Hah! I posted that little thing on inspiration then went stone-cold quiet. Nothing like cold stones…
I actually have a story, just haven’t gotten around to editing it and then dragging that damn text to the blog. Also, I no longer have MS Word, so I use this farce of a program called WordPad which is basically the Kirkland of Charmin toilet paper. Totally serviceable. But it’s thin where you need it.
~alas, WordPad has no word count… perhaps 2000+
Dario stumbled as he ducked beneath the threshold of the café, recovering only just in time to greet the concerned smile of the hostess. She winced for him—and he was grateful, as he had been terribly slow to react—before taking a menu from her stand and beckoning him to follow after her. He did so willingly and without comment, glancing back and forth down aisles of tables, chairs, and potted plants. There were many other diners. Most of them sat alone but were talking with animation. Dario found this odd.
Dario was not a normal person of the times. He had spent some time cryogenically frozen, at the behest of his famous uncle, who provided the necessary funds for the experimental procedure. The first person successfully frozen, though the twenty-seventh to attempt it, it was a charming achievement that Dario never celebrated. He remembered stunningly little of the resuscitation process. Cold hands prodded him, plucked his skin, and waved lights in his eyes. Then he was warm, clothed, and signing forms.
They gave him a rectangular piece of glass with images on its surface, a blurry, static kaleidoscope of nonsense. He thought a corner of the glass resembled a jellyfish. He stared at it, dumbly, as if he were looking into a mirror that refused his reflection. Dario sat. He considered leaving. Someone came along and tut-tutted and took the broken mirror from him; they fiddled with it, many clicks and beeps—and perhaps one more tut; they handed it back to him; and now, the broken mirror spoke to him and the images moved with grace and clarity, and it explained some of the world to Dario. He forgot most of what it said but remembered this of it: Everything was different than his old life. Everything from his old life was dead.
At some point, Dario put down the glass that contained flat, moving people, and further from that point, he decided he ought to get on with his life. The glass continued to spout the café’s menu well after he was gone.
And Dario found himself in this café, looking with concern at each of the diners. At one table, a man was furiously stuffing a breaded confection into his mouth, some red gelatinous cream oozing over the top and busting through the sides, falling in dollops to a table that gathered all these together, moving like drops of oil until they sat in a neat pile at the center. The man, having dispensed with the greater mass of his meal, turned upon this little midden, scooped it with the back of his thumb and sucked it down with a victorious sigh. Then, as if he had been thoroughly engaged all along, the man resumed a conversation, speaking with great swings of his arms, yet no one sat with him. Dario stared and raised an eyebrow. How monstrously curious, he thought.
The hostess called to him, “Sir?”
Dario hurried after her.
But he passed another table, where a young lady sat in corner booth, hunched over and staring into a silver book that cast a ghoulish light upon her face. She was squinting as if in the middle of a desert and its glaring sun. Thick-rimmed glasses were pressed tightly to her face. Her fingers and nails clacked against the table—or was it the book?—and, in the briefest of respites, she would straighten, arch her back, crack her knuckles together, roll her neck and lean forward to resume the whole process anew. During this, she spoke to herself, almost incessantly and certainly gibberish. Dario believed only every other word held any literal meaning. Her maddening giggle could only have resulted from inhaling too much funny gas, as it was too superficial and constant to be authentic humor.
He slapped his forehead, I must have left my mind behind or so everyone else has.
“Miss?” Dario said to the hostess. “I’m afraid that some of your patrons may be a bit loose in the head. You see that girl yonder, just a shade past that plant? Yes, that one. Yes, I’m worried for this girl. She appears to be unconscious of the fact that she is talking to herself. It is worrisome behavior where—or I suppose, rather when—I am from.“
The hostess fixed a skeptical gaze on Dario, shrugged, handed him the menu, and said, “I’ll just give you a few moments then.”
“I very much appreciate that,” Dario said, smiling to her back. He slid into his seat, an uncomfortable and spine-shifting mold of plastic. He twisted in its depth. Finding that every position constantly harassed his tailbone with the hard demands of the chair, Dario frantically scanned for a new seat. He called to the hostess and waved that he would be moving to a new location. Far away, she nodded.
With an air of gratitude, Dario dropped into a booth of tired maroon leather and weathered mahogany veneer. A middle-aged woman already seated in the booth—but obscured from the sight of anyone looking at the booth—held a finger to her lips. She was dressed in a sharp business suit and engaging in a vicious dialogue with a spare half-eaten salad that deserved little of the showering insults. Dario yelped.
He waved in humiliation and whispered, “I’m very sorry, ma’am. I’ll be going.”
Dario was defeated, tired and quite bitter. I just want something nice to eat! Is that so much to ask for? I haven’t had something to eat in a hundred years; I think I deserve to have an eggs Benedict. He found that he was glaring at everyone around him, absorbed in his or her meal and conversation.
Some days later, Dario found himself in a doctor’s office, atop a cushioned stool. The doctor was a kindly old man, wearing the honored white coat of a scientific person. He thumbed through something in the air, stabbing at motes of dust revealed in the veins of light streaming through the vertical blinds. With a single beep and from a point in space between the doctor and Dario, a small green circle appeared, steadily growing in gentle ripples until it formed a large rectangle. It looked as real and heavy as a chalkboard from Dario’s childhood education, until the doctor stepped through the panel as easily as if he were walking through sunlight.
He turned to look at the green screen from Dario’s perspective.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Crates, despite your wish to see otherwise, your physical health seems to be in perfect balance. Your brain patterns reflect little alteration from the resuscitation process. In fact, we find that you have achieved a heightened sense of awareness.” The doctor waved at several graphs, sliding and minimizing them to the side, and bringing a vibrant picture of Dario’s brain to the front. It fluttered in the colors of the rainbow.
“Excuse me, doctor? What does that indicate? It is clearly my brain yet it appears to be confused as to what color it ought to be. Should it not be some placid blue? A tame violet?”
“This is an active scan of your brain, Mr. Crates, (meaning that it is happening this very moment!) and according to this, well, it would appear that your hearing and sight are operating above the peak standards of the standard citizen. You also exhibit a mental acuity that not only remembers but also vividly relives its past experiences—hence this region here looking a bit like a burping toad. More than any of my previous and current patients, you meditate on your past and how to immediately improve upon it. Your mind is in constant motion, yet not due to stimulants or any visual accessories. This is quite a rare trait, as I hope my explanation has revealed. If you wouldn’t mind, we would very much like to have you come in for further examination.”
“I think I very much mind. To what end are these examinations?”
The doctor scratched behind his ear, a fleshy orifice sprouting with white hair. Perhaps he didn’t expect Dario to refuse. “Well, this is quite embarrassing, and I hope you will take this as merely this professional’s personal opinion, but your attention to detail and understanding of your surroundings is intriguing. The desire to find your place in the community and your effect on it is admirable. People have certainly taken notice of the ‘frozen man’ who went into a café, asked for food, harassed seven separate patrons, wept, then expressed satisfaction with the establishment’s food by vomiting its contents on their doorstep as he left. Odd indeed.
“The extent to which you suffer introspection is, in itself, amazing. Allow me to explain, Mr. Crates, as you appear somewhat lost. Humans are a social lot. We enjoy the company of others. Perhaps not in your time, but certainly now, we have established that connection without pause. You may be familiar with the antiquated system called the Internet, is that correct? Oh, no? Well, ah… the Internet… ah allowed people to contact each other instantly, much like early telephones did, which you surely remember. But, people could send more than audio. Imagine! You see something fascinating on the street, say: a beautiful mural or a four-leaf clover. You could take a picture of that with a camera and send it to someone, in the blink of an eye, using the Internet. Of course, there are humanizing portraits, adorable puppies…”
Dario thought about this some while the doctor continued talking. He scratched his chin, roughing up the thin stubble. The desire to leave for peace and quiet struck him, yet something kept him in place. He sighed as the doctor finally paused. “Why would I send them a picture through this Internet?” Dario said.
“What?” The doctor had been talking about something else. “Oh, the Internet? To share, Mr. Crates! Because that is human nature. It is essential to our mental state, our health and sense of fulfillment, that we give our experiences to others.”
“And so everyone shares every moment of their lives… with everyone else?”
“Well, not quite, but for the most part, yes.”
“That doesn’t sound like something I’d want to be a part of.”
“By no means am I a developed psycho-therapist—though I only need four more years to acquire my certification!—but I would say that your refusal of joining the Meld is a curious behavior attributed mostly to your era. You believe in antiquated notions like emotional ‘closets’ and ‘privacy,’ and you may believe that those provide you some kind of dignity and honor, but those simply don’t exist anymore. The closets and privacy, I mean.
“Which in fact brings up my larger point behind further testing for you. The advent of the Meld has galvanized a technological boom much like that of the Industrial Revolution, but more than that, it has created an immediate evolution in the growth and manner of humans, and it begs the question: have human brains evolved drastically since the Meld came into existence and given your—forgive me—archaic brain, would you be able to handle existence with the Meld? I’m sure that this will begin to interest you as much as me once you understand the enormity of this question. We at the Malcom Richardson Medical Facility would be honored to handle your case. It will certainly make a splash, a historic paper for all the journals, to be sure.”
The doctor stared mistily into the green panel, at the shimmering ripples of rainbow in Dario’s brain. He seemed to forget that Dario was in the room.
Dario said, “Well, I don’t quite think that I’m really in the mood for more testing. I’ve had enough of that the past few days to last the rest of my life. I’d really like just to be left alone.”
The doctor whirled on Dario, his face uncomfortably intimate, and placed a hand on Dario’s shoulder. “But don’t you see? That’s the whole reason why it’s fascinating. No one wants to be left alone! It’s a precedent unseen even in the colonies. Socialization is an incredibly strong characteristic in humans. The fact that you desire such individuality harkens to your bygone era. We don’t have access to that information anymore (scrubbed in the wars), but you, you represent a whole era, its entire mentality! We simply must understand it. There could never be another chance.” He breathed heavily.
Dario rose slowly from his stool. “I think I’ll be going now, doctor. Thank you very much for your time.”
The doctor, his voice almost a whine, said, “You don’t understand, Mr. Crates, this, your brain with our research, it could change the world. We could understand what it was, why we shifted, everything! Don’t you see how important this is? How society might change?”
“Doctor,” Dario said, “I think that society would rather look at adorable puppies.”