When Alice climbed through the looking glass, who could have imagined what she would discover on the other side—a world so utterly different to our own and yet, necessarily, defined by our own concepts, for strangeness cannot exist without normality.
Beyond the glass, Alice discovered a world where the seemingly immutable laws of reality could be bent and reshaped. The such a place the laws of physics, time and space, become as playthings; illusory and changeable. And this journey into a world beyond limitations is only made possible through the looking glass itself, which serves as a lens through which we may glimpse these other worlds.
Reflective surfaces have long been objects of wonderment and strange fascination. Even a puddle of water on the prehistoric steppes must have been influential in the human development of self-hood, as the primitive human looked simultaneously down at the ground and back up at himself, clouds gathering like thought bubbles around his head.
And to think—the undead, already lost to this world—are rumoured to have no reflection at all.
In today’s world, the magical looking glass is no longer something that exists only in stories. No longer must we hope to find a still pool of water in order to see ourselves. You do not need to go to the bathroom, or even keep a compact mirror in your handbag. Because we all carry one with us: each of us possesses a looking glass no less magical than the one that Alice climbed through.
In common with Carroll’s absurdist fantasy, our looking glasses not only reflect the world back at us, but become portals through which we can view and shape reality according to our own whims and desires. They reflect reality; but only in as much as we want them to.
Our instagrammed faces, distinct from our real faces, become something that we can control. And as such, these fictions become something we cling to, perhaps even addicted to, as we increasingly seek to shape reality in accordance with our desires.
Those images stored on a server far away—are not us. They possess none of the physicality of a real person. They are mere reflections, trapped in time, possessing not even the material reality of a photo album. The selfie is unreal and yet, increasingly defining of humanity.
Increasingly: reality is defined by unreality.
Everything is now recorded: not only a child’s first steps, but every step. Reality is transforming into something else, it is splitting into a sort of dual-reality: that which is lived and that which is digital and they are becoming ever harder to tell apart.
And yet, no matter how high definition our displays become, no matter how much data we are able to store and retain and recall at an instant—the digital mirror, these looking glasses into which we all spend so many hours wistfully gazing is not real life. It is an illusory jumble of machine-code and dead pixels; true dead pixels, forever devoid of life, because a pixel is never truly alive in the first place.
The looking glass is evolving. Already it has moved from our desks into our pockets and—much sooner than we think—it will be wrapped around our faces. Before we even allow ourselves to consider the implications everything we see we be a digital reflection of the actual reality that exists beyond the lens of unreality.
This strange new technology will bring strange new possibilities. Our world, previously constrained by the laws of physics, is being replicated. And concepts previously believed to paradoxical, chaotic or unpredictable to meaningfully explore will suddenly become plausible, or even likely.
We may not be able to rewind the real world, but the digital chronology is different entirely. If you sleep through an entire meeting or lecture, you could simply watch it back later. Or remind yourself what somebody said to you a mere moment ago when you weren’t actually paying attention.
As we increasingly dwell in this changeable reality we will cease to be living in the present and as a result, reality itself will slip away from us. We will have become time travellers.
Beyond the lens of the future, reality will become something else. And eagerly we will rush to this place in order to escape the many failings of the real world into a reflection of reality that will allow us unprecedented control over our own experiences.
We will become detached from the concepts of time and space that have so long tethered us to this material world. And humanity will truly emerge us gods—each of us dwelling at the centre of our own personal universe, with little cause for concern over what transpires beyond it.
“Oh what fun it’ll be, when they see me through the glass in here, and can’t get at me!”
— Lewis Carroll, “Through the Looking Glass”
But what will become of the world we leave behind?
This is a story that by most educated estimations could rightly be referred to as a “fairy-tale”, which is to say that it contains all manner of strange and unlikely situations, most singularly guided by those inviolable laws of magic and witchcraftery that were set out long ago by the forest-folk and the spirits-in-the-trees and the eyes-in-the-night and the eyes-in-the-sky and the darkness-beneath our beds—or, perchance, lurking within our minds—like the tiny man we call homunculus who steers our emotions with a pair of minuscule, steadfast hands on that spinning wheel of cognition that turns this-way-and-that as we surge through a churning, obsidian sea.
This is a story that is rendered in layers of muddling reason, just as our vital organs are wrapped in bone-cage and muscle and skin and perfume; swaddled in cotton and wool; bundled up in front of a fire that whispers flickering premonitions of enlightenment into our ears. And like the cabin surrounded by pine trees and the tempest that howls beyond the wooden door—wolves or wind or both—we will tremble atop these foundations and we will cling to these words ever more tightly such as we do with the blanket that keeps us warm.
But the blanket, and these words, become threadbare with time and eventually neither will suffice at keeping the cold away. The fire burns low, crackling and cackling. The light becomes ash and charred remains. There’s a tapping at the window, an insistent tap-tap-tap that could be sleet or pine-needles.
It could be—but it’s not.
Because this is a story that could rightly be referred to as a “fairy-tale” and that tapping you can hear..?
Is a witch.
I crack open a can of Coca-Cola and step onto the balcony. The sun blazes down on the rooftops of the houses in the valley, reflecting off of TV antenna and solar panels. Old trees line the streets but the sunlight punctures through the branches, seeking out the shadows and driving them back. There is something unapologetic about a summer morning.
I am like the sunlight. I blaze. I am defiant. My body is strong and lean and tanned. I am marked by the sun and vampires don’t like that. But then… those undead fucks don’t like much of anything.
I drink the can quickly, I guzzle it. We all have our vices. At first I needed the caffeine to keep me awake, but now it’s just a habit. The tiny people mulling about in the valley below remind me that ignorance is bliss. But some of them know. Some of them have watched the faces of their loved ones transformed by an illness that we still don’t understand. An illness that turns people into monsters.
And it’s spreading.
I blame TV. I blame movies. I’d blame books if anybody actually bothered reading them. They glamorised the thing. They made everyone wanna be a fuckin’ vampire.
A lot of people believe the illusion. They think that the undead lifestyle is some sort of classy soft-focus porno. They don’t realise until it’s too late that vampirism is a sickness. A disease. It’s like when an apple turns rotten at the core. The body keeps on living, but the rot is inside of them. It eats away at what it is to be human. It strips them of their dignity, of their self-respect, of any pretence that they might have once had of being a ‘good person’.
I’m not convinced that anyone is a good person. Not really. But no matter how bad you are, vampires are worse. Vampires are hungry. Vampires are desperate. And vampires will do whatever they can to not only survive—but to propagate. That’s why it keeps spreading. That’s how these things started to get out of control.
I don’t know who brought the illness here. I don’t know who Patient-X was. The only thing I can do is keep killing them. But for every one I kill there seems to be a dozen more. I’m swimming in a losing battle. I’m fighting in a flood of blood.
The Coca-Cola is finished and I crumple the can. A wasp swings by, defying gravity, silent stinger poised. I should get some rest, but I’d prefer to stay here in the sun. Last night was bad. Really, really bad. Really, really… messy.
But there’s nothing I can do about that now. I can only keep hunting them down and killing them, I guess. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve put wood through. Which makes me something like a serial killer, I guess.
I told you, I don’t believe anyone is a good person.
I fly into space like a shooting star,
Moving at the speed of light,
In a shiny red car,
And out-of-space looms a man with a hat and a cane,
He speaks to me calmly without revealing his name:
So you’re travelling at the speed of light in a shiny red car,
Even then I’m afraid you won’t get very far,
For space is a lot bigger than we first thought, you see?
And it’s an even greater distance between the stars and ME.
How are you keeping up?
How are you even here?
I thought at the speed of light there’d be nobody near?
And he smiles,
Though his smile seems more of a leer,
And his motivations seem suddenly even less clear.
That which we call Depression and label a mere illness is far more than that.
Depression is the gaping pit at the black heart of our galaxy. And even from this vast distance, some can feel its cosmic drag on them towards endless, inexplicable oblivion.
Yet, even in the face of total annihilation, whether by chance or godlike machination, the very fact that we exist and can stand against the darkness in a brazen show of defiance is important.
We can create: art, life, dinner. Things that are are no less beautiful than unseen rainbows, the glittering light of long-dead stars, a taste, a smell, a breath. Similarly, these things are no less futile.
Importantly, however, futility does not negate beauty.
In fact: the case may be that it is the unlikely coupling of those two concepts that gives possibility to love, hope, happiness and the desire to rise each day to see the sun, which–even in all its radioactive glory, must face the same existential conundrum as us.
Whether or not the sun knows that we exist, we rely on it for sustenance. So too are we bound up in this cosmic causal web with ourselves at the centre. It is inevitable, there is no other valid point of view.
We are not separate from the universe: we’re part of it. We’re integral.
You are integral.
The content pages have been updated.
Politically Inflammatory, A small portion, Stars, Where the Self Lives, Familiar Place I’ve Never Been, Nicholas Stared into the Void, Prymad, The Storm, Drawing of a Photograph of a Man Inside a Star, Volcano
episode 2, Stained Glass, They Will Never Know, The Sound of an Alien Sea, meandering wastes – first recursion – second recursion – recursions three through five, I am a Drawing, She Believes in Magic