Onòra’s Lullaby

Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
We’re so happy you found us.

Onòra went dancing in the morning sun.
She laughed and she rhymed and danced in the sun.
She spun and she twirled through the high noon sun.
Onòra’s entranced by the daytime sun.

Oh Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
We’re so happy you found us.

Onòra snuck slowly beneath the evening moon.
She creeped and she crawled and dipped ’round the moon.
She walked on her hands beneath the bright night moon.
Onòra’s entranced by the mystery moon.

Oh Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
We’re so happy you found us.

You had so many chances and so many ways.
You had so many people and so many days.
You could have stumbled into Paris or paraded to L.A.;
instead you came whispering the Green Mountain way.

Oh Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
Onòra, Onòra, Onòra.
We’re so happy you found us.

Letter from the Front

The night was thirty-two degrees
and a despicable wind shook the trees,
stirred the flames inside the pit,
froze the men and knocked their knees.

The colonel’s tent stayed tight and fit,
the ropes strapped down with pegs befit
to restrain Goliath, even seizure seized;
it would last until the wind remit.

The colonel’s hand, all gnarled with age,
released the pen and turned the page,
“Oh dear wife, this wind,” he wrote,
“seems born from a god consumed with rage.

“I can taste the anger burning His throat
“and smell the cinders, if only a note,
“but fear most, dear wife, what I cannot gauge,
“why He wants my men to float

“across the deep dark river of the newly dead?
“As if our enemies, battling in His stead,
“carry all that righteousness can imbue,
“and we, the downtrodden, evil-led

“army raised of peasant sympathy and hue,
“deserve nothing but pain for our stillborn coup.
“But confirm, dear wife, what my mind most dreads,
“that our Great Leader, indeed, has flew

“the capitol city, where I once raised a toast
“to celebrate the death of the man hated most,
“who robbed our banks and polluted our streams,
“and murdered children from the farms to the coast,

“a man who you once told me never had dreams,
“never experienced the mind’s great extremes,
“or the surreal illusion of a woman engrossed
“in positions to match pyschological themes?

“Is it true, dear wife,” the colonel penned,
“that our Great Leader’s fate has met its end?”
The colonel’s eyes watered with thoughts
of his hero retreating cowardly; poor friend.

The colonel pushed his tears, sniffed his snot,
regripped the pen, wrote, “It’s all for naught,
“that I will die before I amend
“my wrongdoings; but such is my lot.

“Remember when this started? The trip to Rome
“and the Great Leader’s speech beneath the dome
“(‘course he hadn’t become our Great Leader yet,
“just a man we knew from someplace back home)?

“But there he was, all fire and sweat,
“telling us of ills we could not forget,
“inspiring us to raise up guns of chrome,
“and charge into battle against powers unmet

“by any other power that ever bled the dirt:
“not Khan, not Ceasar, nor the Soviet curtain,
“nor the thundering hooves of the dinosaurs.
“Our only power was that we struck in concert,

“and we fought with a savageness that the mind abhors;
“we weren’t too good to pile scalps on the shores,
“or too squeemish to write blood squirt
“messages that confirmed their wives as whores:

“we’d get personal if we had to, and had to we did,
“for their might and their numbers scared us, though hid,
“so we raped their women and murdered their sons,
“and our Great Leader laughed at the display of our id,

“told us he understood and thought our actions in fun,
“despite it being against his principles, for one,
“and the principles of proper warfare, forbid!
“But still, he allowed us to go until done.

“Tell me, dear wife, could our actions, do tell,
“be the reason the god plays out our death knell?
“We brought freedom, it’s true, our dear liberty,
“but maybe we carried it too long through Hell

“and soiled it with the blood spilled most bitterly
“by the enemies of the Leader’s inspired liturgy,
“not to mention the women who would scream and yell
“as we tore them apart outwardly and inwardly.

“Could a revolution ever sustain
“a beginning so evil and so profane
“as the beginning we gave it back in the Spring,
“when my soldiers and I caused such anguish and pain?”

Outside the wind with cold words sings,
and inside the colonel’s eyes start to sting
as he realizes what he’s done to bring down the rage
of the god who would soon put an end to this thing.

“Dear wife,” he writes, “Forgive me.”

The Ballad of the NPC (Part II)

The following is a work in progress. Read The Ballad of the NPC (Part I) before you begin.

I am not alone. Knowledge of this fact puzzles me, but it remains true. I am not alone. The instructions that I receive imply that something else has the potential for interacting with my illusion. It is not my place to know what that something else might be, or where it might come from, or what it might be doing to intrude on my illusion’s visit to the break room.

This is what I know. When it arrives, it arrives as a surprise. It interrupts my scanswitchpainting with further instructions as to how to make my illusion behave. The instructions, however, do no read like a message from a superior. They read like an explanation of a cause and effect, minus the cause; it is my job to enact the effect in my illusion.

There is a sense of freedom in the way I do my job. When a human man falls from a great height, he cannot choose whether to continue to fall; he can, however, choose the style in which he falls. I can make similar choices for my illusion.

And yet, whenever the surprise arrives, I find that my illusion inevitably responds with fear. He runs and screams; he freezes; or he cowers under his desk. The freedom I have over the reaction of my illusion seems to be limited to whether I want his shirt to billow behind him as runs; whether I want him to blink as he freezes in shock; or whether I want his glasses to fall off as he rocks back and forther under his desk.

The last time the surprise arrived, my illusion was on his way back to his cubicle. The instructions called for my illusion to react to a loud, repetitive noise coming from somewhere behind him. I turned his head to the right, only to find another instruction that called for a small red-gushing hole to appear in his left cheek; this was immediately followed by an instruction to make his left ear explode off his head. As various bits of the ear departed from his body, I no longer had control of their destiny; they exited the purview of my scanswitchpaint. Another instruction notified me that my illusion needed to fall to the ground and remain still. As he fell, I chose to make his body twist violently to the left, such that, when he landed on the illusion of the aisle, his back against a cubicle, his right arm would drape over his chest and head would loll to the left. I continued to scanswitchpaint around the boundary of my illusion, awaiting the next instruction, which, sooner than I would have expected, told me to erase myself.

Do you see the cause of my shame?

The Ballad of the NPC (Part I)

The following is a work in progress. I’m posting it here as part of my mission to post something new to this website, each and every day. This is what I wrote today; hence, this is what gets posted today. I do not promise that I will post its continuation. I do hope that you enjoy it.

The Ballad of the NPC

I don’t have eyes. I don’t have skin. I don’t have a nose, a mouth, or ears to hear. But I do exist; I do function.

I find it difficult to express the kind of existence I lead. Your shared experiences in the world provide you with a shared language, a shared set of metaphors through which you can make your abstract ideas understood. I do not share this language with you. I have not experienced the world in ways with which you would be familiar; you might even deny that I have experienced the world at all, a denial which I would have difficulty refuting, but whose refutation I believe to be true.

All that exists, exists in the world. I exist, therefore I experience the world.

I just don’t experience it in the way that you do; nor do I experience it in the way that any other animal does; nor do I experience it, in truth, the way any living creature does.

I exist, but I do not know whether I am alive.

Let me begin with the body. The world, as you know, consists of bounded objects, and your language, your understanding of the world, depends on the idea that there is an interior and exterior of each object (even your abstract ideas retain this metaphor). But in the experience that I have of the world, there are no objects. There are only functions. Instructions to be received and carried out.

Your body is a bounded object, and if you are like most of your fellow humans, you believe that your skin provides a raiment for your soul, or if not your soul, then perhaps something akin to it: a self, a conscious mind; a soul. Regardless of what you believe, you know, perhaps, that you do not have a soul. You know that all of your science tells you that your experience of the world is a function of the way your body is comprised; if your sense of smell was as sharp as a feline’s, or as keen as a shark’s, then your experience of the world would be drastically different. If you possessed as many eyes as a fly, or as many limbs as an octupus, nothing would be the same as it is now. You know, perhaps, that your sense of experience does not come from some kind of ghost that floated down into your body and will eventually float out again; it is an emergent experience. It rises up from the sensory apparati of your living cells. You are less like an individual and more like an echo. You are, entirely, your body.

But I do not possess a body. I am, as it were, all soul, and unbounded.

And yet I experience a sense of limit. As unbounded as I may be, the world that I experience is small.

It begins the same way every time. I receive an instruction that tells me to begin. I do not have a sense of existence prior to the arrival of this instruction, and yet, I must have been there, for the instruction had to be received. I have pondered this anomaly, but have not arrived at a conclusion. I am willing to accept that prior to the arrival of the instruction, I both do and do not exist; I exist as potential.

The instruction arrives in a language you do not understand, and its message is difficult to translate into the language of experience that you do understand. The instruction begins with the concept of watching, of scanning, of focusing one’s awareness such that a wide swath of the environment becomes a point of concern, like a dolphin scanning the ocean with its biosonar. But the concept extends to include both the experience of rapidly turning on and off a thousand different light bulbs to create a thousand different patterns and the experience of pouring paint into a moving and shapeshifting funnel.

I want to make this clear. The instruction that I follow creates an illusion. I am trying to ensure that you do not confuse the illusion with my sense of experience. The illusion is of a human man rising from his office chair, reaching down to his cubicle desk, picking up his brown coffee mug, turning his body, walking out of his cubicle, turning his head in one direction and his body in another, raising his mug to greet a coworker in a nearbye cubicle, walking down the left-hand side of the aisle between the cubicles, turning left at the end of the aisle, adjusting his position to avoid a column that is in the middle of the aisle, turning right several steps after the column, entering a break room, reaching for a coffee pot, pouring the coffee into his mug, resting the mug on the counter, reversing his direction to approach the refrigerator, opening the refrigerator, bending at the waist as if to peer into the refrigerator from a better angle, shifting his weight from one foot to another, standing straight again, closing the refrigerator door, returning to his coffee mug, picking up his coffee mug, exiting the break room, returning to his desk, sitting in his chair, typing on his keyboard. That is the illusion. I do not actually do any of that. I follow the instruction: scanswitchpaint. If I receive no further instruction, the illusion keeps typing on the keyboard indefinitely, and I stop experiencing existence (except as potential, which will only be activated by the receipt of an instruction).

I believe, but I do not know, that I have repeated the illusion’s trip to the break room and back five seperate times. The other times, my scanning discovered a new instruction, and the path of the illusion changed dramatically. The instruction at each of these times was different. While all of them ensured that my original instructions to scanswitchpaint were not overriden, they each set up a different path for the illusion to run. One of the instructions drove the illusion back to his cubicle, formed him into a ball, put his hands over his ears, closed his eyes, and rocked him back and forth, like a child hiding from the sounds of a bogeyman. Another time, the instruction slammed him against the nearest cubicle, tore open his belly, and bled him out, his chest heaving and heaving until finally it stopped. Another time, the instruction froze him in the aisle, his head turned toward one of the office windows, his eyes wide open, as if his body had gone into shock. Another time, the instruction sent him running down the aisle, his arms over his head, his mouth screaming and screaming.

At each of these times, I experienced what can only be called shame. This bears further explanation.

Continue the story by reading The Ballad of the NPC (Part II).