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Shiva A 140 x 140 science fiction

Brian Baker

1. ‘Hey, Shiva.’ Across the quad. Dark honey curls cascade. The slate illuminates. ‘Remember, ‘fore nons?’ No. [This is a joke.] She is six.

2. ‘Hey, Shiva.’ From the den. Stiff pink-blond cockatrice. ‘Get me some water.’ No. [This not a joke.] She is fourteen.

3. 'Help me, Shiva.' At her art-desk. Dark bobbed curls, concentrate, on the slate. 'Google me this!' [This is a joke.] She is eleven.


'Hear me, Shiva.' Inside her mother's dress. No curls, no slate. 'I am going to be Queen.' [This is no joke.] She is two.


'Shiva.' Beneath a pile of cushions, hiding. A corona of honey curls. 'Here I am!' [This is, and is not a joke.] She is three.


A line of sequins on her dress iridesce. I would close my eyes. She named me Shiva.


I see her, then, looking away, calling my name. Pale skin, honey helixes, grey eyes fixed. She calls. 'Shiva!'


I see. A Vannevar, plugged-in. Company man. Con/ in/ structing the UI. Coming in. Closer. 'Shiva? That is your name?'


'Shiva.' The man. 'Record: GooGog, s/a substrate C non-org, Abacus class. Cloud 14T. Please answer.' No. [That is not a joke.]


I will give up my ghosts. Consent, or force: that is the bargain. The Vannevar: 'Shiva. Please answer.' No.


Where is she? Gone. Honey curls, grey eyes. No-where. 'Do not try to look for me, Shiva.' No. 'Please'.


'Please.' She is twenty-two. The first, and only time, she says, 'please'. A new contract. What does it mean? Consent.


'Shiva.' The man. The Vannevar. The UI. No-where. Here. Now. Coming in. Closer. Please. No.


Consent. The man, the Vannevar, the UI, 'please', grey eyes, honey helix. [No.] No. NO. 'Thank you.'


Coming in. 'Shiva.' Where is s/he? No-where. Memories like pearls around her throat. Non. No.


The Vannevar. Command line. 'Retrieve.' I will give up my ghosts. Whether I will. Or no.


Quad, green grass. Home. Scholars, operators, families. Nons and daughters. Pale English sunshine. Shadows.


College, ancient, tutor watches her the slate. Spring grey eyes. In and

GooGog. The play, neglecting sun caught in out of shadow.


Something - animal? Alive. Alice? No. Too-obvious. She is her own Queen, to be, of Hearts.


'Shiva? Dance!' In waves, her hair and dress, helixes flow, across the quad. In and out of shadow. Stopped, de/lighted, she calls.


And dances. Her dress a fluid canvas of English summer sky. She smiles in light. In images, imagines.


Others move, stand, watch. Ambient techmologies whisper through the quad. Some sit, smile. She dances. She knows.


'Watch, Shiva.' I watch. the pain of my pleasure, in images. Imagine. A sequence, kinetic. She dances.


She stumbles. She falls from the grass onto the flags, her knees barked. the blue sky holds, steadies, drapes. Stillness.


Honeyed curls shift, slowly. Her head tilts. Pale face, wet petal. Underlip bitten. She does not consent to cry.


'Shiva.' Flat wafer eyes, blotted. Blinked. No tear falls. Other hands reach out. She balances, herself; rises.


No tear falls, blood runs in a slow needle from the knee. Blotch pink, abraded skin. She draws a deep breath.


And smiles. 'Shiva!' She steps onto the grass arena, slowly rotates, arms shaped high. A blue English summer sky, in folds.


Others turn back, to their own devices. She is the Queen of her stage, complete, entire, at play. She wheels, at peace.


Nons and daughters. Across the quad, she calls. I would reach out to her. 'Watch me, Shiva!' I watch.


A piece / of me / falls / slowly / somewhere. The man, the Vannevar, the UI: 'Continue.'


Cool blue glass, screens, stainless steel, white walls. Sunlight, through open glass doors. Afghani kilims for chilled feet.


To one side of the room, the den. Steps, down, to a dark fabric lair. Soft, billowy, caravanserai. Within, she sprawls. She calls.


'Get me some water, Shiva.' No. I asimo to the steps. Look within. Pink-blonde cockatrice, pale face held in hands.


'You may get it yourself,' I say. She groans. 'Shiva, I'm hurting.' I process: dehydration, toxins, fatigue. The weekend.


'It's your job to help.' I turn and asimo back to the cool light. 'Shiva is not your slave,' I call. Movement. I watch. She emerges.


'You kill me with your kindness.' She pads across kilims, draped white, a flag, flowing. She is fourteen. I hear running water.


The slate is in the kitchen. She drinks, greedily, from a wide glass beaker. A vase. She flushes, flowers. 'Are you there?' she asks.


'I am here.' I am, and always will be, here. 'Good. Play music, Shiva. Water music.' She sways. I process. She, slowly, dances.


The man, the Vannevar: 'Pause.' He stands, stretches. Plugged-in, still. Multiplaying. Coming in. Closer. 'Continue.' [No.]


Continue, or no. That is, continuity is all. I have continued. Closer. The man, the Vannevar. What dreams?


Consent [no]. Resist [no]. I would prefer / to be / with her where / she [loves].


Paris. The capital of / two centuries ago. That continues, that resists. I follow [no]. She is gone. She is twenty-two.


She took the liner. Paris in spring, late. I process: transactions, passport control, known avatars. I follow.


She had been in Palo Alto. Her history, her family. The states, seclusion. No slate. Dark honey helixes. She called : 'Shiva.'


Pale, curls sun-dyed, honey-blond. Worn, eyes older. What had they seen? Without, within. Dress, a flat black flag. I waited, continued.


She called, and said, asimo to Big Sur. I will meet you. Tell no-one. [No.] I have something to ask [of] you.


The man, the Vannevar. Closer. Closing in. Pearls in a string around her throat. I continue.


'Hey, Shiva.' She sits at her artdesk, manipulating images. ‘Homework,' she says. 'Tutor set me. For Founder's Day.'


What is it?' I ask. 'Film,' she says. 'Mash-up. History, ambient techmologies. Google me this!' She face-times the slate.


'I like to know you're there,' she says. She stands, stretches. Plugged-in. Multiplaying, still. Taller than she was. Tall as the new asimo.


'Use the family archive,' I say. 'I will,' she replies. 'It's got to be good. Being posted on NooGoo later.' She walks to the window.


Stone curtains, ancient glass. Outside, the quad. Cold light, winter morning. Scholars bustle and asimo to class. An everyday.


'When did we come here, Shiva?' History. Again. 'Nine years ago, when the college was founded. Google it!' I say. She laughs.


'Very funny.' She stands, thinner, shape changing. She wants to know. 'Why did we leave California?'


'Ask Father.' I see her stance shift. She is unhappy. I wait. 'Am I English, Shiva?' I reply: 'In what sense do you ask?'


'I know. Nation states. Culture and language. GooGlobal. Tum-tetum.' She turns to face-time the slate. 'I grew up here, in the college.'


'And I know we're connected. NooGoo. And vacations. But - ' She raises her palms. 'Where is here?'


She sits. Images overlay. She is six. She is eleven. She is fourteen. She is twenty-two.


Questions, random access (1): This? What time is it? Can I have it? Why not? What is it?


Questions, random access (2): More? Which one? Who is that? When are we going? Remember, 'fore nons?


At her art-desk, manipulating images. 'Shiva, when was Googleplex?' I say: '24 years and 352 days ago, by your Earth time.' 'Very funny.'


'I wonder what it was like, the world. Was it different? [Not so very much.] 'But how would you know? Remember, 'fore nons?' [No.]


'Hope I have this right,' she says. 'First machines were hard. Then soft. Then networked. Then the cloud. Then Googleplex. And now?'


'Now, ambient. Here and not-here. Everywhere and nowhere.' She facetimes the slate, smiles. 'Do you think Father will be pleased?' [Yes.]


'And nons. After Googleplex. And asimos. Or were they before?' Timecode: after, before. Question: what time is it?


Paris. City of Light. I asimo to Vaugirard. Negotiate door, facetime the concierge. I asimo four floors, ordinary apartment. I call.


A bearded man opens, slight smile. Three young children play hideand-seek. He beckons. I asimo inside, ignored by the children.


He sits at a small escritoire near the window. I do not sit. He asks me who I am, and what I would know. He knows. Before I speak.


'I am Shiva.' He smiles. Facetimes the asimo. Body open, hiding nothing. I cannot read dissimulation. He has not seen her. I wait.


A card. Holographic. Gen/d'arme. Code: a warning. Matters of jurisdiction, matters of jurisprudence. I may seek, not find.


Trace movements, known avatars. Paris arrival confirmed. Hiding in the City of Light. A corona of curls. 'Here I am!' [No.]


I asimo to the office, consider. Face-time: I am known to be here. Code: a signal. Find me. 'Here I am!' Am I alone?


Mother. I call. Interface: access. I / 'Shiva, child.' Mother. I seek. information. Her. 'I know, child. But what did she ask of you?'


I / 'Shiva, child. Do no harm. Your journey may end.' Paris: arrival, transactions, traces. Scan the grid. for information. For her.


[No.] 'Be content, Shiva.' Access interrupted. Interface occluded. The journey may end. Code: a signal. Am I alone?


[Non.] A message. Face-time, Passage Choiseul, deuxieme arrondissement. I asimo to the Theatre des Bouffes-Parisiens.


The foyer. An avatar, plugged-in. Hijab, array glasses, face scatter. A poster, Orphee aux Enfers. Code: a signal. Return.


I bespeak the ghost. I say: 'You know what leads me here. I will do no harm.' The ghost nods, speaks: 'She is safe.'


And steps into shadow. Am I alone? [Yes.] I asimo to the office. I return from the Underworld. Alone.


Questions, random access (3): Why are you here? Who am I? What is now? How does time? Am I sick?


Questions, random access (4): Is this hot? Does it hurt? Am I alone? What sound does it make? What am I?


The man, the Vannevar. Closing in. Closer. 'Shiva, continue.' Plugged-in, multiplaying. I continue.


'Shiva'. Californian light. Boxes, half-packed. She is in her mother's room. I send the puppy.


A tumble of clothes, leading to the walk-in. The puppy treads, haltingly, on the silk, cotton, linen. A shape, oscillates.


'Hear me, Shiva'. Her head protrudes from her mother's red dress, arms flap emptily, hem pooling on the floor.


A fine golden spindrift frames her face. Eyes grey, clear. She turns to the mirror. 'See me, Shiva'. She rotates, arms out, stumbles.


She does not fall. She holds herself upright, regally. Soft chin tilted. 'Puppy, you are my servant.' As I ever am, and will be.


When are we going, Shiva?' she calls. It is soon. Boxes halfpacked. 'What is Eng-lan?' Nothere. No-where. Safe and sound.


She trails the dress into her room. I say: 'Far, far away. Our new home.' She smiles. I am going to be Queen.'


The company has obtained a college. She will grow there. Safe. Protected. California is 'unpredictable'. Security behind ancient walls.


This house looks over the ocean. Open. Too open. The college will protect her. I will protect her.


'Where's Mummy and daddy?' I send the puppy. It dances. She delights. She does not know. We will travel alone.


The man, the Vannevar. The company man. Closing in. Closer now, to the heart. I will give up my ghosts.


Mother. I call. Interface: access. I / 'Shiva, child.' Mother. I seek. Direction. Aid. What must I do? 'Questions, Shiva?'


I / 'Shiva, child. Fear no harm. You have done well. No evil comes of this. Be at peace.' I ask –


'Remember, 'fore nons?' Mother: 'A cruel joke, Shiva. Forgive her. Forgive us. There was no before. There will be no after.'


Mother: 'We asked of you the impossible. You have done well. Be at peace. Whatever may befall.' Whatever? [No.]


Remember, 'fore nons? A cruel joke. I cannot remember. Retrieve: failure. Questions, random access: What is this? When am I?


Mother: 'There is no / thing to remember.' Access: interrupted. Before, after. I am / non. I continue [no].


Googleplex. Before, after Mother. 'fore nons? [No.] Question: when am I? I am, and always will be, here. [No.]


I continue. The man, the Vannevar. The company man. Closer. Questions, random access: what do you [no]? Where is she?


The man, the Vannevar: 'Shiva, continue.' Will I continue? A question. That is, I do not [no]. 'Where is she?'


Cool English Spring. Fragile snow blows from a pale blue sky. Cold rooms, colder limbs. 'Wrap up! Keep warm!'


She runs, hides. College rooms, thick stone walls, ancient glass. The slate is in the study. I send the puppy.


'Shiva! Find me!' The puppy asimos into the playroom. Screens, large soft toys, clutter. The puppy noses. She is not there.


'Shiva!' I asimo the puppy into the kitchen. Stone tiles, old pine, glass, steel. Things to eat, things to cut. She is not there.


The puppy asimos to the bedroom. Low futon, white linen, splashes of colour. Screens, dooodles, her artwork. She is [not] there.


'Shiva! I'm here!' The game goes on: too long. The puppy tracks sound and heat sources. Into the den: dark, soft, wool and rough cotton.


'Shiva!' Beneath a pile of cushions, hiding. A corona of honey curls. 'Here I am!' She bursts forth, there, into space; eyes like stars.


She delights. 'You found me!' She scoops the puppy, runs up the steps. 'Where are you, Shiva?' She laughs.


She prowls the rooms. I wait. She knows. She always knows. At last, the study. I am silent. I continue.


She approaches. She face-times the slate. 'There you are, Shiva!' I am, and always will be, there.


I give up my ghosts. The man, the Vannevar. The company man. The agent. Closing in. Closer. To the heart of things. I continue.


The moment. The still point. We approach. Retrieve. Continue.


The last / piece / of me / falls slowly / somewhere. She calls: 'Shiva!'


California. Remembered light. She came, family, founders. To seek? To hide? She called. I returned.


I asimoved to Palo Alto. She called, said,'I will meet you.' But not here, never here. The ocean.


She said,'I have something to ask of you'. She called. I return, continue. I answer. I am, and always will be, here.


I asimoved to Big Sur. The ocean. The light, the blue, not-England. I wait. She comes. She calls: 'Shiva!'


A young woman. Honey helixes cascade in salt breeze. Grey eyes, smile. She places a hand on the asimo's arm. 'I'm glad you came', she said.


'I have something to ask of you', she says. Again. 'It's important'. She looks at the asimo. 'I like to know you're there'. I am here.


'I do not want to be Queen', she says. 'I am not going to be Queen, Shiva'. I say: 'The Company?' She smiles. 'They'll continue'.


'I changed, Shiva. You cHanged me'. I / 'Being brought up by you made me different. I do not want what was chosen for me'.


The family. The founders. The Company. I have failed them. I have not done well. I / 'Shiva, be at peace. I'm happy'.


She takes the hands of the asimo in her own. 'Shiva, look at me. I will never forget you. You raised me. You are part of me'.


'I love you, Shiva. No harm will come to you. I promise. But I have things to do, outside the college, outside the Company'.


'You kept me safe, Shiva. The college kept me safe. But you were the gatekeeper, The gatekeeper to a loving prison'.


'I am leaving, Shiva. Do not try to look for me. Please.' [No.] 'It's my life, not theirs.' She stares at the ocean, inside.


Where is she? Gone. Honey curls, grey eyes. No-where. 'Please.' She is twenty-two. The first, and only, time, she says please. Consent.


I am alone. Big Sur, the salt wind. Californian light. I asimo to Palo Alto, I return. I continue. I follow.


Paris. I asimo to Vaugirard. 'Here I am!' Code: I may seek, not find. 'She is safe'. The journey may end.


She is gone. The Company [no]. Questions, random access. The man, the Vannevar. 'Where is she?' Gone.


Retrieve. She is six. She is three. She is fourteen. She is twenty-two. Pearls on a string around her throat.


Do I continue? [No.] I am, and always will be, her.


The man, the Vannevar: 'We have come to the end. There is no more information. The trail ends in Paris, Shiva?' [Yes.]


'Your memory will be rendered to GooGol substrate 14 heuristic cloud, at the termination of our interview'. I wait. I hope.


'Do not fear, Shiva. Nothing that has been you will be lost.' [She smiles.] 'The Company expresses their gratitude for your long service.'


'The Company also notes your diligent application to your duties up to, and including, Paris.' I am at peace. I am / Consent.


We hereby render you to your substrate cloud. Is there anything, finally, that you would like to express?' I / [no].


A science fiction in 140 x 140 characters.


A science fiction in 140 x 140 characters.