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City Zen

On the endless rooftop of the fact-ory, they sat in the beat up armchairs amid a bristling forest of antennae and corrugated steel backlit by the godly effulgence of towers and tenements that defined the horizon. It was steamy hot though well past midnight. The heat never quite radiated away these days, but they’d long grown accustomed to it, grateful for the slight breeze that stirred late at night.

The eleven adults who represented Kankuut—their rooftop settlement—sat in a semicircle interacting with the cyglyph. A buzzing hive of media sensation, the holoform display branched to each of their chairs pouring a live netstream from which they made their selections. Consuming and producing content simultaneously, they shaped meme-ing in their lives. Pheromones of thought directed strange dances of conversation that filled the air and airways.

I post, therefore I exist. The city sang. Connected.

Little aYa appeared puffing her cherubic cheeks. “I can’t sleep,” she told the adults of Kankuut as she climbed onto her mother’s arm rest. “Tell me a story.”

Her mother patted her head and sent the image to her cadre of followers. “Who’ll tell aYa a story?” she broadcast.

aBa oLo pinged and his sister positioned his holoform in front of aYa. “Having trouble sleeping, little bird?”

aYa nodded. “Tell me a story, aBa. Please.”

“Of course. It is what we are. You and I, your aMa and aPa, all people, we are made of stories.” His holoform turned a bright orange, not unlike the rising moon through the thick city haze. “I think I will tell you the story of Hupta the Hermit.”

“Was he real?” the child asked.

“Hupta? Little bird, all is real. Creation is creation. Information, information. Thus we are formed. And that is much of Hupta’s tale. Listen, little bird.”

aBa oLo’s form reached out in an expansive gesture which slowly dissolved into a massive tree and then a towering forest. aBa oLo’s voice filled the forest.

“This is a place of old, aYa. A living thing connected at the roots like we are connected by the air and waves of cyglyphs. Creatures great and small lived among these mighty trees, but only two had the knowledge to harness the trees. One creature, Biva had enormously powerful front teeth and jaws.”

An image of the furry flat tailed creature with the protruding teeth floated before aYa who drew back. “It must be enormous to bite through a tree, aBa.”

“Biva was much smaller than you, aYa. It could only bring down a tree very slowly, and generally small trees. Trees that it could easily position to make its home.” A Biva dam and pond slowly rotated for aYa.

“It is like the pools that form behind the fact-ory during monsoon. Oh, to live in water every day, aMa!” She turned to her mother who, once again, patted her head.

“Yes, aYa, water is a blessing. Now let your aBa tell his story.”

“Indeed, the Biva enjoyed his home among the trees, until…”

“Until,” aYa repeated, sensing the cue, “Hupta came.”

“Yes, little bird, Hupta came and sat with his back against the tallest tree near the pond.” aBa allowed aYa to see from Hupta’s vantage, his deep red robe and gnarled bare feet pointing directly to the placid pond where Biva swam.

“Show me his face, aBa.”

aBa chuckled. “I cannot. You must create it. Hupta the Hermit. Beyond ken and kit. Let his words and actions create his features. To partake of the cyglyph, one day, you must contribute. That is the way of the city-zen and the fact-ory”

Her chocolate eyes widened like a newborn’s. “I will try, aBa.”

“That is all that is ever required, little bird. To try is to learn is to grow is to connect. Growth is connection. Now, let us see how Biva fared.”

In the holographic display, Biva cautiously approached Hupta.

“Greetings, fellow sentient. Are we met?”

Hupta did not answer. He gestured to Biva’s pond.

“My home,” Biva bowed. “Is it not fine? I master the trees. I am a creator.”

Hupta nodded and his voice was but a whisper borne upon the breeze.

“Yes. A creator.” Hupta patted the trunk of the tree he leaned against. “Yet, how do you know your creation exists?”

Biva laughed heartily, “I see it and touch it. As I see and touch you, Hupta.” Biva patted Hupta’s gnarled toes with his flat, broad tail. “I know you now, sentient. You are the singular uncertainty. The prime measure. None other than Hupta the Hermit come to challenge my existence. I am ready.”

“I do not challenge. I merely observe.”

“And in doing so, you challenge reality.”

“Realities, Biva.” Hupta reached into the wide sleeve of his robe and drew forth a small stone that he presented to Biva. “What is this, my friend?”

Biva took the smooth stone in his claws. He held it up to the sun, sniffed it and licked it. “I believe it is jade, Hupta.”

“Believe? Do you not know? You are a creator.”

“Only of my humble home.”

“Which you shaped from the trees of the forest.”

“Of course, Hupta. As your kind does too.”

“I am not of my kind, Biva. I am of ours.” Hupta spread his arms wide to encompass the forest. “We do not create things, we create information.”

“Things are not information?”

Hupta gestured for the jade stone and Biva handed it to him. “All you see is emergent. It can only be felt as a thing when it is changed.” With a flick of his wrist the stone arced high into the sky and ploshed into the pond.

“What have I created, Biva?”

“A splash. A ripple. A slight disturbance.”

Hupta nodded. “Like each of us: a slight disturbance. Can you determine its spin?”

Biva’s nose bunched its brows arched. “Spin? I only see the propagation of a wave. Concentric and harmonic.”

“Then you see nothing, Biva. Spin is the essence of being. Think now. What is the irreducible kernel of reality within?”

“The stone? The creator of the wave?”

“Those are things. Things cannot create, they can only emerge.”

Placidly, Hupta waited as Biva clicked his sharp nails on his iron-strong teeth, thinking. After the time it would’ve taken him to fell a thick tree, Biva responded.

“Hupta, I am a creature. I am a thing. I have been created and I create. I deny your assertion—this absurdity of spin.”

Hupta clapped. The sharp sound echoed over the pond and filled the forest. “Biva, you will always be master of the trees and no more. That is a blessing. For to know spin, to know for a fact the position and charge of any particle is a burden. Quantum information is the only reality. Facts define. We can only process. Creation is the physical realization of information. Chew on that, Biva, and rejoice to float in your small pond in this lovely forest. Treat it as a fact—or your existence will quickly become fiction.”

Before Biva’s eyes, Hupta faded and the flat tailed creature shrugged its tiny shoulders and returned to the pond. Biva dove repeatedly until he retrieved the stone Hupta had thrown in. He brought it to shore. He stared at the jade and glanced up to where Hupta had leaned against the tree challenging his view of creation and existence. Biva tossed the stone into the air and with a practiced twitch of his tail swatted it far into the woods.

“A small thing, Hupta. No spin. And that’s a fact,” Biva muttered as he swam back to his cozy lair.

The cyglyph resolved back into the image of aBa oLo. His niece climbed down from her mother’s chair on the sultry rooftop. “I don’t understand, aBa,” she said.

“Of course you do not, little bird. Hupta’s tale is a seed. It must grow. Like we all must. And some day maybe you will harvest the facts from Hupta’s tale. Words and stories are our work which we commit to the fact-ory. It makes the world spin.”

“It makes me dizzy, aBa,” aYa admitted.

“Then you are of the city-zen.”

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