Concentricity … 22 – 27

Ch 22 ~ Layers upon Layers upon Layers upon Layers

Emily’s torso jerked.  What was it about Forge, she wondered.  Always pursuing the fantastical and drawing upon her particular talent to see if his notion of the fantastical was worth doing.  Even after he began doing it.  Kind of ass-backwards.  These “idea surveys” of his made a particular habit of turning her time dimensions upside down.  They — her sense of time and place and space — were outright whirling in a blender now and it was all that Emily could do to sort through the multitude of images that assaulted her senses as they whizzed in flashes before her mind’s eye.

Forge’s and Pat’s voices called in a commentary from a distance…”love.”  Emily held on tightly to the formica tabletop, her spirit holding tightly to the mousy redheaded good looking young man. 

Lifetimes melded and whirled. 

Suddenly, she saw Linda Mall, but Emily really wouldn’t know who she was were it not for her identifying doorplate outside of her office.  The recently altered alphabet soup that morphed into itself on the glass floor-to-ceiling door of Linda’s department suite came into view.  Then Emily watched as a woman entered into her sight.  It was the person whose name matched the office identifying doorplate.  Teetering heels confidently balanced a slender, tightly wrapped woman — tightly wrapped both emotionally and physically.  Her physical view communicated a determination to be in control, but what lay underneathe all of that tight wrapping was really just a breath below her outer surface and was easily undone.  Her form was about to burst through her seams — both emotionally and physically.  Not too long ago at one time her personality might not have burst through her seams.  Not too long ago her identity would have kept her personality fiercely groomed.  For Linda Mall, it was all about the brand, afterall.   That was then.  Now, this was no longer the case.  At least, not in this precise moment when she came into Emily’s view, not in this precise time dimension when Emily’s particular talent revealed Linda Mall to her. 

Narrowing in on her appearance, Emily glanced back again to what had caught her attention first:  the woman’s shoes as odd as that may seem.  Powerful, pointy, and quite deadly pointed shoes.  They were instruments of purpose.  They moved Linda Mall to and fro with an unbending attitude.  If she ever suffered an off day, her shoes never would.  Indeed, Linda Mall’s stilettos worked overtime in making sure that no one ever saw Linda Mall, Cheif Security Officer, sweat.  But if Linda Mall’s stilettos could speak at this moment, they would be screaming that they were drowning in sweat because Linda Mall was not only have an “off” day…she was completely outside of who she thought herself to be.

And someone else was inside of her, controlling her now.

Emily saw Linda Mall’s mind flash a blinding white light, then retreat back when a blanket of static smothered from sight her personal canvas of thought or purpose or her own very personal will.  She existed now, yes, but her identity was frozen in its stream.  And whoever had commandeered her sense of purpose had made sure to expose every path and interaction in Linda Mall’s life.  Those that had come before.  Those that had arrived in the present. 

…a deep dark determined yearning exploded forth from some source, a yearning grinded out an unshakable insistence to hijack the sense of identity of the future.   

The Door lurched to Little Miss Katie’s account on the latest, greatest social networking site.  A digital lurching erupted across her channel as signals surged within every post Little Miss Katie had ever expressed, within every post her every BFF or fangirl or fanboy had ever expressed or thought to express beyond what they intended to be merely silent lurkings.  Blinding white light flashed within their digital aura, drenching their digital DNA with a blanket of static that smothered from sight the personal canvas of their own uniquely personal thoughts.

Whoever had commandeered Linda Mall’s identity wielded an insidious touch.  At every point through the abductor’s travels in Linda Mall’s cognitive person, a wave of corruption erupted, a wave of corruption reprogrammed Linda’s internal circuitry, carving out the essence of her identity and imposing the abductor’s belief system completely onto hers.  A wave of corruption reprogrammed everyone throughout the digital channels, spreading like a virus that had rapidly begun to worm its way with a crushing and bludgeoning silence into the sphere of Linda Mall’s influence…but no doubt, Emily puased shaking internally, no doubt…more…  What would stop it from going further out?   Displayed in full view, Emily witnessed the immensity of what was an inexplicably and beautifully woven dazzling pattern that was the entirety of interconnection between Linda and those in her life…but even so very much more.  It extended into infinity connecting those in the lives of the “those” who were in Linda’s life, connecting into the “those” in the beyond.  And so on.  Infinity.  Entirety.  …Oh my god, Emily gasped.  What would stop the static from going further out, she choked on the wild question.  What would stop it from going into the very core of everything?  Into the entire world brain, spilling out and seeping into the very essence of the collective consciousness.

Intense were the muscle spasms that racked Emily’s body and convulsed her fibers into a series of hard flinches now.  She knew herself to be jumping out of her very skin right at this moment and well into the next several moments.  Blood pounded within her ears.  Breath pounded within her lungs.  And an eerie remembering rose up to the surface.

She had been physically shocked in this manner before, but she now realized why. 

She had heard of muscle membrane.

In a heated rush, Emily wished she had the powerful, pointy, and quite deadly pointed shoes on her feet.  Because she began sweating now.  A massive flop sweat that avalanched her nervous system without any hope of reprieve.   But the shoes wouldn’t give her the confidence she so desparately needed now.  She would have to find that somewhere else. 

What is happening, she gasped hoarsely into the deepest parts of her mind, she burrowed into the deepest parts of her heart and soul and wrapped tightly perfectly around the good looking redheaded young man.  And he held her perfectly in return.

Suddenly, then it was as if Linda Mall’s abductor had heard Emily from deep within.  Is every thought laid bare for him, she asked.  He sneered, having heard her ask without her even speaking.  Worse, nearly worse than the abductor becoming fully aware of Emily’s presence in this time and place dimension, even worse, nearly worse than that was the fact that Emily had seen him before.  And he had seen her.  But now not only her…now too Miles.  Now too everything. 

The entire planet lay bare to him this time and she knew it.  The entire planet was his oyster, yet he chose to focus now in her direction.  He turned his head under and he cast his eyes over an average-sized shoulder — his shoulder —  to deliver a hooded and ominous gaze directly into the center of her eyes — into the center of Emily’s pools.

Emily felt again the thought she had felt the first time she had seen that gaze.  Her emotional panick from their first time-travelled meeting washed completley over her being.  Emily experienced again the alarming awareness she had experienced the first time.  And all the while a cruel irony of a crystalizing thought played itself out again…thought itself out again just as she had thought it the first time.

Holding your breath was radically difficult, she now knew, when you felt deep within each molecule of your being that your thoughts and your entire thought process…was alive.  Thought as form.  Intention as presence.  Made manifest.

Her mind flew back to the first sighting of this slight man with the average build as he stalked in relentless intention over a body — over Pat’s body — laying quietly in a bed, barely aware with machinery plugged into her being.  Into her being.  Her mind’s eye, Emily’s mind eye, flew wildly into the air wildly in perfect unison with her own now stiletto’d intention, her own now determined goal to look closely…to see more clearly…to reveal the face…was that really Pat?  Had she been seeing Pat all along?  Was it really…could it be…oh my god…it was…it is…

Me…

She knew now.  This was so incredibly much more than a panicked unreasoned reaction, she shuddered inside now.  This was so incredibly very much more than a feeling, she confirmed to herself pushing hard and fast through her panick until she arrived at clarity.  She now knew who he was.  She now knew what he was doing when she hadn’t the first time she had seen him in that future sighting.  He intends to steal the world brain as his own.  This is his purpose.  As simple as this.

It was then that she blinked.  She stared directly into the hooded ominous glare delivered by the slight man.  She stepped forward, out from the corner where she watched the future unfold itself in this place from a shroud of semi-darkness.  She revealed her presence to him then just as he had revealed his intention to her now.  And she forcibly closed off her purpose from his reach.  He might try to take over the identity of the world.  He might try and he looked to be well on his way, she clenched her jaw and bit down hard into shock mixed with an unmovable resolve.  But he won’t do it without a fight.  He will never take over my identity, or the identities of those I love.  He couldn’t touch her here, in this particular place, in this particular dimension, through her particular talent.  He couldn’t touch her here, she knew now, that she was out of his reach in this place, in this future state.  But she also knew without kidding herself in the least that he intended to find Emily, she grimly knew this now.  He intended to find her, now that he had become fully aware somehow of her ability to jump dimensions.  She could read the truth in his face.  He can access the collective consciousness.  He had found a way there, she gasped silently through her eyes into his gaze.  She saw Linda Mall’s eyes suddenly flashing from the place where his eyes had been.  Emily frowned more deeply even while she held her breath in shock.  She stared.  He stared.  She saw Little Miss Katie’s eyes — the ones Emily had viewed on her Door — now on his face.  The eyes of the Work Order crew members one by one on his face.  The eyes of countless people on his face that she knew didn’t belong to him, she knew belonged to others, she knew had interacted with his starting point, with Linda.  The Chief Steward of some organization’s identity.  He willingly showed Emily.  He deliberately flaunted his capability before Emily.  He wanted her to know.  He can steal identities and entire memories.  But what he may or may not yet know…was something Emily firmly came to know all this time.  He can steal identities, yes.  But he can’t command the dimensions of time.  Yet.

He believes me to be the key.

Her eyes spilled out onto her cheeks and her mouth spilled out into the growing static that played itself out in the back of Pat’s eyeball, on the front of Pat’s brain.  She had switched from an episode of America Has Got To Be Kidding If It Thinks This is Talent onto The Linda Mall Channel, deep into discovery of who Linda Mall was, deep into the growing static that ballooned out and enveloped Linda Mall’s identifying DNA…a growing static that enlarged itself, spilling and spreading into the DNA of every person who was every captured on the 20 survellaiance cameras that lined every hallway of the organization in which Linda Mall served as the Chief Security Officer, the steward to the organization’s very brain.

A crushing silence gave rise on the charged electric static bubbles that infested the chain of DNA on which it coursed.  It spread relentlessly, uncontrollably into the very fiber of everyone Linda has every known.  It spread ominously, uncontrollably beyond her.  A crushing silence that screamed:  I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM…A B-SQUARED  I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM… 

I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM… 

I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM… 

I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM… I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW WHO I AM… 

Everywhere from every channel from all the identies that he had already stolen, they broadcasted this message over and over and over again in perfect unison, slicing through the global airwaves, resounding into perpetuity.  Again and again and again.  Gazillions in lockstep, speaking one language but not hearing each other.  Gazillions broadcasting one message again and again and again and again.  Gazillions living, breathing, being, extending the hyper me-ism of A B-Squared, of group think, of Big Brother.

“…When a person walks, lifting and dropping each foot in turn, he or she produces a slight sideways force.  If hundreds of people are walking in a confined space, and some happen to walk in step, they can generate enough lateral momentum to move a footbridge — just a little.  Once the footway starts swaying, however subtly, more and more predestrians adjust their gait to get comfortable, stepping to and fro in synch.  As a positive-feedback loop develops between the bridge’s swing and the pedestrian’s stride, the sideways forces can increase dramatically and the bridge can lurch violently.  The investigating engineers termed this process ’synchronous lateral excitation’ and came up with a mathematical formula to describe it.  …where previously there were diverse views, now there is unanimity:  everybody’s moving in lockstep.  …all the elements that formed a virtuous circle to promote stability now will conspire to undermine it.”  from “Rational Irrationality – the real reason that capitalism is so crash-prone,” New Yorker magazine October 5 2009

 

NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter:  2,390; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 40,245

Ch 23 ~ The Enemy Within

“I know what is happening,” she blurted out, her eyes focusing into the present and looking over and through her surroundings in the Glenwood Cafe.  The place was still all abuzz with weekend patrons.  Pat zoomed up and down the not-too-expansive space between a motley assortment of tables and the narrowly unforgiving aisles where she set about busily refilling coffee and taking new orders.  And, Emily knew, surfing the web through the back of her eyeball.  The only difference in terms of knowledge was that Emily also knew Pat had no clue that the web was really surfing her.  It had personalized the experience to Pat’s particular mental DNA mapping.  Her thoughts were triggering the experience, the visuals, the viewpoints she was being fed and that she was sucking in like the very air that she breathed.  But in the end, it wasn’t really Pat’s thoughts.  Because in the end, it wasn’t really her unique mental DNA mapping that the web had designs on to use. 

Pat simply didn’t have a clue about what she simply but desparately didn’t know.  But what Pat simply but potentially devastatingly didn’t know was that she hadn’t a clue about the person — in the guise of the web — who was about to surf through her stream of consciousness.  Hell, the thought that someone could even do such a thing hadn’t even occurred to her.  Not on any level.  (How does one disguise oneself as the web and/or surf any part of the collective consciousness?)  This was not something she tended to even begin to remotely fantasize about.

“What,” Forge replied with hushed urgency.  “Em…what is it?”

“More than I could ever try to describe.  It’s all so incredibly complex and so incredibly unreal.  But very very very real,” she added, “And from the development that I’ve seen, from the turn that this took…I hate to tell you but I have to tell you.  It’s all so incredibly not good.”  She clipped that last thought out with some finality, then bore her eyes into Pat.  Rapidly then, as if deciding something and as if in need of pronouncing that something, she turned her eyes like lasers onto Forge and said, “You will never get that inside of my head.  Never.  Not in a million years.”

“It’s not all that bad,” he offered slowly, quietly.

“Yeah.  Probably not.  Not until someone figures out a way to hack into everyone’s brain.  But until that time, yeah, it’s probably not all that bad.  You’re probably right.”

Forge’s shoulders squared and his torso pushed itself upright now.  In point of fact, her words had the same effect as if she had rammed her hands into his arms and shoved his body back against the settee of their booth.   He slumped back into his seated position now.  As if winded, almost.  He had heard enough just then to know that he no longer needed to lean forward and climb into Emily’s mind to learn her views about  this new creation.   She could murmur it now.  She could murmur it from the other side of the world and Forge would still hear what she had said.   And what she had said was troublesome.

Somehow he hadn’t thought of this one, he frowned to himself.  He hadn’t quite thought this through, he frowned more deeply now.  In his rush to prove something, somehow he hadn’t thought through how this invention could be used…how it could be misused even abused.  And he still couldn’t describe the details of how that could be so, still he didn’t really have the full picture in his mind of how that could be so…but he knew that she did because she had been there to see it play itself out.  As he looked at Emily, he knew that she literally had had the full picture in her mind just moments before and he heard enough in her words and enough in her voice to know how deadly serious she was.

“Yeah,” she nodded her head grimly.  “It’s already begun, Forge,” she nearly whispered, pausing briefly with some punctuated trepidation before she continued her thought, trying her darnedest to sound casual. 

“Oh…and by the way…I wasn’t the only one in that space who was watching.  Don’t ask me how…but my presence was known.”

The expression on Forge’s face was one of such intense displeasure the likes of which Emily had never seen before that she barely recognized him.   She was grateful that she knew — at some level she knew — that his expression wasn’t directed towards her.  They had been friends too long for her not to know this.  This was a Forge variety of primal instinct.  This was his way of letting those around him know that he was going to protect the pack…and by whatever means necessary even if he still failed to grasp the where or what or how or even the why of the danger…or even when the danger was for that matter. 

“Oh, really,” his vocal chords stretched the sounds out low and dark until they sounded just about like a growl, brushing all the refined evaluation of who what where when why and how quite bluntly aside.  No doubt Emily was impressed with his fierceness, but still.  Not to sound ungrateful, but still she wasn’t exactly sure what a man with such soft hands could do in the face of a life and death situation.  Not that this was life or death.  It wasn’t she reminded herself.  But it was identity theft on a level never before achieved or never before imagined.  Who would she be if the slight man with the average build was able to usurp her identity.  Who would she be and what would she do. 

“Then…” Forge pushed the sounds out again, only pausing to tap his thumb with some force on the tabletop, “then let’s unbegin it, shall we?”   He didn’t wait for her to answer.  He wasn’t asking her viewpoint now.  He was deciding.  “And let’s remove that focus on you.”  His eyes locked onto hers with steely resolve.

“Now, my dear friend with a most fascinating and particular habit…some might even go as far as to say a most peculiar habit.  Tell me all that you know.  Tell me quickly.  I have the grave impression that time is of the essence.”

And so she did, and in the midst of the telling, Forge waved his hand toward the good looking young man with the mousy red hair and the laptop, indicating that he should join Emily and Forge at their booth.  And so he did, and Emily barely managed to keep recounting all that she had seen after somehow blushingly finding her footing again on the heels of the introductions, the warm smiles, the gentle hand shake that looked and felt more like a lingering caress, that said and felt so very much more than “hello”…that said and felt so very much more like “always.”  She had barely managed to continue sharing all that she had expeirenced in the different dimensions  but had the presence of mind — albeit at the very last nanosecond — to hold delicately private the description of their dancing together, she and Miles.  She believed they would still dance as one so beautifully one together.  She knew in her heart that they would.  And while she had seen it all unfold before her eyes and had felt her senses flood with joy and desire (and pulse a rush of blood to her outer most skin layer despite her best efforts to contain it) she preferred to allow those moments to unfold according to their own time, their own design. 

In the present, as she shared all that she knew of the slight man with the average build, both she and Miles Thomas watched a slow wave of recognition creep and then build across Forge’s expression when he realized he had spoken to this man…a mystic, he thought him to be.  Rather like an odd type of a odd little mystic who summoned around his person a crushingly quiet presence. 

But if Forge had his way, the three of them sitting around the formica tabletop in a booth at the Glenwood Cafe were about to broadcast that crushingly quiet presence into outer space.

NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter:  1,400; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 41,645

Ch 24 ~ Where in the Worlds…

“Well…”

Forge cleared his throat as if in an effort to disguise his thoughts and appear to be oblivious.  He spread his soft hands along the edge of the formica table that nestled itself snuggly between the booth benches, with Miles Thomas seated nearly electrically next to Emily, both of whom sat directly across from Forge…who was well aware of their electricity, the aura of which kept growing, surging and threatening (in a powerful yet lovely way) to overpower everything in its path.

Briefly, he looked up at the outer halo of their combined aura and was amazed immediately by the power of love.  Huey Lewis wasn’t kidding.  After a while, Forge cast his eyes down again onto the tabletop, else risk that he would continue to be completely distracted by their living breathing wordlessly unfolding romance…something everyone around them in the crowded Glenwood Cafe became intensely aware of just as much it seemed (if not even a bit more) than Emily and Miles were aware of themselves.  Afterall, they were in the thick of it, experiencing new levels new vistas together within this unspoken romance as those new levels, new vistas gently opened up to them.  They explored those new levels, new vistas in each other, together with each other without even realizing it.  Their instincts, their primal awareness, their collective consciousness had opened up, had entwined at some level.  It was just that palpable.

“Well,” Forge smiled slightly then continued as he firmly directed his mind back to what he now believed to be the most pressing issue at hand:  how to deal with this mystic, this person who Forge had met all that while back and who Forge hadn’t regarded as a particularly noteworthy early adopter of the embedded technology.  This mystic, this odd person of suffocating quietness was the one Forge hadn’t seen coming.  They say there’s always at least one.

“We stop him before he gets much further,” Forge breathed out through a thoroughly cleared throat.  “He’s actively inworld.  We need to find him there and from there…I don’t know the terms, but we need to — what do you call it — ‘cage’ him, trap him, purge him — whatever the term is that you use to remove his — what is the term — functionality?  To remove his ability to do what he’s doing, how about that,” Forge gave up.

Miles smiled thoughtfully.  Emily fidgeted nervously…quite distracted — albeit wildly pleasantly so — but the nearness of the redheaded good looking man with the laptop caused a party to burst out deep inside of her, frankly.  She was more than certain everyone knew it too.  But frankly, they both excelled at not listening one whit to Forge.

Then suddenly, Miles’s eyes widened, almost as if to indicate that he knew he needed to pay very close attention to Forge.  In that same moment, Emily latched onto a couple of words that she *thought* she had heard Forge say:  “…purge him…remove his — what is the term — functionality?…”  

It was from those couple of words that she blurted out:

“Are you suggesting…you don’t mean to imply…(she blinked and rolled her eyes under her closed lids somehow trying to cleanse her pupils from what they just had envisioned with those words) …that we…that we…kill this person?” she asked in such a muffled voice it was as if her chin and her mouth had taken her throat by the hand and had crawled down under the snug fabric of her turtleneck to hide.

“My dear,” he admonished.

“A reasonable question,” Miles offered.  Emily found herself reddening even more.

“I’m suggesting, not implying, that there has to be a way to unplug — for lack of a better description — his ability to hack into the idea of this global brain that you’ve introduced me to.”

“Introduced you to?  That you’ve facilitated.”

“That existed before the advent of any scientific advances,” Miles offered.  “Perhaps the ultimate high tech of all.  And it’s been around since the dawn of man.”

“In the form of the collective consciousness.  Indeed,” Forge agreed.

“Well, now it’s exposed.  And that’s all fine and well, but,” she paused “isn’t there a way for it to protect itself.”

“We’re talking in circles,” Forge offered.  “Or a series of circles.”

Indeed, mulled the slight woman with the napkin on which were drawn a series of concentric circles.

“Because we aren’t yet able to fully articulate a possible solution,” Miles agreed.

“But if the person you saw is able to do what he’s doing, Em,” Forge persisted.  “And you yourself are by some means doing what he’s doing…just on another pathway.”

“I’m not getting a warm and fuzzy feeling about where this may be going,” she muttered to herself but made certain to mutter loudly enough for Forge especially to hear.

He nodded grimly.  “I can appreciate that.  But it would seem we have no choice.”

“There’s always choice.  Even no choice is a choice.  So what exactly is it, Forge.  What does the choice look like?  What will it intend to do?”

“You have to go in, Em.”

“No.”

“No, precisely, in the sense that there’s no other way around it.  You must go in, Em.” 

“Why”

“Forge is suggesting that you can find the beginning of this, that you can undo whatever leap this person who you saw makes at whatever point in time that enables him to be able to transform the way in which he uses the embed such that it allows him to hack intention.”

“Somehow.  Yes.  Exactly.  Or so it would seem.  Close enough,” Forge muttered truly to himself.  He wasn’t entirely sure it made sense to suggest this, but he saw no other alternative.

“Do we even know what we’re talking about here?  I don’t mean to sound…abrupt.  Or rude even,” Emily said as quietly as possible but with some sense of urgency.  For the first time this day, she was the one who leaned forward across the tabletop, her intense attraction on every level to the redheaded good looking young man tingling around her chest and racing up and down her spinal chord into every nerve within her being.  She knew he was there immediately beside her and even now, as she moved forward and without benefit of sight, knew he was unmistakably there with her.  She hoped she wasn’t making an ass out of herself by sounding like a nay-sayer, but still she leaned forward in order to…implore, was the word she would use…to implore Forge to think this through more carefully than he typically tended to think through things when he found himself moved to a particular course of action.  When he found himself wanting to prove a point.

“We may have been lulled into a false sense of security by our own achievement,” Miles reflected gingerly.  “It wouldn’t make us bad people.  It wouldn’t be the first time this had ever happened to anyone in the history of the world.  Not hardly.”

Forge knitted his brows together for a time.  For such a long time, in fact, it had seemed that at least three or four weeks had passed.

…and that NaNoWriMo had come and gone, truth be told, with nearly 8,000 words remaining silent, waiting to be written, groused the slight woman as she smoothed and flattened the napkins that bore the concentric circles that she had drawn all that while ago.  Was it really four weeks ago?  She stared at the markings on the paper with tender interest, even though it was apparent that she had fretted over their shapes and connections, that she couldn’t quite make out the pattern of the whole story or how to compose it into that that might even remotely resemble the notion of a whole story.  Her mind wandered a bit as she thought about the artistic struggle, and at the same time of her mental wanderings, she viewed the graphical representation of her story outline. 

She had once seen it said somewhere (it had been said in writing, which is why she could confidently say that she had once seen it said), that the artist shouldn’t insert themselves into the story…that somehow when the artist did insert him or herself into the story, the story somehow became less-than…that the story somehow became nothing more serious than some exercise in playing-at, something not to be taken quite so seriously or with any kind of high regard or held in admiration by any kind of snobbish proclamation from those who so very often are more than quite prone to review what they, themselves, are more than quite prone to dare not ever think to try to actually do themselves.  And yet the slight woman could appreciate the general spirit of this sentiment…the one that suggested that the story should remain an identity separate and apart from the artist who created it.  At the same time, the slight woman could say without hesitation that such a creative world view made little sense to her…how could she ever separate herself from that which she created?  Its form comes from her mind, even if the characters then take the form (as she had heard that all artists should actually want them to do) to places she hadn’t intended or hadn’t even considered initially.  How could such a creative world view make sense, she wondered, when throughout the entire process an echoing played in the back of her mind…an echoing of words written lifetimes ago by the Bard…the echoing of the phrase “all the world’s a stage, and we merely players…”  Life as a creative endeavor.  Individuals as storyshapers whether or not they even realize they are immersed in the creative process.  How could such a limited creative world view hold now, most particularly now when the idea of story telling has been supplanted, disrupted – truly – by the notion of story sharing, by the notion of engaging others in the story, by the notion of the message as the medium as the messenger, all intertwined as critical components of story sharing.  In the midst of such a phenomenom, how does the artist then separate themselves out, deny themselves a role, deny themselves interaction in the piece that is born from their own minds and creative processes?  And if they don’t deny this for themselves, how would this form of story engagement be somehow less-than or playing at or not be regarded in the fullness that it is…something which, in the slight woman’s humble opinion, simply had to be regarded as an monumentally more textured and a more dimensional form of story sharing than probably existed ever before precisely because engagement between the reader, the creator, the characters — this blurred messy engagement where one morphs into the other — was central to the entire process of new media.  No longer a teacher-centric or lecture-centric form of story telling with a passive, perhaps asleep audience that one can only hope received the content or cared about the content.  No.  This now a fully engaged process of story building, story sharing with the audience as creator as character as process interacting with the content.  In fact building it.

How would

Such an audience

Take this story

Perhaps, at this particular juncture — a story that had idled for the past three to four weeks, the slight woman mused to herself

And after the three-four weeks of haitus, how would any audience member shape this story, interact with it and move it in whatever direction it called to be moved in, with nearly a charicature of an antogonist and a group of good looking beautifully spirited protagonists who sat in a welcoming warm restaurant while they explored the culture disruption — and all the elements of that disruption, good and bad, poorly articulated or well framed — of social media.  Of what art now means in a world where the message is the medium is the messenger.  Where Engagement is King.  How is the artist a dispassionate bystander in such a world?  And what does it mean to be truly intimate in such a world?

How would

such an audience

take and move this story forward

at this point?

And resolve or redefine what it means to be an individual in a global mind?

This wasn’t an attempt to write a story that condemns social media or technology.  In fact, quite the opposite.  This is a story that attempts to explore the revolution of how communications has been redefined.  This is a story that attempts to suggest how the creative process has been radically altered.  This is a story that attempts to paint a picture that hopefully might work to capture in one moment (albeit a static moment for something that appears to be continually evolving along a revolutionary track) intimacy and privacy just as those concepts and expressions are being radically redefined.  This is a story that attempts to explore how a sense of identity is being reshaped on a scale probably never before experienced and with a velocity that appears to be only growing exponentially.  Did Old Traditional Media try to tell us what to think and how to feel and how to be?  Is New Media really any different in that regard?  Does Google know our individual intentions better than we individually know them to be?  Does anyone or anything know them any better than we know them to be for ourselves? 

In a story about interactive communication, interactive technology, interactive story sharing, the slight woman with the concentric circles couldn’t help but muse through the dimensions.  Stories that lift up off of the pages even if they still show themselves with words on white background.  Stories now are multilayered.  How then, in such a creative age, would you the audience as artist as process as story, how would you move this story forward? 

The slight woman gazed directly into your eyes from across the WordPress screen.  She held the concentric circles up slightly and handed the pencil to you.  She likes pencils still, what can she say.  If you prefer some other way to capture thoughts, so be it, she mutters gently, before slowly drawing her eyes to the comment box, inviting you to pick up any thread of this story.

 

NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter:  2,385; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 44,070

 

Ch 25 ~ New Forms of Storytelling

“I can’t believe I’ve agreed to this,” she muttered, half-aware but nearly slipped fully into the comfortable bed of light and energy that Emily really should have recognized immediatley and should have recognized all too well because she skipped along this bed of light and energy every time she found herself in the grips of her particular habit.  It was within this bed that the collective consciousness lay, if the stream of consciousness was more like a snoozing being and less like a free flowing entity — or collections of entities…or something Emily couldn’t describe accurately, in actuality, because she didn’t know the fullness of it.  But the stream of consciousness would lay in this bed of light and energy in moments, Emily supposed, or in larger ways that Emily couldn’t comprehend…that no one could really comprehend…but perhaps in moments, the stream would settle itself into this bed of light and energy if it were ever to lay idle in one place, that is.  It just so happened that was exactly where Emily found herself in this particular moment.  Slipping into a warming bed of light and energy, laying idle in a room that looked for all its worth from what she could briefly tell to be some kind of hospital room maybe even an operating room, with machinery whizzing and whirling and registering and communicating all kinds of biological metrics and measures for people in coats with tablets and stethescopes curled around their necks like loosely wrapped scarfs worn on a brisk autumn day.

For more than an instant, far more than an instant, she shuddered in watch as the memory of this future scenario — seemingly occurring now, in this moment — unfurled itself again in her mind. 

A man stood over her.  A slight man of average build.  Seemingly inconsequential, but in actuality, she knew he was the very reason she found herself in this place. 

“Everything will be fine,” Forge assured her.  His voice pierced through the memory of the slight man with the average build in the darkened hospital room.  And in a blip that memory dissolved from her view, barely lingering in the scrapbook that was part of Emily’s mind.  She loosely rolled her head in the direction of Forge’s voice, bypassing the outline of Glenwood’s most successful entrepreneur with something to prove, and landing her vision upon, well, a true vision as far as Emily was concerned.

Miles smiled tenderly into her face.  He discreetly slipped his hands around hers.  His eyes held her eyes in quiet knowing, and the warmth of their light and energy cradled her into serenity and beyond.  The truth was the warmth of their light and energy seeped into her cells and stayed there, where it had always been.  Even when she opened her eyes again at last.  And when she did open her eyes again, she thought she was looking out into the world in the same instant that her eyes were looking quietly inward.  In fact, if you asked Emily she would say her eyes had never closed and on many levels, she would be right.  But on a medical level, in order for the operation to proceed, Emily’s eyes and mind and body would had have to have been tucked safely into the gentle bed of light and energy — which they had been, and where the central parts of herself remained (truth be told, had always been).  And now after what had been in actuality more than a few hours (pre-surigcal prep, surgery, recovery), Emily re-opened her eyes as if they had never been closed and saw in the front of her mind a flat screen that gave her entire being entrance to entire new worlds…ones that she hadn’t seen before but ones that had always been there.  

She sat upright in the passenger seat of a car now.  Miles manuveured the road expertly.  Emily could sense that he rather liked speed but chose this time to place a light foothold on the pedal for her sake.  They had left the hospital maybe just left, of that Emily was certain, although she couldn’t really recount the precise steps from the side of the bed where Miles tenderly held her hand and smiled into her eyes to the car where she was acutely aware of his presence and tried to regain the accounts of the day more fully.   She liked the part in the day when Miles had tenderly held her hand.  She admitted to herself that she hoped she could experience that again sometime very soon.  Isn’t it funny…despite having just had an operation, that was really where Emily’s mind dwelled — on that feeling of wanting her hand engulfed by his again — even as she asked questions to piece together a sense of context.

“Forge stayed behind?” she asked as if she had emerged from a moderate trance.  She was feeling a little heady still…but couldn’t honestly tell if it was from the procedure or from her feelings.

“Yes.  He said he wanted to check into a couple of things.  We’re to meet up with him later tonight.  Around dinner time, at the Glenwood Cafe.”  Miles spoke softly, perhaps anticipating her disorientation or perhaps for some other reason.  But either way, no doubt she was fumbling around with the controls at the back of her eyes, he was certain, trying to get accustomed to them.  And in fact, she was, albeit rather clumsily. 

“Where are we going then?” she asked casually somewhat brightly, hoping for an answer something along the lines of “dancing” or “a moonlit walk along the beach” (even though there wasn’t a beach to be found for hundreds of miles in any direction) or “cuddling.”  Or really anything at all as long as Miles wasn’t about to drop her off and leave.

He smiled in a gentlemanly way and said, “I thought I’d introduce you to a friend.  He has the same gizmo behind the eye as you do.”

“Do you have this…this…well…gizmo…well…whatever it is?”

“I do,” he confirmed.  “Just recently had the latest upgrade, which is what you had installed today.  More secure,” he answered before she had a chance to ask about the difference between the upgrade from what, say, Pat had installed behind her eye.  “Shouldn’t be as easy for anyone to be able to sense us…at least that’s the theory.”

She nodded her head, smiled slightly, remembering all too well why she finally agreed to have the gizmo placed behind her mind’s eye.  To stop the slight man of the average build.  (How they were going to stop him, she still hadn’t quite figured out.)  The one she had originally seen in the hospital room, a vision she had had not too long ago but a vision that she felt like she had had ages ago and the reality of which played itself out a bit differently than the way in which she had originally seen it, she couldn’t help but note to herself. 

She switched gears then, because she couldn’t quite reconcile the difference and because she couldn’t shake the feeling that even though Miles had the gizmo, as they were calling it, too, she had the sensation that he really didn’t need to have it.  That he could still travel these worlds even without a device embedded in the back of his eye.  Fantastical?  Maybe, she admitted even to herself, but she held firmly to the thought.  It was abundantly clear to her that the good looking redheaded young man driving the car so smoothly was something more than a genuis and on top of that possessed something more than a generous and loving heart.  That was all she needed to know, and so she didn’t ask anything more about a technology or a procedure that was on an entirely other plane, even though Miles could easily explain it to her and she felt confident could do so in a way that even she could understand.

Maybe after they caught this “bad guy” (however they were going to do that), she thought, she could ask Miles all these questions.  But for now, Emily had to think like Charlie’s Angels or Lara Croft, or Ripley, which was enough to make Emily laugh because she hadn’t the first clue about how to fend off an evil-doer, but that was exactly what she and Miles and, Emily supposed, Miles’s friend were setting off to do.  And with that thought of Miles’s friend, she remembered that she still didn’t know where they were headed to meet him.

“Where’s your friend again?”

“Right now?  Any number of places, at least one of which is Pages & Crumbs.  The other of which is most likely inworld.  Let’s see if we can find him en route,” Miles suggested. 

“We’re going inworld?  …right now?”

“Sure!”

“…um…while driving?”

“Why not?  They haven’t made it illegal yet.”

“And how could the police monitor it anyway,” she mumbled in a rather astonished way.

“Good point!” he replied with a smile, removed one hand from the steering wheel and with his free hand appeared to be navigating the wind.  “Okay, here’s what I want you to do.  Smile or furrow your brow…try a variety of things to activate the muscles around the eyes.  Wink if you like,” he said and then winked at her.  She had the distinct feeling it was a genuine wink to her and not an exercise in example.  Kind of like their eyes were holding hands, something that caused Emily’s face to turn flush red more than just a bit.  Instinctively and quite immediately, she smiled such a deeply penetrating smile she could feel her cells writhing in happiness.  And not only that, she suddenly, within that smile, could feel herself squeezing some gizmo from somewhere around the back of her eyeball, at first groping around there and then somehow naturally contracting and releasing what amounted to a complex symphony of muscle fibers so as to propel Emily’s entire body and mind inworld (while she sat strapped in the passenger seat of a moving vehicle, watching the pavement tumble past) through a blinding white flash where — after the light dissolved just enough to reveal depth and form and texture and sounds and surroundings — she suddenly found herself bouncing around the side of a giant castle that floated in the clouds.  

“Whaaaaaa…ttttt?  Whaaaaaaatttt?  Whattttttt??!  Whatttt!! What a totally wierd place to park a castle!!!  I can’t believe I agreed to do this!!” she shouted from the pit of her lungs and swallowed giant gulps of atomospheric mist as her body careened into the castle in the clouds and flipped somehow gracefully, even if most definitely chaotically, and thankfully (Emily thought) without any pain or harm whatsoever.  She knew because her hands busied themselves patting her body down as she sat and spun in the passenger seat despite the fact that only the sitting and not the spinning was generated in the atomic world but Emily spun anyway in both worlds and through the spinning rapidly took her own physical inventory, feeling no broken bones, no bleeding, no harm, no foul.  She witnessed the road as it peeled on by in the atomic world.  She witnessed a giant castle parked in the sky — as strange as Emily couldn’t help but think that was — in the digital world.  She witnessed these both, simultaneously.  Her body played havock catching up with itself in both worlds, but somehow miraculously without any apparent help from Emily, it did.  The mind is an amazing amazing amazing thing, she marveled, and then a flurry of redheadedness that warmed the mind of someone who was something far more than a genuis soared around her, swooping and lighting with impossible precision next to her.

Miles grinned widely. 

“You’re doing great, Emily.  Steer yourself a bit more…I know it’s not easy to harness from the back of the eye, but you’re doing really great.”  He squeezed her hand with his.  He said this in words…that he was squeezing her hand with his.  She saw his form, his wild red hair, his gentle smile, his handsome face, his luminous powerful presence.  She heard his voice, felt light and energy melded around brilliance and confidence, openness and wonder.  She saw his words:  he squeezed her hand with his.  And she felt his hand around hers — even before she felt his hand cradle hers as they rode in the car in the atomic world, even before that — she felt his being around hers even as she repeatedly bounced along the side of the castle in the sky.  Or was her heart really doing exuberant flips, she wondered quietly yet astonishingly to herself, gazing nearly wildly while at once serenely into his smile and then spinning side over side over front over back.

“Take control!” a voice yelled from someplace — yelling, not in a criticizing way, but in some kind of urgent way, as if in some kind of obvious way (as if everyone should somehow immediately know how to take control from the back of their eye).  The voice beckoned to Emily from her other side or one of the other sides that she found herself tumbling into and from somewhere above her, she thought instinctively but in all honesty Emily couldn’t really pinpoint the direction while she spun like she imagined a drunk would spin.  Only this extreme wobbling came along the edge of a cloud.  That brushed against the side of a castle.  Parked in the sky.  While her atomic tuckus was parked into the passenger seat of a car and images of both whirled and seeped into her mind’s eye. 

She blinked, or thought she did but she was too busy flailing about to be certain but knew only that her spinning had accelerated suddenly.  She grit her teeth realizing this would be a steep learning curve.

“Hey, Luke!  Ease up, buddy.  This is Emily’s first time.  She’s doing great.”

“Dude, dude!! She’s flipping all over the place!”

“Wheeeeee!” Miles laughed smiling into Emily’s eyes and with his hands holding her hands warmly and even more tightly.  (It was so…don’t ask in which world.  It was in both.  It was in all.  It was in theirs.  It was one.)  And Emily wrapped her hands around Miles’s hands, melding warmth and closeness beyond oneness.  “You’re doing great, Emily.  Don’t listen to Luke.  He’s a good guy but a bit excitable, shall we say, in here.  Luke, this is my friend, Emily — ” his voice wrapped around each character in her name and held it tenderly “– Emily, this is my friend Luke.

“Nice to meet you.  Now, take control already!” Luke yelled with some urgency, but still somehow playfully.

“Show off,” Miles chastised him.

“What exactly am I taking control of?!”  — she tried to yell — “and nice to meet you too!” — but her voice wobbled in her chest as she bounced repeatedly off of the castle.  It was as if an invisible hand was playing basketball, and Emily was the ball.  And the side of the castle in the sky was the court.  Where the hell was the hoop and the net, she wondered.

Luke nearly sighed with some exasperation.  She could just about sense his arms flapping down along the sides of his body as the exasperated sigh pushed forth from out of his lungs.  She could just about sense his eyeballs bugging out.  And then, when she looked slightly to the side of Miles who she had fixed her sights onto and who centered her focus and her insides no matter how wildly out of control she spun, she saw his friend Luke hovering to the side of Miles.  He flapped his arms down along the sides of his body.  His legs kicked softly forward and back, as if he were treading air, which really he actually was doing.  And really he actually was bugging his eyes out at Emily at the same time, in a “duh” kind of way.

“Your mind,” he said as if the word “mind” was the longest word in the history of the human language.  Then added, for effect and just because he was definitely being a showoff, “duh!”

“Can you be a bit more specific please?!”

“Listen to your heart,” Miles whispered in a manner that defied silence, and suddenly, she knew.  Emily couldn’t tell you how she did what she was about to do.  She could only tell you that it was perfectly natural and right, that it simply irrefutably had to be so.  She held the center of her focus deep within the pools of Miles’s eyes.  From there, her heart and mind willed all aspects of her being home…to that which she knew to be perfect and right, to be beautiful and undeniable.  She felt all aspects of her being and her body right themselves immediately then gently buffet her form from the wild spinning she had been doing and instead eased her being into a graceful glide upon the castle in the sky, into a serene walk and heavenly dance on the grand and ornately decorated terraces, into a long drink of the great expanse of the turrents and the manner in which they beckoned one to the stars, the stars to one.

She smiled, squeezing his hands, sensing his pleasure, knowing he sensed hers.  Emily was flying, and this was no dream.  She was flying in the skies, her hands and mind and heart wrapped one with the one who irrefutably had to be.  Because he was so utterly so wonderfully so, she whispered into her mind, she found tucked safely behind her mind’s eye, she saw gleaming so beautifully in the wholeness of her heart.

“There,” Miles said with a smile, “you’ve got it.”

“I most certainly do,” Emily said with a smile.  He could have sworn she winked with her voice, and in fact, she had.  And in fact he knew. 

“I most certainly do, too,” Miles winked with his voice.

Luke swooped in as close as he could without accidentally kicking his shoetips into either of their legs.  “Dude…I think Emily’s found control over her mind.  Now *this* is flying,” he said with quiet appreciation at Emily’s mastery over her movements.   

“Dude,” Emily laughed back.  “Thanks, and the thing is?  What does the notion of control *really* have to do with it?”

NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter:  3,030; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 48,100

Ch 26 ~ One World, Two Worlds, Three Worlds, Four…

Five worlds, six worlds, seven worlds…more.

She was having difficulty processing it all.  Even while she was smack dab in the middle of it all.

How on earth Miles drove down one of the busiest roads in Glenwood while flying in the air around a castle that hovered in the sky and while rapidly guiding her through a steep learning curve in this virtual world — and keeping her from jumping out of the passenger seat in the atomic world if for no other reason than the very startling fact that the experiences in both worlds were so utterly blurred together — Emily couldn’t say.   This was multitasking on an entirely different level.  She could only believe that Miles was able to be immersed fully in both worlds simultaneously because he brought his entire being to everything that he did.  There was no separation for him, with his sense of life whole and living within the universe of life… all around them on the inside, all around them on the outside.  And all around them through the fiber optic cables.  Somehow, Miles understood all of this on an intrinsic level.  This type of knowing was something in the DNA of his very fibers.  His fibers and the fiber optics, unique, individual and instinctively mingled.  Something he was born into knowing, a language that gave him understanding even if he didn’t have the words for it.  Something he trusted to be whole and complete even if it couldn’t be described because the wholeness of it all was too much to comprehend. 

But it did exist.  And it had existed and it would continue to exist.  Precisely because it is.

There was something much larger than the individual.  At the same time, there was something so very much in harmony with the individual and the whole of individuals.  There was something completely above and beyond the reach of “other people’s content.”  The very thing the slight man of the average build wanted to claim:  other people’s content. 

Emily scrunched her brow in thought and for the next several minutes completely forgot that she hovered several miles in the sky, with a foundation-less castle majestically surfing the clouds and Miles and Luke defying gravity along side her while also staring at her as if she might have been hit on the head or something.  Luke, with some curiosity mixed with apprehension; Miles, with unspoken but clearly broadcasted caring. 

“By stealing everyone’s identity, he wants claim to other people’s content, dont’ you see,” she said as if in a near trance.  Somehow the alien’s intention became even more clear to her.  She laughed softly for a moment.  That word.  “Intention.”  She had always been a firm believer in intention and still was, but given the circumstances unfolding around them, even Emily had to recognize that the concept of intention held special, ironic meaning now.  It wasn’t so much that the concept was redefined or that it was somehow now “bad.”  No, instead, it was precisely what some people of ill intent (ironically enough again) might do with it.  Somehow the slight man of the average build believed he could not only organize and anticipate intention, but outright take it.  Claim it.  Use it.  Abuse it.  Fashion it.  Snack on it.  Edit it.  Wipe it out entirely and push it back with thoughts of his choosing into the stream of consciousness to find its original “owner” (whatever the notion of “owner” might mean), going far far far beyond putting words into people’s mouth.  Far beyond that.  The slight man of average build had set out to put words into people’s thoughts, to hijack their thought process and their self-formulated intention only to forcefeed it with his own intention instead. 

“Other people’s content?  Dude.  I think she’s in shock,” Luke said with some amount of concern.

“He’s basically a walking talking living breathing search engine, who instead of providing a service to us is searching out every possible speck of energy about us.  Down to our behavior.  Down to our patterns.  Down to our motivations.  Right into our thoughts.”

Miles set his lips tightly together for a moment, thinking about what he was hearing.

“Exactly what you’re doing now…thinking,” she said softly and nodded her forehead delicately toward him.  “That’s what he wants to get.”

“She’s talking about the dude you mentioned?” Luke asked Miles but kept his eyes fixed on Emily.  She was a strange creature to Luke.  He stared as if trying to decide if he should believe her.

“Yeah,” Miles murmurred.

Luke nodded his head.  He swung his legs in a carefree motion as he hovered in the sky with his arms crossed casually in front of his torso and he thought on things.  And while he did, Emily watched in return.  He liked swinging his legs, Emily could tell.  He claimed his intention beautifully.

“And Emily here,” Luke said slowly after a beat.  “Emily here.  She’s the one who can travel time.  The one you mentioned to me just before logging in?”

“That would be correct,” Miles confirmed.

“I hate to, well, hurry this along,” she said suddenly “but we need to find the dude that Miles mentioned to you.”  What was at first her casual evaluation of Luke turned into a direct stare at him as if to vaporize what she took to be his apprehension about everything she was saying.  “Somehow we need to stop this guy, the alien,” she trailed off in thought.  “There must be a way.”

“Yeah, well you keep working on that one,” Luke surprised her by saying more rapidly now, albeit with a touch of grimness, “because you’re going to have to have that figured out alot sooner than you think.”

Miles spun his head abruptly to the side, where his eyes locked onto the eyes of his book-loving friend.  Even when in a serious frame of mind, Luke floated regally in the air, arms and legs whole body jostling and flowing with each turn of the delicate wind, perfectly anticipating the physical change — the tiny and sometimes not so tiny adjustments — , perfectly accommodating the physical demands — mind, body, spirit so perfectly in sync — and really so very much more, Miles knew.

“You know where the alien is,”  Miles said more than asked.

“Yep,” Luke confirmed.  “As it happens, I believe I do.”

“Where,” Miles and Emily asked simultaneously.

“Well, for starters, it turns out that the chief security officer is no stranger to all things inworld.”

“Is she here now?” Miles asked more than said.

Luke nodded his head, then added, “As luck or fate would have it, I saw her while I was flying around.  I actually ran right into her.  I mean…right…into her,” he emphasized.  Then paused.  Then added, “She’s not too terribly far away.”

Emily and Miles studied each other briefly before turning the attention back to Luke.  But in that brief visual exchange, they held an unspoken conversation on multiple levels.  That much was plain to see.  Even the conversation itself was apparent.  No extra security measures or stream of consciousness hacking needed to occur for anyone to know that Emily and Miles now looked at each other to see if either one of them was as perplexed as the other one was by what Luke was describing.  When they ultimately rejoined their eyes back onto Luke, their expressions urged him to say more. 

“Obviously, I didn’t know her at all before I ran into her.  Or before I heard all about an actual alien who turned out to be Big Brother…not that anyone could ever imagine that Big Brother was an actual person…of sorts…”

“…but…” Emily’s voice nudged Luke’s words forward.

“…well…even so.  I can tell that she is not at all herself.  It’s the best way I can put it.  If you ask me, it’s not her.  It’s him.”  He paused, then added, “Let’s go.  I’ll take you there.  See for yourself.”

What an odd turn of events that Luke would make that connection.  Yet for all appearances, he had and that was a good thing because time was increasingly of the essence.  All they had to do now was go with Luke, fly off to this new location, and see for themselves.  But for some reason, after they did, Emily had more than a hunch they would suddenly find themselves flying by the seat of their pants.  

Which — in a manner of speaking — was exactly what the three of them — Emily, Miles, and Luke — did then.  They flew, the three of them, with Miles clasping his hand a bit more firmly around Emily’s hand, then sliding it from her hand to lay around her torso just to steady her through the transport.  Within the blink of an eye (three blinks from three individuals to be precise), flight was less upon them than they were upon flight itself, and whoosh!! they had sailed in the air through what seemed to be a worm hole made of cascading light.  A worm hole that transported them to arrive within nanoseconds into the air just above the landmass of a new continent where they hovered quietly.  Only they weren’t the only ones hovering there.  Not terribly far away, not too terribly far at all, a statue of a woman hovered rather stiffly, her stiletto shoes controlled — nearly contorted — and flexed into points like sabers toward the gound, heels at the ready to gouge the surface with her authority.  The only problem was that while Linda Mall was, in fact, there…she really wasn’t in fact there.  At all.  In fact, she was really quite frozen there.  She was quite literally hollowed out and ghosted, point of fact.  

And he was there.  In plain sight.

Ch 27 ~ Giving Up the Ghost

An internal battle raged from the moment Emily, Miles, and Luke had transported into the new continent.  It was the same moment that their presence was sensed by the alien who had found his way not only to the Glenwood Cafe but to the mind hive of the internet.  In Glenwood, the alien would have been hard pressed to find the three who pursued him all in the same spot since they had been scattered at different tables or on the road or in some other establishment, most notably a bookstore.  Had he known he needed to pursue beyond the girl?  Not initially but now somehow yes.  And now, inworld, as fate or choice would have it, all the alien had to do was look up, and he saw them, the trilogy hovering above him. 

What happened next would be more thrilling if it had been a physical battle, with the trilogy somehow kicking the alien’s ass in some kind of fantastical All-Worlds Wrestling Event.   But that wasn’t how things played themselves out.  Instead what happened next was a quiet battle, engaged in on a much higher plane, on that ubiquitous “next level.”  Wherever or whatever that meant.  But wherever or whatever it was, that next level was not a cliche to Emily.  Nor was it one to Big Brother. 

It was, in fact, a very real place.

Miles held Emily tightly then.  He sensed where she travelled now.  He had observed her closely all that time sitting in the booth with his laptop at the Glenwood Cafe.  He had noticed that her eyes lifted themselves up and then her energy propelled itself inward, taking her outward again — Miles knew — to another dimension.  Not the atomic world.  Not inworld.  To some other time even if it was to the same place.  Even if it was to another place.  It was everyplace all around them, the Stream of Consciousness where Emily swam instinctively and in full sight, where the illusion of Time and Circumstance stripped and fell away.  Miles knew she was there now.  He watched by way of stolen glances at her atomic form seated in the passenger seat of the car where he saw her eyes lift themselves up.  And he felt by way of holding onto her digital form inworld where he observed her energy suddenly propel itself inward and then back outward again.  He knew she was on that next level…that other plane, the one that held everything together, the one that removed all boundaries.  All Miles could do was hold her steady in both worlds.  But the truth was, he could do even more than that.  Aside from Emily, only Miles had the capability of guaranteeing her return.  He may not have known that on a conscious level.  But if he were floating in the Stream, if he were surfing on his unspoken levels — levels unspoken even to the self — he would know this to be true.

And somewhere, not too terribly far away from his consciousness, somewhere not too terribly far at all, somewhere deep within him, filling his heart in fact, Miles had always known.  He held Emily tightly, as closely to him as his own skin.  Feeling their connection to each other growing and bonding ever more perfectly.  So very deeply in fact that if he listened very carefully — and he found himself mesmerized, compelled to listen incredibly deeply — he could hear new levels of knowing.  He could see new levels of the immensity.   He could see Emily just as clearly as she could see and feel and know him.

He saw Emily on the Stream, as clear as day flying and twirling with momentum, rising and undulating along waves.  She journeyed effortlessly along the stream of her identity.  It was the place where true authenticating really happened.  What was a name, even a birth name in the atomic world, but an invention?  What was any other way of manmade labelling or naming or organizing but creative invention.  The Stream was something altogether different.  It was the root of authentification — authentic authentification — that existed solely to recognize the one in the many, to recognize the whole of the one, together and individual.  Those parts in the Stream that bore Emily’s signature instantly recognized her.  Her identity, her consciousness, her existence glowed and giggled from her presence in the waves of everything.  It expanded out in happy particle streams to her and cascaded down and around her, connecting one to the other, binding joining never separated from the other.  Uniquely hers yet oh so very much woven into the complete tapestry of everyone and everything.  Uniquely individual but so very far, so impossibly far from alone or disconnected.  Everything was connected.  Everything was one.  Everyone was Everything.  Everyone was One and All. 

He gasped a soft deep breath, Miles did, at this realization, at this sight.  An incredibly comforting realization in one moment that bubbled up from his entirety.  And then in the next moment, the realization carried with it some alarm, because in that next moment, Miles saw the alien leaping across waves of consciousness in rapid pursuit of Emily.  His shadow cast itself heavily into the stream, dimming out light with darkness rippling through down and across the layers.  He absorbed all the energy, disconnected it all, overloaded it into passivity.  Whatever he touched,  it wasn’t the way of things.  Whatever he was doing, it was far more intrusive than anything could ever be:  swallowing intentions whole, categorizing the entire lives and motives of individuals, consuming it all as deeply as he could extend his dark reach and as deeply as he could spread his voracious appetite like a virus. 

He grimaced suddenly through his jaw, Miles did, and he leaned in facing what was unfolding before his very eyes.  He could see it all with such clarity in all worlds.  He lunged his body forward inworld as he held Emily in the air with him.  At the same time, Miles leaned his body forward abruptly in the car while his foot suddenly shoved at the accelerator, pummelling it into the floor of the vehicle. 

But something more happened on that other level.  Particle streams reached up and toward the alien.  When they connected, they were sucked out as if absorbed in the membranes of a sponge.  But what alarmed Miles was where those particle streams came from.  They flew up automatically to the alien from an identity Miles never would have imagined possible.  Seconds of shock felt like several minutes of upset that nearly erupted into years of shouts from deep within his throat, but Miles was too mortified to give an extended voice to his stunned silence.  Outraged comprehension fell rapidly into place now.  Miles wildly turned the speeding vehicle around, tires screeching in agony against the seismic lethargy as everything he thought he knew about Big Brother heaved and collapsed and dissolved violently. 

He gripped Emily’s hand and wrist tightly in the vehicle as he bore his weight through his leg and onto the accelerator.  And he drove as fast as he could.  Back in an anguished, nearly frantic rush.  Back to that unbelievable identity.  Back to the man who always seemed to have something to prove.

Was it being told what to think and feel and having all of our actions monitored that disquieted so.  Having the entirety of our spirit and soul categorized purely on the basis of a series of contextless digital actions, then labeled and used by some outside marketing agency with their proclamation of who we are?   Some would say we are who we are not who we say we are…but does that mean a marketing agency or anyone else like the alien who sought to hijack contextless digital tracks could actually discern the wholeness of our intention or the fullness of our beings?  Would they truly know who we are better than we ourselves would?  Or was it more unsettling to be endlessly pummelled with information and noise, the likes of which all but paralyzed us and jailed us into a state of passivity and uber egoism?   Brave new strange new world, still captivated by itself, marvelling at itself like babies laying engrossed in fascination with their own toes and feet and hands and fingers…not seeing anything much of the world around them.  Marvelling at these incredible creations — feet and hands — as if they had never been discovered by anyone anywhere else ever before. 

Emily flew along the Stream.  She felt the alien — the one with something to prove…these aliens always seem to have something to prove — in dark pursuit.  His silence crushed the dimensions around them and bore down rapidly upon her.  She could feel the blackness mounting fast behind her, the layers upon layers of particled consciousness stirred up in a strange new way.  Its bottomless depths sighing quietly.  He would never darken it completely, never completely consume it or snack on it for his own devices, she suddenly realized.  She heard all the ooodles and gaaggles of the immensity of the universes…billions of souls gazing joyfully in complete wonderment, innocently even at their navels and toes and hands.  She looked frantically along the stream with its vibrating energy and light billowing and pulsing independently and all at once collectively.  It flickered gently with a soft glow that somehow spoke to her, that somehow communicated clearly every unspoken word and dream, every known and pre-thought pre-intention…even if she sensed it more than fully knew it all.  She just knew it was there whether or not she was privvy to it.  Scanning the sometimes tubular sometimes morphing as a gigantic ocean sometimes glowing dewdrop of universes, she felt an energy reaching toward her, an energy of quiet undeniable connection, of eternal unspoken knowing.  With a gentleness and authenticity and nothing but a smile between them.  “Miles,” she uttered and felt him in the instant before that instant.  Her eyes locked onto his stream, wisps of particles glided up toward her, morphing in the outline of his brilliant soul…she had seen it in his smile.  She had been made privvy to it; they had given this to each other.  He had shared it with her just as she had with him.  She recognized him just as he had recognized her.  She saw him there.  She knew him.  Just as he did her.  She felt him in every part of her entirety and through all that was interwoven yet distinct.  Primal intimacy in the soup of everything, they bonded and melded as one in the stream of all.  And from there in this impenetrable place of unity together with him, from there she listened to him closely, as deeply as she ever had before.  She twirled along, diving slightly to skip her body along the surface of her own stream like a stone skipping along the ocean hurtling herself gracefully with a sheer intention that refused denial.  Then just as the alien lunged to savage her thoughts and wrestle her will away, to deny Emily her own self of self and replace it with his decree of who she should be, then just then her mind and soul, her entire being and entire heart moved faster, held stronger, reached new levels never before imagined, dreamed of, or described.  Just then, Emily reached down and gathered, touched and held their shared intention — the fullness of who she was and the fullness of who Miles was the fullness of who they were and would always be — within her own heart and soul.  Just then she vibrated.  Her form glowed beyond the boundaries of worlds and dimensions, inworld hovering above the continent where Miles held her tightly; seated in a passenger seat of a car that tore down a road and in which Miles squeezed her hand with his.  Light penetrated darkness, transforming shadows into glow, revealing hopes and dreams from secrets, revealing truth of a larger purpose from the depths of self absorption and mounting consumption.  Suddenly, toes and hands wiggled independently and with purpose, shielding off and breaking down and slamming a transparent yet impenetrable door on all attempts by the alien from a Black Hole to hack into the thought process, to steal identity and intention. 

And then suddenly the glow dissolved, transcending up to that higher plane, gently cradling the worlds in a new level of will.  The individual mind, Emily’s mind, Miles’s mind…the mind of each individual suddenly removed themselves from the alien’s reach.  Consciousness and subconsciousness had found a way to secure itself from a digital theft.  Intention could not and would not be wrestled away or hacked into.  Intention was much more formidable, of a far greater fullness than any map of digital behavior could ever hope to profile.

And then suddenly, Miles and Emily ran, flying on their feet down the street from the parked car through the crowded aisles of the Glenwood cafe to the table holding the wildly successful local entrepreneur.  They bullied their ways into Forge’s thought process as he dwelled on the power of the embed.  He was a slight man of average build.  In that moment, sitting in the booth, he sat with a quietness that crushed everything around him.  He sat in his darkest thoughts and chewed deeply over and over and over again whether or not to pursue the mind hacking aspect of the embed as an entrepreneurial venture. 

Forge glanced up with some annoyance mixed with some welcome distraction at Emily and Miles, a frown creasing his forehead, his eyes showing no surprise really to see them.  They had just met each other, Miles and Emily, and danced along the edges of a blossoming romance, Forge could tell.  Their connection was immediate and complete.  Forge marveled at the irony.  Exactly what he thought to do with technology, these two achieved in an instant with their hearts.

“I had this great idea…”  Forge’s voice trailed off as he read their expressions.  They sat across the table from him, studying him with concern, catching their breaths. 

“A great idea…” he said without much enthusiasm, light shifting slowly over his dark thoughts, the obsessive control freak of his wants giving way to a more enlightened awareness — maybe not a complete understanding of it because he hadn’t seen it all play itself out like Emily just did — but at least an intelligent guess of the reckless, destructive contortion that his own mind had made of the phrase “knowledge is power” 

“You saw…” he added, looking first at Emily, then realizing Miles somehow saw some of that future possibility too.  Pat whizzed past the table, fully engrossed in the chaos of her morning shift at the Glenwood Cafe.  Emily stared in Pat’s eyes almost as if seized with an affliction and didn’t relax until she realized that the embed behind Pat’s eye was all part of a possible future Emily had seen.

“Yes,” Miles said calmly.

“We did…have to say…it wasn’t the best side of you, Forge.”

He snickered at his long time friends.  Somehow he knew.  A piece of him knew.  More light shone in his mind, dissolving away far out of his reach the urge to try to control minds.  He felt himself more than quite a bit lighter and brighter in spirit.

“Yeah?  Well, what else do you have to say to me?”

They looked quietly at each other, smiled gently and as they looked then to their friend Forge, nodded their heads as if to punctuate their words and said, “Maybe the mind hacking’s not such a great idea afterall.”

“Hmmm,” Forge grinned in resignation.  His great idea had given him long pause afterall…long enough for Emily to use her particular talent and with Miles’s help somehow (“somehow” only in that how does one categorize and fully describe the power of love?) —  to see how it could all play itself out.  He knew.  Before he even felt the great idea dissolve away along the stream where his less-than-best-side had travelled in some future scenario, Forge knew.  Maybe not such a great idea of his afterall.

“Well, then,” he continued, not at all downbeat.  In fact remarkably upbeat.  “What then?”

NaNoWriMos total word count this chapter:  4,250; total word count todate (not including this notation) this chapter: 52,350

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