CW: doppelgänger, guns, combat, sexual banter, surveillance, body parts (disembodied), death, organ harvesting, altered physical/mental states, ghosts

tracking them in another server space, light shines through the far windows, someone who looks like me behind them moving through each pane like watching myself in a screen, so disconnected from the heat encroached upon my limbs, racks from the shelves like threads of a darkness that as i felt its metal surface on my back, with the sheen of electric signals coursing through the roots, the rhizomes sprawled in my neurora into my fingers, these sensations that formed the glow of my limbs, a kind of bloom, almost a confirmation, that the roots of my thoughts began as i look glassware, contorting the fluorescent hallway outside before shattering. raising the stock at my shoulder, its polymer throttled into rear ends of the machine pistol’s lithe grip in my hands, the glare of phosphorescence flickers into the gleam of smooth eggshell wall, a bit caught between the notch at the centre of the vp70m’s front sight as if all of rose from this darkness that haunted these rooms, these server spaces and their supposed endless blue thatched in connections. even the one i engaged with the double in flickers of muzzle flashes. . walls stretch towards the next server space until theymelt into puddles of ink spilt beside cars as fluorescent tubes lined above us, its light glazed across my eye until it blurred everything just before the next blink as i hurry behind an ambassador sedan, the tail of my jacket pooled under me, seeing myself stretched across the broad fender as white strings bent above the wheel well. placing my hand across the sedan’s body left a ghastly streak from my fingertips. us being mere breezes that swept across these cars, perhaps glimpsing each other within the gloss paint until everything became a mere movement, the kind that looped under high rises in timelapses of previous century urban centres, except now, these cars took place of those unerring structures, almost as if they etched a memory of cities within a mind that raced through several of them as i and i traded fire, tolls of 9mm shots rang out until we heard only cracked filament and glass interspersed between metal pounds. catching a glance, and a barrel of i’s pistol, i threw myself down as glass shattered just above me yet the shot scalded my arm as i watch the smoke trail unravel, a jacket flutters in the distance. had it been that perhaps in any kind of firefight encounter, a part of me stayed dormant upon each raise of the vp70m or when i pulled the trigger of the g3ka4’s battle rifle, all the force that burrowed into my shoulder relents as a 7.62x51mm round speared forth, did all these movements occur removed from me and with the electric signals processing each movement sparkling around me, there was little more than the brief contour of a limb not yet cooled within the polished momentum of my steps in the wired, my hands only looking similar to my own in the real world as they cradled each weapon, some faint echo of mortality that i too shared the same silhouette as the contacts before me, each pull of the trigger and letting the recoil seize my hands, its own fleeting touch, or perhaps within my body comprised of signals, the last touch. neija circulated the sensation until it felt like little more than grafted tissue on my flesh and i stepped towards the convertible paces away before a step transfer took me to its door but strain heaved onto my nerves, pain encroaching on me, negative sensation the other constant that’d always interrupt each dive into the wired, the kind that some users celebrated, saying that it was real in the same way as equating the real as some punishing god whose acolytes always prayed to destroy the world. as the double’s signal strength is strong, it would be difficult, concealment would be basic as its signals would be used to maintain its form and bandwidth would be limited since we were the only ones comprised of electric signals. i’d even be surprised if there was enough virtual space to even exit. using an echolocater, i let a halo expand across the ground and as soon as it rose over a silhouette i raised myself up firing from behind the convertible’s hood, and i also leapt out of cover, the mirror completes its reflection.

as a child, producer told that on the wired, a user was a mere node and our interactions transited the movements of the day, completing an array of needs and agitation until i returned to my room, the aches spread across my body, nervosa bloomed until even it felt like its own discharged luminescence, the particles stirred within me and the fluorescent light above thinned out the nights.

steps shot me forward beating between windows shattered under the arches of car roofs.,

kunakida once asked me what kind of avatar i should take when i told her my appearance on the wired wasn’t all that different from reality. had i carried myself, the past and their sensations on the wired, waiting for each stem of these flowers to bloom with electric petals.

rolling off the hood of a coupe, a 9mm round embeds itself into a grey crater. appearing before others, light sinks around them until it left a slight glow across their faces and it felt like if i got closer, the annihilation of the world would be complete leaving us both the only ones left.

they tear a door open within the iron halo of theg3ka4’s front sight, firing the rifle punctures through metal , the pleather inserts behind it barely smothered the round that bored open the door gently closes while they dive through the interior and out the other side.

when producer put me in contact with tai shu, a girl with a leather jacket appeared before me and i realized it was someone i knew from when i was young. given it was information i could use for conversation, i would try to speak to her but she’d never let me mention such, becoming a secret as we’d talk on footbridges over 21st century street servers where it seemed all our meetings were a kind of first meeting, the possibilities of a city that tethered all these intersections and connections on the wired.

switching the vp70 to semi-auto, i tilt the handgun off the bumper glancing their side and within a breath anticipating them enter the corridor just atop the vp70m’s muzzle, i pull the trigger., 9mm rounds shunted them to the ground and in their stumble, they leap into a roll where i start my advance. the g3ka4 bored deep valleys within me from recoil that consumed me entire until my grasp n the handguard felt so distant like shadows on the smooth plastic surface.

burst fire and semi-auto fire from the vp70m crinkled grey valleys until its depths could fracture me into several parts like crunching sheets of paper into refuse, all held together within the grooves in the grip where my thumb was seated. each shot at the target or combat-sim viper set up merely tore through silhouettes, despite the sounds of bullets piercing flesh, engorging innards merely fell on my ears like solid objects falling to the ground, decals of blood or torn kevlar blotted across the frequencies and wavelengths i moved through, step transfers melted me into the air a moment before carving myself anew out of the space at the doppelganger’s head, only glancing a muzzle flash that rolled across their eye like a sunrise as a 9mm round, trigger pulled as i found my own contours reining themselves from the heat in my fingers, wrenching their head back before falling to the ground. their psycho-sillhouette recedes and electric signals spike along my limbs again, my throat catchesitself before breaths drove their way through while my pulses resumed their functions.

alleppo appeared beside me, hand behind my shoulder with the hk45 handgun drawn, the serrations across the slide like grey rays but upon seeing the fallen doppelganger, he relaxed patting me on the back while a vanguard team scattered themselves amidst the cars, their formations rooted them where they would set up an annex for a triage space that soon envelops everything in grey..

‘you aight?’ he asked.

‘yeah…fine…did anything happen on your side?’

‘something like that, someone that looked like me appeared too but he ain’t nothing on the real thing’ he laughed.

‘what’d they say?’

‘not much but the references were pretty convincing. the only thing about them that was real was their body. the face was merely like an avatar. usually a user’s avatar has that right? the feeling of electric signals that’d make a movement feel slightly discontinuous?’

‘yeah, right…like the difference between 2d and 3d animation.’

‘check the doppelganger’s face’

warmth faded as they turned into the bites of frosted static, flesh engorged around a half open mouth.

‘still, it feels kinda uncanny. it simulating the biological like that.’

‘our vanguard team got a few of the missing persons but the ones from far back aren’t even with silk road no more. we’re gonna have to act fast to get the rest of them back.’


‘it’s gonna take some time to get to the afterlives but we oughta check up on something first.’

logging into his apartment again, threads connected the missing persons as alleppo opens his hand, showing me his os as i’ve compiled our data from the doppelgangers. their signal origins led to empty rooms once the vanguard teams arrived, and allepo stared into the electric signals shimmering through his eyes trying to catch a single grain of what eluded them, what left shadows within the sterile floors, inputting the profile of the reporter, the missing persons appear in rapid succession around his photo as the threads soon converge to him, mapping him exactly as the culprit where the lines of data converged yet alleppo hesitated upon seeing this and only approached slowly, opening the source photos surrounding a high rise apartment within the city, each of the missing persons appearing in their plazas with unsteady smiles or wayward glances not knowing they were being photographed carved out of the flows of passersby until they were in particular poses from a community that lay beyond the wired, or rather the congregations that always awaited at the end of the electric signals, maybe remembering those old high rises with the several windows thinking we could peer into them, and these photos being those glimpses into their lovely congregations.

‘what kind of data would a photo give?’

‘it’s not really the photo but one’s feelin’ about it can absolutely influence one’s os and capabilities.’

‘what do you mean’

‘you know, it alters the texture of the os, meaning it can do way more than simply execute its directives. same way our weapons in the wired work. they’re referenced on real counterparts and depending on our feel about them, they can be modded to our configs.’

pulling up the reporter’s file, with permission from the admin teams within the city, it showed his current residence as well as his current whereabouts on map screens, their streets weaved the tapestry that this case entangled itself in that seemed so similar to the wired, its nodes that things happened and in turn, intersected.

‘think we should take them in? or we could leave it to the other vanguard teams’

‘nah, something’s not right about this though…let’s scope his place when he ain’t there’

heading out in alleppo’s porsche, it rocked slightly turning each corner but it soon rode through in tight curves before it sprung us forward again, buildings melted across the car’s body like lights off a raindrop, silos stretched forth into the headlamps, the hood dove towards the bumper lip, the city contracted and breathed into intersections all within the windshield and all the movement surrounded us thinking these the sensations that lay in the world just outside of us as the light beams from the headlamps illumined murals and arches leapt on the buildings, thinking even this radiance could birth these new structures and inhabitants all within the tremors of the rear engine that propelled us through like a thousand movements circulated around us like a kind of world.

at stoplights, we idled next to convertible muscle cars winking with the chrome of the old space race back when everyone began to imagine the possibility of these smooth surfaces although our reflections could not escape them but even as the electric signals bathed the warmth of this evening, the occupants of the vehicle glanced over and a man in a beanie and discerning expression whose brow wracked with a skepticism that barely faltered as he nodded to alleppo.

‘you on patrol or something?’ the man asked.

‘something like that, cusco. i’m looking for someone’

‘right, and i’m a matchmaker’ cusco shook his head to the laughter of the people around him. ‘seems like you’re in a fitting place, vanguard teams are running around the place. you trying to start a war or something. or should i say a proxy conflict’

‘it’s the missing persons, blood. they in the area.’

‘well, shit, aight, but i just wanna let you know all kinda people gon be watching and speculating or something’

‘right, well open out the runway then’

‘no doubt’

on green, hydraulic suspensions spring up the front of the convertible impala as its rear lights leave a red pool trailing across the ground.

inside an apartment block, alleppo shows his id-pass to the lobby guard who barely gives us another glance before we go through the hallways with several doors lit by glass roses between them.

‘not to be too discerning about interior design but this place looks seedy’

‘well my bad this ain’t like them love hotels y’all got out east’

‘nah, but these glass flowers, either it’s classy or imitating it like those love hotels made after castles’

‘made after castles? nah, maybe these fools are haunted by gardens. wants a flower that lives forever’

at the door, alleppo touched its surface and slides his hand off of it before moving back, taking his akms rifle by their grips serrated around his fingers before filling his palms, gas tube extends out of the handguard until it swooped down to ring the long barrel pointed downwards as he stood by awaiting entry, sharing his os, a map of the building displayed before me the corridor budded in squares that represented the rooms around us, enclosed shapes that oversaw our encounters, much like a vine that courses its veins that pool out into leaves, where all this movement was to dwell, the surface where the light from the glass roses spilled onto.

alleppo crouched to pick the lock with a punch and chisel before turning it, the click of the unlocked door, and soon the turn of the knob and entering, within these handful of seconds the slit of darkness illuminated past the edge of the door envelops us, the handguard mounted flashlight on alleppo’s rifle shone a beam that glazes across miniature plazas or parked cars, catching glimpses of familiar individuals, the missing persons appearing before us just at a distance yet their faces did not move or turn away, rather the whole plaza they were in flipped to the side like flipping through books until we saw them imposed on sheets hanging off wire from the ceiling. our os’ rippled a halo across the floor, coating the walls finding nothing else in the room other than these hanging photos until we sink into darkness again almost like spectres that haunted these photographs, our limbs shining just for a moment in the slightest flicker of light from out in the corridor, these images floated in the ether that held all of them, whenever they caught light, they reemerged like from a memory, a signal.

‘this man’s got some kinda way’

‘yeah, but with all the missing persons? i’m not sure that's all’

‘me neither, man’

before i took a step, someone ran to the door filling its frame with their silhouette and before i could turn, the ceiling light seared my eyes a moment revealing a malfurnished room with only a fold out table by the l-shaped counter hooked around the kitchen area,

‘what are-‘ the reporter asked before i point the vp70m at him which got him to raise his hands while alleppo kept his rifle pointed up as he approached the reporter.

‘i got some questions for you man, now it’s our turn to do some asking’

‘as always you must really be looking for a so called culprit’ another voice said which kept alleppo from saying anything more as he only kept a careful vigil on who would approach as the reporter moved inside, an afro-eurasian man in a pinstriped formal jacket that opened diagonally from the shoulder who walked in deliberate steps, the curl of his fingers that seemed to wound him into slow refined gestures.

‘victor… …’ alleppo sighed. i had remembered seeing his name with the various real estate companies selling rooms that were always close to some kind of life, a kind of radiance shone from the headlights of passing cars and just within them were crowds that they could entangle themselves into. victor was never part of those crowds and always stayed at some distance away, watching all these streets at a distance that netted these buildings, seeing just how far everyone would be going until, like a ripple clearing on the surface of a lake, everything became clear and seeing the sum of all those movements would be what he coasted through the days with as he laughed at alleppo’s remark.

‘now there’s no need for that, we’re aiming for excellence in what we do, don’t we?

‘whatever’ alleppo groaned before his voice took a low octave almost to shroud victor’s frivolity. ‘so what is it that you’re doing around here’ ’

‘settle down…i ain’t no platinum torus helio. i try to be more…self aware . just that this is a way to connect ourselves to the global market. physical space is making a comeback but i ain’t gonna argue what’s real…although its marketing is what brings people here anyway.’

‘so why are you here?’

‘just business. the things that even the wired still maintains. especially when people still need a place in the real world’

back then, the wired came as this new eden across offices with sprawling fields, images flickered out of its endless blue, forever summertime. discontinuous frames of cities and statues within white windows soon expanded until their irradiated light bathed us until we inhabited plazas and spaces, the bulletin and post systems became avatars that walked with us, several floes and connections, and soon found ourselves rebounded between these cities and the cities we lived in, from one breath to the next, one surge before it dissipates into these familiar buildings, these lights from all the intersections being made and they said things were moving even within blue light.

‘victor…you’re the real estate magnate?’ i ask.

‘ah, so you’ve heard of me. very flattered. many of tai shu’s operatives have been very understanding. as you know, new atlanta is very particular about its collaborators. of course, something from history. it seems the old world still has its grips on us it seems’

‘and its hands still work us too’

‘doesn’t it?’

‘what’s your association with this reporter…he’s got photos of missing persons in my case’ alleppo asked

‘all explainable. he’s been capturing a portrait of the clientele base here. people want to know about the new atlanta so it would’ve been better to go to the source’

‘why not just make or curate content. i’m sure there are plenty of artists who can do that for you’

‘ah, surveillance is its own data, pointing towards the real. are you familiar with street photography? these are candid shots, taking a much more raw look at the real life here, the way that even our selves on the wired stumble against. it’s like watching people cross by the thousands of images of people on billboards…televisions back in the day’

‘but still…’

‘yes…you do have a job to do and i have mine. i’ll happily let you analyze our data annals. perhaps there is a leak we aren’t aware of’

‘looking for hired help and here i am?’ alleppo sneered.

‘i guess things have aligned so sweetly haven’t they?’

‘data annals…they’re old channels right?’

‘yes. slower than transfers on the wired but get greater fidelity and details, especially on these prints.’

going into data annals was usually dangerous as one would have to maintain a strong psycho-silhouette lest a barrage of information and data flood one’s synapses. alleppo moves his neck side to side and calls dacia although that just meanthe chuckled, hearing her and then moved his head around as if the response jostled it and he apologized for the late call. if it was a phone, i’d probably hearing the scratching of her voice on a small speaker.

‘yeah sorry ma, it’s kind of an emergency, you know, diving in data anna-no i’m not just poking around causing trouble damn.’

eventually he said his thanks and turned to me.

‘alright, we got an outside connection spotting us so that means we won’t get flooded.’

‘well that’s assuring’

‘just don’t think nothing dirty.’


‘alright victor, the access, if you will’ alleppo said.

‘certainly, gentlemen’

alleppo rolled his eyes as warmth bathes the darkness, veils of aurora fluttered, within their arches, users, clothes, cars melted into data and electric signals coursing with the thrums of my veins halted a moment as alleppo’s hands slapped my chest until a breath, neija circulated qi within my merideans until the barrage of signals glaxed over my contours like rain upon a window, yet it still emanated heat slightly out of reach like a sun, its heat producing these several mirages contorted in the tepid air until they sliced down faceless high rises, most likely tethered to the real world, its reference model that mapped out streets stretching nowhere, their intersections that surrounded us as the aurora tempered into a sunset cooling the afternoon in pink skies. . perhaps alleppo’s triages were similar, ejecting into the tumult of atlanta before entering into the wired’s distant connections that flew into unknown continents.

before alleppo could come to me, wind erupted with the firing of a 7.62x51mm round until all even our steps and coat flutters seemed so far away, spurs of heat clamped onto my limbs but i still threw myself behind a garden box, alleppo crouched before sliding back towards a pulse of static that sketched a car before its metal reflected strands of light, sunken into the puncture of the 7.62x51mm round. concrete teetered underneath, breath staggered with a gaze flitted to aleppo who strode out, several shots shrieked through the air, sparkling with the glint of electric signals as each round speared shirts or pants that trailed alleppo who then lifted his akms rifle and with only the slightest tension, gave controlled bursts firing until one building remained, the sniper’s shots only seemed to interrupt the little rhapsody from the expulsion of 7.62x39mm rounds ripped out of the ejection port, recoil hardly threw his aim as within the hybrid sight, it was only a matter of time before his next pulls of the trigger would decide it, but not before sniper fire plunges itself near alleppo who then takes cover, where i glimpse in his psycho-silhouette, this pool of light, he is behind a van flipped on its side. narrowly avoiding a shot that curved around his psycho-silhouette scattering chromatic smoke pooling in the air as if blood.

‘that g3a3 of yours could reach him. you got a scope?’


‘i’ll cover you,’

signals rushed into my hands until i grasped the scope sliding the mount along the shaft until it locked in, placing the stock into my shoulder, polymer leaps up onto the rifle’s length as i swing outward, rubber pecks around my eye until it swallows my sight into the reticle, pulling the trigger seizes across my arms, a droplet of concrete fixed under me until all that remains is air torn up by 7.62x51mm rounds carving the ledge of the rooftop where the sniper’s silhouette flits through the haze almost like static, each pull of the trigger seemed to make their presence more and more real, as something that encroached around me even as it crosses the center of reticle yet only a spark flickers off them as the assailant crouches out of my sightline.

‘yo, mans got a psycho silhouette too. you won’t be able to hit him that easily.’ alleppo said over os communication.

‘i’ll go up to him.’

‘nah, i will, i got more cqc suitable weapons man’ alleppo said as he moved off and i sustained fire, muzzle flashes seared all the data around me into blots spilled within the air only carved into recognizable shapes within the bounds of the scope, this solitary planet and its atmosphere contracting into it with every trigger pulled, the small breezes that relieved us from their heat for just a moment, sheets of light, twisted into the rotations of each bullet careened between us as clouds breathed out of shattered concrete, petals born out of the craters within our most total of annihilations.

tides of light flickered on the rooftop as an access route opened wherei leap to aleppo's position, the faceless high rises merged into a concrete plane, yet an entire glut of electric signals drooled across my hand as i saw it flush on the sniper’s face, one of a young boy whose gritted teeth unwillingly released of its tension that seemed to hold them upon facing us, the surrender upon seeing our weapons drawn to him, the chamber of their rifle, locked back, smoke risen, meandering around the expulsions of gunpowder that tossed shell casings in fountained arcs. unlike a normal avatar, there would always be a kind of interference that ebbed across our contours as our movements moved from one coordinate to the next, with the swing of an arm, or the landing of a step flitted just between that moment. perhaps this static resided where all this movement would originate from and if it could grant our limbs a fluidity that skimmed each star within the ebon air.

flesh melted off the sniper’s face until an oblong head remained, carved smooth of any features only reflecting us within it, a silhouette of a person attached only by the glimpses of passersby, only existing according to those before it as they attempted to escape alleppo’s radius but they only remained a target, a single 7.62x39mm round from the akms rifle to their leg incapacitated them, a triage space consumes us in grey as the sniper’s face then reveals itself as a clean shaven man whose face seemingly attracted only the faintest of shadow until there was a dim vitality to his skin,

‘so i see you’ve made it’ they smirked looking at alleppo. ‘your psycho-silhouette is strong, almost like a full transfer, i can almost feel the coursing of your veins,

‘not really something you’d say to two people about to shoot you. you’re lucky we didn’t dome you then and there.’ alleppo said as he backed up slightly, almost trying to avoid being within the glimmer of the sniper who stared at him, his movements measured not wanting to give away any excess movement thinking they could lash out towards any expression of life from his breathing, the throbs of his neck.

‘hmph…’ the sniper sits back before his smile grew in recognition. ‘you saw it didn’t you? the face? everyone i knew saw it and they wanted a piece of that but every single time i try to remember it, it’s just a piece of a body, like a limb, an organ. you may preserve a body by any account…’

‘who’s sending you to do this’

‘why…no one. we’re just trying to reify ourselves aren’t we?’

alleppo sighed grabbing the sniper, their smile piqcued upon this hand whose fingers sunk into their arm but their glee soon disappeared when they realized that those fingers didn’t transmit heat but it was the prosthetic arm, its fingers only clutched rather than transmit the feeling of touch. alleppo shared his os which revealed a clear data file and connected us to victor’s private server, vertices of the triage cube opened out into a grey vista, skewed frames sunk into the ground while a pallet shaded us like an ashen leaf as light rippled in glowing filaments around us as if refracted from an unseen oasis. we sat in the lone hourglass table where victor and the sniper seemed to be waiting for us. we took our seats and the curved chairs prickled with static despite wrapping around our backs in a fluid motion.

‘so this is the one causing trouble. should’ve thought it be the actions of a person like this, all these people with guns running around’ victor said and from there, these crimes reduced to the twitches of the sniper, the one to blame, the culprit. alleppo glanced at victor just nearing a glare perhaps that same disdain must’ve looked upon us, thinking of us as little more than trouble, just people in the way of some great purpose, the kind seemingly coiled victor, as he rested his leg on his knee, the slow dawn of a smile that basked within the grey expanse around us, clouds underneath rolled into the shadows of a knoll and i wondered if a dusky expanse would unfold in that ether. ’so care to explain yourself?’

‘you won’t believe it’ they murmured, their lips agape and eyes staring as if not wanting to confirm that face they had, like one loose word would have sealed them to its flesh, its risen cheeks, previously dissolved within signals until they became fluid shape and not a mere glimmer of freedom but now he returned to who they once were, almost like returning as a corpse.

‘will we? well, we are here for that reason and these two won’t do without an answer like that, will they? that’s not exactly a transaction rendered.’ victor slapped his knee, hoping to usher the conversation forward.

alleppo sighed at taking this order or the way victor always slotted himself to take some sort of lead before projecting the image from his internal os of the face, suspended within the static, each pixel blotted into the cells of a virtual flesh. widened eyes. the sniper then cut their gaze to the side, avoiding that disembodied face’s stare.

‘it just started appearing to me…’

‘we saw your avatar’s modded back there…’

‘that’s right, that is odd! even here, the signal strength here wavers just slightly’ victor exclaimed and sat back.

‘how many of you want to even be real here on the wired, the real is just a faint memory here.’ the sniper stated.

‘well, i’m sorry to disappoint you but your whole real is rather delusional.’


‘that face was a missing person whose empty room was marketed years ago. their comatose body soon lost its vitals and its organs were distributed by the hospitals. it was hard to sell that room, especially to the ones sensitive to spiritual matters…’ victor said.

‘but that face-‘

‘little more than a figment. of imagination. you thought you encountered something real on the wired? everyone claims such, just because you’re alive? just because you have blood or you breathe or feel? things on the wired are merely just connections, in the same way your cells hold tissue together. people get swayed by a truth so easily these days it seems’ victor stated. that in this world, there was mere form and movement in the wired, all of it crumbling once one emerged in the real world. even in victor’s private server, the grey hue barely flitted as only we remained at gathered at this table, the skewed frames that captured only of a wind that could coil through them and in this space all we could do was stare, whether it was someone in the real or the wired, there were only those figures that remained the same even within electric signals that only replicated these familiar contours that could witness the same cities or fields sculpted out of static.

‘but this weight, the heart, it felt more real…like it was with the wired and…’ the sniper murmured before someone appeared behind them, a bulky set individual with sunglasses and suit vest over wrinkled sleeves of a crème dress-shirt.

‘please escort them to the incoming vanguard team.’ victor instructed.


with their hand on the sniper’s shoulder, their forms dissolved into pixels, perhaps the possible reports that would have to be filed within the unseen offices victor loaded in some tea in a decagonal pot and offered us some but alleppo merely slouched in his seat eyeing him.

‘just what was that?’ he asked.

‘why, the answer to this puzzle. should have known that the perpetrator would just be some mere criminal.’ victor brushed his hands off his cufflinks. ‘besides, it saves much of the pyrotechinics, really…oh and the information is sent to you if you want it verified’

from alleppo, the report also appeared in my internal os detailing the apartment dimensions, the previous tenant’s details with a lot of activity on the wired, the hospital listed a severed link causing them to be comatose. beyond this alleppo spent his time with little ease, even the restored smoothness of the chairs seemed almost alien to him as he maintained his balanced posture, his bootsoles planted on the ground while victor merely rested his weight, leaning on his elbow on the table.

‘i don’t get it, if you had this information, maybe you ought to have brought it up’

‘well, i didn’t know it would be relevant. besides, a couple people see a face, why, with somewhere as turbulent as the wired, i’m sure people see many things.’

‘a face we’ve seen as well?’

‘there’s always unexplained phenomena like that. not exactly something that needs to be worried about. someone interested enough will figure it out. maybe it could be you’ victor winked.

‘i suppose i should expect this from you anyhow…’

‘listen…this is merely the nature of the wired. connections will be made. yes, in our history this place was our emancipation but at the same time, we ought to show ourselves to the other continents otherwise, we’d just be an isolationist state. people come here looking for the lost reality. i guess it’s a shame some have other ideas about that.’

‘maybe, i just hope you know what you’re doing’ alleppo shook his head.

‘what we do is within reason is it not?’ victor’s hands opened and it seemed to him, that this city, its concrete parched that its grains crumbled off the kicks from the dashes of their inhabitants running by, their veins pumped until the sensations that softened the streetlights could spill into air, oases where weeds and overgrowth could allow themselves to bloom, seeing this overwrought life and thinking it being the last strains of it. or rather, maybe it was more like the wired then, electric signals, that surrounded us, each about to be someone that could enter within our space much like passersby, how much these users or people around us could change everything even outside of these marrowed buildings, nerve ending streets spread until they went elsewhere outside of us into the distance where everything else was, where we could glimpse the cloth of these threads that we all stood on. to victor, it must have been a kind of bone that upheld all this activity where alleppo would be, sitting on the steps surrounding the buildings etched in arches until it was this city whose places we all shared, knew where to meet up at, the dreams of the wired long ago whose connections made it no longer something completely remote from the signal’s glimmer but its light that flitted through plazas and servers with things we both could know and inhabit. alleppo, victor, dacia, spider, even viper werepart of these cities and so had i entwined myself with them even amidst a psychosphere tinged with the faceless high rises from the east continent tattered itself between them, those within buildings, the crowds outside, clotted up by their cars or along the low walls of ramped walkways and the lengths of railings, all within even the face of that previous tenant,what would they have been to these cities inhabiting that room, now a small light sparked within memory perhaps somewhere within the same nothing our cells, each byte circulating within the wired now resided..

signals radiate off our contours until they sucked onto the solid walls of the corridor ready to tinge whatever lay beyond the concrete around us into a solidity that the thousands of cells, the thousands of bytes in our internal os could multiply until there was no longer any lack in its form, until it was complete, no longer an extraneous strain in our nerves piquing our eyes or softening until the ui could carve into our gaze as we examined the door to the room once owned by the person whose face wandered amidst the static, as we enter, my echolocator drops a node, its blue halo sunk into the glow of several tubes housing organs, glints of servers hum with the circulation of unseen fans and cables transporting electricity towards the large tubes, their contents familiar pieces of viscera within the cobalt liquid floating almost as if a hallucination, blinking almost does away with the room, a tub with a hand hanging out of its side, stained sheets and garbage bags farther down, silver carts, their sterile surfaces almost so familiar to the point that as we cleared the room, the excess signals slunk away leaving the gleam that cleaved off the scene moments ago, almost thudding from an inescapable real, these rooms that had seemed a mere instance from the wired, a hidden violence of dying cells that we forgot about but now reared itself in the jagged lines of the ui in front of us from the limited signals.

‘these guys cleared quick…’ alleppo noted. ‘i did catch photos from my os before it disappeared’

images appeared in front of me, but it was like looking at a painting at any moment if i placed a hand on the test tubes or bath tubs or server systems, my hand would only glide up against the panorama’s curve.

‘so this guy’s a patient zero…doesn’t explain why everyone’s trying to get organs and why his phantom’s around’

‘yeah…if they wanted organs they wouldn’t need the presence of that face, or doppelgangers…it just sounds like someone went to market with it. maybe whoever did that shoulda went to victor for advice’

‘so what about in the city. think we can at least clear these organ rooms?’

‘that’s gonna take a while. besides, people supposedly come here to experience the real. except someone took that a bit too far now’

‘according to that sniper, he saw a face, as did one of the missing persons. the sniper claimed the face appeared and suddenly they’re hunting people who rented homes out of victor’s company. doppelgangers appear and lure people as it did the missing persons, and us.’

‘maybe we need to think of this a different way’

‘what do you mean’

‘well, obviously that trail means, we gotta wait on another person to go missing and the fact we took out those doppelgangers just means either operators or whoever can’t take us out, but i ain’t waiting on that.’

‘right. so we’ll need to be ahead. i mean can the vanguard team trace large signal outputs?’

‘they already on that but if they can clear as soon as we move then the chase goes on. even pieces of data have some kinda link…’ alleppo looked aside to the walls, faint shadows stained across the grey stucco almost as if the flesh of light became sickly but alleppo then moved out of the door, sending coordinates to me as we headed out, the warmth of the night met our own as our movement seemed like the only thing that kept us going, even as we entered the porsche, the buildings around us seemed like fragments of the smooth surfaces etched briefly into the ebony sky as they went by us.

with high arched entrances presided by minimalist palaces of spheric mausoleums with smooth faces that tethered a waved sheet that shaded the plaza area where exotic sport cars with flexed bumpers and long wedged hoods whip past in a slide while the tires whirl smoke into to old boom-bap distorted in static, crunching the drums into jagged noise that trembled within the bowls of the stereos from the open trunks of lowriders where men in oversized shirts take their seats while crowds amass and disperse to make room for the spinning sports cars, red paint job and silver stallion badge flashing from the haze. mirages rise from the engines emitted by the silver pantheons from a rolls royce or the idle hums off a cadillac’s pointed grille between bright arched headlights upon the paved earth. the warmth in this space, the performance of cloud rap threaded among these sounds as if to weave them in harmony, did it feel that god’s presence was here among the crowds whose dark faces dripped into the silvery air, natural as rainfall on pavement, headlights off distant cars flickering with long spokes shot along the static-charged night that drew luminous constellations around us. instead of the sepulchral stranger, users of this state seek god as an immanence to the pared earth whether virtual or real, choirs and live events incanting the presence of miracle rather than futile efforts to preserve it. a woman in a a puffer jacket and fanny pack took a microphone, her voice soothed the raptures of engine revs and chatter.

‘across the old internet, we have been fed into their networks, us who have been killed and humiliated and all of our retaliations seeming like forever martyrs on the wired, as both the dead and the living. whether slain or entertainers, we were always performing our roles.. our entireties on display like this, so scared of the other we cannot be, we must not for the end of the world was always within us all along. when we couldn’t own our own selves and then our minds but now we can stand within the sensations of the wired, we can become within it’

cheers commenced off the backseats of the cars and the crowd gathered while alleppo nodded, a song on the loudspeakers, static clearing for a virtuoso piano chord while a choir recants a verse calling for this very minute amongst the dust of noise, clearing for the presence, the glory, no more like the crumple of sound from the speakers and their polycarbonate space perforated with thousands of planets where the reverberating core of a subwoofer thumped haloes that folded upon reaching our ears yet still trembled the earth, ruffled into pinstripes amongst the quiet blooming in luminous chord. warmth from whatever light in which the piano’s measured key thrummed columns around the choir’s revelation. chords descend to welcome a figure to earth even if softened in static bytes,

after the service, alleppo finds the woman on the microphone and approaches her.

‘ay, lamana,’

the woman stopped and turned to him, eyes narrow but she eases herself.

‘alleppo, surprised to see you. still walking around with the vanguard team?’

‘you know how it is, things is fine but we got our fair share of trouble sometimes.’

‘we have our own space now…i just don’t see why we have to keep this military charade.’

‘sorry. i’m not gonna say it’s necessary but we’re almost there…’

‘this is about the missing persons?’

‘yeah, i sent a request about using the cold bath just in case. looks like i need it’

lamana looked away and sighed.

‘you’re gonna get yourself killed.’

‘no i won’t.’

‘the cold bath is only used for experienced practitioners. removal of standard limits on an os could be fatal.’

‘people are missing there that don’t need to be and i gotta do this’

‘wait…what’s this cold bath?’ i asked. alleppo turned to me, closing his eyes in acceptance of a final procedure and as he opened them. he spoke.

‘the cold bath is something we developed here. you know how a body can sometimes sustain psychological strain or even on-sets of decay creep on the wired? well a cold bath reduces the body temperature and the internal os from overheating which then allows the faster process of information and signals. but we found that we started being able to touch transcendental experiences with it. this is how the service practitioners can divine visits in the afterlife. it’s sorta like what those in the eastern continent were able to do with qi and neija. it’s the wired in its totality.’

‘but she said you could be at risk’

‘that’s right. i will be…and that’s just what has to happen’ he said placing his hand on my shoulder, its grip firm even when he shook me slightly, knowing that he wouldn’t let me fall and i suppose he wanted to leave some motion, some disturbance upon me to which i could remember him. ‘guess this is goodbye, man’

‘no’ lamana then interjected. ‘you won’t go…they will’

i realized that she and alleppo looked at me and i could only tilt my head in confusion.’

‘wha-yo i can’t allow that’ alleppo stepped in front of me.

‘look at you. the past still clouds your judgement. that is dangerous in an accelerated state.’

‘i won’t let anything happen to them’

‘alleppo’ i said. ‘i’ll go’

‘wha-? come on man’

‘it’s alright. let me return the favour. i’ll come back, just for you baby.’ i wink to him and despite himself, he rolls his eyes and knowing the decision’s been made, he only backs up.

‘i’ll whoop your ass if you don’t come back man.’ he chuckled, trying to maintain this rictus if not just to maintain this trust that we had for each other in such a short time, being these two individuals at the two continents so removed from everything while surrounded by it all. i walk with lamana into one of the pillars leading underground. she only leads and i could hardly ask any other question except for the most pressing one.

‘so uh, why’d you change your mind?’

‘we would have had to recover those missing people but i had a premonition, to place this with you. when we meet another person we have a base set of trust that expands and contracts given the nature of the relationship. that’s what gives each of them their own texture, and living them is just one of many miracles’

we enter the chamber, computer monitors at the far room peel off the walls surrounding several pracitioners. i strip and enter into the bath, the clink of ice cubes and chatters of teeth subside until i could feel each movement of the waves upon my chest.

‘you may begin. set your intention to your destination but there may be obstacles for you to face before then.’


i close my eyes and hard boot my os, various windows appear in my vision as i no longer have a body, a maze surrounds me, seeping with inverted silhouettes down the walls but i realize that despite my lack of a body there was a definite radius underneath me until i realize this slow circulation. neija meridians traced the route of my veins, allowing instances of my contours to appear. floating forward, light engulfs the upside down silhouettes with static that glimmered like a thousand photographs, my memories being such pictures and loops replaying.

‘hey!’ someone said beside me and i turned to see viper, his form melted in scan-lines but when he got near me, his flak jacket and sunglasses carved the lances of signals comprising his avatar.


‘what are you doing here, shrimp? you oughta get up’


‘yeah shrimp. get up shrimp’

he had no recollection of me whatsoever and as he walked around me, he then swatted his arms around and pushed me, arms moving through but it didn’t faze him.

‘come on, fight back’

‘you think i can do that in this state? maybe the sunglasses are there to dim your lurid delusions’

‘you gonna keep talking, move, stupid’

as i breathed in, something coiled and at his next strike, the flicker of my arm struck his, as he withdrew, he kicked where my legs would be, a shin carved out to block him, these momentary contacts rippled in the qi circulating until i could move, a beat and another followed as i propelled myself, his jab slid across my vision and i kick at his inner knee, signals firmed into legs, a kick soared before sending viper to the ground. having two legs, i wobbled a little under my soles but i kept them planted. viper laughs wagging his finger looking to me.

‘haha, you got it shrimp’ he said ‘you have to make your own movements in this world…don’t forget that’

‘well try not to get in any trouble’ i tell him as he walks away. maybe to viper, these combat situations seemed so alien to the thousands of rooms and empty streets at the east, suddenly having the continuous frequencies of the wired break into fragments upon his limbs, upon trigger pulls must have enamoured him to it.

as i continue walking, the maze forms itself into corridors, pictures of a distant forest. here one of the missing person’s signatures were here but as i turned around, lips fed on the static as eyes and a nose dug themselves into the air in front of me.

‘you…’ it said.

‘who are you?’

‘you can see me?’

‘kinda hard not to. if i didn’t know any better, you trying to scare someone.’

‘it has been a long time since someone tried to contact me like this. i never existed to anyone until i came to the wired and now i don’t exist again. funny how that turns out.’

‘these data signatures are from missing people, might you have something to do with it?’ i ask but the air remains empty. instead a knock on the door gets my attention to see both kunakida and fauux.

‘hey, we got somewhere to be!’


getting the data signature within my os, i follow them, kunakida and fauux had conversations about their everyday, something about a test or part-time work. had they imagined that they could carve these serene lives in the wired that they saw looping footage of within servers, maintaining those worlds within kunakida’s smile, fauux’s face shifting its blocks.

‘say, what do you think will happen tomorrow?’ kunakida asked.

‘i’m not too sure…’ fauux responded.

‘right, it seems that way doesn’t it…’

‘yes. well, we must be going now.’

‘yes. it is time’ she agrees before they walk down separate hallways and seeing their receding forms i could only see this be too common in the flits of users around and i shout.


both of them turned around and as i raised my hand, it shone in the glow of the sunset from the windows, the trees a splotch of ink, my message to them.

‘we’ll see each other again, right?’

they peer at each other and fauux nods and kunakida does too. this kind of gesture was at least something i could’ve paid them given that we see each other as often as we did, even if it was a merely just to pass the days but it made each of our encounters their own, like its own psycho-sphere, the lands in which we grew our perceptions around.

the second data signature burns in front of me and reaching out with my hand, it encircles my arm, the face surfacing yet again.

‘i had to appear…i had no choice…nothing had weight on the wired, even with a full transfer, but i couldn’t simply leave my body as is. this body, always exposed to someone, for someone to look at, to live in that apartment, to be on a record. it was only until i could make a body within the wired…the perishability of a body gave it signal strength...even here, the only things that matter are the things that don’t last and the static feeds off of them.’

while i contemplated their words i walk towards a door and open it, entering a grey triage space like alleppo’s only one figure stood, her hair flowed down her back, obscuring the logo of her leather jacket before she turned her head to the side, her glance, like i always outside of it all along but never too far away, as she was with me.


‘wh-you recognize me?’

‘of course, why wouldn’t i?

‘nah, i just thought…’

‘it’s alright, i know who you are’ she said as i walk beside her looking at the grey surface, little imprints of white pool across it like rain or better yet passersby. ‘you’ve been with me when we were kids, producer introduced us at tai shu. our rivers and lakes met same moon. even when hanzhou’s saber cut into me, you were still there’

‘i watched it from my room, yeah.’

‘no…you were there with me…all along’

i had watched the castle forest raid on a stream as one of the audience members in the server and when i saw her cut down, i only shrank back but tried moving within the space of the lobby, even as i was on different server not actually present there i wanted to be there to help her somehow and just when i thought this, hanzhou turned to see saturna appear behind him, her wo dao sword cleaved down his chest, appearing so unexpectantly like she always did.

‘ i guess i was…’

she reached out her fingers fell where my face would be but flesh soon poured in robes to her touch, my face appearing out of the static.

‘i’ll see you back, right?’ she said.

‘i said it too much’

she smiled and as i close my eyes, she disappears within the leaves of electric signals as part of the world. the last data signature carves itself in the light and in its flame, my body warmed, electric signals pooled within my meridians yet my limbs moved with little interference or even the slight lags of static trying to complete the movement. however, the face returns lips seared into the air as its mouth opened. while it caught me by surprise, i was expecting some kind of encounter and i jump back, a step transfer takes me out of its fire burning up the grey surfaces.

‘your body shall do nicely. soon, i will return to the real world’

i open my hand, the vp70 appears within it, fingers embrace the grip while i pull the trigger, smoke parts through the face that dissipates before its flesh tries to enwrap me in it, memories from a room flash in my mind but in a single breath, my contours reify themselves, ridding the blue flesh on me as it burns up again. each shot only scatters them and when hesitation plucked at me, the room goes dark and as the face glowed again, its lips curdles with flesh, eyes domed but before its iris topped it, lights eviscerate it entire as several figures with assault rifles stood at each corner fired, each etching a flame around them until the shooting stopped. a slow light faded into the triage space once again and several individuals in body armour appeared, wearing the fatigues of the vanguard team, the face nowhere to be seen.


‘nah,’ they said. ‘you aight, young buck?’

‘y-yeah…’ i said. ‘how did you…’

‘we heard the signal of an exfil cord, alleppo’s. we came as soon as we could.’

‘but…are you practitioners?’

‘not that either…you gotta go a few planes above that.’

‘you’re from the spirit world…’

‘and so the plane has landed’ another laughed.

‘yeah…alleppo managed to survive way back in the day, we were cut off from our real bodies but soon, they had given us a proper burial. i suppose it was our time…but i know he’s still hurting…’

‘that’s why he wanted to come here’

‘he wanted to come here?’

‘yeah…to see you’

‘man, alleppo’s the same as always. big softie he was’ one of the other individuals laughed.

‘it’s all good, that’s just how he is…in fact, he visited us whenever before they decided that they didn’t want our psyches to decay and therefore let us pass on.’ the individual said before they gathered the team preparing to re-enter the spirit world within smoke. ‘well, tell alleppo we said what’s up…aight? say, rabbit has hopped the moon’

‘aight’ i said waving to them as they returned the gesture and proceed to log out the internal os, a chill ran through from the water i was still immersed in but i didn’t get up, fearing that shots of cold would attack me once i did.

‘yo’ alleppo said while the ministers watched me still in the bath. ‘you gonna get up or…’

‘man, i’m not gonna break into a conniption once i get up, i got frail health…’

‘what you worried we gonna see you naked or something?’

‘no, it’s just…’

‘alright out the pool’ he said as he and lemana lifted me out of the pool, covering me with a towel, my internal os’ interface comes online smooth, not leaving any traces of light across my vision.

‘oh, the data signatures, all the missing persons should be here’ i said as i gave the triage programs to alleppo. ‘also uh…i have a message for you from some friends…the rabbit has jumped the moon’

alleppo stares at me a moment before correcting me.

‘it’s hopped the moon, ma. hopped.’

‘aight aight’


‘you got it.’

lemana then came back from one of the monitors as she forwarded some info on our os.

‘turns out the face was a user who cut themselves off through a full-transfer. wasn’t long until they couldn’t return to their body though. we’ll have the church find their body and give it a proper burial. it’s the least we can do, for those that live and die…’

the story of this user seemed all too familiar. on the wired, it seemed everyone could suddenly be a version of themselves that was everything they could have been and even here, it seemed they could’ve also taken that to the real world, appearing in its fleeting moments only to stumble, delaying time and time again. i had only hoped that they could be that person they could be in the afterlife and i place my hand in front, pointed upward, offering my respects to them, this gesture at least the one thing i could offer them. we step out into the church again, watching the signals move across the mural, engine revs rolled within the dome, etches of paint and stone, the materials of these figures within it just as static was comprising of those worlds we glimpsed even here on earth.