VCO: Chapter 24

"VCO" image

Chapter 24

While Joselyn and Morgen have been away on business Everhet and I have been able to read a lot in the cabin. 

He needs some time to forest bathe his bad vibes off. 

Turns out he’d been chewing gum before I’d ever met him and I really didn’t know how bad it was.

Did we ever chew gum together?

Did he introduce me to it?

When I ask him how much of the suicide porn he’s been watching his hands start twitching and he says, “It’s not as bad as it was. I’ve stopped watching it in the mornings, and I think that’s really helped.”

I wasn’t well-versed or trained on how to properly use Joselyn’s black mirror, but once I mentioned it to Everhet he couldn’t stop talking about it. 

He seemed to be familiar with it, and knew intricate details of its appearance, and asked to consult with it to help him with his chewing gum addiction.

I had to monitor him and, to his credit, he handled having a chaperone with a surprising amount of maturity. 

He knew how powerful it was. 

The mirror is interlinked to all ArtoDevices. Including TVs and Stereos of every imaginable kind. Manufactured at a plant in Honduras that used to be a textile factory. 

I’ve never been. 

Probably never will.

It makes me wonder if I should for my own sanity.

It sounds crazy but there are times when I look at things I have and I have no idea how they got there. I know the course of events that brought whatever it is to me. I know the motions, the actions, the exchanges that were made to bring things forth. But even after all that it feels like I manifested it all. And didn’t I?

Isn’t going to a certain special location and performing a specific ritual, then receiving what I intended, the same thing as having a job? 

I have no idea why seed plus dirt makes flower, but it seems this world survives purely on magic. 

My therapist would say it’s a great thing to feel proud of ourselves. And every time I acknowledge my efforts I feel so much better. That’s what I think made me fall in love with Joselyn. She sees things I can’t see in myself.

But if the world runs on magic then the new magic, and the new religions, and the new beliefs must be found and created simultaneously, like math.

Speaking of math, where’s Everhet?

“Hey Evy?” I lightly knock on the bathroom door. 

I try to do everything gently so Everhet doesn’t snap. 

There’s a grunting and sounds of someone struggling. 

I say, “Hey, Evy. You in there?”

I use pet names to soothe him. 

He’s very hostile when he’s on gum which is most of the time now.

The noises stop. 

The lock clicks and the bathroom door opens. 

Everhet holds out the little black mirror. 

No bigger than a credit card. 

He says, “Sorry. You were off in your own world. But I asked if I could take it to the bathroom.”

And I say, “You did?”

He does an I’m-sorry-to-tell-you-this smile.

I say, “And I said yes?”

And does the smile again.

And I believe him for a moment. 

I started to wonder, are the ways we flex and position the skin on our face its own form of spell casting? The configurations of words and gestures intentionally activating what the speaker wants. Conversations could merely be people attempting to throw hexes on each other. 

For those who are charismatic and very talented public speakers, it’s very dangerous if they are unethical. That’s a cult leader. If that were true it wouldn’t be hard for a person like Everhet to brainwash someone unaware. 

Especially with the mirror. 

But that’s not the most frightening thing. The truly horrifying idea is that even our thoughts are rituals. Merely thinking things brings changes in our world. And I doubt I’m the only person who worries. 

Did my worrying about Everhet doing something bad on Joselyn’s mirror in fact cause it to happen? 

Is every bad thing my fault? 

Did I kill my parents?

As I sit, now, nothing has happened. 

But if something does I fear it will have been my doing. 

But right now, the world is okay.

This is paralysis.

The devices are connected by energy. 

One cannot directly affect someone else who owns a device. 

One can only encourage thoughts and feelings. 

So in a way gazing into your device is a two-fold meditation. 

Because you’re feeling the energy others are putting in while also putting in energies yourself. You get more than you give.

For the novice user it’s like trying to stand eyes deep in a strong river. 

Might be easier to let go and accept the algorithm.

Swept away on a predetermined course carved by eons of data flowing downstream. 

Which is a good reflection on impermanence, but leaves open a few customer complaint issues. 

Everhet hasn’t come to any of the board meetings. He takes any bad news personally to a nearly paranoid level. PPL gets a minimum of three-thousand law suits a week.

One boring day at the cabin, after chewing a sizeable amount of gum, my tongue felt like a corroded car battery terminal.

I went to the sink and opened the cabinet above it and took down a jar of moonwater. 

Every full moon Joselyn would set sixty-six full mason jars of well water out with the lids screwed on tight and the glass would absorb the reflected energy of the full moon. 

It’s best not to sip more than once a day otherwise it dilutes it somehow.

From the third or fourth floor of the cabin I hear Everhet shout down, “Hey Sully. Does Joselyn own a computer? I want to try something.”

Joselyn did not own a computer. 

I was tempted to take out Joselyn’s mirror. 

But for whatever reason—and I love Everhet—but he seems like the kind of guy that might try to steal it. 

I’m sure most people have a person in their life like that.

Throughout the literature in the cabin there were hundreds of accounts of sudden conversion using different symbolisms as logos. One of these famous reports Everhet told me about was the founder of the Gnostic Church. Who suddenly, and without warning, woke up one day and denounced any occultist affiliation and converted to Catholicism.

“Bet he did it for a publishing contract.” Everhet says holding a copy of Lucifer démasqué published by Jules Doinel soon after his sudden spiritual renovation. 

Everhet looks down at the book. 

Inspects all sides of it. 

Trying to understand it. 

He says, “What made him change so quickly?”

Many of those who knew Doinel before and after his transformation said that the cause could only be either conversion or madness. 

And that’s a very blurry line.

It made me nervous when he kept talking about stories like this.

One time at Rosetju, a tarot card reader pulled an upside down Devil and told Everhet he had the charisma of someone who might start a cult and that he should make a special effort to be ethical.

I say, “I don’t know. Probably saw something that freaked his brain. Fried it.”

“Is that real?” He asks.

I’d been sleeping over at Joselyn’s for the past month or so and Morgen knew, she just didn’t care. 

I had all my computer gear with me, and my NAT lock Wi-Fi adapter inserted into the port. 

If I have battery power I have internet access. 

Don’t ask me how it works. 

All I know is it was expensive.

You don’t usually hear about a VCO until it’s already on the list. 

But if you know where to go and what programs to use you can get some fresh ones before they’re scooped up by the feds.

We turned the poplar dining table into an editing bay. 

Taking different shapes and signs and symbols from the books and replicating them on Microsoft Paint. 

The digital replicas were inserted at the moments of position change as well as at the end and at the beginning. 

After six hours and feeling not a single ounce of fatigue it seemed that we were engaging in some form of digital alchemy. 

The arrangements of the symbols plus the mixture of each videos specific content created endless variations of distinct effects on the mind and what we thought.

Imagine: you’re watching a video of a couple fucking, the guy says, “Get doggy.” 

Then a flash of an image of a headless dove appears on the screen with bold white text over it that says: Hg2Cl2.

That empty space between in the position changes is when the viewers are most susceptible, we later found. Their openness was virtually all consuming.

Their abilities to register symbols quicker than a QR code, downloading the messages.

Since the content would likely be banned if it ever caught on, we were sure all would become VCOs. 

So all videos started with [VCO] now.



A comment below it said: 

“Loved how sweet you two looked at the beginning. Just enjoying each other. Great video as always.”



A comment below that one said:

“I love feeling my pussy full of cum. It’s so hot.”




“That’s why they’re PPL’s favorite couple! I don’t see any other couple on here with as many comments appreciating the intimate, real, and almost more romantic vibe of their videos. The best of the best.”

And we made good on our promises to our subscribers. 

We were serious about the content we published.

The symbols and the images seemed to choose each other. 

With the help of AI, we could make content for eternity.

It definitely had an eerie vibe to it all. 

Like we were breaking some rule just by opening the books then seeing the symbols and shapes.

The great icons.

But recreating them quickly felt less like we had insulted a powerful metaphysical entity and more like we’d cheapened its name thus lowering the effect.

There was a market that resided on a spectrum of how clearly you liked the intention to be in your art. 

Naturally, spoon-fed art is for beginners, but is not weaker necessarily. 

A digital offering for a digital entity. 

Like the acts committed in the videos was in some way a sacrifice or tribute to the symbol correlated in the video.

In one recorded rendition of Dionysian Rites, the orgiastic expressions and the dancing and the chanting is done to celebrate the god’s return. 

In our minds we were giving these outdated math symbols, shapes, and drawings a second chance at life. 

I think it may have been giving Everhet a Messianic complex.

I had to force myself to take a break. I felt like I was being sucked into the screen. I was strung out and went and chewed some gum by the fire.

I realized I fell asleep after I woke up.

The fire was dead and it was pitch dark inside the cabin.

Joselyn’s cabin is in a place where there is zero light pollution. 

So, dark doesn’t just mean the lights are off, it means the place is entirely devoid of light. 

Obsidian black. 


For a moment I thought I had fallen into her mirror.

Tip toe in the dark to the dining area and within the black void I saw a small orb of light being obstructed.

The small orb of light was Everhet, frozen, his forehead was pressed against the screen of my laptop. 

Magnetized to it almost.

I said his name and heard no response. 

When I pat his shoulder I feel a strange pull like the sustain after plucking a guitar string.

I pulled his head free, and the laptop screen shut off. 

Like it was sucking off his energy. He was in communion with some force. On the computer was a leech.

I feel around and grab one of the many candles. 

I strike a match and the initial fiery white burst that sets the matchstick on fire drew Everhet’s attention. 

And he looked directly into it with awe. 

His eyes had dilated so much that they were entirely pupils. I could see my bowed and warped, dark reflection, like the black of my parents ArtoScreen television.

Two obsidian disco balls in his head.

His eyes follow the slight bounce of the flame as I back away slowly. 

And when I stopped, he stopped. 

And when I moved, he moved.

It was like leading Frankenstein’s monster around with a treat.

He was my zombie until he snapped out of it. 

Hours after we had something like an awkward-morning-after experience.

And I knew something irreconcilable had occurred and I’d violated him in some way. 

Even with no malicious intent.

It made me think maybe I could turn Everhet into a VCO himself. His mind being the receptacle for so many. From then on, he was silent in meetings and made no eye contact. The type of docility that makes you wonder if it’s from trauma. 

Most of his communication was in grunts and hand gestures.

What scared me the most is that if Everhet or anyone else knew how powerful these symbols we have were…I don’t know what would happen.

This is how it must have felt discovering gun powder. 

And with the internet helping expedite all human endeavors we’d go from volley fire to atomic bomb in less than a year. 

The Arto behemoth has many resources. 

But that didn’t stop us from trying it again the next time Everhet and I had the cabin to ourselves. 

Each VCO had a flavor and the outcome was surprising until we did enough that it became predictable.

So we got Butler, who spent his free time playing around with AI, to build a bot that would capture, analyze, and reconfigure new videos with new symbols. 

It was like cooking up charms and hexes.

The videos were being seen, there’s no doubt about that. 

The user acceptance rate (UAR) was continually bullish.

But with the launch of a new library of unrestricted access to these symbols, people were carrying these around in their heads all day like undetonated psychic bombs that could lobotomize them at any moment.



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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