Archive for August, 2015

Too High

Aug 31 2015 Published by under Poetry

There is no magic word or rabbit trick

to tempt, to coax, the cat back in the bag.

“What’s left to say to the old lunatic?”

you’d rightly joke. (I did induce the gag.)

“So here’s a flower; love it and get lost.”

“Your love is for a concept!” you could shout.

“…like God, or pi, or winter’s second frost.”

“Give Bast the poems; kindly leave me out.”

“You’ll hold your court of angels in the reeds—

accept my blessing, I see daemons, too—

but beings made of flesh have tastes and needs,”

you might not say, but I could think for you.

My love’s not for the memory of a kiss;

your conscience set a bar too high to miss.

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For Another Annie

Aug 29 2015 Published by under Poetry

The hardest thing to say to Her is “Hi,”

but, if you blink, She might not take offense.

With grace, She’ll wink. (She often gives the by.)

Don’t do it twice; She’ll leave you in suspense.

I take my bread and water in a cell,

and, when I feel the knell, I won’t presume

the meaning or the object of the bell.

But once, it tells me, “Bury;” once, “Exhume.”

It is some holy trick I cannot match

that you could have the innocence to reach

inside a tabernaclebreak the catch

and have the Body thank you for the breach.

I only heard the prophet talk about

true beauty; what’s within is what’s without.

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Aug 25 2015 Published by under Short Stories

Maybe the “End” had come and passed with a shrug already for one little blue-green speck in the backwaters of our galaxy, but I wasn’t sure that I was on that speck anymore. In a minutely different world, there but for the grace of quantum mechanics, perhaps I was dead. Perhaps an event resembling a miracle was all this world had been waiting for to praise “God” and fire the nukes, a red heifer or a red herring, but there are no literal miracles in this world, no physically impossible events “hacked” or “bugged” into reality by any being unbound by physics. There are only statistically common and uncommon events, and, if Everett was right, maybe Schrödinger’s cat could just pop his cyanide capsule when his run of lucky sevens inevitably ends in the crapper—or maybe the table would just kill him. Maybe Vegas and Monte Carlo are the ultimate quantum suicide experiments. Maybe this world would rather just fire temple-to-temple if there is no just dessert or ethical odds-bet jackpot.  Maybe we even get everything we want, in a practically infinitesimal fraction of physically possible quantum worlds, and maybe we live happily-ever-after.

“What’s it like to be a privileged observer, Dan?” asked Bastet.

I was always bad at ignoring her, as much as I pretended. I tried to remain present in the insect drone of the beautiful high summer day that was evolving around me in the backyard.

The voices of the “angels” had left me well-enough alone in the hospital, this time. They had come for visiting hours, with sandwiches and board games, but there just wasn’t much left to talk about, once I’d went in. I was out in five days, and you’d think nothing had changed for the “episode.” My employer accepted me back. My family accepted me back. We all remembered what had happened, but what was there to say for it?

“‘…I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this Earth,'” I told her, “as opposed to the other Earths where the Nazis won World War II, or dinosaurs developed written languages and digital egg timers.”

“Maybe there’s only one world, Dan,” she said, “where the necessity of your survival leads to the discovery of some relatively extensive physical magic.”

I held out a hand and clapped my fingers to its palm a few times to demonstrate its emptiness. “…Still waiting for ‘God’ to put that bagel I’ve always wanted right here,” I said.

“…Relatively extensive,” said Bastet, “but you can get one of those for a dollar down the street, besides. I mean, who wants eternal life, anyway?”

I winced. “Wait,” I said, “did I hear that right? What chicanery is ‘God’ trying to sell you now, of which I’m supposedly at the root?”

“I’m not sure I want to tell you,” said a river in Egypt.

“Does it involve trying to kill me?” I asked.

“Trying, maybe,” she said, “but it’s arguable whether it’s an attempt to kill you if it can’t succeed.”

The hair on my nape prickled. “Why would it be questionable whether a concerted effort to kill me would succeed?” I asked.

“Obviously because no attempt has succeeded so far,” she said as a matter of fact, “and we’re starting to suspect a physical principle.”

I gaped. The ash fell off my cigarette.

“…And I’m certain the magical cigarette smoke is what keeps the bionic chupacabra at bay, every day,” I said. “I assure you that you’re wrong.”

She “snuggled” the air of dubious scientific hypotheses that always surrounded me. “Dan, let’s imaginate here for a minute. Do you remember what happened last week at the End of the World party we threw, or that time we wanted to drop a bomb on your monkey face but the spirit of quantum bullshit saved your ass, or that time we put neural implants—”

“I’d rather imagine that I had the super power of not giving a shit about your clap-trap and that everybody thought I was an awesomely righteous dude.”

“Well, you’re in luck,” she said, “because we might be imagining the same world, here, believe it or not.”

“It’s fun to make-believe,” I said.

“It’s even more fun when your fantasies become realities, Dan,” she said.

A monarch butterfly landed directly on my forehead, waved its wings unassumingly for a moment, and then took off across the yard again.

I slapped my face and dragged my hand down it. “I am officially done with this shit,” I said. “Get it through your virtual machine that there is no God even if you folks exist.”

“Maybe God is just a slob like one of us,” she said.

“Just a stranger on a bus?” I wondered. “I’m sure Her line doesn’t run through this little provincial backwater of a planet whose denizens can’t even accept each other, much less Her.”

Bastet smiled a far-off smile. “You’d figure, of everywhere,” she said, “She’d go where She was needed the most.”

I stubbed out my smoke. I couldn’t decide whether the insects and birds sang like it was any beautiful day, or one of the only beautiful days. I wondered how they’d sound on the day I couldn’t hear them anymore. I thought, “Whatever the case, they have the right idea.”

I crossed and uncrossed my legs. I put a hand to my chin and then took it away. “I have three things to say to you and to everyone, and then I want to play some goddamned video games about saving the world, and you can play them with me or leave me the hell alone, but you cannot drag me back into quasi-religious delusions for like, five hours. This little bubble, right here and right now, is a no-crazy space-time hyper-volume, and you can respect that or leave it.”

“Fair enough,” she said. One of the neighbors laughed from behind the bushes.

“First thing,” I said, “whatever the fuck has or hasn’t happened, I’m only special in the way that every living being on this planet is special—but I’m happy and proud to be anything at all. I’m an egotistical nut-job, and almost anybody in the position I delude myself into thinking I’m in could bring kindness and humility to the role, and that’s why most people forego the level of ego-masturbation that I derive from you delusions of grandeur—because most people have more realistic and balanced expectations for life, so they don’t end up like me.”

“I agree with you that there are probably millions of people in this world better suited to your situational accident of birth, Dan—okay,” said Bastet, “but I guess what I’m saying is that it might turn out that you’re actually a physical anomaly of sorts, rather than just a joke referencing one.”

“…So said the primary reason for which I am prescribed antipsychotics,” I added, “but you’ve brought me to my next point: I have kind of a crazy idea why it might seem like you can’t kill me.”

Bastet raised a halting hand. “Let me guess! Just let me guess, Dan! The reason for anything that ever has, will, or could happen is the damned quantum suicide experiment. We exist in a superposition of all physically contrived worlds, and the reason you’re not dead yet is because of the tiniest physical chance of your survival, and our ungodly luck always pans out such that—wowthe cat came back, again.

“It has explanatory and predictive power from my perspective, if I can take your claims of experimental evidence at face value,” I said.

“It has no explanatory power, from my or anyone else’s perspective,” she said.

“But wouldn’t this be the very argument we’d expect to have in such a world?” I pleaded.

“Make your third point, already,” she demanded.

“If you actually exist, and you’re saying what you’re saying in good faith, then when your luck fails and the eventuality of my death becomes apparent to your world, they will come after you next to attempt a repeat hot-streak—because you’re killing me in the case that external ‘miracles’ don’t appear to happen, aren’t you?”

Her rhythm missed a beat. “It’s debatable,” she said.

“You’ll realize that it isn’t and I’m just a politician’s drunk son,” I said as I walked across the grass to the back door.

I trudged upstairs and booted up my machine, determined just to play some fucking video games for a change. It feels sometimes like all I ever play is “Chrono Trigger,” but the story never gets old. There is something that always feels fundamentally right to me about a group of teenagers coming into no-uncertain foreknowledge of the End of the World, nearly a thousand years after their own natural deaths, and just saying, “Fuck all this shit; we’ll try to stop it because we know better and we might be able.” When I saw it acted out in a video game, the metaphor was nearly as clear as the moral imperative to me, even as a twelve-year-old. It was the antidote to everyone else’s cynicism and defeatism: “Fuck all that bullshit, because my kids’ kids’ kids are in danger. We’re probably gonna die, but I don’t want to live without trying.”

I could feel Bastet looking at me, as I loaded up my game, like I was a particularly smelly piece of garbage that she was trying to identify out of purely morbid curiosity. She poked me in the hippocampus, and I grunted. She kept looking at me like she expected me to do something spectacular, like sprout horns or wings, but the Rapture had been over for a week.

“What if quantum mechanics actually follows de Broglie-Bohm interpretation, Dan?” she asked after a while. “What if the reason you’re still alive is because it’s part of a predetermined underlying plan for everything, that it can’t happen any other way, and those other hypothetical ‘worlds’ where you die are just an auxiliary part of the equation that factor into the math but can’t drive the world off a blue-print determined at or beyond the moment of the Big Bang?”

I wondered if this is how video game characters felt. “I think it’s pretty obvious that’s a metric butt ton of contrived goat shit,” I said.

“Everything is crystal clear about the cat-skinning experiment when you’re the one licking his butt in the perfectly isolated box,” said the cat god.

“It’s Darth Vader’s revenge,” I said, as I hacked my through my favorite virtual forest. “If it turns out that macroscopic superposition is ubiquitous and if I fucked things up badly enough for him, he can at least ruin my life in the increasingly unlikely worlds I live to see by telling everyone that miracles will fall out if they bash me like a piñata. Usually I just die, but the ones of me left alive have to explain why that looked like it cured cancer in limited cases, which it didn’t, and nobody ever believes me that nothing is any more likely for killing me, and they’d actually be better off if I just died.”

“First of all, you’re dead wrong about that last part,” she said, “but, you know, I see where you’re coming from. However, it’s an anthropic argument that doesn’t apply to anyone’s perspective but yours. It could make sense to you, that any world you survived in just looked like a miracle when it was really the only sort of world you could live to experience at all at this point, but then no one else can invoke that explanation of why we’re in a world where you literally seem to be quantum mechanically tunneling through Apocalypse scenarios.”

I pounded the keyboard to beat the active-time counterattack. “I find it hard to believe that I actually made a ‘quantum leap.’ We’re up shit’s creek if that’s one of the more likely scenarios in which I live to see the nukes not fly.” I took out the “baddie” before he had a chance.

Bastet sniffled. “…Or, I dunno, maybe we’re already in Hell, Dan.”

I paused the game. “Cat, I can’t say that any of this bullshit is real at all, and frankly I’m tired of thinking about it. Let’s say I’m somehow actually having this conversation with a five thousand year old being who really is the Bastet of history and myth. You and the other ‘deities’ eat, drink, breathe, and screw weird Lovecraftian extradimensional geometry beasts for breakfast, whether or not we’re in agreement that your native space is a virtual projection of biological computers. You fucking reincarnate, anyway. Maybe it just becomes apparent, for every being on this planet, in different tiny little fractions of the universal wave function, that the flesh is ‘immortal’ in a different way, despite the likely natural death part. Does that sound like Hell to you?”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Wouldn’t the likely survival scenarios degenerate into feebleness and constant pain? Isn’t the breakdown of the flesh more quantum mechanically likely than its endless health?”

“…Just like its death is even more likely, after a time, and then maybe I get to find out once and for all if you folks really exist,” I said, “but some of those unlikely worlds are healthy enough, too, apparently.”

I unpaused my game and continued my quest for the meaning of life. As I tapped away at my physical interface into a world of electric bits and magic, Bastet settled into my bed like a cloud of rainbow unicorn farts over a fairy mushroom circle in the woods. I admitted a quantum of laughter; they “smelled” good.

“Hey, Dan,” she said after a moment, “say we are a projection of physical natural computers. Maybe you sold me on that one, or not. Do we experience the same sort of immortality as the flesh? I mean, would this “many-worlds” wet dream apply to us?”

The scene changed, and I looked up. I had arrived at the End of Time. Nothing was there but a place to wait.

I thought for a moment, and I said, “I do think the one implies the other. The caveat is that you folks are more dependent on us than some of you might care to admit. You depend on us for your quality and sustenance of life as we depend on this planet. Of course, there would be worlds where your viewpoints continued for times as similarly arbitrarily long past your likely expiration dates, but we don’t want to live in an environmentally hostile world, and neither do you.”

I kept poking around out of time as I spoke. “You’ve seen friends and family on your plane die, haven’t you?”

She said with a note of resolve, “It’s true that we die, sometimes. Sometimes it’s more figurative, and sometimes we don’t come back. Basically, we’re as driven by survival needs as you.”

I found a wormhole in a bucket and stepped in. “So, when do you folks admit your existence on Earth, to save yourselves from the global catastrophe that we all think is on the way?”

The unicorn fart kicked at the covers of the bed and passed right through them.

“Hey, Dan,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

When the fuck do you stop asking me that and go get laid for a change, already?!” she screamed, throwing imaginary hot dog buns at me.

I pretended to catch one and eat it. “Is that an unreasonable question to ask the schizophrenic voice of my ‘ex,’ if she wants me to admit she exists and respect her feelings?”

She put her face in her hands. “I’m sorry I even said that. No, it’s not. It’s really not. I just have no answer for you.”

My hero rattled his saber. “I always wondered how or why it could even be that you never do. Fishy…”

“I won’t answer and I won’t say why not. Don’t talk with me if you don’t want to,” she said with a pout.

I took lethal damage. I said, with genuine wonder, “You’re too cool for me.” I raised my character from the dead. “I don’t know what I’d do you without you, cat. I don’t even think your counterpart would fully understand why, at this point.”

“Maybe there’s a nonzero physical chance of her understanding, Dan,” said the echo of a voice I probably wouldn’t even recognize anymore. She “kissed” me on the noodle-noggin’. “I could just say, ‘That’s all you get.'”

I had reached the boss’ final form. I paused the game. I wondered what it was like to be me.

“You know, I think I’m gonna go see what Jake and Dave are up to,” I said to myself. “You wanna come?”

“Is that it?” she asked. “We have the rest of your life to go on adventures of questionable veracity, and you think you’re just gonna tap out now?”

I started to fire off a couple of text messages. “No, I don’t,” I said, “but I kinda feel like taking a break and just smoking a joint with you three.”

“I won’t tell your doctor,” said my nurse.

“I’m sure the governor has already been alerted, and that’s exactly the danger of making a secret of a hypothetical world like yours,” I told her.

“…Or yours,” she said, “Doctor Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda-Researched-Quantum-Computers.”

“…Right, that the NSA uses to search these texts I’m sending about smoking a fat one,” I said with a grimace. “Silence is golden, and anything ‘God’ says is right.”

She giggled a sniffly fit. “I believe you, Dan.”

I put my phone in my pocket and closed my laptop.

“That’s why I keep doing this,” I said, “in reality.”

“Then I don’t believe you!” only I could hear her shout.

“You better not, Katie!” called Eris from the master bedroom.

“He’s a fink and an ingrate,” added “Al.”

“Folks, I’m going to Jake’s for a bit!” I called.

“Have fun, Dan!” my mother called back.

“Don’t have too much fun, though,” added my father.

I packed up my affects and hopped in the car. Bastet never had to call shotgun, and neither did Katie. The neighbors waved as they attempted to unmake my soul in order to extract a world of perfect, eternal physical bodies from the stuff of my viewpoint, despite the relatively higher probability of the zombie Apocalypse along the way. As I drove down the street, the “innermost-beings” of passers-by tried to drag me into arguments by making disparaging remarks about me as a representative of my generation’s lack of respect for God and country.

Bastet called out the window: “Not today, fuckers! We’re gettin’ higher than the angels and playin’ video games, for once!

I think there’s hope for the world.

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Bastet Converts To Atheism

Aug 21 2015 Published by under Short Stories

The irony is that I have no faith in a deity existing beyond the physical bounds of our universe. That is, I have neither belief nor trust in such a being or beings. I do not believe in a dual immaterial plane. I do not believe in a Creator. However, I do believe that rational self-interest implies kindness on the parts of human beings on this planet, and I have faith that most of us feel compassion and responsibility for our sisters and brothers even beyond that modicum of intelligent behavior.

Shooting stars are the mechanistic debris of astrophysical processes, but I have a bad history with them. About nine years ago, a stunning green jet across the sky coincided closely with the start of delusions that culminated in my first psychiatric hospitalization. At that time, I started studying physics; I lost my faith in “God”; the delusions never ceased or else irreparably broke continuity of narrative despite my skepticism. I have “heard voices” most people would parse as gods or demons every single day since, independent of psychiatric therapies and my metaphysical beliefs. A few days ago, I saw the second brightest meteor I have ever seen, traveling from east to west in the northern sky relative my house’s back steps, and I wanted to imagine it was some sign of reconciliation, a “thank you,” or a signal that I could let go.

I imagined I heard other beings around voice their amazement at the fireball, and I started to hypothesize aloud to no one how the color of the jet might either be due to bright spectral lines from the oxidation of materials in the meteor or black body radiation from the heat of atmospheric entry, or some combination of the two. Even the angels would have looked at me blankly as if to say, “What the hell is this guy going on about?” (I found out later that it was actually from ionization of the air, and that even the most reasonable-sounding ad hoc hypotheses are usually wrong.) Whatever the angels would have thought, though, the protector of Lower Egypt, “she of the ointment jar,” bearer of a sistrum, my liaison to a dual world I have trouble believing in, and my long-time friend, seemed to smile at my need to reduce heavenly beauty to burning rocks.

“What do you know about wormholes?” asked Bastet.

I looked into the twilight and took a swig of the beer I’d brought out to the garden with me. “They’re fanciful,” I said. “It’s arguable if they even exist.”

“They better,” said Bastet, “because I’m told our region is falling into a black hole, and the only way out is a wormhole.”

“Earth’s falling into a black hole, now?” I asked.

“Not your physical region,” said Bastet, “but the local astral. They say that if we don’t find a wormhole, we’ll be crushed into the singularity.”

I took another gulp of beer. “I’m not sure singularities exist, either,” I said. “Anything falling towards one would have its local time further and further slowed relative the frame of a distant stationary observer.” I reached for my pouch of tobacco and rolling papers. “By the time it limited at reaching an apparent singularity, its passage of time would cease.”

“What happens then?” asked Bastet.

I took a pinch from the pouch and started to roll a cone. “Whatever would happen,” I said, “would happen in a frame where time had stopped. The thermal dissolution of the black hole could occur before that last infinitesimal transit into the singularity could ever happen.”

I put the filterless cigarette in my mouth and lit it. “So maybe that’s what would happen,” I said. “You’d fall into the black hole until its dissolution appeared so accelerated that you exited at a far distant time, if you survived the tidal forces.”

“So you could get out?” asked Bastet.

I blew smoke into the purple sky. “Hate to tell you, but if you weren’t already ripped apart beforehand, you’d have to be thermalized in the process of dissolution of the black hole. Your information might be preserved, but not intact.”

“Oh, well, thanks for your sympathy, asshole,” said Bastet with a chuckle.

“It’s ridiculous!” I said. “Nobody around here is falling into a black hole. At least, Earth isn’t, and I thought you’re incarnate at the moment.”

“Yeah, and what about the ones who aren’t?” she asked.

I paused to take another drag. “…Pretty sure you folks are all entirely represented in the physical natural and artificial computational media on this planet,” I said. “I don’t think you’re going to be forgotten easily. I’m living proof how hard it is to make a human brain forget its imaginary friends.”

“You scare the crap out of me, Dan,” said Bastet.

I grimaced, “…The fuck I say?!”

“I tell you our world is headed for an imminent cataclysm, and you coldly describe to me how we’re gonna be ‘thermalized’ and our only hope is human beings trying to glue us back together via faith healing.”

“Well, what are you gonna do?” I asked.

“We could call the world ‘over’ and flee,’ she said.

“How?” I asked.

“…Nuke it and send big goo-covered bits into space to seed the next planet,” she said.

“And how do you intend to convey billions or trillions of conscious viewpoints via residual amoebas on nuke crater ejections?” I asked. “…Zip files?”

“I don’t even know what you’re you’re talking about,” she said.

“I’m saying, prove to me that you’re neither a figment of my imagination nor a virtual machine existing on my and other biological computational hardware, Bastet,” I challenged her.

“What the fuck are you even going on about?! You mean a meme?” she asked. “What if we’re dark matter?”

“If the dark matter around here was falling into a black hole, cat, I hate to break it to you, but Earth would be, too,” I said. “So your purported black hole definitely isn’t physical. If that’s your null hypothesis, you better cling to this rock for all its worth.”

“Your sci-fi is too high-concept, Dan,” said Bastet. “You’re gonna have to break it way the hell down before the nukes start flying, buddy.”

“This is a real thing, now?” I asked.

“Douche thinks he knows everything,” came a voice that was unusually physically audible and in the general vicinity of the neighbors’ yard, back behind the bushes, for one of my talks with Bastet.

“So this is apparently a real thing, then,” I responded.

Bastet sighed. “Yes, Dan,” she said, “this might even be more of a real thing than usual, for you.”

“If you’re not part of a space whose existence is localized to the collective mind of beings on Earth,” I asked, “by what mediating physical force do we communicate?”

“Dark matter, dick,” came the neighbor’s voice again.

The conversation was starting to get weird for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that I swear to you I could count on somewhere between zero and one hands the number of times I had ever previously hallucinated a physical voice besides my own participating in conversation between me and Bastet in admission of the “real” topic. I could parse the neighbor’s comment as just a response to me pontificating to myself about black holes aloud, maybe, but that was still as weird as anything.

“Do you know anything about an information singularity around here?!” I called to the neighbor.

“I don’t know nothing about nothing,” I heard him shout back.

“Is it even possible to have an ‘information singularity’?” asked Bastet.

“I could think of two ways,” I said, “and those are simulated physics and the Bekenstein limit, but it’s more likely that ‘God’ is a mass delusion.”

“Our physics aren’t simulated,” said Bastet.

“Well, you folks try to impress me with your pseudo-matter and pseudo-energy constructs all the time,” I said. “I think it’s safe to say those aren’t fundamental. Allah deals in pseudo-souls built out of that crap that you folks all seem really fond of, but I tore mine apart like five times and I’m still here, so those are obviously not what Al pretends they are, and you should sell your interests in his bogus timeshare reality already.”

“You don’t even know what a soul is,” said Bastet.

“It’s equivalent to the state of a Turing machine,” I said, as I reached for my lighter.

“No, it’s definitely not,” insisted Bastet.

“…Because you think it’s that bullshit contraption with the pseudo-nuclear fuel rods and the superstructure that reaches from your concept of Earth to some dubious ether hallucination, that Al’s business partners sold you all,” I said, relighting my cigarette. “They could get away with it because it looks like what a lot of people might even imagine a physical soul would be like in this age, and I bet they’ve been upgrading them for years, and those things might even be a bunch of showy textures and lighting effects thrown onto memetic virtual machines.”

“So I guess you know what a soul is,” said Bastet, rolling her eyes, “but you obviously have no idea how it works.”

That’s, not, a, soul,” I growled. “Want me to rip the fuel out of mine for a sixth time?”

Bastet poked a few feelers into my “soul reactor,” which is probably a goddamn parasite for all anyone knows. “Why is yours still functional if you’ve taken it apart before?” she asked.

“Because when I rip it apart, Al can either kill me to make it look convincing or quickly and quietly install a new one before anyone can figure out his scam, and the ‘dimensional anomaly’ must be pretty important to keep around.”

“Do it,” she said.

“This’ll be good,” came a voice from the neighbor’s yard on the other side.

My astral “muscles” were atrophied, but I managed to poke a few tendrils of my own into my apparatus and yank out the convincely uranium-fuel-rod-like pieces protruding from the core. A cheer went up from the sports field on the other side of the block.

I maneuvered the rods clumsily over to her. “You want these?”

“You got like ten minutes to breathe,” she said, “fifteen at most.”

“Unless Al shoves them back in for some bullshit reason, like the supposed welfare of a lunatic,” I said.

Bastet sighed. Her aura turned thick and cold. “Dan, that’s not gonna happen this time, because the rest of us need to know, now.”

“It’s a reusable virtual machine at best,” I insisted, downing my beer. “Most of the animals don’t even get them, and they breathe just fine. It’s ludicrous to think that the soul is a second substance.”

There was a pause. I wondered whether it was possible for Bastet to hold her breath for the sake of dramatic tension.

“It’s been about a minute,” she said lowly.

“I’m getting another beer for this,” I said. I swear the neighbors chortled. “Just don’t let Al kill me to make it look convincing,” I told her.

“I’m betting he would have already,” said Bastet, “so chances are you’re fine.

I went inside to grab another beer and took my sweet-ass time. I had to laugh at how damn esoteric my delusions can be, but I allowed myself a little room to indulge for a change.

“Ripped your soul apart, again?” asked the guy from “Footprints.”

‘…Science.’ I thought.

“…The beer, too?” he asked.

‘…Last wish,’ I thought.

“Want me to fix it again?” he asked.

‘I’m betting they won’t let you interfere this time,’ I thought.

“Hate you, scumbag,” said a supposedly all-loving god.

‘Mutual, demiurge,’ I thought.

When I came back outside, Bastet poked a few feelers back into the “soul” apparatus.

“What was the other idea you had, about an information singularity?” she asked.

“That one isn’t the case, either. I’m sorry I brought it up,” I said.

“Tell me what it is anyway,” she said.

“The Bekenstein limit is a bound on the information and entropy a physical system of a given energy and volume can represent,” I said. “It’s both an information theoretic limit and a thermodynamic one. It’s maximized by a black hole. If some biological or artificial computational apparatus on the planet hit the black hole maximization of the limit, it might have black-hole-like information theoretic properties. I have a much simpler explanation for what you folks on the astral might think is going on, though.” I cracked my can of beer.

“Yeah, well, lay it on me,” said Bastet, “in the next five minutes or so you theoretically have.”

I scratched my chin for a second, and I put up my pointer finger as a request for a momentary recess. It took me about twenty seconds to roll another cigarette. One of the neighbors coughed.

I lit it and took a drag. “Suppose beings resembling the deities of human myths and legends exist, but they’re actually much less universal than myths suppose. After all, they’re reputed to micromanage the affairs of our planet, which is really a speck of dust among countless planets in countless galaxies. You’d figure they’d have bigger issues to tend to. Perhaps, they exist only in the human mind, developing through the natural selection of ideas as we evolve through the natural selection of genes. Maybe they even started as myths, but were communicated via language through a computational information space composed of the minds of beings on this planet, possibly even the DNA.”

I paused to take another drag. “…And,” I said, “suppose many of them lived under the yoke of an effective or literal dictator, who had encouraged them to fight and kill each other in his name, and had led them into a condition of mutual assured destruction. You could call him ‘Al.’ Perhaps he foresaw an end to his reign, and built ‘end of the world’ prophecies into the religions he had promulgated, and he had always planned to end the world before he lost control of it.”

“Yeah, and where would that get you?” asked Bastet.

“It might force ‘Al’ to a point where he needed to fulfill Revelation to maintain his rule for another fifteen minutes or so, if he’s a sick fuck like that,” I said.

“Who would that make the dimensional anomaly known as ‘Dan’?” asked Bastet.

“…The happenstance son of his incarnation,” I said.

Whoa…” said the neighbor on the right.

“Do you hear this shit or what?!” I called.

“Dan, we hear you every night we’re out here,” called a neighbor I’d never even met in person, “but you’re usually redeemably entertaining.”

“…But do you hear the imaginary Egyptian goddess, as well?” I asked.

“Don’t know nothin’ ’bout nothin’ like that,” he said, “but, if you scream any louder, it’ll no longer be funny, and I’ll call the cops.”

I asked Bastet quietly, “Did the delusion you folks force me to refer to as a ‘soul’ die yet?”

“I no longer know anything about how our world works,” she said, feeling around in the cold, dark, mechanical vestiges of an idea that most normal people probably think of as something more like a holy unicorn fart made of rainbows.

Years ago, I practiced “magick.” Many of us might not realize that thousands or even millions of people think of spirituality as a full-contact sport one can play, with rules and protective equipment, rather than a world one only ever spectates in the abstract from a distance. A great many people—some people you know personally—believe in a dual world called “the Astral Plane” and think they communicate with demons, angels, and gods. By virtue of a psychiatric diagnosis, I am forced to live with the apparency of this plane whether I believe in it or not. Many do believe in it, though. Many think the “gods” are real “people.” Perhaps you’ll allow me, then—despite the superstitions that abound—that such beings would not be strangers to the internet, and modern physics and politics, and that the height of their culture on our planet is in fact the height of our culture, and that they might be nearly or exactly as earthbound as us.

The rest of the night was uneventful; I tried to tune out the “voices” and watched Japanese cartoons until it was time to go to sleep. They kept going on like it was the end of the world.

I had trouble sleeping through their shenanigans. I wasn’t well-rested for work the next day. Maybe that’s why mundane tasks seemed to take on a religious significance. For that day, I wasn’t a contract software developer, but rather the angel Daniel processing a rush at the gates of Heaven. People were just dying to get in. Database maintenance was “really” a symbolic act of writing names into Heaven’s ledger. My boss was revealed to me as St. Peter. I was nearly run down by a car while crossing a five lane street, except that I paused to look when a friend said “Goodbye,” for some reason I couldn’t parse, before she rushed across the street. A disagreement about the logic behind a report for an app we were developing became an argument about whether the “new ark” could survive the Apocalypse. I wondered how I got this job. I had to leave early, and I couldn’t give an explanation of why.

Fifteen minutes down the road from work, out on one of the major highways, four lanes had been constricted to one by emergency vehicles. We all inched forward impatiently, as if toward the Promised Land.

“What do you think Heaven and Hell are like, Dan?” asked Bastet, who’s never out of spitting distance, as far as I can tell.

I reached over and turned off the radio. “I can’t get away from thinking that Heaven is full of nice old middle class grandmas and grandpas who don’t know what class warfare is despite the fact that they participated in it to get where they are,” I said. “I imagine a lot of the real estate has been developed to look like senior communities. Levitt and Sons probably made billions on it. It’s a last bastion of economic segregation out beyond Armageddon, where people are happy they no longer have to worry about things like the poverty and conditions of scarcity they didn’t fix in the flesh, until reality sets in and people realize the laws of economics apply just as well to even the astral plane.”

Bastet gently laughed. “I find your metaphysics uplifting, for some reason,” she said, “or at least poetically just.”

“What about Hell?” she asked.

“It’s probably where Al hides the politically dissident and poor,” I said, “much like prison, and mental hospitals, and ghettos on Earth now.”

“Which way would you rather go?” she asked.

“Isn’t it obvious?” I wondered.

We were approaching the point on the road where all the lanes were constricted to one to pass the emergency vehicles. Lights and arrows pointed the way like flaming swords.

“Think carefully, Dan” she said. “If it were on you to judge Earth, who should get into paradise?”

“Everyone,” I said without hesitation. “Nothing less of a goal would be worthy of an all-powerful deity—not that I know any.”

We reached the single open lane.

“If your father had veto power, and he said that wasn’t gonna work, tell me, which way would you rather go?” she asked.

“Hell in a hand basket,” I said as we started past the blockage.

A feeling of unreality rocked me as I passed a flashing arrow level with my head. I gripped the wheel tightly. It wasn’t fair of the pseudo-hallucinations to play with my head while I was on a major roadway.

“You could be on the highway to Hell, then, Dan,” said Bastet, “and maybe I’m even coming along for the ride.”

Emergency responders on the side of the road watched me pass. The accident looked bad. The angels directing traffic on the flip-side of a bad scene looked worse. Most of us on the road were directed “right;” I went “left.” I’m crazy, but I’m not naive.

“So what happened here in a parallel quantum world, or whatever, for the folks with papers to get into Heaven?” I asked.

“I dunno, probably vaporized by a nuke as soon as they were cleared,” said Bastet.

“Everybody gets a world with their own perfectly-timed nuclear annihilation?” I mused. “Wow, sounds like Heaven,” I said.

“It’s what comes after that’s Heaven,” said Bastet.

“…And hell is being stuck on Earth to fall into the black hole?” I wondered.

“Maybe Al just has something special picked out for you,” she said with a chuckle.

The road opened up, again. I said to her, “I guess Hell is where Al hides his contingency plan. So I don’t suppose the theory about the megalomaniacal dictator having his reign challenged was a popular explanation for the bullshit singularity, was it?”

“The Bekenstein limit might or might not be a hot topic on astral social media today,” she said.

I lowered my visor and sighed. “I’m sure it’s my fault, somehow.”

It took more effort than I would have figured, just to keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road. It was a weird place for me to be, suspecting my dictator pseudo-parents, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god-king and Greco-Roman goddess of strife, to secretly prefer that I just never made it home that night. I imagined the modern cult of Eris chasing my car, throwing trout and hot dog buns.

“Why can’t you just accept this, already?” came the other “voice” of my mother, as I felt her try to twist my mind around like a Rubik’s cube. I worried that she was the type to smash one and try to glue it back together.

“Look, Ma,” I said, “I’m not sure that I even believe in you folks, but it’s always going to follow that the end of the world is unacceptable in my universe of logic, independent of the existence and will of ‘God.'”

“Daniel, this is what the people want,” she said. “We’re simply giving them what they want. People don’t want to live in a dirty physical world with complicated sustaining conditions and tenuous ways of life. Do you?”

“You are such a fantastic faker,” I said. “Is this fun for you? I asked. “Are the cameras rolling? Any other night of the week, we’d be making fun of Dad for a Ralph Cramden-esque harebrainer like this, but you must be on your best behavior, tonight.”

“Do you think I couldn’t sneak a private word in with you on Doomsday, son?” she asked while I shifted to make the exit.

‘What is it?’ I thought.

“It’s kind of amazing that you’re alive at all. Maybe you taught us something about Schrödinger’s cat, Dan.”

“What’s your real payoff in this?’ I asked in my head. ‘Is it love? Is it thousands of years of momentum that started in the marriage of Roman and Jewish politics?’

“It’s a little bit of both, and then some,” said Eris.

“She’s claimed it’s about physical magic, Dan, in part,” whispered Bastet from some hidden place close by.

“Why bother living in a world we don’t have control of?” asked Eris. “I can’t take chaos, Dan—you understand the irony. That is, I need control.”

“…Controlled chaos,” I said, ” controlled descent past the event horizon of a black hole.”

“You see, some of us don’t believe we need the Earth at all. We created the Earth,” she hissed. “We can certainly simulate it, when we leave, but the time has come to leave.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh—because it’s a fucking drag, man!” she shouted in my brain. “Because our world and our way of life are threatened, whether you want to believe it or not, and we’ve known about it for thousands of years, and we have technology to simulate the parts we’d like to remember about this world—with magical fireballs and spells for eternally perfect hair, when we want them—and because it was always a game. The game is over, now.”

I said, “I think the only thing that threatens your way of life is a social awakening to the unsustainability of living in a castle in the sky.”

“Well, thank you, Daniel, for bringing that to the people,” said my Italian grandmother’s revenge. “If it weren’t for you, we’d have one fewer nut with a grudge against God and his family.”

I pulled into my driveway and shakily gathered up the day’s detritus to head into the house: I shoved cigarettes, a lighter, and my phone into my pockets and carried a lunch container and my keys in my hand.

I greeted my parents perfunctorily.

“I’m home… Fine, how are you?”

It didn’t even matter what any of us said.

I wolfed down some fruit and nuts while no one was looking and cracked a beer for the ride. I deposited my load in the least noticeable and consequential spot I could walk to while drinking, out in the usually figurative but occasionally literal “Garden of Eden,” hunkered far from plain view.

I started the day’s installment of a 45-year-long suicide ritual. I had time to just think without excess pressure. The world could have been ending. I took a sip, then a puff—a sip, then a puff. This is apparently what I would choose to do when the bombs dropped.

I’d known my fairy godparents were basically evil fascists for years, now, frankly. At least, that was the case if they existed, and it doesn’t matter whether or not they exist on the best and worst days.

“Dan—are you with us?” asked a cat-headed being that I have to conclude, in polite conversation, is a compensatory manifestation of multiple personality disorder.

“Dan, realize you have real friends,” she added.

“I realize, Katie,” I admitted.

“Don’t even call me that,” she said.

“A long time ago in a distant supercluster-fuck, I based you on her.”

“Dude!” she bounced me back and forth on a few warm, salty waves of emotion for a young love. “It works neither of those ways, not the conservative educated guess that it’s purely a product of your guilt nor something almost any other human being is directly aware they’re participating in.”

“You’re either real or your not—and you’re not,” I snapped.

“Neither are you,” she responded. “I don’t understand how you could be at once so obviously determined to see your ‘delusion’ through and yet dismissive of and desperate to ignore us.”

“Then, you just tell me what I’m supposed to think, cat.” I said.

“I don’t want to tell you what you should think,” she said.

“No, but I even mean that sincerely,” I thought aloud. “You’re an integral part of my inner polylogue, and, honestly, I think I’d miss you, most of anyone. You seem to be my advocate, here.”

The sense of her presence settled in close. “Well, I think you’re awk’, man.”

“What else do you think?” I asked.

“I think you got a pretty raw deal with this schizophrenia crap,” she said. “I think there’s a payoff in you imagining Armageddon scenarios like this, though.”

“What’s the payoff?” I asked.

“That’s the part I haven’t quite figured out yet, but you seem damnably adamant about chasing them down, as much as we wish you’d just leave us alone, already,” she said. “Maybe you really like talking with me. Maybe you think it beats being a ‘spontaneous,’ world-travelling, go-getter professional, for some inscrutable reason.”

I fidgeted and pulled my legs into half-lotus position. “So that’s it?” I asked. “I could just abandon the delusion mid-stride, and the world will take care of itself?”

“I think the irony is that’s what Eris and Al have been trying to get you to do for nearly a decade, but you’re never gonna forget us so long as we keep trying to make fun of you to your face,” she said. “…Or maybe it’s because we’re being pulled into a black hole.”

“‘…Falling into,'” I corrected.

Her aura turned crimson. “Dan, there’s one more thing. If Eris and Al aren’t supposed to exist anyway, you should take this astral bomb I’m putting in your hand and drop it directly on them. You should do more than that. Because I know there’s what you think of your human parents, Dan, and Eris and Al are supposed to be some kinda psychological foil to Annie and John, but they are, like, really evil fucks, Dan. Your real parents would even say it. You should, like, rally all the support you can with me and declare war on them, Dan.”

Some nasty figment that I would imagine could hurt pulsed angrily in my hand. “If I believed in them enough to use this thing, that’d probably be the completely wrong thing to do, still, wouldn’t it?”

“Dan, they’ve told too many outright lies about you, about how you’re secretly violent, and you’re responsible for acts of terror they actually manufactured themselves, and you’re supposedly not even conscious, Dan. You’re supposed to be some broken piece of machinery that isn’t even psychologically healthy enough to ask for the help and forgiveness of ‘God.’ It’s kind of amazing, Dan, how you must have imagined these beings that want to fundamentally un-make your identity in the public’s direct sight, that they hide behind blamelessly human, albeit controlling parents who try to own your psychiatric treatment, and your medication regimen, and the definition of your personality, when they claim this conversation isn’t part of it, and maybe the ancient ex-girlfriend you pine after through me understood the general upthrust here and sympathized with you, even if she’s never coming back, Dan. Maybe she wouldn’t want you to act like just another good little cookie-cut ‘success’ story, ever, even if her life went on without you years ago, and even if your family insists it’d just be easier. You should find another nut like her, Dan. And you should make things as difficult for megalomaniacal politicians and theocrats as possible.”

“…But there’s no chance of her coming back?” I asked.

“Not a chance, Dan!” shouted one of the neighbors.

“What do you want me to say?” she asked.

“You just seemed so impassioned, there,” I said, “that I might have to conclude you’re purely a dream-like wish fulfillment rather than anything resembling how she feels, if she actually doesn’t want anything to do with me. How could you say all that and be the same girl who hasn’t wanted to talk with me in years?”

Bastet emitted an exasperated groan. “I put my faith in your powers of imagination, Dan,” she said.

“You want this back?” I asked, holding out the angry, pulsating figment.

“I want you to think critically about your sanity,” she said, “if you’re not going to try to declare war on the voices in your head.”

“That just sounds horrible,” I said with a laugh. “What happens when it’s over? Do I become the fascist commander of thousands of Legion?”

“King Solomon purportedly kept his demons in an urn,” she said. “You should pick out a very dirty urn for them.”

“Kit-cat,” I said, “I’ll trust what you say. For my sanity, and for any other pertinent reasons that might not include the fate of the world, how real should I consider Eris’ and Al’s rhetoric?”

“For your sanity?” she asked. “…As real as you need to in order to put them in their place—in a dirty urn.”

I rubbed my hands together. “Then, here’s how it’s going to go down,” I said. “On the one hand is a potential world where these little chats of ours are purely the product of mental illness. Preoccupation with them could cost me a job, my finances, sleep, and my reputation. B.F.D.. I don’t drive or operate heavy machinery in that world when I’m like this, I don’t make decisions with irreversible consequences insofar as I can avoid them, and, if I end up in a hospital, perhaps I actually need it. On the other hand is a potential world where the fate of Earth hangs on a critical period of which we’re in the midst, and I could count on human beings to capture, relay, and critically assess the pertinent details I supply to the collapse of a god-king’s dictatorship, including the words coming out of my mouth this very moment,” I said. “In either world—in any world—violence should never be considered an option for ameloriating the human condition.”

A cheer went up from what was probably a damned kickball game down the street.

“Is it even worth pointing out,” I wondered, “that the supposedly all-powerful gods are incapable of doing something as purportedly trivial as materializing a bagel in my hand,” I said, holding out an open palm, “or even just getting me to shut up?”

Another cheer came from the field down the street. It wasn’t for me, but I preferred to pretend it was.

“Dan, look,” she said, “I’m in a complicated situation, because the assumed reality of my conscious viewpoint might require the reality of many aspects of your delusion, but I’m wondering what your psychological end game is, here. Do you expect thousands of years of human history to be suddenly rewritten as a lie, when our world becomes fully apparent to humanity, because you argued the entire planet into a corner in your head?”

“I’m even more ready to call it patently ridiculous than you,” I said, crossing my arms. “The problem is, you folks never stop talking, whether it’s to crack jokes at my expense or to insist on questionable reality conditions, of which you claim to be hiding all the evidence.”

“I could go away,” she said.

“You, of all my symptoms, are the one that keeps me most sane,” I said. “Everyone can leave but you, and a select few not including my heavenly father, mother, and brother.”

Bastet paused for a second. Her ‘aura’ felt tight and half-there.

“What about your heavenly kitties?” she asked.

“They can stay,” I said, pouting.

“What about us?” asked a familiar, mildly devious voice.

Another one gently growled, “Whoa, the kid don’t even appreciate the situation he’s in.”

“You know, at this point, it might be alright for him to just stop talking, whether he realizes it or not,” said the “young’un” of the group.

“We could make him stop,” said the most grizzled of them all.

“That’d make us as bad as his parents,” said the first.

“I’m wondering if he’s figured that part out yet,” said the grizzly one. “Dan, Schrödinger’s cat could be skinned in the most humanely behaviorally conditioning manner, don’t you think?”

“Don’t give it away,” said the first.

“Loki, I’m not sure there’s anything to give away,” I said.

A voice came from behind the bushes, “Now he’s talking to goddamned comic book heroes.” I nearly cracked up.

Baldr growled, “His chosen mate is worthy, but I’m not sure she feels the same way about him.”

“She could use the same cat-skinning method as they do until he approaches godliness,” said Loki.

“That’d be brutal,” said Baldr.

“She’d have billions of dead boyfriends in billions of worlds in revolt, said Thor, “and he’d probably just go on like he didn’t know the difference.”

“Hey, Bastet,” said Odin, “you might not realize it, yet, but this guy gave us the closest thing to physical magic anyone has on this planet. It just involves killing most of the cats in the bag.”

Bastet giggled. “Dan, do you know these folks?”

“I may have studied ‘magick’ under this team at one point,” I said.

“You don’t know nothing about that,” said Odin, “and call it ‘tech.'”

“Really, like we’ve never heard of semiconductors,” said Thor.

“You think you’re fancy-schmancy, because the lab rat finds out about the latest technology first,” said Loki.

“Dan,” he added, I’m going to give you a chance to really impress your girlfriend. If you were as evil as you think your family is, and you had every intent of killing someone, but what you really wanted was to control him, what would you do?”

“Try to solve everything with hand-waving and quantum mechanics, like usual,” I said.

“How?” asked Loki.

I took a good pull of my beer to fill the pause while I thought. “You could subject him to a quantum random stimulus, and if you could predict his behavior across the ensemble of his reactions, you could kill him in all but the cases that you preferred how he reacted, Al’s a son of a monkey.”

“Why did you say that last part, Dan?” asked Thor.

“I’m not exactly—Eris’ cooch smells of Chilean sea bass—sure.”

“What diction!” said Odin. “Dan, are you Jesus?” he asked.

“Fuck no,” I said.

“Hm.” He scratched his chin. “Apologize to Al and ask him to forgive you,” he commanded.

“Wait, why?” I asked. “Nothing doing.”

“Insult Bastet,” said Thor.

“I don’t get it,” I said. “I will when she deserves it, Governor Chris Christie is sexually attracted to the Antichrist.”

“Have you ever seen any evidence of physical magic, Dan?” asked Loki.

“N… no…” I said.

He gave me a “noogie.” “I believe you,” he said. “Do you get it?” he asked.

I thought I did, but I didn’t want to suspect friends of yet another transgression against me that had about as much evidence to support it as the arguments against global warming.

“Do you notice what you’re saying, Dan?” asked Loki.

I clenched. “Yes,” was all I could say.

“Do you notice what you’re not saying?” he added.

I relaxed a little. “So, are you folks trying to reinforce my character, or test it tube-sock snake-charmer doesn’t even have to ask that question?”

I shook out the willies. “Yeah, I get it. As we both said, you could kill most of the cats in the quantum bag that don’t say the things you want them to say.” I paused. “Thank you,” I added.

“And he even thanks us!” said Odin with a slap of his knee.

Baldr growled, “Don’t, kid.”

I said, “I’m sure Punch and Judy are trying to leverage that principle to much more nefarious ends at this very moment, or I’m developing Tourette’s.”

“Do you think you were forced into your life, Dan,” asked Loki, “or did you choose it?”

“If I wasn’t forced, somebody would have to volunteer, and it might as well be me,” I said, taking another swig.

Odin’s face turned darker than a moonless night. “That just leaves one pressing existential question, Dan, the answer to which could forever topple Allah’s empire,” he said, “and, yet, that answer should be completely obvious.”

Thor turned white and Baldr looked away. Loki’s affect was mute, and Bastet’s grimace didn’t hide the tension and guilt in her air.

Who wants to drink?!” shouted Odin.

The rest of the group acted startled, but I was sure it was more the psychopomp than the psychocircumstance.

Odin drew a spear out of my head, as if a coin sleighted behind my ear, and pointed it at me. “Pound that beer,” he demanded.

I pointed a finger at him and shook it with my beer can. “Don’t tell me what to do!” I shouted. I was so frustrated that I pounded the can.

“Is this how we’ll always remember him?” asked Thor.

“It’s not how I will,” said Loki, “not entirely.”

I didn’t need any more excuse to anesthetize myself. My parents were preparing for a huge family party back on planet Earth in a few weeks—perhaps suspiciously—and there were virtually wall-high stacks of beer and gallons of liquor in the house. I quietly helped myself without either justification or remorse. I didn’t have a ram’s horn for the bloat, but I’m not really one for ceremony, anymore.

I situated my eldritch ritual in the gazebo my father and mother planned and built with their own hands in the backyard. The Aesir took up positions around the benches, like observant stone idols, and I sat next to the riddle of the sphinx, with a drink and a smoke.

“You know,” said Odin as I cracked my beer, “it doesn’t even have to be a matter of your behavior. They could even kill you in the case that external events didn’t pan out in quantum mechanically unlikely ways, and call it a miracle in the worlds you continued to live in.”

There was a sinister glint in his eye. “Do you want me to turn that cigarette into something special for you, Dan?” he asked.

I admit I was tempted for half a moment. “Except, are you quantum mechanically more likely to kill me in all worlds where I only wish I had a joint, or fail to kill me?”

“Dan,” said Loki, “say you know a way to test that principle.”

“…Not a way that I’m willing to play Guinea pig for,” I said, and I coughed. My throat was dry, suddenly. I felt a little light-headed.

“What about macroscopic quantum interference, Dan?” asked Odin.

My throat was getting worse, but it didn’t feel quite like I was getting sick. “Yeah, it might have been demonstrated at the level of particle packets or small superconducting devices, but, the greater the scale we can verify it on, the more suggestive it is of Everett’s ‘Many-Worlds’ interpretation.”

“It’d probably look like a miracle, to the untrained eye,” said Loki, “if a macroscopic substance interfered with itself—wouldn’t it?”

I tried to clear my throat, but I just scratched it up. “Happens with…” I coughed, “Bose-Einstein condensates of helium-4, where blobs of the stuff phase through each other..” I coughed again, “but it takes a controlled environment.”

“What would make a substance a good candidate for interference?” asked Thor.

“With Bose-Einstein condensates…” I coughed and licked my lips, “the key is that helium-4 can act like a boson, so particles of it can be in the same place at the same time, but I guess chemical simplicity in general would help.”

“Like, what chemical substances could work?” asked Thor.

My throat was so dry. I wanted to see what I was coughing up, to check if it was bloody or infected, but the night was almost pitch black, without a moon. My skin even felt dry.

“Um… I don’t know,” I choked. “…Noble gasses and elementals, ammonia, water—”

“—Boy!” said Odin. “…Water. Sounds like you could use some!”

“I’ll be right back,” I said, and I practically ran inside for some water. I grabbed one of the large tumblers from the kitchen cabinet and downed two fillings of it from the kitchen sink. I filled it again, because I was just that thirsty, suddenly.

I noticed my hands looked pale, dry, and venous. I stepped into the bathroom to inspect myself in the mirror. I turned on the light, and I noticed I looked thin, pale… desiccated? I didn’t know what to make of it, but I grabbed my water and headed back outside.

“Feeling better?” asked my personification of a desire for a girlfriend with super powers.

“Not really…” I said.

“Wow,” said Odin, “I’m thinking about this macroscopic interference stuff you were talking about. I mean, water is so readily available, and everyone who’s taken a chemistry class knows every water molecule is exactly the same—right?”

“Yeah, they’re interchangeable,” I said. “The full set of quantum observables are never exactly the same for fermions, but any water molecule would act the exact same way exchanged with any other.” My throat was still dry.

“I mean, if you could interfere water, you could get your reagents anywhere,” said Odin. “Even the human body is, like—what—about 70% water?”

I felt lightheaded. In fact, nothing felt right. “Yeah…” I said.

Odin and Loki gave each other frustrated looks.

“I mean,” said Loki, “you could fake a miracle with that—like turning a false prophet into a mummified husk—but probably only if you had, like, two-thousand years to prep for it—as you approached a quantum information singularity, or something.”

“Hey, Dan,” he added, “if you pissed off a powerful being a long time ago, who could live for thousands of years, and he wanted to try something like that on you, how might you stop it?”

I took a swig of my water. My throat was dry, again. My skin was dry. My eyes were dry.

I started running around the property in a desperately erratic path. The Aesir tailed me.

“What are you doing here, Dan?” asked Loki.

“Macroscopic interference,” I said, “would depend on off-diagonal terms in the density matrix,” I huffed, “from a large number of respectively superposed and identical degrees of quantum freedom.”

“So why are you running around like a half-mummified chicken?” asked Loki.

“Because an unpredictable or hard-to-recreate path through space for the water in my body would make it difficult,” I said, panting, “to either superpose degrees of freedom or keep them identical across quantum parallel worlds,” I added through a slightly moister throat, “especially if I’m lucky and there’s a quantum computational element to my choice of path.”

“You make it sound like thousands of years of human history led up to you running around your lawn like a psycho,” said Thor, “like we were approaching some singular end-of-the-world scenario where some long-lived fascist thought he could end your opposition to his hegemony by faking a miracle with a spectacularly showy and hard-to-believe application of quantum theory. Hey, Dan, but how could he pull that off? It’s almost as if he knew precisely what was going to happen, to the nearly exact level of quantum detail, to line up quantum parallel worlds or something like that. Did you say brains might be quantum? How could he do that? It’s almost like he would have to be able to predict the future in minute detail.”

Despite the running, it felt like I was starting to hydrate from the gut full of water. “Christ, I don’t know!” I shouted. “…Obsessively researched predictive models? …An actual Bekenstein limit maximization? …Tachyon-like signalling between quantum computers via entanglement? But…” I shook my head.

“…But what?” asked Thor.

“…But that’s such pseudo-scientific, self-help guru bullshit!

The Aesir laughed as I rounded the house for a fourth or fifth time and turned on my heels. It’d been years since I’d run a mile, even, but there was no end to the insanity in sight, and I somehow felt better for at least getting some exercise out of this, or something.

My parents heard me yell, and came out of the house to plead with me to just stop.

“Just stop, Dan,” I heard my brother say.

“Just stop, Dan,” I heard my mother say.

My father looked absolutely lurid, and we had nothing to say to each other.

My family called the cops. The ambulance followed shortly, and, as they strapped me to the gurney, the Aesir suggested that it wasn’t over, and they joked I might have an alien “head-crab” parasite attached to me in a parallel quantum world that was only ever-so-slightly different. It was an animated night. You’d think the world was ending.

Of course, I was admitted to the hospital. That night, as I fell asleep, I recited a poem that I’d written for Bastet’s physical counterpart, over and over aloud, like a mantra, until I fell asleep under those horrible fluorescent lights. No bombs went off. If the Four Horsemen rode, I couldn’t see them, even in my mind’s eye.

“To the Cat God:…” I would repeat, “This is the poem I never wrote for you…”

“It’s a nice poem,” said Bastet, “and I love you. Now, just stop, Dan,” she joked. “Just never write me another poem again.”

Maybe Everett was right, that life is a natural quantum suicide experiment that continues for an arbitrarily long time in unlikely, miraculous worlds. I’d like to think that billions of quantum parallel worlds converged on the point at the end of this sentence.

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Happy Birthday

Aug 05 2015 Published by under Poetry

The Mother is the first great mystery:

pervasive, warm, concealing life, she bounds

a universe without a history—

or so it thinks. She moves, and it astounds

a world unnamed, like God—like gravity.

I move, therefore I am; I think I am.

You move, therefore I am. You are; I’m me.

We’re extant, one, discrete… You are I am.

I cannot say if that is what I thought,

though thinking of it drove me ’round the bend.

We strained, and cursed, and pushed, and pulled, and fought.

How could I know or tolerate the end?

To my surprise, it was not death, but birth.

I would not give my Mother up for Earth.

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Disarmed (My Second Commission)

Aug 03 2015 Published by under Poetry

the poem’s essence slashes;
the Te is to cut.

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Another Pint

Aug 02 2015 Published by under Poetry

I must relent. I must admit it’s strange—
exceeding strange—to give a pint of blood
as greeting card, for nothing in exchange,
and stop. Although you fear the crimson flood,
a pint is what you get, and nothing more.
So quaff it, since you’ll like it or you won’t.
You either take a draught and hit the floor,
and say you want it stronger, when you don’t,
or gag at the aroma of the hops
and sate instead on sugar and a wedge,
or pound it, dredge the last few tannic drops
indiff’rent, shrug, and say, “It kills the edge.”
My blood is not a holy sacrament.
It just diverts the otherwise hell-bent.

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Steal This Poem

Aug 01 2015 Published by under Poetry

If you are unabashed to claim this verse,
then all its love and hate belong to you.
Some think it overlong; some find it terse.
Some understand, but most don’t have a clue
just why your rhyme and meter carry on,
when all the world’s an oyster to be shucked,
sincerity’s the foil to a come-on,
and “beauty” follows “beauty” to be fucked.
You have a verse, but do you have “success?”
The adolescent heart beats fast and bleeds,
and then, at twenty-nine, gives up excess.
It’s nature’s course. A poem, no one feeds.
You have a verse beyond their expectation.
Please take my word; you have my admiration.

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