A Scanner Darkly – introducing Fred the vague blur.


“Gentlemen of the Anaheim Lions club” the man at the microphone  said, “we have a wonderful opportunity this afternoon, you see, the County of Orange has provided us with chance to hear from, and then put questions to and of, an undercover narcotics agent from the Orange county sheriffs Department” he beamed, this man wearing his pink waffle fiber suit will and wide plastic yellow tie and blue shirt and fake leather shoes, he was an over weight man,  overaged as well, over happy, even when there was little or nothing to be happy .

Watching him, the undercover narcotics agent felt nausea.

“Now, you will notice”, the lionclub host said, “that you can barely see this individual, who is seated directly to my right, because he is wearing what is called a scramble suit, which is the exact same suit he wears and in fact must wear during certain parts, in fact most, of his daily activities of law enforcement. Later he will explain why”

the audience, which mirrored the qualities of the host in every possible way regarded the individual in his scramble suit.

“This man,” the host declared, “whom we would all Fred, because this is the code name under which he reports the information he gathers, once with in the scramble suit,  he cannot be identified by voice, or by even technological voiceprint, or by appearance. He looks, does he not, like a vague blur and nothing more? Am I right? He let loose a great smile. But his audience appreciating that this was indeed funny, did a little smiling all of their own.

The scramble suit was an invention of the Bell laboratories, conjured up by accident by an employee named S. A. Powers . He had, a few years ago, been experimenting with disinhibiting substances affecting neural tissue, and one night, having administered to himself an IV injection considered safe and mildly euphoric, he experienced a disastrous drop in the GABA fluid of his brain. Subjectively, he had then witnessed lurid phospene activity projected on the far wall off his bedroom, a frantically progressing montage of what, at the time, he imagined to be modern day abstract paintings. —

basically his design consisted of a multi-face quartz lens hooked to a miniaturized computer whose memory banks held up to 1,000,000 1/2 physiognomic fracture representations of various people, men and women, children, with every variance encoded and then projected outward in all directions equally onto a super thin shroud like membrane large enough to fit around an average human.

As the computer looped through its banks, it projected every conceivable eye color, hair color, shape and type all the nose, formation of teeth,, configuration of a facial bone structure the entire shroud like membrane took on what ever physical characteristics were projected at any nanosecond and then switched to the next. Just to make his scramble suit more effective S. A Powers programmed to the computer to randomize the sequence of characteristics within each set.

– in any case, the wearer of the a scramble suit was every man and in every combination(up to combinations of 1,000,000 1/2 bits) during the coarse of each hour.

Hence, any description of him or her was meaningless. Needless to say S. A  Powers had fed his own personal physiognomic characteristics into the computer units,, so that, buried in the frantic permutation of qualities, his own surface and combined on an average, he had calculated, off once each 50 years per suit, served up and reassembled, given enough time per suit. It was his closest claim to immortality.

“Let’s hear it for the vague blur!”, the host said loudly, and there was mass clapping.

A Scanner Darkly

Philip K Dick pg 15 -16

Gollancz; New edition edition (14 Oct 1999)


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