Surfing across the transfinite dimensions, this giddy sequel to 2007's Postsingular chronicles the fight to keep Earth "gnarly" in the face of aliens who want to steal the quantum chaos that makes the planet interesting. Metanovelist Thuy and her husband, JayJay, who's addicted to the global groupmind called Gaia, maneuver between worlds to fend off chaos-diverting Peng real estate developers and flying manta-ray Hrull. Math prodigy Chu, who mitigates his autism with telepathy, and a parallel universe Hieronymus Bosch join Thuy and JayJay as they escape from modern-day fundamentalists and Renaissance witch-hunters and try to keep Gaia from going volcanic. Rucker's plotting can be as loopy as his time lines, and the ending is so confusing that even his characters complain, but his wild imagination never slows down. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Hylozoicby Rudy Rucker
In Rucker's last novel, Postsingular, the Singularity happened. Life on Earth has been transformed by the awakening of all matter into consciousness and telepathic communication. The most intimate moments of your life can be experienced by anyone who cares to pay attention, or by hundreds of thousands of anyones if you are one of the Founders who helped/i>… See more details below
In Rucker's last novel, Postsingular, the Singularity happened. Life on Earth has been transformed by the awakening of all matter into consciousness and telepathic communication. The most intimate moments of your life can be experienced by anyone who cares to pay attention, or by hundreds of thousands of anyones if you are one of the Founders who helped create the Singularity.
The small bunch of Founders, including young newlyweds Thuy, a hypertext novelist, and Jayjay, a gamer and brain-enhancement addict, are living a popular live-action media life. But now alien races that have already gone through this transformation notice Earth for the first time, and begin to arrive to exploit both the new environment and any available humans. Some of them are real estate developers, some are slavers, and some just want to help. But who is to tell the difference? Someone has to save humanity from the alien invasions, and it might as well be reality media stars Thuy and Jayjay. They have the problems of soap opera stars, and are still propelled through adventures in time and in other universes, a long strange trip indeed.
"It's all a fun romp, and Rucker makes it work by providing a cutting-edge hard-science basis for the world's transformation.. Read these novels. They are like candy with a light, fluffy outside and a hard, dense core. And nobody can eat just one."
Sci Fi Wire on Hylozoic
"Hylozoic goes much further into the realms of the twisted, the disturbing and the post-everything. . . . The whole thing gets more and more demented, until it almost feels like you need a post-singularity brain to understand all of the eigth-dimensional drama and weirdness. But just when you think Rucker's layered on too much . . . for one book, it reveals itself, once again, to be the story of JayJay and Thuy's marriage, and of their battle to stay married in the face of alien birds, addictive manta-ray gel, and a personality-eating world mind."
"Rucker’s yarn of a future where everythinganimals, rocks, the planet Earthis conscious, telepathic and often irrepressibly chatty. Rucker’s approach takes a high-comic trajectory with a satirical edge. . . . Serious, uproarious fun, with brain-teasers and brilliant ideas tossed about like confetti."
Kirkus Reviews on Hylozoic
"Bristling with cool ideas, bizarre but witty formulations and neologisms, Carrollian mathematical/logic puzzles, gnarly tech applications and gonzo speculations, wicked satire, hot sex, nasty aliens, anarchic plots, and psi powers. . . . Rucker juggles the disparate elements of his plot with the zany aplomb of the Flying Karamazov Brothers. His vision of the future is a hopeful and inclusive oneand one hell of a party."
Locus on Hylozoic
“Rudy Rucker should be declared a National Treasure of American Science Fiction. Someone simultaneously channelling Kurt Godel and Lenny Bruce might start to approximate full-on Ruckerian warp-space, but without the sweet, human, splendidly goofy Rudy-ness at the core of the Singularity.”
William Gibson, author of Spook Country on Postsingular
“Rucker puts the weird in science. String theory might as well have been invented to give rise to mind-benders like this book.”
Cory Doctorow, New York Times bestselling author of Little Brother, on Postsingular
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Read an Excerpt
By Rucker, Rudy
Tor BooksCopyright © 2009 Rucker, Rudy
All right reserved.
After Everything Woke Up
Jayjay awoke beside Thuy; comfortably he molded himself against her. Early sunlight filtered in through the redwoods. The newlyweds were in sleeping bags on the forest floor beneath a tree. They’d teleported here to install their home. It was the first of May.
A big blue Steller’s jay perched on a jiggly thin branch overhead, cocking his head. Jayjay teeped stealthily into the bird’s mind. He savored the gentle jouncing of the branch, the minute adjustments of the jay’s strong claws, the breeze in his comfortable plumage; he chirped contentedly, Chook-chook-chook-chook, then inhaled through the nostrils of his fine black beak, relishing the smells of fruit and flesh, studying the promising scraps on the ground, assessing the large creatures beside the mound of goods; but now, Kwaawk kwaawk kwaawk, one of the big animals moved her limbs. The jay released the branch, glided free, and flapped to the next tree. Kwaawk kwaawk.
"Kwaawk," echoed Thuy. "That’s his name."
"All the others have that name, too?" said Jayjay.
"Yeah, but each of them says it differently." Thuy turned to face Jayjay, giving him a kiss. "I can’t believe we own this piece of land. What does that even mean? We handed over our money so that a record somewhere says,‘Property of Jorge Jimenez and Thuy Nguyen.’ But there’s so many plants and animals already living here, and if you count the other silps too—it’s an empire."
"I hope they don’t resent us."
"Those nice smooth rocks by the stream like us fine," said Thuy. "Teep into them. See how eager they are to be in our foundation walls? They like the idea of being mortared together, and of rising above the ground. Beating gravity is a big deal for a rock!"
"You’re my big deal," said Jayjay, teeping Thuy teeping him teeping her. The first few times that they’d telepathically mirrored each other, they’d felt themselves tobogganing toward the point-attractor of a cerebral seizure. Fortunately, you could always shut off your telepathy. With practice, Jayjay and Thuy had learned to skate around the singular zones, enjoying the bright, ragged layers of feedback—well, Jayjay enjoyed this more than Thuy. Not too long ago, he’d been addicted to merging with the planetary mind called the Big Pig. He liked head trips.
After a little more mind play, Thuy gently pushed Jayjay away. She was smiling, with her eyebrows optimistically arched. Her longish black hair hung loose, her pink lips were delicately curved. Hanging a few feet above her was a Stank shampoo ad. Thuy and Jayjay made their living as ’round-the-clock members of a reality show called Founders. But they’d learned to ignore the ad icons and—above all—the vast worldwide audience. If you were doing something really private, you could always turn off your teep. But fewer and fewer things seemed private enough to bother hiding.
"You really think we can teleport a whole house this far?" asked Thuy.
"Sure," said Jayjay. "Working alone, you and I can’t teek much more than a couple of hundred kilograms at a time. But with a dozen of our friends pitching in, for sure we can move our little house here from San Francisco. We’ll build the foundation today, and this evening—alley-oop!—we drop our cozy nest into place. Housewarming party!"
They’d already brought bags of sand and cement for the foundation, also a big flat pan for mixing the mortar, a mortar hoe to mix it with, plus a pair of mortarboards and trowels. Jayjay liked tools, and had managed to borrow these via the human mindweb. The silps in the tools were stoked about the coming job.
"It’s gonna be hard moving all those stones for the foundation," grumbled Thuy. "It’s so peaceful here in the woods. I feel like lying around and thinking up a beautiful scene for my new metanovel. Or teeping with animals. Isn’t this supposed to be our honeymoon?"
"We can teleport the stones instead of carrying them. Teek ’em."
"That’s work, too. When I reach out and remotely teleport a rock—I bet my brain wattage shoots up to a thousand."
"It isn’t just your brain that does the teeking," said Jayjay. "We think with our whole bodies. Consciousness is everywhere."
"Whatever," said Thuy. "I’m just not ready to move hundreds of stones."
"Aw, come on, Thuy," said Jayjay. "When we were in high school, you were always the goody-goody, not me. You’re the ant and I’m the grasshopper. And the grasshopper’s rarin’ to go! Leap!"
"Put that stale rap away," said Thuy. "It’s been a long time since I was an ant. I’m all grown up now. I’m every bit as wild a kiq as you." She rolled toward her knapsack and dug out some dried fruit. "It’s too bad the rocks can’t teleport themselves. Then we could just, like, teep out invitations and they’d all show up."
"Actually we’re lucky that animals and plants and objects can’t teleport," said Jayjay.
"I guess so," said Thuy. "Otherwise Kwaawk the bluejay would be eating these raisins instead of me. And if flames could teleport? They’d eat the whole world. I wonder if Gaia is actively preventing the lower orders from teleporting."
"I don’t think it’s Gaia’s doing," said Jayjay. He’d been one of the first to figure out teleportation, and he liked to hold forth about it. "The ability to teleport is peculiar to the human mind. Rats and roaches are too carefree to fuzz out and teleport. Over the millennia, we humans have evolved toward thinking ourselves into spots where we’re not. It’s all about remorse, doubt, and fear. As for intelligent objects—sure the silps can talk, but they don’t have our rich heritage of hang-ups: our regrets about the past, our unease about the present, our anxiety about the future. Humans are used to spreading themselves across a zillion worlds of downer what-ifs. That’s why we can teleport."
"Depresso mongo," said Thuy. "Remorse, doubt, and fear? That’s all you see in your life? How about gratitude for the things that worked out—like, ahem, marrying me! What about curiosity? What about hope for a sunny tomorrow? Happy what-ifs."
"Let’s get back to the rocks," said Jayjay, in retreat. "Even though they can’t teleport, they can tell us about their balance points. And whether they’re a good match for their neighbors."
"I can just hear them," said Thuy. "Lay me now, mortarforker!" She liked speaking extravagantly. It was a way of rebelling against her prim upbringing. "Trowel my crack!" She got to her feet to rummage deeper in her backpack, then pulled on her striped tights and a long-sleeved yellow T-shirt.
A great shaft of sun slanted into their woodsy glen, with gnats and dust motes hovering in the light. A friendly breeze caressed the newlyweds and stirred the needles on the trees. Kwaawk the blue jay squawked.
"Everything sees us," marveled Jayjay, putting on his baggy black pants and his green T-shirt. "Everything is alive. I like seeing inside Kwaawk’s head. I think—if I wasn’t a human— maybe I’d be a blue jay, or, no, I’d be a crow. They’re so smart and tough."
"I’d be a dragon," said Thuy, filling her mouth full of nuts and chocolate. She continued her rap via teep. "Dragons are one thing my parents talked about that I really loved. The Vietnamese dragons aren’t fat fire-breathers, you know. They’re skinny crocodiles with snaky curves and fringed all over. Punk dragons. I’d be a dragon playing heavy rock and roll." Thuy paused to swallow her food. "I just noticed that a water spirit here doesn’t like us. The silp in this stretch of the creek."
The mind within the narrow, burbling stream was what earlier generations would have called a genius loci, or "spirit of place." Far from being a superstition-spawned fantasy, the silp was quite real. Silps were emergent intelligences based upon chaotic natural computations as enhanced by the ubiquitous memory storage available via the recently unfurled eighth dimension. Silps were everywhere now.
Jayjay wasn’t quite sure how to address the unfriendly spirit of the stream. But Thuy plowed right ahead.
"Hi Gloob," she said, eating another handful of gorp. "What if my husband and I build you a tiny little dam? You’ll get a nice waterfall at the downstream edge, with some brook trout in the pool. We can bathe there."
"Gloob?" said Jayjay, smiling at Thuy. "Husband? You’re like Eve in Eden. Naming the creatures."
"Gloob really is his name," said Thuy. "You just have to listen. Like this." She teeped him a mental maneuver she’d invented for converting a silp’s self-image to an English name.
Jayjay listened inwardly to the crabby spirit of the stream, and, yes, Thuy was right, his name was Gloob. Gloob overlaid an image upon his eddies and lines of flow, the visage of a stern old man with trembling cheeks and curly beard. He didn’t like the idea of a dam.
The friendly rocks at the stream’s edge had names too: Clack, Bonk, Rollie, and Harvey. And the redwood overhead— her name was Grew. Unlike Gloob, Grew was happy to have Jayjay and Thuy as neighbors. Mammals were good for fertilizing her roots.
"But don’t burrow!" cautioned Grew.
Intrigued by his newly learned ability to name the silps, Jay-jay teeped into the aethereal chorus of atoms that made up his body. Each of his ten octillion atomic silps had its own distinct timbre. If he’d had the patience, he could have started converting the timbres into names to be stored in his lazy eight memory. But there were still practical limits to the sizes of mental feats that a person could do. An octillion steps was at the very edge of what you could expect to carry out in your head, even if you were as obsessive as Thuy’s young friend Chu.
Teeping a bit higher up the great chain of being, Jayjay perceived the names of his organs and muscles. Larry Liver. Ben Bone. They’d still be talking after he died. At least for a while.
Gloob’s scowling ropy face kept hovering in his mind’s eye.
Jayjay walked over and took a pee near the stream, not right into it, but close enough to show Gloob who was boss. The little crests of the stream’s riffles writhed. On the telepathic plane, Gloob was gibbering in fury. Jayjay pinched shut the channel connecting him to the angry silp. Bye, Gloob. That was one of the things that made lazy eight telepathy bearable. You could firewall things out.
"I say we build our foundation right here," Thuy said, scratching lines in the dirt with a shovel. She was telepathically comparing her marks to the dimensions of the two-room wooden cottage that she and Jayjay had put together in San Francisco.
Jayjay picked up a shovel of his own. "Perfect spot," he told Thuy. "It’s flat, the light’s good, and it’s not too close to—to the stream. We’ll scrape out little trenches for the cement mudsills."
Teeping into the Gaian overmind, Jayjay and Thuy viewed Earth’s gravitational field as wiggly orange lines growing out of the ground. Helpful Gaia marked off equal elevation points on the lines, making it easy to see when the ditches were level and true.
"I’ll mix the mortar!" said Thuy when the digging was done. "You get the stones."
Jayjay teeped one of stones he’d noticed before: Harvey. Harvey was the size and shape of a flattened cantaloupe. It would have been easy enough to walk over and pick him up. But Jayjay wanted to show off.
Teleportation was a head trick you played on yourself. You perfectly visualized two locations, got mixed up about which was which, then switched to being there instead of here.
When Jayjay had first discovered how to teleport—about six months ago—he’d quickly learned how to carry objects along. And recently he’d figured out that he could teleport things without having to move himself at all. This was telekinesis, called teek for short.
Teeking Harvey was a matter of merging into the rock’s silpmind and coaxing it into a superposed quantum state in which the rock was both beside the stream and resting in the clearing. And then Jayjay asked the rock-mind, "Where are you?" precipitating a quantum collapse that put Harvey beside the foundation ditches they’d grubbed out.
Sitting in the clearing, staring at the spot where he was bringing the rock, Jayjay first saw a few twinkling dots in the air, then a ghost of the stone, and then the rock itself.
"Oho," said Harvey. His voice in Jayjay’s head was orotund. "Not the kind of thing I’d do on my own. That fuzzy bit in the middle—how did we manage that?"
"You can watch me move your cousins," said Jayjay. "But you won’t ever figure it out."
"Never mind," said Harvey. "I’ll just sit here. It’s good in the dirt." No guru could ever be as mellow and nonattached as a stone.
Over the next half hour, Jayjay lined up Rollie, Bonk, and Clack next to Harvey, along with another few hundred of their cousins from the edges of the stream. The rapid flipping between pure and superposed quantum states was making him queasy. He took a break, dropping to the ground next to Thuy.
Thuy had set up her big mortar pan in middle of where their living room would be. She’d carried some buckets of water from the creek and was rocking away with her mortar hoe— it was like a regular hoe except that it had two holes in the blade, the better to stir the water, sand, and cement.
"Remember, this is a special fast-drying waterproof mix," Thuy warned. "We better start spreading it around. Up and at ’em, grasshopper."
"I’m tired of teeking."
"So use your beautiful bod. I’ve got a bucket for scooping up mortar. I’m gonna mix a little more so there’s enough for the whole first course of stones."
Stepping around the waiting stones, Jayjay lugged buckets of mortar by hand, laying down thick gouts of the gray cement. And then he and Thuy got on their knees and began setting the stones, using trowels and carrying little mounds of mortar on the flat square mortarboards.
The smooth stones were somewhat disk-shaped. Jayjay and Thuy set them upright on their thin edges, like rows of books. The stones helped out, teeping among themselves to decide who would fit best against whom. Some were smaller than others. Where necessary, Jayjay and Thuy mortared in extra stones to keep the top edge approximately level. All this took longer than expected, and the mortar was nearly dry by the time the base course was done.
"Now we can rest, huh?" said Thuy.
"Yeah," said Jayjay. "Let’s eat those sandwiches I brought."
"Vibby," said Thuy. "Sorry I was rushing you with the mortar."
"Well, I’m the one who made us get up too early. You just wanted to lie in your sleeping bag and write." Jayjay hugged her. "Let’s start over."
"I’d like that."
They ate their sandwiches, laid down, and made love. One flesh. Cozy as could be, they fell asleep for an hour. And then Thuy woke up.
"All our little friends are waiting for us," she said, nudging Jayjay. "And I’m not talking about the Founders audience." Jayjay lay there, savoring Thuy’s shape and sound and smell.
All around them, listening in, were the pullulating silps—in the pine needles, the sleeping bags, the dirt, and the currents of the air; in his hair, his muscles, and his molecules—silps without and within.
"I like having the big Gaia worldsoul," said Thuy. "But I get tired of all these tiny, pushy, minds."
"It’s all good," said Jayjay. "Human minds used to be rare fireflies in the dark. But now everything is conscious—lit up. It’s like day instead of night. Look over there—our foundation wall already has a silp of its own."
The mind in the low wall was something more than the minds of the individual rocks. She was reveling in her rectangularity. She was happy to know she would soon grow a little higher. Might she ask how soon would that be?
"Oh shut up," Thuy told the wall.
Jayjay and Thuy cuddled a bit more, while Thuy thought about her metanovel. And then it was back to work. Jayjay fetched a bucket of water from the creek. He was still blocking out Gloob’s telepathy vibes, but he couldn’t help notice that, by taking so many rocks, he’d made an ugly bare muddy spot.
Gloob’s domain only extended about five meters in either direction, but other silps lived upstream and downstream: there was a separate silp for each little pool, cataract and bend. No point alienating these neighbors, too. In order to quickly search farther afield for building materials. Jayjay reached for mental contact with Gaia, the summit of the planet’s hierarchy of minds.
He saw an Earth globe with jungle lips, canyon nostrils, ocean eyes, cloudy hair, and—floppy pig ears. The new Gaian mind had based her human interface upon the former orphidnet mind that had been called the Big Pig.
The round face winked, sneezed, and inhaled, creating a wobbly vortex that drew Jayjay through the vasty caves of her nose holes into the interior of a virtual space demarcated by great smooth walls of living green tissue. It was like being a gnat inside a pitcher plant. Pale green pistils swung through the information matrix like snakes; each pistil’s fuzzy triangular top formed a rudimentary face with two eyes and a snout.
"Aha," said a pistil, addressing Jayjay one-on-one. "It’s you again."
As always, plugging into the global mind was getting Jayjay high. Gaia was brimming over with astute perceptions woven into crystalline truths mounded into white-light peaks and philosophical castles. Each time Jayjay came here, it required a distinct effort to stop himself from merging into Gaia for hours at a time. Those addicted to this style of ecstasy were known as pigheads.
Thuy hated it when Jayjay went mentally missing—last year she’d dropped him because of that. Nowadays he worked to manage his habit, not only to keep Thuy, but also in reaction to a hideous overdose experience he’d had three months ago. He’d merged into the overmind for six hours and it had literally seemed to last sixty years. He was still digging himself out from under the strata of false memories he’d accumulated during that session. Sometimes he felt like he was eighty years old.
Carefully keeping his focus, Jayjay told Gaia he was looking for flat rocks nearby. The triangular face bobbed gently, then spat out a glowing acorn. It was a locative hyperlink to the natural world.
Resisting the temptation to stay there enjoying the Gaian buzz, Jayjay dropped down to ordinary consciousness and mentally followed the acorn’s link. He found himself in teep contact with a slate cliff beside a river in the very forest where he was building his home. The cliff’s name was Herga. Thousands of jagged dark gray plates of slate lay at Herga’s base. Not wanting to make another enemy, he asked the cliff if he might take some of her loose stones.
"I treasure every one of them," teeped Herga in a whispery tone. "But it’s okay. I shed fresh slate every spring."
Physically still in the clearing with Thuy, Jayjay teeked one of the cliff’s stones to lie by his feet. It was a rough-hewn little guy called Camber. Camber was proud to announce that he carried six trilobite fossils within himself; the trilobites piped up to agree. Camber also pointed out that his edges made up a jagged polygon of thirty-seven sides. He was perfectly amenable to being mortared into the foundation’s sill course.
"Just so I feel a little breeze," he rasped.
Jayjay set Camber in place. Well and good.
And now it was nearly time for the giant blast of telekinesis needed to fetch the rest of the stones. But, wait, Jayjay’s body was talking to him, asking for food. He ate a dark chocolate bar and, for good measure, he chewed up some roasted coffee beans.
"Are you bringing more rocks?" prodded Thuy.
Jayjay got to work, teeking a couple of hundred of Cam-ber’s relatives in the space of five minutes. Near the end of the teeking frenzy, the ground near the distant cliff starting looking oddly smooth—perhaps Jayjay was being too greedy, and the cliff’s silp-mind Herga was teep-shielding her slates from him. Increasingly weary, working around the strange smooth patch for the last few stones, Jayjay momentarily lost track of what he was doing and almost mistook his own head for a rock, very nearly teeking it off his shoulders and across the clearing. Ow. He stopped. Enough rocks.
"You’re wonderful!" exclaimed Thuy, looking at the pile of slate.
Although Jayjay felt like curling up in a ball and hugging himself, he squared his shoulders and smiled. He wanted to keep up appearances for his bride. He got busy laying the slates flat atop the base course of creek stones.
As before, the mortar was drying a little too fast. Thuy scolded it. The mortar said it would do what it could to slow down its crystallization. Silp-minds had some slight control over the qubits of their innate quantum computations.
Jayjay worked the masonry, staying in close telepathic contact with his trowel. As he neared the end of one wall, he noticed a piece of slate that needed to be rotated an inch so that the course would come out even. He stuck his trowel into the crack between the stones, twisting it and pushing on the slate with his hand. The trowel and the slate were giving him good, steady mental feedback.
But now all at once everything got confused. The trowel wriggled out of the crack and sprang to one side, stabbing a deep gash into the ball of Jayjay’s thumb. Chanting a solemn dirge, his blood oozed forth, thick and dark. Dropping his stoic facade, Jayjay cried out in fear and pain.
"Oh, poor Jayjay!" exclaimed Thuy. She fetched a clean handkerchief to press against the wound.
Meanwhile, the trowel was apologizing to Jayjay. "He pushed me," teeped the trowel in a narrow, triangular voice. "He meddled."
"Who?" demanded Jayjay.
"Gloob. The silp from the stream."
"We’ll worry about Gloob later," interrupted Thuy. "First let’s teep into your tissues, Jayjay, and I’ll help you heal."
Jayjay delved down into his thumb to see the frantic hugger-mugger of his platelets, phagocytes, and dermal cells—with Thuy’s lithe mindweb avatar glowing to one side.
"I can play traffic cop," said Thuy. "Directing your nutrients and white blood cells to your wound. You can get a thousandfold improvement over just letting the cells and molecules bumble along. I learned about the technique because Nektar was helping Chu fix that underdeveloped spot in his brain tissue. You’ve noticed how he’s more sociable now, haven’t you?"
"I guess," said Jayjay distractedly. "Don’t go goosing my cells too hard. I don’t want to flip them into cancer-tumor mode."
"Don’t worry," said Thuy. "All I’ll be doing is herding them. Leave it to me."
"Fine," said Jayjay and tuned out, relaxing into the human-scale world. Thuy had one arm around him, and with the other she was pressing the handkerchief against his hand, with her eyes unfocused. He looked around, wanting to distract himself.
Their foundation wall was nearly done. The sun was in the west now, slowly turning gold. A good day’s work. A fine first of May. The redwoods swayed and sighed, the creek chuckled. Jayjay was feeling a tingle at the base of his thumb.
Jayjay reopened his telepathic contact with the stream silp. They had to talk. Gloob was scowling and tense—ready for the worst. Like everyone else, Gloob had lazy eight omnividence, that is, the ability to see everything on Earth. Gloob well knew how nasty humans could be.
Jayjay felt a blip of empathy for the unhappy silp—and he decided to end the feud. As a human, it was up to him to exercise the higher emotions.
"I’m sorry I pissed so close to your bank," he told Gloob. "I’m sorry I took so many rocks. And Thuy and I don’t really have to make a dam. Let’s be friends."
Gloob gleamed and grew smooth. "Maybe. If you behave." The silp paused. "About that dam—do you really think I’d get trout?" He spoke not so much in words as in pictures.
"You bet," said Jayjay, telepathically pointing out some minnows just upstream.
"And—do you think you could dig a proper latrine?" added Gloob. "On the uphill side of Grew?"
"Sure" said Jayjay. "And our house will have a nanoseptic system, with nothing but compost and pure water coming out." Gloob made a cheerful gurgling sound. The war was over.
"Behold!" said Thuy, gently pulling away the handkerchief. Jayjay’s wound was healed, a pink line in his skin.
"You’re amazing, Thuy."
"Come on in and splash off!" called merry Gloob.
With light hearts, Thuy and Jayjay romped in the stream for a while. And then it was back to work.
It only took another half hour to finish smoothing out the foundation wall. The mortar set up as hard as stone.
"Let’s teleport our love nest now!" exclaimed Thuy. "We’ve still got an hour till sunset."
"It’ll definitely take a dozen of us to move so much mass at once," said Jayjay. "And it’ll work best if we’re all pushing from the same spot. What if we gather in Ond’s driveway, right where we assembled the house. You, me, Ond, Jil, Bixie, Momotaro, Nektar, Kittie, Chu, Darlene, Craigor, and Sonic. You want to help round them up?"
"Yo u round up Sonic," said Thuy. "He’ll be spaced as usual, you’ll have to go there in person. For the others, it’ll be enough to teep them. Meanwhile, I’ll get my dad. He wants to help— even though my mother’s against it."
Thuy’s voice always got tight and high when she talked about her mother. The two of them had never gotten along well, and now that Minh had been crippled by a stroke, things were even worse.
"It’s like Mom thinks you’re still the same bad boy you were in high school," Thuy continued. "I can’t forgive her for not coming to our little ceremony at city hall. It would have been the one last nice thing we could have done together. And now she lies there dissing you and pissing the bed. I’m terrible not to feel sorry for her."
"Don’t beat yourself up," said Jayjay with a shrug. "My mother showed up at our wedding stoned, cried her head off, and asked for money. Whatever. Life is about moving on. You and me, Thuy, we’re the only family that matters now."
"Daddy will be heartbroken if I leave him out tonight. He gets so sad and lonely staying home nursing Mom all the time. And she’s always such a—"
"So go get your father already," interrupted Jayjay. "And, look Thuy, be patient with your mother today. Even if you don’t want to do it for her—do it for you. You’ll feel better about yourself."
"You’re nice to give me good advice," said Thuy, hugging Jayjay’s arm. "I’m glad to have someone who cares about my daily drama."
"I’m lucky to have you," said Jayjay, embracing her. "You make life worth living."
"We’re married, Jayjay, we’re really married. Do you feel old?"
"Ever since my pighead OD, I feel about eighty."
Oh, stop that. I’m glad you’ve stopped tweaking on Gaia all the time."
They kissed and, just for a goof, Thuy teleported to her parents’ house, right in the middle of the kiss. She grew translucent, then spectral, and dissolved in a cloud of twinkling dots. Jayjay ran his fingers through the air. Without his wife’s lively presence, the teeming woods felt empty.
Or—maybe not. Two odd shapes were bumbling around in the high branches of Grew the redwood. A pair of stray paper kites? All the way out here? No, no, these things were moving on their own, undulating through the air. They were like large leather pillows, flat and fat, with slitty mouths and golden eyes.
Oddly, they were impervious to teep. Although Jayjay could see them with his eyes, he couldn’t probe into them with his mind.
He made a series of wild guesses about what the beings were. The simplest hypothesis was that he was so tired from his wall-building that he was seeing things. Or perhaps Gloob the creek silp was putting these images into his mind?
But they really seemed to have some physicality to them. Might the shapes be woodland air current silps, bending the light so as to appear solid? Maybe the whole grove was conspiring to scare the settlers away?
The shapes were slowly spiraling down from the tree as if homing in on Jayjay, who was very conscious of being the only human within miles of here. As the forms drew closer, Jayjay began to see them as flying stingrays—with odd patterns of dots on their skins. Might they be hydrogen-filled sea creatures? Mutants?
Whatever they were, he didn’t want to face them alone. With a quick effort of his will, he teleported to San Francisco.
Excerpted from Hylozoic by Rudy Rucker.Copyright © 2009 by Rudy Rucker.Published in June 2009 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
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Excerpted from Hylozoic by Rucker, Rudy Copyright © 2009 by Rucker, Rudy. Excerpted by permission.
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Rudy Rucker lives in Los Gatos, California.
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