Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Where Dark Meets Light on the Turning Edge"

This poem came out of the November 19, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "Superintelligence" square in my 10-31-19 card for the People-watching Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Aquariana and Kraken threads of the Polychrome Heroics series.

"Where Dark Meets Light on the Turning Edge"

[Friday, November 21, 2014]

With a sigh of relief,
Marko slipped into his room
and closed the door behind him.

It was a handsome room, with
old wood paneling on the walls
and newer carpeting underfoot.

He had an antique nightstand
beside the full-sized bed, but
the tablecloth was plain ivory
and so was the down comforter.

Atop that lay the one fancy thing
in the room: an afghan that he'd had
since they brought him out of the lab.

It was crocheted in squares of gray
and blue, some lines stormy dark,
others a pale shade of aquamarine.

Around and around the flat center
went rows of different textures --
little popcorn-puffs and ribbed bars,
rumples that he couldn't name,
a broad band of basketweave,
more ribbing, and the edge
done in ruffles all around.

It suited him, he thought,
like the sea or the sky,
complex and marvelous.

Marko ran his hand over it,
feeling for the familiar peaks
and valleys in the yarn.

Alerting behavior,
a counselor had called it --
one of the less useless ones,
who sometimes said things
Marko could actually use.

The variegations in
the afghan snagged
at his attention now.

"Texture is most evident
where dark meets light
on the turning edge and at
the outer edge," he whispered.

People were like that too. He knew.
He had seen them, in all their darkness
and light, when they thought nobody
but God would be watching them.

"Experience has taught us to assume
that the areas in between have
similar features," he went on.

It was usually true, after all.

It wasn't always true, though,
and that was the problem.

Sometimes people surprised
him, for better or for worse, and
that wasn't really something
that he could afford.

Machines he could
understand, and code
was as simple as breathing
for him, but people -- they
were more complicated.

It got distracting when
he sat face-to-face with
someone and had to watch
all the little changes in their face
while sifting meaning from what
they said, instead of reading it
clear as you please in text.

Sometimes he wanted to touch
them just to make sure they were real.

He'd heard that some people had
the same reaction to cyberspace, which
was just bizarre. Everything was real
in cyberspace: the code told him so.

Maybe it didn't tell them, though.

Marko ran a hand over his afghan
again, savoring its soft design, then
bunched it into his lap and hugged it.

That was so much easier than
trying to hug another person.

"Texture is the most enduring
and ubiquitous underpinning
of form ... certainly a calming,
meditative and appealing world
for both the eye and mind," he said.

It helped keep him grounded and
reminded him where his body was,
this skin he was supposed to wear
even though he felt more like himself
whenever he was working online.

A soft knock at the door made
Marko look up, automatically
reaching out to check
the security web.

It was just Pips.

The young man had
an almost magical ability
to intuit when he was needed.

Marko wasn't going to argue with it.
He just opened the door and let Pips in.

"Was there anything in particular,
or are you simply worried about me?"
Marko asked, stepping aside.

"You seem tense," Pips said.
He looked concerned.

"Tension is anticipation
and uncertainty," Marko said.
"Every art has to have it."

"Then you must be working
on a masterpiece," Pips said.

"Neptune, I hope so,"
Marko said. "Everything
hangs on the decisions that
I'm making, and I can't help
wondering if I'm right."

"I have every confidence
in you," Pips said stoutly.

"At least one of us does."

"Do you want to talk about it?"
Pips said. "Genna's antsy too.
I think she knows something's up,
but she's too polite to pry. You're
going to have to tell her sooner
or later, boss, and you know it."

"I know, I know," Marko said.
"Things are moving forward with
the Maldives, faster than I expected."

"Contingency X?" Pips said,
eyebrows rising above his glasses.

"We think so," Marko said. "It has
its pros and cons, of course, but
the pros are weighing heavier."

"Then you need to tell her, before
it hits the news," Pips insisted.

"I can't lose her, Pips,"
he whispered. "I just can't."

"You won't lose her,"
Pips assured him.
"Genna isn't like that."

"She already thinks that
I'm creepy," Marko said.

"No, she thinks that feeding
experimental trackers to her family
was creepy, and she forgave you
even that," Pips said. "She likes you."

"I don't know why." Marko stared
at his hands. "I'm a terrible friend."

"You gave her a job she loves,
rescued her family, retrieved
her husband, and found a healer
to patch him up as best he could be,"
Pips said. "Genna pretty much thinks
you hung the stones on the henge."

Marko chuckled, reminded of
Pips' exotic background.

"Even our little friend
isn't that old," he said.

"A turn of phrase," Pips said
with a diffident shrug. "You
know what I mean by it."

"I don't know how this happened,"
Marko said, feeling a bit lost. "I don't
have many friends. I don't usually
get so attached to people. It's not
romance. It's just ... I need her."

"Everyone benefits from
having some friends and family,
even if they don't have many,"
Pips said. "Besides, Genna
treats you like a regular guy.
You need that, and you don't
get nearly enough of it."

"I don't know how she
does it," Marko said.

"Neither does the President,
and she treats him exactly
the same way," Pips said dryly.
"Her kids sent him thank-you notes
and everything after their meeting."

Marko chuckled. "I can see that."

"Then trust that, or at least,
rely on it," Pips coaxed.

"I'm smart with computers,
Pips, not with people,"
Marko said, hugging
his blanket harder.

"Yeah, I know," Pips said.
"What about me?"

"You're great with
people," said Marko.
"I see that you even
have their katheeb
eating out of your hand."

"Saul tried to put me in
a guest room," Pips said
with a theatrical shudder.

"Did you explain?" Marko said.

"I tried to," Pips said. "I don't
think they really got it, but that's
okay, because the katheeb came
to my rescue and let me have one
of the servant rooms. It's really nice."

"Maybe I'm not the only one who
should tell Genna," said Marko.

"She was just supposed to be
a landing pad, and she was ...
unbelievably good at that,"
Pips said. "I didn't expect
to go into service with her, and
things just got a bit muddled."

"So unmuddle them," Marko said.

"I will if you will," Pips shot back.
"Come on, boss, she already knows
that we're more than we seem. We
might as well come clean and
get the frowny face over with."

Marko winced. He'd rather
face down a laser beam than
Genna's unhappy face.

That thing ought to be
classified as a superweapon,
and he wasn't even sure why
it worked as well as it did.

He was one head of Kraken,
after all. He should be impervious to
petty threats like that, especially since
she didn't mean to be threatening.

People were just so confusing.

"You really think it will be all right
if I tell her?" Marko said. "I know
that Genna isn't a security risk,
I just ... I'm still worried."

"I understand that you
trust data more than you
trust your own judgment
sometimes," Pips said.
"Do you trust mine, though?"

"Of course," Marko said. "I've
never seen you misread anyone."

"Okay," Pips said. "Call up
the feed from my glasses.
Public areas only, please."

It took no more than a thought
for Marko to reach out and tap
the feed, light spilling like confetti.

Mentally applying one filter after
another, he finally got something
like what Pips' brain would show him,
and found the St. Croix family on a beach.

Well, the whole country was beach, here,
except for the few paved-over city islands.

Genna wore a rainbow skirt and a t-shirt
with a bicycle on the front of it, her head
tipped back in silent laughter. Dominic
was practicing his dexterity by building
a sandcastle with the younger boys, as
Victor hung well back from the water.

Saul had coaxed Nimkii into the surf,
no more than ankle deep, splashing
at each other. Water drops sparkled
like diamonds in the tropical sun.

"You can be as much a part of that
as you want to be, and they won't ever
bug you for more," Pips said quietly.
"I've gotten to know them well enough
to be completely confident of that. I've
watched Dom add two kids to his life as
smoothly as scooping kittens out of a ditch,
and he won't put them down, either."

Marko sighed. "You may be
right. Just because something
is an anomaly, that doesn't
necessarily make it false data."

"Yeah, they're an anomaly, all right,"
Pips said. "The only people I
know who are more tractive
than them are the Finns."

That made Marko wonder
how they were going to take it
when Kraken decloaked.

He should probably talk with
the doctors Finn before then, too.

"You have a point," he admitted.
"I have no countervailing data."

"Do you want me to be there
when you tell Genna?" said Pips.

"I don't know," Marko said.
He fingered the edge of
his afghan where a line of
midnight turned to aquamarine.

"But you will tell her?" Pips said.

Darkness and light, fear and hope,
hissed at him like separate heads.
Marko was used to that, though,
had made his peace with it long ago.

Perhaps this situation wasn't as
unfamiliar as he thought it was.

"Yes," he promised. "I'll tell her."

* * *


"Texture is most evident where dark meets light on the turning edge and at the outer edge. Experience has taught us to assume that the areas in between have similar features."
-- Rex Brandt

"Texture is the most enduring and ubiquitous underpinning of form... certainly a calming, meditative and appealing world for both the eye and mind."
-- Lynda Lehmann

"Tension is anticipation and uncertainty. Every art has to have it."
-- Rex Brandt

See Marko's Afghan. You can learn how to make it with this pattern.

People with sensory differences often have more need of input that helps them organize their perceptions and regulate emotions. Marko's superpowers mean that he has to work harder to process the physical world, whereas cyberspace feels natural to him. Alerting behavior is the seeking of sensations which help wake up the brain and connect with the body. Many people who need this kind of stimulation instinctively reach out to touch things, and it helps to have textured objects available. I have a box-bottom blanket draped over our couch, and I touch it every time I walk past it, because I spend so much time working on the computer and it helps wake up my fingers and orient me in my body.

Predicting people's behavior is an important social skill. Learn how to do it. When it comes to predicting the future, generalists outperform specialists. One reason is that a broad view supports better extrapolation than a narrow view. But another is that dabbling attracts people who are good at extrapolating. Farmemory makes me good at many things, which encourages me to diversify, which further supports my ulterior resources in predicting what will happen because I have a better view of where things are here-and-now so I have more pieces to match up with that ulterior knowledge. I couldn't do much of what I do if I only studied one thing. Now consider that Marko skims the whole internet. The only people who could beat him at futurism are people with Foresight or Time Powers.

Attachment theory describes the process and results of human bonding. The attachment style formed in childhood tends to continue into adulthood. This influences all kinds of relationships, including people's approach to parenting their own children. Marko's difficulty connecting with other people comes from many sources including neurovariance, growing up in a mad science lab, and experiencing cyberspace as more real than meatspace. Genna has a rare knack for taking people as they are and finding ways to connect with them. To Marko, that's startling because he then feels a connection with her that happens with very few other people. It's making him anxious and clingy -- which is actually a big improvement over anxious and avoidant or indifferent and avoidant. When people meet his needs and help him find new tools, that enhances his ability to form secure relationships, making him calmer and happier. A calmer, happier supervillain in charge of the world's largest supervillain organization means a safer world for everyone. \o/

Interpersonal communication is another essential life skill that relies on disclosure and honesty.  Learn how to improve it.
Tags: community, cyberfunded creativity, family skills, fantasy, fishbowl, life lessons, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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