The spychild slips unheeded around geographies borrowed from other childhoods. Behind enemy lines without so much as a concept of what emnity meant except in the post-scarcity economy of suburban public schooling, he winds his way through decor that is not his and that, not being his, serves no understandable function. The finer points of interior design are not so much lost on him as denied shipping in the first place, marked with insufficient postage and held at the central office for later pickup. Allowances are made for his own house, where painting or statue exist to occupy the space in which they are placed and do not require further explication. But here, ensconced in the contours of a social order that is not his own, each rug or coffee table gadget requires interrogation.
Absent an understanding of the state as anything more than the determination of what flag is the object of the meaningless recitations of his daily pledge, he moves without assignment. Under no flag, and unaware of a purpose for flags beyond providing pledges with objective correlatives, the spychild lacks even the idea of assignment. His intelligence gathering serves no purpose other than his own.
He does not even, as a rule, consider the collection of intelligence as a task. With a plastic imitation of a boom mic, he siphons away adult conversation not out of any interest in the banalities of middle age, but out of a commitment to the very task of intelligence gathering. There is no data mining operation here, no sifting through of intricacies in pursuit of greater knowledge.
Sleuthing his way through unstated mysteries for reasons unrelated to their solution, the spychild's life is an undifferentiated mass of codes without plaintext and dead drops without mail - a ciphertext without translation, ink so invisible it never leaves a mark. The dialectic of history is indistinguishable the progression of dinner from the wrong brand of tins bought from a grocery store incorrectly laid out into food that, while appetizing, is never quite right. All things are either familiar or strange to the spychild, the former category unconsidered, the latter spied upon.
Episode 14: His Laser Tag
Working carefully through analogy the spychild can see paintball as the more totalizing version of a video game, or more obliquely as a visceral laser tag. War allegorized into, basically, a slightly more colorful war. The spychild is admittedly puzzled, not entirely getting the juxtaposition between combat fatigues and militaristic weaponry and being shot with hot pink balls of paint.
In truth the spychild flits around the edges of the experience, recognizing it as the uncomfortable midpoint of video games and gym class. The experience can be modeled. Stalk inadequately through half-familiar basement playrooms with dayglo orange handguns firing dime-sized plastic frisbees, or lay down suppressive nerf fire. Conscript furniture as defensive structures, ducking and weaving your way around simulacra of danger.
Or Zapper in hand, unload imagined clips of digital ammo at a smear of pixels rendered in deflected beams of electron. The spychild is aware that the furniture, comprised as it is of physical particles instead of defracted electrons, is of no use here. And yet he still crouches behind chairs and sofa, shielding his body from the hail of bullets imagined into being, blown forth from the chamber of these guns of vapour by an explosion of metaphoric power.
Episode 27: His Kidnapped Sidekicks
The spychild surveys each location for hiding places, these being the most intelligible currency of his espionage. The obvious possibilities of closets and underfurnitures are noted instinctively. It is the deeper patterns of hiding – the elaborate prisons that must be meticulously sealed up behind you lest you give the game away – that the spychild searches for.
The life of the spychild is such that accomplices are in short supply. Although an ally can sometimes be found among the proper inhabitants of these houses, the path of the nerdy kid sneaking around with a boom mic is not one of broad socialization. More time is to be spend designing hideouts in improbable detail than hiding out. With no gang the point of the exercise is lost.
The spychild has little use for a gang. Already his intelligence gathering provides him with more data than he can deal with. The value of a gang to the spychild is instrumental. Mapping their hiding places over a terrain and exploring it to get them back, their value to him is in their absence, their disappearances at last a motive to understand these terrains.
But even here there is the problem of rescue, the maddening corpus of reality left behind with real play. Better the virtual, imagined people, sequels to an assumed original, whose existence does not alter the landscape beyond motivating it, and whose rescue carries no obligations, can be undone with the press of a button. These are passageways he knows better than any real life.
Episode 32: His Introduction to Foreign Relations
The Condor’s four and a half +/- 1.5 days irrespective, the spychild stalks down the street. A miasma of genre tropes distill to an experience much like any other – a street, dotted with foes, that must be walked from left to right.
The spychild does not know of source anime, or of changing character professions from CIA assassin to CIA spy. He does not know what city is signified by stations such as Potsdam. The KGB are recognized at least, but only as the generic opposition. The spychild recognizes that the CIA are his good guys and the KGB his axiomatic foe, but has no sense of what this means.
The Cold War plays out relentlessly in the zeitgeist, but the spychild does not see himself in it. His life is the hunt, the working of paths, and perhaps, someday, the understanding of the purposes of those paths. The genealogy of an oriental rug looms larger in his mind than Yugoslavia. The shibboleths he seeks to know are virtual. The appeal of a real gun is negligible – lead is far heavier than the sleek orange plastic he favors.
He is unaware of the cave, or the warmth of the fire behind him. He does not distinguish between shadow and thing, nor even know that two such things exist. For all his data, this fact sits beyond knowledge, in ciphertext he may not read.
Inevitably, his adventures continue.