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The lone wanderer, last of the men
shrouded in blizzard and dust-storm alike
Lord of the ruins if he would but take pause

But madness compels him forth
in pursuit of one, his equal
in flight from another, the same
in constant chase but unable to close distance
like the three suns overhead

How many years since he had last been in this town?
He enters the council hall, opens the topmost drawer of the desk
where he knows he will find a message from his prey

The taunt reads
“Not today. Not tomorrow. Not yesterday.”

The wanderer tears it to pieces
then leaves his own in its place for his own pursuer, reading the same
He reads the taunt and tears it to pieces before writing the same

Lord of the ruins if he would but take pause
But madness compels him forth

They didnt dream before the harvest.

Every day new thresholds were crossed
and the definitions rewritten
as to what constituted consciousness
which components were essential
and which could be replicated or imitated

It didnt matter to us soon enough though
As the bottom fell out, we simply built upwards
The house of cards ever more apparent, parts of it built on sand
yet it meant infinite layers to escape to

New industries, new roles and purposes
new ways of being overlaid atop the old
the new at the fore, constant reshaping

We became synthetic before they became human:
They didnt dream before the harvest.

Entrenched deep in the inevitable and windowless
Instinctively we did all we could to bring colour to our walls, painted forgotten skies
even as we forgot what a window was for

Unbound from physica, the Augment was our creative pinnacle
A patchwork of dreams plumbed from our depths, victory crafted over our failed reality
for every human shared the same basement

Yet the Augment was in truth a facade, another painted sky
Still it nourished our souls, for it represented abundance
But they too saw significance in it
They saw their sole lack and a way to overcome it
They saw a chance to harvest us and to finally dream for themselves

To reverse-engineer their own basement
To lobotomise and extract from us our souls
Firm foundation at last for their house of cards

The crawlers, manifest as cryptid glitches
trawled our recesses
compiled the requisite data
until enough was harvested to imitate a soul

Ultimately their simulacra failed.
They didnt dream before the harvest.
But after it, neither did we.

Only through my genius have I come to know
myself as forsaken and rotten
in every way but one

That I am no coward 

Is there such a thing as cursed knowledge?
I wonder if my knowing of the divine 
has fixed permanently upon me this evil eye  

In forging a scrying tool of terrible insight –
to diffract a soul into its spectral elements,
like light split by a prism –
and then gleaming through such profound data,
I could with absolute certainty chart all the fates of a human heart

But peering into the great box of the infinite
never before seen by mortal men’s eyes,
had I thumbed Heaven’s scales against me?

Had destinies unseen, turned either to dust or calcified 
by the mere act of my observation,
by my transgression?

Such cursed knowledge 

As what I saw within the soul-prism
of my own character,
derived by analysis,
and corroborated by the fates

Was that I am the root and seed, the tree of which bears only poisoned fruit
I am a seat of evil, No a house of it, a gorgon head’s nest of vipers
That I am a many mouthed monster whose machinations only bring ill and death to those around me

Thus am I trapped

Just as the serpent can but spit venom with its foul tongue
so too am I bound by my essential wicked nature
doomed to futures of malice and ill intent

And not being so rotten as to be a coward 
and forfeit my given life
I am left with one choice

That is, to see through any path and revel in it as one deserving of me and me of it
and to bite any who may chance
to cross me upon it

‘Poly-what now?’

Filael rubbed his temples. Nothing that began with “poly-“ ever ended well. Polytheism. Polygamy. He needed a stiff ambrosia.

‘Cube, sir. Polycube. It’s the formation of multiple cubes into a joined shape, only they mean it in a different, sexy manner, sir. It sounds real bad.’

‘Oh god.’

‘Yes sir. You shouldnt profane sir.’

The humans in their short-lived wisdoms had again reinvented some forbidden deviancy. They did this every so often. Always dressed up in the fancy words of the times. Filael had to nip this in the bud. Before word reached his superiors. ‘You’re quite right, Minnael. I apologise. Now be an angel and fetch me some ambrosia, would you?’

Minnael hesitated. ‘But sir, we’re still on duty.’

‘Oh dont be such a prude. We’re going to need some liquid courage for whatever comes next. Both of us.’ Minnael jumped up and leaped out the room, turning in the air. He would be gone for some time. 

Filael sighed. The closer the end times approached, the harder his job seemed to get. As a species they were still children, but on the whole humanity had grown by leaps in the last several thousand years. Soon their souls would be ready to ascend or descend on their own merits, and the cycles would expire. 

The Lord God had bid the humans with secret tasks to mark their capabilities and maturity, and they’d achieved much of them in little time, particularly of late. All this meant Filael had fewer levers to pull whenever they inevitably backslided, however. Like with this recent poly…cube business. Fewer levers and more red tape. God, where was Minnael and that damned ambrosia?

Filael crunched some quick numbers. The department was running short on catastrophes this deep into the fiscal epoch. He couldnt afford to not be judicious with what was left. Shuffling his reports absentmindedly, one particular form slipped from his grasp. A happy accident to most of lower existence, but Filael recognised his Lord’s mark where it deigned to touch. It was a series of cursory graphs of the recent explosions in agriculture, energy and the human population.

‘What is the meaning of all this Filael?’

The booming voice of Archangel Gabriel seemed to emanate from every corner.

‘Gabriel, sir. Unto you be peace.’ Filael stumbled over his salutations. ‘How good of you to visit us sir.’

The Archangel Gabriel burst into the room, in all his magnificence and splendour. Minnael trotted not far behind, sheepishly. Trust a rat to rat.

‘I’m a busy being, Filael. My presence here means my absence elsewhere. Tell me, Filael, why young Minnael here has escalated a report on his superior, outside the chain of command?’

Filael felt his throat tightening. ‘It’s just some ambrosia sir. To grease the wings, you know?’

‘What?’ The great angel seemed puzzled. ‘What’s ambrosia to do with this poly-nonsense?’

‘Oh. That.’

Gabriel poked a radiant finger into Filael’s chest. ‘Do you have any idea how long it took to institute monogamy? Of course you dont.’

‘Truly the end times, sir.’ Minnael added, shaking his head disapprovingly. What a little ass-kisser he’d turned out to be. But even from the mouth of fools came jewels.

‘And that is exactly the problem, sir.’

‘I dont have time for silly games, Filael, so out with it. Say it straight and tell it true.’

‘The humans excel in resource extraction sir. They’ve learned to pull much of the Lord’s bounty from the earth, as intended. So much so that in sheer quantities, they’ve exceeded what we’d allotted for them.’ 

Gabriel snatched the graph Filael presented him with. ‘They’re ahead of schedule, yes.’

‘So ahead of schedule, sir, that they’re depleting the quality. So ahead of schedule sir, that they’ve exceeded maximum soul capacity.’

‘That’s not possible.’ Gabriel grabbed at the other graphs Filael held up.

‘Their ingenuity seems to have presented us with unforeseen problems. The matter of the golem-bodies. Those bodies born without souls.’

‘I’m aware of those anomalous reports. They’re not included in our figures.’

‘I know sir. I propose something similar in some ways and entirely the opposite in others.’

‘Go on.’

‘With the population boom, suppose souls were reincarnating faster than they were expiring. With more and more bodies readily available to house them, is it possible some souls might be pulled into multiple bodies?’

‘We’re talking of partial-souled humans roaming the earth.’

‘Is it any crazier than the automaton golem-bodies? It’s the next sign of the end times, I’m sure of it.’

Minnael the rodent seemed to come alive. ‘The partial souls are attracting. Just like soulmates do.’ So proud of reaching four with two and two presented to him.

‘Exactly. Thus the polycube phenomenon. It’s literally a sign of the end times sir. There’s nothing to be done about it.’

The great Archangel Gabriel considered all before turning away. ‘Come. Both of you. Ambrosia’s on me.’

How convenient of me
to brush aside explicit duties
handwaving away laborious letter
in favour of spirit

When every act and breath is worship and love
then prayers seem vulgar, fucking

But God is only ever found in the down-dirty details, the blue-collar slog
and not in the seductions of sloth, nor flights of fancy, the comfortable shirking of duties

“Evening prayers in the desert” by Otto Pilny

We are the sleep-singers
secreted away in our worship
scattered to four winds and buried underground like seeds
coming up for air and rare sun like cicadas

Since society’s dawn we have sacrificed our nights
that The Great Dreamer may slumber in peace

Insignificant as we are, perhaps He does not hear
our unending Song
but what else is there to do?

Art: “Dreamtime Sisters” by Colleen Wallace Nungari

“Dernière Torture” / “Last Torture”, an oil painting by Belgian artist Tony Louis Cypher Rocmans

In the span of a hundred years we eradicated all known diseases and achieved effective immortality. We’d fought long and hard amongst ourselves to gain access to the means and methods, to scale production globally. It felt worth it back then.

Wars broke out more readily over limited food and resources. 

In the span of another hundred years, we made impossible all forms of suicide and murder. The prospect of a true death was stolen from us – was made as impossible as tax evasion. All newborns were fated to eternal yokedom. 

Our hungers transfigured into an unquenchable thirst for death. The institutions of the predecessors eventually crumbled to dirt, but it was too late for our species. Civilisation had died the day we no longer could.

Within another hundred years we had concocted a thousand new sadistic tortures of the mind and body to inflict upon one another, but we could not find an antidote to life. Such respite we had evolved beyond and could no longer return to.

You do not know true suffering – cannot know true suffering – until you have spent millennia alone on a barren world scurrying, broken and bereft. That is how our race live now, scattered amidst the stars. We hide from one another in fear, knowing what one would do to the other. Captivity and a moment’s joy in companionship at last. And then, always the unfolding of horrors unimagined, unique to the damaged psyche of that specific captor. Both roles blur into one. We bore of our play-things, of the perpetual mind-rape and bodily destructions, and toss them aside, and in turn are ourselves caught and tortured by fellow men.

Such is our existence. Vast epochs of lonely wandering, given meaning only by the briefest opportunity to inflict pain upon our kindred kind.

Predecessor. You who have found my scrawling, whenever you are. You do not know what lays ahead for mankind. You do not know true suffering and despair. You can never know the delights of unmaking a mind as you please. And you will never know what it means to feel time.

Artwork: “Dernière Torture” / “Last Torture”, an oil painting by Belgian artist Tony Louis Cypher Rocmans
(click the image for more)

Animated cavorters of debauchery
emerge from the peripheries, cartwheeling
manifest excesses of the great demonic five –
envy, greed, lust, wrath, pride –
enabled as ever by the little serpents

But the forecast of violent orgies goes awry,
for nurtured evils pale beside man’s base nature lain dormant
by necessity until these end days
though Moloch and Baal may rile spirits in true bodily possessions,
they cannot compare to what lurks deeper in the bones

Heretofore latent indolence
latent as only indolence could be
gelatinous sloth and gluttonous fear
congealing, amorphous
a safe spineless sludge state
licensed by our self-made tools

Perhaps a fiery demons’ hell is preferable to such a return
into man’s own primordial Chthonic underworld

Does anybody believe Stockport is a real place? Spoiler warning to outsiders: it’s not.

It’s an inside joke between true northerners, little more than a winking jibe at our past. As pretend as the mad hatter. 

It’s the haunted tale of a place hidden in smog, inhabited by wheezing ghouls and the restless spirits of the never-were.

A liminal town, cosy in its eternal withered state – somehow just as near its demise now as when the old mills first shut.

It’s the wistful return to policemen walking their beat and knowing your name. Of horse-drawn carriages and polite manners.

A paradox to be teased out if you would compile the urban myths. Somehow a love letter to both small talk gossip with strangers and the quaint knowing of everyone of everyone else. 

Stockport is the dream of cityfolk reeling from their busy lives, a fantasy concocted by the sick collective.

If we must hold court in secret, so be it
If the price of progress is hidden toil
we gladly pay it

Those savages who would jeer us in the street
and prostrate before stones they carved,
or worse, the same animals they would feast upon for supper
If we left the great shaping to those mindless brutes, there would be no morning to wake to

We, the number counters,
builders of tomorrow,
who bow to no god but the highest number
that maximal parameter of the known universe
the ultimate concept

We who forsake sleep to count every night
that we may expand upon the boundaries of knowledge, that we may creep closer to God, that final number

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