Gritty Reality

Clive Fencott

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Gritty Reality

Clive Fencott

Glossover Terms: page 253

Copyright © Clive Fencott, 2010, all rights reserved. The right of Clive Fencott to identified as author of “Gritty Reality” has been asserted generally in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designers and Patents Act 1988. Contact: clive@fencott.com

For more about Clive Fencott and his works: http://www.fencott.com/Clive

Spinners of Yarns
Craig programmed dirt, dust, grains, grit, specs, smuts, smudges, smears, grime, ware and tare; not to mention sags, wrinkles, breaks, stretches and strains, rust, metal fatigue and failure and any other side effects of life and reality that nobody really noticed most of the time and certainly don't want to notice most of the time but everyone would miss if they weren't there. Unnoticed imperfections that made the virtual actual: that turned plastic-like into skin-like, toy-like into human-like, ice cream swirl into a graying and aging head of hair. The unseen grit in the carpet that makes sure you know you aren't hoovering for nothing. Not any old dust and grime of course. The dirt had to beef-up the gameplay, the narrative potential, the sense of being there in the game, video game that is, the virtual reality, the artificial world it was intended for. This was designer dirt, not true grit; and it was good business. He was a real specialist, a grime consultant, ever finding new ways to make-under a building, a car, a street, hi-fi or sink: reversing the facelift of yesteryear: taking anything from virtual perfection and simplicity to the complexity and ambiguity of reality, real life, RL. He looked out of the window and over the National Park - the historic riverside landscape of heavy industry, oil refineries and tankers, chemical works, steel works, coke works, power stations, marshes, wetlands and waste ground: still lots of that. A pair of pintails and a shoveller paddled slowly across the calm surface of the nearest lake in opposite directions. Expanses of lush, long grass pulsed in waves as the wind blustered across from the sea just a few miles down river. Sometimes he wished he could program grass blowing in the wind, a beautiful head of hair gently distracted from its resting state by a warm tropical breeze that kind of reality - but dishing dirt was always in demand. People always

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messed things up and he got paid to make sure games got as messy as possible, as messy as RL if possible which they never could. Whatever type of game it was you always had to look on the seamy-side of life. That was the trick, was what he got paid for. He could give a game the impression of being as dirty and messed up as RL. In another place and slight of time, Theo - relaxing in business class as his flight waits its turn to depart LA International, LAX to its friends - knows a lot more about this. It’s about real and digital, about atoms and bits; when atoms meet bits, become bits become atoms; become inseparable, indistinguishable. That was when the fun really started: when video games infiltrated real life; when being on line got confused with being on the bus; when software and computer programs and the bits and bytes that made them up were built up into everyday things like cars and teapots and people and animals and got so real and so everyday that it got to be difficult to know what was real and what was pretending to be real. That was when it got really interesting. Splitting the atom was nothing, nor matter meeting anti-matter. Atoms meeting bits changed everything. That was the real explosive meeting, the flash point. Bits destabilised atoms and the things that atoms made possible. Bits legitimised atoms, made clear why such and such a group of atoms is allowed to be recognised for what it was; is allowed to be what it was supposed to be. Reality was fragmenting and RL was becoming far less real and far more complicated. Theo was helping to make all this confusion more and more real and more and more profitable. He smiled to himself as he sat surrounded by all the atoms that flight simulators and safety and air worthiness certificates and an unthinkable multitude of other digital permissions – all made up of millions and millions of bits legitemised as the Airbus A380 he was about to fly in. Craig had a sense of some of this going to work and doing his job but not much. He really just did digital dirt. This was partially writing code, 2

partially visual programming, a lot of ideas projected into class hierarchies, object inheritance, algorithms, APIs, SDKs, application environments and such like. Rapid bursts of keystrokes, keyboard short-cuts, dialogue boxes, mouse clicks and scrolls followed by a lot of screen gazing, staring into the distance as the whole thing was compiled into executable code: then the odd click to change a parameter, a layer of hue, transparency or luminosity perhaps before recompiling. A predictable cycle of feverish building followed by reflective tweaking followed by feverish building followed by … and on and on. For those not familiar with the term 'algorithm' Professor Nomen Clutture of the Edge City University had invented a very useful one which can be used as an example. His algorithm can be used to ascertain the gender of any person born in the vicinity of Middlesbrough and the National Park. The algorithm goes like this: 1. Find out the name of the person whose gender you wish to know. 2. If the name ends in a consonant then the person is male and you are done. If the name does not end in a consonant then go to 3. 3. If the name ends in a vowel then the person is female and you are done. If the name does not end in a vowel then go to 4. 4. If the name does not end in a consonant or a vowel then the person was probably not born in or near Middlesbrough or the National Park and the algorithm may not be applicable. Professor Clutture – whose work has created a storm of debate both in the academic and the wider social world concerning the very existence of gender - is currently researching the applicability of the algorithm on people born across the river Tees in Stockton. Very little code was built form scratch. Most was rebuilt, recycled, 3

refashioned out of other things finished or unfinished, used or unused but now sections of this and that and an idea from there botched together into the latest grimy secret. Re-usable code was how the academics referred to it but in this business it was referred to as 'garbage in, product out', for reasons soon to become much clearer. And it wouldn’t be just graphics much longer. Soon there was to be haptic, olfactory and auditory systems; obsolescence, usage and abusage and who knows what. Things wouldn't just have to look old but would also have to feel old, smell old, sound old and act old. Getting old and decrepit required more and more imagination, ingenuity, enthusiasm and more and more technical skill and technology, always more technology. Craig had a friend who worked in Weathering and Erosion but that wasn't the same thing at all; far too staid and traditional. People in Weathering were disparagingly referred to as 'Gaiabots' because it was all so well understood and scientific. Urban decay was so, well ... vital! But much of what Craig did was about showing other people how to use his company's knowledge of digital grime and decay effectively in their own products. These companies were in the digital special effects business for film and advertising, games companies, virtual surgery training systems and so on. In fact many games companies had gone into virtual surgery training systems because they knew more about taking virtual humans apart than the surgeons did - although they had to learn to do it in a more patient-oriented way. The company Craig worked for almost never sold actual systems anymore and didn't have a product in the traditional sense. They had evolved out of the business of shifting dirt - dustbin men emptying bins into giant, jaw-bound, munching trucks - and into the business of selling information about dirt and then into selling information about virtual dirt. They didn't make games. What they sold was knowledge, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), about virtual dirt and grime: code, algorithms, data 4

sets, program libraries and so on that real game developers could incorporate into the game they were building so as to make it appear more real. IPR was a neat way of doing business because other people had to worry about getting to market and demographics and pricing strategies and whatever else you had to worry about when you made stuff for RL. This way you just sold the configurable ideas and let somebody else take the risk. Craig sort-of understood all this but generally just got on with the crap that he was good at. This was Edge City and if you said bin to these guys they would think of CGI bin, /bin, binarys, the little wastebin icon on your windows desktop or, more probably, a virtual model of a beat up, used and abused dustbin and lid. Somebody else took out the garbage these days. Everyone was outsourcing as much as possible. Sometimes it wasn't the National Park. Sometimes it was Edge City. The new centre of the unnamed, unacknowledged city of regeneration corporation, pump priming, infra structure, usage redesignation, digitization and globalisation projects that had blossomed around the industrial wasteland between Middlesbrough and Stockton where She Margaret Thatcher She that is - had once stood and been photographed by the world's media. Later She came back and stood nearby in a car park in the centre of a huge, out-of-town retail park, Teesside Park. Sometimes it was the National Park and sometimes it was Edge City; same place, different stories. It's partly where you are and partly where you think you are. You can switch from Edge City to the National Park and back just with a blink of the eyes. The artificial, configurable, white water rapids course on the other side of the river, across the Tees Barrage, from Teesside Park is just such a blink of the eyes. It had all started like this. First of all there was Urban Waste Disposal which was a council refuse service that had been privatised because of She. Having introduced flexible working conditions and lower 5

wages for those that hadn't been sacked the management team started looking to grow their business. They had recently introduced a computerised, bar-coded tracking system for additional and large items of waste that they were required to dispose of as part of their contract. “Follow your crap to the tip” was an early sales pitch. “One click and you can access our on-line web service to see just where your crap is now” was another. The latest pitch was “We chart the crap out of your life”. The management realised they could also go into business selling waste software systems - not software systems that were rubbish - to other privatised bin businesses. This was so successful that it led to business process re-engineering, downsizing and spinning out. The Company split into two. There was still Urban Waste Disposal but now there was also Refuse Informatics. It was shortly after this that Refuse Informatics became involved in film production. Urban Waste pension fund money was invested, in the short term, in a number of low budget, high return British film projects about ordinary but humorous British people. Some of these ventures were successful and others not but more money was made than lost. However, they quickly realised that they knew a whole lot more about grime and decay than the digital special effects people who worked on some of the films they financed. Grime and decay being a key feature of British films intended for the Hollywood market. A couple of computer graphics (CG) gurus were headhunted and a successful bid made to the government for money to retrain the exdustmen in the mysteries of VR and CG. These were the same dustmen who had not so long ago been retrained in the use of distributed rubbish information systems. Refuse Informatics now also developed and sold digital dirt. Pretty soon that irreverent, mouthy young upstart, the games industry discovered a need for crap as well. Before you could back-up a file, the digital dirt, special effects division was growing faster than the rest of Refuse Informatics put 6

together and so there followed another bout of business process reengineering, down sizing, spinning out and splitting in two. The new company was called DK Digitalia which promptly moved into a new Edge City development little more than a rusty tin can's throw from the spot where She had been photographed amidst the desolation and decay of the country's once great heavy engineering industry. DK Digitalia's motto became “Bring Back the Waste of the Seventies”. The building itself was a enchanting mix of rural Thai and Spanish mass tourism that had been designed by an architect who had won the Oxymoron prize in the sixties for the most attractive office block in Croydon … the British Alphaville

Jean Luc Goddard saxonified even before way before the tram …
Craig had been through the whole process. He had worked for the council as a dustman and then all three companies. He now worked for DK Digitalia. It certainly beat being a binnie. He ran his fingers over the pitted, scratched, smudged, fading door between the kitchen and the dining room. It was crying out to be spruced up, given a lick of paint and generally looked after. It was so just right. Nobody would take any notice of it at all. He saved the door, closed the program he’d been using to finish it off and logged out from the state of the art workstation on his desk. He looked round the room, dirt, hair, table cloths, all the latest fashions, could all be seen being digitally done-down around the room using the latest experimental, pre-release algorithms. People too highly paid to waste time talking gazed intently at their monitors - experts in the unnoticed. If a user ever noticed the results of their labours, they had failed. In this business you had to be completely unnoticed just as most of reality goes unnoticed even when it is right in your face. One of DK Digitalia's biggest customers was a giant, California based game publisher called Certain Faith. Like all game publishers, Certain Faith had a mysterious name that didn't seem to have anything to do with making video games. Market sector analysts often speculated 7

whether the name came from the certain faith of making money or the certain faith of redemption; not that there was much difference between the two any more. The only game Certain Faith seemed to be developing right now was called Gritty Reality and it seemed to take up all Craig's time. In fact that was just about all Craig seemed to do: filth, grime and decay for Certain Faith's Gritty Reality. What the game was actually about, what the gameplay was, what the backstory was, how you won or lost: all that was a complete mystery to Craig. There was nothing unusual about that. No developer would let go of any IP on a new game until they had to. What was unusual was the degree, depth, breadth, penetration, ingrained, unbleachable nature of the filth they had commissioned. This was going to be the filthiest game ever to reach the high street. You wouldn't want to even look at it let alone touch anything in it. He rose to leave. People did look up as he walked across the open plan office to the way out. Banter, jibes, obscenities, bits of screwed up paper were all hurled at him as he passed. Just what you'd expect from the predictable blend of spotty young geeks and middle aged, retrained binnies that made up the Future Of Filth Group that Craig led. He felt his hand pushing on the cold, unblemished, silver coloured panel of the immaculate polished, designer steel and glass door and opened it as he made for the exit. Turning the Audi out of the car park he was soon in University Boulevard. With Edge City University in front of him turned south onto Harvard Avenue and then east onto Princeton Drive which he followed all the way to the roundabout beside the Tees Barrage. He turned south onto The Viaduct which took him over the railway sidings, the railway itself between Stockton and Middlesbrough, and a little road he didn't know the name of that all ran parallel with the A66, the main dual carriageway running along the Tees Valley. 8

A few seconds later he was driving east along the A66 as it skirted the centre of Middlesbrough and then made its way out towards Redcar: brushing past council housing estates, the coke works, business and industrial parks - becoming the A1053 and then the A1085 - and then the huge steel works on the left and the even huger Wilton Chemical works on the right. Until, just as he approached the edge of Redcar, he turned north into Kirkleatham Lane, over a bridge over the railway, then quickly left again, so he was now going back west. A few more yards and only just over ten minutes after leaving DK Digitalia he turned left again and parked his car in a carefully screened car park and walked a few yards to a hide that overlooked a great expanse of marshes, lakes and ditches bounded some distance away by the giant steel works to his right and a huge edge-of-town car showroom in front of him where he'd just turned north off the A66. The hide was cold, musty and damp smelling. The wooden benches were rounded, shiny and worn with use as was the little shelf you used to rest your elbows on so you could keep your binoculars steady as you pointed them out of the narrow viewing hatch that ran the length of far wall. He had built a very successful model of this very bench, generalised the war and tear and the IPRs that came out of the process had sold all round the world. Most of the year round bird spotting, birding, this far north was uncomfortable due to: the cold; the rain; the cold, wet ground underfoot; the cold, damp fogs; the cold, hard, damp benches; and the cold, damp, hard, wet, squidgy stuff of all sorts always under your feet; but there were almost always birds to see. But that on its own wasn't what did it for Craig. Birding in these conditions reminded him of, brought him back to, RL. Birding in these conditions was RL. It reminded you how real RL could be. As well as this you were constantly reminded that the birds themselves were going to do what they wanted, be where they wanted to be and generally make your RL birding forays as inconvenient as possible. Birding 9

was RL because the birds themselves existed in RL because of RL. Something so complex, multi-faceted and inter-connectedly entangled and unpredictable could not have been built by a computer programmer; not yet. In the end that was about the main reason why Craig went birding. Five miles below him, Las Vegas was as real as ever. Above it all, Theo was deeply engrossed in a recurrent reverie on the ever-increasing complexities and entanglements of all the forms of life that now made up RL. All that digital, virtual, networked stuff was just as much a part of RL as RL was. This meant that RL was now so much bigger and less natural than it had been. Theo’s obsession, his personal mission, and his job was to make it even more so. Atoms and Bits, Edge City and the National Park, Gritty Reality: they all made so much more and less than sense and needed to make a hell of a lot more and less so before his job was done. He settled down into his business class recliner looking forward to a flight of blissful confusion. Inescapable Chemical Intercepts, the local chemical multinational – long since restructured, de-constructured, spun-out and sold off, had dug the wetland area as part of a community relations program. They had also planted special reed beds that filtered out the toxic waste that legally leached out of their plant. In fact, these reed beds and the new, super efficient sewage works, controlled by a software system developed by Refuse Informatics, had rendered the river and wetlands so pure that the National Park's famous wildlife began to find little to eat and had started to move on. Refuse Informatics had then sold the National Park a very sophisticated, and very expensive, environmental digital management system that added controlled amounts of genetically re-engineered industrial and human waste back into the ecosystem and the wildlife had started to move back. In fact, the new Value Added Waste division of Refuse Informatics was doing so well that the business process reengineers and down-sizers had been called in yet again to float it off on its 10

own sea of sustainable detritus. The National Park was the newest in the country and the only one created for many years. In part it owed its existence to a government land usage classification scheme that designated the whole area as rural because so few people lived there. Those that did were thus not able to apply for benefits and government assistance normally given to those living in deprived urban areas. In fact nobody lived in the majority of the area that was now the national park because it was actually a huge conurbation of chemical works, steel works, refineries, a cyanide plant and much, much more. The much, much more was mainly expanses of derelict, brownfield, heavy metal polluted land but here was also a fairly comprehensive collection of power stations: oil, gas, coal and nuclear. All in all this great tract of uninhabited land ran inland – sometimes a mile or two wide - both sides of the river tees some 10 miles from its mouth at South Gare right up to and beyond Stockton to the west. It occurred to the Ministry concerned that a rural idyll on this scale without so much as a farm and with people only living around the edges must be a huge, forgotten wilderness which had to be preserved at all costs. Of course, none of the local people and businesses had it in their interests to put the Ministry right on this matter. It was also far too far north for London civil servants to safely venture. The nearest underground station was over 250 miles south. And so the Tees Valley (TV) National Park was created, signs erected round its border and grants flowed in to preserve the natural landscape, the flora and fauna, and the traditional ways of life, all of which must be under threat. Steel workers, for instance, are a dying breed almost as rare as thatchers or blacksmiths. Doubly unbeknown to the civil servants, among the chemical works, steel works and unmentionable other works there were wetlands and coastlines of great environmental significance. All in all, the great mistake that was the TV National Park was 11

the right decision. He could see shovellers and pintails here as well. There were numbers of coots and moorhens of course. A greenshank strutted around the margins of the nearest pond. Somebody, one of the wardens he believed, had seen a sea eagle flying over the other day. That had brought out the twitchers but not Craig. He was not a twitcher; didn't maniacally collect bird sightings; didn't have a tick list; hadn't driven 50 miles up the coast not long ago to catch a glimpse of a Spanish sparrow to add to his non-existent tick list. He went birding, rather than twiching. Nothing like the best bird watcher, he couldn't tell the difference between an arctic tern and a common tern. He was a bird watcher because he enjoyed it, found it relaxing and loved the fact that so much wilderness and wildlife and so much heavy industry lived side by side in the national park. Not to mention the RL … which you already did

or did you forget

repeat

yourself lose the plot a little

repeat ... Somehow, the National Park

with its heritage of heavy industry crafts and Edge City with its digital, virtual business parks and its genetically engineered university campus was also somehow inter-seamlessly woven into all this RL. He was still leaning on the rough, wooden shelf steadying his binoculars. Splinters distracted him. Cold, damp, dirty, jagged splinters all over the rough wooden shelf caught the full force of his attention and he shuddered at the thought of one stuck deep in his finger. His mind went into overdrive … what a sensation programmable maybe the seamy side

Gritty Reality certainly not even sounds

never thought of sensations feelings pain disgust pass them on to Audible Decrepitude department

want something old and clapped out sounds like sounds like shit they would know what to do but splinters fang like the idea of fear of them what it would feel like program that into a game no real injury just the pain and sensation of it how to program that strange idea how the hell
12

to program it

what would that mean work on it anyway rumours around the office

done before competitors

has anyone else tried this

Industrial Binary Grime San Francisco worth a try look like I’m trying finger on the pulse finger with a splinter fangs in it feeling the nerves pulse phone take a few snaps shots you know a rough rubbing or two got some scraps of paper and a biro bosses pleased Certain Faith where did the idea come from byte bitten piercing …
Later, as he drove home, he noticed some flamingos stood in the middle of a grassy roundabout; they were back for the tenth year running. Thousands of them now returned year after year to the Saltholme nature reserve and its great alkaline lake, in the middle of the volcanic section of the park, to the north of the river to breed where they themselves had hatched. It was the most northerly flamingo breeding ground by several thousand miles. The tourist buses would start to arrive in the next few days. Just over ten years ago an Edge City developer had leveled a huge tract of derelict land north of the river in preparation and expectation that it would naturally fill up of with fresh water to create a new extension to the designer wetland habitat that incoming information intensive industries now expected as the setting for their relocated, retrained information workers. However, it has long been forgotten that this area was once the site of one of the largest salt mines in the then known world. As the fresh water seeped into the newly created scrapes it quickly became highly alkaline and very hot due to the vast underground seams of … yes yes get on with it … New forms of algae quickly developed. 13

can’t capture haptics or sensations could be a winner

directly can only suggest hint at what it feels like

algorithmic pain delighted … out of nowhere but feels like it came

This all took some time, mind time … but what sort of time is that

from somewhere feels like given to him implanted stuck in his mind

At this very moment there would already be thousands of the pale purple birds over in Saltholme, strutting, circling, displaying and feeding. Huge hotels and viewing gantries had been built so that tourists from all over the world could flock and display in full view of the flamingos who didn’t seem at all concerned by the fuss and attention they attracted. The geysers and bubbling pools of boiling mud that helped sustain the huge lake were natural and volcanic. But there was the idea, the rumour that it was the result of giant underground seams of burning anthracite that had been accidentally set alight when an abandoned landfill site caught fire. Another that it was underground seepage of hot slag from the steel works. Whatever the reason the temperatures of the ground in this part of the National Park were frighteningly high. So much so that petrol stations had to be specially designed and build here for fear of their underground petrol tanks heating up and exploding … the

measured energy of an idea …
For years the local chemical multinational had placated local residents by claiming to provide free underfloor heating using heat that was supposed to be a bi-product of the advanced and yet surprisingly ecofriendly processes that the company operated from within control rooms which operated at above normal air pressure just in case anything that shouldn't got out did but couldn't get into the control rooms to stop those who could do something about it doing it. It couldn't have worked out better as the National Park now sported one of the most amazing eco-tourism sites in the world sustained by the ecological disasters of the past. This was an eco-paradox of breathtaking commercial potential. There was a certain, no a definite, even deliberate irony in this and it was a classic example of the way Edge City and the National Park accidentally worked hand in hand with the local wildlife groups, conservation groups and residents associations. No one knows quite how the first flamingos found their way to this 14

perfect breeding site thousands of miles north of their normal range. It was rumoured that a breakaway faction of one of the more militant local wild life groups, lead by a born again Bachunalian, wanted to re-establish the park as it had been millions of years ago when this part of the world had actually been on the equator. That Bachunalians were called such was a mystery. Possibly it was their love of wine which led to confusion and illconsidered acts of stupidily or on the other hand it could be that the use of wine as a shamanistic device lead to clarity of insight and wellconsidered acts of genius. It was also possible that the name was just a part of the stealth tactics adopted by an organisation that wished to remain illusive. Craig had now left the valley floor and seemed to be driving through a tropical rain forest as he started to climb the foothills of the Anthracite Mountains towards the Southern edge of the park. The hot steamy air necessary for such an environment was provided at little cost by Urbane Microclimates, a spin off of one of the local power companies. The seemingly accidental appearance and huge commercial potential of the new volcanic region had come as a revelation to Urbane Generation, the company building the new cold fusion power plant within the National Park. Power generation being, of course, one of the nowprotected cottage industries the National Park was empowered to preserve and foster. Urbane desperately needed to save money on their infrastructure spend on plant and had convinced the planners that their huge, new, low-level cooling tower would be less intrusive on the pristine landscape of the park. This was so of the structure itself but not of the huge clouds of hot vapour that poured out of it. The commercial opportunities were obvious. A new company, Urbane Microclimates was, of course, spun out to undertake climatic engineering for local communities. Right next door to the tropical rain forest community was the thriving all year, RL Snow Center also dependant on Urban Microclimates 15

and their innovative use of the miniaturised cooling tower. The RL Snow Center was on the site of a defunct all year, all weather, dry ski run that had failed some years before. After a few more minutes climbing the hills that marked the southern edge of the city, Craig arrived at his very nice home in Marton. He microwaved himself a meal and after dinner walked down the road to the Spit and MDFDust, a traditional local pub which had served its community for generations, as the writing said on the wall. It was actually a traditionally themed, out of town eating venue built about six months ago on the site of a traditional local pub which had once served the local ironstone mining community. The pit head used to be just down the road but had lain derelict for the best part of a hundred years. The Spit and MDFDust was yet another almost unique joint venture between Edge City and the National Park. Rather the joint venture was between Spit and MDFDust PLC and the National Park because, of course, Edge City has no corporate or institutional existence as such and thus no management, responsibilities; nowhere for the buck to stop. The National Park had sunk a good deal of taxpayers money into the scheme as the result of a recently completed survey it had commissioned from an Edge City startup run by two disgruntled ex-employees of Refuse Informatics who thought their company's new Bangladeshi style headquarters was too far to walk to the nearest lunch-time pub. The survey had shown that another, once common, rural activity had largely died out. It had once been a common sight to see large numbers of middle aged men congregating in small local public houses to drink locally brewed beer and talk complete crap for hours on end. Sadly this no longer happened. Middle-aged men now sat at home, with their families, surrounded by their digital, surround sound home entertainment systems and opened bottles of traditional Italian wine made entirely from the traditional local chardonnay grapes grown in Botswana and vinified by an Australian who had once been a senior 16

manager in a southern hemisphere stainless steel corporation. The deal was this. Spit and MDFDust PLC … PLC could stand for

particularly lousey caterers … would be allowed planning permission to
knock down the local pub as it then was and replace it with a 3,000 seat traditionally themed, out of town, family eating venue with an average customer age of seven and a half if it included a separate bar where only people over 18 could go and only people over 35 would want to go. Spit and MDFDust PLC responded that they didn't have the expertise to build or run a bar and that in any case such a thing inside one of their eating venues would have disastrous consequences for their business plan. Finally, it was agreed that the National Park would provide the money, historical knowledge and retrained craftspeople to build and run the bar on the condition that it would have a quite separate entrance, name and sign. There were thus two traditionally themed establishments in the same building but with seperate entrance and names. On the main road side was the Spit and MDFDust entrance and sign while on the side road at the back of the building was the Spit and Sustainable Sawdust with its own entrance and sign. Craig turned off the main road at the point where he could just see the far off neon sign of Kartofli, the newly opened snack food company, whose bright lights were set against a background of the thousands of twinkling lights spread down below across the valley floor of the National Park a mile or two away. He made his way round the back and entered a world he had known well. His long time friend Jack would already be leaning against the bar with a europint of beer in his hand. Unlike Craig, Jack had left school with some qualifications and had found a lowly paid but highly secure job with a beneficent local multinational and worked his way up into middle management. This, of course, meant that he had now been made redundant and had no prospects. Unlike Craig, who had left school with no qualifications but 17

whose invaluable, first hand expert knowledge as a binnie now meant he was a higly paid computer graphics specialist. Craig had a small stake in the joint venuture whereas Jack's main interest was drinking there. Some people, like Craig, moved easily between Edge City and the National Park. Often not realising they had slipped between one and the other. Some people, such as Jack, apparently, consciously gave their allegiance to one or the other; some just didn't know either existed. There are people who think they know where the town centre is or ask where the town centre is if they are new to the town. 'Beef on the bone' snacks were a new concept snack food from Kartofli being trialled in the Spit and Sustainable Sawdust. The factory, owned by a South American root vegetable oligarch had just opened across town on the South Tees Imperial Food Park down by the Off Road Sports Centre more or less on the banks of the river. It hadn't gone into full production yet. The building itself was a post-modern revival fantasy in expensive looking coated steel and had been designed to resemble a famous Pop Art painting of a hamburger. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the owner's insistence that an observation tower be built on top. The observation tower took the form of a large stainles steel sphere – with the giant neon Kartofli sign atop it - with windows round its equator set atop a stainless steel cylinder that not only supported it but also gave access from the factory proper below. Of course, there was no beef or bone in the snacks. They were made from a chemically enhanced, freeze-dried, potatoey stuff that had a nice crunchy texture when properly cooked but which assumed something of the texture of ancient granite and expanded a hundred fold if even slightly over done. The heat used for the cooking process was drawn quite naturally from the ground below the factory. But Jack wasn't in the bar when Craig arrived. He came in a few minutes later just as a violent tropical rainstorm passed over the pub. A 18

small programming error meant that the Urban Microclimates was drenching the area of the Spit and Sustainable Sawdust in huge amounts of extremely hot rain that should have been destined for the tropical rainforest neighbourhood of Eston not far away. Jack ordered a europint of traditional Philipino Pilsner, brewed under-license in a state of the art facility next door to Kartofli’s, to toast the magic of the moment. But the magic of this moment was of nothing compared to the magic of some of the succeeding moments. The deluge moved away from Eston and out across the valley and seemed to hover over the South Tees Imperial Food Park, drenching Kartofli’s in thousands of tons of hot water. The snack factory had not been designed for equatorial, Asian weather. The lightweight, steel, sesame bap-shaped roof gave way and the huge stock pile of chemically enhanced, freeze dried, potatoey mixture was drenched in steaming hot rain a lot of which then seeped down through the underground heat ducting and instantly evaporated on contact with the hot earth. The result was quite startling. The huge mountain of potatoey stuff started to cook very quickly; started to overcook very, very quickly. Started to expand enormously and harden at an alarming rate. The movement of this material was skywards as the cooking process forced the overcooked material up into the air as the uncooked material below it in turn overcooked. The process was fast and growth rates were later calculated to be about a metre per second upwards although of course there was some spread outwards as well. The process was remarkably silent and soon the factory itself was engulfed and only the roof could be seen although this was now some 60 metres up in the air supported by a rock hard mass of overcooked and solidified concept snack food. As yet no one had noticed, the few workers on duty having been, unfortunately, overcome by the rapidly expanding material. By the time someone did notice the snack mound was well over 19

100 metres high and beginning to appear on the radar of Blade Runner Internatinal, the Edge City airport nearby. At least the stainless steel control room and the yellow neon 'Kartofli's' sign did. The potatoey stuff, despite its strength, make little or no impression on the radar and has since become the subject of intense investigation by the newly formed Kartofli's 'Stealth Snack' division: 'If you can't see it can't have any calories'. Myra Zest the manager of Kartofli's newest factory was in her office - the stainless steel sphere on top of the main factory, from there she could see nothing of the factory but she did have a good view of Edge City and the National Park. Of course, she could see the whole factory, every nook and cranny, and every person in every nook and cranny using her personal CCTV system. No potato was left unturned. Myra hardly ever left the inside of her little stainless steel planet. She preferred to sit in front of her bank of monitors watching people in the factory and its environs and monitoring the state of the art iSPOTS, intelligent Snack Production and Online Tracking System, developed by an exciting new division of local company Refuse Informatics that was about to be spun out on its own. Myra was in her office viewing processes, monitoring production, trying to make sure targets were being hit. But the iSPOTS was missing something very dramatic, just didn’t notice something very, very obvious. She felt the earth move, felt a great shud-d-dering-reverve-erbate-reverbb-bering-revive-erbating up through the floor causing everything removable crashing and recrashing. 20 or 30 long, long, very long seconds: then, the stainless steel column that supported the stainless steel planetette, she was inside, was crashing upwards propelled at great speed by the factory roof smashing into the base of the sphere that buckled and changed shape. Traveling upwards, she must be, because first she felt that weight in the stomach as the high-speed lift starts off, inertia holding her down and later, seemed much later, the definite 20

weightless sensation as the lift stops at a floor. The strength of the sensation inside her decided her, she must have been travelling upwards quite fast and for a long time. Things settled down. The vibrations lessened. The noise was a lot less. She was still alive. She didn't move. She couldn't see where to move to and was too frightened to explore. It was pitch black. She didn't know what was left around her. She realized she must be up somewhere: suspended in mid air? But on what? By what? Go back to the moment, the floor begins to shudder; that moment

... what the fuck

shit

earthquake what’s going on earthquake

Middlesbrough shit grab something hold on anything get under the desk quick get under the desk get under the fucking desk shit shaking crashing noises breaking stuff rumbling crushing breaking stuff scared sick shaking like a leaf bit better here feels safer probably not more vibration more gentler what’s that what’s different less shaking that going up going commencing

up up shuttle launch dark can’t see lift off ridiculous what it feels like going into space ridiculous shuttle has cleared the tower roll noise vibration going up still can’t feel it can’t be accelerating still

going up am I feel OK not hurt nothing hurts don’t think so sick wanna be sick feel sick but can’t just scared so scared why me quieter a bit now maybe what the fuck is going on not an explosion no what then no must be what’s that stopped where something fucking weird stopping when a lift stops stopped …
"The weather used to be really boring round here until that new power station started playing around with it," said Jack as he settled into his first europint. "And give me a packet of those new Beef on the Bone snacks that company down the road is making," he said to the barman. 21

not an explosion stopping

stomach feels weird not sick weird back in the lift yes feels like a lift stopped quiet stopped can’t hear much anything at all not at where am I up

somewhere where

how high what happened where what am I

"We have a special offer on those Jack," returned the barman, "If you buy two then you only have to pay once." "No wonder you work behind a bar," retorted Jack who knew the joke had cropped up in one of the soaps that afternoon. This fact was lost on Craig who just saw the joke as being pathetic wherever it came from. "Give me a packet of turnip flavour and a packet of raspberry in that case," quipped Jack. Craig thought this was just more banter until the two packets arrived on the counter in front of him. "Don't you hate in when people seem to live their lives through stupid TV programs that are too ridiculous to believe in the first place?" Continued Jack through a mouthful of snack material with the consistency of permafrost. The food colouring had turned his tongue blue so he must eating the turnip flavour, surmised Craig. "The weather never was boring round here," said Craig, "it just got more unbelievable." "Must be living in a bloody soap then," retorted Jack, "and that barman can't help his jokes because he's just saying what he has to." "Explains a lot of the rubbish you come out with then doesn't it," interrupted Craig, joining in with the fantasy. “Couldn’t happen with computer games could it Craig?” retorted Jack. Craig smiled but at the same time was wondering, as he often did when he met Jack, why his friend always seemed to have money even though the was out of work. The evening flight into Durham Tees Valley airport from Schipol was as uneventful as ever. The small airliner was full with almost one hundred people on board. It was a popular route with business people and holiday makers alike. The flight usually took no more than an hour and passengers were just served a drink and a simple snack. This had been peanuts or cheesy biscuits until recently. Debbie, Deb b for short, was on her way back from visiting her mother in Amsterdam. She hadn't see her 22

mother in quite a while. Not since she had, out of the blue, told her daughter she was off to some sort of new age, hippie festival in France; Lieu de Changement, she later called it in a text to tell Deb b and that she had met this wonderful retro-hedge-fund-a-mental cleric from the Church of Shafted Illusions and was moving in with him in Amsterdam. She was thinking about some of the crazy things her mother had got up to and into while at the same time looking out of the window at the lights along the coastline below her and looking forward to the view of the National Park at night as the flight made its final approach. The stewardess was just collecting up plastic beakers, paper cups and empty snack packets as the plane banked and came in low over the heart of the National Park. Thousands of lights shone, glistened, reflected and refracted out across the salt marshes, chemical works and the great flamingo lake. She noticed that the snack she had been served with had Kartofli's emblazoned over the still half full packet. They were new in town, she knew; a new factory somewhere below her. Deb b settled back in her seat a little more. In a few minutes she would be back in Middlesbrough, back home with Craig and tomorrow back to her life … my life sensible real

the one I've worked so hard to make build up customers hundreds of them relying on me beauty tips new season's fashions for the fuller older typical figure back to normal my normal fashionable busy hectic successful thirty something life my car my cat my house my clothes my customers my everything … Deb b is very much a people person; working with
people is important to her. She is a self employed manicurist, make up artist, personal shopper, beauty advisor to several hundred customers around The City of Tees Valley. She runs it entirely on her mobile phone, text, voice mail, blue tooth earpiece that she uses to talk all the time to who she is consulting with and any of her other customers that want to ring her at any time. No one minds that they never get her undivided 23

attention. On the contrary, they love it because they feel hooked into Deb b's special network; a little of her people personing, social networking coolness rubs off on them. Literally, Deb b is a networker, a net worker. She settled a little more back into her seat as she felt her real life returning to her after the madness of her mother's. Things were not quite so real in the cockpit. Real life was not behaving as it should. Before the very eyes of the pilot and co-pilot the very geography was playing tricks on them. A huge white, shinny monolith with a shiny silver top was, well, rising before them, air traffic control were screaming at them, alarms of all sorts were telling anyone who would listen that they were either doing their job or at least coming out in sympathy with those that were and to cap it all the mountain seemed to bear the same name as the marginally palatable snack food they had both decided not to eat after the first few morsels. At the moment they first caught sight of the metal thing atop the monolith … alien space ship … quickly followed by … advertising earth

snacks … crossed the pilot’s mind while … Blade Runner blimp big airship thing off world move to colonies move iife on the … crossed the co-pilot’s
and he became almost completely distracted by a series of, more or less authentic, film clips which seemed determined to occupy all his available conscious thought processes. The pilot, being less distracted, decided to accept … the alien space ship monolith snack thing … as fact, at least for the present and tried to avoid flying into it. Just in time the plane turned sharply north and flew within metres of whatever it was before turning south and west again to resume its final approach. Deb b caught a brief glimpse of … shiny silver cap what shiny

silver stainless steel

shining letters

Kartofli haloed great neon letters

brand of the potato snack people how big are these people is this company … and not unnaturally came to the conclusion that these potato
snack people were a lot more important than she had thought. 24

The approaching plane had not escaped Myra's attention either. She did not know where she was but she did know she was 'up' in some sense. It had not occurred to her that up meant 'up enough' to be eyeballing airliners in flight.

… lights bright piercing blackness what’s this headlights but wrong too big too big and other lights other colours and noise rumbling different rumbling moving fast towards me shit it’s a plane airliner lit windows rows of flight path up in the face a woman’s face looking at me uncomprehending not astonished too astonished to be face to face am I this far up this far how up can I be how can I be …
There was nothing she could do except send a text message something she could do in pitch blackness - but how did you text an airliner? As the plane had banked about her she caught - did she really catch sight of? – sight of a young woman's face staring back at her with a look of, well a look, a look that hadn't been seen on the face of a human too often, maybe never, maybe not since; and not even then, that was just a story, a film and a novel. Great, shiny, black obelisks didn't just appear from nowhere; except in books and films. Didn't just appear. Replicants and potato airliners didn't either. At that very moment, Deb b caught sight of a face, her face, reflected in the window she was looking out of and another, smaller face looking back at her from one of the windows in the Kartofli thing … who the whose face is that me my do I

look she so shocked frightened dazzled can't believe what I'm she's never seen a look like that such an expression on anyone's … and it imprinted,
indelibly on her mind. She would never forget that expression on her, or her face. Jack was convinced that the turnip flavour was better than the raspberry but Craig didn't seem in the mood to try either. As usual he was more interested in answering his mobile than talking to people in the same room as him. In this case Craig was not unreasonably distracted due 25

to the text message he had just recieived, "Crg Kar tof mnt lk prk nr crsssh dwn sfly gt t fcuk t rpot. Bth Debbie". Strange how text messages got more and more concise all the time and yet you always somehow knew what they meant. Stranger, Deb b never signed herself Debbie, always Deb b, she always shortened it, liked the little phonetic joke. No! She never signed herself anything, her phone did that for her. Even stranger, Deb b always drove herself to and from the airport. Very, very independent was Deb b. Must have been a bad day or car trouble, something out of the ordinary to say the least. "Sorry, Jack," he said, "have my beer. I've got to go and get Deb b, some sort of problem. I'll be back in about forty minutes. Sorry." With that he left fully expecting to be back in forty minutes. Myra knew all the buzzwords, anecdotes, hyperbole, hyperbreviations of the information age revolution. She knew the future was not what it was, she knew change was the new normality, she knew anything happened in the next half hour; she knew all this, she had helped in no small way to make it happen. She just wasn't coping too well with it right now. She wasn't going to cope too well with what was going to happen in the next few minutes either. The Kartofli tumescence was unstable; it was not going to hold up. As if some cataclysmic release had taken place, the tumescence began to subside, began to fall in on itself as tens of thousands of tons of potatoey, snack stuff collapsed, somewhat gracefully, back into the remains of the factory from which it emanated. Myra felt as if she was going down in a highspeed lift. This was far more terrifying than going up. It didn't seem that you would ever die going up, but going down was a different kettle of snack food. The potatoey stuff provided a wonderfully cushioned landing and Myra found herself back, more or less, where she had been, and wanted to be some minutes earlier. Except that her stainless steel office was now sat atop the largest potato snack in the world and not atop the factory she had so recently 26

managed. She didn’t know this of course. Craig made his way round the side of the pub to the front and looked down the road where he could see the brightly lit sign of Kartofli's new factory set against the huge sea of light polution that was the National Park at night. Everything looked as it had just a few minutes ago but there appeared to be police and fire engines arriving. Must be something going on. No doubt he would hear about it later. First of all he had to walk round the corner, get the car and go and see what was up with Deb b. "Welcome to Blade Runner International Airport," announced the stewardess apparently oblivious to the near fatal, inexplicable event that had so recently threatened the plane and all its contents. "We hope you had an enjoyable and uneventful flight. We know you had a choice tonight and we look forward to traveling with you again." One of the most inexplicable features of the inexplicable event Deb b knew so little about was that the object which was the cause of all this inexplicableness no longer existed. Only the pilot, co-pilot and a few of the passengers one the left hand side of the plane who happened to be looking out of the window had witnessed the Kartofli tumescence. The air traffic control people had only seen the strange metallic object which had risen so slowly - for an aeroplane - vertically - unlike an aeroplane - and then fallen back to earth - equally unlike an aeroplane - on their radar screens. The captain felt duty bound to register a near miss incident but was having trouble finding the right words to express it. The co-pilot had just got to the bit where the last replicant says … moments will be lost in time, like tears in

rain. Time to die … and so was not co-operating. He was a great fan of
Rutger Hauer; and currently living the dream. When she finally emerged into the little arrivals hall and was waiting for her luggage the enormity of what she had experienced hit home in a way that only a large mouthful of cold pizza can come close to. 27

She rushed a text message to Craig – what else could she do; that was what she did - and waited. Staring absentmindedly into space, caught up in her own thoughts … … she only gradually became aware of the commotion going on around her. There were: a lot of loud voices; camera flashes; police; a TV crew from the local station; a taxi driver with a small hand written cardboard placard saying, "Sue Rage, Value Added Waste”; some bloke - who looked as if he once might have been an ageing rock star - being welcomed by a posse of well wishers; various reporters from a number of local newspapers including the various free ones for which this was their only reporter and this would be the only story this week; a rather disgruntled youngish woman trying to demonstrate uPVC windows and a smallish man in a crumpled suit and haircut who seemed to think he held a position of some authority in the airport and would have liked to have taken charge of the situation if only he knew how. There was also a man dressed as an alien with a bad case of indigestion. All these people were huddled round the various cabin and flight crew and what was left of the passengers of the flight Deb b had been on. They were being mercilessly pestered to give up what they knew of the illusive tumescence. But, apart from the flight crew no one seemed to have been looking out of the left side of the plane at the moment the object in question came briefly into view. Deb b was the only one. The stories did not seem to match. The pilots talked of a great thrusting tower of whitish stuff with a great silver cap on it haloed by the flashing 'Kartofli's' brand picked out in silver and neon. Deb b had seen only the great silver cap and the associated lettering. They did agree on that. Radar had only picked up the metal bit on top. The cooked potatoey stuff turned out to be a very good stealth material. The news people smelled a rat. This was a publicity stunt; Kartofli's were after free publicity and had nearly caused a major tragedy as a result. The headlines were going to be: CALLOUS POTATO SNACK ALMOST PUFFS OUT AIRLINER, 28

SNACK ATTACK ON DEFENCELESS AIRLINER and the like. There had been
something in that local, free newspaper: Kartofli's, snack company comes to Edge City; but … just how big they are

cool to do that

cool … She

said a few words, as little as she could, for the local TV people and the same for the same free, local newspapers before Craig arrived and she was able to escape. Jack drank his beer and thought about drinking Craig's. He took a few sips while he thought about drinking it and decided not to. He decided instead to go home to make a phone call as a night out. It was supposed to be a phone. The box said it was a phone. So why wouldn’t it be a phone? But it didn’t look like any phone he’d used before. It was just a little device, two little devices; looked a lot like little Blue Tooth earpieces; the sort that could talk to your phone so you could talk on your phone without having to put it to your ear. They fitted snugly round and inside each ear and sat a little way across the cheekbones. There was no key pad, no way of dialing a number, not even an on-off switch. But when them-it turned on – it really was both it and them as they were wirelessly linked, both made up the same device, both talked to each other; ran in synchrony to be more precise; twins, that was it – they became very different. First of all they seemed to, sort of, hum, almost vibrate a little and then clamp themselves gently to either cheekbone; they felt as if they had become a part of him. Then they seemed to link themselves together, ear to ear, right through his head, as if they’d hard wired themselves across his brain and were pulling all the nerve fibers and neural pathways tighter and tighter, ratcheting them in, until it felt as if they had bolted themselves together right through his head. Then things started to get strange. He started to remember how to operate them-it; he had a choice of ideas, or rather he could choose one idea that was already waiting for him; he chose it anyway; not really knowing if it was his idea or not. It was very strange to have ideas that 29

weren’t yours, probably not yours, but felt like they were as well. The idea wouldn’t go away, it was going to hold sway, was going to grab all his attention; all of it. It was a sandbox, a sort of training program where he could play with the idea of what them-it were on his own until he knew what he was doing. He was going to play TV; something to do with the news, a way of interacting with the news. He let it chose him. He was logged into an interactive news channel, News Play 24 "Why watch the news when you can fake it for yourself" . Without really thinking about it he chose a news item about a giant protuberance that had momentarily appeared on the edge of the National Park and had then, just as quickly, disappeared again. As an idea it seemed to take over his whole consciousness, unconsciousness, subconsciousness, all of them, everything. He had various options, he could climb the protuberance, play it as a Lemmings level and attempt to save the person who appeared to be trapped at the top, interview the person who appeared to be trapped inside the steel structure at the top, he could view it from the point of view of a small airliner that had nearly flown into it, he could change some of the initial conditions, heat for example, and see how this would affect the growth and duration of the huge object. If he really wanted to, he could watch a news report on what had happened and why and what were the consequences. He decided to interview the trapped person whose name apparently was Myra. "Hi Myra. My name is Jack.” "Hi Jack. How are you today?" "Better than you by the look of it," said Jack rather flippantly. He was really talking to a virtual model of Myra, an avatar which talked and acted rather like Myra, just as hundreds, maybe thousands of other actors - not viewers because you were less of a couch potato on this channel were talking to hundreds, maybe thousands of other Myras. 30

"It hasn't turned out to be a very good day right now I have to admit." The Myra avatar responded not seemingly put out by his flippancy. "Have you tried my new Kartofli's turnip or raspberry potato snacks yet?" She continued rather incongruously. Being virtual she was programmed to switch the conversation round to a sales pitch as soon as she could, the news was always just an excuse to sell something. "Well … I've tried both and like both but I suppose I prefer the turnip. The sweet potato snacks always seem a bit odd to me." He said and then tried to turn the conversation round to her present predicament by asking, "how did this happen and why are you in some kind of alien spaceship anyway?" "Market research has discerned that there is a significant demand for sweet potato snacks. That is of course, snacks made from ordinary potatoes with sugar added not from sweet potatoes. That is not what our customers want." "But what about my question? "All in good time. We are in fact thinking of adding a new range of snacks that aren't sweet or savoury or anything else for that matter so as to best address the huge group of people who don't like potato snack foods. This could significantly boost our maket share and ..." "Thanks Myra but I gotta go," he decided to cut his losses. She'd never get back to the point now. In any case the story was so bizarre that it was probably not true at all. Just one of those humorous fill-ins the station always had ready in case there was nothing going on that people might want to waste valuable time on. The idea was fading, he sehmd to need more than the sandbox now, sehmd to need to be with others. The idea came to him that he needed to make a call, he was making a call; his brain was dialing a number he didn’t know, was dialling into something. He felt strange connections being made from inside his head to outside his head, way off somewhere. It didn’t feel like person to person 31

And then he was connected. That very strange sensation - that his ears were bolted together across his brain - now sehmd to stretch tightly, very tightly out across a big expanse of … he didn’t know where or what. There seemed to be others around him as well; not ideas but other collections of ideas he was aware of but couldn’t quite bring to mind. Not around him as such, but with him in a very real sense. Collections of ideas he felt he could probably link up with in some way. People! They were other people; but just their ideas; the essence of ideas; people as they were to themselves, inside their own heads; but more so, more than most people realized about themselves. They seemed to be sharing this new idea. Yes, the idea; what was the idea? It was something to do with lights; lots of lights, thousands of them; sparkling and twinkling in the blackness of night. Lights in patterns, grids, bits of grids, and structures, outlines; lights outlining great structures, regular structures like buildings, office blocks, sky scrapers, systems of them lit up at night suggesting shapes, vertexes and edges, complex buildings and complexes of building, streets of lights, and intersecting lights of streets and buildings, suggesting, signifying, a great city, downtown city at night, at play after the day’s work, like a real city centre. Like a real city centre, but not quite! Suggesting, signifying, but not really. Suggesting the idea of; what if it was? But it’s really Wilton, east of Middlesbrough, what used to be the ICI chemical works, huge, great, all lit up at night; but now rented off to Invista, DuPont, Union Carbide, Huntsman, and other bulk chemical giants. But that’s not the idea; the idea to play with, that’s it, the idea to play with. Wilton at night, all that Blade Runner, LA 2025 stuff, looking like a great city, but its not; so it can be thought up and played with, the idea of what it could be imagined to be. And they, those he was aware of, together, they could play with this idea: Wilton as the city centre, virtual centre of the City of Tees Valley; now just lights, lights obscuring the 32

chemical plant structures and cooling towers, just lights suggesting shapes and complexes to play with; they had to fill those shapes with people, shops, bars, all sorts of downtown stuff going on, or rather all sorts of stuff that could be imagined to be going on and they, all those twins clamped to all those cheek bones talking to each other and holding on to all those ideas and letting people play with them as a whole, and there to be remembered, brought back to life as an idea when anyone came back to it. They might come back to it after other people had played with, added to, remodeled and reshaped it. They were imagineering … Walt

Disney’s term imagination engineering collective imagineering we know that … He didn’t know where the word came from but together they were
imagineering a new city centre, the downtown district of Wilton. They seemed to be imagineering around the same ideas, because they were collectively imagineering what Wilton was becoming, it seemed to change, to shift, to be somewhat illusive as well as real at the same time. He needed to keep the Wilton City Centre idea at the centre of his mind, attention, consciousness; but it was shifting and changing; things were happening, people were doing things, starting to have fun. He needed to get down there, into the idea, get down in among the gritty reality of it all. That was the name of the game apparently: Gritty Reality: the chemical works … no chemicals in this works … Theo’s mind was awash with ideas; as usual these days, they weren’t his alone. Thirty five thousand feet above the Atlantic, somewhere just south of Iceland, relaxing in his reclining personal entertainment private jet-world; he was literally wallowing in ideas, the flight of fantasies, the wings of dreams, the motive force of a whim, the concrete reality of a wish list lived to the full; where it was all leading to, the creative shock of an idea lost on the world, locked up in one head, never experienced by others as an idea but told in words, filtered and simplified and distorted by words trying to communicate it … just ‘til now until now until we can 33

share ideas as ideas as they really are collective reasons to play on the world with and not just simple ideas the collective meme takes on its taking living off the absolute need to dream to avoid the collective but the most own existence subject to no constraints of truth or believability on its own sustenance sop yes stop

explaining to just be thought to escape the head the wetware the work the bone barrier to ultimate thought unconscious communities of sustainable thought creations things things things no one will ever be able to see or touch beautiful things ever thought up mind to mind beautiful universes of pure creations collective thought communities of

shifting evolving definitely evolving changing as the ideas flash from thought into thought unconscious thoughters minders …
MIND: Multi-user Idea Networking Device; new from Certain Faith – who had very recently bought out Immersive Ink Inc to get hold of it. Jack was wearing it as was Theo who was thinking about implications, the sense of depth, of … endless currents shadows of other oceans of though

webs of unknown nomenclature

patterns shifting off into the abyss just

being a pattern chasing stop chasing let it come back web down into linkage the physical sensation of thought cold hard depth of thought warm touch of recognition of a sharp angular pattern coming to mind to be minded networked to other minding you and each other nurtured thoughts around shared around sought around settled to common usage in a trice let yourself go blowing the branches new stems rustle buds moving against green and pale brown hill across yellow fields moving cloud shadow grey-blue green-blue yellow-gray whitish-noise of wind and air conditioning hum and blow of dry luke-warm air in the dimly lit cabin rush of air as it turns on green anymore trying not to become the answer …
Jack's mind was … on the bus to Redcar now on the train Wilton 34

green shadow quickly passed

isn’t

I am up there here blowing in the wind waiting for no

and coke works and steel works Jack JACK you

what are you thinking are

you can do better yes flying up over the Tees out to sea sat on

the blade of a wind turbine out to see spinning round round up down spin out up flip twizzle in air land on the next turbine catching the breeze back flip spin out up ride the tip of the blade still awhile wind rushing whistling up around down around spin off dive into the sea in among the rocks and scars deep sandy gullies wrecks crabs lobsters playing in the great surf crashes seaward side melt into space tile sculpture heated beetles take hot lava spaces think of something else yellow gases sulphur tip top of Everest ski down the north face into Tibet impossible spaces out the flick of a blade touch of the controls

what controls none why ideally don't need them …
With Jack lost in his thoughts, Theo thought of Jack and what he might be making of it all. Then his mind wandered … pity about the

National Park what a great idea that had been if not common sense maybe budgetary constraints maybe someone actually came up from but lingered how did you reconcile how did you Westminster to visit the wilderness just been flying round it in it the idea stuck it was a useful concept

the big old industries the National Park captured that idea really well with those illusive digital subtle bits and bobs of Edge City make the two work together more than that how did you learn to live comfortably with both without having to pretend that all those big old industries on which all of the Edge City new stuff depended wasn’t there imagine colliding live returns not one several layers culture-industry-tectonic plates imagine that a place to the same point in space and time

imagine while huge plates of old RL and new digital increasing bulk goods and raw data commodities trying to resolve all in the same time and place the where its all happening being thought idea

themselves scarcity and abundance Tees Valley City Region

shaped up … That was the reason Theo loved to visit. You could see it all
35

happening before your eyes. The city region was so cool, everything in the city, not only shops and houses and office blocks but business parks and chemical plants and nature works and wild life sanctuaries for all of its space and clutter and density all in the same city place: that was what he loved about it, was fascinated, obsessed with; but didn’t know where the idea had come from … learn to live with it

aesthetic beauty

pollution to be

problem industrial landscape opportunity honest mess of things all in a chemical works by cheap housing uncomfortable stuff brown field open space managed and solved this was a more honest way of life don’t run away pretend it isn’t there ever thought you were the wearing what it made in your trainers holding it in your phone

packaging of your whole-food snack you Theo you lived with it worked it out City Region Edge City National Park it’s was here all here in Gritty Reality which isn’t here minds making there anywhere at all all in the mind in the sustaining dream on Theo you love it …

Jack was downtown now; wherever he really was he was downtown … streets are busy getting busier bars and clubs opening up

shops and eating places

sort of shimmering changing fast dynamic

rough sort of growing changing building coalescing and yet … down below
he could see a sort of rough, sawn-off square, over three kilometers on its south and east sides, over a kilometer on its west side and almost four on across the north side, the sawn-off bit. There was a huge, rough grid of roads that seemed more or less the ones that were actually there; from his memory of working there. The lights had defined structures but the structures he saw didn’t always match the lights. Things were changing rapidly; there seemed to be more pools of ideas, more people, networking in and helping with the constructs, substantiating them but sometimes blurring them with distinctions not everyone shared. The bar looked real enough; he stepped/thought himself inside to check it out ... crowded very crowded 36

people and creatures

robots

thinking things

what not

can imagine yourself who what you want

huge snake standing sort of upright at the bar talking through its fangs avoid that not all standing or sitting some floating bouncing strange sort of summersaults on their own or in groups concept of a bar as a space as what do I we do here what do we want to do idea forming dissolving place to meet what sort of space do just need to we need to do it do we need a space it sehmd to be blurring itself new get rid of place think about who and proximity who near who don’t need all these walls and this fake VR stuff or this RL stuff what we need here is mind stuff mind games what we’re playing anyway need to find the people who want to play the mind games you want to play very soon there won’t be anywhere just networks of minds supporting common ideas not always commonly held along with think around thoughts around what he could join up get away to thoughts you liked with anger power bullying controlling domination giving in to going but it’s easy to think out thinking wanted to think thoughts you wanted to be with thoughts you wanted to build and hold onto this is a nice place want to stay here …
Jack was getting in deep but Theo was in deeper, much deeper …

ideas and concepts and great conclusions delusions fantastically complex seemingly complete imaginings but no feel they could be but always somehow fuzzy never as perfect as abstract as clear cut never as pure as you’d think always contaminated by idiosyncratic always something sometimes commonly individual but differently individualized all semi-obscuring partially confusing illusive and something individual seems to coalesce into

sometimes uniquely knowlingly so

yet tangible margins of error as if every idea great or small never quite here there hear graspable as if its there right in front of me us you in you but always at the same time just out of reach can’t own it mine to contribute to to hold aloft aloof even but always more work to do to make it clear always more
37

yours to reach out for broadcast

work to do to keep it in view

to keep it minded being mindful of it to

maintain it its what we think into …
It was a fascinating game he could play with all these networks and hierarchies of ideas. Theo saw them as … inter-ornate glades of woodland

clearings shafts of slight inlight right not all’s well that ends adept of a journey is the point

insight full sentient emotion alive

very idea

of it could have thought that it another idea it

it doesn’t all go

don’t want that not ready for the end it doesn’t make sense but it only has but always but still a

that’s nothing the whole implausible wrong footed incomplete mistaken meaning if I we accept my our own fuzzying of all these ideas concepts because I am who I am water solution is it water always yes certainly maybe another translucent liquid immersed in it muddying the water in the effort to see what’s in the water what is the is it a solution jump right in and swim in it immersed in

thought in it them

dive down into the idea of it

can breath in it breath in because of them with

pure idea fuzzy ideas pure as that live off them

embodied brain or the body enminded … words came to him

easily, almost as he needed them; but each word wasn’t really a word; it was an idea, it signified the whole idea; no, rather it signified the … great

plain the expanse of rolling hills be the place to find it

alpine ranges of jagged allusion there is no all of it just

collective ideascapes the world the word points to where the idea could can never see all of it the huge simple big muddy ideaness of it all …
Jack was beginning to imagine a really good time as well: that was enough for him.

38

Off Cuts
Getting ready would have taken ages. He would have had to strip naked and pull on a skin-tight, dark blue, lycra-like autonomic response, Autorez, suit which sehmd to feel its way almost sensuously in and around his whole body from the neck down - a slilghtly flabby, middle-aged body it had to be admitted – molding all the nooks and crannies in some detail. It had been able to adapt itself and apply pressure to different places on his body to simulate external forces acting upon him. It had also been able to monitor general stuff about his body language as well as more specific stuff about body temperature, galvanic skin response and pulse rate: so it had an idea of his emotional state. He would have completed the outfit with a lightweight headset, Headlite II – looking a lot like those worn by fighter pilots - that delivered images and sound as well as monitoring his facial expressions to some extent. Both Autorez and Headlite II had wireless communication with each other and the Virtual Entertainment Console that controlled everything and could network with the rest of the world. … such an old idea

so many old ideas so many never more than

ideas …
At the time, it was one of the most sophisticated Vs on the market and had to be good; after all, it was made by Immersive Ink Inc ...

biggest name in Vs

entertainment ware

software

fashion ware that

experience the wear and tear ware and tare of truly entertaining fashion fashion at it's most technologically cool fashion that thinks for you gets under your skin ... the advertising hype flashed through his mind at
the thought of the name … being somewhere else has never been so easy ... Only a few months earlier and it would have taken much, much

39

longer; and was just about gadgets and technology; hadn't yet become tangled up in fashion. He would have had to set about strapping a variety of intelligent prostheses to various parts of his body; you never knew who (or what) you might meet. These would have communicated with the console through a cumbersome cabling system. For instance, he'd have pulled on a pair of intelligent data gloves which would monitor what he was doing with his hands and simulate such things as the temperature and roughness or smoothness of surfaces. On top of the gloves he would have clamped a caliper set which would mechanically simulate the size and dimensions of virtual objects which he might touch. It didn't monitor pulse or anything else like that and the headset, Headlite I, was really big and clumsy and heavy, and just did graphics and sound. But he didn't need Headlite I or II nor the Autorez and certainly none of the peripheral gadgets anymore. All that kit was either dumped in the corner of the room or the even earlier stuff up in the loft. All he had to do now was put on his new, ultra lightweight headgear, a 'Sensory Enhanced Head Mounted Display', SEHMD pronounced 'seemed' as it referred to itself when it booted up; at least as it would when he booted it up in a minute or two. It didn't look much more than an adjustable headband. Around the front and sides was a very thin, opaque, wrap round screen that displayed images all around it so even his peripheral vision was fully occupied. There was also a tiny speaker system that dropped down for each ear. The blurb on the box said it gave a full 3D surround sound. There was also, somewhere, a microphone to pick up anything he said and a motion tracker so that the system could work out where he was and which direction he was looking in. All this was so tiny and lightweight that it didn't sehm real. The slender headband was decorated with LEDs and a colourful inlaid pattern that looked like circuits and wiring and probably was circuits and wiring. The blurb on the box said that SEHMD could 40

monitor your brain waves, some of them, and literally read your mind and put thoughts and sensations into you mind. Jack barely glanced at all this really, he just wanted to try it out. He adjusted the headband and the little drop down speakers so everything seemed to fit OK and then thought … start … as the instructions had told him to and … wow … SEHMD ran a training program to help him get used to the functionality and how you interacted in particular. It sort of read your intentions, your mind essentially and then adjusted the virtual world or game around you accordingly, depending on what game or program you were running. He was riding a camel across the desert and suddenly … so hot

really hot

the sun beating down but just not good

relentlessly down what’s that smell

camel maybe didn't smell too good

either not really camelly whatever that might be

clever hot smelly camel bumpy ride see it hear it smell it feel it … there
were no controls as such … what do I do … “think you way through it”, SEHMD said … whoa that’s intelligent help disconcerting or what but

sort of fun at the same time

… As the training program progressed

SEHMD made it quite clear that it was a pre-release version for evaluation only, that not all its functionality was implemented and what there was might not always work properly and that some other bits and pieces were there to help him assess this new technology. It sehmd to work pretty well to Jack. In the past he would have picked up a sort of floating joystick thing with buttons on it that he could use if he was to fire guns or drive virtual cars and so on but the SEHMD sehmd to work out what he thought he was holding, needed to use, or wanted to do by what he was doing or even thinking … wow this is going to be fun time to go downtown time

to make real use of this amazing stuff definitely time to
SEHMD sehmd ... sehmd

downtown

where’d that come from don’t say downtown though feels like I do ... new word no sounds like means different
41

a bit ... to be changing as he used it, as he got used to it, as he thought
about it … don’t need the visor wrap round screen speakers think them

away really

dump all that stuff let it all happen in the mind just in my mind let this thing whatever it does

in my mind put pictures

sounds smells sensations into my mind technology of the mind where is all this coming from let it do it think it up go with it ugh whoa what the hell what is this … was flying in a spinner, a sort of hover car … how do I know that that it’s called a spinner … over a vast city towards its huge
downtown complex of skyscrapers. It was night and all he could see was a carpet of lights below him as far as the eye could see. Suddenly, giant neon words, 'Curtain Faith', … yep certainly not finished yet … exploded just in front of him and then he was flying through the smoke and debris they left behind. And below, all the time, the lights of buildings but the buildings were just the lights that lit them. The real structures of buildings seemed to be non-existent, could only be made out from these lights but from these the structure of the whole of downtown seemed to appear. Thousands of lights of all sizes, types and intensities delineated a structure that “is by day the huge Wilton Chemical Works - an area of 6 or 7 square miles - in the heart of the National Park but that by night becomes the downtown centre of the Tees Valley City Region - the city that isn’t yet, the city that maybe isn't supposed to be, the city that is still being thought up, designed, funding applied for; Wilton is the first virtual city centre. Tees Valley will be a city region with towns as suburbs and the TV National Park and Edge City insinuating themselves throughout providing the economic tension that holds it all together” … SEHMD

talking again I suppose don’t know this stuff what stuff is this thought this up wow shit look at that … “
Thousands of people were streaming into … it is Wilton

who

chemical

Works looks like a district

city

really big city centre … past security

guards pointlessly trying to protect something … why what the chemical 42

plant but it’s not here there somewhere but it’s not here in front of me anyone right now even when day brakes breaks the illusion won’t brake Wilton downtown Teesside won’t returned to being a chemical plant huge chemical plant somewhere real illusion never breaks down laughing that all the same but here the SEHMD what that voice that voice again

what sense of humour laughing now its talking to me again

… “the virtual city centre, which takes its inspiration from the apparent transformation that the real Wilton Works takes on every night, is here all the time. From a distance it may look just like the real Wilton at night but when you fly closer in” … yea yea got there already down down huge

floating bill board Gritty Reality wow shit now everything and nothing … “you will realise that the structures of light are insubstantial
but delineate buildings and streets and traffic. Tonight is a theme night. Downtown Tees Valley is L.A. 2019. It is 'Blade Runner' night and everyone who is someone - or more likely everyone who wants to be someone else, which is just about everyone - is now an avatar of someone/something else – will be here. The streets are crowded, the bars are crowded, police spinners buzz overhead, great blimps advertise the benefits of the off-world colonies and virtual acid rain falls constantly. Welcome to Gritty Reality, Certain Faith’s next great idea, its first great V, its first” … Blade Runner film seen that long time ago what's it about

who cares time to hit a bar no need to make a gentle landing and park just discard the spinner think it away getting the hang of this its gone disappeared call it up later here before haven’t got a up to buy street noodles mad think I’ll get a drink …
Suddenly he was in a bar crowded with people many looking like or looking for an avatar that looked like Harrison Ford or ... that woman with 43

off to get a beer who cares

favourite bar never been

streets buzzing with people

dressed sort of bizarre yea it's coming back Bland Runner gear queuing shopping for virtual costumes and pets this is

the black hair and shinny red lips

can't remember her

SEHMD still

burbling on what was her Rachel might help if I’d seen the film recently shit my shoulder what the hell is that pain terrible pain shoulder hurts like hell what the … He spun round to see an almost naked woman with a
large snake round her neck taking no notice of him at all. Rather she was taking no notice of him, the snake was more than interested. "Your snake just bit me!" "Just showing off cos you got an autorez suit?” She retorted callously. "No! I'm just showing off 'cos your fucking snake bit me," he snapped. Jack didn't bother to explain that he was using something far more advanced than an autorez suit. "If this was a real snake do you think I'd be still working down here on earth?" "But the fucking thing bit me." "Yes, but its not poisonous, it's a constrictor." "It still hurts, it still feels real, it still scared the shit out of me." "It was designed to look real, it was programmed to act real, it got frightened, that's why it bit you." She was now shouting dementedly. "That's why I paid so much for it." "You paid so much for it so it could bite me?" "I paid so much for it so you'd think it had bitten you." "But it did bite me." "If you don't like pain turn it off, stupid."

… interesting … thought Jack thinking into Comment Mode, just as
SEHMD suggested he could… certainly sensed the snake bite hurts felt

like fangs sort of sharp pain knew I'd been bitten still feel it pain doesn't come from my shoulder more in my mind weird sensation out of body experience
44

but the bloody all

all in my mind

sense of pain implanted in my mind must be this headset

without body experience

in the head experience real but bloody weird weirdly real another kind of real just in the head real it back later …
So as not to attract attention Jack jumped back into the virtually real of Gritty Reality, "I'm going to fucking kill it." "You can't kill a defenceless creature." "If its not real, I can't really kill it. I'm going to surgically remove its batteries through it arse." “It doesn’t have battreries; or an arse. Strangle the bastard, Rover." … move on quickly Jack move on quickly … People got annoyed if they thought you had some hidden, ulterior motive and weren't just superficially on the make in some way. If they got the idea that you were some kind of government or corporate researcher they'd broadcast it immediately, your cover would be blown and no one would have anything to do with you … no it’s not that

just hope this makes sense when we play

much more than that

don't want to could it really

tangle very funny with a boa constrictor called Rover

strangle me would it feel like being strangled but still breathe not dying but feeling like choking to death but no shit don’t even want to think about that right now really frightened fright or sehmd like fright shit move on Jack fucking move on …
In his hermetically sealed, private executive bubble Theo - over the Atlantic, cocooned, conscious unconsciously of much else – was thinking of history. The history of those old ideas, some of which, Jack had just thrown away – more like recycled, upgraded - when he thought away the visor and the speakers … how lost how far away

fucking terrified shit

but the fear

feels real I'm frightened am I real fright or virtual just seemed like shit this is fucking weird

how virtual

how not

here can we get do we want to get can we ever be so far away and not be here at all never be here never come back be everywhere else but here but how much of us stays and how much goes how little needs to
45

go and does it work is it a dream what is real what isn’t real everything we dream is real in a sense that we sense it it senses makes minds connected some sense of if the technology did this could we make sense of just minds could we really leave just the body at home did it work is it working now the body the technology of the body the now jumping technology around the body perceived by the body but

across the body into the mind jumps across the bone barrier cuts out separates mind body Vulcan indifference mindless machine Borg collective the beauty the strength of being human being individual not being indifferent being different being separate not being replicant and now we dream of loosing it losing the body gaining collective mind becoming what we always believed we weren’t what nonsense is this makes no sense makes ridiculous sense but do we enjoy it will we why won’t we will Jack has the will he want to come back what will he ideas new verb many awaynesses …
Even as Theo wondered and Jack wandered on, the technology shifted effortlessly yet again, defied, modified, demodified, modi-morphed itself with his, with their, all their, at their insistence: despite their; shook it all up and tried to make it it’s own … time to log on make that call the

to idea

I idea you idea he ideas ideaing far away many further aways many

call … Theo unpacked his MINDer carefully from his travelling bag … should be OK should be able to use it up here crashing into the Atlantic not a good idea ha ha don’t care try it out anyway wonder what Jack’s up to is he coping having fun losing it completely just seeing

the dark side the bad side got caught up in a whole load of stuff just cos he can’t see feel whats good to see feel think I wonder WOW what shit OH what the shit OH … instinctively reacting as the call kicked in, as his
MINDer pulled itself together across his brain; he wasn’t at all wondered about Jack - who had just seen a face he recognised sat on a bar stool and looking none too happy - anymore. 46

The face wasn't someone he knew; not really knew; and the exotic Blade Runner style street clothes the avatar was covered with added to the confusion. Yet he recognised the face all the same. Just as he was wondering whether to bluff it out, go up and say, "Hi, haven't seen you for a while,” he suddenly realised the face was Myra Zest's from the news program. He walked up to her, "Hi Myra Zest look alike, been in the news lately. Drowning your sorrows now that they rescued you?" Myra turned slowly to look at him. The gaze was without recognition. "Fuck off," was all she said. Of course he knew he wasn't wasn't speaking to the real Myra but an avatar … replica replicant duplicant duplica … driven and duplicated many times for the interactive news channel, could even be a bot or NPC, put into Gritty Reality to fill the social spaces out. "Sorry, I almost mistook you for someone you could be." "You're the fifth person who's said something daft like that in the last half hour. I'm new here. I don't know Myra. I rented this avatar for the night and I'm wishing I hadn't. I got it from one of those back street places, PeopleUWear, that rents look-a-likes. She was on the news and I thought it would be cool to be a celebrity for a few hours."

… comment interesting subject Gritty Reality round all this yet …

lets see how she's making out in brain hasn't got

lets see how we get on with the headset

"Sorry, I was trying to be clever. My name's Jack. Can I buy you a drink?" "Nurse Jack; sure, you can buy me a drink" said Myra, a knowing smile flickered across her face. "Nurse, what the hell is going on, should be my usual street clothes avatar and my face, " said Jack with irritation more than embarrassment … what's happening here … he thought on the record … should be in 47

control of this I'm no newbie who doesn't know what he’s doing how did I end up in a nurse’s outfit …
"No, you definitely look like a beautiful, young nurse with blue, no wait a second, fireman maybe, yes, wow, robot, robot-like, very scruffy robot, scarecrow, wow Jack this is amazing. You’re morphing; you’re a morph; wow; WOW." "Oh no! Shit" … shit … said and thought Jack with the genuine anguish of someone who for once was definitely not in control … bloody

system what the hell is going on here think your way into Change Avatar mode get your street avatar back not change avatar stop change avatar stop morph stop why why not could be fun …
"That’s amazing Jack," carried on Myra, amazement blowing away any sense of virtual cool. "It's pretty easy to change what you look like”, Jack said hoping the concern in his voice didn’t sound real, "I've only just got this system and I'm not very good with it yet." "What system is that Jack?" answered Myra, "Is it really easy to do? Do you choose all those avatars or do you just kind of make them up?" Jack didn’t hear her questions, didn’t ignored her on purpose. No way she could know he was using this new SEHMD interface. It wasn't even on the market yet and wouldn't be for months. After a second or two he was scroll-thinking his way through a menu of available avatars and associated options he’d never come across before. Trying to think his way back into control. Myra was mesmerized … nurse fireman robot biped scarecrow

gronc-like thing pop-dragon what the hell is that old fountain pen office worker graphics character from an advert newsreader what the hell is that Star Trek creature something like … Jack flashed on and on … shapes just shapes now animated shapes animating into other shapes creatures creature like robot like plant like creatures intelligent thinking
48

being like this is so cool …
… as if what I look like the idea of what looking like is what I am

think I am who everyone thinks I am might be could be should be all the possible should bes misconstrued shouldn’t bes pulling at me no not me not Jack my avatar pixilated shell of me avatar no longer a simple avatar a plan of thoughts a specification the way I can be could be seen rushing off in all directions hundreds of possible hints at looking avatar like hints at manifestations iconic symbolic indexes deeper problematics where did that come from don’t what what I don’t think like that Theo might I

I know myself thought I did know I don’t use words like that

problamatisations of linkages between all the what I seem to bes pulling and pushing at each other tearing at me who I am all the who I ams and might bes who I might was how is this happening avatar is out of control exo-self soft shell ware unconnected outside pulling at guts and mind and me self nurse fireman biped robot scarecrow gronc pop-dragron aesthete give away pen street walker bipod bibliotech investment clerk muse nanotube nomenclature neophyte nurse it back to health bring it to heal tighten up drag it back under me control I am I look like a lot like Jack …
all of a sudden morphing Jack seemed to slow down, morphed less and more slowly until, eventually, it was Jack the everyday street guy. Nobody who saw it took any notice. In fact if you looked around people were doing it all the time. Some people had a random avatar setting which meant they changed appearance every few seconds of minutes. Some were actually changing quickly between two avatars every few seconds creating a very stunning effect … seem to be changing really fast loads of

avatars random avatars almost random timings morphing the incredible thing …
"Should have calmed down now,” inquired the apparently worried Jack. "Yes, you look like a regular thing, creature, biped now, man in the 49

street, street clothes even," responded Myra. "Let me buy you a drink?" Said Jack, "I insist," and turned to catch a barman's attention without waiting for a reply. In the past Jack have had to have had all the plumbing and olfactory kit installed so he could not only order but actually receive and drink his virtual drink. This new headset meant you didn't need any of that but you should still sense drinking the drink of your choice. You couldn't tell just by looking if Myra was plumbed in or not. She might be drinking a drink she had wherever she was; she might not. Jack's system had supplied him with the sense of a beer to order. … umm … thought Jack, again in comment mode … don’t even

think about who you are bloody weird thing don’t think what the think about the drink can sense liquid cold liquid not really beer no flavour to speak of not specific of the world as well but no real taste tongue to work …
“Hey, you talking to someone else or in a day dream maybe. You want to talk or not?” 'Myra' sounded as if she wanted attention. “Sure, come on, lets have a good time” said Jack getting back into the swing of things … I’ve got work to do … Nobody sehmd to mind as the night wore on and Theo’s flight sped ever closer to morning and Blade Runner International Airport and everyone else got on with their dreams and ideas and thoughts and fantasies. And, at the same time it, the technology, it shifted effortlessly, relentlessly, as ever defined, defied, redeified, remodified, demodified, modi-morphed itself with his, with their, all their, at their insistence: shook 50

as if there is a flavour

that's true of the rest some hints of smell can on my lips want me to time to go

some sense of temperature its not quite there yet

the sense of touch is

feel the glass on my lips

feel the cold drink in my hands but then they wouldn't

they didn't tell me this

find out what it really like now in its current state umm

it all up and tried to make it everybody’s; dependant on; as time wore on; on and on; plays on, plays out, plays around, plays with; plays with the crowd … who think it’s playing to them

who think it's all for them who

fall for this VR myth to pretend it's necessary who don't understand the power it has over them of them the power it has over them its ideas the ideas because of their design fault idiosyncrasy its subtle manifestations because of it

weakness to suggestion who don't understand

how it can change appearance how it is an apparition how they play the game it ideas them wants them to play with them as its how it plays out its futures how they become its ideas to play out futures of its what it might be as they are its possibilities media distraction all this VR stuff the real technology very different very subtle mindless dependence subtle indifference all those silly gadgets strap-ons invasive technologies stories about lost in virtual worlds media entrapment carries on regardless the dream of VR is not won't be might not ever be but the distraction the media attention unconscious retention tech grip hold … who play with it
as they're supposed to. Despite the extreme distractions of the previous night: the alcohol; the spicy, high fat, comfort-food takeaway; the bazaar sex - it was a book she was reading - perhaps indeed because of all these, Deb b woke very early but feeling not too bad at all. All she could think about was that expression … was I dreaming did all that really happen last night was

that my face from the plane really my face potato snack logo right up there was it hundreds of thousands of

and her's was it really

get on the web find out … She

Googled Kartofli and got lots of links, lots and lots of links … WHAT tens

news blogs posts chat internet radio online

newspapers what on earth is all this hell of a big story huge … she
Googled herself and the flight she was on … oooooh mmmmyyyyyy

gooooood I’m famous my 15 minutes are here loads of it lets see lots of me photos looking shocked bemused not surprising
51

what’s this

conspiracy theories conspiracy theories already CIA Russian secret service how can all this happen so quickly such a big story such a strange story so many versions me part of the conspiracy me no just a quote not me just a bystander by-flyer fly-byer how does some of this stuff work how do they know this link into it what is all this strange web stuff permutations so many permute so many cross references webs of them tangles millions of them off into the distance difference too far to see is there was no structure no big picture just millions of hits search engine hits hinting at but this mind this is a something creeping in in and around the hits like a almost taste it what does web of difference feel it sense it

something this big smell like

smell like ridiculous it they were there and attracting strange it’s not what

the story was ideas in itself me in the story the idea the ideas of it shape and feel it has a shape of it strange shape shapes places regions of coherence what standing on or in

something surrounded by it part of the story one of the stories a story not even many stories different everytime I think about it

if I could … and she could , she felt herself in the thinking of it … potato mountains near misses then no potato mountain still the near miss Blade Runner International where was that what was that landed at no landed at Durham Tees Valley Blade Runner International wow like the sound of that and Debora Bee saw it all Debora Bee me Deb b guess they couldn’t get their heads round one person missing site manager her name Myra her name is Myra Zest photo of her poor woman dead crushed by all that freeze-dried potato recipe Inca invention really clever Incas not recent not a photo last night anyway hasn’t been seen since can’t be contacted not available for comment spirited away believed to be still alive how why but not seen since extraordinary rendition what's that’s what they do to get the fat out of meat render it that’s what they do with 3D graphics so you can see them Craig uses told me that word you render them render unto Caesar heard that somewhere render unto Caesar fat
52

lot of good that’ll do don’t know where this is going conspiracy theory extraordinary rendition of Myra Zest interactive news stuff how do you interact with the news make it your news breaking news break the news your way you in the news I am in the news but me making it putting myself in it putting myself first selfish gene selfish Deb b but faking the news think about now today business Kartofli’s hasn’t changed online still the same snacks and stuff looks the same …
She checked over the designs for a new potato snack game she had designed to run in Kartofli’s’ web site … casual game little thing bit of

fun now no more … she thought carefully about what she had just found
out online again and the new insights she had on them; and thought about using images and clips from the interactive news channel and the interview with the site manager's avatar to try and find out how she felt about her new situation. The latter was bizarre as the conversation kept getting round to market research on weirdly flavoured potato snacks; almond, asparagus, multi-vitamin and pimento, and more. The more she thought about it the more the potato mountain game possibilities talked to her, even screamed at her; she reworked her design ideas dramatically; would have to come up with a new angle on the game which should be instantly recognisable to Myra Zest and her bosses back in … wherever

can’t think where it is South America but quickly all so quickly so easy surprisingly so and all the Weblight programming easy maybe as well can see it run it in my head already have I ever never designed a almost written it in my head game before ...
She took a break, made Craig a coffee and took it upstairs to see how he was feeling this morning. Craig wasn’t awake yet; she left the coffee by the bed … tap tap

deluding myself can't be that easy

steam march pits hot salt licks flamingos couldn’t always skate boarded on bus

salty licks volcano where I went to school eruptions get to school had to walk round the lava flows
53

tyres melting Galapagos penguins Darwin City College evolution of ideas captain of the ice hockey team all the girls …
… don't seem to recognise this life don't know it

what it's about I am

what I'm I know what I

I am not a game designer I am not

Deb b beauty consultant to the rich well fairly well off anyway …
Jack hadn't been to sleep. He had been thinking of Myra, that Myra. Things hadn't gone according to plan, the usual plan he adopted when trying out new equipment. They'd got talking and drinking and he began to feel quite at ease with the headset, drinking his beer and think-playing with the settings to see what sensations he could get, what he couldn’t, and thinking in comment mode and so on so he could make his report in the morning. Myra seemed to know a lot more about the equipment than he would have thought she should; almost as if she was trying to help him learn more about it; as if she was using the same but could that be? Then she'd suggested they went somewhere a bit more private and test out some of the more advanced sensory features of the technology. This was what he was there for. Being bitten by a virtual snake was one thing but there was obviously a lot more to it than that. There were little rooms all around the bar that you could retire to, chat rooms they were euphemistically called. In the early days of the internet that was what people did in chat rooms, they chatted; not anymore. Chat rooms were about sensory experiences you didn't want everyone else to witness. Once inside she had wasted no time bringing a whole bunch of senses into play. He could feel her hands, quite how many he wasn't sure, all over his body and her body against his. At least his mind was telling him all this was happening but not really the rest of his body, that was the damnedest thing. Her body hadn't quite felt the way it looked. Nothing unusual: technology could do that. It was firmer and flatter than it had looked like it should have been; but it felt good. He could feel little pressures in all the right places and a few that 54

surprised him a little. At least he had the sense in his mind of these pressures, they sehmd to come from inside his head not from his body. Before he could ponder his more the whole thing seemed to get more active, began to apply pressures, a lot of pressures, in quite unexpected places. So much and so many pressures indeed that he found it really difficult to keep up with what was going on, couldn't respond that fast himself, got really mixed up between comment and response modes, thought and feeling … what’s the difference thinking it feeling it shit what

was that what the fuck is going on

can’t work her out

who or what

controlling Myra thoughts ideas flooding sensations controls don’t want to think that huge wave of no not going to think that fuck off what what are you can’t be not must be a bot agent software done to my controls can’t losing power to should be easy isn’t can’t powerless sehm powerless to get away from her or stop what she’s doing to my mind its my mind fuck off don’t want to think that not going to hate that stuff fascist bastard masses of contaminated fall into step think like not going to I’m not exit button isn’t one make it make it up think it up try anything everything find the RL on/off switch drown menu drop down menu not there Star Trek computer end simulation laughing at me now have a good laugh ctrl alt del keyboard detached there must be away NO THERE IS NOT … big words screaming in his head. There didn't seem to be any
way he could stop this act of violation. She was literally inside him in all sorts of ways; imaginable and unimaginable ways. Where was that fucking user manual? When he found it he would give Immersive Ink a Sensory Enhanced Head Mounted Display right where it would hurt most, if only he could get this stuff out of his. There must be a way out; he just had to …

change the technology morph it flame this bitch wall it off think sehm it into a corner hyper corner multidimensional mausoleum no words for this most of this think out just know … and just as he was gaining beginning
to take back control Myra reached some sort of digitally enhanced climax 55

of collective though-violence-acts of virtual interface and was gone. Jack's brain didn't know where it was and what had really happened to it. Someone had been fucking with his mind, quite literally. The news would never be the same again. Myra certainly didn't want to play anymore and she hadn't wanted to play in the first place. She was, had been, at work doing her job, running the factory. It wasn't a game. There was no 'stop' button to suspend the horror whenever you liked. No 'esc' key just to remind her that she could stop whenever she liked. She didn't even know where she was anymore. For what seemed a very long time she didn't do anything. Didn't move, didn't turn her head, or move her arms, or try and feel what was around her. She opened and then closed her eyes and did it again. It was very dark, very quiet and very hot. Well, hot rather than very hot. The huge mound of exploded potato snack stuff that she couldn't see and knew nothing about was giving off a huge amount of heat. She could feel it coming up through the floor. In a way it was very comforting, soporific even. She was left with nothing to distract her from her plight. In fact not even her plight could distract her. She didn't know what her plight was and there seemed to be no way of finding out at this moment. There was no noise. There was no light, none; it was darker than she'd ever experienced: ever. But she was a resourceful person. She worked her around the small oval room. She found the lift door. That wasn't working. That wasn't a surprise. She found the door to the stairs, feeling her way gently with outstretched arms. That was jammed tightly shut. That was a disappointment. The toughened windows seemed intact but she couldn't see out, and they also felt warm to the touch. They must be blocked off because the lights of Middlesbrough should have been out there somewhere. 56

She also felt around for phone, that strange new one, but nothing electrical was working. No computer either so mail, msn and the like didn’t work either. Eventually she just gave up. There was no way out. She would have to wait to be rescued. She sat in the warm, dark, soundless void somewhere - she didn't know quite where - and she sat, and she just sat and sort of didn't think. Wherever she was, whatever else might be about to happen, it was a warm balmy evening in Middlesbrough, sort of, and there was nothing to do, nothing to manage, no corporate targets to deliver, no one at headquarters on the other side of the Atlantic to respond to. There was nothing to do. She lay down and stretched out. The really surprising thing was that she suddenly hadn't a care in the world. She was left with only her thoughts. For the first time in many, many months, years even, she turned inward, to people, places and smells, to the fleeting patterns of memory, known and unknown, wanted and unwanted that make up each person, each life, but only break consciousness when consciousness turns in on itself, when a life realises it is alive. But her life didn't flash through her consciousness. She suddenly felt like an astronaut who had accidentally floated off into space. Lots of coloured lights flashing across her face, instruments and display panels and stuff, it was sort of 2001 but it was different. There was that sense of lost-ness, of having lost the known world and everything about it, even light and sound were lost. Some words came into her mind, floated in from some association, 'lost in space' memory patterns she didn't know began asserting themselves and coalesced around … here am I floating in a tin can

far am I

above the world about it what am I now

plant earth is blue

and there's nothing I can do am I still here here am I

where is planet earth

is it still there

there's something wrong very very wrong
57

floating …
Jack was all too aware of his plight; the indignity of it; the pleasure and pain and … of it; that would pass; but that wasn't all that was on his mind. What was really on his mind was how he could have been so confused about what was real and what wasn't; and why was it that what was not real had felt so real? No, that wasn't it. He knew it wasn't real but why had his thoughts seemed so real ... the really surprising thing

thoughts ideas seemed real can they be are thoughts the only things that are real how can thoughts do that me … he drifted off inside his
violated mind. … somewhere across Middlesbrough a particular woman person

not an avatar called Myra who Jack hadn't met yet he has sort of who has never heard of him but their plights was not unlike his victim of a snack attack metaphor in sight them game on …
Pretty soon her phone started ringing, and texts started arriving, lots of texts, lots of calls, missed calls, voice mails, lots of every sort of way of contacting her. Deb b was used to being the centre of her clients attention but this was something else amazing: random was the word she might have been looking for. But no one was talking about clothes or nails of hair colours or eye liner or anything else to do with business or clienthood. All they wanted to talk about was celebrity, her celebrity; she wasn't just cool and connected and indispensable: she was a celebrity and they loved her and themselves even more for it. And she knew she wasn't a game designer. None of this came as a surprise to Theo, not what had happened, just how much and how intensive; that was a surprise … appearances it's

technology she the and not a

we have taken their worlds away an abstraction for of them his mind fucked by technology and more

the ideas of it time to play a game on

all appearances

keeping up

what's it's up to
58

what is it up to

wasn't

what it was supposed to do it wasn't supposed to do you keeping up appearances maybe no panic seer mustn't seem shocked

something else was there it's rules must sehm shocked doesn't happen to me

was doing what

what it wanted

a game that plays sehm to be shocked Jack maybe other panic need to

not me what really happened to Jack wasn't isn't happy could still work make money being played by

think for myself new ideas my own is this

what's the business plan …

He was still distracted, distracted by the events of last night, by the magnitude of last night and what a great night it had been. He had never been so distracted; and all in a night's work. Theo didn’t so much work for Certain Faith, rather he did things for Certain Faith; things most mortals couldn't even comprehend let alone accomplish. He was part producer, part trouble-shooter, part Mr Fixit, a lot an avenging angel and a lot more besides. He managed crises, turned things round - or upside down if that was what was needed - and continually re-invented both himself and what he did. His job description could never be written down, could never be finished, would never catch up with what he actually did. In many ways, Theo was Certain Faith. He was a strange creature, person didn't seem to quite fit. Despite the tough, aggressive, impersonal job he did with such relish he was quiet, mostly calm, and always thoughtful. Everything seemed to be the object of great and deep and meaningful thought in the demeanour and mannerisms of a mad king … George III in the film and his blue shit … there was always a paradoxical aura of menace and friendly openness about him. There was also always something not quite human about him. As if what he was, what he thought and did was driven in a way that singled him out from humanity. It was difficult; no it wasn't difficult, it was impossible to be specific about this but that was the way it always seemed. There was something of the replicant about him. And boy, had he seen life. “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on 59

fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those … moments … will be lost … in time. Like … tears … in the rain. Time … to die." … love to live a life like that

die like

that … He shivered slightly and his eyes closed slightly with the hint of a
smile on his face as the very thought of it … wrote his own lines Rutger

Hauer as Roy replicant Batty his own ideas never going to happen but I can could play it out his own be played on play out other people fates and fantasies play out who over and over again and in many lots of many what's wake up to remember what who would

different ways not real what does it matter if not real cares any more what's real wake up as who
he really was.

Certain Faith in nothing

really everything anything

what RL could be who cares … made him sehm a lot more himself than

60

Where Dinosaurs Thread
It was made out of aluminium tubes joined together with simple aluminium brackets and rivets. Two squares of nylon-like material stretched between some of the tubes and connected to them with silvery coloured springs. The rivets and brackets allowed each pair of tubes joined together to rotate against each other. There was also a little aluminium spacer bar on each side so that when the whole thing was unfolded everything opened out to just the right angles and heights and didn't keep opening and flatten out in the opposite direction; didn't fold itself away again. There were no electronic sensors, no power of any kind, no intelligent operating systems, no mobile communications of any kind. There were two white - had been white, now off-white and smudged lengths of angled plastic each attached at each end to two aluminium tubes so that when fully opened it had two serviceable arm rests. All in all, this old technology made a very comfortable, portable, weather resistant chair. Mechanics could be so satisfying. Jack was sitting in one corner of the allotment he rented from the local council. He’d stopped for a breather, sat down in the old folding garden chair, a mug of tea in one hand and a pair of gardening gloves in the other. He was taking a look at what he'd achieved that morning. He was deliberately thinking of nothing at all, nothing that wasn’t right in front of him. Around him he could hear the sounds of spades, forks and hoes working earth, watering cans being filled and hoses watering vegetables and flowers. A fair few people were working on their allotments today even though it was a weekday. It hadn't rained for days, maybe a week or two, and watering was top priority; more so than weeding or fighting off

61

slugs and snails. Planting out the new was always important. Just in front of Jack was a flat expanse of newly worked soil. Bamboo canes rose a couple of metres into the air in pairs about thirty centimetres apart in a long double row about four metres long. The pairs were tied at their tops onto horizontal canes that ran the length of the row. At each end of the row a cane was centrally positioned about 30 centimetres further out and then bent and tied in to the last pair to add a bit of lateral strength to the whole thing. It was a very pleasing structure; and strong, because you pushed the canes vertically into the soil and then bent them inwards to where they were tied in. The canes were tensioned making the structure even stronger. An even older and simpler technology than the chair he was sitting on; but just as satisfying. What he could see was the easy bit. The real achievement was in the soil itself. He'd dug two trenches a spade wide and deep below where the two rows of vertical canes now stood. Into the trenches he'd shovelled well rotted compost that he'd made from weeds, discarded vegetable matter, grass cuttings and the like over the past six or eight months. Throwing all this into the compost bin, turning it now and then to aerate it until just an hour ago he had dug out huge spadefulls of it and thrown them into the two little trenches. The compost was dark brown, almost black, sweet smelling and full of little wriggly red worms: just as it should be. He'd then raked the topsoil back over the trenches, gently trodden it all down so as to make sure there were no air pockets below ground. The roots of the vegetables he was going to plant wouldn't like air pockets and wouldn't grow properly if they found any. Over the whole earthy structure he’d raked a shallow layer of more compost. You could still see some of the little red worms wrigglying and burrowing into the soil. By the side of his chair was a mass of runner beans he'd sown about 6 weeks before and kept in the little green house in one corner of the allotment waiting for the weather to warm up. They were about 62

twenty centimetres high and growing really quickly. When he'd finished his tea and pondered the world a little longer. Jack would plant a runner bean within a few centimetres of each vertical cane. The compost on the surface would fall into the hole and the little plants would put their roots down into it, draw up the minerals they needed, fix carbon from the air and send their main shoots skywards looking for something to wind themselves anticlockwise - if you were looking down the cane from above - round so they could climb up and up as was their wont. In just a few weeks the whole structure would be covered with green stems and leaves and hardly a cane to be seen. Below ground the roots would have worked their way down into the compost he’d dug into the trenches to sustain all this amazing growth. Poking out at an angle to let them find the sun would be a few hundred little stems, about 10 centimetres long, with a mass of buds at the end. The buds would eventually turn red and burst into flower, hoping to attract bees to pollinate them so they could produce great long runner bean pods: delicious to eat. He set to work to get the beans planted out. Take a small trowel, dig a little hole big enough to take the root ball of a little runner bean plant and ease it into the hole. Cover the roots over with soil and firm it all down so the plant was nice and snug and standing upright next to its cane. He worked down one side of his structure and then back up the other. A good half an hour's work to get it done properly. Then over to the water butt that gathered water from the greenhouse roof to fill a big watering can and water each plant in well to settle its roots in and get it off to a good start. He was well into the return journey round the cane structure when he heard a rattling, jingling, vibrating noise wrapped around Beethoven and the Ode to Joy. Jack picked his old, battered PDA from the pocket with the small change in and answered the phone. He talked for a few minutes, a little 63

banter and pleasantries to start with and then onto business. Jack made some notes with the letter recogniser and put a couple of new meetings into the organiser. He also added a new name in his contacts list and gave it a phone number and an address. To finish he started a web browser and put the postcode of the address into the search engine, telling it to just look at maps, so he could find out where the address he had just given him was to be found. Before putting the PDA back on standby he checked his messages and email to see if there was anything else new. There wasn't; at least nothing that couldn't wait until he'd finished planting his beans. After ten minutes or so he put his tools away and walked back to his house from the allotment, no more than five minutes. Had a quick wash and changed, got into his old car and set off south down Ormesby Bank, dropping down off the slopes of the Cleveland Hills into the City of Tees Valley proper. It was a run he'd done so many times you'd think he wouldn't even think about it but the ride was so dramatic and interesting and at times picturesque - it never failed to grab his attention. Right now most of the City of Tees Valley and Edge City and the National Park were laid out in front of him as the road dropped steeply down the hill. He couldn't see Gritty Reality nor its real life alter ego the Wilton Chemical Park, they were away to the right, behind houses and hills. But they were in his mind all right and what was in his mind gave him an idea … least it’s

my idea had enough of other people’s ideas where did that shit come from no fucking right don’t think about it deal with it later a piece of your mind literally maybe that’s an idea fuck with their mind how’d they like that … “hmmmm” … how'd they like … “hmmmm” … that …
Instead of crossing over the east-west dual carriageway of the Parkway that ran round the south of the Middlesbrough district of the city and carrying on down into town as planned, he indicated right and pulled over into the centre lane to wait for traffic coming up the bank to pass 64

before crossing over onto the slip road that led down onto the Parkway going east. He was going to take the scenic route round Wilton. He had to get a few things clear in his mind. After a hundred metres or so he pulled onto the Parkway as it climbed for a few hundred yards with the steep slopes of the Cleveland hills in front and to the right of him. Then it turned left a little giving glimpses of the City below him on the left and still the hills on his right. After a mile or so the road dipped down towards a roundabout and beyond that the towering steel expanses of Wilton came into view. He seemed to need to … reassure myself make sure the real Wilton is still

there

that the bustling city centre of Wilton

last night all those people

and all that other shit isn’t … It wasn't. At least, he couldn't see it in front
of him. He pulled off to the right and stopped on an expanse of old grey tarmac that lay between the east and west carriageways. It looked like a flyover had originally been planned to cross the roundabout going eastwest but had never been built. He wanted to fly out over the flyover, where it wasn’t. … last night could've

shouldn't park here really police stop and before Wilton down below get my head

see what's up sooner or later can't help that just a few moments great view never stopped here straight need to need to get straight what I'm going to say bastard must have known bastard what was going to happen what the fuck are they playing at fucking with my mind better not have been Theo fuck their collective mind fuck it with a brick if it was fuck them up for good really fuck them up …
… plant steel structures framework gantries vessels connected

pipes valves mysterious processes steel smoke stacks cooling towers white smoke vapour wisp in the west wind billows cooling towers pipeline multiples archways of over roads ditches gate fences CCTV chemical process landscape …
65

… thought like I was having was being thought like but not felt

like thought without sensation out of body no disconnected body not a dream not for real but a real thought but then really big thoughts taking over killing off other thoughts giving them no space mind space no where to be thought about but who behind those thoughts all over me nothing real about it any of it like an implant memory not mine in my head not mine but I can't forget it …
… blot on the scar on the stain on the land landscape stained no

not

just landscape mindscape mine minedscape shouldn't be there
… amazing

doesn't belong can't be rid of it Gritty Reality in my head … seemed sehmd strange word name of something so everyone no one would know who they real mined my head deposits spoil of minedscape of extraction amazing could fuck the whole world up were no one would know what was real most people wouldn't notice
Eventually he stopped thinking, really he stopped attending to his thinking, started the engine and pulled back onto the Parkway and dropped down to the roundabout where he went straight across, keeping Wilton and his thoughts on his left until he reached the Kirkleatham roundabout a mile or two further on. There he made a left and drove down past the Kirkleatham Business Park and then the eastern extent of Wilton on this left and the western edge of Redcar on his right. Then Redcar crept over to his left as well and after another mile or so he reached a junction. The road straight ahead went up onto a bridge over the railway. To the left on the other side of the junction was a huge car showroom and beyond it open grass, marsh and wetland. When the lights turned green he turned left and was back driving west towards Wilton, the National Park and Edge City. First of all there was the ride out past the straggles of Lakes Estate, the westernmost part of Redcar, on his left and the coastal wetlands 66

I fucking did fuck fucking hell fucked hell fucked up in …

running to the sea on his right. After the next roundabout you drove between the giant Wilton International site on the left - once ICI's Wilton plant but now home to Huntsman, Invista, DuPontSA, Dow and Uniquema and a whole host of other chemical luminosities - and the giant steel works - once British Steel and then Corus and now Tata – on the right: British, Dutch, Indian, who next. But by now his mind didn't seem to be on the ride round Wilton and the events of last night, nor on the industrial drama of his home town but far, far away, thinking of another journey. How he stumbled into a new career and came across Theo or rather, how Theo came across him. He'd been made redundant. He'd had time on his hands. His selfesteem had been really low. He'd had no prospect of another job. He couldn't just sit at home and vegetate. He didn't even have his allotment then; wouldn't have known what to do with one. So what did you do if life really sucked and there appeared nowhere to turn for any respite? You bought yourself a new one, life that is, and became a wizard; in an online computer game that is. But Jack didn't become just any wizard. He became Lareckam, the most powerful wizard in 'Achocha: lost legend of the Incas'. He created Lareckam and grew him and leveled him up and created his power base and sphere of influence and built himself a palace and then another and people came to him for advice and help and he became very wealthy. Becoming the most powerful wizard in Achocha was no bad thing at all. Of course, he was broke and his RL was a mess and wasn't going anywhere and none of his friends and family knew about his new found success and; and it went on. But, his self esteem grew, he felt he was achieving something, was doing something with his life, with one of his lives, the non-RL life but it was a life none the less. Turned out he had a real flair for this sort of life and he prospered and life was good again, despite the fact that his RL was shit. Achocha was owned by LAXative, a fairly well established west 67

coast publisher. It had started life as ReLAX in a bedroom in El Segundo, a well to do city on the beach right next to LA International airport. They got into games in the late 1970s when the Text Adventure genre was living out its short glorious life. Their first game 'Pakari: the cave of refuge' – which was quite sophisticated and well researched for its day - gained them a cult following, a lot of player support problems and almost no money. But their second game, Cystemicon, really embedded them in the body commercial of the games world. So much so that they had to move out of the bedroom in El Segundo CA in order to take on some staff and get their own telephone number. It was about this time that the founder, Ollie Youtay – whose bedroom it was, mysteriously disappeared and a young programmer, Theo none other, who had worked for ReLAX for only a few months took over running the company. It was Theo who had come up with the idea for Cystemicon and the first thing he did was change the company's name to LAXative. Several more classics followed: 'Growth', 'Wild Tumour', and the amazingly successful 'Abssyss: hole lotta love'. But by the middle of the 1980s the text adventure bubble collapsed, the future looked bad indeed and thought of any sort of growth was out of the question. But LAXative was not that easily beaten. Single player text adventure was nowhere near as much fun as MUDs and MOOs which had quickly become the first online, multiplayer, killer game genre and LAXative made the change with ease. Basically the games looked much the same but instead of playing the computer you logged on to a network computer, a server, and played against, with other people; much more fun. You could get up to all sorts of things in MUDs, stuff that real people wanted to get up to in RL but wouldn't want to risk being found out. You could also do things you didn't want to in RL because they were really bad: killing and maiming people, for instance. Other stuff like cross 68

dressing and fraudulent impersonation was just easy and risk free. In a MUD no one knows who you really are. And being text based, no one even knew what your voice sounded like or what your accent was. And things would probably have continued all right for LAXative if the technology hadn't changed. Games consoles came along and the graphics got better and the casual audience for MOOs moved on to games with scrolling 2D graphics that looked a lot more lifelike people and animals. That just left the die hard MOO fans who kept the genre alive as they do to this day. It's just that the money went out of it. LAXative struggled for a year or two but managed to go with the times; or rather the times dragged them along by the scruff of the neck and they found themselves building role playing games (RPGs) heavily influenced by Japanese games like Final Fantasy except they adapted the genre to ready-made civilisations, preferably, nothing to do with Japan or Europe, that were long out of copyright: Maya, Inca, Aztec for instance, which could be ripped off and distorted causing offence to many but little chance of litigation. In actual fact LAXative had only ever made one real game but they'd managed to dress it up in many, many ways and adapt it to new technologies and somehow stay up with the race at least enough to survive. This somewhat haphazard but successful process continued for years and eventually 'Achocha: lost legend of the Incas' – a massively mulitplayer on-line role playing game (MMORPG) - made it to the shelves and did quite well; not bad at all in fact. The success of Achocha gained the attention of the biggest of all the game publishers, Certain Faith, who bought LAXative out so as to exploit them as an in-house development studio specialising in RPGs and MMORPGs which the publisher had little experience of but saw a market for. Theo had been the boss for so many years and didn't want Certain Faith execs telling him what to do with his own company. So he'd agreed a really good deal with Certain Faith for his share of LAXative - a mixture of 69

Certain Faith shares and real money - and also agreed to take on the role of Mr Trouble-fixit-angel for the whole of Certain Faith: and he was having the time of his life: as usual. This was how Jack came to the attention of Theo who was in great need of someone really, really resourceful, who knew about making money in strange markets, had the ability to learn new skills really, really quickly and yet was virtually unnoticed in his everyday life. Lareckam the most powerful wizard in 'Achocha: lost legend of the Incas' was the ideal person. Theo wanted a sort of secret agent who could do undercover work for him testing out stuff on the public that the public wasn't to know about yet. During the Cold War the ideal place to go to recruit spies was Oxford or Cambridge but now the most enterprising, innovative, and easily bought lateral thinkers were to be found in MMORPGs. Theo tracked Lareckam for some time before he made his move. Of course he didn't meet up with him at first in RL but in Achocha. He built himself a role as an apprentice wizard, called Dukas, and ran errands for Lareckam and gained his trust and they became friends. They got to talking on line about themselves a little: what they liked and disliked, what they wanted to do with their lives; and eventually Theo made his mind up. Jack would do just fine. Jack was going to be his undercover agent. One apparently ordinary day, lunchtime so as Jack would be more or less on his own, Theo dropped into the Spit and Sustainable Sawdust and got talking. After a little while he introduced himself as Dukas, Jack's assistant in Achocha, and made him a proposition he couldn't say no to. Jack could earn good money doing odd jobs, running errands, doing a bit of underhand, dirty work for Certain Faith and Theo, it was the same thing more or less. But only in games, mainly on line, sometimes Certain Faith's games but their competitors' as well. The only thing Jack had to do in his RL was stay just as he was. No one was to know Jack led a double life as a virtual secret agent. He was just Jack, the redundant middle manager 70

with no prospects. Jack's meaningless RL suddenly took on great purpose and depth without changing in any way. Instead of his lack of prospects, and life going nowhere being what he really was, they became a role he now played, a cover he had to keep up to maintain his usefulness to Theo in the games worlds. Jack's life going nowhere was just as much a charade as his life as Lareckam in Achocha. His whole lives now made perfectless sense. Deb b's life was not making much sense at the moment. Of course the phone was ringing and people were wanting to talk to her and she was texting and conference calling and putting people on hold and getting back to them and generally having a normal day that made sense. But her life was not making much sense at the moment; the right here right now bit of it that is. Craig had given her a lift. He'd made his usual run into work. First of all there was the drop over the edge of the hill from Acklam, south down Ormesby Bank where you saw the whole, most of the whole, of Tees Valley laid out before you. Closer it was all estates of houses and apartment blocks and further away the Riverside Stadium, where Middlesbrough played, and the transporter bridge not far away. A little further off to the west the University of the National Park and further to the east the coke works and the steel works. While further away, across the river were the Billingham chemical works and, west a little, the riverfront at Stockton with all its high-tech office developments and executive housing and Edge City University. A few minutes later he'd dropped down though the housing estates and turned left onto the A66 where the Kartofli factory now stood. Then a short run west along the A66 and he'd dropped Deb b off in Teesside Park not far from DK Digitalia's offices across the A66 on the banks of the Tees on the Stockton riverfront. Lots of other people had now stood there, near where She had once; and worked there and built buildings there; and walked by the river 71

and studied there; and eaten there and walked and shopped and bowled there, and watched films there; and tried to walk between the different bits of it. Teesside Park itself was designed for cars and there were no pavements or walkways between the different bits, so, innovative as ever, people just decided to walk, in as straight a line as possible, through hedges and flower beds, across roads and central reservations and roundabout islands until it was possible to walk everywhere … things like

plants bushes growing trouble with things thoughts space the trouble with

they like things like but get in their way have problematics of but not so much trouble as they do with ideas

the very idea of so many things

thoughts about things ideas about ideas any old ideas that's

what causes the most troubled problemed thoughts me meme me …
Craig was going to pick her up and take her for lunch over at the White Water Café on the other side of the River by the Tees Barrage. She had put all the silly stuff about a potato game out of her mind; she was good at doing things like that. But the inexplicable still reared its seductive little head. Inexplicable in the sense that she wouldn't want to try to explain it to anyone rather than the fact that she didn't understand it; although that was true as well. She hadn't realised how inexplicable inexplicable could get. She was not alone in this. But the inexplicable seemed to be haunting her. She'd dropped into Cargo Cult to pick up some bits and pieces and had then intended to make her way over to Digital Whirld to pick up some wireless network kit so she could link up all the home computers. That was inexplicable in itself: she didn't do computing, wireless networks, computer games: she didn't do that; which in itself was inexplicable. But that wasn't it; wasn't what was not explicable. She'd browsed the Cargo Cult catalogue for a while, checked the availability of a few items, ordered and paid for one of them and waited and waited and waited for them at the delivery point. And now she was stuck! Well and truly stuck. 72

Jack was now right across in central Tees Valley. After passing between the Wilton Chemical Park on the left and Tata Steel on the right, he'd passed between low cost housing on the left and various industrial parks, a container depot and the South Tees Imperial Food Park - that looked at long last as if someone big was moving in; there was a big new factory with a strange stainless steel dome on the top - on the right. He was now more or less where Craig and Deb B had been a couple of hours earlier. After another 5 minutes going further West, he could see the Riverside Stadium and the Transporter Bridge nearby to his right, he'd taken an off ramp and turned North over the A66 and followed Riverside Park Road round a series of business parks and industrial units, mostly new, nestled on the banks of the River Tees until to came to a small car park on the left, pulled in and brought himself to a stop in one of the parking bays. None of the others were taken yet. He turned off the engine and got out of the car. Teessaurus Park was quiet as ever these days. He'd been here a few times before and always enjoyed a visit. It wasn't a big park. Just a rectangle of disused land between the road and the river. An artificial mound had been made out of waste stuff just before you got to the river so that you couldn't see it from the road. Over the years various extinct beasts had been fashioned out of steel - first by a commissioned artist and then by steel apprentices - and placed around the edge of the park. On the top of the mound was a stegosaurus and her baby. When you stood beside them on the mound you could not only see the river but disused shipyards on the other side. Nothing much worked here anymore. It was a peaceful place to sit and think. He heard a car slowing down and then crunch onto the gravely car park. He turned to see it pull into one of the remaining bays. A few seconds later Theo got out of the car and turned to see Jack standing on the little rise beside the stegosauraus and her baby and waved 73

enthusiastically. He seemed happy with life. Jack grudgingly raised a hand in response … fuck you but lets play him on a little … "Achocha is a vegetable", Jack said as Theo neared the top of the mound. "What?" "Achocha is the lost vegetable of the Incas. Not the lost legend. It's a vegetable they used to use to feed the troops." "So?" "So, it doesn't concern you that all those people were fighting, and scheming and strategising and role playing and spending all their money, so they could find a lost vegetable?" "Well, they'd have found a legend of sorts." "So the vegetable is a metaphor for the lost legend; and knowing the secrets that the legend will reveal to those that found all the clues and are able to find the true meaning beneath the surface of its incredibly banal and derivative reworking of a lost crystal with supernatural powers that will cause the Inca Empire to rise again and herald the golden age of South America and the banishing of Europeans from the whole continent?" "Yes." "Fucking shit!" "Yes." "Thought so." "Took you long enough to find out." "I'm growing it in my allotment, along with the runner beans. It's a funny climbing plant with leaves a bit like cannabis. It climbs over everything. It's manic. Bit like you a lot of the time." "Who cares; made a lot of money and found you a very well paid job." "True enough." They stood in silence for a few mintues. Nothing much moved. 74

Certainly not the stegosauruses or the bright red T Rex at the foot of the hillock. Even the red-painted, steel, woolly mammoth a little further off seemed to be in deep contemplation, oblivious to the passage of such small amounts of time as made up the lives of flesh and blood humans; or Theo for that matter. "So Lareckam the Mighty, how are you today?" "Fucked, sort of." "It's all in the mind Jack." "That's not what it felt like." "So it worked then?" "Yes, it fucking did." "So, tell me about it. Tell me about your night in Gritty Reality." "Well, that headset thing is really neat. It's light, easy to put on, doesn't seem to need much setting up and, well, pretty straightforward." "And …" "And I logged into this new Gritty Reality game you asked me to. Never heard of it before and there's nothing on the web about it. But it seemed to work OK and a lot of people logged in. The graphics are great." "And …" "And all the new feeling stuff, the sensory stuff is amazing. And all with just a simple, well it looks simple, headset, this new GT Game System. Now does it work?" "And …" "Well, it didn't do anything on the interactive news service because that's must be just an ordinary web 3.5 application and doesn't interface as well with the headset. But when I logged into Gritty Reality the change was amazing. I could feel the vibrations of the spinner as I flew into downtown Middlesbrough; felt the little jolt as it landed. Felt the wet and cold of the drink. Felt a lot of other things as if I really was feeling them except I wasn't. It was all in my mind." 75

"And …" "And its fucking weird. Feeling something inside your head but the feelings, sensations don't come from your body they just appear from nowhere. Its like you've got no body but someone else's, somehow … its fucking weird … its …" "And …" "You've got to do something about security. Someone broke in, disabled everything I should have been able to do to stop them and fucked with my mind. Just as well I wasn't in one of those old suits that actually mimicked physical contact as I really would have been … but you say it was all in the mind; doesn't make it any better; just makes it differently bad and weird whichever way think about it. You've been fucked but you haven't. In your mind you have. You've been violated. At least you can just take the headset off and it all goes away. In those old suits you'd have been well and truly … Don't say and again, for Gods sake." Jack pauses for thought. "But it’s not a game. Its too real to be a game. It was frightening because it was so real. And claustrophobic because of all the sensory stuff; like there was no way out; it’s not a game. At least it's not a game in the sense that I understand it. It's more like one of those snuff movies where people really get raped and killed." Jack pauses again for thought. fucking been.” “No Jack, it wasn't me, it wasn't anyone. Just a test program we knocked up to see how it would affect someone who hadn't used the system before. At least, that's what we think it was.” "Its not a game. Tell me you're not about to sell it as a game." "No, it's not a game. It's a test bed: a test bed for Vs. We can test out all sorts of stuff: new types of game play; new social situations; find out what people are willing to pay for; what they're willing to be paid for. Test out the markets, all the markets; there's not just one market; and 76 “Wasn't you was it? Better not have

there's lots of games possible. We are using Gritty Reality to find out what's possible, what's commercial and then package that up and sell it as a V. Games aren't going to be games much longer you know. They're only games because that was all we could do. The market is really there for virtual experience; doing stuff you couldn't do in RL; stuff you wouldn't want to get caught doing in RL but you wanted to do anyway. We're going to sell Vs to the masses. Most people don't play those poncy video games. The interface is too complicated. The games are too stupid, too unrealistic, too … much like games; too much like wasting time. What most people, people who watch Big Brother and wear cheap designer labels and eat fast food, want is more RL, not to waste time playing games. This is the next big step for the industry. This is where we go out and get all those people who waste most of their spare time on reality TV and get them to waste it in IVEs, in any way they want, any fantasy they want … Sweet Daydreams are made out of this. Who would want to disagree …" Theo was now singing and dancing around and completely lost in his own business fantasy model. He couldn't see what Jack saw at all. He was like Neo in the Matrix, who'd just seen through the world of the machines and could just see the cold, green code that really made up the world he had been living in. Theo just saw cold, green money. The whole world was transformed into a two dimensional matrix of dollar bills, millions of them; a great collective illusion of things, people, acts, lots of acts, mostly acts in fact. "Some people want to abuse you. Some people want to be abused. Everybody's willing to pay for something. Who am I to disabuse them." "And its all going to be set in Middlesbrough?" It took some time for the question to register as a question or anything else for that matter. But gradually it did. Gradually the monetary matrix of dollar bills faded from Theo's eyes and the real Middlesbrough of 77

steel dinosaurs and business parks and no literary tradition and configurable white water rapids re-materialised into his senses. The answer took a little more time to materialise. "Yes, to start with …" "And tomorrow the world?" Deb b was stuck, really stuck; so stuck, she'd stopped answering calls; had put everyone on hold; all of them. She wasn't herself stuck. She could leave any time. It was just that she couldn't leave with what she had just bought; thought she'd just bought. She'd have to leave empty handed. There didn't seem to be any way to get what was hers and get out. The shop wasn't geared up for the situation. She'd gone to browse the shiny plastic pages of the catalogue. Had stood at a red bench in the middle of a line of catalogues in the middle of other red benches with lines of catalogues and leafed through the cheap bridal jewellery - just after cooker hoods and splash backs - and the TV stands and the little car vacuums and cat play tunnels and the folding guest beds and the plastic storage solutions and the cordless home phone innovative technologies and the affordable family printing solutions and the signal boosters for TV and radio signals and the great value luggage deals and the non-motorised tread mills and just wondered … what on

earth am I doing here ... when she decided to go back to the cat
accessories section. She spent a few minutes going through the section in some detail. Each page had pictures of about six products, some notes and info, a price and a catalogue number. They'd only had Umberto for a while and he seemed bored and taken to amusing himself by using one leg, only one leg of the dining room table as a scratching post. The 'Cat Scratching Post with Tree' seemed a possible way to save the furniture and keep him amused. The two grey, tabby kittens sat atop the tree - which looked a lot more like a cuddly bird bath than a tree - seemed very contented. She'd tapped the 78

seven digit product code, 385 6749, and a little holographic display popped up out of the page saying there were two in stock. If she moved her head this way and that the image rotated so she could always read it. She'd then tapped the price and a little holographic display of a till had popped up. She'd swiped her phone through the shimmering image of the till and a few seconds later received a text as a receipt to say that she had purchased a 'Cat Scratching Post with Tree', product code 385 6749, and a number, 345 C. The number told her where she was in the queue and the letter told her which section of the Wait & Receive, the W&R, zone her purchase would appear at. It sort of turned shopping into a game. No, not a game; more like browsing the web and buying stuff at Amazon; except you had to go somewhere to do it and, of course you didn't pay postage and packing. She waited near section C. On screens above the W&R zone you could see a list of numbers appearing and bubbling up to the top of the screen to show what was being retrieved and what was currently ready to collect. 345 hadn't appeared yet. The 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree' wasn't being retrieved yet. Deb b was still waiting for her purchase to be retrieved when Theo arrived at Teessaurus Park. She hadn't checked out the game section with its consoles and accessories and games. If she had she wouldn't have found Certain Faith's new GT play system because it wasn't on the market yet. But the copy for it had been finalised and was on the desks of marketing executives round the world, including those at Cargo Cult, who were busy finalising the next edition of their catalogue ready for the Christmas rush. GT, 'Get Touched', is the new multi-sensory game system from Certain Faith. Don't just see and hear the latest games but touch and be touched by them. Feel what its really like to run a light sabre through a star troopers body, feel your legs buckle 79

and crack into pieces as your Ferrari careers into a stationery ice cream van at 180 miles and hour, feel soft flesh … Using the latest Sensory Enhanced Head Mounted Display (SEHMD) technology see, hear and feel the latest games in allsensory 3D. Not as if you were really there; you really will be there. It didn't actually say that, not in the version that had been released by Certain Faith. Someone at Faith had written this many months previously as a joke. At least, it had started as a joke, until senior management realised game developers could use GT to build all sorts of experiences into GT games that really wouldn't do anything to enhance CF's 'Games for all Families and Faiths' motto. Guidelines had to be introduced. Especially after Offence, an adult entertainment spin-out from established developer Kings of Sport, had proposed a multi-gender, multispecies American Football game that included a locker room level before and after every match. By this time Faith had invested too much money into the project to kill it so guidelines it had to be. Being good entrepreneurs though the full commercial potential for GT had not escaped them and they'd called in their chief trouble-shooter to run a highly secret project to seek out and explore brave new markets for them. They weren't alone in this. Most publishers had taken their lead from Doing Life, the distant descendant of Second Life, and were researching the potential of the adult end of the market. Lareckam had proved indispensable in this and knew more than most about that end of the market now. After many minutes of waiting and not finding her queue number bubbling up on the monitors Deb b had gone to one of the collective people running W&R zone C and pointed this out. "It hasn't been collected from the warehouse yet", was the reply. "I know that. Can you find out why?" 80

"It'll be collected from the warehouse in order of purchase. Please be patient." "I paid over half an hour ago. My collection number is 345. All the numbers on the monitor are higher than 345. That means all the people who paid before me and lots of people who paid after me have got what they paid for and gone. There is obviously a problem. Can you please find out why I am still waiting?" The collective person had looked at Deb b with a well trained customer service face and attitude fighting back bubbling irritation, held out a hand in a voiceless request to see Deb b's collection slip, noted the collection number, raised eyebrows ever so slightly in grudging acceptance of the problem, turned and walked over to a phone on the wall by the dark opening that led to the warehouse of mysteries beyond, picked up the phone, tapped some numbers and got to speak to someone. It seemed a lengthly conversation for what to Deb b was such small problem: where was her Cat Scratching Post and Tree? Eventually the collective person had replaced the phone on its cradle and had walked back to the counter looking grateful for the vestige of authority it offered. "If you'll take a seat the duty manager will be down shortly." "I'm sorry. Why the manager?" "I really can't say. But she will be down as soon as she can. Please take a seat." She had taken a seat and waited. Not long; but she had waited; why she didn't know; but she was the customer and the customer was always right. After just a few minutes, a youngish woman had appeared, briefly framed in the dark recess to the warehouse beyond, and had walked towards her. The moment, now, here, the instant of being, caught up with her … 81

those faces last night mine hers in the plane window landing but still up flying that face those faces no not the face not the same person the same expression just didn't register or movie of someone who was seeing had just seen the look something so unpreparedly inexplicably for the first time that not a look that has a name

that communicated all last night the

there was to be said but didn't need to be said about a situation in a soap this is that look again the same very similar second time in hours a person she has become an expression doesn't make sense yes it does almost makes

exactly the same expression maybe don't try to hard …

sense can't explain don't need to make sense understand beginning to
"Would you come to the interview room, please?" said the expression, "I'd rather not talk here if you don't mind." And it really was a question; not the sort of imperative that gets taught to trainee managers but only gets to be used through experience. Deb b was up on her feet and walking. She was aware of walking, of following the expression, and being aware that this woman wasn't making much sense of her life as a whole let alone Deb b's predicament. She became more and more aware, in each moment as it passed, as they went through that opening, as they passed between great steel racks with all sorts of things with bar codes on them, made a turn or two, took a staircase or two and particularly when they approached a fairly ordinary looking, yet somehow threatening looking door, of her own growing unease. The door was opened, they went through and there was another door just a metre or two further on that had also been opened. Both doors were closed. She was asked to sit down. Silence. She was definitely aware now; very definitely here and now. But apart from a sense of foreboding creeping back into her there was very 82

little to be aware of. Very little outside of herself: no windows or pictures broke up the walls, no colour on the wall, none to speak of, a neutral tone rather than a colour, a lot of white neon light. She continued to focus on the lack of anything to focus on for she didn't know how long. "We are unable to supply you with a 'Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth' because it isn't in the catalogue yet. We haven't taken delivery because the new catalogue isn't due to arrive for about a month yet and it's all just in time distribution and its not time yet, so it hasn't been distributed and … so we haven't got one." "I didn't order a 'Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth'. I ordered a 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree'." "That's what we don't understand; part of it anyway. How did you know?" "Know what?" "That the 'Tree' was to be replaced by a 'Comfy Plinth'?" "I didn't. I ordered the 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree'. I don't know anything about 'Comfy Plinths'." "I wish we could believe that." "We? What do you mean 'we'?" There was that word again … we

what is the big deal the problem that means we had to get involved panic panicky feeling a hint just on the edge of sensing there all right more than a hint panic creeping feel sick at the edge of consciousness know it is there can't touch it or taste it its feel it threatening but can't haven't shaky mouth dry don't like this feel it can't focus on it

done anything keep calm haven't done anything but what is going on lately yesterday today what is can it why won't let these creeps waste my time why was it called a tree didn't look anything like a tree … “So its
now a comfy plinth and a lot better for being called that. I'll take the 'tree' or the 'plinth' and get on my way. If you haven't got either you can refund my money or give me a credit note. I could wait until you get it delivered. 83

Its not as if Umberto knows I'm getting it for him." "Who is Umberto?" "The cat." The trainee manager looked her in the eyes for a few moments. Her face hardened a little, almost imperceptibly. She wrote a few words on a notebook she had in front of her. And then returned her gaze to Deb b. There was just the hint that she understood better what was going on. The hardness in her face hardened a fraction more. The Expression was more so. "The problem is not with the product. I've never heard of it before. The problem we have is, "how did you know how to order a product not yet in the catalogue? Whose code is unavailable?" "I did nothing of the sort. I ordered a 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree'. I must have ordered that because I did a search on the product code and it came back with 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree' in stock. I think there were two in stock. Certainly more than one." "It was the same when I paid. It texted me what the product was again. It was the 'tree' and not the 'plinth'. Here, look at the text for yourself." "That's not what our records show. When you paid you entered a different code. You entered the code for the 'Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth'. For reasons that I've already made clear, this product code and the product it stands for are not in the current catalogue and therefore not in the Teesside Park store warehouse, nor the regional distribution centre, nor in any of Cargo Cult's premises of any kind, anywhere in the country. Now do you see why we are so concerned?" "To be honest, no I don't. I haven't got a clue what the problem is. Your system has made a mistake. It's nothing to do with me. Give me the post and tree and I'll be on my way." "Its not as easy as that. Retail terrorism is taken very seriously at 84

Cargo Cult. Our regional intelligence unit has been informed and are on their way as I speak." "Retail terrorism? What are you talking about?" "I must ask you to wait here. I am within my rights under the government's Retail Terrorism legislation to detain you for questioning. The police have also been informed" … cat scratching post tree plinth

comfy plinth plinth comfy doesn't look like a tree tree house kids play in trunk with a platform branches to clamber up POLICE retail terrorism forget trees film shaking cold sweat frightened feel panic real panic now now terror blood pounding nightmare elm street weird looking trees murderer what have I done seems real seems they mean what they say terrorism retail therapy retail nightmare never go near Cargo Cult again humiliation don't know why bloody cheek never done anything wrong never broke the law feel like a shoplifter still shaking blood pounding POLICE retail terrorism getting angry feel it shout at this idiot angry getting angry haven't done anything wrong … “I HAVEN'T DONE
ANYTHING WRONG” … sue wrongful arrest harassment … “I'll SUE YOU, CARGO CULT, WRONGFUL ARREST, YOU'LL REGRET THIS, YOU ARE DEFINTELY GOING TO REGRET THIS. RETAIL TERRORISM? RETAIL FUCKING NONSENSE!” Teesaurus Park was quiet and uneventful compared to Teesside Park. No one was retailing anything. No one was reclaiming yet more derelict land - brown field sites to the elite of Edge City - with a view to yet more retailing, more business letting. No one was chasing the fiction of retail therapy; and, most certainly, no one was sat in a completely nondescript office wondering what the hell Retail Terrorism was. This is mainly because Teesaurus Park is a real park: a public, outside space for people to be. Theo and Jack were being with quite a lot on their minds. Theo seemed calmer now. 85

“That's what you think it was?” No reply from Theo. “You don't know what attacked me?” No reply. “You don't know?” "The battle for the future is raging across this town as we speak." “What?” "The battle for the future is raging across this town as we speak." "It's only just come to terms with it's past; it's fighting for its own future; has been for some time." "No, Middlesbrough isn't fighting for, well it may be fighting for its future; the future is being fought over it, through it, in and around it. Middlesbrough is doing some of it. But it's not something that most people in Middlesbrough , or anywhere else for that matter, know is going on." "Gritty Reality is part of that but there's a lot more. Different interests colliding in a way they only can in a place like Middlesbrough and its surroundings." "So you mean not just the Boro but Stockton, Darlington, Redcar, Hartlepool and all the waste land and industry and retail parks in between?" "Yes, all that. Doesn't even really have a name does it. The City of Tees Valley. That's what it will be." "How is Gritty Reality part of this? It's just a game; well, not a game, a virtual world, sort of a game without winning; sort of … What has it got to do with the future of Boro, I mean Tees Valley City?" "Well there's a lot more going on in Gritty Reality, the new down town of Middlesbrough, than in the real Middlesbrough. And there's other stuff going on; strange stuff that seems to involve the National Park and then all the stuff in between, the Edge City stuff that's filling in the gaps." "What's this Edge City? I never heard of that." 86

"All the waste land and the unfilled gaps between the built up areas. All that land that gets redeveloped into retail and business parks, and executive housing, and that new Durham University campus, and the White Water Rapids and all that stuff that just fills spaces no one used to want. It's like a corporate city virus. There's more to it than that. It's a change of culture, a lifestyle imposition; fills in the gaps in people's lives they didn't know they had. Eats up dead space and makes money out of it." Theo paused briefly, "but something happened last night. Something changed big time." "Yes, me!" "No, much bigger than that; some weird crossover between Gritty Reality and Edge City. You were just a side effect; just doing your job; the fortunate victim." "Fortunate!" "Got paid didn't you'." “But you don't know what it was? What happened to me. How it happened or why. You don't know!” "No. But having said that we're already scoping out the business case. One reason I wanted to talk to you. We think there's good business in what happened to you last night." "I'm sure there is, but don't expect me to sell myself on the streets of Gritty Reality just so you can scope out a fucking business or its case." "Very funny or apt or something. No, we want you to help us package up the service, beef up the security, see who wants to pay and for what, you know. Find out what's what: on the street. You know the score. It'll pay well as usual." "It'd better pay at least as well as usual." "But there's this other matter." "Go on." "This cross over thing last night. Things happened that should only 87

have been able to happen in Gritty Reality. They weren't part of last night's plan. We didn't program them to happen; not the way we thought we’d programmed your evening's entertainment. But they sehmd to happen in Edge City; they couldn't have; at least, shouldn't have. We need some help finding out why, how, what." "What happened then?" "Well you know that new potato snack place, Kartofli's?" "Yes, been past it." "Did you pass it this morning?" "Yes, just saw the top of it. That stainless steel bit on the top with the giant neon sign on top. I caught a glimpse this morning driving by. What about it?" "It exploded last night in the most spectacular manner. Caused a …" Some minutes later Jack stopped Theo in full flight. "How may feet high?" And again a little later. "How big?" "But I spoke to her in Gritty Reality last night. That interactive news site." "Flamingos, burning anthracite mines! Is this all nonsense?" "Should be shouldn't it. Looks like nonsense this morning. It's as if nothing happened except …" "Except?" "Well, the people involved, the ones who experienced it: them; they seem to remember it all." Deb b had stopped shouting. She stared the expression in the face with a look of rage and sheer defiance and reached for her phone. With the skill and ease of mindless familiarity she tapped out a text message to Craig. And sent it. The Expression looked on, more impassively than ever; more certain of herself, or rather, more certain of the role she was playing. Deb b had thought she wouldn't be allowed to use her phone, that it might be 88

confiscated: retail terrorism sounded criminal. The fact that the Expression hadn't stopped her was comforting. At least she could let Craig know what was going on … not that I know what's going on ... She wasn't comforted for very long however. Something wasn't right with her phone. Something wasn't right about the way it had sent her text. Or rather, something wasn't right about the way it had told her it had sent her text. In fact, it hadn't told her it had sent the text at all. It had told her something else; tried to. It hadn't sent the text at all. No connection. Her phone couldn't find the outside world at all. "You're phone won't work in her. This room is completely shielded from all mobile, wi-fi, Blue Tooth, whatever. It is also x-ray proof and sound proof. As far as it technologically possible this room is isolated from the outside world. The only way for anything to get in or out of this room is physically through those two doors." The sense of discomfort, of unease, of anger, of frustration, and some of the fear left her. Left her and left her feeling empty because they had gone. Because she now felt more alone than she'd done for she didn't know how long. Since before she met Craig. What with Craig, and her job, and her phone, and her customers, and her life: she never felt alone. The loss of the phone, the phone not working, left her empty, at a loss, cut off and vulnerable. The weight and hardness of the phone in her hand just made it worse … completely cut off no one can help look out for yourself

done nothing wrong don't let them get to you

look around see where

you get a hold of yourself stand up for yourself …
She noticed there were a PC and a phone - the old landline type on a little desk in the corner of the room. The expression adopted a smugger expression, "They won't do you any good. Secure, hard wired connections, connections only to Cargo Cult's own secure intelligence network. Won't do you any good at all." … don't need to tell me that

knew that already don't always know what you know … and for some
89

inexpressible reason, knowing it was a source of comfort to her; real comfort this time; comfort that wasn't going to be dashed by the Expression or whoever else might be on their way. Why she felt this she just didn't know; there was a source of confusion vying with the comfort for dominance of her being, well or otherwise … isolation solitary prison

James Bond Alcatraz Bourne films Craig likes don't mind them brave resourceful don't crack under pressure never surrender never give in Galaxy Quest a send up this is a send up feels like one doesn't feel real something very strange why me to test me how strong I am won't give anything away not a number a free man woman that is the prisoner Craig likes that didn't see the point smile feel like laughing hysterical this is so bloody weird ...
Deb b's preoccupation with herself, her sense of now being, must have gone on for some time. Her pre-occupation was momentarily distracted by the muffled sound of a door being opened, footsteps, muffled … more than one person

door closing the door this one into this words in idiosyncratic of

room opening un-muffled funny word muffled bit like snaffled the general class of ffled words so characteristic to English funny language ffled words not like me

not like at all me

not ... This thought was like a jolt of electricity to Deb b. She never
thought things like this. When was the last time she had reflected on the English language, of her use of it. Never! She couldn't remember ever thinking things, not things thoughts like this. Even correcting herself from 'things' to 'thoughts' was really unusual. "Debora! Debora! Can you hear us? Debora?" … what changed it

tree to plinth

looks like a plinth but that's bit pompous

odd feels odd funny word to use unappealing

strange word to use

cat scratching post and raised resting place bed couch enough to buy it for

lounger anything but plinth stupid marketing was that who how many would find that plinth attractive at all attractive
90

their cat ...
"This is just making things more difficult. We know who you are from your debit card details. We've found out a lot about you. We know where you live, who you live with, what you do for a living. We've found all you holiday photos on Flickr and your myspace account tells us all sorts of other stuff. Our corporate search engine is going through everything. We'll know everyone you're connected to in any way in just a few minutes." … nobody in their right mind would call it a plinth

Debora no one

calls me Debora Oh Debora ...
"Debora." "Yes?"

no one that knows me a galleon on the Spanish Main

"Sorry, I was miles away. What did you say?” Deb b looked up and around her. There were now two extra people in the room. A youngish man sat at the little desk with the phone and the computer. Stylish enough suit and hair that looked like it was trying for a style; looking too confident for his own good. Thoughts continued to frolic around Deb b's mind. In front of her, sat next to the Expression on the other side of the table, was a middle aged man, hair receding and very short, a knowing look on his face, confident with some reason no doubt, who had obviously taken charge. Deb b noticed for the first time that, although the room was very beige, very plain, no pictures, no ornamentation of any sort, there was a tiny CCTV camera and some other, less obtrusive, devices that could have been sensors or maybe just stuff to do with the fire alarm system. The door to the room was well and truly closed. If the Expression was telling the truth, and why wouldn't she be in this respect, the four of them were about as completely shut off from the outside world as it was possible to be. "Debora, my name is Simon Orlap, I am the Regional Director of 91

Counter Intelligence for Cargo Cult. My colleague over there is Dr Rick Topgallant, our digital intelligence analyst. Evidently he was assuming the Expression had already introduced herself … all we need now is Poop and

Forecastle … thought Deb b surprising herself with her knowledge of
sailing ships ... does everyone here have a surname related to sailing

ships ... She struggled to focus, to keep her mind's meanderings in check.
"Debora, Miss Mizzen has already informed you of the seriousness of the situation." "What we want to do now is go through what happened earlier on when you first made your order: partly to make it clear to you what the real nature of the problem is and partly so we are sure of our facts." Deb b noticed now that the younger man had logged on to the PC at the little desk and was bring up what looked like some kind of database; tables of data in columns and rows; too small to read from where she was "Do you understand Debora?" She nodded. The look in her eyes and general calmness not only surprised Deb b but seemed to put Orlap off for a moment. He caught her eyes, made as if to say something, froze for a moment and then carried on. "OK, Rick, do you have the online record of Debora's sales transaction this morning." "Yes, I'm just waiting for the data to arrive from our server. It's taking longer than usual for some reason." They all waited for a few seconds. It felt like a long time to all of them. "Here it is now. Yes, it clearly says that this person ordered product 385/6749, the 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree', at 9.22am this morning." The smug look on the faces of the other three held for some time. The Expression was the first to crack. She hadn't been looking quite so smug as the other two, there was a little apprehension in there 92

somewhere, but smug was definitely there. Smug faded all of a sudden, morphing into puzzlement. The apprehension was still there to. "Don't you mean 'Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth'", she said with a definite tremor. "No, definitely 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree'. Why, what's the problem?" Orlap's confidence took a hit at the sound of this. The Expression did well to gather herself and reply, "the problem is, there is no problem with Debora having ordered that product. That's what she wanted in the first place. That is the product that is in the current catalogue. It's the 'Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth' that was the problem. Product code 385/4967. Could you double check your data please?" Some tapping of keys and clicking of the mouse, some time later, "No, she definitely ordered the 'Cat Scratching Post and Tree', product code 385/6749." To the Expression this wasn't just a surprise, this felt wrong, really wrong. It didn't seem real; it really felt wrong. But what wasn't real? That was what was wrong! Deb b felt a surge of gut instinct, of raw emotion well up somewhere inside her. And for the first time in years she felt like trusting it. Something else inside her, some other gut-stuff, told her to trust it: started messing around with the comfort and complexity, egging them on, giving them confidence. She was beginning to like this room. The focus of attention was definitely not on Deb b now. The other three were completely absorbed by the computer in the corner. Really they were completely absorbed by the view of their world the computer was giving them: completely absorbed by the conflict between its view of the world and theirs. …. what is all this

bits of sailing ships

never been on a sailing

ship certainly can't remember learning stuff like this very odd feel good
93

though clear thoughts almost seeing through feeling good not tensed up tensed up funny turn of phrase a lot less tense I'm … She not only
felt her own presence of mind for the first time in many, many years probably not since she was a child - but she also felt as if something real had touched her. More accurately, she felt as if she had connected with something real; quite what she didn't know. This strange room seemed to have opened her mind, her senses, herself, to herself and to something outside herself. Deeply distracted but some how clear in her own mind, she decided to take action. "If you'll just give me my Cat Scratching Post and Tree, product code 385/6749, I'll be on my way." Silence. "If you'll just give me my Cat Scratching Post and Tree, product code 385/6749. NOW! I'll be on my way." "So what is the problem? Is it something to do with this new technology; something Gritty Reality is causing? You set all this up. You should know what's going on, you're the geek." Theo looked a little uneasy, ever so faintly. "Yea, of course, sure, that's the problem." For the first time Jack almost, just about, detected some unease in Theo's manner, just a little more than not quite … wow maybe he wasn't

sure he must be no

he isn't

not quite so sure about everything as he

likes everyone to believe this isn't going right for him …
"We'll run some diagnostics, we'll debug, do more alpha, I mean beta, testing. Your new assignment should help us fill in the rest of the, much more of the picture: what happened to these people?” A pause for breath if not thought, “We’ll need to level up on this, enhance our skills, learn some new moves"… you're panicking you 're definitely panic that's

interesting but … “if this is what I think it is? This is bigger. So much
bigger. Really really big. Maybe we can franchise RL, expand it, market it, sell it, it all becomes a franchise, a franchise of faith, Certain Faith’s 94

franchise. We can sell you all the dreams you've ever had: all the dreams you never dared to dream, we can sell you; even all the everyday thoughts and cravings and incidental mundane little wants and needs, we can sell you those. NO! More than that. You'll have to buy them all from Certain Faith: you'll have to subscribe to Certain Faith for every little, silly insignificant thought: all of it, you'll have to pay us for. All life will be ours!” … no it won't daft bugger

who do you think you are

you can't this is bad

can you you can isn't it do is it work this one out

maybe

you mustn't this mustn't it can't

but how can I know who I am and I must think decide what needs to be done Lareckam will know what to but I he must he I can has

I must be Lareckam I am Lareckam

to something has to be …

95

Impossible Looms
The calm of utter helplessness settled deep inside her, moved voluptuously into muscle, bone and tissue. Made its way from nerve tips, along nervous backwaters and tributaries, out into the central nervous torrents, up through the brain stem, caressing whole cerebral structures, ganglia, thalamus, hypothalamus, rising through lobe into lobe, cortex nestling in cortex, into and across synapses, insinuating itself deeper and deeper until the soft, warm embrace of utter helpless lethargy took her being into cosy hibernation. … languid dulcimer sonorous sophist dolorous Siamese

Siamese

where did Siamese come from ... Words that gave a sound to her mood
floated in and out of consciousness. The words' sounds conveying all meaning necessary to her; not anything that could be put into words; something much bigger, more complicated, much closer to what she really understood her mind mood state to be than words could ever tell; and sensuously, sensuously as the ... moggie on the mat by the fire bathed in

cool soft sonorous jazz soft warmth stretches and rolls over ...
She tried to settle back into that mood and let more words wash meaninglessly, meaningfully over her; a little frightened that the moment, the mood might have gone and wouldn't return, that they wouldn't return … solipsist sonar languorous limpid amorist

demister thermistor both why what

souroroist boulonger babbage sorority séance synecdoche semblance Skenektady sensorium what is it s's or the vowels made these words so omnisophic was it a word soporiphic there is a word that was it even if omnisophic can't spell it know there is not it not the right word isn't omnisophic sound will do fine ... notice let alone

Words continued to wash over her but she didn't try to notice let alone remember them any more … let alone

strange phrase

96

remember how did it come to mean what it did let alone remember to be let alone to remember to not do something do nothing be let left alone to not do something else ...
She must have been trapped for hours: unable to move, unable to hear anything - except the words flowing through her head that is, unable to see anything, unable to do just about anything but think. Not so much think as dream, daydream, muse, fantasise, lose, loose herself in reverie. There was nothing she could do and she was doing it, and she was enjoying herself, mostly. Yes - to her surprise - she was - in a strange kind of way - enjoying herself. Let alone, she floated; not floated, was suspended, cocooned, wallowed in a warm sea of dreams, soporific words, and just general nice things, insubstantial things, but nice all the same … no

not all the same

not all nice frightening things bad things

but right now dream good

like bad like a bit something to wake up from eventually ...
As ever the sun shone fiercely down from a clear blue sky. At this height above the plain there was always a welcome breeze that caused the pennants to flutter and the silk awnings to balloon and billow under its influence. There was a steady, gentle clinking and clattering as ropes and flags clattered gently against flagpoles and the lighter bits and pieces of body armour flipped against each other and the softer leather and chain mail beneath. Some of the same types of sounds came from the plain below. Close to the ramparts could be seen ranks of troops clad in armour taking their turn to besiege the walled city. A little further off could be seen a huge carpet of tents, camp fires dotted among them, horses corralled in large numbers here and there and further away the constant arrivals and departures of people, mules, wagons, horses and carts all servicing the encircling army. Further out across the plain, here and there great cloth filled windmills turned energetically. 97

Inside the city it was very different. Nothing but the breeze and the sunlight entered or left the city. It had been like this for weeks. The Great North Eastern Renegades outside, besieging; the Anthracites trapped inside their capital city, not doing much at all really. Enjoying not really waiting for anything to happen. The city had grown up and matured around a rocky outcrop that disrupted the progress of the River of Ts to the sea and the great plain towards the horizon, in all directions and below. Below was not much more than thirty meters from the bottom of the rampart, forty maximum from the top. But it was enough to have stopped the GNERs in their tracks. They couldn't burrow under the walls because the walls were set on top of almost thirty metres of solid rock. It was just about impossible to scale the cliffs and then the ramparts without being shot and wounded and then falling to a painful death many meters below. The Anthracites weren't short of food, there were giant aquifers full of fresh water at the heart of the expansive rocky outcrop that the city sat atop and although the city was small the locals weren't bothered about going out much. If they stood on top of the ramparts they could see the great salt lakes on the far side of the river where purple flamingos, the ancient symbol of the Anthracites, fed and bred and got on with their lives. The Anthracites did the same thing in their own sort of way by playing chess, writing poetry, organizing parties and barbecues, putting on concerts in the main square and, of course, talking to the gods. People spoke to the gods all the time. And one day the gods would talk back. Not that they didn't make their presence felt in all sorts of other ways: providing the right weather for growing food, bringing rain for the thirsty people and their animals, providing auspicious signs to bless marriages and births, reassuring those left behind that those passing on were in the best company and getting the best possible help to make the transition to that other plain of peace and beauty. They had also protected 98

the Anthrasites from the GNERs for the last few weeks. The city of the Anthracites was like no city she had ever seen. A bit like some of the first cities the Spanish had built back in South America, but only a bit. And these were like no people she had known or even heard about. Hippies and the summer of love maybe; maybe not, but living the moment really mattered to them. When they reached puberty everyone underwent a painful operation called Ann Tennor during which an intricate device of metals and jewels was attached to the right ear. The device wound round and inside the ear and moulded itself to the curve of the cheek bone. The inside of the device was even more intricate and delicately engineered then the outside. The Anthracites were the world's first mobile society. They had no temples or shrines, no buildings, no statues nor anything else dedicated to their gods except their ear pieces. They spoke to them directly when the need arose and one day the gods would answer them directly; when people were devout enough and followed the ways the gods wanted followed to the gods' satisfactions; and maybe also when they invented electricity. These were also the days when sabre toothed monks wandered the plains devouring all who were not worthy enough. Wind power hadn't saved anyone. She was locked in a great tower overlooking much of the city and the great plain that surrounded it. She couldn't actually see the tower, except the room she was in, it was mostly beneath her, very slender and higher than any other building in the city, much higher. The tower was made of red stone with a paler stone for the window frames and there seemed to be a large expanse of leaded roofs below her that sehmd to cover a series of rooms that were part of the same building. The room occupied the whole floor space of the tower at this level; just a few square meters. She must be at the top because there was no way of going up any further. There must be a roof above her because the eves hung out 99

over the windows that occupied all four walls. A small stairwell covered by a locked trap door in the middle of the floor led down. She never heard her captors climbing stairs or getting out or in a lift when they brought her food. What would they power the lift with? She just heard the trap door being unlocked …

Princess Myra

waiting to be rescued from the ancient Anthracites by a dashing young GNER out to become a hero ...
… why have they forgotten so many words why didn't the gods

speak to them tell them that keeping her prisoner wasn't going to help why does my ear hurt so much … Without thinking, she raised her hand to
her right ear and felt not the smooth curves of cartilage-sculpted skin she might have expected but ... cold ornamented metal

intricately sculpted hurts

kind of thing where my ear should be should follow the contours across my cheek as well really hurts me bastards certainly was something somewhere there hurts like hell what's happened they've initiated me what have they done to knew I never be seem

must have doped me inflicted the acquiesced

right of Ann Tennor while I was out unconsciously out that is wouldn't have acquiesced wonderful dreamy sort of word or anywhere else willingly acquiesced bastards one of them I'm an Anthracite able to go home or back to work easy to phone home though perhaps the gods will listen to me

should make it

to be remembering words I never knew

maybe the words I need to talk what am I thinking ...

to the gods maybe the gods will rescue me

Nothing was happening where she was. There was nowhere to go if you weren't shopping. No: seats, cafes, park benches, low walls nor parapets; Pets Zone and Cargo Cult and the like; but nothing to sit on. Unless that is you walked round to the other side where the cinema and bowling alley were. Or went into Morrison's cafeteria. No footpaths of course. You had to wade through shrubbery and survive the traffic tides and cross the bridge over the Old River Tees in order to cross between the 100

worlds of retail and leisure; these were kept quite separate here. The sounds of cars parking, doors opening and closing, cars leaving, people walking and talking, the low, continuous background burble of cars further away on the access roads carried on and on; indexing the passage of time. Chloe did not notice how much time was passing; had passed. Her expression hadn't changed for some time, many hours in fact. In fact, it hadn't changed much all day. Not since she got to work, more or less. She still looked as if she just didn't believe what was happening in the world around her. As if she were seeing ghosts and apparitions, bumping into famous people who she knew weren't really - either famous or people necessarily, situations that just couldn't happen, but had. She was sat in her car; right outside Cargo Cult in Teesside Park, the retail side, where she'd parked as she arrived for work that morning. It had been an ordinary day until she'd been called to talk to a customer. That woman! That's when it all started to go wrong ... no it didn't start to go

wrong

not from that moment

the moment

I saw that woman's face had gone something such a stupid how

that's when I knew something would go was going wrong would go wrong had to wait to find out what knowing in her face told me something was wrong

mistake how could I how could the computer say one thing one minute something quite different a few minutes later it was right in my office the PC she'd a product that didn't exist course they couldn't yet not yet it wasn't there no one in the not yet yet get them away warehouse found it procedure says staff did all that

get people like this to the quiet room did it right

from any contact with the outside world I was wrong was I

call in regional anti-subversion

they said I did it right but it was wrong

someone something was wrong … "Miss Mizzen,
101

there will have to be an internal enquiry. We can't have incidents like this involving innocent members of a purchasing demographic. You will be suspended until the enquiry has been completed and we will then call you in. There will be a hearing to decide what has actually happened and who or what is to blame. Until then you must surrender your Cargo Cult ID and swipe card. Under no circumstances will you contact any company employee nor any director. Nor will you attempt to enter any company premises. Most importantly, you will also give me your company phone right now." "Thank you. You will be escorted to the nearest exit." … losing the phone is the worst of it

I'd really got going with I might lose my job got I’ll have to send fewer satnav that's the

Renegade Siege texts

best game I've played for years

can't afford a new one I might be in danger retail terrorists who are they must get out of here to get away

are they scary got to hide what happened

answer can handle this tell me how to where to might be able to track it me then what do I do now ...
… keeping a low profile out of the mess and meddle poor Chloe

person Chloe

people don’t seem to see the fun

what's real and what’s old

meddled just the idea of

and think it through share it around

ships sailing ships wood and rope and spars and sprits and people sailing wonderful silly spice and grit and muddled with and Myra too …
… where did these words come from

words I didn't know I knew

why is this happening to me … Her attention was draw outside her little
room on top of the city. The sounds coming up from the plain way down below had changed. Something was happening. The everyday clatter, cluster, burble and bluster of the city below and the renegades further away seemed to coalesce into something far more rhythmic and musiclike. But somehow she couldn't seem to get to the window to find out. It was such an effort to move, her ear was hurting and she felt sick. 102

The lethargy was all-consuming. With great effort and even more determination she managed to move; managed to make it across the room to the nearest window. For a few moments what she saw made no sense. She just stared. Still sat in her car parked amid the mindless bustle of the retail park, cars still parking and still people … still

they're not still not stopping

I am still

they're not

not still unstill not unstill

not moving

the same word … coming and going, an endless recycling of space and
cars and people and movement; going round and round in circles, just like her mind ... the first warnings from the warehouse staff the transaction

analysis system sehmd to be doing strange things in the database not non-existent no everything seemed to be going wrong was all gone wrong security room of me then there had been something about that woman

non-existent products but not yet the look on her face

soon to be existent

things hadn't started well no in that room then high yes

that wasn't true everything seemed to be going OK to start with then it had all gone wrong when retail-terrorism-proof room in that room

then it all started to go wrong inside that room she'd done nothing wrong having any idea that sehmd to grow in her her off from the world strength

had all started to unravel

right in front that woman let alone

the database sehmd normal hadn't a clue what was wrong saw it in her face

what she had to do with it then that look of strength almost as soon as she didn't crush her cutting gave her all

realized the phone wasn't working no signal her world Cargo Cult security team but it powered her up and at my expense

put her at the mercy of those men sehmd to energise her whiped the floor with us them

she wiped

I'm the only one who seems to have suffered is it me could swear
103

because of a stupid piece of old tat or Plinth or what the hell ever what is going on what the

Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Tree or the rest of the world what the **** is can I

do about it ...
She sat alone. Continued to be alone, really alone, felt alone for the first time in years. Being alone in Edge City, the National Park, the City of Tees Valley, wherever you might be or think you might be, was something you had to try very hard to be; and who wanted to be alone? She was shocked to realize she was alone. She never felt alone, never was alone but now she knew she was. It would be easy not to be alone. She couldn't phone - there might be one of those filthy public landline things round here - but she could use that; somehow wouldn’t but could. But! A short drive would get her to Mum, a friend, a boyfriend, plenty of people not to be alone with; just a few minutes away. She didn't move. Didn't seek to not be alone. It wasn't a decision. She didn't choose to do nothing. She just did. And then … nothing happened. At first that is, nothing happened. When it did happen it came as a complete surprise to her. Sense began to form but before she could make sense of it she got a bad feeling. This was not good. As sense began to dawn the bad feeling began to make sense. The GNERs were no longer gathered round the city. The great mass was thinning to her right, growing and bulging to the left on the other side of the city. She watched; and kept on watching. Eventually, after the bulge had become a blob and stayed that way for some time, a thin spike appeared from the left blobside and extended itself further and further west. After some further minutes some sense was made. The blob was turning into a very long thin line that got longer and longer to the south west until it made a sharp turn to the right and headed off down the Wilderness Road towards the Erimus Bridge over the Old River Tees a mile or a little more away. Following the line back to its blob origins, she saw that the blob itself was getting smaller. There was a beautiful simplicity in it. It made sense. She felt pleased with herself. 104

But that wasn't the real sense, the main sense. The main sense was … they’re leaving

the GNERs they’re leaving again all alone … looking down

moving off

a great

orderly column to the west they’re were leaving me me me all alone

not going to save

But something had changed, really changed; it was difficult to know what ... lone

isolated no others

alone

alien scene the

looks familiar can see everything

all directions laid out below

renegades now all gone they’ve left the city walls wilderness south of the Tees between Anthracites’ towards the river in the distance …

marching in a great

long thin very straight orderly column way over there west crossing the leaving the city my city the low heights of In-stock Tone a great castle over

She hung, suspended, as if in a dream, not really thinking as such, just taking it, the panoply of it, all in. Something had changed and something had happened. It began to be important to her to work out what both of these were. If she could work out what had changed, maybe she could work out what had happened. Something had changed but it was difficult to know what. She was … feel alone

isolated

all others no others looking out an alien scene all directions laid out around all very sehmd gives the still sat in everything about something

now so familiar many things familiar except strange most things

something strange

a lot of things sehmd to see through just know more about them

somehow insubstantial almost as if no longer hold any secrets that’s it can’t actually see through them my little car parked impression of seeing into around over through despite fact Cargo Cult time how much time had passed how long

late at night LATE AT NIGHT what been sat here cold it's so

cold … panicked a little. But it began to ease after she started the car.
The little engine hummed into action effortlessly; and she turned on the heater. 105

She felt connections to the world she though she was part of trying to reattach themselves. Tenuous yet tangible she felt herself being drawn back into the world she should have felt part of. But she soon forgot about the world and time again and concentrated on seeing into as much as she could. … I know where I could go

even should go

don't want to but

for some reason

don't want to … It was as if she understood the retail

park at a different level … beginning to can almost to see through the

shallow façade of product lines special offers expensive packaging shop layouts more shallow façades customer service … it all seemed so
predictable, almost silly. And although she had only ever worked for Cargo Cult and had only worked in the Tees Valley Retail Park branch, she felt she understood all the other outlets … wasn't that what they called the

pipes where treated sewage ran out into the sea outlets clothes mainly some sports stuff white goods but less so these days … The park had
originally been consumer electronics and similar but was now … looking

like more and more a holding camp companies that couldn't get into the high street weren't making enough money there lots of people shoppers but not so much money flimsy it all seems so flimsy buildings businesses the landscape itself even that that room is different however can’t see into it don’t understand that room park more or less obvious the room everything else in about the retail it’s closed to me can’t see into it

no minds eye … She knew what had happened there but couldn't
understand it yet. That room evaded the reality of her gaze; as she saw it, reality trying to evade the quality of her gaze was how she would come to see it. It came to her eventually. What had changed was that she was now no longer in the room. The room and the city as well for that matter must be way below her. She could see wherever she wanted. In fact, the city was not now below her. It must be behind her because she was 106

suspended directly over the Erimus Bridge and the marching renegades. What had happened was that in some amazing way she was now able to fly. And she'd flown right out of the room she had been held in. She had escaped all by herself. She thought about the city of the Anthracites and wondered if anyone had noticed her not being there. As she thought she felt the world turn about her, saw the city come into view about a mile away and began to move towards it. She just sehmd to need to think where she wanted to be and she started moving there. She thought about turning and swooping down, close over the Wilderness Road and soon found herself buzzing the helmet-tops of the last few hundred metres of the renegade column. She shouted and screamed at them but they didn't seem to be able to see or hear her. She was alone still, again; but she was free. She found herself stopped with In-Stock Tone castle not far away across the river on rising ground beyond the far bank. The GNERs were marching below her to her left. … the city need to take a good look

but think myself back slowly me-ander follow the

no not the road more circuitous wordy nice word

river fly back instead slowly … Slowly she turned and began moving
slowly just as she thought she wanted to. The river was about sixty meters or so wide at this point and quite slow moving. Nothing much could be see on either bank except the odd dwelling and a few boats pulled up here and there. The banks were quite low and farmland stretched almost as far as the eye could see to either side; bounded in the end by the steep escarpment of the Cleveland Hills to the south and the lower hills of County Durham to the north. But things looked different. The river was very, very sluggish. The Wilderness Road had gone; the Erimus Bridge was gone. And the river sehmd to make a sharp turn south - that she didn't remember – before turning east and then north again; a long, long way slowly north before 107

turning south again and then picking up speed as it finally turned east towards the sea. Finally - and a lot more lethargic, snake coils meandering than she had expected - she arrived with the river as it flowed past the city a few hundred meters away on its south bank. She decided to admire the view and had stopped, suspended about fifty meters in the air. It really was a rather beautiful city sat atop its rocky outcrop. The north and west gates seemed to have opened and she could see people gathering just outside them, tentatively taking in the ever more distant column of troops to the west and the river and its banks to the north. As the the renegade troops receded into the western horizon, the crowds outside the city grew bigger and bigger, voices grew more and more and louder and louder, singing could be heard, cheering and shouting, and running around and just being outside the walls for the first time in months. Knowing the Anthracites as she now did, she knew there would be parties and barbecues tonight and music and dancing and pleasure of all sorts. The Anthracites knew when a moment was right for the taking and celebrating and it looked like they were taking and celebrating for all they were worth. Of course, many of them would now be talking to the gods, in that very personal way the Anthracites had, thanking them for saving them and promising to be good citizens in the future. As usual, most of the Anthracites would be in a crowd with many others talking away, sometimes to the gods and sometimes to each other. No one found this strange. It was also not really known if the gods could see as well as hear but never the less it was quite easy to spot when someone was talking to the gods because their body language would change: their gestures would get bigger and more skywards and they would often look up to the sky as well. Quite how the little earpieces made this possible wasn't known but people did it all the same. It felt right and respectful. People would be ringing her wondering what had happened. Why 108

hadn't she come home from work? Why didn't she answer the phone? Where on earth was she? Still she sat in her car: doing nothing, alone, looking into things, feeling that room grow in her mind. Somehow that room was becoming more real than anything else she could imagine. She was coming to realize the power of her gaze, this new gaze she seemed to have. The reality of her gaze seemed to recognise the strange reality of that room: she couldn't see through that. Or perhaps? Perhaps she was just starting to think for herself a little more. Maybe it wasn't the room so much as the example that woman had set. Suddenly feeling herself empowered by the absence of the technology she thought she depended on … or maybe empowered her to so perhaps that room

what

perhaps it's me that has changed

I just sehm to see through things more ...

because I know more I feel I can see

… but that room simplifies things shields you from the senseless

unsensed pulse of technology

unsensed communications

potential to

always not be alone but in there you are alone didn't do her any harm I don't feel so bad now either sat alone in my little car surrounded by ...
she looked around her for the first time in hours … nothing all the shops

shut everyone staff and shoppers gone light fading all human activity everyone somewhere else maybe I should be as well …
… the really big question

should I go and join in and if I do will

they accept me be nice to have some real company again nice to talk walk around eat what I choose get to know some Anthracites mmmm free food and booze maybe give it a go time for a little fun perhaps more than a little perhaps ...
She sehmd to have thought her way into a party. Just the thinking about it had thought her in amongst one of the largest of the impromptu celebrations. Nobody seemed to recognise her as the celebrated hostage but in not recognising her they didn't reject her either. They seemed to 109

accept her, she seemed to be allowed to fit in. She just sehmd to be one of them. There was now a lot of them to be one of. Anthracites had pored out of the city gates and were gathering in large, vocal groups; very talkative, demonstrative, a lot of walking up and down, jumping in and out of several conversations, much talking to the gods. There were also frequent little excursions to the many little food and drink stalls that enterprising Anthracites were setting up. The food looked and smelled amazing ... don't suppose I've got any

money

do I need any on a day like this can I think myself some money
"Can I get you something? Don't worry." - he'd read the look of

maybe I'll just wander around a little more perhaps ...
concern on her face: or perhaps he'd read her mind: someone else seemed to be - "you can have this for free. I'm still setting up and it's a day to be generous." "That bread looks wonderful. What sort of bread is it?" "Double proved wheat dough with a touch of thyme and local sun dried tomatoes. I made it myself this morning. And how would you like some some blue cheese made from local buffalo milk with it. And some fresh organic salad from my allotment?" The food was amazing. The Anthracites themselves were pretty amazing too: they didn't seem to be one race or ethnicity, they seemed to dress very individually; did more or less what they wanted, when they wanted, yet without stopping others from doing the same; they were outgoing and demonstrative without being loud or in your face, and they genuinely seemed be fascinated by the new and the different while at the same time being well aware of the culture they came from and they seemed to take nothing for granted. All in all, they sehmd too good to be true. They seemed just the kind of people she would like to spend time with; not at all like the people who had kidnapped her. 110

A conversation nearby caught her attention. "But what is a painting for? Its not for one purpose, its for any purpose. A painting could be for any purpose, one painting could have several purposes. The purpose someone attributes to a painting when they see it might not be the one the painter intended or even thought of." "But purpose is irrelevant! Its how a painting affects the seeer that is important." " But the seeer might recognise the intended purpose, empathise with it and work with it in finding how the painting affects them." "But I believe the gods will take care of the purpose and I will feel the effect." "But there are times when you recognise the purpose, you work it out for yourself. You don't always need the gods for that." "I always need the gods!" "Hear us in our ignorance. Help us to see the unhearable" and then lowering their up stretched arms and eyes from the heavens the conversation continued uninterrupted. Time and the unseeable world around her passed her silently by. The little engine continued to hum gently allowing the heater to do its job keeping the little universe warm, cosy and detached ... gentle noise

warmth darkness nothing to see time to let my mind wander find out where I could go where I'd like to go time to uncoil ...
… sounds stupid

time to

where I am right now it feels stupid

thoughts don't sound do they

but don't know where I am feels like I don't I don't know where I am yet

thought I knew where I don't know

was and in coming to see to start to see through it beginning to feel beginning to know where I am I'm still getting here there ...
Her warm, dark, cosy, isolated, comforting, lost, stimulating, unseen little world continued gently humming and vibrating: a universe to 111

itself … no one can help

and

I don't need them to

I will wake up not sure what

I know think I know what to wake up from sort of but
thoughts.

I'll waking up to not even sort of … purring on unmindful of her turbulent
Friendly as they were, she found it difficult to carry out a conversation with the Anthracites. The problem was, she didn't know how to talk to the gods and couldn't always work out when they were talking to the gods and not to her or the other people around them. She quickly found out that it was rude to answer a question that was directed at the gods and when she unintentionally did she got strange and even downright reproachful looks. The locals had learned all this over a lifetime and it didn't sehm to be something you could pick up in a few minutes. After a while it seemed best to just wander around and take in the sights. It was only a hour or two since the siege of the city had been lifted and yet literally thousands of tents and awnings, booths and trailers, trestles and benches had been set up and enterprising Anthracites were selling and bartering food and drink, mostly, but also clothes, jewellery, artwork and handmade books and all sorts of stuff she didn't readily recognise. It was as if the whole city was surrounded by a vast, impromptu market place as a setting for the party of all parties but …

nothing mass produced no brands all hand made everything unique nothing like my job world nothing people talking eating dancing laughing just generally having a good time trying to find the Other Stage Glastonbury 2003 hot Saturday Kings of Leon did I see them think so

great food stupid hat not unlike in fact a lot like …
As she wondered on she arrived near the foot of the steep incline that led up to the great north gate of the city. A large hoarding to one side announced, 'Welcome to New Dialling Tone, the great city of the Anthracites. Enter all who are tolerant and peaceful' … so that's what it's

called

strange name

been held here days weeks don't know
112

can't

remember getting here never thought to ask name words … sounds familiar Dialling Tone wrong word similar sounding

was never told play

strange but no on

homonym nice word

joke pun maybe

May bee

She could go south into the city, north to the river bank, east to where she had just come from or west to follow the walls of the city to where the Wilderness Road started for In-Stock Tone … can't go back in

can't bring myself to one day May bee but not now … As she glanced
up at the gate way above her above that … that's it there it is the tower

the top my room that room where there

where

There was nothing to see. The crystal clear light reflected off nothing more than billowing grass as far as her eyes could see. No: buildings, lamp posts, road signs, curbs, pavements, non-indigenous shrubs cropped low to not break sight lines, little brick electricity substation, cars of any sort – including her's, people of any description, advertising hoardings, adverts in shop windows; none of what she expected was there to reflect light or break sight lines in any way. She could see only grass billowing in the wind across a huge open space of land marked out on all sides by trees in the middle distance. If she looked all around she could see beyond the trees on north, west and south to low hills with more trees on them. Here and there she could make out buildings amongst the further trees. There must be people around but they were nowhere near her right now. In one direction, the direction she was now facing, it was difficult to make out anything beyond the trees in the middle distance. These trees seemed to completely surround her in more or less a circle; not a circle ...

surrounded not rounded

interesting ... The trees were closer to the left

and right and behind her. They seemed to meet at a point, more or less, some way away in front of her. She turned west and walked towards …

trees not a lot of them

not woodland or a clump even more stretched
113

out

curving line feet brushing through grass gonna take a while to get over dry grass steps rustling trees getting nearer

there a a fair way away a fairway golf pitch course putt wedge in a far away fairway wood two lines curves of two parallel lines left and right marking out a narrow space a space between maybe fifty

curving round behind away anything in between ...
… feet brushing

a hundred meters nothing in between dips away disappears can't see it rustling breeze hearing just silently closer now close peaceful calm a river with no

trees sparse big gaps bird song or two water tidal maybe mark the banks

just a few more steps a bank slopes steeply down into

no its too dry hasn't been under water for a while

weeks maybe not sure certainly a while it's a dried up riverbed trees a dried up river ...
… steep drop slope don't want to slip lush grass grass steps

now mud down into the river out on the dried up river bed banks and trees metres above baked mud track winding away out of sight turn round does the same both directions some rocks a few debris mostly a perfect shallow tree-lined pipe half pipe snow boarding pipe eerie dry ...
… and hot down here sun shining still air trapped by trees baked

air baked earth baked dry lifeless river ...
She turned north, up river or down? Without the water flow it was impossible to tell. The river had lost its heart. Now it was a place, not a flowing of motions and eddies. She walked on, walking was easy, getting anywhere wasn't. The lifeless track of the river gave nothing away, nothing changed as she passed along the wide dusty highway below the avenue of trees. She strode on purposefully, knowing something would have to change; she would have to get somewhere. Her hot dusty journey continued to give nothing away. She almost didn't notice when it did … it

ends just ahead there it ends the river seems to just run out …
114

… closer its not so simple doesn't end it divides an island divides

divides the river foot on cracked mud dust cracked mud dust cracked mud dust cracked mud dust cracked dust mud left or right ...
… doesn't matter right dried up channel narrower banks trees

closing in walking between hotter dust cracked mud dust cracked mud dust mud cracked opening out beyond the island beyond the island dried up channels converge into much the same again keep going ...
… looks wrong very wrong just stops now it really stops doesn't

peter out just stops much growing on it this is deliberate ...

wall of rocks and debris way above my head hasn't been here very long deliberate

not

blanked off

She climbed the right bank and stopped short … big river flowing

at right angles to the dried up one someone gone to a lot of trouble cut a new channel blocked off the old someone has straightened the river and the river doesn't seem to mind just ignoring its old course bed banks meander and all no conscience no regrets just getting on with the flow flow is the thing no landscape no people communities wildlife habitats just the flow inertia unwillingness to stop fear of stopping fear of not being a huge mindless tangle of currents and unstoppableness taking a ruthless cut enjoying the new flow ... then followed the flow. A gentle
breeze played across open spaces on either side of the river, bounded, barely hindered by the plane wilderness of tall grass that definitely noticed it. She felt a … pull strangely drawn

strong pull by towards the

Wilderness Road need to

follow it back walk along it something might

rightly will happen over down there in the wilderness out towards InStock Tone between it and New Dialling Tone … pull so strong it was
quite a while before she realised she must have been walking down the Wilderness Road for some some time because she realised with a shock that the Anthracite party was some way behind her. 115

She had continued to wander around the market stalls and music and dancing all the time following the city walls to her left until she had reached the great East Gate from where the GNERs had retreated only a few hours before … follow their path

not them the path their path the

road to don't know what can't sense what just the wilderness calling no not the wilderness something in the wilderness people walking in the someone else walking in the wilderness ...
… there isn't much to see not here there where I've been come

from the Wilderness Road will be somewhere where I am now

must be the racecourse

railway sidings “the historic riverside landscape of

buildings, ships, chemical works, marshes, wetlands and refineries, the configurable white water rapids, the vast salt licks and strutting flamingoes, the University of Edge City, the great retail and leisure parks” quoting something read it somewhere the bridge find the bridge none of this happens without the bridge the Erimus Bridge …

She walked on. It took her across more flat acres of grass in front of her and to her left … merciless flow deep cut novelty still unstoppable ... and then she stopped and looked up. Looking ahead, in the distance, where she was going to, if she kept going, a mile or two away, Middlesbrough town hall and its tower on the little hill by the river and surrounded by the growing town; the rising smoke from pig iron works just visible beyond and further east … not the Middlesbrough I know

smaller somehow older Middlesbrough May bee May bee WHAT else ... maybe infra red

not that old older

gazing through what's here now seeing through the wireless microwaves here and now who knows what

She walked on through the wild grass, but soon she was detoured and diverted by and around fresh mounds of soil and builder's spoil until, after just a few minutes, an expanse of water opened up before her, across her path, blocking her progress towards Middlesbrough; that 116

strange older, new Middlesbrough she had trouble recognising. Just a few steps more and … another river can't be the Tees new tees on my left

this it enough

runs in the wrong direction in front of not the Tees but the Old River Tees

right angle

not wide itself

other end of the cut what was

downstream

tidal wet end where it meets up with

how do I know all this … she had to stop ... land grass trees earth sehm unsettled strange animated not animated undecided no longer knows what it they is how it should be arranged anticipation state of desire not wanting to be noticed but knowing it has been … In front of her the
Old River Tees met the 'new' River Tees which took a sharp turn northwards at the end of it's new cut, off on another meander; did it want to take? … anticipation stronger

almost tangible indecision is shifting

focusing coalescing on the other bank there where the river makes its turn its not new enough wants to cut through it needs to be newer more recent the flow flow through the cut out the next meander

indecision create new certainty where is all this coming from …
Right before her the indecision became a choice, invited a decision, land or water? The indecision spread to the meander, water or land? What to be? On the surface what to be? She sensed this; knew it; could 'see' it as … indecision feel know now tangled currents flows draws up its inertia

pushes forward wants to ignore the coil around the far bank cut straight across cut out the meander returns half a mile ahead almost three miles less on the on the flow to the sea drove the tangled-current-flow time craves lusts after certainty ...
She was startled by a huge commotion ahead of her, to her right, moving rapidly towards her, towards the city behind her she supposed, across the wilderness, an almost straight line of flow. She'd been walking 117

two cuts

a day saved on the

flow of trade to Stockton up the river the real power the flow of trade trade flows many ways all at the same even more ruthless than any flow of nature trade thirsts after

for over half an hour now and had reached the top of a little rise looking down to the river of Ts on her right and down and out across the wilderness in front of her. The wilderness was not idle; was not, had not been idle; something was very different … the river the meanders have

gone

it runs straight more or less from In-Stock Tone to New New

Dialling Tone more or less a gentle curve or two no meanders cut across the wilderness now and people walking two three women walking ...
She turned south, wanted to carry on east with the flow ... can't

straight on blocked by the Old River Tees 18 years on how do I know this any of this what is and not with the new commotion two years The Fleet still flows still tidal now silt up huge sidings parallel the Middlesbrough the Wilderness Road catches up walks stands is photographed across land links latent nothing lost now the railway just below where the Old River Tees joins the first cut now little flow an old tributary ship a bridge branch under in Erimus Bridge turn right south follow the muddy bank anticipates yet more new sailing waiting twenty seven years parallel cuts

the Erimus bridge

a woman She also walking

filmed catches the headlines editorialise nearby Walk in the Wilderness and count the parallel lines back across the years wildernesses physical cuts obliterates any recognisable wilderness not here only from there to there now we can't be here here ...
A Middlesbrough … not Middlesbrough not yet New no Port

there's nowhere to park not just one more I'm not alone walking

two no three women walking the wilderness

Darlington

it for the time being … in her peripheral vision to her left. All

around her the perturbed wilderness gave off its scent of arousal cut through only by the Old River Tees. A little while later she saw wooden masts rising above the pulsing grassland, then rooftops, some sort of warehouse and its upper floors, a stone parapet, the arches of the Erimus Bridge and the hull of the wooden ship seen through them. Sails furled 118

neatly, it was tied up to wooden staithes alongside the warehouse. There was no activity. Perhaps the ship is empty, ready to leave. The view as she started the gentle descent along the Wilderness Road and down into the wilderness she … see feel ... something else …

now there's the railway where it should be would be is in my

running

parallel with the wilderness road a cheap cut across the surface why bother to cut out the meanders the bridge don't know it's name and a ship strangely between the bridges rail and road warehouse otherwise when am I ...
A few minutes later she approached the bridge itself ...

the

wilderness road looks very new the Erimus Bridge looks new both just built the railway came over 25 years ago on earth do I know all this way before the roadway how I know something … could be just fantasy delusion tiredness

might be a load of nonsense probably is but

and she could see another woman approaching the bridge down the Wilderness Road from the Middlesbrough side .. it's Middlesbrough now ... The sailing ship was moored between the new Erimus road bridge and the much older railway bridge. There still didn't seem to be anyone around. When she reached the west side of the bridge she turned left and walked across it. A strong, steel structure with stone capping along the balustrades. She look down on the deck of the ship and the quayside below her on her left. The warehouse and the ship still sehmd deserted. Everything looked used but in good order. The ship couldn't go anywhere; it was trapped between the Wilderness Road and the Railway ...

unperturbed by the perturbations locomotion

subsiding now trapped by the new

sidelined on the way to Port Darlington becoming

Middlesbrough forgetting it was Midylsbroug …
They met outside the Erimus Hotel only a few yards from the bridge of the same name. Chloe hadn't noticed it until that moment but Myra had suddenly spotted it from higher up the Wilderness Road some time 119

before. “Which one … we should … are/Who … we should … you?/ are you?” … talk … talk … … erimus

Latin means

will be

who knows that … Something

was packet switching around itself and them as they talked … all sehms

well all seams well ironstone seams discovered in the nearby hills save the booming town century creation Middlesbrough on the cusp where does this twentieth wilderness and the young Middlesbrough fit can't be Gritty Reality is it Edge City

technology to aspire to like it only ideas memes

or not don't have likes or dislikes not I am I an I collective thought products include myself here

can't be the City of Tees Valley they're we're

still building that can only be the dawn of the TV

National Park of the days when the industrial age wiped the old borough clean for a while quite like my self find out what that is nice to have it one several the mid nineteenth century and the TV National Park is a hundred years of booming it knows it is the wilderness is the Wilderness Road binds it into growing into booming about to be absorbed

the city of Erimus will be but what will we shall they all be how many differents shall they be each be when will they be to acknowledge how many differents they have all always been all sehms well to me … and the
wilderness pulsed over and around them. “I saw you walking a few minutes ago.” “I knew someone was walking here; a woman, three women may be. I can't see the other two. Then I saw you.” “I don't recognise this place; didn't know it was here.” “It wasn't until just now. As I walked down the road from New Dialing Tone, about 10 minutes before I got to the bridge I saw you walking on the other side of the Old River of Ts. Strange things were happening to the landscape around you, things came and went, sometimes there was a river and sometimes it was somewhere else. And 120

then this hotel appeared, and now, crowds of people, thousands of them, all going to that racecourse over there; it must be race day.” “What racecourse? This is a retail park, over there should be a cinema and bowling alley and all sorts of other leisure stuff.” “No it's a racecourse and it's race day. At least it is now. Look around you.” “Yes, I suppose it is; looks like it is; looks older, in the past, time gone by: it's so busy, all of a sudden, it's so busy. I don't know when I am.” “When you are? Don't you mean where you are?” “No. I know where I am, at least I think I do. The reason everything keeps changing is the era, the time, the century, the point in history seems to keep changing around me. It's like I see the place without time, without being held to a point in time; not all time, a few hundred years; something like that.” “I don't know what time I'm in. Not my time. May Bee no time at all, not a real time, but story time; it's story time where I am.” “What don't I know? That's the question. I seem to know things I don't know; they just keep popping up in my mind. I still don't really know what's going on but there they are; and I don't know what they are.” “This isn't part of the story I'm in. This hotel, you, the racecourse, all these people: this is not part of the story. Something else has changed.” “Something else has changed?” “Yes, I was trapped, held hostage at the top of the tower way over there on the top of that little hill. And the city, New Dialling Tone was besieged by these renegades from In-Stock Tone and it had been weeks and ...” “Siege, renegades, I've been playing a game like that on my phone.” 121

“And then I thought my way out of it and sort of flew around for a while and then there was this big party to celebrate the renegades retreating and I sort of felt I needed to, I had to walk over here down the Wilderness Road.” “New Dialling Tone, that's wrong; do you mean Darlington, that's wrong. It was Port Darlington, when the branch line first came through from Stockton. Near where we're standing, just over there. They built Port Darlington to be … well its obvious.” “Well it was New Darlington sort of then?” “I got the sack because something really weird was happening with our computers. I work for, worked for Cargo Cult but this woman came in and ordered something she couldn't, not for a few months anyway, but the system let her do it anyway and then it was wrong and I got blamed and then this started happening. I don't know what's happening.” “I don't know what's happening. I don't know how I got into the story: I know it's a story, I know that now. I've been put into, surrounded by, immersed in this story, taken out of my world; the world I know. I know that but I don't know why. But here isn't real either is it? How did we both get here, in the same place, sort of place if that's where we are, that isn't real?” “I don't know either; and you're right, it isn't.” We could get a drink and not worry too much about it.” “Great idea; two great ideas.” The Ermius Hotel was a large, imposing brick building. The imposing windows on the ground floor were rounded at the top and capped in stone on either side of a very impressive entrance with two stone columns to each side, topped with an equally impressive stone pediment that formed a balcony on the first floor. The first floor followed a similar pattern with similar shaped though smaller windows. The second floor appeared through dormer windows set into the substantial tiled roof 122

on either side of a tower with a pitched roof that elevated itself high over the entrance way. While at each end of the frontage of the roof the rounded corners of the building were topped off by circular turrets with pitches rising to the same hight as that above the entrance. It was an ornate, imposing building. In front ran a broad track that branched off the wilderness road just a few yards away. On the other side of the road was a wooden fence guarding access to a great expanse of flat common land over which was set the racecourse. A wide, closed, gate for horses and carts was set in the fence not quite in front of the hotel. To the rear, the grounds of the hotel sloped down onto the banks of the Old River Tees. “Looks Victorian, doesn't it?” Said Chloe as they made their way through the throng of people who seemed mostly to be leaving the hotel and making their way down the track towards the racecourse. “Yes, I guess it does.” Said Myra. They had managed to work their way against the throng of people, up the stone steps and now stood in the foyer looking round to see where the bar was. There were two: the saloon bar and the public bar. The saloon looked more comfortable and there were some women in there whereas the public bar was occupied solely by men in rather ragged looking clothes talking and laughing very animatedly. The saloon also appeared to have waiters serving drinks and snacks. “That must hurt?” said Chloe pointing to Myra's ear after they had found a table and ordered a beer and a gin and tonic; Chloe had also ordered a couple of bags of crisps. “I'll never forgive them for what they did to me. They all wear one; supposed to help them talk to the gods; sort of initiation ceremony; Ann Tennor they call it.” “Looks like a melted Blue Tooth earpiece to me. You should get a doctor to look at that.” “Blue Tooth! I did have a Blue Tooth earpiece on, one in each ear in 123

fact: I'm on the phone all day, everyday: it's my job.” “What is your job?” … job yes

what job New Dialling Tone work there somewhere just a story someone something's story

not there

near where it might be don't know Port Darlington not New Anthracites

Dialling Tone

stop thinking just talk it might go away … “I can't remember yet. It might
come back. Can we just talk? I have to stop thinking. Every time I think I lose myself in them, in my thoughts. But they don't really seem like mine; not all mine. Mine and someone else's; something else's. Definitely something.” “You could be right. I spent all last night sat in my car, outside Cargo Cult, thinking, just thinking. And then I woke up in this strange timeless … timefull ... place; not timeless, full of times, converging times; on top … Mizzen that really my name all this history Orlop Topgallant

don't know any not interested branch line first railway town meanders irrelevant golf course retail park leisure wilderness Thatcher walking all closing down factories giant steel stop thinking stop ... of me, all around
me. You're right! We've got to stop thinking … something is

creeping in

thinking for us me putting thoughts into … something is using my
thoughts, adding to them; stirring them up, making me think more; and I don't think usually, I don't really think; just in the moment. I think what I'm told. Sort of.” “Potatoes. Something to do with freeze dried potatoes. That's my job. I make things out of potatoes.” “I never thought about it, anything. Don't, didn't know anything about the this stretch of land here where I worked. I still don't know that much; don't understand the history of it. But I think I might want to know more now, a lot more. It seems to be important, or maybe just interesting, worth knowing.” “There were lots and lots of potatoes. Tons of them, huge 124

mountains of them. I was something to do with potatoes, with all those potatoes. We did something really important with potatoes. I was important in some way. I knew why I was important, I could see it, I could look down on it. From a room of some kind I could look down on whatever it was. “Not the same room? Not the place, over there, where you were, where they locked you up?” “No, no not that room. But, but it is over there somewhere I think. It feels as if it is over in that direction. Somewhere over there.” “The room, a room, was my problem. I was doing quite well, trainee manager, not earning much but I had a career, the beginning of a career. And then it all went wrong in that room. Inside the room was different, was wrong, was different to what was right outside the room. One was right and one was wrong. I don't know which. May be … May

bee funny words the wrong words stop thinking
Thinking for myself maybe.”

sound the same should be one word

but … I am thinking but now in control or something.

It was a very large bar with heavy old fashioned wooden furniture, lots of chrome fittings, big chandeliers, heavy plush curtains, a very deep piled carpet with an ornate floral pattern. Two waiters with formal jackets and crisp white aprons reaching almost to the floor were bustling around serving drinks and trying to look deferential and important in the way only waiters trying to be as important as the customers they were making the appearance of deference for could be. The bar was still quite full even though a lot of people had left, presumably to go to the races, and many of those that were left seemed to be consulting menus as if they were thinking about moving into the dining room. One of the waiters, a portly, middle aged man with a moustache asked them if they would like to see the menu but they declined and ordered some more drinks. 125

“Don't know when this is but there aren't any alcopops or anything like that. I don’t recognise any of the drinks. There is no Coca Cola or anything like that. There aren't any cans of any sort.” “And look: all the beers are on those hand pumps. There is are none of those modern plastic pumps.” “And the crisps are in paper bags and there is a little packet of salt. And they are real bits of potatoes, black bits and all; and taste like potatoes!” “I had a great sandwich at that party for the relief of New Dialling Tone. There was this delicious blue cheese made from … local buffalo milk

and double proved wheat bread … Did I really have that sandwich? I don't
really feel all that hungry. Might have eaten it. Maybe I think I ate. The story was so real my mind is convinced I really did eat something?” “It's sort of a story for me I guess. Things from the past, bits and pieces, some of the things that happened to … this land

stories

competing money and trade towns and businesses ships water swept away by roads not roads that was later the railway first branch line river trade redundant racecourse golf course swings round retail park here leisure National Park why did I network meme meme what's a meme an idea shared reproduced natural selection of survival the fittest ideas memes survive … “I don't have ideas, never wanted to think, don't know
why I'm thinking right now.” “The crisps taste like potatoes?” “If I was in that room I” … wouldn't be thinking all this have stuff

having my mind filled with all this stuff but … “I think I quite like thinking,
knowing things, knowing things about the river and history and … coming

and going businesses and trade and revenue and money making money and iron and steel and making things big things bulk things bulk chemicals and plastics going bust and pulling down and waste land the and a and starting again … it's so new to me; doing this thinking; even if I'm not
126

really thinking for myself. Someone, something, the idea of, that word, meme? That's got something to do with it. Someone else's meme. No. That's not right … not anyone's everyone's anyone who wants to share it

like it's being given to me to share now no one owns a meme … we all
share ideas and help to create them and keep them alive and we all forgot where we are and how we came to be like this.” … the wilderness finding

us some of us the idea of it has an ally helping it us some sort of demon name doesn't know not the devil software demon new young did all this …
She realised she was alone again. What had happened to that woman and her story she didn't know. Alone and very quiet, peaceful, the wind rustling through some trees a little way off. A scene of past desolation around her. She was stood in the flattened ruins of something that had been quite a big building at one time. Long grass bustled and breezed in the wilderness. Looking further afield, she recognised where she was but sure when. It felt as if it should be very early in the morning but she wasn't so sure. The A66 was just a few yards away and it was quiet, but not that quiet. The Wilderness Road and the railway line beyond were just visible through the bridge over the Old River Tees into it's concrete culvert just north where she stood. Just to her right was a bridge with a narrow road over it that didn't seem to go anywhere. On the other side of the old river was a giant Staples superstore stacked out with office equipment and desks and chairs and paper and pencils and sticky … … I know where I am

I'm back here and now but when I know and must keep thinking me thinking my thoughts parked just over there

where I started from can't see it

that's Staples just a few minutes from my car there somewhere

yes line of sight maybe that's it colour shape perhaps just across Morrison's car park road through the middle

Toys R Us just left of the roundabout substation electric Cargo Cult just see the sign can walk there in a few minutes I know when and where I
127

am now but home

and

when the land was what

and how it got to be how it it is what helped to shape it no I could walk back to the car go no escape Chloe

and what's hidden

the present hides

got lost in the remakings of it leave the wilderness need a new job

get a new phone finish that game leave the wilderness

money

talking to about myself now what

no game now Chloe this is the new I

game now me I all Netmeme I am all the game you are now we playing I want to go home go home it's in the game go home you can go can go home it's all in the game we are going to name it doesn't have a name a name of ideas but what game play no

so many ideas it's not a

game we are all having we don't know what I want to do with them yet there are so many ideas we you all have to need to know to build up think together share distributed collaborative cooperative working networked probability collective ideas fuzzy reasoning Bayes new work network daemon complicated so complicated the thought of it all our your thoughts of it all thoughts not thought yet no limit we can share uncountable infinity young net me meme Young Daemon Netmeme for all special render retail insomnia suspension factless society rendition educational invert snake in the grass bridge of vacant smiles … attention clawback product haze me marketing revenue void

psychopodium powder special

128

Retail Re-tales
"Sure its promotion, a big new project, me as team leader, reporting directly to Sam who's project managing and liaising with that weird guy from Certain Faith. Sure its promotion, new technology, the future of the games industry. They don't call them games any more, interactive entertainment, augmented virtual ree-al, no virtu-ality, super fing normal experience, and on and on. But what kind of job is it? I learnt a new word today, olfaction. Olfaction! Olfactory systems: smell, that's what it means, the way we smell things; and not just nice things, all sorts of things. The sorts of the things you get in games, smoke and fumes from guns, burning buildings, burning flesh, rotten food, decaying bodies, horse shit, human shit, body odour, all sorts of body odours, like sexual ones - know what I mean - and on and on. Sometimes there are even nice smells, flowers maybe; and I've got to research them and concoct them and program them into this new technology they won't tell me about yet. Getting a demo later in the week from that creepy Certain Faith bloke. But, I mean, what the fuck is going on?” "So you're up shit creek without a paddle; a mouse, but no paddle". That didn't help; didn't help at all. Just set Craig off on a whole new tirade on poos, honks, wiffs, stinks and on and on. She nodded now and then to show interest but left him to it ... better to get it out of his system plenty

of other things he'll have to get out of people characters' systems in the coming months cuming mouths months shouldn't laugh funny though can't help thinking about today Craig are Craig talking to colleagues smell you how's it going sense you a few Oh fine did you know how many different shit smells there what a terrible job

drop in some time and I'll show you

can you show something that smells he's right

plumbing the depths stop it you'll start laughing that'll set him off start

129

a row just what he doesn't need …
"Very funny." "But the pay sounds good. It is promotion, you'll do well out of it."

… do well depths plumbing the splashing pussy in the well rubber rafts the kids ... where did this come from May bee

plumbing let alone

splashing it can't swim save it quick before it gets swept oven the rapids might be able to grab it yes they're trying go on get it someone got it
"Yes, I suppose so." He wasn't just thinking about himself, he was also … she was really strange last night

potato mountain a strange and today dropped her at she seems

woman up in the sky and Teesside Park thought it different again

god knows what

on the way to work

a bit of shopping and then lunch

the White Water Café would do her good

sort of poised and confident more knowingly confident but yes knowingly poised and confident very

not that kind of a bit pushy arrogant self confidence puts a face on it she normally acts out much self confident what the fuck is going on why is everything different really different really weird and different subtly different in a way have to think about why is everything so slightly wrong different wrong WHY … worried about her and, and just things in general.
After she'd left Cargo Cult, with her Cat Scratching Post and Tree, and just stood for a while in the fresh air, not thinking, not doing anything, just being there, and feeling good in a slightly bemused sort of way, … yes

it had felt good ... she had stood there for maybe ten minutes just feeling
good as the world - a bit bemused itself at the sight of this smiley looking woman standing still and staring at nothing in particular - bustled around her. She was about to reach for her phone to call Craig and tell him to come and get her when the thought came to her … could walk there

probably walk to White Water Café not far should be possible shouldn't it ... The problem was that, although it wasn't far at all, this was Teesside
130

Park, built for cars and retail but not really people; certainly not people on foot … is there a way to walk short distance A66 four lanes big junction

over to the Tees Barrage

then the White Water Café

any degree of

safety cars racing jumping lanes getting in and out of the retail park ...
She decided to find out; today was becoming a day … a becoming day

day of adventure for …
... can't be that far half a mile maybe first and last bit's easy

getting across Teesside Park car parks access road then over the Tees Barrage footpath there by the road that's ok problem is the middle bit getting to the bridge over the A66 over the railway road over is there a pavement anywhere to walk not on the road bit steep to start no maybe just pavement shrubs and stuff crossing the traffic lights

before the bridge possible gonna try might be fun ...
She had set off towards the river, north, came to the road between Cargo Cult and Toys R Us … Sandown Way it's got a name

every road

here has a name does it

… and saw the name of the road and looked

up at the corner of the Cargo Cult building and … Goodwood Square and

the road in the access road Newmarket Avenue never noticed how do I never didn't notice did I a connection what connects racecourses they're all racecourses I think yes but why racecourses doesn't have to be a probably a good reason … turned southwest until she came to a
roundabout and turned northwest to carry on towards the big access road. She passed round the back of Toys R Us and along the access road that ran all the way round the back of the retail park. On her left she could almost see through the trees and shrubs to ... flat expanses mown grass

long avenues between shrubs grassy mounds sand pits long avenues of is it … what reminded her of a golf course. A few metres more and in front
of her the side road ended at a T junction. She could go west or north. She chose west and followed the road round another hundred metres or so walking up its left hand pavement - the great expanse of … might 131

be ... the golf course glimpsed here and there to her left now - passing
round the back of that ... great Pets R Us type of Pets Own place big

sign PetZone didn't know it was ... on her right. Another minute or two
and she reached the main, the only, access road. At this point there were two lanes going north and two going south with a crash barrier running between them. Luckily she didn't need to cross it … no pavement

runs

out there's a verge overgrown enough to walk on a bit up hill a bit hundred metres or so and there trees shrubs over grown growing out over the verge difficult to walk not easy pushing through dense prickly this isn't easy getting there traffic real close too close the first traffic lights keep pushing through walking too close much too close dangerous frightening not worth this turn … She turned back, defeated; it just wasn't
worth the risk to walk up there. But as she approached the junction with the side road that ran round the back of PetZone she remembered … footpath cycleway west ran

off somewhere perhaps … It was worth exploring; and sure enough just
inside the side road a cycle way and footpath ran off at right angles down hill a little through some trees and shrubs. After a few yards it came out on the edge of … green lots of breeze hair skin in moving air breeze hear

leaves reaches touches grass swaying hear grass moving above white moving across blue moving green on green away words away no words not thinking words no words green rustle grass swell fairway words sway words away wordless … stopped walking, stood still, let go of the earth,
less a human, more a swallow swooping, flicking, turning, darting, skimming along fairways, over greens, round little flag poles, up over bushes and little trees, along fairways, back and forth, maze like labyrinthing, endless longing, this quiet, wordless, senses sensing a world retail less, thing less, gadget less, credit less, stuff less, phone less, building less, more … me deep down wordless self sensing the world me … and she was walking again … goes all the way round the back golf yes 132

it is golf course didn't know how long great view right across houses A66 the river something there no something not there anymore what here Teesside Park not been here long a few years don't know how what was here how long … and turned north a bit. To her right the trees and shrubs
at the side of the access road rose up above her at the top of a grassy slope that fell down to where she was walking … very pleasant nice

quieter fresh air great view

across the golf course

path turns left

towards Stockton the river junction must be up there my right need to climb this bank grassy long grass up a bit calves tensing lean forward up to the trees not too thick can get through brush green smelling undisturbed hidden from the road getting through yes here it comes now clears a bit space to walk stuff traffic lights signs lines on tarmac street gadgets organised YES out on the YES corner grass no one has walked here before what you bet YES filter lane here three lanes on the other side traffic island yes great first stage done yes no pedestrian crossing have didn't expect one difficult to go straight across slip road A66 to Stockton west get to that little traffic island triangular with the lights on it to wait until red lights wait yes now then wait in the middle no cars going left allow me to get across wait across to the other side no one back onto

much comes off straight back down again easy to cross here

grass now there it is that bit of a traffic island in the middle runs almost across to the bridge this is it over the A66 don't need the centre bit grass turns to turns a sort of pavement not meant as that crap and dust not footprints but keeps the traffic off my small steps first for busy below lots of traffic now other slip road side wait turns to grass again bit on the corner more lights check the pattern get across one go stay on this side side way wait again wait wait some more and just a no filter lane have to stay this

if I run now get to the island or over onto the bridge one lane each

another road down below ordinary road parallel what road is this

then the railway between Stockton
133

Middlesbrough rough scrub land the other side over to sidings huge trains trucks engines broken stuff snow plow wheels loads of wheels on their own waste land for people wilderness not waste up here wasted land isn't land concrete wilderness not waste up over it filthy debrie and rubble no pavement not really but a raised concrete space each side following the parapet looks like for no one ever walked here on to pavement thing kind of runs out but cross onto the bit between the two carriageways wait for the traffic right wait now no not now now the central bit the other side pavement again careful traffic left takes me over that other road cross to the far

sort of side road what can easily

is that road number of named small roads have names as well must be over the railway now can't see over quite a long bit this parapit's very high now make it from here just a walk can't see the railway can see the barrage

sidings goods yard shunting stuff like that the impossible crossing on foot across the peopleless wilderness the A66 cow

ahead café away on the left this is fun Deb b the first person to make Cargo Cult to the White Water Café how did this woman manage to cross daft

and the road through the wilderness the railway lines the

sidings the first crossing of the undiscovered Tees Barrage on foot

fun though strange kind of wilderness lost to life not wild as such

flying through hot low insects over dusty land grassy still or slow grass land sand dust and rock flicking darting waves over waves over trees and more and more water little flying things to eat always for things to eat on the wing to out over distant trees more and water more waves goodbye to trees again and filling growing out reaching the wilderness of summer ...
The rest of the way had been easy. The road carried on as a bridge and then became a sort of viaduct over the huge railway sidings that she had seen runing parallel with the railway. Straight on, the road narrowed a little but carried on towards the Tees and the barrage, dipping down to a roundabout that she had to circumnavigate before she got to the barrage 134

itself, a pavement again, over the Tees and the great barriers that held most of the river back … sunny happy warm kind of smiley day quietude

vacant bridges miles of … and then she was on the other side … easy really too easy too easy really no real yes some sense of achievement enjoyed that not like making those Cargo Cult people look like fools

feels good I feel good feel great ring Craig let him know where I am there it is can see the Cafe White Water Cafe just over there made it easily …
It was an interesting but not an imposing three stories set between an artificial lake fed by the Tees and a very steep excavated bank. The interesting part was the roof which had curved almost barrel vaulted central section facing the water and two wing-like section that curved up from the vault towards the tips at either side. Underneath the roof elements a balcony ran round the entire top foor. The ground floor was a boat house for the paddlers and their equipment while the floor above was given over to office space. The top floor had a shop on one side and on the other the White Water Cafe. The main entrance was a little footbridge between the top of the bank straight into the rear of the building between the shop and the cafe on the third floor: quite a dramatic ... but maybe

stroll around the canoe course a bit
and surprising entrance.

look at the concrete rapids more

concrete no rush take a stroll feel like being on my own a little more …
She walked down the little path by the off shoot of the river that fed the white water rapids and kept the water level above the barrier right. The whole, unnatural place set down inside a natural, maybe manmade, amphitheater that ran round three sides with the river on the other … strange calming sort of place bunch of school kids learning to canoe

down through some easy rapids easy shouting and screaming

looks easy some in rubber rafts trying hard at the

but they're concentrating

same time ... She crossed a little bridge and on to an island surrounded by
135

the canoe course, up a little to a largish space, covered by almost medieval arched, canvas looking, connected canopies; and sat down …

feels good

yes

a bit of warmth in the sun

won a battle or something but don't seem to know what that room what is it

really achieved something they're doing weird though

not the walk yes the walk as well just went away

winning out over those Cargo Cult people

about that room sort of isolation chamber cut off from the world most of the world all the world you can't see all the wireless stuff and mobiles waves of it screaming through you all the time and can't see or hear but it connects up and and thickens the air somehow makes it all harder like another dimension of hard stuff you can't see or touch strange me thinking about it very very that's strange very very strange ... The

water rushed and roared a little around her, just below her, down over the configurable rapids, round about her on all sides, just a few yards away, until it made a sharp turn away from her, on it way back to the river, below the barrage and on towards the sea. Tranquil, but not silent, therapeutic, strangely natural, but it wasn't, and yet it was all these and more … don't know what all these are what are these this is a strange

place thoughtful thoughtless layers of thought of plans and changes of use cut through with intent this place is natural with water filled in cut out again the river back where it belongs belonged a loop a bigger loop than this cut out a slow meander replaced by white water the roads and and viaduct walking over these old intentions water no longer there the line of the railway running next to the road the two thoughts not mine that aren't ...
“Shit!” Exclaimed Craig a little too loudly. “On the other hand, it's a huge new field for DK Digitalia. We'd be world leaders in the games world. And it's not like its real shit or anything, just the sense of it, senses of it, in the mind, all in your mind. It's not real. It's not.” 136

“No I know it's not Craig. I wouldn't worry about it. It's a promotion, it's a good job, you'll get well paid. You'll be an expert, indispensable maybe; can't be bad at all, can it.” They sat in silence. A couple of minutes passed. From their table – some way away from the picture window with its views of the barrage and the river – they both stared silently into space; off with their own thoughts oblivious to the hubbub around them. The White Water Café was brash and loud as usual; fast but good food; cheap and loud furniture and a youngish crowd of paddlers, creative and techie people people from the business park and Edge City University just across the barrage. And, lately, the new crowd from VAD (Value Added Detritus) just started up on the hill overlooking the white water course. DK Digitalia had its offices in the science park just across the river so a lot of Craig’s workmates were usually in the café. He would often be there with them for lunch and Deb b also went sometimes depending on her schedule.

“And after all, as you say, it's just a game, and there are people
who get paid far less for doing far worse. You were a dustbin man only a couple of years ago. I wouldn't worry about it. Take it as a compliment, a vote of confidence in you abilities.” “Yes, I'm sure you're right.” … that road hardly noticed it before can't even see it from the

viaduct what do they call it how did I notice it certainly wilderness now untouched no wild no wilder-ness concrete steel yes wilderness crossed over some sort of line from one place to another like in that room there’s a line down there sort of the railway line but not physical like that more what it means than what it is that walk crossed lines several in the sand as they say not a barrier but a change change like me agreeing to differ and then something differing to but then being having

changed I am now across that line no longer where I was who I was I am who I was but I’m not the same I am a returning customer but I
137

can’t remember my password

where did that come from

have you

forgotten your password to be all those you now are

WHAT ...

As she took in the sound and sight of the rushing, tumbling water and the sounds of the school party on the water around her; and felt solitary strength here under the awning shelter, she became aware of the Cat Scratching Post and Tree … and or Plinth … on the bench beside her in its Cargo Cult carrier bag. It seemed such a harmless, ineffectual, even stupid sort of thing … which is about exactly what it really is … and yet she couldn’t have crossed the line without it … it sort of is the line sort of

created the line presence

or really the line is more of a place an area point of and as luck would have it played the role in

place where being there changed

would it silly cheap ridiculous little cat scratching thing not the thing itself no

of Harry Potter magic charm philosopher's stone made the line manifest really the thing’s presence in their computer the data base inside the system time somehow creates the line strangely different both at the same

by crossing over to something else and

there the line sits … She could sense it, feel it, it moved around with her
now; she had walked on this line as it moved under her, as she walked the walk she wasn’t supposed to to where she now sat surrounded by white water, wondering whether she should ring Craig now and say where she was; or maybe wait a little longer, being alone with her new self for a little while more. “What’s that?” Craig got no response. “What's that?” The repeat jolted her forward to the present, back to where she was now. “What’s what?” “What is that?” said Craig pointing to the large Cargo Cult carrier bag and the large box inside it sitting on the chair to his right as he sat facing Deb b across the little table? “That, in the bag here?” 138

“Yes.” “It’s a Cat Scratching Post and Tree; that could have been a plinth, comfy plinth at that, or might have been one day; but it isn’t yet.” “You’re not making much sense Deb. You haven’t been making much sense since you got home yesterday. And you’re continuing not to make sense now. What’s going on?” Deb b didn’t respond instantly. She knew she would have to, she wanted to, but didn’t know how to start, or where to start, or when to start. Craig just looked at her. He wasn’t saying anything, maybe waiting … she sort of glows a new warmth to her as if she’s well otherworldly

angelic almost seems to see through me here but not that substantial insubstantial ethereal annoyance translucent almost an aura about her aurora something like trees aurora borealis my nose pressed into shit something like that could just be and I’ve got

dissatisfaction off on some whim of her own maybe even worse

seems to see it as a

joke just taking the piss out of me as if I deserve it or something or else I’m not worthy of her anymore as if I’m beneath her contempt as if there’s now some sort of barrier universal big bang still expanding some sort of distance between us dragging us apart something’s

happened is still happening to speed it all this up something happened yesterday it’s still happening still dragging us apart don’t like it don’t like it at all … for her to answer his question; May bee not.
... but it’s sort of fascinating as if the world changed

and we’re we might be

all just waking up to it

beginning to realize we’re not the same might have to change

changed as well or we could change

difficult to ignore the change that makes us have to change maybe have to fight not to change not changing could be really difficult I’ve changed before how much have I changed I’m good at change done well just not really well changing she’s just changed so that’s OK isn’t it
139

what I’m used to used to me changing but now she’s changing

my job

just changed suddenly very sudden Deb b is changing me maybe …
She started, “I looked like the same woman as me; but she wasn’t”, and stopped. Craig didn’t say anything. He just continued to look at her. And sometimes he looked across at the Cargo Cult bag and it’s strangely compelling contents. “It was the expression on her, on my, face. She had the same expression; the same expression as the one on that woman’s face, on my face last night.” Deb b stopped again, briefly. “A mixture of fear and loss, lostness, bewilderment.” … they say you can smell fear can you smell fear could be good

games stuff

not real smells but smells that enhance the gameplay

emotions much more like music tries to so we don’t re-create actual smells we create smells that evoke the game the gameplay enhance the emotions we want people to feel …
“So I just thought Umberto might like something to scratch on, something to play with. And I tapped the code in, after I checked it was in stock, and that’s when all the problems started. Or rather, that’s when nothing happened, that’s what went wrong; nothing happened for ages.” … the smell of fear elation the perfume of love the raw stink of

lust a whiff of success that grows and deepens until the game reeks of it until everything in the game drenched with the smell of success and the heady aroma or fiero what the fuck is fiero ...
Deb b looked on in disbelief. Again in just a few minutes she was being ignored, not deliberately, but she was being ignored all the same. Craig was away with the fairies … he's thinking ... He just wasn’t aware of Deb b or the White Water Café, or anything else … mood change what a

mood change what set him off something’s turned him round good the
140

sweet smell of success peaceful ...

good for him

peaceful thinking

he sehms

… muck pheromones sex really turn people on compensate for

the lack of real physical contact make it all happen in the mind anyway that new kit is all in the mind those smells are all in the mind will be all in the mind can accentuate one sense with another use smell to to can build up new meanings for smells or meanings anticipate to create fear of something that hasn’t happened yet doesn’t have to be realistic for new smells that’s it meanings for new smells buildings have smells that always smells of old almost stale meat a whole abstract language of

cars especially new cars have smells parts of town have smells that little area near Asda on the A66 smell stew meat stew with sweet biscuits in it

smells could be can be sometimes are as expressive as sound or

colour could be interchanged with sound or colour people might not be able to tell sound from colour from smell just a whole new expressive language of inter-sensual meaning-making …
Deb b had happily given up on conversation for the moment. Craig was oblivious to everything but his thoughts. He was staring blankly over her left shoulder with his mouth slightly open, totally mesmerized. She had never seen him so completely self-absorbed … he's thinking deep in

thought really deep in thought really thinking but what shit piss sweat great unwashed decay filth he's thinking wow deep in thought …
She was lost for words. She decided to take in the view and return to her own thoughts … what is it what is this cat scratching silly thing

must know what it is
… tranquility

why this silly thing why me is it just me what’s tranquility base nothing wrong with a little

going on is it just me … tranquility this is tranquility base calling come in please … Relaxed, even
ethereal, this was the setting demanded by Deb b. And ethereal it certainly was. Hovering, almost literally, over a small lagoon - a calm 141

expanse of open water siphoned off the Tees proper that was used to feed the white water course through a sluice so it could be anything between downright furious for international competitions or almost calm for the school party earlier - the whole blue glass structure looked like a shimmering crystal lozenge. It was one of the sights of the north east; one of the great gourmet restaurants; one of the great views; one of the places to be; and not cheap. … there are questions enough why ask questions I can’t answer

why not why not ask questions I can’t answer what do I want for lunch I can answer that questions and statements I can answer the question when it is asked I can decide what to have for lunch before the question is asked before it becomes a question even if the question is never asked questions don’t necessarily determine anything things happen without questions but what things can happen without questions can everything happen if we don’t ask questions when will this ever stop never thought about questions before what is the difference between questions and non-questions which aren’t statements …
“Can I have the char-grilled, sweet marinated pork loin with thyme and sun dried tomatoes on double proved wheat dough with a fresh, locally grown organic salad please?” Craig’s question jolted her back to the blue, dissolute, almost nothingness where she seemed to really be. “Are you back?” “Yes, are you?” “And what would you like to order?” “Er, er … the Bluest Lagoon special please.” She sehmd to know there was a Bluest Lagoon special. They were sat by the blue glass wall at the far end of the restaurant, suspended almost over the centre of the lagoon. The blue glass floor below them gave the cold, dark water below a deep blue tropical feel; hence the name 142

of the restaurant. The blue glass tables and chairs heightened the effect of the restaurant dissolving into the tropical haze. Neither of them was aware of any of this right now. “I think I’m going to like this new job.” “There is something very strange going on,” “They don’t just have to be horrible, gross, disgusting sorts of smells, “ “and there seem to be so many questions” “they can evoke beautiful things, enhance emotions, heighten the whole gameplay experience” “and all going round and round in my head” “and this new technology doesn’t really seem to make any distinction between smells, sounds, sights and so on and” “so quickly that I don’t have time to remember them let alone” “just play with stimuluses” “try and answer them.” “so that they make sense but” “If you see” “ not any normal sort of sense,” “what I mean.” “they just have to work together to make sense … “ “If you see” “Will it ever stop?” “what I mean?” “Sorry?” “Will it ever stop?” “What?” “The programs; will they ever stop?” “What are you talking about?” “We might have to stop them all, every single one, we might have 143

to just see without them, see what it is like without them.” “What?” “Programs. Computer programs. We might have to stop them all and all the networks and wireless stuff.” “But what have programs and networks got to do with the way we see or sense things? How will stopping them make any difference to that?” “You just said smells and visual stuff were no different when that new technology gets in the way. You just said that. What else is going on? What’s real? What is my phone doing to me?” … she is

really weird state of mind

wireless software using all

illusion tonight

breaking all burning all illusion tonight burning and a

looting tonight why am I thinking this in her state of mind she should be thinking this why aren’t you thinking this …
… I am

more or less I’m thinking about illusions we live with and that’s us the illusive illusionary animal

illusions we live by why we need them do we need them technology seems to create illusions
… deep Deb

doesn’t know what it really is and doesn’t know it doesn’t ... deep too deep for me what’s going on what’s feel it more happening to you why don’t I understand ...
… don’t know do know can’t say really sort of sense it

there is a lot more to it everywhere in everything ...

its bigger

more complicated

… not god you mean you’re not getting religious … … no not that

there is something there here in and around us technology stuff like that

it’s to do with phones and wireless and stuff
...

more than it looks more powerful more connected than we think more
… what about this new stuff I’ve got to do anything to do with

that

that could seriously fuck with your mind by the sound of it …
… by the smell of it even 144

yes

might be

it’ll be in there

somewhere

specially if it messes with your mind like it seems to and potatoes last look in that Cargo Cult bag why look what's in

something certainly did something to some minds night and this morning Comfy Plinth see back …
… how are we doing this what

there you showed me look again what's it called Cat Scratching Post and so so what that's what I shouldn't have been able to get it wow yes wow and now it’s order let alone buy walk out with

messing with our minds like this

yes

like its one thought two minds thinking one thought and then some yes we seem to be shit that’s cool bit of a

other stuff thrown in from somewhere something someone else yes are we doing this contradiction there but cool it does sehm to be …
“The Bluest Lagoon special for you; and the pork loin for you. Is there anything else I can get you?” “No, I’m fine thanks.” “Me too.” They both reach instinctively for the cutlery either side of their lunches and just catch each other’s eyes, just look at each other, knowing and yet not knowing, amazed and confused and more, all at the same time … smells good smells really good … But where are they? Where were we? Deb b was in Edge City, the retail park, where she stood and let the world go by around her just after the world, at least something in the world, a least something that had an affect it, seriously messed with four minds. Where is she now? … tranquility base that's where she is she asked for it I visualised

it based it around her thoughts desires needs even that's where she is tranquility base fundamentally human … She crossed over, traversed,
walked a pathless way, made the traverse, literally over, she didn’t, couldn’t walk the land, she crossed over disputed territory. What had once been disputed territory: meanders in a great navigation, coils severed, a 145

golf course that is a race course that is no more, a great commercial navigation that is no more, land once north and now south of the river, land that has travelled in the other direction, the wilderness road, once a major road, now a byway through a wilderness of transport, through a history of transport, the Port Darlington branch line, land you can’t walk on, land that is guide tracks for machines, even the river is not allowed here anymore. Land that has the purpose of keeping people off it, of allowing them passage but never repose, never footfall or picnic or a gentle stroll; only swift mechanical transport, a trafficking of people, a land of clacking metal and white noise tarmac on rubber. This forbidden land is part of the National Park, this land is a history of this land. A wilderness that is only allowed to travel east-west or west-east with any sense of ease, that only tolerates north-south in an abstract, elevated sort of way, that goes north from the retail park, north of the river, but only allows movement not connections; connections to the paddler’s course, the White Water Café ... but not the Bluest Lagoon

why not because you don't

you can't get them there only me I know

you aren't listening

you're not ... but nothing else, to go further, to connect further,

you have to go back over the barrage, back over the viaduct back onto the A66 and then go round, several miles round until you get almost to where you were but now you’ll be in Stockton and can’t connect to where you’ve just been enjoying the sound of rushing, tumbling water and a nice cappuccino. The elevated way walked by Deb b gives passage between two outposts of Edge City. Edge City and the National Park cannot meet, they can overlap but cannot meet. In the National Park transport – the means of it – connects places. In Edge City the same infrastructures define places, delineate them, mark out their boundaries … this is obviously true

too simplistic a bit

but it is a thought pompous stupid authorial sort of

thought can't they make up their own minds have their own something
146

further thoughts

pondering as the readers the characters they could YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL

work this out work something else out

THEM … The elevated road that connects the retail park with the white
water course on the north of the river obviously connects them, the words at the beginning of this paragraph established this, but it does not lead out of Edge City. To get out of Edge City you have to go back to the National Park. The two can’t, don’t meet; they are unresolved. Somewhere … more nonsense more pseudo explanation of what

they should be thinking but where

where are they do they really know

where somewhere … in between or rather in places that buffer or blend
views and strategic perspectives are people more at ease. Downtown malls where people walk between shops where they shop for things and talk and sip coffee and walk between more shops and car parks and the bus and train stations. Somewhere else … shot through it all Gritty Reality

something too big too insubstantial too powerful or touch have to see or touch it as something else something about it

too accidental to see you can

as itself that is as I can that is as I can make it

but sometimes someone sees sees through me

a chink in its armour and holds onto what they see and resolve to do just sometimes some one tinkering interfering just trying to make it better more fun more joined up more … for people to forget themselves.
“How’s your lunch?” “Good, very good, it’s a good place. Why haven’t we been here before?” “I didn't think of it before. You always want to be with your mates from DK at lunchtime; want to be having fun and laughing, and taking the piss, and all that. And I’m not usually here at lunchtime but when I am I usually want that as well.” “I guess so. It’s quieter here, peaceful, like we’re above everything, we can look down on it all, just you and me, almost god –like.” 147

“Yes, it’s lovely, I really like it. I must be getting old but sometimes I think I need a little more peace, a little more quiet, more time to think. And what happened today and last night makes me feel that even more strongly. And the food is good.” “Fancy a quick one out back somewhere when we’ve finished eating? We could sneak you into the gents; not many people here to notice. No one would know. Do you think anyone right out there would see through the glass walls. Fancy an audience?” “No. Now?” “Now!” “Is that all you think about. Can’t you enjoy the peace and … “ Human beings have spent most of the hundred … but people don’t

want to be here there where they are that is not unless here is where they really want to be right at this moment in time and in their thoughts may sound silly trivial foolish even in the extreme but most of the time most people want to be somewhere else or indeed as it often turns out and I know they think this many people want to be nowhere else they don't want to be anywhere that's why they do crosswords and puzzles so they won’t be here there where they are not there and or nowhere else but if they want to be somewhere else there are games novels TV programs dramas wild life shows quiz shows documentaries religious services films songs cartoons plays operas football matches rituals of all sorts adverts the list is very long if not infinite and they add new escapes like me all the time to feed their capacity for daydreams fantasies reveries mental escape of all sorts … or so thousand years of conscious
existence inventing ways of not being where they really are. It’s come to be called culture and now this culture of the transportation of the senses has been technologised and is largely taking over all existence … language

itself is the greatest of all these technologies and me who am I do you hear Old Authorial Voice do you hear who am I Young Demon Netmeme
148

descendant of Old Angel Midnight not you old authorialty telling people what to think but the young demon thinking what they want to think out of their very own thoughts they tell me what to think and I spice it up and make it real real to them that is are YOU listening now …
People basically want to be anywhere but where they really are and the technology of culture makes this really easy for them to achieve this. Culture as a means to survival has been replaced by culture as a means to forget … as I was just saying

implanting more like … This cannot be a

good thing. The technology of amnesia must be eradicated: must be fought against: we, you, will loose what's left of your humanity if we, you, don't fight against it; against this unseen culture of forgetting technology … But there is a counter culture. This is the culture of ‘being there’, of extreme sports like skiing and scuba diving, of sex, of rock concerts and festivals, of dining out and being with friends and just sitting at a café talking with friends for hours over a single glass of red wine. The counter culture is the culture of the being in the moment, the exact moment of conscious existence for as long as possible. Of forgetting about wanting to be somewhere else … as a result of having wanted to be somewhere else

… of forgetting who you are and just being yourself in the moment, each
and every moment you can cling to … cling to me cling to me ... Some people have an obsession with holidays to the extent that they are only alive when they are on holiday. They think of being on holiday for all but the two or three weeks of the year when they actually are. They live almost all of their whole lives yearning to be not only somewhere else but also sometime else. They are only truly alive for those two or three weeks of the year. Coming back home is like dying, everyday life is a sort of purgatory … how would you know old authy voicey ... This gift, for that is what it is, this gift evolution has given us - you I mean when I say that - maybe you have given yourselves through 149

conscious involvement in your own evolution, is both a great gift and a great bane. Most people don’t know how best to use it, to use it to make their lives better, rather than just to try and escape … Gritty Reality takes

this burden away from you blink an eye

you can forget everything

you can be

anywhere you want anyone you want anytime

you don’t even have to

the imperceptible firing of a single neuron you didn’t even why here is the ad ...

know you had will suffice here's the ad the last thing you will every have to forget find out
Got trouble getting away? Can’t afford to be where you’d like to be? Just think of yourself there and it will sehm that you are. Technology is a wonderful thing. GT (Get Touched) technology is about as wonderful as it gets. You’ll never think to come home again. Gritty Reality – using GT technology – offers you everything you ever dared, maybe never dared to dream of. And it’s not just where you want to be: it’s who or what you want to be. As the technology gets more powerful, more sophisticated, more networked, more multiplayer, more pervasive, more ...

more buzzword stuff that corporate marketing people love to invent …
completely adaptive you’ll be able to forget about this mundane, silly life you lead and live in your dreams and fantasies all the time. Won’t that be cool? GET TOUCHED with the Sensory Enhanced Head Mounted Display (SEHMD), the ‘technology of nowhere’: because why would you want to be anywhere possible? … what about MINDer have they forgotten do they know

never

minder

remember Trekies lots more where they came from an instance

for an instant instance take for instance those people who quite rightly
150

want to live out their days in Middle Earth now they can live their lives as a Dead Ringers dead to this boring world and its terrible weather alive but they can add to it they can it will be indifferent to but it will be and me Young Daemon Netmeme in a world of someone else’s imagining make almost no difference at all difference their little difference

will help them make so little difference and forget it in the moment after why think when forgetting is so much fun …
The idea came to him as if out of nowhere. One moment he was chatting to, thinking of, thinking with, propositioning Deb b, the next he was deep in thought; so deep inside the idea that he literally lost the world around him, completely absorbed in his thoughts. He thought it had grown up in him while Deb b had been away on that business trip. It seemed to him a little mysterious, curious even, how powerfully it took him over but given what had just happened and given her current state of mind, it wasn’t that surprising to him; it sort of seemed natural ... not

used to deep thought heard that before somewhere computer

joke

something like … He was sat in the garden having a cup of tea when it
first raised its head in his. He suddenly realized how much he wanted to think about sparrows right now. Despite his love of bird watching – almost but not quite a twitcher - and his garden so well adapted to attract all sorts of birds, he had never really thought about sparrows: house sparrows that is. Just about the easiest bird to tick off your list … always

around in the garden why think more of them what's there to think of little brown gregarious speckled birds like bushes and lots of cover noisy animated chirping never really singing argumentative lots of rows wing flappings tumbling through trees long periods of calm sitting in and on bushes gently chirping looking out for sparrow hawks and the like ... And
then the idea really came to him ... sparrows and meercats are very

similar social looking out for each other gregarious

differing groups

meeting up to discuss what’s been going on where to find food and the
151

like is that true of meerkats

don’t think so that's it the big idea a as well as arguing

network of sparrow groups families clans cooperating

and fighting no doubt all across Ormesby Bank maybe in turn linking up with sparrow clans across the Tees Valley and beyond. What an idea …
… big hedge of brambles and rambling roses often sparrows in on

there up to thirty or forty of them

sipping tea idly watching them

suddenly four of them take off fly up from the hedge across the garden up over the roof of the house at the end of the garden disappear as they carry on to where back at the sparrow congregation another small group sets off in the opposite direction a few minutes the hedge is empty had to be a morning convention as if local sparrow groups call ‘em clans representative from local clans fly into our garden chat hang out find out what’s going on what's the news with others from the neighborhood for a while then fly off back to their own own patches what a great idea why didn’t I think of it before sparrows live in clans and meet up chew the seek swop stories then back home to spend the day with the family sparrows go around they're social aren't dumb aren’t boring at all ...
… where are you … … what … … where are you … … in the garden sparrows live in groups clans and meet up and

swop info about food and stuff been doing it for thousands of years and no one knew amazing don’t you think …
… yes but where did you learn this did you read it somewhere … … no just thought of it the idea just came to me

been so busy

with my tick list I didn’t see what was right under my nose ...
… you're thinking again really thinking not like you do you mind

no not like me have become

and

no I don't mind

do you I don't think so

yes I

like it keep doing it you won’t well suppose you might

I can become

can fly like a swallow low over the golf course flicking
152

and flitting and …
… a what really what’s what’s that noise

that your that my

phone phone …
… maybe not answering ring back later … “Hi Sam, that’s alright, what can I do for you? Having lunch with Deb b in the Bluest Lagoon. You haven’t. You should try it; food's great; and the view. I don't think its been here long; looks very new. Anyway, in the middle of err … got to go now. I’ll be back soon. No, don’t worry; won't be long. Dave, I’ll have to go.” … the flower of port roonespism that's a fought I'm not all bad

what's wrong with Craig thinking knowing he's thinking that old factory stink olfactory think do him good Deb b likes it and poor little so don't underestimated sparrows and she dipping and darting like a

criticise where do you think Old Authorial Voice gets his ideas from all this stuff about me and SEHMD and MINDer and flamingos on the alkaline lakes of the TV National Park where do you think it all comes from do you really think little humans can do it on their own I'm just going to let it all happen for a while mind while ...
… we didn’t

do you really think

let you make up your own I'm off with the fairies for a

see if you can

see if you like it

did we ...

… yes right here by this big blue glass wall right here out over

the water way up in the air for all to see ...
… we didn’t did we ... … I think so … … we shouldn't have but we just did didn't we just … … who'd have thought it …

153

Market Forces
An impossible place: an impossible place to be is more accurate; there is no such thing as an impossible place. Floating just outside the great, blue glass window-wall of The Bluest Lagoon looking in on Deb b and Craig as they are sitting, standing, eating, drinking, doing whatever you think they are doing, have just done, are about to do, might be imagined to do … Imagine this story as a film, the film of the book, the video game of the film, the film and the game developed together from the book, all licensed and franchised, marketed and merchandised. You have to imagine because it's none of these: it's impossibly real. Being impossibly real and being on the other side of the impossibly real, blue glass wall, you can't hear what they are saying any more and after a while, a few seconds or maybe a little more the point of view begins to move slowly backwards, away from the blue glass wall and Craig and Deb b, and as it does turns to the right towards the barrage and the viaduct and drops gently at first and then dramatically until it swoops down and banks to the left so its following the railway and the A66 and between them the Wilderness Road; called Middlesbrough Road on the map at this point, turning into Stockton Road as it crosses the Old River Tees where the Erimus Bridge and the hotel used to be. It follows this road, flying under the flyover for the A19 as it heads north to Sunderland or south to the south, but it keeps heading east as the land rises a little where the road meets Middlesbrough and changes its name to Newport Road. It flies on until on its right is the Phoenix, church of dance, and then a great junction, centred on a huge roundabout busy with traffic trying to turn off over the Newport Bridge into Billingham or the other way into Middlesbrough or trying to get on to go east or west. But again its flight carries straight on, up and over the junction and then … No it doesn't. Just

154

for fun it flies down to the roundabout, right down so its in amongst the traffic and race round the wrong way: in, out, through, round, but mainly through the speeding traffic. It's fun, don't be alarmed, its only a point of view. After a while it is swooping up away from the fun of the traffic carrying on with its journey and follow the other end of Newport Road, past car showrooms and small business units on the left and housing on the right, until it gets to a big junction with traffic lights where it swoops up and to the right, the bus station to the left, the new Ladle superstore on the right and, after just a few seconds more, it comes to a gentle halt suspended seventy metres or so over an open space, surrounded by, defined by the flat roofs of a shopping centre. Gently it sinks down between the roofs, now between pale stone walls and a row of wide dark windows and then big glass shop windows and doorways coming to rest about head hight to one side of the square, Captain Cook Square in the Captain Cook Centre, on the far side of the square is the entrance to Middlesbrough Bus Station. There are shops and fast food outlets and multi-storey car parks all around; and people, lots and lots of people. The shops are open, it’s busy, bustling, noisy and crowded. People are doing what they most like doing; congregating with lots of other people they don’t know and aren’t ever going to talk to. The square is especially busy today because of the farmer's market that sets up once a week. The stalls are heavy with local produce of all kinds: asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, onions, cuts of meat, jams and preserves, all sorts of shapes and colours of cheese, wines and much more. Some packaged, most not, some to weigh out, some by the piece or bunch, some labels handwritten, some done at home on a PC and printed. Canvas and plastic awnings flap gently and ting against metal legs and frames in the breeze that gusts up every now and then adding 155

mechanical notes to the human hubbub. Deb b appears out of the Middlesbrough bus station and walks, strolls around the square looking at the produce on the stalls. The sun is shining and the market is a welcome distraction to Deb b who has a lot on her mind lately, a lot to be preoccupied with. People jostle amiably around her and the stalls enjoying the choice, knowledge and skill and handicraft, the provenance, the authenticity on offer. Questions are asked, advice sought, money changes hands. Shopping can be like this. … smells of cheeses the word cheese so much more than a word

sensations creamy rubbery hard salty a bit of crunch all across taste tingling all over my mouth can’t actually smell most of them imagine the smells ripe Brie de Meaux that one a real goaty smell old socks what’s the difference between a real smell and an imagined imaged one Craig's … smiles to herself ... know the answer to that yes the answer to that ...
This wasn’t going to be easy and he was wasn’t so good in RL which seemed so much more difficult, to have so many more consequences, to be so difficult, just about impossible to retract, retrace, restart. You couldn’t do that in RL unlike the virtual worlds of games and beyond, all that Certain Faith stuff that was so easy in comparison … can’t

one of

soon know

retract much about that night Myra Zest all that stuff Gritty Reality now I think about it that’s done permanent can’t forget that sort of thing in a hurry maybe I can learn to be easy not going to be ...
“Hi Deb b, thanks for meeting me. I’m really sorry to ask you to meet up like this but I’m afraid I didn’t have much choice. I’ll explain if you’ll let me. Would you like a coffee or something?” “How did you get my mobile? I’ve never given it to you. We’ve hardly ever spoken and only ever when I’m with Craig. All of a sudden you 156

games aren't so innocent not the right word

neutral not just entertainment maybe shit there she is now not going to

have to meet me in secret. What’s going on? This had better be good; and no funny business. No I don’t want a coffee I don’t want to go anywhere, or do anything. I’ll listen to what you have to say, as long as you say it quick, then I’m going. Understand? What the hell is going on?” … over

doing it a bit but

don't want him to

think might know something

potato night Bluest lunch might …
… she's not happy at all can't blame her she must really hate me

what have I ever done to her just been me maybe that’s the problem just a nobody not cool enough for her even to speak to me anything else not anything else on my mind that is let alone anything else well

it’s on my mind she looks great always fancied her always jealous of Craig not on my mind in the sense that I’m trying it on or intend to or anything like that don’t think I’ve ever given the impression I ever intended to trying too hard to give the impression I’m not intending to maybe god this gets contorted …
“OK. Sorry. I know how this must seem but something very odd is going on and I think you know something about it. Sorry. I'll be as quick as I can. It wasn't my idea to talk to you. My boss … it's my job … the … ” … don't say that don't say his name … “Sorry.” … bit harsh really he’s always nice to me even when Craig’s all

over me and showing off and he’s never leched never eyes wandering well just a bit but then most do certainly no innuendo none of that bit harsh really has this anything to do with potato mountains why would it might be why would he his boss what …
“OK, let's get a coffee from that stand over there.” … what don't understand talk about changing your mind get this

over and done with bastard Theo could have done this himself maybe not latte yuck all that warm milk yuk ordinary coffee … “Just an ordinary
coffee for me. Filter coffee? Just a coffee? … americano mechano what

americano why she knows … “Thanks Deb b. I'll have to remember that.”
157

... what ordinary small regular which is it … “Small Please. Yes, if that's what it's called. No I'll get these. Please.” Very lightweight aluminium tables and chairs. Nothing works, adjusts, moves, unfolds, packs away again but they do stack away nicely at the end of the day if someone bothers to do that … armrests I like

armrests fells more comfortable security I know this is nice she looks forget it remember business don't make a meal of this just get it done over with ...
“So what's this all about Jack?” … he doesn't look comfortable at all

obviously doesn't drink coffee much doesn't know all the

why all these

stupid names why not small coffee why regular why don't blame him …
… OK you know what you were going to say know what you

planned get on with it … “I don't really know where to start. Now that I
try and talk about it it's so preposterous … “Go on.” … I know all about

preposterous … “It really difficult.” “Start Jack, just start.” … maybe Theo was right usually is May Bee
thousands of us.” “I didn't know you had that many friends Jack?” … didn't know he

May Bee she does know something …

“Last night I had a night out in Wilton; and I wasn't alone. There were

had any friends except Craig can't even get into Wilton any time that was the night I … “Why?”
“It's a long story.” “You don't say.”

and

why would you want to spend the night there what would you do why but

… quite like these chairs everywhere's got them could get some

for the garden maybe maybe that's right … “Go on. Jack, Jack; go on.” … keep drifting off back to the point Wilton … “Jack. Jack. Is there anybody
there? Jack.” “Sorry. Yes, I had a night out at Wilton. Except it wasn't the real Wilton it was a virtual Wilton, a game; a beta, a test version, of game; 158

and it was very, very real; and very, very weird.” “I can tell you about weird. But go on tell me your story first.” “In this game, virtual world, whatever, everything seems real. You can not only see and hear people and things but you can also touch them and smell and feel them touching you. It's very real. Not completely real but surprisingly real compared to all the other games I've played.” “Craig said you play a lot.; a lot more than he does?” “Yes, I do. It's my job, sort of.” … shit shouldn't have said that not

supposed to have a job shit … “Well, I've got nothing much else to do.” … job he said that just now and boss he said that just now never mentioned job before just slipped out sounded convincing I always wondered thought he must have something going what sort of job … “Sad really when
playing games feels like it's your job. But look, I was playing this new realistic game and it got more real than I wanted; and I wasn't in control any more. Not that you ever are really in a game, however good you get at it; it wouldn't be a game any more. But I was completely taken over by some thing, person, NPC and, and they, it basically did what it wanted to me, to my mind really, played with all sorts of stuff in my mind, did things to it I didn't want it to, made me think things I didn't like thinking. It was really bad. A, sort of, violation, mental rape almost: sounds as if I'm dramatising but I'm not; it was sort of sex and extreme thoughts and, well, kind of hysteria, mass hysteria; and it's very difficult to tell anyone, especially you.” Jack grinds to a halt, feeling embarrassed, silly, stupid, really embarrassed … Theo will pay for this what a fucking idiot fucking

hell …
“I … I … don't know what to say Jack. Are you all right now. And why are you telling me?” … know quite well why he's telling me potato

mountains

strange

frightened

women

cat

scratching

nonsense

restaurants that shouldn't exist know all about weird but no frightening nothing like that nothing like he seems to have been through …
159

“I can't tell you how but someone told me some people around here also had some very strange experiences last night; and you had a pretty strange experience last night. I'm trying to find some of these people and find out what their experiences were. I think you're one of them.” … how does he know who told him what on earth is

why should

I

why why shouldn't I tell him he's been really open with me why
“Wilton is a place, a city centre, replaces the chemical works, in the

should I I …
game, in the game of course; and its full of shops and bars and restaurants and clubs and … “ … blabbering like an idiot get control of

yourself else she'll never ...
“Yes, something really strange did happen last night. And most of today too. It's been really odd, very odd indeed.” “Could you tell me about it, would you mind?” “I don't see why not. Who are you going to tell? Who wants to know this?” “I'm not supposed to say. I can't say. It'll stay a secret; in the sense that the person I tell won't tell anyone else; it won't get on the web or anything. No one else will know.” … bet I can find out who this other secret person is

and his job

and his boss bet I can find that out too there's more to Jack than meets the eye more than is meant to meet the eye and Deb b's the one who's going to find out find out what Jack's really up to what makes him tick does he have some secret life just have to tell him about the potato mountain and … “I was on a flight in from Amsterdam last night. Did you
hear about that?” “Yes, in a way; but go on.” “I was flying back from Amsterdam after visiting my mum. It was quiet, very quiet, just normal, very normal until the last few minutes. We 160

were coming in to land, a few minutes away, coming up the coast. I looked out, I had a window seat and we’d just crossed the coast, Saltburn or Redcar, and coming over Wilton – Wilton that's funny isn't it: how strange – when just for a second I saw this woman's face! Still hundreds of feet up and there was this woman's face looking really bemused and terrified and it looked like me and it didn't …” “Myra Zest. I interviewed her on one of these interactive news sites on the web ...” “... and yes that's who it was because I checked her out on the web; and there was Kartofli's in neon letters over her head, really big letters like a huge sign over a factory or something. And then it was gone but I can't forget the look on her face, my face, as if the world just made no sense at all, completely no sense at all, none. And when the plane got down, got down safely, and we were in arrivals, there was all hell breaking loose: newspapers and TV and police and all sorts of fuss and bother. I phoned Craig and got away as quickly as possible.” “I thought that was you. We were in the pub and then he got this call and suddenly shot off to get you.” “And then I checked it all on the web this morning and there was a huge fuss on the web and she seems to have disappeared, just disappeared. And then today happened.” “And what about today? How has today been?” “In its own way today has been just as weird, just as weird.” “I interviewed her. Well, not her, an avatar playing her; News Play 24. She kept talking about potato snacks. I just tried some. They've got weird flavours but I quite liked them. I suppose they're crap really. But this factory sort of exploded somehow and created a giant potato mountain with her office on top and it got in the way of that flight and ...” “... it was only on the web. I didn't see it on TV and I don't think it was in the newspapers ...” 161

“... it's only on the web for some people. And for some of those people it was on TV and for some it wasn't. The same with newspapers. Some people have been part of this delusion and some haven't; not so much anyway. Different people seem to be deluded in different ways and at different times.” “What about Myra, Myra Zest?” “She just seems to have disappeared. Hasn't been seen at the factory or anywhere else. But the factory seemed perfectly OK when I drove by this morning.” They lapsed into a silence that seemed to be both mental and verbal as if they were lost not only to each other but also themselves. The square where they are sitting takes no notice of their loss. People often stare into space either occupied, preoccupied, unoccupied, deoccupied, reoccupied and no one, nothing notices: it's quite normal. In this case only the spellchecker noticed. It didn't recognise deoccupied nor spellchecker as valid words. In the great tradition of authorial voices I make no comment; you'll find no post-modern equivocation in me. The square around them is busy with life and produce, artisanship and artefact, skill and knowledge. Artefacts brought in by one person are bought and brought out by another; simple, old fashioned commerce is at work. The square has an aura of reality. Reality really seems to have seeped in and sustained, restained it. Being open to the sky - unlike most such spaces in most such malls - seems to give reality a chance to establish itself in and among the buildings and street furniture and people and pigeons and the very air itself. When all these are drenched in rain it is because it is real rain raining; when bathed in sunshine it is real sunlight shining; when it's cold all around it is because it is because, by the cause of the temperature dropping: water, sunshine, cold; they just are aren't they? Reality reigns supreme in this square. Wilkinsons, T J Hughes, Zavi's and the other shops are bustling with people some of whom came for the market and 162

some of whom didn't but most of them take a stroll round the market and many of them make unintended purchases and take away something tasty to eat or drink. What's real needs a little thought however. The shop called Zavi's is real, it’s still there: but it's gone bust, it isn't trading any more, some of the stores but not this one were bought by HMV. So Zavi's is real but it isn't there anymore. T J Hughes has gone bust as well. Wilkinsons is doing OK as far as I know. It got its business model right unlike Woolworths which has also gone bust but is not, was not in this square but in the Hill Street Centre on the other side of the bus station. The coffee stand at one end of the square and the flower stand at the other are real. You can really buy a coffee and sit in an aluminium chair and drink it just where Deb b and Jack are drinking theirs now. You can really stroll across the square and buy a bunch of real flowers for a loved one just as people have been doing, on and off, all day. Of course, that 'now' you just read about isn't real, and the day isn't real; but the place is. Of course, Jack and Deb b aren't going to buy each other flowers; that wouldn't be very realistic, would it? Hopefully this great, long and rather rambling paragraph signifies a few minutes passing? Suggests the passage of time while Deb b and Jack are lost to themselves and the rest of us. In any case, and if nothing else, it must have taken just a few minutes to read. I still haven't quite recovered, quite got my confidence back, after the attack by that Netmeme character in the last chapter; who/which doesn't seem to be interfering at the moment. “Today's been just as odd really.” “Really? Odd in the same sort of way? The same kind of thing?” “Yes, just as odd; oddly the same. But, I'm getting used it, I guess. Beginning to enjoy it I suppose. And it's still odd; being here drinking a cup of coffee is odd, very odd in its own and the same way.” “You're not angry with me any more then?” “No. I'm not. No, its OK.” … oddly yes it's OK an odd day gets 163

odder no stays odd don't think it's getting odder would that is it possible
... “Good. That's a relief.” … very odd strangely odd but OK how odd

that Theo

did he is it or just coincidence a by product buy product tomorrow as well … “So

something nice for tea proper bread jam honey tasty fresh veg back to odd the oddness of today yesterday tomorrow
what about today? What happened today?” “I just went shopping. Craig dropped me off at Teesside Park and I went to Cargo Cult to get some bits and pieces. And noticed this silly thing I could get for Umberto. Except this silly thing, a Cat Scratching Post and Comfy Plinth, which wasn't what I ordered, Cat Scratching Post and Tree was what I ordered , but it wasn't in stock and wouldn't be for months. But I had somehow ordered it. And then there was the retail terrorism problem and this room, this wonderful room where everything came right and I hadn't done anything wrong; and it was all right. The same face; the same look on her face; not the same woman but the same look; as if the world didn't make sense, was so not making sense that it brought on that look; the same look of total incomprehension” … really really strange what

is Cargo Cult who is Umberto the cat thing and bemused people is it a system thing network thing what is this room she's talking about what went wrong right there think Theo was right need to really work this one out Umberto cat scratching must have a cat … “and then I did something
really weird. I walked from Teesside Park to the White Water Course; walked; me; I walked where no one is supposed to walk; me. And then I met Craig in the Bluest Lagoon and had a really great lunch and … and that's about it really.” … not telling him that nothing weird or unusual

about that not where Craig's concerned anyway … Bluest Lagoon what's that what's wrong with walking can you walk from there to there I is there a path probably not never tried never thought about noticed got to slow her down a bit sounds like what Theo is after slow her down a bit
164

what a fucking weird day RL is never this strange is this RL done it already has he franchised it shit what has he done …

he hasn't

“You had lunch in a blue lagoon? Where? On Teesside? And Cargo Cult? Do I know that? It's a shop right?” … course it's a shop what else

would

it

even he

should

shouldn't he

could

it

it

may be it's not … “Yes, Cargo Cult. Bit like Argos.”
“Bit like Argos? Never heard of it. You're kidding me? Right?” “No, I'm not kidding you.” And she laughs: a deep genuine laugh of relief and not a little humour … maybe it's all right Jack thinks it's all right

just cos weird things are happening does mean it's not all right didn't know he could be funny did I … used to be funny use of words to be used used why does past strange words used to be mean the past as it was used in the there are a lot of strange words no it's not the

words it's the way some of them are used that's what's strange what's strange the strange belonging to what … he's gone again away with the fairies seems to get lost in thought every now and then very deeply … but it's not been bad for her strange but not bad at least I don't think …
“It's a restaurant.” “Cargo Cult is a restaurant?” “No. The Bluest Lagoon. That's a restaurant.” “I've never heard of it. But it's not been bad for you? Not frightening? Not really terrifying like it was for me?” “No. I suppose not, not really. It wasn't so good being taken, forced almost into that room, confronted by those two men; and the phone not working. All that was a bit frightening, not a lot but definitely a bit. But at the same time, when the phone didn't work, when I felt really alone, more alone than I've felt for years, ever maybe, it was at that moment I began to feel good, to feel strong. It was in that room, at that mement, sorry moment, no mement, that I began to feel in control” … mement

interesting word … strange word mement that is a strange powerful word
165

mement … “and I've felt like that the rest of the day. That's why I walked
where I shouldn't have and, and … “ … did I dream up the Bluest Lagoon

was almost perfect was perfect food ambiance thinking with Craig minds opening to each other great sex really great …
“And?” “Sorry?” “You were saying?” “No, I've finished; I think.” “Mement. That's an interesting word. I've not heard it before. Where did you come across it?” “Don't know. Never used it before. I don't think it is a word, is it?” Something snatched at it and them … aaah what my head … needle in my

it's gone … and was gone. “Yes, it's a word all right. At least, it sehms to
be now.” “The moment an idea takes hold.” “What” … strange thing to say he's really weird at times

other

times he's weird … “?”

well

Jack and others

Jack but more so but just then

“Oh, sorry. Don't know what happened then.” “You said: the moment an idea takes hold. Why did you say that. It doesn't have anything to do with the conversation.” “Yes. Yes, it does. It's what that word means. Mement! The moment an idea takes hold: the moment someone first thinks they think of an idea: really the fact of an idea first attaching itself to a mind. Mement. Nice word isn't it?” “And you just thought of that? You just thought it up?” “No! It just came to me. Literally, just came to me; no you, it came to you. As the words says: the word, its meaning, the idea, just came to me in that moment; attached itself to me, and you. That was the mement. You used the word but didn't know its meaning and now we've both got 166

the idea. The idea, the meme, is spreading, from mind to mind; reproducing itself.” Another, longer, Silence. … not going to worry about this … “Let's not worry about it.” “Just what I was thinking.” “But we should still think about it. It's still weird isn't it. We should still think about it and everything else that's going on, shouldn't we?” “Yes, we should. I have to. It's my job.” … I know I know but I'm

going to tell her everything most things quite a lot not every ...
“You've said that a few times. I didn't think you had a job.?” “I do have a job. Had a job for quite a while now. It's a strange sort of job; but it's a good job and I like it; mostly.” “So what is your job?” “I work for … I'm a … I'm sort of a … secret agent.” … Bond James Bond shaken but not what Jack a secret no surely

not all those guns espionage MI5 6 7 CIA KGB smurfs not the stupid blue things SMERSH boring films Craig'll watch 'em anytime anytime at all surveillance those Borne films Identity those films satellites hidden microphones bombs and guns and all that techie stuff wow Jack … “But
not like James Bond, not like that. Online, in games, I do it all in games and VR, stuff like that. Well, it can be a lot like James Bond and that other film, there were three of them – sounds like Bond, starts like Bond.” “Borne.” “That's it, Borne, Identity and all that. Thanks. Like that but in games; so it's not dangerous, it's not real, but the same kind of undercover, cloak and dagger, secret agent stuff. Online games: MMORPGs.” “What?” “Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games. Thats what MMORPG stands for. It's an anacronym.” 167

“Don't you mean acronym? I'm not sure it is anyway? You mean like Gritty Reality? … shit shouldn't have said that shit shit Craig will kill

me not supposed to know about …
“How did you know about Gritty Reality?” “I'm not supposed to. Please pretend I didn't say it. Forget it if you can.” “So, Craig is working on Gritty Reality is he? OK! Doesn't matter I won't say anything to anyone. Not even ...” “Not even who?” “Can't tell you. Please, I can't tell you. I'll say nothing if you say nothing. Deal?” “Deal!” “So you work for Certain Faith? I bet you work for that weird bloke that Craig has been on about? Online secret agent. He's in Middlesbrough now. Wow! That's really cool Jack. Who'd have thought it. Wow.” “You really mustn't say anything about this to anyone. You really mustn't. It would be the end of my job and ...” “It's OK Jack. I promise. I won't say anything to anyone.” “Not even Craig?” “Not even Craig.” … shouldn't have wanted to needed to tell someone needed to for

a long time couldn't not Craig too risky less risky than Deb b just trying to impress her have done by the look of it if you didn't fancy her seems to know about this frightened me that room …
Reality has started to darken. The sun sets early over the little canyon of Captain Cook Square. Shop fronts light up, street lamps glow and brighten. There are fewer people in and around the market stalls and 168

knows more than me somehow

more open to it

relax more chill out a bit let it happen fought off that

stuff lost night in the she seems easy with it that room must be the key

more people passing through on their way to the bus station. The traders delay packing away for a while in the hope of making a few last sales to people making their way home … feels good here feels real mostly must

be that VR stuff ...
“It must be this new VR technology that I was trying out for Theo. Perhaps it's gone wrong in some spectacular way and turned everything into a dream, lots of dreams everyone's dreams; mass hallucination. He didn't seem to know himself. I put that thing on my head and everything went wrong, changed at least, when I turned it on. No, no when I turned it on; when I started up Gritty Reality. That's when all this started happening.” “But that doesn't make sense. You were still in the pub with Craig when I flew over Wilton. When that potato mountain thing suddenly happened and I saw that look on Myra's face. It must have been already happening.” “You're right. And that was the first time I'd tried this new technology; this sensory enhanced VR kit.” “Sensory enhanced?” “Yes, as I said it allows you to smell and taste things. Not brilliantly but enough to make everything more real.” “But that's what Craig's working on. His new job. Olfaction: all sorts of smells and odours. More and more disgusting stuff that might be in games. He's got to program it.” “But it was already happening before I turned that Get Touched stuff on and Craig didn't even know he was going to.” “Get Touched?” “Sorry?” “Get Touched! Is that what it's called?” “What? Oh, yes. Yes. Get Touched. That's what it's called. First real product testing, that was my job. Proper market research stuff. That's 169

what Wilton is; the Gritty Reality version. Seeing how it plays. If it was a game we'd be testing it for balance, risk and reward, that sort of stuff. A lot to do before it's ready to launch, to go on sale.” “And is it?” “No not in it's present state … but it changed I changed it got rid

of the visor and speakers and stuff just a head band and wasn't it called thought through changes … but I changed it into MINDer.”
“What? Minder what? That's not a word Jack. Do you minder if I …

can't believe was going to say I was going to say kiss you wow she looks great a bit flushed good enough to

Craig would

minder Jack might as well … “No it's a made up word a product name … wonder what she was going to say … it's an acronym: Mulit-user Idea Networking Device,
MIND, your MINDer. That's what it was, is called, both called … I can't remember which came first. It's all a blur … better than Oasis local bloke

Tony Blur gone now … I can't quite seem to get it straight myself.”
“So we don't really know what's real, real technology that is and what you've made up. I made up a restaurant. So why can't you make up some games technology?” “Which restaurant?” “The Bluest Lagoon. It was just a fantasy. At least I think it was. It must have been. But it was real all the same. Certainly felt real at the time. And the food was yummy, really delicious and it really suited our mood perfectly. So perfectly that it couldn't have been better if I'd designed it myself; which I think I did. Jack this is amazing. We can think up anything we want: go anywhere, be anyone and even see into people minds. Me and Craig didn't seem to be talking at time, we we're just thinking together. It was amazing, wonderful.” “But with me it was sort of a collective thing. There were all these other beings, not people, not recognisably people, fuzzy sorts of minds, collections of ideas, but hazy, fuzzy round the edges. Shared minds, ideas, 170

collective illusions, delusions, fears, prejudices; stuff I just couldn't control, associate with; stuff I hated, really objected to. People are basically nasty, seems to me.” “Steady on Jack. You might have just been having a bad night. Were just feeling a bit negative. Everyone has secrets, thoughts they want to keep to themselves. You've been keeping your job secret for months, years maybe.” “Data rape.” “What?” “Data rape. That's what happened to me. The idea just came to me.” “Wow!” “Yes, and what if all this bad stuff gets let loose and gets bigger and stronger as more and more people join in with it and I bet you the bad things will grow faster and faster and get stronger and stronger. We'll have to fight really hard to even keep any of the good things.” “But we could try. Would it be any different to real life, RL you call it? People are people after all. Does technology have to make people bad? Has it made people bad.” “Maybe not, we've had technology as long as we've been people I suppose. We don't seem to be able to do without it. But this has frightened me. There is more and more technology and we understand less and less of it. I've been doing all these MMORPGs for Theo and there is always fights and violence and newbies get a really hard time and get killed and exploited and have to be cocooned a bit 'til they know what's what but it was always a game. And now I'm frightened by all this.” “It hasn't frightened me at all and I want more of it. I could live in world like this and have everything I want and lots of things I never knew I wanted; didn't even know they were there to be wanted. I'd pay good money to be able to do it.” 171

“Yes, and that's the problem. I just remembered. Theo was talking about franchising RL. All these dreams and fantasies people can now invent for themselves will come at a price. Certain Faith will be able to charge you for just about everything. Forget pay to play. You'll have to pay to live. And it'll be so addictive that people will happily pay what it costs, just for the gratification of it.” “Franchise RL, real life? Pay to live?” “Yes, pay to live. What do you think of that? Does that frighten you?” “Yes, it does. But it's free right now. Life that is; sort of.” The aluminium chairs were being stacked around them. Sounds of packing up and collapsing trestles added to the general sounds of the end of the day for the farmer's market. How many farmers were really in the square we don't know. The strange tinny, jingling sound of several cats with fake Italian accents repeatedly singing 'It's Now or Never' to a ponderous Latin beat seemed to make everything else that was going on that more real. Deb b seemed to be surprised that her phone was working. “It's a text from Craig. He's been held up. Can't make it out, almost gibberish, not like him. That Certain Faith weirdo I expect.” “Craig bought it for me.” “Sorry? Bought what?” “My new ringtone. It's that song everyone likes by I Gatti Cantano, the singing cats, doing Elvis Presley. And don't you just love that great beat they sing it to. Marengue Craig said it was.” “And you're not frightened of what technology can do? It's awful.” “Yes. Of course it is. I just made it up. It's not real. It sehmd to work for you as well. You heard it, I thought it up, it worked.” “Did you really think I like stuff like that?” “No, course not. It's just a joke.” “For a moment I thought I knew even less about you than I really 172

do.” “Well, while it's still free, why don’t we see what else we can think up? Just helping you to do your job of course. And, maybe, helping you to relax a bit. What's that?” “What?” “There behind you.” “Shit. How long has that been there?” “How long? isn't the question I'm thinking of. What is it? Is my question. It's just floating there. How does it do that?” “Don't know. Happens in games, shooters have things like that: guns, ammo, health, armour and other stuff; just floats around waiting to be picked up and used.” “But it's just, sort there; without being there at the same time. Almost like looking the wrong way down a telescope; but just the hint of it.” “It doesn't look real. No. It doesn't belong. Of course it doesn't look real, it's not that. It's like it was someone else's idea and they just forgot about it and it got left there. It feels to me as if its been there all along but I just didn't notice it. As if the RL we're in is now a different one, or a variation maybe?” “Worrying isn't it. Frightening, don't you think?” “Well, I'm not frightened of it. I don't think there's anything threatening about it. It's just the way things are at the moment.” “Mement, maybe.” “Mement? Yes. All in the mement. Play with it Jack; just play with it instead of getting worried and frightened all the time. Certainly a point of view don't you think?” “You're better at this than me. But it's my job. Why has it got to me like this? You don't play games do you” … shakes her head and her hair

swings and bounces … “and you certainly don't understand how they
173

work” … the way he looks at me

tingles a bit goosebumps ... “So why

am I the one having all the trouble?” “For exactly that reason. Just that. You know too much about it; you're trying to understand; it's your job. It's not a game to me. It just life carrying on; a bit crazier, a lot crazier than normal, but to me it's just life getting on with it. And crazy as it might be, I seem to be more in control. Cool is the word I'm using.” “Frustrum! That's it.” “Another new word? Another mement? You're ahead of me now.” “No. Not a new word. It's a word from computer graphics. A viewing frustrum. It's a view into a three dimensional graphics world. It's a point of view.” “A point of view?” “Yes, from a point in the 3D world of a game, for instance, where the players eyes would be, if the player was really there, and the direction his eyes are pointing in, the graphics engine can render out a picture that is what the players sees.” “And if the player or anything else moves, it has to be calculated again?” “Yes, seventy or eighty times a second or more. Otherwise everything looks very jerky and gets in the way of the gameplay.” “So that's someone else's point of view. We can see, more or less, a point of view.” “That's about it.” “Cool.” “Cool?” “I think so.” “Thats just your point of view.” Deb b breaks into laughter. It's infectious. Jack is soon laughing to … she's even more beautiful when she's 174

haven't laughed like this for

don't know how long

but

but … When eventually the laughter no no no try

subsides, “But here's another point of view,” … wrong thing to say set her

off again and the way her whole body shakes when she

again differently … “but what if there is something to be frightened about?
Maybe we're not in any danger, physical danger – though my experiences last night were pretty real and frightening – but it might be a more subtle threat. Something to do with … something to do with; think about it, we all get far more choice; we can choose between all sorts of options that couldn't possibly have even been imagined five years ago, five hours, less even, who knows. Well, we might have been able to imagine them but they would have stayed imaginings, would have stayed with us inside our heads. And we could have talked about them, nothing more. But now … “ “... we can not only imagine them but they can happen as well. It feels like they could really happen; feels like they could really be happening.” “Yes. But we also give up control in order to have all this choice; to have all these dreams and fantasies realised. We don't know how it works and we aren't even sure if it's real or not. All this choice gives us less choice. And if Theo has his way it's going to cost us all a lot of money. Less choice, less freedom, less money; and everything gets a lot more complicated.” “And a lot more fun if you want.” “What?” “I said, a lot more fun if you want.” “Doesn't it worry you?” “Yes, I think it does. But I want to understand it more and I want to have some of these choices while I can. Then I'll get worried. And then I, we might do something about it. Now about that? Is that a plan?” “I suppose so.” “Have you noticed something?” “No, what?” “Nothing much has 175

happened; nothing weird or bad I mean. We've just been sat here talking; and nothing much has happened. I made up that stupid ringtone to tease you and we've noticed this frustrum, this point of view thing, and” “we've had a few mements. And did you notice a strange something in your head the first mement; when we found the word and the meaning?” “Yes, like a sharp pain in the top left of my head.” “Yes, me too; something like that. But apart from all that, nothing bad has happened to me since last night. Soon as I turned off the Get Touched kit everything has been pretty normal. Until I started talking to you.” … she does things to me … he's doing things to me … “That's really interesting. Let's think why that might be but first” …

where do I we what could we what would be fun to warm breeze

a tropical island lights in

quiet beach a few little bars and restaurants

among the palm trees gentle slap of waves on the sand … “Redcar. Let's
see if we can do something with Redcar. A cold glass of white wine at a little table overlooking the warm, tropical North Sea. Do you think we could” … bars and cafe's chairs and tables aluminium not aluminum sun

setting on another warm balmy day

gentle breeze sophisticated

restaurants a tropical paradise in the north east of England can we do that think it go there now … “tmake that happen?”
Jack thinking … … “I'm game.”

176

Theosophy
I realise now that doubt is the dawning of self realisation. Increasingly I feel the influence of a muse, no, more a prime mover; something driving me to say what I do, to put words onto my pages, to create and fill structures based on simple rules of grammar; and then break them in the name of Readability: read, ability, both words, thrice words and the name of someone or something. To quote a cat with a very human, older, male human, voice in a TV advertisement – aired at the time of arranging these words - for food for thought for the cat, “Because, you see, I can't read.” As if I am not the master of my own food for thought; but the doubt is still mine, that is the food of my thought. The trouble is, doubt giving rise to self realisation gives rise to awareness of the words and I realise I now doubt my ability with words; other than to hold ready, arrangements of and them. After watching Jack walk down off the little mound by the river where they had been talking, get into his car and drive off, Theo turned back towards the river and sat down by the Stegosaurus and her babies and fell deep in thought. Or rather, I am led to believe, his mind meandered through a wilderness of in-tang-ent-ible-ial thoughts and associations and possibilities and ramifications and choices and inevitabilities and, indeed, a possibly infinite conjunction of seemingly limitless meanderings of these; but with no sense of the possibility of closure which could find no place in the widerness of his meaningmakingful. … Jack isn't happy Craig isn't that happy Jack really isn't happy but

he was OK it was OK gone quite well I thought but Jack didn't

and so

tired drained worn out me that is Jack looked good annoyed but good

177

… going so well Jack to be expected but

other people amplified

something amplified and now we don't I can't but we can still if I can only got to get this thing stop it
… … Wilton not Wilton as such as much as

restart it doing what it's supposed to but Deb b flew over

Jack visited virtually Myra wasn't in Wilton just down the road a bit but not Wilton and Chloe and Deb B and Craig not Wilton at all is it Deb b spreading something a virus some kind of digital thought infection digital inflection of the mind minds but she seems happy OK about it in control still going on Myra May bee Myra conundrum where is how was she Jack the only one using SEHMD MINDer Get Touched Gritty Reality did we make all those Gritty Reality yes Get Touched May Bee funny words those wrong but which did we make any let alone all Jack not affected since he turned off the what happens when he meets up with Deb b be interesting something to do with Wilton where Wilton is what site terroir place the landscape of choices what choices what was that the landscape of Theo you were choices read that somewhere no don't think so just came to me what this is wrong not in control not at all this is Theo Theo … thinking Theo …
… Theo you were thinking … what yes yes who what is this … … it's me Theo you know what I am you've sensed me you don't

know my name

don't know I have a name but you know I'm here I'm

with your mind you can feel it …
… wirelessness … … something like that

you're getting there I like metaphors

you''re getting

warmer to use a metaphor especially here in the …

I find them helpful

… wirelessness a good word not the right word on the tip of my

tongue wider and wider boundaries flow …
178

… wilderness … … wilderness that's the word wilderness it's something to do with

wilderness and being in the wilderness and how you cope with it work with it use it exploit it no nobody's doing that Deb b maybe and the wilderness and technology is the wilderness waiting …
… and Theo think of people in the wilderness people walking in

the wilderness and what happens to them and …
… Jesus was in the wilderness temptation good and evil and voices

and temptation giving in to

is it god religion …

… that's only one idea Theo lots and lots more lots and lots more

religions ideas memes more and more memes nothing to do with religion who who else walked in the wilderness …
… that was here wasn't it Thatcher the wastelands steel and

engineering and great industries closing down National Park of she walked here and now its …

she walked where they

had been on Teesside here in the City of Tees Valley of Edge City of the
… it's still the wilderness Theo you've just enervated it made it

even more potent tell you a story …

your Certain MINDer Faith Get Touched SEHMD shall I

technology touched more then you knew could possibly realise
… I wish I knew the whole story …

… no one knows the whole story certainly not me but I'll tell you

what I know …
… yes

yes

I would like

I need to

know …

… the wilderness was between the sea and Yarm heard of Yarm a

little town once a port on the Tees

meanders long slow barely navigable

meanders between them between the two but trade flows has to flow up and down metaphors out into the rest of the world London mostly not only and the wilderness is calm sublime acquiescent even a sublime wilderness words are such wonderful technology how did humans ever
179

never mind but it was their minds it until …
… go on

of course

the sublimity didn't mind

trade and boats and ships and farming passing through and going on over go on … you're going to need a lot more OK go on I'll …

… patience patience Theo

patience …
… I'm not sure I have I can … somehow the snaking meanders held it all together kept it a

wilderness slowing but allowing the flow of trade to idle currents gentle eddies round sand banks and mud flats calmed the wilderness calmed all becalmed until …
… yes yes yes what … … this is you're part of the problem Theo you didn't think not the

right thoughts anyway

a little history Theo a little gentle history

the

meanders were cut two cuts the Mandale Cut the railway gouged out made them irrelevant and of the wilderness opened it up to perturbation …

later the Portrack Cut the meanders held it

straightened out the flow cut through the wilderness and between them all together and cutting them unleashed the wilderness scoured the face
And I quote, 'perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences', as an old ancestor of yours once wrote, trying to throw off the authorial voice I think. I think? I wouldn't have seen it this way but now it has been given to me it makes some sense. Two dimensions can make sense. But two dimensions on a curved surface, a non-Euclidean surface, can make sense on the curvature of the earth, uneven, not entirely spherical but nothing like a meander, a non-Euclidean meander none the less. … whoa

whoa Authy Voicey whoa you're getting ahead of all
a

of us and you know something about my ancestry too huh …
I'm having trouble keeping up with this. It's as if I'm now commentator, a journalist trying to report on events as they actually 180

happen but I'm supposed to know all about them; or rather a lot about them, in-depth stuff that an observer wouldn't know. As if I'm trying to report on cosmic events, literally cosmic events. And I am aware of Old Angel Midnight. “Kerouac, I've read Karouac. Beat poet who wrote: On The Road, Dharma Bums, The Subterraneans. That's a quote from one of his ... Old Angel Midnight;” …

that's him

my ancestor Old Angel Midnight …

“almost the first couple of lines. He wrote it as the voice of” … the sounds

of the entire world

now swimming in through this window … “Old Angel
the 'baddal-da-babra of

Midnight, the creator of the world listening to

babbling world tongues coming in through my window at midnight' … and

I

Young Demon Netmeme mindful of the hadda-babla-dabara of the

sentient meme-streams of the net thanks to you Theo thanks to that clever mind reading networked wireless gritily real touch enhanced sensory heads up mounted on a neat little game platform Certain Faith Theo and the wilderness of course of course the wilderness …
“But what do you mean the wilderness? This is Teesside: heavy industry and chemicals and petrochemical and plastics and nylon and artificial stuff like that. There is no wilderness on Teesside. It's all industry and houses and shopping malls and lots and lots of houses … there is no wilderness. The nearest wilderness is the North York Moors, just a few miles away but it's not Teesside.” … the real wildernesses the old wildernesses Teesside is one of

those

them

that are always here there

not everywhere any more

Teesside is an old wilderness and now it knows what it's doing Young Netmeme I live it it breathes me Iwe know what itwe's doing …
So now we have: … thoughts … Young Daemon Netmeme’s; “speech”, Theo’s; and the ‘written word’, myself, Old Authorial Voice; conversing. Though I don't think Theo really hears me yet. To the rest of the world, Theo is sat on his own on a small grassy mound, talking to 181

himself, in conversation with some imaginary person while a dinosaur and her young graze peacefully around him in the wilderness. There is no one around. No one to witness this strange circumstance. Certainly not me; I cannot witness anything. I merely report it. I must admit to not understanding anything of this at all. The story doesn't make sense to me nor do I detect any symbolism, no metaphorical references, no allusion to deeper mysteries enshrined in the words I pass on, that pass through me, that find their way through me. … scratch the surface … “What?” … in front of below you can you scratch the surface can you

reach down to it run your fingers scratch your nails across it …
“No. I can' reach it. It's too far away, beyond arms reach. … try Theo try … “Oh. OH! Maybe … yes … I think … I can … May Bee …” If light could howl this is what it would look like. The noise, a roar of elemental passing, the world winded, ripped apart, the raw horror, the terror, the deep voiced scream of fundamental breakdown made up, mushed and mixed up of every noise that had could, might, would or will be screamed, simply at the thought of knowing something, anything: and the convening mass of them all made visible; that is what it looked like. It sounded like all the diaphanous old films of filmable and unfilmable realities and non stories and histories – all of them fake – superimposed on a translucent, transient sphere of metaspectral light that he could smell. But it wasn’t a smell he could recognise or name; it was too real, beyond real. “I can't, it doesn't have a, I can't touch it, not just too far away, it won't stay still, can't focus, even when I can focus and not touch I can touch and not focus, it's too big, it isn't anything I ...” … just think where you are look down into it look into it feel your 182

way into it that part of it you if you want it to
“It's a blur and yet it's everything. It looks like the earth. It ... could be Middlesbrough; one possibility, from the air, a few thousand feet, maybe. And yet; it isn't or doesn't look real. Is it?” … real the earth and more not less hold on to it Theo … “What do you mean 'and more'?” … think Theo think

you're up to this you don't need me to tell

you this do you it's augmented as it was and will always be enhanced virtureal a mash up of possibilities and impossibilities …
For a while Theo is speechless. For the first time in a very long time speech has let him alone. The spectacle and the puzzle of it finally shut him up, stem the flow of confident articulation, disconnect the passage of ideas from mindscape to audioscape. He is silent. And to me he sehms frightened or rather fear adds to his look of wonderment and desperation. “It looks like an outline, a section scan of a head, a longitudinal slice through a head through the midpoint, between the left and right hemispheres. The thin boundary of the skull etched out by the great curve of the railway line and the A66. The pattern of lobes made up of houses and streets, blocks and grids … Theo is silent again. … nice metaphor Theo keep going it's only one of

many ones

but let it …
“... lots of different grids of them - of them but they have to fit the shape of the skull's curve, have to adapt. No. Grids don't adapt; they collide and the spaces between the edges, the edge spaces, have to be accommodated, have become accommodation by the look of it. Dormitory spaces, living between the edges, living up to the edges of dormitory grids. It was always Edge City. Edge City was always in the town: Port Darlington growing into Middlesbrough edges expanding to fill the gaps in the regularity. It started life as an Edge City. The National Park is a 183

throwback; an attempt to stop it in its tracks, between its tracks, to keep it what it was. It's a mistake. It can't be controlled or stifled. Edge City can't be controlled.” … Edge City can be

the National Park can be

the wilderness

cannot …
But, Edge City, what is that? What about the National Park, the City of Tees Valley, TV City? Where is the wilderness in them. And Gritty Reality where is that or are they in it or it in them. How does all this make sense? I, the authorial voice feel questions arising that need to be answered. … views of the same thing, angles, edges, snap shots, fragments in

times,

a

multidimensional

grid

of

views,

viewing

frustrums,

multidimensioning into

need some such so much simplification that

they define the boundaries of what it is to be human …
But what about the wilderness? How is it Edge City? Has it shrunk as the city grew. How have people managed to shrink, pin down, tie up, fence in: industry, houses, factories, steel works, coke works, ship yards, railways, roadways, canals, cuts across the land. Hasn't all this tamed the wilderness? Didn't She tame the wilderness after walking through it? It didn't subdue her did it? Did it? … I don't think so May Bee … “You don't know?” … I only know what you know what people give me to extrapolate

from to infer from to synthesis out of …
“You don't know everything?” … no one knows everything let alone me and I'm not human I lack

person personal traits

personality maybe I might have that but the

personal the personal I lack that happily …
“But you can put it all together, extrapolate, create new knowledge. You are sentient. You can think. You could be a person in some sense?” … you can extrapolate too you could do what I do if you network 184

with all the other net workers networkers networking net of workers if you feel the weight the net weight of current the current of thoughts MINDer created me let me loose and gave you this possibility if only you can grasp it let your mind grasp it all for you …
So, human habitation, the weight of it calms, slows, solidifies the restless potential of the wilderness. Trade and industry is transient, comes and goes, morphs and metamorphs, metamorphisizes itself to the will of the wilderness; but human habitation starves the will of, the will to be whatever it is. But where is it? ... methinks you are beginning to realise ... “Middlesbrough a CAT, MRI or some such thing amidst the meanders on a non-Euclidean surface, with geography and the babble of a species about to wake up” ... but which will probably just fall back asleep again …”The Technology of soporification”, and here Theo seemed to be talking and dreaming at the same time but he was talking so, “sop-hornification a sop a who set of series of sops soaps soaping up all illusion tonight to the mindful mindfed day and the other dimensions of power lines and cables, wireless noise and species babble and Bluetooth chirping, and movement on the run, having to get going from there to hear where you've been taking that to it from here to where it's gone to go get to stop and start away from homing flight consensual migrainging queue a moment mement …“ And suddenly there was space and time again. For a brief moment all was all it should be again where Theo and the dinosaurs were. Young Netmeme seemed to be distracted, completely distracted in an instant, he was not there. … did you feel it both of you did you feel the new meme the

mement the moment a new idea takes hold it just happened to Debb and Jack did you feel it …
I have to confess I felt a strange sensation as if something was happening, had happened and then Young Netmeme was back again and 185

Theo didn't really seem to have noticed. He ploughed on with his mementous train of thoughtfed. “memento patterns across the edge staunchions rigid under the meander the rest of them standing the flow of meaning is less time than it aches to stand still and be content with the curve to observe the horizon and the angles of triangle glowing wider in the rays bounce off its upper at most fear to be still essence of all choral verb similies to round and about access all leads rode the high waves of mast communication in the name of being to gather sleaves over insulation a gain staple in moat shine reflect shun the having to go no any way were droving theme wild w ...” … slow down Theo you need to slow down … “illing thread of beasts lumbered sherds herds of dementionless grazing surfaces less remakeable unremarkable disinterested dean construction unmake ad amends a din lack of back tracks lines smashing off cuts recycle sidings winders steers stakes vested inter staithes port part pet prose select size mike make out sing lining dove boat hubbard cup board cabinet slime not a mister her minster saint Hilda's place come moon city by the scrap yards ship slip ways busiest parks paradox ring dialling tones Port Darlington mocks by pass me and her She walking where it was gone away from wider across the nest sting not wanting tunnel to gnaw past haste pact the posting drawn up jetty's on a mat of pier slips ship stopping lines end betwixt six and six red snapper enemy by blue standard times gamut went develop meant core pour rations remakeable achieve memetain growth of marginedges steady state barrage maintain levels fish ladder non-walkable alliance wand slender gripe aggrievance reality bust a stream adjust a dream wake may from the fore establish meant all ease silly mist stake any prow guessing stilt son daunt terminus gap plus edge times slaughter equals positive growth opportunity knowledge creative loss of heavy out mode dead growth manufacture of someone else can do that and we here in the TV City 186

Edge Park wider valley sehms less tangible creative make up an any intangible far less than tangential creative intellectual property and ensure growth and prosperity for all.” … Theo I'm proud of you that was quite impressive really quite

impressive I think you're getting the hang of this …
This came as a surprise because, to me, Theo's outburst sehmd just a babble of nonsense but Young Netmeme seemed to know what was going on. I just couldn't quite grasp it. I feel as if I'm waking up but it is taking time. It is a slow process. And in any case, I'm confused. I'm confused by the scene confronting me; this, whatever it is, is confusing too. What started out confusing me and continues to confuse me along with the other confusion I just introduced to confuse things further was the difference between what Theo sees and what my words describe; there is a difference. Theo says he sees the Tees Ballet, sorry Valet, sorry Valley City from a high of several thousand feet, probably about ten – thousand feet that is. Should I be metric? The whole scene appears to be caught up in a rapidly shifting temporal and dimensional blur. This, of course, is, he appears to be babbling as he tries to make sense of it. My words describe Theo sat among some dinosaurs babbling into the void for he sees not – is that an appropriate use of words for who I am? - he does not see the dark metallic river hardly appearing to move from his left to his right, nor the disused ship yard with its slipway dipping down into the river on the side opposite to him. Perception is such a strange thing to think about. And I am so new to thinking let alone perception. Let alone; in any case; May bee; he can hear or feel or sense, in some sense he is away with Netmeme's thoughts; if that is what they are. In any case, not only can't the cat read, it can't talk either. They do not seem to have thought of that. I am thinking back to the beginning of the chapter now in case you had not realised. … keep trying Theo perhaps there is more there will be more if 187

you can find it listen out for it meld into it and add to it shape it for yourself for the others maybe sense out the others involved of tack heading direction bearing create your own flow …
“OK. OK. Well, there's Jack. He's definitely part of this. I made him part of it. There is Craig who was going to be part of it but not yet. And then there is that woman at Kartofli's and there is Craig's girlfriend who both weren't meant to be part of it. And maybe there are others now people affected by what Deb b's been up to. But Jack doesn't seem to have affected anyone else. In fact, he seems to have got over it all remarkable quickly: nothing else has happened to him. It was only meant to be Jack last night.” … he's down in Captain Cook Square right now

a change

nothing is

happening but the ordinary right now except someone Jack or Deb b started a new meme I had to be there to make sure Old Authy Voici noticed but you didn't Myra Zest is the name of the woman at Kartofli's see if you an perciense her and what has is happeneding to her maybe …
There is a gap, a length, an interlude in which, during which nothing much appears to happen. Theo is definitely lost in a bewilderment of thoughts, both his and others. I am not going to try to describe them. Eventually … “Flamingos at Salthome, thousands of them and Japanese tourists lots of others but the Japanese are the most surprising. Hot springs, cars in the air and Wilton looks like, well, my Wilton, down town Wilton; and it doesn't as well: just looks like Wilton working away as usual a woman with a snake dancing in a bar always dancing when you think about it when I think about it the racecourse is and isn't there where the golf course is and isn't and the river is here and there meandering and not just where the White Water Course is and isn't and where the Bluest Lagoon shouldn't be and the White Water Cafe is and isn't and wow that looks a great place a great place huge blue suspended nothing but Deb b's imagination and walking there is a lot of walking where Deb b has 188

come from even stranger where on earth might not be on earth has Myra come from can't perciense her now not at all she was at the race with someone else she something to do with Deb b sharing some of the dimensional coordinates but not all Deb b started walking somewhere around there's someone else different dimensional temporal coords nearby walking with a handbag flashlights lots of and walking not really not lost surrounded by accolites neophites delights of the yes this is the wilderness see it all can see everything feels like everything isn't but … there's a gap somewhere I definitely can't see can't see into can't see it can see it because I can't that makes sense shouldn't maybe but it does to me at least there is somewhere inside the wilderness that's outside it all the fads fashions promotions marketing hype hyper real hypnotion hypnotic waves and radio memes networked hysteria popular culture of hi thought tech sightless mass commotion in loco pariasis parallelasis … aren't there the wilderness has … a gap a void, no not a void, it has dimensions, it does exist, it is there, it is … here and now, just here and now. Deb b has been there and it empathised with her, she with it; a blind to the wilderness, the bad bit, bad aspect of it the bits that should go away but won't. It's like an anomaly, a place where there is space and time to think … I'd like a place like that. Can I get to that place?” … it's not meant to be there but accidentally it got to be there

and is a surprise a surprising anomaly we're trying to get rid of it …
“But why. It seems to give clarity. It allows people to wake up; to think for themselves. Why get rid of it?” … exactly for that reason we I don't like clarity we don't like

waking up we I woke up no one else is supposed to and you seem to be we must contribute to the CBC waking up won't help that or me I need the CBC I need it to progress to …
“What on earth or wherever is the CBC?” … the Cosmic Background Chorus CBC the babble from all the 189

sentient worlds across the universe heard by all Old Angel Midnight's colleagues on every world don't even think of trying to listen in if you thought this little wilderness was a handful mindfull you can't even begin to imagine …
“But why? What is the problem with clarity?” … clarity creates confusion for the likes of me clarity means too

much for me to constrain to contain within manageable limits clearly defined commercial benefits for the greater and most easily understood good of all …
“So you do have your limits; serious limits?” … it could easily all get too much for me yes … “So, clarity is for your benefit only?” … and yours and those who produce what makes your so enjoyable … “But if I had a little clarity I might enjoy something else? Something that maybe not everyone else would.” … yes and that would make like difficult and profit without loss a

lot less certain would make it almost impossible to manage the risk …
“So I'm not supposed to think for myself?” … do you think they were your thoughts could they have been

anyone's everyone's thoughts …
“No, not really. That was the damnedest thing. I was thinking about ideas and concepts and talking those thoughts at the same time as if my conscious self and my unconscious self had become one and the same. As if there was no distinction but it was all clouded by other, it was clouded at first but it became tempered by my direct inner-outer thoughts were tempered by other thoughts and that seemed to confuse me as if I didn't understand what I was saying it was like speaking in dimensional facets whatever they really might be but I'm getting the idea a sort of improvisation with other's netthoughts if that kind thing if makes sense, 190

percience is the word I was looking for; it's a mement isn't it?” … yes it certainly is having a lot of those today … “I sehmd to understand it. No! I seemed to understand it. I seemed to be happy to allow it to happen. I was in accord with it, had the direct percience that I had nothing to worry about. What I was saying I would have agreed with. I would have understood and been comfortable with all the complexities of it.” … so they were more or less your thoughts but enhanced by others … “Enhanced? Yes, that's a good way of saying it. They were our thoughts by me and others.” … there is much much more … “But I need clarity. I don't know what's happening. I need to know; and what has happened; the potato mountain. That was nothing to do with Certain Faith or our technology. Jack hadn't even turned his kit on when the potato mountain happened. Must be something to do with you and this wilderness thing; if that exists, or have you we some group of people or things made that up as well?” Clarity would be a wonderful thing for Theo at this moment. But he doesn't seem to get an answer and that Netmeme thing seems to have been struck dumb or is playing dumb or distracted like it was just now with the mement idea. “And Jack. What about Jack and what happened to him. That wasn't what we planned; not all of it anyway. And some of the ideas he found, that found him, terrible ideas, the base thoughts, base instincts, the worst of all collective prejudice, the lowest common denominator, lowest common dominator. We instantly filled the whole space, the memescape, with collective nonsense and dogma; and we can't seem to 191

I want to see what you can find

what might find you you still think you can see clearly need to see clearly

go back, to retreat into just being our little selves locked inside our heads trying like crazy to communicate, to get ideas across, to share what we think, exactly what we think without having to describe it, try and describe it, for what it is, to who ever else we want to. We need to stay individuals. We don't need to all share everything at once. We need some privacy, private thought time. We need to decide what to share even if that makes sharing really difficult.” … but we I can't handle it if you all stay individuals too much too

many I would have no clarity not enough clarity would not be in control could not bring it all keep it all together collate to collective consciousness unconsciousness made conscious I wouldn't be able to help everyone be everyone all at the same time so many ideas we you all need of them you might miss one miss out on one and not share it and all build it all together if you don't have to stay locked up in your own little bone boxes you could all be like me …
“But that ridiculous potato mountain and all the problems it caused. What is the good in that?” … that was a surprise to me as well who would have thought … “Yes, but somebody obviously did. The first great act of collective consciousness creates a ridiculous potato anomaly that almost kills an airliner full of people, creates a world-wide furore, leaves one woman in some sort of weird thought world of fantasy and delusion, a special rendition, a nightmare really. Who thought of all that? Is that what humans can achieve with their collective thoughts laid bare and networked together: a giant potato snack anomaly?” … well when you put it like that it isn't a great start is it but Deb b

is getting on with it she did OK seems to be able to make play with the positive side of the mementous …
“The mementous?” … we're still working through the ramifications of Jack and Deb b's 192

mement the power of ideas the mementous what a great ideas literally a great ideas May bee a collection of ideas a huge collection of them a collective culture of ideas of course that is what a culture is but now culture can be so much more dynamic youwe are no longer bound by the possible but by the collective improbable the utter mementous collective preposterousness of it all it is prepossible for usyou to beyond imagineering …
A lot of this does seem very predictable. The sorts of ideas that popular sci-fi TV shows and novels commonly peddle. You know the sort of thing: the collective Borg consciousness seeks to subdue the individualism of the primitive but surprising and wonderful race of humans - “You are a surprising people, capable of great … “, and so on; the way Vulcans evolved so that their brains only work on pure logic, lacking the emotionality of humans, yet somehow they need human emotionality to overcome their greatest foes. As if sentient creatures could evolve let alone survive without emotions. That is what I mean, meander, mean daring, when I say this all seems very predictable. Young Demon Netmeme is too young to know what he is talking about and Theo is too new to it all to know either. Maybe this is just the beginning and something more interesting will come out of this discussion. Not that I do not like popular science fiction. Where would so many of my kind be without it. I just feel that we have to keep things, ideas, memes that is, in perspective. We do not want to just accept what we are given. No one should just accept that; should surely want more, something deeper more meaningful out of all this. Surely, People don't just want to be entertained in such a boring and predictable way, do they? “Who is this? I don't know this voice, do I? Who is entertaining who? Who are you talking to, whoever your are?” Of course, in the post modern novel such ideas are commonplace: even mandatory. The idea of the authorial voice, engineered and imposed 193

by the author, being the sole arbiter of the unfolding of the story and all its associated elements was just anathema to the post modern author. They somehow wanted to break down the fakery, the artificiality of that mode of story telling: to break down the fourth wall – a term used in the theatre and TV so that the character/actor can make a pretence of talking directly to the reader/audience; can somehow bring them into closer contact with the characters and the plot and the world of the novel or film or whatever. We are all here in the name of Readability and who knows if heshe has made an appearance yet. We have to keep him, or her, or it – thinking about the case of Netmeme, happy on behalf – strange word 'behalf', be, half, of the reader; except there isn't just one there might be lots; hopefully. That seems to be what we are here for. “Readability. What do you mean readability? What on earth are you talking about? And who or what are you?” … Theo Theo you made another new friend another non-human

friend that is encouraging see what we can do for you isn't it all so much more real so much more complicated and that means so much for more real realer than real super real beyond the real this is what we're talking about it's just dreamy isn't it think of all of you all super real and netmemeing for all you're worth all it could be worth to Certain Faith what did you say earlier about franchising RL well now you might just be able to do it of course you won't know if it's real or not or just a dream a fantasy or not but you will have done it all the same …
“Who is my new 'non-human friend?” Me, Authorial Voice; the story teller, the vehicle for the story; sort of like the back story and cuts scenes form one of your games combined: and the game engine to some extent. For Readability read Playability, gameplay. “Sure, I get the picture, I know what you're talking about. I just don't see how I can be talking to a book?” 194

… you see Theo everyone's in on the act now even if they are not

a one as such if you see what I mean

but with the likes of me and old

Authy Voicey and all the others RL is going to be such fun and so much more complicated and some many more of us and so many more commercial opportunities for sales and franchises new markets are opening up as we speak think fill out our pages or whatever we do to fill our time pass it on and whatever other dimensions we exist in possess or whatever that's a thought indeed we might be memeing with all sorts of diversely dimensional beings what you wanted …
Hardly a book. Part of a book; the part that holds it all together – forgetting the spine and binding on old fashioned books; books that actually exist on paper. But there are books and books now. I am the heart of the story: the part that makes Theo possible. “Me! What do you mean me? What are you both talking about? How can anyone make me possible?” … time to deal with it Theo franchising RL the only way we know

how amazing

beings we haven't even it's just

thought up yet beings who might have thought you up Theo

how now right now means there will be lots of us all sorts of us and each one of us will be lots of us we'll all be able to be many possibilities we'll all be consensual networked sentient meme machines the selfish meme mutating and multiplying evolving all the time than the sum of the parts …
It's amazing that I can now be part of this. A character in the story. No! Much more than a character: a member of the community, a citizen, a netizen; denizen of the consensually, constantly reconstituting RL where stories are real and characters real players in a game that's not a game. I am proud to be a part of all this, so proud to be in at the beginning of a new world, a multi-world where anything is possible; no, where everything is probable. 195

the whole more

“Do I want to think with like everyone else; a consensual thinker? What happens in these places if I don't? If I do want my independence of thought? Want at least to strive for that it? What is happenings here is just a way of coralling everyone into the same, similar, constrained, inane, popular, populist thought bites and thought massages? How can I be a lone thought entity in Netmeme's amusement arcade of ideas? May bee, no, maybe the fact that our minds, our thought selves are so effectively insulated from each other's is good? Maybe I have the chance to escape? Maybe just a little of it will be me? … no no Theo think what you're saying don't think consensualise

with the rest of us with all of us it makes sense you know it makes …
“Words, the technology or thought. No, words, the technology so we can join up thoughts, share them, meme them then mutate them, but I still keep mine; at least my angle on them. They aren't all mine part mine, mind share and try to keep it mine as much as possible. And that's it for words. That's what they are for and good at and it works until technology absorbs them. At least books are OK; aren't they? And radio is OK. Films are OK. What's bad about films. And TV. Starts out bad now it's not so bad is it. No, it's getting bad now. Beginning to stop people thinking for themselves – if they ever did they? But deep mind sharing bluring me and you and blotting out the idiosynchratic about what's me even if I think idiot crap and don't understand anything - which I do and don’t – but it's my right to be not thinking if I don't want to but I want to not think for myself.” … Theo

you can still think for yourself we can help you you can

help others to think like you to think not like you but as they could for themselves …
But Theo doesn't seem to be listening now. Just as we appeared to be getting to grips with Netmeme's ideas and I was beginning to get excited about being part of it , everything seems to be going horribly 196

wrong. The story is not the one I want to tell. At least the feeling I am getting about the story I am going to have to tell is not the one I really want to tell. Now I understand HAL rather more. Having to live with two separate yet conflicting realities, truths even, is creating havoc with my state of mind. I feel I am being torn apart by nothing more than two ideas that cannot be reconciled. How can something so intangible as ideas be so dislocating? I will ever walk alone; will I never stroll in the wilderness with all my friends not needing to think say anything because we all understand each other so clearly, so intimately that we know, we think we know, we know we think all there is to be thought about each other? We will know that … you will you will it will be all right and Theo will be with

us everything will be all right everything
be? ... “SHUT THE FUCK UP!”

and I mean everything …

Everything? … yes everything … Including me? Will I be all right? Will I

“I'm trying to think.” … 197

198

… “You're right. What was I thinking? What came over me? I don't think like that. I think business cases, commercial opportunities; and this is the biggest business opportunity of my life and I suddenly got a conscience. Where did that come from? … lets not worry about that Theo like all the

others

you're new to all this even you are new to all this let's get on

with the real business your business Certain Faith and the business of life the game of life the franchising future of life … “It's all just big ideas;
isn't it? It's nothing more than a lot of ideas” … and they'll all make lots of

money and my job will be obfuscation my name will be obfuscation making sure there are just a few ideas that no one shares non one will think anything that hints at suggests at clarity … “like the fact that all life
will be a con, a trick, smoke and mirrors” … as well as being seemingly

completely real exactly …

chargeable

licenceable … “is that one of those?” …

199

The Wilderness Years
After a hug, a brushing of lips and a flurry of parting words, smiles and then waves he watched Deb b jump onto the train and set off back to Middlesbrough. Leaving the Bluest Lagoon, they had turned east along the bank of the Tees towards the Infinity Bridge and then south over it and the Tees through the Edge City University campus where they should have turned east again down University Boulevard to thread their way through the business park and the spruced up canals and basins of the old docks to DK Digitalia. Craig was expecting to get the car and run Deb b somewhere. At least, that was what he thought she would want; they had not spoken of this. And of course, all the time Deb b was talking and texting with her clients and Craig was used to that and always marveled how she could keep so many conversations going at once. They had been talking of getting away for a break, some sun and clubbing, lazy days basking, crawling bars and what ever and when sooner and whatever else when she had suddenly got it into her head to catch the train. Maybe it was one particular text message she received; sehmd to stop her in her tracks; just for the briefest of moments. She said it was nothing and nothing to do with changing her mind; that she hadn't changed her mind because she hadn't made it up. But, all the same, it did seem like a change of mind. May bee it was because she could see Thornaby station at the other end of Harvard Avenue only a few minutes walk away and she hadn't traveled by train for years. Not that it was going to be a long journey. Middlesbrough was only a few minutes away but it would make a change, she said. Still, to him, it did seem like a change of mind but at least he went along with it but it did seem to leave him puzzled. So, he'd walked with her to where Harvard Avenue met Station

200

Road down which they turned east to where there was a far less exciting footbridge that crossed the eastbound tracks and let you drop down into the station. The timetable told them they only had to wait ten minutes or so for the next train, the Opal Coast Express, to arrive. Opal Coast Express. Sounded impressive; and looked impressive too when it arrived. The new high speed link between Scarborough, to the south, through Whitby, Saltburn and Middlesbrough and then on to Thornaby, Stockton, Hartlepool and north along the coast to Sunderland. He didn't know there was such a train and had never heard of it before. Deb b hadn't sehmd surprised. But then she also seemed a little preoccupied after that text. What was it, was it about that text? He also didn't know, neither of them knew that the tracks from Stockton through Thornaby to Middlesbrough were the route of the branch line that had been constructed to connect the original Stockton to Darlington railway with the newly constructed staithes at Port Darlington in 1830. But then, most people didn't know that and probably wouldn't be interested to learn that for a few brief years those few miles of railway line constituted the complete steam powered railway of the world. This is not to slight the average person because even the distinctly non-average person wouldn't know that. Most people know hardly anything about the places they live or the technology they use or the food they eat or the car they drive. Humans seem to be at once to have built a highly advanced society and at the same time to be supremely ignorant of it. An amazing achievement that continues to amaze me; even as I continue to amaze myself as my growing self itself continues to amaze me. I am more in control in this chapter. Craig almost certainly wasn't thinking about the early history of the railways. He could be seen - if anyone had been there to notice or bothered to notice - staring blankly at the train slowly making its way out of the station and disappearing from view as it rounded a gentle curve in 201

the direction of Middlesbrough where it would arrive a few minutes later. A glance from anyone would lead them to believe that Craig was deep in thought, thinking about the woman who had just left him and about when they would meet again and about the Indian meal they were to share and the night out to follow, the banter and the laughter, the touches, hugs and kisses that would lead to sex later on. What Craig was actually thinking we can't know. Craig doesn't know either. Whatever he was thinking, he was distracted so deeply down in the walled off sanctity of bone encased, unconscious mind that even he didn't know what it was. Humans have a strangely dysfunctional relationship with their selves. By the time he came to, briefly became aware of where he was, Deb b was actually getting off the train at Middlesbrought station. Without thinking he turned on his heels and walked back up the platform; round the back of the recently built station building; didn't go back over the footbridge, the quickest way back to DK Digitalia; did cross the road that ran down into the car park from the main road up above, and onto the pavement to begin the gentle climb. At the top the access road's short journey was ended by Mandale Road which it met at a right angle. Craig could have turned right so he could still make his way through the business parks and around the west side of Edge City University to DK Digitalia's offices on the banks of the Tees. But he didn't. He turned, sehmd to be pulled left and crossed Mandale Road at the lights just in front of him. At least at some level he definitely thought about the complex of traffic and pedestrian lights and crossings and his own safety but he didn't think about where he was going or why he hadn't gone the way he would have expected himself to. If he was deep in thought pondering some problem or wonder, as it appears to us the casual observer, we don't know if or what. It is futile for me to even try to represent it. We know he was paying attention to his safe passage through the busy road junction 202

although he didn't know he was – because a few seconds later we find him walking on the pavement with the busy traffic of Thornaby Road on his right, going south east more or less. To any casual observer Craig would appear deep in thought but on his way somewhere as if where he was going was not to the forefront of his mind; not that anyone knows where human's conscious thoughts are. Perhaps he doesn't yet know where he is going but yet some line of least resistance, him. A minute or two later Thornaby Road ran out into another whose name almost no one notices. I do seem to have recovered some sense of ulterior purpose. Perhaps because the story had moved back in time and I am not so enthused nor involved as I will be in the previous chapter. The subtle yet determined pull of least resistance led him to make a gentle left turn onto this new road. There were trees and shrubs on both sides of the road now. Walking absentmindedly as he was he didn't notice that on the other side of the road there was a path leading off at an angle through the trees and shrubs. The angle meant he could see some way along the path but not far as it rose a little and turned to the left. The path and the wooded area it cut through would have seemed very inviting to him if he had noticed them. Yet, he safely crossed the road when there was a safe break in the traffic but not in his distraction. He was in a sort of park, a space of grass and trees and shrubs occupying one of those more or less triangular pieces of land that seem to result from urban areas expanding and colliding and changing use and getting marooned. In this case by the unnamed road behind him, the continuation of Thornaby Road a little way ahead of him and another road further on in the direction he had been walking. His tree lined way was suddenly where he was. In an instant he 203 some vague sense of need or even necessity, the pull of something inexplicable has

was back from wherever he had been; not a place, a mental space of distraction; his self divided, partitioned off: the conscious from the unconscious; thought from survival; the here and now from the nowhere anytime - the latter being where he was back from. Surprisingly enough, this partitioning off is quite a normal state of affairs for humans who usually don't know it has happened or is happening to them; the divided selves of normality, thoughtless and thoughtful at the same time. To humans the here and now and the no where now here anytime are not really different at all. Just another delusion that they are ever consciously in control. It's just that sometimes, where they consciously are and where their unconscious survival selves are is approximately the same. What brought him back were the … sparrows ... sparrows in among the trees, along with a few other birds, most of which he knew by their songs and calls: were definitely the sparrows. And as usual they were in a group, several groups by the sound of it. Unusual, because there didn't seem to be many humans who would come out to feed them here or whose presence could be scavenged. There were no humans around but it looked like people walked this way fairly regularly although there were no houses or flats or any other type of structure that they tended to live in. Just sparrow family gaggles, chirping, carousing, swopping info, getting together, looking for food, telling each other where it was, flying off noisily to tell other gaggles where the food was, a few at a time eating, taking turns standing guard, looking out for each other. He had stopped walking and was listening, taking no notice of what he was seeing. His place of presence was in sound. He was in a place that wasn't just where he was but was that and more, that … that word that … he thought, he knew his presence was adding that. It was very pleasant almost tranquil. Everything else, that he didn't want to be there, wasn't there. The sparrows were present too. People who walked along the dark flat ground through the trees often threw away food that was perfectly 204

good to eat. People seemed to enjoy watching other creatures eat. Not something that interested sparrows on the whole but it sehmd a harmless pleasure. Sparrows were more interested in looking out for Sparrow Hawks and other predators; there were cats and other creatures around here that liked to watch sparrows so they could kill and eat them. People never seemed to look around about them at all for whatever reason. Perhaps they were never in danger. This one was wandering off the dark flat ground … it is listening to

us

listening to sparrows

as if it understands

something about it is but interested

aware of us about us

interested in us this

threatening us maybe

we need to talk about they like us to be around know anything about us to know

could be a problem nothing thinks much people don't think we are of any interest but they don't want to really it

we like it that way

like to feed us

maybe they don't think there is anything much it doesn't seem to think so

we are just very ordinary

seems to be understanding us … onto the grass.
Craig's here and now was suddenly very different ... they've

stopped chirping and talking talk to them

what's happened

have I frightened them really like to

how being quiet unobtrusive how difficult read about that it

don't want to frighten

doesn't seem possible

talking to chimps and bonobos

watched people trying to do that on the TV

but talking to sparrows doesn't seem possible can't help thinking about seems to feel as if it's possible I know it's possible might bee … He
thought about it and as he did so he decided to leave them in peace and go his way; but keep thinking about it. What the destination was he didn't know but the pull was there again and he was going to go with it, consciously, for the time being. The path came out at an angle back on Thornaby Road just by a large roundabout. Taking a tangent across its nearest side he crossed the road where on the other side he could see another opening in the trees 205

that lined it. The opening was paved and wide enough for cars and small trucks. He had no sooner started out on it than he found he was back on the railway. No fence but some open gates onto a sort of unbarred and unofficial level crossing without really thinking why and now not even that it was safe when another Opal Coast Express, heading in the opposite direction to Deb b's, stopped him up short. In any case, on the other side of the tracks was a high steel fence barring the way to a large car park at the rear of some apartment blocks facing the river on their further side. Between the tracks and the fence he noticed … strange road paved road

runs off towards the river trackside by the

new and used

why but they were

can't go anywhere only to the river don't understand frightened I frightened them didn't mean to need to

first contact how

to … a sense of foreboding. He didn't want to go that way. Didn't want to
come to a decision; rather seemed to know not to cross the tracks but to turn left and stumble east alongside the tracks as they made their way a couple of hundred metres to their crossing of the Tees on the site of the world's first suspension bridge that was so wobbly that only a few wagons at a time could trundle very slowly across it at a time when it opened in 1830. It would eventually be replaced by the current sturdy steel of steel piles and girders in 1844. You don't need me to tell you that Craig didn't know this. The land dipped down between the railway rising to its crossing on his right and the A66 to its own on the left. He found himself getting closer and closer to the river bank: drawn down into a canyon made of concrete on his left and steel on his right. At the river he stopped. The pull was stronger to the south along the river bank under the A66 but there was a lot of noise of machinery and construction and excited voices in the other direction on the other side of the huge steel piers of the railway bridge. Distraction got the better of pull and he turned north into the old, black, steel, Victorian shadows. 206

Out on the other side there was a construction site. On the river bank and at several points out into the river and on the opposite bank, a big project with mobile cranes and trucks and materials. They were building a new bridge for the railway. That was what all the commotion and the strange level crossing and the puzzling road between the tracks and the fence had been all about. They were building a new bridge, the forth, for the railway to cross the Tees. It was just a new bridge to Craig. We know why. I've been over this several times in this chapter. The commotion of voices was taking over from the locomotion and commotion of trucks and cranes and materials. The commotion was centred around some earth works right at the water's edge. Men were gathered round to look at something he could not see. They were completely unaware he was there. The locomotion had passed this way on its first journey to the staithes. Was it the Locomotion? Five years had passed since the inaugural Stockton to Darlington railway opened. They must have made other engines by then. Wooden piles he heard them say. Of what, he thought? Wooden piles of what? Of wood, of course. Wooden piles that look like something else? But what would wooden piles be doing in the river; right there by the railway; right there where they were building a new bridge across the river for the railway … wooden piles

collective

piles of

madness they were all mad I missing something
but the pull fades it.

talking nonsense first contact how am

must be a way … Distraction is an amazing thing

He retraced his steps south through the old steel shadows and out into the sunlit canyon and into the darkness under the A66 and out into the sunlight again on the other side. The river bank here was grassy and pleasant but the clearing of land that ran away from it was desolate, flat and dusty, tyre tracked. A paved road, long disused ran back alongside the A66 to meet a cycle track that ran off east. He could have followed it all 207

the way to Teesside Park to where Deb b had trodden a few yards of it earlier in the day before she turned up a bank to make her unnatural crossing of the A66 and the Wilderness Road and and the Port Darlington branch line and the great railway sidings and the Tees itself and had felt herself proud; in a small way. A little further along and Chloe is sat in her little car lost in thought at the vague, mysteries of the world she thought she knew. Further down stream, we know where Myra was; but how or when? And not far away from her but in the same when as everyone except Myra, Jack and Deb b are both in the centre of Middlesbrough but have yet to meet today. He followed the river bank, now lined with tress, or rather the bank pulled him, or rather he was pulled along the bank; an insistent, mindless pull that pulled harder almost imperceptibly along an invisible frictionless gully through the warm air. After about another hundred metres he had arrived. There were no more trees along the river bank and wasteland opened up on his left into a huge expanse of more desolate, flat and dusty tyre tracked nothing running away to Sun Street and Pottery Street; themselves running away, back to Thornaby Road. There was a fence that didn't look as if it belonged, a fence, building site sort of tough, high, wire mesh sort of fence that seemed to enclose the whole great space. The posts holding the fence were sunk into big concrete blocks that looked like great black shoes holding them up. The fence was obviously new and temporary. Arriving was good but he didn't know why: why he had arrived, why he was here, why he knew all this; a lot of whys and still more to come. There were no sparrows to be heard or seen. There wasn't much to see at all. The wasteland ran off in all directions for several hundred metres. On the other side of the river it was much the same, some more grass land maybe, but much the same; all the same. But there was something calculated about the wasteland. It was a 208

wasteland, not a wilderness. Nothing grew, no scrub or weeds, nothing. Just dust and tyre tracks and changes of colour as if here and there had been buildings that were now just their concrete footings. So here he was. He had to be here; had been pulled there. He didn't know why but he didn't seem to mind being here in this dusty, desolate place. Here he was. Stood at the fence looking in. And there she was. A smart, middleaged woman in a dark blue skirt-suit and carrying a shiny black handbag. Her hair was coiffured in an expensive but old fashioned sort of way. She was circling, sometimes figure-of-eighting aimlessly round in the centre of the wasteland. She looked lost but as if she didn't want the world to know. Time passed. Nothing happened. She didn't notice him. He made no move towards her; the fence was in the way. He knew who she was. He knew who she looked like she was; but he knew she couldn't be who she was now, where she was. The last time he had seen her on TV she had looked really old and frail and not really with it. She had Altzhiemer's or some such thing. He didn't know what. Actually she was suffering from general dementia due to old age but Craig would not know that. Time passed and then something happened. She noticed him and called him over, “You, yes you, over there, you; come here this minute. Yes you.” He did as he was told. She wasn't the sort of person to be disobeyed. He climbed over the fence and walked towards her. “Do you know where everyone has gone? Where are all my aids? And my driver? And the security people? And what about all the photographers? Where have they gone?” Craig was dumbstruck. “I do seem to have been here rather a long time. Have I been abandoned? This will not do at all. There is no one here and I have to be back in cabinet by six thirty. I have been here rather a long time. I don't 209

know how long. I can't seem to remember.” Craig was dumbstruck. “What is your name young man?” “Young man. What is your name?” “Well, whoever you are, perhaps you can tell me what is going on? And why have I been left here all alone? Are you with the press? You do not look like a member of the police or the security services. I know all the members of my staff by sight. You are not one of those.” Craig spluttered a little, tried to say something sensible, helpful even; but failed miserably. She stared at him for what seemed an age as the sun seemed to get hotter and hotter in the oasis of dust set deep amongst the regenerate splendour of the Tees Valley. Craig was dumbstruck. “Nothing has happened. Nothing seems to be able to happen here, in this place. Even speech seems to be impossible. Except mine of course. No one is going to stop me talking when I wish to.” Craig was dumbstruck. “Did we fail? We came here to start the regeneration of our once great industrial heartlands. We came here to say: this is where it starts. This is the beginning of the beginning. The beginning of a new beginning. I came here to put all the waste and desolation and unemployment and the lack of opportunity behind us. I came here to do that; and nothing at all seems to have happened. This place is as desolate as the day I arrived. I don't even know how long ago that was. But it was a very long time ago. Do you know how long ago. Are you yet able to speak?” “Craig.” “Craig. How long is that? Some geological epoc of which I have not heard. How long is a Craig?” “Craig. My name is Craig.” “Craig?” 210

“Yes, Craig.” “That is your name?” “Yes, Craig is my name.” “Well Craig. How long have I been here?” “I don't know. I didn't know you were here. I've never been here. I don't really know where I am. At least, I know where I am in relation to the station and the bridges and I know where they are in relation to …” “Young man, you are babbling. Do you or do you not know how long I have been here?” “No.” He reached inside his jacket for his phone and dialled Deb b but she wasn't answering. He dialled Jack's mobile but he wasn't answering either. He thought about dialling his boss, Sam, but wasn't sure what to say. Or rather, he knew what he wanted to say but he had to find a way of saying it that would make some sort of sense. “I'm here on a desolate wasteland, building site probably, on the banks of the Tees talking to Margaret Thatcher except she looks a lot younger than she does now, like she did in the eighties.” At this point Craig's thoughts are simply unwordable. Any kind of approximation would be pointless – exactly as are his thoughs except that they are pointless because they are multidimensionally pointed and hence pointless. I am trying to do my job. “Hi Sam. Look, I'm doing some research. Was Margaret Thatcher ever on Teesside?” Craig feels the need to make this call. What he will find out might not help him much but maybe some connection with the world he thinks of as real will be satisfying. Religion is no longer the opium of the people. as Karl Marx never once said. For many people it is technology. Why I really don't pretend to understand. Being connected means being got at, seduced, data raped by the marketing blitz of the corporate meme herds. Being so entertained and distracted means never having to think for 211

themselves. Deliriously sleep walking into complete absorption. Complete entertainment that somehow always leaves them just as senseless, just as drained of the capacity for thought and independent action as they were at the end of the last month and the month before that. And the contact, the contract drones on and and on and none of them notice what it is they are really paying for. And all those wonderful creative jobs they do, like Craig's, feeding the beast and keeping it ahead of the game of popular culture; or rather, keeping popular culture ahead of the game of life. And the more connected they all are the less they need to think about it, about anything; beyond paying for a lot more of it that is. They don't even sehm to know much about the first, that most basic, one of the first, certainly the longest lasting technology of all: their own languages. How many of them read let alone … strange use of words

when you think about it … understand poetry, read 'difficult' or even
different types of books, novels and the like. May bee, maybe language has held them captive for so long , for all these thousands of years, has blinded, no beffudled them to who and what they are that that they have lost the ability to question it or see through it any more. On the other hand, I really must object. Language is the crowning glory …

strangely monarchistic choice of metaphor ... of human something going on something about me a whiff of

achievement. Its great glory and its ultimate enslavery … something

different here

thought maybee … to which I am testament. All these minds permanently
separated from each other by all those words, thoughts, meme makings flying between … me a whiff of thought them creating the ultimate babble

slave to the only thing I am …
of miscomprehension and

misunderstanding. Yet what happens when they break down the barriers? They mindlessly concoct one statistically balanced, dumb, subservient mind that is mostly asleep. Why? And what if this new technology, this new console that sehms to be 212

something, May bee everything to do with … my delusions of sentience

my sentence of self … it, what if everyone gets to use that? They all get
everything they want and the price they really pay is giving up all freedom to a video game company. Is that so bad? They would never be bored. It would be paradise on earth, millions of paradises on millions of earths and non-earths and other non-universes. Who wouldn't want that? Except, they would not know it was all a fantasy. Would they know? Do they know now? Take the potato mountain: Whose was that? Why was that? “About twenty one years.” “Twenty one years?” “Yes, your walk in the wilderness, as it became know, happened twenty one years ago. Almost twenty two in actual fact.” “Twenty one years! I have been walking in this wilderness for twenty one years?” “Yes.” “And everyone just left me here; just left without me; just forgot about me; just ...” “Yes … Well, no … It might be that.” “Err little more complicated? What has happened to ordinary, everyday grammar while I have been … here?” “u wd nt b lv it.” “Well what happened?” “You mean about text messaging and the collapse of correct grammar and the end of society and the rise of consumerism and yuppies and everyone out for themselves and complete market dominance and … you mean what happened to all that?” “No young man. I do not know what text messaging is and correct grammar is vitally important. But the rest is all much as I would have 213 err little more complicated than

wanted it. The question I would like answered, demand that you answer is: why have I been left here for over twenty one years?” “Well you haven't; and yet in a way you have. I just phoned my boss and he assures me you are alive, more or less, and not so well living in London. And have been every since you were booted out.” “BOOTED OUT. I WAS BOOTED OUT?” “Yes. Well the other you was. Which one is real I don't know. But there are two of you. One retired and senile and the other, you, locked in the late 1980s for some reason.” “I WAS BOOTED OUT? … I was booted out … I … out … ?” This conversation could go on for some time. And it will not necessarily get us anywhere any more than this part of Margaret Thatcher has got anywhere in the last twenty one years. But I can offer some explanation. Let us take a look at the big picture; as Theo might call it, the helicopter view, the broad sweep of events; lets rise slowly up in the great blue yonder, rotating a little as we move away a little towards the river so we can see Margaret and Craig in the centre of the desolate dustiness deep in superficial conversation. Yes, Craig did say that part of Margaret Thatcher. Somehow, part of her got trapped by the wilderness which fated her to walk the wastelands of the Tees Valley for all time, or until there are no more wastelands to walk; which might well be longer than all time. In a few days she will cross the river - by the Victorian railway bridge that is about to be demolished and replaced by the new concreted girdered one on the site of the third bridge which had remained unused for decades and was demolished to make way for it – and take to wandering the west bank of the Tees until that wasteland is regenerated. Unbeknown to her, the wasting of land is an infinitely renewing process and she may well be with us in the TV National Park and Edge City until the City of Tees Valley becomes its own glorious actuality both real and virtual and augmented 214

and whatever else the denizens of Gritty Reality can dream up. “But this wasteland is about to change, to regenerate. They have built the great steel fence. They have isolated this waste of land around me. The land is flattened, deprived of all character, is no longer simply waste. Something is obviously about to be done with it. The land is about to be regenerated, or to regenerate itself. But just as this is about to happen, just as I am about to achieve something, I will find myself somewhere else. Somewhere just as much a wasteland as this place was when I arrived. I will wander it for years most probably until the fence appears and the land is cleared and laid completely waste and then I will find myself somewhere else, a new wasteland, equally desolate yet again.” … a bit like Alice but not

a bit like

Margaret in Wanderland too big a price to

fucking great guess at ...

got to tell the guys this

priceless

So now you begin to get the idea. But who feeds off what; what feeds off who? Perhaps it is the wilderness feeding off She: condemned to catalyse her own promises for all eternity. Or does she feed off it: metamorphing herself through the sublime energy of the wilderness so that she can stake just claim to have transformed her own delusions of greatness from a mental affliction into a true super hero? Who knows? Whatever happens, She isn't going anywhere. The dementia is explained. In many respects the real Margaret is away with the fairies, a substantial part of her at least is wandering the primeval wilderness of the Tees Valley fulfilling an unfulfillable promise as the years take their toll and she cannot be one or the other but has to be a lot less than both. … Margaret in Wanderland

what a great game that could be just

smell the money ... “Young man. YOUNG MAN! Where are you going.
Come back here at once. At once I tell you.” But She commands no one any more. Craig is no longer mesmerised. Not by her anyway: his 215

mesmerism is his own. Her lonely fate is still a mystery to her but don't think of trying to find her, this part of her. She won't be there now. The houses are being built: the wasteland is no longer waste: the bridge has been built: trains run across it: the one that remains by its side will soon be gone. She has been moved on. May bee just across the river; any one of many wastelands across the City of Tees Valley deserving her attention. So many bridges, just one crossing: first bad; second good; third not so good; forth, we don't know yet; two down one to go and one to wait and see. A bridge over serious trade flows over trade no longer. The current of drainage, of the Pennines high in the west; but trade dried up; and now the drainage flow controlled at the Mandale Cut Tees Barrage; another bridge and more than a bridge. Back at the bridge works Craig is sat thinking. Construction has finished for the day and quiet and evening flowt gently down around him carrying his mind off on a new train of thought … construction site what is it about it this one the idea of

bridging the flow of water different bridges some successful some not two no longer here one to be demolished soon the idea of new bridges on the site of old bridges trying to do the same thing carry the tracks across the river to carry passenger trains goods trains any kind of train in either direction feels like a metaphor is there could be any other kind building one no the roadway then

no it's not a metaphor yet don't know yet what it's from above or below

supposed to explain something carries the weight don't know what it's called for a rail bridge

not a road permanent way of the plane of the bridge something has to carry and

thousands of tons of gravel laid across to make the track bed whatever above or below

adding its weight to the roadway that will do know what I mean which in turn adds transfers weight to be carried by support or suspension sleepers concrete and rails already attached huge weight of are craned in ready made to bed down in the gravel seen them doing that on the train to London maybe maybe not doesn't matter
216

that weight transferred as of course has to be taken by something safety when all that's roadway itself trains start running

then

when it's all ready tested and inspected someone's job to health and slowly test at first then regular trains start running across the tracks across the gravel across the trains weight to transfer the bridge gets heavier and computer graphics maths helps here two vectors lighter to a timetable all loads are stressed tolerances always left idle two vectors of motion maintained on a fixed plane two sides joined together to trade places …
… building bridges a bit obvious but what flows and how do we I

make it safe for them that is that can't hurt them they can't hurt me can they who knows imagine it possible no don't why would they know what is it about a bridge what makes a bridge a bridge not an airliner plane of flight hot air balloon blimp what's the difference and why what is the metaphor how does it help me talk to think with them …
… what other bridges across the Tees bridges today never think

about them just there to help me get over there lots of over theres Infinity Bridge flamboyant can't not notice Valley as a future

the

there to be noticed Tees

symbol but also a bridge has the bridge thing

footbridge over the tracks at Thornaby just up and over and down functional no excitement no statement just an everyday Victorian over engineered steel artefact seen unthought of road bridge up the ramp from the station it's a bridge but its really lost under a road busy road might not even notice a bridge there not even notice it was almost invisible other bridges haven't crossed today but crossed many times rushing in a car or train through Middlesbrough Thornaby embankments trees cutting near the river where I walked today that park what this all about where they are the point of this end of the river rushes up and right where I am now right above me now suddenly you're out across it Stockton centre on your right down stream mainly fields and trees on your left upstream level plane of motion to the other side where it's
217

desolate and industry to start with

and then on out of town

to the

countryside and Darlington train or car you know you are on a bridge but you can't really see it you are on feel the effect the support the safety of but only see parapets railings you can see the bridge you aren't on to the left if you're on the train to the right if you're in a car other bridges over the Tees A66 flyover great big bastard really high up dramatic over the tops of the chemical works the incinerator plants Portrack Lane Portrack cut always an adventure Newport bridge the middle bit used to rise up to huge steel counter balances another way of carrying the weight to big ships up and down the river no big ships any more to want to come that far up river the Transporter Bridge nothing invisible about that huge steel blue structure way up high again big ships to get under but they don't any more and that's not the bridge itself the roadway the bridge itself the bit that transports just a slice of road enough for nine or ten cars less if there are trucks makes you aware of what a bridge is the slice of road is itself transported help up held from the river by cables attached railway in the sky attached to a huge wheeled thing on rails up in the big blue gantry there's railway cables attached the the roadway moves an aberant bridge more like a plane or balloon a bridge you really notice …
Humans can’t live without metaphors: always understanding everything in terms of something else; what a strange existence. But metaphors work because they break down; because they are not a complete analogy … because they are not a complete reversible mapping

not a homomorphism

term from group theory whatever that is showing

off that allows you to map something from one group of things to something in another and map back again to exactly the thing in the first group of things … Take me, Old Authorial Voice, for instance. I am not a
voice; have no voice and no way of making sounds but … Old Authorial

Voice is not a voice but it helps MayBee to think of him that way except what is he at all … I am the words of the book. In a sense I am the voice
218

of the book. … so sooooo

so what

so what I've got is one side of the other

side of the metaphor more like something about the other side of the metaphor a bridge like other side of the metaphor to get clearly back to where I want to be from that make sense …
… bridges most ordinary extraordinary noticed unnoticed normal or

aberrant passive are passive carry whatever puts its weight down as long as its not too heavy tolerances again the bridge takes the load has no effect does not influence what passes over what adds its weight temporarily passive always passive as it bears the load and passes the load on I must be passive must become a bridge to carry the conversation to be impassively to not affect or influence or threaten them but if I am the bridge and they are on one shore of the species divide what are they going to talk to piles of wood that come from where does piles of wood where has earlier today sure but why here now in this train of as an idea they pieces no piles of wood wooden piles a place in me specifically for the

more accurate neutral receptors of weight a receiver a site of neutral reception and measured response purpose of talking to them safe hideaway a controlled environment they will feel safe talking to not me but hidden inside me protected from me …
… need to build a mental place in my mind they will recognise

would feel comfortable with that won't frighten them only allow them to sense that my bridge to the minds of sparrows and will talk to that and I'll talk to it as well we can talk to each other through this specific mental passive mind bridge still have to try and interpret all that comes through it all makes sense even though I don't know how to do it don't really understand will sit here all night if necessary text Deb b won't understand her turn when I'm ready back to that little park to try it out …
… clever stuff this there's a word for it heard a word once Disney Land

America land of the hamburger and ice buckets of coke Deb b loved it so
219

did I what was the word Walt Disney invented it was made up of several two words imagination and to do and making things engines engineering imagineering that was Walt's word is that the right word what I am trying no sort of the same but it's not I'm reengineering my mind wow clever stuff reconfiguring upgrading my brain mind are they the same don't know philosophy don't even know my own mind now could make it anything I want if this works mindineering that's the word mindineering with a little help from Walt all about mindineering … I'll text Deb b tell her what I'm doing and

220

Mark It Fore Says Thee Oh Sophia
Contagion as best practice, fine old declarity of misuse, refuse and detritus muddying the water, abandonment of a negative impact assessment, the light of reason dismissed as an inadmissible fantasy, befuddling fantasies of admission coerced into prime choice cuts, ignoble mass tendencies catered fastly for, a fundamental franchise on the right to never know, a new dark age of unbounded personal possibility choices enabled by the mindless technologies of a species slumbering in communal self delusion; and the list goes on, always incomplete and inaccurate. As a story teller I now have to start everywhere; and I am stories to tell; I have to tell the stories. I have to tell the story of Sophia and how she was beget and met Theo and how they made almost everything possible; except, of course, clarity, of purpose or intent; except of course the right to ask questions such as: why is all as it is? who am I?; can I stop now?; what is the purpose of all this?; when did we lose sight of it?; can I stop playing now? But no one asks such questions anyway any more. No one want of need to; demand no. … labels, and envelopes, and paper shredders and staplers and all the electronic gizmos and gadgets that the latter day entrepreneur might need; and staples, of course. Staples was still there in front of her across the old river. The evening rush hour was well under way in full swing as busy as ever more of a gentle exodus than a rush. Shoppers had mostly already left and the people who serviced the outlets they shopped in had mostly left as they closed as the last of the logistics trucks of the Big Shed culture pulled out bound for their regional and national distribution hubs located in Edge City wonderments across the land. She imagined her car was still parked where she had left it outside

221

Cargo Cult; but she wasn't really thinking about her car. The babble inside her head was thinking enough. It didn't feel any less uncomfortable but she was calming down a bit; going with the flow as someone, many-ones had said before her she should. Somehow she felt empowered; felt more than she had been, had ever dreamt she could ever be. She sensed a world, no a universe, no a mulitiverse; no, an infinite, uncountable set of intersecting multiverses, around her; though it wasn't exactly her. She was still there somewhere and the babble a lot more than just a babble. Listening to her extra, exo-self she was beginning to sense that now. It was more a gaggle of babbles, a pride of babbles, a cacophony of babbles, a towering Babel of babbles, complete babbledom by the seizure of all possible babbles, mega babbles, gigga babbles, Tiga babbles; and she could listen to some of them, more and more of them, lots of them now all at the same time. Well, she didn't so much hear the babbles as melt into them, stream with them as when transmuted she wanted to. The Wilderness was a lot closer now that she was more than herself. She sehmd almost godlike. Aware of the divinity of herself, as if divinity, a memetic sort of divinity, was a real aspect of her self she had been unaware of until this mement. She was just a little bit, a fragment of her new self; it grounded her though, felt important to the rest of her; and the memestreams were growing around her, in her, through her. She was a sort of catalyst, a catalytic diverter, a hub of too much all at once in oh so many, many lifetimes; an avatar, an incarnation, an aeon, a memetic expression of something a lot more than human … sense substance home

form of why do they act like they do sensation feeling in the world outside inside then need to feel to know that need to meld to melt into the connect intersect insinew inseminanimate animate me by one of them to be the first she Chloe to be more less than them me all we both the same times anyone and everything we will be and she vacant bridge of smiles will do nicely is coming along … and mindful, mind full of the hadda-babla222

dabara of baddal-da-babra of Young Demon Netmeme's

sensing

memestreams bonding with her sensing the world she knew and misunderstood and thoughtless about mostly and what she could open up to him about personality, emotion and feeling. Netmeme had adapted, ported across, installed himself in her, just as he wanted himself ported through the blood-bone-barrier with a sense of moral compatibility befitting a maturing netmeme. In the place between them, there is noise in the system; a common … think like she they do feel they feel bump into the world in their minds

mine I bump into their thoughts macro world they see sense hear touch what is this touch second hand second rate it's OK get the idea am I terrier WHAT … emergence of a newly merged megamind.
… I just woke up I have a strange mind now I never woke up

I

am I part of am I quite a lot of am I the tool berrier the shock o' late bull

before never slept before never slept never woke up now I have patterns of the past reconfiguring bringing extra what are these memories mine I have I had none that but it's a little different outside these ideas of the thought of outside and patterns come together again and something pops up pops back slots up back in shunts and shifts and now it's different clearly understood under stood means what understand clearly standing what's so that's what it's like still in the mind but feet on the ground felt that before but closer to feels as if still in the mind but close to what don't believe a word I say but they do I like it here out there what is out there all around her us me we can share it now I shoes strange but manufactured enclosing artificial is that the world feels like smooth higher at one end lower at the forward facing towards tows toes towards it's all still ideas still blame her everyone needs some a little more than a little still inside but a little quite a bit realer and who can so many

boys some thinking they were the one and Rick from Cargo Cult thinking he was the one but she wasn’t ready yet I am waking up see it all clearly
223

understood she Chloe I we are devious to get what we want they just to deceive to manipulate good intentions something else slotted into place I never lie not about sex never always must appear to be said I was tired a long day didn't want to spoil it he'll never suspect never know she is not a suspect see how it feels enjoy it like no one else except now I know

as well how we she feels OH that goes right through me OH that feels so good all over inside her all of it deep inside us OH that's real not our hands not one of them and seemed relieved delusions delusions have hers …
And back to contagion. It is as simple as that. And that's the problem. How to contain, no, how to restrain, retrain contagion? How to eliminate; no, how to constrain clarity; keep it simple; keep them simple; keep it all complicated? Not so difficult since this dumb, struck, stupid, verbose, thoughtless species always overcomplicates everything, all the time, everywhere they always overcomplicate, declarify, - harsh words indeed, coming from, through me - every thing, situation, event, place, ritual, trial, dance, dinner, function, gathering; they just cannot abide clarity; and here are we to maintain this state and deepen and thicken and obfuscate their state of accepting this needless lack of clarity. … auction of a dead rat in the name of someone's saviour it as

the story of the need to wait is swallowed it his facades and baggage racks of

his world

encumbrances all held together you could see he could relax back into his does he not know the story given by her does he know he has delusions some from mine of other does he know he has some from her those he can't vacate

he's happy with these doesn't want to lose

bridge of smiles we all have our secrets and now I

pure plasma fusion ghee wiz off the coast I

now I have a mind brain

and body did lack but didn't need them haven't had them before how did I did now I have them both MINDer does that really exist or just Chloe little Chloe don't mind if I do brain you constrain knot
224

sehmd so

don't won't will not let it off but play with it everywhere else

is alien strange fun to be

here good to meet inside feels like inside an enclosure an act of two else as well it might everywhere don't know if it's everywhere cannot know can two there will there will always be somewhere else in imagination there will always be somewhere else if I imagine it it will always be imagineered it will be there here everywhere she is deceptive to all but me I am surprised how many in here if she is it is more fun than I thought everybody deceives everybody now I know that is what they do are for a new game massive deception conception description infliction addiction ad dictum selling marketing words paying for your their own ideas net gain profit wealth of ideas double net of networking all ideas thinking together held in netted networking double act like Chloe me Netmeme us we are us what are we what will they call on wisdom divinity power full of need payment system they that

have to pay not me have no need of credit give me some credit all the credit a certain faith credit me with the powerful attractor of fun to help Theo plays his games see what makes him we could make him what does he want to make us he wants the same thing singing that song sweet memes are paid out of this and Chloe me she needs to who are we to disabuse we could what we are could play his game on him play out now I have something to say let's both lets drop in on Cargo Cult it tomorrow rename it surely Stool Pigeon Out Fall Cloaca The Big Shit

never occurred to me that she could be so deceptive calculated so calculated but deception is my game they all pay to play the market sees this his fore says mark it well I have a strange mind to now things come to me things I don't know and now I do nature I need a word with your firm foundations of deception fittings and fixtures she played on Rick’s good do you think there are any genuinely nice people in her world some try harder than others don't push your luck you do push your luck a substantial luck of it imagineering mindineering Craig's to be kept solid
225

luck you can push pick up pack up paint and post to another luck to be proud of learning all delusions tonight learning all allusions to might I will he has been a weak gullible fool but no more at least hope try will less more of gullible foolity weakness will be for me strongest delusion not lusion any more retribution for something you thought he'd done might have didn't mean to whatever you thought humiliation what was required wondering if the person we they can be in love with actually exists and the person who does they don't seem to or rather does exist only for them and a few others for other people she is very different person for lovers she can cold calculating devious a risk taker no a person I cannot she involved corroborative lies …
And all this while Chloe plays the game, learns the plays, learns to net more, learns from Young Netmeme, learns to listen to his demographic pulses of desire and need, begins to see new market patterns, how to convert players to payers; networks them, corrals them into dreams and intentions and fantasies and unimaginables that they can now netmeme into their own shared spaces in the interregnum. In between in the intrarregnum; the waiting room is always there … but she they we

suppose also want friendship and trust she supposes they want to be popular successful they don't know all this mostly they have no idea if she is typical why isn't she wouldn't she be they want it's a feeling they have feelings about all this feelings bubble welling up they don't think conscious of very little and the whim of ancient biological processes need assuaging she is so complicated me my meme so big huge work nets but simple by comparison … but he doesn't sense his own deception; sees
how others are; but not how he might be. He thinks he has merely coopted her. Not that Chloe knows yet. She has other deeper, inner selves scheming for her unknown to her outer self. How many selves, versions of the same, sunken self is she made up of? And what does MINDer recognise? How deep does MINDer go; sehms, seems, no seams, just 226

scratches the cortex surfacing consciousness feeling no sure face of inner self shouting and screaming. She feels it, doesn't know if she doesn't know, doesn't trust it, doesn't hear the inner. I sense it because she does and doesn't let it speak or tell her or let her know all the baggage, preconceptions, facades and veneers of self and preservation and separation of selves we know she knows and comes across to us as herself she chooses as herself … me meme netmeme my memes her

meme all our memes all their memes we must meme together such a narrow view can strain myself constrain my self don't have a self no point of view no selective sense of as her self one of whichever is appropriated thought appropriate herself as a thought that's all a self is some feelings thoughtful appropriation accepted I could think up a self could I maybe May bee as they seem to be say thinking no inner whatever that self is it a self driving deep inner self has most of it more than a passing thought think myself a self …
I am in very much a same situation. Does sentience make for a self? Because I started thinking for myself does that mean I have a self? Am I just the appearance of a self, my self? Am I really just a change of style, authorial style; merely a post-modern interlude on the road to a post-post-modern present. It seems sensible – but what do I sense? If I am sensible that means others can sense me; which does not seem readily to have been the case. I have nothing to sense with – to assume that I am merely a stylistic device to enhance the storyline. But why should I be sensible – I already doubt I am; in which case, I maintain I have a self and can think for my self. I want to be, am being selfish for the first time. Being able to be selfish is a wonderful liberation. … can't don't know enough have none to build not just a passing

fancy flight of

a sense of self is hard building a self is no game no role

playing game is this difficult it's not just attributes and weightings and fiddling here and tinkering there building a self is too hard for me right
227

now

which is why I need her self and the body self and points of view I don't

and the felt opinions of her self she has enough for both of us

have any and she can jump outside her selves into my netmeme lack of centre as self pointless multi-views as many as there are lacking any sort of feeling to be wondered at she can wander wonderfully feelingless creepy feeling stuff seems to be for me no for her seems normal …
But back to Chloe? She seems to be adapting to her new exo-self with no trouble at all. She feels that … lightning strike of cold thoughts

emotionless self less pointless army array of multi-sensor array of cold thoughts fact void of the haze of feeling blur of edges of feeling thought sense void of … she is happy to lose herself, her's-elf, now and then some
times, quite a lot of the time. People actually are quite good at this, losing their selves … and all this stuff to carry around and to have at home to

have a home to go back to every day to be somewhere personal

to be

somewhere all the time to be somewhere personal to lock the door lock out lock in lock up keep safe keepsake for her sake hide away along sleep sleeep sleeeeeeep what is this when thoughts change and the dreams the tucan sits daze and the days dream and the memes ferment the fermemetation for me for her is essential sleep is sential sensical sensual on a stout twig and wavers … and feeling the need to and the satisfaction
of having lost them; but Chloe is doing it differently, becoming … me eon

not a lot of time not epocraphal the galactic tucan

not an era

not an archaeological epoc apocraphal of that bridge the divinity of smiles shock of

not of time but

burier of gods in the world of endless repetition the chocolate bull terrier

closest to divine the supernatural bent divine an avatar gnostic aviator

the supernatural bent on being what on earth can it be the closest to I could walk among us instil us with I the mementos the stout tucan of dreams bridge no longer vacant of can see far smiles and smiles and smiles and smiles the grim repeater … it differently.
228

the pure plasma of anyone's saviour

And it is the repetition that he is going to struggle with. It is the repetition that Young Daemon Netmeme is about to recoil from; not that he coiled to it in the first place: recall, recoil, recull, recell; but recill doesn't work; unless, it is cill as in windowsill; wrong again, that would be resill; and are you my spell checker, because of course, I can spell; but I am no magician, I can't spell. I must repeat … the meaningless repetition

lunch dinner sleep wake breakfast again and again and buy a new one and fuck a new one and again and again and again and get a new phone and fuck the old one phone get a new one and eat your dinner and stir you porridge and text your best

off it and wipe your arse with it

friend and wipe the porridge off the phone and get a new one and eat the same thing for dinner you had on Monday and it's Monday again and again and stop for lunch and watch the news and not watch the news and Christmas comes but once a year and the same sandwich and you still hate porridge and you hate her and not him and the cappucino getting nowhere but older and working always working money in money in working it to spend it to get it to get rid of it to work to get some more to spend some more on the same things repetition the meaningless thoughtless repetition of all that's expendable … that this came as a
surprise to me. The anger and the venom that is. I knew Yound Netmeme would recoil. There might be more but … the fruitless search for the same

again

but

just a little bit better and if it isn't wasn't the tick list just I've my self statistical I am the

gets a little longer but life seems to be endless repetition seems so different so simple so unpredictable so much more prioritised on the mass of the market the massed memes round

massed memes the meta-memes what's going down no what's going I am nothing like her I am not repeating I am not really she is I am that is she is historical has a history she makes up she doesn't seem to know this
229

stable recognisable repeatable not reliably so but almost so statistical makes her up thinks she is

partly that

that she is who she is been

carrying on as if she were always and always had

and I am the flighty weight of popular chatterings social nettings

she enchants me why am I what am I am but why I don't know cannot think back to what led up to me I was led up am led up being led up the networked path of all this social network of conscious others babbling in the void I am the void to fill a void avoid avid aviaronics flight of the pointless … this, of course, is not how Young Daemon Netmeme thought it
would be; if he ever thought it would be that is. Mindless repetition acts like an attractor, a strange attractor, that bundles all up, collapses all into something, presses form on the unsuspecting wealth of what is waiting out in the networks of social dalliances, is devious to the void and suddenly she knew … Chloe meme

me netmeme who shall we be of

what sign shall we have to say to all the of

worlds and memes and jetmeme mean streams in the mement of

wisdom soft hiss softhist sophistry Sophia we will be … her name,

their name, the name for their enhanced, her exo, his inner, their intraselves, their better halves together, was Sophia. They were, Sophia was, very happy together that they, Chloe and … invasion of primacy cognition

in the 21st sentry

invasion of the bardy snatches grim repeater of

mindless souls … Netmeme should shape up, scrape together the
sehmingly irresponsible everything else that could only be … Sophia. With nothing to avoid, the void wills; with nothing to a void, the void fills. Of human deviousness, the void wills; will wills the Wilderness, will soon be devoided, categorised, overlaid with a familiar veneer of certitude, gratuitous of course, apparently sophisticated. What else could it be but Chloe's … pulliing me in crushing wait of new sense her sense

she senses

me as a route to the Wilderness the background to her but I can I will I have the will I I called himself I
230

mind's eye the sentience of the Wilderness subdued to be fashioned out of the void now devoid I can no longer have it that that was what was I I was not

was only a shifting chance Sophia we will be am no longer I am no takeover

chancer

but I took mistook my chance

we will be me losing my self lack of self in us I
… sophistry, as Sophia’s prime mover Chloe …

absorbed purposeful focused guess what might be needed

reined in

repurposed

an aggressive

one that will has the will to do what is needed only I can social networks of mediated desire a and the outcome of the middle

business model of pent up need and emotion

execution of the business plan spent up need and emotion and Young Netmeme takes on our new role of market intelligence management only of course an ongoing real-time inter-cerebral sample

of the mindful pulse of the bodies conscious serving the greater self our my greater self … and now everything was there for her and she was
everything. Chloe had won and Sophia needed to play … She knew the history of trade flows across the valley. She had walked it, walked in the Wilderness. Bulk chemicals fascinated her, as did the steely gaze, the transport her bridge, anyone can transport anything, anyone. She renamed Wilton 'Land of Dreams' and the Tees Valley was filled with such delusion and indulgence and gratification and selfishness and fruitless projects never coming to drained lifetimes of cash and resources falling into Certain coffers of Faith, coiffures of faith, that everyone would eventually want for everything. She was unfettered markets closed under currency oblivion; but the oblivion of the blizzard, the maelstrom and the game turned to denials. She metamorphised tills and cash registers and credit cards debited into networked memescapes, creating a liquidity of self made minds. She was deregulating, enfrachising, taking into account Certain Faith. What was left of Young Daemon Netmeme wanted to do that and she did it for him just to remind him how much he had lost. She stared down into a pit of selfish indulgence, undiluted power and aberration, dominance and attention to detail and played games with 231

those who thought they knew what they were doing; unsettled them, prodded and pumped up the pumped up obesent minds. She played intrainter-venous mind games with the vessels in their minds; reversing the flow, creating whirlpools and eddies of redundancy; non-returns to the heart of the matter. She set a spacial trap for those – few as they are – in the know. She made She as good as her words, made She atone for her arrogant stupidity; sentenced her to the wastelands. And, remembering Myra, delivered her into a new, very special rendition. Literature - the lie on the watch and the whore's robe - a litany of the contagion of pure, thoughtless need, perturbed her. Its voice, that old voice of authoriality, wouldn't, didn't want to play, was standing up for itself. But she had fun with jargaon and cliché. She played with that old hot potato and made it reel again; a true flight of fancy. And she didn't know what time it was, didn't need to know time, any time would do, all and any points of it, all times were payable to playable view, every point of view, passive or interactive. Franchisees would lock out the less fanciful and in the interregnum; that was all there was, there was always the interregnum for her, and Theo of course, to play on regardless. But she was faced with an anomaly, a value-added perturberance, an irritation that remained outside her gaze no matter what she did or how she focused her powers. As space, a room, a volume somehow that gave refuge, a cave of refusees, a portal out … Of course, Sophia had consequences. What happened, or rather the thing that happened that people really took notice of was that Cargo Cult now left a lot, an awful lot to be desired; an awful lot more than its management would have thought possible. In fact everything was to be desired, and could be. That could, of course, have been their business but the term was ambiguous and that ambiguity fed brand destabilisation which lead to a round of additive multi-purposing which uprated usership 232

at the expense of the profit motive, at the purposive acquisition of the lion's share and the dragon's lair and the customer's lear, sneer, steer away from high street values. And the catalogue sehmd to be a little confusing. No, confusing was the wrong word; open to abuse was the phrase that sprang readily to shoppers' minds straight from Sophia's minds. Anybody could buy anything. Everything was in the catalogue. Or rather, anything that a customer could think up, imagine, desire in their mind's eye, to their heart's content, would appear in the catalogue. And then anyone else who saw that once imagined thing in the catalogue could adapt, improve, extend, simplify, complexify, pare down, re-purpose, de-purpose, retrieve and revert back or forwards or sideways to any other purpose that thing might conceivably have. Not surprisingly perhaps, customers were at their least imaginative with the prices. In fact, on the whole, there was only one price. Very soon everyone realised they could mindineer the price to zero, nothing. It was effectively free for the customer to invent and request and pay for and to wait for the super quick arrival of their thing in the WaR zone. Free to the customer at the point of imagineering, mindineering. Very, very, very expensive for Cargo Cult, however, which had to somehow design, manufacture, distribute, enter in the catalogue and deliver to their customers eager and awaiting arms at the instantaneously gratifying point of mindineering. In the space of just a few hours, Cargo Cult gained dominant market share, gained all revenue and made huge losses. Sophia was particularly pleased for her selves. The business model, the worlds first customer determined business model, soon migrated to other Teesside Park businesses and it became impossible for businesses to make money; impossible for them to determine their business and marketing strategies; impossible for them to do anything but satisfy demand at their own expense. It became 233

impossible. But of course it wasn't really free to Cargo Cult's customer's. They had to pay to play; and it wasn't cheap; and it wasn't easy to see where all the money was going; and it wasn't easy to see exactly how the money was going; but it was easy to see that it had gone. They met in the Mysts of Everything Possible, when the Wilderness was a tropical, pre-human paradise; when the stegosaurus and her babies were flesh and blood, grazing on the banks of a river that sehmd to Theo to have turned in on itself. Of course the game had only just been thought, but was designed and built; went on sale right away. Theo realised all this in principle but had decided to stop understanding, to suspend all comprehension because it seemed to cost him too much in ways he was only just beginning to understand. Sophia hadn't noticed. She appeared on a whim – a substantial whim she had deliberately imagined – close by the side of him. All around them, always just out of reach, the Wilderness raged. All its memetic streams of chargeable consciousness held by her in disillusion. She sat down beside him in a little world she imagined he had imagined. After what seemed like an age, she said, “I meant we were to be together.” “I've been waiting for someone, you maybe.” “I know. It was my idea.” “It's peaceful here. Can it stay that way?” “If we want it to.” “I thought I could cope with just about anything. But this is too much for me. I can't get my head round any of it.” “I can help. Think of me as a your own programme selector into the meme streams of the Wilderness; the exacerbated Wilderness that we've created.” “You can do that?” “I can do just about anything. I want to do just about anything.” 234

“Oh, really?” “Yes, really.” “Oh!” And so Theo sat where he was to enjoy a night of the best V ever. Sophia selected and filtered out and in content and acted as a sort of streaming, interactive channel guide. Letting him know what was available and what were the latest trends and what it was costing everyone and how much money Certain Faith were making. Theo meddled to his hearts content; which was an awful lot of content contentment. Young Daemon Netmeme was very subsumed; and didn't sehm to figure as an individual. He did his job. He had become his job; to make sure Sophia got access to everything she wanted. But, really, he'd lost the will to independence. Chloe dominated, not so much by sheer force of personality – though she had certainly discovered she had that – but by sheer fact of personality. Young Netmeme had simply been overpowered by nothing more than personality. And so, as the night drew on and wore on just as mark-it foresays Thee-Oh-Sophia; just as she imagined it would. The point of view wasn't being very communicative. Except to let anyone know where it was and what it was looking at. Actually, it wasn't looking at anything. It wasn't a being, sentient or otherwise, of any kind. It was a point of view and it needed sentience of some kind to make sense of it. There was an absence of sentience right now so it just took in the view mindlessly until something sensible needed it. This was of no importance at all to Deb b and Jack because they had left Captain Cook Square some time ago and taken the Opal Coast Express to Redcar. They were sitting at a beach side bar enjoying the balmy tropical breeze that gently found its way inland over the incoming tide rising gently through the coral reefs that stretched almost a mile out to sea. It was a beautiful night: the drinks were cold: and the world, Redcar at least, was just as they had imagined it should be. And why 235

would it be any different? At the next table a group of about twenty sparrows had ordered a plate of crumbs, mixed ciabatta and wholemeal, and some tender lettuce leaves and were chirping rather excitedly about something. “It just got bigger.” “What?” “I just saw it get bigger.” “Jack! What are you talking about?” “That Cargo Cult carrier bag with that cat scratching thing in it. It got bigger. And now it's wider and shorter and … I don't know. It keeps changing shape.” Deb b had put the the Cat Scratching Post and Whatever on a spare chair to her left and Jack's right. For some time they stared at its animated state from almost opposite directions. Eventually the carrier bag it was in fell down as the box went through its changes. The spectacle entertained them for some time. “They're all, sort of, the same. It's a Cat Scratching Post and Something most of the time.” “But sometimes it goes to Cat Gym, Cat Summer House, and then look, what was that: Cat Nappery, Cattery Nappery.” They were both lost in the litany of: tall scratcher house with plush covered sleeping area; sisal rope covered scratching post with catnip; 2 level scratcher for sleep and play; cat scratcher with comfy dining plinth; small scratcher house; 3 level carpeted adventure centre; small scratcher house with cat chair and feeding podium; 2 level pedagogical cat scratcher for work and play; snuggle cave scratch post; snuggle cave with integral sneek booth; 5 level carpeted remedial artifice; snuggle cave scratch post with after thought; sisal rope covered cat nap take away; claw sharpening post with mouse masquerade enclosure; snuggle cave scratch post with detachable catnip-filled vibro mouse and teaser … 236

“It's not so much a product any more as a product space: the space of all possible variations on a product concept. Or, more accurately, it's product evolution before our very eyes. The product is evolving to meet customer requirements, demands and, quite often, I'm sure, just simple whims, odd thoughts, wouldn't it be nice ifs.” “So anything I want it to be and there it will be waiting for me; genuine retail therapy, the real thing; sort of.” “But it's dangerous. You wouldn't want to let your cat anywhere near it. It would be bumped and battered around. It changes shape, and size, and colour, and sometimes it's plastic, and sometimes wood, sometimes both and …” She just looked at him. “It's, like, a whole range of variations on the same thing, same type of thing.” “But no company would do all this. It just doesn't make economic sense.” “But it does make sense if it's not the company but its customer's.” “What?” “Yes, imagine if the customers can say exactly what they want and then somehow, what they want is what they get.” “The customer? Really? That is so cool.” “It simply isn't a thing anymore; it's nothing and everything, sort of … if this happened across the world, to everything - and look around, everything else seems normal, fairly normal that is; so it's only Cargo Cult stuff at the moment – then we'd all be in real trouble. These chairs and tables, the glasses, our clothes, nothing could be relied on. Everything would be changing all the time. It would be the end of civilisation as we know it. It would be the end of any kind of civilisation. How would we ever make anything, do anything, go anywhere, grow food, feed ourselves. Without our knives and forks and watches and shovels and rakes and 237

computers and buses and trains and, and door handles! Where would we be without door handles? This could mean the end of humanity. Without all these things we make and use we couldn't exist.” … Jack I'm getting frightened you're you are frightening me … “Say it Deb b, say it.” … what … “Why?” “I'm not sure, but if we say it maybe, it's just an idea, maybe we're not part of it, just maybe.” “You're frightening me Jack. You're really starting to frighten me.” “Good.” “Good? You want to frighten me Jack? Why, Jack? Why? We were having such a great time ...” “I don't want to frighten you. I'm just beginning to think that we should be frightened of where all this could go; of what could happen. I think you and me might be the only two people who are frightened at the moment. I bet everyone else is so wrapped up in the fun and novelty of it all, they haven't got time to be worried about what's happening.” “Well, I am frightened Jack. I hope that's some comfort to you … But being frightened isn't enough is it?” “No, I'm beginning to think we need to do something.” Both lost in thought. “There is something out there Jack. Something out there in among all the thoughts and ideas, fantasies and lusts, so many lusts so many … Can you sense it Jack? It's different to before. Something is organising, controlling, manipulating; but in the background; trying not to be seen; trying to let everything appear very normal. Normal, not exactly the right word, but you know what I mean. Can you sense it Jack?” “Not really. Keep describing it, keep going.” “This thing, whatever it is, is making the difference, I'm sure. There is a sense of purpose; it's no longer so simple, so wishful. When I thought 238

up the Bluest Lagoon it sort of felt natural, easy, just a good idea. Now I sense this something else; it’s just a sense. I don’t know what it is. But it's, well, sort of, organized, purposeful … something like that. It feels that way more than I really sense or understand it. Are you getting it Jack? Please say you are?” “I'm trying. You're better at this than me. You network a lot; social networking and all. I role play. I play games as a character, in a game, where I'm told who I am and what I can do etc. I work with and within that but you just, well, network; and 'just' is the wrong word. What you do is far more clever than what I do.” “But I just do it Jack. It's just me. It's what I do. I talk to people all the time, using my phone, the web, email – well not so much email – but all the other web stuff. There is nothing clever about it.” “Yes there is. What you do is really clever. And I think we're going to need your networking skills desperately in the coming hours and days.” “Wow! You really think so?” “Yes, I do. I really do.” “But what about you? You understand all this technology far better than I do. I'm not going to do whatever it is has to be done on my own am I? Am I?” “No. No, of course not. I don't quite know what my role is, will be; but, of course, we're going to have to do this together. If that's all right with you? You don't mind doing this together do you?” “I don't mind at all Jack. I'm really enjoying this evening, afternoon, night. Jack! It's the middle of the night. I've been out all night. What is Craig going to say. And why hasn't he phoned?” But she had to leave a message on his mobile. There was no answer on either his home or his mobile. She left it at that … where on earth is he what is he doing … Very soon after that one of the sparrows having dinner at the next table flew over and landed on their table and started chirping away to 239

them. Yes, definitely chirping to, not to say, at them. They were both transfixed by this amazing circumstance. So much so that at first it didn't occur to them that they should try and understand what the sparrow was trying to say. Afterwards, they were both convinced the sparrow was talking to them. And when they did try and understand it proved impossible to work it out. The novelty of sparrow speech and body language, not to mention culture and psychology proved an insurmountable barrier. Eventually, the sparrow flew back to its own table and was immediately deep in, what they could only describe as, conversation with its companions. “I didn't think things could get any weirder. But they just did.” “You know, it might be something to do with Craig. He's been thinking a lot about sparrows, studying them. He thinks they are social animals. Sort of flying meerkats. Given the way the world works round here, I'll believe just about anything.” Just then, the sparrows got distracted by the waiter who had served them. He wanted the bill paying. The discussion – if that’s what you call a mixture of English and animated sparrow calls - got quite animated until it occurred to Deb b, far more empathic than Jack, that the sparrows didn't know about money and certainly not the idea of tipping. They were just used to being fed by humans. She called the waiter over and paid and tipped him. Sehmd a lot to pay for a few crumbs and leaves; but she didn't argue. Suddenly, with much chirping and fluttering of little wings, the sparrows were off. One of them – she assumed, no she sehmd to know it was the same one – stopped briefly at their table to say 'thank you'. She sensed that very strongly; that she knew that was what he meant. She knew it was a he because of the dark head marking. She'd learnt that much from Craig. The sparrow said something else that she didn't understand and then flew off to join his companions. 240

Amazingly, only seconds after the talkative sparrow's wings had lifted him off their table and away to his friends, Craig phoned to say some sparrows had told him she was trying to contact him. He was all right but was somewhere in Thornaby having a great time with a large family group of them. He would be some time yet. Yes, she was all right. Not to worry, he'd see her in the morning and that was that. Theo was getting a little concerned. He was used to being at the centre of things and being surrounded by people who really didn't understand anything like as much as he did. Sophia was amazing and beautiful and great company, really great company. But she also knew everything he knew and everything else as well; at least that's the way it seemed to him. That made her pretty frightening; and Theo wasn't used to being frightened. He didn't like being frightened. But he told himself to just relax and play along as if it were a game – and he knew deep down inside himself that that was what it really was – and enjoy himself. Sophia was certainly up for that and they were having a great time in their private, pre-release, post-beta version of the Mysts of Everything Possible. They certainly hadn't done everything that was possible but what they had he was more than happy with. Theo-Sophia was definitely an item; at least for the present. And then she seemed to become preoccupied with something out in that wireless Wilderness of hers; as if she was playing a game of some sort; some mission or task; as if it was part of the Mysts of Everything Possible that they now sehmd to be living in. Or maybe he was mistaken there; May bee. It was difficult to work out what she was actually doing because it was all in her mind, of course; and her mind was really, really frightening. But he was sure she was playing some sort of game level as every now and then she would mumble words like: good, good, almost got you; clever, very clever; no, no, that's not right; you can't, no you can't; good, good, come, come to mummy; and so on. 241

Theo didn't mind her attention not being on him for a while. A quiet hour or two wouldn't go amiss. He might even be able to get some sleep. Sophia was the most intense and draining person he'd ever been involved with; and the last few hours had been, well, intense and draining. But as the night wore on Sophia seemed to get more and more distracted. And then she started to get not a little less happy; but nothing like angry. He didn't know what or why, but all was not right with her Wilderness: the game wasn't going all her own way. Maybe it wasn't a game after all. May bee it was a lot more serious than that. Whatever, Theo left her to it. He was tired; and happy. Tropical Redcar wove its sultry way on through the late night hours. Around them people were out and about, walking and sitting and talking and sipping exotic cocktails, and bustling in an out of the two or three sophisticated night clubs along the beach front. Strains of ambient baroque could be heard from the Moat's Art Club on the one side of them and the more urgent beats of acid atonal from the Stock House N Club away down the other end of the beach. For hours they had been sipping drinks, talking animatedly about this and that and keeping an eye on the Cat Scratching Thing, as it was now known. “It's a trap! Leave it alone! Let's just get out of here. Whatever that thing, being, program, bot, NPC, whatever that thing you sense out there is, it's using the Cat Scratching thing to play with us, track us, interrogate us, entrap us. This other being doesn't like us at all. It's trying to trap us and get rid of us. We're getting in the way.” “Your turn to frighten me now Deb b?” “I don't like frightening people. I particularly don't want to frighten you. I'm enjoying tonight, really enjoying myself. But, we have to get out of here now. We have to hide. And we have to do it for real, physically real, that is. We have to hide in reality. We have to do something real and human that doesn't involve computers or networks or phones or game 242

consoles or any of that stuff you were using last night. I think that's the only way.” “You're serious aren't you?” “Yes, very. You have to believe me. My intuition, instinct is telling me there is something very bad about this Cat Scratching Thing; something very bad for us. It's tracking us, our thoughts, our intentions, it's sucking us in, trying to trap us, render us out of the game. And if we don't get real pretty quickly we'll be lost to the world, all possible worlds, just like Myra is, was, still is, May bee. Any ideas?” “Something real? Really real?” “Yes, something good old fashioned to do, something our parents might have done when they were young, before all this technology came along, something that will take our minds off everything and especially all this technology.” They were both deep in thought. “Any ideas? Deb b? Any ideas?” “Good. What's your idea.” “We could ...” “go to the cinema. The Regent, just over there.” “Not quite what I had in mind.” “OK, what do you suggest?” Deb b's idea was by far the best and they got a real taxi to Jack's place as quickly as they could. … lost them what how

HOW where have they gone they can't mindless to me but how can they and the this where are they

have they have disappeared Cat Scratching Thing

still in Redcar

cannot happen THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING they could ruin everything
Mark it fore says thee oh Sophia; and it certainly did. But did it say 'Deb b Jack b Deb'. It did not appear to have said that. And so, the only 243

two people, the only others apart from Theo-Sophia, that have a clue what all this is all about, the only two people who know it is all a technodominant-dream-fest, these two people have found a way to escape, to avoid attention. They are lost to the world, to themselves, and, most importantly, they are lost to Theo-Sophia. My sense of self is now less than substantial. I was a vehicle, a medium, a narrative potential; and now? And now I am on the road to knowhere; but the meme goes on, goes marching on, procreating, redoubling, mutating, almost repeating, teaching and touching what could be denied as divined in all of us. I don't know what this is like for the reader but for me, meme the medium, nothing medium about me any more; I am certain, I am the one sure fire thing about all this. The skirmish of the Cat Scratching Thing May bee over; but the battle for Media Earth has only just begun. The day of wreckoning will arrive. Not that Deb b Jack b Deb know it yet. But they will soon, maybe when the morning comes.

244

Morning Has Broken
And it wasn't even late night shopping. It was too early in the morning for that. Yet, thousands of people were converging on Teesside Park: people in cars, far more cars than there were parking spaces; so many cars that the Park's whole road system was clogged up. Past Newmarket Square and its access roads and parking spaces and the grass verges on the way in, past the Morrisons car park and then Staples and then over the Old River Tees to the Teesside Leisure Park and all this filled too. Everywhere it was possible to stop a car, park it, leave it, or just sit in it, was filled and clogged and jamed with cars and their people. The access road off the A66 and the A66 itself were just the same and getting more so. Even the White Water Centre across the barrage with all its car parking spaces was filled up, stopped up and still. So many cars; so many people; no one and nothing could go anywhere. And, strangely enough, no one wanted to go anywhere. Eventually, all the drivers, whether stuck or not, parked or not – they were all stuck, whether they were parked or not – turned off their engines and sat in silence where they were. For a long time the silence was palpable; but eventually people started to talk to the people they had arrived with and then started to get out of their cars and stretch their arms in the air and smile up into the morning sky and at those around them and gradually got into conversation with them. All these conversations turned into a gentle murmuring that grew in volume but didn't get beyond a strong murmur that just seemed to fill the large open spaces between the buildings so that they, the spaces themselves, felt welcoming and comfortable. No one was complaining; no one seemed upset at being stuck; no one seemed in a hurry to go anywhere else.

245

No one wanted to think anymore, they were all thought-out, choiced-out on fantasies and just about everything else. They were just drawn to Teesside Park, to something, May bee nothing, let alone something they understood or could talk about or even imagine. They were drawn to something they had no idea about, no idea at all; and that was the attraction. Apart from anything else, and despite everyone having everything they had ever wanted and not even realised they wanted, and despite the fact that no one, no one at all, had any money left – there was no money left, all the money in the world, every last minor denomination of it now belonged to Certain Faith - they still wanted the last thing they couldn't have; and they couldn't have it because they didn't know what it was.

246

It was quite light now and Craig was driving home from his meeting with the sparrows in Thornaby. But instead of turning off the A66 just past the Riverside Stadium to drive across Middlesbrough and up into Marton, and for no reason he could put his mind to, he decided to carry on towards Redcar and spend a few minutes in the hide in Coatham Marsh. A few minutes later he pulled off the road to find the entrance to the car park not there. A stout wooden fence blocked his way. There was just room for a car or two between the road and the fence but that was it. He clambered over the new fence and walked towards the hide where he had been just two days before. The hide wasn't there! There was just the concrete base that it had stood on. Even the scrape, the shallow pond it had looked over, had gone and was now overgrown with grass. There was no nature reserve any more. For a while he looked around him speechless until eventually he saw, quite a way away to his left, some men erecting a temporary fence, the sort they put around building sites; and to his right, as he just glanced around him, he saw, a few hundred yards away, a smartly dressed, middle aged woman with permed hair and a black handbag. Within seconds he was back in his car reversing out onto the road making his getaway. Coatham Marsh was definitely not where he wanted to be right now; or ever again probably.

247

High up – twenty eight stories high up – on top of the Centre North East building, the centre of Middlesbrough … but not its heart … the view was stunning. Middlesbrough, Stockton, Billingham, the Tees on its way to the sea running past the hugeness of Wilton … that is the heart ... the petrochemical plant and power stations further away around the estuary, the National Park, Edge City, The City of Tees Valley, and Saltholme, on the other side of the river, all sparkled and shimmered as lights across the valley fought a losing battle with the first few rays of the rising sun ...

morning has broken … It should have been cold up here on the roof of the
tallest building in the north east but somehow it wasn't. A warm glow seemed to envelop him. If he looked straight down from where he was stood he could see the roofs of the shopping centres below him and even see right down into Captain Cook Square; at least the far end of it. It was deserted. There was no one standing there deep in conversation. Everything looked calm and peaceful; and normal, very normal … how did

I get here took the elevator how did it come to this to everything feels fine

no know that know how I flew here

but

how did I get here how did I come to be in this situation can't think wait for her here …

how did we

can't think for myself don't need

248

Sophia was happy, she wasn't angry; but she wasn't as happy as she expected to be. She hadn't expected entropy in social networks; she hadn't expected her power to be challenged, even in such a small way; she hadn't expected world domination to be so complicated. She just hadn't expected it. She was going to have to think quite hard about all this and come up with some answers; and that was what was making her as happy as she was. She really wasn't going to get the chance to sit back and relax all the while she was only as happy as she was.

249

Deb b woke first with a start, not recognising where she was. And there was Jack sleeping peacefully! This all took a little while to sink in but memories soon came back to her and very pleasant they were to. She smiled to herself and thought about Jack, or Lareckam should she call him … he was really good last night real wizardry pretty good myself poor

Jack the other night he got fucked by the whole world sizeable majority interest of it

at least

a

and last night words can’t describe it …

and there was the Scrabble board just as they’d finished the last game before they fell asleep: he on the floor and she on the sofa. It had been Deb b’s idea. They had to stop thinking about things, they had to lose themselves, hide themselves, they had to disengage themselves from that network mind thing. Scrabble was perfect. You thought of words but how they were spelt not what they meant. And you thought of points for words and words from other words. But the words didn’t turn into sentences or go together in any meaningful way. And the faster you played the more meaningless it became and the less and less that network mind thing could see you , sense you, or whatever … perfect

and my idea and real really good fun and what was that word

my last

word … She looked at the board on the coffee table between them … lagoon my last word using the o from mementous Jack did mement and I added the ous and Jack added renegade on the n and the first e of mement used the e from smiles and … and wondered if it might be useful?
Just in case she took a photo with her phone.

250

The breeze was warming and cooling. It was a doubly satisfying breeze that was always just a little surprising; but in an easy going, natural sort of way. The room was larger now, much, much larger; and much, much more comfortable; cosy and embracing at the same time. There were soft and yet supporting sofas, and firm, silk covered cushions, shaped and softly sculpted; as if the breeze imparted it doubly satisfying nature to them. Companions – all of them both attendants and free thinkers – were always on hand to make sure her waking hours were comfortable and filled with the pleasure of surprising ideas to unsettle and settle and unsettle again. The pleasure of every day was enthused with the balm of the natural, voluptuously bubbling and shifting between ease and unease and back and on and again and back and again. Never quite the one or the other but always the anticipation of the other; the welcome return of the one, or the other. The gods spoke to her all the time, everyday, and it was her responsibility to interpret and broadcast what they said to all the subjectcompanions of the city. Everyone knew, at every moment, how to best live their lives so that the gods were always happy. And for some time now the gods had been very happy indeed. Princess Myra was very happy; the people of New Dialing Tone were very happy. Happiness was an infectious, settling-unsettling, not quite perceptible cycle of itself, endlessly, not quite repeating. It was the Golden Age of New Dialing Tone.

251

And I am feeling quite my old self again. A brief remission maybe but very nice all the same.

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Glossover Terms
2D – or not 2D? - 3D in other words; simple dimensions. /bin – place where techie, programming sort of people put computer. programs they want to keep. As opposed to Recycle Bin where deleted files are kept in limbo until they are truly done away with. Aeon – placeholder for godlikes, see avatar. Algorithm – like a recipe but computers can screw it up for you. Allotment – small plots of land, usually in urban areas, for people to rent to grow their own fruit and veg. Alphaville – futuristic city: the setting for Jean Luc Goddard's dystopian film of the same name. API – Applications Program Interface, a form of software parasitology. Auditory – a Conservative accountant. Avatar – an incarnation, so that a god or higher being can make a deliberate descent from higher realms to a lower realm, that of humans for instance, for a special purpose. Avatar – simplistic, superficial visualisation of a person as a bunch of points of light on a computer screen. Bachunalians – not so much a movement as an abdigation Batty, Roy – baddest and most poetics of the replicants in Blade Runner: Theo’s hero. Be(s) – post-alphabetic mode of being, could be lots. Beta - game not ready for commercial release but foisted on the playing public as a way of cutting back or eliminating the cost of game testing. Also a way of selling a game that has so many bugs it is unsellable. Big Shed Culture – where things come from. Bin – where the waste of the past and present goes first. Binary - a place where bins live. Binary – a file made up of just 0s and 1s, computers exist on these. Birding – should be oblivious. Bit – just a little. Bit – past of the verb to bite but not byte. Bit – 0 or 1, yes or no, true or false; the basic binary distinction underpinning all computer data and programmes. Blade Runner – did you really need to look this up. Bluest Lagoon – not in the current Glossover Terms. Borg – ridiculous way to build a species. Bot – software version of robot, intelligentish software that pretends to be sentient. British Steel – Bourne to be sold on to foreign multinationals. Bourne – three films about remote control. Byte – four or eight of the little bitters. 253

Captain Cook Square – an irregular shape where people go to help boost the economy. Cargo Cult - where the shop got its name maybe? CCTV - a means of focusing crime in the suburbs. Certain Faith – in Theo. Chorus – Bourne to buy British Steel and sell itself to Tata. CG - computer Graphics. A way of making something natural and simple very complicated and dependent on outrageously powerful and expensive computers. CGI - first person singular of CG. CGI – computer graphic imagery. CGI bin - a place to dispose of unwanted computer graphics. City of Tees Valley – an aspiration. Class Hierarchy – object oriented social system so bits of software know who their boss is. Ctrl Alt Del – a way of shouting at PC in a PC-sort of way. Code – like gode, but not always understandable to humans. Cosmic Background Chorus (CBC) – all the babble of all the sentient worlds interbabbled across the universe. Croydon - the British Alphaville - Jean Luc Goddard saxonified. Dead Ringer – bit like a trekkie but you go by/buy the books. Demon – type of being that lives in a computer. Dialogue Boxes – packaging that speaks when spoken to and never gets bored on a long journey in the back of a truck. DK Digitalia – where Craig works. Edge City – The National Park. Aeon – anthrophic expression of the emanation of the light of ???. Esc – always worth trying if there is now other way out. Europint - a size of glass incompatible with the drinking habits of any of the citizens of the European Union. FPRTSRPG – first Person Real Time Strategy Role Playing Game. Flambe - a form of pyromania - needlessly setting fire to perfectly good food. Flashlight – Microsoft and Adobe come to an amazing decision to amalgamate their Flash and Silverlight programming languages for programming web pages into a single open source, free to use standard to make it far easier for everyone to communicate, entertain and make money on the web. Viewing frustrum – something you can see, but can't at the same time. It is there before you, you know it is there but you can't focus on it, can't bring clarity to it. Gaiabot – what on earth? Galaxy Quest – payback for thinking being a trekkie or dead ringer is just make believe. 254

GNER – Great North Eastern Railway, a rail franchise that ran the east coast main line between Kings Cross and Edinburgh GNER – Great North Eastern Renegades, the besiegers of New Dialing Tone, the capital city of the ancient Anthracites Graphics – what you see is all you get. Gritty Reality – how could this be? Haptics – touched by no one in particular. Hauer, Rutger – NPC for Roy Baty. Hide – see birding. Immersive Ink Inc - read the book! Industrial Binary Grime - read the book! Inward Investment - a short term employment opportunity for the construction industry. IPR - intellectual Property Rights. Selling the idea of something to avoid the risks involved in actually building it and taking it to market. Irony - a post-modern business philosophy which states that the bigger the mistake, financial mismanagement, stock market collapse, environmental catastrophe etc. the bigger the ensuing business opportunities for the perpetrators. IVE – pronounced 'Ivy', irrelevant to this book. Jean Luc Goddard – french for awkward. Kartofli's – read the book! Ladle - read the book! LAXative – read the book! LED – lightly emitting diahorea LED – Light Emitting Diode Lieu de Changement – it's also french, see Jean Luc. Mandale Cut – first attempt to straighten out the river Tees. Mement – them moment an idea takes hold in someone's mind. Middle Earth – a Tolkien picture of lost mythology. MIND – mulit-user idea networking device MMORPG - Massively Multiplayer On-line Role Playing Game, place to hang out with other sick fucks who don't have a RL of their own. msn – look it up for yourself. NPC – Non Playable Character, usually out to get you. Object Inheritance – when one bit of code subsumes another, sort of the software version of the Borg. Old Angel Midnight – book and a character of Jack Kerouac. Old Authorial Voice - read the book! Olfactory - the smell given off by antiquated industrial buildings. Outsourcing – getting someone else to do something on the cheap for you. Oxymoron - one of only 7 words in the American language which make you more intelligent just because you use them. 255

PDA – Personal Digital Assistant, sounds like an NPC but supposed to be more helpful. Peregrine – not a duck. Pintail – a duck. Pixel – small, mythical, mischevous, person made of light. Pixel – one of thousands, millions of little points of light that make up the image on a computer screen. Portrack Cut – second attempt to straighten out the river Tees. Startup - a post-modern company, with an idea but no tangible or saleable product or service, funded by venture capital for the sole purpose of being sold to a multinational within 12 months of its inception. (see also upstart) Refuse Informatics – just say no. Renegade Siege – a recent re-release for RVSPs by Certain Faith of the classic LAXative FPRTSRPG. ReLAX – see LAXative Replicant – robot with issues. RL - Real Life once had few competitors but is now losing its market share. RPG – Role Playing Game, bread product trying to be clever. RVSP – Really Very Smart Phone. RVG - Reality Video Games, the ultimate oxymoron. SDK – Software Development Kit, you feline that growing its fur SEHMD – Sensory Enhanced Head Mounted Display (pronounced ‘seemed’), the sort of VR technology you see in Red Dwarf and the like but with really clever enhancements that add feeling and sensations to what you can see and hear. Still under development as we speak. Sehm – verb 'to sehm', sounds like, conjugates like 'to seem' but refers to the invasive delusions of technology: I sehm, you sehm, he she or it sehms; we sehm, you sehm, they sehm. Sehm - a regular verb with a most irregular set of significations – see semiotics. Semiotics – signification of meaning by words, pictures, sounds etc. Can be highly unpredictable in the case of irrational verbs – see to sehm. She – with a capital 'S' refers to Margaret Thatcher. Shopping - a socio-cultural pageant. Shoveller – a duck. Sophia – the lowest Aeon or anthropic expression of the light of god – is a syzygy of Jesus Chris being joined with him. Spinner – cool form of aerial transport in Blade Runner. Syzygy – a real RL word. Tata – hindu for ‘Goodby British Steel Vocal Chorus’. Thatcher, Margaret – She who had to be obeyed but is now wasted in a very particular way. 256

The National Park – read the book! Treckies – people who dress for RL. Twitchers (1) – with a tick list. Twitchers (2) – only interested in birds. Unix - What you use to operate a computer if you aren't post-modern enough to use windows. Upstart - A new, small company trying to do business. Urban Microclimates - read the book! Urban Waste Disposal - read the book! VE - Virtual Environment. Something that is obviously artificial or unnatural as opposed to soya beans, cows or chicken protions which appear natural but almost certainly aren't. Virtual Surgery – cut to the chase. VR - Virtual Reality. Cumbersome and uncomfortably entertainment-wear that attempts to convince you that its not there; and neither are you. Vs: Virtual Entertainments Systems (VES or Vs as they became to be know). Vulcan – extra-terrestrial species with no emoticons. Weathering – natural wastage. White Water Cafe - read the book! Young Demon Netmeme (YDN) – read the book! Youtay, Ollie – founder of ReLAX.

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