(Re)Creation

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My first breath was deep and sweet. It filled me with life and thoughts. I laid still on the ground breathing in and out. A Voice said, “Wake Up,” so I did. Bright sunlight filtered through the leaves of the tree I laid under.

Sun, leaves, tree. I had never heard these words yet I Knew them.

“Come,” the Voice said.

I stood and followed the Voice into a clearing. Animals of all types surrounded me. I was not afraid because I did not Know fear. An animal approached me and bowed its head.

“What Is It?” the Voice asked.

I reached out to touch the animal’s forehead. “Deer,” I said Naming the animal.

The deer raised its head and bounded away.

“Good,” the Voice said and I felt good and loved.

Animal after animal approached me and one by one I Named them until none were left. I laid down under a tree and breathed in and out. A squirrel ran down the tree and buried a nut. Nearby deer grazed in a meadow. Sparrows flittered from branch to branch overhead. A thought collected itself in my mind.

“What am I?” I asked the Voice.

The presence of the Voice grew greater. “You Are Me Made Flesh. I Merely Spoke The Sun, The Moon, The Stars, The Land, The Waters Above And Below, The Sky And All Animals That Walk Fly And Swim Into Being. But You Are Special. I Molded You And Shaped You From The Earth And I Breathed Life Into You.”

“Is that why I know Words?”

“Yes.”

I thought about this as the sun traveled across the sky. As the sun reached the boundary between sky and land, a new question formed itself. “Who am I?” I asked.

The Voice was pleased and happy. “You Are Yourself. Chose Your Name.”

I thought of all the words I Knew and selected one.

“I am Eve,” I said and it was Good.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

“What did she just say?”

“She said her name was Eve.”

“But Adam was the first man. How can there be an Eve before an Adam?”

“The game is programmed to adapt to the player’s gender identity. Its standard game design.”

“This isn’t a game. It’s supposed to be a recreation of The Holy Bible.”

“Well, regardless it’s unethical to override a user’s gender without their knowledge and since the ‘recreation’ includes memory blocks and no setup screen, remember you wanted the ‘recreation’ to start with no title screen, there’s no way to get consent.”

“So, what happens next? Adam is created from her rib?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not how the bible goes. Fix it.”

“I can’t without either loosening the memory blocks or adding a title screen.”

“The whole point is for people to experience the Garden of Eden and the Fall From Grace first hand. Wait, if she stays in the recreation will the serpent tempt her or Adam?”

“Adam. We found that in playthroughs with women only 40% would be tempted by the snake but 90% would be tempted by their in-game mate.”

“At least it’s always Adam and Eve.”

“Not always.”

“What?”

“Well, we can’t override the player’s sexual identity without consent either.”

“So, what happens if a gay man enters the recreation?”

“He would enter the game as Adam and eventually another Adam would be ‘created’ from his rib.”

“That’s blasphemy.”

“No, it’s ethical game design.”

Three Doors, One Choice

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Death was a shadowy figure, standing in front of three identical doors. “Choose,” they said.

“Am I dead?” I asked. Thick fog obscured the world beyond.

Death inclined their head ever so slightly, extended an arm towards the doors and said once more, “Choose.”

I paced in front of the doors. “Ok, so these doors lead to like different afterlifes, afterlives?, or rewards or punishments, right?” I stopped and held a hand up towards Death. “No, don’t answer that.” I resumed pacing. “They could also all lead to the same place as some sort of metaphor about humans not having free will.” I stopped again with both hands held up. “Don’t tell me.”

I turned to study the doors. All three were plain wooden doors with a regular door knob on the right. No locks of bolts. I looked closer at the patterns in the wood grain. Was that a face on the second door? Whose face, my fathers? No, he wasn’t dead, yet. But maybe this was happening outside linear time?

“Hey, do I have to chose now or can I think about it for a while?”

“Chose,” Death said again in their monotone reverberating voice.

“Can I glance through the doors first?”

Death leaned back as if considering my question. After a minute, they nodded. I heard three sets of clicking and clacking as the three doorknobs turned. The doors cracked open.

Behind the first door, I saw a living room. Pleasant music drifted out. Seated on the sofa was my grandmother knitting the sweater she hadn’t finished for me. On the coffee table, a spread of cookies, homemade, sat.

Behind the second door, I saw a street. People walked back and forth between street vendors and food trucks that lined the street. Others sat in the shade talking, laughing, or just resting contently. Distantly I could hear a band playing on a stage.

Behind the third door, I saw a black void. As a stared into it I began to see shapes without borders and hear sounds that bled into each other. It was empty of meaning but full of potential.

The doors closed. I turned to Death. “Thank you, for letting me see what was on the other side. I’m ready to choose now.” They said nothing.

I walked up to my choice, opened it, and stepped through.

Inspired by this writing prompt: https://deepwaterwritingprompts.tumblr.com/post/185891958305

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Ten Thoughts

I liked this episode a lot. It pulls the story threads together, has a couple of great action scenes, and ends the season off in a decent way.

As a season finale, it’s fine but if the series hadn’t been picked up for a second season and this had been the series finale it would not have been fine. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t binge through this series before the second season was announced because I would not have been happy with this ending.

But we’re getting a second season so I can abide the final five minutes of this episode knowing the story will continue.

Episode specific thoughts below the cut

Continue reading

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Nine Thoughts

Second to the last episode done. We’re in the final stretch with the ending in sight.

I feel all wound up for the finale. Overall I’ve really liked the series up to this point. It’s going to take a real stinker of an ending to change my mind.

I’m kind of surprised that this episode and the finale are 45 and 47 minutes long respectively. They are the shortest ones in the season where most episodes have hovered around the hour mark. I don’t feel like this episode was too short but it wouldn’t have hurt to expound on a few things.

Spoiler thoughts under the cut. Continue reading

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Eight Thoughts

I am massively late with this review but I am finishing the season soon.

Not a lot happened in this episode but some important backstory is revealed. I still really enjoyed it. The series is doing a good job of filling in a lot of the blanks the comic never did. We move closer to the apocalypse by a day. Two more episodes remain in the season.

Spoiler thoughts below the cut Continue reading

Black Mirror Season 5 Review

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The longer Black Mirror goes on the less it has to say about technology. Ideas from previous seasons are being recycled more and more. The show needs to move beyond “people use technology too much and that’s bad”.

Having said that, I still found these new episodes fun to watch. The

“Striking Tigers” Rating 2.5/5

Infidelity the episode. Except for the immersive VR this is a story that could be told with WOW or Everquest or even just Facebook. The new technology doesn’t create these behaviors it just enables it. You could tell this same story in 1910 with telephones. The cross-gender element was really underexplored along with the fact that they could have been any character but just choose the same ones each time.

“Striking Tigers” is one of the weakest episodes of the series. Only its actors save the uninspired plot from being unwatchable. Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II sell their friendship and romance incredibly.

“Smithereens” Rating 4.5/5

This is my favorite episode of the season. Set in present day, it is a dramatic thriller about addictive social media, big tech company overreach, and survivor guilt. There is an undercurrent of “social media bad” but the episode is more about unintended (and intended) effects of social media rather than a simple denouncement of such.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because while there are no major twists the story unfolds beat to beat rather nicely.

“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” Rating 3/5

“Virtual actors/singers and who controls the rights” to them is not a bad premise for an episode but the side plot of toy copies and the one superfan mudded the waters. I think “Waldo Moment” from season two did the premise better.

I was surprised a little bit by the episode’s plot. I was expecting the Ashley Too to malfunction and become malicious or manipulative. Unlike most other episodes with a copied consciousness, there isn’t a lot of handwringing about what to do with the copy and she is simply allowed to continue to exist.

This episode has a happy light-hearted ending and while it isn’t not my favorite episode it was the perfect way to end the season of what is normally a pretty depressing series. I’m not saying every season should end with a happy ending but it was nice to not feel soul crushed when going to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Overall season five is about average for Black Mirror. Some repeated premises, but good to excellent acting and with the exception of “Striking Vipers” solid stories.

 

 

How To Cook an Omelette (Alien Edition)

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Imagine you are an alien with a modest grasp of the English language. You have never been to Earth nor met any humans. You learned English from a straight translation of a dictionary. You enjoy reading human books even if you don’t fully understand some elements. One day you find a cookbook. The idea of eating real Earth food is enchanting. After much deliberation, you choose one of the simpler recipes; an omelette.

So, do you, an alien with a modest grasp of the English language, think you could cook an omelette? Let me answer for you: probably not but with a little help maybe.

We will ignore the difficulty in obtaining all the ingredients and the ambiguity of a recipe that calls for eggs. What kind of eggs? Fish eggs? Snake eggs? Dinosaur eggs? No, you won’t have to deal with that conundrum. Fresh chicken eggs will be provided along with the proper spices and fillings.

So, where does the difficulty in preparing an omelette come from? For starters is there air in your alien kitchen? If there is air, what is the air pressure? What is the temperature in your kitchen? Air pressure, temperature, and humidity can affect cooking times and ingredient stability. Even the small variations on Earth are enough to require conversion charts.

Air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch which means nothing to you. A pound is 0.4536 kilograms and a kilogram is … you don’t happen to have a Kibble balance do you and do you have an understanding of Plancks Constant? Can you measure the precise number of atoms in an object? You know what, forget about that nonsense. Here’s a barometer/thermometer combo. Pressure should be between 29.2 and 30.2; temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not that the environment is close enough to Earth’s you can begin. Your omelette recipe says to heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. How hot is “medium-high heat”? Some recipes, mostly baked dishes, will specify a temperature in Fahrenheit. Do you know how to calibrate a temperature measurement device in Fahrenheit? Don’t worry most humans don’t know how Fahrenheit is calibrated, let alone the temperature of medium-high heat, so we’ll allow you a human stove/oven powered by the latest in fusion batteries. I’ll even throw in a frying pan.

Now you’re ready to heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Wait, you do have measuring spoons right? No, well look at the inside front cover of the cookbook and you’ll see that one tablespoon is one-sixteenth of a cup or fifteen milliliters or half a fluid ounce. No measuring cups either huh?

Well, one fluid ounce is 29.5735 cubic centimeters. There are one hundred centimeters in a meter and one thousand meters in a kilometer. Light travels at 299792 kilometers per second. A second is … okay, I’m just going to give you a clock but you have to do the rest of the work.

At this point, you have a properly pressurized and heated kitchen with a working stove, frying pan, measuring utensils, and clock. I have one more gift for you; a set of cooking utensils(spatula, spoon, knife) and a plate.

Now you have everything you need to cook an omelette.

I’ve Seen the Endgame (no spoilers)

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I started today off very lazily. After drifting in and out of sleep for a couple of hours, I got up around 4 pm. (Note: I normally sleep between 6 am and 2 pm.) I put a small load of clothing to wash before heading to shower. After my shower, I set the clothes to dry and I started browsing tumblr and Facebook.

The day before I had checked online to see which showings of Endgame were sold out. Most of the early evening showings were but the later ones were still available. I didn’t want to go out to the theater so late at night and have to walk home at an even later time. I had figured that I would have to decide before 8 pm in order to have time to get to the theater and get in before I was forced into a side seat in the front.

Just before 6 pm, I received a phone call from work asking if I was okay. I replied that it was my day off, wasn’t it? Guess what, it wasn’t. I was given the option of not coming in because it was a fairly slow day and my position, jewelry counter, isn’t strictly essential. I decided to go in and recover what few hours I could. So I rushed about to change into work clothes and hurried to the bus stop. I just managed to catch the 6 pm bus.

After getting to work, I started thinking about going to see Endgame afterward. My store is in the mall which is right next to the theater. The latest showing was about an hour after we would be getting off work, giving me plenty of time to get a good seat. On the con side, I had not eaten before rushing off to work and there was nowhere besides the theater and their inflated prices to get a passable meal.

I flip-flopped several times over the course of a few hours until I committed to seeing the movie tonight. My plan was to fortify myself with a root beer and snickers bar from the break room vending machines.

As I rounded the corner of the mall I saw the theater parking was full and overflowing into nearby mall parking. I nearly walked straight home but I had committed myself to this course of action no matter how foolish (but harmless) it was. A line hugging the side of the theater again tested my resolve. Were these people in line to buy tickets? Was the line to an earlier showing this long? Once closer to the theater I saw the line was constrained by a pair of retractable queue poles and not nearly as long as I had feared.

After buying my ticket, I joined the line I had seen on my approach. Not long after the line was moved inside to the short maze next to the ticket taker station. A police officer walked from end to end informing people this was the line for the 11 pm 3D showing of Endgame. I was seeing the 11 pm 2D showing of Endgame. I inquired about the line for the 2D showing and was directed to a line that had at most twenty other people. My fears of getting a bad seat disappeared.

About thirty minutes into the movie I started to feel a headache beginning to wrap itself across my forehead. Watching a movie in a theater, in general, has a chance of triggering a headache in me but combined with not having eaten an actual meal since the day before it was almost a certainty. I used some simple relaxation and pain management skills to push the headache aside for most of the movie.

Even with a mild headache and an empty stomach, I quite enjoyed the movie. It’s not perfect but nothing could be. For better or worse the Infinity Stones Saga is over and I’m mostly content with the ending we have been given.

Rating 4/5

The Night Bus

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The first time I rode the Night Bus was an accident.

During the holidays we ended up getting out just a little later than usual and I missed the last bus of the night. The stop was well lit and I had some surprises in my purse so I was more annoyed about missing the bus than worried about being out there late at night. As I sent off a round of “Hey can anyone give me a ride home?” texts to my friends, another bus pulled up. I quickly mass texted “Never mind bus just got here”.

The regular city buses were white and blue with silver chrome trim. This bus was scarlet and teal with black chrome. The door slid open and I climbed the shallow stairs that seemed more like a short ladder. At the top of the stairs, I looked for the machine to swipe my transit card; there wasn’t one. I turned to the driver and showed them my card. The driver just pointed me to the seats. When I tried to tell the driver my stop, they reached up and tapped the “Pull Cord For Stop” sign. So I walked back to the seats.

The seats were comfortably padded bench seats with seatbelts draped over them from back to front. I sat in the third seat against the window. The door closed and the bus pulled smoothly away from the curb. The bus turned off the regular bus route at the next intersection. I was wondering if I had gotten on the wrong bus line when the world flipped.

The street lamp lit city was replaced by a noonday sun in the desert. My head whipped around to look out the other windows. On either side of the two-lane highway, the bus was now driving on, was desert. Behind the bus, the highway stretched straight toward the horizon. Ahead the highway curved to the right. I started to stand up and heard a sharp tapping. The driver was reaching up their arm stretched inhumanly long to tap the “Passengers Must Remain Seated While The Bus Is In Motion” sign.

I felt the gentle sideways push as the bus took the curve and the world flipped again. Smooth concrete replaced the sky and domed lights the sun. The two-lane highway was now eight lanes inside a tunnel. I scarcely had time to notice the multicolored cars sharing the tunnel with the bus before the tunnel turned to the left. The tunnel was replaced by a city at night but the bus did not speed through this landscape. It slowed and stopped at a bus stop.

The size of the buildings around the bus felt weird to my eyes like the sidewalk was too wide or the buildings too close. The bus stop shelter towered over the bus. A woman waited under it. She was almost as tall as the bus but had no problem entering the door. The woman walked to the seat opposite mine ducking her head only slightly though she was at least four feet taller than me. She sat easily somehow without cramming or contorting her body between the seats.

“Hi,” she said, her voice deep and resonate, with a smile.

I glanced away in embarrassment from staring at her. “Hi,” I replied.

“You have the cutest voice. Are you riding alone?” No one had called my voice cute since I gave up on voice training.

“Thanks, yeah I was just heading home from work.”

“You work?” She tilted her head to one side. “Wait, how old are you?” Her eyes narrowed as she examined me.

“I’m twenty-three. How old do I look?” The bus turned right and the world flipped. The road was now lined with giant green and blue mushrooms.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I forget people from little worlds ride the Night Bus too. I thought you were a child.” She chuckled. “I’m Nora.”

“I’m Yenna. Have you been on this bus before?”

“Sure plenty of times. Is this your first time?”

“Yeah, I missed my bus and then this one showed up. What is going on?” The bus turned right and the mushrooms vanished. Another tunnel, this one had clear walls allowing travelers to see into the ocean they drove under. Fish swam in multi-colored schools. A whale glided overhead.

“It’s the Night Bus. At least that’s what everyone calls it. I really don’t know much else.”

“How do I get home?” I asked.

“Just pull the cord for your stop,” Nora said pointing at the cord that ran the length of the bus just above head height.

“But how do I know when my stop is?”

“Your stop is whenever you pull the cord. The next turn will take the Night Bus there and you can get off.”

“I’m not stuck on an adventure through strange worlds?” Another right turn, this time onto a cliffside trail overlooking snow-capped mountains.

“No, of course not. It might be strange but the Night Bus is still a bus. It takes you where you want to go. I like to ride through a few turns before pulling the cord, to see something different. You haven’t been stuck on the bus for too long have you?”

“No, I got on a couple of worlds before you. If you hadn’t, I might have been stuck for a while.”

“You would have pulled the cord eventually and figured it out yourself.”

“Do you ride the Night Bus often?” I asked.

“Only when I work the closing shift. I used to take the regular bus but like you I missed my bus and the Night Bus showed up. I find it relaxing to see these other worlds. Plus it gets me home faster and cheaper.”

“How much does it cost? The driver wouldn’t take my transit card when I offered.” Right turn into another clear tunnel looking out at a barren gray landscape and black sky. In the distance, domes full of plants offered the only color.

“I don’t think driver understands money. They’ve never accepted or asked for money. The Night Bus is free as far as I know. Maybe we’re racking up debt that we’ll have for in the afterlife.”

“Maybe we’ll be fated to drive Night Buses of our own until someone else takes our place.” We laughed through the next world.

“This is nice. I’ve never had anyone to talk to about the Night Bus before,” Nora said.

“You’ve never brought anyone with you?”

“No it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing you just show people, you know?”

“Yeah, that makes sense. ‘Come ride a bus through alien worlds with me’ isn’t something you just spring on someone and you can’t talk about it without sounding delusional.”

“Yes, exactly. I wish I could stay longer but I really do need to get home.” She reached up and pulled the stop cord. We rode in silence as the bus made a left turn onto a street in a city. I recognized the scaled-up architecture from the stop she had gotten on the bus. She stood and began walking to the front of the bus. She stopped and turned back to me. “I’m off tomorrow but I might ride the bus if you wanted to talk more.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow I guess,” I said smiling at her.

She smiled back. “See you tomorrow.”

I watched her wave as the Night Bus pulled away from the curb. I waited for two more turns before pulling the stop cord myself. The Night Bus turned a corner and pulled up to the bus stop closest to my home. I smiled at the Bus Driver and thanked them as I got off. The Bus Driver smiled back; their mouth showing too many teeth that were too square. I tried not to think about what the driver was too hard as I hopped off the steps and onto terra firma.

The Night Bus’s doors closed and it drove off turning left at the intersection and disappearing. I walked the rest of the way to my home wondering what I should wear on my date tomorrow night.

This Used to be My Job

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At almost midnight I stand before Grandma Whitkin’s grave. Buried earlier today. Ideally, I would have done this right after her death but the family doesn’t understand things like this. So I waited until it was just me and her. Just like old times, when I knew her as Susan.

Susan was a healer. Like most healers, she built up a residue of death in her body. It’s not hard to cleanse and purge the necrotic energies but she died suddenly, without warning, without preparing herself. The first time I got close to her at the viewing I could feel it. She won’t rise tonight or tomorrow but someday she would.

I kneel and plunge my left arm up to my elbow into the loose mound of dirt over the grave. Freshly turned graveyard dirt is a powerful conductor letting me reach the necrotic energy easily. I begin pulling it strand by strand out of Susan. It coils in my arm; contained, compressed. I control my breathing as my flesh tingles and fizzes under the skin. When I die, I have special instructions on how to dispose of my arm so no one has to do this for me. This was my job. Ensuring the dead stayed dead.

Well, the dead used to stay dead when it was my job but there’s a reason people like me retire early. I feel a blockage and pull hard. It pops free and a surge of necrotic energy burns up my arm. Something gives, blood flows; I jerk my arm out of the dirt. A ragged tear across my palm drips. I squeeze my hand shut and back away from the grave. Did I pull out in time or … A faint thud comes from the ground followed by cracking wood and the dirt begins to shift.

It’s been too long or I’m just not strong enough to do it properly anymore. The result is the same. After a few minutes, Susan begins to claw herself out of the grave. I pull my revolver and put two in her skull and one in her heart.

I wrap my scarf, I really like this scarf, around my bleeding hand. I wait a while to see if Susan will have a second rising and to see if anyone called the cops about gunshots in the graveyard. It’s all quiet for thirty minutes so I make a phone call.

“Hey Johnny, it’s Denise. I need a clean up in Northside Memorial Park Cemetery.”

“Denise? I thought you were retired.”

“Special job. It went a little sideways. One corpse, buried earlier today.”

“Ok, I’ll be there in thirty with my people. Stay safe. Bye.”

“I’m trying. Bye.” And then it’s just me and Susan waiting in the graveyard like old times.