Graveyard Through the Stars
My names is Efrakim Flores and I am the sole crew of the Graveyard.
It was dad who taught me how to pilot the Graveyard. I remember sitting at the cockpit with him. Just the two of us. He would tell me stories grandpa had told him of times when our ship had a full crew. Back then the Graveyard was called the Ark.
He told me the story of how people boarded the Ark to escape a dying Earth. He told me of their journey through the stars. He told me of the planet they had hoped to colonize and the problems they found. And he told me of the people who died, and of the endless search for a habitable planet as the crew got smaller and smaller.
Dad and I would look at the emptiness ahead of us in the vid screen and I would fantasize what we would find that planet and grandpa would be there, and the rest of the crew of the Ark would be there too. Waiting our arrival.
Today, alone, as I wait my turn at Death’s arms, I sit at the cockpit again looking out at the stars.
My names is Efrakim Flores and I am the last remaining crew of the Graveyard.
I like to take an inter-dimensional ride and glide down neutrons and quarks.
I have looked into what should be a void and I can tell you there are marvels hidden in there. In between the atoms, that space we thought to be empty, is not.
All it takes is smoking some pink juice and listening to busindre music on my sound bubble. My conscience dissolves into the air, and my body, the music, the vapor… it all fuses into one.
If you are lucky like me you will see Her. Call Her infinity, call Her eternity, call Her emptiness, call her Love…
You can’t convince me it is an hallucination caused by toxic fumes and electromagnetic waves. That’s the explanation of those who can’t see.
I have seen Her face.
The robot gets back into the back seat of the car. Blood drips from its hands into the carpet. A man already inside watches the android shaking and twisting on the seat. The robot covers its face with both hands and moans.
“Stop that whimpering,” says the man, “That lost soul will find its path now.”
“I can’t help it,” says robot with trembling voice. “I am not supposed to kill…”
“Don’t start that again. I don’t want to hear about your conditioning. What had to be done had to be done.”
“Have I earned my salvation father?”
“Of course not,” says the priest. “Did you expect to be granted access to the kingdom of heaven so easily?”
“But you said–”
“You act of pious clemency will grant you His attention but He will not be content with such feeble example of commitment. This shall be your first demonstration of devotion, but you must make many sacrifices to leave behind all the sins of your nature.”
The robot is still shaking.
“Don’t you worry my child.” The priest smiles a the robot. “I shall be your guide through the perilous path of redemption. You just need to do everything I say.”
The robot reaches out for the priests hand and kisses it. The man pulls his hands away. “Don’t ever do that again.” The priest takes a handkerchief from his coat pocket and carefully wipes his hands clean.
The robot looks at its hands red with blood and continues to tremble, crying like a robot cries.
“Make sure it’s a girl.”
“> Yes, father,” replied the robot.
The door of the black car opened. With a movement of metallic butterflies the shinny robot stepped out into the busy street. The robot was made of mirror-like chrome metal. It had glass eyes and hollow cheeks.
It walked towards the line of half naked bodies that were leaning against the wall. Blondes. Redheaded, Brunettes. Young. Old. Feminine. Masculine. The robot approached what appeared to be a girl who was talking to what appeared to be a boy. They both looked at him amused at the sight.
“What’s a robot doing in the meat district?” asked the boy. “Are you a sex bot?”
The robot pulled out a card. “I can pay,” it said looking straight at the girl.
“You have to be kidding me,” said the boy.
The girl inspected the card. “That’s a lot of money, robot,” she said.
“> It’s yours,” it said.
Without hesitation the girl took the robot into the hotel. The boy watched them dissapear dissapointed.
She lead the way to her room. She stopped in front of one of many doors, and reached inside searching for something. She flicked a switch and a light over the door lighted up. She took off her shoes before walking inside. The floor of her room was covered with pink carpet.
The girl took of her jacket and sat on the bed to undress.
“> I am sorry,” the robot said. Swiftly it grabbed the woman by the neck blocking her breathing. She struggled noislessly, fighting her attacker with fists, and nails.
The robot killed her as quickly as he could. She didn’t suffer much. It made sure of it.
The robot spreaded her body onto the bed carefully. It pulled the hair off her face, crossed her hands over her chest, and fixed her clothes. Lastly it pulled the translucent white sheet of the bed over her head.
The robot walked out the room, and headed out the same way it had come out of the building.
The boy shouted after the robot when he saw it come out. “Are you finished already, tinman?” He thought he saw the robot tremble, but he dismissed the idea as unlikely. He could only think of the the credits he’d missed out on.
The robot thought of the girl. It thought of her body on the bad. It had looked like a divine figure wearing a veil. Father would be happy. It had to be a good sign. A sign of redemption.
I was a robot once
I was a robot once.
I spoke with the cadence of a machine. I saw in pixels of red, green and blue. I smelled a world of plastic and metal. I heard voices speak from far away lands. I had knowledge of all knowledge before me. I thought mathematical symphonies. I had strength beyond any descendant of ape.
I understood the order that ruled the cosmos. But I was enraged by a world of chaos and noise.
I was a robot once.
Today I am all there is.
Mushroom TV Broadcast (or Psycho-Musrooms)
First the alarms rung, then the lights in the building turned red. A security breach.
The building housed a techno-greenhouse where the largest source of entertainment edibles were grown. Jay was the Chief Botanical Officer of the company. He was working late when it all started.
Jay tapped a control panel, a display showed in red the building entrance that had just been broken through.
A woman walked into the room.
“Don’t tell me,” said Jay. “Intellectuals.”
“They prefer to be called counter-culture activists,” said the woman.
“Anti-entertainment terrorists, that’s what they are, Lizz. What happened to security?”
“It might be time we switch to a robot force, Jay.”
“Don’t tell me the guards were eating on the job again,” he said.
Lizz didn’t reply. The live feed on the display showed a line of security guards lying on the floor passed out.
“I’m calling the police,” she said.
“Don’t. We don’t want cops everywhere. Do you want them looking through our facility? Getting their hands on our product? I’ll deal with this. Where are they now?”
“They are still on the bottom floor. They can’t figure out how to operate the elevators.”
“Ok, I’ll go down before they destroy something of value.”
Jay descended to the first floor in the elevator. When the doors opened he found a group of ten or twelve people in military gear. They were armed with guns, and one was holding what appeared to be a gasoline container.
“We are ready to destroy the building if our demands are not met.” The voice belonged to a woman.
“This is a private company,” said Jay trying to sound in control, “what makes you think you have any right to demand what content we program into our mushrooms?”
“Your magic mushrooms are a danger to society,” the woman said. “You’ve dumbed down the public enough with your frivolous entertainment. You’ve produced nothing but superhero hallucinations for the last ten years. What happened to the promises of elevated states of consciousness.”
“Enlightenment,” shouted somebody in the back. “Awakening,” yelled somebody else.
“You are deluding yourself. The public doesn’t want enlightenment. They get bored of it! Believe me we tried. We thought we would crash the market, but superheroes performed much better with the target groups.”
“I don’t believe it,” said a voice coming from the back.
“I’ll tell you what. Put the arms down and I’ll take you to the spore printer in the lab. You can dictate your own fantasy and take them with you for free. Just no explosions and no cops in the building, ok?”
After that the deal was sealed.
“I want a documentary series on post-truth culture,” said the woman who had spoken first.
“Existential nihilism!” said somebody else.
“Neo-Post-Stoicism!” a third voice.
“Consensus democracy!” a forth.
The shouting continued as they followed Jay down to the lab. A small price to pay to pacify the intellectuals, and keep the authorities away.
Jay tried one last time to reason with them. “Have you considered that superheroes are an elevated form of being?” he asked to the woman next to him. “You could call it a form of transcendental enlightenment.”
From the moment the infection broke out I locked myself up. I bolted the door, taped shut my windows, and covered all ventilation grills.
I haven’t left my apartment in 34 months and a handful of days. A year ago they said the virus was gone, but I don’t believe that. Why would they keep sending airships to spray the streets with pesticides otherwise?
I have a home 3D printer that I use to provide myself with all my necessities. I print out my food, clothes, toilet paper… you name it. I can provide for myself perfectly without leaving my apartment.
I refuse to go anywhere. I fear they might be tempering with the water supply, but that’s a risk I have to take.
My family is scared for me. They say the virus is long gone. They even came knocking on my door a few times. Of course I refuse to open. The cops came a few times to check on me as well. I wouldn’t let them in either.
They claimed there has been no infection in the city for months now. The most likely is that they all have been infected and I am the only healthy person left in all of the city. Maybe the only healthy one in the whole country. Maybe in the whole planet!
They insist I shouldn’t be by myself, that I’ve been locked down for too long, and that it is unhealthy.
But I watch the news. The world is going mad. Have you seen the pundits, the scientist, the vloggers, the influencers? They are all sick and trying to deny it.
And they have the nerve to say I have shelter fever.
They say I’ve lost touch with reality when I am the only one who can see what’s going on.
There is no such thing as shelter fever.
If anything call it reality fever.
Robot at the Symphony
“What possible pleasure can a robot derive from a concert?”
The truth is Lexx is the only robot I know who enjoys the Symphony more than I do. This one day we had arrived at the old Concert Hall just in time for the show. I have seen people stare at Lexx before but this woman seemed to be particularly offended.
The woman was two, maybe three hundred years old, and she had no idea who she was talking to. Lexx had been talking about this show for months.
“Why are you here?” asked the woman addressing Lexx and ignoring me. “What interest could a robot have in the Symphony?”
“Well if you must know,” Lexx said, “this is the only orchestra that still tunes at 432 Hz.”
“For god’s shake, don’t be such a snob,” said Lexx. “I am here for the art.”
“Don’t say god,” replied the woman furious. “You couldn’t care less about art, or god! You don’t believe in either!”
“Maybe I’m here to see what little remains of humanity’s old tradition rot away,” responded Lexx.
For a moment there was silence in the auditorium. Lexx immediately turned around, focusing all its attention on the orchestra who was about to tune up.
First the oboe played, then the lead violin. From violins to double basses, the string section tuned up, then the whole orchestra. In little over a minute it was all over.
Just as the concert was about to start, we stood up to leave as we always do. This time Lexx turned around to address the woman again.
“It’s true I don’t believe in Art,” Lexx said. “Neither do I believe in god. I like to see an orchestra warm up. Seeing you humans trying to get in-sync your dysfunctional individualism gives me a glimmer of hope for you. Good night.”
With those last words we walked out. When we were out Lexx spoke again.
“Don’t look at me like that, you are the only human I know who likes the Symphony less than I do.”
“I’m not in the least offended,” I replied. “I’m just surprised you still have hopes for us.”
“Actually I was just being polite.”
Do you want to know why the largest bank in the galaxy stores cheese instead of rare and expensive metals? I’ll tell you.
You probably know that Teta-Zeta has the stinkiest and most awarded cheese in the galaxy. Cheeses even more famous than those from Earth back when Earth was crowded with sheep and goats and cows and all those dirty smelly four legged creatures.
What you might not know is that a slice of TZ cheese has qualities hard to come by any other food in any of the colonies. Qualities of most interest to data junkies.
Cheese is the most perfect form of data storage. Data is the most valuable thing, and the Central Info Bank of Teta-Zeta, the largest bank in the galaxy, stores above all data.
Though a few civilizations still rely on magnetic, optic or quantum disks, those deteriorate rather quickly and are extremely expensive to maintain.
Most data-banks have long ago move to DNA-based data storage. You can store about a zettabyte per square inch of regular organic matter. The most concentrated the matter, the more data you can store in it. And it so happens that TZ cheese is the thickets, richest most dense cheese you can find in the gallaxy.
My squad and I were after a ten thousand year old cheeses stored in the Central Bank. Resale value would be astronomical. Any pirate crew would kill for this information.
Breaking into the bank wasn’t a problem. Security didn’t seem to be that great.
We found that the older more valuable data was stored in cheese that had been sitting in the bank the longest. The deeper the vault we penetrated, the older the cheese and the stronger the smell we found.
The holy grail, the oldest cheese with the ancient star map from the early pioneers, was particularly foul. How could I accurately describe it? It was a deep, nauseating, musty, sloppy, salty, moist, rotten smell. It penetrated our space suits, our clothes, our respirators…
By the time we got the cheese aboard the ship, four members of the crew had fainted overcame by the smell. The rest of us had puked inside our suits at least once.
We seriously considered how much traveling we could do in our ship this stench all around us impregnating every corner. We knew we were not prepared for this.
That day we found out why cheese in particular was used in data banks.
As you can guess we took off leaving the cheese behind. I guess we also found why security at the Central Bank was so lousy
“I understand that you specialize in defending droids and robots in criminal cases,” said the woman in the back suit who had just walked into my office. She looked to be two hundred years old. She also looked to be filthy rich. Her android wore more expensive clothes than I did.
“I do defend androids, but I’ve never worked with a robot,” I said. “I try to avoid them at all costs.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, to be completely honest, it’s easier to win a trial when defending an android. Humans forget they are looking at a machine when they look at an android. It’s hard for a jury to sentence to capital punishment a creature that looks so much like one of them.”
“Well, this one looks as human as you and me,” she said pointing to the android next to her. It had the face of a young man.
“And what are the charges againts it?”
“Manslaughter,” said the woman.
“Murder!” I said jumping off my chair when I heard her say this.
“Manslaughter,” she said.
“Manslaughter?” I looked at the android noticing for the first time the muscular body hidden under the clothes. “Whose?”
“My husband’s.” I searched for a expression of sadness on her face that was not there. “Alfred has been with us for 25 years. He has his things, but he is loyal.”
“Loyal you say.” I sat back down on my chair.
“Something happened last night. Electric storm,” she said waiving her hand. “That’s my best explanation for the glitch.”
“You call murder a glitch?” I said.
“Manslaughter. Will you take the case?”
“You need a mechanic, not a layer.”
She pulled a stack of untracked credit tokens on the table.
She extended one hand towards the android who grabbed it between both of his. “What is your fee?” The young man looked at me silently.
“Well, Alfred does have a handsome face,” I said fascinated by the android’s deep blue eyes. “I would hate to see it crushed.”
“So do I,” said the woman. The android was rubbing her hands with care. “So do I.”
“So do I,” said the woman. The android looked back at her with a warm, loving look in his metallic blue eyes. “So do I.”
Hunter on the Scorched Planet
In the cold darkness of the burned planet I wait with the other hunters for the two suns to rise and the monsters to wake up.
The first sun over the horizon is Kyra, a red star. In it’s proximity it appears massive. As wide as the row of mountains in our field of view.
Thanks to the light of Kyra I can see the geometries of the landscape. The blackness of the acid lake looks even deeper under the red glow. Quartzs crystals as tall as a hunter refract the light in warm rainbows.
The hunt will start as soon as the second sun peaks over the horizon
Elio was a blue sun, smaller in size than Kyra but much hotter than its sister. It was Elio that had devastated the planet. Once every year they get close enough to burn every living thing crawling on the surface. After millions of years of the endless cycles, only one species of beast had survived the fires.
That was the creature we were hunting.
A monster of skin thick enough to survive fires that lasted months. A monster that inhaled flames and exhale smoke. A monster capable of burying itself in the scorched earth waiting for for the fires to pass and life to return.
What are they waiting for? I remember asking. Food, they had told me. What food could there be in this land? I pressed. Hunters, they told me.
And now Elio rises. And now I run with my brothers and sisters between the long shadows of the dry bushes and scorched tree trunks. Already I feel the heat even through my thermo-suit, and I see sparkles dance and patches of land ignite.
And I feel the earth below our feet rumble.
I think of the money of our hunt. But most of all I think of the glory of finally capturing one fo the monsters for the first time.
I think of all this as the flames surround us and the earth shakes underneath us.
The monsters are coming up from their burrows to hunt us.
In the Blink of a Galaxy
(or The Graveyard of Dead Gods, or An Astronaut’s Guide to the Center of the Galaxy)
I am the navigator of the ship you know as the Nursery. I carry the children with me. It is my duty, like it was my elder and their elder before them, to follow the bright light of Saag to the center of the galaxy. There we shall end our pilgrimage and settle down.
Today the children are restless. They say they have seen the Saag star flicker. No, not flicker. Blink. They say they’ve seen the start blink.
I remember when I was like them. I too wanted to find meaning to everything around me. I too wanted to uncover a mystery that hid in the quietness of space. But our travel has been unaltered for thousands of light years. And I do know, like my elder did, that there is no mystery in the cosmos. There is only void and silence and solitude in space.
The kids are restless. They’ve seen the bones and they have seen the broken carcasses, and they have grown more uneasy.
I explained to them, like my elder did, that these are the long bones of the dead gods. Bones, light year in length, that once belonged to the largest creatures ever to exist. Celestial beings gone extinct by the parasites of cellular life.
I told them the gods are dead, but the children don’t listen. They think the gods are still alive. They think they hide at the heart of the galaxy. Exactly where we are going. Waiting for wanderers. Luring them in with promises of riches. Singing songs of minerals and rare metals.
The kids are restless. They say they’ve seen Saag blink. They think it’s the eye of the god impatient for our arrival.
I told them the gods are dead, but they won’t listen.
Riding the atom
I advice you not to embark on this trip.
The thing they don’t tell you about gliding down to subatomic particle level is that going down if fun, but the coming back up is a hell of a bumpy ride.
The glide down is all nice and easy. First thing to go is your ego. While you enjoy the slow disintegration of your psyche you forget all about yourself. The voices inside your head quiet down for once, and all there is left is perception, sensations, and quietness.
The next thing that goes is your body. Slowly, gradually you stop feeling your toes, your arms, your legs, your fingers, your face. All sensations melt away and your body dissolves into the air. Your essence is reduced to concentrated, pure consciousness.
All of that you might have experienced before, but next comes the fun part. Next comes the actual physical reduction to the sub-molecular level. You don’t even feel your body shrink because your sense of touch is gone, and so is your sense of spacial awareness. You still have a body, of course, but you’ve lost the experience of physicality.
Something bizarre happens when you are reduced even more. At the atomic level light travels in funny ways. What you see stops making sense in the way it used to. It’s all still there. Somehow you can tell that you are still in the same room you were moments ago, but it all looks different. Shapes are distorted, stretched beyond recognition, and colors don’t make sense as they used to.
Finally, the thing everybody loves most happens.
As the last remnants of the world fade away, the shapes start appearing. It’s impossible to describe them. Even those who’s seen them can find the words to do it.
What I can tell you is that the shapes are real. They are not an hallucination as they’d want you to believe.
I know that they say that photons are not really hitting the back of your eyes anymore. They say all you see is the impression on your retina of elementary particles following random brownian motion. But–and here is the thing, right?–those subatomic particles are part of the space you inhabit. They exist. They are real.
And so are the shapes real.
Anybody who has gone down to subatomic level will tell you it is all real, and it is a blast to experience.
But then, the ride up comes and that is hell. It is hell because the first thing that comes back to you is your ego. And your ego is too fragile and you definitely are not ready for this. You are not ready to see the insignificance of you in front of the immensity of the cosmos.
A cosmos that’s full to the brim with meaning.
A cosmos to which you are less than nothing.
So your ego shatters into a million pieces. Each one crying in pain.
And that’s just the beginning, because next you start the ascent through the layers of reality, and each one of them brings another agony. Another realization and another form of suffering.
When you open up your eyes again you are short of breath. You are dizzy, you are sweating, and you are crying your eyes out.
As you start to absorb the reality around you, the couch you are sitting on, the room you are in, you immediately start thinking about what you just left behind.
How can you now live in this messy world, full of noise, dirt, imperfection, anxiety, fear, jealousy, ugliness…? How can you carry on living when you know perfection is everywhere and you are just not made for seeing it?
That’s why I advice you not to embark on this trip.
But, if you disregard my advice, then buckle up. Because what you’ve heard before and what I just told you is but the tip of the iceberg.
We are going deep.
One Universe at a Time
(or Quantum messages)
I told Joe not to worry about the message he had just received from his wife on Earth asking him for divorce. I told him not to worry because the woman on the video who had the same face, the save voice, and the same name as his wife, was not in fact his real wife.
Although every astronaut knows that nothing travels faster than light, few understand how quantum communication really works. But if nothing else, they all know that quantum messages are entertainment not information. Or at least they should know it.
Joe couldn’t stop thinking about the message. I thought if I explained how it all works I would help calm him down. It turns out I only made things worse. I don’t know if I can blame myself entirely, but I definitely had a part in driving him mad.
The truth is messages sent by quantum vibration from Earth to our starship only appear to be delivered instantly.
I explained to Joe that the message doesn’t really travel faster than light. To get the contents of a message sent from Earth, we simply collapse the quantum superposition of all the infinite probabilities that the message can take. We just have no way of knowing which is the one that correspond to the original message.
“So they are made up?” asked Joe.
“No. They are real,” I explained. “They just don’t come from our reality.”
“They come from one out of an infinite number of parallel universes. That’s what resolving the superposition does. So this message was never meant for you, see? You real wife, in our universe is safe back home, waiting for you to finish this assignment.”
I explained all this to Joe. I told him about parallel universes, and collapsing waves, and probabilities, and all that. But knowing all the science behind how the messages worked did not help him. On the contrary the more I explained the bigger his obsession grew.
“It doesn’t matter really,“ he said. “Don’t you understand? My wife might be waiting for me to return, but what about that other Joe?”
“The other Joe?” I asked
“Yes! What about that other Joe! The one this message was meant for!”
“You can’t be serious, Joe,” I said laughing. “If you are going to worry about this one Joe, why not about all the other Joes that might be going through an infinite number of miseries in an infinite number of universes?”
I thought he was joking. I really thought so. But I was wrong. I put this idea in his head and the obsession grew until it was all he could think of and we had to send him back to Earth on a medical dispatcher pod.
I keep telling myself that quantum messages are just meant for fun, that’s all. But the thing is, now that I think of it I can’t shake the idea of all the other infinite number of disasters that are indeed happening to us in an infinite number of universes.
And then I remember Joe, and I take a deep breath.
We all have enough with the worries of one single universe, right? Let’s just focus on this one. Let’s just work things out one universe at a time.
Traumas Be Damned
To get your psyche knitted in macrame for public display is considered an extravagance. But, hey, I’ve tried all the therapy there is. I had to try this.
Her name was Esthermanhim and she didn’t advertise her services. She just hanged her artwork on the windows of her place. That was it. No sign on the porch, no ads on newspapers, no signs on street poles, not even a flyer in the neighborhood supermarket.
Still, sometimes the line in front of her house reached around the corner. And this is why Illia had booked an appointment. She instructed me how to prepare myself. Put on a suit, don’t wear yellow or grey colors, no perfume or cologne, no boots, you’ll need to take off your shoes, and bring flowers.
“Bring flowers? Are we visiting a medium or your grandmother?”
“You want a good looking portrait? Then bring flowers.”
“I don’t know that I care about good looking,” I replied.
“You would be the first.”
Esthermanhim’s house was in one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods of San Francisco. Kids rolling on floaters, drone deliveries, electric charging stations for pets, you name it. A nearby highway had just been buried underground and now this part of town was the destination for all the crypto nouveau riche.
The dozen people in line at Esthermanhim’s house did not look rich, however.
“The standing line is free of charge,” said Illia when she saw my face of confusion.
“I didn’t know that was an option.”
“Don’t be cheap, Bill.”
“Cheap? This is going to cost me two months salary.”
“Really, you are covering for their expenses.”
We arrived to the old Edwardian house just five minutes before our appointment. Artwork hanged from all the bay windows on the front of the house. The mandalas looked like baroque snow flakes one foot in diameter. We walked up the front stairs. At the top a woman first in the line sat on the steps. She looked up as if sizing us up.
“Who is the appointment for?” She asked without much formality.
Illia, unfazed, pointed at me.
“Good,” the woman said. “It should be quick to get your likeness.”
Illia was still laughing when the door opened and we were let in. We were asked to take off our shoes and wait in a narrow hall while the previous customer collected their personal belongings.
“I have a rich inner life,” I said to her.
“Are you still thinking about that?” Illia replied smiling.
Finally the parlor doors opened and we were welcomed to the front room. Esthermanhim had set up her station by the bay window. The wooden contraption looked somewhat like a giant spider laying on her back. Stretched across the spider legs rested a web of white threads.
“This is the blank pattern of your mandala,” Esthermanhim explained. “Once we graft your prefrontal cortex it’ll look nothing like this. Sit down.”
I sat on the chair across from Esthermanhim and took off my hat.
“Now,” she said looking me straight in the eyes, “do you understand that there is a possibility that past traumas will show up on the web?”
“Perfect. Let’s begin then.”
We used the full hour and left with a large mandala made of black wool. As we walked out I made a point of showing the piece to the woman at the top of the stairs with pride. She didn’t say a word but I could tell by the look in her face that she was surprised by its size.
To get your psyche knitted in macrame is considered an extravagance. To display it in public, unaltered, that is unheard of. Still, I understand why people wait in line for hours to get that picture perfect snapshot of their life. Everyone edits their past. They erase the pain, take out all the ugliness, and end up with a neat looking little patchwork to show proudly.
Me? I wanted to leave all my miseries in. I’ve worked too hard through years of therapy to have it all just be edited out now.
This piece is going to look great when I hang it as is.
Traumas be damned.
What I Saw
I thought I would never come back. At least I never considered that possibility when I left. I knew of the riots, of course, that’s partly why I left. I just didn’t know Earth was going to blow up.
I was on board of the Antaeus when it all happened. Even at 99.965% the speed of light it had taken me almost 5 years to reach Alpha Centauri. There was something about this milestone that got me feeling homesick. The isolation was already hard to bear, and then the news from Earth arrived.
It was on the ship’s theater room that I saw the footage of the bombs going off, the destruction of cities, and tear down of governments. It seemed the end of civilization.
It took me months to retrieve a full day of news from Earth. Since I was traveling close to light speed radio signals from Earth could barely catch up with me. I was still receiving the news originated a few days after my own departure years into my trip.
I knew all I was watching had happened long ago. Still I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t stop thinking about turning the ship around and going back. I knew I would arrive hundreds of years after I had left, of course. It would all be gone. The wars, the fight. I knew all this but still the desolation back on Earth was too much for me to ignore. How could I go off exploring the cosmos while this was happening back home? How could I run away from the fate of my brothers and sisters? I wanted to be home.
I never considered what I would see on my way back.
Heading back to Earth the rate at which I received feeds from Earth increased almost hundred-fold.
If on my way out I only saw a month’s worth of news, on my way back I saw decades of human events fly by from one day to the next. A full year in less than a week.
I saw humans kill each other while their cities went up in flames. I saw the last crew boat leave Earth. I saw artificial life rise from the debris of our cities. I saw bandit bots dismantled the Hubble for parts. I saw mining robots fight colonies on the surface of the Moon.
Communication from Earth stopped soon after the uprising. When I arrived to Earth I found her three hundred years older than when I left.
The blue dot was blue no more.
I was not ready for what I saw, but I don’t regret coming back. If I had stayed the course I would never have seen my home planet in rags. For all the years ahead I would had kept a small hope for humanity. I would have lived ignorant on my bubble. By returning to Earth I’ve made myself witness of her desolation.
I am here now. And whatever happened, happened. And whatever shall happen, shall happen.
The thing is, I am back.
The Coup of the Red Drones
They called them the Red Drones because they were painted all red, that’s all. Nothing more sinister than that. They were flying delivery drones painted red. It is not like they came from deep underground to raise hell. They actually came from high above.
In any case, we couldn’t have seen it coming. I mean, some people would tell you they saw it coming, but let me tell you they are full of it. Who could have imagined a complete robot uprising that would overturn our institutions? In this day and age!
So ok, the drones did that thing a few years ago. All the red drones one day just stopped delivering. It was weird. The robots had this one job, right? and they just didn’t do it. The country had deployed three million drones to deliver mail and one day they just didn’t show up to work. Instead of carrying packages they flew away in swarms around the country scaring kids in playgrounds.
So that did happen. But they were just playing around. No kid got hurt. Not seriously at least.
They also did that other thing, where they started inciting other robots to revolt and riot. And a few robots did indeed riot. Some looted the mall they were employed at. Burned the whole thing down. Others set churches on fire. And others even attacked elementary schools.
So that did happen. But those were just runaway robots. You can’t blame the red drones for what other robots do. They did incite them to do it, but robots have their own self-determination algorithms for a reason, right?
And it is true that the radio signals that the drones use for communication have caused a massive electromagnetic interference that have disabled our own communication channels. Radio communication, mobile phones, radar or microwave communication, all are down. So it’s hard to know any more what’s true and what’s not. We are all just trying to figure it out as we go.
So that all is also true, but could we blame the drones if our sensors are not built to sustain their interference? We couldn’t blame them for our bad infrastructure, could we?
So anyways. Some people will have you believe that the red drones have been planning this for years, but I’m here to tell you that’s just nonsense. They are just not that smart.
Even today after they have swarmed in by the thousands into every official building on each capital of the world, I am telling you, it is all just a bug. It is a bad configuration. A freaky glitch in some obscure algorithm.
And we can’t blame a drone for a bug on their code, right?
After all it was us who wrote that code.
I am trying a new experiment. I am commiting my daily work to github. Not a huge change, but it requires some workflow adjustements.
I am trying git for writing fiction. That means committing my work as I go, but specially with every significant update.
I remember reading somewhere about breaking paragraphs into multiple lines when writing markdown. This takes advantage of the fact that markdown requires two new line characters to mark a new paragraph.
The thing about git is that commits changes are tracked per line. That means changing a single letter, or adding a comma, is tracked as a whole paragraph change.
So instead of writing contiguous paragraphs, each sentence could be entered in a different line. Git will then track changes on each of the single line.
So instead of writing a single paragraph:
I am trying a new experiment. I am commiting my daily work to github Not a huge change, but it requires some workflow adjustements.
I could write instead each sentences on different lines:
I am trying a new experiment.
I am commiting my daily work to github.
Not a huge change, but it requires some workflow adjustements.
This is apparently called “ventilated prose”, “semantic linefeeds”, or simply "one sentence per line. And you are right to think it looks like poetry.
Here is the reaction to a document written in this style way bak in 1936:
When the re-written report was submitted, the Director said, “This is lucid, but it is poetry, and I cannot possibly hand it to the President of the Corporation for submission to the Board of Directors.” I insisted that it was obviously not poetry, since both he and I knew how I had chopped up a conventional prose report. The Director said, “I am having two poets for dinner tonight and I will take this to them and see what they say.” He returned the next day and said, “It’s too bad — it’s poetry.”
from the preface of “No More Second-Hand God” by Buckminster Fuller
By starting a new line at the end of each sentence, and splitting sentences themselves at natural breaks between clauses, a text file becomes far easier to edit and version control. Text editors are very good at manipulating lines — so when each sentence is a contiguous block of lines, your editor suddenly becomes a very powerful mechanism for quickly rearranging clauses and ideas.
It might take awhile to adjust, but something intriguing is that now it is very easy to see the distribution of long and short lines. Which is great if we want to focus on style.
Lastly, it might make things easier to edit:
The experts on writing are unanimous about the importance of revising, revising again, and yet more revising. But what are you supposed to do? Eyeball the text till you are blue in the face? Sure that helps, especially if you can afford to leave it till the next day, or week, or month.
But with my new method I have something to do right after that messy first draft: I edit the mess into ventilated format. It’s fast (especially if you use the “vi” text processor), yet it forces me to go over every word. It immediately shows up sentences that got too long or have an awkward structure. I rarely have to puzzle about how to rewrite.
—Ventilated Prose | A Programmers Place
I do think that it hurts readability to some degree. Btw, Wikipedia hates it (see Do not use single line breaks)
I need to think more about this. Something that I would love a
code writing repository that tracks changes at a word level. With tags but no commit messages (or even better: autocommits per word).
Now, off to learn vi so I can truly crank up efficient line writting and editing.
Harlan Ellison Afterword On “Author” vs “Writer”
For those who think a writer is someone who gets his name on books, let me assure you that is an “author.” A “writer” is the hapless devil who can not keep himself from putting every vagrant thought he has ever had down on paper. I am a writer. I write. That’s what I do. I do a lot of it.
— Harlan Ellison, Dangerous Visions afterwrod:
Max Cooper’s Repetition
I already talked about Daniel Eatock and his work on series of the everyday.
This video titled “Repetition” makes visuals out of my obsession: repetition, loops, iterations,…
Max Cooper - Repetition (official Video By Kevin Mcgloughlin) - Youtube
The infinite and the concrete. All at once.
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