Tag Archives: boy

Chapter 57: I Can See

One morning after breakfast, the young boy joined Lem for a walk in the dappled orchards in the valley. Lem’s strides were rapid and long, and the boy had to double step and sometimes skip in order to keep up with him.

After some time they stopped at the creek meandering along their path and bent down on their knees to drink the cold refreshing water. Then they sat for a while with their backs propped against a couple of angular trees. Three warblers sang from the top branches.

Lem seemed preoccupied with his thoughts.

“Lem,” the boy broke the fragile silence.

“Yes, Father?” Lem responded.

“There’s one thing I’d really like to do before I reach the beginning of my time,” the boy spoke softly.

“What’s that Father?” Lem asked, knowing fully what his creator was going to ask.

“I’d like you to teach me how to see like you see,” the boy said.

“What do you mean?” Lem asked.

“What I mean,” the boy said, “is that I’d like to be able to see all the dimensions and structures of reality, not just the three dimensions that I can see now.”

“Why?” Lem asked.

“Would you ask a blind man why he would want to see?” the boy asked. “Because it’s there.”

“It’s not something you can learn to do,” Lem said. He knew his answer wasn’t an explanation that would satisfy his father. “It’s something you must unlearn. You don’t see because of the way you are programmed to think. You have to dismantle your beliefs, your assumptions.”

“What do you mean?” the boy asked.

“You see only three dimensions,” Lem explained, “because of your assumption that that’s all that exist in reality.”

“Can’t I just unassume that?” the boy asked.

“It’s not that easy,” Lem answered. “Every time you take another step you assume the ground underneath your feet is solid.”

“Isn’t it?” the boy asked.

“It may or it may not be,” Lem answered, “but you’d be unable to walk if you had to decide that for every step you take.”

“So how are you able to walk, and so quickly, I might add?” the boy wondered.

“My programming decides for me,” Lem answered.

The boy was quiet for a while, trying to absorb what Lem had told him.

“Does this have something to do with why I can’t read other people’s minds?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lem smiled uncharacteristically. “You assume that they think like you do.”

“What should I assume?” the boy asked.

“You shouldn’t assume that they think like you,” Lem said simply.

“How do I change my programming?” the boy asked after a few moments.

“You couldn’t do it yourself,” Lem explained. “Somebody would have to do it for you.”

“Do what?” the boy asked.

“Detach your amygdala,” Lem answered. “It’s the part of your brain’s limbic system that is responsible for the association of events with emotion. We evolved without a functioning amygdala.”

“Can I live without it?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know,” Lem answered.

 

Lem and his father rose to their feet and started walking back to the cave. When they reached the steps leading up to Lem’s row of caves, the boy asked him “Can you detach my amygdala?”

“Yes,” Lem answered.

“Will you have to cut open my head with a knife?” the boy asked.

“No,” Lem said, “nothing like that.”

“How would you do it?” he asked.

“I’d reach into your head and pinch it until it stopped functioning,” Lem said.

“Would this be one of those hyper-dimensional reaches?” he asked.

“Yes,” Lem said.

“I thought so,” the boy said.

They were almost at the entrance to the cave.

“Would I survive this operation?” the boy asked.

“I don’t know,” Lem answered.

“Do it,” the boy said decisively. “Just do it.”

Lem put his hand on the glass and they entered the cave. Yani and Ellen had just laid out lunch on the table.

 

That night Lem and Yani entered their father’s bedroom noiselessly. Ellen and the boy lay sprawled across the bed in each other’s arms, separately dreaming of each other. Lem reached across the bed through one of the upper dimensions into his father’s head and pinched his amygdala until it turned from blue to black. Lem pulled his hand out of his father’s head and listened to his breathing.

Is Father alright? Yani thought to Lem.

I think so, Lem thought back.

How do you know? she thought.

We’re still here, aren’t we? he thought.

Let’s sit with them awhile just to make sure.

Alright.

 

The next morning Ellen woke first. She propped herself up on her elbow over the young boy and kissed him gently on his lips. She was unaware of Lem and Yani sitting on the chairs beside the bed. The boy opened his eyes, slightly at first, and then he sat up wide-eyed.

 

I can see! he thought.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Advertisement

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

Chapter 54: Facing One’s Fears

The Tin Man was sitting rather awkwardly on a tree trunk between two unlikely looking bushes. “You took your time getting here.”

The boy squeezed Ellen’s hand tightly. “It took me awhile to face my fears.”

“You mean the Tree and me?” the Tin Man asked. “Why should you be afraid of us?”

“Because you both represent to me the parentheses of my rational existence, the ends of my ability to reason,” the boy answered, “the final absurdity that lays to waste everything I’ve labored to create.”

“Why? Just because we have a sense of humor?” a voice boomed from the tree top behind the Tin Man’s stump.

Ellen looked intently at the boy, wondering at the dislocation of his mind and body.

“You know what I mean,” the boy said quietly. “I created you all. There can be no misunderstanding among us.”

Yggdrasil tried to counter, “There are many races of creatures who misunderstand their creator.”

“But I am not a god,” the boy replied. “I’m just a person who populates his mind with the avatars of his needs and desires. There’s no room for misunderstanding.”

“What about the needs and desires of your avatars?” the Tin Man interjected, apparently pleased with himself.

“Well, I suppose so,” the boy allowed.

“And the avatars of your avatars?” Yggdrasil added. “Even your thoughts have thoughts. Hmmm … The point is that there will always be plenty room for misunderstanding, even in a world of your creation.”

“You’re not helping me,” the boy said morosely.

“I’m sorry,” Yggdrasil answered, “was I supposed to be helpful? I’m just a tree.”

The boy looked at Ellen, then at the Tin Man, and finally at the tree. “I …”

“Look here,” the Tin Man said kindly, “you can’t make a universe solely from rational components. Every rational point you see is surrounded by an infinity of irrational points. The entire structure of rationality is grounded in irrationality. You’ve said it yourself many times: all our proofs are based on axioms which you just have to believe. All one can do is to reduce the number of axioms to the barest minimum.”

“I suppose I haven’t done a very good job of that,” the boy looked down at the ground.

“But you have created characters who do exactly that,” the Tin Man answered. “That’s something, isn’t it?”

“That’s just it,” the boy said sadly. “What will happen to you all before I was born? I mean … after I cease to exist.” He looked at Ellen with tears streaming down his face.

 

Ellen found the parallel notches in the tree bark at the edge of the clearing. They walked up the path. She put her arm around his waist and drew into him so that they walked together as a single being.

They came to a second clearing. They walked around the clearing inspecting the trees closely, looking until they found the second set of double-notches on the tree. They followed the new path for some time until they came to a tree on their right with a third pair of notches beside a wall of branches with thorns. They turned to the left and walked down that path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them.

They came to another tree with parallel notches. After a few steps they could see the promontory of the cliff and the cave lights through a gap in the trees. The boy saw the first set of parallel notches he had made in one of the trees next to the gap. They walked out of the forest into the open night air.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels

Chapter 52: Birthday Party

It was Ellen’s fortieth birthday party. Yani made a three-layer chocolate cake with a happy face composed of slices of juicy prange on top. Lem composed his own face to look just like the prange face. At the head of the table sat a gangly thin teenage boy with the faintest shadow of a mustache over his sensitive mouth.

“Father, please do the honors,” Yani passed the knife to the boy so that he could slice the cake for everyone.

The boy sliced a piece of cake for Ellen and handed it to her. After all, she was the party girl. Then he sliced a piece for Lem and Yani. Finally, he cut a piece for himself. It was the largest piece of all, and everyone at the table laughed at that.

At forty Ellen had a few strands of white and grey in her thick black hair, and two or three almost imperceptible laugh lines at the corners of her eyes, but she was still a beauty. There was no question about that in anybody’s mind.

The boy and Ellen were the same height. He was much thinner, of course, but her body was still attractively packaged.

The boy had decided about four years ago that nobody should celebrate his birthdays. He just didn’t feel like celebrating them. Birthdays signified another step towards non-existence. It didn’t really matter whether you were going forwards or backwards in time. Maybe the reason Ellen chose to celebrate her birthdays and the boy didn’t was that he knew how much time he had left and she didn’t.

He hoped she’d live forever, somehow independent of his mind, until he thought about it rationally. None of his creations, none of the artifacts of his mind, would survive the cessation of his existence. All his creatures were rational. They all would know exactly how much time they’d have left. He wondered how they could all deal with the same fate so differently.

Ellen understood what was happening. She saw with her own eyes, day after day, night after night. Sometimes, though, she couldn’t help but look at him through other eyes. If only her family and friends could see her, Ellen, a forty-year old woman gallivanting around arm-in-arm with a sixteen year old boy, they’d tell her she’d lost her head and her dignity. They’d think differently, however, if they knew him the way she knew him. He might have looked like a boy but he had the depth of experience and wisdom of a seventy year old. Ellen knew she’d stay beside him to the bitter end. She hadn’t mentioned it to him but she had resolved years ago that she would even carry him in her womb if that would prolong his life for a few more months. Ellen couldn’t imagine life without him.

 

After they had finished the cake, the boy got up from the table, took Ellen’s hand, and told Lem and Yani not to wait up for them. Ellen and the boy walked out into the crisp night air, turned to their left, and walked up the path toward the strand of trees.

 

They reached a promontory overlooking the valley of shadow with dimly lit caves on the hillsides stretching away as far as their eyes cared to see.

The boy glanced to his left at the strand of nearby trees. There was a gap between the trees. He took a folding knife from his pocket, opened it up, and made two parallel notches on the bark of one of the trees bordering the gap. In the starlight he saw a pale path. They turned to walk toward it. The boy made two more parallel notches on a tree beside the path. The trees were dense and over-arching so that they could not see even a sliver of the night sky above them. They walked slowly along the path, hand in hand. Often they had to duck their heads to avoid the low hanging branches and out-reaching brambles.

They came to a wall of branches with thorns and discovered that the path turned to their right. He made another two notches on a tree at the turn. They followed the new path for some time until they came into a clearing lit palely by the weak starlight from above. The boy double-notched the tree at the entrance to the clearing.

There was a more-or-less flat boulder half sunk in the middle of the clearing. They sat down on it for a few moments just to catch their bearings.

“Where are we going?” Ellen asked the boy.

He put his arm around her, drawing her toward him, kissing her fragrant hair. “We are going to face my fears,” the boy said softly.

There was a sound, barely discernible, of unlubricated metal against unlubricated metal. He walked to the edge of the clearing and strained his ears to hear better, but he no longer heard it. Then he heard it again. They both heard it now: “Over here…”

There was a path at the edge of the clearing. He called out in a trembling voice barely audible, “Keep speaking so I can find you.” He double-notched the tree next to the path and Ellen rose to join him.

“Over here … over here … over here-errrrrr,” the disembodied voice continued through the darkness.

They saw a glint of metal in the weak starlight.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Stories and Novels