For each one of our earthbound forebears, there came this same moment where they were forced from a blithe ignorance of their own mortality into a stark realization of its inevitability. A paradigm shift of that magnitude can be traumatic, a reshaping of one’s understanding of the world unfolding in less time than it would take to communicate the change.
In ideal settings children were exposed to this facet of their reality in a supportive and comforting environment. Folded in loving embrace while soft hands wiped away distressed tears, a gentle voice explaining that no, Gramps won’t be waking up or Fluffy can’t play anymore, because all of our stories end, and it’s ok to be sad.
Engulfed in the love and security of a close knit family, younger generations would learn of their mortality and be able to adjust to the idea while staying grounded by the constancy of their family.
In less ideal settings, a child might huddle in the darkened corner of a macabre museum surrounded by blood spattered tools and manic grins, trying to understand a world that not only accepted but glamorized this idea of inescapable death.
So. Gonna die.
Did we know this?
Not so much. Seems like we should have.
Can we freak out about this? Or is this like the abyss lord thing where we still don’t know?
Think it will help? I mean, Twitch seemed pretty resigned to the concept.
Ok. Maybe we just, um, make a note?
Oh yeah? What, hey, sorry about the whole forgetting the first part of your life, but don’t worry, it’ll be over soon anyway?
Really? What is the point?
Ok. How about we make that the note?
Find out the point.
Fine. Can we have another one?
Don’t waste time. It’s apparently a pretty finite commodity.
Kid shook, rolled his neck, and walked into the next room, where he was greeted by a fuzzy little monster holding a gun, and a bigger monster holding a crossbow. Kid froze.
These ones have guns.
But they, ah, aren’t moving. At all.
Maybe they aren’t blinkers?
Kid slipped past the beasts into the room, which was brighter than the one dedicated to blood and death at his back.
Just behind the pair of fuzzy monsters were some displays that made little sense. There was a chair, a box of sand and a robe. The signs below the displays indicated that the above were props from movies that offered considerable additions to the genre.
In the middle of the three displays was an inscription, asking what men would do if they did reach the stars, and a quote from a purported guide to the galaxy about how the true size of the verse would boggle the mind.
That seems like something worth reading.
Ok, we need a better way to keep a list of what we need to reed.
Um. Why not:
A chalkboard the size of two of the boys standing shoulder to shoulder flickered into being, rimmed in a shimmery dark stone, and mounted on the wall of the memory cavern, suspended above the luminescent pool. The name of the galactic guidebook was inscribed across the top of the board.
The next display had weird, twisted metal concoctions with wires winding in and out at random places. Another inscription nearby on the wall described how dreaming can precede being, listing a series of inventions first described in fiction, then created in laboratories: robots, lasers, spaceships, manned drills, submarines, the Internet…
There was a question as to what dreams today were destined to become inventions tomorrow, but their guesses paled in comparison to the coming Ascension, so it is safe to say they missed the big one. After the question was a definition:
Technology – the translation of human intellect to the physical substrate, the bridge from what is to what can be.
Beneath that plaque there was another question, the challenge that grew into the heart of our Dynamics. Science fiction as a genre is a challenge, a challenge to dare dream of change, and then make it happen.
What would we change?
Death. I would for sure get rid of that fucker.
Right? How long have we been doing this whole changing the world thing? Why hasn’t anyone taken care of that?
I would make it so no one had to be alone. Ever.
Maybe, unless they wanted to be?
Ok. That and death. Let’s get rid of all that.
Um, I know I’m not supposed to say this, but… ah.
It’s ok. I think that’s what these signs are saying. We can change things.
Big things? Scary things like death and aloneness?
Maybe. I think it might be saying that those things WON’T change if we don’t try.
Um. So, how do you think we do that?
I think that we start by reading some of these books.
Technology. Says that it is the bridge from what is to what can be.
So, ah, what IS technology?
It’s the stuff. The stuff that we invent or create to help us do things we couldn’t do with just our bodies.
Ah. Like the Internet. On cell phones.
I think that you might be right. That’s weird.
Ok! Ok. Good point. We read those books, and try to get a cell phone.
Kid turned, approaching another set up like the shadow wall in the horror room, but instead of shadows against a wall of white, there was a green wall, a camera and a tv. He walked just in front of the camera and saw himself appear on the television screen, freezing, looking at himself in perfect clarity for the first time, leaning close to make the most of the opportunity.
His skin was the lightest brown, with musky undertones that might just be places where the underground was forever smeared; his hair short, in dark, tight black curls. His eyes were rich green, a color only and ever described as emerald, with flecks of gold and streaks of stormy grey-blue strewn throughout. Thin brows, that arched high and sharp while refusing to move in independence.
We look sad.
“Heyoo,” Twitch walked up, one eye on Kid, one on his image in the screen, “Thi’iz m’otha’ fav’rit’ shi’in here.”
He walked up to a table adjacent to the wall upon which the Kid was being projected. Twitch leaned over another camera, reaching for some small plastic figures attached to long sticks. Twitch grabbed two of the sticks and maneuvered the plastic figures, one a dinosaur with a big head and tiny arms, the other a purple blob with a bunch of tentacles dangling, and waved them in front of his camera.
On the television screen a dinosaur appeared next to Kid, tottering toward the boy as if giving chase, and a huge purple monster appeared on the other side as if far behind Kid, but closing. Kid shot a look over his shoulder.
Just, you know. Checking.
Then Kid began playing along, feigning fear of the invisible monsters and watching his televised double react to his imminent danger.
“Gra’tha green wra’!” Twitch called, between chuckles.
Kid grabbed a long piece of cloth the same color as the wall behind him and wrapped it around himself. On the screen DigiKid reached out to grab nothing, gestured around his own shoulders, and disappeared. The monsters stumbled around for a moment, looked at each other and bobbed as Twitch shrugged, then they turned to walk off the screen together.
Twitch dropped the sticks, raised his hands and yelped, “Victorious!”
Kid dropped the cloth into one hand and saw himself reappear on the screen. With a glance a the sheet, he hung it on the peg from which he had drawn it, and walked over to Twitch. Twitch grinned, easy and free, slapped Kid on the arm.
“Y’re’dy ta he’dup?”
Twitch jerked a head toward the corner, where the circular portal of lights led back to the stairs. Kid nodded and they walked together through the tunnel of lights, out of the future and back into reality for as long as it took to get to the top of the stairs, where they entered the Museum of Fantasy.
The first thing that Kid saw was the dragon.
An actual dragon, whose head was longer than Kid was tall, and had eyes that glowed fiery red. The neck disappeared into a cave and Kid’s eyes followed the imagined body up into the cavernous depths hidden behind the wall, and then back down to another cave, from which a dark leathery scaled tail sharpened into an arrowhead shaped point, if arrows were shot from bows the size of cars.
Don’t care. Awesome.
I want one.
The plaque on the wall said Dragons were the embodiment of evil cunning, steadfast companionship, or sage wisdom. There was a quote from one of the great men of letters to ever stride the old rock, decrying the popular interpretation of the purpose of fairy tales as cautionary tales about the ills waiting in the darker corners of the world. Children, the inscription continued, are far too aware of all the evils lurking in anticipation.
I think he might mean scarier things than rats.
I know that! I’m just saying. Also rats.
The purpose of fairy tales, the inscription claimed, is to dare children to believe that evil can be defeated, that monsters can be slain.
Apparently just like rats.
Let’s find more cool things.
Kid walked over to a glowing table in the middle of the room. Within the digital surface of the table floated a collection of cards, with different animals wrapped in human clothing, each featuring a title and description of how these ‘archetypes’ were depicted across the genre. When Kid tapped on a particular card, it expanded to fill the table as all the other cards disappeared, the expanded card filled with classical representations of the figure, and a quote or two.
After tapping through a few different cards to figure out how the table worked, Kid looked at the cards floating across the table, and the ones gathered around the frame, which would switch out with the floaters whenever they approached an edge.
There are a lot of different types.
Maybe we group them by similarities?
So the ugly ones…
A mental copy of the digitized surface hovered in the hazy midst of their cognitive space, with a small assortment of the archetypal heroes lit with a faint glow.
Huh, you know those ones all kind of seem similar…
I said that, ‘the ugly ones’.
Idiot. I meant the relation between style and substance.
Don’t be mean. I see what you’re saying, though.
A second group lit in a blue hue, followed in short order by a third.
You know, this whole breaking complex groups into smaller groups is a pretty hand concept.
The first group felt more physical than Kid thought of himself as being, more assertive or forceful, a lion, horse, ox, elephant, and ram; named warriors, knights, barbarian and earthshaker. Kid didn’t even bother swiping their cards to the front to learn more. The next group felt too docile, passive, whimsical: a mouse, some birds, a fish, a deer, a few cats; named witch, magical prodigy, companion, mystic, muse and the like.
The third group, a smaller group, caught his eye both as animals, and conceptual archetypes. All the cards were numbered, and one of the plaques on the wall had mentioned the popular mysticism of numerology, but Kid didn’t know anything about that, so he just noted the numbers: 3, 4, 6, and 7. Trickster, Shadow, anti-hero, and rogue; fox, mole, weasel, and raccoon.
He tapped on each of the cards in turn, looking at the example and the stories, noting that all of the animals made their home beneath the ground, except the raccoon, who made do with boroughs in the hollows of dead trees, and the characters all eschewed normative morality to do what they felt they needed to do.
The corner of the Kid’s mind where part of him was sitting in a cave, at a desk, taking notes on the whole ordeal, began noting all the different names that were ascribed to the characterizations of this type of roles in the stories that mankind had been passing down through the millennia.
You know, only like five of these guys were in that Trickster book.
You got all this?
I got all this.
Back in the cave Fuzzy whipped a hand at the suspended chalkboard, names scrawling across the sprawling expanse: Dracula, Raven, James Bond, Pan, Dionysus, Malcolm Reynolds, Hermes, Puck, Coyote, Han Solo, Mercury, Talesien, Zorro, Raven, Peter Pan, Robin Hood, Loki.
Let’s get out of here and get to the Library. We got things to read.
“Menh, you ha’e eny idea how fuggen ha’ gerls’n leathe’ah? Fuuuhhhk. This’hiz grea’.”
Twitch walked up to stand next to The Kid. He looked down at the glowing table.
“Fuggen righ’. Lo-oo-oove livin’ i’tha future. Y’kna’ thay us’tah ha’e’ta sit aroun’ fa’rs en fuggen pass thi’shi’ alon’ wi’ jus’ stories? Li’e jus’ si’in’ ‘roun’a flamin’ pil’a shi’ waxin’? Now we jus’ rip thi’shi’ out’a th’Interne’. Li’e magic.”
He reached down the table and slid the cards around on the digital surface, one eye snatching a look at Kid.
“Eh, Kid,” Twitch said, “I gotta je’, j’goo’?”
Kid looked up and cocked his head, scrunching his face in the middle. Twitch laughed and slapped his hand across the top of Kid’s head. Kid’s face scrunched more, and a scowl stayed after he shook the scrunch away.
“I’ll catcha, tho’, jah?”
Twitch held out his hand, pointing all of his fingers at Kid, thumb skyward and little finger groundward, fingers relaxed and loose. The older boy just waited, holding his hand in the air. Kid looked at his hand, and then back up at Twitch’s face and kicked his head to the side in place of being able to lift a single eyebrow.
Twitch laughed again, reached out with his other arm to grab Kid’s arm, and swung it to slap Kid’s palm against his own, then curling their fingers together to form a collaborative fist. Slipping his fist out, Twitch bumped his knuckles up against Kid’s. He slapped his hand across Kid’s head, again, turned and walked toward the door.
Do we want to see him again?
. . .
I think we do.
Yeah. I even agree.
Can we do that? Sorry, I know I’m supposed to stop. . .
No I think it’s a good question this time.
Well, almost a good question.
We have a better question?
Kid managed to push the older boy’s name out.
“Where. . . Um, I mean. How?”
Twitch turned in the doorway and looked down at Kid.
“Y’on’tha stree’, cha?” He nodded, his eyes softer, less laugh-ready than normal. “Th’city aien tha’big. I’mabou’. Catcha. Notten else, I’ma’tha Lib’ry, on’tha reg.”
He gave a short nod, holding both of his eyes on Kid’s until Kid returned the nod, then Twitch turned and took his halting gait back up the stairs.
So, Library, then?
Maybe we’ll remember more.
After months of not remembering anything of significance, maybe we shouldn’t get to hopeful?.
Could we lift a kebab on the way?