Every culture has its own little influences and none moreso than the White Rabbit, an archaic hovel established in the twenty first century by the pioneers of their era. Others of the specific branch of psychohistory afforded to the past claimed that the builders had come from the far flung 18th Century or as the secular Fermi Paradoxians argued it had been established by the aliens.
I had been wandering down the deceptively verdant lawns, reader. Deceptive, as they had been plush whilst Wittengensteinian philosophers and Hume idealists stood around amongst he epistemological equivalent of a tree while several rapt eyed citizens eyed it and took down observations.
It was there I was accosted by a deadly author in a variegated costume.
'You must be Mycroft Canner,' the individual pronounced and vigorously shook my hand.
I felt my lip go numb, the sensation of globus hystericus and said, 'Canner? Surely you must be mistaken.'
All along the grove heads turned until a veritable group, ideological bash'mates forming a phalanx but politely they waited at the edge of the White Rabbit and I wisely decided not to discuss it further feeling as a beast underneath the purview of innumerable inescapable foveas. Inescapable, unless I discovered the skill of farcasting, another of Apollo’s unsubstantiated Iliad retellings punctuated by Dionysian digressions.
'Probably not,' The author assured me, an inherent concentrated frown riding on that brow. 'You see, I just published my seventy second volume on your life story, ascribed and future motivations in acute annotated detail as well as your physical description. I have also proofread several monotonously written transcripts and fixed many incorrectly details in approximately thirty stories to further testify to your canonicity. I even did a deep spectroscopic analysis of the Canner beat, too, and produced a remix that I hope you would be honoured to listen to.’
Do not mistake my hubris, dear reader. I would not purposefully render my present self unconscious but neither did I reject the produced holoaudio Yuri!!! on Ice OP Remix – “History Maker” feat. Mycroft Canner.
Perhaps this audio was anti-glacier. Perhaps this audio was neither, but in any case the planet could have used the warning. The Hives could sense it, war was in the air and even if the wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, plain old death would still exist. And plain old me.
‘Oh I’m certain that I’m not an interesting subject,’ I replied humbly and the author made the sacrosanct gestures of their bash’. First, an approximation of a romaniform ‘A’ followed by the circling of the index finger and the thumb and lastly both thumbs joined and adjacent of the curling of two index fingers.
Subsequently, the Earth was destroyed for the second time that day to make way for a hyperspace bypass and reconstituted instantly by the miracle of Bridger.
Here we must make a quick interlude onboard an orbiting vessel, the Heart of Gold, the name itself referring to the old aphorism of goodness as popularised by pariah priest Paul Duré and his long term friend Father Frederico de Soya. In any case, the notable quality of the ship was the FTL Infinite Improbability Drive based upon a combination of quantum theory and a starship being equitable with a ball of timey wimey wibbly wobbly yarn that goes ding when there’s stuff.
As Providence would have it, dear reader, I was neither on board nor in the immediate vicinity and must instead rely on byword.
Arthur Dent, I am told, was dressed in blue and white pyjamas. He lay in a warm tub, heavy beneath a soporific face mask of avocado paste and gold coins over the eyes, wriggling his toes and generally feeling very despondent. ‘Sundays are boring.’
Marvin the Paranoid Android said with a voice of monotonous disappointment, ‘But Fridays are worse.’ His oversized head tilted downwards, childike in his anhedonia. ‘Friday, Friday I’m always feeling down on Friday.’
Arthur sighed, sharing Marvin’s sentiments. ‘I was expecting something, I dunno, a bit more exciting. Like the part where Bridger creates a TARDIS and beams Mycroft Canner up to the Vogon spaceship.’
‘Exciting? I think you ought to know that their outcomes of survival were depressing and all of them pointed to certain death. Bridger could have created a time machine only for it to disappear halfway through the time vortex and then after becoming permanently blind their blood would have boiled and they would have died painfully. This would be assuming that they hadn’t already been strapped to a pillar and been forced to listen to Vogon poetry.’
‘Um well,’ Arthur Dent said hastily, ‘There’s a chance that Mycroft Canner could have made it out alive and then been redeemed and then lived the rest of his life out as a sandwich maker. That’s good, right?’
‘There are only so many ways that you can vary the fillings and he would be bored to tears. The wheel breaks the butterfly or how the song goes,’ Marvin sighed. ‘My processing unit is getting so rusty that I can’t even remember the rest of it.’
‘No, silly, the rest of the Coldplay album.’ Marvin said glumly. ‘Pardon me for having a head the size of a planet and being completely useless. I think that my self esteem will be unrecoverable.’
The figure of J.E.D.D Mason was in St. James’ Park, feeding the ducks as He stood by the lake shrouded in a sombre black that matched his onyx eyes. Notably, the O.S. agents and their attempts were not present, which was unusual as the ducks were quite intelligent and accustomed to attempts to apply Pavlovian reconditioning to their psyche sets. The latter set of experiments formed a more sophisticated and less primitive recapitulation of the Little Albert experiments of the 1920s.
INEFFABLE, Jehovah Mason said in His Infinite wisdom as the birds, which sometimes weren't always present gazed with awe upon the grain rather than His presence.
And Deep Thought, in harmony through his sixth and newest set of positronic circuits, hummed INEFFABLE. It had added equations required for J.E.D.D Mason's Nine Billion Names to the list of exhaustive list of Very Important calculations. Well met, Deep Thought ruminated, Mike.
We stood at the end of St. James Park and for many hours it did not occur to me how much I had lost and gained in a single stroke fortune. I still had not located the O.S. nor had I any idea of where Thisbe had been held or whether Bridger and his miracles would ever truly resurface. I was Arthur, staring down Caliburnus fearful of drawing the sword from the stone and uncertain of the future.
‘Query, Mycroft Master’ K9 whirred, ‘This Mark II unit notes three historical dog designations – this unit, Saladin and Bridger.’
‘That is accurate although I am not your master. I exist only to serve.’ my poor humble self suggests. ‘I understand that you are not a dog and rather a machine in the shape of a dog, but if you would accept this state of affairs it would perhaps be more convenient...’
‘State of affairs accepted, Mycroft Master. Procedure correlates well with logic circuits and this unit has obtained detailed access to Hive information systems within this time period with no evidence of reported break in. Pass phrase: Pandora’s box has been opened.’ K9 intoned.
‘Excellent,’ I said, without hesitation. ‘Are you able to locate information on disabling this tracker?’ I indicated my ear.
The robot dog rotated, head gyrating on its silver frame. ‘Negative. Blueprints are not publically available.’ It replied and seemed to lift one ear.
My heart contracted and squeezed in disappointment, threatening to create more ectopic focuses. ‘Do you have any information on the circuitry of the tracker.’ I persisted. ‘Please K9, any data, any information on the purposes of the wiring, any instructions on how to disable it.’
‘Affirmative Mycroft Master,’ K9 confirmed ‘But limited data. Suggestion a sonic device example a sonic pen or sonic screwdriver could generate an emp required to reverse the polarity of the device. Contraindication, manual soldering or non delineated circuitry rewiring.’
I went through the motions of requesting more information on Papadelias, Saladin and the Mardis shedding a little bit of New Mycroft each time and when I had finally exhausted all the avenues of information I lightly asked about the state of my brain, a list of suspicions inventoried to my head.
I trusted J.E.D.D. And yet I did not trust Him and yet I owed Him everything. I celebrated His promise and yet I recognised that I wanted to reject his Utopia. I wanted to resolve the duality of my self and thus I turned to K9.
‘Insufficient data Mycroft Master.’ K9 reciprocated, prompting me to rephrase my question into a detailed question about human anatomy and physiology. K9 responded better, in such effusion of detail that I was forced to halt the overflow and then I repeated the previous question.
The robot reacted reluctantly. ‘Data shows significantly increased prefrontal and subcortical brain activity from Mycroft Master’s baseline. Insufficient data to remedy this.’
I find myself hesitating reader. Was this child of an advanced civilisation, this Prometheus that giveth fire even now cataloguing my sins and my vile transgressions against me? It was certainly possible. So timidly, perhaps coaxingly and with no small amount of desperation I asked more questions.
‘Visual cortex destruction and ensuing blindness is certainly a possibility, Mycroft Master.’
‘What about the society that created you?’ I questioned. ‘Could they have resolved this?’
‘It remains a possibility,’ K9 stated. ‘It ought to be mentioned that Mycroft Master possesses no regenerative faculties and so any visual losses will remain permanent.’
‘What are regenerative faculties?’ I persisted. The little robot’s silence whittled down into permanence.
‘Insufficient privileges.’ K9 replied eventually. ‘Data locked by the explicit order of the Mistress, access requires Project: Alpha clearance or above.’
I clench my fist but I understood that I had no right to be angry. ‘Could you tell me more about the procedure that could result in the loss of my visual cortex?’
‘Mea culpa.’ It translated to through my fault. ‘Negative. Query Mycroft Canner Master through APC records indicates a state of temporal nexus. Mycroft Master is in a state that may lean one way or the other and too much information can lead to the tipping point. Moreover, the calendar approaches the lost eleven days from the changeover from the Julian to Gregorian calendar.’
I had heard of some form of calendarical warfare of course, but if there was a distinct belief in my mind that the creators of K9 were not timefaring race it was now utterly extinguished.
‘K9.’ I called once more but there was no response from the dog. It was as if the soul was no longer home. I repeated the name, more quietly hoping to elucidate a response by framing it more as a request but no response was forthcoming.
I touched my face quietly. And although I was a monster, I was sincere in my heartfelt sorrow. I had lost Bridger, I had lost hope, I had lost precious allies and I might lose Saladin yet.
I climbed into Dante's Inferno, reader. Perhaps you have never stood, encompassed by walls of advancing orange red flame. Fleetfooted, I sidestepped the paths of Virgil and Ovid and tasted the scent of incipient pomegranate upon the air seeking to hold me in this dark domain forever. I followed the long forgotten path of Virgil and Ovid and imagined the footsteps and heard or perhaps imagined the cries of the soul tormented as my own victims occasionally rose from the ground to float belly up beside me.
Cerberus bounded after me. At times, I heard the beat of his paws upon this non soil. At other times, I felt the hot breath of the devil hound on my back as I ran to safety, feeling my muscles shred and tear. At last, when I reached the banks of the river Styx I heard a sound and noted Charon upon the river banks. His visage reminded me of a Utopian, he was dressed in a visor and a grew like dull griffin cloth.
'Welcome to Mictlan. Welcome to Hell.' Charon said, with a peremptory frown upon his visage. 'What are your reasons for arriving?'
I schooled my face into blankness before the man and said presently with a fatigued tone, 'I wish only for safe passage across the river Styx. I have sought Bridger above ground and I have not found him. I have sought Bridger below ground and have not found him. I therefore seek him in the afterlife to find him.'
'And how come the living by this dark and desperate place?' Charon said, gesturing. 'Look around you, could you believe that this place would sustain life?'
And it was true. In all the directions of my eye I could only see withered vegetation and withered flora. Mountains endured like blank autopsy slabs. The sky, sat like grey funeral cloth over us and I pled, ‘I have come too far to return. Please, I wish only for passage and to be on my journey to seek out Bridger.’
‘And yet, you still pay a price,’ Charon said. ‘Tell me, how many breaths have you breathed in your place? How many heart beats have you already endured? Time passes different in this place, the wind follows different seasons. You may return to the land of the living to have found that you have already aged many years. I myself have been consigned to villainous death thirteen times and then at last passed here to stand guard to warn living souls to turn back. Turn back, before it is too late.’
The souls of this auditorium of hell breathed, reader and suddenly the air itself was charmed as the Lord of Hell himself arrived in a dual coloured plain but impractically long robe. He arrived irritably as his foot descended to the ground near the flank of the river like he had been stepping through thin air.
‘Still standing around, Volstrom? Why not help Ollistra out with evacuating the poor unfortunates near the beta sector?’ And then he turned around and sounding suddenly claustrophobic he said, ‘Who is this? I thought that the border had been closed!’
Charon/Volstrom huffed in through his nose. ‘One Mycroft Canner, Co-ordinator.’
‘One of Leela’s humans?’ The King of Hell said, squinting at me, as if he was trying to imprint the memory of me, onto his brain.
‘Actually, I am but a humble Servicer O Great King,’ I said humbly. ‘I seek out Bridger who is rumoured to be in this precinct of Hell.’
The two of them looked around me to make a conjoined glance.
‘…Who kept making phone calls, apparently. Oh for the love of—’ The King of Hell said, stretching out his hands. ‘We probably have it here somewhere, the Space-Time Telegraph, if the black sheep of the Celestial Intervention Agency haven’t completely destroyed it.
‘This,’ Said the King of Hell, waving one hand over the mountain of disconnected telephones, ‘Is the Space Time telegraph. It’s a very important part of this time nexus point, so don’t pull any wires out, don’t randomly reconnect anything or generally cause a massive nuisance that I would be forced to send a squad of agents and several memory blocks into fix.’
‘I won’t touch anything,’ I promised. ‘Will you be going?’
The King looked at me suspiciously. ‘According to Volstrom you’re a murderer.’
‘Hurl’d headlong,’ I said, ‘To bottomless perdition, there to dwell.’
The King raised an appraising eyebrow. ‘That’s Milton’s.’ He said, clearly surprised at himself for recognising it.
‘Who?’ Charon/Volstrom was querulous.
‘A human writer. As the Lady President would say, I have clearly gone native.’
A snake squeezed its way out of the telephones, a solitary predator from Medusa’s head. It writhed its way over the piles of slippery plastic and more joined them. I looked at them, rapt, but then I remembered that I might have been turned to stone by its glare. I had never seen anything like it, nothing when I had been with the Sanner-Weeksbooth ‘bash. Poison, pearly white dripped from the fangs like the type the Mistubishis had extracted from Enhydris for traditional liniment.
The sweat on my nape grew hot and then cool. Smoke flowed across the landscape, as acrid as it came.
‘Having second thoughts, Mister Canner?’ The King said. ‘Nothing here you see here is real, you know. This place is an elaborate façade, a shadow domain made out of pure mathematics designed to show you the worst aspects of your mind. Just remember this, I am going to be standing here and if I see anything remotely questionable Volstrom will shoot you with the staser and you will wake up missing a rather large chunk of your memory.’
‘If I misbehave, consign me to Cocytus to be devoured alongside the rest of the traitors.’ My tone was meek.
I scaled the mountain of a thousand disconnected antiques. When I flinched, the snakes wandered closer and when I taught myself to ignore them the smell of meat dried up and I was left unmolested. From time to time the King turned his head like a bird to talk to his advisor Charon as I reached the summit. At the peak, a single telephone, in red rather than blue sat atop a glassy plinth of wriggling light, possibly more of this unmapped technology. Three white cubes sat to the right which I decided to ignore. The thought came into my mind to steal them but was quickly banished. These strangers were not Papa, accompanied by recordings of my diction to advise me on how to handle them but wild unknown variables like myself.
Belief produced confidence whilst fiction did not. I picked up that pristine physical figment of our civilisation’s past and I dialled, reader and was metaphysically connected to a device that Bridger would later explain was an Om-Com box, a technology that could connect to anything with a grill.
We discussed many subjects except that of the looming war. Several times, I asked if he had been unmade, foolish questions that were met by brief reassurances. I told him that he would find Achilles where the Major had stood and Bridger seemed unaware. ‘I think that’s only natural,’ he replied and on the other side I could sense him squaring his shoulders. We did not discuss Jehovah and eventually our discussion ended.
I was a jackal, sliding down squarely on the mountain, fearing neither the plastic nor the bite of fangs when mine were so much sharper.
The King had been reading his catalogue of futures. ‘Done?’ He said, preparing to send me back on my merry way.
‘Yes,’ I said, seeing no reason to be dishonest when I could gain much more from being truthful.
He stared at me. ‘Not going to ask me to find out whatever J.E.D.D Mason did to you, are you? Because I don’t know the first thing about heads. You’d have to ask R—‘
He fell shockingly silent.
Naturally, I could not help noticing it but I could pity this Could’ve Been King. Thine nose inevitably dost leadst thou to that scent of weakness, Mycroft. And those were habits that I could not entirely abandon, the instinct for violence that comes so natural that it accosts me even in this more peaceful persona. I am a beast and a traitor, reader and above that of most common men, I knocked him down, this pacifist denizen of hell. Perhaps he was simply sufficiently startled that he did not have the time to muster the physics of this domain against him or his attention was directed by another more urgent matter. Perhaps he simply didn’t possess that ability, a thought which I doubted on some fundamental level.
I rose unsteadily picking up his staser and slid the figurative device beneath my waistband. I met his colleague Charon at the slope of the crossroads before the River Styx to ferry me back across, reader. I am happy to say that we parted perhaps not as friends but also not as enemies.
If I change as a person, I hope that that change comes from within. I am uncertain of many things, for example whether or not Jehovah’s death, temporary or not, reverted whatever modification he made to my behaviour and whether or not that is the reason why every day I must try a little harder to convince myself that Bridger is my friend.
But we still are and I hope that we shall always be.
Here ends the Forty-Second Day when for now we see through the glass, darkly; but soon we shall see face to face.