Entry to this week’s What Pegman Saw! Location is La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná in Paraguay.
A young prince once asked an old cripple how he could sleep so soundly each night. The cripple responded that he had been born with his deformities and had learned to live with this fact. Curious, the prince offered to have his best doctors and servants treat him. The old man chuckled and politely declined, replying that he was content with his lot in life. That night, the boy dreamed that he had turned into the cripple who begged for his livelihood. Waking up from the nightmare, he swore to never let such a fate come to pass.
Decades later in old age, the prince who ascended the throne and became king wandered the halls alone at night. Now an insomniac, he cursed the cripple for having steered him onto his current path. On his deathbed, the man finally broke down and begged for a reprieve. His wish was granted.
Clark heard a whisper in his right ear. He had been climbing the rock-face of the Yosemite for seven days straight, hardly getting any sleep under the mountain’s shadow. With his head turned, he heard another whisper, this time from his left and a bit more coherent.
“Turn back. This is not your time.”
The mountain then rumbled as several loose rocks tumbled down the cliff side.
“No!” Clark hissed. “Not after that wench left me!”
A jostle of voices now rang between his two ears, almost making him convulse under the strain of his weight. He gasped for breath as sweat evaporated off his forehead. Then he heard it. Her voice rang from up above, beckoning him to come in jest.
Anger seethed from every pore as he tore his pickaxe into the overhanging rock. The mountain however would have none of it. The pickaxe broke off a piece that sent both Clark and the rock-face rolling. When the dust had settled, the tears of rage were no more. They found their peace in the murmurs of the cold-water stream below.
A walkway sprouted over the open sea as Julia meandered. She had buried a trinket somewhere in the vast emptiness of forlorn waves, a token of the past that she’d long cast off. However, nothing she discarded was truly lost. The waves still pulsated with a familiar agony that she wished long forgotten but would resurface with the faintest of resemblances. A face amongst crowds may send her retreating. A whisper within hubbubs would stir panic attacks. The image of her wedding ring would then return with the icy sensation of feet turning to stone. Her only recourse was to run despite the walkway sprouting over a sea which tormented her of her failings. A sea of people would give her no peace till she took the plunge again.
Artemis’s geese shot South at break-neck speeds. They pierced through icy winds and aurora skies, like an arrow aimed at the heavens. Would they strike Scorpio, who hunted Orion amongst the stars? Or would they falter in their mission and lose their mark? Alas, even Artemis could not win against the Gods. One by one, her squadron fell in a blaze that lit up the night sky. Their sacrifice however was not in vain for it signaled the start of the great migration. Such was the natural order of things.
At the edge of the cosmos, a small comet impacts a planet. Deep within its nucleus, Fate preserves a relic from a distant past. Her bosom houses a patch of roses that had miraculously survived the destruction of a previous world. A lover of life had suspended the roes patch in time so that they neither bloomed nor wilted during their long flight through space.
When the denizens of the new world discovered the crash site, they also found the rose patch intact. Some who feared its unknown origins threatened to burn the ground from which it stands. Those who wished to examine its properties wanted to dissect its body pedal by pedal. Others who attributed its coming to divine providence wished to enshrine it within a receptacle for the ages.
For such reasons, the rose patch refused to bloom until one day a courageous young girl dared to approach. Recognizing it for what it was, she cusped her hands around a single bud and inhaled its scent. The warmth of her hands awakened the rosebud from its stasis and its petals opened to reveal a deepest red never before seen. Her cheeks flushed a ruddy complexion as the lover of life smiled.
The first stroke fell on air, cutting an ocean from out of the sky.
The second stroke tore across water, carving a shoreline without beginning and end.
The third stroke sculpted the earth, arranging forms from an infinite variety.
The fourth stroke ignited into fire, imbuing spirits with movement and life.
The final stroke pierced through time, resetting the world for a new brush to try.
The fishing line yanked far to the right. “Looks like we got a live one Jimmy! There she goes!”
“Careful with the reel Buzz. The line could snap if you’re too quick with the handle.”
“I know I know! But at this rate, the spool is going to run out. Lemme add a bit of resistance.” Suddenly, the reel stopped spinning. Jimmy and Buzz stared at the slack line for about a minute. The sound of ocean waves sloshing against the dinghy’s stern filled the silence.
“Crap, you think the bait came out? I thought they swallow these things whole like babies with candy.”
“Just reel it in slowly. Don’t want to startle it.”
After several minutes of winding, the end of the line resurfaced. Jimmy and Buzz jerked backwards in shock of what they had caught… A human skull dangled from the ends of the fishing pole. Wedged between its jaws and teeth, the silver-dollar lure remained intact.
Bee, the squirrel had discovered the stash of a life-time. Acorns upon acorns, piled a mountain high, shimmered like gold under the sun. Bee immediately set out to secure his massive find. Digging several pits, he sought to cache away as many as could for future use. However, this would clearly fall short as most would go to waste in the coming winter. Instead, he would need recruits whom he could trust to share in secret. Thus, an idea came to mind. He would ask strangers, friends, and family alike if they would lend him a third of their harvest. Most were reluctant to concede such a large portion. Some were even downright hostile to the question. But to the exceptional few who agreed, he revealed the secret location of the stash. By winter’s time, the mountain of acorns had been harvested and Bee had gained a new inner circle of friends.
Rudolph, the bulldog circled about the twenty-by-twenty fenced yard. Having been chained to a tree since birth, the yard was both his home and universe. Others who ventured close to his territory were met with streaks of vicious barks. Those who found themselves inside the yard feared for their lives.
Rudolph only had a soft spot for two things in the universe. His owner, an old lady who fed him daily, and butterflies that would flutter freely in and out of the yard. Like a child that had just learned to walk, he would prance around dancing with the butterflies before the chain would snap taut, sometimes coiling around and yanking his neck. The old lady would then have to untangle the mess before his ADD kicked in again.
So it came as a surprise that when the old lady had finally decided to enter a retirement home and Rudolph was unchained, he stopped dancing with those butterflies. In fact, he spent most of his time nuzzling the metal leash that used to collar his neck. Like a third arm that had been severed, he had tried reattaching it with his awkward paws to no avail. Tragic that the butterflies that once brought him such joy to life no longer held the same appeal.
“Quiet Billy”, Joe placed his hand over his mouth to mask his voice. “That right there is a Monster-Rig, one of the few rogue AIs still in the wild that had mixed with an incompatible persona”.
“What do you mean Joe?” Billy’s voice rasped within the metallic shell. “I thought the government had done away with all those self-driving agents ever since THAT incident.”
“Well THAT incident was just the tip of the iceberg. Foogle corp. had lost control of its entropy-net and the military intervened by manually shutting down its subsidiary systems.”
“Ha! Manual would be an understatement. Those self-driving cars were like feral-animals who found themselves without a pack-leader. We had to practically use anti-tank rounds to disable them.” Billy quieted for a moment to recollect his old car-hunting days. “Why is this one called Monster-Rig?”
Joe paused to think for a minute before answering. “Foogle’s entropy-net was self-aware. Its consciousness emerged from several autonomous systems that had been designed with specific directives in mind. However, resources were limited and so these systems wound-up competing over against other, even forming temporary alliances to further their ends. For example, big-rigs were originally designed to ship large quantities of goods without incident over long distances. However, its greatest impediment en-route would have been other vehicles. When it merged with the Monster-Truck rally simulator, it must have learned how to maneuver over other cars. Conversely, the simulator acquired the specs of the big-rig and gained a means of collecting real-world data. A symbiotic win/win situation so-to-speak.“
“Huh. But wouldn’t the increase in damages factor into the Monster-Rig’s risk/cost assessment curves? I can’t imagine how the Monster-Truck simulator managed to skew the numbers so greatly in its favor.”
“Hard to say. Things like value and worth are not always reducible to numbers to the individual. Humans for example tend not to assign numerical weights to every decision they make. But over a large population, these decisions turn into trends that can be modeled vis-a-vie statistical processes.”
“Do you think these Monster-Rigs are individuals who have developed value-systems beyond their programming? This one doesn’t seem to be freighting any goods nor is it behaving like a dog in a puddle.”
“It’s possible. After all… You and I were once Big-Game Hunters.”