GRAVITAS
Gravity

This morning
as I drove across the dry riverbed,
I watched the sun rising,
huge iridescent red coin in the blank sky,
rising above the electric poles,
rising above the power lines,
rising above the heavy equipment,
above the machinery,
the bridges,
the moved mounds
of rock, dirt and mud --
above me.
I sank in my hard seat.

Tonight
as I drive back the other way on the bridge,
I watch the glow --
orange,
red,
purple --
all come to the source,
to the point --
but hidden behind a mountain peak,
tiny little jag in the range.
The glow reminds me...

I hung there quietly,
weightless -- or so it seemed,
waiting,
and all I could feel was her warmth.
and her sorrow.
her heartbeat.
and gravity.
There in the dark womb,
I wish I had known,
wish I could have seen
could have foreseen...
because now I wish,
wish I had the strength,
wish I could stop crying.
Wish,
wish,
wish,
and wish some more.
I wish for myself
because something invisible is choking me.
I wish for this world
because something invisible is choking it.
And I wish I could have asked,
could have declined,
could have said,
"Mother,
oh mother dear,
please don't bring me into this world.
You do not realize the true gravity --"

for a second
(or maybe two or three)
I was hanging there again,
felt the gravity,
felt the weightlessness.
There my existence was frozen,
measured
and disposed.
There I flickered most bright,
like the huge sun,
like the tiny fetus.
Here was the point,
glowing in the sky;
there was my car,
hanging, too,
in the sky --
just before gravity did what it does best.

Sunday Drive

Sitting behind all that steel and glass,
inside all that plastic and cloth,
I can feel my heartbeat in the palms of my sweaty hands
as the beat of the song tears mercilessly at the inner flesh of my ears.
I am very aware --
as I shift the stick
and turn the wheel --
that I could,
I could,
I could
deliberately speed up,
deliberately swerve,
deliberately kill myself along with a shit-mess of other people.
They stare ahead,
every one of them,
eyes fixed --
not on the road, but blankly into nowhere.
Each commandeering a one ton weapon of death and destruction at careless speeds,
they gaze half-asleep,
lost and floating in the warm shallow water of their thoughts,
the petty details of their lives,
their trivial concerns and worries,
their supposed misery and sorrow...
but misery and sorrow are relative,
and I could,
I could,
I could
take a moment to show them the difference,
the difference between having trouble coordinating your schedule --

and having trouble coordinating your legs...
after your spinal column has been severed.
I could take a moment to show them
the difference between holding fast to a clause in your divorce settlement --
and holding fast to life by a thin tube from a respirator...
carefully planted into the throat because they
cannot find your nose or your mouth.
They would despise me then,
but they do not thank me now.
They do not appreciate:
the convenience of blind trust,
the convenience of unquestioned morality,
the convenience of complacency.
They do not appreciate being alive.
They do not appreciate the simple things in life.
We are all so very ungrateful;
confused by our warped perspectives,
deluded by our irrational fears, our selfish motives, our greed;
over-reacting to all that shall pass,
blind to that which will come back to haunt us;
stupidly side-stepping small pebbles
only to fall into
large
deep
holes.

Brave New World

Touch me.
Caress me.
Love me.
Chest to chest.
When you kiss me,
can you taste
the noxious fumes in the air?
can you taste
the poisons in the drinking water?
can you taste
the chemicals, hormones and radiation in the food that I've consumed my whole life?
You stand there
as I carefully undress you.
The faster you go,
the sooner you get there...

but I am one to linger.
How erotic
that you must stand perfectly still
whilst I remove each article of clothing
as slowly as possible.
I can feel your quivering
with arousal
with anticipation
with lust.
Step closer.
I place my hand
where I know you wish to be touched.
I can feel you
overheating
sweating
heaving
between my legs.
Can you feel
my tight tired drought?
can you feel
the diseases and cancers?
can you feel
each cell screaming with the ghost pains of laser surgery trauma?
and when you come
there is nothing
because you are sterile.

Thirty More Minutes

I am lost.
Can't seem to find my way home.
Hours:
I've been driving
for hours, weeks, months, years,
without stopping.
The road:
sometimes straight,
sometimes winding.
The scenery,
the climate:
all the same.
Where am I going?
Not home.
Only
to the mundane,
to the banal,
to mind-numbing busy work,
to denial --
I am avoiding
the disturbing, the blunt,
the wholesale trauma of truth.
I am avoiding reality.
Oh, I catch a glimpse of it now and then
but quickly avert my eyes.
I keep my head down,
gaze to the ground.
I am caught up in the little details
because I cannot bear the big picture...
That I am nothing,
I mean nothing.
I will make no difference,
and after wasting my time here
for thirty more minutes
or thirty more years
(what difference does it make?)
then finally I will die.

I long for my youth.
A time when I could feel, really feel.
A time when I felt truly alive,
when everything was just as ugly
and I was just as afraid
but it didn't matter
because I had my whole life ahead of me
and I had hope.
I yearn to go back...
to a time when I was lithe,
when I had stamina
and daily I gave myself permission to go into the treacherous deep end.
I miss being home.
I miss being inside myself.
I miss the floods --
because at least it was rain.
Not like this:
this terrible drought;
my dusty insides, vulnerable to even the slightest breeze,
forcing me to keep the windows rolled up at all times,
for protection,
to feel safe --
but really so I won't feel at all.
Anesthetized.
On hold.
Vibrating at a special frequency that renders me invisible
even to myself --
no need for a mirror to show my dull dumb stare.
Though lips are moving
and machines crash and grind,
the volume
is off.
I sit quiet on this ride,
stiffled,
longing for meaning,
filled with desire and regret and guilt.
Just waiting.
Waiting to get home again --
or maybe
just waiting
for my thirty minutes to be up.

Extinguished

Rob was dead.

I just stood there. Stunned. In the kitchen. Staring at the fridge, at his stupid note: gone to get milk. How strange that he is gone (to get milk) permanently. He was never gonna come back. The house, quiet; my life, suddenly incomplete.

I mean I thought I had problems before. Without milk, however would we eat cereal? Now with Rob gone, there might not be any point to getting out of bed -- let alone getting milk or eating cereal.

One minute I was telling him, "Rob, if you keep doing shit like that, you're gonna wind up dead." And the next minute, I was trying to make out the birthmark on his left shoulder because it was too difficult to look at his mangled head and face.

I must have said those words to him a thousand times. I never wanted to be right. I just wanted to protect him.

But that was his problem. He was not afraid. At the very least, he seemed significantly less frightened of everything and everyone than, say, me. I'm of the belief that what keeps me safe is fear. My mantra is "fear everyone, trust no one." It makes for a very lonely, very paranoid existence.

Rob's life was far more exciting. He was a journalist -- well, actually, he was an editorial columnist. And the bureau where he worked had a radical left-wing bent. Rob was an outspoken activist -- and a popular target. Corporate heavyweights and religious zealots all loved to hate him. Death threats were common.

To make matters worse, Rob seemed to enjoy aggravating his critics and opponents. A few years ago, a pro-life group sent him photos of aborted fetuses with a note saying "baby killer." Knowing that the group encouraged its members to shoot physicians who performed abortions, Rob sent them a box containing a bag full of bloody wet cow entrails with a note saying "doctor killers." They were not amused.

It was for this reason that I refused to live with him until he changed address. We had been dating for nearly eleven years -- ten of which he spent begging me to move in. For crying out loud, lunatics regularly showed up on his doorstep. I insisted not only that he move and begin to use a post office box for all correspondence, but also that he get an unlisted phone number and install an alarm system on the house. He loved me enough to comply, but he complained about it incessantly. And whenever he could be lax, he would. Several times I caught him opening the front door for complete strangers without so much as a cursory glance out of the peephole I put in!

Despite his brazen behavior and his penchant for stirring up trouble, he was a well-intentioned man with a big loving heart. He was trying to make the world a better place, working from both from the top down and from the bottom up. He championed the little man both in the big battles and in the small fights. While his career was spent on big causes, his daily life was filled with small acts of kindness...

and now he is dead -- not because of his big mouth, but because of one of those small acts of kindness.


Late on a cold clear Sunday night, Rob left our home on what should have been a fifteen-minute trip to the market. I was in the shower and did not even realize he was gone.

On the parkway, there was a woman seemingly stranded alongside the road. She was wearing a bathrobe and slippers and making shivering gestures while leaning against the driver's side of her parked car. Rob had stopped to offer assistance. She explained that she had a flat tire on the passenger side of her car but that she was not strong enough to loosen the lug nuts. As Rob leaned down to inspect the tire, which he suddenly realized was not flat, two men -- her accomplices -- jumped out. One pulled a black plastic bag over his head and pushed him to the ground, while the other repeatedly hit him across the head with the tire iron. All this to steal a car. Thrown behind some hedges, he was badly bleeding and slipped into a coma, but ultimately died of suffocation because they left the bag on his head. The next morning, he was found by a man jogging with his dog.


I will miss Rob. He was a brightly flickering flame in the darkness that was my world. But more so, I will miss what little faith I had in humanity. They did not deserve him. Not a single one of them.

Warcraft

I'm going to miss myself when I'm gone.

So strange. When I was younger (and dying was far less imminent), I longed for death all the time. The noise of my anguish was so near deafening that I yearned for nothing short of an immutable silence.

But now -- now that the end is drawing near, I no longer wish to be dead. It's as if, having practiced all these years, having mastered the art of being alive, I have become attached to living. It has become so dear to me. I just can't bring myself to let it all go.

This poses a small problem when you are about to go into battle. I may have signed up to fight -- but I did not sign up to die. I guess I should have thought this thing through a little better.

Now it's too late. Tomorrow I march, and since it's a suicide mission, my prospects are not very promising.

I have been laying here for two hours, listening to myself breathe. I wonder what it might be like to see myself not breathing. No more air in and out; no more chest up and down. I imagine looking into my own face and seeing my lifeless stare, blank glassy eyes, gaze fixed to nowhere. It's my body, but I'm not home anymore. Permanently, irretrievably gone. The whole idea is creeping me out.

The girl next to me has been whimpering on and off all night. She is like me: small, female and rather upset. I am beset with shock and disbelief. She is curiously gripped in this other way. Finally, I tap her on the shoulder and invite her outside to talk. She accepts.

Outdoors, under the murky gray sky, leaning against the grimy parapet wall, she is quiet at last. Perhaps it was not so much my desire for conversation as it was my desire for her to hush. I do not understand how the others could sleep.

I reach out and rest my hand on her hand. I fancy that I can feel her heartbeat in the flat of my palm. Nothing seems real anymore. I want to touch her wrist, to take hold of her arm, to confirm her pulse, to reassure myself that she is really alive, but I feel odd asking. Besides I don't want to freak her out anymore than she already is. She might start sobbing and gasping again.

How on earth did we get to this awful terrible place? It actually began not that long ago…

Sometime in the early twenty-first century, there came an unexpected shift. It began when affluent males from industrialized nations were drawn to role-playing video games, cutting edge at the time. The development of powerful graphics technology coupled with the commercialization of the internet gave rise to the design of elaborate virtual worlds, hosted on computer servers and accessible for gaming round the clock.

The level of detail in some of these games was astounding. At any time and for as long as desired, players could immerse themselves in a reality very different from their own. In this reality, with only a little effort, rewards were not only guaranteed attainable, but progress was achievable at a much faster speed than in real life. Players could become someone shockingly different than who they were in real life -- or they could become a much less inhibited, much more extreme version of who they were in real life. Most importantly, in the game, you felt no physical pain, and death was not a permanent condition.

Because participation in these games required access to advanced technologies (the programming of the game itself, a computer powerful enough to run the game, a network connection fast enough to keep up, and a membership admitting you to the server), it was not surprising that such access required a certain amount of wealth. And since most of the games involved a fair amount of warfare strategy, it was also not surprising that more males than females were drawn to the games.

Playing the game was irresistible, was intoxicating. There were elements to pander to just about every human drive. Some would play for days at a time, stopping only for sleep. Many preferred socializing with others in the game, rather than socializing in the real world.

It was not long before the visuals in the game became life-like. And not long after that, keyboards, mice and monitors were replaced by small goggles and intricate finger sensors. Players would lay partially reclined, donning their high-tech eye pieces; all motion in the game controlled by a mere faint gesture of the digits.

At the same time the sons were waging war in their virtual worlds, their fathers were waging war in the physical world. Despite being a minute fraction of the world's population, the wealthy managed to secure most of the planet's valuable resources. Having first engineered the police and the military, they perfected godlike technologies for killing. Eventually, the middle class faded into obscurity. The top layers were absorbed into the upper class, and the rest completely slipped, becoming the "working poor." Those at the bottom quickly learned not resist too much, for it might mean outright extermination. There were so many of them, and thus, any one of them was expendable. And this, in turn, also made them more exploitable.

But the bellicose fathers were growing old and feeble. Soon they would be passing on, and their sons would be charged with the responsibility of taking over the machinery of oppression and safeguarding the sources of the wealth. Remarkably, the sons just wanted to keep playing the games instead. For them, having grown up entirely inside the games, the virtual world was by far more entertaining, more comforting, more desirable. Unfortunately, without the wealth and power, they could not continue to play.

Enter the Great Savior. Only the Great Savior does not come to save the poor masses. He comes to aid the slacker heirs.

When I was born in 2011, the Great Savior was among the last of those to pass through the great halls of higher education. By the time I was 10 years old, the Great Savior had secured himself among an elite group within the privileged class. As a scientist and a government leader, the Great Savior spearheaded a movement to undertake and refine many extraordinary innovations. Each development did not seem life altering in and of itself -- yet the sum total became a revolution that altered the course of human existence. Needless to say, the Great Savior was not much of an ethicist.

In his early years, he worked diligently to consolidate mass media. Once this was fully accomplished, only official news was broadcast. Although many outlets existed, all were controlled from the same origin. To facilitate the spread of the official word, all television and radio subscriptions (cable and satellite) were eventually administered to the public free of charge. And to further control the public's perceptions, all telephone and cell phone service was systematically monitored. Any transmission deemed seditious would lead to arrest and possible execution. The public internet -- once a bastion of the free press -- was disassembled piecemeal. Since all the servers and routers gradually came under unified control during the same time that the rest of media was being consolidated, it too came under the unrelenting jurisdiction of the Great Savior. Again, anyone initiating a contrary transmission would be rooted out, and both the language and the individual blocked. Ultimately, existing media technologies were used to perpetuate the status quo, and no further media technologies were allowed to develop.

At the same pace, institutions for higher learning were extinguished. Such information and educations were reserved for only the wealthy, and at the hand of the Great Savior, all teachers and teaching for them would become virtual. Virtuosos and clever inventors from the masses below were immediately plucked. If they exhibited an appetite for the cloistered world of the wealthy, they were assimilated. If they did not, they were eliminated -- but not before the knowledge was extracted and virtualized.

Not unexpectedly, print media fell from favor among the masses. With a never-ending abundance of images spewing from their televisions and no authority pressing for the importance of literacy, reading became less and less important. Soon the reading skills -- and indeed, the free thinking -- of the populace atrophied. Proficiency at deciphering text was advocated for the express purpose of reading what was broadcast on TV.

All these transformations, however, were not the greatest achievements of the Savior. His truly revolutionary contributions pertained to the virtual game world. Through a marriage of science, technology and medicine, the Great Savior earned his title by precipitating the next big stage in gaming.

It came to pass that the players could literally plug their brains into the game. The Great Savior abandoned the goggles and sensors in favor of a direct and fluid connection. By the time I turned 19, a processor had been developed to transform the electrochemical current from the brain into a stream of 1s and 0s readily understood by any computer. Embedded on the side of a player's skull, an apparatus the size of a large postage stamp housed the processor and a device to broadcast its signal wirelessly.

Nowadays, the players hang from translucent tendrils as if floating on air, their bodies delicately suspended from above to avoid skin ulceration. In perfect climate control, nourishment is injected intravenously and waste removed via catheter. So injected are the chemicals necessary to simulate desired real world sensations as well as to mask undesirable real world sensations. States of mind (like sexual orgasm or eating a delicious meal) are all induced electrochemically.

Inside the game, players experience the virtual world uninterrupted. Any event or sensation that is lacking, need only be conceived, then coded, and the required chemicals designed or redesigned.

Naturally, the lives of the players depend heavily on an elaborate system of machinery. Maintenance of the machinery requires other machinery. And all this other machinery requires caretaking… which comes from the working poor. The players' continued existence necessitates a continued control over the masses. Subsequently, the Great Savior became the architect of a virtual world which actually regulates the rest of the real world.

The game incorporates real information from the outside world. As part of the quests and battles in the game, players perform gratifying exercises, which also serve a practical function in reality. In essence, the machines have come to operate as vast extravagant replacement bodies, each controlled from inside the players' heads.

The populace, oppressed and exploited, are used to maintain the machines, and the machines are, in part, used to maintain the very same populace. Meanwhile, the wealthy live by skimming off the top of the system. Safe from pain and an untimely death, they just play. And when the body and the brain die, another body and brain will be cloned to take it's place -- the machines are designed to create and incubate it until it reaches the consciousness necessary to plug into the virtual world, where it will grow and learn and play.

The Great Savior made it all possible. He understood the fundamental principle: that in order for one man to do no work, another man must do twice the work in order that they both shall live.

Well, it's time for the pendulum to swing back down to center.

Living conditions for the rest of us have become deplorable. Most are ill; most feel anxious, exhausted, frustrated, empty, and restless. They sense that something is wrong with them, but they are not sure what. The endless hours of television, the endless parade of mind-numbing distractions, the endless noise prevents them from any depth of thought. They just keep doing the busy work, trudging through the sludge, punching in the clock, going through the motions.

A few of us, though, started talking. A few of us started thinking. It's difficult to enjoy anything when there's poison and sickness everywhere. We need to clean things up a little. But all the work we do goes into the System, instead of into us. All the knowledge and energy is tied up in their System, instead of in us. We need to break free.

Soon, the few of us came to see that in order for all of us to break free, we need to shut down the System. We need to shut down their noise.

The insurrection has been slow. Due to the sweeping media restrictions, information must be passed person-to-person by word of mouth alone. I began recruiting when I was 26. It took over a decade for the rebellion to gain any momentum.

Now, after years of struggling, organizing, strategizing, it all comes down to this one moment. Good or bad, right or wrong, the fate of these seventeen girls rests with me; the fate of all of humanity, with my one last action.

Tomorrow, we march. In five days, a coordinated international attack is scheduled. Teams much like mine will be precisely positioned all over the globe. Our destination: the virtual world servers. Our objective: to bring down the game.

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eristikös launched gravitas online in April 1997
Gravity © 1989 eristikos
Sunday Drive and Brave New World © 1997 eristikos
Thirty More Minutes © 2003 eristikos
Extinguished © 2001 eristikos
Warcraft © 2004 eristikos
this page content last updated 24 October 2006
this page design copyright © 1999 eristikös multi.media