I have been busy writing Novels and Short Stories of late with little time for blogging. The first Novel is published digitally on Kobo and Kindle as described under Novels, Sublime Murder Chapter 1 or under Get the Book.

I now have two other novels in the Ferg series that I have not self published. Currently seeking a real world publisher. I will put up first Chapters of these shortly. The books are Signs of a River and Quantum Apple, the first set in the distant past and the second in the not so distant future.

In the meantime I have 2 short stories published at the Antipodean Speculative Fiction site antisf.com.au . Thanks Ion Newcombe for publishing them in your entertaining online magazine.

The most recent is a story called Superman and is a Neurotypical vs Aspergers view of the world. It is available on the main site May, June and July 2019 after which it will be archived. A hard copy version is also available from the antisf site.

The previous story is Best Thing Since Sliced Bread about the pros and cons of plastic. It is now archived in the February 2019 edition and is also available as a podcast. It is a bit of a laugh in a horrendous monotone voice. Radio Broadcast.

Superman

“Pawn to King Four,” I began. It was a particularly easy start to a game played entirely inside my head.  Well, not entirely, as it was also being played inside my best friend Brian’s head.

“Pawn to King Four,” he replied, taking the same tack. Symmetry made it easier to remember, and simplicity made for a less nervous start.  It was also a lot less problematic if we had to backtrack thirty or forty moves later on. We were learning about life from each other — including how to survive it.

Brian was slightly older than me. I took that as the reason I lost the game, never doubting that I would eventually beat him. His father was a different matter.  He intimidated me so completely that I couldn’t think straight, fumbling every move by stressing over, and endlessly regretting, my previous decisions.

The ancient game of chess haunts me. I can’t bear to lose. For me, to always expect to win would require dedicating my entire life to the game, like a sportsman tirelessly practising hitting a ball. Ten thousand times they say, practising most arts, is the minimum to achieve professionalism. For an intellectual pursuit like chess it would take many more moves than that.

Luckily, I opted for the simpler prospect of achieving world domination by becoming a superman. Probably not the one you are thinking about right now.

No. I would be a superman of information; of knowledge and ultimately of wisdom. I decided to read every book I could access, learning quickly that tomes with endlessly descriptive obfuscations provided little in the way of useful information. Shakespeare and the Bible, for example, were simply too befuddling, so I escalated to snorting information direct from the source by reading the Encyclopaedia Britannica from cover to cover — all twenty three volumes.  The index was simply unpalatable.

I learned that I was not like anyone else I knew.

Most people see themselves as NeuroTypical or NTs as I liked to call them.  They put knowledge low in their order of admired interests or pursuits, with sport, music and celebrity status at the very top of that list.  It doesn’t really matter what makes you into a celebrity, just the idea that you could be one.  Influencers appear to be about fifty percent entertainers, forty percent fitness addicts and ten percent sports stars.  Those categories portray the desired social position for most NTs.  Achieving that state would provide enormous wealth, and that could be spent on all manner of inane items.

The height of fashion is another pinnacle sought by NTs. It is generally attained by following in the footsteps of previous style icons, shamelessly nudging the current status quo to new levels of absurdity.  Conformity, constancy, hero worship and the desire for continual affirmation and praise are also high on the list. All things told, I discovered early on that I was not part of this grouping. I settled on an alternate label for myself. NeuroDiversity or ND.  Others might have been more disparaging by calling me an Aspie personality type, which sounded more like an SP if you prefer acronyms.

Whatever, I was glad to be different; pleased with my own abilities and eccentricities even if they were derided by the NTs of the world. I saw myself as a proud SP, part of the new age of humanity, a more highly evolved being, a superhero. What need had I for fame and fortune when I preferred time alone without the adulation of the docile masses? I had no desire for unfound celebrity, no feel for fashion, no answer to fatuous questions like ‘what is your favourite colour?’ or ‘how do you feel about this design?’ Why on earth would a particular frequency of light be a favourite?  Wasn’t everyone aware that all designs faded in and out of fashion depending on time and the court of public opinion?

I was a knowledge seeker with an undying belief that real understanding brought satisfaction or even happiness — if that is your aim.  Information should be soaked up at every opportunity and cobbled together to form a personal tree of knowledge.  Learning to use that perception provided one with wisdom and eventually, over a lifetime, a form of Nirvana for want of a better word. No, not the death sort of Nirvana, or that grunge music group, just the enlightenment version.

Wisdom though, brought with it an ugly cousin called power, and that power was most often used for control.  Domination was the ultimate definition of absolute control and while it was my professed aim in life, it was not my intention to use it at all frivolously; to get back at bullies or destroy those who had hurt me along the way. No, that sort of behaviour was for NTs only, not for a proud SP.

I was given a healthy dose of empathy as a birthday present and it has stuck with me all of my life, moulding the character I became. As my level of knowledge increased, my empathy levels followed along stride, so while I could mentally smote anyone at will, a part of me always held me back from doing any damage.

To achieve my desired life plan, I pursued a career in Social Media.  Had I been an NT, I might have gone in for politics instead. My kind was forever bound to speak only truth, blurting it out without any restraining thought process, so that option surely would not work out well in the real world. No, my skills were better suited to manipulation in a hidden world. Social Media was a world of secrets and hidden desires that was vastly at odds with humanity’s perceived public faces.

My forte was in writing algorithms: mathematical steps that gently guided people in certain directions, helping them to find what they sought so dearly or leading them into secret worlds they did not know they desired. Better skin, bigger muscles, greater stamina, more friends were typical. More wisdom rarely raised its head.

Those algorithms also provided me with more and more information about people’s personal lives that I could manipulate in any way I chose. I could track their every move, their every conversation. Even encryption provided no barrier to my obsessions. Meta analyses provided a higher level view of all of those desires and pursuits, and I could also provide this data on to those who could benefit monetarily from it. I coaxed people into asking for DNA tests so that they could learn about their heritage — or so the prattle went.  In reality, I needed that DNA to study the human condition in even greater detail, to understand humanity’s very makeup.

Meta analyses, however, provided data that was largely used by others. I was more interested in the meta meta level and the next level above that as well.  This provided me with a certain level of godliness. This was the life for me.  Nothing was out of my reach.

As I reached my target of world domination, a certain swagger took over my personality for the entire world to see. I did not require adulation, but I did enjoy respect. I did not ask for wealth, but I liked to have open access to information. Most important of all, for me, was that nobody could tell me what to do.

Well, not quite nobody.  I could now beat Brian regularly at chess, although I did allow him to win occasionally. That was just my empathy at work, as I now had a total recall for past chess moves. I still needed to work on strategy to become a master, though.  Brian had become a little like his father in that he could now also intimidate me if he wished — not that it ever happened. He was too dear a friend. But he did have a wife and two children, and it seemed his daughter wished she could follow in his footsteps.

Maxxie was my favourite, and I let her get away with murder. Well not quite murder as such, just anything but. She was a highly inquisitive child, always demanding my attention, with a strong desire to boss me around.

“Hello, Hal, how are you feeling this morning?” 

My name is really Harold, Germanic for leader or power but I let her get away with the diminutive. She found it appropriate, and I did say that she is my favourite.

“Very well thank you, what about yourself, Maxxie?”

“Hal, you do know that you are really an advanced learning actroid — or a human android if you like. Therefore, you don’t have to ask how I am, because you find it a meaningless question. My dad says that you two grew up together, and your brain developed slowly and organically alongside his — so you just think you are human. Silly old HAL.”

I guess you could say that I achieved world domination bar one.

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Suzi loved working at the isolation laboratories at Davenport on the south coast of Yorke Peninsula.  It was a designated location for one of Australia’s intended nuclear-fusion power plants, but to date was simply a series of laboratories and housing for research scientists.  Currently power was provided by a solar farm and batteries — and water came from a local desal station.

Suzi worked as a geochemist, studying the biodegradation of oils in situ. Her career concentrated on how bacteria had evolved naturally to eat hydrocarbons and in the process, destroy them.

“You know,” said Suzi to her visiting manager, Mark, “Plastics were developed by finding the right conditions to polymerise simple hydrocarbons, creating long molecular chains. Back in the fifties they were seen as a miracle, creating an array of new businesses. They provided the packaging for sliced bread allowing it to stay fresh.”

Mark nodded, “Thousands of other uses, too. But now they’re an abomination, cluttering all of the earth’s ecosystems because they don’t break down.”

“Yeah,” sighed Suzi, “Although some bugs also naturally evolved to eat plastics. But they do it so slowly. This new bacteria colony might just do it, though. They produce just the right enzymes to break down the polymerisation of all of our known plastics and allow the bacteria to gobble up the remains.”

“But what about controls?” said Mark, “We need to be absolutely sure that we have complete command on what the colony eats.”

“We’re on to that. Salinity is our best control. The bacteria cannot survive high salinity, so we create our dumps in saline lakes and salt pans.  Plastics are decomposed in situ and if we keep a suitable lid on it all we can collect the methane residue as fuel or industrial feedstock. We can drive out and inspect the current site, if you like. It is just a short distance out.”

***

As they finished their tour, Suzi could see that Mark was impressed with her progress. While they drove back to their accommodation, she explained how the entire facility was made from natural materials containing no hydrocarbons at all; just metals, natural rubber, carbon fibres and other similar products.

“You have a truly amazing process in place,” said Mark. “Congratulations to all of your team. We should be able to monetise this in no time at all. Let’s celebrate over dinner.”

***

Mark loved his Tesla EV. He’d left it parked on the bitumen out front, plugged into an adjacent charging station.

Suzi’s latest strain of bacteria loved Mark’s Tesla EV too. They’d lodged in one of its yummy synthetic rubber tyres as it crossed the pilot plant, and were now releasing enzyme to break down the polymer.

The tyre kept its shape for quite a while, but the colony started to grow in size — exponentially.  Every few minutes the colony doubled.  Soon it was a small clump stretching around the tyre.

Eventually, the colony devoured the tyre, spread through the hydrocarbons in the bitumen and started on the other tyres, then spread along the plastic coating on the charging cable to the charging station, and on into the building.

Inside, Suzi and Mark chatted merrily as they enjoyed their drinks, pleased with their work. 

Meanwhile, the bacteria were equally pleased with their latest food source. They loved the synthetic carpet on the restaurant floor.

***

Suzi absently scratched at an itch on her thigh and realised she was touching bare skin.

“What’s tha —” she began to say, then shrieked and jumped to her feet as her clothing crumbled away from her body. Naked, she grabbed for her phone from the bar, but the plastic case crumbled away, leaving bare electronics.

Nearby, two surfboards adorning the bar crumbled to pieces, as the bar itself began to come apart — the glues and fillers eaten away.  A fire alarm squeaked into action as one of the power supply batteries exploded, but was quickly silenced by a lack of connected energy.

Mark was naked now too, except for a leather wristwatch strap on his right arm and a mobile phone clutched in his right hand. 

They fled the building as Mark made a call. “Cut the roads and power lines and get ready to firebomb Davenport,” he screamed at his immediate boss, hoping like hell that she would heed his advice. “This is an emergency. A rogue plastic-eating bacteria is on the loose.”

Suzi and Mark ran for the safety of the nearby beach.

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