Posts Tagged ‘horror’

In 1830, only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, lay an immense and almost unbroken forest. The whole region was sparsely settled by people of the frontier–restless souls who no sooner had hewn fairly habitable homes out of the wilderness and attained to that degree of prosperity which today we should call indigence, than, impelled by some mysterious impulse of their nature, they abandoned all and pushed farther westward, to encounter new perils and privations in the effort to regain the meager comforts which they had voluntarily renounced. Many of them had already forsaken that region for the remoter settlements, but among those remaining was one who had been of those first arriving. He lived alone in a house of logs surrounded on all sides by the great forest, of whose gloom and silence he seemed a part, for no one had ever known him to smile nor speak a needless word. His simple wants were supplied by the sale or barter of skins of wild animals in the river town, for not a thing did he grow upon the land which, if needful, he might have claimed by right of undisturbed possession. There were evidences of “improvement”–a few acres of ground immediately about the house had once been cleared of its trees, the decayed stumps of which were half concealed by the new growth that had been suffered to repair the ravage wrought by the ax. Apparently the man’s zeal for agriculture had burned with a failing flame, expiring in penitential ashes.

The little log house, with its chimney of sticks, its roof of warping clapboards weighted with traversing poles and its “chinking” of clay, had a single door and, directly opposite, a window. The latter, however, was boarded up–nobody could remember a time when it was not. And none knew why it was so closed; certainly not because of the occupant’s dislike of light and air, for on those rare occasions when a hunter had passed that lonely spot the recluse had commonly been seen sunning himself on his doorstep if heaven had provided sunshine for his need. I fancy there are few persons living today who ever knew the secret of that window, but I am one, as you shall see.

The man’s name was said to be Murlock. He was apparently seventy years old, actually about fifty. Something besides years had had a hand in his aging. His hair and long, full beard were white, his gray, lusterless eyes sunken, his face singularly seamed with wrinkles which appeared to belong to two intersecting systems. In figure he was tall and spare, with a stoop of the shoulders–a burden bearer. I never saw him; these particulars I learned from my grandfather, from whom also I got the man’s story when I was a lad. He had known him when living near by in that early day.

One day Murlock was found in his cabin, dead. It was not a time and place for coroners and newspapers, and I suppose it was agreed that he had died from natural causes or I should have been told, and should remember. I know only that with what was probably a sense of the fitness of things the body was buried near the cabin, alongside the grave of his wife, who had preceded him by so many years that local tradition had retained hardly a hint of her existence. That closes the final chapter of this true story–excepting, indeed, the circumstance that many years afterward, in company with an equally intrepid spirit, I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter–that supplied by my grandfather.

When Murlock built his cabin and began laying sturdily about with his ax to hew out a farm–the rifle, meanwhile, his means of support–he was young, strong and full of hope. In that eastern country whence he came he had married, as was the fashion, a young woman in all ways worthy of his honest devotion, who shared the dangers and privations of his lot with a willing spirit and light heart. There is no known record of her name; of her charms of mind and person tradition is silent and the doubter is at liberty to entertain his doubt; but God forbid that I should share it! Of their affection and happiness there is abundant assurance in every added day of the man’s widowed life; for what but the magnetism of a blessed memory could have chained that venturesome spirit to a lot like that?

One day Murlock returned from gunning in a distant part of the forest to find his wife prostrate with fever, and delirious. There was no physician within miles, no neighbor; nor was she in a condition to be left, to summon help. So he set about the task of nursing her back to health, but at the end of the third day she fell into unconsciousness and so passed away, apparently, with never a gleam of returning reason.

From what we know of a nature like his we may venture to sketch in some of the details of the outline picture drawn by my grandfather. When convinced that she was dead, Murlock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. In performance of this sacred duty he blundered now and again, did certain things incorrectly, and others which he did correctly were done over and over. His occasional failures to accomplish some simple and ordinary act filled him with astonishment, like that of a drunken man who wonders at the suspension of familiar natural laws. He was surprised, too, that he did not weep–surprised and a little ashamed; surely it is unkind not to weep for the dead. “Tomorrow,” he said aloud, “I shall have to make the coffin and dig the grave; and then I shall miss her, when she is no longer in sight; but now–she is dead, of course, but it is all right–it must be all right, somehow. Things cannot be so bad as they seem.”

He stood over the body in the fading light, adjusting the hair and putting the finishing touches to the simple toilet, doing all mechanically, with soulless care. And still through his consciousness ran an undersense of conviction that all was right–that he should have her again as before, and everything explained. He had had no experience in grief; his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking from some the sharpest, shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles; some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life; to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that way affected, for and here we are upon surer ground than that of conjecture no sooner had he finished his pious work than, sinking into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay, and noting how white the profile showed in the deepening gloom, he laid his arms upon the table’s edge, and dropped his face into them, tearless yet and unutterably weary. At that moment came in through the open window a long, wailing sound like the cry of a lost child in the far deeps of the darkening woods! But the man did not move. Again, and nearer than before, sounded that unearthly cry upon his failing sense. Perhaps it was a wild beast; perhaps it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep.

Some hours later, as it afterward appeared, this unfaithful watcher awoke and lifting his head from his arms intently listened–he knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the dead, recalling all without a shock, he strained his eyes to see–he knew not what. His senses were all alert, his breath was suspended, his blood had stilled its tides as if to assist the silence. Who–what had waked him, and where was it?

Suddenly the table shook beneath his arms, and at the same moment he heard, or fancied that he heard, a light, soft step–another–sounds as of bare feet upon the floor!

He was terrified beyond the power to cry out or move. Perforce he waited–waited there in the darkness through seeming centuries of such dread as one may know, yet live to tell. He tried vainly to speak the dead woman’s name, vainly to stretch forth his hand across the table to learn if she were there. His throat was powerless, his arms and hands were like lead. Then occurred something most frightful. Some heavy body seemed hurled against the table with an impetus that pushed it against his breast so sharply as nearly to overthrow him, and at the same instant he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor with so violent a thump that the whole house was shaken by the impact. A scuffling ensued, and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe. Murlock had risen to his feet. Fear had by excess forfeited control of his faculties. He flung his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which terror may turn to madness; and madness incites to action. With no definite intent, from no motive but the wayward impulse of a madman, Murlock sprang to the wall, with a little groping seized his loaded rifle, and without aim discharged it. By the flash which lit up the room with a vivid illumination, he saw an enormous panther dragging the dead woman toward the window, its teeth fixed in her throat! Then there were darkness blacker than before, and silence; and when he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the wood vocal with songs of birds.

The body lay near the window, where the beast had left it when frightened away by the flash and report of the rifle. The clothing was deranged, the long hair in disorder, the limbs lay anyhow. From the throat, dreadfully lacerated, had issued a pool of blood not yet entirely coagulated. The ribbon with which he had bound the wrists was broken; the hands were tightly clenched. Between the teeth was a fragment of the animal’s ear.

The End

(ack: classicshorts.com)

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 I wrote a sci-fi novel where the protagonist a mad scientist found a way to suck out all air from body by injecting a serum. As a result it knocked out oxygen from body:blood in the veins turned to dust, lungs exploded and the patients died agonizing death. In order to bring out the psychic terror I formatted book,- 450 pages of it, from the first to the last page without any space between paragraphs,words, letters.

Oh the horror of thinking it up! Much more was in the horror of injecting my hopped- up imagination into the veins of each sentence and sustaining it as pages  churned one  after the other, and when I wrote finis at the end it was such a relief I leapt to open wide the shuttered windows. My penthouse of the Kiss-the-sky Apts on Steve Canyon Dr. had always its spectacular sunsets and the deep gulches I could look down and look at shoppers crawling like ants. Relief of finishing the book had shot glad oil into my system I almost jumped from my perch in deliriously happy frame.

The clocks from the interior chimed mournfully as a hearse wending its precious cargo, or whatever left of it to its rest.  The spell was broken, readers! I gathered all the pages into a  stack -a scene out of Giotto,- Deposition of Christ from the cross and rang up Bela Lugosi of a literary agent. He read a few pages and shuddered. I guess he had looked almost death in the face and dared not keep at it. He looked at me as though I had an axe bloodied and was practicing my swing at him. In a sweat he beat it. Straight to my publishers, I can vouch for.

The Book at last was out two weeks before Halloween. Whoever lined up to read  a sci-fi didn’t reach the end of the line. One look at the blurb splashed as Dead or Alive poster in the B- western movies had sent them helter-skelter.

The writing experience killed something in me. No more I could look at a page without seeing lines maddening whirl of typefaces marching on a Walpurgis Night. What the hell I lived through a hell of sci-fi that I had lit up.


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Life begins at Forty ©

Helmut Hoffman was a problem of his times.
He thought of becoming a surgeon because his father spent several years struggling with a compulsive disorder: he imagined he was Jack Ripper come back with a vengeance.  He could not bear the sight of a knife and he thought if he ever took one in his hands it would be the beginning of mayhem. A devout family man when not under the delusion, he let Helmut follow his own bent. Helmut had seen his father in his deep suffering and it made him decide use the scalpel in ways never used before. He began modestly enough: first two years he persevered that it occurred to him that he might be as well able to withstand the rigors of his chosen discipline; He plodded along. Somewhere along it became clear that he had a mission in life; he had found that focus which served as a counterweight to his gypsy-like existence, which followed in wake of death of father who could not bear the struggle and chose a rope to end his life. And then his mother followed her man of whom she had nothing but pity. Pity is not love and they had left its deep scars. That point where youthful dreams one by one went through some wringer marked the end of his fugitive years; instead came his future in some curious symbols which to his relief belonged to a dream state; he could on waking up dismiss those dreams played often against backdrops resembling more like an abattoir. It was his internship. The clarity of his precision cutting at the operating table apparent then somehow in dreams morphed into shambles: blood and gore of it wetted his dreams and its arousal served as a counterpoint to his missionary zeal. He had to acknowledge apart from his surgical skills, which were acquired by sheer drudgery, he was just like every one else. In the end he had come out as a surgeon overqualified and god-like. His problem had just begun.

He won his acceptance from his fellow scholars and his peers alike despite a disability, which however did not affect his skill. He was a mute but his cutting hand spoke instead. He was a mute who made his scalpel speak all that needed to be said of the man. It spoke truth and did not mince words. The scalpel was the man. Technology empowered that scalpel and whether it was guided by laser or a cryogenic medium his cutting hand spoke for him. Only technology needed to show the solution and Hoffman could make it work for him. He still was in control.
The year was 2285. The Space Age For All brought wealth of other galaxies to man. Funding of health care bigger and better than before was not the problem. The problem was man. He was disaster prone and to Hoffman it occurred so early that with so many disasters which the space age had brought he was too qualified for hacking away in some quiet corner. He worked out his own schedule and performed where his terms were acceptable anywhere across the globe. His life’s mission had taken a world- view glancing over the imperfections of his times.

It was a time where technology was a solution looking for a problem too.
It was inevitable that Hoffman and technology would come together and redefine their roles. The man who held the scalpel wanted to protect his hard earned skills. He had latched on to technology with as much as ease as lichens could find its nutrients from the rock. If the rock and lichens could find its common ground so could he with technology. His insight into where he was heading for was best exemplified in that section of a rock fossil that he always carried along. It showed some lichens some 64 million years old. In that fossil what minerals which once made up the plant had made its impression; it was thus he wanted himself to remembered: In such a fusion of his soul with technology if any one attributed a selfish motive he would have been the most perplexed; In different times he took long and hard look at himself and he could have said with a clean conscience that no selfish considerations had entered in his calculations in wanting to serve his times. At least till love entered in his personal equations. Himself, technology and love.

Ménage a Trois

Love came to Hoffman much late though he grew up in its midst. He fell in love with Mathilde, his guardian’s daughter on whom he at first had not entertained any notion of sharing his life let alone his innermost thoughts. As a medical student he would be at weekends a guest of his guardian, a banker. Sometimes he would be with the family at their vacation house in Cannes. He had from the beginning marked her as a hoyden and neck deep up to mischief. His attention of her, he could later recall with a smile, had begun on a curious disability of her, as the only one in his knowledge who never dreamt.
She was rather vain about it. Her governess did dream and so did all her friends and even the ones who disliked her in school had something nice to tell. She was 13 and she wanted to know if it was a medical condition. He thought she was putting him on so his opinion was merely dismissing such a state did not exist. He did not think it was necessary to give reasons for his conclusion. She laughed it off with a retort, ” Why you are only a tyro. I shall ask you the same question when you finish your college. Perhaps you may have another opinion.”
He shrugged his shoulders to reply, ”Perhaps? Who knows? You may even grow and recall your dreams.”
Somewhere along her adolescence she found his presence did much good to her. Her age seemed to bring out its inchoate creases as a matter of course. It was to Hoffman she could throw all doubts. He could distance himself to think from her angle. In matters of great or small he advised her as if it all came from her own. He could dissemble well that she only saw how easily he could think objectively. It was an effort for him. At her coming of age party it was his choice that made great impression on her. ‘You are so selfless!” she said hugging him and kissed him which took him by surprise at first. He had nothing against love but he hated being taken in surprise. When he saw her dressed as he had suggested he had to agree that she was right after all. He hated magenta but it did accentuate her skin its right tone. Why did he hate magenta? It was the color of the nylon rope that his father chose for his death. To comment upon that color without its painful associations required great effort. She asked her opinion and he just gave that. Not his opinion.
Matty was 19 when he had finished his college. There were so many days, weeks and months the happy pair spent together and her hoydenish hectoring did thaw his stiffness. He at first took it in good sport and thought she was very inventive and her smile and pranks all set her youth to advantage. Then it was love pure but not simple. He had to agree with Matty that in appearance they were a match and cut of the same clothe. Of medium height but able to carry himself well with aplomb that gave no hint of its depths; if their youthfulness were to be molded by a chisel, would have fitted the hands of Phidias but Rodin would have shown their inner life better.
At that time he had graduated from University of the Nations that sprawled along the Loire Valley where scholars came from Abidjan to Zagreb. Merit was only consideration. It had the pride of place among academic circles as the ultimate in two disciplines, – in particular of molecular biology and medicine. Hoffman entered its halls fully realizing that his life was in his control and he was on a quest, a scalpel that was his holy grail. When he graduated he was ready for his next phase in which marriage was not given a place. Hence at the time our story begins he still held his reservations, a priority. Matty found his excuses of profession having his priority hilarious. One day she with a laugh said that no man could have his whole life mapped out before he was ready to settle down. ” In fairness to the man he agreed that she had a point. Life is more than one man’s resolves for one’s future.
Jurgen Mannheim Griswold ran Griswold Conglomerates with ruthless efficiency to which his daughter had no partiality. He was widowed pretty early in life and he realized as soon as the period of mourning was over that he would not repeat his mistake ever again. He did love his wife too well; he came to observe that his investment in marriage was hardly secure with uncertainties of life that shredded emotions not to speak of time and his energy. So he remained a widower devoting more time for what he loved most. His business.
As soon as his only daughter came of age she took over the role of a hostess to lavish parties he gave at home and were well attended by every recipient of his invitations. These guests were gilt edges to his security as a banker and he loved to keep that image alive by bringing in interesting people from other walks of life. In such fusion the public relations man in Jurgen saw his daughter was an asset and his ward a rising star. They stood out. She was smart and chic. It was this image that Hoffman came to equate with Mathilde.
Hoffman was mute. He did not speak but he communicated through a microchip implanted under his arm which spelt out what he wanted to say through a monitor as large as a pocket book. That chip could send electrical impulses of his brain in a language that spoke as he did; technology had made it sound as masculine as she thought she could fall in love with the voice alone. That voice came to be a signature tune of a man whose strength she saw in his solidity. She could lean on that and feel his heart throbbing with life. She saw his life as twin aspect of her life. He called her butterfly and he could make technology speak caressingly or even in a matter-of-fact tone.
One evening coming from their usual walk from the woods he asked out of the blue, ”Do you still think you do not dream?”
“Of course I do not” she replied.
She had held her hand hooked to his and she gave a tug and said, ”No matter. You dream on my behalf. It is enough for me.”
He to his dismay realized that she was still intent on marriage.  What was more she was so besotted with him she wanted the same technology by which they could communicate in a higher plane as she put it. Beyond senses her love sought that mystery of his companionship. Which all nodes his past touched? Death of his parents and a few stray incidents of his pubescent years. Those scatological dreams blood and gore of it mere shadows of his aseptic life style? Did those light and shadow of his memory make her at one with his? She wondered. She well peeked into complexity of his mind and her love didn’t wince.
She desired him more than ever. Technology could translate language of senses in a way she could follow: how else could he have talked to her with his clear dark eyes and it said yes? Or with his smell?  Her eyes understood him as her smell found in his smell her soul’s delight. In implanting the same chip she thought it was like saying their mutual vows at the altar of Technology.
The banker had no inkling that his ward was the object of Mathilde’s affections and let him come often, which Hoffman could not always comply with owing to his other engagements. Mathilde was as necessary to him and served his needs as his work and even while he was deep in his tasks he was connected to her. The thought of technology playing cupid added a certain thrill. On her part, she glowed while he did surgery; she could sense as though the way his hands skillfully cut or torched and grafted organs to his patients it was as though she herself was present.
While Helmut stayed away from parties he could picture Matty just as well from where he labored, as a hostess at the mansion at Princehof Plaza Hamburg. It had no history but wealth had created its own which was clear from the moment one drove in and left one’s carriage into garage and let oneself led by the liveried servants into its primly pruned front garden enclosed by high walls. One may not more than cast a cursory look at the old fragments from ruins of other ends of the world and proceed to the portico that made its statement. Had one paused to look closely at the grey figures sprawling here and there one would have realized that a few of the victims of that volcanic eruption which devastated Pompeii have become objets d’art in Hamburg! Wealth of the banker had revised history of Pompeii to suit his own needs. If the grounds of his villa spoke of his interest in archaeology the house spoke of his indefatigable industry. What is kitsch to a serious art collector to the banker was something to take his mind from serious aspects of his profession. He let them merely to rest his weary eyes from looking no more than cursorily. For the very reason he shut his eyes from every impressionist or post impressionist painter of the nineteenth century. Wealth of Jurgen was hard won and in expending it over frivolities served its purpose. Marble and gold plated accessories all filled its occupant and master with a feeling that he had arrived.  If there were banquets and people wore formal and made small talk it was the hostess who made it all fit. Her down to earth liveliness and poise allowed the formal enjoy without letting their hair down.
Did Helmut felt bound to marry and settle down for all that ? Well no! She brought some sort of purity in his life that his work could not provide. He had a goal of becoming freed from his past. In that age where nations had learned to think as one to which their Space Age For ALL was a case in point, his parents had funded Cybernetics Applied Industries and they left it to Jurgen. He wisely lent for expanding the business when at a time space programs had hit a bad patch.  He saw to CAIN had created robots with AI to assist them in their Interplanetary Research Programs. There were too many casualties and heavy loss in human lives. But accidents were beyond one Bank’s sole purview. It was then he had floated Space Age for All ( SAFA) for the public and was underwritten by all the nations to tap every interstellar galaxy for its mineral wealth that initially showed great promise.  Then crises one after the other at a point did unnerve Jurgen. If the Bank did not foreclose rather too soon CAIN could still be operative.  Perhaps not. Anyway it always hung like a bad cloud in his mind. He undertook custody of Hoffman and his career owed solely to his financial support. Hoffman felt no embarrassment in receiving aid from one who had killed his parent’s dream.  He considered that he was his own man only after he had carved a name for himself, He had money too he took possession of all those robots and other properties held in custody of the Bank. He had discharged outstanding arrears to the last cent and he got rid of all except those robots. They were part of his ménage in the house set in the new up market section of Pretzen Ober Rijn. It was large with rooms modestly furnished but with great subtlety to which he had only to thank Matty who had become his second best interest outside the aseptic surgical wards.
She was connected to him by her physical desires and by technology. Thereby she had cast out the parental hold over her. Only after he had come into his own and secured the dream child of his parents he started thinking of marriage seriously.
One morning the divine surgeon to his shudder realized that he made a slip up at the operating table. The operation was what in other times he could have done blindfolded and his knot had slipped. In the next try he had got it right. None had noticed but it brought home on what uncertain ground he had his reputation built up. It took greater part of the day to leave its bruise from his mind. So when Mathilde suggested that evening he might as well make the robots earn their keep he looked at her wondering if she had sensed his near fall from grace.
“I had a difficult day,” he said as he flopped in his favorite chair. After some time he wanted to know what was about the robots that she found so remarkable.
“ These seven make me feel as if I am Snow White” she commented, ”don’t you think it is a good idea to make them specialize?”
Helmut knew she had caught up with him very fast. He asked her what she meant and she explained and said finally,” It shall not compete with you. Only you need map out different aspects of surgical procedures and guide them through a transponder. You are still the master.”
He just stared on. He had thought about it earlier and it was now coming back to him. He could not help smiling at her new found interest in a field, which was till now totally alien to her world. She had switched her position from that of a technophobe. Neither she nor he did go overboard except to squeeze as much out of technology for their main goal. She added,” If our chip implant is good for us it could be good for them too?” She was right.
One of the balmy days of spring Matty and Hoffman called on Elvirez Da Cunha who specialized in robots. He came around one day to take a look at the seven robots and he said that they could be restructured for their specific requirements. Elvirez worked out a detailed program and estimates that they agreed upon. Code Med was his solution. He said it worked in tandem as a system. Each unit had its own identity and receives its own signals to work independently or work as part of the herd in which each robot has specific scaled down function.
“ Each letter in Code Med stands for specific signals. It is a self-contained unit. C has its character as distinct and different from O and so on.” Elvirez said with emphasis.
“What of letters E and D which figure twice?” Hoffman cut in.
“E coded blue is the shepherd dog to the herd. It processes the signals from individual units and interfaces with D which is linked to your transponder.” Turning to Mathilde he added, ” The other D is what connects to you. You can scan from your notebook.”
“While I engage D suppose Mr. Hoffman wants to contact me will that be a problem?”
“No,” replied the expert,” The system will automatically transfer the call what E coded yellow, receive. One is for receiving and the other for sending signals which you both can clue in.” He added, “If needed it can be linked to a network for feedback if second opinion is required.”
He explained other essential features, which made the specific strength of one as the strength of all. Code Med he said has its abilities to convert non –verbal clues of its handlers, “in this case you both which derives from the common transponder.” He explained,” I can see you are wondering if it would not be an invasion of your privacy. Yes it is.” Elvirez paused to allow them to digest implications of what he had just said. He continued,” Your transponder is your world which is all the more indispensable because of Mr. Hoffman. If your transponder makes your interior world into a verbal mode Code Med taps it in order to perform as intended. One unit will always maintain its capacity to sense from signals of microchip implant and convert into a verbal mode.” The pair who listened intently their expressions ranging from surprise wonder had come to admire its immense potential. They looked at each other to say,” Our world is private and yet the outside world is only a signal away!”
Elvirez held his hands up to correct,“ Your private world will always remain inviolate.” He said with a chuckle, “You may want a second opinion but what leaves your work station is edited thoroughly, automatically of course.”
Hoffman wanted to know more about the manner Code Med perceived non- verbal cues. Elvirez explained once over and said, “What you might read from thought patterns of your wife has its particular fingerprint as she has her own value system. Code Med has to set down a coherent text, and right too for specific problems, considering value systems of each being different. These they do from data available from what is perceived for given time and context: each of you serves as database. Code Med will search and make sentences.” They heard Elvirez explaining working modalities in silence. Elvirez could realize the last bit was far out for them to take in. “I know you must be thinking that the machine has undue control over processing its data. No! We should always be in control. Shouldn’t we?” They nodded.
In the end he said with a chuckle. “I have provided a sting which the system cannot get at. “ He explained in so many words it considering they have gone farther than their level permitted. A few days later to a query that Matt asked on the sting system he said thus:” It is an active digitizer which retrieves the parameters it has employed in setting a text and scanning the worksheets we will know if Code Med has done a proper job or not. It cannot tamper with signals AD collates from it”
“Why such a precaution?”
“Code Med is an assembly of AI and its different facets. It can pose conundrums such as an independent mind can pose from so many alphabets to stump its handlers. But in keeping its transcript in its development we can trace the source and intents.”
“Then there is darker intents possible?” Hoffman asked curtly.
Human intelligence has its downside so will what is artificial given its state of the art.” Elvirez replied.
He produced a digital pen and he admitted that he had it assembled since their last session that he could understand had made them somewhat uneasy. He patiently explained. “Each of the signals, which Code Med sends in-house and for the network is recorded by it. What this scores over others is its leaving markers through their transcripts for a handler to draw his or her own conclusions.” In the end they were happy that they had a system which made their world dovetail into each other efficiently.
One morning the banker asked for an interview. He had found the time when Matty would not be around. She had that day left for Paris to shop around for her trousseau. Perhaps it were merely a casual meeting between two men who had nothing common except some mutual interests which an alliance would entail in some roundabout way. Helmut could guess what was in his mind and did not feel any perturbed. The banker made it understood that he was complete in agreement with his daughter’s wishes and came to the point.
After he defended his actions briefly which had killed the dream of his, he said the CAIN would not have survived long given the down turn of events. “IPR died its natural death and what I did was to soften the blow that hung over your parents’ dream.”
Hoffman well knew every argument even before it was laid out. He patiently heard him out.
Jurgen said: “ It was not any guilt that made me appoint myself as your guardian. I saw that you represented future. Investment in one who has a future always brings its returns. I believe it as a banker. I will swear by that. You are the future son.”
Hoffman replied that if he had any animosity to him he would have not let him take the role of his benefactor. “Besides hatred is a powerful emotion. As a surgeon I cannot afford its luxury.”
The banker understood him. He made it clear in so many indirect hints that Matty was his heir presumptive and her mother had left a sizeable fortune to her. Hoffman heard him out as he got through a painful interview with his customary good nature which left the older man realize that he was indeed superior to him.
Hoffman had pushed his work back of the mind as he discussed the coming wedding. The Banker wanted to give them as wedding present Code Med which as he facetitiously said, ‘was his contribution to the health care.’
It was thus while the wedding took place their nest was all in disarray with a family wing added to the existing which was to house Code Med.

For honey moon the couple went to Egypt. Sailing down the Nile they went back in time and thence to Aegean islands. Hoffman had a passion for rocks, which he collected and it was his way connecting with the past. He showed fossils of sea creatures that were ferreted from the rocky cliffs. Matty was a willing pupil as he was of her world. She looked at him in wonder that his mind had found a varied diet of natural world as stimulating as the sanctity of his theatre. They communicated still because of his disability but technology gave them much more nuances to it. Their personal digital window opened to soul of the other. In her notebook his thoughts were sentences and speech as virile as she had imagined of him to be. He could read between lines of her words her soul. She held nothing of her fathers home.
One week after returning from honeymoon it was like coming home. Pretzen villa was her own nest and even the strange places they traveled together at a leisurely pace did not remove altogether her tryst with domesticity. With love which each felt from pulse of other made its prosaic features more attractive with each day.
One month away from their villa was keenly felt since Mathilde could feel the need as much as her husband who had revised his busy schedule and could not stay away any further. She felt as if she were deprived from her own busy schedule.  Still fresh with glow of their honeymoon Hoffman wanted to know on the morning after the night if she did dream.” No, I didn’t.” He shot a searching look at her.” Is it possible?”
“ Why should I now bother with dreams? It is more likely that the robots may see dreams before I.”
“Would you mind?”
“Oh no.” was her answer.


Matty kept the house while Hoffman traveled distant places; wherever he went she traveled with him via the robot that he took along and he could assist in performing specific functions.  Where she was redundant her actual value derived from her surrogate whose AI made her role more than a homemaker. She was in a manner of speaking had become susceptance, the imaginary part of the complex surgical procedures which bound her husband to a robot.
Six months after they were married Hoffman had gone for three days on a case, which she knew was exacting and demanded much from him. Besides death anniversary of his father came in its middle. She was before her work- station catching up with the news. It was O who took her call and in an instant she was beside him. Her implanted chip made her scan his thoughts had she had to smile,” A case of burns. Trying out skin graft.” The essentials came out as if he dictated right then in the middle of it  “Be back on Friday. For funeral.”
Suddenly her expression froze. She knew somewhere an error had got in.
“What was the funeral you talked about?” she asked when he had come from his trip. He thought for a while and scowled. He could not remember of any funeral. It was while he checked his watch for their evening party with some of their friends he thought what it could be. Funeral of his father was on a grey November. The date was exactly 24 years ago. “What Code Med has to do with reminding funeral or any other engagements?” Hoffman was astonished. It was as if one intruded into their private space for no reason.
Hoffman later in the evening recalled all those painful recollections, which had attended his last rites. She pressed his arm as he fidgeted while they had a nightcap. “ You can talk to me about it if you want to.” She said. He merely shook his head and she understood from her notebook that he was a trifle irritated. “Let lying past alone. Love.” She knew that his parents were mere shadows and Code Med merely raked in dead ashes. Hoffman talked of his case at hand and O had interpreted wrongly. Their tragedy was merely dragged in by some strange malapropism.
Next day Mathilde referred into transcript. Hoffman had not logged in as yet. They brought fresh to her mind her conversation with her husband and it was exactly true.
Only one line seemed a mistake which after she had rearranged read as, “Helm/ hath/ no/ fury/ like/ a/ woman/ scorn’d/” This had crept in the text whose continuity could have been discernible only from the slight variation of its typeface from the rest. All those words when set in order were clear enough. The clue to its intention was clear from the usage of old English hath instead of ‘has’. That evening Matty had it before Hoffman and they had a laugh over the pun. Matty said, “I know the line is from Shakespeare, Bob,” he agreed. He commented, ”Code Med has an attitude.”
They dismissed outright as too ridiculous for notice.
For a week everything seemed working all right. Then came a series of errors, which warranted Elvirez to come in. He checked the whole system and found that AI had indeed its own fingerprint. “From the incident it may look as if the system recognizes the presence of our sting operation.” It was the way of Code Med to make outsider take a bum rap. They had ganged on the digitizer to make it seem redundant.”
He continued, “I could abort the sting operation if you want to.”
“Oh no,” Hoffman said as if it was a preposterous suggestion,” Active Digitizer is crucial to us as Code Med. We are not afraid of our own dreams or work of our hands. It shall remain at our control.”
“Do you think it can ever get out of hand?” Matty wondered when they were alone, “ Suppose it read our thoughts wrongly? She asked her husband. He hugged her and said, ”We think better than they. Do we not? Then what is the problem?”
Matty smiled and he said, ” They are not here to correct us but for our convenience.”

Two years of their marriage was idyllic and Matty could enjoy in her husband’s success as much as she were an associate who did equal contribution to Health Care. They bought a vacation villa on the isle of Elba. He was at the point was onto something big. He was day and night devising a sustainable recovery program for age related damages to the brain. As a surgeon he thought in terms of technique and background information, which he needed of neuronal dysfunctions he could tap from Code Med. He needed it for his development in research as Mathilde who smoothened every wrinkle of frustration. But for her constant encouragement he would have had left off half way. She was his ear to various schemes in its inception. She was also present as it evolved into a workable stage. If he scrapped it in the middle for being too complex to be of practical use she could understand that his reasons were right. She stood by inspiring him to give it another try and yet another. Code Med was part of their world in making their togetherness more rewarding than ever.
The first holiday was like going back in time. Their sailboat the Eight Bells carried them and their dreams. One week was all that they could take from their self- imposed research program. Two years he had allowed himself no break from his profession and he had said, ’my life really would begin at 40.’
Matty to her disappointment saw that her husband was more like a man possessed since it was clear to them that two years will not be sufficient for putting the research complete. Hoffman assured that it is but natural that much time spent in his research, from initial stage to a break- through would not show as worthwhile. “ Every day wasted over the preliminaries is absorbed in that final moment of breakthrough. So back to square one.” Matty could understand it was still gnawing his mind since his ability to make love had almost ceased. She knew him well and she knew that he would be all the more embarrassed to be confronted with it at that moment. She recalled those early days and he was as exciting and overpowering, which was as if his speech disability had sent every available resource as if in compensation to her fulfillment. She let herself carried along by his intense concentration that was infectious to say the least. Her husband’s mission had rubbed on to her.
One morning Hoffman logged in his notebook and he was mystified by what Code Med had transcribed from her conversation to him. She was away on a sailing holiday. She had been to their villa to check the ongoing renovation that the contractors had promised to finish in a month. In such a straightforward prosaic detail there were a few garbled information. Code Med was at it again. The pieces when put together made him wince. It was a bad joke. “Able/ was/ I/ ere/ I/ saw/ Elba/” Matty
Hoffman knew that Code Med had palmed off a corny palindrome in this case. In putting Matty’s name it merely showed its bad attitude. He in his reply casually mentioned to her that Code Med had slipped again.
What upset Matty was that she could not get out of these taunts of Code Med because it was too vital for Hoffman than for her. To expect him to work on without it was to undo all those years, which had made him an extension of it as she was. It was only in matter of degrees. Such unequal partnership to it made any suggestion for its removal as unfair.
Her mind was in turmoil and to her surprise while she was in the villa she saw a dream for the first time which she could recall after she awoke. She wrote it in essential details and sent it over to her husband. If he did not take it as unusual it was different for her. It was a dream. Nevertheless it was hers. She could not get rid of it and in its simplicity and surrealism she felt that she was as marked as by a brand of iron. She wanted to be near her husband. “Perhaps it will cease to be of any consequence with my love around.”
That noon she set sail to the mainland. Hoffman knew that she coming home and he had decided to take the day off.
He knew that she had cut short her vacation in haste. She needed him as much as he needed her. What he did not understand what set off a full-blown dream so late? Was it any premonition of sorts which he should take note of?
That night he went to bed early since he had to be at the airport to receive her.
Hardly he had drifted into sleep he awoke with a start. ”I saw a dream!” he said loud. It took a second too late to recognize that he could speak again. The gift of speech was not so fresh or meaningful as the sting of his dream. He shivered and blurted out, ” I saw her dead.”
He spoke the truth. News came to him that the Eight Bells was found drifting in the sea and Mathilde was dead when she was found. “Cause of death is unknown. No foul play is suspected.” It said.
“Is my speech as result of it, her gift?” Hoffman was too stunned to think of it further. He collapsed under shock.
The Orion

Hoffman did not realize, as one week after Mathilde’s funeral that she left a void which nothing could replace. Her death had connected to his own loss; and with his parents.  But it had not prepared him for what lay ahead. The living and his own dreams. His life and hers had touched much more than he had any inkling of. It still left him incomplete.
He was still connected to Code Med which merely brought fresh his past and it was intolerable. The first task, which signaled that his mourning was at an end, was when he asked Elvirez to check Code Med for worms. “It seems to me that it was not any virus but worms which gave its attitude.” The surgeon came straight to the point.
Elvirez stared at Hoffman as if he was incoherent. He asked, ”What makes you say as if it is a fact?”
Hoffman said, ”I had a dream.” The expert could not believe it.
One week later Elvirez came back to him to say he was right after all.
He explained that the culture of worms, which he said was hatched between the robots and had passed on between them to pass detection.
“Who could have thought you would see it in a dream!” The expert was dumbfounded,” it took me almost four days of sweat.”
Hoffman nodded to say, ‘yes it seems so.’ What Hoffman did not say was it was Mathilde who dreamt of the conspiracy of robots. It was all that one dream, which her life could hold on to. It must have affected her beyond belief that she cut short her vacation.  She had said, “I need a hug so bad that I can cry.” What it had lead to! Mathilde needed a window into her lover’s soul. She had wished for a dream. She had often told him in their most intimate moments that.
She had realized her dream. It was only that it was to Code Med that she opened her window instead. It made him shudder.
Elvirez asked a favor from him to report of the worms ‘Code Med’ in a scientific journal. He agreed.
In the end he instructed Elvirez to break up Code Med into individual units to serve him for surgery alone.
He said to the banker who had called on him to enquire that he was through with his research. “I shall stick to my profession and nothing more.” Before parting he asked him a personal question, which made the banker a shade embarrassed. ”Do you dream?” Hoffman asked him
“No,” the older man replied with a somber expression,” unfortunately no.” Then he was gone.
Later On his fortieth birthday he was invited to take up control of the Orion which he did. It was the answer to the accident-prone age of his. A ship of immense size and a law unto itself. It was entirely in his control. A floating Health care entirely manned by robots made sense to him. In the appointment order one line made him smile inwardly. ‘To one who dream this will come as no surprise.”
It was the Banker’s manner of apologizing for that curious disability which was somehow passed on to his daughter.
The End

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A Bedtime Story


The City is noted for its minarets and gardens. On a
sunny day the four minarets of the Blue Mosque rise to
the skies like prayers of many believers; more
picturesque is the central dome covered with some
millions of blue tiles. Such blue is no more seen
since the sultan decreed ‘Blue is passé’. See how it
stands, a shimmering dome like the tear of an angel,
frozen in midair. The Blue Mosque. Poets loved
watching the dome under changing lights through the
day! It made their poetry sound sweeter. Hamals (or
porters) carrying heavy loads through winding and
crooked streets looked at that dome rising from the
city skyline and instantly their loads became lighter
and they thought life was worth living. No one could
resist its power. Except one.
See that crooked street cutting through the market?
Do you see that shop on the right? A To Z the board
says. Anything money can buy is sold there. Ziddiq,
the shopkeeper is dressed in drab clothes and his
beard is browned as his fingers are calloused. Henna
colored his beard which he allowed because his wife
thought brown was becoming in one so old; his fingers
were calloused from counting money: large sums of it
every night passed through his fingers when the folks
slept. While the dome of the Blue Mosque gleamed under
a waning moon! Poor Ziddiq! He had never even heard of
the blueness of the dome under whose shadow he lived
all his life!
One morning his neighbor told him in strictest
confidence the price of grains would go sky-high. How
high? Ziddiq asked. He quoted a figure. Ziddiq said,
”impossible.” As soon as his neighbor was gone he
called his eldest son to find what were the prices for
items written in his list. His son came back with his
findings. After reading it he was astounded! A sack of
barley cost only three copper pieces!”
Having ordered for as much as could be bought he had
a problem: ”Where to stock them?”
He knew just the place. He had a large warehouse
where his father put away every thing he had no
immediate use for. Just as his forefathers had done in
the past. It was bursting in its seams as the
expression is. He called a few servants and asked them
to clear up that place. Nothing was to be spared.
Hour’s later servants came to report. They said his
orders were carried out except for a carpet, which was
of size 64”by 37 inches.
“I am in no mood for checking the size of a carpet.”
“But master,” said Samir, ”It was made somewhere in
Samarqand probably late 17th century. It is silk. If
you ask me it is one of the finest.” “Shut up!”Ziddiq
yelled, ”Who asked you for your opinion?”
The silk carpet was decorated with a mihrab design
(a cusped arch with geometric motifs) in the field
counterpoised with arabesque in the spandrels. A
stylized floral pattern running around the edges
completed the piece.
He ordered the laborers to set light to it. “I
shall not have this nonsense here!” The menials balked
at the idea. They pleaded. “A thing of beauty,
master!”Samir cried. He became enraged at the word
beauty and he shoved them aside.
“A thing of beauty such as this has a life of its
own.” Kalam added his. They all pleaded with tears in
their eyes. With uncontrollable rage he pushed them
aside. He himself torched it and said, ”There, you try
to teach me beauty!” He was in a rage. He said, “You
all live a life of ease because I pay you wages in
time. Be gone!” He was so worked up.
That day Ziddiq went home very late. He was tired
but he had found a place for thousands and thousands
of sacks of grains, which came in a convoy one after
the other. Only seeing them secured for the night
eased his fury somewhat. Then he saw how his son had
put his men to guard it. He had done well, and the
father’s heart swelled with pride. The young man gave
him the keys and the accounts and left for home.
Mentally Ziddiq calculated the profit he stood to
make and that made him laugh. In a happy frame of mind
he followed his son.
He went home to eat his frugal supper. Even when he
went through the motions of the nighttime prayer he
had only one thought. He would make all his rivals
bite the dust. So much profit he stood to make. He
wandered through the house and secured the doors for
the night.
At the time he was about to lie down he thought he
heard a knocking sound. As if some were shifting
things around somewhere. So distinct it sounded. His
wife lay asleep. He checked into his sons’ room. They
were also asleep.
“Clickety-Click,” he heard. “It must be from across
the river,” said he. He put out the candle and lay in
bed. The same sound again. “Clikety-Clack!”
”Clikety-Klak!” The sounds came louder this time. He
thought it came from his drawing room. It was distinct
and very ominous. With each minute the clicking sound
went louder and louder. He could not sleep with such
an infernal noise. Again he got out. He lit a candle,
which he could barely hold for fright.
He peeped into the parlor.
There was an intruder!
And he had settled himself in the middle of the
parlor as if he owned the place. He felt a murderous
rage struggling with his fear at the scene presented
before him.
Across the parlor stood a weaving frame; and a very
old man with sad look in his deep-set eyes, went on
working. “What on earth!” It was all he could say. His
fear swallowed the rest of the sentence. Instead a
squeal. Even that did not distract the wizened
intruder. The ghastly apparition of a weaver did not
look up nor acknowledge his presence. Instead he was
bent over the frame intently checking his work. Having
satisfied himself he went on knotting the fibres and
cutting the knots to make naps. Ziddiq had no idea
whether his eyes were deceiving him or some rival of
his was hell-bent for mischief. Before his very eyes
filmed with fear and pricked with hate the old weaver
went on and on. His hands flew over the carpet while
adjusting the warp and the woof without missing a
beat. So free and fluid his movements were. As if he
had been doing it all his life and could have done
even while asleep.
He was masterly in his work.
Ziddiq stood there transfixed. Clickety-click,
Clinkety-clank, So went on the loom while the room
was lit by a spot of light that hovered around the
design, which was becoming clearer with each motion of
his hands. Ziddiq would have screamed but his voice
died silently. The weaver looked at him with sad eyes
that in its hurt, without any rancor whatsoever, no
stab-wound would have come anywhere near. It twisted
his heartstrings beyond endurance.
Ziddiq could only twitch in response.
He trembled uncontrollably when the spectre of a
weaver looked once towards him. Those eyes now seemed
to challenge him. The infernal intruder said, “ My
life was in that carpet. Now I must weave another
because you so callously destroyed it.”
Having said his piece he continued with his task as
if he were alone in his own workshop. He was sad as
before and yet, very resolute. As if he knew he could
do it. Without tiring himself. Ziddiq could do nothing
but watch in horror. He went hot and cold as an
exquisite design began to take shape before his eyes.
Clikety-clack! Clickety-click! The weaver went on
without stopping and he was inhuman that he could draw
for his carpet filaments out of thin air! He wanted to
scream but nothing. He stood there petrified!
Poor Ziddiq! While the swirls of design now settled
down to a pattern he felt short of breath! As if the
ground under his feet gave way to something
insubstantial, and the walls melted and flowed about
him. Clickety-click! clikety- Clak! went on the loom
unrelenting. ‘Clickety-click! Clikety-clak!’ It went
on enveloping everything else.

Next morning the City awoke to some astounding news.
Where the ancestral home of Ziddiq stood nothing ever
remained but a prayer mat. No one could well explain
what occurred in the small hours of the night.
Samir and Kalam came as usual to take orders from
their master. Instead they were witnesses to
something, which no one could explain. There stood not
a trace of the master’s house! Some one had cleaned up
the old wooden beamed house with terrace and balcony
and not even a door hinge lay there; the wrought-iron
washstand where their master always went for wash
before prayers was missing; the folding stool and the
holy book also had vanished! Except a prayer mat.
Passers-by came over by curiosity and all that they
saw was the curiously wrought prayer mat. Nothing
Samir could not take his eyes off it. It didn’t
explain the mystery! Still bewildered he stood there.
Finally he commented, ”A crazy-quilt pattern. I see
Master’s profile his beard and all- so distinct. What
do you think, Kalam?”
“I do not think anything,” Kalam replied, “But the
mat will make some money for a second-hand dealer.”
The End

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