The Selfcleaning World

stories & images from a world on the edge..

Tag: writing

Enter the Huckster


In the year of our misfortune, the century hard to place, a peach-headed man descended on Rust Hill, pretending to have hitch-hiked there.  Tall-hatted, in gilded peacoat and with an unnatural paste slathered on his face to hide infirmity, he was an old time huckster in the classic american mold, looking to sell the people what they didn’t need. A snake oil wholesaler.

The trick was in trading in fear, playing off anxieties that people were being left behind and forgotten, while at the same time stoking age old hatreds that had mostly been in remission.  His words put cracks in the conviction that the system ruling the people of Rust Hill was fair and just, and soon the cracks grew to a fissure, the magma of animosity spewing up.

The huckster, hopped up on devil dust to improve his stagecraft, couldn’t offer any actual solutions to the problems facing the town, his hollow slogans were simply designed as catalysts for igniting the base passions of the group mind, primed as it was by a crumbling way of life.  He told them that a powerful elite (of which he surely was not) was conspired against them, pulling hidden levers to keep them under yoke.  They only needed to rise up. He would lead from the back end, squeezing the bowels of the back country.  In fact his cancerous presence in the body politik was argument in favor of a societal preserver, a cabal of benign intelligence, Illuminati or otherwise,  that might ensure that the ignorant, driven to violence, would not upend the apple cart, much less collapse the entire temple in on itself.

Crude caricatures were offered up as effigies, targets at which to hurl the rotten fruit of their disdain.  With the throng sufficiently whipped into frenzy, the huckster made his sales pitch.  He would give them the past.  Halcyon days when there was a chicken on every table in Rust Hill, the way things used to be, a dead dream.  Of course he was the only direct supplier.

Many were willing to buy in.  But there was no going back.  Time itself was the guarantor of that.



The Dream

I’ve been thinking about it for years, planning, saving, preparing – now it has arrived.  6 months of personal leave from work to devote to other things, travel and creative pursuits.  No more alarms, no more commutes – for a while.  Just writing, artwork, bike riding, hiking, gardening, reading…   The good stuff.  Like my DJ says, the dream

First comes travel, I soon depart for Vietnam where I’ll be staying with a friend in Ho Chi Mihn City.  I’ll be exploring the south, the coast, and then north and on to other locales: Laos, Thailand, Cambodia.  When I return home I’ll have the precious time to devote to writing, both short stories and book length fiction.

I’ll try to post dispatches, probably more of the picture variety than text at first…  Onwards, outwards-

Like all dreams, I’ll eventually wake up.  But for now it’s on…..

The Wanderer

The Wanderer

Non-Recreational Camping

I have a story in The Satirist called ‘The Occupational Hazards of Occupying’ – an exposé of the rise and fall of Fred Zamtoit, leader within the Occupy movement:

This is a satire based on observations of Tent City in downtown Ottawa, Ontario.

Life at Tent City acquired a rhythm and direction.  A man known as Drumbaba led the daily drum circle.  A roundtable was held almost every afternoon.  The group maintained that it was a collective of peers, nonpartisan and open to all, with every voice accorded value.  In practice it was Zamtoit who set the agenda, it being implicitly understood that all matters of importance were deferred to him.

Of all the challenges perhaps most grave was the approach of winter.  The incessant growl and tang of diesel generators wafted through the ever more forlorn encampment as leaves accumulated on the ground and night came on earlier, the dedicated core pacing, pacing, shivering, pacing.  There were rumblings of dissent and discussions of how long they could reasonably be expected to confront the elements.  Herb Morganta, leader of the conspiracist faction and a significant rival to Zamtoit, insisted that government Illuminati had planted sowers of dissent within the group, and a general purging was in order.


Had I convinced Imagine that I was on her side, that she could trust me with her story?  I waited for days and then weeks without hearing from her.

I pursued other lines of investigation, gathering information on the early development of the Calculix.  It began with research on entopic light, which is related to the coloured patterns created when pressing on closed eyes.  The goal was to track light direction and its perception in an attempt to situate the mind’s will in matter.  A functionality was discerned, which was fed into an animator to produce a computational model of the phenomenon.  The model suggested how a physical construct might be constructed from light, and this gave birth to the vibrorb, an early incarnation of the Calculix.

The vibrorb appeared as a shimmering ball of energy criss-crossed by lines.  A series of codices were formed by the migrating lines, whose meaning was taken to be a function of the neural configuration of the ‘operator’, the person psychically linked to the system.  The model was further refined by employing the neural signatures of meditating monks and other highly attuned participants, including shamans in the throes of entheogenic intoxication.  Energy scaling was applied to the model and the Calculix was born.

One afternoon I received a single worded text: Coffee?  Imagine Summer wanted to meet at the spot we had our encounter several weeks ago.

She entered the coffeehouse wearing sunglasses and an autumn sweater, on which fell her windswept brunette locks.

“I’ve been thinking about our conversation, and I wanted to talk.”  Bottled up for too long now her story gushed.

“One of its functions is to navigate and display all the untaken routes in your life’s decision tree, showing the choices made and all the ones that weren’t.  It will calculate where you could have ended up, what you could have been.  They’re transmitted in flashes once neural proximity is established, often just by touching.”

She recounted entering the holding chamber and, at the urging of her supervisor, placing her hands on the glowing object suspended at the heart of the device.

“I became aware of ancient objections, saw faces being unmasked, priceless sad information…  It’s like rolling round dice, bets are never precisely settled.”

She was having difficulty putting her specific experience into words.  She believed the Calculix showed her that life is a test, one of billions, used to confirm or deny universal truth.

I asked her why she agreed to it, taking the risk in conducting these tests, and she said it was an interesting question.  She suddenly seized up, as if just realizing she was confiding to a near total stranger, of whose motives she should be more suspicious.

I began talking about myself to take the pressure off.  I told her that my pure science days were behind me, that I was now a writer researching the history of the Calculix.

“I can’t tell you much more from my end” she finally said.  “But I have something you might want.”  She handed me a file for upload to memstrat.

“What is it?”

“We talked briefly about Bern Hijkl.  It’s his experimental trials, the unfiltered transcripts from the lab archives.  Promise me you’ll keep your source a secret.

“I will, definitely.  Thanks for your help, Imagine.”

“It’ll be worth it if what you find out can help Bern and the others.”

Was she including herself in “others”?  We finished our coffiene and went our separate ways.

[Unbottled is Part 4 of The Calculix Series]

Imagine Summer

Her name was Imagine Summer.  She was one of LeVram’s graduate students during the early work on the Calculix.  She stands out in memory not least because of her nearly purple eyes that I’d gaze at as I passed her in the hallway.  I liked to pretend she was pretending not to notice me.  A second student in the LeVram lab was Bern Hijkl.  I knew him only because our labs shared the same deep freeze where I would occasionally run into him.  She and Bern were the two students most intimately involved in the research, and LeVram encouraged them both towards what can euphemistically be termed “playing” with the device.

I devised to track them both down for insight into the development of the Calculix.  I would then break the story to the world and achieve, if not immortality, then maybe a paid writing position or a book deal.

Preliminary research revealed that Summer was now employed at Astrobiologica®, a multinational neuroceutical conglomerate.  I learned that she frequented a certain coffeeshop at a research park, and I planned to “bump into” her one Thursday afternoon.

I recognized her easily.  Older of course but in a way that enhanced her loveliness.  Where once she was a perky college keener she now had the more restrained confidence that comes with success.

As she ordered her coffee I timed my approach to the sugar-cream bar and feigned a searching recognition, followed by surprise.  “I think we went to school together” I said, “did you work on the third floor at the Sonatoska Institute?”

She seemed agitated, uncomfortable with a near stranger bringing up her distant past, a past forever linked to her controversial former employer.

I mentioned one of the classes we had shared and brought up the sordid rumours about the professor who taught it, Dr. Dunner, which had always been a popular topic among students and staff at the institute.  She warmed up slightly at this gambit and I convinced her to sit down for a brief chat.

Conversation was tentative at first.  Gracefully tall with bobbing waves of flaxen hair it was amazing to look into those pale blue eyes and after so many years have them look back at me.

“So you work for Astrobiologica now, interesting.  Sometimes I miss the lab but my pure science days are behind me.  I write now, and interestingly enough I’m researching the history of the Calculix.”

She looked at me suspiciously.  “So this wasn’t a chance encounter.”

“Not exactly.  But so too with science I’m in the business of uncovering truth.  And you probably know better than anyone that the true story of the Calculix has not been told.”

“And that’s probably a good thing.  Look, I have to be going.”

Imagine turned to go, paused.  “Let’s exchange contact information.  I may be able to give you something.  I’ll have to think about it.”

“What about Bern Hijkl?  You were both students of LeVram’s.  What happened with him?”

Her face fell as she repeated the name.  “Bern.  He left science, he left reality.  He’s not all the way back..  he changed.  That’s all I want to say.”

“Well it was good talking to you.  I’ll be in touch.”

She hurried away.

[Imagine Summer is Part 3 of The Calculix Series]

LeVram’s Masterwork

What exactly is the Calculix?

Those who claim to have seen it describe the object as an irregularly shaped construct of component pieces joined at odd angles, sometimes glowing, often with a repeating motif of lines or circles that seem to scale to infinity.  It is at least three-dimensional, if not more.  Fractal, but not exactly.  It hovers with a distinctive hum in the receptacle containing it, which is thought to carry an anti-entropic field.

Your average college physics professor will explain that the object, if it exists, amounts to what is known as a Tipler cylinder, albeit with modifications.  In other words, an almost infinitely long rotating cylinder of super-dense neutronium reaching straight to heaven.  The cylinder warps space around it to create closed time-like curves, and at any point one can theoretically travel into the light cone.  The foremost physicists of our age say such a device can never be built, and most commentators decry it as nothing more than a pipe dream.  But this pipe has been sending bodies beyond the edge of reality, if rumors can be believed.

Those more closer to the research contend that it is not simply a mechanical device.  The truth is that the scientists who made it do not know exactly what it is, and have turned to philosophers for answers.

Metaphysicists say that it makes more sense to view the Calculix as not a strictly material object, but as consciousness, or at least a kind of information pattern that interacts with human consciousness in some way.  It is a hyperspatial noetic object.  An access point.  A convergence of the sentient parts of the universe at a physical egress.

LeVram’s masterwork was declared classified research with national security implications.  His labs were raided by government operatives and his materials seized.  Academics rose in outrage at such brazen and unprecedented actions by the government, but to no avail.  The courts sided with the Feds and upheld the seizure and confiscation of the Calculix.  LeVram was offered the opportunity to continue working with his creation under supervision and within the confines of secured facilities.  He quietly accepted.

It has been eight years since that seminal event.  Only a trickle of vague statements have been released to the public on the status of the Calculix and the progress of the research program, while the extent of Dr. LeVram’s involvement remains unclear.

I’ve maintained an interest in the story over the years, fed mainly by the conspiratorial recesses of the internet.  The claims being made are overwhelming, unbelievable, and ultimately unprovable.  Supposedly human subjects have disappeared over its radiant edge and successfully returned.

I could have left it at that.  But I decided to go deeper.

[LeVram’s Masterwork is Part 2 of The Calculix Series]

The Calculix , Part 1

The Calculix

There are people who claim to have been through the rift, a transient crease in time’s pace that assembles events in random configurations, often with bizarre consequences.  The only way it’s possible is if the Calculix is real.

It’s not any crazier than believing the laws of the universe are true and have had their way with us, evolving us into these strange physical forms.

Time’s silent soldiers – seconds, minutes, hours – march over the planet in precision and perfect resolve.  Or so we thought.

“Time,” declared renegade researcher Dr. Wolfgang LeVram, “can be thought of as a continuous beam between receptors at all points.  Everything – objects, people, whales – are suspended in the intervening jelly.  With sufficient know-how this beaming can be controlled, or at least influenced.”

I remember sneaking into his lectures.  I wasn’t majoring in physics but I was fascinated by his story and reputation.  Disparaging comments from his rivals and the media only increased the appeal.  Dr. LeVram touted his Calculix, sixteen years in the making, as a device possessed of the ability to control time.  The problem was that no one could confirm whether it worked and to what extent, as everything and everybody is embedded in time and so detecting its effects were difficult.

It was easy to dismiss it all as crack pottery.  But I know people who claim first hand experience with its power, bright young students involved in the research who now live on the streets, their reality shattered, and I need to know why.

[This is Part 1 of The Calculix Series]