[Fiction] Cringe control

Cringe control

I. waterlogged

Have you ever wondered what’s in the bottom of the lake?

The scummy clumps of algae floating on the surface are only a disguise for what lurks beneath. They told you it was toxic so you would stay away — did you never think to question? Assertions are proof of nothing.

So tear away those clinging curtains and scrape the plant weed from your eyes. Delve beneath the surface and discover what they’ve been hiding. An artificial lake is still a lake and all lakes are one; a man may be an island but these are all connected by narrow subscape channels straining through hard-packed dirt and stone with the patient work of centuries. Do you doubt me? The groundseep swells up from the deep and replenishes the blood of rivers. The earth is mostly water, they say, and if we peel off its blistered skin we expose molten roiling currents.

Delve beneath.

II. flaring

We stumble when we’re not careful.

When you recoil from the cringe-hot stove it’s not you who flinches. Your spinal chord intercepts the message, interprets the intelligence and unthinkingly reroutes the ones and zeroes. Chemicals that sing of burning are funneled by its protocol until the fire bites your biceps and it flexes automatically. We have no more control over our reflexes than they have over us.

It’s not you who flinches when a firework goes off. Your brain bestows autonomy to its trusty tools of state — your respiration is contracted out and your heartbeat’s long been privatized — but it can’t be held responsible for the actions of the collective. If jerks and spasms are the reflexes of your flesh then rationalization is the reflex of your brain. You know fire isn’t real, and when the signal reaches you (wherever you lurk within your gray and spongy morass) you laugh nervously at sparks and embers, wondering how you were frightened by such simple exothermic flaring.

Pain is only chemicals.

III. luff-gauge

Shadows exist in contrast.

If a window rattles when you are not around, there is no evidence or clue of its motion. Even if you knew the state of the universe down to every atom and barest fleck of matter, you could not predict the chaos eddying around you when the wind tickles your skin and plucks lightly at your hair. A deterministic world is not an artful one, but it provides us reassurances that we can’t provide ourselves: things will be taken care of. The window’s rattling will come or it will not as the formula allows.

To be carefree is to put yourself at the mercy of the wind. Barriers of class cannot be crossed by merit but the wind goes all over and sweeps unburdened leaves along, laying them to fragile rest in places they can’t go. All of life inhabits an unstable equilibrium — the moment a system is in perfect balance, it is no longer living. Should we be thankful that the wind upsets our balance and sends us stumbling about? The flight of a leaf is self-destructive, and it will always come to rest in a rut or sticky spot it cannot win free of despite the wind’s cheerful spasmodic assistance.

Leaves do not get votes.

IV. flintridden

A surface is only as solid as what it rests on.

We question the worth of stability. Is a government good if it makes us feel safe, whether or not we wanted this? Change begins in our own backyard; grassroots movements gather dirt and tumble down the hill to crash against the corporate foundations. I wonder sometimes if the moment of impact communicates, or if their high-tensile steel beams just ripple-drink the shaking and leave half-sipped martinis undisturbed. We expend ourselves against the future little knowing what it changes, but hoping for the best.

The soil here is ripe and crumbly, rich with fungal spores and microscopic nutrients to succor any squash. You scooped it up into your hands, heedless of the scrambling frenzied insects lifted ant-miles from their homes, and licked it because you wanted to know what it was like. A microcosm quickly drowned in your saliva and remnant bits of lunch! Have you ever thought how fragile teeth are? With them we only get two shots, but graze your shin a thousand times and the skin will grow back always.

It’s curious what parts your body treasures, and what parts it will replace with little thought or effort. Evolution never asked for our opinion, but then our only purpose is to breed.

Consequences are most often unintended.

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