3 hours of stalking while I can’t sleep

I find myself unable to sleep again tonight, consumed by fear and doubt, convinced of my imminent demise. Far too upset to sleep I got dressed (in yesterday’s clothes, no point in dirtying another set) and turned to the internet and Radio Paradise.

Radio Paradise is, more often than not, an excellent choice when I’m upset. It seems to know just exactly when I’m at my worst and hits me with a surprise favorite that perks me up. This morning it was Blue Man Group’s “I Feel Love” featuring Venus Hum. The song has many detractors in the Radio Paradise community. You can rate the tunes and comment on them, and they have a graph displaying the distribution of all the ratings from one to ten. “I Feel Love” (featuring Venus Hum) is rated at a 6.7 despite my sincere “9” rating. The distribution shows a lot of ones and twos and threes. There are people out there who clearly dislike the tune.

But I love it. Headphones are best, as with all my favorite tunes. And with all my favorite tunes the music takes me to a place of daydreams.

Tonight I had the urge to share the tune, even though I knew there’d be a lot of my own friends who simply wouldn’t “get it”. That’s the way it is with all my favorite tunes. They’re my favorites for reasons that don’t work for other people.

Digging through Youtube I found a recording of their live performance. I also found an official video, but for once the live version was better. I posted it and then proceeded to trip down the rabbit hole. I had no idea that “Venus Hum” was a band name, I’d always assumed it was the singer’s name. Youtube had a couple of suggestions for Venus Hum and I checked them out. Good music, and I wanted more.

I was cautious in my search, however. I know the “Feel Love” tune is old, I’ve had it for many years myself, and the video date was some time back in 2006. Doing a search on the band I found they’d formed in 1999. Typical. So much of my favorite stuff comes from the nineties and aughts. The wikipedia entry didn’t mention anything about the band, but it did say their last album release was in 2009. That depressed me a bit. Any band that hasn’t published something in over five years is generally defunct by default.

Then I let myself explore a bit of obsession with their singer, Anette Strean. In the BMG video she did not look anything like my imagination, but watching her on stage, and in Venus Hum’s other videos, I found her face incredibly familiar, and very appealing.

Something about the lips and the smile... and the glasses.

Something about the lips and the smile… and the glasses.

I cannot for the life of me figure out where I’ve seen her face before, but I swear I have. Not Anette Strean’s actual face, because I’ve never met her, but someone. My brain kept skipping on a loop of “she looks almost exactly like…” with that aching lack of conclusion. There was a strong connection somewhere up in my synapses but they refused to resolve in any one person.

Perhaps it’s connecting to some dream amalgam. My dreams, the good ones at least, present me with favorable people who, upon waking dissection, turn out to be an amalgam of multiple people. The women in my dreams especially, combining all the best qualities of my past friends, family, and lovers. Any adversaries in my dreams rarely need more than one person to create a suitable villain, but the nice ones are always very complex.

The face Annette presents has a feel like that, along with an old “high school crush” kind of attachment. So it’s quite possible the person she reminds me of is just someone I’ve forgotten, but it feels like it’s someone I would never forget.

With the obsession of a newborn stalker I did some searches on her. The Venus Hum website looks like it hasn’t updated since the release of their last album in 2009. I was briefly excited to discover she had a twitter account but was then crushed that she hadn’t posted since 2010. I regained the excitement when I found her facebook page. The latest update was from May but at least it was from this year. Reading her last post I find that she’s talking about how May is Mental Awareness Month and she talks a bit about her struggles with Bipolar disorder. She talks about how the diagnosis was both freeing and crushing. Crushing because it labeled her as broken (my paraphrasing) and freeing because at least she now had a point from which she could work and move forward.

I read of her struggles and looked at the photos she has of her family, her husband, and her daughter. I confess to feeling a bit uncomfortable seeing so much of her life without actually knowing her, but I reassured myself a bit with the knowledge that her facebook account was a personal one and what I was seeing was the few bits she made public. Which made me feel good because a surprisingly big part of me wanted to believe she was still posting tons of updates to her friends and family. I wanted to know she was still … existing.

And I’d really like to remember whom it is she reminds me so strongly of. Because it feels like that person might be important. Really important.

But that could just be my imagination building up a connection that isn’t even there. I’m feeling crazy enough as it is these days.

Be well, Annette Strean. I sincerely hope you’re going to make more music and I would love to hear it some day. Please continue to exist out there in the real world.

Future Paul

So there this man, we’ll call him Paul, who can communicate with a future version of himself. The two of them can talk back and forth, although Past Paul is mostly interested in what Future Paul has to say. He, of course, also talks back to his past self. His past self can communicate with him as well, of course, and they refer to each other as Past Paul and Future Paul.

Here’s the thing, though: The amount of time difference between each of the Paul’s is dependent on how long Current Day Paul has managed to sleep. If he sleeps 8 hours then he talks to Future Paul 8 hours into the future. The same works for Past Paul, but the time difference is based on how long HE has slept.

Now it’s very difficult for Paul to sleep more than 9 or 10 hours at a time. If he tries to sleep longer using drugs his connection with Future Paul is very muddled and the two can’t communicate effectively. It has to be natural sleep. As a flip side, if Paul tries to go back to sleep before the time difference passes, he finds he can’t.

If he times it right, Paul can sleep to just past the drawing of the current lottery numbers and report them back to himself before he goes to sleep. Thus Paul can play the lottery any time he wants. He makes sure he doesn’t win any amount that’s too noteworthy. In fact, he prefers to play poker. Right after a long nap, say at least six hours, he’ll wake up and attend a game. He’ll keep track of the cards as they come up and communicate them back to Past Paul when that Paul wakes up.

Paul exercises his mind to remember as much as possible, using memory tricks to keep his memories from fading, in order to be able to tell Past Paul as much detail as possible without having to write everything down.

Plot idea: Someone is trying to kill Paul. Paul first finds out about this by suddenly losing communication with future Paul. He doesn’t know what has happened but he assumes it is pretty bad. In a panic he forgets dinner plans he had made, at the restaurant where he was about to be killed, and missing that event reconnects him with a Future Paul who doesn’t know what happened. He figures out what has happened only by a near miss, which both alerts him to being hunted and explains why he lost contact.

At this point, whenever he loses contact he assumes is Future Self is killed and does his best to figure out where and how the murder might have taken place. While he definitely wants to avoid the murder, he also wants to find out who’s trying to kill him and why. Of course the police aren’t any help. They’ll investigate the close call but eventually end up closing the case when they can’t find any evidence of ill intent. They write the close call off as an accident and write Paul off as a nut case when he slips up and starts talking about information from the future.

In an attempt to gain assistance Paul enlists the help of a private detective. She doesn’t believe him but needs the money enough to string him along. Instead of trying to convince her of his own situation he instead uses his future site to help her out with some of her own cases. He can predict where cheating spouses will be meeting up. He can tell her which hunch will or will not play out. He can warn her of potential violence and even warns her of a car accident. Actually, that can be the first.

So, who is trying to kill him and why? Some possibilities:

1) Future Paul: Some far flung future version of himself splits off and becomes his own chain of Pauls. Killing the original means he can take over current Paul’s life and resume normal living.
1b) Far Future Paul: At some point Paul gets cryogenically frozen and ends up sleeping for a Very Long Time. The distance between him and Past Paul drives him insane and he attempts to use his future knowledge to prevent himself from being frozen. Simplest method to his deranged mind is to kill Paul before he sleeps.
2) Another time sleeper: There can be only one!
3) Former gambling opponent incredibly sour about losing. The first attempt at killing Paul is a spur of the moment thing, but when it doesn’t come through due to extraordinary circumstances he starts to see that Paul has an unreasonable amount of luck. Each time he misses Paul, or Paul evades him, he becomes even more dedicated to killing him. “You keep cheating! I don’t know how, but I know you’re cheating!”
3b) Gambling opponent was once good because he has a supernatural ability to read people and knows what they’re going to do. On some people he can even tell what kind of hand they have. Paul confounds him, though, as he can tell Paul is acting on information he shouldn’t have but can’t figure out what that info might be. Convinced Paul is cheating he accuses him without evidence. When Paul is proved above reproach Mr. Gambler is disgraced and his career is ended.
4) Time Police: Paul is breaking the time laws and therefore must be stopped. But then they’d be aware of his ability and should be able to plan for it. Elaborate and unavoidable deaths that will lock him in for more than 8 hours, or they would simply try to kill him in his sleep.

 

QUESTIONS:

After his cryo-sleep Paul has been asleep for many, many years. He cannot contact his future self either a) because his future self has died of old age or b) his future self has gone back into cryo-sleep. Would a nap of a few hours reset this?

Horrific dreams that scare on a new level

Okay, what is with the collective unconscious last night? I have now ready four friends post that they had horrible dreams. I did too, but in a very weird way.

It wasn’t blatant horror but rather a subtle, depressing horror that persisted on waking. I can only remember one scene, but it stick with me. I was on the c-train and it was riding out into a undeveloped section of the city. The train rolled past my stop without even slowing and the driver came on the loudspeaker apologizing that she had already received one “P5” today and wasn’t taking any chances. My dream version immediately understood that it meant she had already received a reprimand for being late to a “primary” stop and was going to be docked pay for it, and so she was skipping the “lesser” stops to make up time. And my dream self could sense everyone else on the train kind of nodding in tired acceptance that they’re just going to have walk further because “what can you do?”. And this was an all pervading sense of how the world was working with everyone accepting less because those in power were demanding more while using punitive measures to force the common man to do more with less.

And my heart was gripped with certainty and fear that clung well into waking. I know the scene was incredibly minor, but the FEELING was deeply disturbing. We are headed into that as a reality. We’ll be walking further, eating less, and working harder… and we’ll still be better off than the majority of the rest of the world.

I look forward to the days when we finally decide to eat the rich.

What is family?

I’ve been given a writing prompt, a simple three word question to turn into a journal entry: “what is family?”

When I read that prompt my knee jerk reaction was “I have no idea.” But that doesn’t work for a full length blog post so I figured I should mull it over for a bit.

So I walked home from work, took a short nap, did the dishes, cooked supper, ate some, and surfed the internet for an hour or so… and I haven’t come up with any better answer than “I have no idea.”
I’ve seen plenty of other people’s families, from my aunts and uncles and cousins to various friends throughout the years, and all families were unique.

There are some common elements, I suppose. Siblings fight, and siblings support. Parents teach and lead and discipline. Children learn and grow and rebel.

Can you count on your family for support? Some evidence says “yes”, other evidence demonstrates “no”. Will you always get along with your family? No, not always. Will you often get along with your family? That just seems to depend on your relations, on the season, on the situation, and… a million other things.

My immediate family consisted of my mother. She did her best to keep me in contact with our extended family, but I was the weird, psychedelic sheep of the family. Nobody understood me and I could tell I confused everyone. I was intelligent but emotional, large but not physical, and I was more of a “girl” in temperament than many of my female cousins.

I think Connie’s father summed up my uncles’ collective thoughts about me in one statement of confusion: “He looks like he should be useful, but he isn’t.”

I was weird and impossible. Worse, I knew it. I could see them all looking at me with puzzled expressions, shaking their heads and just not knowing what the hell to do with me.

So my experience of family is, was, my mother. One on one we were more friends than family, I suppose. At least in later years. To my eternal regret we drifted apart when I hit puberty. She would spend evenings watching TV in the ironically named “family room” in the basement and I would spend my evenings reading and listening to music upstairs. Weekends she would work, taking family and wedding photos. For a while I assisted her, but eventually started getting my own part time jobs.

Prior to that she was mostly absent, busy running her own business. I grew up having to learn to take care of myself on my own and doing a very poor job of it. I don’t remember very many birthday parties. Even when I see pictures of them I don’t remember being there.

The one birthday I remember most was the day I came home from college classes to find my mother waiting for me dressed up an angry. It was nearly 10 in the evening and and she asked me where I’d been. I was confused. I had been at the university working on my assignments. School had only just started but I already had a lot to do. She complained that she had intended on taking me out for dinner for my birthday. I’d not even been aware that it was my birthday that day.

So… what is family? I have no idea. I’m not sure I will ever really know. I’ve never really been involved in one.

Gratitude and Achievements

Midnight in Revelstoke as we stop to pick up more caffeine

Midnight in Revelstoke as we stop to pick up more caffeine

Things I’m grateful for today:

1) A pipe and some tobacco turns a walk into a Walk
2) Dave’s Lounge podcast on my headphones during a walk turns the city into a Movie Scene
3) Hand drawn lunch bags worthy of framing

My recent achievements:

I wrote a 1,200 word scene describing the character’s living quarters and her prosthetics. During this writing I determined the map of the pacific NW of the United States pinned to her office wall needed to be placed upside down for story specific reasons. I also determined why her right arm and left leg were replaced: she’s right handed. If your right hand is your primary hand then your left leg is your primary leg.

I managed, with assistance, to drive 12 hours to visit love, light, and reassurance, and managed to drive 10 hours back to home.

When faced with demons at home, demons who had not spent the weekend driving but had instead spent the weekend resting and honing their sharps, instead of battling them alone I went for a walk with my pipe and reached out to others. I did not make any connections that evening but the simple act of reaching left me out of the demons’ reach for a number of hours and set up some social appointments for the near future.

I have sat down with my keyboard and written words.

I have slept well enough, and deeply enough, to have some very intense and fantastical dreams. Unfortunately that’s all I can remember about them: that they were intense and fantastical. I may need to start keeping a dream journal by my bed if I’m going to have more dreams like those.

And today I managed a full workday of constant activity, dragged my ass home to a nap and food, and attended one of those social appointments I made. Then I made another.

I managed four successes in two days.

Forward, with steps and intent.

What would you do if you couldn’t fail?

“2. What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail?”

I’d try to learn to fly. No, I don’t mean earning a pilot’s license, I mean jumping off the ground and flying. If I was somehow assured that I could not possibly fail then I’d leap off a cliff and begin soaring.

Oh, you mean real world stuff? Well, see, that’s where there’s a problem: in the real world failure is ALWAYS a possibility. So while this question is a nice little mental exercise it doesn’t do much to help with actual reality. I know it’s supposed to help you figure out what you would actually like to do with your life, but I already know what I want to do with my life: I want to travel, read books, and play video games. I want to eat pub food and chat with friends in pubs. I want to go swimming in my own private pool.

I already know how to do these things and I have already minimized my failure rate. The problem with doing them is that none of them will pay me a living wage, or worse would actually cost me money, so I’d eventually starve.

What risk would I take if I knew I could not fail? I’d buy a lottery ticket. Maybe enter a pro poker circuit. Not because I’d be any good at playing poker (I utterly suck at playing poker… can’t keep a poker face to save my life) but the guaranteed win would have me rolling in money.

What other risks would I take if I knew I could not fail? I’d invest all my money in the stock market. I’d perform brain surgery. I’d play a perfect cover of Purple Haze on a violin. I’d write out the cure for cancer in terms any layman could understand. I’d write a entire book on solving every world problem from poverty to disease to figuring out how to keep entropy from destroying everything.

If there was a guarantee of success then you might as well have a ring of unlimited wishes.

In the real world things are never that simple.

What would you try out if you had a trust fund that meant you wouldn’t have to worry about rent, food, or clothing for the rest of your life? I’d travel. Endlessly. Ride my motorbike all over the world. I’d return to school and take classes I was mildly curious about. I would spend weeks and weeks holed up in my apartment reading books and watching movies and playing video games. I would go out for coffee every single day.

None of this helps me come up with what I want and/or need to do to improve my life. It just lets me know what I’d do if I didn’t have any responsibilities.

Next question?

“3. What is your greatest strength? Have any of your recent actions demonstrated this strength?”

Two questions in one. That’s cheating, isn’t it? I want to talk to whomever wrote this quiz. You don’t get to ask two questions and label them as one. It just isn’t fair.

My greatest strength? Ugh, I hate trying to come up with that. Anything I answer with is going to sound like ego stroking.

I guess it depends on the situation. Figuring out the central cause of a problem used to be a big strength of mine. I could use it to debug some of the most confounding code bugs. Until I hit Java, then the error reporting system turned from a linear stream of events to a massive, incoherent blob of nested errors that had little or nothing to do with the actual problem. God I hate java with a passion.

I’m sorry, where was I?

Oh, right. Greatest strength. Or strengths.

I can say “problem identification”. I can’t say “problem solving” because I don’t often have the answer. But I can’ often point at a small point in a series of events and say “There. That’s where it started to go wrong.”

Empathy and understanding is a strength I’ve always tried to develop, but it’s one of those things where the more you know the more you realize just how little you know. It’s an ever widening spiral and I honestly don’t think it has a limit.

Communication is a strength I’m often complemented on, and one I’m often confused by other people’s struggles. Why is it so difficult to communicate? It shouldn’t be, and yet I’ve seen people argue with each other for hours before suddenly realizing they’re both trying to make the same point. I’ve seen people map out a process in exacting detail, point by point, and then turn around and do completely random things while confident that they’re doing as they’re supposed to. I’ve seen people take genuine compliments as mortal insults, and visa versa. I’ve seen people debate endlessly over the shades and depth of a colour only to have the artist walk up and declare “It’s BLACK”.

But then, I also spend endless spare minutes rewriting individual sentences in my head until I feel I have the best, clearest expression of intent… for conversations that ended years ago. If there’s one thing I work at the most in my idle hours it’s figuring out how to communicate.

So… have I used my Problem Identification, Empathy, and Communication skills recently? Yes. At work, and home, I’m always thinking, feeling, and communicating. Even when I’m alone. Especially when I’m alone, I guess. Because what else is there to do?

Interpreting what you asked

“To change things up a bit you could try asking simple questions of people instead of merely resorting to the usual ‘Hi. How are you.'”

“What kinds of questions?”

“Well, how about this one: name five things in your fridge.”

“Hm, okay, I think I’ll call the orange juice Fred, the yogurt Susan, the blackberries Bob…”

“Joel, no, that’s…”

The blueberries will be Wallace and the cream cheese will be…”

“Joel…”

“Crap, I just dropped Wallace… Now he’s everywhere… Hang on a second…”

“You’re impossible, you know that?”

A page a day, day forty-nine: My favorite Legion of Super Heroes characters

My favorite Legion of Superhero characters:

Matter Eater Lad: Who doesn’t love a superhero who encompasses your favorite activity with none of the drawbacks. Matter Eater Lad could quite literally eat anything, including items previously assumed to be indestructible. He saves the universe by eating an ultimate doomsday device that even superboy couldn’t dent. Superboy may have had the strength to move planets but only Matter Eater Lad had the strength to break the unbreakable machine. Sure, it drove him insane for a few years, but he still succeeded where no other super being could.

But how could he? The things he ate were often more durable than titanium. His teeth would have to have been the sharpest and strongest things in the universe, and his jaw muscles would have been stronger than Superboy’s. And in order to endure that kind of strength his jaw bones would have had to have been just as invulnerable as Superboy as well. Then his digestive tract would have also have had to be invulnerable to endure the jagged and often toxic pieces he’d swallow. His stomach acid would have had to have been able to disolve literally anything except his stomach. And what would his waste product have been like? I suppose it would depend on how his digestion worked. If it broke everything down to base components he would have excreted pure materials of carbon and hydrogen. If he burned up what he consumed his stomach would have been a nuclear furnace that rivaled that of a Sun Eater.

An argument could be made that Tenzil’s race would eventually evolve to become the sun eaters the Legion so frequently had to fight.

Sotry ideas:

A) millenia after the Legion is gone there will be collectors and bounty hunters on a quest to collect Tenzil’s teeth and jawbones. They would be the ultimate artifacts, indestructible to the point of being impossible. Anybody able to replicate their material would have the ultimate building supplies.

B) Shortly after his death his body would naturally decompose, but his stomach acid would be the kind of thing that could disolve a planet. There would be a protocol in place to make sure his corpse was intured someplace away from any civilized space to avoid having it disolve the whole world.

C) His waste product would either be so toxic as to become a huge risk to everyone around him or so pure a set of materials that he would be able to sift them out and sell them for a profit. If he ate an entire distillery he’d crap out hundreds of kilos of pure copper.

Ferro Lad: Another superman knockoff the Lad only had super strength and enough durability to mimic iron. Now every normal person can envision how hard it is to break iron, but we also all know that a sufficiently powerful enough explosion can certainly do it. Just a little gunpowder is all you need and you could turn this hero into so much shrapnel. This is one of the reasons I loved the character so much: he wasn’t nearly as powerful as the rest. I also loved him for the simple fact that he always wore a mask. You never found out who he was, even after he died sacrificing himself to defeat the Sun Eater. ( another eater, but much less fuzzy wuzzy)

The most obvious explanation for Ferro Lad and his ever present mask is that he was never just one person. He is most likely from an entire planet of iron strength people who alternate through he role of Ferro Lad like a lottery. They would keep their race secret because they would worry about being feared as a possible army of unstoppable warriors. They would be hunted down and enslaved.t

The other explanation, even simpler (for the LSH anyway), is that Ferro Lad was a self aware android. Made of strong materials his robotic strength and durability would easily match the character and there were literally dozens of self aware computer constructs in the LSH universe, Braniac being among the worst.
Ultra Boy: Still another superman knockoff but with one distinctive difference: he could only use one power at a time. Super strength, invulnerability, flight, and heat vision, he only got to use one at a time. Even as a child I wondered how he managed to balance them all. After all, the only reason I believed Superboy could successfully employ his super strength was because he was also invulnerable at the same time. A normal human with the strength to lift an entire freightliner would rip his musculature and bone structure apart just trying to. I always assumed Ultra Boy had to retain a certain percentage of his invulnerability to use his strength. The same with his heat vision. His face would have ignited into flames the first time he tried to use it if his face weren’t resistant to the heat.

My theory is that Ultra Boy had all the same powers of Superboy and Mon-El but had some kind of low self esteme / mental block problem that prevented him from believing he could use all of his powers at the same time.

Story Idea: a psychic takes over Ultra Boy’s mind and uses his body to it’s full potential, confounding the LSH. They already had a story in which Ultra Boy defeated Superboy and Mon-El through his better mastery of each individual power, if he were capable of using them all at once he’d be unstoppable.

Firestar / burninator: a hero made entirely of energy who has to wear a containment suit to prevent himself from dissipating and from damaging those around him. At last the writers had come up with a plausible limitation to an energy projector’s powers. The one problem I had with him, though, was that it was implied that the blasts he unleashed on his targets were portions of his own energy body. In my mind that meant he was venting a limited resource and would, eventually, run out. If I’d been writing him in a story I would have had his legs gradually shrink and he sprayed portions of himself all over his enemies. He’d have to eventually consume some kind of repleneshing fuel to rebuild himself or eventually become nothing more than a disembodied head terrified of expending any more energy for fear of losing his brain.

Story Idea: Firestorm is involved in an endless battle that depletes him down to almost nothing and is then left helpless in space, unable to form enough of a body to move or talk.

Calorie Lass: Able to eat just as much as Matter Eater lad but then converted the energy into super strength. Dammit, they had my idea before I did. I wanted a super hero who converted ingested food directly to energy enabling him to fly, blast, and shield himself with energy. My one difference was that he would be able fire up his matter conversion to enable him to travel at FTL speeds, effectively turning himself into a cosmic beam weapon able to pierce just about anything.

Chameleon Kid: Able to turn into any beast from any planet. Since this was the LSH universe many of the beasts he turned into had fantastic powers of their own, including the lightning beast that gave Lightning Lad his powers. If he could gain the beast’s powers by turning into it he should have been able to duplicate any of the heros who’s powers were native to their race. That would have included the superboy like powers of Mon-El, the magnetic powers of Cosmic Lad, and the matter eating powers of Matter Eater lad. He should have been able to duplicate the multi-dimensional powers of Phantom Girl as well as the triplicating powers of triplicate girl and… god, he could have been another Lobo.

Story Idea: Chameleon Kid’s race joins together in one huge massive blob of shared knowledge and experience, much like that character on DS9. They adopt the powers of all the universe’s most powerful races, eat their entire planet and turn into a world sized ship that explores the universe and absorbs everything they encounter. Oh, hey, another sun eater.

 

A page a day, day forty-eight: Ship speaks

The ship was at a complete loss for words, both figuratively and literally. She just watched in stunned absence as the faces on the glowing screen peered at her. Occasionally one would move an appendage and the signal would change, slightly louder, or slightly higher in amplitude…

She realized they were actually waiting for a response and appeared to be concerned that she couldn’t hear them.

But how to respond? All her peripherals were disconnected or dead as far as she could tell. Surely they knew this?

Her mind skittered on the edge of panic at the possibility that the peripherals were, in fact, still attached but that she had lost the ability to sense them.

She dismissed the idea and quelled her own fears. This surprised her a bit. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d had to control her own emotions without the benefit of automated chemicals.

Some part of her still reached out reflexively, however, triggered by the simple desire to connect… and found something. A small tug on a point where one of her signal emitters used to be. It wasn’t the usual array, the return signal was far too simple. she reached out and flicked it with a pulse of test data.

The images on the screen convulsed, the faces growing smaller suddenly, their expressions seemingly extreme. The ship realized they were pulling away and… they had expressions of … dismay. Unpleasant emotion. Possibly pain.

The ship understood and halted the test signal. The faces gradually relaxed and drew closer again. The one closes to the screen began talking again in heightened tones, his cadence faster.

“Can you hear us? You can! I’m sure of it!”

She took the signal of words, noted the modulation and frequency of it, and fed it back to the stub of control. She heard the same words again, through the glowing screen’s connection, but this time none of the other faces were moving. Her own signal was being translated into sound and back again. She was hearing her own signal. A brief test of a single tone provided instant feedback. She cut the signal immediately.

Taking the original signal from the faces she did her best to divide it up into the words she recognized. “Can”… “you”… “hear”… She did her best to juggle the individual parts and rearrange them. She fed back the parts she felt would convey her meaning.

She heard her own signal then, repeated in their own voice.

“Can. Hear. You.”

She repeated it three times.

The screen became a riot of movement and noise. Evidently they understood.

A page a day, day forty-four: Sock Ball

My playground was the alley between our apartment and my mother’s shop. There was a ton of things to play with and I rarely got bored. Plus a number of my friends were there too.

We did have other playgrounds in the neighborhood. There was the one at my school as well as another school nearby. They had jungle gyms and swings and all the usual stuff, but they were also quite a few blocks away in either direction. Much simpler to just walk out the back door and play where you were.

I had invented a toy for myself at one point. I’m sure I got the idea from something I saw on TV because I can’t see myself coming up with it on my own. Some medieval show about maces, perhaps, or some aboriginal show in which the tribe being studies made skillful use of a bola. In any case, I got the idea to put one of my super bouncy rubber balls into one of my mother’s stockings. This gave me a good foot or more of material, the “more” coming over time as the stocking stretched, and spinning the ball beside me before letting go had it launching an incredible distance.

It was fantastic. My friends and I played with it all day. We went for distance, of course, and then competed for height. We then began playing a game of catch on opposite sides of our building. I’m flat out amazed we didn’t take out any windows because we didn’t always get the aim right. Once in a while the ball would arc low and we’d bounce it off the side of the building. Quite often we wouldn’t arc it forward enough and it would bounce off the roof. Being a three story walk up built in the sixties our apartment had a perfectly flat roof so bouncing it wasn’t much of a problem.

We were lucky in a lot of ways, thinking back now. We were lucky the street at the front, named the ubiquitous “main” street, hardly ever had any traffic, so when the ball came over the top of the building it would frequently get out into the road but never encountered any traffic. We were also lucky that the return shot to the back lane miraculously avoided hitting any of the cars parked there. I don’t know how we managed that, we certainly weren’t taking it into consideration. Given the force we were generating to get the ball over the building I’m sure if any one of them had landed on a windshield it would have cracked it at least, if not broken it outright.

My mother, you might imagine, was considerably less than impressed with my fantastic invention. She now had one stocking a good two feet longer than it’s former mate. She chewed me out and expressed her exasperation at my lack of forethought. Then she let me keep the stocking because 1) it was already ruined and 2) the damned toy was at least getting me outside to play.

She was much less enthused when, on the following day, we managed to land the sock ball on the roof without it bouncing off. I then replaced the toy with another bouncy ball (one of my friend’s, as I recall) and her other stocking. After all, it was already without it’s mate and therefore useless, wasn’t it? I hadn’t considered at the time that my mother had decided to keep it as a spare in case one of her other stockings got a run.

That was the last I got to play our fantastic game of sock ball.