Justin Lo 7483
The satin bedsheets billowed and crumpled as she roused, the moon still hanging brightly in the night sky. She tip-toed towards the aging oak bureau. The desk’s finished surface, where it peeked out from beneath monoliths of disarranged papers and pens, blushed a matte rose-white in the moonlight.
As she took a seat in her creaky metal-frame chair, her lithe body emerged from the shadows, but she paid no care that the moon could now see her clotheless form, alluring but so distant, never anyone’s to have … not even to be held captive by the one still fast asleep, who she loved in only the way one might love an old handkerchief. Reading over the printouts from the previous day’s experiments, she bit the tip of her thousandth Bic ballpoint pen, nervously awaiting the moment when she would feel that pang again, the disappointment in how little she could glean, and how much she wished to know.
She looked back, her long brown hair resting like a waterfall, draped over her right shoulder and breast, her eyes gazing out from behind her reading glasses, looking at the man who she pitied so dearly. He loved her more than anything in the world, and that was why she could not return his adoration, for she could not imagine why a mortal as she would ever have a greater charm and mystique than immortal knowledge.
It might be said that she fit the mold of a classical philosopher, but even that description would fall short; an old-fashioned philosopher would maintain duality, and love with his mind while discarding his body. But she pursued her passion with not only her brilliant mind but also her equally nimble and compelling body. There was no difference to her between the two, for one suggested and necessitated the other.
She stood up suddenly and exited the room from the back door, landing in the small fenced-off garden. On the lawn was a small textured-glass table with white trimming, and in the center of that table was a caterpillar, inching along. She marveled and pined at its succinct form, the way its program abstraction intertwined intimately with its physical form; and she thought about how easy it was to understand a soul, and to understand a body, compared to how difficult it was to understand a soul and a body, which inexplicably together created the entire world.
Like many young computer science whizzes, she used to mock the biologists, who seemed to toil away, mechanically, at infinitessimally small problems of the body without ever approaching the soul. She would think to herself, as a sophomore or junior at the university, that with the source code completely unveiled for hundreds and thousands of species, it ought to be a walk in the park to figure out its function and bypass the trivial molecules altogether.
And so after she graduated, she had packed her bags, moved across the country, and settled down in a comfortable computational biology laboratory, fashioning herself the alien bringer of panacea, ready to solve the life sciences once and for all with a year or two of the hardcore programming that biologists feared more than BL3 pathogens.
But time lumbered on, and the arcane language of nucleic acids turned out to be far more labyrinthine than she had anticipated. It was not just the foundation of bit-code: it was simultaneously the beginning and the end, the highest and the lowest, the soul and the body. The code gave birth to proteins and cells and beasts and societies, only to double back, dive down, and pass itself on in order to begin all over again. The code existed for the code’s sake, and then only for the sake of its own corruption, a spiral staircase of reincarnation. To fluorish then reset, with the intermediaries of questionable organization and design, seemed a bizarre state of existence, and badly behaved existence at that.
She happened upon surprise after surprise. There were two or four or eight co-existing versions of the same code, executed simultaneously. A program might arise by starting execution halfway through the code for one program and then leaping over to an adjoining one. And the physical twists and turns in the code could be the difference between an amoeba-like creature and a man.
She wanted to understand it all, but when she asked her colleagues, they answered simply that they could feel enlightenment already simply by meditating, through God or through love. But she was disappointed in their complacency; they perhaps felt that they knew everything, but in reality they knew nothing. If that were truly a greater existence, then why couldn’t they cure uncurable diseases? Why couldn’t they tell what the next day would bring?
And so she closed upon herself, pondering like this every night, trying to find her own path. In the subdued milieu, she could hear the echoes of her bustling thoughts, illuminated over the silhouettes of the forest. She ran her fingertips over heel and ankle, noticing every point of sensation. She wished she had a thin flexible needle, to send into her heel and twist and turn and pull out a little gem of wisdom hidden inside her foot; and there would be gems buried all over, waiting to be uncovered, the answers hidden within her all along, all under the control her mind, but never comprehended.
She moved back inside, tucking herself under the covers once again and staring at the tousled hair of her partner. Inside him, too, there must be small crystal grains, the knowledge that he held that she did not have. She could not mine them from conversation, because he might not even be aware of them. No, the only way to gather together the pantheon of wisdom would be to accrue bits and pieces from the recorded confessions of the human mind as it translated and reflected its thoughts. But no human could ever sift through the grains of utterances and writings, that now, sprawled amongst books and the internet, could bury all land on Earth a hundred fathoms deep in desert sands.
If the human race ever desired to ascend beyond the talons of nature’s ruthless clockwork, she thought as she lay there, it would have to build its own glass staircase, ahead of the burgeoning spirals of of life and death. Glass steps made from the fusion of the little sand-grains that churned inside the minds of each and every human being, incubating but trapped in a solitary room, the walls of distance and misunderstanding placing the curse that the human race would always move slower, not faster, than its individual constituents.
She drew herself away from him, disgusted and fascinated at the same time at the way she relished pressing her body against his. That the body desired to experience new sensations proved that its curiosity aligned with the mind, that it fed the mind and the mind fed it. But it could also double-cross her, for it threatened to fence off the world all over again; if she fell careless, she would all too soon suddenly have a world only two people deep, and she would forget these expansive aspirations.
In this moonlit room, her firey resolve fanned itself generously, and she made a pact with herself that starting tomorrow, she would finally embark on the quest she had talked herself out of far too many times in the past.
Earrings jangling with the clatter of silverware against a plate, she walked in unbridled, her course unfaltering and her gaze unequivocally audacious. Hands tucked into the front pockets of her midnight-blue jeans as though they were two halves of a tarantula ready to spring out, she moved with the spirit of the child she once was and the sensual splendor of the woman she had become.
No one around paid much heed, regardless; so absorbed were they in their own meddlings and filigree that they could hardly afford to raise an eye to notice her. She was as nameless to them as she is to you now – for the students just down the hall, who came and went through the same passages and lounges, knew her no better than a crown of broccoli knows the stalk of celery beside it in the refrigerator. And like vegetables, everyone simply awaited their fate of consumption by the system or the alternative of being abandoned and molding away into nothingness.
But she would have none of this. She took a seat, her long hair crashing down onto the keyboard like a matador’s cape snapping. She drew it back and then smiled fervently. A few moments later, the hard drive was clean, the detritus of overgrown mushrooms pretending to be redwoods banished forever as though they had never existed.
And then she began her work, her polished fingernails clattering against the plastic keyboard, sculpting the tools before the tool-wielder. With her current limits, she would have to restrict the knowledge-collection to the internet, but that in itself was already so vast a landscape.