Sunday, January 3, 2016

Vestigial Surreality: 04: Aajeel

The Sunday SciFi Fantasy Serial, Free Online Fiction, Mystery, Ancestor Simulation, Digital World, Data is Data
episode FOUR
01 02 03 04 05 06 07
08 09 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49


Mr. Kronoss sat on the edge of a picnic bench, his briefcase upon his thighs, and produced a fat envelope from an inner suit pocket. He unfolded the envelope on the tabletop of his briefcase, grasped inside the envelope, pinched some grain in his fingertips, and tossed it to the already gathering pigeons at his feet. The picnic table was mostly surrounded by a small hedge, and yet Mr. Kronoss had a clear view across the park, and was able to watch as the young man, Jack, sped about doing racing sprints, like a young fool. Mr. Kronoss, bemused, almost smiled. But he was mainly watching the older man, Colton, and his almost smile vanished in the straight line of his lips. He returned his gaze to the birds, and sprinkled more of the white grain.
Illustration by Harrison Christian Larsen
Illustration by Harrison Christian Larsen ©2016 - Vestigial Surreality: FOUR

There was a chuckle from behind him. Mr. Kronoss nodded slightly, not looking away from the bobbing and pecking birds about his shiny black shoes.
“Please,” Mr. Kronoss said softly, watching the birds, “have a seat, Aajeel.”
“I am surprised to find you out here in the open, Mr. Kronoss. And feeding rice to pigeons,” the very tall, very thin man said, coming around the table, seating himself next to the dapper businessman. Aajeel was ancient, and angular, cheekbones jutting starkly. His silvery gray eyes twinkled as he scooted a pigeon away with a ratty dark sneaker. The old man was dressed in a hodgepodge of odd, faded clothing.
They sat in silence for a while. The park was noisy and green, and life flitted all through it.
“I see that Jack just happened to meet Colton, out here in the park, all quite by chance,” Aajeel chuckled.
“I did not arrange the meeting,” Mr. Kronoss said, his eyes flicking over his half-lens spectacles, both watching the birds and Jack and Stacey across the park. “And I am not certain I like it, how certain aspects are evolving.”
“All patterns,” Aajeel said. “But no, I can see that you would not arrange their meeting. It is all part of the pattern.”
“I do love that scene in A Beautiful Mind,” Mr. Kronoss said, “where John Nash speculates on the underlying programming of the pigeons, and how he can almost grasp the math, he knows it is there, all zeroes and ones, and yet it all plays as the delusion of schizophrenia.”
“You are thinking of The Matrix, one of the movies, I believe the second, but they are all blurred into one movie for me, but the one when the Oracle explains to Neo the underlying programming, even onto the seemingly random patterns of pigeons.”
“Am I?” Mr. Kronoss said, glancing at the bedraggled street person sitting next to him. “It is possible, I do enjoy those movies.”
“Yes, you are linking the patterns from the two movies,” Aajeel nodded. “Perhaps the same pattern.”
“It is true,” Mr. Kronoss said, scattering rice as more pigeons alighted nearby. “I do enjoy that about them, how they grasp at the shadows, how they almost understand, and they work these inklings into their movies, all rather…delightful, wouldn’t you agree?”
Aajeel snorted. “Yes, it is delightful. If you would loosen up a bit, I think you would find them delightful, as well.”
“I must remind you, these—all of them—these are the destroyers, and that is our reason for being here,” Mr. Kronoss whispered.
“No. I must remind you, my dear Mr. Kronoss. These are the creators. All of them. Each goes about with a universe spinning inside each skull. Each a universe unto themselves. And in each we find hope, and that is the reason we are here.”
“Must you ever reduce this to the elephant and the ass?” Mr. Kronoss said, but his shoulders slumped, only a fraction. He looked directly at Aajeel. “We have to do something about the girl.”
“Oh, Mr. Kronoss,” Aajeel said lightly, “leave her alone. Now, she is a delight. Pure delight. Have you not noticed? The way she luxuriates in everything, her joy? The way she paints everything, conjures everything, and notices everything?”
“I find her a bit too nosy,” Mr. Kronoss said. “I do not like her. Very irritating.”
“As ever, we need that, perhaps most of all, her curiosity. We need her, and more like her, and so you will leave Sandra alone. She is one of mine,” Aajeel said, smiling, nodding his head, staring directly at the businessman.
“I will agree that she is certainly a Seven,” Mr. Kronoss said, “and the Sevens are always troublemakers.”
“Oh, yes, on that we agree. I never argue with you for the sake of argument, Mr. Kronoss. I believe, ultimately, that you and I are working together, for the same thing.”
“Not for the sake of argument, but I disagree with you. I rarely agree with you.”
“It is a myth,” Aajeel said.
Mr. Kronoss looked at him.
The thin old man nodded with his silver-stubbled chin.
Mr. Kronoss glanced at the ever-moving pigeons.
“Rice kills pigeons,” Aajeel said. “A myth.”
Mr. Kronoss chuckled. “Yes, how do such oddities work their way into the common consciousness?”
“Usually it starts as a joke,” Aajeel replied, as if he thought the man next to him was part of the discussion.
“But is it a myth?” Mr. Kronoss queried, innocently, not looking away from the birds.
“Oh, my dear Mr. Kronoss,” Aajeel said, sadly, “don’t do that.”
Several of the birds were keeling over, looking bloated.
Mr. Kronoss abruptly stood. “Sometimes the urban myth is not the product of paranoia, insanity, delusion, and sometimes the myth becomes reality.”
Aajeel watched him go, the umbrella tucked beneath the businessman’s arm pointing back at Aajeel like a threat.
He looked again to the birds, where more of them were dropping and puffing.
“I agree that sometimes myth is reality,” Aajeel, “but not today.”
He fluttered his fingers at the birds. “Go on, away, to your patterns.”
Every bird lifted from the grass and flew away as if upon the same wing.
Aajeel retrieved the empty envelope from the ground and smoothed the paper. He read the words typed in the space usually reserved for an address.
“Oh, yes,” Aajeel said, chuckling. He glanced to the end of the table and smiled warmly, nodding as if someone stood there. “It is perfectly all right. Just time, that is all you need. Do not be afraid, enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid.”

Douglas Christian Larsen

Newbury entered the common area. It was a small gathering room with minimal attempts at friendliness and warmth. In fact, there were seven small round tables, each one with two plastic chairs scooted close. That was it, other than a small television screen on the wall, a sink with a coffee pot, and a small refrigerator. Obviously, the people running this program were not pushing for a whole lot of socialization among the Voyagers. Not too touchy-feely.
She was not surprised to see Number Six hunched over the small round table the farthest away from the entrance. She had never met him before and knew nothing about him, and from here he looked like a skeleton propped at the table. A trembling skeleton, because she could discern the trembling spasms shaking his entire body.
She went to the coffee pot and got herself a Styrofoam cup of black coffee. She smelled it. Yes, it smelled good, but the fact was, it just didn’t smell real. The cup in her hands did not seem real. Even without tasting it, she just knew it was going to be bad. At least it was hot, it warmed her, and she felt truly cold.
Newbury bore her coffee like a relic and took the seat facing Number Six, the chair screeching on the polished floor as she sawed it backward and then forward.
“Huh-huh-hey!” he stuttered, or more likely he was exhaling and his teeth were chattering at the same time. He was bony, with bright blue eyes, and a tight crew cut that clearly showed his scalp.
Newbury inhaled, staring at the young guy, who had to be about her age, but there was something in his eyes or in the expression around his eyes that made him seem much older. But he positively glowed with good health, his skin almost seemed to shine.
“Hello Number Six,” she said, sipping at the coffee. It was not bad. It was strong at least, but nothing like the real coffee she sipped only a half-hour before. “I’m Seven.”
“Huh-hoping s-s-someone would come out,” he said, smiling, his teeth seeming too white, as if lit from within, on fire. “I nuh-knew the-the-the last nuh-Number suh-Seven. They must always go for beautiful girls.”
Newbury snorted. “Funny,” she said. “You’re the first Voyager I’ve met. I’m Voyager Novice, Number Seven.”
She found she had to be careful, because she almost started stuttering, perhaps in sympathy. She didn’t know if Six had a mental condition, or was just cold. But staring at him, looking into his too-big eyes, she knew something was very wrong with him.
“Ruh-ruh-read your suh-stats,” he said, gritting his teeth. Yes, he decidedly was making an effort. “Suh-sorry, just so duh-duh-damn cuh-cold.”
His teeth literally chattered. Newbury doubted she had ever heard anyone chatter like that, like a stage-play version of a freezing man, or a freezing skeleton. The same with the stuttering, it was almost as if Six was pretending to stutter, although Newbury knew, instinctively knew this was not the case.
“You are suh-so beautiful,” he breathed, staring at her, his eyes traveling over her hair and face and eyes and looking over her body, making her utterly uncomfortable.
“Stop saying that,” she said, looking away from him. She feared he might suddenly bite her. “I’m not beautiful, I know that, it’s just something that the chamber is doing.”
“The the the chuh-chamber,” he began, taking so long to get his words out, she had to interrupt him.
“Let me go get you a blanket, or something else warm, just keep drinking your coffee,” she said and without giving him time to reply (it would probably take him an hour) she dashed away. At her chamber she looked in the wardrobe that was part of the whole unit, a small closet behind the desk. She found her old white hoodie, and thankfully, two neatly folded blankets. She rushed back to Six and enfolded him in the blanket, tucking it beneath his arms and folding an edge up to go over his head like a monk’s hood. Thankfully, it was a large blanket, possibly a queen size, and she was sure to get the blanket in and around his legs, and Six complacently lifted each leg in turn to allow her access, and she tucked everything tightly around his ankles.
She had intended to give him her hoodie, but she too was feeling desperately cold, so she slid into it and zipped it all the way up to the top, and pulled up the hoodie over her head, tucking back her hair from around her face. She wrapped the second blanket about herself and returned to her seat facing Six.
“Thuh-thanks,” he said, “feels better.” He guzzled the coffee and when he set the cup down she saw that it was empty, and she hurried to refill his cup. She wished she could do it here, like she did in the chamber, just gesture, or even think, and the most marvelously brewed cup of coffee would be there, in her hand, with honey, and cinnamon, and yes, ginger. Heck, she wished she could get a good cup of coffee like she did in the chamber, you know, the real stuff, and then she laughed at herself. She slid the refilled cup under Six’s drooping head.
“Thanks,” he said, and it finally sounded as if his body was calming down, that the stutter was subsiding. “Never been so cold,” he said, each word deliberate and slow, oh yes, he was concentrating on saying just the words, and not the echoes, containing the reverberations. Without looking at her, he continued, “I wasn’t flattering you. You are beautiful. Stunning. Part of it is the chamber, of course, it was originally created as a beauty treatment, a mechanical spa.”
“Seriously?” she queried, as she had never heard anything about the chamber itself. She figured it had all been about the virtual reality, the high-tech environments a creative person could summon, almost effortlessly.
“Now, of course,” he continued, speaking ever so carefully, “it is all about the VR, but they are still developing the healing aspects.”
“Are you talking about cosmetic surgery?” she said, feeling a little sick, as she absolutely never would have enlisted for some kind of beautifying experiment, some kind of plastic surgery for the extremely wealthy.
“You know how you can defrag your computer?” he said.
“Sure.” She was big on running diagnostics on her various computers, keeping them in tip-top shape.
“Basically, same idea, only with our cells,” he said, draining the coffee and plunking down the cup. He burped, loudly, the kind of belch that only males seemed to truly enjoy, as if they were accomplishing something worthy of praise. “Oh, that feels good, to be human like that. Remember that, when in doubt, belch, and loudly.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she said, pulling her blanket close about her. “So they are rewriting our, what, our DNA? Our molecules?”
“Pretty much, yeah, although I don’t know the technical details, but they are reconfiguring us, but at a far deeper level than what happens when you defragment your computer. I’ve talked about it with a couple of the other VVs, and I guess we just pooled our ideas, and what we’ve learned, or guessed, really, and yeah, they are combing through the whole of us, putting us in perfect order, removing cancer cells, free radicals, all that crazy stuff.”
“Come on, that’s not possible, not yet,” she said.
“And where you just came from,” he said, grinning at her mischievously, “that is possible? Come on, remember, this is the lesser thing.”
She didn’t answer. That was true, it was inevitable that she had to awaken to some degree over the past week, because nobody she knew, not even the ultra tech geeks, none of them had any idea that what she was experiencing, this brave new world, was anywhere near current technology standards.
“And the thing of it is, what I just told you, that’s the passé stuff, you know, it’s old news, I don’t think they really care about it, you know, to use it to cure all the diseases of the world; now I think it is just a byproduct of the VR, you see? Something positive to do with your body while it lies there, all prone and unmoving. So that you do not deteriorate, but in fact you improve. Haven’t you noticed, when you come out of the chamber, you feel like you can run a marathon? Well the stupid thing is, you could run a marathon, that’s the kind of shape you are in right now. We have the bodies of athletes, at least, I’m talking about high-endurance athletes, the ultra-marathoners, and such.”
“You said VV, that you talked about these things with other VVs?”
“Sorry, the acronyms on everything. Voyager Veterans. Most of them are gone, I think, at least from looking at the LED stats. As clearly as I can now think, and let me tell you, before I entered the chamber for the first time, my IQ was above 150, but I can tell, it is much higher than that now, I can think unlike I’ve ever thought before, I must be in the 170s.”
“Probably body fat,” she said, thinking. Why we are so cold.
“Yes, yes, I am there with you, we have absolutely no body fat, I mean it must be somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 percent,” he agreed, smiling his too-toothy smile. “Did you know I checked, last month, and all the fillings in my teeth are gone, they are all perfect, and I think my wisdom teeth are back in my mouth, if you can believe it,” he said, talking faster and faster. “All my scars are gone, in fact, when you get a chance, check, you won’t even have a navel any more!”
“Hey,” she said, leaping into his pause, because it now seemed if she didn’t stop him, he would talk endlessly, increasing in speed as he went. She placed her hand on his wrist and he yelped and jerked away from her hand.
He clasped his wrist with his other hand.
“Careful, you burned me!”
She looked at her hand.
“It’s okay,” he said, “I’m sorry. I should have said something, I should have told you, that your blood circulation is much better now and without body fat you are giving off incredible amounts of heat. The VNs, uh Voyager Novices, they like to screw around like that, giving each other monkey burns, but just by touching each other.”
“Have you experienced anything weird in there?” she said.
“In there?” he queried, looking kind of dense for someone with an imagined 170 IQ.
“In the chamber, in the world, you know, have you run into anyone, or has anyone, or anything, oh I don’t know—communicated with you?”
“What, do you mean like—agents, like in The Matrix?”
She did not reply, only stared into his eyes. Yes, she could read loads of intelligence in his eyes, but probably not to the levels he was exaggerating. She felt he probably came into this thing with an IQ of 130, and was probably now hitting 140, because she had a native 170, and knew that her mind was improving in such a short period of time. Where could she go, if she became an Elder Veteran? A Voyager Elder Veteran, yes, that was her goal, to see how high she might climb. She could probably exercise her brain, deliberately work to improve her mind, yes, that was a worthy goal.
“No,” he said, “nothing so dramatic. Why, what happened to you?”
“Someone let me know that he was aware of my…presence. And then when I went back to check, a very different individual actually communicated. He actually talked to me, as if he could see me.”
Number Six leaned forward, mesmerized. “What did he say?”
Newbury nodded. Yes, she remembered it perfectly, as if she had written it down, memorized it, even though she had only heard it once, briefly, in passing, just before she again disconnected and came out here to meet Number Six.
“It is perfectly all right. Just time, that is all you need. Do not be afraid, enjoy yourself. Don’t be afraid.”
Number Six lifted his eyebrows and grinned.
“Well, that’s not so bad. I mean, he might have said: You are the One! Or, I am your father!”
“Maybe…you are invited to Hogwarts?”
“Or, no, yeah, yeah, it’s all a video game!”
“It’s a movie, but here is a golden ticket…”
He flicked his eyes at her, giving her the expression of duh, and said: “You just lost me, and we were doing so, so good.”
Last Action Hero, Schwarzenegger, screenplay by William Goldman?”
“Would have preferred The Purple Rose of Cairo. Oh hey, Goldman wrote The Princess Bride, right? Love that movie.”
Newbury smiled a subtle smile, nodding.
“Listen Seven,” Six said, “what we are doing, the nature of it, we are having some massive alone time, you know? We tend to get weirded out, hell, when you came in, I was pretty much a useless junkie. We are going so much deeper than anyone ever attempted in an old-time isolation chamber. What you experienced was just a coincidence.”
“A coincidence,” Sandra Newbury said, smiling that subtle smile again.
“So don’t get freaked out. Like the guy told you, just time, that’s all you need. Enjoy yourself. Don’t get scared. Just stop freaking out.”

Douglas Christian Larsen

Stacey rapped his knuckles on the tabletop. Jack looked up at him, and it was obvious, the kid was terrified. Stacey swallowed, grinning to himself. He knew exactly how the kid felt.
“Jack, don’t freak out. Don’t be afraid. All we need is some time. Hell, let’s enjoy this, okay, it’s an adventure! Don’t be afraid.”
Stacey meant it, but he could not deny that his own heart was pounding in his chest, and he felt immersed in a cool, tingling pool of unreality. The fact was, he did not know this kid, and all the surreal coincidences aside, he really could just jog away from here (who was he kidding, he would probably have to limp away, suffering an asthma attack, there would be no more jogging for him, at least not in the next week). But he wasn’t going anywhere, there was something about this kid, something more than coincidence, or a shared weird experience. For the first time in a very long time, Stacey felt like a puzzle piece had snapped into his chest. As terrified as he felt, he also felt whole.
“It’s cool,” Jack said, his teeth actually chattering. But he didn’t feel at all like he had earlier tried to explain, that God was winking at him. That the mechanical universe was sending him a message. Instead, it felt like he was in a dark maze, and a large alien eyeball was peering down, staring at him, piercing him with the laser beam of its pupil.
Just then a whole flock of pigeons came fluttering down around them and began pecking in the grass, as if a wedding party had just passed and the ground was white with rice.
Stacey watched the birds for a few moments, half grinning.
“What did you think, just then, when the birds came down?” Stacey queried.
Jack looked at him for a moment, blankly, and then his devilish smile appeared. He wagged a finger at Stacey and looked at the birds.
“I was thinking that you are not supposed to throw rice at weddings, because it makes the birds explode,” he said, lifting his eyebrows, looking back to Stacey.
“Pretty close, my friend. Pretty close.”
“But,” Jack said, still grinning, “you do know that’s a myth, right?”
“Yeah,” Stacey said, “but then again, I wouldn’t put it past someone, some joker, to mix Pop Rocks with the rice.”
Jack guffawed. “I still doubt that would do anything. Do birds even have saliva? Ever seen a bird spit, before?”
“I need coffee,” Stacey said, “before I bumped into you I was heading to—”
“The Coffee Dump?” Jack said, and laughed at Stacey’s expression. Then he displayed his own coffee cup, revolving the cup until the logo showed: a dump truck emptying a load of giant coffee beans.
“I’ll treat,” Stacey said, shaking his head.
“I’ll order for you. You’ve just got to have this drink,” Jack said. “I mean, the bad thing is, I think it is actually good for you!”
“The bad thing, that coffee is good? Coffee?” Stacey gasped. “Did reality change again? First, it’s good for you; then it’s bad, then it’s good for you. I forget where we left off. Good or bad?
“This coffee will make the lights come on,” Jack said, hefting his backpack and setting off beside his new friend, the older man slightly limping.

01 02 03 04 05 06 07
08 09 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 32 33 34 35
36 37 38 39 40 41 42
43 44 45 46 47 48 49
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Vestigial Surreality by Douglas Christian Larsen

Illustrations by Harrison Christian Larsen, story by Douglas Christian Larsen
© Copyright 2016 Douglas Christian Larsen. Vestigial Surreality. All Rights Reserved by the Author, Douglas Christian Larsen. No part of this serial fiction may be reproduced (except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews) or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the publisher, Wolftales UNlimited, but please feel free to share the story with anyone, only not for sale or resale. This work is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events, is purely coincidental (wink, wink).

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related terms, ideas, works:
ancestor simulation, digital ark, salvation of humanity,
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the singularity, the butterfly effect, simulated reality, matrix,
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the dream place, waking from a dream, ready player one,
hologram, holodeck, saturn, saturnalia, cycles of time,
simulacron-3, daniel f. galouye, counterfeit world,
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Victor Frankenstein, Nikola Tesla, genius
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william gibson, neal stephenson, serial,
cyberpunk, dystopian future, apocalypse,
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