by Martin Hamish
Tereplex had been unemployable. He was useless without reveling in it, which meant he was on neither side before the collapse.
He made his way to the Turin Library off Kleinstein Street, a few blocks from the now deserted financial district, with two-thirds of the plastic polymer windows blown-out on the decayed plastic and polymer skyscrapers of the plastic reality.
Tere had told the priest in the park a few years before the cull near the apse, the park now overgrown with weeds and crow shit and crows that remained during the day, the church long vacant, now physically vacant, what the priest needed to hear, what he already knew, kind of.
All sorts of weirdos tried to get close to Tere in those days, pushing him, trying to get him to react for reasons most of them couldn’t know. And it took Tere a while to figure it out, why he was being pushed.
It’s entropic. Tere told the priest. The priest dressed in jeans and a Ralph Lauren sweater. And the infrastructure is collapsing. Tere thought of this as he entered the library after looking at the blown-out windows and being chided by the punks, mostly children, orphans mostly, living off the street and a straight edge.
But they didn’t dare touch Tere because the only people left in the city were survivors. And because Tere wasn’t dressed in black and wasn’t pushing moochmooch or flexing brah, the kids would chide but wouldn’t do much else outside their sign system.
And the old reading room, palladian, was dark even during the day. And he heard the librarian scurry from the desk into the back room and down the stairs to the stacks as he walked in, the sound of his feet shuffling in small, hurried steps, echoing off the vacancy.
In the old days only searchers went into libraries and they were protected by simulacrums and then the mood changed and the searchers were ostracized and many became untouchables and then the system collapsed and real intentions surfaced and some sort of force field made it safe again even if it was deserted and empty.
Most of it was all useless anyway. The only way to get at any meaning was to read it all backwards. And it amazed Tere that the decent stuff survived, like some of the people that were still in the city on the edges, that didn’t want contact but were there, holed-up in their apartments, in their basements or rooftops, afraid. Not physically afraid, for they had survived, but afraid of the non-meaning of daily life and the uncertainty of the future.
The government after the collapse and the wars called the new state of things, GORI, which reminded Tere of Gorky, which stood for Government or Infinitude, or some such shit, and the punks and their shade handlers for the most part still followed orders that were no longer there. Tere knew that if you controlled your own mind and fear they couldn’t touch you. And that it was, after all, the government that no longer existed and that had finally been ransomed to will.
And the main reason now, for Tere entering Turin, was to find the code in the text that pointed to something like time, like how long GORI was going to last and if anything would materialize to replace it.
Tere didn’t even have to look because every book he found gave him an infinite amount of answers and they were all correct and true if his mind was in the right place which he had trained it to be, through lots of shit. And it made sense that it was the other side of will that had attacked him, which the priest and the weirdos and the kids on the street and the shades and the dealers and the banks and courts didn’t understand because they wanted to understand a little less and stop looking in a system of fear afraid of itself.
A well-dressed, clean-cut and intelligent looking man walked-out as Tere entered and looked at Tere for a little longer than normal, as if he wanted a little help but couldn’t ask. It was his German made station wagon parked in front that Tere had noticed and Tere imagined that he was leaving to the country, maybe taking days to get there, to his den, to go over everything one more time, to try to attach his mind to something beyond the reality that no longer meant anything. Because he too was now alone. Because everything in the dark now remained in the dark and the light hadn’t surfaced.
Tere had realized this was the plan all along. Earth had put itself in a dream-state somehow, that we will things without knowing it, in our dreams and these collective dreams had not only replaced the mood of things but had created physical reality which also shaped the metaphysical. Tere was convinced this took place because the majority had left the dreaming to another sign system, to those that had brought this on, but Tere and some of the other survivors, still had their dreams or their minds or both.
I found them for you. The librarian, Muhe, had come out of the stacks with a pile of books. Tere tried not to look at him for too long for it frightened the librarian, if him was the correct pronoun. Tere could now see through the telepathy and illumination. The librarian had been reversed. Tere too might have been reversed. When the collapse came it changed appearances and the universal mesmerism was inverted. So what was underneath now manifested itself on the surface. Which meant Tere, like Muhe – the hunchback librarian who appeared grotesque and dirty, green and black – were both really on neither side but had willed in both directions for too long and were now part of GORI. And Tere felt sorry for him but Tere also knew that the hunchback might not have been what Tere saw. And after they had first met Tere took his time and carefully approached Muhe and he had him eventually draw a picture of what he saw in Tere and he drew a very handsome picture, noble looking, and Tere knew that he couldn’t really trust in seeing what the librarian had drawn, and that the librarian might not have really been a hunchback in all realities and that they, like the rest of the city, were unapproachable for now until something materialized.
Tere was maybe one of a couple dozen people left in the city who entered Turin. And Muhe had finally confessed to Tere that the library’s most prized possessions were kept, had always been kept, on a private floor below the roof accessible from a hidden ladder on the ceiling of the floor below. And the librarian showed Tere the secret collection’s catalog printed in a leather folio, with occult designs on the leather bound cover, with a frontispiece in Latin and everything accounted by hand.
Tere knew most of it was meaningless, that it wasn’t any better than what remained on the lower floors if you didn’t know what you were looking for, if you never cared to look beyond general appearances. But there were texts in the catalog that were also extremely old and rare, which meant, if there was still an economy in any traditional sense, that they were extremely valuable. But value was now what you made it. And real value was of course Lyotardian, anti-utilitarian, having nothing to do with use. And of course some plan was making things happen somewhere, in the middle of the night filling the petrol stations for the few dozen people that still had cars and could drive, and placing food in the unattended supermarkets, and replacing the computer pharmacists with new programs and new drugs, all under the new sign: GORI. But no one ever saw them and no one wanted to see them, whoever made things happen, whoever was left to represent the government or the economy or the religion and the remnants of the general myth now beyond decay.
Tere had, with the help of the grotesque librarian, who lived now in the north wing of the library, on the third floor, found certain books on magic and philosophy, books that Tere had once heard of but never thought were within reach of the city. He studied them, and translated them from the Latin and the Greek, and read them not as a practitioner but as an objective reader, attempting to understand just what it was that led the world into this collapse, what had ultimately brought the subconscious to the surface. And everything might as well have been a metaphor. This is what the magical texts were demonstrating. That our minds create reality. That if we think of the color blue in a certain way it becomes blue, not by being blue, but by the idea we have created of this color and light. But that also aesthetics, inborn aesthetics, an attachment to something primordial that was epigenetic and that could, with great care, also be learned was also at play. Most of the texts were obviously pure invention, fiction detached from history, and in a way this made them more important, cognitively, because whatever it was that caused belief in them pointed to something else, greater even.
All communication was lost. The world was the encircled city. Tere thought of GORI, and Gorky, and Moscow built on a spiral, the planned architecture of the city moving out in concentric circles from the city center, from the Kremlin to the outer suburbs, like ripples from a drop of water, from an original idea. If someone could have told the city planners that they may be creating the end out of infinite repetition then Tere thought maybe GORI could have been avoided and it was his job now, because no one else seemed up to it, or had ever seemed up to it, to trace that drop of water, that idea and myth that had driven these mad planners to trust the architecture of things.
Tere had tried once to take the bus to the next town and it stopped on the city’s edge and the driver, half-ghost, with a vacant look and sinister grin had turned and looked at Tere, the only passenger, and told him it was the end of the line. In good weather Tere had walked for two days into the country and saw no one and came back to the city, to his apartment, to find water and food. For all Tere knew it was the last city on earth, with the last library and the last librarian.
Muhe had opened an old office on the first floor facing the financial district and turned it into Tere’s office. And Tere had kept all the books that meant something there, one’s that were not part of the secret collection which had to be returned every night.
Muhe placed the books on the desk and said goodbye to Tere and Tere thanked him without looking at him. The punks and shades threw stones at Tere’s window and Tere partially closed the blinds and lit the lights. There was a cot in the corner of the room, and there was an old shower on the floor below and if it grew dark Tere sometimes stayed the night. But he didn’t like to stay there, in part, because once Tere had woken in the middle of the night and Muhe was relieving himself into the flower pot on the window sill. Tere tried not to hold it against him, they both had enough against them, and he locked the door after that.
It was a book in Arabic that had been translated into Greek and then Latin that Tere was interested in. It spoke to the reversal. The cataptron. Reality.
Earlier Tere had found a book by the Russian writer, Vokglub, and he had slowly made his way through the original text, in Russian, and it was completely different than what it was in English. Vokglub’s writing was much more direct in the original, scathing, addressing the ideas that were below the sign system. This is how they did it. They used the originals and reversed them. Tere thought. Because they have nothing original. Anything, everything original threatened the order that had subjugated the will. Muhe had found a very good Russian to English dictionary published before the revolution that was indispensable and had never been used. Muhe was a good librarian.
In one of Vokglub’s stories he uses the kapparot as a metaphor for the reversal, for the superstition of language, logic and meaning burying true meaning and logic. 100 years later the revolutions of the kapparot as symbol and metaphor had evolved into the science driving the particle accelerator buried near the Savoy, the original battle ground of the oppositional myths, north-south, east and west, where the origins of the myth as reality had started, as numerous texts admitted to Tere. And sometimes Tere looked at Muhe and his expression as he brought him new books and Tere thought Muhe knew everything without knowing it.
The accelerator had only worked once, at the time of the festival hinted of by Vokglub. Tere knew he could reach into any book in the library and find the same Borgesian aleph and starting point. Vokglub had gone blind as had Borges. Tere fixed his glasses and went over the Russian and the Greek. So the hilasterion, the Hades-like collider had worked once and been shut-down, then the slow reversal had come. Instead of swinging poultry the myth was swinging atoms and subatoms. Adamic, Adamahic. But of course Tere knew that man as signal processor worked also for the counter logic. It was going to take as many revolutions in the reverse to find the way back and maybe this is what the collider was actually doing without anyone knowing it.
You’re a pig! A pretty and ugly punk girl dressed in black was shouting at Tere from the street below.
Why do you relent? Tere thought as he looked down on the street and went back to his desk. He opened the locked drawer and took out a bottle of brandy and poured himself some inspiration to release the strangle hold over the atoms he needed, all of us to put our hands through…
The sun came-out as it was starting to set and Tere crossed the park as the sun shone and the crows dispersed, flying away high and burdened, together like a black cloud circling to land again as Tere moved out of sight toward his apartment among deserted apartments in a city that was no longer a city.
Black shirts of punks and shades ran behind buildings as Tere crossed the avenue that was once full of cars and people, real children and innocence, feeding-off the sign system and the psychology of belief to become disbelief to be found again. All those images were part of the circle.
Tere thought of the texts and the sun coming out and of the cataptron and how it was the final physical manifestation and proof of failure, of GORI and all government and authority. Failed, liked the kapparot was meant to fail as Vokglub described it, as the Moscow planners had failed with an idea. The only sentinel still standing was directed, as it always had been, in decaying architecture and anger, physicality replacing life, at the mind of men with an atomic energy that distanced both the polis and the poles, trying to convert through mistranslation, will and time. This is what the punks were afraid of, and what Tere could be afraid of if he allowed himself to be, of being trapped in time and having to will things. And the counter logic was left and someone had named it GORI and Tere had time to figure out why because the revolutions of his thought were circling in the opposite direction.
Martin Hamish has a master’s degree in Philosophy, teaches, and has published short stories in various collections.