after language, the novel that isn't Part 29
Written by William Kherbek on Monday the 17th of October 2011
to Watson. Watson inspects the fridge, concedes to whey shake. Implodes into
"Are you okay, man? We thought we
should let you sleep.”
"That was sleep?”
"The Turkish guys, they had a doctor
there. You were talking some strange stuff, man.”
Moment of perplexity.
"Klaus, where is he?”
I thought you said 'House Klaus', I was going to be like, 'You'd better go back
to the doctors'.”
"What's wrong with me anyway?”
"The doctor says concussion. Nothing
straining. Lots of bed.”
"And ice cream.”
"If you want it, man...”
"Finished with the paper?”
"I'm finished man. You want some
"Hey, man, you want some eggs? Hey
man, earth to Jeffreiheit...”
Lamented plan. Stroke of sun: saved
Highfill. The bullet ticked off the wall that framed him. He didn't know what
was happening then he heard the guards returning fire. He thought of Spinoza,
the night they were together at the Hacienda, his only words when he was let
into the sanctum, when he was handed the manual, when he learned of the
step-over: "Que onda...” The words came back and struck with the same anguishing
purity they had that night. In the fragile branches, in the foliage, his sight
starting to cloud with sweat, "Que onda...” Then or never. He fired again.
Highfill scrambled, a frightened mammal, the vast open plain of the exercise
space offering no protection. The General Population also panicked. Alarms and
other madness bleated. He fired again. He nicked a metal plate from the weight
machine Highfill was using for protection. He: Zeroing in. Highfill: Zeroing
out. The guards had no reliable fix on him. They fired nearby but only ticked
the leaves. He had one more shot, he surmised before they locked onto his
position and, presumably, ended him. He would make it count. Tracking
Highfill's scurrying speed he aimed.
A clear view of the exercise yard at
Plotzensee can be had from this vantage point. The belief that it is harder to
get a high-powered assault rifle in Germany than in the rest of Europe: not
unfounded, and yet, a few araks, a few backslaps, a few handshakes later than
he'd expected he was holding it. Curious form, could be an animal of some kind
if animate. He cradled it the night through. Now, the scope, for all he knows
ragged and clapped out but to him a pristine surface through which he'll sight
They hurried her into a secure
office, the Warden's sanctum. At first she had no idea what had happened then
she witched. Shooter in the yard. Crazed fuckery. The administration frantic,
feigned calm faces 'assured' her the situation was under control. "One hour at
have known better even without witchery. In it she found Highfill, his what,
his frequency? It was easy now. She found a way to pull him inside, past the
guards, past the gates. He was out of danger, a danger at least. The chaos of
Plotzensee then: frightened even her. There was nothing else to do...
When the warden came back, drained
of pigment, shirt mysteriously drenched, he explained she'd have to wait, there
had been another situation, there was something wrong with the electronics:
they couldn't keep the cell doors closed.
"Yes,” was all she said.
After Highfill, the empty
night-streets of Warschauer. The dead vines and creepers that hang down
building sides are language trees now, each leaf a category: Highfill(NP)
is(VP)gone!(AP). Highfill (NP) remains (VP) at large (AP). (X')(AP)likely armed
and extremely dangerous. (X')(AP) as well as desperate. His escape (NP) took
place (VP) in the middle of the night (PP). Highfill (NP) is believed (VP) to
have had help from within Plotzensee(V'PP). Highfill (NP) is likely(VP) to be
armed(PP). Highfill the empty category.
Fretful Ludo as Austin Powers:
Woher ist Dein Mojo?
You can almost hear the Tropicalia.
Life after Witch: Hasn't been kind.
Two weeks after Spiegel: Schneidermann and Grubenstein went in for the kill,
Ludo blood spurted. The Coup: on Go-Ahead: Defence Minister to Suddeutsch
Zeitung: Dangers of presenting an image of Germany as a nation unprepared to
meet global security challenges in the 21st Century...FAZ found some
Islamists in an apartment in Trier. Tabloids: Oh Shitted for days. Clueless
Ludo driveled to British Foreign Secretary that he'd have known what to do had
he been in charge. Schneidermann and Grubenstein pulled the plug, briefed
against him as "anonymous sources” to FAZ: "Chanzellerin has lost confidence”
etc, pretty soon: Ludo the Clown: singing Puchini. Defence Minister rushed in
after the Cabinet quake, grunted for a vote of confidence. Chanzellerin saw them off: Cabinet reshuffled.
the music stopped: Ludo without a seat. Talk of him running for Berlin Mayor
when All is Said and Done.
Primal Highfill. It was almost as if
he was someone else, the panicked scatter of the exercise yard, the terrified
faces of his fellow miscreants. Unspotted, a guy writhed on the weight bench.
Highfill picked up a falling 78kg plate and shielded his head and chest. The
bullets were for him, he knew it but from whom? He managed to find a place
along the perimeter that was safe, then he went inside. Plotzensee was quiet,
the deadend lives were speaking to each other in the absence of the men.
Highfill watched guards scrambling, watched lights flashing then the sirens
began their emotionless shrieking. He started to move in the direction of his
cell but then something seemed to stop him. Something seemed to tell him it
didn't need to be this way, as if a strange kind of holiday had descended upon
Plotzensee. If you looked at it from a certain angle it almost resembled a
carnival the noise the frantic cluelessness of it all. Highfill's head didn't
seem his own then, and so what was there to stop him from taking the staircase
to the bottom floor, from asking a guard what he should be doing, from watching
the guard's terrified face as he scrambled out into the yard, "Bleibst du hier”
was all he said. The descent of misrule. Highfill didn't obey. The door didn't
seal when he tried it, and so he walked out into the yard, into the fresh clean
air, it was hard to believe that someone had been firing at him not thirty
minutes-had it even been that long?-before. Highfill watched terrified guards
flash past him as if he were invisible, as he mounted the wall, there was no
one to shout, the watchtower was empty. He didn't even remember looking down,
he simply descended, perhaps he fell, from the wall and landed on the hard
pavement that defined freedom. He stripped off his prison shirt, tying it around
his waist like an unwanted sweater when one finds the world strangely warmer
than expected, and then he made for the trees. And then he was gone.
Prague is beautiful. Easy to get
lost, not that he minds. There's been a hiccup in the tour, label told him to
stick it out in Prague for a few days while they work out the rest of the
dates. Zoloft peregrinates, diarises.
Schwitters exhibition on at Kinsky. Figures composed of fragments. Puts Zoloft
in mind of himself: Fragments of Zoloft. Zoloft in the hostel, between the
cheap white walls, ominous stains spreading in the corners, watching
incomprehensible television: Shuffling Czech Columbo looks for a stolen truck
in the snow, 70s denim, low contrasting colours.
Zoloft seeking lunch: in some kind of shopping
mall, an upside-down horseman dangles from the ceiling. Tiredness lines his
eyes with tear-dew.
in the cafes, Zoloft with guitar in tow, so many places let him play it's
amazing. Easy terms, no soundmen, free-ish beer, just Zoloft in a corner on a
semi-comfortable chair, lyrics climb to the rafters, "Here's a song about
someone I miss...”
Nobody understands, in any language. Indie-Prague: not really
extant, still he finds his way around, tiny art galleries, tinier restaurants.
No word from the record people. It could be a while. Meets a guy called David
Swaboda one night, sparse gig outside Staromestska. Resembles Zizek,
perpetually befuddled. Says he runs a studio, it's Zoloft's for the asking.
Zoloft scribbles pseudo-address, shows it to Swaboda. Swaboda scribbles real.
Swaboda's studi eloquent
reliquary. Bygone devices, spools and razors, capstan shafts, tapes and tapes
and tapes, switches, and tube amps, keeps a computer in a corner, Zoloft never
sees it on. Swatches of coloured pedals line a steamer trunk in the corner.
Cable snakes hiss from a drawer under a processor. A blast wall of philosophy
books cancels a vestigial window. Zoloft's home.
Moog-ish, he's modish, he's moody, Swaboda, a hot house of coffee mugs line a
wall, occasionally he scores one with blistering kettle water and caffeineates.
They work from late morning to early evening. Ca. 6.30, whiskey melds with
coffee Swaboda gets chatty, forgets to press 'record', Zoloft knows it's time
to take more than five.
"This was a broadcasting station in
the Good Old Days. From here they told us how to think.”
"They wanted us to think shittily.
You know this guy?”
Swaboda reaches into the philosophy
pile, brings it down in a thunder clap.
"Whatever, I was looking for a book
by Boethius, you know him?”
Zoloft knows him (kinda... enough to
let Swaboda flow).
"He is writing at the fall of the
Roman empire and he writes 'It is a special kind of misery to have once been
happy...' I know what he means. I remember during the revolution, people were...let
me play you something.”
The blitzkrieg of tape rattling. He
finds a wooden box by the vestigial window.
Play pressed, Czech street voices
through the fuzz. Greek to Zoloft.
"I went around with a recorder when
it was clear the government would fall, when it was clear it was over, I wanted
to make a recording of it, to document it all. Some people thought I was an
agent at first, of course, it was very funny two men grabbed me and one started
punching me in the stomach, but then some more men came and 'reasoned' with
them. 'No violence, those days are over...' to think of it now is insanity, those
men, the ones who saved me they are probably running some kind of mafia people
smuggling racket now. But you listen to these voices, she's saying "...there was
evil in the world and now we have defeated it...'
They go on like this, listening to
the tapes, to the chirping of the tape being rewound when Swaboda hears
something he likes. "This is taped from television, he's saying "truth and love
have triumphed over lies and hate”, can you believe it? I mean nobody vomited...”
He laughs from time to time, pours Zoloft some whiskey.
"My God, maybe I'll make a dance
remix of it and become a millionaire...”
"Todge, it's good to hear from you.”
"I need money, Alan.”
"I mean it's really good to hear
from you, like some writers make you want to read their books, you, Todge, you
make me want to get out of bed in the morning, who else could say that about
one of his clients? I mean you're a
fucking fugitive now, Todge, a fugitive from justice. When this is all over and
done, Todge, when you're done being an international man of misery or whatever,
I'm going to arrange a couple of junkets where you can give masterclasses in
PR. I mean I get you the best lawyer in the world-that's what it says on his
website at least-anyway the best lawyer in the world and you manage to escape
from prison. I take my hat off to you, Todge, truly I do...”
"I'm on a pay-phone, Alan...”
"Course you are, Todge, course you are...”
"I need money can you--”
my phone's not bugged too, Todge, maybe you'll want to choose your words a
little more carefully. There's nothing I can do for you in that department.”
"I'll give you an address, so you
can Western Union it to me, Alan. I'm desperate...”
"I'm not listening to you, Todge.
Maybe you'd be better off talking to someone else about this, someone else who
could help you...”
"I think you know who I mean,
"And you could...you could find
out where this person lives?”
"Detectives, Todge, detectives...”
record takes shape, even sadder, even fragiler than the last. Zoloft doesn't
think of the record company anymore, Swaboda lets him sleep in the studio.
Swaboda: sprier since Zoloft.
"Before this record, basically I
just read Zmag.org all day...” Swaboda even joined in on piano the other day.
Zoloft's Prague-ish: Still shit. Can
only muster urbane American apologies. He drifts through the art shops and
coffee shops seeking a squat. Finally he finds one, outskirts by the technical
university, 'exchange of skills in lieu of rent'. Zoloft ponders: do I have
Capt. Ottobahn von Rechnung in the
futuristic swivel chair at the internet café. Blue-lit screen haunted his
eyeglasses. One hand: rubbed his russet beard. Second Hand: scribbled. One hand:
reaches for his sandwich. Second Hand: slips the paper-scrap into his trench
coat. A few minutes of absent surfing then he bolts ahead of the "Hey you come
The dark office of the steganographer.
The Captain buzzes the bell.
"Ich habe ein appointment.”
"Ah, yes, Herr Hauptman, please do
Latch release's metallic cluck. He
waddles up the staircase.
"Guten Tag, Herr Hauptman!”
Cuff-links tick into place as he rises to greet the Captain:
portly-professional. Smile: winning. Dietrich Oberst: retired kreuzwortiste
from the FAZ, now in private practice. His office: bespeaks geniality and
comfort. A cryptographer at ease. "Would you prefer a drink, Herr Hauptman, I
know you have had a long journey.”
"I would prefer several.”
"Just as you wish.”
After two brandies:
"I have the information.”
"I would have expected as much. Do
you enjoy the brandy?”
"Words cannot express brandy, Herr
"That is the correct answer.”
The Captain passes the scrap along.
"Do you think you can break it?”
"Herr Hauptman, there is no
thinking. Thinking is the great anathematiser. In my profession, one develops a
relationship with the underlying structure of the message, I work purely in the
realm of the transrational. Come back before the office closes.”