Cold Open

Cahrlie rested the lip of the magazine in the housing, and in the tiniest pause paid tribute to the unknown Chinese-Africans who he assumed somewhere had engineered (precisely enough) its innards. Clicked it into place and gave it a wobble to check it was locked in. He whispered to it

 

“My family, my family, Marcia”

 

and then, rising to his feet, squeezed the trigger, to end capitalism, to end it once and for all.

 

Only as he fired, capitalism moved. His faux-luger registered the shift, but couldn’t fix on it. The movement wasn’t unpleasant either. Capitalism was subtly resonant with him now, he felt, it had changed shape, maybe changed its substance somehow, new geometries emerged from it, arclike chambers had opened around it, traceries, and a rhythmic, even comedic, grace informed its imperceptible motion. Strangest of all, and annoyingly, it had shifted permanently into his peripheral vision, no matter where he looked, and from where a slight pale whispiness seemed to emanate, surrounding it, splaying out after it as it retreated and swelled forward accompanying the movement of his eye.

 

But just as capitalism had moved, so too had his bullet changed. It fanned out, gained weight, reaching to encompass the new ventricle-form of global capital – but whether it did or not, he couldn’t see, and the trail it left behind it, billowing weightily, like the heavy black sail of a ghost ship, lodged in the spaces around his side, particularly between his sides and his arms, filling the space in like a shadow, and shading in, like a vignette of dark warmth towards his heart, which, soon encircled entirely, shone like a charm in a locket.

 

He was trying to hold back a rising panic, when he saw the single thread. Shining in the evening light that came still from the bedroom windows, he caught its soft glint in the midst of the darkness of the bullet-shadow-sail, and moving his head fractionally, managed to trace it upstream to where it became a part of the tumult of peripheral whisps, and traced it downstream to where it touched, sentimentally, his illuminated, bejewelled heart.

 

As a tear threatened the inner-edge of his eyelid, it became clear to him what the plan of the bullet and capitalism was, for they were working now in concert together. They presumably hadn’t known this was their plan from the outset, but now the new configuration had occurred, their mutual benefit and dependency became clear and they offered their new relationship to him like a new way, as though their coming together opened – simply in the fact of its brute impact – a conduit through which his life might flow.

 

“Oh” his mind said to him, and he recognised that the shimmer of joy that might be beyond the veil they threatened to pull back was making him feel guilty – so much joy would be a betrayal of his family – once again. In a momentary petri dish of possibility, he asked their forgiveness and waved them goodbye. But overwhelmingly came the dread thought that he was even betraying Marcia, for he had found a newer toy. Is that what she was? Only that? But she knew it! She liked it! It was ok – she would want to play too. If only she could find her way to the same edge of the veil, the same valley beyond this strange and vaguely tawdry encounter of a bullet and a global system of control morphing together at the edge of sight.

 

He reached for the magazine again to steady himself, and he thought how it was just like 1979 all over again. Bloody capitalism morphing once again! The face of Thatcher floating on the surface of water like an oil slick, slowly dissipating. He smiled nostalgically to himself – not anymore. Nothing like that anymore. He longed for those old days of history – Union men in smoky rooms with beer and sandwiches. He couldn’t imagine really what beer and sandwiches were to these people then, he simply new that they seemed to him tangible within what he understood to be a world of brown and beige and grey, where cut glass accents and formalities went with a boldness and apparent grey clarity that mismatched the interim-materials, the proto-plastics, the pre-silicon, pre-biotech world. Little did they know that the pacts and betrayals, subtle shifts in thought, realignments were occurring under their very feet, in the very backs of their minds, unseen: the first preconditions were being put in place for the Glamour Wars. Today the nearest to them were those neo-Poujadist embed scum, just the irritable residue of any sOshall formation.

 

Finding himself retreading tired old ground, he sighed. Where was everyone else? TED was surely still in the background, refixing his tail? He clicked open the side of his cheek and slid out the array of tiny bejewelled daggers he kept there. The thread that he passed between them caused them to tinkle slightly. In his Minds-Eye he saw TED, his tail still in pieces, and tapped him on the shoulder. “What’s with the Poke?” asked TED, “I’m concentrating.” “On what?” asked Cahrlie. “Facebook just crashed in Birmingham. The Angolans had just brought in a new consignment of wings and the prayerwheelers were caught in hope. The Angolans hate that prayerwheel stuff – it’s too backward for them. But they have to put up with it or the Birmingham lot don’t work.”

 

“Bugger that” said Cahrlie. “You want to shift places? I’m making love to global capitalism” “that old whore” said TED, they shifted place. Through the shiver as he moved into TED (and e491 moved into Cahrlie), r432-becoming-TED could see that geo-bio-pol-ops, ‘GBpops’ for short, were going to play out well today. The lunar arc had passed its apex, and in the fields beyond their tower, the gritted frameworks of housing, contractual farms and the domains of “the Princes” (his mind habitually registering the question, would he one day no longer need those scare quotes?) were descending into twilight for the next day and a half. Who knew what deals would be done by the noble technocratic advisers tonight. There was a slim chance that Cahrlie’s morph in capitalism was part of a wider ground-swell and that the bullet-thread of silver would edge some advantage somewhere. Balances of Power within balances of power within balances of power. If that was your thing. Personally, TED longed for some clarity, some end to the incessantly baroque nature of life in the 2220s. At least some sort of neutral space. He had looked at a picture of a park bench once (and also infinitely) in an antique advert for Apple, a wooden bench by the side of a path, with a litterbin at one end. On the bench sat a man with a laptop, listening blissfully to some white headphones. TED wished he could visit that bench and sit like that man. Headphones like that seemed so simple, so detachable. One might even take them out. And then one might even listen to … who knows.

 

Upset at the thought and feeling a little sorry for himself, r432 shifted again from TED back to Cahrlie and continued to work the back fields of the war on capitalism, scoring enough points here and there to secure a vague victory by lunchtime of day 3,678 (but hey who’s counting?) of the Glamour Wars, in a love-skirmish with the Koreans, and defend the supply lines from Tesco central to the edge plates of London.

 

And so when Cahrlie Borwn got home to Marcia that night, he was tired. He opened the kitchen door and she turned to greet him, giant, milk-spouting, bedecked in tattooed meats and riding astride a spout of spume from a cheap oceanic void, generated by the latest test mould from Lucky Grid, her point scores going through the roof. Close to cardiac arrest as she embraced him, she reached for the hot plates and pressed them into his chest as she kissed him on the cheek. As the switch flung and he, winded, recoiled into her soft embracing arms, the reverb of the day’s events dropped away, the missed-connections, crossed wires and vague put downs hazing between the lines of the incessant daily chat that ran through his head space. Infrastructure, he would dream tonight of his beloved – infrastructure – undisturbed by the doubters who said the very idea was a fantasy.

 

r432 powered down, and d581 took his place to play Cahrlie-as-husband to Marcia for the next 5 minutes, or in other words, a lifetime.

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