Sunday, July 2, 2017—This is a scene from my novel, a decades-old perpetual work in progress. Superficially sci-fi, it is based on a philosophy that life is immortal, everything has consciousness, and everything runs its course then evolves into something else. Time and space are illusions within a “spacious present.” Death is like a phase change–like water converting to steam–while retaining the essential qualities of water. From this perspective, there is no end point, and the process is the goal.
The purpose of the novel is to make you smile. Let me know if you want more.
CAUSE AND EFFECT
The sun, shining through dingy, crocheted curtains, cast a mosaic of light and shadow across the worn rug. By the angle of the light and content of the shadows, Joe knew it was at least 11 AM.
His head throbbed with an intensity of 200 on a one-to-ten scale. The light hurt his eyes, but he didn’t have the courage to move. He remained curled stiff, eyes clenched shut, until his bladder forced him to attempt the impossible and get out of bed.
He moaned, then winced. He eased to a slouching position at the edge of the bed, resting his aching forehead between tender hands. Slowly, ever so slowly, he stood and staggered to the bathroom, carefully shielding his eyes from the light. He downed two aspirin and then a third, to abort the stroke he must be having. It was at least a stroke. Maybe an aneurysm had burst. He stared into the mirror. Images of his certain, agonizing, and imminent death spread like acrid black goo across his quivering brain.
“I’m dying,” he told his haggard face. It stared back at him—coldly critical, his appearance substandard today, even for him. He and his reflection eyed each other. He noted the dark eye sockets, red eyes, fuzzy vision, chin stubble, wrinkles, and greasy hair. He didn’t smell too good, either. Let the embalmer handle it, he decided. That’s what he’s paid for.
He trod a wobbly path through the living room to the kitchen, where the percolator was full of yesterday’s grounds. His stomach wasn’t feeling much like coffee, but his head told him he was in caffeine withdrawal. He cursed Marian for getting him so drunk that he forgot to prepare the coffee pot. He imagined her boiling in a vat of coffee, begging for mercy.
Suddenly, Beon’s face loomed across Joe’s inner screens. The balding, round visage grinned like the Buddha, his eyes innocuous, his portent ominous. Joe’s head pounded harder, and his knees felt weak. An image of lab rats, pinned to boards and randomly shocked, blotted out Beon’s face. Then, the lab rats became little Joes, with Beon delivering the shocks.
Joe listed the objective, measurable reasons for his agony. Unendurable pain. Undetectable caffeine levels. Betrayal by his only friend. Violation of sacred coffee ritual, and death without absolution. Beon. He threw fresh coffee in the pot, spilling half the grounds on the counter, creating yet another reason to feel miserable.
Percolator finally started, Joe turned to face new trouble. He opened the freezer and scowled at empty ice trays. The little Joes in his head jumped and slumped.
He dragged his failing carcass to the couch. He imagined the pain in his head could power a small city, if he could figure out how to harness the energy. Not today, though. And tomorrow wasn’t looking too good, either.
Beon’s face returned, and with it, thoughts of the healing machine. Joe wondered if it could cure his headache. “Yes,” said Beon’s image.
“Who asked you?” Joe demanded, not realizing he spoke out loud.
“You did.” Joe decided he was going crazy, too. “DALE,” said the face. “Diet-Associated Life Enhancer.”
Joe covered his ears, but it did no good. Beon’s image swelled in his head, and dream pictures bombarded his brain, rocking his scientific foundations. The throbbing and pounding got louder, clanging against his skull. Joe closed his eyes and waited to die. Through it all, Beon’s face smirked, as if he enjoyed Joe’s suffering.
But death defied him, and Beon continued to grin. Joe glanced around the room. A single picture, hung askew, showed a listing clipper ship, an artifact left by the previous tenant. George White left a few pieces of tired furniture, too, good enough for Joe. His mailbox in the foyer downstairs still bore White’s name. When neighbors called him “George,” Joe didn’t bother to correct them. It was as good a name as “Joe.”
Now Joe wondered for the first time what happened to George White. His couch may not look great, but it had personality. It was warm, comfortable, inviting. It was friendly. It was taking care of him, helping him feel better, as a friend would do.
“I have tangible evidence that you existed,” he told the former tenant, “even if we’ve never met. I still get your mail. Beon is only imaginary, but he’s torturing me, and I can’t get away from him.”
Joe’s eyes began to blur. His stomach felt queasy. Vague terrors swept over him, and sweat poured from his upper body. He wiped his face with a dirty napkin and dropped it on the floor. “This is only a hangover. It clouds my perspective, makes me think crazy thoughts. It was only a dream. A machine like that is impossible, and Beon doesn’t exist.”
Hey Kat….following you on WP now also. You may like a short fiction of the same vein at theburghalhidage.wordpress.com, published May 27 ” IMaGinE a future “
Hey, Birghal. Will do. By the way, where did you get the name The Burghal Hidage?
Are you familiar with what the burghal hidage is (was)? If you are I can explain in a way that makes some sense. If not we’ll need a lengthier discussion ☺
No, I’m not familiar with it. Is it explained on your website?
There is a brief explanation about it on the “About” page. I still need to dress this thing up a bit and give it some more organization. The Burghal Hidage historically refers to a sort of civil defense system developed by the late Saxon kingdoms of Britain in the late 9th-early 10th centuries and to a document recreated by FW Maitland detailing the same. My reasons for this choice are several fold. First it is the working title for my novel. Second it refers to the name of a band which holds a prominent role in the narrative. The key protagonist of the story holds a dual American and English heritage. While exploring more of his mother’s heritage he burrows into English history and finds the term. For no other r
The site is in need of some further dressing up. I need to do some further organization. On the about page there is some brief explanation of the burghal hidage. Essentially it refers to a system of civil defense that was developed by the late Saxon kingdoms to defend against the Vikings. It was a network of defensive positions, referred to as burgs, and hidage was the method of calculating the manpower required for the defense of each burg. One of the characteristics of the system was that each burg needed to be situated within a day’s ride of the other. Surely this leaves you with the question what does any of this have to do with anything? The Burghal Hidage is the working title for my novel, but within that context it takes on several meanings. It is the name of a band formed by the chief protagonist of the story, a name chosen for no other reason that while studying English history he discovered the term and simply liked the sound of it. The tale spans the lifetime of the protagonist, following the lives of the characters within a backdrop of the changing world of those times. This encompasses our past and our possible future. Later in his life the country is struggling with a reinvention of their society following a collapse. The protagonist finds himself in a world where he has kept himself deliberately cloistered while everything around him was slowly crumbling away. When he wakes up to see what has happened he reluctantly takes on a role of leadership to help the people of his home area start to put things back together. Coming full circle from his discovery of the term and the use of the name he ends up forming a system modeled upon the original burghal system.
Our catastrophes come not in the apocalyptic forms of global pandemics, global nuclear exchange or any other of a number of doomsday nightmares portrayed for us. Instead these come from a slow, gradual deterioration of our own making: the frog on a hot plate.
I see my own generation as the frog on the hot plate. I look at the millennials and I see kittens in a blender.
Have finished part of reorganizing on the page. From the menu tab you will find options, including The Novel page with an intro, oneof the character’s back story