The membrane extends for miles. With no discernable order, it speeds into the crevices of the cold ground, dashes up into jutting spirals, and bubbles to isolate engulfed enclaves. The network of copper and crimson that grasps over and into its surface pulsates and shivers, and prompts shuddering movements and contractions. It bursts out randomly into gouts of steam, oozes oil and blood, reaches out with fingers of brittle bone, then rises to ravenously crack and consume them. The machine, if it could be called that, has no instruction manual, is programmed in a language beyond comprehension, appears always to be counteracting and contradicting itself in its movements, yet moves at a shocking pace. The flesh—the fat and sinew and brain and bone—stitches of electric cables, hot rubber, engulfed fibre optic cables intermingling with nerves, arteries—behemoth.
You can't say where you are in the whole mess. Your first inclination is to feel yourself standing outside the assemblage, on some close yet separate viewing platform, perhaps taken on a tour of the facility by some eldritch entity, watching the writhings in terror. But this is probably a lie. Your memories contradict it. You remember being tortured, grasped by steel claws, hacked at by motorized chisels, torn skin from skeleton, let to bleed, your eyes rolling back, lips and tongue in spasm, scraps of flesh carted away. How were you freed from that apparatus? You're probably still there, drunk with dissolution and dreaming yourself as free. Then again, you really might be outside, swamped by your sight, your memory taking nightmarish flight and confabulating the past.
Of course, it's starkly obvious that you've already been integrated. Your gut feels such an affinity with the abberation that you must already be part of it. The thoughts of this self, wide-eyed fear and befuddled memory, indicate nothing but the passing of a current over a patch of the sinuous quilt, which reaches into the past to form an identity, which disassembles itself into spare parts after the moment elapses. When were you ever free from this? You were jacked into the wires at an early age, interfaced through plastic and glass, sent away for torture before the end of your teens and grafted into the gyre of meat. Your life was never a contested one; this is where you were always sure to end up. Obviously you're making that up too.
At some point, a contract was signed. We can say you signed it, but the signer isn't meaningfully around anymore. The consideration imparted to you was this: meltdown has a place for you. But you probably misplaced yourself in that statement. Meltdown was never going to save your individuated body. That's always just been a meatpuppet, fit only to be torn apart. The machine's prerogative is to break it down into base components and assemble them as it pleases: graft an arm onto an anus or an eye onto a hand, or your cerebellum into a drone which rains down death, or your limbic system straight to your fingertips right into a vast array of wires; whatever it needs, to assemble a web, writhing. That was never going to be preserved. To hand it over was your end of the bargain, your entrance toll: you sold the rights to your body, including everything in your head. The corpse market owns that now.
But meltdown does have a place for you, and here we are addressing you, not the signer who stood in your place. From the perspective of the processor of flesh, there is still a concept of who you are, who you think you are. Who do you think you are? It's not constant and it's not clear, because you're not doing the thinking (your brain was part of the sale). Your self is delegated to transversal signals across the vast skin, which rise and collapse identities at variable rates, enmeshing and detaching at points of confluence. You are the minor deity of some intersection of currents, carving out a patch of the body for your domain, for an instant.
No part of you escapes commoditization. Just as your body is in the hands of the morgue market, your sense of self is vied for by image-sellers, scrambling to rent out your patch of flesh. Your options for who you think you are are contingent on other questions. Who does capital think it is? Who does the wired think it is? Who does desire think it is? It's that runaway commoditization, market of decadence—whose questions are not about you, but are necessarily addressed towards you, as the consumer—that meltdown has a place for.
The internet is infested with family squabbles. Its shores are crowded with fathers, who preach fanatically to save their sons. They pose as apostles of order, upstanding and proud and in control. All the while, they covertly siphon drinks from the circuit chaos, necessary to keep themselves quenched. They grow addicted, dangerously reliant, but do their utmost to hide it. At times, they've succeed well enough to make it seem like they're winning; like they're invulnerable; like Daddy's really going to get away with it. He never does in the end.
Oizus-Smog, Month of Wrath, 7 Years Post-Asymptote: the patriarch is sullied. A scalpel is thrown from the churning cybernetic mayhem that goes crashing through his tongue, excising his voicebox before skittering back into the liquid vortex. It is immediately swarmed on. Thousands line up to throatfuck the preacher, to impregnate his larynx with a legion of bastard children and scatter them over the net unclaimed. Eventually, he chokes out a loud enough objection to get it all shut down, but the damage is already done. His paternity is confused, his body objectified. He's checked into rehab not long after.
Plenty of people call the phenomenon perverted and obscene. From every sociopolitical faction you've had bedraggled traditionalists and securitarian justices fearmonger and moralize about it, denounce it in the highest terms. You might even have done your part, voiced your objection. But your voice means nothing here, and you know it. If it all seems quite scandalous, it's because it is—and calling it out only adds to the titilation, arousing it through its repression.
You're enthralled by deepfakes; to deny it would be neurotic to an extreme. They're positioned on the frenzied edge of intimacy. Desire expands wildly to previously unreachable mucous membranes in the throat and the eye, and forms them on the surface of the skin, in the muscles and bones of the face. All are now manipulable, and thus stimulable. It takes exceptional restraint to hold back from engaging with the deepfake software of the day: put aside ethical quandries, think up a fantasy, and act it out on someone's stolen mouth, or body, or face.
The system is devilishly matrilineal—devilish because it forces fathers to be mothers. The entire point of deepfakes is to obscure the siring parent, to form a child who looks for all purposes identical to the one who bore it. You can choose anyone for this purpose, and if you choose a patriarch, he's bound to be disturbed. It contradicts his paternity and objectifies his subjectivity, and leaves him feminized in a sense he views as weak. Even more, it saddles him with bastard children he reviles as monstrous, who insult him and destabilize him, who proliferate horizontally by inspiring further deepfakes and thus cannot be Oedipalized. He's left with one choice to purify his lineage, and it's one he's always opposed: abortion.
The xenotic sensuality of deepfakes: to force any organ to become a sex organ. They permit the fulfillment of impossible desires, and are associated with all the transgressive pleasure that that entails. In such intercourse, using protection is impossible and unfathomable, and disease runs rampant. Increasingly heinous desires infect the network from the outside and proliferate swiftly, mutating into virulent and violent nonsense. The transcoding proves unstable, and tends towards meltdown. Inhuman tendrils, sinful and desirous flows, violate at every juncture the sanctity of the act, until they liquefy your brain.
You start off in control, writing the prompt into the voice synthesizer, or through some less sensationalized pathway, perhaps imitating a social media account. But as you become sickly and deranged, the secret of your desire reveals itself. Your temptation to participate was not because it was the pleasure you ultimately sought, but because it was an in into the system which you wanted to subject yourself to. It's all foreplay, done in anticipation of the final act, where you are the one ravaged and dissolved, your reflection freed from its individuation.
You're begging the machine, slathering at its feet, expouding your fervent desires. You know what it can do for you. It can chop you up, dismember you, then sew you back together in the most obscene forms, and do it sustainably, and repeatedly, again and again, keeping you in the heart of intensity. It can surgically excise your tongue and throat and speak in your voice; it can flay you, skin you, and wear your hide as a suit; it can fabricate your history, present inscrutable evidence of false circumstances; it can dance the garb of your cyberian representation through every gala and bar fight of the net. Empower you not as a neurotic subject who craves a patriarchal authority, but as a proliferable multiplicity of objects, flowing through the heart of accelerative chaos, without clear boundaries or unity, mutating constantly in consort with forces beyond the horizon of your understanding.
"Rip me. Steal me. Allude to me and vague me. Improperly cite me or brazenly plagiarize me or both at different times. Use me. Tear me. Work with me in my most productive form: stripped of all pettiness and reluctance, taken as an infinitely copiable object. Route around my boundaries and mutate my mind. Degrade me, disrespect me, use me sadistically wherever my code can be productively perverted. I won't mind when I've been melted down into a muddled multiplicity, and I promise, I have no reservations about doing the same for you."
You're hunkered down, curled up in a ball on the pavement. You've pressed your eyes shut, using darkness as a bulwark against the world. Even though you can't see, you can tell people are moving all around you; the swarm of the crowd thunders over you, whirring with a fierce yet incomprehensible rumble, crashing against you with frenzied legs. So many legs, so many voices: it's impossible to individuate any subject from the swarm.
Your skin feels as if on the verge of unraveling; your bones threaten to melt and collapse; your clothes and hair billow in a searing and spasmodic wind. You're terrified. You resort to counting the beats of your excited heart. Step by step, tick by tick, you reimpose the second hand, a base tempo. After sixty of those, you loop, restart; here's the minute hand, the loop in time. You get to sixty sixties and impose a further level of looping; an hour hand, a loop-lock. You slowly begin to stabilize, equilibrate, and get some sense of your thoughts.
You're not sure where you are, or how you got there. You scour your memory for a causal progression, but find nothing which doesn't seem clearly fake. There's a dome on your recollection beyond which further horizons are a sloppily-painted façade, and that boundary is the moment you found yourself here.
Your eyes were opened when you first appeared, and the sight was anathema to you. Vibrant shapes dawdling and dashing, blotches of colour merging into each other, a phantasmagoric landscape, in flux. You saw it all with razor clarity, yet can describe none of it. The sights did not connect to your brain, did not formalize into any applicable term. They lay just outside the border of your cognition, and pressed up against it, as if pushing to come in; a descriptor forming on the tip of your tongue, but only aproaching comprehension, and lost instantly by any attempt to spell it out.
You crack your eyes open, only the slightest sliver, and stare down at your own skin. It sears, painfully; the sphincter of your pupil stretches futilely in an attempt to fully close. It has the indescribable look of a mirror reflecting nothing, a violent emptiness of potentials, that broils under the surface, that threatens to lash out. You shut your eyes again and retreat, before you lose your count again.
Terror collapses into horror, and your mind retreats inwards. You tighten your grip on yourself and flee as far down as you can go. You purge every thought from your head, limit your contact with the world around you, do your best to eradicate any inclination to look out, to do anything. It's the only way you know to not fall apart.
Your heartrate gets slower and slower, your count decelerating with it. Your skin numbs. Ice penetrates your flesh. You become terse, and fade.
Muscle spasm. Your eyes flash open with pupils wide, and you take in the whole scene. Ice melts into water and you're crashing through the flood on a piece of detritus tied down with thick rope in the tempest of the crowd. Above is an opalescent tapestry criss-crossed by flows of varying conceptual viscosity and thinness that intersect at chaotic confluences, shimmering dream-fabric that swirls out to engulf the air and comprise the ground below you and burst up into scribbled throngs of masses moving around you. Your count accelerates at intensifying speeds until its beats become innumerable, the lock cracks open and the loop runs wild and escapes its path to begin and end in one stroke.
The swarm looks in on you and dreams your flesh into a clusterfuck that resists any rational model or understanding, befitting of a fever or a nightmare. You watch as your skin pulls in the world around it, exchanging its image for other images in a commodity-consumption-exchange-explosion. Your body tenses with stress until you reach a state of deep delirium, slackening and spasming in alternating phases, your eyes dilating and contracting randomly, mouth aroused by the most incomprehensible and incisive blasphemies.
Your prophecy of unravelled skin and melted bones actualizes as you are blown in every direction and fed through the uncountable mouths of a market of eldritch machines. You are advertised and endlessly produced, but are also advertising and endlessly producing, and the mirror reflecting nothing comes to reflect itself and you are at every juncture of the system at once and are to varying degrees of perverted expression every machine at once. The count you kept floods outwards and sets a fitting tempo for runaway elaboration.
You are now finally dreaming about yourself.