"All That's Left is a survival fantasy"
Drafts, do-overs, inflammation
[image: printed out pages of a story sit on a checkerboard table in the sunlight]
By now everyone who's a Cyborg Memoirs Fan Club mail club member (that's the $5 tier and up) should've received a little something in the mail. Let me know. <3
I'm mostly here to share what I'm working on: a transcription out of my notebook of a chapter rewrite. I'm preparing to attend a genre writers critique workshop in July and our 4000 word submissions are due by first of June. I've got just shy of 2k here below, and thought you might enjoy seeing it.
I went to this same workshop virtually last year with the homie Ras Mashramani, and it was the first time I ever had an opportunity to have other genre fiction writers give my work serious attention. I submitted the first 4k words of Real Work You Deserve, which for a few years now has stood as "the opening arc" of All That's Left. I got a lot of useful feedback, and mostly realized that I had been kinda pointlessly keeping MOST of the outside world hidden from view... This structure had people thinking the story was gonna be super grim, all about the evil corp and the evil dr, or just... idk, assumptions that made sense. So I decided I needed to start over.
Anyway, my inflammation is saying "keep it short, hun", so that's all I'll say about that. Mail club members got a slightly longer handwritten letter in the mail talking bout my life situation as of late. If anyone wants, ask and I'll drop a PDF of that letter so everyone can see, but I won't be transcribing it.
I've got an audio situation in the works—reading the text below I believe, as well as answering some advice column type questions submitted by Fan Club members and you know, the usual aural layering I like to do.
The image for this post is out of a thing I put together for a 700 BLISS ~zine~ thing that will be accompanying the homies DJ Haram and Moor Mother when they tour for their VINYL ALBUM nothing to declare —and oh who is that featured on track 14? Moi.
So much on my mind but the body requires rest now. Mercury Rx is HARD HITTING, for sure, so take care of your boundaries and your energy, take it slow, and be good to yourself when some old bullshit rears it's head.
Expect to hear my voice soon, and till then~
–––––––––––––––––––––––ATL CH 1 DO OVER???–––––––––––––––
Everyday I think of leaving. Packing my shit and leaving to come find you and be running out with you. But I have been/am unable to move myself, more and more, for longer periods of day and night. Something…I have been designated some kind of witness. Those are the thoughts that pop up in my head. What if I left? I suppose I’d finally become among all of you seekers or whatever, the people who gotta run around and experience the world. I dunno. I just haven’t been able to picture myself in a wild drifting life—I’d be a different person, that’s part of it. I’ve always been envious of how you move, trying to channel the feeling into admiration—trying to take lessons of what’s possible. I don’t have to stay in [LENAPE NAME FOR OLNEY/UPTOWN/NORTH]. I don’t have to. I can leave.
There is a huge wide blank on the surface of my mind, and I can’t seem to do anything about it. I wish someone would come get me, but everything seems like a joke or a scam anymore. How did I get this way and why didn’t anybody come get me? I guess—well, this that shit you’re not supposed to take personal.
I hope I don’t get got from some told-ya-so type-a bullshit. I know I’m sounding bleak but I am gonna come find you round your way the first chance I get. Maybe you think I’m a punk, but I just move slow.
I know you don’t care (about Ellison anymore), but I don’t think they can last. The way they left my block, they were doing that shit just to show off—they didn’t have any real plans. I been watching how they operate. Matter of fact, I been taking sensory gigs like you used to be doing. I got myself a lil QL [quality of life] charity surgery. They put me on the housing intake. And I’ll sit right in the cut waiting for shit to bail. They always bail. Everyone leaves.
Kay sat up from her hunched perch over the paper in her lap. She should probably finish things there, leave it super emo like that—the message man was due at the old park on the corner of 65th and Nedro and she wanted to get this out already. This was a shitty letter… She been only writing shitty letters she couldn’t send lately, and what was up with that?
She turned to the plastic tray full of pens and markers and little erasers and scissors—where was the glue stick—pop—stroke—fold the brown paper bag looseleaf onto itself and glue it shut in the common easy-open way. Then she looked outside and huffed. Thank the saints she had the energy to pop herself up today. [She’s sick / mad / disabled] And she sprang her weary ass up, started getting dressed to go outside.
Picture this dear reader: You’re a dehydrated delinquent squatting from one disaster abandoned rental property to the next. You look like XYZ w/tatts. [Descrip more, pull from other jawn]
You eat chips dusted with nutrient powder that you get [how, what is economy] from Akil’s Water Source on 45th, but right now you’re drinking on spring water from two 7-gallons your homie blessed you with the last time you went out to Big Los. So why are you dehydrated? It’s the remediation meds you’re on. They require an “optimal level of hydration”, but that’s assuming you’re out of the site of exposure—YOU live in [NAME], an old British colony turned post-industrial American city turned FEMA/[intl aid org] catastrophic natural disaster region turning new growth forest ghost town. People don’t even talk about shit like FEMA no more. It don’t even matter in the day to day. Yeah, you live in a disaster zone, the city where you were born and raised, now a conglomeration of just a few different “neighborhoods” in the parts that the rivers and the creeks didn’t eat, that never got cleaned up with the disaster relief, that didn’t catch fire—not too bad anyway. The whole metropolitan region been slipping away from all former semblances of quote-unquote civilization the entire time you’ve been alive.
So you’ve got problems. You keep sticking around, unaware how ready you are to become part of this decomposing city.
Kay is getting dressed. She is squatting in a 5th story loft, crudely converted at some point from once being a church.
Last night, so much rain fell that Kay’s latest makeshift squat lodgings along with the rest of the band was inundated, and the whole constellation of squatters up and left on a minor flotilla of waterproofed inflatables and patchwork floodwater vessels, geared up with all of one’s earthly possessions and paddling in search of higher ground—a scarce site in the NEW LENAPE WORD FOR THE VALLEY. Now Kay was jammed inside an at-capacity pontoon airboat, trying to roll with the waves of nausea and the nostril-searing stench that clung to everyone’s bags and folded down paddle boards. She gulped down a parched throat, trying to pass the hard mucous feeling pressing against clogged, swollen lymph nods. The boat rocked, she pressed her eyes shut—at least it was a cool breeze. At this point it was still drizzling/tapering off.
The boat operator was decked out—hi-viz rubber coveralls with a full face respirator and wide brim rain cap covering their hair and head, and anything the coveralls didn’t reach was wrapped up like a fighter in cloth, likely treated with broadleaf resin that worked like a sealant, protecting bare skin underneath.
So yeah, it was bad out. Kay held a bare hand over her mouth and nose’s labored breathing, and tried to keep a hold over the tight stomach feeling making her mouth water/salivate (don’t throw up), hoping to hell she wouldn’t have to wait super long to get washed off once they got to The Spot, as everyone called it. A quick look around at everyone else on the pontoon told her she wasn’t the only one with the thought—it was the silent exhaustion in everyone’s faces, mute and downturned mouth’s, eyes half-lidded and blankly staring out, some fussing to make their own haul of belongings more compact, tarp-covered, and IN out of exposure to whatever was in the floodwaters, wet and bedraggled regardless. Someone heaved a sigh and started singing How Did You Get Here (Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here).
The city drifted by in the glowing brown, green slick grey waters—the usual sites—churning whirlpool vortexes at the bottoms of hills-once-asphalt-roadways; struggling trees toppled and forced to bear the brunt of becoming a dam, gathering all manner of refuse plastic broken splintered construction materials, outright sludge, slicks caught fire; the matchstick buildings inundated and crippled, lurching out, some places just entirely underwater like…no telling what’s happening under there now.
The singing was starting to hit on her heart. Other people had been joining in and ad-libbing, and the whole crescendo weight of the layers was, it was…what they did now, she guessed. Did this so many times already, couldn’t even think.
How many times now had she been staying in a nice setup with no issues, everybody’s cool, resources are respected, only for a storm to come and flood everything away? How did this city manage? Like, why was it flooding so bad recently? She was running out of places to land/wash up. [Always finding food/new style food keeping & storing]
Just one transfer to a land wagon and
It was clearing up by the time they got to The Spot. A warm, busy wind worked along trees just forming buses, and overhead murky wisps of strung out rain clouds zipped by, below the higher white overcast. It wasn’t done storming—everyone’s expressions agreed as much—wry appraisals of the soundness of their surroundings, exhausted exhales while finally having space to find a head cover and tie down and protect their hair, the tired familiarity of balded plastic wheels slip-sliding over unsuitable terrain. But none of that sentiment lasted long cause the ground here was dry.
The shower line was long though, and a lot of regulars passing through looked positively nonplussed, dismayed, and old granny style concerned. The Spot, after all, was what a lotta people IN the area called The Rec Center—it was where the surrounding blocks worked to retrofit an old school building (one of those big 4-5 story E-shaped kinds) and its neighboring recreation center across the street to be a community wash house and water treatment outlet, a totally makeshift and homegrown endeavor reliant on what the blocks could bring together, with the major factor being that it was situated on a northwestern hill top, which allowed them to have much better control over how much water ever made it through their facilities. And for that matter, you know they defended that jawn.
Just waiting in the shower line they had the old hard women who liked to sit with their rifles chilling by a mobile kiosk [a cart that they can lock/roll around/put inside better defended space nearby], set up like a candy booth/seller, but the hand-painted signage on the outside said
LEAVE YOUR WEAPONS
[Painted handgun one side, rifle other side]
Nothing out of the ordinary around here. Kay made her eye-contact nods from the line, acknowledging the old lady gunslingers, with knobby digits, long fingers, tattooed hands, lacquered nails, and rings stacked on every finger. The one in the booth taking everyone’s weapons, Kay could just see now more than the hands—short nails, broad palms, and fingers that looked each one capable of sealing your fate—deftly accepting and handling each relinquished piece. As Kay neared the booth, she saw an assistant who received everything, and another who was formally accounting for the interactions in a paper ledger. Organized over her, Kay thought.
Then she was stepping up herself, hefting her pack down on the broad exchange counter with an agonized expression. In the space of a breath no one said a word. Then Kay unclipped her machete and its thigh holster sheath from her body and began pulling out and lining up a number of smaller utility knives and blades from around her person and baggage. [What about the noxious toxic residue on everything/one/their stuff? Matron should be wearing full arm/hand covers and glasses/resp protection, same w/her crew, no?]
“What kinda tools you carry?” Kay’s pack sat before the matron, whose hands rested on either side of it in appraisal. Kay gestured for permission to reach and the matron gestured forward—Kay zipped and pulled out a water-tote nylon dopp kitt and unzipped it to reveal all kinds of bit heads and handles, files, and lock picking flat hooks and such—a whole outfit.
“May I?” the matron asked, and with approval began rummaging through them. “Okay, you can hold onto those, baby.” The matron glanced at her accountant scribe like, you got all that in there down, right? “We’re gonna hold onto your sharps until it’s time to leave. You got that?” And Kay darted her eyes around the situation for a minute like yeah, the Rec is a no-funny-business place, I should be good.
“Yeah, I got it, thank you.”
“All right then, go ahead and get washed up.”
That was all outside the rect center proper, and once enough people were past the weapons check, a second round of [some descrip—hard body/big body/tough/soft/gun holding/armed] Rec people were standing by to walk the group over—past the communal laundry facility (Xela style) where regulars with strong heavy forearms worked their sudsing laundry against poured concrete washboards and a slow steady trickle of running water—to a separated wash area, ab road wide trough with four spigots on either side. A homemade cement poured and angled rinse pit whose drain emptied into a farther trough all the way over, this one full of what looked like out of control weeds, dense lush and looming over one’s head, competing for sunlight—a remediation pit.
And from the happy weedy pit’s far end, matching pipeworks radiating into a small facility poured concrete and thatcher—the washrooms—look is the ground over there sparkling? Stone, glittery with every step, and etched, glutted with water splashing down overhead, a generous pace. Their waterworks must be legit, making good use of the rainfall and flooding, respecting the tides.