Day 5.5 :: Sean :: Batman!

I am wearing my Nusrat outfit. I am ready to go.

I am typing like mad to fit things in. I am not ready to go.

This is my last chance to say “Previously in ‘The Subjects’” . . .

Restless night with two toilet stops and lots and lots of vivid dreams. These include: chasing born again Christians off my property; going to a Comic-Con party and making Frazer Hines grouchy; encountering a scary self-publishing magician/salesman; being attacked by a pack of students in a uni toilet and confined as they prepared to cover me in bodily fluids (possibly the most confronting toilet dream I have ever had). I am exhausted.

A situation not helped by the baby birds or mice in the walls I could hear as I was going to sleep. I swear I’ve heard them before, but at the same time I’m sure this was some kind of auditory hallucination. Crazy is the new sane.

Jenn and I have started a game of Scrabble. I got a seven letter word. That makes me happy. She will win anyway. That will make us both happy.

One of the subjects suffered a death in the family yesterday. I’ll let them blog about that if they want to, but it highlights how intimately “Death and the Hobbyist” is tied to all our experiences in here. (I’ll speak more on that later.) Prior to this there had been a feeling of holiday last night, as we prepared for our imminent “release”. This feeling was punctuated a tad by a photographer from the Advertiser, who inadvertently clued us to the fact that it was Friday afternoon, not late in the night as we had guessed. So we knew we had one more sleep and probably one more short protocol this morning (as turned out to be the case). We had beans for dinner, which made me very excited (sad fan of beans that I am), and we all became a little too excited. Emotions are up. I expect more of the same this morning.

The obvious occurred to me while lying awake, that all my paranoid fantasies early in the week were probably symptoms of frustrated creativity. Riffing on reality instead of ideas in my head, because I wasn’t working toward anything concrete. Once I did get writing, those thoughts went away. I won’t say I got better, because that kind of riffing is fun. I know it’s a game, or a form of existential jazz. But it feels good to “normal” again, in that I have created something that will sit comfortably as a piece of fiction rather than the ravings of a loon.

Meanwhile, I am down to my last socks. In putting them on I discovered that they are mismatched. Black, but different brands, and one goes higher up my calf than the other. No one else would know, but I do. That is why I have earned the superhero name, “The Pedant”. Thom is “The Scribbler”. Jenn is, of course, the Batman. Fee should be “The Busdriver” but “TechnoEvangelist” is a strong contender. Together, we fight crime.

Being in here is like being in the army. That’s what I tell myself sometimes. People are always ordering us to eat, sleep, wake up, listen, perform repetitive tasks, repeat. I’m going to miss that routine, that surety, when I’m out, and I’ll probably be nostalgic for this brief period of my life forever. This connected to a moment in “Death and the Hobbyist”, when Allison, the narrator, meets a veteran who says of someone else that they someone else that they “fought in the Wars”: He didn’t say “together”. Nobody from that generation did. There were no sides in the Water Wars, just like there were no victors. There were only those who survived, and those who didn’t.

We’re all going to survive, and in reality, of course, this nothing like being in the army. But the experience informed the art, and I just wanted to reflect on all the other ways that has happened.

The story concerns the life and death of Allison’s mother—the grandmother of Clair, main character of Twinmaker, the book I’ve been editing while in here. I was reflecting on the death of my own grandmother last year, while I was overseas, but it’s weird how well it maps against the death in the family that occurred overnight. She too was my new friend’s grandmother. It’s a coincidence, but an apt one.

The story is about madness, and we’ve all gone a little crazy in here. Although I shouldn’t say “madness”, because what I really mean is divergent sanity. These experiences are valid. Our reactions to them are valid. I would never want to “cure” this.

Juliet in the story is restricted in her movement because she won’t use matter transmitters. We are restricted in movement because we’ve been locked in a box for week. These are conscious decisions, in reality and the story, and they affect everyone around us. Later on, Juliet is literally confined and she struggles with “the confinement, the routine, the constant observation”— as have we all.

Juliet believes that time is being stolen. Our sense of time has been stolen, leading to weird feelings of days speeding up or slowing down.

She also keeps a diary. This is the closest thing to a diary I’ve had for twenty-five years. Hers is also hopelessly self-absorbed.

The story hinges on new friendships, and on complementary obsessions. As one of the character says in the story, “We don’t just dream and obsess. We build. And we like to play.” This is a story about art as well as a story about a possible future. It’s about collaboration, something we’ve been wrestling with in here.

Lastly, the story’s also about adventures, and tribes, two things I gained from this experience. (I will work on more these in the months ahead.)

At some point I’ll release this story in its entirety to the blog. Just need to polish it and scope out some details. Writing out Google is like high-flying without a net. I am way too chicken for that.

I also thought (while we’re in summation mode) that I’d explain exactly how I rebelled yesterday, before we leave the one space in which this detail is relevant. It’s important to me that we had a methodology, so let me explain what that was.

For the symbol/code exercise: we created own our code and completed the task correctly, but on our terms.
For the serial addition/subtraction task: I multiplied. (This was fun.)

For the Stroop test: I hit only Yellow both times, because that’s the colour I always get wrong. This way I was right only 25% of the time, but all right for all the Yellows.

For the dreaded PVT: I aimed to make my results steadily rise and fall from slow to fast and back again, so if charted the results would form a sine wave. This was amazingly hard. It almost made the task bearable.

The only task for which I had nothing prepared was the driving simulator. For that I tested the game itself. The speedo goes up to 220, but it’s impossible to go above 200. In some ways it’s easier to take the corners doing that speed. It’s actually quite hard to crash.

So there you have it. Mea culpa, but mea also liking a bit of chaos with my order, and the other way around, too. (I’m glad this actually isn’t the army, or I’d be in the brig now.)

Got to go give Jenn my next word in Scrabble. That means getting up from chair and going into her room. 1993, old school, call it what you will. This is the Words With Friends is supposed to be played.

Jenn won, as expected. Hurrah! But I held my own, which I’m pretty happy with, since tired is the new awake.

More summary arguments. Here are the Six Stages of Sleep Deprivation:
1) Dazed
2) Paranoid
3) Upset
4) Hysterical
5) Rebellion
6) Batman!
7) Feelings about Feelings

I’m deep in Stage 6. Maybe it should be called “Stating the Obvious”.

I think I need to add an eighth stage: “WTF!?”
Mel is laying out the wires. We are having one more sleep. I simply cannot imagine how all these cycles (and meals) are being squeezed into a single week. It’s clear that my brain has been comprehensively hacked.

Officially I’ve given up theorising and guessing—but now I’m convinced that we’ll exit after breakfast “tomorrow”. So far my convictions have been easily toppled. If this one is too, that will be wonderful and weird. But they have asked us to make a note of any special things we’d like waiting for us when we emerge. That’s new, and promising, and a huge freaking tease.

We’re pacing about like caged tigers. I can’t think of anything coherent to say.

Here’s a final thought from the story:
And when Juliet died in her sleep high above the Andes, they carried her home to me on a bier of flowers and sang her to her rest with all the others who had loved her. These strange, lonely men and women and their families. My heart swells now to think of them.

My mother’s final words, Andre said, were, “Take me home.” And he did.
The next time I write something, it will be on the other side.


Sean Williams

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