ad infinitum…

diverging paths lead us to alt choices
do we really have a choice? muse voices
in one sense we do; aware alt choices
ad infinitum…

choosing wisely is an important start
thinking thru the choices made with your heart
parallel worlds begin to form apart
ad infinitum…

decoherence of the waves now persist
multiple universes can exist
probability and chance, each has twist
ad infinitum…

did the universe form from single star?
can we really exist near and afar?
the answers to these questions truly are…
ad infinitum

Copyright (C) 2018 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

Was I Here Before?

“Was I Here Before?”
Written by: Frank Cormier

Stardust,” what does that term mean? I believe it to mean that it is the lowest common denominator which interconnects everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. From the actual stars in the night sky to the smallest known particle, the Higgs Boson, and all that exists in between.

The universe is immense. There is no question about that, all though I am sure that there are non-believers that would argue the opposite; however, it is up to them to write their own thoughts out for examination as I have mine on this subject. As far as our best telescopes can “see,” the universe is over 13.8 billion years old, which equates to roughly 47 billion light years away to the “observable” edge from our point of view here on Earth. That qualifies as immense! A light year for point of clarification is a “distance” unit, not one of time. One light year is the distance it takes a photon of light to travel from one point to another at a given speed in a given time frame, specifically, a year. Light travels at 186,282 miles per second (or 299,792 km/sec for my metric friends), so one can quickly surmise that in one year’s time, given there are 31,536,000 seconds in a year; light has traveled an immense distance in a short amount of time, (approximately 6 trillion miles in one year). It is mind boggling.

Now that the nerd stuff is out of the way… my main point is we are stardust. In fact science tells us that anything in existence comes from the same origin: stardust. This is where the common basic building blocks of existence originated. When the universe popped into existence through a process known as the Big Bang, stardust was scattered throughout the universe. Some of it clumped together to form stars. The stars clumped together to form galaxies. The galaxies spread out to form the universe. The best estimate regarding the quantity of galaxies in our visible universe is in the billions. Within each galaxy there are billions of stars and billions upon billions of planets and moons. Some of these planets or moons may or may not support life as we know it, or some exotic form of it not yet know known to us, but there is life elsewhere. It is statistically improbable for life to not exist elsewhere in the universe.

I shall progress to my thesis question asked above in the given title, “Was I here before?” My answer is simple: it is both yes and no. I am not vacillating. I am merely pointing out that I have existed before in some other form (with or without being in human form as we know it), and I have not existed at all before this time. Pretty straightforward; right? Well hopefully I can clear up some of the confusion with an explanation. I will begin my answer by restating that everything is comprised of stardust. Me, you, the ink used to print my words and the paper itself, and the computer I typed on, the snow I see outside my window, the birds, the trees, the clouds, the atmosphere, in a word: everything.

How can this be? Life is believed to be “special” and it is; however, other things exist that may not be “living” in the sense we know it. For example; rocks, grains of sand, snowflakes, iron, and other metals are all made from the same exact elements that we are made from, but they are not alive and breathing as we define life. If I share the same elements as these other objects I listed, then I have existed before now. Let’s examine the cycle for a moment. A seed is planted in the soil and the womb. The soil consists of non-living particles as we define life, and the womb contains a life form as we know one to be. The soil provides nutrients that enable a life form to grow and transfers some of its stardust to its guest, say a carrot. The womb also provides nutrients to grow a life form that we can call human or some other mammal name that also uses a womb to incubate life. And yes eggs of reptiles and chickens and whatever else creates life in a shell also counts. So when the carrot is consumed by another “life” form it transfers some of its stardust to its new host. In the process, the one doing the eating also transfers a small amount of its stardust back to the object being consumed. If for example the leftover carrot is returned to the soil, say through a compost pile, then so is the part of our stardust that got transferred during consumption. Give a little, take a little. In the end all gets recycled somehow or someway. It is the recycling aspect that I would like to touch on next.

Whenever I have heard of someone claiming to have “lived a past life,” I am almost always amazed at how often one claims that they were “someone famous” or important in a previous life. How come you hardly ever hear someone claim to have been a tree or a coffee table made from the wood of the tree? It is just as possible, and probably more likely the case. When we die part of us is returned (or recycled) to the Earth. And since the Earth is part of the universe, then part of us is returned to the universe. I just don’t know how much is returned to either the Earth or the universe. And it is most likely not in equal amounts, but I am certain that nothing goes to waste. The universe does not operate that way. In fact, the universe tries its best to ensure that everything in it will consume every last bit of itself. Scientists call this entropy. The universe has to constantly feed itself in an effort to survive and do its job of consuming itself. A paradox has formed. It is the same paradox that exists whenever someone claims to have lived a previous existence. There is just not enough of the one person left over to be consolidated into one place to ensure that it all gets deposited (or transferred if you will) into a different person.

Our bodies are comprised of billions upon billions of cells. When the body dies and breaks down, it does so at different rates. So there really is no way for it to fully reassemble (if you will) into another person or object. Even when the body has been cremated, part of it goes up in smoke and the rest becomes ash. I believe that “past life experiences” in the form of another person is the mind playing a trick on the host body. Though, if one believes in a soul and it being separate from the body, then perhaps it could transfer from one host body to the next? However, it still hasn’t been proven that a soul does exist. That doesn’t mean it can’t, it just means that the soul is an illusion created by a belief system imagined by man for now until proven otherwise. And it begs the question; do animals have souls, or trees, or fish, or bacteria, or any other “living” organism? When a tree is cut down and repurposed into a bureau for example, does the soul of the tree (if it has one) try to occupy another tree? Does it remain in the furniture it has now become? If it were to occupy another tree, what happens to the existing soul of that tree? Is there a hierarchy of souls where the lesser one gets booted out for a more privileged one? Wouldn’t the same conundrum exist for souls occupying humans?

Another factor that weighs into my thoughts is that time is irrelevant. According to science, there is no need for time. It is an illusion. In other words, there is no past, no present, or a future. Everything happens at once. Our brains are hardwired to “perceive” the flow of time, which several scientists attribute to the arrow of entropy. Once an egg is cracked open and the contents scrambled, it is impossible (at present) to fully unscramble the yolk from the white and reassemble the contents back to its original form. The old adage: “history will repeat itself if the past is forgotten,” doesn’t apply to the broken egg. It does however serve a useful purpose as long as humans follow their own time worn advice. Except that human history shows that man keeps repeating the same mistakes! Which makes me wonder if there is no such thing as “time,” as these manmade catastrophic events keep repeating because they appear to be an illusion created in our mind that wants to separate past from present? Are we deceiving ourselves? Will there ever be a future different from our past? Or does science have it right and everything is happening at once? After all… we are interconnected with everything!

Perhaps David Bowie best described the part of the human condition that I have written about in his song “Ziggy Stardust,” when he sang the lyrics, “Making love with his ego, Ziggy sucked up into his mind.” We are all stardust, and we all have an ego, and we create the world we live in, in our own mind; however, we may not all play the guitar…

“Ziggy played guitar”

Copyright (C) 2017 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper
Written by: Frank Cormier

I had surveyed the restaurant from my booth, searching for anyone I might know prior to ordering supper, neatening the condiments.  I’m new in town and haven’t gotten to know many people.  “C’est la vie,” I silently said to my ice-cold mug of Miller Lite before taking a hearty sip.  “I have plenty of time.  I’m still young.  There’s always tomorrow.”  That’s the problem with youth and tomorrow, I lament: we’re too naïve in believing that there will always be one.

“It’s seven o’clock.  I should get something to eat,” I thought to myself earlier, which is why I am sitting in this restaurant now writing on paper napkins, choking.  Being hungry and impatient is not a great combination if you want something good to eat.  If only I had thought more about my choice of restaurants instead of my appearance: CK jeans, Abercrombie t-shirt, clean underwear (thanks Mom), flip-flops, and unshaven.  Somewhat hip, I believe.

Hmm… I can’t seem to get anyone’s attention, not even my waitress.  Maya is a beautiful brunette woman, late twenties.  She obviously works out a lot because her legs look like two stainless steel bands.  Perfectly smooth, perfectly shaped, and perfectly strong.  She has not come by since my buffalo chicken tenders were served.  I wish I knew more people.

Why am I giving a play-by-play of this dining experience, dear reader of my note?  Because I believe this to be my last dining experience; ever.  Not by choice I might add!  Completely by accident – a chicken bone accident.

You see, chicken tenders are NOT supposed to have bones in them.  In the batch I got, one did.  And wouldn’t you know it was the first one I bit into.  Actually, I didn’t quite bite into it: I kind of swallowed it, whole.  Chewing would have been the right maneuver here, but I was so hungry, I completely forgot how to eat.  Now I am sitting here with a chicken bone (I believe it to be a rib bone, since chicken tenders are made from chicken breasts), lodged in my throat.  I am not able to scream for help, but am still conscious enough (for now) to write this note.

Oh crap, the note!  It won’t just be a written testimony of my plight, it will effectively be my last will.  I should list those things I want to bequeath to my loved ones.  Okay, here goes: my Schwinn ten speed goes to my brother Phillip.  No wait, scratch that, I’ll instead give it to my nephew Cory.  Sorry Phillip, but you live too far away and the shipping costs alone would be more than the bike is worth.

What else do I have?  I’m drawing a blank.  My brain must be starving for oxygen.  I can’t think straight.  I really wish I knew someone here.  I hope my writing is legible.  I would hate to find out when I’m on the other side that my estate got tied up in probate.

Focus man!  Focus!  I bequeath – leave – give to my mother, uh – all my clothes.  They are clean.  (Well most of them anyway.)  What else do I have?  My sight is blurry.  Shit!  I just tore the napkin.  Damn buffalo sauce stain!  I need to write that part again.

Why did I pick this restaurant to have my last supper?  Why did I choose chicken tenders?  Even on death row the inmate gets to pick a fancy dinner.  I should have gone out for lobster.  No wait… I’m allergic to lobster.  Damn it!  What else could I have chosen?  Think man!  Think!

Stop!  Get back on task, CJ.

What else is there to leave for someone?  I know: I, Colby Joseph, bequeath my Anime novels to the landlord, Max.  No need to rummage through my stuff looking for them after I’m gone.  They are stored in the bathroom closet in a plastic tote labeled, “Periodicals.”  (My mother always told me my obsessive compulsiveness would come back to haunt me.)

I feel weak.  A pleasant calm has washed over me.  It’s liberating…

Oh wait, here comes the waitress!  I’m saved!  Stop writing!  Stop, writing!  Stop!  Writing!  Stop….

Copyright (C) 2017 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

A Universe Bourne…

“A Universe Bourne…”

By: Frank Cormier

 

are we a reflection of the universe?

bourne unto this world in a blinding flash

infinity is finite in human form

creation bound by universal forces

 

bourne unto this world in a blinding flash

nature achieves balance through diversity

creation bound by universal forces

allows galaxies, stars, planets – existence

 

nature achieves balance through diversity

elements pre-mixed in the primal soup

allows galaxies, stars, planets – existence

all that ever was or will ever be…

 

elements pre-mixed in the primal soup

expand to the far reaches of what’s known

all that ever was or will ever be…

no beginning, no end, a perfect circle

 

expand to the far reaches of what’s known

time does not exist, it is an illusion

no beginning, no end, a perfect circle

creates contour for the shapeless universe

 

time does not exist, it is an illusion

just as the human imagination

creates contour for the shapeless universe

arrogance misleads our thoughts of grandeur

 

just as the human imagination

conceived immortality, there are limits:

arrogance misleads our thoughts of grandeur

the celestial light in the mirror ebbs

 

conceived immortality, there are limits:

infinity is finite in human form

the celestial light in the mirror ebbs

Are we a reflection of the universe?

Copyright (C) 2017 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

Sanguine

Sanguine

Written by: Frank Cormier

“Thanks for staying over,” John said without emotion.

“No problem baby,” she replied blithely as she got dressed.

“Give me a call and let me know you got home okay.”

“Sure, when am I going to see you next?”

That was the perpetual puzzling question in his mind.  He didn’t know if he wanted to see her again, at least not in the way she implied.  She was one of a half dozen or so woman he could call for intimacy.  He didn’t want commitment, just companionship.

“Well I’m with my son this weekend, so I guess it will be sometime after that,” he said dodging a direct answer.

“Well when he goes to bed I can come over and be your big girl.”

“I don’t know about that.”

“Okay sweetheart, just give me a call if you change your mind,” she said as she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead.  God how that made him feel like a child each time she did that, he hated it but would never complain to her for fear she might stop coming over.

Once she was gone, he rallied himself out of bed and dressed to start his day.  It was already nine o’clock.  “I’ve got to stop being so lazy,” he thought.  So, to make himself feel more productive, he picked up some loose articles strewn about the apartment waiting for the coffee maker to chirp “ready.”  The sound was music to his ears, and just like Pavlov’s dog, raced into the kitchen and poured the life-giving elixir into a mug.  He sat at the small round dining table, hovered over the mug, while breathing in the fresh aroma trying to clear his mind.  “Why don’t you taste as good as you smell?” he asked the coffee stained mug after taking a long pull.

John’s life wasn’t as complicated as he made it out to be in his mind.  He ate when and what he wanted; slept with who he wanted; cleaned up when he wanted; and came and went as he pleased.  He had everything he wanted except one thing; his son.

When Johnny was born his life suddenly had meaning and direction, everything was brand new.  He moved in with the mother so he could spend every waking moment with his son.  She was inconsequential in his mind, so he never married her.  She wasn’t up to his standards even though he was not even sure what his standards were, or if they were even realistic; he just knew she didn’t measure up.  How often he would try to hit the moving target, never a direct hit, always believing he was close, and figured the main reason was that no one truly knew who they were on the inside.  He often wondered if he did.

The phone rang bringing his thoughts back to the present.  The caller I.D. displayed a number outside of his area code.  It must be a work call he thought, and answered the phone after the fifth ring.  He offered a few monosyllabic responses and then hung up.  “Thank god it’s Friday,” he reminded himself.  Spending time with his son was the only thing on his mind lately.  He needed to plan the weekend’s events, always being mindful to not repeat the same activities they did on the prior visit.

“Why does it have to be a ‘visit’?” he would mull over and over.  “I am his father.  I am a parent.”

It was now five o’clock and his workday finished.  He called ahead to make sure that Johnny was ready to go, looked around the apartment to ensure everything was tidy and left.

“Hi Daddy!”

“Hi Johnny!” he enthusiastically said in return.

They hugged each other with the fervor of a P.O.W. being reunited with loved ones after many years of captivity.  The analogy was apropos.  His son always acted as if he were being released when they first saw each other, and then by the end of the visit, longed for the comfort of his known prison surroundings.  Only in Hollywood was the prisoner completely healed from the many years of captivity, never blaming their country for abandoning them.  He believed his son blamed him for abandoning him, though he never qualified his feelings.

Johnny was only eight years old and not mature enough to understand the complicated world of adults.  Hell, even he felt that he didn’t totally understood this world either at forty-two.  His parents had committed a disservice to him by coddling him until he was in his early twenties, never fully seeing the world as it is now or was back then.  He couldn’t help but think he was doing the same thing to his son and felt powerless to stop it.  All he wanted from his son was unconditional love; a love he was not willing to share with anyone else for fear that it would compromise his relationship with Johnny.

“So, Daddy, what are we going to do this weekend?”

“Well, I figure we can go and see a Red Sox game tonight!  I have two tickets right behind the third base dugout.”

“That sounds cool daddy!  But isn’t that where the other team sits?”

“Yes, it is, but we will be able to look right into the Red Sox dugout so you can see all of the players.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right!” he said suddenly realizing the enormity of the event.

John’s own parents never brought him to see a Red Sox game, in fact, any professional sport growing up.  “Boston was too far away,” his father used to say, “and I’m not going to spend my hard-earned money to watch a bunch of millionaires playing a child’s game.”  He made the mistake of pointing out to his father that if he didn’t drink as much beer or smoked so many cigarettes for one month, that he could save enough money for them to go see a game.  His father boxed him about the ears and told him not to talk about things he had no idea about what he was saying.

They loaded up Johnny’s small overnight bag and drove off to begin their weekend.  John was thankful that he didn’t have to talk with Diane.  Their relationship was strained at best.  She was always trying to control every aspect of Johnny’s life and made the simplest of requests the most difficult to negotiate.

Negotiate; how he hated that word when it applied to his time with his son.  He took her back to court a couple of years ago, because she was so unwilling to compromise on any of the parenting rights he had been granted.  She would block any attempts he made to swap weekends if something personal came up.  It was always “his problem” and if he missed time with Johnny due to traveling for work, he had no one to blame but himself.

Thankfully a judge saw it differently and ordered her to be more cooperative with his requests.  He had to give her at least a one week notice for any requested change to the parenting schedule.  It was a little bit better, but she still got her digs in when she would remind him that Johnny was her full-time responsibility and that he needed structure, “something you don’t have in your life.”

“Daddy, that was the best game I ever saw!” proclaimed Johnny.

“Yeah it was a lot of fun buddy.  It’s too bad they lost”

“It’s okay Dad.  You win some and you lose some.  What are we going to do now?”

“I got a hotel room nearby and we can stay the night.  Tomorrow I figured we can walk around the city.  What do you think?”

“I think that’s great.  I didn’t want you to have to drive all the way back home tonight anyway.”

John didn’t want to drive back tonight either.  He spent enough time in his apartment so a night away was more welcome to him than it was for his son.

The next morning, they got up early and walked over to Faneuil Hall Market Place and had breakfast.  Afterward, they strolled about the market area going in and out of the various shoppes and watching the street performers.  One performance, in particular, involved a magic show while the magician rode around on a unicycle.  Johnny was captivated by the act and asked to watch the show again and again.

“Okay, we can watch it one more time.  I would like to go to the Public Gardens and take a ride on the swan boats too.”

“The swan boats?”

“Yeah, I think that you’ll really like them.”

“Are they real swans, Daddy?”

“No, just boats that look like swans.  I always wanted to ride them when I was your age, but never got the chance.”

They watched one more performance and this time Johnny got to be part of the act.  He talked all about his role as they walked over to the Public Gardens.  His son skipped merrily the whole way snapping his fingers, John just grinned from ear to ear.

Their day came to an end, and they started the trek home.  The game and the day were a success, just what he wanted it to be.  No one could take that away from them.

“Dad, how come you never married Mom?” he asked in a voice more mature than it should have sounded.

John knew this question would eventually be asked and still didn’t have a reasonable explanation that he felt his son could understand.  He knew his reasons why and wondered if Johnny had asked his mother the same question and what was her answer.  He loved her at one time and was certain that she loved him.

“Sometimes people marry for the right reasons and sometimes they do it for the wrong ones.   I guess I didn’t want to make a mistake.”

“Why would it have been a mistake?”

“It’s hard to explain.  Maybe when you are older we can sit and talk about it.”

“How much older do I have to be?” he pressed on.

Oh, how he needed a drink.  An act that he wouldn’t conduct in front of his son for fear that Diane would somehow use it against him.  He hated living in fear of her but couldn’t help himself.  She had warned him that if he screwed up, she would take him back to court and have his parenting rights revoked.  There was nothing to fear because he knows he is a good father, yet somehow still convinced himself that he was powerless against her wrath.  He was on edge with her ever since taking her back to court.  There were times he thought she was over it, but then all hell would break loose and they got into arguments.  He would never argue with her in front of Johnny, and she wouldn’t either.  At least they had that in common.

“How about when you’re eighteen?” he offered.

“Okay,” he said through a yawn.

Johnny was tired and fell asleep the rest of the way home.  John was left with his own thoughts to keep him company.  He would steal looks at his son through the rearview mirror from time to time and imagine they were living together.  How much better his son’s life would be if he was the one raising him and she had to visit, he thought.  Thankfully her negativity hadn’t crept into his personality, but this was only a matter of time, he believed.  He needed to take her back to court and fight for equal custody before it was too late.

Sunday was uneventful.  They sat around in their pajamas most of the morning.  Johnny played a few video games while John read the morning newspaper and drank coffee.  Around lunchtime they went to pick up a few items at the grocery store.  Johnny wanted to cook on the grill for dinner, so they picked up some steaks and vegetables.  He was a great helper when it came to preparing a meal; he would set the table, pour drinks, and help clean up after they finished.

His mother would be coming by in about an hour to pick him up, another thing the judge told her she had to do.  John moved closer to where she was living so that he could spend more time with his son.  He hadn’t fought her when she decided to move closer to her parents.  What was once a five-minute commute turned into a two-hour trek in one direction.  He cut the distance by more than half and she took this as an invasion of her privacy.  She told him he had no right to live so close.  If he wanted to see his son it was up to him to provide the transportation.  He tried talking with her about it and she again told him that it was his problem not hers.

When they had gone to court, Diane said to the judge, “that she was being cooperative and didn’t know why they were in court.”  Fortunately, the judge saw through her thin victim’s veil and ordered her to split the transportation.  She had a renewed contempt for his presence.  One day, he thought to himself, she would finally let go of all her hostility and do the right thing.

“Johnny, your mother is here.  Get your things buddy,” he called to his son from the living room.

“Why can’t you ever have him ready before I get here?” she asked tersely, after opening the door without knocking.  John had watched her park her car and make her way to the apartment from the balcony.

“He is ready.  His bag is packed and he is brushing his teeth.”

“At least his teeth are being taken care of.”

John didn’t bite.  He had no strength to get into another pointless argument with her and let it ruin his weekend.  Johnny came bounding into the room with a huge grin.

“Hi Mommy!”

“Hi Johnny.  Let’s get your things.  We need to get on the road.  You have a busy day ahead of you at Granny’s tomorrow.”

“Okay, Mom.  Bye Daddy!  I love you!”

“I love you to buddy,” he said as they hugged.  “See you in a couple of days.”

He handed Diane the overnight bag as she walked out.  Johnny followed and was telling her all about his weekend as they made their way to the car.  John watched from the glass sliding doors with a small tear in his eye and waved.

John knew his day would come soon; she couldn’t make him pay forever.  He only wanted to be with his son and nothing else mattered.  He wasn’t going anywhere and wouldn’t allow her to take any more time from him.  He was absolutely sure of this, and believed she knew it to because she got Johnny to look up at the balcony and wave bye, and she finally waved to.

Copyright (C) 2017 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

PAL

PAL

Written by: Frank Cormier

     It was late and his wife, half asleep, was laying prone on the leather couch with a Woman’s Day magazine splayed open on her stomach and her hands folded on her chest, when his epiphany struck.  Why these thoughts came to him when it was time for him to rest was a mystery he’ll have to solve once he finished with the explanation on his mind presently regarding perfection.  He tried his best to bridle his enthusiasm at such a late hour but needed someone to talk to about his answer.

“Honey?” he asked in a whispered voice, “Honey, are you awake?”

“Kind of, why?” she groggily replied.

“Who has the perfect golf swing of all time?”

She arched an eyebrow, “Ian Woosman,” she replied.

“Ian Woosman!?  It’s Craig Stadler.”

“Okay, then it’s Craig Stadler.”

“Seriously, it is Craig.  I recall reading an article in one of my science magazines a few months ago and these two inventors were going to design a machine that could generate the perfect golf swing, and then try to sell it as a training aid,” he said assuredly, “So after they designed it; they compared it to all the golfers on tour, past and present, you know Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Jim Daly and so on; and only Craig Stadler’s swing matched!”

“That’s fascinating, dear; by the way it’s John Daly.  Are you ready for bed?” she asked through a yawn.

He knew he should not have engaged in a deep conversation with her at such a late hour and it was too late now to un-ask the question.  The outcome was going to be the same; she’ll hurriedly agree with him just to get him to go to bed and nothing will have been accomplished.  There were so many other examples he could have started off with that would have reeled her in for a meaningful discussion.  Why did he start with golf?  He believed that he might be able to salvage this conversation with a better question.

“Who would you say had the most perfect wedding?” he asked next.

She propped her head up on her elbow as she turned on her side so that she could see him better.  He was sitting in the middle of the parlor floor with a bunch of books, magazines, and note paper littered around him.  He had a pen in his right hand while another one was stuck behind his left ear and his left hand worked the laptop computer.

“Ours, dear,” she said and smiled.

“No, I mean seriously.  Wouldn’t you say it was Prince Charles and Diane?”

“No.”

“Well why not?  It was a storybook wedding!  Every little girl wants to be the princess marrying a prince; right?”

“Where are you going with all of this ‘my prince’?”

They had been married over seventeen years and he still fell into these traps.  It was more like diving in head first with his eyes closed.  Anytime he wanted to discuss something of importance to him, she always twisted it around to search for an underlying message.  He thought he was swimming with good ideas in a placid sitting pool and she comes along and generates a tsunami.

“I’m just pointing out the fact that theirs was a ‘storybook’ wedding, that’s all,” he answered dejectedly.

“Well it was on the surface, but we all know by now that it wasn’t a storybook marriage.  And it was so unfortunate how it all ended so sadly for her.”

“Okay, you’re right,” he conceded.  “Well then who do you think has the perfect marriage?”

It was too late; the words were out there.  The question was asked and he could not get a “do over” like he used to shout out when he was a child.  His mouth was in motion before his brain could tell him to be quiet and let the question pass.  God how he missed being a kid at times!  No worries other than there being enough neighbor kids around to get a baseball game going or some other sport.  If there was ever a questionable call made on the field during play, everyone would shout “do over!” and the call was ignored no matter what happened and the game played on.  “I’ll change the rules,” he thought.

“I want a do over!” he said before she could answer.

“A ‘do over’?  How old are you?”

“Yeah, a ‘do over’.  It’s not what I meant to ask.”

“All right then, what did you intend to ask?” she asked, now sitting up, her arms crossed at her chest.

“My intention was to ask if you could think of other marriages, besides our own, that you would say have the quality of perfection,” he said while mentally patting himself on the back and cheering “kick save!”

Now it was her turn to pause and consider her words.  She studied his features.  She always admired the way his nose intersected with his eyes and forehead.  A “perfect” bridge came to mind.  His eyes were also fascinating.  They had the color of blue steel, cobalt to be exact, and they were deep set and very large.  Whenever he was excited, he would open his eyes so wide that they looked like two starch white china saucers with two of the largest blueberries the world has ever witnessed.  His eyes were now wide open.  She stood up before offering her response.

“First of all, I’m not certain what your definition of perfection is and how you would apply it to both a marriage and a golf swing,” she said with careful consideration.  “Secondly, it is impossible for me to answer your question because what is perfect for one couple may not be perfect for the next.  Remember, those other marriages you are questioning all happen behind closed doors, and couples have a public face and a private one just like we do.”

“Oh.  Well if you had to guess based on what you see in public, who would you pick?” he asked, his brow now creased.

“Well ‘if I must guess,’ then I would say my sister and her husband.”

“Really?  You think they have a perfect marriage?” he asked surprisingly.

“Yes.  You asked me to pick one so I did.”

“But she’s on her second marriage.  How can that be perfect?”

“I guess she learned a lot from the failure of the first one.”

“I suppose.  Are you happy?”

“Yes, and I am also tired.  Are you ready for bed?” she asked as she pointed to the items strewn about the floor.

“In a minute.  I still haven’t shared with you my idea of perfection.”

“If you must…”

He had a sad look on his face now.  She knew the words hurt him and that was not her intention.  “I’m sorry for answering you in that tone.  It’s not an excuse, but I am tired,” she lovingly said.

“It’s okay honey.  You would think after all of this time together we could read each other’s minds.”

“Well my mind is blank right now waiting to hear your theses.”

“I’ve been doing a lot of research, as you can tell,” he said, as he waved his hand like that of a game show host over the books and magazines, “and I found an area in life that I think I can make better… well more perfect.”

She smiled and nodded at him to continue.

“What is perfect?  It’s just a word, an adjective to be exact.  We give it definition, life, meaning,” he continued with enthusiasm, “And as I learned more about different people’s ideas how they use it to describe their lives, no one used it to described death!”

“Um, okay.  How do you think….” She cut herself off.  “I’m sorry, go ahead dear.”

“My idea is to start a movement; a revolution if you will, with the people who make the headstones for cemeteries and ask them to replace ‘R.I.P.’ with ‘P.A.L.’”

“P.A.L.?”

“Yeah.  It stands for ‘Perfection At Last,’” he enthusiastically said, “or ‘Peace At Last’ depending on the departed’s last wishes and all.  And it sounds friendlier than Rest In Peace.”

“I get the peace one; but what does perfection have to do with death?”

“Think about it for a moment.  Death is perfection.  You no longer have to worry about paying taxes, bad drivers, typos, and a slew of other maladies that plague our existence.  In death, there are no worries!  It’s perfect!” he bubbled, barely able to contain his excitement.  “So why not go out with those words on your gravestone and let the world know!?”

“I see.  I guess I can’t argue with your logic.  You found the perfect use for that word; no pun intended.”

“So, you agree with me?” he said, now puzzled.  It wasn’t often she agreed with any of his ideas, so this must be a homerun he thought.

“Yes,” she replied, “Your idea is well thought out and your intentions are noble.  What’s not to agree with?”

“Thanks honey!  I love you.”

“I love you too, dear,” she responded in kind, ruffling his hair.  “Are you ready for bed?”

Copyright (C) 2016 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

IM 3000

IM 3000

Written by: Frank Cormier

            “That was the third rolling brown out we had this week,” Mike said to Nora, as he tapped his finger repeatedly on the clear crystalline shell of the power gauge, expecting the display to reset itself to 100%, as it seemed to do whenever he performed this nervous ritual anytime the electricity waned.  “I wish the state had better control over these money grubbing companies and forced them to deliver a better product.”

“Honey,” Nora said in her classic even tone, “the battery backup system works just fine; there’s no need to worry.”

“Yes, there is,” he countered, “it could be a matter of life or death.”

“Death?” questioned Nora, “Why do you fear death when we live in an age that we can become immortal?”

Mike gave her a stern look as he chewed the inside of his cheek, debating whether or not he wanted to pursue this argument with her, again.  He didn’t believe in the type of immortality society was peddling and had his reasons.  She had her own reasons for accepting it, and neither could agree with the other’s point of view, no matter how much each defended their position.

“I’m going to make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner,” he said to avoid acknowledging the impasse and walked to the kitchen.  Nora stayed where she was and concentrated on restoring the power to maximum level, sadly noting internally that their marriage had not been the same since she chose to become immortal.

A pot of spaghetti was boiling away on the stove as Mike absent mindedly stirred the sauce and meatballs, lost in his own thoughts.  She had only become immortal three months ago, he knows that he still loves her, but it was not the same.  He had to support her decision, that’s what a good husband does he believed, but couldn’t agree with it just the same.  There were other alternatives that they could have explored, he silently said to himself.

#

            “The procedure is painless,” Dr. Weiss assured Nora, sensing that she was nervous, not about the method to becoming immortal, but more about the after affect and how others might perceive her, “both physically and mentally.”

“Will I feel anything after the procedure?”

“Your central nervous system will be intact, if that’s what you are asking.”

She let out a sigh of relief.  That was reassurance enough for her that she would still be human; after all Dr. Weiss was board certified and came highly recommended by her own doctor.  No, her anxiety came from how her husband was going to react to her new appearance.  Her “new self” would look very much like she does now with slight differences, according to the doctor, that would be barely perceptible to the “casual observer.”

Mike is not a casual observer; he is my husband and we vowed we would love each other forever, she thought as she signed the consent form.

#

            “Power levels are back to normal,” she called from the parlor, “all systems are a go.”  Seven flashing green LEDs were pulsing from bright to dim in a rhythmic pattern indicating all conditions were operating in the optimal range.  Nora logged the events and then emailed them to Dr. Weiss once she was certain that her condition was stabilized.

“Honey,” Mike asked as he returned to the parlor, “can you smell this?”  He was holding a plate inches from her face, wafting his hand over the heated sauce, filling the stale air with the aroma of the Italian delight, his mouth watering with anticipation.

“Scents are nothing more than electrical impulses,” she said, “and you know that I can’t ‘smell’ things in the normal way anymore.  I don’t know why you insist on trying to get a rise out of me that way?”

“Just proving a point,” he said tersely.

“What, that you know how to push my buttons?”

“That’s all I can push these days.”

The arguments were getting more pointed lately.  Why can’t he just accept me; accept that I’m still his wife, she mused.  What is a life but nothing more than a whole bunch of electrical stimuli firing off in the brain, which in turn concocts a reality based off of those same impulses?  Whether I have eyes and ears or sensors that perform those same functions, I can still ‘see and hear’ everything around me, she silently vented.

“Mike,” she solemnly said, “I’m still me.  I still love you.”

“It’s ‘not’ still you,” he somberly added, “I don’t know what you’ve become, but you are not the woman I married.”

Nora wanted so much to cry at hearing these words but was unable to.  Her new ‘eyes’ didn’t allow for tears to flow; however, she could ‘feel’ the emotion of tears welling up, unable to express herself so that he could understand just how much his words hurt.  She tried her best to remind herself of the sage words the doctor had said about how others, especially a spouse, would treat her in this new condition, and that she needed to remain strong and not give in to their inability to accept change, deep down knowing and trusting in herself that she is still human at her core.

#

            “The ‘Infinity Model 3000’ is state of the art science wise,” offered Dr. Weiss, the brochure of different models opened on his desk, his finger tapping the picture of the IM 3000 for extra emphasis.  “It is the most economical model and comes with graphene infused ionized lithium rechargeable batteries, standard.”

“Lithium, ionized, what,” she confusedly asked.

“Each night you’ll need to recharge the batteries for a full six to seven hours,” he said, “especially in the first six months until we know what type of power load you’ll draw based upon your lifestyle choices.”

Nora’s eyes glossed over and she vacantly nodded in ascent, not entirely sure what she just agreed to.  Dr. Weiss continued on about other “standard accessories” as well as several options to make the appearance of the host more humanlike, for an extra premium of course.

#

            “Tell me Nora,” he pressed on, “what did you dream about last night?”

“You know that I am not able to dream like I used to,” she said with a sadness in her voice.  “We couldn’t afford that option.  Besides, what is a dream but nothing more than some type of altered reality the subconscious manifests in the mind in an effort to make sense of all of the sensory inputs that stimulated the consciousness of one while they were awake?”

Oh how she wished she could dream!  She would never tell Mike that either.  He would only use it against her in future arguments, much like he has used not eating or not sleeping against her lately; besides, the taste of food is just another stimulus for the brain and she doesn’t require the nutrients anymore to survive, just uninterrupted electricity, of which there was plenty; well, most of the time.  In some sense electricity was immortal as long as humans found a way to tap into the energy source, it would never run out.

“What about sex Nora?  Do you miss that?”

“I don’t miss ‘sex,’ but I do miss intimacy.  I still –”

“Still what!?  Have ‘feelings’ in that metal box of yours you call a body?” he snapped at her.

So there it was, she thought.  He can’t have sex with her and that is why he resents her.  She hadn’t thought about sex since taking on her new form.  She wondered if that was something lost in the download of her consciousness to the IM 3000.  Sex with Mike was always pleasurable, she remembers that, and now there was no way for them to be sexually intimate.  But if she hadn’t taken this form, the cancer would have taken her life within the year.  It was the only way she could survive, exist, and still be in his life, surely he has to understand that, surely the tradeoff was enough to override his base desires….

“I’m sorry,” she said, her metalized mouth opening and closing to give the appearance that she actually uttered the words.  “I don’t know what else to say.”

Mike suddenly felt ashamed of his behavior and asked for her forgiveness.  His emotions bubbling over, getting the best of him.  He placed his arm around her flesh like coated shoulders and could hear the small electrical motors in her neck whirring as she repositioned her head so that it rested on his shoulder, sitting in silence.

#

            “Can some of the options be added later?” Nora asked.

“Unfortunately, no,” Dr. Weiss offered as he stood, “each model is custom built to exacting specifications and adding them later is cost prohibitive.”

Nora nodded her head indicating that she understood.  She had one additional question but was not certain how to ask it without raising the suspicion of the doctor, and decided she would research the answer on her own once the procedure was complete.  She felt all alone at the moment, as Mike could not bring himself to join her in the doctor’s office, he was against this decision, but knew he would be waiting for her once it was completed.  She said a silent prayer, and then stood to follow Dr. Weiss into the preparation room adjacent to his office.

#

            “Mike,” Nora said, lifting and then turning her head to face him, the small electrical motors coming up to speed and then silencing themselves once her head was in position, “I was being selfish and thought this the only way to survive.  I should have listened to you more closely.”

“No, I’m the one being selfish,” he sincerely offered.  “Will you go with me to Dr. Weiss’ office tomorrow?”

“What for?”

“I want to ask him if I am a candidate for mechanical immortality.”

She didn’t know how to respond to his question, thoughts racing through her mind, some happy, some sad, but not one solid one jumping out at her to give her the definitive answer she was hoping for before responding.  Did she truly believe that life was nothing more than electrical stimuli?  It seemed so since her transformation.  Or was his belief of an immortal soul the correct answer?  There was no way to prove that.  Did becoming more rational in her thoughts and beliefs result from the transference, a side effect so to speak, one that she doesn’t fully comprehend, but feels the effects anyway?

#

            Eight hours later, the new Nora appeared from the office of Dr. Weiss.  The procedure was simple and straight forward; a helmet with what appeared to be thousands, if not millions, of electrodes fixed to it was placed on her shaved head, the cut hair to be used on the new Nora; a smaller, but equally complicated device was surgically attached to the base of her spine, glove like devices were slipped over her hands, and the most uncomfortable part was when the “eye stimulators” were placed over her eyes under the eyelids.  The eye stimulators contained millions of needlelike points of contact and one large center pin that was injected straight into the iris to make contact with the optical nerve.

“I apologize for the discomfort,” Dr. Weiss said as he placed the eye stimulators, “but the patient needs to remain awake for this part so that we can register the images in real time, assuring that the proper connection was made to the visual cortex.”

Nora was sedated and unable to respond, also due in part to the large breathing assist device that had been inserted into her lungs through her mouth.  There was also another device attached to her tongue that clamped it in place, making contact with the millions of taste bud cells, measuring their outputs for conversion directly to the IM 3000.

The setup time for the transference took almost seven hours to complete, whereas the actual download of her consciousness, and she hoped her soul, took approximately ten minutes.

How little time was required to transfer all that was human about her caused her to reflect on how little she believed she had accomplished in her forty-two years in life?  Surely they had to miss something about her existence, she thought?  Four decades of living and breathing and memories reduced to a mere ten minutes.  She would need to ask the doctor about that on a follow up visit, right now her immediate concern was for Mike.

“Please still love me,” she said to no one once outside the medical facility, standing by herself, waiting for Mike to pick her up, “I don’t have any more pain from the cancer, but suddenly I feel alone.”

A light breeze stirred some dust from the parking lot towards her.  She could see the dust and sense the change in the movement of the air, but could not feel the wind as she once had been able.

#

            “Honey, I know you don’t believe in immortality,” she said as non-confrontational as she could.  “I mean mechanical immortality.”

“But it’s the only way that I can truly understand what it is you are experiencing,” he said, and then softly asked after a beat.  “Isn’t that what you want?”

What was it she wanted?  Such a basic question, yet so difficult to answer.  Her memories cajoled her into thinking, even believing that nothing had changed between them; however, the reality of what is, is altogether different.  What if something got missed in his transference?  Would he still be capable of loving her?  For all practical purposes, she was still human and so would he by default, and they could go on forever as a couple.

“Mike,” she said lovingly, “please allow me to share a few of my thoughts before interjecting your thoughts.”

He nodded once and held her gaze.

“The transformation,” she said as she began her explanation, “is not entirely what has been advertised.”  Nora paused for a beat to let her words register, then continued, “You already know that I can’t dream the same as I used to, or eat meals let alone smell them, but there is something else… I can’t feel sensations like I used to.”

He opened his mouth to say something but she quickly silenced him by placing her finger on his lips.  “Shhh,” she said, “let me explain.”

For the next few hours she shared with him the deficiencies about her sense of taste, of smell, of sight, of tactile responses being completely different; however, they still worked to a certain degree because the signals her brain received translated the sensations allowing her to experience them all.  The biggest disappointment was lacking emotional feelings that were once brought about by those same stimuli.  She told him how the wind was blowing around the day he picked her up and that her brain registered the event, even felt it on her skin, but it didn’t bring forth any emotional attachment to it like it did in her flesh and bone form.

She told him how the doctor said she could retrain her brain to “assign more meaning” to an event, which in turn would give her a more pleasurable experience, and that it would take some time given that she didn’t fully incorporate all of the “humanoid options” that were available.  He did, however, assure her with enough time and effort, she would be “just as human as she was before” because the options she did have were fully capable of expression once properly conditioned.  It was a risk she was willing to take at the time, but one now for which she has regrets.

#

             “Regrets,” said Dr. Weiss matter-of-factly, via the teleconference screen, “is a common issue that all of our patients experience initially.  You are no different and are experiencing it approximately within the same time period as the others.”

“Thank you for your reassurance,” she replied, “but I do have another question I was hoping you could answer?”

“By all means.  What’s on your mind?”

“I don’t think I’m as far along as I should be with respect to ‘feeling’ things; emotionally that is… what if I never fully get there?  Is there a way out?”

Dr. Weiss studied her image before responding.  He was trying to properly assess what she said and what she was implying.  In his eight plus years of advancing this technology, he had encountered some patients with emotional instability, which was mostly addressed by reprogramming some form of behavioral modification for the short term until the all the sensors acclimated to their surroundings, but Nora sounded different than the others.

“If you mean by ‘a way out’ as in terminating the contract,” he started with, “then the answer is no, since the design of the machine and interfaces, as well as the software that keeps all of the systems operational is proprietary.”

“No, doctor,” she said, “that’s not what I’m referring to –”

“I didn’t think you were asking for that.  I put it that way to make sure I understood your intentions.”

“Okay, since you brought it up.  What if I were not able to pay for the contract any longer, what would happen then?”

“We can modify the payment terms; we can make adjustments to the amount –”

“No, doctor.  What would happen if a patient missed a payment or stopped payment all together?  What then becomes of the person?”

“If you are having financial troubles, we can –”

“Dr. Weiss, I am certain you know I am not talking about any of that.  I want to know what would happen if I decided to terminate the contract in lieu of taking my own life?”

#

            Mike was now cleaning up the kitchen, doing his best to keep himself busy in hopes that his mind would not become preoccupied with her “condition” and what she just shared with him.  It was hopeless… for the last few months her “new self” was the only thing that he did think about since she returned home from the treatment center.

It was correct to call it a “condition” he assured himself.  He didn’t want to see her suffer from cancer, but now he doesn’t know which is worse?  She’s almost a zombie he thought for lack of a better word to describe who she has become.  He didn’t relish becoming “mechanically immortal” just to be with her either.  There truly was only one logical solution…

“Nora, honey,” he said walking back to the parlor, “I know how we can make things right, but it’s going to take a leap of faith on both our parts.  You know my thoughts about mechanical immortality, and you know I believe there is another form of immortality.”

She didn’t say a word, just nodded in agreement before he finished speaking, knowing his plan, unspoken, by the look in his eyes: They would exist eternally together outside of the mechanical world…

Copyright (C) 2016 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

The Lunch Date

The Lunch Date
Written by: Frank Cormier

     “Please have a seat, Mr. O’Brien,” the receptionist cordially said.  “I’ll let Ms. Walsh know you are here.”

     Mr. O’Brien took his customary seat adjacent to the tinted glass double entrance doors and placed the brown paper bag he had carried in on the solid oak coffee table, being careful to place a magazine under it first so that it wouldn’t mar the wood finish.  How many times had his wife forgotten her lunch this month, he silently wondered?  He had forgotten how many times he had made her lunch over the past forty plus years of their marriage.  “I guess we all forget things,” he said to no one as he sat in the large foyer alone.  “I can’t recall the receptionist’s name, so I can’t really blame Mary for forgetting her lunch.  She hasn’t been the same since the cancer treatments.”

     He removed a pad and pen from his tweed sport coat and wrote himself a note to ask the doctor if chemotherapy had an adverse effect on a person’s memory.  As he went to return the pad, it slipped from his fingers and dropped to the floor and fell open on a different page.  He slowly picked up the pad, a single tear rolling down his left cheek, and read the handwritten note aloud: “To My Darling Husband, You are my rock, my everything.  I will love you always.  XO  Love, Mary

     His thoughts were interrupted by a whaling ambulance passing by the front entrance of the building on the busy city street.  He watched intensely until the ambulance disappeared around the corner.  The sight and sound of the ambulance registering deep in his subconscious but not yielding the reasons why he was fixated by it.

     He reached over and grabbed the lunch bag, placing it on his lap and opened it to check that he packed the things she liked: ham and Swiss cheese on rye with spicy brown mustard, plain Greek yogurt, apple slices, and a single Hershey’s Kiss.

     “Mary has such a sweet tooth,” he said cheerfully to the opened bag, “thankfully her diabetes isn’t all that bad that a single piece of chocolate can hurt her.”

     He rolled the bag closed and looked around the foyer, then checked his wrist watch growing concerned that the receptionist hadn’t come back with Mary.  It’s not like her to be so late, he silently said.

     “I’ll get her a new watch for her birthday,” he said aloud to one of the ferns guarding the interior of the entrance doors, “it’s in two days.”  He reached for his pen and pad and wrote himself a reminder.

     The front doors opened and a nurse dressed in scrubs walked in and took a seat next to him.

     “Hi, Mr. O’Brien,” she pleasantly said.  “How are you today?”

     He had a bewildered look as he tried to figure out who this person was and why she knew him?

     “I’m fine,” he said, and then asked, “Do I know you, and where is Mary?”

     “Yes, sir,” she kindly offered.  “I’m nurse Walsh. The visiting caregiver assigned to check up on you.  Mary is no longer here.”

     “What do you mean not here?” he asked a bit short tempered.

     “Mr. O’Brien, your wife died a little over a month ago.  She doesn’t work here anymore.”

     “Died?” he asked, bewildered once more.

     “Yes, sir,” she said, and then asked, “Is that the lunch I made for you this morning?”

     “No!” he screamed at her.  “I made this for my wife!  Now where is she!?”

     Ms. Walsh reached over and gently held his hand.  He didn’t fight her, searching her eyes looking for a clue or any sign that she might betray the whereabouts of his wife.

     The receptionist had returned to her desk and watched in silence as Ms. Walsh, with one arm draped over Mr. O’Brien’s shoulder and the other one still holding his hand, led him through the doors, exiting the building, the same humane and caring way she had already done several times this month, and the brown paper bag left behind each time, until their next lunch date.

Copyright (C) 2016 by Frank Cormier.  All rights reserved.

Where are all of the trees?

Where are all of the trees?

Written by: Frank Cormier

The starship’s computer log displayed the date to be April 17, 2445 at 11:37pm.  This was the accepted form dates and time were written in when humans still inhabited Earth.  The computer ran a simple program to keep track of the passage of time in this form so that all connections back to the home planet were not forgotten.  Most of the crew did not know what an Earth calendar looked like which made this program seem more frivolous than nostalgic.  I stared at the date a moment longer before switching it back to the standard date/time displacement display all were accustomed to: 4.107.445-2.2337:18.  “It lacks sex appeal,” I said to the monitor screen.  The computer responded by asking me to repeat the command which made me chuckle.  “Ignore my words,” I replied and started my shift a little early to help overcome the extreme boredom of interstellar travel.

The bleakness of deep space travel is more overwhelming than the brain can conceivably fathom.  It is mostly dark and the profound emptiness that exists between other solar systems or galaxies is so vast that when you look out one of the few pancake sized windows (placed in what seemed to me random locations about the starship), to gaze at the abyss; you experienced a touch of vertigo as your brain tried to make sense of what your eyes saw or more accurately, what they didn’t see.  It was then that you realized just how insignificant a human life form is in the overall scheme of the Universe.  I chose not to look out of the windows too often as it just wasn’t worth it, visually or mentally.  The GSS Georges Cuvier (Global Star Ship) still had another fifteen Earth years to go before it arrived at the outer limits of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies it was programmed to reach.

Our crew also had no way of communicating with any other human life forms on the other ten aircraft carrier sized starships that were launched the same year.  Each starship had a different trajectory and destination and no two were on the same path.  In fact, the distances were so great between the other starships at this point in the trek that the automatic location signal beacon each was designed to ping into the blackness of space wouldn’t reach any of them for thousands of years, assuming they were at the correct angle, and alive, to receive the encoded message.  The Panspermia idea envisioned by the top scientist of that time period was that different trajectories were required in an effort to scatter those chosen few “seeds,” much like the wind blew them around on Earth to propagate the species, towards one of the many habitable solar systems spread throughout the known Universe, in a hodgepodge consecutive creation methodology.  As for the humans that were left behind, I could only surmise that they had now perished.  The last ping the Cuvier received from the starship nearest to us, the GSS Alcide d’Orbigny, when the exodus began, was over one hundred years ago.

We had been traveling for over one hundred and forty-five years now, I thought to myself.  How was it that I was even chosen?  My job on board is safety and security and there was not much to secure.  I made routine rounds every hour that I was on watch in the section of the starship I was assigned to this year.  Jobs were rotated each year as a measure to break up the monotony of living on a flying prison barge year after year.  After all there were no ports of call or liberty to be had in the voluminous space surrounding us.  This job was the most boring one so far that I had been assigned.  I’m sure a monkey could do it, and I believe had at one point in the history of human space travel.  The biggest safety risk was fire and we had never experienced one.  We did however, lose several of the original crew members as some died prematurely due to problems with the cryogenic chambers and the others from natural causes.  About half of the inaugural crew of five-thousand was placed into a deep sleep a year after we fled the planet.  The other half lived out their natural lives performing the necessary duties to keep the starship on target, one of those duties being the replenishment of the crew.

New babies had been born in that time. Now grown up, several of them are responsible for keeping the Cuvier on target and of course reproduction.  Most of the newer crew, once they reached twenty-five Earth years of age, were placed in the chambers to await their turn to be woken upon reaching our destination.  I find it most curious that they will never know what is was like to walk on a firm terrain filled with trees and flowers and other life forms besides humans.  It saddens me to think that this new generation has no idea what a flower smells like or what fun it was to climb a tree on a bright sunny day or know what an actual book feels like to read.  Their appearance etiolated, their world digital.  I get anxious when I ponder what our new world will evolve into when most of the humans on board don’t know what life was like on Earth.  Maybe that will be a good thing, I mused?

I was fortunate my chamber didn’t malfunction, not that I would have known if it had, and have been awake now for over ten years.  The main part of my job is to ensure that the cryogenic chambers were functioning properly and to report any issues to the cryogenic engineering and medical staffs.  In between my security shifts I would look up events that happened on board while I was asleep and listened to the reports.  I learned that the starship had suffered some minimal damage when it accidently flew through a debris field of micro space rocks that were too small for the ship’s long range sensors to detect.  The Cuvier had come to a full stop once it cleared the miniature rock storm and a few of the crew went on a spacewalk to assess and repair any damage.  The sensors had since been reprogrammed to detect that type of anomaly and we have not encountered another one.  Not much else had happened since we left Earth according to the starship’s logs.  Sometimes I wondered if I would have been better off had I refused to take this journey and stayed behind taking my chances on Earth.  There was no guarantee either way.

I remembered being approached by two men dressed in formal military attire as I studied for an exam in the main campus library at Tufts University.  One half semester to go and I would have graduated with a double major in psychology and math.  To this day I’m not exactly sure how they even located me; however, I believe now it had something to do with my DNA.  They mentioned something at the time about a certain marker and trait that I possessed and that I was to come with them “immediately.”  I mildly protested but went along anyway because I was intrigued by the mysterious air that surrounded them.  Seventy-two hours later I was sitting on a rocket ship headed towards a space station located on the moon and then shuttled aboard this starship and have not seen the Earth or the moon since.  During the first few months of the trip, when we could still communicate with the space station and Earth, reports came over the starship’s broadcast system about an “inner core explosion” that rocked the entire planet off its axis.  Speculation on board was that Earth was hit by an asteroid or comet so large that it literally pushed its orbit nearer to the Sun and was now caught in a death spiral with the Sun’s gravity pulling it closer and closer to its ultimate demise.  Nothing was ever confirmed because we lost contact with Earth before receiving a response to our query regarding its health status.  I conjectured that the “powers to be” blacked out the official reason so as to not dishearten the few humans sent away and have them worry about the fate of their loved ones.

“A book,” I thought to myself as I patrolled the cryogenic sleeping chambers, “that is what I miss the most.”  The actual feel of the paper stock and smell of a new book was once a drug to me.  And the weight of all the pages with those nuanced words permanently etched upon them with indelible ink that formed a message meant to be deciphered and colored by one’s brain through the eyes of your own experiences and imagination; they were meant to last a lifetime.  Even though every book ever written or magazine published were in audible form back on Earth before the evacuation, I often chose to go to a library or bookstore to borrow or purchase a book.  You could listen to your own inner voice tell the story and imagine the scene in the private theater of your mind.  There is not one book on this entire starship.

All written forms of entertainment were uploaded to the central library computer before the starship began its journey and the books read to you while wearing a listening device.  The stories were spoken by a computer voice that often placed the wrong emphasis on a syllable or added inflection where it was not called for, and worse, it completely missed the nuances the original author intended the reader to enjoy and make the mental movie all their own.  I tried several times to listen to “The Grapes of Wrath” and just couldn’t get past the mispronunciation of Tom Joad’s last name (the computer voice pronounces it “Joe-Add”), and the bleak picture John Steinbeck painted with respect to the arid farm land and the family struggles, does not come across in the vivid detail he wrote about when read to you in flat computerized voice.  Some other books are read aloud by actual people voices, but you still run into the problem of inflection and mispronunciations if the person reading them wasn’t informed.  Very few of them were good readers, such as Christopher Evan Welch who read aloud “The Art of Racing in the Rain.” I listened to that story so much I know it by heart and still find it captivating, in large part as to how it was read by Christopher. He made the story come to life and it was easy for my imagination to take over and picture the words as the author Garth Stein meant them to be read.  Come to think of it I mused, there were no living pets or any type of animals or fish or plants on board for that matter.  They only existed in one’s mind and in the DNA strands that were frozen like popsicles in the Farm & Agriculture section of the starship.

“A tree once grew in Brooklyn,” I wondered aloud as I sat in front of the rectangular monitor about to recite my report, “hopefully one will grow in our future home?”  We’ll need them if we ever want to hold and read a book again…

The End

Copyright (C) by Frank Cormier 2016. All rights reserved.

Me, Myself, and I

Me, Myself, and I
Written by: Frank Cormier

There was a burst of four knocks at the front door. How interesting that the person did not choose to ring the bell, I thought. I was not expecting anyone, especially at this hour of the day. It was ten in the morning on a Wednesday. Did I make an appointment that I forgot about, I wondered? Another set of four sharp raps at the door shook me from my stupor. Quietly I approached the door and did my best to sneak a peek at the uninvited guest (or guests?) through the semi-circle clear window panes atop the fiberglass insulated door with simulated wood grain exterior covers, which caused the knocks to sound a bit hollow.

When I first bought my condo, I had asked special permission from the Condo Association if I could replace the solid door with one that had some type of windows in it. I wanted the sunlight to shine through and brighten that area of my dwelling naturally. They actually had a choice of two doors that I could select from and the one I chose allowed for the most sunlight and the ability to see any callers through clear glass panes. The other door looked roughly the same except that it was adorned with frosted or pebbled glass. The forethought I had in choosing the clear glass panes was accidental; however, very handy at this moment.

I’m only five foot nine and can barely see out of the window while standing on my tip toes, so quietly as I could, I removed my Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary from the book shelf adjacent to the front entry way and placed it on the floor. The dictionary was about three inches thick and gave me just enough of a boost to see out of the window without being noticed. As I poked my head just above the bottom of the glass pane, there came another four hard knocks on the door. It startled me so much that I fell off the book and landed in a heap at the foot of door. My head bounced off of the door in a loud thump on the way down and I knew there was no way this uninvited guest (or guests?) would ever believe that no one was home.

I picked up the dictionary and held it in my right hand as I opened the door with my other hand, just in case I needed to toss it at the person if they were trying to break in. This would give me just enough time to slam the door shut if I caught them off guard. It wasn’t much of a plan, but it was one nonetheless. When did I become so paranoid, I thought as I partially opened the door? What I saw, or more precisely, who I saw caught me off guard so much so that I dropped the book on my bare foot. The person standing before me, was me! A future me. He looked about twenty to twenty-five years older than I am at present. But it was definitely me. I don’t know which was more shocking, the book falling on my foot (which did hurt!), or the fact that I was looking at myself? I had lifted my foot to rub it in hopes to quell the pain as I looked on in disbelief. I knew I wasn’t dreaming because my foot really hurt. “How can this be,” I asked aloud more to myself than to my future-self.

My future-self let out a stifled chuckle as he bent down to pick up the dictionary and asked if he could come in. “Um, sure,” I fumbled, “I guess so.” He thanked me as he walked past me with the book in hand. I took the book from him and placed it back in the bookcase and closed the door as he looked around my condo. “Nice place,” he offered. “Thanks,” was the only word that came from my mouth, as a million thoughts raced through my mind. He was now looking at the collection of pictures hanging on the wall and sitting on the fireplace mantle, picking one up from time to time and stroking others gently with his forefinger, a small smile played out across his face. “You’ve been living here just about a year, right,” he asked while handing me a picture of my parents. I told him he was correct and studied the picture. The picture was taken while we were on vacation at the Grand Canyon. My parents were standing by two pack mules that we rented to hike down to the bottom of the canyon. Each was wearing cheesy looking sombreros that they bought at the beginning of our trip in Mexico.

They both loved to laugh and to travel. I inherited the travel bug from them and was hardly ever at home, which is why I only ever bought condos. I didn’t want to have to worry about lawn care or other household projects that could be taken care of by the Condo Association for a small monthly fee. I relish my freedom and went to great lengths to ensure that I was financially stable enough to travel when and where I wanted to at any time without being encumbered by the day-to-day routines of being a homeowner. A sadness touched my heart while looking at the picture. This was the last trip we all took together. The picture was taken over seven years ago. It’s hard to believe that much time had already passed. “I bet that was a fun trip,” my future-self said as he took the picture from me and returned it to the mantle. How true I thought…

My future-self sat on one of the winged back mahogany leather chairs nearest to the fireplace and crossed his legs at the ankles. I guess old habits die hard as I took a seat on the brown leather couch across from him and sat the same way. We stared at each other for a moment before I asked the most obvious question and the one he was expecting about his presence in my life now. He deferred his answer by asking me how the single life was. That’s when it dawned on me that I had not taken the time to find another to share my life with. I am forty-two years old, single, never been married, and live alone. My parents had a great marriage and were best friends. I always wanted the same thing but was too busy building up my portfolio, traveling, and spending time with them that I neglected my own personal life. My mother would ask from time to time but never pushed the issue. Was he here to save me from that? Did he have some other message? My response was that it is fun, but in my mind knew it had grown old.

What kind of man had I turned into, I mused? When I was in my twenties after I finished college, I took off on a global adventure that started in London and ended in Hong Kong. The trip took seven months to complete as I stopped in Holland, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, and several former Eastern Bloc countries, before ending up in the Pacific rim. I stayed in hostels, or as a border in someone’s house for a few days, but mostly “roughed it” as the saying goes and slept outdoors and ate what I could gather on my own. This is what I thought it took to be a “man” and that I would return home as an adult man. I encountered much resistance upon my return home from so called friends, as they were “homebodies” that rarely ventured away from our home town. I didn’t feel like I fit in any longer and moved from one city to the next. First starting in Boston and made my way to New York City, then Chicago, Los Angeles next, Austin, Texas, and finally settling in Cleveland, Ohio; which is close to where I grew up and nearest to my parent’s home when they were alive. They died about five years ago and I’ve moved three times since then but always in the same general area.

I made my living on the stock market and setup shop wherever I could so long as I had a good Internet connection. I was fortunate in that I made some really good choices in the market after making several blunders when first learning how to day trade. My operation can almost run by itself with minimal interaction required on my part. The algorithm I created does most of the work for me and I basically monitor the results. I don’t talk with others about the source of my wealth and this has created limitations on my part as to whom I am willing to interact with, male or female. Guys were jealous of me because of my lifestyle and the women just seemed interested in my money. Suddenly I felt sad that I don’t have a woman in my life, but also don’t have any true friends either. My dream of a happy and loving marriage like my parents had appears to be slipping away. The next question I asked of my future-self was, “Am I happy?”

He laughed aloud when he heard the question and said look at him and decide for myself, “Do ‘you’ look happy?” At first blush I would have to say yes, but knew that wasn’t the reason why he was here. Maybe I’m not happy I started to think? But how could I be both happy and unhappy at the same time? He sensed my bewilderment and offered that happiness comes from within: a cliché I have heard over and over in my life, this being no different than any of those other times as it still didn’t answer my question. I walked to the kitchen and got two glasses down from the cabinet. I started to pour unsweetened ice tea over the automatically produced, singular in size and shape ice cubes. I espied a framed picture of me sitting on the counter. In the photo I am squatting on a precipice overlooking the Grand Canyon and not smiling. My mind raced back to that moment to analyze why no smile? It was only about a year ago and I know I wasn’t tired or bored. It’s funny how sometimes you can remember where you are in a picture but you can’t remember your mood or thoughts. That’s one of the prevalent frailties of being human. We tend to forget more than we ever remember…

He accepted the iced tea and drank with fervor. Half the glass was finished before I sat back down. I asked if he remembered that trip and said that his mind was not as sharp as it was once before, a byproduct of aging, and did not have even a vague recollection. Hearing him say that deflated my mood somewhat more. The human mind is a lot like a library; there are plenty of volumes of books/memories, but most times we haven’t a clue what is in each one and at best can only recall bits and pieces, enough to cajole a happy or sad thought or two. Most often we’ll not even see the book or if we do, cannot recall what the contents are or the story line. Unlike the library, we can’t reach into our mind and scan the book to refresh our memory, even a memory from only a year ago preserved forever in a photograph. It’s no wonder that humans go to war with each other. They can’t seem to remember the lessons or atrocities from one war to the next. And if someone does remember, who would be interested in listening? My life isn’t a war, however, it seems that I am not remembering a lesson from my past that my future-self is trying to warn me about in the present. Well at least that is what I think he is doing? “Let me cut to the chase,” I proffered. “You are here to warn me about my, well, our future?”

Holding the empty glass up to a narrow band of sun light streaming through the front window, he filtered it through the remaining ice cubes, then rotated it such that small rainbows appeared then disappeared on the white Berber rug at his feet, and remained silent. He stayed quiet for what seemed an hour but in actuality was about two minutes, then placed the glass on one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame coasters on the coffee table. “I’m not here to warn you about anything,” he responded more to his feet, since that was where he was now looking, than to me directly. I waited to see if he was going to say anything more, instead he continued to look at his feet. So I started to look at my own feet, and that’s when it hit me: his feet, my feet! Neither of us was wearing shoes or socks! Him dressed in a dark blue sport coat, white button down shirt, and tan khaki trousers being held up by a light brown web belt, and me dressed in a light blue collared golf shirt and dark blue cargo style shorts held up by a black leather belt; both of us bare foot. “What is the significance of our bare feet,” I asked partially knowing the answer and looking for affirmation of my suspicion.

“The Universe is not as big and infinite as our human minds lead us to believe,” he started to explain in lieu of a direct answer. “And there really is no such thing as time.” He went on further to explain how the past, present, and the future all happen simultaneously, as does the “many worlds” theory ring true. Every conceivable “state of our being” is happening at this moment, sort of like a holograph: no matter what angle you look at yourself from and regardless of the number of projections, the essence of your true self can always be seen. In one of those worlds I am happily married with children, while at the same time in a different one, suffering from war wounds on an active battle field slowly bleeding out. In yet a different set of worlds I am female living out as many multiple scenarios as could possibly be thought of. He explained that “gender” as it is called in this world, has limited meaning in the Universe. It is truly our essence that counts for anything.

At some point all of those worlds will cease to exist, and will do so at preciously the same moment. For what is measured as an hour here, could last for a year or longer, or for only a few seconds in other worlds using the same timescale of this world. Just as the Universe “popped” into existence from nothing, so did we. And our departure from this existence will return to nothing; the same as the Universe. All possible worlds will come together in what is known as convergence and when that happens, the energy from each will combine to cancel one another. The equation is balanced and there is no remainder. It is the most beautiful and elegant of all equations ever formulated. “The man you called Einstein in this world would have been pleased with it,” he postulated as he reached for my hand. As I suspected, that moment was now.

The End

Copyright (C) by Frank Cormier 2016.  All rights reserved.