Two women walked along a rutted road between a couple villages, Mirabel and Jinny. Their destination was not particularly important to them on this occasion, so there was neither hurry nor purpose in their steps. They seemed as if they were almost yoked together as a team, so in step was their progress. But one of them was quite focused on the world around them, while the other seemed distracted. Mirabel is a human, while her companion is a marit – a kind of djinn. The story of their meeting is told elsewhere
This is an approximation of Jinny’s thoughts:
They’d been trying to understand the world of humans for a long time – for about as long as humans had been stumbling around in the forests and streams and meadows and mountains. Dryads, naiads, sylphs… it didn’t matter which of the fey folks to whom you spoke, the eventually the question came up: how is it that humans use reason rather than intuition?
You knew what you were supposed to do and when and how you were supposed to do it when the circumstance came up. None of this careful planning, measuring, calculating stuff of which the humans seemed so fond – or without which the humans seemed so lost! Sometimes they would hide one of their tools just to watch them as they at first floundered, but then found other ways to recreate the kind of measuring device they’d planned on using to start with. It could delay them hours or even days to be so deprived and their initial reactions were often so flailing that it was hard to stay out of their way, but ultimately most of them could discover another means to their ends.
Jinny had wondered this, if not so clearly, for several hundred years before she become friends with Mirabel. Friends
! Just thinking the word brought a broad grin to the marit’s face and a bounce to her step – not that her step needed much bounce the bulk of the time, as floating was easier when they were alone.
“What mischief are you up to this time, Jinny?” The voice conveyed a tone of mild annoyance, but Jinny knew better. She laughed. Of course she knew better! Mirabel’s wish to be understood had been open-ended, if not consciously so. "I wish you could understand my point of view!"
And so she did and so she does.
“I? Whatever would give you the idea that I am up to mischief?”
“That smile always
means mischief. Do you deny it?”
“No, no. You have a good point. Do you wish that I not give away my mischievous intentions so readily?”
It was Mirabel’s turn to laugh. “I’m pretty sure that we have settled that whole wishing thing once and for all already – but even if we hadn’t, this would not be the sort of thing to spend… to waste
a wish upon. Besides, if you don’t give me broad hints like that, this relationship would be far too imbalanced.
“So? What mischief?!” She plopped herself down under a tree by the side of the road they were traveling along and Jinny joined her.
“This time around, I am thinking of the entire world of magic critters. … Oh, right – we haven’t talked about those before, have we? I’m sorry! Would you prefer the slow or… okay, the hard and fast version it is.
“You know how you spent your entire life until meeting me knowing
that there was no such thing as magic?”
Cautiously, Mirabel mumbled agreement.
“Well… it’s like this: You were not only wrong about magic on a small level, but on a large level. About 80% of what humans have believed about magic creatures is simply true. Flying horses; unicorns, dragons of all sizes and colors and abilities; living beings who are connected to the waters, mountains, trees, etc. – all of them are real. About the only thing we have not found are humans who can do magic themselves.”
Mirabel’s eyes bulged. This was a bit much for her to swallow quickly and easily, no matter how practical she was – or because
she was so practical, perhaps.
“Wait. All of them? Really?”
“Pretty much. The places that it breaks down are when your stories talk about half-human, half-animal combinations. No mermaids, no centaurs, etc. Some of the multi-animal ones are a bit far-fetched even for magic, too, though we love to read about them and consider how they might come into being. We even know a couple ways, but none has been tried yet. Not really our kind of curiosity.”
“How do you figure such things out?”
“There are two different things that go into that question. Your implication is one of a deductive process. We don’t do that. When we consider how they might come into being, it is more a wondering if there is a natural process that might occur which would produce such an outcome. This is purely conjecture, as our reasoning is not well suited to… well, reasoning!
“If instead, we wonder how we
might create such a thing, for those of us who can, we just know. And for those of us who can’t, well, we know that
just as surely. It’s really an all or nothing kind of deal.”
“Hmm… give me a minute to process. And do we have any food left in our bags?” Jinny opened up a sack and pulled out a pair of sandwiches and a bottle to share, with a wink to Mirabel’s raised eyebrow.
“Bought them two towns ago.”
“Of course... So, there is the question, I suppose. You don’t seem to have any difficulty reasoning whatsoever, Jinny! What gives?”
“It’s all your fault, you know. Once you wished for me to understand your point of view, I had to reason whether I could or not! Your highly structured rational considerations required me to almost reconstruct my mind (without my actively doing anything, you understand) to be able to fit your wish. I am pretty sure I am the first reasoning magic user in living memory and quite possibly far longer. I can deduce. I can induce. There is really only one skill that I am pretty sure you have that I have not yet grasped, largely because you apparently have not needed it.”
“I’ll bite – what would that be?”
“Scientific/mathematical thinking. I feel them at the borders of your ideas, but you have not actively engaged in them so they are still veiled to me.”
Mirabel giggled. “And there is that deductive reasoning you were just talking about! You felt something and analyzed both what it was and why it was, but have not yet got a way to conquer it.”
“And that brings us back full circle to my mischievous thought! How might I introduce deductive reasoning or even mathematical reasoning to a people who do not naturally do such things? And in contrast with my general magical intuition, I have neither an instant answer nor a conviction that such a thing is beyond me. This suggests that while there may be a solution, it is not a magic-based response to the problem.
“By the way, have I told you what a grand time I am having being able to work through all this this way? It’s so much fun!” The two of them fell together laughing joyfully.
Wiping a few tears away, Mirabel replied “Oh, once or twice, perhaps. About as often, I guess, as I have told you how glad I am to have you in my life, even if you did come from a lamp!
” It was said with a big smile. “So, let’s explore how you might go about this mischief, even if you decide not to do it.”
The two finished their meal and resumed their journey.
They banged ideas around for a while. As they talked, it became clearer to Mirabel that even with her reasoning ability Jinny had no real notion of how her population had gotten to be who they were, what the process might have been. To Mirabel, though, it seemed sort of obvious once the question was examined – it was organic
. There was no planned progression, just a set of steps that happened and were then done. No conscious intention to expand locales or cross rivers until a need came upon them. So, the very idea of intentionally introducing a skill to the fey was beyond them!
As ever, with Mirabel’s thoughts came Jinny’s comprehension. (“And was that convenient!” thought Mirabel.) “So, if we introduce something that is at the very beginning of the idea of reasoning, that might allow it over time to develop into full deductive and inductive thought!” Jinny did a little jig in the road.
“Jinny – this is your starting point for them.”
And Mirabel drew in the dirt of the road 1 + 1 = 2
Thu, Jan. 1st, 2015, 12:57 am
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Lydia Brown.Future Perfect(author’s note: The use of sthey, sthem, stheir, and other such terms is intended to serve as indication of singular, ungendered terminology – explicitly saying nothing about the subject’s gender because it is irrelevant for such purposes. Similarly, the reference "M." (pronounced just M) is an ungendered honorific.)
Sthey woke up ready to start stheir day. Okay, sthey woke up ready to go through the steps involved in starting stheir day. At 107 years old, it took a bit more effort to put all the pieces together than at some points in the past. Two thoughts, almost simultaneous, crossed stheir mind. The first was stheir annoyance at the aches and pains of stheir body as sthey got sthemself ready. The second was mild annoyance at stheir ableist self-reflection. The pair of them brought a smile from stheir at the familiar exchange.
Human to stheir core.
Grudgingly, sthey granted that perhaps today was not quite the same as every other day. While sthey had had stheir share of honors and awards in stheir life, today’s ceremony held special significance for stheir above those. Today was about stheir protégé, not about stheir!
Sthey’d always liked Geneva in the spring time, with the trees blossoming by the lake and the smell of delicious baked goods wafting through the air. Sthey was gently escorted down to the front row of the auditorium, resisting the voices that urged stheir to use a hover chair. Sthey didn’t object to using them when sthey felt the need, but neither was sthey going to take one when sthey did not.
Sthey nodded off while waiting for the session to get started, awakening with a bit of a start before realizing where sthey was. It was okay – nobody criticizes 107 year olds for nodding off (except sometimes sthemselves). Folks were beginning to assemble on stage.
Sthey listened respectfully, if not always attentively, to the political leaders. Finally, they got to the point.
We are here to honor the life, the work, and the being of a person who has made it possible for every person on the planet to be acknowledged for who they are, regardless of what some past societies might have declared them to be. Stheir relentless efforts, despite all the obstacles the world’s governments and sticks-in-the-mud have created, proved enough to change the world – inspiring us with both the focus sthey brought to the work and also the joy sthey expressed along the way.
From adoption of a world-wide convention on singular, non-gender terminology to codification of the legal and moral requirement for our society to meet the needs of each of us as those needs come along, sthey have helped us to establish a standard of humane treatment of humans for the first time.
Please join me in welcoming the recipient of the Century Award for Excellence in World-Changing, M. Tügkülen.
Tügkülen came out to center stage to thunderous applause, whistles, stomping, and a host of other noises that symbolized the appreciation of folks from around the globe.
The noise died down, a tad reluctantly, as sthey raised stheir hand. Sthey spoke:
I would like to start by simply noting an enduring truth of my life and my story. I would not be here with you today but for the teaching, guidance, and support of my mentor, who is seated in the front row. Out of respect for sthem, just a nod of acknowledgement will be enough and more than enough. Sthey acted as I have come to act, out of necessity rather than out of self-promotion.
Sthey paused a moment, nodding sthemself to the guest in the front row, before continuing.
And I would like to finish, perhaps even more simply.
WE ARE NOT DONE.
And with that, Tügkülen walked off the stage, down front, to give stheir friend a hug. And with that, the two of them stood up and left the hall, because there was work to be done.
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Shannon Reilley.
Changing Light Bulbs
It was dark in his room, a short while after the last client of the day had left. The shades were down, blocking what little light might have come in from the street on a moonless night. He was sitting in his chair – a stressless recliner that also swiveled, though he was not very reclined in it just this moment. He was poised to write down some notes, but he put his pen down and chose to stop and think a while more.
His last client of the day was very complex. This was not terribly unusual, as many of his clients were complex, but that did not mean that he understood their situations with equal facility. With her it had been a very long 6 years to this point, when normally he would see clients for 3 to 6 months and sometimes less. Tonight had not felt like the prior sessions had, as far as he could tell, but putting the finger on exactly what made it different was not yet happening.
He went through what they’d said, trying to squeeze out her exact phrasing, as well as his impressions at the time. Certainly one different aspect was their discussing a time in her life that they had never explored previously – how she had chosen her profession. For all that this is regularly a prime topic for consideration, she’d never been willing before, let alone open. Or somewhat open, he admitted.
He spent some more time in silent contemplation. Finally, he decided he knew what had happened. He stood up and felt the way to his supply closet.
Wed, Dec. 31st, 2014, 11:29 pm
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Jen Heater.
They were out together in the morning ground fog, attired in orange vests and hats, as they had been at this time of year for longer than either of them could remember. It was deer season and they were quite intent on meeting their quota this year. It didn’t really matter to them that they could not eat all of their kill themselves – somebody would eat it, they were sure.
The hills and paths were so familiar, as if they had gone down them a thousand times or more. It was one of their favorite parts of this neck of the woods – nothing ever seemed to change. They took that as proof that the hunting permit process was not overdoing it. They took the winding path down beside the stream to their artificial blind. They were surprised to find a couple other men already there, dressed in somewhat oddly styled clothing, though still in orange. The trespassers had only cameras, no rifles.
Because the goal was to be quiet, so as to avoid startling the deer, rather than calling out they continued down the path to the blind. By the time they got there the other men had moved elsewhere. This was more than fine with them! They hunched behind the rocks, sitting on a pair of conveniently placed stumps and waited. Smugly, one observed that they must be getting better at bundling up, because despite the obvious chill in the air, their extremities were not really even feeling cold.
The wait was longer than they expected, but they were pretty sure they would be rewarded for their patience. The rumor they’d heard at one point was that there was a 12 point buck in these woods and neither could remember anybody’s bragging that they had nailed it. They were mostly silent, looking outward from their rock. After more than a little while, one of them – they could never agree on which it had been – motioned to the northeast. There, much to their amazement, was an incredible white tail buck. His antler spread must have been at least 40 and quite possibly 50 – he was not holding still and it made it harder to count. After they shut their mouths, they went about making sure they could shoot him cleanly.
Off to their left, a small noise briefly caught the beast’s attention and theirs as well. It was the other hunters, but their target seemed to be over the west ridge. Soon everybody had settled back down. They would take turns, the 2nd shooter only firing if the first missed for some reason or did not get a clean hit. Tense. Waiting. Gently squeezing the trigger and a loud noise! The buck, untouched, ran off to the side a bit, but not far. The other shot his gun, less than 20 feet away, but the buck was still untouched. It did run off and seemed to fade into the mist that had gathered in the gully.
More than a little perturbed, they went to track it, only to see no tracks. A shudder.
“Ya’ suppose that’s the ghost of a great buck, rather than a live one?” “Couldn’t say, but I sure have no good explanation for it!” They started back to the blind.
The two men, in their stylish outfits, came back to the blind after a few hours of fruitless hunting.
“You believe that story the shopkeeper told us about the two hunters who died out here some years back and are haunting the place?”
“Nah. Don’t be absurd. Now be quiet, so we avoid frightening the game!”
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Kim Roche.
Second Cousin, Twice Removed
He was my grandmother’s sister’s grandson and as such family. We were required to be nice to family, even when the family member in question was not nice. Ren, as he liked to be called, was anything but nice.
It was easy as kids to make excuses for him or to believe the excuses that others made for him, despite the frequency with which those excuses needed to be made. Yeah, he cheated at games, and sure, he would sometimes take stuff that didn’t belong to him – even stuff he had no interest in, but which he took anyway because it was there. It wasn’t malice, or at least it wasn’t initially malice. Often it was habit or impulse. That was how it seemed, at least, and I have no reason to be sure it was otherwise even now.
Ren was a bit less than a year older than I was, in the same grade for a while, then one grade behind me when I skipped and then two when he was kept back for missing too much school. From my perspective, this was pretty dumb – Ren knew as much as I did academically and far more in a variety of other areas, if not quite as much in others still. His being a grade behind made sense if his school would not skip him, but two behind? No sense at all.
I think it was after he was kept back that he started really resenting me and he turned mean and, in hindsight, creepy.
Even when he was being mean, I could deal with him on my own. I could pick on him far worse than he could pick on me – his weaknesses were more glaring than mine and he more vulnerable to them. I knew when he took my stuff and could make him give it back without invoking the power of my parents or his, let alone one generation further back – even when you were in the right, you did not want the attention of the grandparents! But the night he showed up in my bed required more than I could handle on my own. It required a reset.
He was my grandmother’s sister’s grandson and as such family. We were required to be nice to family, even when the family member in question was not nice. Ren, as he liked to be called, was too sad to be called nice.
It was easy as kids to make excuses for him or to believe the excuses that others made for him, despite the frequency with which those excuses needed to be made. Yeah, he cried at the drop of a hat, and sure, he would sometimes take off in the middle of a game or activity – even those he was really interested in, but which he left anyway just because. It wasn’t dislike of me, or at least it wasn’t initially dislike. Often it was misery or impulse. That was how it seemed, at least, and I have no reason to be sure it was otherwise even now.
Ren was a bit less than a year older than I was, in the same grade for a while, then one grade behind me when I skipped and then two when he was kept back for missing too much school. From my perspective, this was pretty dumb – Ren knew as much as I did academically and far more in a variety of other areas, if not quite as much in others still. His being a grade behind made sense if his school would not skip him, but two behind? No sense at all.
I think it was after he was kept back that he started really resenting life and he turned depressive and, in hindsight, suicidal.
Even when he was being depressed, I could deal with him on my own. I could support him far more than he could resist me – his vulnerabilities were glaring to me and he was more susceptible to my words. I knew when he was hiding and could help him rejoin us without invoking the power of my parents or his, let alone one generation further back – even when you were in the right, you did not want the attention of the grandparents! But the night he tried to kill himself required more than I could handle on my own. It required a reset.
The thing about a reset is that only the person who does it knows that it was done, let alone why. Ordinarily, the only people allowed to do resets are the elders, but when it is nearing time for an elder to step down or move on, they choose a successor. My grandmother chose me and as such I had to do Ren’s resets.
I talked with her about the two life paths that Ren had been on, because I was not sure how I could do a reset that would have any better results than the first two paths. She mulled it over for a couple days, talked to my parents a bit and then with me, and then worked with me to shape the reset, even though she insisted that I still perform it.
He was my grandmother’s sister’s grandson and as such family. We were required to be nice to family, even when the family member in question was not nice. Ren’s parents were anything but nice.
It was easy to see why Ren was sometimes very poorly behaved and other times quite sad. Yeah, he cheated at games, and sure, he would sometimes take stuff that didn’t belong to him – even stuff he had no interest in, but which he took anyway because it was there. And yeah, he cried at the drop of a hat, and sure, he would sometimes take off in the middle of a game or activity – even those he was really interested in, but which he left anyway just because.
Ren was a bit less than a year older than I was, in the same grade for a while, then one grade behind me when I skipped. The school recommended keeping him back for missing too much school. From my perspective, this was pretty dumb – Ren knew as much as I did academically and far more in a variety of other areas, if not quite as much in others still. His being a grade behind made sense if his school would not skip him, but two behind? No sense at all.
I think it was when his parents tentatively agreed to it that he started really resenting me and he turned mean and depressed, both.
Even when he had been acting out, either against others or against himself, I had been able to cope with it without invoking the power of my parents or his, let alone one generation further back – even when you were in the right, generally speaking you did not want the attention of the grandparents! But their plan to have him kept back required more than I could handle on my own. I turned first to my parents and then to both sets of grandparents. The grandparents intervened.
I think it was when my parents took him in and assured him that he would not be kept back that he started to be able to relax. He didn’t stop being mean or depressed immediately, but it came with time and support and unconditional love – theirs in addition to mine. The relationship shifted over the next few years, as his self-confidence grew. The year I applied to colleges he did too, as a junior. We chose to go to the same one, best friends then and now, many years later.
Wed, Dec. 31st, 2014, 11:16 pm
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for LJ Waugh.
Ever since Halfmann’s team at Darmstadt managed to freeze light for a full minute, preserving images at the same time, Sean’s team at the Bates Linear Accelerator had been trying to duplicate and then improve upon that performance. In the intervening 18 months, they’d tried a bunch of approaches, none of which had quite caught up to Halfmann, let alone improve upon it.
Sean had an idea to try this morning that was a tad off their normal path, but nobody else had scheduled a live demo for the morning, so it seemed like a good time for a fishing expedition.
The praseodymium ions were already arranged, as well as the crystal and the lasers. Sean couldn’t help but think of the New Age aspects of using the crystal to stop light, but it was just a passing fancy. “We are serious scientists” was the thought, voiced internally in as stuffy a manner as possible, followed by an external laugh. Next, the dampening fields. Sean set up a third laser, a red one, seeking to try to freeze two bits of light at the same time.
Just as Sean was readjusting the crystal to make sure it was angled right for the third laser, a clatter came from the control panel and abruptly all three lasers came on. Sean gave first a startled sound of fright and then almost immediately one of amazement.
No response. No congratulations, no outcries, nothing.
Sean looked up and then looked around. The light was frozen, but so were all the people. Sean removed the crystal and people started moving again, but they still weren’t responding to anything but the mess at the control panel.
“What were you thinking?”
“You could have gotten somebody hurt!”
“Hey – has anybody seen Sean? I could have sworn Sean was standing next to the crystal during the power surge.”
“Nope – but the crystal’s gone, too, so maybe Sean took it over to be examined under the microscope?”
A quick call confirmed that Sean was not there, which Sean already knew and knew quite well. And as the moments turned to minute, there was an increasing feeling of dissolution.
Minutes turned to days turned to weeks. Sean retained consciousness of a sort, but it took quite a while before enough focus returned to give even the sense of a corporeal form. Slowly, Sean drifted toward the home, in the hopes of finding more personal focus, arriving to find “More Than Meets The Eye” sitting ironically on the stand next to the drawing board.
Sean shared the apartment with an artist. As surely as the apartment, they also shared a deep love. By focusing on that love, Sean achieved an increased physical existence – not enough to speak or consistently type, yet, but enough to create breezes to perhaps catch the artist’s attention. If the physicist could do that, there would be hope of finding a way out of this predicament.
Then Sean saw the tablet and for the first time since stopping the light, gave a smile.
Wed, Dec. 31st, 2014, 11:08 pm
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, partially as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Elizabeth Margareta Griffith.
In the following story, concepts are expressed in a way familiar to some cultures on Earth. This is done to permit an understanding of what is going on, but the real items in question do not, in fact, resemble the Earth artifacts that are used to symbolize them in this recreation of the foreign history.
For centuries, perhaps millennia, their people had worked to eliminate emotions from their daily lives, feeling it was a burden too great to bear. They blamed emotions for all the conflict between peoples, from minor domestic squabbles to intercontinental warfare. By purging themselves of emotions, they would be free, at last, to grow as a people and rise to the heights they so deeply desired.
And there was the rub.
The depth of their desire to rise was the first thing to go. It had been the most powerful of their racial urges, far stronger than the imperative to procreate. As the government officials and scientists began to notice that effect, there was some heated discussion concerning blame, but that fell rapidly by the wayside, too. No room for blame where there was no room for emotions. What would be the point?
The first efforts were through personal discipline and meditation. They were quite effective for day-to-day emotional situations, but did not prove to be sufficient to overcome either the most intense of conflicts or personal weaknesses. The greedy, the power-hungry, and the narcissistic were quite good at feigning adherence to the cultural norms and training programs, while not actually buying into the approach at all. They assumed, rightly as it turned out, that there would be others resisting as well, and they were not about to give up what was “rightfully theirs” to folks who would not obey the law!
After reclaiming the government from the malcontents, the people turned to their physical scientists to help them – the biologists and geneticists, and the chemists and the endocrinologists. Their goal was to get at the biological/physical roots of emotions and find a way to turn them off at the source. The work captured the imagination of the planet as well as its resources. The progress was slow, but progress there was. Through personality tests, the government determined the best test subjects for the new bio-chemical approach: the greedy, the power-hungry, and the narcissistic.
It worked. It was initially stunning. The populous was ebullient. Celebrations in the street, grand award ceremonies for the discoverers, and increased action at the betting parlors over when the people would at last be free of their burdensome feelings. There was debate, but not a lot, on how best to ensure that no country had the advantage of pure reason first. A two-fold approach was necessary. Wiping out the body's enzymes that triggered emotions was easy enough, but that did nothing for the newborns, who arrived with their sentiments loudly and clearly expressed. The stumbling block that had finally been discovered was a teratogenic mixture that would wipe out the genes that produced those enzymes for both the immediate person and any offspring.
Production and distribution of the chemical took place without incident, barring a few rather drunk celebrants who were not quite up to their jobs. The day before was filled with partying and parades. The day after was quiet, calm, and smooth. The collected wisdom was that they seemed to have done the right thing – but it was a matter of fact conclusion, accompanied by no smugness or gloating by those responsible.
The year that followed was remarkable, or it would have been had there been anybody inclined to exclamations. Where there had been war, there was a dogged effort to clean up the mess left behind because landmines and unexploded bombs are messy and dangerous. Where there had been starvation, supplies were shipped in and distributed. No rancor, no rushes of the trucks, and no pilfering of the materials by either thieves or controlling warlords. An external observer would have wondered if they were on the same planet.
The first real hint of a problem came early the next year. A major earthquake hit one of the population centers. The emergency crews wandered over to see what they could do. The news broadcasts showed images of destruction and the homeless and wounded people. But unlike years past, there was no urgency to the efforts of the fire departments or the ambulance crews. They got there when they got there, with nobody upset with them and no real motivation to hurry. Some people sent in money or spare supplies, but really there was no reason for most people to, as there was no pity for the suffering, no guilt for not doing more, and no impetus to solve the problem.
For the most part, people kept working because it was convenient as was having money. The demand on the courts was pretty low, though, so some folks got laid off. The efforts of some workers remained high because there was no reason for them to do less well, but for others the drive to work hard had been based on either pride in their efforts or fear of losing their jobs and without those emotions to drive their efforts, both quantity and quality slacked off.
None of this was lost on the government or on the scientists. There was a general agreement that something might need to be done about it. While one faction felt that it should be studied longer and another felt that probably something should be done sooner rather than later, neither felt passionate enough about their argument to push very hard nor even to work on it quickly.
Years passed without something being done beyond studying what was happening. The infrastructure deteriorated because there were not enough folks with a personal work ethic to keep things going, nor a societal structure that could ensure that things would get fixed. But when a scientist approached the government, requesting resources for finding a cure for the emotionless society, they had no real reason to turn her down and sufficient assets to allow them to say yes. So they did.
Even curiosity is an emotion, unfortunately for the world, so the number of folks for whom new ideas served as an attraction was pretty small. Why this particular woman found this particular problem to be the thing she chose to tackle is hard to say. Whim, perhaps, but is even that feasible? For whatever reason, though, this was the path she chose.
It was only natural for her to have access to the research that had led to the miracle. There were no quick answers to be found, partially because she wasn’t working at a feverish pitch and partially because it was a challenging problem and would have been under any circumstances. She kept at it out of habit – she had no external motivation nor, really, any internal one, but equally no motivation to stop, so she didn’t.
More years passed. Imagine, if you wish, societal decay with no hue and cry about it. Imagine, too, a woman plodding along, sometimes with help and sometimes without, examining bodies and systems and elements. While the stories could fill many chapters, they would all be largely the same.
About 15 years after her request for resources, 25 years after the change, she had an idea of what might help. It was a somewhat difficult solution, though it would have been easy pre-change. A distant mountain range had a mineral that she thought would do the job, but air travel had been stopped because the maintenance was no longer sufficient to make flying safe. She traveled slowly across the country, about 1500 miles, sometimes by car and sometimes on foot. When she got where she was going, she had to find help – digging into a mountain was not something she had the skill to do on her own. She managed to find a working excavator and somebody willing to run it for her.
Over the next few months, they drilled and dug. While they did not push as hard as one might have wished for, they did keep at it, and finally they got to the level she was after – a seldom used substance that simultaneously boosted the effect of sodium while reducing magnesium levels in the body. They pulled out enough of the ore to allow her to run copious experiments without a need to ration it carefully, and she returned to the capital city.
It was difficult to find volunteers within the general population – it was not that people were afraid of the side effects, but they saw no particular reason to try it. Finally, she turned to the government, where a few officials were willing to serve as experimental subjects. The pace of her work continued to be deliberate, with no increase of excitement at her proximity to a possible alleviation of the symptoms of emotionlessness, but when she had seen enough to know that her current mixture would not have lasting or dire consequences on an individual who took the blend, she prepared a dose and took it herself, with no concern.
The next day, she went to the government council and requested to be heard. Their secretary asked “Do you have an appointment?”
“No,” she replied, “But it is important that they see me today!” A small bit of inflection added to her sentence was more than enough to gain the secretary’s acquiescence.
When she appeared before them, she simply told them, “You must allow me to give you each a dose of this! And then we have to go back to the mountain to synthesize more of the antidote and we have to do it before we lose the ability to do it at all!”
And so it was.
Wed, Dec. 31st, 2014, 12:50 am
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Jay Piltser.
The air conditioner died.
Naturally. Well, “naturally” if you could say that in response to the death of a piece of electronic equipment.
She hadn’t the time to address it right now, as she had work to do – she’d committed to finish a batch of art for a book, “More Than Meets The Eye,” by the end of the weekend and while it was only Saturday morning, she had more than enough to do to keep herself busy for the whole weekend.
It’s not like she had anything else to keep her busy, though. She had pretty much turned off her life, outside of doing art for money, since her lover had died. She missed Sean so much… enough! Back to work. She turned to read one of the pages she was to illustrate, but with a small breeze it blew off and across the room. She retrieved it, sat back at her drafting table, and read through the page. She had a pretty good sense of where she wanted to start and turned on her oversized tablet.
When she put her finger to the pad and set the color she wanted to start with, her hair blew into her eyes. “How could she have forgotten to clip her hair back?!” she said angrily to herself. A moment later, clip in place, she sat back down again to work. A few minutes later, the page she’d read drifted onto her pad, blocking her view of her work. Grateful that she was working on a tablet and not in paint, she returned the paper to the rest of the loose leaf book, then put a rock on top of it.
She was appreciating that it was cooler in here than outside, but the way the breeze kept blowing things was annoying. Maybe she should turn off…
She stopped her thought short. The AC was off! More than off. Dead. She walked over to it, just to make sure. Not only was it dead, but it was unplugged, too! She reminded herself that she just did not have time to deal with the AC. Back to work.
All day long it went like that. She would get a little bit of work done, but something in the room would come loose to get in her way or distract her, even things like her hair that she knew she had clipped! And where was that breeze coming from?
As evening fell, still intermittently immersed in her work, she chose not to close the curtains. She was actually making progress. Of course, as soon as she had that thought, a small thud behind her pulled her eyes away from the imagery she was creating. She soon spotted the culprit – a Japanese fan had fallen off a display shelf and landed open on the hearth. It fluttered toward her, giving her yet another of those small breezes she’d had all day.
Another noise, this one familiar but wrong. The curtain was closing without her. She stared over at it and against the darkness of the outside, she could just make out a silhouette. A familiar silhouette. Sean.
Sean was dead. An experiment at the particle accelerator, she’d been told. Dead. Not even a body to bury. Sean could not be closing the curtains.
She looked again, but the curtains were now closed and there were no silhouettes to be seen. She knew it – she was cracking up under the stress and sadness. She sighed. Back to the drawing board, so to speak.
She sat down at her tablet, only to find that the picture she had been working on was gone. In its place, some words…
I’ve always been your
Tue, Dec. 30th, 2014, 04:18 am
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Sherene Raisbeck.
The King paced back and forth. And forth and back. The Queen, for all that she was ostensibly otherwise occupied cried out “Would you stop that incessant motion from one side to the other? It’s driving me right up the turret!”
Out of consideration for his wife, the King left the room to find somebody else to bother. The wizard seemed like a good choice. “What are you doing to protect my child?! I’ve heard those terrible stories about wicked witches and cranky fairies who cast spells and curses upon the new born, dooming them to an early death or at least far more difficulty in life than any little one should have to face. What are you doing?!”
The wizard cowered a bit at the King’s vehemence, though she was not normally a coward. She raised a somewhat uneven finger and shared her thoughts. “The good fey and I have been concerned about this ever since the Queen’s pregnancy became known to us. We searched the world over for how best to protect her. Surprisingly enough, it was in the realms that think of themselves as without magic that we found the answer to our mystery. Wander with me over to the nursery.”
As they went up the stairs to the chamber adjoining the royal suite, the King continued to fret at the Wizard, but she was very patient with him – she knew the histories even better than he and she could not deny that he had cause for concern. Hundreds of proto-princesses and proto-princes had been the victims of malicious magical mayhem. Still, she was quite proud of their discovery and pleased with their implementation of it.
She opened the door to the nursery and handed the King a rock. “Go ahead, throw it in.” He did, but no sooner had it gotten to the doorway but it rebounded and hit the King.
“Sorry, your Highness – I forgot about that aspect. Anybody who tries to assault this room, your wife, or your child will have that effort rebound upon them immediately! That applies to physical harm or magical or even emotional! We’ve put the same safeguard on the royal carriage and the royal pram.
“We set it on the Queen as soon as we had it figured out, then on the room. It’s designed to extend immediately to the infant upon birth.” (She carefully did not give away the gender of the child, as the King and Queen had given strict orders that they were not to be told!)
As the two of them wandered back downstairs where the Queen was in labor, the King asked out of idle curiosity, “Do you have a name for this amazing spell?”
“Yes, your Highness. We call it the Maternity Ward.”
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Melissa Bilash.
School of Thought
He sat in the waiting room, running through both his responses to likely questions and his own questions for the interviewer or interviewers. The key, he was sure, was his understanding the school’s philosophy. That was the problem. He had read the school philosophy and mission statement and found himself with more questions than answers.
What is the philosophy of this school?
That was what the school’s philosophy page said. The mission statement was ever so much more helpful: “To help us to develop an answer to the question posed in our philosophy section.”
It was almost enough to make him wonder why he’d come for the interview, but he found it intriguing in ways that schools had not been for him in many years, if ever. Hence his presence and his thoughts. Sample lesson? Maybe. Personal philosophy of education? Almost certainly. Preferred subjects? Perhaps, but that was covered on his resume. Why was he looking to change jobs? Seemed likely.
Determining the right questions to ask felt harder. Payroll and benefits questions were out, even if he wanted to ask them, which he generally didn’t. How much prep time per classroom hour seemed fair. Chances for collaboration with other teachers seemed both fair and desirable. Bringing the inside out and the outside in! One of his strengths and a good thing to raise if they don’t. And something about their philosophy and mission seemed called for, but damned if he could figure out how to phrase it.
A woman opened the door. “Hi Michael, I’m Thea. Thank you for coming. Let me introduce you to the others.” She went around the table, giving their names, but each of them also had a tented paper in front with their name on it. She handed Michael another of the tented papers and a few colored markers and invited him to do the same. “Granted, we are likelier to remember your name, since we each have a copy of your resume in front of us, but fair is fair! And we figured to not make this a contest to see how many names you can remember after an initial introduction. Though I did know a school psychologist once who thought that was a valid way of gaining information about the intelligence of candidates.” That last was said with a broad, welcoming smile.
Petra spoke up. “This is not going to be a standard interview, Michael. I’m not even sure most folks would call it an interview at all. We’d like to have a conversation with you, rather than just a Q & A session.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in. “In your cover letter, you introduced the concept of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out. We banged on that a bit in our applicant review process and decided we really needed your input to make sure we understood what you meant by it, as we presumed you were going beyond guest speakers and field trips, but we knew that a cover letter would not really give you the space you needed to present the idea thoroughly.”
Even as Michael engaged the topic and shared some of his ideas, he thought to himself, “Oh. I think I’m beginning to get it.”
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Andy Cowan.
State of Affairs
“The law of unintended consequences is just one of those truths that we ought to hold to be self-evident, but about which we are in serious denial.”
This was the thought Frank had as he stared across the hotel lobby and considered the situation.
About 5 months ago, Frank had made the trip over to Philadelphia to watch the Bruins and Flyers. For all that he lived in New Jersey, he was a big fan of the Boston team and this was the closest they got to him each year. It was an indulgence, but not too expensive. He’d arranged to stay with a friend the night before the game, before heading back in the evening. It looked likely to be a good game as both teams had had pretty good seasons so far, and especially good since the Bruins had won the first game they'd played that season, in Boston.
His seat was pretty good, an aisle seat a few rows up behind the penalty box, and he got there in plenty of time to get settled before the game started. Just before the puck dropped, somebody slid past him and into the next chair. He was surprised to notice it was another Bruins fan and even more surprised to discover it was a woman. Not a lot of women went solo to hockey games, to his experience, let alone fans of the visitors.
They exchanged names and had the usual sort of casual conversation one has with a random stranger. Her name was Pam. No, she’s not from around here – she’s from Everett, Mass, just a bit north of Boston. He was an electrician from Sea Bright, NJ, on the shore. She taught junior high English. Just chit chat as they watched what felt to them like a pretty sluggish game. He got the first round of beer between periods, she the next half way through the second period, and he the third during the next intermission.
They shared their love of the Bruins and of hockey, itself. She’d been a frustrated wanna-be hockey player, excluded because she was a girl. He’d played in high school until he’d hurt a knee. Bobby Orr and Espo. Rules that annoyed them – particularly pertinent because as the clock ticked away, it looked increasingly like it was going to be a tie at the end of regulation and that’s all there was in the regular season. Sure enough, the game came to the end with a 3-3 score, leaving Pam and Frank feeling moderately annoyed – the Bruins had not managed to beat the Broad Street Bullies.
They wandered over to Doobie’s – a bit further from the Spectrum and so a bit quieter. While Frank had enjoyed talking with her, he had not realized how attractive she was until she had shed her coat and bulky sweater. Not that it mattered – Frank was married, even if Pam was not. After a light meal, they wandered over to the train station and after an exchange of phone numbers, she headed back to Boston. He smiled as he retrieved his car and reflected on the game and his afternoon on his drive back to the Shore.
They talked a few times over the next couple months. Neither of them could make the next game, in late March, and that was the last time the two teams were scheduled to meet for the season. Unless...
Plans were a bit rushed, because the Rangers took the Flyers to a game 7 in the semi-finals, only two days before the start of the Stanley Cup. Until then they didn’t know if there would be a chance to get together. Optimistically, Frank had picked up a pair of conditional tickets for game 3 of the Cup, which would be a Sunday afternoon game in Philly. When the game finished, Pam made her hotel reservation and bought train tickets. His wife had plans, as well; the Friends of the Museum were having the opening of their 10th anniversary exhibit that afternoon.
As before, Frank went into the city the night before the game, this time for a late dinner with Pam. During dinner, they complained anew about the refusal of the NHL to have overtime in the regular season. During after dinner drinks and desserts, the theme shifted to federal and state laws. Pam oh so casually mentioned that Pennsylvania had repealed its adultery laws the previous year.
They retired to her room at the Ritz-Carlton.
The next morning they had breakfast delivered by room service, but time passed quickly and Pam had to check out before they could make their way over to the Spectrum for lunch and the game. Frank grabbed a chair in the lobby to wait, looking around at the opulence of the hotel.
There, across the lobby from him, was his wife, also waiting for somebody to check out.
Looking at him.
Tue, Dec. 30th, 2014, 03:52 am
The following was written from museteasers
prompt 2433, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Laura Lynn Walsh.
He hated his job. Not, he supposed, that that made him all that different from the bulk of people, but he really didn’t care about them. Guarding valuables was something he was used to. He’d been a guard for most of his adult life, after all. But the various posts he had held before had been different in a bunch of ways, chief among them that he knew what he was guarding for them! Yeah, the pay was much higher and the hours were both steadier and more reasonable – no guard ever worked longer than a 4 hour shift in a day and no more than 4 days a week or 2 days in a row. But despite that, he felt far more anxious – the bosses ran security drills almost daily to make sure that everybody was on their toes.
And for what? Damned if he knew, but when they hired him they explained that the country depended on his work. The country! Hah! As if the oligarchs had anything to fear.
It was a building, but a building without doors or windows. No way in, no way out. He was assigned one side, walking back and forth along the path, turning at irregular intervals to look back the other way – they weren’t allowed to walk with a rhythm, ever. There were guards on each of the other 3 walls, plus one guard stationed at each corner, so his back was always covered. There were 4 more guards on the roof.
Days passed. Weeks. Months. Years. The monotony was intolerable, but there was no way to break it. All the talk on the radio and television was just as monotonous as work. The people he met were all the same, too. He tried, briefly, to imagine how else it might be, but tossed the notion off as ‘above his pay grade.’
There is only so much that drills can do to relieve the drone of daily edge-of-the-seat anxiety combined with stultifying consistency. To say that the attack caught him off guard would not do the shock justice. There was just no concept that an attack could happen or would happen.
But it happened. Fast.
A loud noise behind him. The corner guard was down. There was a big hole in the wall. A sharp pain in his head. Nothing but pain for a while.
He opened his eyes to see four people fleeing through the hole, each carrying an oddly shaped box of varying size. He tried to bring his gun up, but it wasn’t there, so he tried to stand to go after them, only to stagger and fall dizzy. And they were gone.
Things did not change initially, at least not from his viewpoint. He wasn’t fired, much to his surprise. The building was repaired and the guard increased, but the drills lost some of their urgency. Over the next few weeks though, he began to hear rumors, rumors that made no sense. There were stories of distraction, stories of unplanned sleep, and stories of people just sitting and nodding and smiling.
He’d gone to bed; tomorrow was a work day. He was vaguely aware, as he lay there, that he was having an odd dream prompted by something he was hearing outside his apartment. He sat up with a smile on his face. He started tapping his foot to the rhythm he was hearing.
A rhythm? A rhythm, but not like anything he’d ever heard before. Shrill and metallic, almost hurting his ears, but not quite. And it made him smile, which hurt a bit all by itself.
The next day at work, he found himself trying to recreate the rhythm as he walked. And he smiled to himself.
I am starting
with my edit, because while this is an addendum to my thoughts on the funding issue, this is the most vital piece of the response to me.Why advocating for the gifted in underfunded schools and where kids are in poverty is VITAL
a) Raising the top students of a school tends to raise the whole school more than any other approach we have tried. Children matter - not just gifted children
b) The argument that one should not ask for specific spending on gifted is, to me, like not asking for SPED money for special education students --> gifted education is not a FRILL. It is a need.
c) When you consider that gifted programs are often getting less than a penny on the dollar, asking for spending on gifted is not exactly asking for much - As a quick example... in the Texas 2011-2012 legislative cycle, Gifted Education got $56 million. The full budget for that cycle was $91 billion. Gifted got .0006 (or .06%).
d) The funding of gifted programs is itself a red herring. Pull-out programs are among the least cost-effective ways to meet the needs of gifted kids.
If you want to serve the kids in poverty, then more attention to gifted kids (or even some!) is going to have a more beneficial result than less attention will. This is the sub-population within the gifted that is hurt *most* by abandonment of the fight.
And dropping the gifted word makes that advocacy harder, not easier.
When I was previously teaching in the public schools, my principal, after observing class, wondered to me: "I get why you are good with the bright kids - it's why I hired you! But why are you good with the slow kids?!"
I explained to him that I teach people, not subjects, and that I sought to understand what each kid knew and how each kid learned and how each kid needed to have their needs met, to the best of my ability.Why I advocate for gifted children
I advocate for gifted children because they lack sufficient advocacy. I advocate for funds for gifted children because their needs are no less real and because in a vacuum of such advocacy, the voices for other children are heard and gifted children's needs are set aside.
I push for that funding because it is a drop in the bucket compared with the rest of academic funding - and because the argument that if they give gifted kids funding, then they will have to cut funding for other programs is a FALSE argument designed to divide and to set populations against each other, making it harder for BOTH to have their needs met.
In pushing for certain additional children to be included in a certain program, an administrator noted that it was totally to be expected that I would advocate for my program. He didn't get it!
If there were no need for them to be in the program, I would not want them there - that would do nothing to help the kids already in it, while possibly being negative for everybody concerned.
I advocate for these kids and these programs because even the mediocre programs do something worthwhile that these kids need
.Alternative Words, Part 1
I do not like the term “children of high intelligence” because that is not (all of) what I mean by gifted!”
I mean children with artistic and emotional gifts, leadership and wisdom gifts, and others less readily defined – I mean children for whom their innate higher aptitude leads them to need a qualitatively different kind of support from their parents, their teachers, and their counselors.Alternative Words, Part 2
My friend noted that she never wants to tell a kid that s/he is ungifted.
Yeah, that is a pretty harsh thing to say, right?
How about "below average?"
"Not able to dance well enough."
We do all of those things. Is it fun? No. We don't have to use "ungifted" to have a problem. "You are not highly intelligent." "You aren't smart enough to be in this program."
Still pretty harsh.
I don't see how changing the word fixes that
problem, either.Alternative Words, Part 3
I oppose the change in terminology not because I am wedded to the word GIFTED, but because the push to change it is a red herring.
I grew up in a school system in which there were no gifted children – it was school policy – but that did nothing to enhance the education of the children of high intelligence, nor to reduce the bullying behaviors toward the children of big vocabularies or the children of androgynous behaviors or the children who got the answers right too often in class by the children who resented kids who would have been called gifted in other schools but were never called that there (or the adults who felt the same way).
I have lived most of my life in a state in which the NAGC affiliate was named the Massachusetts Association for the Advancement of Individual Potential to avoid offense – but it did nothing to advance our cause or to help our children.
I live in a state in which we have a certification for teachers of Academically Advanced learners, but for which there are no courses offered that would lead to such a degree nor an approved pathway for an organization to base a program upon.
To what end, then, changing the word?
The kids still get bullied, the programs still get short shrift, the teachers still get no training.
I work with gifted children - no matter what you call them.
This blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”). To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at www.hoagiesgifted.org/blog_hop_the_g_word.htm
It seemed to Sam that everything that happened in her life could have come from one of the books she had read as a child. It was not so much that everything was overly simple or moralistic, the way so many children's books are, but rather that the world around her seemed thoroughly mysterious - things happened for no apparent reason, with no apparent cause, and with no obvious response. She could control only her own responses to the neverending series of accidents and adventures that life seemed intent upon serving her.
The current situation, if anything, exacerbated that feeling. She'd gotten on the bus to go to work, as she had each morning since the last "thrilling adventure" with her car and the black ice. The bus was safer, after all, right? Yet, here she was having had her bus siezed, not by terrorists but by pirates! Whatever were pirates doing in the middle of Chattanooga, let alone "capturing" a bus and claiming it as treasure?
They were pirates, though, no matter how unlikely it seemed. They dressed the part, though their language was not quite the stereotypical bit of "Arrrh, matey" that she might have anticipated, had anticipating anything seemed reasonable to do. Salty, yes. They swore plenty, especially when the chest they pulled out from under one of the bus seats failed to have in it the gold they expected.
Gold? Why would anybody expect to find a chest of gold on a city bus heading downtown, or headed anywhere for that matter.
"Lassie, you would not have happened to see somebody open the chest from under this seat this mornin', would ye have?"
"Um... no? I mean, I haven't exactly been watching, but I'd like to think I would have noticed something as unlikely as that."
"Perhaps not so unlikely as you might think, but that's of no matter now. We'll have to be takin' you back to the island with us."
"Island? What island? And... and I have to get to work!"
With that the leader of the pirates gave a great guffaw. He gestured toward her and a pair of his men seized her arms and hustled her off the bus and onto one of the duck boats that had surrounded the bus. She'd never gotten around to riding one of the boats, but this was not exactly what she'd expected whenever she thought about such a ride!
A couple hours later, she was sitting, stunned, on an island in the middle of the Tennessee River, surrounded by men and boys, laughing and singing, despite the ill-timed raid on the bus's chest. Every time she could interrupt their revelry enough to ask them what was happening, all she got back was laughter. It was quite maddening, all in all! She was unharmed, except for missing work and possibly getting fired as a result - and even that she was not sure counted as harm, as she had been feeling more than a bit worn and bored by work. But the feeling of 'out of control' was perhaps greater than ever.
A voice over her shoulder whispered "Isn't this the best yet?!" She looked behind her, but couldn't figure out where the voice came from. And, on reflection, it was not quite a whisper, but more like the full speech of somebody who just wasn't very loud."
"Who's there? And what do you mean?"
A small giggle followed, then a pop.
A bellow from in front of her: "Let's make her walk the plank!" They started chanting, "Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank! Walk the plank!" There were about 15 of them, ranging from 12 to somewhere nearly triple her own age of 25, bouncing and hooting and shouting. "Walk the plank!"
This did not sound to her like a good idea at all. "But I don't want to walk the plank! Really!" Nothing she heard in response suggested that she'd gotten through any more this time than the last 10 times she had tried to talk with them. If it weren't so nerve-wracking, she supposed, it might even be tedious, but nerve-wracking it was.
The men blind-folded her and took her for a walk. It seemed about 5 minutes or 2 hours or just a moment, all at once. One of them told her to step up. When she just stopped, she was lifted onto what felt under her feet like a flexible piece of wood, just wide enough for her to stand on. "Walk the plank!" came the cheer, and again, "Walk the plank!"
She felt a poke and moved hesitantly forward. More pokes, more steps. The men went silent, which told her she must be at the end of the plank. It was as if they were all holding their breaths at the same time. She felt like doing the same. Another poke, not quite enough to knock her off, just make her wobble a bit. "Go ahead, lassie - might as well get it over with!"
and landed about 6 inches below her starting point. A great roar came from the group, first of approval and then mirth.
"Isn't this just the best?" came the quiet voice, again.
The leader of the pirates took her blindfold off. "Howdy do, lassie! I'm called Fred the Blue, on account a' my bushy red beard. These here are my men. We want to thank you for being such a good sport. We'll drop you back in the city, now."
An hour later, she was outside her workplace, though her head was still spinning. When she wandered in, her boss brought her into his office where he explained that her tardiness was just not acceptable.
"But I was kidnapped! Didn't you hear about the duckboat pirates and my bus?"
"Oh, yes, we heard. Really, Samantha. If you wanted out of the job, you did not need to go to such elaborate lengths. A simple resignation would have been quite enough."
She did not remember going home. She must have, because certainly she was home now, and talking on the phone.
"Yes, Sam, we were greatly impressed with your application. And our recruiting manager said the job interview went extremely well. So, welcome aboard! Adventure Publishing is excited to have you as the new lead for our children's book division."
"Wait, what?" Interview? Recruiting manager? Who?"
"Fred Bluebeard, our lead recruiter - he said he met with you this morning."
("Isn't this amazing!")
She twirled fast enough to see the pop this time. "Come back here!"
The voice on the phone asked her to clarify, but she distantly said "Thank you, I am looking forward to it," and hung up. "Come back here!" she demanded.
Another pop and a pixie appeared, fluttering its wings.
"What is going on here? What was this morning all about?! And what do you mean by "the best yet?"
"When you were 5, you were lonely and bored and miserable and a few of us took pity on you and came to play. And you begged us to never let you get that bored again. We agreed and have been playing with you ever since - but only when you seem particularly at risk of deep boredom. Then we disappear, taking the immediate memory of our presence because that seems to make it harder for anything else to be as much fun.
"We make sure though that a part of you knows we are real."
"And this morning?"
"You told us how much you have dreamt of this sort of job - we just got you the interview (and then livened it up slightly). But the job is real and now it's really yours. This is the best yet!"
Suddenly, a string of memories became clearer to her and she understood anew the reason her life often felt the way it did. And she laughed and gently hugged the pixie.
"Thank you, friend."
When we walk in darkness, those of us fortunate enough to have vision are conscious of the lack. We are tentative in our steps, feeling our way along with whatever glimmers and memories we have. If we are outside in the snow, we are careful of the path, the depth, and potential tripping hazards.
When we walk in the beginnings of false dawn, it feels so much lighter and easier to see that we tend to slough off a lot of that timidity and walk as if we can actually see where we are going. And we can, to an extent. We can see short distance destinations fairly well, but we really don't have a good sense of our footing. There is a flatness to light at twilight, whether pre-dawn or dusk, that denies us effective depth perception. Skiers know this sort of condition well, and remember in their muscles as well as their minds the feeling of unanticipated moguls and dips on the slopes and trails, as we wend our way down them on the last runs of the day.
Shadows are absent, as are other visual clues about the edges where one height blends into another, most often discovered by... accident.
What we tend to miss is how much of our lives is actually spent in metaphorical twilight - areas in which we have just enough light to think we can see, while the nuances, the shadows, the edges that mark important differences are missing - missing to the point that we don't even know there is something there to see, as we might if we were totally ignorant. This is the essence of the phrase "knows just enough to be dangerous."
What is it like to be black, gay, Jewish, blind, brilliant, OCD, immigrant, impoverished, care-taking, abused, without spoons, or a thousand other conditions - positive, negative, neutral, other?!
We don't know, but we are quick to decide what *we* would do in those situations and how /that/ person or /those/ people are mishandling it.
This does not make us wrong - but it increases the chance of our being wrong to a huge extent. And the bigger problem that goes with that is that our belief that we have enough light to see makes us resistant to input from those who are living or have lived the circumstances or for whom there has been far more light than the dimness we are inhabiting.
I don't have a fix for the lack of vision from which you suffer, from which I suffer, with regard to lives that are too distinct from our own. I cannot automatically shed light on these for you/us.
I can tell you:
LISTEN to the voices of the folks in those places.
*START* with the assumption that you are in twilight and cannot see clearly.
Just knowing you are in twilight may make it easier to avoid unnecessary stumbling.
Once upon a time… once upon a time. Just once?
How do you cope with a life that magic has touched then left? It wasn’t even his story! Despite that, the change in perspective was amazing and horrifying. It’s not as if he had ever believed in or seen magic, before – he had a hard enough time believing in it when it happened in front of him! But there it was and now nothing was the same.
The sky was gray. Not… gray gray. It was blue enough, he supposed, but… just not vivid. It was as if the sky had gone through the laundry a few times too many, but he had never noticed it until somebody came by with a brand new sky for him to see. Except, it wasn’t something wrong with the old sky – it hadn’t changed. This was the sky he had lived with for forty years, every day and every season. He just saw it differently now, after his experience.
He dragged himself through his days, barely managing to get up but having a hard time falling asleep. A colorless life seemed purposeless to him, but it was the only life he had. Friends commented upon it and tried to shake him out of his mood, but he was having none of it. He tried to explain to them what was going on, but they hadn’t seen what he had seen and did not – could not – believe him.
In the face of their disbelief, he started to pull back from those relationships, too. He learned not to share the experience with anybody, no matter how much they assured him they would not judge. Sometimes they laughed outright. Sometimes they had the grace to hold it in – but it was still obvious that they were holding it in. And sometimes they did not seem to want to laugh at all; they just pitied him. It was probably the pity, more than anything, that made him stop sharing.
So, he bottled it up and trudged along.
He wasn’t suicidal, though he would not have minded the confidence to feel that way. Unfortunately (from his perspective), he had no reason to believe that death would not be just that much worse. Whereas before he had had no notion of how washed out the world’s colors were, now he could all too well imagine its being worse. At times, it seemed, he could not stop himself from doing just that. With a humorless smile on his face, he hummed “all the world is sad and dreary, everywhere I roam…”
Therapists. God save him from therapists. If there is a God, which he supposed there might be, once magic was real. Or any number of them… maybe instead of trying to find a therapist who did not want to lock him up immediately, “as a danger to himself or others” (they explained), he should try religion! A small bit of hope made its way into his heart, despite his best efforts.
And was dashed.
God save him from priests. And shamans. And gurus. And… anybody smacking of spiritual higher beings! They all were possibly worse than the therapists!
Of course, they had no answers. None of them. Despite his hope, this was not a huge shock. That was just not the problem. But they had no answers! Not for him, not for themselves. They did not dismiss his tale, they embraced it. His sincerity convinced them that he had had a more other-worldly or spiritual or magical experience than the lot of them had had in their lives – and they wanted to follow him and worship him. Too much. Beyond too much.
Drugs. Psychedelic drugs. Mushrooms, peyote, acid, whatever. Something, anything to put color back into his life and world! And they helped, some, but not enough. It wasn’t the same. It felt different.
He got a call from one of the therapists – one who had listened politely and with a somewhat less judgmental air than most:
“I cannot say that I believe you, but it is clear that you believe you – and other than that singular, deeply held sincere belief, you don’t feel crazy to me. You don’t feel off. So, I’ve heard about something that would ordinarily sound totally bizarre, but which may just be the thing for you.
It’s a group that is forming for support for people with stories like yours. Yes, you heard me right – stories like yours! It’s to treat what the group leader calls “Post-Wonder Stress Disorder” or PWSD.”
He listened to the words, to the description, and played with the notion on his tongue. Post-Wonder Stress Disorder. He couldn’t even fathom how such an idea would come into being, let alone become a therapy group – but the concept resonated, so he took down the contact information.
The office, when he called it, sounded like a hundred other therapists’ offices. “Please come in early to fill out your medical history and our questionnaire.” “No, I’m sorry, the group leader can’t come to the phone, but she will give you all the time you need in group.” “No, we don’t take insurance, but we promise that our sliding scale will be able to accommodate your need for therapy combined with your ability to pay.” Still, none of it was thoroughly off-putting. The employee who answered the phone seemed competent enough and not at all bizarrely out there; just matter-of-fact in going about business.
He came a bit early on the night of the first group meeting. He wanted to get the lay of the land, check out the space if possible, and maybe suss out the kinds of folks with whom he would be sharing the evening. The building and waiting room were non-descript. He was slightly taken aback to find another person waiting when he walked in, but supposed the person might have the same anxiety about it that he had.
The waiting room was also bigger than he expected, with a dozen seats in it, which filled up over the next 45 minutes leading up to the start time. The other members seemed pretty average in appearance – but, he supposed, so did he. Several times, he almost said something, but was too nervous. On the other hand, he thought he’d noticed others with the same impulse. The door opened, and they straggled in.
Apart from the group leader’s introduction, things started slowly. For all that she explained that each of them had had what seemed like an inexplicable event in their lives that had devestated their views of reality, he felt a reluctance to share his story one more time. And he couldn’t help himself – when he heard the first of the others’ stories, it was incredible! It couldn’t possibly be true, could it? But how could he, of all people, judge somebody for a bizarre story?
The first speaker shared: “I drive a cab, usually on the hotel circuit near the Park. One night, I’m on a fare, not far behind one of the Park’s horse-drawn buggies. It pulled over abruptly and the carriage shrunk and turned into a pumpkin! And the horses disappeared!
The man went on to share what he’d tried to do immediately and then in the weeks after the incident. It was totally different from his experience – yet, the reactions to the event, both on the spot and after it, were so familiar that he could have used the same words to describe his own sentiments. He listened as a few others spoke up, the same sorts of tales presented of impossible sights followed by nearly complete shutdown and detachment from their world.
Frogs and beasts turning into humans, a talking bird, a statue getting off its pedestal, and several other wonderments poured out. As each member of the group took the floor, he unwound, bit by bit. The acceptance of the others when his turn came gave him his first feeling of connection since the event. It didn’t solve the grayness problem, but it gave him reason to come back next week. It was a start.
The last of the clients had left the group therapy room, about 30 minutes after the session was formally over. They were a jaded and anxious lot; their trust would be hard to win quickly. But tonight’s session went pretty well. It was a start.
With a wave of her wand, the therapist was gone.
It was all well and good to go flitting about and casting spells, but nobody seemed to appreciate the prep work that went into the daily routine of magic and granting wishes and the like. She loved Mal and did everything she could to make him happy, within the limits of her charge, but there were times when his needs exceeded her ability to anticipate them.
This was one of those times.
Somehow, Mal had gotten himself locked up. "Something I said" was all the explanation she'd been able to coax out of him, but he looked pretty embarrassed and miserable down in the cell. (Why did every castle seem to come with a dank prison?) When she asked if she should get him out, he shook his head and advised her not to.
Nixie frowned. "What can I do, then? What do you need?"
"I need a string. After that, maybe I will be able to leave. Maybe"
She'd disappeared and reappeared with a ball of twine. He shook his head, and before he could say more, she'd vanished again. When next she arrived in his cell, carrying several kinds of string, he stopped her, and showed her what he needed.
Off she went to the barn yard. His instructions had been clear - and what he demanded of her here was beyond her ability to manage. She cursed and returned, dismayed, to the cell. "All of the animals are hale and hearty," she reported.
He, too, cursed. Then he thought for a bit, and sent her to the laundry. She looked about and poked and prodded. With a big smile, or at least as big a smile as her size would permit, she tossed some of her fairy dust, grabbed her prize, and hastened back to Mal. He took it from her, twisted and turned it, and tied a couple knots in it.
She was startled by a loud noise behind her - the guard, demanding to know if Mal had changed his mind! When Mal said he had, the guard opened the door and none-to-gently helped Mal upstairs.
The ruling noble (not that she could remember which title went with which castles) looked down at her friend. "So! Now you are willing? I knew a bit of time in the cell would change your mind." He turned to the guard. "Put him in the next room. He knows what to do." She followed them.
A few minutes later, from the next room, came music - alternately soothing and inspirational. The noble smiled vacuously. The guard returned.
"Mal, do we have to stay any more?"
He continued to play, but talked softly. "I don't know if I am going to be permitted to leave just yet."
"If we left, where could we go to be safe?"
Mal gave brief consideration. "We just need to get into the next duchy - across the river. But I don't think there's a bridge or a boat nearby."
Nixie giggled. "If you are ready to go, I think we'll be fine. Just keep playing." She blew some fairy dust on his fingers. "Now step away. Even as his fingers worked as if to play, the music continued without interruption.
Out the window they went, and over to the river, which was too strong for him to swim across.
A bit more fairy dust and a two bits of wood grew - one flat and the other long and thin. Mal stepped onto it, with Nixie on his shoulder, and he poled them across, surely if not swiftly. As soon as they were safely on shore, the wood returned to being a piece of bark and a twig.
"I didn't know you could do all that," exclaimed he.
With another big grin, she replied.
"Well, I am a Harper's Fairy."
On hiding your gifts:
If one is unwitting about one's intelligence, then hiding it is not the issue, because it is not a goal. However it is still quite possible for it to remain hidden *depending on the area of giftedness* and how it manifests.
If one is aware of one's intelligence and one *wishes* to hide it, the ways to do so are myriad and moderately trivial, personality depending. The simplest is near-silence. Few or zero comments makes it pretty hard to judge. Then whatever work you do is what you are evaluated on by the teachers and, to a lesser extent, your age mates..
A bright enough kid can (and does) figure out a system for seeming to fit in. A socially adept kid can even fit in without such extreme measures - and they often do. Top 1% can and does include some kids who do not stick out unless they choose to, after a certain age - and sometimes that age is 2 or 3.
On finding true peers: Miraca Gross's paper on Sure Shelters is perhaps the best at discussing this that I have read, in terms of presenting the issues - for all that it has bits that are... more technical than necessary for this particular discussion.
The introverts among that 1% are seldom seeking more than 1 or 2 "best friends." The extroverts are... often frustrated. However, we don't need a 1-1 match in interests. However divergent we may be as we spread in aptitude from the center of the bell curve, complementary personalities exist sans depth of mutual interests. And... as one delves into the worlds of specialization, one finds others with that common
obsession passion! The age gap may be a tad wider than expected by the unassuming parental units, but the shared focus is more powerful than that chronological split for many.
(My personal example of the age issue was when I asked my mother if I could bring a friend with me for a particular chess tournament and she gave her permission. She was more than a bit taken aback by the 45 year old cabbie at her door for the ride north to the tournament. *grins at the memory*)
(For the examples of the divergent interests/deep bonding, you will have to wait for the book.)