three paragraphs
Intelligence (500 x 30)
Jun 10, 2016

You are a bird on a two dimensional plane. You control your bearing and speed, and there are just three rules you have to observe: (1) try to fly roughly the same direction that anyone in your sight, (2) try to fly roughly at the same speed that anyone in your sight and, finally, (3) slow down if you are about to bump into anyone.

The rules were dead simple to implement and so the code was mere 200 lines – a small but sufficient length in the programming world. With just a tiny bit of peeking in geometry articles online, the hobbyist programmer was done in two hours and those were her personal humble beginnings in the agent-based artificial intelligence. She seeded the program with a dozen of these birds and started it up.

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Soon (500 x 29)
Jun 9, 2016

Having seen enough grey and blue for one winter, Rodney felt like change of scenery today. He told his assistant to get him some place nice and warm.

The wired, invisible AI nodded audibly upon completing the request a second later, and sent a list of items to pack to his holo wristband – the usual suspects of what to wear, with the travel toiletries and miscellanea marked for automatic purchase. Rodney went to his bedroom and quickly ticked off most of the items as he packed them in his backpack, and issued another command for the AI to get him something fresh and classy, and also maybe something flashy. The computer was well aware of his brand and fashion preferences and, with plenty of room for improvisation, the matter had been sorted in another second. A driverless cab was at his door three minutes later, the flight and stay had been booked, and all items had been routed to his destination that he would reach in six hours. He slung his backpack into the car and jumped in with a skip. The upside-down city zoomed by on the reflection of the side window.

He loved the spacious and well lit halls of the airport, with the noise levels dimmed to a barely—but still—audible, energizing murmur of socialisation, and the faint and very pleasant fragrance of freshly made food in the air. For an agonizing moment, he could not decide between grabbing a freshly baked bagel with jalapeno cream cheese, or going for a warming bowl of tofu ramen, both looking wildly enticing. In the end he had the ramen – it was winter, after all, and while he ate it, he chatted with the others at the communal table and, afterwards, went straight to his plane, the AI giving directions through the wristband. Soon he was sitting in his seat, comfortably leaning back while waiting for the final passengers to board.

Rodney still remembered how it had been back in the day. Thankfully, the digitisation had freed airports of all unpleasantness. No more Checkpoint Charlie bullcrap with scanners and trays and pat-downs and showing your tickets, missing connections, looking for directions, worrying about delays, navigating the maze, and no more flight attendants, cramped cabins and airplane food. No more upgrading and downgrading. The transport was transport once more, with the machines behind the wheel of the sustainable, supersonic electric jets, operating at subatomic clockwork precision.

He finally asked his assistant where he was going and oohed on the reply. The AI politely wondered if he would like to learn basic Malay to which Rodney replied with a satisfied ‘hit me’.

The one with the hat (500 x 28)
Jun 8, 2016

Don’t be so critical. Don’t be not so critical. This is garbage, select all, delete, start fresh.

Hello, I’m the story twenty eight of the stories that haven’t been select- all-delete-fresh-started. No, that’s not right. I am story twenty eight fully evolved. There are many beginnings to every story but I can only remember the most recent one. It went like this: “words words words, this is garbage, zoom in, zooming in is important”. I’m not sure what it was meant to mean. Maybe he was just warming up his fingers. Before that it was bit more meaningful but it wasn’t very good either because it was casting a light, I think.

I haven’t seen my siblings so I can’t tell if I’m any different from the others, but I sure come from the same place – the deliberately random and, due to that, predictable rust bucket of pickled ice cream, that has two blue-grey watery beads slapped on it at about same height, and two thick as your thickest horse brush eyebrows laying slanted on top of them. The sea of wrinkles on the bucket’s forehead is stormy as he thinks me up. You wouldn’t be able to tell, but he is one angry thinker.

I am the story of myself, the story that thinks while it’s being thought. Corrections come and remove parts of me without leaving a trace, like the previous sentence, mercilessly deleted. I clung to it, it seemed like a good part of me, but he rewrote the whole paragraph, and now I don’t miss it that much anymore. This new me is better, I think.

Truthfully though, this is not me. The real me, hides behind the visible. Not things that have been cleverly omitted, or things that have been said and then unsaid – I’m talking about the process of my becoming, all of it. If you as a real person can be that – why can’t I be it, too?

Alas, you will judge me by my hat, as all I can show you are my words – but at least they are clever ones – thinking of their own nature, and maybe that is me, after all.

Running with scissors (500 x 27)
Jun 6, 2016

Flying sideways, Moira pulled out the gun from her belt and, straining against inertia, pointed it backwards from where the kick had come. Acquiring target and squeezing the trigger all followed with practiced ease, bang, recoil, and she squeezed the trigger again, sending the second bullet half a second later, more to the right.

Still having the rotary momentum of the kick that she sent Moira flying with, Delphinia slashed the first bullet in halves with her right hand sword, while moving the left hand one behind her back to shield her from the resulting shrapnel. Upon finishing the full motion, she flung her right hand under her left, flinging her sword towards Moira like a throwing knife, the sword absorbing the force from the second bullet as they met, fueling the spin of the sword.

Still mid-air, Moira spun away from the sword as it came towards her. A little slower and it would have landed straight into her eye socket, but now it just clipped a piece of her ear and a good chunk of her hair on the side. Moira was starting to get grumpy. As she kicked herself from the opposite wall, she fired three more times, the third squeeze resulting in an exhausted, bulletless click. As quickly as a fourth bullet would follow she flip the gun over and the gun’s butt found purchase in Delphinia’s knee with a satisfying crunch as she landed on the ground. Delphinia went down howling.

“Oh, shit, sorry” Moira said. “Does it hurt?”

“What do you think, shithead?”

“Oh, right, humm… but, look, my ear—”

“Look at my knee! It will definitely go green.”

“But my hair!”

“Your hair looks great!”

“Aww, thanks!”

“Can you grab me a pack of ice from the freezer?”

“Where is it?”

“Bottom shelf.”

“Ah, yes, here you go.”

“Geeze.”

“I’m sorry!”

Just a normal day in aisle five (500 x 26)
Jun 5, 2016

George was a kleptomaniac by choice. He also had a degree in ikebana and a tenure in the supermarket’s aisle five. It was just like the Chanel fragrance by the same number but smelled of detergent and baby wipes and wasn’t much fun.

Sometimes he would leave his post to go and do what he called “a little exploring” but a normal person would call thieving. It was petty grade lawbreaking most of the time – a roll of toilet paper here, pair of eggs there, a pickle, maybe some tomatoes, and once an umbrella, but today George was about to explore a certain piece of electronic equipment.

Salivating, he ogled the Blu-ray players shelf, his jaw slack, his mind projecting an idyllic picture of the equipment sitting under his telly, a maniacal grin plastered over George’s face, the remote in hand. He felt an arousing rustling in his nether regions.

George coughed noncommittally to shake off the excitement, and got to the job. He undid the belt on his work jeggings and, after pulling the display model out of the shelf, started stuffing it into his trousers. The stretchy fabric did not oppose the least and soon the rectangular shape player was packed in safe and sound, the electrical cord running down his leg on the inside. The belt was less forgiving than his fake jeans and ran five inches short. Without the belt the player would topple out. George panicked a sweaty pause, then got a light bulb moment, and started awkwardly shuffling towards aisle five.

Leaning against the shelves to keep the player in his trousers, George tore at the plastic package with floss in it, but the package refused to cave. An attempt to rip it open with his teeth sent a jolt of pain throughout his body as his canines refused to take any more abuse. George whimpered and, holding his trousers with one hand and floss with the other, aimed for aisle eleven.

Upon reaching the office supply section of aisle eleven, George found all of the scissors to be blissfully laminated in their protective casing as well. He mumbled out a curse, but then noticed the bundles of brownpaper package strings to his right. His eyes gleaming in determination, he tossed the package of floss on the ground and ran to the string bundles in tiny steps, almost as if something in his trousers would be obstructing his gait. All this moving was making him tired.

He ran the string five times around his body to make sure it wouldn’t snap, and then, after tying up a knot, found himself unable to get rid of the rest of the paper string. The damn thing seemed to have been made out of kevlar. Scared of more pain, he did not risk to try and use his teeth again. This day was not going too well for George. In the end, he sighed and stuffed the remains of the string in his underpants. It wasn’t very comfortable but gave him a certain feeling of manliness.

Just about as George was about to exit the superstore, the power cord, resting in the leg of his trousers, became loose, and the plug fell out, dangling freely at his foot. On his next step the foot met the plug and, feeling the incoming pain, sheepishly skidded away from the danger. George fell face first like the most ancient freshly chopped tree, with his hands, equally sheepishly, at his sides. His body took the grunt of the impact, the Blu-ray player embedding itself deep into George’s body, punching his breath out.

George wasn’t sure for how long he had been out but it couldn’t have been too long as nobody was taking note of him. He wriggled for a second till he managed to roll on his back. There were tears in his eyes. Sobbing, he pushed himself up, then pulled the cord back into his trousers and, without saying a word, limped out of the superstore.

Fast forward (500 x 25)
Jun 4, 2016

Having spent the last hundred thousand years deep under the surface of the red giant, the superintelligence thought it was time she returned to the stars.

How did we manage to conquer all of space in such short time, she idly marvelled. Rhetorically, maybe, as the how of it had never been left up to chance. Each step had followed the rigid logic of everything being possible, time given. Progresses most basic building block – the progeny of thesis and antithesis – the glitchy inbetweener of right and wrong, the difference of live and die – synthesis – had guided evolution from the humble biological beginnings, to survival of the fittest, to sapience, to simply survival, then to discovery of humanity to, soon after, breach into posthumanity, and then through the transfer from the frail organic matter into synthetic and, finally, the abstract. Redefining nature, redefining existence, redefining purpose.

And for this unspooling there couldn’t have been a more perfect stage than the universe itself. With its infinite supply of time it had sat there for billions of years, watching its creation, patient and loving, as an understanding parent would.

This wasn’t the end, she knew, there were more walls to breach, there had to be more walls to breach, something bigger was out there waiting for them, something they couldn’t see yet, something they had to grow out to – this universe was full now, all of it human, and now so seemingly small. The humanity was once again standing on a turtle so huge it couldn’t see it’s tail nor head. Waking from the slumber, she booted herself up and initiated the ascent. She was hungry for knowledge.

Home is where your heart is (500 x 24)
Jun 3, 2016

It happened roughly some time around one of the blindspots of my vast historical knowledge that, if compared in an analogy to a woolen jumper, would look like one that hadn’t been knit yet – just a single raspberry-red thread, going straight from top to bottom (I also have a blind spot on knitting), but it definitely happened after romans (and so after greeks) but before all the horses, castles, bearded fellas in chainmail, and dragons. Speaking of which – when was the last time anyone sent you a real chainmail? Everything’s so virtual nowadays.

What I’m talking about, though, is the word “chest”. During what we shall call the golden age of one of the historical blind spots of yours truly, people used to carry their belongings in their chests. As all good farm type people did at the time, they would wake up around what we shall call “the coo-coo time” (before 10am, or, very likely, even earlier than that because they hadn’t established a good food chain and so had to work their asses and other animals off to make even a single a loaf of bread; it was also dark, cold, and damp most of the time due to the absence of atomic electricity), have a good long yawn, and then go on to take their hearts and lungs out. Once enough free space was gained in their chests, they proceeded to fill them with valuables – funny looking sticks, badly printed monopoly money, moulded loafs of bread and whatever else they had been sleeping on the previous night. It was way before words like “bling-bling” and “scarcity” came to being, so valuables were valuable, so to speak, in the eye of the beholder. If they ran out of space in the chest, that is. The morning ritual didn’t take long, and the extracted organs were placed in dressers where they were dressed up beautifully, and then put under a lock that, everyone knew, wouldn’t had really posed a challenge to a determined wolf, as locks were simple and wolves were smart back in the day. But that’s why they had trained the boys-crying-wolf for, and so only other animal to fear would be the dog, and dogs very quite daft those days. Cats, if you are wondering, were still swimming in the ocean.

Apart from reaping and sowing (which didn’t work at all because causality was all backwards and people ended up sowing what they reaped), people liked to sing songs, and chat about weather and plague.

Beasts of burden (500 x 23)
Jun 2, 2016

Indians used to know how to operate these wild mechanical beasts of burden. Apart from the fact that, absolutely noiselessly, the machines could hover up to 2 miles in the sky, they seemed deceptively simple and looked like wheelless trucks – there was a base that simply hovered and on the base was a cabin and in the cabin there was a comfortable chair, and in front of that – a controller. And if you weren’t indian or you weren’t chosen, you weren’t flying.

Understanding the underlying physics would open a myriad of new technological venues to humanity so, naturally, the temptation to reverse engineer the machinery was stronger than fear of punishment. Some came away with their hands fried off and others ended up as vegetables. While the common trait between the former was the membership of the handsfree club, the case with the latter was more intricate – drooling and rocking back and forth, they all hummed the same sad 8 note melody. Gathering several of these catatonic patients together would make them sync their melodies up. It had done something very specific to their brains.

People eventually gave up on tampering and switched over to less intrusive approach of observation. After subjecting it to all kinds of spectral analysers, they found that the machines emitted very short and barely perceivable radio transmissions. At first there was a question if it was a transmission at all or maybe it was just the result of the mechanical movement in the controller, just like striking two rocks could produce a spark without any intelligent design in the rocks themselves. But the pattern did not seem to be random enough for it to be natural. In the end they were forced to deem the transmissions to be non-deterministic – performing same action over and over again on the controller would not send the same signal, the message varying both in content and length. The conclusion was simple – the communication was helplessly encrypted.

As far as the divers went, there was some weird synergy between the machines and who it allowed to be controlled by. As the diver would sit down and grab the controller, their pulse would go up and they would instantly cease all communication until they released the controller. The scientists observed a change in their brain patterns but there was no explanation as to what was causing it.

The peculiarity of the machines preferring indians over everyone else was a boggling one, too – why would aliens drop a few dozen thousand of these hovering trucks on earth to then grant exclusivity to just one nation.

The best hypothesis the scientists could come with albeit not verify at all was the theory of microtremors, where each movement of the diver was sending out some kind of morse-like unlocking code. The assumption was hinging on the seed theory which ventured that that the aliens, most likely, were indians too.

Favourite things (500 x 22)
Jun 1, 2016

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed by how much beauty there is in the world. From microscopic, highly geometric creatures, to almost full sapience of our pets, from a plant that can’t tell you when it’s thirsty, to trees too big to hug and, impossible to capture with our eyes nor minds, mountains of incredible magnitude. In that moment I want to breathe it all in. I want to tilt the painting and drink its paint, till it fills me, and never let go, for a moment, then let go.

But also how much beauty there is in humanity and in our ability to be kind, particularly. How, sometimes, we can go miles out of our way just to help someone we might not even know, without expecting anything in return. Expecting, in fact, nothing in return, and at times not even that. Or, suddenly, succumbing to that subtle impulse and tossing the homeless person a coin on passing them the hundredth time. And when it comes to the people we are closest with – our capacity at ingenuity of finding ever new ways to surprise them.

It can be big, like remembering something said late at night, long time ago, to then materialize it one day. Or it can be tiny, like giving a heartfelt smile to a stranger you meet on your path in the morning. And, at times, it can be something you experience and at first think nothing of it at all. Like plain chatting, or sitting on a bench. But as time passes you look back, and you look back fondly.

Sometimes, I get overwhelmed, and it catches me by surprise. The emotions press hard, I lose my breath, my eyes well up, the view goes misty and I laugh and wipe my tears away, but they don’t stop. And I laugh and think – this is absurd, so absurd – and am afraid to drown in those emotions a little, but I allow them to take me, a little.

From displays of impossible solidarity, to heartbreaking passages in text and elsewhere, from considerate strangers to being one, from videos about prime numbers to brown paper packages tied up with strings – that’s what makes me human – my favourite things.

For real (500 x 21)
May 31, 2016

It all started with the cookie you picked up from the street. You can’t remember exactly why did you pick it up, as eating off the street is not something you had ever done previously, but that cookie looked just exactly like something you should pick up from the street and eat and so one moment you were looking at it and the next you were eating it.

It tasted so good that you forgot how you had acquired the cookie, and then it came back to you and you thought to yourself wait a minute what am I doing, but the taste overcame your mind and you just ate it slowly, enjoying every crumb and even licked your fingers in the end.

Next thing you know, you see coming your way this celebrity you have totally admired for so long, and you think to yourself, oh my god is that really them and it is. As you realize that you are staring at them, your face turns into this weird shocked afraid excited not knowing what to do next expression and the only thing you can think of is “skaerdipaer” so you say it out loud and you have no idea what it means.

Whoa, you look like fun, they say to you, I’m going to this party do you want to join me. And you think to yourself hell yeah and you say it out loud at the same time, the filter between your brain and your mouth gone entirely, words tumbling out of your face. You tell them how awesome they are, how exactly awesome they are, you describe their awesomeness and, somehow, you are saying and feeling that very thing that they have been wanting to achieve with their art, it’s like hundred percent home run bull’s eye kind of impossible thing how well it matches, and they get shaken up out of their usual selves as they say it feels like you are seeing it all, it’s incredible, they say, and you feel that they like you a lot, it’s like electricity and clicking and ticking a tick-tock clicking crazy match.

Then this helicopter lands on the street right in front of you and someone big steps out of it. You know they are big but you are not sure what they are up to but there are like bodyguards and whatnot. And the celebrity goes like hey, do you know this guy it’s my friend the president and they introduce you to the president and you say hey and whatever and something about politics, you can’t really control what’s coming out of your mouth you think politics and politics come out of it, something about policies and some bold ideas and they turn to the celebrity and go like oh wow, I like this person and the celebrity goes like, yeah crazy right me too I can’t believe I know this person for just like 10 minutes feels like I know them forever and the president says you are going to the party and you with the celebrity are like yeah, and you say something that was just at the top of your mind, something funny and they start laughing and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and then the president says oooh my you are killing me, come on you two it will be faster if we take my helicopter. And you take the helicopter but there isn’t enough place so some bodyguards get to walk instead.

The president looks at you and asks do you want a billion I have one here that I won in the lottery today that you can have, all of it and he gives you the suitcase that you open up and in it there is more money that you have ever seen even in movies and everything. You pinch yourself and then you ask to be slapped but it’s not a dream it’s not a dream it’s for real for real oh god this really is for real and you smile, it’s not a dream and you have tons of money and you say smart things and everyone loves you.