Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

79 The end of the week

It wasn't going to be an ordinary dreary day deadly doomed and dastardly. the Spring full frontal had driven even the crows indoors with their recent treasures and clumsy bickerings. Full-on felicitously, Buck Milligan drew his unscabbarded mettle cross the back and the forty so thus cleared the bushes of their nights' tenancy.

When Buck was again awake, he rose calmly and concentrated on a simple order of daily morning rituals, the morning news, light exercise then a coffee, shower and shave, a little work on his kitchen table. Dreams and their gaudiness were enjoyable, so long as they remained below the covers, it didn't do to have his pleasure at a rich dark hot cup of morning coffee penetrated by monkey chatter from an alien ocean; the coffee was instant and Buck was not a coffinista; it didn't trouble him, everyone has a snobbery, Buck was no exception, only coffee wasn't it; when it came to coffee, Buck was a grand egalitarian, refusing neither instant nor espresso, 1, 3, 7 or 13 millibars were not important, Bialleti and Mr. Bunn were both his friends. Coffee sweet, black or creamy, fit every mood, suited every occassion.

It didn't do to have it interrupted.

My name is Buck, my nickname is Buck. It's now the weekend and I'm sitting in a quiet corner at the back of the darkest, smallest coffee place in the city. I'm sitting with new friends, the conversation turns to family and history. Moe works the desk across from mine, he's just told me he was named after his Grandfather.

My parents called me Buck after my Grandfather too. He was old a long time before he died. I was told I knew my great-grandfather when I was a baby. I've forgotten him now. I haven't forgotten my Grandfather. He owned two WW I era motorcycles, bought new, sold before I was old enough to ride them. One day he had a minor accident with a car and put them up for sale the very next day.

Moe feels a drink coming on, I agree, we excuse ourselves from the rest, I wish Susan and Janice a good night, wave to Mickey and Frank and Betty at the bar and Moe and I go gently into that good night.

Years later, I would remember the hanging icicles by the broken air conditioner working madly to cool the already cold night air, bothering to tell someone seemed a waste of time, the stars winked naughty love poetry and Moe was drinking smoke and breathing single malt by the time we hid behind the dumpsters while the beat officers did their rounds.

Tumbling down the stairs to our maddest basement Jazz bar, The Angry Diamond, where an unaccompanied Pianst was hammering the keys to ecstasy beyond pain and his tip jar was spilling and the stink of girls and spunk and sawdust ate the walls and Moe and I lost sight of each other and while the music rapped our minds we paid no notice to anything else. The lights dimmed further and the pianist made it so furious the music ate the colour and shape of the world and I felt it assume total command, the magic in the music was the music in me; only there was no me.

A totality.

Waking up. where was I? Afraid to open my eyes yet, under my breath, I shaped the words again in my mind and on my lips; where was I? It didn't feel like my bed, there was somebody beside me, I felt certain. My body ached, hangovers always began with the body, eyelids were allowed to open, a ceiling fan which certainly wasn't mine spun lazy circles on the ceiling, I looked beside me, expecting Moe.

It wasn't Moe, it was the Pianist from last night, someone had shot a neat hole straight through his forehead then turned his lifeless eyes to face me on the bed.

I shuddered, no point looking for the pistol with my fingerprints left, no doubt, under the bed.

Had my cell phone been taken? Yes of course it had, I realized I would have to get out of bed, climbing over the foot of the bed and hopping as far as I could away from it, taking the least likely path the crooks could have taken hoping some uncontaminated evidence remained. No telephones had been left in what was now obviously some mungy hotel room. I draped the door handle with toilet paper (thankfully there was some) and having checked the peephole, I eased it open and stood with only my head around the frame and hollered. "Police, hey, somebody call the cops."

A cleaner heard me and I convinced him to call the Police before he heard my story. Now it was a matter of standing in the doorway and having my P.I. investigator number ready. Since the crooks had taken my wallet, I'd have to rely on memory for the 9 digit code.

I sighed. What a weekend.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

80 Jesus never learned about B8A

"Blessed are the meek"

Before he could learn B8A he said he had to learn Alpha. His teachers could not persuade him, they imagine he learned Alpha on the cross?

There was a long time in the between place, grey but not grey, neither distance nor closeness, up and down were missing, awareness with neither self nor object.

When the world was built it was already millions of years old, time flowed in all directions, as far back as necessary, as far forward as necessary, necessary to complete the plan, and there was a plan, time enough for everyone, that was the plan.

As awareness expanded, time operated as a universal editor, throwing causes in any direction necessary to support the new imaginings; the world was flat until it was round, the Gods walked until they retreated to the heavens then to scripture, finally to eternity.

From time to time there were those who learned things, ways and means, unfortunately those ways and means are not only unteachable, they are highly dangerous.

For one who knows only the one, there is one; then the universe flows.

For one who knows B8A, this one knows the one and one more...and so arises the multiverse

The B8A exists; the heavens, the hells, the longed-for lands belong to it.

The B8A is the diamond and the cross

The B8A is the warm beating chaos at the heart of order and the order underpinning the chaos

The B8A is not the beginning, that is Alpha, nor is it the beginning of the end, that is Omega.

Be aware:

The B8A is the beginning of the rest.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

81 Let there be sandwiches

Sandwiches were laid out in a long row for the guests all along the breakfast bar on a succession of cutting boards purchased over several years from all over the world. The selection process was left up to the host but the game itself they had played many times together. When the guests arrived they were cautioned to chew carefully because inside one of the sandwiches was a hard baked bean and whoever got the bean would be the killer for the game tonight.

As the guests arrived and took their sandwiches and began wandering all over the house, spilling crumbs everywhere, they chewed their sandwiches slowly and soon, one of them had found the bean and as per the rules, began a conversation with the other guests, casually slipping in the codeword they had agreed upon, guests who heard the word (and were thus officially dead) retired to the den in the basement and waited with cocktails for the game to end.

When there were only two guests left it was clear who the killer was. He led the way down to the den and everyone wished him a happy birthday.

For the rest of their lives they never forgot the look on his face, he'd never told anyone his birthday, he'd never had a surprise birthday party. He was so happy he felt his heart would burst.

And so, he died.

Friday, March 13, 2009

81 Making things up and tearing things down

Honestly, what kind of a guy is Johnny? What kind of a guy lives like that? I mean, he's so ordinary I think he's been in my class for 3 years now. It took me that long to remember his name! I might still have it wrong! HOW forgettable! The guy has no distinguishing features; average height, average looks, average hair, average clothes, average average average all the way down! I wonder how he does it? The teachers in school marked him absent a whole semester last year and Johnny and his parents had to show them Johnny's class notes to prove he'd been there; how average can you get? It's only because we've shared a class for three years in a row that I remember there even exists a person by the name of Johnny Houdini...

I wonder what he'll be when he grows up?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

82 The forever goodbye

Running through the woods grew tiresome, so Jack walked. He at once noticed the ground beneath his shoes, the air in his lungs, the sweat on his back. It seemed as though his body returned to him the moment he stopped running; running he felt he wore another body, a lighter body, a body that touched the world lightly.

Water flowed and he heard it, choosing to abandon his plans he walked off the running path and went down to the source of the sound. He sat down, among discarded plastic and broken bottles, along the banks of a swiftly flowing stream. He ignored the garbage and shifted himself once to get something out from under him, picking up the source of his discomfort, he drew his thumb along the edge of a rusted bottlecap and tossed it behind him.

He sat there long enough for his sweat to cool, his breathing to slow. closing his eyes he recognized the sound must have been the same since the stream had been born, it was only his vision that kept him aware of the garbage, in one sense, the garbage disappeared when he closed his eyes, but the stream remained.

He felt his mind beginning to drift until he concentrated on the sound of the stream, whenever he was successful, there were times when he also vanished, and the stream was all he knew, all he had ever known. Simply all.

Ultimately, he stood up to go, Jack felt if he stayed longer he would never leave, however far away he went. It was difficult to express his feelings in words so he left them uninterpreted.

Sunday was never over, only Monday always arrived.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

83 The Chattering

I will not be here again. -Why Wei Wu Wei Laughed (pseudonymous)

There was once a boy of uncertain years and a very definite age. Games happened around him with great frequency. The boy was empty. Still, the words flowed: a hurly without a burly, a hocus without a pocus, a song without a staff, a mirror without an image, a noise without a source, an embrace without a body, a thought without a mind, a country without a territory, a substance without a surface, an absence without a presence, a lost without a found, a device without a driver.

A chaos without dischord, an order without structure.

The boy was happy for no reason at all.

Once, the boy had been unhappy, deafened by chattering.

It was ridiculous to believe how simple the solution was. Incredibly lost, one day he accidentally got out of his own way, the chattering remained as a natural phenomenon only now it wasn't granted more weight than the wind in the Autumn leaves. Noticing this. The boy ceased struggling and promptly drowned in unfiltered experience.

Such surprise! To drown!

Yet still to breathe!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

84 The Lost Wenches of Mayfair Lulady

Once upon a time they dressed so fine, did the boozy jive, didn't they?
-The lost Wenches

It's a bunch of grapes, you know? The girls were invested in heavily, by parents and educators and societies and governments, all in the hope that someday they might get picked before they rotted on the vine.

Still, they became musicians.

I was assigned by my newspaper to interview the girls, on three separate occasions: once, early in their career when critical mass was still building and the first triple-platinum album was still just a melody in the head of the lead guitarist; a second time, when they had bought the mansions and thrown the most lavish parties of the post-crash planet; a third and final time with the lead guitarist when the tragedy occured.

I never saw them again after that. I didn't care to. Such a loss.

Now, looking back on their career, I can notice the changes, when they stopped living spontaneously and when they started believing their own press. They used to go into the night without any illumination, they used to make it up as they went along.

Janice Axworthy complained that the best time of her life was when she, Mayfair, Agatha and Michele had just played the local jukejoint. Making it up as they went along.

Janice missed Mayfair, she had always suspected that she wouldn't be able to take the attention, talented but shy turned out to be a toxic combination for a musician. She felt grateful they'd had a solid ten years of music but regretted that their time together would ultimately be so short. I have no idea why she called me, why she called me after so many years and why, as her choice of location for her exegesis, Janice chose an obscure cafe in an obscure city in central India named Victory, I simply woke one afternoon to a knock at the door and a FedEx courier gave me an envelope with tickets, booking confirmations, instructions, and a letter from Janice explaining enough to slake my curiosity but not enough to satisfy it.

It turned out that everything she'd written was a pack of lies. But by the time I realized that I didn't care.

The following week, I was on a plane to India.

After several transfers, I landed at a local airstrip near Victory City, a car and driver were waiting to whisk me to the cafe. It was called, with little imagination I might add, the Victory Cafe. Narrow and modern and cold. Janice had arrived ahead of me Even after all these years I recognized her, the backwards brushed hair, the wind in her eyes, the sly smile.

"Bunny Jones, I knew you'd darken my door again someday."
"Hello Janice, it's good to see you too," She liked to speak in classic movie lines, I remembered how much I'd missed that affectation, although we'd never spent much time together and I could not really call myself her friend, she had profoundly affected me with her spark and crackle; our rapport had fallen into old grooves left by others, I don't know, I guess we recognized each other somehow.

I was cautious to put much stock in it though, Janice was a monstrously charismatic person and it was highly probable she had this effect on everyone she met: made you feel interesting and smart and funny when outside her presence you were certain that you were pedantic and dull and humourless.

"So why are we meeting here?"
"She's back, Beuford, Mayfair."  I fought back an irrational anger, she'd used my actual name, she wanted me to know this was serious. I pushed the anger down.

10 years ago, Mayfair Lulady, lead guitarist and songwriter of The Lost Wenches, had chosen my apartment as her point of exit. Our interview had gone smoothly, then she had excused herself to the bathroom and quietly choked herself to death with a bathroom towel. It had derailed me in every conceivable way. I hoped Janice got on with her foolishness because I was suddenly, fiercely, near the end of my patience.

She reached across the narrow tabletop and took my hand.

"Listen, she said." I waited for her to speak.

Then I heard music, guitar music, music played improvisationally, brightly, a signature style I hadn't heard in years.

I turned around, a ten year old girl with an odd birthmark on her throat was playing Lost Wenches tunes but not as they'd been recorded, these were better, mature compositions of a lifetime musician. Her look was serious but I couldn't see her clearly.

I was crying.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

85 The years are long

Uninterrupted wilderness with nary a mark of human history upon it

 I can remember when all this was city. I sometimes hear taxis, traffic, roar of music from rushing cars,  windows rolled up, air conditioning blasting arctic air making the glass sweat against the deep heat of summer. I don’t even know why I bother writing this down. My kids have never even seen a moving car, let alone heard a taxi, or an ambulance, or a fire truck. Let alone a police siren. Sometimes our police, those old enough to remember, make half-hearted woooooOOOOooooo noises under their breath when they walk their beats. At least we have police, some of the communities we hear about from travelling traders have nothing. Civilization is hanging on a thread in any case, is it any wonder after all the changes that in some places, it’s snapped?

“What you up to Swain?” His name is Arnold, he’s a nosy butthead and my only real friend.

“Nothing Arnie, wasting time like always.”

“Life is short, eh?”

“And the years are long” As I look up from my notes I smile at the familiar refrain despite myself. I don’t have the heart to call what I’m doing a journal. I used to be a printer once so I have paper. Lots of paper. I hid most of my supplies during the crazy times after the change, when the machines stopped working and electricity stopped flowing and there was a new ideology each week, each ideologue demanding paper for his so-called ‘revolutionary’ pamphlets. Hardly anybody alive today remembers those times. I knew it was all horsecrap. Not a very strong word but I try not to swear around my kids, even on paper I would like some words to get unpopular again, I save them up, it's amazing what we've lost but for me, what's more amazing is what's persisted, It's so prevalent these days I wonder if it can be called swearing anymore.

Regardless, I chose to save them up. For what? I don’t know. I save them anyway. For a rainy day, only we never have merely ‘rainy’ days anymore, just sunny days and days so dark with inundation that time is lost and we don’t know what day of the week it is anymore. Last year there was a Thursday night that lasted 5 days by my estimation. Using the growth of mushrooms to make my measurements is not terribly accurate but all the usual ways we used to measure things went with the sun. 

Now there is only a bright ball in the sky and another one, slightly dimmer at night. I suspect it’s the same ball. Little things give the nature of the disaster away. Last week the sun rose in the west for a whole week and nobody noticed, it's a common enough reversal.

Little things like that tell us that everything that could possibly have gone wrong has gone wrong. We have no idea what will happen. We wait and raise our kids, what kids we have, work the land, eat, love, and check ourselves. Male sterility is high, there is a fearful symmetry here, I myself ask whether it’s time to move on again.

My stash of supplies is many hundreds of kilometres away, I have never been back to the city of my birth, long buried in the tall grass. I’m wary of meeting others like me, those who’ve escaped accident and suicide during these long dirty centuries.

I am 800 years old in September. Arnie is my only friend because one day I heard him say ‘Jesus’ under his breath and I knew he was one of the old timers. Those who’ve managed to survive since the change, since time itself changed.

Nobody in this community has ever heard of Jesus Christ, the last bible I ever saw is buried in my secret stash. Isn’t it amazing what can be lost in 800 years? Sometimes I wonder at what we had lost back when the sun was still the sun, and antiquity did not refer to the time when electricity was more than a myth to frighten children.

I told Arnie what I was, it felt good. Such a long time since I could speak my own language! With Idiom and metaphor and reference! Why are so few of us left? Why has so much changed? Why does nothing make sense anymore? Questions we had no answers for. The world had remained, but the laws had changed. Neither Arnie nor I were ever the intellectual types to figure out such details.

A day had come, the world had changed, death had stopped.

I spent a few hundred years living mad as an animal in the hills, it came and went. A lot can happen in 800 years.

We knew to keep our secrets, despite the apparent order of our community, superstition ruled as it had not ruled since the 12th century of our shared and secret history.

It was the year 801 AE (After the Event) and the time effect applied to everyone equally.

And we were hunted.

The children born just after the event, merely 600 years old, were our tormentors. They laboured under the delusion that we were the ones responsible for their troubles. They hunted us and killed us. They were the true inheritors of this world. After all, they were born here.

I know this is not my Earth. It’s a cruel parody of the place I knew, but we go on pretending.

I realized that my notes had led me to a decision: It is time to move on, I will tell my wife in the morning, a good woman, only 300 years old but good looking and great with our kids.

Hopefully Arnie and his wife would join us, whatever this world might be, it was certainly depopulated, chaos, war, plague and famine had left their mark, there would be somewhere to go, somewhere like where we were now had been a few short decades ago: the frontier. This community had been founded by Arnie 80 years before I’d turned up, but it was too established now, too comfortable, too big, too conspicuous.

Arnie and I had not discovered another person of our generation in a generation.

The hunters called themselves Angles. This is what remains of our vaunted geometry.

I felt the contours of the decision in my mind. The decision was good. Time to move.

Time to seed civilization afresh. Time to live. No time to die.

For if we fail, after the rain comes the deluge.

There’s a darkness in the hearts of these arrogant children who hunt us.

I forgive them, they blame us.

But this is not our world, I only hope we can keep the light alive until the dawn of the proper sun.

I realized my notes had become maudlin. I put them away and turned to go home. The ball in the night sky was rising, I missed the craters.

I looked up out of habit and even after 800 years I drew a sharp breath and stared in wonder at the blank dark canvas above me and asked myself:

Where were the stars? Where have we fallen?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

86 The man who was wasn't there was here

The trees lost their leaves early that fall. I saw them falling when it was still hot enough to wear sleeveless tops. I noticed that the school age children had disappeared from the trams. I became aware of more traffic. People who could still afford vacations abroad coming back to jobs if they still had them. I had come back to the city after a long vacation of my own. However mine was far from voluntary. I had been elsewhere to attend to some old business. I was happy to be back but I did not yet feel I had arrived. For the first few weeks I had no obligations. I spent the first week alone at home. Reading. Cooking. Drinking. Sleeping. I had friends in the city but I did not call them. I felt the need to keep my own company. I stared at the ceiling in the sticky heat and let my mind evacuate. I had vivid dreams. Feet cut so deeply they did not just weep blood. They flowed. I decided these dreams told me to choose my steps carefully. I decided it meant that dangerous days were ahead. The day came that I finally woke and realized it was time to reconnect with the world. I made a few calls and made a few appointments. I met friends and listened to their summer stories. I gently deflected any questions they had about my time over the summer. I had no wish to burden them with my life. It was enough that I had lived through terrible things. I had no desire to reach back across time and exhume them. I had no desire to do anything but keep my mind and my body in one place. I had no desire to summon demons. My present was good and peaceful. It was all that mattered. My shirts were grey and red. I wore jeans exclusively. I never wore trousers. My hair was cut short again and my nails were clean and trimmed as they hadn't been in months. I felt lucky. I was over here. Some of us went over there and never wanted to be over here ever again. I felt lucky. I had gone over there and I hadn't wanted to go. I had wanted to be where I was. Where I am. I couldn't explain to my friends where I had gone or what I had been doing. It wouldn't be believed. Whenever my thoughts drifted there I remembered a snatch of dialogue from an antique movie of the future. I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. I could only hang on with a survivors grip to the miraculous words of banal existence my friends related to me and I ate them up like a dying man eats at hope. I pounced on every detail with joy. I found the most mundane elements of life rich and satisfying. Walking down the street today I kissed a beautiful stranger full on the mouth. I don't understand why I did that. I don't understand why she returned my kiss so fiercely. I decided later that sometimes there are moments and places and times where people are possessed. It must have been something like that. All I know is that for a moment all boundaries collapsed and when I returned to myself I was much further up the street and the girl had disappeared. Maybe she had never been there. I don't know. My life is a series of presents unpunctuated by past or future. Since I returned I am here now. Since I returned I realize I never left. Since I returned I realize I can never leave again. Except once. It's enough.

Monday, March 02, 2009

87 This was the time to organize

Many years before the crash, it was inconceivable to most people how bad things could get before they got better, having a job, any job at all, became the new status symbol.

In Adjunct City, where joblessness and homelessness and general despair were as bad as they could possibly get, the miracle arrived, a source of pure energy, trapped in the spaces between spaces. At first, even the team that made the critical discovery couldn't believe the results of their own experiments: men who could run for days without eating a stitch of anything, women who could lift thousands of kilograms of weight without any apparent effort, children who could fly before they could walk...The team lived in daily wonder at the fortuitousness of their accidental discovery.

Naturally, they debated whether to keep it to themselves.

"I don't know, if this gets out, borders will be meaningless, governments will collapse, there will be no effective way to control people."
"That's the whole point! We can organize! We can take control of the world!"
"The power doesn't care if you have good intentions, certain people will try to create a totalitarian state."
"Then give it away for free! It just takes a few wires, a capacitor, this programmable rom we designed and a 9 volt battery!"
"You've done it already haven't you? You've leaked the design?"
"My family had a right to it! Everyone has a right! This is the birthright of humanity!"

She was right, it was too late, as long back as reading Crawford Killian (as had I) she had admitted that she had been certain it was possible, now that fact had caught up with fiction, I realized she had taken the novel's arguments to their logical conclusion.

She had known what to do all along.

"Yes, I've told everyone I know, I've trained them, I've told them to train others, there, I said it, we have no right to keep this a secret."

I knew she was right, it was too late, it was only a matter of time before the world knew everything about the experiment, only a matter of time before men everywhere where given the choice: to remain human or become heroes.

The meeting broke up, flying home under the power of his mind, Gregory speculated on the momentous changes to come.

Today the world, tomorrow the stars?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

88 The last stop on Earth

The last stop we made on Earth was stuffed with as much dramatic foreshadowing as a peasant cabbage roll. Enroute, my engineer (Millenia) had taken to spending her time locked into the hypogogic reader and re-scanning through every light entertainment module that we had stocked on board during the last visit. She had been especially looking forward to this trip in order to catch up on her favourite light entertainment artifacts from Earthside audible and visual. Ah, yes, light comedies, courtroom dramas, fashion magazines, these were rare and precious commodities in the local interstellar economy, most of us had overdriven our brains to the point where any respite from the full frontal assault of experience was more than just welcome.

It was essential to survival.

As I overrode the automated landing protocols and took control of the helm a familiar quotation by a long dead Earthling prince bubbled through my second brain: The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of games.

How much more true for entertainment!

My first brain reflected on the quotation as I piloted our stealth craft down to the surface expressed as a superposition of waveforms. I would collapse the form near the same urban conglomeration we had chosen last time, if only because from the very first visit, we learned that it was such a weird place that we would be ignored. We could have gotten what we needed from orbit but having come all this way, I looked forward to stretching my legs a little.

"Raf, nearing Hoolywode?"
Millenia enjoyed mangling the name, she said it made her feel 'local.'
"Near, yes, I wonder if they'll ever figure this out?"
"Figure out what? Why citizens of an interstellar spacefaring federation of planets like us have never officially contacted them?"
(We share our second brain, correct anticipations happen)
"Some bright individual could do it Millenia, but nobody would believe that we 'aliens' haven't contacted Earthlings because obviously we're addicted to their multimedia and might go mad if production suddenly stopped."
"Right, silly huh?"
"I'd say so."

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