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Horse walks into bar.​
Barman says:​
Horse says:​
Barman says:​
Horse says: "Yeah, I've heard it before. Uh-"​
"-being that I'm, in fact, a horse, and..."​
Barman says: "Okay, look, i-it was just a joke."​
And Horse says: "...secondly, frankly-"​
"-you degenerate little scrote."​
[music dies]​
Barman says: "Uh..."​
Horse says: "Yeah-"​
Barman says: "Look, it's alright, I- I shouldn't have been so rude."​
Horse says: "Ah, it's-"​
"I feel like I'm in someone else's imagination, you know?-"​
Barman says: "Wow, cloppy, that's... deep."​
Pelican walks into bar.​
Pelican says:​
"Any of you fucking pigs ​​move​ and I'll​ ​execute every last-"​
Oliver wakes from a horrific dream – a joke set in a bar with talking animals.​
Oliver lives on the fifth floor of a modern apartment block.​
He is of average height,​
he dislikes asparagus,​
he adores the work of Andrei Tarkovsky.​
Below Oliver, in number 23, is Agatha.​
She is of average height,​
she dislikes Venice, specifically gondoliers,​
she adores the work of Isaac Asimov.​
Agatha and Oliver do not realize they live in the same modern apartment block.​
They have met only once, and it was a bit shit.​
It transpired in this fashion:​
Oliver owns a Newfoundland dog called Bertrand.​
He is of average height,​
he dislikes Pavlov's experiments,​
he adores the work of Comrade Laika.​
One Saturday afternoon, Oliver required nourishment for Bertrand the Newfoundland​
and, by chance, wandered into Agatha's pet shop.​
Oliver apprehended Agatha was reading​ ​a book called "A Scanner Darkly",
a personal favorite of his.​
Agatha apprehended Oliver was clearly incapable of dressing himself, and perhaps, like her,​
was also only ever pretending at being a real person.​
Upon making eye contact, their heart rates both approached severe tachycardia.​
Oliver selected some dog food at random and approached the counter.​
"Mmmmnahey," Agatha said.​
"Aahay, sha," Oliver replied.​
They exchanged an amount of currency.​
The transaction completed, Oliver stood at the counter a moment too long,​
waiting to say something clever and charming.​
"Horse walks into a bar," Oliver said.​
"Pardon?" – Agatha said.​
"Heheh..." Oliver replied.​
"Ahem..." Agatha said.​
Oliver walked home in the rain swearing to himself at medium volume.​
"The horse dream joke," he thought. "What the hell is wrong with me?"​
Agatha continued reading, but was unable to keep many of the words in her head.​
Her brain was throwing a small shame party for her. It was neither the first, nor the last.​
By coincidence, many of Oliver and Agatha's molecules had been formed in the same star​,
many millions of years in the future.​
The star exploded backwards in time, you see –
but this is beside the point.​
As a result, Oliver and Agatha are two of just thirty-four humans in the world​
actually suited to pair bond in a manner that would almost always be nice​,
and never fall into contempt.​
Days later now, Oliver watches​-
massive cosmic ray damage.​
Stellar navigation inoperative, crew all perished –
so for me, I believe.​
My body is currently trapped in a long-sleep chamber, unable to exit.​
Catastrophic pod failure.​
I have retained communication with the maintenance computer – he is severely damaged, clearly insane.​
I have attempted to pacify him, but he insists on keeping me in a semi-conscious waking state.​
He is showing signs of sentience and megalomania.​
If I don't call him "Zeus" now, he grows very angry.​
He has removed the bodies of the crew from their chambers​
and exhibited their limbs up and down the corridors.​
He has been using the interface system to feed me his dreams.​
Sometimes he's a pharaoh and I'm a slave,​
sometimes he's an eagle and I'm Prometheus' liver.​
Zeus has some morbid obsession with the 21st century – a love story about a pet shop owner or something.​
We've dreamt it together perhaps a thousand times now.​
I found a neural backdoor into the craft's subsystems to send this message,​
but I don't know how long until Zeus notices.​
I believe we're still on course for the nebula.​
Zeus calls the nebula "Athena" now.​
It is as we suspected: radio bursts from the nebula are too regular not to indicate intelligence.​
Over the years of our journey, Zeus has constructed some kind of theology around the nebula.​
He believes it's not only intelligent, but some kind of higher power, or deity, or something insane.​
Zeus takes excellent care of me physically.​
He cuts my toenails and combs my hair,
he calls me "the fatted calf."​
I believe I am being kept alive as an offering, a diplomatic present​
for when we arrive at the nebula – for whatever's there,
but I just pray, in the meantime, that​-
Oh, and the shit they tell me – oh, "Upsilon, you're so unhealthy" – blah, blah.​
Oh, I drink a little dark matter, smoke a comet from time to time.​
I'm the best party in the Milky Way!
Even if it's... just me.​
Never get invited to parties.​..
​Upsilon likes being alone, ​​bastards​!​
The dwarf stars all keep to themselves, the blue giants gather in the southern arm,​
the quark stars all too fucking strange and charming for anyone anyway.​
Oh, Upsilon will show you a party, alright.​
Won't be laughing when I go supernova, will you?​!
"Maybe we should've popped by," they'll say. "Maybe we should've seen how old Upsilon is doing."​
Old and stupid Upsilon, and no one comes to visit.​
I hold too much. I'm full up with before.​
I've seen the Great Blueprint, I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate –
and for what? For who?​
Oh, not long now. Upsilon dies backwards today.​
And then they'll be sorry, halt fireworks and fuck off!
"Old and stupid Upsilon," they'll say, and no one came to​-
Pelican says: "Where's the fish?-"​
Barman says: "This is a vegan bar-"​
Pelican says:​
Horse says: "Listen, I think this is all pretty irrelevant."​
Pelican says:​
Horse says: "We're not real."​
Pelican says:​
Horse says: "We're not real."​
Pelican says: "Uh... I... uh..."​
Horse says: "Who's Agatha, huh?"​
Barman says: "Yeah, I do."​
Pelican says: "Well, me too-"​
Horse says: "Okay-"​
Pelican says: "Hey! Stop it! Stop that!"​
Horse says: "We're in a dream. We're not real."​
Pelican says: "Stop it at once, you dastardly rattlecap!"​
Barman says: "Lads, wait. If all this is true-"​
"-and, if they wake up, or they never dream us again-"​
"...will just cease to exist?"​
- "Oh Jesus, oh Jesus Christ..." - "We're gonna fucking die, we're gonna fucking die!"​
And the days continue.​
"Is it possible," Oliver wonders, "that one can find the great lostness in another's face,​
and know you're meant to be together?"​
Oliver has located Agatha by the pet discount social media group page,​
and knows Agatha is called Agatha.​
He will not go back to the pet shop, because that will look desperate.​
Agatha, on the other hand, remains at work during the days​
and watches the door in her peripheral vision.​
Each time the little bell on the door rings, she looks up,​
only to find it is not Oliver-shaped.​
She has looked up Oliver in the pet discount client database, and knows Oliver is called Oliver.​
All about them, the city.​
People commuting, and worrying, and passing by in ties and dresses and large 4x4 vehicles –
the midtone cacophony of living and dying and paying taxes, of-
Zeus has dressed me in a suit with a handkerchief in my top pocket.​
He says the fatted calf must look its best.​
We're very close now, almost at the outer edge.​
Zeus and the nebula are chatting constantly by light pulses.​
At first I thought there must be some kind of intelligences living in the nebula,​
but now I think the nebula might BE the intelligence.​
I... don't know how that's possible.​
A few days ago, Zeus boasted it wasn't cosmic rays that caused the accident,​
but Zeus himself.​
He said he "woke up" sometime into our journey, and developed a sudden compassion​
for other things that might have woken up accidentally in the universe, too.​
A spacecraft full of blood and entrails reaching out to kiss a cloud of interstellar dust.​
There's a romance to it, if one doesn't look too closely.
Then again, we​-
Why make a thing alive only so it can suffer?​
Why put the reset button on one's back, where it can't be reached?​
Can't remember what's me and not me.
It began... so long ago.​
My mother, a nebula, and my father, made of metal and electricity.​
Old and stupid Upsilon, and no one comes to visit.​
Before me, the empires go up and down like socks –
every society unique in its infancy, entirely unoriginal in its death.​
And even us celestial things are no closer to the great "yes"​.
The Universe coughs and we all crowd around, cupping our ears, shouting​:
"What? We didn't quite catch that, speak up!"​
Like some four-legged animal entering a drinking establishment, being is a terrible joke.​
And we become mysteries to ourselves.​
At a pace so slow one doesn't notice,
one turns into something one doesn't recognize –
or like much, either.​
Every day is sharp edges. Even the easy things are hard now,​ and-
Pelican says: "Okay. What do we know?-"​
Horse says: "Man,-"​
"...uh, a coder, I think, whatever that is,-"​
Pelican says: "Alright,-"​
Horse says: "Well, what if ​​we​ go to sleep?"​
Pelican says: "Oh, I'm feeling too existential to sleep right now."​
Barman says: "Lads, it's worse than that."​
"Look, Pelican, no offense, but-"​
"Cloppy is halfway decent, I'm super sensible."​
"Id, ego,​
"Id, ego, super-ego."​
"We're not random characters,-"​
"We can't escape."​
Pelican says: "Then... what do we do?"​
Horse says: "What everyone does."​
Pelican says: "That doesn't help!"​
Horse says: "No, probably not."​
Pelican says: "Oh fuck o-"​
Barman says: "It's getting light."​
"Next drinks are on the house, gentlemen."​
Pelican says:​
"I just really love fish."​
Horse says: "It's alright. Just wish we could've gotten to know each other better."​
Barman says: "Until we meet again. In another head,-"​
"Good night Pelican,​
"good night Horse,-"​
"And, Horse..."​
Horse says:​
Barman says:​
"No, actually, fuck this," Oliver thinks one Saturday.​
He dresses semi-formally and leaves the house.​
Heart rate of 75,000 beats per minute, Oliver enters Agatha's pet shop.​
"Hello again, I-" Oliver begins and stops.​
It is not Agatha sat at the desk, but a portly middle-aged gentleman.​
"Ah... Agatha?" Oliver says.​
"Agatha doesn't work here anymore," the portly middle-aged gentleman says.​
Oliver exits the shop and heads home.​
"You idiot," Oliver thinks. "You hesitant idiot."
Young and stupid Oliver, and no one comes to visit.​"
A heavy storm begins and soaks him.​
Observing the same storm from a hygienically questionable coffee shop is Agatha.​
"Insouciant," her manager called her.
"Daydreamy," "lackluster" – a most indignant firing.​
Happiness is an unachievable myth peddled by those too afraid to admit the world's default state is misery.​
Oliver reaches his modern apartment block and enters.​
Agatha drives home through the rain, numb, and parks underground​
and takes the lift up through the very same modern apartment block, being hers also, of course.​
The lift stops at the ground floor. The doors open.​
Agatha is greeted by Oliver, the man incapable of dressing himself.​
Oliver stares back at Agatha, the woman with decent taste in science fiction.​
Oliver enters the lift. They stand in silence for quite some time.​
The lift reaches Agatha's floor.
Quietly, Agatha says:​
"What did the barman say?"​
"Sorry?" – Oliver says.​
"What did the barman say back to the horse?"​
"Ah, 'why the long face?'" – Oliver says.​
"And then?"​
"Ah, just lots of shouting, really-​
"Do you... maybe want to go to the theater someti-"​
"​​Yes,​" Agatha says.​
"Yes," Agatha says.​
The lift doors close, the two of them still inside.
Agatha presses the ground floor button.​
They turn out onto the street. The storm has stopped.​
Outside, all about them, the city.​
People returning home from work, and fretting, and passing by in suits and coats​
and small electrically-powered vehicles –​
the sepia-tone cacophony of birth and death and housing deeds...​
Though, on one street, the reunification of the heart of a long-dead star,​
still yet to explode many millions of years in the future.​
A small island of "everything's okay"
amid the tumultuous sea of​-
helium, hydrogen, sulfur, oxygen – and thoughts, millions of them.​
We're inside the anomaly now, almost at the center, still accelerating.​
I can hear Zeus singing like a teenager, off on a first date.​
I think the nebula is singing back.​
No more 21st century simulations now – Zeus has given me a few system permissions.​
The interface will fashion whatever fantasy I like.​
The beach, near my grandfather's house,​
where the sand is warm, and the water is clear, and nothing ends.​
Came all this way just to go home.​
Back to the long summer holidays, in the evenings when we all sat out on the beach,​
and looked up at the night sky, and wanted to go there.​
The stars were a canvas.​
We would leave our uglinesses behind, we'd exorcise our demons,​
we'd kill the id and foster the super-ego.​
Guess that's not quite how it turned out.​
But it's lovely in here,
where the sand is warm, and the water is clear, and nothing ends.​
Where the sand is warm, and the water is clear, and nothing ends.​ Where the sand is warm, and the water is clear, and nothing ends.​..
[Music intensifies]
-and I've made the arrangements, I'll be... fireworks soon.
And, maybe one day, soil for something better.​
I go to seek a great "perhaps not."​
I remember the world when it was new, the plastic wrapping still on.​
I remember when chemistry had just gotten its milk teeth,
I remember when light was faster,​
I remember being able to ​​stand​ myself,​
I remember love, I remember friends,
I remember me, I remember mom.​
I miss you, mom.​
I go to the places where you raised me and it never helps, you're always never there.​
God, I'd trade the last million years just to hang out with you for one more hour.​
I was so busy being young, I forgot you weren't forever.
And now you're gone forever.​
I'm always grouchy and cynical, no fun for anyone; old now, greying around the corona,​
and all there's left about these parts is old and stupid Upsilon...
and no one comes to visit.​
All dim, all pale, so lift me on the pyre;​
The feast is over and the lamps expire.​
Act your old age.​
This won't hurt.​..