Perception

The old man stood on the deck of his small boat and looked out at the ocean. He had been sailing for several days now, and the water seemed to meet the sky in all directions. Being out on the water by himself, with nothing but the fish he caught to keep him company, he had plenty of time to think and reflect. At this particular moment, he was thinking about the horizon.

The old man knew that somewhere, in just about every direction, far beyond what he could see, there was land. He knew that there was more to the world than the deep blue that held his craft afloat. Sometimes, however, it was hard to believe that was true. When the sun became too strong and his stomach began to grumble, he would occasionally despair that this was all there was. He would entertain the thought that the only things that truly existed were his boat and the water. Even though he had lived his entire life on the mainland, he wondered sometimes whether that had all been a dream or an illusion.

Staring out across the sea, he watched the waves roll about, and he began to speak aloud.

“How much of my life has been an illusion, I wonder? How much of what I know is true? How much of my perception of reality is imagined and fabricated within my own mind?”

Seeing his rod and reel begin to bounce, he reeled in a particularly stubborn fish; the old man paused his query as he pulled the creature from its home. Unhooking it from the line, he looked it in the face and said, “Fish, tell me: did you know that there was a whole other world up above the water? Or did you believe that the only things that were true were what you could see? Can you tell me of things I cannot see? Can you help me perceive what is real? No? Ah, well; I am quite hungry, and you will make a fine meal.”

The old man threw the fish in a bucket and stepped to the bow of the boat. He stared silently out at the reflection of the setting sun on the water. After a moment, he held his hands out wide, and began to pose his questions to the sky.

“I have lived a long time; there are those in my town who believe that I have lived long enough to know everything there is to know. Yet I am unsure that I know anything at all. I am unsure of my sanity; how can I know that what I see is true and not simply a figment of my imagination? How can I be sure that my reality is more than shadows dancing on a cave wall? How can I know anything?

“I feel that everything I know is wrong. As I look around, I begin to question whether the sand and the shores exist at all. I cannot see them; all I see is water all around me. Have I always been on this boat, and imagined my home? Am I imagining this boat, and am wandering around my home, eyes open yet unseeing? Is my perception wrong?

“Perhaps this is what drives men mad. Perhaps when we realize that we do not see the entire picture, we lose our minds. Indeed, it is hard to comprehend that there are things I cannot ever see, and yet those things somehow affect and influence me every day. I breathe without thinking, and I never see my breath except on a cold day; yet the day I cease to breathe is the day I am no more.

“How does a man continue to live in confidence if he is aware that there is so much he will never know? How can anyone make a strong decision but lack so much information? We are blind fools, stumbling around making wild assumptions about the world around us.”

The old man paused, again taking time to admire the last of the sunset, and then walking back to his seat. He was quiet a while longer, pondering his existence as the stars slowly poked through the darkening sky. He prepared his fish, and as he ate he posed his dilemma to the night sky.

“I simply want to know. Ever since I was a boy, I have only ever wanted to know things. As a child, I asked my mother ‘Why?’ more times than she could bear. As I grew, I sought knowledge from other sources, asking ‘how,’ ‘where,’ and ‘who,’ to every stranger in the street. Now, as an old man, I feel my questions have gone unanswered. Now the only question I have left to ask is, ‘will my answers ever come?’ Will I ever truly know? Is it possible to know anything at all, or am I an ant, incapable of understanding and knowing the world due to my size?

“Am I so small that the answers to my questions are too big for me? Is my life too short for me to hear the answers in their entirety? Am I too blind to see the truth, or too deaf to hear the reply? Perhaps it is not that everything I know is wrong; perhaps it is simply that everything I know is incomplete. Perhaps it is our fate to accept the things we cannot know, despite the inescapable desire to seek answers. Perhaps our eyes and our minds are too small to grasp the scope full perspective would provide. Perhaps even in my old age I have never learned to accept my own limitations. I am, after all, just a man.”

The night was silent, yet the stars seemed to wink in response to the old man’s words. He smiled to himself as he stood and stretched. Looking up to the sky one last time, he took a deep breath.

“Alas, it is time for me to sleep. In the morning, I shall continue to ask questions, and the sun shall refuse to speak. I expect we will continue our sublime dance until I arrive back home and beyond. Someday, I expect to achieve my answers; tonight, however, I must rest.”

Stepping below deck, the old man laid down to sleep. A soft breeze blew across the water, and the moon’s reflection rippled silently upon the surface. Still, the water kissed the sky as they met at the horizon in all directions. In the distance, if you closed your eyes and listened with all your might, you could hear it: a gull. You know what they say about seagulls…

Ice Cream Truck

It was a warm evening, with the sun starting to set, and a pleasant breeze in the air. A man walked slowly down the street, kicking a pebble as he went along. Suddenly, he stopped walking and looked around; he blinked a few times in confusion. He began to speak to no one in particular.

“Well, this is peculiar. I’m fairly familiar with all the voices in my head, but you seem to be a new one. Allow me to introduce myself; I’m Thatcher, but I’d rather you call me Thatch. What’s your name?”

He paused a moment and continued.

“Since you don’t seem to be speaking too much, I’ll just call you ‘my audience.’ Now, Audience, you have found me on a rather dull night. I had plans earlier, but they sort of fell through the floor; by that, I mean I had intended to raid the safe in a nearby mini mansion, but apparently someone got to it before I did, and they dropped the whole thing through the floor, escaping through a tunnel. So now I am simply in search of one thing: some ice cream.”

Thatch continued walking down the street, listening for the familiar jingle of the neighborhood ice cream truck. As he did so, he decided to get to know The Audience a little better.

“So, I’m just going to address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am what some would call a ‘criminal.’ I don’t see it that way; thievery is my hobby, and it pays the bills. The fact that the authorities disagree with my activities just makes it that much more fun. I like to think of it as a game. I have to do my business without gaining the attention of Johnny Law. Remember that game ‘Don’t Wake Daddy?’ I love that game…it’s a lot like that. Now, I can further explain my comings and goings later, but I believe I have found what I am looking for.”

Up ahead, Thatch spotted his target. A few kids were purchasing their frozen treats as he made his way to the open window. The ice cream man smiled at him, and asked “What can I get for ya today?”

Thatch stroked his chin and studied the menu. “Hmmm…I can’t really decide. I think I’ll take all of them.”

The ice cream man was shocked. “You want to buy one of everything I have?”

Thatch laughed. “No, silly; I want EVERYTHING in the truck. Actually, I want the truck, too. It’s pretty slick, and I’ve always wanted to drive one of these things.”

“W-w-what? I don’t understand…”

Thatch sighed deeply and inspected his fingernails. “Look, pal, you seem to be missing the point here. I’ll break it down for you. I never said I wanted to buy anything, meaning I would be eternally grateful if you simply donated this mode of transportation and all of its contents to me right now.”

The ice cream man shook his head and reached up to close the window. “I…I can’t do that. I need to go. You need some help, mister.”

Thatch furrowed his brow and reached up, holding the service window open. Glancing at the driver’s nametag, he continued. “Listen, Chuck, I don’t need any help. I am perfectly capable of shaking you down by myself. Now, you can do this the easy way, by giving me the keys and writing this off on your taxes as a charitable donation, or we can do this the hard way, which involves lots of name-calling and varying amounts of violence. Here, I’ll make it easier for you still: sir, may I have this vehicle? I am in desperate need of this truck right away.”

Chuck stuttered and began to argue further, and Thatch groaned. “Now you’ve done it. This hurts me; obviously not as much as it will hurt you, but just know that emotionally, I am in pain.”

Thatch grabbed Chuck by his lapels and hauled him out of the truck, slamming him down onto the curb. He slugged the poor man a few times, and then froze, his arm in midswing, as if lost in thought.

“Do you have a family, Chucky?”

“W-what?”

“I said DO. YOU. HAVE. A. FAMILY?”

“Ye-yeah, I got a wife and two kids.”

“Damn, just shy of the national average. You should really get to work on having that extra half kid. How does someone go about doing that, anyway? I feel like I know a lot of average people, but I don’t know any with two and a half kids.”

Chuck was shaking like a leaf. “The keys are in the ignition, take the stupid thing. It’s yours; please just leave me alone!”

Thatch smiled and patted Chuck on the cheek lightly. “There, was that so hard?”

Thatch hopped up and dove through the service window of the ice cream truck with a loud “WAH-HOO!” He rushed to the driver’s seat and buckled himself in. Turning to the empty seat next to him, he remarked gleefully, “Always remember, kids: safety first!”

He flipped on the music and the loud speakers, and then reached back to grab an ice cream bar before flooring the accelerator and taking off. He joyfully rode around town, eating his ice cream for a while, and after about twenty minutes, he noticed red and blue flashing lights behind him.

“Uh-oh. I must have been speeding. Better pull over so the nice officer can write me a well-deserved ticket.”

He stopped the truck and the officer walked up to the driver’s side window. Thatch waved emphatically.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?”

The cop took a deep breath. “We have an APB out on a stolen ice cream truck being driven by someone who matches your description. I’m gonna need you to hand me your identification, and then get out of the truck nice and slow.”

“Well, I would, but I don’t have any I.D. on me at the moment.”

The officer took a step back and radioed for back-up, then turned back to Thatch.

“Sir, get out of the vehicle.”

Thatch obliged, and the officer handcuffed him with his hands in front of him. He pushed Thatch face first against the ice cream truck.

“What’s your name?” the cop asked gruffly.

“I am…Floridaman. I’m sure you’ve read about me in all the papers; I’m quite famous.”

The officer sighed. “C’mon, your real name. You’re already going to jail, just give it up.”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers; what’s your name?”

“I am Lieutenant Daniels. Now sit down on the curb; my back-up should be here any minute.”

“I can’t do that,” Thatch replied.

“And why not?”

“Well, that requires a short history lesson. Did you know that Billy the Kid had big wrists and small hands?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, I do too.” With that, Thatch slipped his hands from the handcuffs and rabbit punched the officer. He then kicked the man in the groin and ran back to the truck. He reached inside and grabbed a box of Klondike bars and tossed them to the officer.

Laughing like a maniac, he said, “Lieutenant Dan, ice cream!”

He scurried over to the truck and hopped into the driver’s seat once more and began to drive away.

“That should buy me some get-away time,” he sang.

He started whistling as he raced down the street, watching as more and more police cruisers began chasing him, with lights and sirens going full tilt. He leaned his head out the window and yelled at them. “Turn those stinkin’ sirens off; I can’t hear the music in my head anymore! I’m filing a noise complaint as soon as I get home!”

Thatch whipped around a corner and floored the gas pedal once more. Up ahead, he saw a small convenience store. He began to laugh, and pushed the ice cream truck to its limits. Smoke began to creep out from under the hood, and the cab started shaking violently. As he raced towards the store, he screamed at the top of his lungs, “LUCY, I’M HOOOME!”

The ice cream truck crashed through the brick wall, getting lodged halfway in. Dust billowed all around, and Thatch coughed as he unbuckled his seat belt. He reached back and grabbed another ice cream bar and climbed out of the truck. The clerk stood frozen behind the counter with his hands up and a look of terror on his face. A masked man had a shotgun aimed at the clerk, but he was obviously distracted by the entrance of the ice cream truck. Sirens could be heard coming close, and Thatch started giggling.

“Talk about a deus ex, am I right?” he said.

He tossed the truck keys to the masked man. “Keep it running for me.”

He unwrapped his ice cream bar and took a bite as he strolled out the front door, joining the crowd of people who had begun to gather outside. The police arrived, and in the turmoil of the situation, decided to arrest the masked robber, abandoning the search for Thatch. The police eventually left the scene, and the crowd began to dissipate. Thatch turned and started walking home, when suddenly, he remembered something.

“Dammit,” he yelled, “I wanted one with the bubble gum eyes! Now I have to go through this whole process all over again!”

Thatch turned down a residential street, finishing his ice cream bar and tossing the stick into the road as he walked…

What Do We Have Here…

Now, before we begin, I should point out that I am not a conspiracy theorist, despite the implications of the phrase “hive mind” on the nameplate. The “hive mind” in question is just a description of how I view my imagination; lots of separate entities, all gathered in one place, functioning on individual and collective levels. I am simply a writer who wishes to share the stories and imaginings found in the various nooks and crannies of my brain.  Some are funny and entertaining, some are contemplative and serious, but overall, I I hope you find them to be engaging and enjoyable. There will be connected stories, and arcs that go from one entry to the next, and there will be stand-alones. Imagination is fluid, so the exact method and format may change from time to time, but the idea is still the same. I like to write, and you (theoretically) like to read. I’d say that’s a match. Read on, and discover what comes out of the hive mind. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.)