The Light of Their Lives by Boris Glikman

 

The Light of Their Lives by Boris Glikman

“Delighted by Light” by Michael Cheval

It was perhaps inevitable that some bright spark in the Research and Development Department of a certain, internationally famous company would, during a brainstorming session, come up with the idea of a beverage consisting solely of pure light. The essential concept behind it was simplicity itself: Why, in these modern, fast-paced times, go through the lengthy and convoluted process of needing the Sun’s light to be photosynthesized by plants into chemical energy, which then has to be converted into carbohydrate molecules, which we then have to consume and digest in order for us to finally incorporate the energy from the Sun into our systems? Why not bypass all the intervening stages and just capture, bottle and imbibe the sunlight energy directly?

The management loved the proposal and supported its realization by all means possible. Thus, less than a year after the go-ahead was given, the product appeared in the shops: a soothing, delightful elixir of natural sunshine, free of any preservatives, added sugar or artificial flavours.

The drink provided an instant energy boost, sating hunger without any necessity for digestion, as well as immediately quenching thirst and making one feel warm all over. And, of course, it was suitable for all types of diets including but not limited to kosher, halal, vegetarian, vegan, raw vegan, gluten-intolerant and fruitarian. No one could take any issue with it, for it was pure light straight from the Sun. And, fortuitously, it was also very suitable for those dieting, for according to the famous E = mc^2 equation, even a tiny amount of mass released a tremendous amount of energy and thus one could quaff great quantities of this potation with hardly any weight gain.

Amazingly enough, apart from satisfying the most basic physical needs (food, water, warmth) in the hierarchy of needs, this beverage also enabled the consumer, and this was a completely unforeseen consequence, to become instantly spiritually enlightened once they have drunk it and thus fulfil the highest need in the hierarchy of needs –  the yearning for self-actualisation. (Perhaps it should not have been so unexpected, for, by ingesting light one, ipso facto, became illuminated within, which is exactly what enlightenment is, and also as the very morphological structure of the word “enlightenment” indicated its intimate connection to light.)

This serendipitous effect was perfect for the contemporary society, for given that the online world now provided instant information, instant communication, instant entertainment and instant gratification of needs and desires, it was only natural there would also be a great demand for instant self-realisation. And with this product, one no longer had to spend countless hours meditating and repeating the mantra, or sit at the feet of a guru, or clamber up the Himalayan mountains in search of monasteries. Instead, there was the convenience of immediate spiritual awakening in a bottle, accessible to all.

The advertising campaign was built around the slogans “Instant EnLIGHTenment™ in a Bottle!”, “Fast Food for Body and Soul!”, and “Let the Light DeLIGHT You!”. For once the reality corresponded exactly to the promotional claims, as it truly was a unique kind of an invention the likes of which had never been seen before.

And so, as was to be expected, everyone flocked to buy the new drink, for, apart from its obvious appeal to the general public, its attraction was also irresistible to a diverse range of people with specific needs, such as the athletic types looking for an immediate energy fix, the spiritual seekers looking for the truth about themselves and the Universe, and the weight-conscious dieters, who immediately added it to their fastidious regiments. Of course, children loved it too, given its novelty value and its almost-magical properties.

This unqualified success gave the company the freedom and the impetus to experiment with new varieties of the product. The flavour of the original sunlight brand was a mixture of melon and orange. Later on, many more flavours became available, as the company’s researchers went about capturing and bottling light from other celestial objects, as well as from man-made sources.

It was discovered that each planet and star had its own unique taste: Moonlight was cooler on the palate than sunlight and had an indefinable element to it one couldn’t quite put a finger on; Mars tasted a bit like tomato juice; Venus was quite tart and almost vinegary, and thus was best drunk in combination with light from other sources; Jupiter and Saturn, as befitting their gaseous nature, were like the finest bubbly champagne; and supernovas had a mouth-exploding, extremely hot chilli flavour that only the very brave and the foolhardy dared to sample. It was also found that the illuminations of every city had their own particular flavour, although the health-conscious preferred only drinks made from natural sources and scorned the artificial flavours of light globes, fluorescent lights and neon signs, which invariably tasted like cheap wine.

With this product on the market, many believed the world was surely heading towards a utopian existence in which humanity would finally be liberated from its burdensome, imprisoning dependence upon plants and animals for nutrition; and the common man, having become instantly enlightened, would see beyond the constricting confines of self-interest and self-preservation and realise everything is inextricably connected and we are all one.

Yet, those who were optimistic that an idealistic state of being would, at last, be achieved had forgotten all about a deep-rooted and paradoxical aspect of human nature, namely that anything that brought pleasure and enjoyment was open to abuse, misuse, and overuse. Consequently, the very source of gratification and bliss, like for example alcohol, could and did mutate grotesquely into a dire threat to one’s very existence. Thus, obesity and all the maladies it caused was rife in those societies in which food was in ready supply; alcoholism was the scourge of many a land; addictions to both legal and illegal substances destroyed countless lives.

Given the way this beverage immediately satisfied, in one neat package, a person’s needs on so many levels, it was inevitable some would become hooked on it. As is often the case with addicts, they found ways to bypass the option of legally purchasing a limited quantity of the product, instead consuming for free limitless amounts by staring directly at the Sun and letting the light flow both into their open mouths, as well as into their eyes. Imbibing light through the eyes was something non-addicts would never do, and that particular experience was likened to mainlining heroin, giving an even greater kick.

These addicts quickly became known as “sunkies” (a portmanteau word blending “sun” and “junkie”), and this word coincidentally had the additional connotation of “sinking” which was very apt, for no drug addict had ever sunk as low as these sunkies. Most of those hooked on narcotics could be rehabilitated and again become respected members of a community. The Sun junkies however voluntarily gave up their sight and their mobility, two of the most precious and vital features a human being possesses, and assumed a static, plant-like existence, remaining rooted to one spot. They cared for nothing else but to follow with their turning heads the Sun’s daily progress across the sky, using their sense of warmth to locate it, their retinas having been burnt out, and to drink in the light.

“In Sol Veritas”, in Sun all Truths lie, was their motto and guiding principle, believing as they did that the Sun is the portal to the ultimate reality and the sole source of eternal, absolute truths. Their proselytising spiel to the non-addicts was quite persuasive, claiming that once you started staring at the Sun, you would quickly realise how petty and drab are the affairs of daily life, and how overflowing-with-meaning and magnificent are the inexhaustible revelations and infinite beauty emanating from the Sun, the place where perfection, transcendence, purity lies. The sunkies also extolled the stability and the security their lives now possessed, for the Sun’s motion, perfectly regular and unvarying each and every day, scorched away the unpredictability and the uncertainties of their previous everyday existence.

One saw these sunkies everywhere one went, sitting, standing or lying on the pavements, roads, grass, in the mud, in puddles, in gutters, totally oblivious to their surroundings. Their limbs became atrophied from complete lack of movement and turned into something resembling gruesome, withered tree branches, further accentuating their plant-like appearance. The sight of these addicts was both sickening and unspeakably sad, especially as many of them were young people who had sacrificed all the promises the future held out for them.

The greatest tragedy was that the sunkies denied their lives had turned into an irrevocable tragedy. Not only did they become physically blind, they also became blind to the reality of their situation, convincing themselves into believing they were the superior beings living superior lives, and the only ones in possession of the ultimate secrets of existence. They saw themselves as part of an elite caste, the vanguard of an egalitarian utopia to come, for, before the Sun everyone was equal. These Sun’s Sons (as they preferred to call themselves, in reference to their claimed filial kinship with the star, for they felt reborn through gazing unwaveringly at the Sun, and also in reference to the brotherhood they felt they had entered into) were totally untroubled by their loss of sight and mobility, for there was nothing down on Earth they wanted or needed to see or do. Indeed, they considered their blindness and immobility to be a godsend, for not only did it stop them from being distracted from giving all of their attentions to the Sun, but, even more importantly, it prevented their minds and souls from being contaminated by the imperfections and iniquities that so marked and defined earthly existence.

Thus, light in a bottle, previously the greatest blessing to mankind, became its greatest curse, causing a calamity the likes of which could not be imagined before its arrival on the market, for who could ever envision healthy people willingly becoming immobile vegetables, sacrificing their lives just so they could stare at the Sun and feel its warm smile upon their faces. The sunkies were now completely lost to society, both bodily and mentally, and no kind of rehabilitation was possible for them. In the bitterest of ironies that occur so often throughout the course of history, mankind, having liberated itself from its dependence upon plants, and thus attaining the greatest freedom it had ever possessed, now found an ever-growing proportion of its population choosing to lead a plant-like existence.

But this unfolding global tragedy was of little concern to the company that brought the beverage into the world, for its technicians were busily working on an even greater creation which would undoubtedly trump the bottled sunshine for popularity. Inspired by instant coffee, the new invention-in-the-making already had the brand name of Insta-Life, and, once completed, it would allow a person to experience their whole life in an instant. This surely was, or so the management thought, the ultimate desire and goal in this instantaneousness-obsessed era, for by condensing all of your life into one single moment, you no longer would have to trudge through decades of endless drudgeries and tediously repetitive routines of daily existence, through all the banal and boring stretches of life, and instead get it over and done with in a jiffy. Additionally, you would gain an unbeatable upper hand over your rivals in the field of fast living.

With the lure of holiday profits in their minds, the management kept prodding its engineers and scientists to work harder and harder, so that Insta-Life could appear on the market around Christmas time. And so, it was only a matter of time before this new invention swept the world, and people would begin to live and die faster than mayflies.

 

 

The Curious Story of Frank and His Friend Mr. Stims, The Hydrophobe by Boris Glikman

Earth without oceans…so anyway, like I was saying, I was sitting comfortably in this nice chair when Mr. Stims told me what he wanted to do with his invention. But please don’t interrupt me again, because I am going to forget what I was saying and won’t be able to tell you the whole story of what happened that day.

Let me begin again from the start, as I can’t remember now what I have already told you. My name is Frank. I finished school two years ago. I stay at home most of the time and watch TV. I live with my mum. I like her a lot. She is very smart and knows about everything. So I don’t see what’s wrong with saying, “That’s what my mum told me”, but the other kids used to laugh when I said that and called me a retard, which made me angry. Now I can’t hang out with them any more; my mum tells me I have a bad temper and could hurt them.

My only friend is my next door neighbour, Mr. Stims. I enjoy being with him. I love the brain games that he is so good at inventing. The game I particularly like is the one in which he asks me to guess what he is thinking of at that very moment. It is not an easy game to play at all.

Usually I spend time in his living room, where we drink tea, eat some biscuits and discuss interesting topics. But that day, Mr. Stims invited me into his study and asked me to sit in a comfortable chair beside his desk. He himself sat behind the desk, on which lay writing pads and folders, all neatly organised.

After staring at me in silence with an odd look in his eyes for about a minute, Mr. Stims started talking: “For the past five years, I have been engrossed in a fiendishly difficult task, as you probably have noticed Frank. I no longer need to be secretive about what I do, but I did want to apologise for being evasive and unpredictable in the past.”

He was right. He never told me what he did for a living, but it seemed to me that he was spending much of his time working on some scientific problem. All of his rooms were cluttered with books, whose titles I didn’t understand, and papers that were covered with calculations and formulas in his scribbly handwriting. And his strange ways did confuse me sometimes. I remember once asking him how he would like to be remembered, and it produced an odd reaction from him. He turned first red, then white and only replied that he had great hopes for the future. Another time I told him that even though we don’t live far from the ocean, we don’t know much about it, and that there could be big sea monsters and other curious fishes living in its depths. For some reason, he got all agitated and started going on about the chemical properties of water. Then, suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and started talking about something completely different. But I still find him a fascinating person to be with. He knows so many things and can always answer my questions.

Mr. Stims continued: “You might remember from your school days, my friend, what a polar molecule is. Well, water just happens to be comprised of polar molecules. This fact is the linchpin of my work.”

I did not actually remember anything about those molecules. To tell the truth, I really do not recall much from my school days. I was always surrounded by people brighter than me, which made me afraid to speak up and say what I thought, in case I might say something stupid.  That is why I like Mr. Stims so much. He has never treated me as a fool and is always happy to listen and explain things to me.

“The fact that it is a polar molecule, does that suggest anything to you, Frank?” he asked. Not waiting for my reply, as he usually does, he continued: “I will get straight to the point. For your benefit, I will state it in simplified terms. The water molecule is a charged particle. Charged particles respond to magnetic fields. By creating a magnetic force of appropriate strength and by aligning it in the right direction, we can separate the water molecule into its constituent parts! We can turn liquid water into the gases of hydrogen and oxygen. The theory behind it is of course much more complicated than that, but what I have just stated is my work in a nutshell.”

He stopped talking for a short while, to give me time to understand what he had just said. But to be honest with you, I did not really see the point of it all. I thought it would be much better if you could go the other way and make water out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

He went on to say, “The idea sounds simple enough. Let me tell you, putting it into practice was another kettle of fish; the years I have spent trying to create a functional apparatus, attempting to discover the right alignment. Failure followed failure. Many a time I was tempted to throw it all up in the air and just walk away. Only one hope kept me going. I cannot say it was a well-defined sensation, but it was something like…well, that by achieving my goal, all my past deeds would gain the meaning they were lacking.”

I looked closely at Mr. Stims’ face. Sweat had gathered on his forehead and there was a distant look in his eyes, but it quickly disappeared.

He then said, “Let me tell you a little of my past, as it will explain to some degree the present. I was a brilliant university student, majoring in chemistry. I was heading straight for a conventional academic career. But my personality did not sit well with the scholastic surroundings. The claustrophobic atmosphere and the daily routine were stifling my natural creativity; the imperiousness of the professors, the ceaseless competitiveness prevalent amongst the students. Once I left the university, there was no way back. To this day I remain an outsider to the scientific community. You, Frank, are the first person in the world to hear of my achievement.”

Although I was flattered, I still thought it would be better if water was made out of the invisible gases, so that people everywhere would have enough to drink, especially people who live in the hot deserts.

“But what are we waiting for!” he exclaimed. “Actions speak louder than words. Just one minute and I will show you how it works.”

While he was gone, I stretched my legs; they had almost gone to sleep. I also had an itch on my back where a mosquito bit me and I gave it a good scratch. I could not do that while Mr. Stims was in the room. When I am with him, I try to behave properly so he will respect me. I remembered dinnertime was coming soon and wondered what my mum had cooked for me. I hoped it would be fish fingers with mashed potatoes. That’s my most favourite meal in the whole world.

My friend wasn’t gone for long. When he came back, he was carrying a small, shiny box and a full glass of water. I thought it was really thoughtful of him to bring me water, because I was really thirsty. I was about to reach out my hand and say, “Thank you Mr. Stims, it’s really thoughtful of you,” when he put that shiny box over the top of the glass. There was a hissing sound and the water disappeared before my eyes. Well, it didn’t actually disappear straight away. For a second, it looked like the water was cut in half, like a fresh bread roll with a sharp knife, and then both halves vanished. I was a bit miffed, as I really did want to drink that water, but still the sight was so amazing I could not help crying out, “WOW!”

The room filled up with a funny smell, like a cross between rotten eggs and fresh pineapple. Mr. Stims must have noticed me sniffing for he said, “That’s nitrous oxide or laughing gas, as it’s commonly known. The oxygen released by the process has combined with the nitrogen in the air. You have to be very careful with nitrous oxide. It messes with your mind.”

I knew he expected me to say how impressed I was and I did say so. He didn’t reply for a while and then he started a long speech. I can only remember bits of it:

“I have great plans, great plans,” Mr. Stims said. “Imagine magnifying the strength of this machine a hundredfold, a thousandfold, a millionfold! Look at the map of the world, Frank! Look at how much space is taken up by the oceans. Two thirds of our planet is water. Two thirds! How much land is wasted because of it! So many regions are overpopulated. This leads to stress, stress leads to crime. And on top of that, the world population is growing at a faster and faster rate. What use is ocean water? We certainly cannot drink it. And in any case, many regions that are now ocean used to be land once. We need to reclaim that land. And we need not stop there. The time has come for the oceans to go! We will make them disappear, just like the water in this glass. Certainly, this might cause some climate changes, but they will be easily fixed. And just imagine…land, land, land everywhere! One great continuous continent! No barriers between countries! The whole world finally united as one, living in peace! Room to plant crops, room for cattle to roam! Spaciousness that, at present, mankind doesn’t even dare to dream of! Whole continents underneath the oceans are just waiting for us to populate them! The potentialities are breathtaking in their scope! Yes, there will be a price to pay. That price will be paid by the ocean inhabitants – but we need not concern ourselves with that. Intelligence arose on land and it is the land dwellers that will rule this planet. And I will go down in history as the man who made it all possible – the new saviour of humanity!”

Mr. Stims was getting very excited. Whenever he gets excited, he walks from one end of the room to the other and waves his arms around. Well, he was certainly doing that; his arms swung like the blades of a windmill and he shouted out, “Liberation from the tyranny of water! The time has come! The possibilities are endless!”

It was all very interesting, but I was getting rather hungry and kept thinking more about the fish fingers with the mashed potatoes. It was then that a terrifying thought startled me so much that I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I realised that without oceans there would be no more fish, and without fish there would be no more fish fingers for me to eat. Fish fingers really are my most favourite food in the whole world.

I said, “Hey, wait a minute Mr. Stims. I really like fish fingers. You can’t kill all the fish. Give me that shiny thing! I don’t want you to destroy the oceans.”

“Fish, shmish,’’ he replied. “Who needs them? They don’t sing, you can’t pat them and they smell terrible.”

He refused to give me the box. A scuffle broke out between us, because I was getting a bit angry about not being able to eat fish fingers any more, all because of his stupid invention. I reached for the gadget and tried to take it away from him; it was then that I accidentally pressed the round red button on its top. What happened next was the strangest thing of all. You know when you blow up a balloon, and then let it go without tying it up and it flies all around the room, letting out air? Well, something similar happened to Mr. Stims. All this vapour started coming out of his eyes, nostrils and mouth and he was getting thinner and thinner and changing in shape before my very eyes. Then he just fell to the floor, or what was left of him, for by now he looked like a gigantic squashed raisin.

“I am very sorry about this, Mr. Stims,” I said to him, “but I really do like fish fingers. They are my most favourite food in the whole world.”

I then took the box that was lying on the floor and broke it into small pieces. You both know what happened after that.

The two detectives exchanged glances and one of them said, “Looks like it’s going to be a long night for all of us, Frank.”

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris Glikman

The (Virtually) Real Life by Boris GlikmanI recall that day well. My friends and I were checking out an abandoned, run-down mansion on the outskirts of town and that’s when we noticed that strange, inexplicable things were beginning to happen… 

Every time we open a door to some room to take another look at it, the room and the things in it have changed and look completely different. The more adventurous amongst us explore the building more thoroughly, only to discover that it has an impossibly paradoxical structure. One girl gets spooked out and, in her hurry to get out of the house, jumps through the ground floor window. A moment later we hear a shriek of horror and bewilderment coming from the top floor – her senses refuse to accept that she ended up there and not on the overgrown lawn in the front yard.

Then someone screams out, “Don’t you see what is happening! None of this is real! This is all Virtual Reality! Someone is running this game and we are its involuntary, unwitting participants. So we can do anything; break all of society’s taboos, take any risks, shoot one another, because it is all a counterfeit, simulated world.”

At once I devise a way of putting this remarkable claim to the test. I speed off in my car and start driving along train tracks that ascend to a great height before ending abruptly in mid-air. My car goes for a graceful flight through the sky, spinning and turning, soaring up on the warm air currents, then gradually descending, rising again higher and higher, then stopping and hovering in mid-air.

Finally, I get tired of flying and crash-land on top of a high-rise building. ‘I wonder if I have sustained any injuries,’ I think to myself. ‘If this really is a virtual world, then I should be just fine!’

It occurs to me that if in fact my life has been virtual reality all along, then that would certainly explain a lot of things. I always thought this world and my life in it never made any sense – things were just too absurd and incoherent. Horrible, unthinkably terrifying events like massacres, famine, persecutions, injustices which would never happen in the real world kept occurring, time after time after time.

Now I could see why certain things kept getting lost and disappearing in my life, why my life never worked out right, why something always got in its way and ruined its forward progress. Now I could comprehend why I could never fit in anywhere and always felt at odds with the whole world, for this wasn’t an authentic environment, but rather an artifice of someone else’s mind; a degenerate, corrupt copy of the real reality.

No, this wasn’t the universe that the Absolute Being had created, according to His flawlessly sublime and ideal specifications, but rather a miscreation of some devious, impious, immoral human being. And so it contained within its make-up all the faults, deficiencies and imperfections that every human construction possesses, as well as being coloured by the particularly nasty character of the cad running this simulation.

It was also obvious that this contemptible creature held, for some reason or another, an intensely bitter grudge against me in particular. He obviously meted out the worst of his cruel tricks on me, judging by how my life has been just one senseless absurdity after another.

‘What kind of a person am I, really, outside of this sham construction? What is my life actually like in the real world? Who is the wise guy that created this diabolical game? What’s he got against me? Wait till I find my way out of this virtual world and get my hands on him! I’ll make him pay for all he has done to my life!’

And just then, an even more devastating thought strikes me: ‘What if I am the evil genius who created and is operating this game? What if it is I who has inflicted all of this misery, pain, suffering onto myself and the whole world? But why would I do that? Why would I torment myself so?’

The Day The Internet Died by Boris Glikman

Andy 7

Image by Andy Paciorek

It was widely known that Internet had been ailing for some time. Its poor health had made it rather slipshod in the execution of its duties. Some people had to endure days of frustration until an online connection was established, while for others the connection kept going on and off every second, like a flickering light globe.

For a while Internet hovered in a half-dead condition, with one foot in the grave, and mankind held its breath, fearing Internet would continue to deteriorate and then give up the ghost altogether.

And then the day came when Internet breathed its last and nobody could believe their ill fortune. It was hard to grasp that Internet no longer dwelled in the world, and that the burden of living would never again be lightened with the ever-present alternative of escaping into an online existence. No one would be privileged any more with the luxury of having two worlds to live in.

The most eminent computer technicians of the land were assigned the task of performing the autopsy. Their unanimous conclusion was that the Internet died of virtual causes. What nobody had suspected was that the Internet possessed a finite life span. Everyone had always assumed it would be around forever, yet it too carried within itself the lethal seeds of eternal offline-ness.

The next most pressing issue was the burial. Issues never considered before needed to be addressed urgently, for the sight of lifeless Internet lying prostrate on the ground was too heartbreaking for the world to take. Where should the funeral ceremony be held? In which language or computer code should the memorial service be conducted? Who should give the eulogy? Where to entomb it?

The matter of whom to invite to the service proved to be the most intractable issue of all. A certain number of tickets were reserved for those most deeply affected by Internet’s death – online pornography addicts, social misfits, ingrained introverts, Twitter-obsessed celebrities, Nigerian scammers and long-term residents in Second Life’s virtual world. Otherwise, it was nearly impossible to determine who was genuinely grief-stricken and who only wanted to attend the ceremony so as to be a part of this historic occasion.

Eventually, all of these matters were resolved, although not to everyone’s satisfaction, and the world gave Internet the sending off it deserved. Straight after the funeral, the world went into a shutdown, mourning Internet’s passing and remembering wistfully how it could answer any question; satisfy all emotional, mental and bodily needs; thrill the mind and the senses; provide instantaneous information, entertainment, relaxation and titillation; and even cure loneliness. Tragically, given the magnitude and depth of the loss, some could not bear to continue living in a world without Internet and logged out permanently from this world.

Once the unbridled, hysterical wave of grief finally subsided, people sobered up and gradually realised how the Internet had debased and disfigured their lives.

They recalled with horror and consternation the way Internet enabled people to dawdle their lives away in the endless morass of net world, leaving vital tasks undone and crucial issues unresolved; how googling had supplanted the wisdom that comes with age, experience, learning and, with instantaneous information always at one’s fingertips, the value of knowledge was lost; the way online reality became the only world and real reality was jilted and forgotten, just like the plain sister of a gorgeous girl; how Internet robbed life of its multifarious richness and beauty and reduced the world to a small, rectangular screen; the way online reality became a prison in which humanity willingly immured itself and then threw away the key.

Mankind recognised how fundamentally Internet had altered the nature of social relations and the nature of one’s relationship with oneself. Invented to facilitate communication and for bringing the world together, the Internet instead became the perfect tool for dissimulation, distorting the truth and separating oneself from the world, thus allowing people to not only misrepresent their true thoughts and feelings, but to falsify their entire lives and the very essence of their being, to themselves as well as to others.

People discovered that fingers were not just for typing and shifting mouses but had other uses too; that out of their torsos extended a pair of lower limbs which could be used for perambulating across the spatial dimension; that Evolution had equipped their bodies with tools perfect for conveying thoughts and feelings; that their faces possessed well-developed muscles which could be employed to signal emotions such as (amongst many others) surprise, annoyance, happiness, and frustration. Consequently, successful communication could be achieved without intermediary electronic devices. Most startling of all was the revelation that other people were not identical to their icons – flat and forever stuck in the same pose with the same smile on their faces – rather they were three dimensional beings, moving about and changing their facial expressions.

Having friends and partners in the physical world meant that you were free from the precariousness, uncertainty and unreliability of online friendships and relationships, and no longer subject to the capricious actions and decisions of your web pals, to whom, after all, you were just an ethereal, abstract entity that could easily be deleted permanently from their life with just a click of a mouse. Consequently, the constant threat of online friends and lovers inexplicably ceasing all contact and disappearing forever was gone for good.

“Back to Reality” tutorials proved to be very popular and helpful, covering such topics as  “Learning How to Single-Task”; “Becoming Acquainted with the Sun and the Sky”, and “How to Survive in a World that Cannot be Photoshopped”.

Life slowly regained its meaning as mankind clambered, one small step at a time, out of the online abyss it had dug for itself. Without the Internet, no one had to grapple any more with the problem of how to balance one’s life between the two worlds. Time started to flow more slowly; instant gratification was no longer craved; contemplation and patience revealed their true worth. It was now clearly seen that online reality provided only fleeting pseudo-meaning; that emotions felt in the web world were only ephemeral ersatz feelings; and that real self-esteem came not from social media popularity, but from within.

Each human being now experienced life directly, rather than through the distorting, diminishing and vicarious lens of a computer screen; facing the good and not so-good things in their lives without escaping into the net world and evading the reality of their existence; and being true to their inner selves, instead of hiding behind their icons and online identities. Only then was it realised how inextricably Internet had woven its fateful thread into every aspect of man’s existence and how much had been gained the day Internet died.

The mePhone by Boris Glikman

The mePhone illustration by Michael Cheval

Illustration by Michael Cheval

One of the best things about being on Facebook is the opportunity to get to know some really talented people. One of those gifted ones, is writer & poet Boris Glikman (from Melbourne, AU) who has graciously allowed me to share some of his quirky, fun, short stories here with you.  Here’s the first.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on this piece so please comment!

The mePhone

One day a new type of phone that you could use to call yourself appeared on the market. All one had to do was dial a certain number and one would be connected straight away with oneself. The quality of the reception was so good that the voice on the other end of the line sounded as if it was coming from the very same room.

Inevitably, there was some initial apprehension about using this phone, for no one quite knew what kind of a response they would receive when they rang themselves out of the blue for the very first time. What if their unexpected call was considered to be an impertinent invasion of privacy?

Eventually, these fears subsided as most found that they were greeted with warmth and enthusiasm and their calls were seen as a pleasant surprise. Talking with yourself was just like talking with a dear friend you haven’t seen for a long time and conversation flowed easily.

People rushed to purchase this new invention, which was marketed under the brand name of “mePhone”. Suppliers could not keep up with the demand and there were ugly scenes as customers fought amongst themselves for the last available mePhone.

For mePhone to work properly certain rules had to be followed, and these were set out in the Owner’s Manual. First, the reception only worked in particular areas, access to which required an extra fee. Second, there was a strict time limit on how long you could spend speaking to yourself. And third, when using the mePhone, one had to wear special, rather cumbersome apparel that was sold separately from the phone. Also, owing to the technical complexities involved in establishing a connection, the cost of a call was outrageously expensive, although some enterprising phone companies, hoping to capitalise on the popularity of the mePhone, for a while only charged it at a local call rate.

However, these inconveniences were more than outweighed by the benefits you gained from having a good chat with yourself, for no one had ever had the time to stop and take a good, honest look at their lives. Everyone was always rushing about, preoccupied with the mundane details of existence, trying to silence the nagging question of whether they were happy with their lives and if they were being true to their inner selves.

And so it was an enlightening experience to be able to have a deep and meaningful talk with oneself. The users of the mePhone could now catch up with all the things in their lives they had never had the chance to think about before, to find out the vital news that fell by the wayside as they were speeding along the road of life.

People found that talking with yourself was a lot like talking to an old confidant, with whom the most intimate matters could be discussed. Not infrequently tears were shed as truths one had been hiding from oneself for many years were conveyed in blunt and forthright terms. Conversations gained a confessional aspect as darkest secrets known only to oneself were divulged openly over the phone lines. Quite often, surprises were lying in store as people discovered what they were actually feeling inside. At other times, the voice on the other end of the line would remind you of your long-neglected dreams, of desires and needs you had suppressed for far too long.

Many found out they weren’t really happy in their places of employment. Some realised they had fallen out of love a long time ago. Others saw for the first time that they had deluded themselves as well as others into believing they had reached fulfilment, regardless of how they actually felt inside. Quite a few recognised that they had become so comfortable with being miserable and disenchanted that they shrank back in fear when contentment appeared to be within easy reach.

The world became a better, happier place because of the mePhone as people at last began to be true to their own selves, for they knew they could no longer get away with lying to themselves. The way life had been before the mePhone was just a distant, faded memory and no person could imagine ever being without one.

My Favourite Books: Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon

Book Review
Title: Boy’s Life
Author: Robert R. McCammon
Publisher: Pocket Books
Released: 1992
Pages: 608
ISBN-10: 0671743058
ISBN-13: 978-0671743055
Stars: 5.0

Recently, I have been asked more than once, “What are some of your favourite books of all time?” This got me to thinking because it’s not always an easy question to answer if you read a lot, but the one that always springs to mind first is Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon.

Back in 1991, I was seeing a psychotherapist and she recommended the book to me for sheer pleasure reading as I was reading a lot of psychological and self-help books at the time. I bought it right away and read it and she was right! It’s one of the most beautifully written, magical, compelling stories I have ever read. I really want to read it again, soon, as soon as I can find the time!

Robert R. McCammon, who now simply goes by Robert McCammon and recently wrote The Queen of Bedlam and Speaks The Nightbird, is from Birmingham, Alabama and is known for his horror writings but that’s not the only genre Mr. McCammon writes in. Boy’s Life won the honor of Literary Guild Book Clubs Selection, Winner of the 1991 Bram Stoker Award and Winner of the 1992 World Fantasy Award.

From the back cover of the original edition:

Robert R. McCammon captivated millions of readers with his storytelling power in such bestsellers as Mine, Swan Song and Stinger. Now he has created this tour de force: BOY’S LIFE, a masterpiece of magic and mystery, of the splendors of growing up in a small town, and the wonders beyond. Narrated by one of the most engaging young voices in modern fiction, BOY’S LIFE takes us back to our own childhoods, when bicycles were enchanted steeds and anything was possible…

Zephyr, Alabama, has been an idyllic home for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson…a place where monsters swim in the belly of the river, and friends are forever. Then, on a cold spring morning in 1964, as Cory accompanies his father on his milk route, they see a car plunge into a lake some say is bottomless. A desperate rescue attempt brings Cory’s father face-to-face with a vision that will haunt him: a murdered man, naked and beaten, handcuffed to the steering wheel, a copper wire knotted around his neck. As Cory struggles to understand the forces of good and evil at work in his hometown, from an ancient woman called the Lady who conjures snakes and hears the voices of the dead, to a violent clan of moonshiners, he realizes that not only his life but his father’s sanity may hang in the balance…”

Reviews for Boy’s Life:

“Incredibly moving – boyhood as it should have been, recollected in genuine and generous detail…Boy’s Life is just really gorgeous. It’s McCammon’s The Prince of Tides…incredibly moving.” – Peter Straub

“This superbly told tale combines the sensibilities of Mark Twain, Flannery O’Connor, and Steven Spielberg…a solid coming-of-age story and a fine mystery…Devour this beautiful book.” – New York Newsday

“A wonderful story of powerful emotions, marvelous images, and inventive narrative…Filled with enough adventure, joy, discovery, and heartache for a dozen boys’ lifetimes.” – Houston Chronicle

“McCammon captures the joys and fears of late childhood with sure strokes, ably conveying his love for the time, the place…The novel works exceedingly well.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Boy’s Life is a wonderful book. It recaptures the magic of being a child in a world of possibilities and promise. It is about being born with ‘with whirlwinds, forest fires and comets inside us.’ And it reminds us of a magical time before the magic was ‘churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out.’ Boy’s Life is for the boys – and girls – in all of us.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution

If you are interested in reading more from Robert McCammon, I would also recommend Gone South and Speaks The Nightbird.