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I'm the one transforming this world into words, you are the one transforming these words back into a world

from 8. The Historian by Disparition



First it was Borders, then it was Barnes & Noble, then it was empty. Then it was a field hospital for the 184th, then it was Ant’s Library, and then it was Barnes & Noble again, and it still is – though no one says that out loud, not in the open.

Formally, this is Castillo 7 Cuesta, seventh of seventeen, sapphire in the circlet of Barón Rafael Hernán Cuesta, third of his name, holder of domain over bookchain and lot.

The knowledge that I lay out before you is legal and illegal, secret and commonplace, depending on the bearer’s position in time and space. That’s you. The veracity of this knowledge, the directness of the source – that’s me – this remains constant, regardless of your position. At least, from my perspective it does.

You see, I’m what’s called a Primary Source. That means I was here. And I still am. And it means that I am the one transforming this world into words. You are the one transforming these words back into a world. I perceive and receive with my senses and mind and heart, and I attempt to get everything into these little boxes and get the boxes into just the right order. And then, at some distance, you open the boxes and put it all back together. But here’s the thing – I never have enough boxes. And there are so many things – so many - that just don’t fit in them. And on top of that, the contents of the boxes can change depending on who opens them, or when. And I too, and I too, and I too – my world is full of the incomplete, the bits and pieces of other, older worlds I cannot see and yet which grip every part of me – my world is full of the words of others.

I am in possession and charge of 23,517 texts. A third of these were here before me, the rest my acquisitions through telling, donation, quest, or trade. People come to this place from up and down the Burning Shore, and I send my people out along the roads – this is my web, for two decades now have I been here at its center, collecting and curating. There are a perhaps a few others like me out there, here and there. But there are none with a web so vast as mine, no collection as aged and spansive in all the Hundred Californias or beyond.

Not only am I keeper of these texts – I am castellana for the Barón, gardener of this community, questgiver of this crossroads. In fact I came to this place before the Barón, though not by so much. It was a world so different from this now that the distance between my self and the self of those times is nearly impossible to bridge.

I came from the sinking cities of the east, I was a wanderer of the burning plains, I was shaped by the sandwinds of the Nevada before I came unto this place. In those days, it was called the Biblioteca Antoñin, a lonely and obscured destination, and the Barón was not yet a Barón at all but a sort of mercialman, what they used to call a developer, from somewhere down in the Southland. And here we fall into the shifting maze of the forbidden.

I was born into a collapsing order. A child of academy in latter days of softness, I was raised in a wooded shell of words and pages, discourse and study. Dominoes fell around me. Six houses became five, then five four, then four wrapped around each other, snakes into a leaning, writhing tower, rising river of arrows lapping at its base.

Everywhere in those days, the sound of tearing fabric. The already frail illusion of sacred institutions were loudly broken and smeared with blood. Daggers that had been wrapped in linens and kept deep in drawers were polished now in bright sunlight. Fearful of their neighbors, my family brought me into the city of their work and we sheltered in a shining tower of books, rails, and wires in the lower midsection of that sinking angry fish. I missed the fresh soil and cleaning mists of open land. The righteous predictions of academy proved no protection and the angled dark and white tiles were coated in shining rainbows of oily water.

Tucked into the pages of their own biographies my family packed themselves into crates and loaded themselves onto massive ships bound for the southern continent of their origin, but the pull of wood and earth and mud and water had hold of me, and I could not. The nations and structures of that continent still held strong amid the tides, their officelined towers still promised long lives of plastic cups and spreadsheet decisions, and when I pictured that life I held my hands in front of my face and they faded away. And so in early hours amid thick salt mist I slipped out on a raft of broken foam.

Adrift and adrift, I sailed the narrow lanes of the city out into the harbor, across the churning estuary and into the fens. Guided not by phone or map but pull of wind and aching sky and burning memory of a new future, I dwelt in salt and reeds until I had learned enough to see through them and through the walls and mountains beyond, taught by those dwellers of the corpsemarsh to bide my tongue and follow the flows of life under the land.

Waters rose and I with them, this is when I knew I was no longer a child. Power structures and social orders sagged and caved, as I grew I was filled with a restlessness, I wrapped my feet in winged sandals, I climbed the low and aching coalstink mountains of the east and came fully formed unto the two thousand flat miles.

I became a trader and finder of direction. Great walls of flame walked across the plains. I wove the ways between them. Took up with one of the long caravans that swept and circled westward and westward where we mounted the great shelf, and spent years slowly climbing and descending the rugged world beyond. It was here I first heard whisper of that shining coast and felt glimmervines of source creeping over the horizon. It was here I began to miss and crave the world of letters and pages.

Salt air found me. I shook loose and tumbled down into the desert. The rugged wanderer of plain and rockpile that had been I was worn smooth by the sand and wind of Nevadas. The salt flats in circles and circles again I gathered speed and thought and became a compass unto myself, waiting for just the right moment, permeating into the Sierra in its unwatched moments.

It was there, in wooded shelter once more, now in isolate, hidden from the fires of neighboring ravines, that I heard the whisperings of the reversal of my life. I would unwander, my feet sink into the ground, and from that soil I would grow once more the tower of language and memory in which I had spent my childhood.

And so not long after, around shared fire, I heard of the last library in the great wide valley of the west, the Biblioteca Antonin, now sad and faded, I was told to find it where the slowing hills of Estanaslao meet the flats of San Joaquin, on a fringe of halfburned sprawl around Modesto.

The day that I arrived was the day of the D____ Collapse. Knowledge even of this event, as wide reaching and shattering as it was, is now illegal in certain districts, duchies, nations, and zones. So be it. It’s not my job to sort that out for you. I’m the Source, and I’m sending you my world as it is, as direct as I can.

It was young in the Age of Paper, early in the days of fortification. And in the old city of Angeles there was an apartment complex called the D____. This place once stood at what is now the Owen Wanton Crossroads, and there is no longer any trace of it. In its day, until its day, it presented as a solid structure, concrete and inhabited. And then one day, yes the same day as my arrival here hundreds of miles to the north, the whole thing collapsed all at once into a pile of wet cardboard. No explosion, no demolition, no shaking of the earth. A simple act of transformation – brick and pipe, wall and stone, furniture of wood and metal, residents and pets of flesh and bone – all made one, a sopping smushed pile that sagged and spread and dried out in the sun and blew away as dust in the Santa Ana winds. Yes, that day, the day for which so many lay in waiting, hiding in between the words and behind the lights.


from 8. The Historian, released February 11, 2022
Written by Jon Bernstein
Narrated by Valerie Monique Evering
Music composed and performed by Jon Bernstein


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Disparition Los Angeles, California

Electronic, ambient, industrial, found sounds, beats, piano.

Inspired by history, geography, travel, occult, fiction.

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