Flesh Film

A Cut-Up Novella by Jürgen Ploog

The narrator has ended up in Tangiers, where he enters a woman’s apartment. He tries to write a report about his stay but finds it does not fit the real picture.

On his return to Spain, the manuscript is stolen on the ferry boat. He feels that dreams might be a way to find what he is looking for: a passage into his past. An old European writer who lives in the medina tells him that “this is a land of transition” & of projections resembling a vast electronic matrix.

The narrator is surprised by this statement since the old writer is out of touch with the modern world. He has no telephone & despises TV. He lives in Tangiers because he has no urge to leave the past. He has written several books about the hidden & sometimes sinister forces of life in the Maghreb, which he sees as part of a lost universe that encompasses the invisible & the unexplainable.

The lost manuscript is irreplaceable. The narrator asks a hustler called Pipo to help him recover it. Pipo wants money & never shows up again.

With the manuscript all memory of his investigations have disappeared. In a vacuous state of mind he drifts into loneliness. His biography is but a mere scrapbook filled with unconnected pictures that reveal no chronology. Out of context, places & people have no meaning to him.

The past & the present intermingle.

At the bar aboard the ferry boat he has a conversation with a woman who insists that she has taken a trip into the desert with him. He feels she is making up a story to attract attention. She is a South American blonde & confronts him with details of the journey (in a car heading north out of the Spanish Sahara).

“Don’t deny it,” she says, “I was once a courier like you.”

It must be the drink, he says, & the reflection of the moonlight on the sea that make episodes like these plausible… Flashes of a scene in a small hut & a sand storm haunt him. Was he really there or has he dreamt about it? The blonde who could be one of Pipo’s informants might be the missing link on the way out of the grey zone, where a distinction between what is considered real & fictitious is nearly impossible. “Real” & “fiction” are just 2 sides of a lost picture he is pursuing, never knowing which of them he is facing.

Pipo must be one of the writer’s accomplices who lures outsiders into a net of disorientation. He has a way of appearing & fading into oblivion. Tangiers is a city of many sides, & the borderline between what is real & fictitious is never clear. The present is where parts of the past & the future are simultaneously decoded…

The narrator is stuck with a memory picture & episodes that keep changing meaning. The characters in them go to great lengths to avoid detection & use all means to hide from him.

One of them is Max, a patient in a psychiatry ward in Hamburg. Mostly he is non-communicative & in a meditative state of mind, just short of being catatonic. The narrator’s condition deteriorates as Max gets on his nerves with monologues about trivial stories of drug experiences.

In a dream the narrator is faced with the challenge of writing a screenplay. He is in a clinic where the doctor tells him he is being treated for “fiction.” There is no cure for it but the condition can be controlled by cutting or rearranging his memory pictures.

“Nothing fancy. Movie fans do it all the time,” the doctor tells him. “We usually start with an act of violence.”

An escape from the institution is imminent. He teams up with a blond Latina patient who insists that sex can be a way out “if handled like a drug.”

“Addictive or non-addictive?”

“Hallucinatory.” She gives him a first taste by undressing.

“That will never work,” he says.

“Wait till I am finished.”

He realizes that she is exposing him to the sex image. The idea is to be able to handle the image while the act itself is used as a stimulant. To be outside the picture, not in it. “Addiction, you see, is being part of the picture. The trick is to be able to play it from the outside.”

As he is drawn into having sex with her, the picture of his perception splits into 2 parts. One shows the inside picture, the other is like a view from the outside. In the moment when the 2 merge, they make their getaway…

The narrator is unable to finish the script.

“Why write it if you can live it?” she asks.

He realizes that to go on means depleting his imaginary resources. His explanation is that he cannot sustain his identity working both sides of the picture. The temporal structure of his existence is stuck in cold fictitious corners of a lurking immobility that no action or movement can overcome. He must cut through the dualistic inside/outside prison of perception.

Momentarily the screen goes dark…

***

I’m standing on the balcony next to Luzi as the smell of disinfectants rises from the alleys. Luzi has the face of a Japanese dancer. Nothing about her reveals her ability to move to any place she chooses, nor do I succeed in deciphering her body in the general confusion that hangs over the streets.

The contour of a treacherous continent that eventually blurs. A herd of whales is washed ashore a henna-red beach.

“Aisha is here to clean,” says Luzi. “Be a dear & let her in.” Aisha, the Berber woman, storms into the apartment with an impatient look, collects ashtrays & empty glasses & disappears into the kitchen to prepare dinner. After a while I return to the desk & realize that a non-verbal virus has crept into the manuscript.

The buzzards above the city, the smell of pine & olives, as it exists only by the Mediterranean. The man called Grips, whose life is tailor-made for my biography, once lived here. I distinctly notice the alteration of tactical codes, which are a symbol of transformation. Of identity transformation… a deadly film that suddenly begins to rip. Every man for himself…the language of life, which lets words fall apart.

Just back from a flight to India. Do I exist? I ask myself. I experienced rains & storms, relentless heat & confusingly fast-changing images. I spent days on an old camp bed & stared at the walls, a hot stream of air on my skin, & clouds passed by in quick succession. A nervous buzzing shook the room. For a long time I studied the body of the pilot, who looked like my doppelgänger…

Night falls in long shadows over the cliffs on the western edge of the city. A dark beauty in a tight shirt stands there & photographs the different phases of twilight. (Twilight passes quickly, but by progressively increasing the exposure of each photo, she can prolong the event as desired. Due to this unusual technique, the mentioned beauty is also known as “Karezza-Kiki.”) She is an expert at eliciting erotic arousal in her models & those near her without any physical contact. Then, precisely when the object begins to tremble, shortly before orgasm, she presses the shutter… & has thus captured the life-determining energies (which reveal themselves in the so-called little death) on film.

Through the gaps between the blinds, night gropes its way up to my desk. What connects the images I spoke about is the empty room. Nothing here besides coordinates of the night… water washing around the cliffs…

***

One time, on a ridiculous desert trip, I look out through the open door of the trailer shower cabin onto a strange landscape, where an idle breeze moves dried-up shrubs. Sunlight hits the stove, skids along the wallpaper pattern. A framed Polaroid photo of a woman’s face is glued to the wall, presumably left behind by a long-gone tourist who couldn’t cope with the loss of these icons of satisfaction.

On the other side of the trailer, through the crooked window, stands a long table on which beer cans are stacked. Happy hour, before the nightly circus begins around the campfire. A ram is being grilled, with a meaningful smile the slightly roasted testicles & eyeballs are left behind for the hired drivers.

“Disgusting,” says Grips.

“I hear these are delicacies for them.”

“Not that. Only the smug, patronizing air with which the Euro-pack does it.”

Nomads travel with the wind, they know that objects, like bodies, are permeable. When they touch you, they do not touch you, but rather the space between you & them.

Never nowhere, not ever. These words echo through the night like heavy footsteps in hot pursuit. In true darkness light has gone out. They say that every search here is senseless. Darkness is the place of refuge for those who are no longer searching, who only need to hold out their hand. A knife falls in the sand, Luzi turns away from the screen & runs away.

What was she doing here?

Okay, we spent years here, she took my sleep from me & made a piece of furniture out of me. A sign that she’s done her part? I have no idea what a relationship is. A relationship with a woman is when one begins to use words. A mystery that presumably goes back to a genetic error. For which there may be one or the other individual explanation, as for many things that take place. Taking place is that which eludes explanation. I like her, her proximity, & if there is an explanation, then it probably lies in the ethereal, in the olfactory. (Ethereal oils whose traces drift through the sensory cosmos.)

Part of my assignment calls for me to meet with a contact from time to time. He is South American (but not Latino) & wears a cap despite the heat. We drink a mint tea in an Arab café, & time & again he surprises me by lacking the slightest trace of touristic flair. He throws down some change, sometimes also a dossier, from which I can pick up useful details. Occasionally there is also a map. So that’s that, we separate as though we were nothing more than strangers whose paths had briefly crossed.

It’s an area where women of the Franco-Arab middle class prostitute themselves. You run into them wherever you go, odd creatures who have no clear cultural identity. There are dark, slim girls, dressed in an elegant & European style, although it is not unusual for them to be tattooed on their private parts. Light-skinned ones are also among them, playing up their European roots while dressing in a markedly Arab & traditional way. They blacken their eyelids, otherwise they wear no make-up. It would be a mistake to think of them as easily bought. In the past you could have said that they led a “loose life,” presumably they studied in France or spent some time in a Swiss boarding school, at any rate they have something rebellious about them, rejecting any type of categorization, be it Middle Eastern or European.

I sit in the café & watch one from behind, a slim creature, rather youngish.

“Follow me.” She leads me into a cubicle with blue walls. I try to shake off the biting smell of hidden hostility. “If you just want to talk, monsieur…,” she says. What does she mean by that? That identity is part of one’s verbal pattern? I brush along her arm & see that her skin has the color of henna or a dark-red pepper pod. The movements of her body have a pleasantly obscene effect on me. It is the emptiness of this city that has a hallucinatory effect. “Obscene” is actually only the projection of anticipation.

“Suggestive” would be the proper word, or is it? All people do it, degrade their bodies to the level of objects, as do I, why not? Hallucinatory, whatever ethereal oils or drugs induce… a numbing seduction that gets me to forget myself & my past when I see one of those reflections of the opposite sex before me. We haven’t made one step forward as I see a shadowy motion from out of the corner of my eye, a nodding that comes from the South American man with the cap. The door flies open & a vague shape throws a knife at me. I bolt out, run along the hallway to the exit, the guy is on my tail, follows me with catlike leaps. Shit, I say. Sluts… even if it’s only her lover. With my last ounce of strength I reach the hatch to the roof & slam it closed behind me. The end, torn night above me. Wind & sweat, my face smudged.

The Arabs call the girls drifting-sand whores. Men here are known to pull out their knives at the slightest provocation, & passion can quickly turn into fatal violence. They simply slash the throat of a lover who doesn’t please them, the same way it’s done with a whore.

A starry night hangs over the city, the asphalt still warm. I put a handkerchief into my breast pocket & make my way down to the casino along rung-like terraces that are flooded with silver moonlight. A heavy breeze comes in from the ocean… the mulatto in a strapless dress briefly steps out of a shadow & takes a long look at me. (At one point she emerged from the crowd & asked me if I wanted a massage. I declined spontaneously, a decision I have regretted ever since. How would it have gone, I ask myself. The fact that she was good-looking was one more reason to say no. In a hotel room with a view of an abandoned exclusive residential area she is leaning over me… It is a starry night. Do you use oil, I ask. If you like. The neon sign of a motel on the promenade shines as though etched into the night. I used to live there, she says. Take off your clothes, I say. She peels off her dress mechanically. “Listen,” I say. “I would never have done it if I didn’t like you.”

“They all say that.” She has closely cropped hair & a body of limitless capabilities. “Can I touch you?” “If you like.” She leans over me, shakes her scent off on me. Anything, but not that, I tell myself. She twitches imperceptibly. If it is real, it’s good & if it’s show, it’s even better. Then, in slow motion, she begins to feel my body. At first it is as though she couldn’t find it, as though it weren’t there. She is alone in space, fills it with her energy, which reaches all the way to my nerves. Nerves, a word that didn’t exist until now. Her face goes through various fictions that two bodies can engender. A wild jostling & then another breathless expanse, also silence, in which the drumbeats of excitement are barely tolerable.)

***

Max, my alter ego, was not what you could call a happy young man. For a long time he looked out over a suburb where nothing much happened. Everything seemed peaceful like ripples on a river.

He remembered the nightmare of a dining room filled with ugly, nasty people who had no qualms about displaying behavior guided by hate. Big black mosquitoes swarmed across neatly set tables. There was an unbearable humming in the air like bulks of bombers flying overhead. Soon the bombs would hit the buildings…

Max would stand & stare at the shade of trees until his eyes hurt. He was stranded on an old continent long since gone & asked himself if it was impossible to find his own space. Black & white movies gave him a hunch of escape. In the seclusion of his room he started to take notes. He wanted to rewrite what he had seen.

He started to hang out with dead characters who were like people he had known a long time ago. They talked & acted as if he were one of them. Nothing happened until the right time had come. They were constantly on the move, traveling if you could call it that.

Once he ended up on a ship with them, an ocean liner big enough to get lost in. They passed the Balearics & the coast of North Africa. In a telescopic view he could see himself drive up a steep street along white houses through sleepy Tangiers. One day I will take that trip, he told himself, & years later he did letting his foot glide from accelerator to brake on a winding road near the coast. It led up a garden path to a villa, & a slender girl with long, dark hair opened the door. He stood next to her at the railing of a terrace overlooking the sea.

He didn’t have to do anything, things happened to him. Ships leaving the harbor in hazy twilight. A bright light from the dining room disturbed his dream & he woke to a nightmare of postwar Germany. Big black mosquitoes swarmed around with a hissing sound. A flickering light came through branches of trees until his eyes hurt. He was struggling with the feeling that something wasn’t right with him. Perhaps he was not in sync with time. Alarmed & uncertain about himself he returned to his room & the notes. It was small but large enough to get lost in. A sense of being lost stayed a long time with him.

He found his destiny in becoming a pilot in search of the lost horizon…

***

Flypaper fingers over Western plains. In the heat I had feeling of jerking off a teenage dream. I could see it drift away & evaporate in the sizzling hot air. In the distance the vague shine of Oriental cities. I was stuck with instant film images of metabolic adjustments & mysterious needs of a fast approaching final season.

Remote navigation was the name d’affair. Don’t-touch signs all over the place. Groping statements of flesh stuck in a frying pan. Get me out of here… but who am I to save the soul of a ghost rider’s piece of meat?

Remember what I said? There’s no way out… you gotta stick with leftover drinks after everyone else has gone. Stranded with memory blocks after sleep withdrawal & with the weight of a dead brain chirping like fire ants.

Ask a pilot… the simple answer is: It’s easier to get lost than to hit the sky. The real trouble starts back on the ground. Just look at yourself after 2 drinks in the mirror behind a bar. Don’t take your image for granted, buddy… it might look familiar but it’s a take-off. Something you got accustomed to by habit. The real you is hiding inside. To get a feel of yourself you have to cut up what you see…

That’s when you realize that you are living in a colony of film image.

“Sure.”

As I was heading for the plane, I had the feeling of skidding through jerky air. I couldn’t keep my feet on the ground. To get a grip of things I had to take to the air. Call it pilot’s fate. Call it vanity of orientation. Like pieces of flesh desperately holding on to a body sailing through space.

Don’t get rid of your picture until you have seen the real image. The danger is to confuse one for the other. Forget the familiar one, no matter how repulsive the real one is. You will notice a blurred glow of fire under layers of tarnished skin. Skin like screen alive with projection of film.

Flying all night until the light of dawn. A blob of a continent emerged & out of it a gleaming skyline. All the instruments showed was a maze of digital images. Stay on course & follow the flow of incoming data…

Traces of fossil space while the plane took a dive into a mist over swamps. The Bronx? The outskirts of Calcutta? Hard to tell with all that motion lag. You have been dragged into space, & now it’s time to come up for air. If the breathing stops you can suck it in through your pores. If nothing else, space travel requires an evolutionary step just as the amphibians did.

“Your dame from Denver has arrived,” Ray the freight agent said.

Her name was Sissy, she said, & she wore a fur coat & ski cap. I had never seen her before, must be a hooker, I thought. She was sucking on a bottle of Coke as I yanked my eyebrows in slow motion.

“You wouldn’t remember me,” she whispered close to me.

I noticed she had an Indio look & swamp eyes. I turned, & the next moment she was gone.

“Sorry Ray,” I said, “but my expense account doesn’t cover Russian émigré whores.”

He got the picture. Whatever I was up to, a reverse dose of reality never failed me. It was like an alien planet opening its doors. No cover & perception not included. Smell of industrial silence. Death threats & the notorious reaction of disgust when you realize at lunch what’s at the end of your fork.

Smell of veins in the evening rain. Caskets & urns flanked the boulevards of the lost capital of the world. Drooling eyes in the contagious atmosphere of slow faces. Agents talking all afternoon about lost contacts. Familiar phrases from the Cold War era.

“What the hell happened to the baggage bug?”

“It got away during the safety inspection.”

“Shit, now it will contaminate any incoming piece.”

Some jerk from Home Defense even had the idea of crashing the plane to get rid of it. Let’s face it, a baggage hold is a dangerous place.

New York Times: Can the western world survive without brain surgery? Almighty Allah, a bunch of plastic quacks is already working on it. Once they are through you won’t be able to tell head from ass. Bite the bullet, that’s the cure…

After landing on an alien planet passengers swarmed out for a search & kill expedition. The only problem was, they didn’t know who or what they were after. Good chance they would end up killing each other.

Smell of industrial rain. Rows of flag-covered urns flanked naked boulevards. Through mist of salty air an ancient ivory horizon kept closing in. An atmosphere of skimpy underwear smothered the City. Young people in g-strings were dancing in the streets, Sufi mambo they called it… leaving behind artifacts of vanishing flesh. A hard place to shake down even after discos were sealed off & converted into isolation tracts of psychiatric wards.

The hotel turned out to be a makeshift spaceport packed with crowds of misfits & freaks determined to leave the planet. Where to? They didn’t care, all they wanted was out, making sure nobody got in their way. Eager to pay in hard carnal currency. I was searched by empty eyes of identity guards in a procedure of pornographic routine (reminding me of what was called “cock inspection” of ship crews arriving in an US port).

Downstairs, Sissy the girl from Denver was sitting on a bar stool with her thighs squeezed tight. Her green eyes scanning the space around her. What looked like a little white snail turned out to be a tear sliding down her left cheek.

I knew the guys from the Nova outfit would have to process the film before they could start with the operation of taking over the planet. (Of course, they never say “planet” but “market.”) What planet, what market? Well, the image market to monopolize conditions of existence. The basic formula of total control. Planet is nothing but a code word for control, get that? Occupying present time form: The objective of Operation Takeover.

I had stumbled into a combat zone & immediately went undercover. Once you are on film (meaning being part of prerecorded history) there is no way of escape. Like it or not, you become a component of the picture & have to act according to the script, their script. No more you or me, they or us. All identity is made up by the script (or system). Whatever you do, your actions are confined to a grid of pleasure & pain. Pleasure & pain are guiding you through the biological film. You will end up as a human agent.

Suddenly magic facades opened into a large silver clearing of contaminated space. Information tourists rushed out, convinced they had found the last frontier. Prospectors, hookers & migrants of virtuality made a run for it. An apocalyptic craze which later went down as the Great Nova land rush…

Sissy slid by with a lunatic, beefy grin. “What’s in it for me?”

“Well, you can tell the folks back home about it.”

“What folks? The reality show is run by shits.”

A smell of death & sperm hung over the territory.

Windblown apartments exposed to film. All lines busy with terrorist speak. In a bubble of neon the Nova script was blown out of a window at the Electronic Security Agency…

Sissy cast a cool eye at the mugs of the syndicate. “Sure, you know what you’re doing?”

“Damn it, we’re following the script from the conflict bureau.”

In a dream Sissy is in the cockpit seat next to me sliding into a fetal position. We are low on fuel & gliding over tarnished bodies with shiny genitals as the night goes by. I can’t keep her hands off me. I start falling apart with slowly fading sensations.

“Where are you trying to take me?”

I have my hands full flying the plane, desperately looking for a place to crash it… through vapor of passing time we’re heading for a vague horizon on a giant screen. An empty screen… is that the last thing I will see? she screams.

***

Asked where pilots, hitchhikers & deadliners live, George’s simple answer is: Where history is but a hunch, a whistle across the sky in time of fading light. Sometimes there is even a kick, a dirty shine reflected on the walls of veins, a flickering film.

That’s when you realize what it means to be stranded in the colony of image & film.

“Going someplace?”

“Sure.”

Changes that hit you on the go. Words you don’t understand. You hear them & then they are gone… the space between you & here, ashes of cigarettes, a trace of smoke fading over the hills… while the plane makes a slow climb through a thin layer of mist over the swamps below.

All that is memory now, a dim landscape behind dusty windows, the dark shadows of clouds & black birds slowly circling the sky. Standing there with a suitcase next to you & mixed up from with the hasty night before. If there was a message, it meant to get out of there, let go of the job which wasn’t anyhow what you had expected…

Trash of a hot weekend all over the streets, leftover crab legs & papers & dog shit & a few drunks sleeping it off on the sidewalk. The hissing sound of vans. A feel that creeps up from below as you turn down the car window putting your arm over the railing & hitting the accelerator… just another routine like a torn page of memory.

***

“If you wanna get to know Europe,” Bernie once said, “hit the Autobahn.”

***

But your desire to get around & move to other places has long since faded. All you feel is an urge to follow the ghosts… haunting the streets for biographical material but all you dig up is junk & trash, artifacts out of a heap of a gone past, flesh with the stale taste of contamination & strata of computer data scattered all over the place.

Alien mutter across the outlands. Streaks of saliva fading into the southern sky, human & confidential but not from this planet. A strange smell of memory has passed the security checks. Waldo the bronze medium tries a smile… shows me around an asylum where the girl stays I have in mind.

“What’s this?” I ask. “The waiting room of a dope convention? A spectacular crack-up contest?”

The delinquent patients are Mary Nolan known as Mata Bali, Stroheim the extra sadist from Vienna & Countess Luciano, queen of Gomorrah suburbs.

Smells like swells from the sea. Cold wind down from the cypress groves. Motels stained with silver skin. Questions. Images…

Sounds of a blue tango coming out of a damp jungle. Looking down into the water, I see cockeyed fish & reflections of strung up underwear dangling in the current. Rotten wood statues with pink genitals. A beautiful black whore stands at the bottom of the ravine with a cigarette in her mouth.

A dummy looking for a slot machine. The girl & a guy called the Leak turn quickly & walk down toward a roadside café.

She takes him up to this small hotel after too much C. The Leak fingers around laughing up some lines from an electronic Vaudeville act. A blue flame licking the silver sky. Screams of sensual expedition, a telepathic goodbye. She faints with a closing magic sigh.

***

The mad soundtrack of scary streets just after dawn. A telepathic inconspicuous-looking tarantula with a glow of virus food on its tentacles. Head turning slowly, looking at me in dead alien silence. There was a heavy cry & then a quiet smile. A soft sigh from an empty mind giving signals in insect code.

Ahead was a roadblock with cops looking for dope, the usual pretense for control. “Where is the stuff or do you want us to take the car apart?”

“It’s easier to plant it, why don’t you try that?”

“Wise guy, hey?” The copper goggled & put on a Hollywood smile like a headless chicken to hide his shining Nazi face.

I had a hunch to play it safe. “I am on a field trip on an undercover mission & have the papers to prove it.”

“I see,” he said, glancing over my phony credentials. I could see he wasn’t eager to go into details. It was a cheap trick that got me off the hook.

The stink of baked potatoes over a landscape of empty fields. Bright stars in a sky like a velvet black planetarium. I drove fast. I needed a drink to take my mind off the road & the images of black fashion models trying to hit it big in the ranks of Hollywood green people loaded with dough. “Damn it, we are all in the electronic pleasure business.”

“Right on.”

“Wanna play?”

“Shit,” I said, “I am only the man from pest control.”

I had bumped into a makeshift casino at the edge of a desert. A fat woman sat behind a pinball desk watching over sex scenes in a water tank. Silky cunts floating around like shadow sharks. A 200 pound joker with freckled teeth & the incredible story of a circus barker was working the slot machines. He turned out to be a computer freak who was a freelance black market racketeer in counterfeit chips. I had finally scored a hit.

After I had him under wraps, his mouth stayed open & his face turned into a five cent piece. “That’s it, buddy,” I told him. “End of the road for you.”

The barman goggled & spilled alarm signals all over the place. Time to get out of there…

The door to the black market scene closed behind me, keeping out the damp secret smells of sleazy deals that were out of fashion anyhow. Nowhere to go from here. Everybody was in the junk business now, & it was hopelessly diversified. The spotlight was on moon shiners & their neurotic jokes that swept through all levels of the control machine. Call it an endemic dose of mind poisoning. Cunt cramps, knotted muscles, nausea, shudders, nervous breakdowns & “blackjack” every night. Riddled movements like flickering neon. Quick electric dust kisses of raw meat. A series of snapshots taken in the Intercontinental Rainbow Studios. Fleshy clouds moved across a hairy chromium sky. Mugwumps flocked around the Desert bar sipping Arab flea cocktails with dermal straws.

“So this is Terran life?”

“You are the job we have in mind.”

“Forget it,” I said.

Purple shadows crept across the planet. Most agents had disappeared into vast plains of dingo country. My mind was fast running out of memory fuel, association lines cut by insect claws leaving behind a red line of psychiatric symbols. Inmates of loony bins kicked them around like roadside trash.

A bunch of short-sleeved agents showed up from nowhere & tried to blend in with a group of Kalahari tribesmen. A step that blew their cover in a jiffy.

A lost glaze dismantled the photographic time machine. “Everybody back to the terminal message.”

“Let’s up the machine to scraps of sudden history.”

“It’s one of those long-range events of information warfare.”

***

The highway was lined with deserted gas stations & empty barracks. The eerie glaze of spotlights on masts projected the atmosphere of a concentration camp. The guards hid in shacks, & the prisoners had retreated into makeshift warehouses.

Max stepped on the gas shooting down the road under a purple spotted sky. He had been on a narcotic expedition down south where he had followed hints of sacred plants with psychogenic powers which led to nothing. Hints — & the natives were careful not to reveal their secrets. No wonder since the motifs of some of the members of the expedition were more than suspicious. The politics of drugs turned out to be just as dubious as any other activity of so-called politicians.

Initially the group worked with an insect code which was supposed to filter out information from a matrix of scattered data, mostly fictitious, Max felt. He was skeptical from the beginning & with time this led to growing suspicion between him & the group. A compromise seemed impossible, & so he split.

Any gun could produce a stick-up effect especially with a guy who was in the habit of sputtering words at point blank. A lousy trick to persuade people. Some music had the same effect but with different results. Means were always part of the result. The same was true of traveling. Once you hit the road, you had made the decision where to go.

On the go, that was where Max wanted to be.

Time had finally caught up with him & pushed him into a state with no endings & no beginnings. Everything ended right here & turned into a new beginning. At first this was tiring. Nights went by like days, & days were chopped up into bits of floating sequences. There were no places where it paid to stay.

The film of factuality was fading into shifting images. At times he felt he was lifted off the ground into a soundless space where objects were floating in an ocean of zero gravity. Western plains surfaced from one of his teenage dreams with silhouettes of lonely riders against a shiny sky. Desert cities sprawled out in the sand like letters of unknown writing. No one who couldn’t read them was able to enter them…

Perhaps a hidden meaning providing the code for coherent perception so things could fall into place. A code he had forgotten, & now pieces of what was in front of his eyes remained parts of a puzzle that did not match. All he was experiencing was disorientation. He could only survive with the conscious effort to put together inconsistent fragments so that at least they resembled an environment providing enough clues to navigate.

All afternoon Max lay in a hammock going through papers. In the heat & the slow moving shades of palm branches they made no sense. He went over them, & after he put them away he wasn’t sure what he had read. They looked like notes of a scientist who had lost his mind over the abundance of tropical phenomena he had jotted down at random. Some read like dreams, others like sketches of mysterious encounters with anacondas & giant piranhas in murky dead waters of the Amazon delta.

Lying in a hammock always made him a little motion sick. He slid out of it & took a few steps uncertain where to go. The participants of the expedition had disappeared, & he had no idea where. Maybe they had moved on & left him in this lousy village in the wilderness. He couldn’t care less. After all they were not really on speaking terms.

To hell with them…

***

Kiki the waitress worked the touch & go trail. The waitress stuff wasn’t bad for a cover. No strings attached, she could show anywhere getting a job in no time leaving no traces to track her. She was part Asian & had a gift for changing appearances. In fact, her facial expression could shift from one minute to the other.

Sometimes, when they had arranged a meeting, Max missed her. He was never sure if it was her or a double. Like in the film business, a lot of operatives worked with lookalikes. Sometimes for kicks, sometimes to escape surveillance. In this business you could never be sure what was brewing. To avoid becoming a target, it was important always to be a step ahead. Once the action started, it was too late…

That night Max gave up waiting for her, heading back for the car. As he was turning the key, a shadow appeared. He shifted into gear, ready to take off. The shadowy figure was signaling with a gesture that looked familiar. Was it her? He would have to roll down the window to find out. He hesitated but he had to take the chance.

“What’s the word?” he shouted.

“Let me in.”

He made a quick memory check & the image data seemed to match. Even though he was sure he had locked the door, she jerked it open & jumped in. He hit the gas, & they were on to road…

He knew there was no point in asking questions, realizing that Kiki had pushed him into the role of driver. “You watch the road.” They passed a hotel in colonial style probably built by European settlers when a dollar would pay for a room. Now the façade had turned into a postcard picture.

“Feel that you have been here before?” Kiki asked.

“Not in a lifetime.”

“Oh, loosen up… don’t you remember?”

“No,” he replied. Even if the place looked somehow familiar, he didn’t want to think about it. There was no merit in going back to old places. If they had stayed the same, they blurred the view with double exposure. But places didn’t stay the same, they changed & hardly ever for the better.

This one was a boneyard of fake marble, potted palm trees & yellowed old newspapers.

Kiki swallowed some pills & looked at him with contempt. He sensed she was getting ready for a move. With women action often led to facial deformations, their expression defaulting under pressure of stress. But there was not enough light to really tell.

“I am going in,” she said with abrupt urgency. “You stay & be ready for a getaway.”

She jumped out & disappeared between torn posters on the walls of a front building & through a swing-door.

Max kept the motor running & sat there like a stool pigeon. There wasn’t a hint of danger on his mind. He was calm in an absent-minded way. Routine, he told himself.

A block down the street a dog was pissing on a potted tree in front of a staircase. It was a long time since he had done undercover work. He could tell that’s what it was from the rush of blood in his veins.

Undercover meant you never knew the whole picture of what was going on. You were only told about the part you were expected to play. No more. That way the operation could never be told in case something went wrong.

All this came back to him now. The sensation of detachment even in the midst of involvement. He did his part, & the outcome depended on how others handled their job. It was a puzzle, & success came when the pieces fit.

He didn’t want to know the plot of the script. No matter what the outcome, he stuck to his part & Kiki would stick to hers. He heard a couple of shots & Kiki came storming out of the building, down the stairs & into the car. The acceleration of it slammed the door shut. He held the wheel with both hands, & they sped off. Lights that looked like shooting stars falling through a gloomy sky.

After the motion slowed down, there was a happy embrace by Kiki. In a spurt of light he saw traces of lipstick on her mouth. The expression of her face was frozen like a mask or that of a ghost. He dreaded the idea of stopping the car. The road was lined with windblown palm trees. The horizon was a string of dim lights. Once in a while the picture of a roadside diner or a café came into focus like a postcard. Waste paper & plastic bags were blown across streets. A shooting star with tentacles as a tail rushed across the fading blue of dawn. Pretty soon it would be unbearably lucid.

“Remember we have a deadline to meet,” Kiki insisted. Sure there was always a plane to catch or a spaceships hovering over the desert ready to pick her up. Not him. He was out of the business, not going anywhere. It would end as it had begun: She would get out & disappear into a bright glare, brighter than the full blast of the sun coming up over the horizon leaving him there on a wide open plain with nowhere to go but to get back on the road & forget what never happened.

He was too tired to care.

***

Street messages that sounded like bones cracking in the distance. Cruelty spots of present history televised by an overdose of software (paraphrase for government addiction).

“Going camouflage? That’s your only chance, stranger.”

“Want credentials?”

I moved closer towards a cigarette glow as I was approaching a survivor’s motel in the middle of the desert. There was a breeze coming across like a phone call from a time long gone. A blonde in a tight dress staggered down stairs, her body stopping just short of reach. Skin talk they call it, wind ruffling her hair & shooting a flurry of erotic static into the air. I saw her tongue come out like a tentacle pushing down into the cracks of my body. The last thing I heard was an explosion. “Might as well call it a day.”

“Now where were we… oh yeah, whites later.” The girl with sky-eyes & a shaven head made a cricket sound as I touched her thigh. She got up leaving a tattoo on the bar stool. She had the deadly temper of a gas can. Ready to explode any time, no matter how carefully you handled her. She got dressed waiting for it to get dark enough to stroll along the blue boulevards of Berlin.

A plane was taking off into a layer of dense fog.

I sit on the porch while Nelly is putting on her desert outfit with a mystery smile. A strange atmosphere of magic space sighs. Jungle twilight sprawled across remnants of a typhoon. Cover of a soft porn with shady curled hair across patches of skin. Nelly slides in a question: “Notice the strange smell of engine failure?” My balls tighten with a sting of pain as she loosens her grip telling me that she is all special agent again.

Just enough fog to keep the room frozen. The window covered with kelp from the sea. My body smeared with Vaseline. “Wanna talk?” She tightened the ropes until I couldn’t move a finger. Yeah, she gave me the slow motion treatment.

Flocks of leprous white law & order skeletons scattered under a moonless sky in the nauseating light bulb deadliness of a morgue. Dark street whispers flooded the sewers. Inmates of loony bins overdosed on the Vietnam syndrome were chanting anti-war slogans. Steaks of saliva fading into decades of thermodynamic wilderness.

***

Traveling with the word increases the dose of anti-time. Everybody is blind to that bait, including me. Pictures are drifting by with prehistoric consistency. You leave behind familiar surroundings where everything is cut neatly into destinies. Landscapes passing without warnings… mangled bodies floating by in stale waterways. Darkness in full glee. A distant traveler might stop & say a prayer to a skeleton by the roadside, that’s all.

The silence of the sea. A flash of urgency hits & vanishes into hyacinth images of an ancient flute tune. An iguana stares up at the clouds over silver rivers fading into mud plains under a lost red sky…

“So you have seen the junk image. Where do go from here?”

Obviously the image itself has freaked out & there is no “here”… Shift the scanning pattern of the local pusher & you will see the difference. Word is junk control to keep you in time. Control is determining the scanning pattern & by leaving behind your time image you will notice the planet’s fading outlines, the deadly smell of control.

To break film mechanism of control, always keep a layer of flaming cold between you & the conflict threatening you. Strike out the word problem, it’s fatal like Deadly Orgone Radiation (DOR). No point to look at the conflicts of other life forms. Don’t stop if you are caught in the middle, you can figure it out afterwards. All form here is idiotically overdosed with time. The entire audience paralyzed by complacency & fear, a combination of here & not to hear.

Wanna know the details?

My writings take me to a lost City. I did it with experiments ignoring all rules of reality. If you defy rules the spatial dimension shifts & the reality picture reveals its chaotic structure. Because that’s what reality is: a picture.

The City is electronically lit & also has dark spots of a matrix. Easy to get lost there in the visions of the dead. The dead are the masters of time, they decide when things take place, not where. The where is part of the physical dimension & related to the body. No body, no where & vice versa.

The road of words vanishes in the fabric of pictures. If you follow that road you will find the picture. Words are the trace you leave behind, helpful but disposable. They mark the borderline of night beyond which the real & the fictional blend in a shift of perception.

Replicants use the drug of character to play convenient roles in a scenery of virtual images on a hidden picture. Protoplasmic databases of social codes. Missing persons of the original script of meaning written a long time ago & destroyed by martial searches & campaigns.

Talk is in vain. Out of desperation I keep in touch with an agent who presumes the manuscript has been taken to Tangiers. My guess is it never left Berlin. There are indications that it was transcribed into a film script hiding its meaning in trivial plots of sex & crime. Through an Arab the agent meets an old European who tells him “this is a land of ceremonies & rituals.” He insists that he is in telepathic contact with prisoners in Israel & involved in a conspiracy of levitation.

As a cover-up I keep writing about the subject of time in search of ultimate global loneliness. I have published a thesis that it is one of the most neglected factors of the world wide web & that it induces individuals to fade out of sight by providing them with a transpersonal biography.

***

Opening word files I found myself cutting up a bunch of dead bananas. I was strolling through a Spanish town as a pile of bananas on the cart of a street vendor caught my eye. I bought a bag full & couldn’t wait to cut them up sideways. The knife going through their fiber texture gave me a strange feeling.

It was Sunday & blood was on the streets apparently left over from last night’s corrida. The blood did not stay in the arena but spilled all over town. Perhaps it wasn’t bull’s blood but human. Drinking & fighting had gone on all night. The bus station was plastered with blood, the alleys that led to the bordellos… now, in bright daylight, the air hit me like a bolt of flashes from knife blades.

Out of a bodega came a scream: “The engine went out… no chance to get out of here!” Followed by oriental silence. It sounded like a ghost sailor reliving a shipwreck or some mishap. Seems like I had hit a hostile hot spot of bars & seaboard hideaways…

Yells of the dead from sinking ships hunting me. Not a place to trip & fall into the turmoil of a stormy night with the sea beating against the coastline…

Cutting through association lines I was heading towards an unlighted landing strip on the outskirts of town, my vision blurred by a shade of suspicion as if watching a scene in a suspense movie with action about to break loose. A plane circling overhead was caught in a cone of silence, the pilot maneuvering frantically to steer clear of it. Occasionally the plane lit up like a sapphire. Finally it landed & opening the canopy the pilot yelled: “Where in hell is the lover boy with the money?”

There was nobody to answer. After a while a girl approached. She looked like she had slipped out of a soft porn, sweating, her hair in disarray.

The pilot slid down the wing, looking around for the person he was supposed to meet. But no one showed.

“So what’s your line?” he asked the girl.

“I am trying to hitch a ride to Tangiers.”

“Not with me you are. I don’t handle hot cargo, baby.”

“That’s what you say.”

In the cold damp light of dusk he was struck by a glow illuminating him like a slot machine. You could tell he was considering the prospects of her amenities. They were more than obvious.

“No rule without exception,” he said & hit the bushes for a piss.

As he turned around, he saw her nearly naked body standing out against the silver outline of the fuselage. It was an image he could not refuse.

“Hop in,” he said as he returned to the plane. “All in a day’s work.”

With swift motions she strapped herself to the shiny vinyl seat. He knew immediately she had done it before. She was no newcomer to flying. With her blond hair & determined face she even looked like she was a pilot herself.

“Don’t get any ideas,” he said as he started the engine.

The scary vastness of the field I was overlooking suddenly gave me a sense of desolation. Was I the pilot with a soft spot for unexpected events, taking a chance with a strange passenger who probably turned out to be an agent of an obscure organization with a plan to mess up my mission?

I remember waking up in a sticky room with swerving walls. The bed I lay down on seemed to float on a greasy fluid. With every move the bed listed nearly dumping me into the messy jelly.

Stranded in the loneliest of all dumps…

The bed was wriggling in slow motion of flesh sending currents of excitement through my cock. A slimy liquid trickled through my fingers. Then there was a metal moan that lingered like echo in the room. I realized I wasn’t alone. Someone was close, too close. I leaped up, one hand sinking into soft moulds of flesh. All I could see was a muddle of crawling curved shapes. It wasn’t a bed but limbs of an enormous woman that clung to me with tentacles giving off the smell of a rancid carnal gorge. On the verge of going under I looked up & saw flies dancing on the ceiling ready to transform into flocks of bats looking for prey to suck blood.

A near-miss jam, that’s what it was. I managed to stay clear of large nipples & lips gulping for air. Twisting I tried to get off the pale naked body that stuck to me with sucking doggedness. It took a while & after a few steps towards a dim gleam of light I stumbled over a chair. As I looked back over my shadow, I caught a glimpse of a flat face with a row of bare piranha teeth.

Stepping out onto a veranda in dusky light, the ocean was as close as a cigarette’s glow. Sparks of moonlight flew off the black water. The air was crisp with a whiff of salt. I sucked it in as if coming up from a long dive. Ancient light of a moon eclipse touched a tropical lagoon. Blue shadows covered the silhouette of palm groves & a few huts along the beach.

An empty mind sent alien metal scents across the dead scene usually the precursor of hidden danger. In a rush of spatial awareness I could sense roads beyond the horizon. I headed out through the heavy sand of the beach under a chromium sky reflecting blurred images of my moving body messing up my efforts of orientation.

A sleepy lagoon crawling with death signals…

***

Flight 66 ended in a thick layer of fog just beyond the rim of the horizon. Did the pilot know what he was doing? Bright lights breaking through milky haze… Landmarks drifted by in slow motion… A silent screen of dust covered the wind shield. As wheels touched down, the plane came to a halt in the strange atmosphere of a magic city glowing with orange twilight.

The pilot had forgotten about the girl in the seat behind him. Descending into the fog he had no idea whether they would make it. Out of fuel he realized how lucky they had been. In the last moments of the approach an invisible hand had taken over the controls. With a faint suspicion that she had a part in this, he asked: “Was it you?”

She looked at him with a calm glow in her eyes.

“Just secondhand luck,” she said.

Stunned, he followed her into what looked like a deserted burlesque theater. They found a dressing room, & she started peeling off her clothes as if they were patches of skin. He noticed a strange smell & could not help the feeling that a camera was running recording sex data of decades long gone.

“Taking me here was your last chance,” she said. Without her clothes there was something alien about her. Her human appearance had been nothing but a clever disguise. Maybe by dead reckoning he had crossed a time line during the trip. He was thinking of putting in a phone call to dispatch headquarters. “It looks like science fiction has caught up with me… get me out of here.”

But the line was dead. Or his cell phone out of reach.

Sensing that all lines of his past were cut, he set out wandering through a thermodynamic wilderness of an unknown galactic outpost…

***

Behind the backdrop of suburbs there is a small hotel by a lagoon. Lemurs sit in trees. Stretched out in a hammock, Tania tells me that there were other men before me. Her breath brushes me like a scorpion’s tail, & in a dream the noises of the jungle take on the sound of death. Tania is close to a window watching herself in the mirror instructing herself how to masturbate.

As the speed of perception accelerates the traveler changes into an explorer of silence. Remnants of ancient cultures fade in with the landscape. Ruins rise out of the blue fog of the lost continent of Mu.

My biography strikes me as a farewell to biological idiosyncrasy. The I, the ego, the me has lost all meaning. Gravity pertains to nakedness. The reproduction cycle has become relentless. With identity & meaning there is no place a man can turn to. Destiny lies in the presence, the moment of being… in a silver streak of a frozen film.

***

Motel afternoons with cool reflexes on the verge of laughing. Lying there listening to the breezy music of space. For a moment I am back in prerecorded events, in the vacuum of time soiled with the sweat of traitors.

There is Tania rising from a silent drum beat that lights up the whole countryside. She look at me as if an image of timelessness & coming in from darkness on a swinging trapeze. So it is the post-mortem road again…

She take me up this small room for a close-up encounter, sniffing me over with her talking cunt shoving me into the cubicle like a joke. Looking out I can see the sunlit sidewalks tattooed with laughter, my stiff cock caught in a vacuum of silent amusement. The whole pornographic film spreads out across the greenish gleam of Evil Eye under a vinyl sky. Tania can really play out prerecorded events with her cunt in a routine called the “Eskimo seal act” which is part of basic training for every libertine. It turns out to be the signal to head for the cyclone shelter before the whole town comes down with hilarious hysteria.

Nothing worse than vaginal laughter under the stars…

***

The clouds behind the hills were extending to psychological levels cutting me off from the sensation of time & the past. Something in slow motion from the carnal morgue of memories had finally caught up with us as we reached the coast of Yucatan where we were going to do an Egyptian fuck in front of the Mayan ruins of Tulum.

As Tania lifted up her dress I smelt a puff of spilt perfume. A blue flame made her twitch & mutter, I could see her ectoplasm leap burning black pleasure holes right through my biochemistry. Turning into penis flesh I got a whiff of the salty tinge on the stone platform of the pyramid deterring me from looking at the moon. I kept my mind frozen like a celluloid junkie scared of moving in the dark.

Tania just stood there among shreds of falling stars, pink flashes lighting up her legs like a forgotten smile.

***

Cut to a well-lighted place on the French Riviera with an empty lot across the street & the smell of lazy motions. In the sunlight by the window a girl is playing a saxophone, short hair & sunglasses. Her bare ass tightens whenever she hits a high note while at the same time the door to the veranda is blown open by the breeze.

It is a sound that fills the town & slowly fades down the rue d’Antibes.

The balconies are covered with pieces of underwear from the night before. So you wet your mouth with a powerful drink & kiss the girl who gives off a shriek.

Nothing here now but the lizards & the softness of a place called Le Claridge.

***

All that was left on set was this late night hangout. Empty dim sidewalks, smoggy air, fluid twilight shadows. We see a panning shot of a city like L.A. created on the typewriter of Mr. Chandler cut in with a faded blue snapshot of me crossing Second Street, stale shade drawn down over the screen with magic moonlight sparks. The high-pitched voice of a Mexican, his face covered by almost invisible fog coming in from sea.

I arrived back in present time by l959. I had acquired a slight Levantine accent dunno why… the blue screen of Time. Outside not a sound across battered shamble words. What words?

My own lingo.

I could hear the staccato of repeater writings reincarnating writers from the Expressionistic era long past. The door open again for all minds living or dead. Western Europe in lousy condition torn by subliminal Uranian war control machines destroying the streets. Sold out by maniacs from purple colored brackish water.

Going through old diary words anywhere listen to my last film flickering across the world. You powers behind silver condoms muttering ejaculations all over. Is this the way “word” works? Liars who want Time for their own minds to take over. Vegetable people offering to replace the losses report to all souls everywhere. You want the reactions of the hopeless? Partisans know “the word,” the secret enemy prisons…

***

A Mediterranean town, its street flushed with rush-hour debris. Sidewalk cafés & long wooden tables where seafood is slowly rotting away in the heat. Try an oyster if you want to call it a day, their soft slimy meat turning your insides out while they rush you off to intensive care in the isolation tract of the Institute Pasteur.

Again the banging of hotel doors. Here they have an integral metaphoric sound that comes with the European plan, symphonic if you will & as far as the conditions of the high season will permit.

Trying to translate the sound of time in progress, the sidewalk tattoos of Central Avenue, the electric postcards of another space. A joyless thing to watch Old Joe score a sniff. The bouncer didn’t quite scream, he just croaked… a scream on top of the room. The costumers split, drifting out into the streets quiet shadows under the stars.

When Sheriff “Punk” Jones saw the sign, gayness invaded his face. “A hunch for sale.” That was exactly what he needed since he had dragged himself out of his bunk. His voice came right out of a Sears & Roebuck catalogue. He needed a drink badly near Time Boulevard. “Cops get physical too, you know.”

We were floating down the highway by harsh smell of gas stations. The City lay under a purple flowered sky of stray mugshots & windblown blossoms. There was Dream Police with the mellow voice of an American night. Operation Red Meat & cops spitting out apocalyptic prayers. Commotion that puts you inside a frozen bubble…

Darkness closed behind dirty cold streets. A rotten black night. The sheriff watched the delinquents die with heads high…

Villages defoliated alive. “Please let me have some air, Sahib.” It was sniffs or else… a quiet place with too much video-fog. The dead alien silence of neon showers… soft sighs coming over the mountain as we inhaled the dust. We scooped up the ground without a sound. The bouncer goggled & it’s time to act… action scene fading into a torn screen. The City a black hole with nationalistic smiles… “uh-huh,” go the voices of photo bodies… a sick man stepping out of a film vanishes on the smooth surface of a face… “look at those guns, Joe.” The fog had cleared & the City was bright with artificial stars now.

“Yes sheriff I saw that bastard. He drove fast. He was heading for Nebraska, seems like. An’ two negras with him.”

When we came to the motel, a woman sat behind a desk. She looked like she had just been ass-fucked in the swimming pool.

So I took off on the next chance I got disappearing into the dumps of this town by the sea. There might still be a option to start all over again at another place of the universe. Question is if there is enough know-how around for such an operation to pass through the barrier of time.

A shooting star is falling across a piece of underexposed film… reckon’ that I haven’t gotten very far. Question is whether I will still be alive when I’ll be found. If I will be found.

You head south in search for conditions that might be favorable to your getaway plan. There is this town which looks like a place you have seen on postcards. You thank the man who drove the car & walk along a wide promenade where a few hookers are lined up for feel. The town is torn by wind with palm trees bent & rain brushing facades. A dim street scene lighting up once in a while as if a windshield wiper had gone over it… desolate, you could say. Light & rain blended into a milky film obscuring the time of the day. Cafés deserted, the shops closed. In a corner next to a pinball machine you have a coffee taking a look at the trash floating down pavements. Dead insects, cockroaches with long tentacles, parts of crustaceans, rats with thin black wings that look like bats flapping around trying to reach a hole before they croak.

Your room is on the second floor overlooking a flooded square. You are too tired to chase the flies away… looking in vain for toilet paper until you see a pack of brown sheets on the window sill. For a moment you regret that you were never able to dig up a gun. Never know who might get beefy trying to snatch the last seat out in a critical situation.

“Sorry, all seats are taken.”

That’s the nightmare at the beginning of all nightmares…

The trip goes on… It’s been a long time but somewhere down the line you realize that the withdrawal sequence won’t last forever. Irritated by the enticing smells of an oriental whore district you stop for a moment to check out the scene laid out in cold light like a picture ripped out from an old catalogue with figures that turn the whole set into a bad copy (copy of what? Well, of scenes run & rerun for years).

A shooting star is flying across the stormy sky & you can tell that that’s the sign for Apocalyptic Raiders about to invade… whirling on clear nights with howling sirens across the vast plains of a deserted planet while spaceships drift by with deadliners idle on the sun deck surrounded by slick black snake girls smooching around to give genital massages.

***

I did go to Addis to find the luggage cancer. The cancer had caused several airplane crashes by affecting the luggage in the hold. Through the Cut-Computer dispatch had found out about the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie. (The Cut-Computer is a simple device processing current news into copy of future events.) I had been sent there to dispose of a slimy character who was tracing me since Tangiers.

“Ethiopia is just as a good a place to see an old pal of mine,” I wrote.

Addis was a good place not to be. You could hear the click of Almighty Allah. An atmosphere of slaughter-house welcomes you… Selassie toasted to the advance of a distant bullet… “Not bad,” the CIA whore said.

Going north I finally hit a dirt road leading to the Virus Institute. The smell of industrial espionage drifted through telegraph wires & over naked boulevards. Dead smell of veins, a greenish horizon dangling in the salty air. It was like the parking lot capital of the world with an atmosphere of expense accounts, death threats & mysterious shipments of green underwear.

The Institute on the outskirts in the evening rain. Dr. von Meier over a mushroom dinner… 2 rows of red urns flanked the gates I was passing… the Doctor had ancient ebony eyes & was motioning with an empty fork… sound phrases came out of his mouth…

I knew he wouldn’t like me to light a cigarette… I felt the contagious atmosphere of old Hollywood films…

The doctor was eyes without a body sitting there, nursing his guts, saying “I guess you’re out of money & have lost your contact, is that it?”

“There has been a mix-up in galactic codes.”

“Not much I can do for you, young man.”

I turned & saw a pale naked party girl in an expensive vinyl armchair over in the far corner… some hick bozo, servant or bodyguard playing billiard in the study…

“Who are you?”

The place had the scary vastness of spaceports. The naked rookie girl smiled from a long corridor with invisible stars.

“You sperm donor?”

I had been called worse names.

I put my hand on the girl’s image there was moisture on it… her mouth looking into mine… there was a bed… her body supported by pleasure flowing like foam… there were doors…

“I have to destroy your dream, sailor.”

***

Pages of an old journal filled with neurotic & subversive intimacies. Suzie, suddenly blonde & unfriendly, slumming in her anal-erotic depressions… she points at a cloud of mosquitoes (a limp severed hand hanging in the air).

Colorless anemic Europeans. Seem to be a lot of Danes & Swedes. All sick & rotting like dead wood. Stoolies flip & attack tourists in front of the hotel. Memory pictures like melting sorbet, cries, panting noise. Land rises over false foreskins. Ominous in the black haze, puddles of phosphorescent light in the wake of a dawn raid.

(Film shows flabby winos, sick with the dysentery, piss-elegant European women draped in stained Kotex napkins. They melt in streams of buttery diarrhea.) (Type of syph such as used by the GPU.)

Mr. Normal sits sipping a drink of adulterated beer cum 7 Up. His hairy body is teeming with parasites. Irritated by the white-hot silence crisscrossed by clouds of tiny flies he starts jacking off on a moldy bedspread. (Streaks of saliva on the window)

Mr. Normal is ejaculating bloody come. His blood-spattered hairy arms are dangling over the sides of the bed. The blue Mulatto chick is reading old pulp novels with dozens of pages missing. (The diarrhea cases have run out of toilet paper & start pilfering the library.)

The nurses plagued by fleas & bedbugs lift their skirts & start scratching themselves, then faint behind grey folding screens.

The rat sinks its teeth into the man who croaked in the morning.

Kiki suffers a terrestrial relapse.

Half rotten dogs on the veranda. Soundless vacuum.

Nothing stirs in the noon heat.

Finally the waiter mops up the blood.

***

Best place for a rendezvous was at the auctions of colonial mansions… eyes moving through slow faces, unfamiliar tactile sensations from days of the Cold War… background of glittering agents talking all afternoon in outdoor cafés…

I ended up with a cover story I never heard of… a belly dancer with a leather g-string I had never seen before was sitting in a sidewalk café with a guy called ‘The Leak” when the Civil War broke out…

“We have a goddamn tourist, boss. Want me to finish him off?”

“What in hell did you do with the K-Y?”

Which gave me the idea of using a laser beam or at least telling the guys from the Institute about the trick of entering the modern world by brain surgery. Black fashion models were fastening depth charges to European hotels. In the Presidential suite an Albino sperm cocktail kills the Manchurian Ambassador. The Green Berets storm a freak circus. Coke cans explode like saccharine mortars. Wham go the pages of the New York Times as I am leafing through an outdated issue.

“Cocaine Mother is here!”

“Will Hollywood take over the condom industry?”

Back in the homelands I decided to go into the Motorola business & play it cool… not much of a choice after centuries of overseas show business… passenger on a pest control expedition… reality is reversal fiction, take it from the klieg-light virus… the Commissar leaves the matter to the Moscow Committee…

“This the bastard who let Haile Selassie go on a yellow submarine?”

Next thing I am drifting through orange suburbs with a motorcade gliding along volumes of grey space. The glacial silence of mysterious advertisements… silence before a major disaster.

The girl smiled in terms of long ago while diving below the lower part of the screen, lifting her upper lip. Her large nipples staring, laughing up come. She reached down, her head tossed back over the spaceport.

The young man with her slid off unconscious, drifting through empty hallways & baggage counters reaching a room which smelled of moldy bedspreads. A commissar of customs checked him thoroughly moving fingers over his body.

“Feel good?”

“Fuck off, fag.”

“Just daily routine, understand?”

The rookie doll from the Institute wore nothing under the blouse. I could see the commissar go off with her for some “daily checking routine.”

Wham go the last days of Haile Selassie. A good place for the condom industry, maybe. The street police welcome you. My cover is fiction, take it from an old KGB commissar. Glacial objects fading away into advertisements. Shipments of anti-time… auctions of galactic codes… the doctor marks a map of dead agents…

The Great American Nude was smiling. She enjoyed her particular status. “Do you belong to the High Society of untouched circumstances?…”

Strange photo montage: sun sets in the radio. Rosy tourists along the boulevard like they were moving on conveyor belts.

The One-Time-System went to pieces. Clouds of dust sifted across the borderline.

“Come in later with the pictures… tortures… cut-rate human efforts… the whole sensory apparatus… bodies… detergent… the entire visionary feedback system based on cultural aspirins right down to the nematodes can be summed up in one sentence: TO WEAR BLACK LEATHER UNDERWEAR.

“You don’t have to study literature to see it my way… or the coded dust of TV-machinery… the cloud-structure of the Machine… in short, on screen nothing shows except the blue light of multi-dimensional bidets in semantic space of galactic data… the entire system of seeing & perceiving is based on the ability of getting the word straight from Allah…”

In other words: western man lacks light & shadow… he is beyond the laws of a dog’s instinct… you don’t have to study sex manuals to come around to the view that, as Mata Hari once put it: No woman who has ever tried it with a dog will look at a man again.

The telephone link between uterus & brain is interrupted… “Dig what napalm is?” … Money system of impenetrable circumstances… “You would need at least 5 dimensions to describe such a trip to the center of the nervous system…”

The wrecked roads change by the hour on this rundown continent. Leafing through old newspapers as we drive on. Mr. Normal’s cock glittered in fluid time. Dusty road twitched in urine. The syndicate gave out with rumors that he had gotten stranded on intricate patterns of habit. Sound trucks moved through the narrow twisting streets of the island capital. “We confront you with Kif impressions…”

“I’se jes an oversize sphincter…”

“Large enough to handle two pricks…?”

At night the grey-green Chelsea Girl shleps through the waterfront of Eze. Pungent smell of fish jissom. White bread covers the last shore. I am tracing a plastic clitoris on the flower shirt of southern galaxies. “Hurry up there isn’t time.” Erotic valves opening & closing in an endless landscape.

Still in Marseille, in other words, cruising through history… the eastern Mediterranean turned black… soft ejaculations at night in the cold urinal… smell of cheap soap… strange charts in the Nordend Hotel… Nazi pricks over coffee… Corridors… water pitchers… dusty fat blues brains… rotten teeth in neon light…

Apocalyptic flight through rotten flesh… We made a date in her body large enough to hold two pricks… The American leaned out of his wrecked Chevy smiled & vomited on the plat du jour…

I spat through her thighs in the grey smell of merging rectums down the narrow staircase out on the boulevard… Syph bombs ruptured Space…

***

The young man leaned over on his legs. A frayed curtain swerved back & forth lit by the glow of a cigarette. Moments almost transparent…

“I suck,” she said. “You hard in my mouth?”

Outside by the curb someone pissed noisily into the dust. The neon sign on the building across the street came on as she reached down & undid a small catch. Her body resounded with soft aggression mixed with a faint howl fed back into his fingers.

“Is good?”

Nothing but very simple everyday routine, he was sure of that. They know when you get the feel bound to make you happy. A single sob & don’t you understand “first of all?”

She felt cool & calm. Nothing like a really moist cunt that can say “whow.”

“You want me to talk simple?”

She wore nothing on her eyelids. “Do what you want to have fun?”

“First 1 or 2 of the usual questions.”

“You see how?”

She moved in towards him & their hips touched bellies pressing hard against the heat. He saw that there was moisture on her thighs. He reached down & took her by the waist with a slow entry like a ship moving. The woman’s mouth opened pushing back so that she was almost lifted from her back. Her muscles tensed as she supported her weight with her arms on the bed. Her flesh flowed around his fingers as he moved his hands over the smooth surface of her body. “Let’s get inside of you…” Washed out colors danced around him. Soon their movements became almost transparent.

***

The young man stopped the recorder & started to play back the noises that were on the soundtrack. Oriental music filtered through shades. Suddenly the girl was a harsh-faced woman in a tight dress, her softness meaningless. Cigarette ashes dropped on his cock & he could feel himself falling out of proportion. Her cunt & the pained expression of her mouth reminded him of a razor blade. He closed his eyes to the glow of the cigarette. He could hardly distinguish the contours of the knapsack on the floor.

The room had the spaciousness of colonial buildings with lots of black leather. A neon film was flickering on silver skin. “Much the same as in your dream, sailor?”

A low sound came out of her lips, a puffy moan…

Mad with joy for a long time he had come to an end.

Down at the cantina a boy flashed a grin back at him. The walls were bare & rusty, the toilet led into a butcher shop. A trace of blood up into the low hills with the black hair of the sun burning in the sky.

***

After the night stop the place was dead with alleys & sidewalks. Bright air that hit you down inside like a slow motion grenade.

As we took off the City lay under a screen of soft blue life, stale blossoms & dead eyes…

Hit the moonless sky with sparks of static & a craft that had all the marks of a sick ship. The faint smell of rubber plants & Mexican bean soap & just enough fog to brighten up the radar screen.

When the fog cleared, it left a tattoo of bright stars over a pool of underwater reflections.

Thing instinct took over, & we became integral parts of the instruments.

After a while number one went out… no chance to make it across the hostile spot marked as a red blot on our maps. I looked over to Charlie the copilot, his eyes coming up from a decade ago, the strange experience of space between us.

We descended towards an unlighted landing strip, blue lights licking over it. The ship made a couple of violent jerks as we passed the cone of silence. Put down in time, & presently there was a smell of alien metal as we taxied down toward the west end of tarmac number 2.

It was a place you read about in pulp novels. A shady character with a wide-rimmed hat asking questions. “If you will follow me. There will be the uh amenities… ”

As we stepped down the gangway & moving close to him, I saw a line of defunct slot machines rotting away in the stuffy heat. A door was open on the far end of the hangar. “Wait a moment here.”

A small dispatch office full of memos & ticker tapes. Somebody who somehow looked like a mute was chewing a fat Cuban cigar. A poster on the wall showed a Moorish downtown section with signs of polyglot life. Sparks from the bright table lamp lay on a stack of torn comic books.

After a sour wait we are taken to operation headquarters. It looks like a Hawaiian Hotel right off a beach. Clerks show a layer of silver skin & move with faded colors of old film. A lobby with muted sounds, vague & distant like hands moving over a smooth surface, mirrors reflecting a flicker of destructive eyes. A place far beyond any dream…

“So there was an engine failure?”

The special agent is a good-looking blonde with a face for violent questions & a voice that has a military click to it. For some reason I keep blushing & that seems to be the angle she is moving on. Anything she says has a physical angle to it, giving her voice an irresistible metal sound.

“Strange talk?”

“Kick off your feelings, Mann.”

Lights go out & I am tied down with a feeling of moving around without falling apart. A strange fluid is put on my cock, & it starts to move around like a sniffing dog. A screen switched on in my head shows a sticky room with dancing walls & nervous thighs floating around my fingers. At the far end there is a metal moan that has been garbled a decade ago…

Her face is flat like a fish’s with an old-fashioned stare. A sprinkle of moisture shows between her buttocks as a light beam crashes down & her thighs come apart. There is the kind of smell known as biological bean soup… all I have to do is watch the proceedings & let the dark flies dance on the sky.

Slow motion staggering around with pain. A light wind ruffles the body in front of me, a bizarre jukebox exploding in the sky. “Gotta get out of my skin.” Her tongue comes out like a grenade & a blast hit my spine…

The scene fades into near-miss weather…

Pleasure pictures wake me up hard. Both she & me stripped in the cold air under a neon street sign. Puddles of haze on the bed… tarnished roadside mirrors… a galactic trap… out of the corner of my eye I see the gun within reach… flesh taken by surprise & I am back in business…

***

Cut to a sticky hotel room where you lie awake waiting for the pick up. The night, the ceiling, the sky… Nervous pictures tear up your mind… you are low on fuel with nothing but an alien void around as the hours pass by. Every move is in vain. You are slowly falling apart with nothing but a vague polished horizon in front of you & no way to get out of the vertigo… asking yourself where you are & what brought you here. To go forever split up into particles of time…

Whatever it is, the solitude of the flyer.

Get up & shave. Suddenly it hits your mind that there is this deal supposed to take place in the hall of the Majestic & that you can’t afford to miss.

You are on your way passing limos lined up in the driveway giving your shoes a wipe on the carpet on the steps to the foyer.

“Postcard will do,” one of the concierges is saying as you step into the hall. It must be some kind of password that you don’t know, & consequently you ignore the man. You sit down in one of the soft lined chairs next to a column of fake marble waiting for the sign (which is to be the Herald Tribune).

You stop short as you notice a lady carrying it. She is standing next to a showcase beside the revolving door, dressed as if she is out for a kill. Without a word she is handing you a heavy envelope bulgy with money or papers. Just as you are turning away, she lets you know: “A handful of pills or breeze would serve you better though.”

There is contempt in her eyes that reminds you of women forced to do business with machos.

“Okay, tell Meyer I’ll pay as soon as I can,” you say getting the hell out of there.

It was late summer & during the day you could admire the splendor of high clouds. You sat with the back to the window writing letters to people once close to you. There was Lucy, a fleeting figure whom you had seen only a few times since those years in college in Munich. Or Harpo who had gone to Morocco sending long letters about his trip to the Rio de Oro. Then Meyer now living in Kansas still spinning threads of his undercover network across the continents…

They all got a note & you hoped that something of a farewell would get across.

Around noon the heat picked up… hot enough to evoke the melody of summer, the chirping sound of crickets & the sluggish flapping of awnings above the sidewalks. A girl sat there smiling across a table, her grin suddenly taking on a different meaning as you get closer.

It was close to 11 that night when you stepped into the Club where the Lounge Lizards were playing. It wasn’t the music you were here for but a girl by the name of Kiki.

The usual crew members of legal or not so legal organizations hanging around, stooges in clean-cut attire… lookouts of the lost kind who never know which side they are on, con operators pitching for bad company (easy to spot on account of their dreadful outfit).

You order a double Pernod watching the scene in the mirror behind the bar which gives the place a broken angle. What if she doesn’t show? It was a chance but not your last. There was something that reminded you of the time set when Rimbaud got licked in Aden… same razor-sharp air.

Kiki worked the touch & go trail on a first-come first-served basis & her trick was a variation of oriental massage routines. No imitation, mind you, but variation. That was her gig & by the way things looked, she was getting on pretty well.

“Sometimes, when there are no exact arrangements,” she would say, “I can get carried away going a bit further than what’s in the book. That’s when weird things happen, could even be that the costumer starts falling apart… you know, disintegrate into all kinds of slimy ingredients. Not a pretty sight, believe you me… ”

It didn’t happen that night, so you hit the promenade by the sea once more where all the big hotels like the Majestic are lined up. A mild breeze blowing across the pavement that gives you a feel of faint irritation like the moment before a street fight, a tingling blown up like scraps of newspaper.

In an open door you see the shadow of a woman in the posture of a mocking statue. A frozen lurid image. Through a window across the street high-pitched breathless cries. There is a figure of a lean guy getting out of a raincoat while his greasy black hair takes on a metal flare under the rim of his hat.

A tough town with no room for frills, tough like the stubbed nose of a .38 thrust into a bare tit.

***

By the look of things the actors are getting tired of the endless rehearsals & the never changing backdrops of the sets. Like Bernie, the house dick at the Belmont always pestering you with the latest shit about section West… or Meyer who relies on unexpected chance meetings (which is the trademark of notorious string-pullers): “Decisions of considerable impact are never made on public grounds.”

Then there is Kiki with all her tricks that have advanced her to a hot number in transvestite circles even though there seem to have been some fuck-ups due to the AIDS hysteria… & remember-me-Lucy whom you could never figure quite out no matter how close you got, your messed up lives at times intertwining that led to some weird encounters fit to blow any man’s mind… no way to ever get hold of them like stuff that belongs to the better parts of blue movies (none withstanding the fact that it hardly ever makes it to an x-rated screen).

“On your feet,” she commands, “after all there is more we can do… for a simple fuck a Bhagwan groupie will do, & even they don’t do it without earmuffs & rubber gloves any more… ”

In the beginning was the word but somewhere along the line it has fallen apart obscuring the image it once stood for, in many cases taking over the image. Just remember, the word is there but the image is blurred by your reaction to its prerecorded meaning.

Just as the lights go out a doctor enters the room & starts examining your body with narcotic submission.

“Never mind,” you say, “you can have it. I won’t need it anymore.”

“That’s what you think, mister. Better give it second thought.”

But you have already slipped into the hallway & down the stairs. Below in the lobby a young man is waiting for you, his expressionless face resembling your own. “This way,” he says.

He knows his way around the city guiding you through alleys & roadblocks. You are following him through fading blue streets with a backdrop right out of the Third Man.

Dawn is setting on the city bringing it down. As it is disappearing, its towering roofs give off sparks covering the skyscape with the phosphorescent shine of a rotting carcass…

***

I arrived back in present time with a bunch of typewritten papers. Not really manuscripts, notes. Notes I had taken in airports, hotel rooms, during night stops, riots & in between trips. Sketches of history written on pavements & brick walls. The film I had been watching turned out to be a broken dream. Was I in it or dreaming that I was following it from a cinema seat? Awaking could be fatal.

I was certainly not asleep yet most of what happened around me didn’t really reach me. Call it magic detachment, a spell very few can afford to maintain. They cannot resist the force of involvement.

Me? I am here to leave…

The smell of flesh & torn down buildings. Faint actors tired of passing through the doors of memory. Above the troposphere the gleaming backdrop of an aurora borealis frozen into images of intertwining strings. A zombie walking across the indigo screen of a shady night on a tropical island. Dead landscape out there.

***

Later a mixture of gasoline & ocean air rises from the coast. With some money in my pocket I stand by the window & look out at the water in the bay. Day is dawning, a pale layer of light extends up above the horizon in the east, & I see the first distorted outlines of walls as they emerge. The room is dark, its objects submerged, the bed, the slats of the blinds.

As I turn around again, day has broken. Light cuts up my face, I stand there blinded & recognize a couple of female figures on the roof deck opposite me, blond white women with unshapely naked breasts. I have the suspicion that they are replicants. A boy of about seven or eight is with them, he attends a boarding school in southwest Africa & is only here during vacations. In order to see his mother he jumps on a plane every chance he gets & flies here to see her.

A light wind moves the sunroofs of the southern city. Hawks sail over the dilapidated walls of a mosque. In a fit of panic I ask myself: What if the plane doesn’t come? A question that is not unusual for a pilot either. The white of the ceiling is reflected in the glass plate before me. The guy who recently approached me on the beach told me that no pilot dared land on the short runway at night. I have no choice but to wait. I know that Luzi always has a little supply of Natima stowed away. Mechanically I search the room, but come up empty-handed.

“Trust me, the natives don’t even know how to pronounce it,” she says.

“Then give me a drink.”

“I’m afraid there’s no water.”

“Shit.”

Her eyes are concealed behind the sunglasses, her black hair falls lightly on the white cover of the couch, on which she is stretched out, flowing shadows on her body, which occasionally emerges as though from impervious tides.

In these latitudes, lights are like reflexes that fall back from the rotating blades of an invisible fan. A constant flickering with a hypnotic effect. Staying awake is not the problem, but rather monotony, the simplicity of perception. The daily routine, the metronomic beat, which chops each movement into short segments of equal length. The rise & fall of the tide, the ceaselessly recurring phases of the moon, the formulaic prayers of the muezzin, the rhythmic interplay of a manic, drawn-out fuck. Imsaak: Death is a derisive concept…

Fucking this way is a never-ending art. It is the feeling of drifting in the gulf stream, without departure & without arrival. It is a purely nomadic feeling & I am certain that this variation of Karezza was invented by nomads. They know the energy of sandstorms & of black subterranean rivers…

Luzi’s tongue slowly comes forward. I smell the aroma of bitter almonds, which is her trademark. Then she hesitates, shows that the tactic of restraint is a multifaceted weapon. She knows exactly that this is one of those rounds that will end in a showdown. The crowd races & the bullfight begins. Eventually I run out of possibilities. I am nothing but an old pilot, retired & gone without a trace. Gone without a trace? The Middle East has become a confusingly laid-out airport for me, with memories, old acquaintances. During the day the heat is barely tolerable, & the nights are blue lonely images in which I get lost. The memory of an endless glass space, uninhabitable by the European, who will always be a stranger here. Welcome to terra incognita.

***

A long shot from the inside of the car captures the dusty road. Slowly the landscape turns greenish, the road widens into a 4-lane highway & they are approaching the outskirts of Berlin. The director assumes a blank stare as if in a trance. The narrator wonders what will happen if he suddenly snaps out of it. Will he be able to handle the sudden shift of scenery? The narrator tries an old trick: he hits the brakes & shouts “Cut!”

“Damn it,” the director mumbles, “just like in the old days. Gimme a break…”

As the car stops, he runs off into the night, his clothes torn & peeling off like layers of skin.

In a restaurant on the Kurfürstendamm the narrator sits at a table with a woman who tells him that she was once in love with Peter Lorre.

“Before the war or after?” he asks.

“Before, of course.”

“But you are not old enough…”

“I have been around, believe me.” She looks at him with grim determination, an almost timeless expression. There is something about her that makes him think she could have been a trapeze artist.

“What about the present? Do you have any part in it?”

“Love is what makes you a piece of the past,” she says, finishes her coffee & leaves.

As he pays the bill, the waiter tells him: “I hope she didn’t bother you.”

“Who is she?”

“She is called the Countess. A member of an occult circle. You know, one of those who think they can talk to the dead. Nothing to bother with.”

Out on the street, the narrator feels he is watching a dead film. As often after a long trip he has no sense of time or place, as though his body had not yet arrived.

An old deserted villa with the Countess in a bizarre sex scene. She is tied to a chair under a glittering candelabra. The narrator watches her from a dark part of the room. The shadow of a naked man appears blocking the Countess from the narrator’s view. The 2 indulge in some physical act, the contours of their bodies melting into each other. There are sounds of deep breathing & rhythmical sighing & screaming…

The man leaves, & the Countess, still strapped to the chair, has gone limp, her thighs & the muscles along her arms quivering.

As the narrator moves forward to untie her, the walls start to shake. The Countess, sensing danger, jerks free, jumps up towards the ceiling &, grabbing the candelabra, swings through the room like on a trapeze. She is wearing transparent tights, & the narrator has to duck to avoid getting hit by her swerving body. Cracks appear in the walls. He grabs her, & they run out, escaping just as the building is crumbling. A breath of destruction turns the City into a screen of blackness.

In a nightmarish vision they spend the night together. She has a juvenile body while her face remains frozen like a death mask. She insists on having sex & goes about it with the ritualistic precision of a sensuous corrida. Exhausted, he falls back on the bed & sees her disappearing through a mirror…

Cut to a villa in the South. Guests sit on the terrace after dinner & chat. The narrator gets up & paces the empty interior of the adjacent room. As he is glancing into a mirror the face of a Bedouin woman appears, her eyes hollow like the sockets of a skull. Maybe a sign of death, he thinks. I’d better watch my step.

There is a mystery about the villa, where the days drag on with the monotony of blank pages in a book. He expects to see the Bedouin woman again. He is aware of her presence & a mysterious enticement, a mark attributed to ancient sirens. Closing his eyes he has the distinct feeling that she is watching him. The silence is hardly bearable… semantic space bursts like a bubble, & words take on the smell of dead fish.

He is on an island floating in the sea, takes a stroll on a pier & stares into the rising & falling water…

Something goes wrong, he wakes up & finds himself confronted with Max, his alter ego. Coming face to face with the other half usually leads to an argument. But Max just looks at him as if he were a relic from another time.

“No complaints?” the narrator asks.

“You’ve run out of lines, man, & that set me free. No place to go, frozen in time…”

“You or me?”

“Figure it out. Isn’t that what authors do?”

Memory lines fade into a landscape painted by van Gogh…

A hot Mediterranean summer. The narrator travels between entropic islands that seem to be drifting further & further apart & he is never able to reach either one. The boat just zigzags through a tall layer of haze that covers the horizon.

The days drag on with senseless lifeboat drills & meals & loafing passengers. No shadows, & seascapes like drifting quicksand…

Locked in his cabin, the narrator assumes that he is participating in a space experiment with the object of recording his reactions to isolation & depravation… the sphere of his environment is contracting to a single dot of imploding space-time where everything is happening simultaneously & the end is also the beginning.

He remembers endless night flights when the body of the pilot is transformed into an artifact of silent language. Spoken words can single out patches of time but they cannot stop the tidal flow of space. The ultimate traveler being stranded between islands of matter.

On deck a woman is leaning on the rail. Her scarf flutters in the wind. Is she real or just a reflection of the misty sea? He asks her if she is alone. No, crew members & passengers are watching them. For a long time they stand side by side, neither saying a word. Sometimes he hears her voice, which is but a whisper in the wind. What is she saying?

“You don’t know me but I’ve known you for a long time.”

He looks down into the glimmering sea & feels the swaying motions of the ship.

Back in his cabin he feels the loneliness of being unable to reach anyone outside himself. The woman from the deck emerges through a curtain. There is an uncanny transparency to her body that gives her the appearance of a hologram. She goes to the washstand & dissolves a powder in a glass of water. She drinks of it & then offers him the glass. What is it?

Something to accelerate the erotic metabolism…

A cool breeze touches the narrator’s body. He can feel the caress of her fingers even though she is standing in the middle of the cabin, watching him with a remote stare. Her hair begins to flutter as if blowing in the wind. A strange coolness immobilizes him. He cannot get up or speak. She opens her mouth like she is going to say something but no words come out. He twitches & turns with a current of neural excitement. His vision is blurred by the spell of the mute body of the woman, & he is drawn into a fog of sensuous disorientation where everything is possible & nothing true…

Jurgen Ploog, Flesh Film
Written by Jürgen Ploog and published by RealityStudio on 28 June 2010. Translated in part by Tania Inowlocki and Carl Weissner.

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