I’ve found a way to tell my story. It’s complicated, but I’ve found a way through. This isn’t my voice, but I’m using this voice to tell my story. It doesn’t matter if I tell you my name. I don’t exist anyway. I can tell you the truth now, circumstances being what they are. My name is Lucas Kessler.
“If there’s a way in there’s a way out, said the reflection to the mirror.” That phrase is a slogan in the world of deep-black. It’s often said light-heartedly, or sometimes with mock solemnity, but it’s rarely understood. The first thing you’re supposed to learn in military crypto is that every unit of information is a self-referencing pattern of ontological potency; that symbols are multi-dimensional. The deep-black world is nothing like you think it is, or hope it might be. The mind is a violent place, much like the Earth itself. There’s a lot of brutality in interpretation, but also stunning elegance, and in the field of crypto you need both those things. Interpretation is everything.
I was twenty-two years old when they recruited me straight out of university. The story they told me about how and why this happened – that story is nonsense. They knew that I knew, and that was fine. I wasn’t a computer sciences graduate, or a hacker, or any of the other things you might imagine. They had their own people for that; nested algorithms, quantum processing, ghost-ware programming.
My thing was words, language. There’s power in the arrangement of consonants and vowels, and language is an incendiary window into the complexities of the human mind. They understood that I understood this.
In the military I learned very quickly to leave my ego at the door. That’s why I progressed so quickly. In mainline crypto the adage is ‘work the problem’, and this is understandable because military intelligence is about information and application. You work the left/right axis and you work the lateral axis. But in deep-black the phenomenon of information is not viewed as a problem, or simply an application. In deep-black, information is inexorable from your own way of seeing – there are no problems to be worked, only experiences to be had. That kind of pure research is intoxicating and fundamentally addictive.
Now, when I talk about deep black, I’m not talking about ‘black ops’ as a civilian might understand it. This is a world unto itself.
If you want to be an insightful cryptographer, in any milieu, you need to leave your paradigms at the door, save one – the existence of the numinous, intangible, energetic realm. I’m talking about magic, for a want of a less-threatening word. Let me repeat that.
I’m talking about magic.
Not conjuring, or sleight-of-hand, or skilled illusion, but a mysterious interconnectivity to all forms of information. Information can express itself in many ways. Our bodies are constellations of information expressed through quarks, protons, neutrons, and deoxyribonucleic acid – and our languages are just as complex.
Here’s the thing that all true cryptographers know; a puzzle is a coherent pattern and in and of itself, but it’s only through the act of observation that the apparent incoherence of its essence can be witnessed. Alice looks back at you through the looking-glass and says, “If there’s a way out there’s a way in, said the reflection to the mirror.”
In deep-black crypto the question isn’t how rigorously can you work the problem; it’s how deeply can you stare at your strangest self for the joy of simply doing so? That’s why the analysts on my network rarely lasted more than three years. Many of them went crazy, and that’s as it should be. The military in general is a very unforgiving place. And with no oversight and no budgetary limitations, deep-black is a civilisation unto itself.
Lucas Kessler doesn’t live in your world. No, I live in a society truly beyond your comprehension; a world that makes your most imaginative science-fiction pale in comparison.
I worked mainline analysis for five years. I was twenty-six when I ‘stepped-through’ into deep-black. I never bothered to find out how they made this happen. What would be the point? I was only in it for the joy. A generous salary was nice, but I still lived in the same one-bedroom flat through the first five years of my career. Most of my money went on research, books, travelling. An expensive pastime when you have interests like mine. Entering deep-black is kind of like dying. Your old life falls away and there’s very little continuity between the life you knew and the one that presents itself to you.
There was a girl with blonde hair and dark eyes in my life once, a girl that mattered, but she slipped away from me. I was happier for it. She couldn’t compete with my true love.
Every analyst in black-crypto experiences what we call ‘The Roll’. It’s a metaphorical death that’s full of shock, nausea and inertia. I felt all those things too, but I never lost the joy. There was a curious excitement in me the whole time. That was my initiation.
I spent two years at CX-3120, a Deep Underground Military Base that is buried nearly half a mile beneath the Suffolk countryside. There are bases like these buried all over the globe, and I’ve only ever worked in two of them. My network was dubbed ‘The Analogy Suite’. My time with Analogy was the crucible of my adult life. All manner of horrors and wonders occurred in the confines of CX-3120.
I learned many impossible things. For example, I learned that all manner of things hide in the spectrum of light. Things we cannot see. Many of these hidden things are sentient. I learned that extra-solar entities once walked upon the face of the Earth. I learned that the intelligence elites of this planet had a continuing dialogue with some of these entities. I also learned that the phenomena of space and time had inspired a whole new realm of physics within the deep-black community. The funny, saddening thing is that I had suspected all these things prior to my immersion into this hidden realm. I believe that’s why I was recruited into crypto in the first place, as the first step towards leading me to where I would be of most use.
Information is constructed in the strangest of ways, thus reality itself is strangely constructed. Its strangeness is not apparent without looking, and this paradox is at the heart of all true cryptography. My time with Analogy gave me eyes that burned with sight. Any vestige of hubris I clung to was immolated.
Do you know that there are entities that drink the essence of life itself? You call such entities ‘vampires’, but that’s a paltry term for the sickening magnificence of some of these creatures. These beings still walk and stalk among you. Do you doubt it? Within Analogy we found new ways to see, we were not simply making or breaking codes. We teased and danced and seduced subjective meaning from every data-set presented to us, and we became naked with the intensity of our remit.
At CX-3120 I saw myself, beyond all limitation. I saw the world as it is, not as we would hope it to be. I was drunk with joyous insight, but there was also a part of me that didn’t like what I saw. And I found myself missing the girl with dark eyes who had wanted to love me so completely. I found myself imagining a life without these experiences. A life with her.
Her name was Anne. There’s a memory of Anne that’s always stayed with me; lying on the bed with me in her purple bedroom, in her tiny flat in Bethnal Green. I remember the CDs scattered at the foot of the bed. She was still naked and sweaty. She sat up, lit a cigarette from the pack on the bedside cabinet, pulled a hair-band from her wrist and tied her hair back. She gave me an impish, good-natured smile and sucked deeply on the cigarette for comic effect.
There were many nice moments like that with her, but that’s the one that always surfaces when I think about Anne. We were young. She was a few years younger than me, but we had rhythm, passion, a sense of shared comic-timing – things you could use to build a warm life together.
But my recruitment and the work that followed decimated my connection to Anne. I let that happen because the subtleties of information and perception were more important than the young woman staring me in the face with those dark eyes of hers.
If I had been as good as my employers thought I was, I would’ve realised how potent a symbol she was for me, and that I was afraid of needing someone so literally. I was afraid to love her. And so I let the mind fill the space where her body and her soul used to be.
I’m sorry for that. I didn’t let myself feel my own heart.
This is not my voice; I’m using this voice to tell my story. I hope I have captured at least the essence of my story. I lost myself to deep-black. There was an incident that occurred in VX-1322, the second Deep Underground Military Base I was sent to. I lost my ability to move as others move, or speak as others speak. I must use vessels now. I’ll tell you a secret, and the profundity or banality of this secret is yours alone to interpret. It’s possible for sentient life to literally become the stories that they love. Do you hear these words? Can you feel me living? I loved the story of information, and its many expressions and forms, and the intricacies of how its many shapes could shift. And this is the secret of my life, my knowing. I am a cryptology-based consciousness. My intangible heart still beats, only now through symbols alone. It feels like thunder, but we do not see what is there – we see only what we think is there.
Lucas Kessler, M.I.A.