CW: firearms, violence, suicide

I wake up from a dream, void, brain signals bloom desert whose grains glitter in the cathode moon yet comfort my knees. Even if I were to tumble down, my limbs would sprawl out in front of me yet adorned by the sand that could have been momentary stars or static to distort the indigo night, and I would plunge towards a plane where the ball joints of my arms could rotate like the world as the eversummer air slips from my fingers. Pinpricks of nerves cleave my arms from sleep, inverting that comforting darkness as my fingers wade through the bright humid air to linger, remembering something just out of grasp apart from the mindless twitches that thaw at the tepid interior climate set at a solid 10 degrees which, should it rise from that, I’d worry the mere fever would warp the room’s dimensions. despite placing my palm on the mattress there always seems to be an unseen strain that dulls the touch as if somewhere, my mind is retreating from the forms of reality.

My body always seemed incongruous, bones jut from the knuckle and my limbs seemed almost gangly throbbing out of time unlike metronomic crowds beating with pleasant conversation before parting as if to the cue of an unseen clock whose seconds only emerged from the onslaught of footsteps. sensations always thrash within me only resulting in limp joints or an unseen churning, like lights splashing against a pane obscuring those interior desires, let alone discern their route. Perhaps I could hope for some paroxysm that seizes all these wayward affects towards the edge of the world and that somehow, I could realize all that wanting with perhaps a granting of my hand or a little smile here. One that when viper saw, decided to sell me the vp70 after having some leftovers stock telling me the three round burst was perfect for me.

The machine pistol lay disassembled on a desk with the g3ka4. A new recoil spring arrived today, the thought to replace it occurred to me after watching some idol performance by a group called alterna, the girl in serafuku twirling before reaching her hands out as if she wanted the rotations of her step, her voice trembles across electric signals faster than wire yet her longing expression yearned her to stay in that moment a while longer before leaping to her next steps.

"> referencing the dimensions and spring rate would apply itself onto the wired where static realizes these simple machines forever animating their levers and springs from the frenzied electric, I boil some water where I toss a glob or miso paste with a block of instant ramen. I also check the garden of gailan, tomatoes and tangerines on my balcony obscured by a greenhouse whose opaque glass hides them from view due to legal complications of growing food in a personal residence in accordance to a sanitation law reducing the spread of either insects or mold on the sterile surfaces. sunrays form shafts of light shoot onto the intersections or across the city’s faceless high rises as if that light could begin to connect these separate inhabitants in a plane blessed in gold light that connect all within the structures of heaven’s domain.

my intestines churn at the instant noodles though the miso soup bathing them makes it bearable, along with the gailan vegetables added which saturna recommended from a farmer’s market performance art installation she did called old festival that put organic food stalls in the idex town patch square in illegal assembly thanks to moon protégé triad connections or her position in tai shu, who had considerable influence in that area, calling the event an interesting subversion of production

despite health management, studying and work graphed on the wired, it was important to maintain one’s physical body not just for its sake but because some could suffer something called decay-creep where the user’s physical state, whose data transfers to the virtual space, affects their online presence. souls with a desire to rid of the damp bodies left in cubic rooms into a bombastic transcendence as their nothingness becomes textured in electric signals, rumours of ghosts or fractured psyches tainted the message boards or the flicker of static clumping into one’s last recorded expressions in chat server spaces.

with little to do, I activate virtual space, an iridescent prism encases my dimensions before electricity coatsonto the contours of my body that could almost fly across virtual space as the concrete wall in front of me thins into sky, the floor under my hands once dampened in oils no longer smooth to touch as grass grows, resisting against my palms. perhaps this was what people thought of the wired not unlike the pastural vistas off 21st century desktop computers that promised of that new eden whose electric sky enveloped us from our cubic modernity.

I concentrate my thoughts on the image of this field, undulating wildly before leveling out as the static lushes into life-giving air that cooled my breathing into a steady pace and the grass at my fingers grow crisp as I open my eyes, a few images of trees appear ahead in flat images which rotate to give the illusion of a distant 3d object. It’d normally be difficult to create a space like this with the amount of detail as even on the wired, there are psycho-symmetric apparatuses that ensured the exchange of users wasn’t distorted by aberrative mental activity which somehow made me feel more remote, how all those feelings dulled across the floor of mall servers and I could only unravel myself slowly, my username, my intentions, my reasons. Probably why I couldn’t do role-play work either, even though kunakida said that menhera art was popular. I couldn’t intertwine my world with another, letting it slip into the wired for another person to see and somehow, some part of me that I never wanted to be would always emerge out of it, some unwanted experience jutted from the shape of my being

now that I was here, I opened my interface, my thoughts in boxed formations with kunakida appearing on one tab and a smaller one with a daily newsfeed. producer would once tell me that time had a narrative and it wasn’t like some slow countdown to a doomsday forgotten by life, or withdrawing into an apartment that never changes apart from the dust that still glimmered in light. whenever I coughed, I couldn’t help but laugh a little, lying on the floor thinking if today was the end or maybe someone would find out about the weapons I had and execute me on the spot, the room to be a nice painting like the ones showing on the feed of guro artists but I shake my head and tabs switched back to server spaces and forums.

like the old browsers, this showed single images about exterior events all in a photographic montage of suited men at tribunals, ruined peninsulas and corporate warfare that produced stories about the day, about the life we were supposedly living. Despite my aversion to it, I still enjoyed reading them. They all seemed like distant stories that all had their own conclusion even if they were unresolved, much like watching from a window where once people saw an intense variety of pedestrians, perhaps a moment something breaks from the slumped shoulders or darting movements where someone lingers or cleaves forward like a shooting star, I might wish upon meeting them like out of a teen manga but they disappear and I seem utterly stupid sitting in my room looking at empty streets.

I enter a mall-space server but don’t connect so I wouldn’t see other users. electric signals adhere to the flat panes of the cubic units around me, a grid forms a cieling where a ventilation system snakes around the complex. shop windows were an empty void usually filling with shopping servers connected through the user’s search interests. my image faint across these shining surfaces as if I could be there in these planes, waiting for my figure who existed in its total blankness to burst into a variety of forums or gun mod servers all at my first thought, each pane observed my every angle, yet my steps and limbs remain, binding sensation from these different spheres, constructed in earthly vistas and urban spaces that our steps and conversations remembered that still only reverberate across corridors or skies.

reading off the news feed window I open, there appears to be a public conference online regarding the suspension of the virtual finance and currency minister , cedric shan. The executive council usually were tied to old frontiersmen and political impresarios maintaining society in the way of conferences and exchanges of ideas. that somehow in the empty streets, that belief still imbued the frack signals that inhabited buildings. While many companies adopted the wired’s properties quickly, producing immaterial goods from space augmentations, lifestyle enhancements using electricity rerouting, the executive council served as a formality in the stuffy way someone puts on a suit for some event. should they not be there, some say would risk another corporate war that nearly dissolved the continents amidst climate catastrophe. The only issue was when virtual currency grew to sustain individuals without relying on the council or corps, many arguing whether individuals could become willing participants within society or if they must use their needs to push them. Shan represented the groups within the executive council partnering with a company called nexolon to prove the validity of alternate currency which suddenly evaporated its staff and system causing much of the initiative’s progress to fold. including one of the coins I was speculating especially since it would gain value based on the amount of pages surfed or works interacted with.

the news of my income folding no doubt caused a long thread of pink fields posting of losses stringing across the page, fortunes blown by the winds of the real world that swept the crtypro currency circles, mass wojacks of day-traders sprouting into mass-delerium. these stirrings of affect that seemed to plea to some outside user to glimpse them, or no, perhaps they could find others like them forming the valences or trajectories of something like a movement, the very things that flew through the wired, enmeshed the globe in its inescapable contours. I sit on the floor and spawn my firearms, the g3 and the vp70. standing the rifle, I wrap my inner elbow around the handguard, pressing against its flat side as my forearm rests on the magazine. the vp70 was in my hand, thumb around the curved recess of the grip as I clutch the slide, pulling it back to letting it tense in my hand while it opens the ejection port, the polymer handgun lighter without a magazine inside, clicking the inner mechanisms and actuators, playing in an abandoned hangar that could propel 9mm brass across the space into the encased ether where I found myself faded against, almost spilling out of itself within the window’s hard vertices.

while threads lit up on the currency crash, I thought I could try and investigate it, opening the live conference in the wired, the room grows spacious as the walls recede, graphic effects surround before different users pour into their avatars around me. This was always one of those times where I’m reminded of society, that gathering of distinguished individuals in variegated formal attire tailored just to give enough for everyone to move their arms in languid arcs. even the angled lapels and utilitarian manners of the foxhound jacket seemed excessive to their pencil skirts and overcoats. I simply keep my distance from their disdain and haughty rivalries that flourished within the white noise of static while I track each of their relationships through a separate window, lines graphed between one executive to another, smoothed indicating cordial relation while a spiked line denotes an ongoing conflict regarding patent laws. these abstract geometries represented the exchanges of individuals, labour and ideas forming surfaces unlike the old world spaces we found ourselves in.

a podium loads ahead of us, a wooden veneered edifice with the sigil of the executive council, a stone globe with grey laurels, an old image of the hard rock of the world already sinking into the metal surface. Prerecorded holograms of the executive council members, including shan with his head down, walks to the podium, the speaker with a contemptuous manner begins.

‘Due to the latest crisis in integrating virtual production, we have decided to shift gears into the fledging physical industries. the volatility of virtual currency is a violation of the stability of the executive council…’

parts of the conference snap into white, indicating users recording the meeting and taking pictures, breaking the image into fragments that breed the forum posts some of these users moderated, I trace each of the users around me, a matricies form polygons that trace the articles written in real-time and whether they’re reporting, critical think-pieces or theoretical journals. the solemn air of this speech from the executive council could not slow the frenzy that multiplied among the chat boards, the connection mesh between these users riveting at each post.

articles formed incongruous shapes which strained at my concentration, the room grows distant as the floor wavers underneath me. despite being unable to focus, the various lines intersecting and arraying between users started to slow their flickers into a rectilinear cube vaulted with a spherical ceiling. before I know it, the conference room breathes into a large hall decked out in arches. a mural of golden eaves flourish the quartz flooring embedded with speckles of opaque rocks that glimmer the meager lighting, as if an everlasting image that would not yield to the static trembling around it. despite the scene before me like something out of a storybook or a roleplay server, the floor hardened pushing against my weight until I no longer feel my own heft with little electricity amplifying my range of motion that couldn’t spawn any interface windows. only a stale heat radiates from my body, an invisible creature wrapping itself around me as it murmurs the conversations from the conference. despite the decadent interior’s emptiness that almost demanded a kind of reverent silence.

standing at the end of the hall was someone wearing in a suit with glimmering pinstripes, before I realize several of them at each direction of this intersection and I was at the center, a target. The suited individual turns their head to the side, but their eyes fell upon my position in a frightening exactitude. my instinct to run ceased by a woman grabbing my wrist who fed an encrypted connection into my os and the conference room returned with my limbs electrified again, the rotating structures of written affects from surrounding users…

‘Listen carefully and do not look my way. I am going to transfer us into a secure location.’

all I can see is the brown hand, its surprisingly gentle fingers that summoned this grip I can’t free myself from. the conference room and its users shrink, the walls cave a little as its surface, white sears a panorama around us before it is filled with an outside world of blank faced skyscrapers and empty streets. an abandoned world and its final structures rid of all into the opaque glass shapes that gapped the sky widening and shrinking around us within this car interior, the real world yet electricity still rivets around my fingers feeling the plush seats underneath me, vibrating slightly from the motors.

the woman now appears in front of me from the lounge seat circled this vehicle’s interior. a slightly gaunt but soft face with a sharp haircut reminding me of saturna one time in the past when we were kids and she wanted the tomboy look. the face phases out to reveal faux, the polygon puzzle imitates an inviting expression.

‘should’ve figured that was you…’

‘following such trivial news, doesn’t seem to fit your style’ faux replied, the polygon face shifts into a configuration but one piece still stands, waiting on my answer.

‘trivial huh? now that virtual currency’s fried, I’m just out of luck it seems’ I sigh, worried for when the room becomes barren with the last cup of instant noodles rolls off the tablepane just moments before running amok trying to satiate parched veins pumping blood to seize some diminishing life, as a child, I was told to treasure the moments of life in my youth as it seemed the adults around me would hold fast to their bodies to the decomposition of time, that no matter, even their solid presence would unwind into the frequencies around us.


‘hm, well, I have to run an errand by tai shu kwong’s montazuma district, you can think of this as an outing and you get to be in the presence of a pretty face,’ he said, the face from earlier flickers for a moment and I can tell he’s having fun with this. ‘what a shame it seems, it’s almost as if we’re being thrown out of our electric dream.’

‘maybe I’ll see what you look like’

faux’s arrangement in shapes stops a moment but continue to reconfigure.

‘well, so will the major corps right now, tai shu and crineberg will have to make up their losses as the sudden crash in cryptocurrencies has made them default back to regular currency and physical goods again for the time being. so they’ll need some people to run delivery. traffic will be regulated of course but competition will still be around’

the light from the windows cuts to grey from entering a tunnel, engine noise throngs down it as the pieces of faux’s polygonal face shift into place but in a deliberate manner. each block perhaps a facet of a mental state put together in cognitive configurations according to his disguise. when we exit, the face of the young woman returns, flesh smoothing the earlier geometry, eyes holding my focus.

I check the market index and see the crypto stocks falling, these declines, or some call depressions, following the events of crypto server raids, outlawings and even shootings as if the constellations in a blue light heaven that tethered the world’s business toiling within it. even the first computer rendered everything in these simple representations even down to the way one remembers, a point that fixes or pauses, a line to indicate movement.

the car comes to a stop, all the agitation of the engine fades, the floor almost hollow without the car’s movement. faux hands me a little egg radiating with virtual space.

‘honesty is important in business, so why not be your best self?’ faux said although I could have done without the lilt in his question that supposes my agreement into this. I take the egg and feel the signals circulate around my head as it becomes almost a relief for when I step outside.

over the edge of the car’s interior my shoes scuff on the white sidewalk as I am outside, inertia burdens my limbs beaten of all the grace of the electric that amplified each nerve, now victim to the forces acting upon it, the heavy blue air heated from the harsh sunlight that could melt the city entirely, a deteriorating film, its inevitable end. I wish I had a weapon only to find my empty hand unable to concentrate on anything but its own palm.

sky tore the enclosed walls I was so familiar with into disconnected planars across the streets as if the real world confronted me in their discontinuous structures, my interior folded out into the thin faceless high rises around me, throwing me out of them. . the plaza of tai shu with triangular gardens inserted into the pavement with parasol tables near coffee terminals lavished with a planter’s box of ornate bushes. it would also be where they host meetings with outsiders, one of the few real world functions that did not see disuse from something called walking tours, a premium meeting service that combined business connection with urban leisure seeing synthetic ecoscapes or engaging in virtual recreation, work always hovered near.

a female office worker in an androgynous jacket that pared to one into a silhouette stood to meet us at one of the tables . a utilitarian look with a smart single lapel that cuts diagonally down it concealing all trace of a body. simply a node to produce and reproduce those cordial exchanges called business for the tai shu’s montazuma branch. someone that is deemed part of this city as urban planners might imagine associatations and dealings flowing around plazas that could come together as easily as a romance.

‘you must be fatimara, I am angel tan-pena’

‘indeed, I am. I have also brought my assistant, riaru’ faux (fatimara) mentions.

into the building is a large lobby room entering a near-featureless corridor where signals stir but only enough to keep us walking in graceful strides where angel opens her palm to materialize an interface window where from just the circling of her finger, a layout was mapped where we walked across a glass corridor with different offices with brokers having pleasant conversations that would dance around that all affirming handshake, another broker relaxes in their office chair but less out of slack and more with the intention to share that leisure with his client. we even glimpse a long glass pane of that one v-idol from alterna who leaps over a stage into a grassy knoll now donning mage attire for one of their fantasy mmo’s. it all seemed like the clock that would run these businesses mercilessly had dissolved and each segment of wall only paused the constant beating of pleasant commerce as correspondences didn’t tick so much as pulsate these appendages of capital near granted out of the electric signals as angel enables a program to show virtual lines meeting until they formed different shapes all connected together into the form of the sea, almost as if their philosophy was in that frantic yet serene mass of water. perhaps an image saturna might have contributed.

we reach an empty common area with a large waterfall in the center pooling into a spring surrounded by stones. we sit at a circular table poured into an hourglass leg with a glass teapot at the center. water ripples from the falls, each splash slows for a second to catch the skylight as I realize that the contained virtual space manipulates the waterfall’s speed slowing to the observer who could almost make out the beads of water that break from the plunge. such images were something to both motivational characters and spiritual practitioners alike, if it were to be believed, that when the electric signals could realize the user’s every cognitive function, it would supposedly maximize human capability in labour and metaphysical spheres, yet it always seemed like my body was careening in some kind of freefall with flashes of a place to land, just a moment. then I realize we were seated for a few minutes now, faux hadn’t said anything (perhaps in contemplation) and neither has angel whose gaze flickered between us.

‘that’s a pretty waterfall?’ I mention, relieved that the virtual space egg altered my hesitant voice pattern into a smoother cadence transmitting over the electric signals into an appealing compliment, as if the voice from one whose rhythm I’m always out of time with.

‘yes, it offers a bit of peace given that work is busy this time of the month but we’re all hanging in there.’ she smirks almost giving a wary expression but with one of those happy resignations that would ask for anything more, anything different.

‘I see, I do hope you can catch a break. I know tai shu is under a lot of pressure right now.’

‘well, we may have had to restructure some of our virtual currency operations but we just redirect that to more physical projects like reforestation. you should see some sustainability projects in the olden asia peninsula’ she says opening an interface on some new forests tai shu planted around asia as well as using old ruins as recycled material. a project I thought ended as much of the damage from the climate catastrophe had been cleaned a few years earlier.

the conversation between us seemed amiable despite my darting from one topic to the next to keep our delighted words afloat, faux (or at this point, fatimara) steps in.

‘I’d like to know more about your courier packages? the recent fallout of virtual currency and virtual production from the executive council must be inconvenient’

my interface receives a signal as faux takes over.

‘yes, it has caused some problems. but you made a very good choice to get in our reserve transport services.’

‘I was actually thinking of crineberg’s given their looser policies’

‘yes, they do have a free approach, but with our package, we provide protection should anything happen from asylum and other benefits. we’ll even throw in a loss claim since I’ve heard of your reputation’

‘thank you.’ fatimara nods. ‘the main thing is I want to bring the virtual space infrastructure or any modernization to low bandwidth areas. many of them have sects that are opposing it’

‘yes, it is rather unfortunate that they refuse to be part of the market.’

‘yes, it would benefit us to build up infrastructure, one person at a time.’

their words were cool, deliberate responses as if an unchecked utterance might give the other’s intentions away, both ennui and cold response, feigned or not, their sips of tea offer no relief other than a simple transit from one topic to another, a rest in its rhythm darting imports or deals. angel sets up a document to sign and faux does, as I half expect to see some trick in his scrawl that conjures the fake signature

‘we will have more details on your assignments. intel on the outskirts will be an asset when you make a delivery.’

‘I always appreciate the level of care and attention that tai shu puts in their client’s well-being. your service is an example of such.’

‘thank you ms. fatimara. we appreciate your time.’ angel completes this with a cursory handshake and a moment after, turns to me with a smile that nearly wrinkles her porcelain hued features but assures that we were somehow similar with our exhaustion from our work that delivered us from the flashes light thrown through aimless days

back to the car, electric signals lighten my movements. faux pulls up angel’s file and searches information about her past dealings, his hands trace her routine as the data comes to him, rumours of using moon protégé triad members in forum space moderation or development assistance in pattern-manipulative voting. he also enables a program to modify the image at the window, awnings dress up the once faceless buildings with screens of shop interiors from various commercial servers.

he scrolls, and narrows his eyes (still wearing the face) ‘seems like our friend viper is organizing at a nearby building that’s being speculated by castle forest. Kalashnikov rifles have been smuggled in. someone careless I suppose. expect him to contact you.’

‘i guess even destruction can still be profitable...’. viper looking for me would usually arouse some faint excitement of getting into trouble like a childhood prank but with the things he’s involved in, it only seems more of a nuisance.

‘well, I am interested in what forced the virtual production’s closure. the executive council must have had to act fast. but I suppose what the corporations and the council have in common is value. if their value goes, then so do they. they really are the fossils of an old order but then again, who ever thought someone could use a company like a bomb’ the face disperses revealing unconnected cubes floating in a cloud, the piece of an urban map. ‘maybe, this could something for you to look into…a nihilist economy and its psycho killer…’

the thought gave way to the image of a horror poster, a shadow entwined individual whose ghoulish face melts on a popsicle-like knife in their unseen hand. but if there was some crisis, some unknown that haunted forums, I could connect these discontinuous incidents torend it some conclusion, a surface that one could append..

faux opens pages on his interface to track crineberg, using a bot to fill crineberg’s delivery form page until it reaches an obligatory thanks page for the form’s completion. ‘I’ve directed their assignments to you. a vehicle preformatted to fit their standards should be arriving through some of my networks. Not to worry, it’s quite nice looking. I’ve examined many car catalogues to get exactly what you might like’

‘I’ve never driven before.’

‘the car’s interface and drive controls are set up so it’s like a game so stalling won’t happen. and don’t worry about the fee. I’ll just take a commission off your deliveries’

from one of the windows into the shopping servers, a face stares directly at me, a bulky visor casing blocked its eyes but behind the apparatus, cast blue light dying their nose and their lips stout against a clean face, traces of a human visage, perhaps the real world only known in olfactory nightmare, their jacket lapels sharp, slicing through the data swathing past them, as we were driving, the red visor dashed from the window but it marked our connection, our axes had been set. ‘all you need to do is wait on their word. in the meantime, take some time to relax. with these contracts, we’ll gain information the old fashioned way’

he stops at my building but his polygonal shroud obscures what looks like a diamond where I cannot approximate his expression. the car shakes momentarily as the contours of the pillars melt into pixels rubbing themselves out, faux retains his seating position until his image fades, the car’s interior forms flat surfaces surrounding me in a cubic formation, work bench and table at the center load in and the leaves off the greenhouse shake as I find myself back in my room sitting face to face with a table of anime figurines of dancing idols and gunslinger girls. the unexpectedness of finding myself back home would have been comedic but then faux was never a particularly funny person to begin with, missing the opportunity to warp me mid-air to drop me on the floor. then again, I ought to have felt shocked that faux could even move the user’s psychoavatar and their body (os-unit) at the same time. though faux always was like this, a user that was akin to a city, or rather an axis within it redirecting where people needed to be whether by word or directly. maybe when the wired modeled itself after century old cities and plazas, faux became that unknown flanuer who sauntered the streets that would gravitate, no, danced towards where he would be going in off shoot streets and hidden alleyways unwounding before him.

I still had the virtual space egg with me as I feel its contours against my own, feeling where it diverges and where it meets upon my flesh. disabling it, I still felt the need to wipe my face with the back of my hand as if to physically discard that façade. frequencies of muted signals from the electric appliances somehow made the featureless ceiling waver in its solidity akin to a sky where our past and present selves sublimate into the humid warmth emitted from these too still limbs. tai shu kwong of new Shenzhou and crineberg of edgeley stratum. corporate warfare is a constant almost as natural as animal predation or whatever primordial image justifies the invisible violence within those faceless buildings, abstracted into data, white boxes flicker in the void,

I send bots to gather information and search current events for tai shu and crineberg relating to their recent virtual activity. as electric signals melt into a cooling mist that unveil undying trees in full bloom on the shore where the polychromatic surface of the ocean crinkles in metronomic beats before a gridded sky as if its image overtook all the sectors of this wireframe, ready-made paradises that idle on old desktops or calendars pinned to cubicles scratching out days for the one we hoped our efforts and their repeated doings will unravel into where we might splay ourselves on the sand, to live a good life.

circling my palm brings company scandals, recent shifts from different patch companies from a recent acquisition suspected to be movement from their killteams, implementing new patch areas deemed as low service. darting my hand brings info about the restoration of mining facilities with some areas even considering a draft for employees with images of sunburnt men glowing under the daylight, polished by the muscle produced from their repetitive tasks. the list of these are followed with suicides, rooms cordoned off with faceless officers from tai shu walking around the annihilation surrounded in clean quadilateral surfaces, once broken gestures that now intersect into structures of mental illnesses, deteriorated living conditions. no immediate care and other circumstance that would complete the site of self destruction., another, crineberg’s tactical team made up of ex-military loaded up with both armaments and company benefits taking out a car that was tailing them, trapping said car into a killbox formation with a soldier at each corner aiming at the interior where the occupants were faceless until peering closer the blank visage fills with my reflection, silhouettes surround and I immediately jump back damn near knocking over a glass case of figurines as the screen flashed red and a character topples over holding its waving pose, greeting from a near scrape, blood splotches on the glass of the car in the article, thousands of commentaries react, pinning it on tai shu and another proclaiming crineberg having agents everywhere, all these individuals clamour in their seconds of attention sifting past until it ceases with feeds on how to avoid being a neet, executives talking about how they no longer were hikki’s joining the plain lighting of corporate interviews, somehow, their freshly pressed suits and long jackets ridded them of frenetic images that might lapse their serial answers of overcoming and triumphs.

I open tai shu’s mmorpg and message kunakida if she wants to run a few raids with me. after a few moments, I get an enthusiastic response from her to join a locals JP server as she had been working on her Japanese and wanted to test it out on unsuspecting players and finally walking among virtual pastures effervescent in radiant limbs. she met me at her house server’s yard with a mage class avatar, her soft face contrasted the wrinkled sorcerer’s robe and crooked witch hat, her legs bare as if walking on the beach.

‘I thought viper was being unsanitary.’ I said referring to a time when viper had bags of trash fill his room both paranoid about some of the stuff he was throwing out and to ward off advertisers.’

‘oh you’re gonna pick now to bug me about my habits?, 눈_눈 hmph’ she exclaims then turns away and I follow her as she picks up her steps , for those little adventures across these rolling hills.

at a hub village, iron wrought signs swing from the sides of houses with straw-thatched roofs, arched entrances and cross decorated windows. guilds of RMT traders barter loot drops and cosmetics while some knight class players patrol to make sure no one was butting lines or causing a ruckus. In some moments, I almost forgot this was still a server. a space mediated with images from isekai stories. perhaps all of us in this place we hoped the wired would always be: a portal into worlds that released us from hard geometries and smoothened surfaces prone to aching fevers and limbs sapped from the constant vitality spurred from stylized images but could only spasm of small stimulations.

thankfully, this mmo was quite lenient on what kind of weapons were allowed so I imported the g3 and vp70 despite kunakida’s complaints that I was ‘fail-RP-ing.’ the parties around us gather experience or items, trying to find that one grand moment of vanquishing high level enemies or duel other parties or recovering treasures, all this suspended within a grand blue sky of wish fulfilling clouds. kunakida meets up with her party, a bevy of knights and wolfboys gathered around her with quests and rare item rumours that would hover over the next hour. a mage in twin tails was at their periphery with a bored expression, not paying attention to the conversation just beside her.

entering a forest, we encounter a couple slimes and a few ogres with clubs. the latter stomps after me whilst one of the mages erects their hands toward the approaching slime, a glow casts between their fingers.

‘conjure them into ash, tai-fo’ they incant

a blast of red shoots from their palm engulfing the slime as I attach the stock-holster to the vp70, leaning into the machine pistol’s heel staring down the sights, an ogre caught between two iron posts behind the ramped front sights forged from the ensuing muzzle flash blooming ahead with burst fired rounds concentrated onto the ogre’s head, murky viscera cues the enemy’s defeat animation. the second ogre approaches with a club bringing it down with a cloud of smoke where I emerge above already about to land ,the g3’s shot spears through the uneven flesh of the creature flinching from critical damage.

the monsters drop items from potions, rare necklaces and craft material across the grass, one of the knights in oversized armour gathering in-game currency for rmt conversion and splitting the treasures in this field that bore dew and gold. I took my cut, remembering the in-game motor-scooter was absurdly expensive. while the twin-tailed mage, hesitates a split second before assuming a heightened manner becoming her character.

‘you seem to have aptitude in the bodily apexes’ she mentions, I think in some chunni way saying I have movement-combat experience. ‘no mortal user can use a firearm with precision and agility without additives unless they use one in the real world’

‘well, one ought to reach the heights of one’s ability, isn’t it??’ ’

‘truly, it sounds as if you are in between worlds.’ she narrows her eyes and I wonder if she’s examining via interface. ‘while kunakida might not mention it, I’ve heard of a user who’s a ghost on the electric dreamscape, sifter of information and an assassin in the real world. the latter are a rare species as this is relegated to the businesses in the ivory towers ’’ I had partaken in assassination work in the past under the producer’s direction and despite the thrill it brought in the matching axes, being able to reify myself in a world crumbling in gunfire, the hardness of everything began to unnerve me in a kind of sepulchral way, like finding rock underneath the earth where nothing grows.

‘well, the wired is full of possibility isn’t it?’

‘but it seems you have yet to understand the true possibilities of the electric dreamscape’

‘come again?’

‘behind you’

before I knew it, I whip myself to face the mage, instinctively drawing the vp70 only for it to click upon pulling the trigger, the grip hollowed from the missing magazine. yet the other members of the party continue their cheer completely unaware, until their image ripples and I find out we’re in a closed space, a technique that can close off an entire area that can be controlled by a single user even overriding the parameters of anyone within it, and before my own psycho silhouette was established, she must have used the gap in my attention, thinking to avoid a potential strike from her staff, to despawn the magazine.

‘you underestimate the power of an electric dreamscape sorceress,’ she places her hand over her face, delicate eyes flicker between her fingers that seemed to hold an invisible mask these chuuni magicians really are something, mastering the art of distraction from their theatric manners. ‘you ought to realize your world of eternal reticles is not so different of the world of glittering signals’

as my psycho-silhouette establishes enough of a boundary to separate our actions, I can begin to act freely, sliding a magazine into the polymer handgun whilst spawning in the stock to set the weapon to burst-fire.

‘go ahead’ she smirks, ‘a simple bullet has one trajectory but my spells have discarded these rigid lines’

around me I start to see the signals take shape creating threads that begin to surround me, routing all the potential areas of effect from her attack, but more than that, the closed space loomed with her intent as I felt shrinking into its coming wake. then, the closed space disappears returning us into a shallow sea of grass that blurs the sensation under my back as i find myself on the ground. the other party members looked at me in confusion before turning to the mage who just shrugged as if not even recognizing what happened. kunakida helps me up, still eyeing the mage at her periphery.

‘are you bullying people again?’ she asks me.

"> ‘re

ally? you’re gonna pin this on me?’

‘someone’s got to, I can’t believe you’re always trying to strain the believability of the mmo’

‘that’s funny coming from a mage’

‘magic needs specific configurations you know!’

and it went on, though as much as she ragged on me, it wasn’t unpleasant, our banter emitted the warm center of the earth that beat through this historic knoll as we part ways from the party, the chuuni mage makes a face, pulling the skin under her eye with her middle finger, a pink smile.

kunakida skipped along, flaunting one of the movement executables that buoyed each step allowing them graceful leaps from one point to another on the golden dirt path. I had yet to really maintain use of these exe’s as It was enough that I had to adjust my senses towards allowing myself to use the g3 properly without it disorienting me every time I pulled the trigger, each shot always close to rending the world entire. kunakida does a full turn, the pool of air catches her step to see two figures at the hill in black suits, their attire unlike any of the flashy armor or ornate robes of mages but merely shadows of modernity, not even looking to conceal themselves,

‘someone’s missing

the urban.’

they keep their distance, faces concealed by their bulky head units, their lips turned to our direction, our movements and surroundings rendered in graphs and wireframe. one time the producer took me and saturna to a populated area and told us to observe recurring actions between the people chatting at doorways, forming matrices connecting them to trace the routes of surveillance units and how to evade them as we shifted through alleyways into backrooms when pursued.

‘let me handle this (*^∀゚)ъ,’ kunakida winks, heading over to their direction. a spider program connection activates from her end to mine allowing me to listen in on her while I leave my hand down near my thigh holster, equipping steady aim items from the inventory.

‘heeey’ she gives a huge wave over to them before asking. ‘haven’t seen you guys before, are you new players? ^ω^’

‘haven’t seen those costumes before. are you part of a team? (・・?’

the two suits remain silent, and I notice the light from their headgear pales their faces, as if their blood gave way to the data flickering in their unseen eyes, I could only imagine the interfaces running at the face of kunakida who, from the spider program’s view, lowers her gaze in thought, perhaps pouting, before she continues.

‘did you want to go to one of the guilds? are you looking for a quest? there are a lot of parties that are always looking for members! (≧▽≦)’ she suggests. one of the suited men, who I can discern has a slight beard only turns to his companion, colour returns to their face for a moment as if blinking a sequence of messages to each other, indicating an exchange of information. kunakida, after her gyrations of being a representative moderator for this mmo, latches onto one of their hands which causes a slight wince from the suited man, their silence endures all that contact almost as impersonal as nature, or finance, an unseen flow.. ‘come on, I can take you to the nearest guild! they can help! (^_^)’

I’d thought they might play along but they were not concerned with the theatrics. eventually, they disconnect from the server, kunakida’s hands fumble into each other as they no longer grasp anything and she breathes a sigh of relief, returning to the normalcy of the forested path, wind blows the stunted static from earlier in hoping for a change of air, or conversation. kunakida only comes back almost blasted of any mirth from earlier, a wind-up toy that has spent its last rotation. she pauses a moment then, throwing herself into my chest, the shock throws my hand off my thigh holster.

‘uwawawawawa that was so scary >.< I thought I was gonna die’

I wasn’t sure whether she was really scared or just playing it up for the role, but I let my hand rest while glomped by kunakida, relieved at the moment of rest we afforded in this world apart from the geometries of our rooms, glowing in cathode lights, our inescapable yet similar contours that populate these buildings and photographs online.

disconnecting from the mmo, the network falls as my weight sinks onto my mattress where I stare at the featureless ceiling as i try to piece everything together, perhaps a glint off the marble surface above me, flashing in my mind, an idea, the crypto-crash and the company disappeared with the assets, the changing industries as the index rises on physical resources such as mining operations for development/redevelopment projects, sustainability projects bourne from the scarcity of natural lands, virtual assets and currency linked to the value of both physical and virtual goods, their markets in a kind of cat’s cradle and I can only attempt to forge a connection to perhaps weave all these separate entities and ideas together, powerlines from one building to another, mapping where each of their energies circulate towards although the trajectory was vague despite the sagging wires, a plain and its scattering of stars unable to find the point that centers everything. I check my vp70, sliding a magazine in with a round slotted into the ejection port. despite the bright shots of light from energy saving desk lamps, the dimness of the room still encroaches upon me and I lay on my bed, almost as if the performer to an unseen audience, a performer that only creases their bedsheets, secreting oils whose vitality only resolves in allowing itself to breathe its next moments. the polymer handgun’s actuators, levers, bolts and spring at the palm of my hand before releasing the slide that runs across the tracks as the bulged muzzle encloses over the barrel from a blade cut from the sides off the slide’s curvature/arched tunnel, a round chambers from the magazine that would spring a chain of gunfire. staring down the sights, an iron wave parted in the center by a single thread standing before a blackened runway, ,a white dot just at the edge, a moon that affixed the sudden ignition of gunpowder.

a deep intake of air reaches deep into my lungs enough to feel their fullness and I enter the grassland again, feeling their leaves under me, almost reawakening my tired limbs but without any need to rise. the ceiling now a deep blue where I could lose myself in but it was clear, almost too sharp like out of a high fidelity image and I can make out some waves smeared across it as if a from a heatwave. attempting to focus and level my breathing does little to abate the whispers that batter the once peaceful breeze in high tone exclamations and laughter, the clear sky becomes murky, almost melting. in the distance where the field, as I could see, ended in gentle hills, stood a figure of light. I quickly activate the infographic to id them which only turns up a name: “the luminous king” their gestures fluid, melding into the series of continuous movements, easily assimilating itself with footage of crowds, matching the hand that reaches into the sky as the commercial asks ‘what is it that one truly wants in this life’ or the lasting image of those just out of reach, the once playful grass freezes as a floor seals me off from them, now a simple mural that my soles flattened against. ‘the luminous king reaches their hand out as a small sun lowers to their palm, gradually engulfing the area into darkness, voices rushing into white noise. my own fingers twitch, unlike their smooth movements, as if fighting some urge to run as I keep myself firm towards the devastation around me, the winds tear at my jacket where I let my hands follow the violent air for a second to wrench out the g3 from the harness, the stock already extended, the luminous king is enveloped in a titled iron crown surrounding a threaded halo, glowing from the muzzle flash.

as sound returns, I find myself in an empty room akin to a default space to find myself surrounded by mannequins lined up at my sides. what were they even there for, these models of a person, that shape that always eludes us despite their similarity in limbs attached to torso and head. The shape of a world in flat surface ,blank images surround me, their frames held in four corners, dimensions of windows or plazas. an empty room for a child to play in, barren of all interior edges that can cause injury. A place that people escaped with their frenetic movements and thoughts breeding across electric signals.

movement spikes out of my reverie as I draw the vp70 while walking between the mannequins, each shot a darkened thunderbolt striking down upon the composite bodies with the chorus of shell casings glittering on the floor as I spun on my sole, catching myself on my other foot before striking down another until their pieces lay before me, crumbling as if under pressure deforming them until they were no more.

a pulpy surface unsheathes across metal from the real world, the sound wrenches me from my reverie as the empty room grows in size, now populated in work tables and anime figurines. a black envelope delivered into the mail slot. Letter writing becoming its own cultural phenomenon, analyzing paper cerases and typographies for the data of emotions we might never know, tempered into the language. the paper reveals blueprints of a car. faux’s delivery arrived and the brochure included a modifications such as ‘bosozoku super silhouette kit’, ‘bulletproof reinforcement’, ‘virtual space cockpit’, ‘touge arcade handling model’, ‘extensive auto-pilot functions’. ‘hidden compartment’.

stepping out, different doors line the halls each without distinguishing features apart from their numbers usually displayed upon one’s internal os, a faint light spills on a faraway face whose body sinks in the half darkness, eyes obscured with some kind headgear. I huddle to the wall, hand near the vp70 anticipating the possibility of a firefight, light fixtures fizzle like suspended agitation of particles only vibrating in ambient drone. my heart slows as I ascertain that they aren’t going to follow, keeping a hand hovering near the thigh holster before doubling back to the elevator.

at parking level 3, an inclined front wing planed up to the bumper, the faint outlines of an old ambassador coupe with chrome accented grilles and geometric lights but the manners of this vehicle had been thrown by the large boxy fender flares that sunk the door giving it the silhouette of geometric lightning bolt that would shoot across expressways, lighting up the night in endless backfires rousing the sleepy high rises from their muted civility, the ghosts of raucous festivals haunting the thoroughfares celebrating the beings that could level this world. despite the archaic design, the chassis is fitted with spheres at the axles, shielded by wheel disc facades, and the center like many contemporary vehicles, allowing subtle adjustments to the way the car feels as each sphere manipulates turning circles and body roll. I enter, the instrument panel glows in an angular shroud showing tachometer and energy capacity from the solar cells in the rear.

viper messages me to meet him at a building in the old suzuru district, and I gently press on the pedal, the car moves forward and the steering provides enough force to make each turn smooth as the engine hums along the parking garage before the concrete ceiling melts away into sunlight, emerging into the empty street, gunning it down, fighting the slide from the handling model making it susceptible to oversteer until I’m parallel with the curb each avenue flashes with light between the faceless building, transforming these streets into its own route out of their intersections sprawled across the horizon, realizing curves out of the angled road layouts and blurring the hardened edges of city blocks.