Breakthrough

Warning: this blog entry may trigger bad memories. If you are very upset about a death in your family you should not read this. This is another excerpt from my unpublished book, and this one takes place near the end. The events are largely fictional, but the emotions behind the words are quite real. This chapter was one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, and it is still difficult for me to read. Sorry it’s so long. I couldn’t shrink it down any further than I did.

The speaker is Alex Taber, and he is relating the follow information to his shrink.

———————————————–

“Have you ever had one of those moments,” he asked, “when suddenly everything becomes clear to you–kind of an “ah-ha” revelation someone-just-washed-the-sand-out-of-your-head type of thing?

“Well, that time in the hospital was one of those times. I do remember it. I remember everything about it with such clarity: the colors, the smells, the sounds, all of it burned into memory like with a digital laser. Every moment permanently ingrained.

“And while you’re sitting in this hospital room, suddenly everything is quiet and a feeling of peace washes over you. You don’t want to leave the room. As long as you sit in that room and don’t leave, time stops. Nothing has to go forward. You don’t have to go out there and deal with the doctors and your mother and all the relatives and the other people.

“Because you’ve been feeling so stressed and guilty and as soon as you leave that room you will feel stressed and guilty again. But not just then. You’re at peace for the first time in years because there is nothing else to do right then, and you know that this is the place you are supposed to be.

“But you can’t stay there forever. She’s getting cold and there are people waiting for you–people who need you to go out there so that they can be strong for you or who need you to be strong for them. The color you could see in her little face under the bandages is changing to gray. You’re holding her little hand the whole time, as if the warmth of your body can some how seep back into hers and everything will be all right again. Except that you know that it never will be all right ever again. Not after you leave this room.

“But you do leave that room, and as soon as you do the shit starts again and it never really stops again after that.

“And you’re angry and there’s no one to be angry at. It’s no one’s fault. It’s not your daughter’s, it’s not the doctor’s, and it’s not the other driver’s. You can blame the ex but she’s dead too and can’t be touched. You can’t blame God or the devil ‘cause you don’t really believe in them.

“But you can blame yourself, and you are always there. You knew that the ex was a terrible driver, and you gave your daughter to her. And she was with her all the time.

“And she’s with her all the time.

“One Monday you wake up too early and grumbling because you have to get up early to buy cookies at the store so that your daughter can take them to school. The next Monday you can sleep in because you no longer have a daughter because you put her in a casket a couple of days before.

“And every thing you do after that that you couldn’t do before because you were a father is tinged with guilt. Not just tinged but soaked; saturated. Everywhere you look you see things that remind you of her and you can’t even talk about it with your wife because she doesn’t even know because she had filed for divorce three months before your daughter died because she couldn’t take your spaceyness anymore and you can’t talk about it with your parents because they’re doing worse than you are.

“You see a box of girl scout cookies and the little girl on the front reminds you of her and you remember how you decided that you would just not worry about girl scouts with her because there just wasn’t time and you choke down a single cookie when you used to eat them by the box and try to keep from crying while doing it because how could anyone ever understand your crying over a girl scout cookie when your little girl was never even in the girl scouts.

“And two months after that, two months after the casket and the flowers saying all the well meaning things that you pretend to find comfort in your father starts chemo therapy for something that can’t be cured. The next thing you know he is shitting all over the floor and your doing what you can to keep your mother going and your father spirits up as they feed him with tubes and keep him in diapers and he can’t talk because he has a yeast infection in his mouth. And the ink is just drying on the final divorce your wife has filed and you don’t even know where she is.

“And as he’s dying you can’t even go to see him as often as you want because you’re shutting down–because you really can’t take it anymore. You really, really can’t take it anymore for even one more second. But somehow the seconds and the hours and the days keep passing even though you do nothing to help them along and he dies and you go through the funeral shit again. And your mom can’t pay for it so you help but your money is almost gone and you don’t have time or the energy to pay your bills and you don’t have the strength to deal with your job’s looming collapse because you desperately need to have a mental breakdown yourself. But you don’t have time for one because too many people need you to be a man and to be strong.

“But there’s simply nothing to do but watch as your world falls apart around you. And you just keep thinking about how unfair it all is and how you really can’t take it any more. You get angrier and angrier and you really can’t take it any more.

“And you can’t get the images out of your head because they are so clear, but they can’t stay in there, but you can’t get them out because they are burned in, but they can’t stay, and so you try anything you can to get them out. You slash at them. You scream at them and they still don’t go away. So you pile all your anger and anxiety and confusion and depression and all that other junk on top of it just to bury it, just to forget about it for a little while. And it helps, but you start to forget other things too, and that’s okay because it has to be.

“But that anger is still there, and it’s worse than ever because it’s helping to bury the stuff you can’t take. It simmers at the surface. And you still get more and more anger, and it still has no place to go.

“Do you want to know why I fight so well? It’s all that anger, doctor. It’s all of that tightly controlled rage, seething just beneath the surface, seeking some little chink, some tiny little hole, to escape from; all that helpless impotence that has been building and festering for your entire life.

“What happens when you take a life time of unfocussed, helpless rage and you suddenly give it a target? Here I come, a wandering lightning bolt, and I suddenly find a big fat lighting rod in the form of human sadistic scum. Someone degenerate, someone so incontrovertibly bad that there is no gray; no doubt, that he must be stopped.

“And all that rage finds a release, my friend. You suddenly become someone other. You are anger and rage personified. Anything that could once be called Alexander Taber now becomes nothing but fury contained in flesh. Anger grabs the rifle. Hatred splatters the bastard’s intestines against the wall. Righteous indignation focuses the mind like a fucking laser beam on one goal: destroying the target.

“Speed is easy because you are pure emotion. It’s all natural. It’s instinct. Destroy the foe, that’s all that you need to do. Destroy him in any way possible. No gray, no time to think, and no need to. It’s the right thing to do. End the threat with a red wet splat and you’ll be a fucking hero! Fail and you are dead, and so is everyone else–all of the innocent people–in the room. It’s a no-brainer.

“It feels godlike. All that rage comes down on that poor bastard’s head like a high-speed collision into a brick wall and he never knows what hit him before he’s leaking his greasy insides on the floor.

“But no matter what you do–no matter how much anger you release, there’s still more and more there building up and up and even when you release some it still builds up and some images still escape and you still can’t take it and it has to stop and the guilt and the anger and you’re the one that caused it and you’re always there. No matter where you go or what you do, you’re always there. And you just want to find the peace again. Somehow, anyway you can, you want to–you have to–find the peace again.”

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The Universe and Everything Else

[RL] I love science. I have been a science geek for as long as I can remember. Once, as a child, I got a fold up map of the solar system from McDonald’s. I loved that thing, despite the flying french fries and hamburger space ships. I used to take my finger and pretend it was a space ship, and spend what seemed like hours flying from one planet to another. Kidtime is somewhat elongated, so it was probably no more than five minutes. But, as odd as it sounds, I remember that as one of my happiest childhood memories.

As virtually everything does, this brings me back to considerations of religion. One of my principles problems with the Bible is its earth-centric viewpoint of creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The heavens. 99.9999999999999999999% of creation is tossed away as an afterthought in that sentence.

Does the reader really have any idea how big “the heavens” are?

In my unpublished and one day to be rewritten book, Of Cabbages and Kings, I considered this question. I tried to create a version of God that was consistent with the universe as science says exits. Satan is one of the characters within the story, and he has been living largely in hiding under the name of Alphonsus Luke (sound familiar) for the past 1000 years.

At one point, he relates to the story’s protagonist, Alex Taber, and Alex’s girlfriend, Charlene, the tale of how he was once allowed to see the universe the way that God sees it. This is an excerpt:

******

“Dr. Luke?”

“Call me Alphonsus, Charlene.”

“Okay. Alphonsus. I have to ask you something.”

“Yes?”

“I need to know if…well…I mean, have you killed people?”

Dr. Luke closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“Charlene, I know what you’re asking. But you’re not really thinking. The real question you want to ask–the real information you wish to divine, is if I am evil. One definition of evil is murder–killing. But really Charlene, what do you think? I’m 39 thousand years old. Those thirty-nine thousand years cover every violent moment in recorded history. Do you really think that I, as an immortal being, could have gone through that much of life without having killed anyone?

“So, the answer to your question is yes. Yes, of course I’ve killed people. Look at Alex. He’s only an embryo at forty years old, and he’s already killed people.”

Alphonsus paused a moment, remembering.

“Life long ago was much different from life of today. Just as one sample, look at language. You have to understand, Charlene, that ancient languages were not always very flexible. There were usually not a lot of words, and sometimes it was difficult to get one’s point across. Often disagreements were caused by simple inability to get someone to understand what you were talking about. Many times, if there was a significant enough disagreement, the easiest way of settling a dispute was simply to cut the other guy’s head off.

“But,” he continued, “the real question you’re asking is if I liked killing people, and the answer to that question is no. Do I think some people are better off dead? Of course, but if I’ve learned one thing after all this time it’s that sometimes even the worst people can surprise.”

Dr. Luke hesitated a moment. “Most of the time they won’t, of course. But I’m not going to take it as my role to rid the world of the assholes. There’s an infinite supply of them, and I have better things to do with my time.”

Charlene snorted. “You don’t want to play God, in other words.”

He grimaced bitterly. “Why should I? Most of the time even God doesn’t play God.”

Alex interjected, “I thought that was the reason you got kicked out of Heaven. I thought it was because you wanted God’s job or something.”

Luke stared at him for a long moment, and then he smiled, closed his eyes, and began to laugh. It was not a happy laugh, or rather, not one that suggested happiness. Rather, it was a laugh that suggests irony or pain.

He laughed for an uncomfortably long time.

Finally, he stopped himself and opened his eyes again, smiling.

“Do you have the slightest idea what God is really like? Do you have the slightest idea how incredibly powerful–yet limited–He really is?

He paused and became serious. “All Knowing? Everyone assumes it. I believe it. I have seen what he sees. But have you ever given any thought to what the words really mean?

“He is capable of managing a Universe. An entire Universe, Alex! The Universe is not a fantasy. It is really out there, and it is large. You are both educated individuals. Do you have any idea of just how big it really is?

“Well, no matter what you think, you don’t. I don’t either. Gigantic. Colossal. No word is big enough. Not by a trillionth. The human mind cannot even conceive of its real size. The imagination is not capable of it. Think of infinity. Multiply it times infinity. Imagine what you get. Do you think your imagination is accurate? It isn’t.

“He sees all of it at once. He can focus simultaneously on each of the six billion people on this planet all and at the same time count the number grains of sand on a beach on the other side of the Universe, call it, oh, nineteen billion light-years away as the trans-dimensional crow flies. And he sees every star, every planet, every dust mot, in between.

“Do you think I would aspire to do something like that? I can barely manage myself some days, Alex.”

He looked at us for a moment, suddenly frowning uncomfortably, his expression darkening. He seemed to be remembering something.

“He took me into his realm, once,” he said after a long pause. “His realm … His reality … I don’t know what else to call it. He did it soon after He created me. I think He wanted to deal with me on a one to one basis; face to face, so to speak. His regular angels go there all the time. I think that’s why He created me–so that He could finally deal with a human on His level. A normal human body could never survive there.”

He paused again, and then continued hesitantly. “I found it…disconcerting…to say the least. Basically, I saw…no, I can’t say that I saw…I became aware of, the entire Universe, all at once.

“And then, there was the awareness of His presence. It was…indescribable…there are no words–no concepts that I can draw parallels from. You may trust, however, that the idea of some old fart sitting on a throne is mistaken. And, you may also trust that if we were created in his image, then Jackson Pollock is a realist.”

He paused. “The experience left me in a catatonic state for, well, how could I really tell how long, but at least several decades. It certainly would have killed me if such a thing were possible in my current state.”

Joy, and Nothing to Talk about but a Can

I have had more than one person say that they like to look at my blog daily, and are disappointed when I don’t have anything posted. I like to post things, but the problem is I edit myself a lot. That is to say, I try to avoid whiny, negative posts, and there are times that if I wrote every day I would be afraid that many of them would be just that.

But then, maybe it’s a discipline thing. Mykyl says to look for joy in every day. Maybe a daily post where I force myself not to be whiny will improve my overall outlook on life. Maybe these blog posts are the secret to everlasting, blissful happiness, with birds and butterflies flitting about me all the time and flowers growing under my feet where ever I walk.

You may say unlikely, but having never tried it, I can’t be sure of that. Give it a try, and let the ducks fall where they may.

That being said, I still don’t have a lot to say, so I’ve decided to include a clip of an unfinished brain fart–an incomplete story I started with only the concept of garbage in mind. It will likely never be finished, but I liked the beginning, so here goes.

———————————-

The Can

It had never been in complete darkness: not quite. The yellow glow of a street lamp, over a hundred yards away and partially shaded by a tree, caused a barely perceptible glimmer on the slightly rusted metal.

It was not lonely. It could only be described as such by writers and poets, anthropomorphizing beyond the animal into the non-living. It was an inanimate object: a soda can, carelessly discarded more than a week earlier. It was simply a collection of iron and aluminum molecules, held together in unspectacular structures, no more capable of thought or feeling than all but an infinitesimally small number of molecules in the universe.

As the sun rose, its glimmer increased. While it had been a relatively dry night, there was still a small amount of moisture that had formed on the can’s surface. It sparkled in the black and white tones of early twilight. It could now be seen well enough to perceive that it lay in a slight depression in the ground. Despite the sun’s rise, it was still very nearly invisible.

It was just visible enough, however, for the Child to spot it. It was just interesting enough, however, for the Child to alter her path by more than fifty feet to approach it more closely.

The Child seemed young: far too young to be out alone this early in the morning. Still, the Child did not exhibit any of the many tendencies that children her perceived age might exhibit. The Child’s eyes were sharp and intelligent. She moved smoothly, with a grace more befitting of a mature matriarch than the five-year-old that she appeared to be. She moved surely, without wandering, without skipping in playful innocence.

Despite the can’s lack of remarkable features, the Child gazed on it in fascination; as if the can were the most wondrous of objects that the Child had ever before seen. She knelt to pick it up. Above the ground, the can picked up much more light. The few drops of dew that had rested upon it dripped down its sides, dampening the Child’s fingers. It was slightly dented, and it was covered by grass clippings, tossed from an automatic lawnmower that had passed near it a few days before.

With a smile, the Child placed the can into the plastic grocery bag that she wore like a backpack over her shoulders. It made a metallic clank when it fell upon one of its brethren.

The Child quickly surveyed the landscape of the park again. She could see the silhouette of a distant female jogger, but no other telltale sparkles caught her eye. She did not expect any–this can was an unusual find. The park was in a good neighborhood. The surrounding populous were not generally the littering types.

They were, however, wealthy, lazy, and wasteful enough to throw away the metallic, ten-cent objects that were the Child’s primary interest. Therefore, the trashcans of the park were usually far better hunting grounds. There were always cans to be found somewhere–metallic manna from heaven. The cans meant money. The money meant food. The food meant another day of survival.

Another day of survival meant another day of continued research.

The Child could generally do quite well on fifteen or so cans per day. On days with a when she found more than this, she saved the excess money so that she would not have to spend as much time searching for them. The less time searching, the more time studying. And studying was the most important thing of all.

However, as rare a find as the can was, it was, in the vernacular of the local populous, just extra gravy. The Child already had enough cans for two days worth of food, and, while she would continue to collect when the opportunity arose, she would not need to make it her obsession.

She could occupy her time with far more useful things.

The jogger was no longer in sight, and the sun appeared over the tops of the homes on the east end of the neighborhood. She wondered briefly where she should go next. She felt tempted to return to the shopping mall, partially because she liked it there and partially because she didn’t stand out quite so much. But she reluctantly dismissed the idea as selfish. She had already gotten all the useful data that there was to get from the mall. She decided instead to go to the casinos in the city. It would take several hours for her to walk there, and she would stand out much more conspicuously. What’s more, once she got there she knew that she would not be allowed to enter any of the casinos proper. What she would have to do instead was observe from the outside all the people who came and went. She would have to keep moving around, and stay near other couples or families so that observers would just assume that she belonged to them. If she were lucky, she might find a way to be detained by the casino security and gain access to the inside. If she were luckier still, she might find a way to escape for several minutes to wander the floors and observe the gamblers at work. It would be a highly risky venture, but one with major pays offs if she could pull it off successfully. She immediately made her decision and began walking in the proper direction.

——————————————

That’s it. It clearly has the makings of a science fiction story. I wrote some other paragraphs, but nothing really wowed me, so nothing else came of it.

In God’s Name

Excerpt from the never-to-be-published book, Of Cabbages and Kings. Chapter 29. Satan talking to God in the doughnut shop after they got that Armegeddon business out of the way.

“And speaking of names, look at you, you holy bastard. Mr. Yahweyjahovasomething-what’s-his-name? What is this Y.H.W.H. bullshit? As if humanity doesn’t have enough problems without giving them a name for God that they can’t even fucking pronounce! All of my names at least had some bloody vowels in them.”

Alex has a hissy fit.

Excerpt from the never-to-be-published book, Of Cabbages and Kings, chapter 3. Alexander Taber, the protagonist, loses control during a board meeting.

“Rita, this is by far the stupidest, most poorly conceived, and most unworkable plan you and your group of butt-kissing sycophants have ever come up with!”

“Butt kissing…?”

“Exactly! Do you have any idea of what you’re asking us to do?”

“Alex…”

“It’s not as if you’ve given us a square peg and asked us to fit it into a round hole. Nothing remotely that simple. What you’ve done instead is given us a broken aluminum deck chair and told us to make it work as a suppository. And, ridiculous as that sounds, somehow we’ve got to make it work, because one way or another, whatever we come up with is going to get shoved right up our ass!”