Kind of getting away: 12

Yesterday was pretty good. I finished compiling the migration/feeding report for Bathophores + sent off the first draft my my spec report to Stumpf[1] so that she can tell me if I’ve got the more complicated bits correct. So today I rewarded myself and headed down to O.’s. There were Fallwhales out in the Berents today, columns of pleated grey and white standing vertically in the water. We’ve really got no idea why they do that. They keep doing that for hours at a time, though it must be pretty exhausting, especially in something as unruly as the Berents. I listened to Trove on the way there. It’s now the big thing back on Stize and I might just about see why, actually. It’s not bad: Dance 7 from Suite 5 in G. Lots of stuff from Trove is named like that: the academics gave each piece a catalogue name and rather than come with something a bit more evocative everyone has just sort of borrowed these for common use.  It’s strange how ruthlessly everyone just goes along with it. Why G? Such an arbitrary thing, really. I don’t even know what it means. O. and I talked about random stuff. He asked me what I was planning to do for the Excursion. I said I was mostly planning to tag Dromeodids[2] and he looked worried.

“You know I can’t let Helper do all this stuff on its own,” I said. Helper’s a programmed ex-GHKd. It’s made to notice certain things and not to notice others[3]. I can’t use its results on their own unless I’m around to ensure it’s doing things correctly – or fanatically micromanage its routines, but I’m not going to do. “Plus I’m pretty sure I’ll be safe.”

“Safe,” he said, looking up and scratching his chin. “Yes.”

I had missed lunch because I arrived late. But I ate anyway because I was getting hungry. I read one of his books.

“Do you think Helper should get a degree?” he said. Skeffie had done something in microconducting chemistry, I think.

“I’ve asked QC. There was no time before we left.”

But O. didn’t look too happy. I think he was thinking about what that implied. I would be going back.

“You’ll be safe,” he said.

I laughed. “Yes,” I said. “I’m the one with the Hunter-Killer.”

He didn’t say anything and so I said, “Look, I’ll draw stuff if I have the time. You can keep all of it. Tell stories to the kids.”

He put on some music. Blue Heron Amphetamine, pretty old stuff. “You know what? They’re not too interested in all this. They don’t mind but they’re not really into it. Can you imagine?” He sounded exasperated. But he was happy and I could see that.

“Look at you,” I said. “Complaining about being allowed to have kids.”

“It’s not something you can predict,” he said.

“No,” I said. “Although how would I know?”

“What a strange place,” he said, at last.

“Hm. What is this about?”

“This place,” he said. “Tokata. It’s cool, obviously, but it’s strange.”

“I like it,” I said. “Desolate, but that’s the way it was always going to be, really.”

“No, I don’t mean that,” he said. He got a notice and looked it up and came back. “Heller,” he said. “Have you been reading the updates from the rest?”

“You know how I am about those.”

“Lots of problems. Basically nothing is fitting together properly. Maybe we’ve just sequenced things wrongly in one or two places. It’s probably something basic and embarrassing like that.”

“I’m not too concerned,” I said. “Teething problems.” I wasn’t in the mood, really, to talk about the technical details. I could imagine how hard K. was pushing the evol/bio people.  I’m working more or less on the fringes, in a mostly data-gathering role, so I’m spared. “I mean, to be honest, at this point I’m mostly thinking about the Excursion. I’m quite excited.”

“I like going out,” he said, “But not for weeks at a time. I went out a couple of days ago, on the coast. Looked at some caves. But I can’t imagine staying out for so long.”

“Migration scientist,” I said, “We come in mostly one flavour.”

We watched most of a movie. He talked about his kids.

Then he said, “There was this strange thing.” The thing was the way he said it. He didn’t say it like it was a problem he was working on, or something to be solved. I was full and feeling lazy and anyway he has this devastating sofa. But I listened.

“Hm?” I said.

“You know this morning there was this huge sound. Did you hear it?”

“No,” I said. “What was it like?”

He looked out and did a very O. thing. He put his hands out and said, “It was very loud. A sort of flat sound that went on and on. Really –” he curled his fingers “—shattering.”

Of course I could recognise this. Well. I could imagine it, at least. “Huh.” I said. “Huh.”

“Like a signal. If you heard it you would know, it sounded familiar. Sort of explosive –”

“Foghorn,” I said.

“Ahh. Yes. Yes, maybe that was it,” he said.

This was all extremely dangerous, of course. I saw it outside, from the window, at that moment.

It was huger than I imagined. Was it resting on the sand, on the Wash? I’m not sure. The window was placed such that I was not looking down towards the sea. What I saw was just the long sloping line of the deck, floating there. That old metal, that follower. Taking up all that space.

“Where did it come from?” I said.

He went out to show me. He pointed straight out over the water, at the ship. “There,” he said, “Somewhere over there.”

On the way back something else again. The Volkie was coming up to the bridge when I felt the weight of that benevolence and I stopped it and got out. Over the bridge, large as a mountain, the old thing like a spider, two legs straddling the bridge, the others disappearing far off, the body kilometres up in the sky. I got out and I said it. I said Maman.

I had to crane my neck painfully to look at where its body should be, that face on the bottom with all its unblinking eyes. But it’s lost in cloud, as happens sometimes. “Is something happening?” I said. “I’m fine here.” Sudden mad rush of – power, I think, that thrill coming over me. Something moved it me and it had everything to do with death. The massive legs moved and it started walking out to sea, very slowly, footfalls like tremors, steps so big it should topple, it should topple off the edge of the world in all its greyness. But delicately and hugely it moved, perfectly, taking in its own dominion.

What it told me. What indeed.

In any case I’ve just come back and I’ve sent off a message to the good peeps at Anh:

I’ve been thinking it over and I think I’m going to try to build an ultralight. It will be efficient than my Volkie’s module for Excursions – basic AG will do – and if Helper comes along safety should not be an issue. Basic camos should satisfy PMI[1]. Wondering if you could send over some materials for the Turer when I get back. Might finish things in time to use it on my second Excursion.

Understand if not possible, but hoping things work out on your side. Regos OK, I hope? Tell me what you think.

Erth

I think it’s a pretty good idea. It also means I get a chance to do some recreational flying, if the conditions are right. I’m pretty sure I can learn fast. It’d be pretty lame having to get Helper to tow me up every time.

[1] Principle of Minimum Interference. Don’t want to scare the wildlife away.

I think it’s a pretty good idea. It also means I get a chance to do some recreational flying, if the conditions are right. I’m pretty sure I can learn fast. It’d be pretty lame having to get Helper to tow me up every time.

I’m going to aim for a boat next. I’ll see how far I can push things. No harm done, in any case.

[1] Migration science is pretty long-term thing: you need to wait for several full migration cycles to complete before you can firm up anything. Which means I get to do a lot of spec papers.  I suggested that it would be good to see if thermorhodopsin/JPCRs + tk-cryptochromes in aviformes generate fast triplet reactions that are responsible for magnetoreception. Th-rhod I suggested because I think for Chondrodatus spp. temperature does affect migration. Chemical compasses are well-understood, but nonetheless this is quite interesting, I think. Stumpy is stationed at the point on Tokata that’s just about antipodal from where I am, but she’s also a migration scientist and did some work on entanglement when she was in Inkper, so she can check to make sure my speculations are at least mathematically plausible. If it works the spec paper will be sent off to Anh. and they’ll start putting together the Emlens + capturing stuff. Assuming they actually do give a shit, which I hope they do. Obviously at this stage most of the science on Tokata is focused on the very basic things. (Look, ma, no ATP! + evol. taxonomy, where the lack of Hoxes in tk-chordates is super weird + some cool standout things like the influence of bichirality on the evolution of symbiotic partnerships + digestive tracts.)

[2] They look like reptiles. The insides are completely different, though + they are all warm-blooded.

[3] Program Designate Bias. There is a lot written about this but that’s the basic idea.

[4] Principle of Minimum Interference. Don’t want to scare the wildlife away.

Kind of getting away: 11

Today the sky looked capable of any enormity.

Helper and I went down to the bridge to look. We found nothing there.

“Well,” Helper said, after a while. “I’m sorry.”

But of course there was something there. Nothing is made deciduous but the thought of it.

“Sorry,” Helper said.

A big sound came through the air like a foghorn. I looked up and then I looked at Helper.

“Is something wrong?” Helper said.

Kind of getting away: 6

Sometimes I cannot remember the people with whom I came. It’s strange. I just cannot remember them. I can remember the names, of course. Those are not difficult. But no image attaches itself to the names. A side effect of living like this, I suppose. But Helper is almost always company enough.

Today I went to see O. I don’t forget him. This is mostly because he’s the only person I see. This is not purely coincidental. We agreed on Scafell that we were going to be the two stationed furthest away from the Main Building. I made that happen.

The main thing about O. is that he’s just a fundamentally decent guy all the way down. He talks more than I do but does not talk much. His field is evolutionary bio, so he’s horrifically busy now[1]. He often talks about his work, and it’s very interesting.

I took the road to his place. I got the Volkie all the way down to the bridge where the road began. The road is a dark resin. It is inert. It glints. I stood there for some time and looked at it. The bridge, I mean. I looked at the place where it came out of the earth. Somehow it not easy to put together. You would expect a joint somewhere. But there is none.

This bridge is a truss bridge. It makes a virtual tunnel of latticework. When I looked down its length I could see the road going on for a little bit more and then it curved out of sight around the coast. I don’t know very much about bridges. I know that they are subject to certain forces – tension, compression, bending, torsion, shear – but I barely know what a bridge does to negotiate among these. And there are so many different types of bridges. Bridges are not, as it were, alive to me.

The drive there was strange. When I lived on Dyhaus there were many times when I had to make long trips and this felt like being there again even though it was not the same at all. I kept looking into the little empty spaces beside the road, expecting to see hitchhikers, browned from the sun. I used to pick them up on Dyhaus. They were never the same. I usually listened to them talk as they sat beside me. Many didn’t talk but some did. When they did talk I listened to find some commonality among all their experience. Some way in. I tried to build them into patterns. There weren’t any, I think. There were some small things, but those were trivial, tight bundles that didn’t unravel. Some kind of unease at the idea of steadiness. A preference for tragedies of goodwill over just letting the hours roll on one way or another. But none of this was interesting. Apart from this there was nothing more. Some of them were like characters from a movie. They were mad or nearly it. They asked for permission to masturbate. Some had thought very clearly and painfully about the things happening to them and were embarrassed when they asked if I could stop to let them piss. Some didn’t know what they were doing at all, and were utterly at home with that. Some had a plan, and this was just a part of it. Some preached doctrines about the end of the world, big fluorescent ideologies, carried Do Not Fear The End badges, and ranted about sex and neon and the transcendental urges that addictions shat in their heads. Two had insisted – these ones stand out – that they were Carriers, or something close enough, that they had met Haccieters, were destined for some grotesque fate. One hitchhiker had climbed on nearly catatonic and asked for alcohol. I kept some in the boot in Dyhaus and he hit off it really hard while I watched and said nothing and then tried, I think, to kill me.

It is a little odd that I should think of Dyhaus while on this road, in this place, but there you go. It happens. It’s all strange now. There are many strange things. This road. Built with so much thought for this place. No passing through sensitive spots, no destruction of breeding sides, no interruption of migratory routes. C.D.s working from so many intricate manuals only they are familiar with. So many things to take note of, making this tiny winding thing, and I am driving over it just like that. I put my arms out of car and felt the air move past me. I clawed my fingers and could actually hold it, plump and struggling. Doing this always gives me a kind of buzz. A little undeserved rush. It’s good. I realised today that I’ve stopped thinking the air here has a smell. It’s gone. Can’t detect it anymore, even if I try.

Why did I keep picking up those hitchhikers? I can sort of guess at an answer now. I keep noticing things when I write. I like migratory things. It’s what I specialise in. Terns. Whales. All that stuff I wrote on the Littorian displacements on Stize. Things that never arrive at any place and which are only possible to understand as being about to depart.

Wasn’t I talking about O.? But the drive there was very interesting. It was just like autumn. In fact it is now what you might call the height of summer. It’s a long summer[2]. Today it was not exactly warm, I guess, but it was about as warm as it gets. It was so warm I put on the radio[3] because it felt correct.

The road led straight to O.’s. It’s a coastal house, like mine. He knew I was coming and was waiting for me in the doorway[4]. He’s a big guy. He likes to look down when he talks. There’s this demure physicality about him which is really quite unexpected. Now, of course, I am familiar with it. But the first time that was unexpected. Also unexpected, even now, is how excited he can suddenly get over the littlest things.

“I’ve got lunch,” he said, when I walked up.

“I’m starving,” I said, even though I wasn’t that hungry. O. cooks. When he was on Stize his college was Inkper and he picked up some very Inkper things[5]. So he cooks. I don’t know enough people who actually cook to tell if he cooks well. But it’s never worse than the rations we have, and our rations are quite good. And there is something else. Just looking at someone else working on something, making something – that’s nice. O. keeps telling me that when the people back at Anhedonia – yes, I’ll use the name – decide for certain what things on Tokata we are or are not allowed to eat he’ll try his hand there[6].

Will he ask me to kill stuff for him? That’s a thought. I’m not sure I could – hunt, that’s the word, I guess – on this world. And there would be amazing amounts of admin to settle if I killed things for NR purposes.

I recall thinking this when Skeffie came in and said, “He’ll be asking you to kill things for him, you know,” and O. immediately said no, he couldn’t possibly.

O. calls his helper Skeffie. Skeffie is not very much like Helper[7]. Helper likes going outside. Skeffie does not mind but likes the lab and compiles reports with frightening skill. Skeffie is also incredibly cynical, sometimes. O. never seems to mind, though.

When O. said, I’ve got lunch, he had not meant that he had already prepared lunch. He meant to say that he was going to cook lunch. So I sat and looked out of the window while he cooked. He’s rigged an oven in his place and actually uses it, so he’s got bread. He started talking halfway through about his work on tk-chlorocuorin. I listened. There is a strange quality to this sort of conversation. He talks; I idly listen, understanding quite a lot but not all of what he is talking about; I ask questions; he stops and backtracks and sometimes leans against the kitchen counter and thinks, nodding to himself, thinking yes, I did not put that well, looking at the floor. After a while when the entire place smelt of butter he started talking instead about the problems they’re having with Hox genes: they can’t find any. He thinks that maybe they’re just got the gene sequencing technology botched up. Or maybe there are – and this is truly interesting, he says – too many sets of Hox genes, and we’re staring at them without realising that there is no single basic structure for many apparently closely related species.

Today he was pretty measured. He’s not always like that. The second time I visited me he ran out, yelling slip sequences. It wasn’t even anything very spectacular; it had just been that they’d discovered that the t/DNA[8] on Tokata contains very large concentrations of apparent slip sequences.

When we were just about done when he said, “You know, I could stay here for a long time.”

“I think most of us would stay here for a long time,” I said. “It’s it strange how it always feels like autumn?” I got the plates out.

During the meal we talked mostly about my Excursion. It wasn’t going to happen until another two weeks, but that time would past fast. Will pass fast. And then he said, “I really could stay here.” His big hands moved and he ate. He ate as if he was very hungry. I wondered if he always cooked. Does it matter? Nonetheless I was seized by the thought, at the time.

“Wait for the winter,” I said. “We’ve not been here that long.”

“I don’t think it matters. I don’t go out that much.” He spooned something into his mouth. “I’ll be busy most of the time. Are you done?”

“It’s a lot of food,” I said.

He took the dishes to the sink. He never gets Skeffie to do any of this stuff. I wondered if he was always this hungry.

“If Winnfield and the rest go I would still want to stay,” he said. He didn’t say exactly this, but this was what he meant, I remember. I think what he actually said was less terse and precise than that.

“All alone?” I said. There is a little vane anemometer, a windmeter, outside O.’s place, a little way down from the house. The little turbine was going fast. The thing flicked one way and then another. The wind was coming up. I could even see, from here, the dimples and the white furrows it made in the water. This is a bad habit of mine. I do this when things become important and I’m not ready.

“Maybe,” he said. “You know, the main thing now is the place.”

I knew what he meant. “You liked your time on Inkper,” I said.

“Yes. Is it the same thing, though? I don’t think it’s the same thing.”

I’m very familiar with O.’s house. I know where the tables are, exactly, where he likes to position the chairs, and I also know what he keeps in each every drawer in every cupboard and table. My home is large; it extends all the way from my house to this place, a hundred and thirty ks in total. I know how O. places the screens for his computer on this workdesk. I know where he keeps the paper and the pencils he waited for two months to get[9]. There a notice board above his desk. It’s an old thing with photographs, the printed type, and things he writes to remind himself. On one corner of the board he keeps the drawings. I used to draw a lot when I was studying. I was attracted to it because it was something people did in the past, when there were no pictures. They went out and what they saw they drew. I like the idea of being perched on that past, gripping it just so. A couple of times since I’ve arrived I’ve drawn things. The second time Helper and I went into the woods I saw a Gosser and I let Helper go ahead and I got a sketch, nothing more than lines, a contour, some inkling/suspicion of its bearing, that kind of compressed aggression. I got a few more detailed things done, but that was the first one I drew, and even though it had been a silly impulse it set something going. O. likes talking about his children. They’re very young. QC had given him permission seven years ago and he gets a little breathless talking about them. Not breathless, but he talks like he is, the sentences come out tapered. You cannot imagine, he says, its not just like you’ve made – its growing in you, like you’ve become bigger and its taking away but also giving – but suddenly you’re given this, and you are holding it feeling, you know, I don’t know, miraculous. So the first time I visited I got my drawings out and said, you could bring this back for them. He had taken them and said, looking down again, thanks, thanks a lot. He knew they were not good drawings. He hadn’t even looked at them properly, which I suppose was a relief for me. But the next time I came he had put them up beside the photos of his kids on the notice board and there was a note saying Keep!

So I was looking at the drawings, thinking how I’d forgotten everything I’d taught myself about varying line thickness, when I said, “Give it time.”

He said, “I’ve given it time. I’ve given it too much time, probably,” and winced. He looked nervous. He always looks nervous, a bit surprised at his own big body, but this wasn’t that kind of nervous.

“I understand where you’re coming from,” I said. There was a cup of something warm between my hands and I only noticed it then and remembered when he had put it down. I drank a bit of it. “Sometimes I think of that myself. But I have not thought properly about it. There will be a lot of things to do if we want to stay, you know. Who knows when the next research group will come.” Something occurred to me. “Can you imagine how many people there would be?  All waiting to use the road? I wouldn’t be the last house in the line anymore. The construction drones would come up and make it come from the bridge all the way up to my place.”

“Doesn’t it go to your place?” he said.

I hadn’t told him. “You can walk,” I said. “The bridge is there, but then it stops. You can walk, or just fly the Volkie.”

“What difference does it make, the road stopping there?” he said.

“I don’t know. But the idea of a road coming all the way to my place – I’m not sure how I’d sleep with that.”

“I understand where you’re coming from,” he said. It was funny, the way he said he it. He can make something like that sound like a joke. That makes it sound like he’s never funny. Oh well. That’s not true, but it’s not something I can put across like this.

(You see the way we both are? This kind of sameness must be unhealthy. It’s all on some level I can’t detect but it’s probably there. )

Skeffie came in again and said, “If Ogford wants to stay that’s all fine and good but you know it hurts me very much when I’ve not asked about these things.”

Skeffie is like that. We both know it would choose to stay without a second thought if O. stayed. But it will say these things. “We couldn’t possibly doubt you,” I said.

“I like it when you say that,” Skeffie said. I laughed.

[1] The ecology of Tokata is quite conventional in many respects – I’d place it somewhere near the middle of a Bridger-Green diagram (I think Bridger-Green diagrams are actually useful, which puts me in a rapidly shrinking majority). But there are some very striking things, the sorts of things that evolutionary biologists get very excited about. The most obvious thing is the fact that the biology of Tokata does not exhibit amino acid homochirality. Approx. 44% of the chordates here are use right-handed amino acids, 56% left-handed. This makes Tokata one of the only two planets so far known that does not exhibit biological homochirality, and the only known world where non-homochirality extends into multicellular creatures. Cue major puzzlement/excitement from the molecular+evo. biologists.

[2] It’s not a summer generated by axial tilt. Blame Tokata’s elliptical orbit.

[3] Have I mentioned this? Well, we have radio. Radio! The people back at the Main Building had been discussing this for some time. There were worries about how it might affect the environment, but eventually the consensus formed that it was probably alright if we used tropospheric tightbeam. So now we all have radio. We have three channels. One is basically a cycling update of discoveries, papers, possible new lines of research – functional but interesting stuff; one is devoted entirely to music from the Trove (I suspect Max was responsible for that – he’s attracted to obscurity); and one plays the popular stuff from Stize+Naze – what was popular when we left, I mean. Today I got Coyly If Anything She Comes and Torrential Train. Me, on the new road, on a new world, listening to Torrential Train. I must remember this.

[4] Volkies are great vehicles. You can’t tell if one is coming unless you’ve been told. They’re absolutely silent and nearly invisible.

[5] On his desk he always keeps a copy of Hyrum Kasakadei’s The Silence of Certain Questions. I tried to ask him about Extreme Quietism once and he told me immediately that he did not understand, quite literally, a single line in SCQ. Why had he bothered to obtain a physical copy of the monster then? He found it comforting, he said, and he didn’t know why.

[6] Ordinarily we can’t eat anything that’s right-handed; us poor left-handed biologicals can’t use right-handed amino acids to build proteins. We’d probably be able to digest a little, but most enzymatic processes would be so retarded as to be useless. But they’ve thought of that, of course. We’ve been packed full of artificial gut flora to do the digestion for us. Nonetheless can’t be too careful re these things I suppose.

[7] I’m not good with names. So my helper is called Helper. It does not seem to mind at all, and I’ve asked.

[8] The phosphate backbone is oddly constructed. I’ve not read up on the details yet. Also: 5 base pairs. Very inefficient, but maybe that has something to do with the fact that only about 85% of the t/DNA in large organisms here is non-coding.

[9] He has no need for pencils. But this is, yet again, an Inkper thing. I go out far more often than he does and I don’t think I have any pencils.

Two Interrogations [sic]

No.1

Q:

A: I’m really not sure what you are asking and so I’ll start rambling until I hit something. Is that okay. Okay. I’m supposing you know the details of the I suppose you could call it attack.

Q:

A: Look, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I just –

Q:

A: Well it was hard to tell because it was so early in the morning. It wasn’t bright. All the stuff looked kinda bluish, I’m sure you know that, right? When it’s dim and you only see the taillights.  And – I had been sleeping. [] had been driving for most of the night. And then we saw the truck lying in its side, and the thing was actually dragging someone out, like right through the windshield, it was pretty fucked up. There was a bloody mess all right. Maybe there was actually someone else –

Q:

A: Yeah, I thought I saw someone else, maybe two or three bodies on the road. I was. No. I think I was. It was pretty dim remember so I think I got out and that was when the thing went from being over there to suddenly being right here, beside me. I think I had been yelling, I don’t know, maybe yelling for help or yelling at the thing, or whatever. I don’t remember but it attacked me and I just ran, man, I just ran. You see how it mangled my leg –

Q:

A: I shouted for []. I don’t remember his reaction like immediately. As in not when [] saw the whole scene. I think some people had gathered. No. No, no, that was later. I’m not sure, [] must have been in the car the whole time. But I shouted for him and he came out. I was on the ground, I think by this time it must have taken off my fingers. I mean it must have been toying with me or something. After what it did to – I mean, it was a truck and everything, it got through the blastproofs. [] came out of the car and it was strange because I was sure I was dead. Like. I’m sure that at that moment I was thinking or at least a part of me was thinking I seriously can’t believe it because I am actually dying here. Accidents don’t just happen in the Kingdom, you know? And really accidents on Hakon of all places, I was sure P. would have sounded a warning at least. Where was I? Uhm. Yes. So [] came out of the car. Do you know, I was totally terrified at that moment but I might remember [] smiling or something like that. He had that kind of look where his mouth was smiling but his eyebrows were scrunched up like he was worried or amused or. Like he was going inside, oh dear me oh my. I’m exaggerating but. I mean maybe I can’t remember, or maybe my brain is all fucked up right now but I get that impression. He came over and he wasn’t shouting or anything even though I was screaming. I don’t know how, I mean look at my throat. And the thing was even though I obviously didn’t like register this at the time was that [] came over and pulled the thing off me. By which I mean, he just did it, took it by the back and just yanked it off and then the thing turned to him and he raised his arm to block, you know, the natural instinctive thing to do, and then there was this cute moment where [] laughed like he was thinking what the fuck am I doing this thing can’t even scratch me. At that moment I didn’t see anything weird, I was screaming kill it kill it kill it. Of course people had come by now, imagine them looking at me, I was murdertastically bloodied, screaming like, like just some insane idiot. I didn’t even stop when it became clear what [] was doing to the thing. I mean I wasn’t thinking at all but it was getting torn apart. I mean clubbed to death with its own – limb, something. Just. Utterly annihilated. Can I say something that probably sounds fucked-up and weird? Okay. Well remembering now I really feel pity for the thing, really. It was making these really begging sort of noises and was trying to get away but [] was just dismantling it limb by limb. I mean the violence was totally personal. Okay don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I wasn’t happy at the moment or that it was like they knew each other or something but rather that the way the entire episode, you know, played out, it was strange and intimate and people were just staring and screaming. Okay no I have it. The thing is that [] really seemed to be enjoying the power. The whole situation was strange though. This living, defenceless – not defenceless, but you know what I mean –thing which had tried to gut me yes I know, but it was getting pulped and I was shouting kill it kill it even when I had lost like a good fifth of my blood, at least that is how much it eventually was I was told later. And then when it was dead? I don’t know, uhm, [] said something like, hey, thanks for asking for help. While I was lying there I thought he said something like I’m glad to help or something but when I was in hospital I remembered that he had said something different, and now I’m relatively certain he said thanks and then fairly certain after that he said for letting me help or for asking me to help. And then right after he said that the ambulance came. [] didn’t mention the whole thing that had just happened, he went back to his car, people were staring at him because he was covered with – unspeakable fluids. Sorry, sorry. I’m not laughing because it’s funny or anything. But now when I remember it, it was so absurd.

Q:

A: What’s going to — am I okay now? Is everything okay?

No.2

Q:

A: I was walking along the bridge. Evening on a weekend; not so many cars. I came to the middle and there was this person standing beside the big metal support. The sign was a weathered blue and had CRISIS COUNSELING in white on it. Underneath that was written THERE IS HOPE / MAKE THE CALL, and then, in smaller font, THE CONSEQUENCES OF / JUMPING FROM THIS / BRIDGE ARE FATAL / AND TRAGIC. Under the sign there was a yellow box with a phone in it. There was a man standing before the box and he had the phone pressed against the side of his head. He was hunched over the box with his shoulders closed and his other hand was gripping the top of the box really tight. He was really leaning into it and it was quite heartbreaking. He was wearing a hoodie and his forehead was pressed into the hand holding the box and the whole position of his body spoke to a kind of anonymity.

Can I make some comments about this? I will make some comments about this. Don’t you think the entire thing is absurd? For example: why THERE IS HOPE? Surely the person who goes to jump does not feel hope. Telling this person THERE IS HOPE is – well, it’s a lie, isn’t it? Okay, so maybe this person looks at the sign and thinks there is hope, but then that’s just circular, isn’t it? The sign hasn’t really pointed outside itself, or to the person, and made that person deduce something good. It has merely declared the existence of HOPE and if that mere declaration is enough then it must be fake. It’s authoritarian, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’ve always thought a PLEASE somewhere would help, but then maybe that’s too pathetic or otherwise too reminiscent of the sorts of vicious vocab that the person will undoubtedly been subject to and that affects the whole fucked-up inside of the mind of the suicidally depressed in a manner to subtle for me to grasp. Maybe. Also: why THE CONSEQUENCES OF? You could easily phrase that away, give the sign a bit more, you know, I suppose profundity. But alright. Maybe the jumpers just need to see CONSEQUENCES. But are they that stupid? Or maybe there’s something too comic about a sign that goes DEATH IS FATAL / AND TRAGIC. Nonetheless CONSEQUENCES as a word just looks highly apathetic, almost. Threatening, as in: THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES. It just strikes me as a highly manipulative way to treat a person. Guilt-tripping people just before they die, that sort of thing. And needless to say there is no need to point out that jumping is FATAL because, presumably, that is the whole point. TRAGIC is also an odd thing to put on. My guess is that it is meant to remind the person trying to kill himself/herself that he/she has, I don’t know, a family, a child, a lover, friends etc. But from the little I know people who try to kill themselves often come from those sorts of backgrounds where this will make little difference to them because, say, the point is that they have been so strangled of functional human relations in life that a state of perfect neutrality might just actually genuinely be better than the sort of anguish they endure on a daily, second-to-second basis. I keep coming across an analogy which is that you are locked in a room where there is nothing but pain and you know, really know, you’d like to get out, but there is this key a couple of metres away from you and somehow the journey from here to there looks totally insane. The very thought locks you up. Now that I think about it though of course many people walk up there because it’s quote unquote a cry for help, or quote unquote a confrontation of the self, and I suppose for these people it works. Nonetheless. TRAGIC is so crude. The word’s already bound up in all kinds of aesthetic theorisations, the big dramatic sort, it seems a little distant, a little overused. I mean if you wanted people to think a certain way why not just ask them to, as in REMEMBER YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY? Maybe that’s not good, I guess, since some people will be up there because of FRIENDS AND FAMILY. Maybe the sign’s just a – well – sign, I suppose, of the usual compromise between the need to help on something that feels like an intimate, individual, level and the need to do this to a large number of very different individuals. Maybe I’m being picky.

So many other things, though. Why a phone? Anyone could just call, anytime they wanted. They could just go to Petr. Is there something about really old technology that is more, maybe affectionate, somehow? Bit more compatible with grief? Maybe. Or maybe most people leave having turned their implants off. Maybe it’s the visual confrontation – yellow box, blue sign, red support. No idea. How hypersensitive the brain becomes when you decide to kill yourself I don’t know.

Here’s another question: why do people choose to die this way? Dying this way is not actually calm or painless at all. 6 seconds of acceleration. When you hit the water you die of impact trauma, usually. You go from maybe 180, 200km/h to 0km/h in a second. You can tell who has died of trauma and who has died of drowning. The ones who drown get little bubbles, foam really, mucus, around the mouth and nose. But that only happens rarely. Typically the impact fractures the sternum and compresses the heart so violently it pulls away from the aorta. Inside the skin everything lacerated. But say you hit the water feet first – even then, vertebrae crushed, tibia broken everywhere, internal bleeding. If you live through that how do you swim? Do you know that the vast majority of people say their favourite colour is blue and that they find it calming? Maybe death by water is what they want and people are just ignorant about how you really die when you go off a bridge. Maybe that’s why the hotline sign is blue. Someone once shot herself on the way down. She was already dead when she hit: ergo, something about water, something about big empty air, the view. It turns out that if you look at the thousands of jumpers most of them jump from the centre of the bridge. You get a normal distribution and the peak is right at the middle support. Why? Maybe they want dying to be pretty, somehow. Symmetrical. Six seconds of falling and then water, you know, without being morbid I can say there is something about the image. I have a thought which I find quite compelling. If you want to kill yourself, and you start out walking along the bridge, you won’t jump immediately because you can’t really. You want a little more time, you want the walk. But once you reach the middle you realise that you are actually getting closer to the other side, to land that does not shake, and you can’t go on because going on would make you feel cowardly. It would defeat the point. Lots of people pick up the phone and are quiet. Then they say, “Hey, I’m gonna jump.” And then they do. My guess is that once you’ve said that to the people who are supposed to save you you’ve made a commitment. You can’t disappoint them.

Anyway, why aren’t there more signs near the middle of the bridge? If people are drawn there that seems the logical thing to do.

The point is there was this guy with his face hidden, and he was talking over the suicide hotline and asking the person there if he could help him call someone else. Maybe the hotline phone only went to one number. Would you really ask a person in that state to key in a long string of numbers? Anyway: I went over and picked the guy up and threw him over. He didn’t shout, I was pretty quick. Maybe he said, briefly, “Hey,” or something along those lines. He fell and became small and it was totally quiet. I think I put the phone back; that was it.

Q:

A: I am going now.

Q:

A: No, I don’t think you understand. I am going now. Sorry.