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Squidpod 019 - Delusions of Reality

It's important to maintain a clear, consistent idea of what's real. Just not always possible.

Delusions of Reality

by Dave Cochran


Published under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence

MP3 PDF and ebook versions coming soon


I don’t think they can even see me, these days. The style in VUI’s must’ve turned toward the bright and noisy. All colourful and eye-catching. Something that just tracks the physical to pull polygons - everything else is background. It’s an oscillatory system - a Lorenz attractor, something like that. If I had the kilocores for it, I could run a sim - but no, I don’t think the research council will bite. But just as a rough, impressionistic first pass, it seems plausible, it fits with the phenomenology. Maybe I’ll write an abstract, send it off see what happens. When it’s close to a local minimum I think they notice me more. Not enough to rise to consciousness, generally. not enough to hold their attention. Not for long. No.

Just yesterday, I saw a whole load of them, a couple of hundred, all crowded onto an overpass over the old motorway, pointing and wowing and laughing and shushing and gasping at something that wasn’t there. Just weathered concrete and cracked potholed old tarmac with weeds and shrubs and birch saplings starting to come out, but that’s not what they see, no, of course not. Could’ve been a concert or an art installation or a dynamic wavegarden or a dinosaur fight or anything really. But it wasn’t there. There was a completely empty space and they were just all gawping like maniacs at exactly nothing.

I don’t look any different to them. Not really - well really actually really. I’m sure they’re all dressed up like the court of Louis XIV or rock stars or Æsir or whatever else in the layers I can’t see. Down here in poor old layer zero, with the clunking skeuomorphisms and thermodynamics and all, we’re all wearing the same grey basic sweatpants and fleeces the public fabs spit out.

Sometimes I think maybe they have software to just edit out a shuffling old offline like me, no overlays, no public directory, not even a two line HUD-bio. Just a square metre or so of skin and hair and manky clothes reflecting visible-spectrum photons at the rhodopsin and photopsin molecules in their retinas like some sort of mediæval peasant or something. I used to shout to try to get their attention, but it never did much good. Stopped trying. They’ve got channels for music and speech and subvox, so someone anywhere on the planet they give a sufficient minimum of shits about might as well be next to them, and I might be on the other side of the world. Even if I’m right in front of them.

Doesn’t matter. There’re a couple of food machines I know with wobbly network connections. They do the hand-waggle for millefeuille or sushi nigiri or minestrone soup or whatever, and get nothing, so they do it again, and this time it works, except really it’s their first hand-waggle at a slight latency, then they bugger off, then it glurges out a second one, which I eat. It looks like crap, but it’s if you close your eyes it’s usually pretty tasty. Layers are just audiovisual, maybe a little haptic, nothing nosmic yet. Smells and tastes still have to be done the old-fashioned way.

Here’s one now, gabbing over a voice channel to someone who’s not here. That used to be a sign you were, you know, nuts. Then it used to be you could play the game of ‘Mad Person or Bluetooth’ in public spaces, see if you could tell before you spotted the blue light in the ear. For all I know, she could be legitimately mad, maybe she’s just flapping her uvula into a dead channel.

Oh shut up. If I don’t talk to myself, who else will? If I don’t have someone to talk to, I might just lose it. Yes, I know. I’m aware of the irony. I’m being oh so terribly meta and self aware here.

I wish I could have a cat, or a dog. A dog would do. More traditional. But cats and dogs won’t have anything to do with me. You see, they’ve all got Broca-Wernicke chips, so they can use human language, at least in a simplified form. No humanlike vocal apparatus though, and I can’t see the captions.

They probably think I’m awfully rude.

Not important not important not important. I found something. Something that could change everything.

I saw some writing. Onnnn … oh, buggered if I know it’s proper name. I call it Penguin Street, because right in the middle, there’s a big stain on a wall that looks sort of like a penguin. Well, there are lots of things it looks like, but one of them is a penguin, and I happen to like penguins, so it’s a penguin.

Actually, it’s 14th Penguin Street. There are 38 Penguin Streets in the city.

Where was I…

Oh yes, something that could change everything, Thank you.


I found some writing. On the wall. Next to the penguin.

I’m not ashamed to admit, I cried. I haven’t seen writing in nine years.

Well that’s not totally true. I used to … sometimes, if I had some food left-over, I would use it, smear it on a wall or the ground, to make letters. The drones come by and wash it pretty quick, but I just wanted to see some letters. Indulge me.

But anyway, these letters weren’t made by me. I hadn’t seen letters that I hadn’t made myself in nine years, that’s what I meant to say. I think it was nine years. Counting the winters, you know. Like the vikings, and for the same reason.

I hadn’t been to 14th Penguin Street for a while. I don’t like to stray too far, not without waymarkers or breadcrumbs or suchlike. I tried leaving actual breadcrumbs once, but the pigeons got them. But I had been there eight sleeps ago and I’m sure it wasn’t there then.

I must investigate the phenomenon. Contemplate it’s meaning. Consider it’s possible implications.

What’s that? Oh. But you already know what it said.

Oh, fine, fine, you’re such a pain sometimes, I wonder how I tolerate you!

It said:

Kez tha B-Bag

percieve dont believe

no fukin way

I know, I know, frustratingly gnomic. Still, I think I’m up to the challenge of a little textual scholarship. Philological context is unavailing, sadly. Archaeologically, perhaps a little more could be inferred, but that was never my specialism, and the requisite instrumentation is hardly readily to hand. Perhaps with a suitable collaborator, I might be able to throw together a proposal. Well. You see.

It’s difficult to be certain, but I think the author wishes to evince some manner of naïve realist metaphysics - a privileging of the perceptual over the conceptual, which the second line expresses both in it’s overt manifestation and in the variant spelling of “perceive”, doubling and drawing attention to the occurrence of i e, calling to mind the Latin tag, i.e., i.e. id est: it is - or that is. An assertion of being. The particular. The present.

Not a clue about the rest. First week’s work’s has done no good at all. Nothing I could get an abstract out of.

Obviously I need a larger textual record to work with. Get an idea of the conventions.

That’s why I’ve been walking all over. But I’ve been searching the city for more inscriptions. No new texts, but three sleeps ago I found something. Painted on an overpass support in the same paint. No words. Crudely geometric. Some sort of trilobular design. Two lobes short and rounded, the other elongated. I haven’t been able to figure it out. I just need to keep looking.

Hah. Call it hopeless if you like. Bloody cynic. But when everyone else sees the world different from what you see, you have to do something to stay sane.



Squidpod 019 - Delusions of Reality

Reader Comments (2)

How come you have stopped making these? I love them!

September 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

Actually, we're putting the finishing touches on episode 20 right now! This will include a (slightly fictionalised) explanation of our hiatus - watch this space.

If you'd like to give us encouragement to make more podcasts, you could give us a rating - or even better, a review - on iTunes. It really will move us up the search rankings and help more people to find out about us :D

Glad you've enjoyed the stories so far :D

September 12, 2014 | Registered CommenterDave

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