Who Cares For The Dead?


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whether hours passed or days, Callum was uncertain. So overwhelmed was his fastidiously organized brain with the realisation, that sensory information reaching it was more or less ignored, as he struggled in vain to understand the magnitude of his error. Had he wasted everything in his search to understand? Could anything be salvaged from the car crash that his life so suddenly had become? Would he be able to learn, so late in life, to interact with people so effortlessly, as other humans seemed to? So accustomed was he to conversation being a tool for extracting information that he never dwelled on the possibility of there being any other motivation - at least for him. He understood that conversation was important for forming bonds, but he had only ever really considered the means, not the end; The only bond he had forged was with his data.

By the time Callum was able once again to stand up, to observe his environment, he felt sure that so much time had passed there would be no one left who remembered him anyway, so he was surprised upon switching on the TV to find that it had been only a few hours since the revelation. The TV was a long-standing source of confusion for Callum - he had bought it some years ago when he realised that much of peoples' conversations revolved around things that were either specifically made for TV, or reported on by one of the many news programmes. He had felt he was missing out on vital information by having no frame of reference when people inevitably turned their attention to the ersatz-firegazing they spent hours at a time watching.

It was confusing to him for a number of reasons - having only ever been interested in the way people express certain things, and what that in turn means about that individual - he had failed to notice the importance of simply being entertained. Oftentimes he would overhear snippets of conversation which he took to be gossip, but would realise after a few exchanges that rather than sharing information about a mutual acquaintance, the participants were in fact discussing something they had both independently learned from watching TV. Partly to allow him to understand the references and relevance to an individual, and partly to enable him to contribute to such conversations, Callum bought himself a TV. It was an old cathode-ray behemoth from the 80s, now long since shunned by society in favour of flat screen plasma, but as Callum was interested in the content, rather than the qualiity of the picture, he was oblivious to benefits of a clear screen and high definition, so it was no hardship for him to tolerate its gargantuan bulk in the corner of his modest living room, so long as it was a useful tool in his quest to understand people.

Having always spent his leisure time either talking with people, or writing up salient bits of information gleaned from them, Callum had never really, even as a child, paid much attention to television, and so at first he found it very disorientating. He was regularly and consistently confused by the distinction between drama and reality shows: because he had always sought out people to converse with, to study, he had never bothered with media as a distraction, and so assumed that everything on TV was intended to be factual. Though he would never have recognised it to be the case, Callum could spot a bad actor within seconds of their first words. so used was he to observing body language and its use in reference to speech, that the incongruity of the words being said, and the body language which accompanied them, confused him immensely. Where others would simply identify it as bad acting, Callum would struggle to reconcile why the body language and spoken word were so at odds - it was a good few months after starting his exploration of television that he finally realised that much of the content was intended solely as entertainment, though this itself was to be the cause of further consternation as there seemed to be little discinction between reality and fiction, and the purposes of each.

Seeing the TV now, was as though seeing in colour for the first time. Suddenly the people he saw weren't just dumb animals, driven by instinctive impulses to do one thing or another - they were self-aware and contemplative, and rational: each doing what they did for their own, carefully considered reasons. He could categorise them all in an instant - all their behaviours recognisable as things he had analysed and studied and pondered - but the realisation was dawning for Callum that just understanding that how a person acts or reacts is based on a number of stimuli does not give any insight into their motivation. He knew the how, but not the why, and now, for the first time realising he needed purpose - the why was had become all that mattered. There may be a way to use the data he had collected, looked at in the context of this new epiphany, but it would mean going through vast swathes of information and re-analysing and re-concluding. It would be like looking for a needle in haystack, but without actually knowing what a needle looks like. Just the thought of going over the data again made Callum feel physically sick, as he realised that every morsel of information would serve as a reminder that he had wasted so much time, and life, on an ultimately pointless search. He eventually had to acknowledge that catalogues of information were all but rendered moot by their lack of any kind of conclusion of motivation. Having always been most content in his own company, safely analysing the traits and peccadilloes of his subjects, Callum suddenly felt very alone, and foolish. He felt his eyes once again fill with tears, and as though knocked by a great weight, he once again fell to the floor and sobbed.

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