excerpt from the dystopian scifi novel i'm writing


Energy swirled around the book: what secrets were trapped between those dense pen marks? Histories bled through its thin pages when held to the light. He studied it in secret and hid it deep beneath the hoarded Vac bric-a-brac in his closet.

There was a time before the Mind when all information, all knowledge, was stored in these inert paper volumes. Isaac knew from some distant memory that the secret to books lay in the study of their pages, with the eyes scanning back and forth. He knew their pages contained knowledge in a symbolic form, that somehow the black shapes represented spoken words. He knew this intellectually, but Isaac had never known any form of stored knowledge but the instantaneous pictograms of the Query Daemon.

His curiosity deepened, and Isaac took to sleeping with the book under his pillow, close to his natural mind. He reached out to it as he would to a classmate, but found no interface, no consciousness, nothing, less than nothing: not even a door to a room with nothing in it.

He tested it, thinking to gain, at the least, a prompt of some kind from it. He failed, but kept querying the empty psychic space where the book's mind should be.

He found, at the Vac market, a pen, of the same color as the pen which had previously marked its pages. He opened the book to a blank page, marking it, tracing the previous page's notes.

He tried many things, none of which produced the least response. It was in desperation that he decided to ask the Query Daemon, knowing that this effort would increase the Mind's awareness of his quest.

Of course, the most difficult questions to answer are those that are incorrectly framed, like, "Where is my book's prompt?" but Isaac persisted. 

The Query Daemon was less than cooperative, answering in oblique ways, and the Mind itself pushed back against his thoughts, causing brain fog, sleep, or revulsion.

His face became more pale, while his eyes were bipolar: either fatigued or glittering with a green determination. His wardrobe choices began to tend towards black.

At first, he didn't connect his mental states to the Mind. Isaac had never before held a forbidden thing in his mind with such intensity. Some thoughts were more difficult to think, some actions, unhealthy ones usually, more difficult to take. But the book was different from so many other things, because he knew, above all things, he wanted to know a forbidden thing.

He would work through his school exercises, firing queries off to the Daemon and absorbing the answers. But all the while he was looking for an excuse to rabbit-trail without warning into the subject of literacy, and use his moments of alertness before the Mind deflected or slowed him, to get a portion of an answer. 

Isaac, like most of his peers, could not differentiate between native emotions and those arising from Mind. But as he pressed on, the Mind's resistance to his desire grew. He began to split. Or, more accurately, he began to perceive the outline of the Mind, moving against the backdrop of his own self. The process of differentiation was not like one might imagine it to be: like the discovery of an alien presence, but more like the revolt of a well-loved and much-needed organ, as if the stomach were to betray the mouth and refuse to send food down to the bowels but instead smuggle in its own foods through a hole contrived in the belly button.

Many nights, Isaac succumbed to sleep, awakening frustrated but ironically well-rested in the morning. His rage welled, acidic, in his gut, at war with this alien force rooted in his limbic node. His militancy began to take its toll on him, his rational self making passionate war against his limbic-based emotions, while his body felt the toll of neural deficiencies as the Mind drove down dopamine production. 

Even as he learned to distinguish himself from the incarnation of society's will within him, the Mind became increasingly cunning, shifting focus to obfuscate its presence. Isaac gradually to mistrust his emotions, repressing urges to win small battles towards his larger victory. He weighed all emotions and feelings against reason, starving the Mind of its influence over his decisions.

There are people who never experience such a world-wrecking will. When opposed, they cease to press against the gradually thickening resistance that makes up the borders of their world. Then there are those who throw themselves against resistance to the brink of their own destruction, moving towards pain with a masochistic disregard for personal consequence.

Through long struggle, he cleared some of the fog surrounding the book. His first breakthough was to understand that the book would never offer a response to him. It had no will, and would not react to his questions. There was no prompt.

Soon after, he came to understand that he must seek a decoder for the words on the page, a codex that would translate the words into speech. But again, he was confounded. How would he employ a data-index without the Mind to render text to speech?

How do you come to understand a decoder to a text when its translation is written in a language that you don't understand? There was a finality to this revelation that caused the Mind to animate him with glee, simultaneous to the hollow feeling of defeat within his natural mind

He stumbled across a lead suddenly. He had developed the habit of lashing out quick, semi-random queries on the tail of his legitimate ones, fishing for little bits of knowledge. An image flashed across the screen before the Mind pushed him back. It was of two people reading a book together. And all of a sudden it came together for him. The data-index was other people! This time, the glee that he experienced was very real, and the realization of genuineness created little mandelbrot eddies of self-reflective joy as he opposed the Mind's efforts at depression successfully. He was learning many things.

And so, Isaac began to seek the real world for his answers.

Ahem. Copyright Jeremy John, all rights reserved, including but not limited to, the right to destroy, the right to plaster across the skies, the right to plant and grow, the right to climb trees, and the right to more rights should it be determined that those rights were needed. And the right to determine whether new rights are needed.

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About the Author

Hi. My name is Jeremiah John. I'm a sf/f writer and activist.

I just completed a dystopian science fiction novel. I run a website which I created that connects farms with churches, mosques, and synagogues to buy fresh vegetables directly and distribute them on a sliding scale to those in need.

In 2003, I spent six months in prison for civil disobedience while working to close the School of the Americas, converting to Christianity, as one does, while I was in the clink.