Torquis in Machina, Part 1

I looked doubtfully up at the horse. It looked down at me with a grin that contained far too many teeth to belong to a herbivore.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Torquis.”

“Torquis?” I wrinkled my nose in an admittedly un-Paladinly way. “What does that mean?”

“Spanner.”

“That’s not a very good name for a charger.”

“It’s short for Torquis In Machina,” the gap-toothed stablehand grinned gap-toothily.

I thought about that. “I’ll take him,” I concluded, as if there’d ever been any doubt. Torquis In Machina was literally, as well as proverbially, the last charger in the stable.

“Alright. What’s yours?”

“What?”

“What’s your name? Only I got to take down every name, or Galbus will have my-”

“Oh, right. I am Sir Garçon de Chapeau, of, um, of Cola.”

“You too, eh?”

In spite of everything, that hadn’t quite been the reaction I’d expected. “Me too what?”

“Oh, come on. Sure you don’t want to go with something a little less attention-grabbing?”

“What? No, that’s okay, I’ll stick with my actual name, thanks.”

“If you say so, Sir. And your squire?”

“Creepy. Of Couch.”

The story of how Creepy and I came to be a knight-and-squire team in the medieval-period fantasy world of Xix is really quite an interesting one. It is not, however, entirely relevant at the moment.

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Burpin’ eggs, scratchin’ my underarm fungus

(it’s a Futurama joke)

Had a busy day today, after a long hike in the forest we did some work in the back yard. I managed to climb to the roof peak and cut away a bunch of dead creepers that have been working their way into the house’s ceiling and gutters. I not only survived without falling off the ladder or stabbing myself in the eye with whiplashing vines, I also got away with a long walk in the unstable terrain of the woods, and navigating the slope behind our slide while dumping the offcuts, without breaking another ankle.

But I ramble. Man, this predictive text thing will make me lazy.

Otherwise, Easter is progressing in an uneventful sequence of events. We’ve even maintained cordial communications with my parents, despite the occasional bout of doomsaying and the even more occasional attack of cringeworthy Australian-politics-fuelled bignorance[1] that they come out with, and the laziness of which Mrs. Hatboy and I are guilty.

[1] Bigotry and ignorance. It’s a word I made up, and is unfortunately applicable to some of the gems I have been getting, not only in my poor hippie ears right now, but also on Facebook and elsewhere on the Internet. It’s not really their fault, it’s the fearful and hate-laden bullshit the media feeds the whitebread world every step of the way. We’re all better off without it.

Anyway, that’s why we’ve been keeping busy with an assortment of housekeeping and shopping tasks. Hasn’t left me much time to blog, at least about anything interesting, but I’m still learning. Soon I’ll get the Word-and-blog process working well. Then there will be no stopping me.

In other news, Toop has started to make slightly more language-like googly noises, although a lot of that may just be the milkvomit tickling her vocal cords on its way up her oesophagus.

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Mopho Cake III

Introducing the new, fancy-schmancy toy around the house, Mopho Cake III. Nothing much to add here, just testing the UI and posting facilities. So far, they look pretty good. Since this is out first afternoon together, things have been remarkably smooth. No major disasters.

Not sure I love this typing system … the spell / capitalisation checker isn’t as smart as it thinks it is. And I’ll have some work ahead getting my photos and ringtones installed.

I leave you with a freeform poem as filled in by MC3′s spell checker.

Why do you think you are a few days ago?

However the first time in the world to me that I have a great day and night;

Oh, this is a good day to all the time of the most important thing is that the only one who is the best of luck!

Why, why do you think you are a few days ago and I will be a good day to all?

Why?

 

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Character study: Augustus Sloane

Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small. And you can’t get much smaller than aactur[1].

[1] Well, technically you can. Science-magi in the First Age succeeded in splitting the aactur, resulting in a subspecies, the aactil, that was composed of far fewer conceptual ‘aactur-atoms’. The subsequent containment breach and expansion of the subspecies literally destroyed the universe as they knew it. The universe we live in now is the reconstructed one that took its place, and we’re all still suffering the consequences. It was widely agreed never to try to split the aactur again.

It’s not worth thinking of aactur in most readily-accessible terms. You can’t really think of them as things, like motes or mites or molecules or protons. Go in far enough and there is no matter, no energy, there are no waves, no particles. It’s all aactur, exposing different facets of themselves to the universe.

Aactur are expressions of a fundamental, founding binary – each one is composed of equal reflections in reality and unreality, perfect halves making up a whole, which in turn makes up everything. And that’s a far broader concept than even most people think. Molecules, atoms, subatoms, spectra, subspectra, energy, all of it, is all made up of aactur. They skitter across the quantum foam like dust devils on the surface of a moon. They make up everything in the universe – in the urverse. They are the urverse and, owing to their binary nature, they are also Limbo. They form it, and thus define it.

It also doesn’t pay to think of them as life-forms in any sense we really understand, although they are conscious entities according to their own unknowable qualifications[2]. Each aactur reality/unreality couplet comprises a basic expression within each sphere, and contains those two most important features of life: the spark, and the conduit. Spirit and soul.

[2] Indeed, they are legally unknowable, their mystery enforced, in the mythic knowledge of the terrible consequences of studying them too closely. Whenever a melodramatic technophobe intones that “some things man was never meant to know,” there is a certain amount of Aactur Plague genetic memory coming into play.

The spirit, the lifespark, of the aactur displays in different ways depending on the waves, energy, atoms they’re forming, and whether those atoms are making up organic or inorganic matter. In a process that goes beyond conceptual and enters the realm of pure divine-level symbolism, the aactur making up organic matter bend their lifesparks to that one purpose, forming the spirit – according to the different biological orders – of the life-form, anchoring it to existence on a femtoplanck level. But the spirit is nothing without the soul.

Just as each aactur has a lifespark within reality and a function in both spheres that dictates its place in the cosmos, so too does it have a connecting umbilicus between reality and its reflection in unreality. This connection is the soul, writ small: a conduit between the urverse and the unimaginable gulfs of Limbo. This conduit could be described as the soul of the aactur, if the aactur could be described as a life-form in any sense we understand. But at that level, it’s really just the element of a soul, in that everything in reality and unreality is a gestalt of aactur in different configurations.

Perhaps, then, you begin to understand the meaninglessness of the question of whether only sentient organisms have souls, whether animals or vegetables or minerals have them, and the even greater nonsensicality of the question of when a living thing can be said to have a soul. It’s simply a matter of arrangement, just as different atoms have different sets of properties and masses, so too will different formations of aactur make up things with different interpretations of that mystical connection with the other sphere.

At least in a sense, however, the question is not meaningless. Each aactur has an infinitesimal element of the soul, and these run together to form the larger conceptual construct within a life-form, giving it mind and self and that vital link to Limbo that allows it to continue after the degeneration of its physical molecules and the passing of their lifesparks. That whole, once woven together, endures in unreality and will return, if you believe the stories, at the End of Days to make its voice heard when the walls between the spheres cease to be.

But that’s a little beyond the scope of this essay.

How, exactly, souls are formed and preserved, and how elements of aactur in unreality form into souls and connect to life-forms in reality, is all a matter of conjecture and mystical theory. But it seems to be a fact that at a certain point the souls-in-potentia in the aactur making up a life-form reach critical mass and a soul is born, connecting the life-form’s flesh in reality to its shadow-counterpart in unreality, by the functionally-infinite anchors of its spirit lifespark.

When does this happen, turning a froth of unwitnessed and miniscule potential into a living thing? A vastly pointless question, since it is all a matter of the rearrangement of concepts too small for us to even imagine … but then, like all the pointless and unanswerable questions, this is one with which an inordinate number of people are far too concerned. Sometimes it happens at conception – the aactur that make up sperm and egg, in human beings for example, already have the requisite elements, but it’s arguable as to whether these cellular genetic building blocks have souls in the same sense – or in any sense, really, any more than a stone or an amino acid chain have souls just because they’re made up of tiny elements that might have tiny soul-elements. Get close enough, and all such considerations cease to have meaning. It’s a knowledge with inexpressible potential for coldness of vision.

Sometimes it happens later, just another decoration hung randomly on the tree from the genetic grab-bag of biological growth bestowed upon an organism by dint of its gestation inside its progenitor.

Sometimes, particularly in cases of births that take place before full gestation process is complete according to the natural law of the species in question, the soul does not coalesce and actalise until after the birth, resulting in an organism from which something is – however briefly – missing. Until it isn’t.

Of course, there is a logical if rather horrifying projection of this fact, and indeed there are myths in many cultures about the neversouled, infants born without souls and in which souls never blossom … but this is all they are. Myths. A life-form cannot exist without a soul any more than it can exist without a second dimension, or its atoms exist without mass. A soul may be late to express, but never more than a few moments once that symbolic step into life is completed. Otherwise, of course, the life-form simply dies, and becomes nothing more than an assemblage of flesh.

A soul is infinitely more likely to be removed[3], warped, or damaged within the body of an established life-form than fail to initialise in the first place, and there are not only myths about this but actual science-mystic precedent, especially since it is through the soul, and the conduit to unreality it represents, that things in reality exercise magical power.

[3] Or, more accurately, the intra-aactur soul-element bonds broken down and the collective conduit essentially closed.

Nevertheless, the myth of the neversouled is an enduring one.

There is an element of compelling, disturbing truth behind the myth, even if the idea of the neversouled itself is inherently nonsensical. It is because of this grain of truth, and the superstitions and prejudices that have grown around it, that some of the older and more expensive medical establishments and institutions employ Soul Doctors. They are extremely specialised and exclusive, their work is very complex and often their talents centred on a single species, it being all but impossible to comprehend an alien soul. They can see if a soul is missing, see it when it blossoms in the unborn foetus or newborn, see what impact its arrival – late or timely – has on the baby. They perform other functions, too, since “watching, eternally vigilant, for the arrival of the neversouled” is a dubious justification for a paycheque at best, but their other tasks mostly fall under the definition of therapy, disgnostics or counselling.

There are no Soul Doctors on Earth, at least there weren’t at the time of Sloane’s birth. There aren’t that many human Soul Doctors anyway, it being a discipline that requires extensive training, a broad knowledge base and above all a life-span beyond the mere century or two afforded to the average human being. And, more importantly, Earth at that time simply couldn’t support the profession, recourse to the required magical energies having long since been sealed off by vast and remorseless powers. But it would have come as absolutely no surprise to any practitioner of the craft to learn that Augustus Sloane’s soul had only flickered into life two point four seconds after he was cut, gasping and squirming, from his mother’s belly as she lay dying in an overdose-related seizure.

In those to whom the soul blossoms late, it is said, the flesh remembers what it was to be a spark without conduit, a life without a soul.

Augustus Sloane. Sometimes, if you want to understand a thing, it helps to start small.

And sometimes it doesn’t.

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No, seriously, goodbye Mopho Cake II

I know I’ve said it before, but now it really is time for me to go and buy a new webomophone.

Mopho Cake II hasn’t actually died yet, but he’s getting slower and slower, his keypad is unresponsive, he periodically switches off whatever I’m doing and causes me to lose work, and he needs an overhaul so time-and-energy-consuming that it is just easier all round for me to retire him and get to know Mopho Cake III.

Don’t get me wrong, Mopho Cake II is a glorious appliance, a wonder of modern technology and has seen me through a lot of idle afternoons. He’s worked admirably and according to spec, and he has earned his place among the Honoured Almost-Dead beside Mopho Cake Snr.

So we’ll head to Jumbo today and I will fork over some of my stash to pick up a new Lumia. One with a nice writing function, decent memory and web capacity, and a nice big screen. Remote desktop connectivity would be a plus. Since I absolutely under no circumstances have anything to do with Nokia publications, I won’t have a clue where to start and have absolutely no justification for my loyalty to the brand. But I’m thinking a 1520 might be a good place to start. Or something else, with the remote desktop option.

Or maybe I’ll just forget about remote desktop for the time being, because it seems like a time-wasting lemon.

Ugh, bit of a rough night last night, the sound of the other boot dropping is eerily similar to the sound of a month-old baby screaming until 2am for no discernible reason. Previously-sleeping Wump finally had a panic-attack and needed hugs from Mrs. Hatboy while Toop was still in the middle of it, and so Toop got dropped in the box and eventually we all just apparently shattered ourselves to sleep until 6am. Toop’s been mostly-awake ever since, but in a reasonable mood.

Imagine this, you self-absorbed tool.

Which is more than can be said for me. Picture added to brighten things up and illustrate my cantankerousness, which boiled to a head at some of the recent sanctimonious, self-absorbed, hypocritical idiocy finding its way to my Facebook news feeds.

I’ll be taking both Wump and Toop, and their grandparents, to Jumbo with me for the adventure. We’ll install Wump in the play area and do our groceries and gadget-shopping. All very domestic and dull.

I could rant a bit about how having my parents here right now is rather like having four kids instead of two, and how instead of just helping out quietly they’re actually adding way more stress than necessary with their own endless demands and nagging … but I won’t. They’re just doing what they know.

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Chuck’s manuscript

I had a weird dream last night. Or, since I was awakened by Toop at 3am and this dream came after I fell back to sleep, I guess it was this morning.

Actually I had two, but I don’t remember much about the first. Something about dreameling, as a matter of fact. He’d moved into the top floor of my childhood home back in Fremantle, and converted it into some sort of studio apartment. It was quite neat actually (well, it’s dreameling so of course it was neat … but what I mean was, it was cool to see). Not sure what that was about. Separation anxiety about my boy Aaronthepatriot turning to him for conversation while I’m out of the loop, probably.

Anyway, in the second dream there was a big crowd of people, divided into several sections. One section was really just a big mass of folks, another was a big mass of spectatory-type standing-around people, and these were separated by a guarded fence. I entered this second crowd by way of an admittance gate, and then found that there was a third crowd, a sort of disorganised line leading through the fence and into the first crowd. So, never one to ask “why the line”, I lined up.

Turned out the line was actually a bunch of prisoners of war or internment camp victims of some kind, and they were being returned to their people after some peace treaty or other. The first crowd were representative of said people. Russians, unless I’m much mistaken. They were cheering and crying as we came stumbling through the barrier and paraded through them, headed.somewhere.

Yes, for some unfathomable reason I’d decided to stay with the line (probably because I’d waited in it for like twenty minutes already, damnit), and pretend to be a Russian expatriate headed home after a long exile. Nobody could hear anyone talking, and all the exiles were wearing mismatched charity clothes so I didn’t exactly stand out.

Plus, the returning exiles were getting gifts. They were pretty crappy, wooden puzzle-things for the most part, but a prezzie’s a prezzie. And when our little parade reached its goal (some embassy or other), there was more: the old belongings of the exiles, held onto by families and ready to hand back when the time came. It had obviously been some twenty years, so kids were now returning as adults – it had a bit of a ‘stolen generation’ vibe – and family members left behind weren’t necessarily around anymore, but the embassy had held onto the junk.

And it was mostly junk. I know, because I went through it. I’m just a bad person.

Eventually, though, I found a weird heirloom: it was a handwritten manuscript, by a little Russian boy whose nickname had apparently been “Chuck”, which was odd enough for a Russian – and a freaky-enough coincidence – that I felt obliged to claim that this long-lost kid was me. “Chuck”, it seemed, had been quite the writer.

The manuscript – and from here I fell into a second dream, about the story (although I woke up shortly thereafter and didn’t get the whole tale in any detail, and it was scrawled by a nine-year-old in any case) – was about a vampire apocalypse in some non-Earth quasi-futuristic steampunk high fantasy realm, which was a cool enough idea that I may have to use it for reals.

Sorry about that, Chuck. Hope you get home one day.

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War and Creepy, Part 10

The Gorbajixi Foreign Legion were very regretful of their mistake. Had they known who they were attempting to enlist, they said, they certainly would have thought twice about the ruse. They gave us complimentary first-class tickets back to Earth, a quick and simple course of treatments that would restore Creepy’s involuntary brain functions to normal, and t-shirts that read I Joined the Gorbajixi Foreign Legion, and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt and a Crippling Ammonia Imbalance. The shirts had too many arm-holes, but I’ve always said it’s the thought that counts.

“So, how are you feeling?” I asked, sipping on my delicious complimentary cocktail and thinking about a third bag of space crispies.

Creepy smiled over at me apologetically. “Hi,” he said, “I’m sorry if we’ve gone over all this before, but I have this problem…”

I leaned back, closed my eyes, and let Creepy explain. It’s funny, the way some things stop bothering you once one simple piece of information has been disclosed.

As well as offering their heartfelt apologies, and the cool shirts, the officers in charge of the Gorbajixi Foreign Legion had agreed to discharge Creepy honourably from the Legion – that meant he had a small medal of valour in the spectro-mail, a perpetual listing in the Gorbajixi Hall of Little Squishy Heroes, and a big juicy paycheque covering a full tour of duty.

Creepy knows he got paid. But to get the money, he has to admit that he remembers.

So, essentially, we have a situation where the sidekick with the longest attention-span loses.

 

The End

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