1991
Payne’s Report: Vital Material Surveillance


Have serious reason to suspect nefarious goings-on at the Vital Materials store. Learning to trust my dreams, which come nightly with the aid of my sister’s pills. Prescription, thus safe. Probably. I dream of the innards of engines, these corroded pipes with a craquelure of metallic orange foliage. What spills is unseemly, unnatural maybe. The shiny renderings of blood that come out translucent, as if you can see the cells within them swirling. My dreams tip upside-down and all around, I see a series of angles and discs that transcend their fixed trajectories. By which I mean, there is an unholy transgression of Euclidean geometry. Read a news report on something called the World Wide Web. Repeated use of the word ‘hypertext’. I have learned to mistrust conditionals, engineers, this thing they call ‘windows’. Such peculiar employment of the verb to browse. I asked a colleague in the library for her thoughts on the phenomenon, but she fell prey to sheer praise of the database. Little does she suspect of surveillance; has no-one learned anything from the War?

There is a heady compilation of primary colours that silences me at four in the morning. You can time these pills to a T.

Every evening, prior to midnight, I stake out the hardware store. The deliveries come at irregular intervals. They stopped about a week ago; nobody seems to have entered the store since. Upon scouting the surrounding road for clues, I discovered a mildewed sales receipt; something that must’ve slipped from the pockets of a negligent driver. Upon it was stamped a peculiar logo, the words The Absent Material Gateway. I could not tell if this was the merchant or customer’s copy. The names of the items were rain-blurred or unfamiliar, the likes of ‘cordite lock’ and ‘diffusion platter’. A red pen had circled the word ‘godspark’, which came at the heftiest price--a cool £3000. I intend to make an inventory of such effects. My contact with the bank informs me that the Vital Materials store do not have an account with their branch. It is possible that the organisation behind the shopfront do not deal with money at all--at least not money as we commonly understand it. I suspect a degree of abstraction. Still, the surely paid Martha in cold hard cash. How else would she have funded her habit?

My attempts to sketch the objects I saw have failed thus far. I have no talent with the pen and as such all I can do is lament the lack of photographs, the absent space where light struck my camera with a fire too potent. You see, something in that process of refraction foregoes the possibility of snapshots. My research into RGB fractals has yet been unfruitful. Some property, an emission of auras or the flashbulb void of antimatter, prevents material preservation. When I close my eyes sometimes in darkness, it is the outlines I see and no more. These alien things, their impossible textures now oddly familiar. My fingers brush moss, metal, the skin of an animal. A terrible jolt runs through my body. I have to stop walking in the country, inflicting these injuries onto my psyche. Last week, I spent five days straight out in the woods, returning to the site of my original discovery. I circled, doubled-back, made breadcrumbs; but still I could not find it. I felt like Freud, crossing well-known streets now suddenly strange. Lost beyond recognition, pine needles stinging the undersides of my nails. I scratch pitch and peat from the bogs and trees, trying to sate my material cravings. Flashbacks summon me uncannily back to where I started, the murmuring river and the sullen trees. The impulse to drink from that cool clear water, the electrical whir that starts in the twinge of my muscles.

I find wrappers in the ground quite close to the site. It is easy to tell when one is proximate: you can feel that hum in the air, some unnatural warmth billowing through the leaves. A rustling in the undergrowth. The sense of a moment suspended as you prowl the invisible borders. Chocolate wrappers, a pamphlet or manual on lysergic compounds, a ballpoint pen split clean in two. Sometimes when I watch the perimeters of the store, I sense the presence of someone else. But how can there be anyone on the shopfloor at night? All activity, presumably, takes place in the basement. Inside or out, I know there’s a presence, a person. I wonder if they watch me back. I should like to compare notes, gain access through their benevolence, our shared curiosity or something. Sometimes, I get the distinct, primitive sense that I am being stalked; that this entity follows me as I seem always accidentally in its company. Nothing is accident. The energies are terrestrial, certainly--you feel them in the forest’s zephyrs, the bristling grasses and leaves--but there is an otherness to their manifestations. One cannot help but envision again that grossly lucid lilac light, something split surely from the seams of an alien compound. Source unknown, formula inconclusive.

I could try to describe the site better, make detailed ethnographic reports on the traces of human existence or geographical analysis of soil composition, the lifespan of fir trees. I could bring down a quadrat and measure the distribution of microflora, fungi and insects. Perhaps some geometric equation might be made, the Rosetta stone of discovery. This algorithm to unlock the secret coordinates. Every time I visit the outskirts, the force seems diminished. Someone, surely, must be depleting the resources. Fewer objects give off energy in the heart of the forest. I lose weight by the day, it simply sheds away from me. I fear the forest is sapping the whole of me; I become less of being the more I circle the grounds, lustily seeking. What should nourish--those nuts and berries, the butter-cooked fish and fauna--deplete my calories. I sense a negation, a rewind to zero. I press my ear to the walls of the store and listen for the clack and bang of new forms being created; a galvanised shock that shatters the memory, leaves me scattered and vague for days in miasmas of sleep. Something dark and barbarous is at work in those rooms, the machinic rumble that stirs from the deep.