Thursday, September 27, 2012

Descent Into Dreamland (Part 2)

The response:

* * * * *

Jessica’s lips parted and Marcus imagined he could hear her breathing through her mouth as if her chin was perched on his shoulder. A sparkling tingle danced around the lower portions of his stomach, then wormed its way down into his intestines.

“And then you have the ‘x-factor,’” Marcus said, struggling not to squirm. “Dark matter. It’s the only scientific phenomenon that can account for everything from predictable atomic entanglement to the most incredible examples of high strangeness. Take, for example, studies that have been done in researching WIMPs and MACHOs—”

“Mmhmm.” Jessica’s expression seemed to ask him which he thought he was. She closed her eyes as she listened, running her hand along the inside of her collar.

Marcus huffed through his nose in spite of himself. “Most of our experts agree that dark matter exhibits some sort of property that allows what happens so easily at the atomic level to occur, albeit rarely, at the composite level.” Marcus’s eyes were drawn to a faraway place, but the words that followed were not his.

Jessica spoke. “Normally, we’re like rows upon rows of magnets moving together along a line, each of us restricted by the parameters of our dimensional reality, the sameness of our polar destinies. But on occasion, when dark matter is at play, it causes us to flip on our axis and become attracted to what lies on the opposing plane—the nearest influence—and a transference occurs.”

“That’s right. When you get right down to it, it’s all transference. We understand transference between atoms because of quantum mechanics and the relative ease at which one can examine a single particle compared to that of a composite system, like you and I.

“It’s more fluid at the atomic level,” Marcus breathed, lost somewhere between Jessica’s neck and the curving lines of her blouse. “But forced at the composite level.”

His eyes were uncontrollably drawn to the smooth bare skin of her thigh, revealed as one half of the split-seam on her skirt shifted. Marcus swallowed hard and continued.

“The question is, what can force a xenoform to transfer with a person? We think it might be psychological or emotional, with dark matter pulling the strings from above. But might there be an element of entropy in all of this? Some think so. The apparent disorder between two bodies, like their temperature and energy signatures, and how they coincide is an entropic relationship. So too when an individual is eclipsed by a stranger, resulting in a supernormality, becoming shadowbred—the umbranati.”

Jessica was moving her hand in small patterns now, a conductor leading an orchestra, but she missed not a word of Marcus’s ramblings.

But what are the warning signs? The question seemed to echo from out of nowhere in Marcus’s mind.

“Changes to our static initial conditions,” Marcus answered aloud. “We are all ingrained with static initial conditions from our shared evolutionary background. Like a factory-made motherboard, it keeps us up to spec, but prevents us from vibrating at a harmful frequency on our own plane.”

Jessica’s eyes fluttered open. “Now you’re getting into chaos theory.”

Marcus looked up then responded as if she had asked him if he loved her. “Of course.”

“Let me see,” she began, tapping a finger to her lips. “Chaotic behavior is normally only observed in systems that are predictable, such as technology or in pure science, but in this regard has a theoretical application. I believe the seminal theory is called the ‘inverse differential butterfly effect,’ or ID-b effect for short.”

Marcus’s head bobbed back and forth like his neck was on a spring. The standard butterfly effect stated that influence could be exerted on a system by small changes in the initial conditions of that system. The common example being that if a butterfly flapped its wings in Central America, that initial condition would trigger a storm in Texas. What Jessica was referring to was similar but with a different outcome. He was staring at the perfect woman.

Jessica took a sip of the tea and then held it in front of herself, rotating it between her hands. “For the theory to hold, the subject in question must be dynamic and fixed. We, as composite systems, are dynamic in that we consist of many parts that act independent of each other, and fixed in that our future planar states are derived from our current planar states. This is what you meant by static initial conditions. Although, cosmologically speaking, we are resistant to initial conditions, but sensitive to ultimate conditions. Simply put, we are shaped more by what happens to us over the course of a long life than what happens to us at birth. Therefore, it is said to be the inverse. And the changes we see are small and incremental, thus it is said to be differential as well.”

“Exactly,” Marcus said. “Repeated and prolonged exposure to metaphysical stress has a direct influence on the body. Coupled with an influx of dark matter and you have a recipe for an eclipse.” A strange attractor that attracts strangers, he mused.

Marcus placed his hands behind his head. “It stands to reason then that if one knew their metaphysical self was under attack they would naturally struggle to resist, otherwise, because the transference is incremental, one may never know they are being eclipsed until it is too late.

“And once again,” Marcus chuckled, “there is an equivalent parallel to all of this in quantum mechanics. In QM, one can measure energy in waves, and the superposition or overlapping of waves is called interference. Constructive interference is when the waves of energy are acting in concert, while it could be said that destructive interference is when the waves are resisting each other.…”

“And an analogous relationship exists where transference is concerned,” Jessica inserted, lighting a cigarette and placing it between her lips. “A person’s willingness or resistance to conform to metaphysical stress is proportionate to their detriment or benefit by way of their planar state, their metaphysical self.

“Take Jung’s concept of the ‘shadow’ and how it relates to individuation, or the finding of oneself; it may be a more natural process than we give it credit for. What if when a person is eclipsed by a supranormality they are simply expressing individuation on a cosmological level? Evolution bridging time and space. Even with all this understanding, even if it were so easy to diagnose, there’d be no way we could stop people from feeling, thinking, or changing. As I’ve told you before, Mr. Holdman, theory and the practice of theory in the real world are never as related quite as we would like.”

“No,” Marcus admitted. “But after all the research and advances of the last century it is up to us. We are charged with—”

“Yes, Mr. Holdman, I know.” Jessica smiled briefly and then her head tilted backward as her eyes rolled up into her skull. Her body went rigid as the balcony and the golf course it overlooked began to dissolve into a prismatic jumble.

Marcus’s features shifted in mild alarm, and a slowed sense of consciousness dawned on him. “No, wait!” He stood up out of his seat and leaned across the table. In his haste, he bumped Jessica’s teacup and it rolled off onto the floor. But there was no shattering of glass, shattering of glass, of glass, of glass, glass.…

Marcus’s lips drew nearer and nearer to Jessica’s mouth, the edge of a smile tracing it still, but he never got there. Her face had already begun to pixellate, begun to pixellate, to pixellate, to pixellate, pixellate.…

The teacup was no more. Jessica was no more. Marcus was no more. No more, no more, no.…

* * * * *

And the rabbit hole stretches on.…

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Visit to Hayfork, CA

Went up to visit family the weekend of the 15th; been far too long, barely remembered everyone's names! From right to left: 1st cousin Kari and her kids, Kenny, "Grams" (not a child of Kari's ;), Craig (the eldest), watashi, and the "baby" Karissa.
A bunch of us enjoying lunch after church while chatting about fantasy football, Japan, the Korean language, and the strange things people eat. Just a typical roundtable discussion.
91 years young!
Grandma and her eldest boy, Dad.
And one more guff-ball shot, tongues a-flexin'!
Love you guys!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Descent Into Dreamland (Part 1)

The science of it all:

* * * * *

“Have you ever done something and not known why you did it?”

White light shown down on the concrete of a Grecian balcony patio that overlooked a golf course below. Posh model homes were hidden behind every hill and filled every curve from where the balcony overlooked the green. Leaves cast in every shade hung from the limbs of trees that concealed the horizon and blanketed the sky. Fragrant honeysuckle grew along the trellis that encircled the patio. Taking in the view from here was like seeing a 3-D image from a page out of a Magic Eye book come to life.

A woman with long luxurious black hair contemplated the question as she leaned forward on her elbow, chin resting elegantly on the back of her hand. “Hmm, I’m not exactly sure what you mean.” Realization dawned on her mature face as she stirred the hot tea in front of her with the end of her little finger. “Like after doing something when you think back and it seems as if it had been someone else?”

“Exactly!” Marcus Holdman, the man sitting across from her, beamed as he straightened up. “Sort of makes you really wonder at the gravity of our work; you know, how it changes everything, and yet how it all fits just the same.”

The woman lifted her finger from the tea and sucked the liquid off with a kissing sound. “We are but delicate vessels languishing in a sea of worlds within worlds, and perforated throughout,” she said, quoting a famous line spoken by the original Intrepid, Sir William Samuel Stephenson. “Like a sponge.”

“No kidding,” Marcus agreed. “But seriously, the theory of planar metaphysics and all its tropes never ceases to amaze me.” He looked up and saw her smile, interpreting it as a placative response. “Come on, indulge me.”

“Oh, I’m right there with you, Mr. Holdman, as always.”

“I know, and I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess it’s predictable by now, but you’re the only one I truly enjoy discussing this with.” There was a pause, and then a word carefully left his mouth as if it were fragile enough to break. “Jessica.” He reached over and laid his hand on top of hers.

The woman gently retracted her hand as she reached up and replaced a strand of hair behind her ear. Crossing her shapely legs, Jessica leaned back in the chair and nodded. “Go on.”

Showing no obvious signs of disappointment at the rebuff, Marcus blinked once then continued.

“Well, as you know, I like to start at the beginning,” he said. “So, try to stay with me, because there is a point to all this.

“Now, if you take what we refer to as the known physical universe and posit that for anything done there is something not done, that means there will always be at least two of everything that exists or could exist. Apply this theory to the birth of the universe and you get the many-worlds interpretation of existence.”

He licked his lips as he went on. “And within many-worlds theory you have the framework by which to model anything you experience in reality. Reality is thus measured in terms of planes of existence—the supraphysical world—or dimensions, if you will.”

Jessica’s swoosh-like eyebrows rose as she spoke. “Yes, there are numerous ancient religions and philosophies which support similar claims in their own beliefs: Neoplatonism, and Theosophy, to Kashmir Shaivism, Kabbalah, and Rosicrucianism. The idea of the plane, vibrating plane, or the invisible world is not a new one, Mr. Holdman.”

“Right, and in science also we have quantum physics models that show how an atomic system can exhibit any eventuality in its own space. But what about large-scale systems, such as a universe, or all the things contained within one? There must be a way to example quantum relationships at the macro-level, and that’s where the MWI comes in.”

Jessica could see where he was going with this. She leaned her head back in an odd state of repose, pointing her toes and bouncing her leg on her knee as she spoke. “In esoteric cosmology, the manner in which the universe, or multiverse, progresses is by means of emanation: a gradual unfolding or expanding of the world around us—like a ripple on the surface of a pond, except that nothing exists outside the ripple until it has gone beyond that point. Not unlike the spreading action of spatial expansion associated with the big bang theory. Are you suggesting that this is a spot where these two conflicting ideas seem to agree, Mr. Holdman?”

He couldn’t help fidget at her response. “Well, for the initial relative states of everything that ever could be, yes.” He loosened his tie. “Look at it this way, science holds that everything that ever could or would be has always existed since the beginning of time. Nothing is gained and nothing is lost, matter and energy only go through various state changes. Esoteric cosmology, however, says that for every change in a system’s state there are two new divergent resultant systems for that change, each progressing in their own world, in their own dimension. If you combine these two theories you’re left with a multiverse of near-infinite planes that each progressed independently but coherently.”

“Meaning every universe that could ever exist has always existed.…”

“Precisely.”

* * * * *

That's what he said!

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Finder's Keeper (Part 2)

Here, answers only lead to more questions.


* * * * *

Nick easily walked among the dregs—in a sense, his own people—and even greeted a few with a kind word and a touch on the shoulder. Gray tried his best not to appear stiff in Nick’s shadow, though the eyes that returned his gaze told how they knew more than he.

As the two moved into the common room proper, a row of aged aluminum toilets—likely pooled from retired naval vessels—lined the wall nearest the stern. Gray looked up and saw a young girl, not more than eight, resting on top of a toilet in the act of defecating. The girl’s father stood over her, his back partly to Gray, as he urged her to be quick about it. Strangely, Gray saw pity in the young girl’s eyes as she watched him turn away.

The room felt crowded with only twenty people occupying it—space for ten more at most—and Nick had to lead Gray around and sometimes over slumbering individuals and their duffels. Thick candles and oil lamps were positioned here and there to give light where it was needed; the only electrical fixture in the room was a flickering shop light dangling from the ceiling over the toilets.

“No room to swing a cat, ‘ey?” Nick said over his shoulder to Gray.

The smell of stewed beans and potatoes and strong coffee filled Gray’s nostrils as the two of them approached a large iron furnace that was built up into the ceiling on the other side of the flat. A brewing kettle and several pots rattled away where they rested on a grill over one section of the fire. Gray surmised that Nick had provided some portion of the cookware or the spare coffee beans and potatoes, but just how much did these people rely on him, he began to wonder.

Neighboring the furnace, a large man, with the mustached face of a St. Bernard, stepped aside as Nick reached past him and pulled back one corner of a drape that obscured the inside of a private stall. There, lying on what appeared to be a heavily bedded gurney, and doubtless the finest divan on the entire flat, an elderly gentleman reclined in obvious discomfort.

The old man’s skin was slick with sweat, and red blotches were visible on the backs of his hands, his jaw, and his neck. His eyes were shut but his mouth hang open, a hollow, sucking sound emanating from the back of his throat each time he inhaled. His scalp was spotted and the few wisps of hair that decorated his head looked painted on. Judging by how loosely his clothes sat on him, the old man couldn’t have weighed more than a hundred pounds. Above all else, however, it was clear that the elder, whose pained expression was somehow still proud, had the look of an honored patriarch.

Nick turned to Gray in earnest and whispered. “The first time I went to look for’t was after I brought some spare blankets and the coffee from storage. Tha’s two days ago.” Nick lifted a finger and gestured toward a couple other stowaways across the room. “Since then the old man’s affliction has spread to some others, though not serious yet.”

Gray listened, emotionless.

“Is he eatin’?” Nick asked the big man still standing nearby.

The saggy-faced giant, who had kept vigil over the old patriarch since all this had began, shrugged and shook his head.

Nick leaned over to inspect the dwindling store of food. “There’re some fish and a small crab out on the landing, why don’t you go and fetch ‘em,” Nick instructed the large man. “Don’t worry none, you’ll be safe.”

Gray glanced at the big man as he left and then moved over to have a better look at the old patriarch.

“The cap’n is not an unfeeling fellow,” Nick began softly, placing a hand just above the old man’s forehead to check his temperature. “But there’s only so much he can do.”

Gray watched Nick out of the corner of his view, eyes moving from Nick’s lips to his eyebrow to the tip of his nose and back again as he spoke.

“The cap’n used to be one of ‘em, you know,” Nick continued. “Until by some odd stroke of luck, or someone else’s misfortune, this ship fell into ‘is hands. Ever since he’s been perfectly willing to carry one’s like these on ‘is back, so long as they’re out o’ sight.

“Fact is, he still has a ship to maintain and a crew to pay, and the crew generally don’t put out too much charity for one’s like these, so that’s where I come in—the unofficial go-between,” Nick said, wobbling his head from side-to-side like a champion horse jockey.

If Nick was disingenuous, Gray didn’t know it.

“And I’ve been with many a-crew, and one or two cap’ns besides, but this lot are some of the most ornery and paranoid by far,” Nick said. “It’s because of this that I’ve had to sneak into the paying passengers’ cabins a time or two. And they don’t like that much, I can tell you,” Nick added with a snort.

“But now I have what he needs,” Nick said, turning away from the old patriarch to face Gray. Nick produced a fistful of swabs, a flask of light brown unguent, and a bottle of what looked like cough syrup from inside his jacket.

“The medical kit you stowed in the fore flood chamber,” Gray confirmed.

Nick nodded. “It’s from the coxswain’s safe. I’ll be found out if I run around with it, so I just keep it hid out of sight till I need it. As for the crew, they’ll never know it was missin’, or need it I’ll wager.”

Nick’s carefree words caused the corners of Gray’s mouth to curl downward into a faint, cloudy expression.

An indecipherable murmuring issued forth from the old man and Nick bent his ear to the bedridden patriarch’s mouth to listen. Nick was patient as the elder spent what little energy he had saved up to make his wishes known. Nick responded periodically between the patriarch’s inaudible whispers, “Yes … yes, no worries.… No, it’ll not be long … rest easy. Oh … him?”

Nick cocked an eye at Gray as the old man settled back. “Say, come to think of it, I don’t think I ever got your name, friend,” he realized.

Coolly, Gray replied, “Friend will do.”

A crooked smile spread across Nick’s face as he rose to leave. “Aw’right then. Stay with him, I’ll not be five minutes. They’ll need more skin ointment and fever medicine ‘n what I’ve brought.”

Gray showed no outward signs of having heard Nick just then, seemingly entranced by the orange glow of the furnace, and that was good enough for Nick, given “Friend’s” outward aloofness. Without a further word, Nick was out the door and on his way.

* * * * *

Next up, a bit of chapter 5.

"…bringing balance back to the situation…"


Friday, September 14, 2012

A Finder's Keeper (Part 1)

Three chapters in, crossing the Atlantic…

* * * * *

Nick and Gray kept to the lee side of the ship, shielded from the powerful gusts, and crept from jutting deck equipment to low rise to shadowy niche. Gray fetched a look out over the gunwale to glimpse how the churning water measured along the freeboard, surging up and down as it was. The two slipped past the forward cargo hold kept with supplies and raw ore, the kind that most tramp freighters were apt to carry, Nick’s destination instead being the aft hold where the other stowaways stayed. Night was at its deepest now and many onboard were sleeping, but those whom Nick sought—he was sure—were not enjoying that luxury. The weather deck was still slippery underfoot, as the boat pitched from port to starboard, and the two skulking stowaways had to pay mind to their footing. Too much mind for either of them it seemed to notice spying eyes surveying them in the dark.

A creature of habit, Nick dropped to all fours as he scanned for trouble along the walk to the steel stairwell that spiraled down below decks where the dregs were kept. Only crew would be out and about in this torrential weather, and Nick had been lucky so far. Though apt to set caution aside—especially when all it did was make you look guilty—Nick waved his hand to signal that the coast was clear anyway.

The two steathfully attained the upper deck landing of the aft hold. Their feet settled on a grating that covered the floor here, sending overflow through a chute to a porthole on the side of the ship. They stepped over a tiny crab and a few floundering mackerel that were trapped amid the seaweed that hung from the grate.

Nick looked at Gray, addressing him as he would a greenhorn upon his first day on the job. “Okay, now listen up. What you prol’ly know already is that this boat is a kind of travelin’ slum sanctuary, right? Takin’ on transients and what not—the payin’ ones in the cabins, the rest of us down below,” he said, gesturing for Gray to give him a boost as he reached to disable the door lamp which hung from the ceiling. “Now you might’n’t’ve thought the cap’n wanted stowaways like yourself onboard, see, but what you didn’t know is that the captain of Le Esprit is somethin’ of a smuggler—a smuggler of people, that is.”

Having disabled the lamp they could now go through the deck door without turning on the landing light, which would shine up the stairwell. “Now, most of them that come onboard are just yer average transient, and that’s fine and well for them. But I’ve heard tell the cap’n has a nose for miscreants, ya see, and he lets ‘em come on board, free of passage and all, just so’es he can turn in the nastiest ones to the authorities on the far side of the pond.”

“And he never thought to do anything about you?” Gray asked offhandedly, admiring Nick’s adroit hand at killing the lamp without damaging it, and then springing the lock on the door noiselessly.

“Aw!” Nick returned in a hush. “I’m not that bad! The cap’n and I have a gentleman’s understandin’, see. I take care of the dregs, keep ‘em quiet, get ‘em what they need, you know?

“‘Cept the first mate and ‘is crew don’t like me very much.” Nick’s brow furrowed quizzically. “Guess that’s why the cap’n keeps the whole thing a secret, so long as I don’t wreck ‘is business, that is.”

Gray wore his eyebrows doubtfully high and nodded to himself as he digested the story.

Nick was quick to respond, reading his cohort’s face. “Hey! I’m not a thief! I fix things. I’m a fixer.”

The two stifled a snicker as they continued along a creaking corridor with doors facing the starboard side. The aft hold was broken up into separate flats, each built to facilitate a certain number of stowaways. The two came to the first door and Nick put his shoulder into it as the portal lurched open.

Immediately the two were struck with how much warmer the air was on this flat. One wall just inside the room was lined with a bank of tinged and dented lockers where passengers that lodged here could store their belongings. Beyond the lockers was a common room where men stood in tight clusters with a tin cup of coffee in hand while they chatted, the women gathered between them under heavy blankets, and a heavier scowl—everyone clad in layers of wool and denim. Makeshift cots consisting of a basic frame layered with soiled cushions and rolled-up towels—some of which lay hidden within crude stalls along the walls, each doubling as a shower—and the rare cradle fashioned from a split oil drum complete with the wailing sound of a baby inside it were scattered about the room. To their credit, Nick and Gray shared no signs of pause as they entered.

* * * * *

But why? More to come!