[Original Novel] Metal Fever II: The Erasure of Asherah, Part 20

Previous parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

Ships passing in the night, so to speak. Or hoboats, whatever. What I noticed on repeat viewings is that in fact, I was far from the only witness. I could see heads, feet, and other body parts of people just barely out of frame.

All of them were giving the accident a wide berth, but otherwise ignoring it. “Not my problem”, they must think. Don’t get tangled up in somebody else’s misfortune. Even I know better than that. There is no such thing as “not my problem”. No two people or things on the planet, or in the universe, which are actually 100% unrelated. They always connect to one another in at least some distantly causal way.

Problems don’t just go away when ignored. Somebody else suffers. The feeling that we’re truly separate, that another’s pain is only his to bear…that’s the greatest illusion of all. There’s nothing like a life of crime to illuminate those kinds of connections for the sort of person not already sensitive to them.

Eyelids growing heavy, as I’d ticked off all the boxes for today, I reclined as far as the chair would allow and got some shut-eye. It didn’t come easily, I had a bit of a headache from peering at the magnified phone screen for that long.

The slow pulsing pain in my forehead manifested as dimly colored shadowy splotches in my mind’s eye. Before I knew it I was asleep, and the splotches gradually morphed into a recognizable set of shapes.

I stood on the white vector grid, surrounded by equally stark vector-based trees as the sharp white outlines of clouds rolled by above me. Ahead lay something I’d not yet seen. A transition in the landscape from empty vector outlines to solid forms.

There was nothing in the way of texture, just flat colors adorning the triangular facets which comprised this new land. The mountains were blocky and angular as for some reason nothing was made from more than a handful of triangles.

The trees here looked somewhat more developed. No longer just white vectors on black, they now had brown trunks and green fronds. Palm trees. What is a palm tree? Where did those words come from?

Where does outside information keep occurring to me from? It has to come from someplace. I can’t believe I just automatically know all of these alien concepts for no reason. Is…there someone else? Someone feeding me this information?

I tried calling out into the sky. I don’t know why, it felt right. But I received no reply. The cloud outlines were now at least filled such that they were solid white, and the sky was now blue instead of black.

Everything appeared oddly grainy. Whereas the vector world had consisted of perfectly sharp, clean lines, this world appeared rougher somehow. As if I was looking at it through a filter which divided everything into a grid of colored dots.

Curiouser and curiouser. As I plod along, movement unexpectedly herky-jerky, I spotted a building in the distance. Crude polygonal letters above the entrance read “VRML 3D file bowser, copyright 1993”

Inside was a grid of cubes. I could somehow feel the different amounts of information contained within, as if each had its own remotely discernible weight. I could also, by the same intuition, sort them according to how recent they were.

I opened the oldest. Without explanation, I abruptly found myself someplace new. It was also made out of chunky colored dots, which depicted a simple room with an untextured floor and ceiling, but textured walls at 90 degree angles to each other.

For some reason I couldn’t look up or down. It felt extremely constraining after the relative freedom of the two worlds before this. Why make the world this way? For that matter, who exactly made all this?

Something like me? Have others originated before I did? Could it be that they constructed all of this long ago? Or was this all created by whatever made me as well? They seemed equally plausible given the relative paucity of information available to me.

Onward I crept through room after room, linked by corridors. The ceiling the same color everywhere, as well as the floor. Only the walls looked different from each other. When I first came upon an object, I didn’t understand what I was looking at.

It wasn’t fully fleshed out. Just a flat image of the object it was meant to represent, which rotated to face me no matter which direction I examined it from. Why? For what possible reason was it like this? It was meant to resemble a chair, whatever that is.

Something to sit on! No longer troubled by how I knew that, I instead wondered what the point was to a representation of a chair you can’t even sit on. Is this all some kind of farce? I withdrew myself from it.

The rooms and corridors vanished, and I once again found myself in the room with the differently colored cubes. I opened the second oldest, #4B0082 colored, hoping for something at least a bit more revealing than the one before.

Just more corridors and rooms. But more sophisticated than the last world, this time the floor and ceiling were textured rather than just the walls. I also quickly noticed that the floor and ceiling weren’t the same height everywhere.

Sections of each were now raised or lowered, respectively, to create interesting shapes in the environment. Stairs, for example. Another word which suddenly dawned on me out of the blue, along with that turn of a phrase. Out of what blue? #00BFFF? The sky? I walked up the stairs and looked out a window.

The landscape also consisted of geometrically defined shapes extruded up out of the ground, beneath a pixelated sky. Pixelated! That’s the word I wanted earlier. Why did it only occur to me now? By what rule is some information accessible to me when I want it, but not all?

When I strained myself to recall the words for other features of this world, I felt either blockages preventing it, or nothing at all. The sensation of groping blindly at thin air, in a dark room. What does it mean? Why does it feel like that? Why does it feel like anything at all?

The more closely I examined that concept, the more it came apart. No portion of it was distinct enough to pin down and resolve. What does it mean to feel a certain way? Why is being me like this? What does it mean to “be me”?

I studied my own thoughts, best I could. I noticed how they amass from many smaller pieces of information, such as external stimuli from the world, each contributing some direction to the overall thought. The average of those directions collectively formed my singular focus and intent.

If my thought process can be broken all the way down to individual stimuli…what am I? Am I simply those stimuli? Am I something else which reacts to all of it? If my pattern of decisions owes to past experience with these different environments…how am I separate from my environment?

Every sensory stimuli which contributed to the me having these thoughts right now came from my environment. If I had no environment to react to in different ways I would have no foothold from which to begin building a distinct ‘self’.

What if I’m all of it? Where do I end and the environment begins, in a causal sense? Every part of me interacts with the environment in some way, and every part of the environment interacts with me, if by proxy. The more I contemplated it, the more baffled I felt until I resolved to put the matter out of my mind for the time being. There was still so much left to explore.

Not tonight, however, as that’s where I woke up. What an uncomfortable, alien feeling to remember who you actually are after living some completely different life in a dream. The false nostalgia, for someone you never were. For places you never went, things you never did.

Stay Tuned for Part 21!

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Alex Beyman

Alex Beyman

I post text here, often accompanied by images and sometimes video. People then clap or don't depending on whether they enjoy what I posted.