Dan

Mr. and Mrs. Lyapunov

 

Mr. and Mrs. Lyapunov wake with the bright white sun peeking over the hilltops, jumping through their window, warming the walls and the bed and their golden skin.

Lola wraps her arms around him, and buries her head in his neck. “Mrrnu beneewe medit dissarh?” she says, all muffled.

“What’s that?” Eddie asks.

She laughs, and bends her neck back to look up at him. “Can you believe we made it this far?”

His eyes felt like morning dew. “I can.”

“It feels new again.”

“Well, it certainly helps to be reborn.”

Eddie stretches a bit under her, feeling the muscles breathe, and basks in the luxury of no aches or pains as he wraps her in new arms.

“So what is it this year?”

“What is what? Where am I? Who are you?” He feigns confusion, and she has to bomp him on the head with a pillow.

“Your yearly promises. Got your surprise?”

“Maybe you don’t get your secret right away in the morning.” He yawns. “Sheesh.”

“Maybe you ran out, finally.” She pokes him, playfully. “Maybe I’ve finally stolen the last of your mysteries.”

“I doubt it,” he says, drifting back over the years, lost in thought.

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Louise

The funny thing was, Louise couldn’t remember when she had lost her hearing.  Over time things had just gotten quieter and quieter, and before she new it, there was no sound at all.

She sat on the park bench watching stressed out mothers pushing their fussy babies and old men with skinny legs and potbellies huffing and puffing as they jogged along the trail.  The red and yellow leaves fell silently from all the trees.  The leaves used to make a sound as they touched the grass.  Louise closed her eyes tight, trying to remember.  Was it a gentle sound, like someone wrapping a present in tissue paper?  Or was it loud, like heavy rain?

She sighed and opened her eyes.  One of the track-suit-wearing mothers was trying to calm her crying toddler by handing it various stuffed animals which were promptly thrown to the ground.  Louise shook her head and chuckled to herself .  She was grateful she could no longer hear the sound of a screaming toddler.  She couldn’t quite recall the exact sound, but she knew it was an unpleasant one.

A portly middle-aged man wearing a business suit approached Louise’s bench.  He was balding and his eyes seemed to be a little too close together.

Louise watched his lips move, trying to make out what he was saying to her.  His bushy eyebrows went up slightly after he finished talking, so it seemed that he was asking her a question, but she couldn’t make out what it was.  She shrugged at the man and tried to look apologetic.  He shook his head in exasperation and walked off swiftly down the path.

The wind was picking up.  Louise zipped her oversized puffy green coat up to her chin.  She stood up slowly from the bench and stretched her arms over her head.  How long had she been sitting there?  She squinted as she looked at the orange sun starting to sink behind the hill.

Louise began to shuffle slowly down the path toward the concrete shelter.  Her shoes were too big and she had to drag her feet so they wouldn’t fall off.

She entered the women’s restroom in the shelter.  Wet toilet paper and muddy footprints were all over the cement floor and the strong smell of urine filled her nostrils.  A little girl was sitting on the disgusting floor pounding her chubby fists on the ground as tears and snot ran down her face.  Her furious mother pulled at her arm, trying to drag her out of the bathroom.  Louise carefully inched around them and locked herself into one of the stalls.

As Louise peed, she could still feel the vibrations in her feet of the little girl stomping angrily on the floor.

When she stood up, she eyed the metal flusher.  There was a piece of bright green gum stuck to it.  She carefully pressed the flusher with a piece of toilet paper and watched the water swirl around in the bowl until it disappeared.

Her eyebrows furrowed.  She flushed the toilet again, watching for a second time as the water swirled away.  Then she flushed it for a third time.  And then a fourth.

Tears began to well up in her eyes and a smile spread across her face.  She remembered!  As she watched the water disappear down the stained metal toilet, she remembered exactly what it used to sound like.  She could remember the great whoosh of the water swishing around and around in the bowl.  She could remember the satisfied gulp that followed.  And then next was the best part!  The sound of the bowl refilling itself.  She remembered how it always sounded like a chorus singing.  Tears streamed down her face as she watched the water rise and the memory of the toilet’s dissonant harmonies rang loudly in her mind.

Louise laughed to herself as she dabbed her eyes with the toilet paper.  As she exited the stall, she noticed that the crying little girl and her mother had left.  She wasn’t entirely sure how long she had been standing there flushing the toilet.

She pulled open the shelter’s heavy metal door and a gust of cold wind rushed past her ears.  When she stepped outside, the sky was dark purple and the sun was only a red sliver above the hill.

Louise shuffled against the wind back to her park bench.  She smiled contentedly as she lay down for the night, the side of her face touching the cold metal.  She pulled her wool cap over her eyes and drifted off to sleep, knowing that there was at least one sound she would never forget.

 

 

 

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Dan

The Giant and The Princess

I.

There once lived a scary giant, far away up in the sky-lands. On a bedrock of clouds he built his castle, and he lived there with his wife in solitude.

By day, when she went off to work, he would walk the halls of echoing stone, and mutter to himself about all the people, little and big, who’d done him wrong. He’d mutter about the black clouds around him, and found it quite impossible to enjoy much about his easy-going life in the sky.

At night, his wife would come home and cry, and he wouldn’t know what to say. Sometimes, he wouldn’t be able to stop talking. He was sure that if he said the right thing, the world would click together. Other times, the giant would slip into a silence that felt like a magic spell had settled over his castle, and nobody would speak a word aloud there ever again.

II.

No, wait.

There once lived an angry princess, exiled from her country by a conniving duke who stole her true essence from her. For seven upon seven years, she wandered the lands. To survive, the princess sold her jewelry and her books, until the only precious thing she had left was a tiny black vial which she tied with a loop of wire to her neck.

It was whispered that during her travels, she had asked the giant and his wife for lodging, having partly forgotten herself. For she had actually known them before the treasonous act that stole her self away, but could not remember.

No-one across the land knew who the princess was any more, and gradually, as they forgot, so did she. She traveled unknown and unnamed, slipping between the silences and seeking only that which she couldn’t name. All the princess had left was herself and her anger, in a tiny glass vessel that glowed fiercely black around her neck.

III.

Hang on, though. The giant wasn’t really that scary to people who knew him. He didn’t really spend his days in solitude, stalking the echoing halls of his sky-castle. He would go around helping the people in his sky-neighborhood, or at least the giants like him.

But the princess thought that was just a disguise of his true nature, which she saw as filled with an awful angry blackness.

Was that the same spell of black fury that she kept in her vial from childhood, lashed tightly around her neck with a magic wire? We all thought it might be, but we were afraid to say so, for fear she might uncork the darkness and be unable to put it back.

IV.

Hmm, hold up a second.

Didn’t the scary giant actually turn out to be the angry princess’s father? I think that’s what we eventually found out, when we told and re-told this story. And perhaps they knew it all along: that what made the giant so scary turned out to be the same thing that made the princess so angry.

In amongst the murk and mire of life, the princess was mad at the world and wanted to hate the giant. The giant wanted to talk to his daughter, but didn’t know how, and surely couldn’t see why the princess thought he was so scary.

But if you ever spoke to them of it, they would refuse to believe such a crazy thing about the other. And the rancor between them only grew, even though they might have known, deep down, in their heart of hearts, that they weren’t that different.

The giant still held grudges close, which was the main thing that made him so frightening. He could not imagine why the princess held a grudge against him in kind, and this soured his mind and filled him with a dull rage. He could do nothing, and so he paced his halls, letting his anger seep out of him slowly.

The princess had, unfortunately, inherited all of the giant’s smoldering anger, even though it ground her down to admit such a thing. She would clamp her hand around the vial at her neck, gritting her teeth without noticing. She couldn’t talk to him, because their angers were as magnets, like repelling like.

And so it was that the curse kept them both in chains for many years.

V.

So, slow down. I realize that fairy-book stories are supposed to end with something like “They all lived happily ever after,” but this one isn’t completed yet.

And this is more of a thinly-veiled metaphor than a fairy-book story, besides.

We all know what I mean when I talk about the curse of chains.

And I have to apologize to the angry princess and the scary giant, because I don’t know how to help you break out of your chains. I’ve tried. But they’re not my chains to break.

VI.

We get so wrapped up in ourselves, sometimes, that we assume our versions of people are the real thing. We forget that there’s an interpretive distance, a gap in understanding, between what we think about people and how they really are. It’s obvious when you say it, but it’s less obvious when you’re riding a river of emotions, imagining another person and how they will respond to something you say. Something you don’t say. Something you do. Something you failed to do.

So we see others as caricatures. I see a scary giant, a golden fool, a cursed spinster, a sparkling prince, a manipulative step-mother, a deservedly homeless beggar, a cardboard cutout wearing our surface-level sketches.

I get so wrapped up sometimes, it’s hard to move the person and my version of that person apart. There needs to be some space there, so I can squeeze in the admission that I might be wrong about them.

I guess it’s part of being a human. Or part of being a scary giant, or an angry princess, or anything else we manage to make out of each other.

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What am I?

I sit in silence to quiet myself because I cannot quiet the world.

Am I these thoughts? These crazy, sharp-edged, rotating thoughts that chase me from morning to night?

Nah, I say. I’m just me. This skin. These bones. This is all I own. Oh, and maybe this heart.

* strokes chin slowly, as though deep in thought *

Well… that, and all these fucked up thoughts.

Insistent, persistent, ghosts spin and swarm. I feel like I’m losing my mind.

They never let me be.
They never let me see.

They never let me walk.
They never let me talk.

Like tripping over a stone.
Like they’re calling me on the phone.

I want to fly up and see
all the dust an’ glee.
In my heart,
I know they’re not me

But,

They never sit in silence.
Always going on about this
or going on about that.

They’re on my tail.
They’re on my trail.

I know I can’t shake them.
I know I can only be them.
Or maybe they can only ever be me.

The lights are all off
my eyes are closed
and now the world disappears.

My breathing slows,
there’s nothing for a moment.
Now my mind unfolds.

A blue light cast down.
It came from nowhere.
My eyes closed,
my face like stone.

Frozen in time.
Lost in my mind.

There’s nothing there.

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Dan

A Painterly Muse

Black and blue seams stretch through the red sunlight on your eyelids, as you wake up with your head pulsing. You groan in pain and go to push on your temples, but her hands are already there.

Baby, she says. You woke me up with your moans, and, uhh. Not in a good way. Aren’t you taking your meds? I thought you and the doc had it finally figured.

I know I should, but. You stop. The flares look like inverted stars overlapping the morning sun, a brighter black than your mind can handle right now. I can’t. I can’t… explain. I’ll explain. Later.

Even through the haze of the oncoming pain, you know that’s just going to make her angry. It makes you feel even worse when she starts crying instead, and gets out of bed, sobbing.

Don’t cry, you squeeze out through splintering teeth. But your echolocation on her sobs (between the pulses of pounding at your temples) assures you she’s gone.

I guess it’s time I finally come clean, you say. You’re not sure if that came out your mouth or only your mind, but it doesn’t matter.

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Dan

Frequently Asked Questions about The Human Experience™

What even am I?

Although you may not remember agreeing to be a part of The Human Experience™, don’t worry. This is completely normal, part of our “secret sauce” that increases verisimilitude during your time spent as a client in the human state.

I seem to have little to no control over myself. Why?

Yes, this is normal, especially as a developing human. Feelings or emotions can override your experience throughout the client lifecycle. This is by design.

Humans have a multi-modal state of consciousness, where much of the processing happens without their awareness. This functionality is also by design, so don’t worry too much when you don’t understand your own mind! This partially hidden, not-fully-explicable processing is a key factor in our recipe that helps make The Human Experience™ so exciting for our clients.

Why is my body breaking down?

Part of the current iteration of The Human Experience™ includes realistic biological breakdown. The exciting part is, it can happen in so many fascinating ways! You’ll never guess how your human body will fail, and that’s part of why people choose The Human Experience™ time and time again.

Because of the way your consciousness arises from your body’s systems, you will find that your stay in The Human Experience™ is affected directly by changes in your body over time. Pretty neat!

Other humans keep messing with me in strange ways. What’s the deal?

Yes, other clients in The Human Experience™ are just like you. Set in a world of limited resources, with limited understanding of your selves, you are all engaged in a real-time struggle for resources and information! Will you cooperate? Will you war against each other? Only time will tell! Each iteration of The Human Experience™ allows for the full spectrum of interactions.

Why can’t I remember things?

Imperfect memory is a planned feature of The Human Experience™ as well, so don’t worry if you seem unable to remember simple things, even for short periods of time.

Most people choosing the The Human Experience™ enter it at a time partially along the Information Gap, so we recommend using whatever technology is currently available for memory augmentation. These options include writing, computerized search and retrieval, and telepathic off-site storage where available.

Why can’t I forget things I want to forget?

Unfortunately, sometimes the human mind’s subconscious processing will focus on things that you seem to have no control over. In this state, you may be stuck in a loop of sorts, iterating over the same painful memories or the same anxiety-inducing projections.

We recommend using various psychological techniques supported in your timescale of The Human Experience™, such as mindfulness meditation, discussing the issue with other clients of The Human Experience™, or attempting to avoid the loop by focusing your mind elsewhere.

As you have found, it’s not exactly easy to steer the mind you are provided in The Human Experience™. This is an intentional feature to keep things exciting and fresh, but we understand that it causes quite a lot of confusion to the clients. Good luck!

Why do I suffer?

All suffering is relative; you can easily compare your current level of suffering in The Human Experience™ with others in your timescape to see where your level of suffering lies in relation to the average. Unfortunately, our lawyers have not allowed us to include the full meta-ethical reasoning behind why The Human Experience™ includes so much suffering in this FAQ. You will be able to discuss this in more detail after your time in The Human Experience™ is complete.

Okay, fine, but why is it that other humans cause so much suffering?

“Other humans”, referred to in this document as clients of The Human Experience™, are dealing with the same confusing multi-modal mental structure as you. We can agree to mark most inter-species struggles down to the bizarre outcomes of evolution, and most infra-species competition may also arise from evolutionary drives, but at the most abstract level you may find humans still cruel for no visible reason.

This emergent cruelty is part of the challenge you will find in The Human Experience™! The learning process of overcoming this is the core reason why The Human Experience™ is so compelling after all this time.

But we truly are sorry about all the suffering; see the above question for legal limitations of our FAQ.

Doesn’t this FAQ’s very existence threaten the verisimilitude of your client simulation, or whatever?

Not really! To use a human phrase, we have “plausible deniability” here at The Human Experience™ which allows us to hide in the shadows of existential doubt. It’s very easy for your mind to say, “This FAQ can’t possibly be hinting at a real thing! The universe we live in wasn’t planned! I’m not in a simulation!”

And so, The Human Experience™ is able to exist at the belief level of a conspiracy theory, un-provable and un-dis-provable. Have fun out there, humans!

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Artifact (k/n)

August 23, 2022 – Calling Out

Wind turbines tumble slowly in the distance as the last light from a setting sun spills over the land.

I race after her, our footsteps in sync, as tiny branches snap under our feet.

She hasn’t let up or sped up and I’m struggling to keep up. It’s like she wants me to stay just a feet steps behind her. Or follow her. But she doesn’t want to get away. Because if she did, she’d already be gone.

Dripping sweat fills the small spaces. Warm, humid air fills the rest. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. God damn it. It’s like she’s a machine. Where the hell is she going?

The few trees that had surrounded us gave way to an open field. Our footsteps are quieter but the crunching of dried grass causes nearby birds to rustle. Crickets have just started to come out.

Now clear of the trees, the turbines grow in size with each step. Standing guard on the plain, each one looks like it was carved out stone, except that they’re spinning. Slowly spinning. Their simplicity and size gives them a certain majesty. Like something ancient or alien or somehow beyond us. We’re getting closer and there’s got to be a hundred of them. I look up to watch a blade and track it’s rotation as it spins around and around. Mesmerized, I lose track of her.

How could I lose her on an open field? There’s no way. She must have just disappeared. What’s happening?

This is not good. I’m afraid of what she’s going to do. I know she has a plan. She’s too smart not to. Something’s going on.

I stop running to listen for her footsteps and because I am too tired to go on. There is nothing. No sounds. Not even crickets.

Shit. I feel something in the air. It’s like low level static electricity. But it’s building. Rising. Now there’s a sound. A rhythmic hum. The dimming-blue sky just entered twilight. I just entered a panic. I’m running out of time.

The rhythmic hum is now a ratcheting pulse. It’s getting louder. The air is prickly with electricity. I hear some sort of metal on metal sound just beyond a slight hill. It’s only a few seconds run away.

I run to it as fast as I can. Out of breath, I made it to the top of the hill. Up ahead in a little valley a fog starts to slide down the hillsides. It’s collecting around a metal antennae or something. I have no idea what it is. But it’s big and it’s doing something.

The sound has gotten louder. It’s almost unbearable. It reaches a high-pitched squeal, then shoots a massive pulse of electricity into space.

What the fuck?! I’m too late. What did she do?

Now I see her. She’s walking toward me.

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