A Pendulum I Couldn't See

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The lack of snow made the cold seem a crime, a leech on the season’s soul, if time may be said to possess a spirit. It seems strange that nothing more than the nostalgic presence of gleaming whiteness, floating through the air or draping all in a scintillating velvet, could be the pilot of our temperament.

It was this lack that wound me up, churned my sense of wasted chances, and motivated me to go out into the soulless cold that reminded me that meaning must be created, not found. I walked to the predetermined place, pacing my gate so as to arrive at the predetermined time. Such things gave me solace for they spoke of a clockwork universe that accepted me blindly as part of the swinging, clicking, turning, whirling mechanism that is both a curse and a blessing. It made me both its agent and its victim, but it allowed me to be.

As I walked I verified, over and over again, the presence and location of my various totems and fetishes: passport, wallet, maps, address and note book, the last being the most important of my weapons. Yes, weapons, tools that allow me to exert power. They are all tools that allow me exert control on the world around me, tools that facilitate the manipulation of all the denizens of the clockwork universe.

I was on my way to a very important meeting. No one known would be there, nothing discussed would be in tomorrow's Tribune. It was important in the way that Werner was important, in the way that absence could define presence. Don't you understand? It is within the negative space, intermingled with the dramatic pause, that the essence of all that we know takes meaning. Who is Werner, you ask? The fact that the question exists proves the point I am trying to make. Those of you who do know of Werner will understand why he is unknown and what this says of the world in which we live. In the end, we say that names are unimportant: not mine, not yours, not Werner's. It is for this reason, as well as many more prudent reasons, that I shall not divulge my name. But my story, that must be told…

What was I saying? Ah, yes, the clockwork universe, the naked, gridded streets of a well planned city that approached, passed, and receded, as if each represented the cadenced swing of a pendulum I couldn't see. I walked to meet men not unlike myself, men that took measure of all around them. We were all tinkers who dreamed of and marveled at the intricacies of the world around us, a world that only we could see. And tonight, for one man, we would cause all the clocks to stop.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let us return to the stage, for act one had barely begun. As I saw my destination I increased my pace, my wing-tip shoes clacking against the cobbles in a hurried cadence. The structure that rose up before me was neither grand nor beautiful. Its indulgent mundanity would make Bauhaus look Baroque. It was the essence of function without form, and this inelegance was intentional. None who entered or exited its demesne wished to be noticed. I took the low steps quickly and entered knowing the door would open for me. Once inside I was assaulted by the smell of old carpets and oil heating. the only light a green jade desk lamp illuminating the porcelain skin of a young woman at a reception desk.

"Good evening, Rep Twenty-Four. The others have all arrived. Please go right in."

She always spoke politely. Never warmly, never personally, but always politely. I acknowledged with a simple nod and walked past to the door behind her, removing my coat as I walked. Again, I opened it knowingly, entered and carefully closed it behind me.

"...I agree, Fifty-Two, the renewed presence of the competition in vertical markets 'F, 'G', and 'L' is sufficient reason to change our current timeline. However, modification of the..., oh, hello, Twenty-Four. Please take your seat.

"The one who spoke was Client Representative Number Twelve, and those around the table included Numbers Fifty-Two and Eight. We four were to complete tonight's assignment. The conversation continued like surgery; each adding minutia to an already mature machination. We lost our individuality in the movement of our minds and each new thought completed the potentia created by the probing of another. We divided and further subdivided each possible permutation until all that was left was crystal clarity surrounded by the gauzy edges of our fatigue.

As we were preparing to leave, Twelve caught my arm, “The boss wants to speak with you.” As we filed out, I remained to speak to the lady with the porcelain skin. She had lit a cigarette and the blue smoke snaked from her lips like an asp, dissipating through the light and into the darkness with agonizing insouciance. “Yes Ma’am,” I said, regretting the words instantly. She was no more a woman than I was a man. We adopt these roles for the purpose of the narrative, to serve the narrative. She responded:

“Don’t be clever.”

“Why not?”

“Clever is the refuge of those too cowardly to choose intelligence.”

“Odysseus was clever.”

“And look where that got him.”

“Back to Ithaca?”

“Cleverness kept him from Ithaca; piety allowed his return. Don’t ever forget that Twenty-Four. Now to business…”, she slid a Bowie knife across the table, “There’s been an entanglement. There is probabilistic evidence that Twelve is building his own organization. After tonight’s assignment, you will…”

I didn’t hear the rest. Beneath the surface of the illusion of self, minds do not predict the outcomes of single isolated events, but rather the likelihood of myriad possible outcomes. Here all permutations led to the same inevitability. There are only two possibilities: yes or no.

“…Are your orders clear, Twenty-Four?”

Taking the knife, I responded, “Yes.”

About the Author: 
I am a Solution Design Consultant working in AI, where I continually bring my Liberal Arts background to bear.