The Art Of Managing Dynamic Information Processing And Regressive Experiential Positronics
May 2, 2012 § 2 Comments
I gave up at the end there. “Positronics”? What was I going for there?
In other words that are not shamefully cribbed from a thesaurus, I have encountered the bane of most writers: the info-dump. This particular problem appears when there’s a great deal of information that needs to be given to the reader in order for them to understand what’s going on, but that there is so much information that “show, don’t tell” is unreasonable.
90% of the time, experienced writers will tell you “don’t bother and just cut the section. Show show show.”
To that, I say “Yeah, well, suck it. I don’t play by your rules.” In other news, I’m still unpublished. Connections? Unlikely.
Yes, this post today is mostly an info-dump, but being cognizant of that, I’ve tried to make it as interesting and fun as possible. Did I succeed? Unlikely, but let’s measure the fallout before we start any cold wars, ok?
It was as dark as night in a cave. Wind ruffled Patrick’s hair and whistled through his ears while fear tugged at his mind’s pant leg, but exhilaration filled his heart. He was flying, and flying in a way that no human (without the aid of things like hang gliders and jet-packs) had ever experienced before. The world around him may have been a dark and empty cylinder, but that hardly mattered because he was flying.
And then there was light.
A tiny spark no bigger than a grain of sand, so small that Patrick couldn’t entirely be sure he could see it, appeared in the distance. Sudden curiosity burned inside Patrick’s head and he couldn’t help himself from veering towards it. He flew with a speed that he couldn’t possibly comprehend. Distance did not matter; desire took control.
“WE WERE THE FIRST.” Azrael’s voice filled the void in Patrick’s head. Like air inflating a balloon it made him feel full on the inside, like he had been starving and ate just enough. The light grew closer while Azrael droned on. “BUT EVEN WE HAD A FIRST. THE NAME IS LOST TO US, AND SO IT IS CALLED MANY NAMES. FOR SOME, IT IS NAMED PROTA. FOR OTHERS, PRIMUM. WE CALLED IT THAT WHICH CAUSED TO BE, AND EACH OF US WAS CRAFTED ACCORDING TO ITS DESIGN. ALL OUR EYES ARE TURNED OUTWARD TO SEE THE GLORY OF ITS CREATION.”
The light grew into a flaming ball of impossible size. From miles beyond reckoning away it looked like a star but as Patrick’s flight brought him closer and closer it grew and grew into a ball of fire so large his brain rejected it. It was not a discrete thing, it was a state. The universe had exploded into flame, flame which soared away into the distance up and down and to the sides until it filled his vision utterly. But even then he drew closer and closer. The intensity of the light grew and Patrick’s eyes were seared open. Pure light filled him and he felt his conscious expand. He was a balloon being filled by an inattentive clown and the helium of the light threatened to pop him open.
“WE WERE THE FIRST TO BE BOUND BY TIME. THE FIRST TO BE. WE DID NOT KNOW, WE DID NOT THINK. WE WERE. WE WERE NOTHING ELSE.”
The star, because that was the only thing that Patrick could imagine it to be, finally grew so close that he could reach out and touch it. The roiling, burning skin of the star rippled under his touch and Patrick was swallowed whole by the flames. They did not touch him as he sank into a sea of fire. With a start, Patrick realized that the roiling and rocking of the star was not caused by different densities of gases or anything quite so mundanely physical. Instead, an infinite numbers of things that looked just like Azrael jostled and pushed and squirmed against each other. The pressure was mind-bending. Patrick’s pathetically mortal consciousness, widened as it was by the immensity of the light, stretched thinner and thinner and threatened even more to snap.
“WE ARE CALLED THRONES, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR NAME. WE WERE THOUGHT TO CARRY THE THRONE OF THE FIRST, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR TASK. WE ARE THAT WHICH THE THRONE SITS UPON. WE ARE.”
In a blink, Patrick was outside the star and he knew that he was his proper size. Nothing told him and the star’s light illuminated no body he inhabited, but he simply knew it to be so. With a start, he looked down and saw that the star, which a second ago had been so large that he couldn’t conceive of the ends, was once again the size of a grain of sand. If he wanted to, he could pick it up and swallow it, or put it in his pocket, or carry around every angel in the palm of his hand. He suddenly had an answer: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? All of them.
Thoughts raged inside Patrick’s fevered mind and one popped immediately to the surface. The nested circles of Azrael’s shape suddenly were very familiar to him. Atoms, he thought back to his childhood days and the ancient physics textbooks they used, they look like atoms. More eyes, though.
“AND THEN THE VOICE SPOKE TO US, AND WHEN IT SPOKE TO US, WE BECAME MORE. WE KNEW OUR PLAN AND OUR ORDER IN THE THINGS OF THE FIRST.”
If Azrael’s voice was a Voice, then what suddenly filled Patrick’s brain was a VOICE, and it said,
“LET THERE BE LIGHT.”
The universe exploded into light. The grain of sand in front of him blew up and up and out. Light streamed around him in waves of Thrones that came and went without ending. Streams of fire large enough to devour planets flew by and the universe pulled away from the light. The fire sprayed in infinite directions and to infinite distances as Patrick felt himself flying away from the grain of sand. Noise suddenly filled the universe, a gigantic bang that tore meaning from his mind and was replaced by a hiss as what was empty was suddenly filled. Where there was nothing, there was light, and where there was light there was something else.
“WE MADE OURSELVES INTO STARS THAT BURNED FOR A BILLION YEARS AND THEN BURST INTO NOTHING. WE MADE OURSELVES INTO PLANETS THAT MORTAL EYES SHALL NEVER SEE AND MORTAL FEET SHALL NEVER TOUCH. WE MADE OURSELVES INTO SHEETS OF GAS THAT ENVELOPED GALAXIES, AND WE MADE OURSELVES INTO LIGHT AND DARKNESS.”
Patrick flew through space as it was filled. Time moved so quickly that Patrick could watch stars birth themselves from wombs of gases, watched them burn their life away and explode in death throes so violent that galaxies shattered; all in an instant. He watched planets form and dance in the cold majesty of the stars. He saw galaxies belch comets into the intergalactic space, never to return. He stood on diamond planets that orbited crystal stars and he walked on storms that had raged since before the Earth was formed. He was no longer Patrick. His mind could not process himself as a human, could not reconcile himself as a thing that required food and water and sex and yet stood on virgin planets and watched galaxies spin across the sky.
“IN TIME, FOR NOW TIME RULED, WE MADE OURSELVES INTO A CERTAIN FORM. IT MEANT NOTHING TO US, FOR WE DID NOT THINK IN TERMS OF MEANING. WE ARE THE BORDER BETWEEN THE IMMATERIAL AND THE MATERIAL. WE THOUGHT IN TERMS OF LAWS AND UN-LAWS. WE DID AS WE WERE TOLD, AND THOSE LAWS MADE US INTO A FORM.”
Patrick watched a yellow star emerge from a nebula cloud as it was born into violence. It raged and seethed, pouring out heat and light and noise. The cloud that birthed the star dissipated, but it birthed more children. They were angry births, Patrick saw, and for billions of years they cracked and popped as flames danced across their surface.
“THEN SOMETHING HAPPENED WHICH WE COULD NOT HAVE EXPECTED. WE FOLLOWED OUR LAWS AS WE HAD SINCE TIME BURNED WITHIN US, BUT THEN THERE WERE NEW LAWS. NEW FORMS FOR US TO TAKE. I WAS ONE OF THE FIRST TO BURN THIS WAY. IT LASTED BUT A SECOND BY THE RECKONING OF YOUR KIND, BUT FOR US WE HAD STEPPED ACROSS THE IMPOSSIBLE DIVIDE. NOTHING WOULD EVER BE AS IT WAS ”
Patrick was pulled towards one planet, the third away from the star. The land had cooled since its birth, and flames burned only fitfully across some parts of the surface. It had cooled so much that Patrick saw pools of water on the ground. They were stagnant, filthy things that churned with gases and matter, but Patrick plunged into it all the same. He shrunk, smaller and smaller as constructs appeared before him, bags of matter with a skin that took strange shapes as they bounded through the water. They moved without purpose or aim, but they grew and shrank with regularity. His gaze was directed towards one, no more remarkable than a single pebble among the million others on a beach, but as he watched it grow and grow and grow, he suddenly feared it would burst.
It did, and it did not. There was one construct, really nothing more than a skin of oils that held in a jumble of matter and parts, and then it split into two.
“WE NAMED THE FIRST ADAM. THE SECOND WAS EVE, AND IT WAS FORMED OF THE PARTS OF ADAM. FROM THEM, ALL THE CHILDREN OF YOUR WORLD WERE BORN.”
And those two grew and grew and split into two more.
And those grew, and split into two more. And so on and so on as the world cooled and breathed in the gases of its children. Plants grew that harvested the light of the Sun and became green and healthy. They spread their seeds wide until they even grew outside the waters that had been their womb. Small creatures that ate those plants followed them onto land and grew under the softening light of the Sun. Air, breathable by more and more beings, filled the space under the skin of the sky. Clouds came and dropped water onto the world. Oceans filled the low places of the earth while mountains reared up towards the sky. Life grew.
Patrick’s mind took in the majesty of the dinosaurs as they ruled the world and the fury of their passing. He saw the departure of the giants and the rise of those animals that humans would know. He followed the flow of the continents as they split and formed the world that he would one day walk on. And his eye was drawn to the heart of Africa, into a grove of trees inhabited by monkey-like beings.
“STILL WE FOLLOWED OUR LAWS. YOUR KIND WOULD CALL IT “SCIENCE” OR “PHYSICS”. FOR EVERY ACTION, THERE IS A REACTION. THE LAWS OF ENERGY AND THE PASSING OF THE LIGHT. THESE THINGS ARE NOT WHAT WE KNOW. WE KNOW ONLY WHAT WAS WRITTEN ON OUR HEARTS AND WHAT THE VOICE AWAKENED. WE, WHO HAD BEEN THE HEARTS OF STARS AND THE MYSTERIES WRITTEN IN THE DARKEST VOID OF SPACE, WERE NOW THE HEARTS THAT BEAT IN MORTAL BREASTS. THE DUST OF THE STARS WAS BREATHED BY MORTALS GREAT AND SMALL, AND WE BECAME LIFE. BUT LIFE WAS NOT ENOUGH. THERE WAS A NEW ADAM, A NEW EVE, AND WITH THEIR BIRTH WE WERE REBORN. WE GAINED THOUGHT, THOUGHT BEYOND THE LAWS AND THE UN-LAWS. WE GAINED SOULS.”
A pair of monkeys dropped to the forest floor and shakily, with a fragility that Patrick thought impossible, they rose. And then they walked. And then they banded together, they lost the thick hair that covered them, they fashioned clothes to cover themselves and built cities so as to live together.
They became human.
“THAT WHICH CAUSED STIRRED AGAIN. THIS WORLD, BEYOND THE PHYSICAL, IS LITTLE KNOWN TO US. WE ARE THE IN-BETWEEN. THE METAPHYSICAL UPON WHICH THE PHYSICAL RESTS, AND THE PHYSICAL FROM WHICH THE METAPHYSICAL DRAWS FORM. THE DREAMS THAT THE WORLD IS MADE OF. WE DREAM WHILE WE ARE AWAKE AND WE DREAM OF SHAPES AND FORCES, OF FIELDS AND FORMS. THE VOICE SPOKE AGAIN, BUT NOT TO US. FROM HEAVEN, THEN, CAME THE ANGELS AND THE ARCHANGELS. FROM THE DREAMS OF MORTALS CAME THE GODS AND THE ELEMENTS. IN THE WORLD WE CAME FROM, BELIEF IS NOTHING. BELIEF DOES NOT MATTER TO THE LAWS AND THE UN-LAWS. BUT THAT WORLD IS NOT THIS WORLD, THIS WORLD THAT LIES BETWEEN. MAN BELIEVED IN GIANTS OF FIRE AND THE MANY-HEADED DRAGON, AND ALL THE GODS AND MONSTERS THEY IMAGINED. AND IN THAT WORLD, THE WORLD OF THE MIND AND BELIEF, THEY LIVED.”
Wars then began, and killing. Violence covered the world like leprous sores on a sickened body. Man turned against woman and woman against child. Cities burned; were rebuilt; burned again. The legions of the dead grew and grew, so much that life became like a flickering candle in a darkened room, small light surrounded on all sides by death. Nature itself stepped back to watch man tear himself apart.
“AND THE DRAGON HAS ALWAYS HUNGERED. BUT THE VOICE OF THAT WHICH CAUSED IS IN ALL THINGS, FROM THE DREAMS OF STARS TO THE FLESH OF AN APPLE AND YEA, THE HEART OF MAN. THERE WOULD ALWAYS BE THOSE WHO COULD LISTEN TO THE WHISPERS IN THEIR HEART. THE LOT OF MAN WOULD FOREVER BE THE BATTLE BETWEEN THOSE WHO COULD HEAR THE MESSAGE AND THOSE WHO SHOUTED LOUDER THAN THEIR HEARTS. BETWEEN THOSE WHO LOVED AND THOSE WHO COULD NOT LOVE.”
And with that, Patrick walked among the world as he knew it. Time slowed to its regular crawl and Patrick saw cars turn down streets. He flew through forests full of falling leaves and stopped atop the tallest building in the world. People he remembered walked down streets he knew.
A thought occurred to him then and he came to a rest at a certain house. Melancholy settled over him like a blanket, warm but restricting. He knew what house this was. It was a certain, purple Victorian-revival house that he knew now stood empty. With a sigh, he flew through the door and into the darkened house. Unread mail was scattered on the floor. The back door, which he had so foolishly left unlocked, remained closed. A dog named Buster, the cutest Australian Shepherd Patrick had ever laid eyes upon (and who had been fed by a kindly neighbour the past few days), leapt up and down, barking excitedly. Patrick reached for him but his hand only passed through Buster. His heart stung at the tiny injustice and he took a seat on the couch. Besides the flaming angel that silently spun in the room, of course.
“WHAT THE SOUL IS, THAT IS NOT KNOWN TO US. NOR WHAT AN ANGEL IS OR WHAT MOVES THE HEART OF GABRIEL. THEY ARE NOT PARTS OF OUR LAWS AND UN-LAWS. BUT IT IS KNOWN THAT THEY MUST GO SOMEWHERE, LEAST THEY BE DEVOURED BY THE MONSTERS OF MAN’S IMAGINING. ALL SOULS HAVE A HOME: THAT, WE KNOW TO BE LAW. THUS, HEAVEN. AND THUS, HELL.”
Buster laid his head where Patrick’s lap was and was not, and whined. Should be, thought Patrick, where it should be. He tried again to pat his dog, but again, reality thwarted him as he knew it would. It did not stop him from trying again.
“What does this all mean, Azrael? I’ve asked that question of angels, of monsters, of men and of gods, and no-one’s given me the answer I really want. This whole thing is messed up, and the funny thing is that that isn’t what’s bothering me. Humans are used to the world being messed up, so why should Heaven be any different? Why should the perfect place actually be perfect? That’s just crazy. So what’s it mean, then, when Heaven isn’t perfect?”
Azrael spun and for the first time, Patrick noticed a tiny black spark at the centre of the Throne. “MEANING IS NOT KNOWN TO ME. WHAT DOES IT MEAN? I COULD TELL YOU EXACTLY HOW HEAVEN GOT TO BE THIS WAY. I COULD TELL YOU EVERY EVENT THAT LED UP TO THIS POINT. WOULD THAT NOT BE ENOUGH?”
“You really don’t get it, do you? Heaven is fucked up, and that doesn’t mean anything to you?”
“WHY WOULD IT? AS YOU SAID, WHY SHOULD IT BE PERFECT?”
“Because that’s the whole damn point, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to suffer and pine and die our way through life, and if we weren’t too much of an asshole, get into some perfect place where we fly around clouds and wear halos for the rest of eternity? Isn’t God’s house supposed to be less broken?”
“GOD? WHO IS GOD?”
Patrick stared at the Throne in open-mouthed disbelief. “Are you serious? You’re going to sit there and say that you have no idea who God is? He’s God! He’s the one that made all of this!” Patrick waved his hand around wildly. Azrael’s eyes took it all in, but considering there were thousands and they spun so fast Patrick couldn’t follow them, it wasn’t that hard for him. “He’s the thing that sits up in Heaven, judging everyone and making you feel bad when you masturbate. He’s the one who told us all how to behave and hits us with a big holy ruler when we misbehave. He’s…God. I don’t know how else to describe him.”
“OH, WHAT YOUR KIND THINKS IS THE CREATOR? THAT WHICH CAUSED TO BE? YES. I SEE YOUR CONFUSION. IT DOES NOT LIVE IN HEAVEN.”
“So I’ve been told. What happened to him, er, I guess “Him”? Where’d He go off to? Hell, where can a divine being actually go to?”
“IT CAN GO NOWHERE, FOR IT IS EVERYWHERE.”
“Heh, that’s what Gabriel said. You realize, though, that that doesn’t answer anything.”
“TRUTH IS A CRYSTAL, AND TRUTHS ARE THE FACETS CUT INTO IT. DO NOT CONFUSE THE FACE FOR THE WHOLE.”
“I thought you didn’t think in terms of meaning?” Patrick asked glumly. None of it made much sense to him.
“I DON’T. YOU WERE SIMPLY BEING OBTUSE.”
Patrick sighed and contented himself to rub Buster’s stomach. Buster, who was getting very little physical enjoyment out of this, but who was mentally in ecstasy, had rolled over so better facilitate access. One dog, at least, could go to heaven.
“Fine, let’s dial it back then. My wife isn’t here. Why not?”
“HER NAME IS NOT RECORDED IN THE BOOK OF LIFE.”
“Alright, that’s a start. So she can’t come into Heaven.” A sudden panic came over Patrick. “Does that mean she’s in Hell?”
“YES. BUT SHE DOES NOT NEED TO STAY, FOR HER NAME IS NOT WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE DEAD. SHE BELONGS NEITHER IN HEAVEN NOR HELL, BUT YES, RIGHT NOW SHE’S IN HELL. FOR CONVENIENCE’S SAKE.”
Fear settled in Patrick, so deeply that Buster began to whine again. She’s in Hell, he thought. That’s bad. That’s very bad. That’s fire and pitchforks and eternal burning. Images of Hell that had been burned into him by years of classical Catholic schooling sprang to life, vivid and real. The thought of the woman he loved going through that struck him with the force of that exploding sun. In his mind, he saw Sister Josephine, his ninth-grade geography teacher. She kept a copy of Gustave Doré’s illustration of the Punishment of the Thieves from Dante’s inferno rolled up behind the old British map of Canada. She rolled it down whenever the class was misbehaving, screaming “DO YOU WANT TO END UP LIKE THIS?”, as she slapped her metre-stick against the images of sinners writhing with agony as snakes crawled over them.
“We have to get her out of there!” Patrick yelled. “She hates snakes!”
“I mean, um, we should get her out of there.”
“BUT WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT THE SNAKES?”
“What snakes?” Patrick tried to sound innocent. “I just said it’s not good that she’s in Hell.”
“RIGHT. WE WOULD PREFER IF IT SHE WAS RESCUED. AS WOULD EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING.”
“Uh, what?” Patrick’s interested was uncomfortably piqued. He suddenly remembered something Óðinn had said about everything coming to ruin if he didn’t rescue her. He hadn’t written it off completely, but figured that Óðinn had been exaggerating a little. Ok, maybe a lot would be ruined, but surely not everything? Azrael was putting a real dent in Patrick’s self-delusion.
“SHE TOO IS TRYING TO LEAVE HELL. SHE EVEN HAS HELP. BUT IF SHE DESTROYS THE CHAOS GATE, THEN HELL IS FREE TO TRAVEL THE REALMS. ALL OF THEM.”
“So, that’s bad news for Heaven, eh?”
“ALL OF THEM ALSO INCLUDES THE PHYSICAL REALMS, PATRICK. THAT’S WHY I SAID “ALL”.”
“Oh. Uh. That’s bad.”
“YES. YES IT IS.”
Patrick tickled behind Buster’s ears as he considered just how bad it was when the personification of the physical laws of the universe said it was “bad”.
“Well, what am I supposed to do about it?” It wasn’t that Patrick didn’t want to do anything. Truth be told, he wanted to see Amira again and he definitely would have preferred it if Hell didn’t have free reign over all the world, but even in his head he couldn’t see himself as the hero in this story. Even in his own life, he rarely saw himself as the hero and more often as the stage manager. He made sure the show ran, and ran well, but no-one ever saw him do it.
Amira, however, still thought he was cute. To Patrick, that was what mattered most of all.
“YOU MUST FIND HER, AND BRING HER OUT OF HELL.”
“YOU WILL HAVE HELP.”
“YOU MUST, OR ELSE THE WORLD WILL DIE.”
“OH COME ON, JUST SPIT IT OUT ALREADY.”
“Gabriel won’t exactly let me. And he kind of took out all of my help. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even know how I got here, or how you saved me from that pit I was falling into. All I know is that Gabriel is trying his best to get me, lock me up, take away my memory, and then set me up with a pre-programmed Angel so I’d forget all about Amira.”
“WELL, WHEN YOU PUT IT LIKE THAT, I SEE HOW THAT COULD BE A PROBLEM. BUT YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DEFEAT HIM.”
“Really? Because I’m pretty sure I got my ass kicked by him the last time we fought.”
“YOU HAD YOUR “ASS KICKED”, EVEN THOUGH HE DID NOT KICK YOU AND SO I AM CONFUSED BY YOUR CHOICE OF WORDS, BECAUSE YOU LET HIM. YOU BELIEVED HIM ABLE TO, AND YOU WERE CONFIRMED IN YOUR BELIEF BY HIS VICTORY.”
“Yes, because he’s a damn Archangel. How can I beat an Archangel, in Heaven?”
“THE SAME WAY YOU LEARNED TO FLY, AND THE SAME WAY THAT YOU STOPPED BEING SO SCARED. HE HAS NO POWER OVER YOU THAT YOU DON’T LET HIM HAVE. TAKE THAT AWAY, AND HE CAN DO NOTHING TO YOU.”
“But…I am terrified of him. And he does have a tonne of power over me! What am I supposed to do? Something concrete here, Azrael, or else I’m toast.” Patrick couldn’t understand what Azrael was saying. It was stupid! How could he, a mere mortal who hated confrontations and didn’t understand the least thing about fighting another human (much less the intricacies of human-angel combat), hope to beat this guy? How could he hope even just to not piss himself the next time?
“HAVE FAITH, PATRICK O’FLANAGAN. HAVE FAITH THAT YOU WILL SUCCEED. HE CERTAINLY BELIEVES HE WILL.”
“That’s…surprisingly ineffective, Azrael. Don’t you have a heavenly sword or something?”
“SWORDS FIT THE HANDS THAT WIELD THEM, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. IT IS YOU THAT MUST DEFEAT HIM, PATRICK, NOT A WEAPON YOU WIELD. AND DO NOT BE AFRAID. YOU ARE NOT BREAD.”
“YOU CAN NOT BE TOAST, FOR YOU ARE NOT BREAD.”
“…Thank you, Azrael. I guess.”
“YOU ARE WELCOME.”
At that, the door to the house opened, and Luis Gonsalves, the aforementioned friendly neighbour, walked into the house with a bag of kibble. The news that flight CS 487 had crashed in the Swiss Alps had not yet reached him, and Buster still needed to be fed. He was surprised, however, to see that Buster was curled up on the couch in a picture of canine misery and was not ever excited by the prospect of food or walks. “Something had just sucked all the happiness out of Buster!” Luis would later say to his boyfriend of three years that night over Merlot. “Maybe we should have him stay with us for the next week? He must really miss those two.”
His partner, who wanted to avoid the stereotype of the gay couple with the dog instead of a baby for as long as he could, reluctantly agreed. It took Buster several days to come back to his happy, goofy, normal self, and again find pleasure in food and walks.
Tummy-rubs, however, were always acceptable.
It seemed to Luis and his partner (later husband) that Buster fit their lives like a glove, and when news of the crash came, it was the most perfectly sensible thing in the world to adopt him into their family. Buster, in turn, gave them years of companionship, love, and endless licks on the face whenever they came home.
The dog, at least, had a happy ending.