Stories

Tonight’s Notes on Iris (extract from Somehow Still Happening) – Sam Machell

Briefly, you are made aware of your blinking. Of its pace and texture. The microscopic details of sound and touch. You, Iris Gostak. One blink every four seconds commanding attention. Sitting there at your desk, your lids tied by tempo. There it is. Dripping out offbeat and uncanny like a leak overhead. Listen. Can you feel your ears? Blip… blip…. blip.. Blut then, soon, this awareness flutters by and away and black into the national rhythm of things. A seagull down the street. A flock of pigeons. You’re not hungry. You just ate. The evening shut out by the closed curtains growls if you listen for it. Through the window. Not like your stomach. You had leftover lasagna and it looked ok. Remember: You need to rinse out the tupperware so it doesn’t crust over. Happened plenty of times before damn hasn’t it?, and now there’s a thing, permanent orange lingering smelly cloudy thing in the bottom of the box, lots of boxes, lots of clouds, with a smell that makes you want to never eat tomatoes again, canned or off the vine, and damn clings to your fingers too and won’t ever fade it feels like, no matter how hard you go at it with the wire mesh or the basics-brand washing-up-liquid or the water just hot enough to burn your fingertips newborn pink. Otherwise, there’s just the muffled sound of thermodynamics – cooling mug: coffee dregs – and the queasy whir of your laptop fan pushing out hot air from some unseen dust-encrusted cranny, giving the whole desk area this stale kinda funk. Back when you purchased the laptop you treated it like a newborn child; freeing it with tender curiosity gently, gently from the amniotic cellophane, peeling so softly (and holding your breath) the layer of protective film from the screen that trembles and shivers when you unfold it, hush, pulling it away with eggy stretch and pursing your lips to an almost opening… don’t make a sound…! and blowing there! there! away some newly settled dust. But things grow old, and now you couldn’t care less. Priorities sure do shift, don’t they, Iris? Your curtains are open by a slice. There’s a crust among the keys. The screen is a night sky of pubes and skin flakes and your desktop is just as unkempt: applications splattered abstract, saved to any which location: untitled copy, untitled (2), copy of copy of copy of final, asfdjklgsa (1). God help the astrologers faced with this celestial mess. What grim web of fate will be determined by this? You reach up to adjust some hair, noting how it feels in your fingers: glossy but not greasy: maybe a day or two unwashed and stray. Your eyes are dry and withered in the cruel blue light. It’s the daily contortion. For all the life you remember, there has been a dull pain gnawing away at the joints behind your knees. Your medial collateral ligaments, uh huh. The first time you spilt coffee on your laptop you lept and squealed and knocked over a glass of dead flowers as you reached for the box of tissues. You managed to get to it before the toxic spread had reached any of the keys, but some soaked in somewhere, someplace – the speakers most likely – and now, sometimes, there’s a crackle and a splutter, and the music keeps coming but the whole room smells like early morning death. Hard to assign a sound. During that particularly abject adolescent growth spurt the bones in your legs overtook your muscles and left them in the dust that coughs out now. The casing is dented and scratched. Exercises may help to alleviate the pain. Put two hands flat on the wall in front of you, one foot touching toes against the skirting, step back with the other, and gently lean forward as to work on stretching out the tendons, get a bit of slack going, just like so, that’s right, the doctor demonstrates, her eyes glazed over like she’s done it a thousand times and no longer has any concept of the pain you’re experiencing, it’s all just abstract to her, while you, sitting and watching, the wind slapping at the window of the surgery, hammers striking taut piano strings, your ungainly legs the skin of a drum stretched too tight and about to snap, twisting your anxious face and pain into a weakly curved smile, you’re disgustingly tall, the lights in the surgery buzzing like zzt zzt zzt or is that just your tinnitus? Discordant. Here it comes again. Somewhere, a siren emerges then ceases. You can’t afford to replace the hoover, and so some of the petals and particles of glass will remain embedded in this carpet till the landlord tears it apart again. You push back into the chair with your shoulders and shift your weight. Closing your eyes. The laptop still works fine. It just can’t hit some of the meatier bass notes. But this is to be expected for, what is, you must surely admit, a pretty budget model, not at all designed for the extended periods of loud and high quality audio playback your job requires. But your headphones on the other hand, your Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones (II), acoustic noise-cancelling, volume-optimised EQ, world-famous, five-star, Bose-Augmented-Reality-enabled, impact-resistant plastic casing, with alcantara cushions so soft, they claim, your ears won’t feel a thing, like wearing the wind, in a sultry corrosion-resistant shade of onyx, provided by your employer at no expense… these headphones – your headphones – are something special, and are indeed appropriate for your work. Some days you wear them for 8 hour stretches. At the moment they’re lying dormant on the desk: an open vice ready to contract. You reach up in slow underwater strokes to rub your eyes, pushing on your closed lids until you feel the intuitive gritty squelch that signifies to Stop, then, moving your hands back down to the surface of the desk, you feel your heart jump and scramble and the veins on your right hand bulge and recede. Did you forget something? No, you were on time with your pill. The other thing about your laptop is that the screen is broken: cracked somewhere deep. It’s not a problem worth expenditure, a text file works fine, but sometimes after prolonged use the liquid crystals will leak and bloom, gnarling the pixels into psychedelic patchworks of error. The fern needs watering. You can see. Drumming the desk with your fingers. Scrolling up and down. Motions charged with all lightning anxiety that fizzles when you have something to prove. But do you? What’s your responsibility? Where does your guilt complex end? Down the street someone coughs up a puddle of phlegm onto the pavement. It’s dark in your room. The wood grain on your desk is fake – a veneer – and the delicate fractal patterns of knots are the same on the top as they are on the bottom, but the stains are different. You lean back a touch further and the chair squeaks in reply. Oh look, there it is. Do you see? The screen is starting to bleed and the subject headings of your unread emails appear now like a faraway storm and maybe it has started to rain outside. You tilt your head to listen. URGENT: Swirling Your Pre-order Tackle A Quick REMEMBER COMING UP SOON Movement Is Growing Tickets To The Iris Come Back For Just £3 And The All-New Your New Daily News DON’T FORGET Pitter Create Your Own Patter Swallowed Up Arriving Today You Submitted Iris Welcome! [DO NOT REPLY]. It’s not rain. Your eyes are opening and closing every two seconds, and your chest is rising and falling every three or four. Every eight seconds a car passes from one ear to the other. Every thirty six there’s another distant cough. The whole world is hacking its lungs out tonight. The smog on the horizon is insulation against the rebarbative clarity of the sky. It’s hard not to think about the pain in your breast, or the pain behind your knees. How long has it been there? What do you want to do? You need to get to work. Lights from windows over the road click on and off in syncopated rhythms, hard to predict, seductive in their chaos. You watch a woman arrive home from work to a house devoid of light, and disappear through the front door into shadow. She had to parallel park her Honda Civic between a Fiat 500 and a VW Up!, had to do it on a pretty severe incline, and had that drained hunch as she fumbled for her keys on the front step. You’re glad to have not had to do that for a few weeks now. You really need to email about that. The meniscus is the cartilage that absorbs shock. The patella is another word for the kneecap. You remember those kids at school who would move their kneecaps around. In the changing rooms, deglazing after netball. In that asthmatic landscape of shower steam and deodorant haze, and blue tiling fraught with unspeakable horrors. The adolescent bodies of varying stages separated into cliques: the ones who flaunt what nature’s blessings brought, leggings and sleeves rolled up, strutting around arched like hens, spitting shit, checking tits; the ones who hide what time hasn’t yielded, in small groups of trusted friends, huddled in the corners, desperately reapplying makeup; and then, there’s the others, groupless, neutral, those freaky attention-seeking disembodied girls, sitting there, legs outstretched, beckoning to a friend with a glint in their eye. Boys too, whoever. The weird kids, you know? Unaware of other eyes – other perspectives. Blissful and commanding and babyish. They wait until they know they have at least a few pairs of eyes on them before they begin. You’re watching from the corner of the room, where you’re slightly out-of-breath, trying to spend as little time as possible in any state of nakedness. There’s the overwhelming smell of stale towel. Other girls watch over their shoulders. And it all gets cosmically quiet as the girl with the outstretched leg reaches down and finds her grip. The show starts with a little flourish: a wobble, to weed out the squeamish, and it only gets more horrific from there. That’s fucking gross, Jemma. Yeah, seriously. Oh my God. Everyone’s out of the shower and gathering now. The steam on the ceiling condenses and drips, and there’s the rustle of towels through hair and doubtful murmurs. Everything sounds far away or underwater. It’s black and white in the memory. You take advantage of the situation to finish changing away from the gaze. To have the confidence to do that, in this kind of place? It’s unthinkable. To just sit there, centre of attention, contorting and deforming your body like that, in this like truly visceral way, with this casual performativity like you’re just made of polygons or something… The patella sliding around silent and smooth, your fingers gripped around and almost underneath the bone… You can’t fathom it. When you asked your father if it would be ok, please Dad, if he wouldn’t mind, if he took you out to buy a bra, that you felt like you were old enough for one now, that everyone else at school had one, he just kinda blushed and laughed and didn’t say yes or no. The girl with the outstretched leg is wearing a bra. It’s bright red and blooms through the white shirt. She looks up and realises she’s drawn quite the crowd. It’s just what she wanted, and she’s just so glad she’s wearing those short-shorts today that her Mum bought her last week, yeah her parents are still together, and she knows she looks good today, and she grins so wide and looks up at her friend and her eyes are saying Look and she laughs and laughs and something snaps, and her laughter jitters and splutters as she looks down and sees the blood, and the patella that’s slid all the way round and juts out from beneath the meniscus like a tree branch through a windscreen. You remember very clearly the way the blood sprayed out in bursts, and how dark it was, and the way the clots floated around in the pool on the floor like flies in soup, or lifeboats deployed far too late. The rain seems to have passed, and you rub your eyes again. Ppppfffffff. Earlier, somebody was walking their dog down the street and the dog became interested in something invisible, sniffing and wagging its tail, burrowing through the air to investigate until the owner got antsy and pulled it away – Enough of that now! – and as it was being pulled away, the owner yanking away on the lead, its face twisted round to gaze back at the object of interest and it barked and snarled and sprayed saliva all about the place, its face twisting further into some visage of contempt, bared teeth drooling over the pavement, coughing and spluttering as the collar is pulled tighter into its neck as it’s led round the corner and away, you swear you saw it, the dog, look directly up at your window, and wink. You drum your fingers on the desk. Every four seconds you blink. You need to start working soon. But you are feeling that vague impatience of a pending piss. Lights from windows over the road click on and off in syncopated rhythms, hard to predict, seductive in their chaos. Down the street someone coughs up a healthy gob of phlegm. It’s all a rhythm. Your phone blinks on: you have received a message. Another. Somewhere, a siren emerges then ceases. Your coffee pot shrinks as it cools and tick tocks. When it was fresh, the ticks were more, or less, in sync, with the clock, 60bpm, but now, they’re much slower, and winding, ever slower, tending spiral, with mist, each passing breath. The dimensions of the window before your desk are in the ratio 19.5:9. It shields you from the lurid gloam. It’s your view. You, Iris Gostak. Rising from your chair to make the crossing to the bathroom, eyes adjusting to the darkness of the room, tiredness now clear and thumping, feet unconscious in front of each other, the click spring tug of fluorescent lights turning on and flooding, into the motions of sitting, releasing, sighing, trickling, and checking your emails. Your eyes forced to squint.

From tranquility@lewdmedia.wey: Again, Iris, we want to say how sorry we are. About what we allowed to happen. Security has been stepped up since then. If you want to change your mind about further investigation, then please let us know, but obviously we can appreciate it’s not as simple as that. But, anyway! From what we’ve been told it seems there’s been some problems at the network and the airing has been pushed back to late May, so the subtitles don’t have to be ready for another week. Plenty of time! Nothing on our side to be clear – final cut is just about ready now. You can always count on Lewd! Some kind of screw up with the sponsor I believe. Also waiting on colour grading, but that’s fine. We had the composer come round the office last week and view the thing – he likes it. Thank heavens. He was disappointed you couldn’t make it. Wanted to discuss something with you. Like a bird down a chimney that guy. Very strange energy. He wrote you a note, I’ve attached it below. Scanned in copy. Handwritten! I know! Pretentious bastard! Let us know how you’ve been doing, please. Please? It’s been a while since we last heard! You know… And, again, we are so, so sorry. It would be good to see you in the office again soon! Your desk is getting dusty… Let us know, yeah? Best wishes! The bowl is cold and you alternate the weight between your heels and your toes to keep from getting chills while the attachment downloads. We’ve not worked together before. That’s cool though! This whole project is an experiment. Whether or not people hear the music, they need to feel the music. This is clear I hope? I really feel this is something that needs to be understood by everyone. At some kind of primordial level you know. You wash your hands and are careful to avoid eye contact with the mirror on the way back to your desk. I’m sure you’ve been briefed already, so I won’t insult your intelligence by going over it again lol. I’m just writing this so you’re clear how important it is. Everything appears sunken… swallowed… suspended somehow in this cool evening gloam. Which is to say that, really, it’s just kinda dark and there’s a breeze occasionally teasing the blinds. Mmhmm. The lamp on your desk looks like it should be humming or flickering but it does neither. I think we can make something great together, bu – . And the note stops there. Tectonic tears slice the last sentence to its close, captured in minute destructive detail by the scanner. If you were to zoom in on the image – which you don’t btw – you would see snowflakes and hurricanes in the fibres at the edge, separating all into swirls and disintegrating. Your phone’s screen is pretty much spotless comparatively. It was given to you not long ago by a friend who upgrades once a year and you haven’t dropped it fatally yet. As you place it back down and it rattles like a timpani and the screen blinks on sensing sudden movement, and you squeak back into place in your faux leather office chair, sliding your buttocks about till you reach comfort, drumming your fingers on the desk, you suddenly hear, from beyond the boundaries of your home, far out over the rooftops out past the city, beyond the stretches of moors and tors that border the area, a tremendous roar so great and alien and powerful that the walls tremble and the ground moans in ancient agony. Your laptop fan is screaming, and so is the sky. Birds are all instantly airborne beams. There haven’t been insects for years. The whole world itself seems unable to contain the terror of this sound. Through the wall you can hear a whimper from your roommate and the free spinning wheel revving of a collapsed chair. Your phone, vibrating, receiving a call, jitters and jumps on the desk, agitating the dust on its surface, and skids its way off over the edge, landing but not breaking on the floor by your feet. Your coffee is shivering in your mug. The roar ceases. Moments later you hear a helicopter passing over head, passing, away, then the scattered percussion of barking dogs on hi-hat fences, sirens rising and falling and car horns cascading down the streets. It’s cool out tonight.
Time to gclickclicket to work:

Gates_of_Asemia(draft for Iris).mov
QuickTime movie
7,699,762,600 bytes (7.70 GB on disk)
Created: 24 April 2026 at 13:19
Modified: 29 April 2026 at 21:21
Dimensions: 720 x 480
Codecs: Timecode, Linear PCM, DV/DVCPRO – NTSC
Colour profile: SD (6-1-6)
Duration: 55:55
Audio channels: Stereo
Comments: Hey gal! I know you always like to read this shit down here. Have fun, it’s a wild ride! Also don’t mind the bit at like minute 43, the audio cuts out briefly but we’ll have it sorted for final edit <3 ciao.