[Estimated reading time: 14 minutes]

[This is a work in progress.]

The truth is, there's something terribly wrong with this world, isn't there? Daily, people are jumping into the Acid Pit, or are diving off skyscrapers and as they fall they shoot any MedAssist drone that comes near, or they go for a swim in the Thames. They all die, and they are happy as they are doing so.

What the hell is going on? Where is everyone going?!

My investigation begins in my own backyard, the City. I go for a walk, pound the pavement, kick a wailing Nazi down to the wild applause of my adoring public, enjoy running from a mob of terribly-transformed Hitler clones (how else do I get cardio in?!), and eventually find myself on the bank of the intra-city canal. What occupies the canal would fascinate any scientists still left in the City, seeing as how it's neither liquid nor solid, moves at a constant rate and keeps muttering boy-band lyrics, but thankfully no scientists are around. I note that down.

"The City doesn't call out to the curious nerd, it calls out to the unwashed masses who spend 23.75 hours in front of the mediatron, a tube of constantly-moving HealthyGoo squirming down a tube from the InstaMaker3000 straight into their mouths." Yeah, that sounds good.

I sit at the edge of the canal, my feet dangle two hundred feet over the glow-in-the-night migrating surface, and I type up the research for my next column. Half a mile across the canal, a procession of white-clad singers (or is it sinners?) are shuffling slowly toward the great precipice. My glasses zoom in on the smiling faces of the congregants, I take a picture of every one of them. The line is orderly, there's little wait, and three priests are saying the last words quickly enough that the whole process takes about thirty seconds per congregant, who in turn transform into some sort of white bird as they make their final plunge. Smoke marks their resting place for a few breaths - as each suicide is digested by the canal, I breathe in the cancer-filled air and pretend that their smokey presence is entering my lungs - but by and large the City politely ignores these Christians. They come and go, and all that the City does is to collect a toll.

I call down a drone and use it to hop across the canal. The Christians see me approaching and high-tail it out of there. They've got jet units under those white robes!

Lunch is a dolphin blow-hole with fried lizard tails. The suicides at the canal made me all nostalgic and I was hankering for some home cooking, so of course I stopped off at the Frying Dutchman. (Ad money please!)

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A wake

[Estimated reading time: 9 minutes]

"It's a beautiful day for a wake!", some demented part of me says.

"You're not wrong..." I think in response. White billowing clouds, far below us, extend to the horizon. Can't even see the ground today. Multiple wagons cross the pitch-perfect sky overhead and I follow them with my eyes. A shuttle bursts through the cloud cover and blows past at supersonic speeds, a long column of white trails behind it. I wonder where it's going, what kind of a journey it's on.

Coffee comes out of the maker right on time. I grab the mug and take it out onto the balcony, and shiver in the morning's chilly air. I tie the bathrobe around me a bit tighter and hold the warm mug in both hands, allow myself to steal some heat from the breakfast of champions. I stay outside and watch the clouds until I've finished my first cup of coffee.

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[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

Photographs are like portals to worlds that don't quite exist. They are static snapshots of an endlessly-moving world, an impossibility that can leave us pondering reality.

Let's say you're sitting in your quiet living room and someone hands you a photograph of Robin Williams. It's an image that was immortalized on a particular day, possibly a Wednesday. Robin just had lunch, and you can actually see a few tiny crumbs in his beard, possibly from a Reuben sandwich. There are a million factors that went into the creation of that photo, just like thousands of hours of work go into a two-hour movie. But the most important things about Robin Williams never really made it.

Just think of what the photographer experienced. Robin would have been loud, funny, quirky, probably doing an impression of someone or other scant seconds before the shutter flickered open and closed. The photographer will have experienced Robin Williams in a way that is impossible to convey with a photograph.

Robin Williams is like the ocean, in that regard. If you were looking upon a photo of the ocean, no matter how sharp the lens or high the megapixel count, you'd be missing out on the constant hum of the ocean, the wet air as it caresses your face, the odd sand particle that impacts your cheek, the smell of low tide.

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Beach Bum

[Estimated reading time: 24 minutes]

Today's class is a small one, but it's everyone I know, people who live and work in the Camp. People who want to learn. I show the tourniquet technique, explain the medicine behind it, and they practice on each other. It's the weekly First Aid course and some of my "students" have been around since the beginning.

Since I found myself stumbling, disbelieving, through Venice Beach, just six short months ago, when I came back from Iraq and realized that Venice Beach had turned into a real-life shit-hole. Six months since I was stabbed by junkies looking for an easy target.

Maron, one of my attackers from that first day, is now helping out Angela with the tourniquet application.

I finish up the class, collect the supplies, the students help straighten out the multipurpose room for the next class. We do two minutes of meditation and then everyone scatters. Maron and Angela head off in the direction of the kitchens and I wonder if there's something between them. She's a runaway and he's a former low-level dealer. Together, they seem kind of at peace. I smile and head for the water.

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[Estimated reading time: 9 minutes]

"Squids are super-intelligent, they feel pain, and appear to be conscious. That's what we've recently learned. I read that in 'Nature'," he adds, with a smirk.

I look down at the white ring of flesh at the end of my fork, a piece of calamari from a salad. Jesus, this was a conscious being? I put down the fork and fight an impulse to vomit.

He reaches over and snags a piece with tentacles and chews it loudly. "Yum, the consciousness makes it soooo gooood."

I don't wait around to hear the rest, I stand up and walk out of that restaurant, walk out of that life.

Nate, my now-ex boyfriend, doesn't even stand up, doesn't say a thing. I walk out and he is silent, continues to eat the calamari.

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[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]


It's a great night. We've just finished up the steak and veggie dinner out underneath millions of visible stars. I'm already reclined into a lying position in my camping chair, for all intents and purposes I am completely detached from the conversation. Millie might give me shit later, I wonder, then glance in her direction. Nah, she's good, she's in her element, my presence isn't required.

We're camping with Tony and Elizabeth. Elizabeth's a long-time friend of ours, and Tony is her current boyfriend. They've been together since Christmas, so about eight months now. I give them another four, but can't see Elizabeth settling down with this guy. They're too dissimilar. Which can be exciting. But I've seen her with a few different types, and this seems pretty obvious.

Tony's discussing some mildly-political topic, one which is passingly-interesting to Millie and very important to Elizabeth (judging from their postures), so I tune out once again.

I hold up a large focus disc and look through it. The distant planets are enlarged and stabilized by the internal system of lenses. The disc is a cylinder, about half an inch thick and about three feet across, two hand-holds sit opposite each other. I hold it a bit over my head and pan around. It's like looking up through a lifesaver, one of those circular red-and-white life-saving device.

A flick of a finger turns on the labels, and now I'm looking through the ecliptic, the plane of the solar system that holds most of the matter within it. It's very obvious, once you see it all laid out. Of course the Earth orbits the Sun! Just look at it!

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[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

[Author's note: this is a work in progress]

"What are you willing to heal?"

We pass the tall sign as strong hands hold me up. My feet drag across the bleak-colored floor. I alternate between looking straight up at the exposed wooden beams and back to the floor, as the muscles in my neck refuse to work and my head jostles this way and that. It's dizzying and I want to throw up. Correction, I do throw up. The orderlies call out "clean up in aisle 4!", but don't stop.

The tunnels twist and turn and it feels like we're shimmying up a teal-colored colon, deeper and deeper into the bloated carcass of hope and happiness. The deeper we go, the more unsure the florescent lights become, flickering quicker and leaving us in the darkness for longer each time. I wonder what depth of hell we've reached. Except we never take any stairs or elevator. The orderlies just keep walking and drag my increasingly uncooperative body down miles and miles of depressing hallways.

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A day in the field

[Estimated reading time: 2 minutes]

I stand in the field and watch the world wander by. The high flat clouds come in and leave, bringing with them merciful shade for a short while. A few flocks of birds come and I manage to scare them off.

He walks along the field, checks the drainage ditch, clears out week-old clogs. He waves to Diana as she heads to town in the truck, then continues walking even after she is beyond view, around the field and toward the warehouse at its edge, pulling clogs out of the drainage and random uncaught weeds from the soil.

He drives our ignored-yet-trusty tractor outside and takes close to two hours cleaning it out, spraying out a metric ton of dirt that has accumulated within. Diana comes back around sunset, before he is done, and the surprise in her voice breaks my heart. I want to scream...

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[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

After work I head in the direction of downtown. It's a familiar walk, so I'm half paying attention. It was a hell of a day and I'm just trying not to explode.

Mark honks to break me out of my reverie. He's in his always-shiny cabriolet. I open the passenger door and hop in. It's just four blocks to the bar, but I don't mind his company.

"Hey man, you doing OK? Looking kinda tired, or something," he says as we peel off down the street, at a whopping twenty mph.

"Long day at work," I lie. Mark nods along, he knows the grind. He knew the grind. I look around. "New upholstery?"

"Yeah," he says, dejected. "I left the fucking roof open!"

"In Seattle."

"In fucking Seattle."

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Erebus (Part 4 of Surfers)

[Estimated reading time: 29 minutes]

Previous chapter

Erebus gets a lot of sleep these days. Every morning he wakes up, performs the morning cleaning rituals, re-fluffs the bed, does the three legally-mandated laps in the courtyard, then reads the news. The front page is always the same, so Erebus ignores it: "TRIAL OF THE GALAXY" has a nice ring to it, someone decided a while back, and that is what is usually on the front.

After the news, he takes a long nap. The prison is state of the art, of course, for its unique guest, and for a change Erebus is happy to be sleeping on a flea-less and heated pad. The last weeks of the rebellion were spent shivering in dilapidated buildings and the associated squalor and nastiness of communal living. Escaping the death squads was secondary to getting good sleep, at least in the minds of some.

After lunch and an outside jog, the giant show-guards come and escort Erebus to the courthouse. The prison was built over the course of a week and attached to the courthouse by a see-through tunnel of thick glass. The guards plod along on either side of Erebus and manage to block out the views to either side of him. They're twice as tall as Erebus, each of their paws are as big as his face.

In the tunnel, they talk at Erebus in long sentences mostly composed of swears and idiomatic expressions that all mean pretty much the same thing: "dead asshole walking, step back, dead asshole walking".

They stop talking once the tunnel doors open and reveal a throng of press on the other side. Then it's a short jaunt to the court room. Erebus only hears a handful of curses fly in his direction. Today, it seems, the judge has the courtroom in control once again. Erebus' side still hurts from an attack last week. He still winces when stepping up or down. Thankfully, the entire walk from the prison cell to the courthouse are entirely flat.

Erebus is lead into the defendant corner and is locked in. Out of habit, Erebus wags his tail and turns around once. As he does so, his tail hits the invisible barrier of the booth and a mild shock goes through Erebus. Satisfied that he is locked away, Erebus lies down on the too-small pad and closes his eyes.

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