This virtual moment was the same as the last one and he needed to see where Mary stood while she counted the glinting eyes of an angry Pharisee mob. She was dangling by her wits from the shadows of an alley and she counted what was there, as if she was shining a flashlight into the darkness of a diamond mine. Fear griped her. There was too much red cloth and too many sharp spears to understand what might happen next. Surely a catastrophe was at hand, but in a way totally unforeseen.
M.M. John P. sat in his chair looking at the screen. That was a safe bet. No commitment and he had the delete key branded on the tip of his right little finger. He began to write again and then stopped. Nothing was moving except the waves around his head and they went into his ears, passing the minor blockage, hitting the ear drum, kissing the fragile bones, up the nerve and into his brain. He was lucky and the sound gave him sad certainty like a song about two drug addicts, Johnny and Mary, who argue for a bit, hit the walls, and become oblivious to their screams. Eventually they find themselves outside, walking along the waterfront where the mist falls vertically in white sheets of fiction.
Mary looks at Johnny. Both of them are covered with scabs and they wonder if the other is holding out somewhere back in the dirty room. They begin to dance and twist with deterioration. Slowly the vapor lines become apparent and they read them out loud. After a while the scene becomes a miracle that no one will report, yet there it is, for all to see, and very similar to the signs and wonders found in the naked-Jesus church just around the corner.
Mary knew Jesus was on drugs. He had to be, running all over Galilee, acting like that. Johnny laughed and it became a sort of hymn for Mary’s smile.
M.M. John P. had started writing on the internet in 2012, right at the moment when the world went mad over the blue meteor turning into the golden anvil. You might recall the incident. It made all the major websites. He’d gone online at the urging of his publisher, who was now bankrupt and in the hospital for a genital hair removal gone wrong.
Both of M.M. John P.’s books were out of print, but still offered for sale on Amazon between $600 and $800 per copy. He didn’t understand why.
He had posted on most of the virtual venues: Twitter, Goodreads, Facebook, Pinterest, Wattpad, Tumblr, and was now blogging on WordPress. He reckoned that he had written over a million words in four years. Unknown people had clicked and followed him or left comments. He felt guilty about his virtual relations and there was generally an aura of quid pro quo surrounding the whole thing. In his private messages, public comments, and emails he had experienced borderline love affairs, explicit sexual talk, an offer to meet at a distant hotel, an online suicide, arguments where he had been accused of fraud and duplicity, demands for money, and a variety of threats (I know where you live asshole). Sometimes when he made comments or sent messages, people would totally ignore him. A non-response was like looking through glass or cooking for himself. He had made many virtual friends who seemed sincere and kind in their words to him. Still, it was a mystery, since the only thing he knew was the pixelated words and images they sent. A written broken heart was not the same as hugging someone who was on their way out the door in tears, and, try as he might, he could not buy any of his virtual followers a drink at his favorite dive. Two dimensional emotions were not three and touching was supremely important, particularly on cold nights when the body was smooth and compliant.
On his blog were the avatars of followers: supposedly real life people who received his latest posts. There were apparently 38, nothing compared to the hundreds or thousands who followed other blogs, but he didn’t have that sort of gin in his blood. One night, while he was smoking adulterated opium and without anything to do except contemplate his own death and injuries, he began to click on the icons of his followers. He wanted to know them beyond a like, comment, or cursory read. He visualized who they might be in his open fireplace. It took him the better part of all night to read the fire and construct the people who clicked the tabs and uploaded the JPEGS that were replacements for 100,000 heart beats.
There were the lovers resting in the heart of Jesus, a tarot reader, the hardworking Jude who sent him encouraging messages, the beautifully absurd Russian girl, a book publisher, the Japanese woman following the US elections, Jimmy from the past, the elusive one up in the great Northwest, several poetry sites, a philosopher in Mexico, the very me girl, a cat guy living in London, world travelers, an international man of mystery, various authors of lost love and midnight trysts, the woman consumed with blood lines, a red-haired fashionista, the guy who taped a box on his head and wrote about shit while living in a YMCA, and the woman addicted to crafts; she was always tied up in yarn when he thought of her. Then he clicked on his newest follower.
She called herself Manja and wore an impressive smile. She was from Slovenia. He recalled making a virtual man extremely mad when he gave him advice on how to end his relationship with a Slovenian woman from Bled on Lake Bled. Manja apparently owned a white dog. She looked healthy and liked doors. A good start he thought. Then he read about an erotic, gleeful smut author who said she “wrote because she must write.” He could identify with that. Her avatar held two dueling pistols and it caused him to think about Aaron Burr and the sorts of filthy thoughts he might have had when he wasn’t killing Alexander Hamilton. Another click took him to a handsome man with a chiseled chin who wrote crime fiction. He had worked for two decades in the criminal justice system and gave the impression of being the good cop offering coffee while the bad cop was in the hall breaking chairs. His name obviously helped to solve crimes: L’Etoile.
Then he moved on to the black form of the controversial Dr. Joseph Suglia, the world’s greatest writer and potential super villain. He googled him and found an interview: “I have my writings published in order to inflict my nightmares upon the world.” The Doctor was after his own heart and he could probably crawl into bed with him just as long as they both wore medieval armor and wanted to share images of birds flying over the beach. The next icon was for Aquileana. He looked at her massive site and the photo of the good-looking woman she appeared to be. After spending a few minutes that turned into virtual months, he asked the question: could this woman create a blog site so large by herself? He thought that surely she must have gauzy Greek nymphs helping. They probably danced in the window sills of her third floor Buenos Aires apartment while coloring their lips with rose powder. Men passing along the street would look upward at their own peril. What could be better than the myths which dominate our awake and sleeping lives? Aquileana had it right.
M.M. John P. then began to hit a series of photos and avatars of people that he had known since the beginning of his virtual journey. There was Janet, John, Jenn Kindness, Jan, Cristina, Billy, Eleanor, Glen, Mani, Dave, Colm (maybe he was still here), and Mary. Between all of those virtual people he had perhaps exchanged 10,000 messages over three years. Jan and Aaron were the closest ones. He knew some of their virtual secrets, but who were they really? He would never know. If he had been sharing blood with this group of followers instead of pixels, they would all be part of his family by now, taking on some of his Lucy bone attributes: the six toes on his left foot, the purple splotched arm, the extra piece of skin hanging down his scrota (the one advertising the bowling alley), and finally they would all have acquired that peculiar aliment of tiring easily from trying to find certainty.
In that sense M.M. John P. was like Johnny and Mary, the two addicts. You might recall them from the top of this post as they walked down by the bay where the mist turned into falling sheets of paper. Johnny and Mary read the stories out loud about a man who made time move slowly. This was the sort of man who burned his eyes with fire. He would take a hammer and break lyrics, piss on the walls and let them rot, and rub jelly into the wounds of damaged lives. Johnny and Mary liked the stories and, in many ways, they felt like two prophets calling for the people to come out of their homes and into the streets. They shouted about how men and women of the virtual world could breathe their lungs full of air and flour and then set sail for distant lands where all the Kings were blind and the Queens made love with anyone who knocked upon their doors.
If you are one of the followers of Tin Hats and you are still reading and have not unfollowed the site, go to your door and see if Johnny and Mary are outside.
They are searching for certainty on your front porch, melting drugs with a virtual spoon and a borrowed candle.