Dear Globatron Citizens, I am very happy to announce this first installment of the Globatron Fiction Project, a short story written by the 3 main contributors to this site. This first chapter was written by yours truly Akbar Lightning. The next chapter will be written by Logocentric, followed by Globatron. We will do 2 cycles of this and see where this takes us. I hope you enjoy it. As with every project we are experimenting with more collaborative methods of creating cultural objects.
That is all!
“Welcome Father Mapple, so happy you could make it.”
“Of course, of course Peter. Where is she?”
“She’s in the back room.”
Father Mapple Moab Adzu III could hear her moaning from behind the burlap curtain. It was thick burlap but candlelight could be seen flickering through some of the tiny holes in the burlap weave. Although there was still some blue off in the western sky, it was dark inside the house and voices were soft except for Peter’s wife, the woman making the sounds in the other room. In the main room of the house, where they stood under the heavy thatched roof, with firelight reflecting off the grey earthen walls Rebecca’s mother sat by the fire tending the pot of soup. She looked up suspiciously at Father Mapple. She had heard about his experiments and did not approve. The children were sent away to Rebecca’s sister’s house. Madritha lived up north where the plague was less prevalent. Peter told this to Father Mapple in a scornful way, as though Madritha was somewhat cowardly, but his scorn was complicated by a mix of jealousy and gratitude for his children who would not have to witness the horrors of this place. Schooling in the north was expensive, and he was grateful for Madritha’s husband Frederick, who had come into this simulation after a great success in the World War II experiment last year. Although in body space Peter was Frederick’s social superior, Frederick’s success in hi-res had earned him the kind of credibility that made people forgetful and that was afterall the intention of hi-res, the kind of suspension of body consciousness that enabled meaningful research.
When Father Mapple opened the curtain he was a little shocked to see Rebecca’s bare chest. She was half-conscious and the rough-hewn blankets were thrown off of her exposing pale wet flesh covered in dark lesions. She did not notice their entrance and Peter went over and covered her with a light gown. When Father Mapple moved the chair from the wall to beside the bed Rebecca looked over at him, crazed but focused on the stranger. But taking notice of his priestly robe as well as his large stature she deduced that this was the healer she had heard about, and she smiled, slipping back into her sub-conscious. This smile expressed a mixture of delight and ironic dismissiveness, a sentiment not misunderstood by the Father Mapple, but one Peter could not yet surrender to. He loved her, more than he liked to admit. This was afterall the final stages of this research and in body time, they were only a few days from reorientation. Before Rebecca got sick Peter begged her to tell him about her real identity knowing that he could lose his license. She loved him, but in body space she had a family she would never leave, and she had a deeper reverence than Peter had for the principles of hi-res. Peter blamed himself for her illness, paranoid that his requests were noticed by the monitors, and so he was desperate to liberate her from her suffering, but Rebecca’s piety compelled her to throw herself into this experience with an enthusiasm that Peter found saintly. Father Mapple could sense that there was some emotionality at work between these two, and so he asked Peter to leave the room before he sat down.
“Can you hear me Ms. Sholledrum?”
Rebecca grunted affirmatively as she rolled around in discomfort.
“Good. My name is Father Mapple. Do you know why I am here?”
She shook her head but her eyes remained closed. Father Mapple was well aware that in a state such as this a sick person must allocate effort very deliberately.
“Ok my dear. In a few minutes I am going to put my hand on your forehead. That is all I will do, and when I do that I will ask you to try and focus on my hand, and if you can, relax your body. Is that ok?”
She shook her head again.
Father Mapple bowed his head to pray, taking the first deep breaths of a ritual he had designed specifically for this project. But, just as he was mid-way through his prayers he heard a short series of tones, mechanical tones that were so alien to this 14th century environment that it angered him, as well as Rebecca who understood what it meant.
“Father Mapple, what is going on?” Peter threw open the burlap curtain.
“I am very sorry Peter. I am very sorry. It must be an emergency.” Father Mapple was angry. He checked his outline 2 hours before knocking on the Sholledrum’s door, and it was clear of requests. It could only be one thing, Globatron was in trouble.
Rebecca began to moan, her voice filled the room with a volatile mix of despair and disdain.
“What is wrong with you Father, for the love of…” Peter was getting angrier by the second.
“Rebecca my dear, if I can I will come right back. God be with you.” But Father Mapple knew better, so did Peter. With one hour in body space, 3 days would pass in this protocol and Rebecca would be dead.
“Please Father, please! I beg you.” Peter was on his knees. But Father Mapple had his own principles, his own priorities and he knew he would not hear this tone if it were not serious.
“I’m sorry Peter.”
Peter lunged at him, but Father Mapple gently grabbed his diminutive shoulders and placed his pitiful frame firmly on the ground before heading to the door. As he closed the door he heard the pots being thrown against it. He could hear the wailing cries of poor Rebecca well into the woods where he stopped to upload back to body space. As he sat to assume the upload posture he realized that he did not look at Rebecca’s mother as he left, and he wondered what she thought about this calamity, and whether or not she would report it.
When Akbar Lightning woke up 3 minutes later, he got up from his bed and went directly to his workbook. He sat down on the sofa naked, and looked up the message, still exasperated from having to upload out of a hi-res research project. He was already working on his apology to the board. The message was from Logocentric:
“Akbar, meet me as soon as possible in the square!”
Akbar sighed. He was getting tired of getting tired. The body he had been carrying since 2050, when the state released universal body upgrade rights, was getting old. He had the credit to get a new one, but he took some pride in pushing this one to its limits. When he walked in the bare streets of body space, with the random gangs of snobby perfectatrons, he enjoyed the looks he got with his 37 year old first edition nuevobod. But today it was very hot and he saw very few people. It was mid-day. The streets were full of delivery-bots. This made him impatient and he wondered, as he had frequently, if he really was an impatient person or if it was his body. When he was in hi-res, play-space or poly-sci, he rarely had this quality. Only in body space, and yet he refused to let go of this first body…well, his first synthetic body.
As Akbar walked off the parkway toward the square he thought again of Rebecca and he said to himself ‘This had better be important’ but he only said this because he hoped against what he knew that it would not be important. His hi-res contract allowed him interjection rights because there was priority given to independent research. Such idiosyncratic participation in hi-res provided the random events out of which novel data was produced as well as ensuring emotional investment for the embedded community. But frequent use of interjections was grounds for license suspension. Ninety-five percent of the members of any research project were contracted for full immersion, and so one’s use of interjection aroused the worst kind of resentment.
Akbar was just beginning to develop a reputation as Father Mapple and, if he was able to return before the weekend, he would have to travel to a nearby town and stay ahead of the negative gossip, as he wished to continue his research on the miraculous. Akbar’s theory was that because of the compressed quantum fields within which these hi-res environments were contained, that an embedded character had an increased chance of alignment with the electronic code that was used to project those experiences, and if he was able to direct these quantities that he could retroactively argue for such possibilities in body space. But this was his official thesis. His unofficial interest had to do with touch, and the power of emotionally enriched touch. In his mind, these two were not necessarily separate topics. He noticed when he would lay his hand on the head of a suffering person, that if he focused on making that touch loving and intentioned the sick person would be so soothed by this that something like healing would take place. Even those who died in the usual timeframe claimed some relief, and there were, of course, the occasional recoveries.
As Akbar looked around in body space, he wondered about touch, about what it meant now since the great upload of 2050. They all still had bodies, and there was the body space weekend proclamation, but he wondered if something was missing. And then he wondered if he would have always wondered this. Even in hi-res he wondered this. Perhaps he would buy a new body if they could promise him an answer, but he had yet, after all these years to fully form the question.
“What?!” Logocentric stood at the square entrance.
“What?” Akbar was startled.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing, just daydreaming. What’s going on! I was in hi-res for christ’s sake.”
to be continued….
Interjection, Part 2