Back in the feral day when I was a shrunken, haunted version of a singular tween hailing from the hinterlands, unlike the vaunted offspring of my loins, the dynamic tween twins who are able to make vital contact daily with the Pacific Ocean, and with no choice but to kick it old school wearing scuffed brown shoes and matching frayed belt, there was an epithet disguised as a pointed question I would hear often, or as often as I listened, which in retrospect was not really that often, not while attending elsewhere in my head to distractions that needed to be ruthlessly blocked out.
“Hey, wake up. What do you got in there, a screw loose, or what?” ”
Sure, we were all backward way back when. What did you expect, miracles buried within those crackling ice floes? I was kept busy looking both ways while crossing. Our backs were up against the wall full time. Less was not yet more. More was decidedly best. Plus, I was continually caught running away to the highway with the on-ramp closed.
Now, no fucking way. Now there would be backlash. Organizations would pop up like crusty pot pies with shriveled peas that are pierced with steel forks to spew scalding pre-processed foodstuff. Back then, all we had to eat for survival was tough red meat with strings attached, and greasy cheeze whiz spewing from a dented can at a skewed angle. We had to boil our frozen vegetables to kill deadly germs and influences. I was asleep at the wheel before I could drive. I never witnessed a single miracle.
More recently, I was fishing for salmon on the last day of a disappointing season. The artificial lures that sparkled with such promise in May fooled few savvy kings by September. The last day of the season attracts a ghoulish array of freaks and geeks, professional recruiters, offensive linemen, trophy wives, plumbers, retired cops, liquor salesmen, software salesmen, insurance salesmen, pharmaceutical salesman, short haul movers, day traders, cartoon heros, wily tricksters, homeopaths, hicks, dicks, and licensed contractors. Wholesale packaged goods were uploaded by the tonnage and kilowatt hour. Prices held steady. A tumultuous glut of traffic was backed up all the way to shallow dry land.
As I escaped from the harbor, and began to troll above a canyon more than an American mile deep, sort of, which was roughly two to three nautical miles due west of the edge of western civilization, and a tad southerly on a trisected axis aligned in fealty with Big Sur, a powerful new idea for the next big thing suddenly rose up from the depths and slapped me silly. I struggled to reel it in. The fog was complex, and swirling. I was simultaneously shaken and stirred. Ideas often smack me abruptly upside the head, but not usually in the horizontal position. Limply, I succumbed to the unctuous live squid I was wrestling. It gave me a familiar funny feeling. I checked my aft for leakage but found none. So, I went with the flow.
I understood instinctively that this was no time for dallying. I returned to land and sprung the tween twins from middle school.
“What is it this time?”
“It’s a new space helmet.”
“Aren’t they all?”
“This one is different.”
“It looks the same.”
“What does it do that’s so different?”
“You always ask that.”
“You never say.”
“That’s why this one is different. I have an answer.”
“I think you might be bluffing.”
“Would that be so bad? Isn’t there a lesson in that?”
“For a kindergartner, maybe.”
“It’s longer and taller, isn’t it?”
“It will have stripes. It will emit a semi-sweet smell in simulated mist form.”
“What does it do?”
“I’m still in the tweaking phase.”
“Just as I suspected. Bluffing.”
“If I was Elon Musk, you wouldn’t scoff like that.”
“Who’s Elon Musk?”
Sure, outer space is going to be the next beckoning escape hatch for human refugees. Who stuck here doesn’t want to be saved by a big booster shot? Anybody who’s still not nowhere knows that much. Where else is there to go when the toaster begins to blink, and the fridge is on the fritz, and the plug is stuck, and the ice melts, and the meat rots, and the cream curdles, and the red lights start to flash non-stop? Who stays hip and cool when the cracks open wide and the hot lava flows, and the mud is thick, and all the chemical reactions smell like your closest next door neighbors. What if you could alternatively float above it all on your own private range and play silly games in your head non-stop?
I felt whirred and frenzied by all the kinetic potential stirring in the atmosphere, even if it was so close. I said, in general, not specific, “I’d better get back to work.”
The helmet would need to simulate heat, cooling, equilibrium, entertainment, refreshments. A new hip helmet for every simulation would raise revenue better than Cialis. I’d need charts, categories, lists, credits, footnotes, and striking visuals in animated color and graphic detail to attract massive venture capital.
First, I designed each node in the module to contain a sweeping, simulated view. No noisy neighbors, no stepping in shit, all inclusive tunes and toons, hourly, or by the pulse. Custom colors will be available for straight shooters. Simulated Earth can look pretty fucking lovely from a distance once the yucky stuff is left behind. That should make even the lowliest end unit abutting a mine shaft worth at least a few measly million dollars. You don’t need to be a genius like Stephen Hawking or Elon Musk to understand that much.
I said, “What if?”
The yin twin said, “What?”
What if what separates humans from animals who are more highly evolved, better adapted, more secure in space and place, who know precisely how far to roam on the range, animals who are aware enough to do what comes natural and dig it while it’s happening, animals who have been here for hundreds of millions of years and are staying put, is no small trifle? What if the right stuff is not any of our stuff? What if we will never know? What if that’s a statement, not a question? What happens to the mythical big brain when it atrophies and pops open from lack of use, and reveals the secret that not a lot is left inside? What if the astonishing complex truth of a multiverse that has no beginning and no end is not going to go away because of you and yours no matter how long you hold your breath and scream? What if we’d all feel better off floating elsewhere?
A scorpion can survive on one meal a year, no problem. We excavate massive pits of waste that require daily disposal. We crack rocks, nuts, and skulls for meager survival. We need lots of home improvements. Rocks don’t grow on trees. We need to take our medicine. Where would you be without your medicine? We need more medicine, don’t we? Take a look at a hummingbird. His medicine comes freely from the nectar he doesn’t have to buy. Flip, flop, fly. Not even James Brown can do that. Not even with a big head.