«David and Shandy By Nathaniel Bates The island was surrounded by smooth waves that overlapped in patterns of ordered chaos. The pattern would not ...»
David and Shandy
By Nathaniel Bates
The island was surrounded by smooth waves that overlapped in patterns of ordered chaos.
The pattern would not last, but it was beautiful while it did. David knew that it would be a
perfect day to take a swim with Shandy. Shandy was like a wife to him. They were that close.
Sadly, Shandy was not a woman. She was a dolphin. But, for female company she would have
to do. David was not actually an expert in marine biology. He was a former Physics teacher who was out on the road finding himself. How he got on to a Navy controlled island with a super-intelligent dolphin and a crazed conspiracy theorist he would never know. Already his memories of life were strangely hazy but he was sure that it was simply a combination of the beauty of the ocean and the gentle monotony of his life out there.
John was the only other human on the island, and their relationship was tense to say the least. John was on an endless lecture series on how the governments of the world were secretly arming against an alien invasion. The alien invasion was led by none other than YHVH, who was presumably an alien masquerading as God who deceived the Biblical Hebrews. Working for YHVH were a shadowy group of Hollywood producers and Israelis who would stop at nothing to undermine the patriotic resistance to the infiltration of our planet. John claimed he was not an Anti-Semite and that he had nothing against Israel per se. The fact that David was Jewish was emphasized to mean that John was not talking about all Jews (which was intended to reassure David but it made his message even more ominous). He also claimed he passed his psychological exam with flying colors but the Navy civilian records said otherwise. David could only wonder at whether the professions to “love everyone” were sincere. What particularly disturbed David was John’s railing against animal rights activists. David came to the island to commune with dolphins and to do work in oceanography. Belief that humans had unrestricted rights over Nature seemed incompatible with any humane treatment of Shandy, a humane treatment the Navy claimed that they afforded their perfectly trained retired dolphin.
David never witnessed any cruelty toward Shandy, but he kept the matter in mind as a strange anxiety set over him once the sun began setting. The scene was beautiful, but the beauty seemed to bring out an anxiety in David’s ordered life. Just how it was he got where he was seemed a problem to him. How does one begin as a Physics teacher in a community of militaryconnected scientists at a national Laboratory and then suddenly end up on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific? His memories were hazy, but he remembered running afoul of many parents in the accelerated Middle School in which eighth graders were learning advanced Physics. Somehow the parents were never satisfied. The feeling of being a servant overwhelmed him. After one year, David left the community and headed out to find himself.
What concerned him was the feeling that there was more to it all than he could remember, that there were deeper forces at work. He figured that maybe he would write a story about it and become the new PKD.
Instead of being the new PKD, David realized that he was destined to obscurity and that happiness would be reconciliation with the inevitability of living as a slight shadow in the body politic. PKD’s paranoid fans might believe fiction was reality, but being in his own skin did not give him the luxury. Reality would mean the flush of ocean breeze and the lingering of human physicality in a world becoming more
and more chaotic with every news story and every economic turn. Shandy came to the shore and David realized that he needed to swim with her if only to save himself from the maze of memories fading into fiction. He dove in and swam with Shandy in an ocean that was not too cold but not warm enough for him. There was no telepathy between them as many New Age believers would have hoped, only empathy. What passed between them was the quiet realization that each had their own personal demons that they both respected in one another even across the species barrier. Shandy would swim without judgement. If she knew how to communicate with humans with any kind of strange telepathy she had the good sense to leave David’s mind alone like a proper lady should. David could not help but to wonder what Shandy would look like if she were a human female. It was somewhat perverted but once the thought came to mind he could not suppress it. The ocean was vast, blue and absorbed his thoughts in a kind of timeless bliss that almost got him to forget that he was living in uncertain times and on a fragile planet.
The sun was setting and David knew he would have to swim back to John and possibly be insanely butchered if John ever thought that he was working for the evil aliens. The government’s psych exam process was not what it used to be. Some heads had to roll.
Hopefully it would not be his. Leaving the ocean was not easy because he knew that a cold blast of air would meet him. David dried with a towel and jumped around as he put his underwear and pants on. Swimming nude with a dolphin was not a sexual act as far as he was concerned, but he could not help but to be vaguely aroused once he put his clothes on. Thoughts of an old girlfriend intruded at an inappropriate time because he would soon have to be on edge with John’s paranoia. Rushing into the lab, apologizing for being late, and taking his place at the computer all seemed to happen in one closing act that set the stage for Scene II. Fortunately, John came even later and he was not at all in a bad mood. “You really were there!” he blurted out. David decided not to ask what he meant.
They soon got to work and forgot about the whole issue. Their focus was on monitoring ocean currents and the dynamics of Earth’s climate. Science fiction would have to wait. The sheer joy of crunching data was what excited David. He was better at it than he ever had been.
It was strange how the skill just seemed to come to him. He had never been an ace with statistics but the movement of waves hit him on an intuitive level. After a good night shift---his shifts were split which made for a more restful day---David left before John could crunch the day’s news with a conspiratorial bent. He grabbed a bite to eat and fled to his room. Personal email awaited him.
Sitting down at the computer, David was astonished to see an email that was from an old friend Max whose son worked for Los Alamos Lab. His son had just graduated college and was looking forward to a bright future. He opened the email and began to read the words. Just then a strange feeling came over him of a memory that was disconcerting. He was sitting in a lit room and…the memory was gone. David shrugged it off and continued reading the note of congratulations at getting his new job and the general jibber jabber that comes with friendly emails. He responded with a similar note of congratulations at the son’s good fortune and called it an evening. David then lay down in bed and dreamt. The dream of the lit room came back to him. It was an ominous feeling and he was reassured when he opened his eyes and saw the stars in a beautiful Pacific sky outside of his window. The rest of the night went peacefully.
The morning shift began well enough but John soon launched into another paranoid diatribe. David always agreed with him that the bankers had stolen a lot of wealth through political influence. This was never the difference between them. It was when everything that ever happened became a conspiracy that David became anxious. John was out to try to prove that global warming was a hoax and that is where David drew a line in the sand. The denial of what David considered a scientifically proven fact on the government dime was where he drew the line. He was not going to be a party to the use of government computers to promote the very economic bottom line of the huge mega-corporations John supposedly opposed, allowing them to continue to pollute with impunity. By remaining in the lab, he would be a party to the misuse of government funds and knew he had to leave. David stormed out of the laboratory and did not care what happened next but he felt that he needed a cooling off before making any rash decisions about contacting the Mainland. The need to cool off was precisely the excuse he needed for another swim.
Shandy was perfectly trained by the Navy to respond to human signals and she knew that David wanted another swim once David called to her. Maybe he would find a mermaid out there in the ocean and the two would get married. Would she be jealous of Shandy? David felt the doubt that he might be using this whole debacle with global warming as his own excuse to slough off on the government dime, but suppressed the thought. As he swam again his thoughts drifted away from the debacle at the lab to an abstract mental escape that focused on Newton.
He realized that in order to construct a mechanistic “Newtonian” Universe, scientists and philosophers had to construct a Newton who was a pure rationalist. The real Newton was a mystic and alchemist who never believed rational physics was complete. Newton always imagined that a deeper reality underlay the mechanistic world he pioneered. This meant that if he ever came in contact with quantum physics he would probably have been delighted at its implications. He would never have been as reticent about it as Einstein was. Newton was not a “Newtonian” just as Marx once said that he was not a “Marxist.” Old Isaac was “New Paradigm Physics” long before the Seventies and the New Age revolution. But, a nagging thought crept in that David could not suppress. If nineteenth century scientism could get Newton so wrong because the industrial system demanded that they see the world a certain way, then is it possible that anyone could be misinterpreted by the zeitgeist of a later age with the real man fading into iconic invisibility? It happened to Newton, Jefferson, Marx, Jesus and every great historical figure that the actual man was forgotten and the symbol became the tool of many.
David returned only to find that Federal auditors had already arrived. John was in big trouble yet he never blamed David. Perhaps holding off on calling in the Big Boys was the best policy since it saved David from the Wrath of the Wronged Man once he began accusing his enemies. John would not be removed right away, but the auditors would stay a while in order to determine whether an unauthorized use of government computers had occurred. It was not only John who was paranoid about the speed with which the auditors came. David also wondered how much they were monitored and felt an ominous feeling about the auditors. One man in particular stood out as vaguely sinister. The man’s name was Charles but David could not help but wonder whether this was an assumed name. He shook his head as though he was trying to wash John’s paranoia out of his system but he could not. Memories of a strange kind flooded in seemingly from his solar plexus where he often felt his repressed memories were hidden.
Something was not right and he sensed that these auditors knew more about him than he wished.
The auditors would speak to each of them alone. It was no surprise that they wanted to speak to John first but he had the good sense to summon a lawyer. They then came to David and he decided to be reckless and dispense with the lawyer. He had nothing to fear, or se he felt.
Indeed, the delay in contacting the Feds was understandable given that David himself was not sure a crime had been committed. As much as he disagreed with John, he was still uncomfortable with the seeming criminalization of what may have seemed a legitimate scientific question to John. What if David had decided to do his own investigation of a topic, say the JFK Assassination, which rubbed someone the wrong way? It was difficult to determine what was, and what was not, a “legitimate” scientific question. As they entered the room another suppressed memory came up for David from his time as a Physics teacher. This one was real, an actual memory of when he was teaching and local Lab security personnel had entered his apartment when he was not present to search his computers even though he never signed a security oath. Indeed, even though he did not work for the lab it is possible they saw him as a kind of support staff in a strange way that he could not understand. This had happened on multiple occasions and it might have related to statements he made to his students defending Edward Snowden. These same security personnel also entered his automobile and searched his GPS system. He knew all of this because these agents made sure to make their presence known by leaving the computer switch on and by plugging his car’s GPS in when it was previously unplugged. It was a high security town and, Constitutional or not, certain actions made sense to Security and David could only forgive but he wished he could understand. It was during that same time that some parents acted strangely toward him and demanded that their children be removed from his classroom giving little or no reason. It was a paranoid story worthy of John and yet it was true. How the multiple events interconnected was something that David continued to ponder.
Questions floated in and out of the paranoid liminality between reality and dark fantasy.
Did his problems with certain parents connect to the entry? Did it connect to his remarks on Edward Snowden and the eventual need to abolish nuclear weapons? Or, might it have had to do with his own investigation into Internet rumors about underground bases and alien bodies? If it was the third then they should have known that he never believed any of those stories. His exploration was of an anthropological nature, the investigation of a paranoid subculture and not of anything his scientific mind would ever have considered. If it was the first two, then he was guilty as charged and proud of it.
David came back to the present. He held to a firm demeanor as the Interview started.