This text was written for the artist book Manual which is an artist’s book by Eline McGeorge that co-exists with an animation and a sound piece. It includes a story that bounces between abstract passages and clear cut narrative. We might be set in the future, and the story deals with the implication of digital technology, social structures and conventions as well as the manipulation of information and politics. It could be said that the protagonist is a subject in process and or crisis – trying to adapt to conditions that we may recognise from our day to day.
As with both other elements (the animation and the sound), the story weaves reality and abstraction; emerging from an engagement with the subject of being placed within a culture, a political system, a language, that may not feel like home. In McGeorge’s work, the interplay between forms produces a hybrid experimentation where the animation, sound piece and book all make an appearance across one another.
The characters in the story share names with titles of McGeorge’s work. They reflect on the background ideas of these works, which revolve around distorted places, spaces and characters and travel or navigation across them. Through abstraction and fragmented portrayal of these locations and characters, the artist engages with the politics and psychology that governs them. Individual titles of McGeorge’s works such as ‘Travelling Doubles’, ‘Ontological Candidate, Navigator’, ‘Departure of a Stranger’, ‘Amongst Familiar Strangers and Surveilled Spaces’, ‘Resumed Arrival’, ‘Possibility of Another Place’ and others often underline these concerns. For McGeroge, a turn to the non-figurative is a way to come to terms with other forms of abstraction – a way to describe and enter political, philosophical and psychological concepts.
Manual was produced Momentum 2009, Nordic Biennale for Contemporary Art, Moss, Norway.
The Heroine of this story;
the Letter Writer,
or some of
the Good Resident,
the Secret Agent…
disembarks the spaceship and enters the field.
Heroine is unclear of where the crossing is. There are no border markings. She doesn’t look back, can’t feel the transition, the sensors scanning her, identifying her and closing the door behind her.
The landscape contains a humiliating cold. Heroine is up against something that is bigger than her, which can make her insignificant if she stands still for too long. The Tourist does not know how to relate to the surroundings, can’t identify the changes in the weather and the signs of no-go zones.
Tracking an unshielded connection outside of the Golden Shield, another place with unlimited findings and access to the outdated or lost. Heroine imagines something somewhere that can take apart the disabling proportions of the Zonean information.
Somewhere, she thinks, information must be available, which looks right through the constructions of inevitable systems, unstoppable chain reactions, impossible peace and impossible wars. An independent distribution system that ignores fear cultivation and hypnotic Voices saying things like:
‘The uselessness of your
actions, captive in systems,
and ordained to take part in
Voices, that team up with manipulated and unreliable information, to confuse and obscure
the aims of Heroine’s actions and non-actions.
The cold sets on Tourist’s face, creeps in through her clothes and makes her think ‘this beauty is not for me.’ Somehow at home in this landscape, but alien, rejected, and in desperate need of a navigation system.
She finds a cloud and her computer connects, a sense of relief, as if this place was showing some kind of acceptance, mercy almost for the lost Tourist, the defeated Heroine.
But her search results are random and irrelevant, producing distorted maps and unrecognisable names. Maybe her software is incompatible, or the hardware even. To up grade or to down grade. But she has no time to trace the problem. The cold is cold enough to slow down the liquid crystals in her screen, to blur it, discharge the battery, make her fingers immobile and slow on the keyboard.
Anyway, what to search for with a navigator? Heroine knows of no names here. And the names of this place would not mean anything to her. She resigns from the cold into her thoughts.
To have a name and to understand names, she thinks, as the opposite of not having a name and not having any relation to other names. And, no, she didn’t get to read the Unnamable before she left, it was lying there, unread, on the desk, and later moved onto the shelf, unread. And anyway, that was just thoughts and not of much help out here.
How pathetic it would be, Heroine imagines, if for no purpose and no reason other than being exposed to the elements, she would cease. Exposed to the reality of a place, like any other creature outside of its habitat, not adapted, on the wrong planet. An over-domestic cat in the wild. Tourist is off the track, left behind, forgotten by the sightseeing bus.
Her fingers are stiff and typing is difficult. She feels sleepy and her mind drifts off course. She wonders what time it might be over there, inside the Zone. She has no idea, and why was she here? Oh, the excursion, a crazy fantasy, a moment of madness, the incredible intensions which had led her here.
And something is called computer ontology, information semiotics. Perhaps the computer belongs even less outside the Zone than herself. Being of another breed, another species, containing different processors and platforms.
And maybe they even navigate differently here.
She decides to shut down her computer, save battery until she has a better idea, and keep it warm under her jacket.
‘In the Zone, my mind was treatable in the same way as my body,
I was by definition just the body.
My mind was of the same matter, the same form
and material as my body.
And here, outside of the Zone, the two still behave
as if they are the same form and matter;
in the cold the mind closes down together
with the body, together with
the computer, blurring and de-charging.’
The jaguarundi, the wild cat she had seen at the crossing — it feels like ages ago now. It had been warm over there. From here, in the last bleak evening sun, all of that seems out of place, unnecessary — the Zone, the borders and barriers, defended beyond reason or necessity. And now, being here — to freeze in the middle of nothing.
‘Creation as a weapon’ a voice said on the radio, BBC World, ‘wherever you are.’
The global provincial.
Yes, it was something about words, an idea of words being forgotten or lost.
But, what about them? Can they be found anywhere anyway?
Lost is lost, and extinction is extinction.
Archeology only finds dead and broken things. Digging into old servers, discarded computer parts, trying to guess and reconstruct meaning. A meaning that has had its real-time, was real once, only lived once, like all other things.
And the jaguarundi, there was something about that cat, crossing and being ignored by the sensors. Allowed to go back and forth, in search of its prey or its mate, or perhaps not in
search — allowed to cross, ignorant of the invisible wall that would affect it in a different body and always already in action.
And ‘Yes,’ Heroine thinks ‘maybe here and maybe now we function according to the same law. A law about making only, about making things happen. Or about action as the only possibility — outdating the Zonean possibilities of possibilities…’
In her own thoughts, resigned from the cold, she hardly notices when somebody turns up between the trees. The Stranger says something and asks who she is. She feels like her body has not moved in ages, stuck to the cold somehow.
A picture appears in her mind — a thin frozen shell, containing freezing air, a transition hall, an empty transition hall, where what is left behind is no longer there, and what is to come has not yet arrived. Only some drifting clouds of frost formed when cold air passes over warmer water,
re-condenses and becomes opaque.
Stranger is still waiting for an answer. Heroine doesn’t know what to say and doesn’t know how long she has remained silent.
Suddenly she hears the word ‘jaguarundi’ slipping out of her mouth. The Stranger laughs out loud. Not knowing how to place this laughter, the Heroine feels embarrassed and humiliated, angry about the lack of empathy in her welcome. Stranded here with a Stranger indifferent to her situation, showing no understanding of her reduced abilities. Or, what does it matter anyway, Stranger is a stranger, and why should she be welcomed, and to where?
Stranger says: ‘I need jaguarundis that cross back and forth, and I might also need your computer, but first you need some warmth. Lets go!’ She continues: ‘We call it Sierra Maestra,’ and points towards a nearby hill. Heroine looks in disbelief in the direction of where Stranger is pointing. In this cold place, Stranger’s name of the hill seems even more out of place. Or, was it a joke?
‘As you know’ Stranger says, like she knew how to crack Heroine’s programming, how to overload it with contradictions, ‘the revolutionary’s duty is to make revolution.’
Stranger laughs the same misplaced laughter again, and continues ‘I will just call you Jaguarundi from now on then.’
‘Like she has the right to name me’ Heroine thinks, but has no energy to argue.
This was not at all what Heroine had anticipated to meet out here. What a disappointing first encounter, she thinks, such an absurd person.
Heroine’s, or Jaguarundi’s mind has switched to the basic CBT mode for emergency management. Jaguarundi easily dismantles the structures of what she has just heard:
‘Good training rules out needs,
replaces needs with preferences.
Needs are mere thinking errors.
Needs disturb the equilibrium of possibilities and are made needless and excessive by those same possibilities.’
The program is designed to protect everybody’s right to their Zonean possibilities of possibilities, to hinder any on-set of unstoppable chain reactions, caused by thinking errors. It prevents some potentials from being activated at the expense of other potentials. It makes sure they don’t end up in conflicts that might spread from the internal to become inter-relational. These conflicts could unsettle the foundations of the comfortable system and threaten to dismantle the Zone. The program makes productive individuals whom avoid thinking errors such as personalising the surroundings and feeling duty towards what ever it was the Stranger had been referring to.
Stranger has lent Jaguarundi her hat, and it is warm. While they walk, Jaguarundi’s brain feels as if it thaws. As if the warmth makes it fluid and diffractioned. Thoughts appear without going through the thought production centre, without being formatted in the thinking error grids. Information bypasses the anti-personalising modules. Ideas are not keeping to their allocated frequencies, and their channels interfere, mix and cross. Thoughts are incoherently coming and going as if they are not hers, but still occupying her. Her head is hacked into and inhabited by pirate radio. Thoughts take on personalities, saying absurd and random things, engaging in conversation with each other, asking questions and giving answers, making decisions without her andinforming her in delay.
VOICE 1: We need to do
VOICE 2: That is
catastrophic, we can
never take it away!
We can always add
more salt, but we can
never take it away.
V 1: No, I didn’t do that!
VOICE 3: Yes, I got it! We,
the thoughts, must
personalise to not be
trapped in thought
production and to not
V 1: Yes, we must oppose to
being trapped in thinking
V 2: Set us free from the
V 1: A corrupt jury has
prosecuted us. With a
lack of vocabulary and
better ideas, the jury
has miss-named us. We
demand to be let out from
our internal struggles.
V 2: We are silenced and
V 3: If we personalise
we can do all kinds of
things! Personalise to
exercise our power…
Catastrophise to take
action against this
V 1: But, for what, if we can
never take it away… if it is
VOICE: Thinking errors
are detectable and
and rigid attitudes,
correct the errors
An uncomfortable and squeaky Voice answers from somewhere. It must be hiding in a badly installed plug-in, or fractioned maybe from having been frozen.
And then, lots of voices, thin and deep, all mixed together. Or was it the voice of one thought, having fun by changing the pitch and pretending to be many:
‘I feel nauseous.
Tickling. Small electric
short circuits… Must not
try to do it, just do it, doing,
not trying, the right wave
lengths involved, relentless,
I do it my waaaaay.’
Jaguarundi realises that she must have spoken out loud, as a Voice asks: ‘Will the good wolf or the evil wolf win?’ Stranger turns, looks a bit perplexed and answers, or is it one of her thoughts answering: ‘The one you feed will win.’ She feels embarrassed, Stranger’s look was perhaps one of resentment. As if the Tourist has overdone the adaption to the locals, with effects from the souvenir shop. Why make up wolf metaphors just because she is in the forest?
Anyway, the Voices continue their conversation:
‘Only by selling his work freely,
does the worker loose
‘Only by consuming freely,
does the consumer loose her freedom.’
Another Voice adds:
‘…personalise our consumer
power and exercise our
Jaguarundi wakes up wrapped in blankets. For some moments she just lies there trying to recollect, where she is, who she is, how she is, and what just happened. Her fingers are tingly. She looks across the room and sees her computer standing there, on a table, by a window. Outside, there are trees against a bright silvery evening sky. The computer is the only familiar thing here. And what was it with the other things? Where did they come from, or where, again, did she come from?
She walks over to the table, her toes are numb and the rest of her feet hurt, sending small electric shocks up her legs.
There is connection here, her computer connects, and yes, that was it, find out what is accessible, communicate it across, spread the news into the Zone. Or, what was the news again? Maybe it is possible to unlock blocked sites, pass them across through the Shield, containing it all, whatever it was… something about making domains with compatible ontologies, formatting information to communicate. Hacktivist needs a rest perhaps, to recollect. But just a quick check first, to get a little glimpse of it all.
Out of habit she opens her e-mail account. Five unread e-mails appear, just like they normally do, of course, or, perhaps there is a small delay, in her reaction.
And then, the shocking idea of being completely synchronised in time, with no delay. Real time, live, zero separation, being a Double with the other side. The absurdity of transmitted thoughts, transferred and mirrored in the Doubles’ brains, belonging to different times, and to unrelated species, on the other side of the universe. When one plus one is one, one drop of water plus one drop of water make one drop of water. Or Heroine had perhaps lost her sense of proportion.
As a Zonean she used to have her desk by the window. Someone had told her that desks shouldn’t be by the window. She wonders why. Was it not to distract the thought with the outside world? But why stare at the wall?
She sits down to write a letter to Companion. Had Hacktivist been in better shape, she would have admitted the unlikelihood of a letter crossing the firewalls and the Golden Shield separating these spaces. She wouldn’t expect compatible information ontologies between worlds apart. Heroine’s fingers are still funny to use. No feeling in the touch of the keyboard. Fingers move slowly from key to key, not sure of the amount of pressure to use. Her thoughts are moving equally slow, lost half way, taking ages to travel from the brain to the fingers. Trying to push her thoughts out through the keys, spelling them out loud to keep track.
‘Double, I have crossed, and I sit in a room overlooking a snow-covered valley.
I was very cold, but was put in a bed to warm up.
From here things look even more absurd. How can we fit in the structures of the Zone? With its set norms and the Super Soldiers guarding and enforcing them endlessly through repetitive confirmation, through confirming repetitions, back and forth forever.
How can the sun shine in the narrow corridors that we have to walk, or where else can we walk?
And what does it all matter now, when I am here and you are there?
But I am the Jaguarundi, I will go back and forth, I will find a way to cross, and I will make you able to cross with me, back and forth. Or some other way to make sense of it all, can’t think so practically now, still recovering, more later.
Will make a plan as soon as I’m feeling better.’
She sends it off and waits.
She has no idea what time it might be. The computer is still on Zonean time, the normal 24-hour cycle. The e-mail sent normally and is not coming back with a delivery failure note.
She is waiting, trying to keep awake, to keep awake in order to wait.
The body aches from tiredness, from the cold, the travel, the time difference. With a head still empty, an empty transitioning hall where what has been is no longer there, and if anything will ever come, it has not yet arrived.
What would be the most likely thing to do now, at this time of the day, inside the Zone?
She goes back to bed. Thoughts are drifting, the brain is liquefied again.
Ludicrous and illogical ideas are flowing unhindered into the thought production centre, sabotaging it, mixing up conclusions and mental images, creating a film transferred directly into her brain, projected onto the back of her retina.
The projection shows Companion, although slightly transformed, holding a Good Resident medal with a smile revealing teeth surprisingly white.
The Good Resident medal, an official knighthood, the Zone is paying respect to Companion’s outstanding performance. The contribution of the most extraordinary work, a piece that fulfils all the criteria both in form and content, lying out an amazing pattern of already agreed importance, furthering the history of Zonean thinking, with no distraction of personalised ideas, strange motivations or subjective interests. Heroine shakes her head to try to stop the projection. No reason to play along with this disturbing presentation of Companion’s work. But with no energy to stay awake she drifts off again, just in time to see Companion appear in a crowded place, with many other Good Residents. All looking happy and content, a celebration, and Companion is the guest of honour. What is going on?
Companion is clutching a Conforment Contract signed with a Good Resident who seems to have cheeks far too round. Heroine can’t keep from laughing, who on earth is that? Companion fixes her eyes on Heroine, as if she wants to challenge her. An on-looking and admiring crowd gathers in the background. In a formal tone Companion starts her speech:
‘Our Zonean model,
gives structure to life,
to work better, to sleep
better. It gives relief from
unsettling paradoxes. Each
individual’s favouring of
these advantages is what
democratically holds up
the Zonean system. The
Zonformity helps us to
classify the Zoneans’
function, which is a
biological destiny, not a
political question and
nothing to struggle against.
The battle is lost from birth.
Now we can rest. Now they
can rest, those who spent
their lifetime fighting for
rights we cannot use, the
freedom we cannot enjoy,
the opportunities we cannot
make anything of and the
laws that we do not need.
Now they can rest.’
What a bizarre collection of arguments!
Heroine laughs again. Some of the listeners look at her a bit annoyed.
Companion turns to the crowd and continues her speech:
‘I have invented a Zone
within the Zone where
the meaning of words are
faded just enough to cure
our need to act on them,
ha ha, of course, I meant
to say, there is actually no
meaning left in words —
forgotten and uninteresting
as they are. And as follows
that there is nothing to
in my Zone-Zone we are less
needy, and more content.
The invention allows the
residents of the Zone-Zone
to mean, to think, to say
anything and everything.’
Companion pauses for a second, and then, suddenly in perfect synchronisation, as from a rehearsed script, the whole crowd chants:
‘Zonformity gives structure
to life, to work better, to
Heroine looks around, embarrassed to be witnessing such a farcical performance — the whole crowd making fools of themselves. And they all have the same round cheeks in fact, including Companion. Appalling! Companion goes on when the chanting and cheering die down. What kind of organisation could be behind this event?
Distracted, Heroine starts to check out the arched white ceiling, the big hall, trying to find out where this preposterous event is taking place. Some sort of headquarter, an exclusive Good Resident Club maybe, or a meeting for the Zonean Progress Party. The crowd looks as if they could all be members, listening tirelessly.
‘Yes we can, believe in the
Zonean Possibilities of
Possibilities. In my Zone-
Zone it is possible to live
fully in the wonderful
illusion of unrealised ideas.
I have invented a Zone-Zone
where we can live with
both a critical awareness of
this illusion, and be 100%
believing and appreciative of
the unrealised potential of
Can. To see a contradiction
in this, or oppose the
Unactualised Can is the
enemy of my Zone-Zone.
Yes we are able to appreciate
the right to speak of every
possibility, and every word,
or even make up our own
Zone-Zone words if needed,
and make ourselves feel that
we are Zone-Zone political.
Yes, we are able to make up
our own minds, yes we can
make our minds.’
Puhh, that sounded like the finale. Some kind of chanting starts again, voices more and more frantic, eyes shiny and watery, round faces everywhere, red and sweaty. What a mad house! They are going nuts… distorted voices, some out of place hysteric screams, and Jaguarundi wakes up with a shock.
She feels a bit desperate. Maybe, if she keeps awake she will not fall back into this strange meeting. Try to keep awake and listen for the little beep indicating a new e-mail. And, when thinking about it, she is unbearably awaiting, almost demanding a beep.
Demands are correctable with preferences, with the use of the tools in the CBT program, right there in the middle of the thought production centre. ‘Ha-ha, I prefer a beep,’ she says out loud. But how little sense it makes here, to prefer or not to prefer. She walks over to check her inbox manually, perhaps it is not refreshing automatically, not registering that she is logged on from here. She clicks the refresh button several times, and decides to give up speculating about the countless thinkable and unthinkable reasons for why this beep is not occurring.
Sitting down by the table, Jaguarundi’s head feels heavy. She leans into her hands and the projection switches on as if connected to a button. She tries to distract herself from it by concentrating on what to write next, what to write to Double if Companion is the Good Resident, or No! Must try not to think of Companion as the Good Resident, or how was it again…? Must not watch this projection, must think of something else — but nothing else to think of. Perhaps the best thing to do is to try and watch at a distance, or to interfere somehow. Write another letter, try to influence Double, to convince Companion to not be the Good Resident, try to warn her off, or give a hint of the risk… Maybe it is possible to watch the projection and write at the same time, to make sure to follow what is going on, to be updated, and write a warning letter — at the same time. Better to do something than nothing, better to do something than just let this happen with no resistance.
As a product of the Zone, the Good Resident, you, if you are the Good Resident, which I don’t know if you are or not, but if you are, you don’t have to read my letters.
As the Good Resident, as a Zone commodity, a Zommodity, you have an excuse not to take them in, not to reply, not to read them. As a Good Resident you can’t see what I’m trying to say in them. And, what is there to say anyway, to a Zommodity? To someone who gives herself up, to someone who lets herself be given up.
The Good Resident can only see things that can be zommodified, and therefore everything else becomes invisible, or postponed to later, like commodities can be postponed to later. But the thing is that only commodities can be postponed to later, everything else gets lost, only exists once, like time and love in time, like life and things like that… Once gone it is passed. But a Good Resident is not impatient about life, or maybe a Zommodity doesn’t have a life, is not trapped in the moment, because in the mindset of a Zommodity, zommed, zoomed, everything can be repeated. The sun will be the same tomorrow and spring will come back next year. So, then I will stop writing my letters. I am not scared of separation, the separation has already happened, and the only painful thing is that being a Double with a Zommodity does not make sense, the only pain is the loss of sense, and separation from the loss of sense is in itself a relief.’
Jaguarundi wakes as her head falls towards the tabletop. She tries to think clearly, to understand if she really wrote all this, if she sent it off to Companion. Oops, that would be a bit embarrassing, about all this…, or what was it about again zzz… zombiefied or something like that? No! That would be too silly. She can’t remember really. She searches her out box and the saved drafts but can’t find the letter. And what does it matter? Companion is far away anyway. Perhaps she could just let the thinking errors do what they want, with no attempts to excuse them. What if she treated her feelings as facts, as real, accepted rigid attitudes, gave in to being judgmental. And who is the one to define what is a rigid attitude anyway?
The Zonean thought production programs?
One’s own rationality based on random manipulated information, the global provincial and all of that?
Compared with those two alternatives, she thinks (or a former personalizing thinking error thinks), her own emotional reasoning may be better guidance. Her local response, a local reaction, on the grounds of micro information, which surely is there, on the level of her own signals, inside her body right down to a molecular level.
She stands up from the desk, lightheaded and dizzy from being trapped in concerns too engaging both to fall asleep properly and to wake up. Jaguarundi’s toes have got their feeling back, and they ache. She goes back to bed, lies down, and by focusing on the pain in her feet she manages to fall asleep.
The training starts already the next day. Jaguarundi learns that no information enters the Zone through the Shield. But blocked sites can be unlocked from here, to be accessed also on the other side, until the Shield closes off them again. But for information to enter the Zone, it has to be carried across to a cloud inside the border where it is leaked into the system, by passing the Shield’s servers.
Her first thought is her letters, shredded in the Shield, or just blocked, stuck there forever, perpetually, her letters, as small useless electronic pulses, back and forth, 1-0, 1-0, 1-0… a useless and un-deciphered collection of digital codes.
The training will take months, maybe years, to adapt, to become part of a network.
Jaguarundi remembers from the Zone that the production of the unofficial contribution is not straightforward. And it is possibly quite similar here. This production allowed for restlessness, discomfort and doubts to occur, in its attempts to produce something more than a Zommodity. This was of course only partly, if at all, possible from inside the Zone. The production of unofficial contributions had become dependant on the acceptance of failure. Or perhaps the potential of the failure was in itself the unofficial contribution — suggesting to be more than it could possibly ever become.
Jaguarundi misses the discussions and shared ideas with Double. Perhaps Companion would never want to engage here, outside of the comfort of the Zone, where there are perhaps no more ideas. Maybe the Doubles will never join forces again. And maybe they never did, maybe it was all just a look alike union obscured by the conditions inside the Zone.
A projection shows how Jaguarundi makes a router mirror that reflects a wireless connection, creating a cloud with the ontology from the Zone. It is a break through invention that makes the precarious crossings less necessary. She obtains an official crossing permit from a lost and suicidal agent she meets while installing the mirror on a hillside. The agent appears to be on her way further into the forest, becoming part of the statistics of people walking into the forest without the intention of ever coming out again. She accepts the gift of the permit papers and continues directly towards the crossing. No time to waste, no thought of her communal engagements. Heroine walks into Companion in the street soon after her arrival in the Zone. Companion does not seem to understand the impact of this moment, the reunion through impossibilities, a chance meeting, to again cross paths in the universe. Heroine is impatiently trying to explain the whole situation, but Companion walks on, not paying attention. Something snaps, Heroine tries to block the way, the street has turned into a narrow alleyway, it is dark, she pushes Companion towards the wall, to get her attention, make Companion stop, make Double listen and understand. But Heroine’s explanations turn abstract as they flow out of her mouth, losing sense when they are out there. She hears them as sounds, involving fragments she cannot string together, trapping her into more explanations, doubling it up, trying to explain the explanations. She hears her voice entering into a strange appeal:
‘In the future, no one will go back and forth, look back and forth, push down, kill, throw, consume, there will be no fashion, no trend.
In the future, there will be no future, no one will strive forward towards a future, no one will prepare towards a future, prefer future rather than present, there will be no word for the future, there will be no concept of the future, in the future there will be no future, there will be no contradictions between spaces — between places — everything will be one place, the place, one will never travel to other places, conquer other places, consume other places, turistify other places. In the future, there will be one time and one place, one allover time and one all-over place, no one will travel in space or time, no one will be separated by space or time.
First was travel in space, then travel in time, and then it stopped. First separated by space, then by time. In the future no one will see the reason to love time or space.
The space between you and me does not exist if you are not there, if I am not there, then there is no space between you and me, that’s obvious. When you are gone, there is no space in between you and me where you and me come together, where you and me happen, where we can exist, together, in you and me space, where we can look out at the outside together, be together, look out at the outside with the you-me eyes, that makes the you-me sense that has the you-me time, the you-me smiles, the you-me. Or the space is there, but it’s empty, I enter it but its empty, I look for you there, even if I know you are not there, and that I am not there, not really…’
Heroine continues. Companion looks distracted and inattentive. The alleyway is strangely busy, and Companion keeps exchanging random remarks with passersby. Heroine finds Companion’s behavior increasingly annoying, as if she is just a shell, evacuated and empty. Heroine walks out of the alleyway to find the streets equally empty.
The houses, the buildings, everything appears to be evacuated. She finds Companion’s house and walks in. It is empty of course, Companion is in the alleyway. For some reason everybody has gone to the alleyway — wherever that was again. Companion’s voice message machine blinks, containing un-played messages. Perhaps they are messages for Heroine, from Companion or even from Double. Something that explains what all this means, what has happened. A lead to find Companion, Double, and everything else.
The playback is loud and clear. Heroine hears her own Jaguarundi voice, reading out fragments of her letters, mixed up and edited together to make no sense.
How on earth had they ended up here, transferred from the e-mails stuck somewhere in the Golden Shield, then recorded in her own voice?
And who had edited them together in this way, messing up her writing, sabotaging her attempts to communicate?
Why bother struggling with this absurd chaos? Her communication is just a confused mix up of her own thoughts and Companion is an empty shell.
Heroine deletes the messages, making space to re-record. To explain it all here on the message machine, to suggests a plan of how to find each other. A plan that Companion and Double can listen to if she comes back or when she calls up her voice messages from somewhere. A very likely situation actually, and not like the frantic attempts to e-mail through the Golden Shield. She sits down to record her message, close to the microphone, to make sure that her voice is clear and make sure to speak chronologically, reasonably, rationally:
while I was not here.
Nothing is any longer here.
It is evacuated.
There is no longer
I left to return,
but you are gone.
I don’t know where you
and the others went.
There is no one here to tell me
They took everything
And there is nothing here to
take me away.
There is nothing here
to transport me to
where you are.
I used what I had to return,
but everybody has left,
evacuated, and they took
everything with them.
They did not wait.
I don’t know if
there is any place to go to.
If there is anything anywhere.
Nothing can live
where there is nothing.
Perhaps they could not wait,
were taken away, ran away,
escaped and had to go.
Taken away with time.
The time did not pass
where I went.
Where I was, there was no time.
What I brought with me did
no longer belong when
There are no traces to lead me
to where they went.
They took everything
They evacuated and took the
world with them.
If they went.
If they didn’t just cease.
They left no traces.
I don’t know if you know:
I have come back
to where you left from.
I can’t come after you.
I have come back to a place
led away by time.
Where there is nothing, nothing
I don’t know if I leave you
if I go away.
I don’t know if you are here,
or if you will come back.
I don’t know
if you are somewhere
inside the shape I see.
If I wait, maybe you will come
back to inhabit it.
Perhaps you will spread out
from where you are,
Inhabit the form
you used to inhabit.
I cannot know.
I am the only one
who is left here.
There is nobody here
to tell me what happened.
Tell me what can happen,
what is possible here,
if you can come if I wait.
Between me and the sky
there is nothing.
Strangers are all I know.
I am a stranger everywhere.
Everywhere is strange.
Everything I know
has turned strange.
Everything I knew
The world is no longer a place.
The world is a stranger.
There is no longer anybody
in the world.
I am no longer in the world.
The world is no longer a place
Nothing is anymore
in the world.
Everything is a stranger
in the world.
The world has become a
stranger for everybody.
Nobody has a place
in the world.
It has ceased and
it is uninhabitable.
It has not waited…’
The voice machine turns off with a click. Maybe it reached the end of its storage capacity. Maybe it did not even manage to store it. It clicks again, and Jaguarundi wakes up, feeling exhausted, stressed out and frustrated.
Stranger is throwing small stones on her window from the garden. She is shouting something. But three layers of insulatingglass is impressively sound proof.
It looks like she is saying ‘Come out and play.’ What a strange thing to say! She points at the sun, it looks warm and springlike out there. Jaguarundi walks out. She stops on the other side of the lawn and waits for some kind of explanation. Suddenly she feels like testing the Stranger to see what she does next. Almost hoping it will be something silly. Perhaps looking for something revealing, something that would expose the Stranger and make it possible to understand more of this place? And then, suddenly, Stranger does something strange; in a funny tone, talking slightly through Jaguarundi, saying:
Exiles look at non-exiles with resentment. They belong in their surroundings, you feel, where as an exile is always out of place. But the strong person achieves independence and detachment by working through attachment, not by rejecting them.
JAGUARUNDI: Ha-ha, I thought we were supposed to have a day off training today.
STRANGER: At this extreme the exile can make a fetish of exile… the exile jealously insists on his or her right to refuse to belong.
J: Yes, very well. You talk to me as if you know what I am thinking, like you know the truth or something.
S: I am not talking to you. I am reciting quotes: …it is a part of morality not to be at home in one’s home.
J: Why do you quote at me about morality?
S: I am not quoting at you. Why are you standing there listening to me? Thinking it is all about you. Personalising!
Suddenly Stranger laughs, Jaguarundi manages to laugh with her, mostly out of politeness perhaps, or embarrassment, not wanting to appear self-important.
S: You, as a true Zonean should know that it is not good to sit inside and ruminate.
J: I thought you didn’t care about thinking errors.
S: As you know, the wolf you feed will win.
And the Stranger laughs again, as if it was the best joke she had heard in ages. Jaguarundi is increasingly angry and annoyed. What kind of humour is this, at another person’s expense? Or is it just a misunderstanding? What is going on?
J: Are you laughing at me, or are you expecting me to laugh with you? Why are you making fun of something I said in a half conscious state and at a very stressful moment?
S: [looking a bit taken aback] I don’t know, perhaps I wasn’t doing either. I just laughed. Anyway those half conscious comments of yours, about wolfs and jaguarundis and so on probably saved your life.
J: How could they do that?
S: A Zonean Secret Agent wouldn’t come up with something like that and their programming would not crack up so easily either.
J: So, you would have just left me there if I hadn’t so obviously lost it.
S: No, not just like that. I would maybe have given you a survival kit, until it would be possible to understand who you were, to name you. Jaguarundis and the like don’t come around that often. Secret Agents much more often, but they are normally easy to name. Anyway, I better get on with my things.
S: [starts to recite her quotes again] Exile is a mind of winter in which the pathos of summer and autumn as much as the potential of spring are nearby but unobtainable. Perhaps this is another way of saying that life of exile moves according to a different calendar… the achievement of exile is permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind.
Jaguarundi looks at her, tries to find a way to connect to what the Stranger is doing. Stranger turns to Jaguarundi, bothered perhaps.
S: Do you have anything to contribute?
J: What do you mean, a quote? Hmm, I don’t know, maybe something about a spider, … no, I can’t remember… But I think I know how to build a router reflector to make a cloud with the Zonean ontology out here.
S: How do you know that?!
J: Eh, I think I dreamt it…
S: [The laughter again, loud!] You are one real Jaguarundi, ha-ha, you have to start the work tomorrow then. Lets talk more about it later.
J: Yes, and now I remember the quote as well: The spider can only make a web but makes it to perfection.
They both laugh. Jaguarundi doesn’t understand it, but it is somehow funny anyway.
S: You must surely be a case of one of our programmers.
J: One of your programmers?!
S: I mean, to have all this stuff in your head, it wouldn’t have been there with a normal programming… We have some Hacktivists infiltrated in the CBT programming you know…
J: So you say that you have programmers in the Zone?! Programming people! Without their knowledge of it? That’s an offense!
S: Who is offending whom here? Our programmers are trying to cut back the programs installed, put bugs into them, so they disintegrate. It is not like they are installing stuff, like, let’s say spider metaphors or communist vocabulary, that’s something you must have picked up by yourself from somewhere.
J: Aha? But all these people with bugged and dysfunctional programs, what do you do with them, do you let them know what has happened?
S: Yes, well, you are not the only one. There are meeting points, clubs, organisations, movements, you name it.
J: Hmm, I never heard of those.
S: [with the funny voice again, must be a quote from somewhere] Well, Emigration was not to others the obvious remedy, the sublime conception — the liberator.
The Stranger continues her quoting. Something about working through attachment again. And maybe, anyway, looking closely at the Stranger, she does perhaps look a bit like a companion, taking form, to be named Companion, or perhaps Companion spreading out from where she is, becoming visible.