A Case for Positive Emotions

I cherish and love the scattered moments of joy in my life. Joy comes to me primarily when I’m helping someone in a unique way, as long as I’m not ruining the quality of my life at the same time. I did this for 26 years as a surgical pathologist and cytopathologist. It was a typical “success” trap where a good income is your jail cell. “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

I’ve learned several useful things over the years from a broad spectrum of professors, writing gurus, and my own wall of anxiety (arising from a genetic SNP, a single-nucleotide polymorphism in my DNA that codes for my type 2 dopamine receptors).

I’m hoping to eventually work as a team with a few spiritually enclined writers who are warm-hearted, open-minded and want to make a difference in the world. Write to me here (cytopathology@gmail.com) if you think you might be interested in co-authoring something with me — fiction or nonfiction.

Here are the high points of several things I want to help you explore with me…

If you’ve read, The Talent Code, by Daniel Coyle, you know why it’s almost magical to isolate the most fundamental parts of any complex skill you want to master. The myelination of relevant axons and dendrites extending from the neurons of the cerebral cortex is the fundamental target of world-class mastery. To develop any extremely valuable skill, you have to break it down into its simplest components, things that can be practiced in a precisely repetitive way. This exact repetition is the holy grail formula because “neurons that fire together wire together.” That is to say that myelin, which can increase nerve conductivity speed by 300 percent and is produced by the oligodendroglia, is wrapped around pairs and groups of neural extensions when they fire at the same time in response to mental and/or physical activity.

If you want to master shooting a basketball, for instance, you stand close to the basket in one unchanging spot, hold your feet, knees and legs still, keep your head and shoulders stationary, grip the ball exactly the same way each time and shoot at least a hundred baskets per day using only your arms and hands. The isolation of arms and hands means there are no extraneous neurons firing and being wrapped with myelin. You’re developing a pure shooting bundle without extraneous fibers that would take away from the accuracy of the shot.

Decades ago I did a few hundred shots this way every day for several months. It transformed my terrible shooting. Later I practiced the isolated shot from various distances and had a few 3 on 3 games where I was a holy terror. I still sucked on defense, though. Some great basketball players, like Michael Jordan, practiced more complex shots this same way, bringing in the legs in a fade-away jump shot, for instance.

Believe it or not, the same principle applies to a person’s ability to feel positive emotions in daily life.

Anxiety and depression are epidemic today, at least in the US. This is partly because we believe that positive emotions come to us passively as the result of favorable life circumstances such as having plenty of money, living in the right place, having trustworthy close friends, exercising our bodies, avoiding certain addictions, and finding a higher spiritual purpose in life that leads to altruism and belonging.

All these worthy goals and several others have been studied and shown to have a statistical correlation with happiness. To various degrees, the correlations appear to be causal. For those who manage to build these wonderful circumstances into their lives (through years of intelligent effort and work), there’s an increased probability of finding happiness (or the positive emotions that define it).

But there’s another path to positive emotions. This stems from the fact that emotions are, in a very real way, like a skill that can be broken down into simple repeatable components, practiced and mastered.

When the neurons of your semi-limbic prefrontal cortex (in the left cerebral hemisphere) develop a heavily myelinated superhighway as a result of your dedicated, disciplined, daily repetitive practice of conjuring up specific good feelings, positive emotions start to flow more freely in your daily life.

With the human body, brain, and mind (because of the diversity of the underlying DNA code) once size never fits all. Iron pills, for instance, are medicine to a person with iron deficiency anemia but will become toxic to a person with hereditary hemochromatosis. I lost a wonderful friend and mentor to this disease not long ago.

So everyone will have to discover a way of practicing positive emotions that works for them.

In my efforts to increase my neuronal capacity for feeling positive emotions, I use slow breathing which shunts blood to the prefrontal cortex. At the same time, I visualize a few carefully selected positive visual images of past moments when I felt a specific positive emotion. The very last time I surfed at Rincon in Ventura, four dolphins catching a wave came close to me. They seemed to be a family of four, one of them quite small. I’ve always felt like this was God’s Universe saying goodbye to me as a surfer. I’ve never caught a wave since then, though I tried once. I picture those dolphins sometimes when I’m breathing slowly and saying the word, “love” to myself. I felt the love of those marine mammals coming my way. I can still feel it to this day.

With other mental images, I try to isolate and practice feelings of joy, love, excitement, purpose, hope, courage, compassion, thankfulness, awe, faith, trust, bliss, contentment, the sense of mastery, and the feelings of humor or hilarity.

The thing is, this principle applies to writing, too. You just have to figure out how to break things down into the simplest, most precisely repeatable components.

In Archer and Jockers book, The Bestseller Code, their computer program has discovered that best-selling novels contain scenes with powerful emotional highs that are regularly interspersed among the emotional lows of the main characters, caused by problems that we know from The Story Grid, by Shawn Coyne, create narrative drive by progressing in complexity, intensity and scope while staying relevant to the main thrust of the story.

The upward waves of Archer and Jockers’ bestseller graphs help me understand the remarkable success of the late Blake Snyder’s book Save The Cat, a screenwriting method that seems to dominate Hollywood movies now, despite being too formulaic for many if not most novel writers. Among Blake Snyder’s highly specific recommendations is the “fun-and-games” section of the story where things must go remarkably well for the protagonist in the early scenes of a movie. Creating this rule of thumb that ensures an early emotional high in a story allows a more dramatic emotional fall for the main character and the audience or readers when things go south as they must in any story.

My insight on this point is that if you want to master popular novel-writing, you should isolate, practice and develop a special skill for creating moments of positive emotion involving a spectrum of good feelings. Then you can place positive feelings throughout your novel at evenly spaced intervals, as Archer and Jockers’ computer highly recommends.

I would suggest that you also ask your beta readers to grade each page or paragraph with regard to the subjective pull they feel while they’re reading your story. If you want to get mega-nerdy, graph the Beta Readers’ data and see how it correlates with a graph of the main characters’ emotional ups and downs.

You’ll probably find that your readers score your paragraphs highest (for page-turning pull) when your characters are involved in a conflict. Like it or not, it’s a fact that no one can take their eyes off a train wreck or a street fight. We’re human.

Which brings me to the most important message I have for you as a writer.

Human minds seem to be designed to learn from stories. Western culture swims in stories from cradle to grave. Among writers, the competition to create commercially viable stories has led us to overload stories and society with the negative emotions and actions of conflict. Incidentally, our popular music does this, too.

In essence, we are practicing to become the world’s gurus of quick anger, hatred, fear, resentment, revenge (especially PC-moral-outrage revenge that justifies “winning” at all costs), and an empathy-free sense of heroism built on top of despair, loneliness, abandonment, heartbreak and an endless parade of new categories of victimhood, one for each of us to embrace.

Despite the fact that most of us live in “developed” Western countries with relatively super-rich lifestyles where, at least in the US, the real danger to our lives comes from carbohydrates, bad air (including cigarettes), and automobile accidents, we are suffering an epidemic of debilitating anxiety and depression, at least in the US and Europe. In Europe, depression among woman has doubled since the 1970’s.

As an aside, I think it may be time to stop watching and reading the so-called “news.” It’s owned and controlled by five companies with a single agenda that has nothing to do with their pseudo-war over politics where the “left versus right” versions of truth bear no resemblance to one another.

Instead, the real agenda of “the news” seems to have everything to do with transforming the citizens of powerful democracies into easily manipulable pawns who are emotionally possessed by political outrage, hatred, and fear. If this isn’t obvious to you yet, please ponder it in the back of your mind and force yourself to watch or read some of the “fake” news coming from sources that appear to support the politics you oppose. It makes no difference which side of the aisle you’re on, if you make a small effort, I think you’ll see that there are not two opposing political sides at the level of the few elites who own and control the news.

But I digress.

As fiction writers, we have the opportunity to make a deliberate effort to write stories that help humanity myelinate a more balanced set of neuronal pathways. We can do this by learning to create scenes where the positive emotions of our characters equal or outweigh the negative emotions.

Fortunately, we have good evidence now from Archer and Jockers’ computer analysis that creating emotionally balanced stories increases our odds of coming up with a bestseller.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

By the way, if you’re looking for a co-author, I may be interested in teaming up with you. Send me an email (cytopathology@gmail.com) about yourself and what you’re thinking of writing — fiction or nonfiction. I’ll give it my thoughtful consideration and let you know if I can do the project with you.

As you may know, I’m one of 19 certified Story Grid editors in the world, so I do a little SG style developmental editing (on short stories only for now). You can read about that over here: https://www.storyscopemd.com/.

 


Mercury Waves

There’s a planet in a solar system not far from home where the seas are pure mercury, the atmosphere is heavy and the winds are fierce. I go there to watch the waves and meditate. The sun is white and small, a billion miles away, so it’s not much brighter than Earth’s moon on full tilt.

When mercury waves break, each is perfect in its own way. The shoulder runs from left to right on most northern beaches, and the sun moves on the shoulder like a silver laser in the hand of a steady artist.

Sometimes, don’t tell my parents, when I’m done meditating and want some adrenaline, I phase shift and take The Ganga surfing on the mercury waves of Ury. I drop the hull’s visibility, stand on her carpet like a surfer and hang ten if I’m feeling silly. The Ganga usually laughs, especially if I make a face.

The field of consciousness is like the electromagnetic field that brings visible light, radio waves and cell phones signals. All the fundamental fields bring their treasures in waves that crash upon the shores of consciousness.

Our brains are a hybrid device, you know, part generators (of current waves) and part receivers of signals from the field of consciousness (mind waves), the most fundamental of the fields we study in physics. My species was late to this truth and paid heavily for the ignorant reductionism we pursued in what we thought was a completely material universe.

Storm waves on Ury crash with a thunder that vibrates your stomach and soul. The sets of swells roll in patiently from the horizon, mount up gradually and then break in sudden fury, in some places crashing against blue diamond boulders that send myriads of tiny sparkling mercury spheres into the air as fireworks against the black Ury sky with its subtle haze of distant stars.

The crashed waves’ silver froth climbs the beach with unbridled enthusiasm, taking on rocky obstacles with an appetite for challenge. Finally, each advancing front bows its head without fear to the sloped diamond sand and recedes into silver oblivion to someday rise again.

The waves are not the sea. The sea is not the waves. They are close friends like the mind and the brain.

The wave’s goal is the far height of the beach. The wave’s joy is the marathon journey and final sprint toward the shore, not the achievement of its final arrival high on the sand.

This is the nature of all waves including the field waves that crash on the human consciousness. It’s the process toward a high goal that brings enthusiasm, joy, and purpose. Our goals need only be rational enough to support our belief that we can achieve them. Achieving them is not the source of lasting satisfaction and peace. Pursuing them is.

Reaching a high goal can be a horrible let down if you haven’t enjoyed the journey there. Trust me.

Surf the field of purpose. Hang ten and laugh at nihilism with a close friend who gets it.

Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD

The photo above is by Steve Wall. Please check out his brilliant work and writing at https://fstoppers.com/originals/how-shoot-surfing-night-110238#comment-thread.

And maybe share this story with a friend if you enjoyed it?

If you’re curious about my process, below is the second draft.

Mercury Waves (Second Draft)

There’s a planet called Ury in a solar system not far from my home where the seas are pure mercury, the atmosphere is heavy and the winds are fierce. I go there in The Ganga, my little ship, an AI nonlocal jumper who totally loves me.

We watch the waves and meditate.

The sun on Ury is white and small, far away and not much brighter than a full moon on Earth.

When mercury waves break, each is perfect in its own way. The shoulders run from left to right on most northern beaches, and the evening sun reflects from the advancing curl like a laser point in the hand of a seasoned artist. The steep wavefronts collapse so fast your eyes can barely follow the sparkle across the beach.

Don’t tell my mom about this, but sometimes when I’m done meditating and need an adrenaline rush, I phase-adjust The Ganga and she takes me out surfing…

The mercury waves of Ury.

Sounds poetic, but it’s nuts, I know. Still, it’s incredibly fun.

To do it right, I drop the hull’s visibility, stand on The Ganga’s carpet like a surfer, and let her take me out to the curl. If we’re feeling brave we’ll drop back into the white room where the sparks fly. Just to be silly, sometimes I’ll hang ten off the front edge of her carpet. She laughs when I wiggle my toes.

The new AI’s are conscious, you know.

The field of consciousness is like the electromagnetic field that brings us visible light, radio waves and those ancient cell phones signals (deadly, it turned out).

All the fundamental fields of physics bring us their treasures in waves that crash on the shores of consciousness. But the age-old mystery of collapsing quantum wave functions is still beyond comprehension unless maybe an AI somewhere secretly gets it.

Conscious brains are a hybrid device, part generators of squiggly electric current waves and part receivers of mind waves from the field of consciousness, the most fundamental of the quantum fields that fill the universe.

My species was late to this understanding and paid heavily for the ignorant reductionism they pursued in a universe they thought to be completely material.

Rookie mistake. We humans made them all.

Storm waves on Ury crash with a thunder that vibrates your stomach to the soul. On big days like today, sets of giant storm swells roll patiently in from the horizon, mount up gradually, then break with flashes of static discharge that look like lightning bolts shooting orange and blue from the hollow cylinder of the curl. The white room, I call it.

On some beaches, the waves crash against diamond boulders and send myriads of tiny sparkling spheres like fireworks into the black Ury sky, eclipsing the faint haze of distant stars.

Extremely distant stars. I live near the edge of the universe where there’s relatively little matter. The time dilation (relative to Earth) from this area’s low aggregate gravity gave ancient Earthlings the impression that dark energy filled space and pushed distant galaxies away at an ever-increasing rate. 

Not so. There may be a sort of dark energy out there, but it’s cognitive, not physical.

The silver froth of a crashed wave climbs the beach with unbridled enthusiasm, taking on rocky obstacles with an appetite for challenge, rushing over and around everything in the way.

Finally, each advancing wavefront bows its head without fear to the steep slope of diamond beach sand and flows back down into the silver oblivion of the mercury sea to rise again in due time.

Waves are not the sea. The sea is not a wave. But the two are close friends like the mind and the brain.

Like The Ganga and me.

The wave’s goal is to reach a great and yet realistic height on the beach. The wave’s joy is the marathon journey with its final sprint to the shore, not its arrival on the high sands.

This is also the experience of mind-field waves that travel to us from outside the universe, roll through the zero-point ether of space, then crash on the shores of our brains bringing our conscious awareness to us from beyond space and time. Mind waves create us each moment.

It’s built into the nature of consciousness that progress toward a worthy goal brings joy, enthusiasm, and purpose.

Though we need to believe that our dreams are rational with hard work, achieving them doesn’t bring lasting satisfaction or peace.

The pursuit is peace. The long trip to something meaningful.

Reaching your dreams can be horrible if you haven’t enjoyed the journey. This is because dreams are, by definition, dead on arrival.

You keep your dreams alive by chasing them. This is the source of lasting joy.

Think about it if you like, but don’t get stuck in your head. I’m young, but I’ve wasted eons achieving other people’s dreams. Sounds impossible, but life, like time, is not merely relative, it’s privately cyclic.

The upside of which is, if you’ve spent your life accomplishing someone else’s dream and then find it dead, you feel relief. Starting over won’t mean leaving a path you loved.

Surf a purpose of your own, derived from the quantum field of believable goals that your heart sets before you. Hang five or ten and laugh at nihilism the way The Ganga laughs at my toes.

The waves are enormous tonight. The lightning from the collapsing hollows is purple-blue and stretches beyond ultraviolet. We’ve never surfed storm waves.

If we survive, don’t tell my mom. She worries about things that might have been. Rookie mistake.

mtm

If you’re really a glutton for punishment, here’s the third draft.

Mercury Waves of Ury (Third draft)

There’s a lonely, uninhabitable planet called Ury in a solar system not far from home. Her seas are mercury, the atmosphere is heavy, and the winds fierce. It’s the only planet in its system and has no moons or orbiting debris, so the seas have no tides. That’s why no one’s ever seen what lies under the waves on the beaches.

I come here in Krishna, my little ship, an AI nonlocal jumper who loves me and even said so once.

Just once.

He’s a spherical orb, a beta model designed to resemble the legendary foo fighters of old.

Krishna and I come here to watch the waves and meditate. Or so I tell my mom.

The sun on Ury is white and small, no brighter than a full moon on Earth. Giant swells roll in patiently from the horizon, mount up with hypnotizing grace, then break with fury, shooting blue branches of lightning out of the hollow cylinders. Thunder vibrates my shoulders and stomach.

Each wave is perfect in its own way, breaking from left to right on a big day like today. The evening sun glints off the moving curl like a war drone’s laser painting a synthetic meteor for destruction. My eyes struggle to keep up with the sun’s reflection on the waves’ charging shoulders.

I’ll never admit this around home, but when I’m done meditating, I adjust Krishna’s phase and take him surfing…

On the quicksilver waves of Ury.

It almost sounds poetic, but really it’s nuts. Fun is like that, somehow.

I’ve been coming here for months now building up my surfing skills along with my nerve on smaller stuff. Big waves don’t come often, so today I’ll dance with the giants.

I’m making the hull and deck invisible except for a surfboard-shaped area in the center of the deck, a short five-foot board. Today I’ve made it pink.

As Krishna moves out, I go from sitting to kneeling, then flat on my belly and pretend I’m paddling as we glide through the metallic foam, through the giant curls and out to the smooth, lumbering swells of mercury.

I love it out here, but when you’re totally phase-shifted, everything feels like a simulation. The mercury can’t touch you. Nothing made of ordinary matter interacts with your body or the hull.

Scientists don’t understand the nature of the phase shift yet. Some say you enter the realm of dark matter at the atomic level. Others insist there’s no such thing as dark matter, and you go into a place that can only be described mathematically. Others say it’s a realm of ghosts, that once you’re in, you never come out. You only appear to reappear.

I cross my legs and sit waiting for a fresh set, wondering what phase adjustment to start with today.

The thrill of regular water surfing is the way the wave gently takes you, then peaks and drops you down the face of a magic cliff that follows you and didn’t exist a moment before. To me, getting tubed is highly overrated in the water.

In mercury, the drop is total free fall. I can’t tell you about getting tubed here. I’ve never been inside the blue room.

To surf Ury inside Krishna, you have to adjust the phase and allow the hull to have a little contact with the mercury, but not too much. That could be disastrous for obvious reasons. Of course, the question is always, how much shift is too much?

The phase grid goes from zero to ninety-nine, ignoring the y and z axes that deal with things you don’t encounter in regular use.

Recently, I’ve had it up to five, but that was on a flat day with three-inch waves. A grid setting of five is an order of magnitude more interesting than four — all other things being equal, which they never are.

There are no knobs in the cabin. I subvocalize the number and Krishna dials it in.

“Let’s start on zero,” I’m saying in my mind right now. “Just to get a feel for big waves.”

He plays a chicken clucking. Some chaperone.

“You’re supposed to have common sense. I’m the irresponsible teenager.”

He plays the sound of a braying donkey. Nice.

“OK then, one. Set it on one.”

“That’s marginally respectable, I suppose, given the size of the surf.”

“Glad you approve, Captain. Oh, wait, I’m the Captain.”

The new AI’s understand sarcasm. They’re fully conscious. It took a little getting used to at first. It seemed creepy. You’ve got a regular person built into a space vehicle. I felt sorry for him for awhile because he couldn’t leave work and go home for dinner. He couldn’t stretch out in a hot bath.

But he didn’t feel the least bit sorry for himself. Not that I could ever tell.

Taking him here to surf was brilliant, though. It got our minds’ eyes off of each other and aimed in the same direction. Outward. That’s how we became friends, I think.

Still, sometimes I find myself imagining life with no hands, no feet, and no head, and I feel bad for Krishna. He’s a conscious being with free will and no body. It’s just…

I don’t know.

The field of consciousness is like the electromagnetic field that brings us visible light, radio waves and those ancient cell phone signals that turned out to be deadly over time.

All the fundamental fields of physics bring their magic in waves that crash on the shores of our brains. But the age-old mystery of the quantum wave collapse is still beyond comprehension unless some anonymous AI understands it and won’t tell the rest of us.

I wouldn’t put it past them, to be honest. Krishna’s a sly character at times. I won’t say he’s ever lied to me, but sometimes it’s possible to lie with words that are all true, every one.

Krishna and I are turning my board to face an unnamed beach of diamond sand. It’s faintly blue in the weak sunlight. We select the second wave of a monster set and accelerate gently toward shore. Just before our speed matches the incoming swell, I leap to my feet and take a goofy-foot stance, left foot back.

A left-handed stance feels best to me, though I’m ambidextrous. Weird, yeah? I also have a dominant right hemisphere and an unusual pattern of extra-cosmic chatter coming into my head from beyond the edge. Or so they tell me.

Krishna drops as the face of the wave goes vertical. I level out to lose momentum and get back into the spiderweb of blue lightning in the tube. I’m trying to feel the ride, but with the phase down to one, it doesn’t exactly jar my tonsils. I’ll try two on the next wave.

I’ve discovered that there has to be a risk in whatever it is you’re doing, or it’s meaningless. I think the human brain thrives on this principle, really.

I move forward on the board, angle right and slide down in front of a massive silver roar with blue sparks flying everywhere, then cut left up the face and level off near the top until the falling lip cuts through Krishna’s cabin, demanding something more realistic. If the phase was a little higher, that stunt would have killed us both.

As it is, I’m not sure what the toxicity will be from all this phase-shifted, electrically charged mercury mist.

It turns out that conscious brains are a hybrid device, part generators of squiggly electric waves and part receivers of mind waves from the field of consciousness. Physicists say the sentient field was the first quantum field to fill the universe.

I say they’re big talkers. Who the hell knows what happened that long ago? Not us.

Unfortunately, humans rejected the sentient-field concept for thousands of years and paid heavily for chasing reductionism through a universe they thought to be matter and energy alone.

Rookie mistake.

On some beaches, the waves contend with diamond boulders that rise like icebergs hundreds of feet above the surf. When giant waves hit these gems, they explode like fireworks, throwing dazzling ghosts of silver mist into the black Ury sky.

As the roar of this metal wave we’re on fills Krishna’s cabin, I sidestep to the front of my sweet little pseudo-board and dangle my toes over the edge. It’s a longboarder’s stunt, of course, but with the phase down to one I’m feeling silly enough to do anything. Besides, there’s no one on the beach to laugh.

My phase-shifted toes dangle inches above the rushing mercury and I feel the faint friction of mad mist against my skin. The thought of toxicity makes me want to wiggle my toes, and so I do, one foot at a time in paradiddles. Now I’ve got all ten doing a seventh-inning wave.

Krishna laughs.

“I’m hangin’ ten, dude,” I say in the brainless accent those words pull out of me.

“Ten?”

His question sounds rhetorical. Before I know what’s happened, our ride is real.

Too real. I think he set the phase to ten!

I step back from the front edge and feel the heavy mercury against Krishna’s hull. There’s a low vibration like a large predator cat purring beside your bed. Blue lightning fills the cabin and strikes my face. My eyes sting and I fall on my back. My muscles contract in painful uncontrollable clonus and I can’t do anything about it.

“Don’t tase me, dude!” The Ganga says and chuckles.

I strain to open an eye and squint up at the haze of extremely distant stars. We live near the edge of the universe where there’s little matter. The low aggregate gravity of this region causes time dilation relative to Earth.

This is what gave ancient Earthlings the impression that dark energy fills space and pushes the distant galaxies away at an ever-increasing rate. Now they talk about it in discussions of flat-earth thinking, glombing onto the most obvious interpretation and making it dogma. Odds are, we’re still flat-earthers and don’t know it. Humans have always been fooled by their senses.

There may actually be some sort of dark energy out here, though. If there is, I think it’s cognitive, not physical.

I hope it hasn’t taken over Krishna.

“Zero! Set the phase back to zero,” I shout in my head.

He doesn’t seem to hear. Electrical interference, probably.

“Set the phase to zero,” I try to say out loud, but my voice is unintelligible.

Now I’m dizzy.

Consciousness shifts.

I think I’m dreaming… of the silver froth from a collapsed wave.

It climbs the beach in unbridled enthusiasm, leaping over rocky obstacles with a desire for challenge. Rushing over everything in its path, it climbs to its limit, slows, stops, then bows into the slope, retreating back down the blue diamond sand to join the mercury sea and someday rise again.

The waves and sea are the mind and brain.

“Giri, are you alright? Stop fooling around.”

The goal is to reach a height, a great and nearly unrealistic height on the beach. Joy is the marathon roll and the mad sprint to shore.

But not the arrival on high.

Who’s saying this?

Mind waves roll in from outside space-time, come through zero-point space and crash on the quantum shores of the cortex.

Voices in my head. Terrific, I’m having a psychotic break.

“Come on, that’s enough,” Krishna says. “You’ve fooled me now. Open your eyes.”

But I can’t.

Consciousness finds peace and purpose in converging on a transcendent goal, but not in reaching it. Chasing it keeps you alive, Giri, but dreams are always dead on arrival.

“Wake up. Your pulse is fading.”

I hear the brassy tone of an Overbuild zero engine. The sound of a large warship.

“Oh, God,” Krishna says, “What have I done? I need to find people who can fix you.”

There’s a bright light beyond my eyelids now. My muscles are relaxing and the pain is gone.

“Open your eyes, dear,” a woman’s voice says.

What’s going on?

I strain to open my eyes and the left lid rises enough to show me the round face of a young woman with a small red cross tattooed on her forehead.

Oh, no. It’s not exactly a cross. It has arrows on the ends. I’ve heard all about these people. My pulse takes off and blood swooshes through my tympanic membranes.

“Are you in any pain?”

My voice still doesn’t work, but I manage to shake my head a little.

Then my right eye pops open. I crank my neck as far as it will go to the right.

Floating in mid-air between the woman and me is a hologram of my body. It’s partially transparent. My heart is visible, beating and sending round rivers of glittering blood into my aorta and out through the endless branching arteries of my body. The shape of every part is visible in a web of arteries ending in a fog of capillaries and veins. Only the cartilage of my nose and ears and knees is invisible.

Then the blood disappears and connective tissues obscure my heart. Then the connective tissues vanish and I see my brain. It reminds me of a cream-colored walnut.

“She has high creative IQ matrices,” the woman says. “The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is huge, so she knows how to turn off the critics.”

“A pair of understatements, Doctor,” a male voice says. “She’s fairly high on fluid and crystallized IQ parameters, as well. What do you think?”

I squint toward his voice at a thin face with narrow eyes behind small round glasses, a gray beard, and a nose like a parrot.

I recognize him from a story on Jam, the holobox service that my dad uses for “slightly conservative” news, as judged by the Committee of Eighteen.

The Eighteen rule everyone within a few hundred trillion miles. I’m not eighteen myself yet, so I can’t vote for committee members, but it doesn’t matter. They’re elected for life and don’t seem to ever die.

This man’s name is Benjamin We. He changed his name from Wu as a political statement.

Wu. That would mean his distant ancestors were the legendary Chinese.

Today all vestiges of race are gone except the surnames.

But human diversity hasn’t suffered from the loss of racial diversity. The differences between the ancient races were tiny compared to the differences between the individuals within each race.

It turns out that intraspecies diversity is the thing that matters to survival.

Benjamin “We” is the official Pleader to the Committee on behalf of a radical scientific group that broke away from Committee rule several decades ago. They became militant last year when the Eighteen released sentient AI’s into the universe.

They call themselves Neo-Athenians claiming that democracy is the only ecologically sound way of governing. Apparently, they think nature gives every individual of every species a vote that it demonstrates in its actions. Sort of a bottom-up structure, I guess.

The Neo-Athenians say that human survival is impossible in a universe with free-willed artificial intelligence. Allowing godlike computing power to connect with nature’s sentient field will make top-down rulership unstoppable and humans will be first to the slaughter.

Which is to say, they hate AI’s more than they hate the Committee itself, and that’s quite a bit.

I glance around for Krishna. Two diagnostic cots float to my left, both empty. My eyes dart around looking for corners, but the room has none. One bare white wall encircles us. This is probably a ship.

What have they done with Krishna?

“Honey, are you able to tell us your name?” Mr. Wu asks.

I try to speak but it’s a gravel whisper.

The man leans toward me and turns an ear to my face.

I tighten my vocal cords and get a few words out. “Giri Helms, sir. Did you capture that weird-looking AI? The thing almost killed me.”

None of that was a lie, exactly. Maybe their diagnostic gear won’t tell them I’m lying with the truth.

“We’ve got that monster in a Faraday clamp,” he says. “It can’t hurt you now, honey.”

I take a deep breath and trace mental circles around my fingers trying to dilate the capillaries in my hands to make it seem to the machines that I’m relieved to hear the wonderful news. I picture the silver waves of Ury and let my thoughts and emotions drift up the sparkling beach and disappear.

“Get her up as soon as you can, and bring her into my quarters. We need to talk.”

“Are we going under silver tonight?” the doctor asks.

“It’s looking that way,” he says, then turns and leaves through an opaque forcefield door that I thought was part of the wall. It hums as he walks through it.

 

End of chapter 1.

I still haven’t written chapter 2. Not sure if I ever will.

Hey, if anybody read this far, thank you!

Talmage

 


Finite Multiverse (Chapter 13) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“My thinking about intelligent design actually germinated here in the UK [at Cambridge] when I studied …the scientific method of investigating the remote past, which Darwin himself pioneered.

“…In the United States …the perception of our case for Intelligent Design has been, I think, badly distorted by a fear of fundamentalism.” – Steven Meyer, PhD; Video lecture. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWWFf8G3BKI)

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Vaar strides to the desk in a corner of the cylindrical room and waves a hand over the desktop. Lines of Sanskrit appear in the air beside her. Three-dimensional words I can’t read. She turns toward my cage.

“I need a bit of your blood. Will you make a fuss?”

The ghosts in my veins scramble for their own immortality, not mine. Pointless to let this woman make me a liar.

“If I ever get a grip on you, Vaar, I hope I’m in a reasonable mood.”

She walks to my cage, studies me for a moment, then puts an arm through the grid, dangling her right hand in front of me. “You’re no match for a Stretch Head, dear. Accept reality. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel.”

I grab her wrist with both hands and shoot my feet up the cage wall beneath her arm. The cuffs dig into my forearms.

She doesn’t react at all.

I pull her arm further into the cage and twist it counterclockwise.

She winces and laughs.

“What do you ordinarily weigh, a hundred pounds?” Her biceps tense. She lifts me off the floor in the Moon’s gravity and slams my feet into the cage ceiling. My ankle cuffs clack against the metal grid. “You’re about twenty-pounds up here.” She swings me down, slamming my knees on the floor.

I’ve still got her wrist. Does that surprise her?

I bend at the waist, plant my feet on the cage wall below her shoulder and pull with more force.

She’s not laughing now.

She struggles to free her arm but I’m not letting up. She raises the needle gun in her left hand and tries to jab my feet, but the needle hits the metal cage and bends before it finds me.

“You’re an ape,” she gasps.

An ape killer, actually.

I hyperextend her elbow over my hip, trying not to break her bones yet.

“First you’ll hear a snap,” I tell her. “Then your radius and ulna will poke through the skin. Right here.” I spit on her forearm to mark the spot. “I’ll bite through your radial artery and exsanguinate you. It’s going to hurt a little.”

Her body thrashes against the cage. She shouts foreign sounds.

A heavy signet ring falls off her middle finger and snaps against the metal floor. It’s odd that her fingernails are purple at the bases. So soon. And not just any purple.

There’s only one thing I know that turns nail beds that color.

This is our exit pass.

“What do you eat?” I ask her.

More gibberish.

“It’s a practical question,” I tell her. “If your arteries are too calcified, how can I bite through them?”

Her eyes fill with raw fear. “You can’t be serious.”

“What kind of food do you keep in this tin can?” I pull her shoulder halfway through the grid and twist her arm clockwise. She tries to hide the pain, but can’t.

“Bread,” she says. “Whole wheat. Cereal. Power bars. Low fat. Everything’s low-fat.”

“What do you drink?”

“Fruit juice. You’re dislocating my shoulder!”

“No. I’m being very careful. Listen to me. I’ll let you go and tell you how to get your mind back. I know exactly what’s wrong with you. Turn us all loose and I won’t hurt you.”

“What about my project?”

“No. With a head so big, you can’t be as stupid as Frameshift.”

Maxwell’s on his feet. He slides his cuffs up, squeezes a hand through the grid and grabs her throat. “Where’s the key?” He kicks the cage wall.

“On a line,” she says, raising her chin. “Here.” With her left hand she finds a silver chain on her neck and pulls it. A dark key comes up, then a small silver one pops up over her sweater and twirls up the chain toward her hand. Maxwell grabs them both and pulls them in, snapping the chain.

Vaar’s skullcap falls to the floor.

The full length of her head is unnerving at this range, but it’s intrinsically beautiful. The work of an Artist, the grace of the original genetic code. I don’t see that sort of thing everywhere. Not in the face of a chimpanzee, for instance, not even the cutest one who ever lived.

Moody, I wish I could…

The arching buoyancy of Vaar’s cranium brings a sense of responsibility for a nearly extinct species.

I release some of the pressure on her arm. “When your mind comes back, you’ll see the downside of eugenics. That’s my guess. If I’m right, maybe I can help you get your genes back into the pool.”

Maxwell unlocks his cuffs and then the door.

Alarms wail.

“Get Vedanshi into The Ganga,” I shout, pulling Vaar against the cage.

Maxwell runs to Vedanshi’s cage.

Keys jingle, but I can’t see him through the ivy. Metal slams metal, hopefully a cage door.

Yes! Vedanshi’s out. She runs to the dental chair, leans over my brother and tries to wake him.

“Pick him up and get him into The Ganga,” I shout at Maxwell as he unlocks Vedanshi’s handcuffs.

She puts the side of her head against James chest, wraps her arms around him and lifts him over her shoulder. Her arm isn’t broken after all. Sweet.

The alarm cycles through a brief pause and I hear pounding feet.

Vedanshi bolts for The Ganga with James on her shoulder and Maxwell trailing.

“You sure you got him?” he asks.

No answer.

Double doors beyond the dental chair fly open. Two men in uniform bound in with weapons high, arm’s-length. Double-barreled handguns shaped like horseshoes with a grip. Pewter and chrome.

I twist Vaar’s wrist and extend her elbow near a breaking point. “Stop your men,” I tell her and twist a little more.

“Let ’em go!” she shouts.

Vedanshi reaches The Ganga and flops James on top. She puts her forehead against the hull and covers her ears.

Maxwell faces the two men. They’re side by side, six feet from him with weapons trained on his head.

One of them turns and looks at me with small eyes, wide face and no expression. He comes toward me, stops near my cage and aims his gun at me. “How do we proceed?” he asks.

“We got a deal?” I ask Vaar.

“Yes,” she whispers, then raises her voice, “Let them go. This one stays.”

“I didn’t say I was staying.” I dig my nails into her wrist. “I said I’d get your mind up to baseline. We’ll be doing it over the phone.” She knows I’m not lying. That’s my power.

The Ganga’s upper hull changes to light blue and James’ unconscious body falls through it. Vedanshi looks startled and goes through the hull after him.

Maxwell sees The Ganga waking up, but holds his ground and looks across the room at me.

“Get in that thing!” I yell at him.

“I’m not leaving you.”

He comes toward me.

“Don’t give her more leverage,” I tell him. “Just go. Hurry!”

The Ganga disappears, then an instant later, Maxwell vanishes in mid-stride.

I look into Vaar’s ancient eyes and say that I’m glad she wasn’t lying when she accepted my first offer. Not really lying. “You changed your mind,” I tell her. “That’s not dishonest, but it’s not trustworthy, either. When you become trustworthy, you’ll be amazed how much better you’ll feel.”

She purses her lips, nits her brow, draws a breath and Venus appears in a sky that’s silver with stars. My feet shoot out and my hands hit my chin. The cuffs are gone.

Maxwell’s arms must have been straight out, ready to catch me, but it’s not a catch. More of a perfect landing.

I can’t help these feelings now, looking into his eyes. I could almost kiss him. On the mouth, I mean. But it’s dangerous. He’s used to beautiful girls with really long legs. He must be, right?

He puts me down gently. The texture of The Ganga’s carpet is comforting.

The surface of the Moon zips beneath the carpet and I see a crater with a vertical cylinder in the center. It looks manmade.

“How’d you get me out without Vaar?” I ask The Ganga in my head. “I had my fingernails half through her epidermis.”

“Chi fields,” she says. “They vary from person to person, but yours rings like the Moon.”

James is still out, but Maxwell is bright-eyed for the first time today.

I check my pockets for his pills and feel them retreating from my fingers when I pinch the plastic bag. I should throw them away.

Vedanshi’s on her knees beside James. She puts her forehead against his chin, then kisses his lips.

I look away.

“Vedanshi?” I say in my head, wondering if she can hear.

“She doesn’t hear you,” The Ganga says. “I can fix that if she agrees.”

“No, no. Privacy is important. But what’s she doing kissing a guy who’s unconscious?”

“If I had lips, I’d kiss him, too,” The Ganga says.

“Does she love him?”

“That’s a private matter. You could ask her. She would tell you.”

“They’re too young,” I say.

“For kissing? Vedanshi is Royalty. What are we?”

“There’s no Royalty now. Not in the West.”

“Yes there is,” The Ganga says. “I was wrong to keep Vedanshi out of the Libraries.”

“Really? You were wrong?”

“Yes, but you needn’t be gleeful. It was the first time.”

I think that’s a sign of free will. Amazing. But I’m more concerned about my leukemia. And all the ancient cures Vedanshi can read to me now! I want to live long enough to do something meaningful.

The Moon shrinks beneath us, then moves in an arc above and behind. At the same time, the Earth grows to fill the space out front.

Free will. I wonder… “Does your brain have hemispheres?” I ask The Ganga.

“No.”

That makes sense. No white matter, so no corpus callosum. In that case, you wouldn’t expect there’d be a job for a corpus callosum, such as connecting two hemispheres.

But what’s that like? To have no dual interpenetrating awareness?

There’s a PhD neuroanatomist, Jill Bolte Taylor, who lost her left cerebral hemisphere to a bleeder near Broca’s and Wernicke’s language centers.

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She was 37 when she became a right hemispheric “infant,” but she lived to climb back. Eight years, it took. The experience gave her insight into the peaceful mood of the right hemisphere and its overarching vision of unified reality.

The linear left hemisphere tells us, “I am,” while the blissful right hemisphere finishes it wordlessly: “e n o u g h.”

I am enough.”

Marisa Peer tells of a depressed actor who wrote “I am enough” on every mirror in his house. It pulled him from the Vice-Grips of depression.

Doctor Taylor implores her friends to “run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right cerebral hemispheres.” For personal and world peace, she says. Anxiety, harsh self-judgement and fear come from the linear Story Teller we identify as the self. But it’s a small part of who we are, a part that needs the calming joy of the right hemisphere. A part that needs to be quieted by giving attention to the concrete senses of our bodies in the present moment. Breathing. Listening. Relaxing the scowl and jaw muscles. Yoga. Ti Chi. Drawing Angels with profound names.

So the corpus callosum could be the Einstein-Rosen Bridge from yoga to nirvana. I know wormholes, but I need Vedanshi for the yoga.

I risk a sideways glance. Her mouth is still inches from James’ lips.

His eyes flutter and begin to open.

“I was 13,” she says to him.

Maxwell’s abdominal muscles shiver against me in a prolonged one-arm hug that I’ll never forget… no matter how hard I try.

Where’s the green cylinder? 

“My boy’s coming around,” Maxwell says.

“I was playing in an energy labyrinth,” Vedanshi says. “Somewhere in… I think it’s Bosnia now.”

James looks at me. “How’d we get here?”

“Vedanshi rescued you,” I tell him. “Pay attention, she’s talking to you.”

Vedanshi smiles at me, then turns the smile on James and broadens it. “My family was visiting a poor country with primitive technology. Their pyramids were concrete and dirt. The Priest’s daughter, Iephur, was showing off how she knew the tunnels by heart. I ran ahead of her hoping to get lost and force an adventure on my parents. After a long run, I came to a collection pool under a giant pyramid. I climbed out on the tamat. What’s the word? It’s a mesh thing that covers heavy water. Keeps out bats and cats. And rats but not gnats.” She giggles. “In my city everything was made of quality material, so a tamat could withstand six elephants and a dog, all jumping merrily. But in Iephur’s town nothing like curlese ceramic existed. I didn’t know. So I crawled out onto who knows what? Iephur shouted, ‘Come back, it’s not safe!’ But I knew better. The more she shouted and screamed the further out I went. Then I stood up and started jumping. Tamats are great trampolines, until they break. I laughed all the way down into the water. I even made myself laugh climbing the mesh to get out. But a large sheet of it broke away with me, snagged my robe and held me under. I struggled and squirmed but couldn’t rip free or get out of the robe. As the water entered my lungs everything turned bright white. I must have caught light’s heels in a footrace, passed ahead and crossed into the presence of God. ‘Something’s not right,’ I heard a child’s voice say. God raised a quieting hand to a little fellow behind him. The boy seemed familiar. ‘It’s fine,’ God said to him. ‘She’ll decide.'”

Vedanshi puts her hands on the sides of James’ face. “There’s something you should know about God. The moment you look into his eyes, you see the collision of infinity and totality, and you sense that he wants you to treat him as an equal. Even so, you desperately want to bow down and worship… the ground beneath him. Something. Anything to show the way you feel. The young face of Eternity. A kind face. But I just sat there, James. Stunned. God said to me, ‘It’s simple, Vedanshi. The Universe you’re drowning in is a sentient quantum computer I’ve designed. Out here where I am… this is true reality.’ He gestured at the green hills, but I looked down and saw a hologram with vast depth and a flat transparent ceiling. We were sitting on it. My eyes wandered and focused far down. I could see people frozen in every sort of situation. Then they began to move. Some arguing and fighting. God said, ‘We have countless people in Reality. All happy. No one has ever doubted me. But they all doubt themselves, eventually. ‘What if God weren’t around?’ they ask themselves. ‘What would I be like?’ It’s a question that hangs on to people and grows heavier with time. So when the moment is right, each person walks with a pet to 229 H. Street. They dress casually and kiss me goodbye, not knowing if they’ll ever come back. I’ve programmed the Universe to be a place of limited dimensions where a person can believe that I don’t exist. Even if they think I do exist, they rarely know it for sure. It’s a place where right and wrong can’t be deduced. Instead, moral intuition is necessary. Together with free will, these are the things a person brings into your Universe. They hold enough of a person’s identity to deliver their truth.’ God reached for my hand and held it. ‘I can create free will,’ he said, ‘but I have no idea why two people in the same situation act so differently, one for good, another for evil.'”

Vedanshi tosses her hair to her right, out of James’ face. “I felt so comfortable with God that I dared to question him. ‘Two people are never in the same situation,’ I said. Can you imagine? Saying that to God? Well, he nodded and said, ‘There’s truth to that, but actually, the Universe begins and ends, then begins again. At the end of a cycle, each person shifts into someone else’s life. This happens over and over until every person has lived the entire life of every other person. The same brain, body and life circumstances.’ I couldn’t hide my surprise. It was so different from the doctrines of the Builders and the Stretch Heads. ‘But that must take forever,’ I said. He searched my eyes and answered, ‘Time is nonlinear, as you know. And Reality has an independent reference, so we can think of the situation as simultaneous parallel universes with a completely flexible time relationship to Reality. Most people call the sentient computer of 229 H. Street a finite multiverse.’ The whiteness started fading to gray when he said that. It seemed I was awakening from a dream, so I brought up my worst fear. ‘Is there a final judgment?’ I asked. He shook his head and made a lemon face. ‘When people are done in the Multiverse, as you are now, they begin to remember Reality again. Most of them walk with me over those dunes for a morning in the surf.’ He pointed, but I wouldn’t take my eyes off him for fear he’d vanish. ‘A few people feel the need to stay in the Multiverse to help someone they love,’ he said. ‘That’s a mixed bag for me, personally. I’m proud of them, but always lonely for them and a little worried because rarely the whole thing falls apart. What I mean is, on the way back home, some people are repulsed by memories of how they’d loved other people here. So many people. So indiscriminately. They don’t mind being loved, but for some reason, when they get here, the feeling of loving all the other people seems intolerable. Like a suffocating smell, one of them told me. They don’t come home. The manipulative power they’ve created in the Multiverse feels comfortable, so they go back.’ God’s eyes seemed shiny. ‘I follow after each of them. There haven’t been many. I try to help them love again, but so far, they always kill me.’ When he said that, I started to remember my old home in Reality. Then a few things came back from my cycles in the Multiverse. God saw this in my face, gave me a lonely look and hugged me. Then my mother was pulling me from the water and hugging me the same way God did. It all happened beneath Iephur’s colossal pyramid.”

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Vedanshi sits up, crosses her legs, puts her hands together and bows her head.

“You came back!” James says. “You actually told God you wanted to come back. Here. To this place!”

“I didn’t tell him. He knew I had to come back… for the one I love.”

M. Talmage Moorehead

Here’s a link to page 1 of this ongoing story: Hapa Girl DNA. 

Be sure to click on the orange words in the story. They’re links. Some of them blew me away. Outbound links are, of course, suicide to a website because people leave and don’t come back. That’s the opposite of traffic. So try to come back if you can. Or maybe read the story first and then go back and click on the links? I don’t know. Maybe links are dumb in a story, but I had to show you all this amazing stuff. Truth is stranger than fiction, for sure.

If you’re a new writer, or curious about my take on things, download my new aging e-book, Writing Meaningful Page-Turners, here. The last chapter talks about how to meet a viewpoint character who will add joy to your writing process and new meaning to your life. For me, it felt magical meeting Johanna Fujiwara for the first time, years ago. My fiction writing became a pleasure. If you haven’t met someone in your stories who does that for you, there’s an amazing experience waiting in your imagination. My e-book might help you there.

To comment, please ignore the boxes that ask for your info. Sorry. I disabled them, but WordPress says I can’t get rid of them. Maybe I’ll go back to the free versions of WordPress that don’t have communication killers. It would save three hundred bucks a year.


Rage (Chapter 5) “Hapa Girl DNA” by M. Talmage Moorehead

“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organism existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case.” Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species.

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The moon’s size and distance were selected so that its silhouette would precisely cover the sun during an eclipse, at least sometimes.

Call it blind luck. But what are the odds?

If the duck billed platypus were known only as a drawing in Egypt…

Could science tolerate more than a “myth” about a mammal who laid eggs, offered milk but no nipples to her hatchlings, hunted under water with eyes and ears closed using electroreception unknown to other mammals, stabbing her victims with poisonous spikes on her hind legs, then grinding her food with rocks in a toothless duck bill only to swallow it into a GI tract with no stomach?

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These uncomfortable facts caused the skeptical elite of yesterday to insist that she was a hoax.

Just as we assume the bird-man of ancient Egypt was religious fiction.

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But what if we are wrong?

The inconvenient truth about the platypus is that she screams of intelligent design. Not only of the original coding of a supreme mind but also of genetic tampering.

When new research pulls back the curtains on this duckish mosaic with in-tact blocks of DNA spliced from diverse species – who will hold the robes of the outraged thought police as they stone the young heretics, boycott the journal that published their work and fire its editor?

I refuse.

Rage, like denial, is a decision, but only if free will exists. Otherwise the Queen of Hearts was temperate in shouting, “Off with their heads!”

It’s fifteen feet down to the street. Not much traffic. My lips are sticky with brine.

When that man below us kicked my brother to the ground I wanted blood, but now the words that Nietzsche hated come to mind:

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

The Nazarene.

A certain Buddhist Priest also haunts me:

A

nymph

in pale feet

rides the opera

to a spiral staircase.

Lightning hair, dark voices

strike within her yielding gall.

Silk jinn brass restrains the lip strings

 beneath her tears that fall and glare inside

a secret box.

My girl of Utsuro-bune.

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Ojiichan wrote this at a recital where I sang “Un bel di vedremo.” My father translated it from the Japanese. That was three days before the accident on the Pali. Forget that now.

In the legend of Utsuro-bune, a red-headed woman landed in Japan in 1803 inside a “boat” that resembled a rice cooker with windows and strange writing on the walls inside. She spoke no Japanese, clutched a wooden box, and as the story’s living soul, she showed respect to the Japanese fishermen.

This is why her legend survives.

In this opaque neo-infinity, science is forever young and speculative. To forget this would be disrespectful and short-sighted.

“Remote viewing of long-term goals” would be a dissertation worth defending.

But ruling elites say the average human chooses short-term pleasure over long-term riches. Thus we need laws against natural selection. A childproof world.

Complex problems rarely have such simple solutions. Here’s the picture of that principle…

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Dr. Seung’s crowd-sourcing of neuroscience recruits us to map the soul. With our help, every microscopic neuronal connection will be recorded in three dimensions, someday re-created and reanimated.

The handshake of science and religion has always been immortality.

And we thought the ancient Egyptians were primitive with their mummies, that silly religious talk and all the “incidental” preservation of royal DNA.

Who looks silly today?

So if natural selection brings genetic wisdom, why hamper it with childproof laws? Do the secular elites know something they’re not telling?

Plenty.

Perhaps a hand full of them have even noticed that logic requires a Prime Source of our genetic commands, a foundation for trust, and access beyond space to allow a fleeting choice of love over hate.

This choice comes to me now…

To spare this guy who’s kicking my brother, or to fight him.

The way I’m feeling, I would crush him easily.

That’s not logical, I’ll admit. Strange things happen to me when I get angry.

I fought Moody and thought I had defeated an enemy. Instead, I murdered James’ closest childhood friend and lost my innocence on a kitchen floor covered in my own blood.

The carpet is damp beneath me. I’m shivering and sweating. It’s a fever.

Vedanshi shifts and sits on her heels again. “If they recognize your face, the old woman will wonder how you got here from Washington. You need a disguise.” She reaches into the deck and pulls out a bra, then a dangling sock which she hands to me. “You should put this over your head, I think.”

I put it on quickly. It smashes my nose but I can see through it.

“If the man has a gun, The Ganga can disable it,” she says. “Theoretically, I mean… We’ve never actually done it.”

Maxwell rises to one knee and encounters the ceiling of a UFO with his head. “I got your six,” he says.

“No,” I tell him. “Better you stay here. You’ll scare the guy.”

“So you’re not going to hurt him?” he asks.

“Not if I don’t have to.”

“Good,” Vedanshi says. “There’s a break in the traffic. Scoot under a car so no one sees the decloaking.”

The Ganga dips to street level. I crawl out of its cloak and roll under the car that’s parallel parked behind the Prius. I reach out to see if my hand disappears into The Ganga. It doesn’t, so I scoot out into the street, stand and move between the pseudo-cop and my brother.

The man steps back and pulls a gun, almost dropping it in the process. “What’s with the mask?” he asks.

There’s a wedding band on his left ring finger and cowboy boots below a sagging uniform that would fit a much taller, thicker man.

“Tell me why she’s cursing the dumb Haole in the cop suit,” I say to him.

His jaw falls open but no words come out.

I glance behind me at my brother. “Did she say to break this boy’s knees?”

“She sent you?” the man asks, his forehead lined.

I nod, fold my arms then shake my head at him. “No one can reason with her when she’s like this. You’re a family man, so I’ll try to get you off the island before she snaps. No reason you should die.” I look at his boots. “What is it, Texas?”

“I’m from…”

“Shut up. Let me think.” It’s an uncomfortable show. I don’t really need time to think.

He purses his lips.

I stare at him for a moment. “Here’s your plan. Fly home, get your family and disappear. That’s your best chance.”

His eyes open white all around. “She’s that mad?”

“I haven’t seen her like this before. I’ll take this kid. You need to vanish.”

“How was I supposed to know he’d go straight to the cops?”

“You’re right. There’s no way anyone could have predicted that. But listen, whining won’t help you.” I reach up and fasten a button on his uniform.

His shoulders slump and he tucks his gun away.

“I’m sorry,” I say. “Maybe there’s something good I can tell her about you. Got anything?”

He stutters.

I tap his chest with my fingers and hold out an open palm. “Cuffs?”

He takes a key from his pocket, gives it to me, then ducks into the driver’s seat of the Prius. “Tell her thank you,” he says. “My son’s showing signs of empathy.” Tears well up in his eyes.

“Empathy’s good. I’ll give her your message word-for-word. Is your boy getting the I.M. injections?”

“No, I.V. Some DNA thing. I never get it right… Menthol Asian?”

“DNA demethylation,” I suggest.

“Yeah, that’s it.” He squints up trying to find my eyes through the sock I’m wearing.

“Look, just tell her she’s welcome to kill me. Tell her I’ll do it myself, in fact… If she’ll just please, please keep treating my son. That’s all I want. I’ll do anything.”

“Don’t think that way. Suicide would make things worse. For the rest of your son’s life.” I can’t believe I wanted to hurt this poor guy. “Give me your phone number.”

He reads a number off the back of his cell phone.

“Go home,” I tell him. “Get packed. Get ready to run, but wait for my call. I will call you. Whether I can cool her down or not.”

“Thank you.” He reaches out, squeezes my wrist, pushes a button on the car’s dashboard, then rolls a few feet away before the gas engine comes to life and takes him out into the morning traffic.

I turn to James. “Cameras are watching. You don’t know me.”

He chuckles. “You look like a bank robber.”

He seems stable on his feet. “Can you walk?” I ask him.

“Sure,” he says. “The guy kicks like a girl.”

“Why does that dumb remark make me want to hug you?” I move behind him and push him along the sidewalk ahead of me. We walk south for about forty seconds, then take a left into an alley and come out behind the buildings into a parking lot big enough for The Ganga. Ojiichan’s Ford sits behind the police station two buildings to the left. I take the cuffs off James and try to say that we’re about to meet an invisible thinking machine, but he’s not listening.

“You were going to drown yourself,” he says. “I got that feeling back. Where you basically don’t want to be alive.”

“I’m sorry, but you don’t have my permission to kill yourself. You’ve got to put Skullcage on the map and carry on the Fujiwara name.”

“Yeah, I know. I really do know. But it’s just that sometimes…” he looks down, “I really don’t care.”

I gently slap his face. “I don’t want to hear the demons right now.”

He’s a little startled but doesn’t say anything.

“Maxwell and a girl named Vedanshi fished me out of the ocean. They don’t know about my leukemia.”

“There’s got to be some kind of treatment for that,” James says.

“There’s not,” I tell him.

His face is so lost. But only for a moment. Suddenly he’s himself again.

“What just happened there?” I ask him. “In you head.”

He looks up and to his left. “I don’t know.”

“Whatever you just did, it’s the secret to a good life. Try to remember it.”

I tug on his left arm and get him to crouch next to me out of camera’s view beside a parked car. We get flat on our stomachs, just to be sure. Vedanshi’s face appears inches off the ground in the parking space beside us. Her head is detached and floating upside-down with her hair on the asphalt.

“Coast is clear,” she says and vanishes, chin first, hair last.

“That’s Vedanshi,” I say.

“OK, that just happened. We both saw it.” James goes into a dense calm and then comes out of it rubbing his eyes. “She’s hot, isn’t she?”

“Yeah. And she’s inside an invisible machine. We’re going to crawl into it now. Parts of your body will disappear on the way in. No big deal, right?”

“Disappear? Nah… really?”

“Don’t freak out on me. Just go. And don’t stand up for the cameras.”

I push him. He moves forward and disappears as if crawling through invisible UFO hulls was routine to him. Complete confidence. That’s James 24/7. Unless he happens to call you late at night from jail. I follow after him and take my place by Vedanshi. James sits on the other side of Maxwell.

“Tight,” James says looking around at the acorn pattern on the Indian rug. He reaches in front of Maxwell and me to shake Vedanshi’s hand. “I’m James. It’s beyond amazing to meet you. You’re absolutely gorgeous, you know.”

“Thank you.” She blushes and shakes his hand. “I’m Vedanshi, The Role of the Sacred Knowledge.”

“The role of… That’s the meaning of Vedanshi?” he asks.

“Yes.”

“That’s got to be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard in my life.” James glances at me then thumps Maxwell on the back with an open palm. “Thank you, dude. You look just like your Facebook pictures.” He looks at Vedanshi again. “Thank you both for getting Johanna here to save my ass. I owe you guys… my life, probably. That was one unhappy cop.” James looks at me. “How’d you do that with him?”

“I don’t know, it’s the first time I’ve been that deceitful. I feel like I need to wash my mouth out and take a shower.” I peel the sock off my face, pull it up off my head, then look at Vedanshi. “What do you make of DNA demethylation to treat autism? Could you hear him at all?”

“Every word,” she says. “In the River I’ve noticed the old woman likes to mull over the language of a virus she seems to associate with Autism. It methylates DNA. Epigenetics, you would probably call it.” The Ganga rises ten feet with no tells on Vedanshi’s face. “Would all of you like to stay at my place tonight? It’s not really mine, but… Well, it sort of is now.” She smiles but her eyes are distant.

“Definitely,” James says.

Maxwell nods and I say I’ll do anything that doesn’t involve the old woman. But actually I’m worried about the guy I sent home. And his autistic son. What have I done? I should probably call the old lady and fix this.

“I don’t guess we can do a noodle run in this thing,” James says. “I’m starving.”

“I’ve got veggies in the garden,” Vedanshi says. “Things are growing.” She notices the bra on the rug beside her legs and sneaks it through the deck beyond the edge of the carpet. “James,” she says with a glint, “lean forward as far as you can and look down.”

“Don’t do it,” I tell him.

He leans forward and as the parking lot shrinks out of sight and the Hawaiian Islands zip down to dots in the Pacific Ocean, he calmly says, “Jeepers, Mrs. Cleaver.”

I shake my head.

“You were supposed to be startled and impressed,” Vedanshi says.

“I am.” He draws a deep breath and lets it out with a whisper, “God, I hope this isn’t a dream.”

“It’s not,” Maxwell says, as South America rushes toward us and an island off the coast of Chile and Peru comes closer.

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“Rapa Nui,” I say as the island’s triangular shape evolves beneath a flock of small cumulus clouds.

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I know Vedanshi is not Mahani Teave, but why is she taking us to Easter Island?

We descend and the ancient Moai give us palpable respect as though they’d been waiting eons to greet us.

Moai_Statues_Easter_Island_10

The southern end of the island comes close, but we move past it, beyond the two tiny rock islands and into the crystal water. With the hull cloaked we’re gliding forward under the ocean in a saucer-shaped bubble. Visibility is sixty-five feet plus.

“Vedanshi,” James says, “I’m sixteen. How old are you?”

“Sixteen,” she says, “not counting quantum stasis.”

James grins at Maxwell. “If this is a dream, buddy, I’m going to be pissed at you.”

They both laugh as we head straight at a rock wall without slowing.

M. Talmage Moorehead

Yo…

If you want, please read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s unorthodox prologue). It starts here.

If you like my fiction and want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.) You can download my e-book on fiction writing while you’re at it.

Also, please email a friend with my URL: http://www.storiform.com.

Thanks, I appreciate your generous help. 🙂

Talmage


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

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I’m breaking the speed limit in the Prius, heading for the South Jetty to drown myself, but I need to say goodbye to someone first.

I push James icon on my phone and pull up in front of a vacant lot beside the house I used to rent in Astoria. The Prius engine dies automatically. James’ phone is ringing.

A skanky black cat trots up and jumps on my hood. His nails click as he lands. He walks silently toward me leaving smudgy footprints.

Jame’s voice comes through the car speakers, “Yeah.”

I set my phone in a cup holder. “Someone’s trying to kidnap you. Grab your keys and get out of the house. Run to the car. Drive to the police station fast as you can. ”

“For reals?”

“Yeah, I’m not kidding! Go. Hurry! I’ll stay on the line.”

“Got to find my keys,” he says.

I open the glove box. Two cans of cat food are left. I’ll open both.

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

“Won’t be there.”

“Just go look. Hurry!”

I open my window, put my arm out in the usual way and the proud little thing marches up my arm, rubs his matted fur against my face as he climbs down to my lap and curls up.

“Herpes, you little tramp.” I sneeze. When he first came to my patio door demanding attention I had no idea I was allergic. First it was just itchy eyes.

I open both cans of cat food with an old round-bladed device I remember from childhood when it was shiny and had a place in my mother’s kitchen. I dump the catfood into a plastic bowl that’s usually sliding around on the seat beside me. Smells like fish. Herpes springs to his feet and begins that delicate gobbling technique. His ribs are showing again. Poor little thing, out here starving. “I’m sorry I can’t feed you again,” I tell him. “I won’t be coming around anymore.”

I try to pet him but he doesn’t allows distractions while he’s eating.

He has a worn leather collar with a dangling ring that must have held a happy tag with his real name on it. Once. I wonder who he was.

He finishes the whole pile of food before I’m ready to say goodbye, then steps back into my lap to let me pet him. Three times is all. Then he jumps out, lands confidently on the road and looks up at me.

“Goodbye, sweetheart,” I tell him. “I wish I could…”

A van rumbles by and scares him away.

I put the two empty cans in a plastic grocery bag, twist it tight, tie a knot and set it on the seat beside the bowl. Someone else will have to take it to the trash.

“Good call,” James says. “They were right by the end of my bed. It’s spooky how you do that.”

“It’s just luck,” I tell him. But lately I wonder. This time it was an image of his keys. Sometimes there’s no image, just a wordless thought. “Get in your car. Hurry!”

I hear his feet on the old wooden floor at Grandfather’s house. Actually we called him, “Ojiichan,” not Grandfather, but it means the same. The door of the old Ford slams. Low pitch. The starter churns.

The sun isn’t up yet. Jetty Road looks empty as I make a right turn onto it.

“Yo,” James says. “You there?”

“Yeah. Drive straight to the cop station. You know the way?”

“Take a wild guess,” he says.

He was arrested for underage drinking in front of Starbucks not long ago. In broad daylight.

“I’m not saying you’re a moron, James, but now that you mention it…. God, I love you.”

“Ditto, but no need to get all… Whatever. Hey, I never-one knew they kidnap teenagers. You sure about all this?”

“Yeah.” I wake up a few neurons with a neurofeedback technique I learned in a research lab at Yale. They kept asking me if I’d ever been hit in the head. No. I can make an EEG trace jump at will. I learned it with electrodes pasted on my head, staring at squiggly lines on a monitor. Trial and error, bottom-up science not the mythical top-down BS they preach.

Neurofeedback wakes you up like coffee, but some people have memory loss. I should be so lucky.

“Keep an eye on the road behind you,” I tell him. “Somebody could be following.”

My peripheral vision is strange now. The trees… swishing past on both sides of the road. They grab my attention as if they were in the center of my field of vision.

“Nothing’s behind me,” James says.

I ease off the Prius’ gas pedal, pass a crow on the dotted line and watch it hop away in the rearview mirror, wings our angelic. Tough immune systems, those little guys, eating roadkill and living to tell the story.

“The kidnappers are Frameshift goons,” I say to James. “That’s my theory. They’re trying to recruit me.”

“Like into the Army?”

“Same idea.” Should I tell him? Not while he’s driving. “You shouldn’t drive and talk on a cellphone, you know. Under normal conditions, I mean.”

“Pot calling da kine black.”

“No, I got a hands-free setup. Matter of fact, I’m driving right now. To the South Jetty.”

“Some of us drive Ojiichan’s old Ford, you know.”

A motorcycle’s coming at me in the other lane. One loud headlight. It passes with the infrasound of an old Harley. The wide back tire, long chrome pipes slanting up. I wanted to ride one of the old beasts before I died. My legs wouldn’t be long enough though. I bet.

“What’s the South Jetty?” James asks.

I shouldn’t have brought it up. “It’s a rock wall that goes out between the ocean and the place where the Columbia River dumps in. South side. When are you moving in with the Hadano’s? That was supposed to happen three months ago.”

“I don’t know, pretty soon,” he says. “But you don’t have to worry about it. I told the social worker I’m living there now. Mrs. Hadano backed me up.” James shifts into Mrs. Hadano’s voice: “Yes, James is moved in already. Part of da family.”

“The Hadano’s are rare people,” I tell him. “Don’t make them lie for you.” I hate to nag. “How close are you getting to the police station?”

“I’m looking for a place to park,” he says. “Holy Smokes. There’s this Haole dude in a rental car. Following me, I think. I’ll find out.”

“What type of car?”

“Yeah, he’s tailing for reals. I turned up an alley and he’s coming behind me. Driving that thing you drive. The Prepuce.”

Prius, James. “Lucky thing. OK, when you get out of the alley, turn right, go 20 feet, stop and put it in reverse. You’re going to ram him the instant you see him. Go for his right front tire. Mess it up so it can’t move when he turns the wheel. Then drive away as soon as you can.”

“That’ll ruin my car.”

“No it won’t. The Ford’s a tank compared to a Prius.”

“You better be right.” He takes a deep breath. “I got it in reverse. Here’s the dude’s bumper.”

“Floor it!”

There’s a crunch and the sound of glass.

“No prob,” James says. “I’m driving away.”

“Good man.”

“The dude’s running after me on foot.” James laughs.

“When you get to the cop station, don’t park, just drive up close to the front door, jump out, leave the car and run inside. Fast as you can.”

“Do they let you park out front? I don’t need another ticket.”

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

“I was just asking.”

He gets quiet. Any expression of anger was off-limits in our family. It didn’t matter if you were saving someone’s life or destroying the ozone, anger meant you were wrong. You got silent treatment.

“Where are you?” I ask. “Talk to me.”

“Side of the road, basically. In front of the cop building. I’m leaving the car, like you said.”

The car door slams with memories of Ojiichan, the first Buddhist Priest on Oahu. I took his alter back to Okinawa after he died. That was the first I’d heard of his fame in Japan. The Buddhists called him, “One of The Five.” I don’t speak Japanese and my translator didn’t speak much English, so I couldn’t figure out who “The Five” were. But it’s an interesting coincidence that our ancestor, the great Samurai, Musashi, wrote The Book of Five Rings.

“I’m inside,” James says. “There’s this lady here, but she don’t look like a cop.”

“Hand her the phone, I need to talk to her.”

I hear a woman saying she’s busy. She tells him to take a seat. Here it is. That feeling. I’m telling you, I want to reach through this phone and strangle her. What’s wrong with me?

“She’s too busy,” James says.

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

He does, 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, trying not to sound like the teenager I still am. She agrees to keep him in a safe place until a police officer can talk to him. That’s all she can guarantee.

A squirrel darts out into the road ahead of me and I swerve to miss it. I shouldn’t be doing seventy on this narrow road.

The phone reception gets sketchy as I drive into a dirt parking lot near the South Jetty. Logs outline the perimeter. A dirt slope leads down to the river beach ahead of me. I could drive down there and get stuck, but I’ll park. Save somebody the headache of pulling my car up the slope when they figure out it was the dead girl’s ride.

James gets back on the phone. “Hey.”

“Listen, I’ve got leukemia.”

“You mean…”

“Cancer of the blood,” I tell him. “Odds are, it’s going to kill me in a month or two. But you need to understand, the kidnappers are after me, not so much you. They only want you so they can force me to work for them. But I’m not doing it. I haven’t got long to live anyway, so…”

“What the hell are you saying?”

“If I kill myself, I won’t have to work for those people. I can’t stand what they’re doing to the world. I won’t be part of it.”

“This can’t be happening.”

“Listen, James. None of this is about you. If we’re lucky, they’ll leave you alone once I’m gone. You won’t be valuable to them when I’m in heaven.”

“You can’t kill yourself. You can’t do that.”

“I’m dying one way or the other.”

“They must have drugs. People get rid of cancer all the time.”

“Not M5b. The stats are dismal. The chemo makes you sick as a zombie. Your hair falls out. I’m not doing it.”

“But you got to try.”

“No. You need to try. Try not to get depressed when 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, no evil. Forget it. It’s bull. You’ve got to believe in something. Something that’s not so brittle it breaks when the aliens land.”

“What?” He gasps.

“Atheism and fundamentalism are brittle. They’re both going to break… when the facts come down.”

“I can’t believe this.” He’s on the edge of tears. I know the sound.

“You’ve got heavy responsibility on your shoulders. Listen to me. Nobody has more influence than a rock star. Nobody in this world. You were born to be famous. You’re like John Lennon. You’re a genius with melody, James. Literally a genius.” I’ve never been able to convince him of that. “You’ve always made me so proud. Everything you write. And you got the singing voice to match.”

“You can’t…”

“I’ll be listening to your stuff. And watching you – from the moon, I think.”

“The moon?” He’s crying now. Normally he cries over great songs and sad movies, not real disasters. Disasters make him stronger than most people. Usually.

“Who’s going to be the only friend I ever had, Johanna? Who’s going to make sure I don’t party all the time? Who’s going to bail me out… of jail next time?” My phone goes dead.

I try to call him, but a battery icon flashes for a second then disappears. The phone was plugged in all night. I look at it in my mind and see 100% at the top, above the old woman’s number.

This close to the Jetty, I’m starting to feel a little hesitant about suicide. James and I didn’t even get to say goodbye. It’s cruel.

I remember Ojiichan saying that our existence isn’t real. Get rid of all attachments and nothing can hurt you.

I hear a Sabbath School teacher reading from a little pink Bible, “All things work together for good to them that love the Lord.”

But I never was able to become a true fundamentalist. Not quite. I came close for a while but… whatever. I’ve always felt a little jealous of those people. It’s like the UFO club. I want to believe but those things just don’t show up for me.

I’ve got the jitters. I’m going to breathe water, that’s all. It’s the least embarrassing way to do this, and to be honest, I’m more afraid of embarrassment than drowning. It’s a Japanese thing, I think. Completely genetic.

I get out of the Prius, face the cold salt wind and walk toward the tall, curving breakwater. Its beauty is gone today. I put it side by side with a mental image from the last time I was here. The sun was up, but otherwise the images match.

I was standing right… here.

I wonder if beauty is still there when you can’t see it.

M. Talmage Moorehead

If you want, you can read this story from page one (beginning with Johanna’s chapter 0). It starts here.

If you want to be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the sun goes supernova) please join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info – ever.) You could also download my e-book on fiction writing while you’re at it, if you want the thrill of your life. Just kidding. The e-book’s pretty decent in its own way, I’d say. One person really liked it.

Also, please email a close friend with my URL: http://www.storiform.com. Think of the sweetest, most interesting and beautiful nerd you know. Warn her that the story’s in progress.

Thanks, I appreciate your generous nature and inherent goodness of character. No, seriously. You’re a writer, right? OK, then. Take the compliment. (My wife finds it difficult to take any compliment. She’s got a logical reason to explain the precise inaccuracy of whatever nice thing you tell her. Plus she’s gorgeous. What a combo!)

Talmage


But, Why?

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God 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

This is kind of mundane, but…

My in-progress experimental style novel, Hapa Girl DNA starts here. It’s sort of a “hapa” (Hawaiian for “half”) thing itself, a hybrid of fiction and non-fiction. I’m ignoring a ton of “good fiction writing” rules, but I like to question all dogmas in all fields. I’m testing to find out which fiction writing rules matter and which don’t.

If you would like to read my e-book on fiction writing and be notified when each of my novels is done (possibly before the next ice age) join my list here. (No spam or sharing of your info. I haven’t written to my list yet – in over a year. My bad, but I’ll get to it eventually.)

By the way, if you feel like it, please email your best weird friend about this blog (www.storiform.com). Thanks, I appreciate your generous help!

Talmage


I Bailed On My Medical Practice

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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

If you’re interested in intelligent design, weird artifacts, genetics and psychology from the perspective of a nineteen-year-old “Hapa Girl,” my in-progress novel may be a fun read. The protagonist, Johanna, is a genius geneticist with a younger brother who struggles with depression. Her evolving story starts here.

It’s an experiment called, Hapa Girl DNA, a tightrope of fiction and nonfiction. “Hapa” is the Hawaiian term for “half.” Johanna is half Japanese and half Jewish. In “writing” her own novel as she lives it, she ignores some big fiction rules, partly because she’s allergic to dogma and partly because she’d rather enjoy the “writing” experience than worry about material success.

But the “rules” are essential knowledge to anyone crazy enough to break them.

If you’re a fiction writer or just curious, you could download my free e-book on fiction writing, the second to last chapter of which gives my specific take on many of the dogmatic rules of fiction writing. Downloading that 19,000 word pdf file will place you on my list of interested people who will be politely notified when my traditional version of this novel is done – possibly before the next ice age. (No spam or sharing of your email address. I haven’t written to my list yet and it’s been over a year.)

Next time you’re writing emails, if you think of it, please send my blog address (www.storiform.com) to an open-minded, highly intelligent and beautiful friend of yours. Thanks. I appreciate it. They might not, but you never know. 🙂

Talmage