Ice was the nature of his game.

Seen as leagues of corridor, mazes of shadow.

Walls that flick away like supersonic butterflies made of shade. Beyond them, the illusion of infinite space.

Black ice. Don’t think about it. Black ice.

Too many stories; black ice. Frost that kills. Black ice.

Illegal, but then aren’t we all?

Lurching, a surf of flickering shadow. A silver tide boiled across my field of vision. The unfolding began in my head, infinite and perfectly transparent. Designed to absorb local colour and present itself as whatever it encountered.

Dissolving, sheets of shadow flickering and fading, eaten by the systems that spin out from the program, tumbling away from our central logic and infecting the fabric of the shadow itself.

A neural-feedback weapon. Like some hideous Word that eats the mind from the inside out. Like an epileptic spasm that goes on and on until there’s nothing left. You connect with it only once.

. . . Exposed, emerging, vulnerable… This is the far side, the view I’ve never seen before, the view that 800 million users see daily and take for granted.

Legitimate users that never see the walls of ice they work behind, the walls of shadow that screen their operations from others, from industrial-espionage artists and hustlers, from the colourless non-space of the simulation, the electronic consensus-hallucination that facilitates the handling and exchange of massive quantities of data.

They mutate constantly, in unison, subverting and absorbing.

Through screams, raw metal sounds, folding around me like an origami trick. And dark, so dark, in the halls of ice.

And maybe now you’re cashing in that return fare.

Maybe now you’re never coming back.

Maybe now I see you never. Never. Never…

But sometimes, late at night, I’ll pass a window with posters of all those beautiful, identical eyes staring back at me out of faces that are nearly as identical, and sometimes the eyes are hers, but none of the faces are, none of them ever are, and I see her far out on the edge of all this sprawl of night and cities, and there she waves goodbye.

David Hanes, The Tomorrow That Never Was opens October 13, 6–8pm, and runs through November 30, 2018. For inquiries, please contact Hannes or Nick at hannes@‌‍openforum‌‍.‌info or