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Phillip Morris Prose TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOCRATS - December 2018

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Written By Phillip Morris

Once upon a time, when I was young, I thought there was a benefit to getting licensed, but that was before I learned the job. I left my place in the ranks of officially sanctioned PIs before someone hired me to scour the galaxy for their missing dog.

People looking to get into the game as a private investigator should know: there’s a barrier to entry. Those who came before take such pride in themselves that they’ve made it a guilded operation, with all the classes, tests, and the hefty price tag that entails. You’ll work really hard for that paper no client is going to ask you for. If you make it through all that, you’ll become a part of the de facto police force of interplanetary space.

There are too many planets and factions for any one authority to claim jurisdiction over any significant region. P.I.s function as the initial point of entry for the legal system when laws get broken between worlds. If they can’t resolve the issue on their own, they at least give their clients grounds to initiate official government proceedings.

Most of what gets brought to the guild are petty grievances. People claiming their rights are being impinged by a corporation on this planet, or ex-wives misusing alimony payments on that planet. Things get a lot more interesting off the books, and, with the right connections, a lot more lucrative too.

“Drain your vital energies here,” said the latex wrapped doll as she slid her arm through mine. She whispered her name, Eve, as she led me to the entrance of the pleasure club called Heaven. From a distance, you might think she was a bot, but up close there’s no mistaking the scent of a beautiful woman.

The neon lights made her hair sparkle and glow with synthetic magic. I had been through the district enough times in the month since I’d landed to see her hair go through a dozen different shades. It would be nice if something of me stuck in the girls’ heads, but the wipes were quite thorough. Eve had an expensive implant in the base of her skull that contained the street-walker persona. I glimpsed it once when another patron pulled her onto his lap by a lock of hair. Whoever she really was, was divorced from what you got at night.

I found that the right line could earn me a parting gift from Eve once she realized I wasn’t going to be her John.

Maybe next time, was good for a peck on the cheek.

Catch me later, was better for a sneaky squeeze.

This time I tried honesty. “I’ll need my vital energies tonight.”

That got me nothing worth mentioning.

My longest haul is coming to an end tonight. The girl with golden eyes was dead before I got here. I stopped using her name as soon as I found out. These tricks make the job a bit easier. I assume she couldn’t handle the treatment. Her once bright eyes had gone dark in the medical examiners photos. The implants could trick the mind into playing the part of a charming seductress while her body wasted away.

The doll outside Heaven was a willing participant, but this girl was cut from finer cloth.

Her daddy was a politician of the rarest breed. One of character. Sure he was rich, and the girl probably spoiled rotten if he was willing to splurge on those eyes, but he got his money without needing to bend the rules. If I had to guess, that’s what got his little girl into so much trouble. Don’t vote the way you’re told and the next time a family member visits unprotected space, poof! They’re gone.

I couldn’t leave it at that and expect my efforts to be compensated. The two ways I’d get paid were reunion or revenge.

Broken noses and busted lips have their place, and their limits. A smart person talks when the law wants answers. Of course, if these guys were smart they would have looked into who they were hired to kidnap and string up. It took two broken thugs to guide me to Heaven, and weeks of sweet talking a particularly deviant guest named Tikki before I was sponsored to go to the back.

“Ey, Chuck,” Tikki called out as it wrapped its appendages around me.

The back was actually the bottom. I was led through a secret room, then down, down, down.

The floor in the basement of Heaven was covered with acres of fluorescent dirt that helped with the cleanup. Ancient orders of the flesh governed the pantheon of desire on display. Time and technology don’t destroy the animalistic urges each species is endowed with. Instead, they warp into forms unintended by nature. The lax laws of this planet let the imagination of the proprietor run wild.

There was no way to tell from the grungy exterior what awaited those granted entrance below. Every body semi-adapted for sexual reproduction was on display, in innumerable configurations of contraptions and partners. I recognized now that the ventilation system must have been prime, to keep the intermingled musks from being overwhelming.

Thankfully the boss was weak for his own product, and I saw him slip into a private room with a few of the guests. I assured my sponsor I’d be back after a quick look around and followed them. The boss’ expansive imagination never fathomed someone bringing him pain he didn’t ask for.

I got out of Heaven as soon as I verified the record of the execution, for the officials and my payment. I would feel bad if Tikki ends up connected to what I’d done. It had some peculiar tastes but was a good being nonetheless.
Phillip Morris Prose TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOCRATS - December 2018

Because You Know That They Know

Written By Phillip Morris

When they turned the chip off, her time and body were again her own. There were no locks on her room, no one tried to stop her from leaving the building. But after a few trips into the world, she learned she no longer had a place there.

When they turn off the chip, they take back the wigs and shiny form-fitting clothes. The alluring appeal is an illusion by design, flipped off and on as easily as the lights. They let her roam free because they know she’s smart enough to know that without them, she’s nothing.

Dark hollow eyes. Muscles too atrophied for any real work. Only tufts of once enviable hair clinging in the space between metal plugs.

When the chip was off, she spent a lot of time alone. She thought about her father often, whether she was in her room, or getting wasted at the girls’ bar. He didn’t stay out of her mind for long. She’d ended up exactly as he said she would.

Once she almost called. Connected to the network, got the other end ringing, then hung up before connecting. What was more unbearable than confessing to a parent that they were right?

She knew exactly what he would say and she wouldn’t say much at all. What is there to say when you know that they know everything?

It wasn’t pride that kept her from asking for help. As she caught glimpses of herself in the mirror, she saw nothing to take pride in. She told herself it wasn’t pride that put her on this slow path to an early death.

She wished they would leave the chip on.

Jessica van Horssen Prose THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

The Ultimate Escape

Written by Jessica van Horssen

In a world full of options, infinite possibilities and instant access to information, it is easy to be hypnotized by the quest for success. Growing up with the idea that you can be whoever you want to be is reinforced by practices such as plastic surgery and using online avatars. Humans live further away from nature and each other, instead, spending most of their time online – all of which makes it easier for them to become estranged from their bodies. After all: a quick fix of dopamine can be effortlessly obtained by scrolling through your Facebook feed or WhatsApp texts.

Within the mind, the sky’s the limit, but our bodies can confront us with a completely different reality. When that reality isn’t perceived as positive by an individual, it’s more likely that he or she will become depressed and feel trapped by the situation.

Us millennials seem to have big dreams, ideals and a never-ending desire to grow. Alongside, many of us have insecurities and issues with FOMO, self-esteem and perfectionism. Looking over at the lives of our peers, the grass always seems to be greener on their side, especially on Facebook. The strive for perfection might seem honorable, but it can actually become lethal for some. Suicide has been on the rise among adolescents; in fact, since 2016 the suicide rate amongst young people in the Netherlands has almost doubled!

What’s Happening?

As a person who has experienced the suicide of a few close friends, it seems that loneliness and hopelessness are the biggest reasons that make people do such a thing. When your life doesn’t measure up to your expectations or the expectations you think society has of you, suicide seems like the ultimate escape from that situation.

I speak also from personal experience because I know what it feels like to have suicidal thoughts. It happened twice in my life that I didn’t see a reason to go on with my life, because in those moments, I felt like I had failed myself and my dreams. Looking back, it seems that those thoughts were fueled by sheer exhaustion and burnout, making me vulnerable to the kind of fatalistic thinking that can push a person over the edge.

The reality is that I was feeling trapped. Trapped by the limitations of my body and trapped by the dictatorship of a negative mind. Giving up on what I had set out to do felt like the ultimate failure. After all, if I’m unable to even strive for my dreams, what point is there to living?

I never saw it as an option, but after my best friend did it, suddenly it became a thing in my mind. Unfortunately, the mind brings up any possible coping mechanism there is when in distress. So when I went through the worst period in my life, my mind kept on screaming, “Suicide, suicide, suicide! Why don’t you end it all here and now? It might be the perfect escape from the hell you are living in.” Maybe being dead would give me the freedom I so longed for, but since we don’t know what happens after, I never wanted to take that risk. In the end, everything that gives me joy I experience through my body… and I love life way too much to actually take that step.

Photo by Kiwihug

It’s The Little Things

The reason why I don’t feel limited by my body is that it gives me the joy of experiencing physical touch, sex, cuddling, sports, dancing and a whole range of other experiences. When everything went to shit, it was my body that released me from my mind-made prison because there is nothing as powerful as a hug from my daughter, a kiss from a friend, and dancing to my favorite music. When looking at the reality of those things, they don’t require hard work.

There’s a reason people say that the best things in life are free. We often forget that in a society that’s focused on success, and thus can feel lonely because we are all on our own little islands of individualism. I want to urge anyone struggling with these kinds of thoughts to reach out to friends, family members or even the suicide hotline. And please remember: someone loves you, and maybe you will too again one day.

Kim Vrij Prose THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

Blind Spot

Photo by Lucas Ludwig

Written by Kim Vrij

Living with a visual impairment is like living between two worlds.

The first world – the visual world – is where we want our eyes to be the main source of truth. I often hear people say “I’ve seen it with my own eyes” just to convince someone that something actually happened; there is also the more contemporary phrase: “Instagram or it didn’t happen.” If we didn’t see it, and mainly if others didn’t see it, it didn’t take place.

The second world is the world of the blind. Where hearing is one of the most important senses, I can hear the way someone feels, whether it’s angry, happy or sad, even when they don’t want to share these feelings. I can hear conversations of the couple sitting on the other side of the restaurant even when they think no one else can hear them.

I was born with a visual impairment. I can see about 20%, what that actually means seems difficult to understand, for myself, but also for people around me. “What is it that you can’t see?”, “Can you see what I look like?” or even “OMG now you can’t see how handsome I am!” are the usual responses to this topic. Maybe it’s easier to understand that I am 80% blind. Nonetheless, I do see what people look like and my job is more visual than one might expect. Some people are surprised that I have a job at all! I work in advertising, writing and managing communities on social platforms.

The Turn-Around

Having a lot of friends and starting in school at a public school were the best and worst things that ever happened to me. This seems to have shaped my early years and made me feel like I wasn’t different from anyone else, at least that’s what I told myself. It worked out perfectly, until I went to university and realized that I had been listening and (not looking) all these years.

Now I had to actually look at my books, screens and presentations. I didn’t see any of it, and, what’s even worse, it was difficult for me to travel there. In a city of a million bicycles, I rely on Uber. Even though I’d like to think I’d do the same if I would’ve had 100% vision, that’s a white lie, because when I told myself otherwise I felt like a light version of the person I could have been. I’d rather be a lazy brat in a taxi than visually handicapped and therefore immobile.

It took a lot of courage and caused some painful situations, but I asked for help. For the first time in my life, I accepted that I can’t be “normal” (Why would anyone want to be “normal” anyway?). I became friends with some inspiring visually impaired people (Who I am sure will listen to this article!) and was finally able to share what I couldn’t with anyone else. This shaped the “new” me, who accepted that I am living between two worlds, enjoying the best of both.

It took me a long time to get where I wanted to, regarding my career and accepting that I won’t be able to do everything I would like to. Who knows, it might even take me longer to make it to the next milestone, but since I decided I am not doing it to prove that I am like everyone else, things got a lot easier. I do everything my own way, and that is absolutely fine. In the world of seeing people I might be perceived as a prisoner behind my own eyes, but it doesn’t stop me from achieving my goals.

After all, in the world of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Jonas Guigonnat Prose THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

The Failed Human’s Burden

Written by Jonas Guigonnat

What is this noise? Why is it torturing my ears like a constant beeping from inside my head? The light coming from outside is exacerbating the pain. My eyes are water drops ready to explode under the pressure of the air. My head, oh my head. It doesn’t hurt, it shreds my existence into pieces. Am I sick? Am I going crazy? What time is it? Two in the afternoon already. My day has not begun yet, but my whole being refuses to make something out of it.

The pain I woke up with is disappearing as if it didn’t happen, but my heart is still beating and the sweat hasn’t completely quit my forehead. I need something and it is already clear to my mind what it is. A cigaret, rolling paper, the little bag. Let’s try to forget the body for the rest of the day. As long as the narcotic flows through my mind, pain feels almost like an illusion. It’s this game I have to play with THC in my blood and a blown mind. What time is it by the way? Four already? That’s the problem with doing nothing to forget my own existence – it makes time fly.

Take a shower, then a joint, eat something and get out of this house where the ghosts of my failures keep hanging around. I need the city to feel alive, even if its grey depressing atmosphere may intoxicate my mind even more. And the ghosts are there too. Still, outside seems safer than inside. It is quite cold, but I don’t mind, I even enjoy it. Paris becomes almost respirable when it is freezing.

Walking makes my body exist, but the view of those concrete giants all around me is oppressing my mind. I need space, as much as I can have. I know where I need to go. Why do I always seem to avoid this place already? Oh yes, now I remember. That’s not far from where he lies. Gone for 16 years already but it feels like yesterday still. Am I an orphan if I lost only one parent? What an inappropriate thought. Too stoned already.

My head is burning again. My vision is tortured by the highway on the right, with its interminable flow of immobility, and the railway on the left, where painted letters on the walls are the only things giving a faint semblance of life. The beeping is teasing my ears again and the cold feels very real now. Melancholia reigns my mind, heaviness – my body. Regrets? As far as the eye can see. The nearer I get to the place, the stronger the feeling of emptiness. Not total emptiness. Only the present and the future feel empty. The past is where things have substance, where life means more than a monotonous repetition of nothingness.

But here I am, in the vain reality of the present, trying to endure the idea of a future I don’t trust. My stomach is burning. A growing feeling of weakness is seizing my legs. Now it is the time to smoke the joint I prepared at home. I need an escape route, an alternative for the cage of reality. The trees are appearing on the horizon. No green, but a hypnotic orange-yellow color that my eyes understand. Still walking in the civilized world, but I already belong to the loneliness of that fake piece of urban nature. Lonely I am anyway. Lonely I can only be, that’s the only way.

Almost there, just a few meters and the dream will begin. Not for long, just a few hours. Walking without any goal, just keep forgetting reality. Once tired, I’ll go back to the prison that my body always brings me back to. The place where nothing can be done, where tears cannot be shed anymore. Ghosts of lost pasts and of impossible futures are the worst watchmen you can imagine. They follow you almost everywhere. But wait, is the prison in the physical or in the abstract world? Which one of the body and the mind is the prison? Let’s hope it is not both, but I am afraid it is.