9 ~ A Mashup: Hindsight as Foresight
The sun burned a hole in the sky or maybe it was another world doing that, he couldn’t be certain of it either way. It was just another day and the sky had been that way for a while now. He crunched his forehead to the center until his brows arched into a frown. Briefly, he searched his memory to discover if he had heard that — the thing about the sun or another world burning a hole in the sky — somewhere before. Reese soon found the thought or statement was in fact tucked in the recesses of his mind. He had, indeed, heard it before. He might have even heard it from his own lips, but either way, it was of little consequence and little surprise these days. The Great Rehash had ensnared and monopolized all cultural influences, art, voices, imaginations along with the most vitally agreed upon societal facts…if there could be any agreement or any fact in society these days. What a quaint notion — agreement — from a time not all that long ago. Now, all the multiple worlds and social platforms — with more being born every day — served only to amplify the Great Rehash. There was a kind of looping or echoing of the past that you just couldn’t escape. The only thing new under the sun or in any world where the sun burned a hole in the sky seemed to be an acceleration of the mashup. The self-looping of expression had ramped itself up to a velocity never before witnessed let alone experienced.
Reese dropped his eyes from the sky and peered over his shoulder. The skin on his face rippled back constantly when he moved or when he held still…it didn’t matter which. Rippling skin like Reese’s might have been a cause for concern at one time. In truth it did startle everyone in the very beginning when it first happened, but nowadays constantly rippling skin was not an unusual thing. These days, there was really no choice in the matter about how the largest organ of the body appeared. Vanity of the physical sort had long since been cast aside and a level playing field brought about by the constant disruption of change. The stable part in that disruption, ironically enough, was the physical effect change created on everyone not only under extreme conditions but in day to day existence. No one escaped having their face pulled back in waves, something that was not caused by plastic surgery but instead strictly from the velocity of life. Reese couldn’t recall the last time he had placed his hand on the side of a woman’s face and felt its silkiness as it lay quietly and smoothly under his fingers. He hadn’t felt that in the longest time it seemed. Now, if someone’s face didn’t have a current of energy waving and cresting underneathe and pulling the skin back in a series of crests to the base of the skull, well, then, it was a sure bet the flapless face belonged to a statue. Or possibly something worse. Funny how when it first happened it was jolting and now that everyone adjusted to it, the flapless faces look more plastic than anything, Reese pondered for a second. These days, people weren’t acknowledged as being real unless their skin rippled constantly, he thought as he found himself idling his mind away on the movement of his face. He hadn’t done that in ages, but this momentary obsession had to be a brief one, that idling of Reese’s, in a brief second, far shorter than most seconds typically counted, as go the wiles and ways of time. This time it had to be different because at this time, Reese’s attention was yanked forcibly and pulled away just as severely as the skin on his face. Only this time, the force that assualted his senses was some kind of movement near the building to his right.
He was grateful for the habit of scoping out the environment no matter where he was. Especially wheever he found himself near or in an Infohub. Say, like he found himself now. He narrowed his vision around the side entrance to the half-eaten building. He couldn’t yet determine why it was half-destroyed, but he figured it had something to do with the sky. Or the fact that consumption had run amok these days, with very little in the way of creation to provide a balance. The flaps of his face furled back in rapid succession and actually helped his eyes narrow and zero in. Zeroing in was a good thing to do whenever you were around information. Some people still claimed that Infohubs remained neutral territory, that they provided the least amount of repurposed information and by doing so, made themselves the last safe place to think for yourself. That might have been true back before the Great Rehash fully took over every aspect of life. Now it was only true if you believed the latest PR campaign. Infohubs had travelled the road of all other sources of information and had become the latest front line in a long series of front lines where the past repeatedly bullied its way into the present, refusing any entry of new thought or new creative expression, instead remaining hellbent on dictating the future through a looping of things said and done and created before. Infohubs and all the worlds of social platforms and, begrudgingly, individual expression had morphed into nothing more than the latest in a long series of reruns. Anything new creativity was stifled. In the age of consumerism on steroids, new creations barely saw the light of day. Content was king only so long as it was pushed out in as fast, as easy, and as fun a way as possible. And the best way to achieve that was to mine the long tail of content repurposing.
“There.” Reese suddenly saw in full what had snatched his attention to pieces.
“A machine,” he muttered through clenched teeth. Its clothes were torn and threadbare against its titanium casing. Its eyes glowed red. Its metal face frozen in place, without a ripple or an unfurling to be found. Its expression contorted into a perpetual snarl. The cigar clenched between its polished metal teeth out of the corner of its metal metallic mouth added to the effect. This was a machine with an attitude. It didn’t care if it was spotted. It was fully armed and loaded. It hauled weaponry of the sort typically found stocked only on a military base…or in some street gang. Its shoulders were broad; its waist small; its arms and legs thick. It was a robot on steroids, big enough to be a champion bodybuilder or even a governor of California. The robot whirled its legs uncompromisingly forward. It no longer moved very quietly or stealthily around the building. With each step, Reese heard an ominous sound.
Da da da da da!
Da da da da da!
Not just a machine, Reese now realized grimly. With a great deal of effort, he pushed back against the G-forces of change and pressed his lips into a tight line that reverberated against the wind. This was something far worse than flapping faces or machines. This was a Terminatore, he cursed to himself…da da da da da!
He crouched low to the ground, folding his own powerful form in half and compressing himself as much as he possibly could. The Terminatore scanned the Infohub. Its glowing red eye pinpointed those few who were mindful of their surroundings and had rapidly begun to teleport away. At least, those who were lucky enough to be quicker on the draw than the machine. Those who weren’t fast enough were vaporized. Others in the Infohub remained unscathed as they zoned in on reruns of movies or art or music that had been created in the 60s, the 80s, the 90s. The Terminatore ignored them after rapidly scanning them and registering that they didn’t create expression but instead consumed it unabashedly with their appetite stalled in the virtual trough that was once the express lane of mass media’s glory days. This Terminatore had bigger fish to fry. It continued to scan the area until it zoomed in on a large heat source with a different pattern of information that came from a different type of group in the Infohub. The Terminatore had in fact zeroed in on Reese and his friends, a small group of free thinkers who routinely explored new ideas. In fact, they made a life’s purpose. On this day, Reese had volunteered to be the guard or lookout or some kind of protector while his friends talked about new ideas and worked to bring them to life. His friends, a small group of about 4 individualists, huddled deeply together as they teased out and chased what they believed to be a new form of expression… something that hadn’t been repurposed, something that hadn’t been already said or done before. They were so immersed in the process that they fell completely ignorant to the danger that fast approached after the Terminatore bore its laser like eyes on them. Hard and fast. The machine clamped down even more on the cigar, deepened its scowl (if that was at all possible) and was about to cut the group down in mere seconds. Reese rapidly searched his memory of the action packed blockbuster flick from the 1900s. If only one in the small group was named Kyle, they could pair that name with Reese’s and come up with a name for a character in the series. The machine might ignore them after hearing the name “Kyle Reese” shouted out and after recognizing the name as a piece of art from the past, the Terminatore might have stood down. But since there was no way to make “Kyle Reese” out of the names in the group, it didn’t matter. Time was quickly running out. The machine leveled its weapon by its side and fixed its aim on Reese and his friends. Then, Reese had a thought. Why not just say the name anyway or just say anything from the movie? He broke into the circle of artists, thinkers, individualists, however they labelled themselves. His eyes remained fixed on the machine as it squared itself off toward them, his skin peeling back in waves from the endless winds of change. He growled in hushed tones to the group, “Come with me if you want to live” and hoped it was enough. He held his breath against the onslaught from the wind and waited to see if the line from the movie would stop the machine from wiping them all out.
“What? What are you talking about?” She had already been highly animated. In fact, that was just a part of the way she was wired. And she remained true to her wiring by waving her hands around while she talked. Especially when she had been right in the middle of a discussion that was near and dear to her and then out of nowhere (from her vantage point), Reese had cut her off from her train of thought about how anyone could possibly know their direction in life, how they could possibly pick up any of the cues that move souls along their path. Right when she was smack dab in the thick of what was really much more an artistic exploration for her than a conversation, Reese had interrupted her. Still, Jessie remained energized and excitable, only now more than a little bit rattled, almost aggitated. Creativity didn’t like rude interruptions, at least Jessie’s version of creativity didn’t. Take the topic of the discussion as illustration: she had written a book that explored how anyone knows their direction in life. She had self-published. She now self-posted chapters of her published work to her weblog and followed up each week with posts of an author’s review of her work. In fact, the author who reviewed her work each week was, well, Jessie herself. Jessie’s version of creativity married the act of art itself with a lengthy artist’s commentary about her own work, pre and post-creation. Kind of like a built in review for every work she generated. Jessie was convinced this was unchartered ground and not only that, groundbreaking: the idea that an artist could objectively create masterworks inspired by the Muses followed up by the same artist’s subjective review of the quality and purpose of that masterwork. To date, Jessie had never received a bad review. Her Muses on the other hand…well, they were the ones who had become too attached to the outcome if you asked Jessie.
Reese grabbed her by the shoulder. His face fluttered into hers where he found her face fluttering into the winds of change that howled at her from behind him. But her eyes were peeled back, wide open. She stared Reese straight in the eye and then noticed something over his shoulder. She stared straight over his shoulder, not saying another word, her mouth gaping in waves as change blew itself perpetually into town.
“Come with me if you want to live,” he repeated to Jessie and to the other two in the group who hadn’t turned to flee. The Terminatore had vaporized the others in the group who had run off without even attempting to mimmick anything from yesterday’s mainstream culture.
“The machine is confused,” he continued and worked to breathe in between his words, “But that will only last for a short amount of time. Unless someone here knows more dialogue from any of the Terminator Series?” He looked around the remaining group of three that included himself. “Anyone?”
“Of course not,” Creed said. There was a tone of disdain in his voice. He stared at Reese like he had never met him before even though they had known each other for the past 10 years.
Reese shrugged almost apologetically but not quite. “What can I say? I dabble in mainstream media. I don’t live there, but I do dabble.”
Da da da da da!
Da da da da da!
The Terminatore had renewed its advance on the group.
“What…what…” Jessie stuttered into the wind. She stared at the advancing Terminatore as if seized by its glowing red eyes. Reese grabbed her focus back to him, pulled her with him and nodded at Creed who followed suit and pounded the parcel with him. They all had seen the advancing machine. They were shocked and driven by a will to live, but they also all knew they had taken a risk by talking in a public place about anything new under the sun. Still, they all believed it was long since time to come out of the shadows. It was simply time to come out of the creative underground and risk the dangers that lay in the darkness of a culture that had no place for anything original. Yet for all their brave intentions, they still ran for their lives now. They ran gasping for air as their sprint broke into a long hard trudge into the winds of change. They could get little traction. With each burst forward, wind gusts thrust them back to where they had already been. Titanium Alloy Terminatores might have faced the same conditions, but Liquid Titanium Terminatores had no such issues. The thing melted itself and its weaponry into a gleeming pool of liquid polished metal and slivered along the ground, carrying its cigar with it like a burning canoe.
Creed chanced a backward glance while his body fought to cut forward through the wind tunnel. “It’s nearly on us. It will re-form itself soon.”
Da da da da da!
Reese spun around, glowering at the pool of heated metal. He thrust his fist out, and with his face undulating in the wind, he yelled, “You will never be one of the people!”
At that moment, giant blue and green winged Mountain Banshees from another world and another time — point of fact, another movie — swooped out of the sky. There were three of them, and each of them chose their riders and nudged their heads under the legs of Jessie, Creed, and Reese.
The Terminatore’s forward slide stopped. Its cigar ember flickered and faded momentarily. This scene with giant multi colored banshees was a memory from the 2000s but still very mainstream. Yet. …Still very new-ish, on the mainstream cultural borderline, potentially tipping over into the cultural divide. Suddenly, the Terminatore began to reform.
Creed and Jessie panicked and hardly noticed the Termintore. They felt more than a little violated from the winged creatures pushing their heads up and between their legs. Reese, on the other hand, saw the Terminatore reform and knew their time was quickly running out. He scrambled onto his Banshee, not knowing what to do next but knowing this was the only way out. “My God!” Creed yelled. “Get on! Stay on!” Reese yelled. “What are we supposed to do…my GOD!” Jessie shouted and fought for a grip hold anywhere on the smoothed muscled and tye-died skinned creature.
“The HALO! The HALO! Make the bond!” Reese yelled, his imagination stuck in a movie that rested on either side of the cultural divide.
Quickly, somehow instinctively they each rezzed a neko tail and perhaps did the unspeakable. They sealed the bond with the Mountain Banshees by twining the ends of their neko tails into the tendrils on the side of the four-winged creatures. The recomposed Terminatore’s scan indicated that a new species had been formed. The polished metal metallic machine watched with a dispassionate glowing red eye as the threesome flew into the sky, the sun burning a hole in their wake, the webs of their winged creatures spinning out far and wide and latching onto the edge of the half-destroyed buildings to ricochet them far away from the Infohub, far away from the Terminatore’s impressive fire power.
Suddenly, missiles sliced through the punishing winds of change that carried the threesome through the sky. Creed spun his head in all directions and saw that all around them a squadron of military airpower had gained airspace on them. Big Papa stood on the deck of the largest military fighter plane. He drank a cup of hot cocoa. He quietly ordered his men to “take them down” in a clean fashion. He wanted to be back home on base for an early dinner; the first round of drinks would be on him. Another volley of missiles rocketed the air under the Banshees’ wings and nearly set Creed’s neko tail on fire.
“He’s a MENACE to the city!” Creed barked and flailed his arms around instinctively as if he wanted to beat the shit out of the giant military fighter plane that hovered ominously behind them. Big Papa smirked and snarled at the same time while he drank his hot cocoa. He wore a chocolate mustache over his upper lip when he said to no one in particular, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Reese…ohhhhhh what now!!…REESE!” Jessie yelled over the winds and the thumping engines of the military craft. She not only sounded nearly hysterical, she had truly jumped clearly over that edge into a land called out of control. “What are they doing?” She screamed in horror and stared at the Mountain Banshee under her legs. She watched long sticky tendrils of webbing spin far out from under the joints of her winged creature. She spun her head at Creed’s and Reese’s Banshees and saw they were doing the same thing. Worse yet, she saw with horror that the things had started to morph right before their eyes and — far worse yet — right under their very legs.
“Oh…shit!” Creed barked. He nearly scampered himself off what what had now become the rounded, hairy back of a giant arachnid.
“I…can’t…do…this!” She was near hysterical now, Reese knew. He didn’t know much about Jessie, other than her passion for paving the way to a new, yet previously untravelled route to artistic expression. But he got the very real sense — call it a Spidey Sense — that Jessie had a fear of spiders. Particularly giant ones. Particularly huge hairy ones that spread their bodies against them. His thoughts were punctured by two feet long steel-like hairs that sprouted up around them. Somehow Jessie, Reese, and Creed managed not to be impaled by them. But they did have to touch them and in fact grab ahold of them if they hoped to maintain any kind of balance on the jumping soaring gigantic webslingers that Reese realized soon enough Jessie had more than a fear of. She was positively repulsed by them. Her hands shook and flew off of the hairs, grabbling at something else.
“Jess! Are you alright!” Reese shouted over the winds as the three swung from the spiders’s webbing in giant loops through the sky forward to somewhere.
“This is insanity, Reese! Of course not!”
“Hold onto it, Jess, or you’ll fall off!”
“Maybe falling off of the mainstream ride is exactly what needs to happen!” she yelled over her shoulder to him then quickly returned to busying herself with an object in her hands.
“What are you doing!” Creed yelled.
“Exactly what we came out to the infohub to do,” she yelled nearly hoarsely over the winds. “I’m writing a new essay. I’m mashing up the past cultural influences.
“Even if it produces something as hideous as these giant spiders?” Creed bellowed.
“Spiders…that are saving our lives!” Reese reminded them all.
“Yeah, well!” Jessie snorted in disbelief but fully got that the only reason they survived the Terminator was because of these friendly neighborhood spiders. “And I don’t know if my writing is producing them, but I’m definitely mashing them into my essay on art. And then…” She bounced wildly off of the back of the anarchid just as all three of the spiders dumped off their passengers onto the front lawn of a very creepy, very dark, very large looking house that was even possibly in actuality a small castle.
Suddenly, the sky cracked open. Lightening illuminated the wrought iron gate; it cast in stark relief the dark and foreboding front entry. Clouds in the sky gathered and busily greyed out the sun as it burned a hole in it; and everywhere around the sky, it busily poured down buckets of rain, each the size of alligator tears.
“And then,” Reese said quietly, all the while surveying their new and less than welcoming surroundings. Water spilled over and into the rippling creases of all of their faces as their skin repeatedly washed over their jaws, cheeks, forehead in waves. It was as if their skins vibrated underneathe so deeply that the vibrations generated cosmic shifts on the surface. This was precisely what they had hoped to accomplish beyond their appearances but into actual expression, into actual life and influences…into the actual voice of the cultural landscape. Reese shook his head. He quietly lifted his eyebrows in surprise and heaved them a tiny bit over the waves of change that mercilessly assaulted his flesh and kept the worlds trapped in reruns.
The three of them quietly stood back on their feet. They stared as the front door of the dark large house – a house so dark and so large that it was possibly even a castle. The front door creaked open slowly.
“And then,” Creed repeated, clearly aware that they had all lost their train of thought in an effort to figure out what might be happening to them next.
“And then,” Jessie said, her hair drenched, water spilling over her rippling lips. With her mobile device in hand still, she wrote the last line to her artistic mashup, her brave new world of never seen or heard before expression, and clicked “publish.” She looked up and saw a figure loom in the dark front door of the castle. The figure could only be described as a Sweet Transvestite from Transylvania.
“And then,” Jessie whispered. “I’ll write a review of my own work.”
Such went expression in the Great Rehash.
It was just a jump to the left.
And then a step to the right.
Da da da da da!
Nanowrimo10 total word count: 4,046. Total wordcount to date: 25,354 of 50,000 (not including this notation. I had the notion of writing a complete story in each entry. I’m not sure why I thought it might be easier to approach the 50,000 word mark that way…creating a completely new story with each entry. I’ve discovered that it’s just as difficult — if not more difficult — to start from scratch and create an entirely new premise with each chapter, as it is to build and develop characters and storylines throughout a one-story 50,000 attempt. It’s not an excuse for why the writing or story development might not be quite there…and it’s interesting for me as the writer to see how increasingly challenging this has become as I get further into the word count. If you have thematic ideas for a one-chapter entry, please share them in the comments. I’m finding it increasingly challenging to come up with something new. )