Please accept my apologies for the lack of communication during the past weeks – I was in a different city and year most every day, following Cassandra’s elaborate and necessary plan, and meeting with other members of her Brotherhood.
I only made it back to Berkeley, California last night, and I had to sneak through an emergency exit at the Berkeley BART Station, so the Infinite Transit Authority wouldn’t catch me. Even though Cassandra made the system, there are members of the Structure at large that tend to meddle, lest anyone escape our Universal prison.
I need to focus. I have to work past the pain, and the scars, and my bleary eyes from lack of sleep and existence lag. There’s only a month left before everything ends, and now that I’ve had my last vacation, my last chance to see this dying world, all I have left is a sprint towards the finish.
It’s a sprint because of the forces at work, the constant interplay between the Pure Land and Dark Antennas, The White and The Black. They’re at each other’s throats now, and a perfect example of that was my trip to Munich, Germany on November 20.
Some of the things I have to discuss won’t make perfect sense until I finally get around to accounting for my time at Thomason Memorial Hospital, but that story is so long I’m not yet finished with the post. The only thing you need to know now is that I transcribed a large amount of Laura Watson-Carver’s prophesies about the future, from 1986 to 2012, and I was well aware that she made a big fuss over the “exploding alliance and flaming swabs” that was supposed to happen in late November, 2011. I didn’t quite know what that was to entail, and neither did Cassandra, since it represented a “future”, variant time she didn’t get a chance to explore when she was alive.
Instead, she sent me to Munich on a seemingly simple mission – to rendezvous with Kaia Strauss and her daughter Ariel, the estranged “twin” of Miranda Sasha Koehler, the Chosen Light. Catherine Koehler was cloned at Point One in 1994, while she was pregnant with Miranda. That second Catherine was given the identity of Kaia Strauss – a person that did not exist before that point. She raised Ariel in the United States, Germany, Japan and a number of other countries, and protected her from detection via the powers over Spirit that Ai Watson-Carver transferred to her before Ai’s death.
Unlike Catherine Koehler’s broken relationship with her daughter Miranda, Kaia and Ariel are very close, and have never had any tension between them. Miranda’s powers over Matter were suppressed by her mother, while Ariel’s abilities were encouraged from when she was a very young age. Now the were both 16 years old, and couldn’t be more different.
My insertion point was Hauptbanhof Munich, the central train station. Even though I have very little Meridian Scaffolding, Cassandra did etch the back of my right palm years ago, with a fairly unlimited pass to the Infinite Subway. I’m not able to take every door, but I managed to travel from BART system in the San Francisco Bay Area to Germany, finding an exit in a rarely used passageway leading towards the U1 subway platform.
The central part of the train system in Munich is fairly crowded, so I thought it safer to physically ride to my destination, as opposed to take any visible shortcuts that might freak everyone else out if they were looking my way. It didn’t take more than a few minutes for Kaia to “ping” my Spirit, and I let her take over, plotting a route via the U1 line to Sendlinger Tor station, and transferring there to the U6 train headed to Fröttmaning.
I noticed that Fröttmaning had a big “soccer” (football) icon next to it on the map, so I assumed that there must be a stadium there. While the U1 train was old, blue and dingy, with scratched interior wood paneling, the U6 was gleaming and modern, with curved, yellow-tan wooden seats, and a clear view from one end of the train to the other via a long, open passageway between cars. Most of the stations were similar, except Münchner Freiheit, which had mirrored ceilings and glowing blue columns. Most e-punks stayed away from that station, since it was known to be “haunted” – many of the etched ended up permanently changed after hanging out there for more than a few minutes. As we rolled away from that station, Kaia explained in my head long distance that it was a major node for Sasha OS, with a massive server cluster hidden in that area. She didn’t go further, except to say that her apartment was nearby, “to keep an eye on things.”
Stations passed, and after exiting the underground tunnels, it took another 10 minutes before we finally arrived under the white canopied Fröttmaning station. Kaia led me up the wide stairs to a pedestrian overpass, that bridged a series of tracks filled with old U1 trains – it seemed to be a train garage area. Off in the distance I could see the football stadium, which reminded me of a large, squashed, quilted roll of toilet paper. In the other direction was the Busbahnhof Fröttmaning (a two story bus station), a huge car dealership, and other boring structures.
It was Sunday, and since FC Bayern lost the day before, the grounds were almost empty, save for a few fans every hundred feet, slowly strolling to and fro. Nothing was going on, but it seemed they were happy enough to walk a few thousand feet towards the stadium and exit after a few minutes.
After I passed a huge, blue cube on top of a skinny pole, with “U” in white on all 4 sides – designating the area where drunken fans could buy train tickets after a game – I couldn’t help but notice a series of other white poles, leading up to the fenced in entrance to the stadium. They had prominent bulbs on top, advertising where to go for tickets or other services, and they looked like immense cotton swabs, with one end stuck in the brown grass and concrete. Off in the distance, on a hill beyond a highway, was a huge, slowly spinning turbine leisurely collecting energy from the wind, next to upside down conical structures that I thought were large grain silos, for lack of a better guess.
I walked towards the stadium, taking a random asphalt path that meandered back and forth up a slight incline, past a number of short, concrete walls. I just assumed they were architectural flourishes, and kept on underneath the white swabs until the name of the stadium, in huge blue letters against the quilted structure, finally registered: Allianz Arena. I realized that I had made a transcription error back in 1986 during one of Laura’s rants – it should have been “exploding Allianz and flaming swabs”. I stopped in my tracks, suddenly terrified.
Kaia’s voice continued to call for me – it seemed to be coming from within the arena. I was close enough then to see that foot traffic was allowed past the grey, metal turnstiles, and that a few of the large doors seemed to be open for visitors. It was almost pitch black inside, except for a bright ribbon of light and color beyond the mezzanine and towards the field. A chain-link fence blocked access to the stairs, leading in either direction, so all I could make out was a far away tour group sitting close to the field, a streak of grass, and a few advertisements for Sony Ericsson and Ford near the goal.
A few minutes passed, and then Kaia led me to a metal door. I didn’t bother to read the sign, but once I walked in it was clear that I had entered a long, beige, graffiti filled toilet. Most of the writing by the long, metal urinals was in red and black – a few weakly written tags, a huge black “BAYERN” for those who wanted to represent Bavaria and the football team in question. Stickers were everywhere, for this rave and that band, and it looked like the janitorial staff stopped trying to half-tear them off of the urinals and walls after the first hundred.
I could hear a slight knocking over by the toilets, which were covered by similar graffiti and stickers inside and out, and in a stall I found Kaia standing on top of a closed toilet seat, in a frilly, black Victorian dress, adding a Die Database logo sticker into the mix. She turned around and smiled as she stepped down.
“It’s been like forever.” Placed her hands on my shoulders, and checked me out at arms length. “Ugh, your etching offends me, but it’ll have to do. 6 minutes Doug E. Fresh you’re on. After you…”
She pointed me out of the bathroom door covered with slogans I’m glad I couldn’t understand, and we exited the arena.
“I have to apologize for the subterfuge. Ariel is having one of her Miranda days – she’s off sulking underground, because her frogs keep dying. This way.”
We passed back through the turnstiles, and walked past a sunken area where tickets are sold. The booths were Sunday quiet, with absolutely no one anywhere near the thick metal barriers that usually corral everyone, leading up to each window. Past that we approached one of the concrete structures I ignored before, and next to it was a darkened stairway leading downwards. Was the entire stretch of land leading up to the arena actually hollow?
Apparently so. There actually was a large, 4 story parking structure below ground, divided in many sections and accessible via the stairs. In the center of each substructure was a hole leading to the sky, letting in light and hiding a series of squat metal cylinders on the “real” ground level – they looked like fans or air ducts. There didn’t seem to be any cars parked in the 4 story section we just entered.
There was a yellow ticket machine – perhaps 2 meters tall – by the stairs, and an elevator a few steps away . In the distance, past a series of squared off concrete columns holding everything up, were open, fenced in sides, letting in more light. Kaia started walking towards a far off corner, where there was a shadowy figure giving off periodic flashes of light.
“El, I told you to wait until I got back. Look at that mess!” Moving closer, it looked like there was a fleshy pile of something next to the seated girl. She was wearing a red, FC Bayern jersey, with her long brown hair tied into a ponytail, and she kept jerking her right arm towards the pile, followed by a flash and brief squirming. “Please, clean that up for our guest.”
“Yeah, yeah. There.” As soon as I could verify that it was a huge pile of colorful, tropical frogs, the dead heap collapsed into dust which blew away in a cold breeze – it was almost freezing that day, but still bright out.
“We’ve been practicing our amphibians, but Ariel is a perfectionist.” Kaia walked up to her and kissed her on the head.
“It’s one thing to just make something cool, but I was trying to find the right gene to express the perfect shade of neon blue on their backs. I must have went through hundreds of them while she was waiting for you to come.” Ariel stood up on the cement, spotted with motor oil and little pebbles from the walkways above.
“She’s a real handful lately – thinks she can create life without me. Dear, flesh without a spark is just a big, dead mess.”
“OK, fine.” She took a wary look at me. “I’m learning how not to speak my mind on occasions like this, but man – how long have you had that lock of hair again?”
“Since 1986. I know, I know, but Frisbee asked me to keep it safe for her.” Ariel was referring to a small bit of dark, brown hair that I brought to Munich in a plastic bag in my wallet. Instead of an expired condom, a little piece of Jenny Samuels from way back when, that Cassandra had me dig out of a shoebox.
I handed the hair over to Ariel, and she carefully opened the bag, held it up to her nose, and took a whiff. “The DNA is barely usable, but it’ll do in a pinch. Are you sure she’s the one you want?”
“I have my instructions – Jenny always comes first.”
“Ida know… let me call her up, just in case.” Ariel zipped the tiny bag of hair closed, put it in the front, right pocket of her loose fit blue jeans, and then looked over at Kaia. “Incoming…”
With that, a blank, plastic figure appeared. What Tokie Murasaki calls a Plastic Robot Sculpture, or PRS for lack of a better term. It was standing at attention, arms length from Ariel, and it seemed like it was quickly shifting from a blur to perfect focus as she slightly wiggled her fingers.
“There. It took a few seconds to find enough PET in the trash cans around here, but whatever. Mom?”
Kaia closed her eyes for a moment, and then walked over to the stiff, plastic figure and hugged it. A few moments later, the Ghost of Jenny Samuels entered the unit, and a holographic projection of her hugged Kaia back. Then Jenny turned to me, and frowned.
“Quarter… what am I going to do with you?” I had seen her around Berkeley over the years, but whenever I approached she acted like she didn’t know me. In a way she didn’t, due to the mental straightjacket The Collective put on her. “Twenty five years is way too long to not give up on me. I already gave up on me ages ago.”
Jenny was wearing a light blue t-shirt, that had a photo Laura Watson-Carver on it, holding a sign that said “antizine!”. I took that photo in 1986, at Thomason Memorial Hospital, with the urban chicken farm fence in the background. Jenny’s father left an expensive Pentax camera for her at the hospital, and she wanted me to capture her and Laura at the moment their printed baby was conceived. There was a third photo, of both of them kissing as they held the sign, and I still have a copy of it in the same shoebox. It was the cover of Antizine 4.
“Gush! What memories!” Ariel apparently was poking in my head when I thought of the three photos. She pointed at Jenny. “Does Jenny know? Do you know how he really feels about you?”
I started to stare at my feet, because I didn’t think she did know, especially after what she wrote about our brief time at the hospital. I did have a “girlfriend” I was always trying to call, but that was just Rachel, who in reality barely paid me the time of day. She was just someone to obsess over, until I met Jenny, that is. It started all wrong, but the day she ran away with Laura is the day my heart broke permanently. No one else was ever the same, but first love always has that sting.
“I know.” She walked over to me, arms opened in the universal shape of an impending hug. “When you pass on everything becomes clear.”
So I hugged her, and felt her warmth past the hard plastic core that carried her.
“I’m sorry I was so hard on you, Doug. Deep down I knew you were serious – why else would you have followed us on the road so long?” She let go, and then placed her right hand on my hairy cheek. “I was your Laura – the one you were always chasing. I love you for that, even though I could never chase you back.”
I didn’t know quite what to say. I felt like crying, like screaming, like ripping out my tired heart for her to see it. Instead, I just took her hand off my face and held it for a moment longer than I wanted to. “It’s good to really see you again, after all of these years.”
“I can’t tolerate this! Get a virtual room already.” Ariel was holding a tiny thunderstorm in the palm of her hands, with lightning tickling her fingers.
“Hint taken.” Business trumped nostalgia. “Jenny, Cassandra wants you to come back first, in the flesh. Do you have any objections?”
She frowned at me again, but ended it with a smirk. “Are you sure that’s what Cassie wants? Or is that what you asked her to do?”
Unfortunately, Jenny had me dead to rights. I didn’t ask Cassandra for anything, but when she mentioned Jenny I couldn’t believe my luck. It didn’t matter how pivotal she was to the overall plan – I just couldn’t stop wishing to somehow hold her close again, even as the Universe tore apart.
“Goddess Sarah! Please spare me his artificially sweet thoughts. He wants you, she wants her, and I want to just get out of here, before my evil twin figures out who was messing with her hotel safe. Deal?”
Jenny turned away, and walked over to Ariel, knocking the storm out of her hands with a puff of vapor. “You may be cuter than fuck, but if you don’t take it down infinite notches, you’ll regret it.”
Ariel looked honestly shocked for a moment, and then grinned as she bro-punched Jenny in the shoulder. “I’ll take that as a yes, please give me my body back, O Goddess. Just gimme a minute.”
The chill suddenly increased, to the point that Kaia and I started to exhale white condensation. Ariel waved us aside, as a roughly humanoid shape started to grow out of the concrete floor. It was like a grey gingerbread cookie, with the best outline of a person a young child could come up with.
“Stop thinking so stupidly! Resurrection clouds are for babies!” She growled at me, as the pile of dirt and rubble quickly tightened into what looked like a clay sculpture of Jenny. Ariel then took out the baggie of hair from her pocket, put a few strands in her mouth, and swallowed them with a small stream of water she called out of the air.
“Mom, get ready.” She turned to me. “I assume you don’t want 12 year old hospital Jenny, right?”
“Actually, it’s complicated. Kaia, please just call Cassandra up so she can explain.”
Kaia shrugged, and then closed her eyes. For a fraction of a second it seemed like she just blanked out of the parking garage, replaced by a white silhouette. When she came back, she was crying.
“She has to be 12, dear.” She wiped her eyes with a forearm swipe. “Just do it.”
I fully expected another annoyed comeback from Ariel, but she seem genuinely touched by her mother’s tears. Instead, she got down on her knees next to the shape of Jenny, and put her left hand on her pelvis.
“Decide quickly if you want to see this, Douglas. It’s never going to clear your eyes.”
With that, Ariel’s left hand started to glow like red lava. Her right hand…
She was right – I still can’t stop seeing what happened next.
Ariel’s right hand penetrated her own pelvis, cutting through her jeans like they were water, and took out the lower end of her own spine, covered in twitching red veins and arteries.
She yanked on her spine, pulling it out like a corn husk. It flopped about like a dead snake, and periodically each chakra would appear… I can’t explain it. It was all representational, yet actually happening – Ariel had temporarily turned her own body into a Jenny factory, using trace amounts of her DNA to clone her in the most visceral way possible.
I’m sorry – I just can’t describe it. She was holding her own spinal cord and brain in her hands. Her body was zipped open and turned inside out, surrounded by a throbbing blackness – the darkest midnight possible.
The unfolded Ariel had innumerable tentacles made of nerves, arteries, bone and hair, moved by congealed blood and lymph. She sculpted new cells, bones and organs, and then flowed into the Jenny blank, devouring the dust only to regurgitate new flesh.
I couldn’t handle contemplating it, but I could never look away. She was giving her inexhaustible life to a Black Construct, while Kaia sat by her side, probing the new body and changing the essential spark to Jenny’s.
Just when Ariel started to breathe from her own lungs again, she turned her skinned head upwards, and let out a scream that literally took the air out of the garage.
I fell to the ground and threw up, only to see Miranda, The Chosen Light, sitting next to the half-completed Jenny.
She had a shaved head, and a puffy blue jacket on.
She was tearing Ariel’s unraveled muscles, bone and skin off of Jenny’s naked, new body like she was pulling ivy from a fence.
Ariel was clearly vulnerable during the reincarnation process, and I could tell that she was desperately trying to shift back to normal, but Miranda was holding her back. Literally, she had her left hand around her neck, while her right hand attended to Jenny, closing up a few lingering holes in her skin with a forceful touch.
“I’ve had my eye on your since Halloween night in 1994.” The Nameless was smiling at Kaia using Miranda’s lips. “You reek of The White, and yet your core belongs to The Black.”
Kaia’s arms were darkening, with her closed fists a burning, pitch black.
“If you don’t return what is mine, I’ll destroy your daughter and the rest of this groaning world.”
“You’ll kill us all anyway.” Kaia brought her fists together, and as her fingers intertwined, the concrete floor and ceiling started to smoulder.
“Your door is the Die Database sticker,” Kaia growled in my head. “Run, and don’t look back.”
As her hands burned an inky black, I couldn’t look away. I spent most of my life waiting for this moment, and I had to see it through, even if it killed me.
“This is not for you to see!” She took over my body and forced me to run away from the twisted flesh that was Ariel, from Jenny taking her born again gasps for air, from the Chosen Light basking in its best gambit yet.
The PRS unit that used to house Jenny met me by the ticket machine, and quickly shifted from blank plastic to Cassandra, wearing a white, button down St. Cloud Rox uniform. She grabbed me by the right wrist and tossed me like a rag doll up a dozen stairs.
“If you look back, you will die.” Below, the parking garage was filling with a golden light. Cassandra threw me on her back like a five year old, and ran with 5 meter long leaps towards the Allianz Arena.
A massive explosion behind us, followed by intense heat singeing my hair. The nearest cotton swab tower fell over, quickly burning into ashes.
The hollow ground erupted in front of us, and Ariel jumped out of another crumbling garage. At least, I assumed it was her, because she resembled nothing less than a bloody spine as large as a telephone pole, crossed with a millipede, with each leg a twitching human arm. There were a collection of organs running up her back, but her head was nowhere to be seen.
Cassandra jumped over the hole and the rubble, and took a flying hop off of the ticket booths, and then dozens of meters over the fair gates.
Out of the corner of my eye, at the top of the hill beyond the highway, was a 50 meter tall Miranda pulling the wind turbine out of the ground like a dandelion, throwing the huge blade over our heads towards Ariel.
Just as we ran inside the shadowy entrance to the arena, I was blinded by a brilliant figure in front of us, slowly gliding down to the grassy field inside. Cassandra switched off my optic nerves before I was really hit, but I could tell instantly who it was.
Kaia Strauss, wielding the Golden Sphere like a flaming sword that could cut through everything.
The smell suddenly changed, and I knew we were back in the toilet. Cassandra gave me my eyes back long enough to see the walls starting to smoke, peeling the beige pant, graffiti and stickers into a skin that bubbled and sagged to the floor.
“My sister will be here soon to reap what has been sown.” She pushed me into the chosen stall. “Your next stop is Ikebukuro Station. I’ll find you soon enough.” The blackened walls started to crumble, and the PRS unit suddenly melted to the floor.
As the Allianz Arena collapsed, I couldn’t understand how the toilet stall was keeping me safe, even with the water in the bowl boiling under my feet.
I couldn’t understand, until I had a final visitor.
Helena, the Grand Supreme, standing in the flames wearing a patchwork dress, and staring at me with empty eye sockets.
“We have the dreamer. You have already lost.” She threw her wig made of USB cables to the melting floor. “This has just been a taste of what is to come. You will never escape the final flames unless you join me.”
Was Jenny the dreamer? And why was I so important to Helena and S.OS?
She smirked as she picked the questions out of my mind, and then looked to the right before she folded away.
As soon as she disappeared, the heat left, and the bathroom was immediately restored, stickers and all.
I knew that if I ran outside, I would find it perfectly reset and intact, and not filled with rubble and charred FC Bayern fans.
She was right – that day was just a bitter taste of our fate, with one month left before the end.
Of course, I’ve always had a bitter tooth – maybe that will save me from drowning in the sweet poison flood.
In any case, I have my post about Thomason to finish, and then I’ll start the final march into the night.
I still haven’t figured out how I’d like to spend the last few weeks, but I promise that I won’t forget to light the way for you.