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The Tinkered Mind

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February 6th, 2022


Lucilius was walking down a city street. The sky was bright up in bands between the towering building and he wore a faint smile, pleased with the course of his day. He was enjoying the round flow of his thoughts, circling on the day’s events, fantasizing about the good that would come in days to follow when something caught his eye.


There was movement like a stutter across the street. At first it felt like something had been thrown, or a startled bird had jolted into the motion, but when he looked he stopped. At first he couldn’t make sense of it. And then he thought perhaps it was some sort of advertisement. But there was no frame, no projection.


He slowly walked into the street, crossing it, and as he neared the far side, his disbelief grew stronger. His thoughts ricocheted frantically for an answer, an explanation. But nothing about what he was seeing made sense. He walked right up to it, bewildered by the fact that no one else even seemed to notice.


Before him was an ordinary man, dressed in a suit, a phone clasped to one ear, taking a step forward. But when his foot hit the ground, he was instantly transported half a step back, as though he’d sprung back in reverse. But his motion backwards was instant, and each time he took his step forward, he was launched backwards.


Lucilius slowly walked around the jolting man. It was not a projection. There was no screen, and when Lucilius reached out to the man his hand was catapulted away at an extraordinary speed as the man jolted in reverse.


Lucilius looked around. Absolutely no one seemed to be interested in the bizarre phenomenon. He reached out to someone walking by.


“Do you see this?”


A woman was taken aback for a moment by Lucilius’ question, then she looked in the direction he was indicating and then just smiled at him as though he’d said something amusing and then she continued on her way.


He took out his phone and opened up the camera, switched it to video and trained the tiny digital portal on the man. He took a video, slowly walking around the man as his existence toggled between forward and reverse.


Lucilius watched the video to make sure it had rendered, and also noticed the time. He was running late.


He looked back up. What could he possibly do, he wondered. But he was late and simply had to move on. So he started walking again down the street, looking back over his shoulder every few seconds to get one last look at the man trapped in that moment of time, infinitely repeating.


He ended up posting the video online. Over the next day it got a few hundred views, some appreciation and comments. The first one asked how many cameras he used in his set up. Another one simply said ‘cute’ and another referenced a movie. 


How futile, he thought as he walked back to the spot the following day. Trying to post something like this online, of course it’s going to look staged or generated.


When he arrived at the same place he was dumbfounded to find the man was gone. What had he really expected? He sat at cafe across the street and sat watching the place where the man had been, and then he watched the video over and over again, confused, wondering what it meant, with the proof right there in the tiny screen.


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