Daughter Zion speaks from within the trauma.
Her first-person statements carry the power of experience and the cascading confusion of the survivor.
She is immersed in emotions, overwhelmed by horror.
– Kathleen M. O'Connor, Lamentations & the Tears of the World
April 2, 2018
I'm trapped between a monster and a demon.
The monster is a ravenous black hole, fleshy and pulsating.
The demon is invisible, but I can hear her constantly whispering, moaning, infiltrating my electromagnetic field, sending me messages through my flickering screen.
Let me explain:
I'm going to try to write myself out of this conundrum. I'm going to search for a so called arsenic to lure out the demon behind this text which is this city which is a monster which is my body: writing as exorcism, or maybe as a way to extract a microchip I suspect they have implanted inside me.
Did I write arsenic? I meant aesthetic, perhaps like the glitch aesthetic applied to found footage horror films of the 2010s, which reimagines the return of the repressed:
[through] visual glitches, or temporary disruptions to the flow of information, such as unexpected pixilation, chromatic shifts, or other error based distortions [and which] now constitute essential tropes in the language of cinematic ghost stories.
Marc Olivier, Glitch Gothic
To translate that visual glitch into writing might mean revealing here the mechanics behind what I am doing, such as my telling you that I'm typing these very words with my pointer finger into my old IPhone 5 right now, and my leaving in typos and mistakes, such as the phone's autocorrect switching aestheticto arsenic, and then adding arsenic into the mix of what I'm trying to say, as in: what I'm actually trying to discuss are coded messages in the air of Jerusalem that seep into my skin like poison, or like the follicle stimulating hormones that I injected multiple times into the skin two fingers away from my belly button.
if I were to randomly stick in letters from other languages in order to make you feel uncomfortable and make you work harder to read my textהשד הדמוגרפי
maybe I'm just sick of translating myself back and forth between languages and genres and cultures and so I'm handing over these keys that will allow you to engage with me:
control x + google translate + control v
thus making you active readers or an active audience or captive audience entrapped here with me in this text between two terrifying monster-demon entities.
By this text I mean:
the Book of Jeremiah or I mean this very text that I am writing (which is the city of Jerusalem which is a monster which is my body).
And so here goes:
I'm donating my body to science, or rather, science fiction and horror theory, because, folks, this may be our only way out.
April 2, 2018
I'm now typing on the keyboard of my Lenovo laptop, which roars and groans like a ridiculous B-movie monster, but which I haven't yet abandoned because, as you may have noticed, I have trouble leaving spaces that are bad for me.
Outside my window, a cat, which my neighbor has been feeding, screeches, wild and in heat.
I'm also reading, on my dust specked screen, an article in pdf format called Israel’s Baby: The Horror of Childbirth in the Biblical Prophets, by Amy Kalmanofsky, which I downloaded from the National Library database, about how the Hebrew prophets, particularly Jeremiah, use images of women in the throes of childbirth in order to depict the fear of military invasion and instill horror in the male reader.
Shall not pangs seize you like a woman in childbirth?
And when you ask yourself, “Why have these things befallen me?” It is because of your great iniquity that your skirts are lifted up, your limbs exposed.
More specifically, it is the city of Jerusalem itself which is personified as a laboring, oozing, animalistic thing:
And I will make this city an object of horror and hissing; everyone who passes by it will be appalled and will hiss over all its wounds.
In this, Jerusalem is not unlike the mother/monster figures in horror films such as Rosemary’s Baby, Carrie, Psycho, and Alien.
As an object of horror then, the laboring woman must be rejected. She is not a pitiful figure that works to elicit empathy, but a repulsive figure that asks the audience to reject her and to look away.
Amy Kalmanofsky, Israel’s Baby: The Horror of Childbirth in the Biblical Prophets
As I read this, I hear the ping of an incoming email. It's from my friend, a struggling performance artist in New York, whose name I'll change here, for privacy's sake, to Bob Dylan.
I’m copy-pasting what he wrote right here:
Hey Amital –
Have you ever heard of Agenda 21?
These days they're trying not only to control the population, but to curb the reproduction rate.
This might sound like a paranoid conspiracy theory, but those paying attention to the social climate know this is the current reality.
Dear Bob Dylan,
You want to talk conspiracy theories?
Listen to this:
Yesterday, I walked over to the market, like I do almost every day. It was warm, an early spring heat wave, and I was wearing a low-cut, sleeveless dress. I must have been daydreaming, because before I knew it, I discovered that I had inadvertently detoured into the neighborhood adjacent to mine, which I always avoid due to large signs plastered all over its buildings that read:
Dear Visitor –
Please do not enter our neighborhood dressed in immodest clothing!
I froze in horror when I realized where I was and what I was wearing.
I wasn't sure if I should turn around or keep walking all the way through.
And I felt my microchip kick in, you know, the one they implanted in my brain, which sounds alarms of shame that screech look away! Look away! and which - so that no innocent passerby is forced to cover his eyes like a teenage boy at a horror film screening, or risk getting sucked into the tenacious void that is me - either sprouts, Black Panther- suit-like, black sheets that cloak my face and body, morphing me into one of the Shawl Women who haunt this city; or perhaps pixelates and blurs me out of vision like Jon Hamm in the Black Mirror White Christmas Episode.
Either way, as I scurried, body obliterated, out of the alley, I wondered this:
Can I remove this microchip from my brain without dying?
I realize all that stuff sounds downright crazy, and I admit I may have made some of it up.
Perhaps the real conspiracy, Bobby, is this:
There is no depopulation plan here in Jerusalem, rather, the opposite. Though our prophets terrified their male readers by describing this city as a monstrous woman giving birth, and though the ghostly outlines of that monster, and their terror, still hover over the city, there is an even more horrifying creature who instills fear in us all today: the demographic demon. And in order to fight that demon, our bodies become weapons, national wombs, which we relinquish, consciously or unconsciously, to the State. Our fertility clinics are overflowing, Bobby. We’ve become an international superpower of high-tech fertility techniques, which we are strongly encouraged (bullied/brainwashed?) to utilize no matter the cost to our pockets, our bodies, our souls.
Does all that sound crazy too? I guess I'm just wondering, Bobby: What is a woman like me, trapped between a monster and a demon, to do? And what is the meaning of all this to my own body: My very human- very female -very aging -very not pregnant- but pinned to planet earth for x amount of years -body?
Is there a way to escape the images, myths and metaphors that have buried me within them, or themselves within me?
Those, Bobby, are the conspiracies that trouble me these days.
April 3, 2018
At the end of the film Alien, Ripley, the only surviving character, sits in her control chair, calm and composed, almost cheerful, dictating into her recorder, staring into space, petting her cat like a baby.
This is Ripley. W564502460H, executive officer, last survivor of the commercial starship Nostromo signing off…. Come on cat.
Dan O'Bannon, Alien screenplay
The cannibalistic, uncontrollable maternal image that haunted the film until now has been repressed. As Barbara Creed writes in Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine:
The nightmare is over.
So what are my chances of surviving this story?
Am I a final girl, the female trope - brunette, brainy and virginal - who comes out alive at the end of horror films, thus restoring, according to Carolyn Clover in Men, Women and Chainsaws, a sense of order to the male viewer?
Do I want to be?
And is Daughter of Zion (bat zion), the female voice conjured by the Hebrew prophets, a final girl herself, as Amy Kalmanofsky suggests?
She parallels bat zion whose battle with her monster is chronicled in gruesome detail in the prophets Hosea, Jeremiah and especially Ezekiel, but who lives to sing in the poetry of Second Isaiah.
Amy Kalmanofsky, Israel’s Baby: The Horror of Childbirth in the Biblical Prophets
Perhaps the only way to evade all these tropes is by somehow reaching the mother lode, and locating a glitch that can shut the whole system down. And I'm beginning to suspect that maybe in fact I'm the glitch, on the screen, in the text, on the landscape of the city. And that to escape the loop I must continue to secrete these messy, slimy words from my body onto the stage or the page or your screen. Perhaps then, all the lights, all the microphones, the projectors shooting images, metaphors, myths, monsters, demons onto stone walls will eventually run out of power, leaving only a blank green screen. And me.
This is Amital.
Neither Daughter nor Mother nor Monster.
Not signing off. Speaking from within the trauma.
If I’m holding a cat, she's screeching, wild and in heat.
I'm staring right at you. Don't look away.
Amital Stern writes theater, film and more in Jerusalem. She earned an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Hebrew University, and studied screenwriting at the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television. Her 6-month installment on Corporeal Clamor, "MIFLEZET / Notes towards a performance," is a series of "experiments from Jerusalem, searching for meeting points between body, place and language; women, monsters and demons."
Amital's plays include: In Waiting, winner of the Fred Simmons Arts Prize; Hunger Artist, performed at the Theatronetto Festival, Jerusalem Fringe Festival, Arab-Israeli Theater and other venues; Aliza, a site specific theater production now haunting abandoned buildings in Jerusalem. Her writing has appeared in Guernica. She is currently working on her first novel.