All I Want For Christmas Is A Bionic Lung

December 30, 2011 § 3 Comments

You know those colds that just don’t go away? Oh, you don’t? Because I do.

I’m going to write a retrospective on Sunday because despite my urgings that this isn’t a private blog about the most important person in the world, it sometimes is. Before that, however, I want to write on something that I’ve been meaning to write about for awhile. I caution that it’s a long one, but I hope it’s interesting. It’s a topic that fascinates me to no end.

That topic is Transhumanism.

In the future, we will all be half-naked steel men that watches over chains of hominids. I...can't wait?

For those unable or unwilling to slog through the article, I’ll give you my definition of the movement. This is a personal definition and isn’t formed from serious academic study, but for the sake of argument it’ll be the only one I use.

Transhumanism: the application of technology for the purposes of improving the lived experiences of humans.

This definition avoids using the rather nebulous term “human condition“. This isn’t to say that I don’t use and appreciate the idea of the human condition, but only that I want to keep this definition as broad as possible. In fact, I quite like the idea that there is this shared “condition” that all humans have, much like a shared dream (not delusion) that encompasses everything from how we view the outside world to how we think and feel, a condition that words don’t quite describe.

In any case, transhumanism. I believe we could describe it as the idea that says “technology can make things better”. It’s a belief in the unlimited power of the human brain and psyche, as well as confidence in science and technology, that looks forward to a time when science and technology can eliminate the “problems” inherent to humankind. Implicit to these definitions of “problems” are quite reasonable things like hunger and sickness, but the most ambitious can see the potential destruction of that old foe, death.

This idea terrifies me.

"No! I don't want cybernetic implants!"

Which, as someone who has been technologically modified from the age of 9, is a ridiculous thing. I wear glasses, and I assure you that if I had not had recourse to them, I would never have made it as far as I have. Further, without the wondrous advances in medicine, agriculture, and electronics, not to mention, hell, things like clothes and tools if we want to stretch the definition of technology, none of what I do would be possible. I would not be who I am without technology.

But don’t you put that stuff inside me. That seems to be the point at which I recoil. Technology is great, but changing what makes me human is not. I view most pieces of technology as tools, which I think is a significant definition. Tools require a user to operate and are external to the user. True, there is a significant psychological association of the user with the tool (for example, soldiers trained in a bayonet were reluctant to use it and one of the theories is that they viewed it as an extension of themselves and, quite reasonably, didn’t want to stick themselves in other people. For more, see On Killing by Lt. Col. Grossman, a flawed, but interesting read), but in the end, and most importantly, a tool can be put down.

There is the ability to psychically and physically dissociate oneself from the tool used and thus maintain a distance from technology and the self (even if it is, in the end, a self-imposed distance). For example, I can take off my glasses if I so wish. I would suffer immensely as I’m as blind as a three-day old polar bear without them, but they aren’t an integral part of me. There is me, John, and then there are my glasses.

In fairness, I'm not nearly this cute or covered in fur. The arctic wasteland, however, is pretty much what my city looks like now.

Transhumanism, it is suggested, will need to go beyond that. The science-fiction posits things like implanted computers, artificial intelligence, and, eventually, the Technological Singularity.

Also, apparently, more goggles and dredlocks.

The singularity will, in a nutshell, create superintelligence. This basic concept posits that technological intelligence will increase at a greater rate than human intelligence, and further, will create a recursive spike where it just improves upon itself more and more.

Essentially, biological humans will be left behind, woefully unable to keep up, much less compete.

That is not what terrifies me, because despite the claims of many people, I doubt I’ll live to see a human consciousness implanted into a machine. Nor would I even begin to understand what a human consciousness is, nor how I would reduce it to electrical signals. Perhaps it can be done, but in terms of this essay, I certainly don’t know. I am also unafraid of A.I. for reasons that just seem right in my gut.

What terrifies me is that I have seen proponents of transhumanism celebrate it as either necessary or obvious. “We must improve ourselves with technology or else we will not prosper as we could“, or “why wouldn’t you want to have a laser grafted into your arm?”

Laser arm, you say?

I hesitate, and I am troubled by technology.

This is not to say that I do not love and need technology to improve. Aside from the obvious benefits to increased technology, humans have always taken external artifacts and technology and applied them internally in order to define themselves. The obvious example is the King. He wears a crown, an external symbol of his position, but one that is intimately wrapped up in the King as Person. The King does not need the crown to be King, but only the King may wear the crown. If someone else were to wear it, it would not make them King, because the Kingship is wrapped up in a certain person. The symbol, though powerful, is not transferable to others, and yet, is indispensable in defining the King as King. There is an uneasy dissonance between the King and the Crown as two separate, yet intimately linked, elements of identity.

They are also shown with the rod, a symbol of their temporal authority. This symbol is more interesting, I think, than the crown, because it can be given away or borne by others. The Field Marshal’s baton is also a symbol of their power, but it is a physical object that gives him power over others, not only as symbol, but as a stick he can beat you with. It is purely external, and less intimate than the crown. However, it’s arguably far more powerful. Many people throughout history used the baton to get themselves the crown.

No-one’s born with a beating stick (hee hee hee) or crown, and so the symbols of power are dependent on external technology, and yet the King is not able to be extracted from the technology he bears. Much like me and my glasses, he can put them down, but they are essential aspects of who he is. They are not necessary to his survival or his continued identity as self, but he needs them in order to be King. I don’t need my glasses to be alive, but if I want to do something (like stay alive), I need them to function. Well, for the sake of argument I do. Just replace “glasses” with “pacemaker”, and you understand.

This is the sticky situation I find myself in: I do not define myself according to the technology I use (for example: I am not an Apple fanboy. Suck it, powerbook!), however, technology is an incredibly important part of my life and, lest I deceive myself, as least part of my identity as a person and an individual.

So the, why does transhumanism rub me the wrong way? Because it does. The idea that we, as a society and culture, would start to replace our organic bits, the pieces of us, with metal and plastic seems horribly wrong. Unless it’s a fake hip, then I totally get it. Or a prosthesis, or a pacemaker. See the problem? I’ve got this weird reluctance to embrace it to the point of fear, and that fear always revolves around changing the brain.

Why is the brain this impossible frontier for me? Is that simply the line that must not be crossed. Is the brain, and the technological improvement thereof, simply the next apple in the garden that we’re not supposed to touch? Is the body only the carrier of the human, but the brain is what makes us…us?

Samus tried to warn us, but it was already too late.

Tubes aside, we need to think about how much we want to change ourselves with technology. There are things, failings of the human body and human mind, that we could stand to change. I would not hesitate to remove world hunger or destroy cancer. I would not, however, remove the human ability to feel hunger. I wouldn’t give everyone implants that made them happy all the time. Nor, most importantly, would I remove death.

Humans, as Russian history has taught us, are built to suffer. I wonder how we would function if that ability was removed? What would we become if we all became Superman? To paraphrase Lex Luthor’s divine question, if we suddenly found that we could, “Why don’t we put the whole world into a computer?”

And why, if it would involve the elimination of so much suffering and pain, would I not want to? Is it human dignity and freedom? I hope not, because there’s precious little dignity or freedom in the children’s cancer ward.

I obviously don’t know the answer to that, nor does anyone else, but there is a current of thought that I disagree with strongly, and one that I see in many supporters of transhumanism. There is this idea that humanity, with all its weaknesses and problems and the whole essential aspects of humanity, are problems that need to be solved.

What would we be if there was no sickness, if there was no pain, if there was no regret? I can only speak from experience, but pain has been an incredibly important part of my life. I have made horrible, horrible mistakes that have hurt me and others immensely, but mistakes that have taught me more than success ever did.

But, in the interest of fairness, fuck cancer. If technology could eliminate that, why not?

In the end, I am still uncertain about what role technology should play in humanity’s future. I know it will play an increasingly larger one, and to deny that is stupid and blind. But I think it’s worth questioning how much it should change who and what we are.

I’m an imperfect doofus who’s made a great many mistakes in his life. But those mistakes are my king’s crown, no matter how twisted and jagged they might be. They can’t be removed, and they are an integral part of my self and my identity. Hell, they’re a part of the walking, talking, thinking, changing story that is my life. If I was offered a technology that would let me avoid making those same mistakes, would I take it, especially if it meant less pain for me? If it meant I would be a better person for not spreading that pain around?

Would you take the apple?

Therein man, Placed in a Paradise, by our exile, Made happy: Him by fraud I have seduced From his Creator; and, the more to increase Your wonder, with an apple; he, thereat Offended, worth your laughter, hath given up Both his beloved Man, and all his world, To Sin and Death a prey, and so to us, Without our hazard, labor, or alarm; To range in, and to dwell, and over man To rule, as over all he should have ruled. Paradise Lost, Book X, Lines 483-493.

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More Humour, Now With Added Death!

December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

You heard me.

Death.

III.

Amira’s descent into Hell was anti-climactic. She had experienced a strange feeling of falling, which she attributed to the fact that she had been in a plane that was falling, but it continued even when she thought they had hit the ground. Technically, she had been one second off and attributed the actual impact to an earlier, slightly smaller impact as the plane smashed into a pine tree, but ignored it. Most humans would shrug and judge the difference of a second would be irrelevant.
The billions and billions and billions of chemical reactions that take less than a second would like to disagree. Even a second is incredibly important, but humans don’t think in terms of seconds, much to their loss.
Amira fell into a dark, dark hole that went down and down and down. She did not float in light, nor was there a pleasant voice to greet her. She was therefore, and quite unlike Patrick, terrified out of her mind. Amira had never been a religious person, nor did she have any truck with what a large part of her generation had termed “spiritual”. It tended to involve too much rubbing of crystals and “communing” with spirits in the dark corner of the bookstore for her liking. No, she firmly believed that when you died, your consciousness disappeared into a deep blackness from which there was no hope of recovery.
So when her consciousness disappeared into a deep blackness from which she was recovered, she was understandably terrified.
The bottom of the pit came suddenly. The sensation of falling was suddenly, and painfully, replaced with a sharp jerk upwards as an invisible force grabbed her and held her up by the neck. For a second, she hung in the absolute blackness while her brain tried to get her lungs to breathe heavily and refused to listen to reason. Her wits were currently out gallivanting, and were in no rush to return.
The force let her down, gently, onto a ground that felt like cobblestones. She scrambled as she looked for a corner to hide in, and not finding one, gathered her arms around her legs to shield herself. The feel of her legs was one of refreshing solidness. Her hands felt quite real as they gripped her knees, and the sheen of sweat that covered her dripped onto the ground with a little plock plock. It smelt like a damp place, and the darkness was absolute.
“I can’t be alive.” She said in a valiant effort to kill herself with words. “I simply can’t be. The plane crashed. It had to, and everyone on board exploded, or burned, or was just killed by the impact. This is a dream from a dying brain that’s trying to cope with sensory burn-out. I’m just dreaming, that’s all. I can’t be alive anymore.”
“No, sister, you ain’t.” A soft, seductive voice that dripped with promise, sex, and blood whispered to her from the darkness. Two eyes appeared in front of her, and then a glowing skull that they fit into. That skull sprouted a neck, clavicles, a spine, ribs, and more and more bones until a skeleton stood in front of her, jauntily leaning on a bone staff. Without a sound, muscles knitted themselves over bones while veins and organs sprouted into being. Dark skin, dark as coffee and un-smeared blood rolled up from the tips of the man’s (Amira noticed with a mixture of disgust and desire that he was quite a man) fingers and sheathed him from head (to groin) to toe. Clothing wove itself together on him, covering him in a fine black tuxedo. He even wore a silk top-hat perched jauntily like a crown. The only colour was his white shirt and the white face-paint that covered his handsome face. It glowed in the darkness, offering what little light there was.
He offered her a hand and smiled. His teeth sparkled in the non-light of the pit. “Tifi, you as dead as a four-hour boiled crab. They’ll be pickin’ up pieces of you for a raccoon’s age, if you lucky.” Amira was uncertain, but she took his hand and stood, albeit shakily. He was magnetic; he was terrifying; he was attractive; he was sickening. Amira wanted him and wanted to run away from him as fast as she could.
She was suddenly aware that she was very naked. There are several types of naked. The first is “unclothed”, the type of naked where one simply lacks clothes, as when in the shower or the doctor’s office. The second is “naked”, as when one comfortably lies down with a similarly naked member of the opposite sex (or same sex; the important thing is comfort).
And then there is “very naked”, where one is naked and is very, uncomfortably, aware of that. Amira, finding herself more naked than she wished, tried to use her hands to cover herself.
The man chuckled and it sounded like a tiger’s growl. “Don’t worry about that, Tifi. God don’t like ugly, so He must love you. Ain’t no shame in being naked.” He leaned in close, his voice rumbling and his warm breath blowing on her neck. His fingers touched her arm and they felt hot. Not the even warmth of another human, but the sharp burn of open flame. It spread throughout her, a mix of fever-warmth and urgency. “Unless you’d rather some company?”
“No, sir.” Amira put ice into her voice. It melted immediately, but at least it put a bit of a damper on things. Her flesh cooled a bit and the man let go of her. “But I would like to know where the hell I am.”
The man winked and stepped back. He leaned on his cane and regarded her like she was a particularly interesting insect. She resisted the urge to shudder, but just barely.
“Where the hell you at? Why, Tifi, you in Hell.”
There was a sound like a thunderclap as the pit they were in began to shift. Red light, sick and heavy, peered through the cracks as walls of stone appeared around them and began to shift and change. A long tunnel, low and dark, appeared that led to a lighted area. Amira, less and less able to control her terror, simply shook along with the stone as it groaned and ground together.
In a moment, however, and however long it may have felt to Amira, it was over. The tunnel was smooth and even. The light, no longer red and sick, beckoned to them, urging them closer. Amira thought that it would be nice to be able to see well and not have to rely on the glow that came from the man’s skull.
The man stood there, unmoving. And not just standing still, but no part of him moved. His nostrils did not flare, his chest did not rise or fall, there wasn’t even a breeze to ruffle his clothing. Even his eyes were motionless, the black irises small pieces of obsidian that drank her in, devoured her.
Amira swallowed heavily.
“I don’t believe in Hell.”
“That’s no problem, cher. Hell don’t believe in itself either. Just is, s’all.” He offered her his arm and for reasons Amira didn’t understand, she took it. “We all the damned souls who pass a good time down here in the dirt.” He winked again, and Amira noticed that the whites of his eyes were lost in the shining skull. “Don’t you worry, Tifi. It’s just a big fete down here.”
He pretended to smack his forehead in surprise. “Oh, more twompe I, I didn’t introduce myself.” He stepped back and swept down into an impressive bow, sweeping off his hat and bowing low with his staff. “I’m Baron Cimetière La Croix Kriminel Samedi, but you can call me Mr. Saturday. And you, cher?”
Amira did not return the bow. “I am Amira Mehenni-Flanagan. You can call me Amira.”
Mr. Saturday smiled from the depth of his bow. “Amira.” He smacked his lips like he was tasting the word. “A beautiful name, non? Ah, but we in Hell appreciate beauty, and there’s nothing more fitting than a beautiful name to go with a beautiful woman. Come, I’ll introduce you to the others. You will be my charge, and I will be honoured if you would accept.”
He took her arm again, and Amira did not fight. There was a coiled strength in Mr. Saturday’s fingers, and though he did not force her, she knew that he could. It wouldn’t be right to say that Mr. Saturday terrified her, mostly because her terror was so complete that it was a swirling vortex that turned and twisted and collapsed into itself, rendering individual aspects of said terror indistinguishable from the whole. What scared her more, the fact that she might have actually arrived in Hell, or that Hell existed, or that Patrick was gone, or that she was alone, or that Mr. Saturday could force her into anything if he wished, or even that they were walking toward some place that wasn’t going away.
She was terrified because it was all real. Real.
Reality is something that is difficult for the human mind to process. Rest assured that Amira’s mind, though somewhat altered by the fact that she was dead, was still human. Reality has the unfortunate habit of being filtered into something more palatable by humans. Take, for example, the memory of a war. Were one to ask either side what happened during the war, we would find the impossible contradiction that both countries were simultaneously invaded by the perfidious forces of the other country, making it completely necessary for both sides to be fighting on the defence against forces which were both defending by attacking. In either case, neither side will be at fault for the horrible atrocities inflicted by their side, and instead blame them all on the other side. The human memory conveniently filters out the fact that someone had to shoot someone else in order for their to be a war, and in the end, there was a lot of bad things done on both side. This filtering allows the human mind to blissfully ignore the consequences of the past just in time for the next big war, thus keeping generals, politicians, and arms manufacturers in business and in a state of temporal and aggressive uncertainty. Did they invade us or did we invade them? After a long enough time, it ceases to matter.
But reality, when it’s big enough, has a habit of sticking itself out in the open, incredibly large and impossible to ignore. When faced with that reality, the human mind can either reject it in the face of evidence to the contrary, as most people do when thinking of the size of the universe, or accept it and experience mental fractures as the brain tries to re-write itself to accept this new reality, as most parents do when they find they actually have another life in their hands for the first time.
For Amira, her mind accepted that despite all her certainty, Hell exists and she was going there. At that moment it clocked out and wished her a good night. She shuddered and clung to Mr. Saturday’s arm, who smiled and patted her on the arm, murmuring something reassuring.
The light got brighter and brighter.

It’s Christmas, y’all

December 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

So this is Christmas (sorry, couldn’t resist). 

Christmas sneaks up on me these days. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked in retail for the past few years, but Christmas just seems to appear. There’s very little excitement that comes along with the season. It’s just a period of increasingly busy days that go and go and go and go, wearing you down and just making you wish it was all over…

until bam. It hit you. And it’s Christmas morning and you’re awake wondering where the waiting went. Where did the excitement go? Where was the increasingly frantic days before the big moment?

When I was a kid, my brothers and I used to wake up hours before we needed to. One of the family jokes we had was that my dad would always go to the bathroom in the morning and take what felt like forever. We’d be waiting, furious, because those five minutes (if it even took five) felt unbearable. Waiting even those few seconds longer was torture, likely banned under the Geneva Convention.

This year, the only thing I could think of was that I could totally use five more minutes of sleep.

XKCD helpfully pointed out that one of the traditions we have, our carols, are the same ones we’ve had for decades. Every year when Bing starts singing about how he won’t be home for Christmas, it’s the same. But this sameness doesn’t work for real people. The songs, the waking up early, the expectations; we don’t carry them the same way any more. Those things bring back memories we have of older Christmas days, but those aren’t what we have now.

It’s one of those things about growing older, eh? We change, and our memories change with them, but I suppose it’s in the vested interest of marketers and retailers to keep those memories the same. Take, for instance, presents. I don’t really care for presents any more. Sure, they’re nice to have, but I don’t want much these days, and at least not much that you can put in a box. But what’s Christmas without presents? Quite literally, what is Christmas without the gift exchange? It’s the most important part, and I’m being honest. Without the gift exchange (and, assuming that you aren’t religious, the whole Jesus bit), it’s just another day in the year.

Well, except for getting together with the family. It seems like Christmas, as it’s shown to us, is the one day of the year that we have to spend with our families. We have to go out and get each other crappy gifts (I’m kidding about “crappy”. One of my favourite presents this year, and I’m being serious, is a desk lamp. My 360 can suck it; I have a lamp) and then sit around and be with each other.

But you know what? I don’t see much of my family these days. I don’t get to be with my friends as much as I want to, and I certainly don’t see my 18+ aunts, uncles, and cousins much at all. I miss that. Call it regret, call it the unpleasant truth of growing older, but it’s real.

I’m older, and now that I make work regularly, don’t care much for stuff. If I want something, I can buy it now. If I want to eat turkey, or have a big dinner for no reason, I can make it. The one thing I can’t have more of is time, and with that, getting people together is harder and harder these days. My friend and I got Twilight Imperium for Christmas this year, but that game requires 4-6 hours and is best if you have 6 people. Where, oh where, are we going to get 6 people together for 6 hours these days? Although, to be fair, that game is going to get the hell played out of it.

So you know what? If this day/season now means that all I “get” is the culturally enforced prerogative to go and be with people, I’ll take it. I’ll take it to the bank. And in the end, I think I’ll be richer, we’d all be richer, for it.

Merry Christmas, everyone. And Happy Chanukah, Kwanzaa, or whatever. And I mean “whatever” with the best of intentions. Whatever you do today to celebrate each other, go do it.

It’s one day. The worries of the world are never far away, but they can wait a bit.

P.S. – I detest that John Lennon song.

A Little More Cheese With That Whine

December 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m sick. Again.

And I’m tired. And I feel like crap. And I have to go out and get a suit fitted for my brother’s wedding. And then I have to go home and sleep so I can go back to work tomorrow and hopefully be well. And I haven’t had a cookie in two hours. Which of those bothers me more, do you think?

In any case, I wasn’t happy with what I posted yesterday. It wasn’t finished, not even to my standards of “Oh crap it’s Wednesday and I need to post something whydoesthisalwayshappenIshouldbemoreorganized.” I added some more and although I want to add even more, at least this is a decent length for a weekly update.

I’m reposting what I put up yesterday, if only for ease of flow. ENJOY.

II.

The brightness of the light burned through Patrick’s eyelids.

Patrick blinked. And realized that he didn’t have eyelids.

With a start, he realized that he didn’t have any sort of a body. His consciousness floated somewhere in an ocean of light where he distinctly, and presently emphatically, lacked anything corporeal. He flailed about in a panic but, lacking arms, was unable to effectively flail. This troubled him to no-end.

Thoughts of air planes crashing and people dying did not once enter his head. In fairness, he didn’t currently have a head for those thoughts to enter.

“FEAR NOT, SON OF MAN. THIS IS NOT YOUR END.” A Voice blasted through the flowing light, hitting him like a hammer made of sound. It was a male Voice, insomuch as a disembodied Voice had gender. It was certainly loud enough that is should have been male. Loud, disembodied Voices shouting didn’t tend to be female, at least in Patrick’s experience.

“Uhh…hello?”

“FEAR NOT, SON OF MAN.” The Voice repeated. “THIS IS NOT YOUR END.”

“Where, uh, where am I?”

The Voice paused. “WHAT?”

“Where am I? I was in…somewhere, and I remember something loud, but I wasn’t here though. No lights or loud Voices. I’m sure of that.”

“OH, WELL, YES. THAT.” The Voice didn’t change but Patrick could tell that the Voice was suddenly awkward. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT. YOU SHOULD BE NOT FEAR-ING RIGHT NOW.”

“Oh. Well, I’m not.”

“OH. GOOD.”

Patrick floated for a few minutes, mentally unsure of what to do with his non-existent hands. He was bothered by the fact that, even without a body, he could still be very awkward with people he didn’t know. The Voice apparently felt the same. The air suddenly felt very thick with awkwardness.

“So, what’s going to happen next?”

“WHAT?” The Voice, still unchanging, was obviously surprised. “YOU’RE STILL HERE?”

“Y-yes. I’m just sort of…floating here. You never told me where “here” is, by the way.”

“I’M SORRY. I’M NOT USED TO PEOPLE LINGERING HERE. YOU USUALLY SHOW UP, WEEPING OR AFRAID OR SOMETHING, AND THEN I SHOW UP AND TELL THEM NOT TO FEAR, AND CHERON DOES THE REST. IT LOOKS LIKE HE’S LATE.”

“Wait a second,” Patrick said, “so a bunch of people show up terrified, and a disembodied Voice starts yelling at them? Is that really the best way to set people at ease? Scream at them?”

“WELL, IT USUALLY WORKS. THEY USUALLY STOP DOING MUCH WHEN I YELL AT THEM.”

“I don’t know, it seems kind of mean, all things considered.”

“I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT. I WAS JUST TOLD TO COME HERE AND WHAT TO DO.”

“And about that, where is here?”

The Voice was silent. Patrick dearly wished he had pockets.

“IT’S THE IN-BETWEEN, WHERE SOULS GO BEFORE, YOU KNOW, WHEREVER IT IS THEY GO TO IN THE END. THAT’S WHY THIS ISN’T THE END, PER SE.”

“Ah. That’s…not all entirely helpful.”

“I’VE NEVER HAD A CONVERSATION THIS LONG BEFORE, YOU KNOW.” The Voice said, sounding quite pleased with itself. “MOST MORTALS CAN’T BE BOTHERED TO WAIT AROUND AND CHAT. EITHER THEY’RE TOO EXCITED TO SEE THE OTHER SIDE, OR THEY’RE TRYING TO CRY. PRETTY DIFFICULT TO DO WITHOUT TEAR DUCTS, BUT SOME OF THEM GAVE IT A GOOD GO.”

“I see.” Patrick, needless to say, did not.

“AND SOMETIMES THEY GET MAD. ATTILA THE HUN WAS SO ANGRY HE TRIED TO TEAR OFF HIS NOSE. EQUALLY DIFFICULT, THAT ONE. AGAIN, NO NOSE. NIETSZCHE HAD TO SIT DOWN FOR AWHILE WHEN HE GOT HERE. KEPT SAYING SOMETHING ABOUT THIS FELLOW NAMED ZARATHUSTRA. I DON’T KNOW HIM. OR HER.”

“Wait,” Patrick’s non-existent brain kicked itself into action, still grumpy after having been woken up from a lovely nap. Keeping the autonomous nervous system going isn’t exactly easy, you know. “Souls? Popular historical figures? Am I dead?”

“OH BINGO. IT USUALLY TAKES PEOPLE A WHILE LONGER TO GET IT.” The Voice, still unchanged in it’s booming magnificence, sounded pleased. “SHOOT, NOW I FEEL LIKE A FOOL.” Patrick felt that the Voice could in no way have ever been mistaken for something at all approximating a fool. “I NEVER ASKED YOUR NAME. WHAT IS IT? MINE’S AZRAEL.”

“My name’s-” Patrick was cut off by another voice. This one wasn’t as loud or impressive as Azrael’s (which Patrick inwardly wanted to refer to as AZRAEL), but it cut through the conversation like a confession of homosexuality from the favoured son at a dinner party conservative house.

That is, quietly, but with startling repercussions for both sides. And those things which were cut through by that voice would never by the same.

“Patrick O’Flanagan? Sorry about the delay, lots of people needing me today, y’ken? Have to run here and there, no rest, not even a chance to spend some of my new dosh, huh. Ah well, you’re the last. All ready?”

A robed figure was standing in an ancient wooden boat that gently floated on the sea of light and offered his hand to Patrick. His bony hand that was in no way covered in flesh, and did not at all seem human. Patrick took keen interest in all the details of Cheron’s wrongness, from the way the cloth of his cloak shifted over the naked bone to the obvious problems of how he was talking. The glowing blue lights that glimmered in empty eye sockets didn’t help either, and the inhuman power that radiated off the robed skeleton cowed Patrick into a deep silence.

Well, thought Patrick, I guess I am dead.

The skeleton, obviously Cheron, plucked Patrick from the sea and put him in the prow of the boat. Whistling softly, he conjured up an oar from behind him and paddled off into the light. Patrick’s head was filled to bursting with questions, but he stayed silent. Out of respect, he would think, for the gravity of the moment. After all, you don’t die every day.

“GOOD-BYE PATRICK O’FLANAGAN. I SHALL REMEMBER YOU FOREVER. OH, AND DON’T FORGET! NO FEAR-ING!” Azrael called out as the boat drifted away. Patrick waved, but he wasn’t sure what he waved (which grammar has luckily allowed us the third-person singular neuter noun “it” as a designation for what Patrick waved), or who or at what he waved it.

He almost thought he would miss Azrael. The Voice may have been a little bonkers, but he was polite enough and seemed to know what was going on. Now, he was, quite literally, lost, unsure of where they were going or how they were even propelling themselves. Unlike Azrael, Cheron didn’t seem inclined to talk.

That was fine with Patrick, but he was still immensely annoyed with Cheron. Cheron, Patrick noticed, had pockets that he wasn’t even using to hide his hands. They just flapped free in the wind (wind?), mocking him with their emptiness, which his awkwardly exposed hands could fill.

Maybe this is hell, he thought, a weird, awkward pants-less and pocket-less hell.

He was wrong, of course. Everyone knows that demons adore slacks.

People Are Yelling At Me As We Speak

December 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Yes it’s short, but see above title.

I should have done this before, but working in retail at Christmas does that. Here’s an update to Lovers! 

No it’s not finished, but again, see above title.

II.

The brightness of the light burned through Patrick’s eyelids.

Patrick blinked. And realized that he didn’t have eyelids.

With a start, he realized that he didn’t have any sort of a body. His consciousness floated somewhere in an ocean of light where he distinctly, and presently emphatically, lacked anything corporeal. He flailed about in a panic but, lacking arms, was unable to effectively flail. This troubled him to no-end.

Thoughts of air planes crashing and people dying did not once enter his head. In fairness, he didn’t currently have a head for those thoughts to enter.

“FEAR NOT, SON OF MAN. THIS IS NOT YOUR END.” A voice blasted through the flowing light, hitting him like a hammer made of sound. It was a male voice, insomuch as a disembodied voice had gender. It was certainly loud enough that is should have been male. Loud, disembodied voices shouting didn’t tend to be female, at least in Patrick’s experience.

“Uhh…hello?”

“FEAR NOT, SON OF MAN.” The voice repeated. “THIS IS NOT YOUR END.”

“Where, uh, where am I?”

The voice paused. “WHAT?”

“Where am I? I was in…somewhere, and I remember something loud, but I wasn’t here though. No lights or loud voices. I’m sure of that.”

“OH, WELL, YES. THAT.” The voice didn’t change but Patrick could tell that the voice was suddenly awkward. “DON’T WORRY ABOUT THAT. YOU SHOULD BE NOT FEAR-ING RIGHT NOW.”

“Oh. Well, I’m not.”

“OH. GOOD.”

Patrick floated for a few minutes, mentally unsure of what to do with his non-existent hands. He was bothered by the fact that, even without a body, he could still be very awkward with people he didn’t know. The voice apparently felt the same. The air suddenly felt very thick with awkwardness.

“So, what’s going to happen next?”

“WHAT?” The voice, still unchanging, was obviously surprised. “YOU’RE STILL HERE?”

“Y-yes. I’m just sort of…floating here. You never told me where “here” is, by the way.”

“I’M SORRY. I’M NOT USED TO PEOPLE LINGERING HERE. YOU USUALLY SHOW UP, WEEPING OR AFRAID OR SOMETHING, AND THEN I SHOW UP AND TELL THEM NOT TO FEAR, AND CHERON DOES THE REST.”

“Wait a second,” Patrick said, “so a bunch of people show up terrified, and a disembodied voice starts yelling at them? Is that really the best way to set people at ease? Scream at them?”

“WELL, IT USUALLY WORKS. THEY USUALLY STOP DOING MUCH WHEN I YELL AT THEM.”

“I don’t know, it seems kind of mean, all things considered.”

“I NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT THAT. I WAS JUST TOLD TO COME HERE AND WHAT TO DO.”

“And about that, where is here?”

The voice was silent.

Patrick dearly wished he had pockets.

 

 

Some Spam I Got Today

December 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

What do you use to design your blog? It’s really cool! Send me an email and let me know!

Well, currentcouponcodes.com, I use a proprietary combination of HTML-GUI interfaces, trans-logical membranous overdrivers, and superfluous GPU combobulators.

It’s also called wordpress. Y’know, like it says in the address bar.

Question: are spammers that dumb, or do they just trust in that one-in-a-million idiot to send them an email explaining the black magic behind a free blogging website?

Surprise? I’m Surprised

December 16, 2011 § 1 Comment

Wow.

It’s not that bad looking! I think it can be summed up by a random Youtube comment:

That trailer was better than the first movie.

You know what? I hope so.

Where Am I?

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