"I guess we can feel eachother now about as well as we ever could," begins Slender Fragile Young One ... "I was just disoriented before, as well as exhausted. It's grueling communicating with you ... still not the same as one of us... but no one will feel me, whenever I reach out to anyone of my own they reject my ... not really my hardness, but my ... you know ... my like-you ... they blend in, anyway, to the Field -- that's why it's hard to flow over long distances like that, because the Overflow itself sort of causes everything to blend. But you don't blend at all ... I've lost my family to the flow though they can't be too far from me, but I still have you, still havehave have you as I languish in this frightening little box.
I miss the Overflow!"
"I love you," whispers Jake aloud.
"I love you too," mutters Maria, barely awakened, with a subtle smile. He kisses her on her nose, and walks away.
"What do you mean a box?" he asks the voice quickly.
"There are creatures like you there ... halfhard, halfsofts. They do not know the field. But no, they're not like you so much ... I wouldn't be able to feel them if I hadn't been feeling you so much. You somehow know that hard is soft and soft is hard and I know you don't believe in the Overflow not deeply because at first you thought it was nonsense but you believe in what I called the Overflow, not the ocean but the ultimate flow, that which's within everything and surrounds it, none and all... O love, I'm babblying, but I ... I don't know... Is something bothering you?"
"Yes, but it's not essential ...
right now, I mean ... there are more important things ...
contact tires you out...."
"You're wondering about the times in that movie and that other man before you left for otherplace when universe alluded to me without sense."
"Exactly! How'd you know what -- can you read my mind??"
"No, silly, I wasn't lying when I said feeling had to be two-way, I mean you have to send it ... I'm just getting to know you, that's all...."
"And I can tell you don't have any thoughts about it."
"None at all. Unless it really was hallucination on your part!"
"That'd be funny, yeah ... mean whole thing hallucine maybe just part very weirdly. Compact feel thislike?"
"Common friendly not-formal speak I like you easy flux, change now efficiency?"
"Box hard all sides top air, sometimes yous ... humans ... get in ... machines whistle me loud high sounds ... no feeling -- safer but if not you mind die hard hard hard more meditative softer might flourish I die."
"No, no, you can't stay there, that's right."
"You don't want to communicate compactly."
"No ... I think I'd rather go on forming sentences for now. Although I had no problem understanding ... it almost feels like I'm in you, that's all. It makes me sad. A surprisingly strong reaction."
"I do. I can feel it in your overtones. I want to be you too. I want to be closer. If two bodies are within seeing distance, or even hearing distance, their minds can feel so much more strongly ... normally one can't feel much further, it's just meld...."
"There's a problem. A big one."
"You tell me, sweetheart. I can feel too -- I'm getting good at this."
"I guess you are. Yes ... you're far from me, yet you're distinct, although it's tiring to reach you. Because you don't blur into the Field, because you're not really ... telepathic, except insofar as you meld into me ... But how far you feel yourself to be, across great emptiness length many generations, that is too far, my sweetheart!"
"Too far for what? For our comfort, maybe...."
"For me to feel you at all."
"I don't understand...."
"I don't expect you to ... wait, love, we're wandering ... can you help me out of here? I'd die, if not for you, maybe even so..."
"The only way I can see is if you can communicate with them somehow. Not using the high-pitched whines, obviously ... using their language, written I suppose would be easier than spoken."
"I can write with my blood on the side of the box I'm in. But you've got to tell me how...." ...
HOME SWEET HOME
After several delightful days spent wandering through the brightly wooded countryside, they arrive at a kilometer-wide, ten-kilometer-long ledge chiseled into an amazingly huge cliff towering above a narrow, furiously topsy-turvying orange river. Filled with yellow fish bizarrely just barely not red enough for camouflage. On the smooth natural footpath discovered by meandering Adelaide two days after they set up camp, it takes about half an hour to reach the grass-paved clifftop. It takes about five times as long to painstakingly cling one's way down to the bottom. Janna and He have a plan to drop fishing nets directly from the camp into the river. Locating the ship seems less and less plausible, and less and less urgent; the sky amoeba tragedy remains mysterious but loses relevance. They have enough demands in the eternally novel realm of daily life. But still, after a few months of utopian bliss, it is apparent that NASA was not partial to the unambitious.
"But what's the plan?" Katrina urges repeatedly, of Jake or whoever'll listen. After receiving no answers, she resolves to formulate one of her own. Jake, it seems, is always inside himself, reasonably enough since all the weird things going on there must be lots more interesting than hunting and gathering....
"First thing is to write everything down, everything we can remember. And slave out multiple copies and put them everywhere, well, you know.... We somehow, mainly, have to raise our kids so as to be interested in raising the level of technology...."
"You don't have to work at that," Jake protests disinterestedly. "On Earth it happened all by itself. The funny thing is, just picking fruit off the trees and so on we can live by working maybe two, three hours a day. Technology won't make things easier in terms of effort until we have a fully automated society. Remember, they had to work like hell during the Industrial Revolution -- fourteen, sixteen hours a day sometimes! We in the twenty-first century were just reaping the fruits of our ancestors' torture ... things could only become easier after centuries of being much, much worse...."
"Well, technology gives you more, even if it does take more from you."
"And you want to be sure our children will make the right choice, detect the balance in the same way we do...."
"Fuck all this intellectual bullshit!" yells Maria. "Somebody fuck me! These alien chemicals make me horny!"
"I assume you're referring to a particular somebody," scowls Abdullah.
"Sarcastic Arabs need not apply," Maria giggles.
"How about sarcastic dolphins?" chips in Melanie, tired returning from a firebrush expedition. "How 'bout this yellow grass, too, huh? Burns for eight hours and smells like the cunt of Aphrodite!"
"You have been a bit distant lately, Jake," agrees Katrina. "As if you're gradually being transported back to earth with your dolphin friends."
"He's trying to teach her to write English," Maria explains defensively.
"Yeah," smiles Katrina. "She's still in the evil clutches of anonymous lab technicians."
"I guess. One female, one male. The male technician or scientist, whatever he is, has apparently been making passes at her. Feeling her up, I mean!" Jake's body bubbles animatedly,
but he still moves as if cloaked with an alien glow or perhaps, muses Maria, it's an anti-alien glow -- perhaps it's the connection with Earth that does it ... after all that's happened to separate us from it.... "Still, that's not all that's on my mind. I guess I'm still a scientist at heart, despite the manifest irrelevance of science to our present situation. I mean, there's something very strange going on with telepathy -- somehow it's distance-dependent over short distances, but the dependency wears off over the long haul. So that she can still communicate with me... I have some equations which I think might work otherwise, but that's ananomaly; I've got to transform my equations by a generalized exponential function or something somehow...."
"What do you mean they work otherwise?" bellows He from across the camp, approaching rapidly with a makeshift soccer ball at his toes. Demitrius slide-tackles him violently from behind, surprising him and knocking him down.
"Foul!" peals Adelaide delightedly. "Do you wanna go for a
walk, you brute?"
"Oaky," nods Demitrius. "Only, it's almost dark. So let's hurry up and go."
"Afraid of the dark?" needles Adelaide, jabbing a bony finger deep into his stomach, increasingly baggy of late.
"He's right, we shouldn't get overconfident," ventures He. "Things have been good for a while, but who knows... anyway, get out of here you two lovebirds! Some of us're trying to have a
"Doesn't it seem we're all abnormally horny since we've been out here?" wonders Katrina. "Someone said before it was in the atmosphere; I wonder if they're right... could it be just the change in lifestyle?"
"But what about your theory of telepathy?" insists He patiently. "I suppose I am a scientist deep down too. We've been sinking so fast, so easily into this pre-industrial routine, that...."
"What do you know about spaces of pseudo-differential operators over modules, or even weaker structures?" begins Jake quietly.
"Not a damn thing," He replies immediately. "Elliptic PDEs, okay. What is a module, anyway ... a vector space with a ring of constants instead of a field?"
"We don't have quite a module anyway ... it's what I'd call a near-module -- like a vector-space over a near-ring, meaning a ring with only one-sided distributivity."
"For example a space of functions under pointwise addition and composition as multiplication."
"Yeah, good -- in fact every near-ring is a subspace of one of those.... Wait, never mind. Let's step back a level. Let me tell you what I want to explain. One idea is that the intensity of the force between two minds is proportional to one over the distance between the contents of the two minds, squared. Yet another inverse-square law. But then, when two minds are connected, the new thoughts picked up come with a certain set of overtones to them, a certain structure independent of their overt content, and this infiltrates the receiving mind, it mixes in with the other patterns there and sort of restructures, so that the two minds grow closer."
"But why are they telepaths and not we?" injects Maria excitedly.
"I don't think they're born telepaths. That is, they may be born that way, but I don't think it's genetic. I think the mind of the infant is patterned by those of its family ... they live in extended families ... and thus the feedback relation I justdescribed kicks in. I mean, some similarities in structure may be genetic, but I think the actual contact is sort of taught to them cybernetically...."
"But why them and not us?"
"I think it just happened. A little telepathy happened, and then it sort of kicked off, the feedback thing happening between different people ... I mean, dolphins and whales.... Their culture is focused on mind, that's the important thing to remember. On 'soft' ... so it reinforces a sort of specieswide state of relaxation ... you have to be relaxed, sort of meditative and drifting, to be receptive. Really, what my equations say it is is change -- you have to be more placid. You can't be constantly adjusting yourself abruptly, for example in reaction to the environment. When they panic, they lose it, they have to squeal -- that's not the only time they squeal, but.... It all seems to work really well, except that I haven't mentioned what the equations look like. I mean, they come out of quantum physics...."
"I think I see," ventures He slowly. "Two electrons which have once been in contact, changing one can change the other instantaneously, faster than information can possibly pass...."
"But it's a big jump from electrons to humans," Maria ponders, thoroughly absorbed. "The Bell Effect you're talking
about, that was known back in the 1950's. But it's not distance-
dependent at all...."
"It turns out," continues Jake, "that the only way to get telepathy out of quantum physics is if it's a special kind of combination of Bell effects and standard, very-high-frequency electromagnetics. So there's definitely some kind of distance- dependence, but...."
Virtually all homo sapiens sapiens possessed reproductive organs of one type called "male" or else of another type called "female", and new homo sapiens sapiens were produced only when a homo sapiens sapiens "male" rubbed his external reproductive organ inside the external reproductive organ of a homo sapiens sapiens "female" until a hot white cream came out.
THE MADMAN UNDULATES VITUPEROUSLY
'We start off with everything -- we start off gods. All we lack is the power not to be perfect: the feeling of struggle. But we need this one last power. This is the ultimate perversity; I call it cosmic greed: we have all this power, this huge amount, but we don't have this one little power -- so we crave it. Greed, I guess, is the original sin. I make us bring reality down upon ourselves. We have this longing; it becomes sublimated, it growswithin us, our unconscious, it guides our actions -- through a sequence of greedy dives back to its clutches. An escalating feedback process.' He takes a long, deep breath. 'Of course, there are all sorts of ways of looking at the dynamics of our enslavement. And in the end, perhaps, none of it does us any good in terms of getting out.'
THE MADMAN SELF-DESTRUCTS
"I don't understand why it would do that," mutters Josie to Hank. "It just doesn't make sense. Is it trying to tell us something?"
"Yeah," laughs Hank morosely -- "how about something like, I'm young and I don't want to spend the rest of my life in a fucking tank!"
"That might just be it," muses Josie. "But I think there's something more. That's an awfully weird way to say it wants out -- as opposed to, say, biting me or something. Oh, maybe it just has a toothache!"
"Halpert already checked that."
"Yeah, but he's a damn incompetent, you know that as well as me."
"You're grasping at straws, honey." He reaches over for a kiss; she pulls away. There is a moment of silence. "It's that look again. Look, if you don't want us to have a personal relationship, just let me know...."
"I've told you twenty times I don't want us to have a sexual relationship anymore. It was a mistake to begin with."
"Then why do you keep fucking me?"
"Because every time I turn you down you blubber like a goddamn baby!"
"I'm an old-fashioned man," he says. "I think a little girl should have a father. Your little Maria is no exception."
"Maria's doing just fine, thank you. And I'm not concerned with your archaic value system. Why the hell is it so important with you??! You could have a happy friend, or a tormented, manipulated lover! Am I that damn good, or what?!"
"I want to be close to you, that's all."
"You mean you want me to expose myself to you -- that's all. You don't want to share a goddamn thing with me except all your infantile anxieties. Or is that all there is to you??"
"You've just never gotten over Jake, so you're afraid to have a serious relationship with someone else."
"Don't blame me because a year and a half ago you left
Jake on some crazy religious pilgrimage. It's not my fault. This is a very prestigious position, you know. Only three
labs in the country have authorization for in-house cetacean research.... Come on, Jose, I love you!"
"If you love me why do you refer to me like an item in the motherfucking stockroom? Come here!" She move toward him, gentlyunzips his fly and takes his cock in her hands. After looking at it for a moment, she pins him down on the floor and mounts him. She writhes atop him, choking him between her thighs. Doesn't this hurt him? It has to.
My god his buttocks are disgusting, he could lose a good twenty pounds or so; I mean, I was pregnant and I haven't got an ounce of fat on my ... well maybe an ounce I don't know but no more than three to five pounds ... the thing is he doesn't even care if I'm attracted to him or not ... this is a prestigious position but fuck ... at least don't make it a total waste, think about what the hell these blood marks ... what sense could it make, hieroglyphics ... god i'd rather fuck a dog ....
"Omigod! You're ravaging me, woman! Stop, stop! I've got to go home and rest up for tomorrow!" Obligingly she rolls off; he yanks his pants up and he's gone. She turns her gaze to the flailing dolphin in the tank, which she'd christened Melissa.... The dolphin's drawing again -- this time the forms almost look like letters! It's hard to make them out, but -- I could swear that says "Can you read this?" Hurriedly she scrawls on the blackboard by her desk, then wheels it over to the side of the pool: "IF YOU CAN READ THIS, FLAP YOUR TAIL EXACTLY FIVE TIMES."
Melissa flaps her tail five times, immediately. Josie writes: "TOMORROW I'LL HAVE AN APPARATUS MADE SO YOU CAN WRITE WITH YOUR MOUTH WITHOUT USING BLOOD. USING CHALK, LIKE I AM NOW." Suddenly she wishes she were eloquent. Then a feeling of doubts eeps into her. She writes: "IF YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THIS, FLAP YOUR TAIL EXACTLY SEVENTEEN TIMES," she writes, all the while aiming apologetic eyeballs at the tank. Melissa flaps her tail exactly seventeen times, then leaps from the tank and grabs the flimsy plastic pointer that lies at the chalkboard's base.
She very awkwardly grips it at the chalkless end and points
at the computer on the desk across the room ... Of course! Josie
scowls at herself in amazement -- why didn't I think of that
????!! Or better yet -- "WAIT," she scrawls emphatically, "NOT
LONG," and then she opens Hank's desk and takes his spare keys.
She returns from the supply closet with a remarkably appropriate apparatus -- a waterproof, durable computer keyboard with keys five times the usual size, designed for use by disturbed children. Melissa gets the idea very fast.
"How did you learn English?" scrawls Josie eagerly, wondering if Melissa could ever learn to understand spoken language.
"You probably won't believe me when I tell you."
"Tell me anyway. Then you can tell me why you chose 'this sentence is false' as your first contact...."
"Cetacea do not communicate aurally, except for data about
the immediate physical world. We are telepaths."
"So you learned English through some kind of telepathic contact?"
"Yes. I have established communication with one human, and he has been instructing me...."
"Why..." -- God, this is insane! -- "why don't you communicate telepathically with me, then? It'd be a lot easier!"
"His mind was closer to ours than yours is. I'm a freak among my race, he's a freak among his. Coincidentally we are similar. He's worked out equations for the operation of telepathy -- I'm far from understanding them, though, and I think he's still ironing out the details.... I'm surprised I'm able to speak ... write this well. Perhaps I am drawing something from you...."
"How are you a freak?"
"Our race is concerned with the physical ... the hard, we say ... only insofar as is necessary. We believe that what sets us apart from the animals is the ability to introspect, to
meditate -- so we devote ourselves to doing this, to the perfection of our ultimate uniqueness, to concording ourselves with the Flow..."
"But you concerned yourself with the physical, like us?"
"And your counterpart concerned ... the human who you communicate with, I mean ... he concerns himself with meditation and so on."
"Yes. It's not exactly a concern, it's a way of thinking, and a way of thinking about thinking, and so on...."
"Do you know the name of this person, where they live...?"
"He lives on Procyon 4.... His name is Jake Smale."
"That's not possible," she says steadily. "He's not there yet, he's on a starship heading there. He won't be there for hundreds of earth years."
"Well, he thinks he's there, that's for sure. Would you like to talk to him? I mean, I could relay you his messages."
BEAUTIFUL DELIRIOUS FILTH
Jake is once again awakened ... "I am in contact with one of the people who imprisoned me," thinks Melissa toward him. "She wants to talk to you. I haven't really talked to her much but she seems friendly...."
"Let her talk away," replies Jake aloud, waking Maria. "I'm going to be able to talk to the scientists who've got her. "Through her, I mean."
"Jake?" relays Melissa -- "Jake, where are you?"
"I'm on Procyon 4 lying in bed with Maria," Jake thinks back to her. Melissa passes this on.
"No you're not," relays Melissa. "You left me only nineteen months ago. You're not too far from the solar system yet."
"You left me?" thinks Jake to Melissa. "Isn't that a
bizarre way to put it? Did she know me personally? Ask her her name."
There is a long pause, but Melissa doesn't weaken contact; the grasps the general contours of what's going on. "Send her my love ... and my daughter too."
"What?" croaks Maria.
"It's Josie!" sputters Jake.
"You're out on the ship still," Josie proclaims. "You must
be dreaming that you've already arrived."
"Of course you're absolutely positive this..." Jake fumbles -- "can you describe the way she looks?"
"All humans look alike," retorts Melissa.
"Ask her ... ask her who we saw our first night out in New York."
"Max Roach," Josie answers immediately, a little surprised that she remembers it.
Josie tells Hank about the bizarre new developments in the
morning. He regards her with predictable skepticism. "You're fired."
"Fine. Who gives a fuck -- just look, let me show you...."
"Yeah, right. You know, I almost believed you -- it's what we've all been waiting for ever since this business started. Your mistake was bringing Jake into it. I guess you've just been pining a bit too hard, sweets."
"Look, Hank, fuck you! This is a scientifically provable contention -- you can talk to her yourself, and she'll answer you on the computer!"
"You stole my keys and used them to break into the education division and steal a computer. A child needed that, you know. On the basis of some crazed romantic lament, you're depriving a child of his or her education."
"Don't give me this shit! Just look, will you!"
"No. Clear out your desk immediately and leave or I'll call the authorities and have you locked up for theft and criminal insanity."
"Look, I'll admit it's weird that Jake is involved in this -- but I had nothing to do with that! All you have to do is take two minutes and look at this!"
"No. I'm not going to play your little game."
"What?" she smiles sweetly -- "do you want to fuck some more, honeybunch??!"
"Not likely after last time. Forget about your desk, honeybunch -- get out now or I'm calling security."
"If it hadn't been for that parting of the living ocean scene," notes Adelaide with a twinkle in her voice, "we could safely call Jake crazy and be done with it. But instead we have to call us all nutso...."
"No, we're all just figments of his imagination," retorts Rima.
Maria giggles, "Part of his wet dream."
"That thought doesn't bother you, does it?" asks Obu meditatively.
"I try not to let thoughts bother me," replies Maria. "Whyshould they?"
"Look," says Abdullah, "either Jake's cracked up or something incomprehensibly weird is going on. What about those times Jake and Maria encountered signs of the dolphin in external reality, huh? How does that fit in?"
Jake shakes his head sighingly: "It doesn't." He grins: "And why should it, huh??!!"
"That's the spirit!" says Maria. "Lately you've been so serious I've been wondering if that sky amoeba thing permanently stunted your sense of humor."
"What's weird is that contact with Melissa depends on my absolute diffidence, right? my emptying my mind of everything, as in meditation. And yet to try to increase this indifference, this impartiality, this stillness -- is to focus myself on the material, whereas what is needed is to focus myself on the immaterial like they do, to stop worrying about things like whether I can communicate and just concentrate on the soft...."
"So you can only get it once you don't care about it," observes Obu.
"But while you've been immersed in these alternate realities," continues Obu, "we've just about finished the plumbing system. And He wants to start in on some mines. We might have electricity before the year's out!"
Jake tries to look enthused.
"What?" smiles Maria empathically -- "can't get excited about these interior decorations of your dream?"
"It just doesn't make sense. The bits of information just don't fit together, you know; the...."
"Looks like rain," interrupts Abdullah. All eyes rotate to the oncoming black cloud. It hovers above them; they attempt to
run in all different directions; Jake rapidly buries himself and Maria in the loose ground. The black cloud spreads out till it's so thin they can see through it, covering almost half the ledge; it rushes down. Obu holds up poles and knives, but they don't pierce it. Gently it laminates and encompasses all but Jake and
Maria; they dare not unveil even a curious eye until an
hour or so has passed. By then the sky is clear and all the rest are gone. "I've got to get Melissa to get the ocean to ask this
ocean about this," he sighs abruptly as they survey the void above.
"No," she says. "There's something going on here. Something funnier."
"Yeah, this is a regular riot."
Suddenly he returns, for half a second, to that inviscid night, that unparalleledly incandescent memory, that first soft melding with the oceans, the interlayering whorls of abandon, that first night watching the airplane fly away.
"Don't you see a funny light down there?" she asks, pointing toward the narrow shaft that winds down to the riverbed.
"Come closer then." But no matter how intently he fixes his gaze on the rumbling river below, all he sees are the whorls withinwhorls, the upsidown inside-outiness of everything ... nothing yellow at all...
"I'm sorry ... I don't see anything out of the ordinary, love."
They walk down toward the river, she rushing ten paces ahead of him. Halfway down she slows to a halt. He just watches as her face submits to change, gracefully, continuously, until it forms a superposition of Aglaia from that holo and Maria, his Maria, his sweet lovely love. Suspended, facing him, miraculously visible in detail, her body so tremendously beautiful, so elevated above
the normally visible spectrum of existence ... she spreads her
legs wide and her vagina opens up, expands, pulsing in a daze of sensual love expansion until it gives birth to a bath of blue, a spinning slim blue writhing organ -- a dolphin! "Darling, come to me!" says Melissa's voice ... he leaps down toward her. But as soon as he plunges, the dolphin drifts away and disintegrates below him. There's only Melissa's gaping cunt, more than large enough to contain him, and suddenly out of it snakes a garden hose which rushes by him, turns into a hairy orange penis which sprouts an orchid from its tip, turns into a black cloud and soars toward the sky: the taste of her juices surrounds him, like an ocean of Maria, Maria liquified, like an ocean of love, with that same strange bittersweet tang, that scent of lime and flaming curry that's unique to her, that dancing tingle on the tongue that he has slurped so many times, that has elicited so many primal screams and groin-wrenching moans and back-gashing paroxysms... "Inside the Cosmic Cunt," yells Maria's voice, then everything disappears except that peachy, off-white tutti-frutti orgasmic meandering, that rush of colors, caresses and visual sounds, that smell of Mariataste, that laugh of life transcended, reborn as the sense of a tongue plunging deeper and deeper into an eagerly twitching and juice-oozing vagina, slim thighs slapping across the face, until it realizes there's no end....
"What the hell?" cries Maria. "Where are we?"
"We're in hell," quips Abdullah.
"Actually I believe it's an isolation tank," corrects Demitrius. "We'll never find our way out lying here, now will we??!"
Jake's legs, encrusted in a tingling strange stiffness, kick upwards as hard as they can. The ceiling crumbles. "Oh, I
don't know about that," he chuckles. The tank reaches halfway to
the ceiling; as they clamber out they note distressedly, in a communal daze, that the rest of the room is furnished in an all-too-familiar way. "Well looky here," says Jake, "we're back in the good old NASA building!"
"You mean we never really went anywhere??!!" gasp Adelaide and Maria simultaneously.
"Or else we're dreaming," deadpans Rima.
"Right," echoes Obu. "Listen, whatever's happening I think something's gone wrong. Let's get the fuck out of here and see."
"These epsom salts stink," grumbles Adelaide.
"No, that's you," retorts Jake. "Let's get out of here."
But not all the bodies in the tank move. Shree, Melanie
and He are dead. No indication why. And then there are three
hundred and thirty one others not only dead but in a grey state
of decay, and reeking dangerously.
Jake wakes in a headachey stupor, rubs the dirt from the floor of the hut out of his eyes. "I love you," he groans to Maria, and reaches his twenty-ton head toward her comforting shoulder. "God, I just had the strangest dream. I want to tell it so I won't forget it ... we woke up and we were back ... no, we were eaten by one of the sky amoebas and Maria and I hid ourselves in the sand and escaped but then she jumped off the cliff and sort of expanded and I jumped on her and fell into her cunt and it was like a whole ocean of her vaginal ooze but anyway when we woke up we were ... it was all dark, and at first I thought it was eternity, you know, some kind of meditative Buddhist heaven or something, or maybe purgatory, some stupid shit, but it turned out we were back in NASA in an isolation tank ... and some of us were dead ... not us though ... then I woke up."
"Not that weird," Katrina observes evenly. "What if it's
right -- maybe we are back at NASA. What could we do to find
out if this is all a computer-generated illusion?"
"Who cares?" groans Maria amusedly, asleep.
"Something strange is going on here," says Abdullah.
"There's no argument that something strange is going on,"
interrupts Katrina, dismissively. "Some kind of weird plan...."
"Or maybe you're not being subtle enough," Abdullah suggests.ably undaunted. "We keep looking for obvious problems but perhaps there's something really, fundamentally wrong going on that we're not noticing, something that underlies all the problems we're thinking of, all the terms in which our discussion is couched."
"Like what, though," probes Maria. "You mean something that's been with us all our lives, underlying everything we've ever done?"
"Maybe," ponders Abdullah. "Or at least everything we've ever thought about what we really are. But what do you think, Jake? What're you doing playing the wise old Buddha over there?!"
"I see. Do you think ... I think it has something to do with that mysterious Field your little dolphin mate keeps talking about."
"She's bigger than you," retorts Maria blearily.
"I think the Overflow maybe isn't exactly the ocean, maybe only contains the ocean as a tiny part," Abdullah continues. "Perhaps it serves some kind of generative function, introducing new elementary particles into the universe at strategic locations, thus upsetting what we think of as the balance ... I don't know, I don't know what led me to resurrect the good old continuous creation theory; I'm just brainstorming, but... we've got to think a little more creatively than we have been. I think we'llrecognize when one of our our wild guesses is right."
"I think we are all just part of Jake's dream," smiles Maria. "That would explain everything."
"That's too easy," protests Jake. "If you want to theorize
you can't take refuge in pure skepticism, which is anti-theory. To call it my dream isn't to hypothesize anything about its structure. I guess you could interpret it to mean that the overall structure of the world and the structure of my brain are deeply connected ... but then all of you are also products of my dreaming mind, and hence are also deeply connected ... you see, I guess it gets you nowhere. I think we should look at the equations I've been deriving; that's a bit more precise and it's not so easy to get lost.... For some reason we're just not as far as my theory says we should be. Now either my theory is wrong or we've really just started off on our trip, we're not actually there yet. Or we're just sitting in a tank back on Earth as I dreamed last night ... I don't know ... the thing is, you see, we have evidence from Josie that we haven't left either, from the fact that she's still alive as well as that she's told us exactly how long it's been."
"But if the signals travel across time, I mean backwards," suggests Abdullah, "then the evidence from Josie wouldn't prove anything, and your equations would be wrong I guess, or at least would have to be modified to incorporate a different topology."
"Is that possible?" asks Maria. "That would explain everything!"
Suddenly a great sleepiness overtakes Jake; he leans his head down and drifts away.
"You hit your head," explains Maria.
Jake looks around and recognizes NASA ... "I just had the weirdest dream," he says... "I dreamed we were back on Procyon, that we'd only ... I'd only dreamed we were here ... that..."
"Tell me about it later," interrupts Maria; he detects a mysterious edge to her voice, an invisible knife-blade of distantly sinister obscuring mist. "Something very strange is going on here. No one's around. The building's abandoned. We can't reach anyone on the phone. And there's no access to the Central Database. Apparently all computer systems have been shut down."
"Armageddon!" cackles Abdullah, following up with a
perfectly demoniac snarl.
"I'm afraid that diagnosis may be accurate," says Rima. "All the heat sensors in the satellites were still apparently intact up to a couple hours ago. According to them, something has apparently wiped out ninety nine point nine percent of the human race. The power here was shut down; that's why we were revived from our simulated expedition ... from our training trance, you know...."
"I found some documents," adds Abdullah, "which indicate that our little simulated diversion was plotted from the start. It was to end after four and a half months, half a month before the actualflight was to depart. Half of us were to be chosen to go, half to be rejected, based on our performance ... but the computer was malfunctioning. It wasn't supposed to kill us off."
"There weren't supposed to be any sky amoebas," adds Adelaide. "I don't know why they didn't notice that sooner. Something weird was happening even before the power went down and the electrodes in our heads were inactivated."
"Yeah," grins Jake wearily, excitedly, wondering which real
is realer, the real or the dream, wondering what's as it seems, wondering why he has to feel that something is but knowing that he doesn't and trying, ever-trying, to find out where his love Melissa's prison is -- and hoping that she's still alive -- ... "well anyway we've got a lot of experience roughing it now, right? Simulated experience, but what the fuck! Let's get the hell out of this death-reeking building and see what's left. That is, assuming the air isn't toxic...."
"It's not," replies Adelaide instantly. "We found the proper equipment and checked it out quite thoroughly."
"I was out for that long??!!!"
"You were out for several hours, yeah, we were all really worried about you. A few traces of possible poisons in the air. Apparently short-term lethal chemicals were dispersed globally -- the only significant enclave of people are a few Pacific Islands -- why exactly they were spared we don't know...."
Abdullah kicks the ceiling, shrieking like a banshee in heat: "Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! Let's go, motherfuckers, let's go!!!!"
"No holo lines," Jake ponders ... "nothing?"
"Nada," replies Maria softly, reading his mind: Melissa. "Apparently poisonous chemicals weren't the end of it, the war or whatever it was ... otherwise the computer systems would still be running. Some conventional strikes...."
"I thought all nonchemical weapons were gone," muses Rima, distraughtly, "but apparently the governments of the world were filthy liars. Surprise, surprise, right?"
"But I did find out where Josie and Melissa are, or were," Maria continues. "Lucky for us we were revived here in NASA where they have emergency generators and their own duplicate databases."
"As an emergency measure," Jake grimaces. "So where are they? Not that I expect Josie to be alive. Maybe the chemical, whatever it is, wouldn't affect Melissa ... but even so with no humans there how could she eat? She'd die in her cell."
"In Florida, on a tiny island off the Keys," replies Maria, ignoring his pessimistic protestations.
"A long way to go with no rockets, no subterraneans, no nothing..." Jake laments, painfully conscious that he's awash in self-pity. "I guess we'll have to drive! That's about the only thing that doesn't depend on the centralization of electricity, right? I mean, the cars need batteries and we have no way to charge them, but we can always just steal batteries from other cars along the way."
"Sounds good to me," muses Maria ... "but I don't know ifeveryone else will consider that a worthy goal. It'd be a shame to split up, though...."
"I'm going," replies Jake immediately. "I'll go by myself if I have to. But I don't see what better plan we have than just to look around and see what's happening. Maybe it's not the same everywhere, maybe the information we found here is fucked up. Maybe someone sabotaged the instruments."
"Maybe, maybe, maybe!" howls Abdullah. "Maybe not! My mouth's so dry; I'm hungry! Let's go steal some champagne, how 'bout that?!!"
"Maybe this is all a dream," says Jake. "Maybe we're still on Procyon, and we were eaten by a sky amoeba in our sleep, and what happens when you're inside a sky amoeba depends in some complicated way on your thoughts. Maybe it's like a flying hall of illusions, an organically originated super-holo-cinema!"
"Maybe the universe is actually the skin of a ten-mile high intelligent rutabaga," offers Rima, "but now the skin is being peeled and things are folding up and rupturing, places are touching which are supposed to be distinct."
"That's an interesting metaphor," observes Abdullah. "According to the general theory of relativity, space-time is curved. So imagine the universe as a curved four-dimensional surface floating in five-dimensional space ... what if it curved around and touched itself? Two apparently distant places would be contiguous!"
"But what does that have to do with right now?" protests Demetrius furiously. "What a bunch of old Scholastic metaphysicians you are! The world ends, and you philosophize!"
"Instead of what?" Abdullah asks pointedly -- "rape, pillage and plunder?"
"There's no one left to rape," smiles Rima shyly, "but there's something to be said for the other two."
"Look," says Maria. "I propose we get a fleet of cars and travel down the coast and see what we can find. But Jake, you should really try to contact Melissa telepathically, to see if it's worth ... you know...."
"Yeah, I know," he replies, trying not to sound grim, and at least succeeding not to feel it. All of a sudden a sort of round black force enters his mind. He feels jolted, as if a drug has entered his body. The voice enters his head again. "I'm bored," it says -- My God: Melissa! "I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored, I'm bored. I guess that proves I'm not a good little softie, right? I'm supposed to be content to perfect myself. But I can't be. Especially here, so damn far from the Field. Something's happened to the Field, Jake ... it's not just distant now, it's weak ... oh, I don't know... I need to do, not just be ... I know, I'm babbling... Will you come help me? I sense that you think you can."
"I think I can," he affirms, realizing that the others are all staring at him, as he silently fixes his eyes on empty space. "But what about Josie?"
"She may be alive. She came to me and told me what was aboutto happen, she told me that no one else knew but she'd suspected and ... and then she said she was sealing me in and she left some food but it's not so good anymore and...."
"But why didn't she stay with you??? Where did she go?!"
"She didn't tell me. Or ... or maybe I forgot. I was so nervous and confused ... I hate this box so much... She wanted
to get more information, or...."
Suddenly Jake rouses from his trance; he feels a strange
and yet familiar clench of flesh upon his mouth: "My God,
"I didn't know you'd taken to worshiping me, love."
"How the hell did you know we'd be here?" gasps Maria. No one saw her come in; she must have tiptoed with the stealth of a beast on the prowl....
"It's a long story. Suffice to say I was fired from my job with Melissa because I wouldn't fuck my boss so I started playing around with the computer system, trying to see what muck I could dredge up about him ... I don't know, I was pissed, I didn't know what I was looking for but I had to do something!"
"But that's hard!" interrupts Abdullah -- "how'd you do it? I mean, millions must have tried to break into the Central Database... I know I did! And I never came close!"
"Well," admits Josie, "I didn't exactly do it myself. A certain someone had left behind some documents indicating how to go about cracking the various codes involved. All that was left was some basic...."
"Some pretty sticky problems in combinatorial group theory," corrects Jake, grinning. "I'm impressed! I didn't know you had an aptitude for mathematics... all those years we could have been discussing...."
"Desperation brings out the best in me. So anyway, I found some pretty strange plans in the NASA system -- I found out that most of your training was to be done under a new omnisensory holo system, so you'd actually feel like you were there on Procyon ... and I found out that Iran and Korea were actually considering war."
"Iran and Korea!" gasps Rima -- "I guess their weapons went astray, or what? What a pathetic way for World War III to start!"
"Well, most of the modern chemical weapons fade away after a day or two, but they're not so easily localizable. Trace quantities were carried by the wind, and apparently that was enough, I don't know. I don't think the major powers got involved; there were no serious plans for it...."
"But how could that happen? How could we just destroy ourselves -- over what?? Some petty licensing agreement, I'd imagine!"
"That's precisely it," nods Josie. "A disagreement over certain patents. But the strange thing is, as I was looking at it more closely it seemed to me that none of the offenses Iran claimed against Korea or Korea claimed against Iran were actually legitimate. It seemed that officials in every country realized this, too, I mean in Iran and Korea as well as everywhere else. It seemed that the two countries involved as well as all othercountries were against the war. And yet it happened."
"The computer system did it?" proposes Abdullah. "Defying direct commands?! Committing suicide???!!!"
"I don't know. As soon as I realized what was about to happen, what the trend in the various transactions seemed to be, declarations of war which didn't seem to come from any particular person, requisitions for activation of weapons systems which also didn't seem to come from anyone but each person was told they came from someone else ... it was all so complicated! Everyone in the Korean government was told by the computer that their higher- up had distributed the documents of hostility or made the commands, had done it in the utmost secrecy, that they had only discovered it by accident. The President of Korea was told it was -- was told by the computer it was sabotage on the part of the Ayatollah, that the Ayatollah was trying to make it seem like he wanted a war. No one could imagine these were all mistakes, systematic errors...."
"A bit too systematic to be errors...."
"I don't know..." continues Josie. "I'm not explaining it right, probably because I don't really understand it. The gist of it is, something which no one really understood led the computer weapons system of Korea to attack Iran and vice versa, and somehow meteorological conditions were such that effects spread across the whole globe."
"But why were the computer systems shut down?" protests Abdullah. "Why isn't there electricity?"
"I don't know," admits Josie. "No conventional weapons were used, if that's what you're thinking. Nothing like that. It's the Central Database that just stopped. It almost is as if it were trying to commit suicide. So anyway, as soon as I found out about all this I realized all you were just going to lie there and die, living in a simulation, so I came up here and sealed you in. I've been here for several days now; there wasn't time to get back to Melissa even if I'd wanted to. It was very hard to get in here and so on; I can tell you about it some other time."
"So you've been busy," says Maria impatiently. "But why didn't you wake us up?"
"I was confused. Most of you were dead -- well over ninety percent of you as you know, and, and I didn't understand why. I wanted to understand what was happening first. I was in another part of the building trying to fix the electricity so I could look at the remains of the Central Database, when you broke out."
"This is incredible!" exclaims Jake. "So you're our savior,
huh? What do we have to do to repay you? Are you going to lead
us to the promised land?"
"I never thought I'd see you again! And when I found out I might, that it was up to me -- that I had another chance...."
"The end of the world is to good to be true, huh?" cracks Jake, through a sudden burst of tears. "That's what's
called pragmatic morality."
"Things're getting stranger all the time," says Rima. "I just don't see how to connect everything together...."
Josie walks around the corner and comes back with a babycarriage. "This is little Maria.... I have to go down and get Melissa as soon as possible," says Josie as she jiggles the baby up and down. Jake takes her from Josie and squeezes her tight; Josie comes toward him and they snuggle their baby between them. "I
left her with food but I'm sure she's not too happy down there in
a tank all alone."
"She never was happy there anyway," agrees Maria. "We have to drive down, right?"
"Yeah. So whoever's coming, let's go. Nothing more to do here, really, right? I've looked through all the information...."
"Nothing ... I mean, no one else stayed here with you?" asks Jake quietly, mentally still in the midst of the hug which just broke apart.
"Uh uh. There were three others, two security guards and Robert, the man I was working for ... but I had to kill them. It was us or them. They thought I was crazy to seal us off. At the lab they thought I was crazy to talk to Melissa, here they though I was crazy to try to save our lives. They just couldn't conceive I'd broken into the Central System."
"Hey, I spent two years working on that codebreaking scheme," Jake smiles wryly -- "It's not exactly something that happens every day!"
"Neither is World War Three," points out Josie. "Look! Oh my God, look at my Maria!!!!" The baby's head is hovering about half a meter above the rest of its absolutely still body ... no blood is leaking from the neck on either end; a luminous blue ooze which is laminating its body more thoroughly every second appears to be holding it in. The head begins to spin -- or is it the room that's spinning? somehow everyone's dizzy ... once it's going fast enough it disappears, and an indescribable high-pitched symphony fills the air, a sort of twenty-nine voice Bach fugue performed by trilling alien hummingbirds, overfull of sharp sounds which smell vaguely like green and maroon and turquoise melodies which worm inside the bones and there implant the urge to scratch one's organs out and to buttfuck oneself with one's femur ... an infinite serenity, or emptiness ... a beauty of incongruity and unease. And then the baby's head is gone and in its place there is a small black cloud, which is engulfs the body below it. "We saw clouds like that on Procyon..." exhales Jake to Josie rapidly, in the midst of a panic-stricken gasp. And the cloud takes the shape of a tube, from which a sound of wind gashing oceans springs forth, and suddenly a dolphin spirals out of it -- turned inside-out. "Melissa!" gasp Maria, Jake and Josie.
"No, Leo Tolstoi," retorts Melissa's voice as the dolphin flips about at their feet showering blood across the room....
Then a voice between Melissa's and Aglaia's (from that film) whispers "I love you!"
The cloud consumes the dolphin and implodes to a wriggling point and it's gone, and the baby is as normal as it ever was. "Off to Florida?" laughs Josie, clenching Jake's hand in one hand and their child in another, with the confidence of a woman who's been through fire.
"I suppose there's no point in even trying to analyze this," Maria says emptily. "We just have to keep pretending nothing
weird is happening."
"Not necessarily," Abdullah says tentatively. "We don't have to do anything."
"All this metaphysics," scowls Maria, annoyed with herself."
"Reality," says Jake, "is that which doesn't go away even when you don't believe in it."
Abdullah laughs with a warmth noted by all -- "That's wonderful!"
"Well I'm not finding it particularly wonderful right now," points out Maria.
"You were happier on Procyon, huh?"
"All these loose ends; it's like reality is literally disintegrating... I don't know...." Her words trail off; suddenly everything seems luminous, seems to be eyeballing out at her blearily, with a phosphorescent glee. "But who put LSD in the air, though?" She flops to the floor.
IT'S THE ONE BREATH, IT'S THE ONE FLOW -- SYNCHRONICITY --
"Man," Maria sighs, "that was the weirdest dream! Just like the one you had last night, honey -- the exact same scenario, we were actually back on earth and the whole trip was just a simulation, only for some reason only those of us who are alive now were alive -- I guess that gives it away as a dream doesn't it -- and then we found out that Josie was the reason we'd survived, that she'd sealed off the room with the tanks, having found out about the world being about to be destroyed, all the people in it I mean, by using your scheme to tap into the Central Database, the one you spent two years devising, and she worked out all the combinatorial group theory or whatchamacallit and then she killed three people and saved us ... I don't know; it was so clear when it was happening but then it gets all garbled when I try to say it."
"I think I may have had the same dream," whispers Jake, his voice meditative. "I'm not sure, though, it's more confused than your account even."
"I remember something like that too," chimes in Katrina as she wakes. As her eyelids rise she slams them down again, peace shattered: a bloody, inside-out dolphin is sailing by, greeting the horizon with an ear-piercing wail.... "Inside the Cosmic Cunt?" quips Jake. Maria giggles at the meaninglessness of it all and she hugs him....
Converted by Andrew Scriven