2054. The Historian
by The Egg Party
Interpod, Episode 91: Interview with Jxxx Nxxxx, Former Historian
Hello time bandits! Lazer Sound! This is Oscar SS from Interpod, the interstellar podcast about time. Episode 91! We’ve almost reached a tonne. What a journey it has been! To those who said the podcasting was a dead medium… well, maybe I am dead.
[ghost noise, evil cackle]
Whatever the case, I’m still broadcasting from my studio office, here, nestled inside the Interpod Asteroid which is orbiting around temporality. This is the third part in our series about stasis, a retrospective look at the people who use the technology, or were prior users, or those who just like to sleep. I’m joined by our guest...
[Star trek door noise]
Jxxx Nxxxx, part founder of the infamous Historians. Thanks for coming in Jxxx.
My pleasure. I just wanna say, recording this period, it’s a great idea. Thanks for the invitation, happy to be involved. I love talking about stasis, had fun with it back in the day.
Yes, suspended animation through stasis technology, one of the greatest innovations of the 21st century.
One hundred percent. I was involved in the early testing, back when the tech was still in early beta-development. If you promise confidentiality, I’m happy to oblige any question.
Absolutely, of that you have my guarantee. Not to forget, as usual, my trusty robot sidekick, Dictaphone, is working the sound desk. You can call him Dick.
Before we get into it, if you or any listener is unaware, Dick speaks the language of Shockjocular. His speech is composed entirely of radio sound effects. Dick says 'sup'. Alright, let’s get into it. When was the first time you used stasis?
13 years ago. I was 27.
Why did you decide to try it?
Escapism mostly. And medical reasons. I’ve had issues with insomnia all my life, ever since I was young. This condition was exacerbated by PTSD from my time in space. I reach the point where I almost forgot what sleep was. Each night I would drift off for an hour before waking in fright.
Kind of. Not the traditional kind. Dreams that were more confusing than scary. I would wake and not know where I was, who I was, what was happening. Kinda like escaping the dream of a stranger. This went on for a while. My mental health declined steadily. It got to the point where I was thinking about suicide on an hourly basis. Aside from this, I started researching a theoretical idea I wanted to test, one which required stasis. Do you know what PTBIS is?
Ahhh, Post-Traumatic Brain Injury Syndrome?
Yeah, I spend a good amount of time researching the brain. Most of our shows tend to intersect with the topic at some point.
Makes sense. For the listeners, PTBIS is the state which can follow a traumatic brain injury. It can last a day, weeks, even years. You have difficulty with cognition, concentration, judgment, even speaking and comprehension. A part of the cure is to drastically reduce external stimuli. You keep the person in a dark, quiet room, giving the brain more focus for repair. I thought that treatment could work for my PTSD, that stasis would give my brain an extended rest. Aside from this, really, visiting the stasis clinic was my last option for the insomnia. And there was a nice bit of insurance for my plans: if the theory didn’t pan out, the mental health treatments of the future might’ve improved. However it worked, I hoped to wake up in a time where I could sleep.
How bad was the insomnia?
It was real bad. I fluctuated between onset insomnia and maintenance insomnia, difficulty falling asleep and difficulty staying asleep. Oh god, I tried everything. Benzos, melatonin-Plus, zolpidem… god, don’t miss that one... eszopiclone, ramelteon, electro-CBD, suvorexant… I could go on. After getting back to Earth, the heavy use of these medications started causing hefty complications and side effects. Do you mind if I smoke?
Not at all, be welcome.
[sniff noise, bong gurgle noise]
Alcohol was the solution for a while. I started taking weekend trips to Vegas, doubling down with any dealer that would tolerate me. During my last trip to the desert, I drank to the point of blacking out. Next morning, I woke up in my car, passed out in the driveway. Coming to, I found a mess of scratches and grazes over my body. My left wrist was broken. No idea what happened. The cabin footage showed me climbing out of the window while sitting in the bar seat of the car. Luckily, the robotic auto slowed down, detecting a heavy object, me, leaving the window. It was not quick enough to avoid injury. I like to remind people that I was saved by a robot.
[crowd cheering, electrical noise, grunt noise, zap noise]
Sure Dick, we’ll talk more about robots soon. Yes, damn, sounds like you were lucky.
Yeah, that car was a good bot. Anyway, the event hit me hard. My rock bottom. I was a danger to myself and was too proud to get help. I didn’t want a psych admit on my record. In the end, instead of suicide, I decided to die temporarily.
A friend told me about the money that I could earn through the stasis trials. That was appealing, I'd blown most of my mine gambling. It pushed me over the edge, to finally make the decision to sign myself up.
Were you worried about leaving your family and friends behind?
My family was one of the reasons for doing it, a type of escapism. My relatives are hard work. I had the idea to show them that if I left, the world wouldn’t fall apart. They could sort their own crisises... crisise… crises? Yeah. Crises. But honestly Oscar, that’s all detail I want to go into about them.
[dum dum dum noise]
Sure. Dick also says... also sure.
Sure. So that was me, family issues, psychiatric issues, a classic runaway scenario. As for friends, that was the hardest part. I don’t think my best friend Lxxx has fully forgiven me. For sure. After I left her in the past.
I missed some big moments in her life.
Cool it, Dick. So where’d you go? Which clinic did you visit?
There were stasis trials being run at the Cxxxxxxxxx Cxxxxx for Sxxxx Dxxxxxxxx. I was a known outpatient, easier to get an application. They wanted to test stasis on many types of people. Lots applied. Getting paid to sleep? Sign me up! I had an advantage due to my space time. The lead doctor, Sxxxx, knew the importance of testing stasis on those who’d already travelled in space and I was given the green light. At my consultation, the clerk ran down the risks: death, brain death, brain damage, insomnia — I guess double insomnia for me — dissociation, psychosis. I panicked, backing out of my scheduled five year stint. Unwilling to lose me, the clinic offered a short-term stasis trial. I went in expecting to sleep 5 years. My first stasis ended up being 3 weeks long.
What was that first time like?
It changed me. I got a glimpse of what morning people talk about. I was reanimated and for the first time I felt truly rested. My friend Rxxxx describes it like, ‘god re-digesting you before shitting you out his perfect asshole, new and pure.”
Fart indeed. So, you did it again?
I was addicted after the first hit. I had some cash from, ahh, a compensation win and had the means to buy my own stasis pod. That first year I went to sleep five times, each session increasing in length. I began meeting others who were addicted to stasis. I could see it in their eyes, a certain calmness, like they were going at a different pace to the crowds. We called it out-of-phase; people existing outside the regular time dimension. I started hanging around with a few of them, ten of us at the start. We eventually synced our cycles, only waking together for the last month of the year.
Can you tell me what your average month was like when you started?
[Countdown clock starts, tick, tick, tick]
Alright. December 1st. I’d wake in the basement of the Private Library, the club that stored my stasis pod. I’d have a breakfast of eggs and then I would take any and all drugs, staying awake for the month. I’d rediscover the world, party heavily, disgrace myself at annual family gatherings, before sleeping the rest of the year away.
[Two shotgun noises, Countdown clock stops, alarm noise]
It was great. Ten years and I only lived one of them. Eventually I got real lost in stasis, though many of the impacts didn’t present till later. Mom always said, drug use, addiction, they make you selfish. When you’re in it heavy, nothing else really matters.
You don’t use stasis anymore?
No, I stopped using. Thing is, I wanted was to live on Mars. I could easily redo my mxxxxxx registration. With the time in stasis, I was only out of practice a year. But, I miss stasis sometimes. There’s this joke I have with Lxxx, when she asks about the period.
I still dream of sleep.
[Crickets noise, laugh track, cricket chirp noise]
That life, waking up and going… nuts. Boy-o. The words sleep, stasis, life, dream, all were mixed up. Jumbled in a blender. Man, I would wake up and spend the 30 days catching up on parties, drugs, drinks, books, partners, friends, food, shows, memes, technologies, all the news, life, and things in between. It was like I placed a huge funnel in my mouth on the 1st of December, condensed 11 months into a stack of endorphic pancakes, before loading them into the drug-fuelled feeding machine that was my brain.
When did you all start using the term Historian?
That’s what we called one another in the first years, straight away. Most wanted to see the future and were crazy. You could also call this madness creativity, if you were feeling generous. The name Historian, it’s reversed. It is in opposition of our theme ‘Always Forward’. Rxxxx used to say it well,
(Jxxx changes her voice to a gruff imitation of her friend)
I love the future because peace is there. JFK had it right. You investigate the past, you can find any conceivable act of horror done by a human. The future is a clean slate. I chase a poorly directed faith in humanity. History is dead. I step out of that world, I take a breather. What does the past matter? If the future doesn’t exist then I won’t wake, dead like everybody else. So be it. It’s me saying, yeah, humans, you’re a little fucked. But I think you’re taking wobbly steps forward!
[Clapping, recording of JFK saying ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’]
Oh, I’m happy with that imitation and sentiment. Dick, can you play an airhorn?
[Baaaw, baaw, baaaaaw, do’h noise, do’h noise, do’h noise]
Yeah, he really doesn’t like being told what to do, Dick finds it offensive.
Oh, okay. I’m sorry Dick. You’re not a trained monkey, say whatever you want.
Are you rich from the stasis gold rush?
Most of the Historians were rich, early players in the compound interest game. Before the laws changed that is. Being in stasis now is like prison, the money game pauses. I donated most of my wealth before I left Earth. There is this fine group called the Leafers, a charity based around the idea of ‘leaving the planet Earth better place you found it’. Donations are steady. Many leaving Earth still have great love for the planet.
Tell me about the Private Library.
Oh, memories, a special place that. Well, the Historians met in Detroit, at a club called the Private Library. It was this old brewery bought by one of the members, TEP. We installed the stasis pods, set up a secure power grid. Robotic guards patrolled the property, explaining to any interlopers that...
(Allison’s voice changes to sound robotic)
...EVENTS HAVE THE POTENTIAL TO BE PROGRAMMED UGLY.
Did… did you just modulate my voice?
Yeah, some sort of pay back for asking him to do the airhorn I guess.
[Baaaw, baaww, baaaaaaaw]
Well, alright Dick, we’re even. What was I saying? Oh right, the Private Library. It was amazing. We had a bar stocked with anything we needed, cushions, carpets, plants, music, pool table, peanut shell retrieving helper robots, swimming pool, theatre, a cat, a dog, everything really. The Private Library was a wild and comfortable place.
We chose Detroit as a joke — if we ended up in a dystopian future, the city would remain the same.
Can you tell me about the two stasis states?
Well, sure. Vitae and dépassé have moved into general lingo. So, a bit of a history lesson. For a long time, humans struggled to define true death. It took time to reach a majority consensus, especially in the cases of brain-dead patients. There are still some that say brain death is contentious. The first discovery of this state was by a pair of French scientists, Mollaret and Goulon. We borrowed two terms they used.
So, coma vitae?
That’s the first. Traditionally, an unconscious coma you can’t be woken from. You spend your life swimming in your own subconscious, unable to deal with the responsibility of a body. The machines beep but you don’t care. That was our description of waking life, the month of December.
[Barf sound, party popper noise]
Exactly. Brain Death. When your brain is just a collection of flickering electrical sparks. No more mind. That’s the term we used for stasis.
[Gun shot, snoring noise]
So, to clarify, in December I was in vitae. The rest of the year I was in dépassé. I lived this way through the double 40’s, up to ‘51. All the ritual, the terms, sound over thought, goofy. For time, all we did was party and think about these dumb things here... have a look at this.
[tattoo gun noise]
Oof, that sound.
Yeah, all the first Historians have this tattoo, four boxes tattooed along the left wrist. We had no leader, but there was this one guy who called himself The Egg Party. I never actually knew his real name. He wanted to be called Mr Party...
…that was never happening.
That makes sense, you must earn a name like that.
We called him TEP instead, he was the same guy who owned the Private Library. TEP was the first to have the boxes tattooed to his wrist. Way before stasis existed, he would write with pen on his skin every day, a goal for each box. Then at night he would tick them off. He also had trouble with sleep and significant depression. It was part his night-time ritual to ground himself, part solution for depression. It helped to keep his daily motivation, giving himself four simple tasks a day.
A type of Depression Action Plan?
Yeah, sort of like a DAP. It was his own take on the advice he was getting from therapy. Anyway, we were all inspired to get the tattoo. We called them our New Year’s Resolutions. Write four goals for the new year in a special pen that lasted on the skin through stasis. You’d wake up the following December able to read four things you failed to achieve. Anyway, Tep came up with a lot of this shit, simultaneously high no doubt. He was fun. But he disappeared a few years ago.
[Moaning sound, whip crack]
I think I get that one. You wanna hear more sex?
I mean, there was pleasure, sure, many different types. I could go through it, but it would be easier to just assumed most things were done and…
...you’re probably correct. What was more interesting to me was the new world to consider. I tell you, I could sit for long stretches of time in public, just quietly enjoying the future. It was crazy. Overwhelming for some. Many ‘...no, shit…’ moments. Those early hedonistic days were in response to that, the solution to the waves of bad news of the present was to get really messed up. There was always bit of good news to be found in the future, though my solution remained consistent.
Do you see any of the members anymore?
Not really, most drifted. I needed change, that’s for sure. After I moved to Mars I stopped using. My last stasis was between planets. I could barely manage it. I tried getting in one of those tight boxes again, turned into a cat with taped feet. I had to be pretty doped up to depart. Yeah, my days of stasis... and gambling are done. I have the occasional thought, the flare of craving, a hunger for proper sleep. Life gets in the way. I’m busy in Geodesie. Plus, I my insomnia is sorted. My stasis theory was accurate, it gave my brain the reset it needed.
Though, it took stopping stasis to realise this. As I said, I spent most of my non-stasis time in a state where I had little time for reflection, I was having too much fun. Anyway, it turned out that giving the brain rest is good for everyone. Somewhere in the Teens, around double ‘10 or so, when we started using smart phones for the first time and the sleep epidemic got bad, people forgot how good sleep is. Most people still haven’t grasped this fact.
One of the more underrated things, that is the general message from the other stasis users.
A neuroscientist of the early 21st century, Matthew Walker, said it well. Let me just look it up on my screen.
Here we are, ‘...when you think about it, sleep is an idiotic thing to do. If sleep does not provide a remarkable set of benefits, then it's the biggest mistake the evolutionary process has ever made."
[First bars of song Also sprach Zarathustra, chimp noise, thud noise, d’oh noise]
Preach it. So, what are the side effects from your stasis?
Dissociation for a while, that’s for sure. I had some weight gain, headaches, intermittent depression. All these things were manageable and mostly disappeared over time. There was probably more but it’s a pretty hard one to tell, working out your own mind puzzle. One unexpected side-effect of heavy stasis use was my claustrophobia I mentioned.
Ah, the cause of your new fear of stasis.
Interesting. I had a favour to ask you by the way, can you put me onto any other Historians?
Hmmm. You should talk to my friend Rxxxx. She’s still Earthside. Lemme give you her details.
She’s active and was an original. Send her an email, tell her that I said, ‘the antidote is the anti-joke’. Only...
(Allison pauses, clearing her throat)
...if you immediately call me and tell me what she says, soon as she replies.
[You’ve got mail recording, ooh noise]
Agreed. So Rxxxx still calls herself a Historian?
Yeah, though she takes the path more seriously. At the present, that is.
These days she calls herself the Proper Historian. I have her business card in my box of precious things. It’s an… excellent card, Rxxxx Zxxxxxx, Proper Historian, The Private Library. Last time I spoke to her, she said she remained curious about each new future, that she still enjoys it. She’s also patient enough to tell others about the past. But she shares my old difficulty with grasping reality. Her life is fictionalised, turned strange, as every year she catches up on her favourite series, Earth.
Does she have a favourite season so far? Do you?
I think she said ‘52. It changes, depends on if she’s drinking tea, coffee of whiskey. She won a good amount of scratch off an ex-partner that particular year. They had a bet that rat-tails wouldn’t become fashionable again. It was a reasonable guess. Personally, I’m glad rat-tails came back. ‘52 was a great year.
[Drums noise, grunt noise]
And my favourite year, the last one on Earth, I reckon. It was the last December after I had stopped stasis. I woke up feeling like I was ready to re-enter regular time. I felt capable and excited. I spent Christmas with my family, right before leaving the planet for Mars. I’ve never been around them like that, comfortable. Maybe it was because I was leaving them. I felt like I had ascended above their chaos, could’ve been due to the lingering disassociation. I spent the dinner just seeing the best in each of them. Then I drank until I was a different person.
2041. The first day I got outta stasis. I heard about the Storm of 41’. The city of Curiosity was gone, wiped out by the disaster. God, did I drink. The crash of the Able shuttle, the collapse of the US Martian city, the refugee crisis, the Russians, it was awful. My best friend, Lxxx, she was there, she fell right into it. She immediately changed form, used the skills she had practiced her whole life. I mean, she’s still a fucking dork. But many citizens of Geodesie can tell you how Lxxx saved their lives. Sorry, this part is tough…
[Boo hoo hoo noise]
It was a great tragedy Dick, Jesus. We can talk about something else if you want Jxxx.
No, no, it is okay. I’m getting to a point. This is one of my biggest regrets. I would’ve liked to have been on Mars, supporting her. Instead I lost myself to stasis and drugs. I missed a decade of her life. When I finally decided it was not for me, she still approved of my citizenship for Geodesie. She recommended me, got a rubber stamp. Saved my life. She’s a better friend than I. But... she gets it. Maybe I want her to read this interview, so she can get a bit more detail as to why I left the present. I have explained it to her, but extra context never hurts. We’d been through some shit together, I’ll tell you that for free.
You worked on the Ixxxxxxxxxxxx Sxxxx Sxxxxxx together, right?
Yeah, around the time it was decommissioned. Good riddance, that place was so old and gross.
Can I ask, do you think CASE were responsible for the Storm?
What, Christians Against Space Exploration? Those jokers? Maybe. Probably not. Takes a bit of intelligence, that, and I really think they are just a bunch of rabble rousers. All bluster. The thing is, I don’t need someone to blame. Lxxx might like someone to direct her anger at, but I want to move on, focus my energy on improving Geodesie.
Why did you decide to go back to space?
Well, I like it here and I’ve wanted to go back since my time on the Ixxxxxxxxxxxx Sxxxx Sxxxxxx. I just delayed it with stasis, that’s what I wanted to do in that moment. But I grew out of it. Not saying it is an immature thing to do, by the way, just needed something new. Now, here on Mars, life is difficult, but I am mostly happy. I spend a lot of time working hard on myself, keeping mentally and physically fit. Like with every life, every job, it’s all about the people around you. Geodes are the best. Plus, I’m learning Russian, getting to know that group of people. That’s been cool.
[Drago! recording, punching bag sound, boxing ring bell sound]
Have you heard of the Temples of Sleep?
Yeah, a bit, that new age stasis stuff, places modelled after the Private Library. Same principle I hear, using stasis for creative means. T.O.S. are in most major cities back on Earth, right? There’s one here in Geodesie, but it’s a bit tacky. I mean, it makes sense. Stasis is way more useful than for just space flight. Sounds like visitors go for more practical cycles these days. But a few are still using the title Historian…
Does that annoy you?
Why? Ain’t my future, they can do whatever they like. Plus, I quit. I still support stasis, all the ways people choose to use it. Take a winter off, a summer, whichever you prefer, whatever you like. Become a medical future-tourist like me. Or be an opportunist, get a bit of cash renting a room. TimeBnB is profitable if you live in the right city. There is no stress, humans are in great supply. Have a nap, do it. Like I said, no one sleeps enough anyway. I tell you what though...
(She slaps a hand on her knee)
...if I did still use stasis, there’s this casino in New Shanghai that sounds cool, apparently it has the first swimming pool of Mars! Save up a bit of cash from a few years of renting my joint out. I’d do that. Oh, I would get so drunk. Go off to the top diving board, high-jump in the gravity, do a bomb.
[whale song noice, splash sounds, nuclear bomb explosion noise]
But, yeah, my days of stasis and gambling are over. I’ve got a lot of work in Geodesie. I think me and Rxxxx diverge on the point, about hope for the future. Every person has their limited supply of hope, I need to Cultivate whatever I have left. Can’t do that while I’m snoozing. Anyway, long live Geodesie and thank Mir.
Thank Mir. And thanks for coming Jxxx, you’ve been great.
[Extended applause, cheering sounds]
That’s it for this week, maybe I’ll speak to you time bandits later. Dick?
[shotgun, barf, chomp noise]
Jeez Dick, they’re our listeners. Anyway, Oscar SS from Interpod, signing off!