Buoyancy (Chapter 3) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

I’m standing on the spine of the South Jetty as the tide goes out. I’m far enough from the shore that I won’t be able to swim in if I have second thoughts about suicide.

To the west the ocean horizon is cloudless but vague in the pre-dawn twilight. To the south the beach stretches on forever and the inland hills merge with a blue-gray hydrocarbon haze. The waves below are immature things that belch up abruptly from the black depths and spit white foam across the dark volcanic boulders that form the steep sides of the jetty.

I keep starting to write in my buoyancy journal. In my head, of course. Everything’s there. Every word I’ve ever read or written, the reams of base-pair sequences from work, and every detail of every day I’ve breathed air since I was 23 months old.

When things get me down I make a list of the reasons why they shouldn’t.

First off, I shouldn’t feel bad about what I’m doing here because I’m defending James. That’s honorable. Second, I won’t be lying in a hospital bed with tubes in my veins and everyone feeling guilty for not dropping everything and sitting bored stiff with me until I die.

My buoyancy lists are never long, but they’re powerful against depression. I read them slowly, one word at a time, over and over until my subconscious mind, the big math wizard who hardly speaks English, understands. And I feel better. It’s like magic. I want you to try it.

I’m going to leave my boots on, I guess. But I really love these things. They’re size five, extra wide. Hard to find. I better take them off so someone else can use them.

I almost forgot, Ojiichan’s chopsticks are still in my hair. They’re antiques, engraved with the Japanese character for poison – I don’t know why. I pull them out of my hair, take off my boots and then lay the chopsticks sideways across the toes. I hope no one steps on them.

It’s fifteen feet down to the busy water – surging and receding. I’m not afraid of heights, but I’ve always been chicken about jumping off high-dives. It’s the falling. I hate that feeling. Plus I’m a terrible swimmer. My body is too dense. I’m not all that skinny, so it really doesn’t make sense.

OK, just go. Jump in.

My knees are bent. This is it.

I’m holding my breath… Not sure why I’d be doing that. It’s kind of the opposite of why I’m here.

Now I’m over-thinking.

A truck’s coming on Jetty Road. I should do this before it gets here.

Come on, Johanna. Now!

It’s not a truck, it’s a Hummer. No, it can’t be Maxwell.

I told James about him last week. A guy I met at work. A child psychologist who deals exclusively with depressed kids. Once or twice a month Maxwell shows up at work as early as I do and corners me for small talk.

I suck at small talk.

“How ’bout those Seahawks!”

Forget it.

How ’bout Max Planck? Energy only comes in small digital packets: Planck’s constant. If that’s not weird to you – if that doesn’t turn your world upside-down, I’m afraid we’re different.

Earth: Eggheads and Jocks.

Maxwell’s both. So is James in his own way. I’m just an egghead. Though I do push weights and use the treadmill. And I can lift a tall stack of books, let me tell you.

Talmage thinks I do too much telling and not enough showing. Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

The sky is neuromancer-gray now, light enough to show the color of the Hummer which is Army Green. That means it is him. It’s fricking Maxwell Mason. Doing a hundred miles an hour on that tiny road. His life’s probably in more danger than mine at the moment.

Slow down, Max!

It’s a pretty straight road. No traffic at all since that Harley. Max should be fine.

No, I don’t believe that either.

He’s slowing down a little. This is good. Now he’s skidding through the parking lot. This is bad. Dust everywhere. His front tires bunny hop a log and finally he stops.

Man, this is going to be embarrassing if I don’t even have the nerve to jump. People are going to say I was trying to get attention. I hate it when people say that about girls who try to kill themselves and fail.

Nobody’s going to say that about me.

I jump.

I take a breath on the way down and feel like a hypocrite for doing it.

For a split second it’s good to hit the water because it stops that lost-viscera feeling of falling. But under the water the world is black and colder than anything I’ve ever felt.

My arms and legs are kicking on their own. I try to stop but they won’t stop. I try to make myself breath water but my head is pounding with the cold. It’s like a cluster headache or a good poke in the skull with a screwdriver. I can’t think of much else.

My head breaks the surface. The jetty rocks are three feet away and covered with white barnacles and brown mussels that look like dead incisors. I move away from them, not wanting to be a shredded mess at my funeral.

My arms are weakening from the cold. I finally make them stop paddling, and then force my legs to stop flailing.

I sink.

I blow all my air out and prepare to inhale. The salt water will flow into my lungs. Osmosis will do terrible damage to my red cells. My coughing and gag reflexes will be overwhelmed.

I want to breathe. The desire is growing with every heartbeat. It’s just that I don’t want to breathe water.

Yes, breathe water.

Something grabs my arm and pulls. I’m on my back looking up at the sky with an arm across my chest. It’s a thick arm with Maxwell’s watch on the wrist. I gasp for air and it fills my lungs with the greatest joy I’ve ever known.

There’s a surface beneath us. It rises and lifts us out of the water. I’m on hands and knees looking over the edge of a round, silent thing that’s exactly the color of the sky and the texture of the stingray I touched at Maui Ocean Center on my ninth birthday. A circular opening appears beside me and a female voice with the vaguest Indian accent says, “Come inside quickly, both of you. I’ve never been so worried in my life.” A human hand reaches out and touches the skin on my left forearm and rubs it briskly. “You must be freezing. Let’s get you warmed up.” I lean over the edge of the opening and look down to see her face. I’m startled. It’s Mahani Teave, the renowned concert pianist of Easter Island.

Mahani Teave


My first thought, stupid as this sounds, is to ask for her autograph. I own all Mahani’s CD’s. She’s amazing. I’m a pianist myself.

The pictures on her CD’s flash by and I make comparisons. This girl’s freckles are in the wrong places.

“Who are you?” I ask and start coughing so loud and hard I can’t hear her answer.

Please make me smile. Opt into my email list. Someday I’ll send you something that I bet will make you smile. :)  Click Here

M. Talmage Moorehead


Brittle Beliefs (Chapter 2) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead


I’m in the Prius heading for the South Jetty to drown myself.  And calling James.

He answers, “Yeah.”

I clear my voice and try to wake up a few extra neurons with a neurofeedback technique I learned in a lab at Yale. “You need to get in your car and drive to the police station as fast as you can. Someone’s trying to kidnap you.”

“No sh*t?”

“None. Go. Right now, while we’re talking.”

“I got to find my keys.”

“Check the floor by the foot of your bed.”

“They won’t be there.”

“Just do it. Hurry.” My peripheral vision is weird now. The trees and signs swishing by on the sides of the road seem to hold my awareness as if they were in the center. I don’t know how to describe it, it’s like they’re in the center of my attention even though I’m not looking at them directly.

“Jeez, they’re here,” he says. “How do you do that?”

“Luck. Go out the front door and get in your car. Run!”

I hear his feet on the old wooden floor of Grandfather’s house. We actually called our grandfather, “Ojiichan,” not Grandfather, but it means the same thing. I hear the car door shut. The engine starts.

“Yo,” my brother says. “You still there?”

“Drive straight to the police station. You know the way, don’t you?”

“Take a wild guess.”

“Busted for drinking beer at Starbucks in broad daylight. Yeah, I’m not saying you’re a moron, but now that you mention it… God, I love you, James.”

“Ditto, but don’t get mushy, nobody’s nabbed me yet. I didn’t think they kidnapped teenagers.”

“Keep an eye on the road behind you. Somebody could be following.” I slow down for a pair of crows in the road, pass them and watch them fly away in the rear view mirror. They must have amazing immune systems to eat road kill.

“Nothing’s back there now,” he says.

“The kidnappers are probably from the Frameshift Corporation. They’re trying to recruit me.”

“Like into the Army?”

“Same idea.” Should I tell him? No. Not while he’s driving. “You shouldn’t drive and talk on a cellphone, you know.”

“Shut up,” he says, “you do the same thing. All the time.”

“I got a hands-free setup. That’s legal. I’m driving right now, in fact. Heading for the South Jetty.” A motorcycle’s coming toward me in the other lane. It passes and I feel the infrasound of an old Harley with a thick back tire and chrome everywhere. I was hoping to try to ride one of those before I died. I wonder if I would be big enough to reach the handlebars.

“Some of us drive Ojiichan’s old Ford, you know. What’s the South Jetty?”

I shouldn’t have brought it up. “Does that thing still smell like the beach?”

“I don’t smell nothing. What’s the South Jetty?”

“Are you taking showers every day?”

“Not really.”

“That’s why you can’t smell the Ford. You smell just like it. Your olfactory buds are habituated to the secretions of a certain staphylococcal bacteria.”

“Watch your language, young lady. You get one local boy here. What’s da kine Jetty, already?”

He’s just being funny. I’ve got him weaned off Hawaiian Pidgin English now. I hope.

“Take a shower every day,” I tell him for the tenth time.

“It’s a waste of time. What’s the…?”

“It’s a long rock wall that juts out into the water between the ocean and the place where the Columbia River dumps in. On the south side. When are you moving in with the Hadano’s? That was supposed to go down three months ago.”

“I don’t know, pretty soon. I told the social worker I’m living there now. I think she talked to them and they told her, yeah, I’ve officially moved in.”

“The Hadano’s are good people. Don’t make them lie… So how close are you to the police station now?”

“Almost there. I’m looking for a place to park… Holy sh*t, I got a tail. Like you said.”


“There’s this Haole guy in a rental car following me. I think. I’ll find out for sure.”

“What type of car is he driving?”

“Yeah, he’s tailing me for reals. I just turned into an alley and he’s turning in behind me. The car looks like that thing you drive. At least from the pictures you posted.”

“When you get out of the alley, turn right, go about 20 feet and stop. Put it in reverse. You’re going to ram him the second you see him. Aim for his right front tire. You want to mess it up good so it won’t turn anymore when he moves the steering wheel.”

“Won’t that screw up my car?”

“No. Ojiichan’s car is a tank compared to a Prius.”

“OK, I’ve got it in reverse. Here goes.”

There’s a crunch.

“I did it. The Ford still runs, no problem. I’m getting away from the dude.”

“Good man. When you get to the cop station, don’t park, just drive right up to the front, jump out, leave the car in the street and run inside as fast as you can.”

“Do they let you park out front? I don’t want to get a ticket.”

“Use you head! Kidnappers are killers. Do exactly what I tell you for God’s sake!”

“OK. I was just asking. Jeez.”

There’s quiet on the line. Any expression of anger was a sin in our family. It didn’t matter if you were saving someone’s life or destroying the world, anger meant you were evil. Things would get quiet. “Where are you? Talk to me.”

“I’m in front of the cop building. In the middle of the road. Now I’m leaving the car here, like you said.”

The car door slams. The sound of that door brings memories of Ojiichan. He was the first Buddhist Priest on Oahu. After he died I took his alter back to Okinawa and learned that he was famous among the Buddhists there. They called him, “One of The Five.” I don’t speak Japanese and the person translating didn’t speak much English, so I wasn’t able to figure out who “The Five” were.

“I’m going through the front doors now,” James says. “I’m inside.”

“Good. Find a cop.”

“There’s a lady here, but she don’t look like a cop.”

“Give her the phone.”


I hear him saying something about his sister. The woman says she’s busy and tells him to take a seat. I’m ready to reach through the phone and strangle someone.

“She’s too busy,” James says.

“Tell her somebody’s trying to kidnap you.”

He tells her and she gets on the line. “This young man tells me he’s the victim of a kidnapping attempt and you’re his older sister. Is this information correct?”

“Yes.” I give her my name and the highlights of the morning, trying not to sound like the teenager I still am.

“I see,” she says.

“I need you to protect him. Will you do that?”

“Yes, of course. Do you believe the threat is substantial?”

“I know it is. It’s coming from the Frameshift Corporation or one of its competitors.” A squirrel darts out into the road and I swerve to miss it. I shouldn’t be doing seventy on this narrow road.

“And how do you know this?”

“I’m a genetics researcher. The conversation I had with them made it fairly clear.”

The phone reception gets sketchy as I drive into the parking lot near the South Jetty. It’s gravel with logs outlining the perimeter and a dirt slope I could take down to the river beach if I wanted to get stuck. I think I’ll park and walk.

“When did this conversation take place?” the woman asks.

“About ten minutes ago. Ma’am, my phone is dropping out. I need to talk to James before I lose this connection. Could you put him back on for a minute?”


James comes back. “Hey.”

“Listen, I’ve got leukemia.”

“What’s that?”

“Cancer of the blood. Odds are, it’s going to kill me soon. But here’s what you need to understand. The kidnappers are actually after me, not so much you. They only want you so they can force me to work for them. But I’m not going to do that. I figure I haven’t got long to live anyway, so… if I kill myself, I won’t have to work for those evil sons of…. I’m sorry. I just can’t stand what they’re doing to the world. I don’t want any part of it. But James, I’m not killing myself to keep them from kidnapping you. None of this is about you. Remember that. If we’re both lucky, they’ll leave you alone after I’m gone. You won’t be valuable to them when I’m in heaven.”

“You’re not going to kill yourself really. You can’t do that.”

“I’m dying soon, one way or the other.”

“Don’t they have drugs for this thing?”

“Not for M5b. Not really. The five-year survival stats are dismal. The chemo makes you sick as a goose. Your hair falls out. I’m not doing it.”

“But you got to try.”

“No. You’ve got to try. Try not to get depressed after I’m gone. Try to find something to believe in so you’ll be a decent influence on the world when you’re famous. All this stuff about no God, no good and no evil. Forget it. Believe in something that’s not so brittle it breaks when the aliens land. Atheism and fundamentalism are brittle. They’re both going to break when the facts come out.”


“You’ve got heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Nobody has more influence than a rock star, and that’s what you were born to be. You’re John fricking Lennon. You’re a genius with melody, James. You’ve always made me so proud. I’ll be listening to all your songs and watching you from the moon.”

“The moon? Who’s going to be the only friend I ever had in this world? Who’s going to make sure I don’t party all the time? Who’s going to bail me out of jail? My new psychiatrist says…” The phone cuts out.

I try to call back but the battery’s dead.

I’m beyond tears. Numb. And scared a little, maybe.

I’m just going to breathe water. It can’t be that difficult. Drowning is the least embarrassing way to kill yourself. Believe me, I’ve thought a little about this.

One last thing. Talmage wants me to ask you to opt into his email list. I told him this was unorthodox, but he says you people matter to him. He doesn’t care about the other stuff. Click here, please.

M. Talmage Moorehead

Competition (Chapter 1) “Happa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

My phone is blasting Skullcage from my lab coat near my pillow. I’ve been spending nights in my Prius at the Beach in Astoria since Grandfather died. There wasn’t money enough for the house plus keeping James in Hawaii with his new shrink. This new guy’s actually helping my brother with his depression. It’s the miracle I’ve been searching for.

Talmage wants me to tell you this like a story, so take a look up through the glass of the hatchback at the stars while I find the phone. We don’t want this novel rejected in The First Fifty Pages for lack of a visual scene… or because I’m “breaking the fourth wall.” I bet there’s a rule against that somewhere.

Check out Orion’s belt in my Universe. It looks nothing like the arrangement of the three Egyptian Pyramids, but I have a warm feeling for the man who thought of the idea: Robert Bauval. That’s him in the picture above. I trust his eyes and the way he speaks, because he reminds me of an Arabian geneticist who always has my back at work. She speaks her mind and curses Dr. Drummond for publishing my research as if he were the original thinker and inventor.

Academics eat their young. But the people out there doing my brand of genetics probably know where Drummond’s breakthroughs are coming from. He was totally obscure before my name showed up behind his.

My phone shows 4:11 AM and a Hawaiian number (808) that I don’t recognize. It could be James on a friend’s phone. Now I’m seeing James dead on the side of the road with a cop calling the next of kin.

I have to stop jumping to worse-case-scenarios. It’s part of a rare condition I’m blessed with – perfect autobiographical recall. Depression is part of it, too, but it comes later in life. It probably has no relation to my other condition – M5.

The call is from a boy claiming that he’s kidnapped James.

Oh, brother. I’m just going to hang up.

James has highschool friends now, all of them older. My prank caller was probably one of them. They’re different. They say they hate capitalism but actually they hate the overwhelming sense of unfair competition that the adults bury them in at the concentration camps called schools. Life on Earth is tough, but birds and bears get a chance to relax and imagine their own importance while kids have their noses rubbed in the armpits of superior competitors all their waking hours. Giving everyone A’s and trophies convinces them they need handouts to make up for their mediocrity and inferiority. The lies only make the adults feel better, they don’t hide or change the reality of unfair competition.

And don’t tell me it’s fair. I know better. It’s completely unfair because of people like me. I remember everything I see and hear. My brain does complex calculus at the subconscious level. I don’t even know where the answers come from sometimes. And this stuff barely scratching the surface.

James’ new rock band has no name, but he’s always recorded under the banner of Skullcage. He’s the main act everywhere he goes. I’m so freaking proud of him I could pop! He plays all the instruments, sings, and writes incredible songs full of tormented screaming, beautiful melodies and guitars that sound like they’re speaking a language – trying to talk.

His CD’s makes you feel confident… unless you worry about him killing himself, which I often do.

You’d never know he’s chronically depressed if you met him. He’s funny, dominant, and full of life. He makes everybody laugh and feel important. You wouldn’t believe all the people who think of him as their best friend. But only one person is…


There’s a barge coming out of the mouth of the Columbia River to the north. Its lights are all that’s visible. Plus there’s the traction beam of a UFO aimed at the deck. I’m kidding, but what is it? Somebody on a higher deck with a floodlight, maybe.

I’m getting out for a better look.

The waves are slow closeouts tonight, scooting up the long level beach in parallel terraces, white and hissing at the full moon.

But I ask you, what are the freaking odds that the moon would spin at exactly the rate necessary to keep one face aiming at the Earth at all times? We’re talking two balls rotating freely and one orbiting the other. How does that match up without a little help?


There’s more going on here than meets the eye. Talk to Astronaut Gordon Cooper.

Astronauts have a broad perspective and they’re brave enough to face death. They’ve taken in the entire Earth with one glance – our crucible of competition and our teams – the competitors against the rise-above-it types. But the spectators, where are they?

You don’t set up a game of this magnitude unless you’re planning to sit and watch it. That’s why the moon faces us. It holds the box seats.

The traction beam went out before I could determine what it was. I’m cold in this breeze so I get back into the car and pull the hatchback down as my ringtone blasts again, “Give to me a dirty heart filled with all the darkness of the world. I’m taking all the dull sh*t in and burning up inside within, it’s true. I hate you.”

James wrote this song when he was eleven. It was a prayer. I could cry… his little face and his little high voice and that huge drum set all around him. And that melody.

My phone shows the same caller. I answer and it’s not a high school boy. It’s an old woman.

“I’ve kidnapped James,” she says.

My heart stops and I try to catch my breath.

She tells me to get on a flight from Portland to Oahu at 10:00 this morning. Gives me the flight number and says I’ll meet a guy named Del at the terminal.

I manage to plead. “Let me talk to James so he doesn’t freak out.”

“Well,” she says, “I don’t actually have him yet. I’ve sent a boy to fetch him.”

“You don’t have him? Can you call your boy and tell him to forget James? Please? We can work this out without him. I’ll do whatever you want. Just leave him out of it.”

“Take down my number, dear, and call me if there’s trouble. Traffic or anything. Have you got a pen?”

“Your number’s on my phone.”

“It is?” She hisses at someone.

“What do you want with James?”

“The fourth dimension,” she mumbles. “We want to test him. You wouldn’t understand and you need to catch your flight.”

This could be Frameshift. I criticize genetically modified organisms in every lecture at OHSU. Frameshift has become the grim reaper of genetic diversity. “Ma’am, I can’t let this happen. This kind of emotional trauma could put James back into major depression. He’s finally starting to sound normal. I’m pretty sure you’re with Frameshift, so you’re talking genetics, not string theory. Your fourth dimension is time. You’ve probably got base-pairs lined up for a mile, looking fine on paper, but something’s killing the host. Probably a timing issue.”

I pause and she groans, but doesn’t talk.

“I’m right, then. Listen, whoever you are, you need me. I’ve got seventeen layering techniques that double as time-sequencers. If one of them doesn’t fix the problem I’ll find something else that will. You can take my word to the bank.”

“My goodness,” she says. “I don’t often get goose-bumps. Perhaps we should test you.”

“Don’t insult me. You’re familiar with my work. All you need to do is forget James, and I’ll come work for you legitimately. I’ll sign a stinking contract. Nobody has to be kidnapped.”

A shooting star streaks away from the earth and barely registers as going the wrong direction.

“But Ma’am, I’m telling you, if you scare James or bother him in any way, I’ll make sure Frameshift destroys you. Think about it. Once I’m inside, it won’t be two days before your CEO knows he needs me more than he needs you.”

“You insist I’m with Frameshift, but…”

“Screw this, Ma’am. Tell your thugs to look for my body in the ocean beside the South Jetty in Astoria.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m going to drown myself. I’ll be dead in twenty-five minutes. You won’t need James when I’m gone.”

I hang up with my heart racing.

I should mention that my second condition, M5, is acute monocytic leukemia. It was diagnosed three days ago at Kaiser. I haven’t told anyone yet. I’m supposed to start chemo tomorrow, but M5b doesn’t respond well. It takes you out in a month, sometimes. I’m just thankful I found the new shrink for James.

James is going to be OK. That’s all that matters.


M. Talmage Moorehead

Seriously, opt into my mailing list so I can pay my electricity bill someday. Email lists are a big part of that – so they tell us indie writers. I won’t spam you, share your info… I’m not even planning a “news letter” thing at this point. I won’t bug you. Please click here and we can stay in contact better.

Prologue to “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead



Hi, this is Johanna Fujiwara, Ph.D. I’m the person who inspired Talmage to start writing fiction. He thinks of me as a character he created. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I look a little like the artist, Promise Tamang Phan, the way she’s painted herself in this picture. The truth is, I’m not as pretty as she, but try telling that to Talmage. ;)

I don’t expect you to believe this, but…

Beyond the Universe, there are an infinite number of other Universes. As a result, everything that could happen does happen.

That includes my birth and every detail of my life.

But you’re thinking, Talmage rewrites your story all the time. Rewrites can’t change the course of a person’s life.

You’re right… 99.9 % right, anyway.

All the rewrites, for the most part, select another Universe where a girl with my name and face makes different choices.

Sometimes I wonder if that girl is still me. The nature of identity is elusive.

Talmage thinks the girl he’s been writing about all these years has always been me, despite the changing details – because his feelings about her never change.

I can say this:  the seeds of love and meaning are free will and identity.

Some people want to take the fascinating God of the Multiverse and reduce him to a vagueness with no identity. An example of this might be the God of Spinoza, a “Being” defined as everything there is, but said to lack humanness.

A decent writer would not do that to her main character. Why would anyone want to do it to God?

Free will and identity are essential to characters that a reader is apt to care about. I’m only nineteen but I know this applies far beyond fiction writing.

Beyond the infinite number of Universes, there is a reality outside of space and time. Listen to me. We know this stuff.

Light, for example, travels outside of time, but inside of space.

Einstein’s time dilation gives us a number divided by zero when anything moves at the speed of light.

Dividing by zero yields infinity.

This means a wristwatch on the ground goes “infinitely fast” compared to the wristwatch on a photon.

“Infinitely fast” means that the entire history of the Universe goes by in an instant when you move at the speed of light. Even if you are a photon of light yourself.

We see evidence of this in the diffraction pattern of light passing through tiny slits, one photon at a time. (Video Link)

Physicists in your universe don’t explain this in terms of light being “outside of time,” they think photons and their class have a separate reality. That’s silly, but adorable.

From a photon’s perspective, all history happens at the same time, in one moment.

So when photons, from our perspective, go through slits in single file, it’s different from their perspective. To them, they’re all going through the slits at once, bumping shoulders and interfering with each other.

Hence the irrelevance of time to the diffraction pattern in the slit experiment on that video you still haven’t looked at.

That independence from time is what it means for light to be “outside of time.” But we see light, so it’s not “outside of space.”

Dark matter exists inside of time but almost entirely outside of space. Only dark matter’s gravitational force can be detected. Yet this gravity is responsible for the shape, motion and position of galaxies. (Video Link)

The human mind lies partly inside and partly outside of space and time.

The mechanics of the mind lie within space and time (in and around the brain) but free will exists outside of space (and inside of time). By residing outside of space, free will is able to insert an untouched cause into the cause-and-effect web that fills each Universe. By residing inside of time, free will remains relevant to the unfolding of history.

I haven’t seen where identity lives. Talmage thinks it’s like free will: outside of space but inside of time. That way his Johanna Fujiwara would always be the same girl, me, no matter what changes he made in my story. I hope he’s right. By the way, he’s infallible, in case he hasn’t mentioned it yet. ;)

As a writer, you are never simply an observer.

Have you seen the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR)? Random number generators can be influenced by the mind. (Link See the video on the right.)

If you’re able to determine for yourself that these Princeton researchers are doing clean accurate science – despite the predictable yawn of the scientific establishment – you’ll have insight into how a writer influences the life of a person like me living in another Universe.

While it’s true that the decisions a fiction writer makes sort of “select” the particular Universe in which those things have happened (or are happening), there’s a bit more to it…

You’ve made a bad decision and wondered later how you could have been so dumb, right? Here’s how: There may have been a “fiction” writer telling your story, probably in another Universe. His or her decision for your character influenced your decision in the same way that the human mind can somehow influence random number generators and other random events.

The writer’s influence on you would have been small, but sometimes all it takes is the tiniest nudge – toward a bad choice – or even a good one, I would think. It’s almost as if there’s pressure on the people who have been “selected” to be story characters – a pressure that tends to keep their story within their lives and within their Universe.

So if you’re a writer, please think of your characters as real people because we are.

Trust me, I’m real. My Universe is remarkably like yours.

I was born in Castle Medical Center on Oahu, Hawaii. Eleven years later I murdered my brother’s therapy animal, Moody. That was the worst day of my life. Moody was a chimpanzee. I have recurring dreams about him. He attacked my brother and I attacked him. Strangled the poor little guy.

They say that once you murder someone, you always feel like an outsider looking in at the human race.

It’s true – even if you murder someone who’s not human. Even if you did it to protect your little brother.

In the emergency room one of the doctors told my mom that Moody must have been sick. There was no way a little girl could strangle a healthy adolescent chimpanzee.

The doctor was wrong, though. Moody wasn’t sick. He was just as strong as any ape his age.

But somehow I was stronger.



M. Talmage Moorehead

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But, Why?

car-displayGod was lonely, I’m guessing. Wanted company.

He built smart computers that did everything right except stop loneliness.

He drank a whole pot of coffee and made computers with free will that looked vaguely like us because they were us.

His loneliness went away.

But free will brought murder.

God said, “Hey!” and the murdering stopped. Men and women shook with fear.

And loneliness returned.

We were gone. God had ruined us.

Now he had a choice. Stop talking and hide, or end free will forever.

He looked at the stars. They said, “It’s big out here.”

No. Not really. He would get rid of free will, then.

He raised his hand high but before it fell… he fell in love.

With us and our half smiles. The telegraphed humor. Our romance with bad words that make us so sure we’re cool. And all the darling little cars we leave everywhere.

So he went off to hide and think.

While he was away someone said, “There is no free will.”

With that, everyone vanished.

Everyone but God.

He couldn’t sleep because he’d downed that whole pot of coffee.

And he could still see my wife’s hopeful eyes when the kids were young.

Will they come back? Can they?

The stars didn’t answer. They didn’t seem to know.


M. Talmage Moorehead

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I Bailed On My Medical Practice


Honestly, I was never cut out to be a pathologist.

It’s true that I have a strong eye for pattern recognition of rare tumors. And I’ve got enough OCD-ishness to avoid most of the million tiny and galactic mistakes that haunt pathologists without OCD traits.

But I lack the bluster for the job.

It turns out that bluster, the gift of feeling and sounding 100% certain when you’re only 99, is the key to tolerating a profession where people’s lives are in your hands.

And that gift of pseudo-certainty makes surgeons and colleagues think you’re good, even if you’re not.

The people who thought I was an outstanding general pathologist were the few pathologists who consulted with me on most of their own tough cases. Plus maybe every cytotechnologist I ever worked with.

And my wife and kids who are completely unbiased.

When the stress from outside work escalated and combined with on-the-job stress, I reached critical mass inside. I was done. Cooked.

It was a Thursday night.

On Friday I walked into work and told them this would be my last day as a pathologist.

That was June 27, 2014, about a month ago. Since then, I’ve learned a few things.

When I’m not smothered by life-and-death stress, the world shines for me.

Sitcoms are funny. I’m still shocked.

Nobody dies if I’m an imperfect human.

The scowl wasn’t permanent. My daughter said my eyes look younger now.

The other day I caught myself smiling at a tree in our backyard. Do normal people do that?

I no longer have to open fresh colons, remove the feces by hand and hunt for invisible lymph nodes for an hour breathing toxic fumes.

The last 26 years of practice are over. The 13 years of prep and training are history.

My goal is to become an indie writer before the neurons fly south.

I didn’t quit pathology so I could write full-time. I’m not that brave.

I quit because I couldn’t go on.

But I love to write. More than anything.

And like you, my human flaws qualify me for this job.

M. Talmage Moorehead

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jungle-1Not long ago in a dream I was visited by a beautiful girl who was my girlfriend for two months during my junior year of high school. At the time, I was a “too-religious” loner and she was a popular senior who, for some strange reason, saw something special in me, sought me out and told me about it. She talked to me like an equal. Though we never kissed (it was against academy rules) we became an item. When we broke up, it was because of poor communication on my part.

I’ve always deeply regretted that.

I’m not a Christian fundamentalist anymore, but I’ve always blamed myself for turning her away from the religion we held in common at the time. I was the most religious boy she’d ever met, and I broke up with her for no apparent reason. That probably convinced her that the religion was bogus.

When she left our strict faith she ventured too far in the opposite direction. I’ve heard that fundamentalists tend to do that if they leave.

Years later when I was doing my final year of pathology residency, she came in on a slab at the coroner’s office on the last day of my forensics elective. There was no visible cause of death. She was still young and beautiful.

I try not to blame myself, but it’s no use.

She and I never talked things over. I never even intended to break up with her. She misunderstood what I was saying and said, “You should go before I cry.” And like a fool I turned and walked out the door of the chemistry building and never had a real conversation with her again.

In my dream I said to her, “Thank you so much for coming to see me.” I told her how much I still appreciate the kindness and the loving attention she’d given me all those years ago when I was young, away from home, self-isolated and alone. How she looked beyond the sincere but plastic wall of religion I’d built around myself, and she’d managed to find something attractive in me.

I tried to tell her that I never meant to break up with her, but she didn’t seem to hear those words.

Of course, at about this point in the dream I realized she wasn’t real. She would vanish in a few seconds, as people always do when I notice that I’m dreaming.

So I just looked at her face and tried to keep her there. I told her that she looked so beautiful and so young. She hadn’t aged. I confided that she seemed so completely real, and she vanished.

I woke up in a dark room. Why didn’t I talk things over with her back in high school when she was alive? When she still held that strict belief system that would have kept her out of trouble!

My son, the psychologist in training, has told me since his high school years, “If you don’t talk, Dad, people will assume the worst.”

I know that now.

To be understood you’ve got to open your mouth and talk. Especially when there’s a misunderstanding.

Be careful of silence… saying nothing until it’s too late.

But I wonder, is it ever too late?

Maybe time is not linear. Maybe the Universe never loses information – as the physicists say.

Maybe she heard me in that dream.

Maybe she understood and forgave me.

M. Talmage Moorehead

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