Spin of the Zoetrope

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Remembrance creates the illusion of motion, progressive phases of that one motion, occurring and also not occurring. They are, at every point, all other points in the steady spin of the zoetrope.

An animated reel flashed strobe images, rapidly through the toy drum that held them. The shadow images crossed over the zoetrope spinner’s face, their eyes, following the pictures as they passed, then dragged and snapped into place again. The spectator could see a pre-motion picture coming playfully together, in a sort of vertigo.

A light shone sinisterly upwards, deranging the features of the spinner’s face with inverted shadow. The childishness of their visage was disrupted, disillusioned, but the mark of it remained in the spinner’s movements. Curiously, it peeked over the drum’s whirling lamp-shade to see the unbroken wheeling of the reel life, all while gravity and torque twisted the amusing images into a still stream of movement. Peeping into that inner light, around and around, it turned.

When not enchanted by the spinning of the anachronistic apparatus, the spinner was a selector, a cinematographer of the reel. Its task was to pour over each picture, and the spinner had an eye for the type of dance that would spur them into motion. Everything at rest was not the same as everything in motion, and vice versa.

Things changed in the round, forever motion of the zoetrope. Only specifically designed events went full circle after the twelve frame-width. The magic of the device was in the repetition that overlapped itself, in how it reset its pattern after each spin.

Like the speculative laws of physics, the energy it took to force a reel event forward was the same when turned backwards, the difference being the degree of symmetry that went by in the turn of each revolution. Only revolutions that were asymmetrical couldn’t be reversed.

The spinner thought about circles, was fascinated by circles. It enjoyed how they would think rounder and rounder thoughts, how circles could be fashioned from squares and, in a roundabout way, those circles would always arrive at a kind of reelism. The ontology of this weird reelism was simply that being was a circular event. If something evaded this imperative, it wasn’t reel. If being was a circle, then everything in being was eventually rounded off in the time it took to roll out in the space of a greater circle.

Outside the greatest of circles were irregularly shaped corners that one wouldn’t want to be backed into…the spinner feared such obtuseness almost as much as it feared acuteness, and would clench a fist over its eyes, throwing its arms into the air, all in an attempt to obscure its view of those vile, jutting corners that waited just at the fringe of the universe.  

The spinner spun almost everything there was to spin, for almost everything had the potential to be spun into a running imitation of life. Hypnotic event-entities of all varieties were collected in bands, in memes: winged-things flapping about, grossly exaggerated facial expressions, contortions that crippled under impossible feats of hyperextension. It all was spun with a slapstick black humor.

The spinner artificed the reels. There was a reel for everything and everyone that came and went.

Making things dance was the spinner’s favourite scene to depict, and the stranger the thing, the stranger the dance. The chosen dancing-thing was often given a manifold of arms and legs on which to hop and jig and jerk and jive about in random steps and forms of an unknown shake. It was a mad rotation of flailing limbs, like leafless branches in a windstorm.

Looking through a peephole, into the tiny spinning room of the zoetrope, the spinner, while hugely delighted by what it saw, would almost stupidly deform the anatomy of its vacant face into frightening knots of sinuous tissue — spinning, spinning, spinning, at the solipsistic center of a cosmic catacomb, which existed nowhere else outside the creature’s own thoughts. A pulsar in the night sky, a flicker that might be naively mistaken for a star, from a planet falling around it.

The accursed machinations were performed with cold precision: cutting, feeding, reeling the zoetrope, each episode more than nothing and less than something for someone somewhere.

The zoetrope were many and the spinner was few, among the last of its ancient species to maintain these exhausted engines that animated universe. Extinction was near for the diseased forest of malfunctioning spinners.

The spinner was a frail and peculiar creature. Its skin was bone and its bone was skin, shifting and grinding as one stone does against another. It fed on the light through unblinking, insect eyes. The images of the zoetrope gave it the nutrients it needed, flavour particles and waves that passed into the eyes’ digestive sockets, and down into the throats of its forearms. Countless hands maintained the zoetrope, each like a bouquet that blossomed out from its wrists, one soulless eye nestled into the palm of each hand. They would clench and unclench, quiver and flex, the fists a crude imitation of an eyelid.

Its head was a thick, featureless stump, whose only purpose was to twist into the striation that were microexpressions of the spinner’s joy, and its suffering. Its mouthless musculature, viewable only under the rough growth of its bark, budded from between its two hunched shoulders. And underneath the knotted clots of its russet skin, beneath the hoodlike protrusion, was an organ that was not a heart and not a brain but something else, something that resembled tree rings. In it was an infinite finitude of concentric rings, each ring representing another memory, another reel, another story.

Each circle spoke of another new perspective, permanently carved into the wooded matter of its consciousness, as revolving light passed into those hands that were also eyes. Continually tracing and retracing, lines that have no end. Lines of a complete circle, lines of a complete being. Their beginning and ending, perfectly determined. Spinning. Spinning. Spinning. Until the toy falters and breaks and, as was the fate of the rest of those immortal spinners, it too would mindlessly repeat an endless break in the line:



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