Electronic Alexandria

Jack Fobean


Electronic Alexandria
 
Honestly, the anthropocene was a mockery.
Traded off the forests in a pact with Mephistopheles.
Exchanged for paper bands, oxygen’s a lost cause
and glacial flows done rocked the oceans.
Bro, lock and load. Nobody knows how to keep going.
Man, I wish I could travel back before this shit unraveled and
find a front-row seat to watch the judge’s gavel crack,
crying for a fragile grasp on the system that left him stacked
before the cataclysm happened.
 
And damn, it got bad fast.
I couldn’t place the day the whole game started to get played sideways.
Now people travel in packs, weaving their wasteland whips through mile-high pile-ups
of strewn trash and family minivans long since abandoned.
Living ain’t easy when every one of the freaks you meet lost their IP,
cause the IT nerds got dropped first, which rended our connections,
and rendered them inert alongside the jobs of shelf-stockers and office clerks.
 
But hey, it’s not all bad. Can you imagine my face the day
the college administration’s claim to $50,000 in my name dissipated—
when the dollar bill deflated to nothing,
and zombies ate the faces of every collection agent at Federal Student Aid?
Turns out it’s like breaking chains when the nation-state gives into dust and rubble.
But we’re all dumbstruck. An English undergraduate degree don’t mean much
when on the daily we trade in blood and muscle.
Hustle up.
 
So imagine my mind, my life
when the whole gang made the switch from bitcoins and paper cash
to bartering over shotty shells and bottle caps.
I’m trying to get on top of this whole “being a scop in the apocalypse”,
but I always end up indebted
to every settlement that gives me bread so that I may ride on
and keep spreading my message.
 
But I came upon the End flummoxed.
Everyone left had nothing but a half-empty glass,
some tragic past, and a few chance run-ins with bandits in the Badlands.
Where we play to get paid, it’s the gun game that matters,
but those six-shooter mavericks do passively gather in the frontier’s last taverns
to pass red sunrises and sunsets over pints of pale ale trading purgatorius parables.
Comparing stories in stale air till dead can be dreadful and hellish, but better yet,
the near-death restless men with busted bones and leathery flesh may on occasion
be graced with the presence of a collapsed charlatan traveler like me—
slumbering deep—
posted up in the front seat of an idling red ‘vette
turned swiss cheese by 3D-printed SMGs, and kicking up swathes of trailing dust
while the center console plays lost remnant records of electronica.
 
When I’m revived from my desolate state,
awakened from desiccation by the barman’s bottom-shelf whiskey,
I offered the residents of Bedlam an explanation. I said,
“Denizens of this fine Frontier’s End, I regret
that I’ve nothing to trade in exchange for saving me from grizzled fate,
but as gracious thanks, let me offer you a tale of the place from whence I came.
 
“Back before the bombs dropped, shit popped off, and we lived on after the Jackpot.
Man sought solace from lost cannibal gods—Moloch, DOW JONES, Amazon—
By dropping shots and throwing the VR 3D glasses on.
Every day we awakened to the matrix, a digital scene
where DJs, not unlike the saloon’s own piano-man, tapped keys to emit synthetic beats.
 
“They called it: Electronic Alexandria.
Pixelated graphics abstracted some Akashic Record archive
of hatemail, shitposts, and mainlined dark web memes that went mainstream.
A fragile fiberglass castle where we wasted days calling each other casuals,
and slinging Russian swears we didn’t understand instead of frags
thrown blindly across the globe in five-on-fives,
while gray hat hackers ride on high through backdoors to dox and DDOS the FBI.
 
“But that sacred palace didn’t last. It shattered.
False idols did rise. Monetized online. Like WMDs, proselytizing puppeted AIs
ate away at every anonymous mask till it cracked and collapsed
under the weight of watching eyes, leaving behind every dead
forum and IRC. The Wired got warped to warzones and the power cable snapped.
That was it.
 
“The last frontier gives in.
And it’s back to the wastelands and radioactive sands that shape twisters in the wind.
And back to Bedlam’s last tavern
where some last Alexandrians do travel.
Pirate prophets who carry not a strap on their hip but a cracked-screen brick
of a hard drive disk, filled to the brim with encoded masses of data:
stolen books and downloaded music.
Hieroglyphic fragments of a past, and its long lost cause—
a Yggdrasilic library carrying the weight of all knowledge. Gone.”
 
With that said, I tipped the barman with my 64 gigabytes lost on an inert black box,
and vanished fast, left the denizens of Frontier’s End satiated. They were left with
nothing but the story visions of a Sage of Information, a last digital archivist
traveling the dunes in his degraded whip days before the chasing bandits came after him.
A sliver of hope sparked that this broken landscape
may once again accelerate into the Cyberscape,
and bring back a dead Alexandrian Information Age.

______________

Jack Fobean is a recent graduate with a B.A. in English and International Studies from Wittenberg University. He lives and works in Ohio while self-publishing creative essays revolving around topics such as emerging technology, international development, and exploration at codexhologram.wordpress.com.

Author’s Comments: “Electronic Alexandria” takes a bit more of a conventional linear narrative direction, as it was meant to be a tale about an apocalypse in which the narrator takes on the role of a futuristic tavern bard telling stories about the past while on the run…. you may also pick up on a number of literary references—a number specifically alluding to William Gibson’s Sprawl and Jackpot trilogies—but I tried to leave them as rather vague Easter eggs so as to keep the poems as distinct products on their own.

Editor’s Notes: William Gibson is credited with having coined the term
“cyberspace” and having envisioned both the Internet and virtual reality before either
existed.

Post-Apocalypse art by Belgian artist, Jonas De Ro, captures a desperate loneliness,
a hopeless survival in his artworld called Beyond.(This is Jack’s first publication in
creative writing!

Congratulations and welcome into this community of poets and writers.)

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