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The Funeral (2017) story and visuals by Cocoi Base
I cannot recall the last time I have felt this indifference.
Cold. Alone and naked.
Willingly, I have already accepted the fact that my time has come. There was still so much to do and it is unfortunate to not be doing so much more. Time was little but with equal regrets and gratitude, I believe to have already done my part.
I am at peace. A bit terrified, but optimistic. I have come to comprehend - it was indeed not the fear of dying but more like a fear of the unknown.
3 months --- I was diagnosed with a condition. And it was not something from which you get well from.
In a week, the seed will devour my earthly body. Earth will reclaim my flesh to where it once belonged - to where it was resting before being breathed into life.
And before anything else, I have to confine my last thoughts in this piece of paper that I have managed to slip through. Maybe make it into a paper plane and let it fly. Hoping someone from below would happen to pick it up and do --- something meaningful -- You.
I specifically chose this day, at this specific time. Just a while ago, I was allowed 4 people, the ones closest to my heart, to accompany me and pay their last respects. Not a single word was uttered when we landed as each one of us acquiesce to this inevitable end. Heavyhearted, I gathered the very last of my vigor to put up a tranquil smile. “Goodbye.”
This is my funeral. And it was exactly how I envisioned it was going to be.
We will all end up here.
You may already know it but if you don’t, with all other reasons why? Here it is:
The Pragmatists and their exceptional ideas spearheaded the neo-industrial revolution. Buildings sprouted here and there, in an unprecedented pace. The megacities were in competition with each other, building these massive edifices, comprising equally magnificent architecture and urbanism. It was indeed the best age for architecture as it was a society with open minds – to ideas, to experimentation, to building. On the other hand, we were still building and building until we have eaten up the megacities’ lungs for our fancy architecture. The cities below have gone to become a massive concrete bionetwork of billboards, shopping malls, highways and inhumane infrastructure. Trees were cut brazenly. Waterways are clogged and filthy. It was progressive, but at the same time, despondent.
As a countermeasure, “bowls of salad” were proposed to serve as new lungs. A sanctuary and a container of life. The main problem was not on the structure but more of how to keep the soil fertile.
--- “Why don’t we bury the dead in these bowls?”
The container of life will be sustained by the dead.
At first it was perceived to be a madman’s caprice but considering the vast plots that the cemeteries are occupying in the cities, which the pragmatists have been longing to occupy, the idea was realized. But it wasn’t without public uproar. Each faith, ethnicity, customs and tradition will be slighted.
How are you supposed to amend a tradition which has been going on since the beginning of time?
Things did happen.
And the next thing we knew, we are already building these massive bowls. Suspended at about a thousand meters above ground, each bowl is about 5 hectares of land area, of trees and nature. The soil was a special one, which absorbs huge amounts of water in the atmosphere keeping the trees hydrated. It was a mixture of substances – one most outstanding is the dust from grounded remains excavated from all existing cemeteries. It was left to be inhabited by rare flora and fauna from which grew a thriving, artificial-natural ecology safe from humans below. The bowls have provided new lungs for the cities while The Pragmatists still get to occupy the lands below. Everyone was satisfied.
It was agreed upon that each human, dead, dying or the ones who have already decided to die, will be implanted with a seed. Devouring the human corpse, the seed will rapidly grow just a few weeks after it takes effect, after the human takes its last breathe. Some humans, who are very ill as in my case, chose to be left out here while they still have a bit of essence left. These humans, the old, the suicidal, the hopeless, the ones who hated being a burden to the living, the sick- We, have already accepted our fate and chose to live our last moments in solitude- a state which has been very rare down there nowadays. The already dead ones, by natural death, accident, or whatever, are barely laid on open grounds for the insects and small scavengers to feast. A white smoke will be spewed as a signal of grief and mourning for 2 days and 2 nights. And for some very distinguished individuals, such as myself, we are allowed to be built a cenotaph.
As cities sprawl, so the more bowls must sprout.
I have gathered as much strength I have left to explore a bit of this bowl. As it was never allowed to be visited at any day, except for the very few ones accompanying the dead or the dying, or the birds who were able to fly this high and used this as a sanctuary.
At least extending to the horizon that my vision can reach are cenotaphs, about 3 -meter cubes in volume and are scattered at 20-meter grid that spans across the whole bowl from the open grounds to deep within the trees. I can only imagine how my cenotaph will look with all these and it puts a smile on my face. It is almost a sculptural park where small animals freely interact, indulging the last moments of the departing.
Moving along, at a certain place are where lots of bones lay on the ground. This must be one of those places of similar appeal to the dying that they all chose to lay here. In an open area, where I perceive to be the center of this bowl is the very first cenotaph from about 30 years ago. This one commemorates the man who was responsible in convincing the people to abandon their burial tradition. Good man.
I remember everyone. All the momentous events in my life.
I remember my friends. I remember my children. I remember my women. I am remembering them all.
I remember my shortcomings. My successes, days of euphoria as the opening day of the very first bowl.
These wildflowers, growing aimlessly. These animals roaming freely. This sting on my very pale skin by a burning afternoon sun.
I have sensed something spiritual. An environment of both physical and supernatural exists as if a still familiar, still vivid, but a world long lost from the destructive urbanism below. It is as if I belonged to this place and I never knew how much l yearn to return until now. And this is a realization only for the departing to see.
Everything is --- sublime. I am feeling an enormous sensation inside of me that I cannot fully describe, waiting to explode, but with weakness instead of life.
This vulnerability is the most mortal sentiment a man must be experiencing on the brink of his death.
I am running out of paper. I am almost out of strength.
This experience is just mine - all mine in my own solitude, with no one to tell but to whoever happens to read this letter. I am left to contemplate of my existence. How I walked through this earth and how every bit of my decision was consequential to how this society took shape. And even in my last moment, still I do not know the answer to the fundamental questions of life - “who am I?” or “what are we here for?” Maybe you would know when your time comes. Let me know when we meet at the other side, if there really is such.
I was relevant. I hope to be one for as long as humanity exists. I was the Architect. This place was my idea and this is exactly how I have envisioned it.
Distant sound of nothingness is gently approaching.
It is a good day to die.”
A normal afternoon.
Loud and busy.
Kids playing on filthy streets, taking their chance as hurtling cars pass by. One of them, from the projects, saw an object that fell somewhere from a distance. It was a paper plane. He picks it up with his soiled hands. Unfolds it and finds a written message that is all too unfamiliar, too long to read, and too difficult to comprehend.
It was kind of funny, actually.
This part of the streets is never hit by sunlight at any time of the day.
“You scum! As if you know how to read!” Shouted another kid from across the filthy street, with equally as filthy hands, equally as filthy clothes. He laughed, as all the other kids with their all filthy mouths and stink.
He crumpled the paper and threw it in a distant trash bin with garbage piled up as rats scour for safety from a sensed danger.
House Traffic (2017) story and visuals by Kym Olympia
Today I will be flushed out.
After cycles of running, I was captured. My face was cloaked. There is really no sense in trying to escape now.
I will be flushed out.
Whatever that means is another unanswered question in my head. I have never really understood how this bizarre cage works. What is next? Where are we heading? Isn’t it just logical to go back to where I came from? I should go back to the Core! We are heading back to the Core!
I can still remember my first cycle - my first memory.
The door opened.
Two decently dressed men were waiting from the other side. I was naked and clueless. One of them took my arm to look at my wrist. It has a marking with four sides. It is a square they said. They gave me water, gummy and clothes. They said I am a Common.
One of the men started with the briefing as the other one just stood firmly. He said my duty as a Common is to maintain the Core. The briefing was about the boundaries of the structure that we are living in, the regulations that maintain peace and the rules that we must follow in order to co-exist with the other members of this dwelling.
“We are living in a Box.” – Yes, it was hard to comprehend. Whatever.
The briefing went on for long a time. I was bored so I just listened selectively. He emphasized why we are an important part of the whole Box for we are its strength. The other dwellers each have their own functions. These other dwellers are the Blackcoats who function as the mind, the Peacekeepers who defend and protect the Box and lastly, The Ruler who never has been seen by anyone but was told to be the most powerful dweller.
Aside from the strange fact that we are inside a Box, the houses that we are supposed to live in are constantly moving!
The houses stop at random instances and never at the exact location or orientation. A dweller must keep track of his house and find his way back and forth from work or supplies. It moves faster during night and slower at day – at night when everyone rests and day when work and maintenance are done. The Core controls the house movements. He said the Core’s system assures that everything is accessible for all. He repeated the importance of our task because we are the ones who maintain the Core which is the intelligence, the provider and the heart of the Box.
“Any questions?” he asked.
Who am I? Why are we here?
I had so many questions but I was most fascinated with The Ruler.
“How powerful is the Ruler?” “What are these powers?” “How does he execute his powers without interacting and when nobody has ever seen him, or It?” These questions. Are they sure I am not a Blackcoat?
“The Ruler as the leader and overseer commands the Blackcoats of his will.” he answered.
“Well, maybe this finely dressed man is a Blackcoat” I thought to myself.
“How does one become a Blackcoat?” I followed up.
Vigilant, it took him some time to answer. “You don’t. We were all brought here already with classifications. In your arm is a square and us, a circle. The Core decides what roles to fulfill to sustain the Box. This system has already provided us shelter and every essential needs. In return we give It our strength and mind. We sustain, defend and protect it anyhow! Any more questions?”
It was hard to process.
The briefing ended.
I was escorted by the other fellow through a platform of empty desks that they said from where the Blackcoats are working during the day.
He gave me a tracker which is a device to find my way around. It has Three default locations. One is stationary which pertains to the Core’s location, another marks my location and a constantly moving pointer that locates my house.
Before leaving, he let out an unsolicited advice, “For a common who’s not even a cycle released, do not get very curios on a lot of things. The Box only requires your strength. Kill it –that curiosity - as soon as possible. That might just get you flushed out.”
Whatever it was did not scare me the very first time I have heard it. It was uninteresting then. Now it is the most dreadful word to hear inside the Box.
I looked at the tracker to start chasing my house.
Cycles passed by. My house was never at the same place from my take-off to return to and from work or supplies. I cannot help but notice an apparently more advantageous situation with Blackcoats’. The programming seems to be more convenient for them. Little by little, I am now seeing the disparity between the dwellers - how we are divided inside the Box. I know. Although I admit to have missed a lot during the briefing, I am absolutely sure that I have not heard a single thing mentioned about equality. And thinking - it is never encouraged for it belongs to the Blackcoats.
The door opened.
We both checked her wrist.
My companion told her. “You are a Blackcoat.”
I gave her the usual - water, clothes and an apple. It has been a long time since a Blackcoat appeared from those doors.
The briefing ended. And with a usual sense, I found myself remembering my very first cycle- my very first memory.
We are confined inside a Box. The box is comprised of countless levels of floors where houses are freely moving, both horizontally and vertically, moving from area to area, from level to level. At the center of it is the Core. The Core is surrounded on all sides and in all levels by platforms of desks where we, the Blackcoats work. Bounding the Box on 3 sides are the amenities and supplies necessary for living. The other side is just a blank wall in all levels, and behind it is said to be where the Ruler resides, watching everything.
“We are the mind of the Box.” It was the very first thought indoctrinated to the Blackcoats. I listened attentively. We live within the parameters peacefully with the other dwellers. The Commons with their physical strength are in charge of
the maintenance. The Peacekeepers are Blackcoats who defend and protect the Box, and The Ruler is our leader. The Blackcoats, us, are the ones who implement the Ruler’s will which he communicates though the Core’s programming. The Ruler’s will is absolute, and must never be altered by anyone in any form or substance. Doing so means grave consequences. The houses move and stop never at the same exact location as programmed by the Core. It is said that the house movements – the programming is according to what the Ruler perceives to be just. The Core’s programming is so large that it needs us, the Blackcoats to sort, collapse, disseminate and implement. Aside from this, we continuously work on researches understanding the phenomenon inside the Box – dweller behavior, house movement patterns etc. and the space beyond. Our findings are then sent to the Ruler and we await for him to communicate back through the system programming of the Core.
We do everything in our designated desks at platforms surrounding all sides of The Core.
Other Blackcoats chose to serve the box by defending and protecting it. I did not recognize their function worthy at first until I saw them chasing The Lost.
The Lost are members who have lost their trackers for some reasons and could not find their way back to their homes, leading them to fail to perform their functions. They are a danger to the structure and should be dealt immediately with force. Once captured the Lost will be eventually flushed out to maintain the system.
Since that incident, I had wanted to be a Peacekeeper more than a Blackcoat sitting on my desk. I want to pacify these threats that may destroy our harmonious exstence. I feel it is my duty to preserve this place.
I reached out to The Ruler. “I want to be a Peacekeeper.”
The next cycle, my tracker asked me to go to the Core and found myself briefing a very curious common.
I was once a Blackcoat. I worked diligently like others, learning facts within the perimeters, studying the settlement inside The Box and trying to discover facts beyond.
But it was all just a box bounding us.
Countless cycles go by and I have come to comprehend that us-beings are just fleeting objects longing for a purpose and that this box bounding us is an eternal entity. It started with my very first observation of dwellers’ behavior in performing their tasks and roles. What I was most interested then was to study the beyond. Back inside the box; The Commons toiling to assure that the machines are well maintained and us, on our desks. Unsuspectingly, I then found myself unravelling the configurations of the house stops. I was starting to see anomalies – discernible patterns in house movements which should not have been essentially. It was forbidden to tamper with the Core’s program which was meant to maintain equal access for everyone but these anomalies suggest otherwise. We were supposed to live harmoniously and follow the system but there appears to be some of us who are taking advantage of it. I am sure to not be the first one to know this but the sheer silence from other Blackcoats is unacceptable and disgusting! It must be too convenient for them to point out this anomaly. Why would you even complain if you benefit from it anyway? They easily avoid the noise from the rotating gears at night, the cramped elevators and the long walks in the morning. We’ll you cannot blame them. Aren’t they entitled from the start? “We are the mind of box.” A fellow Blackcoat even welcomed them at the Core’s doors!
The more I contemplate about it – the system, the classifications, the briefing – Other’s restriction is another’s freedom consequently. It never was equal, it is absolutely not just!
I have sent my latest findings to The Ruler with my conclusion being – “Equality does not exist.”
Three cycles passed and irregularities started to happen. My house stopped nearest to the core one night and the next three more, without moving its position! I succumbed to the Core’s unbearable noise from its rotating gears due to the faster house movements at night for four cycles and was not able to sleep! My sympathy with the Commons grew. I did not report the incident to the system nor did I complained. I thought I was strong enough to endure.
The next morning my house stopped a bit too far from the Core. The tracker identified a 3-hour walk to reach my desk. I almost complained but still I didn’t. I was preoccupied by the questions in my head.
Is this how we treat the Commons? Did He get my message!?
It was a bad combination - lack of sleep and long, exhaustive walks from take-off point to return from the Core to wherever my house stops. I tried to endure for a couple of cycles, until I forgot I was running out of supplies.
It was that eventful night when my house stopped near the core and far-off from the supplies. I was starving and exhausted. I left my house and headed to the supplies. I know that houses move faster at night but I am willing to chase it for I will not survive one more cycle with an empty stomach.
I went my way to the supplies. I opened the tracker. My house is two hours back. Not bad at all. I could definitely go back. I went back to get more supplies - the most I can carry so that this never happens again.
I opened my tracker the second time after getting more supplies. It was nearer at 45 mins. Time to head my way back to rest.
As I was getting nearer my house, it seemed to be moving away farther as well. I found myself chasing it continuously, farther and farther until it took out all of my strength.
I could not keep up.
I sat down and decided to just wait. I reached from my supplies, ate, and naively fell asleep.
It is hard to live as a Common. I have to reach out to The Ruler tomorrow.
When I woke up, the food was gone and along with it, my tracker. It has been like this for fifteen cycles now. Fifteen cycles of hiding and running away from the Peacekeepers.
I am now one of the Lost. I didn’t do anything wrong. I would still want to perform my duties and task required of me. But when I see a Peacekeeper approaching, all I can do is run. As everyone that I have seen being chased, we will all be flushed.
She grabbed my hand. Led me along the halls and through narrow passageways to lose the Peacekeepers. It was round – the mark on her wrist.
Like me a Blackcoat, probably Lost.
We run past moving houses, away from all Peacekeepers on sight.
Then she stopped. Smiled – to my relief.
And with a hard smash from behind at the back of my head, I lost consciousness.
The fast movement of the houses during nighttime is what charms me the most. I look at it every night asking myself what more is it improve. But I always end up being just in awe of how perfect it is. I am proud how one achieved such order and how everyone is doing their part, co-existing. I see all my dwellers working diligently. A colony of 3 different factions that offer strength, mind and discipline. I see my visions built, my will followed.
But with all these powers, I am still alone.
I can see everything but they can never see me.
I want to know them.
But it is forbidden.
The walking stopped. I heard something opened. I was dragged and thrown in.
Wet. Wait, I remember. This is water!
The place is pitch black.
I ran aimlessly, in all directions, looking for an end, an edge, anything but this water!
Wait! The water is rising!
The water is rising slowly. I was about to cry.
Then I felt someone held my hand. Another tapped my back.
I cannot see their wrists. It doesn’t matter now anyway. Blackcoat or Common? All that matters is I am not alone.
The water continuously rising.
These stories will be part of TAZ Collective's publication, Sabi-sabi. Visit the page for more details about the project.
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