‘I think ill go w/ the boneless’
Brendan let out his characteristic half-ironically forced mirthful/spoiled child smile. ben was livid. Buffalo wild wings offers its wings in two forms: boneless and ‘normal’(?), the ‘boneless wings’ being basically nuggs. Ben thought the normal wings were clearly the correct choice, chicken is pretty gross in general, what with being selectively bred to be unable to walk/experience lifelong inflammatory rotator cuff agony via outsized pectoral hypertrophy, processed in rural Mississippi by a 5’1 honduran man of deep mayan peasant extraction, a mammalian maize weevil with repetitive stress injuries, but nuggs are so obviously un-’food’ like, almost deliberately nostalgic in their artificiality, their very ‘extrudedness’ harkening back to a golden age of junkfood when ‘better living through plastics’ wasnt yet a cliched dystop-ism. Ben thought about saying something like that to his friend but instead he decided to call him a fucking faggot.
Brendan’s aforementioned smile morphed into an exaggerated grimace, losing none of its strained smugness. The fine lines on his forehead became more obvious. Brendan was severely balding – nw3 with definite crown thinning. A few grey hairs sprouted conspicuously from his unkempt ‘side burns’ (if you could call them that). Nasiolabal folds were becoming noticeable in even flattering lighting, and his undereyes were baggy and weathered. Norwoodcel, facecel, telomereshorteningcel – he was 23 years old. The rest of his friends laughed. A few of them also called brendan a faggot. Another couple defended the boneless wings.
They started ‘reminiscing’ about paul, maybe. Maybe reminiscing wasnt the right word. It was hard to talk about him in a way befitting of some kind of ‘celebration of his life’, when the most memorable, ‘meme’-y, and hilarious stories all seemed inextricably linked to the behavioral patterns and personality traits that led to his ‘untimely demise’. Like the time he had to drop out after his first semester – he missed a final, emailed the professor asking when he could make it up, when the professor incredulously told him that no, you cant just make it up, paul emailed the professor and told him to ‘smoke some weed’, ‘get laid’, and ‘stop being such a fucking faggot’. Or a few months later, after dropping out, when he downed 3 bottles of cough syrup and ended up in the hospital for a week. Or when a girl he was ‘dating’ for a few weeks dumped him for ben’s other friend ________ and he fell into an abject depression and became nocturnal, started playing WoW for 10 hours at a time, it was extra sad because almost all of them had stopped playing it by this point, his parents started feeding him via a tray slid under his door every evening, eventually he stopped going to school and they sent him to a military-style disciplinary/rehab facility in _____, he came back a few months later ripped and with a bunch of good stories but also bearing a heavy load of bipolar meds, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. or the time in middle school when he saved up a shit for 5 days and destroyed the toilet of the pizza place they would always go to after school, they ended up calling the cops on him, the cop just laughed, although ben and all his friends were banned for life. That was funny, the memory made ben smile. He didnt meet people who had done things like that anymore, ever since he had been Chosen and had absconded to the ‘cognitive elite’. They told the stories anyway, and they laughed, because what else could they do, and also because they were assholes.
they ‘chowed down’ on their wings. ben particularly liked the parmesan garlic ones. bww actually had pretty good food. the branding and customer base were absolutely disgusting, contemptible, emblematic of the deep gluttonous empty vicariousness of the ‘kwan way of life, etc. etc. they actually had started going there as a joke when people were back in town from school, but it became a weird sort of ‘tradition’, actually now that ben thought of it a lot of their traditions started that way. ben thought that should make him feel ‘bad’, or something, but it didnt, it was actually just kind of funny, but maybe that itself was just a program for survival. they got really bloated and sluggish and stopped talking as much, they joked about the wings hangover via extreme sodium intake replicating alcohol dehydration, how disgusting it would be to go on a tinder date here and take the girl home only for both of you to be so bloated that you couldnt actually fuck, and then they went home. It rained while they were inside; the fog in the parking lot was gently illuminated with peeking bigbox neon and the clinical harshness of overhead sodium-vapor bulbs.
ben decided it would be easier to spend the night at his moms. as he walked up to his front door, he noticed a bare eyeball staring at him on the walk, black, pristine, radiant. nearby were a few chunks of shimmering, oozing nervous tissue. getting closer, he noticed a disembodied torso, missing both arms and legs, with a gash that must have been used for liver extraction, cats are obligate carnivores and need preformed vitamin a/retinol, they cant convert carotenoids into retinol like omnivores or vegetarians can. his cat meowed, he picked her up and hugged her, she smelled of chipped wood and dander. he went inside and ate an entire block of cheese. paul had been found in his old house after 3 days. his mom lived with a new dude, started getting worried, had to climb through a window.
ben laid down, laptop on chest, in his childhood bedroom. his dresser was adorned with a collection of stickers he had collected from various elementary school events and dentist visits. he entered into the address bar: battle.net. they made resubbing pretty easy, just a few clicks and a short download wait. pretty soon, there he was: orgrimmar. it had been 7 years since he had last logged in. he took the portal to northrend.
what was he expecting. the continent was empty, of course, stocked with unneeded npcs ready to service the diverted libidos of a generation and a ½ of autists. it wasnt ‘sad’ though, a dead game is some kind of exorcised corpse, mummified and contained. the evident death of this strange attractor of the damned (or an iteration of it, he supposed) caused ben no sadness, and only a very queasy/shameful sense of nostalgia. he thought of his friends, he tried to think of paul but could only visualize the rapidly decollagenizing nasiolabal area of brendan calcifying into grotesque tectonic rifts. this faded, though, maybe he was just ‘too drunk’ to feel ‘nostalgia’. he got on his flying mount and aimlessly flew around for a half hour or so, then he passed out.
in the morning they arranged carpooling. brendan picked ben up. they talked about overwatch a bit in the car, but not much else. ben was on his phone a lot, suffusing himself in the warm bath of the voices., it calmed him before stuff like this. really he wasnt worried but you never know if something weird is gonna happen at these. actually he did know, hed been to a few of these kinda things already, they all went without incident. this was #9 so far from his high school, that he knew of, it was possible/likely there were some more. ‘what went wrong?’
you could think of a million reasons. atomization, pharmaceuticalization, globalization, latin americanization, androgynization, hypernormalization, w/e. You saw it everywhere in the news now, ‘the white death’ they called it. the city was in an odd state. Its renewal was constantly touted, a national success story. the biggest self-driving car research facility on the continent, one of the world’s foremost institutions for ai research, the ace hotel, a concomitant restaurant scene for the city’s new elite to indulge in the favored pleasures of aged flesh. like a neutron star, this white hot center sustains itself through ever more exotic and desperate reactions while the further environs of economic heat’s former embrace cool and fray; ketotic hallucinations of linear algebra and optimized silicon diligently erupt just a few miles from the largest opioid death cluster in any major american metropolitan area. a witch’s encyclopedia of -aldehydes and -amides course beneath your feet, passively diffuse through your pores when you bathe: thirsty for fuel, we have taken to washing the ground of its remaining, hidden hydrocarbons. 30 minutes away in any direction lies a sea of stubborn trump signs amidst a pulsating, sprawling network of fracking wells and their logistical accoutrements. the wild creeps in; on summer nights the cicadas are a little louder than they used to be, while mangy coyote-wolf hybrids grow ever-bolder in their pursuit of trash-sustenance, lurking near the dumpsters behind emptied out strip malls. the contrails from commercial airliners glide across the sky a bit more lazily – after all, the planes dont fly as fast as they used to. naphtha kerosene is too expensive now.
In the 70s, the major cities of greater yankeedom emitted apocalyptic visions by way of petty violence and deindustrialization; simultaneously and in response, the white middle class and more affluent retreated to the suburbs of these cities or to the terminal fantasy sprawl of the sunbelt. But now, the situation is somehow reversed: grief and confusion exude from the abandoned artifices of the suburban midwest even as the ascendant managerial elite remakes nyc, sf, dc, etc. in their image – pittsburgh is only unique insofar as these two tendencies coexist so proximately and (hence) uneasily. people feel they can’t escape this, they sense that only one of these strains can be ‘real’, that one of these immanancies will devour the other one alive. Ben’s friends semi-secretly agonized within this vision. There is a present of displaced boredom and strategic sexual warfare; there is a future of redundancy or entropic catastrophe.
ben had once thought/read(?) that millions of people dont make mistakes, they are ‘victims of history’. as much residual affection and even love he had for his friends he had to admit thats not rly how it presented. paul, for instance, was a fucking idiot, as we have already seen. Ben thought what happened to him was more a ‘failure of conscientiousness’. Conscientiousness (C) is genetically determined with h^2 =.44, and ben had conjectured that, as a complex behavioral adaptation, it was particularly sensitive to genetic load, like IQ, since such a high percentage of the human genome was expressed in the brain. Richard Lynn had actually devoted several chapters specifically to C in his seminal/infamous Dysgenics. Somehow this faculty seemed to be malfunctioning in so many of ben’s friends, maybe it wasn’t as ‘necessary’ for prior generations, maybe they were just afflicted with deleterious mutations in unfortunate loci, decline in childhood mortality preventing earlier culling. paul’s lack of C had not only doomed him to a life marred by retarded decisions, it had explicitly compromised his ability to emotionally handle the consequences of these decisions, as c is involved in the regulation of suppression/management of negative emotions. so like, maybe thats why he so quickly devolved into a pathetic neet faggot when that girl broke up w/ him? it was also true that ben and his friends were a generation of premature divorcees, their precious and singular adolescent pair bonds wasted on doomed trysts, the biological severing to linger as a psychic wound like those scars on the faces of syphilis sufferers after they had to get their noses chopped off, surely thats how ben felt sometimes, but again his c probably wasnt the greatest either, although he had lucked out in a few other ways. Ecosystems also tend to maximize their mutual constraint (A), or aggregate amount of given component transfer times coherency with which the outputs from the members of the system relate to the set of inputs to the same components over any given sufficiently exhaustive trophic network characterization, ben had read a paper about that yesterday, he conceded to himself that there wasnt much difference between all that and being a ‘victim of history’, that was all kind of a waste of mental energy, he would have been better off daydreaming about sombra-d.va lezzie fanfiction.
the funeral home was built into the side of one of those 20 degree hills that get featured in novelty youtube videos. ben and brendan arrived a few minutes after the start of the viewing; the line was already rather long. it was funny seeing hs kids at these things; some hadnt aged a day since graduation, while others looked like ‘complete shit’. they exchanged greetings with a few guys/girls in line, the mood was kind of jovial actually, in a narcotic shitty prankish half-self-consciously resigned way. the ‘adults’ were much worse for the wear, brows furrowed, faces dour – they werent having any fun at all. ben and brendan proceeded through the line, near the front, there was the standard poster board – baseball pictures, a few birthday pics (ben was in one), etc. he quickly greeted mr. and mrs. overdose son and his little sister who was smiling, gangly, glowing. there was no open casket, the body had been exposed for too long. he thought of the last time he saw paul, it was about a year ago, they had all gone bowling and he showed up, his face was adorned with scabs in odd locations, they seemed like acne scabs maybe but they were too large and oddly placed, he threw the balls with a kind of crazed abandon, faster and with more force than anyone in the whole place, frequently guttering and occasionally flying off the lane. brendan had other things to attend to now, his family was much closer with paul’s family so he had to talk to a lot of people. ben wandered aimlessly in the main room for a bit, settling upon a circle of a few of his friends parents. _________’s dad greeted him heartily, and the rest started proudly prodding ben about his current activities.
ben had ‘made it’. he was a fleeting participant in the city’s renaissance, his intellect a cog in the machinery of its ‘revival’. they should have hated him for it. he was acting as an instrument of the forces which were killing their kids, his friends, or at least that was one way of looking at it, a more or less coherent/’accurate’ one. They must have been psyopped by all the ‘renaissance’ propaganda, maybe they thought he would stay, but how could he stay, there were so many fat girls here, he saw misshapen adipose deposits clinging to random objects, persisting menacingly in the periphery of his visual field, but also maybe he wasnt giving them enough credit; either way, it was weird. He went to the bathroom to check twitter.
he went outside. some of his other friends were smoking, he joined them and shot the shit for a little while, took him a bit to realize that one of the bros was actually his friends sister who was a dude now, but he had heard about that before. when the two of them left he and the rest cracked a few jokes at his/her/his expense. then he went home.
Jennifer was in town, she had come back from nyc with ben’s friend scott who she had recently dumped, which was weird, but whatever she does that sort of thing, she and ben had kept fucking for 4 months after they ‘broke up’ before their ‘final showdown’ public screaming match. sh e texted ben: ‘sup’. They exchanged a few terse messages and decided to meet at a really shitty bar which was a micromeme in their little ‘group’ but which none of them had ever actually gone to. The bar was attached to a 24 hr diner they went to a lot, they shared a bathroom where some bro had gotten stabbed for wearing a bengals jersey a few years back. Their conversation still ‘flowed so easily’/’smoothly’’. Some of her divulgences were disturbing, she kept looking at tinder and messaging dudes until ben told her to stop. She admitted that dating was basically her ‘main hobby’ and started cackling embarrassed like. She admitted that still, the only way she could cum was by masturbating to kink dot com gangrape porn, an affliction that had manifested following their break up (this filled him with a bit of pride if he was honest) after a round of ssris, he managed to restrain himself from informing her that this was likely due to possibly/probably permanent gene expression changes mediated through dna methylation/histone modification/chromatin remodeling. He went to the bathroom, as he got up and looked at his shit in the toilet (very nice, bristol stool type 4 w/o a doubt, he had been very good about his resistant starch and prebiotic fiber intake recently) he remembered flushing jenny’s and his 6 week old fetus down the drain in between bouts of this super autistic civ 4 mod ‘the sword of islam’ focused on the medieval middle east, he thought he remembered playing the fatimids at that time, she had joked a few minutes before about how ‘crazy’ it would have been if they had kept it, a bloodied toilet superimposed on the al uqsor city screen played on the back of his eyelids during his blinks as he checked twitter in the stall. She talked about how at the end of her relationship with scott he was only fucking her once a week and how that made her feel like shit, ben tried to console her by explaining that sexual boredom in the face of monotony was this kind of brutish thermo-psychological mechanism that all men bore as a bio-gnostic alien probe, shocking/steering/prodding them in a tinnitical omnipresence, in retrospect that was kind of autistic and probably did little to make her feel better, but she was a good sport about it. They admitted to each other that they would almost certainly end up cheating on their eventual spouses, she started chain smoking and they kept laughing, surrounded by a din of half-retarded wiggers and nogs. Soon enough the rest of ‘the gang’ arrived, including scott.
Brendan regaled them with tales of the funeral per se. It was small and only paul’s very closest friends and family attended. Apparently paul’s friends, who made up the pall-bearers, had acted like huge autists. They kept spastically ejaculating sayings from their middle school halo 2 days, like they would drive the warthog of the cliff on blood gulch and shout ‘cliff mania’ in an exaggerated sort of stallone voice. Brendan said he almost couldnt take it. Maybe thats how legit autists ‘deal with death’? Idk. they certainly seemed to retain a bit of something that ben and jennifer had lost. They headed to an after hours club, one of the only things in the city which could excite the now new yorkers among them. Along the way brendan kept talking about new video games. It was weird, even though brendan was the most visibly ravaged amongst them, the rest of them had lost some of that zest for new vidya, they were senescent in this way that he wasnt. This made ben a little bit sad, fortunately fraser had brought cocaine.
they did a few lines and went inside. it was originally a gay club before it had become a fixture of ‘pittsburgh nightlife’ (lol), and it retained that sort of ostentatious transgressiveness that would ‘make mom and dad mad’, there were tvs in the smoking room that sometimes played porn, shit like that, but whatever. ben knew the next several hours were critical. would he or scott fuck jenny? neither? would one of them go home with someone else, preemptively transmuting his potential loss into a victory? these were all pressing questions. he looked at scott. they both knew way more about each other than either was comfortable with thanks to those vasopressin-prolactin-loosened post-coital lips; now that she had dumped him their vicarious intimacy, hatred, and competition had transmogrified into a kind of love – after all, due to microchimerism, they were ‘one flesh’ now.
They went inside and started dancing a bit – for now jenny was with all of them in a group. Ben decided to go for a smoke in the cig room. As he turned the corner, a brown, bulbous visage suddenly invaded his field of view from the right, blurring into a sensory totality, overwhelming in its cadence. Its plastic eyes stared at him through a miasma of cigarette smoke, apologized with a ‘sorry man’. It was a furry. Ben guessed it had to be a kangaroo furry based on some minor details he quickly assimilated. There were a few others with him. It wasnt furry convention week, but the presence of anthrocon was clearly making itself felt, anthrocon is the largest furry convention in the world and was held annually in the city, a radiotrophic fungi feeding off the region’s peculiar psychosocial poisson emissions. Scott, jenny, brendan, and affleck joined ben after 30 seconds or so. Jenny sat between ben and scott. This was psychically aggressive! Thankfully ben was quickly relieved of this burgeoning struggle – a girl picked him out and sat next to him conspicuously. She was wearing one of those ‘witch hats’, mid-late 20s. Why the fuck did girls/women of that age love those things so much? It was like they were trying to emphasize their putative croneness or something, ben didn’t get it, america is creepy. Anyway, he was ‘fresh meat’.
‘hi’ ‘whats your name?’, jenny was visibly pissed. ben felt good. he turned to the gril and started talking, they did the dance for a little while, but then she started being really annoying and it was getting harder. she started talking about all her trips to berlin and electro-dance shit, it was intolerable. ben tried to keep up a front but he was definitely flagging. some faggot with a euro accent jumped in. ‘berlin?, oh whats your favorite club’ blah blah blah. ben knew he was fucked. the guy worked for uber, he started talking about some self-driving car bullshit in his stupid fucking euro accent. ben wanted to fucking kill him, the guy started to smooth talk him. ben left do more cocaine. he came back and the guy was still doing it. ben started asking ‘joking’ questions about the desirability of global anti-tech revolution, throwing in a few isaif quotes, they were both laughing with him but he thought they might stop laughing if he kept this up for too long. he left the cig room and started talking to brendan, somehow they got on the topic of the aluminum foil on brendan’s windows in his parents house, ben started admonishing him to move out and stop being a neet, somehow they started grappling with each other. jenny was talking with scott and some of the other guys, ben would have to reinsert himself, he had given scott an opening with that bullshit with witch hat girl and swiss uber fag. ben was ‘out of control’, but thankfully he had an out via deus ex azn tinder girl. he decided to go for that preemptively, he had to get laid tonight, jenny would know through their mutual v card loss enabled psychic bond via horizontal gene transfer. he ordered an uber.
she called him daddy once, he pretended not to hear her, he did the usual choking slapping hair pulling schtick, she seemed to have a good enough time. she got him a glass of water, round two ensued, and she passed out. her sweater sort of felt like one of jenny’s. his head was pounding, he tried to fall asleep, it was possible the girl next to him would start staring at him as soon as he closed his eyes. He thought of his second ex(not jenny), she was so hot but also so fucking dumb, she was in warsong hold, the entry point for horde characters in the expansion continent of northrend, the black iron ceiling was half-replaced by the sky of the previous expansion’s continent of outland, the shattered remains of the orcish homeworld draenor, with it’s two moons and cheap aurora-like spectral atmospheric effects. Her head was upside down, underwater, in some sort of tide pool, she must have been drowning i suppose, surrounded by starfish and mussels and transparent dancing prawns and a horseshoe crab encrusted with barnacles, fluttering and pulsing their goodbyes. her eyes shifted laterally like some sort of vulnerable prey animal, she had that dead-eyed ungulate-like hunger on her face that presented when she was horny. ben heard the biography of the disgraced orcish shaman ner’zhul straight from one of those community edited wiki’s which he used to read when he was procrastinating (embarrassing) recited in some subliminal bluetooth voice, it was one of the voices he made up in his head for people on twitter, he couldnt remember which:
Ner’zhul was the chieftain and elder shaman of the Shadowmoon clan and one of the most popular figures in orcish society. He was admired, respected and venerated by all for his deep connection to the spirits, and was the closest thing the orcish race had to a single leader prior to the foundation of the Horde. However, deep within, Ner’zhul craved a power he did not have…
At some point, Ner’zhul was present at the Kosh’harg celebration in Nagrand. One day, Ner’zhul was contacted by the spirit of his deceased mate, Rulkan (with whom he had a regular correspondence), who warned him about the menace of the draenei, who were plotting to destroy the orcs. After several moons, she introduced him to Kil’jaeden, the “Great One”, who began to instruct him in the treachery of the draenei. Though Ner’zhul was elated that he was saving his people (and finally getting the power and respect he secretly desired), he was puzzled why the ancestors would no longer speak to him, and why the spirits grew more distant.
Ner’zhul managed to get the rest of the clans to begin attacks on draenei settlements, supposedly by order of the ancestors, but, as he saw more and more of the draenei, he gradually became puzzled; apart from his horns, clothes, and skin tone, Kil’jaeden bore an uncanny resemblance to the draenei and possessed a hatred of Velen unbecoming of a divine being. Seeking answers, he attempted to commune with the ancestors in Oshu’gun, the “Mountain of the Spirits.” He was horrified when the ancestors greeted him as a monster, and the real Rulkan revealed the truth: Kil’jaeden had been manipulating him all along.
Ner’zhul resolved to defy his demon master, but Gul’dan, his apprentice, had followed him, and, greedy for his own power, informed Kil’jaeden of the betrayal of the shaman. Kil’jaeden, ever one to reward good service, elevated Gul’dan to Ner’zhul’s position, and Ner’zhul was relegated to a decorative position, his powers stripped from him. Kil’jaeden forced Ner’zhul to watch helplessly as the orcs slid into bloodlust and warlock magic. He was powerless to stop the rise of the Shadow Council, privy to all their secrets but able to reveal none
Following the Second War, he opened several portals on Draenor in an attempt to seek out new lands to escape to and conquer, but was immediately captured by Kil’jaeden. His mortal form was destroyed and his spirit was transformed into the spectral Lich King, which was then encased in the mystical ice of the Frozen Throne atop the Icecrown glacier in distant Northrend.
teratic microfiches of 80s-style directed graphs pocked with xerox artifacts filled blank spaces in the ‘air’ and ‘water’, her expression morphed into a satisfied, vacant indifference, the angularity of the barnacles’ fixed plates became more pronounced until they almost started clipping, the smell of microwaved frozen french bread pizzas, stale tobacco, and dried vestibular mucus couched and eventually suffused these irregularities in a dull, incinerating fuzz.
a few months later, ben matched with paul’s little sister on tinder. he tweeted about it, asking how he should open her. he didnt end up messaging her.
another couple months later, he checked her profile again. 2287 miles away – he did a few queries on google maps. she had moved to san francisco.
He went to sit on his back porch. There was a fawn curled up under one of the chairs. He expected it to run away, to flinch at his presence at least, but as he got closer it remained almost motionless. Almost all fawns are born in a 2 week period at the end of april, it could only have been a few weeks old. It was breathing heavily in the sun, labored like, slumped under what seemed like several g’s, he wasnt sure if it was sick or dying, or something, he started panicking a little bit. He made some sudden movements and noises to see if he could get it to move, started banging the chairs on the ground, got right up in its face and stared at it but nothing worked.
He called animal control, they said that the mom would come pick it up in the evening, tonight or tomorrow, not to worry, they leave the fawns somewhere all day while they go foraging, the fawns are programmed to remain absolutely still, tied to their drop off points. He took a few pictures of it, then sat on the nearby chair, his gaze fixated. He was moving out in 2 days. A fly landed on the crease between the fawn’s right ear and orbital ridge. It fidgeted mechanically for 10-15 seconds, then flew away.