Loddi Frisket is a black hole of neuroses. His very existence centres on an unstable singularity, which sucks in anxieties, crises, and the most outlandishly negative possibilities. From prior experience I can attest that his event horizon fluctuates around a diameter of approximately 15 metres. Sometimes the emotional debris which gathers on his accretion disk is an accurate enough warning that I can reverse course, and get away before his attention fixes on me. Sometimes it is not enough.
To give you a sense of just what I am dealing with, Loddi once asked me if I would rather lose my heart (and dignity) to a psychopathic baker, or flee the civilized world, giving up everything from clean pillow shams to NutriPills, only to waste away in boondocks replete with SABs1 and smugglers.
In my humble opinion, the baker of Loddi’s bipolar love was not psychopathic (I still buy rolls there), but merely possessed of poor judgement, seeing as she countenanced his Gothic style of flirting in the first place. Furthermore, it is well known that the Carwallian smugglers (the only smugglers within 50 lightyears to whom Loddi could have possibly been referring) live very well in their off-planet colonies, though the latter are admittedly remote places. Politics may be laissez-faire over in the Esten Economic Zone but they still don’t want blatant crime polluting the fine views and real estate values of the elite.
I am forced to consider all sorts of stupid things like this whenever I see my distant cousin, and it is frankly unclear to me why my es-father sees value in reconnecting with that branch of the family2.
However, this is a biennial day of Conditional Leave for the Promotion of Family Connections; given the opportunity to forgo work it is my policy always to capitalize, even if the only way to do so is to attend family gatherings with people I normally avoid. It is too bad that I see my parents and grandmother on what qualifies as a “regular basis” (see the ISWO Regulations, 3021.(1).(c),(d)3), such that I can’t get the day off simply to see them.
Before any accusations of “a lack of family feeling” start flying, I am not the only one who thinks this way. An especially pro-family administration of days past converted two statutory holidays into Conditional Leave for the Promotion of Family Connections (CLPFC), initially envisioning the CLPFC option as a cost-savings measure, as some individuals would not go see their families even if given a day off for that purpose; then employers would not have to cover the cost of everyone taking a statutory, and at least some people would spend time with family.
There was an unintended consequence, however, of making the holiday conditional on seeing family that you did not otherwise see on a “regular basis”. This provided the incentive for a small but significant portion of the target population to reduce the time they regularly spent with family members, just so that they could get time off to see those very same people.
The Loidial Economic Watchdog (LEW) declared this policy a wash – with an endnote to the effect that, if one factored in the added regulations and trouble of keeping the rules straight, it was most certainly a net loss to society. No doubt that point was forced into the endnotes by the overzealous powers-that-were.
This is why one should never elect a governing body that is remarkably pro-anything.
Upon arriving at this particular family gathering I slipped away from my parents, who clearly intended to mingle, and, not seeing any of my siblings, I headed for a bench on the far side of the plaza, which looked delightfully lonely. This proved to be a miscalculation. Distracted by the improbable sky overhead, I should have found a safe, hidden spot to be critical, derisive, and faintly nauseous. The bench, albeit unoccupied, was unfortunately in plain view, with nary a lamppost nor a tree for cover. I had not sat down two minutes to process my surroundings before I heard a loud huff – and there was Loddi to my left, and I was sucked in.
“Do you know what they’re doing?!”
Not one for pleasantries (the emptiness of which irritates me at times, but I would have welcomed them now) Loddi launched directly into agitations over his Meteor Club’s4 intent to enforce membership payments, which he called outrageous rather than good business sense. Did they not understand what this would do to his chances of finding his essence-mate? Did they not understand that paying for matching services simply ruined the experience for some people?
Surely there was some way to tune Loddi into background noise, and I just hadn’t found it yet. I sadly plucked a spritzwater from the tray gliding past. Taking a sip and briefly, blissfully closing my eyes, I wondered who had had the bad taste to pick a VR that, in trying to deliver beauties that nature never attained (for good reason), boggled the mind. Guests milled about a monstrous, round plaza in the middle of nowhere, situated at the edge of a range of hilltops overlooking a sunny valley before me, with mountains fading blue into twilight behind. I grew dizzy simply glancing around. Blue skies of morning looked down upon a valley floor that stretched seemingly unto the horizon, carpeted with long, yellowing grasses and trees whose flowers were turning to fruit, the glint of a river in the distance. Yet the roots of the mountains on the other side of the plaza were dotted by spring’s pale blossoms, and one could see the first, faint star of the night.
The plaza in between was no better, its fanciful Unaran fountain at odds with the broad and simple paving stones. We were populating a child’s notion of a town square deposited at the edge of the world, pink and purple meeting blue in a great, imperfectly blended seam down the middle of the sky. Who continued to maintain such a ridiculous VR?
While I have been told that my desire for sensibility and consistency borders on the pathological (just not by anyone I actually respect5), I didn’t understand why no one else seemed bothered by the surroundings.
“…but he didn’t truly appreciate me, you see? So here I am, on the lookout again. He liked anchovies. Who has even heard of an anchovy?
“Anyway, if you have anyone in mind who I could use as my new muse, let me know. Things are positively horrid. I’ve had a cough ever since I had to get rid of him.” As if to demonstrate, Loddi sniffled. “For all I know he’s poisoned my water recovery tank and is waiting for me to die. No doubt he couldn’t stand being cast off. People of his type just don’t get art6.”
There must be an eye of calm hidden somewhere in the storm that is Loddi. No being could survive for as long as he has without some small place, some toehold, inured against all the stresses and derangement of his outer appearance.
“The Bashallians have my number,” he confided, triggering my mental gag reflex. “They want to know where I got my creative gifts. I told them that it definitely wasn’t my mother –”
I perked up at the sound of feet approaching. But all my hopes of relief (and even escape!) roused by those footsteps would soon seem like local maxima of irony.
1Substance Abusers: a blanket term.
2All right, not so much unclear as unfortunate. My es-father loves to take these opportunities to have a few drinks and confess (over, and over again) that he was in kitten-love with a Frisket cousin of his for the first two decades of his life; everyone, including the cousin, has experienced the same faux-sheepful display for years on end, but she still blushes every time and allows him to get her a drink for the sake of “starry-eyed times”. For some reason my os-father finds this more amusing than anything.
33021 (1) An individual who engages at least 20% of their day-hours in an eligible method of contact including speech, VR, and/or in-person meeting with a group consisting of (a) at minimum 60% relations-by-family, not including the individual, or
(b) at minimum 80% relations-by-family and friends of relations, not including the individual
of which at least 50% of said group do not have contact with the individual on a regular basis, where ‘regular basis’ consists of
(c) speech, VR, or similar contact on a thrice-monthly basis or higher when averaged over the previous OELY
(d) in-person contact on a one-and-a-half-times-monthly basis or higher when averaged over the previous OELY
shall be eligible for full-day Conditional Leave for the Promotion of Family Connections on those biennial dates of the current year specified by the Minister of the LoidialIndividual and Societal Welfare Office (ISWO).
4The absolute worst kind of “here today, gone tomorrow” dating network.
5 e.g. A right tosser of a neuro-epidemiologist; I ditched him and had the common sense not to get another.
6I have the misfortune of knowing that, to Loddi, “art” consists of intermittent, hair-raising static thrown together with blobs of paint in zero gravity.