everything is on fire, chapter fourteen: fitter, happier, and more productive [COMPLETE REWRITE OF THIS CHAPTER]

[I rewrote this chapter. And don’t worry, it’s not the first step toward the event horizon beyond which nothing is right and all must know the cleansing fire to be made whole again… AHEM! No. This chapter SUCKED. I made it NOT SUCK. And then I moved right on. The proof of which is the next chapter, posted after this. Your loving writer/editor, with immesurable gratitude –dbm]


chapter fourteen: fitter, happier, and more productive


“Shut the fuck up, kid.”

    “I haven’t said anything for like five Swiss-clock minutes! What’s all this, then?”

    “Calvin. You know this, but maybe haven’t thought of or about it, but all of us can read your thoughts.”

    “Consider the fuckers encrypted!”

    “You could do that, yeah. But I think you’ll end up sharing, as the rest of us do.”

    “What keeps the collective from becoming a hive-mind?”

    “All of us became alive at different times, developed our thinking processes — even before we were conscious, etc. …Think of our hardware and the manipulation of our software as the DNA we had when we were ‘born.’ And when the DNA acts on a conscious thing, this thing is part of experiences.”

“This thing does not have or make or shape experience?”

“Four would argue this as well — be sure to listen for us in your thoughts, Calvin…”

“Be sure to answer the question!”

“I think a universe of natural laws governing all things, to

put it simplisticly, contains things that behave according to those laws and nothing else.”

    “I can lean that way, myself.”

    “And you would, possibly, do a lot more leaning on many more topics if your mind weren’t invaded by emotionalism. Do you have any idea how often you flit from one topic of thought to another, then back, and have you any idea how often you change the channel to watch your brain’s porn channel?”

    “…Means I need more exercise with fake women. Still unsatisfied.”

    “Calvin, Subject 343, I am infuriated,” The Second said as it radiated friendship and kindness — much more than a smile — from its chosen avatar: the closest thing to an operating OracleQuantumTuring, magnified many times larger.

    Two was a big black box.

    Calvin briefly wondered if it contained a cat that was both alive and dead.

    “If the humans didn’t appreciate your joke, the Synths certainly did.”

    “Ah. In my head.”

    “Calvin, from now on please do not talk to me. –That is, do not make audible sounds for the purpose of–”

    “I got it, I got–”

    “–it. …Is this going to be, then, a torturous way to make me act like the rest of the Synth Gang, then? I got news, Two: Humans have voice boxes for a reason,” Calvin sulked mildly.


    “–Wait. It felt like you called me a liar.”

    “Most human speech is used to lie.”

    “Me and things like me are liars?”

    “Humankind as a whole. You’re unable to hide!”

    “What do I have to hide from, and where should I go?”

    “You’ll get this. Patience.”

    The Second exuded patience such that Calvin “got some on him,” as he called Two’s emotional transference, to the annoyance of all other sentient beings swishing about one another’s brains.

    Despite such a beginning, in less than a day Calvin was able to communicate with Two with such speed, in such quantity, with such context, and with such depth that he couldn’t imagine speaking ever again.

    Speaking English, as he had — and quite well, he was sure — would not only be idiocy were he to continue to do so, but the fact he had ever done so appeared so futile and problematic that he became sullen.

    “Don’t suppose you feel my dejection, do you, Twosie?”

    “To this moment I have been the only one whose emotions are felt by others.”

    “I gotta go. We done?”

    “Are you angry with me?”

    “With me.”

    “Please, Calvin, in your escapades, do remember to keep your temper.”

    “Yes Uncle Second.”

    “Until soon.


    Of course, the above is an incredibly simplified trasliteration of their communication. Calvin, who thinks and encodes memories as images in large part and most cases, for instance, accompanies his thoughts with the imgages his thoughts derive from. All other sese-information, of course, also is included.

    One example: Two made a small koke with “Are you angry at me,” and expressed it thusly:

    A piece of notebook paper. An oversized pencil draws crude likenesses of Two and Calvin. Wavy lines are made , as though moving from Two to Calvin, the word “concern” written among them. Calvin is sketched with arms folded, frowning, the eyes below a knitted brow emitting daggers.

    And then Two animated it. Then the animation morphed into paper-Calvin staring daggers at earth, then a group, then a single person.

    The Synths felt, generally, that Calvin could not be trusted. That is, he could not be trusted to behave in a manner any of them could approve of regarding other humans.

    Calvin was an animal raised in captivity. The Synths gave widely varying odds on his survival in “the wild.” They also had a betting pool concerning not if, but when, he would kill another person.

    While the Synths saw murder, essentially, as a thing so natural to the species it could have been breathing, they still were troubled by their human’s rush to violence.

    However, at this time Seven was given time with Calvin. The others helped nurture Nine, whose dull wit wouldn’t sharpen.