—No, nothing, nobody, never.


—Pardon my verbiage.

—As you wish.

—God is my witness.


—Easy to say.

—It will get easier. Go on.

—Newspaper smell made me heave. Someone turned on the news, I’d scream. Intolerable. International news, it took everything I had to not just start punching people left and right.

—Some confusion is expected.

—They’re studying the syndrome. All the agents, spies, double, triple agents, all the memetic dissemination vectors, everybody is buckling. Once, I met a level 4 agent. After a while, he started recording his own conversations, “just for kicks,” but we could see that schizoid rictus fighting to break out in his face; we’d laugh along so he wouldn’t feel awkward, but we knew. No one knows what to believe anymore. Truth spewed from the warm bellies of Xerox machines 24/7 (the nastiest stuff is now off the grid after [REDACTED]’s “password” password, el-oh-el). Warm paper denying, changing, confirming, creating facts hahaha sorry, can’t say “facts” without hahaha.

—We will filter it.

—A more deadly type of pyrrhonism, contagious like bovine spongiform encephalopathy, we’re working in five levels now trying to contain it, it takes weeks to filter the noise…not to mention all the wrong hits. Last week, they whacked the family of a Prime Minister (with maid, dog, friend from school etc., luckily it was in a brown country), but the real target was a Japanese violinist, it’s all going titwards and getting worse.

—Ah. Humor. No humor, please. The recording device doesn’t like it.

—Let me tell you about humor. This cougar, widow of a billionaire we snuffed with pufferfish toxin, was having some fun with the family driver in the family cabin, when—and we were supposed to have removed the wiretaps from the place, but someone must have decided to make some tapes to sell (all the shameful secrets will sprout like truffles years ahead, torpedoeing you in the middle of a speech)…I could tell you stories…unbelievable orgies with blood, birds, tamakeri and uniforms …the kinds of names that go around in envelopes on silver plates.

—I can imagine.

—We were at the bar after work (just a manner of speaking, nobody is ever “off-work” in this line of work, we were trying to unwind), and this guy is telling me, “someone knocks at the cabin’s door, and there’s cameras in almost every hole in there, wink wink. And the woman sticks her botoxed face out and there’s hubby, all puffed up, black as an olive, literally foaming at the mouth.” Hahaha. The driver must have felt like the most improbably unlucky bastard in the world. The corpse at the door, twitching, breakdancing, like…

—Extreme motor ataxia. So improbable that one incident blown out of proportion created the urban legends. Like this one someone told you. Please, I am a doctor.

—Hee-hee, all right, doc, don’t believe everything I say, but I know that you, with all your years of experience, will know how to put things in perspective…I’m a trained agent trying to escape this Death Chair of yours or whatever it’s called, I really believe the fibs I tell, drooling strings of counter-creation…

—No poetic language, or whatever that is please. The recording device doesn’t like it.

—…like a cynical spider and I’m believing them even before I finish the sentence, it’s the type of attitude that pays in a floating casino or Death Chair…

—Then, the fall.

—Pyrrhonism, and I lost my footing completely. In the photos, I appear badly shaved, like, missing spots, shirt untucked, food stains on groin area. People said “A is A” and I went into murderous conniptions. I thought about poking the ol’ tooth …

—We took it out. Just so you know.

—Uh? Oh! Oh, you…

—Your fake tooth, we put it there. Your bills, we pay them. And now we will write on you again. I think you will be a letter-bomb.

—My head hurts just thinking of all the confusion, the levels, sub-levels, counter-levels, denials, official, extra-official versions, all the paperwork the guys are forging real sloppy like now, correction-fluid sloppy ‘cos nobody gives a shit anymore…let me tell you, I was seeing this Spanish thing…big-nosed, nerviosa, chain-smoking, when she fucked it was like she was venting off grievances, you know, she’d scream so loud I had trouble focusing, “AAAAH! GRAAAAGH!,” but anyway…

—I can’t even imagine. It’s a lonely life, here in the laboratory.

—What I wouldn’t give…it’s clean here, organized and silenshffmmmmmmmmmshchhlpppppp

—Let me wipe that off.

—How embarrashimmffggmmfffffff—

—No need for that. The muscles loosen up. It’s alright. It’s the—

—It’sh zuh Benthodal, yeshh.

—Ah, yes. There.

—Sho let me tell you…boy…there’sh shomething aboutchu, you know, those glasshes…they…they shweeten your eyeshsss, you know…those big blue eyesh floating…so…plashid. We…we end up trushting them…

—You’re too kind.

—Well anyway, she…she made good money shpooking the media…she was very shmart, had a nose for the funny busineshh…put together a small TV crew, one camera, prop guy, transhlator, make-up—make-up got a big share, it was a very important part of it. They just…I don’t know, hung out, smoked pot, talked shit, whatever. She said it was a whole new world, completely apart, she said they were doing true political theatre, “not that Ionesco shit,” true sympathetic magic. They received envelopes from the interested parties—the same good old boys, the fucks in the right places, the sinister fucks, CIA, damaged and self-replicating pieces of the old KGB splitting like flatworms, getting harder to track, the divinely elected from the Middle East, people with so much purpose, they enter the room, you feel your guts tying in a knot. Oldest setup. The façade of diplomacy like a clean sheet over all the ass-reaming underneath. Did you know Kennedy was using a corset to prop his ruined spine in place? He might have ducked after the first shot if it wasn’t for it…but anyway, they received envelopes containing little people—she showed me one, I think I heard a little sigh coming from it when she ripped it open and out came ID, driver licenses, passports, all sorts of ghost-papers, everything you need to create homunculi, hollow entities that are still wandering around lost in limbo, Johns McCullochs, Yulias, Kristinas, Pedros, Social Security numbers, pictures with clothing samples, everything you need to give some semblance of truth to imaginary hostages, so if you want to put the Russian premier in an awkward position, you get a dozen actors, create an insurgent cell in someone’s cousin’s bedroom with the adequate flag behind and plenty of ketchup for the beheading scene. But there’s really no mamushka in Minsk crying for her Grigori, no family and friends missing the dearly departed. All the old timers at the Agency tell us that “in the olden days we had standards” etc., and of course we don’t really believe it, are you kidding, but sometimes, Doc…sometimes I don’t know. We’re mixing sand with the cement, watering the milk, improvising, playing by ear and let’s hope the unlucky ones survive long enough to get a job when the reconstruction work begins…the news agencies joined the fun, too, why care, nobody reads the fucking retractions anyway. I’m talking too much again, right, Doc? I’m gonna kill you, did I mention that? I’m gonna get down from this thing and arrrr…

—Don’t worry. We’ll filter that out.

—Thingsh like that.

—You’ll will be free from worries.

—I am shuper calm, akshually.

—You’ll get even calmer. You will reach ataraxia. Eternal bliss, at least until we send you out on the streets again.

—Huh? A—UH! Spasm.

—It’s the Penthotal. Motor ataxia. Ataxia in the body, ataraxia in the mind.

—GUH! So your game is brainwashing, uh? Is this a cult? I have triggers in a dozen languages implanted in my cortex, programmed to run hourly routines of alpha-wave disruption. Nobody hypnotizes me, you—oof, ow!

—Please, breathe. We prefer your voice clear. And don’t fret. We will format everything. Your little electroencephalic program, we installed it. Considering the cartoonish attitude of some of my colleagues, it’s not improbable you might have heard this story before from one of them, before you killed them, told in the ridiculous tone of a villain revealing its masterstroke: we call you human paper, because we write on you. But a better term would be “palimpsest.” Right-wing leanings before, now left-wing, atheist before, now devoted to santeria. We rearrange you, temporary men, as a girl changes her doll’s clothes. Blonde before, nigger now. Negress. You’ll receive a pair of breasts that would make Turing green with envy. Which reminds me. The journal. It was mine. You followed my scent like a Papist dog, nyet? Blood still speaks. It is me you’ve been looking for.

—You killed Prof. Turing. I knew it. военный комиссар Prof. Dr. Lazar Ignatyev, I’m gonna get off this chair and kill yOUHH!!

—The temptation to cut off those grotesque mammaries while he writhed on the floor with his mouth full of apple…I’ve feigned my own death seven times. But that was before. Now there’s no need. Forgive my verbiage.

—As you please.

—I don’t need to hide anymore. Mine was the best of times; my generation saw the best and the worst in men. One of my colleagues lacking a sense of propriety would probably laugh maniacally now.

—As you please, Doctor.

—But, no.

—How many skeletons, again? For which museum?

—“University.” 115. Leningrad State University. It would have been very charming. A concrete corridor, letters carved in black striated marble. Soft lighting…identification plaques and the skeletons on each side, maybe in daily chore positions.

—Maybe with some nice clothes.

—Now you’re being ridiculous.

—You looked at 115 people and decided that the best you could get from them was their skeletal structure. For scientific study. And you filled out the orders in three copies and stamped all those sinister magic stamps. But I got lost.

—It’s the Penthotal. It will get worse.

—Yeah? The shour tang? Like almondsh.

—You were saying how you were such a good liar.

—The best. I could convince myself of things, I shit you not. I was adjusted. One with the world. The world and I, hand in hand. My big fish days. I was a huge fish.

—Try with less metaphors, please. The recording device doesn’t like metaphors.

—I meant, in a small fish tank. Jeez.

—Go on.

—You don’t care about ush.

—Don’t be like that. Tell me, did you ingest something before the injection? Smoked, snorted?

—No, nothing…running on empty.

—Go on.

—Well, I couldn’t lie anymore.

—I see. Conscience. From the environment, ironically. We erase the little shitstain, and the little shitstain comes back.

—No, nothing like that. Problem was, I saw…I don’t understand what I saw. I was suffering from the new strain of pyrrhonism…

—The epidemic.

—And then, as the external world was getting less and less reliable, solid, the inner world…

—Oh no.

—Yeah. Started making more sense. The other world. Other level.

—Very bad.

—I started seeing things I didn’t want to see. I saw that not everything—most things don’t follow, have never followed the Agencies’ petty schemes, things like Our Ladies made with elephant shit exhibited in a museum, cockroaches with little felt bunny ears and tails glued onto them trapped inside a rotating glass dome while “I Will Survive” comes out of speakers…the destruction of meaning…the cynicism of “street-smart” adolescents…

—Chris Ofili is one of our best agents. The elephant caca gave a touch of clinical insanity to the whole project. The man is a genius.

—For your goals.

—For our goals.

—But I saw the old world, the solemn worl—

—Ooh, look at us, “solemn…”

—Fuck you, the word is germane…

—Ooh, “germane…”

—Fuck you again, it is, it’s like Lascaux, like Altamira, the world of symbols, where works like those from your Chris are nothing but tantrums from annoying, spoiled, stupid children. If you look at it the right way, you see everything, naked like stereograms. Magic is just a way of looking at things. Everything started melting and I just wanted to hide under my bed. I still tried to lie, but things reached such a degree of…understanding…synchronicity, that I would tell a lie, and it would become true. Fiction jumping from book pages right in my face. A, a holy dance, fuck you. Perichoresis 24/7, cars going through the streets doing bee waggle-dance, solar flares influencing anti-globalization protests. The television spoke to me.

—I never could see the sterregrramys. Can’t even say it right.

—It’s how you look at them.

—I know.

—I started seeing webs, lines, threads, like subway maps. Connections, conduits, access levels to a more subtle understanding. I saw that atheists are dumb because they lack subtlety. It’s a subtle business, like good literature, you blink, you lose.

—You mean God.

—Mr. Subtle in persons. I started losing sleep over it. Started thinking too much. Daydreaming. I…I wrote…poems.

—Bad, bad. You’re not naïve. You know that all you describe could be due to a garden-variety psilocybin experience.

—It happened. My brain knows it, can’t un-know it.

—That’s where you’re wrong, palimpsest. But no poems, please. The recording device doesn’t—

—A poet. Poet. hahaha. I’m sorry, but.

—I understand perfectly.

—Poor dumb son of a bitch…

—Priests, poets, psychoanalysts…tsch! Here in this little tube: electrochemical interaction between enzymes, electron clumps dancing in an invisible circuit, so complex it seems chaotic. Secret orders, that’s all my world is. Story of my life.

—I’m afraid of you.

—And that’s not the Penthotal.

—I wanted to lie but couldn’t open my mouth, afraid of creating ripples. Everything made sense at the same time.

—I always found funny that relentless eunoia can be as wearisome as paranoia.

—I could kill everybody in the elevator, or not. It was all part of the plan, or not. You understand my operational capabilities were compromised.

—15 deaths; now that was a bit too much.

—I was trying to make a point.

—And if you had reached your apartment where the other weapons are, the number of casualties would have been higher. It was a good laugh, yes, but of course we couldn’t have that. So we brought you here, palimpsest, to be scrubbed and rewritten, who knows for how many times now. There’s probably a record somewhere. Don’t your cells whisper to you at night, about how tired they are? We’ll drain this little head filled with cheap mystical shit. We’ll—how is that television programme?—extreme makeover the body, too.

—Don’t give us breasts.

—Relax. If it’s all part of the plan, then this too is part of the plan. This also is good.

—Yeah. I guess so. But you know that thing about us being very good liars.


—We freed ourselves a few minutes ago. We’re coming down now. Lies inside truths inside lies, framing devices inside framing devices. You injected us with an innocuous substance. We arranged it. No Penthotal. And we have six feet of steel wire rolled up and shoved up our ass. Stay right there, Doctor: we are coming down.

—Interesting. Of course, I’m not defenseless myself. But this, you see. Come, little men. Let’s be antiquated and inefficient one last time, just for the kickings.

—What are you doing?

—Turning the recording device off. Now begins the part wh—