VCO: Chapter 15

"VCO" imageChapter 15

As he slides an espresso tonic to me, Everhet says he wants to show me how the new site works. 

He used the money from Marcus to build it. Marcus is overtaking me in so many ways. 

“And this whole panel is new.” He points at an advertisement that says: 


I didn’t know what Everhet was getting at last week when he told me we were about to go to the next level. 

I thought he meant content-wise. 

He says, “Isn’t this incredible? People are uploading their own work onto DPZ. It’s creating a community.” He shakes invisible maracas, “This is a movement!”

At a glance, as Everhet is highlighting the new features, I see his top five most viewed videos: 


They sound like personal news headlines.

I feel oppressed by the phallocentric tyranny that lurked behind most video titles but apparently, according to Everhet, consent forms of all participating parties must be submitted and verified before content can be uploaded.

This includes any persons off camera. How that was ever verified is still a mystery to me. More of a way to protect us legally than them physically.

It was hard to pay attention to him with videos auto playing in the background. A drop in the conversation and you’d hear people in the videos say wild shit like, “I’ve seen a girl take a coke-can size dick that was twelve inches long in her ass and she was half your size.” Out of context moments like that make it seem ludicrous to try and pedal this stuff as art.

I do, however, feel some concern for people that could be standing out of range of the camera’s view that may be threatening and forcing someone into something they don’t want to do. Like some ghost dictating to you. It makes you wonder how many pornos are really a hostage situation.

But Everhet said that wouldn’t happen and that these are good people.

“How do you know?” I say.

“It’s DPZ. DPZ people don’t do that.”

I’m wondering why I’m not getting that minty-tingly feeling when looking at thumbnail images. 

Something about my future wealth is making me fell impotent.

Or maybe it’s the gum.

“It’s its own form of social media.” Everhet says with a constant soft nod from his jittering excitement. 

He says, “See. Right here. This artist, Justin Conrad, and this other user, Taryn Steele, both have a halfway decent following. Like, around, six thousand subscribers. Then, last month, they announced that they were going to do a video together.”  

He clicks to a page with the thumbnail preview of a woman with a pixie cut kneeling, licking the asshole of a scrawny, unshaven man who has his knees in a couch and forearms on the back cushions. She uses both hands to massage his righteous dong while she did it. Like a sculptor working clay.

Everhet corrects his posture and looks into my eyes. 

He spreads his fingers in front of me. “Collaboration.” Then slips his fingers through one another. Making their woven blend of contours look like a hologram. Then he says, “Crosspollination, my dude.”

It seems Justin Conrad and Taryn Steele have both realized boosts in view numbers and subscribers in anticipation of the release, which is this Friday. 

Why it comes to mind I don’t know, but I look down at my own body. This is my inheritance. This is my half I’m bringing over the threshold into my marriage. I’m not concerned about Morgen changing her mind. I know how I look.

Everhet clicks on the message board. “People are going wild over it. It’s like a pay-per-view event, except it’s only a dollar. They’re going to live stream it. So I guess it is a pay-per-view.” 

He emphasizes the importance of content all classes can easily afford. Then starts a side rant about how internet access is a basic home right, but stops himself. He was always beginning side rants on top of his rants until he’d stumble his way back to what he was originally saying. 

I wonder if he’s already chewing gum while he sleeps. Everyone does at the beginning.

Sometimes people with mental disorders can go nuts after chewing too much gum because of the phenylalanine. 

I’ve never been seriously diagnosed, but the therapist I’m required to see as part of our pre-marital arrangement has strongly encouraged that I moderate my own gum chewing. But where I took out gum I replaced with soda so I’m pretty much where I always am.

My own bias rises. 

I say, “How many people have already pre-ordered it?”

Everhet says, “Twenty-six thousand two hundred eighty-five.” 

I imagine masturbating in unison with the population of a small city. 

I say, “What if someone records it?”

“Who cares?” Everhet seemed irritated. “Pirating and reposting a live event is fine. It already happened. That’s free advertising for the next event. Plus. Why would you want to watch people fuck in the past when you can have it live? Now.”

I say, “So the next pay-per-view event is advertised using the illegal recording of the previous one?” Like hooking a hose from your exhaust to your gas tank. Fuck. He is a genius.

Everhet slaps his fingers into his palm between every word. “People. Having. Sex. Live. Right. Now.” Then points at me and says, “That’s what people want.”

Everhet twitches, turns his head and folds his arms. 

I hate watching it. Everhet started chewing gum, we did it on tour. I saw Marcus give him a huge piece. He can’t manage it like I can.

As usual I see his light nod is coming from a light bounce of his foot. 

Everhet throws back shots of espresso the way a normal person throws back liquor before doing something nerve racking.

“So.” Everhet says, “What do you think?”

“It’s cool” I say, “I like it.”

That’s not what he wants to hear. He shows it by unfolding his arms. 

I say, “What?” So he’ll stop staring at me.

He spoke in a you-better-answer-this-question-correctly kind of tone. 

He says, “Do you think Morgen would like it?” 

He shrunk up on the “it” in a way that made him sound desperate.

My face drops completely blank.

“How?” I ask. “How did you hear about that?”

“I don’t know why you felt the need to hide it from me. We are business partners, after all.”

“Dude. This is the, dream gig. Like I’m literally picked for the dream gig.” 

My chest opens up in a way where all my organs were perforated and cool air flew through me. I rode this feeling with my words, like surfing a wave, without thought.

“Like before, I would totally be down for this. But right now, I just need to make sure I’m good.” And I put my hand over my heart. Felt the quality of the shirt I was wearing. “Once I get my footing I’ll see how everything works, and…then I can maybe bring it up. But right now. No.”

Everhet spread his lips thin and wide. Squints and huffs with emphasis out his nose. “Okay.”

“Dude, come on.” I say.

“No. It’s fine.” Everhet throws up his arms and slaps the laptop shut, “It’s fine. Whatever. I’m just trying to follow our fucking dreams, Sully.” Then he says, “Did you forget who took you in after your parents fucking detonated?”

My blood sunk into my penis, leaving my torso freezing cold. He’s all worked up. He gets really irrational when he’s like this. I don’t have enough friends to consider losing them, but it does scare me how far he’ll go to make his point.

I hear a ringinging in my head that says: 


I hold my palms open at him suggesting I am harmless because I have no weapons. I say, “No, no, no, no, no, no, weigh, weigh, weigh, weigh. Wait. Wait.”

I tell him to give me a week to think about it.

### ### ###

And a week goes by.

Everhet has the store closed early. Candles are lit. Like an anniversary dinner. 

He asks me to sit at the table in the center of the café area. Leans on his forearms.

He’d dressed up, sort of. His scraggly wavy hair is matted into a comb over with his palms. You could still smell the pomade on his hands.

Right then I feel like I’m conducting a job interview. And I feel like I’m watching myself just a little over a year ago. 

He’s holding the confidence one does after a recent success. Everhet laces his fingers on the table again.

He says, “So something happened with DPZ since the last time we spoke.”

“What happened?”

“Our user numbers. They’re through the roof. Like. It’s insane.” 

He grabs the top of his laptop and looks at me. His pupils, already started to do the tiny horizontal vibrations after you chew, chew, chew.

He smiles. 

“Best part.” He says, “The government is getting involved.”

And he turns the screen to me for the video If I COULD JUST HAVE THE BODY WITHOUT THE FACE uploaded by user Threesacumpany.

But where there should be a video is a blue square with bright white text that read: 




The content would become so popular so quickly like a virus that overcomes and kills you in twenty-four hours. Labeled a VCO and distributed in discretion. You had to know somebody who knew about it to get it. A subculture of revolutions. This is true pornography. 

His giddiness float off him and into me like resonant static electricity, the hair on my arms respond.

I knew he was passionate but he sounds like he’s on the verge of some kind of breakthrough that will revolutionize the world for centuries to come. One of those once-in-a-lifetime out-of-the-fuck ideas.

I say, “What does this mean?”

He didn’t say anything. 

He just held out his hands. 

Almost like he was waiting for me to say something.

“Have you talked to Marcus about this?”

Everhet scoffs, “Marcus has too many ideas.” It was quiet for a moment. Then he finally said, “Well…” 

And he looked around the surface of the table as if there was some encrypted message in the wooden swirl patterns. Choosing his next words carefully in his mind, one at a time, with enough space between them so that he could hear himself. He was speaking from his heart.

“You know, there…there is something to people’s allure, that they are drawn to things they know are not allowed. That are bad—to some people. Sometimes illegal. And…it’s not his fault. But, Marcus doesn’t really understand that. Or, maybe he does, but he doesn’t understand why that could be profitable.”

“But it’s not about being profitable.” I say, feeling my purist art haus porn persona returning. Or I just want to rally against Marcus. Two things can be true.

“It’s not.” Everhet agrees, “But I’m not against money.” He slows down again. Breathes. His eyes drift upward and around the ceiling. “I just don’t think there’s any longevity in dishonesty. And if you…if your decisions are made to keep others happy then what you make is tainted. It may be popular. Loved. Even a genuinely good product. But if part of the process of creation is double-checking that shareholders will like it, then you’re a slave. A highly creative slave.”

He shut his eyes as if poisonous gas was sprayed into them, and recoiled, “I-I can’t be part of something like that man. I don’t care about the money. I don’t…No. No, I won’t do it.”

In this moment I realize that I am sitting in front of someone who could never swayed or talked out of anything. Which is a dangerous and beautiful thing. Like a fire. 

Similar to a stomach virus, the warmness I feel in this moment is starting to turn into something corrosive and hot. 

“You don’t want to go public.” 

With shame, he says, “No.”

“And you want me to ask Morgen Arto…Morgen. Arto. To pay you what Marcus is paying you.” I leave it open ended so he’ll feel dumb, but it didn’t work.

“Well technically she’d need tender an offer. Marcus already put up money. And the administrative work he’s already had done costs a lot. Plus cancellation fees and —”

“Everhet.” I say, “No.”

“But she’s your wife.”

“Not yet!”

“Yes she is. It’s in the clerks office registrar.”

The room gets precipitously quiet.

“What are you talking about?”

“Marcus showed me. The Artos County clerk’s records have you legally married to Morgen Arto.”

“But we didn’t have a wedding.”

“Well you don’t have to have a wedding.”

“You don’t?”

“No.” Everhet poorly restrains a laugh. “That’s just a party for other people. You sign a piece of paper afterwards. That’s the actual legal and binding part.”

I could feel my 12-year-old emo self die a little. Secretly wanting to have a magical ceremony and for it to have not happened. 

“I don’t understand, I thought you had to vow then…”

“Consummate?” Everhet raises one eyebrow. “Wow. I can’t believe I’m explaining this to you, and not the other way around.” He drifts off for a moment then comes back to this reality and says, “But yeah. You just need to sign a marriage certificate with an officiant and witness, and poof, you’re tax exempt.”


“Was there another person there?”

“This guy named Butler.” I say, “But no one else.”

“Most places will let the officiant be witness too if it gets the paperwork through faster. You just promise to come back and amend it, but they never follow up on it.”

“How do you know all this?”

“Been married a couple times.” Everhet says, “Not for love. No. But a green card for greenbacks situation.”

He winks.

Then he says, “Anyway, can we get back to our conversation?”

Limply, I say, “Sure.” As I sit trying to comprehend the fact that I attended, and somehow, missed my own wedding.

“Now.” He shows me his palms to prove there were no weapons in them like a cave man. He says, “I think Morgen would really dig it man. I’m serious.” 

“Why would you ever think that Everhet?”

“Because. She’s the richest woman in the world. She’s into fine art.” He sounds a little more accusing. He says, “You’re the one talking about how she has like a million Richters and Picassos.”

Which is true. I’d been up to the estate to have forms of ID scanned and given tours of portions we could get to in the allotted amount of time. The entire area was to big to see in just one day.

“She’s not a fan of art.” I say, “She’s a collector.”

Flashes of the Monets, Munchs, Renoir, Volaires, just leaning in a stack against a random wall, you could flick through them like vinyl records. The place was littered with them. 

I fling into a defensive mode. A little miffed that I am insignificant to her as I knew I was. But the surprise is still painful. I say, “And it’s Daniel Richter, dude. The Berlin painter. He’s not even dead. And I don’t even know if those Picassos are originals.”

“Are you being serious right now?” Everhet’s eyelids drop half-mast. He says, “Your new wife has enough money to buy Mexico, relocate all of its citizens in middle class American housing, have the entire place demolished, and rebuilt as her junk drawer. And she’ll make the money she lost back in thirty days. From doing nothing, I might add.” 

Then he says, “You really think she’s buying forged Picassos?”

What I really want is to ask him if he really think of his stuff as fine art. Because that’s going to be Morgen’s question. She collects it because it’s an investment, like a stock market share certificate you hang on your wall. 

You buy into an artist’s vision. And you can call anything art. That’s fine. But fine art. That’s a bold statement. 

He does have a point about the money, though.

“Okay.” I say, “Hypothetically, if I brought it up to her—wait, how would I even bring it up?” 

“Really?” Everhet says, “You know what this is. You’ve seen the power of this stuff. Imagine if everyone could exert that power.”

To turn their bodies into film. Turn their films into art. Turn their art into VCOs. To make nothing into something so striking it influences the human mind by just looking at it. Now more than ever since it’s protected by law. Everhet explained how people are trying to get their stuff flagged as VCOs. People flagging things is making them more profitable. The way parental advisory stickers do the opposite of what they’re intended.

He simply says, “I need to get the word out in a big way. Plus. Check it out.” Everhet reaches inside his jacket. He says, “Already picked out our logo and everything.

He slaps down a napkin on the table. On it is a crude drawing of a triangle inside of a square inside of a circle within a triangle. The little triangle in the center pointing up. The big one encapsulating the entire shape pointing down. 

The two triangles functioned as ridges of keys on the tumblers in my mind and unlocked something. On site of the symbol, the detachment starts.

I tried not to think about Velcro.

Separation of holding hands.

The protective plastic on a new device.

Soul peeling apart from body.

That digital minty-tingly feeling with light passing through me as if I were cosmic dust.

I’m freaking out man. 

Bad thought.

He says, “What do you think?”

All the muscles I use to form expressions are currently unresponsive. Gravity is the only thing holding my face on my skull.

“Did you come up with that, Everhet?” I ask.

“My cousin Les gave me this book.” He says, “Had a bunch of outdated math symbols. Alchemistry or, AI chemistry, something. I don’t really know what it means but I like the aesthetic of the triangles. And people can resonate with it because. You know…” 

Everhet motioned his hands toward various corners of the room. 

He says, “Triangles are kind of everywhere.”

Still staring, I pushed enough oxygen up to make my limp lips move. But I’m incapable of speaking.

I feel like I could fall into it. Everything become molasses again.

Everhet laughs is slow and maniacal, and I feel like I’m high again. Points at the napkin and giggling like a dufus he says, “Looksssssorta liiiggghhkkkaaa booooob. Haaaa haaaa haaaa.”  

I’m bouncing out of my body again.

And Everhet asks another question that instantly snaps me out of it. 

Mechanism cleared.

“What did you say?” I ask.

“Did she make you sign a prenup?” Everhet says.

I shake my head for two reasons: First, to non-verbally indicate that I don’t where this question is coming from. Second, to shake loose a reason of why I didn’t think about it until now.

“I did everytime of course.” Everhet says, “It’s supposed to be confidential but this state is so archaic it’s listed in the court records when it was signed. So I looked up yours just on the off chance, and I didn’t see you had one.”

“No.” I say, “Just the one. The marriage certificate.”

“Really?” Everhet’s eyebrows raise and his lips pucker in an manner that straddled inquisitive and confused. He rolls his fingers on the tabletop twice, three times, then he says, “Well shit.”


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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