The Blind Man and the Contraption

Dust kicked up as Amparo and Deshawn walked to the worksite on a cool Wednesday morning. Their village’s sole claim to fame was an oversized pumpkin they had grown and presented at the regional fair six years ago. They were also known for their eggs, more specifically the rich, golden yolks that inspired egg admirers across the way. An egg from a local market would be cracked for comparison and when the small yellow orb that spilled out, it was sad in comparison.  The onlookers averted their eyes to prevent themselves from crying out in shame.

As the town was not known for more than these two feats, it was decided by various officials that a rejuvenation of the local economy was needed. A plant that manufactured the latest advancements in LCD technologies was to be the savior. The location for the plant was at an intersection for several of the villages. A thousand men from four of the surrounding villages were commissioned to work.

Investors from companies across the country arrived in luxury cars and wore first-class suits. It was their duty, as surrogates from their firms to explain the necessity and importance of the plant to the village workers.

A generic man in a suit looked out from a projection of graphs and statistics.

– This is cutting edge technology gentlemen. The plant you’re soon to build is the synergistic wave of the future. Our engineers will be on site every day to guide you all through this process. We are happy to work with the fine people of H—–, B—–, O—- and L—-.

The man sat down at a conference table on stage. The seats around the table were filled with other nondescript men and women.

A man in the crowd raised his hand. – Where will the power come from? We’ve had wealthy foreigners move here and increase the price of food. Will you make it so food prices stay low?

As there was no light on the conference table when one of the investors spoke it felt as though a disembodied voice bellowed commands through the hall.

– We understand your concerns. We’ve coordinated with other villages and as we speak other teams are digging trenches to bring electricity to the plant. The logistics for food have been coordinated with various state and local officials.

The voice in the crowd said – And where will you all be staying at.

Rumors that an elaborate housing container had been flown in by helicopter had circulated through all the villages.

– You need not worry about our living arrangements. We will neither increase the cost of living or affect property values.

A hushed murmur came from the audience.

– Work on the plant begins tomorrow, said the disembodied voice.

That meeting had been one year ago. The work had gone slower than the investors had anticipated. Many of the workers had never done construction before or they didn’t care for the engineers representing the investors. The workers elected Nelson Gilmore to be the foreman. He would also act as the go-between with the investors and their engineers.

Nelson was a tall muscular man. He was the type to drink a head’s worth of beer in a single gulp. He wiped his chin off and no one was the wiser. He drank at lunch and balanced atop the highest walls to amuse the crowd. He was both a man of laughter and a manager. But in the evenings he kept to himself. He kept others laughing all the way to his front door, then we shooed everyone away.

With the completion of the plant’s roof a strangeness dawned on all the village H—–. New trucks arrived with no driver behind the wheel. The engineers used a crane to remove large crates the from the truckbeds. Inside the crates was rumored to be robotic arms that could outpace the finest group of workers. The crates sat outside the plant in a fenced off area, while guards that wore black caps and stitched on badges paced the entrance.

– I’ve heard the arms move in concert and with a press of a button, one of the investors 10,000 kilometers away, can have any device he desires built.

The workers agreed to send Nelson into the investors’ housing container, for no other purpose than clarification of what was in the crates. The investors had anticipated this and assured Nelson that while much of the process inside the plant would be automated, the arms themselves required regular maintenance, and their engineers were prepared to train each man to the T in the maintenance procedures.

But that was not the real unsettling event. A man with no eyes was stranger. He arrived in H—– the evening crates were unloaded. The man was blind but it was not a blindness where the eyes are in their sockets and they can not see, even when they look right at you. No, the man had a smooth surface where his eyes would have been. With no eyebrows arched over the empty space, bone and skin lay where all else would. He sat inside the village inn drinking beer at the bar.

Amparo and Deshawn were two workers on the plant from the village H—–. When they entered the village inn for a beer they saw the man sitting alone at the counter. They were not the type of men to let a stranger sit at the bar alone without offering their greetings. As they approached him, they saw, under the man’s hands was a drawing of their foreman, Nelson.

Amparo surprised and excited, with a lapse of manners, did not introduce himself and said – How did you draw this? Are you a friend of Nelson’s. The details on this portrait are like you’ve known him for years.

The blind man turned to them and they saw the smooth face. Before they had a chance to react the man said – Some is taken from you and some is given to you. Whoever decides such things gave me the ability to scribble but not the ability to see. Perhaps when you we get to know we each other you’ll find this as funny as I do.

– Excuse my buddy, said Deshawn and he took the hand of the stranger and shook it – My name is Deshawn and the man who just spoke to you is Amparo. What brings you to our village?

– Would you gentlemen like a drink. I provided the bar tender with images of his family and he seems to think I’m some sort of wandering fool-fortune-teller. But he’s provided me with an ample tab for my works. How about it gentlemen?

– We couldn’t accept a first round from a stranger. We’ll get you, then you get us, Deshawn said.

The three of them moved from the bar to a table.

– So, Amparo, you said one of my drawings looks like someone you know?

– Yes Nelson, our foreman. Do you know him?

– I draw what comes to my mind. When I first tried, I believe they were quite frightening, as I was run out of my home. In fact that has always been my lot. To present my drawings, at first to admiration, then to fear and eventually spite. Will Nelson be joining us this evening?

As the blind man said Nelson’s name his accent sounded like he drew the name out of a long list, as he tried to recall the details of so many unseen faces.

The bar maid brought three beers and set them at the table.

– Before we touch our mugs, what is your name stranger, Deshawn said.

– Myles Gapoleen, as in I’ve walked a hundred miles.

They raised their beers and said – Hurrah.

– To answer your question though, no, Nelson will not be joining us. He drinks too much to be admitted to the bar. He stays at home and nurses a bottle.

– I would like to show you all another drawing.

Myles leafed through his case. The top right corner of each sheet was textured with some code so he could keep track of his drawings.

– Here it is.

He laid it on the table. It was more rudimentary when compared to the drawing of Nelson.

– Can you all tell me what this is? I’ve been seeing it for some time, but my hands fail to satisfy the image.

– It looks like a building of sorts, Deshawn said.

– And there is a glowing, red box inside, Amparo said.

– Does this mean anything to you all?

The two men explained to Myles about the plant, the robotic arms and what the investors said would be manufactured there.

– LCD technologies… the antithesis to a blind man: – all visual with no substance. I believe the plant may have something more to do with the pleasure modulator than these LCD screens. Are you all familiar with technology at all?

Deshawn and Amparo looked at each other.

– Not beyond what we need to keep the town running.

– Well a pleasure modulator is a box you place on your head, they are designing smaller versions that fit over your eyes, but inside the box is a world of success. You stare into it and the life of your dreams is projected for your eyes to see and your brain to become addicted to. With a few other gizmos your ears and … … external organs can experience pleasure.

– We don’t get much fancy stuff like that here…

– Which is precisely why they’ve built the plant here. Larger villages are having contentious debates about the implications of such equipment being introduced to society.

– This is interesting and all Mr. Gapoleen, said Amparo – but who cares?

– It’s hard for you all to know, living outside the bounds of day to day progress, but much of the world has become hallow.

– I’m not following you, Deshawn said.

– Of course you are, just listen. People once built things like you all do. Temples and towers were constructed as blueprints from God’s mind to their hands. But now wireless calculators do it all. It’s the artist without the soul. And the men believing in this want to put the artist in a box that kills the soul.

Deshawn scratched his head.

– Come on stay with me, don’t get angry at your lack of understanding. There are no builders anymore or the few that exist build everything, and they want to turn the independent and untrained into their modeling clay. They’ll do this with the pleasure modulator.

– But if I can have a life of pleasure inside this box then why would I avoid it?

– We were all clay once. Clay figures that stalked the earth without meaning. Then a wind was blown into us and we experienced the connection of love between one another, we experienced the fear of being hunted by wild animals, we experienced a triumph when our bravest overcame, but what do you feel now? We once built towers and canals and palaces of great beauty, but now we build endless duplicates of the same homes or towers to be filled with human energy, harnessed and focused towards more duplicates. The pleasure modulator is the end goal. It steals ambition and gives pleasure, success without learning, without failure. Can you see?

– Wait, said Deshawn – From what you’re saying it would be possible for me to live the rest of my life without pain, loss or failure. How is that bad?

– Yeah… I’ve built many things around the village: huts, a well, new roofs, it’s hard work. It makes me tired. If I could do this but with unlimited resources and never get tired, then that actually sounds great, said Amparo.

– Have you all built what you wanted?

They stared at Myles with curiosity.

– These projects of a hut or a well they were for the community. Have you built the image inside your head.

– We don’t have complex visions like you Mr. Gapoleen, Dashawn said.

– This evening find a still place in your home and think of an image for me. We will meet again tomorrow and I will draw them for you.

Myles stood up, grabbed his case and exited the bar. He had left the drawing at the table. Deshawn and Amparo sat for a moment, each glanced at the drawing. They tore it in two and folded each in half, to use as coasters for their mugs. The evening was warm and their beers sweated more than usual.

They sat and discussed the going ons of town. Two boys had been selected to participate in the Quad-Village football league. The two boys would travel the entire country playing with the other athletes selected from the villages. Both Deshawn and Amparo had played football in school, but neither had been selected for to represent their village. After they were both passed over, they discussed leaving the village. Why, there was a whole world outside. Deshawn had found work with a traveling plumber. He fixed pipes and installed tubes beneath home gardens. These tubes were connected to nozzles above ground that watered the gardens. Amparo had stayed and hunkered down with a woman named Micah. Together they had two girls, but Micah didn’t want to stay in the village. There were better opportunities in the city. She left, took the children, and tested her curiosity and ambition in the isolation of the metropolis. Amparo remained, he occasionally fixed people’s stoves or he laid around in his hut waiting for work to come around. Deshawn’s plumber hired a new assistant who worked for less and shortly after Deshawn was dismissed. He went back to the village to care for his mother, as his father had died while he was out installing tubes. That is, until the investors arrived with the offer to work on the plant…

A crash and a whoop came from the entryway. Mark burst in and hooted at the patrons. He was the type of man who is rarely seen now-a-days. Dashing, well-dressed, the words flowed from his mouth like olive oil from a decanter. There was never an empty mind in his presence, the latest from the capitol, he was sure to know it, or the gossip that surrounded your cousin, he had all details. His pockets always clinked with coins and his wallet was always so filled with money, yet when he dumped out his pockets there was nothing but washers and pennies, while his wallet was filled with receipts and business cards. He’d order a round and leave you holding the bag. He’d barrow your car and bring it back dented or not bring it back at all. If questioned what happened to the car, well it was the other driver’s fault. Don’t worry there’ll be a big insurance pay out. In short he was good company for the moment.

– Well I see you all have already got a round. Bartender, bring another one over.

The three of them laughed and joked about villagers, old man Walters and his nonsensical combative ways, or Sheandra and her barefoot children running amok in the streets.

– How about another round, you all don’t have anywhere to go. Shelly-Ann is going to broadcast the fight tonight, right here, this evening.

Deshawn and Amparo both paused, they had been intrigued with Myles’ proposition of imagining their dreams, but the appeal of both another round and the fight was too strong to deny.

– Maybe there’ll be some ladies in town, there’s always people coming through this time of year. Let’s watch the fight and forget the day with a few more, Mark pointed at his mug.

– I don’t think I can I need to take care of my mom, Deshawn stood up.

– Ah come on, said Mark.

– I’ve got to go fellows.

– How about it Amparo, what, are you working these days? Of course you’re not. Quit messing around and let’s get a pitcher.

– I have to go too… I’m meeting someone tomorrow and I need be fresh.

– Just watch the fight with me, I’ll get your beer.

Deshawn waved as he exited the inn.

Mark and Amparo joked and waited until the fight was broadcasted.

The fight had been good. The second to last event got Amparo’s blood flowing. He shouted as Kongo slammed Bolanski to the ground and pummeled him, though Bolanski held his guard as best he could, curled in a ball, he used his arms and legs to protect his torso. Amparo felt a medieval urge to see Bolanski ripped to shreds. His shouts of excitement were honest and visceral.

Amparo’s words swirled together as he spoke – Shit, that was great, but I really gotta go. This old guy said he’d help me out tomorrow.

– Ah shit. Tomorrow’s tomorrow, what about today? You’re going to leave your old friend Mark out to dry, eh. I knew you were a son-of-a-bitch.

Amparo pushed Mark, – Come on man you gotta understand. The show’s nearly over.

– All I understand is that you’re a twink.

– Don’t call me a twink. I hate when people call me that, Amparo pushed Mark again.

– Twink, Mark pushed Amparo with both hands, which knocked him back.

Amparo didn’t play this game, he ducked his head down and ran forward. He threw his right shoulder into Mark’s gut. That knocked Mark to the ground and knocked the wind out of him. Amparo went to the bar and paid his bill and left.

While the other two had stayed at the bar, Deshawn had gone home and tried to do as Myles had said. But when he sat and imagined his dream he couldn’t quite see an image. Other images from throughout the day invaded his thoughts; arguments and small disagreements earlier in the week blocked his imagination, bills to be paid, the loss of his father, a woman in lace leggings. She was someone he had been with for a short, intense time. He had said the right things, somehow, and invoked her lust; when they met she cleaned his bones. Yet with their divided obligations for family, they couldn’t stay together. She left the village. The image of her made him swell. He nearly forgot why he had sat down to begin with.

He adjusted himself. Then he imagined each image that wasn’t his dream as a flat stone. He picked up each stone, one at a time, and skipped them across the water of his subconscious. They disappeared. He did that with each new thought that sprang up, until he saw his dream unobstructed. It was a pale, stationary elephant, with a door between its legs and a saddle with an elaborate coach on its back. Deshawn opened the door between the elephant’s legs. There was a rich red room, engravings covered the walls. At the rear was a bench and behind the bench, a shelf with a water basin that released a smell of apricots. Deshawn took a seat and looked at the intricate lines carved into the ceiling.

– Such beauty, but it’s impossible for me to build this.

Amparo stumbled through the street, he shadow boxed as he made his way across the dirt road. His time with the plumber had provided him with enough money to buy a hut on the outskirts, but it was minimum even for the village. He knocked his door open and remembered what the blind man had said.

– A face with no eyes, now that’s a drunken illusion. And what the hell does he know about the hard path? I’m on hard path. He wants me to dream my life. I can see myself being a fighter.

He swung his left fist and pivoted his right foot then did the same with the opposing limbs. The fighter Kongo wailing on Bolanski came back to his mind and he felt a surge to his own blows as he imagined a crowd cheering as he swung himself to exhaustion. He collapsed on his cot.

– What does a hallucination know? Nelson drinks all day, his pleasure box is a bottle and he’s doing just fine.

Nelson sat inside his hut.  He was arched forward and swayed. He mumbled to himself some song he’d heard earlier in the day.

– Tomorrow I’ll tell everyone I woke up with a girl…

Another day passed at the worksite and that evening Deshawn and Amparo returned to the bar at the inn. The thought that Myles had been some apparition was dispelled as he sat in the same place he had sat the evening prior. There he sat with his head down and a pencil in his hand. The barman told Myles they had entered and he spun around. His face still held the uncanny smooth surface, absent of eyes or of the accompanying features. A slightly bridged nose and a mouth: the indicators of his humanity.

– You all continue to build the device of your future slavers. Its’ not a problem for me I have no eyes. Ha ha. I have nothing to worry about, unless they hook up my… well you all get the point. Any of us are susceptible to the prison provided by bliss.

They all sat tat the same table again.

– We both believed you were a figment of our imaginations, Deshawn said.

– This pleasure modulator is not new, and blind prophets are as old as man. In the Victorian era the distraction from life was the opium den. Before that it was the dirty wine of the Romans and Greeks. But they channelled their pleasure into deities while we have turned God into microprocessor.

There was a familiar face sitting in the far corner of the inn. The face caught Deshawn’s eye, it was Theodore. He had gone off to academy and studied philosophy of some sort. Everyone who had grown up in the village H—- had felt the swinging sword that was the life sentence of never escaping. Theodore (or Teddy) was walking proof of an exodus. Deshawn waved him over and they exchanged pleasantries. Theodore saw Myles’ face but was not shocked as in the capitol he was accustomed to seeing deformities.

– And who’s your guest, Teddy said.

– This man has warned us that the plant that we’re working on will be the collapse of society.

– Interesting, how is that?

Deshawn did the best he could to explain what he had heard yesterday from Myles. Myles nodded as he Deshawn gave the precis of his argument.

– This is quite interesting. Recent research in the field of the philosophy of the mind has discussed simulated realities and the necessity for a break point, if you will, at which the person will realize the pleasure is not reality.

– And what do you think of using such a device, Amparo asked Teddy.

– I see no harm in it. They do not release these objects to the public without rigorous testing.

– It’s the replacement of the Great Wind by the state and the microprocessor, Myles said.

– By the stars your a Great-Wind Luddite. I know arguing with you is an impossibility, but just for they sake of full knowledge I would like to describe to my friends here why logic declares that there is no Great-Wind. The belief in the Great-Wind requires that you believe in perfection. Have either of you ever experienced perfection or known anyone to be perfect. I am of course speaking strictly within the terms of logic if you want to believe in whatever hullabaloo because it makes you feel good then have at it, but we must have a set of principles that dictate our beliefs. There is no perfection within the universe therefore the Great-Wind is a fallacy.

– May I ask you, said Myles, are all the principles of the universe understood by man?

– The rules of Logic do not require absolute knowledge, that’s what makes it so powerful. There is a set foundation upon a satisfying b in order for c to be correct. It does not require my knowledge of quantum physics.

– Does this c satisfy you when you are alone in the evening, questioning your life’s purpose, Myles said.

– My life’s purpose is to remove the veil of lies that men like you spread to my impressionable village mates.

– What if logic dictated that you kill yourself because the circumstances of your life do not permit existence. What would push you to want to live if logic is your only foundation, as you have removed the need for the Great Wind.

– For logic to dictate such an unlikely scenario I would have to say it’s the right choice.

– And what would be the purpose to escape a life of guaranteed pleasure, when we believe life is only a result of a simple calculation. Why do anything besides lay in bed when a to b equals c ? This is the question brought to us by with the pleasure modulator. Were you all able to focus on an image, yesterday evening?

– I did, Deshawn said.

– And what was it, we’ll see what the rules of logic have to say about it, Myles said.

Deshawn described the pale elephant, from the detailed saddle and carriage to the ornate interior and the smell of apricots.

– Did you have an urge to recreate this image in reality?

– I don’t know to what purpose.

– How did you feel as you looked at this building?

– I felt awe, satisfaction, calm.

– If you built it, that too is what other’s would feel. That is the power of your mind. But instead your friend argues that the pleasure modulator should replace this because it’s more logical.

– My argument would be what if this elephant you wanted to build required supplies that were limited in this world, would you build it to bring only temporary satisfaction to onlookers, said Teddy.

– That is a good point, but sometimes it is not necessary to physically bring our dreams into the real world. Sometimes only the impressions they leave upon us are enough to change the world around you.

– These impressions, as you call them, can be refined to their minutest point within the virtual realities that the pleasure modulators will provide. The exchange of these ideas will happen across the globe without the limitations of physical or material needs, said Teddy.

– But who controls and induces these pleasures? Here, in reality, the Great Wind inspires us. Within your virtual reality we come across man as God.

– But man is soon to be the Great Wind. We can grow food in petri dishes, neurological diseases are soon to be gone and soon everyone will have a standard of living comparable to the middle class. Across the globe diseases are disappearing and food shortages are only an issue of logistics. There is no God in this book.

Myles said, Amparo did you have a dream.

– I didn’t find an image. I just saw my self fighting and a crowd cheering, but I watched the fight earlier that evening so it was probably just that.

For a moment he felt ashamed that he couldn’t do what Deshawn had done. He couldn’t create a world inside his head, it was only a reproduction of what he’d seen.

– There is value in what you saw, but it is the easy path. Violence and sex are the easiest paths of life. Imagine you are standing on the opposite side of a mountain. There is a river that has circumvented the mountain. If it had wanted to go through the mountain it would have had to not only break the laws of nature, but it would of had to tell itself to do the impossible. So the water took the easy way around the mountain. The longer easier path. But you as a human do not heed the advice of water and choose to climb the mountain. As you climb it begins to snow, you feel a chill underneath your skin, the likes of which is tearing at your will to continue. You continue but you are week. You can see wolves on the ridges as you continue to cross over your path. One lunges at you as you can’t see your hand in front of your face. You’re fighting an animal that wants your flesh and you’re not even sure if you’re going the right direction. As you struggle with the wild animal you ask yourself – Why didn’t I just follow the river.

Myles paused then spoke – I don’t have an ending to this story. Some men die as they cross mountains but some men cross them with thicker skin and knowledge. Knowledge of dangers that they share with their children. While another man took a boat and rode down the river. He slept as he travelled and arrived before the man who chose to cross the mountain. The knowledge he brought to his children was how to avoid the mountain. I believe the Great Wind wants us to cross mountains. Perhaps it will seem like the wind is your greatest enemy during your journey but to cross successfully grants far more than to lie asleep as something else moves you.

– There are other options in this scenario. What he is doing is establishing something as a bifurcation. Life has a plethora of choices and sometimes the easy path is what is right, said Teddy.

– And sometimes the river leads you to rapids and a waterfall, Amparo said.

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