VCO: Chapter 16

"VCO" image

Chapter 16

Everhet employed his swooping charisma to charm the director of the contemporary art museum downtown to let him use the main exhibit room for his newest installation.

Immediate upon getting our passes it began to feel like I was leading one of those required timeshare sales meetings during your vacation that you earned by sitting through the same meeting on your last vacation. It’s infinite loop logic.

I walk over with two plastic cups of the free cabernet sauvignon by the bathrooms and Morgen takes one out of my hand without looking or saying thank you.

On all the South wall of the main show room hundreds of A.V. club style projectors throw fifteen-inch videos stacked atop each other. Each one an explicit sexual encounter donated by users from DPZ. Different postproduction effects accommodate the mood and tone of each microfilm that didn’t exceed two minutes in run time. Creating soothing graceful ripples of colors forming the overarching shape of a lotus flower. 

The name plate at the bottom right corner of the wall says:

Everhet Byzantine
Space Weather, circa 2024
Mixed digital media and Found materials

Morgen’s posture while looking at it made it clear she saw the same insight into the human condition you could find in a lottery ticket. But I could see.

It was always easy for me to see Everhet’s vision.

The lotus flower was the dead giveaway for those with less sophisticated palettes; the nelumbo nucifera, one of the two species of the Nelumbonaceae family that is not extinct, and one of the most recognizable symbols of sexual energy in ancient history. Due to surviving in flooded plains, the sacred lotus has been unofficially adopted into the water lily, or Nymphaeaceae, family. The root word, nymph, translating loosely to “bride” from Ancient Greek. 

But the compass of the piece was the name, Space Weather. He’s alluding to the aurora borealis with the pretty lights on the wall. The Earth has magnetic fields that deflect the charged particles shooting from the sun, called solar winds. Displacing their direct exposure to the surface which would cause radiation, and damage life on our planet. These displaced protons and electrons collide with gases in our atmosphere, and their charges excite the gas. Arousing fluid movement, like a gentle breeze over water, of green, pink, purple, red, and yellow. It was a meditation on the diametric opposites between the male and female energies. And yet, there is union. And where this union occurs is in the transitional space from one polar end to the other. It is comprised of microscopic, highly energetic interactions. Just like the colorful, small, short videos on the South wall.

Morgen says, “This creatively bankrupt milquetoast wouldn’t make it on Hitler’s list of degenerate art.” Then she says, “I hope this isn’t who you want to pitch to Joselyn.”

It’s clear in Morgen’s voice she is not a fan of this from a bureaucratic standpoint, but how she feels about Joselyn as a person seems to change depending on the day.

“You don’t like it?” I say, “If not, that’s fine. But look at these numbers.” And I show her our total users number moving upward at the rate of a digital stopwatch.

I turn to Morgen and lie. I say, “I don’t get it either, but people are drawn to it.” 

And Morgen says, “Please keep your voice down.”

Then her phone chimes. She checks it.

She grabs my glass and slugs back the rest of my wine but somehow looks elegant while chugging. Pulls the glass away, and she doesn’t even let out a sigh. Turns her back. She says, “Our car is here.”

I swish around and look for Everhet for an introduction but he’s nowhere to be found. And Morgen is already walking out the front door. Since we’ve been married, she’s gotten in and closed the door out of habit, and sometimes the car takes off without me. So, I forget Everhet and lightly jog to the town car.

Inside she lights a pre-rolled cigarette. She says, “So what are you planning on doing with it?”

I pull out my device. And hover my thumb over letters. I consider her question while simultaneously wondering what digital hieroglyphs on my phone to use to symbolize to Everhet why we are leaving before we see him. Perhaps the elephant and the red and yellow pill followed by a depressed sigh emoji.

She hands the cigarette to me and cracks her window. The word elegant doesn’t do justice to how she exhales smoke. Something about her lips being solid and elegant marble while moving effortlessly.

“He needs some money for advertising.”

“Does he have a logo?”


“So, what’s he need money for?”

 “To put it places.”

“What places?”

“The internet.”

Takes the cigarette back. Hits it. And throws the unused three-quarters out the window.

“You can do that for free.” She speaks.

“Yeah, but not well.”

She brought her eyebrows toward her nose bridge. She says, “How does one do it better?”

“You hire someone to do it.”

She squints and tilts her head. She says, “People who are better at putting things on the internet?”


“And they learned how to do that?”

“What do you mean?”

She’s using her hands as an accompanying instrument. She says, “Like that’s a skill. It’s a skill to be able to put things up on the internet well?”

“Sure.” I shrug. I honestly don’t know anymore. She’s breaking my reality with all these questions. And making everything I know and believe feel stupid.

“So, you’d have to be taught.”

“What?” I shake my head. I’m lost now.

She says, “You’re saying you can be taught how to put things up on the internet well?”

“I mean. Technically. Yes.” I say, “You can be taught anything.”

She toots her nose while doing a cocky style of nodding that shows she obviously disagrees with me. The purple smoke marinates the lining of her nostrils. She says, “You want Everhet to be your friend, don’t you?”

There’s a decent pause where I wind my voice up, then down; fishing for words and retrieving an empty net.

She says, “You want people to like you, darling. That’s not a crime.” Her smile breaks the awkwardness. Then she says, “But it is a weakness. A very natural one. Shameless. But a weakness nonetheless.”

I look at her and she looks back and there’s this silent moment where I feel her psychic energy crossing the air between us and it’s being downloaded into my system. This is what it feels like to be safe.

I think about my mom’s rants about work. I miss how simple it was to just do an easy job you kind of hate as we pass the VGV on Delacroix Ave. But then I try to think about the anxieties I used to have and it’s like flicking a light switch, and nothing happening. Money is scalpel- like, in that it can be evil, but it can help in so many ways. 

It could just be me, but if you could wire confidence into someone’s psyche the gains on humanity as a whole would be astounding. Wire money into their bank account. 

She says, “Do whatever you want. I’m going to Europe in two days for around six months.”

This is the first time we’ve been together since I’ve signed the contract, and we still haven’t consummated our union.

She diagnoses my problem before looking at it.

“He needs variety.” She lifts and lowers her hands like a scale. She says, “He should use the West Estate, it’s vacant and we can write it off as an expense to keep him there.”

Her saying “keep” felt weird.

She pulls out her device and starts tapping. Butler who has suddenly appeared next to her, asks what she needs. People don’t feel like people anymore. More like an extension of myself. She says, “Have a staff reassigned to the West Estate. Prettier if possible. Those idiots will love it. We can get some in-house content to shave off his bottom line.”

She says it as if there was a bottom line for her. It feels humble somehow. It’s cute.

Then she looks up at me. She says, “Once he’s inserted some scripted quality content between that low-fi, post-agro filth, you can execute an advertisement campaign. But we still need to talk to Joselyn tomorrow together before I leave. Hans will not be happy if we say we did and didn’t.”

She tells me to make sure to manage Everhet.

She says, “I know a tricky man when I see him.” She flicks a side eye to me. 

People ask me how I feel now that I’m rich. I don’t feel different. People feel different. They’re all needy. In pain. Hungry. Lazy. Exhausted. Overstimulated. Bored. All in one day.

I don’t feel any of those things. And I’m repulsed by their presence like two negative ends of magnets trying to touch. The blank empty tension filling the space between us.

Invisible power.

I feel nothing.

And it’s brilliant.


James Jacob Hatfield is a displaced engineer, a painter, and many other contradictions. His work has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His ekphrasis poem “torrents of lahar, No. 36” was anthologized by the North Carolina Museum of Art. He is a Sterling Fellow and a Weymouth Fellow. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

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