Sketches For My Sweetheart The Goth Journal entry no: 1 Reader count: 0
“As a kid I rubbed my W O O H O O W H E N I F E E L H E A V Y M E T A L ! ! against all the furniture in the house because it felt good, and I had no idea why.”
Ex machina must be a tempting thought for a deus
Nobody deserves happiness. Fix this plague like the sinner you hope to be.
Nihilism is for winners, all the cool kids are Nietzschean
As a kid, I’d listen to Blink-182 with the volume turned up to eleven. You think they hate you when you’re twenty-three? Try being twenty-seven. There’s music for when you’re young, and there’s music for when you’re old, and everyone acts like you’re just supposed to listen to hopped-up yuppie music or club-bangers about molesting women when you’re in your twenties.
It’s the same with philosophies of life. Get on the conveyer belt is all. Start philosophically illiterate until you’re twelve. The philosophy of self until fifteen.
School to college. Big Boi pants. Camus. More Camus. More Camus. Life is absurd, maaaaaaaaan. Like, life is, like meaningless, maaaaaaan. Or Sartre. Long words long words long words. Everything is meaningless. Or Nietzsche. Air of superiority and a pack-a-day cigarette habit. I don’t drink, man. Drinking is for the uncultured.
Be depressed through college. All sentimental. Your first big heartbreak makes you more American than you’d admit; no longer a fan of the mainland European philosophies you thought would protect you from this very sinking feeling, you propel yourself further away from home, across the Atlantic Ocean to America, land in a bale of post-modernism. Shrug your way past graduation.
Get a job.
Become a practical hedonist. Rediscover love. Rediscover drugs.
Remain in love. Remain in light.
Find philosophy on the sleeve of a book about managing mid-size teams.
This is where you’re supposed to be at this age:
W H I T E L I G H T / W H I T E H E A T
Wait, but why?
Wait, but why find yourself amazed at waitbutwhy just because you’re in your twenties and find yourself resting easy on a bed sheathed in vanilla ice-cream day in and day out?
Why not try some dressing?
Or something completely different?
Get a job.
Become an impractical romantic. Rediscover love. Rediscover drugs.
Rediscover hate. Secretly seethe with rage.
Learn new things about yourself and the world.
Go to the supermarket.
Buy a pack of chips.
Put them all on one shoulder.
I’ve had a spiritual reawakening in my months away from serious writing.
In 2037, the bottom-dwellers of Old Mumbai, unlike those of NAT, refused to sign the entirely reasonable Grand Barter with the Aerial Government. The airwaves were filled with speculation of bureaucrats and politicians buying time, trying to reach a better deal. Even if such a deal existed, it evaporated with the completion of the Final Thrust Upward.
India was the fastest country to migrate skyward, building the world’s first skyharbour in 2030. Despite this, it continues to have a greater proportion of bottom-dwellers than most countries. The world’s largest democracy has always been too slow for the world’s fastest executive branch.
She races into the dark.
Down there, you’re never safe.
Her mother, like most responsible mothers, would often warn her not to race, or drive her Aztec at all, or mingle with the bottom-dwellers. Why must you go down there, asked her when she first brought up the idea of racing in her free time.
Because it’s there.
She was too old to be stopped, but not too old to be advised or chastised, she would never be to old for that, she surmised. So she just didn’t respond to mum, or even tell her she was going. But she was scared. Of racing, of driving her Aztec, of the bottom-dwellers. The hundreds of miles of dark road until Old Mumbai were particularly terrifying. There were rumours of marauding hordes, white-sari ghostinas, rumours of all things unholy. It was veteran racers who started most of these old-drives’ tales. Bored bottom-dwellers, as old during the Final Thrust Upward as she is now, a motley crew of rats, quiet-rioters, poisons, cinderellas, and warrant-fiends. Scaring newbs like her served as entertainment, she thought.
But there was more to it than that. She ignored the element of truth in their stories. These badlands were always unsafe, even in the heyday of the twenties, especially for a young woman like her. Today, they’re likely to be far worse.
You have no business being here.
Tomorrow’s would be her third race ever, and her first start. In her first couple of trips to Old Mumbai, she wandered, lost, asking strangers ‘where the races were’. They laughed at her, asked her if she was a bot, told her to shell out her precious skyrupees, darling, and I’ll show you where. Several thousands of rupees later, she gave up.
Nevertheless, the trips weren’t a total bust. Her second trip ended with a conman-dressed-as-a-taxi-guy dropping her off at Crawford Market, directing her to what she expected to be a racecourse. She now knows how idiotic it was for her to expect there to be actual designated ‘racecourses’. As she wandered through lanes and bylanes, following his instructions to a T, she got lost. There was no racecourse at the end of the sojourn, but there was an internet archive.
Until then, she had only heard of these libraries of the unregulated internet of old. But once she finally found herself in one of them, she spent hours rifling through old pornography, vlogs, webcomics, zaps, and memes. She found most of it stupid, but all of it fascinating. When she finally walked out of that library, she did so with an archived e-vel — Sketches For My Sweetheart The Goth — and a sense of profound hatred toward the world in the sky.
At least here the world is dog-eat-dog, unsanitised, the way the world upstairs is, but without fake broad smiles. This is where people are real.
Fields of barley zip past her window at about a hundred miles an hour. The girl looks into the rear-view mirror of her Aztec to make sure there’s no-one tailing her. A train — or rather a relic of one — stands stationery on the tracks along the road. Her car radio’s playing an eighties song reimagined for listeners of the noughties. Naughty listeners, a man’s voice pierces through the wall of synthesisers that forms the song’s outro, the next song is for you. This is X22RME, by fellow British DJ, Actress. She turns the volume knob, a digital display appears, 10, 11, 12. 13. The road’s bathed in indigo. In her rear-view mirror, she sees street-lights flickering to life in the distance. Here among the fields of barley, there are no street-lights.
Once, not too long ago, all six-hundred miles of the Future Corridor — it was a thousand kilometres back then, before the Reclassification Act of 2038 — were lined with solar-powered street lights. It was a sign of a soaring India. A highway from coast to coast, a link between Old Mumbai and New Amaravathi, a bridge to tomorrow, from the concrete and mud of old India to the dizzying lights and heights of new India.
The wheels of the bus go round and round. Round and round. Around and around.
Not too long ago ago, New Amaravathi was a different place, filled with colour, not derelict and concrete like it is today. In the two years since, India has soared past New Amaravathi into the sky, leaving the city behind to be infested by bottom-dwellers. In that way, New Amaravathi is no different today from Old Mumbai.
Welcome to Old Mumbai. The last place for humans to stay being
In many other ways, it is.
New Amaravathi, and the erstwhile district of which it serves as the de facto capital, the New Amaravathi Territory (or NAT) is still civilised. It remains governed by the laws of India. Old Mumbai, on the other hand, is the wild west unfolding in reverse — a once civilised land in the middle of a deliberate and desperate descent into barbarism. A land of sex, drugs, and violence not unlike the one imagined in so many cyberpunk classics.
But it was one of the few places to drive an MV like the Aztec in peace.
Your friends don’t drive, and if they don’t drive, then they ain’t no friends of mine.
Thank you for visiting NAT, a signboard flies past. She’s visibly relieved. Thank B, she says. I’m finally free. She turns the headlights of her Aztec on.