writing chapter 9.1
Snake chaired his panel – Levitation: What The Fuck – starting at 10 pm, the timeslot for the last serious panels that are just a little too late for the rubes. So only hardcore fans traditionally showed up, and the hard partying began that would go on all night. The horrible crush of costumed figures had mellowed – there was more space around the walls to sit or sprawl. They didn’t exactly open up portable bars in the back of the meeting rooms, but everyone brought something, and openly partook thereof. The room filled with smoke. Snake had a bottle of bourbon on the table, Josh was making a mis on place (???) with his stash of pharmaceuticals.
“We’re not here to debunk that levitation thing that happened to my boy’s girlfriend last year.” He showed some not very clear cellphone video someone put up on YouTube. “No, that was all real. And the vibration people felt, and the psychic contact stuff. We”re not here to disrespect any of that shit, eve tho this is the Skeptic track and there’s supposed to be a swamp gas explanation for shit like this. But many of you were there” – nods all over – “or you know someone who was” – lots of agreement – “and none of you look like the hypnotizable type, or people that would fall for mass delusions,” tho Snake was making bets with himself to the contrary.
“And I’m not inclined to doubt my teammate’s sanity, even if she is a girl.” The crowd was mostly men. The few women frowned or ignored the slight.
“What we want to know is what happened, and why, and can it be repeated? And not in terms of mystery schools or newage gobbledegook about ascended masters and quantum consciousness. As everybody knows, quantum mechanics works, but only on really small scales – an atom or two. There is even a quantum process – so called – in the brain, but there is no way that these tiny isolated little processes could be responsible for our universe, let alone what goes on in our insignificant brains. You are not God, no mater what some blissed out exhippies want you to believe. There’s only one reality, and that all I want to say abou tit.”
He paused to belt down a shot of whiskey. Josh looked bored, or stoned. “Now, don’t get me wrong, I”m not denying the strange stuff that happens when you’re tripping, and there’s been a lot of documentation about mind altering chemicals that can make out of body experiences the norm, and in the past ritual magic has shown a lot of promise as a discipline if you’re trying to conquer reality. And this is serious science compared to the consciousness mumbo jumbo you hear from some quarters. When it’s been proven over and over again that consciousness is just a side effect of having a brain of a certain size and complexity. Without a body you’re dead meat. Without a mind, you’re like 99% of humanity.” – haha – so someone was still listening.
“So what I’m saying is, there’s a reasonable explanation for the levitation we witnessed here at last year’s Dragoncon. But isn’t the Force, or magik, or quantum superpowers. Quantum mechanics looks like magic from outside, because it’s so new. But give it a few years, until you start to get quantum consumer products, and then everyone wonders what we did without it. So we’re very proudly introducing the very first quantum gaming device in this – or any other – universe.”
“See, our phenomenal levitatoress has been working on the design team from the beginning, and like all of us is intimately involved with the game, and no doubt she picked up some quantum abilities just from her interactions with the device.”
“As near as we can tell, the kernel sets up a quantum field, where what happens next can be preprogrammed, and so whatever you want, you can do. Inside the game, it’s really real. We can actually fly, we can eat and shit and get it on, tho personally I’m not attracted to any of my codevelopers. You can feel cold, and pain. You can get drunk. You can die. I mean really die, white light, life review, judgement day and all that. It’s every inch as real as this – and even moreso, because it’s a whole world and you’re a vital part of it.”
Snake was beginning to feel mystical about it. Better watch the old alcohol intake, huh? “Maybe it taps that quantum piece of your brain, or maybe it puts you into an altered state; we’re not sure. It’s whatever happens to your brain when you put it inside the quantum field of our new chip. Which by the way is called the Q-chip(tm).” He just thought that up.
“It’s smaller than a grain of sand, and I don’t understand it at all, like I’ve said before. But there’s only one of them, and there’s – also – a clone in every copy of the game. Your very own clone virtually resides on whatever device you have it running on. So don’t let’s hear any more of how you have to join the Jedis or become a Bene Gesserit witch or dance naked under the full moon, tho I wouldn’t pass that up, personally. All you have to do is play the game, and you too can fly.” (insert appropriate leading questions thrutout)
At that point someone asked Josh a question about (something???) and he launched on a rambling dawdle that was every bit as mystical as Anomia’s lectures, only a bit less coherent. Then they broke up for some serious partying and further discussion.
Josh was too fucked up to negotiate with the industry execs lined up to promote the game, so Snake talked to them and closed a few deals that they all agreed to keep secret.
Fairy spent her early evening letting a boy toy buy her dinner in the French Russian restaurant at the top of the Hilton (http://nikolaisroof.com/about-us/). It didn’t spin around for a brilliant view (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNrbc3TpmPQ) of Atlanta and be teeming with Dragonfolk, it stayed in one place with a brilliant view of Atlanta (http://hiltonatlantablog.wordpress.com/tag/nikolais-roof/), was hard to get to, and had almost nobody there. Except for Adam West, Bill Shatner, someone and someone else (???). Starting with dinner among their entourages in discrete corners of the room, then glomming together in the bar after that.
Fairy didn’t bother trying to approach the stars. She sat and exuded her bewitching aura, and one by one they came up to bend over and kiss her hand, gushing when she handed them her card.
She ditched the toy who paid for dinner, offering him another chance some time later on. Then she went to the room and changed into her leathers, and made her way to one of the suites (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/photo-tours.mi?marshaCode=atlmq&pageID=HWGRD_SUITES&imageID=14&roomTypeCode=) where there was an annual BDSM scene, and it was her turn to be a star. Later on she was pleased to attend to several of her admirers from dinner. The more macho the superhero, the more welts he wants on his ass.
And Fairy knew it, and used her budding quantum superpowers to make each nerve tingle in a special way they found addictive in its intensity – a sweet kind of pain. Thus she reigned far into the night. Fairy – mistress of your worst nightmares.
Josh and Anomia were still up, playing videogames. They’d ditched the parties and retired to the room, with some takeout, and pulled out their tablets (Josh’s new one was an iPad 5 (http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/251368046046?lpid=82) and pulled up the game. They’d been testing the Carneytown side, behind the scenes of the Carnival level that was featured in the walkthru. Players here got to operate the rides and rig the games, work the concessions and perform security patrols. This was the player’s big opportunity to learn about Einstein’s relativity, if you were into the theory, and a chance to cheat like crazy against players on the Midway – the marks. And everything was rigged against the marks.
Josh thought it was a lot more fun, but Anomia felt it was just more of the same, more like a management game than the adventure she was looking for. But it had to be functional soon after testers started on the Carnival level, so they were staying up all night getting it ready. And they were in the game partly because they were trying to be close for a little while, have some couple time to help anchor them in the whirlwind that was Dragoncon.
At this moment, they were standing in front of the wormhole to the next level, which was the cloud level, where they’d given everybody a beer and a good time in the panel session. It was the first level they’d built, because it was nothing but clouds and quantum processes. But it was always supposed to go between the amusement park and the angel-directed Antarctica quest. And the players had to be ready for that. And so the classical physics level, and the relativity level, where players came up to speed on the concepts. They’d installed a “You must be this smart” measuring stick on the drawbridge between the Carnival midway and Carneytown. And they were putting one just like it in front of the wormhole.
They’d never actually been thru the wormhole. Kurt had, zillions of times, but they’d only just arrived at it in their testing, and didn’t have anything but their notes to go on. The experience was supposed to be somewhere between being in the stomach of the giant cockroach in Men in Black, and the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland.
It was supposed to put your quantum abilities to the test and dump you back out if you didn’t have the skills to tackle it. It wasn’t anything they couldn’t handle themselves, but they wanted to be sure it was idiot friendly. Like, nobody would drown or implode into a black hole or anything if they couldn’t pass the test. Just a slap on the wrist and a list of remedial games you had to play. Josh thought of it as penance.
It made sense to be doing this testing while they were at Dragoncon. They were all psyched up for the Dragoncon experience, deeply involved in their years-long Dragoncon relationships – like a family reunion of people you love. There they were, baring the results of a year’s hard work to their best friends and waiting to see what they thought.
Everyone loved them, so everyone loved their work, but it was like showing the adults your first attempts at a painting, and getting polite smiles and hopeful encouragement. Everyone wins who tries, keep trying. So okay the game was klunky, but everyone got the idea and loved the gear and how real everything was. Those gorgeous environments. Too bad about the cold tho, but hey, bring it on.
Josh and Anomia tended to blame their mixed debut on Fairy and Snake, who had spent the year playing out an epic rivalry and left the game looking like it had been hit by a train. Josh and Anomia had steadily worked on the higher levels, leaving Fairy and Snake to their squabbles on the part of the game that was releasable early.
They might as well be two different games. The real introduction to the game was the cloud level, where everything was different, no classical or relative physics at all.
Pure mind. Or cloud. Whatever. That was the source of a few arguments – all the labels were. The girls jumped for the magical interpretation, and the boys wanted something concrete to point to, a mechanism, a reason. Will and desire weren’t reasons.
The wormhole was in a little dip in the landscape, a kind of drainage ditch that narrowed into a culvert. A little streamlet trickled thru it, a pipe-like tunnel of corrugated something – metal or plastic or concrete – they couldn’t tell because it was covered with moss, dripping, sound-absorbing. Damp coolness gathered around them as they stood at the entrance, just a little reluctant to enter.
They walked in, crouched over, their feet astride the trickle. The water got deeper as the tunnel descended. Soon their toes were in the water, then their feet, then they were up to their calves. It didn’t feel like water. It wasn’t cold; they couldn’t feel it flowing past them. It was like thick air.
They got deeper and deeper into this not-wet water. It was hard to wade thru ti. So they ducked their heads under and swam. But not like real swimming, more like dream swimming, when you breathe water and swim like a fish, your body moving thru the thick water like you are being pushed by the current. Like flying but more visceral. They had to use lots of willpower to keep moving forward.
Then the nature of the tunnel changed. They were all the way underwater and suddenly the water got murky – they couldn’t see the sides of the tunnel any more. The water grew agitated and turbulent, hard obstacles appeared all around them and suddenly they were caught, hemmed in, and running out of breath. They were caught in a maelstrom.
Neither Josh and Anomia knew what to do. They were in constant communication but neither of them had felt such opposition before. In their vision it had been a struggle sometimes, but never like this. This felt like the game was having a tantrum, a fit, a seizure. It was violent and hurtful. They were being battered by rocks that knew where to hit.
They found each other’s hands and swam together, and the turbulence grew. They remembered the last part of their flight – straight on to morning – before they found Antarctica, before they met the angel or played the game. The flight was endless until they thought themselves to their destination – traveling without moving (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RZ7DkBFjLRI).
They gathered themselves and then moved the tunnel past them, to the point where the non-water began to recede and the tunnel walls began to have oxygen-breathing plants that enhanced the sounds of moving water.
But then everything changed again. It inverted somehow. Now they were outside the tunnel, it was somehow inside them, a tube running thru their guts. They were shitting themselves out along with great quantities of water – lumps of solid turds in the midst of watery diarrhea.
And the pain. The cramping as the walls came clenching down around them. Like being crushed to death, like being born thru the small hole in a female pelvis. Forced by an impenetrable wall of NO, they fell back, lost distance, choking and spasming with a burning lack of breath.
And the pain. Like being burned alive. They had the time to to experience all this consciously, and to share it, and comment on it. Drowning is better, Josh declared. Anomia replied, Breathing is better.
She imagined she was trying to teach this idea, as if her every thought were a message to someone. She felt others with them.
Fairy, who was in the throes of orgasm, and could feel her biggest one yet building right up.
Snake, who was masturbating alone in his room with porn on the TV.
Nathan, who was trying hard to breathe thru a rubber mask.
Radhu, who was meditating in his hotel room (being too backwards to get laid and also not attracted to the party scene, a teetotaller and shy with women, who was secretly waiting for his parents to find him a wife, someday).
And Kurt, whose real pain and anguish was being transmitted thru the kernel via the entire game.