One One


The innards of the cabaret stank of pheromones and mildew – the exotic blend of youthful excitement and the rank of decay. The situation immediately put Ash into a state of comfort. A dingy club full of coarse sounds and social intrigue: perennial pacifier of young adulthood. Ash relaxed her focus as she approached the bar. She didn’t want to fall into greeting rituals too quickly. She wanted to ease into things. She wanted to savour the freshness of her arrival with a cool drink. A glass of water, sweating the very sweat of the clubbers, by the magic of the room’s indigenous water cycle. A shot of rye whiskey, sharp and potent. They came from the hand of a middle aged man with speckled hair and tight skin. He smiled robotically and she reciprocated thusly with a tip.

The heavy thud and meticulous aggregate of textures blasting out of the speakers lulled Ash. The music was simultaneously dense and sparse, rife with staccato detail and micro melodies, but equally defined by instants of emptiness. If you added up all the split second silences they would account for a third of the time. But what framed the nothingness was almost too much to decipher. The composer probably used hundreds of chopped samples and software synth bleeps, filters and field recordings and audio stripped from archives. Digital psychedelia. An abstraction of multimedia culture.

Ash ordered another drink, pleased with the sweet snap of the first. She scrutinize the crowd. As many were dancing to themselves as were with others. As many were gazing in the ubiquitous mirrors as at fellow revellers. Vignettes of this moment were captured all over. The flashes of cameras and whirling LCD screens in people’s hands served as the equivalent of the strobes and lighters and glow sticks of days gone by. Across the backlit plexiglas bar island, a group of three fresh girls were depicted laughing, captured by a photographer in their scheduled abandon. In a corner on the lower platform of the dance floor, an androgynous and probably underaged waif screwed their brightly painted face in a mask of existential angst while a friend recorded. Someone else interviewed a local quasi-celebrity under the harsh light of an on-camera spotlight. The behaviour was both superficial and deeply sophisticated. The meticulous, self-conscious creation of moments and images was a default setting for this crowd. A reflex. Every so often a space in the music would last a full second or two, and the light man would flash all the club’s overheads at once. For that interval the room was a random collection of narcissists with no context, engaged in a dizzying spectrum of bizarre social behaviours. Ash loved those spaces, and suspected that most of the other people did too.

“Not a flake after all,” growled a voice in her ear as two delicate hands rubbed her shoulders.

“You’re not the only one surprised,” Ash replied as as she leaned into the massage without looking back.

“I would tell you you’re tense, but I’ve never felt your back be loose.”

Ash’s head came to rest against the familiar torso behind her stool, smelled Rudy’s tacky, flowery perfume. It was a maternal intimacy. Ash knew a lot of people. But Rudy gave a shit. It was rare. She closed her eyes. The pulsing buzz of the music was gathering to a bassy hum.

“I need your help, Rudy.”

“No shit, girl.”

“More than the general preening this time.”


“You know Alice’s parents a lot better than me -“

Rudy’s firm grip suddenly went slack, probably mirroring her expression. “Fuck off. You’re still obsessed. I thought you were going to give that a break.”

“I think I have something this time.”

“You’re fucking lucky Alice’s mother never figured out whatever it was you two were doing. You start bringing that shady shit into this, you’ll kill them. Or they’ll kill you.” Rudy let go and Ash spun around in the chair. “Jesus look at you,” Rudy admonished, getting her first look at Ash’s sunken eyes and pale complexion. “Did you even sleep?”

“I just need to ask them some questions.”

“Come on.” Rudy grabbed Ash’s fore arm and began leading her though the club toward the washrooms, down a staircase, around a corner. They wove speechlessly throughout the whirling mass of dancers and lovers and losers. Their paces were subconsciously timed to the rhythm of the room and its cacophonic mess of music and conversation. They were in transition, in their own melodramatic microcosm of crisis, like everyone in the place.


One Zero


Sky copy

At first the hissing of traffic and growl of the crowd was an awful specter at the bright end of the alleyway. It might have been a minute or an hour, but he lurched forth and forced the nondescript wash of sound and light to focus into meaning. He approached the busy street and suddenly meandering murmurs of the metropolis were about him. He stumbled at first, unsure of his trajectory. Above, the sky was dimming, easing toward navy as the streetlights spat electric tangerine upward at the low, bulbous clouds. The average colour of the celestial mottle was purple, warm like the humid evening. A good omen, perhaps.

He slipped into the line of shuffling feet and squeaking baby carriages. He eased into the routine of navigating the city such that it was as automatic and meaningless as his jittery pavement reveries, strewn in the alleys with those people living like rats. It was instinctive. He rounded a broad corner at a busy, four way intersection, just as the hazy evening mist began to collect into visible, individually distinguishable droplets of rain. The transition was so subtle, yet so complete and exact that he was lost in it for a second. In that second he bumped into someone. Just a shoulder check, but one that sent him teetering, as much out of shock as force. Without seeing the person with whom he collided, he tripped toward a storefront and reached out to steady himself on the window display. The glass thumped and shuddered slightly. The movement drew his gaze in a flash to his own ghostly reflection in the slick window.

He was dingy and gaunt, hunched with no pride. His eyes were clear, hazel and dilated, framed by shadow and adorning a crooked nose. His mouth was pouting agape, but it sat in a masculine, chiseled chin which sprouted two millimeters of salt and pepper scruff. It was, he realized, the first face he had stared directly into for some time. Just beside his doppelganger’s visage was his thick hand, still pressed against the window, now with drops of dirty water forming at its palm and sliding down the window. The streaks of liquid from the hand slid slowly off. He became suddenly aware of his own musty stink against the fresh breeze. As he looked beyond the hand into the window, there stood a mannequin. A man wearing a grey, pinstriped business suit. He knew it to be of a good make. The mannequin was posed erect and appeared commanding with its white, geometric head. For its stature, it curiously lacked hands. Then, as he began to loosen himself from the image of the businesslike effigy, he realized that a young store clerk was staring at him from behind it, from the soft yellow tungsten light, obscured by the white spotlights which exaggerated the mannequin’s display between them. Before he could even read the face he found himself drawing back his arm from the wet glass and starting to walk away. But as he left, he noticed the spot his hand had been. He had left a dirty paw print on the shiny panel, slowly dribbling away in the rain.

Zero One



<Rutluck: Your trippin,> abruptly stated a new box, announced by a barely-audible swishing sound.
<Rutluck: What do I tell dicks? he knows your not sick.>

<Ashesto: Dixie can fuck off. Hes got my quota til thursday.> She breathed in sharply, annoyed by the admonishment but relieved to chat to someone she actually knew in reality.

<Rutluck: cmon girl, you still gotta DO the hours. NEway at least set your status offline so he doesnt know your up three days in a row doin shit that aint work.>

“Fucking hell,” she snapped out loud, to the empty room, simultaneously clicking into her status protocols and offlining them all, except for a few private IRCs that her closest confidantes lurked.

<Rutluck: Its cool, ill cover 4 you :)>

<Ashesto: thanks love>

<Rutluck: you OK?>

<Ashesto: meh. kinda fucked tbh>

<Rutluck: shit girl, come t the octopus. Me n marie helene are goin to see the Mundane in an hour.>

The mention of clubs and times sent Ash’s jittery gaze to the bold, luminous grin of the clock in the corner. 23h46. Not as late as she figured it was, though she wasn’t really sure what time it should be. She reflexively decided she wasn’t going to meet up with Rudy, though she had wanted to see the Mundane. She clicked on the clock, which expanded into an automatically annotated calendar of her work schedule and listings from various music and culture mags. Saturday, May 31. Rent tomorrow. Well, Monday.

<Ashesto: Marie who?>

<Rutluck: lacroisseuse>

<Ashesto: Oh. K maybe. See ya in a bit>

She rose and blearily approached the stainless steel mass that served as her kitchen counter, her wash basin and her shower. She splashed metallic-tasting yellow-tinged water against her face. Its vindictive coolness jarred her from her trance. She stripped out of her grimy jeans and black cotton tank top, cranked the protruding nozzle that crowned the rectangular hunk of metal in the corner, and strode into the chamber. The cold water naturally repelled her despite her sweatiness, but she grit her jaw and enjoyed the refreshing sting like she would a snifter of cognac. She then slowly warmed the water until the heat of the summer was no longer a disturbance, but a cleansing comfort, as if to reacclimatize herself to her world after an alien evening of grease and digitalism. As she did this, she noticed her reflection. It was elongated and warped, imperfectly miming her form in the steel wall. The tiny head, disproportionately huge hands, googly breasts and asymmetrical thighs seemed to represent either her nemesis or her id. Which one it was would depend on what part of her affected psyche was peering out from within her rattled skull. Somehow neither thought was particularly disturbing in that moment.

Zero Zero



Staring at the limp, contorted frame discarded on the checked tile I wondered about the very concept of irrationality. It is absurd in that it implies rationality to be valid by extension. It is polarized. A direct rejection of the tragic spectrum of behavior between logic and emotion. A rather optimistic assumption that we – humans – are more divine creation than brutal beast. Good and evil. Up and down. Meaningless simplifications. A rejection of what we know. I surveyed the cluttered mixture of logic and emotion trying to delineate the two. Crimson is such a romantic notion. The reality of the matter is muddy, clumping brown gore with seams of shiny black. Yellow and blue blotches rising to pink shreds on sickly pale skin. Hemoglobin is far more ambitious than artistic canon would have it. The dark ichor is, however, flecked with spots of that fabled, passionate red.

I wonder for an instant whether those beautiful crimson spots in the otherwise revolting mess are part of what makes us examine murder in terms of irrationality. It’s so concise. So aesthetic. So naive. I make a quick estimate that this battered woman last stirred less than 24 hours ago. Perhaps less than 12. I imagine the body as an extension of the killer – a sportsman his ball or a driver her car. Quarry and prey. I envision the ecosystem between them. I try to extrapolate the breathing end of this rotten root. Killers don’t often know their victims intimately. They always do, by definition.

A lobby. A place of transition. A public place. Floor to ceiling windows, clearly penetrated by casual gaze, yet revealing a backdrop mundane enough to go completely unnoticed. Visible and transitory. Potentially deliberate yet obviously impractical. Rife with evidence. A veritable panopticon. I look up and take note of several surveillance bubbles advertising cameras within. How much of the setting comprised emotion and how much logic? How intentional or reckless is the exhibitionism? Staring up at the cameras I have difficulty believing this is an example of that rare, almost mythical species, the crime of passion. Or at least I suspect that passion, like crimson, is always steeped to some extent in the hideous spectrum of gruesome earth tones before me. Semi clotted blood, and reason befuddled by hormonal intervention.

This, like all things, is a function of systemic behavior and arbitrary imprinting, a volatile alchemy of logic and emotion.




He was still shaking. Stop it!, he thought so loudly he almost said it. Someone was looking at him again. Go away. He wanted to pretend it wasn’t happening, like he always did. He wanted to float back into the nebulous garble behind his eyelids. Every time he stood up from the dusty, oily piles of plastic upon which he dreamed, he got one step closer to having to admit defeat and move on. Where, however, was still an abstraction – like knowing the upcoming layout of a stranger’s house without rounding the next corner.

Good. The person was leaving. He never spoke to members of the constantly morphing group of derelicts and junkies around him. He didn’t want to become involved in the directionless, continuity-devoid soap opera that they conducted to draw attention away from their miserly misery. Community, was the word. They were a lot like most groups of people he’d gotten familiar with, actually. Overly dramatized interpersonal relationships devised to distract people from their realities. That didn’t bother him, though. Sometimes he was even jealous of their singular belief in the status of their own existence.

He knew he was a cuckoo here amongst the pigeons. But if he could just stop thinking about it so much, maybe he could linger a bit longer. Stay in this nest and eat his filthy semi-digested worms for just one more day before having to shed the mucous that bound his wings. Birds. Blue daylight – blustery static monolith. Ears hear ears hear ears hear only if my hands can touch. He felt himself slipping into what was once called a tonic clonic, back when people said things to him and he was better at pretending he didn’t hear them. Now they had a different name, and he irritatingly couldn’t help but respond when talked to, but the difference was he didn’t care so much anymore. So he couldn’t remember what this was called. But he knew what it was.

He was still shaking. He was still thinking. He was going to have to get up.




A muffled cacophony of rusting automatons and wind crammed into geometric confines. It was the closest approximation of silence Ash could expect. Through the venerable concrete and rebar overhead, across the whirring gulf between the prefab monoliths and far below, caked in layers of urban soot and beads of sweat, the city rumbled. Fourteen million nervous little romantic tragedies played out to the soundtrack of four generations worth of plastic-encrusted numeric conceptualism. From within Ash’s musty, two-thousand cubic-foot compartment, the city outside was only a ritualistically-ignored synaptic static, leaking in uninvited through the balcony door.

Stationed on a dusty, upholstered seat, Ash surveyed and edited a lurching spread of dissociated images. The grating, hysteric thud of electronic music pounded forth. More than a few curt, diagnostic conversations occurred in a variety of media platforms. The output writhed and clicked like a sprayed cockroach as Ash’s spindly fingers and hazel eyes flashed across the display. The machine on the chipboard desk was a mutated Theremin. The stoic gearbox danced with Ash more eloquently than any partner she’d known. Sizes, hues, contrast, focal points, volume and layout jumped at her whimsy. All this with an eerie accuracy that pundits measures in terms of ‘intuitiveness’. Synaesthesia was perhaps a more accurate diagnosis.

The night was humid as a cave. Ash couldn’t have been tired if she wanted to. She’d been tossing around her nest since before the sun had risen the previous day, catnapping through the hottest parts of the afternoon. She recalled seeing the sun setting. The view was a quicksilver display of reds, mauve, daylily orange and faint hints of green where clouds’ golden edges faded to turquoise and then sky blue. The sun was almost menacing in its subtle power. The silent key to all the earthly locks, she thought. The image had fought its way through her waking murk and pressed some undocumented button in her forebrain. It reminded her of her own warmth, obscured within the general heat of the city. Like two electrodes across a Jacob’s Ladder, she had been connected to that sun for a brief, groggy moment. Then the frizz of coffee and simmering pan of civilization below her had brought her back to her place – just a spark in a chemical inferno.

Now, in the dark, she fidgeted mercilessly against data. She compounded and interpolated information in search of an elusive detail. She sifted through every seemingly relevant article and video log she could conjure up out of the machine. She navigated all the perceptible degrees of separation from where her gut placed this detail. Her eyebrows cramped and her carpal tunnels protested in vain. In certain moments she lost the thread of hunches and was left with nothing in front of her but a series of unrelated text files and images. Miniaturized amnesia, she thought. She grouped, compressed and labeled these dead ends and red herrings numerically – hopeless conglomerations of evidence. Like the boxes of parts for forgotten appliances that she saw at the pawn shops on the strip.

When she was a child, her mother had said Ash had a woman’s intuition. She remembered crying about the way an uncle had spoken to her in a conversation that occurred out of the earshot of her parents. Several weeks later she woke to the sound of her father drunkenly threatening the uncle and shoving him out the door. The image of her father battering her uncle on the mucky front lawn buried itself in the silt bottom of her memory like a mosquito egg, only to bubble up years later, complete with bloodsucking stinger.

At a young age, the concept of women having some special, almost mystical power had excited and behooved her. Now, her artificial carapace of vapidity, layered on by many too many curt social interactions, told her that the idea was a relic. Just a throwback to that brief, historical moment between oppression and integration, when the ideals of feminism spilled over into the realm of the philosophical. She hoped it was not so. Particularly in light of the fact that she was searching for something that she wasn’t sure even existed, and had no idea what relevance it might bear, were it to present itself. Women’s intuition or stress-induced insanity, she thought, tentatively opting for the former.