Voice from the Void

A whisper emanates from the dark



Our Crime

She steps lightly out onto the porch. And sits in her chair next to her table onto which she puts a glass of clear liquid and then her pink music box.


I breathe her in but I know I can’t keep her inside. I exhale loudly. No fee on that yet. I watch her, the blustering ocean air pulsating between us, dwarfing and pressing us down. My great-grandfather wrote of a night like this. “Tonight,” he wrote, “I have heard and felt, and smelled, the ill wind that blows no good.”

She flips on the light switch on the wall behind her. She wears a bright yellow flower over her right ear tonight, for me. It glows dimly in the streetlight that grasps for her, a large bright hibiscus from her small garden that she cultivates in her basement along with her marijuana plants. She smiles, and the murk cannot shadow her teeth or the gleam in her eyes. I see clearly the solitary red stem that bulges from the red core of the yellow petals undulating back and forth in the slight breeze she makes with her movements. She waves at me with a hand from her lap as she curls her bare legs up under her and sits, looking over at me through the mist and the growing gloom. Sometimes there are no words. No need for them.

It is so warm. Sticky. I sip from my drink. And wave back. She smiles again.

She turns on her music box. The music twirls delicately in the air, skips through our spotlight, and then reaches my ears. I watch her body undulate slowly in her chair in the night’s air and its throb. I watch her, my porch dark, my walls and floors and ceilings packed with content from years ago. My heart and mind alive.

She stands suddenly. She elevates one arm and wraps it around an invisible neck. Her other arm and hand pull someone invisible close to her as she writhes against that lucky body. I know she is violating copyright law all over the place. Marilyn Monroe maybe? Pink? Definitely hints of Soraya, even Paula Abdul and Beyoncé. And there, right there, vintage Dhak Divina.

I stand and wave both my hands at her. She will owe so much coin to someone if she keeps this up. She’s already running up the meter by playing their music. As if on cue the Lemmadrone falls between us and hovers so close to her porch she could reach out to touch it if she saw it. She does a final spin and then sees it only feet away. She screams in the night, a clenched fist to her mouth to stifle it back, but it is too late. The Lemmadrone moves closer to her, as if manually guided by human voyeurs, which sometimes happens.

I bolt down the stairs to the crumbling curb on her side of the street. I pick up a chunk of concrete and hurl it at the drone only 8 feet off the ground and hovering at the railing of her porch, watching her, probing her, counting the payout owed.

I grab another chunk and dent the backside of the drone. I grab hold of a third but the Lemmadrone spins, glares at me and rises quickly into the sky. The Conflict Response Module will surely arrive in moments.

I wave at her to come down the steps to me. She shakes an angry fist to the sky. Then she stops and smiles at me and claps her hands together in exaggerated fashion, palms going back and forth in elaborate slow motion but never touching and never making noise. The actual clap has its own royalty scheme. The monster who copyrighted clapping and its approximately 500 unique clapping sounds and cadence is beyond wealthy. There is rumor she has taken her clapping wealth and invested it in the Urban Tower field expansions in the Highlands, where we all surely will be relocated one day.

Dinah runs down her steps and I take her hand and lead her into the spotlight on the pavement between our houses. I sweep her into a stupid funky dance we once saw on a video in my attic. And then she stops me to kiss using a method not yet patented. Our lips lightly skim each other’s chin and nose and then we slip our tongues lightly over each other’s closed eyelashes. It’s not what you see during sunlight or in WordPay society. But it’s good and we don’t have to pay anyone if we get recorded.

I whisper inside her ear “Let’s go quick. To the wall. To Canute!”

She steps back, letting go my hand. “Tonight? This is the time?”

“Yes. No more.” I motion at the sky. “It’s time, Dinah.” A breeze whirls leaves around us.

She watches debris encircle us in the wind and then wander off to die at the curb. She looks up. She mouths “Conflict Module?”

I shrug. “Too slow. Must be a busy night. They will come later. Mete their justice.”

She looks into my eyes. “The ill wind comes then?”

“Yes, but it will turn good. You will see.”

“You have the stainer?”

I smile and take her hand. We run the one hundred yards down our street into the pale glow thrown against the gray wall by the last streetlight.

There are cameras everywhere. Making faces at the cameras, more often than not, ends up in a violation of the Content Code, as is photo-bombing and putting up those rabbit ears behind a photo subject’s head. But people like us are starting to do all of that, or scrawl on the wall, sometimes full-on words and sentences, before running away into the night.

You may not all-out scream at the wall, in any physically perceptible form, in the darkness of night, or anytime. Remember Munch’s The Scream? It’s close enough, the Ultimate Content Court ruled years ago, so now you can’t put your hands to your face and scream at the blackness or the immensity of the wall, nor at the awful thudding of oppressive water against the wall, nor at the buzzing fleet of Lemmadrones overhead, nor at the skies above with their fake stars and alien devices. You may not rage against the machine, nor may you bring down your God’s wrath. Been done, been owned, you pay.

But enough. Tonight is our night. Our scream out. Dinah and me.

I look up the wall as it recedes into the towering black night. I feel the ocean pressing down, my hair and face wet with mist falling from above. The last streetlight drapes us.

She grabs my shoulders with her two hands and spins me around to her. She runs her hands through my thick hair as she pushes against me, like her invisible dancing partner from before. We feel each other’s warmth in the cold mist, and it is wonderful right there, right then. It has to be tonight.

I breathe her in and then whisper, “Let’s.”

We kiss hard, our way, and then she steps back.

I produce my stainer. It’s my own invention and assembly. Because if you write graffiti using a known and protected method or system, like chalk or spray-paint, you incur a usage fee, on top of the coin for the words you use and the concept you lay out there. But this is my invention. My special, homemade stainer. Everyone’s got a secret toy they’ve made up. It’s the only way to survive. I got this one. And it has some break-through features. Ones they won’t like. Like three kinds of stain: Instant, Time-Elapse and Permanent. My own personal, time-based writer. My stain on this cursed world.

I press my lips to her ear. “I, and you,” I mouth. I feel her tremble as she senses me slowly shape these familiar words against the delicate, thin skin inside her ear. Words not uttered but simply felt on skin, words even Heimdall cannot comprehend. Love always hurts and love always costs. But you don’t need a word fee on top of all that.

I press my stainer to the Wall. I feel the water pushing back on the other side. Thump…thump. All around. Pushing high above, to wash over me. Pushing for me. Thump…. Pushing. … Thump…

I press a second time and stain my word, Weownus.

She stands back to read it. Her mouth opens into a horrible small faux scream that emits no words or sound. She puts her hand to her mouth and pulls her lips together with her fingertips and her scream disappears into her palm. She lets fly the scream she holds into a good wind and it takes it up and away. She smiles and turns close to me.

She reaches for the stainer and puts a missile pointing to a heart above the -us in Weownus. I nod my head back and forth, not up and down, but unconsciously in an Indian head wobble, meaning ok, yes. Using the wobble only costs me a minimal fee compared to the India and South Asia geo-zones where you pay a premium for displaying the wobble. And way cheaper than the American Nod.

✒ ❤


“That missile pointing to that heart?” she whispers in my ear. She is actually saying words that I hear. I wait, closing my eyes, feeling her moist cheek against mine, and smelling her warm skin.

“It means ‘You fucking kill me I love you so much.’”

“You know the rest?” I ask out loud.

She pulls back and squints at the stain, not sure what I mean.

“It means we — I and you — we own us. No one else does. Not in this or any world.”

She nods. She knows. We. Us. Originals. Not covered by any Content Codes anywhere, except for certain forms of molecular life receiving patent protection.

We stand shoulder-to-shoulder under Canute’s protection, our arms around each other’s waist, and wait. The night air hums.

We feel the whoosh of their craft before they arrive, the air being vacuumed from our lungs in the updraft. The Content Warden is here, along with Code Maintenance. Two craft hover near us, each with two uniformed humans up front each sporting different logos and badges. They look up at our creation. But it simply fades in front of their eyes. Exactly on time. You blink and it’s still gone. The true secret of my secret invention. Time-elapse. The stain goes away at a pre-set time, and with it all physical evidence of improper or unauthorized word usage. Poof. Gone.

They emerge from their craft and begin to squabble over who goes first. They huddle, argue and then turn to face us. The apparently senior Content Warden is unhappy because the words are gone from the wall. You can see it on his face as he looks at the offending implement in my hand.

“I got some video as we approached,” he says. “It should be enough,” says the Warden.

I shrug a maybe at him.

He is rubbing his chin, apparently thoughtfully, and then announces he will arrest us on suspicion of posting words and concepts on property without authorization. Maintenance will charge us with suspicion of using unauthorized words and concepts with an intent to undermine authority and incite conflict. Both charges, if proven, are per se criminal violations of the Content Code of 2085, as amended. The Content Wardens will take us in for speedy trial before an Adjudicator.

They put us in back of the Warden’s craft and throw my spent stainer in the evidence hold between them. One of the uniforms recites to us our rights over his shoulder just as a Conflict Monitor craft pulls up to the wall next to us to record the crime scene. We listen to our rights as we elevate halfway up the wall and then shoot southward down its dark length. We have the right, upon arrest and during defense, to use words without payment. The right to connect freely to any database anywhere. The right freely to use artificial intelligence of our choice to construct a defense. The right to an observed trial, if there is one, for those citizens who pay a fee to be set by the Adjudicator.

We pull away. She leans over and holds my arm. “Here goes,” she whispers. Jonathan Larsen Productions owns that phrase if uttered the way they sing it in Rent. But she does it her own way. Like usual.

Up front the Wardens break out into a gush of conversation. They talk about their free time. Their girlfriends. The assholes at work. Yack, yack, yack. There’s no WordPay when you’re any sort of cog, including when you work for the state in any capacity or submit to any form of public service or public works obligation, What’s more, you’re paid partly in Creates that are WordPay credits you can use or trade to anyone.

One of the Content Wardens turns to us in the back seat. “Your Dhak Divina was awesome, by the way.” He winks at her and reaches behind him to find her knee. She slaps it away.

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