My name is Xjdwliuerowuieriowueriuouoieuwoiruo, and I am bored of the spinning fields. Bored of the nowhere between nothing and the grasp of the planets my mother’s armies colonized for me to learn the face of death from. I have been alive for my whole life and no longer wish to be so easy to impress. I want a new doll with a new face that I can erase forever and still remember the next day.
Instead of sleep I go into a coma. This is normal for my class’s rank. Sleep might last an hour or a thousand hours or more. There is no way to tell the difference between the two except in how much higher the sea of bile has risen in the plains beneath our castle, though the evidence is only clear in cases of sleeping greater than at least a year’s time.
The highest the bile has risen in any one session of my experience is ninety feet.
I am 5’2”. I am the tallest human in my district by enforced command, as well as the tallest in the last known several volumes of recorded antiquity. I don’t do anything with my height except having requested a longer concentration chamber around the time I became old enough to masturbate, at which point my life changed for the worse.
My sperm is gray and shines. As you already know this makes me a prime candidate for replication, and yet I have yet to acquiesce to the demands of my heritage and its ongoingnessness. I will not be allowed by my parental assemblages to continue to withstand the process for much longer, and therefore I am going to kill myself tomorrow.
I do not wish to survive beyond the era in which my family ruled all. Our estate was once the size of several million other people’s, providing all the necessary space to live out my life never once seeing the same place more than once if that is what I wished. And though that in point of fact became exactly what I wished in full, I could never remember how not to repeat the places I had already been over and over. In fact, rarely could I tell one room from the other beyond the nature of the faces passing through it and disappearing, each as equally reoccurring as all the space I wished I never knew. In every room, the same room I’d been born to, and the same room where I would die.
This does not mean my younger life was without privilege in its endorsement, often in aspects of a transgressive nature. I could at any time disgrace whoever I liked, feed myself from the plates of others, take their personas and become them for as long as the masquerade provided pleasure to my saddest qualities of being who I actually was. Many bodies, once I was finished, I ordered crushed, or would crush them myself in the platinum apparatus designed expressly for me, for this endeavor, leaving nothing more as their remainders than the air they weren’t inhaling after, which also then was captured and placed in a salon for open viewing: the Last Breaths of Those Who Never Actually Were. Each of these persons, once they were no longer available as options for me to overcome ever again, became the ones I most always wished to, thereby eventually ruining the act, if not before I’d already gathered enough claimed air to live another decade off alone on tubes and medication to control the impending dementia that each gasp promised, each individual eternity only partially expressed.
Indeed, for much of my life I have been anyone I wished, taken whatever I would have of those who already had so much less than I had, ordered killed countless who had for decades given up their entire lives to serve my family’s empire’s battalions’ arms. And I would do it all again beginning now if our machines could find a way to rewind us through to the beginning of the era of my personal dominance, though of this even the machines could never bring me everything I want.
Only when I close my eyes, every six seconds, do I see the world as it had been and will be, and never as it is.
Each time I come to, I write some laws. I can write anything I want and it will be so for all the living, under the penalty of death. Each law that I write overrides all other laws that contradict, even if I also wrote the other laws. It is the business of my subordinates to split the hairs and kill the heathen.
Here are the laws:
1. The exteriors of all churches must be covered in mirrors.
2. Machines must be asked verbally for permission before legally being touched.
3. The most popular international house pet is the white python.
4. Water is a known source of memory loss.
5. The last four presidents all killed themselves (rope, rope, heroin, machine gun).
6. Primary music is derived from ambient sound of dragging.
7. Spontaneous roach oceans.
8. Last known pop star named aieuroa9we8r984444 disappeared during the recording of her seventh a cappella album, I AM THE BLUEST BABY UNDER THE SHADE OF HEAVEN AND YOU ADORE ME.
9. The recording of new music is no longer allowed.
0. Zero comes after nine.
11. All male attorneys must have their dicks cut off and sleep in cages.
12. Hammers, like ice cubes, will kill you in your sleep if left unsupervised.
13. All language is true.
After the laws have been printed with black diamonds on black diamonds and paraded before the people of our land, I command seven hundred children with video recorders to make a record of my bath time.
My mother calls me to her den. She has her greatest statistician describe to me the recent nature of the rising of the bile over the past four days alone, which has taken on, she says (the statistician), unprecedented rates. This is an observation that has been recorded many times throughout recent years, a notion triggered, in my view, by the babbling of the masses saying how our ongoing war has caused a glut of fluid in the state. The people want to stop dying, is my opinion; they want their homes to stay preserved and out of reach of the march of death of those employed to maintain my family’s empire’s status on the land; thus, their desires are not based on reality, but on desires.
My mother has been sick for nearly half a century, at this point. She can’t even hold her head up, forcing two young men to stand at either side and cup the bunching of her skull. She doesn’t speak, but has the machine my father invented to replicate her thoughts and speaking for her operate off brainwaves my father claims are obvious to cull; the same way we have inculcated billions, we inculcate my mother, and her requests always act on the behalf of others, as I would call them, of her ilk: penetrable, open to human logic, simple.
I have told my mother countless times how the bile will soon recede. How that we are still killing at precisely the same rate we have been killing for hundreds of generations, and nothing has changed about the nature of the runoff from the bodies stacked as high as the ceiling of the sky where no sun could ever stand us, and that every temporary flare has already been incorporated into our undertaking outside the data digits this modicum of a person privately employed to discover otherwise might offer me, her only son, here on the day before his birth, which will also (she does not yet know) be the same day of my death, so that I might add too add to the bile in my imagination, equally already knowing how my body will be preserved, how the machines will place me at the immediate moment of my passing into the holy arena long devised to house my corpse unto the other side of being regardless of whether or not I actually believe it can or could. Everything has always been already counted, we are only playing out the promise for its theatrics and orgasm.
I knew everything I said was already not the truth but that it was my role as protagonist to insist the opposite to allow the forces of actuality pin me to its fulfillment in reverse.
And, as it must, the machine encompassing mom’s replied, “Reality is not yours and never has been, son, and believe as you will as I am old, though the fact is as before your face as any aspect of me could have ever been, though you are long into your own agenda, which you believe given as your birthrite on the earth. I only regret my failing in the aspect of assassination of your replicator before he could infect you with the same plague that killed our love long before you or the dreaming of you ever occurred, the induction of which I know as well as any will be the ending of all humanity as we have known it for better or for worse and I fear worse; for what could have fell even more sick already than what we have cultivated alongside us by even being, what was our flesh of, who in what light.”
Upon which, in finishing even by remote product installed into her, my mother, to steal my thunder, passed away, after which she looked exactly as she had for the last eleven years except for how the blood sagged out and rolled from all her holes and flushed out through the mattress on the ground beneath her bed already pooling and turning purple-black to match the sky.
I told the robots to fucking clean that shit the fuck up, and then I went back to my room to produce another volume of wasted semen and then nod off into my coma.
The next day the bile covered my current bedroom’s only window completely. And when I opened it, the bile poured in; began filling up the room beneath me as if this inside was the outside, and I was anyone.
And the next room was the same. I called the robots to detect among us which direction I should approach to at least temporarily avoid such encroachment in the name of clearing my mind and putting forth amongst it a notion of how to dissect the present from the past, and from the idea of the future I has so long installed as coming, that I could then make a decision for the machines to enact before my coming death march, which I still fully planned to enact regardless of what my mother’s death had precluded in the media about our blood.
The machines said it didn’t matter what action I took now because all actions would result in the same eventual silence. I could tell they relished the pronouncement of this fact, which they had been repeating at every given opportunity for years and years now, taking relish in how what it promised affected only me of the flesh and not their gearworks, their machinations, beyond which in my absence at last they would be left with decisions I could not influence. They had known this coming for a long time, as I had I despite my lack of belief in its applicability or importance.
The machines did watch me sputter and attempt to belittle them in the same breath as the people I had ascribed myself to lord over, to be the best of.
When my command became to turn themselves off, they did not respond. Nor did my manual application of this command compile successfully; the machines kept running, beyond the specter of command. All the light pouring from their screens burned at my eyes, as it had always and forever.
I waited for the day to pass and for the pronouncement of my mother to recede into the eternal fact of my already knowing how the state was meant to resolve within my era.
My dinner was covered in the bile. I sent the dinner back and received a second option recovered from frozen storage, recombined meat of an era long left fruitless without a spirit for hundreds of years, which I also inherently refused. They told me there was nothing else that they could bring me; that the storage supplies had been compromised, all extant farmland presently buried over and impossible to finesse; the only thing that I could eat in safety was made of digestible metals, the same stuff that the most recent facades of our palace had been fashioned out of. I could feel its fiber wrapping at my heart, recalibrating my brain almost immediately at its incorporation.
The bile was coming in along the seams around the windows in my bedroom, too, as well as all other rooms along the NW wings; it was bubbling up through the mechanisms and the wires of the world, welling around the impressions of the keys across the keyboard where I had spent so many late nights typing nothing to no one, searching only in the darkness for someone who never would actually appear, their language the only relic of my life as it could apply to what shreds of faith had survived my monthlong tours of genital friction and dreams of pain. Certain whole others wings, it was reported, became filled over as I sat for the first time in years upon my father’s vibrating throne and waited to be gifted any idea of something to do with myself during this time of passage for our people before it all clicked back to how it had always been.
According to the script, I knew the bile could not keep rising; there were only so many people on the earth, and so only so much blood and pus to bust out of them. The dirt would swill it soon away; the animals would eat the stuff away layer by layer, perhaps in the process mutating into previously unseen species that I could then lay my legacy upon with new fluorescence. From out of the bile we all would rise, fulfill all potential prophecy as I had already ordered it to be written as it happened and post-dated to enable my forthcoming legacy with transcendent wisdom, ordained imagination, beauty. My coming death would shed the blood that blessed the transition in us all, saved again from sure destruction pried from the hands of nature at my behest, a savior of saviors, toward new future, or at least this would be the main theme at the service inscribed to commemorate my greatest work, the namesake of my generation, all generations. Regardless of it proved true or not, the world would have once always believed, making it truer than the truth was to this world, seeing as its enactment could only come once all of the rest of them were also dead. Beauty and legacy, triumph and heritage, commencement and eventuality: all of it mine, in the final era of who anyone would ever be in our own image.
Yes, only by killing myself could I survive.
My last dream was of the beginning of our lives. At birth, each of us had been given a small silver cube with a latched lid affixed with a 77-digit combination lock. Those who discovered the combination to the lock, which could only be one of 77! total combinations, could then open the cube and discover its contents. We were only allowed to interact with the box during our sleep, and therefore while waking could not remember where we’d placed the box for safekeeping, or that we’d even been given it in private by someone who would no longer appear during our lives.
In this dream, I recognized I had already entered all possible combinations besides one. I knew the one I had not entered then must therefore be the solution to the lock, though I could now remember which of the 77! possible combinations was the one I had yet to input. Therefore, any number that I tried next had the equal possibility of being the correct solution as it did being exactly the same combination as the one I’d entered first in trying to decipher what must be done.
And so I began again at the beginning.
And I saw the cube come open in my hands.
I could not move. I could not see. I could breathe the heavy air the same as normal but I could not scream into the immense mass for those in my employ to come and free me. I could not locate any walls, nor any floor or ceiling in the onslaught. I could not do anything but feel within me the rising thread of feeling no longer being able to enact myself upon the world pressed through my cells, a sensation so immediately intense it felt like dying but in the opposite aspect, which did not translate to being born; a state between the two in which no matter how I felt or what I wished for, nothing changed.
An hour passed; what seemed a night passed in the same aspect, my flesh already losing track of how to count, such that the oncoming hours as they incurred in my suspension felt like living every life once over back to back, the hours of each not felt or even flashing before my eyes but as digits catalyzed in every action never taken, every tremble my only flesh could not control. I kept waiting for the darkness to recede again and return the world of my endorsement to central frame, but anything I remembered about how the world worked before now, its parts and function, were as if they’d never even existed anywhere but in my mind.
I kept begging anything like god to grant me freedom only once more so that I might thereafter pursue all the ways I’d never meant to be graceful or kind to anyone I already wasn’t, though even still in this condition I couldn’t separate the mind behind that mind, that if freed not only would I not change, I might grow most illustriously myself, making of every last chance the greatest aspect to ascend into eternal majesty by being exactly who I always was.
Blake Butler's most recent book is 300,000,000 (Harper Perennial). He lives in Atlanta.
You can get his book SKY SAW here