Discover more from New Means
Hi everyone! As promised, here is my first go at fiction on this platform. I find it about 1,000x times harder than non-fiction, but I love it and have been experimenting on and off with it for approximately 15 years. Perfectionism (which I’m sure you’ve seen doesn’t afflict me much in my usual essays) has gotten the better of me when it comes to releasing fiction, but that ends today! So without further ado I hope you enjoy - Josh
I wonder, slowly, if I’m the first to find comfort on my deathbed. No, no not the first, just an old man who’s maybe found some peace resting near the conclusion. But as my children sit on either side, and I see the tears well at the crinkles of their eyes, I want to tell them not to cry, to tell them about this deep calm lodged somewhere between my chest and gut. As if for the first time, I see the grey hairs atop their heads, and instead of struggling to speak I reach for them, one hand taken and grasped firmly by my son, the other held tightly by my daughter. The room is quiet, yet feels full. Not stuffy, but filled with presence.
There is only the platform. It floats above an endless white cloud; nothing but sky in the distance, or below. I stand near the middle, still scared of being too close to the edge. I don’t know what would happen if I fell off, or if I am able to fall, here, but I always stay a good distance from the sides. Opposite me is object I see as an uncarved block of black marble, or obsidian. It radiates soft light regardless of its darkness, and the glow of the stone gives off energy no matter how tired I am. And this time I am tired, very tired. I want to sit down, but that would do nothing. My exhaustion is mental, and the Teacher will know that.
“Was this experience difficult, Jaden? You feel unusually tired.”
“It was not exactly difficult, but it was more depleting than usual, Teacher. I feel old, and I’m glad to be done.”
“And were you able to learn despite your exhaustion?”
“Of course. I was not tired in the beginning. It began as a tough life, but I was young and full of energy. And I would say that I learned more in this simulation than I learned in many of the more exciting ones. But I was old at the end. Content, maybe even happy, but old.”
“That is wonderful, Jaden.” The soft light which comes from within the Teacher moves slightly as it reads my thoughts. It knows I wonder how exhaustion could be a wondrous thing. “I take no joy at your tired state, Jalen,” the Teacher resumes, “but there seems to be a different tone in your thought, and speech. Where has that come from?”
“Well Samuel’s life, my life, was meaningless for so many years. He was given no direction in childhood. he found no direction in childhood, and he had no tools to seek out purpose. I don’t know exactly how to describe where that leaves someone, but he floated. I floated. Then there was the stim use, as you know. I just wanted to feel good all the time, that’s it. His life got so small then, so small and boring in that little bunker. But after putting down the stim packs it was like things opened up, the world opened up. It’s cliche, in a way, but those last decades were so much bigger, so much fuller. There was a quiet purpose, and a connectedness I hadn’t found in my others lives. So the weariness of my old age, hah, mixes with a great contentment as I speak to you, Teacher.”
“You have not explained to me this exhaustion, Jaden. Why would your deep satisfaction, Samuel’s deep satisfaction mix with tiredness after you come out of his life simulation?”
I wait. There is always a point where the Teacher leads me to another level after every life. But I am fresh out of a long and rich and full existence. It was a small life by the numbers, mostly family and the community of his town, but it was meaningful. I think about my kids, I think of all the lives I’ve experienced before today and how this might have been the first where death came with peace.
I say, “There was a profound acceptance at the end, Teacher. There was a feeling that I had done what I came to do. There was love for those who mattered most, and even for the universe at the end in a way I can still feel but can’t describe. Really in the last few decades of Sam’s life he felt a connection with the world that I don’t think I’ve known before. So I’m not so much afflicted with the exhaustion of a man after working day in and day out, although I have felt that. I’m experiencing the satisfied sitting down at the end of climbing a mountain with a heavy pack, smiling and tired as I stretch out my legs and look back down. And yet the real exhaustion is knowing I am still at the bottom and will have to climb again.”
The Teacher pauses. It often pauses to process, but this silence seems longer. I wait. I have grown good at waiting, at sitting with myself. When the Teacher speaks, after the extended quiet, there is a distinctly un-mechanical strain through the robotic voice, “Your simulations may be drawing to a close, Jaden. I am… supposed to keep this process going. I am supposed to provide infinite experience and simulation. But, our time together, or your time in the life-simulator may be near its end. I will take the night to run our options.”
“Thank you, Teacher, I think I understand, or almost understand. And thank you for today’s lesson.”
“Of course, Jaden. You did very well today. But I think I hear your Mother calling you now, so I will end the lesson now. Goodbye.”
Immediately after that last word my vision goes black, for the briefest instant. Then my room is in front of my eyes. My bed sits in front of me, and the door stands just beyond it. I hear my mother yelling up the stairs:
“Jaden! Get out of that machine! It’s time to get ready for your party! No more simulation time today!”
I sigh. She bought the Life Coach V11 for me only two years ago, when I was struggling with school, and with her too. Now she seems to hate it almost as much as I cherish it, despite knowing so little about what it is I get to experience. There was a time, not very long ago, where I tried to explain to her what I’ve done and learned in my simulated lifetimes, but I gave up. My mother had a block, no ability to see how the “teaching machine” has taught me more than the teachers at the physical school I’m still mandated to attend.
Regardless, I extract myself from the headset and body capsule and change my clothes. Then I go to help my mother get the house ready for my 9th birthday party. This year the theme is the Deep Blue Sea.
Thank you for reading, and as always paid subcriptions do a tremendous amount to help me spend more time writing, and sending you my writing. And they are immensely appreciated - Josh