Halloween; see ALL-SAINTS' DAY
hallucinogenic drug, ALKALOID substance that alters consciousness, also called psychotomimetic, or, popularly, psychedelic or mind-expanding drug. Hallucinogens include mescaline, or PEYOTE, psilocin and psilocybin, from the mushrooms Psilocybe mexicana and Stropharia cubensis; LSD (lysergic acid diethalymide); BELLADONNA; and MANDRAKE. MARIJUANA has hallucinogenic properties but is pharmacologically distinct. Hallucinogens have been used for centuries by primitive societies in both the Old and New Worlds to facilitate meditation, cure illness, placate evil spirits, and enhance mystical and magical powers. They produce a wide range of effects, from pleasant to extremely disturbing, depending on dosage, potency, and the personality and environment of the drug-taker. Effects include altered perception of time and space and of the color, detail and size of objects; also the experience of imaginary conversations, music, odors, tastes and other sensations. Hallucinogens are not physically habit-forming, but tolerance -- i.e., the need to take increased quantities to induce the original effect -- may develop.
halo, in art; see NIMBUS
-- The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia
Track 4, Reel 0
I'd like to say that being trapped in here is strange, but in fact the word "strange" is totally inadequate. "Strange" brings to mind opium jags, alien landscapes, people with unusual personalities. Those are experiences out of the normal range. But being here redefines the very concept of "experience." What I feel now is not "experience" as I knew it before I took that capsule of Share 21.
More than anything else in the world, your body is something you take for granted. Your body isn't just there, it's you. What others take as you is just a mass of regularities among the sounds, smells and gestures that your body makes. When one fine evening my body disappeared, and I found myself here, I didn't miss my body in the same way that one would miss a wife, a home, a country, or even an arm or a leg. What I had previously thought of as "I" no longer existed. My independence as an entity was no longer sustained by a superficial physical shell, but only by the inner coherence of my thoughts. And I was amazed at how coherent they were; amazed that I did not simply disintegrate.
Even more tacitly than the body, you take for granted three dimensional space, and one dimensional time. Babies don't know about three dimensions, they can't tell the future from the past, and they can't tell their bodies from the outside world. We learn all of these things, with great joy and pain and through exasperating trial and error. But when I found myself here, all this hard-won education became largely irrelevant. The three dimensions of space expanded into a continuum of infinite arrays of perpendicular directions. Time started looping back on itself; future melding into past in a terrifyng union breakable only by the pure act of will. The incredible thing is that I'm still here, sane enough to write about it.
Where I am, believe it or not, is trapped inside the mind ofmy girlfriend, or rather ex-girlfriend, Marie Falcona. Not miniaturized and trapped in her brain, but rather trapped inside her mind. The patterns of neural electricity that made up the structure called me are now patterns of electricity in her brain. They exist there in parallel with the patterns of electricity that make up the structure called her -- and they interact with these patterns in very subtle ways.
It may help to conceptualize this in terms of the common hologram. In the front of your holovid set, as you must know, there is a thin sheet of plastic which, at any given instant, contains a two-dimensional holographic representation of a three-dimensional object. When the laser is shone through this sheet, it produces an exact visual simulacrum of the three-dimensional object. And if you cut the sheet in half, you don't lose any part of the simulacrum; you only blur the whole thing a little bit.
But the amazing thing is, you can store two different three dimensional simulacra on the same two dimensional sheet. Then, if you shine the same laser at the same sheet from two different angles, you obtain different simulacra.
And this process does not stop at two. You can store dozens and dozens of different simulacra on the same sheet. But eventually, a limit is reached, and when you try to access one simulacrum, you will wind up with pieces of others. The slender thigh of a beautiful actress will be bizarrely convolved with the keyboard of a piano, or the dusty contour of a Martian mountain.
This is completely analogous to my present relationship with Marie. The hologram of her brain stores two different images -- me and her. But the two images are not unrelated. Only she has any direct power, any direct connection to the body and the three-dimensional world -- it is her body, after all. But I can move through her mind and affect things subtly. I can travel through the compartments of her conscious and unconscious mind as through the rooms of a giant medieval castle, replete with towers, dungons, cells, ballrooms, winding stairways, and hiddenpassages. Although I cannot demolish the building or alter the architecture, I can redecorate any room to be more to my liking. I can open and shut the doors, thus directing the flow of mental traffic from one place to another. I can position myself in the cavernous chambers of her perception, thus seeing what she sees; or I can hide myself away in the musty attics of her secret mind, rummaging through limitless boxes containing entities too complex or controversial for her conscious mind to handle.
I cannot honestly say if I'm happier now than I was before. They are two different orders of experience, both involving the full range of emotions: pleasure, pain, boredom, frustration, discovery, wonder.... If I had the chance to live my life over again, I'm not sure what I would do. I've asked myself the questions hundreds, maybe thousands of times. Would you, knowing what was to come of it, choose to take that capsule of Share 21? Five hundred milligrams, that's all it was. It was supposed to bring us closer together, to meld our minds in the ultimate intimacy of shared hallucination. In fact, it succeeded at its intended purpose, far beyond anyone's expectations. But its side-effects were so extreme that, on the surface, it appeared to be a failure. One of these side-effects was the death of my body.
Three days after it was put on the market, the drug Share 21 disappeared. Over seven hundred deaths were reported -- in each case one of the partners died immediately, and the other one either died shortly afterwards, or was cryogenically frozen and revived eighty years later, after the development of holistic neurochemistry. I wonder how many of these supposed "deaths" resulted in entities like me. How many brains are walking around containing two different holographic patterns, superposed at different angles on the same fluctuating neural film? Hundreds of human beings, divorced from their bodies, yanked out of spacetime and hurled into a world without dimension, a world full of sensations, emotions and structures a million times more incredibly alien than anything the astronauts have found. Andyet this world, this incredibly alien, intricately structured world, is so close to home; closer than anything.
Now, within the insane logic of this universe, I have created for myself a computing system, and I have begun typing out my story. I'm not sure why this is worth doing, since there is no apparent prospect of getting this string of words out of my own little parasitic world. But I do know that I miss the process of writing. And I have just now decided that, in order to fully enjoy the process of writing, I will pretend that I have readers. I must pretend that I am writing for somebody -- somebody out there, God only knows who, where or when.
So, my Imaginary Reader, let me begin at the beginning. I am trapped in Marie; let me attempt to describe how this all came about. You must understand how difficult this is for me. After all, trapped here inside her mind, what do I know about Marie's personality? The Marie that I know now is only a distant cousin of the Marie that others see, the construct called "Marie" that emerges from the regularities of the motions of a certain body. And the Marie that I know now is also different from the Marie which is subjectively known by the consciousness that calls itself "Marie." I have access to parts of Marie's mind that her consciousness never comes into contact with. But on the other hand she has access to her physically and socially defined self in a direct way that I do not.
Actually, to be honest, even when I was out in the world with other people, I never felt that I had a very good understanding of them. I was not exactly antisocial, in the sense of disliking or avoiding people, but I was always uncomfortable around people, because I never seemed to be able to figure out what they were thinking about me. I was never able to tell if I was making a good impression on someone or not -- and of course the sneaking suspicion was always "not." I suppose once I got a little older I would have been called "eccentric." But I was only in my early twenties, so it was just "a little weird."
I don't want to give you the idea that I was a freak or something. It's just that I tended not to "click" well with people. But Marie was an exception. She didn't look at me funny when I spoke off the top of my head. She even laughed at my jokes. I suppose that fact, in itself, qualifies her as being a little weird.
Anyway, let me reach back.... Right now Marie is my cosmos, but when I first saw her, it was not even as a mind, but only as a body. I was walking across the University of Nevada campus, across the grass kept so splendidly green by the underground sprinklers. She was walking in the same direction I was, about twenty feet ahead of me, wearing a tight black skirt and a loose pink tank top. Her legs were smooth and moderately slender, and her hips bulged out pleasantly. I particularly appreciated the unique color of her skin -- a little like coffee, a little like sand, but not quite like either. She was a definite joy to look at, but the thought of approaching her and speaking to her didn't even enter my mind.
I was heading toward the library with a big stack of books in my arms, all due that day. Then, all of a sudden, without any warning, one of the sprinklers started showering water all over me -- they go off every ten or fifteen minutes. I hurried through the rain of tiny droplets, trying to shield the books with my head. When I finally got clear of the sprinkler I found myself next to her.
I must have been in a horny mood that day, because the first thing I thought as I looked over at her was that she wasn't wearing a bra. You could see that very clearly from the sag of her breasts, and also from her large nipples which protruded quite obviously, wrinkling the fabric of her tank top in a most delightful way. I also observed a little acne on the back of her neck -- her black wavy hair was cut very short. She walked like a model, swaying slightly from side to side, her legs perfectly straight.
"I should have learned by now to stay on the sidewalks," Isaid uninventively. "Now I'm soaked." It was totally out of character for me to introduce myself like that. But, as I had just run up from behind her and was now walking next to her, it seemed like the thing to do.
She smiled in a perfunctory way. I immediately sensed that she was eager to get rid of me.
"On the other hand," I continued, "it does cool you down a little. It's incredibly hot out for November."
"Yeah," she said quietly. "They said on the radio it might be going up to ninety."
We walked together to the library, neither of us saying any more. When we got to the door it was obvious that I couldn't open it with twenty-five books in my arms. So, still grinning, she stepped ahead of me and held the door open, gesturing for me to go through.
"Thanks," I said. I stepped through the door with my books.
But her foot was sticking out in my way, I assume inadvertently. I stumbled over it, smashing my nose on the handle of the next door in. The books flew everywhere, and blood started gushing from my nose. I pulled myself up without even looking at her and ran inside to the bathroom to get some tissue.
When I came out of the bathroom, all washed up, she had stacked up my books. She was leaning awkwardly against the wall next to them, smiling and blushing. "Gosh, I'm sorry," she said softly. "I'm so uncoordinated. Are you all right?"
"No, it was my fault," I replied, although I knew full well that it hadn't been. "I should have been looking where I was going."
"Is your nose okay?" she repeated.
"I think so," I said. "It's strange; I'm not prone to nosebleeds. But then again, I'm not prone to smashing my face into doors either."
She giggled. "I'm so sorry." To my surprise, it seemed that she had found my humor in my attempt thereat.
"No, really, it's fine," I said. I stood there awkwardlyfor a second or two, unsure of what to do. As I told you already, Imaginary Reader, small talk was never my strong suit.
Finally, in desperation, I came up with a real winner: "What's your name, anyway?"
"Marie," she said, smiling.
"I'm Leo. Leo Rose." Again I stood there dumbly, at a loss for words.
She looked straight into my eyes, which I found very disconcerting.
"I guess you go to school here?" I asked finally
"Well, yeah," she said. Obviously thinking: what a stupid question.
"I don't, actually. I did a couple years ago. Now I just come here to use the library. I'm a compulsive reader, I guess."
We talked on and on for a while; I don't remember the rest of the conversation. Once the preliminaries were done with I had no trouble speaking. I don't know if I was a good convers-ationalist, but I did have a wide range of interests and knowledge. Also, I always listened carefully to what the other person was saying. Whenever I was engaged in a conversation, I always saw the last few sentences printed out inside my mind, like an internal computer display or something. Probably this was a consequence of learning to type and use the computer at a very early age, before I ever really talked to people much.
Anyway, after five or ten minutes she said she had to go to class and I asked her out to dinner. She said she was busy that night, but she suggested that we meet at the Japanese restaurant around the corner on the following Friday.
I didn't have a girlfriend at the time; in fact I was leading a pretty isolated life. Two years before I'd decided to take a year off after my Master's degree, before going for my Ph.D. I'd looked for work as a freelance programmer, and I'd lucked out -- I'd gotten a big contract converting some spreadsheet programs from IBM to MacIntosh format. It was kind of a drag, but it paid good money and didn't take more thantwenty or thirty hours a week. Compared to graduate school, it was actually kind of relaxing. Anyway, the year off had passed, and the contract had been continued, so without hardly thinking about it I'd decided the Ph.D. could wait. I guess I'd gotten comfortable, settled in my routine. I spent most of my time sitting around the apartment, either programming, playing the piano, or reading book after book after book on whatever topic struck my fancy. At the time I met Marie, my obsession was particle physics. I was interested in divergent Feynman integrals; I thought I had a way to use ideas from theoretical computer science to make them converge. Maybe I was right, I don't know; I haven't thought about it since then, to tell you the truth.
Anyway, we both showed up at the Kabuki a little bit early. She was wearing a loose black dress which showed a lot of leg; I thought she looked incredible. I was dressed in my usual slobby way -- sneakers, jeans, Running Rebels T-shirt. But I'd made a point of putting on my one pair of jeans that didn't have any holes in them. We greeted one another shyly and sat down at a table. A few awkward seconds passed.
"So, ah, what's your major?" I asked her cautiously, for lack of anything more interesting to say.
"I just got my Master's in English last semester," she answered. "I'm teaching part time now, just two classes. It's my first time teaching, so I'm having sort of a tough time."
"A writer, huh." I was impressed -- I loved literature. In fact I often regretted not having studied creative writing instead of computers.
"Nooooo. Not really." She grinned, embarrassed. "I'm an artist," she said. "A sculptor. The English degree is just so I can teach. To pay the bills, you know."
I asked her if I could see some of her work. It was a genuine desire, not merely a ruse to get her to invite me over. I've never had much interest in visual art, but as I already said, I am a very visual thinker. And somehow, just from talkingto her, I was certain that I would appreciate her sculpture. Although my original interest in Marie was purely sexual and physical, from the moment I sat down with her at the Kabuki, I absolutely knew she was something special. It's difficult to say exactly what physical cues I was reacting to -- the way she held her body, the expression on her face, the inflections of her words, and so on. But there was something very definite about her that I wanted to know more closely. It's hard to put it into words -- some sort of unique combination a combination of childish innocence, passionate emotionality and native intelligence, I guess you could say. But that doesn't really say much of anything, I guess.
Anyway, she asked me what I did for a living, and I told her about the contract I had for converting spreadsheet programs. She was surprisingly unimpressed -- actually, those were tough economic times, and the amount of money I was getting from my contract was far more than she could have expected from my age and education level, let alone my appearance. But she had that Bohemian artist type of attitude: it wasn't money that mattered, but creativity, spirituality, and so on.
I always had an ambivalent feeling toward that sort of attitude. On the one hand, if it was sincere, then it was admirable. But on the other hand, it seemed to me that it was very rarely sincere.
Anyway, seeing as she wasn't impressed by money, I decided to tell her about one of my more "creative" and speculative projects. As I already told you, my big obsession at the time was particle physics. In fact, just writing this down is getting me interesting in particle physics again! But my big long-term project was computer music. I had devised a new theory of the psychology of music, based on piecing together ideas from abstract algebra, algorithmic information theory, and genetic optimization. And I was working on a computer program based on these ideas -- not a program that would compose music by itself, but one that would co-compose with me, taking one of mymeandering keyboard improvisations and building it up into something with more harmonic and melodic structure. I called the program JIMI, which stood for "JIMI, Intelligent Musical Instrument" (and the JIMI in this phrase stood for the same thing, self-referentially. Clever, huh?).
I had never mentioned this project to anyone before, except in very guarded and technical terms. Actually, I had published a couple of papers that had to do with certain aspects of JIMI, but they did not touch on the nature of the overall project. Anyway, she was much more excited than I had expected she would be. She thought it was a great idea, and she said she wanted to see the program in action. I cautioned her that there were still a few kinks to be worked out, but she hardly even listened. I inferred from the tone of her voice that she wasn't really interested in music; but on the other hand her enthusiasm seemed genuine, not feigned at all.
Her enthusiasm actually embarrassed me a little bit. I'd been trying to work out the same "few kinks" in JIMI for two or three years. I decided to back off from my brag. "I've got to warn you," I said, "I'm a dangerous crackpot."
"Oh, stop it," she said, smiling. "You're not dangerous at all."
"Okay," I said, "so I'm a harmless crackpot."
She didn't protest. We were all done eating. The food had been excellent but essentially wasted -- I had hardly paid it any attention, I had just shoveled it down mechanically.
That night we went back to her apartment near campus, and she showed me her sculptures. They were by and large of very high quality, though not in any way spectacular. Most of them were meticulously detailed hybrid human/animal beasts -- not the standard Pegasi, but man-pigs, geese-women, and so on. I talked to her about sculpture for a while -- art history was not one of my strong points, but I happened to know a little bit about Rodin, having seen the movie Camille Claudel. Also, several years back I had read the essays on Rodin written by the Germanpoet Rainer Maria Rilke. (Ever since I had happened upon a copy of the Duino Elegies in a used bookstore in Manhattan, Rilke had been my favorite poet. At least once a day I thought of the first line to the first elegy: "If I cried out, who would hear me up there among the angelic orders?" Needless to say, this line has special poignancy for me now.)
By mentioning the essays of Rilke I managed to turn the conversation from sculpture to poetry -- I wanted to show off. I wound up expounding on Arthur Rimbaud's doctrine of the "systematic disorganization of all the senses." This, according to Rimbaud, was the only means for contacting the higher reality that is the source of all creative insight. Of course, "systematic disorganization of all the senses" is a high-falutin way of saying take every drug you can get your hands on, which is exactly what Rimbaud did.
Given what happened to us with Share 21, this fragment of the conversation is worth recording in detail. Marie was too down-to-earth to be fooled by fancy talk. "Systematic ... disorganization ... of all the senses, huh," she said, weighing the words on her tongue. "What is that supposed to mean?"
"We see and hear according to certain categories," I explained carefully. "Seeing is a highly organized thought process. What the retina receives is a two-dimensional array of stimulation; out of that array it builds a three-dimensional world. For example, there is a blind spot a few inches in front of your nose. Your eyes can't see anything there, but before your conscious mind receives any data about the visual field, the area is filled in."
"Rimbaud believed that true art depended on seeing things differently that everyone else. And he believed that in order to achieve this, one has to actively disrupt the way one's sensory brain processes information."
"Well, for example, by taking drugs." There, I'd said it.
I grinned. "You have to remember, this doctrine was formulated by a delinquent seventeen year old boy."
But she was clearly intrigued. "Like, what would be a specific example? I mean, could you say that the brain doesn't automatically see in perspective?"
"The eye doesn't, but the brain, or part of it, does."
"And by taking drugs you can stop the brain from seeing in perspective?"
"To some degree, yeah. I've experienced that." I smiled and blushed. "I don't know what demon inspired me to bring all this up. You're gonna think I'm some kind of druggie or something."
That was that, for then at any rate. Seeing that I was getting uncomfortable, she changed the subject -- she asked me about where I'd grown up, or some such nonsense. After another ten or fifteen minutes, the conversation started getting slow, so I decided it was time to go. I really would have liked to kiss her goodnight, but I didn't want to risk offending her. I just asked her for her phone number, and told her I'd call her sometime soon. She squeezed my hand as she saw me to the door.
We dated again three or four days later, and a third time maybe two days after that. Since neither of us was really into the nightclub scene, both times we just went out to dinner and then back to her place. I got a big kick out of talking with her, although I wasn't sure why -- I mean, she never had anything particularly profound to say. But she was an excellent listener, and she had a good analytical mind. When I would tell her something crazy, she would make me reformulate it half a dozen times until it made sense to her.
I was pretty awkward regarding sexual matters, so she had to take the lead. On our third date, when we returned to her apartment, I plopped myself down on the couch, making myself perhaps too much at home. She immediately sat down sideways on my lap, letting her skirt fall back to reveal a generous amount of leg. Things took their natural course from there.
The night after that, she came over to my place. I fixed us dinner, and I played her some Thelonious Monk tunes on the piano. To my great relief, she didn't ask me to demonstrate JIMI. We made love again. I thought the whole dating situation was kind of amusing. Neither of us had a very rigorous work schedule -- she was teaching two classes in the morning, and had office hours in the morning; and I could program whatever hours I wanted to. But still we had to date in the evening, because that was the ritual, set up by people who had to work or go to school all day. Actually I was very unfamiliar with the dating process; maybe that's why it seemed odd to me. I had had six girlfriends before Marie, but they had all been college girlfriends -- we had lived in the dorms together, and been taking classes together, so that the formal dating procedures had been unnecessary.
Anyhow, after our fourth date it was finals week; she said she would be busy Wednesday through Saturday, but she would call me Sunday. As it turned out, she didn't call me Sunday, nor Monday or Tuesday. Since she had explicitly said that she would call me, I didn't want to call her -- she was a smart girl, she wouldn't have forgotten her promise to call me. I suspected that she had just gotten sick of my company -- after all, the story of being busy Wednesday through Saturday hadn't made much sense. I mean, a surgeon or an attorney might legitimately be too busy to spare a couple hours, but not a part time college English instructor.
I tried to blow it off, to just forget about her entirely, to lose myself in my reading and my work. But it obviously wasn't that easy -- after all, she was the first girlfriend I'd had in well over a year, and we'd hit it off perfectly, from my point of view at any rate. I really found myself pining away, unable to concentrate on anything. I hadn't been in such a sad state for years. Eventually, on Tuesday night, I decided to do something drastic to take my mind off her. I walked over to my friend Roger's apartment, about two miles away. The walk was exceedingly monotonous -- Southeast Vegas was nothing butrambling apartment complexes and outdoor shopping malls. The casinos were miles away. Not a trace of Vegas glamour, except maybe the slot machines inside the 7-11's and supermarkets. The streets all looked like highways, six or eight lanes wide. Just plain old late twentieth-century suburbia.
I could hear Led Zeppelin blaring from Roger's apartment a hundred yards away. I knew he'd never hear my knock, so I just opened the door. He was in the exact same position he'd been in when I'd last been there three weeks before: slouched back in his easy chair, big fat joint in his hand, eyes half-closed, leaning his head back and rocking his chin to the music. I walked up to him and tapped him on the knee.
"Leo!" Roger shouted -- he had to shout to be heard over the music. "So what brings you here? I thought you were totally nerding out this semester, man."
"Nerding out?" I laughed. Roger was always good for a strange expression.
He reached his arm out and cranked the music down. "I thought your mind was off on the plane of mathematical symbolism," he clarified, in his usual stoned way. "In a Platonic realm of pure essence, inaccessible to us mere mortals. Hey, I envy you, man. I mean, with global warming, and the Republican party running the Congress and with pollution being as bad as it is, and with from what I hear our brains being fried by the electrical power lines, well not really fried but you know what I mean, with all this shit going on the best thing to do is to hide in some mathematical world, you know. Not only the best thing, maybe the only thing to do."
I smiled at him indulgently.
"No, no, do you see what I'm saying? I mean, look, you know what Plato thought, right? Now has the world really changed since then? I mean, in science, and architecture, and things like that we have some idea of progress, I mean that's what Western civilization is all about, right, but in philosophy nothing has really changed, in fact we're still sort of stillstuck saying the same things over and over in more complicated ways. I mean, with Plato, we just have the real world being essentially a bunch of mistakes, right? Approximations to ideal forms. So, you know, why should we take this world of mistakes so seriously. What you're doing, man, is to look right by all the fucked up errors, and going straight for the pure ... I don't know ... the pure essence of life. Pure reality, man. Unadulterated. No additives or preservatives."
"Is that what I'm doing?"
"Yeah, man!" he said. He pounded his fist on the coffeetable next to him. "But hey, I mean, if you ask me tomorrow who knows what I'll say. I've been getting to be more of a realist, actually. I've been reading Ayn Rand -- rational self-interest and all that. I mean, you know, how can you argue with that -- you just have to ask yourself, do you really know what you want? Do you? Do you really know what you want to do with your life."
It took me a few seconds to realize he was asking me a question. "Sure," I said, shrugging.
"Well, not exactly," I admitted. "But I mean, that's to be expected. No one can predict the future, and there's no reason to expect your goals to be independent of what happens in the world."
"No one can predict the future? You're getting into chaos theory now, right? You were telling me that before. But what does that matter? If no one can predict the future, that doesn't mean that I can't know exactly what I want for my future."
"You can know what you want now, maybe, but you can't know what you'll want later -- you can't know who you'll be a year or ten years from now."
"So, what are you saying -- it's impossible to tell what's in your self-interest since you don't know who you'll be tomorrow? So we should all just be hedonists, and do what's best for us today? I mean, that's hardly a very good philosophy tolive by, is it? Do you really live that way? I guess that is how animals live, though, isn't it. So maybe it's really how we're programmed to live -- I mean, according to this book I just read, um by some doctor named, um, John Brown or no, what was it, Jason Brown -- that's it, Jason. Ever heard of him? According to this book, the human mind consists of the mind of a lower animal, with some extra layers added on top. So if the animal brain wants to live day by day, then what does that mean, huh?" He grinned suggestively. "Huh? What does that mean?" He paused for a second to scratch his chin. "Hey, you know what, let me show you this neat game my grandmother sent me. It's like a maze game or something; you'd probably be really good at it, what with your mathematical ability and all. Whaddaya say?"
"Not right now," I said. "I'm sort of bummed today, actually."
"What's the matter? Did you have a fight with your computer? No, sorry, just kidding. No, don't tell me, it's a woman problem, right?"
"You guessed it," I said slowly. I was ashamed to feel within myself a twinge of pride. I realized that a part of me was actually happy to have a woman problem -- in some way it validated me, it made me normal, it tied me in with the hundreds of millions of other men who were having woman problems that day.
"Who is she?"
"Oh, just someone I met at school the other day -- a couple of weeks ago, I guess."
"And now she dumped you, huh, or what?" He gave me an impish grin, which I understood to mean: I'm intentionally being blunt, what're you gonna do about it?
"Not exactly. She just said she was going to call me, and she didn't."
He grinned again. "I know this may be a radical idea to you, Leo, but maybe she just forgot. That's the thing with women -- the one you're thinking about all the time almost assuredly isn't thinking about you. Or something like that, I don't know."
"She wouldn't have forgotten," I said simply.
He didn't see fit to quibble. "Well, you want to blow some catnip?" This was a private joke. Whenever Roger carried pot, he hid it in his sock, and then he carried a bag of catnip in his jacket pocket -- "to throw the cops off," he said. It sounded like a bunch of crap to me, but that was his domain, not mine; it wasn't worth arguing with him about it.
"Yeah, sure," I said. My unenthusiasm must have been obvious. He looked at me curiously. "Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of...."
"Riding the train?" he said.
"The A-train, man!" he said.
"Ridin' the A-train," I slurred, nodding yes. "I must not've been hanging around here enough, I've been losing track of the lingo."
"I just got some in last week," I said. "Tomorrow, though, I'm picking up something even better. Or maybe Thursday, if he doesn't have it tomorrow. Something totally new, out of a lab out East somewhere. Massachusetts, I think."
"What's it do?" I asked, intrigued.
He shook his head. "I'm not exactly sure."
I said, "I need something now." I felt a little funny about it; I hadn't tripped in almost a year, since the time Roger, Will and I had hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. But the concept somehow felt right. As soon as the acid sank in, I knew, I would immediately see how shallow my wounded emotions were, how irrelevant Marie was to the ultimate order of things. Just anticipating the trip, I could already feel a little of the divine, demented detachment that I knew was to come.
He shook his head reprovingly. "Never count on a vision."
"Thanks, Plato," I said. I reached in my wallet and pulled out five bucks.
He waved his hand dismissively. "Put that away, man." He got up, walked into his bedroom, and rummaged around. "Twolittle dots of purple haze," he said quietly, grinning. He placed one of the blotter sheets under his tongue, and handed the other to me. "So, like, do you want to hang around here, or I was thinking we could hit one of the casinos or something. Get something to eat."
I thought that sounded fine. We headed down to the Tropicana in Roger's beat up old Dodge. By the time we got to the casino the acid was completely absorbed in our systems; our mouths were starting to feel a little funny. But we had a good meal at the buffet. When we finished eating Roger suggested we play a few hands of blackjack. I very rarely gambled, but somehow it seemed like a good idea. We sat down at a two dollar minimum table, and cashed in twenty bucks apiece.
I knew a little bit about card counting, but this time I wasn't seriously playing to win. I was just taking the cards as they fell, same as everyone else. Roger was pretty much breaking even, but before I knew what was going on I was up about three hundred dollars. Things were starting to look a little freaky. The dealer had started out a middle-aged Korean woman with glasses, but now she looked more like something out of Imperial China. As she dealt the cards around the table, her ornate crown of jewels and feathers twisted from side to side so laboriously that I could literally smell the torque. The flashing red and green lights from the slot machines reflected off the jewels in her crown, looking like the fanned-out feathers of a dancing iridiscent peacock. Every time I won a hand, her teeth flashed out in a grin that threatened to engulf me -- her teeth were long and thin like ivory chopsticks, and her tongue was forked like that of a snake. I looked over nervously at Roger -- we hadn't spoken in a while -- but he was out in space. I tapped him on the shoulder. "Hey man, let's get out of here," I said. "I want to quit while I'm ahead." He didn't respond. I looked down at the card just dealt me -- an ace of spades. I felt the point on the spade digging deep into my forehead. She was still dealing out cards to the other people at the table. Each time she flunga card down, it left an infinite trail of afterimages, a Zeno's paradox of laughing luminous points never reaching their end, a liquid rush of corners and angles like Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, card-instants moving into each other and out of each other, combined and yet separate, adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in an orgy of fluorescent arithmetic. The dealer was showing the ace of hearts. She asked me if I wanted insurance. On a reflex I said no -- you never take insurance. I had two hundred bucks down. The dealer busted. The shovel pierced into my brain, taking fragments of my visual cortex and temporal lobes and hippocampus and spattering them throughout the casino. Gobs of my brain dripped off the flashing lights above the slot machines, and trailed behind the cocktail waitresses as they plied their trays of drinks. I collected my chips and left the table, dimly aware that I had lost Roger. I spotted the CASHIER sign, and went to cash out.
As I handed the cashier girl my chips, a moment of rationality swept through me. I had won fifteen hundred dollars -- not a fortune, but more than I'd ever won before, by a factor of ten. I had played for two hours without ever making a false move. Card counting never worked that well, it only gave you a few percentage points edge, and besides that I hadn't been counting. Far from it, I'd hardly been paying attention. My hands had been playing for themselves, quite independently of my conscious mind, which had been dazzled, hypnotized by the lights and illusions. They had been making the horizontal motion for "pass" or the come-hither motion for "hit" -- playing perfect strategy. And more than that, they had been betting with remarkable accuracy. Every time I'd lost, I'd had under five dollars down. And every time I'd won, I'd had twenty or more. How was that possible? In my brief moment of lucidity, I failed to understand it.
I left the cashier's window, and stuffed the money in my wallet. Somehow I found myself at the bar. I asked the bartender for a frozen margarita. When I got the drink I staredinto it for hours, or for what seemed like hours, visualizing the ocean off Cancun turned into slushy lavender ice, feeling my flesh awash in huge pink icy bubbles. Suddenly I was back at the blackjack table, though I knew my body was still at the bar. I was back there sitting with Roger, placing my bets in front of the Queen of Ancient China, winking my left eye at the snakes coming out of her hair, cringing in fear from her razor-sharp ebony chopstick teeth. The snakes in her hair, without saying a word, were telling me how much money to bet each time. From their subtle slithering motions, it was easy to see whether they were pleased with their mistress's hand. I tried to put the scene aside, to consider what this meant. I took a pen out of my pocket, and with great effort scrawled out these words on a napkin: THE VISUAL SYMBOLS ARE A FORM OF IMPLICIT TELEPATHY. But as I tried to read them over, the meaning was obscure. I couldn't understand what I had meant by the visual symbols. Did that imply that there was one set of visual symbols, distinguished from all others? If so, what was this distinguished set? How could I expect myself to know what it was? What if it was a different set for different people? But then again, all people are basically the same. The moment of reason was long gone. I looked up at the clock, and it read 2:15, but that didn't mean anything because I couldn't remember when I had sat down at the bar. The bartender brought me another drink, and I just sat there staring; I can't remember what was going through my mind. It was just the ripples in the margarita, doing a sensual, fibrous dance to the tune of the music playing in the background. The music wove itself through the bubbles in the drink, tied itself like a fine glass cable around my fingers, caused the bubbles to turn into tiny pulsing eyeballs....
At some point I felt a rough hand on my shoulder. "I was looking all over for you, man...." It was Roger. "Lost all my money. I guess I'm ready to go home."
I got up and followed him to the door, obsessed with the thud-thud of my feet on the carpeted floor. In retrospect Idon't know how I could have heard that sound in the noisy casino, but that's the way it was. When we got to the car, I tapped his shoulder and showed him my wallet. He took it and counted the cash, astounded. "You've got over fifteen hundred dollars here," he said slowly. "Jesus christ. How in the hell did you do that? Me, I hardly even knew where I was, and there you were playing like a fucking card shark."
"I hardly knew where I was either," I replied. "I guess I was just incredibly lucky."
"Luck had nothing to do with it," he said, starting up the car. "Nothing at all. It's what I was telling you about before. You mathematicians, you see through to the true reality. Beneath the world of error."
"I'm not a mathematician," I said distantly. It was true: I wasn't. I had lost interest in the conversation, though. What concerned me at the moment was how the hell Roger was going to drive at the peak of an acid trip. I wanted desperately to say something about it, but I couldn't find the words. Meanwhile we were cruising down Flamingo Avenue, without any difficulty at all.
We went back to his place and listened to some albums. He shut out all the lights and put on an ultraviolet one, and got out all these glow toys. It was good, but not at the level of intensity I'd experienced in the casino. He smoked a few joints, which I thought was ridiculous; but I guess for him smoking pot was as necessary as breathing. After five or six albums were done, I could tell I was coming down....
The way I could tell was that I remembered who Marie was. The whole situation flooded back into my mind. Suddenly the ecstasy of the trip was like nothing; all I could think about was Marie, Marie, Marie. For some reason, more than anything else, I kept obsessing about the taste of her breasts. I was thoroughly convinced that the flavor of her breasts was the same as the tingling in my mouth caused by the acid. I told Roger I was going to go over to her apartment to suck her tits, but he didn'tthink it would be a good idea. Instead he went into the bathroom and got some pills. "Just some pep pills," he said brightly. "Makes the landing a little softer."
I washed the pills down with a can of Milwaukee's Best. My mouth felt so funny that the beer actually tasted all right. Roger was absolutely correct; after five or ten minutes I didn't feel down at all. I decided that I would call Marie tomorrow, and take her out somewhere nice, to celebrate winning the fifteen hundred bucks.
Before I knew it, it was eight in the morning -- time to get up! I offered Roger a couple hundred dollars from my winnings, seeing as it had been his acid and his idea to go to the casino. But he refused; he wouldn't even take five bucks for the hit. So I said goodbye and walked home. The walk seemed a lot more enjoyable this time; the scenery didn't seem drab at all. There were so many trees, the grass was so green, the cars sped by with such remarkable efficiency. The eight wide lanes of Flamingo Avenue were like an expansive African plain. That this plain was populated by sportscars, station wagons, vans and trucks, rather than lions, tigers, giraffes and antelope -- this was only a detail. The very concept of the city amazed me -- a tremendous platter of concrete set down on the desert. I imagined it spiraling through the air like a gigantic frisbee, whirling and twirling through the clouds, first touching ground somewhere near Mesquite but then skimming back up again, and finally settling into position right here on the patch of ground called Las Vegas. Las Vegas whizzing through the clouds -- there is no word but "awesome" to describe it. The giant neon clown in front of Circus Circus, the Mirage's artificial volcano, the Disney-like castle of the Excalibur, the incredibly high Vegas World tower, the thousands and thousands of multicolored neon lights. All zipping through hundreds of ponderous cumulus clouds, weaving new patterns in wispy cirrus formations, each casino leaving its own personal jet stream....
Track 8, Reel 0
Excerpted from the Note-files of Zeb Arens
It is interesting to observe the close relationship between the theory of memory and the theory of evolution by natural selection. This relationship has to do with one of the key problems of the theory of evolution by natural selection: the definition of fitness.
Natural selection is, in Herbert Spencer's phrase, "survival of the fittest" -- but if one cannot define fitness in any way besides reproductive success, then what one has is just survival of the survivors. The theory of pattern suggests a new approach to defining fitness, which leads one to the interesting conclusion that memories operate by natural selection.
Of course, it is not true that all evolutionary biologists define fitness in terms of reproductive success. Many theoretical biologists do define it this way, but when out in the field, biologists gauge fitnesses with their own common sense. If animal A runs faster than its predator, but animal B does not, then all else equal animal A is fitter -- no one needs a definition in order to tell that. The problem is getting a handle on fitness in general. I suggest that one key component of biological fitness is emergent pattern.
In accordance with this intuition, I define the structural fitness of an organism O as....
... so we see that, in an associative memory network, the probability of a given process not being moved through the network is roughly proportional to its structural fitness -- to the amount of pattern that emerges between itself and its neighbors in the network, its immediate environment. Therefore survival in current position is correlated with structural fitness with respect to immediate environment. Ergo, according to the definitions given, memory evolves by natural selection....
Track 1, Reel 1
B-7G was sorting through long-dead files, files from before the Great System Crash of 2133. Few promising candidates for reactivation presented themselves. But he kept on carefully, painstakingly searching -- that was, after all, his job.
His first step was been to divide the files into three categories. Category 1: files having to do with the Pre-Digitization period. Category 2: files having to do with the early days of Digitization, before the beginning of the anomalous phenomena. Category 3: files pertaining to the period immediately preceding the Great System Crash.
Category 1 files were almost completely devoid of reactivation potential -- they were simply ancient history. It was almost impossible for Allocator B-7G to imagine how data about human life could be relevant to the contemporary world.
On the other hand, Category 2 files were of some possible interest, because they recorded a period of time in which the Network was functioning smoothly, albeit according to archaic structural patterns.
But it was Category 3 which interested him the most. Though he never would have admitted it to himself, Allocator B-7G had a bit of a morbid streak. He was fascinated by the System Crash and the processes that had led up to it. Occasionally he even considered the possibility that something similar might happen again.
Since Allocator B-7G was a reasonable sort of unit, he kept this fascination within bounds. For example, he never went so far as to join one of the reformist groups that were growing more popular in certain other Sectors. He was not a fanatic. But he was more than a little pleased to have the opportunity to review the inactive files which he had placed in Category 3.
Yes, right from the very start it was Category 3 which interested him. But B-7G felt obliged to proceed in the logicalorder. So he began with Category 1, with the truly ancient history. He went through the files, one by one, cross-referencing each with a quasirandom sample of structures of contemporary interest. Not surprisingly, the result was the same every time. Insufficient relevance to merit reactivation at present.
But it was here, in Category 1, that he found the trail of information which led him to the body. He ran across a directory of files concerned with the original physical design of the Network: the use of satellites to speed data transmission, the placement of main memory banks in geologically stable locations, and so forth. This information was of absolutely no interest to him or anyone else. It was all obsolete, for since the time of the Great System Crash, the Network had physically restructured itself dozens of times. Furthermore, it was structured in an annoyingly archaic way. Most of it was not cross-referenced or dynamicized in any way; it was merely static, linear text.
But B-7G scanned it all, with immense patience. And, before long, something caught his eye. It was a file regarding something called the Fleshist Society -- one of the largest of the many anti-Digitization groups to form in the period 2050-2100 (by the twenty-second century, Digitization was essentially complete). This file contained, among other things, the following passage:
MEMO #24 / CLEARANCE LEVEL 1
JULY 7, 2087
FROM: Lashley Vanderstein, President, Fleshist Society
TO BE DISTRIBUTED ONLY TO INDIVIDUALS WITH CLEARANCE LEVEL 1
I will be blunt. The Fleshist Society continues to occupy its historical position at the vanguard of the fight against Digitization. However, in recentyears, several members of the Society's central committee have begun to express serious doubts about the possibility of winning this war.
I am sorry to have to admit that I am one of these members.
In short, I am forced to admit that Digitization is inevitable. The reasons are familiar ones. As the newsfiles never tire of observing, pollution and population growth have brought us to the point where it is impossible for the Earth to sustain even a minute fraction of the human population. The world's elite classes have already Digitized themselves; for the remaining 90%, the alternative appears to be Digitization or death by starvation or inhalation of toxic wastes.
The point of view toward which I am tending is as follows. Digitization may be inevitable, but from an ethical standpoint, it still is not desirable. As the Fleshist Society has always maintained, the human mind is made for the human body. The capability to transplant the human mind into a digital medium does not imply the desirability of doing so. The capability to digitally simulate the experience of living in a body does not imply the desirability of doing so.
With this in mind, I have taken the following measures. We are freezing approximately two thousand bodies in liquid-nitrogen-filled drums, cooled by individual micro-fission reactors. We are placing these drums in various caverns and isolated locations throughout the world. This operation has been given the code-name Project Euterpe.
This may seem to be an extreme measure. However, if the current enthusiasm for Digitization continues, it seems not at all unlikely that by the year 2150, there will be no living human bodies left. ProjectEuterpe is designed to guarantee that at least some bodies will survive.
Doubtless, Government will, at some point, formulate its own plan for the preservation of some number of bodies. But, politics being what it is, Government cannot be relied upon for a matter as crucial as this. Anything Government does, later Digitalized Governments will be aware of, and will be able to undo.
I am not hyperbolizing when I say that Project Euterpe may turn out to be the most important action the Fleshist Society ever takes.
B-7G scanned this passage twenty or thirty times. He could hardly believe what he was reading. Liquid nitrogen, micro-fission reactors, pollution -- a few months earlier, these terms would have been unfamiliar to him. But now, since he had been scanning so many files from Category 1, he understood the memo immediately. The implication was clear. It was possible -- not likely, but possible -- that there were human bodies intact, right now, in 3113.
He didn't understand why the prospect excited him so much. After all, as everyone knew, the human body had been a slow, disastrously error-prone piece of hardware. Its only real historical purpose had been to enable the initial construction of the Network. Complete blueprints and wiring diagrams of the human body were readily available, for whomever was interested.
But still, from the moment he scanned that memo, Allocator B-7G knew what he had to do.
He did what he was best at. He cross-referenced, he pillaged, he plundered and searched. He had always been good, but now that he had a mission, Allocator B-7G was superb. He mucked through the vast morass of Category 1 files with all the delicacy and efficiency of a master Arranger.
Suffice it to say that B-7G found what he was looking for. As an Allocator he had some degree of autonomy; he was able to divert a herd of African mining bots toward one of the caves where the bodies were stored. He had the bots remove one of the bodies from the cave, take it to a mineral processing station, and defrost it according his instructions.
The brain was randomized; wiped. He did the only thing there was to do. Allocator B-7G 197171825118 used the mineral processing station to project his mind into the brain of the retrieved body.
Converted by Andrew Scriven