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scavenger’s daughter

It was a scar chart stacked into a skyline, it was shipwrecks of soot and shipwrecks of skin and shipwrecks of everything after.  I called it a home, I called it the shadow of a scavenger’s daughter.

The entirety was risen to scale.  A city of replaced components, perfect complements, a test of compressions to become. 

If we knew each other at all, you knew it as a torture device too.

We crashed there in halves. Shallow-breathed and splinter-limbed and salvage remaining. 

Underwater was what was left, most of us had sunk by then.

We tried to make an echo of who to remember or how. 

Every face was a capsized float, swollen closed from the vocal cords on down.  They followed as clouds of flesh, hungry ghosts, decomposing fish.

Today, the human food supply contains a plethora of fresh, farmed, cured and processed meats. But we’ve not always been the competent herdsman or capable hunter.

At dawn of the Pleistocene epoch, approximately 2.5 millions years ago, humans  practiced confrontational scavenging, a from of kleptoparasitism in which one creature drives off or distracts another predator from its kill.

As humans developed a taste for the meat of fallen vertebrates, we also discovered the taste of our own flesh.  

It is likely our ancestors turned to cannibalism due to lack of resources and competition at critical points in their ascension.

”My purpose is to tell of bodies which have been transformed into shapes of a different kind.”  

– Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1st century AD.

Here is most of what I felt: 

I was terrified.  Completely.

Make a fraud of yourself long enough and the fault lines do what they want to you.   

Often leaving you without an afterlife to fulfill.

The economy of cannibalism speaks for itself, which is why the practice is prevalent throughout the animal kingdom, including among human and non-human primates.

A widespread presence of genes protecting against prion disease suggest that human endocannibalism was common for thousands of years.  

This practice may often take on supernatural and ritual dimensions.

They hid in small circles, with teeth behind teeth.  True predators who knew the trauma well.

Born again by drowning wrong, they were becoming natives there.  

Soon, you said, they would be hunting us on their own.

“A scavenger’s daughter does not age.  A scavenger’s daughter survives by starving a corpse in its place.”

One crushed orbital bone.  Or a couple overriding things to know.

You told me there was drowning and there was dissolving, stretching and compressing, the only difference was the distance to tell.

You told me even blind spots could be living things, and still, I wanted to believe you.

The towers of Scavenger’s Daughter were built of interlocking shipwrecks, which made the underwater city “earthquake-proof.

Using reinforced skeletons, the hulls of hundred of vessels could be notched and stacked on top of each other to create structures of enormous height and complexity.  

Together these structures form the city of Scavenger’s Daughter.  A skyline of shipwrecks rising from the ocean floor.

There are times we all fail.  We salvage ourselves just long enough to explore the wreckage of a warmer person.  We dig out the hidden teeth in each other.

By the anniversary of our attack, I was back to six bones missing again.  Two orbital, two nasal, and two made of hunger and need.

You told me there were ways to trust it would end, a scavenger may pray to surviving gods too.

Jillison, we should leave here.  Now.

Jillison. We should leave here. 

Now.  Now. Now.  Now.

Now.

The Scavenger’s Daughter worked by strapping the head of the victim to an A-frame shaped metal rack at the top point of A. The hands were then tied at the midpoint and the legs at the lower spread end of A

The body was then compressed from both sides, pushing the knees up in a sitting position and the head in the opposite direction. This resulted in blood running from the nose and ears of the victim other than damage to muscles.

The Scavenger’s Daughter was among those torture devices that were rarely used and yet relatively easy to make. 

Shipwrecker’s Paradox.

Whether a shipwreck which is restored by replacing each and every one of its wooden parts is still the same shipwreck?

And yes, I said yes.  Pick your shipwreck, any shipwreck.  Pick your carcass, any carcass. Pick your angles, pick your shape.  Pick your predators, pick your prey.

I survived as a scavenger’s daughter, I could only keep circling yes.

false martyr cartography.

“The malignant self-obsession and childish vitriol only scratches the surface of the man’s flaws. His compulsions aren’t hidden or covered up. They are broadcast for the entire country to see, for hours on end, every day, late into the night.”


Never underestimate temporary paralysis. It only takes one lifetime to forget all of human history.

The oldest burial sites and artifacts suggest such a belief in an afterlife goes back more than 50,000 years.

Can the dead talk at all?  Leave the afterlife alone. You open a door only to find a fire inside.

Petulant borderline (including negativistic features): Negativistic, impatient, restless, as well as stubborn, defiant, sullen, pessimistic, and resentful; easily feels “slighted” and quickly disillusioned.

Hollow, small, sunken, confused, jealousy. It just dominates so much of my thoughts. Intensities of abandonment or reckless abstraction. It doesn’t ever go away.

Everything was poorly communicated and treated as disposable. Identities. Aspirations. Jobs. Relationships. People, in general. We didn’t hang on to anything for very long.

Entropy was common and collective. Maybe we had more to learn from it than we think.

Days were sharp and light, and the afterlife did both things. I had shingles in my breath and a throat stacked with wood to burn. We often lit a fire just to remember what the world felt like before.

She carried bags of ash and gray air. We had good seasons and bad seasons. More choices did not necessarily make either of us happier. The afterlife highlights the lack in each.

Causality is murky and hubristic. Causality is irrelevant. Falling masonry offers little refuge.

Impulsive borderline (including histrionic or antisocial features): Captivating, capricious, superficial, flighty, distractable, frenetic, and seductive; fearing loss, the individual becomes agitated; gloomy and irritable; and potentially suicidal.

Hospitals were on their “worst case scenarios.” Every bird was made of metal and plastic. The weathervanes couldn’t tell the difference between wires and waves. There were too many angles to count. I think I was just tired.

We counted backwards from the crash site. There were few basic signifiers to indicate anything inhabitable. I used to hide survival tags in my room at night.

Chin, jawbone, brow, mouth, hairline. There wasn’t much I would choose to keep.

I wanted to cry, to feel my face wet and shallow and weak.

What kind of nightmares are the easiest to nail down? The ones that already know your name.

I was short, stumpy-bodied, big nosed. My skin looked someone was trying to kill the color pink. I had wrinkles, my teeth were cigarette yellow and crooked and disorganized.

She preferred an affectionate cloth to a wire frame.

Self-destructive borderline (including depressive or masochistic features): Inward-turning, intropunitive (self-punishing), angry; conforming, deferential, and ingratiating behaviors have deteriorated; increasingly high-strung and moody; possible suicide.

The barometer kept saying: chance of apocalypse. If only.

Big veins. Low self esteem. Not a risk taker. The center could not hold.

Peak-end rule. You pick apart the cemetery dimensions, go over the outline in your head. You make no payments to the future and repeat the same mistakes. You wear makeup and paint as if it will feel any safer. Just goes to show, the past you bleed is just the past you know.

For worse or for worse, felt like another afterlife was ready to fall.

wish upon willing chrysalis / hospital 8

Cut through all that chrysalis you would never confess for them, all those “maybes” and “if only’s” that you couldn’t stop collecting.

Read your needle twitch, your ‘tetanus shot’, your target practice therapy. 

Tried to put a pin in each excuse like it was a missing specimen, like the pack of them would be extinct by the end of the night.

Memories are trapped using funnels, pitfalls, malaise netting, bottleneck interceptions and other types of passive traps, some of which are baited with small bits of sensation (such as a wish, when formed, or a want, once found).

Want (as a general preference) versus want (as a statement of an action).  Two very different definitions for the same word.

Yes, fine, tell them all that bullshit again.  You had a life before this. Take it. 

Do I need to make this simpler?  Could I? Jillison, do you really think it matters who was willing or when?  Another consequence of covering your tracks in cracks of glass, I could you see up close and all too clearly.  

Remember who you were before?    Temporary pins and proper needles, I wish I didn’t.

Jillison, do you still want me to honest?  You never trusted me, I never trusted you.  

Cut you open like a child from a cocoon, I knew you would be the easiest to kill.

raptor talon talisman

 

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges…”

― Jorge Luis Borges, “A New Refutation of Time”, Labyrinths, 1946.

“If an ox could paint a picture, his god would look like an ox.”

  ― Xenophanes of Colophon, 5th century BC.

Every day in tunnels, in the cave, I wore the talisman and swore the talon’s oath.

Seven claws hung high and sharp around my neck, each one easily reachable by either hand.  They were Jillison’s grave luck piece, an empty ornament to remember where we’d been.

Avalanche was the only calendar I had left.  It was our cold and voiceless season, more violence was unspoken than snow and ice could show.

We were alone and almost unconscious.  Children of the youngest continent, still lost enough to trust a raptor would protect us.

‘….that explains the trouble that I’m always in.”
― Alice in Wonderland, Very Good Advice

2. How does time work?  Here. A very simple setup.  A screen that flashes two dots.  Dot one appears and disappears and then dot two appears and disappears.

The brain translates this into one continuous motion.

Instead of seeing it as it is we perceive it as one dot moving back and forth between then position of the two dots.

We have evolved to see physical objects. We have adapted to the afterlife as if it were a normal error.  Another delusion, what’s the difference?

The unthought known stands for those early schema for interpreting the object world that preconsciously determine our subsequent life expectations.

3. Jillison called them savior claws and said they were enough to start us over again.

Maybe this time we could charcoal a path to a grayscale sun.  We could sharpen the talons to keep us together for good.

False positives or future imperfects, it was up to us to tell the difference. 

If animals like velociraptor were alive today our first impression would be that they were just very unusual looking birds.”

― Mark Norell, ‘Velociraptor Had Feathers’, 2007.

4. What raptors had we known before?  Anyone looking backward and forward at the same time, feathers and scales in the same place.  No need for symmetry, no reason to ask for it.

Like Jillison said, first birds of the afterlife.  Blind and incapable of sustaining their own body heat.  Hatched in caves or sinkholes, brought up by the opposites of each other.

For all we knew, they learned to leave flight behind.

5. Displaced gods or “fading gods” of older theology often appear in lower or demote status in new religions.

In the beginning, we had an agricultural god. 

Makes the seasons, the floods, forest fires, good and bad land.  There is no promise of afterlife. No rewards or punishment beyond death.  No answers are given to metaphysical queries.

Interests include agricultural input/output, little else.  This type of deity is no longer relevant to many people.

6. Could have been one of those sacraments still to come, a collapsing season, a coincidence of solar reckoning.  

Unstable weather often accompanied a raptor’s shadow, when warmer air begun to invade the caves, while glacial currents was still pushed on occasions from the poles.

Even with snow up to my neck I was still soaking wet with sweat.   I clung to serrated edges, sharpened curves, seven talons on a torn red string.  Jillison’s apology in advance, and I clung with both hands, honestly.

7. Time is dependent on an observer: It gets stranger when you add color (or gender) to the setup.  Dot one is reddish pink. Dot two is deep blue.

People claim to perceive the colors changing halfway along.

What is actually happening?  The brain is retroactively changing the contents of your present tense perception. Your brain is retroactively telling you what you are seeing right now.  

Test the latency bias.  Flashes get processed differently in the brain than moving objects.

This is your brain.  This is my brain. Formally just fault lines that fray.

Tiny differentiations in the developing egg designate major differences in the final creature.

8. OK, Jillison. Suppose we never left each other.  Suppose I could hold up those talons like they were a lantern now? How much of us depended on adaptation and how much depended on climate and chance?  How much of any of it was true?

A seventh of it. I know.

“It was a silly, silly dream, being unhappy.”

― Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, 1925.

victory disease

“If you find this work wearisome or difficult to follow, please take pity on me for I have repeated these calculations some seventy times.”

― Johannes Kepler, The Harmony of the World, 1619.

“I don’t know why I told this story. I could just as well have told another. Perhaps some other time I’ll be able to tell another. Living souls, you will see how alike they are.”

― Samuel Beckett, The Complete Short Prose: 1929-1989.

1. By dawn, my stepfather had introduced us to a mythology of his own. He built a tower hide, attached wing tags, cast his nets over clouds and sky.

Back then, we lived under a three tiered sky of cartilage, hollow limb and common bone.

There were birds as big as bathtubs and birds with bellows in their throats. The wind was thick with them, twenty four to every eye, fits and flocks of them.

Birds of now and birds of then, he said. Both would be blacked out at the Halowell.

“Birds, by their quickness and intelligence and alertness in acting upon every thought, are a ready instrument of God, who can prompt their movements, their cries and songs, their pauses and wind-like flights, thus bidding some men check, and others pursue to the end, their course of action or ambitions.”

 ― Plutarch, 1st century AD.

2. When the cloud cover was clear, we watched him turn the anesthesia machine back on.  The sound of opposing currents came through over motorized, brackish, cold. Wind fell off course.

As if I didn’t notice, a nowhere was growing inside of me.

3. Cells stop making new rejuvenated cells.  Maintenance gets scaled back or rolled out in illogical ways. 

 Early human explanations: Our bodies over time, get worn out.  Our tools get worn out over time, artifacts etc. Shouldn’t our bodies be the same?

Evolutionary function of aging.  It has such a cost, why does it exist.  What pays for it biologically?

4. Seven weeks we waited in our pop-up trailer. Jillison was a ghost born again.  We played duck and shutter, pane and palm print, draw card and rook exchange.

We practiced disassociation strategies until we were waking strangers, until we were too young to guess what was coming again.

Hours began appearing briefly or repeatedly, as if each duplicate was undercutting into something lesser.

5. I watched my stepfather outside again, filling sacks with fallen leaves, covering echoes in rain, confirming the failed results.

I could read the swears worsening on his lips. I listened for the recoil of commas and halts of breaths, more or less single tones, pauses before the rest.  

I wondered how a face could end up looking like that. Jowls and bone and eyes bulging, barely any shapes at all.

Caught me red handed, caught me empty handed, the inevitable was never far from where I stopped following along.

“To oppose something is to maintain it… To be sure, if you turn your back on [something] and walk away from it, you are still on the [same] road…You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.”

― Ursula K. LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness, 1969.

6. No mental imagery.  Purely conceptual. A computer that stores information but you do not have a screen attached to the computer.  You can’t view it. But you can still access it.

1 out of 50 people don’t create pictures inside their mind like other people do. Instead they experience  blindness of the mind’s eye. Aphantasia.

Why does it take so long for anyone to tell?  A lot of conversations go unnoticed or missing in the back seat, individuals find a way to function despite it.

7. It wasn’t denial at first of course, just another way to exist further and further from myself.

Jillison wrote a reminder and left it for me. He called me the upcoming hopeless and I tried to laugh about it as long as I could.

8. My stepfather watched us with one infected orbital.  He recited another fever vision under his breath. He went back in to check on the anesthesia machine.  His eyes were controlled by corners of light.

Jillison was right when she said critical parts were missing.  Blood-soaked, empty veined, a sky made from shadows of flesh.

She was right when she said, if the afterlife ever started, it was starting then.

“Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge…”

― Paul Gauguin, 1903.

9. Rank in level of detail.

A close friend, a partner, a family member.  How well in your mind’s eye can you the contours of their face?  Just how vivid are these mental images? 

There tends to be a spectrum, from none to extreme lucidity.

“Consider incompleteness as a verb.”

― Anne Carson, Plainwater: Essays and Poetry, 1995.

10. He used both hours, like there nothing was wrong with it. Like he shouldn’t have to even worry about getting caught.

I could feel his anesthesia machine overheating, sweating heavily.

Aphantasia.  Disassociation.

Synaptic ripple and retreat.

Left my eyelids there, left my pulse there, left my body as an echo chamber. My throat was numb from vomit and spit swallowed back and spit up and swallowed back.

Jillison told me it didn’t matter now. She made it simple: Hide the knives under our pillow. Wait until he comes the right night.

Kill the bastard already.

“I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.”

― Simone de Beauvoir, in a letter to Nelson Algren

the impalement arts / afterlife 3

At last, another Heaven.  Pins and needles the size of skyscrapers, a yolky aftertaste, a bed spilled on granite.  Vowels with their veils in disguise. Blue ribbons in my hair. Home.

Outside, Jillison whittles fingerholes into cork.  He scripts static defense into star charts. Scratches bruises shaped like trapezoids.  He spends his nights nailing frog legs to the leftover planks of wood. Anything else feels too much like starting over again.

He sheds and shivers and I balance him.  He is nervous. I brace his circumference with warm temperatures.  I brush poison sumac off this truth and that.

Syllables blink and I hide him.    I know my words are like ticker tape.  Thin. Flimsy. Tasteless. Jillison could rip them to their filaments and stomp them out.  But now, he won’t even look at me. 

That’s when maybe I knew the distance that exceptions make.  You can travel your whole life just to remember the absence they left in your place.