A genie has appeared that will cast a spell making you the most talented person in the world in any field of your choosing. You could be the greatest artist, the greatest fighter, the greatest musician, the greatest anything at all; however, it comes at a cost. No one will ever know about your talent.
Any work you create will be anonymous. No matter what you do, you will not receive recognition for it.
In the technological age we live in, encoded information comes in many forms. Many companies (even the ones running this very website) use encryption to protect the information of their users and the structure of the website itself. The military has a history of using encoded messages so that valuable information isn't revealed to those not intended to see it. Children in middle school create secret codes in notes to pass to their friends. Encryption is everywhere.
Even the most secure encryption, however, has a flaw, just as the most well-equipped fortress contains a flaw: they are simple to find and they obviously contain something valuable. If someone sees an encoded message, it looks exactly that--a mess of characters or symbols, and, given enough time, can be decoded.
Steganography is different. Where encryption relies on a sort of "brute-force" defense, steganography instead relies on a theory of "you can't fight what you never knew existed." Information hidden by steganography could appear as anything, and those not intended to receive the message would never take notice. It could be printed on a box of cereal. It could be in the architecture of a building. It could be in the pixels or dimensions of a digital image of any conceivable type. It could be every third letter of every fifth word in a speech given decades ago. It could be this very blog post.
(Taken from The Books Of Terror And Longing, the Poetic Translations,
Book 2, Part III, translated by William Shelley, All Stars Aground
When they came to put their hands upon him
even then, they were slow
their movements strange and angled
as if they were guilty, and felt it,
though they professed to be angered and quick to dismiss
their movements betrayed their belief and all their fears were revealed.
There are undeniable truths in the faces of those
who would destroy you and everything you know and are
not a simple death
but a death that rings out, rings out
that echoes everywhere in the world until the sound is exterminated
a death to fully end you
to erase you
This was the death they wanted for him
This was the death and the honor they gave him.
That morning was a cold one. We all rubbed our arms for warmth, gath-
ered to watch in the frost. There was almost never frost, so rare, and then
there we were, on that day, and the frost came, the most perfect of signs, the
most subtle of acknowledgments.
Because we knew this was It.
We are a not a religion of resurrections, Antiochus said.
We are not believers in second chances.
The square was an empty place.
There were no distractions.
The Romans read the proclamation,
but we barely heard it,
those words meant less than nothing and it was if they were speaking in a
and didn’t we already feel so separate
didn’t we already feel so different and apart?
Our tongue was the foreign tongue
and we had lost all hope of understanding
now and forever
They tied his arms with force,
jerking the ropes back with malice and a snapping sound
I’m sure they wanted to break his arms.
Bu Antiochus never said a thing never begged or pleaded
never opened his eyes a single inch.
His face had the look of someone in the most intense
of happinesses, the strongest of ecstasies
He was very happy
How like Christ!
We wanted a last sermon
we wanted to be taught one final thing
because it had not been enough
we were not better beings, not better people
we had not seen what he had seen and felt less for it
we wanted a final word
we wanted him to say anything, anything to us, anything meant for us
we didn’t want it to be over with everything left,
we didn’t say what we had wanted to say
but Antiochus said nothing
not even when his chest was on fire, and skin peeling,
because he had told us everything
shown us everything
and there was nothing special about what he saw
because don’t all of us see it?
every day, every year
all of us see it
all the time
and we don’t need to know anything special about it
we don’t need to learn anything new about it
because we already know
all of it
This was all there was
And when they put torch to tinder, I was smiling
the fire started with an aching swiftness
it didn’t hesitate for even a moment
it just went about
I was so proud, then
when the fire ate away his skin and melted his bones
but they say the smoke filled his lungs,
and he was dead long before that
but I can only laugh
because they don’t know the half of it
Many of us were crying,
but they were fools, and hadn’t understood a single thing
that had happened.
It is not sadness that those people feel
it is desperation
it is fear and withering cold
that is the smoke that rings you
that is the fog that hides you, and that you curl around your shoulders like a blanket in the night-time
it is the air you breathe and you cannot move away from it
because there is no away from it
no away at all
God knew this!
He knew this and he put you here
he created and he destroys
creates the one-things that exist
and destroys the things that never did
undoes those that might have been but never were
holds their heads under the water
his reasons always uncertain
but his certainty everywhere,
slowly compressing all space until our legs and face and chest
and knees and hands are broken and touching and folded
All things that are made are thus limited
they are only what they are
and no more
nothing can be built or born
only dumbly copied
But now I remember a story he told us
about this very thing
in the days before the holiest-murdered-one
before there was a history to think of
before there was a past or present
all the people were of god, and he of them
and god spoke to every man and woman
and he answered them in their prayers
(there was a time when god answered prayers!
when we didn’t have to search for him and think of reasons
to explain away his absence!)
and spoke to them in their dreams
and there was nothing but his will, every action and reaction
were his and his alone
each breath of wind and mote of dust
there was only god in the world.
and each man was a piece of this
with no existence in and of themselves, but
only as a part of the god-will
fragments of the greatest whole
And into this world was born a single man
with a sense of self
a feeling of otherness
the first modern man
not the same, somehow apart from everything and everyone
like a man standing in front of a painting
and everywhere he carried this feeling in him
always in his gut, pressing in on his forehead
he was bitter in happiness
and angered at peace for it was never of him, and he was never of it
everything was separate
and he couldn’t feel anything, and his soul was untouched
because it did not
and to no part of the spirit did he owe any allegiance
he was all stomach and heart and gut
his eyes saw only earth and sky and shit and vomit
things as they were, and it made him doomed and ecstatic
miserable and bitter and cunning and euphoric
and he was the first human, the only human
and some others called him Satan, but that could not have been his name
because he had not even that much angel in him.
We all bear his name today, our human race,
because he was the first,
and we are all his brothers and children and wives
we are his only family
because those who bore him failed him
as only your family can fail you
but now we are his family
his family, his family,
and so it was that it was he who convinced them
and so it was us who convinced them
you and I
to build a set of stairs
stairs unto the highest point
where the sky and stars meet in the darkest of their upper spheres
the deep black shore of the sky’s ocean
And it was he who was the first Hunter
the first to kill for food, the first to feel the need
the need to seek, to find and track and kill
to end things to begin things
was this not just like God?
Just what God would have done, and had done?
This was how beginnings and endings entered the world
no longer incorporeal things, left up to chance
but now made physical, with arms and legs and limbs of uncaring econ-
Through arrow head and sharpened stone
through a gap in the flesh where time and nothingness
and death and ending fell out and splashed their redness everywhere
blood pouring into the river
where he washed their skins and cleaned his hands and face
and washed the smell of it right off of himself.
Blood flowed there and made it’s way into the salt blue ocean waves and
and fish would drink that blood,
gathered up in schools and drunk with the headiness of lifetimes on land,
diffused with salt and saline, so light now, so small, that none could taste
it’s coppery stinging, but all were drinking,
all were eating,
all had blood inside them which was not their blood ,had stolen the blood of another,
bloody and not wholly themselves any longer and never would be again,
now part something-else,
blood brothers they would never see and that were already dead.
But no one cared, and no one complained.
In fact, they felt better, they felt full.
Men and women are creatures of appetites,
and they traded their love for a full belly
very, very long ago.
And they felt filled with it, and alive, both dead and alive,
and in the nights they whispered,
laying close in the frost and the dark,
pressing into one another to feel the beating heart
of another person, someone outside themselves
as living proof, living proof
they were not the last one, they were not the very last one
because when dark is everywhere all of our confidences are forgotten
and man is only a child again, without stick or blade or bludgeon
and the world is at it once was, wholly a place of the animals
where all churches are built to honor the tooth-and-claw
and all of human intelligence is worth exactly nothing
a place of pounding hearts and desperate running and crashing through
an unknowable chaos of wilderness
where beasts chant out into the frozen night-times
“who will kill, and who will eat, and who will die”
a perfect, even chorus
not a note out of place.
In those nights, the people whispered
“The Hunter does us all a great service
and we have done so much to deserve it
with axe and arrow, fire and stone,
he opens up the world for us
has fed us well
so brave and strong, cunning, wise
the best of all of us
because he dreams of how it shall be
and so it becomes;
he sees a better life”.
And they respected him
the respect we save for violent men
who have always been our leaders, and always will be
those we condemn when they act
exactly as we’ve always wished we could act
those who live with their hearts in their mouths and hands
the men we worship
when what we really worship is death
and those who can bring it to us
because we long for it.
We long for it.
And this was how he convinced them
to bend their backs
and angle their knees
to put hands on earth and arches in their necks muscles tensed, skin damp and sweating
pushing weight onto weight, holding themselves up
to make a solid height and a stable base
as good as stone, and as strong
he used their trust, they gave him faith
freely, freely they had traded
and he shook his bow, and flashed his eyes
he told them of the life they gained, his to give
the only separate one, the only different one
who stood apart and felt nothing of life and nothing for it
and all those men, all those women
gave of their bodies everything there was
every inch and every sinew
and made themselves just things
not people but steps
not women but steps
not men but steps
steps for his feet, every human back
every human neck
but still, it wasn’t enough
we must go further, the hunter said
I hunt the darkest game, he cowers in the shadows of the black-blue sky
and still I feel this gap in me
the space between the world and my soul
a nothing-space, I feel it there -
but there were no more men, and no more women,
no more backs and no more necks,
so the Hunter asked the animals.
Those he’d eaten, he asked their bones
he asked dead mothers, he asked dead sons
asked the ones hidden in the stones, in crawl-spaces and burrows
in the dark holes of the trees
in their leaves and in the water
and he showed them his bow, and his eyes flashed,
and they alone knew,
all of them knew
they knew, they knew, they knew
they had always been separate
they had always had gaps, they had always been gaps
had always had spaces where hearts could have been
because God made them first, but had not made them best
had kept them in shadows and forests and fields
had let them be hunted, always afraid
afraid of being killed, afraid of being eaten
while they themselves killed, and ate
God had let it happen
had made it happen
and it kept happening, every day,
and would keep happening, forever
yes, they knew
the animals know everything
and all in their thousands
they bared their teeth and they bowed their heads
every plant, every animal
added weight, added height
and all the while they laughed secret laughs.
all taking place, all now a part
all act the part, all as one, all without selves
lost in the whole, that massive stair
now tall enough, he shouted, raised above the clouds
to where the air grew thin, to where the light blinked out
up higher than this, to the highest point revealed
by any time,
the highest of all.
And that man placed his foot
square onto the smalls of their backs
square onto the napes of their necks
square onto their eyes and their mouths
he took their stairs two at a time
he was not tired
he was happy, so happy
this was it
And at the very top,
where he was alone, but not alone
he pulled back his string
and he tightened his bow
and said nothing at all
and held it, a moment, and then
let everything go
and there were arrowheads
stuck fast into the throat of God.
And God fell, limp and dead, straight into the Earth
with every bone broken
and that arrow was driven straight out of the back God’s neck by the solid
and silhouetted against the sunlight like the only tree standing in a burned out wood
Like a hunted animal, dead on the ground
God bled out slow until his heart stopped.
Like a stuck pig.
Like a dog on a spit.
And the hand that steered the ship
the plow that broke the plains
broke into a thousand jagged pieces.
And it took only minutes
for those people to come down
and, without a thought,
they began eating,
with their bare hands they ripped apart anything they could find
and ate until they were too full to move.
We are at that Desperate Banquet right now.
If you listen you can hear them chewing.