Translation by Daniel Huddleston
When the on-site disassembler came to the synthorgan factory carrying his packing case, he stared for a moment at a worker who had assumed an awkward attitude toward him, apparently puzzled upon seeing another of his kind for the first time. He must have been born quite recently — his hair was jet-black and glossy, and his skin was fresh and young. The cycles sure run fast here, he thought with pity. He had just started to introduce himself as a worker from the fishery, when the young worker’s face twisted into a severe expression.
“That’s my name. I won’t have you referring to yourself as ‘I.’”
Just the same as before. The old memories didn’t come back right away, so there were many cases where self-identification didn’t go very well. They probably couldn’t help latching on to a word that would provide a definition of who they were.
“I’m the on-site disassembler,” he added simply, and then got down to work.
When the disassembler had finally finished disassembling the placoderms and was covered in oil, he requested the president’s signature on the paperwork. The body tissues of presidents and directors were injected into his skull as recording media. By way of his eye socket, that swollen finger came feeling around inside his head, and he wet himself.
He had a headache as he got into the lift, the corpse of that coffin eel still wrapped around all four walls as though trying to climb up on the nearly four-meter-tall cage. The cage shuddered and slowly descended. From between gaps in the elaborate ribs surrounding him on every side, the skeleton of a subordinape who appeared to have been swallowed whole was peeking out.
The lift stopped. He stepped off onto an island of rotting flesh and was loading his packing case on the flatboat when his eyes paused upon a small, steeply ascending island located directly beneath a vertical drainage pipe. It seethed with the gases of decomposition.
“What’s the matter?” asked the pilot.
The disassembler turned his short neck and indicated it with his jaw.
“You’ve tried how many times already? It’s hopeless. It’ll just be a parrot this time too.”
“I know. You’re probably right,” the disassembler said as he started walking out into the shallows of the putrefying muck.
“That gas is dense. You watch yourself.”
He waved a hand lightly behind him and pulled his scarf up over his nose. After crossing over to a tiny island covered in bas-reliefs of bones and organs, he sank to his knees in putrid filth that teemed with cockroaches and nematodes and headed toward a figure that was buried to its chest on the side of the highest hill.
It was looking up at the underside of the faraway deck. Its face was exactly the same as that of the worker he had met just moments ago. When, breathing heavily, he made his way to its side, its eyes moved. They turned toward the disassembler and stared.
The disassembler knew full well, though, that this was nothing more than a reactionary response. The magatama was always passed on to the newborn worker, so nothing of their former intellect could remain in those who had turned into parrots. The disassembler lifted up the parrot’s half-body, and they regarded one another, face-to-scab-covered-face.
“Hey there, you remember me?” Rows of sparse teeth began to quiver. “ ’Ey…member me?”
The disassembler’s eyes grew moist. He recognized his tears as a form of self-pity.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of someone whistling with his fingers. It was the pilot urging him to head back.
“All right,” he said. It was as he was setting the parrot back down, however, that the disassembler’s fingers detected a small, hard bulge in the body’s breast pocket. He undid its button and stuck his fingers inside. What came out was a magatama that gleamed with an emerald light.
At first, the worker thought himself — the pregnancy being little more than a biological and existential misunderstanding— submerged in water. This was because everything appeared distorted to him. He wondered if he had perhaps finally awakened from a nightmare in which he worked at a cruel synthorgan factory. After all, the room he was in looked a lot like the rooms in which the people of his hometown had lived. However, the familiar furniture and household appliances that were lined up against the wall were far too numerous, haphazardly pushed up against one another like animals snapping at each other’s throats. The dim light was coming from a torchburr. Had there been a room like this at the base of the synthorgan company building? The terror of when he had been thrown from that structure came back to him, and he tried to get up, only to discover that he couldn’t move in the slightest. It was as though he were buried to his neck on a sandy beach.
home><away> nothing>deep>depths>·<shell <seal <yoke<sin <
Suddenly, lonely thoughts that beggared his imagination came welling up, and his eyes filled with tears. Without spilling over, they remained quivering on the surfaces of his eyes, only to be swallowed up in waves of concentric circles emanating from the midst of his field of vision. From somewhere, he could hear a sound like a backed-up sewer pipe.
sign> flow> merge> destruction> · <desperation <void <execu- tion <world—his thoughts ached as though themselves possessed of a sense of pain.
Days spent in longing for a return from that place of exile beyond the bounds of society — days enough to turn boulders into sand. He could remember them as his own. Is this somebody else’s memory again? He was thinking that it was, and the chain of thoughts that nested around the axis of that single point grew outward in every direction, forming a shell all around him, until they began both to complement and overturn one another. Only in scattered fragments could he unlock their meaning, and when consciousness returned to him in that room, he could for some reason practically taste the presence of someone standing on the other side of the wall, and of corpses sealed within the disorderly layout of a multilayered, labyrinthine housing crystal lying farther in behind him.
Someone started walking toward him. It was not a worker from his own company; he looked a lot like the disassembler from the fishery. Though hadn’t he just been wondering where he worked himself? Coaguland…number four, it was the Fourth Coaguland Reaffirmation branch. He felt a pressure near his retinas, and the wall appeared again, and the disassembler appeared from a doorless entryway, confusing the worker. “You were pretty slow to wake up. I’d just about given up on you.” The voice that came to him sounded like it was passing through water. “We are presently located inside a vintage landfill stratum. The metabolism’s slow here, though, so there’s nothing to worry about.”
Fwaa ii zii—
What is this? was what the worker had intended to say.
“It must still be hard for you to speak. Can you tell, by the way, that you’re being preserved inside a director’s body?”
Images rose up in the back of the worker’s mind of a director caught in the grip of several canvassers…of organs and multiple yoked-in brains being smashed one after another. A shudder went through the corpuscyte that covered his entire field of vision, causing the disassembler’s face to waver about.
“This director took fatal injuries in a canvasser attack. They brought him in to the synthorgan factory right away, but there was no way to restore him, so they threw him out. Yeah…no hope of helping them once they’ve had their brains destroyed.” No, that isn’t right. Those yoked-in brains are internal prisons that greatly limit the functionality of cogitosome-bearing corpuscyte. “You’d turned into a parrot and were buried in an island of rot. For some reason, you were carrying a magatama. During pregnancy, the magatama moves to the embryo, so what you were carrying most likely belonged to someone who was swallowed by a coffin eel. Magatamas govern the intellect and memory of subordinapes like us.”
They were not merely memory organs for individuals. They reminded workers in great detail of all kinds of things they had no way of learning by themselves, and in much the same way that landfill strata created counterfeit copies of things using eide from the past, they had also succeeded in making those things real.
Now he stood unmoving in a dark alleyway, staring silently as many of his kind began to come and go along a street where time had frozen over. One of the parishes that had once flourished in the inner world of the canvassers — which had long afterward remained compressed and frozen inside the magatama — was unpacking into his neural network like a tightly folded paper being opened to reveal a completed diagram.
“Since you’re using some stranger’s magatama as a foothold, it isn’t clear whether you’re the same worker as before.”
The worker started walking. He was twice as tall as everyone else, but nobody seemed to notice. He tried touching a pedestrian on the back, but his fingers merely sank into him and got tangled up in the strings of letters there. It dawned on him that a subordinape was something chosen out of the collected data of the fifty thousand people that a canvasser’s magatama contained. That data was then modified and forcibly incarnated. He realized also that while here in this parish, he was himself in a comatose state.
“If you’re wondering who it was that merged you so splendidly with the director’s body, why that would be your own newborn self. Not that he understood what it was he’d accomplished, mind you. I had originally hoped to play the role you’re playing right now myself.”
As he advanced forward, spatial distortions began to appear here and there, and the worker noticed that the space around him was dotted with gaps.
“Should’ve known I wouldn’t be brave enough to be sealed alive in corpuscyte, though.”
The reason the warps and the gaps were appearing was that in regions where the medium differed from the rest— most likely near things like the cogitosomes that were scattered throughout the director’s body — only space constructed through classical physics was being displayed.
“At the fishery, I couldn’t even try to use a parrot unless I took it apart for disassembly practice.”
The worker was headed toward a place of extreme distortion. It was a park where sunlight dappled through the trees. There a man in a white lab coat was sitting on a bench, nodding at no one in particular as he stared intently at a cliff face towering above the treetops. There was no mistaking that the cliff was made of landfill strata. Was there something special about the cogitosome handling its construction? It appeared that it was showing him space from before the end of the world.
A man in a suit appeared to his right. He held a can of coffee out to the man in the white coat and spoke: “With things having come to this point, I find it odd that you aren’t getting registered to be Translated.”
“Double-translation is an imaginary cyclical transaction. You should know that. Here even the magatama itself is nothing more than a concretion that the <World> brought into existence. Most likely, the replacement by ultimaterial that was done in order to effectively use our limited computational resources has caused some kind of — ”
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“ — harm from deprivation?” He stood up, gripping the can tightly. “All of this has already happened.”
“Probably so. Like they say, history repeats itself.”
“Not like this.”The man in the white coat tossed an object, which at some point had transformed into a light bulb, into an ultimaterial bin, and stared firmly into the face of the worker.
“Can’t you feel a presence there behind you?” “I’m not the type to believe in ghosts.”
“After you came out of your coma, you had your share of freakouts, though. ‘It’s the man I saw in my dreams,’ you said.”
“And that’s been taken care of through cerebro-physiological means. Now I just have dreams about everybody floating in the darkness.”
“Exactly. That’s because Hanishibe is still drifting through interstellar space alone in that spaceship even as we speak. By continuing to speak, he’s protecting us. The coordinates are — ” “I’m sorry, but it’s time for me to go. Work is work, even in a world like this one. I’m off to the canvasser now, so I’ll see you later.”
The man in the suit crossed over the manifestation boundary as he departed, and disappeared. Dazedly, the worker moved away from that place. He knew that the scene he had just witnessed could not exist according to the law of causality. In other words, this was not the past.
“Hey, are you listening?”
Double-translation, interstellar spaceships — as he was strolling along unable to collect his thoughts, he bumped into an invisible wall. There were limits to the scale of the space that a magatama could contain. The other side of the wall was covered in fog through which another town could be dimly seen.
“Even you must’ve sought after answers any number of times. Why are we employed by directors? When did we sign such contracts? What are we getting in compensation? Oh, we remember these things dimly. That we signed a contract, that we received a baptism. But why aren’t these things consistent even in our own memories? What were these directors and humans originally?”
Those who are forever damned…those who long to return… those who trick us into servitude.
“Why are there magatama even inside the canvassers? Does it mean that those disgusting things — I don’t even know whether they’re alive or machines — are our original forms? Why? Why? Look — you must be able to see it!”
The worker looked across the parish town, and simultaneously he was looking down at it with a bird’s‑eye view. Dimly, he could make out the ghost of the <World> constructed by the web of interconnectivity created by the canvassers’ — no, the cherubim’s — Whispering. But without whisper-leaves of his own, it was only possible to comprehend as a real image the parish with which he himself was affiliated.
“Whenever a fundamental question occurs to you, the lice appear and devour your thoughts.”
The worker strained his eyes at the rows of houses and streets on the other side of the fog. Transforming his arms into Code, he pried open the invisible wall and stretched out his hand toward the mist-enshrouded town.
“So we forget the inconsistencies right away. The same questions occur to us, and we forget them again. This cycle has been repeating for generations. When the nymphs hatch from the lice egg cases — ”
Those weren’t louse nymphs. They were bits of Code as well, implanted by the directors in the roots of their hairs to prevent the lice egg cases from hatching — in other words, to prevent the activation of the snowpetal bugs, which were a self-defense mechanism of the magatama.
“ — they cover your head like an umbrella and suck out every last bit of your soul. Even if you’re disassembled afterward, there won’t be a magatama inside.”
That was because the snowpetal bugs would form temporary whisper-leaves and bequeath all of the magatama’s data to the canvassers’ <World> network. In the present, however, where such dramatic reaffirmation was taking place at the livable boundaries beyond which a certain sort of life support became indispensable, the cherubim — and thus their <World> — was on the brink of destruction.
“If that happens, you’ll be left a CP-type, suffering from hyperfrequent hemo-φιλíα:.”
Regardless of business conditions, many things would be needed to preserve and reunify the inner world of the cherubim: magatama to serve as its seeds, its slate-blue development medium, cogitosomes to expand it, and corpuscyte to protect the cogitosomes. Even if this were to lead to a repeat of the world’s end…
“W‑what are you doin — ?”
The worker was staring at the roads and the buildings of the two towns as they began to connect one to another, and at the same time, he was staring at the corners of the disassembler’s mouth as the director’s hands tore them apart; it opened wider and wider until the sides of the disassembler’s face had split in half.
The worker grabbed hold of the magatama stored inside the disassembler’s skull, then pulled his arm back out. The disassembler collapsed like a puppet whose strings had suddenly snapped.
On the second floor of a certain hospital in the midst of the expanded city, however, the disassembler, who had been lying comatose, opened his eyes, turned toward the worker — who was watching over him through the window from above —and nodded.
As he hallucinated the ghost of a planet. Of a <World>. As he was laid bare to the directors’ hunger to return home.
Sisyphean copyright © 2013 by Dempow Torishima