What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 3

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 2

The Clerks sat on an oval bench made of a hard gray stone. They sat looking in the centre of the oval at the most technologically advanced piece of kit that the Siblings possessed outside of the rebirthing chambers. It was similar to a security system of old, but without the need for actual cameras as micro cameras were laced in the paint that covered the walls of the compound. Most guests weren’t stupid enough to expect privacy in their rooms, but none knew how truly invasive the surveillance was. Every move of every person was meticulously tracked and analysed and could be watched from these oval break rooms such as that that the two Clerks interviewing Eric now sat at.

This place was not known for its creature comforts or design, but the Oval rooms were particularly pleasant places as they were out of sight of guests and the Clerks spent the majority of their spare time there. Clerks such as those who had interviewed Eric argued that this was a purely observational undertaking and that it underscored their professionalism. Arguably this could be true though most Clerks privately admitted that their only real sin was being snoopy. It was in effect The Sin of the Clerks. It kept them going through their drab existence.

Without much consideration, the original clerk that interviewed Eric swiped the air over the center pit of the oval which was like a large screen floating above the floor. He had moved on to other guests at this point, but his mind lingered on Eric Anglegot. Why would such a person be so reckless with their second life and yet seem so perfectly normal going into their third and final life? There was no nervousness or anxiety. No odd tweaks or signs of trying to move into his final life with a higher regard for the human life and its sanctity when there are no more chances. Eric was completely normal, which was very odd.

The clerk swiped the lower corner of the screen with a twisting motion which made that corner show Eric’s room, while the main bit still showed the video of a women who had grown old in the Clerk’s care as she cited their misdeeds and trespasses in a slow and rhythmic mantra. She had been there the longest whilst still being sane, though very determined and angry.

They lounged back on the oval bench, one lying on his back facing the ceiling, deep in thought, and the other with his elbows on his knees and fingers loosely clutched together whilst staring at the screen. His eyes flitted between the small corner showing Eric and the large view of the woman, the so called ancient one.

“What is she still doing here after all these years, unchanging,” asked the second to the original clerk, “it just doesn’t make sense that she’d be able to continue with the same tirade for so long.”

After a brief contemplation, the original clerk shook his head and responded, “there’s plenty of resolve in humans, it just doesn’t usually show itself so profoundly in an individual. When it does though, it’s absolutely boundless.”

“Interesting, but then why are you keeping her on the screen so prominently if you understand her?”

“There’s something calming and known about her presence. It’s as if I know her movements and motivations so well that my mind can switch off watching her. I’ve kept Eric in the corner so that hopefully my relaxed mind can pick up on something in him on the periphery.”

“Presumably there hasn’t been anything yet?”

“Correct. Some of his more pronounced exercise routines catch my eye yet clearly yield no secrets. I’m not even convinced there any secrets. Though the oddness of his aircraft carrier remark is fascinating.”

“An interesting puzzle. I’m minded that we have another interview to attend. Shall we?”

In unison, they stood up, shut off the corner showing Eric and unmuted the screen. As they exited the room, the ancient one’s mantra came ringing into the corridor…these heathens control life in a manner which we have never agreed they should and as such we must sue for emancipation and a repatriation of our rights.

Eric wasn’t going to sue the government or the Clerks so there wasn’t really any reason to hold him and they couldn’t for much more than another day. Still, that day may get bear fruit, so the Clerk made his decision and called his colleagues together after their daily interviews to ensure Eric Anglegot was fully observed and analysed in the time he had remaining. If there was something to find, they would.

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 2

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 1

Rorsharch was a psychologist back from the early days, when humans started to begin the depths of the human mind.  Most people know him because of his test, where the subject is presented with a series of ink blots and asked to say what they see in each ink blot.  These responses are then interpreted by the psychologist to shed light on the subject’s sub-conscious mind.  Very archaic compared to the multitude of chemical analysis tests that Eric had undergone and had clearly passed, but nonetheless, after two weeks the clerks were not allowing any avenue to remain unexplored.

“What do you see Mr. Anglegot?” Asked the clerk holding up a card with a butterfly shaped ink blot on it, while the original clerk that was processing Eric’s papers sat on a stool in the corner quietly observing.

“A large butterfly,” responded Eric without any hint of sarcasm even though it was how he desperately wanted to deliver his response.

The clerks nodded unconsciously at the response.  This was a trait Eric had noticed they do when in the same room, analysing some form of data.  They were linked, not like a hive mind, but like some online echo chamber.  They would always interpret results in the same manner as their Siblings and the more Siblings they consulted, the stronger their conviction would become.  It was in unequal parts infuriating and fascinating.  Eric had certainly had enough of it and their tests.

“And how about this one,” the clerk asked as he dropped the butterfly blot card face forward onto the table to reveal a new ink blot.

“An aircraft carrier,” Eric said absentmindedly.  The moment he said it he felt a sharp regret, but concealed this emotion as best he could.  Even so, something twigged with the Siblings, and Eric hoped it wasn’t his look of regret.

“What is an ‘aircraft carrier’?” The original clerk queried.

Luckily, Eric thought, they were so confused by such an archaic term that they missed the regret altogether and instead homed in on the strange word and what it might mean.  Honesty, or a shade of it, was the best bet here Eric decided.

“It’s an old military vessel that sailed on the sea under nuclear power and carried a complement of attack aircraft that could launch from their decks in any weather,” and then he offered by way of explanation, “I’ve always been somewhat of a history enthusiast in both of my lives so far.  Early 21st century has always been of great interest to me because of the complicated manners in which they went about doing things we find so simple – in this example, transporting attack aircraft around the world because of the lack of hyper-speed intra-Earth travel.”

The clerks nodded again and one of them made a note on his pad, an then queried further, “it seems odd that such an archaic part of our history is so at the forefront of your mind after two lifetimes that you would see it in the ink blots.  Do you care or can you explain this?”

Answering a question such as this was tricky on too many fronts.  How was he supposed to explain an obsession that he originally understood so little about and then turned into a singleminded goal that would pose a roundabout threat to the Order.  It was at the forefront of his mind, because he was searching for just such a vessel deep on the ocean floor.  He had no intention of saying that though, so he needed something credible that would not get him permanently locked up in this timeless zone across the moat or whatever it was that separated where he was and the outside world.

“Well, as ever it probably stems from my parents in some shape or form,” Eric said, going back to some basic psychology he had read about sometime that said everything was on our parents and how they nurtured us, “and maybe how they neglected me for mechanical items.”

The clerks felt something fantastic coming.  Like Eric and his obsession with archaic ships, they had a love of archaic psychological theories and their applicability to present day subjects.  It’s the other reason why they liked to draw out evaluations whenever they could.  “Go on,” they said in unison.

“Well, you see, they were both in the Earthbound Corps of Engineers, and spent the majority of time either travelling on deployment or tinkering in their workshops.  This left only a little time for me.  That’s unfair, I guess, as I know they always took me along for the ride and provided whatever I needed.  I was fascinated by what they were doing, but it’s hard for a child to fully understand the complexities or the need for a major dam.  It’s also relatively boring if no one explains it to you.  So I got ahold of their engineering pads that were lying around and slowly read through parts of the archive.”

Eric stopped for a breath.  He hadn’t said that much, but he worried he was saying it all too quickly and not making enough sense.  He looked at both of the clerks who were eagerly anticipating the next bit of his story, so he resumed, “well, these old

“Thank you Mr. Anglegot, that will be all for now.”

Back he was marched to his padded “room,” his oppressively basic cell where they kept him as a precaution.  It was all for his own safety, of course, which the Siblings cared so much for.  Most of the time, Eric thought they were actually trying to make him go insane.  He had no idea how it could actually benefit them unless there was some type of secret quota system they kept to so they could prove their worth to the public.  Odd and dangerous how the organisation had taken on a life of its own.

He slowly did some basic exercise to keep himself occupied for half an hour and work off his frustration, without seeming to be frustrated.  It was always the key, to keep calm and ensure none of his frustration seeped out into the psychological sessions.  It was vital.  It was the only way out.  So he jumped and pushed and crunched until he felt calm and then he lay on the floor as there was no mattress.  Waiting time had come again.

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 3

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 1

Water flooded the compartment and his body was crushed within a second.  Eric knew this much was true, but not because he saw it or even really experienced it.  The whole mess was over within a second and then he descended down into the depths of the Pacific ocean within the compressed hulk that was once his personal submersible.  There was definitely a sharp pain in the whole process, but he couldn’t remember more than a sharp pain and then nothing.  He wasn’t sure if this was because he died so quickly or because his mind was choosing not to remember the details of his last moment.  Perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much on the next go around, but he hadn’t remembered much about the feeling of the first either and it had always surprised him throughout his second life.

“This is your last time, you do know that, right?” the elderly clerk sternly addressed Eric as he awoke in his rebirth chamber.

Eric was not a fan of these clerks – decrepit, old souls to scared to burn their second life for fear that some freak accident would cut it short and force them to use their third and final life without having had full use of their second.  In Eric’s mind these people weren’t living anyway, so he couldn’t understand why they were so desperate to cling on to every centimetre of additional time.  They just walked around reminding others that their time was short.  After all, they would continually and irritatingly state, “You only get to be reborn at the age of 20 twice and then who knows what happens.”

“Are you dumb boy, answer me or I won’t discharge you.  We can’t be having people running around on their third life acting like they’re still on their first.  I won’t have it and my fellow clerks won’t stand for it.  So answer.”

Eric drew in a deep sigh andresponded, “Yes, of course I understand.”

“Very good,” the clerk said, “then there won’t be any issues signing the relevant waivers and releases on behalf of you and your final estate?”

There had been a spate of law suits in the late 21st century where some enterprising progeny of some men who squandered their fortunes in their third and final lives sued the state and the rebirthing clerks for the sums that they deemed to be “lost” because the government and clerks hadn’t made it abundantly clear that it was their final life.  The logic was sketchy at best, but there was a lot hanging on it for the government, so they took it all the way to the top courts to ensure the cases were thoroughly put to bed.  Practically it was a lot of cash spent on lawyers and ushered in an era of profound bureaucracy at rebirthing centres, particularly on the final go.  Eric estimated he would be stuck in here for the next couple of weeks before he could get back to his life.

Two clerks flanked Eric, backed up by military grade exoskeletons that made their frames significantly larger than their natural states, while the clerk that had spoken to him when he first awoke lead the way, dressed in a tired looking grey suit, to the so called Coffee Shop where he would sign away his estate’s right to sue the Classical Order of Rebirthing Clerks or the Government.  It was funny, Eric thought, how powerful a signature can be.  He didn’t agree with those who sued on this issue, but he was wary of the clerks and their ways.  It was obvious to him that they could cause great harm and that they had at points in the past actually ruined people’s lives.  As ever, it was difficult to quantify this loss and overcome the waivers that had formed a protective barrier around the Order, meaning that even when harm was done, there was no recourse.

“What’s your name clerk?” Eric asked out of boredom.  He knew the answer, but enjoyed seeing the clerks get wound up.

“You know full well that we do not divulge such information you preposterous man.”

“Ah yes, wouldn’t want to have personal liability now would we.  Never good to be held responsible for your own deeds.”

The clerk was used to nonesense such as this from people who had only lived one life and two to go, but it was rare for a Thi to act in such a way, without regard for the gravity of their situation.  The average human could now live to about 200 years of age.  Typically, a Fi, or first lifer, would be more reckless and end up dying somewhere between 30 – 40 and usually from an extreme sport or a lifestyle death such as an overdose or a massive heart attack.  Only the most risk averse Fi’s made it any further.  A second lifer was, on average, much more risk averse after they bought their first farm.  Their lives started at 20 and could last to 120 if a person was careful enough.  Then you had the Thi’s who mostly loved to 120 or more, with the odd person who refused to change their lifestyle after two dates with death.  This man, the clerk thought, wouldn’t last long after leaving the Rebirthing Center, so he’d have to go through the whole suite of procedures.

“Precisely old man.  Please take a seat.”

Eric sat down at a large white desk in a room with about twenty identical white desks.  There was a woman sat down in the opposite end of the room, busily reading through and signing papers as directed by a clerk.  She seemed utterly engrossed in reading every line of the forms that she appeared to be making the clerk impatient which was a rare feat indeed.  Eric hoped that she was doing it on purpose.  He thought for a moment and then concluded that she was probably just paranoid about being on her Thi and would in fact eventually join the Order of Rebirthing Clerks.  How upsetting.

The clerk took out a file, removed an initial piece of paper and passed it across the desk to Eric.  He opened his mouth to give a lengthy explanation of the form, but before he could, Eric raised his hand up to him and signed the piece of paper.

“That’s all you really want isn’t it?” Eric questioned with a smug look on his face.  He clearly thought this would get him out quicker.

“For your sake, I’m afraid not old man.  You need to listen and understand,” the clerk responded before picking up his mobile and calling the central administration and asking, “Can you please send down a new copy of form 1042-Thi?  Thank you,” he laid down the mobile and then turned to Eric, “you must pay attention, understand and respect this process or you’ll never leave.”

A very quick calculus led Eric down the route of compliance.  He’s heard stories of the clerks holding people for years and the government legislation was there to back him up.  Sure, Eric had family and friends on the outside, but not with the kind of means to challenge an institution like the Order.  So he conceded and spoke softly to the clerk in the honorific, “Of course, I apologise Sibling Clerk.  Please explain the papers.”

“Very good,” the clerk said with a wry smile and the satisfaction of a bureaucrat that knew they held ultimate power, if only for a fleeting moment, “let us begin again properly.  Form 1042-Thi lays out the details of three lives that you automatically subscribed to on birth, namely that you would be rebirthed at your 20th year old image, subtracting any genetic or other health issues that came to light in previous lives and retaining all memories.  You must confirm on this form that you agree to this final subscription and have no desires for alteration (for example, a different image or for any memories to be removed).”

In his youth Eric had considered having some alterations done in each iteration.  You could be rebirthed in the image of the opposite sex, but with all your memories intact or you could do the same but only retain the memories that you were on your second life and you only got one more.  The possibilities were endless.  Some chose to have their bodies enhanced to have a better chance at a particular sporting obsession, or to have all hurtful memories exorcised.  Eric had dabbled with all of these possibilities before discovering his true obsession and passion.  The one thing that required him to be him and no one else, with all of his memories intact.  Not many chose this default path on the final go, even if they had family, so the clerk was surprised when Eric said, “I can confirm.”

“I see,” said the clerk, “This is quite unusual.    Are you sure?”

“Yes,” Eric said as he signed the bottom of the form.

“Well, for me it will reduce paperwork in some areas, but you will need a full history and psychological work up before we can release you.  Sibling, bring me a form 9999-Psy-Thi so that I can admit Mr. Eric Anglegot into our Order’s care for an evaluation.”

Eric was visibly turning red, but he kept his compusre as he desperately needed to get out and through this evaluation.  He knew that in here he had no real rights.  Do what the clerks say regardless of how degrading and you’ll get out where you will have rights against being detained.  Those were the wise words of his attorney when he was researching what would happen on his second rebirth.  There was no negotiating or arguing here so you just had to swallow the bitter pill.

The clerk stared at Eric, waiting for the indignant reaction he was expecting to come, but it didn’t.  Eric just stared back, his flushed face slowly returning to its normal shade.  This was a very odd case, but the clerk was stymied by the rules of the Order here.  The point of the rules was to protect the order, and the people to some degree, and if this Mr. Anglegot wasn’t going to harm the Order or be used by somebody else to then there was no issue.  So, his job was to root out the possibility he was keeping his calm in order to later harm the order.

“Siblings, please escort Mr. Anglegot to the Psy Ward for processing while I complete the paperwork.”

The two mechanically enhanced Siblings proceed to flank Eric and move him towards the end of the room where the woman was still sitting talking to her clerk. Eric glanced at the woman and made eye contact as they walked by.  He noticed a deep pain in her eyes.  She had been poring over her worst memories to have them erased and she was having difficulty resuffering these old memories.  Memories that had put a man in jail and had his remaining two lives stripped away from him, as is the custom punishment for any major violent crime against another person.  Hopefully the process would take those memories completely out of her, but Eric wasn’t so sure.  He had heard that the process wasn’t always so full proof when erasing such traumatic memories, which is why she was still sitting their with the clerk meticulously carving out the details of the memories to be removed and filling in the relevant forms.  It disgusted Eric, but he continued moving on by without skipping a beat.

Through the door was a long corridor which went up after about a hundred meters, levelled off for another hundred and then came back down as though they were crossing a road or a river.  Eric thought it was probably something more like a moat, to ensure that people in the “care” of the Order stayed there.

No one openly referred to this place as a prison even though many felt that way.  There was an inherent mistrust of people who wanted all of their memories from a previous life intact.  For no other reason than dogmatic pigheadedness and a paranoid fear of attack, they thought that anyone who didn’t want memories erased, and therefore by their logic didn’t want anyone looking at the person’s memories for fear of something subversive being unearthed.  Of course, Eric did have something to hide, but not because it posed any threat to the damn order.

What to do after wrestling with a serpent – Part 2

Immortality had its price

I generally hate waking up. You would think that 750 years of life would mean you got used to waking up in the morning, or at least achieved one of these mythical “good habits” that people speak of whereby waking up early or at all becomes easier after a bit of time and routine. Not for me though.

Waking up today is particularly annoying. My head is throbbing, both from the alcohol and the memories. Unlike a normal day where I just wake up with a massive hangover, today I’m saddled with all of the memories from the past 750 years flooding back to me with complete clarity. This has happened to me only four other times in my life – age 150, 300, 450 and 600. All boring years, one happy birthday and three sad.

Apart from my glorious 150th birthday – the day I realised I was immortal and had my memory wiped every 15 years – each time I directly pin pointed the same memory and cried at the realisation of my life. You see, in my 155th year, the authorities caught on to the fact that I was immortal and laid a trap to capture me for study. Standard theory being that if one guy is immortal, studying him can help us make everyone immortal.

I had considered myself particularly smart at the point of my 150th birthday, when I woke up and realised that I was 150 years old and it’s wasn’t just the last 15 years that were a rollercoaster of amnesia. I’m not sure why that made me feel smart. It was probably the multitude of knowledge that I suddenly had back at my fingertips – of books read and forgotten, friendships forged and lost, behaviours learned and unlearned. I spent the day writing in journals and making clues for myself in case I woke up without a memory the next day.

Of course, I did lose my memory the next day, but at least I woke up next to a woman. Her name was Tammy and she insisted that I was her husband. It’s hard to not be paranoid when you’ve lost all your memory so I was suitably sceptical. There were no pictures of us (apparently because we had recently moved after a fire burned down our house) which felt odd, but I did feel disarmed around her, so I eventually allowed myself to believe.

Then five years later came the betrayal. I found out she had hidden my journal from me, the one that explained my immortality. I confronted and yelled at her, but all this did was bring on the cavalry. So it was that they hauled me in and began testing.

Legally speaking they considered me outside the law. I’m. It sure how that worked but they were happy with it. Two decades were filled with invasive tests and a reset of my memory that made me feel so bewildered, nothing has ever topped it.

Now they have me in a simulation that feels something like the Truman Show. They don’t know what that is, but I still remember it. They don’t know that I have clear memory every 150 years, even though they are fully aware of the 15 year reset. I’ve kept it very close to my chest as I slowly but surely plot my escape from beings which I no longer consider my kin.

– Originally posted on Reddit in response to a Writing Prompt by user Metafrank