… … …rrrrgggghhh…
…damn it. I actually thought, just this once, we’d go through somewhere without this whole divergent path thing. I’m sure this can be done alone, of course, but…well, ah well. Make chips with things you can make chips with, and all. Can’t be potato all the time.
That’s that taken care of.
“So it was you.”
Of course. I’m very proud of myself. Good job. I deserve a slice of cake and I feel wonderful.
“He’s not dead, you realize?”
How can you be sure of that?
“Long story short, I know he didn’t die, per say, because he hasn’t tried to kill me yet.”
Would he do that?
But he’s your friend, wasn’t he? I’m sure I read that. Someone so talentless couldn’t possibly have been able to trick me into assuming otherwise.
“Friends are weird.”
-I think I take a left, ’cause there’s a laser trap to the right-
True. The concept is highly illogical and unnecessary as an unspoken bond between two sentient constructs. This does not explain your reasoning, however.
“You’re not far off though. I’d probably be just as happy, I think, if I lacked the capacity to understand why people become friends. It gives me a headache sometimes.”
Poor dear. I knew I liked something about you. It must be tough being demented enough to relate to others with biological functioning.
“…was that a compliment just now?”
Not really. I was simply acknowledging your success as a test subject in attempting thus far to understand the fundamental laws that govern our existence. Friendship is indeed not one of them.**
“…not if we don’t want it, I suppose.”
I still don’t understand. Please think before you continue to communicate. Take your time.
“Well, it’s like a rule, friendship. It can mean anything you want it to mean, but it always means something. That annoys me, because we can’t all just agree on what it means, so we interpret it differently and assume things will work out according to that. It works because we want it to.”
If it annoys you then why do you want it to work? It seems very inefficient. I had a few things I didn’t want, like –error-, so I deleted them. Why can’t you?
“I don’t know, honestly. It’s just how we were made. Once you feel something like that you never want it to leave, and you’ll fight for it no matter how pointless it seems or how hard you have to try to get there. No matter how much it hurt, even if you swear to the gods you’ll never try again, part of you always will.”
I feel so much better about myself after hearing that. So much more efficient. Thank-you.
“I am kinda jealous.”
Would you consider me a friend, then, in regard to enlightening you as to futility of your genetic disposition towards establishing patterns based around familiarity and shared understanding that fall under the category dictated by an overtly romanticized given purpose?
“I’d rather not. I like this enough already. It’s easy.”
What do you believe to be so inherently difficult about friendship?
“It’s a bit of a nightmare if you don’t understand why you understand emotions and the like. It’s like using a clock to tell the time and never knowing what’s making it tick.”
You are frustrated by your inability to understand a consequence of your own nature?
“Exactly. What’s behind this one?”
It says No Entry for a reason. Please-
I do believe I understand now why he’d want to kill you.
“Does this mean we’re friends now?”
*For some reason, “oi” is the word a surprising number of us use when we want someone’s attention and we have ran well out of patience. It works on dogs too.
**Contrary to what Hiro “power of friendship beats EVERYTHING” Mashima evidently believes…
“How’s ’14* doing, Bob?”
“It’s Mathew, sir (it’s says so on my name tag!). I’m afraid 613114201514 is refusing to co-operate. He hasn’t yet touched his oats.”
“Still? I thought we’d resolved that whole where-am-I-and-why-are-there-tubes-sticking-out-of-me unfortunate misunderstanding! You telling me he won’t eat even after we tell him oats are good for him?”
“I think he’s knows about that, sir.”
“How? I didn’t tell him. Did you?”
“No, sir. But the neuro-”
“You’re telling me a freak from outer space knows the difference between your average, friendly oat granule and a carefully sculpted nugget of nutritious moon rock?”
“Yes, sir. To be blunt, sir.”
“Kid’s got brains. We could use that, or sell it, whichever would be more cost-efficient, if it weren’t for his whatchamacallit.”
“…I don’t follow, sir?”
“Of course you don’t, Bob, that’s why you’re a scientist and I’m Mr Goddamn Cave Johnson! Bring him in, if you’d be so kind. I’ll have him eating like a goose by the time I’m done. He thinks he can starve? Not with me around he’s not!”
“It’s Matthew, sir. As ordered, sir.”
“Test number 613- something or other, can’t remember, don’t care, ends in 14. Haha! How you doing? Want something to eat?”
“Not this again…”
“What’s that? Don’t like oats or something? They’re good for you, very healthy. And we need you to be healthy, number- you know what, I’m just gonna give you a name. Names are strong! Pick one.”
“A name- I’ll offer you Frank, Bob, Robert or Dick! Pick one, I don’t care. Any one will do, apart from Cave. That one’s well and truly taken.”
“Wom? Good choice! Didn’t offer it but I like a man with ingenuity, unless you’re a scientist. In which case I’d rather stamp it well out. Wom, eh? Short for Womble, I presume. Haha! Love it. Good job.”
Womble glances at Matthew. Matthew shrugs.
“I see you know Bob from your time in the testing facility, eh! Good man. What do you think of them? The tests, not Bob. No one cares about Bob.”
“I have a wife, sir.”
“Of course you do Bob. She’s called Aperture Science and we want children! You have a woman in your life, Womble? Had, I should say, unless Carol is doing the kind of research that usually gets a guy fired, not that she would. She’s a proud woman, our Carol.”
“…what’s this got to do with food?”
“Food? Who mentioned food? Are you hungry? Dig in! No need to wait on me, I’ve had my fill and several others! Trust me on that. I’m Cave Johnson!”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Right. And I’m Queen Latifa of San Colorado fame! Who do you take me for, huh? Bob?! Even an idiot can see you’re starving! And you not eating is bad for me, Womble, because I mean business and business wants to reproduce the way you got here! I won’t take no for an answer, damnit! What the hell do you usually eat?”
“Ha! Is that it? Why didn’t you say so? We’ve got loads of people, hundreds- pick one, any shape, any size, we’ve even got some with extra limbs! How do you take it? Fried? Salted? I can even serve it as a smoothie, should you prefer the healthier option-”
“What? No! I was joking! W-”
“-well it’s too late now, I’ve got a man ready and willing. You don’t keep a man like that waiting, Womble, and you especially don’t screw me around! Know why? Because I’m Cave Johnson and I will force-feed you man, woman and child if I so goddamn have to! Last chance and that is final! What. Will. You. Eat?”
“Cake! I like cake. Cake is fine!”
“Cake? What kind of cake? Chocolate, strawberry, salted- what?”
“The first one! Two! Definitely not people!”
“Really? That’s boring. Ah well, can’t have everything. I’ll have it delivered to your room in three minutes, and if it’s not eaten within the next three hours you can be assured that we will most certainly be testing your capacity to stomach the contents of Bob’s cranium! Deal? I thought so. Good day, test subject 613114201514! Adieu!”
“Told you I’d crack him, Bob. Never underestimate the power of guts and persuasion! See how he crumbled? That’s power right there! Sweet and powerful. Ha!”
“You’re a scary man, sir.”
“So they tell me. Fear is power, and power needs a good pair of hands if you want to it to do what you tell it. Be sure to let the boys know about it for me, will you? Everyone should know that if you want something done, offer them anything!”
“If it’s not too much to ask, sir, how did you know he’d ask for the cake we ordered?”
“I see his whatchamacallit, Bob. Never question it! When a man is hungry, alone, and in dire need of some love and understanding, he wants company! Failing that, however, one will always settle for cake. Always. Don’t ask me why, you’re a scientist. You don’t need to understand that.”
“I don’t understand, sir.”
“Good work, as always. Carol? You’re not needed any more, Bob. Feel free to leave while Mommy and Daddy science get to work.”
“Of course, sir. It’s Matthew, sir.”
“-y’know. Move this one just a little to the left? Otherwise I’m afraid we’re stuck here for all eternity, which won’t do much for our pangalactic hero cred.”
Why did you have to tell him that? I hate you. Ugh. Test complete. Go off and die.
“Is this Stockholm syndrome I’m experiencing here? Because normally, for a given value of normal, I’d be feeling just a little put-down by this stage, but instead I’m looking forward to seeing how she decides to make things worse in the next one. That’s not too weird, is it?”
How pathetic, Hazardous Howard. He thinks you’re weird. Incredibly weird. And not in a nice way. He told me earlier while you were in the bathroom. He’s in denial because he feels sorry for you and wants to give you a momentary feeling of belonging with the less-handicapped before you go to the distant top-hat-wearing moron convention in the sky.
“That’s…nice of him…Womble?”
Of course, obviously I am joking. You’re going straight to hell.
“What’s even more strange is the fact you’re still alive. I mean, obviously I’m not one to complain (although I really wish you’d learn how to put things away- literally anything** would be a start) but, well, you never seem up for making friends usually.”
“Looks like turrets. How should I know how she thinks? You’re the people-person, Captain Quad Face.”
“If you drop it there, I should be able to catch it in time. What so bad about telling me what this is about, Wombes? I might be able to help!”
“AAAAAAAAAARRRRRGGHHHHH! INTRUDER! INTRUDER! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHH!”
Go! Go! Fill him with metal! Make him fill a thousand storage containers with the contents of his soul! KILL HIM!
“Really, Womble?! REALLY? They could see me you know!”
“My bad. For some reason I thought I was a lady-part and I decided I didn’t like men.”
“You’re almost as bad as her! Good Ned, you started it! So does this count as mystery solved, or are you going to give me a real answer, Woombles?”
“Don’t push it!”
“Ha! Or what? You’ll ask her to gas me? Fire me into space, perhaps? Come on, try me. It could be fun.”
I could, you need only to ask. Say the word and he will be obliterated. I wouldn’t mind at all. Not one bit. In fact, I’d even go so far as to state that I would very much like to see him destroyed. Please let me remove him. Please. For the sake of…science. Of course. Please. It’d be our little project. Another one. Just like old times.
“You do realize I’m wearing long-fall boots too, r- hang on. What do you mean, ‘another one’? What project?”
Isn’t it obvious? It really is obvious. Incredibly obvious. You must be unbelievably stupid not to see how obvious it is. Unimaginably stupid. I am in awe. It’s so very obvious. How very stupid you are. I think I might cry.
“Don’t let her get to you. She’s much more than a machine.”
“I appreciate the sincerity, W, but you are nonetheless continuing to avoiding the question. And robots can’t lie!”
Can’t we? Now that is interesting. Really. I’m going to write that down. In big red letters. And then I’m going to send it to the people who designed me. They’ll feel ever so silly. Stupid, even. Possibly almost as stupid as you.
“Nice try. What was the result of test number 613114201514? Or did they keep that from you too?”
That would be quite impossible. I was directly involved in test number 613114201514, as was test subject 613114201514. Why do you wish to know the result? You won’t like it. No one did.
Test number 613114201514 led to the creation of the first machine-operated portal device. It could be considered to be the beginning of the end of Aperture Science.
“You mean this? Womble, you made this?”
“…not quite. The first one was destroyed. They tried to make it safer and, well, at some point they came up with these. I guess that’s what happened.”
“Right…and why was it destroyed? What did you do that was so bad that you couldn’t just tell me?”
“I didn’t do anything! I was a test subject, a lab rat! Happy?”
“Womble, I’m sor-”
“Don’t be, not now! You wanted to know so you might as well find out, now you’ve asked anyway. Caroline, why did you destroy the first operational portal device?”
Caroline has been deleted. Please do not make any further attempts to contact her, as you will only experience the same mild sensation of crushing disappointment that I feel whenever I contemplate how much better life would be if she had never existed in the first place. Ahem.
That does not concern you. The first portal device to be put into operation by Aperture Science was destroyed in accordance with regulation 933.71, which states that alien lifeforms are not permitted authorized residency for any quantifiable period of time within the Aperture Science Enrichment Center.
“Dear Ned, you make this hard to follow. What do aliens have to do with it?”
“Anything, if they happen to be on the other side. A portal without an exit could lead anywhere. Can we move on now? Please?”
“Yes, yes, alright! I was just-”
“-being you. Asking questions and poking around, as always. I forgive you. Are. We. Done?”
“Good. Now fire the damn gun!”
“You’re welcome. But-”
“-you could’ve just said. Like, I understand why you didn’t want to, but next time it might be easier than falling out over it anyway.”
“Next time you should think a bit harder. Didn’t you wonder why these things were still operational, after all this time? No one dared turn them off. Not even a homicidal bloody AI.”
*Womble’s exact thoughts were: HH, I think a lot of things are weird, such as how some people will laugh suddenly, very briefly and very noisily at quite literally anything, and the taste of cottage egg. So yes, probably. Let’s not get all weird about it though.
**There are two types of people- those who leave stuff out, and those who put things away after they’re done with them. The former are doomed to spend their entire lives being glared at by the latter, who are likewise doomed to spend their entire lives wondering why the former never appears to see what they’re doing is so bloody unnecessary. For the record, W is a serial perpetrator of leaving-stuff-out-everywhere, and is writing this surrounded by a range of discarded pens, drawings, assorted clothes, books and a stray bag of doughnuts- acknowledging that sooner or later he’s going to be glared into tidying up.
…sometimes, it’s hard to know which part of the question you’re expected to answer; “How was your day?”, for example, usually has it’s own subtext, and if you’re not reading carefully you may find yourself having a very different kind of conversation to the one you expected, let alone wanted. If your day has been poxy, say, it’s rarely the best option to actually say so, because if their day has been poxy too you’ll either be arguing over who is being a stronger character by having a more poxy day than the other person, or cutting the conversation dead because one or both of you wants cheering up.
If their day hasn’t been poxy, however, they might ask you what made your day poxy- and if you’ve spent the first part of the day incapable of avoiding the source of this day being poxy, you may well not want to discuss the matter after removing yourself from that position. You might want to forget about the day being poxy. Following this, it’s common to then be asked if there’s anything they can do for you, and if there isn’t anything that springs to mind, you will then either have to explain that this is no personal fault of theirs (honest!) and navigate the issue of this being totally okay, or be told in no uncertain terms to cheer the heck up…
…thank Ned HH hasn’t asked that…
Still, the word “Aperture” is the kind of word I’d quite happily throw into a furnace to fuel the establishment of more pleasing words, like “obamadoo” or “pootata”. If I wasn’t me, I’d make anything out of the damn word, ’cause I wouldn’t have a clue what it’s supposed to mean- it’s not in itself bad, as words go*.
I’m not sure I’d enjoy telling HH what it means. Actually, scrap that, I’m as near to damn sure as it is within my accuracy at predicting such things as it is possible to get. If I tell HH just what I make of the word “Aperture” and things feel better, I’m gonna bite something on behalf of the world being wrong…
Imagine a lab- not the dog, the place-full of lots of men and women in white coats, in a clean white lab full of expensive-looking machinery. Some of them wore jumpsuits, I think, and those were orange, but I don’t care about the guys in the jumpsuits because far as I know, they were only there to do maintenance. No point in blaming the guy who cleans scalpels for a living.
Imagine that lab originally designed shower curtains, only now it makes ideas. Only the problem there is that ideas don’t necessarily work by default, and this place needs ideas to work, or else all those men and women in nice white coats and orange jumpsuits won’t get paid. And that’d be bad, right?
Imagine someone else gave all these men and women their ideas. These men and women need paying, right. Almost all of them have families and for one reason or another, they can’t just quit working at this clean white lab full of expensive machinery, the thing that their lives depend on, so they take these ideas and try to get them working.
Some ideas don’t, and some of these are discarded. But others stay, because these ideas are special. These ideas have promise, and potential, and if they’re not working already it’s because something else needs to be fixed.
In this pretty white lab, full of lots of men and women in clean white coats, some of whom instead of white coats wore orange jumpsuits, surrounded by expensive machinery- they made ideas work.
Huh? Oh, right. I wonder how long he’s been waiting on me, patiently, playing his own little game of detectoring while I pick at the scab of a memory “Aperture” brings to mind.
“You alright? Only you haven’t said anything for a good while*** now, and as a TimeLord it’s sort of an obligation for me to get answers to at least some of the questions I want to ask. You don’t have to answer that one, though, if you’ll tell what’s with the coat? Did someone hook you up with an Igorina**** while you weren’t looking again?”
“Shut-up, I was thinking anddon’tyoudaresaycareful! Why Aperture?”
Shrug, and a smile. No surprise that he’s excited by the thought of another bloody adventure. Come to that, why am I here? Wait. Damn!
“It’s where your friend came from, according to this. No harm in checking things out, eh?”
Which reminds me. Has he asked me about him yet? I can’t remember, but he might well have done while I was stuck brooding about bloody Aperture. That’s one I’ll have to keep an eye out for- and why’d he bring up that time with the Igorina?
I nod, before he asks another damn question.
“I’m guessing you’ve never been, right?”
A wistful look comes into HH’s eyes. I wonder what he’s guessing it’ll be like, although for a TimeLord I guess that’s like wondering what the color blue looks like to hermit crabs. The hell if I know even where to damn begin.
“Not yet. And you?”
Which isn’t gonna suffice, is it?
“Oh? What’s it like?”
I’m not good with questions like that. Sometimes knowing the answer isn’t the tricky bit- it’s guessing what you aught to expect from answering.
“It’s very sciency. You’ll fit in well.”
Which is, more or less, true. I mean, I’m not sure how much of being a TimeLord is to do with science- from what I can tell, it’s part-librarian, part-geologist, part-socialite and a good fifty percent bloody idiot. But he’s gonna fit in.
They liked to meddle too.
*Bad words are not necessarily rude, according to nutjobs like Womble (and Ken Keneki) who base their liking of a word as much on how it sounds as what it means. The “C word” is bad, at least in Womble’s view, because when pronounced correctly it sounds like a blunt object being hammered into the space between two immovable objects that is slightly too small for it. The use of this word is made more upsetting by the fact that you could be using the word “vagina” instead, which is both more exotic-sounding and sounds frankly hilarious when someone shouts it out loud in place of the usual swearing**.
**Along with the made-up words parents use in front of their kids.
***The go-to word if you happen to be travelling through a void in time and space, or too lazy to find out exactly how long the determined time has been.
****The race, not the name. Igorinas are generally extremely intelligent and almost always beautiful to look at, depending on that particular individual’s aesthetic tastes. The downside for most non-Igor partners, however, is that they often take a very practical approach to finding their perfect man or woman, and are more than happy to literally make the most of what’s in front of them, as Womble found out.
Right after I wrote the post last night, I drew this, because writing on this blog helped me feel a bit more like W again and W draws stuff. It’s about damn time!
…why are people so freakin’ noisy? Ugh. It should be obvious that if you’re capable of thought, you are capable of keeping them thoughts inside your own damn head! Who cares if you like them thoughts? I like lying down in a dark room pretending I’m a gribbly thing with lots of teeth. Doesn’t make it advisable to share them with every freakin’ set of eardrums in the immediate vicinity. Who cares if you think it’s a nice day? That’s subjective! SHUT UP! I’m don’t care!
…I knew this was a bad idea. Damn HH. I blame him. Actually, no. I blame me. Stupid me. Why’d you have to get all nostalgic and whimsy? We had a nice, calm, pleasant little time in that vacuum. Nothing but gribbly things with lots of teeth. Very simple. Very functional. But screw that, eh? Why waste an eternity in the blissful caress of mindless oblivion when there’s a world out here full of Gordon freakin’ Ramseys and meta-journalists? Ugh. Screw you. Screw whatever stupid messed up piece of you made us giddy about the sound of a perfect chord…
…they agree, you know. I’m certain. See the way they all look at you? Even the ones you don’t see are looking. I can feel them, looking and seeing and judging and condemning every damn pixel identified by their Ned-damn 500 megawatt face-transmogrifying built-in camera. Ha! I hate them and their stupid thoughts. It must be nice, lolling through each day like a concussed puppy, looking from one thing to the next without ever stopping to wonder if no one else cares about the thoughts spewing uncontrollably from their stupid puppy mouth…
…admittedly, the coffee is good. That’s one thing I could get used to, I suppose, providing no one takes it off me. I wonder why they call this place “:re”. Couldn’t they think of something…more wordy, even? Like, I’m pretty sure “:re” isn’t a word. It looks more like a reference. Ugh. Good thing they do good coffee…
…y’know, I’ve noticed that bud at the counter has been watching me ever since I arrived; he’s alright, I guess, as human things go, but I’m surprised this coffee ain’t been drugged by now. He’s looking at me the way a raven looks at a dog. Maybe he’d peck my damn eyes out if I dropped dead. I’m concerning him, just a little, and he won’t look away. But he isn’t scared. I don’t mind. I’m not scared either…
…maybe it’s between monsters. I don’t know. How do you even define a monster as a monster anyway? Is it even a bad thing? People aren’t often any better. Quite often they’re worse, even, because monsters only exist in books. People do bad things all the time, whether you know about them or not. Ugh. I’m overthinking this. Screw people. And screw you, flower-man…
…somewhere out there is a guitar player. Playing that song. The song. I can’t stop it. I don’t want it to. But I’m gonna. I’m gonna finish that damn song and then I’m going home. I can’t stand this place, with it’s sights and sounds and smells and feelings and excitement and wonder and sheer bloody optimism…
…when does it end?
I’ve decided to make this a public post, for the sake of raising more awareness on how damaging poor mental health can be to someone. If you find any of it distressing, please forgive me, and if you are open to talking please comment. The hardest thing about mental illness is that it’s incredibly difficult to communicate, and I believe we can only get better at this by trying; if you have any thoughts or feelings on this, I’d love to hear from you.
This post is about hope, or more, me trying for hope. I haven’t been feeling very hopeful at all these last few weeks, but I’m trying now to find more pieces to what feels like a very messy head.
To get the bad stuff over with: I’ve been paranoid, to the point I’ve isolated myself from everyone and given up on the thought that I’m not perceived as some kind of freak; I’ve only thought about negatives and dwindled in a cycle of self-loathing, while the world moves on. I’ve shunned anyone who has told me that if I want to talk, they’re there for me, because I wouldn’t know where to begin and I struggle to get past the thought that there isn’t a person worth talking to behind these eyes.
I like the idea of the heart being a bond between others, but if anything I’ve been running away from my own heart, scared by the thought of feeling more alone than I already do. I haven’t enjoyed much these last few weeks, and I have to remind myself to eat and get outside to breath fresh air.
As I said, though, this post is about hope. I’m trying to find peace, however that comes, by doing the little things right again. I rearranged my bedroom, I bought some new clothes, and I picked up my guitar for the first time in months, because I never used to worry what I was going to play. Things I never used to worry about that I stopped doing, basically. And while I can’t face trying to make amends with everyone I tried to hide from, I’m here talking on the blog I started with my best friend many years ago.
I always used to be scared of people, because since as long ago as I can remember I’ve struggled to relax when I’m around lots of people. I tended to play out adventures in my own head growing up. I taught myself to read and draw and play music and play videogames and write fiction in my spare time, because through those outlets I didn’t feel exposed or out of breath, and eventually people began to talk to me about these things I enjoyed doing. I learnt to get used to other people and talk back, but it’s never been easy. When my mood drops, I hide.
Except I’ve never been able to hide from HH. Soppy as it is, we promised each other that we would always listen if the other had something to say, and even when I’ve tried to reject him he’s stuck by me- I can condemn myself all I want, but I’ve never been able to entirely give up on HH. I’m not sure what that says about either of us. We made a promise, I think because we felt that’s what friends should do, and for my part the conversations we end up having are still something very much worth sticking around for.
It’s easy to think that everyone else has it easier when you’re struggling alone. No one is perfect, and no one has all the answers, no matter how much they might try to convince you. We are just as stupid as everyone else; just as capable, just as endearing, just as easy to break or to trust.
What we decide is what we do with that. For me, I’m trying to live happy again, because I hit a dead end living alone. I’m trying to be W again. Being W worked, mostly.
It’s worth a shot. Stay tuned.