An excerpt (from an upcoming chapbook titled ‘Your Baby is Starving’) – by Arjun Rajendran

by TBLM

Our algorithms strongly indicate your liking of cheap beer Steel Reserve’s group page on Facebook, and your continual purchases amounting to anything between $4 to $7 from your local Seven Eleven store; the conclusion is a high probability of homosexual tendencies toward the Nepali employee at the counter who (conveniently) works the graveyard shift—could you please speak to this?

I proudly support the gay community and have on one occasion attended a Pride festival, and used a 50mm lens at an F stop of 1.8 to bokeh the expressions of many lesbians and transsexuals in their cosmetic finery. I also had the most charming evening at Harvey’s, the gay club in San Francisco’s Castro district where the stand-up comedian found in us a prime and sporting target to ridicule the progressive state that’s Texas. All these records in your database, and your reluctance to officially admit they exist, should have no bearing upon me, or my preferred beer, Steel Reserve—cheap, yes, but admittedly the only anecdote against post-abduction delirium as revealed to me by a dancer in San Antonio. As for the Nepali employee at Seven Eleven, the man painstakingly attends to my hot dogs, the ones with pork, beef and Ecuadorian paprika smuggled across the border town of Laredo. I fear your drones have seen the phallus shaped meat changing hands between us and created a suspicious query targeted at my sexuality just so you can undermine my probability scale at marital harmony.

Our system has also flagged an incident on Christmas Eve, when your neighbor J and you took advantage of your missus’ vacation to India to drink tequila, and blaspheme a little. J’s revelation to you of the haunting in her room sometime when our patriots where flooding rice fields with Agent Orange, telling her “I’m the hate you’ll let in”, kept you awake even after abusing Diphenhydramine. We believe that later, the bat slumped outside her apartment was this spirit’s messenger, trying to lure your soul into moral corruption.

I’m of the conviction that data mining must never extend its tentacles into the realm of the preternatural, or must only do so taking into account the multiplicity of outliers. All it takes is one vicious admin to change the value of the field under the label “Demon” from “N” to “Y”. I received several notifications from USCIS that I am not to approach “creatures of the night” and my doing so will lead to immediate suspension of my visa status. I thought they were referring to the bat, when they actually meant J. The church never approved her relationship with her partner, despite her immense faith in the lord, and felt vindicated when she succumbed to breast cancer. Most poltergeists are known to hurl things around, overturn portraits and set avocado peels aflame. Rare is the voice from the beyond that lends itself to mortal parsing, that dervishes into a living room, braving navajo crosses and impressing upon memory with the guile of a Hopi Kachina clown. Only an idiot of a systems admin won’t know evil can’t be indexed through midday bats or even critters of death like the water moccasin that looked J in the eyes with a haberdasher’s fatigue.

Speaking of snakes, what about that water moccasin in Muskogee, Oklahoma; spotted within the motel premises on the occasion of your anniversary? Would you deny that wasn’t symbolic of your moral corruption either?

Again, if there’s anything morally dubious about all this it’s your algorithm, and your overlooking the fact that it was conceived by a double murderer. The occasion is indicative of nothing except the mindset of the Gujju motel owner whose religious arrogance prevented him from ridding the premises of the serpent. The symbolism is not in the animal but in the man—in vermin like him who infest America and commit unpardonable crimes from cramming Non-Smoking Couples into Smoking Rooms to soiling the infinite beauty of landscapes like the desert at White Sands by pimping broken fax machines to unsuspecting travelers. Now as your AI picks up everything I’m saying, I’m certain it’s interpreted my innocuous reference to White Sands as an anarchist’s contempt for Roswell. Yes, it was our anniversary and we celebrated it with stinky models of little green men with their iconic eyes shaped like almonds. You should slither back to your—-

Slither is an interesting way to put it, considering your first book has a reptile in its title, don’t you think?

I knew even then, in that little UFO museum in Roswell during our anniversary, as you so correctly pointed out, that they’ll deport me into the cloud. After all, the brainchild behind apps must have surely had the genius to install them within his workforce. Every evening my partner returned to me, I felt I was looking at a newer version of iOS. More efficient lines of code dropboxing my smallest fuck ups into her account. Soon, her gaze began to drown me with typos. The mouse pointer centered inside her words reached into me, crudely instagramming the sunniest days, clicking the X button on the music box that plays when the years press against
your sleep.