Sunday, December 16, 2018

Proclaimed Immortality of Forgotten Obscurity

Our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
-Vladimir Nabokov

As the burgeoning social media landscape has increasingly expanded into daily routine, humanity shares exuberance for an unprecedented, if not over-extended, communion with each other. People discuss, argue, and share their lifestyles, thoughts, and other miscellany, with colleagues and strangers alike. Even more, they, literally, have begun to share themselves as thousands submit biological samples directly to genealogy websites and online health-related companies. This in turn leads to another notion: what if someone’s consciousness could be shareable? Photographs and videos will be insufficient to push the boundaries of this revolutionary form of artificial intelligence and virtual reality combination.

Looking beyond leisurely activities, practical applications are suggestible as well. Minds ravaged by various ailments can be salvaged from the devastating effects, while those with intact faculties can thwart its occurrence altogether. Acceptance and normalization of euthanasia as an individual choice makes this idea less taboo, no longer carrying the stigma of previous generations. Of course, this is deemed merely a fanciful thought exercise until technology is developed for such procedures. Then, everything starts off harmless with no indication of the impending consequences; even those initially opposed, arguing the dire folly, eventually concede to its usefulness.

No more cemeteries to encase the deceased for eternity and beyond. Crematories no longer function as alternatives for those wishing not to endure the circumstance of slow decay. No mourning for the lost, in the sense of an existence forever gone. There exist only mausoleums of the living, preserved as taunting reminders of what is past rather than invoke dread or terror of what is to come. Humanity now resides as the perpetual living dead.

Dead in any physical embodiment, hauntingly alive in digitized form. Our invocations and shrieks inaudible to even those most closely connected to us. Categorized, indexed, and archived as both documentation of and memorial to our existence, yet no longer confined by the limits of historical constructs for similar preservation. A collective of individuals that once existed, and technically still do, but not in any politically or socially apt context. Nothing more than digital fossils - not dissimilar to bygone interstellar archival ambassadors, Voyagers I and II - perhaps for another civilization to discover.

This is our fate both by circumstance and choice, and it is ours for eternity and beyond.

©2018 Steve Sagarra

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Never Breaking Stride

Thirty years ago, I inherited my dad's collection of bolts, nails, nuts, screws, etc. A collection that has grown considerably since my teenage years, from a mixed assortment thrown into a lone mason jar to several compartmentalized storage units organized by type. In many families this might be considered a rite of passage, each generation passing down similarly useful “heirlooms” to the next. In my case, it was not by choice or any ritual ceremony; it was fateful tragedy when he suddenly passed away, caused by a ruptured brain aneurysm resulting in an ensuing fatal stroke. However, this is not about rehashing that sorrowful circumstance or to grieve once again over it.

This is about a ghost story.

One night shortly after his passing, my mom, sisters, and I were fast asleep in our respective bedrooms. We lived in a split-level ranch-style house, the frontal appearance showing only a single level excepting for two levels indicated in the back and along the sides. My sisters had the front upstairs bedrooms across from each other, while I had the rear one; our mom slept in the downstairs master bedroom in the front corner of the house. In an instant, all of us were jolted awake by the sound of heavy footsteps on the roof. Emerging from our rooms, we stared at each other in fearful bewilderment. Simultaneously exclaiming, inquiring about the noise, we shared one thought with no definite answer. Hesitant, but acting swiftly, I threw on jeans and shoes to investigate outside in spite of pleading reservations. I was the “man” of the house now, and I intended to carry on that duty.

Snatching a flashlight from the utility room, I cautiously walked out via the garage into the backyard with equal parts bravado and dread. Given the direction of the presumptive footsteps - and the reasonable necessity of a ladder not only to climb up but also escape down - it seemed the appropriate location to search first if someone had been on the roof. With all the external lights turned on, I also grabbed an implement - most likely a shovel, although I do not recall specifically - from the garage to use as a weapon. After sweeping the perimeter and street, both by myself and with our spooked but generally agreeable dog, nothing and no one turned up. Whoever, or whatever, had made the sound - remembered, even to this day, as the unmistakable cadence of human footsteps - had vanished without further commotion or evidence.

Sometime after on another late evening, mom noticed a man, tall with an average build, standing outside on the step leading to the window-paneled backdoor. No one else home, he impassively stared into the kitchen without further action or apparent intention. Dressed in a red flannel jacket, she witnessed him simply turn, as if walking away, and disappear into the shadowy backyard as quickly as he had appeared. When I returned from a neighbor’s house shortly thereafter, she described the event to me in tearful panic. Same as before, I grabbed a flashlight and leashed the dog to search the surrounding area. Once again, whoever it may have been had vanished without further commotion or evidence.

In hindsight, it obviously may have been prudent to call the police concerning both incidents, but, honestly, that never even crossed our minds. Often, though, I think about the times dad and I spent perched on the roof watching various fireworks displays from surrounding municipalities during celebratory holidays. Or, I think about the times he worked in the yard or on the family cars wearing his red flannel jacket in the cooler months. Perhaps the sounds and sights were nothing more than an indelible farewell conjured forth by residual energy and memory. Illusive reminders that his spirit lives on, not to haunt but as echoes watching over us. And to affirm that the collection of bolts, nails, nuts, screws, etc, always will continue to grow.


©2018 Steve Sagarra

Friday, September 21, 2018

AvPvT: The Predminaliener

In 1987, a commando team encounters a predatory alien species in the jungles of Central America. Their leader, Major Dutch Schaefer, is the lone survivor. Due to this circumstance, the government - using his attributes and likeness as a model for technology based on the classified research of Dr. Miles Dyson - initiates full-scale development of the Terminator program to counter this new threat. When the latter, known as Skynet, gains sentience, humanity realizes too late the greater threat this counter-measure poses than the Predator it was meant to stop.

Ten years later, gang warfare and riots engulf Los Angeles. As citizens are hunted by an unknown entity - suspected by certain individuals to be a Predator - an elite squad composed of both law enforcement and military personnel investigates the matter. Meanwhile, Skynet determines a course of action that will cause world-wide decimation. Realizing the only way to save humanity is by destroying it, nuclear missiles are launched against key targets on August 29, 1997. As the dawn of Judgment Day advances for the human race, it will not be the last.

After John Connor - prepared and trained by his mother Sarah, having first encountered a Terminator in 1984 - eventually thwarts and leads humanity to victory over Skynet, Earth rebuilds and colonizes space. Law enforcement agents, known as Blade Runners, are further tasked with tracking down and eliminating any remaining hostile replicants that may pose a continuing danger. They are specially trained to detect human-like synthetic infiltration models. One notable agent in particular, Rick Deckard, has not been seen in decades after disappearing in 2019.

In 2122, the commercial space freighter Nostromo receives and investigates a distress signal. The crew soon discover an alien lifeform that preys upon them on a hostile planet. The lone survivor of this encounter, Ellen Ripley, is humanity's latest hope of survival against this Alien the Predators previously had fought and hunted, and with which they may still be at war. Back on Earth, bureaucrats and corporate officials - failing to understand the consequences of such folly from the devastating Skynet War - only consider this new species a potential weapon ripe for exploitation. They will do everything to possess it, no matter how many lives or the time it takes.

Remember their names - Connor; Deckard; Ripley; Schaefer. Heroes from different eras in dire times of need, all with a singular mission: save humanity from its own hubris.

©2018 Steve Sagarra