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{ Wednesday, 25 January, 2006 }

Short Fiction - The Revival Policy - Part III

As a writer of science fiction, I had used the same literary devices that I felt were now being used on me. I knew nothing really of the technology of molecular nanobots, specifically of the kind that were inhabiting my brain and organs. I had to stop and think- I’d been frozen for a hundred years, brought back to fucking life, injected with this and that, and despite a gaping lack of real answers, had swallowed the new program hook, line and sinker. Paul said that he could help control my mood if there was a problem. What was he, some kind of camp counselor? Obviously not. There was no proof that it was really 2111. There was no proof of anything. Thus, that first night in the cabin saw my first existential crisis after only been alive, again, for a month and a half.

I went into the kitchen, lit a candle and poured a tall glass of Tokaji. The flannel pajamas felt good on my skin, and I sank into a wicker couch to think. I relaxed into the idea that maybe I was catching up on some the karma I’d put my characters through. A voice loudly split my thoughts and I almost spilt the damn wine.

“Micah, it’s Paul. Is everything alright?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Are you... how did you... are you watching me?”

“It’s your first night. We- I have to monitor you for signs of adjustment stress. I was passing by and saw the light. Would you like to fall asleep? I can send a signal-“

“No, please, thank you Paul but this was something I always did back home. Y’know, have a glass of wine before bed. I never lived in a log cabin before. You guys could’ve made me a beach house... heh.”

“I see. Just remember Micah that your system is still a little fragile at this time, especially mentally. I’ll address this in therapy tomorrow. I recommend that you finish that glass and not consume any more alcohol at this time. I have to monitor your night time activity, just for the next few days, and you really need your sleep. Try to sleep Micah, and if you find that you can’t please press the call button. Remember, I’m here to help.”

“Yes, sure, thanks Paul. I feel better already.”

Shit. I was being monitored, and I had no idea as to the mechanism. How could the other Revived tolerate this? How could they so easily allow this? Perhaps I had read far too much Kafka in my previous lifetime, and I was clearly experiencing classic paranoia. But how valid was it? As I returned to the bed, pulling the covers over my head, I thought of all the things that truly inspired me; the stars, the moon, the waves at play along that stony beach back home, in that other time. Time, how thou hath vexed me. I thought of Roy, Muppet, driftwood, agate, taking the kayak out into the surf. I thought of Sunday afternoon walks, the joy of long hot baths with Roy, the bottle of champagne celebrating yet another book deal perched precariously on the edge of the tub. Life has changed; I was alive and my world wasn’t. Phoenix Ranch was a mere fabrication. It was a shallow attempt to coax me into comfort. This was the kind of thing I’d rallied against my whole life. Why did these people even take the risk of reviving me?

I slept with the insecurity of a newborn. My dreams were all landslides of fear and maze-running desperation.

jaybird found this for you @ 09:13 in Short Fiction | | permalink



{ Tuesday, 24 January, 2006 }

Short Fiction - Revival Policy - Part II

(see Part I below)

If I had known as a younger fellow that I was going to die, but a hundred years down the lane be revived, and brought to a place I couldn’t leave where all of the dťcor was western-themed, I would’ve tried far harder to die completely and stay dead. The community center of my newly appointed neighborhood at Phoenix Ranch was over-the-top gaudy; large framed photographs Dale Evans and Trigger hung on one wall, saddles and spurs and fake cacti and all manner of kitschy western ephemera filled the large, open room. I asked Paul if there were other motifs available, and he laughed politely. At least the years hadn’t diminished my gay wit.

As I walked in the room, I was struck by the homogeneity of my neighbors- mostly white, middle-aged and up, and all just looking like the type of people that would turn my peaceful Oregon town into a tourist traffic-jam in the summer. I knew at least that they would be somewhat erudite- cryonics was an expensive undertaking, and these Revived would’ve been somewhat affluent. As was I. But since we all lost our assets during the big sleep, none of that mattered now. Paul rang a bell and announced the new neighbor had arrived- “the great novelist Micah Waterman, who de-animated in 2009.” A chorus of ooohs and aaahs, and big wide smiles approached me. Some had been in academics, a scientist here and there, an oil tycoon I clearly remembered from the news of being on the out and out in Washington before he died of a stroke. A former software engineer had said that they’d read my work, and asked me if I’d now finish the trilogy I’d been working on concluding when I de-animated. As a random group of people go, they were nice and easy to get along with. Though they were so damn friendly that my cynicism was triggered. They seemed a little too content at the ranch. I’d asked an aerospace engineer if he’d wanted to ride the Space Elevator (which Andrea did confirm was finally erected in the 2030s), and he deferred, with a slight hesitation. He was happy here. He was lucky enough to have revived at all. There is a time and place for travel, he said. Besides, he’d de-animated a few years before me, and he said that he was still deep into transition therapy. He wasn’t ready yet. His story seemed to jump around some than a game of hopscotch on the San Andreas Fault.

One lovely British lady, who’d made her fortune in internet speculation, de-animated in 2015. She gave me the news that my worst book (in my opinion) had been optioned into a movie. Naturally, they had to pick that one. I chatted with her more than anyone else, actually, and she seemed to have that sparkle in her Liverpudlian eyes. She obviously never read the tabloids that, at least in the last century, I was queer. Alas, I needed friends, and Veronica seemed a little spunkier than the rest. She’d died of AIDS. I ventured with her that I’d spent a week at LifeBridge not getting answers, and she seemed, in a guarded fashion, to share my frustration. Perhaps I’d found a confederate? As we spoke, I could see Paul peripherally looking at me very intently. With a shiver, I realized that I know none of these people, that any of them could be some kind of “Therapist” or another, and since this Phoenix Ranch was set up by the Western government and all of the cryolabs, I might have to heed the same advice I gave my characters in print and not share too much of my resentment. After all, as I’d been frequently reminded, I was a Ward of the State, and as such, at their mercy. I chinked cocktail glasses and nibbled on salmon, smiling and making the same kind of idle banter I abhorred a century ago. After a few Margheritas (for which I must commend the Ranch on accuracy), Paul motioned that I ought to sleep- I’d only been alive for a month and a half, after all.

He escorted me back to the cabin, and after I watched him disappear into the Cascadian night, I got all of Roy’s letters out from the box. They were dated until 2016, and said little of the historical events of the day. Roy was prone, the old coot, to droning on about the mundane. He’d stayed with the beach house as long as he could before beachfront property was redefined for all coastal areas not long after I’d been entombed in liquid nitrogen. Out of loyalty, he had not even fooled around, at least until he stopped writing letters. He admits sheepishly to selling the rights to Save The Last Star For Me, and said I got a dedication in the credits, from him to me. Roy the producer. He was a good man, and his handwriting and the coffee-cup rings on the letters brought me back. Perhaps I could be happy here. I have this, what more could I want? While the neighbors are not really stunning and engaging, I’m alive. I died in pain, disoriented. Now, I can smell honeysuckle again, I can swim and paint and fart. I had been cut short, so why be so worked up over the Ranch, as the other option (death, the abyss, void) pales in comparison. The fact that I and a few thousand others can walk and talk and schmooze at parties with little else than occasional joint pain or memory confusion certainly supersedes my own curiosity, right? As I drifted off to sleep in the cabin that first night, I heard an owl in the distance, bathed in some tree by sweet moonlight. I smiled until I cried, until a further realization hit.

I sat up in the bed in terror.

jaybird found this for you @ 00:52 in Short Fiction | | permalink



{ Monday, 23 January, 2006 }

New Category - Short Fiction

I'm doing something a li'l bit different and am going to start presenting short fiction here on the blog. The first selection is a piece I'm in the middle of writing, and will serialize it weekly until it is concluded. This piece is quasi-science-fiction, about a novelist who is revived from cryogenic suspension after one hundred years. He "died" in 2009. I haven't written fiction in ages, so I beg your indulgence, should you choose to read it. Feedback is welcomed. And since this is a work of fiction, I've got to invoke copyright.

Revival Policy
by jay joslin
You don’t always get what you pay for.

I died about one hundred years ago. The term the cryologists used was “de-animate.” Whatever. I died from a rare form of leukemia, which seemed to find itself in me in the prime of my life. I had as much as a man like me could have- happiness, a loyal partner, my own home, a boat. Those things seem so very far away now.

When I bought the cryosuspension policy, I had the promise of a cure when science, that ambiguous ideal, had the means to revivify me from the deep freeze and cure my sad and ailing body. I remember dying. Late in the first decade of the twenty-first century, few could ever say they remember dying. I now can, and so many like me that bought the policy. There I was, the hotshot novelist, dying on the deck of my Oregon beach-house, with my partner Roy and my dog Muppet with a few friends weeping, blocking my view of the ocean, somewhat. It was fine. I went out assured that I’d live again after a short sleep in the underworld, and they would all be by my side. They promised they would buy the policies, perhaps to please me, and make my own death easier. The de-animation technicians were inside, watching the World Series, when I drew my last breath in that life. The techs had all the charm of quarrymen, though I entrusted my future life, my rebirth, to those men and their boxes of tubes and ice. In retrospect, my friends saw my decision to go into cryosuspension as a bit of a crank, the dying whim of the dying writer. They deferred, now long since at peace. Perhaps, Roy and my dog still walk that beach. I’ll never see them.

For a century, my body lay vitrified in a tank of liquid nitrogen. On a spring day in 2111, I was taken out into a new world to thaw. Nanobots were discharged to my organs to repair the damage of the cancer and the freeze, and I lay in a coma for a month before they brought me back into the world of the living. With the flick of a switch, or something, they turned on my brain and retrieved my soul. I awoke to the sound of my name, repeated over and over again through the perfect smile of a Revival Therapist. “You are Micah Waterman... You are Micah Waterman... You are Micah Waterman.” The very first thought that entered my very old but seemingly working mind was ‘it smells like sauerkraut in here.’ I summoned up the breath to say “Hello,” though I was confused. Perhaps I didn’t really die and this is just the damn hospital in Portland. Thoughts came so slow and time seemed so bent that I didn’t know what to think. That’s what the Revival Therapist is for.

“Micah Waterman, you have been revived from cryosuspension. I am here to help you adjust to where you are and the time that has passed between de-animation and today. Think of today as your first birthday, Micah. You have a lot to learn, and we are going to move at your own pace though the process. You are at the LifeBridge facility in Eureka, California. You are going to have many questions, but today is about assuring that your physical and mental functions are comfortable to you and healthy. I will begin by saying that you will have an unpleasant taste for a few days...” And so on. This woman was saying what she was saying with such familiarity, I was reminded of a waitress reading off the daily specials. I wondered if there still were waitresses. I had no idea of when this was, and the room itself was bare, and her manner of dress suggested little. I never really knew what to expect about the “future” I’d been promised. I suppose no one does.

Over the course of that week, I received many painless nanobot treatments, and found that these very polite but somewhat impersonal people still made use of physical therapy. There were plenty of aches, digestive issues, and the lot, but I was told that my recovery was exemplary. Answers to questions would come after the first week, and they seemed quite assured that there was no other way of doing business. I complied, though I was anxious to see if Roy or any of my friends were to be revived. At forty-something, actually one hundred and forty something, I had no real idea what to do, and felt somewhat at the mercy of the Revival Therapist, who was to be my sole source of information. What else could I do?

With a carefully rehearsed speech, Andrea coolly recited the missed days, years, decades, the gaping chasm between my incarnations. Humanity had progressed about as reasonably as I’d hoped, technology seemed a tad unimpressive, but I suppose with the usual pitiful distraction of war and politics that science had lagged a little behind what the talking heads of my time predicted. Socially, it seemed as if things had evolved progressively enough, and the dystopian in me was pleased that I seemingly evaded the fate of living amidst zombies, robots, and the terror of Orwell. The west coast was always so good at doing its own thing, and luckily they were no longer in cahoots with Washington. My laughter seemed to puzzle Andrea over that point. If she’d only known what we went through... at least I’d earned my right to be curmudgeonly. I was excited and ready to see it all.

The next day was the day designed for much harder news. I learned that Roy did not undergo the procedure, nor any of my friends. Andrea couldn’t tell me what happened to him, though I was given some letters he’d sent after I passed in the dim hope I could read them someday. Neatly sealed in a box were pictures and videos of my life then, along with my books. One of Roy’s shirts, Muppet’s collar, beach sand. Roy did well in leaving me the last bit of my old world, and I cried all over it. For hours. The house had long since been taken by the rising tides, but the box smelled like that house. Andrea tried to cheer me up with a dumb joke: “Hard to swallow a time capsule, eh?” It didn’t work, though I could tell that was about as much rapport as she could muster. I went to sleep that night, the last night in LifeBridge, with Roy’s godawful plaid shirt that I picked on him so much about over my pillow, and Muppet’s ancient collar in my hand.

The next day was bright and crisp. I was to leave the center, but Andrea told me little about where I’d go or how I’d get there. I’d left myself ample funds that would have hopefully accrued interest and made me far richer than I ever was in that life, but when the West Coast seceded the revival funds that all those of us in cryosuspension didn’t convert. I was assured by Andrea that LifeBridge would see to it that I was compensated, and my living expenses would be covered at a reasonable rate. I thought that as a novelist from the last century, there might be a university that would be quite eager to have me do some seminars and lectures, though oddly she seemed to avoid responding to my suggestion. I had run though so many emotions since being re-animated, and now, for the first time in one hundred years, I found myself getting angry. I confronted Andrea for some answers.

“In this time, Micah, you can’t walk out the front door and be in charge of your life again. A lot has happened between then and now, and I know there was no way to prepare you for that before you de-animated. As with all those who we de-animate, you will be taken to live with those from your time, Micah, to make it easy, and so you can enjoy life to the fullest without worrying about everything you would have to do and know to be comfortable in this time. Micah, it’s not easy to say this, but you are a Ward of the State.”

Devastation is a word for it. As a writer of science-fiction, I wanted nothing more than to see the future I’d created in my books. I wanted to fly to the moon or Mars, to be welcomed as a repository of information from another time, to see what the hell the damn Internet had evolved into. Now I was to be flown inland to some country club in the Cascades where all the other Revived live, apparently. After I froze, it became far cheaper and far trendier to be cryosuspended, even before natural death. There were so many of us now that the West Coast had decided that it was best to keep us amongst ourselves, rather than even try to integrate us into their society. Eventually, Andrea assured me, through training and desensitization, I could fill out my years closer to society, though she warned me that it’s nearly impossible for Revived to fit in perfectly. We were sort of an expat subculture in our own world. Though, it wasn’t really my world anymore, it belonged all those future generations we spoke so whimsically about. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d been given sedatives and re-patterning neural-nanobots to help me ease into the transition. We all get those, apparently. I’m sure I didn’t think much about that when I signed the policy. One supposes that this makes their job somewhat easier.

Under a stunning blue sky, I was flown in a rather unremarkable jet to my new home, on the banks of the Snake River. I clutched the box that Roy packed tightly, and tried to get a sense of this new-fangled world through the tinted glass of the windows. I felt like I was purposefully not allowed to see or ask too much; LifeBridge seemed to have the whole operation choreographed to a tee. Phoenix Ranch had its own little airstrip, and just outside that, the place would have been a dream come true for the leisure-obsessed of my era. It was laid out like the kind of subdivisions I hated to watch gradually sprawl across the continent. Currency-free shopping for the clothes and (surprisingly) working gadgets of my decade, movie theatres with all the titles I lived and died to, horse-back riding, white-water rafting... the place would’ve been a Mecca for the retired American. I was taken on a tour through all of this my a new Personal Transition Assistant, Paul. He was cute, and had the kind of charisma a tour-guide would, and the man just seemed all too happy. I was taken to my new 'home,' a spacious log-cabin with all of the pre-modern conveniences, and Paul really emphasized the TV worked and it had all of the shows of my previous life, “from cartoons to car crashes!” he gushed. Since I’d been a minor celebrity a century ago, there were some knickknacks and pictures representing my career on the walls, and the rather clunky old refrigerator was stocked with all the food I mentioned I loved during a tedious interview I’d given to some gourmand rag in 2001. A bottle of Hungarian Tokaji, my favorite white wine, sat on the counter. The attention to detail, and nostalgia, was incredible. And, incredibly spooky.

I asked Paul to sit and share some wine. He seemed to wince at the thought of drinking wine, and settled on just a splash in his glass. Even that seemed a bit much for him. He was dressed in a rather poorly coordinated Hawaiian shirt and corduroy pants. “Paul,” I said, “you people are really trying too hard. I know it’s 2111 and not 2009. I’m a writer, I can fathom social and technological change. I know I’m one hundred and forty years old- I no longer have leukemia, and thanks to the nanobots I’ll probably never have a headache either. Just tell me, honestly, why does LifeBridge and the government want so much to keep the future so far away from me. It’s what I signed up for.”

His forced smile quickly flattened, and his eyes went glassy. “Mr. Waterman, LifeBridge didn’t promise you anything other than Revival, which it has done. They have gone out of their way to be sure that you and all of the thousands of other Revived are cared for to the best of our abilities. Let’s face it: the Revived are... a... social phenomenon. Much about our times are the same: we still eat oranges and barbeque and we still have dance clubs and yacht races. But far too much has changed than you can accept, and we know that from experience. Right now, Phoenix Ranch is the best place for you and your contemporaries. Believe me. Trust me. I’m here to help you in any way that I can to adapt, and I will gradually be able to educate you on some of our many differences. But, over time, Mr. Waterman. All of our residents are happy and content here. Sure, they want to travel and see the world, but they have come to understand that after being on ice for so long, what feels best to them, and what will feel best to you, is to savor all of the pleasures of being alive, and all of the pleasures of your time. Right here."

He went on to say that they can adjust my mood should I need it, as the neural-nanobots can be given instructions by Paul to help make the transition easier. Great. I relied on what little theatrical training I had and feigned appreciation for his honesty, and said that adjustments would not be needed, that with a little time, I’d be just fine. I further over-thanked him for his services, and told him I wanted to set about unpacking my box, and to settle into my new home alone. With a sharp gaze, Paul explained that he lives just a minute down the pine-shaded road, and if I needed him, he was only a call-button away, though we would have therapy daily. Super. He asked me to be ready to meet the neighbors at the community center in an hour- there’d be a reception, and a “full spread.” Most of them had de-animated within ten years of my own, so we should all be able to get along, he announced, without seeming to process the illogic of the idea. This is living life to the fullest, I thought to myself. Sure is. What LifeBridge didn’t do their research on is just how much of a cynic I can be, or was.

I unpacked, showered my ancient body with a familiar brand of soap, and got ready to meet the neighbors.

(to be continued)

jaybird found this for you @ 22:15 in Short Fiction | | permalink




 
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 are lost"

 

You contain everything

Everything contains you

 

If you desire the Infinite,

look no further than the window.

 


 

Letter Excerpt:

 

Ten Considerations for Being Well n this Goofy Universe

 

0. If you find yourself wonderstruck, donít forget to return the favor.

1. Always be of service to the whole and the Holy. Youíll find that the Holy will reciprocate by being of service to your becoming Whole.

2. You will be called upon to use your mind and your vision in ways I cannot possibly glimpse. Never turn down an offer to shine that light so uniquely yours to help others in their darkness, and youíll find that when itís your turn to be in the night that thereíll be someone along the way who happens to have a little glow to share .

3. The rewards of being true to yourself  are infinite, even when outwardly your efforts are met with nothing.

4. Youíll also see that  knowledge and wisdom will come from within yourself through your own struggle and curiosity... your loved ones may guide you to insight, but yours is the power to choose it.

5. Youíll find that some of your choices couldíve been better, or at times were downright stupid. Thatís okay... I have a closet full of reckless decisions, but without making them I wouldnít have the slightest idea of what a good one might feel like if I tried it on.

6. Your growth will be a mysterious, comic, ecstatic and sometimes scary ride, and I pray that you strive to savor each minute of it, even the most difficult or embarrassing minutes. Donít count on second chances.

7. In those times when everything collapses around you, and whatís left wonít go right, donít forget your chances of being alive in this solar system, in this galaxy, are a little on the slim side. So slim in fact that it could be called a miracle to breathe this air, drink this water, and have whet ever predicament youíre having no matter how you shake, rattle and roll it. So go with the cosmic flow and always choose something over nothing, while remembering that thereís a little of each one hidden in both.

8. Respond as best as you can with love to adversity rather than reacting with fear... Love, in any situation and  being the primordial source and essence of ALL THIS STUFF, leaves / enters us with the most possible ways out / in.

9. Whatever youíre doing, celebrate the process of doing as much, if not more, than what youíve got when youíre done. Magic lives in the action.

9 Ĺ . All matter is energy. All energy is infinite. We are but raindrops falling to the ocean, a short time in this shape until weíre reunited with the expanse from which we came. Your delicate yet sturdy, resilient body is a temporary shelter of energy that has swam the universe eternally and will continue eternally. You are a sudden crystallization of the infinite. One must ask themself, therefore, why be bored?

9 3/4 . Choosing to live in the moment is courageous but becomes effortless once you begin...feeling obligated to survive in the past or future is dangerous and is difficult to continue. Itís one of the few risks Iíd recommend not taking, right up there with trusting icons and shrugging off coincidences.

10. The Universe itself it not confusing, we humans just like it that way. Do frogs seem bewildered , butterflies befuddled and amoebas addled? Nope, just us, my child. So, whenever things just donít make sense, just take a deep breath and laugh as best you can, because thatís what you get for choosing this goofy, unpredictable place called Earth to embody yourself upon.