What happens when two black holes fuck: review of ‘On Time, Out of Time’ by William Basinski

William Basinski

Will Baskinski waits patiently in a sunken dais, wearing a dark leather duster and a mane like a halo of electric coils, an emissary heaven-sent to save us from our data.

The prophet’s table is simply laid: macbook, knobby mixer, a bottle of monaco tonic. He banters a bit to butter up the crowd, who lounge on the amphitheater’s wide wood tiers and have, in the main, laid down their phones.

‘I’m thinking of calling Berlin my next home,’

and then

‘The weather’s better in LA but it’s way too expensive,’

and then

‘I imagine this piece is about what happens when two black holes fuck.’

We found out from our seers nearly two years back what happens when two black holes fuck. With the aid of lasers and Einstein’s glyphs, interferometerists mined a vein thin as a proton to lift from a bayou and a rainshadow the myth of the first romance. It goes like this: some billion light-years off, two sly bodies dance a grapevine round the dark of time. One body spools a spiral arm around the other. They undress and press slowly, needfully closer. Silent as ever, they fold together in an ecstasy so brash as to shake the plaster from the studs of existence.

the energy of their gravity exceeded the annihilation of six million trillion trillion (not a typo) kilograms of stuff

The story of their courtship survives under the euphemism GW150914, and its translators note in the decoded text sundry facts that attest to the passions of these star-crossed lovers, less only than the ardor of the g-d orgy we’ve come to call The Big Bang. In sum, they weighed 62 Suns; come together briefly, the energy of their gravity exceeded the annihilation of six million trillion trillion (not a typo) kilograms of stuff; the power of that rapture amounted to 10 times the lumens of the observable universe; and we humans have captured of their flirting a chirp like a middle C.

Basinski, his Rosetta stone smeared with galaxy cum, shoulders in 45 minutes the weight of translating this clip of moaning back into the erotic epic from an eon ago. Sparse movements ascend like helix turns around a moon; his orbit’s radius phases wider, dilating through the ages, panning round the heaving waves. His disciples lie mesmerized, watching the rise and sweat-slick setting of constellations on the insides of their eyes, our own Orion hunting Leo over the black lip of the horizon.

he passes through rarified air up an angel arpeggio, up a stairway to paradise, daring ever nearer the singularities

Farther afield, tones wax and wane, couple and come apart like snow in springtime’s lust, mote by mote, then all at once. Farther still, red lights shifting blue, he passes through rarified air up an angel arpeggio, up a stairway to paradise, daring ever nearer the singularities. His satellite hisses as it drifts, flecks motes of space dust, shooting stars someday, mark the bits that the voyeur machine misses, groping in the dark.

When the black holes are done fucking, there is only the heavy emptiness at the end of an eon-long sigh.

When coitus comes it comes suddenly as hunger. A breath of pleasure ebbs; a flow of stillness wades into ecstasy’s place, washing the quiet in magma tides that cool and crack and rinse themselves away. The sage steps back. A rush of cold ushers him out into midnight, and the door shuts. When the black holes are done fucking, there is only the heavy emptiness at the end of an eon-long sigh.

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