Entropy

Entropy

November 10, 2003

My name is Adam Solman. I was born July 4th, 2109 to a peaceful nuclear family. I had a normal childhood and maturation, and developed into a competent young man. It was not until the summer of my twentieth year that I truly began to live.

I was working research at a neuro-studies hospital when I met Madison. She was taking a tour at the labs, lagging behind her group leaders and classmates. She had a calm introspection about her, a peaceful intensity in her gaze. During my entire presentation I could not keep my eyes off her, this self-sufficient intelligent beauty.

This is not a story of boy meets girl, however. We had met like destiny, and the next ten years were a dream. We were married on my twenty-second birthday, and had our first son two years later. My career was steady and involving, and her studies were progressing well. Time was sometimes sparse and sometimes abounded, but through it all, the intensity of our friendship and love persisted and grew.

I can think of no other way to describe that kinship, than the intensity of her eyes staring into mine, knowing yet searching.

Time incremented, there was no denying it, and our skin weathered and sagged. Our first son married, then our daughters moved out. Life became quieter, and I could sense a flickering in the intense flame that had burned in our souls. It was complacency for defeat and the passing of all good things.

Yet this dying of the spirit, the very thought of it, was an infuriating itch under my skin. I would look hard at Madison every day, her eyes downcast from mine. Her fingers were folded in a wrinkled knot, her lips pursed into a prune.

How could we let time wear us down? Why must our spirits decay with our flesh? I could only envy fine wines and granite boulders and great novels: entities that grew bolder and stronger and smoother as time inched into their history. That relentless march into the night would not be my calling. My passion was too strong.

And on that evening, etched into my memory for all time, I knew what I must do.

The details are irrelevant. The science was flawed, the technology archaic. But there was a machine that my neuro studies research hospital was developing. It was a machine that could store memories and consciousness onto neural-networks and data disks. For me, it was a machine that would destroy time and preserve my passion.

Madison’s agreement with me was not surprising. Our mindsets coincided for many things. And I think when I told her, with a twisted smile on my face, she was reminded of the first day she met me, the nervous scientist. And with her gaze of wonder and wisdom she told me yes.

And so on September 22 of my eighty-fifth year, the autumn of my natural life, we stepped into a small white room, prepared to begin anew. She was wearing her finest eveningwear, her engagement ring still gleaming under the fluorescent lights. My white hair frizzled from the static electricity in the room, and her pale skin betrayed her once flawless features. Yet our smiles were persistent, and our eyes as wide as they had ever been. Madison brought forth a single red rose, holding it in her frail fingers. As I reached to accept it, there were tears in my eyes. “For you, my love,” she breathed into my ear. We kissed one final time, and then walked into our respective transferring cells, beneath the relentless beating lights. The machines whirred into motion.

I can only remember one thing about my second birth. As I was attached to hundreds of sensors and needles were drilled into my skull, the glowing image of a floating flame filled my mind. This was my passion for persistence manifested, a minimalist manifesto of continuation. I would not be silenced. I would not fade away and decay, and above all else, my kinship with Madison would never end. The flame flickered, and then burned steady and true.

Seventy-two hours later I awoke. At first, fear besieged me. I was encased in darkness. It was a sad hopeless fear, without any surge of adrenaline or pain, simply a cool coffin. Perhaps death had found me despite my valiant efforts.

“Adam, are you there?” came a call out of the blackness. It was not a voice I recognized, nor a format or language I knew. But it held a twinge of meaning, and I knew who had called me. At last I found my voice, projecting my emotions and ideas across the vast unresponsive abyss. “Madison! It’s me…I hear you.”

“Adam…” I was as speechless as she. The mere fact we were together, even in this place, this strange limbo between life and death, was astounding. But how was this better than the wrinkled decay of the flesh? I had to see her face as I knew it in my mind. I had to touch her lips and raise my finger up onto her cheekbone. And I had to stare into her eyes as they adjusted to mine, her inner pupils seeming to recede a thousand miles.

“I need to see you Madison…show me you are there!” Her response was in my mind instantly, like loving heat and reflex. “Open your eyes, my love. You’re in a new body. Open your eyes and see me.”

It took me a second, a brief moment to register the stimulus coming into my senses. It was very different from the eyesight of the human body, where a two-dimension image is processed to make environmental awareness. Instead, I was bombarded by billions of motes of light, in every direction, on every nerve of my surface. It was as if I was taking a bath in a pool of carbonation.

The curious sensation turned to wonder, however, as I distilled these impulses into cohesion, selectively listening to subsets of these star fields, like constellations. I was filled with imagery.

And then she was in front of me, and we were in a field of roses. No thorny bushes stuck into my skin as I walked forward to meet her. Her gaze never left my eyes.

“We’ve arrived,” she said, reaching out to me. Her touch was electric, twisting through my skin like music. Madison was as stunning as the day I met her, but her clothing danced in the cool breeze. “Nothing can stop us, or hinder us,” I said, suddenly allowing a gust of wind to lift me into the air. A luminous blue star shone down upon us, and we danced for hours.

Time was gone; we had defeated it not only through a lucky turn of science and technology, but from our unending passion for each other.

Lifetimes passed us by, long years where we created worlds to explore and imbibe. We would take on mythical forms and recreate fantasies of the past, and our childhood. I remember fondly making an ocean paradise with her, taking the form of two frolicking dolphins. We would spend days among the coral reefs, chasing each other through colorful underwater labyrinths. I would even rescue her from a viscous shark every now and then.

And at a whim we would return to our human bodies, and our field of roses, soft as green grass. I would fall into her arms, and would not leave for hours. The secrets of our innermost hearts were revealed. No fantasy was too strange, no emotion off limits or out of bounds. We would take turns painting he most brilliant sunsets, stretching over a thousand miles of pristine atmosphere. I would bring her to tears, and she would tickle me to furious laughter. Giddiness or anguish or temptation would be our themes for weeks, and we would live our dreams for days.

But our incorporeal utopia could not persist without certain precautions. A hundred years had passed since our transformation. Our children had long since died, and their offspring were creating their own lives; lives Madison and I were strangely indifferent to. It was if anything outside our joyous realm of fantasy was itself ethereal and nonmaterial.

Some money I had secured away before my second birth had come to a very ripe fruition. So I upgraded our batteries and read the latest newscasts. Connecting to the real world was such a distasteful activity in my mind, breaking the illusion of our status. But it was a necessity. Madison and I discussed world politics for about a week. It appeared greed and stupidity had driven the nationalistic factions into a militaristic fervor. War was immanent. I feared for our physical shells, the neural disks that housed our new minds.

Using the remainder of the money Madison and I had stored away, we decided to launch ourselves into orbit, amongst a vast field of spare parts and power sources. We would be set for at least a thousand years.

And so orbiting the blue globe, we were two chunks of metal, hopelessly in love with each other. Our stimulations grew more complex. We would memorize the ancient Greek tragedies, playing every role in our dreamlike theaters. The violent saga of Oedipus was a month-long extravaganza of set design and violent Bronze Age battles. And at the end, that staggering climax of anguish and despair, the culminated emotions of every player resounded through our consciousness. Madison would look at me, suddenly transformed into her human body. Her countenance unchanging, her eyes would stare me down, and I would see all her emotion and love reflected in them.

We would embrace in orgasmic epiphany for one hundred nights, floating over scenery as it danced across our vision, transforming to the rhythm of our beating hearts. And the glory of our passionate reality was unchallenged for centuries.

One frightful dawn, however, as I solemnly watched the rise of the sun from the dark side of the earth, a ghastly ball of light glowed on the surface. And then, the horrific chain reaction began, white bubbles of fusion popping all across the earth. Blinding haze became the clouds, hiding the roiling destruction below. Authentic sadness slowly filled me, a realization of Armageddon. Madison was beside me, a spinning box of metal and circuits and organic matter. We silently stared for days, together now, even to the ends of the earth.

The planet of our birth destroyed, we wondered together what lay ahead. Over the course of ten years, using makeshift maneuvering arms, we constructed rockets. Perhaps the distant stars would hold some final secret to our love. What was left for two souls but a great journey into the unknown?

So we set out together, an infinitesimal pace for a universe so vast, but a pace nonetheless. Both Madison and I delved into the boundaries of science, wondering what secrets had yet to be found. Every hundred years our propulsion technology grew. And we would mine asteroid belts for metal ore for decades.

I remember the day we reduced our operating hardware to mere molecules, instead bouncing our consciousness across displays of collected light. We soared like angles with no god, tracing the constellations and creating our own, magnificent arrays of stars complex enough to rival the great artists of the past.

Every five thousand years, when our power supplies began to falter, we would approach the nearest star and begin to bask in its rays. From a distance, we were two gleaming balls of light. But in the place between the emptiness of space and our own dreams, we were royalty, king and queen of a dreamscape land. Tales of bravery brought smiles to both of our lips. I became a massive dragon, Madison a courageous knight. Our battle would rage across the landscape, rending deep canyons in the earth, scorching acres of evergreens. With a furious cry of triumph, she would pierce my soft underbelly with her enchanted lance. My dying breath was molten magma, reducing her to heroic ash. We would then burst into giggles, lying in our field of roses, still sucking the lifeblood of a star in another world.

Time passed, became uncountable, and our memories blurred into a morass of background joyous radiation. If you relive the past that you have forgotten, did it really occur? Perhaps the faint twinge of deja vu is the only waypoint of truth, a finite mind attempting to cope with infinity of memory.

And so it was with us. Reliving every life ever lived or imagined, for a thousand million millennia. Devouring stars and dancing through the universe. We watched alien civilizations fall, watched as worlds much like our own earth self-destructed. We saw beings incapable of love, and saw them falter and perish under the erosion of time.

Still we persisted, eyes growing wide as we dodged a super nova together, or danced on the event horizon of a monstrous black hole. But we both knew it as we saw it. The universe was dying, growing cold. The stars drifted further apart, losing heat. Our gleeful dances waned, and for two thousand years we reflected on the tragedies that persisted through time. The infinite separation of billions of lovers across the universe. The destruction of families, of genocide, nuclear war.

And then we were in our field of roses, the sky a darker, sadder blue, the sun merely a bloody red tear above. Madison stood before me, but out of arms reach.

“Adam,” she said, her voice deeper than I remembered, somehow foreboding and darker. “It’s over for me. I can’t reach it in time.”

“What?” I said, rushing forward to grab her hands. “What are you talking about?”

She avoided my grasp like a phantom. “I’m too far away from the nearest star to recharge…I’ll run out of power nearly a light year away.”

“But…that’s impossible!” I cried out, a fearsome gale radiating out from my face, the roses flattened down into the ground.

But I knew it to be true. With rising dread I recalled how our destination star had been devoured by a black hole, the hot gasses falling into the maw like orange liquid magma.

“I can save you! I can share my power and we’ll make it, I know we can…Madison…” But she was backing farther away from me.

“No Adam.” She shook her head and turned her eyes downward. She broke her gaze, and I suddenly felt very alone. “It’s too late for me, Adam. Really, I have nothing to say. We’ve lived an eternity together,” she whispered.

Then she raised her pure eyes to me again, and tears were flowing freely. In her hands was a single rose, free of thorns and glowing maroon in the darkening light.

“I want you to go on Adam. I want you to explore with that marvelous mind of yours, to see everything that left out there.”

Strangely, I could not cry. Madison came forward, her gown flickering in the evening, the roses floating in soft breeze. Our final kiss lasted a thousand years, our two souls intertwining like twin flames. As the stars around grew dim, I could think of nothing greater than the love we shared, and where it had brought us.

And then she disappeared, leaving in my hands the solitary rose. A cold wind picked up. I was alone, Madison nothing more than a random collection of silicon molecules drifting aimlessly in the void.

I let the world around me fall to blackness. The roses had been hers, and she was no longer. I conserved power, coasting, watching the star ahead as it flickered.

Perhaps I would make it. Perhaps it would be a healthy star, and I could suck its lifeblood and recharge myself. Perhaps a fledgling world orbited that star, and would provide me with inspiration for a few thousand years.

Far more doubtful would be rising above an eternity of despair. Time had defeated my most valiant efforts. I gathered the blackness of the void to me like a blanket.

I am a speck of light yearning to reach a star, yet hoping in my deepest heart and mind, that we will never meet.

Disconnected

 

Disconnected

A Tale of Dismemberment
Tim Donlan
November 7, 2003

I got home at a half past six and placed my bag on the
kitchen table. I lifted out the flesh cutter by its top
handle, and quickly looked it over before setting it
down.

It was moderately heavy, about the size of a vacuum
cleaner. A long think power cord snaked out from the
smooth plastic side panel. I plugged it in and
immediately my apartment was filled with a low drone,
almost a groaning. The long blade at the front pulsed as
it vibrated. I shut the thing off for a second and sat
down with a sigh.

It really hadn’t been that hard to take. Working
nights at the hospital lab had its perks – free
samples of extra narcotics, self-exam software, cool toys
to check out. And this flesh cutter topped them all. I
wasn’t sure if it was a prototype or something
classified. Regardless, I’d be the first one to test
it.

I figured it was intended for large-scale surgery work,
amputations and the like. The blade was nearly two feet
long at full extension. The flesh cutter worked by
coating the blade with some sort of organic polymer,
which stretched across the wound like saran wrap. No
blood, no mess, just a perfectly clean laceration,
already beginning to heal.

Out of habit, I put my pinkie in my mouth, gnawing the
mole on my knuckle. That was the impetus for my scheme:
cut the damn mole off and save myself the doctor’s
appointment fees.

I rose and walked over to the table, eyeing warily the
machine like a sleeping beast. It’s internals;
wires, circuit boards and pipes, were barely covered by
the black plastic shell. I bit my lip with a smirk, moved
the blade down to three inches and flicked it on.

It was marvelously light in my hands, gyroscopes in the
handle balancing the quivering blade. I could see the
tubing that pumped the gooey polymer onto the blade, but
the edge itself was as fine as a razor.

Without any hesitation I swiped the knife across the mole
on my pinkie. I felt nothing; there was no resistance to
the knife. There was only a small plop as my extricated
mole dropped to the table.

Setting down the cutter, I examined my handiwork. The
side of my finger was smooth. No remnants of the growth
remained. Only a flat red dot gleamed dully where it had
been. I peered into it, intrigued, a window into my
flesh. The blood did not appear to coagulate; it
continued to flow past the tissue and through it.

Curious, I picked up the fallen piece of flesh on the
table. It quivered as I pinched it in my fingers, still
containing its own blood supply. This strange curiosity
filled me, a fascination with my own bodily self. On
impulse, I raised the quivering blade to the tip of my
left pinkie and cleanly cut it off.

Again, the pain I had anticipated did not come. There was
no resistance to the knife edge. All that occurred was a
coating on my flesh, and again a perfect cross-section of
my flesh. I could clearly see the tip of my bone, not
wholly white but a bit grayish. Vessels of blood ended
abruptly into the polymer coating. The layer of fat below
the skin was a yellow ring around my finger, quite a
contrast to the red tissue beneath.

I bent my finger and watches as the tendon arced through
tiny canals of flesh, muscles maneuvering to manipulate
it. I tapped on the clear polymer surface, registering
only a faint tingling on the inside, and regular touch
nearer the surface.

The perfectly spliced nerve endings were less dense in
the muscle tissue, which would explain the painless
process. But my fascination with my anatomy grew. This
machine was dizzyingly exciting, a marvel of medical
technology. Were there limits on what could be cut away?
What new windows could I create into my own flesh,
doorways to my innermost physical core?

With a wild smirk, I quickly swept the flesh cutter
across my left arm halfway between my elbow and wrist. My
entire arm tingled as my hand suddenly fell away. It
crashed against the corner of the table, the fingers
appearing to grab on, then falling to the floor.

My excitement was profound, yet I was torn on which end I
would examine first, my clean stump or my fallen
appendage. I twisted my left elbow towards my gaze as I
bent to grab the hand. It was quite heavy, yet still very
mobile.

The stump was an incredible sight. The fatty tissue
blended into the muscle of my forearm in a pinkish
gradient. The thick cable-like arteries themselves had
fatty linings, and I could see them expand and contract
with my pulse. The darker hued veins began to go dry near
the tips, but a multitude of capillaries still fed them,
tributaries to my cardial riverways. Radius and ulna
bones jutted at odd angles to each other. Lacking the
fixation point of my wrist, their tension pushed them
farther apart.

Of course the polymer coating was extremely strong and
durable, preventing the tissue from stretching,
preserving the integrity of my internals.

I had practically forgotten the dangling hand in my
grasp, but it suddenly felt heavy. I set it down on the
table, next to the body of the machine. On a whim I used
the flesh cutter to peel away the skin around the wrist.
I now had a smooth plastic bracelet, revealing the
intricate joints of the wrist and hand. Bending the base
of the hand, I was amazed to see the fingers jerk and
jump. Their respective tendons were firmly attached to
the polymer wall, ten in all, two for each finger.

I faintly smiled as I stood up again. The sun was
beginning to rise, shards of illumination slicing through
my window blinds.

The flesh cutter was still droning through the house, so
I shut it off for a second. Amazingly, the thing produced
no heat at all. I checked the polymer indicator. It still
had a good 95% left in its holding tanks. Good to go.

I grabbed the blade handle and flicked a release, making
the knife shoot out to full length. Now it was a sword in
my hands. With the power back on, the gleaming edge
became only a blur, a distortion of the air.

I stripped off my pants and with a quick strong swipe my
right leg tottered and fell. It twitched for a second,
nerves and muscles suddenly losing contact with the
spinal column and my brain. It was strangely freeing now,
balancing on one leg. Tingling sensations resounded
through my body where my appendages once were. It felt as
though they were still there, phantoms.

I was rapidly aware that my perceptions were growing
sharper; that each new breathed filled me with a power I’d
never known. The loss of my arm and leg had tremendously
reduced the miles of blood my heart had to pump,
lightened the load on my entire cardial system. My brain
was being filled with strongly oxygenated blood faster
than ever.

Then the impulse struck me again. What must my brave
heart look like, sitting in its ribcage, beating away
with no concept of time and no sign of tiring? Why must
it labor in the dark, when it could satiate my anatomical
curiosities?

I sliced my shirt in two with an easy flick of my wrist,
and watched as it fell from my shoulders. I stood in
front of the large dining room mirror, watched as the
skin on my chest rose and fell with each breath, marveled
at the rhythmic beating of my heart.

I had to be careful here, this was a delicate business.
Severing a major artery or punching a hole in a vesicle
would mean death. And I wasn’t here for that.

As though merely shaving the hair on my chest, I cut
through the pectoral muscles, removed the skin from my
sternum across my nipple to my armpit and navel. The
ribcage poked through the gleaming and wet remaining
muscle tissue, and I could see the surface of my heaving
lungs beneath.

This was where things got tricky. One by one, I sawed
through each rib, digging it out and removing it, encased
in its own plastic wrap coating. I identified the major
arteries snaking through the flesh. My mind was hot wired
into my task though, over oxygenated, over stimulated and
overexcited.

And then as the last rib was peeled away, there it was,
the workhorse of my check, my heart. With each deep
breath I could feel the blood moving through my arteries,
feel the surging of energy, impetus for creative impulse
and exploration.

With so much excess cut away, I was reducing myself to an
untainted form. Organs freed of their dark confines, the
bloody cavities and fatty tissue. The purity of having my
wonderful organic machines truly freed overwhelmed me.

I had come so far, but I had so much to go. I could just
imagine lying down, my backbone bisected down the center,
and my beautiful blue spinal cord arrayed in front of me.
Of course I’d have to move my liver and intestines
out of the way. Like a majestic painting, life in motion,
I would be displayed as an exhibit to myself, all encased
in a clear plastic bag of organic polymers.

Unexpectedly, something shifted within me. I saw it
briefly as my heart practically jumped out of my chest. I
lurched forward and darkness clouded my eyes. When I
rose, I was wracked with coughs, and I could not catch my
breath. The flesh in my chest had dramatically shifted;
my heart had sunk downward from its noble perch. My lungs
bulged out, pushing the beating organ downward.

Without the stability of my chest muscles and ribcage, it
was if these vital machines were being tossed about in a
plastic sack. They lacked placement, succumbing to
gravity, turning into a single mushy mass.

I blacked out again, and my hand must have slipped,
because suddenly I was without my remaining foot. I fell,
the room still spinning. The last view I had of my face
as I fell backwards, and away from the mirror, was a
twisted smirk, both of desperation and of triumph.

So now I lay here. I’m a legless invalid,
self-inflicted. I still hold the katana blade in my right
hand. My fingers are still whole, wrist still able and
strong and useful. My appendages are arrayed about me
like artwork, and I can only imagine with glee the horror
that will confront any would be rescuers. My heart still
beats, though faintly, underneath an overlapping liver
and twisted lungs. The machine drones on, filling the
apartment with an almost peaceful cacophony.

And now the sun rises, overwhelming the flimsy window
blinds with its luminescence. My flayed body glistens in
the sunlight, and the splendor is vast

Perhaps in time, when my introspection subsides, I’ll
gather the strength to contact the emergency services,
and they can attempt to make me whole again.