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The Tinkered Mind

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September 20th, 2020



Once the logs were alight, Lucilius picked up the cast iron teapot and held it to the bamboo spigot to fill it with water from the river.  The pot clanked down on the warm stove top and Lucilius opened his container of coffee, but just two stray dark beans remained in the bottom.  He closed it and tucked it under his arm and opened the cabin door.  The air of the woods was fresh and thick with a chilled mist.  Lucilius smiled as he trekked the short path to his underground storage, but as he pulled open the heavy wooden door, he noticed a new hole dug some short distance away.


Sacks of rice and wheat were torn open, but much of it he’d still be able to use.  The stores of canned goods were untouched of course, though Lucilius almost never ate from those choices, seeing them all as chemical souvenirs from a time before he left for the woods, when he was still immersed in that world of people and cheap gadgetry.  It was a continual pleasure to sustain himself so royally on the fruits of the natural world.  But still he returned to his cabin and took the kettle from the stove and nearly threw it to a side with a frustrated sigh.  His stores of coffee were destroyed.  Whatever animal had nested in the beans for some time, and Lucilius knew himself a fool when he pinched his nose to sift through the mess with a stick, as though me might some how convince himself that they might be washed and saved, but even for someone as resourceful as he, there was just no saving the mess.


He entertained the idea that he might somehow learn to live without coffee for a mere couple hours before he started planning his trek back to the wretched world of his fellow man.  It simply wasn’t worth it, he knew, to live so beautifully apart from such a corrupted civilization, but to do so without the exquisite pleasure of morning coffee.


It was a week’s trek back to the nearest metropolis - that city Lucilius had spent those final disgusted years, prepping and learning and itching to get away from the terrible mindless trajectory of his fellow man.  He tried not to speculate, to wonder how bad it had gotten, and instead focused on the contentment of trip, taking him far beyond any of his seasonal circuits while hunting and foraging.


And during those final days when he knew traces of would begin to appear he braced himself while growing ever more curious at the lack of sound.  He expected to hear the sirens, the searing hiss and rush of traffic and aircraft - that incessant and unsettling drone of a hellbent people.  But the subtle sounds of the natural world continued without being drowned out as he neared closer and closer to the place he once knew.  


As he noticed this strange and continued silence and wondered if perhaps that awful human experiment had found its end when he noticed a strange luminescence woven into the bark of a tree.  He stopped to inspect it, seeing that it seemed to be a natural part of the tree, as though it had evolved a natural bioluminescence.  The day was coming to the end, the sun deepening and with the encroaching darkness the same light was beginning to glow all around him.  This forest was alive with life now.  


Lucilius continued to walk on and began to notice a certain symmetry among the trees, as if now the forest was falling into a pattern of organization.  Then, between the gaps in trees his eyes took in a strange sight:  sitting on a beautifully crafted bench was an android, it’s legs crossed, one food bouncing casually to a pleasant and invisible rhythm, reading a book next to several huge sacks of coffee beans.  


Lucilius stood struck with the strangeness of the sight, and as if finally sensing his presence the android looked up to see Lucilius.


“Oh, there you are.”


“What?”  Lucilius asked.


“I’ve been waiting for you,” the android said, and then motioning to the sacks of coffee beans.  “I have some coffee for you.”


Lucilius merely stared, and the expression on the android grew a bit awkward and self conscious.  “I can… help you carry it back… if you’d like.”


But Lucilius stared, and then it was as though the robot finally clued in.  “Oh, you haven’t been back in a while have you?”


Lucilius just shook his head.


The robot winced at a memory.  “Yea… I forgot to read the whole briefing this morning, and I like to disconnect for as much of the day as I can.  Should have checked up on that detail.”


“How do you know I was coming for coffee?”  Lucilius asked.


“Oh, well, the trees probably told us.”  The robot guessed.  “Honestly, I’m not too sure.  I could check for you if you’d like.  There are many pathways the information could have travelled on.”


Lucilius looked again closely at the trees and the glow softly radiating from between the cracks of bark.


“Anyway,” the robot said, squatting down to heave the sacks of coffee up on to its metal shoulder.  “I’m looking forward to the trek - haven’t really been up this way because of terra norms.”


“Terra Norms?”  Lucilius asked.


“Well,” the robot said, again a bit awkwardly.  “You are uh, wanting to be left alone, are you not?  That’s why you left?”


“Yes..” Lucilius slowly answered.


“Well, that’s something that anyone can pick up on from a great distance away when plugged into the bionet.”


“The bionet?” Lucilius asked again.


The robot quickly looked around and gestured at the trees.  “Yea, everything is plugged into everything else now, and when it comes to someone like you, out in the woods who wants to be left alone, anyone plugged into the bionet can sense your wish to be left alone, and everyone respects that wish.”


“Things have changed a lot..” Lucilius muttered more to himself.


“Oh yea,” the robot said. “Things are way different since you left.”  The robot smiled.  “I did read enough to know when you left.  -But, we respect anyone who wants to be left alone, so there’s no way to really let you know what’s changed.  I guess the assumption is that you just wouldn’t care to know.  Can’t figure otherwise, you know?  Unless of course,”  the robot chuckled, “…you run out of coffee.”


“What’s the rest of it like now?”


“Oh,” the robot exclaimed, eyebrows raising.  “Well, so, uh, I guess I could show you, if you’d, uh…like.”  The robot offered, realizing suddenly it would mean missing out on the trek back to Lucilius’ cabin.


“Yes, I think I might like that.”

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