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“Why should our bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?” - Donna Haraway

Abstract: An(other) organism* without form, without geography. Topography as a form of communication. *We will never travel all of its grammars.

Research Notes: Positional: The Swarm As Organism: The Cyborg/Stalk As Subject

The stalk enters, a *woman, a disorganized swarm. Instead of a murmuration, a violent pitching of bodies and pieces like things thrown, a not-quite-controlled explosion. This is a storm with alien intent at its softest center that shifts in density, positionality, sends straggling tendrils and moments out to feel and test ours. A storm that boils and twists, hungry. Possibly the disorganization has purpose (possibly purpose is an antiquated human concept). Or maybe it is the equivalent of a facial expression, a reflection of some underlying feeling, some other motion. I’ve tried and failed to stop analyzing them, stop looking for a reflection of something familiar because I’ve never found even a shimmer. This/them/they were merely a piece of a larger consciousness to which I am invisible. They can no more communicate the thoughts of this larger thing that I think of as a galaxy or at the very least a star than my cells or pieces that function like cells can speak for me. I don’t even have language for what they are. Sometimes when wI are very large, we think we do, but it doesn’t translate well to selfness. It doesn’t matter. They/this is my occupation. So I keep gathering and researching. Condensing.

Behind her/them/it, the translators and minders (depending on intent, depending on state) tesselate. Pale, *man-shaped in suits that smile and smile excising gray skin, teeth, gums. It laughs, patting each other endlessly on the back. Some stalk, the hungriest, shiver around in metallic mist waiting for that smile to turn, waiting for an opening, a wound. I fall still, breathing through my skin, collecting what I can about this executive, this organism, this body of bodies. Trying not to draw attention to this thing, this self I am wearing. Trying not to think about skin or breathing or thinking. Shedding.

The swarm implodes around one of the minders, dismantling them with something disturbingly like a scream, like a throat clenching, a swallowing. A sign of blood briefly, then a singular emptiness as something is absorbed by the larger organ that sits just out of sense. Something has been communicated. Something has been lost.

The swarm that is the stalk moves on leaving a trail behind it, an iridescent sentence. A gelled thought. I will wait and collect what I can. If nothing, it is worth a great deal in certain markets to certain bodies with particular appetites. It talks in electromagnetic giggles and waves of color that feel like they hold or transmit meaning although no one has cracked this encryption even in multiverse. There is no thought long enough to hold its translation. It needs a different medium. Possibly squid language, skin language but larger, galactic structure scale. I know skin language but not this. None but the swarm could translate and they aren’t talking in languages that can be contained in our current entropies.

Another shriek and something that sounds like all of those *men chuckling at once. I try not to notice with most of myself and move slowly, randomly onto the thick trail they have left, absorbing what I can. It’s sweet stuff. It coos softly as I covet it in cysts and vesicles, walling it off like a dangerous infection, like a disease, like emotion. I can feel it trying to communicate me and think a few random things back. It’s getting smaller and smaller in its pieces and I doubt it can understand me even now. Words and meaning separated too quickly too far. Scale is the great violence.

I’ll try to put it back together, some of it anyway, later, when the stalk is farther away in timespace. It’s my job to follow them, to observe, but there are limits to my research. Limits like bodily integrity, fluid mechanics, entanglement. I’ve sent out moments of myself to gather more information, more ghosts, but they have yet to return. Sometimes random packets and blasts will leak through, possess, but they aren’t useful, their contents are hidden in surface areas turned away from wI. By that I mean they aren’t valuable. There’s no eating in them and nothing to speak of. They’re like dreams when I have been in a body that still held dreams. There seems to be a larger picture, another scale at which they would create a pattern one could sense or make sense of, but I have never found that place from which I can picture them as anything other than random noise: A thin woman who is not a stalk in antiquated skin holding a static device to her ear. Medical? Communication? Physical? She is smiling but not like the minders. Besides they’re all *men. Drones. Another bad metaphor. And there have been no eusocial insects for some time. Those hives left for a better universe.

I multiply and divide myself enough to fit through the scalar capillaries and flee with what I can carry to the Bose-Einstein state.

*note: gendered pronoun usage predicated solely on that which can reproduce itself in this spacetime and that which cannot.

Research Notes: Stalk Methodology

*A note. We are going to use ‘I’ as our designation for the majority of this transcription although that is not entirely accurate in most time. There is an ‘I’ but it is not singular as all I’s are, but this language likes that myth so we comply for the sake of something that isn’t clarity. Normalcy? We are not sure, but we have been advised by several moments and other people and organisms that this designation will make it easier for another person to consume the story and translate it into something like food, for instance.

We originally used ‘wI’ as a way of circumlocuting the problem of plurals and singulars, but it is in the very nature of this language to turn that plural into a singular (word, object, person). We must admit that some passages in this manuscript are still in ‘wI’ and wI cannot change them due to the nature of the moment narrating the passage without eliding that selfness and their agency.

wI collect and gather information, communicate, translate according to current methodologies known as science, but approaching the limits of current capacities. Science cannot contain an object that exceeds its metaphor, its category, its universe.

Research Notes: Taxonomy: Liquidity: Organized Bod(ies):

At this time, this state, this stalk is no different, but it is utterly different. They all are. They are an all. Maybe it is wI that is different. Since wI collected and consumed the trail of their passage and communication, wI have been talking to ourselves in new languages, having new thoughts. wI are not sure that these are not stalk thoughts. It is always difficult to divide and separate oneselves from the environment when one’s work is consuming that environment and translating it for others who are not oneselves, but this seems different. Bigger in the way that means more. Scalar. More mass, more time, more space, more energies and ghosts. wI are not large enough in space and scale at this times to take it in or understand it and wI do not have the energies necessary to expand in those dimensions presently. wI are searching for a suitable client for the data trail in order to mine more energies and expand, but that will take time collected. Searching is more consuming. Information is only one form of energy. Or many depending.

wI have finally traded those incorporated vesicles, those self-contained skin languages (the trail, the trail) and expanded our surface area and other dimensions. Mainly surface area. We can’t expand to stalk, but wI can reach that skin, that liminal area just this side of the phase transition. wI must be careful. The stalk can bend what are considered rules as well as dimensions. There is a chaos dimension, a vector, but wI do not have the calculative power in this form. wI are performing a model of a larger scale. wI are becoming a model of a larger scale. But we must still operate in local biological time or this will all be valueless. wI may try to simulate larger scale time, but not unless absolutely necessary. Even in simulation, large scale time has been known to cause illness and even a kind of irreducible death. Our work is in this local time, and so we must remain attached to its topologies.

The bits wI collected hold memories or pieces of a memory. Pieces so old they think in that quarantined, now-extinct recursive language declared a virus by orders of organism, by structures that matter. That recursive language that drove its population to poison itself lost in never-ending loops and memes of carbon dioxide, methane, money, politics. It will be valuable to them if wI can contain it within our boundaries, withhold or redirect its reproductive drive. It will be painful, requiring the constant reunion of its memory, its processes with labor, with work (distance over time, matter equals energy times the speed of light squared). It only wants to separate.

(wI consulted several moments, conferred, intuited: Money is understood as virtual organism(s) that requires the real and other virtual organisms (culture, politics, human and network consciousness) to reproduce itselves. An ontological parasite. Why would the stalk shed such volatile information cells? Excretion? A defense mechanism? Immunology? Pulmonology?)

The stalk that is co-local to this current body is communicating somethings in blood and hemolymph, acids, violence. wI try to remain unseen, amorphous, but the skin language we have consumed will not quiet, will not calm to lower temperature.

(When we are very big, wI begin to see the pattern that is the stalk or the trail of the stalk, its wake. But it is so very big it cannot fit on our surface areas even at this level of nebulae. wI begin to panic then retract automatically, but wI have the moment, the glimpse. Enough for a model or maybe a thought.)

Research Notes: (Re)view: A Body Without Organs: Hybridity

I hear it first. We hear it. The scream of a storm. We thought the stalk was contained to the swarm we were observing, but stalks are never confined by locality. Many believe that stalks are in all locations at once, but choose to embody themselves only arbitrarily or according to some different order of rules. Some of us felt the acid of this truth first, the tearing as we were consumed, the question about those skin words we still contained. We tried not to panic, but pain is a language in all dimensions, loud and broad across spectrum. Those of me that could, retreated and waited, consuming what light and other radiation we found with what surface area we had left, hoping the stalk had had its fill. That we had fulfilled whatever transaction it had initiated or continued. That we and our request had been, if not understood, communicated. wI were allowed to remain separate from the stalk, to not be consumed and assimilated. wI have tried not to assign meaning to this and have failed so we are allocating a certain volume of consciousness to modeling the pattern of attention required by the stalk to notice or understand our embodiment, our sentience.

Research Notes: Concluding: A Surface, Not A Vector: Nested Stories: Atonal Multiverse

wI are testing samples. wI are remembering when I was a stalk called a girl. But that world wasn’t big enough so I spread out, but too far. The world fractured, splintered and I with it. We’ve been trying to find ourselves and that singular world since even if it was dimensionally limited. Even if we were all frames needing to be ticked off, pages to be turned. Now wI are just trying to survive, to become something like one, to understand these worlds and their people. To become a star. We just wanted to burn that big in that many dimensions. But everyone wants to be a star.

(Bodies aren’t the only thing we have in common. Fuel is another. Atmosphere. Colonies. Memory. Pain. A Consciousness*. )

* There is value there but it is not the kind you can eat or think with so I wait and try to communicate with the rest of us.


I feel a proboscis stick, a scream. wI have avoided this strategy so far. wI have avoided being translated or transacted. But wI are spread so far into such a surface that is a universe and the swarm is tasting us. It must find some value, some useful dark energy beneath that moment of us because part of it swarms into organization, an organism to engulf that part of ourself. There are moments on the event horizon as that moment screams its last signals, it’s last senses before it is translated, transformed into stalk. Condensate. Consumed. Digested.

wI retreat to a place whose surface area is theoretically larger than a stalk can incorporate. There I tell my last story, my last translation. wI require no payment to complete this transaction:

There was a story, a girl (of course), who walked so light, so ghost that the world could not feel her on its skin, which was all she was, all it was: a skin without thickness. The girl was skin hungry, but the world could offer nothing to a thing it could not feel or know, could offer nothing a girl stalk could consume. The world consumed and dissipated. The girl refused to dissipate, grew angry and large, hot, distant, until she fell into herself and cracked open and the world’s own innards swarmed out. The girl couldn’t eat this crystal melt heat, but she could spin and signal and grow herself from its movement which she translated into impossible stillness just beneath the surface, chaos beyond. This girl was absolute zero and she’s the only place you can’t get to from this frozen universe. But she feels her way through ours with stalks and swarms, quantum storms, entangled ghosts that consume and order.

But information can’t survive the trip, the phase transition, the singular.

Information wants to destroy itself. In becoming information (translated, consumed) it is destroyed. wI consume and are consumed. Translate and are translated. wI are learning but only in time and not in enough of it.

To know this wI are swallowed and shredded, consumed. wI are lost to the story that is the universe. I am lost to us. wI will never know what it is to be so still and always.

She is all beginnings and endings. I am all. Beginnings.


Melissa Moorer was struck by lightning when she was eight. Her work has been published in Electric Lit, Fireside Fiction, The Offing , LCRW, The Butter/The Toast, FLAPPERHOUSE, and other luminous journals. She was Assistant-Editor at The Butter/The Toast where she wrote "This Writer's On Fire" for Roxane Gay. You can find Melissa Moorer on Twitter as @knownforms.
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