Reasons for Subordination
to the neighbours, he had been unable to keep up his payments. That’s
why the bank had evicted him and his family from their house on the
outskirts of Jacksonville, Florida. None of his neighbours had any
information on how to reach him. The two inquisitive scientists did
get an address for his recently estranged wife, however.
lived with their two young children at her parents’ house in South
Carolina. During the interview she did not want to talk about her
husband at all. She was constantly diverting attention away from the
questions posed and on several occasions she broke down in tears,
invariably followed by spells of torpor and apathy. Based on
indications gathered during the interview, the scientists ascertained
that over a period of a few weeks the husband had undergone a rapid
physical and psychological transformation that led to him losing his
job, incessantly lounging around watching television and abusing pain
medication. The situation escalated following the eviction and she
decided to leave her husband and take her kids to live with her mum
answers to questions regarding his current whereabouts were very
vague. She was probably embarrassed about knowing so little about
him. In less than a year she had lost touch with the person with whom
she had experienced a number of intimate and unforgettable moments
over the previous ten. Towards the end of the interview, she gave the
visitors a phone number for her husband’s close friend. He might
the way to their hotel, the scientists decided to call the number
they had acquired. It did not take long for the person to pick up.
They found out that he was still in touch with the man they were
looking for and even knew his current place of residence.
he would disclose anything, however, he wanted them to explain their
unexpected interest. They informed him that several months previously
his friend had donated gastric tissue to a research company. An
unusual type of virus had been discovered in the sample.
return, he informed them with unconcealed glee that he was the one
who took the man to the laboratory. He wanted to help him and could
not come up with anything better than specimen donation. Neither of
the men had health insurance and could thus not afford to see a
general practitioner, let alone a specialist.
also provided his own account of what had happened to his friend. He
focused mainly on the physical aspect of his transformation. His
primary affliction was rapid weight loss. Also, his skin had turned
unnaturally pale, almost ash grey. His previously thick hair had
thinned in many places. But in his view, the man’s motor functions
had undergone the most striking change. Previously highly active, he
was now hardly able to stand. When walking he was constantly leaning
to one side, as if about to stumble and keel over at any moment.
the end he gave them the man’s address. He was staying in a
dilapidated motel near Orlando, Florida. Its name was Shining Star.
couple thanked him and said goodbye, promising with the casual and
indifferent manner of uninvolved people that they would be sure to
call him once they knew more about his friend’s state of health.
scientists then checked out of their hotel as quickly as possible and
headed back to the southernmost state in the US.
#SelfieNation no.30, 2022, photo:
had little trouble finding the motel. It was a run-down place
abandoned by its legal owners many years before. It was full of
impoverished families and individuals. The slowly disintegrating
building afforded protection from society’s rock bottom –
formerly gaudy signs by the entrance to the parking lot were in
ruins. It was empty except for two scorched wrecks. They got out of
their hired luxury SUV and began inquisitively checking out the motel
building and its surroundings. After a moment, figures appeared on
the ground floor and the first-floor balcony. They started walking
towards them slowly and tentatively. There was something inhuman
about their silhouettes, their movements. That was enough to rattle
the newcomers and make them fear for their safety, sending waves of
anxiety coursing through their bodies. They glanced at each other but
were unable to own up to the unseemly tingles of fear compelling them
to get back in the car immediately and drive away. They managed with
some difficulties to whip up the determination to walk towards the
locals were not very talkative. This was partly due to difficulties
with articulation, partly because of an innate fear of well-dressed
people with a flawless command of human language and its pitfalls;
the kind whose lips could not only verbalize single words, but could
come out with entire sentences all at once, doing so with the right
accent, the right intonation.
a short explanation, both scientists began asking those present about
the man they were searching for. In return they received a few curt
answers but despite their best efforts they could not make any sense
of their content; after a few minutes they gave up all attempts to
obtain the required information. After that, both groups merely
stared at each quizzically for a long time, gingerly waiting for what
would happen next.
were rescued from this unpleasant situation by the young woman
scientist. She went over to the parked car for a moment, bringing
back two bags of salt
vinegar flavoured potato chips. Passing one to her colleague, she
tore the other open with an experienced movement of her hands. She
then handed it to the older woman opposite her who took the bag of
chips from her without hesitation. Her colleague did the same, giving
his bag to a middle-aged man with a most oddly curved spine.
locals began scooping up handfuls of potato chips from the plastic
packets, slowly inserting one chip after another into their mouths
with regular rhythmic movements. They chewed on them energetically
while constantly keeping their eyes – glinting with suspicion –
on the pair of visitors. This scene lasted less than five minutes.
Subsequently the locals turned around and slowly dispersed into
different parts of the motel.
a short assessment of the situation, the couple decided to search
through the accommodation units one by one. Perhaps the wanted man
was in one of them and had simply not been curious enough to come
out. Maybe he was asleep. Or away. Or perhaps he no longer lived
split up. The woman scientist went up to the first floor of the
complex and her colleague started going around the ground floor
rooms. Every room was occupied: some by entire families, others by
mothers with children, but mostly by two to three adult men or women.
Some of the residents were asleep, others were lying around on the
beds and watching television, gaming on their Playstations or staring
fixedly at the screens of their phones, tablets or laptops.
did not react to the presence of the uninvited guests. They let them
observe their private lives without putting up any resistance. At
first the couple were taken aback by such disinterest, but after a
while they were ambling through the rooms without much embarrassment.
They peeked into bathrooms and toilets, checked out personal
were surprised by the degree of tidiness in all the rooms. No
discarded pieces of paper or plastic anywhere. All the dust had been
carefully wiped from the surfaces and the carpets had been vacuum
cleaned. The few private items had been meticulously put away on the
shelves and into the cabinets located in each unit.
inspection lasted just short of half an hour, then they met up again
at the carpark in front of the motel. Neither of them had found the
man, nor had they come across any physical signs that he had spent
time there –
no personal papers, contracts, letters. However, it was clear from
the number of people present and sheets on the beds that more than
half the local residents were probably at work or out shopping.
they decided to repark the car in the street opposite the motel and
wait there for the arrival of the missing residents until the late
hours. Maybe the wanted subject would appear among them. If he did
not show by midnight, they would continue the search the following
day. If tomorrow also proved unsuccessful, they would have to decide
on how best to continue with their inquiries.
they were waiting, fewer than twenty people arrived at, or departed
from, the motel. The absolute majority took turns coming and going to
and from the nearby Orlando route bus stop. Some of the locals used
old mountain bikes as transport but in all that time none had arrived
in a car or on a motorbike.
#SelfieNation no.30, 2022, photo: author’s archive
#SelfieNation no.237, 2022, photo:
waited all day until late evening. Around 11pm a figure began
approaching them from the bus stop. As it did so, it was
intermittently illuminated by the light of a streetlamp. When it came
close enough for both scientists, each from their respective
position, to be able to clearly discern its characteristic traits,
they immediately recognised him. They had finally found the man. They
got out of the car and headed towards him. They came upon him in the
entrance to the motel carpark, not far from a streetlamp that allowed
them to get a good look at him.
appearance matched the photographs and verbal description provided by
his wife, and his friend. Very little remained of the handsomeness of
his face and the athleticism of his figure. The cowering man before
them exuded resignation, straining to avoid any contact with his
surroundings. He kept his distance from them, hunching his back and
scrunching his neck down between his shoulders rigidly. As if he were
expecting them to give him a sneaky slap or a kick in the heel.
talked to him, trying to explain why they had come to see him, what
they wanted from him. After a while he straightened up, uttering a
simple sentence arduously with a somewhat rasping voice: “Come, I
want to go home.”
walked slowly, but with persistence. The scientists accompanied him
impatiently. They had to adjust their pace to his which made them
nervous. They were not used to walking so slowly. The young woman
made use of this opportunity to give him a thorough look over. He was
dressed in jeans several sizes too large and shabby old sneakers were
visible beneath his overlong trouser legs. He was also wearing a
stretched-out t-shirt and a high visibility orange vest. He was
carrying a simple black backpack slung over one shoulder; a large
bottle of Coca-Cola was poking out through the partially open zipper
of the backpack.
were large brown blotches on the exposed parts of his skin. The woman
scientist had already noticed this specific pigmentation on the skin
of the group of locals they had encountered in the morning at the
carpark. Most of them had clearly visible white-brown complexion.
followed the man up to the first floor. He lived in a room with two
others. They were not there, however. They had probably gone to
Orlando at some point during the day. The absent cohabitants slept on
the double bed and the man on a foldout by the window next to the
scientists’ subject of interest sat down on the large bed, leant
his back on the wall, stretched one leg out on the bed and let the
other hang down along the edge of the mattress to the floor. He put
the backpack next to him, took out his drink and reached for the TV
remote in the middle of the bed. He turned on the TV, opened the
bottle and drank.
two scientists waited for the man to make himself comfortable in his
home environment before returning to the questions they had posed
earlier and the incomplete explanation for their interest in his
person. Thus they tried to make their verbal communication as precise
and convincing as
possible, but for some inexplicable reason the man ignored them the
entire time. Now and then he glanced at them, but only to check if
they were still standing in the doorway.
a while the woman went to the bathroom and returned with a freshly
washed glass, probably a bathroom tumbler. She took the Coke bottle
out of the man’s hands and poured some of the soft drink into the
glass. She turned it around in her hand a few times, waited until it
settled and handed it to him. The man looked at it for a while,
smiled inconspicuously and reached for the glass. A little while
later he took a drink from it. The scientist returned to the door,
leant on the frame and smiled back.
of them silently and attentively watched James Corden’s late-night
talk show. After twenty minutes the man’s body all of a sudden slid
down lifelessly onto the bed. The woman scientist motioned to her
colleague who stepped out onto the balcony carefully and closed the
door behind him. While he was gone, she closed the window blinds and
straightened the man out into a horizontal position.
while later her colleague returned with two large aluminium
suitcases. Together they opened them and began taking out scientific
instruments and devices for taking a broad spectrum of human tissue
and fluid samples. The woman switched off the TV on the dresser,
pulled the plug out of the socket and with the aid of her colleague
carried it to the empty corner of the room. She began constructing a
provisional laboratory setup on the now empty counter with the
scientific equipment brought by her colleague that would enable her
to immediately analyse the samples they obtained.
the same time her colleague stripped the man naked and began a
visual, non-invasive examination. Wearing surgical gloves, he touched
the man’s body carefully, turning his head, torso and limbs towards
the nearest light source in the room. He dictated simple yet exact
data about the man’s physical state into a mobile phone on the bed.
slightly into the mattress and covered with a worn-out old sheet, the
body was all twisted and contorted. Even though the man was in a
physically unconscious state induced by the ketamine tablets that the
woman had slipped into his cola, his torso and limbs still manifested
muscle tension. The male scientist tried to relax part of his leg by
massaging it, but it only responded by becoming even more twisted and
man was very thin to the point of emaciation. Only his belly showed
signs of excess weight. A roll of fat was wrapped almost around his
entire abdomen. The male scientist poked this layer of fat several
times in disbelief, as if expecting it to unstick and fall off at any
brown pigmentation that the woman scientist had noticed out on the
street covered most of his lower limbs and more than fifty percent of
his upper limbs, as well as his abdomen, chest and back. His face was
ash-white with caved-in cheeks and sunken eye sockets. Peering at
them fixedly from the depths of consciousness, his eyes were vibrant
with a kaleidoscope of colours. Geysers of black seemed to be
erupting from his pupils, suffusing into various shades of brown and
spreading out onto a steel grey foundation. Lifting his lips revealed
a set of very worn teeth. Some were missing. There were irregularly
spaced tufts of long hair on the top of his head. Some of it was
white, some blonde, some brown.
completed his examination, the male scientist switched off the
dictaphone application and turned on the camera. He began taking
pictures of the limp body. He used a metric ruler, placing it next to
the blotches and the hair on the man’s head. At the very end, he
measured the man meticulously and tried to estimate his weight by
the scientists started taking their samples. They began by taking a
blood sample, inserting a needle into the vein in his elbow pit with
well-trained movements. Then they introduced a probe into his stomach
through his mouth and oesophagus to take a sample of his gastric
juices. Once they had conducted all the necessary tasks, they
immediately began analysing the acquired specimens.
young male scientist first separated the components of each sample in
a centrifuge and then pipetted them onto glass slides that he placed
into a small but powerful electronic microscope connected to his
hands quivered more and more with each new specimen of scientific
material she examined. At one point she could no longer contain her
elation and blurted out an incoherent stream of words. It was clear
from the tone of her voice and her intonation, however, that she was
overjoyed about something, something new and unexpected.
began explaining her preliminary conclusions to her colleague while
showing him a series of several dozen electronic microscope
photographs on the screen of the portable computer. Enlarged
photographs of a virus whose existence they had been trying to
confirm for several weeks were illuminated on the desktop of the
operating system. It had been clear from the very first samples that
they had had the possibility of studying under laboratory conditions
that this parasitic protein was characterised by a very specific
shape, as if it had been designed and manufactured by humans. It was
remarkable in terms of its grey-brown coloration, which was at
certain angles penetrated by a rainbow flash. At first glance it was
not possible to determine its source. It appeared all of a sudden at
a certain position – a specific alignment of virus and observer –
and then disappeared again. On the pictures this optical phenomenon
appeared to be an error of the recording device. Its structure was
also unusual. It had a coiled tubular form terminating in a perfect
lace pattern reminiscent of a skilfully folded decorative fringe cut
out of many layers of paper. There was nothing here of the
fascinating imperfection of repeating forms in nature; everything was
viral particles were only partially developed in the gastric
specimens without any indications of parasitic activity. The virus
was fully active in the blood samples, however. It had structured the
infected cells into straight lines. These were constantly flexing in
an effort to connect with other infected cells. Several photographs
recorded a more complicated shape. This consisted of a triplet of
cell lines connected together at one central point.
view of the young woman scientist was clear: we have discovered a
virus that can probably not only act as a parasite with respect to
individual cells but can also interconnect cells in an unusual way.
This could lead to the total domination and absolute control of the
body of the host. As yet this is a hypothesis since we have no idea
under what circumstances this takes place and what the virus gains
through such complex and complicated activity. When the virus
particles are extracted from their home environment, they start
hibernating within tens of minutes. The moment they come into contact
with the right host (probably exclusively human), they reactivate and
begin once again attacking cells and creating complex connections
colleague took in the information with a neutral expression on his
face. The absent-minded drumming of his fingertips on the wooden desk
of the dresser was a clear indication that he was agitated, however.
He sat down on the floor and leant back on the wall. He looked at his
colleague and said: “We will have to come back here.” The woman
replied with an equally terse statement: “More than once.”
sat opposite each other for a while longer. They needed time to calm
their flustered nervous systems and consolidate what strength they
had left to tidy up. Dawn was approaching and they wanted to leave
the motel before its idiosyncratic residents woke up. The woman
scientist once again took on the task of taking care of the equipment
and put it all away. Concurrently, the male scientist dressed the
lifeless man. He then helped his colleague put the possessions of the
inhabitants back in their original places.
#SelfieNation no.237, 2022, photo: author’s archive
#SelfieNation no.286, 2022, photo:
exited the room just after 4am. They walked out onto the
interconnecting balcony between the first-floor units and carefully
closed the door behind them, turned around and froze in surprise.
About fifteen locals were standing in the parking lot, staring
fixedly in their direction with their heads tilted back. Both
scientists were alarmed by this unexpected spatial arrangement of
bodies. They were standing in front of these people for the second
time and yet again a mixture of unwanted panic and unmanageable
repulsion spread through their minds.
a moment of reluctance, they walked towards the staircase. They
descended it and headed towards their SUV. Beads of sweat rolled down
their faces and necks, dripping down their shirt collars. Inevitably,
they approached the largest gap in the row of bodies. They hoped it
safe passage. To their surprise, they walked through it without
encountering any difficulties, no one tried to stop them.
was slowly dawning on them that they had managed to negotiate the
unpleasant situation and were going to get away without incurring any
physical or psychological harm.
opened the boot and put their equipment inside. Then they walked
around the vehicle and as they were about to get in a man walked out
from a poorly lit area and quickly headed towards them. Under a
second later he was standing by the driver’s door. He prevented the
surprised scientist from opening it.
before they had had time to look him over, he spoke to them: “Sorry
to have startled you like that. This is very unpleasant for me. But I
have to ask you not to come back to this place. You have no business
being here. Your inappropriate actions are disturbing the peaceful
cohabitation of this community. So, let me repeat once gain – leave
and do not come back, it might not end well for you.” The woman
looked into his eyes and with a very clear and distinct voice
answered: “This might be a peaceful community, but at least one of
its members requires medical attention and he will not get it in this
environment and social situation.” The unknown man fixed his eyes
on her and after a pause lasting several seconds he said in a
seductive voice: “I won’t repeat myself. Nice meeting you.”
Turning to leave he stopped for a moment and added: “Those people
in there, they don’t belong to you. They belong to us.” The woman
replied briskly: “You can’t own anyone. That’s not possible.”
The unknown man looked at her sharply and with a firm and
authoritative tone he said: “Maybe you can’t, but we can. We have
the right.” The scientists looked at each other in shock and when
they turned around again, the man was gone. In some inexplicable way
he had managed to disappear, vanish in the dark.
quickly got in the car, started it and headed for their hotel. On the
way they tried to recall the appearance of the mysterious intruder.
They had a vague impression of his elegant appearance, his
exquisitely cropped hair, impeccably shaved face and excellently
fitting suit, but they could not remember the shape of his figure or
his facial features. The memory of the bewitching voice that he had
used in an effort to subjugate them, to force his will upon them,
resonated within them strongly, however.
#SelfieNation no.286, 2022, photo: author’s archive