If you’re not taking lessons from nature, you’re studying with the wrong master. Sometimes, despite droughts, the sky weeps tears of joy, lakes fill, and creeks rush again. I count on the unpredictable when I burn the bridges that light the way. Unruly world, like the spirit, which resists more than mind wishes it would.
O! to be only good! But I’m not and you’re not either. If you think you are, look harder. We’re occasionally decent, then we cease to be breathed. Still, let us accept. This is who we are — constructive destructive deconstructing — just as the heavens storm and volcanos erupt. The way does not judge, making use of all. Everything is compost for it, and The Arts Old (TAO).
Before I reduced the Tao for Prose Control, I memorized a win-win how-to:
Staying behind gets ahead.
Gain is loss and loss is gain.
Submissive and weak overcomes hard and strong.
But the way is not merely a guide to strategic weakness, losing limbs. It’s about sprouting fresh growths, finding water and light, making something from nothing and back over and over.
So begins the end, for new starts in old places. A forest. Eye can tell. Take a last look at this shiny MoreCorp campus with its plasti-grass lawns, enviro-clones and massive candy statues, hypo-allergenic scent drones flying above and workers whizzing by on quirky transport. (I’ll miss the skateboards).
Bid adieu to Silicon. It’s not au revoir. We won’t see it again. That’s the point of burned bridges.
Returning to one’s roots is known as stillness.
Goodbye is fine, and anyway our story — yours and mine — is not over yet. Do not regret this departure. Silicon is no place for heroes or witches. The woods, edge of the village, provides perspective. Outside the drone delivery zone we are free to see the villagers, comfortable, sleepy, praying to new gods. We’ll stay up all night spinning yarns, invest in bird nest futures by day. Do not regret Silicon, for we are moving on.
But I am taking souvenirs, notebooks and photos, propaganda, the latest issue of the Positude from a bathroom stall, a MoreCorp insur-pol-info-listicle from Meat-Up. Most notably, I’m taking my collection of ninjas, dozens of tiny plastic figurines that managers surreptitiously place on desks in pods throughout the Clubhouse to remind us of our mission … and to be corporate cute.
Not only do I have my own, but I've got the ninjas of fallen Disco Ninjas, those who drowned before me. Every time someone’s done, which is often, I grab their ninjas from a haunted desk. They’re kept in a vase in my pod, filled with redwood sprouts and water, to ward off Candy Cane’s evil eye and the glazed blue gaze of my not-boss Ampersand Matrix. When I consider the drowning ninjas now, I see the obvious, how I always identified with loss.
Watch, I’ll show you. Ping! I ask Ampersand to meet. The avatar in black leather and space goggles says yes to my electronic request and the not-boss leaves his pod, skulking in a pink hoodie and jeans, fumbling, tripping over his sneakers. I follow him down the hall, forlorn, not relishing telling him off, which you’d think I might. Right?
He’s seated looking glum when I reach the unusually un-themed room just after him. I sit. We eye each other in silence. “So umm,” my not-boss asks, “What’s up?”
“I’m leaving. Today.”
“No!” His glazed blue eyes get glossy with crocodile tears. “Don’t go! Just shut up. We''ll do a team lunch.”
Funny. But fux your lunch. I don’t tell him that I don’t break bread with the treacherous anymore, but can’t help smiling at his protest, the tears in Ampersand’s eyes. Tears are always personal, as his are, sorrow over this situation that forces reckoning with his sense of goodness. He needs reassurances I can't provide now.
Still, discipline. Some power lives on lies and coddling — that’s the old emperor’s new clothes. Other kinds are more powerful, more true, more like a samurai. That's shinken shobu. But serious swords cut all, not just the target. Wolf, who’s a one-punch-man, says to keep my swords sheathed unless I seek a bloodbath. He claims I don’t get it because, unlike him, I’m an alien, still disbelieving old silver tongues are burdensome in a brave new world. Given this warning, and having personally confirmed that in Silicon passivity is perfect, I’m mute and don't move.
Meanwhile, my not-boss makes excuses. “There’s a system, Ellipsis. We’re all stuck. Hamstrung. Me too. Gotta do what you gotta do. Everyone but Candy Cane. You know Big Daddy Cane, the drone delivery king. No one says no to him or his kid. The girl wanted you in the doge-house on a tight leash, so I told Goddess it was your tek-pet doge-food that KitKat hated. That was just a blue tuna. But she did hate your Purple Pills script.”
“Do you mean red herring,” I ask.
“Yeah, that,” Ampersand’s happy. “See? That’s why you’re awesome! You know things, like words and stuff. But a billionaire’s kid is best, end of the day.” He frowns. “Taking a risk here, always have talking to you. So I turned you in. Couldn’t let you win. It’s just forms. All in order.”
“It’s my livelihood.”
“Right.” Ampersand grimaces. “Mine too. Like I said, the system. Don’t make me feel bad, Ellipsis! That’s not fair! I’ve got feels!”
I resist the urge to curse him now. There is all the time in the world … another language to learn. Instead, I wish him good luck. But it doesn’t feel triumphant. The last word will be in futuristic verse, an ancient tongue of trees. It will take time, aborted attempts, longer than I think to utter. So it is with naming. The way can’t be rushed. Maybe there’s no triumph.
Outside, in the parking lot behind the Clubhouse, Wolf and Haiti are smoking, waiting to hear how it went. After I tell them, Haiti expresses vindication. “I told you, Ellipsis! You totally should’ve waited this out. It was all just a Swedish fish!”
“Don’t you mean red herring,” Wolf asks.
I laugh, thinking of Ampersand’s blue tuna as Haiti explains, exasperated. “Whatever! That mystery thing where they distract you with a false clue. But that doesn't really matter. The key is greenies. Make bank, wait, and soon everything will be awesome again.” She sighs, like she’s trying to convince herself too, tugging on a vape to medicate.
Haiti's trying to forget her wounds, what she says was a disastrous Lovesport interview with admin twins Cocoa and Marsh, who asked her if she reads, like anyone does anymore! Meanwhile, she had memorized a speech on machine learning, all in biz-buzz, which the twins hated. That one day Prose Control was pro-prose apparently. Haiti must be mulling it over now, as she protests aloud out of nowhere. “Nobody reads when it’s their work! Those jerks!”
“You’re kind of proving my point,” I say.
“Not really.“ She exhales a puff of vapor. “Who does that? Leaves MoreCorp without getting axed or killed?”
“Pug did,” Wolf reminds her. “And Pit.”
“Yeah,” Haiti says. “Where are they now?”
“Possibly off the grid, plotting the great universal vid,” I offer. Saying this, I think of Pug who left saying fux these fux! and Pit who quit shortly after, as predicted. Now the Metropolitans are down to two, just Haiti and Wolf. Are they happy to be the sole survivors? Maybe not.
Wolf pulls out a piece of paper and holds it up for inspection. It’s a sketch of Ampersand Matrix, the vid star avatar in leather and space goggles, upon which is scribbled verse. “Don’t play with voodoo.” Haiti warns him. “Use positude.”
Wolf dismisses this. “Look where it got you! Now we curse.” He folds the paper neatly into a cube, spits on it and takes something else out of his pocket, holding up a small crudely stitched amulet. Mocking Pepsi Johnson, the Good Guy who addressed us at the Plus Center on our first day in Silicon, Wolf taps his skull and says, “It’s not logic, guys. It’s magix.“
With three wooden matches struck against his sole, Wolf lights the folded paper and whispers in Wolof, rubbing the amulet. The tight note moistened with spit is resistant, burns slowly. We watch silently as the flames flicker, lick orange-blue against white paper, turning it black, gray, pale again, consuming Ampersand Matrix until he’s dust in the wind. Sprinkled ash. Already in the past.