Life isn’t about...
...how fast you can run, or how high you climb, but how well you bounce.
A Seductive Story
The lesson begins on the day we’re born. We learn about cold versus warm, hungry versus satisfied, or being left all alone or held in the warmth of our mother’s embrace.
And so as the lesson continues; we learn that late in the afternoon the cheerful sun goes to sleep and leaves us in the dark. The dark is where we are left cold, scared and alone. Next we learn about plants, animals and people, how they taste and act and behave. Then one day the lesson gets real: we learn about death. We learn that pretty flowers wilt or get eaten by bugs, animals can get sick and then are no longer around. And finally we learn that the mother who provides the warm embrace will, some day, pass away, and that we will suffer the same fate.
And so as we learn more about the horror and beauty of the world, we discover things that are even worse: injustice, famine, pandemics and even genocide. Loss of hope.
And we know in our heart that those pretty flowers are not coming back, that our beloved dog is gone forever and whatever disease or dictator caused all the death is not going away; and even worse, we are powerless to fix the injustice, stop the dying or even punish the ruthless dictator.
So as we sit in a dark corner crying, we are told a story. Death isn’t final, there’s a better place where we go afterwards. We don’t have to say goodbye forever to our parents that we love so much, we get second chance. And those mean and evil dictators will be cast into eternal hellfire.
This is a seductive story. As a child we believe it. We surround ourselves with others who believe it. It makes us happier and helps us to sleep at night. And this is how the story took root and flourished.
We are the Glue
We are neither the body nor the brain. We are the glue that holds the neuroglia, platelets and assorted subchondral osseous tissues from oozing into the vacuous void of the universe, a pink mist of a translucent and truculent goo, just some humanoid cell droppings for an alien spacecraft to clean off his windscreen. I imagine the aliens would have a wash button on the dash that sprays a special windscreen cleaning solution to clean this unmentionable mixture off their shiny spacecraft windscreen.
The glue is not a physical or mental thing, it’s more of an attitude, like the childhood insult about 'I am rubber and you are glue'. Glue is the thing that bonds us together. And by bond, I don’t mean those financial instruments we use to invest that work counter to equities, or that secret agent who drinks things that are shaken and not stirred, I mean those things that help us to hold it all together. For when we choose to give up and no longer hold ourselves together, we might just dissolve into a truculent goo that drifts into space and plops onto the windscreen of a passing alien spaceship and nobody wants that to happen, at least I don’t.
Transmordian Phase Shift Spiders
It’s morning on the sector base. Everything is silent, save for the murmur of the helium compressor that comes from the aft quadrant of the craft. It needs to run all the time or things go terribly wrong, according to the engineers who know far more about the subject than me. They are undoubtedly asleep in their quarters since they trust that the truce will hold, but I do not. The skies are clear and the fourth moon is cresting the horizon, a perfect day for flying into battle regardless of the temporary pause of the interstellar conflict at hand. But suddenly a silvery web catches my eye and then I see it: a Transmordian phase shift spider has setup shop between the radar antenna and the laser canon pod. Already I can see that some petal bugs are stuck in the web and, as if on cue, the spider works it’s magic and becomes visible, emits an orange neon glow, then goes invisible again. And then there are two more I didn't notice at first, both fade into view, flash neon orange, then disappear. I learned as a child that phase shift spiders spin webs of titanium silk, a material prized for its beauty and durability; used to make everything from body armor to the most splendid evening gowns. And somehow these spiders evolved to survive and even thrive in the cold radiation of outer space. Life will find a way.
I asked the wind tower what sort of music she liked
She said, "Well as a matter of fact I happen to be a huge metal fan".
The Lambs of the Silence
FBI special agent Starling knocked on the door, another routine dead end to be sure. There was no answer so he rang the bell; this triggered a shrill electric bell deep in the dungeon where Catherine Martin lay helpless, deep inside an earthen hole. Jane Gumb considered her reflection in the mirror as she unlocked the door, surely it was some sort of zoning officer, here to complain about the lawn once again, but just in case, she laid her python on the stove and felt a wave of giddy energy wash over her. The python might get a bite today.
"FBI agent Starling," he said and flashed a badge at the door, "I'm looking for someone...a Ms. Jane Gumb"
This struck Gumb as funny, so she snickered quietly and unhooked the chain on the door.
"Jane moved out, but I think I have an address," she said, "can I offer you something...cold to drink?"
"No thanks," he said. There on the window a massive moth fluttered; a death's head moth. Starling felt his pulse quicken and the blood drain from his face. He unsnapped the holster of his duty weapon. Shit, I'm here alone and nobody knows where I am. His Smith & Wesson model 13 held only six rounds, but he was in the habit of carrying two dump pouches. This isn't enough ammo. It was her, he knew it.
It was a warm day on Valtor, a subtropical planet five light years from Earth. Zak Mebow, a kind-hearted teenage Valtorian, yawned and slouched as he sat on a bench in the city center looking at his phone. The savory aroma of fried aglar wings from a street vendor was making his stomach growl, yet his crypto-wallet was empty, just like his stomach. He sighed, combed back his antennae and looked up with his one central eye as the digital billboards all switched to display NEWS ALERT on giant color screens. ‘Giant’ is a relative term here since Valtorians are precisely 1/32nd the size of Earthlings.
As the theme music began, a female Valtorian with crisp hair and blue-green skin appeared on screen. Her central eye was blue, the same as Zak. The chyron scrolled the words Breaking News, in Valtorian across the screen.
"I’m Meko Nabote with our top story here on the Global News Network. The Earth mission was a success, so today we bring you a GNN exclusive: the first ever photo of an Earthling. In a related story, this Earthling saved the lives of our astronauts.
So here it is, the FIRST ever image of an Earthling…"
“Eeeee!” Zak exclaimed, in Valtorian, overwhelmed by the cuteness. Everyone knew that Earthlings were an ugly warlike tribe, but nobody had seen one, until now. Zak was surprised to learn that they were, in fact, a furry creature with expressive brown eyes and a prominent snout. To Zak they looked harmless, even playful.
Foolish legs flying
Past towering oaks we’d sprint, my dog when I was ten
foolish legs flying up muddy trails then.
Tethered to beast on leather leash, a hundred pounds of dog
just as fast as me, the fool.
An Irish Setter, mud and drool, we’d race to the pond and bog. At speed in his glory, russet fire in the wind.
One day he started sprinting for no reason, so I thought, but then I saw the squirrel, just asking to get caught.
And to the left, at speed he broke, the rodent fled to a nearby oak. I tried to stop, but I broke right, the leash stuck firm so I took flight.
And so physics did their bit,
and so the oak tree I did hit.
The rodent laughed as he scampered up, the flying boy and his earthbound pup.
So I lay dazed, yet nothing broke, the dog was barking up the oak.
I laughed at the squirrel, and he laughed back, at the flying boy oak tree attack.
So we walked home as it got dark, another day spent in the park.
A decade later, his legs turned weak, his dog days ended one Winter bleak.
I still remember our travails, of flying and crashing and other tales.
Welcome aboard Antara Six
Please take a moment to read this guide to your new home, Antara Six. We understand that you may feel anxious about the destruction of Earth and the great evacuation to the Antara fleet of spacecraft, but rest assured you are not alone. The space federation has spent many months perfecting the Antara Six and her sister ships, and in order to make your new life here both safe and enjoyable, we made this guide and present the four cardinal rules that we all must follow.
Rule number one, all passengers on Antara need to respect and follow the principles that have been designed to preserve harmony. The principles are simple and include common-sense ideas such as wearing only your assigned uniform, reporting to your work station on time and obeying the directives given by the security droids at all time.
Rule number two, in order to preserve harmony, the Antara will provide everything each passenger needs. So each passenger will be issued food which must be consumed in the dining areas, entertainment at the proscribed times, and each cabin will be supplied with soma-gas at the proscribed rest times so insomnia is never an issue.
Rule three, the communication device you have been issued is the latest touch screen with neuro feedback and dolby stereo sound. The content of the communication device will be tailored to your personal wants and needs, and the Antara medical and harmony preservation unit will keep close tabs to make sure you are happy; the concept of preventive health and proactive behavior modification is very much something that we practice on the Antara.
And finally, rule number four. We are all in this together and so let us always work together. The ship propulsion system is provided via a combination of nuclear power and kinetic energy, and this is where you will find that fitness meets function though the use of the specially developed Antara fitness generators. The expectation is that each passenger will need to provide only one-third of their daily activity time on fitness generator duty. The seats are comfortable, the pedal action is smooth and the generator lounges are equipped with cooling fans. Your daily fitness generator duty-time provides valuable power for the ship while you get a great workout, it's a win-win.
So once again, welcome aboard Antara Six, may the rest of your life here be both enjoyable and productive.
Captain Robert Shumaker stood on the bridge of the ship scanning the horizon for bad things that could end his life. These bad things had tried to kill him countless times before, but nonetheless he was still alive. But the day wasn't over yet.
He insisted his crew call him Bob, as if it would help the morale and efficiency of the ancient trawler, a relic from the last war now that was now reduced to smuggling stolen electronics from secret coves in Messina to his contact off Albania. Once again they would be meeting the man tonight to deliver the goods. The man with no name who paid cash.
The Ionian sea was smooth that night and yet the crew was anxious, they kept checking their weapons and pacing, ready to smoke any pirates or criminals that tried to approach the ship.
Tom Carter, the radio operator, looked up at Bob and took a drag from his cigarette: "Bob, we just got the signal, the meet is in four hours, he sent me the coordinates, we need to turn north at a 020 heading."
"Sounds good" Bob said, "Any threats reported?"
"Not yet," Tom replied, but Bob heard the fear in his voice, the last exchange was a mess, the other contact told them the wrong coordinates, then a Greek military chopper flew over and the crew nearly opened fire on it. It could have been bad, very bad.
In an instant the fear turned real. He spotted a skiff headed at his port side at top speed immediately followed by staccato bursts of gunfire, it sounded like fifty caliber and was getting closer. He pulled the alarm and shouted for the men to take cover and open fire. As he frantically turned the ship starboard and pushed the power levers to max, he saw it, the unmistakable flash of an RPG. The missile was incoming. It was a very bad thing.