“At 3:30am on the night of June 5th, 1992, the top
telepath in the Sol System fell off the map at
Runciter Associates in New York City.
That started the vidphones ringing.”
— Philip K. Dick from Ubik
I wonder if one of the prizes
of Borges’ Lottery would have been
a Joe Chip dollar had The Company
been gifted with foresight?
I know I’m not well when I start
mixing genres —
I must be the only person
who considers today a holiday.
Airline food is stasis incarnate:
my leftover peas, the same texture
as the cake and the turkey will be
just the same tomorrow; presentable
but ultimately indigestible,
much like entropy.
Above the cloudline like this it’s hard
to believe there’s a world below.
All I have right now is this,
a no-smoking sign, a sweaty man reading
Tom Clancy and some embalmed peas…
Maybe the world doesn’t exist?
Maybe, this is my Prize?
To struggle with this while strapped
into a plane flying on the collective whim
of the people in it?
Is this all I get?
Do the coins in my pocket now
bear my face? If so,
that would explain the coffee. Screw
Rod Serling and the Flight 101 Episode;
one day I’m going to take a trip
and not come back —
Pick a card… Roll the bones… Put the mask
over your mouth and breathe normally.
That’s why I have to finish
this before the plane lands;
when the world comes back
I will cease to exist.
The first draft of this was written on June 5th, 1992, under the circumstances described therein. While I don’t like to fly under the best of days, I had the closest thing to a panic attack I’ve ever had in my life during takeoff. It was, tosay the least, a surreal experience. It seemed obvious to marry two pieces of imaginatively speculative fiction (Ubik and “The Lottery of Bablyon”) to describe my state of mind.
I had just finished my annual re-reading of Ubik before working on this.
It’s been revised a number of times to clean up the language and, more importantly, the rhythm. The structure and ideas are completely intact, just the presentation has changed over the years. Now, as I’m no longer that person who wrote the original piece, the irony of this still being revised should be pretty obvious, if not a little sad.