An Explanation of Subway Stickers and Additional Information
We’ll have more news of this at eleven. And now, tonight’s top story:
There’s something living behind the walls of this Brooklyn-time summer moment that paws, sniffs and stamps restlessly at the scattered ground, sifting through the raped and littered soil with a decidedly pointed hoof for telltale signs of a missing future. And as it just so happens, this creature and I are hunting the same mouse; a secret stashed safely below the surface of the immediate past and cleverly camouflaged by the present tense.
Imagine if the universe worked differently; suppose every minute in history is essentially a separate world which must be built, maintained and torn down once the world finishes with it. And further contemplate that somewhere, someone decided that this particular instance, one containing a living photograph of alien world, needed to archived and viewed again for whatever reason. Okay, but why? What was so important about that moment, that planet and that dimension? Was it worth saving because it wasn’t ours? Was the archivist hoping to somehow rescue this civilization and provide a how-to or an example of how different life could be if it were DIY’d in another part of the universe? Was this about “art”? Perhaps it was the archivist’s job to catalog civilizations and somehow this fragment was inappropriately absorbed by the bandwidth of my dreams. I have no fucking clue.
What I do know is this: I’m attempting to reverse-engineer a fragment of a memory using the mnemonic equivalent of a gasoline-scented scratch-n-sniff sticker, an oft-folded illustration torn from a science-fiction magazine and a die-cast metal toy. And someone off-camera is demanding that I use these items to return a forgotten city to its former glory. The simplified instruction manual provided to me was downloaded as a zip file and stored somewhere in my skull but the link is 404’d, and now I’ve got this… thing bumping around in my not-so-big upstairs with a case of amnesia, creating unwanted bulges in my reality.
Anything I attempt to do while in this state becomes ten times more difficult; everything gets sped up and pinched, as though one were fishing for a shell fragment in a bowl of yolk. Time (yolk) is distorted, flowing faster between the outer shell of this 404′d object (thumb) and the walls of my perceived reality (bowl); images of some mysterious and misplaced Martian market become momentarily visible, projected against the ghostly flicker of heat waves of this New York Minute, brought to you in part by Friday, June 10, 2011, the letter thirteen, and viewers like you.
The good news is that I can almost feel what it was like to live in this place, but I can’t put the experience into words. Not yet. The bad news is that it has to come out.
The key to unlocking this thing’s got something to do with the way that Kanji seems at once ancient and futuristic (likewise Arabic, likewise the art of Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest), so I try to focus on that. It also smacks roundly of the early issues of Heavy Metal magazine I devoured as a teen, the art of Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), selected writings of William Gibson and the feel of films like Fifth Element and Blade Runner, where the overt alien undertones are just part of the experience:
- a Bodega cat seeks relief from the summer heat on the lid of an ice-cream freezer.
- a matronly Ugnaught of a woman, with cast-iron breasts like matching Civil War cannons, stomps and sneers and stabs at her sequined-pink cellphone with the gold-painted nails of a velociraptor, talkin’ ‘bout how she gonna “fuck that dumb bitch up!”
- a hovering trade ship from some dusty distant world waits patiently above the East River for permission to land.
… and it’s all part of the Mise-en-scène.
Primarily, it’s got something to do with that fucking sticker.
I scratch at it furiously and press my nose against it, breathing deep. It works, albeit feebly. Something churns in my stomach and my field of vision becomes momentarily faded and narrow. Encouraged, I scratch and huff at it some more. This goes on for about ten minutes. Beads of sweat begin to form along my arms and a rising sense of vertigo develops in my stomach. Now I’ve got the half-summoned memory of a lost alien world caught like a cat hair at the back of my throat and I’m desperate to cough it loose.
I cram my fingers down my throat and after a moment’s salivation I begin spewing forth watery chunks of buildings and backgrounds which slap at the pavement like horse piss on a flat rock before standing up slowly on their own, like a prizefighter ready to talk serious business at the end of the seventh round. Slumped against a wall with one hand on my knee, the sensation rises up again, coursing through me like a tidal wave as a half-completed grid of city streets soaked in stomach acid snakes forth like umbilical ropes from the enraged space between my lips, anchoring themselves to the soil like plant tendrils and immediately taking root, unfolding like ugly flowers. My jaws are pried open against miles of sewer lines and buried electrical cables and in a brief reprieve I take a few breaths in through my nose. Soon, my abdominal muscles are convulsing and contracting again as the five o’clock skyline of a world I’ve only imagined rockets the wrong way up my esophagus and my mouth gives birth to an alien sunset. It splatters first on the sidewalk before instinct drives it to its feet on doddering legs and it takes its place at the top of the page.
I gasp air for few minutes, wiping the puke from my lips and spitting out the taste of concrete and anodized metal, surveying the half-formed thing that I’ve made.
I’m obviously not done yet, but it’s a start.