CRUNCHER PEELED AWAY the silvery leaded skin from collar to toe. Then he carefully handed Mom’s face to Sascha. It was like passing a chemlight; he receded into the darkness, where he navigated more through knowing- through kenning– than he did by actual sight.
Somewhere, Sascha was shucking Szpindel from his jumpsuit. Susan was catching her breath (metaphorically speaking (spirit, from the Latin for to breathe (was there a more appropriate word for Isaac? (Maybe Hebrew, or Hindi, would offer a solution (not that he was very good with cultural references (he was better at what Sascha had dubbed Psychic Solitaire (from an old card game (except you can play it alone or with others (each player takes turns stacking phonemes, and the first person to accidentally make an existing word is out (and he was good at it, breaking things down to those meaningless little parts (meaning was occasionally overestimated))))))))). Susan was catching her breath, and Michelle was fumbling with seven sorts of silence, experiencing each through a different sense.
There were no words to console Michelle. No words existed in any language that could cut through her despondency. It was a painful aspect of reality, but not one worth brooding over. The lack of such words meant that something in the human brain needed to be left alone, so the Gang took turns doing what Michelle could not bring herself to do, but so desperately needed done. They were family- siblings and cousins- and nobody else was close enough to Michelle to be trusted with such a task. Cruncher, faceless, frowned. They were working together. Were they more akin to pallbearers, or were they Spartans behind a shield wall? Absurd, he knew. They were nothing like pallbearers or Spartans. They were electricity inside proteins inside a skull inside a spaceship inside a narrative, and no analogy would change that.
He would protect Michelle, of course. He was her brother-father-cousin-friend-male. He would have to keep his distance, because Michelle was all about semiotics and it would take some time for her to be ready to deal with another male, let alone one with whom she had been intimate in any definition of the word. With perturbance, Cruncher realized he was going to have to play Public Face while the girls and Mom nursed Michelle, satisfying her every immaterial (and critical) need. He signaled a sigh, which somehow made it through Sascha and out Mom’s lips.
Isaac Szpindel was dead. There was a hole in his head. He would never again assemble random noises into signifiers of his needs or his desires. And really, Isaac Szpindel had been quite good at that. Cruncher had never been intended to be a lady’s man, but perhaps because of that he could recognize Isaac’s unique talents for seduction. The additional senses provided by his sensory programs restricted his capacity for body language and facial expressions, and this would have handicapped a lesser man. Szpindel hadn’t let that stop him. Cruncher had never really enjoyed talking to the man, but he would certainly miss hearing him talk.
I lifted the first line of this rewrite directly from the scene where Siri watches the Gang undress Isaac’s corpse. Despite my love of synesthesia, Cruncher is the most fascinating of the Gang for me. Siri says he seems to have more in common with the non-conscious modules than the hubs of personality, and I tried to bring that out here by combining stream-of-consciousness with Cruncher’s terse parsing. It’s a voice with a lot of tension and friction to write; so many words you want to write just don’t make sense. Lightning becomes electricity, inspiring metaphors become pointless, emotions are completely valid and absolutely ridiculous. Ultimately, I think Cruncher is a very compelling character, because Watts doesn’t give you much to work with- his name only appears 15 times in “Rorschach”- and you walk away from the reading wondering exactly how much you can trust him. I think he’s definitely capable of deceit, and is very human in some ways, and in other ways, represents the very alien thing that Susan James has done to herself. I was inspired by the way Michelle is described near this scene as a “little girl,” basically as an alt that receives abuse- considering that Cruncher was the one talking when they were being attacked, but Michelle was the one that got the trauma of it- and the rant the Gang gives about DID/MPD and the word “alts.”