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A Synopsis of pk’s Beginning
The novel was drafted c. 1986, still needs another draft.
pk’s theo-sciencefictional-imagined invention of the container
human genius, entropy enhancement (destruction, disassociative organization), negentropy enforcement (creation, associative organization) illustrates a major blindness of the human intellect: our inability to consistently sort concrete from abstract.
A pilot and his passenger hear a scream. A pack of hyenas have attacked a young girl while her mother nurses her infant sister. The pilot follows the action of the mother’s attempt at a rescue. She sustains slash after gash to her legs, buttocks, and loins as she tries to run holding the girls.
The pilot and his charge discuss the scene as though they’re watching television. The reader may well be ready to throttle them before realizing that the observers are helpless to do anything but what they do accomplish in time (at least in an alternate universe’s time). The reader further comes to realize that the hyenas aren’t hyenas but proto-hyenas, the women too, prehuman. The scene is Africa approximately two million years ago.
Initially perplexed, the pilot has a growing awe of his passenger. He’d thought his fare was a newbie: all he’d need to do was to show her a couple of New York maternity wards, she’d see a baby that appealed to her and hop aboard, becoming the intensional apparatus of a new human, its “soul” if you will. He’s taken her from Park Avenue to Harlem to Brooklyn but she reprograms their non-existent craft to take them to Ancient Rome, the Garden of Eden, and back toward the birth of the savannas that birthed mankind.
“I’ll take her,” she says after the mother has stowed her burdens in a tree and taken more wounds leading the pack astray. She’s bled to death in her own tree.
I’ll stitch in what I believe is some of my finest prose.
She emerged. The crystal shrank and receded from her. The woman, so beautiful, even in death, was in the tree. She descended to her. She floated, facing her. She began to change. Like autumn leaves above the ground facing the dead and discolored leaves below, coloring, falling, falling till the colored leaves swirling on the ground reflect the changing, fluttering leaves above, she colored. She floated closer, shedding her colors, falling as still, she colored. She took form. Her form followed hers. Face to face, they mirrored. But reflections are sterile. She stereo-rotated. Now like a glove turning inside out, with right and left annihilating into each other, she twisted. She snugged. The tree, the air, were drained by the implosion. She had merged.
The dim light was cool. The body was a fossil entombed in resin. Energy was still draining from the sluggish blood. The fraying ceased but much was already disordered. Individual cells lived. Individual organs functioned. But without the master harmony. She needed oxygen. There had never been so much to think about. The brain was helpless. It took all her effort to prevent further deterioration. Already there was much to repair. She wasn’t sure how she could do it. She would. She’d have to. But later. The oxygen had to come first. Next, that is. The heart seemed willing, but the diaphragm was frozen. Stuck solid. She commanded the patterns, the intricate nestings, the flexible hierarchies. Key patterns didn’t respond. In the end she had to weave new ones. Time passed, fast and thin. It seemed quicker than in any of their plunges. This energy starvation was new to her. Hitherto, she could span any universe with what she could find merely within herself. That power was not accessible to this body, not to its organs. It needed energy. Yet, dead as alive, this body was energy: nearly forty-five million giga-joules of it. What this body needed was macro parcels not of energy but of energy interchange. Here she was totally a beginner.
The diaphragm stirred, protesting. A lung yawed ever so toward its living position. A billion molecules of air seeped in, a mere billion. It was but a fraction of a gasp but it was enough to start with. The next billion was a wealth. Slowly, the body thawed. Next, before fusing severed muscles, she would try to reverse the erosion of the brain. With more effort than yin to transform with yang, she contemplated it. While the lungs dilated, she rewove neurons. She fluctuated their energies in random jumps until she felt other neurons respond in kind. She coordinated the coordinators. The heart beat as her full merger inexternalized. She slept. She would do more work on the brain as she slept. There was too little blood. She needed water. Returning synapses sparked the brain. The mind could re-form, join with other minds. There were fragments of memory. Dreams of fragments. She slept and dreamed.
Not long. She dreamed of thirst. The thirst was far away: impersonal … in another age … imaginary. Her body was a desert with cliffs. No one lived there. No! She lived there. Her thirst clamored in every cell. She woke. Light dappled her belly and was gone. How would she move? She couldn’t. There could be no motion. Only the breeze. The distress from her arm was a numb blur, a scream of the deaf. She had no legs. Her legs were as stupid as stone. She shifted them: stalactites from a tree. She would swing down to hang from her hands. Only one hand tried to hold the grip. She fell. The ground, knobby with roots, received her: a hinged statue. From another time. She had no senses but thirst. Her thirst stretched the mossy stream toward the useless body, the ground rasping out of the way beneath her, a one-elbowed unipod. She drank. Her throat wasn’t big enough. She needed to mingle the water with herself through her face, through her scalp. Choking pushed it away. Her face found air again. While she breathed, her hair drank.
The resurrected mother finds her girls alive. She knew their lives were forfeit since they’d lost their group. Her problem is to feed them while they search again for another group that might accept them: she’s managed to nurse both in their emergency, but she can’t both grub the ground for food and cover it in travel. The old mother might have waited another couple of hundred thousand years before discovering the solution; a new light dawns now in the new one: the nuts and berries she once held in her hand till she transferred them to her mouth she now holds in a leaf and carries it with them. By the time they come upon a group, she’s also improvised a sling to help hold the baby. Her sounds also bear more information. She introduces herself as Ayzee.
Ask any twelve year old what the most important inventions are. Within seconds you’ll hear “fire” or “the wheel.” A dozen years ago I asked adult after adult and got the same answers. I’d add, “Which fundamental invention was almost certainly discovered by women?” Blank.
The container is so important, so integrated with our lives, that it doesn’t occur to many not trained in anthropology or archeology that it too had to be discovered. Every woman’s handbag is a testament to the genius of her ur-mother.
It was Richard Leakey’s People of the Lake which started me thinking on the subject. The modern species is approximately forty-five thousand years old. Skin is a natural container, clothing a kind of container, and we have astonishing examples of tailored clothing as old as the species. Going back 1.3 million years, several pre-human species controlled fire. Stone tools leave lasting records and help us to trace and to date pre-man as well as mankind’s colonizing of the planet. More than one mammal relative has occasional use for simple tools in the form of a twig or a stone. Tools of wood, bark, or fiber don’t leave too many clear records. Certainly the sling and the bag and the belt go back far, but how far?
In Beginning I wedded this interest to my obsession for negentropy. We all know that entropy is the tendency for disorder to increase over time in any closed system. Salt and pepper mix up; they don’t separate. With evolution we have the opposite of entropy: ever increasing order. Unfortunately, with civilization, life takes a turn back the other way. Man likes to blow things up. But even pre-nuke (and pre-civilized) man liked to stick spears in things. Well, we’ve had spears since long before we were human. How long have we had the apparatus to sort pears from apples and to carry distinct quantities of both to market? Negentropic behavior, you’ll notice.
My pilot becomes the passenger while the female principle traces the history of negentropic tools against that of tools which have a huge entropic dimension. She’s long run out of the former and seems an equally long way from the source of the latter when they hear the scream. That’s it. She gives up short of the source and takes the serendipity. So my Ayzee turns out to be an “angel” of evolution: an attempt by “god” to undo the human path to destruction.
And, speaking of angels …
icon by Andrei Rublev
Gloves also turned inside out in The First Week. I got the image from Bucky Fuller [Link to be restored], thanked him by writing that story, but added a bit of Andrew Marvell’s diction.
2012 11 15 News: Scientists say they’ve found evidence that stone tips for spears were made much earlier than thought, maybe even created by an earlier ancestor than has been believed.
2015 03 12
Luc Besson’s Lucy parallels my novel. My human soul about to be born turns her back on all contemporary babies, 1986 or so, and travels back in time till she choses her Eve a couple of million years ago. Besson then sets up an echo of Michelangelo’s God touching Adam: Lucy touches Eve. Exactly what I had done. I did it mid-1980s; Besson did it 2014. Too late to help us much, but it was too late when I tried to help in the mid-1980s. Maybe it was too late two million years ago.