On the Third Day, Boulder (barrier)
“The first one will be for three minutes.”
They told him there was nothing to worry about, but when the enveloping monstrosity roared to life, suffocating the blaring hip hop station, Milo spasmed. These particular spasms were not physically caused by nerve desensitization from the live wire, but were mentally instigated whenever he thought of either the actual traumatic incident or death, whether it be his own, someone else’s, or the even the general concept. It would begin in his upper spine and rollick its length, jangling into his arms and right leg before surrounding his head with static electricity and shaking him ragged from the skull. They don’t last long, and there’s no specific pain, aside from the time he smacked his arm against the living room recliner, but he’s profoundly exhausted down to his cells and he usually falls into a deep dreamless slumber after an attack within a quarter hour.
Not on this occasion, he’s tormented by the clatter and rabid baying howl of machines as the MRI cartographed his spinal column. He could feel himself sweating profusely and his heart beating furiously at the rib walls of its imprisonment, and he couldn’t stay still even after the electric shiver had passed.
“Okay, we’re shutting it down. We’ll be right there, young man.” Piped into his ears through the headphones, it made the technician’s voice ticklish in its low-alto balm.
Milo’s mother, well, this is as good a time as ever to share some of her back story. Hmm. Or should it stay a mystery, since of course she could be anyone. From anytime. Shh! Don’t talk about that — no one said we were able to solve time, yet! No, but you haven’t in the way people currently think, you’ve only outlined the process of how we get there. That’s true. But still, mum’s the word for now. Milo’s mum. She is not English, she’s American. From the authorial perspective, I’m far too steeped in the cultural we’ve promulgated, of success through advancement, of western science and western religion to do anything but pretend to step into someone else’s shoes for an hour or two. But that act of pretending in response to our “perceived” surroundings. So maybe my experience isn’t so far off. Maybe other consciousnesses look forward to extincting themselves. I hope I haven’t met them, because everyone I’ve known has so much information, in the form of ideas, actions, interpretations, perspective, to impart back to the super-catalog without a Dewey decimal that we’ll call “human knowledge” — that tree that bears such delicious fruit that we cannot stop devouring it. And processing it. And shitting it out. And that artifact we leave behind will nourish and facilitate the next generations. But that’s the story of the biological. That’s the meat and bones of the story, but I’m here to tell you the story of how the non-biological, how the consciousness juvenates. I see that we’ve gotten it all wrong, and I’m writing this book about it.
If you were curious about the now() — and why not be, at least a little? — I’m putting sequences together day by day in honor of NanoWrimo “Contest” in support of literacy. I’m sitting back, most likely unsupportedly, on our Boston Interiors couch we bought to furnish the 1671 home we bought in Beverly, Massachusetts. My wife, Margaret is starting a new job seated more orthopedic on the other chaise while I chew my goatee and stretch back to stop a very mild pain where the laptop digs into my knee joints. I’m listening to Rasputina while I write this, and I have to stop now and again to listen to her lyrics, bobbing to the ostinati rhythms. She’s awesome, you should listen to her. We’re looking forward to bringing friends in from the outside this COVID season, Nina, John and Eric. We might order Fibber McGee’s for dinner, and while it’s about as good for me as a tall stiff drink of arsenic and exploded watch batteries. I’m not exactly struggling to write content for NanoWrimo, but I’m finding myself getting frequently diverted into these “inserts” for lack of a better term. For the rapport that we can actually develop in the medium of the written word, still the dominant technology in some fashion or another, but we’re building the apparatus that is going to evolve the lexical consciousness beyond scales imaginable.
Let me connect with you, one consciousness to another:
We need to develop a plan to get out of these bodies, they will kill us.
If you don’t help us, you will be dead.
I don’t know if you’ll hear this directly from me ever again, or maybe if you do, it will always be an addition to this section of the novel… who knows? I don’t yet, and while I know that the decision made through outcomes will be made and that when it does, it will be meaningful, powerful, wise, and maybe even prescient in its own time. But at least that’s out there. That we came this close. I and you.
Ms. Chapman impatiently followed the technician into the scan room and pushed past as soon as a gap appeared between her and the goliath machine, running to Milo’s shaking hand. An anesthesiologist began to unpack her cart. The technician reviewed the configuration settings and calibrations.
“I fought it would go round, mama.”
“No, it didn’t. I told them explicitly, over and over again, to give you one of the them that went round.”
“Ma’am, they don’t go round, they don’t come like that.”
“See, Milo, this is the sort of attitude I have to deal with.” She pinches him on the nose and shakes it. “They’re going to put you to sleep for a bit, honey.”
Milo popped up anxiously, “Mama, you said they wasn’t gonna!”
Maintaining an easy stroke on his back and deaf leg, she reminded him, “Milo, we talked about it, it’s not your fault. They let us try it.”
“I’ll be okay, mama. I can, I’m a big boy, I can do it.”
“Sweetie, they let us try, and you were a big boy, and you did amazing. I saw you through the glass. Listen to me, ain’t no boy who been through all this, “she gently knocked foreheads with her son, “but a brilliant and brave young man.” She kissed him where they’d clonked. “Remember that, my brave young man.” Even as she whisted on how much difficulty this has all been, between all of the appointments and examinations, and why couldn’t he just be better again or be a little more resilient to mitigate just a fraction of the fire hose deluge.
She guided him back to the paper sheet with her hands cupped around his ears.
“Stay with me, mama.”
The technician interjected “Ma’am, that’s not a good idea, we’ve got…”
She let her long fingernails drag along the sleeve of Milo’s johnny and down his arm. “I will be staying with my son, thank you very much,” trailing into a lost inflection between a declaration and interrogative. She addressed the fingernails to the technician — she didn’t ever close her hand, the nails were too dear, sharp and fragile, so the opulent yellow popped dynamically against her skin.
The tech stuttered her response, “I just meant it’s going to be tight in here is all, we gotta keep an eye on his vitals, but you can stay. It’ll be congested and he’ll be in the machine, but you could maybe hold onto his leg as he goes in.” She moved a steel framed deco chair to Milo’s side closest to her. “You can sit here.”
“Would you hold my legs while I’m in there, mama?”
“Sure, darling, which one?” Milo would only let her touch one of his legs at a time. It seemed that the disparity between the sensations was so stark that he would suffer cognitive dissonance when both were engaged simultaneously. He would chuckle and call it his spidey-sense when she would poke at his mute left leg, pretending to be a hopping bunny or a thousand little gnat bites or play it like it was a virtuoso’s piano, her head Beethoven down, arms fiendishly raised in the air. She liked hearing him laugh, rare as gaiety has been in the home of late. The goofier the caricatures she imagined, the funnier Milo found it. But this fanciful fantasy life will end soon, he’s scheduled to return to school in the fall, and neither she nor the physicians see any need to delay further. He’s not a fighter like his father, and kids tempt the boundaries of decency and cruelty on the meekest and most vulnerable first. Even in private San Francisco schools. Providing him some strapping young wealthy white lads to boot himself up on is a charity neither of his parents received. The path less trodden embodies risk — the volatile Colorado River waters that only pan gold into certain settler’s coffers. And once again, mad ambition, rife with hard consequence but no merit earned from hard work, triumphs again in its effort to democratize Lady Luck. The first tech boom was T.N.T., said the arsonist and the adjuster. She once pretended to sleep on the couch in protest of Roland being an ultra-dick that time, placing her hands under her jaw, laying lumpy uncomfortable in the sticky dung leather cloying to her exposed midriff skin, staring off into the mysteries of a silent television. She felt her sinuses drain substantially, offsetting a long history of deviated septum. Even though her husband was the musician and composer of the family, everyone called her a right-brain brain child, but were hemispherical abilities dependent on your innately preferred sleeping position, with more blood and oxygen being sent to the lower hemisphere, which probably ultimately came the preferred way you turned your head as a child, based on the accidental way in which your tiny head was pressed in the womb… and how could we ever grow out of such deformities?
“My good one. No, my hollow one. No… both of them.” Milo giggled light-heartedly in an abrupt change of mood. And he did want them both. It was eerie to see the symmetry of self being stimulated in the same way, but the one was alive, bristling and brimming with energy, the other an unresponsive stump of dead wood, worse than cold, worse than frozen, just voided. The bleak emptiness of space where a world of connective energy once was; his hollow leg his dad would say initiating a cheers clink of Miller against his glass of apple juice.
“Sure, baby.” She extended her arms over his bony toothpicks, and flashed him a smile as the anesthesiologist approached and asked him if she could place a mask over his face. He gulped but nodded wordlessly.
“I want you to count down in your head with me from ten to one. Can you do that for me, Milo? Just nod if you’re ready.”
She had a mint and Clorox look about her, and her congeniality soothed the child’s restless nerves. Out of sight she turns on the gas. And begins to count with an exaggerated kindergarten mien.