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003

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Art by Jack Jerz.

This is the third part in a fictional series I have been publishing at Ordinary Times. Parts One and Two can be found at the respective links.

 

6.

I know what you’re saying. And the philosophical implications of this are the elephant(s) in the room. Fate – still doesn’t exist. There’s been a lot of argument on this topic since chemical time travel first came out. The reason the times where the pill puts you in the brain-states of your own future descendants suck so much is not because everyone’s future sucks and is mundane and emotionless and the same for everyone. It’s because it’s more difficult to predict what will happen than to know what has happened. Especially if it’s recent, you get a pretty accurate representation, at least compared with the accounts of actual living older relatives of users in like double-blind, controlled experiments or whatever. The stuff has only been around for so long and it still hasn’t really made it mainstream or at least as mainstream as I seem to think it could get, which is like whole world, brain-in-a-vat mainstream; so there hasn’t been much empirical data on what kind of predictive power there is. But can you imagine, if like we know who the President is and we can give some chemical time travel to his illegitimate child and find out what the Russians are up to in 2063?

So what’s this stuff that we’re about to take?

This is pretty heavy sensory material. Controlled hallucination type-stuff, sixth generation, post-intuitive. I guess we never really covered this in my introductory talk on what we’re doing this weekend. So, basically they found ways to program sensory experiences into chemical time travel combined with the intuitive grasp of random facts and experiences that the second generation stuff had the effect of doing, which is really what any good drug does, right?

But are we even taking drugs? This seems different.

No, I agree. I mean Harvard professors do this shit, and it doesn’t make you eat off your own arm or rot your brain or anything. There’s definitely some stuff that you’ll lose in the process, like one guy I know suddenly forgot how to tie his shoes right after he came back from it, but he lucked out and had an awesome experience playing in the NBA Championship – I guess it turned out one of his ancestors was a basketball player or something – so that was worth having to relearn how to tie his shoes. But, this other guy I know is a translator from Portuguese to English, and he completely forgot Portuguese.

 

7.

I’ve just been floating through life like a wraith since Gerard died, and my legs aren’t what they used to be. I fell down the stairs six months ago, and the doctors want me to go through rehab, but I can’t abide it. I’m old and lonely and I just want to die. There’s no reason for me to be here anymore. Some things still give me some pleasure. Just today, the waiter at the restaurant where Linda had her baby shower was so handsome, with his long, wavy hair, like some horseback rider from a kind of fantasy from long ago, leaning over the table, I could almost feel the heat from his chest bursting out from his unbuttoned top button. He poured me coffee – only half a cup – I can’t have much more, and I sat there staring at it, hypnotized by the swirl of the liquid, thinking of him loving me, taking care of me, working for me, and me, in turn loving him, taking care of him, working for him; I sat there lost in the currents of fresh cream that Julie’s niece poured into my coffee for me, not even caring that she poured way too much and what are people going to think about her if she doesn’t care so much as to pour cream into someone who doesn’t like cream’s coffee. This little escape today was enough to sustain me for a little bit until I remembered again that my time is passed and the baby shower or whatever these girls do nowadays or whatever it’s called for my granddaughter is why we are here.

Suddenly I felt myself being whisked away and spun around and looking out at this big pile of gifts next to my granddaughter who looked beautiful pregnant like all the women of our family do and thinking back to when her mother was born and just how much things have changed, and I found myself in this place able to forget about Gerard for just a few hours and what a dream that was, but the pain afterwards was unbearable as I sat back in my small apartment alone with no one to take care of me but Jason and Patricia and Devonne and all the others that mean well but just go through the motions. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t allowed Barbara to get so far away from me. We should have stayed forever in the country and away from the sticky traps of civilization, four generations under one roof, taking pleasure in each other, just like the Pennsylvania Dutch. Instead we let ourselves fall into it, and now, I quietly pay the price while Julie and Barbara remain unaware of it. But really I’ve got nothing to complain about, although I do, just to make conversation more than anything.

I can’t read anymore. The letters hurt my eyes, but I watch television and stretch my imagination a bit and this gets me through each day.

Oh, God, how much I miss him.

 

8.

So, again, maybe I’m missing the point. I mean, it’s pretty amazing that we can take a pill that allows us to “time travel” and have “real experiences”, but can’t we just have real experiences by going out and doing stuff? Can’t I experience the feeling of preparing my whole life for success at work and then having it by preparing my whole life for success at work and then having it? Can’t I experience sex with Wilt Chamberlain by paying some dude to do me and imagining he’s Wilt Chamberlain? That was a pretty gross example, but I’m kind of put off by this a little. Oh, and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to tie my shoes or unlearning Portuguese or whatever.

Well, in short, you can do that stuff, but you’ll have to wait a long time and you might not even get there. What if something comes along and you never experience success financially? Plus, Wilt Chamberlain is no longer with us.

Well then I guess it was never meant to be.

See, now you sound like an idiot. Are you a fate fighter or something?

Name-calling isn’t going to make me change my mind. I’d rather go out and actually have real experiences, and if you think that makes me an idiot, I think you’re a lazy coward for taking pills to have experiences about stuff that you don’t deserve to experience.

So now you’re insulting me.

Yeah, you’re the one who opened that door. I’m just better at it.

And you’re the one who’s leaving it shut because you’re afraid of what’s on the other side. Coward.

 

9.

It was very happy seeing the duckies with the mama ducky and all the baby duckies go behind across the street and into the pond and swimming so cute. I got my Mickey Mouse camera and take a few snapshots which I’m gonna take to CVS next weekend with Mommy to get ‘veloped. My Mickey Mouse camera was a Christmas present and I got it and spend the entire day finding things to take pictures of, mostly the neighborhood’s dogs and our dogs and Christmas presents. But when we started open presents, I had already gone through two rolls of film and Daddy was angry at me for asking for more. So right now, seeing the duckies and having a full roll of film just feels so good. It’s kinda cold though because it’s already October, and the leaves are already starting to turn red and orange and yellow and I just have my Patriots windbreaker on over my dress.

 

10.

There is much to be said for the practicality of Alfred Nobel’s invention in a world of human error and impotence, where attempts to craft complex, deterministic systems often fail…He was just finishing up a rambling lecture about dynamite.

The lecturer continued…there are two major paradigms for systems.  For our purposes, we’ll define “system” as anything which requires the coordinated action of two or more entities.  The first type is the deterministic system, and the second is the emergent system.  The distinction between these two systems is not essential, but relative: both are functions of time.  In a deterministic system, individual agents may fluctuate, but all eventually converge to one collective purpose.  In an emergent system, points continue to fly apart from each other.  

Notice that all of this is a description of what we observe from our particular vantage point in the universe.  What we describe as emergent may very well be deterministic for some other life form – a longer-living humanoid perhaps or the Gaia of which we’re all a part.  And it’s not too bold a claim that an ant can’t understand how a picnic might be deterministic. 

Since these two descriptions are functions of time, our classification of systems as deterministic or emergent is arbitrarily correlated with the perception of time unique to the human species and by extension our particular culture.  Really, in terms of essential structure, there is no difference between a firework, a human being, and a coffee cup except in the vector at which the individual components of the system fly apart… 

He finished speaking, exited the lecture hall to languished applause, and began dialing a number on his cell phone.  For some time, he had known that if he could only gain full mastery of the real properties underlying systems, he could bring her back.  This near-impossible goal was still very far away, but he was getting closer every day.  For now, he was satisfied with a life of wild experimentation in order to discover the larger properties of systems even if it meant only baby steps towards his impossible dream.

He predicted the news reporters would get there within nine minutes forty-two seconds this time.  The survivors would scream in horror while witnesses remained in shocked silence.  Blood would pour out of wounds in the kinds of patterns that could be read by experts.  Cracks in glass would radiate outward in the shape of giant spider webs.  Collapsing cement would cascade on itself like a train picking up speed…

…The explosion sent debris outwards in all directions.  The clusters of particles that had once been a regular, cubic office building were now the components of a complex system flying swiftly through the air to set off magical events defying prediction.

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