(The Castration of) Philip

Mark Aerial Waller

The cats are our origins and our future

Absolute silence and blackness. Screams of terrible agony flood the air. Blood hangs on the teeth, in the blackness of the city at night. Strained throat muscles gag on a mouthful of blood, thick guttural sounds die back into silence. Two flashes of light shoot out and a crash of metal on stone as something is overturned, clanging along the empty street.

There's a meow, two cats are fighting and five or six others are maintaining a vigil, some above, peering over the roof, lying prone waiting for the call to pounce and enter the fray, others with eyes fixed wriggle in the ecstasy of living in the moment, loving the adrenaline and writhing in pain. Blackened damaged eyes stare out, black puss oozes down faces, and continue to stare, unflinching, uncaring, the damage has been done. Screams continue to echo across the aisles as scene two lightens up the dark auditorium. My feet are stuck on some kind of chewy morass, I hate to try to lift them, I hate the feeling of the separation of my body from the floor, of leaving part of me behind, becoming carpet. Since the waking we have to take more care of our bodies, sometimes I have seen people just collapse. The other night I was going to the kiosk to buy cigarettes and the girl in front of me started to lose shape- and me and the shopkeeper tried to concentrate on maintaining her form and get the red hood on her, but somehow I had too much to drink and couldn't direct my thought processes in the right way, so we lost her, she just kind of went gluey, then bits flaked off, so I jumped out the way, that stuff is hard to get off, and it really stinks, it shook me a bit, the first time it happened so quickly, I don't know how she never recognized the warning signs.

There's a boat coming across the sound, and a dead grey and beige cat is being cleaned up into a green plastic bag. One of those beautiful fishing boats, old wooden style with rotten bits and rusty nails, paint flaking off and smelling really authentic. I love the way they made those materials able to rot in the old days, I don't know how they did it, it must have been weird to work with cell structures, to build or compose from chemical synthesis. The most expensive things these days require at least 20 to 30 people to concentrate on maintaining its existence, we don't have much, a single person can build for about 15 hours, then things fall apart, so we tend to share between at least 6, or we get too tired to enjoy our things. We call it Fruice.

INTERIOR: (van on highway)

A plastic firefighter swings back and forth from the rearview mirror, smiling bright eyed at the driver. The firefighter jumps up and down each time the truck passes over a pothole and the driver winces, one arm is tied up in a makeshift sling. Directly behind him, behind the corrugated white steel divider, in the dark, is Cassandra. She is lying face down on a stained musty mattress, Carol sits slumped across her. Upbeat jazz music wafts through from the cab:

Jeeper’s creepers, where d'you get those peepers? Jeeper’s creepers where d'you get those eyes?

Cassandra opens her eyes and looks around; aftershocks of her last phase linger on. She feels the weight of Carol's body pressing down on her ribs, breathing is difficult, a bar of yellow streetlight glides over them. Her zip-tied wrists are tight behind her head, she tries to stretch them over, but it’s too tight. Toned muscles ripple over sabre tattoos, A man with an orange sun-bed tan pushes down onto her soft flesh. Cassandra glides a hand, her neck flushed rosy red. She relaxes and releases the obligatory, involuntary, sighs. Phase alignment is not far off. Clouds and grass surround them at the Centre, a woodpecker taps furiously at the nearby gate as Cassandra holds Kristol down, as the city, suddenly reddens as the sides of a truck come in and out of focus.

Jolted forwards, Carol wakes and yells to Cassandra "I can't handle this! You've got to help me! I'm getting too close! I can feel time slip over me! You and Kristol! And me, when am I going to phase with you?"

Cassandra smiles in deep reverie, still flushed; she tilts her head to one side to see Carol more clearly. The doors creak open, sunlight floods into the dark van, and a crew of five men stand between them. Their bodies give off puffs of steam, condensing in the cold air. Cassandra is pulled out first, her ripped jumper frays open. A curtain of freezing breath clouds the gap between the women and their captors as they are dragged out of the truck by their tied wrists. The men glance at Cassandra's opened blouse, but seem distracted, nervous and look at each other, as if, checking watches. The women are pushed up the steps to a dark brown wooden house with rough splintering timbers. Carol's left leg catches on the doorframe, causing a large splinter to pass through the skin. However she doesn't notice and moves through to a patterned carpeted vestibule.

One of the men calls from outside, "Get in and lock the doors, it's about to happen." Cassandra and Carol hold each other tight as they pass through the corridor. Mirrors are bolted to the walls like a shop changing room. Cascades of reflections fall away to the floor on either side. Cassandra, smiling and carefree, runs her finger along the mirror covering the length of the hallway. As she walks she moves her finger up and down, like a seismograph needle. A thousand hands move up and down following an arc, a wave trails behind on the dusty surface, each second, a history trailing behind the thrill of Kristol’s kiss, the lush grass at the centre, the calling out of a name “Carol”, a reflection into the present, a diamante broach hanging down from a fraying jumper, get tangled as the curtain is finally drawn.

Carol strengthens her hold on Cassandra's waist feeling the warmth from her soft skin. A shop assistant from Domestic Help Unit pulls back the curtain, smiling:

"Does it fit? I think you will find that our 67 percent Fruice garments feel shockingly fresh in today's marketplace and are somewhat kinder to the modern form."

Cassandra pushes the Domestic Help aside, it murmurs "Security security, we may have an issue Department 12 sector 27." There is no human overseer to respond, the shop is deserted, and mannequins’ legs protrude from black covers: one can only guess at the horrific forms lying below. The guys push the two through the shop:

"What are you ladies trying to pull? Get your fancy tails over here, no more smart stuff."

Cassandra restrains a giggle, allowing them to be guided across the shop towards a row of mannequins wearing grey suits, a retro photograph of a 'house' behind. They keep the pace up, closing in on the dummies, as Carol tries to slow down but the herd around her push on, frog marching now, towards the grey suits and the incredible 'house' beautifully framed in laurels. Carol wrestles with the guys, as the group moving with fluid momentum like a car rolling down a hill without breaks, bangs into the dummies, the guys at the front trampling the suited dummies, toppling sideways, the floor gently giving way; threads dissolve and fray around them tickling their noses as they enter free fall through the fading web. Bits of fluff get caught in Cassandra's hair during the drop and she sneezes in delight, when the two of them (was it in fact Kristol) unite for the first time?

INTERIOR: (Cassandra in cell, Kristol visiting)

Cassandra's wrists are zip tied and attached to a buckled collar. She is lying on a laminate mahogany desk in a darkened cell. The table is too small for her majestic physique. Her head flops down and knees rest over the other edge, bike boots half slipped off and hair hangs down, soft curls tickle the floor.

Cassandra dreams: a cloud like speech bubble appears above her delicious body. Gold and blue Egyptian dolls somersault in a black velvet void. Eyes look up, at her, down, behind into the void then swing round again to stare into her eyes. Another doll materializes behind, slightly smaller, looking up, towards her, then down, slower than the first. One swings up, one down, one looking in her eyes, the other away. The small doll catches up and the two swing round together. They meet hers and whoosh! They transform into fierce red Taoist god eyes, bulging out at her. She commands them to leave. They do not, and she wakes.

"Maybe it's the flu? That's what happened last time, devils came to well wish before the virus took over."

Cold, cold-shoulders tingling arms, not much beyond. No feeling beyond there, nothing beyond. Footsteps approach and a man enters. Cassandra recognizes him from smoking visions. Kristol stops in front of her, inspecting her trussed body, in its torn 60's polo neck:

"My, my, this is so undignified."

Cassandra smiles at him, nothing can bother her now, she is so close to phase overlay, her white teeth gleam at him.

"My name is Cassandra, we are the future, you and I."

She looks over to Kristol, all upside down, standing inches from her face.

"Cassandra, how can you be so stupid?"

"It was a pleasure to see you at last, but you cannot get in the way of God's plan, the day of rapture is nigh, for the chosen ones."

"Please come closer so as I can administer the last rites of earthly pleasures,"

Kristol looks blankly at her, as she throws him a glance that would melt ice, her glimmering eyes reflecting the dim light from the room. The room itself grows dark for an instant as her eye, a kaleidoscopic tunnel, reflects back another’s even dimmer eye.

Kristol’s ecstasy, shaking with pleasure, is manifest as he holds onto the table with both hands; sweat liquidizing the laminate surface, so as almost to lose hold. Cassandra is curious to see what it is he's doing.

Out of the shadows come two figures, both wearing red leather hoods. Small holes reveal the whites of eyeballs, which revert her gaze towards her. She relaxes, as she did in a vision, drifting back to the dolls, and their distracted head rotation, the moment when they both rose together to face her, their eyes on hers, focused in the double eyed personage of a Buddhist figure of vengeance.

Their point of vision is a frantic blur, massing on the floor, in metamorphosis, its dark pink squid-like body, an ecstatic body, welcoming inevitable flatness.

Cassandra and Carol sit exhausted, awaiting their escort. Their work is done. Phase alignment has been achieved.

Now it is just a matter of hours until future and past conflate, freed from tactical observation of possible futures and their memory of history. The singular time (ours) is a convergence of longing and regret, anticipation and recollection. No more bets, no more news, forecasts or simulation, as we experience death now, as an overlay on space. Time is no longer here or there. It is just like a carpet.

(A version for /seconds by Mark Aerial Waller & Peter Lewis)