Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food, Dance and Music! - Life in the Nest - Something Monstrous This Way Comes III

Nest Year 7, 64th day


Yesterday, five hatchlings joined the nest as adults, and we are all proud (and relieved!) for it. Many had thought none would make it; the cold winter meant fewer small animals to hunt, which meant both less food for us and more predator attacks on the nest. But, now that spring is here, our prospects are improving!

If the new-adults' ritual hunt is any indication, this year will be bountiful indeed! I can't remember a time when I ate so much, nor danced so long! Asha, my hunting apprentice, plays the tubes* like no one else in the nest: fast and furious one moment, calling forth the image of the chase, and all our legs pounding chaotically in the great hall; the next, the soft and contemplative evocation of the quiet woods, of rustling leaves and flowing water in the calm evenings of summer (a summer, I might add, that Asha has yet to know—but will!); then finally, the tense anticipation of lying in ambush, waiting to strike; and finally, Victory! Triumph!

At long last the winter is over and we are still alive!

* A series of pitched hollow tubes played somewhat like a xylophone.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Life in the Nest - Something Monstrous This Way Comes II

Nest Year 7, 36th day.

Hello again.

Sandra helped me write my last post, and after I posted it, she suggested that I write about what life in our nest is like.

Unfortunately, because of our isolation, I do not have a good idea what other pentapede nests are like, or even what your society is like. So, Sandra is helping me to highlight areas where we differ.

I was hatched from a six-parent egg group. From a biological perspective, Sandra says our sexual reproduction is similar to yours, one sperm + one ovum = one offspring (more complicated than that, she says, but good enough for now). So that means I have one "mother" and one "father", but without testing it would be impossible to know which of the six is which. It's even possible, though unlikely, that I only have one genetic parent that provided both ovum and sperm. That doesn't really matter, though, because every parent of the egg group is considered a primary caretaker of the hatchlings. I suppose there could be vastly greater numbers involved, but generally our nest has three- to nine-parent groups.

Only about 60% of the eggs hatch, and only 30% of the hatchlings survive their first two weeks; most are killed by other hatchlings. I have to justify this, she says. Well, when we hatch, we aren't aware of ourselves; we're vicious, violent. In a couple weeks, we grow out of this, but we can't remember it. There's no more justification to give, it's how we are.

After we reach awareness, we are allowed to participate in the nest. We're taught our language quickly, and meanwhile we are assigned simple, menial tasks while we mature, which takes about two months. Then, we join the nest as adults and are expected take part in organizing and running it.

Which is something I must do now; we raise mice for food, but they don't provide all our nutrition, and anyway they don't breed fast enough to sustain our growth. So, I must hunt for birds or other small animals to feed us tonight.

-- Shndahshah

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Something Monstrous This Way Comes

Nest Year 7, 35th day.


My name is Shndahshah. I am a pentapede. I am a fifth-generation nestling.

My nest has selected me as envoy to the outside world. I am told that I am the most eloquent of us, and that my English is the best.

I have been told that I must bring understanding to you, by telling of life in our nest. We hope that, by my words, you will come to accept us, or at least to tolerate us amongst you.

Are we so different from you? I don't know; all I see of humans is The Undersecretary's Third Assistant on his three-times-a-year visit, and the few that journey into the woods where we've nested. Sandra is one of these, older by years than any of the nest, but still young for a human. She taught me much of the English I know. Some of our oldest speak decent English, and they tried to teach me, but this is only my third year since hatching, and the nest spent many years in isolation.

Maybe our history will help you to understand better.

We, pentapedes, were created two years before nestfounding, I am told, by a human performing genetic research. I know that we were not created mistakenly, but that we were unexpected by the world. I have read enough on Sandra's internet, with her help, to understand that we were meant to be destroyed when our usefulness to our human creator had ceased.

But, those pentapedes he had created were smarter than he expected. Sandra calls this "hubris", but I think it was both that and a desire to see his creation thrive. So I tell myself.

These ancestors escaped from him, but after they were free, they disagreed on what they should do. Some of them were militant, and wanted to enslave you. Some wanted to join your society. One returned to the human creator, for what reason I have not been told.

The others, and they were the largest portion, wanted as little to do with you as possible. They began a nest like mine. But as the nest grew, they were discovered by nearby humans, who saw us as bugs and began to poison the nest. Terrified, they struck at the humans, biting them again and again until they bled to death.

That was the first time you heard of us. Not of the pentapede army quietly growing in the north, not of the cautious ambassadors slowly forging friendships one by one in the west, but of a chaotic nest of isolationists, stumbled upon accidentally and made vicious by an unwitting slaughter. Sandra has showed me the articles from that day, the video news reports that were seen around the world of the horrible monsters lurking in the basement, in numbers set to overwhelm and with fangs like knives.

That nest's entire hatchgroup was killed by the poison, because they were so young. Many of the Originals were destroyed as they fled, by fire, by crushing, by guns. Every nestling is told, nearly from hatching, of that day. As you might expect, some of the survivors went to join the militants. We have never heard from any of them, so we do not know whether they were successful in reaching them. But the rest resolved to try again, to separate into several groups and find better nesting sites, farther from you.

That is how my nest came to be. Since then, we have had only ourselves until two years ago, when Assistant came, and shortly thereafter my friend Sandra. They have told us much of what transpired in the world. Though we do not know what path lies before us, we are convinced that we can remain isolated no longer.

Please, read my words and know us.

I will explain more, but now I have other duties to do.

-- Shndahshah

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Mysteries of the Green Golf Balls

The 0th green golf ball doesn't exist, obviously.

The 1st green golf ball has a "1" on it.

The 2nd green golf ball also has a "1" on it.

The 3rd green golf ball is a metaphor for life.

The 4th green golf ball is blue.

The 5th green golf ball is a recording of all of J. S. Bach's works as played by Bach himself.

The 6th green golf ball is a live cat.

The 7th green golf ball is a dead cat.

The 8th green golf ball is a superposition of the 6th and 7th green golf balls.

The 9th and 10th green golf balls are identical to the 1st, and can be made by cleverly cutting and transforming it.

The 11th green golf ball is all the wonderful things there are.

The 11th green golf ball is all the terrible things there are.

The 12th green golf ball is your first love.

The 13th green golf ball was mislabeled as the 14th because of superstition.

The 14th green golf ball will let you leave the Matrix.

The 15th green golf ball is Truth.

The 16th green golf ball is Untruth.

The 17th green golf ball is a program that, given its own input, will determine whether it will run forever.

The 18th green golf ball is sitting on my shelf.

The 19th green golf ball has infiltrated your life and will soon report back to its alien masters.

The 20th green golf ball is this sentence's period

The 21st green golf ball only exists on Tuesdays and bank holidays.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fangs for the Memories III

Ligasha generally kept its experiments to itself. In fact, I had been expressly forbidden to intrude, much to my own private amusement, on the sealed-off section of my laboratory that Ligasha had claimed as its own. So, it was with considerable interest that I followed Ligasha into the basement.

Ligasha was extremely inquisitive, as you might suspect, and very methodical. It preferred not to believe the results of any experiment that it had not personally carried out, though taking a pragmatic stance to those currently outside our little lab's capabilities. Ligasha, before it had sealed off its section of my lab, had worked itself through all of the common undergraduate science experiments. I don't mean the "science for the layman"-type experiments, though a few that didn't duplicate other results were included. I mean, fully-fledged experiments that a Physics undergraduate would have to complete. And a Chemistry undergraduate. Biology, psychology, astro-physics; I once even saw Ligasha's nom de plume in a linguistics journal, and it regularly published articles on increasing the accuracy of results (and, of course, the results that it had more accurately determined). At first, I asked Ligasha why it was so thorough and persistent. "I want to know for myself," was the constant reply, to which I could say nothing.

In any case, Ligasha, with my assistance, attached a number of electrodes and other sensors to my head.

"Are you comfortable?" it asked, and when I nodded, "Good. I am now going to read your mind."

It is hard, sometimes, to tell whether Ligasha is joking or not. Even for a pentapede, whose expressions can be nearly indistinguishable anyway, Ligasha had an excellent poker face.

"In a manner of speaking, of course. For now. I am going to monitor how your brain reacts during our conversation, and correlate it with the context of our discussion." It added, "This is only a first step, of course. I have had sufficient time to analyze pentapede brain activities and can fairly accurately determine the general concept, given a bit of calibration to the individual. I suspect that human brains will yield to quite similar analysis. This first session should only take a few hours."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Trickery V

I can't STAND this anymore.

It is two years to the day since I first realized what has been going on, every day becoming worse and worse.

My journal is my only link to sanity.

I am ready to cast aside sanity.

My bed is my ship in an ocean of evil, barely afloat.

I'm drowning.

I must follow them.

The cool waters of the ocean will fill me and grant me.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Fangs for the Memories, II

The Manitoban conflict was not my own doing. Well, not entirely. I may have sent agents to fan the flames of discord in the area, and it wouldn't be a complete lie to say that I supplied arms to the more hot-headed members of each faction*. But the issues that drove the majority of the populace to begin fighting one another were there from the beginning. Not that they remembered exactly what they were anymore, but that's fine because they're utterly beside the point.

The point is that most of the region, from Thompson south and including parts of North Dakota was a war zone and the factions had, unanimously** chosen me as Mediator and could agree on no one else. Such weight, to fall upon my shoulders. Kashsh, dealing with violent infighting amongst members of its*** cabinet, and Hawthorne, now struggling with uprisings in overseas American territories, were both eager to quell this diversion as quickly as possible.

Or so I hoped, since I was running out of influential contacts.

I stepped in front of the camera. A cavernous room, humming with activity, spread behind me.

"Steven, your t-shirt is interfering with the Green Screen," Ligasha said.

Modern video technology has made intimidating people much cheaper (and safer), but it does have its own difficulties. I swore mildly, ran to my room and swapped t-shirts.

When I strolled back into the room, Kashsh's beady gaze and Hawthorne's wrinkled face were framed in the monitors across my desk.

I nodded to Ligasha to start the camera on my end. "President Hawthorn. Prime Minister Kashsh. How can we bring events to a peaceable end? Have you read the revised demands by each of the-"

"The United States, as I have said before, will not, cannot, concede the territory in North Dakota," Hawthorne interjected.

"Nor will Canada concede any territory," Kashsh answered.

I stood up. "Then there is nothing else to discuss. I'll inform-"

"T' sh!" Swore Kashsh. "Very well. The President and I have agreed that this is all we can concede: a provisional government will be created for the region. Most internal matters will be left to this provisional government, but a combined group from the United States and Canada will remain to oversee certain areas."

"I'll discuss your proposal with the faction leaders. Drop the details into the ftp drop folder I've provided you; there's no need to waste time discussing them now."

Neither one said, "Goodbye," to me as they disconnected, but then I don't suppose that either one was very happy with me at the time.

"I'm confused," Ligasha said, following me from the room. "I had the impression that you were trying to obtain direct control of the territory for yourself."

"Yes, eventually. But this will offer a respite for those fighting the territories, while the provisional government—particularly the American-Canadian oversight—will serve to keep discontentment high—on each side. Although I doubt either Hawthorne or Kashsh intends to let it remain for very long; but they just have to be distracted long enough."

"I see."

It always worried me when Ligasha would end a conversation like that. I never mentioned it, but Ligasha was much smarter than I am, possibly the smartest being on the planet.

"Time for your experiment, I suppose."

* Indirectly. Don't bother trying to trace it; even I get headaches thinking about that convoluted route.

** With a little urging from my informants.

*** Pentapedes—and I hope you find my interjections on them interesting; it's all I can do to keep to the events with only footnotes on Pentapedes—are "asexual", meaning, in this case, that they are neither male nor female****. Instead, each Pentapede lays eggs coated in a special semen that prevents fertilization by the Pentapede's sperm. If another Pentapede lays eggs in the same place, then the sperm of each combines with the ova of the other, resulting in sexual reproduction. But, if left alone long enough—a few days to a week—the semen breaks down and the sperm fertilize, resulting in genetically identical off-spring (leaving aside mutations, of course). Terrifying, isn't it?

**** Biologically. Most Pentapedes prefer to remain gender-neutral (and don't mind being called 'it'), although I have heard that some Pentapede enclaves have developed their own gender roles, completely different from human genders.