Realities Like Straws in the Wind

Roy Exley

The flash of the camera ricocheted across the room, left through the window, and was soaked up by the night outside. It was that time once more, that moment, rehearsed interminably, when the doobie man came, posed, then feigned an exit, only to coalesce with the furnishings and take up his covert watching brief. When we had sensed his presence and smelled that pungent, tell-tale aroma of burning rubber, we reached in unison for the remote. The first reflex was to fire the camera, the second to tune in to yet another reality. This wasn't simply a knee-jerk reaction but a response born of much anguish and despair. We had all avidly read the ads and eagerly viewed the free DVD's, of course - the cerebral centres of desire well and truly pumped - we were nigh-on convinced that if reckless consumption had failed to prove to be the ultimate route to happiness, then surely an infinite choice of realities could provide the answer. Nietzsche deprived us of God, but mutable realities that we could experience for ourselves, whose sounds we could see and sights we could hear, whose textures we could taste and flavours we could fondle (before abandoning ourselves to their seductive continuums) had to be the next best route to eternal happiness and primeval peace.

Just as astronomers had long suspected, adjacent but inferior to the Solar System's plane of the ecliptic (that invisible disc on which the orbits of the planets seem to sit), gyrate a series of sub-orbital ganglia (something similar to the bunches of cerebral synapses that help to power our imaginings, but on a gargantuan, barely conceivable, scale), that were not influenced by the forces of gravity or radiation, but were dependant upon self-perpetuating fields of static electricity, whose poles oscillated at an undetectably rapid rate, and mesmeric

4-D imagery whose intense, luminous flicker fixed them in space. This, the seductive ads would have us believe, was the source of their limitless supply of realities, into whose utopian cornucopia we could tap simply by tuning-in to the right wave-length, the codes for which only the doobie man, after receiving their cloned image hits, could divulge. The doobie man always materialised from the same moment, emerging from a corner at that super-saturated moment repeatedly regurgitated from the gullet of time only he knew how to summon. Déjà vu was his trip, that's what kept him up for the job, that and his favourite perk, yet another photograph of that moment when he emerges (like 'spot the difference' minus the differences), hence that smell of rubber smoke which clumsily heralded his presence.

The doobie man emerged from the corner, then the flash caught him turning as he veered across the room without moving a muscle, the rubber treads of his feet whirring, trailed an ethereal blue haze whose subtle traces (of incomplete combustion), caused that distinctive olfactory buzz. His eyes were flashing those codes, like a strobe on speed. His pearly integument glowed like a worm. He looked like a wraith but sounded like a swarm of bees. He craved nothing more than that clone of an image that welcomed him there, which, once downloaded, powered him to the next cloned rendezvous. While we had waited, as if in a state of suspended animation, we had heard a commotion outside but were powerless to investigate, as we silently conversed with our eyes, the tumult seemed to increase minute on minute. There was a cult adrift on the Godless ether, chanting ectographically flickering codes, swinging burners stuffed with car tyre shavings, the anxious crowds worshipped, in massed hysteria, at well-worn corner shrines where the doobie man was reputed to have re-enacted his moment. They carried aloft jewel-encrusted cameras on gilded sticks, as they glided on powered skateboard trucks so as not to move a muscle. Posing obsessively, they glowed, not with inner contentment but from their LCD implanted vests, a dose of sympathetic magic - their bait to lure the doobie man.

Anisa and I used to be Franklin and I, but of course we didn't know it. Our first quest had been to harness perpetual dawns; needless to say we didn't blow it. Doobie-power had brought us a long way. Now, in our penultimate reality we languish in limp repose, settled like dust into an eternal dusk, whose perfume lacquers our languid tongues like the ripples of a mellotron riff, and whose fading light feels and behaves like crushed velvet.

Etsi and Ketsi, now aides to the shadow of the doobie man, have come a long way since their sub-orbital births, joyously providing a trinity of trickery, in cahoots with the 'man', formerly known as the doobie man. The 'man' has lost his doobie power but not his guile or his wit nor the when or the if or the how of which psyches to hit. His shadow flits from neutron stream to neutron stream, where Etsi flows and Ketsi ebbs, on the wayward waves of ecstasy, primed to invade and infect the most desirable psyches with the aleatory beat of his tunes. The 'man' has lost his codes but not his power to entrance and entrap and open the psychic doors. He now dwells on the edge, an agent of the 'other', a steward at the Black Angel's shrine. The 'man' has lost his connection but not his spirit-filled gewgaws whose hypnotic rattle hits the A waves of each convert's brain. The sacrament, a repetitive, ritual rehearsal, courtesy of Etsi and Ketsi, is a mantric rehearsal of that old knowledge that this is the penultimate reality and the next and final one completes the reality cycle. The climax of the sacrament is the revelation that the completion of the cycle is an orgasmic fit of sub-orbital ecstasy that blows all connections away. The 'man' has lost his mandate but not his will to survive or to thrive on the psychotropic juices his converts exude. Somewhere, Franklin hangs, fluttering, like a straw in the wind, his juices sucked dry, while Anisa and I, awaiting the cyclical endgame, crouch, attentively, facing the corner, our remote, wi-fi linked to an ancient but dependable smoke-detector, and our camera cocked and ready, while that strange sound, like the rattle of seaside gewgaws in an onshore breeze...