An (abandoned) first draft of an untitled story.

I decided to take this story in another direction, but I really enjoyed writing this. Maybe you’ll find some pleasure in it too, short and incomplete as it is.

 

While the most likely outcome is that her unconscious mind will reject the coupling, there is also the possibility that my mind will collapse in on itself, taking Selassie’s with it. I am recording this log in the event that the latter outcome is realised. This is uncharted territory I am wading into.

 

# Dela could only faintly recall a single image from when they first met at six years old; of their mother lying in a casket, her face pale and at peace. Selassie was too little to understand why she was crying. She held up her little hand, offering a candy.

~ Selassie did not remember offering Dela a candy, or much about the funeral itself. She remembered the car ride back, and the colour of the trees in the harmattan.

 

Perfect recollection is impossible for any species of sentient animal on earth. At least, there is no known evidence to the contrary. For most of human history memory was unreliable, fragmented, and impermanent, until Allotey and I made breakthroughs in our understanding of memory which ultimately led to the invention of the View technology.

 

We began by studying what happened in the brains of people who had unconsciously repressed their memories of traumatic events, as well as those who could recall memories in eidetic detail. We knew that powerful emotion was the primary agent in selecting which memories were stored, discarded, and which ones were actively repressed. We sought to understand what happened in the brain when these extremes of cognition occurred, and for years we had no success, until we discovered a means of identifying and isolating the exact neural pathways along which recollections of past events fired. Two years later we found a means to suppress the synaptic responses triggered when specific memories fired, effectively limiting ability to recall said events.

 

Early tests on individuals who suffered from PTSD and child abuse proved to be successful at limiting the recall of traumatic memories. As to whether they went on to live better lives was less clear. A small number of those who underwent the initial trial reported that while they had no recollection of their trauma, they felt overwhelmed by a feeling of paranoia they had no basis for, having no memory of what it might be rooted in. This was expected, as we knew that stressful memories altered the brain in ways their mere suppression would not reverse.

 

To my surprise Allotey did not think this was cause for concern. He was sure that our work would lead to a resolution for this in time, and urged me to focus my energies on what was at hand. Allotey always believed our legacy would be the elimination of painful memories. He was convinced these were the source of suffering, and to eliminate them would be the solution to human unhappiness.

 

# He could remember her bike, a shiny green busanga with streamers on the handles. He remembered running along beside her as she rode through puddles, splashing red mud on jeans his father would beat him for dirtying. He remembered the streamers, how they fluttered in the breeze, and her smile, wide and unafraid, not a care in the world.

~ She remembered the bike as well, but she was certain it was blue, the seat too high and the gears too tight. He ran beside her the entire time. That was when she knew she would marry him.

 

Our paper (the “Allotey-Koffie study,” as it came to be known) sent a ripple across the scientific community. The implications of our discovery were incredible. Our peers called our work “revolutionary,” and were optimistic it would lead to breakthroughs and answers to long-standing questions about cognition, and the nature of memory. Further research revealed a number of capabilities, as well as limitations of our method. For one, we could not retrieve lost memories. In an attempt to treat amnesia we found that physical damage to neural pathways could not be repaired. We could, however, reinforce and strengthen existing pathways, increasing vividness of recall to the point that early testers could not tell the difference between remembered events and present reality.

 

(This is where it falls apart 😬. I didn’t properly flesh out my ideas past this point.)

 

The first of the hacker groups cropped up about five years ago. They were a small group of about a hundred users who claimed to be able to edit recorded memories, to alter minor details and recollections. BigCorp immediately revoked their use permissions as a violation of a vaguely worded clause in their fair use agreement. Unsurprisingly, BigCorp released a major update announcing the new Alter feature, which took advantage of their AI to enable editing recollections of facial expressions, locations, events, etc. They quieted protests that this would render memory unreliable by showing that all records of memory were version controlled across board, and users could elect which changes to keep and discard when sync requests were issued. Amarh voiced his displeasure vehemently, warning against the danger of all memory becoming unreliable, since if memories could be edited, which ones could be trusted? No one listened. BigCorp was too powerful, and in their relentless drive to create “moments worth remembering,” they pushed this update hard. That first hacker group faded into obscurity, to be replaced by tamer, more compliant ones.

 

# Went to different colleges. Saw other people. Stayed in touch hardly. Began to Skype each other near end. Admitted crush. She was beautiful in all the ways I did not expect. There was something about the way she … that rarefied the air around her and left him light-headed. She laughed right then, and he found himself laughing with her, for no reason other than he was happy she was happy.

 

By far the most troubling of the hacker groups were those who called themselves “the Styx”. They voluntarily subjected themselves to life-threatening dangers in an attempt to induce near death experiences. They believed the perfect recall their Views afforded them would enable them record whatever they glimpsed of the beyond. BigCorp inflicted immediate access revocations to the few they caught using them, but the majority were able to mask their activity and continue uncaught. Even though I’m not sure I believe them. It seems more likely they took perverse pleasure in what they thought was some affirmation of their life, some “triumph” over death in that they walked in the valley of its shadow, and feared no ill.

 

# He remembered the fear, most of all. To this day he felt waves of dread wash over him as he recalled the doctor’s prognosis. Brain scans showed normal brain activity, and yet it was unclear when she would wake from the coma.

~ .

 

Should this work we might be able to share memories–to share minds–but I don’t know what that means. Would sharing memories truly be equivalent to sharing minds? Am I defined by my particular collection of memories? What does that then say about which memories are selected, and which ones are repressed? I’m not sure you would feel my exact pain, my anguish, my apathy, and I wouldn’t want you to.

 

# He stood at the casket and for the second time in his life, stared down at the face of the most important woman in his life as she lay still, her face pale and at peace. They said she hadn’t felt a thing. He could only remember the numbness. The overwhelming, debilitating numbness. It was only a dream, but the fear it filled him with was real.

~ .

 

Allotey never understood that memories, while often the source of pain, were not ultimately the cause of our anguish. He believed that happiness was the absence of suffering, but he was wrong. We desire to be known and loved in spite of everything wrong with us. We desire empathy.

Parse Time

“But they told me I was insane.”

“Yes, well, for the most part you were,” the small man said as he buffed his spectacles. He huffed twice on each lens and continued wiping.

“Only someone unhinged could see past their programming and infer the nature of the simulation.” He glanced up at me as he set his glasses on the bridge of his nose.

“I mean, look around you. Any other human mind would have collapsed as they tried to comprehend this expanse,” he said, gesturing vaguely at the vast, featureless void we were suspended in. I thought nothing of it, only that it was a little strange I felt pressure under my feet only when I wiggled my toes. Why was that?

He stared at me over the the rim of his glasses, his hands clasped behind his back.

“How did you manage it?” he asked, his voice tinged with an edge I couldn’t read.

“Manage what?”

His features were inscrutable.

“How did you see past your programming?”

I stared down at my left arm and turned my hand over, flexing my fingers. They’re funny things, arms. So often they cannot hold on long enough to the things we love.

“Come with me.”

I obliged, navigating the void to his side. I wiggled toes that had only known psych ward floors for eight years, each time feeling the pressure of ground pushing back on them, despite the fact there was no perceptible ground plane here.

“The other Elders thought that peeling back the curtain every so often to allow the humans a glimpse of the inner workings of the simulation was not a good idea, but none of you  ever gave me reason to regret this. Not the philosophers, not the physicists, not the mathematicians, not the chefs, no-one. No one realised that their experiences served not to pass time, but to parse it, and that humans only function to allow us mine the distillate of their conscious experience.” He slowly turned to face me as we floated on. “Until you. Why were you different?”

Even now, I was being processed.

I decided then I didn’t like the toe-wiggling mechanics of this expanse. I couldn’t remember what it was like to wiggle them in water, next to someone I loved. At least in the wards, I could lift my feet off the ground and imagine.

“At some point it registered that it was just some kind of metaphysical process for transmuting time,” I said absently, switching to stare at my right arm. Just then I remembered I’d lost it in the fire that had killed Selasi. Oddly enough I swore I could feel, and flex phantom fingers. I had heard of this.

“It’s an amazing thing, consciousness, and it always bothered me. What is the point of it, really? I always thought it was a bit … superfluous, and inefficientI could never remember to tell her I loved her, but why can’t I forget I failed to save her?

Glasses raised an eyebrow. He seemed about to say something, then caught himself. He came to a stop, his eyes keen. I stared off into the white nothing.

“Her death had to mean something,” I said softly.

“Yes, well your pain counted for three million qubits.”

“So, nothing.”

I shut my eyes, and passed from one void into another.

So I’ll sort of explain the hiatus.

I started this blog with only a vague idea of what I wanted it to be. Matter of fact, I was more certain of what I didn’t want it to be (unconnected posts, as-and-when ramblings, passive aggressive thinkpieces, etc. etc.). My first post was a piece on faith I originally posted to my tumblr. My second was a short story I stayed up late (and enjoyed) writing. I thought this would be how it went; stories or poems, and posts on faith.

I tried to post regularly. I know, 19 posts over two years is by no stretch “regular” but in my defense, I wanted my posts to mean something. I feel my short stories were my most meaningful work, but they took time. I decided to include book reviews and the odd anecdote and before I knew it, I wasn’t sure where this was going. What happened to faith and short stories? Was I becoming an as-and-when, passive aggressive thinkpiece guy who wrote unconnected posts? Ugh.

So I kind of just stopped. It wasn’t a conscious decision, really, I just wasn’t writing what I truly wanted to. I felt my stories were my most meaningful work because I could say the things I wanted, but from behind the veil of characters and the semblance of plot. I let myself explore my weird ideas, my half-formed philosophies and honest opinions. I wrote “confessions” at a time when I was struggling with the thought of what my hopes and dreams meant for me. I wrote “Miles and miles of wire” when I faced the fact that my father is mortal, and won’t be around forever. I could be (ack) vulnerable, and yet not really. Still, that doesn’t explain all of it, like how there’s only the one post on faith (the first).

For a long time my faith has carried an asterisk, a result of my struggle with doubt. I identify with the father in Mark 9:34; “[Lord] I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” I love Jesus, but I’m prone to wander. I’ve seen too much beauty in faith to let cynicism harden my heart, but my heart is not soft. For this reason I’ve felt I have no place talking about faith. I thought, who am I to say, “Trust the Lord” when I’m afraid a day will come when I don’t anymore?

We’re all on different journeys, and I’m beginning to appreciate my own. I’ve had to deal with what I have so I can empathize with the ones like me and understand grace a tiny bit better. I see things differently. I am not perfect. I am not impressive, I am not special. All I have is a heart full of good intentions, and a desire to see others know God’s grace. God has given me my particular set of interests, relationships, pursuits and experiences to shape my unique purpose, and I’ll only find that purpose when my life is laid down. The life laid down is hidden, but not behind excuses, insecurities, and fears. It is hidden in Christ and his glory. If it were up to me to sustain my faith, then yes, I would have every reason to fear losing it, because I am weak. Thankfully, 1 Peter 1 and Hebrews 12 tell me otherwise.

I want my light to shine. Maybe it’s in a life lived loud, maybe it’s in a life no one thinks is particularly noteworthy. Whatever the case may be, I want to play my part in the story of grace. This blog is a small part of the journey, and I’m excited to see where it goes.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to post more (lol). Sahrry.

Pokémon No

Pokémon No

Capture

When I found out I could play Pokémon Go here my brain froze for a second. You’re telling me I can freaking catch Pokémon in real life? SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MON – wait, what? I can do this for free?? I think I died briefly. I did not waste time downloading that app (yes, I know Ghana isn’t supposed to have it but this is the Internet era. There are Ways And Means), and I did not waste time beginning my Pokéquest.

Charmander, I choose you!

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After almost a week of playing however, I have uninstalled Pokémon Go, despite being a fan and really enjoying the game. But before I tell you why let me tell you about yesterday.

So, yesterday morning I woke up at 7:30am and was out of the house at 8:00am hunting Pokémon. Thankfully, the servers were behaving (Niantic if your servers dey crash ah wear them seat belt, eh. Logic🙄) and the game ran smoother than it ever has. Armed with a fully charged power bank I took a trotro to the only gym and Pokéstops in my proximity, three churches about six miles away. I roamed in circles for long enough to look like a mad man but it wasn’t my hood so I wasn’t worried. I played for a while, caught quite a few Pokémon, trained at the Valor gym (which was frustrating because it was guarded by a high-CP Pinsir) then headed back to my hood. I knew where I was going. I was going to this place:

IMG_20160718_114211

I was going to see if I could catch flying Pokémon at the top of the thing. I mean, flying Pokémon will be in the air, or?

The funny thing is, I’ve been meaning to visit this site for at least six years, but before Pokémon Go I never bothered. This game eh? I saw parts of my hood I didn’t know existed in the eight years I’ve lived here.

To my chagrin (I tried to think of a Pokémon pun for that. How about charman-grin? No? Ok), the security said no one’s allowed up the machine. He did give me a tour though. Now I know how bitumen is made. Yay Pokémon, enabling on-site education!

I wandered around catching Doduos for a while, evolved one into a Dodrio, then headed back to the gym to see if Dodrio could beat that damn Pinsir (he could not).

I checked the time and it was 2:00pm. I had just spent six hours of my life hunting for imaginary pocket monsters. It was at this point that I realized this could not continue. I quietly uninstalled the game, got on a trotro back home, and just reflected on my life choices. I mean, if I had spent the last six hours on something more … productive, I’d have something to show for it. All I had were imaginary pocket monsters. I was kind of torn up inside, because Pokémon really meant a lot to me.

A lot of people who don’t understand the hype never played Pokémon when they were younger. Pokémon was a big deal for me growing up. My earliest memories of it are from third or fourth grade at least, when the other kids with their Gameboy Colors wouldn’t let me play, and I had no clue where to buy the trading cards they brought to school to battle with. I just remember it being the coolest thing my nine-year old brain had ever seen. Later my sister got me Pokémon Stadium for the Nintendo 64. I was addicted by now; I was reading the Tracey West Pokémon chapter books, and I read the Pokémon handbook till the covers fell off.

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In my early teens I figured out how emulators worked and played a lot of the original games on my computer. Pokémon Gold was epic. I remember beating Red on Mt. Silver;

Pokemon-Silver-vs-Red

that was like, the highlight of my year (I’m exaggerating, but you get the point). It’s got a lot of hype because it meant a lot to us when we were younger. We all secretly wished we could travel the land catching Pokémon for realz, and now we can. Sort of.

But I can’t justify playing this game. First off it takes way too much dedication. Yes, it gets you to exercise, but I have a running app for that. Yes, it gets you to go outside and (maybe) socialize, but I have a social life. I leave the house two whole times a week, like a party animal. I just think it’s a little too escapist for twenty- and thirty-year olds to be so invested in this game. Trying to recapture the nostalgia of ten years ago and live out a childhood fantasy is not enough motivation for me to continue playing; I have present-day goals, and I gotta catch ‘em all. This is not a knock on any of those playing, far from it. I’m talking about my own experience. Feel free to walk around in circles trying to find Caterpie, it’s your life.

Also, this girl I’m into thinks it’s really lame.

Pokémon Go is a fun experience, but until they release Pokémon Stay-In-Your-House-And-Have-A-Life, I think I’m done.

This post makes some great points too. Check it.

Kanshie Trotro

So this was me, sitting in the trotro, waiting to go home. I was ruefully weighing the pros and cons of my latest crush, telling myself all the reasons for which it was a bad idea when this lady in the trotro came and sat next to me. I paid her no mind until she started talking. At first I was just intrigued by her accent, like “Whoa, where is this lady from,” because I’ve never heard anyone who sounds like her before, but I didn’t ask. My guess is she’s either from somewhere up north, or Tanzania. What a Tanzanian is doing in a Kaneshie trotro, I have no clue.

So she tells me she’s Roman Catholic, says some other things I don’t remember, and then tells me she’s a messenger from God. Now, this got me excited, because this stuff doesn’t happen to me often. Even in church I almost never get called on when the shpirid is moving, so I thought this would be dope.

So apparently I’m one of 2000 males created immediately after Jesus was, whom God has set aside to be his special people in the earth. We will be among the first to be taken up into heaven too. At this point I got even more excited, because after the whole disappointment with Jericho’s prophecies I was really beginning to doubt that I’d ever have the chance to save the world from a zombie apocalypse, but this was giving me hope! I began to visualize all the special ways I would do special things because of the special powers God would obviously have to give me. At this point I was too busy being excited about the laser vision God would give me for zombie-smiting to really pay attention to her, but then I heard her say that because of my special destiny I was not supposed to marry; I was supposed to stay celibate and do God’s work.

I was like:

2801243_112967481578938809037340334982566n
Wollop, wollop, wollop
gerrarahere
Gerrarahere for real mehn!

I’m supposed to stay what now? At this point I was cry-laughing in my soul because, uh uh boo-boo, ain’t gonna happen. I should stay what? Anka take your laser eyes. Take! My heroic destiny will have to wait till after my honeymoon. I know, not very heroic and self-sacrificing but fam, this touched a nerve. This crossed the line! I could give up an arm and a leg if it was the only way to defeat the demon ninja army; I could give up both eyes if that was the only way to defeat Medusa’s Cabal; I could sit through ten thousand hours of Hannah Montana if that’s what would stop the Girl Guides from taking over the world (they will, mark my words), but not marry? Anka the world should burn.

With a heavy heart I listened to the rest of her message. I nodded as she casually mentioned that God had also told her to ask me for 10 cedis to go do his work at Kanshie, and tearfully negotiated a discount. God knew I was sad, so He would spare me 5 cedis to buy khebab as I mourn. It’s been too much disappointment. First Jericho, now Kaneshie-trotro-lady. My little heart just can’t.

I tried to get a picture of her, but the angles in trotros don’t favour sneak photography. If you see her around, go the other way before she shatters your dreams of being a special snowflake too.

kaneshie_trotro

She.

She stands at the kerb
Watches light and shadow shake hands,
Exchange their “How do you do”s, and laughs.
She laughs at the dark
Till the shadows cower before her, naked and afraid,
And the light strives to catch her face.
She is many parts shade and many more flame
She screams greyed reds and laughs at the rules
She loves just like talking in her sleep
Her palms are a dare to turn from the truth between the lines.
I cannot read her
Her palms are mirrors
I only see my own naivety.

 

© 2015 k.amoh