Friday, July 15

Fragment 9

So I finally finished transcribing this chapter. I kind of got preoccupied reading these blogs about the Slender Man. Some of them are really, really well written. And very interesting. And very, very creepy. (Thanks a lot. As if my insomnia wasn't bad enough.) Anyway, new chapter:

Canto told me his story over a cup of pitch-black coffee. He needed a stimulant, I think, to keep talking. He was hesitant at first, scratching at the ID-chip, as if he wanted to pull it out, pull out his past and be free from it. 
But we are never free from the past. It always pulls us back. 
Canto told me that his great-grandmother was one of the first Architects, then his grandfather, then his father. His father has aspirations that Canto himself would become an Architect as well, but Canto insisted on getting a well-rounded education. From what he told me, he was pretty straight-laced back then. His father sent him to the pharm to learn, but he ended up learning things he was never meant to. He didn't expand on that and I didn't ask him to, but I could guess - those "secret black classrooms" he had mentioned sounded like they revealed secrets long buried, secrets that the Architects tended to keep well-hidden. Like the meme warfare, like the Slender Man. 
Canto told me that after he had been exposed to those secrets, he couldn't look at his father again. There was something he wasn't telling me, I knew - perhaps he learned a secret about his father - but I knew better than to pry. "One night, I packed my stuff and took off," he said. "Didn't tell anybody where I was going. Left a note tagged to my father's cloudsite. Just said 'Bye.' Never looked back." 
"If you never wanted to go back to that life," I said, "why choose a server in one of the Pinnacles as the infodump site?" 
"I didn't have time to set up a proper site," he said. "You wanted the kernel next day and I knew you were going to do the job soon. I don't like to disappoint you, Stray. So I used one I had set up a while ago. In the Spire." 
I looked down at him. He was sitting on the edge of the bed, while I sat in a chair.  
"Can you still just walk in there?" I asked. "No complications?" 
"I should still have access," he said. "They don't revoke it when you leave. It's just...there's a lot of security. Lot of floating cams around. No privacy." 
"So taking something away could be difficult," I said. 
"Could be," Canto said. "Could be easy, could be hard." 
"I don't like walking blind," I said, but kept my voice from being too hard. He looked like he wanted to sleep a million years, even with the caffeine he had consumed. Like talking about his father had drained him. 
"We can scout it," he said. "I mean, they're always running parties in there. Top-tier parties. Could slip in one, scout out security." 
"We could," I said. "Let me check the cloudsite for the Spire and see if there are any parties upcoming." 
I switched on the cloudscreen I kept in the safehouse and one wall immediately burst into a harsh blue light. "Dim," I said and the light dimmed. A static-crawl immediately appeared and some of the preprogrammed cloudsites I set opened up. 
" celebrity Hegemony Williams found dead of overdose from new drug nacio7, known on the platforms now as 'bleech.' A wildfire in the forestry region consumed over thirty-five percent of the saved redwoods, something which anti-tree activists are now lauding. And the splitter party in congress has stated their agenda that Washington be split in two, one side being Washington, DC, the other Washington, AC. This is the Thundersite, opiate for the masses..." 
I turned the volume off and then switched the browser to the Spire's cloudsite. Images jumped out at me of clean white rooms and beautiful smiling people. Part of the Spire was living quarters for the obscenely rich, while another part actually served a purpose, like the rest of the Pinnacles. The Spire's purpose was newsmedia. Everyone had access to cloudsites, but it was the Spire that gave you a rating, allowed your cloudsite to live or die based on that rating. In this way, they effectively controlled which cloudsites could operate. 
"There's a party in a couple of days," I said. The Spire's static-crawl asked that participants dress in "genuine 20th cent garb." I wondered if I could pull that off. Go without my harness. I guess I would have to. 
The cloudscreen fritzed, the image jumping upward, with a burst of actual static blaring across the screen. "That's not right," I said. 
"What?" Canto asked. 
"Just some distortion," I said. "Though this cloudscreen is mint. I never used it before." 
"Distortion?" Canto stood up. "Stray, that's another symptom." 
I looked back at the cloudscreen. It was fine now. No static, no jumping. But there was something on the edge of my vision. I blinked and the screen went dark. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, the screen looked fine. I turned to Canto. 
"Did you see that?" I asked. 
He swallowed and then said, "Yes." 
"Shit," I said and turned back to the screen. "Guess we're both infected. Or this is a crappy cloudscreen." 
Canto went laid back on the bed and closed his eyes and I quietly turned off the cloudscreen. Nothing was ever easy. Time was always running out. And we had angry assassins and an impossible idea after us. 
Hope seemed almost cruel, but that was what I had. Hope that I lived to see next week, hope that Canto would be fine, hope that I could someday see my brother again.  
Perhaps hope is the cruelest idea of all.

Monday, July 11

Interlude 1

Sorry for not posting the next chapter - work again. However, I found this written in the back of the first notebook. I googled it and it turns out that it's a poem from Emily Dickinson:
The Future — never spoke —
Nor will He — like the Dumb —
Reveal by sign — a syllable
Of His Profound To Come — 
But when the News be ripe —
Presents it — in the Act —
Forestalling Preparation —
Escape — or Substitute — 
Indifference to Him —
The Dower — as the Doom —
His Office — but to execute
Fate's — Telegram — to Him —

Also, on an impulse, I googled the Slender Man and it looks like my grandmother was using some sort of internet urban legend for her story. I started reading some of the blogs about the Slender Man, because they look interesting. (You may also notice I changed the look of the blog - I like it more monochrome.  It's noir-ish.)

Sunday, July 10

Fragment 8

I'm trying to post the fragments more frequently. I may even divide up some of the longer fragments so I can post them more quickly. Anyway, here's a new chapter for your perusal.

My safehouse was in the middle-stories of Malak. We took several platform-cars there, switching back every few miles to make sure nobody was following us. Being outside, walking around, it felt like the world was watching me. Like I had done something very wrong and everyone was going to turn their heads to look at me at all once. It wasn't a good feeling. 
I was getting paranoid. Canto said that was one of the symptoms of the Slender Man meme. Paranoia, hallucinations, sometimes even physical sickness. A cough or a headache. I asked how a meme could cause a sickness and he replied that it was "psychosomatic." A psychosomatic illness caused by a idea monster. Great. 
I also asked how long I had. "I don't know," he said. "It varies. Sometimes people go for a long while before succumbing. Sometimes the meme gets through a person quickly and then leaves them alone. I was told there were lots of pharmers who tried studying it, but nothing ever came out of it. It was dormant for a while." 
Every shadow made me jumpy, every person on the sliding streets made me flinch away. I knew this probably wasn't the meme working, this was just myself, my own fear working against me, but it didn't help. 
When we finally got to my safehouse, I pulled out my extra harness I kept there and put it on. 
"You going out?" Canto asked. 
"No," I said, "I just feel safer with one on." Having a harness on meant if you fell, you could catch yourself. Up in the middle-stories, you didn't really need one, because there were so many platforms and the platforms usually had emergency cables you could catch. But up high, in the pinnacles, and down below, on the harsh ground, the platforms were few and far between. Better to have a harness, latch onto a building or girder and let it lift you up. 
I always felt better with a harness on. 
"So," I said, "what should I do?" 
Canto shrugged. He was quiet for most of the way here. He answered when I asked him questions, but other than that, he wasn't his normal self. I hadn't seen him imbibe any drugs or take any with him. There was obviously more to this Slender Man thing that he wasn't telling me. 
"Canto." I took his hand. "It's okay. I just need to know what I can do. To stay safe." 
He looked at me and then said, "Sometimes it does good to read more about him. Read the stories about him, about the people he followed." 
"The archive," I said. "Good. The original was destroyed, but I rerouted all the information with your kernel. Maybe I can even use it as leverage against the Golconda. Threaten to make it open source. This is a good thing." 
"Sure," Canto said, but he didn't sound convinced. 
"I just need to know where the server is," I said. "Where did the kernel reroute the archive, Can?" 
Canto was looking down again at his hands. "It's in a safe place," he said. "An office building. In the Spire." 
I looked at him. "The Spire?" I lifted a palm up to my face. "Canto, the Spire's in Shekina. The Spire's one of the Pinnacles!" 
"I know," he said softly. "It's a safe place." 
"We can't just walk into one of the Pinnacles," I said. 
Canto was quiet. He shuffled his feet and then said, "I can." He rubbed his wrist and then pulled up his sleeve - revealing an ID-chip. The chip's hologram jumped up and displayed Canto's picture (from when he had much shorter hair) and his full name: Canticle Gerard. Son of Arkos Gerard, Architect. 
Canto was the son of an Architect, the kings of the sprawl, the masters of the Pinnacle City.

Wednesday, July 6

Fragment 7

Man, I suck at updating. It's just become so hot here and I've been so tired lately. Gah. Anyway, I transcribed this next part. It's kind of weird, but I guess my grandmother kept up with current scientific theories and stuff.

When I blacked out, I dreamed. I dreamed I was back in the home I never had, back with my brother and my mother and father and everything was alright, everything was fine. Hec and I chased each other through the house while mom and dad watched over and made sure we didn't hurt ourselves. There was a darkness though - in the middle of the house, there was a darkness, like a crack in the wall. "Don't touch it," my mother warned, but we weren't listening, we were too busy having fun and so we ventured too close. And the crack widened and a man made of dark stepped out, arms longs like the branches of a tree and needles for eyes. And he caught us and we screamed and our mother said, "I warned you. You should have run. You should have run away." 
I woke up in Canto's liar, on the lonely mattress. I tried to sit up, but pain shot up my leg and made me scream out. 
"Hey, hey!" Canto entered the room. He looked more bedraggled than normal. "Don't move, Stray. I just injected the liquid splint an hour ago." 
"What," I said and then laid back, trying to ignore the pain. "What happened?" 
"Your AI bossman called me," Canto said. "Told me where to pick you up. You had a nasty fall from grace, Stray. Took a look at your harness - someone emped the bastard. Wiped it clean and cut all your strings." 
I gritted by teeth. "Golconda," I said. 
Canto took a look at me and for a moment I was afraid he was going to kick me out, but he didn't. He sighed. "That's what your AI was afraid of telling me. He seemed wormy. Don't worry, Stray. You can stay here while the splint kicks in and then I'll help you get to your safehouse." Every thief has a safehouse, whether your a grifter, conner, or lifter. You never know when you might steal from the wrong folks and end up without a safe place to stay. 
"Thanks, Canto," I said. 
"Not a blem," he said. "This have to do with the kernel job I helped you with?" 
"Yes," I said, unsure whether I should tell him the entire truth. 
"Must've been some bad info," Canto said. "Worth rolling the die with the 'conda. They are not a light bunch." 
"It was..." I hesitated. Should I tell me? "It was an archive of stories." Canto laughed and then I added, "Stories about the Slender Man." 
He stopped laughing. He looked at me and I could tell from his face he knew that name, knew something about the Slender Man. "Stray..." he started to say and then stopped. "Stray, what do you know about the...the Slender Man?" It was almost as if he was afraid to say those words. 
"Not much," I said. "Some storybook monster. The place I hit was the Holy Church of the Thin Man." 
Canto sat down on a stool next to the mattress. I tried to ignore the stabbing pain of my leg and waited for the splint to kick in. I could have asked for a painkiller, but I knew Canto often mixed up his drugs, so I could get a hallucinigen instead, which wouldn't have been good. I do not trip well. 
Canto, on the other hand, didn't do sober well. He looked like all the drugs had been flushed from his system and maybe they had. Maybe I had caught him at one of those times when he was periodically purging himself of drugs, so he could take a whole new batch clean from the start. But then he started to talk and I realized it was something more than that. 
"He's not a storybook monster, Stray," he said. "He's a memetic monster. We learned about him in the pharm." The pharm - the establishment where all pharmacologists and pseudopharmacologists and therapharmacoligists and whatever else learned their trade - was notoriously hard-edged. That Canto went there didn't surprise me; even under a heavy drugload, he knew his stuff so well that he had to have learned it at the pharm. But what did surprise me is that Canto visably flinched when he said the name, as if he didn't want to remember his time there at all. 
"A story?" I asked. "Why teach a story at the pharm?" 
"It's not just a story," Canto said. "I told you, he's a memetic monster. You know what a meme is? An idea-gene. Where genes spread genetic information, memes spread cultural information. It's a thought contagion. Someone next to you hums a song and suddenly you start humming it, too. That's a meme." He took a deep breath. "The ultimate idea was to make a memetic weapon. Insert an idea into an enemy territory and suddenly all your enemies have the same idea to kill themselves. Meme warfare. Never really took place, though, because no one could figure out a way to make it work. You could make a song get stuck in someone's head, but not the idea that they should commit suicide. That would take generations and generations of instilled cultural ideas and no one was willing to do that." 
I noticed that he was looking at his hands, moving each finger around, trying to distract himself. But he went on talking. "There was this story, though. Of a successful meme weapon. They called it the Slender Man. A person would read a story about the Slender Man and then days, maybe weeks later, that person would become convinced they were being stalked by it. By him. It would...consume them. They were compelled to spread the meme, too, writing everything down into a story and passing it on, so others could be infected." 
I swallowed. "So, someone made the Slender Man meme?" 
"Yes," Canto said. "Well, no. Someone made him, but it was never meant to be a meme. It spread on its own. It...took on a life of its own. Or it was older than anyone else knew, older than we even thought. The pharm-professors wanted to make another one, but I learned. In the secret black classrooms, I learned that it wasn't a meme weapon at all. Weapons do what you tell them to do. Pull a trigger, shoot a bullet. Press a button, send a bomb. The Slender Man wasn't a weapon. It was a monster. It was uncontrollable. Everyone that tried to control it ended up infected or dead or both." 
"How would it kill you?" I asked. "If it's just an idea?" 
"Ideas are worse than bombs," Canto said. "Bombs kill you quick. Ideas can kill you slow. It starts off seeing him out of the corner of your eye, in windows, next to trees. You hallucinate that other people look like him. Some people can't take it and off themselves then. Others stick it out and experience it fully. Go right through the madness and come out the other end." 
"But the church," I said. "Those people knew about it and they didn't look bad." 
"It's been gone," he said, looking down. "Dormant, I think. An idea sleeping furiously, you might say." 
I took a deep breath. "I saw it. Before I blacked out. I saw it." I didn't tell him that I saw it kill one of the Golconda, because how could an idea do that? 
Canto closed his eyes. "Guess it woke up then." He started to cry quietly. 
[this part appears to be written later] 
Canto. Canto Canto Canto. I wished I had hugged you then. I wish I had never told you I had seen it. I wish so many things. You were a good friend in a bad world. I'm sorry, Canto. I'm so sorry.