A traveler came to the old capital with his vintage camera that had an accordion lens and shot large format film. There was a famous wall there where citizens would glue or pin up their posters, grievances, unpublished novels, poems, love letters, accusations, vindictive and compromising drawings of old lovers, manifestoes, gossip, lies, public service announcements, censored news, questionable ads for obscure medicines, alternative history and sometimes real history. There was little worth reading. At last he came to a section painted with chalkboard paint and covered with an enigmatic poem in white chalk that read: #noitisnt #notheycant #notheywont #noyouarent
Once in a while, the surveyors would come across a mission-white adobe house in the copper wastelands or a log cabin on shores of stone and black sand, only to find a lifer holed up inside. The typical charts were on the walls. The lifer would be working on fixing a radio, picking at a black box with tweezers, lighting a hurricane lamp or playing something mournful on the guitar. The lifers would invariably have books–paperback classics almost worn-out from rereading. There would be a wooden trinket on the wall that looked like the first aid symbol. In the evenings, they would radio, telegraph, fax or phone. The surveyors hardly spoke their idiom, and were uncertain if the sending or receiving of a code were the key mission. The nights seemed interminable, their silence and openness seductive. The moon would misshape itself to the sound of distant and sad music.
It is sometimes called the blackbox. It is not black at all, but perhaps it should be. It is the hybrid of a radio and a refrigerator, a camera obscura, a labyrinth, a code matrix, and a battery. The wiring is intricate–one is tempted to think of bombs. Though they can explode and implode, this is actually quite rare. What is not rare is the amount of destruction it can unleash. In the last century alone, this machine was responsible for at least 160,000,000 wartime slaughters, 100,000,000 suicides, 87 million garden variety homicides, and one and half billion abortions, all totalling about a quarter of the world’s population today. Only about 20% is used or known to work, according to the ancient proverb, which means that 80% sleeps in darkness, just as 80% of the universe sleeps in darkness. On the thin shores between twin unknowns, the black box crackles with signals and commands. It breathes. The black box is the most haunted place in the universe. It might even be its own universe. Its ghosts are imperceptible from the outside. They travel in whispers and mute screams no electricity can detect. Their long, steely fingers scratch at the coffin-black spaces between signals and circuitry. They make a pilgrimage for a surface they cannot find. It is an inverted pandora’s box, an insane asylum in a bag of raging winds, an aegis that consumes itself, the lone eye of the gray ones orbiting itself in sheer emptiness, the magnesium flashing head of the gorgon that turns all things to stone, a saturn eating its own offspring. And yet, it is only a small football of fat sizzling with electricity in a fragile cowl of bone.