The Selfcleaning World

stories & images from a world on the edge..

Tag: literature

Enter the Huckster


In the year of our misfortune, the century hard to place, a peach-headed man descended on Rust Hill, pretending to have hitch-hiked there.  Tall-hatted, in gilded peacoat and with an unnatural paste slathered on his face to hide infirmity, he was an old time huckster in the classic american mold, looking to sell the people what they didn’t need. A snake oil wholesaler.

The trick was in trading in fear, playing off anxieties that people were being left behind and forgotten, while at the same time stoking age old hatreds that had mostly been in remission.  His words put cracks in the conviction that the system ruling the people of Rust Hill was fair and just, and soon the cracks grew to a fissure, the magma of animosity spewing up.

The huckster, hopped up on devil dust to improve his stagecraft, couldn’t offer any actual solutions to the problems facing the town, his hollow slogans were simply designed as catalysts for igniting the base passions of the group mind, primed as it was by a crumbling way of life.  He told them that a powerful elite (of which he surely was not) was conspired against them, pulling hidden levers to keep them under yoke.  They only needed to rise up. He would lead from the back end, squeezing the bowels of the back country.  In fact his cancerous presence in the body politik was argument in favor of a societal preserver, a cabal of benign intelligence, Illuminati or otherwise,  that might ensure that the ignorant, driven to violence, would not upend the apple cart, much less collapse the entire temple in on itself.

Crude caricatures were offered up as effigies, targets at which to hurl the rotten fruit of their disdain.  With the throng sufficiently whipped into frenzy, the huckster made his sales pitch.  He would give them the past.  Halcyon days when there was a chicken on every table in Rust Hill, the way things used to be, a dead dream.  Of course he was the only direct supplier.

Many were willing to buy in.  But there was no going back.  Time itself was the guarantor of that.



Five Stars

I have a short story in the new issue of Schlock Magazine:

It’s titled Five Stars and is about a couple vacationing in Mexico who get more than they bargained for on the white sun-drenched sands . . .

Returning to their room they view the spinning ceiling and warping walls. They take turns vomiting and then lay naked, blistered and sweating. Hours later a maid comes in, also spinning. The husband groans something. She ignores him, continuing to freshen things up around the sprawled bodies.

Aztec Calendar 

Industrial Accidents

I have a flash fiction story in the latest edition of Zygote In My Coffee titled ‘Industrial Accidents’:

An exploration of puberty as mutation…

“I remember some of my contemporaries who mutated early, sex hairs
sprouting all over their bodies, muscles bubbling up from bones that
might grow an inch in one excruciating night.  Limb extension.  I
remember wailing in the dark for hours and hearing my brother too, a
couple years later, as hormonal chemicals ravaged his system.”

Puberty as mutation

This planet is being eaten

Plane of the jellylights

The transcripts of Bern Hijkl’s recounted journeys by way of the Calculix are hard to reconcile.  I had to remind myself that they were the product of controlled research, conducted by reputable scientists and overseen by Dr. LeVram himself.

Bern describes scenes that to him are as real as any place, though their plot and purpose twist with meaning and symbolism.

He recalls first crossing a ‘phantom zone’ inhabited by people living in small groups.  They referred to themselves as Hearers of Opharion, said to be descendents of the Netherstock.

The ones who emptied their minds in a hedge-bet on the future are now mindless zombies…  They need to feast on a memory stew to resurrect some sorry semblance of life in reheated brains.  They are just as lost on this plane as we are on earth. 

They seem to have a connection with us, to be in some type of equilibrium.

There were airborne forms with names that announced themselves to Bern, but of course the names bear little sense: altatlatl, semeramcrucifio.  Some of the transcripts are downright nonsensical.

A choir can be heard.  As if through them the mountains sing their history.

Electronic war toms and songs like viking hymns, crowds amassing in the distance.  The noise of the throng like escaping gas.  Infinite details in any direction, a Boschian scene.

Some kind of festival.

According to the transcripts Bern encountered beings that were similar in appearance and mannerisms to those he had perceived under the influence of certain drugs.  In the archives of psychedelia these beings have been referred to as machine elves.  In Bern’s experience these psimodrons, as he calls them, were even more vivid and interactive by way of the Calculix.

I’m moving further into the scene, I can’t stop.  It’s not like I’m walking, I can’t feel myself moving at all, it’s like the scene is coming to me …

I come across a bin of lost thoughts, as if captured by consciousness decoder.  A psimodron suggests they are memory canisters stored for post-omega point, to reassemble ourselves into future regenerated bodies.

A distant rumble…  Organic hulks of natural lawmen advancing.  

A suggestion is made by one of the entities that the lawmen are recycling the spent energy of dead bodies as a back-up power source.  Then laughter.  Apparently this is their kind of humour.

A second entity tells me that “interference waves from past thoughts could really wreck your mind.”  The psimodrons took much delight in rattling me with bizarre statements and innuendo that I couldn’t quite grasp.

Drifting hopelessly through this Bern was approached by a being who could see that he was lost and who offered guidance.  She introduced herself as Haon.

Haon looked angel-like but with oddly feline features, ensheathed in miasmal light.  She told me that I needed to bypass this area and get into the marrow.

We passed through a membrane and into an undulating tunnel.  Looking up I saw blobs of grayish yellow matter hanging down from glistening cords.  They seemed to shift shape.

Haon said that we were within the infinite passageways of an outer dimensional bubble, and that these were gobs of embryonic energy waiting to be born.

“Remember when you were that?” Haon asked.


Bern came to believe that these catacombs were the source of all awareness in the universe.  He claims evidence that they contain replicas of the consciousnesses of everyone who has ever lived.

“I want to bring you closer to the totality, but not too close” said Haon.  “The nearer the bone, the sweeter the meat.”

We drifted through a portal and into the decimated geometry of  a collapsing reality.  Floating above the ravaged landscape Haon said “this is a place that your scientists would label a super-earth.”

“What happening here?”

“Let me play it for you.”

A calculix-like orb appeared before us.  Haon manipulated the object, her fingers pressing patterns on the orb’s surface as they lit in sequence.

I discerned a monstrous rolling inverted mouth devouring everything while simultaneously diminishing to super dense star flesh.  An overwhelming sense of sadness.

Haon seemed to read my face.  “It’s not as sad as you imagine.  Think of it as digestion.  You eat things so that you can grow.  It’s the same here.  This planet is being eaten, but from this feeding will arise new and wondrous forms.”

“Back to the salt mines with you” said Haon, and by this I guessed it was time to go back.

Bern’s transitions back to consensual reality tended towards violence.  His body would be shot through with spasms as he emitted guttural howls, reflecting the steep metabolic price of phase change.

Of everybody involved in the research program, Bern Hijkl proved to be the most adept at transfiguring through the dimensional vortex of the Calculix.  There were some in LeVrams’s circle who questioned the authenticity of his experiences.  Certainly these transcripts offered tantalizing glimpses of a very strange place.

I needed more.  I needed to seek out the man in the flesh.

[‘This planet is being eaten’ is Part 5 of The Calculix Series]


Had I convinced Imagine that I was on her side, that she could trust me with her story?  I waited for days and then weeks without hearing from her.

I pursued other lines of investigation, gathering information on the early development of the Calculix.  It began with research on entopic light, which is related to the coloured patterns created when pressing on closed eyes.  The goal was to track light direction and its perception in an attempt to situate the mind’s will in matter.  A functionality was discerned, which was fed into an animator to produce a computational model of the phenomenon.  The model suggested how a physical construct might be constructed from light, and this gave birth to the vibrorb, an early incarnation of the Calculix.

The vibrorb appeared as a shimmering ball of energy criss-crossed by lines.  A series of codices were formed by the migrating lines, whose meaning was taken to be a function of the neural configuration of the ‘operator’, the person psychically linked to the system.  The model was further refined by employing the neural signatures of meditating monks and other highly attuned participants, including shamans in the throes of entheogenic intoxication.  Energy scaling was applied to the model and the Calculix was born.

One afternoon I received a single worded text: Coffee?  Imagine Summer wanted to meet at the spot we had our encounter several weeks ago.

She entered the coffeehouse wearing sunglasses and an autumn sweater, on which fell her windswept brunette locks.

“I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and I wanted to talk.”  Bottled up for too long now her story gushed.

“One of its functions is to navigate and display all the untaken routes in your life’s decision tree, showing the choices made and all the ones that weren’t.  It will calculate where you could have ended up, what you could have been.  They’re transmitted in flashes once neural proximity is established, often just by touching.”

She recounted entering the holding chamber and, at the urging of her supervisor, placing her hands on the glowing object suspended at the heart of the device.

“I became aware of ancient objections, saw faces being unmasked, priceless sad information…  It’s like rolling round dice, bets are never precisely settled.”

She was having difficulty putting her specific experience into words.  She believed the Calculix showed her that life is a test, one of billions, used to confirm or deny universal truth.

I asked her why she agreed to it, taking the risk in conducting these tests, and she said it was an interesting question.  She suddenly seized up, as if just realizing she was confiding to a near total stranger, of whose motives she should be more suspicious.

I began talking about myself to take the pressure off.  I told her that my pure science days were behind me, that I was now a writer researching the history of the Calculix.

“I can’t tell you much more from my end” she finally said.  “But I have something you might want.”  She handed me a file for upload to memstrat.

“What is it?”

“We talked briefly about Bern Hijkl.  It’s his experimental trials, the unfiltered transcripts from the lab archives.  Promise me you’ll keep your source a secret.

“I will, definitely.  Thanks for your help, Imagine.”

“It’ll be worth it if what you find out can help Bern and the others.”

Was she including herself in “others”?  We finished our coffiene and went our separate ways.

[Unbottled is Part 4 of The Calculix Series]


Poor old sad sack, couldn’t even…… you know.   He slept out back.

At a convent nestled in the alps in the Garden of Needing the Monsignor dines on pears, wine and emmentaler cheese surrounded by a bevy of nuns, unaware of an approaching coven of enchanted priestesses, dew of the Urchin running off their chins.

The Judas Goat is under surveillance and war brides are guaranteed, so enjoy the carnage.

Watch as the drunken shoreman is ignored by the showgirl.  He heads into the night with a bone to pick.

I pick up a highwayman on the freeway.  He says that he who lies down with dogs rises with the fleas.  I turn down the radio, put the car in cruise control and nap.

On waking I’m alarmed at the bulge in my passenger’s pants.  “Oh that” he says, “it’s just priapism.”  The permanent erection was the result of a curse acquired by his grandfather in Burma, recently identified as a transgenerational parasitic venereal disease, cock-ring worm.

Meanwhile at the convent the priestesses, naked and chanting in unison, pour dew down the mouths of the liberated, as the Monsignor, tied down to the wine stained earth, is raped by the dozens.




I have a flash fiction piece up at Farther Stars Than These, sci-fi about noise and silence in a future world:

“There were old recordings of silence, but they couldn’t be heard for the din. Of course there were density isolation chambers, but only the obscenely wealthy could enjoy those …  Only the old ones remembered silence, the pure natural kind and what it was like.”

Imagine Summer

Her name was Imagine Summer.  She was one of LeVram’s graduate students during the early work on the Calculix.  She stands out in memory not least because of her nearly purple eyes that I’d gaze at as I passed her in the hallway.  I liked to pretend she was pretending not to notice me.  A second student in the LeVram lab was Bern Hijkl.  I knew him only because our labs shared the same deep freeze where I would occasionally run into him.  She and Bern were the two students most intimately involved in the research, and LeVram encouraged them both towards what can euphemistically be termed “playing” with the device.

I devised to track them both down for insight into the development of the Calculix.  I would then break the story to the world and achieve, if not immortality, then maybe a paid writing position or a book deal.

Preliminary research revealed that Summer was now employed at Astrobiologica®, a multinational neuroceutical conglomerate.  I learned that she frequented a certain coffeeshop at a research park, and I planned to “bump into” her one Thursday afternoon.

I recognized her easily.  Older of course but in a way that enhanced her loveliness.  Where once she was a perky college keener she now had the more restrained confidence that comes with success.

As she ordered her coffee I timed my approach to the sugar-cream bar and feigned a searching recognition, followed by surprise.  “I think we went to school together” I said, “did you work on the third floor at the Sonatoska Institute?”

She seemed agitated, uncomfortable with a near stranger bringing up her distant past, a past forever linked to her controversial former employer.

I mentioned one of the classes we had shared and brought up the sordid rumours about the professor who taught it, Dr. Dunner, which had always been a popular topic among students and staff at the institute.  She warmed up slightly at this gambit and I convinced her to sit down for a brief chat.

Conversation was tentative at first.  Gracefully tall with bobbing waves of flaxen hair it was amazing to look into those pale blue eyes and after so many years have them look back at me.

“So you work for Astrobiologica now, interesting.  Sometimes I miss the lab but my pure science days are behind me.  I write now, and interestingly enough I’m researching the history of the Calculix.”

She looked at me suspiciously.  “So this wasn’t a chance encounter.”

“Not exactly.  But so too with science I’m in the business of uncovering truth.  And you probably know better than anyone that the true story of the Calculix has not been told.”

“And that’s probably a good thing.  Look, I have to be going.”

Imagine turned to go, paused.  “Let’s exchange contact information.  I may be able to give you something.  I’ll have to think about it.”

“What about Bern Hijkl?  You were both students of LeVram’s.  What happened with him?”

Her face fell as she repeated the name.  “Bern.  He left science, he left reality.  He’s not all the way back..  he changed.  That’s all I want to say.”

“Well it was good talking to you.  I’ll be in touch.”

She hurried away.

[Imagine Summer is Part 3 of The Calculix Series]


Phases of life slide into one another.  To gain insight into your family, look at yourself.  You bear the stamp of the Gene Stampede.  Genetic herds.  Accelerated diversification of form.

Your blood has been drawn, you may not have noticed.  All that’s needed is a tiny drop, or maybe a stray hair, and you are forever archived.

Code ends dipped in solution, existence filed away.

How hot is the fire you play with?  To what degree will it burn.

Extracted biostats are linked to footage of you stored at data central.  Every movement has been recorded, as no space, not a square centimeter of real estate, has been left untouched by camera.  Your actions are forever available and accessible for as long as the Trans-time IntraLife Network (TILN) exists. What do you have to fear?

Like me you could try hiding in your imagination, even there you’ll eventually be found.

LeVram’s Masterwork

What exactly is the Calculix?

Those who claim to have seen it describe the object as an irregularly shaped construct of component pieces joined at odd angles, sometimes glowing, often with a repeating motif of lines or circles that seem to scale to infinity.  It is at least three-dimensional, if not more.  Fractal, but not exactly.  It hovers with a distinctive hum in the receptacle containing it, which is thought to carry an anti-entropic field.

Your average college physics professor will explain that the object, if it exists, amounts to what is known as a Tipler cylinder, albeit with modifications.  In other words, an almost infinitely long rotating cylinder of super-dense neutronium reaching straight to heaven.  The cylinder warps space around it to create closed time-like curves, and at any point one can theoretically travel into the light cone.  The foremost physicists of our age say such a device can never be built, and most commentators decry it as nothing more than a pipe dream.  But this pipe has been sending bodies beyond the edge of reality, if rumors can be believed.

Those more closer to the research contend that it is not simply a mechanical device.  The truth is that the scientists who made it do not know exactly what it is, and have turned to philosophers for answers.

Metaphysicists say that it makes more sense to view the Calculix as not a strictly material object, but as consciousness, or at least a kind of information pattern that interacts with human consciousness in some way.  It is a hyperspatial noetic object.  An access point.  A convergence of the sentient parts of the universe at a physical egress.

LeVram’s masterwork was declared classified research with national security implications.  His labs were raided by government operatives and his materials seized.  Academics rose in outrage at such brazen and unprecedented actions by the government, but to no avail.  The courts sided with the Feds and upheld the seizure and confiscation of the Calculix.  LeVram was offered the opportunity to continue working with his creation under supervision and within the confines of secured facilities.  He quietly accepted.

It has been eight years since that seminal event.  Only a trickle of vague statements have been released to the public on the status of the Calculix and the progress of the research program, while the extent of Dr. LeVram’s involvement remains unclear.

I’ve maintained an interest in the story over the years, fed mainly by the conspiratorial recesses of the internet.  The claims being made are overwhelming, unbelievable, and ultimately unprovable.  Supposedly human subjects have disappeared over its radiant edge and successfully returned.

I could have left it at that.  But I decided to go deeper.

[LeVram’s Masterwork is Part 2 of The Calculix Series]