03.14.2008

Gases and Things (an excerpt from the novel Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson)

The room contain a few dozen living human bodies, each one a big sack of guts and fluid so higly compressed that it will squirt for a few yards when pierced. Each one is built around an armature of 206 bones connected to each other by notoriously fault-prone joints that are given to obnoxious creaking, grinding, and popping noises when they are in other than pristine condition. This structure is draped with throbbing steak, inflated with clenching air sacks, and pierced by a Gordian sewer filled with burbling acid and compressed gas and asquirt with vile enzymes and solvents produced by the many dark, gamy nuggets of genetically programmed meat strung along its length. Slugst of dissolving food are forced down this sloppy labyrinth by serialized convulsions, decaying into gas, liquid, and solid matter which must all be regularly vented to the outside world lest the owner go toxic and drop dead. Spherical, gel-packed cameras swivel in mucus-greased ball joints. Infinite phalanxes of cilia beat back invading particles, encapsulate them in goo for later disposal. In each body a centrally located muscle flails away at an eternal, circulating torrent of pressurized gravy. And yes, despite all of this, not one of these bodies makes a single sound at any time during the sultan’s speech. It is a marvel that can only be explained by the power of the brain over body, and, in turn, by the power of cultural conditioning over the brain.

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One Response to “03.14.2008”

  1. Gross. And somehow captivating. You have to love the implications about cultural conditioning drawn from the control we exercise over our bodily functions. I wonder if there are societies where emitting strange sounds is not such a big deal? I’m sure there must be. Hmmm…now that would be a research project: “A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Societal Response to Spontaneous Human Gas.” I might have to do it.

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