“Before me”

[Estimated reading time: 5 minutes]

[Note: this is a work in progress.]

I ring the doorbell of the biggest and oldest house on the block, and Doc answers after a quick second, all excitement and joy at seeing me.

"Come in, come in, my boy!"
Doc's hand are long and expressive, waving this way and that, welcoming me into his mansion.
"Perfect timing, I was just getting us all setup."

The first floor of the building is columns and glass doors, and Doc leads us past all of them to his "seating room".
The room is behind a dark-brown door with a faded copper grid over its surface.
Doc slips in a large, ornamental key into an ancient lock, twists and turns it, and ushers me into a well-lit library.
The door locks behind us and I look around.

It's a two-story library, exposed dark wood covers the ceiling, an ornate carpet is on the floor, books cover most of the walls.
Ahead of us is a dark red velvet curtain, it hangs across a doorway.
Chairs and couches adorn the first floor, and a winding metal ladder leads up to the metal ramp that circumnavigates the second floor.
There are a number of fans mounted on the ceiling, and they're all spinning at different speeds.
There's also curtained window on my right, and it is only letting through a mild glow of the afternoon's sun.

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“Brothers in arms”

[Estimated reading time: 16 minutes]

[Author's note 1: this is a work in progress.]

[Author's note 2:
I'm experimenting with "chapter" headings/descriptions.
They're the strange large text, like the one right after this notice.
The individual chunks of writing are clearly too short to be called chapters, but I also don't have a better term for them.
And the separation into "chapters" is helping me with plotting, so I'm going to keep this experiment going for a while.]

Darkness and discovery

Tar imagines an ancient human at night in an unspecified desert setting.
The human stands by a roaring fire and looks out into the dark void all around him.
Something glitters in the dark bushes and the human advances, a burning stick his herald.

Tar fires up the long-range radar and imagines the human holding out the bright torch, bringing a faint bit of light to a dark and empty desert.

"Faint radio signature, possibly from a damaged freight drone," the remote sensors deliver a digested bit of news.
Tar looks deeper and compares the raw data, comes to a similar conclusion.

Tar tells the engines to rotate minutely, digs deep into the firmament, and the space ship Targeted Kindness jaunts toward the target.

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Shonash

[Estimated reading time: 13 minutes]

City lights, memories, time

The not-quite-old man stands at a cliff and overlooks the small gold rush town.
He has the city mapped out in his mind, of course, so this is just a perusing glance to figure out what has changed.
There's construction on 4th, slight change, but otherwise the small town is much the same.

He stands there and tries to imagine the high-rises that will go up in the coming decades, the housing that will eat further into the valley.
The hover car taxis will bring in visitors in droves.
The weather will be controlled.
Someday.

He looks on and ponders the mysteries of time and space from this overlook.
He pops the top on a glass bottle of Coke, sits on the hood and stares down into the growing town.
He pictures the future, the past, all the paths that lead off into an uncertain future.

The kid is out there, somewhere, somewhen.
He hasn't returned, so maybe he succeeded in his mission, maybe he did go back to the future.
The man tries to put those thoughts out of his head, but he is finding that hard to do.

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The Bastard Dreams

[Estimated reading time: 45 minutes]

Author's note:
Spider Jerusalem does not give his permission to be featured in this work of fiction. He is, in fact, currently suing the author of this drivel and any readers of said drivel. Spider will see you covered in pig shit before the week is through!

Curious happenstance, hanging out on the docks, fliers and such

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 inter-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.

"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 cylinder 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 red-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 purple-hatted priests are greeting and saying the last rights quickly enough that the whole process takes about thirty seconds per congregant, who in turn transform into some sort of red bird as they make their final plunge into the canal. 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 bright orange-and-blue jet units under those red 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 stop 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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Photo

[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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Calamari

[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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Glow

[Estimated reading time: 3 minutes]

glow

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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WAYWTH

[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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