thrice great hermes #86.5 (2018/02/22)

thrice great hermes

#86.5

by stanley lieber

CASCADE

Gray, the red stitching. This photo is no longer available. Fruit of the tree in the snow. Little bird in the tree.

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thrice great hermes #85.75 (2018/02/22)

thrice great hermes

#85.75

by stanley lieber

she could write it all on paper. three-ring binders and the color coded system of underlining: black, white, pale green, orange, blue, red, gray, yellow, purple, brown, taught to her by her father. little paper collars that fit snugly around the ring holes she’d punched into each sheet—violet didn’t know what they were called.

a small bookshelf housed the binders. she transported them back and forth between locations (work, home) in an oversized duffle bag. once full she was barely able to hoist it into the truck.

contract work, mostly. human intelligence was not dead. disney paid well for this deniable variety of collection and analysis. compared to her normal salary, which the county sometimes decided to pay out. she compiled new dossiers and revised existing ones. fact-checked analyses written by other contractors, sometimes being paid to re-fact-check her own. she was at once a writer and an editor, which was normally frowned upon by the corporate bean counters. demand had normalized the tacit abrogation of standard protocol.

disney’s competitor, gogol/verizon, also paid, though not quite as well as their older, more openly aggressive sibling. sometimes she submitted the same report to both entities. no one ever seemed to notice, or at least no one ever complained.

before she submitted a report she would always gogol the text of her article, just to make sure that any uncredited borrowing she’d committed wasn’t immediately apparent. in a way, she’d come to realize, this was a form of early submission. but whatever flags she’d triggered hadn’t seemed to have affected the demand for her work. they just kept on paying her to write.

violet vaguely remembered the first request she’d received that mentioned her son. it had been quite a while ago, and at the time she hadn’t considered it out of the ordinary—at one time or another she’d reported on all the members of her family—but the requests had kept coming in, steadily increasing in frequency until some months it felt as though she did nothing but keep track of her son. which felt—somehow, she guessed—wrong. was it a conflict of interest? were there tax implications? she concluded these considerations were above her paygrade.

the duffle bag was secured with a small padlock, the key to which she wore on a chain around her neck. other technicians at the base mostly stayed out of her stuff, but it wasn’t wise to take chances with the sensitive material, especially when that material frequently concerned family.

additional security concerns were dealt with as they arose, on a case-by-case basis.

one thing she insisted on: she turned off her visor while she wrote.

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thrice great hermes #85.5 (2018/02/22)

thrice great hermes

#85.5

by stanley lieber

the problem was, it wore off.

seeing the thing was fine, making the realization stick was quite a different exercise. contrary to the cliché, there was no need to "unsee" a thing; as the initial sensation receded, so, too, did its memory.

well, some memories. violet couldn’t shake them all. the question became: was she remembering events, or was she remembering having remembered them? looking at the photo albums her whole life had confused the issue, until she no longer knew what she knew, or how she knew it. what if those people had never existed?

her brother, sl, had said things like that. maybe she was glad that their contact these days was infrequent. so, why did she miss him?

at work, patients (plural) had complained about her hygiene. coworkers had complained that she never pulled her fair share of cleaning duty in the community kitchen. her ex-husband wanted her to take their son for the summer, have him stay over at her apartment for the duration.

she fell back on her reading. she’d begun to keep a log of the titles she completed. at first she tracked the date when she started to read the book. then she realized that it might make more sense to track the date when she finished. she’d tried both, and the log was already a mishmash of different combinations of data points, difficult to collate and analyze systematically. the whole thing had become a burden.

she felt like there was something she had intended to write down. some idea, or realization, or some clever procedural tweak that could be implemented at work, to shave seconds off the department’s response time.

it was gone, now.

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thrice great hermes #87 (2018/02/20)

thrice great hermes

#87

by stanley lieber

NEWTON’S TRANSLATION

1 Tis true without lying, certain & most true.

2 That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing

3 And as all things have been & arose from one by the mediation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.

4 The Sun is its father, the moon its mother, the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth is its nurse.

5 The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.

6 Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.

7 Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtile from the gross sweetly with great industry.

8 It ascends from the earth to the heaven & again it descends to the earth & receives the force of things superior & inferior.

9 By this means you shall have the glory of the whole world

10 & thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.

11 Its force is above all force. For it vanquishes every subtle thing & penetrates every solid thing.

12 So was the world created.

13 From this are & do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (or process) is here in this. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world

14 That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished & ended.

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thrice great hermes #86 (2018/02/20)

thrice great hermes

#86

by stanley lieber

THIRD SYSTEM EFFECT

- When ye meet your ancestor, kill your ancestor!

- The discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth

- in one video circulating on social media

- They periodically crash for unknown (to me) reasons and need to be

rebooted.

- In the Azure palace in Highest Clarity heaven are jade tablets

registering the names and nomenclatures of those adepts who are

destined to ascend to the asterisms in broad daylight.

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thrice great hermes #85 (2018/02/20)

thrice great hermes

#85

by stanley lieber

the divorce had been sudden, a surprise, though perhaps it shouldn’t have been. violet had found herself unable to explain. anything, really. that was sufficient. the paperwork had been filed.

her husband (her ex-husband) had taken the boy, and much of the furniture. consequently violet spent a lot of her time sitting on the floor. she never quite got around to replacing the missing pieces.

her days off from work were filled with fewer interruptions. she caught up on a lot of sleep, but she found herself spending less and less time at home.

usually, she showered at work. dinner, too, so her fridge at home was most often empty. when the boy came over for his weekend visits he would complain that there was nothing to eat. she would sigh under her breath and ask him if he’d like to go out for dinner. when he said yes, she’d ask him if he’d also like to go see a movie. when he said yes, her evening, and her budget for the following week, was planned. it all cost a substantial amount of money, on her salary, but she would tell him to order whatever he wanted.

when violet wasn’t asleep she would read. clancy, brown, griffin, lustbader, had all given way to proust, isherwood, waugh, mishima, nin, colette. she worked her way through most of the public library. well, except for the romance novels...

at home, there were her subscriptions: the new york times; the smithsonian magazine; national geographic; the indiana historical society journal; air power journal; air force magazine; friends journal: the magazine of the air force museum foundation, inc.; the new york review of books; the london review of books; the claremont review of books (haha); the new yorker; retro gaming magazine; the uncanny x-men. and she wondered where all her money went.

twenty-four hours was a long shift. the twenty-second century had been a long century. but life itself seemed short. there was so little time to cram it all in. even with the visor to help.

violet sat on the floor, surrounded by newspapers and magazines.

it was all bullshit, and she hated it.

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thrice great hermes #84 (2018/02/20)

thrice great hermes

#84

by stanley lieber

violet was bad with money. she spent a lot of it. not on purpose, exactly, but the stuff seemed to disappear steadily as events fulfilled their natural course, like water draining out of a sink. of course, the money didn’t just get up and walk away.

hermes searched through her wallet, looking for change. nothing.

violet rolled over in bed. she’d been laying around for four days. now it was time to get back to work. twenty-four hour shifts took their toll, and she was tired. at least she hadn’t blown any more of her paycheck while she was asleep. her son had smashed his visor, and it would have to be replaced. she’d be paying for at least half of it out of her own pocket.

hermes didn’t carry any change. no pockets. and the machine only took quarters.

hermes was, among other things, the god of money. naturally he had plenty of stuff for himself, but the people he had to deal with often seemed to have trouble keeping it around. take violet. there was usually not much left for him to steal from her by the time she got paid. habitually, she lived from paycheck to paycheck. she kept him always on his toes.

violet wrenched herself out of bed and ran a comb roughly through her tangled hair. almost immediately she gave up, screwing her usual meshback cap down onto her pillow-formed head. some battles were not worth fighting this early in the morning.

hermes didn’t just give up. but violet had stymied his most creative efforts to put a cap on her spending. she simply did what she wanted to do, whenever she wanted to do it. there was no real strategy involved, she simply moved forward, here stumbling, there taking sure-footed, confident strides, one purchase at a time.

violet cracked open a pepsi. her son was back with his father. her parents were dead. she ingested the thick liquid easily, crushing the empty aluminum can against her forehead. after all these years, the maneuver still hurt. she dropped the can into the recycle bin and climbed into her truck.

laid rubber in the parking lot.

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thrice great hermes #83 (2018/02/19)

thrice great hermes

#83

by stanley lieber

SPIRIT OF COMMUNICATION

- Except that their English sometimes seemed a little odd.

- Is your resume out of style?

- Apple staff "physically hurt" by walking into glass walls at

Foster-designed campus

- nth bit is not set

- Deldo is a sex toy control and teledildonics mode for Emacs

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thrice great hermes #82 (2018/02/19)

thrice great hermes

#82

by stanley lieber

hermes was late for work. sl had laid enough traps, diversions, and obstacles to stop a lesser god dead in his tracks. but hermes still had a few tricks up his sleeve. if he’d worn sleeves.

it was a kelly. work one day, enjoy one day off. work one day, enjoy one day off. work one day, enjoy four days off. violet was not going anywhere. today was her day to sleep. as for the following three days...

instead she listened to records. yet another repackaged reissue from the bowie camp. this time, the original 2002 heathen (the rays) ep. expanded at the time of its original release to a full album, against bowie’s wishes, the farce had included unfinished demos, rejected soundtrack submissions, and other odds and ends, all of which had been scrapped by bowie himself before the mastering stage. this was not that. this new release commemorated the 250th anniversary of the founding of west berlin, indiana, the piece of shit town, population 574, that violet found herself living in. all the weimar shops on the walkway were hawking copies of the deluxe edition. she had bought one, not because it was popular (in fact, it was the fastest selling vinyl of the past twenty-five years), but because she liked the material. "i find i enjoy simply interpreting the songs," bowie had said in a contemporary interview. indeed.

the tracklist proceeded as follows:

    1.  sunday

    2.  afraid

    3.  i would be your slave

    4.  5:15 the angels have gone

    5.  heathen (the rays)

the tracks all fit onto a single side of the record, with the program repeating on side b.

it had been bowie’s first solo effort since 1983, and his last until shortly before his death in 2016. it had comprised the entirety of what he had had to say about the intervening decades. violet once owned a copy of an earlier release, in middle school, and it had helped her to unlock some of the cultural response to the 9/11 attacks on new york and washington, d.c. much later, it had helped her to realize she no longer believed in god.

she’d bought a copy for her son, who already claimed he didn’t believe in god, but she was pretty sure he’d never listened to it.

well, there was always hope.

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thrice great hermes #81 (2018/02/19)

thrice great hermes

#81

by stanley lieber

hermes woke up in the back of an ambulance, headed to who knows where. after confirming all of his constituents were intact, he saved his game and switched cartridges. he’d pick this up again later.

sl was tormenting him. his vestments were ill-fitting. hermes had a lot of complaints.

and gods didn’t ask permission.

here he was back in the ambulance. they were taking him somewhere because he had been injured. nevertheless, he had a message to deliver.

at the hospital, a boy was making a fuss in the waiting room. his grandmother was dying. he was, understandably, upset. but he was also too young to be allowed into intensive care. he was making a fuss because the nurses wouldn’t let him in to see his grandmother, and nobody was doing anything about it. hermes could see the injustice of the situation, but rules were rules.

gods were made of rules—although, sometimes rules could be bent.

hermes delivered his message. the boy gradually calmed down, though not until he had been physically removed from the premises. hermes considered his task completed, and left.

violet steered her ambulance around to the garage. it was her turn to wash the unit, and all she wanted to do was sleep. once she finished with the water hose she drug herself into the ambulance base and laid down on her cot, without even bothering to take off her hat and shoes. she’d sleep until the end of her shift, barring any more runs.

at 07:00 she woke up, splashed water on her face, and drove herself home. it was time to take the boy to school.

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thrice great hermes #80 (2018/02/19)

thrice great hermes

#80

by stanley lieber

violet would never forget. her brother had gone too far this time.

years later, when he finally moved out, she had indeed all but forgotten. still, holding someone down and spitting in their mouth was a rotten thing to do. she had hugged him, and he had climbed somberly into the car with dad.

shit you, she’d thought.

it had been a while since she’d thought about him at all. busy with her own life. today, she wondered what bullshit he might have been up to lately. then she realized she probably didn’t want to know.

she liked driving the ambulance. it was nothing like piloting a drone, which in any case the air force had not allowed her to do, but sometimes she would pretend the steering wheel controlled a sort of flying vehicle, and she’d bank between the clouds (the other cars), and she’d increase throttle to military power (the posted speed limit). she imagined her patients would appreciate the time saved by avoiding stoplights.

once she had clipped the top of the ambulance on a low underpass. no real permanent damage, but a serious scrape atop the vehicle that had had to wait six months before it could be repainted. an ongoing embarrassment for which she’d earned a nickname, which shall not be repeated here.

her own son liked to browse through the photo albums of wrecks and rescues that her coworkers maintained, back at the base. every time she had had a close call, like with the underpass, like with several other near accidents, she was thankful that she’d never made a mistake serious enough to earn photo documentation in the album. she’d not want him to see anything like that.

lunch during her shift was usually a disappointment. bad restaurants, nothing like the lunches mom had made for dad. she’d tried making her own lunches but eventually had given up, exasperated at her own lack of imagination. there were only so many ways to arrange the basic ingredients of a sandwich.

violet pulled her meshback cap down over her hair and drove her ambulance back to base.

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thrice great hermes #79 (2018/02/18)

thrice great hermes

#79

by stanley lieber

quartz in the ground, in the woods behind the house. étienne started finding it the last time he went out for a walk. mostly concentrated in a small ravine behind the abandoned car lot. he brought some back to the house and kept it in a plastic bread bag.

big glass doors off the dining room. sitting at the table eating his breakfast he could see the whole town. such as it was. he stretched out his arms and ran his fingertips along the tablecloth. finished his cereal.

he’d been reading a byrne superman. number fourteen, the first he’d managed to acquire. some primitive computer art, inside.

beyond breakfast he’d made no plans for the day. violet was already up and out of the house. he didn’t have to work. he’d have to think about it.

it was starting to snow.

a lion emerged from the woods. it rounded the yard barn and sauntered up to the house. on the back porch it nosed through the cat food étienne had put out for the strays. bottom half of the plastic milk carton that served as a bowl briefly got stuck on the lion’s nose, and eitenne laughed out loud.

the lion didn’t laugh.

"i am smiling," étienne said for the lion.

he decided to walk into town. the snow started and stopped, sputtering gently for the rest of the day. he spent the afternoon wandering between "weimar" shops in town. he came home clutching christopher isherwood.

étienne perversely tracked his purchases in a custom-made arrangement on an antique amiga computer running openbsd. basically, a big text file. he would print out the file and file it in his filing cabinet, because it amused him to do so. the computer was not networked, and lions couldn’t type.

when violet came home she said she was pregnant.

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thrice great hermes #78 (2018/02/16)

thrice great hermes

#78

by stanley lieber

and then there was the house. grandpa and grandma’s house, where dad had moved back after the divorce, his world contracting into his childhood bedroom, no longer shared with his brothers. that had been where the computer was stored, where the books had lived, where the board would be laid on the bed and the pages laid out for assembly, a small lamp and a small speaker providing atmosphere.

the house was gone, now. the green asphalt tiles had given way to green vinyl siding, had given way to demolition, debris removal, and, finally, a stranger mowing the empty lot.

before any of that had been the old bedroom, the crumbling wallpaper in the kitchen, the pale beige carpet in the front room, the moss on the cracked concrete of the back porch, the makeshift garage—all, also, gone.

étienne could somehow picture it clearly, even though he had never been inside the place. his grandfather’s grandparents’ house. in some other little town. in some other little world. he was just as sure the place was gone. he found out later—it was.

he counted the other unknown places he somehow felt he knew: the public library, the firehouse, the demolished wing of the casino, the firehouse in that other town (whose name he did not even know), several homes of strangers, a drug store that sold adult magazines sealed in ziploc bags, a movie theater (which somehow he knew had also burned to the ground), john henry’s restaurant, an old train car, the church in the country, the trailer park, the small barn in the backyard over the hill, yancy’s swimming pool, the cellar, the other pizza place by the highway on the way to petersburg, the old caboose at the city park that dad (who’s dad?) had said he’d help settle into its base by the shelter house, brandon’s new house on flood road, riding two skateboards down hill street while dribbling a basketball, the empty trailer whose yard nevertheless got mowed, medco center, pumpkin center, the rural pole barn that also burned down, the swing set at the campground (also installed by grandpa), the stacks of newspapers in aunt (the other aunt) eunice’s living room, sitting at home and watching cable television. none of these were his memories. none of these people were people he knew. they trampled through his mind as if the route was familiar and they didn’t need to look where they were going.

all he could do was think.

he found the address—also, somehow, already in his mind—on a mapping service and confirmed the street view in his visor before turning off the device and closing his eyes, laying his head down on his desk and pressing its flat, laminate surface directly against his forehead.

the pictures continued to disembark, dragging trunks and chests through his mind, on their way to an as yet unimagined new world.

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thrice great hermes #77 (2018/02/15)

thrice great hermes

#77

by stanley lieber

for some reason étienne’s town had a video store. a remnant of the somehow still extant berlin-in-the-’00s tourist theme. étienne had taken to renting videos to watch during his shift.

one evening when he stopped by he noticed they were giving away comic books with every rental. there were mint condition stacks of three titles: uncanny x-men #215, uncanny x-men #216, and avengers annual #10. since he was renting three videos, étienne was entitled to all three comics.

why did this place have old comic books? they weren’t second prints. they weren’t even german translations. weird.

he left the shop, and headed on to work. He went about his shift.

bill had messaged him, wanting to complain about politicians. étienne demurred. he was going to watch his videos.

from his backpack étienne produced a device whose function was to interface the ancient video player to his visor. the thing was on the fritz. some protocol glitch between the devices. lacking any other explanation, étienne blamed a recent firmware update.

blame was fine, but now he couldn’t watch his videos. the contemporary playback device he’d found squirreled away in a closet in his central office was likewise—but differently—inoperable. he sighed and gave up.

he flipped through the comics. okay, he’d never read these issues before. filling more holes in his collection. this michael golden art was something else.

étienne put down the comics and ate his lunch early. he’d be hungry later, but so what, he could do whatever he wanted. (thanks, violet, for packing the lunch.)

bill again. leave me alone.

the next evening étienne returned the videos to the shop, unwatched. he noticed the stacks of mint condition comics again, and, impulsively, offered the clerk a hundred dollars to buy the whole lot.

"nope, nuh uh," the clerk said. "one free comic per rental."

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