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From Gagarin, by Louis Armand

The Orbital continues like this, night after night. Slant of cosmic rain slashing the blacktop. Dopplered taillights receding. Not alone then. The great migration to outer. Not the sole survivor then. Focus on that. Focus on the drift, the undertow, the invisible line reeling in. A distributed mass of alter-egos. Vanishing. And each time around the same again. The same vanishing again. The same slant. The same outer. Till none left. No others left. Only the survival to survive. Repeating. After night: night. Eons of undone time. Focus on that. The second before & the second after. Nothing between. Nothing from nothing, but the random propulsion of an idea. Focus on that. An idea of “nothing.” First one, then the other. Gravity’s re-birth. The fall. A flashing blue enveloping light.

Gagarin lies there staring at black bits & pieces of retina floating in the light. Do these detached fragments prove Time exists? They watched him. They listened to his thoughts, vital signs. Perhaps the history of a deception isn’t the same as the history of an illusion, but what then? One of these had an author, something intended it. A mind evolving toward non-mind. The visor comes down over this floating world. Space: the universe: a speck of light. Whole galactic floes swallowed in the Void, invisible to the Naked Eye as it dangles from its life-support. A faint distant memory of a quantum state. Under any other conditions this moment wouldn’t’ve been possible. Surrogate, of all that is not to come. And now the cinematically menacing sense that probability knows exactly where he is & when he’ll be there. Man, oh man, thou patent anachronism! Why does he doubt himself. Question mark. “In the moment I’m unaware of myself, do I exist?” The point isn’t to preserve memory, but to create it. The way language creates a horizon from an infinite perspective, converging on two instants separated by a cosmos. Brunelleschi by the light of the original photon. To count such evolutionary particulars greater than any whole, would be to expend all foregone conclusions. The life-support sends back echoes only. He must learn to decipher them, so as to recognise the enemy when he meets it. That sinful being who is the mind’s expression of self-loathing-through-punishment. Nosferatu! Nosferatu in a cumulus of dark matter. Mon semblable, mon père.

A rising Vostok in the East. Fiery calligraphy. Such stuff as prophesy is made of. Riding the Leviathan into his dankest dreams. The little Oedipus re-run cartoons ring-a-ring in conic sections going round. Daddy stick to glad mammy hole. G-force vertigo turning Borromean knots from his unravelled intestine’s pulsing umbilicus. 300 strapped tons of thrust. Oh Semyorka, my Semyorka! Ten nine eight seven six. The radios scream. Once more blinded by G.O.D.-light. Raybans & materialist dialectics. Finger-braille clitoris uvula basal ganglia switchboard maniac. Don’t shoot the messenger! He’s just the meatpuppet tossed from hand-to-hand. The cremaster in the orgone accumulator. The flyblown ointment. Floating about in the broadcast band, like a fish through a film archive. The whole thing’s gone autopilot. Electrodes in cortex sing the body electric, zapping a Delgado fix. Technicolor brainspasm comedown. Dostoyevsky headsplit. FIRST MANMADE CATASTROPHE IN S=P=A=C=E! The monkey on his back grins, whispers, “If you can do it once, baby, you can do it again & again & again…”

Each cell a perfect hexagon. Assembled into a hive: a geometric eye the remaining dimensions leer through. Was there ever an art distinguishable from judgement? A throw of dice. A bronze cast. Action enchaîné in a single defined moment. Europe in its time was a regularly constructed paradox of inexhaustible iteration. They’ve called him many things. Failed Escape Artist, Gravity’s Hostage, Kosmonaut of the Inner Void. To discredit the impossible, in the eyes of such two-dimensional beings as television is made of. Cartoon clowns trip-teasing the world’s solemnised radius: Here Dwelleth Dragons, Fringe Elements, Ungovernables. He’s the Logos that threatened to get away, brought to heel by a Hero’s welcome. Keys to the Kingdom, the Fiefs of Flat Earth, Banlieues of Impenetrable Bureaucracy. They’ve handed him his lines that he must hand down to Posterity. Perikles, The Funeral Oration. Did Gagarin think he’d even exist if they could’ve fit a committee in the cockpit? Did they in turn suspect he’d bring the plague down upon them?

Was there something prior to this non-existence? If finally to be translated from the language he was born into the one in which everything passes away. Glint in the eye of the Artist he dreams is dreaming him. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin. Embryo of an existence to come. Path through territories unknown. Uncompassed. To attempt an account would be a foolish, but a fool wouldn’t flinch, only an idiot in love with the Higher Vanities.

Speak or be silent! The diligent thought-police perform their checklist for the nth occasion. To observe the observed. To unperform the prescribed function. Dark matter inflates peripheral. Industrial meat factories match the horizon step for step. Dead seas churned by dead waves. Vacuum-sealed. Is this the Future he was programmed to long for? Transistored, rosy-cheeked sweating oratories of collateral affect? Data-aggregates to virgin his bedsheets? A state funeral? The unctuous Frankensteins who populate his sleep, flipping the switches. The Evel Knievel act, the Houdini routine, the Human Cannonball. Piloting his thoughts by remote control, like crematoria at terminal velocity. The eye by which the world sees him isn’t the eye by which he sees it. Extinction Harbinger! Man in the Resurrection-Machine! Creature from Beyond! Is transcendence this? A cry of pain in a throat parched beyond repair? Love in austere times? Perhaps the lost original voice-recording. Blackboxed. Johnny Cash in a microwave oven, breathing an atmosphere of pure ignited oxygen. To be a piece of molten meteorite imploding through undimensioned spacetime: the inscribed singularity, in embryo, of the long-lost Cosmic Unconscious. For nothing if not to dream audaciously. Or not at all.

  • Louis Armand is a Prague writer, theorist, visual artist. His novels include The Garden (Director's Cut, GlassHouse, The Combinations, Abacus, and others. His theoretical works include Videology 1, Solicitations, Event States, Literate Technologies, and others. He's the editor of Mind Factory, Pornotopias, Avant-Post, Hidden Agendas: Unreported Poetics, and other books. His collections of poetry include East Broadway Rundown, The Rube Goldberg Variations, Indirect Objects, and others.

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