Golden Tablet by Rees Holdt

Issue 53

The genderless form rose from the desert haze in a tie-dye, hounds-tooth three-piece suit. Traveller Rees Holdt saw it at a distance – it was hard not to. The Barstow landscape is flat and Holdt was upright enough to see most of it. The form was not human, but not strange enough to worry a man whose past psychotropic experiences had served up far weirder. He took the specter in stride.

Except his stride was no longer his own. He stepped, compelled by foreign forces to the Technicolor rhythm of the lizard-skin drum clutched under the arm of the being to which he was transfixed. All focal lengths except that which centered on the dapper shapeshifter ceased to exist. Holdt felt his pockets bulge. Inside he found a paper cut. On a second, more careful dip, he found a grip of photographs. They came from different eras and seemingly different worlds but displayed little wear.

The form, now shifting between R, G & B encouraged Holdt to sit and leaf through his new-found photo-bounty. It could have been minutes, but it was probably days, of browsing. With each flip of a photo, a soothing narrative attached to each image was distilled into Holdt's memory. It was as if he’d known the subjects since the dawn of time. What was time anyway? And what rough beast kept refilling the god damned Doritos bowl?

The lizard skin drum skin enveloped Holdt as he pawwed intermittently at the tortilla chips and then back to the photographs. He saw all that he was to be shown. The cosmochrome form stood as a chameleon; each change of color synching with Holdt’s waves of euphoria. He was experiencing picture mediated epiphanies. Out west is the best. Avedon, the New Topographics, Mark Klett, Glenn Rudolph and all those fuckers who’ve shot at the Salton Sea made sense now. And it was good.

Now in his reptilian sheath, Holdt was ready to receive the messenger’s message. It was (verbatim): “Existence is an infinite loop of energy, we are all one and we are all none. Innumerable non-choices derail most humans from truth and truthful existence. Photography is a mirage of a mirage. Only a fraction of humans stumble through life and witness real truth. Only a fraction of that fraction pair that truth with photography.”

The fractional, anointed few were represented in the images now in Holdt’s possession. The Doritos bowl yet replenished once more, the golden calf spared its slaughter, and all was suddenly dark again. And quiet.

Holdt held the only truthful photographs in the universe; the golden tablets of imagery. Exhausted, he slept for two days and two nights before waking, thirsty and covered in tortilla chips. The photographs, of course, cannot be unseen and like the word that has been read, it served Holdt no further purpose to hold on to that which he already knew. And so it came that he gave them to some bloke in a diner in Farmington, NM. From there they made their way across the Land of Enchantment to David Bram's mailbox.

Editor's note: this statement was written by Rees Holdt. In the third person.

It was 1977 when Phil Spector ruined Leonard Cohen. The shock of his impact could be felt into the 80s leaving Ethan with little to model himself after spare an aging Robert Stack. Dean Stockwell played a small role, too, leaving a handful of breadcrumbs behind which dotted the forest of every man's' mid-thirties. It would be years before Ethan came to realize what had happened. He had, quite unintentionally, invented David Lynch.

It was 1977 when Phil Spector ruined Leonard Cohen. The shock of his impact could be felt into the 80s leaving Ethan with little to model himself after spare an aging Robert Stack. Dean Stockwell played a small role, too, leaving a handful of breadcrumbs behind which dotted the forest of every man's' mid-thirties. It would be years before Ethan came to realize what had happened. He had, quite unintentionally, invented David Lynch.

She was always as a disadvantage growing up due to her Christian parents. Christianity isn't a bad thing except when it turns militant, so when June's mother and father were sentenced to 20-to-life for firebombing a North Dakotan abortion clinic, it was both devastating but also an opportunity. June got out from underneath the dogma of her extended family, moved in with an aunt in Maryland and later attended John Hopkins. In her early thirties she met a Somali emigrant named Abdikarim and they fell in love. Together they founded an ecumenically-minded soup kitchen that serves 4,000 bowls of food to Baltimore's homeless every week.

She was always as a disadvantage growing up due to her Christian parents. Christianity isn't a bad thing except when it turns militant, so when June's mother and father were sentenced to 20-to-life for firebombing a North Dakotan abortion clinic, it was both devastating but also an opportunity. June got out from underneath the dogma of her extended family, moved in with an aunt in Maryland and later attended John Hopkins. In her early thirties she met a Somali emigrant named Abdikarim and they fell in love. Together they founded an ecumenically-minded soup kitchen that serves 4,000 bowls of food to Baltimore's homeless every week.

Despite Oliver's narcissism and hideous halitosis, Heather still enjoyed his company and shoulder. Oliver's public displays of affection toward Heather stood in stark contrast to his continued failure to ever connect with any human. Their connection affected Heather's neurolinguistic pathways in a deep and permanent manner. Heather's squawks changed key; she produced sound never before heard in nature. Oliver opened The Cross-Species Communication Institute (CSCI) in Carson City, NV. Heather is in the CSCI logo.

Despite Oliver's narcissism and hideous halitosis, Heather still enjoyed his company and shoulder. Oliver's public displays of affection toward Heather stood in stark contrast to his continued failure to ever connect with any human. Their connection affected Heather's neurolinguistic pathways in a deep and permanent manner. Heather's squawks changed key; she produced sound never before heard in nature. Oliver opened The Cross-Species Communication Institute (CSCI) in Carson City, NV. Heather is in the CSCI logo.

Whenever she visited the family home, Stephanie was picture perfect. You wouldn't know that day-to-day she is the most powerful promoter of Juggalo festivals in the country. The Insane Clown Posse wrote a lyric about the incredible concentration of TCP in her bloodstream. When others are pounding energy drinks, trying but failing to maintain after a week of Juggaloing, Stephanie was unfazed. Forever perky. The secret? Odwalla Superfood.

Whenever she visited the family home, Stephanie was picture perfect. You wouldn't know that day-to-day she is the most powerful promoter of Juggalo festivals in the country. The Insane Clown Posse wrote a lyric about the incredible concentration of TCP in her bloodstream. When others are pounding energy drinks, trying but failing to maintain after a week of Juggaloing, Stephanie was unfazed. Forever perky. The secret? Odwalla Superfood.

Nicodemus' most daring escape wasn't that daring at all. In three easy steps he had mastered what his owners presumed to be rodent Everest. He pulled himself on top of the toilet paper roll and wedged his paws between the bottle that hung off the side of his cage, pulling himself up along its plastic contour. He eased onto the bottle's flat top, bumped the screen lid back with his nose and fell onto the desk with a soft thud. Nobody noticed. It was freedom without very much exclamation. His sense of smell told him that there was something more interesting on the outside. That motivation would take him down the back of the office chair that had been pushed up against the table all the way to carpeted floor below and, ultimately, into the kitchen where his incredible journey was cut short by Deb's exclamation. "Nico?" she laughed, grabbing him before he could make a dash for the back of the stove to where she had accidentally dropped a small piece of strong-smelling roast beef that had precipitated his escape. Nico's five minutes of freedom had convinced Deb that he was an escape artist and she, in turn, convinced Marshall of the same thing. The Great Ratdini, they joked, as they cooked up dreams of a rat-maze that would demonstrate their beloved rat's super-cognitive secret. It didn't, but the effort was mutual and the result was as reliable as two secret lovers asking the same question of the Ouija board separating them.

Nicodemus' most daring escape wasn't that daring at all. In three easy steps he had mastered what his owners presumed to be rodent Everest. He pulled himself on top of the toilet paper roll and wedged his paws between the bottle that hung off the side of his cage, pulling himself up along its plastic contour. He eased onto the bottle's flat top, bumped the screen lid back with his nose and fell onto the desk with a soft thud. Nobody noticed. It was freedom without very much exclamation. His sense of smell told him that there was something more interesting on the outside. That motivation would take him down the back of the office chair that had been pushed up against the table all the way to carpeted floor below and, ultimately, into the kitchen where his incredible journey was cut short by Deb's exclamation. "Nico?" she laughed, grabbing him before he could make a dash for the back of the stove to where she had accidentally dropped a small piece of strong-smelling roast beef that had precipitated his escape. Nico's five minutes of freedom had convinced Deb that he was an escape artist and she, in turn, convinced Marshall of the same thing. The Great Ratdini, they joked, as they cooked up dreams of a rat-maze that would demonstrate their beloved rat's super-cognitive secret. It didn't, but the effort was mutual and the result was as reliable as two secret lovers asking the same question of the Ouija board separating them.

On the bus home from Blue Sky Gallery's Vivian Maier exhibition, Miriam Bayer heard a couple of hipsters ironically refer to everybody as a photographer. Having been unfulfilled in her role as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency, Miriam decided a career change was in order. She was a prolific street photographer. With her Samsung phone she made thousands of images daily. 23 years later, after her funeral, a nephew found 8 garbage bags full of hard-drives. In between his work as a museum curator, the nephew managed to look at two folders of images on one of the drives that wasn't obsolete technology. He put the rest into storage until he forgot them entirely. They featured briefly on one of those TV shows where chancers make bids on storage units full of strangers' strange stuff. Miriam's images were eventually shipped to an unnamed developing country, where the memory was stripped, beaten, melted and trodden into the dirt by a child's pair of mismatched flip flops.  

On the bus home from Blue Sky Gallery's Vivian Maier exhibition, Miriam Bayer heard a couple of hipsters ironically refer to everybody as a photographer. Having been unfulfilled in her role as a consultant to the Environmental Protection Agency, Miriam decided a career change was in order. She was a prolific street photographer. With her Samsung phone she made thousands of images daily. 23 years later, after her funeral, a nephew found 8 garbage bags full of hard-drives. In between his work as a museum curator, the nephew managed to look at two folders of images on one of the drives that wasn't obsolete technology. He put the rest into storage until he forgot them entirely. They featured briefly on one of those TV shows where chancers make bids on storage units full of strangers' strange stuff. Miriam's images were eventually shipped to an unnamed developing country, where the memory was stripped, beaten, melted and trodden into the dirt by a child's pair of mismatched flip flops.
 

Becky turns 47 this year. Although she has lost her accuracy she still enjoys the water and sometimes in the dead of winter she dreams of the ocean far from her home just outside of Toledo.

Becky turns 47 this year. Although she has lost her accuracy she still enjoys the water and sometimes in the dead of winter she dreams of the ocean far from her home just outside of Toledo.

He scoured the town for a dog or a cat (any cute thing, really) for the photo shoot. Lindsay had been told that a portrait of him looking really sensitive would win over the woman of his dreams. Lindsay and his buddy Chris (the 'Tog) spent 2-and-a-half days working the poses. The terrier later suffered PTSD; the 36x48 print Lindsay sent to Zara was returned-to-sender; Chris went on to work at the local prison; and Lindsay became a famous TV Doctor.

He scoured the town for a dog or a cat (any cute thing, really) for the photo shoot. Lindsay had been told that a portrait of him looking really sensitive would win over the woman of his dreams. Lindsay and his buddy Chris (the 'Tog) spent 2-and-a-half days working the poses. The terrier later suffered PTSD; the 36x48 print Lindsay sent to Zara was returned-to-sender; Chris went on to work at the local prison; and Lindsay became a famous TV Doctor.

It's not to say that her mind couldn't be changed, but those things had not been said. And the unsaid, under the right circumstances, can cut deeper than that which has been itemized and spelled out like lines on a purchase order. Of course he loved her. "Of course," he said. It was the pause with which he took for the question, though, which bothered her. She folded her hands, took a deep breath and asked again: "Do you want the baby?"

It's not to say that her mind couldn't be changed, but those things had not been said. And the unsaid, under the right circumstances, can cut deeper than that which has been itemized and spelled out like lines on a purchase order. Of course he loved her. "Of course," he said. It was the pause with which he took for the question, though, which bothered her. She folded her hands, took a deep breath and asked again: "Do you want the baby?"

The brick missed his head by a matter of inches. It came through his living room window while Rob was watching Jeopardy, and attached to it was a note that read 'DIE SICKO.' Rob was a law-abiding man and shook up by the incident. He was also astute and figured out the events leading up to the brick-hurling before the police officers arrived. Rumors had been circling in the town that a registered sex offender had moved into the quiet neighborhood. A misfortunate case of misunderstood eavesdropping had led the townsfolk to believe that Rob - a quiet, single newcomer to the town - was a paedophile. Rob had in fact just finished his residency at the University of Washington Children's Hospital and had moved to the rural town to work and serve as the new pediatrician. After that bizarre welcome, the facts became clear, the matter was laid to rest over some cans of Hamm's and Dr. Rob went on to deliver primary care to thousands during his 30 years in the town.

The brick missed his head by a matter of inches. It came through his living room window while Rob was watching Jeopardy, and attached to it was a note that read 'DIE SICKO.' Rob was a law-abiding man and shook up by the incident. He was also astute and figured out the events leading up to the brick-hurling before the police officers arrived. Rumors had been circling in the town that a registered sex offender had moved into the quiet neighborhood. A misfortunate case of misunderstood eavesdropping had led the townsfolk to believe that Rob - a quiet, single newcomer to the town - was a paedophile. Rob had in fact just finished his residency at the University of Washington Children's Hospital and had moved to the rural town to work and serve as the new pediatrician. After that bizarre welcome, the facts became clear, the matter was laid to rest over some cans of Hamm's and Dr. Rob went on to deliver primary care to thousands during his 30 years in the town.

Battered already by 4 years of Republican government, John Kerry's 2004 defeat to the blundering George Warsmith Bush was the last straw for Pedro's parents. The whole family emigrated to Cuba. Pedro's father had gone to college with Rumsfeld and in the early days had sympathy for a neocon ideology that proposed strong global leadership, but after seeing a host of his friends' families destroyed by an illegal war in Iraq, it was time to pack up and go. A year later, the move proved fortuitous in the worst of circumstances. Pedro's mother was hit by kidney failure, but her treatment and the transplant of Pedro's left kidney was both free and life-saving in Cuba's healthcare system. The entire family is now well and happy. Pedro is a regional champ at Speed-Mechano, and his parents teach high school biology. They don't envision or desire a return to the U.S.

Battered already by 4 years of Republican government, John Kerry's 2004 defeat to the blundering George Warsmith Bush was the last straw for Pedro's parents. The whole family emigrated to Cuba. Pedro's father had gone to college with Rumsfeld and in the early days had sympathy for a neocon ideology that proposed strong global leadership, but after seeing a host of his friends' families destroyed by an illegal war in Iraq, it was time to pack up and go. A year later, the move proved fortuitous in the worst of circumstances. Pedro's mother was hit by kidney failure, but her treatment and the transplant of Pedro's left kidney was both free and life-saving in Cuba's healthcare system. The entire family is now well and happy. Pedro is a regional champ at Speed-Mechano, and his parents teach high school biology. They don't envision or desire a return to the U.S.

This is Robert, although people used to call him Ed. It's his middle name and, until his father died in 2003, he never thought of taking it for his own. Now they call him Robert just like his late father. Robert believes that the spirits only show themselves in pictures. Of course, that is not true. They walk among us all the time. They are just easier to see in the fleeting moments that the camera is best suited for.

This is Robert, although people used to call him Ed. It's his middle name and, until his father died in 2003, he never thought of taking it for his own. Now they call him Robert just like his late father. Robert believes that the spirits only show themselves in pictures. Of course, that is not true. They walk among us all the time. They are just easier to see in the fleeting moments that the camera is best suited for.

This person does not exist. Specifically, we are not supposed to know this person exists, but only because Dolly has been decommissioned. In late 2012, Dolly's limp frame was fed into an industrial-sized grinder (but not before the brain was removed for further experiments, prodding and probable cloning.) The eugenics of the 21st century is a branch of nanobiology called Generative Human Design (GHD). Dolly was an early prototype of GHD labs assuming "life" in April 2012, somewhere in Nevada. She (we'll call her she due to her appearance but know she had no sexual reproductive organs) was grown over a period of 30 months in a nutrient bath fed every 2 hours with the requisite minerals and pulsed with varied electronic charges to stimulate the growth of full-bodied human. Make no mistake, Dolly is not a robot; there are no circuit boards behind a door that opens in her chest. Dolly is a Generative Human (GH). Commercially, GHs wont be on the shelves until 2050, but by then the military will have perfected the science and probably executed a few wars as testing exercises. In the future, millions of GHs like Dolly will be inserted straight into the workforce as functioning and robust units. They'll function as adults without having costed society the indulgences associated with childbearing. GHs are operational for 105 years before the deterioration of peripheries and digits. Dr. Schwartz's sense of humor means that all GHs are partial to heavy, open-toed footwear.

This person does not exist. Specifically, we are not supposed to know this person exists, but only because Dolly has been decommissioned. In late 2012, Dolly's limp frame was fed into an industrial-sized grinder (but not before the brain was removed for further experiments, prodding and probable cloning.) The eugenics of the 21st century is a branch of nanobiology called Generative Human Design (GHD). Dolly was an early prototype of GHD labs assuming "life" in April 2012, somewhere in Nevada. She (we'll call her she due to her appearance but know she had no sexual reproductive organs) was grown over a period of 30 months in a nutrient bath fed every 2 hours with the requisite minerals and pulsed with varied electronic charges to stimulate the growth of full-bodied human. Make no mistake, Dolly is not a robot; there are no circuit boards behind a door that opens in her chest. Dolly is a Generative Human (GH). Commercially, GHs wont be on the shelves until 2050, but by then the military will have perfected the science and probably executed a few wars as testing exercises. In the future, millions of GHs like Dolly will be inserted straight into the workforce as functioning and robust units. They'll function as adults without having costed society the indulgences associated with childbearing. GHs are operational for 105 years before the deterioration of peripheries and digits. Dr. Schwartz's sense of humor means that all GHs are partial to heavy, open-toed footwear.

Salina, Kansas, 1994. Seth and Darla as everybody remembers them. The engagement did not last.

Salina, Kansas, 1994. Seth and Darla as everybody remembers them. The engagement did not last.

At times it felt like their lives were playing out a Gus Van Sant movie script. Gilles and Marco didn't connect with the other teens at Equestrian Camp and the thin light and chill air of Autumn in Vermont only added to their shared sense of frigid seclusion. Marco was returning to Kiev, where his father worked as the Ukraine sales rep for a transnational prosciutto company. As Gilles hugged he looked to the camera; he wanted the photo to prove as sure as he was that Marco was a soulmate, he was equally certain they'd never see each other again. One year later, Marco was hit by a tram and died. Driven by depression and necessity, Gilles moved to Wyoming and began a horse-whispering apprenticeship. The horses know Marco's name.

At times it felt like their lives were playing out a Gus Van Sant movie script. Gilles and Marco didn't connect with the other teens at Equestrian Camp and the thin light and chill air of Autumn in Vermont only added to their shared sense of frigid seclusion. Marco was returning to Kiev, where his father worked as the Ukraine sales rep for a transnational prosciutto company. As Gilles hugged he looked to the camera; he wanted the photo to prove as sure as he was that Marco was a soulmate, he was equally certain they'd never see each other again. One year later, Marco was hit by a tram and died. Driven by depression and necessity, Gilles moved to Wyoming and began a horse-whispering apprenticeship. The horses know Marco's name.

Like the 45 members of their family extending two generations back Jilly, Jonny and Jenny were all born on a Sunday. The day of rest was in their genes. Jilly, Jonny and Jenny did nothing of note. Ever.

Like the 45 members of their family extending two generations back Jilly, Jonny and Jenny were all born on a Sunday. The day of rest was in their genes. Jilly, Jonny and Jenny did nothing of note. Ever.

Words were Billy's lifeblood. By the time he was 8 years old he could say, "I am totally discombobulated" in 26 languages. He amazed Siberian prison guards with his Cyrillic writing; he negotiated the release of a dozen prisoners. Billy went on to translate Pablo Neruda's personal journals but only made it though the 15,000 pages on deadline with the help of Adderall. Never again. Billy now works the lecture circuit informing Ivy League graduate students of the evil side-effects of Adderall.

Words were Billy's lifeblood. By the time he was 8 years old he could say, "I am totally discombobulated" in 26 languages. He amazed Siberian prison guards with his Cyrillic writing; he negotiated the release of a dozen prisoners. Billy went on to translate Pablo Neruda's personal journals but only made it though the 15,000 pages on deadline with the help of Adderall. Never again. Billy now works the lecture circuit informing Ivy League graduate students of the evil side-effects of Adderall.

Long before society was saturated in images, and Times Square irradiated on the masses, and 300 CCTV cameras monitored any given Londoner on any given day, and drones dropped bombs on pixelated people, and before we knew what LOLcats and revenge-porn were, and status was tied to class not Facebook, and long before duckface selfies, Cassandra foretold our autofed society of spectacle with ironic poses for photographs next to photographs of herself. On Cassandra's watch Postmodernism became Metapostmodernism.

Long before society was saturated in images, and Times Square irradiated on the masses, and 300 CCTV cameras monitored any given Londoner on any given day, and drones dropped bombs on pixelated people, and before we knew what LOLcats and revenge-porn were, and status was tied to class not Facebook, and long before duckface selfies, Cassandra foretold our autofed society of spectacle with ironic poses for photographs next to photographs of herself. On Cassandra's watch Postmodernism became Metapostmodernism.