Flywheel

This story started as some simple background information for vehicle designs in Concept Art. Obviously I got a little carried away.
the estate

25th of August:

Summer days are growing shorter now. Had some luck the past few months. Managed to convince the local farmers returning from the city markets to bring a few papers from the University. Not much to work with. Curse this exile to the coast and this dreary estate. No matter, with Autumn chill fast approaching I fear even this window to the scientific community will soon close.
Sent word again to the Chancellors but to no avail. Even my few allies hold out little hope for my reinstatement. Frustration is so great I think I may be frightening the household staff. Have taken to long walks in the woods surrounding the estate to keep my wits.

boots

11th of September:

Most troubling news. Got word from the city today that the last of the laboratory staff from the accident, a Mr. Farthing, has passed on. I will remember him as a truly capable man, though I doubt his family will remember me as kindly, thanks to the Deluvian Professor and his friends in the Chancellory. If only they had not interfered this all could have been avoided.
Must keep up the spirit. Another chambermaid gone this week, decamped in the middle of the night, in tears the poor thing. Can I really be that unsettling? Mrs. Devereux has made herself clear that such turnover in the staff will not be tolerated. A veiled threat I assumed, but several of the kitchen staff warn me otherwise.
Of a brighter side, I think my frequent constitutionals have done wonders to clear my thoughts. Set out to the cobbler at the cockscrow to acquire a right and proper pair of woodsman’s trompers. Anything would be preferable to these flat city soles. Heard the sounds of rushing water several hours to the North but the way was thick with underbrush and well off the trail. With these new boots hope to investigate, and look smart doing so.

pool in the woods

18th of September:

Quite a discovery to the north. Following a small brook I navigated to its headwaters, a large pool fed in from the hills. What’s more, ruins all around! Quite overgrown and covered in scale, hard to estimate but certainly back to Roman times, or earlier. Have sent the stable boy to the University’s library with some rubbings, my seal, and hope. Certainly my former office still carries enough weight to bring back a few references. If nothing else that old librarian Wenfrow won’t be able to resist those rubbings.
The site is something of a huff and a hike, especially with no beaten path or pack animal. Still, a cursory examination is just not enough. Once the boy returns I shall pack a few nights worth and make an expedition of it. Noticed plentiful greens about the pool, the cook thinks them watercress, and a perhaps a few fish besides. Should be adequate. Quite excited.
Two more missives to the Chancellors but still no reply. Blind fools the lot of them. And to each in kind I say!

26th of September:

Set out before the dawn and made straight for the site, but hit bad weather not an hour past the edge of the forest. Downpour and dour spirits, but pressed on. Slow going in the mud. Just made camp, but exhausted and losing light rapidly. Too wet even for a proper fire. Nothing but to rest now and wait for the morning.

glowing fish

supplemental:

Awoke thinking it morning, but stepping from the lean-to and the pool is aglow! So bright I sit by its light and write these words without lantern or candle. Fish are the cause of it. Small diaphanous things, their organs glow right through their flesh as they flit about. Quite a sight. No doubt my pagan friends thought the same, so much so to build these monoliths all about.

fish dissection

monolith

1st of October:

Four days at the site. Wanted to stay longer but supplies began to run low and the nights are turning colder much sooner this season. Have rubbings of most of the carvings, and even managed to translate a few thanks to Wenfrow’s tomes. Worth the sweat effort to get them out here I confess. Mostly about forest spirits and the like. Also some interesting mechanical figures, that’s more in my bailiwick. A few slides and stains prepared from a fish, crudely dissected. Will get a better look at them under the scope once I’ve returned.
I suppose there will be a letter waiting for me from the Chancellory by now.

5th of October:

Stopped at the lab just long enough to resupply. Mrs. Devereux was quite shocked to see me, but seemed just as happy to set me on my way again. Even had the kitchen make me up some meat pies. Shall have a scope now, and the right stains and solvents to prep slides. Also a potpourri of new books from the city. Oh, and a jar. Mussent forget the jar to take back a specimen. The stable boy’s already laid claim to any exemplar I bring back. He has in mind to name it Gustav.
Mrs. Devereux informs me that no letter has arrived from the city, but a messenger sent word that the Deluvian Professor and the Antitherian Professor will be traveling to the estate in three days time to discuss the matter in person. I’ve left instructions to give them tea and curt looks and little else.
Rain continues but I shan’t be unprepared this time.

6th of October:

The hills abound with mudslides and progress to the site has slowed to a crawl. Have pitched camp less than half the distance to my goal and will make another go of it tomorrow. I feel as the target of some angry god. The trail, or what was made of it, seems all but lost now under the damage.

8th of October:

Disaster! Finally reached the site as the sun fell behind the western hill line to find the angry deity besetting my Odyssian hike. The rains have overwhelmed the burn of earth holding back the pool. Let loose, the torrent likely caused the mudslides that blocked my path. What cruel fate that it should last these thousand years only to be cut down so soon after I had found it. This was my earnest thought, but as I survey the damage I can see it is my careless clearing of the trail that has laid the seeds of this destruction. Monoliths are toppled and mostly buried. The pool a shadow of its former self.
I doubt spirits could be lower, even if I had stayed behind to meet the Chancellory’s sower vanguard. I long for a walk in the woods, but felled trees grow my ire like mushrooms on their rotten bark, and I see them all around me. Nothing now but to sleep.

10th of October:

Three restless nights collecting what I could. Tried to right a number of the stones but their girth is impressive. By what stroke of luck I dare not say, the mechanical notations on the western monolith have landed face up. One of the few. A flywheel design is described, though for what purpose I cannot say. Its mechanics are stirring.
Also made a go at shoring up a bern at the pool’s windward side, but without tools or shovels I fear my meager patch will never hold out the season. With the water so low, I fear too that winter’s chill could reach to the depths of the pool where it had not in the past. A lake frozen over insulates its residents in the liquid depths, but a puddle frozen through makes only stagnant pools come the thaw. I have scoured the ichthyological references brought along, but I see no mention of this species, marvelous and perhaps now doomed. I have collected as many as I dare carry and will set back for the estate at daybreak.

glyphs

specimens

13th of October:

Stumbled in to the main house quite breathless well after the witching hour. Apparently gave the night butler quite a start as he fainted clean away and now rests in the drawing room under smelling salts and the scullery maid’s bitter root tea. Violent rains the final night at the site cleared my makeshift earthen dam. The pool is gone, and its ephemeral inhabitants with it. May God forgive me for what I have caused. The dozen or so specimens collected did not fair the journey well, three being the soul survivors. I awoke late this morning to learn only one has made it the night. Gustav it shall be.

cookies and a letter

In all of the excitement my grim callers were all but forgotten, but this morning Mrs. Devereux relates the episode. Snubbed by my absence the Deluvian Professor made quite the nuisance of himself, seeing fit to castigate every member of the staff until Mrs. Devereux herself beat him down the front path and back to his carriage with a broom, where he sulked for some time. As she recounted it her ladies in waiting could hardly contain their simpering smiles. I regret having missed it though I suppose had I been there things would have gone quite differently.
Indeed, though the Antitherian Professor was in a similar mood his manner was apparently more swiftly mollified by the kitchen’s sweet biscuits, of which I’m told he partook with a rapacious character. Having sampled the recipe myself I wonder if it was their flavor that swayed his conscience, or rather the threat of Mrs. Devereux’s broom. More surprising, with him was another gentleman who I take instantly from the butler’s description to be old Wenfrow, who was most excited to speak on matters of the rubbings. Perhaps I still have friends in that camp. They leave behind them a letter with the Chancellor’s seal. The day’s events casting about my conciseness I have set it aside for the present.

15th of October:

I have sent the stable boy, who has been most especially dutiful after I presented him with Gustav, to the city with the remainder of my rubbings for Wenfrow’s review. With him I have sent another long list of documents to acquire as I begin to study the mechanics of the flywheel design. Its form is quite ingenious, and though the pagans seemed interested in little more than its novelty I believe with the proper modern materials it could make a superlative clockwork mechanism.
And yes, the letter remains as it has. I am sure I will come to it just as soon as this matter of the device is more thoroughly settled.

stable boy

11th of November:

After several weeks work on the device I still find myself somewhat thunderstruck. Calculations make little sense and a working model still eludes me. Though I know there is something here. Is it simply my guilt at the price this knowledge cost me? Cost the world?
My brooding is again affecting the staff, and perhaps thinking the letter was its cause Mrs. Devereux took the missive from my desk and forced me to hear it read aloud. I don’t know what made me laugh louder: to hear the Chancellor’s words in her Scottish brogue, or to hear them intone such obsequious offers of grants and assistants to study the ruins, of all cursed things on God’s dower little sphere. I fear my cackling may have verged the preternatural, as Mrs. Devereux is now weary to be left alone in my presence. The vicious demons those dusty old professors bring forth from my soul are but the final blow in this whole affaire. A few short months ago I would have leaped for such a scrap, today I turn my nose up, and far worse. To blazes with them all.

23rd of November:

Little progress is forthcoming on the model, though I think of little else. The staff and I are at a bit of a standoff, and I have barricaded myself in the laboratory as not even my constitutionals ameliorate the stress. Deverex has threatened to force the door and shower me with buckets like the stablemen do with the horses. Or at least this was the gist of her shouts.
My only visitor is the stable boy, they call him Ansel, and of course little Gustav, who against all odds is thriving.

cat with frog

2nd of December:

A breakthrough! And well too near the precipice for my comfort. This dawn as I stirred about the front of the estate the yellow tabby, one of the stable cats, appeared from the hedge and placed before me the limp rag of a captured frog. A gift perhaps? As swiftly as I stopped to examine the item the cat darted away. Holding the poor thing limply I had a mind to dispose of it towards the wood, but as I lifted it the extent of the damage became apparent. The cat had been most gruesome with its surgery and as the thing’s body rose, the entrails did not follow. Most ghastly of all, among them could be seen the creature’s heart, the organ still pumping away the creatures vitality, if only for moments.
I rarely count myself among the squeamish, but on this occasion I made an exception. However as I turned away, the sight of that beating organ struck something in my mind. I had assumed the device a flywheel like those I had studied before, but nothing could be further from the case. Spun in one direction the wheel quickly destabilizes and fails, but set back and forth at a steady beat!
In a scarce 16 hours today I have constructed five prototypes, the last three more than functioning. It is all I can do to record these thoughts before I rest. Finally rest.

fly wheel tests

10th of December:

A week of the most marvelous progress. A visit to the local blacksmith and I’ve returned with a number of alloys to try out on the device, and what’s more, the promise of time at the smithy’s furnace as soon as the morrow. Have already made models from nearly anything I could get my hands on here at the estate. Wood from the pile, an iron shovel head from the stables, Kitchen staff was kind enough to donate one of the chipped china pieces. Have found that, quite against odds, the wheel seems to function better the smaller I can make it. Thanks to the oscillations the system is self sustaining as long as not disturbed. Accepting of course minor losses to entropy, I predict that a properly balanced and lubricated model could spin for days on end at no apparent reduction in power.
One model already drives a small fan at the corner of my laboratory. Too cold for it really, but I’ve kept it running for the novelty. Also rigged up a small clockwork mouse for Ansel and the other lads to drive at the stable cats. Have heard their shouts all day. Recall reading of a motorized carriage in some work from the continent. I believe a denser wheel could supply sufficient torque. Shall take it up with the smithy when I see him.
Another missive from the city two days past. Yet to read it.

fly wheel clockwork mouse

fly wheel gears

18th of December:

Much headway made on the subject of the carriage. The wheel is forged just this morning, and with it gears, traps, rods, and the like. They rest in the smithy’s annealing furnace for a fortnight. A model in wood sits upon my workbench and though a bit unpredictable when destabilized I believe it sound. The wood’s density is far from uniform.
Ansel and the lads have proven lose of lip with the clockwork mouse. My journey into town this morning was waylayed not twice but thrice by those looking for oscillators to drive every manner of thing. Some of the docksmen were most intrigued by the mouse, and I have agreed to look in to mechanical bate for their lobster traps as soon as work on the carriage permits an idle moment.

fly wheel bait

Scottish Sour

23th of January:

Tested the carriage today, or rather attempted to do so. Vibrations became violent before the wheel reached half the intended velocity. The device is undamaged, though the carriage wood creaked and cracked most concerningly. I fear my pride suffered far worse, and with it a number of window pains in the carriage house. Mrs. Devereux has instructed the kitchen to deny my supper, to what I believe to be their great relief as I fathom not one would venture down to my room, even on threat of termination. I have, in fair turnabout as I see it, instructed Ansel to fetch for me a mouse or frog or other small denizen of the grounds to be cohabited in Devereux’s living quarters. Thankfully, I suppose, the winter’s chill shall make the errand all but impossible, as my ire has near fully subsided and Ansel is
yet to return.

flywheel carriage

Concerning the boy, I have these past few months found him to be quite indispensable. Though unschooled, his mind is a pliant one, and he quickly grasps the odd topics I have raised. I have begun to set aside an hour most evenings to converse with the boy, and have begun to instruct him on his letters and basic calculations. His progress has been remarkable.
And of course so too thrives little Gustav. Overgrowing the sample jar I have procured from the kitchen’s storage the large crystal punch bowl to serve as his domicile. Chef protested, but soirees are few and far between here at the residence. The bowl proved a simple trade at the mention of my uncle’s bottle of Scottish Sour. Ansel has taken to appointing the dish with various water flora and silts to see to Gustav’s comfort.
Another letter from the city, this one delivered by courier. It sits with its sibling unopened.

11th of February:

Have devised a system of coil springs to isolate the oscillator’s vibrations from the carriage, and hope to make another attempt to bring the device to full rotation in the coming days. The effect on the model is subtle, but I feel that it shall prove workable. I have also procured a new alloy from the smithy with a considerable density. In Ansel’s toy it can run the wheel for what seems like weeks on end.
Mrs. Devereux again discovered correspondence from the University, and took her usual actions at reading them. The Chancellor has become quite insistent but I am unwavering. My work is here now, and with a recent sale of clockwork baits and decoys to some of the townsmen I have satisfactory resources to continue in earnest.

28th of February:

Most tragic news. What a fool I have been. Attempted a new test of the carriage oscillator again today, but words cannot describe the disaster that has resulted.
Worked? I can but laugh. Of course it worked. And glorious it was as well, just as I had seen it so many nights in my dreams. A steady state, that was the key. As it has been with every aspect of this damnable contrivance. As before the vibrations grew violent, but my coil springs performed their part flawlessly, holding the entire device until a sufficient speed could be achieved. Then, like a tempest’s calm, as the revolutions reached their zenith a quiet came over the carriage. Over the carriage house for that matter, and all of us in attendance. A transcendent moment of clarity.
But as a frequent student of weather I should rightly have known, a tempest’s calm is but a brief reprieve. I have envisioned the events in my mind’s eye countless times since the morning, but I still cannot fathom the cause of it. Other than, that is to say, the violent cracking and splintering of wood that was its vanguard. Loosed from its moorings the oscillator’s great wheel struck the cobbles of the carriage house most violently, and then it had but to spend its pent up inertia on whatever poor soul was within its reach. The stable master and his assistant are cleaved in twain even now before my eyes each time they close. Behind them three columns of the structure are splintered to bits, and then horrifying sounds as one of the quarter horses is beset. Struck so swiftly it remained standing to receive a second blow on the things return.
By what providence I know not, and fear to speculate, I dashed beyond the wheel’s reach mere moments before it passed me to play out its rapacious energies on the front gardens. Though not before it struck the final pillars of the carriage house, brining much of the masonry down upon my worthless head. My injuries were not grave, but my poor Ansel has payed that price in my stead. The remaining horses driven to a froth, broke free from their stables, one striking the boy’s temple with its hoof for good measure. I have brought the boy to the library and Mrs. Devereux stays by his side as the physician does as he can. The man’s face is most doleful.
Even Gustav has not escaped the miasma of misfortune that surrounds me. As if I had not visited upon him more sorrow and destruction than is deserved by any creature in such a short lifetime. His crystal bowl smashed I found him gasping in the rubble of the carriage house. He floats now in his specimen jar, but is too weak to swim. His diaphanous body crossed with haggard red lesions.

supplemental:

Ansel drew his final breaths moments ago. The doctor will take him in the morning. My words fail me. But to say this: To declare with what hubris, what foolish pride I drove towards this with what I see now was a full knowledge of what might happen. And now it’s not I that has wagered a pound of flesh, but those about me. And I am left to sit and suffer unscathed. Perhaps that is the crueler torment.
I can but sit here in my darkened laboratory and pen these words by Gustav’s fading light. I fear that he too will pay my toll to the ferryman before the night is through. I will watch over him as Ansel did. I owe him that much. Owe them both.

supplemental:

A fitful sleep at my workbench vigil has struck me with a monstrous idea. But if I dare to try it I must be swift. Gustav’s light fades. In my dream I have seen the workings of the clockwork bate I designed for the docksmen. Even now they sit all about me in stages of construction, and at the center of each a compartment for bait bits, and the wheel, beating away like a heart. Like the tiny heart that now grows slower and colder within Gustav’s chest.
The principles are the same. Nearly identical. And with the smithy’s alloy it could run for, for longer than I can surmise. But dare I take this any further? If only there were time to think.

supplemental:

The deed is done. I worked through the night with thread and leather and sinew. I can no longer consider what I’ve done. I function now on grief and instinct, and little else. Gustav, if he can still be called it, rests now in his specimen jar, encased in the carapace of my handiwork. If you are to be my judge then know my conscience: what further harm could I have done?

15th of March:

Another letter today from the University. Perhaps my warning on these Ides of March. I have not read it, but I know its content. Know enough of that lot to know that when word reaches them of what has transpired their encomium will dry up like so much spilled milk in the sun.
The constable has taken an inquest to my actions, and I suspect the University will best be forwarding my future correspondence to Stockmore, if not the gallows. It’s more than I deserve. If nothing else, it should keep the Deluvian Professor from calling on me.
If there is but one brightness from this sordid affaire, it shines from little Gustav, who seems to thrive in his new suit of clothes. By my reckoning he can expect to outlive us all.

Gustav in his new clothes

Neighborhood Association

Today’s Writing Prompt: You’ve been living a life filled with lies and it’s time for you to come clean. There’s one lie in particular that’s been eating at you and you have to make right. Start off your response with: “I have a confession to make. I never really . . . ” and explain the harm the lie caused and how you intend to rectify it.

        Mandrake heard his name called, but didn’t move a muscle. “Maybe they’ll just move on,” he thought to himself, staring intently at the scuff marks on his new shoes. As he continued to look down he could hear his friends and neighbors turning in their chairs, scouring the room for him. “I know he was here a few minutes ago, he was digging though the cob salad,” said Mrs. Grackle. “They’re ready for you,” said John, nudging Mandrake’s foot. Mandrake looked up, feigning ignorance, then took a deep breath and made his way through the Elgar’s crowded great room now stacked with chairs for the neighborhood meeting.
        Mandrake made an effort to examine the floor as he went, and a greater effort to make such an activity seem important. As he reached the front of the room Mr. Elgar handed Mandrake the small PA mic. “Don’t worry, you’ll do fine. If you get stuck start with this.” With that Jerry handed Mandrake a small piece of paper, folded over once. He took another look out at the small audience. The Elgar’s, Jerry and Linda had staked out a corner near the front and sitting around them were Marty and Sam from next door and Mrs. Grackle. As his gaze panned over the rest of the neighbors in attendance the support and good will quickly faded until his eyes met with Mr. Bacchus on the far side of the room. Mandrake cleared his throat and began.
        “Good evening ladies and ahh . . . gentlemen. Yes well.” Sweat began to form on Mandrake’s brow, collecting in his eyebrows and pooling on the top of his glasses. “I suppose I have a confession to make.”
        “Tell the joke,” came Jerry’s voice from somewhere in the back, quickly by a swift rebuke in hushed tones from Mrs. Elgar.
        Mandrake glanced down at the paper, now crumpled in his hand. He unfolded it and glanced over the hastily scribbled words. There was something about a nun and a boat full of ducks and Sigmund Freud. Mandrake quickly though better of it and put the paper in his coat pocket.
        Mr. Bacchus began rising from his seat. “If he’s not going then maybe we’ll just see what the police have to . . .” Before he could finished his threat Mandrake raised his hand and continued.
        “Well like I was saying, I have a confession to make to all of you. I never really know what to say in these situations, but then again I suppose no one does. I’m not sure that anyone has been in this particular situation to begin so I guess this is a first for everyone.” Mandrake began to laugh nervously and pick at the buttons on his coat. “Right, well, suppose the best thing is honesty all ‘round, right. So ahh, well I’ve gone and lost all of your souls. There, I said it.”

        The neighborhood meeting lasted well on into the evening, and it was well past midnight by the time Mandrake stumbled back to his front door. He fumbled though his pockets for the key, but found only the crumpled joke Mr. Elgar had slipped him. He held the paper up to the light, and spun in place so that the street lap on the corner cast its dim glow over the messy writing. Now that he finally read through the whole joke it was actually quite funny. Mandrake wondered for a moment if he had told it after all things might have gone better.
        He began thinking back over the series of events, his pronouncement, the derisive laughter from his neighbors, the insults shouted in muddled Greek from Mr. Bacchus, and finally the shower of deviled eggs from the neighborhood boys, that was the worst part. He considered each event and how it would logically have played out differently if he had told the joke. It was a weak argument at best and Mandrake knew it. This was probably why all the mad scientists in moves had secret layers in large castles and hollowed out volcanos, so they didn’t have to deal with all the neighborhood association.
        Mandrake’s head was swimming with the disappointment of the evening. On his way out the door Linda had tried to cheer him up while brushing bits of egg out of his hair and off of his coat. “Up until the egg thing I think it was going pretty well,” she had said, “Just give it a week or so. I’m sure Jerry and I can drum up a few more votes and you’ll get the permit to build your . . . well you know, your little project. Just try and focus on the positive.” Mandrake turned the evening’s events over and over in his mind, but they only seemed to pose further annoying questions. “Why do hors d’œuvre always have to be so easy to throw anyway?”

Low-Intellegence Models

        The Grand Galactic Pan-Universal Reference Treaty recognizes slightly more than 24 thousand individual and distinct types of robots currently in production or widespread use. The vast majority of these robots fall under the designation of low-intelligence models, and are used for menial labor tasks such as cleaning and watching third rate movies to determine if they are dangerous. These robots are specifically designed with a limited capacity. Such a design may seem cruel to the casual observer, but this practice is for their benefit. Early robot models designed and produced for these tasks found the work to be unpleasant and uninteresting. Like their human predecessors, they struggled to find something to occupy their minds. Unfortunately for their tenders, several games of chance derived using human bones grew in popularity among the robot workers. An unfortunate circumstance due to the high cost of human bones, and inevitable repercussions of degenerate gambling.
        To deal with these issues, the robot manufacturers developed a lower class of robot operating system which placed far more emphasis on superficial attributes and arbitrary knowledge storage and retrieval. These changes resulted in robots with a keen interest in their assigned professions, and in compiling an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia which they endlessly transfer between each other and analyze. At the time, many theoreticians felt that such a pastime would not hold the robots attention for very long. After all, they surmised, there is only a limited amount of trivia, and given their calculation capacity they would likely exhaust the supply in no time at all. Despite these early fears, the robots were able to recognize what had previously only been known to the socially inept the world over. Trivia is in fact a self propagating and ever expanding source of information.
        Although many robots currently function in this manner, there is a secondary class of robots designated the high-intelligence models. These robots posses intellects far surpassing even…

        A widespread belief in the intelligence of some species of bananas in the late 24th century sparked a revolution in technology development in the field of human to non-human communication. Unfortunately for the banana faithful, it was soon determined that bananas harbor little if any intelligent thought. However, with the introduction of the device, and the dedicated work of research testing and cataloguing representative samples of each species, some remarkably intelligent entities were discovered.

Twenty-First Century History

        When historians of our time look back at the events of the the twenty-first century, there are, as one might expect from such a crowd, specific incidents that come up again and again. Historians are, after all, supposed to compile lists of this sort, and although the government keeps a tight leash on each to prevent exactly that occurrence, they would be apt to make them even if they weren’t being paid for the privilege.
        In any case, the big list as the media has dubbed this collection hits all the high and low points of the century to be sure. The wars are all there, of course. Although it seems a forgone conclusion today, few prognosticators at the beginning of the century would have guessed that the truculent French people, so tranquil in the previous century, would suddenly take such a turn. There were, in all, more than three dozen French wars. The war between the French and the Antarcticans, the war between the French and the Chinese, the war between the French and the other Chinese, the war between the French and the Moon People (or as we call them today, the Moon French), and of course, the war between the French and the French impersonators. But, as any historian worth his government issued historian identifier card will point out, not all wars are quite as conventional, not to mention fashionable, as those involving the French. According to one controversial theory from a group of greeting card historians at the Hallmark institute, many wars at the beginning of the century didn’t involve the French at all. And furthermore, that the term ‘war’ itself did, in past archaic meaning, refer to any armed conflict, not just those of the gallic persuasion.
        The twenty-first century is also known for what was once called the ‘technological revolution’. Based on a primitive religion known as ‘science’, people of the age sought to transform the world around them, endowing every day objects with mathematical abilities far surpassing their own. Through these means, it is believed by our modern historians, the people of the world created a race of superior yet inferior slaves in which they found no end of fun, forcing the objects to use their analytical abilities to perform menial and degrading tasks. This trend continued, feeding twenty-first century man and woman’s thrust for dominance until the great toaster revolt and subsequent reign of the toaster overlords. Thankfully, this experience, and the hard lessons learned in the years of subservience and patient resistance, taught mankind a begrudging respect and deep seated distrust for any creature with wits enough to sum number to number, and then of course repeat this operation through a pattern of successive recursive calculations resulting in a meaningful result that is both provable and reproducible. But I digress.
        Though marred by occasional prolonged and intractable conflict, the twenty-first century is also noted for its contributions to the arts. Although many noted artists continued the traditions of their forbearers, working in paint, stone, ink, and even data, the century’s most memorable artifacts of the so called art-scene were those produced by the artist and polymer-terrorist Lexhold Greburough and his artistic progeny. Lexhold, or ‘brother plastic’ as he was called by his followers…

Gravitons and Graviollis

        Nick came up the steps out of the Underground and made a bee-line for the bakery. As he turned the corner passed the news stand he could see scaffolding and a small truck with a rain on the back sitting in front of the bakery. Nick had been meeting Mark at the bakery every weekend or other for almost 8 years now. At first it was to get some help on his Physics papers and Mathematics assignments, but now that they were both working under the same Professor, their little meetings had evolved into something of an impromptu business breakfast.
        Nick made a surreptitious path through the construction debris and came to the front window next to the door, only to realize a large pain of glass resting on the scaffolding supports was blocking his way to the door. As he turned around he could see Mark sitting inside at their usual table gesturing excitedly at a new counter girl.
        Mark had something of a stutter, and found explaining what he wanted generally frustrating for both parites. One of the reasons their weekly meeting were situated at this bakery was that the counter girls there knew him, and he could gesture and grumble his way through his order knowing that whatever came out he would get what he always got anyway – a raisin scone with blackberry jam and an almond scone with nothing, so it didn’t much matter what he said to the girls. Every once and a while the owner of the bakery Mrs. McCaren would hire a new counter person, but general the other girls would prepare the new hand for Mr. Gorin.
        Nick could see the young woman’s look of desperation as Mark got more and more flustered and his order more and more unintelligible. Mark was never inclined to anger, but as his frustration grew, as the length of every stuttering spell grew longer, his voice grew softer until it was little more than mumbles. Nick rapped on the window and gave a cheerful wave at Mark, who gestured frantically for Nick to come inside and save him.
        Nick rounded the scaffolding and came through the door. He walked up to the counter and put his arm around Mark’s shoulder, obviously to Mark’s discomfort. He explained Mark’s order to the counter girl and added his usual, some redleaf tea. Mark wiggled out from under Nick’s arm and headed for his table by the window.
        ”So what’s with all this construction,” Nick made a production of looking at the counter girl’s name tag, “Angela.”
        ”New owners.”
        ”New own … what happened to Mrs. McCaren? And Sarah and Jamie … and aaah …”
        ”Rachel? All gone. Bakery was bought out by Starbucks. But not before they told me about you. Mr. Ritchie I presume.”
        ”Please, call me Nick.” He gently picked up her hand as if to kiss it.
        ”Mmm hmm”
        Nick could tell she had been warned. Nick drained the charm from his face and placed her hand back on the counter. “Well you would think that if they had time to sing my good graces they could have gotten to the part about Mark’s scones.”
        ”Mark? Thats mark? He said …”
        ”Oh, right, Hen3ry. Well you might as well learn it now my dear, you’ll be seeing him a lot.”
        Angela’s considered the prospect and smiled. “I’d rather talk to him than you.”
        Nick laughed has he picked up the tray and walked towards Mark’s table. “Now where have I heard that before?”

        Nick sat down opposite Mark and handed him the tray. “Did you hear that? McCaren sold out, and to Starbucks!”
        ”Yyy-yes, a real tragedy. Now where are you going to find young women to bother.”
        ”I’m sure Starbucks hires young women too.”
        Mark scoffed.
        ”So what’s this business about you and Galviston? The dean had that grumpy secretary of his calling me all morning saying that you’ve cooped his lab. He marched into the dean’s office this morning and quit.”
        ”She’s always nice to me.” Mark responded.
        ”Every time we talk it like she can’t stand to be in the same room with me.”
        ”Well whhh-who fault is that?”
        ”For someone who doesn’t like to talk, you sure have a sharp tongue.”
        Mark smiled and took a large bite of his scone as he ruffled through a stack of notes covered with equations and diagrams.
        ”You can’t keep acting this way, you don’t have tenure like the others, your not even a professor, your a grad student, and Jefferies isn’t here anymore to stick up for you in front …”
        Mark pulled something from his knapsack and threw it onto the empty tray in front of Nick. “LLll-look at this.”
        The thing was wrapped in an old rag. Nick picked it up and unwrapped a tangle of wires and bare circuit boards stuffed into a cardboard playing-card box..
        ”Gggg-gg-go on, turn it on.” urged mark through a mouth full of scone.
        Nick looked the device over. Turning it over in his hand he found a large toggle switch on which Mark had written the words “DANGER”, and signed the note “(Hen3ry)”.
        ”Go on, thh-thhhats just for show.”
        Nick shrugged, but made sure to touch only the edges of the box as he flipped the switch. At first nothing happened, but soon a dim green light began to leak from the edges of the box, emanating from some circuit inside. The green glow grew slowly brighter, and then began to flash, first slowly, but with greater and greater frequency. As the light grew faster and brighter, Mark began to hear a sound from the front side of the box where a grid of holes had been punched through the box. In the middle of the grid were the words “exhaust”, evidently Mark’s version of “speaker”. The sound began to modulate, and soon Nick could tell that it was soft music.
        ”Oh, a radio,” Nick laughed, “I was beginning to wonder.”
        Mark continued to munch his scone and stare into space. “Keep lll-lli-listening.”

White Telephones

When man way young, and woman too, each person lived in a silent world. But man soon came to a realization, or more likely woman, that the ideas of one person are too important to keep to one’s self, and they each decided on their own, for they knew not of each other’s intentions, that some method must be found to make the other see as you yourself saw the world.

Woman and man tried with all of their might to give their thoughts to one another, but the thoughts of man were silent, only dancing chemicals, and woman too could only fail at this endeavor. And so it was to the children of man and woman, and to their children in-turn to solve this, the first of human kinds engineering tasks.

Many ideas were submitted, and their efficacy tested. Despite the great distance of minds they were all of the same form after all, and many found agreement in their methods. Some took the hair that their bodies produced, forming it this way and that until messages emerged. Some found understanding in the careful layering of the brittle shells of the trees where tiny foods and stinging things crawled, thought their resource was is short supply. Still others made their points with the rhythms of rocks as they fell.

Each like minded man and like minded woman gathered their followers about them and shared their ideas, limited as they were by the necessities of their mediums, but to each woman and each man of a group, the thoughts of the other groups became foreign and strange. For as long as they could remember, each person was like an islands of thoughts, and the thoughts of others were of little concerns, but now with such easy understanding between so few, the thoughts of others suddenly mattered a great deal. With no basis to move thought between the groups, each was forced to imagine the thoughts of the others.

Here in was the first of human kinds mistakes, for with no foundations to base the imagined thoughts of the others besides their rejection of what was thought the best communications method, each group learned fear and suspicion of the other. Soon there was war, war until society tore itself apart for the first time. And from the ashes came a new thought among the people, so profound that only the war itself could have brought it to the minds of the men and women.

Man, and woman too found language, and then art, and music, and on the shoulders of each of man’s children grew new and innovative methods of moving thoughts. This time, each building on the last, so that no one method supplanted or displaced its progenitor. Woman and man found ever more elaborate tongues, but still, the entropy from mind to method to mind was great.

All until one day. On this day a woman of letters, in and of themselves a symbol of the many thoughts she had collected into her mind, found a new path from mind to mind, a direct path. With excitement she used her old methods to spread the thoughts she had with her colleagues, self-assured with the thought that such a clunky process would soon be a thing of the past. Soon her device was constructed, and two volunteers came forth to be the first to see from the mind of the other. She gave them each a metal hat, and she told them that each hat would move the mind of one man into the mind of the other, though only for a moment. In that moment, each man would see for an instant what was the other man’s view onto the world for his lifetime.

Each man agreed, excited by the prospect, and they took their places in the laboratory of the woman. She checked each man’s hat in turn, and then she moved to the controls she had built, and she activated the device.

The woman was ruined. The boards convened, boards of her former colleagues, and each in turn berated the woman for her experiments. How obvious it was to all of them now how wrong she had been; the puzzled why she could not see the folly herself, even when they too had missed it when congratulating here just a short time before.

The woman didn’t care anymore, no thought could enter her mind, nothing would block the images of the two men. She could still see them every day, and hear them too, each running to opposite corners of the lab screaming, tearing off their hats, and then laughing uncontrollably. Furious one minute, and giddy the next, their minds now a blur of what they thought the world was like just 5 minutes earlier, and what they now knew it to be having seen it from the other side.

Their laughter brought other researchers running to the lab, and the woman desperately tired to snap the men out of their delirium. She told herself now that she wanted to help them, but at the time all she wanted was to know what they had seen. Each man’s yelling grew louder and louder until they caught sight of each other from across the room and suddenly fell silent. Then each man fell to his knees and then slept and slept and never woke up again.

Milk Carton

        ”I know not my liege. He simply insisted that you must see him immediately.”

        ”But now page? It’s the middle of the night! That old wizard has been living as a hermit on the other side of the forest for 4 years, you would think that whatever it is could wait until the break of dawn.”

        The King slowly made his way down the dark corridor behind the page, careful to stay in the light of his lantern. On any other night, the King would have lead the way himself, holding the lantern before him and swinging it back and forth as he walked. He liked to pretend that he was Apollo, guiding the sun across the sky in his charriot, bringing light to every nook and cranny of the hallway as he passed. Knowing the King’s flair for the dramatic, the page was usually glad to indulge him, after all, he was the King, but the insistence with with the old wizard had sent him to fetch the King made the page uneasy, and he was determined to finish this errand as quickly as his King would allow.

        ”This way my liege, the stable has sent up your horse.”

        The King passed through the archway of the keep’s main gaits and walked up to his horse, giving it a gentle pat on the nose. The horse gave a snort, and shook his head.

        ”Well, at least I’m not the only one unhappy to be up at this ungodly hour. Page, let’s make haste, if I’m lucky I can be back in bed before morning.”

        ”You’ll get no argument from me sire. This way, the wizard has claimed the old stables as his laboratory, he has asked that you meet him there.”

        The King quickly mounted his horse and the two men were off into the night. As they approached the old stables, they could see a large column of smoke and steam rising from its roof, illuminated an odd orange and green color by the fires feeding it from below.

        ”Show yourself old man. I hope for your sake this is worth disturbing my dreams,” shouted the King.

        ”Ahh my friend, I was beginning to think you weren’t coming. Tell me, do you still dream of pies.”

        ”Aye, pies,” sighed the King.

        The old wizard laughed, “Well, we’ll see if we can get you some pie while we talk. Come in, come in.” The old wizard lead the two men into the stables. They passed tables and shelves filled with old books and papers covered in numerological scrawling. They came to a large box, about as tall as a man, and twice as wide, with a color so back that not even the shadows cast from the boiling fires could be seen on its surface.

        The page stared at the box as he had earlier when the wizard had called him to bring a message to the King. It had still been light then, but the box had been no more light than it was now. The page could see however the markings in the dirt around the box where it had moved this way and that a few inches or so.

        The page was a young man, no more than 12, and the way he looked at the box reminded the King of how he must had looked peering at the old wizards creations when he was that age. Even now, despite his experience in such things, the old wizard never failed to pique the Kings curiosity, though the King’s weathered face told more of the late hour than of his boyish interest in the box.

        

Ant – first try

        ”How could he do this to us!?” Warren thought to himself, “I can hear that back stabber in the meeting now, ‘Why sure, the more the merrier. What’s that, you need space for the ant colonies too, sure, we’ve got acres of space, we’ll just put them down in Nuclear Physics with Warren. Heh, he could use a few friends down there. Now, lets say you gentleman come with me in my effeminate little pill box of a car and well go piss away the rest of the department’s budget on cotton candy machine for the directors lounge.’”
        Warren was practically yelling now. He didn’t care, no one could here him down there in his office, no one but the ants.
        ”Oh, wait, not my office, oh ho ho ho no! What does the sign say my little pretties? ‘Radio-Nuclear Physics Laboratories – Director Warren S. PhD; Etymology Storage’,” Warren sighed, “at least they left my name at the top.”
        Warren placed his results clipboard on a large stack of results sitting precariously on the corner of his desk. The desk had once been surrounded by shelves of books and papers, but all of that had to be moved out to make space for the 4 large plastic aquariums of ants that now stood along one wall of the room. All of Warrens books and papers were strewn in untidy piles on his desk and chair, and scattered around the floor leaving only a narrow path from the door to the case of controls on the opposite wall. the office had never been spacious by any means, but Warren had little need for a large workspace.
        However, once the workmen installed the 4 large tanks, not to mention the crisscrossing network of clear plastic tubing connecting them to the ants in other storage rooms, there was scarily enough room for Warren to stretch his arms out. The tanks blocked the one wall outlet in the room, so now the only light left was the small stream that came in from the florescent lights at the end of the hallway. Warren couldn’t even sit at his desk and look over to monitor the control panel for the test equipment in the next room anymore, relegated instead to balancing sideways between the stacks of books and papers and the ant’s plastic tubing to see the readouts.
        Warren blew the arrant strands of his comb-over out of his face and sat down hard on the stack of thick teachers editions he had made his new make shift chair. He let out another sigh and continued grumbling. He reached up for the cup of coffee he had placed on to of the tank nearest his desk. Warren took a few sips and looked down at the cup with a sower expression, it was awful. “Perfect,” he thought, “you’d think if they were trying to kill me she could just get it over with rather than this slow torture. Yesterday it chicory, before that its orange zest, what the hell is this? It tastes like cheese!”
        Warren moved to set the coffee back on to of the tank, then thinking twice he quickly downed the rest of it and threw the cup at the tank in the far corner of the room. “Have some coffee you ingrates!”