‘prose’ Category Archives
by adminadam in prose
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream
by Harlan Ellison
Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported—hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern. The body hung head down, attached to the underside of the palette by the sole of its right foot. It had been drained of blood through a precise incision made from ear to ear under the lantern jaw. There was no blood on the reflective surface of the metal floor.
When Gorrister joined our group and looked up at himself, it was already too late for us to realize that, once again, AM had duped us, had had its fun; it had been a diversion on the part of the machine. Three of us had vomited, turning away from one another in a reflex as ancient as the nausea that had produced it.
Gorrister went white. It was almost as though he had seen a voodoo icon, and was afraid of the future. “Oh, God,” he mumbled, and walked away. The three of us followed him after a time, and found him sitting with his back to one of the smaller chittering banks, his head in his hands. Ellen knelt down beside him and stroked his hair. He didn’t move, but his voice came out of his covered face quite clearly.
“Why doesn’t it just do us in and get it over with? Christ, I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.”
It was our one hundred and ninth year in the computer.
He was speaking for all of us.
Nimdok (which was the name the machine had forced him to use, because AM amused itself with strange sounds) was hallucinating that there were canned goods in the ice caverns. Gorrister and I were very dubious. “It’s another shuck,” I told them. “Like the goddam frozen elephant AM sold us. Benny almost went out of his mind over that one. We’ll hike all that way and it’ll be putrified or some damn thing. I say forget it. Stay here, it’ll have to come up with something pretty soon or we’ll die.”
Benny shrugged. Three days it had been since we’d last eaten. Worms. Thick, ropey.
The Last Answer by Isaac Asimov — © 1980
Murray Templeton was forty-five years old, in the prime of life, and with all parts of his body in perfect working order except for certain key portions of his coronary arteries, but that was enough.
The pain had come suddenly, had mounted to an unbearable peak, and had then ebbed steadily. He could feel his breath slowing and a kind of gathering peace washing over him.
There is no pleasure like the absence of pain – immediately after pain. Murray felt an almost giddy lightness as though he were lifting in the air and hovering.
He opened his eyes and noted with distant amusement that the others in the room were still agitated. He had been in the laboratory when the pain had struck, quite without warning, and when he had staggered, he had heard surprised outcries from the others before everything vanished into overwhelming agony.
Now, with the pain gone, the others were still hovering, still anxious, still gathered about his fallen body –– Which, he suddenly realised, he was looking down on.
He was down there, sprawled, face contorted. He was up here, at peace and watching.
He thought: Miracle of miracles! The life-after-life nuts were right.
And although that was a humiliating way for an atheistic physicist to die, he felt only the mildest surprise, and no alteration of the peace in which he was immersed.
He thought: There should be some angel – or something – coming for me. Read the rest of this entry »
An epic story about meeting god on a train.
Written by Harry Stottle @ fullmoon.nu
I met god the other day.
I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did you know it was god?
Well, I’ll explain as we go along, but basically he convinced me by having all, and I do mean ALL, the answers. Every question I flung at him he batted back with a plausible and satisfactory answer. In the end, it was easier to accept that he was god than otherwise.
Which is odd, because I’m still an atheist and we even agree on that!
It all started on the 8.20 back from Paddington. Got myself a nice window seat, no screaming brats or drunken hooligans within earshot. Not even a mobile phone in sight. Sat down, reading the paper and in he walks.
What did he look like?
Well not what you might have expected that’s for sure. He was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a “hobgoblin” tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself.
‘Anyone sitting here?’ he said.
‘Help yourself’ I replied.
Sits down, relaxes, I ignore and back to the correspondence on genetic foods entering the food chain…
Train pulls out and a few minutes later he speaks.
‘Can I ask you a question?’
Fighting to restrain my left eyebrow I replied ‘Yes’ in a tone which was intended to convey that I might not mind one question, and possibly a supplementary, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. ..
‘Why don’t you believe in god?’
I love this kind of conversation and can rabbit on for hours about the nonsense of theist beliefs. But I have to be in the mood! It’s like when a jehova’s witness knocks on your door 20 minutes before you’re due to have a wisdom tooth pulled. Much as you’d really love to stay… You can’t even begin the fun. And I knew, if I gave my standard reply we’d still be arguing when we got to Cardiff. I just wasn’t in the mood. I needed to fend him off.
But then I thought ‘Odd! How is this perfect stranger so obviously confident – and correct – about my atheism?’ If I’d been driving my car, it wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I’ve got the Darwin fish on the back of mine – the antidote to that twee christian fish you see all over. So anyone spotting that and understanding it would have been in a position to guess my beliefs. But I was on a train and not even wearing my Darwin “Evolve” tshirt that day. And ‘The Independent’ isn’t a registered flag for card carrying atheists, so what, I wondered, had given the game away.
‘What makes you so certain that I don’t?’
‘Because’, he said, ‘ I am god – and you are not afraid of me’
You’ll have to take my word for it of course, but there are ways you can deliver a line like that – most of which would render the speaker a candidate for an institution, or at least prozac. Some of which could be construed as mildly amusing.
Conveying it as “indifferent fact” is a difficult task but that’s exactly how it came across. Nothing in his tone or attitude struck me as even mildly out of place with that statement. He said it because he believed it and his rationality did not appear to be drug induced or the result of a mental breakdown.
‘And why should I believe that?’
‘Well’ he said, ‘why don’t you ask me a few questions. Anything you like, and see if the answers satisfy your sceptical mind?’
This is going to be a short conversation after all, I thought.
‘Who am I?’
‘Stottle. Harry Stottle, born August 10 1947, Bristol, England. Father Paul, Mother Mary. Educated Duke of Yorks Royal Military School 1960 67, Sandhurst and Oxford, PhD in Exobiology, failed rock singer, full time trade union activist for 10 years, latterly self employed computer programmer, web author and aspiring philosopher. Married to Michelle, American citizen, two children by a previous marriage. You’re returning home after what seems to have been a successful meeting with an investor interested in your proposed product tracking anti-forgery software and protocol and you ate a full english breakfast at the hotel this morning except that, as usual, you asked them to hold the revolting english sausages and give you some extra bacon. ‘
‘You’re not convinced. Hmmm… what would it take to convince you?’
‘oh right! Your most secret password and its association’
A serious hacker might be able to obtain the password, but no one else and I mean
knows its association.
The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be constructed is not real.
The Way manifests all that happens and may happen;
The world represents all that exists and may exist.
To experience without abstraction is to sense the world;
To experience with abstraction is to know the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;
Their construction differs but their effect is the same.
Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.
( Not your everyday blog post, this one. More of a metacognitive landscape. )
Can we justify this procession of thoughts, I wonder? With fast-paced production of relevance or another stumbling wordsong? A plug over the idea-ships leaks? There may be a way. But sometimes it works that despite your best efforts to privatize your mind the world finds a way to reach you — much to your surprise. At that odd angle? In this clever way?
And the last one of these chain link interrupters that got (pleasantly) interrupted was centered around the possibility of a kind of goo-like-supercomputing-material in its absolute incarnation — a maximally malleable, adaptable, and indestructible state-of-the-art technology with its roots in robotic airplanes or mechanical insects perhaps. So, I was going to imagine what those insect airplanes could look like because I like to write what I imagine, and I like to imagine that what and how I write will shift us all closer to acceptable outcomes. And that I may in fact allow others in this way to imagine acceptable outcomes fills me with pride and joy, acting as an initiator or writer for it all. Call it memetic enabling if you like…
SO IT HERE GOES.
The Israelis already make a remarkable robot jet — it’s a pilot-less spy plane, but if you think about it, it is also a very advanced calculating machine designed to enhance war plans and to increase their efficacy (it also carries bombs).
Atrociousness aside, this line of products is rapidly gravitating up to sentient, god-like levels of intelligence. (or, one could say, down to demon-like depths…) The fact is we are sculpting many creepily powerful beasts. Not all we sculpt will be so atrocious; some will be good to the core or that is the hope. But the next machines to come, and ignore the amorality and asymmetry of the use of such devices in our stacked world for just a second, the next machines will …
And the chain of imagination continues, better yet, jumps to this new and separate text:
Whether you like it our not it is all around us. There are bits of it in the air and in the sea, spread amongst the flowers and lodged into the trees. There are bits of it even in your brain that form bonds with the rest of our corner of the galaxy. And yet, without any greater context this may sound so far like some of that new-age spiritual quackery, like the ubiquity-of-god type set-up. But please know that these are bits of physical matter, extremely dense and fine tuned for high complexity and intelligence. This now-ubiquitous stuff comes from Earthly unorganized matter, from rocks and stones and minerals under our feet, but it is in fact living and awake and it’s all around us now. It’s all around us now in 2084. It’s all around us in 2084…
AND THERE IT WENT.
Having said that, I do not find it an unjustified procession of thoughts — no, no, not at all.
Alright… Let’s hear it now for You Don’t Have a Clue!
The Last Question by Isaac Asimov — © 1956
The last question was asked for the first time, half in jest, on May 21, 2061, at a time when humanity first stepped into the light. The question came about as a result of a five dollar bet over highballs, and it happened this way:
Alexander Adell and Bertram Lupov were two of the faithful attendants of Multivac. As well as any human beings could, they knew what lay behind the cold, clicking, flashing face — miles and miles of face — of that giant computer. They had at least a vague notion of the general plan of relays and circuits that had long since grown past the point where any single human could possibly have a firm grasp of the whole.
Multivac was self-adjusting and self-correcting. It had to be, for nothing human could adjust and correct it quickly enough or even adequately enough — so Adell and Lupov attended the monstrous giant only lightly and superficially, yet as well as any men could. They fed it data, adjusted questions to its needs and translated the answers that were issued. Certainly they, and all others like them, were fully entitled to share in the glory that was Multivac’s.
For decades, Multivac had helped design the ships and plot the trajectories that enabled man to reach the Moon, Mars, and Venus, but past that, Earth’s poor resources could not support the ships. Too much energy was needed for the long trips. Earth exploited its coal and uranium with increasing efficiency, but there was only so much of both.
But slowly Multivac learned enough to answer deeper questions more fundamentally, and on May 14, 2061, what had been theory, became fact.
The energy of the sun was stored, converted, and utilized directly on a planet-wide scale. All Earth turned off its burning coal, its fissioning uranium, and flipped the switch that connected all of it to a small station, one mile in diameter, circling the Earth at half the distance of the Moon. All Earth ran by invisible beams of sunpower.
Seven days had not sufficed to dim the glory of it and Adell and Lupov finally managed to escape from the public function, and to meet in quiet where no one would think of looking for them, in the deserted underground chambers, where portions of the mighty buried body of Multivac showed. Unattended, idling, sorting data with contented lazy clickings, Multivac, too, had earned its vacation and the boys appreciated that. They had no intention, originally, of disturbing it.
They had brought a bottle with them, and their only concern at the moment was to relax in the company of each other and the bottle.
“It’s amazing when you think of it,” said Adell. His broad face had lines of weariness in it, and he stirred his drink slowly with a glass rod, watching the cubes of ice slur clumsily about. “All the energy we can possibly ever use for free. Enough energy, if we wanted to draw on it, to melt all Earth into a big drop of impure liquid iron, and still never miss the energy so used. All the energy we could ever use, forever and forever and forever.”
Lupov cocked his head sideways. He had a trick of doing that when he wanted to be contrary, and he wanted to be contrary now, partly because he had had to carry the ice and glassware. “Not forever,” he said.
It’s all newness. It’s all new.
Every letter of this sentence.
Every breath inhaled – what of any of this has happened before?
And is this significant?
Yes. But only when lived as newness.
When newness itself is lived it all gains meaning;
it all has to be new, because nothing is allowed to be old.
And yet our all-too-powerful brains jump to nonexistent past and future times,
all unreal, jumping simply because they can.
Whatever you have to do, make it real,
cause there’s no time but this one – and it’s never happened before.
And as soon as it’s over,
So put that in your pipe and smoke it:
It’s a deeper level of introspection
that is needed
for to know oneself, is to know all others
and to know oneself completely
is to know all others completely too.
is full of willpower and life
and it directs your soul-power and influence
known by many other names, truth
belongs to you
but you have to claim it
you have to claim it
and then never force it
to do your bidding.
Why because when it’s *your* bidding
it is not ours
but when it’s us
then it *means* something
and in an absurd kind of way
after that, the meaning
the answer, eludes me.