Saturday, June 29, 2013

Saying Goodbye to My Little Buddy




The last time I developed a deep emotional connection with a dog had to be around my ninth birthday in 1973. The dog was a thoroughly mixed breed puppy that my siblings and I named “Barney” after Fred Flintstones’ short but far funnier best friend and neighbor. If I remember correctly our previous dog had passed away of some illness and probably to placate his anxious children our father grabbed the first puppy he happened to run across to shut us up. Back in those days very few people thought to spay or neuter their pets and there was always someone trying to find homes for the latest litter of pups the family dog had produced. This might sound cruel but most unwanted puppies and kittens back then were comparable to Christmas fruitcakes, something very common but often disposed of as quickly as possible by the easiest means available.   

Barney’s fate, at first, was far better than the most likely outcome his littermates endured. He was the very embodiment of the stories of how common mutts are the most loyal, loving, and patient of dogs. All important traits because my siblings and I were not the most well behaved or calm children.    

My parents’ marriage was always a disaster waiting to happen and sometime around 1975 when it finally melted down it was Chernobyl-like in magnitude. In the aftermath while our father largely drifted off the stage of our lives my two younger brothers, baby sister, and I were forced to follow our mother as she began an inglorious series of journeys crisscrossing the southern portion of the country. The exact details are excruciatingly complex but our mother would travel bounce around chasing a semi-derelict boyfriend one month then for reasons that were often nebulous at best load us up again the next and drive all the way back to our father for a temporary and half-assed reconciliation.

Somewhere in all this Barney disappeared in the midst of all this adult relationship realpolitik. Whether he was “taken off” by my father who had long since developed his own unique and separate interests or by my mother’s boyfriend who found him inconvenient is a question that will never be answered.  

After a couple of years of the best trailer trash drama I eventually had to separated myself from my mother and her boyfriend who still had control of my siblings and went to live with my maternal grandparents. After that, various circumstances never allowed me a chance to bond with a dog the same way I had with Barney. Even after my lovely spouse, Dragonwife, and I were married in 1993 I never got close to the three dogs we both owned at various times. I was fond of them and treated each with the kindness and respect every living creature deserves but they were totally devoted to my wife. For the longest time I just assumed I was not the type of person who could get emotionally involved with an animal. That changed about ten months ago when little Jaxx entered my life.

Generally speaking it’s never a good idea to wake me during the day when I am trying to sleep; working night shift is a pain all by itself without having to constantly answer ridiculous phone calls.  However, I take my parental duties seriously and stand ready to do what is necessary if one of the kids’ schools call. Needless to say I was ready to say some rather terse words to my wife when she called and began explaining how I needed to load her dog Sparky into the car and bring him down to a local pet shelter to see how he got along with a dog she wanted to adopt.

After I did my standard fifteen-minutes of husbandly protesting I began my usual wheeling and dealing seeking an angle to this situation that would be to my benefit. Truth be told I am a bit of a sucker when it comes to hard luck cases, as my wife explained was the case with this new dog she was interested in,  and pretty much go with the philosophy that there are room to spare here at the house and more than enough to eat for everyone. We already had adopted Sparky the Dog and Spock the Cat in the past couple of years and frankly I did not want to deal with cleaning up another mess. My children are Jedi Masters in creating residential disorganization chaos by themselves and I selfishly felt another dog would only add to the overall work load. All that changed when I arrived at the pet shelter.

Pets Inc. is an independent animal rescue agency located in the Columbia, South Carolina area that has taken upon the Herculean task of caring for and finding homes for abandoned dogs and cats. While it was a foregone conclusion that since my wife wanted to adopt another dog it would happen but the second I spotted that forlorn seven pound very dirty fuzz ball all unspoken opposition evaporated. Jaxx’s sad story only made sure I would welcome him as part of the family. However like Sparky the Dog and Spock the Cat I figured his attachment would be with my wife.

Pets Inc supplies a brief biography of each animal it sponsors which mentions how the dog or cat relates to adults, children, and other pets. For Jaxx it was painfully brief. The staff at Pets Inc figured Jaxx had been a stray for an extended period of time. Even worse he had never been spayed suggesting several possibilities, none of them good.  And they based their opinion on how Jaxx interacted with people and other animals from their observations since he came into their custody. They considered him rather docile and non-threatening. Oh boy, were they off on that one.

Jaxx’s adoption was far from a simple, happy ending. When we brought him home he immediately staked out an isolated spot in the living room and began growling fiercely whenever anyone came near. While he went along with having a collar put around his neck to approach him with a leash would cause him to nearly attack the person holding it. House training was a whole other world of poop.

Jaxx had the very strange, at least for my family and me, habit of backing up to a wall to poop. We never actually caught him doing this behavior but the smelly evidence was overwhelming. And of course the adage about small dogs having even tinier bladders proved very true, Jaxx, at first, always seemed able to make a puddle someplace in the house, as the months passed though we developed something of a rhythm that mostly solved that issue.

Because of the aggression issue it fell to me to attach Jaxx’s leash and often times walk him. Yes, it was often a battle of wills but eventually Jaxx began accepting the leash, but only when I was the one holding it. This began the general practice of having me put the leash on Jaxx while my wife or one of the kids walked him. Funny thing, as soon as they came back in Jaxx would run to my location and want me to pick him up. So the habit of him either laying on my lap if I was sitting in the easy chair or spread out next my head if I was sleeping on the couch began. Not long after that Jaxx was always sleeping with me when I went to bed, he would make sort of a bed out of the other pillow. It was a total reverse of the same practice my wife and Sparky the Dog have established since I work third-shift, in fact on the weekends when I can sleep like a normal person on Friday and Saturday nights Sparky seems put off whenever I steal his usual spot next my wife.

Long story short, Jaxx and I developed a deep attachment to the point there were many times I caught myself thinking about how happy I would be to see him running around my feet when I made it home. Several times My wife laughed at the sight of me, a six-foot, five inch guy who weighs, unfortunately, two-hundred and seventy pounds fussing over an energetic ball of fur that was never over ten pounds. What can I say, Jaxx was my little buddy and I took great pride that he trusted me so much.

This all ended while my wife, daughter, and I were on vacation just two weeks ago. On the Wednesday afternoon of that week my nearly eighteen year-old son, who we had left at the house to watch over everything, called to tell us Jaxx was dead. I will not repeat how he said Jaxx died because it was a lie. For it to be true Jaxx would have had to behave in a way I know he never would, I told my son as much over the phone. He still keeps to his utterly impossible story.

Needless to say I weep like a baby down in Florida after hearing this news. After I recovered enough to be coherent we all had a very short discussion and canceled the rest of the vacation. We left Orlando around eight o’clock and arrived home around three o’clock Thursday morning the entire drive was very quiet. This has been very tough for me, I never could have imagined the huge hole I feel in soul from Jaxx’s death.

I have my theory as to what actually happened to Jaxx and it involved one of my son’s friends who I find obnoxious in many ways and who did not like Jaxx in the least because my dog would go into fits of barking when he came into the house and make every effort to bite him. My attorney wife has advised me to avoid all speculation about what I think happened since I have no real evidence but the one thing that keeps bothering me is how that particular friend of my son has not come over since our return. This is a teenager who my wife has joked we could declare as a dependent because of number of times he has slept over and the large amount of food he has consumed in our house over the years.

There is no simple ending here, for reasons that should be apparent my son, Darth Spoilboy, now has to deal with all the yard work and home improvement projects my wife had assigned for me. I assured my son he will receive no compensation for his efforts and in fact will pay my wife and I back the money we lost in having to cancel the rest of the vacation. More to the point I told him that until I learn the truth his summer is over and that I should not get any hint that he is bored because I will find something for him to do. Curiously enough he seems resigned to this, a confusing attitude since he considers Jaxx’s death an accident.

Yeah, I know this acquiescence does not necessarily support my theory that someone else is responsible but like his explanation of Jaxx’s death it is not my son’s usual behavior to act this way. The little secret he fails to understand is that I have been involved in his life since the moment he was born, I know him better than he knows himself.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fear and Loathing at a Water Park

 Yes, I am in a really bad mood and stole from Thompson again.



The world was a physically comfortable but curiously mentally unsettling and slightly nauseating blur as I sat atop my Chinese-made, beach-themed inner tube drifting down the “lazy river” of one of Mickey’s water parks. Despite the bright and sunny Orlando day complete with soft and fluffy white clouds idly floating overhead I was able to identify several reasons for my unease.

The first being that I had accidentally emptied my six-ounce flask of tequila into the strictly non-alcoholic twenty-ounce orange smoothie before heading off into the crowded and confused waters of what was supposed to be a restful activity. While I love Disney as much as my socialistic-minded philosophy can find any affection for an ultimately soulless corporation, no sane person visits the Mouse as much as my family and I have without evolving certain cost saving strategies. See Disney’s various bars sell an alcoholic version of the same drink I enjoy immensely in which they add a half-ounce of very weak tequila. Throw in a name change to something sounding more adult and presto, the result is an exponential increase in price few tourists seem to notice.

Now I admit pouring the entire contents of my flask with not something I planned but the nubile young lady strolling by my lounge chair wearing a tiny bikini bottom and one of those stretchy, neoprene water shirts above distracted me. In fact my attention was diverted long enough that I did not even feel it when my wife slapped me across the back of my head.  Once I returned to reality the look of righteous indignation on her face made me realize my spousal transgression and  I was forced to remind her about how breathless she became when a male beefcake dude walked by minutes earlier. That brings me to the second reason I was feeling uneasy.

For several minutes afterward my lovely wife and I discussed the implications of the cosmically arbitrary law that allows women to admire individuals of the opposite sex without any repercussions but if men do the same thing it opens a whole other world of shit. Once I realized my wife and I were at an impasse I decided a short change of venue was in order. I quickly drank my hyper-tequila augmented orange smoothie and proceeded down to the entrance of the lazy river to contemplate the injustice of it all.

Thirty minutes after entering the lazy river the tequila began to take hold. Add to the fact that I was occasionally bobbing along in three spatial dimensions along with still dealing with the aftereffects of having been toss, rolled, dunked, and thrown through the various water rides that day my brain was not entirely secured to this reality. Things only got worse after that.

These lazy rivers that most water parks have some version of are designed to be places of rest and relaxation well separated from the organized chaos that make up the other more active attractions. This theory soon fails once the full force of all those frustrated and anxiety-ridden people rush in all seeking relief from their crappy lives chasing the illusion called the American Dream. In fact, as I drifted down I realized the lazy river with all cleverly decorated inner tubes looked like human corpuscles with the waterway taking the appearance of a clogged human artery whenever people started clumping together like a cholesterol laden clot.

I honestly do not know if the sight of so many people viciously splashing around like a school of fish caught in a net trying to free themselves from a human-made clot in a desperate attempt to relax and enjoy themselves was funny or sad. The thought that came to my motion rattled and alcohol soaked mind was that like me they were desperate to make the most of the short amount of free time our corporate overlords allow for vacations these days.  

Way back in the 1970’s my dad, while being an expert chump, was a simple appliance repairman for Sears. Even without a union he got a certain amount of paid sick leave along with two weeks paid vacation. Statistics suggest that the average American worker still gets about twelve days paid vacation after being employed by a company for three years. It is one of those nice statistics people far wiser than I could ever hope to be, like Mark Twain and Benny Disraeli, said were worse than damn lies. When you throw in the general tendency by companies to reduce or outright eliminate paid sick leave people have to dip into their vacation time for things like a bout with the flu or dealing with an ill child.

Needless to say once a person burns off the majority of vacation time dealing with the twists and turns endemic to modern American life those twelve days become something far less. Of course this brings up what is to me the very Orwellian term of, “staycation.” A clever word that while useful and innocent in many ways is for me nonetheless stained with touch of corporate marketing to, once again, get people to expect less of their lives and free time. Call me crazy? I would have to say there is a relatively high probability of that being the case. But like I have written, my wife and I are Disney fanatics and I cannot describe how many times I have been standing in line at the Magic Kingdom and see some man or woman in front of me answer their cell phone, discover it was their employer calling, and either promise to work on something later that day or immediately leave just to keep the boss happy.

Whenever that happened the idea that came to my mind was that we were devolving from the supposed free and independent Americans we claim to be into nicely dressed medieval serfs on temporary and conditional leave from our masters. The sad thing is that most of us appear to readily accept this condition while mindlessly mouthing the words that America is the most wonderful and exceptional place on the planet with everyone else being barbaric shits mired in outdated socialistic concepts like workers rights and universal health care. But hey I thought to myself at that moment, who am I to complain? I am just some helpless and irresponsible and depraved man floating on an inner tube suffering from a tequila binge.

That is when I decided just too clear and my mind and accept the fact that the lazy river I was somewhat floating on was the classic affirmation of our national character. On my left was a family of archetypal rednecks all wearing matching plastic crushproof containers around their necks designed to protect their cigarettes and lighter. To the right was an upwardly mobile family looking on in overt trepidation as their daughter talked with the son of the redneck family. The divide between the rich and poor might be growing wider but as long as there are overly crowded lazy rivers the words “E Pluribus Unum” can still be uttered without breaking into total fits of laughter.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doing Disney's Animal Kingdom

What can I say? Darth Wiggles wanted a picture with the famous Native American princess and after my attorney, my lovely spouse Dragonwife, assured the management I would be on my best behavior the Disney SWAT team stood down  and my daughter got her picture.  I still had to stand one-hundred feet away though.

Yeah this is strictly a very unconfirmed urban legend but one of the Animal Kingdom Lodge front desk staff once told me in hushed but urgent tones that all guests need to keep their curtains drawn to assure their privacy while staying here at the resort. See many of the rooms here have balconies that face the simulated African savannah so the guests can have views of the animals as they roam around. The designers also realized that since we have an overabundance of idiots these days some might try and harm the animals by feeding them. So to protect the animals IR cameras were installed that face the balconies so things can be rightly monitored but there was one problem the designers did not foresee. These same IR cameras can also "see" straight into the rooms if the curtains are open. This became an issue as more and more guests decided to make the Shakespearean "beast with two backs" completely unaware that their activities were being caught on camera. Long story short whether or not this bit of information is true if you come to this beautiful resort it is best to close the damn curtains.        

I could really ignite a nice gender-based firestorm with this picture but all I will say is that we need to give each other a little consideration. Oh what the hell, when my wife saw this picture her first thought was that the male lion was a lazy bum while the lioness was just trying to get him to spend time with the kids or do some much needed yard work. My first thought was that nagging crosses all species lines. No hate mail please.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Going to See Some Lions, Tigers, and Mickey



Salvation is at hand in the form of a much needed vacation in the Florida sun chasing my daughter at the Walt Disney World parks. Going to hit the good old Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom theme park, and the awesome Typhoon Lagoon water park. We leave first thing in the morning but will spend our first night in Orlando at a Radison Hotel close to some outlet malls so Dragonwife and Darth Wiggles can shop. 

 I have two chief concerns for this trip once we settle in at Animal Kingdom Lodge where we will be staying. The first being the ever present worry my wife not allow me to run a tab at the poolside bar. The second is the fear that the Disney princesses such as Jasmine, Ariel, Snow White, and Pocahontas will renew the retraining order forcing me to keep one-hundred feet away.



Will be posting the usual boring pictures once we arrive. Until then here is a video of Darth Wiggles at her end of school year violin recital.

video


 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Pleasant and Easy Consumerist Path to Hell





Several centuries worth of scuttlebutt suggests that the words: “Abandon hope all ye who enter here” are inscribed above the entrance to hell as a kind of backhanded piece of friendly advice directed to those unfortunate souls who departed the earthly realm without securing proper forgiveness  for their sins. Generally speaking Dante’s buddy, Virgil, is listed as the first source for that bit of information but since trips to the bottomless pit are for the most part one-way, confirmation is still pending.

Supernatural locales not withstanding curiously enough there is a purely terrestrial place where such a phrase does fit for those like me who would rather crawl naked on the ground through scores of fire ant mounds while covered in honey than ever go inside. What place you might ask can rival the evil abyss that sinners are condemned to spend an eternity of suffering as punishment for their earthly transgressions? That place is where you find “always low prices”, your friendly neighborhood Wally Market.

Under the well crafted, but partially true, guise of giving the hardworking consumer more for his or her buck the folks that run Wally Market have over the years built an economic juggernaut that has unfortunately come to dominate most of the American market place. This has resulted in smaller, local retail competitors almost becoming extinct and numerous American-based enterprises being forced to betray their workers with massive pay and benefit cuts or just to ship those jobs overseas so they can stay in business.

Never one to let a little bit of factual bad press ruin their operations Wally Markets spends millions of dollars annually to pay soulless advertisement agencies to make them look like they give a damn about something other than the corporate bottom line. Speaking just for myself, whenever I see a television commercial with an actor claiming how great it is to be a Wally Market worker the first idea that comes to mind are those propaganda broadcasts from North Korea showing how much their citizens love the current megalomaniacal twit in charge. Never mind that Wally Market’s wages are so low that many of those workers have to turn to government assistance costing those hard working taxpayers on average a little over a million dollars at each  store.

It is funny really; hard working taxpayers who are often upset about all those lazy bums on welfare go to Wally Market to save money. But yet Wally Market workers often have to use food stamps and Medicaid to feed their families and have some basic health care because they get paid crap. It is almost a self-sustaining loop feeding back on itself with Wally Market the only winner as yet another one of their cavernous stores are built. Down here in the glorious south there are so many of them you already cannot throw a rock without hitting one of those putrid centers of rabid of American commercialism.

There are two points of this screwed-up reality that make this all the more funnier. The first being that many people like me who despise Wally Market sometimes cannot avoid going into one of those stores or another like it. Relatively speaking some of those all-encompassing mega stores are better than the others but most generally follow Wally Market’s business model.

The second point is the often idiotic nature of many of Wally Market’s loyal customers. Few right-wing leaning affluent middle-class, and even more surprising poorer working class, folks cannot wrap their tiny heads around the fact that while yes, they are saving a buck or two shopping at Wally Market the majority of the merchandise they bought was made in China by someone working for what amounts to slave wages. That brings to mind a surreal incident where a redneck acquaintance of mine was bragging to me about the great deal he got on his new fifty-four inch, Chinese made, television who a few minutes later began bitching about that damn socialist President Obama.    

But hey, I can at least understand the fatalistic logic to buying as much cheap crap as possible to a certain degree. With good paying manufacturing jobs leaving the United States because many people want nothing more than their own immediate satisfaction like a spoil child with a mouth full of rotten teeth demanding more candy. Wally Market provides a way to keep the illusion of a prosperous lifestyle just a little longer for them and their families.

This leads me to the second of my neat little analogies that dovetails with my introduction being that the road to hell is paved with good but ultimately moronic intentions.     

From Mother Jones:


Walmart's wages and benefits are so low that many of its employees are forced to turn to the government for aid, costing taxpayers between $900,000 and $1.75 million per store, according to a report released last week by congressional Democrats.
Walmart's history of suppressing local wages and busting fledgling union efforts is common knowledge. But the Democrats' new report used data from Wisconsin's Medicaid program to quantify Walmart's cost to taxpayers. The report cites a confluence of trends that have forced more workers to rely on safety-net programs: the depressed bargaining power of labor in a still struggling economy; a 97 year low in union enrollment; and the fact that the middle-wage jobs lost during the recession have been replaced by low-wage jobs. The problem of minimum-wage work isn't confined to Walmart. But as the country's largest low-wage employer, with about 1.4 million employees in the US—roughly 10 percent of the American retail workforce—Walmart's policies are a driving force in keeping wages low. The company also happens to elegantly epitomize the divide between the top and bottom in America: the collective wealth of the six Waltons equals the combined wealth of 48.8 million families on the other end of the economic spectrum. The average Walmart worker making $8.81 per hour would have to work for 7 million years to acquire the Walton family's current wealth.
Using data from Wisconsin, which has the most complete and recent state-level Medicaid data available, the Democrats' report finds that 3,216 of Wisconsin’s 29,457 Walmart workers are enrolled in the state's Medicaid program. That figure that balloons to 9,207 when Walmart employees' children and adult dependents are taken into account. The study also looked at the costs of other taxpayer-funded programs that Walmart employees on state Medicaid could also use. Here's the tab: 

At a minimum, Walmart workers in Wisconsin known to be enrolled in Medicaid rely on at least $9.5 million a year in taxpayer funds. If the study's low-end estimate of $900,000 per store in taxpayer-funded benefits is right, Walmart's 300 Wisconsin stores could be forcing the state to provide as much as $67.5 million per year in benefits that employees of Walmart's higher-wage competitors, such as Costco, don't need.
House Democrats are pushing two pieces of legislation that would address the drag Walmart's low wages place on the economy. One would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10; another would allow employees to share salary information, bolstering their bargaining power. A study published last year found that raising average retail wage salaries from $21,000 to $25,000 a year would create 100,000 new jobs and give a $13.5 billion annual boost to the overall economy.

Walmart has pushed back against the Dems' report. "Unfortunately there are some people who base their opinions on misconceptions rather than facts, and that is why we recently launched a campaign to show people the unlimited opportunities that exist at Walmart," Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for the company, told the Huffington Post. "We provide a range of jobs—from people starting out stocking shelves to Ph.D.'s in engineering and finance. We provide education assistance and skill training and, most of all, a chance to move up the ranks."
Research suggests that Walmart could increase wages significantly and still turn a profit. But the company has worked for years to avoid doing that. An internal memo obtained by the Huffington Post in November, "Field Non-Exempt Associate Pay Plan Fiscal Year 2013," outlined how Walmart capped raises for hourly workers, lowing costs and bolstering their bottom line profits. In 2012, the company's net sales were higher than Norway's entire economic output.
The ranks of near-poor households enrolled in Medicaid have been swelling in Wisconsin since the late 1990s. Although Walmart isn't the only force driving this trend, it certainly isn't helping.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Waiting For The Next Explosion - Conclusion




Even though there were times it did not quite work Department 10’s one near constant since it was created was the tendency to hide things in plain sight. Such was the case with the current headquarters located outside the small town of Davisburg on the western edge of Virginia. To the outsider passing by on Interstate 81 driving north towards Roanoke the main complex looked to be nothing but a medium-sized chemical plant surrounded by support buildings. What earned the designers their pay back in the 1970’s when it was originally built was because that is exactly what it was intended to be.

During construction no one paid any attention to the secretive outside contractors brought in to build the plant or least of all the huge pit dug to house the massive underground complex where all the dangerous Department 10 work was done. The icing on the camouflage cake was that the above ground chemical plant did actually employed sixty local workers producing an array of mundane household chemicals sold in supermarkets around the country. As long as the workers stayed to strict authorized locations and ignored some strange inconsistencies they were showered with the best in pay, benefits, and guaranteed lifetime employment. The things they had to ignore were the prison-like security that guarded the area and the large amount of unused property outside the main plant environs. But most of all the workers were told never approach the overly large building that supposedly housed the sales and senior management types.

Feeling the Dassault Falcon jet begin a tight bank I looked out my small window and saw that a runway had been built right next the forbidden  building sometime since I had left Department 10 . “How in the hell do you explain the runway to the workers and locals?” I asked Amanda.

She immediately looked up from the computer tablet she was reading but froze as she clearly began to say something. My first thought was that the behavior was odd; Amanda was never the one to second guess herself in her words or actions. The fact that this hesitation went on for several seconds with her facial expression morphing into one of placid relaxation only raised my concern even more.

“Amanda?” I said leaning forward from my seat.   

“We never did,” she suddenly said with a smirk, “we just hired fifty more workers, paid some actors to act as senior management types and give speeches to the local Chamber of Commerce about our commitment to the local economy. The residents ate it all up and have in fact become highly protective of the factory. Given that they chased away several environmental groups over the years wanting to inspect the plant we almost do not need security anymore.”

That sounded entirely like the woman I had known for so long. I almost wanted to ask about her brief but near cationic state but thought against it. I did not want her to get any idea I cared, which it was sure she would certainly try and use against me at some point.  “So you still leave out the part about the ten megaton nuke sitting in the bottom sub-level ready to be used if something escapes confinement?” I asked instead.

All I got from her in response was a weak, stifled laugh. Just minutes later after we landed, I was rushed up to the third floor of the main building housing the low risk medical facility and shown the reason Amanda had went to such great efforts to locate me.

***

At first glance, the person lying on the sophisticated hospital bed connected to a mind numbing array of monitoring leans and IV tubes looked just like any other poor victim suffering from second and third degree burns along with extreme bodily trauma. An extreme critical condition mess to be sure but where things got very strange were the lab and MRI scan results I began reading in detail while sitting in the small office adjacent to the unknown person’s hospital room.

The patient was obviously a human female and despite the injuries looked like any other person you might pass on the street. The first journey into the surreal was that not only did the patient have two extra chromosomes in her genome but a closer examination of the normal forty-six show a whole host of extra genes that I could not even guess at what they might do in her body. Needless to say I was not surprised to learn that others genes associated with various genetic diseases that all “regular” humans carry were completely absent. Furthermore, the nucleotide sequences, called telomeres, that protect her chromosomes from deterioration were arranged completely different from other humans.  While the other doctors involved in her treatment guessed the patient’s age at mid-twenties, theoretically at least  she could be anywhere in age from twenty years old to two-thousand.

Just the examination of the patient’s genome could take several lifetimes to understand but at least I understood the basic principles and could discern their actually workings over time. I had absolutely no clue as to the purpose or workings of the nanoscopic crystalline structures that not only floated throughout the patient’s body in the hundreds of billions but were embedded on a cellular level. In fact these structures made up most of the patient’s nervous system and could be traced back to an unusual formation of purely organic cells in the prefrontal cortex of her brain.

The notes from the other physicians involved were as short-sighted as them were telling. The Defense Intelligence Agency types brought in for consultation were mostly convinced the unknown subject was some sort of Russian/Chinese superspy. Such paranoia was both extremely sad and funny in a way since neither country could hope to produce such technology, it was simply that advanced. The onsite Department 10 doctors at best thought she was yet another lost alien, or at worst, a scout for an invasion fleet. This attitude actually depressed me greatly, given the few actual incidents with aliens that were on record it suggested that while there were a few galactic Nazi-like species roaming around in space most had long since advanced beyond the stupidity of war. Those opinions sadly said more about human ignorance and our nearly unchanged caveman behavior than the unknown woman. Amanda had even brought in a few civilian hot shot physicians and God bless them, they at least had the guts the scratch their heads and say they had no idea about where the patient came from or why she was so different.

Amanda had not seen fit to tell me how the patient came into her custody but what puzzled me was why most of the crystalline structures floating through her body seemed inert. They resembled a purely theoretical type of nano-robot that if the design issues could be worked out would do nothing but repair cellular damage in the human body. I sat in that office for close to ten hours going over the data and examining the patient before I laid my head on the desk and went to sleep.

I do not know how long I was asleep before the dream began. The first thing I remember though was seeing the Earth floating in from of me. It was immediately apparent I was in some sort of spacecraft looking through the eyes of the pilot. And as this person looked at Earth I felt sadness but it was secondary to a need to answer some question. After several seconds of just looking at the planet a decision was made and hands that were not mine danced along controls. The Earth began to grow and somehow I knew the pilot had decided it was time to enter the atmosphere.

The spacecraft skimmed over several cities throughout the world and I found myself wondering how it was evading detection and whimsically, at least to me, wondered how rural trailer parks in the American south were immune to the cloaking device I assumed the pilot was employing. There came a moment when I sensed the pilot becoming worried when several indicators began flashing. A holographic image emerged of what I somehow knew to be two advanced fighters on an intercept course. After that fear blurred the dream but I knew that the fighters had somehow detected the spacecraft, and then fired upon it. The last few images I remember were of the two attacking fighters, both experimental models that flew out of Area 51 in Nevada. Then there flashes of fire, severe pain, and finally of troops in biohazard protection gear putting the pilot inside an infection containment tube.

When I awoke I found Amanda sitting in the chair across from the desk. The look on her face was unlike anything I had ever seen before, almost like she was a completely different person.

“The universe continues to display a wealth of irony in my current situation and in those I have encountered.” She said.

“Excuse me?” I said puzzled but an idea in the back of my brain was beginning to creep its way to my consciousness.

“Amanda Grey invested a great deal of prestige and resources into developing a barbaric method to remotely control human beings. The only thing that surpasses the quirk of fate that she fell victim to such a predicament is that she herself caused it to happen.” The woman in front of me said who I was now convinced was not Amanda.

“What did she do?” I asked.

“She deduced early that the crystal nanites in my body had considerable ability to repair all cellular damage, including that caused by simple aging. What she could not discern that they also have other capacities she could never imagine. Amanda took several samples from my body, and then injected them directly into her bloodstream. The cellular repairs took only a few weeks to have an effect, however when they started integrating into her nervous system she had no idea of that it allowed me to gain access to her mind and then a little later, her body. The result was purely accidental; however once again the universe intervened and her actions allowed me to complete my mission.”

“You’re from the future.” I blurted out expressing the idea that had slowly begun to form after I had reviewed all the data concerning the unknown patient. “What kind of mission were you on and how did something as primitive as our fighters shoot you down?”

“You are correct Doctor Mansion,” the being possessing Amanda’s body said with a very human smile, “My name is Shi and I am from what you would perceive as the future. As for my mission, there are many unanswered question about how my own civilization evolved from this bloody and barbaric time. As for how I was brought down by your armed aircraft, one of the few constants in all of human history is how random and unforeseeable events can alter or even destroy the best laid plans.”

“So shit still happens in your time as well, that’s somewhat comforting.” I said more to myself than to the being across from me, which drew a puzzled look from Shi. “Never mind,” I said not wanting to confuse Shi even more. “You said you’ve completed your mission, what do you mean?” I asked.

“I will tell you Doctor Mansion if you promise to help me.”

The animalistic part of my mind questioned if I could trust anything Shi said but on some deeper level I knew she was being honest with me and that her intentions were peaceful. “Yeah,” I answered, “I’ll do everything in my power to help you.”

Amanda’s body shuttered suggesting that whatever Shi was about to say bothered her greatly. “My mission,” she began, “was to find the nexus of where your civilization ends and mine begins to take shape. After so much misfortune much to my surprise I have inadvertently stumbled upon one of my civilization’s founders.”

Modesty was never one of my strong suits but at that moment I had absolutely no idea who she was talking about.   

Shi smiled again and went on to explain, “Few records survive but what does mentions an American doctor that did much to begin picking of the pieces of the old world and begin the long journey of building a better one.”

“Me?” I said. “Bullshit, your history is pretty screwed up if it somehow believes I could be any part of the building a better world.”

“I can tell you no more, but I can show you but as I stated earlier, you have do something vital for me first.” I silently nodded my head and after Amanda’s body took another deep breath Shi began. “It pains me terribly to be here with no way to return to my own time. The horrors of your civilization dig deep into my soul and I cannot take it. It is far better to end my existence than to live in this time. I need you to terminate my body as quickly as possible.”

Once again I felt overwhelmed by everything I wanted to ask Shi but one question came to the forefront. “If I kill your real body what will happen to Amanda?”

“I am sorry; Amanda Grey’s ill advised introduction of my nanites into her body will condemn her as well. While a piece of her consciousness remains our bodies are permanently linked.”

I felt no sorrow for Amanda, she had played the cards life had dealt her and lost. As for Shi, she knew I would do as she asked and that she would prove to me that years down the road I would a play an important part in shaping her civilization. Without saying another word Shi made Amanda’s body stand up and walk over to where I was sitting. As soon as Shi placed Amanda’s two hands on my face I could literally feel the nanites rush into my body. That is when the visions began.

***

After Shi proved that I actually had a destiny beneficial to someone other than myself, I went into her room and pulled all the wires and tubes from her hopelessly damaged body. Shi’s real body began to glow and the next thing I know I am miles away looking at the smoky ruins of Department 10’s headquarters. The following weeks I was grilled by various officials as to why I was not in the building when it inexplicably exploded. They had nothing that proved I had anything to do with it and eventually released me from all responsibilities associated with government service.

For months afterward I wondered about Shi. As the visions of her society come into focus I realized she was as far removed from me as I was from the first humans that began to walk upright. In her society Humanity was not just flesh and blood creatures but it spanned a spectrum of beings that encompassed what I would call computerized artificial intelligence, a combination of the two, to those who just have the nannites. But I can tell this expanded humanity is far more than that, it is a true trinity where one facet blends into the other.    

Eventually I decided it was time to start the long journey Shi visions said I had to take. A remote village located in the Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego became my destination and I once again work in a small clinic helping the locals. It is strange to know that in a little over six years the entire cesspool called Western Civilization will implode and take most of the rest of the world with it. Some might wonder why I do not try and advert the coming disaster, the trouble is that the house of cards those in the Northern Hemisphere built will not fall from one thing alone. There is far too much greed, paranoia, and apathy for any one person to change the course of human history.

Shi's nannites have fully integrated themselves in my body. Through them I have quickly come to realize how oblivious normal humans are to the true nature of physical reality. As the transition point from the end of my civilization to beginning of Shi's draw near I will have to start introducing the nannites into other people. It is a difficult decision to make since it is far too similar in nature to what Amanda attempted in that hideous secret laboratory located in Poland. I console myself by knowing that my actions will not only ensure the survival of the human race but that something far to grand for me to fully understand even now will come into being.

With a new life just beginning there is one final act I must perform before I can close out the old one. I stand on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. In my right hand is my Sig Saur pistol that I have used many times to take human life. Using all my nannite assisted strength I throw the thing as far away from me as possible. I see a small splash off in the distance and without any further delay I leave the old corrupted world behind me.       

(Author’s note: Excuse the typos, been busy and I’m lucky to get this much done. Hope you enjoy my psychotic ramblings.)