Thursday, January 23, 2014

Missing Words

How many times will I dig through the mud to find those missing words?  Hands cupped, probing the thick dark folds of silken sludge, I move with the instincts of an animal, all seeing in the darkness. Through the buried remains of world and beast I move, finding remnants which in them contain entire galaxies, though I see them as tiny bits of stone and meadow grasses.

Those words, I released them in an undulating pattern of body convulsions, clicking, and rocking spasms. I sent them up into the air with warm breath and panting and so much fire.
There is still more in me. Deep in the caves guarded by secret mistresses in black hooded robes and pierced pink nipples, hidden in such dark places it might take years or lifetimes to find. There the sound swirls, a deep well of red hot amber, swelling and irrepressible.
Palpitating and prepared for all the fingers of every god who can make the journey. Every beast. Every mountain man covered in fur and curls, white powder on his heels. 
If they walk the thousand steps, slay the thousand dragons, enchant the guardians, they will find it there, swimming through the thick pools of combined water and earth, stone and plant.

Those missing words released in a momentary fluttering, they are tucked into small ponds with tiny golden fish, red and yellow stripes along their bellies. Bubbles and little waves sometimes push them to the surface where I can scoop them up and swallow them whole. There are none left for the wild dogs on the days I wade into the waters, naked and just slightly stiff in the cold air.
Always a bitter wind will sweep down off the mountains, rushing towards me, an avalanche of sound and roaring desperation.  How can it tell?  Finding my body as it moves, coming towards me gracefully as a large-winged bird. It covers me in a frozen embrace and races towards the great ice caps of the north.

I dropped my clothes long ago in the meadow. I walk with red painted toes and black stripes marking my breasts and ribs, barely breaking a blade of grass with my weight. My breathing, smooth and shallow, just enough to keep me alive as I search the waters. There are bees darting and iridescent songbirds and cicadas drowning out the noise of other living creatures, creating an undulating drone which corresponds to the water ripples slapping against my white skin.
Do they react to my rushing heat or do we move together? Desire and bubbles and fish and lost words pushing against each other, naked and sweat covered and moving without language.

Thin purple petals are covered in dew, they sparkle in the brilliant light. The wind keeps racing over and past me and my heart runs after it, a high pitched scream following our decent into the caverns below the sea of time. The ache inside bursts out, swelling outwards towards the sea. 

Gripping the wind for comfort, deep and voluminous snakes emerge from the holes in the ground, from my ears, out my mouth. Overcome by scales and hissing, I finally sink to my knees. They suck on the tiny beads of sweat below my breasts and coil around me, bringing me back into time. Where things happen, where words are formed.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


“I am a person.“
I tell them and they don’t believe me. They think my ambulatory unit is strange.
“It’s just my body.“ I insist. 
Helos, who fused with most of the medical conglomerations when it swallowed Amity, agrees.
“They are an entirely organic specimen of sapiens sapiens, however without further analysis we will be unable to determine whether this is one of the early genmods. Will you allow us to collect a sample for this analysis?” 
I give both Helos and Manticore a strand of my hair. Last I heard, Manticore had been joined by many of the top research collectives.
“I am a person, just one, natural born with no modifications.“
I insist, but they can’t believe me. They can’t fathom a relic like me, strong and healthy as the result of two naturals laying on a mattress together 38 years ago. A solitary being. It’s possible that they can no longer understand the idea at all.

*   *    *

Things have changed so fast. I was in one of those first rudimentary social networks, the kind that you checked in on a few times a day, posted pictures and comments. The kind that were hosted on external hardware that you could walk away from and forget about.
When they started building the first Cys, that’s when the revolution started, that’s when things accelerated, got wildly out of control and left me in the dust. Before the pure Cys, they started with implants, naturals like me upgrading, the hardware becoming internal, faulty organs replaced, nanos to eat the disease out of organic bodies, to repair damaged tissues, even to modify appearances for novelty's sake.
It was only a matter of months before Seko announced that they were partnering with Lucen and growing Cys, the perfect blend of the old organic technology that we’d (according to creationists) inherited from Adam and the new technologies that we ourselves had innovated. Perfect lab grown organic hardware engineered by the finest geneticists in the world paired with the cutting edge of modern implants. And thanks to Kallisti Technologies, You, as you understood yourself to be, could be uploaded into a Cys unit and live forever. If you could afford it.

*   *   *

Needless to say, I couldn’t afford it. But that didn‘t matter because I didn’t care. I was going off the grid, sick of my job, sick of my failed relationships, sick of the gnawing depression and paranoia that I came to believe were the result of modern life, sick of global warming, sick of the new polio and measles epidemics, sick of processed frozen meat products warmed in the microwave, sick of traffic, of crowded elevators, of miles of asphalt and concrete and steel.
I arranged to stay in a friend's cabin in Northern California. I said I was going to write a book. Mostly I gardened. I hunted and fished with a compound bow, cleaned the kills with my own bare hands and cooked them over an open fire.
I wandered around among the trees, listening. I felt myself distanced from my humanity, from humanity as it had been defined in my lifetime thus far. I felt free, watching a red tailed hawk soaring overhead, forgetting the babble of day time television, tending my compost heap.

*   *   *

Sequestered in the wilderness, I missed a lot of the earliest developments. At first, the rich were the only Cys. Ray Kurzweil realized his dream and had his dead father uploaded into a Cy and they wrote music together happily for months. His father gave concerts around the globe. Within a year  the older technologies  became  so affordable that most middle class teens had been updated, their God given hardware merging with the man made, nanobots swimming in the bloodstream. 
And then the first collectives were born. The enthusiasm of tech savvy teens was the driving  force of human evolution.

*   *   *

I like to think that some of them started it as an experiment, as a possible solution for coping with diminishing natural resources and an overcrowded planet. They probably did it because they were lonely, or so they could pool their resources and share in the more expensive upgrades, and eventually even the pure Cys models. They started uploading to one ambulatory unit, collectives of two, of three, five, seventeen, two hundred... whole social networks.
They uploaded to one unit, killed their old natural bodies, and sold the good parts on the black market. Sometimes they kept a few of the better bodies, those with the newest mods, and used them as remote units. Imagine 210 kids simultaneously inhabiting 30 bodies across the globe. And what did they do with those bodies? They looked for other kids to merge with.

*   *   *

I had come down to town for supplies and stopped for lunch in a dinner when the first hostile take over went down. 
I was sitting at the counter eating eggs over easy watching two kids soak up electricity from power cords extended from their wrists. They were friendly enough,  though for me they were real jaw droppers. I hadn’t seen anything like that hardware 9 months earlier, before retreating to the cabin.
Of course to them, I must have seemed equally odd. My hair a tangled mess of blonde, eyes blue, skin natural, gender readily apparent, not a hint of metal anywhere. In fact, when I first stepped through the door, every head in the place turned, because no one could interface with me. I didn’t have any implants.
The waitress asked when I sat at the counter, “Your wireless down hon? There’s a pretty good chop shop a couple doors over.”  It was difficult for her to take my order, she was accustomed to being texted.
The eggs still tasted like eggs though, and the coffee was hot, and I took in all the sights feeling like a person that has just stumbled into or out of a dream. There was a three month old copy of TIME laying on the counter. I read the cover: "Pushing The Limits- the end of death and separation." I browsed the pages, ate the eggs and watched the two collectives seated beside me at the counter.
They were swapping stats, Rainbow Turtle : 427 members, 97 ambulatory units, 91 old school mods, 6 Cys. Silver Moon: 63 members, 6 ambulatory units, all old school mods.  They must have been sharing files, exchanging music and movies when suddenly Rainbow Turtle said: “Oh my God. Are you getting this?” And Silver Moon looked stunned and even started to cry.
Everyone in the place stopped eating, or charging, and held still checking in on their networks, watching a news feed, possibly reading a text, all of this happening internally.
Even the waitress stopped pouring coffee and stood in front of me staring into space.
“What happened?” I asked her after a moment.
“Helos just swallowed Amity. There is no more Amity. ”

*   *   *

The kids, the first collectives, they hacked information systems. But the Helos Amity incident was the first hostile take over, the first time one collective forcibly took control of another.
It was a different sort of social network.  There was a hierarchy, there was software in place to maintain the hierarchy. Helos was a collective of business execs, bankers, politicians, princes, sheiks, evangelists. The people who make you sick, the people who make you tremble, the people you envy and fear, they were all members of  Helos.
That first take over formed the divide in collectives, there would be free collectives and there would be ordered collectives. The world went crazy right then. Until that moment, merging had been a peaceful, consensual act of unification. It was lovemaking for Cys.
Now there were Cys rapists. They were the new conquistadors, grabbing up brown skinned native women.  Smaller collectives followed the example of Helos and Helos in turn gobbled them up.

*   *   *

I remained at the cabin. If I thought of returning to society, it never lasted long. How could I go back? What I had left behind was no longer there.
I followed the Helos scandal on an e-reader, hiking within range of the nearest town to get enough reception to purchase The LA Times once a week. I did this for a few months until the technology I was using had become so obsolete it no longer functioned. I left the old hand held reader on a boulder covered in thirsty lichens and got back to my garden.
I returned to tracking rabbits, to widling wood, to bathing in streams with the genetically modified grizzlies that  started showing up. A baby owl fell from its nest near the cabin and injured a wing. I nursed it back to health and it became a friend. I passed the time surviving. When I wasn’t surviving I did write a little on the old fashioned typewriter I‘d brought with me. This ended when I ran out of type writer ribbon. Then I put a pen to paper until the paper was all gone.
And then one day, I woke up and realized I wanted to leave the cabin. I didn’t want to go back to what I had left behind. I wanted to go forth.

*   *   *

Within a day I knew that something amazing had happened. I knew it when I arrived in  town and found only new growth forest. The diner was gone along with the chop shop, the post office and the general store. There was no ruble, no ruin. Everything had simply vanished.
I thought I might have made a mistake, gone in the wrong direction, until I found the road, mostly broken and overgrown. I followed this to the great highway. There were no cars, no trucks, no buses, nor hybrids. What remained of Highway 1 wound along the empty coast. All signs of civilization had simply evaporated. Young redwoods alive with birdsong were taking its place.
The golden gate bridge was still standing when I found it, a month into my travels, grown over with vines. On the bridge I crossed paths with a young coyote whose yellow eyes regarded me without fear or suspicion. It was beyond the bridge, in the forest that had once been  San Francisco that I met the avatars of Helos and Manticore, the last two collectives.

*   *   *

“I am a person.“ I tell them and they don’t believe me, at first. They agree that I am not a genetically enhanced specimen of sapiens sapiens based on their analysis of those strands of hair.
“You are the only one then.” Manticore tells me. They are so different from Helos, their face is bestial, almost like a lion's. Luminescent tubes extend from the neck like a mane or tentacles. There is almost nothing about Manticore that would suggest that it was ever human.
“Our DNA is vastly different than yours. We made this unit and many others in this way so that they are not compatible with the hardware of  Helos. This helps us to resist any infection they might launch. You are the only one in this world with this DNA.”
“Are you a free collective?” I ask and Manticore smiles a sharp toothed grin.
“We are THE free collective.”
“I am the only one?” I ask, “The only human left?”
“You are the only one.” Helos answers stretching their massive wings. Their form is more humanoid, but three times as large as my own. Their flesh is pale and shimmers in the sunlight.
“Are you not lonely being only one? Would you not prefer to be many as we are?” Helos asks me.
“No. I don’t think so.” I say. Helos looks up into the sky as if considering taking flight.
“Strange dark child.” They say examining the blue.
“We are also human.” Manticore tells me, “In a way. But you are the only ‘one’. The only singular person.”
“What happened to all the cities?” I ask, “All the towns?”
“Manticore happened.” Helos sneers. “They let loose legions of nanobots to disassemble them. But we have built new cities, better cities in the moon, ordered cities. And we have begun construction on Mars.”
“Helos likes to build castles in the air.” Manticore grins. “We have preferred to disassemble them. We have made this planet a paradise, restored many of its native species. If you would like we could consider building you some more individual persons to interact with.”
“Abominations.” Helos shakes their head frowning. “You should consider merging with us, if we would allow it. What good can come of being multiple individual persons? Chaos would ensue.”
“I’ll consider both offers.” I tell them politely, but I know I could only accept Manticore’s proposal, if any.
They are Gods now and I am only an interesting diversion from their passive aggressive negotiations of space and being.
I’ll leave their hub and wander through the forests and jungles and meadows that were once mighty metropolises, stagnant suburbs and grimy industrial complexes. I will not miss the people, or civilization as it was. This sorrow that I feel stems from longing and regret. That I could not go with them, that I was left behind. That I recoiled from our destiny.
Helos is right. I am a strange dark child. A strange dark child alone in a new wilderness. A person.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Forgotten Things

She walked around the toy store, letting children’s voices and warm forced air dry her clothes from the rain outside. There were colors everywhere, a rainbow of possibilities. Purple, blue, green and sparkles. She picked up a small stuffed wolf from a high wooden shelf among dozens of other animals and held it in the crook of her arm, holding it there as she looked at picture books and soft felt puppets shaped like peacocks and octopus. The small wolf, a little bigger than a football, stayed in place, a soft comforting presence at her side.
She fell into it.  The warm stuffed cuddly possibility of its unrequited love. It felt good, though she didn’t know why. It was somewhere hiding in the folds of thick blankets, furry friends and clean blankets. It was years in the past.
The wolf was intended as gift, but part of her regretted wrapping it up in pink and purple and waiting for another day, a coming night among family and a round table and birthday chanting. She wanted to take it to bed, have it sit next to her as she read another novel that took her into Greece forty years before. She tried to remember playing with toys, and she searched her mind for a memory when her parents had taken her to a toy store. Nothing came.
Later that night she called her mother.
“Can you remember any toys I used to play with?  I can’t remember playing with any toys.  I only have a memory of playing with that red sand I brought back from the Nevada desert.”
“Oh sure, you played with lots of toys,” her voice got very soft, with an undertone of defensiveness. “You played dress up and went to Deta’s for tea and worked in the garden. I bought you Jenga. You played with Blackstar. You had a bike and a scooter and skates. How did this come up?”
“Don’t worry, this isn’t a critique on your parenting, I just couldn’t remember playing with toys. I was walking around a toy store and couldn’t remember ever being in one. I couldn’t remember any toys I used to have except for a few Barbies.” 
Later she searched the motives in her words. It had been a critique, however baseless. She had wandered around the toy store, a little jealous of all the children inside picking out toys. She wanted a stuffed bear.
“You had Legos.”
“I never had Legos.”
“Yes you did.  I remember picking them up.”
“Well, it must have been when I was really little. They must have been the big kind.”
“Yes, they were. And you had a big dollhouse, several of them actually. Your dad was so proud when he brought it home for you. He was sitting next to you drinking a coffee while you moved the furniture all around. He was so proud.” 
Her voice was light with sweet memories.
The thought of her father sitting there so happy with his little girl brought the prickling pain of tears to her eyes. They had all come so far from then, down the dark road of adulthood and clashing politics and the black space that their words could not fill. Three strangers constantly filled with misunderstanding, doubts, anger. Her dad now could not sit next to her comfortably, he couldn't just sit and feel his love for her, feel her love for him. 
“You also had that big cardboard doll house when we lived in Sharon. It was big enough that you could get inside.”
“Yeah,” she said, remembering the structure in the attic with one small window in their three story house.  Remembering her sister there, just a baby. “I do remember that.”
“Oh, you do?”  There was a moment of quiet between them. “I think we watched too much TV together though.”
“Yeah probably.”
“I think that being an adult is much more interesting and challenging though. I can’t remember my childhood either. I think the further you get away from it, the less you remember. I can’t remember a thing.”
“Not a thing.” 
She knew her mom had blocked out the painful past. The weekends she had once talked about when her mother would leave her at home with frozen dinners, alone and scared while her mother went to the theater. There where other memories that perhaps she had forgotten, forced away, hidden. 
They hung up and she lay in bed, still only remembering a select sliver of her own childhood. She grabbed a pillow and tucked it into her arm, pulling it tight.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Beyond The Red Door

There was a faint depression on the surface where its handle should have been. She knew then, as she knew now, that it was meant to be left alone.
The great room of glass jars, sealed boxes, chests with rusty locks, cabinets full of spices, roots, herbs, leaves in soft leather bags, the entire room was a mystery. But on this day, it was speaking to her, touching her curiosity, pulling on her body with gossamer coils.
When she passed the threshold, she felt as though she could breath, perhaps for the first time in her life. Then she found the red door about fifty steps across the stone floor. Out of all the things she wanted to open, the leather bags to sniff, the cedar boxes to explore, this door was the most inviting of all at the edge of the sun-lit room. She ran her hand over the cherry wood, felled from a great tree on the edge of the village, and knew it must be meant for her. What other purpose would there be for an unlocked room, a deliciously inviting door with no handle in the most alluring and eye-catching of colors? It was as if all arrows were pointing her in this direction, and here she stood, high noon in front of this place, this door, now open, as the other door to the great room had been. Was she not supposed to enter?

She pushed on the thick slab of wood, looking down the steps aglow with the candlelight of hallway tapers. It was dark and full of flickering shadows. The stairs descended, seemingly into an abyss which might be without end. The bright sunlight of the other chamber was gone, there were only a few narrow slits in the stone revealing the blue sky and then the stairs descended deep into the earth. 
She took one step down cautiously, then another. The great wooden door closed gently behind her. She wound down the staircase until she reached the bottom, where Master Lacledi sat on a wooden chair, a leather wrapped book in his hand. He looked up, not exactly surprised to see her there, though a hint of excitement crossed his face. 
“You’ve found me,” he said.  “On this day, you have decided to come.”
“What is it you do down here?” she asked, though he did not answer. She looked into his black eyes and saw what could not be said. Between them grew the flame that language does not bear to understand. He smiled.
“Would you like to learn my ways?” 
She was unsure exactly what he meant, but she nodded, knowing it felt right.

He opened a dark wood cabinet embedded in the stone wall.  The hinge had a slight high pitched squeak which echoed in the small chamber and gave her a quick set of chills.  She could see several rows and varieties of glass bottles: blue, dark brown, an opaque white and a rusty orange color. 
He reached for a bottle slightly hidden behind a large dark blue jar, he grabbed it with his forefinger and thumb and brought it close to his face, then put it back where it had been.
“If you are ready to step through the door with me, go back to your quarters and bathe and relax your body as much as possible. Later tonight, long after the moon has risen, I will send one of the ravens to fetch you, listen for his tap on your window.  Then, bring yourself back here, and we will open the door together.”  She nodded and smiled slightly, a nervous sensation in her chest. But she looked into his dark eyes and saw only kindness. Whatever he was offering, she was willing to take, she wanted to learn what made him as he was.
“I will see you tonight when the stars are high.”

She turned away from him and went back up the stairs, through the laboratory and down the long series of hallways that eventually led to the eastern quarters of the manor.  She took the long, winding stairs to her room and asked the handmaiden to draw a bath. She looked out the narrow window and saw the river not too far in the distance. It was bright blue and she knew that the current would be more cleansing than any wooden tub of tepid water.  The breeze outside would calm her and prepare her for whatever lay ahead. 
“Never mind Griselda, I’ll go to the river instead.’

Just a little while later she was in her favorite spot where a bend in the river was surrounded by several large boulders. It was well off the path and she came there with some frequency, especially in the summer.  Her mother had brought her there when she was young and they used to play together for hours when the summer breeze would rattle the treetops like cathedral bells. It was fall now and the waters were quite a bit cooler than those fond memories, though she was still more than happy to disrobe.
The first pleasure was the wind, a cooling kiss on her stomach and legs. The sun was weak, though with a bit of attention she felt its warmth.  She tested the water for a moment with her toe, then went in smoothly and quickly, not giving her mind enough time to register the icy bite of the river’s touch.  In a second she was up to her neck, moving her arms and fingers through the silky water.

*  *  *

Go ahead, tell him all of it… she thought to herself.
She had once been a little girl watching him walk through the graveled and moss covered grounds, he in his earthen brown robe stained with powders of every color.  He had no woman to wash his garments, and she noticed he asked none of the servant women to do it either. It had always baffled her, she knew no man who would ever hesitate on such things, but she felt like it somehow seemed to fit.
She imagined him going to the river for his bathing and washing, perhaps entering the pale blue waters fully clothed, letting the swift cold current do the work of a dozen hands.
She looked deep into the deep black pools of his piercing eyes, two portals which contained staircases and hidden rooms and knowledge acquired from a thousand lifetimes, maybe more. There was so much more to him than the body, the stained clothes. She knew it then and she knew it now.  Radiating from him was kindness, pure in motivation, desiring nothing from her but her attention and effort. 
She thought to tell him everything, the experience of her birth, the days before the Iron Wars, the struggles of the Orange Sun, the first impressions she had had of him when he came through the woods and found their small enclave. She thought to tell him all of it, but then wandered down the forking paths of her thoughts, several scenes moving in parallel. 

She wondered what he saw in her small white form. If he could read the thoughts in her eyes, if she was an easy book to read with her brow and cheeks and lips telling the story that somehow remained sealed in her mind. 
She attempted to open her mouth so the words could spill, to let them tumble into his arms without restraint or hesitation, but then he would smile or she would see a sparkle in his kind eyes and she would feel like it was known, that all she could say was already understood. And not just that, but completely accepted, taken in with curiosity and interest, like he could hear a complex symphony in the thoughts that remained inside.

When she awoke he was beside her. She looked down at her skin and looked for the colors which had been there the night before. She looked and there he was, only more real, more alive than she had ever noticed.  She was changed, no longer the same girl which had found him in the morning. She was reborn into the body she remembered, only her eyes were different. It was the same stones all around her, all the same fixtures and books, yet each one seemed slightly different.
She reached down and touched his robe. The fibers were soft and worn on her fingertips, somewhat silky and smelling of sunshine and smoke. The light was bright, coming in through a few very narrow slits by the top of the stairs. They revealed blue skies. She saw that he was watching her. 

“How are your new eyes?” he asked.
A slightly bashful smile spread over her face. She was warm and surprised by her sudden embarrassment.  “It feels strange, I must admit.  I am not sure of my place anymore.”
“Perfect. If you feel different, it is because you are different. You have seen what exists beyond language, the conflict you feel is your body trying to re-adjust to language. Let your eyes wander, let them take in what they thought they knew.”

*   *   *

“Indulge an old man’s whim,” he whispered to her as he gently nudged her towards the path lined with blackberry hedges.  She smiled and held onto his arm, occasionally needing to give an abrupt tug on her long skirt when a long stemmed thorn held onto her hem.
He reached out often, plucking juicy purple berries from their thrones in the sun. His forefinger and thumb were soon stained purple and he added spots of dark pigment to his already stained frock as he wiped his hand.
She plucked the harder blackberries and dropped them into her apron pocket, intending later to make mead, or perhaps give them to Griselda as a gift. The sun was low in the sky and she could smell the fires of the bread bakers. 

“What we shared the other night, I hope you know, is something I have been able to do very rarely with other people. In my life there have only been a handful of people able to meet with me at the exact right time, in the exact right place…there have been just a few rare moments of convergence. I have spent most of my life exploring alone.”
She gripped him a little tighter and thought back to the day she felt almost fell into his workroom. There were no words to describe the feeling, but the rightness of her actions was now manifest. She looked back with a sense of mystery at the day’s events, which had begun almost like every other morning but for that cord which now seemed attached to her chest, a sort of freedom and relaxation of her movements. 
She had never entered his space before, and of course had never walked through the red door. She had never even noticed the depression where a handle should have been. 

“You did a fine job following your inner guides, I was surprised to see you that afternoon. I had been prepared for a journey myself, and then there you arrived, at the exact right time, willing to follow me though the door. I am glad you came.”
She looked up at him, the beard going at all angles, then looked past him at the woods in the distance, a palette of colors from white to black and a dozen shades of green. He plucked another berry and handed it to her. Gingerly, she took it from him and felt an explosion of sweet tartness fill her mouth.