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Deryn Mierlak


Have no fear. A man tells me the metaverse will be a tender, delicate place. Like flesh, just bigger. At 10:30 I leave for Penn Station, the A train stalls between stops, suspended in the darkness, as if floating there. The opposite of paranoia is called pronoia. Pronoia is defined as a state of mind where the subject believes the world around them is conspiring to do them good. Addison tells me pronoia is actually far more prevalent than paranoia, it’s just that most people lack the words to describe it, so they say nothing at all. Some people are so happy they can just do nothing, day in, day out, this homogeneity is the happiness, you see. It’s not like that for me. Each day forms patterns of heartbreaking randomness, like cracks in ice. Each day I see groups of young people on the streets, I see them drifting apart, then back together on the trains – sometimes I see someone who looks so familiar it scares me, it pains me, to find them so recognizable and yet fail to know why – I think these are the friends I have in parallel universes, perhaps I’ve found a seam where two universes meet, this overlap makes a slight deformity, I can feel it, right here – In the metaverse, Mark Zuckerburg explains, everyone will be a wizard. Hold out your hand and make a bottle of Fiji water appear. Move the train with your mind. There will be no such thing as darkness. I explain my brain to Addison by describing a universe of jungle gyms extending out in all directions, it’s not infinite, I say, but it goes on much further than I can see. When I feel the need to escape, I remember the world is littered with portals: a phone, a drink of water, an ice cube held in the hand, a mirror on the street reflecting my shoes back to me: Penn Station, at midnight, where I buy myself a six-dollar bottle of Fiji water just because I’m there and it’s there. Long before the Metaverse I was abusing the right to run away. I send MZ (my best friend, not Mark Zuckerberg, they just happen to share initials) a text: First time trying Fiji water holy fuck this is the best water I’ve ever had. At the heart of both pronoia and paranoia is the rejection of randomness, a quiet drive to control the universe, make it silent, obedient, make it disappear. If the universe is made of randomness, then to make the Metaverse is to seek the opposite of randomness, the end of the universe. In the Metaverse, Mark Zuckerberg promises, all my emptiness will become happiness. My nothingness will grow on trees. In the Metaverse all possible universes will converge into one, everyone conjoined in an amoebic, incestuous friendship, but this will not be the opposite of loneliness. When I take my shirt off in the Metaverse there will be no nipples there. From MZ: At my grandmother’s funeral we had the priest bless the gravesite with Fiji water instead of holy water, because Fiji water was her favorite. Thank God I’ve caught the last train before it was too late. Now I can close my eyes and listen to the sounds of things in my phone: email chimes, a Joni Mitchell song, my mother’s voice in an audio message, I’m going to sleep. Sounds made of light, symbols light as sound, a soft, secret snow accumulating around me. I have no idea how it works. It's like magic.

Deryn Mierlak is a poet and artist living between New York and New Jersey. She is currently a candidate for an MFA in poetry at The New School in New York City. Her work is concerned with digital frontiers, internet ecologies, and the question of hope in times of increasing doom.

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