streets, telling people to stay indoors.