Ch 14 ~ “I made a note to self on a piece of paper and I can’t remember where it is or what it said — have you ever done such a thing?”
“It’s a funny thing…as a kid, I was always the king of ‘why’. Back in the days before dirt was discovered,” he clarified. For some reason she never fully understood, Forge indulged in the a habit of making sure that anyone he spoke to understood how old he was. He liked to come across as if he believed himself to be ancient. Which he might have believed about himself (Emily tended to doubt this), but nobody else did. Even if they knew how old he was. Forge simply defied numbers. Everyone knew that Forge had been around the block and on either side of it as much, if not more, than the Glenwood Cafe. But everyone also knew he wasn’t that old. More immediately, everyone knew that he could easily wear out anyone half his age. For the most part, Forge really knew this to be true too. As Emily thought more about it, she was fairly sure the “age thing” was a deflective manuveur. Of course — she realized when she had found herself in a particularly lucid moment…one not too overwrought with, well, shock — he’s trying to help soften the shock (yes, what else could this be) of this.
Emily nodded her head. She hadn’t taken her eyes off of her friend Pat, who – although entirely physically present with them – had seemed to remove herself entirely from not only their booth, but the whole of the resturant. She was definitely “in her own world” as the phrase goes. Emily never much cared for that phrase. Much like the phrase “real world” tended to grate against her nerves, but then sometimes she was just too literal. No one lived in a vacuum. Unless they lived in a black hole, she thought to herself, and nothing much could exist there. She snickered at the riduculousness in the thought of living in a black hole, but sometimes the riduculous overwhelmed her sense of humor and she just had to roll with it.
“Last I checked…we’re all in this world together.” She had muttered this outloud, unaware that any sounds had been streaming out of her mouth. She simply couldn’t remove her focus from Pat, who appeared to be watching an assortment of some of the world’s best and worst broadcasts and viewing them all from a flat screen tv, if you will, mounted on the inside of her head. The world busily projected itself onto Pat’s brain and Pat willingly viewed, except for those mediums where she willingly projected herself on to the world…not really knowing if anyone willingly viewed. At least one did. At least.
As fantastic as this all was, somehow all of this was very much real…even if she — Emily — didn’t have a front view seat in Pat’s mind to see all of this play itself out.
“We are, indeed,” Forge agreed slowly.
“So you…I don’t know…one day…you woke up…you said…why not have such a thing as this thing…you know…where it is embedded and all…” with a tilt of her mousy brown head, Emily pointed towards Pat, “…so…I don’t know…but could it be…is that how all of this happened?”
He nodded his head slowly, considering what she had just asked. Seemed to sum it up pretty succinctly, if a bit hesitantly, he thought and knew this was no time for punishing the air with his voice. So instead he kept his tone soft and casual.
“Yeah,” he nodded his head a bit more rapidly while he spoke, “yeah. Pretty much just as simple as that.”
“Whoaaaa, man!” Luke spurted out a huge gulp of air, “I just rode up the entire width of that castle! It’s entire side looks about one-eighth the size of the entire sim! It just showed up in the sky. Out of nowhere!”
Miles laughed. “Castles in the sky. There’s something poetic about that.”
“Only you, dude. Only you could look at it that way. I’m just saying this monstruously huge building with its several turrets nearly sent me into a vertical tailspin.”
“Cruising pretty fast, huh?” Miles grinned each word out with pleasure.
“Yeah…gotta love it!”
And Miles did. Luke hadn’t yet noticed that Miles had unplugged a few minutes back, and the fact that Luke hadn’t noticed caused Miles’s smile to spread even more widerly. His friend was completely in his element. Unencumbered. Freed from physical disabilities and moving about without limitations of any physical kind. How could Miles not love that fact…seeing his long time friend stepping, yes stepping so easily so readily so instinctively so naturally into his legs, into the skies, moving all parts of his body freely without hinderance. Tearing across the heavens. As he studied his friend weaving and bobbing his torso, no doubt mimmicking the movements he was viewing on the front of his brain while seated in his wheelchair, Miles quietly observed as Luke for all intents and purposes flew right before his eyes, outright taking the skies as if he owned them. Never mind that he arrived at the heavens by way of the screen within his mind. Indeed, Miles saw no separation between where this was happening for Luke. He sailed across the skies that were confined under the ceiling of the local bookstore Pages & Crumbs, a favorite place where Miles and Luke often caught up with each other. Miles could see Luke’s hands and arms outstretched, nearly grazing the bodies of other Pages & Crumbs patrons as they carefully walked past Miles and Luke who were seated in the reading area that cozied up to the side of the coffee bar in the bookstore. Miles watched Luke’s head casually turning from side to side, surveying the land until his forehead dove down to view a more localized area on the ground. And just as clearly, Miles knew Luke had suddenly changed course and had aimed the velocity to the ground, the same velocity that had been propelling his body through the air…all the while, grinning with supreme confidence and joy the entire way until Luke paused just shy of a hard landing and instead casually kipped his legs forward under his body from where they had been extended behind his torso, casually fanning the air slowly in flight.
Then he stepped so perfectly into his own legs moving in partnership with gravity. To move. To be. To feel. To feel his feet embrace the ground, caressing the fibers that contorted so automatically from his toes through his arch and heels up into his calves, threading tightly around his shins and knees, weaving impossibily perfectly together inside his quads and hamstrings, pushing up through his flexed buttocks and through this perfect harmony of power and rhythym propelling Luke, causing himself to walk on the surface of the earth as if he had just landed on the most treasured and undiscovered planet in the entire galaxy. And it was all his.
“Hey, buddy,” Miles laughed because he just couldn’t help bursting with joy for his friend, “Great to see you doing and being! Speaking of which…I should get a move on myself.”
“Dude!” Luke chortled playfully, “another power meeting with ‘The Man?'”
Miles chuckled at the frequency of Luke’s use of the word “dude.” Typically, Luke was not a “dude” fanatic, but something about this embedded technology brought the word to his lips more often than not. Miles knew it really had nothing to do with the word. It really had everything to do with unadulterated joy.
“Yeah,” Miles said lightheartedly, “Yeah. He’s not all that bad. A little wiley coyote but not all that bad at all.”
Luke sighed wistfully as he strode in the garden within his mind. He strode like power and grace melded together and personified, and as he strode, he murmurred in awe to himself and to the entire world and to Miles, “Not bad…not bad at all…”
Miles smiled, catching his friend’s double meaning. As he pushed out of the extremely well loved chair (one that Miles imagined might very well have held a couple of employees-as-lovers during the darkened afterstore hours at Pages & Crumbs…afterall, who really knew what happened between the earthy gritty pages in a book or a bookstore when they weren’t opened), he lightly tapped the side of Luke’s arm to let his friend know that he would be heading on his way. Luke waved, nodded his head, said with great warmth, “Catch you later, dude” and strode through the garden in his mind while he sat in his wheelchair, moving his shoulders quietly with each step in his gait.
Not everyone carrying the embed was as immersed as Luke. Not everyone attached the same meaning to the depth of power released by this embedded technology to the degree that his friend Luke did. As much as Miles knew Luke’s history having been friends all their lives, even Miles was pretty sure that even he couldn’t understand fully what this meant to Luke. What could it mean to be able to walk when you never could before? The things we take for granted, Miles thought. The magic in the most surprising of places, the simpliest of ways, he marveled.
In some ways, there was a wonderful irony about all of this. Luke challenged himself far more in the physical world than most able-bodied people ever thought to try to do. The digital world gave form and expression to what Luke always knew to be within his very DNA. It was as natural to him as breathing air. And a marvel that some miniscule teeny computer — some widget, if you will — embedded somewhere on the inside of his head would give his mind and body, his entire spirt and soul such greater depth, such a broader range of stories — not only to read, and to passively watch, but to live. To be. Right at his fingertips. For a book person like Luke, this took the notion of writing your own story to an entirely different place that he hadn’t previously considered possible. It was worthwhile to describe the importance that book held for Luke. He liked the smell of books. He liked to feel their weight in his hands. When he read, he usually carried a pen stuffed between the pages because he interacted with the books. He liked to draw brackets around particularly noteworthy paragraphs, or write notes or thoughts to himself in the margins of a particularly compelling page. He usually dog-earred those pages, because Luke was a reader who not only loved to feel the paper in his hands and highlight or circle compelling words across each page, but he typically read each book not only once but several times and kept his books around him as revered friends whose guidance and imagination and teachings Luke would revisit again and again and again. Books were as much a part of Luke as anything could be. Anyone who walked into his apartment would immediately know this to be so because Luke was one of those book people who displayed all of collections of novels in plain, majestic view. In Luke’s case, that meant his thousands of written works were housed meticulously within low-shelf bookcases that snuggled warmly into every open wall space within his apartment.
In yet another jump through time (what is time, if not relative) that is directly related to everything that has already been written is this:
Forge had seen this firsthand. In fact, it had been proved to provide a pivotal moment for Forge, as odd as that may sound. (And with all that alliteration in there it sounded a bit odd indeed.) Oftentimes, pivotal moments arrive on the wings of serendipity. Or fate. Forge would bet it was as much an orchestrated happening as a random one, and that was really the true purpose of this latest caper of his. But he wasn’t in a position to discuss that fact yet because he hadn’t any idea how to get a handle on it. The crux of the matter, as it were. He recalled that not too terribly long ago, he had talked briefly around the edges of this topic with a peculiar fellow…not too terribly long ago. He was a bit of a mystic or something, the fellow. And not what one thought of when one thought of a mystic. This one came in the form of a slight man of average build with a perpetual sneer on his face. Decidedly quiet. Uncomfortably so. The kind of quiet that bludgeons and crushes. The slight man seemed to grasp the intention, as ill-framed as Forge had conveyed it. But perhaps it was really Forge’s desire to be understood that Forge had been sensing and mistaking it as someone else grasping what he was saying. He remembered thinking he needed to check in with Emily, run this past her without leading her to any conclusion. See if she saw in it the same possibilities – or more – that he saw in it. But he was getting ahead of himself. Because the pivotal moment that he was currently faced with was playing itself out in Luke’s apartment.
As serendipity or fate or both would have it, Forge had insisted on joining Miles after they had completed an off site meeting; it was after that off site meeting that Miles had scheduled a visit to check in on Luke. He was curious about this Luke fellow, Forge was. He had heard a great deal about Luke from Miles when he insisted on pushing off their followup meeting after the off site meeting (because for some mysterious reason as everyone knows, meetings beget meetings beget even more meetings and so on), and Forge had given sway with his time. Relinquishing his time freely was not something Forge was known to do, but he was a good listener, Forge was, and he could hear in Miles’s expression and the gentle, open yet incredibly confident tone in Miles’s voice that Miles wasn’t about to budge on this one. It was in this scheduled visit of Miles that Forge had run smack into the pivotal moment and had met what was for Forge the powerful presence that was Luke.
Luke was a reader. A voracious reader. Forge thoroughly admired the vast collection of books that virtually wallpapered every wall in Luke’s comfortable apartment.
“Impressive!” Forge bellowed at the time. He didn’t bellow to punish the air. This wasn’t his usual blustering that he resorted to quite strategically when he wanted to create and capture an audience…whether or not they felt the same way. He bellowed at that moment because Forge was genuinely impressed. In one fluid movement, he gently tugged a hardbound book out from its home where it lay deeply, tightly nestled in the shelf among countless neighboring books, and he flipped through the pages of the one nestled now warmly within his soft hands. But Forge moved the pages with great care and with great reverence. While not a book person in the very real sense that Luke was, Forge loved to learn. This was something he greatly respected this in others. Books, in Forge’s view, were often strewn about the paths of learning. Books and experiences both. And it was then, in that thought, as Forge tenderly fanned the pages of a particular book nestled protectively within his hands…a particular book, but it wasn’t the book so much that mattered. What mattered were the pages in that book that lay open before Forge’s eyes, the pages that quietly whispered the essense of Luke’s dreams as it revealed itself and climbed in excitedly scrawled ink up the vertical white space of the margins…it was then, that Forge connected some series of thoughts that had been circling within his mind…that he had been loosely bouncing off of even complete strangers such as the slight man of average build who seemed to have an idea (or was very good at pretending to have an idea) what Forge’s ideas were trying to describe. However, loosely so.
But the more immediate and lasting articulation for Forge had been found in Luke’s handwritten thoughts along the margins in his books. Gazing at the letters as they joined themselves together into words and shape and form and pictures and meaning, it was then that Forge could see the very real importance and significance of what he and Miles were doing.
NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter: 2,762; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 22,000