EP518: Brain Worms and White Whales

by Jen Finelli
narrated by J.S. Arquin

author Jen FInelli

author Jen Finelli

about the author… Hi! I’m Jen Finelli, and I’m a professional author, content-consultant, and ghost-writer deeply in love. Because I’m also a med student, and doctors are weird, I try to write things that make people leak bodily fluids. Like tears of hope. Or “OMG-THAT-WAS-AWESOME-I-JUST-WET-MY-PANTS.” Or the inspired sweat of fighting for what matters.

Explosive things, kind superheroes, crude secret agents, sparkly fairies, biochemistry, guns, facts, and offensive gods show up in my pages, and sometimes that gets me published or gets me money or gets me in trouble. If you want to get to know me a little, or tell me about the things YOU like, you should follow me on twitter. You’ll get a free short story if you do.

narrator J.S. Arquin

narrator J.S. Arquin

about the narrator… J.S. Arquin is a writer, actor, musician, stiltwalker, and renaissance man. (Or maybe he really just likes wearing tights.) He has performed and traveled all over the world, and has lived in many places, including New Jersey, San Francisco, and Greece. He currently resides in his favorite place of them all, Portland, OR, where he gleefully rides his bike in the rain year round. His narrations have also been featured on very fine podcasts such as Starship Sofa and Cast of Wonders, and you might occasionally hear him on his own show, The Overcast.


Brain Worms and White Whales
by Jen Finelli

My name isn’t Spaceman Spiff, and if you call me Ishmael I’ll knock the chewing gum right out of your mouth.

Actually, can I get a piece of that? We don’t get gum up here.

Thanks. I know you’re new here—service droid, right?—so take a look around before I explain why I called you into my office. Heads up, it’s because you did something bad. See this pose? My boots on my desk, arms crossed, limitless backdrop of space out the window behind me as ignored in all its glory as a homemaker whose husband works overtime for secretary kisses? Yeah, this pose, this clean wooden desk, this suitcase full of old Colt firearms behind me, they all mean something.

They mean I’m a man with a past and I like to shoot things.

Let’s back it up from spaceman-with-gun to college-kid-seeking-job. This starts on June 4, 2014. I’m strolling into the parking lot. Sun shining on pavement that can fry eggs, kids screaming that Johnny got the bigger half of the Kit-Kat and it’s just not fair, teens driving Mustangs too fast over speed bumps, soccer moms packing detergent into minivans—you know the scene. I’m parked at the far end of the lot because walking builds character. Not because I’m paranoid the greasy-haired supermarket greeter wants to follow me and collect my fingernails, or because the cute cashier-girl might misinterpret my salmon-colored moped for something less manly than lightish-red.

That greeter’s creepy, though.

I’ve just dropped off my application to work as a cart-pusher, and I’m cursing my sweaty palms, when one of those Mustang-driving teenagers vrooms by, too close. I leap onto the hood of the nearest parked car. It screeches. I screech. I tumble off the car and brush myself off, shushing the honking car alarm in my fright—er, in my fast reflexes. “Sheesh, calm down!” I glance around, hoping to God no one else saw that, and scramble for my moped, hands shaking a bit as I try to force the key into the ignition. “Calm down,” I repeat.

I do feel calmer as I rev up the engine and drive away—it’s okay. It looks like cashier-girl didn’t see me freak out, and greasy-creepster didn’t follow me, and anyway the wind in my thick hair soothes me. That’s the best thing about being Viet-American, this cool hair. The hair, and the Pho. And the patriotic grandparents with tragic war stories that stir your soul and make you wish you weren’t such a wimp. I mean, when Ong noi was my age he was wading wetlands with snakes so poisonous you die two steps after they bite you. And fighting communists. I’m not a Red Scare kinda person, but I have my feelings about what happened to South Vietnam after the Americans pulled out. I don’t actually know what those feelings are. Mostly they’re a wiggling, like I have to go to the bathroom, every time my white friends talk about the sixties.

My white friends talk about the sixties a lot.

And also make fun of my name. That’s not just my white friends, though, that’s everyone. Ethan isn’t actually hard to say, people, and joke’s on you, because my surname means ‘wall that surrounds a city,’ not what you think, sickos.

“Eatin’ Kok. Eatin’ Kok. Eatin’ Kok.”

What the what?

I turn my head over my shoulder. I’ve almost pulled all the way out of the parking lot, and I can still hear the car alarm, but now it—sounds like—it’s screaming my name? If I tilt my head to the side it sounds more like…

Nope, it sounds like my name.

Weird! My heart speeds up, and I’m keenly aware of the cold sweat on my hands. I must be coming down with something. They call me a hypochondriac, but it’s gotta be true this time. I’ve got a mental disease. There are these worms that can get in your brain–

“Brah, for the hundredth time. No. No you do not have brain worms. Just like we don’t have Amazonian pee fish in our pool. You were stressed, man, you heard wrong. It’s science.” Jason ‘Iron-man’ Wade washes dishes like he points towards the beach—it’s all flex, even though there aren’t any girls around to see. “Besides, hearing a creepy car doesn’t excuse you from paying your half of the rent. You hear back about the job?”

I shake my head and sink further into the ratty brown couch, adjusting my shorts to protect me from the itchy material that’s probably full of fleas. Jason doesn’t get it. He didn’t watch the documentary with me, about the spiked fish that crawl up your ureter when you swim in rivers, or about the brain worms, and besides he’s a physics major, what does he know about biology?

“I dunno why you don’t ask your parents for cash like everyone else,” Jason says.

“Because they’ve done enough for me. I’m tired of being a leech. I want to be my own man now, in college and everything,” I say.

“Sounds dumb.”

“They’re going through a lot right now.”

Jason checks his bicep one last time in his reflection on the stove, then sighs. He turns to look me in the eye. “Are your parents in the hospital?”


“Are they getting divorced?”


“Do they have more money than you?”


“Are you their biological son?”


“So it’s fair that they pay your expenses. Science, Kok.”

“Okay, Jason.” Whatever. I lift my copy of the Hanh Thuc ca to hide my face. It’s not my favorite poem, but it’s good literature, and by a woman, and that makes it more important. Or at least different? Because women are different from normal people. I guess? Anyway, I’m following the poet’s journey to Thuc from the imperial palace, and finding my roots in her jungle-flight. Roots—that’s something Jason can’t understand. I came to college to explore my roots. I’m also here to study Mandarin for business, but otherwise, I’m escaping to 1885.

I wouldn’t want to live back then, though, because then I couldn’t major in linguistics. Best major ever. I just study what I want: languages and literature. I got AP credit for all my sciences and maths so I never have to take them again, and if I’m lucky I’ll stay in academia forever. I gaze out the window, dreaming about publishing a paper in Sanskrit, and–

What the what? Is that the same car from earlier? It’s a little blueberry electric hybrid, huddled under an oak tree across the apartment lot, its headlights watching me. I jump to my feet.

“See? Look, Jason, look, it’s the car! Either it’s chasing me or I’ve got brain-worms! You don’t see it, do you?”

“What, the lil blueberry out there?”

“Yes! Wait, you see it?”

“’Course I see it, you’re not crazy. It’s probably just some girl visiting one of the guys downstairs, no big deal. You don’t have brain-worms.”

“If I don’t have brain-worms, then why did it say my name and follow me home?”

“Coincidences. That’s science.”

“Are you for real?”

I’m staring from the car to Jason wide-eyed. He puts the last plate away with another sigh and walks over to put a hand on my shoulder. “You know what you need, brah?”


“You need Peyote.”

“What the what? I do not need illegal drugs exacerbating my condition!”

“Your condition? Brah, if you had brain-worms Peyote’d freak them right out. Poison the lil buggers right outta your head. Besides, you might see something cool. My first time on Peyote I understood special relativity for the first time—really understood it, and space and time bent around me and the equations burnt into my head with neon lights and whoa it was deep man. Who knows what it’ll do with your poetry language stuff. Maybe help you figure out your morphology homework.”

“I could use help with morphology. I’m starting to think God invented Finnish to punish linguists.”

“So it’s a date then.”

I stammer. “It’s not a date! I don’t–”

“Brah, I already invited everyone over. I’m part of a Native American Church small group.”

“But you’re…white?”

“And you’re racist. Anyway, it’ll help you get out from your parents’ shadow, get more in touch with you.”

I want to roll my eyes at his ignorance—he’s stereotyping me, here—but he looks so earnest I’m actually afraid I’ll hurt his feelings. He’s never going to understand me and my parents. Maybe he’ll understand at my funeral next week, after the brain-worms get me. In the end I agree because I want to drown out the reality that the brain-worms that are going to kill me, and anyway if I’ve only got a week to live, I might as well. They won’t have Peyote in heaven.

The evening starts crystal clear as the guys downstairs file in one by one, bearing chips and beer and guffawing and giggling like pre-teen girls do when you say ‘penis.’ Jason’s still solemn—you can tell he really thinks the drug taught him special relativity, and he’s still in awe of it, but they’re just psyched about doing something illegal. Jason passes out a bit of ginger to each of us to chew, and then little capsules of crushed cactus heads. The ginger hides the bitterness of the pill.

“Take your time, take one little bit at a time. Don’t wanna vomit it all up right away,” says Jason. “Take half of it, and then we’ll watch a movie, and the trip should start right after that’s over.”

“What’ll we watch?”

They choose a confused dystopic flick called Brazil, and about halfway through my stomach’s churning, my head’s spinning and throbbing, and I’m sure the brain-worms are cross-reacting with the drug. I feel vomit tickling the back of my throat. “This was an awful idea, man,” I grumble to Jason. “But you can have my computer when I’m dead.”

“That’s just the hangover, brah, it comes before the trip. Chill out, I feel it too.”

I shake my head. He just doesn’t understand. I’m falling, just like Sam in the movie, falling into an open casket, into a blackness that keeps going, and when I turn my head to get away from the screen–

I see the blueberry, watching me. It flashes its lights at me through the window. Short flash, short flash…off. Three short flashes, off. One short flash. Off. One short flash—what the what, it’s Morse code! It’s I see you. It sees me!

“I gotta get outta here,” I mutter.

“That’s right, man, get outta here! Be free! Fly away from school and parents and stuff!” Jason’s vegged out on the couch, his tongue lolling out of his mouth as he raises his arms to cheer me on. He’s got a Dr. Seuss hat on, and all the guys around him are teddy bears.

“You people are crazy,” I mumble. There’s drool on my face—I wipe it off and it’s a tiny person. This isn’t real. And the car can’t be real either. I just need to get away. I stumble down the cement steps, past bushes that look like frogs, and my heart’s going three hundred miles a minute, slamming at my chest wall like it’s trying to break out. I’m trembling. I’m whispering things to myself. The shadows freak me out enough when I’m not on drugs, and now I’m scrambling, whimpering. On my moped, I’ll be safe. On my moped, wind in my hair, I’ll drive and drive and nothing can get me.

Does the car see me now? I’m crouched behind a frog-bush, eyeing my moped. It’s parked right in front of me—

But facing it across the parking lot lurks the blueberry, lights off. Sleeping? Waiting? I crawl under the bush, fingers digging into the earth.

Lights still off. I creep to a crouch, ease myself to standing, and reach for my keys.

Still off. My hand slides to the ignition and I slip the key in.

My moped engine purrs.

The lights flip on!

I leap onto my moped and drive, screaming like the man eaten by that alligator in Temple of Doom. I hear the blueberry’s engine revving behind me, roaring louder and louder as it gains on me. I’m on the highway. The wind’s more than in my hair—it’s pushing back my cheeks, tearing up my eyes, and I don’t even see the speed limit sign as I dash past. A thump, my body rattles, I almost fall off the moped—the blueberry just bumped me from behind! My little salmon moped can’t go any faster—I glance over my shoulder and the blueberry’s pulling back for another strike—it’s going to pulverize me!

It zips forward, honking. I leap off the moped—my body crashes onto the hood of the car—it’s speeding up and I’m plastered against the windshield!

The speed’s too much. I’m dizzy. My stomach’s turning inside out. My head’s cold, empty, everything’s whooshy-black-lines—

I pass out.


Waking up in jail isn’t the worst thing.

Explaining the Peyote to my parents when they post bail isn’t the worst thing.

Seeing the blueberry parked outside the courtroom, salmon-colored paint scratches smeared on its front bumper like blood on a murder weapon as those headlights stare in at me–

That is the worst thing.

“My…my moped…”

If you ask the policemen, my attorney, the county prosecutor, and the radio thief in the cell next to me, I left the Walmart parking lot, bought the blueberry, drove it to my apartment, got high, and then drove it thousands of miles an hour down the highway.

I did?

First off, that little car could go how fast?

Second, I bought that car? With what money? Where’s my moped?

I threw my moped in the road and ran over it Snidely Whiplash style, says the prosecution.

But even with the brain-worms, that doesn’t fit my personality profile at all!

“While it is not illegal to own ridiculously fast vehicles, the fact that the defendant would possess such dangerous equipment reeks of terrorism,” the prosecutor continues.

“Oh please.” I tighten my tie and glance at my lawyer—he’ll have no problem debunking that. I lean forward on the mahogany rail separating me from the courtroom stage, chewing my lip.

“And the fact that we can’t locate the seller indicates surreptitious underground arms trade.”

Or it indicates that there was no seller, you nincompoop.

The prosecutor continues: “I would like to turn your attention to Exhibit 14, the deed for the car in question.”

My attorney opens the black binder sitting in front of us; the judge does the same.

What the what?

A copy of a deed, with my name on it, for a blue electric hybrid, lies there in all its hole-punched glory. I touch it, wondering if brain-worms can make you feel unreal things, too. I bought the Blueberry? This has to be a bad trip. “Jason, I want out now…”

I glance out the courtroom window. One headlight winks at me.

My head spins as my attorney rises to discuss my mental state. Hypochondriac, stressed over-achiever, peer pressure—he mentions everything just like we’ve discussed, except the brain-worms. Maybe he’s saving that for later. My attorney even puts Jason on the stand to testify that we only took Peyote as part of a Native American Church ceremony: “A usage which,” he says, “Has been legal since the 1979 case Native American Church of New York vs. United States, and the 1990 United States vs. Boyll, which upheld the First Amendment to protect sacrament rights for NAC members of all races.” Jason smiles at me.

To top it off, one of Jason’s friends who was there that night can prove Native American heritage and church leadership, and the attorney presents statements from several of Jason’s friends testifying to my strong NAC religious beliefs.

It looks like I might get off the hook for the drugs.

But my parents! “He’s joined a what?” My mother faints when the attorney holds up my NAC membership card.

My what? Is that what Jason handed out halfway through the movie? I feel a little light-headed. Not that I’ve ever fainted. Blacked out, maybe, but not fainted.

The car looks upset. Its window-wipers slash back and forth like the tail of an angry cat. It wants me convicted. It wants to punish me for setting off its car alarm.

Sweat dribbles from my fingers to my suit-pants, and I beg the case to slow down, my heart pounding at the thought that I’ll step out the door with that car waiting to pounce. But the case doesn’t take long. They can’t catch me on drugs, and that car’s legally mine somehow. My attorney talks them down to a speeding ticket, and the judge’s sentencing speech begins. The car’s wipers swish back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, like the Pendulum in Poe’s pit that inches towards your belly with the knife…

“In conclusion, Mr. Kok, we’ve decided to sentence you to life in prison.”

First off, I wish the judge wouldn’t mock my last name like that. It’s an actual last name, you racist bastard, and second—wait, what the what?

“Life?! Your honor, how is that even possible? It’s a speeding ticket!”

The woman leans over her podium with her glasses low on her nose and her left eyebrow raised, her knuckles white as she points her gavel at me and spits through clenched teeth. “You must think you’re very clever. And you know what? You are. Despite your ridiculous mental-injury excuses and air-tight fake name–”

“Fake? There were five American babies named Vader in 2012, and you think my name is fake?”

“–Despite all that stupid fakery, you almost got away on your drug charge finagling and fantastic hair. But the truth is that no matter how legal this looks, you are a danger. And you were caught speeding.

“So here’s what Virginia law says. After a reckless driving charge for speed, you can receive two days in prison for each mile above the speed limit, plus sixty days for exceeding one hundred twice. So, for every 110 miles over 90, you’d get 60 days for exceeding 100 twice, and another 220 because 2 days per each mile. In that speed limit zone, the penalty sums to 645 days per 110 miles over 90. You were going 6,224 miles over ninety. That’s fifty-seven 110s right there. That puts you at over 100 years in prison. So, life. The court will now adjourn.”

I fall back against my seat with my hands on my head. Life? This can’t be happening, it must—it must be the worms! But then what is happening? If I can’t trust what I see, what can I trust?

My attorney sighs as the courtroom clears. “Have to say, I saw that coming.”

“Are you serious? That’s all you can say?”

“Hey, I’m the attorney that got a terrorist talked down to a speeding ticket, it doesn’t get any better than that. We were close, buddy, we were close.” He closes his brief case and walks off while the police officers converge around me like flies on dead meat. The prosecutor hisses in my ear as he stalks past,

“Once the FBI uncovers your real identity, you and your great hair will most likely be shipped to Gitmo as a foreign combatant. So enjoy Virginia prison while it lasts.”

I stare out at the car. It flashes its headlights in the rain, pulls out of the parking spot, and drives off. I can imagine it humming to itself about a job well done.


The leather chair groans as I take a bewildered seat, staring around the pristine study where the police left me. A coffee pot hums on the ivory table in the corner; rays of light break through the rain tap-dancing on the window, illuminating specks of dust streaming through the air. The worn book-covers on the shelves whisper to me about time spent in libraries.

I don’t know what’s going on. I’m tired of not knowing what’s going on. It wasn’t just the Peyote. I didn’t know what was going on before, when I bumped the car alarm, or even with the cashier at the Walmart and the creepy greeter. Maybe she was the creepy one, and he just needed a shower. I don’t know. I misread situations. As much as I’ve analyzed the world around me, as much as I try to eke from documentaries or books, I’ve never clearly seen anything. I’ve known what I wanted, more or less, and I’ve quietly slipped my way through the fog to aim for it, but I haven’t been able to make out shapes in the mist. I’m clear, but everything around me is a blur. I’m digging through a sea of knowledge but only consuming enough to feed myself.

I am a brain worm.

And I’m tired of this. I’m going to find the truth, about everything, starting with that car.

Well, no, starting with why I’m in this room.

“You’re right,” she says. “I am the creep.”

I whirl. Dangit, I was talking to myself aloud again.

And…it’s the cashier, from Walmart?

“You bumped into my car on the way out of the store. As you might imagine, I’m not a Walmart employee. I work for, Tgassnobie, The Government Agency So Secret No One Believes It Exists.”

“You’re going to have to do a better job making stuff up. No one’s going to believe that name,” I smirk.

“Exactly,” she smiles. Her slender tan fingers brush against the bookshelf as she walks towards the coffee, her long black hair swaying behind her and guiding my glance down the whole length of her back. I’m pretty sure she’s Viet-American, too. She lifts the coffee pot and a wine glass, peering at me from under her bangs as she begins to pour the black liquid.

“Would you like to know what’s going on, now?” she asks, her eyes on me–

As the coffee misses the glass and streams down to the burgundy persian carpet.

She jumps back from the spill. “It’s a metaphor,” she says. “I did that on purpose.”

“A metaphor for what?”

“For—hm. I’m not sure, let me think.” She sets the coffee pot down, and sits in a leather armchair across from me. She doesn’t come up with a metaphor, but she does explain to me that her car’s self-defense AI went “a little” overboard trying to protect her, and with some access to government databases it managed to alter its ownership records to hide her.

“I even caught it trying to change your name and give you a prior criminal history,” she giggles. “Isn’t that cute?”

“No! No that is not cute! I almost got sentenced to life in prison!”

“Almost? You did get sentenced to life in prison. You were speeding, and the law’s the law.”

“I wasn’t speeding! I was plastered to the front of your car because it was trying to kill me!”

“Ah, yes, Ronnie can be a little homicidal at times. It’s a programming fluke, we’re still working on the bugs. Anyway, you look famished. Do you like Pho King, Ethan Kok?”

I narrow my eyes. She pronounced all of that perfectly. But it sounds more like a sex joke than ever. “How do you do that?” I ask.

“Read your mind?”

“No, keep a straight face while being so crude.”

“I can’t help what goes on in your head, Ethan. I’m just asking if you’re hungry.”

No she’s not. Or is she? Or–

These brain-worms. They’re killing me. I can’t take this, it’s ridiculous, all of it. I close my eyes while she calls the Pho King restaurant. She claps her hands when she gets off the phone with the delivery man. “Oh!” she cries. “I figured out what the metaphor is!”

“You mean you made it up, just now.”

“Yes! The metaphor is you. You have been spilled outside your cup, and maybe it was an accident, but now you have an opportunity to make more of the experience. To turn it into a metaphor.”

“A very meta metaphor.”

“Yes! Time to become star of your own movie. A force in your own life. A character in this short story!”

“Aren’t I already…”

“You want to know what’s going on? I’ll tell you what’s going on. We’re looking for a space ranger to police our experimental weapons station—you know, keep everyone in line and watch for danger—and you’re impressive. I never intended for all that to happen to you with my car, but without any training you survived a high-speed chase and even managed to stop the car. You finagled a brilliant legal strategy that almost worked, you’ve got great hair–”

“Wait, I stopped the car?”

“Yes? Do you not remember that?”

“But I blacked out against the windshield!”

“After that part.”

“Okay, how come you know what I did and I don’t?”

“It could be the Peyote.”

“So then, don’t you want the Peyote as your space ranger?”

“You’ve got great observational skills. Most people wouldn’t have thought it was the same car following them around, or even imagined that it figured out their name.”

“So because I’m delusional you want me?”

“See, that’s the problem with you.” She stands up, and shows me two fingers. “How many fingers do I have?”

“Nine. But uh—sorry, no, that’s not what you were asking. Two, you’re holding up two.”

“You were right the first time. I have nine fingers. I was asking that.” She holds up both hands, and I can see again that she’s missing her left pinky. I noticed it in the Walmart. “But you second-guess yourself to fit what you think we want. You knew the car was following you, but you second-guessed yourself to brain worms. You knew the drugs would screw with you, but you second-guessed yourself, again with brain worms. You knew I was playing dirty with your head, but no, brain worms! Your grip on reality is shaky because you have no faith.”


“There’s nothing you’re certain of. You don’t even know if you exist, do you?”

My eyes lit up. She understands! “I’ve often wondered that! No one’s ever able to prove it to me, they always throw me the Descartes assumption–”

“Yes, I know. Look, here’s the secret out of the fog. You need one certainty, Ethan. Just one, and everything else will fall into place—provided it’s the right one. If you start with one truth, the most important truth, other truths will unfold around it, and even when you are wrong the path away from that wrongness will reveal itself in time because as long as you have one truth, you have one light to push through the darkness of your ignorance. No matter how wrong you are at first, you will always find your way. It only takes one harpoon to kill a white whale. And that, Ethan, is how you will know what’s going on.”


She’s my wife now, you know. Aina-Lee’s her name. She wears this white whale necklace that matches the band on my wrist. We’ve run thirty missions or so together.

But I guess you know that. That’s why you’re here, on my space station, now, isn’t it? It’s why you attacked me in the first place. That day at Walmart, you kept sensors on her, and you could tell she made my palms sweat.

And you love her. You want her all to yourself. So you tried to kill me. And when that didn’t work, to put me in jail.

You know, it’s funny, ‘cuz I would never have had a chance with her if not for you.

Yeah, flash your headlights all you want. I know they call ’em eyes when they’re in a robot-head, but I know what you are, Blueberry. I’d give three packs o’ chewing gum to know how you got placed into an android body, a broken AI like you.

“Your guns will not protect you, Eaten Kok. I poisoned your vaccine two weeks ago.”

My eyes narrow.

It’s brain worms, isn’t it.

“Yes. Finally you will die as you always feared. Also, your moped was pink. Not salmon-colored, and not lightish-red. It was always pink.”

I laugh.

“Why are you laughing? You are dead, Eaten Kok. Your worst fears are true.”

I take my boots off the desk. I cock my Beretta M9 and put it to your temple.

“I have a back-up copy of myself, Eaten Kok. You will die, but I will not.”

You think I was afraid of brain worms? They comforted me because I’m an obsessive paranoid. You think an obsessive paranoid wouldn’t know if he got brain worms in his vaccine?

Your headlights flash.

You think an obsessive paranoid wouldn’t know he’s got viruses like you on his station? You come in here pretending to clean my floors, you really think my background check won’t dig you up?

“You have brain-worms, Eaten Kok. I can sense them in you. It is over. Your fabulous hair cannot save you now.”

Ah, but that is where you are wrong.

Actually, that is not where you are wrong. Yes, my hair can’t save me. That other part is where you’re wrong. Because it isn’t over. I’m your white whale, aren’t I? The beast that crippled you by stealing a piece of you. But right here, right now, my palms aren’t sweating because whales don’t have palms, and I see all the pieces clearly through the fog because whales have eyes, and I’m reaching through and beyond the respect I’ve always had for my parents and never second-guessed to grasp at the dreams that comforted my Ong Noi in the South Vietnamese jungle, and I’m gripping my secret one-truth to my chest as I lower my head to strike. I’m about to sink your ship, creepy Walmart greeter guy.

“I am not the creepy Walmart greeter guy! I am a car AI!”

Sounds like something someone with brain-worms would say.

“I do not have brain-worms! I cannot get brain-worms! And if I did, I have a back-up copy!”

Pshaw, you don’t have a back-up copy, because Blueberry isn’t a program! Aina didn’t know that, because you, creepy Walmart guy, you were supposed to be her investigative partner. Her brilliant programmer back-up. But you cut corners and built her a machine that really just ran on you. You weren’t programming her car, you were the voice in her car, the Alfred to her Batman, only you were a creepy Alfred who wanted to do things to Batman that Batman doesn’t want to do, so when Catwoman-from-Vietnam comes along, Alfred tries to destroy her. Him. Me. This guy.

“I am not Alfred! This is a plot-hole you are making up to escape from me!”

Yes. Yes it is.

And it’s working.

You don’t know what the real story is anymore, do you?

You, my friend, have brain-worms.

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