Bill Drennan

Notes from the Big Dome #1

We were just kids in the underground glass-domed city. It wasn't as closed a shop as we found Logan's Run to be, and although it was open for air at strategic points, locating them would have been as heavy a burden as the involuntary breathing apparatus strapped to our young backs. Escaping was like cracking a cave open in the incline of a mountain with nothing but a matchstick, and we needed the escapological equivalent of dynamite. One day we ventured to the edge of the dome, looked up and saw lights like the glowing underskirts of hovering Daleks. "Not one of them gets lonely, but they all do," said my friend. "I thought lights had no feelings and no emotional resonance with which to reveal or repress memories," I replied: "And their action is surely a flick of a switch response to the all-prevailing and unavoidable existential duality that is marked by the simultaneous depths of isolation and the impingement of the same from other luminous disturbances ..." "That," interrupted my friend, "Is a desperation of logic or a logic of desperation, whichever came first. Stimulations from the unconscious realm fall from deep sky. We are trapped in a big bowl, a pulse state." "Wait ..." I grabbed his backpack and he nearly fell: "Something hangs in the near distance, beyond the glow of alien repose ... I can feel that it is horizontally inspired with elastic hints from a sea-like nebula with oscilliscopic fluctuations." "You've been watching too much Star Trek," he announced: "If a rule is a rule why wasn't Chekhov called Dostoyevsky and why can't human parameters be broken." "Rules are safeguarded in domes within domes in the style of a russian doll and parameters are not made of glass," I said. "You are out of your depth," my friend reminded me: "Anyway, Dostoyevsky didn't write The Seagull any more than Seven-of-Nine is a pretty young Vulcan." We went on to discuss impact theory & how pieces of metal became lodged underground and how maybe we would dig some of it up on our way out of there.

journal entry

It's not easy to get out of a spacetime depression – a sickness, or anxiety, that relies on location for its pull. You've got to either kill the depression or kill the spacetime. The latter option is by far the most awkward – & the truth is that I'm nearly out of spacetime inhibitors. Inhibitors block the core strength of spacetime, preventing it from hitting you in the gut & making you feel that there’s no ground to be lifted from. Being a terrible planner – & an even worse plotter – the dwindling supply of inhibitors was something I hadn't the foresight to manage, & I was phased enough to watch the clones take the last of them back to Earth when they left the station. The inhibitors help to keep the mind suspended, as if in music, in liquid or rhythmic elevation, a kind of escapist meditation in which free association is accompanied by an unlocatable weight, or presence – a drifting ghost of chance. The trances arrive in slow waves of nausea, & become something of habit, provided the intake is right. As the effects wear off, images fall from all directions, & the brain acts as a center of gravity, so that thoughts come flooding back in a deluge of haziness. There is no language involved until this point & the come-down is signaled by the appearance of highly charged & prominent word-thoughts, which come on like a death rattle & take form like a set of heavy coordinates to bring you back to reality-confirmation with a balk. The trail that is left behind: a sticky dust of words warping playfully in a magnetic discharge – where from?
               It is an occupational hazard, for sure – though a more beneficial one than that unsymbiotic relationship with the spacetime parasites. They live on the scraps of spacetime that are cast into the meditative trajectory of the inhibitors. Needless to say, most of the parasites have gone now, although it is said that they can survive without time. No matter how sorry you feel for them when you hear that remote scratching sound, it is a bad idea to encourage them with food; for, like cats, their weird calls come back for more, louder & with mouthy desperation. & they grow fat too. They drifted in on pockets of junk & surrounded the station. Fortunately they haven't worked out how to use their homes as missiles to rupture this superannuated tin can of ours. I would happily have coexisted with the parasites but for that terrible cacophony that grates on the nerves.
               Now, you will know that my job is to compile a palimpsest space log where nothing is ever wiped. The only difference between this & the regular medium is that it uses up more juice to scan the earlier layers which, here, are digital signatures of fallen structures; hyperbole chewing over last year's news from the planet; delayed reactions, jarred connections, fictional overlays. Some of them lift off, but there are anxious undersignatures – not unlike an angry re-entry that can burn a person up, if not out. Flotation therapy was good for dropping the heavy shit, for throwing it out, but now that I’m out of inhibitors, even switching the gravity machine off doesn't quite wipe the pull, though some of the stuff of spacetime does escape, so that there are now copies of copies embedded in the parasites that can still be heard crying for more.
               When trancing, which I can still pull off with a great effort of mind – through tiredness, hunger, overwork – I sometimes slip into digital form, which can be hazardous, as I’m sure you are aware. I'm no hero & don’t want to be. Depression was never heroic. The star map that this sickness follows is a crazed field of merged memoranda & consciousness signatures. If you don't look at it, it makes more sense. Sometimes you've got to sit it out. At least when the clones were around the weight was shared, suspended. We partied on inhibitor, fed the parasites; allowed them to gatecrash our party, so to speak, though they remained outside & we have never seen as much as one of them. But there are serious withdrawal reactions if you overdo the inhibitors. Just the right amount quells that nasty feeling in the gut, softens it; too much & the anxiety is intensified. That much is normal.
               The first collective breakdown happened a while back. It followed an extended party. The clones were usually on half-dose. I was the 'tester' & therefore the first to overdose. The clones took turns to nurse me through three days of febrile body-quakes, which were exacerbated by the calls of the spacetime parasites. Then they fell sick & we all took turns. Somr of the cloness – though I do not to this day understand how this was not an affliction that affected all of them simultaneously – some of them complained that they had no reality; that they were only some vague output of the rim of a black hole; that they were somehow insignificant, certainly in respect of time if not of place, remotely situated as though out of caution. When you get pulled into these things, depression is infinite & time is the greatest parasite at that moment. Of course, the cliché about time being a healer can’t be discounted – but cliches are not the problem. The greatest addiction I have is the simplest of all: it is a longing to return to the planet; to join my colleagues & breathe fresh air again.

Bill Drennan is author of the book of poetry, Flightpath Resistor (Prosthetic Books, 2007), the ‘experimental’ writing blog, Hypoetics, & a book of short stories & other pieces, Stories Short & Strange Vol 1 (Argotist Ebooks, 2010). His work has been published in various zines since the mid 90s & has appeared most recently in Otoliths, The Argotist Online & Department.

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