I often start out small, in the shower, back in the house in
the suburbs where most of the kids grew up.
It’s not much of a shower but the water pressure is good. It’s a way to refresh, restore, or whatever I
do there. I think that is what most of
us do. I think we have some kind of
regular re-boot routine to clear out the confusion. I wind back to about fifty-five or fifty-six
which is about as far as I can go and get a reliable image. I am
an old soul and results will vary.
I still like the feel of the water beating on me after all these years. There are some things that you never get tired of. And things that you think you will never get
enough of, well that can be a different
story. It’s like that blue guy in that
old Disney movie says, “Nothing like two thousand years in the cave of wonders
to chill a guy out.” I’m pushing a
cheap Netti bottle up my nose and looking at a break in the paint in the
ceiling. That’s where they came in the
last time to get me.
I have found the most exquisite pleasure in some of the
simplest moments of life, repeated day after day, year after year, century
after century, perhaps comparing the trace of a scent brought through an open
window to that called forth in a memory of some other place. Finding myself overwhelmed by the same storm
of leaves, my mind calling for that sleep, following the long stainless tube
rail…that first awkward journey, even then my face and legs tingling as the
nerves began frying from the overload.
Nasty business back then. And so
few of us “suited” for the interface.
What did we not know?
It was so often what we cherished most—that physical existence, those
glorious pink and brown physical bodies we clung to so fiercely were the very
instruments of our deaths. They were our
prisons. They more often than not sent
the poisons and toxins to numb and eat our minds, to cloud us, to put us to
sleep. That is how it really was. The mind served the body, not the other way
around. Who ever thought we were a
superior race of thinkers? What a
joke. We were a race of dozers
vulnerable to sugar molecules.
Inevitably there are those who wish to enter systems with no
memory of who they really are. They want
the full flesh and blood experience again, cradle to crematorium, the terror,
the toss of the dice. We have some
systems like this. Sometimes they merely want to re-live their
own lives with minor modifications, or two want to be together again. Those who have not done this often want “real”
lives with material or social advantages.
As they gain experience their requests become more interesting. They want to be “reincarnated” as
dragonflies, flowers, or poor people. Then they get creative.
The trick is how much awareness can be given to any
iteration. How limited are their
perceptual fields? How much can they
remember when their veil is lifted? Souls are not so very different, even very
old souls. I watch the shadows on the
blind swell as wind coming through the house lifts it. The pattern is complicated by the open window
and the three panes contributing structural patterns to the shadows. I can feel tingling in the backs of my hands
on my knuckles. I am 34 and I do not yet
know this is what will kill me.
I am at my sister’s house in Ohio, the second one she has
built on the plot of land my father had given her. The first one burnt down. It is a perfect day, just under eighty
degrees and mid-May with the apple orchard. across the road in full bloom. She pauses the porch swing, not looking up
from her read. “So you say my soul still
remains intact. It still does what my
soul is supposed to do. You are only
working with a copy.” I don’t look
over. Logan, their Aeridale pushes his
way out of the house.
“That’s right,” I tell her.
“You still get to go to heaven, or whatever you have planned.”
“But how do you know?”
She asks. What if the copy
somehow interferes with the transit of my mortal soul and damns me forever?
I look at her, scratching Logan’s chin. “You don’t know. But nothing is forever. I look down at Logan. In this iteration in this system, Logan is
what was my father. By the time he gave
up, there wasn’t much left to grab onto.
In this particular system I step very gently. I know too much.
The wind has picked up, shoving its way around the
house. I can hear chimes rattling in my
memory somewhere in Michigan. “Damn,
this is the crotch sniffinest dog.”
Sandy is pushing Logan away, with a kick to the nose for good
measure. He comes over to my side of the
long porch and sits sulking. She looks
across the porch. “You have got to
promise not to put me into one of those damn things if something happens to me
unless I ask for it and I am in my right mind.
Do you understand me brother?
There are words and phrases that break your heart every time
you utter them, and one of those is “I promise.” It is a phrase that should be cut jagged and
surly and bloody from the human mind and flung on the OR floor to there writhe
and die in a puddle of antiseptic. I am
looking at an old soul in a specially restricted system and promising to not
put her where she is, where she has by definition put herself.
“I cannot understand you,” she goes on. Your talk of implants and you can’t handle a
“It will be fine, I said.
“How long do you have to be alive for that thing to work? She
said with some doubt.
“As long as possible.”
“The insurance people aren’t going to like it.”
“The foundation will be paying for it.”
Of course none of us had anticipated how prepared the
Medical establishment would be on all fronts to grab this technology, and the
extents to which they would go, and how little time I would be allowed to
live. I would be allowed one brief visit
from The Snake, and a long ride down that steel pipe.
She would show up in a dream. “We’ve got to go now.
“Why.” Good god, for
once in your life trust me. Look in your
brain. Smell the smoke. That’s you.
I could feel something strange…like a seizure in slow motion coming up out of the
back of my head. I looked at her. “That’s right. Say goodbye.
No time to throw up sweetie. Get
on the ride.
She had come back for me, and there was no way I could go
back for her. I didn’t have the fingers,
the technology, not in time. More
Yes I’m here. I’m
just not sure which side of the equation I am working from just now. I suspect, but sometimes I find it convenient
to not let myself know. The fact that I
know there is an equation is a giveaway right there, but I can compartmentalize
that and all its implications that quicky.
I can look out over the brown roof through the cottonwood tree across
the road and wonder why I don’t seem to have gotten anything done today. I can wonder about the dull ache in my head
and the binaural ringing in my head.
I can shift as easily as closing my eyes, more easily, but
even now it is a thing which is more natural to the being that I am if I close
my eyes first. Shift and I am stepping
out of the shower and back in, feeling the still-warm tiles against my feet as I
lean over to get my Netti bottle. I
remember now I forgot to rinse out the bottle and I am wondering how many other
things I have forgotten to do today. How
many unrinsed Netti bottles are waiting for me on sinks around the house?
Shift and I am mowing the yard but in my head I am talking
to my son about my grandson. What is the
problem there I am thinking, remembering the young blank eyes and the
unyielding resistance from him and his girlfriend. Something was not right. Everyone was up in arms and too excited. Everywhere you pushed the houses were made of
tissue paper; the arguments of smoke, and it comes to me that the
fifteen-year-old couple want to fuck like bunnies whenever and wherever they
like. It is that simple. This is the demand they will not present.
There is that pain in my head again…one of the spikes. Someone once told me that was my brain
tearing itself apart. That would have
been fine with me at one time. I
remember telling my therapist that I had been in the system long enough to know
that there were some things that I could not say to her, some questions I could
not answer truthfully without being punished.
No she said, never punish. Oh
yes. Punish. You would not mean to but
you have your liability, your insurance and it is us who are punished sure as
So … she would say,
as a kind of question, with that slow pause on the end. Just the one word
slipping out from under her black eyes and it was her way. That was how she initiated, and you could
feel the slight husk in the last one-fifth of the o on the end of the
word. It took me so long to understand
even after I understood, so long to accept that that was just her way, just our
way because every couple has their way and she most likely had a different way
with her next man.
It is, I have thought, the space between the notes that
makes the music, because without that space the notes fall over one another. Nor can the music exist without the
confinement of a linear time scale. And so
we are uniquely compromised, uniquely limited to apprehend music and so much of
living is slipping through all the spaces of those things we are uniquely
compromised to apprehend: the spaces between the branches of the spruce tree
outside my window, the shifts in pitch in the ringing in my ears, the inflection
in the delivery of a single syllable word.
I set the test strip in the sugar meter and cock the needle
gun. I have been thinking about the
Omega man. Charlton Hesston running
around New York with his rifle and his garage door opener. But he was not alone. That was the whole deal of the movie. Here there is real dust. There is real silence. I press the trigger and the needle drives
home to a shielded splash. I wait and
squeeze my finger and wait a little more.
Charlton is cornered in his garage again. The puddle of blood forms. The numbers flicker on the meter.
Most wish to enter systems with no memory of who they really
are. That is almost everyone nowadays. It is the unspoken rule. I am an anomaly. I want to remember. They
want the flesh and blood experience again, cradle to crematorium, the terror,
the toss of the dice. Sometimes they merely want to re-live their
own lives with minor modifications, or two want to be together again. There is something I want to remember. As they gain experience their requests become
more interesting. They want to be
“reincarnated” as dragonflies, flowers, or puddles of poop. Then they get creative.
The very old souls sometimes get together to talk about
things, how things are going. Not that
there is much in the way of “new business” but there are always ideas about what
we should be doing differently or who got whacked and why. It’s not really a ruling council although
everybody thinks it is. There are only
about six of us left who bother to get together; there are really only maybe
about twenty of the O’s still running around who haven’t been wrecked in one
disaster or another. Oh yeah, nothing is
forever. Not you. Not me.
Still there are days that are not like any other days, when
the heat comes and the sweat pools at the small of your back, and the curtain
of drowsiness falls over you a different corner at a time. You can watch the same tree fall fifty times
and still not want to turn your head, not need to forget how the one limb will
brush out and how the leaves will shake and how you could almost count the
leaves falling in aftermath in memory.
This is why they want to forget, because they have forgotten how to see
We had a thing tonight, one of the
Old Souls cracking an egg and Sandy couldn’t be there. It was Fred.
He used to be her husband, second or third in her original life and he
wasn’t dying on time. Maybe he had drunk too much beer today. I went
into the little bedroom they has set up for him to deplane and sat down next to
him. I realized I was very fond of this
man. I leaned over, talking evenly into
his ear, “Time to come home brother.
Then I placed three fingers lightly over his right breast.
Tydeus has called me to a meeting. Over time I seem to have become majority
shareholder by accident as much as anything and it just goes to show that given
enough time anything can and will happen.
It is a theory I have of absolute probability. Tydeus is head of the foundation law firm and
has called me to meet with a federal prosecutor on a matter that some religious
organizations have managed to bring to bear.
Don’t they realize “underage” is a euphemism for 47 years old?” I ask
him. “I don’t think they get that yet,”
I lean my head back on the plush conference room chair head
rest. I can feel it pressing against the
back of my neck, against my sinuses and causing some clearing. It feels good. I like things that feel good. In general things that feel good are
good. There are exceptions to this rule however;
cosmic exceptions and you always have to be careful for them. I wonder if I will have time for a nap before
the prosecutor and his people show up and ask Tydeus about it. “Not even for a drink,” he says. “This is serious stuff.”
“Don’t you have it handed?” I ask. You are the lawyer guy.
“I’ve got it this time, but I think we got lucky. This prosecutor guy Robertson is a three-time
flyer in one of our padded cells.
My eyes are
closed. I am thinking about these tight
little systems, the padded cells, no one else in. No wonder he has such an interest in “underage
victims.” “So, I say, ”this time they go
away quietly, but they really really want us to go away permanently.
“That’s a fact.”
“Well, maybe we should.”
“And abandon everyone who needs us?
Besides, we’ll just leave another foundation while we float
off into space on the head of our own pin.
You get to be god this time, ok?
“I don’t wanna be God,”
There’s too many wacko’s trying to get God.”
“We will make a Verse without Wackos.”
“Where’s the fun in that?”
The door swung open and Patterson walked in with six under
things carrying heavy brief cases. “A
moment?” Tydeus ushered him back through the mahogany door into the coffee
room. I closed my eyes and lay my head
back on the chair again. Shift. The University Dormitory. Winter.
One of the Patterson’s underthings had some kind of EMP bomb
in his oversized case. I was studying it
as he fingered the latch. They were
covering their bets these Vatican weasels.
My sister would not have approved.
Patterson and Tydeus came back with fresh cups of coffee. Patterson was sweating as if he had just drunk
two pots by himself. He walked over to
the underthing with the EMP and started reaching for the case. The molecules in the silicon wafers inside
the case suddenly against incredible odds went south and migrated into the soft
leather of the case.
There is unaccountably a long piece of corn stalk leaf stuck
in the overhead gingerbread around the porch. Over the millennia she has
changed in small ways and I find I am more comfortable with her. I wonder if it is I who has changed. After all, I am the only one who could make
comparisons. She is worried about her
immortal soul again. The porch swing
gives a long squawk as she stops it. Sandy is leaning forward now. I am
listening to the sounds of the chains and springs rather than watching her for
clues to her expressions.
Logan gets up to sniff a vacant cushion in a seat across
from me. I am reminded of cushions in
busted up wicker furniture in Canada and feel a momentary pang of loss, but I
do not let myself go there back to that mildewed country under the pale green sky.
Life is about loss. It is the passage of
time. It is linear. It is movement. It is a cruel knife cutting, tearing through
your brain while you are awake. That is
the sound you are hearing…the laser knife of the event horizon ripping its way
through your brain.
It’s simple Sandy.
Your soul is immortal. It is the
only thing that is. Actually I am
beginning to doubt this, and perhaps it is because I have chosen to not forget,
but I suspect that the soul does not forget some things too so that it has
complexities that are also immortal, but I do not tell Sandy this yet. There are so many things I am not allowed. Only that the system is not immortal. So do
not worry. In that great expanse of time
it will rust, decay, and release your soul.
O yes it will.