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                      “What do you suppose it means to be alive?”

The words carry across the room with no destination in mind and drift past countless other people caught in their own conversations.  Old wives’ tales would have him believe that conversing with himself is unhealthy, a practice whose practitioners are mentally unfit.

He, of course, knows better. Anecdotally, he knows that conversing with himself helps him think and forces him to better weigh out the situation. Beyond that, though, he’s aware of the fact that in many fields people talk to inanimate objects in order to help them problem solve.  People don’t need someone to listen to their problems, they need to hear their own problems… they need to admit that they have a problem.

And so he sits in a café, conversing with no one between sips of coffee.

“If all we feel are electrons repelling one another, and nothing truly touches, then my entire perception of touch is false. Likewise, my eyes only observe two-dimensions but my brain fabricates a three-dimensional image, I’m not actually seeing. So, what is real?”

The cup is brought to his lips once more, only for him to realize it is empty. “That’s…. poetic.” He stares blankly at the empty husk, something barren and devoid of substance. A kindred item that parallels his feelings. Setting the cup on the table, he slouches down and then plops his head onto his forearm. Canting his head to the left aligns his face so that smalt irides encircle the ceramic flask that he longingly wishes to refill.

“I’m unhappy.” Although in truth there is no difference between talking to no one and talking to a cup, it does make him feel a little less lonely.

“Being alive, the fact that perception and reality are all fabricated. These are trivial things. Regardless of what the truth is, it changes nothing… and I know that. But it is a lot easier to worry about something that I can’t actually do anything about than to admit that I’m miserable. It’s easier to distract myself than deal with my problems.”

“Problems like an empty cup?”

Pulled from his musing, he glances up at the server, who looms… no she isn’t looming. Looming is ominous, she is anything but. Although there are hints of dark circles, partially concealed by makeup, beneath her eye, her eyes are bright and friendly. The upward pull of the corner of her lips and the arches of her eyebrow give the impression of a perfectly pleasant person. Although the pitch of her voice is elevated, it is within the range of what might be taken for friendly or maybe interest.

His eyes slip from her face and back to the table. “Not interest, amusement.”

“Pardon?”

“Your eyes aren’t dilated and your cheeks don’t show any indication of flushing. You’re amused because I’m practically laying on the table. I suppose I do look a bit ridiculous right now.”

“Well, just a little. Customers usually don’t lay on the table unless they’re drunk.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re not?”

“I’m not drunk.”

“Well Mister Not Drunk, can I get you anything else. Maybe a pillow and blanket?”

“There is no situation to defuse, you don’t need to joke. I’m not embarrassed. Although, I could use another cup coffee, please and thank you.”

She remains still, long enough for three or four blinks, before finally heading back toward the counter “What in the name of Gaia just happened?”

 

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He is unable to place his finger on it, the exact moment that he left the café. Hell, he isn’t even sure why he left, if he paid, or where he is going.  He pauses and looks, his eyes eventually settling on a fountain off to his right.

Three white obelisks are equally situated around six concentric bowls, each larger than the last, with the smallest at the top. Every 12 seconds nine jets of water shoot from the pool to the top bowl, for 18 seconds. The water then cascades down the marble to the reservoir below. This continues until the 3,600 cycle, when a column of water incrementally rises up for the duration of that cycle from the bowls to mark the resetting of cycle count. Each time a reset happens another column of water rises, each bowl able to support up to four columns. It is only after 24 columns rise and fall that the fountain starts over again.

Although he’s watched this fountain numerous times, it’s only now that he notices the finer details of it. The bowls aren’t perfectly smooth hemispheres. There are in fact etchings all along the outside, most of it is Gaian symbology. 

He turns and treks toward it, watching as 9 columns rise and fall with all of its spray and mist contained perfectly within the diameter of the reservoir. “It’s a marvelous design.”

“Agreed.”

The response, certainly not his own, came from nowhere. That of course is equal parts unreasonable and impossible. Everything comes from somewhere and most definitely comes from something. He slowly turns until he finds the source, a younger man standing about two feet directly behind him.

“I didn’t see you there, you snuck up on me.”

“I’ve been here the entire time. You walked right past me. I’m Taylor by the way.”

“Nice to meet you Taylor, I’m….” A pause turns into uncomfortable silence as his face contorts. There appears to be a name on the edge of his lips, but the contours of his face suggest that he’s struggling to remember it. “Felix.”

Is it nice to meet you? Why do we engage in such trifling pleasantries?

“Felix huh? It sure is a nice day out, the weather is gorgeous!”

“Is it? I can’t say that I’ve noticed.” As the comment is made, Felix’s head tilts back. The sky is mostly blue, with a handful of fluffy white clouds lulling about. Or maybe they were globules of cotton? Probably not cotton, perhaps wool. They did look equal parts itchy and fluffy. The sun rests somewhere below midpoint, its beams not particularly bright, but comfortably warm. Warm enough that the occasional breeze was neither welcomed nor unwelcomed.

“Yes, I suppose the day is acceptable. I doubt it will last though. Nice things never last.” The comment is made as he levels his head. It is only as the last word is enunciated that Felix realizes Taylor is no longer there. “How strange.”

Turning back to the fountain, he catches the end of a cycle and 13 columns of water dissipating into their respective bowls.

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