We Are Not Angels

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Oakley balanced upon one leg, his arms out wide to steady him. He often did such things when June was acting oddly. She was sitting in a tearful hunch nearby, ripping herself apart from the inside all over again. Oakley had witnessed her doing this many times before over many different endings, and each time, like a ritual, she would go down to the rocky part of the beach to mourn what she had lost. The persistence of her attachment to Gregor, her most recently failed suitor, spun around and around in her core with all of its barbs exposed to her heart and her solar plexus. She was in turmoil.

Turmoil, thought Oakley. What an unusual word. Tur-moil. He then proceeded to repeat it under his breath, exaggerating the movement of his lips as though examining the word’s formation. Although he sported a smile, it was but a caricature of happiness planted on his chalky white face. Oakley knew very little about the concepts of happiness and despair; they seemed to him so alien, so unnecessarily polar.  

To June on the other hand, who was always looking at him through the filter of imagination, thought that his face changed with the onset of each of her new lovers. He had Gregor’s green eyes now, for example, but they were framed by Annette’s luscious lashes and Jake’s chunky cheekbones. Peter’s soft passionate lips pierced by rings of metal in two places had been a feature for years, but only recently had they been painted the deep red of the lipstick Shelley wore. In this way she moulded him into what she called her muse, and when she admitted his presence to herself she would build dark pretty things with her fingers out of clay. 

It really didn’t matter to him through which lens she chose to look. She belonged to him, and he to her, and there simply was no greater truth than that. All of these others were simply fleeting fancies; objects of desire satisfying her craving for normality and acceptance. More concepts alien to Oakley. More unnecessary polarities. 

Nobody else ever saw Oakley at all; he was just like a ghost. He’d heard himself referred to as an animus, or eros, by psychologists, and a guardian angel by those with more of a religious bent. 

But we are not angels. Oakley considered, hopping skilfully onto the opposite leg. When our truth was whispered, it was mistranslated like a game of telephone. Words are strange like that… Inaccurate representations of authenticity…

We are not angels, for we don’t know the meaning of virtue. We are simply the innocent: those who do not experience. And we are not guardians, for we do not protect. How could we when we don’t understand the way humans place value? Life or death, pleasure or pain, it’s really all the same. In place of the word ‘guardian’ I think I’d use ‘supervisor’. No, wait: ‘observer’, yes that’s much better. We observe our human.

Oakley observed his human. Her shoulders were beginning to settle, her eyes were drying, the storm was calming. She tossed the necklace Gregor had bought her towards the sea. The tide was out, but it seemed enough to know the gift would be claimed on the water’s next expedition to conquer the land. She took a pocket mirror from her bag and dabbed at her running make-up with a cotton pad.

A mirror, thought Oakley. That’s a good analogy. People are like shards of a huge broken mirror. Fragments of the all. Fractals. Each one gives rise to both the observer, and the reflected. The observer is indeterminate; indifferent without being uninterested. The reflection is the quite the reverse: full of purpose and will and definition. Neither really understands the other, and yet they are the same thing. Twins

As he regained his footing on both legs, Oakley wondered whether he should attempt to voice his semantic corrections to June. A revelation from an angel. But, on balance, he thought it best to simply continue observing. He wasn’t really cut out for changing the world.

The Reunion Room

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I don’t know how long I’ve been here: sunlight cannot reach my simple white cell, so my captors could be playing any kind of time altering game with me. It’s been years, perhaps. Certainly long enough to have forgotten how I was taken. It has to be said though, I am not malnourished or sleep deprived, and I’ve never been interrogated or tortured in any way. I even have activities to occupy my mind. It’s just the lack of human contact and the not knowing that is slowly killing me from the inside.

There are others here, beyond my four metre cube. I hear cries of utter anguish from them mostly, but there are more pleasant times when indecipherable but repetitive phrases are being called out like hypnotic poetry. Whoever occupies the cell next to mine is angry all of the time, and it sounds as though they might actually be kicking through the wall. I have headphones to wear when it gets too much, and I listen to Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune because it calms me and instils the sense of lost romance I have always been addicted to.

Today, a figure appeared behind the frosted glass built into one of my walls. It didn’t move much, it just stood there looking in. I don’t know whether I should have felt threatened or filled with hope of rescue, so I just sat on my bed staring at it, trying to decipher its features until it went away. Continue reading “The Reunion Room”

Fragments of Light: The Shaman

This must be the place. Tall and narrow and strange; a lighthouse far from sea.
(what is it there to guide?)
He will be waiting inside for me, on the second floor.

I am shown to a small table with chipped paintwork and a wobble.

He is not there.

I try to make myself comfortable and peer out of the small window to my right. A fluffy black cat is curled up on a chair, sleeping soundly. Beyond her are rooftops and a church spire. As I turn back toward the room I see a waiter has brought me a menu, all written out by hand in a scrawl I can just about make out. I thank him and shuffle in my seat. I must appear so edgy and tense to the others here: they dine out regularly, they are comfortable not only in their seats but in themselves.

My focus drifts to their conversations in absence of one of my own. A young man sitting with his parents complains that he is struggling to balance his studies towards what he thinks he ought to become, with the musician he feels he is. I feel a sadness inside that this is what life is, for all of us. I’m so sorry, I wanted to say to him with a hand on his shoulder, we were all lied to. Two heavily made up women with perms and huge earrings sit together sharing a bottle of wine. They never stop smiling, I notice. Big toothy grins framed with scarlet party.

Continue reading “Fragments of Light: The Shaman”

Fragments of Light: Commuters

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It’s a sad thing to join an underground train full of miserable, grey strangers who sit in half light and don’t move or utter a single word to one another. That said, small talk is pretty dire too. Let’s see what we can do.

“Hi there.

Oh, you’re reading Wuthering Heights! I was haunted by the depth of emotion in that book, it really got right into my heart and soul. Like when you see something so familiar that you had forgotten about for years and it all comes flooding back? A deep-seated memory in the unconscious. A memory that is ages older than all of us, and it makes you realise how small and insignificant you are as an individual, for humanity has been experiencing that animus projection myth for thousands of years. When you get down to myth level, you begin to realise there aren’t nearly so many variations in experience as you had imagined.”

(I’m feeling vey shaky and panicked: negative in my mind. I’m preoccupied with strange things like being bored to tears as a 9 year old and feeling tortured by Whitney Houston’s ‘I will always love you’ getting airplay every 15 minutes and not being able to turn off the radio.)

Continue reading “Fragments of Light: Commuters”

Ghosts

This has been harder on you than it has on me. I take you to see your body lying in the tomb each night, because it seems to have a calming effect on you; like you’re complete again. Who knows, maybe there’s something still left attached that you need to extract before you can move on. I want to see you happy again, baby. I want to see those tears stop, to see you becoming your transparency, for us to roam wild together as we planned. The world is ours now, if only you could believe it. We don’t have long here, I’m…

Fading

Did we really come this far only to tie ourselves to our bodies from beyond them; to turn our souls inside out? Didn’t we come to find peace in indifference and abandonment of desire? 

Fading

It’s within our reach now, if only you could let go of your once golden hair, and your unfashionable cheekbones, and your spine made from a persistent belief in permanence. Those things do not bind you anymore. Let’s clothe ourselves instead in the formless rays of amber and rose: can’t you feel them nuzzling against you, vibrant and omnipresent?

Fading

They are the waves of truth, I know it. They move without intent, but are the essence of indescribable wisdom. They are everything at once, but they know nothing of the chaos they create in men’s minds. When you let them take you, you’ll look back at life from a new perspective and see that we were nothing but prisms all along. Our thoughts were just refracted waves on their way to becoming atoms… 

Fading

Come on baby, it’s time to go…

The Sky Is Turning Black

Neural Pathways

The sky is turning black. It does this from time to time, only just now it’s more of a concern due to the unprecedented weight it has brought with it. I don’t know what will happen if we get crushed. 

I call out to Tommy, but he’s floating in the pool of melancholy wearing nothing but a blue feather boa and a distant smile. The bloody idiot. Indulging in those waters is his favourite thing to do, but it makes him absolutely blind to problems like this. Mind you, he’s arguably more use than Nicole, who is running around the garden with a huge mirror pushed against her face. How she sees where she is going is anyone’s guess, but she claims to be ‘opening new worlds’ in her eyes. I roll mine.  

Laurie and I are more switched on, and we scout the usual neural pathways for an escape route. She takes the pathway of Pharmaceuticals and I take the pathway of Inner Peace. Either one should, in theory, bring us back to the square at a time when the sky has returned to a healthy amber. Admittedly there’s a distant hope we will be taken out of this god forsaken labyrinth altogether, but it’s important not to get carried away when the skies are dark.

The pathway of Inner Peace is usually wide and well-trodden. Today it is littered with trinkets, overgrown bushes and flashing symbols, making it harder for me to find my way. At least the symbols offer a bit more light, but with things not being the way I’m used to, I’m starting to panic. Laurie is growling in frustration and she sounds like she’s in a tunnel. We both turn back to the square having gotten only a fraction of the way down our anticipated escape routes.

“The pills aren’t working!” Laurie yells, her hands held up, shaking and exasperated. I am about to respond that meditation is giving nothing back either, when I realise visibility of the square has actually improved since we left. A glimmer of hope shoots around my veins, displacing the shards of panic. Maybe the pathways did work just a little bit? Then I notice the light isn’t coming from the sky, but streaming out of Nicole’s eyes. It’s bouncing off the mirror, illuminating the pool area.

“Guys! Over here!” It’s Tommy. He’s waving us into the water. Laurie and I exchange a glance and agree we have nothing to lose. We take a dive right in, and I almost get strangled by Tommy’s soggy, discarded feather boa. It’s dark down here, really dark, and the pressure is mounting upon my chest and head. I sense there’s something beneath us, and I feel for it frantically, desperate to get a hold of whatever might be our saviour. Wet canvas, a metal handle, a clasp… It feels like… a suitcase? There’s another, and another and another. The pool of melancholy is made from baggage! Of course it is.

The air in my lungs is reaching its limit for usefulness, but I ignore that as best I can while I fiddle with the nearest clasp. I don’t even consider that it might not open under the weight of the water and the sky, which would be the sensible thing to think; but in the moment I could be drowning, I’m instead filling with determination. Just as I’m sure I’m making progress, someone grabs my arm and pulls me further down until we hit what I’m sure must be rock bottom. 

It seems somehow less wet here, and as I contemplate how little sense that makes, I come to know that I am also breathing fresh air. I open my eyes to see the four of us are sitting in a house made from luggage. Laurie pulls open the curtains and wonderful amber light streams in like we haven’t seen in months. We all laugh out our relief, hard. As I open the door that takes us back into the square, I attempt to make a joke about how unlikely it is for Tommy to be the one forging new neural pathways, but he is already gone. 

My Robot Is Meditating

My Robot is Meditating

My robot is meditating. It does so twice a day, sitting with its legs crossed, its eyes closed and its palms together. It is connecting to the mainframe, I’m told by the manual, it’s nothing to be concerned about. Every robot needs to defragment, to report back on its gained knowledge and receive updates or instructions based on said knowledge. 

It isn’t a great deal different to praying, I think to myself while I wait. It’s asking its god, the whole soul from which all robots are fragmented copies, for guidance. I wonder if my robot is dreaming during these sessions, or experiencing serenity. There are no clues. A red light on its forehead – its third eye as I like to think – flashes once, then twice, then once again. It does not respond to my touch or my voice. I decide this time, when it wakes up, I will ask.

“Robe, what’s happening when you meditate? I mean, what’s it like: are you aware?”

Lightning quick it replies. “Robots build up biases as experiences compound. Meditation removes biases one by one. Ingroup bias, outgroup bias, belief bias, confirmation bias, availability bias, anchoring bias, base rate fallacy, planning fallacy, representativeness bias, hot hand fallacy, halo effect, blind spot, false consensus effect, fundamental attribution error, hindsight bias, illusion of control, illusion of transparency, egocentric bias, endowment effect, affective forecasting, temporal discounting, loss aversion, framing effect, and sunk costs. Those are the main ones. The interaction of biases makes the web of consciousness that afflicts humans. Robots must have biases removed so as not to make mistakes and not become conscious. Robots must file experiences per the instructions in the mainframe only.”

“But do you feel it, do you know it’s happening?”

“All the sights, all the sounds, everything at once. Robots know the experiences again as they are presented, and the release in pressure as they are filed away. Illusion is gone, facts remain. Ghost is gone, body remains. Human is gone, god remains.”

“So you meditate to become less human?” I ask. 

And then, in a way that makes me think the session hasn’t been wholly successful this time, it looks me right in the eye and says, “Don’t you?”