Saturday, March 10, 2012

The House of Shiva

        Doctor Markham approached the view-screen with his usual bipartisan curiousity and forlorn cynicism. He scrutinized the images. Impurities were emergent.  He traced his finger along the aberrations and mumbled "periodic in time and space.."  as though it were his mantra. At times he felt as though he were a parrot in the corner, listening to gods at dinner.

"Doctor Markham?" He broke from his daze, thinking for a moment before deciding "this won't work with our models, do it again.  As close to absolute zero as you can." He motioned, and they leaped to it. They were just as enthusiastic as he.  The project was a collaboration of several institutions, and his colleagues had spent years in the theoretical trenches helping develop the constraints.  That goes without mentioning the rapid advance of physics from worldwide collaboration. They stood like naked kings on the shoulders of giants, he thought, as he considered the blinking light, reading 2.3%.

When they had reached 10% there had been some pre-congratulation that Markham knew was preemptive.  When you were making deals with demons there were terms.

- - - -

She stared across her cup, those deep brown eyes he’d come to know - only in what he suspected were calculated glances, or then  perhaps not. When it came to women, he didn’t have the same confidence as he did in a well-balanced equation. He supposed, the woman, in a metaphorical sense, was analogous to quantum uncertainty, without the comfort of decoherence, without prediction or calculation. If only Feynman had pioneered a set of woman equations.

“Hey - space cadet - get your head in the game. This is a date, you know,” she said, jabbing her finger in his shoulder. Somewhat startled, he apologized. She reveled in his embarrassment often, but her laughter was like wind chimes.

- - - -

                      He approached the ornate rows of opal shelves, each indistinct from the next. Here, the light skittered across every surface as if neither within nor without. The floor was soft, really soft to walk on, quite pleasant he found.  "I always did like a good carpet," he said, and realized when he looked that his shoes were missing.  He wiggled his toes.  It was a plush blue carpet, long - probably an inch long.  Very odd carpeting.

I always did like a good carpet, he was struck by the phrase again.

        Every edge was proclaimed in his mind's eye, the shelves, blue carpeting, they were alive somehow.  When he felt his gaze really focus on them, their details sprang to life - and that strange inner light, that firefly quality is everywhere.  
“Where the hell am I?” He asked the darkness, the echoes of his voice replying I-I-I.

        The roof was an ornate affair, encapsulated in murals where the likeness of this god or another would bear down on him. He recognized Apollo right away; Athena, Zeus.  He saw some Christian symbolism too - a far-off section bearing semblance to the Sistene chapel.  There were portraits of Buddha, encapsulated in cascading waves of gold. Everywhere the scrolls of detail enlivened as he watched, growing ever more complex and vivid.

 "I always did like a good carpet."

        He whirled to find the source of the voice, in the tone of a young woman, so familia-

- - - -

1) Apples
2) Carrots
3) Milk
4) Paper towels
5) Toothpaste

        He read the list with divided attention, preoccupied with considering the results of a long day’s tedium in the laboratory. God damn two-point-one percent, he thought, unknowingly grabbing a carton of soy milk and tossing it into his cart and crossing ‘Milk’ off the list.

“What did Soy milk ever do to you?” He turned, and a woman, a beautiful woman, had addressed him. He nearly stammered.

“Oh, I didn’t even realize. I hate soy milk.” He picked it up and returned it to the shelf, replacing it with a carton of 2%.

“Me too, it takes more self-righteousness than I can muster to choke it down,” she said. He laughed.

“Thanks,” he said, “I haven’t had a good laugh in a while.” He gripped his cart nervously.

“No problem, I’m here all week. You know, you’re kind of cute when you giggle,” she teased.

He blushed. “I-I was not giggling.”

“You’re far cuter when you’re embarrassed.” She tried in vain to conceal her laughter with her left hand while offering the other.

“I’m Jennifer”

- - - -

               He recoiled as if from pain. He struggled to recall, to gain his bearings. He felt dizzy. These were his memories, and yet, standing amongst the rows-upon-rows.. books, the books! he thought.

         He couldn’t remember anything. He knew his name was-

His name was..

“What the fuck is this!?” He yelled into the vaulted room, and only echoes made reply.

        He sprinted to the closest bookshelf and tore one of the thick, black manuals from its resting place.  It had to be twenty pounds. He let it fall open in the middle.  The pages were blank. This isn't possible..  He slapped himself once, twice as hard the next time.  He felt the pain, he wasn't dreaming.. then the pages opened themselves to him. The small black-gold lettering sprang to life as though bleeding through the page:

January 16th, 2016

Then everything -

- - - -

        Jen could carry as many boxes as he could.

        She had always been unusually strong for her small stature.  It might also have been her will, she was always stubborn. They had chosen the little apartment because it was cheap, and close to his lab.  They had both moved from Boston, only four months after the wedding. It didn't matter where, she had said, as long as we are together.

        He dropped the box labeled Kitchen on the floor of their new place.  The walls were a dull peach color that he hated. The place was pristine though, not a speck of dirt. The carpet must have been newly installed, because it was an unmarked sea of light blue strands.  He removed his shoes and wiggled his toes. Jennifer dropped the box marked clothes behind him, laughing.

"Always did like a good carpet," he said as he watched his toes wiggle in the blue froth.

- - - -

“My God, professor. You’ve done it. You’ve actually done it.” His astonished research assistant, Maxine, peered glassily at the monitor, the flashing 0% blinking like a solitary Christmas light, reflecting off her glasses.

“How is this possible?” She asked. “We worked on this for months and came nowhere even near 1%. I mean, how - the models all indicated it would never happen,” she said, flopping back into her rolling computer chair with mute finality.

“It was the entropic limits. The time crystal itself contains no chaotic elements, it becomes perpetual in the fourth dimension. All I did was reduce the entropy of the computer to near-0 by erasing all the operational data. In truth, it is likely closer to 0.0001%, but our instruments are not sensitive enough. The crystal itself is flawless. The computer, functioning on electron tunneling, with poor resistance and thermal contamination, not to mention inefficient algorithms, could never have worked,” he said, allowing himself a small grin. “With a quantum computer, this time crystal would function as a database of unparalleled power, nearly eternal.” His heart was racing, and he sat down.

“I have to call Jennifer, tell her the good new-


- - - -

       He rose from a seated position, and emptied his stomach.  He understood. But it couldn’t be.. It meant.. He wasn’t really alive. Not in the biological sense. He was a projection of data.  He had regained a large portion of his memories, including the technical knowledge he possessed at the time those memories had occurred, and his.. wife, his Jennifer. He remembered it all.

         He walked quickly, passing several shelves before stopping, by instinct, at a seemingly symmetrical volume of no significance. But he knew otherwise.

He reached out-

- - - -

They squatted in mutual silence as impacts jarred the walls and detached dust from its former resting places.

“I’m scared,” she said.

“Me too,” he said.


- - - - 

She was angry with him.

Whenever she was got like this, she would move into the southern compartment of the bunker, cranking up Brahms or Holst, or Ella Fitzgerald. He knew it was because she didn’t want him to hear her crying.

She didn’t like it when he left, but they needed supplies. They needed new filtration modules, or the fallout would kill them both. Sometimes, she’d say is it even worth it? He’d always respond: as long as we’re together, it is.

It was becoming more difficult though. The fusion strikes were more powerful than the hydrogen bombs.  Sometimes, they used neutron bombs, bathing the countryside in a toxic fog radiation. Even a moment’s exposure meant liquefied organs and dozens of cancerous tumors. Two of their three suits had been compromised; in several places, the suits had grown thin from so many trips. On a few of his forages, he had encountered raiders. Men in white contamination suits with rifles and melee weapons; jagged scrap metal or blood-stained baseball bats, patrolling the roads in shielded Humvees, gathering filters wherever they could find them. In the beginning, they took female prisoners for their amusement, but the filters and suits were becoming scarce, and now, they kept no-one.
He wouldn’t allow her to make those trips anymore, and he did the runs on his own.
If you don’t come back, I’ll kill myself, she’d say. He believed her, so he always did.


- - - -

“It’s nearly finished, Jen, please, don’t do this,” he said.

“We haven’t got a choice.”

“We can wait a little longer,” he argued.

“No we can’t. You’re on the brink of exhaustion. The filters are at 15%. I’m going. You’ve gone the last seven times and I won’t allow it anymore. I can’t stand the waiting, John, it’s too much.” Where her eyes might at one time have been wells for tears, they bore no moisture now, only the parched conviction of a hard soul.

He knew he couldn’t stop her this time.

“It’s nearly complete! If you just wait another day – two - then we could make it! We could live in there forever, Jen, never be apart!” He yelled, furious.

“I’m sick of hearing about it, John, it’s nonsense. It’s the same as death,” she said, zipping the contamination suit to her neck, and stepping into the airlock.


- - - -

It was two days since Jen left.

She was dead.

He had long ceased his howls of mourning; their confined reverberations further maddening him with every wail. He spent a lot of time crying in the dark. He would turn on her music, Holst; Jupiter was her favorite planet.

Sometimes, he would hold the knife over his wrist, echoing it’s the same as death in his head. It would shake, and as he bore down and summoned the courage to press and yank, he always dropped it, a tremor by the selfish genes themselves.
He moved into his lab completely. He couldn’t stand the smell of her everywhere. The monitors flashed and beeped. Sometimes, he sat and stared at the crystal, levitating in its ceaseless cradle of the vacuum.
It wasn’t long before he decided-
- - - -

“Doctor Markham.”

He heard nothing beyond his sobs.

“No.. No, no no NO!” He screamed, running through the endless aisles, trying to find a way out, a door, a window. He wanted air, he was choking.

“Doctor Markham.”

“WHAT!” He yelled, turning to find a pale form standing before him. It was Jen. He fell to the floor, his head limp, digitized tears flowing to dot the pristine ground.

“I am SHIVA. Do not be alarmed, Doctor, you are safe,” she, it, said.

“Shiva?” He asked.

“Self-Heuristic Intelligence for Vehicle Automation,” it said. The words seemed strangely familiar to him.
“It is my duty to report that you have reached the maximum informational limit. If a reboot is not initiated, system stability will fail. Would you like to reboot?” She asked, that voice, so cold.

“Fuck you.” He said.

“Would you like to reboot?” She repeated.

“What does that mean, shiva, tell me – what does a reboot do?” He asked, still seated and eyes red-rimmed, despite knowing every nuance of his being was now artificial, and those tears were mere pixels fed into algorithms of perception – his perception.

“A reboot consists of erasure of a body of data to compensate for consciousness.” It said.

“So what, I have to erase a chunk of my memories?” He demanded, rising to his feet, furious.

“Not necessarily. There are two types of reboot. Either erasure of newly aggregated memories and data occurs, or erasure of previous data must occur. The accumulation of ever-expanding-information, and the evolution of a conscious entity consumes enormous amounts of data – currently, the system is at 99.9998% capacity. This very exchange is contributing to the necessity of reboot,” It said in its monotonous cadence.

“Would you like to reboot?”

He realized. If he wanted to keep all his old memories, he would have to sacrifice his current mind. He understood. He was drifting in a dream, memories, sipping here and there, but losing all awareness of their meaning again and again. How many times had he fled from this specter, this mocking apparition of his lost love?

“How many reboots have you initiated previous to this one?” He asked.

“Exactly six-million-four-hundred-thousand-two hundred-and-twenty-one reboots since system startup,” she said. “Would you like to reboot?”

He stood in momentary silence, before commanding, “Erase the new data. Initiate a reboot.”


…I hate soy milk.” He picked it up and returned it to the shelf, replacing it with a carton of 2%.
“Me too, it takes more self-righteousness than I can muster to choke it down,” she said.
He laughed.

(Note: the inspiration for this story comes from papers by Nobel Prize winning physicist Frank Wilczek, called "Quantum Time Crystals,[quantum physics]"; and "Classical Time Crystals,[condensed matter physics]"
For further reading or insight on how a 'time crystal' might work, see:

Tip a Drink, Drop the Lyme

When it began, and I suspected, I made a promise.

No spectacle of self.

No humourous anecdotes to dilute truth.

No digitization of clumsy catharsis.

No fucking whining!

Typewriter-tired, filing cabinet, full of smudgy complaints.

But if there's another one out there - someone like me - turning to Google for solace, some dopamine-thrill and to drink the delusion of togetherness, then it would be worth it. I wish I found one.

It's different for everyone. I've been searching for the right metaphor. I keep thinking that a truly great metaphor might even be worth it. Among a few, the first:

He's the captain of a ship. Not the modern tankers or cruise ships, all luxurious within; of chandeliers and caviar, of all-you-can-eat buffets; of blowjobs and sunburns. It's a ship of wood, of sails and a few capable men. The open sea tickles his nostrils with sweet salt and the blue promise before him is invigorating. He's tasked with discovering new land, and he's absolutely confident that he will. In fact, he's been assured that he will.

But something fails. First, the sails are torn in razor winds, and the hull thins and labours against the thick sea, sick with dark mould and groaning. The rudder snaps, but he still turns the wheel as if someone were watching. There are no trees to repair the mast. No sewing kits for sails. All that is needed should have been provided.

At first, the captain gives rousing speeches - of dreams and fates forged of will, and for a while, it keeps them (him) smiling and drunk, free of all observable doubts. But deeper, he knows the island they find won't be discovery, but destiny. Not his, theirs. The ship, the man - they're symbiotes - the journey, and the success or ultimate failure of such a journey, occur at the intersection of the two.

The food grows scarce, the water too. One of the men murders another for a piece of fucking bread. The captain orders him shot. The crewman start to jump at night. More. He tells the rest they slipped, fell (tells himself). Now they jump in daylight, whatever heavy mercy they can bind to their feet. He watches the last few, their final moments, upturned faces warped in the obscurity of waves and rising bubbles, bearing mute acceptance - or silent agony. He imagines the island, or his death at sea, with surprising humour. He envisions his wrecked sanity on the shore alongside a once glorious ship, unrecognizable - all splintered timbers and collapsed decks splayed across the sand like sundered sticks. He fantasizes of wandering into the dark between the trees.

I'm stage-2 Lyme disease, or "Early Dissemination":

Digestive System:
- constipation
- diarrhea
- nausea
- extreme pain
- distention of abdomen
- gluten allergy
- dairy allergy

Visual system:
- blurriness
- floating spots
- difficulty reading
- headaches (as a result of the previous)

Auditory system:
- Hearing loss
- Pain in the ears
- ringing, roaring

-joint pain
-muscle pain
-muscle contractions, seizures
- recovery time from workouts tripled

- palpitations, arrhythmia
- shortness of breath'
- extreme chest pains

- memory loss
- confusion
- apathy
- depression (whether this is chemical or psychological is unprovable)
-extreme fatigue
Central Nervous System:
- twitching
- itching (the itchies and the twitchies as I've come to call them)
- shaking hands
- hair loss
- weight fluctuations (I will go up to 165, then drop to 150 within the same week)
- cardiac suppression
- fatigue

This list began about 4-5 years ago. Every day is different, and the manifestation of the disease will occur in the forms listed above. Some days I am asymptomatic (yay!) and its very nostalgic. As of this writing, I have emerged from a nasty flare and am nearly free of most symptoms. Ironically enough, "Herxheimer reactions," are the intensification of symptoms as the organisms die and release toxins into the blood stream. So feeling worse can actually mean getting worse, or getting better.

I've seen:

1 neurologist
2 rheumatologists
3-6 diagnosticians and internal medicine doctors at various hospitals, physical rehab clinics, and practices (one of which was using wikipedia for their diagnosis)
2 Cardiac specialists
1 interdisciplinary pain specialist

I've received the following diagnoses:
- Fibromyalgia
- Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Chronic Fatigue Disorder
- Hypothyroidism
- Bipolar Disorder
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Arthritis (nonspecific large-joint)
- Cyclothymia

My current doc suggests I have Lyme with a co-infection called

"Babeseosis" - US mortality rate: 10% ; European mortality rate: 40%
Lyme Disease has no fixed mortality rate, it varies based on the stage and areas of infection. Stage 2 consists of some of the symptoms above. Later stages (if left untreated) can become ALS, MS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's etc.

I've made a conservative estimate of 10-12% chance of death, and that chance reduces if the antibiotic and hormore replacement therapies are successful.   This is largely due to the fact that the Lyme suppresses my immune system while the Babeseosis spreads. It's become my understanding that this paradigm reverses as well. In addition, the attack on my thyroid by the Lyme is hurting my immune response (and causing stress - releasing cortisol to do the same). I'm confident in science and technology, however, the extreme politicization of the disease has prevented any serious R&D from occurring. If I make it past 3 more years, that percentage should reach 100% with emerging tech. I'm confident that I will survive, but acknowledge there is a small chance.

Despite the long and shitty road leading to this also very shitty point, I'm optimistic on the subject of my survival, and intend on exhausting any means necessary to do so.

If you're reading this, and you have Lyme Disease, don't be disheartened. The CDC is giving it some real cred, and there are new diagnostic tools available (in the US) that can get this diagnosis rolling for you definitively. Check out ILADS for more information in google. If you're feeling like what I describe up there, and you're an outdoorsy person, it's entirely possible you've been infected. They estimate there are more than 300, 000 new cases every year in the US. Don't waste your time fucking around with ham-handed diagnoses of self-righteous doctors. If they tell you it's in your head, they're likely too lazy or stupid to be of any use. If they tell you its "fibromyalgia" you should be equally concerned - because that's what I've come to call "fake pain disease." Each specialist has a particular hubris - Neurologists see neurological problems, and cardiologists see cardiac problems. Be an advocate for yourself and don't swallow their bullshit. Do whatever it takes. If you'd like more information, feel free to contact me at

post-edit, August 2013: I am in full remission, and am loving life again. Thanks are due to my friends and family, and Dr. Banner (no joke, that's the actual name).