Part I: Vector CS-95
The year is unimportant because it is always now.
You walk with your head down.
Sidewalks failing to read your shoes, scans wait for your eyes.
The standing charge station beckons, “You must recharge. You must – “
Z is now beside you. The curb reads his shoes. Simultaneously he’s wifing yours on a pirate network.
The layers of hovering traffic on Confluence Avenue are full of eyes blazing out of lolling heads in dub step bass rumbling rides maneuvering to their pre-programmed destinations. It is near midnight and as bright as day.
He greets you with a nod, “Everything in moderation.”
“No holds barred,” you reply.
“Go shopping,” he says.
“Everyday sales,” you say.
“Play,” he says.
He walks off, tucks in a dangerously, persistently loose fringe of tzitzit, picks up his pace. Disappears in the crush of late night shoppers glazed with screen glow, street lights, curb lights, and the halos of their shoes and wrists and beaming eyes. The cycle of work-shop-play is in its last shift of the day.
Cognitive dissonance required. You find your stomach to be tight, your throat full. You pass the corner.
Blood stained stencil black graffiti: Capable∴Obligated.
A city work crew is being scanned to clean the blood, erase the crime.
Your raggedy, old-school work boots carry in them revolution.
You have miles to go.
Soon, Z falls in beside you again. You pace each other.
You turn off together heading to the edge of the map. The more suburban, the fewer scanners, so far. Here, the watchers and the listeners are more likely your neighbors. But the streets get darker. You calm in a level of perceived seclusion.
“I don’t want to get rid of my yetzer hara,” Z says. “It’s too much fun.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if most people who even bothered to feel anything anymore felt that way.”
“I wonder if my answer will be the truth.”
“Oh, c’mon, man. You can tell me the truth.”
You turn up the street. A porch light turns off.
“Not that way. I mean to myself.”
“Try then. Go ahead,” says Z.
“I don’t feel that way.”
“What does your yetzer hara say?”
“What you’re saying.”
“So now I’m your yetzer hara?”
A ride hovers behind you, getting closer, says, “Walkers move. Walkers move.”
Your heads down, you move to the curb. The ride passes, vibrating with 160 bpm. Passengers all passed out.
Z asks as they pass, “What if one day you win?”
“Is there winning in a fight like this?”
“Every fight has a winner or a loser.”
“And then we fight again,” you say.
“Constantly. Yes. But what if you win? What if you conquer your yetzer hara?”
“I don’t see that happening.”
“How can a fighter have such an attitude?”
“It’s truth,” you say.
A drone flits above you. An advert for gun catalogs flashes on the street in front of Z. “Recharge” blinks white on the macadam before you.
“So, essentially, you don’t want to get rid of your yetzer hara. It’s too much work,” he says.
“But I work. The struggle is the thing.”
“Right. Failing, then, is part of your struggle.”
He nods to himself. Thumbs up the drone. It zings off after flashing a pic of you for report.
“Right. And fighting it makes me better. Stronger,” you say.
“So sinning, which is what the yetzer hara is fighting you to do, is an acceptable consequence?”
“It happens. Yes.”
“Gd forbid, but I think you’re on to something.”
“We’re all fools. Fools who fight.”
“Or not,” you say.
You stop in front of the house.
You tell him, “We’ve learned so much. We’re always trying to do better. The Rebbes exemplified this: If you’re capable, you’re obligated. And the Masters continue to teach these ways.”
Z checks his weapon.
You continue, “This is war. Internal and external. Your mission is clear. Protect the children. Protect yourself. Come back to us, to your wife, your family. Just get the information and leave the back way. You are capable. There’s no one else for this job. Creators must create.”
“Teachers must teach,” Z says.
“Fighters must fight,” you say.
“Leaders must lead,” he says.
“Moderation is mediocrity,” you say. “Dire times. Everything matters. We can’t waste our talents and skills, nor our talented and skilled. Not any longer. So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow.”
“Glazed with rain water, beside the white chickens?”
“That’s the one.”
Z says, “This is it. They will not sell our souls.”
“Gd be with you.”
You hug and separate.
Z walks up the walk.
You continue down the street.
The ride hovers there, ready and empty.
You climb in. “The kids,” you say. The ride takes off, beats blast.
Behind you, three houses obliterate in flash.
Cognitive dissonance required. Still must deliver the contents of the drive in your heel. There is revolution there. Tears for Z will have to fall in heaven.
Cover art by Revan Jinn.