Poiïv is the story of a failed writer in the process of taking control of his life and leaving behind his self-destructive ways and reversing the downward spiral he lives. It is told by the mainframe computer of his space vessel, who in his term is trying to come to terms with the mysteries of the human soul and its feeling for its master.
In the story, truths, lies, fictions, fantasies and each person's protective measures to evade their own fears and most hopeful dreams are interwoven into a lacework where subjectivity is everything and objectivity has no bearing on reality.
The key for our hero to achieve his goals is to become infected with the infamous Pinocchio Virus, which is said to reveal truth and which will allow him to write the real story about his lost mother. The virus can develop if one takes the Å.tØ-drug, which in its turn allows the user to swap bodies with other people on the drug.
In the excerpts Poiïv performs a series of interviews with Lublina Kharoff. She is an old ex-junkie who was among the last to be infected with the virus and thus holds an important key to the liberation of our hero.
On our first visit Poiïv was able to perform one interview with Lublina Kharoff. She was a nice old lady who on the surface looked like somebody's grandmother as she sat in her shiny wheelchair. In spite of the infection that had been tormenting her body her entire adult life, she had a warm smile and a very distinguished and calm appearance. She had a round and beautiful face and she spoke with a soft voice. Her accent on the other hand was a bit crude and uneducated. Lublina was a member of one of the last small groups of Å.tØ-users whose lives had been entirely destroyed by the drug. Nobody knew how the drug had gotten into circulation in Angelity at such a late date and why its users had suffered such severe and uncontrolled infections of the Pinocchio Virus. The sufferers all came from a top elite collage and they were all physically and intellectually brilliant young people in their prime. In spite of this, most had perished in a wave of terrible suicides and the old lady was one of the few survivors. So even though her outside, apart from her amputated legs, showed no signs of it, her insides were forever and irreparably damaged by the virus. This meant that Poiïv was able to talk to her every second or third time he went to see her as she regularly suffered severe seizures. The interviews took place at the home where the old woman lived and were recorded i even moving images with sound even though Poiïv never has edited them. Poiïv starts his first question rather clumsily.
"Can you tell me how you got involved with the Å.tØ-drug?"
"When I was 14, me and my boyfriend, who was three years older than I was, started taking it. He first used it to get into my pants, which was really a bit stupid since I probably wanted to do it more than he did. I have always had a very healthy, or maybe too big appetite for sex."
She laughed nervously and went on. "We were both very young and had no experience of love making at the time. I really think that swapping personalities was an important reason why we had such a beautiful time together. We were so much in love."
"Tell me of a typical situation when you would take the drug."
Lublina smiled with an expression that gave away the sweetness of those memories.
"My mum was a doctor and she was pretty much working all the time. This meant that me and my boyfriend could spend all the time we wanted totally undisturbed at my place which was big and lofty. Often he came over and we talked, kissed and cuddled in my bed and after a while he got out the pills. He put both pills in his mouth so they melted in his mouth and then we would kiss and get high together."
Poiïv looked down and smiled a slightly embarrassed smile, as if it was hard for him to imagine this old granny once could have been an innocent teenager. "Were you ever scared?"
"Well, when it was just me and my boyfriend it was great. I became him and he became me. We swapped back and forth. But we discovered there was another couple who lived around the corner who used the drug as well. They wanted to join us and then it got a bit scary."
The old woman coughed violently and in the footage we see Poiïv getting up to help the old woman, but she waves him off. When the coughing has subsided and she has regained her composure after the attack, she goes on. "The girl went to the same school as I did. I recognised her and her boyfriend, but I had never actually talked to either of them. The girl was two years older than I was and her boyfriend probably the same age as my boyfriend."
She paused as if the memories became troubling and then she continued. "All of a sudden I found myself making love to another man and being inside this other girl's body. I could tell that it really excited the guy but at first it freaked me out. But slowly, as I got used to it, I started to enjoy it." She was lost in reminiscing and a smile broke out on her face. "The strangest thing was when I bumped into the two of them at school or at the local shops. How was I supposed to react in front of them? In one way, we had kind of made love. At the same time, not really and either way we had never really talked or even been introduced. It was a very strange and funny situation. We only communicated when we were on the drug and we could even arrange times to meet all four of us."
She went silent. At the same time as Poiïv opened his mouth to ask a question she said with a slightly surprised yet self-assured voice. "The only time I talked to either of them was when I met the guy alone outside one of my favourite clothes shop. He asked me if I wanted to have a hot-chocolate with him and when I said 'no'. He asked me if there were any clothes I wanted and he bought me these really cool shorts. He kind of seemed nervous, yet very happy to buy me things. Neither of us really knew what to say or do."
Poiïv smiled with her about this expression of sympathetic innocence, he continued,
"Did you know anything about the drug, it's composition or where it came from?"
Lublina looked around with a worried look and whispered in Poiïv 's ear.
"To this day nobody knows the full truth about the Å.tØ-drug. But over the years I have heard bits of information and I have pieced it together. An important part of the drug is from the Scakle poison which comes from a bear that is hunted on North Finnya."
Poiïv looks incredibly content and yet suspicious about this piece of information. His gaze scans the room and he asks her ceremoniously. "Is there anything else you know about the drug?"
The old woman looks more like she's searching for something deep in her pocket than in deep concentration. She thinks long and hard and then replies with disappointment in her voice. "No, I do not have any other info."
Poiïv smiles at her strange ways and goes on, "So, when did first get infected with the Pinocchio Virus?"
"Well, I had to have an abortion when I was 15. In those days, there were still some people who had children the old way and people could still actually become pregnant -- that is how old I am." She smiled a big warm smile. "It was then that I got infected with the virus. After the pregnancy, we needed to be a lot more careful both with the drug and also make sure that I did not get knocked-up again. I was in one of the top schools in the galaxy and I had no plan on dropping out or causing a scandal."
She was silent for a long time, looking down very sadly and she continued, "I will never forget the first time that I had a Pinocchio Virus experience. At the time we had no idea that using the drug could infect us with a virus. We didn't even know what the drug was called. We just called it "study" in order to be able to talk about it in front of grown-ups. Had we known that it could be dangerous, we could have protected us. But we were kids. We were stupid."
"But that must have been a real eye-opener. To see the truth in its totality."
Lublina laughed at Poiïv. She took it for an ironic remark and nothing could be further from the truth.
"You can say that. The first time I had the Pinocchio experience, was when all four of us were making love. We had gotten very good at changing bodies. When I was in the other guy's body I realised that he was in love with me and not his girlfriend, which was very flattering and at the same time a bit scary. But when I entered my boyfriend's body I realised that he did not love me anymore. He was even a bit disgusted by me. But he could not leave me. He had fallen completely in love with the other girl and he needed me to get to her. He had these really violent sadistic fantasies about her. That really scared me and when I entered her I realised that she was really turned on by the idea of being treated badly by him too. At that moment I was so pissed off and scared that I just wanted to get out of the whole thing. But by then it was too late."
"Can you describe more in detail what it felt like being on the Pinocchio Virus?"
"It is the most horrible thing I have ever experienced and you never get used to it. Take my word for that."
"But it must be great to see the everything around you so clearly."
She pauses and gives Poiïv a worried look as if she realises maybe he was not being ironic at all. Her voice becomes stern and pronounces the words with great authority.
"There is absolutely nothing good or positive about that experience. I swear on my mother's grave. The only thing I want in my life to get rid of this feeling."
"But using very standard, non-prescription drugs you can control the Pinocchio Virus. If you would have been able to retain control, you could get infected without it becoming permanent. Had you done it that way, do you think that it would have been more positive experience?"
Lublina looked very annoyed, yet she felt obliged to answer, "Maybe, I don't know. What does it matter. You are talking about a disease that has ruined my life."
"Yeah, but since it is so easy to control the virus. Why didn't you do that?"
"My dear, I have asked myself that very same question more times than I care to remember. But I was 15 years old at the time. I was terrified that my mum would find out about us taking the drug and about my pregnancy - those were my biggest fears. I could not imagine being anything but healthy, young beautiful and envied by everyone. It is like that when you are young. I did everything I could to hide things related to the drug and to my boyfriend." She looked up and sighed and then she continued:
"When they found out at school that a lot of us kids were taking the drug they organised big meetings and special information was spread about what to do and not to do. The problem is that every school is flooded with this kind of 'protect me from what I want' kind of information. So, to me it was just propaganda against the drug and not real. And anyway, I was sure that I had control over the situation."
She paused as if it to find courage to formulate the words in her mouth and then she continued, "When of all of this happened I was not only a naïve young girl. I had also just realised that I was pregnant for the second time in a short time. On top everything I had just found out that my boyfriend no longer loved me. I am sure that you can appreciate that my head was pretty full of these questions. I simply could not take in more information regarding my own health."
She paused and looked down, "I am hope that you can understand that I have gone through this in my head millions of times and that I am aware that that was the biggest mistake of my life."
In the footage of the interview you can see that Poiïv is really moved at this point. Talking to him about the event afterwards he told me that it was a very strange experience because on the one hand he was so excited to finally get the proof that the virus really existed and that it had some of the mythical properties it was said to have.
With the meeting with Jon Whon fresh in his memory, he could see that he was given one last chance to get his life back on track and write the book he had always wanted to write. At the same time he really felt sorry for this old woman who's life had been wrecked by very normal, healthy and innocent teenage experimentation. These contradictory feelings were further reinforced by a very personal fear that he would suffer some means were he to infect himself with the virus.
I watch this sequence over and over again I see these infinitesimal changes in Poiïv's posture and the look in his eye is incredibly rich as it undulates between fear, excitement, pity and back again. I never really thought that Poiïv was a beautiful man. It has to be said that he had a very beautiful soul and that gave his persona a very likeable impression. But in that moment he was so beautiful as he was torn between all these different emotions and it was a very special beauty that I only ever saw in him.
The old woman had been lost in her own thoughts and Poiïv looked at her and her amputated legs. When their eyes finally meet she jerks back to reality swivels the wheelchair a few degrees toward Poiïv and starts again.
"It was at this point that things really started to go ugly. I remember getting to school one morning. I was so depressed I could not notice the weirdness around me. When I finally got to the classroom and I was surrounded by my classmates, I realised that all the boys were looking at the floor with heavy heads and all the girls' eyes were red with tears and many of them were hugging each other while sobbing loudly. I soon found out what the reason was for all the commotion."
She paused and looked up at the hands of the clock ticking away on the wall.
"It was worse than my worst nightmare. The girl that my boyfriend was in love with and within whose body I had been only a few days ago, had committed suicide that very night - throwing herself off a bridge.
At that time everyone thought that it was a terrible one-off event. But very soon it became evident that it was a lot worse than that. Quickly people started killing themselves everywhere. It seemed that anyone who had ever tried the Å.tØ-drug took their life. It was like suicide had become the latest fashion or that it spread like a normal cold." Lublina breathed heavily and went on."It was a very strange time and I was too young to be ready for it. My impression was that my entire days were spent either at a funeral or talking to a psychologist. I tried to lie and avoid all the obvious questions that my mum, teachers and special catastrophe personnel asked me. But there was no way that I could hide that I had been taking the drug and that I was pregnant. The infection made me miscarriage and my health got very bad and to save my life they had to amputate both my legs."
She paused and looked down at her two stumps.
"By this time they had figured out that it was the drug that produced the virus and that made people commit suicide."
"What about your boyfriend? Did he make it?"
"No he was also among the first to go. The moment he heard about the girl killing herself he became morbidly depressed and after a few days he threw himself off the same bridge. He left behind long and confused letters about love and death. It was too horrible for words."
They both fell into a long silence. Poiïv must have felt both terrible and awkward he thought that she was going to start crying.
"I am so sorry. I understand that it must have been a terrible experience and I understand if you don't want to answer. But I still want to ask you."
"When everyone died around you. What was it that kept you going?"
He had expected her to take the question badly instead she welcomed it and gave him a very sad smile, "I am actually glad that you ask. It was a weird feeling. I could feel death pulling me very strongly. But there was another force that was even more powerful that overtook me. It was as if life was calling my name, as if I had something bigger that I needed to do later in life. It felt like I wasn't ready, like it wasn't my time yet. I didn't think about it back then, but in my current job it has come back time and time again." She stopped and just as Poiïv was about to speak she said, "Well, maybe I had to stay alive to meet you!" She laughed a very hearty laugh and he smiled an embarrassed smile as if she was way too loud. Poiïv laughed with her and then asked her.
"How many of you survived?"
"Nobody really knows the real numbers because the whole situation was so confused or it had been covered up." Here she leaned forward to whisper in his ear. "A lot of people think that they planned the whole thing to get people to foresee the future, which can be a side-effect of the virus." After which she leant back and went on, "The official figures say that we were 60 who survived and that that was less than 10 percent. The only thing that is certain is that the younger you were, the more chance you had to survive and I was one of the youngest."
"What did your mother do? She was a doctor couldn't she or her colleagues help?"
"I think that my mum could never accept the facts. She always saw the way I acted as something that I did to spite her or to make her angry. She saw my disease and pregnancy as a sign of ungratefulness to her. She felt that she had always given me everything I ever wanted, so I guess I was a bit ungrateful towards her."
"Do you sometime feel guilty for surviving?"
"No, what kind of question is that?"
She laughs another one of her loud laughs. In the film you can see Lublina freezing and then how she is thrown into paroxysms as the virus takes over her whole being. She is trying to control her body, but she is frothing at the mouth and her arms, head and stumps for legs jerk without control. Had she not been strapped to the wheelchair she would have fallen on the floor and probably injured herself badly. A group of nurses rushed to and gave her two injections and she calms slightly as they roll her away.
The recording ends.
Our trip to Homooria as I have already concluded was quite useless. Not a trace of neither the Å.tØ-drug nor the Pinocchio Virus. The only productive aspect of this trip was that on the way back we passed Angelity. Considering his memories from the planet Poiïv was reluctant to go back. But eventually his will to find the truth overcame his fear to confront the painful romantic memories. He was able to perform a second interview with Lublina Kharoff. In the footage you can see her sitting across from Poiïv in her wheelchair. Behind her is an open window and the sun is shining in and the wind is playing with the lofty brightly coloured curtains. The warm and motherly look that she was radiating in her previous meeting has been replaced by a tougher and slightly suffering look. Poiïv has his notepad in his lap and looks very pompous as he asks, "Lublina, can you tell me to how truth manifests itself when your body is affected by the Pinocchio Virus?"
She looks at him with a mixed air of incomprehension and defiance clearly showing that she would rather not answer and particularly not that question.
"Well, I wish I could tell you. This is exactly the problem, a lie can often feel more true than the truth. In the beginning it was easier to tell one apart from the other, but now it is all muddled. For me the real reality is so much truer than Pinocchio reality - even though I know that it isn't really like that."
"So, what you are saying is that the truth is not necessarily more real than lies?"
"I, guess so. What does it matter? I do not see where you want to go with your questions."
Poiïv looks in his notepad. But before he can ask his question Lublina says,
"I can give you a good example. I became catatonic last time you were here. Through the virus I saw that you are here for a completely different reasons from that which you have told me. I do not want to remember what the reason are and I do not care."
Poiïv blushes and his voice grows thin, "Don't be ridiculous."
"Look, that is the truth. I could confront you about it. But what good would that do? I enjoy talking to you and I look forward to seeing you a lot. At the same time you get the answers that you want from me. We are both happy with our exchange and who cares if it rests on some innocent lies. The truth that the virus made me see only made me enjoy our meetings less".
Poiïv became nervous and he fiddles with his pad and pen and looks intensely at his shoes like a boy who has been caught stealing. He sits like that in silence for a long time.
"You are right. I need to level you. I need to tell the truth about why I have come to see you." He hesitates, his voice shrinks even more and he goes on, "I want to get infected with the virus so I can find the truth about my childhood and what happened to my mother."
Lublina regains her warmth, she touches him gently on the chin.
"My dear child, you are so much better off the way you are. Why not just leave it?"
Poiïv hates being patronized and even though it is not the case here, Lublina's words still awakens a storm of feelings of anger and hate within him. "But I am an artist, it is my responsibility to uncover the truth."
"Of course, I think that is wonderful." She smiles a hearty smile and continues, "You should, you should." She pauses and smiles. "But you need to do it your way. The truth that you are seeking is not a universal one, but your own personal truth. The virus is just the wrong way of doing it. What you will find are just very dry facts that won't help you. You find objective and uninteresting information that will be no good for you. I promise. If you were a dull scientist, it might help you. But you are an artist. You need to have confidence in yourself and what you do and everything will go wonderfully well." She pauses and her smile turns into a serious, warm yet penetrating look. "It is true that I do not know much about literature and art. But if there is ever one advice that you ought to take from me it is exactly that. If you have confidence in yourself and what you do, you can go as far as you want with your work." She pauses and looks him sternly in his eyes. "I swear on my mother's grave. You do not need any drug, everything you need is already inside you. The only thing you need is to let it all come out."
Poiïv gave her an angry and restless look. Hee really wanted to hit the old defenceless woman. But before he could ask her another question, Lublina shone up with a big warm smile.
"Why don't you tell me about your girlfriend?"
Poiïv looked surprised. "I don't have a girlfriend."
"Don't be shy. What about that girl with the black, painted tear under her eye, you love her - don't you?"
Lublina's eyes became black and it was as if her gaze was turned inwards and her voice metallic and distant.
"All the women that you will like will have that same black tear under their eyes and the only woman you will really love will be the last. She will not have the tear. But you will have to fight very hard for this love. You will find another form of beauty with her."
Poiïv looked at her. It was as if it was not her who said those words. It was more as if she received an incoming message. He looked around and you hear a dash of fear in his voice.
"I don't understand. What you are talking about?"
Lublina's eyes were still distant and her voice metallic and strange. "When you meet the chanting girl in red, you will see the same tear and you will cry a creek. But when you are finished crying and hurting yourself, things will become better. There is nothing you can do unless you accept your past. Then you will have a short, yet glorious future."
"Lublina, do you want me to call the nurse?"
Poiïv turns around with a very worried look to see if there is a member of staff around. He puts his hand on hers. She jerks ever so slightly. Her expression relaxes and changes and she smiles a big loving smile towards Poiïv.
"You know that you can make the girl love you back. But you have to be strong and believe in yourself. You have to accept your power and your violence and she will be yours. That black tear will be forever washed from your her face and your retina. You can be as free in her kiss as you could possibly be."
"That all sounds very good, but I want to ask you about the virus."
"Look, why don't you lighten up? Smile a bit and do something fun?"
"No, I am here for the virus. Not to enjoy myself."
Lublina unfastened the breaks of her wheelchair and swivelled it around,
"My child, you really are beyond help".
She put her hand on his leg, sighed deeply and continued.
"Why don't you think about what I said and come back and talk about that and not about the stupid virus. It is what is inside you that counts and not what happens on the outside." She stopped and said angrily. "It is like that girl. You love her because she's beautiful and not for her qualities as a human being. If you were to love her differently, everything in your life would change. But you are blind and stupid."
She rolled towards the door. Before she left the room she swivelled around and said sternly, "Anyway, if you are looking for that stupid drug you shouldn't be here with me. You should be on your way to North Finnya. But it is obvious that you do not see how good I am to you and I have no idea why I like you and why I try to help you." She left the room and Poiïv was left with a confused expression on his face. The recording stops.