Archive for January, 2018

Storytime: The Rain Room.

Wednesday, January 17th, 2018

There was a man who almost had everything.

He was almost the richest person of all.
He was almost the most famous person of all.
He was almost – ALMOST almost, but not quite – the meanest person of all. But not quite.
And his most famous, treasured, and coveted almost was his house, his mansion, his tower, his eyesore, which had almost a thousand rooms. Nine-hundred and ninety-nine rooms. Of almost every kind you could ever imagine.
He had a stone room, where every surface was cold and sun-warmed and gray and red and sandy and sooty and solid as eternity.
He had a wood room, with paneling, and floorboards, and rafters, and branches, and roots.
He had a song room, whose walls were speakers and whose roof was scrolling sheet music and whose walls were insulated triple-thick.
He even had a sun room, where ten hundred hundred gems reflected and trapped and cajoled the light from dozens of windows, keeping it aglow no matter what the hour.
But there was one room that was missing, one room that wasn’t there.
He didn’t have a rain room.

Almost anyone else would’ve decided nine-hundred and ninety-nine rooms was enough. Certainly enough for one person. Especially enough for one person who only ever slept in one room and did business in another three or four ninety-nine days of a hundred. But not this man. His house had been under construction for decades, his hair had turned grey and fallen out, his teeth were loose and yellow, and his eyes were watering. He almost knew exactly what people thought of him, and it made him half-mad to think of what they’d say when he was gone.
No, he had to have one thing wholly. He had to have his house complete. He had to have his rain room.

He asked sages, scientists, philosophers, pundits, and plesiosaurs.
“You can’t put rain in a room,” they told him. “It’s the most fickle and fluid of all things. If you let it stand, it’s a puddle. If you let it flow, it’s a stream. If you let it boil, it’s vapor. It’s out of everyone’s grasp and yours too.”
The man cursed them all roundly and threw them out of his nine-hundred and ninety-nine room house, where he spent the night trying to think and falling asleep, in that eerie zone where an hour is a second and a minute lasts five months. It’s a strange place to be in. Things can find you there. Like you.
Whatever it was that bumped him in the night, it left a mark. The man woke up sore-backed, stiff-necked, and bright-eyed. A spark had found him, and it leapt into his fingers, his keyboard, his commands.
People with iron rods and beards were set to work. People with sunglasses and carefully-chosen suits were told to walk. Money moved soundlessly under the world like a fat-bellied, dainty-toed rat.
Construction resumed on the man’s home for the first time in twenty years. Some of the blueprints hurt your eyes, some of them hurt your head, and all of them made a little knot twist behind your backbone, like something invisible and important was being pinched, or maybe filched.
But enough money can make someone do almost anything.

On May 23rd – a Thursday – the rain stopped.
It was in the sky, and then POP it was gone and the sky was empty. Bleeding a little, but empty.
It didn’t actually go POP but it looked like it should have.
When the sky went POP, the man was standing in his home, in his thousandth room, and he was waiting. He’d been waiting for hours. If he hadn’t fallen asleep ten minutes ago, he would’ve been able to see the first drops fall, as opposed to feeling them run down his nose. It made him cough and run down the hall for a tissue.

/In the rain room there are ten trillion droplets a thousand thunderheads and one billion gentle showers. There is nothing underfoot but ripples and there is nothing overhead but grey./

It didn’t take long for somebody to panic, and that’s the sort of mood that always attracts hanger-ons. People need crops. Mists. Clouds. Downpours. They’re the bread and butter of a good sky.
So the people came to the thousand-room house of the man, and they asked, demanded, begged, and requested that they receive rain, that they see rain, that maybe one person shouldn’t have all the rain in the world in one room.
And the man answered their pleas with the carefully-chosen proverb, aphorism, koan and keystone of the oldest philosophy of all, which was “I don’t care about you.”

/In the rain room there are places where you can wait and fill yourself up again. Stand there and let the cold and warm and wet beat into you and slide through the skin and sluice the sludge out of every vein and let it run clean and calm again./

In the weeks that followed, the world did a lot of things. It strained seawater, filled bathtubs, drained reservoirs, and a lot of other things. It almost did a lot of other things too.
The man didn’t notice any of it. He was too busy walking through his house, his thousand-room house. Opening every door. Checking every room. Some of them hadn’t seen anything but cleaning staff since he was a young man. It was very peculiar for him to have something, instead of almost having something, but he didn’t feel any different at all. That made him a little nervous.
He was saving his rain room for last. In case that helped.

/In the rain room there are no taps or faucets. Nothing can be turned off or closed. Open-ended only./

On the first of June – a Saturday – the man dressed himself in a waterproof grey coat. He picked up a black, ivory-hilted umbrella. He put on rubber boots.
And then the man stepped into the rain room, which was bigger than he expected. And damper, too. He sneezed.
He looked around in every direction he could name, and he heard the endless pit-a-pat and felt it on his clothing.
“Dull,” he said. And he reached for the doorknob.
It wasn’t there. This is the sort of thing that happens when you try to fit a closed system in a close space.
The man shouted for a bit, but the rain drowned him out.

/In the rain room there is no talk of chance. There is no risk. It is, and it is, and it continues to is. No tenses permitted beyond the present./
For a while the rest of the world looked pretty dire, and it almost seemed like things were going to get bad. The rain was wedged pretty tight into that house, and it wasn’t coming out.
Then the obvious solution presented itself: why not bring the world in after it?
It took a lot of shovels, and a lot of boxes, but by August 4th – a Sunday – the world had moved in to the Rain Room, and the rainwater puddled and streamed and vaporized as it should again, where it should again, when it should again.

The rest of the house fell down but almost nobody noticed.

Storytime: I and a II and a III.

Wednesday, January 10th, 2018

In the beginning, there was the beat.
And it went
Bam-bippity-bam-bam-BAM bippity band so on and so on. It spun, it dove, it ducked, it dipped, it danced to and fro and back and forth. It made the rocks shake, it made the earth quake, and the entire planet exploded like an old grapefruit thrown at a new wall. Chunks of accreted cosmic dust blown back into the roaring gale of the solar wind.
Shit, They said. Better try that one again.

So this time They calmed it down a little. Made it sedate. A little less syncopation and a little more consideration. Something you couldn’t help but tap your toe to, but wouldn’t snap a finger. Just a bit of fun.
The planet bobbed and nodded and twisted out of orbit and spun out of the solar system, sailing through into the empty forever.
Oh come ON, They said.

In the end They considered their goals and options, wanted something, tried for more, and settled for less.
So They went
Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam.
And the planet drifted aimlessly in its ellipse, safe and snug and dulled into sleep. Like a brainless baby in the biggest crib.

*

Now, that was the tempo sold. But there was something else missing. Something for the humming.
So They placed Themselves as the lotus.
Metaphorically.
And They took a deep breathe, in through the nose.
Metaphorically.
And They sang.
Really.
They sang of Wonder. They sang of Beauty. They sung of Glory. They sung of Majesty.
They sang so damned hard that the world in its grind couldn’t help but quiver a tear from its surface, and it gushed blue over itself until it was damp as old coffee grinds. And in that seep, brewed LIFE, boldly seizing the days, racing up and out and up and ONWARD on top of itself until the atmosphere curdled under the pressure of an infinite number of respiring lungs and the whole thing collapsed like a bad soufflé.

This time They sang of regular old wonder, beauty, glory, and majesty. And for a little while it looked like it was working – things cooked down there, but slower. Eyes raised to on high. Seeds sown in gusto. Flagella moving with purpose.
Then everything knew itself, looked upon its neighbours, knew they weren’t good enough to measure up, and shut down.
Fuck Me, They complained. What do You have to do to get this working?

So They sat down, cleared Their throat, and sort of hummed through Their nose really hard and kept going, and going, and wavering, and the pitch went up and the pitch went down and sometimes it went back to front to reverse to yellow to Sunday. In fact, it went just about everywhere imaginable, and so, nowhere understandable.
And hey, so did everything down there. And it kind of worked!
Kind of.
I mean, there was stuff. That was good.

*

Melody needs harmony.
They drew Their palms down the strands of the world, cupped it, caressed it, plucked it, blew on it. And it danced and whirled and churned in warmth and joy, rich in texture, bright in emotion, and its atmosphere expanded four times over and dispersed into space.
This time They just sighed.

Next (after cramming the damned thing back together), They tried, with the utmost care, rubbing the atmosphere gently.
The whole world sang out gladly, true as a bell, and then the Van Allen belts broke with a SPRANG sound and showered the whole place with radioactive particles.
And a new pack cost you ten, minimum. Pre-tax.

Finally They just put the planet up to Their lips and raspberry’d it. And from that fine spray, lo, did aimless restlessness emerge, and instill itself in the plates and crust and atmosphere and magnetosphere and all that was. And it was Good, or at least Functional, which was Good by this point.

*

After the initial recording session, They began playback. Then They threw the damned thing in the garbage, hung up Their hat, put on Their coat, and went to go get blitzed.

Storytime: Accomplishment.

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

“Feed’s clear. On your mark.”
“Right. Right. One second. The pole was crooked. Right. Ready. You ready?”
“We’re ready.”
“I claim this planetesimal, Pluto, this once-planet, in the august and democratic name of…of. Earth? Earth. Earth!”
“Wonderful job. Alright, mission over.”
“Can I take samples?”
“If you feel like it.”
“Are we done?”
“Yes.”
“Oh. Did I do it properly?”
“Yes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
“If I didn’t do it properly, I could take the flag down and put it up again. I could get it to wave. There’s wind here. I think it would wave very nicely.”
“No, that’s fine.”
“Are you mad that I forgot what country I’m from? I’ve been practicing my words for the last year, you know. I had to remembered most of them from scratch, from the tapes! It’s been a while, and I think you’ve got to admit I salvaged the speech very smoothly. Undetectable.”
“We can edit out the stammer.”
“Oh no. I stammered?”
“Yes. It doesn’t matter. We can inject the proper country into your speech, too.”
“Wow. That’s impressive. Did you need me to say anything at all?”
“Yes. Saying something here is more important than anything you say.”
“Do you think you could be a little more expressive? I know there’s hours and hours between every transmission we make, but I make the effort to remember how annoyed I am between them. I try very hard to remain angry for hours, because I presume you’ve put a lot of effort into making me very angry for other hours. It’d be the least you could do to try and be a good sport and reciprocate.”
“What do you want from us, Pluto? You’re the first woman to ever voyage this far from Earth. Shouldn’t you be proud? Elated? Expansive? Enlightened? Humbled?”
“I’m very cold and a little agoraphobic because I spent years and years in a little metal box and now I’m all alone in a very big space on a very small rock. You can see the horizon here! Wow!”
“You already knew that, Pluto. There’s a lot of things you already knew that you seem to have forgotten.”
“I remember everything very clearly! Just not why I did it. Why am I out here again?”
“To show off.”
“Aha! Should I do jumping-jacks?”
“If you feel like it. It’s more about us than you.”
“What d’you mean?”
“We’ve proven we can throw a human in a metal box a very long ways indeed. About as far as a good bit of money can take us. About as far as, well, humanly possible. We’re probably going to stop after this.”
“You make me sound very extraneous.”
“No more or less than you were back here. What you did was very important. It’s just not important at all that you did it.”
“I’m very suicidal now. I’ll jump, I swear it. I’ll jump off this cliff or into space or cut my oxygen, that’ll show you.”
“No you won’t. We checked before you left.”
“Well, then I’ll pout.”
“You will do that.”
“I suppose. When do I go back?”
“You don’t. We told you that before.”
“Slipped my mind. Oh well. At least I have my flag to keep me warm.”
“You can’t take it down. It’s historic.”
“Oh? What am I?”
“Part of history. It’s different.”
“Close enough. Blankey, here I come!”
“Don’t touch it.”
“Or what?”
“You’ll have violated the spirit of history and achievement that is what has motivated humankind since it first bashed a rock against another rock and made a sharper rock which it used to kill an animal.”
“I thought the bulk of humanity’s nutrition since before its existence was from foraged vegetable matter, and that by and large both an obsession with snowballing technological prowess was a recent development that was largely portrayed as inevitable and innate human nature, as is the case with all traits of a given society when said society cares to reflect upon them. Which they never do.”
“Very stirring.”
“I came up with that on year six.”
“Don’t touch the flag.”
“Oh, fine. Is there anywhere in particular you’d like me to die?”
“Either in the lander in bed, so we don’t have to look at you in the textbooks, or heroically posed next to the flag, so we can feel stirring pride.”
“Sure. Salute or wave?”
“Salute.”
“I’m waving and you can’t stop me.”