It's About Time: Bud, Beon, and the Bots

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Sunday, July 2, 2017—This is a scene from my novel, a decades-old perpetual work in progress.  Superficially sci-fi, it is based on a philosophy that life is immortal, everything has consciousness, and everything runs its course then evolves into something else.  Time and space are illusions within a “spacious present.”  Death is like a phase change--like water converting to steam--responding to temperature in water's unique way.  From this perspective, there is no end point, and the process is the goal.

 

The purpose of the novel is to make you smile.  Let me know if you want more.

 

CHAPTER 4

CAUSE AND EFFECT

 

The sun, shining through dingy, crocheted curtains, cast a mosaic of light and shadow across the worn rug. By the angle of the light and content of the shadows, Joe knew it was at least 11 AM.

His head throbbed with an intensity of 200 on a one-to-ten scale.  The light hurt his eyes, but he didn’t have the courage to move.  He remained curled stiff, eyes clenched shut, until his bladder forced him to attempt the impossible and get out of bed. 

            He moaned, then winced.  He eased to a slouching position at the edge of the bed, resting his aching forehead between tender hands.  Slowly, ever so slowly, he stood and staggered to the bathroom, carefully shielding his eyes from the light.  He downed two aspirin and then a third, to abort the stroke he must be having.  It was at least a stroke. Maybe an aneurysm had burst.  He stared into the mirror.  Images of his certain, agonizing, and imminent death spread like acrid black goo across his quivering brain.

“I’m dying,” he told his haggard face. It stared back at him—coldly critical, his appearance substandard today, even for him.  He and his reflection eyed each other.  He noted the dark eye sockets, red eyes, fuzzy vision, chin stubble, wrinkles, and greasy hair.  He didn’t smell too good, either.  Let the embalmer handle it, he decided.  That’s what he’s paid for. 

He trod a wobbly path through the living room to the kitchen, where the percolator was full of yesterday’s grounds.  His stomach wasn’t feeling much like coffee, but his head told him he was in caffeine withdrawal.  He cursed Marian for getting him so drunk that he forgot to prepare the coffee pot.  He imagined her boiling in a vat of coffee, begging for mercy.

             Suddenly, Beon’s face loomed across Joe’s inner screens.  The balding, round visage grinned like the Buddha, his eyes innocuous, his portent ominous.  Joe’s head pounded harder, and his knees felt weak.  An image of lab rats, pinned to boards and randomly shocked, blotted out Beon’s face.  Then, the lab rats became little Joes, with Beon delivering the shocks.

Joe listed the objective, measurable reasons for his agony.  Unendurable pain. Undetectable caffeine levels. Betrayal by his only friend.  Violation of sacred coffee ritual, and death without absolution.  Beon.  He threw fresh coffee in the pot, spilling half the grounds on the counter, creating yet another reason to feel miserable. 

Percolator finally started, Joe turned to face new trouble.  He opened the freezer and scowled at empty ice trays.  The little Joes in his head jumped and slumped.

He dragged his failing carcass to the couch. He imagined the pain in his head could power a small city, if he could figure out how to harness the energy.  Not today, though.  And tomorrow wasn’t looking too good, either. 

Beon’s face returned, and with it, thoughts of the healing machine.  Joe wondered if it could cure his headache.  “Yes,” said Beon’s image.

“Who asked you?”  Joe demanded, not realizing he spoke out loud.

“You did.”  Joe decided he was going crazy, too.  “DALE,” said the face.  “Diet-Associated Life Enhancer.”

Joe covered his ears, but it did no good.  Beon’s image swelled in his head, and dream pictures bombarded his brain, rocking his scientific foundations.  The throbbing and pounding got louder, clanging against his skull.  Joe closed his eyes and waited to die.  Through it all, Beon’s face smirked, as if he enjoyed Joe’s suffering. 

But death defied him, and Beon continued to grin.  Joe glanced around the room.  A single picture, hung askew, showed a listing clipper ship, an artifact left by the previous tenant.  George White left a few pieces of tired furniture, too, good enough for Joe.  His mailbox in the foyer downstairs still bore White’s name.  When neighbors called him “George,” Joe didn’t bother to correct them.  It was as good a name as “Joe.”

Now Joe wondered for the first time what happened to George White.  His couch may not look great, but it had personality.  It was warm, comfortable, inviting.  It was friendly.  It was taking care of him, helping him feel better, as a friend would do.

 “I have tangible evidence that you existed,” he told the former tenant, “even if we’ve never met.  I still get your mail.  Beon is only imaginary, but he’s torturing me, and I can’t get away from him.”

Joe’s eyes began to blur.  His stomach felt queasy.  Vague terrors swept over him, and sweat poured from his upper body.  He wiped his face with a dirty napkin and dropped it on the floor.  “This is only a hangover.  It clouds my perspective, makes me think crazy thoughts.  It was only a dream.  A machine like that is impossible, and Beon doesn’t exist.”

Comments

JJ Montagnier Added Jul 2, 2017 - 9:37am
This is really good, Katharine! It makes me want to start at Chapter 1 - to get context. I could "feel" the atmosphere of Joe's apartment and I could definitely relate to his hangover ;-) 
Katharine Otto Added Jul 2, 2017 - 10:04am
JJ, I'm so glad you're the first commentator.  And your approval is most appreciated.  I may serialize the novel, by starting with a few sample scenes.  I still haven't got the opening right.
 
BTW, I just re-read my review of "Open Veins of Latin America" on my WordPress site and thought of you. The review is long.  Author Galeano is a journalist from Uruguay.
JJ Montagnier Added Jul 2, 2017 - 10:36am
Katharine, it seems WB is very politics oriented in terms of discussions, so perhaps you could post an edited version of your review of "Open Veins of Latin America" here? It should generate some debate on colonialism & imperialism - could be interesting and we will get to read your review. 
JJ Montagnier Added Jul 2, 2017 - 10:47am
PS: Alternatively, could you link to your WP site, I'd like to read your review. 
Autumn Cote Added Jul 2, 2017 - 1:18pm
I would argue that articles regarding politics are comment inducing, whereas other types of articles don't lend themselves to comment activity.  Add to the fact I think a lot of people read the comments and not the articles, and you end up with a site that becomes politics oriented.  Let's put it this way, I didn't go out of my way to attract political writers to Writer Beat, it just worked out that way.  Many thanks for your participation with Writer Beat!
Katharine Otto Added Jul 2, 2017 - 4:05pm
Autumn, Thanks for answering my question.  I didn't know what the rules are, but I've posted a lot more on WordPress than here.  I'm happy to cross-link if it's okay.  I like it that Writer Beat requires commentary.  I like posting on other people's blogs and appreciate the feedback on mine, too.  Also, my posts are all over the board, not only politics, but philosophy, life with chickens, what Hurricane Matthew was like and other things.
 
I also e-mailed a bunch of people recommending both WordPress and Writer Beat.
 
JJ, Glad you want to check it out.  I've developed some stimulating international relationships in the blog world.
It's katharineotto.wordpress.com
 
JJ Montagnier Added Jul 2, 2017 - 4:59pm
Autumn, I would like to echo what Katharine said - thank you for letting us post and comment here! 
 
I would also not usually focus on politics on my own site, but I enjoy political discussions, so enjoy commenting here and when I post something it will probably have politics embedded in the content and context. 
Katharine Otto Added Jul 3, 2017 - 10:37am
JJ, I second that.  
The Burghal Hidage Added Jul 10, 2017 - 12:37pm
Good stuff Katherine. I am also on wordpress( think the address preceded my latest WB post)
 
I'll be sure to follow you on there too. This is a forum geared towards the essay, I think it is fair to say. When writing in that medium I tend to gravitate to political/social issues. My wordpress site includes several short stories, satire and the odd attempt at poetry.
 
I am also working on a novel, nearly finished. Have not yet figured out how I'll run with. Serialization is an option I've considered, but not certain I want to go that route.
Leroy Added Jul 10, 2017 - 1:29pm
Great story, Doctor.  More, please.
 
Works such as this and those of TBH and others is the reason I came here.  I comment a lot on politics because, well, it's there and I can't let nonsense stand.   But, it is works of art such of these that enhance our lives.  I am happy to see it returning.
Dino Manalis Added Jul 10, 2017 - 2:22pm
Congratulations!  Life goes on!
opher goodwin Added Jul 10, 2017 - 2:49pm
I like this Katharine. Good stuff. I write Sci-fi too.
Katharine Otto Added Jul 10, 2017 - 9:37pm
Hey, guys,
Thanks for the encouragement.  You've inspired me to dust the novel off and try again.  I'm a big believer in humor, very therapeutic.  It's easy to lose sight of that. Burghal, thanks for following on WP.  I will reciprocate. It's oh so nice to have companions on this fiction writing journey.  
 
Opher, I've found your site on WP, too. Glad to know you write sci-fi, but it doesn't surprise me.  I'm discovering many true scientists write it, and they are indeed prophetic.
 
Leroy, Thanks for calling my humble effort a "work of art."  FYI, this novel includes a lot of Oriental medicine philosophy, with the concept of "vitality" a synonym for qi.
 
Dino, I'm looking forward to reading a post from you. Last I checked, you hadn't posted anything of your own.
opher goodwin Added Jul 11, 2017 - 3:07pm
Cheers Katharine. Sci-fi is real.