The Crane pt.3- Company
Once home, Delmar looked around his apartment. In contrast to the cramped space of Seppy and Maries tent, where tons of clutter fit into a tiny space by hanging from bungee chords, his apartment looked like an expansive space with nothing in it. There was a small area in the corner with a bit of cardboard for a plate, a bit of styro for a bed, and 3 water jugs, one of which was for water, one an ashtray, the other one a chamberpot. His enthusiasm began to wane. He was all to familiar with the comedown, and saw it coming on in the colors of the world around him. A feeling of overwhelming sorrow and emptyness was creeping up on him, along with soreness and something like a flu. He knew he should find some soda soon, but probably wouldn’t. The inevitable alternative was 36 hours of feverish halfsleep. He fell down on his mat to regroup. Feverish dreams full frustrations, 5second dreams full of feeling and utterly devoid of meaning, these were the realms in wich he would desperatley seek rest and respite.
He dreamed his parents were carcasses, and always had been. He dreamed he had sex with a bizarre clone of himself that couldnt speak and was covered in thick hair. He dreamed about a woman he flirted with online and would never meet in person, that she secretly hated him and inhabited an empty soda pouch that was almost visible from where he lay on the floor. He dreamed of mist that turned to terrifying faces, then decomposed in unreal time, with maggots and decay and burning, all too real. He dreamed of a beautiful woman with a strange picture on her back. She represented something vital to the world that no one understood, and she was dying. He dreamed of creepy puppets on the nueral net. They hated humans who posessed their own conscious wills, and sought to destroy it forever. Several times he awoke terrified and exhausted, wondering if he was really awake. He wondered which of his remembered experiences from the last few days were real. The hairy clone? The strange old man and the quiet girl? The puppets who ate human consciousness? When he couldnt sleep, he closed his mind to all internal and external things. Nonthink was free, and helped a lot when he could do it well. It was a rare skill. It wasnt sleep, but it was some kind of rest. He didnt know it for sure at the time, but this was what kept him from becoming as crazy as other soda addicts.
On the third day he arose. It was dark out, but the tiniest of colored indicator lights where like blazing suns to him. They cut through to the center of his aching skull. Before he opened his eyes, he started checking messages. Distant netfriends and dreamfans wanted to know how he spent the last few days. The everpresent impersonal curiosity of the bored, failed to brighten his day. They would look into the net of shared thoughts and experiences, see a reflection of themselves, and feel a little better about their own lives. Goverment collectors wanted creds. The mysterious uberman wanted to know if Delmar would really deliver for such a low quote. An endless mob of bots wanted him to believe in Physicals he’d never see with his eyes, never be able to afford, and couldn’t see value in anyway. Gov messages with some useless crap about the war against the Terrorist Culties, and the probability of attacks in various parts of the cities. They were 3second exp files of terrified citizens, saved from brutal attacks because of their belief in gov files that warned against blackmarket trading in the slopes. More bots with high interest loans. There was some more gov messes about medbot compliance, and culties cutting heads off babies in the outlands.
Then, an interesting oldform mess: He found the quiet girl, Marie, playing the flute, sitting cross legged on a tarp. The message was in an old filetype, because it hadn’t come from a person. It had been recorded by an antique handheld telephone. The phone had recorded video and audio only, without any other sensedata references. She was pretty in a way, but there was something genderless in her round shoulders, and something ageless in her face and voice. She was either a strange looking thirty something, or an old looking teenager. It was hard to tell. The melody was mournful. Delmar tried to listen to it in the “long time-frame” format that had made the puppetshow so lifechanging. There were no actual ideas or thoughts in the message. Instead, the melody of the bamboo flute conveyed an outline and suggestion of feelings and ideas that Del, himself, would experience in real life upon listening to the strange music. It was masterfull, and carried him like a train. It sounded like it was about travel-weary sadness, and a need for human connection. The sad melody made Del feel like he must see the old man and the girl, before they set travel again. He wouldn’t have tried contacting Seppy, effectively devoiced as the old man was. He returned a mess to Marie that gave the location of his apartment and a tentative schedule, wrapped in an earnest (if slightly pathetic), wish that she would show up unexpectedly. Del new that any mention of Seppy on the net could bring serious danger, and tried to put all thoughts of the old man out of his mind when he was connected. He thought about the novelty of people bodily entering his apartment. Then another thought occured to him: “Fuck, I gotta get some food in here”, and he left into the crisp, smoky night.
He looked up some social interactions from the train. An old file looked informative, and more importantly, funny. The peoples’ house was huge, and they dressed in an ancient style. A woman cooked processmeal in a hotbox. She was so invested in “everything being perfect”. She wanted to look prosperous and sexy, yet the guests were relatives she knew well. They had far too many implements involved in their food and drink, but Dels’ guess that food and drink would be a good thing to focus on was confirmed. The refpoint for the file was a guy who was kind of a dick, who thought his woman’s domestic skills had impressed the guests, and smugly approved, as if he’d done it. The food was crappy, yet expensive, and achieved the desired effect. When the guests arrived though, there was a formalised discomfort to their interaction. Delmar thought of how he had been treated in his new freinds tent, and wondered if he could do something similar for them.
At one of the train stops, Del heard a crazy yelling. The shouts came from a man who had lost his legs and couldn’t make it over the gap to the train door. His pelvis was tied to a plastic crate with 2 wheels on it. The wheels clacked loudly against the pavement as he struggled to board the train. Delmar had seen him before, but hadn’t heard him yell like this. He had the unmistakable smell of staff infection coming from his soiled stumps. You could tell he had gone mad with suffering, and was devoiced, because there weren’t any refrence tags associated with him, and he adressed people directly like he knew them. Everyone pretended not to see him. People getting on the train pulled up filter masks and tried not to touch him. He would probably be at the same stop tomorrow, trying to cross that 8″ gap between the platform and the train, yelling like a madman, attacking and scaring people who he apparently wanted something from.
Del decided everyone must eat from seperate bowls, and the guests bowls shouldn’t be the same as the cookpot. He thought of arranging a side dish around the outside of the new bowls, to look like they were cooked seperate. He spent creds he shouldn’t on some hotpaste from a grocerybot. The grocer looked like a huge fat guy, and couldn’t move from its’ stock. It’s big smiling face broadcasted expfiles of how great the more expensive stuff tasted. The cheapest proteins on file were spicybugs, from a little blackmarket lady, with a huge asian hat, who got pidgeons and rats sometimes. He got new chopsticks, and cleaned his hotplate off, even though it didnt touch any of the food.
At an unappointed time, both of them appeared at his building. Delmar made his usual blocknoodle with the addition of the hot paste and spicy bugs. It was affordable food, but achieved the desired effect. Seppy and Marie ate uncerimoniously, but then the old man shared even longer more complex stories with Del. His voice sounded like a younger mans’. His grayish beard hid a duck-like mouth, and his dialect wasn’t entirely slopes; there was some vestiage of an older dialect underneath it, not quite uberclass, and not quite homosexual, but something a little like both.
He told Del a story about a golden man who was the sun. People who were other planets and vital forces loved him, and for his birthday, they gave him skills, powers, and magic names. One of these gifts was “Luck”. It was a luck so powerful, that it made his skin impervious to wounds. The technology for said skin had been designed by little blue doctors in dark cloaks. They had magic technology, but were unkind and mischevious by nature. They had designed a fluid that was the essence of impervious luck, and dipped him in it, dangling him by his left foot. All the powerful friends at this celebration of the sun took turns trying out his luck with various weapons, thrilled that none of them could harm him. There was another man who was night, and was incurably blind. He was excluded from the partygames because of his infirmity, and the blue doctors pretended to pity him. They told him he could play the weapon game, and they would guide his hand. The blind man who was night threw a knife, guided by the doctors, and they helped him aim directly at the left heel that hadnt been dipped in the luck juice. The little knife killed the golden man. There was a huge funeral with much mourning. After a short time of blind darkness on earth, the golden man came back to life, and a balance was established between light/dark, warm/cold, day/night, etc. The golden man now dies and is resurrected every year, since that made up event. The essence of the story had something to do with the natural cycles of the actual sun.
“How do you record and convey all this?” Del asked, amazed. In his mind, he was still wondering how the actual sun could be one and the same with the golden man, who was imaginary, but somehow also real. Seppy smiled knowingly. “Well I don’t look it up in the normal sense…You understand what im talking about just enough to make it all well worthwile.” Delmar felt that he barely understood, but enjoyed it all immensely. Again, they talked long into the night. He offered them extra blankets, but Marie had brought bedrolls in a huge backback.
The three new friends had several nights like this. Marie would comb and braid the old mans long grey hair like an impatient mother, but seldom spoke. Delmar slacked off on work, and Seppy insisted to Marie that violating their 3 day rule wouldnt bring the killbot. They gave Del some tea that tasted awful, said it was medicine. He drank it every day, as a show of gratitude, and craved soda less and less. The Stories were a fantastic, priceless treasure. Sometimes Seppy would perform the telling with exagerrated expressions, moving his hands as if he himself, was like one of his puppets. The effect was a bit embarrassing at first, but made the stories better, once Del got used to it. The tales themselves got weirder too. The stories were doing something inside Dels mind. Sometimes in his sleep, he would retell himself stories he had heard from Seppy, and sometimes they came out different. They changed Del’s veiw of unrelated, real life events. Seppys stories were changing Dels worldveiw, and with it, his psychology, thought processing, and dreams. A few times, Marie played flute while Seppy told stories. They were 2 streams of data sometimes unrelated, sometimes inseperable, and often too much to hear all at once.
On the 3rd of these meetings, Delmar tried to voice a dream he had been working on. He couldnt just show Seppy the file, because any logging on would give up the old mans location to the killbots. It was a feeling Del often had while riding an outlands train late at night. The lights inside were blue. It was so difficult to form words with his mouth that would convey the intense atmosphere of the file hed made from real experiences interwoven with dream. Delmar used spoken language in new, clumsy ways. “Postwork ciesta, foreigners antennas clink on metal rails…smells like dust and elecrical fire… bluelight train night is warmth, and cold as lonely… we drift effortless through timeless…. um, dark, maybe forever”. Seppy laughed appreciativley and slapped the floor, yelling “Genius!- I knew it was in ya! Ha ha!” Marie, however, truly shocked Del by throwing her arms around his shoulders and squeezing him. -another new and unfamiliar form of interaction. Del liked it, but it was also scary. He didn’t know how to react. “Thank you” he said sheepishly.
Seppy seemed amused with Dels obvious discomfort, and leaned forward as he did when beginning another of his amazing stories. “For most of human history, children were told stories that were linked with their cultures religion and their family history. This ..’conectedness'(I call it)makes people take it in and store it in their subconscious. Young children don’t fully understand these stories, but they take them in, and the stories become the basis of their worldveiw. When a persons worldveiw gets damaged through drugs or mental illness, it must be rebuilt. Exp files dont work, and if they hear the wrong kind of stories, their worldveiws will still be built on those stories, and it can make that person completely disfunctional and miserable.” Del was curious, and wondered if the old man was exagerrating the importance of these stories- “You sure? Probly no one in the world ever heard story as kids, and grew up to be okay, sorta… most people anyway.” Seppy didn’t smile, and looked sad-“No, theyre not okay. Are you happy? Is your relationship to the world you live in built on anything real? People are supposed to have freinds, family, relation to one another. Our culture is very sick, people are not designed to be this sad and isolated.” Del answered-“I hear ya, but if I communicate with 400 ppl through a single file, how am I isolated? We may not know each others names, or care, but I can tell you what most the world is doing right now… and we’re all pretty similar…and there’ll always be happy days and sad days, thats just the way people are, yaknow?” Seppy then told an obviously stupid story, but told it as if he believed it emphatically. Del thought he was being insulted or somehow made fun of at first, but couldn’t help laughing when the doctor in the story put the brain of an insane world leader, who had been put to death for genocidal crimes, into a bot seamonster. A young Seppy was also in the story, but he could fly, and it was discovered that the seamonster was terribly allergic to spraycheese. The young heroic Seppy made the monster sneeze out the brain of the insane world leader, and the story ended with a recipe on how to cook the brains with spraycheese. “And its all true” Seppy said, as he struck a heroic pose. Marie interjected with her weird, tiny voice- “Tell him the three kings story”, Seppy turned to her and smiled. “Really? Well thats not my favorite story, but an important one…I think you should tell that one this time, dont you?” She looked happy, but worrysome. “The way you tell it, everyone cries…but I’ll do my best.” She scooted closer to the 2 of them and began to tell the ancient myth.