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Story Time

Posted on 2011.11.04 at 15:48
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Time - Electric Light Orchestra
Today, I want to share a story I recently wrote. If you want to assign a genre to it, call it Fantasy/Sci-Fi. This is far lengthier than my usual posts, so I hope you’re sitting comfortably.

© Charles Greenia, 2011

Something happened today. Something amazing. Something that redefines amazing. My fingers are shaking as I type this, so excuse any typos, but I need to get it out of my head and into print.

Let’s begin. I have come into possession of a document from the future. It’s from the year 2098. There, I said it. You now presumably regard me as a liar or a lunatic, because really, what other choice is there? But I’ve begun telling the story, and I’m not going to stop now. Before I get to the meat of it, there are a few points I need to clarify:

I had no choice in the receiving of this document. It arrived here suddenly, and through no request or wish of mine. Frankly, if it were up to me, I’d much rather have received a history book from 2098, or even a copy of the daily news (assuming that there will still be such a thing by then). What I received was an obituary. The decedent is someone who apparently becomes quite famous in the second half of this century. His age at the time of death is given as 99, which means that he is already among us here in 2011 as a lad of 12. Unfortunately, he appears to have adopted a pen name at some point, and he is never referred to by his birth name, so I’m not sure where I’d begin to look for this fellow… or whether that’s even a good idea.

Indeed, some might wonder why I would publicly air this document at all. Aren’t I risking upsetting some sort of space/time continuum? Or perhaps jeopardizing this fellow’s chances of becoming famous? My response would be: I did not cast the first stone into the pond of time. It is the unknown sender of this document who has cast it. The ripples from that stone are already in motion; it seems ethically dishonorable to keep such a remarkable event a secret. This sort of occurrence seems to be unparalleled outside the realms of fantasy, science fiction, and certain religious sects. I feel that I have no choice but to pass it along and propagate the wave from that initial stone. And frankly, there may be larger issues at stake here than the theoretical career arc of one individual.

So how did this document come to me? That is a story to be described in full at a later time. For now, let us say that it came to me in a way I could not rationally doubt. In fact, I might have thought I’d become quite irrational if I did not now have this document before me to inspect at my leisure, inscribed as it is in a manner that seems utterly beyond present-day technology. Better, I think, to transcribe these words and pass them along before I lose my nerve – or before whoever sent this to me loses their nerve. Here is the text of the obituary, minus a sidebar listing a few cryptic letter and number sequences and other odd symbols that cannot be readily replicated in this forum:

* * *
Exploring the World of Hijgo

You know by now of the passing of Hijgo, the event having transpired nearly three hours ago. At 99 years of age, he was the last living and most celebrated member of the Five Evergreens. That we have lost a literary giant is beyond debate. The creative works we may yet see from his intact brain cells will pale in comparison to the classics produced while he was fully alive. Every child can reel off the names of his major works: Sector and Other Poems, Choice & Confusion, Only Land That Was, Awakening the Stranger… I must apologize for even beginning to list them, for it seems that no matter how many I think of, I am plagued with guilt for the titles I am omitting. Lord please forgive me. But anyone hearing these words of mine has the collected works with them, so please take a moment to refresh your familiarity and linger over his eloquence and vision.

The death notices issued to this point have focused almost exclusively upon Hijgo’s published works, which is understandable given their impact on the literary landscape. Still, it was my wish to add something more to the discussion, so I have exploited more obscure sources, which I will discuss shortly.

His birth name, as you may know, was not Hijgo. In accordance with his wishes, I will not state his original name here, though of course some of you know it well. His parents were members of what was then called the “middle class” which is to say he was a child of undeserved privilege. He was educated in the ways of the false god, though he clearly maintained a sense of higher truth that transcended his upbringing. In the foreword to volume one of his autobiography, Sand Castings, he states:

“…it seemed at first to be simply a means of coping with the ferocious winds that were demolishing the rotted planks of the old order. But with every day, month, year of survival, it became clear that I was not spared by any accident, but because I possessed a vision and an adaptability that was not present in the hearts of my so-called peers nor, unfortunately, in the family of my birth…”

But there I go, threatening to emulate the common approach of merely parroting Hijgo’s own words; not that this is a terrible choice – after all, one could choose worse authors to quote. Note that the question “What would Hijgo say?” is still very much in use by the professors in our apps of higher learning. But as it turns out, there is a wealth of personal material available on his innermost thoughts, material that is not yet contained within his formally published works. I have been shocked to learn that many thousands of brief entries from Hijgo’s youth still exist. I’m talking about what your grandfather might have called Social Media.

I first became aware of the existence of the Hijgo Social Media archive almost a year ago, or I should say rather that I first heard the rumor almost a year ago, but I did not actually see it first-hand until a few weeks ago, after the passage of the Historical Media Decriminalization Act. It is remarkable that so many such archives are being unearthed right on the heels of this bill’s passage. I can only suppose that the former contraband status of such materials had dissuaded historians from searching for them.

If you follow the reports on this sort of thing, you know that an estimated 99.999% of all such Social Media records were successfully and completely eradicated during the Third Cleansing. The fragments which have surfaced in recent times have generally been grotesque, shallow expressions of spiritual desolation, or they have been links to other long-gone sites about whose content we may only speculate. Furthermore, these fragments have invariably been the work of forgotten individuals of no apparent accomplishment, though there is some debate on this point, as it was common in those days to camouflage one’s identity under the veil of a false name as a license for engaging in slanderous or otherwise immoral declarations (for a more comprehensive view of this, I recommend Arden Fath’s book, Working Hands and Idle Souls: Social Media’s First Phase).

It therefore came as a shock to learn that that so many of Hijgo’s early thoughts had been somehow preserved. It was a stunning coincidence (if one believes in such things) that I had spent the better part of the past two weeks poring over these posts when I heard of Hijgo’s passing. Just last night, I read the following portentous passage, dated February 17, 2012:

“LOL! When I saw those pix of you from the VDay party, I literally died laughing!”

Despite the obscure references, it’s a fitting image. A man who brought so much happiness to us – along with more than a few tears – unblinkingly depicting his own demise in a setting of laughter.

Unavoidably, there are many posts for which we have no context and therefore little hope of truly understanding. Until today, I’d harbored the foolish thought that I might sometime have an opportunity to present this archive to the man himself, that he might illuminate the archaic social conventions and bygone references contained therein. Depending on his state of brain decay, we may yet have the opportunity to do so, though in a much less efficient manner, but that is a tenuous hope at best. One tantalizing excerpt, circa April 2011, exemplifies the sort of entry upon which I would love to have queried Hijgo:

“i told ben to stfu and he said make me. careful what you wish for bro”

In this case, I have theories but no definitive answers. My primary suspicion is that this is an early example of Hijgo’s poetry. Two clues support this notion: 1) The lack of capitalization and almost total absence of punctuation; 2) If we assume that “stfu” is pronounced as a one syllable word, there is a clear, regular rhythm to the post.

Still, the poetic interpretation feels like a bit of a stretch. By Hijgo’s own account, he did not begin to compose verse until his brief tenure as a seminary student nine years after the time of this post. With all due respect though, the example before us is hardly a finished work, so I think we could forgive Hijgo for overlooking it.

It is also possible that the preceding fragment is not poetry at all but a sort of inner monologue about Hijgo’s career aspirations. We have to remember that Social Media posts are known to have been typically composed and entered by hand very quickly on a character board and with no independent editorial review, so manual and grammatical errors are not unusual. Viewed in this light, it is easy to see the word “ben” as a mistyped “been”. “stfu” could then be assumed to be an acronym for a long forgotten university that the 12-year old Hijgo might have been considering. The second half of the post then possibly becomes a self-admonishment to not get his hopes up too high.

Clearly, the task of translating and annotating this archive will go on for years to come. There are an estimated 5,700 separate posts in the archive. Slightly over half of them are actually from Hijgo, while most of the remaining ones are messages sent to him by, one assumes, members of his inner circle at that time. Whether any of these individuals might be Anna D. writing under an alias has yet to be determined, though one may hope, as material directly relating to her is of course rare and precious.

It could be argued that this fascination I have for Hijgo’s early life is a foolish pursuit, given the great man’s own words. I must quote again from Sand Castings:

“…It was in response to Mr. Gallo’s formal request that I wrote of those days at all, so it would be fair to say that I’ve set these memories into print happily, though under gentle protest. It cannot be said that I survived that time; no one did. Anyone who traces their personal lineage back to that era must ignore their own transformation. I am not the person I was. I owe nothing to that time; not even my name. I cannot trace my values to that era, because it was an era without values. The past happened; of course it did, but it is no longer connected to the present. Those who know and understand the past are condemned to repeat it, so be careful how you treat this knowledge. Hold it up to the light and let its ugliness catch your eye, let its misery sadden your soul, but keep its colors from infecting your imagination, or you may give it a rebirth that will make you dangerous to yourself…”

Hijgo’s warning is well taken, but I believe modesty has prevented him from seeing the value in his own story. There can be no doubt that the more we understand of his journey, the richer will be our own journeys.

HHB has stipulated that the following be added to all materials related to Hijgo’s passing:

Hijgo the Conscience has passed into the next phase. All who have heard his words will be sad, but we will agree that all has happened justly and within the appointed time. Note that the future will render an independent judgment, but for the present, we rejoice and honor in Hijgo’s life and work.

* * *

The document ends there, except for a series of eight symbols. It was difficult enough to make my fingers type this transcription; I don’t believe I have the energy at this point to dare any formal analysis. I will make this one admission: Although the entire experience of receiving this document has frankly traumatized me… I also want to hear from them again and learn more, God help me. Hijgo and his contemporaries may have feared the past, but my fear today is for the future.

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