My neighbor brought over some baby shoes the other day. They were pink and had glitter on the toes and sequined flowers on the sides. We cooed over them for a few minutes and I told her how much I appreciated the gift. After she left, I threw them in my bedroom closet with all the other baby junk I've been given over the past six months.
Six months ago, everyone in town started to ask about "my baby." I do not have a baby, I have never given birth or even been pregnant. I thought that I was being mistaken for someone else; I'm not particularly unique looking. Maybe some other short, dark haired and hazel-eyed girl gave birth recently. But I am shy by nature and southern by birth so I was too polite to say "you're wrong, you have the wrong person, I don't have a baby." I said things like "um, oh, ok?" Mostly because it must have been a case of mistaken identity.
People brought over baby clothes, a crib, a swing that plugs into the wall and jiggles, toys and shoes and diapers. A very weird situation to be in, for sure. But then, to put it plainly, things got weirder. I was in the grocery store, and the manager, a friendly older man, came up to me and asked about "my sweet little girl." He asked if she liked the different formula he had suggested and if I wanted more. I just smiled. When I got home, I found formula in my grocery bags and an almost empty can in my cabinet. I don't even remember putting it in my cart.
The thing is, everyone has been so nice to me, and the situation is just so odd that I started to go along with it. "How's the little darling today?" A neighbor would ask when I went to get the mail. "Oh, she's wonderful! Sleeping through the night," I'd answer.
Then a young woman that got coffee at the same place as me asked about a play date with her 9 month old and my then "5 month old." I sort of blew it off. Next time I saw her though, she talked about setting up another play date and how much fun our two "darlings" had. She showed me a picture on her phone. "Aren't they just precious in this picture? Your little girl has the most beautiful blue eyes! Her dress really makes them pop. I'll text this to you." I looked at the picture and saw a chubby baby in a red shirt and blue shorts. It had dark hair and dark eyes. It was the only baby in the picture.
I went home and opened my bedroom closet full of baby junk. I pulled out teddy bears and an unopened box with a changing table in it. I pulled out a shopping bag with new baby clothes. I dumped it out on my bed and looked through them. I found a light blue dress.
A few weeks ago, I decided to call my mom.
"Hello?" She answered.
"Mom? It's me," I said.
"Oh, Pearl, hi."
"How are you?" I asked. We don't talk often.
"I'm good, we're all good out here." She paused then asked "and how are you two doing?"
"Us...two?" I asked hesitantly.
"Now don't act like that, I know I haven't been in touch much but I do care about you and my grandbaby," she said sourly.
"I know mom. Oh, she's crying, I gotta go," I lied.
"Give Holly my love," she said and then hung up before I did.
The funny thing is, Breakfast at Tiffany's has been my favorite book since I was kid. I'd always thought Holly would be a great name for a kid I would eventually have.
I went into my room to put my phone down after my short conversation with my mom. The changing table and the crib were neatly set up by the window. I didn't do that. I'm sure I didn't. I walked over to the crib and looked inside. Nothing was there. I walked over to the changing table, then took a step back before I bumped my shin against one of the legs. Because I remembered that I had done that before. I looked down and saw a bruise on my shin. I know I hit it against the changing table, but I also know that they weren't in here before. I know it.
"How's Holly today?" My neighbor across the street asked. We were both out grabbing our mail.
"She's good, happy as ever," I said.
"I heard her screaming up a storm when you came home last night, I'd be surprised if you were able to get her to bed at all!"
"Once she lays down it usually doesn't take too long," I replied.
I went inside and looked through my mail. A bunch of junk, a few red envelopes. I put everything down on the kitchen counter and opened a cabinet to get out a cup. I heard some noises coming from my room. I paused and listened. I didn't hear anything for a minute so I grabbed the cup and got some water from the sink. I heard something over the sound of the tap. Holly must be awake.
I went into my room and looked down in the crib. Holly's stuffed elephant was in the crib. I reached down and picked it up. It was cute, no wonder someone got it for Holly. I put the elephant back down in the crib and brought the cup to my mouth to take a sip. I realized I was holding a baby bottle. Mom brain, I thought. Where did I put my cup down? But then I saw I was holding my cup. And I'm not a mom, what the fuck was I just thinking? I looked back over at the crib.
Why do I still have this crap in my room? I kicked the crib. Then I kicked it again, then again until the wood began to splinter. I pushed the changing table over on its side. I opened my closet and shoved in the pieces of the crib and any other baby related item I could find. I slammed the door closed. I can't keep this charade up, I decided. I can't go along with this nonsense anymore.
I went to get coffee this morning. I was so tired. I felt like I hadn't slept all night. The barista smiled at me. "Your kid keep you up?" She asked.
"No." I said firmly. Her smile wavered.
I sat down at a table to drink my coffee. Some woman walked up to me. She asked how I was doing, how my daughter was doing.
"I'm fine," I answered, and left it at that.
She sat down at the table and in a hushed and concerned voice, she asked me if I was experiencing any depression. She said that new mothers often feel like this.
"I'm not a new mother," I said.
A man came in and walked quickly up to the table. He bent down and whispered something in my ear. It didn't register at first.
"What?" I asked.
"You left your kid in her car seat in your car," he said again.
I jumped up and ran outside. I unlocked my car and opened the back seat. How could I be so stupid? How fucked up am I to leave my kid in the car? But nothing was there. No kid, no car seat. I drove home.
I sat on my bed and looked through the pictures on my phone. I looked at the picture of the chubby kid in the red shirt. I stared at it. Where is she? Where is Holly? There's only one kid in this picture but everyone else says that there are two. Chubs and my little Holly, bright blue eyes, blue dress. She does look so pretty in that blue dress. I do have a bit more to write, but Holly just started to cry. I need to go check on her.
I'm sorry, I'm not sure where else to post this but I have to tell someone.
My name is Elliott Grece. One year ago, my mother died after a long battle with cancer. It devastated our family as she had gone into remission twice before. But after the second time, it spread like a wildfire in her body. After she learned the cancer had come back, she was dead within four and a half months.
In her will, she left the house to my brother named Jacob and I, with a small note on the bottom.
It simply stated "Absolutely no renovations. Please", with the please being underlined. Our mother had always been quite a sentimental and spiritual person so this came as no surprise to either my brother and I. For a year, we fulfilled her wishes and just kept up basic maintenance on the house.
Her funeral was simple and small, like she would have wanted. A small wooden casket, buried in front of her favorite oak tree, in her favorite emerald green dress. Our father died several years before when Jacob and I were in our early teens, from a massive heart attack. He never was good about taking care of himself, but he loved us and mom more than anything.
She was laid to rest beside him.
The months came and went, and we began to find some problems with the house. The shingles on the roof needed replacing, the floor boards had rot, and on one particular spot on the wall, we heard beating and scratching. We believed a family of possums had made our home theirs.
More and more problems began to surface til eventually we had to go against her wishes and redo parts of the house. Her lawyer assured us that the wish for no renovations was not legally binding, so we were free to do as we wished.
We began as soon as we could, replacing tiles, shingles, boards and everything we possibly could. Then it came time to remove the possums. After a fairly quick, honestly not professional inspection, we determined the wall they took residence in was not a load bearing wall. Oddly enough, that entire section of wall seemed unnecessary, as it seemed to be built right in front of another wall. As we aimed the large sledge hammers, I still swear that drumming sound got a bit louder and a bit faster.
We swung them, connecting with the wall over and over again. Pieces of wood and old dust sprayed out. So much dust we eventually had to let it settle. When it cleared, we noticed something rather odd. Behind the first wall stood the 2nd, and on that wall was very solid, very old oak door. We checked on the other side of the wall in the other room, but saw no practical reason for it to be there.
I attempted to open it, but the handle would only jiggle. We figured it had been added some years before when it was built in the 1800's and simply covered up.
Attached to the front of the door was a small golden bowl, the inside lined with dozens of tiny bumps. Jacob being the idiot he is mumbled something about "We don't have time for this", and swung the sledge hammer at the door. But when it connected, there wasn't even a resounding bang. There was absolutely no noise at all. Despite my objections, he hit it a couple more times, only to have the same effect. Nothing.
I got a bit closer to it, tracing my finger on the inside of the bowl feeling the bumps. Suddenly I felt something sharp jab my finger as I recoiled back. A small drop of blood hit the bowl, but soaked into it like water on paper.
Like we slid a key into the lock, we heard the sudden turn of a deadbolt on the door.
With a quiet creak, the door slowly opened. I still can't believe what I saw, so please don't think I'm crazy when I tell you. Through the door stood the room we were standing in, but different. The boards we replaced were there, but there was no rot. White lace curtains hung over the windows, the room filled with natural light.
Our mother's furniture was there, without the wear. It looked almost brand new.
And finally we saw a woman go by, wearing a familiar green dress. I heard Jacob say breathlessly, "Mom...?" he took a step through the door and I followed.
She was cleaning and looked healthy. Her red hair was straightened, instead of being brittle and thin. Her skin had a healthy glow, instead of the paper thin ghastly white she had in her last days.
When she saw us, she burst into a smile. "Jacob! Elliott! I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were here!" and gave us quick hugs. "Your father will be here in a couple hours. He'll be thrilled to see you. Oh goodness, he loves his job but the man works crazy hours". She smiled brilliantly at us and dashed off to the kitchen saying, "Dinner will be ready in an hour! You know the drill, wash your hands!"
I turned to Jacob, his eyes locked onto the kitchen door.
"Jacob...Jacob!" He turned to me, tears in his eyes. "Elliott, this can't be real. This..."
And then we found ourselves laying on the floor of the old house. The light was gone, dust still lightly hanging in the air and back in front of us was the old oak door.
We left the house that night but we're returning soon. I'm not sure what to make of this. Jacob refuses to talk about it, and part of me is convinced I dreamed all of it. I'll keep you guys posted.
”Except Humans” and “Ⓔ" redirect here. For “Human Excpetionalism”, the philosophical belief in humans as uniquely significant in the universe, see Anthropocentirsm.
Excepting Humans, is qualifying phrase used to indicate that a statement is only true in the absence of Humans, or that Humans themselves are an exception to the statement. The phrase was first coined by High Technocrat Pohn Vorahk in 3640 SGC, and quickly embedded itself within the Galactic Standard Language. Excepting Humans is often shortened to a specific symbol, such as Ⓔ, for brevity. All species of the Galactic Fellowship adopted some variation of Excepting Humans into their communication by 3642 SGC and it continues to see usage in current media.
The phrase “Excepting Humans” is credited to High Technocrat Pohn Vorahk of the Unified Trji in the course of his work on his System of Predictive Psychosociology of all Species of the Galactic Fellowship. Vorahk had undertaken the project to be the Grand Opus of his reign as High Technocrat. Vorahk spent 45 cycles to compiling the psychological and sociological profiles of his own Trji and the other 98 member species of the Galactic Fellowship. These profiles were fed into a specialized AI that could then predict future behaviors for a given scenario. Preliminary testing of the resulting algorithms showed promise, scoring an average 52% accuracy in predicting individual behavior, 92% accuracy regarding developments of a species’ culture, and 76% accuracy in predicting changes in galactic relations. Having more comprehensive data regarding the scenario could improve those results even further in actual practice.
The project was interrupted by the introduction of the Humans as the 100th member species of the Galactic Fellowship in 3536 SGC, a little less than a cycle before the planned publication of the project. However, Vorahk was confident that he would need no more than an extra cycle to incorporate the Humans into his predictive algorithms. This would prove overly optimistic, and Vorahk would delay the publication of his project an additional seven times before finally publishing his report in 3640 SGC.
During those cycles, Vorahk found his algorithms plummeting in accuracy whenever even a single Human was involved in events. Attempts to rectify the issue included using Human-supplied psychological profiles, having other species submit independent estimates of Human behavior, and a complete rebuild of the algorithm AI. Even so, the highest accuracy the algorithm could deliver was a 7% accurate prediction when Humans were present in a scenario. Vorahk considered extending the project again, but could not under the heavy political pressure to deliver his Grand Opus before the onset advanced age. Vorahk reluctantly published the findings of his project, which remains a scientific touchstone in outlining the possibilities and limits of predictive modelling.
While the scientific community discussed the project’s findings and future avenues of research, the report became famous to the general public for the rather unique first annotation presented by the paper. After a title is chosen for the Grand Opus of a High Technocrat it may not be altered. This rule left Vorahk unable to amend his project to exclude Humans, as they were a species of the Galactic Fellowship at time of publication. This meant that due to the high standards of clarity needed in Trji scientific writing, nearly every piece of usable data would need to include a direct clarification that Humans were omitted from the proceedings. The result became known as “Annotation 1” or “Annotation Ⓔ”.
“1. Excepting the Human species from consideration. In the interest of concision and readability, this annotation will be repeated above all relevant statement that require this specification.”
Annotation 1 appears a total of 3177 times in the original report, and helped foster the perception of Humans as a mysterious and volatile species as they began to establish themselves in the Galactic Fellowship. Humans were largely pleased with this reputation, as the term “exceptional” often carries connotations of superiority.
Despite praise from the scientific community, Vorahk considered his Grand Opus a failure as the spread of Humans throughout the galaxy meant that his system would never see practical use. Vorahk would later become the second High Technocrat to refuse to step down from his position after reaching advanced age. Vorahk’s bitterness towards Humans and deteriorating mental health would lead directly to a declaration of war against Humanity over the colony of Ytis-Rev in 3659 SGC. Vorahk even claimed to have secretly perfected his predictive algorithms over the previous cycles and claimed that the United Trji held a 97% chance of total victory. While the proclamation raised the morale of his subjects, it was almost certainly either propaganda or one of Vorahk’s frequent delusions.
Support by the Trji populace for the conflict quickly diminished as the Unmatched Soldiery of the United Trji suffered extreme casualties in their skirmishes with the United Federation of Nations Stellar Navy. One cycle after declaring hostilities, Vorahk would become the third High Technocrat to be deposed while still holding office. Famously, a minor clause included in the terms of the peace treaty required the armed forces of the Trji to be renamed to the UnmatchedⒺ Soldiery of the United Trji.
Even with contributions by Human psychologists and sociologists, the ability for Humans to defy all predictive behavior models remains a serious obstacle to that field of study. Humans also continue to find themselves at the center of the majority of cultural and technological innovations since their inclusion in the Galactic Fellowship. While the “exceptional” nature of Humans remains a staple of folk wisdom, experts from a wide range of disciplines have attempted to offer theories on why the trend exists. As what exactly identifies Humans as “exceptional” tends to be subjective, nearly every species has its own interpretation of how Humans continue to surprise or subvert expectation.
The most current and well-developed theory regarding Ⓔ is put forward by xenopsychologist Dies-Without-Wonder. Having lived among Humans for 17 cycles, Dies-Without-Wonder concluded that the key to Ⓔ lied within Human patterns of socialization rather than any inherent mystery of the Human mind.
“Humans exist on a standard deviation bell curve, the same as any other species. In terms of temperament, they are actually very close to the galactic mean on a great many personality indexes. However, where individuals of most species attempt to move towards the ‘happy median’ of whatever social group they are a part of, Humans will embrace whatever makes them stand out from the masses around them. They even have a term, ‘counterculture’, for those whose identity revolves around opposing mainstream cultural norms. Humans make shifts in their behavior and self-image constantly as they move between social groups. I believe that Humans will always be exceptional, as that’s just how they want to be. Part of our Fellowship, but distinguished within it.”
The HOA I have is near useless and instead of fighting for them to do the actual work, I decided to do it myself. It costs me around 400$ for the dirt, piping, water basin, seed, hay, mulch and plants. Let me know what you think! :) Took about 150 man hours between my dad, my girlfriend and I.
I took 2 pics at 2 different time of the Arch De Triomphe in Paris and merged them together to create this half day/night aerial view.
The Hill, Pen and Ink, 12x12cm