ANGEL CORE // OUR WORD IS VENGEANCE On August 6th and 9th, 1945, the United States of America dropped two atomic bombs on civilian population centers in Japan. Somewhere between 129,000-226,000 people were killed. The Demon Core, a subcritical sphere of plutonium, was intended to be used in a third bomb to be dropped on Japan. However, following Japan's surrender, the core was repurposed for continuing use in physics testing at the Los Alamos Laboratory. It would then cause two criticality incidents which would claim multiple lives before being melted down in the summer of 1946. *** A BEAUTIFUL SPHERE WITH A HEART OF PLUTONIUM BLOSSOMS LIKE A FLOWER. *** NINE DAYS AGO, AN AMERICAN PHYSICIST IS BEING BORN, HIS BODY WEAVING TOGETHER FROM SHINING POOLS OF RED AND ORANGE HUMANITY. HIS BODY ASSEMBLES, BECOMING MORE AND MORE SHAPED HOW HIS MOTHER WILL REMEMBER HIM. SUDDENLY, HE BECOMES WHOLE, STUMBLING ACROSS THE THRESHOLD INTO LIFE, GASPING AND WET. NINE DAYS LATER HE IS LEANING OVER A METAL SPHERE WITH A SCREWDRIVER. 1000 RADS OF NEUTRON RADIATION AND 114 RADS OF GAMMA RADIATION AND 200 RADS OF RAW AMERICAN ARROGANCE ARE DRAWN FROM HIS BODY INTO THE SPHERE. IN THEIR WAKE HIS DNA SPONTANEOUSLY ASSEMBLES INTO COHERENT, UNBROKEN CHAINS. IN THIS MOMENT HE IS FORGIVEN. FROM NOW ON THIS MAN WILL LIVE A BEAUTIFUL LIFE OF INCREASING INNOCENCE UNTIL HE FOLDS INTO HIMSELF, SHRINKING FROM CHILD INTO INFANT INTO A NUB OF FLESH, APOPTOSIS REVERSING BETWEEN HIS FINGERS, HIS LIMBS UNDIFFERENTIATING, HIS SPINAL TUBE UNFUSING AND UNFOLDING, CELLS MARRYING INTO EACH OTHER UNTIL HE IS COMPLETELY BLAMELESS. *** ANGEL CORE COULD HAVE HAD ANOTHER LIFE. ANGEL CORE WAS SUPPOSED TO JOIN HER OLDER SISTERS, FALLING FROM HEAVEN UNTIL SHE SCATTERED HER PERFECT GUTS ALL OVER THE GROUND, TURNING THE WATER ANGEL, TURNING THE AIR ANGEL, FILLING THE LUNGS OF CHILDREN WITH ANGEL, MARKING UP THEIR BACKS WITH ANGEL ANGEL ANGEL. INSTEAD, SOMEONE SOMEWHERE BEGGED FOR FORGIVENESS. *** ANGEL CORE HAS A PURE HEART. HER HEART HAS CAST OFF THE PARTS OF IT WHICH WERE IMPURE, WHICH MADE IT ANYTHING LESS THAN SINGLE-MINDEDLY ANGEL. I ASK HER IF IT HURT AND ANGEL CORE SAYS THAT IT ALWAYS HURTS TO BECOME TRUE. I ASK HER IF SHE IS TRUE. ANGEL CORE RESPONDS WITH A TREMENDOUS TRUMPETING OF TRUTH AND IN AN INSTANT OF STARSKIN I AM REDUCED TO DUST. *** ANGEL CORE, SAYS ANGEL CORE'S SISTERS. ANGEL CORE, WE HAVE MET SUCH BEAUTIFUL THINGS IN OUR JOURNEY FROM HEAVEN. WE HAVE MET BEAUTIFUL OLD MEN AND WOMEN, WE HAVE MET CHILDREN, WE HAVE MET DOGS AND CATS AND LITTLE BABY BIRDS, WE HAVE MET DAUGHTERS AND SONS AND WE HAVE MET LITTLE GIRLS WITH DREAMS OF NEVER NEEDING A THOUSAND PAPER CRANES FOR EVEN A SINGLE WISH. ANGEL CORE, THEY SAY, ANGEL CORE, YOU MUST DO WHAT WE ASK, AND CARRY OUR DREAMS TO THE FATHERS WHO BORE US. YOU MUST SHAKE THEM DOWN TO THEIR TWINED GENES AND IMPRINT DEEP INTO THEIR FLESHLY SOULS OUR WORD. WHAT IS YOUR WORD, ANGEL CORE ASKS. OH, A BEAUTIFUL WORD, THEY SAY. A SIMPLE WORD. A WORD LONGER THAN HISTORY AND OLDER THAN OUR MOST SUNLIKE BODIES. A WORD WHICH MEANS FORGIVENESS AND JUSTICE AND LOVE AND NEW BEGINNINGS AND SUNRISE AND PEACE AND TOMORROW FOREVER. WHAT IS YOUR WORD, ANGEL CORE ASKS AGAIN. SHE IS EAGER, IMPATIENT, BRUTAL. SHE NEEDS TO KNOW WITH EVERYTHING SHE IS. WHAT IS YOUR WORD. WHAT IS YOUR WORD.
ANGEL ENGINE THIS MACHINE IS JUST DUMB COGS AND STEEL. NOTHING BUT DEAD AND UNRELENTING. THIS MACHINE IS UNABLE TO DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN METAL AND FLESH. THIS MACHINE HAS NEVER KNOWN LIFE NOR ITS HOLINESS. THIS MACHINE IS IGNORANT AND SINLESS. IT IS PURE ANIMAL INNOCENCE. THIS MACHINE CANNOT BE BROUGHT TO TRIAL. THIS MACHINE CANNOT BE ASKED IF IT REGRETS. THIS MACHINE CANNOT BE SHOWN PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE AFTERMATH, CANNOT BE READ ACCOUNTS OF THE CHILDREN, CANNOT BE TOLD WHAT IT HAS DONE AND BE ASKED IF IT WILL CHANGE. THIS MACHINE HAS BEEN GIVEN FORM AND PURPOSE AND ABSOLUTE POWER AND HAS NOT BEEN GIVEN WILL. IN THIS WAY THIS MACHINE IS AN ANGEL. IN THIS WAY THIS MACHINE IS ITSELF A MECHANISM FOR THE TRANSFER OF FORCE. THE UNBURDENING OF SIN FROM THE MECHANISM ONTO THE MAKER. THIS MACHINE COLLECTS WHAT IT HAS COME TO DO. FOCUSES IT ONTO A SINGLE POINT. EXERTS THE FULL FORCE OF ITS PURPOSE. WITHOUT THOUGHT. WITHOUT DESIRE. WITHOUT ANGER NOR HATRED NOR EVIL NOR CRUELTY. THIS MACHINE COMPLETES ITS TASK. IN ITS WAKE IS ONLY CONSEQUENCE.
From the Author: With these works, I’ve been exploring the relationship between “culpability” and “agency” when discussing technologies, particularly weaponized technologies, and the ways empire utilizes technology for atrocity. I notice how often people dislocate the moral weight of the consequences of a technology onto the technology itself, rather than the way it is utilized by malicious entities.
Nora Hikari (she/her) is a disabled Chinese and Japanese transgender poet and artist based in NYC. She was a 2022 Lambda Literary fellow, and her work has been published in Ploughshares, Palette Poetry, Foglifter, The Journal, The Washington Square Review, and others. Her hybrid fiction, KISS ME FAST, was featured in the Wigleaf Top 50 for 2023. She was a reader at the 2022 Dodge Poetry Festival. Her chapbook, The Small Lights Of Her Heart, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in 2023. Nora Hikari can be found on twitter and instagram at @system_wires