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"Hello," he said to me, taking a seat next to me at the bar where I was busy drowning my sorrows, "My name is Jason d'Aubergine, and I have a story to tell you, Charles."

I was far gone enough that I didn't question him, his name, his knowledge of mine, or, most distinctly, his fuzzy blue hair.

"Okay," I responded. "Hit me."

And then, brother, let me tell you, he did.

In distant HarSalot, where the men and women all have exquisite geometric patterns on their faces, those searching for mates will only accept others with the exact same pattern as themselves. They spend decades single and despondent until their vision declines to such a point where they can no longer see well enough to judge, and only then pair up, and find that they can only enjoy marriage in old age.

Somewhere between 'in' and 'distant', a light snapped on in my head, and the drunkenness packed its bags and left in a hurry, the door slamming it on the way out. By 'HarSalot', I was well enough aware to be keenly following everything he was saying, my ears curving, I swear, to catch the sound waves as they were formed.

And then he was done, and my mind was trying to figure out why my ears  weren't picking up sounds anymore, and it took my eyes a few seconds to realize that his lips were no longer moving. And that he was looking at me with a half-smile on his face, and the expression of someone who had seen my reaction a billion times.

I suppose I came about two or three minutes later, by the clock; my first word was, "What—"

He cut me off. I suppose he had done this enough that he didn't really want to give anyone a chance to recover, so it was just a, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Just...go with the story, okay?" and then he left. Just like that.

I nodded dumbly into the air. Really, now, for all the people that said I should've shook him by the collar and asked him what the meaning of life was — well, I'd like to see what they'd do when they hear the Word of Truth from a story that turns you stone cold sober after drinking enough to tranquilize an elephant.

Well, maybe not that much;  I'm a lightweight. But still.

-
 
Four weeks later, I had gotten completely over Vicky, broken up with Margaret, had a fling with Phédre, and was in that same bar again. Drinking, of course.

Clearly, my memory had failed me, or I would've picked a different bar. As it was, though, Mister Blue-Hair walked up again, and patted me on the shoulder, and said, "Charles."

At which point I responded with, "Oh, God, no, I want to stay—"

In the elder days a crow fell in love with a peacock, but her plumage was too dark and she fed on the dead and dying, and was not admitted. so this crow followed after the flock and collected their feathers, and so disguised herself as one of them. But when she tried to fly the rainbow feathers fell off, so although she was with her lover she could never spread her wings.

And again, the light, knowledge, the acceptance. All it was missing was Jesus, unless he had Fuzzy Blue Hair, and the Shout and the Trump and the Four Horsemen.

On second thought, I wouldn't mind skipping the Horsemen.

Anyway, this time, I came out of it faster. My ma always told me that I was a slow person but a fast learner, and I proved it by reacting much quicker the second time — I was out and had a fist in the air launching towards his face before a full thirty seconds had gone by.

I think he dodged. Or maybe I was rusty; the last fight I won was in third grade. Against Marcia, now that I—

I woke up on the floor with the bartender snapping at my face with a wet towel and an uncomfortable tenderness on my cheek. And then, as I got up, I noted the bruise on my right side, the crick in my shoulder, and the strange feeling that someone had tried to choke me.

On the upside, he was sitting there: we had our first conversation.

It went something like this:

I glared at him.

He looked back at me, eyebrows raised.

I glared at him some more.

"Okay, okay," he said. "I'm sorry, I've had some training, and I wasn't sure how you'd react. Or how, um, fast you'd go down. Might have gone a slight bit overboard."

I nodded, and reached out for my strawberry daiquiri.

"Who are you?" I asked.

"Erm," he said. "Jason D'Aubergine, of the fami—"

"No, no, no," I gestured in the air, miming lights and horns and understanding and sobriety. You know, with my fingers going really fast.

"Who are you?"

"Oh," he said. "I'm a raconteur."

"A...rah-counter? I don't get it."

At this point, he may have looked at me like I had three heads.

"I tell stories," he said, really, really slowly, miming opening a book and flipping through the pages. "To people that need them. I have a gift for foresight, and I know that you're about to—"

And then She came on TV, and I don't think I've ever loved anyone that bad.

Oh, baby. I had a plane ticket to L.A. in an hour.

-
 
So, six weeks after that— yeah, I like that bar, okay?

Anyway, I was pondering on how Fuzzy Blue might have been right, and was sort of getting over Lisa Kudrow (because, no, I wasn't an actor, unfortunately. I had been this close, really.) And Danielle wasn't quite right, and neither was Jasmin, and Michelle, definitely not. Oh god no that was a bad choice.

And he taps me on the shoulder and I did not deck him in the face.

I told you I learned fast.

Instead, I turned around, finished my Miami Vice, and said to him, "Jason, of the Eggplants! That must have been where you got your hair color from!" (See, I looked up Aubergine. It means eggplant.)

He scowled.

Okay, so, on second thought, I recognized that I shouldn't irritate someone that knows the future. My future, to be precise. So I tried again, you see.

"Sorry! Sorry. I just...you know, I was wondering if you had anything, in terms of, well," and I looked up, mimed a sunrise, and then looked expectantly back at him.

Nothing.

"I mean, look, it's just, you caught me at some bad times, and I appreciate the warnings, but you know, I'm just. Something right now would be nice." I pointed at the six Miami Vices. "I've drank six of them already, you know. Well, five and a half... Still, it's a record; I'm drunk! You should sober me up!"

Nothing.

"Look, I'm just, I'm really sorry for making fun of your weird blue hair and name, okay? Just...I'll do anything, anything at all."

Nothing.

Well. It was worth a try, I thought. I slumped in my chair, sighing, and reached for the last drink (with twisty straw) when I felt the tingling. The light. The voice.

There was once a person in a faraway land who was told that love was a butterfly, the prettiest one of all. And so he tried to catch it in a butterfly net, going out day after day, swooping through clouds of butterflies in the forest, catching many but never finding love. Day after day he does this, until one day, he's on the verge of giving up, feeling betrayed. On that day, he takes all of his nets and catches as many as possible, and keeps catching more and more and more.

And what happens is that he catches so many actual butterflies that he gets lifted away, and while he's floating, he sees a woman — someone who is also being carried away by butterflies, and lo and behold, in the end, he found someone who was just like him..

And then I came out of it, and saw Susan at the bar, drinking her fourth Pina Colada.
talonkarrde: (Default)
Good day to you, Misters C______ and  A_________.

My name's Hob, and I'll be leading you on this tour today. If you have any questions, please go ahead and interrupt me, and I hope you find this visit worthwhile in your deliberations as to whether or not to buy the facility. If you'll follow me, we'll get started right now, as I'm sure you don't have time to waste.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that any events which come to pass will be in want of someone to correct them." No doubt you saw the plaque on the lawn on your trip in. It's an impressive piece of architecture but all it really tells you, if you don't mind my honesty, is that the 'eccentric' founder of our company had a real hard-on for Jane Austen. Don't get me wrong — I like her as much as anyone else, but our founder, well, he enjoyed taking regular visits back to Bath around 1800, if you know what I mean. I'm afraid the investigation is still pending, so I can't comment on it officially, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a Darcy in Austen's life right now, and not just on paper.

But I digress. Keep coming this way and we'll come up to the travel chamber soon. If you look past the poor reference, though, the plaque is a decent summary of what we do. I mean, everyone wants to fix something in the past, from the small things like having the South win the Civil War to bigger things like making sure Tesla gets all the credit for electricity... or making it so that Caligula ruled Rome for twenty more years. Hell, if you want a party, you should see what Rome is like under the man around 45 AD. Straight up party of the millennia, honest — just try not to get grossed out by the, uh, incest and stuff. He was a weird guy, for sure.

Anyway, as you pass through this doorway you'll notice the travel cubes — the one on the left is called Elizabeth and the one on the right is called Mr. Darcy — yes, he specified that the 'Mister' would always be included. Like I said... but interestingly, one of them is more temperamental than the other, and it seems they were named right.

Oh, yeah, 'big' and 'small' are really relative terms. We don't handle personal things like killing off grandfathers or anything like that, it's not really worthwhile. But for the more global things, the scientists have figured out approximately how much it would affect history and the accountants have it all priced out. Hell, they've quoted me just under eight figures for stopping civilization from arising in the future place, but—

No, no, of course I'm kidding, Mister C______. No one's ever done any analysis — or pricing — on something like that. And we'd have to go back earlier than we ever have. Anyway — you have a question, Mister A_________?

Ah, yes, we get this question a lot. Now, I'm not an expert on the science behind causality and whatnot, but there are branching universes and such, and apparently this facility exists in all the timelines that exist that you return to. So you can make any changes and see the repercussions in a timeline where you went. It's all a bit circular, as these things go, with the snake eating itself across a few thousand universes or so.

Anyway, if you'll come this way, I'll take you to our command center and tell you a bit about our past history — I'm sure you're interested in that. Do you have any other questions at this time?

Ah — well, our success rate is, and I'll be frank, the reason that we're trying to find a new investor right now. The problem is that, although there's never any difficulty in coming back and viewing the repercussions...well, as I'm sure you know, it's kind of hard to actually effect what you want to. Ripples in time, quantum disturbances, blahblahblah. But there's more, one that the pulps don't usually cover.

See, it's really effin' hard to actually... talk to these people. Sure, if you go back less than a hundred years, not a big deal, you can almost do it without training, even. As long as you don't reference current music, you can probably pass by without them looking at you like you're a three headed alien, or worse, someone with no taste.

But then you start going back further, and even with training, with culture integration, with the best tech we got to make translation easier, you still hit a stone wall. The problem is that, well, we don't share too much in common with the people that came two centuries before us, and we share even less with people as we go back further. The scientists say that our genes are the same, that we could go back and knock up any ol' broad on the streets, but we don't share any real culture in common, you see?

If you never talk, then it's not as big of a problem. But open your mouth, and it doesn't take more than a few minutes for the locals to know there's something mighty strange about you. We think about intergalatic travel, about the approaching Singularity, about trying out various new gene therapies and whatnot. People in the 1900s? They're trying to figure out how to feed themselves, how to make more money than the next guy — hell, they still have war with each other, and don't know that there's a whole universe out here that everyone can have their own special corner of.

Beginning to see what I mean?

I made a joke about Caligula earlier — I was there, in 43 AD, with Caligula still alive. And I...I wanted to see if I could change things a bit, teach them about what we have here. Not like, a huge leap, not something that would bump them in levels of civilization, but just a bit of political theory, a bit of engineering.

You know what I got? Absolutely nothing. Blank stares, like the ones that I would see in my university maths class. Just a complete lack of understanding. Now I did the whole deal, I laid the groundwork, gathered up materials, gave them everything they would discover in the next hundred years.

Nada. So I said, well, maybe Rome isn't the best era, let's jump forward to the 1600s, England. Talked to Shakespeare about writing, about the future of literature and plays and expression and—

Yes, Mister C______, another stone wall. Just a complete failure in explaining these concepts that they themselves will discover in ten, twenty, at most fifty years. No one's been able to figure it out; all the scientists say is that they need  more information. They always need more information.

For now though, all that political stuff is out. It's hard enough to talk to people without getting locked up for being a spy or a freak or a witch, and we may never be able to get over that hump. We're like the Old Ones of Mars to them, or perhaps varelse — communication on a meaningful level may never be possible.

...

Ah, yes, we do have the ability to knock 'em. I mean, there have been some clients that requested that we do such things, and, well. It's hard to talk to them, but we can shoot 'em up fine. Again, though, I would caution you on the dangers, because if you...

Well, yes, we could prolly go back that far in time, but it's never been tested, and so we don't have the data on that. No, we've never done anything substantial that far back, because it starts to affect humanity on such a major level that we don't know if we'd even be here.

...of course it's safe, Mister C______. if you insist on a demonstration we could do that.

4800 BC, you said? Tommy! Dial us in!

Open Topic

Jan. 16th, 2010 06:59 pm
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So, lately, I've been picking up girls from Craigslist.

Last Friday, I was scanning the site carefully, looking for my next, ah, friend. It's not a perfect method, of course, because even the most interesting postings have terribly boring, ditzy people behind them, and that's not even mentioning the fake pictures and photoshopped images. After we exchange hellos and a brief conversation to establish I'm not an axe-murderer, the next thing is usually, 'So, want to meet up sometime?', which makes for an almost non-existent screening process. Granted, it's only natural, as they're essentially very eager to sell something and I'm acting as someone pretty eager to buy it.

To be honest, I am indeed buying something; it just isn't quite what they're selling. I'm not really in it just to get my rocks off, but rather to figure out why so many people are gambling to meet someone that's probably not going to be that good in the sack anyway. I'm more in it to figure these people out than sleep with them... though sometimes, there is chemistry. Especially with the pretty ones.

After I sent the response to Sarah that night, I wondered how many other guys had sent her a response as well, and then I wondered how many times she had done this before. I always view the ones that say 'first time poster' a bit incredulously... especially after I see it multiple weeks in a row with only slight differences in content. More broadly, I wonder what they seek to gain by announcing their lack of understanding the rules. Does a girl ever walk into a bar and say, "I've never been picked up before, how does this work?"

Saturday, as I was buttoning on my best shirt and slipping on my slacks, my conscience lashed at me again, telling me I was wrong for inevitably dashing expectations with most women at the end of the night. I never really intend on sleeping with them and usually don't, for a variety of reasons. I mean, some times you just don't hit it off, and you don't want to get into a situation where you can't, well perform, right? When they figure it out, you can see it in their faces. A bit of regret, a touch of anger, as I expect you would be if a car salesman promised you a new BMW and it was actually a broken down Kia. But it's still a car that they're being given, it's just not quite what they expected.

They're all looking for something — not love, of course, but most of them want to feel desired for a night, want a chance to emulate what their taken friends have. The most interesting ones, though, need someone to talk to, someone to open their hearts and share their grief and doubt and shame with. At first, I ironically congratulated myself for putting my degree to good use by playing a psychologist — instead of treating patients on a couch, I was talking about their exes. Granted, it was in bed, sometimes, but the theory was the same — I was helping them get over their insecurities and traumas!

After thinking about it a bit, though, I figure it's a bit sad that these girls had no one to offer them a shoulder or an ear, and they were so lonely they post on Craigslist to find someone to talk to. For them, the W4M section isn't about getting physical needs taken care of or being looked at as attractive for once, it's about finding someone who would be their friend. Well, I could be that friend, and if they really wanted to sleep with me and were cute...well, why not, right?

Sarah sounded like one of those people - she was 'fun loving, interested in meeting new people, and just got out of a bad relationship'. She liked reading, nature, and Hugh Grant; honestly, it sounded like she was going to show up and cry all over my arm as we started talking about what was going on in her life. But a couple hours of that, and then maybe we would connect, and then brighten each others' days. I've found that it always helps to be optimistic.

Well, she showed up in a slinky red dress, backless, and I thought I had hit jackpot. We hit it off, and were really connecting, beautifully. We had both been skydiving, we loved to ski, and we shared an affection for the old movies — Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, I was amazed she had seen them all. In fact, we had pretty much everything in common, and I thought that, well, maybe I would stick around the next morning, see if we could see each other more regularly.

After dinner, she suggested we come back to my place, and of course I agreed. After all, we had connected so beautifully, and it was the first girl that made the date fun, instead of something that was more work than anything else. I'm not going to talk about the sex, really, except to say that it was simply and absolutely the best night of my life, and I remember patting myself on the back for making her moan like that. We went to sleep late, and I think I even whispered "I love you," to her as I drifted off.


And then I woke up in the morning, and she wasn't there.

Neither was my cell phone.

Or my laptop.



//

A/N: I'm not sure I have the voice down properly, but I wanted to try something different. A story about a guy who's not that nice, but tries to convince himself that he is - I'm sure you know a lot of people like this. Well, I thought, two could play at that game, right?

Loosely, loosely based on an experience a friend had, and an attempt at a bit of humor.

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