The universe (he said) is the Great All, and offers a paradox too great for the finite mind to grasp. As the living brain cannot conceive of a non-living brain - although it may think it can - the finite mind cannot grasp the infinite.
The prosaic fact of the universe’s existence alone defeats both the pragmatic and the romantic. There was a time, yet a hundred generations before the world moved on, when mankind had achieved enough technical and scientific prowess to chip a few splinters from the great stone pillar of reality. Even so, the false light of science (knowledge, if you like) shone in only a few developed countries. One company (or cabal) led the way in this regard: North Central Positronics, it called itself. Yet, despite a tremendous increase in available facts, there were remarkably few insights.
"Gunslinger, our many-times-great grandfathers conquered the-disease-which-rots, which they called cancer, almost conquered aging, walked on the moon - "
"I don’t believe that," the gunslinger said flatly.
To this, the man in black merely smiled and answered, “You needn’t. Yet it was so. They made or discovered a hundred other marvelous baubles. But this wealth of infomation produced little or no insight. There were no great odes written to the wonders of artificial insemination - having babies from frozen mansperm - or to the cars that ran on power of the sun. Few if any seemed to have grasped the truest principle of reality: new knowledge leads to yet more awesome mysteries. Greater physiological knowledge of the brain makes the existence of the soul less possible yet more probable by the nature of the search. Do you see? Of course you don’t. You’ve reached the limits of your ability to comprehend. But nevermind - that’s beside the point.”
"What is the point then?”
"The greatest mystery the universe offers is not life but size. Size encompasses life, and the Tower encompasses size. The child, who is most at home with wonder, says: Daddy, what is above the sky? And the father says: The darkness of space. The child: What is beyond space? The father: The galaxy. The child: Beyond the galaxy? The father: Another galaxy. The child: Beyond the other galaxies? The father: No one knows.
"You see? Size defeats us. For the fish, the lake in which he lives is the universe. What does the fish think when he is jerked up by the mouth through the silver limits of existence and into a new universe where the air drowns him and the light is blue madness? Where huge bipeds with no gills stuff it into a suffocating box and cover it with wet weeds to die?
"Or one might take the tip of the pencil and magnify it. One reaches the point where a stunning realization strikes home: The pencil tip is not solid; it is composed of atoms which whirl and revolve like a trillion demon planets. What seems solid to us is actually only a loose net held together by gravity. Viewed at their actual size, the distances between these atoms might become league, gulfs, aeons. The atoms themselves are composed of nuclei and revolving protons and electrons. One may step down further to subatomic particles. And then to what? Tachyons? Nothing? Of course not. Everything in the universe denies nothing; to suggest an ending is the one absurdity.
"If you fell outward to the limit of the universe, would you find a board fence and signs reading DEAD END? No. You might find something hard and rounded, as the chick must see the egg from the inside. And if you should peck through the shell (or find a door), what great and torrential light might shine through your opening at the end of space? Might you look through and discover our entire universe is but part of one atom on a blade of grass? Might you be forced to think that by burning a twig you incinerate an eternity of eternities? That existence rises not to one infinite but to an infinity of them?
"Perhaps you saw what place our universe plays in the scheme of things - as no more than an atom in a blade of grass. Could it be that everything we can perceive, from the microscopic virus to the distant Horsehead Nebula, is contained in one blade of grass that may have existed for only a single season in an alien time-flow? What if that blade should be cut off by a scythe? When it begins to die, would the rot seep into our universe and our own lives, turning everthing yellow and brown and desiccated? Perhaps it’s already begun to happen. We say the world has moved on; maybe we really mean that it has begun to dry up.
"Think how small such a concept of things make us, gunslinger! If a God watches over it all, does He actually mete out justice for such a race of gnats? Does His eye see the sparrow fall when the sparrow is less than a speck of hydrogen floating disconnected in the depth of space? And if He does see… what must the nature of such a God be? Where does He live? How is it possible to live beyond infinity?
"Imagine the sand of the Mohaine Desert, which you crossed to find me, and imagine a trillion universes - not worlds by universes - encapsulated in each grain of that desert; and within each universe an infinity of others. We tower over these universes from our pitiful grass vantage point; with one swing of your boot you may knock a billion billion worlds flying off into darkness, a chain never to be completed.
"Size, gunslinger… size.
"Yet suppose further. Suppose that all worlds, all universes, met at a single nexus, a single pylon, a Tower. And within it, a stairway, perhaps rising to the Godhead itself. Would you dare climb to the top, gunslinger? Could it be that somewhere above all of endless reality, there exists a room?…
"You dare not."
And in the gunslinger’s mind, those words echoed: You dare not.
Last night I released my first EP on Bandcamp. Go check it out, listen for free, and if you like what you hear download it and share it. No DRM, no retail price. Suggested donation of $5 will go towards a physical release of my next EP.
They were three days out from Earth when Dana pissed in Kort’s luggage. She treated it like a simple thing, a lazy realization. Dana knew the black mat of the Inner System was drifting by the hull of the DC-870 Transport they had boarded just outside Earth orbit. The air inside her cabin smelled like nothing, and all at once she stood up and walked to the door that joined her room with Kort’s. The cabin lights blinked on, and she spent a small moment staring at the greasy bulkheads that sweated repair compounds and ambient heat. The luggage compartment was across the room. The skin of her bare feet sucked the warmth out of the floor as she paced across to where Kort had secreted her carry-on.
Dana opened the latches from the top of the carrier. The gleaming, custom-formed plastic and steel of Kort’s Executive carry-bag, three feet on a side, the primly folded tops and sweaters presented themselves like a buffet for her. Her heart caught like a rusty lock. Reality seemed to tumble away, a fine, milky sheen enveloping her mind. I’ve come undone, she thought. She watched her own hands pull her pants to her knees, saw her body hitch down to squat over the luggage and piss.
There had been a time when her Chair was all that kept Dana alive. When she was awake and away from it, she thought of lying folded in its graces. When she slept, she dreamed of data streaming away at her feet like a raging cataract, a mountain-gouging slipstream of binary digits. She dreamt of leaning over a precipice, falling aimlessly into the horizonless black and away from Kort Reid.
There had been a time when Dana had loved her job. The data was all she had. It was her lover’s hand, her warm nights on a beach, her lost-and-then-found. When things hurt, when life was unfair, there was parsing and splitting and stacking, algorithms, metrics, transformations. She had spent college in a haze of computer screens and rolled out of bed one day and into a job with Springhill Mining Consortium. That first year her desk was organized; her track was greased and aimed at the top. Two years in and she was assigned to the Off-Planet Analysis and Research Division, a portent of Bigger Things to Come, or so she was told. Then Richard, her boss, had gotten himself sucked out of an airlock and into the Great Beyond. The odd vacuum he left was filled, and then overfilled, with Kort Reid.
Dana carried files in her arms, trailed behind Kort every minute of every day. Kort’s slim figure pressed neatly into a suit, her black hair pulled sharp into a bun. This was the culmination of all those hours spent strapped into her Chair: to dither and file and bow and scrape whenever Kort tossed her head and whispered, “Dana, here”, dragging her dreams along behind her like a tattered veil in the hopes that if she tried a little harder, she could please Kort’s iron whim. There were few slots for a Processor like Dana in the management chain, precious few channels upwards. Without Kort’s approval, the board would never consider Dana for advancement. She pressed Kort’s suits by hand. She brought her the same lunch at the same time every day. She centered the axis of her life around the approval that, in the dark moments each morning, she knew would never be given.
Dana had learned to avoid Kort in the hallways after the first year of sniveling, as any meeting inevitably catapulted more work onto her already taxed mind. She spent days in the data, plugged into her home-Chair, pissing herself to keep from unplugging. When she found out they would be spending months on a ship together, Dana locked herself in a bathroom stall and cried. She had cried like she hadn’t since she was a child, despair pouring out of her like a silver light.
Four days from launch, the ship creased space like origami paper, tearing through towards Mars in a matter of days, and Dana slept in the data. With one half of her mind, she’d spent the last 12 hours processing transfer orbits and calculating fuel loads. She had lent that half of her mind to guiding the ship, linked crosswise with four or five other Processors on the ship. With the other half of her consciousness, she tracked Kort.
“Colin, I need you to keep tabs on her for me. Can you do that?” She spoke to her Chair like an old friend, a constant murmur deep within her forebrain.
“I certainly can, miss. Gladly. When shall I wake you?” her Chair responded, its deep tones rumbling into her central nervous system. Only she could hear Colin’s voice.
“How long have I been down?” she asked. Her eyes were blurry with the drugged sleep required for Processing.
“Just over 3 days, madam.” Dana sensed a tone of recrimination in Colin’s normally dulcet vocal cadence. She wondered if that was part of his programming, to persuade her out of his grasp before her skin developed compression sores.
“Wake me when I’ve finished processing the damned reports for Kort. I need to have them done soon or she’ll be up my ass screaming again. And please, track her for me. Keep a record in my private files,” she mumbled. Colin had anticipated her needs, as always, and opened the sluice-gates of depressants and molecule-sized interface mechanisms that allowed Dana to become part of the data.
A long time later, there was a small beep down in the stacks of equipment. Dana reached groggily for her console, saw it flash an error code she’d never seen before. She put a call in to Medical and Service before heading to chow. The pabulum the chair pumped into her kept her alive, but it was no substitute for a meal. She plodded the corridor towards the medical suite, and there he was: the pale-haired boy who’d helped her settle in to her Chair her first day on. He had the fine air of porcelain, skin conditioned by days at a time spent under lab lights. As he had strapped her into Colin and plugged her link in, directly behind her left ear, he’d had to lean over her. Dana blushed furiously, remembering his smell and how close he had been. This was an embarrassment she hadn’t been able to escape since she was a child: any puerile thought brought an instant blush to her cheeks. She’d read his name tag as he approached. It had said “Peter”.
After dinner, Dana struggled back into her chair and was in the data stream for four days. She watched Kort shower and dress, her fine hair flowing down the back of her regulation suit. One part of her mind regulated airlocks for departing scout ships while the rest followed Kort.
“I wish, at times, that I could live up to my potential,” she told the air.
A voice came from deep inside her mind: “With my help, you can,” it said. “Watch,” it said, and she did.
For thirteen minutes, Dana watched the time-lapse recording. She watched Kort share drinks with the pale-skinned boy, watched them become heady and drunk in the confines of the mess hall. From an angle high in a corner of the corridor just outside the hall, she watched Kort pull the boy (Peter, Peter is his name) behind her, heard her giggle echo down the silent corridor, heard the cabin door slide open. She watched Kort’s dress slide to the floor, watched her glide playfully over Peter on the bed. Dana tried to close her eyes, but all this, this terrible time and sound was playing out inside her own mind.
“Stop, please. I don’t want to watch anymore,” she sobbed. Colin took no notice, spooled the footage out to its end. Kort and Peter slept the sound sleep of the drunk, and Dana was surrounded by darkness.
“What will you do, Madam?” Colin asked. His voice hummed deep down in her psyche, and she could feel space seeping into her bones and under her fingernails. A fragile part of her seemed to have rattled its last breath, and she knew that Peter must find her beautiful, far more than Kort.
Dana awoke in her chair. Her display showed she’d been out for four days, and the reports for Kort where finally done. She stretched, burnt off hard copy of her reports, and dressed for the briefing she knew was today. She met Kort in the empty corridor and fell into step with her.
“I see your reports are finished. Give them here,” Kort demanded.
Her mind as empty as the vacuum outside, Dana slammed her fist hard into the underside of Kort’s jaw. Kort puffed out her breath in a surprised grunt as Dana began to pull her back into her own cabin.
As Dana’s hands trembled, the neural jack tinkled around the inner surface of Kort’s interface plug.
“So easy, just as easily as you took him from me,” Dana whispered. Her breath rattled the tines of Kort’s nervous system, hairs standing on end all along her body. A core nerve reaction, that one: the lost art of primate intimidation, the puffing and teeth-baring of fear. Pores opened all across her body and Kort began to sweat, drafts of tiny molecules emptying into her veins. Her heart knocked against her ribs.
There was a pause the length of a synapse as Kort snapped the simuleather straps that had held her to the chair. She swiveled like a greased bearing, pushing hard with toned thighs. She felt Dana’s attempt to slide the neural jack home, to wipe out her mind with a rampaging influx of cold terabytes. It wasn’t until later, much after she’d broken Dana’s jaw and tied her to a packing crate, that she thought about it and cried. She cried until the effort made her weak, and then packed her bags to depart for the surface of Mars. After all, there was still work to be done.
[Reworded for clarity and emphasis added for fucking badassery]
Dragan Stevic of Serbia is a new Egyptian hero who accidentally killed a large shark that had previously terrorized numerous tourists (killing one and injuring four) at the Egyptian resort Sarm El Sheikh.
Milovan Ubirapa, a friend of Stevic’s who witnessed the incident, explained that Dragan had decided to go to the beach for a swim after a long night of drinking. As Dragan and his friends approached the beach, they found a high dive at the water’s edge.
“Dragan climbed on the jumping board, told me to hold his beer and simply ran to jump; there was no time for me to react or to try to stop him, he just went for it,” Milovan said. “Dragan jumped high and plunged down to the sea, but didn’t make as much splash as we thought he would.”
The reason could be because Stevic ended up jumping straight on a shark that was lurking near the beach, landing right on its head and killing it instantly. The Egyptian police found the shark washed out on the beach that morning.
Stevic was able to swim to the shore and told his friends he had twisted his ankle, telling them the water was not that soft. The water is soft buddy, you just landed on a shark.
At the moment, the fearless hero is in a hospital recovering from alcohol poisoning. After Dragan gets well, he will get a chance to have some more drinks as the resort had awarded the Serb tourist with a free vacation for his heroic deed.
HOLY FUCK I AM CRYING IN AWE AND HILARITY
This is without a doubt the best drinking story ever.
I am not awesome OR Tumblr-famous. I am, however, eating week-old garlic bread dipped in Garden Fresh Brand Spicy Cilantro Hummus at 2:01 am on a weeknight. So, that makes up for the lack of Tumblr-fame.