Menu Level

Jan becomes conscious of the curtains lit up with morning sunlight. There is no rising from sleep into wakefulness; no ascent of the levels of consciousness through a reverse AUM. Jan is conscious. Single-sided. Full density. The breathing of a kettle and the rattle of ceramics and metals ostensibly suggest to him that Fransziska is making coffee and tea down in the kitchen. Tea for him; coffee for her. Possibly it is the other way around.

He dives beneath the duvet and swims towards the far wall, pulls down a menu bar from the ceiling of the world. FILE – EDIT – VIEW – CHARACTER… He pulls down the character menu and flicks open the binaries: currently it is set to Fransziska/Jan.

Rayne Keller/Jan
Bilhelmina Carrow/Jan

Soma Jones/Jan
Double Denim/Jan
London Borough of Wassgotterspeck/Jan…


He scrolls back to Fransziska/Jan. From the Franszika/x axis of the menu, options list themselves up and down into a murky complexity of unrealised narrative combinations. Flicking a thumb over his name, a field of dip switches opens up: myriad tweaks that retain his Jan-ness but alter subtle parameters.

“What you looking at?” says Fransziska.
“Just wrinkles in the mirror.”
“I made you tea.”

Fransziska reaches over and with a few gestures opens up another set of menus. “I’m not sure that I like my desk at work.”
“I thought it was the guy from finance who you didn’t like?”
“No, I tweaked that. In three weeks time he comes into work with a face like raw steak. A fight at the tapas bar by the monorail.”

Jan takes the coffee. The mug has abraded black sans-serif along its flanks: World’s Greatest Grandad. He drinks the hot chocolate thoughtfully. They touch down on a diving board positioned at an axis point above the centre of the world. “It’s notional, of course.” Parenthesised shells of conditional landscapes bulge like clouds in an antique woodcut. And then they are something else. The shimmer of metaphor on one level behaves like a violent strobe, on another it is a soft modulation that is as close to magnolia-painted wallpaper as is possible in any world.

In a state prior to this Fransziska fixates upon the space between two printed characters on a page. At the periphery of vision she is aware of a full-stop that swarms with complexity on the upper surface of the pulp fibres. There is a musty odor to the volume, and the binding is coming apart in several places, although she is fully aware that this is a future state of the codex when it has been surrendered from her custody.

Jan is dressed in a pair of lavender Sta Prest action slacks with a shirt of something soft and turquoise without a collar. He inspects an unusually thick eyebrow hair in the mirror. To paint the Wassgotterspeck Viaduct is a job for life; by the time you reach the other end, the action of the elements will have eroded your labour, over and over. He checks both of his watches. There will be time. He presses down the plunger on the cafetière and pours a coffee. The carries it up to the bedroom. Fransziska is nowhere to be seen. Only a outline shell in the duvet: as nearly a panther as a lawnmower.