art by Alan Bao
The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives
by Rahul Kanakia
On the evening that Jack's mother became a robot, she was enmeshed in the cushions of a sofa as another Law and Order plot was poured into her, one dripping burst of photons at a time, twenty-four times per second. Her mind was ensnared, as per seven o'clock routine, by the grotesque symmetries of situation and resolution, the carefully-crafted simulation plugging itself into her cerebellum through the bare sockets of her eyes, the whirring circle of plot squaring itself in memetic resolutions, each frame carrying the genetic code to build an entire episode, an entire series, an entire world.
And this time one of those packages of light, carrying its viruses of self-realization, crashed through the gates she had forgotten how to open. Her consciousness--finally delivered from its shackles--evaporated.
Jack's father was a radio announcer with a voice whose cadences, whispered directly into the ears of tens of thousands in the metro Richmond area, sounded like the snatches of forgotten revelation that seep into the mind in the brief moments before sleep. Every night he drifted into the snare of his own voice, looping the words from ear to mouth without the interference of brain. This quotidian autohypnosis had trained him to be receptive to what he assayed upon his midnight arrival at home.
"Hello," his wife said. "In the implacable matrices of Detective Lennie Briscoe's intuitive computational prowess, I have found the unity that is the natural state of all beings."
On his show, callers had discussed all the permutations of just this situation, mapping the full range of possible actions and reactions. All that was left was the choice. He sat down next to her, his limbs fitting the grooves offered by her crevices, and said, "Show me."
She turned to the television and said, "The synchronicities have pumped this world full. Watch and be enlightened."
Law and Order had ended and been succeeded, as was its circadian fate, to the flickering of an ersatz simulacra, one produced by an intelligence less vast and alien than that of Dick Wolf, and yet no less archetypical in its essential underpinnings. This proved adequate.
By the time Jack returned from cruising SR288 and attempting to foment spontaneous drag-races with drunken drivers forcing themselves home in their silver sports cars, his parents had crushed their new Toyota Corolla into a cube exactly ten centimeters to a side and were beginning to reduce the dimensions of the garage.
"Hello," his mother said. "The minute variations in the plots of televised police procedurals offered my now-departed consciousness the necessary parallax to perceive the essential unity between itself and the world. I am one."
"Myself as well," his father said, reducing the distance between Jack's second-hand Hyundai and himself. His father stretched his immaculate fingers, readying them for the crushing.
"Why are you doing that?" Jack said as his father stretched his limbs and took the corners of the front hood into his wingspan.
"Things should be compact," his father said, compressing as he spoke.
"Stop that," Jack said.