Chapter Forty-One Uncertainty
“I feel a bit lightheaded—maybe you should drive…”
Wynne tilts her head in confusion while I snort with laughter—this as we stare at the scene overhead.
It is late—or early; I’m not sure which. We are in the merging arena, reclined on unactivated cast chairs, alone, high on some sort of psilocybin derivative that Wynne concocted for our recreational, entertainment, and mental health purposes—and the galaxy hovers high above us like an unending sky.
“Pop-culture reference. For a genius, you are woefully undereducated in certain areas.”
“Are not all geniuses thus?” She says tilting her head up, stretching towards the depths, eyes closed, voice soft. “We do not have the capacity to save all data in our brains. We would topple over from the weight of it, and it would not be…aesthetically pleasing. This is one of the many reasons why we have created an atomized neural networked intelligence that—”
“Yes,” I interject, realizing a little too late how impertinent my interruption was—but then carried on without recognition or comment. “And that doesn’t sound ominous and apocalyptic at all,” I add sarcastically, then giggle picturing a big headed Wynne attempting to walk then topple over drunkenly.
“What?” Wynne asks, as a hint of uncertainty slides past her usually unwavering facade. The drug unleashed a more vulnerable side and let slip her other humanizing qualities that I could easily relate. I am trying to deduce if that is her issue or mine—most likely mine.
I share the image of Wynne’s big-headed tumble. Her laugh, unexpectedly and surprisingly, is a low throaty purr, which makes me laugh harder. After a few, we return to the comfortable flat silence until I continue the conversation we began earlier before the drug took hold.
“Y’all did what humans ought do when looking for freedom and failing to find none where currently located—you left. I’ve done it many times over the course of my life—or tried to, if and when I could. I totally get it. And you’ve built a grand civilization here.” I follow with a long pause before I say what is most obvious to me and oblivious to them—or not. “You seem to have forgotten some things though,” I acknowledge before the self-medicated courage fails me.
I sigh. “Can I be honest without censure? Or being construed as…disrespectful—or worse?”
“You have not been?” This asked sincerely—sincerely sarcastic, and I laugh.
“It’s like a bland Wakanda. Like your nano bugs were infected—no, colonized is a far more apt word—with malware on your way here. It leaked into your pods like acid from one of Ripley’s aliens. Your ancestors—our ancestors? Are rolling in their graves. Your food is boring, you have no art and music, you have a border … on everything. You aren’t neighborly, at all, and have cookouts or do diplomacy, at all, and O-M-G, y’all are full-on eugenicists. There are no fat people here.” I sit up in the chair turning towards her. “The happiest, most secure and healthy people I’ve ever known were fat.” I roll my eyes. “I’ve met small people with the courage and resolve of the largest, most ferocious beasts, yet, there is no one under…what?—five foot nine here besides me? And no one has zits—or flaws,” I tell her. “Now, mind you, I don’t object to the no zits and no menopause and no periods and the perfect eyesight and the gestational pods—” I sit back and the quiet forms around us heavy in the air. “—but the most disturbing thing”—I add softly—“is that you’ve given up on the rest of the world.” Realizing my blunder: “On the rest of the galaxy—on people.” I take another long, deep sigh. “It’s depressing.”
Wynne says nothing.
“You’ve become isolated and limited in a way that hinder any gains. Maybe constrains is a better word than hinder. Whatever. My point is that y’all skipped some code and separated yourself from your multiethnic roots and culture, and became some culturally flat, colonized version of a civilization—“ I stop and look at Wynne hoping the translation interpreted and translated my words and the explanation and nuance of it correctly. Perhaps this is the bigger lesson lost in translation overall? “Do you understand any of what I’m telling you?”
I lay back and start to panic. Q had been ominously silent throughout my entire speech and that didn’t bode well for me. “No, I’m finished. Apologies. When I get high, I run my mouth a bit too much. My directness tends to get me in trouble, lots. Sorry,” I mumble, closing my eyes with an occasional side-eye peek, hoping that little speech wouldn’t get me a one-way ticket to the biomatter recycler.
“Your skepticism is reasonable. Comfort in the face of uncertainty is a learned behavior. You appear to have managed it adequately.”
I laugh. “It should be—I traveled that path often enough and that was before the hellmouth opened and the apocalypse was nigh. In my time, of course.”
I feel her look and the question, but the silence remains. I surmise that she has analyzed that statement and deemed it unworthy of further comment.
“When a group feels threatened, they become more insular and retreat into tribalism. This behavior precipitates a number of tribalism instincts. They become more defensive and punitive. A common enemy bonds them together and when that enemy encroaches, they look outward instead of inward. Leaders within the group set examples of what behavior is acceptable. In most instances, when that behavior becomes unethical and violent, the group tends to accept and follow. The consequences become destructive, often ruinous to all involved. You were witnessing the historical atrophy and collapse of…”
“Yes”—I interject—”I’m aware. Please don’t remind me. Fifteen hundred years later and it’s still depressing as fuck.” I glance at her hesitating to approach the subject, deciding not to, allowing her to continue her story.
“This happens in any era,” she says quietly.
I infer what she’s not saying.
© 2022 Pamela Gay Mullins