God so formed the American Southwest, in His infinite wisdom, as an unfinished patch of sand and stone, coarse and jagged, void and patient, barren for millennia on millennia in silent anticipation of the Creator’s master plan, so that, 1,900-odd years after His death, it would be prepared for the apocalyptic finishing touches that He had by design arranged to be made by those that He created. The desert stood ready at hand, a perfect receptacle to fit the flow of steel, and boots, and killer ore, and men; to receive all this into the ancient arms of a violent landscape and thus fit form to content in a marriage that marked the tail end of the human world. All these things and more came crawling in over the dunes, and soon there were laboratories where Baconian agents, enraptured by the (also predestined) devilish drive to command nature and life by knowing and naming, went to working.
Remote centers of clicking things and bursting things dotted these deserts, the interlocks of a new mode of production, nodes in the invisible Web of Progress, Research, and Defense. The ontological situation of these laboratories came to be shaped by the spirit of Americana, democratic yet occultly managed. The whole Web was characterized by a peculiar capitalist freedom of competition and innovation— scientists outsmarting scientists, programs surpassing programs, technology eclipsing its own outdated progenitors. This was the democratic aspect of what went on in the desert, a free for all of invention and experimentation. Yet, all this was subject to the still deeper American Id and Will, which is ruthlessly domineering and driven. This creative explosion, be it in the realm of pure technics or the application of technology to nature, had government mandates as its source and cause, and not one program, be it military, private, or some chimera thereof, begun without instantiation by taxpayer dollars.
Scientists poured forth unthinkable quanta of heat from their brows, heads as hot as rockets, and this with similarly ballistic myopia. They launched, so to speak, themselves, attacking their task with missile single-mindedness. This was totalizing, comprehending work: the application of the concept of a homeostatic organism to the likes of a missile, or to a computer network, or to a nation or a GI; the new work, the new science, the science of Systems.
These fiery and secret men could conjure frameworks of thermodynamic proportionality out of mere analogy, and then go further and convincingly apply these frameworks to everything, up to and including the Earth itself. Even the most ovular eggheads were struck by the poetry they perceived in this: that the Systems of their whole preoccupation, whether organic or technic, rhymed. Never mind how such analogical wizardry required a constant stream of new and increasingly dexterous mathematical gymnastics to justify its own correctness, or that these mathematics were premised on parallel expressions of weaponry and life, of the steam engine and the soul.
To question the comportment of any System to another was to deny the axiomatic mechanics of the base reality that predicated all this. It was a reality that could only have been uncovered by two world wars and a holocaust and very big bomb, one that needed to have been torn apart and reconstructed in order to become manageable. Will and Reason had done the sundering, but it was Will and Reason (and the Will to Reason) that would sew the world back together again. This is what the scientists thought, anyway, and their employers at RAND and Bell and IBM professed their enthusiastic agreement, and demurely noted the profitability of the sewing, and the United States government felt very much the same way, and so politely drew up the contracts.
Then the desert wedded Privates, Colonels, PhD’s: in green fatigues or beige gabardines, smoking Lucky Strikes or Camels, from Fort Knox or CalTech, McNair or Massachusetts, Basic or Berkley. It was a good marriage, no one quarreled, and all involved felt much at home in the arroyo, in the canyons, on the plains, enjoying the peaceable coze of soft sentiment even amidst the daily buzz-buzz of hard science. They sunned themselves beneath the triumphal glows of V and V-J Day, beamed victorious light, glowed as their precious mineral hearts glowed, refracting radium shine. That rock, the elemental fetish of their lives, which gave the world over to the men who had mastered it, did (like an alchemical process) transmute itself into the very tone and tenor of their existence— the scientists and soldiers alike beamed out, shooting forth rays of gladness, of confidence, of fruit and strength. And, like this fetish metal, all this glow would cancerously quick become paranoid, charred, and terrible. But that was to come, only after much had been illumined by those bright souls in the desert.
Perhaps it was old Vannevar and his OSRD that staked the first claim in the science of human experimentation. Months spent fattening pacifists, only to reverse this with experimentally adventurous speed, accompanied by other still stranger forays into martial inquiry: some objectors drunk salt, stood in snow, or received injections of certain North African skeeter diseases so that, at the very least, the boys overseas could know that, had they stayed behind, it wouldn’t have been all Bogart flicks and Miller tunes. Everyone had to make sacrifices for the War effort.
Still, it wasn’t until certain conferences after the War, which Vannevar attended now as a representative of private industry, that he was vindicated in his hunch that such fleshy procedures had been directed, necessitated, by the midcentury Geist. Hobnobbing there with some European scientists, he was rather pleased to learn that, across the Atlantic, behind enemy lines, the other side had been troubling themselves with the very same problems of calorie, of temperature— of homeostasis, in fact. His only regret was that his mandate had not been sufficiently robust so as to keep pace with his Teutonic counterparts.
Vannevar himself moved on to more impersonal pursuits, but his Wartime projects engendered many new avenues of research. Fancies of flight, twists and turns, combustibles and computations. The War had produced so many accidents of happenstance, indeed of destiny, that much of what these military-corporate couples attended to can be said to have been the overflow, or offspring, of history itself.
In the settling down of military cacophony, in the quiet center that formed after all the ceasefires were in effect, the state became the adoptive parents of fate’s own late term abortions, resuscitating still-births, nurturing them into the mongoloid children of modernity. We now know too well that these children grew up to be tyrants, our own mothers and fathers. Grandpa Oppenheimer; his nephew on the East coast, Remington Rand; Rem’s daughter, who in ’69 was the first to bear the surname “NET”; her little cousin processors bred for fighter jets and databanks; and ourselves, who are the progeny of all these, whose family line was established in the desert, by the seminal glow of a very bad rock, under the ovarian scope of the broad, blue, God-undone sky.
It was, then, no accident when in ’42 or ’43, on an airship gliding through Pacific froth, as steel hull split blue foam in a gentle plod towards violent ends, there, in a pockmarked portion of the Earth’s face that until such time had played host only to shipwrecks and awful tropic calenture, that one Private First Class reported to his Superior Officer that he needed medical attention, to be relieved from his post immediately, and that he had some weird seasickness: because, Sir, at my post, watching the radar— sober Sir, yes, absolutely and entirely— I could hear things, like chirps, like birds, Sir. No, Sir, not any of the other machines— no, fine, Sir, not unwell physically at all, only disturbed, Sir, if you’ll allow me to say so, and if you’ll allow me to say, Sir, not hear. Because I wasn’t listening, Sir. I mean only that I heard it, without listening, Sir— yes, Sir, the chirps, the chirps inside of me.
And it also was not happenstance that the Superior Officer’s report of this incident passed through the hands of several astute technicians and doctors stationed in and around Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, and was there considered earnestly by certain Navy surgeons who had been tasked with developing comprehensive lists of what sorts of afflictions might affect our boys at sea, and was summarily passed on to San Francisco, CA, then Galveston, TX, then to the Defense Health Headquarters in Fairfax, VA where, in the offices of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, it was deposited on top a tower of documentation, which itself was balanced on the desk of a certain Assistant to the Surgeon General of the Navy, who, reading it one dreary evening in-between one meeting on Vitamin C deficiencies and another on seaborne Lyme borreliosis, rang his brother’s office at the Advanced Radio Material school at Navy Pier in Chicago, IL, whereat this brother was teaching a class on cavity magnetrons, and in the course of talking these two developed a rather peculiar notion, which, so fatefully, was preserved through the remaining war years in all the right dossiers, and thus did ultimately receive examination in late ’48 by one Colonel ———, who oversaw all the operations at ——— Air Force Base near ———, —, working on special projects in joint partnership with the —— Corporation.
“Both, civilian and military applications. Massive. We’ve been asymptotic to this whole thing for decades now. Wireless as a medium made certain assumptions that we no longer hold. Rendered OBE, though mostly by accident, you’d have to call it. No way anyone could have predicted this. PFC’s standing in the right place at the right time, suitably sensitive to the machinery. Thank God for ‘em. I say they must’ve been born with soft skulls, but that’s what you’re all here to find out. And I’ll make this clear now, I hold not one speck of shit against the Motorola boys. Chrissakes the walkies worked. But they overlooked the deeper implications, what all this could be, by its nature. What’d you call it, Doc? Teleological substrata. Jesus. Maybe they were rushed— they were rushed— still they didn’t apply themselves to the implications. All our wartime technicians, Cottonwood boys notwithstanding, suffered from fundamentalism. One of the great pitfalls of fundamentalism— any kind of fundamentalism— what are you? Episcopalian stock myself, but my father was C of E— But you get brought up with certain assumptions: transponder, receiver, and you find out you can’t think beyond a transceiver. Only you find out not because someone else did, but because some skinny fuck booter stands just so and hears noises from the radar that are being beamed directly into his brain. Well, that’s our new methodology, we need to think further, more expansively. Like I said, we’ve been asymptotic to this for a while now.”
A junior researcher at —— Corp. wondered aloud about just what civilian and military applications the Colonel, or whoever thought these things through, had in mind?
“What! You’re a fundamentalist, young man. You have to boldly consider the literature, sparse as it is. The human skull is an antenna now. You’re a fucking radio. If we can get this right, no more ditty-bopping Morse while trying to execute an Immelmann or neutralize an Unterseeboot, all while evading heavy artillery. Every soldier becomes his own Gear. We only need to establish parameters and develop a functional structure. This is the problem hitherto, numbnuts: we have sought technological progress solely in the realm of perfecting the Gear. But this sub-, sub-, — substrata— begins to encroach upon our own personhoods, and for the first time we are capable of thinking onto the God damned asymptote. You are here to make that leap! This is the new science of circuity, only total in scope. Really total. And that’s just internal applications, to be clear. Wireless, extremely high-fidelity, absolutely direct and virtually non-interceptable communication between friendlies. Hell, I have it on good authority that certain offices in Washington are already writing scripts for the Russkies, gospels from an omnipotent Nevidimaya Ruka, is my understanding. The agitprop potential is outstanding. And as far as civilian applications go, well, that’s mostly defensive. Potential replacement for air raid sirens and all that. Nothing like what we’re thinking in terms of combat scenarios, nothing like our psychological operations, of course.”
Most enlisted personnel did not know and would never discover the purpose of their being stationed at this particular outpost, but were glad to spend their nights swapping liquor and exaggerations. Decades later, these post-war tardy enlistees would fondly recall each other’s tales of how many dozens of German towns their brothers and cousins had blitzed in ’44, showing off Lugers they had received upon following in familial footsteps; themselves merely assigned to daily ant-like assemble the subterranean scaffolds which pierced the soil all-round the edges of a great hollow in the Earth, which most referred to as “The Square”. Come every sunrise, the barracks flushed swarms of young men to this cubed cavity, who crawled the 100-foot walls on four sides, bolting ballasts straight up and down into the red rock drop. The Earth would spit huge plumes of dust effluvia, tons of the stuff, in retribution for every drill jab it took— vomit the stuff.
By March of ’49, these same soldiers had begun to informally refer to themselves as “bum-plumbers”, owing to a misunderstanding about the enormous amount of lead plates that had begun showing up in green canvassed caravans from Utah and Missouri. The Square having been roundly reinforced, these lead plates became the lone object of everyone’s careful attention, huge tiles to be bolted to the walls of an increasingly burnished box. The Square was thoroughly enough armored with this metallic siding that the silt plumes stopped blowing with every gust of wind, and what had been a gargantuan sweat box became cool and dry, smooth to the touch, transfigured from a bleeding clay gash into a magician’s magic chest, blackly aching from the power of its own secret, empty save for its own expectancy, pre-consciously awaiting the electric crack which would, to life, ignite it.
The Square had guts, too— electric organs which the men ferried down and assembled under the anxious direction of supervising scientists. Aortal labyrinths, channels upon channels of cavity magnetrons networked with vascular complexity, linked to towering transformers which all hummed with the low-level flow of electro-magnetic lifeblood, carrying crackling loads of light through diodically regulated channels. This plexus terminated in certain depositories, built within a central chamber, which would, if only one switch were flipped, become the radial points of the project’s whole premise. This chamber, one of Faraday’s cages, stood in the center of the Square with mausoleum solemnity, anticipating the shock for which it was purposed.
One twilit eve, the sun setting blood orange atop the mountains, the Square’s uppermost and finishing part was borne in over the horizon by helicopters out of the sunset like leather-skinned black demons, gliding through that liminal sliver of aether which holds the landscape’s peaks apart from heaven’s fast diminishing province. Just before the sky went black and could cede itself to the one-thousand star-eyes which kept watch in the nighttime, just as the day’s gaze gave way to the panoptic prelude of the witching hour, these helicopters set down their cargo on the Square’s empty upper space. A lead ceiling sealed it, consecrated it in bound and definition, was blessed by the coming of cold, dark night.
This was how the Square was transfigured from a depression in the Earth into a secret circuit board. It was the hands of men that did it, by the conception of other men’s minds.
Here was the grandest product of the Systems thinkers’ toils. Their rockets would resolve, terminate, and exterminate in man; their computers would tabulate and generate both him and his own interests; but the machine they had built inside the Square would absolutely subsume him: Made and Maker wired into a single electric course, caught up in the supreme System of Systems. It was said, in self-serious and bloated tones amidst slurred toasts— military men commending brainpower, brains singing praise to might and resource— that the analogical essence of this, the new atomic age, had reached something of a summit here.
One scientist, milking a long draw from an unfiltered cigarette: “It really does look like a Radarange.”
Another, gulping champagne from crystal: “Then, shit, someone get me a chicken breast.”
“My kid and I took one apart before I came out here,” the first again, “Wanted to show him what was inside.”
“So you got 500 clams to spare?” from a chipper young Lieutenant.
“Or a nice steak. Hell, we could heat up a whole cow in there.”
“Sure, after this I do.”
“Sheesh, really? Well, why shouldn’t you get the big bucks? I only built the thing.”
“Ah, but we’re,” gesturing to his fellow doctorate, “The only ones who know how to turn it on.”
“I mean really, whaddaya say, there’s a ranch a bit ways west of here. Let’s rustle us up some cattle, pard’ner!”
“Sure, but you ain’t goin’ in, I don’t bet.”
So much has been redacted from institutional and historical memory— who would dare guess what directives lay behind black blots of ink formed to rectangular censor, smudged over typed commands from on high? In filing cabinets, on single-copy papers, brown and faded, lay all the missing pieces of a collective military life, purposefully forgotten. Is it any surprise that, from the project of amassing a whole systemic Mind of datum and matter, of energies and outcomes and cold hard facts, that some amnesia must of necessity be employed in the aftermath of such a project’s success? It’s like a trauma, like a hypnotic session. The ends must, sometimes, forget the means.
But all that’s fine to set aside. What matters most is not how what happened next happened, but that it did.
It must have been in June, when the sun is most burning and the sand most intolerably hostile to life, that Subject A-1 first puzzlingly perceived that he was partaking in a ritual.
That word had occurred to him days before this most important one, during his final physical under the auspices of the anonymous scientists. Puffing on a treadmill, breathing into a snaking clear tube made to measure the frequency and volume of his exhalations, constrained by a black strap apparatus that gripped tight around his abdomen and was ringed with electrode nodes that tingled at intervals, startling at high and low frequency whistles that shot from electronic earmuffs he had been instructed not to touch, the Subject watched them chatter soundless behind the glass divider. It was in this exerted state that the word occurred to him, and he accepted that characterization without question. Not until after all was said and done did he reflect upon the fact that he did not know what gave him such a bizarre, unprompted impression.
Summoned with an equinoctial solemnity that he could not understand, the Subject did not hesitate to arrive at the appointed early hour to the topside entrance of the Square’s small portal. Despite his total ignorance as to what was to be required of him, the Subject— a ruddy Iowa farm boy who had enlisted with all the zeal of a child who had turned 17 in the March ’45— felt that to approach this strange assignment with anything less than unthinking cooperativeness would be incongruent with the spirit of the moment, and would even disrupt the mystery rites that he had somehow been made initiate of.
“You’ve heard of Muroc, in California, haven’t you, Private?”
“Yes, Sir, I have. Captain Yaeger. Gee, I’d like to shake his hand,” speaking to the Colonel, walking down a corridor lit by scant, sickly phosphorescence, trailed by an entourage of mumbling men in lab coats, whispering indistinguishably.
“Perhaps we could arrange that, sometime down the road. I ask because— and you’re a smart young man, we know that from the aptitude tests— you surely understand that Muroc is hardly the only place where Uncle Sam conducts his various researches?”
“Sure. Yes, sir.” It was a precipitously steep slope here, the corridor becoming diagonally inclined in a netherly way. The black stairs, which the whole party trod, shone with Stygian murk, compelling the Subject to try and not think of Hell. To try and not think of the fact that he was trying not to think of Hell. Why should he?
“There’s no other way to put it, Private,” the Colonel shaking his head with fatherly, bulldoggish physiognomy, “You excelled in our preliminary inquiries, really excelled, stood out over all the other men. In all sorts of ways. And you’ve been selected, and this is something you should be proud of, selected to be— oh, a kind of Charles Yeager, actually— a test pilot yourself, you really could say.”
“But I don’t know how to fly, Sir.”
Stifling an oblique curl of the lip, “I know you haven’t been briefed. You can’t be briefed. The Top-Secret nature of this project is such that you will never be briefed.” Here, the ground leveled out, and all the men entered an antechamber of polished steel. “You won’t be flying. In fact, you’ll do very little, or it may appear as if you are doing very little, but our aptitude examinations, and this is confirmed by EINAC— so top of the line— make it crystal clear that you’re the man for the job. Just the perfect man. All you do, son, is tell us what you hear.”
“I’m sorry, Sir?”
“It’s really straightforward, once you’re in there.”
The bespectacled head of one wire-haired scientist, formerly invisible within the crowd, suddenly appeared on tippy toes from the back of the assembly: “You’ll have to strip down, Private.”
In the control room, the group held congress over a circuit board. Various switches flipped and breakers broke. A two-way mirror revealed, in its dreamish smudgy way, the Subject being walked to the central cage of the operations room, guided by a HAZMATed Virgil who proceeded with a gentle dainty thick-gloved hand. The naked Subject looked calm as he took his place within the cage, though was observed to gulp as the HAZMAT man bolted it. One chuckling Lieutenant General remarked to his adjutant that innovation, in his experience, was so often accompanied by exposure that he had to think they were one and the same thing— referring to the hypothermia trials he had once overseen as a younger man— he explained.
Somebody who would only identify himself as a “Friend of the Admiral”, and whose name the Lieutenant General never caught, stepped over. “In my line of work,” he susurrated with a tone of coy perversion, “Getting the target undressed is essential. That’s not innovation, that’s information. That’s intercourse.”
A hidden intercom crackled in the other room: “Would you say a few words for us, Private?”
The Subject sought some orientation, squinting through warm floodlights which seemed to beam non-locally, and now perceived that this unrecognized voice came from overhead and to his left.
“Sir, I’m… ready for orders, Sir.”
The Colonel nudged his way to the microphone, “Let me. — That’s outstanding, Private. We hear you loud and clear. We got eyes on you too. Don’t touch anything. I’m turning you over to the good Doctor here, and he’ll tell you what we need.”
“Yas, ‘allo. You vill please speak out loud und continuously at all times, giving unceasing voice to your inner und outer sensations und mental topographies, thank you.”
“You get all that, Private?”
When God set in motion, in His infinite wisdom, the long magnetic chain of history, well knowing that successive instantiations of pure Moment would always give rise to the next, with all temporality warped and bubbling from the repeated heating and cooling of thermal events, with energy flowing round and round the world bauble between the solar outposts— Love and War— in an old dance of renewal and repetition and then rare transformation, all history set against the celestial fresco of Cosmic Background Radiation and entropic destiny, all this leading (as He knew it would) to a rapid succession of creative acts which would quickly come to threaten the integrity of His own creation (so much does He love stakes and tension, history being His public drama), when God did all of this, He set the tracks of time on Earth to be so parameterized that moments replete with magnitude and signification were often colored by numbing mundanity:
“Well then, shit, Private. Start talkin’.”
The Subject wondered, dizzy from an inner spin that made his heart beat fast, just what was a mental topography?
“I’m a little hot. Because of the lights. I feel fine. I feel normal. You want everything I’m feeling?”
From the crackle of the unseen loudspeaker: “Und thinking, yas. Und continuous.”
“Well, I’m… just fine. Yeah. I’m feeling light, lightheaded. But my knees are heavy. I’ve just never been here before. I’ve never done anything like this is what I mean.”
It was silent for a moment. The Subject intuited the threat of further instruction.
“Well, yes. I’m here. Right here. Boy, I’m thinkin’. I’m thinkin’ about what I’m thinkin’, and it’s making me feel crazy. Not that I’m 4F, I swear, I mean I’m not. I’m not 4F.”
The Subject touched his hands to his stomach in a self-soothing gesture. He beheld a film of perspiration upon his palm. Now so self-conscious he thought he may faint: “That’s a doozy.”
Silence rolled like thunder.
“The sweat, all that sweat, I mean,” holding his hand towards where he thought the mirror may be, expecting them to understand. “Gosh I’m hot. I’m just nervous, Colonel, I wanna do a good job.” He hoped for some encouragement, but perceived he would not get it. He thought, I better keep talking. “I got these things pointed at me, in the corners. I ain’t gonna touch ‘em, but they uh, they’re lookin’ at me. I don’t know what that is.”
“I’m just standing here by myself. I’m lookin’ at this cage. I’m thinking about my brother, who killed 10 Nazi’s for sure and thinks more. I’m just ready to go. I’m here. I’m standing right here, and I’m starting to feel— to wonder if you know what I’m thinking— so I’m being sure to say it all. I don’t know what I mean by that. Sorry. I’m thinking and thinking and I’m sorry if that’s not good. I’m feeling fine. Standing good, knees feel so heavy. I’m alone here, there’s no one else here, I’m just alone in the cage. Inner and outer? Inner-like I feel proud to serve my country, Sir. I swear that’s it. Shit, I wanna lay down. Sorry for swearing. I’m thinking all about how I’m standing here and I’ve been ordered to say what I think and feel. Continuously. I’m just standing, standing, I’m here.”
All of the men in the room with the circuit board felt it was high time to turn on the machine.
Formerly, this electric body had been all skin and bones, inanimate, dumb vertebrae carrying useless sparks to nowhere, no Mind to receive or perceive the internal stimulus. But now, with the Subject’s beating heart in the important middle chamber, it was a finished anatomy. All the machine’s somatic cholers would bubble up now, the intestines alight, the System inward triggered.
Exploded open at Trinity, spectrums upon spectrums of spectral realities have cascaded into our consciousnesses ever since, first pouring forth upon the scalped heads of the dead and dying at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, then rippling round the world and back into the open and receiving palms of the obscure technocrats and their plutocrat masters. These feared no retributive stigmata, righteously inflicted cancers, a mocking reprisal in-keeping with the mocking codename assigned that first and terrible test. Rather they were permitted to play, even unto our own time, with the waves and particles which they had loosed. A radioactive core was the core of this new science, and every subsequent act and innovation which followed from it has surely been cancer-marked with quiet evil. To bridge the space between radio waves and radiation is a matter of mere frequency, of a little length, of a granular increase from trough to crest. Particles alpha, beta, gamma, then Omega; we see and hear upon the same line of existence on which decay and superhot fission sits at the far point, infinitesimally approaching, a long-avoided asymptote irrevocably infringed upon, and now the long bang.
A low flow of 100MHz conducted through conduits poured forth upon the sweaty head of the Subject. He continued to babble on about his solitude even as he became the depository of a gushing deluge of waveforms— a part plugged in.
“No change”, was the consensus on the other side of the wall. The frequency was increased, 1,000MHz per minute.
A little time passed and the Subject grew quiet. He was observed to have a concentrated look, his features scrunched as if immersed in a great equation. “It sounds like a radar,” he said, “I hear a beeping, quiet, but just like a radar.”
All the men in the other room clapped each other heartily and grinned. “Up! Up!”
3,000MHz of squiggling invisible things beamed through the Subject, looking like a cross-section of subtle fires, if only such things could have been seen. “It’s all a buzz now, a loud buzz. Like a bug in my ear.”
The men could not contain themselves, a slide was slid and the pulses per second flew up from one hundred to four. The Subject pressed his fist against one temple, “This knocking… It’s a knocking now, Sir,” he shouted, deafened by what no one else could hear. He joked with nervous inflection, “Sounds like I lost my marbles!” Bending down to brace himself against his knees, “Oh, Jesus.”
Now he was losing himself to the greater whole of which he was a part. He lessened as the power of the circuit grew, til at last he lay crumpled under the weight of what the aether broadcast. At 7,000MHz the Colonel clicked on the intercom, “Please continue to narrate, Private.”
“It was a hiss for a minute, like gas from a stove. But now it’s clicks and chirps. Birds clicking and chirping. It’s loud. It sounds like it’s in my own head.” A long, animal grunt gave way to squealed speech: “Do I have something inside of me?”
Lambent green strobes burst with the pop-pop-pop of gunpowder; the Subject’s eyes were closed but still these brilliant shivering blinks intruded upon him. “Green lights, flashing, really fast,” he yelped, flat on his back now. The scientists all took note of this development, which they had not predicted. The Subject had neither wit nor words enough to speak it, but these green streaks and beams shot forth from dense layers of polyphonal tinnitus screams, broad roaring sounds that seemed to slice his insides by their presence, swooping whooshes that shot from the back of his shaking brain to the front, then disappeared into liminality, then followed by more and worser ones. All this came with a steaming, searing heat. The Subject now stretching and lolling, as if an invisible rack bent then released him at intervals, sometimes with the odd strained exclamations “Still flashing” or just “Loud.”
Even then, rooms were being readied at CalTech and Stanford for the receipt of great swaths of digits, to be fed into the open mouths of calculating machines and then digested, transmuted to conclusions, interpreted at think tanks on the Atlantic shoreline. All this would be done quietly, calmly, reasonably; the advantages and disadvantages to different approaches would be considered, some would be funded and others ignored, and assuredly nothing that could be derived from the data would escape analysis by the boardroom brains who wanted it.
It was simple, seen from the top. The neat manufacture of an ecosystem, folding into itself in nested indexes, Systems flowing over one to another: the man, writhing as hot gray matter molecules vibrated his thinking and feeling parts towards nauseating thermal excitation; he, into the series of mechanisms that, more than surrounded, compounded him, gushing what was now 20,000MHz of waveformed power into and then against the convex curvature of his topmost bone; and then this, into the largest System of all, from whence this very microwave power surged and to which it would return, which was unnamable Power of another sort.
By degrees, the pulse repetition rate lowered to 150 per second.
“Can you hear me, Private?”
“You can be quiet now. No need to say what you hear. We’re just about finished. Commendations all around, phenomenal work. We’re going to play a certain piece of media, and we’d just ask that you listen for it. If you can’t hear it, that’s OK. But if you hear anyone speaking, any words at all from here on out, we ask that you repeat them, exactly as they come to you. Then we’ll be done.”
The Subject’s brain swirled void and formless. Battered about by the sounds thus far, any reduction in the cacophony came as a grace descendent, a gift of omission, the succored presence of absence—or at least of the lessening— of this strange and soundful chaos. And it had soothed him to hear the Colonel’s voice proceed from the intercom. The content had hardly mattered, it was the structure of syntax and the roundedness of form, Apollonian marble spoken word shapeliness, which he cleaved to as a weathervane of the real. He lay waiting for whatever media the Colonel had mentioned, zigzagging quiet zaps still sounding out through his skull, his breath all deep and relieved.
The crack and hiss of magnetic tape creeped into his perception. This possessed the same quality of direct and local interiority as the former waveforms: it came from within. A warbling mumble, some garbled talk. “Muttering, I hear a voice muttering,” he spoke in a whisper.
In the other room: “Turn that PRR back up, double it.”
With kaleidoscopic centering, the voice crystalized into itself within the Subject’s mind.
Receiver, receiver. Speak me. Sender and receiver. Sender and receiver.
It grew louder and more crisp.
“Speak me. Sender and receiver. Sender and receiver.”
I am sent and received.
“I am– I am sent and received.”
Cycle 1, stop.
“Cycle 1, stop.”
Cycle 2, start.
“Cycle 2, start.”
The Subject grinned, pleased at the positive occurrence of language inside him.
All mechanics active.
“All mechanics active.”
The machine is live. Relay is realized.
“The machine is live. Relay is realized.”
All the men in the control room shook hands. There seemed no interface, no dynamism. Just the through-line of voltaic connection.
We have absolute incorporation.
“Absolute incorporation,” laughed the Subject. “I have ab-so-lute incorporation.”
— Eitan Benzion is a writer with an interest in philosophy, magic, technology, and conspiracy. He lives in a southwest ventricle of Uncle Sam’s cybernetic heart.