Spiritpunk (Part 1)

I know I'm not very good at telling a story, but I had this idea in my head and just had to write it out... Characters and plot aren't my strong suit. ;)

The sky was gloomy and pregnant with rain. The clouds grumbled threateningly, licks of lightning flickering in the bellies of the clouds. A humid, insistent wind was chasing most of the city's citizens inside, where they hunkered down before their fires to listen to the evening's radio broadcast. The radio didn't have much to say these days - "The War continues!" is about all it said, day after day, week after week.

The War continues.

We were winning, of course. Sure we were. How could we not win? We of the higher moral ground, we of pride and bravery, we of compassion and mercy. We had to be winning - the radio told us so every evening. The radio couldn't lie, the newspapers couldn't lie, the soldiers themselves couldn't lie. And yet, the War dragged on. And on. And on.

If this was what winning felt like, I thought miserably as I hurried through the empty streets, Gods have mercy on the folks who are losing.

I was running late, of course. Three spirit inspections a day was far too many for a department that was as desperately understaffed as our own. Just last week we had a mess of trouble from a half-crazy inventor that resulted in my sleeping on the little cot in the office for five days straight. Idiot tried to use a foreign-speaking spirit to trick an inspector into thinking it was below Sentient class. How they continue to believe that rubbish is beyond me; there's enough information flooding out of PropDep that the average Joe on the street is a veritable expert on spirit identification. It may have fooled a schoolchild, but our training and equipment has been proven to never give a false negative.

It just reinforced how important our work is. The only difference between us and them is morality. We're neither cruel nor desperate enough to use Sentient spirit power, even if it's more powerful and clever. That we stand so firmly on this issue is what will win us the war. Good shall always triumph over evil, and there is no evil worse than imprisoning the Sentient dead.

I brushed past abandoned, boarded-up houses and humming factories. A few lonely lights danced in the windows of the factories - the evening staff, tending to their spirits. One of these factories was my destination. Just a routine inspection, shouldn't be any problems. It's not the factories we have to worry about, usually. They're built and designed to be run on sub-Sentient power. If they were fitting for Sentient power, it would be obvious. It's not the sort of thing you can hide from our department researchers.

Most applications only need access to the power of the dead, which can be drawn from the unlimited supply of ethereal energy that is emitted by a pinned spirit. A pinned spirit can't move or hibernate; it is effectively imprisonment. We only allow the use of sub-Sentient spirits which don't know any better; they don't understand their fate. We require that they never be left alone for long periods of time. Spirits left unattended have managed to self-destruct, causing great damage to themselves, the machinery they reside in, and other nearby spirits. If they're monitored, a spirit on the verge of destruction can be unpinned and freed before it becomes dangerous. It's not difficult to find and pin a replacement; a minor inconvenience considering the vast amounts of power and even intelligence they give us.

They use Sentient spirits in their weapons, in state utilities... hell, they pin Sentients into their fucking home appliances. They use viscous containment methods that drive the spirits insane. They force them to perform menial tasks over and over, hour after hour, with no rest. I've caught a few Sentient-class spirits that escaped from their machinery, and it's not pretty. "The duty of the dead," their propaganda calls it. It's disgusting. It's filthy. It's not duty, it's slavery. If I could get my hands on the people responsible, I'd -

Ah, here it is. A worse for wear factory that looked as empty and lonely as all the others I passed. I trudged up the steps just as the first fat raindrops fell from the sky. Small miracles, I comforted myself, neglecting to think too much about the trip home. (Perhaps I could borrow a phone and ring a cab, though that's rather unprofessional - though trotting off into a furious rainstorm is also quite unprofessional, when you get down to it. And once I'm done this inspection I'm technically off the clock, providing everything goes smoothly. Of course everything will go -)

"Hello," I said to the young woman who was peering out of a doorway just off the entrance hall. She has the confused look of someone who had closed their eyes for "just a moment," only to wake up several hours later. A lot of the caretakers looked like that, these days. Long hours with little pay will do that to a person.

"I'm Sandra Davis, Senior Spirit Inspector, SpiriDep. I'm afraid I'm running late, though you were informed I would be here today...?"

The girl blinked the sleep from her eyes and nodded in affirmation. As an afterthought, she stuck our her hand and offered her name, Milly. An unfortunate name for a sweet-looking woman, I couldn't help but think. Tired, but sweet.

"Very well, this shouldn't take too long and then I'll be on my way." She escorted me to the production floor, showed me the generators, the factory machines, a sample of the product right off the lines. My instruments swept over and through the machinery giving nothing but clean readings, not even so much as a sub-sentient class 5, a spirit class that's popular due to its energy efficiency and cleverness, which can sometimes trip a sensor. No, everything here was neat and tidy, by the books.

So why was Milly being so hostile?

That thought took me by surprise, but when I turned to study the girl more closely it became apparent that there was something wrong. She was holding herself with an unnatural tenseness, she kept trying to casually peek over my shoulder at my instrument readings. Her replies were too prompt, her face too hard, with a barely-hidden scowl. And her eyes - she kept looking at... not, that's not right. She was trying to avoid looking at something.

"Alright, that's about it! Everything here seems clean." She looked only mildly relieved, s it couldn't be anything on the production floor. The next logical thing, then. "Now, it's standard procedure for us to check the staff areas, too -"

Ah! That was it. The poor thing turned white as a sheet. And she had been trying so hard to hide... whatever it was. I almost felt bad for her. Well, it really wasn't standard procedure to scan the personal affects of the staff - far too invasive to do something like that on a regular basis - but we could if we felt it was needed. I wanted to know what she was hiding. A weapon, most likely; those were becoming unfortunately popular these days. There was also the new illegal fortune devices fad; supposedly tapping into the "great knowledge" of the undead. (Milly didn't strike me as the superstitious type, anyway.) Or maybe -

"Hmmmm," I said thoughtfully as I stepped into her personal quarters, Milly shuffling in behind me, like a sulky shadow. For a moment I was worried she may become violent, but a glance at the girl revealed she didn't have a violent bone in her body. She was chewing her lower lip and looking as if she was going to cry.

"Hmmm," I repeated as my instruments started getting excited. The Sniffer led me to a small writing desk. As I got closer, the detector on my belt squawked and a blurry humanoid shape appeared on the screen of my ID unit. Fully Sentient-class, no doubt about it. I reached out my hand to touch the... watch? It was just a plain pocket-watch, quite clearly not a weapon or a fortune unit. Why have a Sentient imprisoned inside? You barely needed any power at all to run a simple pocket watch. As I let my fingers graze the cool metal of the casing, my detector instantly fell silent. The ID unit suddenly showed only a faint, irregular waveform. The Sniffer still eagerly pointed at the watch, though.

"What the..."

"Don't take him!" Milly squeaked, hovering just behind me, clearly too terrified to snatch the watch from my hands, though dearly wanting to. "Don't take him, they'll hurt him!"

WAYWT | Fall checkers, blue socks


I found a stump. It was a nice, fall stump. So I stepped all over it. Later, while we were in line for poutine, I picked a bit of leaf out of my hair. When it fell to the ground, it unfurled and turned into a tiny, lime-green bug. I felt pretty guilty about stealing the little bug away from its forest home, nearly squishing it, and then dropping it in the middle of a busy, old and neutral-coloured cafeteria... so I had to go take it outside and put it in the grass. It reminded me of a little robot bug we have at home that just walks in straight lines until it winds down.

This past month has been very... tiring. School (well, waking up early) is always quite draining. I've been feeling quite stressed and gloomy, to the point that my period was almost a week late... But I enjoyed our trip to Yarmouth, I'm enjoying most of my classes (Intro to Psychology, Media Culture, Parallel Programming [again], Advanced Algorithmic Techniques), my favourite holiday is approaching, I'm rereading Harry Potter, I finally installed Windows 7, I tried water marbling last night, I'm playing board games with friends tonight, and the weather has been absolutely lovely.

I haven't had a lot of energy to write since school started. But, I do have lots of stuff to talk about coming up, including this year's Halloween costume, APB and P-NP. Very exciting.

Suddenly, Yarmouth

In a surprising twist of decision-making, we didn't visit either T's or my family for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, but instead went to Yarmouth County to spend the weekend with a friend's family.

It was a sunny fall weekend, with good food, lovely people, and beautiful scenery and I'm extremely glad we went.

Photo of a lighthouse, with a rocky foreground.

Photo of the ocean with a line of foam stretching across it
It's the ocean seam! Where God patched in the oceans...

Spontaneous Generation

Arguably, the most important trait that separates humankind from other animals is our ability to formulate complex ideas. (Thumbs are pretty rad, too, but we're not the only creatures who've got 'em. Fucking raccoon.) But, complex as they are, these ideas are not always correct. If you look over the history of scientific beliefs, this becomes painfully clear, and can be a great source of amusement if you're that kind of person.

I am that kind of person.

One of my favourite obsolete beliefs is "spontaneous generation;" the belief that certain organisms spontaneously appear out of other substances. For example, it was supposedly believed that rats would appear out of piles of garbage, or that frogs would spawn out of mud that was exposed to the sun. This actually resulted in several "recipes" for critters, or other misguided beliefs, like the belief that geese were fish. (This was before it was known that some species of birds migrate, so people didn't know where a certain species of geese originated from. It was observed that a type of barnacle has a similar coloration scheme to the geese in question, and therefore deduced that the barnacles were a sort of pupal stage of geese. Interestingly, this was used as the reasoning for why it was okay to eat geese during Lent, when normally you could eat no meat other than fish.)


It's all very cute, and very funny. (And it's all very easily debunked by the use of (even moderately) controlled experiments. So, we add another thing to the list of hilarious beliefs our ancestors ascribed to.

Except.

Except a few weeks ago I bought bananas. I don't normally buy bananas, because I'm allergic to them, and T won't touch them. But one of the rabbits was being medicated for an ear infection, and I bought a bunch of stuff to see if anything would get the pills down faster.

Anyway, I had bananas and no one to eat them (except rabbits), so they sat on the counter for a few days.

Then, one day, I passed my hand over the bananas and a cloud of fruit flies frantically burst into the air. We had not previously had a problem with fruit flies.... until I bought bananas. And then they were everywhere and we're still trying to get rid of them a full fucking month later.

We went to visit T's parents, and they had a fruit bowl on the counter. And there, next to the apples and oranges, was a banana. As I was hanging out in the kitchen, my idle hands happened to skim the air near the banana, and a cloud of fruit flies rose from the banana and buzzed chaotically around the kitchen.

There it is again: bananas... and then fruit flies.

Fuck what the science says, I think someone back there in the mid-first-millennium had their shit right. This shit isn't a coincidence. Bananas cause motherfucking fruit flies. It's undeniable. And I don't think I'll be buying fucking bananas again, because those fuckers are annoying. (The flies, not the bananas)

If I ever play Pictionary, and I ever have to draw a fruit fly, I know exactly what I'll doodle.

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"Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."