Big Echo

Critical SF

Postscript to Mauser

by Natalia Theodoridou

"There is no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons." Gilles Deleuze

"I've never died before," he tries to communicate to me. "I have never died before, is it hard? Is it cold is it jagged is it like turning to stone?"

It's like riding a wave of electrons, I want to tell this kid, but I can't, because I'm not allowed to talk to him. I'm set on mute and yet I want to tell him at full volume--cables screaming, neurons live with electricity--in Berlin, there's a Jewish museum that has spaces called memory voids. They're polygonal enclosures with high walls and cracks of light where all you can hear is the distant roar of a city seeping through concrete. That's what dying is like.

I find myself eager to reassure him, when that's not my role. Friendship can be neither executioner nor revolutionary. Friendship is not what I am here to be, and yet I want to say:

Dying is like abandoning one network of enclosures and restrictions for another. Don't worry, kid. You've done it many times before. Remember? First, you were with your family. "Love your father," we used to say back then. "Love your father like you're supposed to."

Then, you were at school. "Forget your family. This is where you'll live now," we told you. "Get used to it."

Then, the barracks. "School's out, boy," we said. "This is what must be done."

And then we put you to work in the factory. When I first saw you there, I thought you were already a convict. (A person in the background feeds me the subtitles: "J'ai cru voir un prisonnier, oui, oui c'est vrai.") ‡

But this here is the real prison. In you I see a real convict now, in the real isolation of your skull.

"Punished for what deviance?" you keep asking, but I'm not allowed to say.

Am I a friend? A comrade?

"At least tell me what it's going to be like," he pleads voicelessly behind unseeing eyes. His unspeaking mouth (does he even remember how to use it any more--do I?), his heaving, frantic chest. We're both cut off from the humanet until his last act, and mine, and everyone's.

And I want to say to him:

It's like a weight pushing down on your clavicles. (Our clavicles are little keys to the secrets of the universe.) Every user is going to experience your death today, boy. Broadcast across the global neurome, your death will translate you into a body, and your sudden bodiness will infect every sur-face, every spine, every breath. And if we cease to exist as machines, who knows what else we might be able to become?

It's already starting--your hair cables, your veins filled with height that drowns us and saves us and everything in between. I can feel your trembling, and all I want to tell you is this:

This play doesn't need you, boy, it only needs your death.

"Should I be scared?" he asks me. And then, he whispers: "I am scared."

I try to form the words with my actual mouth (this is still allowed, isn't it? Nobody forbade it, we just gave it up on our own):

There is no need for fear or hope; only for new weapons, I quote, or at least I think I do.

The words come out warped and crooked, like the whimpers of a philosophizing dog.

He doesn't say anything else after that.

† Deleuze, G. 1992. "Postscript on the Societies of Control." October 59: 3–7.

‡ Translation: "I thought I was seeing a prisoner, yes, yes it's true." Paraphrase from Roberto Rossellini's Europe '51 as quoted by Gilles Deleuze (1992: 3).

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