Five Excerpts from Split Second Solution in Defense of Young People and that Challenge Rise of Authoritarianism in Our Times
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About Split Second Solution
It’s 2022. Word and X-it, both born in 2000, have been hunted since Word’s mother was murdered in 2008. They’re stuck in the Split Second between life and death when they land on the doorstep of a strange old crone. Along with Word and X-it you’ll meet Et, a creature from another galaxy who often appears as the old crone, and Death who likes to appear as Cat, Bat, Kiss, Gaga, and Bowie. Also in the story are Aisha and Jamaal, who are graffiti artists being hunted by Sick-Reapers and A.I. – artificial intelligence hostile to biological intelligence – running amok in New York City. Their survival depends on Death splitting time to save Word from the Sick Reapers who are searching for the mysterious box Word’s mother gave her just before she died. The magic of the Split Second Solution is that science and myth are combined to tell the truth. Word is the Last Truth Keeper, and by reading the story we just might save the world!
EXCERPT ONE: Split challenges our ideas about Life and Death.
Then came a new sound, as silent as dust falling or a last breath gently passing.
“Was it a trick?” the Old Crone asked, “Had the Sick-Reapers charged by the Lunatic Eight with finding and killing the last Truth Keeper also been ordered to find and kill her?”
After centuries of silence, someone or something was lying outside on the stone step . . .
“Are you deaf?” Death asked arriving abruptly with screams and cries and a fetid smell of rotting matter filling the room.
“Why are you here?” the Old Crone asked, knowing the answer before she asked the question. “Go away.”
“When someone knocks you’re supposed to open the door!” Death said, coughing as though she had swallowed a lot of water.
“What are you doing here?” the Old Crone asked again “and why are you amorphous? Show yourself! I don’t like it when you look like nothing at all.”
“Open the door!” Death rasped, appearing as a drowned cat coughing up minnows and river detritus. “Our future depends upon it!”
“Our future?” the Old Crone said, not at all impressed by Death’s theatric performance.
“Yes. Our future!” Death said. “You know that!” And then in a whisper, “There is no death without life, and all life will end if this one dies.”
“You’re the bane of my existence,” the Old Crone said shaking her head. “It’s dangerous. Think of the consequences – they could be cataclysmic.”
“Think?” Death said, her fur drying. “You’ve been thinking for five hundred years and I’m the one who jumped in the Hudson River and saved her.”
“What do you mean you saved her?” the Old Crone asked standing up, speaking quickly fearing the worst. “She didn’t drown in the river? She’s still alive? And you brought her here? She’s outside?” The Old Crone sat down on her chair. “I should have known,” she said, with a small shake of her head. “How I hate not seeing the future!”
“She had one second left,” Death said. “So I split it.” She looked defiantly at the Old Crone.
“She’s still in it – the split second,” Death said. “Whadyathink? Can you save her?”
EXCERPT TWO: Split merges fantasy with reality to urge young people to get ready for a future that many older adults refuse to admit is going to take place
“What happens next?” Cat whispered.
“Is that cat talking to you?” Aisha whispered to Word.
“No time for questions,” Word said, suddenly feeling responsible for Aisha and her boyfriend.
“When we get through the tunnel just watch me for – for –signals.”
“Okay,” Aisha whispered inching her way along the wall. “But I’m tellin’ you that cat can talk and your grandmother’s feet are floating three or four inches from the ground.”
“Better be quick,” X-it whispered. “The Sick-Reapers are behind us and closing in on the river walk –”
“From both directions,” Cat said. “From the George Washington Bridge and the Boat Basin.”
“Jamaal,” Aisha’s friend with the bicycle chain whispered, putting his hand on his heart as he addressed Cat. “My name is Jamaal.”
“How about that!” Cat mewed. “Death,” she whispered. “My name is Death. No one has introduced themselves to me before.”
“Of course it is,” Jamaal whispered, with a little chuckle. “Cool name for a cat.”
“No,” X-it whispered. “That’s who she is – Death.”
EXCERPT THREE: Split calls older people to wake up and support young people in the struggle that is ahead of them
“More military were arriving,” Word said. “High-ups – giving orders to search for a girl they thought might try to get on a bus. They had a photo of me and I thought I was going to die like my mother. But I remembered what she’d said. I was the last Truth Keeper and I had to keep whatever was in that package safe.”
“By then I had been cleared to board the bus we were lining up next to,” X-it said. “Soldiers were walking towards us and the woman (behind us) whispered to call her Grann and with her back to the soldiers she pulled an old yellow ‘Happy Mardi Gras’ t-shirt out of the plastic garbage bag she was carrying and gave it to Word.”
“I put it on over my clothes and it came almost to my knees,” Word said. “I remember it had a cartoon face with a Mardi Gras mask and a harlequin hat on it and I liked that.”
“The driver of the bus arrived,” X-it said. “And a soldier came up and gave him a list to check people getting on the bus.”
“‘Git!’ the woman said, giving us a push and putting some strands of beads over my head,” Word said. “Then she started crying and wringing her hands calling on God to help her because she’d been left with her grandchildren to look after.”
“It was brave of her,” X-it said. “So cool.”
“She whispered, ‘Remember I’m your Grann,’” Word said. “‘You’ve got the same mother but different fathers.’”
“We climbed on the bus and she started yelling and swearing that she needed help to get on,” X-it said, “and the bus driver gave her a hand. Then the soldier started swearing at the driver but by that time Grann was on the bus and moving down the aisle behind us.”
“Grann kept scolding us and telling us to keep moving,” Word said, “and when we were a couple of rows from the back of the bus she told us to sit down.”
“She dropped some plastic bags and a duffle bag on the seat behind us,” X-it said, “and she dumped the garbage sack on my lap. ‘Put this under your sister’s seat for Grann,’ she said, loud enough for those around us to hear.”
Word picked up the story her eyes wide open as if it was just happening. “‘Wait!’ Grann said. ‘I’m going to be cold’ and she opened the garbage sack on X-it’s lap and started pulling out damp smelly clothes until she found the t-shirt she wanted, and then she reached across and took my backpack and shoved it to the bottom of the garbage bag and started putting all the clothes back in the sack.”
“People were trying to get by and one man cursed at her and she cursed back and bending over further she shoved the garbage bag under the seat in front of me and standing up she looked around at the people now sitting around us and said, ‘Don’t like the smell of my washin’? Maybe you should git off the bus!’ And with that she sat down occupying two seats and making sure that nobody made a fuss.”
“Then,” X-it laughed, still impressed by what Grann did next, “she started swearing big time and bending forward she pulled a piece of paper off the bottom of her shoe. It was the list the soldier had given to the bus driver. She smoothed it out and swore again as – apparently by accident – she tore the list just where my name was written. Then she spat on her fingers and rubbed the paper as if trying to use spittle to glue it together. Then she got up and squeezing by the other people on the bus, upsetting many of them, she made her way to the front of the bus and gave the bus driver the almost unrecognizable list.”
“The bus driver thanked her!” Word said, laughing. “He hadn’t reported that he’d lost it. He was too frightened.”
“Grann told us later,” X-it said, “she knew he’d be grateful to her for giving him the list back – even if it was dirty, torn, and some names incomprehensible.”
“She also said that many of the people on the bus knew she was hiding us,” Word said. “Many of them knew her and she was revered by many in her community.”
“The people on the bus helped her protect us,” X-it said, agreeing with Word.
“We got stopped several times,” Word said, smiling, “and it was always a collaborative act of deception to save our lives.”
EXCERPT FOUR: The take-away from Split is that the human cost of the insane actions of oligarchs and the lunatic class is incalculable
Chapter Twenty Five
“It’s not good,” Cat said, her sores weeping. “When we leave the split second everything will take place in less time than it just took me to go from Cat to Bat and back again.” She coughed up another fur ball. “Et,” she said. “Forty five million centuries and all we’ll have left is a split second? If just one of us makes a mistake – me for instance or X-it – it will be like a giant asteroid hitting the planet. We’ll all be annihilated.”
“Instantaneously,” Et said, factually. “But it’ll be so quick you won’t know anything about it.”
“Oh that makes me feel a whole lot better!” Cat hissed, the mew gone. “I’m going to stay in my feline form even though I’ve almost no fur left.” She jumped up on Et’s lap.
“I might get a whole lot bigger,” Cat said, turning and looking up at Et. Black panther? Saber-tooth tiger? Whadyathink?
Et stroked Cat and her fur came back.
“I’ll be with you,” Et said, still stroking Cat. “This is the first time in forty five million centuries that a second has been split so it’s new for me too.”
Et gave Cat a quizzical look.
“Better move on quickly to 2022 then X-it will come back,” Cat said (returning to Word’s recounting of what had happened to her and X-it) avoiding Et’s gaze.
“In 2018 there were book purges,” Word said, missing the significance of the quizzical look. “Organized militias, mutants with the Ginger Tom’s insignia, in full riot gear with balaclavas and face shields, went street-by-street, building-by-building, and apartment-by-apartment, confiscating books and hauling them off to landfills. If anyone protested they were taken away. Rumor had it some people were shot.”
“‘The wrecking madness in the mind of man’,” Word said, “that’s what H.G. Wells called it.”
“I’m going to remember that,” Cat said.
“Great libraries of precious books were burned,” Word said, speaking quickly. “There were big bonfires in Central Park of the rare and irreplaceable books from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It took almost a week to burn all the books in the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Bryant Park. It took another week to burn the immense holdings of the Morgan Library, which ranged from Egyptian art to Renaissance paintings, illuminated, literary, and historical manuscripts, early printed books, and old master drawings and prints.”
“The Morgan also contained some of the earliest evidence of writing on the planet,” Et said. “Ancient seals, tablets, and papyrus fragments from Egypt and the Near East.”
“Like the ones tattooed on your body?” Cat asked.
“Yes,” Word said. “Some of the earliest evidence of writing still in existence was in the Morgan Library, but I think the very earliest evidence of a sign in the Universe is in the package my mother gave to me.”
“Is it safe?” Cat asked.
“Yes,” Word said. “It’s safe.”
“Where?” Cat asked. “What if someone has found it? And, if we only have a moment, how are we going to get it back?”
“Shhh!” Et said.
“People were hauled off if they kept books after the purge,” Word continued, not admitting she was also wondering how she was going to get the package when they left the split second. “The purge was not just the books it was really the stories books contained – the knowledge inside them. It was our collective memory, the fabulous human mind that was being exterminated – who we were, who we are, who we will be, everything we believe in. The dark side of men’s imagination was expunging it all.”
EXCERPT FIVE: Split uses fiction to raise awareness that the unexpected can happen and we should all prepare to act when the moment arrives
Chapter Twenty Five
“The Ginger Tom wanted people to be burned with their books because he’s a monster, while the Freaky Geek was a Truth Slayer. He wanted books eliminated because he’s obsessed with transcending biology by using neuro-technology to merge humans with the advanced computers he’s building.
“But then the unexpected happened,” Word said. “Young people stopped being spectators. Betrayed by their elders, who did nothing to stop the political masters and the Ginger Tom and the Freaky Geek, they began to organize, hold meetings, plan protests, and fight back. They used social media to spread the word – psychic contagion – literally at the speed of light.
“It was an extraordinary moment. Within twenty-four hours young people covered nearly every building in New York City with graffiti – identical copies of the pages of book – words and illustrations.
“It was a well-organized effort,” Word said her eyes sparkling. “The entire works of Shakespeare were written on the apartment buildings along West End Avenue. There were almost two million young people in the five boroughs and I would say over a million of them participated in making New York City a giant pop-up book.”
“Where’d they get the books?” Cat asked.
“X-it and I gave them the books we’d been hoarding,” Word said. “The location made it possible. Just above 79th Street there are so many routes – paths, roads, and river walks – to, in, and through Riverside Park. It made it easy for young people to come and get books.
“Many of them knew us you see. Since the time we arrived on the Upper West Side we’d been supporting book clubs, reading novels, participating in poetry slams. We met with many young people who shared their own writing. It was the way they rebelled.
“The reaction of the Ginger Tom and the Freaky Geek was swift and deadly. They shut down all the substations and Manhattan was paralyzed without electricity. Supermarket shelves were empty within days. Supply chains were disrupted. But the biggest problem and what transformed the lives of young people – all the people in New York City – was the very deliberate shutting down of the Internet and social media – that’s a whole other story that would take many split seconds to tell you. The city had become a bleak and dangerous place for young people, for everyone, especially kids.
“What’s important here is that young people knew what it was like to have books taken away, because their books had been taken away in schools,” Word said. “When there were schools for them to go to they did test prep hooked up to galvanic devices that monitored their emotions as they sat at the Freaky Geek’s computers being programmed all day,” Word said. “That’s another whole other story there isn’t time to tell – and yet it’s such an important part of what happened to us.
“We could sit here for hours while I tell you about the young people who we met on the Upper West Side who had come from all over the city,” Word said. “The word got out – excuse the pun – that a new civilization with books at the center was being created by young people who were rejecting the brutality of the political masters, the Ginger Tom and the Freaky Geek. The confiscation and elimination of books was years in the making and young people knew that life was being forced out of them. It was as if we were using books to conjure a new world into being that was magical and, and kind and filled with love,” Word said. She looked at Et.