The Factory, 2

(previously, part 1)

Magnus felt faint.  He gripped the doorframe for support, stumbling against his own booted feet.

“Close the door and sit,” said the woman. Magnus absently reached for the door, unable to take his eyes off the foreman’s body in front of him, his hands fumbling against air.  “Jesus, just sit down,” she barked, stomping over to close the door herself.

Magnus found his way to the chair across from the foreman’s desk and fell into it. The air smelled of iron and made his eyes water.

The woman eyed him carefully as she closed the door and began to circle around the room. She was careful to keep her feet clear of the expanding pool of blood which threatened to cover every square inch of the office floor, and even more careful to keep a healthy distance between Magnus and herself.

Magnus swallowed hard and found his voice. “What…what is this? What have you done?”

The woman had returned to her place in the shadows behind the foreman.

“Where is it?” she asked, as if he’d not spoken at all.

“You’ve killed the foreman. My god, you’ve killed…”

She didn’t let him finish. “We don’t have much time. Where is it?”

We? His eyes growing thick with tears, Magnus struggled to meet her gaze. Her pointed nose drew his focus upward and there he found them again – eyes as dark as night, betraying no emotion. The eyes of a killer.

“Where is WHAT?” he asked, his voice cracking as the words escaped louder than he’d intended. The shock was beginning to wear off and in its place Magnus was left consumed with frustration, confusion, and debilitating fear.

“The machine.”

The machine?

How would she not know?

Magnus rubbed his eyes to clarity and examined the woman’s overalls again. Her shoulders were covered in insignia that identified her as a second-class apprentice engineer from level eight, but her patches didn’t appear to be sewn-on. He considered that they were simply painted in place to mimic true patches. They were close enough to fool anyone from a distance of a few feet, but clearly were not standard issue.

“Who are you?” Magnus asked. He doubted that the blood-spattered ID badge dangling at her waist was legitimate.

The woman had begun to visibly perspire, her forehead glistening as she moved beneath the dangling lightbulb overhead. “I’m going to ask you one last time. Where is it?”

Magnus looked down to his feet. He lifted his boots against the approaching red tide and rested them on the feet of his chair, his legs shaking.  This was not a day he’d seen coming, but one that he’d always feared.

“You’re a Lifter,” he concluded.

“And you are Magnus, keeper of the machine. Take me to it. Now.”

“I cannot.”

“You cannot? Or will not?”

“I cannot.”

“And why is that?”

“Because,” he began, his voice growing more confident, “you will be dead before you leave this office.”

The woman laughed at this, and seemed to consider his words for a time before her smile evaporated and her face grew dark again. A bead of sweat had formed at her temple and had found its way down to the edge of her chin.

“Get up,” she said. “We’re going.”

“You will not,” said Magnus.

His words were free of malice and he spoke them carefully.  Deliberately.

The dark eyed woman opened her mouth as if to speak, but abruptly lurched forward, losing her balance and throwing a hand on the desk for support. The desk was slick with the foreman’s blood and her hand slipped, carrying her body down to the floor below in a heap.

She struggled to form words but couldn’t manage more than a single moan as her body writhed and struggled against itself.

After a moment her movements grew slower and she’d stopped trying to speak. Magnus sat frozen and watched with morbid curiosity until, finally, she exhaled one last time with a breath as deep as any he’d ever heard.

Magnus winced.

Taking a handkerchief from inside his vest pocket, he dabbed at a thin film of sweat that had begun to form across his own brow.

He looked from the woman to the foreman and back again, trying to make sense of it all. This would change everything. He’d only hoped that the factory was ready for what was to come.

The Factory

Magnus had slaved away at the machine for seven years. Greasing gears. Replacing tubes. Regulating the flow of steam. He had come to know its strengths. Its weaknesses. Its propensity for failure on the hottest days of summer.

Though the foreman would be loathe to admit it, Magnus kept the factory running. Few could bear to be within the belly of this mechanical beast for more than a few minutes at a time. Fewer still understood the complex movements and delicate maintenance that underlied its functions. Just the same, this was home.

The clatter and vibrations from the machine were the closest thing to a heartbeat he had felt in ages. Glancing forlornly through the small, single-paned window of his maintenance office, Magnus saw the first of Winter’s snowfall begin to blanket the forest just beyond the factory’s border. Wisps of steam rose through low smokestacks peppered throughout the factory grounds, quickly consuming the fresh snow before it could coat the dull gray concrete buildings that extended as far as Magnus could see through his tiny window against an unrelatable, alien world.

The machine belonged to him as much as he belonged to it. A youth filled with isolation and a string of infrequent, failed adult friendships had taught Magnus his place in the world. Life was one way and he was another. He had made his peace with it. He wasn’t thriving, exactly, but he was living. He was satisfied. He didn’t know any different.

The phone on his desk rang, stirring Magnus from his stolen gaze through the frosted window. The phone never rang. He drew a sharp breath and picked up the receiver.

“Y…yes?” He asked, cautiously.

“Magnus…” a strained voice called.

The foreman.

“Yes?”

Silence.

His brow furrowed, Magnus called the foreman’s name but received no reply.

Again. Nothing.

He replaced the receiver and cast a confused glance at the machine. It was working smoothly; the gauges he could see from his desk were all showing normal.

Pausing to take a deep breath, Magnus rose and walked toward his office door. With one quick look back at the machine, he turned the handle and stepped through into the dimly-lit hallway beyond. The foreman’s office was a twenty minute walk away and Magnus hadn’t been there in months. He was rarely called upon or needed for anything beyond his daily maintenance of the machine.

The phone call was an anomaly – a wild flag of disharmony in an otherwise routine day. His curiosity piqued, Magnus began his journey toward the foreman’s office.

Arriving at the foreman’s closed, nondescript office door, Magnus cast furtive, curious glances down the hallway in either direction. No one was here. The hallway stood empty and silent, save for the irregular hum of the flickering lights strung up along its length to distribute the machine’s largesse to dark corridors throughout the factory.

Magnus carefully cleared his throat, formed a fist, and rapped it slowly yet firmly against the door. Three knocks.

Silence.

Another two.

Magnus tried the door handle. His grip firm and palms sweaty, a twist of the handle begat an audible “click” and the door began to swing open against the squeaking protests of an unoiled hinge.

The scene that greeted him was as unwelcome as it was unexpected.

The foreman sat at his chair slumped over his desk, a narrow metal hilt rising from his back. It looked like a letter opener but amidst the shock of it all details seemed trifling.

A pool of blood surrounded the desk, filling the air with a metallic twinge. Magnus felt his mouth fill with bile.

Movement in the shadows drew his attention. A woman, not much shorter or older than Magnus himself, dressed in the gray overalls of those that worked the factory floor, stepped into the light.

Her hair was as dark as night, pulled into a ponytail while errant escaped streaks of blackness framed her face. Her eyes were unreadable, soulless pools of infinity that took away the flickering lamplight and gave nothing back. Her features were sharp and unmistakable. This was a face Magnus would never forget. Could never forget.

She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

Clearing her throat, the woman spoke, her voice firm.

“You must be Magnus,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

(continued)

Being happy.

My ideas about what it means to be happy and how you get there keep changing. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’ve also been sleeping horribly lately, so I’ve had some time on my hands.

Your upbringing, your genes, and your overall body chemistry play a big part of who you are and how your head works. Most of that is just hands-off immutable stuff without a doctor or therapist in the picture. But for everything they can’t touch, there’s plenty that you can. (Whether you think so or not.) That’s where you can focus if you’re trying to change things.

Change can mean lots of things, too. Whatever you think will make you happy is probably what will. You won’t always be right. It’ll take a lifetime of trial and error to figure it out. It might even take talking to someone to help you think things through. Maybe if you started working out that would make you happy. Maybe getting married would do it. Maybe a different job. Who knows. Everybody’s got different motivations.

I believe you can fundamentally change who you are for the better, but I also believe it’s super hard to do. There’s a reason people say “People don’t change,” and while I don’t think that’s true for everyone, I do think changing yourself and who you are can really be difficult. I have guesses about how to make it happen, but I think it mostly boils down to time, dedication, and influence. Mostly influence.

You can devote time and dedicate yourself to a task. Anyone can do that; it just takes focus. Influence is a much less concrete concept and influence is everything.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

– Mark Twain

That quote kind of gets at what I’m thinking of.

Our interactions with others influence everything that we do and everything that we are, and that only gets truer as we get farther and farther away from where we started in life. Over time our own perceptions and behaviors are all increasingly tied to the people that we’ve chosen to let into our lives (and some that we haven’t).

Environment plays a part, but the people that make you laugh, make you cry, make you worry, make you indifferent…everyone you interact with, no matter how briefly, can shape who you are.

Maybe you’re like…buying a hot dog from a guy with a mean face, but he shows you incredible kindness. Two for the price of one. No questions asked, just here ya go. Free dog just because. Or maybe your eyes are puffy and red when you ask for extra onions and he notices and takes a minute to ask if you’re okay. Suddenly everyone you run into with mean faces will seem a little bit nicer. Or maybe just hot dog sellers will. Or both.

Maybe it’s enough to just work really hard to get to a spot in your life where you “feel happy” and then just go it alone. Find a nice quiet place out in the woods somewhere – some little secluded shack on the edge of a lake, surrounded by forest and bothered by no one. Maybe with a dog. Definitely with a reading list. It sounds great, but it won’t be for long.

Humans are social creatures. Without regular interaction with others, we just lose our shit. Even though solo mountaineers and sailors manage to do it for brief periods, socially isolating your brain is risky.

People are always changing. Your own concept of happiness and what’s important to you will continue to evolve and change with every passing day with or without human interaction.

The truth is that this constant cycle of learning about ourselves, about each other, and about what really motivates our own happiness will only end when we die. It’s a constant thing to chase happiness, find people who inspire and lift you up, and mold your life around it all. I guess that’s what we’re all looking for.

Surround yourself with the people, ideas, and things that have the capacity and the ability to make you happy. Do that as much as you can.

Tell the people who touch you that you appreciate them. Tell them you love them. None of them are perfect, but their good parts will rub off on you and will stay with you, hopefully pushing you to make others feel the way they’ve made you feel.

Cultivate the ideas that make you smile and follow their lead. Write silly things. Read books. Write books. Find people who share your opinions and realize that for all you’ve got in common you’re a pretty diverse crowd with a lot to learn from each other.

Don’t discount the importance of having “things,” because they can help you find your happy. Don’t just watch TV. Look at it for the content delivery box that it is, and take time to appreciate all the emotions and insights into the world that it’s brought you. Don’t just ride in cars. Look at them as remarkably engineered transportation devices that can carry you to meet friends old and new.

We’re all just motes of light, flitting through time, meeting others and changing hues along the way. Try to be as colorful as you can.

Above & Beyond Acoustic

Last year dance music trio Above & Beyond took a few of their EDM hits and turned them into ethereal acoustic versions.

They performed acoustic sets a few nights at London’s Porchester Hall, and then two nights in Los Angeles at The Greek Theater.

Last October I dragged Tammy to The Greek in LA to see them live and it was pretty freaking amazing. Non-stop goosebumps. Skrillex even came out to play bass on Black Room Boy.

Anyway, they made an HD recording of their London performance available on YouTube (1080p!), and even if you’ve never heard the originals, it’s just great music.

You can buy the music here.

Kaskade in 360 video at @XSLasVegas

If you don’t count Circlevision from Disneyland back in the 80s, I’d never seen a real 360 degree video before today!

XS is my favorite club in Vegas. It’s huge, beautiful, they keep the riff-raff out, and most importantly – they spend crazy money to get big-name DJs in all the time.

Here’s Kaskade playing Halloween 2013 at XS in 360 degrees. Fire it up, go full screen, and drag your mouse around the video for the full experience.

Kaskade @XSlasvegas 10-31-2013

The resolution’s not great, but you get the idea.

I’ll be back in Vegas in January for NMX and CES. Might have to hit XS again!

Or I might just go to bed right after dinner.

I’m old.

Goofy Cancer Makeovers

This is wonderful.

“20 cancer patients participated in a unique makeover experience. They were invited to a studio. Their hair and makeup were completely redone. During the transformation, they were asked to keep their eyes shut. A photographer then immortalized the moment they opened their eyes. This discovery allowed them to forget their illness, IF ONLY FOR A SECOND.”