‘Imitation or Representation – Art Philosophy’ by …

https://artistcoveries.wordpress.com/2021/03/18/imitation-or-representation-art-philosophy/

My semi-abstract representation of an imaginary creature …

Dryad, After the Clear-Felling, Rita de Heer, 2017

Finally I learned the difference between imitation and representation in art. Thank you, Judith. These concepts have been bothering me for quite a while. When I first started to learn to paint with watercolors, I had to relearn everything I knew. About paint, how to apply the paint, how colors work when you overlay them on other colors, and how to represent the subjects I’m interested in.

I can say ‘represent’ with confidence now. I’ve always represented semi-abstract subjects using acrylics, pen, pencil. I’ve made embroidered, macrame and knitted hangings, and used a darkroom to change my photographs.

[I’m telling you, mobile phones are amazing. Can do everything I did then in the dark room, in the comfort of my arm chair, or on the bus. You know what I’m saying.]

Since I got interested in fungi about thirteen years ago, I have flirted with the idea to perhaps practice botanical drawing or painting. That would mean going back to the life drawing classes I studied in a Visual Media strand long ago … the pure art of imitation, copying the subject of study, stroke by pencil stroke, onto the paper.

Lately though I’ve been asking myself whether I’d have the patience for that now. It’d even more like meditation than laying water colors on paper. Not that that’s a bad thing. But am I ready to let go what I’m still learning?

Artistcoveries

Recently I mentioned the connections between art and philosophy — a branch of study referred to asaesthetics. On this point, which deals with beauty and taste, I’m content to go with the conventional wisdom that says beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. You like what you like. I like what I like. Sometimes we’ll be in agreement as to what is beautiful and note-worthy; at other times we’ll have very different opinions. Still, all is well. We’re each entitled to our opinions.

My study oftonalism, however, has brought me a bit deeper into philosophy and art. I’ve been reading more about the life and work of Asher B. Durand, one of my favorite artists. Several years ago as I first began oil painting, I read Durand’s collection of “Landscape Letters”. While I enjoyed his essays on art, I was beset with questions. I…

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World vs Earth …

Back into the Ooze
Back into the Ooze 2019
by Rita de Heer

Climate change is a World-versus-Earth problem, I heard the other day.

Apparently people still don’t know how completely dependent on Earth our World is. The dragon will pass us by, and with a flick of its flaming tongue, or tail, will drag us with it into the inferno.

Earth is a planet that supports Life and is an inseparable part of it.

World is the human culture, the where and the what that we build and extract and dig and superimpose on the soil, that thinnest of layers between us and bed-rock.

The same bed-rock that we can not survive on without the natural services provided by sunlight, water, air, and soil. Is that really so hard to understand?

Air? Another thin thin layer. Above us. Blue where and when the Earth continues its work. A disgusting tan yellow where we think we have improved our lives. Where industry and wrong-living coughs out smoke and smog, dust and death. Dragons.

Water. Oh my people, Ocean is in so much trouble. We warm it. We degrade it. We dynamite and pillage, we fill it with cast-off refuse, we leak oil and bilge waters, spread disease and alien creatures, and still we expect whales, pristine rain, sparkling springs and sweet lakes of fresh water.

Life is the miracle that has become, and grown, and evolved over unimaginable distances and stretches of time. Life is the lives that by the millions have come and have gone, like stitches over and under, through the fabric of time.

We sapiens, living for ten or twenty thousand generations and perhaps two more, will dive under and also be gone.

Tinkering …

Tinkering with this broken ceramics project let me come up with its eventual solution … this is not it.

Tinkering is a satisfying way to spend a morning, albeit yet again, tinkering with the basic design of this blog.

‘Tinkering’ the word originally referred to repairs made on tinware by the ‘tinkers’, travelers in the medieval and the early industrial ages, at the little towns and villages where they might stay in a paddock or on the common land.

Tinkering has come to mean a cross between repairing and improving a broken thing, and sometimes referring to the process needed before an invention can be dragged from an inventor’s unconsciousness.

In my case, this morning, me tinkering with the tags and categories of tags for this blog means hopefully making it better, and hopefully more interesting. Easier to use is another possible outcome. For me though, tinkering is a favorite activity leading to all sorts of new ideas and ways of doing things.

Although I’ve been blogging in various guises for about twelve years, I have never yet blogged on a platform with so many possibilities as this one at this time in its history while my first three years using the WordPress.com platform passed first in a fog of illness, then a year of recovery when my brain wasn’t capable of complex thought. Now though, I finally feel like I can learn again and retain concepts long enough to use them.

You’re wondering how I solved the problem of that broken ceramics project?

I broke it some more, then experimented with every surface decoration and glazing technique suggested by my fellow students and teacher. I made it to be a puzzle, and it’s quite difficult to put together. How I like it. Two small pieces went missing. More tinkering to come.

What I Did Yesterday …

Embroidery in progress …

A couple of days ago I read someone else’s post on this, describing how you can ‘say’ whatever you like without anyone ever really knowing you. It’s what you ‘do’ … maintains the theory … that will identify you.

I don’t know yet if it’ll work. Can but try, in the words of one of my characters. I have several typical days, and since it has been raining here for about a week, I can only describe a typical day at home.

I wake but do not roll instantly out of bed. One of my eyes will never open right away, I have to lie there and think a while, convince it of the day. On blue-sky days, my bedroom is striped with light–due to vertical blinds–after sunrise. But, all this week, the daylight stays grey.

Roll on to my side, sit up, swing legs over the side. Stump down the grey corridor to the kitchen. Oh wait, you expected me to at least wash my face? Yeah, I did that. Ablutions. In the en suite.

And I dressed. T shirt and shin-length pants. Slide my house-keys and rest of needs-musts in my right pants pocket. Mobile/cell in the left pocket. A few years ago, I fell over in my house and after lying unconscious for a time, had to crawl injured to a landline phone to raise the alarm. Since then I’ve worn a mobile on me at all times.

The kitchen is in the middle of the apartment. Dark on a sunless day. I make it friendlier by pulling out the slide-out range hood so that its automatic light shines warm above the benches. I get a bowl out, spoon in muesli, cooked brown rice, LSA and hemp seeds. Mix and pour on rice milk. Boil water. Dole out mineral supplements and anti histamine. Today, due to the dark, I eat at the round dining table.

While still drinking my three mugs of warm water, I check yesterday’s step score on my mobile and enter it in my exercise chart. Also on the mobile, I check the weather to see what temperatures and humidity I can expect. Then I check the weather in the town where I lived last year, the weather in Copecabana in NSW; Dover in Tasmania; Perth in Western Australia; Karratha in Western Australia; Cape York in North Queensland, Amsterdam and Singapore. All my places of interest for various reasons.

Still using the mobile I will have quick look at Facebook comments, trying not to get involved yet with anything needing research and or deep thought.

Today, after stacking the dishes in the sink, I started on my exercises. Eleven–I’m building up to fifteen– push-aways against the front door. It’s timber and the only place in the apartment that can take it. Eleven stand-ups from sitting on a chair not using my hands. Walking with half kilo weights, twelve stretches from front of the house to the back. I expect to graduate to 1 kg weights after my birthday in a few weeks.

Chart to record daily exercises

Make a cup of coffee and sit down with the laptop. Check my emails and answer the ones requiring it. I resist getting involved with newsletters though do read a couple of articles from the Fifth Estate Magazine. Do my Wordle.

Rain, rain, go away, many of my local acquaintances are saying. I also read a science article (on the weather website?) about research in Antarctica with ice cores. Averaged out over two thousand years, east coast Australia has had only two hundred wet years. That’s ten percent. Can’t get away from climate change. It’s going to get a lot drier is the forecast.

By about 11.00 a/m, I open the work of the day. MELD, part two of the Doomed series. I’m in the thick of a structural edit. I need to lose at least twenty thousand words, rewrite the first chapter, and re jig the first act. Finesse the middle fifty percent. The final act is good to go.

So, today, I read chapters 7 and 8 aloud to figure how I need to change them.

At about noon, a pathology assistant arrives. Courtney is her name. She is the only live person I talk with today. IE it’s Friday. No phone calls. I’m still isolating, as I have several co-morbidities and do not want to get sicker than I already am. I’m lucky because I don’t have to go out for a blood test. S & N come to the house. Takes ten minutes. My veins are recovering after the beating they received having chemo this time last year.

Afterwards I walk round the house for a while to start to build up the step count. I visit all the rooms in turn about twenty times. Lunch then. A frozen meal. Wack it into the microwave, 4.50 minutes. Dish up. Yum. Another three mugs of warm water. I read the two first chapters of MELD, printed out earlier, and start to mark up bits to keep and bits to cut.

Today, I do my lying down exercises after lunch. On my bed. Yes, the temptation is to doze off. Twelve air-grabs that warm up every muscle. Six bridges to a count of ten per bridge. Six legs raises, each leg, each raise for a count of ten. Twelve clam-shells, hold open to a count of ten. Doze, five to ten minutes.

Oh man. This is taking a long time. It doesn’t feel like I don’t do anything much.

Get up. More walking in the house. Still raining. BOM (Bureau of Meteorology) says 120mm has fallen in the last 24 hours and a huge rain cloud still hangs overhead. No going outside today. I get some walking music going. It’s God Speed You! Black Emperor today. I walk about an hour more, 5000 paces plus.

Sunset despite rain

When I rest this time, I do some embroidery while I listen to an ABC podcast. The stitching is slow but joyful. The colors sing. After the podcast I catch a few minutes of news. Nothing cheerful about that with old man Putin doing his thing.

Dinner is two rounds of toast, smashed avocado and a boiled egg. A pear for dessert. Three mugs of warm water. I start to re-read The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carre (1996) which I will talk about in the future.

After dinner, I work on this. I’m not posting it tonight. I need to mail myself some photos, from my mobile to my laptop.

Art: Dune’s Fremen & Sandworm

Front cover of card with close-up of one of the fremen warriors of Dune

A couple of the reviews I’ve read of the new film version of ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert, have said how much better it was having read the book first. So ordered my near-and-dear co-SF reader a copy that would not make it in time for his birthday, supply chain troubles and so forth.

Decided to paint him a birthday card as a teaser, and whispered a promise to our four-year-old descendant–in a fit of over-the-top confidence–to make it a ‘pop-out scary-monster’ card.

Luckily, I had Youtube to help me. Pop-out cards are a favorite subject for craft and I soon found more than I needed.

Since this is the first pop-out I’ve ever made, I managed to stretch a four stage process into about ten steps.

But feel reasonably pleased with the result. {Had to make the sandworm more recognizably a monster … I know the maw is different in the movie.}

A Fremen on one of Dune’s Sandworms, hooking open its maw to stop it diving under the sand

Intertwined?

Days 4-7 of Inktober 2021, a cultural practice by Rita de Heer

Just how intertwined are we, with Nature?

Here, in this cultural practice of applying pigments to paper, pasting scraps to paper bound in book-form, and drawing over the top with an ink pen made of petrol-based polymer filled with petrol-based ink?

Not much at all. Because cultural practices are part of what we do in the World, right?

Pigments are powdered clays, lichens and mosses, madders and goldenrods, rust, verdigris, pewter and gold. Some of Nature’s bounty.

Bound with gums, latex, and oils.

En-tubed, slopped into pots, or dried in patties.

[Sold, which is a whole other story.]

Livened with water … the best is straight from the deep ground, unadulterated with unnatural chemicals such as chlorine and fluorides.

Applied to papers linens, canvas, parchments; wood panels, bone, and teeth; applied to stone.

Using brushes made of bunching the tail hairs of a myriad of different furry animals, as well as threads drawn from petroleum products such as nylon, rayon, polyesters: all of them products of the sun’s action on eon-old vegetation when you go right to the origin.

Air drying is preferable but takes a long time, so people who can’t wait use hair-dryers that often use a variation on the theme, electricity stoked with coal.

[If framed, that’s another story]

We are intertwined.

Inktober, 2021

Day 4 to 7, Rita de Heer

Inspiration is everywhere but I like to start with a scrap of painted watercolor exercise, of which I have many. Tearing and cutting, I lay them out in a collage and hope I remember to glue them down before I start the drawing and sketching.

This page done with a uniball ink pen, which behaves very well on thickly coated mixed media paper. On the unpainted craftbook pages the ink sinks in and often wants to spread.

State-of-Being

Back Into the Ooze,
watercolor and black marker pen by Rita de Heer,
what I thought was going to happen to me.
You’ll find me diving down into it mid-painting

Up until September 14 2020 I lived in New South Wales, in Australia. On that day, a friend drove me to the adjoining state Queensland and negotiated with the border police to get me through the Covid 19 barrier between the two states. I was sicker than anyone guessed.

My friend took me to hospital where I was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. Treatment began right away. Chemo. Six cycles of R-CHOP at three weekly intervals. Then four lumbar punctures with same drugs and a rituximab (monoclonal antibody) chaser. My last treatment and PET scan in February. I’m in remission.

Long time readers will say that I’ve said all that before. I have. I wanted to feel what it felt like now, to look back on it, six months down the track.

At first, being in remission was the most frightening place on Earth. The reality of dealing with the after- and side-effects of both the chemo and the lymphoma on my own was pure anxiety. Luckily there’s a really good support group on FaceBook that we haunt, all of us in the Downunder Lymphoma boat, and I’ve only had to call the ambulance twice. So here I am, six months into the remission journey.

What with Covid lock-downs and a really low immune system … like, no B cells! … I’ve been pretty well housebound except for food shopping, doctors appointments and walks. So I thought I’d get back into writing reading knitting music pretty easily. Lots of time after all.

I’d be lying if I told you yes, really easy.

Early on I spent most of my time sorting through the stuff that came with my decision to stay in Brisbane. I had a lot of books, not all of them fit on the shelves I now have. Clothes, the same. Textile crafts, the same. And I’m still at it, every so often. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

I’ll write that sentence again and even bold it. Divesting myself of my old life to be able to fit into my new life.

It suggests my new life is smaller. I’m not talking about its length, more what I can do in my days … and so also today, this minute, I need to stop this meandering. More on this as time permits.

Fiction: Avatar Remaindered, 22

Sard’s Sky by Rita de Heer, mixed media

The Last Straw

When the life-suit gripped him—like it shrink-wrapped him—how he’d always imagined it might feel—Sard closed his eyes ahead of being forcibly cowled with the mask. The suit expanded again and he relaxed into it. Shrinking. Easing. It was like part of a rhythm. Like breathing.

He shoved up the mask. All he could see was darkness. Not the seven wooden drawers of his boyhood above him. All he could feel, above him—with his hands questing—was rock, a handspan above his face.

Searching down by his left side one-handed he found the rounded curve of the ceiling meeting the back of an overhang. With his other hand he found flat pavement. Exploring upward with that hand, he discovered the ceiling at maybe knee-height. From under the stairs in the limestone house back into the stony overhang atop the plateau … he’d had no sense of the transfer being a journey.

He rolled from under the overhang. A long way above stood the half-sickle moon in the cold night. Stars, too. Pin-pricks of light that he knew were even farther away. Unimaginable distances. Why I like to imagine that they are beads on a net surrounding the ball that we live on. A star in every angle is enough for me.

< Sit up and stare at the rock-edge. >

Oh right. It tells me to sit up and stare at the overhang’s edge in the dark? To what end?

The suit gripped him with its shrinking-lengthways trick. < I am merely elongating this entity’s muscle fibres. It’s a possibility I’m proud of discovering. The first new thing I caused to happen since I being released from my bondage. >

Sard breathed to the limits of his lung capacity. A fraction of what he needed. He wheezed. “Enough.” The image of the suit as a bio-construct was enough to give him the heebie-jeebies. Life-suits were lab-grown human skins? Couldn’t be. What about all the tech they also had? They couldn’t be. He’d lived in a large tech-construct all this life. Couldn’t live in bio-construct and a cramped little one at that.

The suit relaxed, but only a little, obviously expecting resistance.

“Okay. Okay. Sit up you said.” The gap between the two opposite overhangs was double his knee-length. Or make that the length of his whole leg. Plenty wide enough for him to scrabble to his elbow, push on that to sitting. Stare-at-the-rock’s-edge meant sit with crossed legs and turn ninety degrees.

Slouching somewhat, his eyes were level with the rock’s edges which were about as thick as his forearm—he pressed his arm along the ledge—a thick dark line separating the very dark below from the dark sky above. “Staring,” he said. Reporting for action. Yes sir. No sir.

< Close eyes. Wait for light. >

“That’s hours yet. What will I be looking for?”

< Less than an hour. Places where humans bumped up against these edges. Or scraped by. >

“And then what?”

< You will suck the human substance from these places so that I can discover their DNA. If they are my people—runaways—we will overtake them. We will force them to return to the cave habitat where I need them for the entertainments. >

Sard pulled off one of the gloves and rubbed a rock edge with his bare fingers. Granular feel. Like sandstone. He could almost see the group escaping, running for their lives, resting here overnight. Maybe while it rained and their usual roads, the chasms, flooded. And in their hurry to get to safety, some of them scraping up against these rocks hard enough to lose skin and blood.

Then he imagined sucking on the ledges. Why not just licking? He slopped his tongue over a dark place for a try out. Mmm. Could almost be smooth, sinewy and leather-tasting. He whipped off the life-suit’s face mask to see what he tongued.

With the help of the faint pre-dawn light, he made out a dark handprint imprinted on the stone right there in front of his eyes. The sight burned into his brain. Dried blood? He gagged. Spat saliva. Coughed.

Every little thing he knew and remembered about Ahni reeled through his mind. How the bio-construct was cut out of her—and her just abandoned—and about Ahni’s people running for their lives into the right direction to meet up with the clay-faced slavers. What if this hand-print was of someone who got away?

He found scuff marks, half footprints, a place where five small toes had pressed into the thin sand. Where the basket sat …. Saw all this before the dream. And damn it, I know it better now. None of them would want to be caught. Not one will want to return to CAVE.

And neither did he—as a matter of hoity-toity fact—want to deliver anyone, least of all the Sea-people into that bondage. Which means I shouldn’t follow them. Or it means that I shouldn’t take the life-suit to them. He livened up. Yes. That.

A dozen ideas, things to do, things to achieve, things to watch out for, barged into his mind. Plans. I bared my hand and my face. I’ve started already. There’s been no squeak from the life-suit since then. Such peace. He chuckled. Tore loose the chest piece and loosened the tie that gathered the suit edges over his ribs. Shoved the suit down over his shoulders one by one and pulled his arms free. The dawn air on his bare skin like he was in a cool bath. He crawled to the place where he’d stashed the pack.

Unpacked it to discover what he had that’d help him in the journey he planned.

————

But here he still stood at the end off the channel in the stone platform, taking time to think through what’d happen when he developed sores on his shoulders. Dressed in just his outer wear—shirt and pants—the pack’s straps cut into his shoulders. Plus the sun was rising almost dead ahead, give or take a few degrees, and while the sky there was a glory of red and pink, he couldn’t see anything else ahead.
I need a sunhat and I need more padding. About turn. Leaving the life-suit behind is a dumb idea. The chest piece will do me for a hat. The suit itself folded and stuffed under the straps. Now … no more hesitations, hold-ups or hang-ups brought on by stupid impulsivity.

He strode into the grasses.

Repeat of the country that he walked yesterday. Stony channels between islands of tussock, gravel and sand. Here and there a twisted wind-worn shrub. The plateau, what he saw of it, could’ve been an unending plain of tussocks. But he knew—first hand experience—that it was riddled with chasms. Probably with caves underneath. What did he know. Better to stay at the edge.

Walking, he kept his attention on the ground he covered. Safer. And it meant the sun didn’t shine straight into his eyes because he could angle the life-suit’s chest plate just-so, giving himself a shaded outlook. Which got easier because the sun rose.

Some people, apparently, believed that the Earth spun like a top and turned east day and night. Making it seem like both the sun and the moon rose in the east and set in the west. He never got much further studying how they got seasons and all that. No seasons in CAVE apart from the ones the games demanded and the techies organised.

Uh oh. Careful now. A damned chasm across his path. Lost in my thoughts. He evaded what might have been a sticky end by turning south. Saw it just in time. How far would he need to go? He now resented any foray into that direction. Sun shining on his left side.

Finally the end of the crack in the plateau. Wouldn’t he like to have a drink of cool mountain water right now? Don’t have any water. Not wearing the suit. Need to make camp while sun still shining for getting water from plants. Good old Greg, teaching me that.

Fiction: Avatar Remaindered: 21

Storm over Lake Ebb (a salt lake), watercolor and gouache painting by Rita de Heer

The Dream, or Was It?

Sard woke. How many more times would he have to wake in this story? When we gamed in CAVE, we don’t bother with night and day. It was always day. He let his thoughts continue on to CAVE.

“Oh look, he’s waking up,” said someone. A girlish voice. Sard turned to see her but there was no one with him in the rock hole. Huh. “Where will we have him?” said someone else he almost knew. He started to try to remember him.

“We haven’t seen him do anything real yet.” Different boy. Just figuring how many players is all I have time for? “Can you believe that it’s one of the avatars in that suit?” First boy again. “I thought they’d all been cast out?”

“Let’s try that village at the edge of the salt lake,” the original girl said.

Sard gave up.

Someone sounding a lot like Gre…Greg?…chuckled. “You mean Sard and Srese Yonker, and Youk Kerr? You are a dim-witted bunch if you’ve forgotten them already. Do it. I want to see Sard in that village. I want to see how Sard reacts.”

Being warned, Sard held onto stone left and right. He heard swearing off stage, scoffed at himself. Yeah right. How did I even know that?

He closed his eyes—his thoughts went fuzzy and his whole body shook—bones, flesh, heart and head. His ears funnelled in a loud incessant buzz. This doesn’t sound like somewhere I want to be. He pinched himself. Ouch. I’m awake?

He opened his eyes. Where is this place? Village at the edge of the salt lake reverberated in his thoughts. Can’t see either a salt lake or any houses. Only thing he could see straight in front was the underside of his stair-set of drawers that he’d had since childhood.

Was it them at an arm’s length distance? He marvelled running his fingers over the silky timber undersides of the fourth, fifth, and sixth drawers. He leaned forward. I wonder if the crabby life-suit entity brought all my treasures in the drawers as well?

Stop. I don’t want to give the damned life-suit entity the satisfaction. He lay back, thought about the drawers themselves to distract himself. Old and older, maybe the oldest piece of furniture in the habitat, according to Ghulia, and inherited through her from her forebears.

Passing concrete objects down through the generations shouldn’t even be possible, given the anonymous way they were made. How did she manage it? And why the drawers here—he looked beyond the staircase they were part of, and through an open doorway—in this lime-stone white house at the edge of a salt lake?

No one out there. No. Wait. A bunch of people dressed in white, walked half-heartedly, even hesitantly, out on the salt. They all wore a thing over their eyes. Looks like a swim-mask, people. You look ridiculous. He felt his face. No mask himself.

< You don’t need virtual-world goggles. You are wearing me. >

Sard laughed. I am wearing a life-suit colonised by an AI entity. It confirmed his suspicions. Apart from that, I am inside a virtual building somewhere, as well as in an actual rock-shelter.

“He went in here,” said a voice he knew. Greg came into view, also with swim-goggles over his face, and leapt up the stairs. Dust from between the treads spurted into Sard’s face. He was under the stairs he saw, recognising the boxed-in treads. They are the drawers containing my life.

< You’re wondering how a life-suit knew about your drawers? >

“Not really,” Sard said. The way the entity said ‘life-suit’ gave the game away. If it was a game. Preening and so superior, as if an ordinary life-suit was far beneath what the entity itself was capable of. Which might be true, remember that.

The people watching or involved in the interactive play, seemed to think they were involved in a game. Sard listened interestedly to the stomping on the floor above, and the high, excited voices up there. Everyone ran up and down the stairs at least twice each.

Then the search continued in the room alongside the stairs—with him in plain sight he would’ve thought—and then the room beyond, a kitchen maybe. Plenty of people called out they saw him whenever someone thought they found him.

Nobody did, though he wasn’t hiding particularly, just laying on a pallet under the stairs. All they had to do was glance aside. But they of course wore the goggles that were in the control of the entity that also controlled the life-suit.

< These people have had things too easy for far too long. >

Whatever the stupid entity meant with that apart from the glaring fact that it—the entity—was now in charge. It now seemed to Sard that Gammy—the AI owner of CAVE who once was Gamester—a regular human being who had his brain pattern uploaded into a computer—had ruled by division. All energy-chewing tasks were separated. Life-suits could not communicate with the virtual goggles. Gammy’s strategies were to preserve the system for as long as possible.

This entity obviously had no such desire. He wouldn’t be surprised if CAVE ended during its reign. Did it even know what it wanted? And what did it know about Sard’s people? Because how easy was it in fact to know that every move you made was being judged, and if you didn’t come up to the expectations of the pernickety AI in charge, you’d be moldecked without regrets? You were told a fantasy that you’d be reborn. Better luck next time, people had learned to say to each other.

Who, or what, was this entity?

“Got you!” Greg said. He’d shoved his mask up on his forehead. He grabbed Sard by an arm and dragged him into the open. “Let’s get you into the daylight. I knew you’d be somewhere in plain sight.” He stood Sard on his two feet.

“I’m surprised to find you in the game, oh noble warrior,” Sard said. “It’s quite a short trip, it seems, from standing back all your life to suddenly being as involved as any Tom, Hinny and Darren.”

Greg hesitated. He dropped his hands from Sard, and tore off his mask, which squawked as if the life-suit entity had an audio channel in it, and it resisted. His dazed expression cleared to the one Sard recognised as the Greg he knew.

“Same old Sard. You calling me out?” Greg said.

“Just wondering what the hell is going on?” Sard said. “Not like you to be taken in by anything an AI serves up?” He replied with the same tone Greg gave him.

Greg frowned. “An AI? Other than Gammy, you’re saying?”

Sard gestured at the houses made from blocks of pristine limestone, at the sheet of white glare beyond. “When did Gammy ever serve us up with this? Or peopled it with swim-goggles and a life-suit at the same time? I think he’s been overwritten. You probably know better than me what with.” He didn’t dare go further.

Greg grinned. “What’s it like, wearing it?”

The thing in the life-suit slammed Sard to the ground hard enough that he hurt. < Next time stay where I put you. >

Next it slammed Greg down beside him. It must have, no way would Greg ever purposely throw himself down beside Sard and lay there winded and looking concussed.

Thinking to check Greg’s life-status, Sard put his hand on Greg’s chest. The AI messaged Greg and it reverberated up Sard’s arm. < Don’t make me over-write you as well. >

It could do that? “Drop the mask,” Sard mouthed at Greg.

Greg nodded minimally. Freeing his fingers from the mask’s strap, he leapt to his feet. “Come on, Sard. Let’s go. Save yourself.”

The life-suit squeezed Sard the way he had come to know. The python trick. “You,” he gasped. “You save yourself!” The life-suit picked him up and forced him to run at Greg on four feet, like a beast.

Greg grimaced horror, turned and ran into a corridor.

< Your body lies on the plateau. There is no going or coming other than with me. > < Wait here. >

The life-suit forced Sard back into the hutch under the stairs.