Unlife is But a Nightmare [Verna (very) moody]
#1
Physicists typically have little use for philosophy. Or, I should say, they have little use for philosophers, which is a subtle, but important difference. A lot of it boils down to them bristling at outsiders trying to speculate on what directions physics inquiries should take, or what types of things constitute physics or science. They especially don't like it when philosophers point out that science is a political venture as are all human ventures -- biased by default, because all of science is worked using human brains with human faults. They really tend to get bent out of shape when a philosopher or two or three calls what they do unscientific. That leads to the academic equivalent of unrestrained warfare.

Nobody wants to be called out as a mystic or a woo-woo practitioner or anything even approaching the specter of religious dogma. Careers have been killed for less. And yet, they still profess to be politically void, to the bitter end.

Verna is a physicist. But it's not musing on the beauty and elegance of Noether's Theorem that's going to put her mind back together when the world has broken. Well -- it's either the entire world or just her mind. Either way, something isn't right.

Sometimes David leaves her alone, in the room where he brought her back from the dead. It's an underground, concrete-walled bunker with scattered, sheet-covered furniture and a rusted-out shower in the corner and a feeble little light to see by. It's her 'living' space. Her blood still stains the floor in places -- remnants from when she was still alive.

At first, it was a relief when he'd leave. Without him around, she wouldn't have to wonder each second what he was going to do to her next. Now, she finds herself longing for him when he goes away. She's emptied out. Gave everything. Even her blood, even her pierced heart. And it is a wounded heart that David snared, for all his effort. Her forced-love for him feels like a stake in the chest, and she would know, wouldn't she, David?

David, David, David! He hollowed her out and filled her up again with him, and it's hard to think on anything else. He wants her to snap out of it. She knows that. He wants her to behave, and to think the right thoughts, and believe the right things, and stop fearing that she's drugged or insane or both. And since that is his wish, she must sit in his nice leather chair in his dark concrete box, still as the corpse she is, unbreathing, thinking.

In her latest imaginings, she fears she's stuck in an asylum, her arms wrapped down and her face masked to keep her from biting the other inmates due to her vampiric delusions. How would she know if these experiences were a lie? Especially when they seem so unreal -- so scientifically unexplainable.

The brain is a chemical and electrical signal processing organ. It can be fooled. It can be manipulated. It can be diseased or modified, and suddenly perception and measurement cease to have meaning. Philosophers have taken this idea a step further (as they are so wont to do) and wondered if we are all being lied to by the outside world. How would we know? If we could not test the outside from the inside, there would be no method to be sure. We could inhabit not bodies, but chemical baths, feeding us information that says what the world is. We could be momentary self-aware entities arising out of the random fluctuations of primordial chaos, complete with memories and a brief instant of sensation before winking back into the nothingness that spawned us. There are some who say that the latter is actually the most likely scenario.

And yet, we still live out our lives as if we are not brains in vats or quantum chance coming together and creating a split-second of awareness out of literally nothing. We have no proof of this. It's a thing we take on faith. We all like to believe in something -- even physicists. We want to believe that we are not simulacra, but have substance and meaning. And why shouldn't we?

To believe oneself as a brain in a vat being fed lies is much like believing oneself to be straitjacketed in 'reality' and living in a dream. She could have been in such a state her whole life and never really known for sure. The world could have been just as broken a few weeks ago, and she'd just never seen it.

The leather under her cold fingers feels like leather. She hasn't taken a breath in hours, but now she does, and her brain tells her the smell is leather. She is hungry. It's so quiet inside, without a pulse or digestion or any other noise of life. And there is someone very very important in another room somewhere in this place who wants very much for her to trust in those subjective experiences.

She brushes a finger across the grain of the chair under it, the first movement out of her in quite some time, and marvels at the realness. She rises, steps toward the little refrigerator by the wall, kneels on the concrete floor next to it, and pulls open the door. She takes a bottle of what she is finally trying to accept as human blood, and closes the door again.

Either she has gone mad, or the universe has. But does it matter? We all accept what our brains tell us is happening, even in the absence of evidence, because otherwise, what would be the point?

And her brain tells her, oh it sings to her, as chilled blood flows down her throat, feeding the desire within. This is as close to something viscerally real that she can get.
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