Despite the Egyptian Gum she has been out of sorts all day. The gum is four-thousand years old and until recently congested the cranial cavity of the princess Noferu-ra. The gum is gorgeous, a little like a fine piece of black jade threaded green. It has the consistency of toffee and tastes like arak and tar. But so far it has not taken effect; perhaps the effect is cumulative? The directions on the tin are maddeningly vague. Should she wait another hour or should she take another bite? She isn't used to organics, but the gum is supposed to clear the nasal passages and invigorate the mind, and she is desperate for a clean wind to dispel her brain's evil weather.
She breaks off another piece and pops it into her mouth. This organic stuff has her optimistic; everything is so damned virtual these days, including her own mutable children. How selfish they are in their chronic dissatisfaction! Despite the care she had taken during their gestation, the aesthetics established well in advance of conception, Doctor Baltrūsaitis' bold affirmations she had embraced despite the price.
Feeling queasy she recalls a conversation with her youngest, Belphagor when he was only four. He had asked her what he was truly like. 'Truly. Before the changes.' 'The changes were made when you were in the womb,' she had said, 'So you see, you are truly what you always were and what you were meant to be.' 'Before the changes I was smooth,' Belphagor had squealed, squirming in her lap. 'As smooth as a little pig.' And he had oinked.
Wakeful at dawn, she is infected with wistfulness, wistfulness for a simpler time. Once, and not too long ago either, things were more likely to last. The pyramids of Egypt had barely budged until the twenty-first century when an experimental son et lumičre had caused them to spontaneously combust. A chain reaction had leveled Cairo; the Blue Nile was white now, and the White Nile blue. Ever since, mutability has spread so thick and fast the entire planet is crepitating in an ongoing fit.
All of her children are beautiful and all of them scaled. Their little tusks are so perfectly charming it breaks her heart to see them laugh, and the inflorescence at their throats and wrists is stunning if-she is the first to admit it-a little dated, a little 'sixties.' 'The fashion will be back,' she tells them. 'It's a perennial favorite! Hold on! Don't be so jittery!' But now they are clamoring for fins-a thing beyond her comprehension. A costly intervention and there could be scarring. She pleads with them but the children, recently designated archons, cannot be reasoned with, reason having been outlawed in the nineties. What's more, they're armed. 'Aren't you taking your new powers a little too seriously?' she chides them, gently. 'After all, I am your mom.' Clearly exasperated with her they roll their eyes. 'These days, Dickhead,' Aurora grumbles, 'all the archons are finned. Mom-where have you been? Don't you ever tune into the Beepathon or what?'
Sucking on the Egyptian Gum she frowns and while they scurry about thrusting their fists into cereal boxes she attempts to philosophize. My children are like astronomical bodies, she tells herself. They existed even before they appeared. One needs a star chart to track them down.
Because her children are so mutable, more than the children of other generations, they describe the shape of time (look how fluid, how viperlike they are, draped over counters, the kitchen table and chairs!) -at least the shape time takes within a limited horizon. They, poor innocents, are too inexperienced yet to know that there is a limit to mutability.
'There's a limit to mutability,' she mumbles, the gum sticking to her teeth. 'You know.'
'The limits of the corporeal are surpassed daily,' snaps Belphagor, the most pedantic of the lot his voice bristling with what she fears is contempt. She notices how whenever this topic of conversation comes up-the topic of limits-her children grow even more agitated.
'The theory,' Belphagor barks, 'is boundless.' She nods.
They are enigmas, these children of mine she thinks, swallowing one piece of gum and breaking off another, for if on the one hand they are human and therefore both mortal and unpredictable (and so, surely, somehow transcendent), they are also bound by certain predictable laws. Puberty, for example, and Heaven help them, senescence. As her children, glittering like glass in the morning sun devour breakfast, she continues to brood: Still they need to eat. And they shit-now there's a function even archons cannot do without, although it is true that the original artifact, so unappealing, has been dramatically modified; the event is now aesthetic and philosophic: the artifact, lucent, compact, shaped like a shell or seed of a rare flower, tells the archeologist who slumbers in us all something substantial and highly personal about ourselves. A minute or two of interpretation of this elegant frass is always one of the morning's greatest pleasures. Furthermore, there is something reassuring about it, because it continues to be, despite the modifications (which are, after all, only so much window-dressing) an event that has taken place since Eve fed the Apple to Adam. And yet the event is always a unique event, a little like a birth or the production of a work of art.
'Shitting should be enough to satisfy you!' she blurts out, startling the children who for a moment stare at her with a glimmer of interest. 'Make you proud to be human-that constancy, I mean. Or, at least, make you feel human!'
'O, that.' Belphagor yawns. 'Fuck it, Mom. You're just talking residues, here.' Aurora agrees: 'Not events.'
'Yes! Yes!' she cries. 'But tangible residues. So little is tangible these days. You yourselves are barely palpable! Look at you! Dressed to the gills in sequins, anamorphoscopic rings in all your pierceable parts and forever up and running. Why! You're barely there!'
'That's the whole point, Mom!' They peel past her and out the door. 'It's the pulse that lights up the sign that matters, not the sign!' His back to her she reads Belphagor's T-shirt:
What's odd, she thinks, is the persistence of certain archaic expressions such as Mom and Dickhead and Fuckit.
'Fuckit sticks!' she hollers after them, 'but nothing else sticks! You children flow through my fingers like sand.'
'Consider the ratio of events!' Aurora turns and hisses as she continues to move away, gathering speed. 'Mom: You've seen alot of us and let's face it: We've seen alot of you.'
'But not in the new guises!' she is screaming now. 'Give me a chance to catch up! All night I'm awake thinking of schemes of classification! For my own fucking children!' She is raving to the wind. The children have vanished and the street, as empty as a skull, is silent.
Of course she knows it is a lost battle. Back inside the kitchen the Beepathon has ignited and is already firing new exalted messages as even now her children are on their way to have their skeletons attuned to some new narrative, some undreamed of interpretation bubbling in the torrent of the possible. The day wears on. In its tin the Egyptian Gum bakes malevolently.