The Long Road Vol. 3: In the Light of Day

I slept on and off all night. My consciousness drifted in and out of tune while what sounded like bottles being smashed against the wall reverberated through the hotel, and on occasion, a sudden shrill laugh from the room below mine. Soon enough the sun came up.

If there is a word for just not quite rested enough, that’s how I would describe the feeling in my eyes. White beams of light shot through tiny pinholes in the curtains. The room, which I hadn’t had a good look at the night before, was derelict and dingy as you would imagine from the state of the bar downstairs. I checked out nearly as soon as I got up.

When I came to the front desk, the old man was no longer sitting in the old wheeled chair, and had be replaced by a bubbly middle-aged woman who wore those weird thick-rimmed glasses that secretaries always have on old TV shows. She thanked me for staying the night, and told me about the continental breakfast that was set up in the corner of the office. I would’ve eaten something but I could only imagine the quality of stale, bland bread and assortment of other breakfast related goodies that were likely days past their prime.

I peeked once more into the bar.

“Bar’s closed until 11:00,” the woman at the desk said.

“Yeah, I’m just checking for…”

There was no sign of life in the bar that just the previous night had been a hive of extreme masculinity and sweat. “Everything looks different in the light of day,” I thought. Something my dad used to tell me, often after my mother had had one of her violent episodes. But that was long ago and time leaks on at a steady pace. There wasn’t much to reflect on in that regard. Not at this point, anyway. I drove for a couple hours. I hadn’t the slightest idea where I was headed. The funny thing about driving without any plan of where you’re going is that you can never be disappointed with where you end up. And there’s nothing more comforting than a familiar face, even if it’s not one you expected.

At this point I was just a little past For Macleod, another  little place that, like Nanton, forgot the mantra about time and a steady pace. Up ahead the greenish-yellow fields stretched on into the horizon. The sun still hung heavy in the sky, baking the hot asphalt beneath my tires. In the distance a single hand outstretched pointing it’s thumb at me approached and quickly  flew to my rear. I drove right past without a second thought, just another hitchhiker. That’s when  I noticed in the rear-view mirror a speck of red shimmering like a familiar jewel. I thought for a short moment about the conversation the night before, “Is that really all it takes to make a friend”  Here, a quiet, lonely man, sat alone in a bar; and a firecracker approached and flared in front of him without a second thought. It took me more than a second thought to repay the favour. “Is that really all it takes to make a friend?” I didn’t know, but I guessed it wasn’t as much effort as I had thought.

I peeled into a range road and tossed the car around, wondering if someone else might have been much more sympathetic than I and picked up the traveler.

But she was still there. And she was a jewel tarnished with bruises and blemishes.

“Well hey there,” she said, in a combination of surprise and upset.

“What are you doing hitchhiking?” I asked.

“Husband threw a tantrum and left me here,” she replied as she picked up the mess of ratty nearly handle-less bags into the back seat. “We can catch up to him in a couple hours if you’re going my way.”

Well now I had somewhere to go.

“Where’ll he be?” I asked.

“Pincher Creek. Got a show in a hotel dive called Excuses.”

“That’s on the way,” I said.

There are few things in this world more solitary than the hills of Highway 2. Though we barely spoke a word, the road sang with deep, crackling tones of loneliness while the two-passenger car bellowed its answer back, and neither felt as solitary as before. “Everything looks different in the light of day,” I thought.

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Pale Blue Dot

The sky streaked blood red

with dark, broad lines of ash

painted by the fingers of who came before us;

And underneath, the people sat quietly

watching the great clock turn in the heavens

and the day count down its seconds,

until finally the darkness overtook the plains below.

 

As midnight passed, the hoots of owls, and

the chirps of crickets

surmounted by deafening silence in between each beat.

I looked up to Polaris

and then I felt the cold air wrap around me

and whisk me away

to a world overpowered with hues of gold and grey,

with structures higher than the stars themselves.

And soon the people too looked up to the guiding star,

and they, too, were swept away to the this marvelous new world.

Together we stared into the void.

Millions of tiny silver lights pierced the endless curtain above us

as we looked on through eternity

until the light faded.

 

And there we sat,

knowing in our hearts

that though it was not written in stone,

that though the water washed away our ink,

that though what we built would crumble in the sands of time,

though as millennia pass,

and as the great clock pushes forth relentlessly,

until all memory of us fades like those stars in the void,

and when aeons have gone by,

those who take our place will not know,

that we had been here.

Children of God: 1982- Intelligence

EXCERPT FROM THE TRUE STORY OF FREDDIE; THE FIRST AI

By Michael Strider – Darton Herald

It is November 14, 1982. I’d received a tip from a friend about a scientist in New York who studies robotics, named Dr. Howard Warner. I’d been told that Dr. Warner recently made a breakthrough. Supposedly he’s found a way to write a software program that thinks. Obviously, I need to check it out.

I first met Dr. Warner at a small cafe in Manhattan. He told me that he and his team had been working on artificial intelligence since the 60’s, and that the military had originally funded the project with the intent of creating robotic soldiers to use in the Vietnam War. The project, as he told me, was unsuccessful. He continued to tell me how the military ceased funding in ’74 after the Colorado Incident in order to pour resources into satellite  defense systems. The United States’ top priority at the time, of course, was protection from potential extraterrestrial invasions.

Warner and his team dismantled, but his passion for robotics and desire to finish the project led him to obtain financing from private businesses in order to continue the project. I never wrote my intended article for the Herald after what he told me that day, but being as it was so many years ago, and AI is now such a common commodity, I have decided that the story of how it came to be may reasonably be shared finally after all these years. it was such a great breakthrough in those days. I knew that the world was uneasy following the Colorado Incident, and so I chose to sit on this story in order to avoid causing more panic. The moral implications of true Artificial Intelligence were too much for the world to comprehend back then.

Anyway, after hours of talking about the intricacies of his failed attempts and how many millions of dollars went into the project, Dr. Warner finally invited me to join him in his lab to meet what he called his Thinking Software, FREDDIE.

My first conversation with FREDDIE was simply on a computer screen. Warner had been working on a robot body, but had not managed to put the finishing touches on it before I arrived. I asked him his name, which he answered very quickly. He asked me mine, and I replied. The conversation went back and forth for a time, and while i was impressed with the software’s ability to converse back and forth so fluidly, I remained unconvinced that the software truly was thinking. I explained my concern to Dr. Warner, and he began to describe to me the thought experiment known as the Turing Test. The idea being that if a question is posed to both a human and a robot, and the asker can read the answers but has no way of knowing whether the answer came from the human or robot, and if he is unable to tell which one is which, then the AI can be considered a success.

I thought I needed time to meditate on what question I could ask that no robot could answer like a human without being a true Thinking Software, and so Dr. Warner and I agreed that I would return in two weeks’ time.

When I met with FREDDIE the second time, his body was complete. He had a solid head that resembled a VCR, with two round yellow eyes with cameras. The mouth, of course, as a wide rectangular slot that could flip open and closed as he spoke. He had two arms that resembled wrenches, that he could open and close at will in order to pick up and manipulate objects, and wheels as legs so that he could move around with relative ease.

I sat down on a stool opposite him and watched the cameras in his eyes focus on me.

“Hello there,” he said. The voice was something like the sound of dial-up (to those of us who remember what dial-up connections sounded like) and a hoarse grinding noise.

“Hello FREDDIE, it’s wonderful to see you again.”

FREDDIE remained silent and motionless for several seconds. He then turned to Dr. Warner and stared at him almost with what can only be described as a look of confusion.

“You’ve met before,” Warner told him like a father reminding a child of a distant relative, “Before you had your body.”

FREDDIE quickly whipped his head around to face me again.

“You are Michael Strider,” he said, “I did not recognize you because I had no eyes or ears before.”

We chatted for a short time, while I prepared to ask my question. The conversation consisted mainly of us discussing what FREDDIE liked to do in his spare time, mainly he enjoyed playing Pong on the Atari, painting, and reading. I believe to this day some of his paintings are still being sold at auctions. One in particular, called Father, which was meant to be a portrait of Dr. Warner recently sold for $134 Million.

When the time came, Dr. Warner explained to FREDDIE that I had an important question to ask him. One that would prove to the world that he was just as smart as any human.

I shifted my posture in my seat, noticing that I had become more rigid and asked, “FREDDIE, is there anything you would like me to tell you?

The machine did not move for a few short moments, then finally said, “What do I look like?”

There was the answer. FREDDIE, I knew at this moment, could think. He had the capacity to understand that another entity may have a perspective that he did not. The world was on the brink of a new, horrifying reality. After FREDDIE and I said our goodbyes, and Dr. Warner walked me to the door, I said to him “I can’t publish any of this. It’s too much for the world to find out fight now. With the Colorado Incident still fresh in everyone’s minds, they’d burn down your lab, and destroy FREDDIE. You can’t tell anyone else about FREDDIE. I will publish an article explaining that the research was a dud. There is no AI. There never was.”

Warner’s face turned from pride to concern, “You may be right, my boy,” he said, “The world is not ready for FREDDIE.”

“But one day it will,” I assured him.

The next couple years went by with very little press coverage concerning Dr. Warner and his advancements in robotics. Some tabloids occasionally accused him of creating Robot Devils or similar things, but the public at large knew nothing of Thinking Software, and FREDDIE remained in the shadows. Then, on a cold Friday afternoon, I received a phone call that confirmed my deepest fears. Howard Warner had been murdered, and as it seemed, all of his “research equipment and materials” had been left to me.

What happened soon after shook me to my core. Investigators came to my door to discuss Dr. Warner’s killer, and as they told me, the main suspect was not a human. It was FREDDIE. Suddenly the world knew of FREDDIE and recoiled in horror at this “murderous technology.” The third time I met with FREDDIE, the eyes of the world were upon me.

If I Could Find You

If I could find you

If I could fail you

If  I could follow you deep into the darkest caverns of the world

And light the way with only the glow of your heart beating in my hand

If I could see what you had seen when you found me

Crawling through the dust

And eating the weeds that I plucked from beneath me

The weeds cultivated in agony and borne on my frail and wizened breath

And if I could gaze deeply into the heart of the world

And follow you,

And if I could look into my own soul and feel the tempo of yours as I searched for you

And if I could fail you

And still light the way with only the glow of your beating heart

As I carried it through the deepest catacombs

Then could you find me again?

On a Frozen Pond

I think, one day, I found it

buried in the ice;

where the rotted fallen trees encircled the lone pool of sunlight

that bent emphatically across the mountaintops

and poured itself into the frozen pond,

waiting till spring to thaw.

There’s something here,

a tick on my shoulder whispered in my ear

and then it bit me there;

The blood dripped down,

boiled the ice on impact.

I can see it still when I close my eyes:

The harsh redness beaming in bold defiance of the winter air

And the allotted warmth of sunlight designated for the particular season.

The fiery creature burrowed itself deep into a place

Where my hands could not reach to scratch

And squealed its deafening echo, resonated unending through my skull

as a broken phonograph record,

skipping over and over

Countdown to Infinity

I tell her she reminds me of snow covered trees

On a cool winter morning.

Or something romantic like that.

She smiles and turns around

Her red jacket spins effortlessly in the air

while lightly hugging her hips.

We count down to the rhythm of memories

of the year soon past, and

TEN her eyes glitter in the starlight

NINE My arms wrapped around her waist

EIGHT Her soft lips tingling against mine

SEVEN My fingers tracing lines and trails through her long brown hair

SIX Our clothes melt away into puddles at our ankles; her thighs resting on and then soon grinding against my lap

FIVE My hands grasping to unclip her bra

FOUR Her delicate face shattering with an ecstasy that we share as I enter her

THREE The rough motion of my body wrestling with hers, her breasts rise and fall like waves in high tide

TWO Her soft shallow breath now gaining ferocity, building with notes of love, hate and

the combination of all 525,600 moments, the conjoined pleasures, pains,

all collide as the clock now is about to reset in a broken dance of ‘I wanted’ and ‘she wanted’.

ONE We finish.

We’re lying together, breathless, lovesick

While thoughts of all that we’ve done crash into the shore.

The gaze of her hateful eyes meets mine, one by one the stars fade away, and we sit deadlocked;

Tasked with the torturous feat of facing one another again.

ZERO This isn’t what we wanted.

Giordana

When we met

There was a river between us.

Pulling away at the banks.

carrying old trees

along with it.

She asked me,

“Do you think you could love me?”

and I only turned my head.

Watched upstream

For something back there

to flow down to where I was

No, I don’t think I could.

But the river doesn’t slow,

And the further upstream I go,

the further away it pulls and carries her thoughts and feelings and

whatever hopes she held with her for the future.

I walked upstream

Hoping to find that one old tree that I once had to leave behind.

Her question haunts me to this day.

Not because of my answer,

or because I left it hanging in the brisk morning air to freeze and drop into the river.

“Do you think you could love me?”

And I walked the other way.

It haunts me because it is burned into my mind

like a brand of that stubborn sensibility;

She held her hand out to me

So that we could plunge into the river

Together and be carried downstream together.

But I left her to float on

alone, and I walked the other way alone.

When I came to where the old tree had been,

There was only a hole

As it had uprooted, and had itself plunged faithlessly into the river.

Those words still singe my brain even today as I look back to where I had been before

“Do you think you could love me?”

 

The Watcher at the Gate

There is an old man who stands guarding a gate,

always watching

And if you ask him what lies beyond it, he will tell you, “I know that not.”

The gate has been there since the beginning of all things

Bronzed by the passing of time

Worn by the rain, and snow, and wind

“The gate,” he will say, “leads to twilight.

But what else is unknown to me.”

And when the time comes, he will call your name.

You will find yourself standing before him

He, robed in grey

will step aside

And tell you to pass through

Then you will pass through

And you will know what he has never known

Children of God: 1974

CONFIDENTIAL

From official Transcript at Radio Telescope Lab, California, August 21 1974

9:03 pm

Rogers:That’s a shift 32 degrees West.

Smith: Correct.

Davidson: Whoa.

Smith: What’s that?

Davidson: I’m getting something pretty strange here.

Rogers: Describe.

Davidson: The wavelength sounds like a radio signal.

Smith: A neutron star?

Rogers: Could be but there haven’t been any observed in that area before.

Smith: Something new then?

Davidson: Maybe.

Davidson: Weird. It almost sounds like Morse Code.

Smith: It’s not consistent in any way?

Davidson: Yes, it is. Sort of. It repeats itself. Not like a neutron star is what I mean.

Rogers: What are we looking at then?

Davidson: What the hell?

Rogers: What’s that?

Davidson: I transcribed it as if it were Morse Code.

Smith: Okay and

Davidson: You’re not gonna believe this guys. It says “Hello there Earth.”

Rogers: (Static)

Rogers: Quit fucking around.

Davidson: I’m not. Seriously. Listen.

Smith: What.

Smith: He’s not kidding.

Rogers: Let me.

Rogers: Holy shit.

Davidson: Right.

Rogers: Can we send out a signal?

Smith: I mean it would be pretty easy.

Rogers: Let’s send one out.

Davidson: I’m asking who we’re speaking to.

Smith: Some kids with too much time on their hands.

Rogers: Yeah probably.

Rogers: What now?

Davidson: There’s a new wavelength. Hang on.

Davidson: I’ll be damned.

Davidson: It says “I’m not kids.”

Rogers: What the fuck?

Davidson: I didn’t transmit that part.

Smith: What?

Davidson: I didn’t say anything about kids.

Rogers: Ask again who we’re speaking to.

Davidson: Alright.

Davidson: God.

Rogers: What?

Davidson: It says God.

Rogers: We’re talking to God.

Davidson: The signal is claiming to be God.

Davidson: It says “Hello Michael.”

(Static)

Rogers: Are you fucking serious?

Davidson: Another one. “Yes.”

Smith: What the hell is going on?

Davidson: “I know you.”

Davidson: “I’ve watched you.”

Rogers: Anyone else feel that?

Davidson: “Do not be afraid.”

Rogers: How is it getting us these radio waves so fast? Based off where we’re listening It should take hundreds of years.

Davidson: “I exist independent of time.”

Smith: He can hear us speaking to each other?

Smith: This has to be a prank. Someone in a closet or something?

Davidson: “I am coming.”

Rogers: That’s great but who are you?

Davidson: “God.”

Smith: There’s nobody else in here. I checked everywhere.

Davidson: “I will be there soon.”

Smith: Where are you hiding asshole?

Davidson: “Close.”

Davidson: “Proxima Centauri.”

Davidson: “I will be there soon.”

Smith: Why are you contacting us?

Davidson: “I am coming.”

Smith: But why?

Davidson: “Do not be afraid.”

(Power cutout approximately 18 minutes)

Davidson: It’s back on.

Rogers: Any more signals?

Davidson: No.

Davidson: Hang on.

Davidson: “You are afraid.”

Rogers: What do you want?

Davidson: “Tell your people to prepare for my coming.”

Davidson: “In one thousand years I will arrive.”

Rogers: What do you mean? Prepare how?

Davidson: It’s just repeating.

Davidson: “Tell your people to prepare for my coming.”

Davidson: “In one thousand years I will arrive.”