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Qoheleth — Chapter 52
Ioan Bălan — 2305
After the assassination, with no one to lead and no reason to remain, the rest of the Odists and their friends left. Dear’s pacing wound down. It eventually stopped, shoulders sagging.
“Come, we should return." Then it turned and addressed some others near by, mostly from the same stanza, by the historian’s guess. “Any of you are welcome, too."
It was Ioan, Dear, Serene, and Praiseworthy — the first line of the stanza and down-tree instance from Dear — who wound up back at the house. They entered the sim twenty meters from the front door, where Ioan had originally arrived so long ago. Those few days ago. They trudged slowly up to the house.
Dear’s partner greeted them at the door, silent. Perhaps Dear had sent ahead a message, for they greeted the group and then stayed out of the way. They disappeared and returned shortly with mugs of coffee.
The four witnesses slumped into the couch. A universal sigh. Dear and Serene leaning against each other, and Dear’s partner claimed on a stolen dining-room chair nearby.
“So,” they said, finally. “What happened?”
“One of the conservatives played her hand. She chose protecting the clade in the short term over learning more. She brought along an assassin, and as soon as Qoheleth revealed his reasoning for revealing the Name, the assassin acted and then quit. My guess is that Qoheleth had not forked and will not be heard from again, and that the assassin, was a fork of someone unsuspecting. Someone who will ‘mysteriously’ experience problems merging back. No culpability for its #tasker or #tracker instance."
Its partner frowned. “Ah.”
Silence fell on the group again.
Ioan waited for one of those ebbs in the rhythm of the silence before clearing eir throat. “Perhaps it’s too soon, but may I ask after everyone’s well being? Their thoughts on the matter?”
Serene simply shook her head.
Praiseworthy shrugged, looking what Ioan thought might be glum, though her gestures and expressions took additional work to decode. Ioan had learned to understand Dear’s expressions and movements, but she was another animal, of some form different from Dear and Serene. Black fur, white stripes retreating up along her snout and over her head. Thick tail that looked delightfully soft. Many of the clade matched her more closely than they did Dear. “I am not surprised, really. Not happy, but not surprised.”
Ioan turned to Dear. “You alright?”
It was a moment in responding before it nodded. “I am with Praiseworthy. I am not surprised, but not happy. Rather pissed, actually," it said, smiling sardonically. “That was short-sighted of them, though, because I have a hunch that Qoheleth was right."
“About the need to age, to die. About forgetting."
“Does this have anything to do with you trying to forget The Name?”
Dear shot a glance at its partner, laughed. “You two get along, I see. Yes, it does. I think I did it, too, unless there is some association I missed. I cannot remember it for the life of me."
“You will have to tell me how you did that, Dear.” Serene laughed.
“Later, yes. I think Qoheleth was right, though. We need forgetting. We need breeding and change and death."
“So how do you feel about the assassination?” Ioan asked.
“I would prefer that not be the only means of death, of course. Perhaps the primary way should be through…ah, suicide is not the best word, but it is what I mean. Through choice, just like Qoheleth’s old name."
Life breeds life, but death must now be chosen.
“It is as I said. Batty. They are all batty." It stared at its paws, one of them brushing through Serene’s forearm fur. “It is like some sort of Methuselah syndrome, or reverse Alzheimer’s. Instead of being doomed to forget, we are doomed to remember. Doomed to remember everything. We cannot forget, and it all gets to be too much for one mind."
“What about exos?”
“Exocortices are a fix, but an incomplete one. Do you know why we have them?"
Ioan and Dear’s partner shook their heads, while both Serene and Praiseworthy frowned.
“The origin of the system came from the lost, from the turmoils of the early twenty-second century, though one could perhaps trace roots further back into the twenty-first. Prior to the system, the ‘net on Earth required engaging with through another thing called exocortices. Implants along the spine, with tendrils trailing along nerves."
Serene and Praiseworthy both reached up to rub at the backs of their necks.
“And the lost, those unlucky few, wound up trapped in a dream, mirrored between cerebral cortex and exocortex. They — we — were trapped along with all the knowledge that had been cached in those early exos."
“You mean they kept the name to refer to something similar?”
Dear shrugged. “I suppose. All that we experienced in that dream also wound up cached in those implants, and it was that cache that helped the engineers on the early system to construct the shared dream that is the System today."
Ioan ground eir palms against eir slacks. This information, this dump of the past, was doing nothing to quell the anxiety of the previous hour. “Right, okay. How are they only an incomplete fix to forgetting?”
“You are still stuck with the knowledge that they exist and their inventory, yes? That is why I cannot forget that the Name exists. I cannot forget my origins or that there is an exo containing them. One which I cannot forget. Not unless I go through the whole shitty process again — sorry, Serene, it was not pleasant, my dear. I could forget that bit of knowledge, but then what? I will have the knowledge that I have an exo that I cannot access pointing to something of dire importance. Can you imagine that feeling of lingering dread being a constant factor in life?"
Ioan shifted, leaning forward to rest eir elbows on eir knees, eir chin in eir hand. Ey sipped eir coffee as ey thought.
Serene slouched against Dear’s side, poking its thigh. “I understand what you are saying, Dear, but I do not want to die. I do not want you to die, either.”
Dear’s partner, frowned. “Neither do I, fox.”
The fennec laughed and shook its head, ears flopping about. “Trust me, I do not either. I do not think many do. I just think we need death, or something like it, as part of the system. Death. Fear of death. Needs and reasons to survive in the face of an inevitable end."
““Something like it”?” asked Praiseworthy.
“We need a way for an individual to end. We need a way to release those memories. We also need a way to create new individuals, so perhaps they should be related. Qoheleth called it breeding. Indelicate, perhaps. It could just as easily be a way of ending one individual and having them live on as another."
The others nodded. Silence once more.
Finally, Dear gave a lopsided smile. “Perhaps that is my next project."