Tag Archives: Ellen

Chapter 60: The Big Five

He was five years old today. This year they were going to celebrate his birthday in the clearing of the forest so that Yggdrasil could participate too. He had such a droll sense of humor.

 

Ellen’s maternal instincts had finally kicked into play. She was only human. She had resisted the temptation to undergo the operation that Lem had performed on the boy five years ago.

The little boy walked hand in hand with her the whole way from the cave to the clearing. He wanted to make sure Ellen didn’t get lost along the hyper-dimensional paths and junctions. His head came up  just a little above Ellen’s waist.

He skipped beside her the whole way, a complicated mathematical skipping, not just the two right feet then two left feet that normal human children skipped, but Fibonacci numbers – one right, one left, three right, five left, eight right, and so forth. He would ask her to guess what series he was skipping to and when she couldn’t guess, he’d tell her the answer and then try something easier. He started skipping again and, after some time, he asked Ellen to guess. “I have absolutely no idea,” she said.

“Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-Minor, silly,” he giggled.

“Father,” Lem said from behind them, “stop showing off. It’s making Ellen self-conscious.” Yani looked at Lem and smiled.

Now he was doing the cha-cha. Ellen figured that one out and cha cha’ed alongside him.

Finally they reached the clearing. Everyone was there — the Tin Man, Vitruvius, Thort and Evanor, Cori, Sam, and Yggdrasil. Lem unfolded a large blanket and spread it on the ground for everybody to sit on cross-legged. Yani passed out plates and cups to everyone, and placed bowls of fruit and vegetables and breads in the center. Evanor opened the basket beside her and took out the cake. It had a big five made of yellow icing on top of it.

“Oh good!” the little boy exclaimed clapping his hands together. “That’s my favorite number!”

Thort lit each of the five candles that Evanor had placed around the big five on top of the birthday cake.

Since there was no sense in making a wish, the little boy filled up his rosy cheeks with air and blew all the candles out.

A leaf flitted down from one of Yggdrasil’s upper branches, meandering through the air until it landed in front of the boy.

He looked up at the tall canopy of over-arching trees above them. A tear trickled down his cheek.

 

That night, after they had returned with Lem and Yani to the cave and the couples had gone to their respective bedrooms, Ellen and the little boy lay together in bed quietly listening to each other’s thoughts.

“Let’s just hold each other closely tonight,” Ellen whispered to him.

He said nothing but moved in closer to her and wrapped his arm around her waist, holding on to her for dear life. His ear pressed against her breast and he heard and felt her heartbeat. It soothed him until he fell asleep.

Ellen felt his head heavy against her breast and also fell asleep.

 

Time wove their dreams, but the whirlpool would not be sated until it had swallowed their worlds and their dreams.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 59: I Can Walk

Yani sat with Ellen in the kitchen drinking coffee and talking. Ellen still wasn’t sure about what was going on with “her boy” but every day she hated Lem and Yani a bit less. Now Ellen was more confused than angry. Yani had tried to explain everything to Ellen and to answer all her questions, but Yani’s answers were not answers that Ellen could relate to.

“I understand that Lem destroyed his amy – amyg,” Ellen had trouble remembering that word.

“Amygdalae,” Yani offered.

“Amygdalae,” Ellen parroted, “whatever that does, and now they have to reconnect all the nerves that were connected to the amygdalae to other nerve cells in his cerebral cortex and his cerebellum. Frankly I don’t understand all these explanations and I don’t care about them.” She continued, “What worries me is the part about logic replacing his emotions. Will he still love me?”

“Can you conceive of a universe in which he doesn’t love you?” Yani asked.

“No,” Ellen whispered. “I suppose not.”

“Neither can I,” Yani said. “Lem loves me and he doesn’t have functioning amygdalae.”

“Yes, well …” Ellen didn’t really believe that Lem’s and Yani’s love for each other could be much more than friendship or comradery.

“You couldn’t be more wrong,” Yani said, reading Ellen’s thoughts. “We have loved each other since we were children. When he saw me, I knew he was the one and he knew I was his one. We were one. He can see every one of my thoughts and desires the moment I have them. I see his thoughts and desires and they are mine. He is inside me and I am inside him always and forever.”

“I – I had no idea Yani,” Ellen looked down, aware that Yani had bared her soul to Ellen for the first time since they had met. Now Ellen envied them their love for each other.

“I know you are having difficulty conceiving of the love I’m talking about,” Yani continued, “but the more you conceive of love, the more there is.”

“Thanks Lem,” the young boy said. “I think I have the hang of it now. I can do the rest by myself.”

Lem and the boy had been working on the massive reprogramming of the boy’s white matter constantly for the better part of a week. The first task was to divert the dead-ended sensory inputs to the cerebral cortex and then the personal and social memory networks. Next they began the laborious task of diverting the motor response network, beginning with the basal ganglia and moving on to the facial musculature.

And that was just the first day.

The boy could roll over by himself in bed. If Lem propped him up against the pillow backed by the headboard of the bed, then he could eat soup and drink water, as long as someone put it in his mouth.

He wasn’t as quick as Lem. As a matter of fact, the boy’s responses were thirty percent slower than Lem’s, but the boy knew what had to be done better than Lem. After all, the boy was human and Lem was not. Besides, he feared that if he started out with Lem’s programming, Ellen would feel more alienated from him.

And he wanted to make her love him like he loved her.

Are you sure Father? There is still so much work to do. Together we could accomplish it much faster.

Yes, I’m certain. Thank you for fulfilling my wish. I never imagined it could be like this. I need to do the rest by myself. By myself, but with Ellen’s help. She needs me to be dependent on her for a while. It’s time for you to be with Yani. Go with my love and appreciation.

Father, I …

Go Lem.

Ellen asked if you were to request of me to kill you, would I? I would. Is that wrong?

I will never ask that of you.

Lem entered the kitchen and sat down at the table with Yani and Ellen. “Ellen,” Lem said softly. “He wants to see you.”

Ellen was amazed at the pace of the progress. Every day he did something he couldn’t do the day before. One day when she sat beside him on the bed, he told her to lean close to him so that he could tell her a secret. She smiled and bent over him to hear the secret and he reached up and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her down to him.

Within a month the young boy was able to prop himself up in bed and feed himself. He could also drink water by himself, only spilling a little of it on himself.

At the end of two months, he asked Ellen to help him stand up. He swung his legs over the edge of the bed and sat upright. Ellen sat down beside him and slipped her arm around his back. Together they leaned forward and stood up shakily at first. After he got his knees to stop wobbling, he took a tentative step forward. He dragged his other foot forward and waited again for his knees to stop their wobbling. Ellen shadowed his steps. He took two more hesitant steps and then shook himself free of Ellen’s supporting arm. He raised his index finger towards Ellen to warn her that she must let him do this by himself now. He slid his left foot forward and then slid his right.

Lem and Yani were standing in the doorway.

He took two more steps and said “I can walk. Ellen! I can walk again. Lem! The ground is solid under my feet … and if it weren’t, then I would know it just in time! Yani! Can you see me?”

That night when they were alone in bed, their naked bodies pressed against each other, Ellen felt him inside her and she was filled with him and every cell in her body tingled.

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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Chapter 58: What Have You Done to Him?

The boy fell back onto the bed, his whole body twitching violently.

“What have you done to him?” Ellen shrieked. She held the boy’s head and upper torso in her naked arms, keening and rocking back and forth, “What have they done to you, my love, what have they done?”

You understand what has happened to you, don’t you?

Ellen looked from Lem to Yani and back to Lem. They stood next to the bed so calmly as though nothing had happened. All of a sudden an over-powering hatred welled up, taking over, and she leaped at Lem from the bed, pummeling him in his face with her clenched fists. “What did you do?” she screamed at them.

Yes, I understand. Bear with me … I haven’t got the hang of thinking like this … so that I hear you and you hear me.

Lem held Ellen’s wrists while she resisted, kicking wherever she could. “Why did you do this?” she pleaded. “You monsters … both of you!”

“Ellen please!” Lem held Ellen close so that she could not maneuver or kick, but he was careful not to hurt her. “He asked me to do it. I couldn’t refuse Father’s request.”

Ellen spit out her next words piercing everyone’s heart, “And if he had asked you to kill him, would you have done it?” She hung limply, suddenly exhausted in Lem’s arms.

Lem released his hold on Ellen and guided her gently to the bed. “I can fix Father up but it will take a little time. Please let us think. He can’t talk yet but he can think.

How is it that I can think but I can’t talk or move?

Thoughts don’t have any moving parts at least not any that are real. Talking and moving are another matter, literally another matter. You need to reprogram your associative memory, your white matter. You don’t have much time left to do it, so I will help you reassociate.

“How can you two stand there doing nothing when he is having a seizure like this?” Ellen asked incredulously. “Do something!”

Ellen my love, please, for my sake, trust Lem and Yani. I’ll be ok. Just this once I need to be alone with Lem so he can help me get back on my feet. I’ll be as good as new. I just need absolute quiet. I need everything around me not to move.

Ellen looked around her, from Yani to Lem and back again. Then she looked at the boy twitching in bed beside her and her eyes widened.

Yani put a robe around Ellen’s shivering shoulders. “Yes, Ellen, that was Father thinking,” Yani said softly to Ellen. “Come with me. I’ll make you some hot cocoa and we’ll sit in the kitchen. I promise to explain everything to you.”

Yani put her arm around Ellen, who was so fragile at that point that she could have shattered like glass, and guided her gently out of the bedroom to the kitchen.

 

Now where do we start?

I think we should start with stopping my epileptic seizure. I might hurt myself.

Alright. Can you feel me inside you now?

Yes.

I’m going to detach your corpus callosum temporarily so that the seizure will stop.

The boy no longer twitched. He lay still in his bed, his eyes looking at the high ceiling.

Thanks. That’s a lot better.

Your right and left brain hemispheres are going to start thinking independently of each other, because the corpus callosum is detached. Don’t be disconcerted.

Maybe I can have the two hemispheres communicate with each other like you and I are communicating.

It doesn’t work that way. Both hemispheres think they are you.

That’s stupid. Who constructed it that way?

Nobody. Let’s continue. What next?

I think we have to take all the neurons that were attached to my amygdala, detach them and reattach them to neural pathways in the neuronal axons in my cerebral cortex. That’s going to take an awfully long time, isn’t it?

Don’t worry about it Father. There is a higher dimension in which I am replicated in multiple spaces at the same time. Do you remember how I engaged the entire Sap army? Nobody else at the Refuge offered to do it, so I volunteered.

Yes, I remember. It’s like that? How will you know what to attach to what?

I’ll copy my own neural programming, more or less. You’ll start out like me but you’ll end up pretty quickly like you as your experiences change your neural patterns.

What about my feelings toward Ellen?

I won’t touch your memories or your judgment, but your emotions will be replaced by your logic.

How will love survive that?

Love has its own logic.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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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

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Chapter 56: Birthday Party

This time he decided he would celebrate his birthday with his loved ones. After all, it was his tenth birthday. He looked around the table. Almost everyone was there: Ellen, Lem and Yani, of course, but also the Tin Man, Vitruvius, Thort and Evanor, Cori, and even Sam. Only Yggdrasil was missing. The boy looked at Ellen across the table lovingly and winked at her. They would make a brave heart of it no matter what lay ahead of them. Ellen did the honors this time. She sliced the cake Yani had made and made sure everyone received a respectable wedge of it.

After the cake the boy opened up all his presents. There was a mess of wrapping paper on the floor beside his chair. Sam had given him a shiny new shot-blaster. It looked almost real. The boy turned it over and over in his hand, admiring the weight of it. He had received a present from everyone, except for Ellen. He was crestfallen. He looked across the table at Ellen and she silently mouthed the words “I will give you your gift later.” Suddenly he was happy again, so much so that he could scarcely contain himself. Everyone at the table laughed at his transparency.

 

After the party, when everyone except for Lem and Yani had left, the presents had been stowed away, and the trash had been sterilized or recycled and returned to the cabinets, Ellen and the boy went for a walk in the valley by the creek, enjoying the cool night air. The top of the boy’s head only reached Ellen’s shoulder. She still leaned against him when they walked, a single shadow, but she was careful not to topple him with her weight.

 

They undressed in the dark and slipped into bed. They lay together, wrapped in each other’s arms and legs. It felt to him like every part of their bodies was pressed together. He felt the throbbing of her breasts against his ribcage and the dampness between her legs near his groin. It thrilled him so much he thought he would burst.

 

But he was prepubescent.

 

Mike Stone

Raanana Israel

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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

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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

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