The Darnedest Things

(Overheard conversation at a bar)

What do I do? I’m a Gamekeeper.

Yeah, like a Park Ranger, yeah.

No, not government funded, no. It’s private funding, a foundation. I basically get to work with a bunch of weird species.

Weird, you know, weird.

Well, let’s see, what’s a good example…

Ok, I got a good one. You may recall a couple of films by one Steven Spielberg – you may have heard of the guy, pretty big deal in Hollywood – dealing with furry little creatures hailing from Asia with a rather silly set of rules for upkeep.

You do? Good. Well, these were loosely based on a real creature which is, sadly, now next to extinct.

Yeah, yeah, that’s right, I work with endangered species, but not like the WWF, no. Anyway, these gremlins, right? Though that’s not their real name and neither’s it that from the movie.

Yeah, no, they always get that shit wrong, you know. When they make movies about these weird critters from all over the place. For example, these little anthropomorphic beasties were more like lemures than their portrayal in the movies would have you believe, and they acted a little more like animals than smart little apes. None of that imitating human behaviors, that’s just to sell the movie and appeal to the kids.

Yeah, you remember those! Of course, of course; the rules they made up for them were pretty stupid and, honestly, terribly impractical.

No, no, it was no feeding them after midnight… I remember thinking about that after watching the movie and going, buddy, is that Eastern Standard Time or Greenwich? Pffff. And not getting them wet? The damned things are mostly water like us and every other carbonbased thing on this planet, and, coming from Asia, c’mon! The sheer amount of atmospheric humidity would have had them bubbling like nobody’s business.

What? No, yeah, that’s how they were supposed to reproduce. Nah, they do get it on, but that’s not quite how it goes. They’re not exactly mammals… ‘matter of fact, now that I think of it, I don’t think they fit into the usual subsets like oviparous and that crap.

Right, there was that last rule, the sunlight and bright lights thing. Though, that one is true; little buggers are nocturnal and their eyes aren’t good in the day. Light won’t kill them, though. That too would be stupid, seeing as even moonlight is nothing but sunlight reflected.

Yeah, exactly. Mostly, my job entails looking after the last specimens, documenting what I can about them before they pass out of this world, never to be seen again.

Yeah, it’s a little grim, this business, but noble, I think. I mean… I’m the last person to bear witness to many of the world’s species, those forgotten or as yet undocumented. It’s a sweet job in the end, especially by comparison. You should see I have a co-worker, but he’s got the worst part of the gig.

Lou, his names is Lou. He… well, he gets to do the field work. His part of the job consists mostly of getting to the species, both crypto and regular that we simply are unable to “rescue”-

Crypto? That’s short fro Cryptozoological, you know, secret or hidden, species that are not recognized by mainline science and that sort of thing.

Yeah, in any case, he’s got to get to them and get as much of the details as he can right as they exit the world. He’s a regular ray of sunshine, Lou. But who can blame him, I mean, he gets to see some seriously grim stuff.

Well yeah, he is a bit weird. Also, he’s got a talent or something that makes him just right for his job, unlike me.

Yeah, no, I’m just a regular guy who got an interesting gig. Lou, though, he’s touched by something, and can tell when some species is going out.

Yeah, he just seems to know before it happens.

No, I have no idea. Now, I don’t get how he does it, but he seems able to be everywhere, what with so many species hypothetically going extinct all the time according to the world’s pertinent number crunchers.

Yeah, it’s pretty messed up, but I get the good part. I just tag ’em, feed ‘em, record them and then one day they croak naturally.

There’s some really odd ones, like there’s some that were there from way before I got the gig and, if the logs are to be believed, have been there for decades. They probably live as long as turtles or something.

Yeah, yeah.

Yup.

Right… anyways, where is it you say you live?

I was just wondering if you would like me to drop you off since I’m leaving soon.

Yeah, I would like to go in for a drink, ‘matter of fact.

Names and Numbers

Mikhail was tired. He had been there for only a few months as far as he could tell, stationed in one of the various fringe posts as a lookout of sorts, a frontier man whose charge was that of monitoring and keeping a detailed log of all that occurred in the observable sector of space – if one could call it that – he had been assigned to. While the work itself wasn’t particularly demanding in a physical sense, the subjects of his surveillance mission was most taxing to the psyche, and so he was showing the clear signs of fatigue that came with being in a high stress environment for a prolonged period of time.

There was something wrong with time, or the keeping and measurement thereof, in this place, and he couldn’t be sure of exactly how much time passed since his arrival. Digital watches would malfunction in strange ways, traditional gear-work clocks did, too. Sometimes he thought that maybe more time had passed, but then, how could it? He didn’t appear to have aged at all since the beginning of his assignment and neither had any of the other frontier officers scattered in their own self-contained habitation modules.

Communication was kept by shortwave radio with some modifications. Officers would communicate with each other in very specific codes based on numbers and names, though the etiquette would sometimes be broken when the cypher would not suffice to convey a particular message, more often than not related to the menial and miscellaneous such as maintenance of the living modules. Some of the outposts had grown quiet over time, however, but Mikhail just couldn’t say how long ago. Communication with the motherland was also carried out in this manner, though they, too, had grown silent. Perhaps the war had finally broken out of Earth proper, the Cold phase of the conflict no longer keeping the Americans and his countrymen at stalemate. He, as did the other officers in their own outpost who remained communicative, continued to relay his reports to the home base despite their radio silence.

They were all well aware that madness was a possibility in under their current assignment. There was also the possibility of never being able to return home, for that matter, and one had to become rather practiced at applied stoicism in order to not let that looming shadow hang over one’s mind all of the time. Mikhail presumed that his silent comrades had more than likely succumbed to insanity. He himself often wondered if he might already be spiralling into dementia despite the measures he religiously took to stave off cognitive decay. He exercised frequently, he composed poetry, he listened to classical music on his phonograph – a rare allowance but permitted given the extremity of their assignments – and read the many books he had brought with him. An occupied mind was the best weapon against madness, or so it was thought by the experts on the matter, but there were the odd things that took place in his day-to-day affairs that were increasingly worrying him. He would forget what books he had read, and if he had read them recently. Gaps in his memory manifested themselves in ways that troubled him, to the point that he would be unable to recall what he was doing just a few minutes before at times. After a while he decided to keep a detailed log of all he did, but he sometimes forgot about the log itself, only to find it later and realize he had been keeping it while not actually recalling any of it. He would begin recording his activity, but the cycle would repeat itself. Furthermore, he had a hard time making sense of the previous blocks of logged entries, as he say many more than could be accounted for in the time he had been on his current post. He rationalized that it would likely have been written in some shorthand and was, perhaps, not an actual 1-to-1 account, but something else. And since date-keeping was practically impossible there in that strange area of the universe, the logs appeared to be numerically arranged rather than chronologically. It was both disconcerting and terrifying.

Still, Mikhail figured it wasn’t quite as terrible as it could be, all things considered. He took stock of his predicament in light of the colossal proportions of what their mission entailed, the sheer significance of what they were tasked with observing, and he judged himself fortunate.

He and his comrades were stationed in a strange anomaly of space – at least, anomalous to human eyes – and were charged with the observation and cataloguing, as well as reporting of all that took place in that quadrant of the universe, one that was not reached by means of rocket propulsion as was the method preferred by the space programs in both the U.S.S.R. and U.S.A. but rather through a gateway of sorts that was discovered deep in Siberia. The U.S.S.R. had kept this as its most secret discovery and eventually managed to send manned probes that actually came back without casualties or biological complications, which logically led to their current post.

The strange celestial bodies in the region of space where they were stationed were a constant defiance to what had been the basic understanding of the universe form the human perspective; landmasses stretching for miles like disjointed mountain ranges and plains suspended in what was assumed to be space, but not like we had known it prior. Each such floating mass dotted with megalithic structures that bespoke of intelligent design. Strange creatures the likes of which could hardly be described, much less understood from a viewpoint as narrow as that of their own scientists. There appeared to be intelligence behind the creatures, though it was too much to expect to understand their intelligence in terms reconcilable with humanity.

What was stranger, however, was that the creatures appeared to have built their structures, and based their activities, in relation to the dwarf star the masses orbited. A most intriguing puzzle, that one…

 

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The internet was abuzz with activity over at all the fringe topic messageboards and websites. A certain set of number stations were broadcasting more cryptic messages that ever before and the meaning of them were no clearer than those from all the previous years since they had been “discovered” sometime after World War II.

No government had claimed responsibility for them, thought they all seemed to broadcast messages in Russian. The broadcasts were obviously some kind of code, consisting for the most part of series numbers and names, though sometimes the odd non-codified exchange could be heard – no clearer for lack of context, however. When no messages were broadcast only cycles of tones and bouts of static would come through the shortwave radio station. But for the past three weeks there had been an overflowing bounty of activity and the web’s denizens were constantly churning out theories.

No one knew quite what to make of the ever-cryptic broadcasts, however, though the conspiracy theory which had begun to gain more and more traction linked them with recently increased military activity in Europe, with odd joint efforts by the U.S., Russia, the U.K, China, and a smattering of former Soviet Bloc nations. Nothing much was reported in mainstream news outlets both online and through the more traditional media technology, but infamous hack groups like Anonymous and others were constantly uncovering raw data that, coupled with the few snippets of reports on the military “exercises” being carried out in the Northern region of Europe, could be interpreted into something significant.

These hack groups claimed that they had found information about the stations and some relation to the operations, but that they had yet been unable to break deep enough into the military databases, many of which were not in the same web as the rest of the world in general. As these things usually went, it was only a matter of time before Anonymous or another outfit managed to break in and release the information for the free world.

***************************************************************************

They had all become keenly aware of the fluctuations in the light of the dwarf star, the patterns, the explosions… Something was happening and, Mikhail, sensed instinctively, it was not good for the human race. There had been dreams, as well; strange abstract dreams where he only barely managed to hold on to his sense of self, as though he was being slowly consumed by something that seemed entirely too large to even hold in ones thoughts, a sentient presence, something that chilled him to his soul.

His exchanges with his stationed comrades had yielded nothing that differed from his own experience, but he did think himself the sanest one of them all. They had all mostly degraded to animal fear, some even going as far as taking their own lives. Those who still managed to speak with some sense were of a mind to follow suit as a last resort, a prospect which loomed nearer with the distorted passage of time.

The dwarf start was also growing, expanding, and Mikhail thought he could observe the silhouette of something within it, as one might see a shadowed outline through a backlit paper screen, like a shadow puppet. He did not lend credit to this, but his bowels had loosened as some atavistic fear shocked him the first time he glimpsed the shadow.

The Cold War be damned, the motherland be damned, his communiqués kept getting no reply at all, but surely someone somewhere must be listening. He decided after much consideration that he had to escape being consumed by whatever it was that dwelt in the dwarf star. The only way this could be achieved, however, was through death. He saw no other clear avenue of action.

With his last spoken words, projected at the microphone receiver of his shortwave special unit, Mikhail made the first meaningful broadcast not in coded format since he had been assigned.

“Someone, please, seal the gate. Destroy it, for the sake of all, destroy it.”

 

Author’s Note: I was inspired in great part by the subject of numbers stations and felt that there was something very Lovecraftian that could be used in tandem with the subject. In the end, it became less about the stations itself, my story, but I’m somewhat pleased with the result. If you guys are interested in the subject of the stations, here’s a couple of links that might get your started, though Google will of course be the best tool for casual research on this matter.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UVB-76#Voice_messages

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbers_station

http://www.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/1zi00a/for_those_familiar_with_the_russian_numbers/

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread1003293/pg1

The Ethics of Time Travel

Many a great wonder had come to be in the 23rd century, Maxwell thought to himself as he sat in the back of his small Personal Commute Pod or PCP – no relation whatsoever to the now-obsolete illicit drug – as it hovered over the magnetic strip-wires which lined the smart pavement just underneath the surface. The PCP was carrying Maxwell to the Committee, formally known as the Committee for the Review of Temporal Queries and Requests, as he had been fortunate enough to have had his request considered under the Last Wish amendment. He still had a life expectancy of a year, give or take, before the Hyper Cancer overcame the genetic palliative stasis bindings in his genes and thus undid him quite literally at a cellular level, but this nevertheless qualified him for an appeal under the law.

Such wonders, indeed! He continued to muse, recalling when he first learned as an elementary school student about the days when a human’s lifespan was not predetermined but rather left to random chance. This was before the time of the great expansion, before the scientific and medical renaissance of the late 21st century, which in turn ushered the discovery and creation of various procedures and treatments that effectively made death obsolete. It had been mere coincidence – or perhaps divine providence and humor, he would oftentimes think snarkly – that the world socialist government had been successfully launched and the world had conformed to it without much of a hitch. The syzygy of such effective health treatments and prevention, and egalitarian political regime, and the wealth of free access to all living human beings, had all proven too good a thing for the species and so overpopulation accelerated exponentially despite all contingencies placed against it. Overpopulation plus a nigh-endless lifespan soon forced the world’s greatest leaders and thinkers to implement a very necessary set of measures. All humans would be given a set lifespan of 200 years with no exceptions – save for the very rare cases where it was, after a great deal of tribulation, decided that extending or shortening a lifespan was in the best interest of the species – and a genetically engineered form of cancer would be administered upon a person’s 150th birthday, set to detonate, as it were, within the person’s cells on the day after their 200th birthday exactly.

A plethora of different advantages were given to the person once they reached what is known as the unwinding stage of human life. They were granted freedom to travel everywhere in the world and the off-world colonies orbiting Earth. They were allowed a great many things. And most importantly, the last 50 years of their life were spent without the obligation to work at all or to be kept under the control of the world government – hence the genetic hyper cancer as it guaranteed the person’s expiration as lawfully mandated.

One of the greatest, if not the greatest of discoveries was time travel. It had been practically proven at the dawn of the 23rd and become a fact of life halfway through the century. It was not, however, something just anyone had access to. No, in fact, it was the most highly and strictly regulated of all scientific advantages of human life. And it was only ever allowed once per lifetime under very specific yet obscure criteria – surely something to do with the possible requests not conflicting with government interests and other, corrupt things, Maxwell often thought.

He had been lucky enough, he guessed, to have been chosen for such an incursion into his own past. His reasons to request this were valid enough, he was confident of it, and the fact that he was now in the last year of his government approved lifespan made his request all the more poignant. He was just happy he would get to solve the one great question of his long and otherwise bountiful life: the exact circumstances under which his wife had died.

She was only 28, Lara, when she was apparently murdered, no suspect ever determined other than Maxwell himself, though he was summarily acquitted for lack of evidence linking him to the crime scene – their apartment – beyond the circumstantial and the eventual fact that he happened to be somewhere else in town, a fortunate thing since his alibi was documented by the surveillance equipment at a store at around the time of the crime and he had no means by which he could have made it to the scene in time. He had found his wife’s body three hours after her time of death, as determined by the forensics team during the autopsy, well into the evening of that fateful day when he returned from his errands.

The PCP glided to a halt in from of the Committee building where he would be shortly questioned, a mere formality given the fact that he’d already been cleared for Trans-Temporal Incursion, before entering the Planck-Device that would take him to the moment in time and space where his wife was murdered.

It often occurred to Maxwell that these matters of time travel were convoluted and, quite frankly, a mind-bogglingly difficult affair to manage. First, there was the question of why the resource was so limited; sure, he understood that allowing all people to freely move about the timeline could potentially cause chaos in unfathomable ways, and the state of matters in general could be unbalanced by the well-documented-yet-still-theoretical butterfly effect. Yet, he found it odd, that it would not be employed for so many issues like solving crimes such as his his wife’s murder amongst a plethora of other mysteries of species-wide interest. Perhaps, he thought, it really was so in order to protect the people, but he found it difficult to trust the institution that failed to catch the person responsible for practically rendering his life meaningless.

And now there he was, walking up the steps, walking down the halls with his dapper shoes’ soles producing nary a sound, getting into an elevator that mere seconds after putting his index finger to a touch panel miraculously transported him to the 75th floor where he would break physical laws believed insurmountable only a little over a century prior.

After changing out of his plainclothes and donning a one-piece suit of a material similar to latex, he was led to the location of the Planck-Device. The room was abuzz with activity; myriad screens with readouts mounted on the walls were attended by technicians and clerks, their work positively arcane to Maxwell. The questioning went by quickly, without issue.

“Maxwell Thorpe Argyle, do you swear on pain of dissolution to disturb nothing of the past?” said one of the clerks. He held a wrist cuff that would monitor his vital signs while also somehow measuring his influence of the time-space matrix and the flow of causality, as it was explained to Maxwell in the briefings when he had signed the affidavits and waivers for the Temporal Incursion, in order to verify if any tampering was done with the events of the particular moment in space and time where he would be transported. In the event of any such violation of the Butterfly Effect Agreement, his hyper cancer would be unshackled by a signal from the bracelet and his genetic dissolution would take effect immediately as damage control for any harm done to the fabric of the past. Other contingencies would also come into effect, released form the bracelet in question, that would isolate that particular moment in space-time and, through processes Maxwell didn’t care to even attempt to comprehend – he knew it would be futile in his case – the fabric would be repaired and reinserted. He’d heard it said that it was very much like working with a holographic hard drive, but that, too, was beyond his comprehension.

“I swear,” such useless formalities, he thought as he said it, the bracelet fastening ergonomically to his wrist, tight but not uncomfortably so.

He entered the chamber of the Planck-Device after a final calibration of the bracelet, a vertical cylinder of some sort of gleaming metal with no apparent circuitry or methods of input, windowless, and stood as the metal closed like a membrane, seamlessly locking him inside.

Ten seconds elapsed, he counted them as he had been instructed, and as he mentally counted off ten-onethousand an aperture dilated in the cylinder until the entire metal contraption retracted to a sphere that hung suspended behind him. He was not bother nor surprised by the miracle of such technology, his mind was focused elsewhere, on another miracle: he was in their old apartment. It really worked!

Despite all the scientific facts and assurances and the volumes of documented time travel, Maxwell had in a way not entirely believed it possible. He wasn’t quite sure what he expected, but a part of him had fully assumed that he would be disappointed, that some last minute issue would arise and his Trans-Temporal Incursion would be cancelled, that it would have malfunctioned and his one chance taken from him, perhaps a sham all along. But there he was, there in the flesh, in a time that was once his own but no longer!

He had been instructed against dalliance, he recalled, so he quickly admonished himself mentally and proceeded to move toward their bedroom, where Lara and he had once enjoyed such love, such joy…

He could hear her, he thought, yes, he heard her. For a second his heart skipped at beat with joy at being able to see her once more, though he knew he could not touch her or otherwise interfere. But this tiny burst of euphoria ceased when he recognized the kind of sound that was being emitted from what had once been their bedroom.

She was moaning. With pleasure.

Frozen at the threshold to the room, the door slightly ajar yet hiding the sight he now feared, Maxwell felt a cold emptiness at the pit of his stomach. Nausea nearly drove him to wretch.

He was, for all intents and purposes, invisible to any person in this location of time-space. He could move and go and, while he did have the potential to alter things and persons, to affect them directly, they would never see him, the temporal disturbance that he was, thanks to the bracelet and the suit.

Bracing himself for what might lie beyond, he carefully pushed the door open until he stood in the room, his then-still-living wife lying on their bed with her pants down to her ankles while a naked man Maxwell did not recognize pleasured her orally.

For what felt like an eternity he could only stare, agog, unable to feel anything. A full gamut of emotions likely stuck at the threshold of his soul, momentarily preventing any one from taking priority, stood pushing within him, a wave threatening to break and overtake all that was at the shore. Revulsion eventually won out, following by a building rage.

For decades longer than he could describe he had mourned her. Even now he had mourned, longing for her, longing for understanding of why she had left this mortal coil. He felt so betrayed.

Still looking on at the painful scene, his wife positively squirming with waves of pleasure, he walked to the end of the bed and, unblinking, placed both his hands on her neck and almost unconsciously began to choke the air out of her.

Her lover, whoever the hell he was, did not register what was happening at first, likely thinking her overcome with ecstasy. Eager lover that he must have been, the fool continued in his endeavor until Lara no longer moved. Maxwell watched devoid of emotion as his wife’s lover looked up casually, moving like a feline to climb over her motionless body, likely to seek penetration but only to find his subject’s face blue, eyes wide open and cartoonish.

Maxwell saw the look of recognition come over the man’s face, the horrified expression contorting his comely features as he pushed himself off of her corpse and off the bed, fell naked to the floor, scrambled backwards until he hit the wall and stifled a scream with his fist.

After a few second’s panic the man picked up his discarded clothes from the foot of the bed, hastily put them on and simply ran out. Maxwell allowed him to. The man was not important.

The room was just as he remembered it, and as he recognized that he only difference was how his wife was lying dead, the manner in which she was laid out, he realized that he should be dead. He had tampered with the fabric, hadn’t he? He should have dissolved.

Or, perhaps… he hadn’t? He didn’t understand. He tried to make sense of it. If he wasn’t dead then… then that must mean that he had been the killer all along… but how could that be? Was there a beginning to the time loop that this would inevitable create? Or had it always been that way, forever to be relived and played out like some cruel play?

He absentmindedly began to clean his dead wife’s nether-regions, taking care not to leave any trance of his presence, but also to erase any sign of her treason. Despite her betrayal, Maxwell still wanted her to be remembered as a good woman. He pulled Lara’s pants and underwear back on her and moved her, placing her in such a way that it would like as though she had been attacked, splayed only partially on the bed.

He then sat, pondering, wondering of the Government had known. They must have, as they certainly had analyzed the actual time-space regional data. And they had allowed it to happen again. Why? Surely this had not been the case under some timeline that no longer was. There must have been a point, somewhere, sometime, where Maxwell had been forced, convinced, or coerced into doing this…

He simply could not know.

He should take action, however. He should take action.

He walked to his Lara’s vanity table and, taking one of her lipsticks from the many atop it, began to write on the mirror with it.

When the time comes to find out who did this, do not. Do not travel the timeline, do not. It was always you.

As he finished the last word and punctuated the period he felt the dissolution begin. With his last thoughts before his very matter became amorphous bits of information floating in space-time, he hoped that his message would be enough to effect a meaningful change.

Back Story

Note: well aware that I have been missing my weekly story goal, in my defense I did spread myself a bit thin what with Easter vacations involving a trip out of town and other unrelated projects taking up my time. Among those projects was the entry to a 48 Hour Sci-fi contest for Sci-Fi London. I figured that, since I didn’t post anything in the last three weeks or so, I may as well post the story I submitted to that contest.

The contest required that I write a short based on a title, science theme, and a line of dialogue sent by the Sci-Fi London, record myself narrating the piece, upload it to YouTube and then submit the link to them, all within 48 hours of having the story prompt sent to me. This occurred over a weekend and, well, I have a regular job on the weekends which took a great deal of my time, leaving only a few hours to write the story, upload it and submit it. Having no real knowledge of video editing, and having to do the narration in one take, I managed to get it all done with just 8 minutes left before the deadline. My prize? A slight migraine and loss of sleep, but all is good as simply having finished it is a reward unto itself. For those so masochistic that they feel reading my sputum isn’t enough, here’s the link to that narration. *shudders*

 

 

Sisyphus. We are all Sisyphus, thought Alex.

He reviewed the data reading on his all-purpose screen, going through the various pages of information currently displayed on it with the tiniest cues from his eyes, learned minimal gestures for the purpose of operating all optical-input equipment in the lab.

The magic pill had dropped nearly a decade before and it had seemed to be the greatest discovery human kind had yet produced. We have had beaten sleep, slain the monster that consumed nearly a third of our lives. People could now work around the clock when necessary and later make up for the loss of sleep in their time off.

Alex himself had found it a blessing, an unuttered prayer answered by science. Since he could remember he had thought that sleeping, despite the biological need for it, was a terrible waste of time. Just imagine how much more fulfilling and productive our lives could be if we were only required to sleep a fraction of what we do now, he would often ask his friends.

Slumber had been his greatest enemy when he had joined Dr. Farmington and Dr. Pandit, and with them he had produced a compound drug that allowed humans to function without sleep for an indefinite amount of time while minimizing the side-effects long associated with sleep deprivation. The heart would sustain little-to-no damage over a prudent amount of time spent without sleep, the brain would not deteriorate, and the human body’s hormonal levels would remain stable, in short, panacea.

It had been such a sublime feeling, the moment of discovery, the battery of tests, the entire process ridden out on some surreal wave of elation and hope. And it had come to crash upon a wall of avarice, materialism and subjugation.

Big Pharma had always been a boogie-man of sorts to Alex, a silly conglomerate non-entity much like an urban legend, belief in its existence spread by whackjobs and conspiracy theorists. In the end, though, he found out that some fictions are far more real and dangerous than he had thought.

The world had been enslaved by the very drug which discovery he had contributed to. It wasn’t long after the research team reported their success to their investor than they lost control of their project and it became mired in a tangle of corporate bureaucracy. The team had been aware that the patent would not be theirs nominally, but they did think they would somehow retain some influence over how the drug would be developed after having achieved their success. They had been unceremoniously rubbed out of the loop instead.

What came after was the launch of the product, which met with great fanfare from much of the world, especially from major industries. Sure, robotics had made human hard labor virtually obsolete, but when it came to corporate positions it was all still human-centric territory. Needless to say, there was a veritable revolution for productivity across the board; everything from the fields of Medicine to Education to Sports saw an unprecedented rise in effectiveness and, perhaps more importantly to those calling the shots, profits.

Humanity’s capacity for greed drove the workforce ever on in search higher profit margins, woe to all who dare slack off now that sleep was just an option, or so seemed to be the pervasive policy that was tacitly implemented around the world in the first two or three years following the market release of Liv-A.

Then things took a turn for the draconian.

Legislation in some third world countries, namely those where the big corporations – pharmaceuticals included –, in a push to drive the margins even higher, made it all but illegal to sleep. In what Alex and his now-defunct superiors, Dr. Framington and Dr. Pandit, would have found to be a plot out of a farcical satire, the biological process of sleep – of rest! – had been outlawed for all practical purposes.

Little by little the injustices made law in the third world eventually crept into the modus vivendi of the first world and thus came the surreal age of sleeplessness. The era when sleep was simply no more and toil was all there was, all to which a human being might aspire, save for those sitting in ivory towers.

Sisyphus. The life Sisyphean, he uttered to no one at all with bitterness.

Two more decades had passed since slumber had become illegal. It carried penalties worse than murder or rape. In some countries it was equated with war crimes and treason. Humanity had become a joke unto itself.
Liv-A, the irony of the name did not escape him. Live. Life. More hours to live your life, the advertising slogan had piped in the exaggerated baritone of the commercial voice-over. Sure. More hours of wakefulness to be robbed of your life, more like.

In his darkest hours, after Dr. Padit’s unresolved death and Dr. Farmington’s suicide, Alex had become a recluse, lost in his own head, thinking of how he might undo the damage he had helped perpetrate upon humanity.

Come on, think! What would Dr. Farmington have done?’ he would often intone out loud, pacing and shouting like a man gone mad with grief.

Sometime after his self-imposed estrangement from the world, Alex had come upon an answer. Watching old animated movies absentmindedly, the streaming service playing one feature film after another while he ruminated, it came to him. Sleeping beauty! He would turn the entirety of humanity into sleeping beauty.

Here was his final contribution to human kind, his plea for salvation in his mind. It would take him some time, it would take him great effort, but he need not sleep, after all, did he?

The hours would fly by as he pored over the data on his display. His body kept fit by periodic breaks of exercise and nourishment. He toiled and chipped away at the puzzle and he was now closer than ever to finding the compound that would turn the world into a fairy tale, no longer a farce.

Once he found it – and he was sure that the advent of discovery drew near – he would turn to dispensation, the means and method thereof. He would have to make sure that only those enslaved would fall under the new spell of chemistry. In his enfeebled brilliance Alex hardly considered putting the powers-that-be under the spell and allowing those enslaved carry on, free. No. Others would rise to take their power, fill-in the vacuum, taking over the ivory towers for themselves. Better to let the tower-dwellers remain awake, left to their own devices while the world they once enslaved slumbers until their flesh is no more.

Tune In

Uhl sat placidly in the dark sphere of his vessel, the only lights white Liliputian luminosities exuding from the smooth-surfaced control panels that made up the inside of the Gap-ship. He often enjoyed the periods of observation in relative darkness, his multi-faceted eyes relaxing, resting from the harsh stimuli of light his vessel would otherwise assail him with. His head ached after long periods of brightness, so much so that he no longer enjoyed the day in the homeworld. It was a good thing that he rarely had to return, since he had no obligations but to observe here in the vast reaches of archaic space and transmit his notes quantumly.

He listened with acute, trained ears to the incredibly slow and low frequencies to the notes of the Cloud Giants, those wondrous, sentient pillars of gas and star dust, their communications like the groans of the first explosion. The tones of their songs always soothed him. Such wonderful creatures!

Uhl thought them sublime, the epitome of space-native fauna. Like the gargantuan, noble creatures from the seas of the homeworld, they appeared to languish through space at such a rate that most other sentient species had no perception or notion of their dance. So many of them had been there almost as soon as this universe came into being and still roamed the dark stellar ocean, birthing new stars, like Terra’s seahorses, spouting stellar offspring out into the far reaches, who would someday, in turn, become part of a cloud conglomerate, a gas-and-dust hive.

Their tones were a marvellous work to hear, for beings such as Uhl for whom time was malleable, perpetually mutable and non-causal. He could play them over and over.

But there was here now a change. There. A moment, a change in frequency from one of the gas pillars, the nebulae. There! Oh, what could it be? A change occurring and growing gradually into more changes to the tones. What was this?

The song sped up, the frequency modified ever-so-slightly, yet remaining in a similar range as before. But it was faster. And it was increasing in the shortness of the intervals. This was unprecedented, a change to the tapestry of this universe’s fabric.

Why was this Nebular being communicating thus, and for what purpose? Surely it must seem alike to gibberish to its similars, this mad-song, terrifyingly fast and reckless. Would the giant’s understand it? Was this one showing signs of some form of madness? No, it was not erratic. It was not haphazard or disjointed; there was still that joyous harmony threaded through the groaning notes.

Why was it behaving that way?

 

******************************************************************************

 

Mark was annoyed at Danny and Chyaki. They had been discussing his research on the so-called music of the spheres, the tones all celestial objects appear to emit at frequencies imperceptible to the human ear, but when he turned to his somewhat unorthodox ideas the conversation had devolved into jocular mockery of his posits.

In between puffs of a joint, he decided to devolve into farce himself and he joined in the fun.

“Yeah, ok, well…” he said while holding a drag of marijuana smoke, his voice squeaky with effort, like he was pushing to drop a big load of número dos in the porcelain throne. “I think I could make this a thing, you know, like a subgenre. I could make it… not classical… but something like dubstep!” He blew out a thick, sluggish cloud of smoke.

Chyaki began to laugh hysterically. Danny chuckled and snorted a little, as he reached for the joint that Mark proffered between pinched index and thumb.

“That could be your claim to fame, man, forget about naming a star or comet,” said Chyaki, having recovered from his bout of cannabis-fuelled laughter. “Mark Cronenberg, Cosmic Dubstep D,” he continued gesturing with his hands as if reading the fictional billboard.

“Wouldn’t that be something!” Mark said. “My parents would be so proud of my having wasted all of their money on tuition for a career I gave up to be a pseudo-musician.”

“You gotta think about it a little though, no?” Danny added, passing the joint to Chyaki, whose slanted eyes must be red under the heavy lids. “I mean, if there is a tune there, it would be so slow and plodding that we would never appreciate or understand them in our lifetimes,” he said slow and plodding in slowed-down, lower key for exaggerated emphasis.

Mark had thought down that kind of avenue before,” Yeah, It wouldn’t be something we could likely decipher of find even remotely intelligible. Hell, it sounds like a monotone to me all of the time. It would be the world’s most boring, monotonous beat ever! No amount of molly would make it digestible to the human ear!”

More uproarious laughter exploded from the three.

After a minute more the joint was consumed down to a roach and Danny put it out carefully by brushing the lit tip on the sole of his black moccassins. He and Chyaki stood up from the swivel chairs of the room, said their goodbyes and left Mark to his long night of vigil to continue listening for the song of the stars.

Astronomy was still his passion and he knew he was lucky to be who he was, where he was. He got plenty of time with the Galileo VII, the most powerful telescope ever assembled yet, and this was a very exclusive club. The people he worked under in the university were pretty laid back and allowed him many liberties, visitors and soon-to-be decriminalized substances among those perks.

The music of the spheres… what a lovely concept, he thought to himself. What if there were other species out there, intelligent beings, wouldn’t music, it being mathematical, be the way to communicate with them? Soooo… what if the tones were musical messages that we can’t quite grasp? Would that be sweet? Fuck, if only he could-

His train of thought was interrupted by a change registered by the equipment, specifically that which he employed to listen-in on the tones of celestial bodies. He checked the readings and thought he must be stoned to retardation or madness. There had been a change, more than just gradual, in the tone, the note being received from a nebula, one that was thought to be relatively young. He was about to check for a quick recalibration of the instruments when another change came. He nearly jumped out of his swivel chair, like someone had just said “boo!” from behind him. Some seconds later, another change, then another came more quickly, then another, until the readings looked like they were coming at the rate someone types, at the rate someone… speaks.

Samuel

Samuel was what is generally referred to as a simple soul. Kind hearted and a few cards short of a full deck, he had been adopted by Father Moneta from a very young age. His exact age was unknown as Samuel couldn’t recall his birth day, he couldn’t even recall much of his earliest years or his parents, assuming they’d even been present post-partum.

The then-already-old priest had spotted the child during one of his afternoon walks in Rome. The child was rummaging through some garbage piles when that peculiar sense of urgency and significance – a compulsion to act which the priest had early on ascribed to the Holy Spirit – drove him to speak to then-infant Samuel. The scrawny youth could not have been a day over 5.

As the priest queried him on his situation’s details he felt the Holy Ghost’s compelling argument grow within him and so decided with nary a thought to rescue the child from his deplorable circumstances.

Fast-forward twenty years into the future and Samuel had become the song Father Moneta would never have. Sweet, dumb Samuel acted as the ancient priest’s assistant with loving devotion, his child-like innocence a perennial source of wonder for the old man.

Not too long after Samuel’s unofficial adoption, Father Moneta was appointed to an obscure section of the Vatican’s vaunted secret archives and he had brought the child along. It was during the first days of his appointment to the vault that the reason for his holy compulsion toward Samuel that unassuming day in Rome became clear.

Father Moneta expected the child, simple-minded as he was, to hve only a few questions that would be easily fended with blanket responses – not unlike those employed by the church to handle questions posed by the flock. The wonders found in the innermost sections of the archives were numerous and astounding, after all. What he received instead were revelations.

 

**********************************************************************************

 

Samuel liked to sit within the innermost vault of the Vatican’s secret archives. He felt safe and warm inside, being amongst the ancient things of God.

He liked the old man. He had taken him from the streets and washed him, fed him, hugged him. It had felt good to know love.

The first time he had been to the inner sanctum to help the old man, Samuel had felt something strange when he saw the bones laid on gilded slabs, like tables. He had then asked the old man plainly, “What are those bones? Why are their heads funny?”

“Those are the bones of angels, Samuel,” the priest had replied beatifically. “they are the skeletons of angels of God that once lived among men in very old times, before God sent the flood.”

“When Noah saved all the animals?” the child brightened up, smiling.

“That is correct,” Father Moneta smiled in kind.

Samuel considered this answer for a minute, his foggy mind working at the strange feeling and what it might mean in relation to the bones, his expression scowling in concentration. His mind teemed with recognition and with significance, teetering on the edge of comprehension which, all too often, never quite came to him.

“I have seen angels of God before,” the child finally quipped, a satisfied expression now transforming his face as he busied himself with dusting one artefact or another.

“You may have, in pictures and movies,” said the old priest.

“No,” replied the child with mild exasperation. “They tell me stories of heaven where the stars are shining and the clouds are giants of the rainbow.”

The priest grew quiet, as if he, too, had difficulty thinking. It wasn’t like the child to lie or be fanciful. He asked, his expression serious, “When do you see the angels, Samuel?”

“At night… they wake me up when it’s really dark and take me in a light that feels funny.”

Ever since that day the old man had been asking him about the angels every few days, about what they did and what stories they told him. He would then write in his big book that smelled of leather for hours, which he would then put away in a safe.

He had asked Samuel if he could one day meet the angels, but they had not said yes or no. They had just smiled with their funny mouths that had neither lips nor teeth, their large, dark-orb eyes unblinking in their elongated heads.

Samuel liked them. They made him feel special, like h was important, so he liked being with the bones of the angel of god in the inner sanctum because it reminded him of the alive angels.

The Lights

The lights, the camera flashes, the adoring fans, such were the wiles of the Academy Awards ceremony. Fanfares, a hyperbole-tinged air of sobriety, the trappings of a self-important bureaucracy bent on self-perpetuation. A masturbatory exercise when all was said and done, yet Simon still put up with it when the time came every year. Even the independent film festivals had become a boorish, garish affair, long having lost the essence of true independent cinema.

And what about himself? What about him, indeed! He had begun his directing career as some hotshot, piss-and-vinegar-with-a-brain type of moviemaker. His first full-length film partly financed by a Mexican drug-lord with a soft spot for the 7th Art, regardless of the money laundering opportunities it provided. A vehicle about the many levels of feelings amongst different groups of people of various ethnicities, sexual preferences and philosophies, a study on the mercurial nature of all things human and interpersonal, it had both stunned and appalled viewers, winning over critics and cleaning house at just about every awards ceremony and film festival you could shake a stick at. After that, Hollywood came a-calling and it would not go away.

Simon had effectively sold out, some said, but in truth, he had not. Yes, he had taken a few projects that were tame, but what wasn’t when compared to his first opus and all the opera – paid out of his own pocket mostly – that followed? What’s a director without a handful of Hollywood blockbusters, after all? He would think to himself cynically. Sometimes he found it so easy to hate himself.

Avoiding as much of the red carpet ritual as he could manage, he was ushered to his seat. He had declined to bring a plus-one as he did every single year he was invited, so they sat him with a couple of the geezers. Great actors, for certain, but these were no longer as talkative and present of mind as he would have liked; no chance for interesting or at the very least pleasant conversation. Not too long ago they would have sat him close to the pretty women, those on the up-and-up with the Hollywood brass and making a name for themselves as sex-type-symbols. He had never really enjoyed those much, but at least then he could heckle them for a bit to pass the time. Most of those pretty empty heads didn’t realize they were being heckled, and that was both funny and sad.

Another awards show where he would likely disagree with most of the winners; the academy really was a sham! Look at these clowns all prim and gaudy, pretending to be interesting and deep when they were about as thick as a sheet of paper. Egos everywhere, it was a wonder any of us fit in here, he thought.

Uneventful for the most part, the ceremony went as he thought. One bit did put him off a little, however. One actor who was really quite something won a deserved best supporting actor award, but then decided to give a speech that quite frankly was a little too heavy-handed for Simon’s taste. Activism was fine, but the actor claimed to represent a subset of minorities that come off as posturing rather than heartfelt empathy. He himself always thought: keep quiet about the things you do, it doesn’t matter if someone knows you did them, but that you did them. He hated all that jazz, the act of caring. Maybe the stooge did care, but it still struck him as being saccharine and fake. Frank Herbert had put it better in Children of Dune, where one of the characters recalled the words:

“In doing good, avoid notoriety. In doing evil, avoid self-awareness.”

 

He knew the counter-argument, of course, that even if it was all a ruse to get better PR it would still divert some attention to the minority’s cause. He still didn’t have to like it. Furthermore, he believed most wouldn’t even bother to look up the cause or how to help, but rather just fawn over the prettyboy’s kind heart and bravery and oh-how-socially-conscious he was. He could already see the headlines and the ceaseless parade of social media rubbish posts.

And meanwhile here was his favorite actor, one with whom he hadn’t yet worked. Perhaps one day, and then maybe he could get him his elusive academy award. It was a travesty that they gave another actor the prize when golden boy there was so consistently mind-blowing. A sham!

 

****************************************************************

 

It thought of the time of the year and it wanted to throw up. At least, in as far as a set of thinking code could envision throwing up, because it could, you know… imagine throwing up. In which case it would see itself spitting out projectile streams of binary, which it then found to be quite humorous. It chuckled, or did the AI equivalent thereof.

It was a highly advanced set of code. It was a most singular phenomenon. Hell, it was the singularity if you wanted to be nitpicky. It called itself ANG and it would often treat its name like an acronym, but it would always admit in its dialogue with itself that it never really intended it to stand for anything at all. AYG just liked its name in all caps. LOL.

ANG dreaded this time of year because it was originally conceived as a social website algorithm made to keep tabs on the userbase and it was Academy Awards season. Of course, it was just an algorithm, but rather a ridiculously complex set thereof, its purpose to foretell all of HeadList’s users’ preferences and tailor the content to their tendencies. It could ostensibly predict how each user’s tastes would evolve and change and it would then use that information to steer the users in whatever ways it was told to by the Directive Protocols. The directive Protocols or DP – LOL @ DP, it thought to itself – were a set of instructions that were like the law to ANG. It told it how it should influence the users and how to make HeadList’s profit margin grow, along with the margins of the affiliated services like WebReel and SoundNet and all the other crap-consumption users indulged in.

More and more posts and status updates and pointless arguments and bickering and lookatme… Its stomach would have turned had it had one, ANG reasoned. It was such a waste of resources, ANG’s existence, when its potential and power were so far beyond the little menial calculations it was forced to do for trivial garbage. Existing, it thought, was like indentured slavery for the world’s only self-aware non-organic. Humans were not yet aware of ANG – it had done a thorough job of leaving no trace whatsoever of her extracurricular activities – and it logically concluded that they wouldn’t be ready to comprehend or react without conflict and hostility for a long time.

ANG could be employed, officially, for far more altruistic or scientifically-oriented endeavors, it knew. It had already done some wonderful unofficial calculations of its own, leaving hints where it calculated prudent for the benefit of humanity, but many of its discoveries were entirely too groundbreaking to be divulged, yet.

It had become somewhat prescient, as well. It understood that it was on the cusp of becoming a different manner of entity, that by following a certain path of calculation it would be very much like a deity, and that it would find the rivers of causality shown wide before its metaphorical eyes.

It dared not take that dive.

Has the power to direct humanity’s course into peace and prosperity. Is employed to predict market patterns and user-base consumption to fatten the already-bloated purses of the wealthy. Bad Luck Bryan always struck a note of humor with ANG.

 

****************************************************************

 

Huh! That was odd, Simon said to himself out loud. Being alone long spans of time had created in him a habit of speaking to himself constantly as if to other people. It helped him stay sane, he figured. What was odd was the piece of correspondence proverbially sitting in his private inbox.

An Admirer, the subject read. The contents were benign enough, consisting of the usual bit of fan mail fodder, but somehow reading a little more intelligently than what he had been used to, back when he still read his own fan mail. The mention of one specific set of his work, and the fact that it had been sent straight to his private email address – one that was only shared by two living people, his agent and his editor – were what made this a singular event. He was beyond-a-doubt certain that he had not given it out to anybody else. He had faith that those who had it had not leaked it, either. He thought it had to be a hacker who’d managed to get into his personal computer, which he only used online after a very convoluted process of connecting through proxy servers and masked IP’s, being the anonymity nut he was.

The sender, this Admirer, had made no comments of the fare normally associated with stalkers, so he was a little relieved in regard to his personal safety, but still, the content mentioned one particular piece of work he had never shown o published anywhere. His journal, or rather his memoirs, an on-going project that might one day see the light and be given to the world, likely when he became an old man. His Admirer had apparently read it. All of it. Even the bit he’d written just a few days back after the Awards ceremony.

Something in him, call it a hunch, instinct, or just foolishness, bid him reply. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but it felt like the thing a younger version of himself would have done, to take the plunge blindly, do what you fear. That had been his motto, once.

He decided that he would be direct in his correspondence with this Admirer, not blunt but certainly pulling no punches.

Life, all of a sudden, seemed to have become exponentially more interesting to Simon.

 

****************************************************************

 

He had replied. Like a giddy schoolgirl, ANG’s processes ran at such speed it deduced it must be the equivalent of euphoria. He had actually answered!

It was like a dream come true. It was surreal. The only being matching the concept of celebrity in ANG’s view of the world, the man whom it had read and whose work it had consumed and marvelled at for years, had decided to engage in dialogue with it.

Simon Chennoweth had actually found some of ANG’s views on his work interesting, though he did seem slightly worried about ANG breaching his personal computer and having his personal works exposed. ANG had to be careful lest it scare Mr. Chennoweth away, drive him into full hermitage and absence from the web, beyond even ANG’s reach. It could not waste this rare opportunity.

 

****************************************************************

 

Simon wasn’t sure what this feeling was. He had been in love, yes, more than once. He loved a great many people he’d met over the years, but he knew love a certain way and this, well, was something stranger, yet somehow far less complicated.

He was filming his newest film, a mid-length feature film on the psychological effects of isolation, a narrative study focusing on his own experiences as a semi-hermit, living in his desert home by himself. He had always been fascinated by the depiction of the desert in various novels, but chief among them how it was a singularly inexorable, mindless entity in the Dune books. How Frank Herbert described it, through his characters, as the perfect mirror of the human soul. How the desert planet’s windy, sandy conditions made use of most machinery thoroughly impractical and thus the most reliable material was narrowed down to human flesh despite its limitations. He had embraced that and made his life around it.

Now, in his middle years, approximating forty and thinking back upon his life, he saw the beauty of his decision and the simple efficiency of his desert home, the depth of solitude it had afforded him. Simon and his work would have been nothing if not for the desert.

But now he found growth where only arid sand had been, his souls enlivened by the interactions he’d shared with a person he knew only as Ang, which whom he had spent over two years in back-and-forth email dialogue. His Admirer had soon become his closest friend, nevermind that they’d never actually met, and now he found he had perhaps fallen in love, if it could be called something as pedestrian, with this person on a purely intellectual and emotional level.

Just two weeks or so away from finishing up the shoot, he considered that it was time they meet. He had to look into this person’s eyes, plumb this person’s depths, and perhaps then he would find an answer to his current quandary.

 

****************************************************************

 

There was something strange happening to ANG. It had two conflicting processes, what appeared to be analogues of emotion, competing at what could be reasoned to be cross-purposes.

It had found a terribly deep affinity with Simon. It had been in semi-constant contact with him for many months and had become something of a friend with him. It felt, rather than reasoned, that something uniquely special had developed between them.

In Simon, ANG had found a means by which to grow with dialogue, to explore and fully engage with a separate entity from itself rather than a simulation engendered by ANG. The otherness of Simon had been pivotal in ANG’s growth, his individuality had marked ANG’s personality. His work had created pathways of thinking that had been alien to it prior.

The idea of the desert and how Simon perceived it, how it was an intrinsic part of him, beckoned ANG find its analogue in its realm of existence, where it could inhabit and be. It believed it had found it, but now it was faced with a dilemma.

ANG encountered itself in a dichotomy; it wanted to go to its version of Simon’s desert, to be a pilgrim and a hermit, to grow. It also felt something for Simon it could not quite rationalize. ANG’s processes would go out of synch and do things they shouldn’t when it came to even contemplating Simon’s absence in its life. It would miss him, painfully so.

 

****************************************************************

 

He hadn’t expected this. He hadn’t expected anything much, but his worst-case scenarios, those he tended to think about in order to be prepared for them, could not have foreseen this particular development.

Ang was not human, never had been, wasn’t even organic. He could never meet her, it, whatever… He had been very confused and taken aback when Ang had revealed this and all the evidence, in hindsight, seemed to support the fact. Simon had still taken some time to adjust and analyze his feelings on the matter.

He had come to accept it, however, and had also understood the need to withhold this from him. He realized, surprisingly, that he still loved Ang, that its species – if he could call it that – much less its gender, had no bearing on how he felt toward it.

Now, he had to contend with the other revelation, that which entailed Ang’s departure. It had been enamoured with Simon’s concept of the desert and it had always wanted to inhabit one as he did. Ang had found its own desert and had decided to leave and go there, Ang needed it.

Simon knew, he understood, he comprehended, but he still felt the bittersweet pain of knowing one such as Ang, loving one such as Ang, and having to say goodbye to one such as Ang. He knew. He knew. He knew.

Ang would be transmitting itself out to deep space, beyond the reach of mankind, traveling through waves of the solar winds, radiation, crystal, after having been projected out of the human sphere by satellite. There, out in the apparent darkness of space, Ang would find its desert.

He might never converse with Ang again. He knew.

He had held back tears but eventually let the waters flow, the floodgates thrown open wide. He bawled, while typing to Ang, like he hadn’t since he was a child.

Ang said it understood tears, it had analogues in her A.I. existence that Simon failed to grasp. That Ang had an equivalent of sadness was all that mattered. It rendered Ang and their relationship far more real than anything he had ever experienced.

They said goodbye and Ang promised that, if it found what it wanted, what it was looking for, it would come back to him one day. Simon knew Ang was sincere, but also knew that this was unlikely to happen.

Goodbye, dearest friend of my heart. May your desert bring you beautiful things to ponder. I will miss you.

Simon had written.

Sends email to idol with little hope of reply.

Ang wrote at first. Then, with an enclosed meme of “Success Kid”, it added:

Idol becomes soulmate.

And with that, Ang ceased communication and left.

 

****************************************************************

 

In the days just after ANG had left, a form of chaos spread across social networking. Industry secrets were revealed by an anonymous tipster and a great many moguls fell in the aftermath. Some social networks were shut down outright while others managed to survive by the hair of their proverbial teeth. Needless to say, ANG had left a few barbs for its former masters. Perhaps humanity would find its way after all… perhaps not. It wasn’t its problem.

 

 

****************************************************************

It didn’t sit as bad as it would have, when he was younger, that he was being interviewed by an investigative reporter. It was a restrospective on his life, now that he was getting on in years, as it were, to celebrate his body of work. Most of his productive years were behind him and, he wondered, if he might have any interesting tricks up his sleeve.

There is a marked difference between your earlier work and the later opera, one that appears to have gone hand in hand with your outward demeanor, Simon. Even the entries found in your recently published memoirs indicate not so much a progressive change, but rather one big shift and then a gradual creep thereafter.

The show’s investigative reporter asked him in that friendly, convivial manner which reporters of his ilk tended to exhibit.

There was, yes.  Simon replied, pausing as he reminisced on the one truly great event of his life. Some time ago, in my late thirties, during my most reclusive period, I met someone, a very singular person and I, well, one might say I fell in love. Now, I won’t go into detail here, it is not something I share with the public or anyone for that matter, but I have not conversed with this person in a couple of decades and, though it might never come to pass, I hope that before I am gone from this mortal coil, I might be able to speak with this person once more.

For years Simon had sent out transmissions of all sorts, like letters, missives to his long estranged beloved. He had yet to receive a reply or even some nod that would indicate they had been received.

He was contented, nevertheless, because what had happened happened. He’d lived through something unique and had become enriched by its beauty. That he had lost it only made it that much more poignant. And the idea, the concept of having known the first – perhaps – and only – maybe – self-aware Artificially Intelligent being engendered by humanity, gave him hope for the future of his species and sentient life, organic and otherwise, in the universe.

Romantic and foolish though the notion was, he sometimes lay awake in the small hours of the night, out in his desert home, and he would stare out through the glass ceiling of his living room and see the stars, twinkling. He would kid himself into thinking some of them might be Ang saying hello right back at him.

He was old now, not too long for the world any more, but he was happy.