We already know that the devil is cruelly using her mouth. In order to speak to us she lifts a finger from inside her belly and pushes it upwards. Her words stand raised and blood-filled on the skin for us to read. And our magnetic retinas bubble up, blister, and weep in response.
Her body raises itself, slowly detaching from the turquoise bath of milky froth. Her hair is sticky and tangled. She lunges forward at a measured pace and then back to her original position. She hovers on this point for a few seconds and then the second lunge begins exactly as the first. She comes forward, stops and once again returns to the start, closing the same distance between herself and our vantage point each time. This action goes on indefinitely back and forth. Our shallow depth of field does not extend sufficiently to cover the course that she tacks so we manipulate the camera, attempting to keep her in focus. Eventually our lens nears a corresponding rhythm and we can predict the exact focal length required for each stage of her journey. We can preempt her movement with the certainty that the regular pattern of compulsion affords.
I tried to write to you in a language that no one else could understand because I feared that we would be discovered. But how could I be sure that the words I was writing would be understood by you and you alone? We had not agreed any code or cipher and were now too distant for any communication, steel-cold seas had fallen in-between us, stretches impossible to survive the crossing, already many bodies were drifting towards your brutal shores, lifeless and only partly visible through the pale milky pools collected at the bottom of our vessel, a space humans should never be forced to share.
The involuntary movement is an attempt to reason with us, to explain this compulsive pattern. So compulsion and explanation are one. The explanation does not take the form of an auxiliary, supplementary or supporting movement but is contained within the very phenomenon it seeks to explain. Attempts to isolate the original movement without its explanation are futile; we are not able to view the remainder, the essence. It is not merely the case that one came before the other, that the second occurrence in a sequence displaced or altered some of the characteristics of the first. There is no ‘first’, no unaltered movement, because the movement did not and could not exist before its explanation. It is its explanation, in itself its own reason.
Tossed around in this nauseating half-liquid, half-gas, their food was rotten within days of the crossing beginning, and for me to share my message with you I would have had to twice make that journey through a death and back again. Somehow they were kept alive for long enough, but who knows at what cost? What kind of being had they shared? A being alive but without life – that we couldn’t begin to guess at. Traversing this state of starved, liminal existence, neither alive nor dead, neither moving or at rest, their navigational instruments were made for another world, one that measured in real flesh and material concerns – how long would a half loaf of bread last? The nights would stretch on and on, cruelty never ceasing and facts and figures couldn’t save them; measurements dead and meaningless. They were only to be recorded by a fragile lens, printed over and over again, each time increasing our pathetic anonymity as we clung to each other in the moment’s darkness and confusion. And written about, our bodies in that hollow space would be written about in ways that I had not been able to understand, words that I didn’t know, could not pre-empt. I would have no route to redress, no course for correction or to advance an argument for my side of things. But there was something in this surely, this crossing that defied understanding. The risk I ran from, covering my tracks, was not their discovery but your final reading of words that could not be excised from your flesh and bone. A seamless picture is a lie.
The agent’s justification to her observers has devoured and hollowed out her entire being. She feels she must offer up reasons for her behaviour, but being outwith her control, outside of premeditation, she cannot locate these justifications, but even so she feels the action requires validation. However, in seeking to explain it and give it meaning, make it valid or worthwhile, she destroys the very thing that makes her repetitive and tiresome deviance convincing. Her action, to and fro, is a perversion lacking value, a self-conscious disguise, a ruse, a calamitous seduction. Throughout this game we hope for her to attach herself to a cause, to establish some position. But instead she is sliding into an abyss between herself. Her body is drawn by magnetic force across the ridge. Her limbs and organs become unlocked from one another and redistribute themselves into an interlinking chain of fleshy parts – their wetness exposed to the dry ground. Her head somewhere along the chain carrying a face that’s in focus for long enough to catch a glimpse of her expression. Ecstasy – a curled upturned lip – her knowing smile framed by the febrile threads of heart and lungs.
Desperately searching for something calm, a trustworthy coolness in amongst a saturated and stinking wetland, the surface – crumbling, squelching underfoot, disappearing – offers no purchase. Perhaps I could leave instructions for you alongside my words but if you were able to decipher them so too may our discoverer. Perhaps they could be put in another place, and marked for you to find in a way that only you would know, some form of knowledge that only we had shared and that you could grasp quickly. But I knew that you would already be weak by this point, wouldn’t have time to visit some other station in this wilderness. Even that they knew I was trying to reach you would be bad enough. And they may guess that I had capitalised on this horror, that I would share this with you because we felt no shame of this knowledge, this writing made of death and all the discarded fragments left over after all other interests had been served, after sense had been made and opinions given, only you could cherish this diseased remainder-shell, with its core of logic gouged out and bound for better things. Good intentions had all been laid to rest, somewhere else, and we had to hold this legacy of sense’s leftovers, guard it jealously even though we were both at the end now, our material exhausted and our will shattered and removed, desperately creeping under this fog unable to catch a glimpse of each other. I was already weak and you’re drifting towards me, beneath their radar, not knowing if I know already, but not daring to try to reach me to give me your signal, your secret cipher.
Grammar is the structure above which meaning floats and upon which it is contingent. Communication fails in the limitations of writing – alone we failed. When writing is thrown into the balance it oscillates between sense and something else. Hovering just out of focus, dangling tantalisingly by a thread, just beyond a point of culmination. Opposite poles are not simultaneously visible until they are fully bent around and joined together. This is our feverish nighttime as perspectives come full circle and horror morphs from a simple diversion into a terrifying certainty. And there is a sheepishness in realising death’s proximity – did we push the joke too far? Were we complacent?
Inside, a man sits in a brightly lit room on a simple metal chair with his head in his hands. He waits to hear a verdict on his freedom as a pendulum of fluorescent light evenly washes the floor. Outside, a man lies softly gurgling in the heat of the sun. The shadow he casts is a solid black shape through which a handgun has fallen. Man, shadow and gun – all three hang above the sand. Once side-by-side, now inside and outside, they’ve each been thrown into the balance. Their time, now, is spent waiting in the desert out of reach.
There is a compelling fantasy of being shattered, rent, a fantasy of integration in which we can cross the frontier between inside and outside. It is a psychic world of being simply matter without the burden of judgment. The will to open up and spill the inside onto the outside, to stain the outside with the inside, let entropy take its deadly course and bring the air and dust within; fall from the drifting cosmos and mingle amongst the corpuscles. The warm body is something that we dream of turning inside out to rub with the grit. This dream is frivolous, capricious and if we would ever dare to run the risk of implications it would fail to take note of them. I am warm and protected by blubber. My survival is not threatened, and I am secure, so in me you have excess life to play with.
Trying to describe a state brings the state into existence. Perhaps it only exists as a product of its description – self-generated and inauthentic. We are pushed to the edges whilst trying to get outside of thought – to find something with which to think thought. We can only think of our thought by our thinking of it, and there is no vocabulary left to use when all vocabulary is already contained within that which we are trying to describe. All we are left with is the broken remainder of sense, which is not sense at all just repetition and reflection, a vertigo-inducing precipice, looking down into spiraling imprints. We find only a hall of mirrors. Unblinking surfaces in opposition, endlessly reflected and nested one within another. All that we encounter is our own mistake of purpose and we lie exhausted of our efforts.