The Human Camera – Part 5

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This is Part 5. Go back to Part 4, or start at Part 1.

The screening tent radiates silence like a melted down reactor core. No sound comes from it, no talking, nothing. Buster Keaton #9 parts the white vinyl curtain and ushers Pax inside.

A few men and women sit in folding seats facing a screen. Several of sit in perpetua facepalmus. In the center the seats are cleared away to make space for an enclosed sedan chair. Two muscular men loll against the carrying poles sticking out of the front and back of the carriage. An accountant type stands nearby picking his fingernails.

A strange, mechanical sound like a robotic chicken pecking for nuts and bolts comes from behind the sedan chair’s closed curtains, which are velvet embroidered with intricate scenes. Every so often a little chime punctuates the sound, followed by a ratcheting cough.

The accountant type sees Pax and Buster. He straightens up, gives the side of the sedan an anxious knock. The shades billow angrily, releasing a puff of gray smoke. A deep voice from within the cabinet says, “Just a minute.” The accountant type stands back and eyes Pax, nodding his head in a weak sort of request for indulgence. The robotic chicken pecking continues for a few more moments, dissolves into a grumbling mumble punctuated by a sharp ratchet. A crumpled up wad of paper — a wrapper? Pax thinks — flies out of the carriage window.

“The film’s a mess,” says the baritone hidden inside the litter. Pax tilts his head, but doesn’t respond. “I said the film’s a mess! Well?!”

“Even if the little girl reads as a local, the film will still work,” Pax says finally.

The roar that comes from the litter must be produced in accompaniment with violent bodily thrashing, because the sedan wobbles crazily, tilting at times onto two legs. The curtains flutter and gnash and the two muscular men grab the lifting poles in a panic.

“Quack-Quack, tell him about the demographic.”

The accountant type clearly hates being called Quack-Quack, but he takes a step toward Pax and begins to speak. “This is a horromedy-romthriller targeted at affluent Americans, Europeans and Asians. To the Americans and Europeans, the girl seeming Indian makes no sense at all. For the Asians she seems like a slave, it’s confusing.”

The voice inside the litter spoke again. “She doesn’t just read Indian, she reads local. Poor. I could smell the stench of bad hygiene and sleeping with animals. She reeks of stables, sweat, dust, and…something else. She seems almost…” Pax and the accountant just gaze at each other. The voice went on, “…something dark and frightening. Some kind of power…” He remains silent for a long moment, then almost shouts, “That’s not the character! She needs to be vulnerable! Soft! White! Goddamn do I have to explain cinema to you? Pax! Screen the film yourself. See what I mean.”

But Pax doesn’t move. He speaks very softly, almost in a whisper. “You know I can’t do that, sir. I don’t use Feels.”

Mr. Big cuts him off. “Fix it. Get the girl in to see the camera, to talk to him. Maybe if he gets to know her. She’s quite the spitfire, that one! Lotta spunk.” A vulgars snicker. “Some of my own. He’s gotta see it. Let’s go!”

The two muscular men lift the litter and carry Mr. Big out, entourage in tow. As the pecking noise starts again, Pax recognizes it: the sound of an old typewriter. Pax turns on his heel and leaves the tent on the opposite side to avoid seeing the Quack Quack again. He slips silently as a shadow across the stage to look for Myria.

Jackson Pax never uses Feels. Most people don’t know why, and just assume he doesn’t like them or is neuroatypical in some way. But the real reason is something Pax shares with nobody.

###

The Fun’n’Loathing On Route 666 package from The U.S.A. Tour Group included the raw materials for a solid weekend of fun: a disposable pink convertible automobile; a reservation at the Clown Murder Inn just off the Vegas strip; a blow-up sex doll in the likeness of Elvis Presley and another in the likeness of Marilyn Monroe; $8 million in casino chips; a handgun loaded with blanks; a bottle of rye whiskey labeled Olde Weste Rotgutte; several costumes including leisure suits and heavily be-fringed faux cowboy attire; a pre-programmed music feed timed to enhance specific features of the landscape along the drive; a fake brochure for a police convention in 1975; and a small leather case containing drugs. Tiny vials labelled “cocaine”, “heroin”, “adrenochrome”; a pack of marijuana cigarettes; and a pack of gum labelled “Juicy Mescaline Mint.”

Benazir had suggested the trip. She had been living with Dziga in Krevich’s apartment for a couple of quick months. Their dream-work had continued and intensified, indeed they did little else. Dziga began to feel pasty and damp, so when Benazir chirped one day, “Let’s take a trip out to the desert,” he lost no time jumping on the feed and booking them a travel package. These days, unless you were ultra-rich it was impossible to travel around North America without a travel package from a UN-licensed travel agency who could negotiate a bulk discount on the various bribes demanded from beat cops, FBI agents, CIA spooks and NAACP Inspectors.

Dziga had no conscious reason why he had chosen the “Fear’n’Loathing” package, with its Kitsch Americana, but Benni seemed to like it; she had started chanting “USA! USA! USA!” when he showed it to her. Route 666 was a reference to Route 66, a long-gone highway that people in the old days thought was romantic. 666 because of America’s new Santa Claus or Uncle Sam, the fun-loving Devil himself.

Krevich no longer came to the apartment. They no longer did any work for his agency. Everything hung in a strange limbo. Without speaking about it, they had somehow agreed not to enter into each other’s spaces. Of course the apartment – the whole floor – still belonged to Krevich, but he made no indication that they had to leave. The housecleaner continued to come twice a week, the laundry continued to get done. He simply never showed up anymore. One time, itching with curiosity and perplexity, they had peeked through the door to the studio, mostly just to see if it was still unlocked. The little anteroom was dim and the opposite door. shut. A great swelling of sadness pulled the inner door shut before them. Dziga didn’t know where the camera was anymore, but it seemed like something far above, floating on the surface when you are deep underwater.

What neither of them knew was that Krevich had a second identical apartment in the exact opposite corner of the floor, and stayed there now with one of the famous Norwegian porn photographer’s models. To Dziga, Krevich had once seemed impossibly cosmopolitan and urbane, but Krevich wanted no part of whatever was brewing between Dziga and Benazir. To him something seemed strangely Satanic about the duo. He was, in truth, afraid to see them again. Krevich set an AI to monitor the mics embedded around the place and notify him of any change in routine, and sealed off the first apartment in his mind behind a screen of vague, unacknowledged fear. And thus everything rolled along in a state of suspended entropy.

At some point months ago Benazir had officially “moved in”. Dziga remembers going with her to her previous tenancy to help her get her possessions, a trip that had produced an odd, undefined disillusionment for him. It had been a single room in an extended-stay motel. Dziga remembers that she had almost nothing to get — just one trunk, the size of a small ottoman but somehow too heavy for one person to lift. No books, no photos or personal mementos, no knick-knacks, no furniture of her own, no jewelry. But there had been a lot of clothes. Looking at them, the realization had hit Dziga hat all of her clothes had come from the studio. At that moment she was still a world famous icon, but she owned nothing. She may as well have been a college student staying at a youth hostel.

Dziga recalls the last few moments in that dingy little room with crystalline clarity. Somewhere outside in the distance construction workers had begun jackhammering on some piece of municipal repair. He remembers feeling a strange sinking sensation. He had looked around at the walls, the door, the windows, the bushes outside. For an instant it had all felt ersatz, like a movie set. Even the sunlight coming in the window catching dust motes was false. Benazir sweated and seemed nervous, even panicky. “Let’s go,” she said.

He remembered that words had come out of his mouth. They had been, “You could have moved in with me months ago.”

She had answered, “I know, here I am a superstar, living like this” and then went into a mock-dramatic diva schtick. The image of that performance was what stuck in Dziga’s mind later. Benazir had been squinting a little because a sunbeam fell across her face; it was not until that moment that Dziga had noticed for the first time that she had an overbite.

Looking back on it he felt a dull guilt, almost as of a duty unfulfilled. How had he failed to see everything in one glance? It hurt to think about. Rather than think about it, Dziga cocooned into an intimate cycle with Benazir in that glass cage over the green freeways of Los Angeles. Dziga slept almost all the time, woke heavy with the happiness of being close to Benazir again. She would come to the soft bed and make love to him. And of course, they dreamed together.

There in the dreamworld together he knew himself, and felt warmed in the light of self-knowledge. They worked on building something, something made out of thoughts, work which was hard and fun and fulfilling. Awake in the apartment, nursing on Benazir’s body, Dziga could hardly remember what it was they were building, something impossible, nonsensical, but he loved to get back there and to get back to it, to get back to work with Benazir. They worked in a huge cavern filled with light that somehow blended into the open sky. It was both indoors and outdoors at the same time. Some kind of beings seemed to be there helping them, cherubim or angels.

During waking hours not spent in the temple of their bed they would eat silently, perform their basic chores and hygiene without enthusiasm. Benazir had some kind of yogic discipline; Dziga never learned it from her. Most of the time they were in bed.

The dream work, and the thing they built, seemed to be some kind of boat or craft, a many-roomed hotel, a cathedral, a message, a symphony in movements. It changed and sparked like a gem being rotated in the light. When Dziga awoke it would retreat to one or two of these impressions, like the caustics of a complex crystal cast onto a white surface.

But Dziga shied away from mind speech. His defenses had never been raised, but after Benazir first spoke directly into his mind the ground had trembled, and so had Dziga. Without trying, quite naturally, his unconscious mental barriers shot up to keep the intruder out; all of their further attempts to use mindspeech had failed.

A courier delivered the Fun’n’Loathing package the night before they were to depart. Dziga sat on the bed and tore into it like a kid tearing into a gift. Everything except the convertible came in a faux steamer trunk made of styrofoam, with the logo for The U.S.A. Tour Group embossed on the side, and a compass rose embossed on the lid. Dziga sat cross-legged with the open trunk in front of him, his eyes gleaming. The first item he pulled out was a laminated card. It had a photo of a pink convertible with absurd tail fins. It looked like the size of a party fishing boat, its huge hood jutting out over the presumably powerful engine. The card bore the following text:

“Your disposable car will get you safely to your destination of       L A S  V E G A S . You are responsible for your own return trip. do not attempt to drive car further than specified destination. Car will biodegrade after rated number of miles. Please abandon car in: JUMPY’S AUTO ROT LOT / 1405 FREMONT ST.”

“It’s a one-way trip,” Dziga said, holding the card up for Benazir.

“Mmm hmm.” She flounced onto the bed next to him, watched him play with his box of toys with a bemused smile. Dziga pulled a large wad of pinkish flesh-like plastic from the box. A smushed-up wrinkled face flopped out of the mass, and a limp hand like an empty glove.

“It’s Elvis the Pelvis and Marilyn Manson!”

“Monroe, Dziga.” He pulled at them with glee, stretching them out into roughly human form. Benazir laughed. “They don’t look very well, do they?”

“Let’s inflate them.” There was a little hand pump, so they took turns pumping, giggling as Elvis and Marilyn’s features plumped out and emerged.

“He looks more like Richard Nixon #3, and she looks more like Adore Delano.” Benazir squinted at them with her head cocked to the side.

“They seem lonely,” Dziga said. “It’s sad, they want to be thrown away.”

“Want?” Benazir sat down close to him, gazed at him gazing at the dolls. “Lonely?” Dziga shrugged. He upended the box over the bed, spilling the contents in a heap, the replica handgun, the bottle of booze, all of it. The last thing to flop out of the box was a book. Benazir picked it up.

“This wasn’t on the list,” she said. It was a genuine paperback book, 1980s or 90s era with a bright teal cover plastered with a title in a red scrawl. The title was “On the Road”.

The next morning, Dziga awoke to find Benazir hovering over him. He turned his face toward her. She brushed his hair back with the back of one limpid hand. Then, with sudden strength, she raised her other hand and grasped the front of his skull. He gasped, even as her mindspeech flooded into his brain.
“You will be terribly lonely.” Her thoughts boomed inside of him, bouncing off his skull, vibrating his eyeballs. He flinched. And for the first time, he spoke back to her in his thoughts.

“What do you mean?”

“We are all totally alone, and totally all in this together.” No more booming, now her thoughts gentle and clear, not really words but pure thought. Dziga choked, a knot of emotion rising like a bubble in him, getting stuck in his throat. The cold of the barren, cracked sidewalks and restroom floors on his elbows and knees, and before that, something else — a botched childhood, an angry house, a blow to the head, a departure. “All totally alone.”

Before he knew it was coming, another memory flooded him, spilling over into Benazir’s mind. A doorknob. A mug with a cartoon bear on the side. A tricycle. A pillow. He had talked to them, not dialog but something quieter. He had thanked them when he used them, a quick silent “thank you” when his fingers broke contact, and a pang of guilty grief at their unchosen inanimateness. An animal, a stuffed animal – no, a pillow. His pillow, printed with a cartoon bear like his mug. He’d hold it, alone in bed, and pretend that it was a girl, trapped in pillow form by a curse cast by an evil sorcerer. He had cried with her, comforting her in her cursed form, and she was grateful for it and glad she could repay him with softness and comfort. He wrapped himself around the pillow, embracing it tightly. She would sob in grief and terror, and he would rock her and cry with her in an ongoing orgasm of pathos until the pillowcase had a damp spot. Now here she was, her hand on his face….

Dziga’s thoughts trailed off. Benazir released his forehead and just squeezed his shoulders in an embrace. Then she said, out loud: “You will be terribly lonely.”

Dziga sent his question back to her using the mindspeech, voluntarily now. “Lonely? Haven’t I always been?”

“You have been alone. Someday you will see that everyone is alone, always, totally.” He felt her closeness, felt her curled up against him, and her mindspeech seemed so far away from this sensation, so disconnected, that he ignored her thoughts. They seemed like a remote and ineffable curse uttered by a stranger from the wrong religion.

Benazir broke the cuddle, sprang up. “Let’s do the drugs!”

“Shouldn’t we save them for Vegas?”

“We’ll just try a little.” She rummaged in the steamer trunk, pulled out the little leather case, snapped it open. Little pouches and loops holding glass vials, a cardboard package of cigarettes, a pack of gum.

“Let’s try the heroin first,” she said, and unstoppered the little vial. She tipped a tiny amount of the whitish powder onto the back of her thumb and snorted it up her nose.

She rubbed her nose, sniffing hard, waiting to taste the rush as the drug crossed her blood-brain barrier. She scowled.

“It’s fake. Rats!”

“Really?” Dziga pulled each vial out, examined it. He opened the pack of marijuana cigarettes. “These smell real.”

“So they do. Light one up my love.” He did, and they were authentic, and ersatz joy covered them and they made love again as if for the first time. They slept without dreaming.

As they slept, Krevich crept into the apartment and stood over them. The AI routine he had monitoring them through the hidden microphones had determined that they were leaving, and alerted him to the fact. He looked at Benazir holding Dziga, gritted his teeth. Then he bent, kissed Dziga on his open mouth.

“Goodbye, little top,” he said. Then he left the apartment and never saw them again.

***

They tore through the desert in the pink plastic convertible. Benni sang along to every song, somehow knew all the lyrics perfectly. Dziga just beamed with the pleasure of her company and the unusual pleasure of sunlight on his skin. The air was hot, the sky deep blue, and an alien landscape of prickly giants whooshed past.

“I killed a man in Reno,” Benni warbled, “Just to watch him die.” They laughed and laughed.

At a rest stop the broke out the drug case. Benni balanced the case on her knee, foot on the bumper, cut out a like of cocaine, snorted it. “This one’s fake too,” she said. “Baby powder.” Dziga let out a great guffaw as she blew the powder into the dusty dirt. Benni, unamused, picked up the leather case and hurled it into the ditch beside the road. Dziga stifled his laugh. They stood there awkwardly for a moment. Dziga watched a tiny pinhole appear in the fender of the convertible, a minuscule black opening. He fingered it to be sure his eyes weren’t playing tricks on him. It seemed to melt under the warmth of his fingers, dilating to the size of a pea.

“Shucks.” Benni snapper her fingers. “Well, let’s go.”

Dziga dozed off. He dreamed of Las Vegas, which he’d never seen in person. In his dream it became a baroque palace-land, full of human-size frogs and people in powdered wigs. He and Benni sat in high thrones in a great hall while frog people hopped in a circle around them playing discordant reedy flutes.

He awoke with his face burning and the sound of the flutes still in his ears. His fingers flicked up to his face, and he flinched at the contact. His skin had burned in the sun, which was now near the horizon behind them. Still the reedy piping, like hundreds of whistles all blowing different  notes.

“What’s that sound?” he asked.
“The car’s skin is going,” Benni answered. He looked though the bug-spattered windshield and sure enough, the pink hull was turning to swiss cheese as the decomposition process was advanced. Dziga could see fresh blisters forming on the car’s skin. A faint arhythmic thrumming had entered into the whirring of the car’s engine.

“How soon do we get to Vegas?” he asked. Benni just shifted uncomfortably. They passed a bullet-riddled road sign on the opposite side of the freeway. Dziga craned his neck to look backwards. The sign read, “Las Vegas – 50mi”. In the opposite direction.

Dziga looked at Benazir. “Where are we going?!” She answered in mindspeech, something inchoate and vague, then laughed horsely aloud. Dziga probed weakly though her mind, trying to find the secret she was obviously hiding, but he hit an inner barrier like a ball of steel. She turned her head toward him, took one hand off the wheel and slapped him on the cheek. The car veered onto the shoulder. Dziga could hear gravel crunching under the wheels. Benazir slid the hand she had used to slap him down his leg to his crotch. They hit the rumble strip and the wheel tried to shake her other hand loose, but she didn’t break her gaze. Dziga squeezed his eyes shut. Finally she looked back at the road and straightened the car out.

Benazir punched the accelerator. The car’s hood vibrated violently, the whistling of the myriad holes in the skin sounded like the whistle of a mad locomotive or a mutant harmonica. Dziga fumbled with the music player with numb fingers, but it was impossible to turn it up loud enough to be audible over the screech of hundreds of bagpipe players being tortured. It abruptly caught fire. Dziga grabbed the blow up doll of Marilyn from the  back seat and mashed it against the dash to smother the flames. A horrible smell and black smoke billowed out of the convertible. Once the flames stopped Dziga hastily threw Marilyn’s deflated, blackened corpse out of the car. He looked at Benazir but her eyes were fixed ahead and she hadn’t even seemed to notice their near immolation. As he always did in times of trouble, Dziga curled up and fell asleep.

He awoke shivering in cold, dark air. They seemed to be moving slower but the car wobbled and screamed worse than ever. Benazir pushed into the coming dawn with rigid arms hunched over the steering wheel.

The sun broke the horizon, touching what remained of the car’s pink shell with its golden fingertips. “Beni…”

“Let’s just see how far we get,” she said flatly.

“But what then? We’re in the middle of nowhere.”

“Everywhere is somewhere,” she smirked.

He slept again.

When he woke up again the car was stopped. It was mid-day. They were sitting motionless in the middle of the highway. The remaining pieces of the car’s body had completely dissolved. They seemed much closer to the ground.

“What’s wrong?”

“No tires. They melted off about twenty minutes ago.” Beni still gripped the steering wheel, gazed off down the lonely highway. Dziga blinked, looked at the wasteland around them.

“So this is where we’ll die,” he thought.

Two large vultures far ahead, on the horizon, took notice and headed toward them.

As the vultures got nearer, Dziga felt a low throbbing in the air. When they got close enough, Dziga saw that the vultures were huge two-rotor helicopters.

The huge black airships landed on either side of the highway, with Dziga and Benni directly in between.

Dziga knew he had pissed himself. He grabbed for Benni’s hand. They would die together, then. He wanted to die looking into her eyes.

But she turned toward him with a grin, and said, “We made it!”

To be continued…  

The Human Camera – Part 4

BfgjFxxCYAAVyLG.jpg-largeThis is Part 4. Go back to Part 3, or start at Part 1.

After the episode with the nudes — the ill-advised Norway expedition — it seemed to Dziga that everybody lost interest in fashion, most crucially Benazir. After a few missed perfume shoots Krevich detached without much resistance, like a man leaving behind a dubious piece of fruit, now too warm and bruised. Dziga kept photographing Benazir, but the files just piled up, un-posted to any feed. Dziga pored over them on the nights Benazir left him in the skyscraper alone, and through them felt the old connection he and Benazir had both felt in the old days. Or he assumed they had both felt. No Beniboys or Benazirians reposted them; no Beni Club girls pinned them to their wall feeds or uploaded them to their thigh tattoos. In other words, the photos were worthless and may as well not have existed. As fast as it blossomed, the oasis of Dziga and Benazir’s love dried up.

When Benazir was around, she mostly wanted to sleep. “Come sleep with me,” she would say to Dziga. Each time, the brief flash of erotic heat this kindled in Dziga was less, for each time Benazir would lay along Dziga’s body, facing him, and place her hands around his skull, look intently into his face, whisper something, and close her eyes. They would both sleep then, and they would dream.

In the first dream, Dziga chased Benazir, both of them barefoot and clad in animal skins, through a warren of dark caves and passages before overpowering her. The dream changed to a frenzied erotic fantasy, a feral and vicious kind. Dziga awoke erect and pawing at Benazir but she just shook her head, her lips pursed seriously, and crawled out of bed to sit cross-legged in the corner, meditating. Dziga found the bed too cold, too hot, and could not sleep.

The next time they dreamed together was better. Dziga was up a tree, clinging to a branch, crying. Benazir talked him down, and they stood before each other, holding hands under the tree on a hot plain of sand and grasses. As he looked at her, her features seemed to waver and change, as though a ripple passed through her. She seemed somehow larger, or perhaps just her head seemed larger, her face as he gazed into it looked enormous, like a wall. Her eyes glittered and her white teeth shone and when she opened her mouth slow, deep laughter came out and Dziga leaned forward and dived into it. He found himself in a place where Benazir was everywhere.

She was everywhere; the very surface of the world was her skin. Every detail, every action, seemed chosen by her to convey something, some mysterious insight  that she wished to share. The world in antiquity – pyramids and river irrigated fields of grain, the sun and the earth and the moon and the weather playing dark, imposing gods. A harvest, a human sacrifice, a festival. A festival with games and contests, dancing, music, a parade and – there she was! The Queen of the Realm, carried on a chariot of gold pulled by a dozen strong men. And then he was there beside her, standing in the chariot with her. He looked at her, her skin glistening with oil, her flanks exposed by her light warrior’s garb. He giggled and palmed one of her buttocks.

She glowered down at him, suddenly huge. The parade stopped. The sky grew dark. Men took Dziga by the arms and legs, dragged him away from the parade route into a dusty, empty courtyard. “For disrespecting the Queen,” they said, and prepared to cut off Dziga’s hands and feet when she appeared, gliding, regal. The men trembled before her and she waved them away, like clouds of stale smoke, laid down beside Dziga and they awoke together in bed just like that.

Dziga kissed her face, her neck, her shoulder as she turned away from him, lay on her back looking up at the ceiling. She wore that expression with her lips pressed thin together and her eyes half-closed that Dziga knew meant…not exactly disappointment, but perhaps long-suffering patience and stifled frustration.

“Dziga, don’t you wonder how we’re sharing the same dream?”

He murmured back, his lips still on her indifferent skin. “We have been, haven’t we.” He wrapped around her, arms around her chest, legs around her thighs. He nuzzled her neck.

“That last place, the desert kingdom like ancient Egypt,” Benazir said.

“And you as Queen.”

“Yes. I’ve been working on that one for some time.”

“Being Queen?”

“No, creating that world. From scratch.” Her voice was precise, almost icy. Dziga pulled back a little and looked at her in the soft light filtering through the windows from the city outside. He saw the mole on her nose, the slight fuzz of dark hair on her upper lip, the fold of her little double chin. He saw her eyes, clear and piercing, gazing unmoving at the ceiling. He saw her profile, noble and composed like a face in a thousand-year-old painting. He felt a little afraid.

“How do you do it?” he said, a tremble entering his voice.

“I concentrate on one thing at a time. Just one thing. At. A. Time. Like when you take a picture…”

“I don’t concentrate on anything. I just see it.”

“But you have to make the camera record what you see.”

“It just obeys me.” Dziga shrugged.

“Well, isn’t that nice? I’m working with more a more difficult instrument,” she said.
“Instrument?”

“Your head, dear.” She tapped Dziga’s forehead with the tip of her finger. Then she rolled fully toward Dziga, grabbed his waist, pushed her hips into him. She closed her eyes, and her moist lips parted slightly. Dziga kissed her, and just then she spoke to him inside his thoughts, not a voice but pure intention. She said, “I want to share with you these things I have made inside my mind.” A electric current flowed between them as they kissed, and just at that moment a small earthquake wobbled the Los Angeles basin like a bowl of gelatin.

###

Word is that the show’s Producer, Jackson Pax, is on a firing spree. Pax has the rest of the crew gathered right now; he’s speaking to them. The 2nd Assistant Cameraman avoids the huddle. He doesn’t want to get canned. Earlier he noticed a Camera problem, some anomalous signals in the Feels. When he pointed it out, the 1st AC told him to shut up. So he’s kneeling out of the way, packing some equipment into a case, ostensibly keeping an eye on the Camera.

Can you imagine his reaction when he glances up and sees the little girl, Myria, sitting on the Camera’s lap kissing him full on the lips? Whatever you imagined, the 2nd AC’s first reaction was to get an erection. She looks so good, the sexy little simian, hanging there on his rig like they’re monkey bars. He actually touches himself before he realizes his instrument is being molested by a little girl.

The 2nd AC springs up, runs toward the Camera shouting, “Hey! Don’t do that! What are you doing?!” The little girl’s face hovers just inches away from the Camera’s face; the Camera is scanning her. He’ll be lightstruck. He’ll have to be re-calibrated. The 1st AC and dolly grip close in on the rig just behind the 2nd AC; they lift Myria off of the Camera’s lap, scramble for the lever to close his shutters. The little girl whirls away trailing angel laughter. The Camera quivers, his eyes rolling into his head, his bottom lip curling down, revealing his tired old teeth. Crew members look away, embarrassed for him. A hush falls over the stage; off in some corner a build team is whacking boards together and horsing around, but after a quick crackle of walkie-talkies, they get hip to the vibe and button up. The 2nd AC frantically checks the Camera over, checking his tubes, his electrodes, sniffing around for any fluid leakage.

He freezes as a large shadow looms over his shoulder. He looks up, and sees The Dresser standing over him, brow furrowed, lips sour, bouncing lightly on the balls of his feet.

The Dresser speaks in a stentorian voice, “Gentlemen! Please complete your technical checks posthaste and allow me to be with the Camera. He knows me best, and I him.” The 2nd AC rises and stumbles backward. The Dresser moves in, laying his big hands on the Camera, closing his shutters gently. “He should be gotten to bed as soon as possible to rest and forget this unfortunate incident. Yes, spread out, he needs air and space. I’ll see to him, thank you. Thank you, Gentlemen.” Unflaggingly polite the Dresser nevertheless exerts an undeniable force of authority. He seems to the camera crew like the Camera’s father, always chaperoning their dates.

The 2nd AC backs up into the gathering ring of spectator crew. The Dresser kneels on the floor, leans close over his charge. With one last glare at the spectators, he puts his face very close to the Camera’s.

“Sir,” he says in a low voice. He passes his hand over the Camera’s forehead, his cheeks. Without hesitation he unclasps the matte box visor, pulls it away from the Camera’s face. The 1st AC yelps, jumps, orders a grip to set up some flags, until the Camera is shielded from view. The 1st Assistant Director tries to regain control of his set, giving people make-work orders to get them busy. The group surrounding the end of the crane arm now consists of just the camera crew

The Dresser wheels on them, his tails whipping around behind him, and points at the Assistant Cameramen. Even the 1st AC, typically a hurly-burly fellow, cringes. The Dresser says, “Get him out of the rig, immediately, and into his chair. I must get him back to his chambers. He needs benzos and darkness. I’ll be there shortly.” Hands unstrap the Camera, free his limbs from the frame one by one; arms move him gingerly onto a wheeled gurney and wheel him off into the darkness of the stage.

Outside the stage door, the little man in the suit smokes cigarettes. Whatever just happened with the little girl and the Camera, it’s the last thing Jackson Pax needs. As soon as that went down, he had slipped outside to chain smoke. He’s already avoiding near-nonstop phone calls from the CineCartel’s scheduling office. The 1st Assistant Director wanders out into the orange buzzing light from the parking lot streetlights with their halos of insects. He bums a smoke from Pax.

“We’re slipping. Had to push two pages to tomorrow,” the 1st  AD says. “We’re two days behind schedule.”

Pax stares at the ground. “Fourteen days left,” he says.

“I know! What do you want me to do? Fuck.” The 1st AD throws his cigarette against the corrugated metal of the soundstage where it explodes into sparks. Pax leans over and scrubs off the little black mark left by the cigarette’s cherry with his thumb.

Pax says, “Calm down.”

“Fuck.”

“Calm down.”

“I can’t get canned from this gig, I’m supposed to buy my kid his first FemmeParts for his birthday.”

The 1st AD takes Pax’s cigarette right out of his hand, puffs it with a scowl. Pax says, “Do you want a fresh one?” The AD blows smoke right in Pax’s face. Pax continues, “Look, we’ll make it. We have to. We’ll at least get enough for editorial to make it work.” He needs the AD to run the set; this bitch fit isn’t happening.

They each smoke one more of Pax’s cigarettes in silence. Pax says again, “Just keep calm.” The 1st AD gives him a murderous look.

Pax turns to face him. “What is cinema?”

“A texture of emotions.”

“A tapestry of emotions, you idiot.”

“Sure.”

“A tapestry has a certain logic, a weave and a warp.  Without the weave there’s no warp.”

“So?”

“Nevermind,” Pays says.

Jackson Pax, as a rule of his life, has a lot on his mind. His personal hero is Napoleon, with his legendary ability to keep all details of a complex military operation in his mind, seeing a whole plan in time as well as space, able to compensate for changing conditions on the fly. He would have changed his name to Napolean #5, two and three being actual Napoleons and number four being a famous gay porn star, but then a player in the NMBL (the National Mayan Basketball League) took Napoleon #5, and hadn’t been executed yet. Number six seemed like a let-down.

Among the things on Pax’s mind at the moment is his child star, Miss Myria Dawn Ashton. She’s got box office draw like crazy, and she has carried movies before. But her past, short as it is, has already caught up with her. Her reputation precedes her. Bad publicity doesn’t worry Pax. “No such thing as bad publicity,” as the age-old cliche goes. Especially after President Lou Reed #3 had been elected after shooting a man in the head in a restaurant. The dirtier the better, these days. But the negative mental energy surrounding the little girl could affect the way the Camera sees her. That would be disastrous. The film would be utterly ruined. It would give audiences a confusing experience, with swarming emotions, detached from the story or images, tugging in every direction. Pax leans back against the corrugated metal of the soundstage, hotter even than the warm air, and puts his head into his hands.

Then he slips back into the gloom of the soundstage, makes straight for a piece of stage truss, and climbs gracefully into the rigging. Once he reaches the first catwalk, he pulls out a carved wooden vial with a flip-open lid and takes two robust snorts of cocaine.

He threads his way along the catwalk, heading for his favorite perch. During shooting, the gaffing crew swarms up here like sailors manning the sails of a square-rigger. Their voices echo off the hanger ceiling as they joke and shout. Pax loves climbing up here then. It’s where he feels in tune with the crew, like one of them. Also, it helps him keep a watchful overhead eye on everything. Of course, his chances to come up here during production are all too rare, busy as he is keeping the department heads in line, pulling the line producers back from the brink of suicide, soothing the stars’ egos. But after wrap, he always came here and gets coked to the earlobes.

He had been fairly sanguine about the situation with his child star — until yesterday. He had happened to stop by craft services for a cup of those wasabi peas he craves, and had noticed that a makeup artist had buttonholed the Dresser, gossiping his ears off. Pax had dawdled over the peas to hear more, and oblivious, the makeup artist had continued to cast major shade on Myria’s scandalous romances and two-faced betrayals. The Dresser, too polite to break away, absorbed it nonplussed.

“When she broke up with that poor young Ed Sullivan #12, the little tramp was talking about it, trashing him in the feeds the very next day.” The makeup artist had cornered the Dresser against the smoothie bar, and shouted at him over the din of the blenders. She’s a dumpy, middle-aged woman with orange skin. The Dresser, a tall, reserved man in his early sixties, had seen Jackson. He wriggled with discomfort. The woman went on, “She spread it around everywhere that he had skin tags, the poor boy, and that he was boring. Boring! She didn’t think he was boring when he was balls deep inside her twat, I bet!”

Jackson had made eye-contact with The Dresser, a stern, disapproving look. The Dresser sent him back a look of desperation.

Jackson had held up the cup of wasabi peas with the fingertips of one hand, gestured to the makeup artist’s feet with his eyes, then cast the contents of the cup to the floor, letting the cup fall and clatter.

Her feet suddenly surrounded by bouncing peas, the makeup artist had broken off, jumped a little to the side. Pax was all up in there, pretending to bumble after the cup, all apologies and self-effacement. The woman had laughed raucously, said, “Whoops!”, pretended to slip and slide on the peas.

Pax had hurried to The Dresser’s side. “I’m so sorry. So clumsy, I guess I haven’t had my coffee yet. Humson, Humson,” he draped one arm over The Dresser’s shoulders, “don’t you know not to gossip about our young stars.” Manfred Humson — known by all as The Dresser — had squirmed, started to indicate vaguely at the makeup artist. Sensing only a social opening, she had stepped forward, offered her hand to shake.

“Marge Simpson, makeup department. Right?” Marge Simpsons are too common to number anymore. She had looked at Pax, blank. She didn’t know who he was. That was good. Pax believes in top-from-the-bottom leadership. The true sage goes among the people, unknown. Pax had grinned, shook her hand, shook it very warmly. “Mr. Humson, will you please tell the Camera that he’s doing a great job? Are you allowed to tell him that? We reviewed some dailies yesterday,” he had let go of Marge’s hand, “Boy, is he nailing the emotions! Crystal clear. I mean, of course he is, he’s just responding to what we put up in front of him. If you’re allowed to, you just tell him I appreciate it. Of course you can’t do that, I know, my very praise of his clarity could taint the rest of the film with ghostly sense of accomplishment.”

The Dresser didn’t need more permission than that to flee back to the Camera’s inner sanctum.

Pax had grabbed a fresh cup, plunged it into the bowl of wasabi peas. He had eyed the makeup woman over the brim of his cup, munching. She was just on the verge of speech again. He spoke first.

“Marge, get your things and get off the stage. I’m Mr. Pax. If I catch you gossiping about this production in the feeds, I’ll have your industry dossier hacked, you’ll never glue an eyelash onto a major star again.” He had turned around and walked away so he wouldn’t have to see her face crumple.

Pax hops over a gap from one catwalk onto another one, follows it, then hops again onto a vertical piece of truss and climbs even higher to another catwalk. The floor of the stage seems dim and hazy from here. Pax squats and scans the cineopolis below. Six main sets, containing all of the wizard school interiors, pieces of exteriors surrounded by immense green flats,  the fluorescent green of chromakey. The rigging hangs over all the sets and some ways beyond them in all directions, a huge network of trusses and catwalks supported on truss legs that stem up from the floor like the trees of a metal forest. Banks of massive lights hang from the grid, their cables woven between beams.

All of the sets sat nearest to the hangar’s huge sliding door, itself six stories tall. Fringing the sets, the crew encampments sprawl into the middle of the hangar floor. Beyond them, in the furthest recesses of the hangar and close to the human-size back doors, the Camera’s compound and about a dozen other trailers cluster together, forming a mini-village. Many of the trailers occupants, like the Camera, never leave the stage, but live on stage for the duration of the shoot. Myria lives there with her mother and a small entourage.

The Camera’s compound consists of four prefab houses. One contains the medical facility. The Camera is old and needs the best medical care, as specified by the bond & insurance company. In reality, the medical team sits on the their asses for the most part. The Camera is healthy as an ox and tough as a piece of jerky. At the same time, he represents the most delicate piece of equipment that ever existed in cinema. Except when he is shooting, he has to be swaddled in non-eventfulness, non-stimulation. The furthest part of the compound, where the Camera sleeps and eats, is totally soundproofed. It contains no books or radios, nor any kind of feed. Nor, if it had them, would the Camera have availed himself of them. He leads a beyond-monkish existence, ascetic to the point of total inscrutability.

For the system to work, the Camera must forgo all volition. Manfred, The Dresser, fills the gap left by the departing of the Camera’s will. He washes and dresses the Camera’s limp body, chooses his clothing, plugs his various holes each day after he is de-rigged. He feeds him, sits with him, even receives the Camera’s rare whispered murmurings.

“He even takes care of him, if you know what I mean,” the script supervisor liked to say, making the universal signal for “jerk-off” with her hand.

Any act of will that The Camera performs, any volition he exercises, risks breaking the perfect stillness of his psyche, risks distorting the signal that he records. His usefulness as a recorder of sight, sound and emotion requires that he remain in a self-imposed catatonia at all times. He cannot rely on drugs to do this, for they would dim and also distort the film. That was one of the trademark features of inferior non-cartel films. The Camera sleeps at night like any other man. During the day he is awake, alert, his eyes moving and watching, but he moves no other muscle in his body. Devoid of action, he becomes a total observer, a transparent eyeball. In total stillness he becomes like a mirror, ripples gone.

Obviously this requires a remarkable human being. The Camera is a singular entity, the only one of his kind – ever, in history. Anyone who wants to make a cinemotive film has to use him. A cartel of multinational film studios control his use, time-sharing him between their various productions. The cartel, based in Mumbai, produces 98% of the cinema in the world. Other studios try to keep up, developing cinemotive systems of their own, but their films are badly flawed. The emotions never seem quite right – too faint, or distorted by other feelings, sometimes even jarring and uncomfortable. A few independent studios manage to nail a few canned emotions and played them for cheap effect for their potboiler sentimental dramas and horror films. One briefly-successful studio went under because their films began to give viewers awful, lasting neuroses and phobias, and even caused a few audiences to become hysterical during showings.

Capturing a single emotion, a single flush of feeling, was easy. It didn’t even require a human recorder. Booths had sprung up, like old-time photo booths, where people would go take a snapshot of an emotion – a single Feel. Hallmark cards disappeared, replaced by Feels. A card full of sentimental words could not compare with an expertly-recorded sentiment, the actual Feel of sympathy or celebration distilled into an instantaneous essence, an emotional pique that could never lose its vividness.

Having commoditized feelings, the world slid down into a vast basin of sentiment. Politicians no longer gave speeches, but broadcast their Feel of sympathy and solidarity with the people, usually along with excellent and copious selfie nudes. People would stand in front of store windows, gazing at the closeup image of an old man in a suit, crying, looking solemn, and drink in his noble emotions. They voted for the old man whose Feels seemed the most human.

For morally and politically refined people, making love without both partners under the influence of a Feel seems bestial, crude, unforgivingly dirty. Therefore, that’s how they all insisted on doing it. Beneath the surface of sentimental Feel society ran a heavy sludge of perversity. Feels are the acceptable way of communicating; the body becomes the fleshy cocoon everyone seeks as refuge against the all-pervading sentiment.

Pax’s Spidercatbearpigman™-sense tingles, breaking his train of thought. He can tell someone on set is looking for him, someone close by. Pax crouches like a panther, crawls onto a horizontal piece of stage truss. Who’s looking for me? He looks toward the screening tent, where the Director and his team, editorial, and the DP are watching and Feeling the dailies from yesterday.

A beetling little man comes out from the screening tent, wringing his hands, scanning the overhead grid. Pax waves both arms in a slow semaphore wave that, in his dark suit, with his dark skin and hair, is fairly invisible from below. But the beetling little man, the Executive Producer’s executive assistant, knows where to look and sees the faint gleam of Pax’s watch as Pax scissors his arms. The man bursts into a waddling run, until he comes directly under Pax’s piece of the rigging.

“Mr. Pax! We need you,” the man’s sticky, buttery voice echoes off the corrugated ceiling of the stage.

“Hi Buster, what is it?” Pax says, but he knows what it is.

Buster Keaton #9 says, “A Camera problem, sir. The little girl’s Feels are off.”

“Off?”

“Strange.”

“Strange how?”

“They all said she came off as local.”

“Local?”

“Yes, sir. Local. Provincial. Indigenous. One of the swarming hoi-polloi….”

“Yes, yes, yes, yes,” Pax speaks forcefully, then softer, “Be right there.” Pax moves fast down catwalks and trusses. He’s drops lightly onto the stage floor and sneaks up behind Buster Keaton #9 at floor level, his feet clad in rubberized gloves that made no sound on the concrete floor. Buster whirls around.

Unlike the original Buster Keaton, this one is fat, but he has the original’s half-lidded eyes and unbreakable deadpan expression. “Mr. Pax, you startled me,” he says, not looking startled at all. Jackson throws an arm over Buster’s shoulders, matches his stride. Buster stops walking. Clapping his hands, he says, “I’m afraid the situation has me rather shaken. The boss is quite upset. He may as well have The Dresser’s head on a block. He wants to put The Camera’s head on a block. Well, you know how he is.”

Pax says, “What does he know about local?”

“It’s a feeling of a Feel, Mr. Pax,” said Buster. “Even the boss felt it. Also, he is rather fond of the little girl.”

“I know.” Pax laughs, a hollow sound. But as they grow near the screening tent, all he can think is: what is Boss Bostro doing at a dailies screening?

Continue to Part 5. 

After a brief hiatus in which some cinemadoing was did.

I apologize that Part 4 has taken so long. I have been distracted with finishing my short film, “The Book of Everything”. Nevertheless, after one more frenzied rewrite I am publishing Part 4 today, and Part 5 is bubbling away nicely.

Part 4 dives deeper into the cinemotive (cinema, plus Feels) industry in Mumbai in the early 23rd Century. In the last episode, child start Myria Dawn Ashton jumped onto the camera rig and kissed the Camera on the lips. You will meet Jackson Pax, the Producer of the CineCartel’s troubled production of “Harry Potter: Unicorn Hunter”.

Benazir and Dziga’s relationship also deepens, as Beni whisks Dziga in an unexpected direction.

The Human Camera – Part 3

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This is Part 3. Back to Part 2Start at Part 1.

The crane arm sits low, dropped to the bottom of its swing, so that the Camera is almost on the floor. The Camera himself faces a distant dusty corner of the stage. Nobody is paying attention to him. Not one person looks over at him, sees him, and feels the resulting sense of loneliness, the chill of absolute isolation that each of us must everyday shake off with our will to act. The Camera never shakes off that chill. He never acts; he has no will. He gathers dust on his skinny, canvas-clad thighs and arms, and on top of the wisps of hair on his old head. He gathers dust just like any other object. But if you look closely you’ll see his body swell periodically with his breathing, and you’ll see that he’s shivering slightly.

Myria, our precocious child star, picks over craft services. She opens two bags of candy, some Blittles and some Snapple Jacks, pours them both into her mouth, chews with her lips open and giggling at the resulting squishing sounds. She layers a bagel with chips, kiwi slices, more candy, eats it moaning aloud about how good it is, how genius her culinary creation. She hops around impishly, does some silly pliés, pirouettes. Fills a styrofoam cup with warm coffee from an urn. Glides up to a production assistant whose eyes have lain heavily on her flesh that morning, slowly pours the coffee over his belt buckle while he mouth-breathes on her. He makes a retarded grimace and says, “Aren’t you a little young to drink coffee?”

“I’m actually twenty, I just play young,” she retorts. Cackles and does a sparkling Bourrée across the set. She prances over to the corner where the camera sits. The camera crew, idling around the dolly rig and talking dirty, eye her warily, but do not cease their conversation. The man inside the metallic frame intrigues Myria, sparks an emotion she is unfamiliar with. What is it, that vague tug? He seems helpless, like an accident victim she once saw strapped to a gurney. That man had been a gaffer; a bulb had exploded, shards of glass pulverizing his corneas. They had wheeled him out, sedated, with goggle-like bandages on his face, blind. Blind like the Camera, his eyes always hidden behind flat, blank metal lids.

Myria stands right before him. This makes the 1st Assistant Cameraman very nervous, but she’s just looking and she outranks him so he keeps his mouth shut. Myria gazes at those flat metal discs, wondering about the eyes behind them. She imagines them huge, wild, unblinking, saucers of inky black surrounded by rims of white. The image frightens her, so she dwells on it, savoring it in her mind: his boring, sucking gaze, his wild face.

To assert herself against the fear, she waves her hands in front of his shutters, very close. He remains as motionless as marble. She can’t even see him breathing. Is it like he’s dead? Right now he’s dead, motionless, blind. But once they begin filming, she’s the dead one, lost in a fog of amnesia, experiencing a lost time that she’ll never remember. She may as well be blind, for all she will remember, and yet the Camera will come alive, his burning eyes unveiled, moving about and above her like a spirit, seeing even into her heart and mind. That thought frightens her even further, and a chill shivers her. She reaches out, one finger extended, to touch his temple, right where she’s spotted a vein pulsating gently, to dispel his ghastly corpselike horror.

“Hey! Hey, don’t do that! Please,” calls the 1st AD. He knows the camera must not be stimulated unwarrantedly. Plus, something about Myria’s demeanor implies a pugnaciousness verging on maliciousness.

When Myria was six or so, having told some joke to her mother and father and not having received a satisfactory response, she had become wildly insistent. They, unbending, had grown more forceful in their ignoring. Myria had raised the volume. She had fallen into a feeling of being invisible, or rather of being treated as a miniature version of a human. She would be heard! She would make herself impossible to ignore! Her parents, trying to enjoy the Feel of Marilyn Monroe having sex with John F. Kennedy, had grown alarmed. Their natural response had been stern authority, which only inflamed Myria further, until she had been screaming at them, in tears.

“You always make problems out of nothing,” her mother had said, rising from the couch. Myria could not see how her autonomy as a being, how her desire to be listened to at all times, could seem like nothing. Her mother picked her up, kicking and wiggling, deposited her in her room. Locked the door from the outside. Myria wailed through the door until her voice became numb. Only when she panted with exhaustion did she realize that her protests went unheard. Her adversary was gone, not waiting on the other side of the door continuing to fight through malevolent silence. She sat down heavily on the floor and heaved until she caught her breath. Her real enemy was indifference. She never forgot that.

She had then dismantled the door knob by prying at it with a series of pens and finally by hanging from it with both hands. Her parents had heard the cracking sound from the living room and had run to see Myria running naked into their bedroom, which she locked from the inside with the chain.

Myria isn’t fat, not in the least, but she looks mature. Any mature man of the early 22nd century would certainly consider her near their idea of sexual attraction. Of course, these days nobody violates the age of consent, not anymore, not worth it, sixteen is young enough, they barely know what they’re doing at that age, and so forth. Husbands brag, “I married her on her sixteenth birthday!” But they’re always looking at those perky fourteen-year-olds, and much more secretly looking at the freshest twelve and thirteen-year-olds. Therefore, naturally, young women into their thirties strive for preternatural —  even prepubescent — youth. With increasing success, thanks to medical technology. Some girls even stave off their pubescence with hormones, until their rebellious bodies have been tamed, all growth made impossible. The world being as thick with human beings as it is, this act seems almost generous, righteous, rather than perverse and self-destructive.

Even as young women try to look as much like twelve-years-old as possible, so Myria meets them more than halfway. She wears the fashionable short-shorts, almost underwear, and her slender legs flash as she walks. With a command of subtle makeup and sublime style she seems every bit an available young hussy, and indeed she is one. She has notched a constellation of young boys, mostly actors but a rich-man’s-son or two as well, into her bedpost. She keeps their names written in a red notebook in a trunk under her bed. She has decided that when she turns eighteen, she will publish it as her memoir.

The balancing ballet by which the media made hash of Myria’s precocious beauty, while avoiding creepy connotations of pedophilia, would have impressed even the legal scholars of the Byzantine Empire.

This film is a remake of two of the old Harry Potter movies, the second and third ones. It combines the two, invents a bunch of new stuff, and calls itself “Harry Potter: Unicorn Hunter”. Those older movies, produced in the mid 2050’s, had been remakes of even older film versions of Harry Potter, which had been filmed in the early 21st century. Nobody reads the original books, any more than they read Beowulf or Sherlock Holmes. The script is by award-winning screenwriter John F. Kennedy #3 (John F. Kennedy #2 was a famous Gladiatorball quarterback). JFK #3 is also the brain trust behind the “Casablanca” remake, as well as “Casablanca 2” and “Casablanca 3: Indiana Jones Returns”. In this new version of Harry Potter, the titular character is portrayed by an athletic, clean-cut young actor, blonde, no glasses. He’s been to Survivalist Certified boarding schools. He speaks Latin, French and Mandarin in addition to English. He actually fences competitively. In addition, he is one of the finest cellists in the world, performing regularly with his Pop classical group “Mozarto!” For these films, the producers have asked him to dumb his performance down a bit.

The young man’s name is Freling Governor. He’s fourteen, and Myria saw his malleability from their first meeting, which was a table reading of the script of the first film in the series. They had both been ten-years-old at that time. Myria watched him come in, a bit late, after they were all sitting down; to her, he seemed like a blank cake, freshly baked, ready to be iced and decorated. She had licked her chops. He’s gormless, guileless, good-natured. When they were introduced by some producer, he started to stammer. Myria is just his type, just everyone’s type.

At that first meeting, Myria made no further moves on Freling, treating him with a chilly professionalism. Tantalized and now frustrated, he turned more and more attention toward her. When the reading was over, he found he could not stop thinking about the color of her tongue: it had been stained bright rosy red by candy. Her breath had been heavy and sweet; he imagined kissing her, passing a piece of candy back and forth between their mouths.

I’ll be honest, reader: I already grow tired of relating this episode of Myria’s seduction. Suffice to say that young Freling is currently feeling well-pleased by what he considers a conquest with the most beautiful woman in the world, Myria Dawn Ashton. For her part, Myria places a video of their brief encounter into her library of “sex tapes” that she plans to release to the world someday. She has not released one yet, but plans to first use them as black mail. The boy who dares her to post their video, she’ll marry.
I’ll continue to be honest. Myria is a little whore. I say that as a man with a good deal of experience with — and genuine affection for — whores. Let me tell you, as a connoisseur, Myria was doing it for all the wrong reasons. Not just that she is twelve, but why she is doing it at twelve. Her clientele remain satisfied only because of their utter lack of experience, the total novelty of being with a girl. They, the johns, are thirteen and fourteen-year-old boys in the film industry. She barely discriminates by rank. Once she debauches them, she puts them into a bind; uses their own parents’ protectiveness against them, threatening to reveal everything. Somehow, none of the young men has realized that exposing the affair would affect her career as well as his. For them boys, it was all about their mothers. Myria doesn’t have that concern, she is sanguine in that department; her mother verified the idea by suggesting it first.

Myria is not sanguine about people liking her. She absolutely just needs more people to like her, like, right now. Not the boys she’s fucked, they’re disposable. She counts people by the millions. She dreams of transcending her status as a child star in a successful series of kids’ films. She actually thinks this way. When Myria meets other twelve-year-olds, they seem retarded to her. Little kids, seven and younger, are of course retarded but in a different way. They’re so much smaller. Myria hates kids. Nevertheless, she’ll pass as one to get entre into any department’s encampment, and with male crew she doesn’t hesitate to add a kiss of forbidden sexuality, just an inappropriate wiggle or a smile, so anything she’s curious about she can learn about. I see her with the makeup artist, or a grip, or a special-effects supervisor, peeling back the skin of cinema’s illusion. Each one, she wraps in polite, intense interest in their job. The professionals find it flattering, and those who don’t — a certain cinematographer in particular, and most sound guys for some reason — she just avoids. Everyone likes a twelve-year-old girl, because everyone wants to have the body and personality of a twelve-year-old. The global ideal for personhood was basically a twelve-year-old Chinese girl.

I regret being so vulgar in describing Myria. She deserves a bit of discretion as much as anybody. No need to make it all seem so dreary and chess-like. There’s plenty of improvisation to her game.

Myria is the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable sexual desire. She is the little pair of thighs and the tight abs that supposedly mean nothing to anyone. Millions of grown men find her athletically attractive. She is the stated ideal of youth and beauty — yet she is technically off-limits. Her full awareness of this status makes her super-powerful. She is the crux of our culture’s notion of desire and power. A twelve-year-old. All our pretensions of control dissolve into dissipation.

The Camera, on the other hand, is Frankenstein’s monster. He has holes all over his body. When they put him to bed they have to plug him up with disinfectant-smeared plastic plugs, all his holes filled for the night. When he’s working, he occupies his chair like a spider-web occupies the bottom of a discarded can. He has become a man physically incapable of expression emotions, though feelings are his stock in trade.

The Camera never moves, never speaks. He has never been seen to do so much as scratch himself. He is bodily cared for by an individual known as The Dresser. The name is a reference to an old, old movie; film people love references. The Dresser, a tall, stocky man with a bald pate and the manner of a butler, hovers over the person of the Camera like a mother hawk. He dresses and undresses him, bathes him. He electro-stimulates the Camera’s muscles to keep them from atrophying completely. Right now, he’s off set somewhere, ironing pajamas or whatever he does.

After one more shot with Myria, and another two with her and her co-star, Myria’s done for the day. The 2nd AD calls her wrap. Myria curtsies to some desultory and partly sarcastic applause from the crew. She drops back into the shadows, but doesn’t leave the set. Everyone moves on to the last two shots. They’re simple and they go quickly.

The house lights come up with a buzzing hum inside the hangar-like sound stage, bright stadium lights mounted on the dim, faraway ceiling. Most of the crew is gone within a minute, filing out through the human-size door next to the six-story rolling door. They emerge into the sweltering Mumbai night, break up into groups to drink in the bars and restaurants nearby, before heading to their homes. The camera crew relax for a minute, while out of their sight Myria toes around, throwing sidelong looks at the Camera.

A dark, compact person shimmies down from the support column of the stage rigging, drops lightly to the floor, startling the camera crew. He has dark brown skin and wears a tight charcoal suit; he begins to speak to the crew. They all give him their total attention. Myria moves closer to the Camera, lolls before him, her mouth open, her head falling to the side, like someone dozing before a fire. Then she claps her mouth shut, grins. With a comical little half-step to start her off, she runs, hops on the camera’s lap. The rig bounces wildly but she’s got part of the Camera’s harness in each fist. She leans in, kisses the Camera on the lips, bonking her cheek and temple against his matte-box/visor.

A flinch pulses through the Camera’s whole body. She pulls her mouth away and his lips sag open unsymmetrically, revealing yellow, peg-like teeth. She suppresses a giggle. Her hands grope through the forest of connections on his head, and she finally finds what she wants. She pulls something. With a metallic scrape, the Camera’s lens-cap shutters flip open.

In all her nightmares and imaginings, Myria had always seen the Camera’s eyes as staring, dead. Instead, they quiver with intention. They swivel, tremble, scanning her, the crewmen approaching behind her, the set. They never stop moving, the light blue irises adjusting continually, seeming to float under a film of water. The eyes’ scanning trembling becomes finer as the Camera zeroes in on Myria’s face. She gasps, pulls away. Then, angry shouting, big hands pulling her from the rig, lifting her away, depositing her on the concrete floor. As soon as her feet touch ground, she’s gone.

***

Dziga Vertov saw something in Benazir that no one else could see. Or at least, they only saw it in his photographs of her. It was’t just her, either. Some called him the Starmaker. “He creates drama where none exists,” touted one pudgy scribbler in Salon magazine.

His photographed hobos became heroes, posterboys for the reform of social services. Businessmen became Beelzebubs, suddenly catching the interest of prosecutory and regulatory agencies. Housewives became whores and used that to whatever advantage they could – household name first, fragrance and clothing line to follow. Whores became fireflies, chanteuses, sex-goddesses. But SHE, she became IT. Everyone wanted her to wear their clothes and their makeup. They wanted her naked, dead, sexy, smart, spiritual, vapid, deep, thirsty, frightened, relieved, perfect. She represented an age. Benazir, the gangly girl from the India subcontinent, became the most lusted-after supermodel of her time.

Her look became the look. As the 2060’s dawned, suddenly the buzz word in fashion was “provincial authenticity”. Irony had never been less in vogue. Suddenly everything had to be genuine.

She never let anyone else but Dziga photograph her. Somehow – they whispered about witchcraft – she even avoided the paparazzi. Oh, the occasional snap made its way online, but no one ever took notice. The tabloids seemed to pass over her. Through eyes and lenses other than Dziga’s, she was simply…ordinary.

Benazir wore success easily, as if born to it. The sudden social obligations, the welter of people who wanted in on the magic. The fans, the lustful men, the money men, the artists, the producers, those who wanted to use her, collaborate with her, invest in her, schmooze, win her confidence, or just gain social status by knowing her. Krevich and his staff managed it all, of course, but so did she, taking an active role in her own management with a natural ease and a golden tongue.

Krevich forgot how much he needed Dziga exactly once. Perhaps he underestimated Dziga’s importance to the chemical reaction that made Benazir a star. He arrived back one Monday morning from a weekend party in Norway where he had “really bonded” with a celebrity photographer who ran a glossy nude photography website. The man wanted to do a spread with Benazir. Krevich summoned her to an official conference room, poured her some gin.

“Nude but classy,” he said.

“Of course,” Benazir smirked.

“The people in Norway, Benazir, you would love them. How they drink. How they fuck.”

Benazir watched Krevich from smiling, half-lidded eyes. “Oh? Who did you fuck?” This photographer?”

“No, no. Not yet anyway.”

“Benazir, let him photograph you. He said he’d give you total control. If you don’t like them, they go nowhere.”

“And I have to get naked?”

“You’re naked half the time anyway, Benni.”

She sighed, gulped her drink.

“That’s different. Naked in Norway, brrr…. I’m from the subcontinent, Krevvy.”

“Don’t call me Krevvy. He wants to take you to cote d’azur. Tropical sands. Tropical women.”

“Cote d’azure is mediterranean, not tropical.”

Krevich stared at her, dumbfounded.

“And I’m not tropical either. Exotic, yes. Tropical, no.” She finished her drink and rapped the glass down like a gavel. “What is Dziga’s role in this.”

Krevich sat down and seemed to gather himself for a moment, covering by taking out a fresh pack of cigarettes, tamping it, opening it, fumbling turning around a lucky cigarette, removing one, carefully tamping it too, and finally searching his pockets for a lighter.

“Damn it, gave my lighter away again.”

Benazir was there with a match before he could get up. As he sucked the fire into his smoke she said, “What about Dziga?”

Krevich took a long inhale, and held his head back to blow it out. “He’s offering good money. I think it will be good for your image, actually. Add a little bit of ‘bad girl’, you know European sophistication and all that. And you already do nude work in many of those perfume ads, it’s just not marketed as –”

Benazir squatted in front of Krevich in his chair, and put her hands on his thighs. She spoke very softly. “Sweetie, I’m not worried about my image. I’m asking about Dziga.  I have never shot without him. He’s…important.”

“Dziga is a great artist with the camera. It was hidden in him all this time that I was fucking him, thinking he was an idiot.” Krevich smiled. He clapped his big hands over Benazir’s on his thighs, leaned down so that his face was close to hers. “I don’t give a fuck about art. We’re in advertising. Fuck that, we’ve transcended advertising — you’re a brand. With or without Dziga.”

Benazir slid back, dropping her butt to the floor and sitting cross-legged.

“Aw.”

“I’ll talk to him.” Krevich stood up, brushed some ash off of his pants. “Don’t worry about it. Just stay beautiful.” He rested his hand on her head for a moment.

Benazir reached up for his arm with both hands, placed the edge of his hand into her mouth, and bit into him.

Krevich’s panicky yelp sounded just like dog getting wounded. He yanked away from her, shaking his hand. “What the fuck, bitch?” He looked at his hand: no blood, but a red arc of teeth right across the meat of his palm. “Fuck. Fuck this. What the fuck.” He shook his hand again, then grabbed it tightly with the other hand and bent over it, his teeth clenched, his eyes squeezed shut, and endured the apex of his agony before he finally began breathing again, gasping and choking.

Benazir saw a new emotion creep over Krevich’s anger, a mixture of greed and fear. He was like the monkey with its fist in the jar of rice. He could not let go of the rice to pull his hand out of the jar.

He sat down heavily on the chair, looking at Benazir from under a heavy brow. “Why? The fuck.”

Benazir held her feet and rolled back on her haunches, playfully like a small child. “You should call the cops. Look what I did to you.”

“The fuck. The fuck. The cops? No cops.”

Benazir giggled. “Here, let me see it.” She scooted closer to him. He drew back in fear, but she cooed and petted him and gently pulled out the hand she had bit, and held it between her cool hands. She kneaded it softly, and said, “there, there, it’s not so bad. I didn’t bit you hard. It just scared you. Look, the mark is already faded from red to white.”

Krevich’s body slackened, his face shed its tension. He looked at Benazir’s face.

“Are you in love with Dziga?” he asked.

“I don’t know what that means. I’ve already loved everybody in the universe, where do you go from there? Dziga and I have a purpose together.”
“What’s that?”

“Funny you should ask, I’m not sure I know yet.”

“You are a ridiculous girl. The most ridiculous I have ever met,” Krevich said. Benazir laughed, a chesty, honest laugh that made her feel weak. Krevich smiled. “You really are. How could anyone take you seriously?” He rubbed his hand. It just itched a little. The bite mark was nearly gone.

“I don’t know,” she said through tears of laugher. “I don’t know.” She helped herself to some more gin. “We can do the shoot. With Mr. Norway. Get the contract, I probably want to make some changes.”

Mr. Norway ended up paying for not only a trip to and accommodations in cote d’azure for two days, but a greatly increased fee for Benazir, part of which was wired to Los Angeles and handed to Dziga as cash. The three of them went out to an awkward dinner where Krevich made a speech about their “amazing little brand” and how it was ready to grow and called Dziga the creative force behind it and toasted him. Then they took Dziga back to the big bed in the apartment on the sixteenth floor and tag teamed him until he squirmed away from them exhausted and spent and ticklish. Benazir stayed, and the three of them spent the night together. Dziga’s face beamed peace and happiness and his heart exploded layers of gold light.

Dziga walked all the way around downtown, from the historic core over to Cesar Chavez and then up into Chinatown, down Figueroa, back east on 6th and through the heart of skid row, six dozen times during the week-and-a-half while Benni and Krevich were gone. The hobos knew him when he passed, and nudged each other and whispered about him. In between walks he took to a cocoon made of blankets. He didn’t shoot any photographs at all.

He met them at the airport on their return, proudly showing them to where he had parked the car himself. In the car, all buckled in, Dziga blurted out, “We should all three spend the night together again. Tonight.” He squinted a smile and wiggled the steering wheel.

Benazir reach up from the back seat and put her hand on Dziga’s shoulder. “Of course, sweetie. May I stay the night, Krevich?”

“Of course. But you must save some Dziga for me, I found him.”

Dziga threw his head back and laughed. He turned up some music. They glided home on freeways empty in the pre-dawn morning.

By the time they got into the apartment, conversation had become stilted and forced. Krevich fidgeted with a nail clipper. Benazir efficiently put away all of the luggage, then went into a series of yoga positions in an out of the way part of the floor. Krevich wandered out through the foyer in to the studio, smoking. Dziga watched them both.

“What’s wrong?” he finally said.

Krevich strode in and slammed the door. Benazir let out a huge breath and lay flat on her back, her hands on her face.

“Where are they?” snapped Krevich.

“I unpacked them. On your desk.” Krevich got them. He grabbed a letter opener and dramatically ripped the manilla envelope open, though it wasn’t sealed. He threw the stack of photos on the floor, splaying them out.

Dziga looked at them. A woman who looked a bit like Benazir posing nude on a beach. She had different eyes, distant and faint, and none of Benni’s insouciant mouth. She even seemed to have a different arc to her spine, more defeated, less confident. She looked bored, awkward, plain and a bit childish, like a teenager posing for her first sexy picture.

“Did they replace you with her?” He pointed to the photos.

“That IS her!” Krevich shouted. “That is her. She sabotaged it somehow.”

She screamed, a quick rising tangle of anger. But when she stood before Krevich and spoke she kept her voice carefully low and even. “I did not sabotage it. Do not say that again.”

Krevich kept silent. Benazir turned to Dziga, who was trembling. She hugged him. “I’m sorry, sweetie. It’s okay. Everything’s okay. They’re not going to use those pictures.” Krevich went into the studio and locked the inner door behind him. Dziga wondered why it would matter if they used those pictures. They didn’t even look like her.

Continue to Part 4.

The Human Camera – Part 2

"Los Angeles" by Jazzberry Blue http://www.jazzberryblue.com

Map of the Staples Corporate Park, formerly Downtown Los Angeles (crooked triangular section to right).

This is Part 2. If you missed Part 1, start there.

“Dziga, Dziga, it’s okay.” Krevich grabbed him by the shoulders so he couldn’t run. “It’s okay. It’s okay.” Dziga relaxed and Krevich let go of him. Dziga put his hands over his face. Krevich spoke in his laconic Russian accent. “You were curious, right? You simpleton. How could you know the significance.” He flipped the camera on, rotated through the pictures of Ms. Summers, sighed. Everything was fine. “Dziga, you’re a naughty boy. Did you want to play with my camera?”

Dziga nodded. “Take your hands off of your face.” Krevich slipped the memory card out of the camera and into his pocket. “Stay here. Wait a second.”

Krevich skated into another alcove further into the hive. Dziga realized he was standing nearly naked in Krevich’s busy hive. A woman whistled at him on his way into one of the offices with the translucent doors. He ran back into the apartment to put on a robe.

They collided in the empty middle room with its sad fake plant. Krevich had a grin and a leather camera bag. “Sit down,” he said, and they sat side by side on the couch, with the bag on the couch between them.

“I know you didn’t mean to steal any footage. You’re too dumb. What would you do with it, anyway? Besides jerk off, anyway. But it’s fine. Cotton Fux are a bunch of kids anyway, I could have come up with some excuse and reshot it. Are they comfortable, anyway?” Dziga tugged on his boxer briefs, nodded. “Well, that’s good, anyway.” Krevich pulled a lens out of the bag, a compact little black cylinder. He removed the end cap with one hand, while with the other he unscrewed the big lens on the camera. He snapped the new lens onto the camera and handed it to Dziga. “This one will be easier for you. That was a 300mm on there, can be tricky for a beginner. This is a 20-70mm zoom lens, very easy. Nice fast lens. Go ahead, turn it on. I put an empty card in it.”

Dziga took the camera. With the shorter lens it felt featherlight in his hands. The camera’s metal casing felt dry and cool. He gazed at it, then looked at Krevich, conflicting emotions running across his face. Why would Krevich be so kind to him? Krevich reached out, rumpled his hair.

“I love you, little Dziga. My funny little man.” Dziga couldn’t hold his gaze. He turned back to the camera in his hands. It felt like a bomb, pregnant with potential.

“Don’t worry about the technical stuff. Here’s the focus. Everything else is automatic. Go play.” And he went back to work.

Dziga dressed slowly, not letting the camera out of his sight. He went out into the city, feeling armed to the teeth.

He found himself in Grand Central Market, the sprawling semi-indoor bazaar at the bottom of Bunker Hill. He photographed bins of fruit as if nobody had ever photographed fruit before. He sweated over that fruit, hoping the people buying the fruit would not suspect how much he wanted to photograph them. He dared not point the lens at a human face. It felt like a violation, like running up to a stranger and running one’s fingers up their inseam.

Some kids ran by and saw him, shouted, “Take a picture! Take our picture!” and aped for him, and that broke the seal.

“People Buying Fruit.” Dziga pictured the words as the title of a museum exhibit of photographs. A sea of older matrons, purchasing produce for the week’s meals. Younger women with children. He didn’t know where to focus. He snapped photos, wrenching the focus ring like a mad sea captain working the steering wheel on stormy seas.

The layers of old women peeled away, the sea parted, and he saw a tiny young woman reaching out to receive a basket of fruit from a vendor, her arms brown and glistening with sweat, one leg stretched out behind her to balance, her hair floating around her like an aura. The camera fell into focus. He took a breath. The shutter opened just once. When he pulled the camera away from his face she was gone.

Out of many interesting images from that afternoon, Dziga only felt that one picture of the brown young woman was any good. He stared at it for a long time that night, bathing in the flow of impressions that ebbed from it.

She looked not much bigger than a child, but hardly childish. Her eyes were large, almost hemispheres bulging from her diamond shaped face like grapes. Her prominent orbicularis oculi ringed her eyes, making it seem as though she were wearing glasses. It seemed like some wizened old man was peering out of her face, in spite of her taught, smooth skin. She had a light black down on her upper lip, and long black hair flying around her shoulders. She wore an odd, old-fashioned frock, gingham with a white collar, that came down past her knees, and wooden shoes on her feet. Her slender arms ended in long fingers. Dziga could not get enough of her fingers. He thought they seemed like an alien’s fingers, too long and dextrous to be human.

And then more, deeper down. Dziga saw her in flashes occupying dream tableaux. She kneeled, her back to a dark idol, burning a hole through her own head. She stood atop a heap of ashes, pointing and uttering commands. There she was in Dziga’s own lost childhood, playing beside him, making him promise to marry her, giving him a toy ring. Through them all, like an image blurred by smoke and heat, she stood in the market balanced on one leg accepting a basket of fruit, her face placid but alert, graceful as an ocean wave far out at sea.

Dziga began to look for her. Day after day he returned to the market, sometimes photographing people in the crowd, sometimes just standing or sitting quietly at a coffee bar, scanning. He knew she’d be there eventually, but she never was. He thought he saw her several times but it was always someone else.

On Chinese New Year Dziga walked to Chinatown, found a crowd gathered watching a lion dance. Two lions, big baroque papier-mâché heads with enormous googly eyes and curling, snarling mouths, two men each, one in the head and one behind under a cloth so that the lion had four legs, and the requisite cheerful monk character which was one man wearing a papier-mâché head painted with a shaven-head and a serene smile, fanning himself with a plastic Chinoiserie hand fan and stumbling comedically. Dziga took some pictures of the dancers and some people in the crowd.

As he pulled the camera away from his face once the cheerful monk winked at him. “How clever,” he thought, “they must have it rigged so it can wink.” But he looked closer and the sun gleamed off the unbroken painted surface of the monk’s head. “I must have been mistaken,” he thought.

He walked down the hill to the market, and saw her. At first it didn’t register. She was browsing the bins of produce at a nearby vendor, and he saw the same thing he had seen the first time. She had an immediacy, a vividness, a sense of life and chaos. She did nothing extraordinary, but her actions were infused with a wild grace, a joy and directness.

He approached her wielding the camera like a coat of arms. She zeroed in on it right away.

“You want to take my picture?” she chirped. He explained that he already had, and that he wanted to take more. She slid her bag of produce to the crook of her arm and clapped like a child, bouncing on her toes. “Photographed!” she exclaimed, “I’ve never been photographed, not properly. Who do you shoot for?”

“Vogue.”

“No kidding?!”

“Yes?”

She eyed him sly sideways. A twitch smirked imperceptibly around the corners of her mouth before erupting, sending ripples of silent laughter across her face. “You are kidding. Look at you, like a baby deer.” She put her hand on the camera lens. Dziga reeled like a mugging victim. “You want to shoot me though?”

Dziga nodded. Pulling on the camera strap, she stepped in close, her face underneath his, looking up at him. “Naked?”

“No just some fashion stuff, there’s a lot of clothes,” his arm straightened, pointing vaguely in the direction of the building that contained Krevich’s floor. “Or we could….”

“Clothes?” She rummaged in her bag, pulled out a slip of paper that already had her number written on it, hugged him and disappeared. Dziga wondered if she had already finished her shopping. He looked at the piece of paper. “Benazir Bhutto #x”. Hash-ex, the standard designation for a name that had been used by too many notable people to count. At one point, 80% of the Parliament of the Franco-Deutsch Holy Roman Empire Too had been named Benazir Bhutto. The Holy Roman Empire Too was neither holy, nor Roman, but it was a genuine Empire, with satellite franchises in Jersey Kingdom, New Yankee Kingdom, Australia and Eurnordia.

The next day Benazir Bhutto #x showed up at the apartment while Krevich was gone, without a preliminary phone call, somehow without buzzing up to the apartment. The elevator door just opened, and she hopped out. She wore a short, gauzy gown dyed an earthy orange color. She ran, jumped, hugged Dziga. She smelled like apricots and honey and warm clay. She bounced back on her heels, grinning at Dziga, then noticed the windows that made up two walls of the apartment and bounded over to them pressing both hands against the glass and peering out in wonderment like a child.

“It looks so different from up here,” she breathed.

Los Angeles had cleaned up real good, swept by the seismic bristles of The Big One twenty years before; the earthquake had brushed away the nuisance of LA’s poor ghettos to the east and south parts of the city, leaving behind only the newer, earthquake-safe skyscrapers of downtown, which was renamed Staples Corporate Park and now floated like an army of glass angels above the flat greenish-grey of the rest of the LA basin. The older buildings downtown had all crumbled; the old Alexandria hotel, the Rosslyn hotel, the P&E building, the Santa Fe building, the old Arts District, all rubble. South and East Los Angles, mostly older houses and buildings, rubble, and cut off from the electric and gas grid which somehow never got rebuilt in those directions. Hollywood, rubble,

then rebuilt as a tourist attraction. From the Corporate Park westward the city remained mostly intact. The western edge of the huge basin of sediment, the giant bowl of geological Jell-o that cradled Los Angeles had shaken the least, being furthest from the San Andreas fault line, which ran southwest to the east of the mountains that make up the basin’s northeastern edge. The earthquake had shattered the freeways encircling the Corporate Park – the 10, the 210, the 110, the 5 – in enough places to make them useless. The Downtown Council had covered them with millions of tons of costly imported soil, and now grew on them the vegetables necessary for the office workers’ arugula salads and kale shakes. Benazir followed the verdant curving traces of the old freeways around the city, green tracks above the olive terrain. In the empty spaces where the old building and parking lots had been, neat lawns untrod by human feet now grew. The Corporate Park was clean, safe, neat, tidy, and totally devoid of human culture. During the day, fifty-thousand or so professionals came and filled up its glass, steel and concrete edifices, then took the train back to the westside, Santa Monica, and the San Fernando valley. At night, security guards replaced them, keeping watch against the feral squatters from further out.

Dziga watched Benazir seeing her city as if for the first time. Then she turned around, leaning back against the glass.

“Well,” she said.

“Well,” Dziga said, relaxing slightly.

“What’s your name?”

“Oh, sorry! Dziga.”

“Dziga Vertov?”

“Yes.”

She shrieked a little laugh, put her hand over her open mouth. Then she said, “What are you, Dziga Vertov Number Two?”

“Yes.”

“Show me the picture you already took.”

“I haven’t taken any yet.”

“In the market, silly.”

“Oh, yes.” He fetched the camera, turned it on. The photo of her in the market appeared on the screen. Dziga blushed a little. Benazir held out her hand; he gave her the camera. She looked at the picture for a long, long time, not moving except for her eyes. She made no expression. Dziga thought she hated it, thought she must love it, thought she hated it again. Finally, she just handed the camera back to him, solemn.

“That’s a very good photo.”

“Thank you.”

She looked at him queerly, like someone who suspects a trap. It made him nervous. He fidgeted, straightened a placemat on the table.

“Dziga Vertov, hmm?”

“Yes.”

She took a quick, sharp breath, straightened up, and faced him squarely. She was short but somehow Dziga felt she towered over him. She jumped lightly, spread her arms and legs like a Vitruvian Woman.

“Where do you want to shoot me? By the window?” She hopped close to the transparent wall. She did look good by the window, backlit by the sky, sunlight reflecting off a wall brightening one side of her face. Dziga started shooting. She did a few little poses. She threw her hair back. She strutted toward him. He circled around her. The sunlight made the edges of her brown skin glow. Dziga snapped exposure after exposure, moving from place to place.

“Honey, slow down. You’re not documenting me. You have to feel it.” He photographed her talking, in a trance. She turned away from him. Tension filled her body, she slowly turned her head over her shoulder. She sprang at Dziga laughing, wrapped her hands around the camera lens. Dziga opened his hands, and suddenly she had the camera. Dziga stumbled backward and sat down heavily on the bed. Benazir pushed him back with the flat of one palm, snapping exposures with the camera in the other. She straddled him, held the camera over his awestruck face snapping without framing or focus.

“How do you like it? Huh?” She laughed, laid the camera on the bed, put her face over his, “How do you like it?” His hands spread out flat on the bed on either side of him. He felt her thighs gripping him. She curled her hips into him slightly. He nodded, his breath heavy. They looked into each other’s eyes, looking from eye to eye. His eyes moved about her face, but she held her gaze steady. “Let me show you how to photograph me,” she said.

She picked up his hands, moved them to her flanks.

“But I see with my eyes,” Dziga said. She laughed.

“Who do you want to take pictures of?” she asked. He frowned, not understanding. She went on. “A girl you met in the marketplace who throws herself at you? Or something else? Can you feel it?”

“What do you mean?”

She had her hands on his neck. In the brightness of the room Dziga saw it go dark around her, as though she were her own source of light. “Unfold me and find out.”

He did shook his head. “What? What?” He struggled out from under her, pushed her to the floor. She crouched there, snarling. She leapt at him again, pinning him down. She forced her mouth over his until his eyes closed and he submitted.

Afterward he could not let her go. He held her to him, one hand on the back of her head, their skulls touching. She soothed him, rested her head on his shoulder and held him in a protective embrace. She hummed a melody, a fragrant love song to a dark lord. Dziga notice that she had goosebumps on her arms and rubbed them to warm her, then noticed that she had goosebumps everywhere. Dziga’s bony, white body scooped together her softness; they matched by not matching. To Dziga, her body felt totally weightless.

By the afternoon he knew her body dorsal ventral fore and aft. But Benazir was restless, unsatisfied.

“You’ve got the rhythm, but you ain’t got the rhyme. Yet.” She went to her purse hanging on the chair and took out a little tin of candies. “Take one of these. Put it on your tongue. Don’t chew it for awhile. It will make you see things differently. It will show you the illusion.”

They lay down on the bed and touched heads and pulled the covers up and over.

There was writhing and gnashing of teeth in the dark.

Then there was a fall and the Pure White Light.

Then Dziga was a thought thinking itself, and he laughed and laughed.

They became strange creatures made of tubes, all tangled up inside each other. Her odor of clay and apricots mixed with sweat and musk in pulsing colors of orange and red, but she tasted cool and green and endless.

Then the grinding of coming back into their bodies in the usual way.

Then batting their arms together, speaking brand new hilarious languages to each other.

Then, then, then, eternity, a thousand sun-soaked afternoons across archaic centuries. All of time was one moment. A babble of voices surrounded Dziga and Benazir. In the center of it all there she was, smiling, her eyes anchoring him. He held her and cried. They laughed. They ate an orange as it turned night. They licked each other’s fingers clean, then lay down suddenly fascinated by the flesh again, but without ardor, without even moving really.

They looked up and saw Krevich standing over them at some point. He looked them over voluptuously, grinning, then spoke to them but his words seemed like babble and they just laughed until he seemed to wobble off somewhere and left them alone. A million hours later he dropped into bed beside them, elbowed them for space, and fell asleep. His heavy, raspy breathing deepened and he began to snore and the sound wove a spell over Dziga and Benazir and their breathing deepened and synchronized and they too fell asleep. When they awoke, Krevich was gone.

The two lovers made an odd pair the next morning at brunch, at a spot in Echo Corporate Park that Benazir knew and had insisted on. A table outside, under a trellis hanging with vines, and Dziga looking like a half-plucked bird, his eyes flicking restlessly around the people who passed by on the sidewalk. As each person passed through their field of view he “called their trip”.

“He’s Mr. Clean. He takes off his shoes at the door. He pees sitting down,” said Dziga. “She’s a tiger mom. She hired a Persian maid so her kids would grow up speaking Farsi. She cries after sex. I only used to be able to do this with people in photographs.”

“Don’t abuse it, darling. Use it to see me.”

And he did, almost exclusively, for many years. He would eventually take many famous photographs of many famous people, and even made people famous simply by photographing them. But the vast bulk of his work would alway involve Benazir.

Giggling they ended brunch to go make photographs. It was a beginning; nothing could possibly go wrong.

Benazir augmented, then supplanted Dziga’s curiosity. Obsessed, Dziga assumed a mastery of the camera in days, the simple technical factors of exposure, focal length, shutter-speed and so on. He watched the other photographers in the studio work, and began pulling lights around himself, coming up with his own looks. Benazir became the new best friend of Krevich’s in-house wardrobe assistant and together they came up with outfits for Benazir to wear, provocative, regal, mythical.

At first Krevich reacted to the products of their collaboration silently. He would flip through thousands of photos in minutes, half-grunting once in awhile. But he left them alone to work as much as they liked.

Throughout this heady period, Benazir never flagged or lost focus. She pulled Dziga under the lights every day with new ideas, and then out into the city with more ideas. Whole minor scenes developed in the batches of photos they’d create together, roaming the city, photographic flâneurs.

Krevich watched them preparing to shoot one morning. They had taken over his cyclorama, done their best to evoke the inner sanctum of Aleister Crowley, the famous occultist of the 20th century. A set of risers formed an altar, draped with a black cloth. On it, a massive Oxford English Dictionary with a pentagram painted on the front. Benazir wore a black robe and a strange soft pyramidal hat that made her head look like a mushroom cap. She giggle coquettishly at Krevich.

“Dziga! He should be Crowley!” she crowed, pointing at Krevich. Dziga, pushing a floor light, stopped at looked Krevich over.

“He’s perfect, isn’t he? The wickedest man in the world.” Krevich rolled his eyes. “You’re not of course, you’re my sweetheart. Will you do it? Will you, will you?” Dziga and Benazir looked at him like puppies, Benazir hopping up and down and clapping.

“You’re not like any of my models,” Krevich said. “They’re all lazy.”

“I could be one of your models!”

“We’ll see.” Krevich took the hat from Benazir’s outstretched hand and put it on. He looked so solemn they both couldn’t help but laugh at him.

At night, Dziga still retired to the apartment attached to the studio with Krevich, so Benazir and Dziga started to use their forays into the city as a chance to touch each other. Dziga decided that the way Benazir looked through the camera, in that frame, was a different dimension of her existence than the way she felt when he held her. He knew that his photographs somehow connected those two dimensions, or gave the illusion of the other dimension being present, the same way they gave the illusion of a third dimension. The girl in the photographs always felt like flesh and bone and electricity and saltiness.

Continue to part 3.

The Human Camera – Part 1

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This Part 1. Start reading here.

Impossibly old and wrinkled, the Camera looms out of the darkness toward a young girl. Myria Dawn Ashton watches him descend until a chill spiders down her back; she looks away. On the floor before her, a man lying in a pool of blood winks at her and wipes some bloody hair out of his eyes.

The Director appears, already talking. “That was good with the blocking, guys. Of course, there’s no telling how you’ll do it under the Amnesiac, but nine out of ten the rehearsal kicks in unconsciously. If not, it’s almost never a big deal.”

“I know,” Myria says. The bloody actor on the floor, propped up on one elbow, nods.

The Director speaks to another crewman. “We’re bringing the camera in through here, yes? Ok, good. I want to get him very, very close to Myria before he sees the body. Her emotion should come before the audience realizes why she’s feeling it. I know we can shift the timing of Feels around in post, but I want to try to capture it in sequence, okay? I like the way this is laid out.”

Myria watches the crew buzz around the stage, making last-second preparations for the shot. Twelve-years-old, she has the self-aware poise of someone decades older. Her face always bears a serious, weighty look that, for reasons she doesn’t understand, always makes adults ask her if she’s sad. For this scene, she wears pajamas with feet and carries her own favorite stuffed animal, a large floppy-eared-and-limbed rabbit.

She also wears a patch across the base of her skull, held on with medical adhesive. A cord runs from one end of the patch into a transmitter clipped to her jammies. Away and above, nearly invisible in the dim rigging of the vast sound stage, in what everyone calls the “Mind Control Booth”, a tech watches her intently, keeping a meticulous realtime map of what short-term memories will be erased by the Amnesiac, and which will stay. The more recent the memory, the more accurate his aim. His maximum reach is about two days – past that, erasures are partial, wear off quickly, and often end up altering the wrong memories. Before this next shot, he’ll erase the memory of the rehearsal, of the Director explaining the scene, even the actors’ memory that they are on set; while performing, they will be unaware of performing.

Myria knows all this. It’s her job.

Myria won’t be able to see the Camera once under the Amnesiac, but she can now. The Camera terrifies her. He’s slung in a frame of metal tubes with soft leather pads that cradle his body completely, including his head and neck. Clamps hold his skull perfectly in position. Tubes feed him and discretely dispose of his wastes while he’s working. Dense clusters of wires sprout from his scalp, and a rig like a robotic pair of goggles sits over his eyes. Right now, the shutters of his goggles are closed. To Myria, his face looks like a skull – eyeholes empty and sightless. When the shutters snap open during shooting she is always under the Amnesiac, so she’s never seen the Camera’s eyes. The rest of his face never shows any expression or indeed any movement at all. His old thin lips always press tightly together. He never moves any part of his body during a shooting day, sometimes for thirteen, fourteen hours at a stretch. Myria wonders if he gets bored, what he’s thinking. Or is he somehow dead inside, like the catatonic people she had seen one time in a mental hospital?

Mostly Myria wonders what his eyes look like. Is he cruel? Kind? She has nightmares about his face, in which his eyes are exposed and become larger and larger, until saucer-like they covered his face. Terrible glaring eyes, full of horror, bulging from his head.

Though the Camera never moves his body, he moves all over the vast soundstage, high and low. His chair, attached to the end of a long articulated arm, could take him high overhead for a bird’s-eye view, or snake him along corridors just above the ground. The arm mounts to a pair of robotic tank treads. It requires four men to operate the Camera, plus a medical team to keep him in good health and attend to his bodily needs. He is the most expensive camera system ever devised – a living human being, his whole life devoted to one task, a monk before the God of Cinema. Perhaps it’s that — his fanatical devotion to so dark a god — that gives him a vaguely satanic aura.

Myria watches as the crew moves the Camera over the wall of the kitchen set, angled downward for a three-quarters view of the room.

The Director says, “That’s good, camera crew, but you’ll have to get him in there from over here by the kitchen door. The arm will have to come in at eye-level, then pull up to the three-quarters wide shot. Yeah, you’ll have to move the dolly over here, sorry.”

***

Modern novels have a narrator who talks to you in first-person. These days we call stories narratives, which automatically implies a subject, an eye or “I”. The old days when epics and myths seemed to spring fully-grown from life are gone. What I am getting to is that by talking to you directly, narrator to reader, I am merely trying to stick to convention. Convention is what brings people together, right?

Plus, I want this to be a classic. I want a vivid moment, set open by the wicked lightening of disgrace. I want time to stand still. I want to be famous and haggard, iconic and near death. I’m sorry, I’m indulging myself. Anyway, a classic has an Introduction — written by someone eminent — that tells you how to frame the book, how to think of it. That is how a book becomes a classic: generations of people writing Introductions, accreting layers of wisdom on how one should read the book, what one should think of it, what it means. Otherwise, a book is a flimsy thing, a long, narrow string of words, thrown at you lengthwise. Only after a culture has fondled a book for some time does it soften and become voluptuous. So I’m providing my own Introduction, to kick-start me on that process. This is it. You got that, right?

Please, after you read the whole book, help me out and write me an Introduction, if you like it and especially if you’re eminent. Okay, thanks.

Listen, I’m going to tell you a story of how people become objects, and objects become people. It begins with the second known man in the world to be named Dziga Vertov. He had disappeared once already, from some earlier protozoan life. He would disappear three more times before he finally became a real person. After that he disappeared for good.

***

Painting_young-man

For the purposes of my story, Dziga appeared as if from nowhere. He disembarked one spring day from an ancient Greyhound bus at the central station in the Sovereign Free City of Los Angeles. Stepping down the steps and through the door of the bus, he realized that he remembered nothing before the bus ride; the trip itself he recalled only as a vague, warm world of vibration. He emerged into the bright, broad streets blinking and squinting like a baby otter.

He was hungry. He looked himself over: sport shirt tucked into jeans. Comfortable sneakers. He checked his pockets. Nothing. He knew he’d need money to eat. He wandered aimlessly for a bit, taking note of cheap-looking places to eat. He pondered panhandling with half a heart. He also noticed the way certain men looked at him, lingering over this tall, lost man with such broad, lean shoulders. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew what to do. Sort of. He made eye contact with one man who had been hanging out in his vicinity for awhile. The man came over and they talked for a moment. After a few minutes in the restroom at El Crazy Chickeño, he had enough cash to get himself a chicken burrito and some coffee. He tried to bite into the burrito, but winced in pain. His jaw was sore.

It would get more sore over the next week, and his clean clothes became creased and dirty from curling up to sleep at bus stops when he was lucky and in loathsome hidey-holes when he wasn’t. He crawled into a storm drain one night, mostly out of shame; the streets were full of tourists and young people. The dirtier he got, the harder it became to solicit clients. His arms and shoulders ached from the hard bus stop benches and the pavement. He awoke one morning starving, the world spinning hazily around him.

Hungry, confused, mouth hanging open, he turned in circles as he drifted down Sunset Boulevard. Hollywood’s cracked streets and buildings surrounded him, like wolves closing in for the kill. A man with a thick black goatee walking down the sidewalk saw him, stopped. Is he alright? Would he like something to eat? Yes, he would. The man says his name is Krevich. Dziga had to think for a moment.

“I don’t remember my name,” he said.

“Isn’t that a shame. Let’s give you one. You can be Dziga Vertov. Because you seem to be spinning like a top. Ah, that’s not a great joke.” Dziga sobbed a weak “ha ha” and Krevich grinned at him. He took Dziga to a cafe, bought him a sandwich and told him all about the original Dziga Vertov.

He explained that Vertov was a pioneer of cinema, who had expounded the radical power of the camera to lay reality bare, to see “life as it is”. Vertov famously said, “I am an eye. A mechanical eye. I, the machine, show you a world the way only I can see it. I’m in constant movement. I approach and pull away from objects. I creep under them. I move alongside a running horse’s mouth. I fall and rise with the falling and rising bodies….My way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world.”

“But the old commie was a fraud!” guffawed Krevich, “By ‘life as it is’ he meant Soviet social propaganda. His films show only what the Party wanted people to see. He was an ideologue. He adopted the name Dziga Vertov. It translates very loosely as, ‘Spinning Top’. That was the joke I made, you see.”

Joke or not, the name stuck to Dziga Vertov #2 as it had to the first one. After lunch that day, the day of his birth, he went home with Krevich in his Porsche to a sky-rise apartment and quite easily became his lover.

***

Krevich told Dziga he ran an agency for models and photographers. He dandled Dziga in a sleek, apartment suite on the sixteenth floor of a glass edifice in midtown L.A. Placed at the corner of the building, two whole walls of the apartment were windows, with a view of downtown. The apartment had a kitchen swathed in black marble; the walls of most rooms bore at least one large screen showing slowly-shifting A.I. artworks. An elevator ran straight from the apartment to the parking garage underground.

Once he moved in, Dziga almost never went out, even during the long daytimes when Krevich worked. He relaxed into the luxury of this life with the ease of a suckling baby. The days seemed endless and cool, and Dziga watched life outside as though it were a vast aquarium.

Krevich came and went each day, not through the elevator, but through another door in a remote corner of the suite. All Dziga could tell was that the door opened into a small, brightly-lit room. Krevich always locked this door from the outside after he left.

Dziga became obsessed with that door. Where did Krevich go? What did he do on the other side of the door? Where did those streams of yellow light come from? Dziga imagined a magic toy factory, spinning out impossible gizmos that glowed and flashed and fluttered. He never asked Krevich about it. He didn’t dare – it seemed beyond the scope of the unspoken contract between them. He didn’t feel that Krevich had any desire to share the larger scope of his life with Dziga.

Sometimes, during evenings or lunchtimes together in the apartment, Krevich spoke on the phone with someone about some urgent matter or another. He always spoke in furious Russian. Whenever these conversations happened, Krevich usually had to go immediately afterwards, and always through the mysterious door.

One particular time, Krevich had one of these urgent phone calls, actually a series of them, each more and more urgent. It was after ten at night, and they had been drinking wine together, but Krevich dressed irritatedly and made for the door. As he opened it, Dziga heard another door opening from the luminous space beyond the door. A woman’s voice speaking Russian, hurried and tense, Krevich grunting in response, then the sound of their voices as the outer door closed and they moved into whatever space lay beyond.

But the inner door, it stood ajar.

Perhaps surprised by the other woman’s sudden entry, Krevich had forgotten to close and lock the inner door. Dziga had never revealed his intense curiosity about the door to Krevich.

For ten minutes or so, Dziga sat on the floor, clutching his knees, looking through the gap in the door into the bright beyond. Then he hopped up and slipped through it.

It was just a small intermediate room, the size of a bathroom. One end, near the opposite door, was stacked high with files in long-term storage boxes. A couch and a fake plant sat against the wall that the room shared with the apartment. The opposite wall was translucent glass, patterned into a pebbly texture. Closer now, Dziga could see that beyond it was a large white space, brightly lit. He could faintly make out figures moving about, even as late at night as it was.

Without really thinking about it, moving under a sort of momentum now, Dziga opened the outer door, and walked slowly out into the rest of the sixteenth floor. The whole floor lay open, an open hive of meeting areas, computer workstations, and photography studios.

On the left, more translucent glass screened off a row of offices. Dziga could tell from the darkness behind the glass that the offices had windows out into the dark city night. In one office, a man pacing, stabs of conversation. Krevich and the woman. Dziga cringed away from the offices. In the other direction the space opened up into a vast alcove where the floor curved smoothly into the walls, all white – a cyclorama. The space stood somewhat dim and gray, as the big lights on stands and hanging from an overhead grid were turned off. Dziga wandered into this twilight of blankness like a child into a fairy wonderland, his arms and face open.

Presently he noticed other things on the stage. A series of low risers on the floor. On a table, a large half-rolled flexible display screen, battery chargers, and several cameras.

One of the cameras slipped into Dziga’s hands, heavy and quiet. He fiddled with it until it turned on. On the screen, an image lit up. A woman, wearing an elegant black gown and a diamond necklace, a stormy background, hard lighting. She had her hands on her hips, which were thrust forward, and she gazed over the viewer from behind dramatic makeup and a haughty, hawklike expression.

She had sleek, dark hair pulled back and up, with a few curls dangling down in front of her ears. A kind of guardedness shielded her wide-set eyes, making her eyelids seem heavy. The pout of her upper lip had a crook to it, one side more pouty than the other, and though her mouth was closed Dziga knew that one of her front teeth was chipped. Something else too…she hid a secret in her body. The way she held her weight, she was either hiding an invisible wound or a pregnancy. A flood of impressions: Her name was Donna, she had grown up a military child mostly in the South, she hated big dogs.

Dziga barely had time to register the strangeness of these impressions. Far away across the vast studio space, an office door opened.

Krevich stomped out, followed by a stolid middle-aged woman wearing capri pants and a blouse. Dziga froze. Krevich walked straight toward him for some paces, not looking up. Then he veered off, went behind a barricade deeper into the hive. The woman glanced briefly at Dziga as she followed Krevich, and then they were out of sight.

The camera tucked itself under Dziga’s arm. He scurried back through both doors into the darkness of the apartment and closed the inner door behind him.

He took off his clothes and crumpled them on the floor next to the bed with the camera hidden underneath, crawled into bed, and fell asleep.

Krevich returned to the apartment in the early hours of the morning, his shirt unbuttoned and his eyelids puffy. He crash landed in bed, but did not reach out to Dziga.  Dziga did not reach out either, for his mind swarmed with the image of that woman in the camera.

How had he known so much about her? But that was silly, he thought. Who knew how much he really knew about her. Just some impressions.

Nevertheless, once Krevich had woken and gone back to work, Dziga scurried to the pile of clothes and retrieved the camera. He rocked it softly in his hands, feeling its weight. As he held it, he had a tangible sense of light reflecting off the woman in the picture and being captured by the box in his hands. He could feel it happening.

He turned the camera on. Intuitively, he rotated through the images on the memory card. As he flipped through them, another impression formed: that the girl felt hidden behind the makeup and jewelry and clothes, and that she hoped no one would see through the disguise. There were several photos of the same woman in slightly different poses, then a sudden candid shot. The photographer had caught the girl laughing at something off or behind camera. Her eyes crinkled, her lips curled back from her teeth. Dziga looked closely and found that her left front tooth had a chip out of it. Just as he had known.

Whatever crisis had Krevich in its jaws bit down tighter. He came in halfway through the day in a state of panic Dziga had never seen. Several shots of vodka slid into him, and he hugged the wall, his arms over his head, moaning. Dziga peeped over the covers at him, but Krevich didn’t seem to notice. He paced, muttering. He bent and looked under chairs, under the bed. He started to root through the laundry hamper where Dziga had squirreled the camera.

“Ah, ah. Um. Sweetie?” Krevich snapped his head around, smeared his eyes blindly across Dziga.

“What?” he spat, went back to digging.

“I threw up in there. Don’t dig, you’ll get it all over you.”

Repulsed, Krevich stumbled back.

“You what? Why in the…?” He shook his hands, sniffed them. “You disgusting slut.” He pressed the intercom button. “Get housekeeping up here. Laundry emergency.” He went into the bathroom, washed his hands, wet his face. He came back into the bedroom, wiping his hair back, staring at Dziga.

“What’s wrong?” said Dziga.

“That cunt. Donna Cuntinglips, Summersault, whatever, the one named after the old disco star.”

“Donna Summers?”

“Yes. Donna Fuck Cunting Summers. The harpie, the ruiner, god damn it. Fuck her, Dziga. Fuck her, do you hear me?” He pointed his index finger at Dziga like a weapon. “I don’t need this kind of crap.” He went on and on, meaningless angry vulgarities.

“What happened?”

“What happened, my dear faggot, is that she’s a member of that Sleazekinder group. The ones who staged the underage fuck-in at the Louvre? The little piss bags. I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to take her on. Nothing means anything anymore. Those little maggots should be sent to a frigid island somewhere until their cunts rot. God damn…” The river of rage flowed unceasing through the flat valley of Krevich’s panic, until he looked and saw Dziga watching uncomprehendingly. He struggled to relax, sat down on the bed.

“Someone stole her footage. One of her cohorts, or her slimewad boyfriend. Who knows. She brought quite the entourage with her. My best photographer shot her, Gretchen art directed it, and now those shots will no doubt appear on Little Donna’s feed. The client cannot sell underwear with photos that have already gone viral.”

“Why would they go viral?” Dziga said.

“She’s underage,” Krevich said, cupping an imaginary pair of breasts on his own chest. “You know how it is. People enjoy their jerk-off better when they’ve told everyone how reprehensible their jerk-off material is.”

“Can’t you reshoot her?”

“What for? She’s only good for about one viral sensation. It would end up seeming like Cotton Fux was trying too hard.”

“I’m sorry,” whispered Dziga, looking down at the Cotton Fux label on his own underwear. He had a good guess that Donna Summers had a chip out of her left front tooth. He dared not tell Krevich where the camera was. He didn’t want to be thrown out, back out onto the bus stops and shelters where his jaw got sore from sucking dicks. They’d come, they’d take the laundry, the camera would… What would happen to the camera? Housekeeping would notice it. They would keep it or return it. Would they keep it? They might return it. He remembered suddenly the woman who had seen him in the studio, the woman in capri pants. Krevich’s assistant? Did she know who he was? Dziga pulled the blanket all the way over his head.

“Dziga. Dziga.” Krevich sounded gentle now. “Dziga, where did you go?” He dove under the blanket from the foot of the bed, swam upward, grabbed Dziga’s sides with his fingertips. Dziga writhed in an agony of giggles. He kissed Krevich, forgetting, but the tension in his chest wrenched him away. His eyes rolled in his head, he gasped for breath.

Krevich stroked Dziga’s temples. “You silly little man. What am I going to do?”

“About me?”

“That too.” And having overcome his panic, having regained his natural state of command, he left.

Dziga leapt out of bed and plunged into the laundry hamper. He stood regarding the camera in his hands for a moment, then stuffed it under the bedclothes. He sat next to it and started counting upward from one in his head. Somewhere around five hundred he lost count, and looked toward the door to the studio.

He opened it, saw nobody. Still in his underwear, he crept on bare feet across the storeroom with the couch. He peered through the pebbled glass of the opposite door, trying to detect some movement. Finally, not sensing anyone out there, he opened the door.

Like the last time, he could see shadows moving behind the doors of the offices on the left. The cyclorama on the right lay dark and empty. He crept toward it, keeping his head swiveled back toward the office doors and the camera hidden behind his body. What would he do if one of the doors started to open? Run? Where? Back inside the apartment, he supposed. He looked back. The door to the apartment seemed miles away across slick marble flooring.

There came a point where he had to step over some electrical cables and a riser to get to the table in the cyclorama. He stepped on the risers slowly, soundlessly. He reached the table and set the camera down, trying to remember how it had been situated. But this was ridiculous. The camera just reappeared? They would guess it had been him, it could only be him. The table was empty now; they could not have failed to look here for the camera. He picked the camera up again. He’d sell it. He didn’t want Krevich to lose a client, but he didn’t want to suck any more unbathed dicks either.

Krevich embraced him tightly from behind. Taller, his chin fit neatly on Dziga’s shoulder. Dziga’s knees gave way, but Krevich propped him up, supporting him on his own body.

“I caught you,” he whispered into Dziga’s ear, wrapping one hand around Dziga’s hand, the one that  held the camera.

Dziga could feel the hard cement benches of the bus stops against his side. He could taste canned corn and dry noodles. He fell away from Krevich’s embrace, tumbling, spinning. He covered his face and tried to run. Run where?

Continue to Part 2.

Writing in Public

My main intention for this blog is to serially publish my novel, “The Human Camera”. I’m doing it, not as you may think to put pressure on myself, but rather to help me let go. This is my first novel, and won’t be my last. I’m writing this book as an experiment. Releasing it as a serial on a blog, as I write it, makes it impossible for me to think of it as “My Masterpiece” and clench in fear. Thank you for joining me in this experiment.

Human as camera.

Human as camera.

“The Human Camera” is a book about how people become machines, and machines become people. It takes place sometime in the early 22nd century, and deals with a man who becomes a cinema camera, through cybernetics and by abandoning his own volition. The films shot using him sing with emotion, projected directly into the viewers’ minds.

The book picks up in the late 21st century with a man named Dziga Vertov, the second known Dziga Vertov in history. A photographic savant, he discovers a young woman named Benazir Bhutto, one of countless Benazir Bhuttos since the first one was assassinated in 2007….

The first Dziga Vertov.  The name loosely translates as "Spinning Top".

The first Dziga Vertov.
The name loosely translates as “Spinning Top”.

Not everything I post will be from the book, but if I can I’ll organize the blog so that all the sections of the book are listed together somewhere. I’ll also be posting news about the final finishing stages of my film, “The Book of Everything”, and random topics that occur to me.

I hope to release a 1,500 word section of “The Human Camera” once a week. This is optimistic. More likely I’ll post once a month, or fall into some writer’s doldrums and let it lapse for a season or two.

This will be a draft. Since I am publishing as I write, there will be problems. There will be omissions which will have to be explained later; there will be things that I change halfway though; characters may evolve as I come to understand them better. Once I finish publishing it here, it will become a manuscript and get rewritten before becoming an actual book.

Thanks for reading! Look for the first section of “The Human Camera” in a couple of weeks.

=Moe

Click here to start reading at Part 1.