Following a long break from the blog, I wrote this very short story about the nature of observing life and being observed as life and the impossibility of not doing both, if you do one.

Kinetic Still Life

He entered the mega-store on the trajectory that would most likely lead him unnoticed through the intricately shifting movement pattern of attention-hungry salespeople.  It was no easy feat and it had taken him several hours of quiet observation from beneath the marquis across the street to calculate correctly. He passed closely behind a fat man with thick glasses and only narrowly avoided the shifting, bobbing head of a pony-tailed girl who was especially aware of  guys passing through the store towards the console section. He made it and beheld with a passive excitement the shiny black surface of his prize: the Kinect motion sensing input device for Xbox 360.

He didn’t reach out and touch it. Merely beholding the perfectly black, square head with the silent, perfect eyes was enough. It stared back at him. It knew. Of all the looks you could get walking down a crowded street, this was the only look that saw. It was three perfectly round eyes that stared back, not in joy or sorrow, not with feeling or desire. They merely saw.

He grabbed a box and with a look of determination, he attempted to make it to the check-out unnoticed. This was impossible, of course. If you buy anything worth anything, they’ll notice. The girl with the ponytail cornered him and tried to sell him more things. She succeeded. Any observed movement caused ripples, any action provoked friction and friction creates more of life. She cornered him and talked to him with her blue eyes and perfume smell. She was a she and he was a he and suddenly that mattered. Suddenly it all mattered. Words bounced against him, her clear bright nail-polish on slim, tanned fingers moved the air causing ripples to softly wash up against his skin. Her white name tag danced on a slightly bouncing blue, silk shirt right where her heart would be. He was a he and she was a she and he liked her. She didn’t like him back, of course, but when he bought the things, she smiled. This was what he didn’t want but now there was no way around it. Only unobserved movement didn’t cause ripples and only unobserved movement was unimportant. The question was never if a tree falling unnoticed in the forest made a sound, it was simply if it mattered that it did.

He got home and hooked up the device. The bag with extra things was put in a closet and he tried to forget about them and her. He stood where the Kinect asked him and it calibrated its motion sensor device around him and he went through the tests obediently and patiently. It was accurate. When he moved his hand, it knew that he did and responded. When he took a step forward, it saw that too. It looked at him and saw everything. He thought again of the girl with the ponytail. In her look was the requirement to be seen and the desire to cause emotion and meaning. Looking at her made him look different and seeing him look different from looking at her changed the way she looked at him. Life moved life that moved life, ripples caused more ripples. The warmth and beauty of her flesh were in her eyes and demanded to be seen. In her smile was the desire to be beautiful and for him to see that she was. The desire to be liked was independent from the desire to have and so he was inevitably forced to like her unrequitedly. She stayed in front of him smiling and moving until he did. On him, she forced the desire for her movements and on him was forced the pain that would come from her absence. In her look was the inescapable ache of life; in the three black eyes of the Kinectic there was only the capability to observe. A step to the side and it responded, a wave of his hand and it saw that too. It would see everything that he did and had no look of its own with which to demand of him. What he did was seen and so it mattered but it caused no ripples and so it wasn’t life.

He brought the gun carefully to the temple and pulled the tricker.

He died.

It saw.

By Jeppe Grünberger