Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.
– John Berger
JT Conway, Payload Commander, saluted me formally just prior to severing the tether that had anchored me to the space station. It starts as a drifting away but soon I’ll be herdling through– Wait. Herdling? That’s not right. Soon I’ll be hurdling through space. Shit. That would be like slow motion leaps over a series of small meteors coming at me. I’m like an interstellar track star. But the oxygen in my suit is malfunctioning. I’m struggling for air. A darkening vignette creeps in from the edges of my vision. The next meteor is there already. I’ve misjudged it. My front foot clears it by a few centimeters. My back foot catches and I begin to cartwheel. An already meaningless down switching places with up as starlight specks blur into celestial arcs. Rate of rotation increasing. A moment before I black out I think: Now. Now I am hurtling.
He was not really as rich as he pretended, and many of the artifacts about the living room were fakes. Each time he offered fruit to a visitor he took a calculated risk. …Someday, he thought, and not too far off, the fruit in the bowl would be real.
– Philip K. Dick, “The Unreconstructed M”
by the proximity and
quantity of strangers;
back by unwelcoming
pupils, bouncing off
in skins that don’t
hug, shake hands,
not lives of quiet
grazing in parallel
spiritual past chores
Near catastrophe looks a lot like the everyday. Were we privy to the infinite close-calls and lethal near-misses we might be paralyzed by fear. And so it was not until 2042 that we Earthlings discovered just how close we came to invasion. One that would have enslaved us to a most ruthless overseer. In hindsight, we can chuckle at our good fortune. While the larger data transmission is still being translated and analyzed, a couple recently deciphered work papers of reconnaissance agent WWK-2r shed some light…
[WWK-2r FIELD REPORT ^*… EARTH YEAR 2013…
All local leaders identified. Moderate mammalian intelligence levels. Substandard technologies and defenses. Previous recommendation to initiate planetary colonization rescinded. Hold orbit 5 rotations. Further study of alpha class species required.]
[WWK-2r FIELD REPORT ^’… EARTH YEAR 2013…
Previous hierarchy assessment modified: Bipedal species appears to be second in command. Subservient to class of beings made of metal and glass. Alpha beings use bipeds for transport, power supply, and breeding. Control maintained through simple system of light flashes and tonal variations. Denuded bipeds in rock biomes stop in mid action to pet, talk to, or power alphas. Massive resources directed to alpha breeding and custom fit electrical grid maintained for life of alphas. Alphas vary slightly in size. Rectilinear outline with scant depth. Appear to have no appendages. Bipeds serve as pack mules. Majority of bipedal wake cycle devoted to flat alphas. Symbiotic relationship unknown.]
Scientists at the International Googlex Labs report that held-orbit resulted in a meteor impact of commensurate size and destruction wiping out what many believe to be the only class A PKD-Recon ship ever to appear in our galaxy. Field reports were logged in ship’s data fields but transmission to the central unit never breached beyond our solar system as far as current diagnostics reveal.
I might have known better, nothing is what everybody wants, the world runs on that law. Personally, if I could, I would instigate Meat-Axe Day, and out of the goodness of my heart I would whack your head off with a couple of others. Every man should be allowed one day and a hatchet just to ease his heart.
– Djuna Barnes, Nightwood
I am eight. It is 6 days before Christmas. Night time, I think. My father returns from the hospital, wakes me to tell me my mother has died. My half-asleep response: “OK.” What is there to say? He hugs me. I hug back. The entire world, aside from my bed and father, has just been sucked into a blackhole. I wonder if a dandelion feels this way when yanked from the earth roots-and-all.
I had been warned. There were signs. I believed them. He told me she was sick and there was a chance “she might not make it.” I confessed to him I didn’t know how upset I’d be because you’re supposed to be upset when your mother might die. I wasn’t. I didn’t want her to die, I just didn’t feel like I’d miss her because she’d turned mean the last few months. The results of a second, failed kidney transplant: depression, impatience, anger. She kicked me once in the ass on our way in the house from the car. I was in the way, struggling with the metal garbage can and she was carrying heavy stuff. I knew I was supposed to feel upset or sad and I knew my feelings didn’t match.
My father told her this. That she was pushing me away. He wanted us to come together again. To be whole. So one of the last messages she got indirectly from me was that I wouldn’t miss her or didn’t love her. Perhaps that’s why I still can’t go to sleep when there’s an apology to be made, a peace to be negotiated.
A few years later, while my father was showering, I sat on the closed toilet and told him it didn’t seem like such a bad thing to die. Like maybe it was preferable to living. Why wait for the inevitable. I could see his blurred form through the frosted shower glass. He continued washing as he said God forbids it. My life was not mine to take. The response was either the surest example of faith I have ever experienced or the absolute limit of parental hubris. Things can be both, I suppose.
I’m still here. My mother still is not.