THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE by Ben Dreith

after Marcel Schwob 

 

Headlines thunder down the screen: the epoch of consciousness. The Earth tilts on kitschy axes.

“Last week’s siege is turning the nation’s capital into Fortress Washington.”

 

The Telemarketer

My mother and father took me to the big churches. There they could be anonymous. They could imagine themselves perfect and blank and totally themselves in the multipurpose rooms, large and ready for God. A mass in the true sense, all there for the loud preachers bursting through his shiny wools. Even after my parents lost interest and turned to television, I’ve kept going. I suspect that since there are so many people, I cannot be wasting my time. That is faith as I understand it. The mass of wind-burned faces and all the noise confirms my thinking. There’s not been much else for me. Noise has always comforted me, and it’s been my curse. So when I decide to speak or think on something, I always start with a sound, and I imagine faith is hearing, or maybe learning to hear properly. But people are always focusing on the wrong sounds; they focus on my sounds and not God’s. On the figures moving in silent smoke across the screen. 

Sometimes, when I lose track of what the preacher is saying, I imagine that I’m a skilled musician interpreting his righteous words which further proves the existence of God. Someday they will take my sound and prove that its wavelengths are holy too. You would think that Americans could agree on this, being accustomed to many of the same resonances, yet so often I’ve made others recoil. 

My body is the culprit. It makes sounds without me understanding them. I moan and sometimes fart, and it’s because of the food I eat, I think. I can’t live any other way. In the big crowds this often goes unnoticed, only those that are truly close to me can hear the terrible sounds I make in the back of my throat when I’m thinking, and even then they have to be right next to me, almost touching me to hear my fingernails scratching at the weird patches of thick skin on my elbows. When the preacher in Branson talked about the connection between a love for one’s country and a love in general of God, I reach around me for a hand, any hand, and I find one. My sounds were nowhere, pushed back down into my body. 

Because I can only exist here, I’ve retreated into the phone. I work on the phone and I dream. There, the world that exists is purely my voice. I’ve learned to mute the line promptly if my throat gurgles or if I feel the need to moan. Like an instrument of faith, the phone opens up the world, the me, that I want, and people curse at me for my imposition in the normal way, for the interruption, not because of the belches that can be heard as soon as they erupt in my stomach. 

Beyond that. No one can deny religion when they hear the deep breath of a hundred thousand people. Each bulb of the Jumbotron is perfect. It flashes a loving command: SING. I know that whatever is erupting inside of me will be erased in the sound of the crowd and in the harmony of justice. In the crowd and in the pursuit of justice, there is harmony and I am part of this harmony that drowns out my body, my face, my names, and the moans that made my father look helplessly at his son. 

Online too I can be soundless; this is my idea of heaven. There I can search for the next crowd and search for justice, or harmony. Democracy is the singing of many voices together and a riot is the proper sound of the people. I sense that in the crowds are others who, like me, feel disgusting. I see them there moving towards the walls, trying to empty it all out into the sea. They eat the same things and hear the same sounds and they are OK. They have inherited a love of crowds because they cannot stand the sound of themselves and know what faith really is. 

When I see the caravans converging, the motors rumbling, the shouts of the leader on the megaphone I am overcome. America is noise and I am too. If only things were different, the sounds inside of me might recede into another order, into the crowd to end all crowds, into the country. 

 

The Patient

So I am naked and dirty in front of my computer, get it?  My head is wrapped in a blanket because there are no clean towels. What’s new, bitch? I’m watching videos about other people’s fucked up lives and all of the fat-faced political animals. Freaks who eat shit you can’t fucking imagine. I love watching videos of anal or of dogs with tiny legs that can barely walk. The towel is falling around my bone hips; there’s sores there. After I watch videos of people dancing and eating and eating while dancing, I’m watching videos about cultures that carved their homes directly into rocks and I think we are all carving our minds directly into the universe in the form of electronic waves that will bring the sound of dicks slapping to the edges of space. Thwap.

Nest to the net. We have no god but so many things to talk to. It’s what this fuck on Facebook called “atavistic prayer.” So many things to talk about. So many beautiful things to laugh at. There’s never been so much human laughter in the universe. It’s a surge like boiling soda. And we love to be watched. We love Big Brother with his dick out. And we’re bashful! Our plump asses out. There’s never been so many stupid miserable fucks. 

I have the virus, so I’ve been washing myself constantly and jacking off to all the people at home making content—it’s amazing how many people are naked that wouldn’t be otherwise, and we all know why. Death makes us horny! And I’m trying to see if all the cumming affects my fever. I’m watching my body closely when I’m not staring at the screen and all the crazy boiling people. I look pale, yeah. And my gums are shit, but I eat straight out of the 711 so what do you expect?

I tell people online I have this fucking disease, but no one says anything back. They turn their pig heads away or give an opinion, but I don’t want any opinions or recommendations I want notices nailed to their flesh, to mine. That’s when I realize that they’re all fuckers who read too many conspiracy theories and never fuck. They all want to be back in time even, but then they think they’re so tech-heavy. They think that if they wanted to be they could be some kind of army. But that’s boring.  

I read that one of the tribes who lived in the stone cities had a trade supply that they never told anyone about. They traded with Herod, the one who ordered the slaughter of all the children. I hope they can hear me laughing like you can. If people think today is so bad why did Herod kill all of those children? Deep state shit. History is laughter and death and none of it is real. 

Finally someone sees me on my live cam and says, “You are not sick. You are cucked.”

I can’t believe it! I crack up! They won’t even let me be sick cause they’re such fucks! Someone flashes onto my screen in a random chat like a stranger on the street and they stare like pigs at me. “Your skin is so pale, you’re fucking hot.”

The people march on my screen and I put my sore throat back and laugh. I wave to them. I shout to them that I have the virus inside of me. They just stare. Like they are stone! Or I am. I peel back into my room and secure the towel on my head when this happens. On the street, they say things to one another; I can see them in videos. I make them mute; I mute them. I laugh and spit and spread.

The Evangel

The stars are out, and my wife’s breath moves the Egyptian cotton bedsheets like your spirit moved the reeds on the Nile and the flowers in the gardens of the Plantagenets. Our tall white walls have crown moldings that swirl like the very idea of the divine, revealing the complexity of love, of paradise. Our dressers and drawers, our razor thin television, dustless like the clear night sky out the window, with a moon that presides over our driveway sloping in quartz reflection towards the clean smooth street. Through these things, all of them, I feel closer to you. Here in my home, all I’ve accumulated carries your name. Mere matter has been elevated on this continent at the edge of history. All of my world, even the junk, is converted into you as the rarest and most imperial currencies absorb and smother lesser coins. 

I have only ever served you. Eyes raised, a gold crucifix simply around my neck, I have spoken, Lord, into the still suburban night.  Just as criminals are given bars to remind them of their crimes, every object in my life has become a constant reminder of you. This country that we’ve built is a reminder of you, of our chosenness, as we’ve turned all of this rawness into heaven. Everything around me signals my mandate to love and be loved by you in all the splendor. The strongest convictions are followed often by misery, it’s true, but also great wealth, the loftiest altars, the most legendary faith. 

The moon is beautiful and white tonight. I imagine you in its light, bathing my home here on the shores of this great river, far from the city and its taint. Your light illuminates the wings of my house and the immensity of my church laid in this ever-blooming town. My trucks and my cars are vessels for you. I have learned this ancient speech I reserve only for you and I’ve learned the groans and drawls of my people. My body like theirs is in a state of decay, but I’ve built up my temple. For you. Who else? Is it not right to be among these riches if they were co-signed by you? But will it all go away? Things are changing and I no longer see your mark everywhere.  

In my eyes, my wife and family have created their thoughts in accordance with my dedication to you. My whole life has been circumscribed in your name. Everything I’ve conquered and accumulated is rife with you. But I am troubled, Lord—why is this kingdom not enough? Why do the people need to turn towards the dark, irradiated field of this new politics, when what exists here is beyond and above it? When this is the promised land and the tradition of sovereign? The plateaus of your long and gloriously tumultuous history. Is the golden duration of the word not enough? Have I not shown them that entertainment can be one with devotion? With salvation? We allow them things and ask not for abstinence, but still—like with the children, we have given too many concessions.

These new politicians are pretenders, but my people have known struggle and have a harsh bite. “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” We have known the promise fulfilled, here, even if the promise covers reality, we know it, and who would break the holy veil and pierce the sloping organs, the gilded flows of God’s true economy!

How these themes and trials have endured, Matthew! The empire of heaven is slipping away. 

But then there are crimes, Lord. Everything is threatened with it. Crimes that you will punish, but life is hard and we are short-sighted and need to know, before you, that justice is served. That the land remains clean and of you for You are justice and justice is You. We are hungry for the fullness I have, a fullness that was once everywhere. They want to rip the hearts from those who erase your name. Let them. Within these dark feelings there is justice. Have not armies born your name in blood across the faith of this, your wayward world? Nothing has changed except what remains.

And holy armies, cloaked in discretion and fortitude, relying on faith and moral arms, will march again with men like me, with all we’ve been endowed with, here to guide them. Children, they say, are being taken away in the night, by force or by trickery. Like in the time of Herod, we are being tested, and the state rises up against the chosen and against the weak.

It is never good for the church when the people go against the state. Everyone must pass through matter in order to feel God. I am no fool to history. They walk to the land of fantasy that is actually just matter so thick that it explodes into violence. 

But when the flock is prayed on by wolves, the wolves must be cuffed. It doesn’t make a difference if they make it or not. They have to try, for the children whom they grab up are everywhere. They will understand that within the state the word dies. Our own leaders. The madness must stop but from where? These boys are going to see the state with nothing but their t-shirts and in that is you. Their parents are scared and in that too is you. But I know that tranquility is the cunning of time. And no tranquility without the fire of the pulpit. Let their pulpit be a flood for a day, or for however long it takes for justice. 

If there is no other way, I hope that the men who are planning to take up arms and march to the holy land, long corrupted, have some recourse to you, Lord. But in this fight? These expeditions into the fire? They have been led to nothing. The children are already gone. But they go knowing that they can return here, and to heaven where all your children go and where we must focus. Forgive me Lord. I want to be young again, again in your arms. Take me. Bring everything I have gathered for you. 

Morning is soon and my words, my praise and anguish, will be disrupted by the television and its calls to battle. It is the dead of winter. We keep the kids inside in the still warmness of our home. 

 

Big Ray 

We’ve only been on methadone for three days, but the flowers seem ready to pop back into hope. That’s how fake the winter is here. But it’s getting colder as we go and I remember that I hate the cold and Ray’s old car can’t do much more than 55 on the interstate without falling apart. 

While Ray and Sarah go to piss I walk out to the field behind the rest stop and move around in the grasses, smoking a cigarette, feeling where the soil is soft, and gathering the trees in my thoughts like little flower bundles. I take a drag and the branches fall apart because I have trouble gathering myself. They say my problem with consistency is one of the main reasons why drugs appeal to me. That’s what they say and having a reason always helps.

There’s some trash around but whoever cleans up this place does a good job. Puts the wrappers and the flowers away. I can feel the whiteness of my eyes; the landscape calls me in every direction to the one destination that I know still exists out there, is always there. Singular.

Ray is good company. And steady. And steadily bat shit.  Not sure about Sarah. I think she lies, and first of all about her age. I try not to blame her, but I’ll have to admit that’s the first place that my mind goes. Her little pussy under that dress. I can smell it packed in that car. I’m not blaming her, but it still adds up to the same thing. And that Lucius who never leaves the back seat. He just sits and stares out the window. I don’t know where Lucius came from, really. When I’m sleeping he’s awake and when I’m awake I ignore the scary fuck. Now, the sun is hitting him through the back window of the small car that I think is Sarah’s but Ray drives. My breath is hot and I can kind of see it which is bad news.

There are distractions everywhere but I am confident, for once, between the winces and the telephone wires! I leave my memories alone, like they told me. I look instead. Ray and I got together because we are both interested by things, hate memories, and enjoy working with our hands. We have a soft spot for children, too, and sometimes I think that maybe I could have some if my life wasn’t so fucked up right now. But Ray says we should just dance and fuck because we aren’t dead like so many others with the viruses and with the fentanyl. I want to live but I’m not sure where to start. Ray is a child.

We see all the people around us, our whole lives, heading for some glory and there’s always someone with a ticket to heaven. Sure, I have my doubts but I’ve never given a lot of these things that much thought anyway. People who say that they know, that they know best, are not exactly rare. Mom, dad, hands touching all over me, teachers offering, offering then realizing that they never meant it and don’t have the time and patience. Ray and I are almost the same age. We’ve had some of the same jobs and even though we never really learned how to live properly, I know that he knows where I’m coming from and might then know a good place to go. 

Ray talked all the time at lunch in rehab and after it, when he’d sneak into my room when it was just me in there. The rehab was cheap and the cheap ones usually don’t work—like everything else that’s cheap. But even in the boredom I couldn’t help but listen to Ray talk about the signs and the children and how important it was to get off the Internet, away from all the kids on there that just talked shit, and actually show up to put our bodies on the line. It was the first I’d heard of most of it. It wasn’t that I didn’t care when he told me, I did, but I was only listening. I’ve heard about cellphones listening to us and hate that and know about people getting their heads chopped off even today—but Ray makes things feel so present that you kind of have to care more. One time I asked Ray why he trusts people who talk about this stuff on the Internet but says that we should stay off it and he got really mad and starting screaming.

So here we are. 

Ray is an addict so I know he picks and chooses his battles. But he looks out for me and he wants to be a part. Sarah just looks after Lucius while driving Ray mad. I know he wants to fuck her. I hope he doesn’t; I look after Ray. I told him there was no way that he would make a trip to DC alone without ending up in some motel with a bag of ron. So here we are. I don’t know what I believe in, but when you’re called, you’re called. I need to believe in something or else I will fade away.

Some of the families at the rest stops park far from us. It’s okay because I’m embarrassed by how bad I look. I know that if I just had some time, had some more space, I could look good. But sometimes Ray holds my hand on the way across the pavement. I don’t know where we are. 

We see people going to the same place as us. I don’t like to speak with them. If they get close they see that I’m sick and turn their heads away, but from far away they cheer and Ray shouts and hollers and they see how big Ray is so they shout some more. All sorts of ugly. But the way they cheer with Ray makes me proud, I know it shouldn’t, that I’ve only know him for a short time, but it still does. Sarah looks worried. She wants to go west, to Chicago, where she says things will be handled. Which is probably true, for her. Her parents didn’t want her in rehab there in Florida but that was a court thing. Florida judges can be petty as fuck. Apparently her folks said something about Florida being a place for death, not healing. To the judge!

Ray ignores her; he has a promised land of his own in mind. He says there is always a place for you but sometimes it’s occupied, like your seat in the common room or like on the bus. He says we need to take it back. That history isn’t something that happens but something you take. I’m sick of taking. I don’t understand what history is. I think of all the trash heaps in St. Louis which gives me an idea about places and filling things. What he says is big—so big that Sarah looks scared when he says it. She doesn’t really know fear. She can only taste it. No one can stop Ray when he’s riled. 

We’re back in the car. Lucius groans when I knock my seat back on his knees. Sarah is saying we stick out too much, but I think there is a god on our side today. Maybe for the first time. We are weak but are in motion driving towards the White House, where finally maybe we will pop out above ground. There is no way that people as gentle as us should have to suffer so. We believe in nothing. We’re Americans. I know that Ray is shouting for justice and my eyes have to land on that point in the future. 

 

The Web Master 

We can’t have them here, but we can’t make them go, either. We can, but the money guys are dragging their feet. Idiots are good for business. I don’t deal with the hang ups: outside pressure says stop because they see a problem. We just see the point. I say if they want to linger in the chat rooms—the fucking chat rooms!—and whine about their world going down the toilet, cry about the old world, their politics, their skin and dicks and vags, then let them.

I build walls, essentially, around systems that encompass much more than the chatrooms. I build the essence of walls. I take the very Idea “wall” grind it up into data and do my thing.   But that means I have to know what kind of people are using the site. 

I read once on some clickbait article that the Roman emperor Hadrian had built a fucking huge wall in Britain that marked as far as they got. Forts every five miles along that epic fucking wall. A wall too big to be real. I can’t imagine what those pathetic cave people thought when they say it. There’s no way they understood that it marked more than a barrier to a patch of land. It was just the visible part of  a massive fucking empire. That’s gone now, and people pissing and whining about walls today left their brains on the history channel. What the fuck do real walls matter when the world is expanding digitally and all sorts of viruses and biological warfare devices are crossing the species barriers like rude fucking neighbors. 

For how big these projects are, it’s absurd it’s me building and planning the thing. With all the money and information I’m protecting, I might as well be an emperor.  I’m everywhere and you wouldn’t believe the things these people get off on. We have people to take the brunt of the filth that piles up in our domains, up against the walls. Even the Internet needs a cesspit and a sewer—or did you forget about everything that passes grotesquely from our minds? I can’t, but that’s the price for this type of power. Of course, there’s the more hands-off kind, but where’s the art in that? Besides, we’re just ushering them on to some other fantasy when they bounce off our walls. It’s funnel for the obsessed and faithful.

They say not to focus on the things outside our own lives so that we can keep our heads. Organization. Crisis thinking. The traits of a soldier. But the people that say that have never had 100 terabytes and a fuck-load of RAM and the access to see interpersonal arguments, expressions and feelings more infected by images and stimuli than any other time in history. The mind is a powerful thing, it makes the body look like nothing more than the rag wearing peasants clamoring up around Hadrian’s wall, and I am practically fucking corralling it. 

They tell me that the hate groups planning to do real violence are congregating on our site. Do they know what else I’ve seen? The government’s systems are phony, ancient. Not like ours. But they have power, that’s for sure. For how long? I’m not sure.

They think the filth that piles up in and outside our walls will be cleaned through “soft power” or scolding. That making some buttons un-pressable will delay the urge or, even more delusional, negate it. It’s already exploded. Culture’s a fat zit. Now, it seems like if enough people want something to happen it will, but no one is sure where. The truth is, the most important decisions being made today are decisions that we won’t even be able to understand for a hundred years, that is, they’re not corporeal. Hardly even political. 

We are already Empire here on the site. It’s crystallized. And what do we rule over? Filth, partly—dreams given form in data are miserable, sick stinking lumps, because it’s easy and easy things are twisted: they try to make it more real by selling it, but I know that I am building like others have built. 

I talked to my dad and he agrees, and even though we come at things from different places, he knows that the people who are questioning everything have the right idea. He thinks they are limiting his body and I think they are limiting my mind. He asks me about the children being moved across the Internet like dolls and I tell him I have nothing to do with that. I build the walls, I tell him, and he looks at me proud over the screen.  

We have to keep a clean shift, though; that’s what I keep coming back to. He taught me that. It’s why I know that he doesn’t really mean it when he says I’m weak. He wouldn’t have allowed it to happen in the first place. 

The net is pure; it is white light and space. It’s the people that corrupt it. 

 

The Refugee 

My son smiles when he watches the birds fly. I pray he looks up as long as possible. Death has followed me like it has followed all men who praise God in this age. First my city was bombed and it was only my English, my meager English, a cowardly tongue for liars, that has saved us. Now, I am sick of these people who have only their own lives in mind. Living completely for one’s self, one’s age, is a sign of a poverty of the spirt that no man should live to see. I thought that it was reserved for the soldiers with their orders and their guns, to the smiling translators and anthropologists, the pencil pushers of death. No, at least those lived for the military project. People here live for nothing. They talk about family but they only care to hear themselves speak. To them, this momentary pleasure is like prayer. 

Yes, I’m alive. I’m not like my cousin Saif who went from Baghdad to Germany and quickly forgot himself. Forgot what his life was before. But we are different: I have family to preside over. I have not become rich or spoiled by the need to have my voice heard. My voice is heard by God. I keep my body and my heart clean. 

I fix machines. I refuse to become one. The world is covered with broken cars. This capital is covered with broken people. This country is a big machine covered in sores, with a belly full of smog. I regret little, but I wonder. Was betraying my city worth living here among such idiots? 

Now, these men are screaming about their president, but they cannot even manage their women, their children. Do they not see the white faces covered in dirt, with knotted hair, that wander in the streets and the ones without teeth, full of drugs, that I see when I take my family out of the city, over the Potomac River, in search of peace?  

These Christians think they know of Babylon and the whore. They do. They’ve built it here. The very monuments are venal, the grandeur is sick. The architecture suggests the body, the penis, its holes, and I do not know if they realize it, and if they do, they think their own observation profound without really thinking what it means. Only in pictures are they clean. Maybe it is different somewhere else, outside of the capital, outside of the city. 

I touch my boy’s chin—born here, help him!—and gently guide it up. I don’t mind if I have to wait around in this emptiness to guide him. There’s piss in the streets and in the winter the men who come into my shop asking for work reek even though they pay me in wads of browning cash. Is to live in Babylon better than living in a ruin? Will I be forgiven? Or will I be lumped in with the fools that pass and scream on the street, who drown themselves in beer to forget the cold and themselves.  

I’m surrounded by my sons, and I think I know my place in this violent world, and it is that by the grace of God that I have come to live among Christians and other people who bay at the steps of their empire like dogs. On the screens I see them marching in smoke and piling up against the walls. Are they no longer content with elsewhere? Do they even realize that the anger they feel is suffering? The young men who work for me tell me that there are many serious people who believe that these innocent children free of guilt are disappearing from homes in America, without thinking of the children that flow in the wake of their machine. I have seen a society disappear, the children shatter. If God willed it, I would march out of this concrete waste and reclaim the lost. But here I am just a refugee. They look at me and they see terrible history and dirt. But my sons beautiful eyes are looking up. How they shine! The business is good and there are others like me near. Order will be restored to the world, and perhaps these tremors, this madness and delirium, is the beginning. 

 

Little Ray 

They’ll say anything to make themselves feel better. Invent whatever thing, whatever, to explain my misery away. Tell me, “It’s okay Little Ray.” I’ve been here so long that they’ve forgotten when or where I come from. I am nothing to myself. Even when I’m buried under a pile of fur or on the edge of my seat in front of the camera in this room—I remember. I remember how I came to be here. A crowded square. A hand. A haze. So many hands, so many dicks through pants on me. So much. 

Whatever it is, I feel it on the other side of the door, on the other side of the camera—the other side of life which exists somewhere else where I am not and when I am not. Here I am staying anywhere. In any filthy place. Anywhere the highway runs and takes men away from their families and histories and into America. Away, away. America is strung up with these strands of disappearing holes.  

They appear on their screens, drooling, wide-eyed and full. Staring at me.  Full of themselves. They love themselves loving me. I know they know when I’m bored, but I don’t think they know when I’m afraid or disgusted. I don’t know much else except those stupid faces. They can’t figure out that we are in Hell already. They think they are just looking in. Or that I will guide them to the holy land. Maybe they are! I’m stuck in here. I give them what they want. I let them soak me in. And on occasion I open my door to see one of them appear, always shiny and pale, propelled by orders. White walls, white carpet, white bedsheets. I am in every country—or—I could be. It occurs to me that I might not be in any land at all, that there is a facility full of wires that floats, occasionally bobbing for sad ocean eyes. They said I could leave, but I don’t know if I know how.

The men who come…I know they travel far to fuck me. And they rant. They talk about their philosophy and the state of the world “as they see it.” Most of the day I watch myself in the camera and am essentially alone. Text. They tell me that I will meet the men who keeps me here, but he never comes and I watch myself alone in a room all white and maybe under the sea. I am outside of life. At the point where the line of men ends. 

Like a sad inkblot, Antonio is sometimes brought over, and after we fuck, he begs me to tell him something about us. He’s not convinced that he’s looking from within the terror onto life. He’s practically blind with hope. I tell him that when we’re together I burn up. I tell him that someday we will be out of this space of pure whiteness and into a place with color and texture and trees. He laughs and is happy and I hold him. 

 

The Governor 

When I think abstractly, I know that the problem of accounting for everything is an old one. Predictions have always been the most valuable commodity as we stand on the shores of the unintelligible. Data. Nothing has changed but the job has gotten easier and more difficult at the same time, which is the experience of life. In equal measure. There is more now—so much more. Politics is fueled by digital technologies which create systems and models that we feed like massive engines running on the emotions of the people, and in turn we direct these engines at the people, blasting them until they bloom with the emotions we want. It’s an imperfect science, technological statecraft. And now I stand at the edge of the precipice of emotions. A stuffed void of cybernetic marriage. Below, the engines, of which I know nothing, harness the fuel in the processes of modern feelings, deeply unconstructed things, the brilliance of indiscipline! There is an opening in the fear of the desire of the people. There, a breach, forward. In this way order is formed. 

When it comes to the point of order, or why we head towards it, not even metaphors help. They make us drift from the point—but we are always drifting from the point with words that present only a weak picture of the world. But still they follow them. As do I, as do I, here at the edge of everything. I am a leader and I am not sure who is actually going to slaughter. If everyone is a child, and the men are concerned about children, then what is the goal? Is the specter of Crusade in my own heart only? If I know myself will I act differently?

For years I was secure watching the shifting numbers. Tying sweet names to the things that I know—and knew—are just convergences of forces. But then I realized you must be behind it all. Organizing in some way. Here is me being the one who has your confidence in these things. In the matters of seeing through these messy, messy eccentricities of these sick people who create power. I trace groups, name them, bring them life then watch them throw themselves against my walls like Absalom. The holy land is you and I am you and we are all already there, we are always striving towards it.

Children disappear all the time, and they have become menacing even in abstraction. They make me think about the why of my position here controlling the lives of many millions, with the levers that were given to me, not through birth but the elevated precision of science pulling together minds like magnets. Tending always towards that point, that point at the edge. The river. The sweet calling sounds of spring and the groves and the willows and the stadiums and forests and the greasy food and blond girls.  My forebears knew that the holy land must be everywhere. That we must always be the best and worst, to escape history. Did they see what I see now, sleeping in the data? Do they question whether the mass is lightness or darkness? Did they see you or only know you were coming? A pedestal or a smothering stone? Give me the numbers of the dead. Where they lie. It is all coming together somewhere in the dreaming data, somewhere in the power that’s accumulating towards farce. It was my understanding that control worked into the world until it bubbled back to the surface with results. But the things I don’t know must mean that there is something above. 

And now the people are flocking from their homes. They are driven by the same scratch from above that haunts me now. Looking over the vastness. Why? I don’t know where they are going. They cannot see that they are just pieces. The prices of everything are going up. I am tired. I’d like to soak into you with all I know. Things have gotten out of control, but I don’t feel any different. If you’ve chosen me to be here, then there is nothing wrong, but if it is, if I am on the wrong path, the data will decide now. The will. You.


Ben Dreith is infamously not the famous NFL referee. Ben occasionally publishesessays on neodecadence and writing on his substackhttps://bendreith.substack.com

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