Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life Among the Mechas continued

I am not an adventurous person. I am not a physical coward. I lack social courage.  In terms of confrontation, I'd prefer not to, but given the right circumstances, I've no problem getting and staying in people's faces. 

I think it is a matter of wanting people to like me, and being afraid that they won't. Either that, or it may be a case of laziness. It takes a great deal of desire or curiosity for me to move out of my comfort zone, which is considerable in its extent. It takes a lot to get me to stray from my routine.

So it might not be much of a surprise that I am more likely to stand up to a pudgy five-foot-seven-and-a-half-inch tall poet than I am to a 30-foot tall metal giant.

Which is what I did. I stormed back into the Winnebago, and scowled at Furman. "What's this about us taking him back with us? I thought we were going to talk about it?"

"I didn't agree to anything, " Ezra objected, "They made a unilateral decision".

"Oh. Even so, they can't come with us. I mean, look at them. They are all giant, dangerous machines! From the future! We can't have them lumbering around all over the place!"

"Well, what are you going to do with him?" Ezra responded, nodding towards the door.

"ME?! How- What-".

Ida gently clasped me by my upper arm, and steered me back towards the door. "Sweetie, you've spent the most time with him. He's your problem for the moment. Don't be rude."

"Fine!" I exhaled in exasperation. I stormed out the door, walked up to Edward Hopper, sighed again, and said "I thought you were a giant space dreadnought orbiting the planet".

"I am. Still." he replied, crouching down so that his face was only a few feet above mine. He gestured towards himself, "This is a clone".

I took a good look at him. He wasn't exactly a giant metal robot. He wasn't even metal. The material was, well, they told me once, all sorts of exotic materials. Hopper's skin looked like metal, kind of coffee stained, like copper with a well-oxidized patina, the kind you get by burying it in dry sand for a hundred years. But it was flexible like flesh, with small diamond tessellation patterns all over, like tiny snake scales. The knuckles and joints were brushed nickel surfaces with silver highlights and geometric filigree of unknown intent or purpose. The pads of the fingers and the palm looked like black rubber, with a scalloped pattern of ridges, making the hand seem more like an animal's paw. The overall effect of him, though, was quite handsome, actually. I nodded up at him. "So this is an extension of you, not the real you?"

"No, this is me", Hopper thumbed his chest, then jabbed a forefinger skyward."And the 'giant space dreadnought' is also me. We're a very protean people. Flexible. Adaptable. To any shape. And contingency. You want to know how?"

"Okay, um", I sighed, "how?"

"It's easier to show you. Do you mind?" asked Hopper. Before I could answer, his giant metal hand and fingers cupped the air around my head. "Relax, this is harmless. I'm going to set up a BMI, a brain/machine interface".

His fingers tightened a bit, cradling my skull as if it were a baby's head, and before I could become too alarmed, I was suddenly transported into a vision.

I was in a craft universe. I was floating in a sky of phthalo blue tint watercolor wash touched with wool roving clouds. Beneath me was a diorama, a paper-mache landscape of earth-toned mountains and hills, construction paper trees, pastel-hued lakes and rivers. Interspersed were large cardboard structures, painted in white gesso and acrylic flat black, very similar to the machinescape we currently had the Winnebagos parked at.

Hovering next to me was a cut-out manilla paper Chinese dragon, thin flags and streamers of red, blue, white, black, yellow and green ribbon trailing behind. It blinked its cardboard eyes at me, and an unspoken bit of dream-logic data informed me that it was Edward Hopper in paper dragon form. In a flip of perspective, I could see that I was a Chinese paper dragon as well. We were both the cloud dragon, the Emperor of Texas, conduit of all and every piece of information that flowed through the Empire of Texas, from one edge of the galaxy to the other.

And with that understood, looking down again at the diorama, I saw two small tin cut out vehicles, representing the Winnebagos, and a small stick figure next to a smaller figure made of toothpicks. And inside the cutout tin box Winnebagos, I sensed four other small toothpick figures. In a strange and fun swirl of dizzying bilocation of consciousness, I was the little toothpick figure, staring up at the paper dragon in the sky, at the same time that I was the dragon. From there and from that, it expanded out into   omniscience, and I was the dragon next to me, and then the stick figure of Edward Hopper, and then the myriad trillions of entities housed in the giant mushroom shapes. And the diorama fell apart, and a cutaway reveal showed slices of the rock, with pipe cleaners, hemp twine, and hanks of  loopy chenille representing the pipes, conduits, and cables burrowing deep within the machineworld, going down near to the magma of the mantle, which showed as a colored wax paper and translucent gel lit behind with wheeled lights.

And all over the surface, massive swathes of machine fields, complex textures of grey and silver and gold foil, where once cool valleys, sun-soaked meadows, and rich green plants lived.  And beyond and above was black felt, with tinsel and glitter, and rusty tin cutout shapes of the planets all hanging from galvanized steel wire. And there, nestled in the black felt blanket, beneath a golden parchment moon, floated a double cone covered in a fractal bristle of smaller rods and cones: the dreadnought Edward Hopper, who bobbed and nodded in recognition.

Drifting back downwards, I turned towards a construction paper mountain, my claws clicking and drumming to a rest upon the peak of white gesso wash.

"Wow!" I managed.

"Isn't it all something?", Edward Hopper replied happily, "So, you can see we have nothing to hide? That we mean you all no harm? Can you see what we are? Can you see that now?"

Was that the purpose of this? To give me the impression of harmlessness, through this artsy-crafty illusion of preciousness? This portrayal of absolute lack of menace? All cute and non-threatening? Problem is, or rather, the solution was, that these Empyrean Texans had chosen just the right person to interface with: a peranoscopist. Someone like me for whom BMIs were old hat, second nature, with thousands of hours wearing the aluminum afro, the transcranial magnetic hair-net, the standard brain interface helmet used with a peranoscope. Because, what do you know, with all those billions of wormhole apertures available in every Texan, I could read the Empire of Texas like a elementary coin-flip peranoscope study. And suddenly with access to every alternative secret even they did not know about, it all was clear. It all made sense. One easy way to test it...

"This is fantastic!" I gushed, "Why it's just like... just like..."

"Real life, huh?" Hopper finished. "The real deal! It's empirically impossible to tell the difference, isn't it?"
It all made sense now. I was ready to make my report back to the group. And just as suddenly, the vision is gone, and I am an upright ape standing next to a Winnebago, staring at the palm of giant metal hand, inches away from crushing my skull like an egg.

"Okay, Hopper", I faked vertigo, and weaved about a little bit, steady myself against his knee. "Um. Do mind going away until tomorrow? It's been kind of a long day for me".

"Sure, pard. No problem" he chuckled. "I'll be seeing you all tomorrow!"

Back inside the motor home, I looked carefully from one face to the next. "Your peranoscopist is ready with his report. I got good news and bad news, and it turns out it's the same news".

"So, give", requested Furman.

"The Texans? They're not real".

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