By the morning of January 20th, 1969, the heroic moon mission is a bygone memory, and the nations have once again started to sink their teeth into themselves. The skies and their trajectories are no more clear than they were twenty-five years earlier, and the newly-erected,ᵿ smokestacks breathe out their steady plastic billow.
ᵿ but, already tar-stained.
1969/01/20 Richard Nixon is elected 37th president of the United States.
The first condroni
appears on the top of Jaundice Press Tower, followed in an instant by the ladroni
, deep beneath the earth.
1974/08/09 Richard Nixon resigns from the presidency.
With one claw curled around the metal of the tower-rails, the first stranger in over six hundred years,ឋ the blue and striped and twining condroni raises its head. There is no sight or sound or sonar chirp that escapes its flat, fake eyes' perception. The world spins, and the waves pass through the stranger's brain; teary-eyed dramas, play-by-play sports broadcasts, and interview hosts who cannot hide the tremble in their voice.
ឋ Though a presumed precursor to the modern day infestation, this "Black Death" era is given little direct attention, and instead, ▚▞▚▚▚▖ ▚▝▚▖▞▘ ▝▛▟▜▞ ▚▙▚▟▚▚ ▛▜▝▞▘ ▘▗▘▛▚▘ ▞▜▟▚▗▗ ▞ through poems, isolated quotes, and one-off spaces sprinkled throughout the text, with only occasional and oblique allusions to an even earlier, mesoamerican infestation.
Halfway across the city, in a row of houses dimmed by billboard-shade and lit by fluorescent flicker glow, a news anchor's words crackle out through tube TV.
We are standing here tonight to report a possible situation on the border.
We are standing here tonight to resort to a possible situation at the border.
The audience stands by, none the wiser for the shift.
One-by-one, the strangers spread through the cities of the earth. These disparate and strained non-animals live non-lives; they are not living beings. In the gutters and voids they flourish, and grow more abundant each year. And yet despite the violence with which they impersonate our thoughts and emotions, these strangers remain unseen.
The months and years pass, and the crowds have not yet swarmed the capital. Treaties are signed, and bomb-planes are hijacked, and the payloads are never recovered. Twitchy-fingered artists thin their paints with glue softener, and the first sensitives
These first witnesses are born in darkness and they are stolen in the night. They are found murdered in stairwells, and they are not found at all. They are disassembled like clocks, their ribs and phalanges lined up in clean rows on the empty train station floors. They drown in the oceans that only they know are black, and they hide from sirens that no one else can hear.
Though each sensitive believes themselves to be alone, their desire to express their experiences and emotions cannot be muzzled with such ease. Some of them write their journals on loose-leaf paper or leather-bound books, while others record their voices onto dollar store audio cassettes.
But for every sensitive who documents their experiences, there are still a great many who are cut down before the first word can be expressed, or who lay hidden, unmarked in non-graves. And for an unknowable length of time, there is no record of the strangers' existence.
Decades wear on. The rails grow colder by the day, the red bricks crumble, and soon, the strains number in the thousands. Starting from scattered bands, assorted insular sensitive communities coalesce, as well. Both online and off, sensitives socialize and form connections as they attempt to observe, catalog, and hunt the strains – and ultimately, rationalize and validate their experiences.
Inevitably, they discover the online art installation, Goodbye Strangers.
what is Goodbye Strangers?
The narrative in Goodbye Strangers tends not to play itself out through overt scenes and linear progressions, but rather, in expositive accounts that lead into more concrete details, events, and characters. This is not to say, however, that a continuous narrative cannot be inferred. By now, many readers know that the story of Goodbye Strangers begins in earnest with James Killjoy's successful lunar escapades,𐆔 and from there, only drifts further from the recognizable.Ᏻ
𐆔 which likewise, allows for the subsequent advancement in global technologies... with no further mention of the deadhead spaceman's self-exile.
Ᏻit's all getting bigger, and moving faster.
Despite its superficially contemporary trappings, Goodbye Strangers
analogs familiar historyᶁ
and geography in only rough and warped swatches. Political events are alluded to, but rarely elaborated upon; a chronology presents itself, and its threads quickly tangle into branching timelines, alternate realities, and nesting dimensions. Though the huddled ten-millions will learn of the mattress camps and their drench first-hand, the reader is given little tangible entry
to these scenes – even the Partisans' eventual martyrdom is told first through hasty aside, with specifics left to the audience's imaginations.
ᶁ The bombing of Hiroshima, for example, is one known historical event confirmed to have taken place within the world of the story.
In addition to historical and contextual anchors, cameos by such media franchises as Final Fantasy VII
and Sonic the Hedgehog
also serve to place the novel within a nebulous modern day. Other in-universe media properties, such as the Meoms
, do not exist outside the scope of the project (and in some cases, are represented both as characters from in-world literature or entertainment, and as entities which dwell in the same dominion as the strangers).
"Goodbye Strangers describes and depicts the events relating to the calamitous end of the modern age."
That sounds so familiar...
For those sensitives who discover it, Goodbye Strangers proves an invaluable resource into the strangers' behaviours and effects, and saves many a sensitive from chancing an encounter with a dangerous strain. It also gives definite names for several of the phenomenon that have shaped the infestation thus far, and introduces such grounding concepts as prevalence and stability.
Nonetheless, it cannot be treated as an exhaustive source. Idiosyncrasies, stylizations, as well as outright contradictions abound, adding layers upon layers of obfuscation. Many strangers are missing minor details, with some lacking description altogether, or used purely for aesthetic effect. Even the influence of the greatly varying "I.Q." is left undescribed, as is the true nature of the "V.H.Z." era.
so, what do we know of V.H.Z. and its "inevitable" future?
In this still awakening age, new discoveries allow strangers to be yanked into reality via a process known as extrusion
. This extrusion process leaves strangers in an inert and motionless state, and they become their former victim's dummy play-things.𖼙
In the decades and weeks that follow, their helpless bodies are used as power sources for kaleido-machines, lullaby pits, and full auto-shred funhouses. It is insinuated that the populace is fascinated by the strangers, and a proliferation of mainstream media follows, with both Zeroworld
acting as examples of such works-within-a-work now made real.
It is with some irony that these story details inspire some ▝ ▘▜ ▛▜▜▙▜ ▜▟▘▞▗▝▜▝ ▘▞▙ to experiment upon the strangers in ever-ghoulish tests – research which sets the groundwork for much post-extrusion technology
Indeed, instead of acting as a resource for sensitives, the project appears to be an autobiographical creative project documenting a complex web of fictional worlds of storylines. Though Goodbye Strangers is a small, independent work, it is not without its own small fandom. Though most within the ever-growing fandom are unaware of the strangers' existence as anything outside of a fictional work, there are those readers who do begin to recognize their own sensitivity after reading the website's contents – and others who only believe they possess the trait.
These strays and other runaways slip into the deeper sensitive community, which can no longer escape public notice. In the eye of the majority, the "sensitives" are a fringe and delusional fanatic group – a stigma that casts the fandom, as a whole, in a largely negative light.