What you see above, in the background, is a picture of the house Mrs. Neutron lived in until shortly before I moved in next door. What you can see in the foreground is the back of her garage. All that was left of her when I hit town was an empty house and a garage full of unidentified “equipment”… and the rumors. It’s a small southern town and like many small towns “rumors” about other people tend to be the primary stock in trade. But, nothing could prepare me for the tall tales my new neighbors had to tell about Mrs. N. At first and up until last night I thought they were all having me on with their nonsensical stories about how she never purchased food, or ate or slept. How all they ever found in her garbage, and I have no doubt that the nosey bastards looked, was empty cans of industrial lubricants, wires and bits of what looked like some kind of glass. They spoke of her almost fearfully and did everything but come right out and say that she wasn’t human. They believed she was mechanical. I concluded I had all but moved into the Looney Bin.
The place was empty when I arrived, but, my new neighbors tall tales, I admit, got my curiosity up enough to cause me to do a little snooping around on my own. I made no attempt to enter the house, but, in spite of all the warnings, I crawled into the garage through a hole in the back. I remember the flash of a blue light, the smell of something like ozone and the next thing I knew I was outside once again, sitting with my back up against a magnolia tree with an old Gerry & the Pacemakers song playing loudly and almost painfully inside my head. It shook the heck out of me I don’t mind saying. The very next day men in hazmat suits loaded everything in the garage into unmarked trucks and heavy equipment flattened the house and garage and hauled the debris to the landfill. The equipment, according to a local police officer, was sent to the Federal Laboratories at the nuclear facility in Aiken, South Carolina. But, no one was really sure about that.
It has been almost 15 years and it wasn’t until last night that I began to understand, or, think I can understand what all this crazy business means and it took the tragic death of a local child to bring that about.
Earlier this week the unthinkable happened. A loving, attentive and highly regarded young mother accidently backed over and killed her 16 month old daughter. It happened just down the street and the heart of this small town broke. I was sickened, as were we all, by the pain this tragedy produced. The local pizza joint put a sign out front, next to the road, that read… [We are ALL praying for the family of…]. Ministers came out of the woodwork with smiles and stories of the poor little girl now being in “a better place”. Hearing that and realizing that it was the prevailing opinion of the population made me physically ill and I went home early and made myself a stiff drink. Then, I made myself another.
I had no interest in watching television. I couldn’t get into the book I currently had next to my bed, so, I turned out the light and the last thing I remember was smelling that smell. That smell from the garage. Then, there was that blue light, the music,… and unblinking mechanical eyes of the neighbor I had never met.
I awoke in a cold sweat, shaken, but, with more of an understanding of what Mrs. Neutron was about, if not who, or, what she actually was, or, where she came from. My feeling is that she came to earth to warn us of our fatal flaw, perhaps THE fatal flaw inherent in all biological life that is lucky enough to achieve sentience. A flaw machine intelligence does not share. A flaw it cannot share.
Those few moments in her garage began changes in me and my dream last night completed the change. I dreamt of pimple faced young men blown apart in wars where they were assured “God was on their side”. I felt the pain of young girls whose genitals were mutilated with kitchen knives by Holy men diligently following religious teachings. I smelled the fear of “minorities” and the stench of burning witches. I saw the smiling face of a minister I know well and heard him say, “in a better place, in a better place, in a better place”, over and over again and I wanted to put my hands around his neck and ring him like a bell. I wanted to ask him “WHY abortionists weren’t heros then?” To my very bones I understood the message Mrs. Neutron left for me, or, sent me. The message about the flaw. The implications about that flaw that dooms us all to a momentary existence in a paradise designed by and inhabited by fools.
Over and over again that same song from the garage played in my head. That Gerry & the Pacemakers song. Only now can I hear it as the warning she intended it to be.
Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue
It isn’t very hard to do
and you will find happiness without an end if you’ll pretend
Remember, anyone can dream
and nothing’s bad as it may seem
The little things you haven’t got could be a lot if you’ll pretend
You’ll find the love you can share
one you can call your own
Just close your eyes, you’ll be there
You’ll never be alone
and if you sing this melody
You’ll be pretending just like me
Well, what’s mine, it can be yours, my friend
So why don’t you pretend?