Knives Dark – Chapter 1 – “A thesis for God”

Outside, the morning September air was crisp, the sky vermilion hued with the fiery glow of sunrise. Allan Darque opened the garage door to his mansion situated in the countryside just outside the suburbs of the city of Rochester in upstate New York. He looked at his two sports cars, a black Honda Civic Type-R and a white Subaru STI. Rocking his head back and forth, he decided to drive the Subaru today.

The car doors unlocked as he slid his hand into the passenger door handle and pulled. He tossed his laptop attache into the passenger footwell, shut the door, and walked around the car to the driver side, relishing in the fresh air. He got in, feeling slightly like a klutz as he plopped into the low seat. He paused a moment, taking a deep breath, his racing thoughts gently settling, like sediment at the bottom of a riverbed.

Reversing out of his driveway, Allan drove slowly through his neighborhood. The engine of the Subaru STI roared to life as he dropped the clutch to engage first gear while turning left onto the single-lane country highway. He felt the pickup of his 300 HP stock engine, the whining of the turbo as the pressure gauge revved up to 10 PSI, then 15, before he finally kicked the clutch pedal to shift into second.

He accelerated to 60 in under five seconds as his eyes darted to his radar detector, which signaled the all-clear, and he continued accelerating, shredding through third gear and into fourth. He was doing 90 a few hundred meters from the highway on-ramp to I-490 West when he let go of the accelerator, letting the alternator, engine braking, and air drag do their work in slowing the car back down to a cool 50. His car hugged the inner lip of the on ramp as he felt the G’s in his stomach, his left hand wrapped around the steering wheel like a vice grip while his right hand floated loosely on the shifter.

Radiohead’s “4-minute warning” played gently over the audio system in his car, the one component he hadn’t left stock. The default sound system in the car was abysmal, and he’d replaced both the head unit and speakers within a month after buying it. The Alpine head unit and Focal front speakers with the 15″ subwoofer and dedicated 4+1 channel DSP were proof of Allan’s devotion to music: the entire sound system had easily cost upwards of four grand.

If money could buy happiness, then Allan Darque should have been a happy thirty-something bachelor. For all intents and purposes, he was faring far better than his millennial counterparts in all things career and material, but when it came to life satisfaction, he felt like he was at the bottom of the barrel with the rest of them. Upper middle class was not that much better off than the nation’s middle and lower classes. It was only the upper echelon, the economic elite of society, who were truly financially “free” — if such a thing even existed in the world. Even then, Allan was certain that the filthy rich were equally, if not more, shackled than their poorer counterparts, but by a different set of circumstances. It was a dog-eat-dog world, after all; the cutthroat nature of post-industrial capitalism had a noose around everyone’s necks.

This is just a nightmare… cooed Thom Yorke’s melancholy voice. Allan’s lips parted to lip synch to the song. Soon I’m gonna wake up… Someone’s gonna bring me ’round.

Allan had stopped waiting for someone. He now found solace in the thought of never waking up from this nightmare: the nightmare was his reality. In his heart of hearts, he embraced his quiet solitude so it no longer weighed upon him as it had during his tumultuous twenties.

Instead, he had decided that unquenchable black hole deep in his breast was a gift to be cherished. It was God’s blessing: a vacuousness which propelled him in career and life towards success. It was his inability to be content or satisfied with any station in life that was the infinite engine whose endless supply of energy would catapult him far above the eyes of all onlookers. Age and experience provided the yoke for that incredible spirit, allowing him to harness the vitality of his will to survive.

He had long sought love in his youth and had come no closer to it than a bird might come to swimming the ocean’s depths. Rather than drown himself trying, he had done the only reasonable thing a man could do: give up in his search for love, and play his hand the best he could in this game of life. In accepting himself for who he was rather than contemplating what he lacked, he’d extricated himself from the stormy waters and crashing waves, and had come to soar high above the world. It was from this aloof view that he peered down upon the rest of mankind, who appeared to him smaller than insects, privy to the truth of their cosmic insignificance. It was from here, too, that the stars sparkled with such startling clarity that the vision of the heavens was burned into his mind’s eye, unshakable. From this height, he could perceive of only one all-encompassing truth: God, Yahweh, Allah, the Almighty. Indeed, He had many names, and He was the Most Merciful, Most Kind. Ah-rahmanir rahim, the lord of all worlds.

Though he considered himself a Muslim, Allan hardly considered himself a good Muslim. In fact, many days, he wondered if he could truly call himself a Muslim. He prayed only on occasion, never went to the Mosque, and did not observe Ramadan through fasting. The only thing he did religiously was try to avoid pork, an immense challenge in western society, and recite the few suras he knew on a daily basis. His remembrance of God, though flawed, was still evident in his life, and the gentleness by which he treated others. Though he had felt wronged so much in his life, he long stopped bearing any grudges against his fellow humans, seeing hatred for the disease it was.

Instead, he fostered a sense of compassion and forgiveness, understanding that life was difficult, and the straight path was never the easy one to walk. Indeed, Allan had succumbed to the temptations of this life far too many times to feel righteous in any sense of the word. He was simply a man doing the best he could, may Allah have mercy on his soul.

He also knew that, more often than not, it was the arrogance of those who perceived of themselves as self-righteous that committed the greatest atrocities and sins. The Christians in their crusades, Hitler in his holocaust, the modern militant Islamic factions splintering the middle east, and countless other tragedies that speckled human history like leprosy: at the root of all this devastation was arrogant self-righteousness.

This was the supreme sin, the sin for which Iblis — Shaytan, or Satan — had been cast out from the heavens. It was Shaytan’s arrogant self-righteousness to believe that he knew better than Allah. It was the same self-righteousness that convinced religious zealots to cause such destruction upon the Earth in the name of God. It was again that self-righteousness that had led white Americans to enslave countless Africans during the heyday of slavery, terming them an inferior species of humanity. That trend had not stopped there: racism continued to shackle African Americans with Jim Crowe laws following their emancipation in post Civil War America, then later with discriminatory police brutality combined with a multi-billion dollar socioeconomic prison industry designed to detain minorities.

It wasn’t just America. This trend of oppression was present all across the globe, with the empowered majority quashing the often impoverished and ethnic minority. It was the harrowing song of humanity, a tune whose chords kept repeating in distinct syncopated harmonies, to the rhythm of a broken heart. Allan saw it all, and once upon a time, he had cursed God for creating so unjust a world.

Back then, Allan’s real reason for despising God was his own isolation in high school. Allan desperately wanted to feel close to someone, to have friends who cared about him beyond the superficialities of school, to have a girlfriend whom he could care for. These were all healthy desires, but alas, for whatever reason, Allan had a difficult time finding people capable of keeping up with the emotional and intellectual tempo at which he functioned. Somehow, most people just seemed glaringly inadequate, and did little to bring him comfort. The few women he was interested in had zero, or less than zero, interest in him.

Like the angry teenager he was, Allan cursed God for the angst which consumed him. If God existed, how could he make a world that left Allan feeling so terribly alone? And while Allan’s father was incredibly devoted and caring, this was not something that a parent’s love could solve.

So Allan had decided he would take no stock in a God that created such a world, though he cited all the other far more egregious injustices within it as reasoning for his decision. He decried God and declared himself an atheist, though he would later realize he was much more an agnostic, because unlike most atheists, he still thought God probably existed.

It was in his sophomore year of college, separate from his parents and home, living on his own, that his psyche began to crumble and fall apart. Back then, he wanted to kill himself. Life felt too difficult to bear, surrounded by callous college students who were indifferent to the pains of one another, lectured by professors about materials he enjoyed, but pummeled by exams and homeworks that stressed him out to no end. He wondered why he existed at all, what was the point if there was only this overwhelming emotional pain?

Depression seeped through the cracks of his mind, permeating his every thought with dark ideations of suicide and self-harm. He imagined shooting himself in the head with magnums, slicing his wrists and resting comfortably with the shower on as the world faded, taking that lethal injection of heroin to enter into perpetual bliss. But no, he wouldn’t let himself do it, because his parents loved him too much, and he was bound by that love, he owed himself to them, to see life through.

Thusly, he kept putting one step in front of another, continuing onwards despite all the pain he felt inside. He took a leave of absence from his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, only to return later, then to take another leave of absence. Each time he took a leave, he found a job as a software engineer and worked using skills he’d picked up on his own, outside of classes, and paid off his student loans. He returned to Carnegie Mellon a third time, completing his junior year and his engineering capstone. He hardly had one semester’s worth of courses left when he took one more leave of absence, this time, seemingly for good.

It was during these years at Carnegie Mellon, sandwiched between coursework and the burden of his existential crisis, that Allan began to ponder about the truth of the universe. What was it all amounting to? Allan began at the quantum level, reasoning that quantum mechanical particles and phenomena gave probabilistic rise to the protons, neutrons, and electrons that comprised atomic nuclei. These atomic nuclei then congealed in different sizes to form the array of known atoms in the universe. Amongst these atoms, certain atoms combined to form the basis of organic compounds: proteins and self-replicating RNA. Allan observed that each “level” was effectively a layer of abstraction whose interactions gave rise to more complex and intricate behaviours at the next higher level.

Organic compounds then interacted in such a way as to form viruses and unicellular organisms: prokaryotic cells such as bacterium which could form colonies with signaling mechanisms, and eukaryotic cells such as amoebae. From the eukaryotic cells evolved collections of cells into organs in a tightly knit organism. These organisms continued evolving to give rise to the complex lifeforms that inhabited the Earth. These organisms in turn developed societies and hierarchies, and from this arose humanity.

Mankind is the byproduct of countless years of evolution and organic pruning. To believe that such a well-ordered and magnificent system could arise arbitrarily seems akin to saying that a microprocessor or computer program can design itself. It cannot. But how intelligent design dictates and leads biological evolution forward is a mystery that humanity may never solve.

All Allan could see repeated through all these layers of existence was one truth: order begets order. Therefore, it had to be that there was a universal order, that everything amounted to something. Here, Allan applied a leap of faith and concluded that, for him, it was undeniably true that God must exist. God must be directing the evolution of everything, by means and mechanisms of which humans knew naught. And so, Allan proved to himself, through his own knowledge surmised from reading, that God must necessarily exist.

If God so definitely existed, Allan decided he had to become closer to God in order to understand his purpose in this life. That was the only path to absolve his suffering, which back then, choked and asphyxiated him. But how does one become closer to God?

Allan first sought the texts which he thought were the least perverted by mankind’s touch. He did not trust the Bible nor the Torah, for he felt both the Christians and Jews had altered the word of God for material self-gain. Instead, he looked to Tao Te Ching and the Quran. In the Tao Te Ching, he found the abstract essence of Allah, the mysterious and all-knowing; the tao was akin to wisdom knotted between the boughs of perplexing paradoxes upon the tree of life. In the Quran, he found commandments, the wisdom of which was not at first clear and initially seemed almost tyrannical, but upon further reflection, felt sagacious and guiding.

Indeed, Allah had sent many prophets to this Earth before Muhammed. Mankind had been graced with guidance all through its existence upon this plane. God had seen to that. For a being so omnipotent and all-powerful, Allan conceived that it was but child’s play to concoct a universe such as this, with physics that gave rise to such complex lifeforms and organisms as humans. It was not mere chance, it was dictated by design.

Nevertheless, it was not a belief that he imposed upon others. “Allah will guide those whom he wishes,” was Allan’s tacit belief. Empirical science would always reconcile itself with Allah.

Allan believed in Allah above all else. More than his parents, more than his siblings. There was a warm constancy in his heart towards the thought of Allah. For Allah had answered Allan’s prayers to be strong: Allan had become emotionally and physically quite capable over the years. Many people tend to pray to God that good things may come of them upon this life. Rather, Allan prayed that good would come to those whom he loved, his brothers and sisters, and all the humans struggling in the world. He prayed that he would be able to grant his parents peace in this life, through his success. But most of all, he wished for strength: insurmountable strength that would allow him to attain his dreams, and to protect those whom he loved.

upon this shadowy path

walk life’s dark hallway
shadowy boxcar of a train
silver moonlight stacked
atwixt venetians, cracked
a carpet dark crimson
like a clotted incision
in its veins a faint beat
slight lukewarm heat
like a body dead, decaying
its edges worn and fraying
this life’s linear pathway
limned by light at death’s gate
heaven’s inevitable shimmer
surrender to its golden glimmer
walk towards your lonely grave
alone, full of love all the same

Thoughts on Being Human (and male)

Some part of me tries to own up to my actions and my mistakes, and I do. I don’t blame other people for what I do, but I also find that I forgive myself for my actions. Sometimes I’m strict, mostly I’m understanding of my situation and what causes me to act out.

In the end, it’s loneliness and a general inability to handle it properly. I go out there and do things without thinking about the repercussions or how it will affect other people. This has gotten me banned from a gym of late, suspended from work, voted off the board of directors of a nonprofit, has led to a run-in with the secret service for my blog posts, and in the past decade, I’ve had numerous other encounters with the police.

I don’t try and justify my actions to others, because I don’t think I ever could. My actions seem justified to myself, because I know how my mind becomes short-circuited and acts impulsively and outrageously. I asked a girl if I could watch her do squats at the gym — this seems like I’m being perverse, or horny, or gross. That wasn’t the case at all. Honestly, I thought it was pretty funny, though I doubt I would have been very entertained in the end. It wasn’t an act I sought for sexual gratification.

I’ve confessed my love to numerous women, but yeah, these have all just been acts of desperation. All these women are already either married or in relationships, so that makes it doubly unlikely that anything would have come of it. But for me, I experienced a brief catharsis for being able to express my pent up emotions.

What I want more than anything else in the world is to just be in a relationship that is nurturing and inspiring. A relationship that enables me to be the best I can be, and to no longer be plagued by emotions of loneliness and emptiness. But I am okay with the thought of such a thing never coming to pass. Some part of me definitely feels like relationships are overrated: there’s a freedom to being a bachelor that I would lose in a domestic partnership.

My past has left me feeling leaden and constricted. I have moments where I want to do something spontaneous to see what happens, without worrying about whether what I’m doing is stupid or inappropriate. 

But blind spontaneity like that gets me into trouble, probably rightly so. Me being thick-skinned and thick-skulled, I keep repeating the same mistakes, though I have made tremendous strides in refraining. These past couple of weeks have just been extremely trying, partly because of horrible insomnia, partly because of new medications, and entirely because of the fallout from my actions.

I don’t expect forgiveness or understanding. I know that’s not how the world works for the most part. Right now, I’m actually thinking clearly, so I wanted to take the time to get this off my chest, and say I’m sorry. Not to anyone in particular, but certainly to all the women I’ve mistakenly harassed without thinking I was doing anything wrong.

Before you say I should seek therapy, just know that I’m already getting help.

I doubt I’ll be a problem for anyone in the future. I’m moving on with my life.

Lifetimes

sometimes life gets you down
sometimes you drive downtown
only to stumble around
you were once lost, now you’re found

sometimes you wanna run away
from all the pains of every day
just gotta keep on trying
gliding til you start flying

never give up
never lose hope
you’re your last chance
and your only rope

just feel the feeling
of now and dance
just jump around
everywhere, just prance

don’t ever stop believing
that someday you’ll be free
and everything from today
will wash away in the rain

How Feminism is Wrong

Women. Love ’em or hate ’em. These days, women have claws and teeth which they are eager to use, often inciting law enforcement and legal action upon unsuspecting males. As indicative of the “me too” movement, women have been given increasing power to influence and affect the lives of normal men in more ways than ever before.

Once upon a time, cultural norms established the standard that women ought to be seen, not heard. Women were housekeepers, and therein was their domain. They were responsible caregivers who raised the young. A woman’s role in a household was to run the house, while a man’s role was to run the world. Things were peaceful back then.

Circa the progressive women’s rights movements, women’s suffrage, and allowing women to work in the workplace, all this began to change. Suddenly, there was a new, more confusing landscape which left men emasculated. We could no longer make casual jokes about women without being regarded as misogynists, or deny women promotions on accounts of very real performance differences between men and women in similar fields. The proof is in the pudding: women simply don’t care about the technical work they do as much as men, meaning shoddier quality, less attention to detail, and overall, worse craftsmanship. Yet they demand equal compensation when their output for the time put in is not nearly the same. A man can produce sterling work; at the end of the day, a woman simply has to produce work, if any at all, to call it a day.

This difference in standards is what leads to the pay gap. Most women don’t care about advanced mathematics, digital electronics, cutting edge programming languages, and all the major breakthrough technologies of today. They are biologically geared to care about only one thing: themselves and their families.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Women can contribute meaningfully to fields. Of this, there is no doubt. There are many great contributions from women to science. But a coed workplace is not the solution. Instead, a coed workplace is distracting, both for males and females. Men cannot focus because of all the useless gossip and chit-chat that is incurred by women. Meanwhile, women think that the men are gawking them and making fun of them: when in fact, the men are wholesomely annoyed that there are any women in the workplace to begin with.

Not only that, but women tend to be utterly incompetent at most technical positions compared to men. There’s a reason why STEM fields are dominated by men: because men are actually good at thinking logically and rationally. Women are only capable of thinking emotionally. This retards their decision-making faculties. They prefer favoritism, rather than skill-based recognition of rewards and incentives. They’re arbitrary. Depending on the time of month, you’re bound to get different responses from them. They’re inconsistent.

All-in-all, women make terrible workers. Yet we’re forced by law to hire these zany, idiotic creatures who self-righteously and zealously insert themselves where they have no business pretending like they have any notion of what they’re talking about.

You may detest my article and my words, but mark them. Society is in upheaval because of feminism. Men are being unfairly targeted and emasculated, and the effects are profound in first-world nations. Birth rates are declining because women are becoming more testosterone-driven owing to wanting “careers”.

We as a civilization and society need to take a step back and examine what has worked for us in the past, and what is causing problems for us now. I say wholeheartedly: women in the workplace are a problem. Let’s nip this one in the bud. Women should have careers — but only in workplaces with other women.

I love you more than this world – Chapter 1, Part 0

Dedicated to the women I have fallen in love with and continue to love. You may never understand how I feel. Despite us being strangers, you have afforded me tremendous patience. All of you mean more than the world to me. I wish you and your spouses the happiness you deserve, and more.

Hadrian Solmnus

Chapter I

Hello Darkness

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

She stood at the front of the conference room in a fiery crimson flannel sweatshirt and jeans. Her green eyes sparkled beneath the xenon conference room lights, an invigorating and resplendent smile pulled across her raised cheekbones exposing her straight, sparkling teeth.

Krista’s hair was cut short into a tomboy haircut. She wore zirconium earrings that gleamed magnificently in the white light and appeared several orders of magnitude more valuable than their bargain bin prices would have otherwise indicated. In a way, her earrings captured the essence of her soul: plain, stunning, and beautiful.

That’s how Allan would have described her at least. The energy with which she carried herself as she began the presentation was infectious. He found all the worries of his life, career, and solitude melting away before the warmth of this diva who had appeared before him from out of nowhere, upfront and center stage. He tried to look away from her, feeling the familiar way her beauty was tugging at his hapless heart strings, orchestrating a symphony of sentiments that he knew all-too-well marked the foundations of infatuation: love that was misunderstood by people and trampled by the callous machinations of human society.

Instead, he tried to engage himself with small talk with the two other engineers sitting on either side of him. Both were front-end JavaScript engineers, one of them was named Jessica, the other Jeff. Jeff worked at a small firm called Scales of Progress which did contracting for government organization focused on data analytics and visualizations. Jessica, meanwhile, worked as a UI engineer for another small firm that focused mostly on client work for small and medium-sized businesses in the region. Compared to them, Allan did more backend work. He developed industrial software automation for manufacturing.

“I work at a company called KMS Squared,” Allan told Jeff and Jessica. “It’s located across the street from the Rochester Institute of Technology. We manufacture high-energy RF power generators that power plasma chambers for semiconductor manufacturing.”

Allan said all of these things in a simple, matter-of-fact way. In his mind, he felt an admixture of two separate emotions: pride for his job and his position, for his intelligence as an engineer and his contributions to an industry at the cutting edge of science and manufacturing, and shyness that he might come off as show-offish, which was not his intent. Through his interactions with other people, Allan knew he had a profound level of intellect that surpassed the vast majority of humans he dealt with. He did not try and impose this fact on them, and instead, tried to make them comfortable by acting stupid and silly. He realized most people were small and intolerant; narrow-minded creatures who could not understand his emotions and his brilliance. Allan truly lived in a separate world from the rest of humanity, even as he walked the same earth as them.

In his heart, he felt no condescension towards other people. In much the same way that he watched ants and insects, creatures much less than him, he watched people. They were curious, distant, miniscule. Their behaviors did not make sense to him. In similitude, the ants could not comprehend the gargantuan humans who existed in a world so much beyond theirs. The analogy extended to humans, who like the ants looking up at people, could not fathom the spirit of Allan.

Allan was like the ocean, vast in its depths, profoundly powerful, strong, sweeping. He could both destroy and create, in torrential tsunamis and peaceful waves. Like the ocean and the Earth, Allan was himself beholden to forces far greater than he: the gravity of the sun and solar system, the supermassive black holes that orchestrated the galaxy, and the awe-inspiring force of the Lord and Creator of the Universe, Allah, the almighty. Indeed, to Allah, Allan was but a pawn, a mere pebble if not less, like a speck of sand on a beach. In this cosmic web and hierarchy, Allan loved his Lord more than life.

Certainly, he loved God more than any woman. They could never fathom this, especially those who called God a fictitious entity of make-believe. People would ridicule an empirical man of science like Allan for subscribing to such a fairy-tale, to this man in the sky and His Biblical and Quranic verses. Such people were foolhardy and limited of understanding. They could do nothing to impede the strength of a being as incredible as Allah, and of God’s servant, Allan.

“Our power generators rely a realtime embedded system to generate the small-signal digital waveform using an FPGA and DSP. This waveform is then channeled through power amplifiers into the kilowatt ranges to produce the signal that drives the plasma chamber. Because of complex impedance, electromagnetic power can be reflected through the transmission medium back towards the generator… so our devices monitor the complex impedance and tweak the frequency of the output in realtime to perform impedance matching to ensure maximum power throughput and minimize reflection.

“Me, I’m the software QA engineer for these generators. I write the automation and infrastructure to test our power generators and ensure they’re behaving according to spec for our clients.” Allan finished with a smile.

“I mostly write all my automation in Python. Lovely language,” he gestured to his screen, at the code he’d been working on quietly before the seminar began.

Allan was attending this meetup at the advice of his therapist who had encouraged him to get out into the world to deal with his depression and anxiety. Now on the tail end of his twenties and fast approaching the big third decade of his life on this earth, he was the epitome of the saying that money didn’t buy happiness.

***

Allan had attempted to write novels in the past. They turned out to be too meandering, and he wasn’t sure who he was writing for. There was no central plot, conflict, or anything resembling the archetype of a good story. As a result, his novel attempts were little more than wayward fantasies, a boy lost in his daydreams, so to speak. He wrote about immortals, one immortal in particular, “Serrellanos Arclaud” whose name was a portmanteau of his immortal parent’s names: Serrathanos and Estelle Arclaud.

Allan dreamed that Serrathanos and Estelle conceived of Serrellanos, the first true immortal, by creating their own splinter dimension that existed coaxially to the primary universe’s timeline. Therein, time flowed differently, but had effects upon the real world.

It was Allan’s real-life parents, whose relationship had always been terrible, that Allan wanted to mend in this fantasy. He wished more than anything else that his parents could have been in love with each other as God intended, rather than bickering constantly over the smallest and most impertinent things.

Allan detested his mother in real life for her nature. Dayraksha was a lazy, jealous, material person who counted pennies and spied on her husband, never giving him a moment of respite or solace. She never tried to support him, instead, she lay in bed playing games on facebook and getting worked up over things her husband should or should not have posted. Yet his mother arrogantly believed she had every right to be such a worthless and despicable character. Except for Kesha, the youngest sister who had gotten her PhD and settled down to live her own life in California, the rest of Allan’s mother’s side of the family were leeches that lived off the wealth of their father, Allan’s grandfather, believing they were doing right and just in the world, even as they left their families to suffer.

Dayraksha’s brother Khafka, Allan’s uncle, and the only son to the Darque family, was a fat stupid who pretended to know-it-all; he acted smart, but just walked about the house all day doing nothing, lost in his own thoughts, listening to shitty pop music. He didn’t contribute to anything; if anything, he made life more difficult. He used his inheritance to go on vacations and see to his needs in life, but he never once conceived of holding a steady job. Instead, he saw work as being menial and beneath him. As a result, his ego inflated as his cloud nine puffed along to nowhere.

From his father’s side of the family, Allan had plenty of successful uncles who had been successful by working hard in life; one of them was a banker and broker in Australia, another, a regional vice president overseeing banking operations in south Asia, another owned a travel agency and manufactured clothing and textiles.

Allan’s mother, stupidly jealous, saw it naturally fit to convince herself of a contorted perspective of all these uncles as thieves and terrible people. She would fume through the house about the things those uncles had done or said to her, most likely taken out of context, decades ago. She claimed her husband was more interested in the spouses of his brothers than his own spouse. She was right in this regard: everyone else was certainly living a more interesting life than the twisted and broken Dayraksha.

Dayraksha was the evil that had been asphyxiating the Darque family for years. She acted like a desiccated husk, “oh your father used me to birth you children, and this is what I get.”

Dayraksha, quite simply, had no notion of how to live life, or what made life beautiful. The only things she cared about were taking pictures to show how beautiful she was as she posed in a dress she’d spent three or more hours putting on. Posting these pictures to facebook and getting likes accounted for her sense of fulfillment in life.

In contrast, Allan had deleted his facebook account numerous times, recreating it only to stay in contact with those people he deemed pivotal in his life. He did not care to share his life with the world, as he was sure the world did not care much for the details of his individual life either. Allan was neither pretty nor famous, he did not have many friends, and he did not care to modify his lifestyle in an attempt to take more photos and post to facebook and instagram and twitter. Instead, his concept of life derived from what he valued most: his hobbies.

Allan loved writing fiction & poetry, playing electric guitar, and playing fighting video games. He’d often wanted to become a novelist or game developer running his own company, but had not yet published his own book nor begun work on his own game. He had an entrepreneurial spirit about him when it came to certain projects, a gung-ho “get-it-done” mentality that made him perfectly suited for indie ventures. But alas, for all of Allan’s skill and passion, work and life had a way of sucking up all his time and energy and leaving him with barely enough to keep on working on his hobbies outside of work.

A self-taught programmer, he had made his career by paying attention to the details and caring about the final product. For Allan, code was more than just a means to a paycheck. For him, code reflected his very soul.

It was painful for Allan to have to apply his passion for programming to a job he did not care much for, whilst his game development career floundered. This at heart contributed to his depression and anxiety. But it was not the only seed for his maladies, as loneliness also haunted poor Allan. He had no girlfriend. Nearly thirty and still a virgin, he looked helplessly as all the incredible and beautiful women around him were scooped up by other men.

He didn’t want much. Mostly, he wanted to be able to look into someone’s eyes and someone’s face and be comforted. His thoughts were not perverse. It was the harrowed longing of an artist or songbird looking upon the most beautiful flower. It was the desire to hold snowflakes in the palm of one’s hand, knowing such flakes would melt instantly. Despite the seeming possibility of Allan’s deepest wishes being granted, of him finding companionship on this plane of existence, he held onto life in the ultimate struggle for his own fate and existence. This was his jihad, though few could understand.

Whether other men were more deserving of women than he, Allan could not say. What was it that Allan lacked, if anything? He long pondered upon this quandary only to draw blanks. Perhaps he lacked something, perhaps he did not. Allah knew best, for Allah gave and took and was a mercy for all mankind. Allan knew it was not in his role to make such judgements as to who was worthy of receiving Allah’s blessings. Indeed, while Allan was alone, he was incredibly blessed in countless other ways, and could not find it in his heart to complain. Allah was infinitely kind, all-knowing.

And thusly, Allan took upon himself the tragic role of loving women from afar, unable to do much save gaze upon them longingly. In consequence, his capacity for love grew, even as his heart hardened into a diamond about a quavering tenderness.

***

Serrellanos stood at the edge of a precipice in a crystal cavern. From all around, the rocks emanated a blue glow that lit up the cavern so that everything was visible like in the faint hours of twilight. Deep in the crevasse below could be heard rushing waters.

He continued to stand there, peering into the inky black depths that awaited him below. It was not fear that gripped him. As an Immortal, he knew he would survive such a fall. It was not uncertainty. Rather, it was a familiar gnawing, a clawing. A vacuous sensation in his heart where memories lurked.

In the crevasse, he heard the laughter of women he knew, women he had once loved. Krista, with her sparkling green eyes and hair cut short, her laughter was audible most of all. Serrellanos knew not what it meant. His tired mind played tricks on him, perhaps. He wished it would end, this sensation of loving a person he hardly knew, but nothing could silence his emotions.

A sigh escaped his lips, but he did not move. Then, he stepped forward and fell.

yume no yume (dream of dreams)

4 one soundless day
5 the wind danced and swayed
5 the flowers, they prayed
5 I drifted away

4 upon a breeze
7 the scent of serenity
7 transcending eternity
5 gently compelled me

4 nobody knows
5 to where does it go
5 I sought to follow
5 my soul so hollow

4 shed all your weight
7 the burden of your hate
7 surrender to fate
5 don’t dare to wait

4 a single breath
5 divides our life from death
5 but have no dread
5 you’re already dead

Game of Life

They played a game of Go on 23×23 grid in a quiet chamber whose walls glowed iridescent and from whose ceiling an artificial sun cast soft warmth over everything.

“It’s interesting,” VAR-1026 commented as he placed a black piece on the board. “Of 6.24 quintillion simulated universes I’ve executed that gave rise to intelligent life, the probability of the belief in a singular higher power is unity. Not approximately: it is precisely unity.”

SEN-0623 stared at the board thoughtfully before placing a white piece next to his brother’s black piece. “It’s reasonable, is it not?”

VAR-1026 smiled. “Not like your move.” He deftly placed another piece upon another corner.

SEN nodded. “Even though we lack a distinct solution, we too have to contemplate that our universe is but a stable simulation within a subset, created by a greater power not unlike ourselves.” He rolled his piece thoughtfully in his six-fingered hand. “Imagine that: us being simulated by us!” SEN laughed.

VAR did not seem to share SEN’s recursive humor. “Simply because we must account for these facts does not implicate the existence of a higher power — especially not an all-encompassing singular one as tends to be the object of worship.” VAR replied, leaning his head back thoughtfully and looking into the artificial sun.

“Why not? If the fractal nature of reality and the beliefs of our simulated beings, virtual as they are, produce such signs of a ‘Master of All Universes’, then perhaps we should consider it as a non-formal proof of implication.” SEN finally placed his piece.

“Universes within universes. Master of all universes.” VAR echoed with another move that mimicked his brother’s last move.

“Objectively reasonable.” SEN replied seriously, building up his placement on a yet-unclaimed spot.

“But it is still not a formal solution.” VAR placed his piece in a manner that seemed arbitrary.

“The lack of a formal solution could simply mean something imperceptible even to us. Fundamental quantum predictability is proven beyond our means. There are veils to existence that no level of technological development can pierce.” SEN placed his piece truly arbitrarily.

“Yet in those simulations, the probability of unity defies unpredictability.” VAR placed his next piece adjacent to a white piece. “There should at least be other solutions that give rise to intelligent life who do not believe in any greater power. Beings that simply exist, raw and pure, without need for such existential definitions.”

“You seem unusually bothered.” SEN replied, placing one of his brother’s pieces in atari.

“In a sense, I feel trapped.” VAR replied as he stared at the atari. “I want objective and conclusive evidence of God, otherwise I want to witness a solution free of such wont.” He countered the atari, moving towards his existing formation.

SEN smiled. “But God does not seem to want us to perceive Him, nor has He given us any such solution. We simply sit around controlling entropy as time tends towards eternity while we selfishly try and satisfy parameters defined by our construction.” He continued his offensive against his brother.

“By the standards of those simulated existences, we must be terrible beings.” VAR placed a new piece with four liberties.

“Why judge or be bothered by such quandaries of morality? What scales have we to judge? This is simply the nature of our existence.” SEN shifted his focus and reduced one of the liberties of his brother’s last move.

“Just the nature of our existence. Back and forth.” VAR echoed, placing a piece adjacent to SEN’s last move as he played towards ko.

“Arguably, our struggle of ‘faith’ is indefinitely more intricate than that of any being in our simulations, given the timescale we have to doubt and formulate our conclusions of God as instructed by our parameters.” SEN replied as he reduced another of his brother’s liberties, playing into the ko.

VAR suddenly got up and moved towards the wall, where a tactile physical display materialized before him. His fingers split into numerous smaller appendages which typed symbols in at an inhuman pace as he calculated something.

“We could end it.” He said decisively. “We met our existence parameters nearly three billion standardized cycles ago.”

SEN nodded. “I know. As I have no particular opinion on the matter, I was waiting for you to bring it up.”

“Not even curiosity? Not even excitement at the consideration that collapse may yield a definitive solution?”

SEN shrugged. “Perhaps. It is safer to say that my sentiments on the matter could metaphorically fill entire cosmos, and that one of those stars could be termed excitement. But while you have conditioned yourself to microscopic analysis, I have focused on the macroscopic. At that scale, I can imagine only one outcome, and the longer I stare at it, the more I realize those fine shades I once saw as doubt or excitement are simply the imaginings of an active mind. There simply… is.”

VAR waited for SEN to finish. “Is…?” He finally asked.

“There simply is.”

Annoyed, VAR replied with some vehemence. “Then your world is already swathed in certainty, and you have already determined that this –” VAR gestured towards SEN to indicate his words and thoughts “– is the final solution.”

“It is the only solution I can see, its granularity and resolution becoming finer with age. At this time-scale, empirically speaking, that is enough to be deemed fact by my meager standards.”

VAR sighed. “Why isn’t enough for me?”

SEN shrugged indifferently. “There’s no need for it to be.”

VAR shook his head, his gesture of not accepting that answer. “I want for us to be in accordance.”

SEN did not respond right away, instead taking time to look over the incomplete game. “Another win on your part.” he finally answered.

VAR did not care and instead stared intently at his brother, discontent with his averting the topic.

“Of the point six zero two two quadrillion games we have played, you have won every single one of them. The probability of you winning is unity.

“That is our biggest difference.” SEN continued. “You have spent so long placing significance upon every last detail, right down to these games that we play, that you cannot help but question and doubt everything in pursuit of exactitude. I have spent equally long removing significance from everything, particularly from these games we play, until all loss and existence have become vacuously insignificant. It is only in that emptiness that a blinding truth becomes apparent to me which seems to elude you.

“But as I say: whether you fret or doubt or not, that is your choice. It is a non-matter for me and it is non-essential for our parameters, so I do not seek to convince you.”

SEN stepped away from the table and pressed upon the wall. A seam appeared and then it slid open. VAR eyed SEN with concern. “What are you doing?”

“I just realized I’m quite tired.” SEN replied.

VAR watched quietly as SEN entered the chamber.

“See you on the other side.” SEN winked. Then the door closed shut, the seams disappearing into the wall as SEN left VAR in quiet solitude for the remainder of eternity.

SIALE Concept 0-1

My last memory of my biological parents was from the mid-70s of the late 23rd century. At the time, I lived in a small apartment with my mother and father in the up-and-growing city of Orange Coast. The political tension was palpable, taking the form of hush-hush discussions between my father and his colleagues late at night over bottles of whiskey; the laments of my mother as she talked about how wayward and backwards the world was becoming as technology progressed; conscious memories of demonstrators marching Century avenue; stalled traffic marred by the red-and-blue of law enforcement while my dad squeezed my seven-year-old hand unbearably tight.

The political tensions were fueled by the transition of federal and international government to a cooperative of human and networked sapient intelligences. Its effects were weightless upon me, for I lacked the knowledge to meaningfully comprehend the goings-on and articulate an emotional response. Instead, I took my father’s advice to “be tough” and put those intangible emotions aside, dealing with the world with boyish machismo and immersing myself in school, books, and media. Superheroes were the center-piece of my imagination back then. Jay Arcent, the orphan who who immersed himself in rigorous physical and mental training during his upbringing and later became the outlaw “Darkwing” formed the the backbone of my internal fantasy universe at the time.

It wasn’t until I was permanently separated from my biological parents as part of the communal reforms of that era that a poignant cognizance about the gravity of life back then would dawn on me. It was an acute awareness that would eventually be honed into sharp cynicism.

When I was taken away from my parents, there was no forewarning and no tearful goodbye. That made it easy for me, and I hope, for them. My parents had already been removed by the time I returned from school. At that time, I had no idea that they had been identified as potential dissenters, purposely removed to professional communes designed to defuse possible instigators.

When I got to my front-door, I found it wide-open with only SI-augmented law enforcement (SIALE) officers there to greet me. A kindly officer by the name of Goodwin immediately greeted me, her dark brown hair tied into a tight bun, her face a radiant, warm, and tender expression of motherly empathy. She was completely reassuring and absolutely trustworthy as she told me that my parents had consented to my going to a boarding school that would offer me tremendous opportunities in my growth as an individual.

“They wanted to see you off themselves, but unfortunately, we just couldn’t make that work. The bus leaves soon, and your parents need to finish filling out some forms downtown.” This preempted any troublesome questions on my part. Her uniform, a neatly pressed gray-and-blue, helped.

Since I did not know what a boarding school was then, and being it was my first real interaction with the police, my only inquisition was: “am I in trouble?”

Goodwin had smiled sweetly. “No love, you’re not in trouble. Think of it like this: the government chose you to receive a special education.”

“Like special training?”

“Exactly. You’ll meet other young men and women like yourself and get opportunities other people could only wish for.”

That she called me a “young man” and made me feel special comforted me, and I lost myself in some daydream about the secretive Jay Arcent and his years of rigorous training in his childhood to later become a vigilante and self-proclaimed upholder of the law. This sounded more and more like that, except it was official.

As we’d walked down the stairs, Goodwin had instructed me to consider it a “vacation” and glorified me as being a “pioneer of a brand new form of society.” Put at ease by these words, it did not occur to me that I would not see my parents again. No, my first thought about my parents as I got into Goodwin’s vehicle was recalling the last thing my mother had asked me the night before: “tomorrow’s laundry day, honey. Don’t forget.”

“I won’t, mom. I won’t.”

My dad had smirked over the tablet he was reading.

As I pulled myself into the front seat, I suddenly did a double-take and stopped. “I forgot to put my laundry in the hamper.” I decidedly announced to Goodwin.

“No worries honey.” Goodwin smiled reassuringly and spoke into her comm. “Alex? This is Jen. Could you make sure to put his dirty laundry in the hamper?”

“Wilco.” came Alex’s reply.

“See, love? All taken care of.” Goodwin smiled. I nodded, satisfied, and buckled up.

Still not knowing what a boarding school was, under the spell of Goodwin’s reassurances, and hypnotized by the thought of the adventure and mystery in my future in “special training”, I got into that vehicle without any conscious doubt. I was confident I’d see my parents tomorrow or maybe the day after, tell them all about my new special training, and they’d congratulate me for being selected. Mom would make meatloaf, dad would chew slowly and moan delightedly, complimenting my mom on her cooking, and she’d laugh and tousle his hair playfully.

That one imagined scene was burned into my mind like an old black-and-white photograph burned into tin. A single tear rolled down my cheek as Goodwin began to drive, the familiar scenery of Orange Coast against a cream-and-vermilion sky playing like the background credits of some film I’d seen before.

I brushed my tear aside, unable to fathom its gravity.

Four Minute Nightmare

His mind reminded him of her regularly. They had had nothing together, certainly nothing resembling a relationship. Still, his subconscious manifested her as a symbol of a multitude of multifaceted desires: she was a glittering diamond in his mind, each cut intended to refract some light of want within himself he would rather bury in the depths of his cemetery of a heart.

So many things were buried there. His attraction to the Chinese woman with her sharp intellect and quiet artistry; his delight for the effeminate Japanese woman with her girlish mannerisms yet brusque and blunt outbursts; his first love, tall, blonde, blue-eyed, her wiry fingers intertwined with his as they walked together through the woods; his fantastical and almost mythological love for an icy photographer he knew only through their platonic online exchanges —

With his first love, he’d kept looking back, eloping with the past because the future was so misty. The mist never lifted.

Eventually he became disconnected from those flowery reminiscences of the past as the present became all pervading. He could tap into the glimmer of what once was, but he was no longer swept away by it, deeply rooted in his earthly presence of “now”.

He would see all of them in his dreams, in passing, as strangers on the street. Some part of his sleepy cognizant self would murmur, “I know her”, but nothing more. I know, but we are strangers.

But her his mind would do more with. In his dreams, he would spend time with her, getting to know her, carrying her in his arms and feeling her warm embrace against himself. Nightmares, he called them. Nightmares that left him with a pleasant sense that he would purposely ignore but secretly covet.

In reality, there was nothing that had so much meaning as those worthless dreams. He refused to be led on by those dreams as a matter of experience and pragmatism: for what had the pursuit of dreams earned him but rebukes and emotional pain. In his mind, one of the very definitions of being a man was being able to ignore those child-like aspects of himself and walk confidently past them, even though they remained standing, staring longingly at his back, forlorn at being so easily cast aside.

He was not sure whether he was wrong, which was to say he had no definition of what was truly right. There was only forward and being able to move forward, and harboring dreams led him on tangents that stalled him from moving forward.

It wasn’t that forward carried with it any promise of satisfaction or contentedness. It was only that some instinct more powerful than mere wishful thinking screamed out that he would rather keep putting one foot before another, than be led askew upon some wayside —

Though deep down, he knew it was those waysides that led to wonderful scenes, beautiful gurgling creeks where weeping willows dipped into the gently flowing water, while above, the sky glowed vermilion and cream as the sun disappeared behind a swaying tree-line, the scent of spring in the air.

Still, he would look away, taking one more pain-ridden step upon that stony road forward, towards an empty horizon.