Peace (Lives of the Koanan #3)
He was Koanan, but he was not still. Milkanas was ablaze with confusions. Contrary tuggings, harsh colours, sudden noises, a background of hectic activity. His executive function was not available, so he experienced himself darting from one sensation to another without anchor or context. His inner environment was its own context, as if he had been occupied by a force that was not him, and not Koanan either. But surely that wasn’t possible? Panic spread across his neuronal body and he suddenly saw it as a landscape.
Fields, mountains and valleys, cities, motorways, villages, rivers. This was the terrain of a virsoc—an imagined order of existence by which a koana might learn about the world. Usually the virsoc was invited into consciousness and directed in some way by the individual koana, but this time it had emerged without bidding. Across the landscape came a multitude of upright walkers, similar in form, but divided among themselves. They set boundaries to their living areas, brought weapons and patrolled the dividing lines. Each group chose a style of dress and music and mocked the others.
Milkanas felt invaded and grew angry. These belligerent creatures had nothing to do with him, his sub-self asserted. He found himself thinking that his land, his rightful territory, had been stolen. Before this bustle and aggression he had been still and peaceful like all koanan. Now he was a stamping ground, a battlefield.
The creatures began to dig into what had been his ground, but not to sow. They were digging trenches to fight from and foundations for munitions factories. They were using his entire being as a base, then building sub-bases to pursue their conflicts. Instinctively, he looked for allies. If he could not immediately be done with this nuisance, it might be opportune to choose sides. He curled his cells in one direction among pink-skinned, sky-eyed creatures and talked their measured sentences. They grew devious and cruel and he turned to warmer, coal-eyed ones who waved their upper limbs and chanted. These grew too loud and disorganised and he moved on.
All the time he had a sense of what had gone before. In each new territory he remembered the last, and in each new territory he had another reason to destroy the last. Finally, he had trawled all of his known terrain, and helped in the disruption of its greater part. There will be no peace, he intuited, until all these invading creatures have been eliminated. He prepared to destroy them by taking a great cerebral breath (being made entirely of brain matter). On the out-breath, he would collapse all synapses and flatten into the matrix. That would shock those bristling creatures. The consequences for himself didn’t occur to him.
On the turn of the breath, he caught sight of a small creature in a crowded room. Two drops of water were halted on her swollen cheeks. He looked into them and saw the twin heads of two babies, one under each limb, being rushed from a blazing building; then the bald head of a healer calling for help and the bleeding head of someone on a stretcher. As he let out the breath and flattened his many folds, the child, the tears, the babies, the wounded, the healer, all went rocketing into the matrix.
They will live on, came the sub-vocal thought of his mentor, and they will not forget.
At this, Milkanas' executive function revived from its silence.
You have taught me that all learning is remembering.
You can only learn if you can forget the feeling of invasion. It is the fact that you must remember.
Milkanas pondered this. The feeling of invasion was still quite strong.
If it happens once it can happen again, he said.
Precisely, said the mentor, and withdrew.
Coming to full awareness, Milkanas realised that the experience had been imagined, and was none the less part of him for that. Whatever the koanan imagine is their reality, either past or future. As for the present, it is affectless, solely concerned with intuiting the principles of existence.
I have been invaded, he told himself, and I have been an invader. It is for this reason that I have lost limbs and lie floating now in a communal sensate matrix. A porous border and memory without engagement—are these the pre-conditions for peace?