Sunday, December 12, 2010

Part III

I am working on several projects simultaneously, but hit a milestone tonight--finishing the treatment of part 3, which is basically a sketch of the plot. Part III is like Act I of a three or four part series. At least I think that's how the length will work out. So the good news for me is I can actually write more than fragments on it. Here's the first draft of the introduction:

Every nous flees from itself,
Yet has no power to escape,
Clinging on in despite and loathing,
Defective with hidden faults,

Which in true understanding,
Would put all aside and first,
Learn the nature of the world,
Where it spends its own eternity.

--Adapted by an unknown PDA from Lucretius, Book III

It’s hot.The sun and wet air conspire to set the very bones of the Queen City to simmer. The concrete carapace that encases uptown cracks as it swells. Windows pop from their frames and fall like lethal leaves, poor construction or specifications long exceeded. The 100-year heat waves occur every year, and herald 100-year storms almost as often. The city pauses panting and holds its breath as the swirling monsters reach out their long claws to rake the coast. Sometimes the hurricane wants more than sandbars and abandoned condos, and dies thrashing against the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, but not before scouring the low country and sand hills of human ambition. Sometimes the path leads across the city, where tropical malice sets its teeth against the artifice with a fury of wind and water, dousing enlightenment as thoroughly as any barbarian horde. These are meteorological gods, and not kinds ones. They no longer suffer to be named after boys and girls, not after Zed. Now the weather gods have birth dates and ages, eyewall speeds and sustained winds, but no cute names. Everyone on the coast pays tribute to them, and most have rituals to keep the violence away. Anywhere but here. Go north this time. We paid last time. Someone else’s turn.

To me, the heat is as abstract as a sine wave. I have custom rithms that turn the temperature outside into a sort of feeling and input to my emgydala, but I don’t mistake that for the direct emotion that a Sticky feels, trapped in his fleshy box and suffocated by the sweltering pile of the atmospheric column. I don’t have the half-billion years’ evolution that created that rich sensory I/O. Any PDA would covet such intimate connection with the real-real. I do. Ahab thinks of little else, apparently.

But we have another kind of riches in the many dimensions of experience we can combine. Humans can’t know the glorious intersection of the city heartbeat--the literal heartbeat of all its plugged-in citizens, which synchronizes in waves, reacting to some unseen stress. This thudding pulse crests and slows in response to the heat, but flares in bursts of white noise when the walkways become crowded or when the heavens dump their worldly burdens to soak streets in sheets of rain. Or a new Wave is rumoured.

Sticky I/O, as beautiful as it must be, cannot register and watch the dancing harmonics of a hundred thousand mask sniffers as they identify and call out the lusty organic molecules that bloom in the height of summer, the pollens outside and mold spores inside, sweat and heavy perfume locked in an olfactory struggle in uncooled buildings where wind deigns not to stir itself through the open windows, spurning the invitation and inviters alike.

Humans don’t know the fear, either. Fear as real as that of drowning or falling, although it is a fact impossible to prove. A PDA must fear the storm too, for the grid will surely go down and with it the light of reason that sparks a nous. It means the hell of a cold reboot. The real fear is that a sudden shutdown will cause lasting damage that even the Am I Me tests cannot find, and linger malignant until there is no recourse but full backup restoration. Loss of self, a kind of death that Stickies do not understand.

Even between storms, the summer months are dangerous. Few can afford air conditioning, but even so the demand on the old, creaking grid increases to the breaking point. Maybe Bakkras Power keeps the maze of wires and poles that comprise the power distribution grid in a state of near-collapse because they want to be needed, to remind everyone that having electricity is a privilege, not a right. This is the manner of a monopoly. This will be the source of war between them and MOM.