Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Insects: Excerpt from a novel in progress

The air is humid. I run and the wind screams passed my ears like a whistle full of steam. There is no direction but forward, like I’m shot from the belly of a plane, face-first and fearless. There is no turning back, no resistance to the inevitable. My legs begin to feel fluid, elastic. I fold into my torso, triggering the wheels in my kneecaps, elbows and wrists. Bending lower my kneewheels hit first, followed by my banded and wheeled hands. The elbows catch the ground simply as a navigational aid, bouncing on and off as needed. The ground flow is slightly uneven and the momentum of my fall leaves me with the need to continue rolling over onto my back. With a simple twist of my shoulders, I tilt and the sensors in my body armor eject wheels out from my shoulder blades, moving my kneewheels down to the heels and projecting a ferrofluid bearing helmet over my scalp. I always feel like closing my eyes for a second or two when I enter this position at such velocity. It’s a long time pleasure that I grant myself every chance I get. Just feeling the motion of the road under my body, I almost drift asleep. But the momentum continues. As the road approaches a right hand turn, I rotate and shoot my left hand out at the ground, gripping tight, pushing off, my legs go over head and for an instant I’m gliding with so much speed, upside down, watching the pedestrians in there civil suits, scornfully bemoaning my invasion in their walk space.
“Watch it there Insect!” One shouts.

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flip the qubit

Shimmy-down the syntax.
Print-out a verbal fax.
Dish-out the dealy-O.
Spit-cast the buffer overflow.
Out-cast the PC lingo.
Bypass the verbal underpass.
Make way for the super-flyway.
Pepper-spray the secret-sauce.

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Neo-Tokyo Towers

I’m up in a skyscraper that scrapes the ionosphere. It’s mostly under construction on the bottom of the tower but it’s all finished and full of people up top. There are escalators everywhere and I’m running down them. My Heely skate shoes come in handy as I round the corner and glide down one of the special wheelchair ramp escalators. It’s totally flat but it moves me faster than I can run. When I hit the bottom of the ramp I grab hold of a metal bar encircling the next escalator and I jump up through the opening that separates the pedestrian walkway from the pedestrian freeway. Now I’m flying. My feet tap every fiftieth step on the electric stairway, just enough to keep my momentum but the angle of descent is enough for me to nearly free-fall down dozens of floors.
Although I’m going fast, I know they are not far behind me, Yakuza, gokudō, but not bōryokudan–this group isn’t violent by nature. I think they just want to question me, why, I don’t know but I’m running anyway. It’s not that I mind answering questions, I just like to answer questions with all my fingers intact at the end of the conversation.
In almost no time at all, I’m nearing the underdeveloped part of the tower. The are no longer any escalators and I must take one of the large elevators they use to cart equipment. It also carries a lot of people on sometimes, like tonight, where countless tuxedo and gown clad citizens celebrate on the roof, gazing at the less distant stars, getting drunk off of the high altitude.
For a second, I worry that they may have someone stationed in the lift. Luckily, they had flown in and landed on the roof. They must not have had anyone come from the ground, yet. The elevator takes me all the way down to the basement level, my ears popping all the way. In the lowest level of the building, there are even more people than on the roof. They are getting ready for a Cirque performance of some kind.
I grab a seat, trying to be inconspicuous. The show starts and immediately I am unimpressed. They have giraffe unicycle magicians catching fine pieces of cloth, which are being projected out of thin air, but I can see a black gloved hand throwing them from behind an even blacker drapery. The contortionists are weak and the jugglers falter.

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Remote Avatar

I’m meeting with a guy from Google. He enters the board room and starts to talk to me about the long flight he just took from San Francisco. There’s something strange in his voice and I don’t quite believe that he just got off a plane.
He quizzes me with a few programming challenges but they are all elementary and I suspect he’s toying with me.
“Well, give me the answers to your questions in a week and I’ll start the evaluation. Then you can take part in whatever project you want or start making whatever project you can imagine.” He says.
“I’ve got some great ideas for Google Calendar,” I exclaim. I’m an eager little puppy. “It should be able to log your life, like sleep and work hours and generate a report for you of what you spend your time doing.” I give him an eyebrow raise, hoping he’ll agree vehemently that I should start modifying the calendar code right now. Instead, he begins to cough.
And cough. And he stands, walking toward the door, coughing more violently.
“I need to call in an engineer!” He says, hurriedly. “I’m sorry for this.”
He heads out the door and around the corner. I follow him and point him the way to the Men’s room. As he rounds the circuitous pathway of the building in search of respite, he continues his expulsion of airy fluids. Even through the walls and back in the conference room, I can hear him. It sounds viscous and hoarse, as if he’s on the verge of exploding his insides out onto the floor. I worry that I didn’t respond quickly enough to his needs. Perhaps he would hold that against me. Perhaps he would not be OK.
Minutes later, he returns with an engineer from Adobe Labs. The engineer is talking to him in a language I don’t understand and looks up at me with disapproving eyes.
“You can stay, but this is confidential.”
“Um, ok, sure…” I’m not really sure to what ‘this’ is alluding.
“Ok, let’s take of the helm…” The engineer says, pulling at the Google man’s chest.
The chest comes off, clean and with a few delicate clicks.
“A robot! AI? But then… He passed the Turing test! I didn’t have a clue!” I’m in shock and I’m mumbling and stuttering.
The Adobe engineer holds up his hands to me. “Don’t freak out, he’s a robot but it’s not AI.”
“I’m actually still in San Fransisco.” Smiles the Google man. “This is a prototype, I thought I give a try. It’s called a Mobile Avatar. I have three of them in different cities around the world. Makes arriving to meetings a bit more bearable–saves fuel, and I get to stay at home :)” He actually draws a smiley face in the air, two dots followed by a swoosh. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a gesticon. It’s the new trend with kids these days. Evidently, Google man wants to be hip.
I marvel at the smoothness of movement and the realism of the robot.
The engineer tinkers with the inside of the Avatar’s chest as he explains, “We realized it wasn’t worth making the AI to go along with our bots, but we could market them as vessels for people to be halfway around the world without actually going anywhere. Our clients, stay at home, step into a suit that picks up on every movement and transfers those signals to this machine.”

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Wild Life

I am trying to be quiet, hiding between some thin trees in the forest. There is a lion somewhere around here and I have evaded him with great care. Just when I start to get comfortable, this giant Turkey-Dog™ growls at me from only a few meters away. I stopped eating mammals years ago. The genetic similarities with humans are too great and it feels too much like cannibalism. Something about meat growing hair and having live birth just doesn’t taste right to me anyway. I’ve wrestled with the notion that these lab grown Turkey-Dog™ types are not really mammals. Even though they have a head of a dog, they still lay eggs and are covered (even on the head) in feathers.

While I’m pondering if my hunger is great enough to attempt to eat this thing–assuming I can stop it from eating me, the beast starts to dig in the ground with it’s thin, sharp talons. Everything in this forest is ravenous. I can hear the sweet little birds in the trees, muttering to each other and placing bets. They would be frothing with hunger if they could.

Time is up. The Turkey-Dog™ runs at me and I have no choice but to scamper backwards through the loud autumn leaves. They crunch under my feet and I am certain the lion will hear us. Maybe I can outrun my pursuer and leave him to the lion.
I turn, facing the direction of my departure and notice a shallow but frantic stream. Wading into it, the water attempts to topple me over. I’m too big to succumb to the furious but diminutive rapids but the Turkey-Dog™ is not. He follows me in and is quickly and unwittingly pulled in by the stream. He isn’t drowning but he can’t fight away the water, which is carrying him swiftly away from me. I trudge after him. That’s my meal. It’s been decided. That beast is mine.

Now we are at the bottom of the river, which ends abruptly next to a large granite rock. There are sharp granite stones all around my feet and I grab one the size of a grapefruit, with the intent to lob it at my meal’s head. The Turkey-Dog™ inches out of the water, tired and beaten by the force of gravity. He curls up next to my feet and whimpers. I heave the rock firmly, aiming straight for the head. It misses. It misses by almost a meter. The thing is right next to me and my arms are weak and useless. That’s how hungry I am. I pick up the rock and try again several times. Each time, the rock flies over the beast’s head by such a distance as to make me seem incompetent. Meanwhile, the animal just lays there, looking at me, as if I’ve saved it’s life.

Before I’m ready to give up eating this thing, I realize that I’m not alone. A woman is here at the bottom of the river and she’s laughing at my attempts to kill the creature at my feet.
“What are you doing?” She snickers.
“I’m trying to eat this thing.”
“If you are that hungry, we have food.” She says, sincerely.
The Turkey-Dog looks up at me with wide obedient eyes. It seems I have a new friend.

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Girl in a Dream Sings:

You had plenty money in the dot com boom
You let all the startups make a fool of you
Why don’t you do right?
Go write a version 2.
Sitting there writing all those lines of code
If the Perl unfurls we’re going to
Why don’t you do right?
Invest in Google too.

Get out of here and
make it for iPhones too.

I fell for your JavaScript and PHP
Now all that you’ve written is obscurity
Why don’t you do right?
Write me a version 3.
Why don’t you get out of here and
subversion check-in please?

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Drugstore Warfare

It’s early in the morning, or late at night. You can’t tell if the sun is rising or setting from inside the drugstore. I’m way in back holding up a rectangular, silver box with a circular button on it’s side. It’s supposed to look like an external hard drive but I know it’s a weapon. It takes some time before I figure out that it’s just folded up and compressed in a few places. Some of the parts need to be twisted and turned like a Rubik’s Cube.
I’m standing there with my head down, fumbling with the gadget when I hear, rather than see, the buffer overflow. They’ve come in through the front entrance and already taken a few hostages. Looking up, I see the leader with a long black coat and sunglasses. Cute…[insert sardonic emoticon here]. The flyboys with him are Turkish squatters, leaking out into the aisles like waves of animated baggy corduroy. They move quickly but the aisles are long.
I see another like me, with a weapon like mine. He smoothly launches it in the air where the box unfolds against the air resistance, mechanically recompiling itself into a firearm. As he begins his assault, I give mine the same treatment. It doesn’t work for me the first time because I don’t throw it high enough. I have to launch it into the air a couple of times before it completely unfolds. On the final spin and catch I pull it close to my face, careful to aim at the leader. Through the circular lens in the front I can see him closely. My left hand steadies my right arm but he’s too far away. I can’t get a dead lock but I fire anyway for practice. It’s the first time I’ve used one of these contraptions. It misses, spraying a payload of half a dozen holes in the wall, several meters from my target.
The activity alerts the pack of my location and I tally ho, back and forth, unsure where to maneuver. The flyboy rats are descending quickly and I decide to make a stand. The weapon aimed, I fire right at the adrenaline infused miscreant mass. The gun does nothing. Not even a click, click, click as I frantically and insanely try again and again to riddle with holes the scurrying forces of ill intent.

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“Hey man, if you get this mod, it adds a 1/4-inch jack to your computer so you can record the instrument with no prob. It also has this 1/8th-inch jack that receives bootleg radio–all the music shows going on right now in the world, man, all there for you to record with a simple turn of the dial. It’ll tear up your available storage, man, you’ll run out in no time. You’re music collection is dust compared to what you will capture with this baby!” The music shop boy laughs in a semi-maniacal technolust.
“Well,” I waver, “I don’t really need to add anything else to my music collection–that’ll just suck up my time. I’ve already got so much I haven’t listened to.”
“Get the instrument, man. For a hundred bucks you can’t pass it up. You’ll never find another like it. Say it with me man, Electric-Guitar. Nobody has seen one of these things in forever man! It’s claa-ssic, man! It’s got strings and all.”
He tempts me with the antique but I’m here looking for some new tech–something I have never seen. But this guy hasn’t got anything like that. I was syncing musical DNA before this little terminal stain was suckling his first drop of Infojuice™.
I walk out into the bright Thai sunlight and met up with my friends. “Let’s swim through this mess,” I say in the cool vernacular of my day. My friends agree, but we need a map. We’ve never been to this part but Lena knows a bookshop in the area where we can get a secret map.
“It’s hidden in the cover of The Beach. I put it there last summer. Nobody will find it.” She assures.
“What if someone bought the book?” I query.
“Don’t worry, I had some cheap labor make copies in all the versions of the book–but even if someone finds it, they won’t understand it :)” She points at the air making two dots and a swish. She doesn’t need to smile anymore, her hands can do it for her. It’s the new rave that all the kids are doing, gestures for emotions. They say it let’s you stay young by never needing to wrinkle your face. Emote with your hands and never need ironing.
When we get to the bookshop, there’s only one copy of The Beach left. I fish under the cover of the book and find it. “Is this it?” The map doesn’t look all that special. It’s like a theme park map, something you would pick up at Space World with all the attractions in big cartoon pictures.
“That’s it. Let’s run.”
We literally get lost so we can test out the map.
“OK, 3rd and Franklin, look it up.”
“There is no 3rd on this map, it’s 10 years old. We’re standing on a dirt road. This was obviously built recently.”
“Let’s walk up a block then.” She suggests. We get up another block and end up in a stream, swimming with guppies and huge schools of little round fish. I snap photos while the tide carries us downstream.
“Hey, check out the walls around the river, they look like gargoyles.” I point and click. Around the mountains, half way in the water are midget sized gargoyles with octopus tentacle hair and huge alien eyes. Their bodies are fish like but they have little arms, no bigger than the tentacles on their heads. As I photograph and float on by, they start to lift their heads and watch us. One heads over and I realize it has a humongous head. “Does it speak telepathically,” I ask, to nobody in particular.
“How did you know.” My friend answers.
“Just a lucky guess, it doesn’t have a mouth but obviously they have bigger brains than we do.”
The creature swims around me. It’s not threatening, just curious and eventually we exit it’s domain. The water carries us far.

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Thor in a Hurricane

I spent the night looking for my cat. At one point, after I fell asleep, I found him hanging out on the street, cleaning himself, with a blue collar and a new name tag. He had been catnapped by a neighbor and given away as a gift. We found the people who took him through some clues left behind at the scene. We took it home and pieced together who they were and why they did it.
Half-way through the night, I woke up disappointed, realizing it didn’t really happen.
Later, I dreamed that I found him across the street, in a dark cave-like crevasse. I could see his green eyes light up inside it and when I meowed at him, he came running out. I woke again, several times, disappointed that the place I found him in my dream doesn’t really exist. I dreamed and awoke not realizing that I was still asleep in each waking. After dream frustration, I got up and ran out to find the area that I had dreamed about. It was just across the street from the house. I found the small cave underneath a pond and surely he was there. I woke up Lena with him in my arms and she was amazed to see him. She wanted to know where I found him so we went out to the spot, Thor still held tight.
As Lena was examining the area, the wind started blowing extremely hard.
“Is this where you found him?” Lena shouted over the wind.
“Come over here, we need to head back.” I screamed.
We were only a couple blocks away from the house and I hit the crosswalk button with my foot, clutching Thor with my hands.
“The wind is picking up, we need to get out of this hurricane! I don’t want to lose him again!” This last part felt strange, like a sappy movie quote.
The cars and trucks driving past us started to drive much faster. A massive truck went by, floating several feet off the ground. A Metro bus passed us with only one wheel remaining, floating in the middle of the undercarriage. It had lost all the others from skidding over the sidewalks at magnificent speeds and smashing it’s parts into the sides of the concrete. Pieces of vehicles started to glide by us and drift off the cars and trucks as they came by.
I pushed against the wind, holding myself on the ground with the weight of my guilt for losing Thor.
A car went by sideways, parts flying and riping off it. Lena exclaimed, “yes, you are dangerous,” to the driver, as if he was spinning out for fun–and he may have been.
Time slowed and we used it to our advantage, navigating between parts of the flying wreckage, like a giant 3D Frogger but instead of cars and logs, it was massive pieces of automotive shrapnel.
We eventually made it inside the house but then I realized I must still be asleep. Thor was home and the world outside was in windy chaos. The streets were coming up off the road and telephone polls where I had stuck the “Missing Cat” posters were being eaten by the Nothing.
I woke up for the last time, “I’m working from home today–so I can look for Thor…” I told Lena.
We’ll find him.

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Head Tree

I’m on an unknown island with a bunch of tourists. The trees are strange, like a cross between Palms and Redwoods. Sometimes they look upside down, fruit on the bottom and roots in the high sky.

I have come to this place for treatment. I have a tree growing in my scull. It was planted there to aid in the destruction of a parasite that would have killed me. But now, I worry that the tree might do the same.

“What kind of tree is it?” asks a fellow traveler.
“You see those Redwoods? kind of like that, only thin. Really tall, but not wide enough to break my scull. Someday it will be up to 10 times my height and I don’t think I will be able to stand up any longer to carry it.” As moments transition, sometimes the tree is already partially grown out of my head and I feel it’s weight.
“Where are we anyway,” he continues.
“Isn’t this the redwood forest? That’s where they film all the movies with redwood trees. See there… wait the trees are changing. None of these are Redwoods… they look odd, like no tree I know…” I continue in baffled amazement, staring at the changing landscape. A well dressed man walks over to our group and begins to explain.
“Welcome,” he begins with a smile. “You all have many questions, I am sure, and you have all come from different places. You will find that barely anyone here speaks the same language and most find it best to speak in raw tones rather than familiar words. You will find that over time, you will understand perfectly everyone’s thoughts and intentions. Merely listen and what you have come for will be granted.”
My hopes do not increase but the landscape and buildings remain impressive. Most of the man-made structures appear Greek. Pillars and open public swimming pools with people falling into them fully clothed.

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