Friday, April 30, 2010

Divergence Day

Hey, it's the last day of April. This year's moving by far too quickly already. Other cliches, murmurs, musings, ramblings, interpretive gesticulations, and grumbling about the nature of the passage of time.

With the end of the month comes another weird story. I'm trying to keep up with a story a month these days. So far, I think it's going alright.

At any rate, give the post title a click to go on a fantastical journey to the future! A future where things kind of suck. In the most profound way, no less.

Divergence Day

Inhale. Exhale.

You can't go anywhere if you've forgotten to breathe. I've had to remind myself of this a lot these past few days. Maybe I'm getting myself worked up over nothing, but it doesn't feel like nothing. Life goes on. Why should it be any different for me? I spent all night trying to meditate, but all I did was stare at the unsympathetic wall.

I'm already overthinking everything. I do this every Divergence Day. But maybe there's meaning to be found in staring at walls. Maybe that's the big, grand truth of this universe that I just can't seem to grasp. We're all made up of walls. Our flesh and bones, these are walls. As are our thought processes - no matter how disjointed or cyclic - and emotions. We're all contained. Everything about who we are and how we exist is contained by one restraint or another after the next. Even our imaginations. We're disorderly piles of limitations clawing desperately for something more than that. At least, I'd like to be able to say that everybody is.

Most people get used to Divergence Day when they're young. It becomes routine. We're all pulled from our mothers into another reality before we even reach our first birthday. We're somewhere else, surrounded by different people by our second. If we're lucky, we'll find a few people by our third who'll teach us a few words. And we have to get used to the dead.

"Attachment is the enemy." This is the sole mantra that unites us all as living, breathing, conscious creatures capable of intercommunication. Don't get attached to anybody. Carry what little with you that you deem worth carrying. Exercise caution with your valuables lest another steal them from you. Report to the proper terminal at the station on Divergence Day. Enter your pod. Anything you can't fit in there with you isn't worth taking. Close your eyes. Keep breathing.

If breathing's difficult, we're supposed to think about something soothing. Hundreds of years ago, we were told to think about ocean waves crashing on the shore. I've only watched that on screens. Can you believe the oceans used to be habitable? It's been almost three hundred years since they caught fire. It's a wonder there's anything left for us to breathe.

Concrete encased my feet. I couldn't move if I wanted to. Every Divergence Day, I feel as though I'm getting closer and closer to something. I can't say exactly what. Retirement, maybe. That's what I'd like to say. I haven't been around that long, but I've had about enough of the annual divergence. A year isn't long enough for oxygenation. If we're all made of walls, those walls have to break down eventually. Maybe I'm feeling a little too much sympathy for the dead lately. Considering all the shrieking, I don't think they handle divergence well. Those aren't happy shrieks.

I'm moving forward even though I don't want to. They made sure there was no shortage of automatic walkways in the divergence pod station. No last minute paralysis could keep anyone from their next destination. Get in the pod. Get in the pod or else the ripples will consume you. You don't want to end up one of the dead, do you? Nobody enjoys Divergence Day, but it still happens. Get over it. You're supposed to be an adult.

In hindsight, trying to talk to people about divergence has been a waste of time. It's a touchy subject. Discussing it would entail risking the formation of attachment - nobody needs that. We're all trying to hollow out the perfect space in our heads. Our pod within. That has to be it. Why else would we allow this ridiculous system to define us and control our lives? If only the pods can protect us from the ripples as we change reality frequencies, why not defy the pods and converge in the death frequency? The dead are the same in every reality. They're everywhere. They beat the system. Shouldn't we admire them for that?

I'm not sure how things got this way. The only people who really understood died centuries ago. Maybe their voices are trying to convey something to the living from deep within the chorus of death. A way out. Even if they are, we have no way of understanding them. The cycle continues. We're all plucked from our shared reality and randomly tossed into another layer. Everything looks and seems the same - but everyone's different. It's impossible to say how many layers there are, or how many people there are between them. Efforts to coordinate a population count in the Interlayer Data Network are always abandoned. Those of us who make it in there suffocate beneath the surface of another burning sea. The IDN's as close to concrete as living gets. You can't expect sympathy from a machine.

The terminal's coming into view. I can see my name flashing on one of the holographic screens above. One of thousands of microbes clustering together, waiting impatiently to get on with it. Another screen displays the countdown to divergence. Thirty three minutes. We're almost to the scramble point. I don't recognize anybody here. At least the line looks like it's moving quickly.

When I tried to see Cassandra off a few years back, I barely made my pod. I don't think she thinks about me anymore. I'm not so sure anyone thinks of anyone else here. Unless they all think like me, and we're all asking ourselves the same questions. Then again, that'd be too convenient.

"I don't get you." Those were the last words she spoke to me. I wanted to learn about the woman I was sleeping with. She'd revealed herself to me in every way but the most taboo - we remained strangers. I asked for too much. Maybe that's my problem.

Letting go of Tina's going to be even harder. I broke a few laws and isolated her ripple frequency. She's here somewhere, probably dozing peacefully in her pod. She was willing to entertain a few of my ridiculous thoughts. She stopped talking to me when my dread of Divergence Day rubbed off on her. There's a legitimate chance that she hates me now. That she'll want to forget me even more than Cassandra. She has every right to feel that way.

If I break a few more laws, our pods could resonate. We could trail each other's ripple patterns. But then, this might just destroy us. I'm not sure I could pull it off either way. You can't stow away in anyone else's pod either, they say. The ripples originate within our bodies - we'd tear each other apart. Walls that remain to be torn down.

The moving walkway ends and blood flows back into my toes. I have to move forward of my own volition. It's time to stop staring at my feet. The terminal's too bright. It's almost disorienting.

The nature of walls is threefold, isn't it? The protection of that which should be guarded from outside threat. The containment of anything destabilizing or distorting that could prove dangerous. And the potential to be broken down. I'm betting a wall was broken down that shouldn't have been - that's why we diverge. I feel like such a simpleton thinking about it.

I glance at my handheld computer and affirm again that Tina's pod is nearby. One of several hundred in this sector. There's probably no reaching her now, even if I try. I wonder if her dreams are as bittersweet as I'm certain mine will be.

I hand my computer over to the woman behind the counter and she synchronizes its signal with that of my divergence pod. This is all routine, so there's no need for eye contact or words. Pleasantries would only breed a slight attachment, which in turn would breed contempt. It's simpler to say nothing; not to worry.

At the end of the passenger walkway, my pod - freshly washed and calibrated - awaits. I send the signal to open the hatch and climb into the small, comfortably furnished chamber within, setting my bag against the back wall. The hatch closes with a pneumatic click. I settle myself into the cushioned floor and brace myself for ejection to the field. The interior of my pod is the closest thing I have to a home - to consistency. For the twenty-seventh time, I will be the yolk of but one of tens of thousands of eggs in an expanse.

I imagine what it would be like to have Tina keep me company, her fiery hair spilling across the cushions. The gold of her eyes.

Call me cracked. Call me a psychopath. Label me as ill in every way. But I want to believe there's something better for us out there somewhere. A way to take back our lives from divergence. Weren't we supposed to believe in self-determination at some point?

The screens on the round wall and ceiling gently relayed a blur of instructions within peaceful sound and imagery. Music that isn't quite music. Soft light and color. Relax. Let go.

Inhale. Exhale. Close your eyes. Get on with it. We're all strangers again tomorrow.


SJ said...

"Everything about who we are and how we exist is contained by one restraint or another after the next"
great line, interesting reading

Benjamin Fennell said...

Glad you enjoyed! It was put together in two days' time. I wasn't entirely sure how well it held together, but the concept plays on some ideas I've been mulling over for some time.