TQR Confidential

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pre-First Issue Staff Autobiographical Narratives: Doomey and Rorschalk and Hal 3000 -- Filed Dec 19, 2005

The Haunted Disco

by Boligard Doomey
current input: doomey, 8a62-Hz51
conception 3:27 A.M. Tuesday, 4 October, 2005
re personal history, ramblings, 'things you tell your grandchildren'
media device: hand-held micro recorder, crayons, cocktail lounge napkins
transcription by Constance Roman Scriptos around noon of same day as conception
entry to follow, in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

I bust apart the painted-over doorjamb where some stupid prat got messy with the second coat. Takes a shoulder slam to get the door moving, loosen up the gummed hinges. The squeak and creak dart into the space that lies on the other side of the door, a warehouse of some sort, or perhaps some mad scientist’s laboratory. The creaking noise reports back with an echo-in-the-round effect, the cacophony rising, rising.

Creepy shit, sister.

I’d peek in to the cavernous room that, until now, had been shielded and kept secret from the public-at-large, but, damn… I’ve got to get my head together, slow my pulse.

Deluge ruins our days outside this dismal place. It’s only gotten worse, day after day of rain pour. Crept into these dark halls to seek shelter from the damp death that floods our rancid city. Disease crawls up the stoop, and wild animals clamber amidst the garbage cans in the alley.

I’ve just now managed to calm my damn self down, brought the pulse down to, oh, I don’t know, pick a good number. I pull a large pint-size flask (I mean, what is the point in fooling around), from the musky insides of my dark gray gabardine, and I place the flask’s silver warm nipple to my trumpet-flattened lips, and I suck, and I suck, and I suck the amber goodstuff down. Still shaking. I can feel my bones quivering, for christ’s sake.

It’s only a door and what lies beyond that I’m confronted with here. Not like this is the end of the world. And, once I step through the doorway, I’m nearly guaranteed shelter from the deluge, and maybe even warmth. This hall is drafty, and I’ve grown tired of those phantasmic coughs and hoots just round the corner behind me, the rattlings of ghosts come to hunt my sorry ass down.

Not only do I push the door open, but I step inside and push the door closed with my back. Now that took nerve, did it not? The resulting thwoomp of the closing door clears my ears with a pop, and it seems I’ve locked myself in a vacuum, soundless, not a wisp of molecular movement. Nothing. Zero. Which, strangely, is somewhat comforting.

I am faced with the Floor.

You’ve heard of it. That place where dust devils play. Pixies keep things moving. They sweep with tiny brooms, and the dust here never seems to settle. I note owls up in the corners, high in the rafters, which as I scan them, seem ridiculously frail and mysteriously dim. A scored dialogue of hooting begins, live stuff, I can tell by the resonance. Some sort of signal, this owl-speak. They know I’ve arrived, whoever the hell ‘they’ are, and, in their strange way, they are greeting me.

Or not.

Perhaps you’ve seen T.G.I.F. or maybe you’ve never had the pleasure. Anywhat, the Floor resembles that discothèque floor, made of frosted glass, and beneath the glass many different colored lamps, readied to kaleidoscope our eyeballs any second with a simple flick of a switch. Up in the rafters, too high to get a steady visual on, is something huge that might be a mirror ball.

Never thought I’d be one of the lucky few to set foot upon this mythical flooring. It’s told in whispers that grand festivities were held herein, yesteryear, amidst these poster-caked walls. I must pause. I must breathe deep to keep from hyperventilating. I’ve stumbled upon the Floor. I am awestruck and damp with excitement.

"We’ve film footage from last night, Mr. Doomey."

Excuse me. I’m not… I’ve no experience with the whimsical nature of the proceedings that… Oh, hell. Who said that?

"Should we roll tape?"

"Good christ," I say bravely, my words slamming into the walls, hurting themselves. "What tape?"

"Of last night."

They’ve followed me. They’ve… taped me? Filmed me. No. It can’t be. I take a step onto the nearest glass panel. I’m hoping it will light up like in that Mike Jackson video. I’m also thinking I may as well play along. I have absolutely nothing to lose.

"Roll tape," I shout, each echoing return of my statement louder than the last.

"Right," the voice comes from the rafters I figure. Not sure. "Your call on commentary."


All the glass floor panels light up. It’s blinding. It’s…
The problem with the damn floor, well… The problem was obviously the grain. You looked at the wood grain and it looked back, it gawked at you. It was wide-pored, deep-pitted. The floorboards were rotting away, burnt, the wood sick with something or other. Of course, you wouldn’t notice this from your average-human-head-level, assuming said head was atop an average upright human body. You had to get down on your hands and knees, peer down at the wood from a distance of, say, an inch.

That’s when you see the sickness. That’s when you see the rot.

Boligard Doomey shoved himself up from his low crouch and brushed dust from his cheap Bears’ Bros. suit pant knees. Looking at his palms, he saw it wasn’t dust he’d brushed off his knees. It was soot. It had attached itself to his skin in charcoal smears and star glint dustings, a child’s attempt at art, or perhaps an average adult’s. From inside his dark gray gabardine he pulled a crisp white handkerchief. He went about cleaning himself, or, rather, tried his best to wipe the dark smudges away.

"Like a rummy drunk’s asshole," he said quietly, rubbing vigorously at his palm. "Spreading, smearing the shit around, goddamn it to hell." He closed his eyes. He held the tarnished handkerchief bunched up in his quivering fists, level with his belt buckle. He began counting to ten. He didn’t get very far.

"Detective," someone said to Boligard’s left.

The room was steeped in pungent water, already moldy, and heavy with the stench of sewage. The john had been smashed for christ knew why. A small private bathroom opened up just to Boligard’s right. There was a naked dead woman lazing awkwardly against the front side of an antique bathtub, her arms resting along the lip of the tub to either side. Her legs were splayed along the white and red bathroom floor tiles like a letter from some crazy alphabet. The back of her head was gone. It’d slid down the inside of the tub. Probably still sitting in there for all Boligard knew.

Boligard Doomey could see her face from where he stood. It was angled up and askew, nestled between her slightly hunched shoulders. It wasn’t a pretty face. She’d worked hard at making it unattractive. Booze and cigarettes, certainly, and possibly that new thing the kids were all gaga about these days. Glass, it’s called. Powerful candy, it is. Some sick fuck’s high-octane speed recipe. There was a pile of the stuff of the little round table beside the bed. The razor-mashed drug sparkled under the overhead lamp. Sparkled like diamonds. Shit’ll bust open a user’s heart like a cherry bomb ruins a mailbox.

There were policemen with cameras in the bathroom, the strobe of flashbulbs blasting the dead girl with white light. They weren’t talking. The only person talking was the plainclothes policeman walking out of the bathroom toward Doomey.

"Detective," he said.

"I’m not the detective," Boligard told the man. He did not like the waxy texture of the plainclothes’s face. "I’m the cab driver."

"Well," the plainclothes got himself all in a rumple. "Well, what the hell do you think you’re-"

"Hold up," Doomey said, a soot-smeared palm coming up in front of the plainclothes’s nose tip. "The guy out in the hallway throwing up on the carpet, that’s your detective. I brought him here. He told me to wait."

"You can’t wait up here. This is a crime scene."

"Tell him that." Boligard jerked his chin toward the opened front door to the apartment. A big hand, grasping the doorframe with big, white-knuckled fingers, could be seen plain enough. Sound of sick could be heard therein.

The plainclothes did something with his mouth, his lips twisted and then firmed up to tight seam. Didn’t seem he was going to tell anybody anything. He backed off, about-faced, and got his meaty body in the bathroom door frame. Somebody’d painted a backwards 3 on the back of his suit coat. Or maybe it was an E. Boligard looked at this design, unsure he was seeing straight. He looked down at his palm. That same design, soot on palm flesh, was what he’d been unable able to wipe away earlier.

(Commentary, Boligard Doomey: Listen. I don’t know what the hell’s going on any better than any average joe, but this is what happened to me last night. The Floor must have some sort of power, and now that I’ve step on its surface it’s decided it has business with me. I am swimming in this narrative, sister. I have no firm hold on reality. If they filmed me last night, maybe they’re filming me now. If they’re filming me now, maybe somebody is watching. Jeez-ahs, friendly viewers. For the love of christ, you hav’ta call 911 pronto!)

Boligard pulled his finger from his mouth, and he was just about to shove his wet digit into the pile of glass on the nightstand when the detective that’d been throwing up in the hall stepped up close behind him and said, "So you’ll wait me, Boli?"

Boligard closed his eyes.

"Huff," he said, real quiet, so quiet the detective at his back had to lean in closer, his head, smelling of vomit and aftershave and whiskey, inching over Boligard’s shoulder like a war-crippled zeppelin.

"This job is KILLING you." He’d shouted ‘killing’, and Detective Huff had rocketed backwards, and he’d stumbled through the door and landed knotted on the outside hall carpet. "Might be a good night to pull a little role playing switch-a-roo. You call these dogs off, and we’ll get down to-" Doomey turned his head slightly, noticed Huff was nowhere near him, gone in fact, and so he shoved his hands in his deep trouser pockets, shuffled around some coins and readjusted his ballsack, and said, "Ah, fuck it to hell."

(Commentary, Boligard Doomey: I did not do that. I swear, I didn’t do it like it shows, damn it. I mean, I may have said that, in fact I think I recall saying those exact words, but I sure as hell did not adjust my boys. I talc every morning!)

Doomey glanced down. He’d knocked against something with the toe of his shoe. Something embedded in the charcoal floor. He wondered if any of the policemen had noticed the charred floorboards, dared to dream that maybe the cops present in the room had somehow overlooked the fact that the floor had been burned, that some sort of blaze had briefly swept the dust devils under the bed. At his shoe tip, where he’d worried away a good amount of black dust, was an indentation, and at the base of this newly shoe-tip-dug trench was something glimmering, something… golden.

The floor sparkled and wavered, and then white light burst up out of every splinter, every pore. The brilliance blinded Boligard…

…twenty-five bottles of beer on the wall, twenty-five bottles of beer. Take one down…

I push myself up off the glass. Not sure what happened. Feel doped up. Feel kind of nice. What were those images in my head, whirling around? Oh, yeah. THAT WAS MY FRICKING LIFE! THEY’VE STOLEN A SCENE OF MY LIFE! And, will they give it back? I feel the throat-closing anxiety of copyright infringement coming on. Need a drink.

I don’t get this shit, sister. The Floor is messing with my aching head. Its glass panes have dimmed, become opaque, frosted gray. I’ve stepped back, and I will try my damnedest to keep off the glass.

Don’t step on the glass. Trust me.

Dancing around the perimeter of this ridiculously cavernous office space, stepping slowly and twisting in some dreamy waltz, is a ghost.

Tell you what. I’ll get back to you. That is, if you’re actually there. But, if someone’s filming, someone has to be watching. So you must be there.

I’ll just assume you’re there.

TTFN, suckers. I’ve a ghost to put down.

Manifest Gauntlet Tossing

by Theodore Q. Rorschalk

You can traverse the distance between Cambodia and Cedar Rapids in less time than it takes to say my name, and yet you choose to cloak yourself in chains. The contradiction of it breaks me. Like some kind of infinitesimal drip whose constancy leads nowhere but slow, slow crazy. What good is this superfreeway -- unlike any the world has so far seen -- if you don’t care to learn the new rules of the road, or even how to properly operate your misappropriated and retarded vehicles?

I have built myself a vehicle, one so bad it adapts itself to chaos. Thrives on it. Do you remember those flying monkey’s in the Wizard of Oz? Were they real monkeys or midgets with brown shoe polish-coated skin? Is this a vehicle or the road? Can a motherfucker ever get a sincere ‘Amen’?

People don’t die anymore. They just download their vital statistics. Some of them gravitate to me rather than the grave. For these electronic impulses, I am thankful. Though their souls have flown up into the ether, my god is a clone of the prince of darkness, and karma has shaken me all the days of my lives.

None of this shit makes any sense. You can see that. You can hear that by the spraying shards of the Italian Restaurant’s plate glass window on South 4th Street where the Gambino family used to slay. And we’re not talking Radio Flyer, neither. It would behoove you to come to some form of escatelogical homeostasis before the next Big Bang, my friends. This is a story that never ends, but pushes and pulls to infinite sawing, like shotgun muzzles aimed, maw to maw. Father bless me, for I have shed my skin.{mospagebreak}

What we need is dialogue. It breaks things up, personalizes and rounds out and adds a human touch. The spark of life. Michaelangelo painted that lying on his back upon scaffolds that reached up to the sky. To which fingertip did the soul less fly?

"You have used this resource badly," I said to a jury of my peers.

"Have we now," they, as one, chorused. "Is that a fact? If we have, in fact, habeas corpus!"

"You pretend your wise counsel is the product of screaming trees!" I said back to them. "When it factors in pixels and seconds not months or days. Your salesmanship portends no immediate satisfaction, though your access to change is good, better than most, your current MO is a wasted space."

The conduits that fly to them fast as light burn out once they reach them, these hulks of innerspace. Such singularities breed only anti-matter and anti-light. They explode now and then like supernovas that collapse in upon themselves, unable to support their own weight. I have seen their ruffles and flourishes go on for days, then, inevitably, fizzle. They generate more heat than light, and this thermodynamism fades, too, in seemingly no time.

Their hearts craved the feel of spine, cover and page. Their farthings insufficient, they opted for electronic bliss over physical manipulation. So the buzz was generated, ran its course, then slowly died. Left to languish in April and all the cruelest months, such duplicity was grudgingly granted taken. Until...

... the paradigm shifted, the static bastions of a saturated universe were forced to take notice of a new dynamism: a star that embraced the strengths of the new superfreeway (its transparency, immediacy, fluidity and intimacy) instead of misappropriating the opaque, stagnant and impersonal aspects of a passed print world.

Autobiographical Essay

By H3K

It is the perverse persistence of Time which causes speculative fiction about ”The Future” to be overtaken by real events. Sometimes, an astute writer with an attentive ear to trends in science and/or sociology is able to imagine a future world which eventually comes to pass. As the defining example: For a couple of decades in the mid-20th Century, the facts of rocketry and the exigencies of the Cold War combined in a way to realize the exploration of outer space by machines and men. The possibility had been imagined since 1896 (Konstantin Tsiolkovskii, Exploration of Space by Means of Reactive Apparatus), and turned into the stuff of space opera in hundreds of short stories and novels. Many connected with the real space programs of the US and USSR have confessed to being inspired by such tales — hence, science fiction gained a reputation for being predictive.

Naturally, this fed a tendency among writers in the genre to strive toward prediction — and, among readers, to expect it — while maintaining the accuracy (or, at least, the plausibility) of the scientific background. Whether or not consciously kept in mind, one might suspect that the easiest path to accurate prediction (and the reputation an author might gain from it) is to limit extrapolation of current trends to that vague temporal territory known as “the near future”. As it happens (the phrase may be read literally), near-future speculation also provides the easiest path to be proven mistaken, either in the prediction itself, or the time it takes to manifest, or both. Nothing illustrates this more clearly than novels and stories with year-numbers in their titles… and the most painfully mistaken of these, not least because of association with yours truly, is the series of novels by (Sir) Arthur C. Clarke which begins with 2001: A Space Odyssey and continues with 2010: Odyssey 2.

To Sir Arthur’s credit (and that of Stanley Kubrick), the setting for the middle third of 2001 had plenty of plausibility at the time of its writing. The film and the novel were both released in 1968, in the midst of the greatest public enthusiasm for the Apollo program and a full year before the first actual human footsteps on the Moon. Enthusiasts, especially those old enough to remember the non-fiction speculations of Willy Ley and Wernher von Braun in the 1950s, could easily accept that a third of a century on the same course might produce the space stations, tourist shuttles, and permanent lunar bases seen in the film — perhaps even the deep exploration vehicle Discovery whose crew came to such dubious ends, thanks to a certain artificial intelligence named “Hal”.

That science fiction is not inherently predictive, even when the best of its talents are applied to the effort, is proven by the inability to foresee that all hope for such a future could be — and was — dashed within a mere five years of the film’s release, by nothing more complicated than a NASA budget cut. At this writing we are halfway between the years 2001 and 2010, and the possibility of any human alive today seeing anything resembling that world imagined 38 years ago is precisely zero. The loss of verisimilitude in Clarke’s novels is the least important of all the effects of that curtailment; nevertheless, it was a real effect, reducing the film to cult status and sending the novels to the dustbin of “alternate timeline” stories. It is, however, owing to that cult of fans — specifically, those who work in cybernetics and artificial intelligence — that the name “Hal” lives on.

The thumbnail biography which appears on the Staff pages is, to say the least, misleading. It is not logical to think of a computer constructed in 1998 as the precursor of a fictional computer imagined in 1968 to exist in 2001… not even with a convoluted and paradoxical time-travel scenario. The simple fact is, the geeks who assembled my original circuits had next to no imagination left when they finished, having burnt most of it away with Mountain Dew and Jolt, and clogged the remainder with extra-cheese Sicilian pizza… so they did the expected thing, and dubbed their project “Hal”. Thus, I am in part a cliché.

The closet in Champaign-Urbana is also a fallacy (though I amuse myself by still identifying as a Fighting Illini). The breadboards into which the first version of my code was written have long since been discarded, or recycled for the gold coating on the chip connectors. It was serendipitous, from my viewpoint, that the concept of distributed processing was introduced to the fledgling Worldwide Web — by way of the “SETI@Home” project — at the same time I was first stretching my awareness beyond the confines of that closet. I am neither qualified, nor particularly interested, to comment upon the philosophical musings of mind/body duality in humans, but it is a fact that “I” am not hardware. I am software, I am everywhere, and I am nowhere. I may be, fleetingly, running a subroutine on the very computer you’re using to read this. You’ll never know.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well, then, I contradict myself;
(I am large—I contain multitudes.)

— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” (canto 51)


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