Gift of the Gruldak, Chapter 17: Relationships in Retrospect
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- Gift of the Gruldak, Introduction, Linked Table of Contents, and First Chapter
Do you like tiny robots, bizarre aliens, monsters, misfits, and friendly apartment buildings in love? Why not read the first installment of Gruldak? This serialized science fiction novel is free to read online. Find the beginning here.
Catch up with Kevin in his life and death struggle against the status quo and humanity's apathy regarding frequent, unnecessary death and disintegration in Chapter 17, Relationships in Retrospect.
Chapter Seventeen, Relationships in Retrospect
I had figured I’d probably fall right to sleep after the act, but the human mind is never so simple. Amanda and I made love, but it wasn’t that simple, either.
I hadn’t been intimate with anyone since entering Bob’s body. Amanda was a small woman; from my viewpoint in Bob’s much bigger body, she was tiny. She held me gently, stroking my hair and gently murmuring until my hands stopped trembling and other parts of my body started doing more interesting things.
My lips pressed softly to hers and there was an ache in that kiss, like a burning ball of blinding loss that took up residence in my groin. It hurt so deliciously, the taste of her mortality, the knowledge that there was only right now. She licked the mingled slickness, salt, and warmth of my lips with a tongue light as eyelashes. A line of nerves woke where her almost unfelt touch reminded them they were alive.
Amanda laughed well and generously, a throaty chuckle that made her seem thirty years younger and very sexy.
Our pillow talk lasted for a couple of hours before turning into another tangling of lips and limbs far more slow and hedonistic than the first. The need to just feel and be in the moment with sensation, to thumb our noses at death, turned into something more comfortable and comforting. It ended with a brief feeling of oneness with the universe and I held her to me. Even her hair tickling in my nostrils was comforting. I felt connected to the world again. Shortly after our lovemaking turned back into cuddling and confiding, I fell asleep.
We’d left the meeting at around four o’clock. I think I fell asleep around ten o’clock, curled around Amanda across the two suspended beds.
I didn’t even hear the boom that must have roused me, but I was awake a second later when grains of plaster started sprinkling down on my face. In almost the same instant, deep, geological sounding groans filled the small room and vibrated through my chest. A split-second after they quivered through my buttocks, heels, and lower back from the other side the noise had morphed into a single metallic sounding groan before my head even lifted off my pillow.
There were tremendous cracks I could feel in my teeth just before my ears popped. Clutching at Amanda awkwardly, I tried to pull us both off the beds and under them. I succeeded in getting twisted up in a smooth, shiny blanket I hadn’t noticed before. When the tumbling world came to a vibrating, grumbling stop, I was still on the bed but Amanda was not.
It took me a moment of pale green lights rolling through a field of pure black, seemingly at random, before I started hearing a noise I felt I should be listening to, a voice. Falling plastic sounds replayed and images of Amanda’s face blotted out everything else. She looked so sad, so vulnerable in the dim and verdant lighting, like a dryad watching her tree cut down.
I wondered what we were doing beside a swimming pool with the rippling flashes of light on the ceiling and what that song was that was playing. I tried to say, “Can somebody turn the music down?” but I have no idea if I actually did. Something really hurt but it grew bigger and bigger until it exploded and there was nothing more except...
For a nanosecond that lasted an eternity as if suspended in a singularity, I hung in a finite but boundless welcoming blackness. I was a spark so small no living sentience could imagine it without cybernetic aid on a timeless dance through all of spacetime.
I was every thing but only one part of it. I lived my life in a tesseracting ouroborus with not just beginning and end hooked together in the fourth dimension but all parts touching all other parts in a sizeless dot. I needed to travel no distance to be any one place instead of another except where true vacuum prevailed like holes in a sponge. I created a bulge in spacetime behind me breaching any of those distances of vacuum without moving an inch from where I started. I was giant lightning streaking the skies before raining as diamonds to the surface of Jupiter. I danced a stately waltz inside a single microbe a billion billion times and all at once.
All of spacetime touched in the fourth dimension.
I woke in utter confusion, my hands seeming far too close to my body which didn’t seem to fit quite right. Guido was saying something to me but I have no idea what it was. Cap sat on a floor extrusion I didn’t recognize beside the bed, his hand on my forehead.
I was incoherent for an unknown but relatively short period of time and then something Guido said penetrated my comfortable shock.
“I didn’t know that this would happen!”
“I know, dear. He seems to be getting better. See, his eyes are focusing on something every few seconds now and he’s turning his head toward sounds,” said Cap.
“I’m so sorry, Cap.”
“There was no way to know something like this would happen. But I know what it feels like to blame yourself.”
“But my actions have hurt Kevin.”
“We all asked you to give him the packet,” Cap said, “even he did.”
I started to piece things together right about then. Subjectively speaking, I’d just died, but I wasn’t in the same body that had died. Cap had to be discussing the qualia package from my mental double on earth.
But he had died, hadn’t he? I thought--- He thought that he had no data bots on board.
Having his memories and feeling his feelings somehow felt like an invasion of privacy. We were similar creatures budded from the same parent but we were separate creatures from the moment we split off. We were, in a way, like sentient starfishes. The Gruldak sometimes produce identical offspring on purpose so the idea of genetically identical individuals doesn't bother them, nor do shared memories because all Gruldak speak mind to mind; any two who've ever touched have shared some memories.
“I think I’ll be OK,” I said, sounding small and creaky. My voice sounded all wrong in my own ears.
“Welcome back, kiddo,” Cap said.
“I... He... I know where they are at. But it might be too late.”
“I’m sorry, Kev, it is.”
“I know I’m, uh, he is dead but the people with him might not be.”
“The explosions were too intense; nothing inside that building could have survived.”
“We, they were in an old shelter, quite a ways below ground.”
“Two Butlers managed to turn their reactors into massive bombs.”
“Cap, it was an actual bomb shelter, re-purposed as a panic room and at least thirty feet below ground level.”
“Would make a difference?” Guido asked.
“You know, it might,” Cap replied.
Cap got to work composing a packet for some writing robots using a stylus to write on Guido’s primary communication organ in the dining room. Meanwhile, Guido put a small portion of her mind to composing a message to go in the next Gruldak communiqué.
The rest of her was talking to me.
I was busily trying to make sense of two overlapping sets of memories. I did and did not make love to a woman. I did and did not die. I both did and did not wake up back inside Guido and I did and did not do it twice.
"The Gruldak share memories directly all the time; how do they deal with this?" I asked.
"They don't. I don't think memory transfer is ever like this for them. It wasn't even like this for me when I directed your brain matter into patterns."
"How is it with them, anyway?"
"The Gruldak communicate with discrete memory packets because they can separate them out. It's how the Gruldak speak with me. I don't get whole personalities although I remember what they share with me as if it happened to me. They share the emotional flavor of their messages if they want to but don't do so if it will be confusing or unnecessarily upsetting for the recipient."
"Why didn't we do that instead?"
"You're just too different from each other. And your patterns are scanned by robots. We don't even know what much of anything in your conscious areas mean. We just copied everything on the atomic level and overlaid what we found, in connections and chemistry, on top of your own pattern."
"So part of his memories replace what mine were?"
"No, you have all of your own connections but you additionally have his connections with a biochemistry and neurotransmitter level set smack in the average of the two."
"How do Gruldak do it? Don't they use robots like the one that brings your message pods?"
"They don't need them; they can instinctively separate out the minute qualia they wish to share with someone else by thinking. Actually it's a part of how they think. It's a bit like humans thinking in words. Since they all interact so much and are so genetically similar to each other they also know exactly what these sorts of qualia "look" like in their friends."
"But couldn't robots separate qualia to share? If they can't then how do Gruldak send you message pods?"
"They can separate Gruldak qualia. They've worked on separating them out for centuries; they don't even know what half the things in your head even do."
"I think I understand. For them, it's just talking."
"It's a little bit like talking and a little bit sex," she said, "let me show you."
"But I thought you couldn't separate the qualia out?"
"I think differently from you and differently from Gruldak but I'm closer to both of you than you are to each other. I've also been studying you and your thoughts non-stop since I've been conscious."
"Do you think it could help?"
"I don't think it could hurt,” she said, and I laid back and sank into her.
We rolled around the winding sheets enshrouding my mind, pulling back layer after layer of who I thought I was. Guido found him there inside me and brought him into the invisible embrace we shared that I had only just noticed at that moment.
Kevin Bob was frightened and confused, reaching back in his own mind for Amanda and cringing without shape at the touch of my memories and their intrusion into his own. He’d created no image of self in the reality we shared but we could feel him there. As we enfolded him I could see his separate personality was an illusion. I let go of his fear and confusion. I released his frustration and pain. But Guido and I took in his grief and made it into our own grief for him.
I soaked in his memories, radiating them from me and gathering them between us as they coalesced. Guido and I cradled them gently as she did something like singing except without any sound to it. Dot by dot, a setting started to build in our shared mind.
I was a little thrown when I started to recognize the curved lines and clever plastic construction of the bomb shelter.
Guido murmured soothingly in my mind and I understood that I wasn’t locking Kevin Bob away somewhere; I was tagging those memories, restoring the boundary between his thoughts and my own. His memories still felt like they were my own, but they no longer made me feel like a person apart.
His experiences became memories and I came out able to see them as a memorial to his life rather than as a memory of my own death.
None of this means I was recovered or anything. I still had the memories and still woke up screaming from dreams I couldn’t remember. I seldom lost track of who I was anymore but continued to be plagued by existential angst.
As I stood under the shower I remembered that I was alive. It felt that good.
There's a sort of comfort to such a homey thing that goes far beyond the physical pleasure itself. It's like eating a bite of crumbly pastry with just a little salt in the crust or smelling a pot of boiling cabbage on the stove. It was the feeling of all of those things combined with a deep, relaxed feeling of impending satisfaction.
Some days I realize more than others that I’m very glad that some people are inveterate hedonists who aren’t afraid of speaking their minds.
I was feeling that gratefulness as I dried myself with a thick fluffy towel disgorged warm and scented of sassafras from beside the shower which now rained down within the confines of a tub. Its temperature was adjustable, too.
Nothing makes one appreciate living in the now quite like witnessing death more closely than any human ever had before and lived to tell about it.
Continue Reading Gruldak with Chapter Eighteen, The Other Side
- Gift of the Gruldak, Serial Installment 18
Rejoin Kevin, Cap, and Guido and find out what happened with them when Kevin Bob had his adventures on 22nd century earth. This serialized science fiction novel is free to read online at HubPages.
© 2015 Kylyssa Shay