NaNoWriMo 2022, Fling Forty-Six

There are books everywhere; this makes me happy. There is dusty sunlight coming in through the window; this also makes me happy.

Kristen and Steve are here; this is another thing, or a pair of things, that make me happy.

What are things? What is happiness? We both, we all, know the answer to that, even if we can’t construct a theory that accounts perfectly for all such facts. Or all such statements.

We’ve been back for a couple of months now. Whatever that means.

“I like Doc Zane-Tucker, she pays attention.”

“And she brought her cat over.”

Tibbs is curled up dozing on Kristen’s lap. Tibbs is not, at the moment, a shimmering place in the air.

“I think, technically, we’re cat-sitting.”

I think about cat-sitting, and cats sitting. I think about a large rough-skinned being, with a large but normal number of eyes, relaxing on the ground and letting my antennae investigate an interesting rock.

“Do you have any… memories, of having extra legs, or eyes? Or antennae?”

“I’m sure there was some of that.”

“But… remember Alissa and Sonorandelan and Glomorominith?”

“You remember S and G’s entire names? I’m impressed.”

I enjoy impressing Kristen. I’m showing off, and I’m okay with that. And maybe someday I’ll write monographs on what “showing off” and “being okay with a thing” mean.

“But do you remember being them?”

“Do you remember being Kristen or Steve or Colin? We could have sort of swapped around while we were out there; all six or eight of us.”

“Or being together in a virtuality that long could have mushed our souls all together.”

“Ewww, soul-mush.”

Does merging my mind with someone else’s and then separating them again, count as communication? Are there states or properties or thoughts in my mind, sort of copied over from Steve’s, or Kristen’s, or Tibbs’s, that wouldn’t have been there if we hadn’t experienced what we may or may not have experienced?

Counterfactuals are just forms of words. What would have happened if…?

And yet we think that way all the time.

“It’s nice here and all,” Steve says, “but it’s kind of… quiet.”

Kristen hugs him and agrees. “Bored already, babe?” she smiles.

“Not bored, exactly, I just–“

“It’s simpler here,” I venture. Because it is simple here. Simpler than many, many things I remember.

“Simple, is it?” she smiles, and reaches over and touches my arm with a fingertip, and I am pleasantly helpless.

“The cops shut down the desert rig meets,” Steve grumbles.

“So what do you want to do?” I ask, feeling somehow unwilling to settle down with my books just now.

“Well…” Kristen says, taking something out of a pocket. It’s brass and gold, with various dials and wheels. “It looks like there’ll be an Interstice Hawk within hailing distance in about an hour…”

“Mrrreow!”

The End

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