The Dark Plots of the God Machine
Stephen Első Levele
Stephen levele Simonnak 2012. Július 1.
1st July 2012
I understand your reservations, but you must realise that any political objections you may have are just that — political. The Machine has us all. I know that now.
I spent most of my life before finding de Selby’s wonderful book, hisgoldenbook — he got that title bang on, he did — with a faint apprehension that the world was subject to an arbitrary system of occasionally contradictory mechanical rules, that we were fictions, avatars of you will of capricious higher powers who controlled our actions according to whim, as if we were simulations of human beings, or characters in a fiction, or pieces in a game, or somewhere in-between. When de Selby wrote about the God-Machine, Simon, he extended far beyond metaphor and straight into the literal nuts and bolts of creation. And I knew It wanted me to find It.
I saw It.
I saw It.
It’s not hard to find.
If you only know where to look, you will find the evidence everywhere. For example, a tower block across from mine. Now, about a year ago you would see dozens of people going in and out, every morning. The glass doors had working keypad locks in the foyer. Now, though, it’s more or less deserted, as far as anyone can tell.
No one goes in or out.
I spent a week looking at that building and thinking that something was wrong with it, and the reason evaded me every time. When it came, it was like the little red light that goes on that tells me to buy: there were no Union Jacks anywhere.
We’re in London. In the Jubilee Year. Ready for the 2012 Olympics, regardless of whether they’re going to be a disaster or not, and not one window in that whole tower block had a Union Flag anywhere. No bunting, no red-white-and-blue streamers. No lonely little flags sticking out of forlorn window boxes. Nothing. In a city where every single street caries the visible signs of celebratory patriotism right now, I did not see a single thing.
I spent a whole day watching, only watching, and a second, and I didn’t see a soul. The glass doors are permanently open now, and yesterday I thought, why not walk right in? So I walked right in, through filthy, old-looking glass doors that only a few weeks ago were shining and new. Through the reinforced inner door, and into a foyer with a carpet redolent with mold and
Often these places smell of piss. This smelled of something else, a smell I felt that I should recognise, but did not. As if it hovered somewhere on the corners of my perception.
Does perception have corners? Mine seems to. It has edges, I suppose.
I felt like I had been here before, but to start with I brushed that feeling aside. I told myself that most tower blocks around here are pretty much the same as all the other tower blocks. Of course. That was it.
The lifts didn’t come when I called them.
I tried the stairs. It occurred to me that something was wrong here. No smell of piss, no graffiti in the stair well, no spilt lager or sweet wrappers or empty cans or cigarette ends. No pigeon shit. This is an inner city tower block with open doors and broken windows. The absence of these things is not so much strange as terrifying,
It was filthy, but the filth came from desertion. Dust, thick dust. A strange discoloration of the walls, as if dirty water had cascaded down the inside walls and then dried. It smelled like the shed where my father had kept his tools when I was a kid. He had never really used them. I used to go in there and look at the decaying tools and electrical components and rusty screws in boxes and imagine they were living things.
That was the smell. Rusty metal. Like old machinery. I wondered where I should look. I decidedn that I should start near the top and work down.
The stairwell was silent; only the buzzing and clicking of faulty fluorescent tubes as they flicked on and off, a rhythm that made me dizzy, made a fuzzy ache descend across my temples. I felt like I was the only man in the world then, the way you do when you are in a place of absolute loneliness, or the way that I do. I looked at my phone, the better to reassure myself. Its touchscreen was blank and nothing I could do could induce it to switch on. It was a dead hunk of plastic and glass.
I put it carefully back in my pocket and stopped climbing. I could hear other noises now, from behind the door leading, so the sign said, to the ninth floor corridor, and noise like the sound of a lorry braking on a tight corner, far away. I couldn’t tell if it was outside or if along the corridor. I stopped. A clang sounded below me, and another. I jumped, looked down beneath the stairs. One by one, floor by floor, the lights were going out,
plunging the stairwell into blackness. Four, five, six, seven, eight. And then it stopped and the clang sounded above me, and all the lights above went out, one by one, and only the landing on which I stood was now lit. I went through the door. The light went out behind me.
The ninth floor corridor had the same smell of old rust as the stairwell and other smells too, the stale smells of sweat, of excretions and secretions and human fluids gone stale.
I was not, at this point, afraid.
The fluorescent tubes lighting the corridor were flickering at precisely the same frequency as had those in the stairwell. It seemed right to let it do my thinking for me. My footsteps moved in time with it. I breathed in time with it. It pulled me along the corridor, my motions jerky, like a puppet. It felt right. The mechanical sound became stronger. I could no longer hear myself think, so I did not.
I passed doors that hung open, revealing dusty furniture, untouched electronic equipment, flatscreen TVs covered with dust, IKEA tables, a vase of dry dead flowers, the water long since dried up. No cobwebs, only dust, reddish and acrid. I came to flat 913, its door hanging only ajar, an inconstant, reddish light behind it.
The machine-noise was so very loud now, the sound of hydraulic brakes and cash registers and pneumatic drills echoing through my head.
I opened the door, slowly, and it screeched as its hinges protested. Something made a snapping noise and the door stopped moving altogether, seemed to fall in a tiny movement onto the slightest skew angle, as if one of the hinges had half-come-away from the frame
I suddenly found myself in a throng of people. Still, quiet people, but people, silhouetted in that inconstant light, which came, as did the sound, from under a half-closed door on the other side of this main room. I opened my mouth to speak, but the greeting never reached my lips, my tongue unable to move. I stood, waiting for someone to move, to say something. No one moved. I screwed my eyes shut and opened them and as I got used to the light, I realised that I had been mistaken, and that I was surrounded not by real people but by about two dozen
shop window mannequins.
I walked up to one: Princess Diana hair, solid, peaked, angular cheeks, chipped glossy red lips. I had the strangest urge to kiss her.
I indulged, and imagined briefly that she kissed back, her lips soft and greasy with lipstick, cigarette smoke on her breath. I started, fell back against another mannequin, that collapsed, its arm falling off as it hit the floor.
I righted myself, looked at her, stared into enameled eyes. She was just a dummy. I had imagined it.
And still the crashing and clanging and clicking and screeching behind the door. Still the wavering light.
I became afraid then, for it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. I confess: I sinned.
But tomorrow I shall find my courage. I will return there. I must.