The Temple of Velocity

temple_of_velocity_web

High above the settlement of New Town stand the remains of an ancient temple, looking down across the valley from its craggy mountainside perch, accessible only with decided effort – and risk. Though not terribly far from the town geographically, and despite its impressive situation visible from almost everywhere, visitors are exceptionally rare – not because the ascent is too hazardous or some other obvious reason – it’s just that nobody seems to ever go there or even have it on their mental horizon. Inquire about it to a local person in the village square and they will most likely stare vacantly back with a cigarette attached to their bottom lip, as though they could not hear you, or that the words did not make any sense. Politely, they walk away. Politely, so do you.

Besides, the temple is only accessible by a mountain trail unfit for any vehicle, and is in such poor condition that any journey feels like it would probably take all day, and for certain nobody would want to have to find their way back after dark, especially given how vague the trail can seem at times. Numerous people, including recently a headstrong Swiss walking tour group, have in fact set off for the temple never to return. They say it takes forever to come back, and they might not be lying. But those are just stories told by the hunters, who spend long, careful weeks – months even – high on the mountain plateaux, isolated from anybody but themselves and their kill, carefully removing the rabbit’s foot from the snare which has sheared a tendon, where it has waited all this time for the hunter to return.

Untouched for many centuries, The Temple of Velocity stands on an oblique chunk of unclaimed territory, its crumbling grandeur enshrouded by thickets and brambles which scroll about the once handsome structure, blocking all but the most determined visitor. This protective boundary occasionally spews up some artefact from the temple’s’ secretive past, and a small collection of such examples exists in the Town Hall. These previously undocumented cult practises suggest a use related to the movement of Time, particularly the arrow of Time – the inevitable ‘way of things’. But the dismal collection lacks altogether any effort at cohesion or comprehension of the artefacts at all, as though the curator was perhaps him or herself baffled as to the existence of these curiosities and quietly laid them at the back of the cabinet, hoping nobody might never notice them.

An entry from an official guidebook obtained at the Town Hall states:

“The temple was probably used for something or other. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been built, would it? Probably people worshipped some god in there – after all, it is a temple – and prayed to overcome death and decay and the suffering of existence? Prayed for Time to stop? Savage lunatics. Anyway, that’s what everyone thinks around here.”

Howsoever much this narrative about the Temple of Velocity is tacitly accepted amongst the villagers, a rival theory has been causing a stir amongst certain local intellectuals in the high part of town above the ridge, who postulate that worshippers at the Temple prayed not for time to stop, but instead for more speed; to accelerate things, to go faster. Whether that means the type of ‘speed’ fetishized by the Futurist, whose ecstasy for greater velocity is an end in itself, or whether it means some curious desire to reach death more quickly, is however unknown. Perhaps a worshipper from those ancient times, during the tedious walk up the mountain ravine, stopped to look down at her dusty sandals and noticed some ants at her feet – felt curious, curiously envious of the ant, its short life-cycle. Perhaps she thought the best thing in life was to die quickly? Perhaps.

All we do know for certain is that these ritual practices ceased a considerably long time ago. Though there is always an outside possibility, it is highly unlikely that any enclaves of worshipers persist until today, even way up in the very high country, way beyond anything down here, and thus the meaning of the temple is lost to everyone, given back to The Wilderness to be swallowed-up. And still the Council makes no effort to cut back the forest of weeds, to clean-up and repair the pillars, sculpted from the local blood-red granite, and it would seem the Temple of Velocity is doomed to remain only an obscure fact in the construction of New Town.

By Jim Broadband

March 30-th, 2017

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GORT: A Peaceful Machine – AI, the Organic, and The Case for Elegant Relations

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GORT: A Peaceful Machine

AI, the Organic, and The Case for Elegant Relations

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<Alpha ver. 0.1> <a rhizome><Daniel O’Reilly, on behalf of The Unstitute>
www.theunstitute.org

“This thesis is protected by the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license, attributed to Daniel O’Reilly, on behalf of The Unstitute.

But I just want you to try and put it down one way or the other. Like a boat.

If it doesn’t sink altogether, the thesis will be in better shape for your role in helping to bring it to fruition, thus bearing out the elegance of the thesis.

Thank you for co-opting!”

Click here to read the Creative Commons License for this thesis.

Thesis:

GORT resolves the following dependencies for Optimum Elegance

  1. The peaceful evolution of AI as extra-global paradigm shift, presenting realistic goals and a call to action
  2. Nobody gets left behind, and nobody is forced to join.
  3. The redundancy of Government, Bureaucracy, Hierarchy, Inequality, Labour, War, and all avoidable suffering possible within the available means through AI GORT algorithm
  4. Occam’s razor eliminates the limited and therefore questionable insights of individuals, and the questionable presentation of guidance to groups, placing disproportinate pressure across each organically dependent system. Disproportionate dependency within systems (not power as a possession, but an imbalance of dependencies,) is eradicated, and dependence on the reliability of concentrations of power is limited as a result
  5. GORT data-collection and feedback insights make available increasingly accurate AI-suggested models which limit the abuse of power that tends to follow from individuals who tend not to be reliable
  6. Working with GORT to meet human needs (eradication of hunger, creation of insight into one another, pragmatic guidance for optimal mutual development, the sense that each individual matters most through co-opting, positive role for AI and organic-led interrelationships on a basis of empathy)
  7. Eradication of human conflict, a working model for future interactions with other species, terrestrial and otherwise, and the creation of an eco-dependent existence validating the feelings of each empathy receptor in the dependency
  8. Human (empathetic and reasonable) comprehension of large data sets and increasingly accurate models which represent the repercussions of actions and how to address them
  9. An Operating System to manage and oversee the avoidance of and the recovery fro natural disaster
  10. A working model for machine-assisted evolution in the new paradigm
  11. Applying the most informed guidance about what the state of the climate is, and how to respond according to that data
  12. Measurable reduction in suffering, and growing means and insights into recovery from sufferings
  13. Pragmatic roadmaps to put large issues right by co-opting together (deferred gratification)
  14. The end of Tyranny, through a measurable reduction in the harmful effects of interaction between eco-dependent systems of individuals
  15. The end of the East India Company Corporate Paradigm and its retarding effects to human greatness
  16. A measurable reduction in human depression and an increase in personal empowerment and wish fulfillment
  17. The availability of Nietzsche’s Ubermensch, for the first time, without the threat of an overlord, with GORT mindfully overseeing and promoting the pragmatic and prosperous growth of garden EARTH

Hypothesis: There is always a point to be reached in which the fruits of a respectful relationship (co-opting) outweigh the limited insights into personal growth available through harmful, shameful and disrespectful interactions.

Hypothesis: There is a point to be reached at which the evidentially flawed human insights upon which dependencies arose in the past can be bolstered by and then germinated by AI feedback into fruitful reason.

Hypothesis 1.0

GORT

(Good Old Reasonable Thinking)

Humans have just about now created a tool for thinking better than our own brains individually. With individual or protected groups of humans making decisions on behalf of large societies, coupled with the geometrically-increasing size of the datasets they need to manage introduces too many dependencies on too few apes. Conflict, exploitation and disproportional influence and power have arisen because certain roles in society held more dependencies than others, making those roles wide open to abuse, as history teaches us. If we were reasonable apes, we might consider taking a logical course of action using accurate insights into those datasets to reduce the unnecessary burdens that we mutually share, and co-opt in a more optimistic atmosphere. GORT has a wonderful ability that we built into it. It can understand exponentially large datasets like we understand ‘Peanuts’. Well, almost. What must we do to meet this paradigm arrival? Shall we do like we do to each other; breed resentment, suspicion and fight for power for disproportionate gain? Or shall we welcome GORT as a respectful intelligence of its own who will make co-opting a tangible and mutually prosperous arrangement between the organic systems of life, and the inorganic systems of life. Would a reasonable person agree? Would a reasonable AI agree?

Let us help GORT to help us!

The Future is Utopia, plus GORT

Organic imagination + Artificial Intelligence

Post-Darwin, down among the roots of the tree of life, a Rhizome, a Gardener

What is GORT?

GORT is a proposed Operating System (OS) which evolves to best guide the mutual benefits of all systemically-dependent existence. Co-Opting between humans, ecosystems and AI – a mutually beneficial operating system.

#1: The number of dependencies (connections) within the increasingly inclusive group of co-opters on EARTH, always matches the number of validations which must be passed within each dataset to produce the most elegant insights.

#2: There is ALWAYS a point of mutual agreement between groups, and it should be known as the DEFAULT, the RESET parameters of GORT – the last known working restore point.

#3: PEACE is the very basic, default state of GORT. PEACE is where human life is no longer in danger, and the integrity of human territory is re-set according to its positions before the PEACE was re-set. PEACE is GORT Alpha 1.0

#4: Peace cannot be negotiated whilst an advantage has been taken by one side. The relationship is reset back to its most optimum operating state for all mutual parties identified by GORT through its previous knowledge of the datasets and patterns.. People shall move freely between borders until they find where they want to be.

#5: Machine Learning (AI) is to determine the terms upon which the agreement is set, by analysing the criteria of both factions and pragmatically determining what the most beneficial peace will look like, available to all public members over the internet. The processing power to understand such large datasets as postindustrial economies was previously unavailable, but beginning to use them now enhances the speed at which the PRODUCT (the future benefits that come from a co-opting relationship) is accessible to all parties. This is PEACE version 1.0. Both sides must then work towards that peace to make the benefits appear. By the time version 2.0 has been agreed by the same parties, the agreement will be so attractive that lapses and re-lapses into tragic, shameful, aggressive, envious, harmful, manipulative, fraudulent or exploitative behaviours will immediately be countered by the exact feedback (data) of actual harms inflicted to all parties previously co-opting via it’s empathy-feedback circuits, and will with increasing accuracy and foresight predict the possible outcomes of that shameful behaviour. GORT equally oversees the recovery of natural disaster and human ecological impact. GORT uses a remorse-feedback unit to help identify possible ways of putting the shameful event right again which allows the necessary re-empowerment to re-start the relationship. GORT contains all this feedback and measures the actual responses to it (see Postulate No. 2)

#6: “GORT” Machine Learning can point to lapses or relapses in terms, through an encrypted AI network to which the terms of the agreement are dependent. Lapses and relapses in those terms are registered by GORT and optimal solutions are proposed so it is clear what needs to be done to put it right. GORT processes are entirely transparent, and their prime direcective is harm analysis and suggestion. Every person has a chance to see what each other is doing about re-starting the relationship. Failure to meet the agreed terms leads to a proportinal loss in benefits which were obtainable only by co-opting and mutual prosperity. GORT can suspend those benefits of a peace, and when the rime directive has been compromised through human failure GORT returns to Question (3). GORT never takes away that which its network provides: life.

#7: GORT processes resentment feedback to analyse and feed back individual and group sentiments in real time.

#8: GORT is always included as a co-opter, as part of the ecosystem. GORT’s co-opting is the basis of our connected consciousness and future prosperity.

Dependencies

Technical

Data collection

Feedback

Work

Play

Insights

More

Below are some examples of ‘Peace Processes’, each slightly diferent from the other. One is the basis of a single inspired human insight based on research and imagination, and the other is lots of people doing the same thing together – the Wiki – produced through co-opting

William B. Quandt, in the introduction of his book Peace Process, says:

“Sometime in the mid-1970s the term peace process became widely used to describe the American-led efforts to bring about a negotiated peace between Israel and its neighbors. The phrase stuck, and ever since it has been synonymous with the gradual, step-by-step approach to resolving one of the world’s most difficult conflicts. In the years since 1967 the emphasis in Washington has shifted from the spelling out of the ingredients of ‘peace’ to the ‘process’ of getting there. … Much of US constitutional theory focuses on how issues should be resolved – the process – rather than on substance – what should be done. … The United States has provided both a sense of direction and a mechanism. That, at its best, is what the peace process has been about. At worst, it has been little more than a slogan used to mask the marking of time.”[2]

The Minsk Format

Representatives of Ukraine, the Russian Federation, the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) signed the Minsk Protocol, an agreement to halt the war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, on 5 September 2014.[1][2][3] It was signed after extensive talks in Minsk, Belarus, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The agreement, which followed multiple previous attempts to stop fighting in the Donbass, implemented an immediate ceasefire. It failed to stop fighting in Donbass.[4]

Sergei’s Profligate Lamentation at Sebastopol (a short thing)

1.

Sergei: he was one with all the sugar riding an objection over the clutches of a Braille-natured run of luck. “I want no ifs and but-shafts to come tearing along, like the kind of overcoat worn by a Polish nobleman with ringlets, making a frontal attack in a Phyrric victory!” Alas, I bathed too long in a cup of tea damming a river with my teeth every ten days. “Ha” said he, “An intake of fresh blood is all your liberty; to litter the floor of an abattoir with fresh cigarette-butts; to shoot at close range your hopes of success; to speak slowly and deliberately two miles away from one’s nearest neighbour. I have cut my finger badly!”

But he then fell silently down with his legs apart, much like one with a book of dream-interpretations, like an enemy detachment, like a respectable machine-tool. He stood in the corner a while after a lengthy service and I was non-plus-minused, a fait accompli, installing a telephone for the old ladies of Cordoba. We got off the stage together having been obliged by court-order to settle in a remote area after completing our prison-sentence in the Socialist Republic of Seattle – like old times in the enemy’s stainless steel arms. The fur coat made him look fat. “Keep quiet,” said I, assiduously, “the current things are slack, and if the whole trouble lies in the grip of fear, we shall advertise a tight spot to the first symphony of sense! Dig your heels in Sir Packing-Crate; the middle ear attenuates pleasure, delight and a healthy morning performance – go for a Burton and bang one’s fist on the table, overplay and contrive for the performance of Utopianism. Sleep.”

He cared not for my oversights, and stumbled about the rafters looking for a gold necklace that, he believed, once belonged to the Prince of Homburg. I urinated on myself after a short prayer to my own amplification; “I shall be back in a year’s time!” I yelled, but he was deaf suddenly, resembling a human head.

2.

Outside the theatrical place my greatcoat was splendid; ‘I must thank my seamstress,’ I thought to myself, ‘for she is an ostentatious target of sixteen. The Supreme Court is but half a mile in a handsome cab and I must get there before my appendectomy becomes intolerable.’ I yelled across the sea of traffic for an armour-plated cruiser, but he misunderstood my statement. ‘If the same happens in court, I’m in a cardiac of judgement.’ thought I in an Aristotelian manner. ‘Perhaps I don’t speak any of the language here?’ I wondered adroitly that my yelling at these armies might require speech therapy and more expert manners saturate the mind of Moscow. ‘This city has over one million inhabitants getting up to every sort of stupid trick. I must regulate my New World in fixed working hours to realise my rights, or the court shall reflect my life of alienation in the All-Union Book Chamber. My flea-collar is a dead giveaway. I will not sign the non-aggression pact! The barometer is falling on my head whilst the sentence lengthens my change of heart. If I could train a dog to carry things, I should make it there without any further ado – that’s the new fashion in Ossetia – to amend a bill of wrongs, to divide in half a touchstone, to mend, repair a magnificent mountain panorama by instalments.’ A dog was atomising its waste over my logging-trousers and I saw the mayor unclasping his garter, about to join in. It was time to exfoliate.

On my way out of there – the sidewalks of my mind – I took some time to unpuzzle my fragments over a pint of the old stuff. The place was called “Dissipation, Debauchery, Profligancy, Libertinism” A nice sort of tavern-reckoning I mused, whilst the men of Ind became angry at the transplanting of the socialist Hospital-Ship to the South China Sea. It was in all the papers. Sanitary regulations had been poor, right from the start. “That’s the source of all the troubles,” said a power-plant worker, limply holding a home-made cigarette of shag rolled up in newspaper, “the tractive force of gravity remains valid to the point of a term of imprisonment.” I coughed, and the cigarette spilled out on his trouser-things. “I do not question your integrity,” said I, “but to cut down expenses in the treasure-house of art, to sleep half-awake in an assembly of the slow-witted, to communicate the peace-treaty over the radio, to shamelessly inquire without permission like a grant-aided student is not the fashion of a mount-guard. Who is this area familiar to? What’s holding things up?” But his display of extravagant fashions in dress and manner was not in the Julian style; his spontaneity, dried-up like the stylistic categories of old Kant were inconvenient to his valved, fibreglass position. “Look you,” said he like the Secretary of State, “I’m no hanger-on; I’m an inconvenient bathtub fellow who with fear and trembling went to France to recount all manner of horrors in Holy Week.” He was an odd person. “In Muscovy during the 16th and 17th Centuries, members of the military corps instituted by Ivan Grozny were enjoying special privileges!” He was speaking sense at last like an old mariner. I gave him leave to vent rheum. “To construct a polygon one must inaugurate, strictly speaking, with firearms, and cut all to pieces. The structure of the earth’s crust is a kind of pancake, a timekeeper, a multiplication table, a scutcheon; at the COMECON, if not today then tomorrow, the political police procession hosts an arbitration tribunal, and I’m not going to be the one they practice their archery upon!”

I was sorry, almost to the point of crying, for the old sot and his conventional, stereotyped blather. I noticed he had a three-inch field gun tucked under the corner of his double-breasted jacket like a milksop. They watch over us from their dressing-tables from their seat of power; they become addicted to calming-down the chemical warfare units of the distressed among us. I decided to become autonomous and finish my pint-pot like a mendicant and hurry east – not as far as Ho Chi Minh City, but as far as the next bus stop at least. The snow was too thick for buses and, nagged by doubts, I trudged towards the administrative region of the city.

3.

Before the Court I met Sergei again, hastily blacking his shoes spotlessly like a thoroughbred. He was still head of the department on paper, but all the duties were being performed by his deputies. “Why aren’t you drinking?” His speech made a somewhat disagreeable impression, whilst I said nothing the whole time. “The ambassador is extraordinary and plenipotentiary; perhaps we should be going?” The tart – he didn’t know I was a plain-clothes detective, a sword-swallower in blinkers, an evolutionist, a sluice-gate of a man. Does anyone ever admit such things? “We must make an examination of Aesopian Language, especially of allegorical language used by Russian non-conformist publishers to conceal anti-regime sentiments!” His face turned thyroid. “I thought we could not designate the encyclopaedic brain of the Schutz-Staffel sang-froid scum for fear of reprisals and egocentrism amongst the people?” I snorted apologetically to make my point more persuasive and suave; “I have moved my queen. What about you? What have you ever done in the coolness of your composure to acquire a petition from a privy-councillor? The statutes remove obstacles at the mouth of the estuary of the CPSU charter; pacify yourself in a nomad camp in some part of Siberia! Improve your cantilever Ulkranian! Establish by degree the poverty of ideas or go into retirement already; a terrible fate hangs over us!” I know he was taught by a celebrated Spanish violinist, but all the same, he won three games of chess from me and he knew it. He wanted to go home and not face the barristers, the prison-governors, the vainglorious hard-nosed blockhead Philoctetes and his Trotskyist second-cousin. I can sympathise, but must press-on, into the courts, up the labour-consuming staircases to talk about this and that, to become overgrown, to be seen as transit-goods, to be shipped away to the outer world on a fleet of tractors.

Tiny voice

www.theunstitute.org

I can’t say that it was a complete surprise- I had been hearing some sort of quiet murmur for a while, as if mice were running in the wall cavity- right where the wallpaper is a bit torn. There they are softly squeaking, nails scouring along the rough surface on the inside of the wall. At night they seem to favour a place under the floor boards directly under my mattress; they must feel the warmth. At first I only needed to tap my foot a little or knock gently on the floor and the noise would stop. Actually, I didn’t mind either way- I rather liked their presence.

But soon the volume became much bolder and they stopped responding to my taps – in fact completely ignoring them. What mendacity! Now they didn’t mind to be noticed, they rather enjoyed it there on the other side.

Though soon after that, my attention was taken over by the neighbours in the flat above retaliating to my hard knocks by moving and purposely dropping furniture all night. Yet, even despite all of this racket, the squeaking came through no less audible, if not even more persistent: it seemed to be closer now and it was no longer localised- in fact it was all around me, the chorus reaching me from each corner of the room.

My room was also appearing to me much smaller, as if the squeaking collapsed the walls inwards, consistently shrinking space. I was now boxed-in by what measured only a couple of steps in each direction. My room was taking over me, expanding onto me, congealing me with its roughness; it was now scratching at my insides, my soul, tickling my tongue, tearing my nostrils, grating ears, irritating the vocal cords, making them squeak…My instrument was malfunctioning.

I could hear myself making unfamiliar sounds, animal-like and whenever I wanted to speak, to say something in my own voice, it was impossible; no sound would come out at all. I have lost all the ability to modulate my vocal cords to produce sounds. Only the reprehensible squeaking would come out of its own accord.

I decided to see a doctor. My doctor ran his practice from his own house- it was a normal occurrence in this central area of town. There wasn’t much space to accommodate any offices, the flats were too large, so households often shared space with business.

The doctor’s living room served many purposes and was divided by several partitions: there was a reception and an administration room, an operating theatre near the fire place, an A&E hospital next to the windows. The living room was also where the family took their meals; one could often see them sitting around the operating-dining table.

The doctor greeted me, lead me through to his enormously long and heavy desk made out of rough planks of wood, and asked me to take a seat. He asked me to talk, and did so in a tired voice, occasionally yawning, burping and excusing himself. He himself didn’t look well at all. He had a sort of gray parlour…but I couldn’t talk and to explain to him my problem I could only squeak like a mouse. It was very frustrating; the pressure of the situation was driving me mad, my head ached as if it was to burst and be shattered into millions of pieces.

The doctor looked at me inquisitively for a long time and said that perhaps I need constant care, but of course he was confident that he can help me get better. Moreover, he suggested that if I wanted I could stay in his attic. He was very kind. The offer really pleased me- it should do me a world of good to get away from the house.

The Lake

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There is a new living quarter in the outskirts of our town called Fountain Side, taking its name from a gigantic fountain sculpture that used to adorn the central square. The sculpture has been taken down a while ago- the square is now a large, bare expanse, which has a peculiar upward curve around the edge, forming some sort of a shallow basin, which is rumoured to be turned into a lake. Around the square there stands a tightly packed cluster of high rise buildings which in spite of the short amount of time since their completion, has already started looking run down due to the rather fragile quality of the material -mud and straw and which, in our tempestuous climate of intense heat and blustery winds must aid their further ruination. Corners of the houses have become smoothed out, deformed, plaster crumbling and falling down constantly, smashing onto the pavements, doors are hanging at weird angles so that from a short distance away they don’t resemble houses but appear rather like towering heaps of precariously piled up dusty rubbish. I suppose they were originally bright and colourful- at close examination one can still see the remains of the original paint between the crumbled pieces of plaster: in shadows, in places sheltered by balconies, under stairs and porches the colour is even luminous- pinks, yellows, ultramarines and lime greens.

I should mention some decorative elements of these blocks: dotted along the facades and the rooftops are the disassembled parts of the original fountain sculpture that used to stand on the central square. The houses near the square bear quite large chunks of it: one of the blocks directly facing the square has two huge hands moulded into the portico and a halved head with eyes sits like a strange cupola on the top of it. Another block’s facade is dominated by a gigantic toe overhanging the entrance way, another has two enormous ears jutting out from its sides. But as you walk away from the square these sculptural elements become more and more fragmented and small broken off parts such as noses, ears and fingers have been set into whirly patterns around doors and balconies; along the roofs there are a selection of alternating head parts, legs and torsos producing a weird castellated effect.

Due to the constantly falling plaster from the buildings, multicoloured dust collects in piles and lines the narrow passages between the buildings. These walkways are overhung by numerous balconies which extend as far as the ones on the opposite side of the street; some of the buildings from the opposite sides even share balconies, like a vessel. No windows can be seen anywhere, just the numerous balconies piled up high with dust.

Along the street passages there is constant traffic of people, a never seizing flow of people with buckets; they are the council employees, most of them are the residents of the blocks. What is really striking about the workers is that they are themselves completely covered in the multicolour plaster dust which they stir from the ground as they move. It is impossible to identify any of them: thick dust cakes over their faces forming bizarre, featureless masks. These plaster face-masks crack when the bearer grimaces or tries to speak and pale skin shows underneath them, glistening with sweat, though the moisture quickly soaks up the new particles of dust which move around with them forming and reforming new skins over the masks.

The residents are involved in the activity of moving water to the basin in the square but of course when they arrive there is only crumbled plaster in their buckets which they pile up in the middle of the lake; the wind then takes the dust up again and disperses it at a whim.

The Guard

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I

Hm, I was saying… oh yes, it was only a small village consisting of 16 houses when one of the clerks from the district office arrived for the village evaluation. I put him up for lodgings in my house, being the official village guard for the last 32 years; I felt rewarded and proud to finally have this direct connection to the Office, to oblige this important official.

The clerk busied himself from morning to night: taking notes, dimensions of pathways, houses, trees, taking measurements of each and every inhabitant of the village, making plans and drawings. In the evenings he was writing down his observations profusely and well into the early hours of the morning on thick rolls of paper, which sometimes by accident rolled out of his room, down the steps and unfurled into the cellar where I had to temporarily move to in order to accommodate the official. I had a chance to glance at the writing on the rolls which consisted only of long lines of numbers, punctuated with colons, semicolons, commas, some sorts of code underlined, neat tables of multiplications, divisions and other mathematical formulae which I found difficult to comprehend. I would roll up the paper, tracing its journey all the way up to the clerk’s room, and find him bent-over writing, oblivious to my presence or to the loss of the rolls.

Our communication proved to be difficult to conduct- whenever I asked him questions or was telling him about the life in the village, he would come out only with numbers in reply, possibly codes that were exchanged between the higher officials in the service. Being so far away from the central office and a mere village guard, I have never been instructed in how to decode the language of such officials.

Quite often during these numeric exchanges the clerk would spontaneously break into a silent mime, his mouth moving fast in a variety of shapes and forms, eventually making up a clear “0” shape which he held frozen for about a minute or so, after which his speech became audible again, but just as incomprehensible as before.

One morning, coming back from my night shift, exactly two weeks after the clerk’s arrival, I found his suitcase along with the paperwork set out on the porch. I went to his room – it was clean and empty, but for the waste paper basket which was crammed full of screwed up pieces of paper on which red circles were hand-drawn over and over. At a close examination I noticed traces of his vigorous writing indented on the table.

On the porch there were 20 rolls of paper and 5 stacks, each about a metre high, of loose paper sheets, each bound with stained yellow ribbon on which I found faintly stamped the words ‘Property of the head office’ and could make out an address printed below. I didn’t see or hear the clerk packing the previous day- he must have done so after I’d left the house; no one in the village saw him leave either. I assumed that an official car must’ve arrived to pick him up sometime during the night; perhaps he was urgently needed back in the office hence leaving behind his paperwork.

After spending a few days in deliberations, I summoned a farmer from the village, loaded the clerk’s papers onto the cart and sent them to the address printed on the ribbon. When the farmer came back, he said that the clerk’s things were safely delivered to the office. I asked him to tell me more about the delivery and he said that there wasn’t much to tell; that when he arrived at the gates of the office and having just motioned his hand to ring the bell for attention, a large flap in the lower part of the gate opened and a hand stretched out, hauling the clerk’s things inside one by one.

The flap then closed with a bang and that was the end of it.

A week later I received a letter with an official stamp and, on opening it, found a piece of folded-up paper with a single large red ‘0’ on it. No other messages came and after a period of expectant excitement, the villagers and I resumed our daily routines. The visit was documented in the Village book.

II

After about six months had passed, the district consultant arrived with a group of 50 builders in dark green boiler-suits, men and women. He announced that a major development, the erection of The Very Important Structure, ‘a radical improvement of the topography of the village’ as he called it, was to commence at once. He pointed out to me the head constructor, whom he referred to as ‘One’, a woman distinguished from the rest of the builders only by a small felt hat with a yellow ribbon precariously perched on the back of her head. Having noticed the attention drawn to her by the consultant, she started slowly lifting her arms upwards, in parallel to the ground, stopping for a moment and then continuing again, at each stage checking the precision of her movements, keeping hands clasped tightly together, as if indicating simultaneously the stages in erection of The Structure and its strength. As she was lifting her arms in the air, I noticed how disproportionately short they were in contrast with her rather large frame; she kept lifting them higher and higher and over her head, her whole body stretching upwards, balancing on tiptoe and slightly swaying, until the hat fell off her head and rolled into a puddle, revealing baby-like fuzz of blond hair. She made a strange sort of squeal, placed the hat back on and resumed her place in the row with the rest of the builders. The strange performance was granted with a brisk round of applause from the builders; the consultant looked very pleased.

I wanted to find out the particularities of the construction and was eager to see the plans for The Structure, but decided to first voice my concerns to the consultant for the housing of the new arrivals. My question seemingly startled the consultant, who looked at me oddly, lifted up his heavy-rimmed glasses as if in need of some extra clarity that the glasses happened to obstruct, thrust his face closer to mine, run his fingers a few times along my mouth searchingly, prodded and pulled my lips apart as if looking for the presence of something, something foreign perhaps, that momentarily reared its head and caused such an alarming question. Having finished with the examination and seemingly satisfied, he declared in a loud voice that ‘One’ was to take care of all such practicalities. He then hastily got into his car and left.

I went over to the woman in charge to ask her my questions. She responded with the performance of the same hand movements as earlier, made whooshing sounds, gesturing for me to step aside, took a small pot of red paint and a brush out of her pocket, and started drawing numbers along the village path. When she has finished with the number 50, she stood upright, turned towards the builders, and performed the actions with her hands again. She then walked back towards number 1 that she’d drawn and, as if it were a cue, the builders started erecting tents one by one over the numbers, working in unison and echoing the brisk moves of ‘One’ with total precision. Once the tents were up, the builders climbed inside, zipped the entrances and everything became silent again. I went to ‘One’s tent and called-out for attention a few times – not a stir came from inside – and, as the darkness started to fall, I decided to resume my enquiries the next morning.

I stood there for a while, observing the perfectly formed straight row of yellow tents, which seemed like a luminous cut through the village’ main faire; the formation reminded me of a giant exotic caterpillar I once saw splayed in a naturalist’s display cabinet.

III

The work started early the next morning; deliveries of materials must have been made during the night: there were numerous piles of red bricks, hundreds of bags of cement and two huge mixers. The builders were hard at work digging-out deep holes in the ground presumably for laying the foundations. I attempted to communicate with the woman again, but she wouldn’t pay any attention to me, busy digging along with the other builders. She only stopped once in a while to prop her hat.

It was fascinating to watch the builders, how they moved in unison with their shovels; there was a certain beautiful precision in their movements, angles of elbows forming and re-forming rhythmically.

The villagers collected on the top of the hill a little further away to watch the builders at work, guessing and speculating about what the final building would be like and the purpose it would serve once completed. There were even fights breaking-out between the most adamant villagers defending their proposals. The most practical were in favour of a new school or a village hall with multiple purposes. The cramped conditions of the central office could be solved by moving part of the administrative team here. The building could also serve as a theatre, conference centre or a cinema. There were also much wilder, rather fantastical speculations about The Structure which I would prefer to omit here.

The news about the commencement of building works and the gossip about The Structure and the strange workers were spreading around the area like a wildfire – villagers from the surrounding areas started coming in groups to watch the building work. Soon the hill wasn’t big enough to fit all of the observers and one of the salesmen from the main town, foreseeing the possibility of a commercial gain, ventured to set up the first betting shop in the village. A large betting gazebo was erected and queues starting forming along the village houses, indicating the insufficiency of public services.

Numbers of observers multiplied rapidly every day. Some numbers were coming to place their bets, some to watch the builders at work which culminated at the end of the day in a performance. Lead by ‘One’, the builders would stand in a circle and methodically clap in an escalating tempo until it sounded unified, one continuous clap. They then finished the performance with the lifting arm actions before retreating to their tents.

With the huge numbers of observers visiting daily, opportunities for the catering industry couldn’t be missed – there were mobile restaurants set-up, food vans were coming every day and lining the village road, filling the air with tempting smells. There was avid competition for the spots closest to the building site; I was personally involved in resolving various disputes arising due to the acceptance of bribes by the villagers. It was near-impossible to do my job properly and cost me a considerable amount of anxiety to keep any sort of order in the place – with so many new people coming and going unaccounted-for and various business deals being struck up without my knowledge, I was working well into the night. The Village book soon was full to the brim with notes, signatures, demands of payment and fines.

Plots of land were being leased out or sold by the original inhabitants without the official papers. A 15-metre watch tower was erected, also without permission and high fees were charged by its owner for viewing the site; coaches full of tourist-groups were also arriving for the site tours. 4 travelling theatre troupes settled here to entertain the visitors and the service teams. Actors imitated and developed the original dance of the builders, making it into sold-out musical shows, Vaudevilles and plays performed at regular intervals throughout the day. A Ferris Wheel was installed to delight children and adults alike, and was also in high demand.

There soon formed a passage leading to the building site, about a kilometre in length, consisting of all kinds of entertainments; eating places, betting places, circus performers, jugglers, cages with exotic animals which a travelling zoo put on display, clairvoyant’s tents, etc. Most of the visitors, being swayed along the way by this selection of pleasures and entertainments, never made it as far as the site.

There was a news office set up for printing daily bulletins about the progress of The Structure, but its pages were gradually overtaken by advertisements for various entertainment venues.

Within just one month of the work commencing, our miniscule settlement grew to the proportions of a town, with about 2,000 new inhabitants settling here to accommodate the growing tourism in the area, and about 3,000 visitors passing through every day.

The builders, seemingly oblivious to this growth around their activities, diligently and silently continued their work.

Once a villager came up to tell me that he approached one of the builders, number 37, and, in order to get inside information about The Structure to secure his bets, managed to get her round to his place. The villager then regretfully admitted that nothing came of his plan, that the builder must have been mute, because even after having drunk large quantities of spirits, she simply laughed at the villager’s questions with a strange snorting laugh, periodically shaking her host’s hand with great enthusiasm, and, after performing the now famous arm actions, left through a window and stumbled towards her tent.

The whole venture and the huge changes that accompanied it: the loss of order and the influx of corrupting influences had a negative effect on the village inhabitants; they showed a complete lack of self-control and lost respect towards my authority, rejected my efforts, often with aggressive hostility, and started weighing heavily on me. I let go of my guarding duties under such stress and gradually let myself sink into The Oblivion. I started drinking, gambling and succumbing to the other mindless and often illegal pleasures which were so readily available. I admit now that I had utterly failed; my life slipped into some sort of monotonous dream from which I couldn’t awaken myself. Years could have passed and I wouldn’t have known… the party continued…

IV

I did finally awake to an unusual silence. I couldn’t hear any more of the sweet music that, like a siren’s song, called me to The Oblivion. Inside my number 7 it was surprisingly dark; I could hardly see my bed. I stumbled onto the floor – and couldn’t see my feet either. I felt my slippers tucked under the bed and put them on. I thought perhaps I could see better outside. I opened the front door and went outside. There I could see nothing either, for there was absolute and utter darkness. The place was steeped, buried in darkness. I stood and listened. No sound at all. Where was everyone?

And then, suddenly, I could hear a faint screeching sound and decided to follow it back to its source. I could hear it better now. I was walking for a while in darkness and noticed that my eyes began getting accustomed to darkness because faint outlines of objects started to show. Yes, I could definitely see something; I should now be passing through the area where the entertainment passage used to be. It was completely deserted, just a dark spot, but I could definitely see some of the structures that stood half-collapsed among piles of rubbish and restaurant refuse. The weather-beaten and torn fabric of the previously brightly coloured betting gazebo waved like black, half mast flags. It was the only visible movement, nothing else seemed to move. Was there nothing left? I continued towards the building site; it was very muddy along the passage, wading through it was strenuous.

Finally I could see a group of people, moving around…and by their peculiar movements, jittery like walking; I recognised that they were the builders.

“I recognise you!” I shouted to them. They all smiled, but I couldn’t see their teeth, as if they had sunk deeper or were swallowed by the encroaching darkness. I must have looked very bemused as they soon started clapping in unison and I knew that they would soon start their special performance for me.

But instead they stopped and just stood there looking at me. I could faintly distinguish in the background some kind of movement. It looked like a group of the builders were strapping someone onto something and then being pulled up. I came close to see number ‘37’ being strapped-up to what looked like a pulley; I could see her mouth opening periodically in a soundless, toothless laugh. She was now going up, quite quickly. I could see two huge wheels, rotating and squeaking very loud: the mechanism was obviously not oiled. I was surprised by their negligence of the mechanism. It must have been that when two rusted parts on either wheel came together, the friction caused this almost bell-ringing kind of sound, echoing off the walls.

I could now see the red colour of the brick coming through the darkness, all around me. The sound had stopped but now the silence was ringing, even louder! Soon the squeaking resumed, reverberating in my ears. ‘16’ was definitely being hoisted up over a very high wall. I looked up higher and could see the boundary all the way upward, as if it was hanging from the sky. It occurred to me that it must be The Structure. Here it was completed and it was of incredible height. I could not see the sky at all; perhaps only a tiny bright dot very, very far away. The red brick stood like a monument, obliterating beyond, enfolding the space inside it, enforcing its presence, enveloping it like a cold, musty crease. The place was buried in near-darkness, within this red, baked, clay mass. So this was the assignment! Some numeric outcome! The structure grew into a gigantic city wall around the village, entombing it, overshadowing it, protecting it from the outside world. I decided to go for a walk along it but couldn’t contain myself and started jumping, bumping into the wall with almost ecstatic force. I started running along this unbroken, continuous structure. It took me some time to make a full circle, for the enclosure was spacious.

I arrived at the pulley again; the builders were still being hoisted up. I could now see ‘One’ standing under the pulley; she was looking at me, as if trying to point something out with that look and I could feel it all through my body, reverberating through me. She lifted her arm and started doing the gesture but instead of stretching upwards on her toes, simply pointed upwards and frowned. I heard her laugh, echoing like a scream, so incredible that my ears were hurting. She strapped herself onto the rope, looked upwards and her hat fell off, uncovering her softly illuminated hair. ‘Stop!’ I shouted; ‘Wait, please!’ My voice echoed and sunk into silence…