Non Sequitur Tuesday

• To whom does God pray?

• Earth, Wind and Fire. So, where’s Water? You know, to complete the elementals? I guess he’s all wet. Washed up. A soggy voice. Damp instrumentals. Or did he soak the others? Drown them in a gushing tide of icy disdain.

• If the woodchuck chucks wood how many books does the bookworm book? How many flies does the butterfly butter? How many hogs does the groundhog grind? How many dogs does the watchdog watch? How many tails does the swallowtail swallow? How many birds does the mockingbird mock?

• If a friend gives you a philosophical present: be present in the present, should you presently present a present back?

• If the world is flat, who lives on the other side?


“You’re new here I see.” The glow from this spirit had barely faded from the bright orange that cast every inter-quantum object around us in glaring relief.

Not fully in control of its collective energy the being undulated in amoebic pulses. “Where am I? Am I dead?”

“Dead? No, you’re not dead. But,” I paused to shift to the side away from the blob of crimson light that formed this person’s current expanse of fear. “You’re not technically alive either.”

The two of us sat, if sitting it be called, on a park bench along a path bordered with daffodils and crocus flowers, buds from the willow trees just starting to show above us; spring was busting its green head up and out of a dull grey winter.

“Where then?” she asked. It was female now I could see, her pulsing glow tapering off.

“This is Inbetween. A kind of quantum limbo your soul shifted to when your body died.” She reacted badly to that last word, as I knew she would. It’s better to shock them hard at first I’ve found, otherwise it takes them eons to adjust. Pow! You’re dead — but not really! Sadistic? Hmm, I prefer to think of it as being cruel to be kind.

“I remember… Wait. I can’t remember anything!” In her reaction she’d expanded her quantum perimeter enveloping the path, flowers and a tiny finch pecking at the bare dirt amongst  green stems. “I feel sunlight, and a breeze, and I have wings! And I smell the loam and pollen and, I’m floating!”

Her adaptation level surprised me. Most folks can’t interpret the sensations of the sub-atomic energies streaming out from all life’s physical matter. If it lived, it leaked.

“Slow down there sister. I want you to concentrate on the bare hum you feel. Can you hear it? Can you feel that susurration deep within your being? Focus on that.”

Her flare-up dwindled, she shrank back to a roughly humanoid shape. “I’m dead. I really am dead.” She held out her hand and found she could gaze right through it.

“No, not dead,” I corrected. “Once life, always life. What you are is transformed.” I could see her fringe starting to vibrate again, so I sped up my speech. “But that’s a good thing. Some say the best of things. Yeah, I know you can’t remember anything. Yet. But you will. The energies of your past experiences will catch up with you. They’re,” I searched for a phase that would be meaningful, “spread out.”

Around us humans walked and jogged and rode past, unaware. Mallards swam in a pond behind us, dipping their heads to browse. Gold-black bumblebees thrummed in the throats of flowers. The sky shown achingly blue. Once you got used to it you could concentrate and see past the air and clouds and see out into the galaxy, the universe. I sometimes drifted out that way. But lately, during my wait, I’d taken some solace in helping the newly arrived, adjust.

“Follow me,” I said and willed her quantum state to parallel mine. If you remained in limbo, as I have, you learn you can control more than just your own subatomic tunnels.

She continued to amaze me.

“This can’t be the afterlife can it? You said this was some sort of limbo.”

“Quantum limbo. Exactly. We’re in between attachments of our life state. You could call it ‘after body’.”

Her orange glow had shifted into a warm yellowish hue. She moved what she imagined as her feet in a walking fashion and noticed that I simply glided along. She quit her stroll but continue to keep up. “Wow,” I said, “you really are a fast learner.”

“I’m a teacher. I mean, I was a teacher.”

Her memories began to stream in now. Her color shifted yet again, now into a vibrant green.

“You’ll find that what you remember from your past life can be pared and shaped to suit what your current spirit finds pleasing. Forget the bad. Remember the good.” We’d drifted up above the tree tops now. The skyline of buildings and roadways fading as we moved out of town, out across the surrounding hills and out over the nearby mountains.

“How long have you been here?” she asked. “I mean, if this is in between, then what’s next? Are you stuck?”

I’d paused our passage at the top of a surrounding hill. I looked down and witnessed the millions of spirits, souls if you will, escaping their physical confines, lives ending, lives continuing on. From the tiniest insects to the largest mammals, from the smallest blade of grass to the immense oaks and pines. It had taken me enormous effort to learn to see these threads of energy. I doubt very much she could see them, as fresh as she was.

“I don’t know why I’m here. Or how long I’ve been this way,” I admitted. “I’ve tried, as best as one of my kind possibly could, to rationalize my situation. I’ve determined that at some point, after I’ve assisted as many people like you to assimilate, I keep a running count, I’ll move on as well.”

“Move on? To where?” Her questions now formed the telltale sign of the first stage of enlightenment. Her time here would be brief.

“We’ll that’s the question isn’t it. I’m pretty sure I’ve come to this spot having traversed thousands of physical bodies. Each one contributing nuances to this collection of quantum energies that exists before you. But to what end?” Without her realizing, or maybe because her own awareness had already subsumed the event in its entirety, we had lifted high above the planet surface floating out to where we could enjoy the graceful curve of the sphere below us.

Her color throbbed deep blue now. Her time, near.

“Will I remember this? Talking with you?”

“Perhaps.” I shaped my arms as an open hug and with my influence guided her aura into my embrace.

“Oh,” she exclaimed at last. “We’ve met before haven’t we? Many times before. I remember now.”

As her color shifted off the scale, through indigo and beyond, I guided her on to the next universe in her circuit. As we separated I pinched a tiny bit of her spirit to keep as my own. She’d never miss it; she headed off to gather vastly more of her own. “Yes, we’ve met often. On your next return you’ll almost be ready.”

“Ready for what?” Her whisper fading with her transcendence.

Six-million, seven-thousand, three-hundred and ninety-one, I counted to myself. “Ready to take my place (I hope).”

Destiny Roulette

The Wheel of Stars shown prominent on the wall as Cheryl and Hue entered the Office of Population Planning.

“Is that it?” Cheryl asked as she stood staring at the roulette looking pinwheel, its colors muted rather than the garish casino colors, the sequential numbers replaced with random ages paired with letter codes.

“If you choose to use it. Yes, we’ll be using that to determine your child’s future.” The clinician said, polite but business-like. “Won’t you two have a seat. We’ve got a few minor points to clear up.”

Hue noticed that there were four pie-wedges that stood out from the other sections of the Wheel. They were colored bronze, silver and gold — the lucky fates; and the fourth, a solid black slice with a single red dot in its wide end.

“Now then, as you know, you can select from a limited assortment of ages and happiness levels for your child or, you can elect to spin the Wheel of Stars to try for a longer, happier life.” The woman behind the desk, her hair drawn back in a constrictive bun, set her tablet down and looked both expectant parents in the eye. “But, as you’ve no doubt realized, to balance out the world’s population, as agreed to by UN regulation L2055, the Wheel options must, on average, work to forward the UN’s objective.”

Hue glanced back at the Wheel, he couldn’t stop looking at that black dagger looking section. “How often does that black wedge come up?” he asked.

“Well, fifty segments, which would mean, again, on average, we see about one out of fifty fates land on that option.”

The clinician picked up the tablet. “I see here that the both of you have opted for yourselves the joint eighty-four year, reduced happiness LifeLevel, a common selection for couples. When the program was implemented those twenty years ago many chose that exact plan. However, with all newborn citizens, the LifeLevel must be preordained at the time of birth. Have you decided what age and happiness level your child should have, or have you elected to spin the Wheel?”

Cheryl looked down at her fingernails, her left thumb chipped from picking. Hue reached over and gently rested his hand on hers stopping the next flake from falling. He said, “We can’t imagine knowing the  exact date of death of our child, our boy Jin.” Hue released his wife’s hand and clasped his together in a sort of prayer. “Knowing when he would die, at least the month…”

“Yes, the bots have a bit of random built in so the exact time of death is within a thirty day range,” interrupted the administrator. Some parents didn’t realize that there was variability built into the system; that the truncation of the telomeres of the chromosomes began in earnest only after the nanobots had expired and that it took time to complete that process.

“Right,” confirmed Hue.

Cheryl exclaimed, “But we would have to live with the knowledge that we picked his final age and how happy he would be throughout his life.” She shook her head seemingly dazed at the possibility.

“So…” began the clinician, “you’ve opted to let the Stars decide your child’s future.”

Both parents nodded.

“Okay then.” The woman placed the tablet face up before them. “If each of you would press your thumbprints there and there. Good. Now, one of you needs to press that red button there on the screen and we will let the Wheel of Stars decide.”

Cheryl reached but hesitated. Hue grasped her hand and the two of them extended their index fingers and together lowered them to touch the crimson square glowing on the device.

The Wheel behind them began to spin. It was a digital version of the Wheel, but it beeped and booped as it spun around. The different colored segments blurred past. The gold and silver were visible as opposing blades, the bronze wedge spun opposite of the black spear head, its red dot a mesmerizing twirl.

The Wheel began to slow. Hue held Cheryl close as first the gold slice slipped past the selector. Gold: One hundred and twenty years of age, with adequate health and a good happiness quotient guaranteed through both fixed income and a nanobot induced chemical joy level.

The black wedge spun past. At each revolution Hue’s shoulders tightened and released.

Silver approached. Silver: An age of one hundred, with good health and a considerable happiness quotient – a bit more than gold’s it was said.

But silver swept past. The other wedges, pastel blue, mauve and sea-foam green had ages ranging from sixty-five to eighty-five, with varying levels of health and happiness; green shorter but happier than the mauve; mauve shorter but happier than the blue. Blue, effectively what both Cheryl and Hue had chosen for themselves.

Next was bronze (‘ninety, high quality health and very happy,’ read Hue on the disclaimer) and yet the Wheel continued to turn, beep-boop-beep, but more slowly. Gold came into view again. ‘Gold, what a blessing that would be,’ thought Hue. But gold clicked past. Blue, green, mauve, blue, green…

The black wedge loomed closer. Its red eye glaring at Hue. Cheryl pinched her eyes shut.

“Not that one. Not that one,” chanted the father as he too closed his eyes.

The Wheel of Stars ceased its noises and stopped. Hue let out a constrained breath. Cheryl began to raise her head.

“I’m sorry,” said the clinician. “But as you know,  balance is our goal. We at the Office of Population Planning must accept that all longevities must average out.”

Cheryl and Hue stared at the vertical black wedge, the red dot pulsating.

“Like a shooting star, some have described it.” The administrator had only seen the black wedge selected twice before. “Dazzlingly bright, full of love and joy, more than most people will experience in their entire lifetimes. But, like a falling star, brief.”

Pale, Hue looked up, his hands gripping the edge of the administrator’s desk. “I’ve heard the dark fate offers options. That we can negotiate a different future for our boy.”

The clinician slid her hand across the tablet cutting off the ongoing recording. “We have certain leeway in determining how to best manage the balance of the directive. That is true. But the minimum I might offer is a trade of say, one hundred years.”

Cheryl gasped. “But that would mean…”

“As currently assigned, your child would enjoy one the most pleasurable childhoods offered on the planet.” The administrator’s eyebrows narrowed quizzically.

Hue took his wife’s hands in his. He gripped them intensely and lowered his head to touch hers. “This choice is beyond us. We know that. Jin must live.”

Cheryl grasped her husband and, sobbing, nodded into his shoulder. He raised his chin to look defiantly into the eyes of the Administrator of the Office of Population Planning. “So be it. We grant our combined one hundred years of remaining life to our unborn child.”

The woman smiled grimly. “All right. I see that the child is to be born in six months, that leaves you in deficit of about a half a year,” she said looking up from her inspection of the adjusted contract. “But, I’ll go ahead and wave that given the sacrifice you’ve both just made.”


“He’s beautiful,” whispered Hue to his wife as they held their child for the first and last time.

Cheryl’s tears trickled down to plop onto the forehead of their son Jin. The droplets worked down the child’s cheek causing him to quiver. “He is beautiful isn’t he,” she said as her emotion overwhelmed her. “Will he be all that we dreamed?”

The nanobots had triggered their telomere execution the moment that the child had breathed its first independent breath. The Office of Population Planning had optimized the cell death algorithm. Cheryl’s eye’s drooped and her muscles gave way as Hue responded with his dying words, “Only the stars can tell.”