Saturday, April 30, 2005

Rain, please tell me . . .

There was a time when I thought I wouldn't have anything to say; now I can't seem to shut up.

Anyway, nothing to say today, listening to the rain and watching the mice play. I've read your journals but I'm not about to start commenting on children. Having once been one is enough.

I hope you all enjoy the weekend.


Friday, April 29, 2005

Dollar Bills Y'all

Notes from the financial front lines:

I'm not a financial genius; not even a whiz, so this may be less cohesive than usual. But ever since I learned that I needed to understand what sort of processes were involved in the making of profit, I have mercilessly pummelled my brain cells in an attempt to grasp some of the particulars.

I have lately tried to compare our situation to that of a small business, in light of what I have been able to absorb.I wouldn't say we're "flush with cash", but we have a modicum analogous to what a small business might have.

The 'Bonnie & Malcolm Company' has, of course, overhead, which amounts to necessities - a space in which to conduct business (a home), utilities, equipment (car, clothing, food, etc.) We have two employees (ourselves), so we have a payroll.

A small business has several options - it can return a dividend to its loyal shareholders, it can hire more workers, it can buy new equipment, it can invest its cash, it can buy back shares.

Returning a dividend makes shareholders happy, but investor goodwill isn't all that important unless investors start bailing, which seldom happens in a bull market, because many investors equate paper appreciation with actual income. It's only when investors feel as if they're making less than a good return that they start to get antsy.

Curiously enough, that seems to be the case these last few years, as investors burned by the tech bubble are less likely to put their money into high-flying, low-paying stocks. Also, many investors, particularly large institutional funds, are attempting to make companies more responsive to shareholders (e.g., Disney.)

Returning money to investors, of course, is the least palatable option - after all, that money is not being put to use for the good of the corporation; it's basically going to waste.

Say, for example, that the B&M Co. takes money from relatives and promises to give them a return on equity. Since the B&M Co. would, in this case, be a hedge fund, we would have to make wise investments in order to satisfy the relatives. Every dollar that we returned to them is a dollar not being put to use for ourselves.

In today's competitive business environment, hiring more employees is not a very good option either, because more workers often means added expenditure and less productivity, leading to less profitability. And profit, after all, is the main, perhaps the only reason for the existence of a business.

If the B&M Co. were to hire nieces and nephews, said nieces and nephews would expect to be paid a decent wage and would probably also want health benefits. (Besides, they might turn out to be layabouts and ne'er-do-wells.) Our company would be better off hiring 'contract workers' (aka 'temps') who would be paid by the employment agency and would not expect the B&M Co. to give them benefits or vacation days. In extreme cases we might even outsource.

Buying new equipment is only necessary if old equipment becomes too expensive to maintain, or if better, more productive equipment is available.

(The B&M Company is as thrifty as any small business in this respect.)

Investing excess cash is an attractive option, because properly invested money will earn either a return on equity or actual income, without having to produce tangible goods or services.

(Needless to say, this is a very attractive option for the B&M Company.)

The last option, buying back shares from shareholders, is the most desirable of all, from the company's viewpoint, because a continuing source of cash drain is closed off and shares are concentrated in the hands of fewer people. An added benefit is that there is more cash with which  to invest. In extreme cases, the company might well go private, doing away with outside shareholders altogether. (This option works best if shares can be repurchased at a reasonable price.)

The B&M Co., when graced with an infusion of cash, hastened to buy back its shares from its 'investors' (i.e., credit card companies.) Happy B&M Co.!

I hope you don't mind my sharing this little exercise in financial self-explication with you. As I age, I find that it helps to write things down so that my thoughts might more easily wrap around a particular subject. Now I have to sit back and study it awhile so I can fathom 'what it all means'.


For What It's Worth

There's something happening here.

What it is ain't exactly clear.

There's a man with a gun over there,

Telling me I got to beware.

I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down.


There's battle lines being drawn.

Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.

Young people speaking their minds,

Getting so much resistance from behind.

I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down.


What a field day for the heat.

A thousand people in the street,

Singing songs and carrying signs,

Mostly say, "Hooray for our side."

It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down.


Paranoia strikes deep:

Into your life it will creep.

It starts when you're always afraid.

You step out of line, the man come and take you away.

We better stop, hey, what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down.

Stop, children, what's that sound?

Everybody look what's going down.

This became an anthem of sorts to those of us who came of age during the '60s and early '70s, when Richard Nixon reigned the country.

It is coming to seem relevant again now that George Bush and his radical Republicans rule the country.




Mariah, O, Mariah

Lest you think that I've forgotten . . .  <Photo courtesy Eastman Kodak CO.


Bushism of the Night

My favorite quote from the press conference:

"It's in our country's interests to find those who would do harm to us and get them out of harm's way." - President George W. Bush, press conference, April 28 2005

Yes, it was taken out of context, but I'm fairly certain I understand what the phrase "in harm's way" means, and I know what its opposite meaning is. I'm not sure that W. does.


Thursday, April 28, 2005

How Many Times Must a Man Look Up . . .

This will go down as one of my all-time favorites:

Incoming cloud forces Bush into safe bunker

Julian Borger in Washington

Friday, April 29 2005

The Guardian

President George Bush was bundled into an underground bunker, Dick Cheney was evacuated to an "undisclosed location" and heavily armed secret servicemen took up defensive positions when a fast-moving cloud scudded towards the White House, it was reported yesterday.

(Article continued on The Guardian's website.)

It reminds me of the Conan O'Brien show where Triumph the Insult Comic Dog was shown doing the weather report on a local Hawaiian news station:

"Oh, my, Hawaii is threatened by . . . . . clouds!"

It would be damned difficult to make this stuff up.


The Yellow Rose of Texas

Well, more like a shrub.

Those ophidian eyes. That supercilious smirk. That whiny tone of voice. That charming mispronunciation and those endearing malaprops. Our beloved president must be holding another of those frequent news conferences that he enjoys so much. I watch attentively, hoping to pan some nugget of substance from the river of fertilizer that spews from the TV screen. Alas. Once again, I am bitterly disappointed. Oh, well, Survivor's on. Later.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Thank you, Brandie and Cynthia, for your comments and insights. I intend to keep speaking on this topic, because I believe that many more people in this country than are willing to admit are afflicted with aberrations of one sort or another. As mental illness is studied more thoroughly, it becomes clearer that there are genetic predispositions as well as chemical imbalances, and that only in very rare cases are individuals so impaired that they are unable to function. If I weren't already so (ahem) advanced in age, it is a subject to which I would like to devote some study.

Maybe by speaking out and spreading the word, some small benefit will be realized.


I Need a New Drug

Hello Albert, Brandie, Cynthia, Jennifer, and Queen and King Big O:

For some reason, you have all decided that my journal is worthy of an occasional visit.

At times, amidst all the silliness, I offer thoughts on serious subjects. A topic that I have heretofore barely touched upon is mental illness, a condition with which I am intimate. If I may, I would like to offer my father's perspective:

     It was very dark. He didn't know what had awakened him; it couldn't have been the moonrise, because his bedroom didn't face the east. It had been something else, perhaps the sound of a door or hurried footsteps. He waited, respiring as slowly as possible, but nothing further occurred to alarm him. He turned on a small lamp and glanced over at the other bed, in which his younger brother slept soundly, but saw nothing to worry him. It must have been a bad dream; nothing more.

     Morning dawned, and he and Jim arose to greet the new day. They wrestled with each other to determine who would get to use the bathroom first. After they had settled the order of progression and taken care of business, they headed down the stairs to breakfast.

     Dick, Shirley, Jim, Malcolm - they were all there. But where was Amy? What had happened to his older sister? Why was she not at breakfast? Questions from the four children were met by evasions but no concrete answers.

As it turned out, my Aunt Amy had been taken in the middle of the night and sent to an institution upstate; she became, as it were, persona non grata; she was no longer mentioned in polite conversation. It was almost as if she had never existed.

I do not blame my grandparents for depriving me of the knowledge that I had another aunt; they were good people, and they did as well by her as they could and what they thought was best.

In the year 1936, this is the way mental illness was handled. Only 69 years ago, mental illness was treated as if it were a horrible stain upon a family; something of which to be ashamed and never to be mentioned, if it could at all be avoided. What a travesty.

I am not certain that even today, in this year of our Lord 2005, understanding is universal. Mental illness seems still to be a topic that is generally shunned,even though the daily news is rife with stories of people who seem to have gone off the deep end.

I have much more to say upon this topic at a later date, but for now I would ask you to consider this - each of us, each individual, is unique in the way in which we cope with the world and deal with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. None of us is adequately equipped to deal with the totality of what life has determined should be thrown our way, but the Creator has endowed us with the basics, and that, ultimately, will have to be enough.


What got me thinking about all of this is a commercial advertising Wellbutrin. Some of you may have seen a rant that was briefly posted here earlier this morning. I deleted it, because when I wrote it I was pretty well lubricated.

Before I paid a visit to a hospital-affiliated facility some years ago, I had never heard of Wellbutrin; now it is being advertised nightly on TV. I have for some time been perplexed by the marketing of drugs directly to the consumer that are available only by prescription, and I have been perturbed by the fact that Big Pharma is spending money in this fashion, instead of lowering the prices of their medications. But today our local paper (the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle) published an article on the results of a study appearing in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. In brief, the study found that doctors were more likely to prescribe prescription drugs when asked by patients about them. Other studies have apparently been conducted which indicate that direct-to-consumer marketing "can influence patient and doctor behavior. But this is the first article that says it's the patient's request that makes the difference".

It all becomes much more clear to me now. Big Pharma understands that it will sell more high-priced medications if it can inveigle consumers into badgering their doctors into prescribing them, and that doctors will often acquiesce rather than spend valuable appointment time arguing with patients. One can only hope that consumers eventually awaken to the fact that they are being used as pawns and played for fools.

Until next time, peace.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Well, Here's a Poke at You . . .

Lately, I have been doing the 'night owl' thing (my mice are now staring at me reproachfully) because my biorhythms are changing again, so I use it as an opportunity to see what TV station managers think is worth watching to those of us who can't sleep. While surfing the channels, I paused at an infomercial for Time-Life's CD collection, "Legends".

"Cool!" I thought, "Music for old guys like me!" So I hung around, mainly to immerse myself in music while I read, and whom should I see co-hosting the 'show' but that more famous old guy, Roger Daltrey! WTF!

Those of you who are around my age may remember that way back in 1967, the Who released an album entitled, "The Who Sell Out". ROGER, SHAME ON YOU! YOU REALLY HAVE SOLD OUT!

P.S. I would like this dedication to go out to the illustrious and injudicious Tom DeLay:

The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again".


Response to Brandie

Brandie, you haven't updated your journal lately, so I'll add this here - I completely agree with your comment. The Golden Rule remains the gold standard of principles to live by. I've also been thinking that posting the Ten Commandments in public places isn't really all that bad an idea; I know that it's a supposed violation of the separation of Church and State, but if one really reads them, how can one be truly offended by them? Except for that silliness in the 2nd Commandment about graven images, which would seem to religiously outlaw any sculpture (or stuffed toy, for that matter) they are not bad guideposts for how one should live. If we could "all just get along" (thank you, Rodney King) the world would be a much more felicitous place.


Mom, why is that man's head so . . . fat?

In my browsings thru J-Land, I discovered that Queen Big O (of The Big O's Ramblins - see link below) has compared me and/or my journal to either junk food for the brain or a sick puppy (Sigh. True genius is so seldom understood. ((Rolls eyes, waggles eyebrows and cigar.)) And if I ever meet one . . .)

Anyway, thanks (I think) for the compliment.

When I need a good dose of irony and satire, my preferred pharmacists are Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart and David Letterman (listed in chronological order.)

In the interest of weeding out my bookmarks section, here are a few sites I enjoy visiting:

Like Cynthia, I've been reading Molly Ivins for years. It's so amazing to find a voice of sense and reason emanating from (don't mess with) Texas. If you don't already know, her work can be found here:

Scroll down and you can also find one of my favorite cartoons, "This Modern World".

You can also find Molly's work here:

For an all-out belly laugh, this is a site that I like:

And, if you like weird news, you can't do better than this:

This site is mostly for King Big O, but others who love puzzles will enjoy this:

I was going to get all mystical tonight, but I only do that when I visit the South Pole, and I'm not there yet, so I'll wait.

Good night and pleasant dreams. Peace.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Small Joke

How did Elizabeth feel when Robert returned home with his Viagra prescription?












Turn the Page

Cirque du Soleil.

Wow. Imagination and spirit. Playfulness and perfection. Beauty and grace. These productions are all that and more. This is a circus. It is hard to criticize what we have come to think of as a circus, because the performers are just as eager to entertain, just as professional, just as thrilled when the crowd applauds them, and yet, it is the difference between a Beetle and a limousine. Les Cirque is the Olympics of circuses.

I have spent some time in the belly of the beast today, browsing through various websites that I would normally shun as if they were plague-ridden (not a bad description for some of these sites.) I have long operated on the principle that you should know your adversary, so I thought I would try to get a sense of what people on the "right" were thinking.

Talk about culture shock. The worldview of the Radical Right is so completely different as to be almost unfathomable. I stand in awe of how much hatred there is of those who, like myself, dare to disagree with the direction in which they think this country should go. If they could call down fire and brimstone upon us, we moderates, liberals and progressives would be barbeque. (Isn't it interesting that the Religious Right seem to be so fond of fire and brimstone when they profess to love God? One would think the opposite would be true.)

Be that as it may, it is impossible for them to conceal their hatred of those of us who have the temerity to look at things in a different light. I am actually surprised that some on the Right haven't taken to wearing crosses on their lapels next to their flag pins (mark my words and remember me later.) I have begun my own small form of protest by continually wearing a flag pin. If all moderates, liberals and progressives wore flag pins, we might confuse those on the Right.

I am not, at least not yet, an enemy of those with whom I disagree. I yet entertain the hope, not that they will come to their senses, but that they will come to realize that they are attempting to deny us our freedom of religion by imposing their own narrow views upon the rest of us. From what I have seen of their bitterness, however, that hope is slowly dying.

Ah, the glooms are upon me again. Sorry about that. I think I need to travel the webstrands in search of intriguing apolitical sites. If I find anything, I'll let you know.


Saturday, April 23, 2005

It's Only Because I Need the Money . . .

My wife occasionally shuns me because at times I can be totally tasteless . . . here, I'll prove it . . .


I am now putting the finishing touches on my autobiography, to be entitled:

I Was the Tortured Sex Slave of a Transracial Pedophile

I am accepting any and all offers. Thank you.


Why Do We Never Get an Answer?

City Confidential, on A&E, gave Rochester a kiss tonight. A wet, sloppy, corner-of-the-mouth kiss, but a kiss nonetheless.

I don't sit around thinking up "interview" questions, but City Confidential got me to thinking. Here's a question:

If you could be assured of keeping it, for how much money would you be willing to go to prison?

Something I worry about:

The 9/11 hijackers were able to enter flight schools to learn what they needed to know to be able to commit their atrocity. What other types of establishments, possibly this very weekend, are unknowing hosts to others of their ilk, teaching things that could be used to subvert our security? I would like to think that our security agencies are considering the possibilities, but with the political shenanigans going on in Washington, I'm not exactly sanguine about it.

Speaking of political shenanigans:

Why is it that what are being called, in some quarters, ultra-conservative right-wingers, believe that there are enough voters of their persuasion that they can practice arrogance with apparent impunity? I allow few things to raise my blood pressure, but politicos like Tom DeLay and Bill Frist (sorry, Cynthia) really roast my chestnuts.

Tom DeLay accuses Democrats and the media of attacking him. Let's see: DeLay is a Republican, and Democrats are not Republicans. What can those Democrats be thinking? As for the media: when they discover something newsworthy, they can either sit on it or report it. If you were a reporter, what would you do? That is, after all, their job. (And I notice that DeLay hasn't actually denied any of the reportage.)

Here's a website that has to make you think:

(Brandie, Albert, you're not going to like this site; I doubt you will, either, Cynthia.)

Bill Frist has apparently decided that the path to political salvation (there's an oxymoron) lies through "people of faith". That term, of course, is in actuality a very narrow definition, but, handily, it appears to encompass anyone who believes in a Creator. Are you, as am I, personally offended at these code words that some of the politicians are tossing about with such abandon?

When radical theocrats attack us for attacking them, all the while attempting to force their religious and political agendas on the rest of us, the body politic is indeed infected with a serious disease. Where is the cure?

Moderation, compromise, bipartisanship. These used to be the panaceas that kept our political system healthy, but virulent, apparently immune strains of political viruses seem to have rendered them ineffective. Do we need a new drug?

     Why do we never get an answer

     When we're knocking at the door

     With a thousand million questions

     About hate and death and war?

     'Cos when we stop and look around us,

     There is nothing that we need,

     In a world of persecution that is burning in its greed.





Thursday, April 21, 2005

Sad to Say

Why human males may have reached an evolutionary dead end -

Objects deemed by some men to be perfectly acceptable to facilitate procreation:

          Inflatable plastic figures

          Vacuum cleaners





Let's see if this gets me TOSsed.


A Few Things That Intrigue Me

Item #1:

If you are curious about your local politicians, this is a good reference point.

Item #2:

BULL! A History of the Boom, 1982 - 1999  - Maggie Mahar

What Drove the Breakneck Market - And What Every Investor Needs to Know About Financial Cycles    (Dewey Decimal - 332.6427 MAH)

This book is an excellent condensation of the various events that led up to, occurred during, and evolved from the time of "irrational exuberance". It is informative and instructive, and a good read, too.

Item #3:


This a long document pertaining to my previous 2 posts - if you have the time, it's worth reading.




Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I Couldn't Have Said It Better

One more quote to supplement my previous entry:

      "We cannot defend our democracies if we abandon respect for due process and fundamental rights. When public order is put above the civil liberties of citizens, then that democracy has adopted the tactics and principles (or lack of principles) of its enemies, and has been partially defeated."

    Sophia Macher, Commissioner, Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Peru



More Things to Worry About

First of all, go to Brandie's World and read her last two posts (you'll find her link below), then ponder this:

Warning on spread of state surveillance

Richard Norton-Taylor

Thursday April 21, 2005

The Guardian

     Governments are building a "global registration and surveillance infrastructure" in the US-led "war on terror", civil liberty groups warned yesterday.

     The aim is to monitor the movements and activities of entire populations in what campaigners call "an unprecedented project of social control".

     The warning came from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, including the American Civil Liberties Union, and Statewatch, a UK-based bulletin which tracks developments in the EU.

     They point to the system whereby all visitors to the US are to be digitally photographed and fingerprinted. The EU has agreed that member states must fingerprint all passport holders by the end of 2007. The information will be held on databases.

     National ID cards, they warn, will become a "globally interoperable biometric passport". The setting up of airlines' passenger name records (PNRs) could include more than 60 different kinds of information, including meal choices which could reveal personal, religious or ethnic affiliations.

     The US and EU governments are expanding legal powers to eavesdrop and to store the product of intercepted personal communications, the groups warn.

     They also point to an agreement between Europol - the EU's incipient police headquarters - and the US giving what they say will be an unlimited number of American agencies access to sensitive information on the race, political opinions, religious beliefs, health and sexual life of individuals.

     The groups point to increasingly close cooperation between national police, security, intelligence, and military establishments.

     To achieve their ends, they say, governments have suspended judicial oversight over law enforcement agents and public officials, concentrated unprecedented power in the hands of the executive arm of government, and rolled back criminal law and due process protections that balance the rights of individuals against the power of the state.

     These initiatives, say the civil liberty groups, are not effective in identifying terrorists.


     If even half of what this article reports is true, we as a free society are in much more danger than we think.

     "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."

     Come the revolution.

     Peace (maybe not so much).

She Comes

Oh, Lord.

So young, so tiny.

Her little eyes are not yet open, but she comes

out from the secret space, the place of refuge

seeking her brother and sister.

So small, in such a vast world.

It is enough to break my heart.


She finds her sib by smell alone

and cuddles close for comfort,

not quite old enough

to forage for herself.

How will she fare?


Her sister inspects the offerings

of seeds, and nuts, and water -

the fundaments of life

beneath her questing nose.

These are strange to her, who knew

nothing save her mother's milk.

But now they must suffice.


It is the season of new life,

the wheel turns anew.

Praise God.

Fathead Redux

Notes from the Pop Culture Backwater: The Psychic Sanitation Vehicle Takes Another Dump

I have no idea what is going to appear from the depths of my brain until I see it here, in type. I've been making entries in this journal almost daily for a couple of months now, and I always surprise myself. I had no idea, when I began this journey, that I had the testicular fortitude to keep it up. On at least one occasion, the doubt that lurks within became so strong that I thought I might cease. I am still uncertain as to whether it is a good idea.

I have always been a deeply private person, especially with family, so it comes as some surprise to me that I am not only able, but willing to unburden myself, in this journal, of what I have kept private for so many years. The first time that I ever openly expressed my personal interpretation of spirituality was approximately eight years ago, to a coworker who I thought would be, if not sympathetic, at least understanding. I was wrong. One would have thought that I would have kept my opinions to myself after that, but . . .

The journey that one undertakes to discover oneself is not an easy one, and not lightly embarked upon. There are those who never even begin the journey. It requires a measure of solitude, and that in itself is not easy to come by. The frantic pace of today's world, with all its demands upon our time and attention, affords us very little opportunity to engage in introspection. But it is my sincere belief that we must do so, that we must discover who and what we are, how and why we have become who we are, before we can attempt to understand who others are, especially those with whom we may share our lives.

Those who read this journal must by now have observed that the words I, me and my crop up frequently. My personal journey of self-discovery led me to the realization that I was essentially a fathead; that is, I was self-absorbed. At first, I attempted to change my attitude - an exercise in futility. I am what I am, and I finally came to terms with that. I am not, however (at least I hope not) a selfish individual. There are occasions when selfishness can be useful, and there are even times when it must be exercised in order to preserve one's self-respect and dignity. On the whole, however, it is not an admirable emotion.


In the early years of videogames and the Internet, I remember, before I seriously considered becoming a Netizen, some people voiced concerns that individuals would retreat from personal contact to live in a virtual world, cut off from reality. With the advent of weblogs, how silly that seems now. We can be in touch daily, easily, without setting foot outside our doors, from one end of the country to the other. We have quick and easy access to a vast repository of information and opinions. This is a true marvel.

Of course, it is also a double-edged blade, because so much of the information found on the Internet is of dubious provenance, and not always to be trusted. There is much content that displays the baser instincts of humanity, and ultimately degrades us all. The Internet also affords the opportunity for organizations, inimical to the society in which we live, to keep in ready and constant contact, and to share information that could be destructive to civilization.

I am a proponent of science and technology, but I recognize that, though the people who invent progressive technologies may have nothing but good intentions, there are those who will always conceive ways to subvert those intentions and turn technology to their own evil ends.

I'm sorry - once again I seem to have no real point to make here. This is my poor attempt to make some sense of and to clarify some of the dilemmas with which we are daily confronted. It is just another page from Malcolm's Massive Compendium of Generally Useless Random Knowledge.

May you discover and enjoy peace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Afternoon Delight

Kaver takes his turn at egg-sitting & watches the pigeons fly by.

  Photo courtesy Eastman Kodak Co.


A very fine day in Rochester. Judging by the weather forecasts, it may not stay this nice, but one can hope that there will be no more snow.


Sunday, April 17, 2005

Chapters Nineteen and Twenty

Chapter Nineteen: Spider

     Dreams had filtered through her long, restful sleep - they weren't bad dreams, she didn't think, just so outre that it was impossible to remember them, let alone understand them. Upon waking, she tried to recall a single one with clarity, but it was no good. She yawned and stretched out her legs, then sat to scratch at an itchy spot on her neck. Her toes struck the rim of the chip, reminding her that she now wore an accessory. To take her mind off the recent unsettling turn of events, she set about her waking routines, fastidiously grooming herself and filling her belly with the savory figs.

     During the time she spent enjoying her meal, she gradually became conscious of - not a sound, exactly - a disturbance or vibration of the air (as she thought of it) which seemed to emanate from the far side of the chamber. She kept peering in that direction, but all she could see was the spider sitting motionless in the center of its web. She slowly came to the realization that it was not, after all, the air which was being disturbed; now she imagined that something inside of her head was vibrating. It was a curious and unnerving sensation which she had never before experienced.

     She finished her meal and trotted to the far end of the chamber, meaning to investigate the source of her disturbance. She peered about again, but the only objects of interest were the bare patch of dirt and the spider in its web. Inadvertently, her whiskers brushed against one of the web's anchor lines, and the spider began to oscillate, like an athlete trying to jump while glued to a trampoline. In the muted radiance emitted by the chip, the spider's multiple eyes glittered alarmingly. As she watched the spider jangle back and forth, the realization dawned on her that the vibration in her brain was translating into a string of thoughts, at first chaotic and incoherent, but eventually resolving into a pattern which she discovered she could readily understand. On the surface they appeared threatening . . .


     Fierce and terrible am I! Flee from me or die!


      Yet she was also picking up a quieter undercurrent that belied the surface thoughts . . .


     Too large to subdue! Danger to me! Must frighten off!


     This was a novel experience! Never before had she had access to another creature's thoughts. It surprised her so much that she reflexively responded.


     You have nothing to fear from me, and you're not as terrible as you think.


     What? What moves in my head?


     I am the mouse with whom you share this home.


     Mouse? What is that? How do you enter my head?


     I'm not sure. I didn't know I could do this. I've never been able to do it before. It may be that this chip I wear is causing this to happen.


     Mouse? Chip? These I know not. Explain.


     With your many eyes, I'm certain you can see me. I am a mouse. Around my neck I wear a special object called a memory chip which, I think, allows me to communicate with you, mind to mind.




     Never mind. What is important is that we share a home. I hope we will be able to live together without conflict.


     Do you eat bugs?


     No. I eat seeds, nuts and fruits.


     Good. It is well.


     The bemused mouse was rapidly tiring of this limited conversation, constrained as it was by the spider's insistence on asking questions of her but seeming not to understand many of her responses. She turned away from the web, convinced that the arachnid would offer her no future difficulties, and trotted back to her bed.

      She would need to ponder the meaning of this new ability that she appeared to have acquired. Was it now possible for her to understand the language of and communicate with any creature that she might meet? Perhaps she should seek out another form of life and experiment. Or maybe she should speak to the white mouse again and put her questions to him. What, she wondered, was the proper path to follow?

     At length she determined that she would like to discover the answers on her own, at least for now, and with that thought in mind, she arose and made for the narrow passage leading to the outdoors, ready for whatever this new day might bring.


Chapter Twenty: Problem

     "Excuse me, Director."

     "Yes, Foster, what is it?"

     "Sir, that memory chip that was lost in the microcosm two months ago? It's been activated."

     "Are you certain? You're sure you're not receiving a false reading?"

     "Yes, sir, it's a positive and it's real."

     "Have you been able to locate it?"

     "Thorough scanning has determined that it is located in GC 2834, in a system orbiting a class G star. We haven't been able to pinpoint it more precisely yet."

     "Do you have any idea how long it will take to locate it?"

     "Not yet, sir, but it shouldn't be much longer."

     "Very well. Good work, Foster. Keep me apprised of your progress."

     "Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."


     With three fingers of his left hand, Ashton Roth massaged the deep gullies on his forehead. He closed his eyes and leaned far back in the black leather chair. Of indeterminate age, his general demeanor suggested he might be in his mid-forties. His smooth, even complexion and regular features displayed his concern.

     Ignoring his paperwork for the moment, he lost himself in thought. That troublesome chip had finally been located and,with any luck, would be back in their hands before much more time had passed. The only possible problem that he could see was the difference in times. A lot could happen before they were able to retrieve it, given the years that would pass in the interim. He did a quick calculation - why, almost 6000 years had already passed in there; it was a wonder that activation had not occurred before now. Perhaps, he thought, after the chip had been retrieved, they should just destroy the microcosm and begin anew. It would be a shame to have to do that; so much work and so many years had gone into the creation of that miniscule universe, but the recent activation of the chip almost inevitably assured that the experiment would be completely compromised. There was just no telling how much damage could be done.

     The director stood and paced his office, white lab coat swirling about his legs, absentmindedly stopping occasionally to adjust the set of a picture on the wall or to swipe at an imagined speck of dust. Ever since that stupid janitor had decided to indulge his curiosity while cleaning the chip lab, they had had to cover their backsides, manufacturing an inoperative replica so the original wouldn't be missed. Since most of the protocols had already been established, it had taken minimal effort, but still . . .

     The janitor had been suitably punished, the scans were working much better than expected, and the chip was as good as found, but they would still have to send someone through the transposer to retrieve it, and that they had seldom done before. He disliked having to do that; there were still a few bugs that needed to be worked out, and there had been that terrible accident . . .

     Still, it was imperative that they reclaim the chip. It was, after all, a prototype and very expensive. The fact of activation presumably meant that one of the creatures inhabiting whatever planet it had been transposed to had stumbled upon it and discovered how to use it. That could be very bad indeed.

     The director returned to his burnished obsidian desk, sat, and picked up the pile of reports, intending to read them, but abruptly threw them down in a fit of irritation, scowling as a few of the sheets slipped off the edge, lifted by the barely detectable circulation of the air conditioning, and seesawed lazily to the floor. If only he could punish that moronic janitor more than once!

     Unable to concentrate properly, he stood once again and moved to the door of his office. Throwing it open, he stepped into the corridor, directing his steps toward the cafeteria. Maybe a good hot cup of coffee would calm him and help him focus more clearly. He hoped so.


     This concludes Book 1 of Lona's adventures. In the grand tradition of writers much more capable than myself, I have ended on a cliffhanger, although it was necessitated by the fact that I wasn't sure where the story was headed next. I hope you have been entertained.


Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005






Saturday, April 16, 2005

Chapter Eighteen

Chapter Eighteen: Unknowns

     A green-gloved hand, somewhat similar in appearance to the paw of the monkey that had picked her up, reached into the cage and selected one of the mice, which squirmed feebly, but seemed to be able to offer little or no resistance. It was carried through a series of rooms and hallways before being placed in a tall, glass-walled tank. A small anesthetic device was briefly placed against the throat of the mouse and then withdrawn. The creature moved desultorily around the sides of the tank, sniffing at the walls, but gradually came to a halt and, falling onto its side, lay motionless. The hand reappeared, removing the mouse and placing it upon a metal tray. A miniature razor was used to shave the mouse's head and an apparatus, quite similar in appearance to the torus, was placed thereupon and briefly manipulated. The man to whom the hand belonged moved to a brightly-lit display and studied the readouts. He pressed a number of buttons and examined the screen again, then moved to a boxy machine and operated various controls.

     A period of time passed during which the man, whistling softly and tunelessly, moved between the machine and the computer screen, adjusting and inspecting. Eventually, satisfied with the results, he shut down the machine, returned to the tray, gently removed the instrument from the mouse's head and moved to another panel, where he placed the torus upon a short spindle and fiddled with more knobs and dials. The ghost of a smile formed upon his lips as he removed the torus and placed it into a foam insert in a marked cabinet drawer. Proceeding to the mouse, he applied a needle to its neck, checked his watch, and sat at a desk where he busied himself with paperwork. A few minutes passed, at which point he consulted his watch once more, went over to the mouse and placed the tip of a finger against the mouse's neck. Detecting no pulse, he picked the creature up and dropped it into a biohazard burn bag.


     What was all that? What happened?


     The process is called 'digitized memory transposition'. It converts the brain's electrical impulses into a data stream, and transmits it to the chip where it is imprinted and stored virtually forever.


     Was that you?


     Yes, a digital record of my operation was created and is stored in this chip.


     I'm really confused by all this. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. How will I be able to understand anything when I can't relate to any of it?


     You must be patient. The information contained in this chip has been collected over periods of time and dimensions of space that would amaze and perhaps frighten you, were I to go into detail. It is a vast repository of information, but presently you can access only one portion at a time, as you can eat only one nut at a time. As you accumulate experience and confidence, your proficiency will increase and you will easily be able to create and control multiple links, combining unrelated elements to . . . I am sorry, little one. I have been alone, with none but myself with whom to converse, for so long, and my enthusiasm is so great, that I fear I have forgotten what it was like to serve as an unwilling audience to a blowhard. This has likely been an ordeal for you, and you should rest.

     There is one more thing you should know. At this moment, an energy field emitted by the chip surrounds your physical being. As you have already divined, contact with the chip creates a connection. If you wish to maintain the connection, you should insert your head into the central opening. The polymer of which this chip was manufactured is malleable and will atomically adjust its shape and size to accomodate your neck. In effect, it will become a comfortable collar. In this way you can transport the chip without difficulty. Rest now, and when you once more wish to speak with me, envision my likeness and I will appear.


     There's so much I want to know, so much I have to learn. I never realized that there was more to living than sleeping and eating. I don't know whether I'm dreaming, or whether I've just awakened from a dream.


     She looked about her, seeing the rough walls of her cell as though through a haze, still dazed from her experience. Nothing in her short life had prepared her for anything as bewildering as what she had undergone. Neither her mother nor father had told her that such things could be. She felt . . . altered, as if she had been delivered anew, reborn into a world she didn't know and couldn't understand.

     Shedding her funk with a shake of her body, she considered the torus. If she placed her neck within that opening, the chip would, in some unknown fashion, adjust itself to fit her, and she could easily carry it anywhere. But . . . did she want that? So much of what the white mouse had said had been mysterious and confusing, but she remembered the words "single organism" with a slight shudder. Did that mean what she thought it might? "Completely connected". What would that mean to her? What might it do to her? Should she wait before committing herself? Could she trust that white mouse?

     A tingling sensation encompassed her body, raising her fur as would a vagrant breeze, which faded and died even as it registered on her consciousness. This must be the effect of the "energy field" of which she had been told. After she had donned the "collar", would she always be conscious of that curious feeling or would it become undetectable? So many unknowns! Could she make a leap of faith?

     She sniffed at the torus once more, her nose entering the opening, but detected nothing untoward. She moved her head further into the hole. Still nothing. As her throat reached the center of the artifact she felt slight pressure, but it was in no way uncomfortable. She raised her head and looked at the floor. The talisman had disappeared and now, smooth and rounded, encircled her neck as a ring encircles a finger. She could not feel the infinitesimal wires as they swiftly insinuated themselves into her pores, burrowing through her flesh and adhering to her nerves.

     She wondered what time it was. She had fallen asleep not long before the sun rose, she thought; upon awaking, her stomach had indicated that it was likely evening, but she had no idea how long she had spent inside the chip (as she thought of it; it had been more like an altered state of consciousness) save that she was once again hungry, so a goodly amount of time had passed. Turning about, she trotted to the crack and peered down the passage, but could detect no glimmer of light from the far end. She crawled back to the pile of figs and once more set about filling her belly before seeking the softness of her fluffy bed.


Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005

Early Morning Musings

When, at some time to come, the Creator returns and calls us to account, when HESHE says, "I created you, my children. I gave unto you glorious gifts, because I loved you. I gave unto you the blessings of LIFE and a universe in which to live. I vouchsafed unto you the quality of curiosity, that you might seek to understand the beauty and wonder of MY creation. I bestowed upon you the precious present of other souls, so that you would not need to live alone. I granted you stewardship over the whole of MY beloved creation, and all that I asked of you in return was that you not take that responsibility lightly. I asked that you love, respect, and care for each other, and for those under your stewardship, and for the universe in which you exist. Now I am come to ask you - how have you done?"

How will we answer?


Friday, April 15, 2005

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen: Perceptions

     She felt, not so much a physical as a spiritual sensation, a stretching, an expanding of consciousness . . . a tugging, an attraction, as if an incorporeal magnet were irresistibly drawing the iron atoms in her very cells ineluctably to its pulsating poles. The obscuring mists wisped away, leaving her all but breathless at the vista thus revealed to her inner perception. Accustomed as she was to tall grass, plants and trees, this vast, horizonless, empty area was inconceivable to her. All her instinct, all her acquired knowledge would occupy only a tiny, insignificant corner of this space.


     What is this? What has happened to me?


     You have been connected. Bioelectronic links have been formed between your brain and the chip. You now have space to accumulate much more knowledge than you could ever before have done, and you have access to much knowledge that has already been amassed, by myself and by others . . . see, little one.


     In the illimitable distance, there appeared before her eyes a distant violet spark, sliding along a shining string, scintillating like the image of a lamp reflected in a mirror hung upon the far wall of a long, empty hall. It approached at a dignified pace, moving slowly nearer to her, until, halting, it hovered before her, spinning and emitting tongues of blue-white energy.


     What is this?


     It is a repository. It is called a node. Data is stored in it.


     What am I supposed to do?


     You may enter it. It is not dangerous; it is in actuality only a visualization, a frame of reference to spare you confusion. (She stared at him with utter incredulity and awe at his breathtaking display of cluelessness.) Once you have fully adapted, this illusion will be unnecessary.


     She moved slowly forward into the spinning sphere, not without trepidation, for despite the assurances of the white mouse, this was so totally outside her experience that she instinctively quailed. She passed through the crackling surface and stopped, staring. She felt as if she had stumbled upon a limitless burrow of innumerable cubbies, each filled to the ceiling with nourishing food . . . not for the body, but for the mind, or the soul . . . like the spokes of a great wheel, passages radiated outward from this small space, each lengthy tunnel studded with manifold apertures revealed by a diffuse but bright incandescence emanating from the very air itself. She started down the passage directly in front of her, curious to see what the spacious chambers contained. She halted before the first opening on her right, peering wonderingly within. Ranged along both sides of a central aisle, a number of spheres, about the size and shape of a hazelnut, were ensconced, each in its separate niche. Faintly luminous, each 'nut' appeared to be tethered to the next by a series of tiny colored threads.

     She entered and selected one at random, brushing it with the tips of her whiskers as she sniffed at it. Before she could determine whether it had an odor, she was startled by the scene which suddenly manifested itself. It was one she had seen previously - the vision of the white mouse - only now it possessed clarity. The silvery sticks formed some sort of enclosure, and there were four other white mice contained within it. A round contraption was occupied by one of the mice, rapidly rotating as the mouse ran and ran. She thought that it might be some form of torture device until one of the other mice trotted to it and attempted to climb into it. At first its paws would slip on the rim and it would tumble backward as the first mouse continued to run, but it eventually attained its goal and clambered into the wheel, which began to rock to and fro as the second mouse tried to run in the opposite direction from the first.

     There was a shiny hemispherical item containing a number of dull, olive-colored, unappetizing rods or pellets, at which two of the mice were gathered, in one corner of the enclosure and a long, clear, tubular object, holding a large quantity of liquid, suspended from two of the sticks. The floor of this (cage) was covered by short strips of pale bark.

     So smooth, so seamless were the incremental adjustments which were occurring, steadily acclimating her thought processes to the functioning of the data retrieval systems, that she was unaware of the exact moment when her perceptions altered. She had at first viewed the scene as if she had been standing at the mouth of her burrow, watching the world pass by. But now, without any noticeable change, she found herself fully immersed in the vision. She looked again at the exercise wheel, food bowl, and drip feeder, now knowing them for what they were, and understanding their purposes. Much more data bubbled to the surface of her mind, including the name of the director of the laboratory, the designation numbers of each of the mice, and the types of experiments in which they were currently employed.


     This was how it was for me, this was my life.


      (So wrapped up was she in the ongoing vision, the unexpected interjection startled her. She had not realized that her mind was in constant contact with that of the white mouse.)


     This? I see it, but . . . no grass, no trees, no . . . sky? No freedom?


     I knew nothing of freedom, had no concept of it. I was born in that laboratory, lived my whole life in that cage, and was happy. I had nourishment, shelter, entertainment, friends . . . what else was needed?


     But . . .


     It is difficult, if not impossible, to mourn the lack of a thing that you do not realize you may possess. When enlightenment finally dawned upon me, it was far too late to act.


     What happened to you?


     I cannot truly give you my perspective, because I was anesthetized, but the data is stored here. Watch . . .



Story copyright Malcolm Mott 2005



Changing of the Guard

Kaver waits to take his turn on the eggs while Mariah ponders where to dine out.

I don't know how long this will take to load; it may be awhile.

Photo courtesy of Eastman Kodak Co., the best li'l digital photography company in the world.


This Might Be a Help

For those who are concerned about the state of their computers, here's a link to a site by one of our locals that you may want to check out. I recommend it.

Nick Francesco has been in the business of helping people with their computer ills for a long time, and for my money he may just be the best there is.


Thursday, April 14, 2005

Something Completely Different

Hans and Gretchen: A Cautionary Tale for the '00s

     Once upon a time in the Olde Worlde, there lived a family of four in a crude cottage on the edge of the wildwood - a long-suffering cotter, his pleasant wife, and their twin children, a son and a daughter. The cotter worked betimes at the manor of the local knight, mucking out the stables and slopping the hogs, while his wife happily worked their small kitchen garden and tended to their home and children. For many years all went well, but eventually, as sometimes happens even in the very best of families, the children, as they aged, became surly and uncooperative, and ultimately downright rebellious.

     It happened one day that the cotter and his wife hitched their aging, rundown nag to their rickety wagon and traveled to market, after cautioning the children not to wander into the nearby wildwood, for no one knew what nasty and evil things lurked within, but surely something horrible would befall them if they were disobedient. Hans and Gretchen, of course, assured their parents that they would remain in the cottage and study their lessons.

     As soon as the cotter and his wife had disappeared over the hill, Hans and Gretchen, overcome by cupidity, snatched several sweets purloined from the cooks at the manor, and set out on a thin track that led deep into the forest. They wandered for hours, marveling at the variety of trees and plants, and delightedly watching as small, furry woodland creatures cavorted and gamboled. Eventually, realizing that the thin track had become little more than deer trace, they bethought themselves of a plan whereby they could continue to wander, yet still find their way home. They broke their remaining sweets into crumbs, and dropped the crumbs behind them as they walked, never noticing that the sparrows and tomtits were avidly eyeing the tasty treats.

     Time passed unheeded as Hans and Gretchen meandered, enchanted, through the depths of the forest, until they became aware of the lengthening shadows and concluded that they should begin the homeward trek. Turning back upon their route, they could discover no trace of the trail of crumbs that they had so assiduously dropped. Abjectly, they searched in vain for a path to which they could direct their steps. At length, understanding that they were utterly lost, they sat upon a rotting log and wept bitter tears.

     As twilight pervaded the dim reaches of the woodland, the twins thought to detect the faint scent of smoke wafting through the woods. Following their noses, they eventually reached a hut situated in a small clearing. Their eyes grew wide and their mouths watered as they gazed upon a building that appeared to be constructed of gingerbread, peppermints, and gumdrops. As Hans and Gretchen dashed forward, drawn ineluctably to the sugary structure, a door in the front of the building abruptly opened and and a cackling, white-haired apparition appeared. She waved a well-manicured hand and the appearance of the hut changed suddenly from one of alluring sweetness to one of revolting healthfulness. Now, instead of the incense of peppermint and cake, the reek of celery, carrot and spinach filled the air. The twins tried to turn and flee, but they found themselves paralyzed, unable to twitch so much as a toe.

     The petite, well-dressed, elderly woman bustled over to them, gleefully rubbing her hands together and burbling merrily to herself. Her argent hair was arranged in a tight bun, and her bifocals twinkled as she cheerfully regarded the hapless, motionless twins. "So, you were attracted to the unhealthy appearance of my hut, were you? It was, of course, but a glamour. I have so much to teach you!" she cried gladly, pushing Hans and Gretchen toward the door of her healthy hut. "There are so many, many things I can teach you about healthful eating! And I will make certain that you are thoroughly indoctrinated! We will begin with vegetables! Oh, this will be so much fun!"

     Late that night, the cotter and his wife returned to an empty cottage. They spent many days searching futilely for their children, but Hans and Gretchen were never seen again.

     This little bit of fluff was inspired by a small article in our local paper that appeared sometime last year. I wish I could have printed it verbatim, but I seem to have misplaced the original and the paper's online archives would not vomit it up. The original was a notice of the intent of one of our city schools to mount a production of Hansel and Gretel, except that they had updated it for the millenium by omitting the witch and including some lessons on healthy eating. Such is the state of political correctness in our time. O brave new world!


Faery tale copyright Malcolm Mott 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Chapter Sixteen

The loving parents

  <Courtesy Eastman Kodak Co.

Mariah's on the eggs, Kaver is standing and looking ponderous. If raptors can be said to be cute, this couple fills the bill. (Bad avian pun.)


Bonnie - (eyeing pathetic, twitching lump that she calls husband) - "Your eyes look really sick today."

Pathetic lump - "My ear's plugged, my sinuses are plugged, my feet hurt . . ., the usual."

Several moments of uncontrollable giggling ensue, on both sides. We both know it's all true, but what else are we gonna do but laugh about it?

Epilogue: Pathetic lump valiantly forces himself into an erect  position and staggers weakly to the laptop, mumbling, "Must . . . . update . . . . journal." Even more valiantly, Bonnie heads out to secure provisions, ensuring that lump has many more opportunities to whine.

Chapter Sixteen: Process

     Welcome back.

     She stood once more amidst the shifting coils of phantasm - prismatic strands sliding through the mist like animate roots burrowing purposefully into the earth. The white mouse crouched before her, solemn eyes fixed intently upon her.

     What is this place, please?

     My nest.

     This doesn't look like a nest to me. Are you, are we, inside the object?

     I, what exists of me, am wholly inside. As for you, only your consciousness is in the object; your body remains outside.

     How can that be?

     That answer must wait until you have been prepared.

     I don't know what you're talking about.


     Are you going to tell me?

     If you truly wish to know, there is a way. It will not be easy, but it should not be painful. I must first probe you to ascertain whether you are suitable for the process you must undergo. Of course, the final decision must be yours. I would not that you were unwilling, little one.

     Something has already been done to me. Questions keep nagging at me. I'm not very old, but I don't think this happens to every mouse.

     Indeed it does not. Given that you came in contact with the bioelectronic chip, it was unavoidable. It was designed to react to touch. Please do not ask; you will learn everything if the process is successful.

     Something has been bothering me. You apologized to me, the first time we spoke. Did you do this to me?

     I am partially responsible. When I sensed your life force, I activated the chip instinctively. I did not of a certainty know that you were a mouse like myself, or that you would touch the chip.

     How did you get inside this . . . chip?

     The answer to that must also await the resolution of the process.

     This process - what is it, what does it do, how does it work?

     If successful, not only will you be completely connected to the data contained within the chip, you will be able to access the inherent memory, expanding your own storage capacity. As for the rest, you must learn from the experience. Ultimately, you and the chip will become, as it were, a single organism.

     I'm not sure I like the sound of that. I don't even know what you're talking about.

     As I said, the decision is yours, little one. Only you can choose to change your life forever.

     I'm scared.

     That is understandable. I can offer you this: I underwent a similar process - not identical, because you will retain control of your body. I suffered no pain; nor will you. There is sensation, but it will not be unpleasant.

     I'm still scared . . . but I'll try.

     Very well. I must probe your mind with mine. There is a chance that your mind may not be compatible with the connection - slight, to be sure, because the tangential effects seem to have done you no harm up to now. Still, we will see.

     What should I do?

     You need do nothing but wait.


     It is done. You exhibit complete compatibility; I suspected as much when I determined that your sensitivity to the effects of the chip was so pronounced. If you so decide, we can commence the process at any time.

     Are you sure I won't be hurt?

     Positive, little one.

     And all these questions that I have, will they be answered?

     All those and many, many more. The amount of data contained in this chip is quite astounding.

     Okay, I guess I'm ready.

     Very well. It begins now.

A very short observation. I have noted, within the last few days, that various organizations, such as FoMoCo and my home town of Rochester, are touting marketing as a panacea for their various ills, such as lower sales and less tourism. They appear to believe that with the proper amount or style of salesmanship, things will improve. It has been my experience that no amount of marketing will turn a turd into a diamond.


Story content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005



Monday, April 11, 2005



Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten Fragment

A rare sight.

   Eastman Kodak Co.

It isn't often that one sees Mariah and Kaver together in the nest box. You either have to keep constant watch or get very lucky (in this case it was luck.) It was hard to tell whether Kaver was feeding Mariah or if they were just sharing a tender moment (old softy that I am, I prefer to believe the latter.)

Chapter Fifteen: The Forgotten Fragment

     Movement in the far corner of the chamber caught and held her eye. Swiveling her head in that direction, she observed as a black, bulbous spider dropped precipitately from the center of its web like a bungee jumper leaping from a bridge, halted an inch above the floor and lowered itself more slowly to the hard stone surface. Touching its spinneret briefly to the floor to securely attach the anchor line, it began the long climb ceilingward again. It reached the center of the web, moved slightly to one side, and repeated the process. After a series of such movements, the spider settled in, apparently satisfied with its efforts, becoming motionless once more.

     The curious mouse watched this entertaining performance while it lasted, feeling no need to interrupt the urgent labors of the industrious insect. She pondered the advisability of sharing her nest with the sizable spider, which she could easily have worn as an eyepatch. She didn't know if it would bite her, but as long as it remained in its far corner, she didn't feel unduly concerned. It might prove useful if those nasty little gnats found their way in, snaring them in its web like tuna caught in a net, saving her the trouble of trying to drive them out. Maybe a bit of companionship would be nice, even though there was no chance of communication between them.

     Once more gazing around at the cozy chamber, a surprising thought occurred to her - she was content. Wrested forcibly from her comfortable life, thrown into a new and alien environment, menaced by all manner of hostile and inimical situations, she had nevertheless prevailed and managed to find a new shelter, seeking it out and furnishing it with the necessities of life. There was nothing to threaten her in here; she was as safe as she could be. She knew of no predator small enough to fit through the narrow passage leading to her sanctum, save for pit vipers, and she now knew how to deal with them. As for the larger predators lurking in the jungle, most of them were easily avoided. Yes, she was content.

     Across from her, the pyramid of figs beckoned. Her belly was empty enough that she bestirred herself from the fluffy nest, crawling to the pile and biting voraciously into the juicy, succulent flesh of the tempting fruit. Devouring it quickly, she uncovered a multitude of tiny black seeds, so sticky that within moments her whiskers were clotted with them. Annoyed, she scrubbed her face against the stone, and managed to dislodge the great majority of seeds. With rapacious intent, she fell to once more, determined to satisfy her insistent hunger.

     As she ate, she eyed the torus lying quietly in the corner near her nest. It had remained quiescent, as far as she knew, since she had brought it back into the temple. All the time she had spent gathering and storing, it had lain silent, lifeless. She sensed that if she approached it, lay her paw upon it, the eerie vitality would reawaken, draw her once more into its darkling depths and show her terrors and wonders. Was she ready for that? Did she want to essay that alarming experience anew? Had she the courage? She had no doubt that if it reanimated and desired her attention, there would be no denying it. Maybe if she demonstrated her lack of fear, her willingness to undergo the trials that the object offered, it would accord her a measure of respect. Since it seemed to be disinclined to be separated from her, perhaps her best course was to explore the reasons for its insistence that they remain inextricably bound, if she could but determine them. Also, she couldn't argue that she was mightily intrigued by the creature that seemed to exist within the eldritch artifact. Whatever miracle or curse had been thrust upon her, she was now able to formulate questions for which she craved answers, and the talisman, or the creature within, might possess them. Her decision reached, her meal finished, she crept toward the talisman and slowly extended one paw.


Story content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Chapters Fourteen and Fifteen

"Times of sun and clouds"

  <Photo courtesy of Eastman Kodak Co.

Mariah seems to have settled into 'motherhood mode'. She will stay mostly in the nest & on the eggs until Kaver comes to relieve her. Bonnie figures Kaver will be on the lookout for pigeons feasting on the popcorn dropped by clumsy baseball fans.

Chapter 14: Knowledge

     Afloat on an ocean of darkness, endlessly drifting in the stygian realm of Morpheus, the insignificant soul shuddered, hopelessly lost and forgotten by the legions of the living. The unrelieved and unending blackness swallowed any promise of redemption . . . . damnation and despair the only expectations.

     Then . . . . a light! A single scintilla of salvation! A blinding beam from which to draw encouragement! Forward to the light!

     Another soul! A fellow traveler in eternity, treading the same waters, perhaps willing to provide companionship on the long, dark road? Hasten, oh please hasten! Do not let this slim second of infinitude slip ineffectually away!


     Was she awake or was she dreaming? Where, what was this alien domain, this dreadful place? How had she come to be here, how transported from the commonplace to the chaotic? What should she do, where could she go? Drawn from an endless expanse of ebony and propelled into a pulsating, pearly mist shot through with twining threads of countless colors, she wandered, lost and alone, in a welter of confusion and turmoil.




     What? Where am I? What is this? Who are you?


     Be calm, little one. Too much, too soon. We have time.


     I've seen you before, I think.




     Where are we? What is this fog?


     You are not yet ready, little one. We must move slowly, or you will be harmed. For now, accept that this is real, and that you are safe.


     This is very confusing. Can you not tell me anything? Who are you?


     My designation would mean nothing to you. Suffice to say that, like you, I am a small, simple mouse . . . . although, unlike you, I am not free to roam the world.


     I don't understand.


     Nor should you be expected to. Were I to explain all to you, in a single meeting, you would not only be no wiser, but your mind would surely suffer irreparable harm. You must be properly prepared to receive the knowledge you wish and require. We will meet many times, and slowly you will learn all I have to teach.


     You speak as my father did, but you do not resemble him. Do you know him, or are you he in a different guise?


     No, I am not your father; neither do I know him. But in time I may come to fulfill that role, if you are willing. Now, little one, we have talked enough. You must rest and gather your strength for the trials ahead. But before I go, I must apologize to you. I truly did not intend to burden you with things that should not concern you, but I am weak and I have been alone for so long. Sleep now . . . . we will talk again soon.


Chapter Fifteen: Home

     She awoke physically refreshed, but her mind was clouded, choked with the residue of her journey through unknown realms of . . . . what? She had no name for the phantasmagorical illusion in which she had been immersed. It had possessed nothing of reality about it, that thick, crawling fog with the sinuous strings of color spiraling endlessly through it, like worms winding their way through the secret spaces of the earth. She would have been absolutely terrified, had it not been for the other,  the one who had shared her strange voyage into the unknown, who had soothed her shaken thoughts by virtue of its very presence.

     What had he (was it a he? She thought and felt so) meant when he had blamed himself for the bizarre events which had so recently befallen her? How was it possible that she even possessed the ability to entertain such queries? She had so many questions spinning in her mind, so many peculiar ideas for which she had no good explanations, that her head was beginning to hurt, her brain throbbing with the exertions she was forcing it to endure.

     With a prodigious effort, she relinquished her attempts to gain further  understanding of occurrences which were thoroughly inexplicable. To distract herself from further introspection, she set about examining the spacious confines of her new nest, which she had been fortunate enough to discover the night before, hidden at the terminus of a crack in one of the walls of the temple's entry chamber. Pale, crudely hewn stone comprised the walls and low ceiling formed, no doubt, by violence - the massive blocks of the temple shifted and sundered by one or a series of earthquakes that frequently plagued this heavily forested upland plateau. The resultant space was irregularly shaped, roughly rectangular but with elbows of rock poking into the central portion of the cavity, giving the illusion of two small rooms joined by a wide doorway. A thin scurf of fine dust coated the floor of her retreat, not enough to bother her sensitive nostrils but enough to show her the ghostly tracks of her own feet.

     In one corner of the farther cell, a section of stone floor had shattered and upended, exposing an expanse of dry packed dirt which with diligent effort she could excavate, allowing her to dig a more conventional burrow if she wished.

     She eyed the small pile of brown, walnut-sized fruits she had gathered on her trips back into the clearing. They had been lying, loose and scattered, all over the ground, probably shaken from the treetops by parrots browsing among the branches. The sweet aroma of the strangler figs permeated her cozy confines, tantalizing her and making her mouth water. Very soon now, she would be unable to resist and would definitely make a fine meal of a few of them.

     Lying in the corner at her side, the glimmering talisman reminded her how she had faced a real dilemma in deciding how to fit it into the narrow passage that led to her chamber, but, literally surveying the problem from every angle, she had finally reached the conclusion that, by standing it on end, she could just fit it into the constricted tunnel. Grasping the edge of the object with her teeth and wedging it against the wall, she had gradually managed to maneuver the talisman into a vertical position, pushing it into the crack and down the corridor to her nest, where she let it settle to the floor before shoving it into its corner. Having successfully completed that task, she had set out again to spend the rest of the night furnishing her haven with the basics, which she knew to be readily available just outside the temple.

     Now, nestled snugly in a large ball of soft kapok fibers, she surveyed her little domain, relaxed and happy that she needn't worry further about being a stranger in this strange land. She could explore at her leisure, now that she had a home.


I feel as if I should say something about the story, but I'm not quite sure what. It was at this point that I began to realize that the story was morphing into something other than a light fantasy about a mouse. I had more trouble seeing the way ahead, other than to note that it was moving in the direction of speculative fiction. A story arc suggested itself, and I followed it to a point at which a new and troubling aspect introduced itself, one that caused me to wonder if I had gotten in over my head. At that point I stopped. I guess time will tell if I begin again. There are a few more chapters for you to peruse and perhaps enjoy, and you may come to realize my dilemma.


Story content copyright Malcolm Mott 2005