songwriter, author & nerd


Chapter 1

The Lester Sunshine Inn used to be a private mansion for wealthy families before it was sold and converted to a bed and breakfast. After The Great Tide, it was transformed into a shared salon where the Interconnected could dream and create in comfort and serenity. The next episode of the Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide starts in this grand house, at a nexus of history and happenstance. Dear friends, followers, and readers, this is where our new adventure begins.

- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, line 1

Marto set his quill back in the inkwell and re-read this opening paragraph. His clumsy scrawl rearranged itself into neat rows of beautiful script; very pleasing. Satisfied, he lifted his head to gaze out over the Mediterranean Sea along the Ligurian coast. A soft, salty breeze drifted in with the sound of birds and lapping waves.

The arched window of the medieval tower framed a problem; the sun was setting in the East, not the West. The walls of the writing room were lit with the orange glow of a setting sun coming from the wrong direction. Out past the door of his room, down what could have been a spiraling stone staircase, he heard the inexplicable echo of metal and the rattle of chains. The room was dim, and he could find no candles anywhere. He wondered if it was ever going to be night or only perpetual sunset. And why on earth was the sun coming down over France? He felt annoyed. ["Setting in the East,"] he thought-texted to no one, ["who wrote this?"]

Of course, he knew the answer. He gave ratings and feedback before sending the commands, ["save"] and ["exit"], and returning to the waking world.

The tower faded, as its floor, the sea, and the earth itself gave way to stars, moon, and sun before finally going black. There was a moment of vertigo as the body left its engaged state in the construct and found its natural position in the waking world. Marto's eyes opened to daylight filtered through tall, white-framed, rectangular window panes.

Marto's full name was Marto « Maria « Denise « Martina « Joia « etc, a convention used by the Interconnected to trace the lineages of their foremothers. He sat, relaxing on a sofa in the parlor of the Lester Sunshine Inn. The Inn was a sturdy stone and beam home, built in the grand style of the late nineteenth century. It served as a secondary shelter against the coastal storms battering the lower Hudson. Up the grand staircase, there were rooms, often occupied by local tribal members and travelers of generous Merit.

The Inn's historic parlor was furnished with the best pieces of the previous mid-century. Seated on the threadbare rectangular sofas and shabby geometric chairs were two dozen dreamers, super-mods, and socials. The faded 200-year-old Iranian rug was slowly turning to dust. A large industrial steel coffee table hunkered low and bare. The shabby interior was a feature of the Inn, considered charming. Marto was too accustomed to it to find it charming. He wanted a breakfast bulb.

His feedback on the medieval writing villa received a response by its creator. Delamine « Tourea « Yasmine « Delphinia « Rosemarie « etc took issue with him at once. ["The sun isn't setting, it's rising,"] she thought-texted him from the Great Lakes tribe in Lakeshore. ["Though I am honored by your review,"] she added.

["There is a distinct difference in the feel, both in temperature and quality of light, between sunset and sunrise,"] Marto countered, ["I recommend revision there."]

After a gap, Delamine expressed her appreciation for his valuable feedback. She requested he try again after she had made changes.

["Also - what is with the clanking sound coming from downstairs? Is it a dungeon?"]

["My other visitors find it romantic, and exciting,"] Delamine returned. ["It has seen a bit of use, but I can remove it for you on your next visit."]

["Well, if you are after romance, I recommend it indeed be set to the end of the day, with the sun setting in the West. Put the window on the other side toward the setting sun. To show the coast, maybe add another window to the East, or move the whole construct to the West coastline. The incongruity was too distracting for me. I thank you, Del. While your new creation does not fit my current needs, I continue to be a fan. Until next time,"] Marto replied, signing off.

He appended his review with pleasant thoughts about the eagerness and expertise of the villa's author. He paused to accept a breakfast bulb from a member of his tribe.

Marto stayed, when he was not out roaming and writing, in Reverside on the Hudson. Located near the rebuilt Tappan Zee Bridge, it was a large tribal community encompassing the previously named towns of Irvington, Tarrytown, and Sleepy Hollow. He fancied himself a historian, in the classic sense, adding context and perspective to the ever present mountains of data. His followers knew him as a travel writer.

He published both as rich-thext and in English text, and his work was both re-thexted and translated by a growing number of fans. This made him a crossover celebrity with the Interconnected and Phobics alike. He had heard his work made it as far as the Neofeudal Hoarders of the mid-southwestern wastes. Marto regarded this as a high compliment, though it sometimes made him nervous.

The breakfast bulb was created by a local named Thirty/Fourteen, dreaming up dishes in the Inn's expansive kitchen. Marto held in his hand a round bud-vase shaped vegetal wrap filled with spicy sweet beans, a touch of pickled beets and a single chicken egg. It was a gift from Thirty, delivered by Dexter « Wendi « Maria « Martina « Amparo « etc. This particular breakfast bulb was known by Thirty to be one of Marto's favorites.

Marto rated both the breakfast and the delivery highly and decided on a walk around the town to digest. Outside the Lester Sunshine Inn, he paused and looked up at the morning sky. The hot summer weather was finally giving way to autumn, such as it was, and the air felt dry. Marto stood in what was once a circular driveway, now a slight impression in the sheep shorn grass.

The Inn crouched atop a gentle hill with a commanding view of the town and river. The great bridge was visible to the West, and the center of the town was a 15-minute walk to the North. Marto headed in that direction.

It was a lovely walk. The brisk air and quiet of the morning felt refreshing and rich. Marto passed groups of small cube-shaped dwellings staggered at angles along curving lanes. Various community members were waking up, exercising, stretching, and starting their day. At the end of Benedict Lane, a new home was being printed — signs of growth.

Suspending his usual intake of the day's news, he focused on the undistracted feeling of walking. The path beneath his feet was dark gray and smooth, comfortable even with bare feet, which was the custom in Reverside. The surface had a sheen, and it curved gently to the middle. Thinking about the benefit of roads and paths to his everyday life, Marto decided to give spontaneous Merit to the local road techs; Dizzy, Mem, Lacy, and Bryce.

He looked up and saw a group of children teasing apart a dandelion cube with bamboo poles. The impacts sent the photosynthetic seedlings into the air. Marto pictured the life of these tiny drones. Tiny and light, they would find updrafts, and suck up enough carbon and methane to drop back to earth. A lucky few would become the seed for a new cube. Dandelion cubes like this one would break apart on their own given time, but children in tribes everywhere loved to tease them apart as soon as they showed signs of sprouting. The children at this cube were singing a revised version of Frère Jaques out loud.

"Frère Jaques, Frère Jaques, Où êtes-vous? Où êtes-vous?

L'ouragan arrive - eh! L'ouragan arrive - eh!

Entrez-vous. Entrez-vous."

Following the path toward his home, he glanced at the top of the enormous blade farm in the north of Reverside. Recently reconstructed, its design was like many other vertical farms, but with an innovative feature keeping it safe from the frequent and violent storms. The entire 150 meter tall, 100 meter long, 200-hectare farm was able to collapse into the ground to protect itself during a hurricane or tornado. When exposed, it relied on natural sunlight from its glass sides supplemented by ceiling lamps. Like all modern farms, it was maintained by small robots, eliminating the need for wastefully high ceilings. The pride of Reverside sat on what used to be a school football field. Its author was Maxtor « Dorina « Georgina « Chari « Shandra « etc, known to all as Maxtor Uber G, of stratospheric Merit. His each and every wish was fulfilled before he ever had to think of it.

The leaves in the trees were shifting the morning light. Marto turned onto the path leading to his home. A two-story cube with a bed in the loft above, a low table and a series of cushions below. It was modest and cozy. He had been inhabiting it for a year and a half, living through the seasons after his last tour. By tomorrow night, he thought, this home will be inhabited by someone else.

Two gifts were waiting for him in gratitude for the launch of his new tour. One was a beautiful new cup, fired in the local kiln, brown, but with a sheen making it look like copper; the other, a pale blue wool and nano-mesh shirt. He sent thank yous and ratings. Marto joked with Yadael « Gisella « Seemi « Isha « Hester « etc, who left the shirt, mentioning his current one was an eyesore.

Lester Sunshine, born Lester Martin Chandler (1965 - 2033) moved from Stone Mountain, Georgia, in 1992 to establish this Inn at Tarrytown with a sizable and reluctant inheritance from his father, Lester Norman Chandler III (1923 - 1989), a veteran of both the Second World and Korean Wars [video compilation], who made his fortune importing and selling goods from the Philippines [geographical/historical blast]. Lester Martin, eager to leave his southern, patrilineal, homophobic past, legally changed his last name to Sunshine, thereby adding a bit of fun to the Inn’s name [audio sample]. Once established in his new home, Lester enjoyed the freedom and vigor of a refreshing variety of guests as they made their way to him from the cities of New York, Philadelphia, and Boston for weekends, weddings, and holidays. Soon, the Inn thrived as a destination for the artistic and creative. It was called ‘A Haven on the Hudson’ [from the 2002 HTML review] for the capitalist and poet alike.

- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, line 2

A blast of data interrupted Marto from his seat at Hemingway's tiny studio desk in the long lost Florida Keys. Contained within the raw stream was a collection of sea level measurements in the South China Seas during the twentieth century. He also saw numbers for strength and frequency of tornados in and around the Atlanta area from the same period. Marto wanted to reply with a query for context, but he surmised what had happened. A few days ago, he had adjusted the parameters of his personal algorithm in an attempt to broaden his connections to include voluntary-verbals as well as super-mods. Though necessary for his upcoming tour, this may have been premature. He threw up a hasty filter so his concentration wouldn't be broken by more raw data, and tried to continue writing.

Not all who visit the Lester Sunshine Inn are aware of its rich history and contributions to our society. It may seem odd to you that such an ordinary point on the map could have had such a profound impact on what we all now take for granted. If we look closer at this nexus in time and location, we can see a series of collisions of both people and ideas combining to create the underlying code of our current existence.

- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, line 3

The virtual Keys were comprehensively sourced. They were collected from memories and map data and compiled by a vast community of creators. In it, a visitor was able to roam from island to island and even get a little lost.

Giving up on his writing, for the time being, Marto left the circular tabs of the black Royal typewriter to walk back across the hallway to the main house. He stopped to pet one of the six-toed cats and grabbed a coffee from the kitchen. A stroll outside the grounds had him gazing at the Gulf. Seagulls swooped and called near a sign declaring "90 miles to Cuba." Key West was empty. Only a few wistful wanderers roamed from place to place, soaking in the bygone calm. Marto felt a creeping sadness and returned to the Waking.

He felt the ghost of the construct coffee fading in his mouth, and Marto decided he desperately wanted a real coffee, or something as close to it as possible. It was getting near lunch time and he noticed a desire pop up in his close vicinity. It was a new arrival named Nora « Jennifer « Susan « Barbara « Rose « etc, and Marto was glad she had figured out how to post a request. This was a good sign for her integration. He first flagged his own requested coffee as ["do not deliver"] to prevent an eager Merit seeker from bringing him a cup during his meeting. Then he headed to the local pantry to make two omelets and pick up four corn tortillas. Down the hill was a water station where he filled his new cup for Nora, who waited further on.

Closer to the river, the perplexed new arrival to the town sat staring at the river from her simple porch.

["I just can't get used to it. So many voices, so many desires. I have to block it out. I know it's rude."]

["I made an omelet and brought a wrap,"] Marto responded as gently as he could. ["I don't really know if it's something you like. Hopefully, with time you will get more comfortable with the upgrade. This is how we all get along here."]

They ate in silence. Marto blocked his communications in empathy with the new arrival.

["It was hard you know, for so long. But I managed. I survived. This doesn't seem real now."]

Marto looked at the muddy Hudson through the leaves. ["This is real, you know. It's all real."]

["But do you know what it means really? I mean, you people doze about and fantasize all day and do nothing but bring gifts and food to each other. It doesn't seem like reality. It seems like you are all drug addicts or members of a delusional commune or a cult."]

["Well, it's not really so simple. I think you know we frown on chemical addiction here, so if we seem like addicts, it must be our tendency to sit still while we work. As for the comparison to a commune or cult, we have no single charismatic leader and no single location. There is no particular belief system we all share, other than the system of Merit. As for the gifting..."] Marto could feel himself taking a defensive stance. He drew down her history again. ["Look, we know you've been through a lot. This is a big transition. Give it time."]

"But you just keep bringing me things!" She was shouting. "And it's so quiet here! Why don't you all say something?"

Marto paused. If she were anyone else, her Merit would suffer a severe drop. He composed himself.

["It's normal to feel like things are strange and out of balance. This is all new to you. Yes, we do things differently than you are used to. We gift and request rather than trade. You have adapted to thexting extremely well for a noob. When you are ready you can find ways to gift as well as receive. Right now you need to rest and adjust. Please try to limit your responses to thext. This was agreed."]

["You're all a bunch of fucking xombies!"] Nora thexted reflexively. Her eyes widened. ["I'm sorry. I didn't mean to... I guess I mean, I just don't get what is in it for you?"]

Marto explained the tribe had agreed to bring her in by consensus. They occasionally accepted selected outsiders in need, ready for interconnected life. The benefit to the tribe was new hands, new perspective, and numbers. Nora was quiet again after this exchange, and after sitting with her a while, he decided to leave her to digest the omelet and ideas. He headed back in the direction of the Sunshine Inn.

Halfway to the top was a pop-up cafe. A pot of real, actual coffee, a miracle in a cup was waiting for him as he relaxed again among familiar minds. Checking on the origin, he found it had been grown in a blade farm in North Adams, and roasted in Great Barrington. A sack had arrived at Reverside via a Merit-seeking fan of the community. It was a rare treat, and discussion was underway among the foodies of the tribe as to how it could be grown and or roasted locally. He drank a cupful, heaped praise on all involved, poured more into his coppery mug, and strolled back to the comfortable lounge at the Inn. ["There's nothing like an imminent departure,"] he thexted publicly, ["to help you appreciate the simple beauty of your home tribe."] These thoughts were met with cheerful approval.

Shortly he was back at Hemingway's desk, returning to his work.

Though no one person can claim responsibility for the demise of credit and the rise of Merit, Lester Sunshine is one of the few who cannot be denied his defining contributions. This is a subject of much discussion and debate, but it is this writer's humble opinion, without the Sunday Sunshine Clatch [image], our way of life would be impossible.

Though a few dozen articles on the end of accumulation and the extinction of quid pro quo were published by members of the Sunshine Clatch in the mid-aughts, they were roundly dismissed by the general public as communist drivel or the product of nontrivial quantities of cannabis smoke. It wasn't until a decade had passed that these principles were put into action by way of the Sunshine app and corresponding social network. By the time the barons of credit saw the danger, it was already too late to stop it. Besides which, the old world of banking and hoarding was already facing its own growing doom.

- The Wakeful Wanderer’s Guide, Ep. 6, lines 4 & 5

Marto stopped again to review. The word 'doom' pushed heavily into the paper like a dead rat. In the overgrown gardens below the writing room, Marto imagined a slew of dead rats, killed by the cats, or an inevitable disaster and, as he imagined it, it was. ["revert, save, escape"] he thought, and was back in the Sunshine.

"So you're the famous Marto."

She was tall and dark-skinned with bright green eyes and a spherical puff of sprouting green around her head. She was physically speaking to him, with words. Marto was taken aback for a moment, unaccustomed to someone talking aloud at the Inn, and tried to find his voice.

"I am ... Marto, um, I mean, I am ... he."

"I'm a fan of your writings. My aunt introduced them to me. I loved your book on the Great Lakes tribes."

Reflexively, Marto made a query as to her identity and got nothing. This made sense, as she was a talker. He blinked a bit and tried to re-engage his vocal cords to voice a response.

"You are ... a voluntary-verbal?"

"Mandatory," she responded, "though I can receive thext and information about the weather. I'm not a Phobic," she touched the side of her head behind her right ear, "I just like to stay mostly in the here and now."

"I am a voluntary myself. At home here, I thext, but in my travels, I often have occasion to speak aloud. Welcome."

Two of the lounging visitors to the Inn were staring at them, surprised. The silence of the room had been cut through by the sound of their voices, and it was, to them, as if lightning had struck the metal coffee table.

"What can I call you?"

"Helen," She said. "Forgive me for not reciting all my fore-mothers. Just Helen, if you don't mind."

"An archaic name," he blurted this out before thinking. Realizing this was rude, he checked his Merit for an incremental drop and remembered she was not rating him. The conversation was, so far, just between the two of them. Relieved and embarrassed, he continued, "much history in your name. A fine name."

"My grandmother's."

"Well, Helen « Somebody « Helen, etc what brings you to the famed Lester Sunshine Inn?"


This was strange. Why would anyone seek him out on foot?

"I don't know what to say," said Marto. "I am not hard to find. I'm not hard to thext. You say you are not phobic, but you have walked here from... where did you come from?"

"Livings-town, in The Jersey," said Helen.

"Okay, from The Jersey, 100 kilometers on foot to find me here why, exactly?" Marto was beginning to become alarmed. This young disconnected woman could be anyone, here for any reason. She could even have been sent by one of the greedy takers in the Neo-Feudal Enclaves.

His alarm was registering in the minds of his tribe. They became ready. Marto was too distracted to notice, but Helen saw it right away. The dreamers stirred. The loungers shifted their balance. Their eyes went dull and blank like the eyes of a frog watching a fly.

"Please tell your friends to calm down," Helen said with no small tinge of urgency. "I am not here to harm you. I have a message from your mother."


Marto is four. He is somewhere dry and flat. The sun is setting while he and his mom and dad eat pickled eggs. They look across the vast gray concrete expanse surrounding the huge metal box with a corner torn out of it. Marto has a fever, and his father, a handsome man with a light brown beard, says they are going back to live with his brother in Boston. His mother's hands are cool as they touch his forehead. She smells like his old bedroom, he thinks. Marto is happy to be with his parents, but even at his young age, he knows times are hard.

"There's your namesake, Marto," his mother says to him. "Sad to say we may not see one open again in our lifetimes. They were wonderful." Tears fall on Marto's arm and the rain begins again, the sky dark and yellow-gray.

["This isn't a game,"] he thought. ["This is a memory, but it feels real, like a construct. Where am I right now?"]


He opened his eyes and found himself once again in the Lester Sunshine Inn parlor, surrounded by the usual people, and the mysterious traveler all looking down at him. He was lying on the floor.

["You blinked out M,"] thexted LalaUbriay. ["what happened to you?"]

["I was following and you vanished?"] thexted Hanford-D.

["Do you need anything? Are you hurt?"] thexted SpongeyPooBear.

More chimed in, concerned and curious.

"You passed out," said Helen, reaching down to help him up. Suddenly her wrist was swept behind her, and her legs were forcibly bent at the knee taking her down hard. Her left hand was clasped behind her neck. She barely had time to gasp.

["I'm okay,"] Marto announced. ["I don't think she's an assassin."]

["Not your call M.,"] came Reyleena « Dorina « Silvia « Maritsa « etc, breaking in. ["Security algorithms dictate caution."]

Five tribal members rushed in with wet towels, cups of water, bandages, and medicines. Helen was gone and Marto was blocked from any information on the activities. He distractedly accepted treatment from his friends in a daze.

Several long minutes later, the danger past, the gifters gone, the occupants of the Lounge slipped back into their normal activities.

Normal « Gelty « Lydia « Martha « etc was working on a new design for miniature printer bots which connected to create large tidal energy collectors out of sand. Gavin « Theresa « Josepha « Nikkika « etc was working on a new game environment, taking place in the ocean, and could be used to guide submersible bots to build, reinforce, and reseed barrier reefs. Patti « Theresa « Josepha « Nikkika « etc, his bio-sister, was returning to a game set in the badlands where the enemy were Coally Rollers, riding their black smoke belching dune buggies, and the good guys were eagles. Dada « Paulina « Rina « Sarah « etc, a super-mod, was working on a new method of caravan automation. The lounge was a hotbed of creation, reflection, and recreation.

Among these indifferent dreamers, Marto was supremely disquieted and agitated by what had just transpired. He went back to Delamine's writing villa and stared out the eastern window at the sea.

150 miles south in New Atlantic, Barnabas Yoniver IV raised his head from a goggle-display on his desk and regarded the silent audience assembled in his enormous seaside office.

"She's in," he said.


updated: 2 weeks ago