"We cannot tear out a single page of our life,
but we can throw the whole book in the fire."
-- George Sand

Iron Corset

by Mordantia Bat


You will be like us, think like us, worship like us, laugh like us, live like us.

You will know this to be wrong, but you will notice that the days are waning when support exists for the individual and for deviation. That was a luxury of richer times, and it is none too surprising that in the days when such support existed, deviation was the norm, and all other thought was suspect. So much for tolerance.

And SURPRISE, some people prefer to be sheep. Some people prefer to be led. And that is why we're back. Because you're tired. Because you're weary. Because you stopped wearing those paisley bell-bottoms you bought in the thrift shop for $1.99 because they were so retro-60s, and although you were born in the 60s, you are too young to remember it but wanted to believe it was a time of respect for deviance and the individual.

And, anyway, whoever led you to believe that paisley was so altogether all-fired deviant and individualistic? Hell, that particular pattern on your pants came from a tapestry made for an ancient Persian despot who had his subjects beheaded regularly for forgetting which way to face.

Think about that while you spoon that bran over your cereal.

You will never be anything real in this lifetime. You cannot make your own reality. Not anymore.


You have forgotten who you wanted to be. That isn't surprising. It's in the design.

What do disaffected people do when they get old? Does the sulking ever stop? You've made an art form out of sulking and wish you were French.

There are other ways to live.

In books, in movies, bleak landscapes of cyberpunk worlds have been conjured, playgrounds for the disaffected and disenfranchised. You wonder how close that reality could be. You have, with your misbegotten aspirations, become poorer in your lifetime. You will never afford to have a house, perhaps not even a car. You live a getting-by existence, and dream no American dream.

You can imagine living where people will fight to survive among the ruins of a corrupt technological-rich, spirtually-bereft world. It wouldn't take much lurching forward to come to that. Science fiction authors you've read and digested -- you pull their thoughts to your chest and ruminate. Here, on the landscape, one foot in the pretend veneer of a 50s family portrait and the other in a wasteland predicted by cynical visionaries. Thrust into an accelerated world with not enough of the technological advances that were actually possible because we, the corrupt, keep progress profitable only for our kind. Your rejection of us is your own doom. You make your bed and lie in it. We short-sheet your linens. For your own good. Wake up. The world is hopelessly lost, burgeoning at the seams with stuff, and yet so little has come to pass. Humanity sits on its ass. As you are doing.

You are poor, and your biggest charity was giving a panhandler $1.43 in spare change this morning. Usually, you never do. You are asked at least twenty times a day for money, and you don't have enough money for twenty people. So, you simply stopped, but feel guilty nonetheless because it's not the ideal.

But the one this morning popped out of no where in the fog, appeared at the intersection behind you as you waited for the light to change. He'd come from the direction of the Broadway tunnel. The dirt and grime layered on him suggested that he might have spent the night in the tunnel. He wrapped his arms around his thin body and shivered. You remember thinking he had on John Lennon glasses, and how odd that seemed. Conversationally, looking past you, he said, "Isn't the weather painful?"

You gave him all your change.


A drag. You take a long thoughtful drag off the cigarette as you sit in the requiite cafe. Your pap smear came back abnormal that afternoon. You take a sip of beer. Your rent was due yesterday. This is what being an adult is about, isn't it? This isn't art. No one will buy your art, anyway. Wake up.

You cyberpunk artists (or whatever label we'll exploit you by) distrust the powers-that-be. You might even complain that corporations have taken over the arts and make it near to impossible to achieve a dream, to be redeemed as an artist. Redemption? We will sell you indulgences, and nothing more.

But -- and I will only tell you this once and never again -- art doesn't lie in the money, in the bottom line, it lies in the souls of all humans, and anyone can access it regardless what they (we) try to tell you. Art is magick, magick is art, and it doesn't need to be dispensed by some Hierophant in a pin-striped suit. It just is. Little squiggles drawn on newsprint and tacked up on the refrigerator are intrinsically as beautiful as Guernica. Just more people have seen and will see Guernica, and they bring their collective experience to it, worship it, lay their experiences before it. Picasso may have painted it, but thousands of others have shaped that painting since. It is owned by all of us, anyone who cares to find their own soul in it. That is what art is, it is a reaching out to others and giving them a place to put their own souls in.

And, sure, it makes money. Anything that sustains makes money.

But art that doesn't make money is still art. Artists who never make money are still artists. The money thing is parallel, but not intrinsic, to the art. In fact, if artists didn't need to eat and live and consume, the money thing might not matter at all. But they do. That is the most unfortunate thing.

And bloody little good that does you, does it? You can sigh. Think that no one understands. Everyone has it as bad as you, if not worse. You sip your beer and wonder. Wonder about the life you aspired to have as a child: money, influence, the ability to give your money to those who needed it -- which you thought you might have through art. Oh, you. You will cave in. You will soon be like us, think like us, worship like us, laugh like us, live like us.

Otherwise, you are the needy, not that needy, perhaps, but notice how you've never been able to do anything but tread water ever since you first were thrust into this go-to-work-pay-the-bills world. All of life is dismal and indulgent, hurtful and strung out.


You walked into the cafe tonight, unabashed. Tonight is the night that you feel reproached, that you know that you didn't make the proper observances on the Equinox. You and your bloody ancient neo-religions. You're just trying to be weird, aren't you? We know that game.

Someone kisses your hand, someone kisses your lips, but the next week, it's time to start all over again. It's hard to use sex as an addiction. The supply is even more elusive than a good old-fashioned drug high, which is wrong anyway on this day, although in your formative years, it was so much the norm, and you don't understand how it suddenly became wrong.

This has become one of those nights, starting off alone, knowing somehow the person you wish to see won't appear. There was no reason to be moving through the café, waiting, hoping, just hanging around waiting for the love scene to manifest. There won't be any love scene. Wake up. You could go up to someone, say "wanna fuck?" and they might take you up on it, and it might be fun, but your viscera will gnaw at you, say to wait, find someone you can hold an entire conversation with, although you feel hopeless and at the mercy of your stupid stupid brain. Why do you bother? Why do you choose someone and attempt pursuit? You don't want to cage them, you don't want to have them. You want to love them, but it seems such an imposition to love people. They are forever disappearing.

Now, wouldn't it be better to do it our way? We have pamphlets telling just how it can be done.

There is no accounting for humans. They spend their whole lives reaching for something. The slope of your neck, and the insecurity because you are not, you are not anything, and those you try to touch go running. Why do you want to touch the ones in motion?

Isn't the weather painful?


NOTE: This story originally appeared in Brainchild: Suffering is Hip.

To learn more about the author, Mordantia Bat, please check her Bio on the Editors Page.