Dream. Sort of nightmare.

* * * * *

I was in hell.

Literally. Hell. Fire, brimstone, horrendous things happening hell. But not the big bad part- I was in a room that looked suspiciously similar to my seventh grade gymnasium. There weren't any chairs or tables or anything, so we all got to stand around or sit. One guy was laying down like he was taking a nap.

There was probably half a dozen of us there. Random other people. Varying ages, ethnicity, gender preferences- a multicultural buffet. The one thing we had in common was that we were all really, really nervous. And all of us felt guilty. We'd done something bad. We'd screwed up. Shit was going to hit the fan. We weren't just going to hell, we were already in hell.

But we were all still alive. This was a key point, because whatever it was that we'd done, we were down here taking preventative measures. Then, after we died, whoever had taken the measures would get a free pass out.

These little short guys came in, followed by a taller guy in a dark suit. I remember he had a nice smile.

The short guys started handing out papers and some mechanical pencils. The papers were blank. This was a test, sort of. All we had to do was write down what the asked us to and then whatever we did, we wouldn't be in trouble anymore. So we all got down onto the floor and got ready to write.

He wanted us to write our parent's names.

Well, alrighty then. That didn't seem so bad.

I was laying on my belly, resting on my left forearm. I tried to write with the pencil, but it jammed. After I'd fiddled with it for a bit and got it working again, my right arm started spazzing out. That sort of muscle shakiness you get after a really hard work out and all the adrenaline is leaving. It took me several tries before I managed to scrawl part of my dad's name across the paper in huge, scribbly letters before it suddenly hit me.

"I'm making a deal with you, aren't I?!"

Everyone looked at me. I sat back on my knees.

"What do you mean?" he said.

"This counts as a deal! I'm doing something for you so you'll do something for me. That counts! And it's against the rules!"

Oh fuck. Oh hell. I was going to be in soooo much trouble. I got to my feet and headed for the exit.

"What are you doing?" he said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "I have to get out of here. I'm sorry, but I can't. I have to go home."

I kept on apologizing. A thought kept poking its way to the front of my head, "There's no reason to be rude." Funnily enough, I think it was Tanya who told me that line.

Two of the little guys were barring the door, only now they weren't so little. They were huge and looked like they broke people like me in half for a living. Which, I guess given the setting, they probably did.

"Excuse me," I said meekly. "Can you please move out of the way?"

They glowered. I turned to the tall man. "Make them move."

He smiled. "I know you may be feeling nervous about the process, but I assure you-"

"I'm sorry, but I want to go home." I told the two at the door. "Get out of my way. I want to go home."

One looked like he was going to say something. Then they exploded in a flash of silvery light for no apparent reason. The gym doors were open.

"Bye," I muttered. I was halfway down the hallway before I realized I was being an asshole. I went back.

"Hey," I said to the other people still filling out the papers. Apparently I wasn't the only problem who'd had problems with the pencils. "Uh. Door's open. You don't have to stick around anymore."


"You saw that light, right? I think that means it's okay, now. So long as you get out now, it'll probably be okay."

Nobody moved. The tall man shrugged. "They don't want to go."

"Guys," I said. "Seriously. Come on. We can go bowling or something.

A few people perked up at that. I tried to think of something else to get their attention.

"I've never had sushi."

All heads looked my way, including those of the tall man and the remaining short guys.

"Really?" some guy said.


"Well shit." He and a few others got up, leaving their papers on the ground. Not everybody left, but a lot of us. We were all still horribly nervous and guilty feeling, but now it was a slightly optimistic guilty nervousness.

* * * * *

So I guess my subconscious thinks I'm a horrid little sinner.

I'm pretty sure I'm going to hell. Optimistic flash of white light or not.

Welp. I'm not getting any more sleep tonight.

So I got a motorcycle a few months ago, and have put easily two thousand miles on the thing since buying it, including a 200+ mile road trip to my sister's place in north Florida.

The most important life lesson learned from two months of motorcycle riding: sometimes, the response to a given situation is exactly the opposite of what your intuition will tell you. For instance, taking a turn too fast: don't hit the brakes. Engaging the brakes will straighten out the bike and increase your turn radius. That is bad. If you must brake, brake very very very very gently. Or, better yet, lean harder into the turn (unless you're already scraping pegs) and gently roll on the throttle as appropriate to maintain speed.

Lesson: intuition isn't everything, and your brain has veto power. My heart tells me I should just quit and go back to my old life of idle reflection, but then my brain reminds me that that life was unlivable, too. I'm a year older, and regretting going to grad school, but only because it's taken some sacrifices to become good at it.

I've been dating again, but in that half-hearted way you get when your biggest problem isn't your fear of dying alone, but rather, fear of failure, persistent feelings that you're wasting your youth, and worries that three years of balls-to-the-wall effort will net you nothing in the end. I'd rather just deal with the loneliness, but life is never quite so obliging. I'm terrified of becoming a sexless work drone, utterly incapable of relating to people who aren't academics.

Intuition tells me to keep pursuing her, that there's still a chance. Brain vetoes without explanation. I ran into her today, and felt nothing. We exchanged pleasantries and caught up with each other, and I realized how different her life is from mine. Last time we hugged, it felt like liquid electricity up and down my spine, and today, it just felt like arms around my midsection.

Intuition tells me to retreat to memory, of losing myself in a fog of regret and nostalgia. Brain vetoes, and I'm glad.

This being tax day, I remembered not long ago having had an interesting discussion with a friend in a forum; my friend was arguing that the reason our economy has faltered is that our government taxes the wealthy too little, leaving them with so much wealth that they simply lack an incentive to invest in additional wealth-creating (and job-creating) activities. He argued the point thusly (with his permission to paraphrase his argument here, naturally):


If your goal is to get $1 billion, and I give you $1 billion, congratulations, you've reached your goal. You need invest no more. You can sit on your laurels.

If your goal is to get $1 billion, and I give you $500 million, now you are only halfway there and will need to invest (create jobs, build industry) to reach your goal.

If your goal is to get $1 billion, and I give you $1 billion, and the government takes half of that leaving you with $500 million, you will again be halfway there and need to invest to reach your goal.

The great flaw I suggested to have hamstrung this analysis is the idea that there is some set monetary 'goal' held by rich people, and the reaching this goal instantly alleviates their desire to increase their wealth. For the most part, those who achieve such great wealth have enough of a lust for it that hitting a billion dollars would likely only make them want to get to two billion, and so letting hit that one plateau would mean they'd have all the more incentive to invest. Or maybe neither of these views reflects how things work in the real world, and it's simply that everybody is different, and what incentivizes one disincentivizes another, and what's left is a wash.


In case anybody who missed the earlier catbox conversation is interested, here is the Pygmy Leaf Chameleon, who's really sneaky trick is to stop growing once he gets to be as big as your fingernail. That adorably cunning little bastard.


In auditing news, progress!!

Tem42 -- up to page 33 out of 36 (!!!!!!)
The Custodian -- on page 24 out of 39

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