by: Avichai Brautigam
We mined the planet dead. Not in the sense that we burrowed, like dwarves, carving Morias and Morias into the crust till it all came apart; it was Bitcoin that did us in. Somewhere, in the moldy basement of some half-forgotten Department of the Bureau of the Ministry of the So On, someone received a report about energy usage, marked up in red ink–absolutely bloodied by red ink–that said, more or less, that the total amount of energy spent mining Bitcoin was equal to the yearly energy usage of the country of Denmark. No one must have thought anything of it, for no one since Shakespeare has thought anything of Denmark. In some corner of an unprinted advertisement in a forgotten sheet of the Times, a breathless junior reporter and/or unpaid intern set to writing the story up, trying to fit it into the three lines given to him so graciously by Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists. No one read it, and it didn’t even make the news.
The next year, our basement schlub of So On got another report, this one dripping red ink onto the floor like globules of blood in the aftermath of a murder. It said, more or less, that the total energy expended on Bitcoin mining was now equal to the yearly energy usage of the US. Now that made the news! People actually think about the US–albeit rarely in a kind way–and they knew that the US used a metric shit-ton of energy, even if the US couldn’t measure shit-tons metrically. In the panic, some brave Pulitzer Prize winning journalist broke the story, like a modern day Woodward and Bernstein (the intern from the year before had gotten the boot from the Times and de Sales both). For this he was awarded the Nobel for Literature, since they give that out to anyone nowadays, even folk singers.
It was apparent to everyone that this state of affairs couldn’t last, but some meeting must have been held at the highest levels, possibly involving Elder Gods, and it was decided that this state of affairs could, in fact, last. There was money in it, and the price of Bitcoin could more than keep pace with the build-up of greenhouse gases. There was a positive correlation, and Americans adore positivity and affirmation, so we affirmed that the earth would henceforth be a sauna and everyone set to mining.
As the Warm-Up (that was the new, approved, and improved name for it) sauntered on, the outside world got unbearable. Underground, massive supercomputers chugged violently on, solving inhuman equations, and belching fumes. In the sealed glass domes of Wall Street, value accumulated like the rancorous ghost of Marx; in the brick-paved towns of Bumfuck, melting slowly away in the heat, preachers took to every corner, braving the fires of earth to warn of the fires of Hell. No one needed to do any imaginative work as Jonathan Edwards was dug out of the sealed vaults of Calvinist heritage and spewed to new crowds of the predestined.
In between the rutting of CO2 and methane, going at it like barnyard pigs, multiplying on and ever on, shutters were heard the world over. All of civilization (and America too) was being rocked by violent quakes. The scientists, done up in their lab coats and sweating cannonballs, stood in front of the cameras to warn that overuse of the supercomputers was causing the earth to rupture. Being good, sensible defenders of the status quo, they simply asked that the ceaseless mining be limited by 30%; to ask anything more would have been utopian. No one paid any attention, and the only people that paid were already mining Bitcoin, so the computers chugged on.
In any case, they were wrong about the causes of the quakes, as we later learned when an army of Kate Bushs–all completely identical and fresh off their 1979 performance of “James and the Cold Gun” in London–poured out of every cave, crag, valley, and depth to march on the cities of man. Mother Earth had dispelled, from all orifices in her pained crust, an unstoppable horde. Soon, we were getting reports by the day of cities lying in ruins, supercomputers flaming in the evening light, pale armies of identically-costumed Art Rock superstars, rivers of blood flowing in vast streams through suburban streets–the works.
Now I wait, on the porch of my little ranch house in Central PA, gun in hand, boyfriend by my side, and the wan buzz of a bug-zapper above us. I wait for the army of Rock goddesses, bearing rifles and intoning lines from Joyce, to enter my swamp of a suburb. In no way do I believe that this rifle will do me any good; I simply wish to be able to die with dignity alongside my boyfriend. For a long time, the night is as silent as that one in Bethlehem millenia ago. Then I hear them.
Running up that hill.
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by Avichai Brautigam
There is a fly drowning in a puddle of honey on my kitchen table. Why? Because, with full knowledge of what would come of it, I left the golden brown for the catching of flies like this one. Alas, I think my fly…my prisoner…is dying. Buzzing, not quite as loud as a bee’s, yet not as quiet as the vibrator I keep in my bedside table, rises from the fly’s shuddering body. I do not think it will be long now.
The fly has beautiful legs, long and plump, without very much fat…do flies have fat? These legs are much to my liking, terminating in pretty pale pink feet with exquisite toes. I should very much like to kiss along the two gorgeous legs of my benighted friend. Following up from the base of this fly’s feet, I would let my lips travel up towards the round thighs. What a wonderful buttocks! By god, I’ve caught quite the fly!
Diminishing ever further, the buzzing is starting to trickle. I do fear my friendly fellow sufferer shall soon be at its end. Crystalline and ensconcing, the honey does its dread work. Soon it will be done and I, in my own way, will have become death, destroyer of worlds.
Yet my reverie is forever interrupted! Look at the aedeagus on this fly! Who could deny its exquisiteness? The shaft, made tumescent by death…leave that one to the psychoanalysts…is no more than six inches, its head mushroom-like. Cut as beautifully as a diamond, too! I wonder who the moyle was? Below sag two bright coral bullocks, which contrast wonderfully with the aforementioned legs, just as enticing…perhaps more so. The navel sports a patch of blond pubic gold…no, I do not misuse that term, I can see it now: Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold thread from the pubis of my dear old fly.
The fly has more joie de vivre than previously supposed. It has, for a few minutes now, denied death another victory. Was it Nietzsche, then, who claimed that hope was the worst of all evils? Siri says yes. I am starting to believe that I should not have been so cruel as to leave my trap. What good has it done, in any case? It was immature of me, for certain.
My eyes are now transfixed upon the fly’s body. The pubic forest trails a while upward, as if the very image of a flame upon the trunk. How pale! How delicate! Its belly button is enough to send one into raptures. On the chest, there is only the hint of hair, a promise which need not be kept. Two rose areolas culminating in a perky-pointed nipple. Sublime. I could spend a year on each. Its back is lined with small spinal bumps. My breath catches.
What is the worst a fly can do? I dare say: little at all. Surely there must be a more logical reason for the way we treated the besotted creatures, who, after all, do us a favor. Correct? The state dieticians and experts…those oddly buzzing bunch of bureaucrats who hand down diktats like bubble gum…are always telling us to eat less sugar, to not waste food, and so on. Who but flies would punish us, disincentivize us? Surely, being good Americans, we would balk at the State setting ordinances on what we eat! I say, god bless the flies!
The arms of my fly are perfectly formed, a light slab of fat undergirded by barely apparent muscle. Flexible fingers, the sort needed to enter orifices and to plumb depths. Manicured nails of proper shape, not too wide and flat…I despise how wide and flat the nail of others are. No signs of having bit at them are apparent.
Hell, flies do god’s work! Certainly there are references in the Tanakh! Isn’t there a story of that sort somewhere…I cannot fathom the hubris of my fellow humans. Am I to be but a bystander to this…this murder? Yes. That’s what it is: a damnable homicide. A sin. I would not have been in this situation, I think, but for my boyfriend, who decided that “something” needed to be done about “all these flies”! He would have had me in the camps, the bastard…no concern at all for the sanctity of life.
Under the honey, the fly’s face is becoming clearer. Pale, with brown eyes and an aristocratic nose, a golden brow and rouged cheeks. A holy androgyne, something like Donatello’s David, with thick golden hair…though not as long as the statue’s.
I will not be a handmaiden to death.
I grab the fly from the honey puddle, screaming for its…his…life. I am praying now. Praying like I haven’t since I last stepped foot inside a synagogue. I’m crying for my fly’s life. I have forgotten how to cry, how to pray, yet I relearn these skills at the very moment when I have found a fly.
Manna descends from heaven.
He opens his his honey-covered mouth. There is a shuddering as breath…life!…moves through him, into his lungs. A few moments of hyperventilation, then a calm as his breathing steadies. Looking about the room, he sees. First he brings his hands near his face. Then he sets them down so as to look at me. As the last of the gears rattle in his head, he blushes. You must pardon me, he says, I try not to appear nude before strangers. I tell him it is all okay and that he god’s blessing unto me. This confuses him, but he has recovered his dignity. He introduces himself for the first time. His name is Remy…he’s French in origin…I offer him coffee, which he takes with a great deal of sugar. We are on speaking terms, becoming friendlier, and before long we are in my bedroom…I have joined him in his nudity.
That evening, I tell my boyfriend to get lost.
Many months later, I am eating dinner with Remy: steak. He spitting on his steak, well done and covered in ketchup, with his proboscis. All throughout the house are flies. Swarms of flies, perching everywhere as if the building was itself a corpse covered in them. One cannot step anywhere without killing a patch of fat gray ones. How cheap life becomes in its multitude! Remy is eyeing me with obvious desire…or at least, as much as a compound eye can make clear. Tonight, his aedeagus will fill me with his seed and I will birth.
Avichai Brautigam is a philosophy major and a local of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In his free time he writes fiction and talks Marx with friends. You can find him on Twitter.
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