Assay: A qualitative or quantitative analysis of a substance, especially of an ore or drug, to determine its components.

It's kind of hard to get the big picture of the circus that is Life when you're stuck on the Nauseo-Whirl, but you can't blame me for trying, right? Besides, this train is taking forever.

OK, first of all, we are living in a world of misery and pain. Nothing new there, right? Well, the difference is thanks to TV and the Wired, the happy people get to see how unhappy the rest of us are, which works to spread the pain. Plus we're rounding the end of a millennium that has not been a trend-setter for human altruism. The result is despair, as my generation loses itself in drugs or makes the plunge into death.

It seems to me that the problem is we are listening too much when we should be watching. Our elders fear change, and so they force the world to fit into the Newtonian cast of predictability. We however are the generation that grew up with the teachings of Schrödinger and Lorenz, and thanks to the Wired, we grew up with so much knowledge at our disposal that we could not delude ourselves into thinking the world was knowable.

At least, that's what a rational person like myself would hope would happen. Instead, we live in a world of wonders that are continually explained away. Last week a face appeared in the heavens over downtown Tokyo. I saw it, as did hundreds of others. But the woman on the news says it is a freak weather disturbance, and my generation accepts it. A few days ago the news delivered a series of news stories about events that hadn't happened yet. All of them came true. The man on the news then apologized, calling what happened a "glitch", and my generation accepted it.

The problem, then is blind trust. But I don't want to write about why people are such sheep to listen to empty words when reality is tapping on their shoulder. I'm more interested in knowing what's actually going on in this world. Miraculous things are happening. The myriad rumors on the Wired are beginning to converge into a set of truths. Is it possible that there is really some sort of mystical significance in the Millennium?

There are groups out there peddling different versions of "the Truth". Little more than cults, most of them, satisfying the swollen egos of would-be gods. But some online gods have better credentials than others. The Knights claim to have Deus, with absolute power over the Wired. Of course, I don't have this first-hand. No one I know has actually met a Knight on the Wired. So this could be nothing. Still, if there was a God of the Wired, imagine the power He would have over the Real World. Even the proverbial retired woman with fifty cats who can't operate a microwave oven is completely controlled in every aspect of her life by what happens on the Wired. The Wired could turn you into a criminal, or elect you Premier, and there would be no way to contest it, because all evidence one way or the other is on the Wired. Truly, this Wired God is a god to fear. Is He a compassionate god as well? I certainly haven't heard any rumors to that effect, and you'd think if the Guy wanted converts He'd promote that side of His resume in His P.R.

OK, then, if you're looking for a god, and you've given up looking for it out here in the Real World, what is your alternative? Well, there is another figure on the Wired, even more shadowy than this Deus. I've worked hard to dig up something about her, but everything I hear is so vague. I'm not even sure she's done anything. Not yet, anyway. She's new, and still doing research for her omniscience degree. Still, what she's found has managed to do some good (like a gopher aerating the soil), like when she exposed the tampering with Fantoma. Yet the love bestowed on this individual is far out of proportion of her acts. Her very existence seems to provide hope for those random individuals like myself searching for meaning. I've done my best to find out more about her, but so far, only her name is certain: Lain.

That's one set of stories. I've also heard that Lain is responsible for the Fantoma murders, and scores of others. I've heard that Lain hangs out at Cyberia and enjoys taunting the losers that try to pick up girls there. I don't really know what to say to these accusations. To claim that this is some sort of "false Lain" would just make me sound stupid. It's possible that like the rest of us, Lain has some evil mixed in with her aura of good. All I can say is that I believe this Lain is not Lain, even though I have no logical reason to believe this. But hey, isn't that what belief is? In fact, maybe that Deus is jealous or something and running a smear campaign against her. I'd go to Cyberia to find out one way or the other, but I'm afraid I'd find out, one way or the other.

And that brings me to the third Lain, the one I see on this train twice a day. Probably just a coincidence of names. That's what I tell myself, at least. Shy, introverted, soft-spoken, protected from the outside world by her silence and a troika of friends. Physically, I can't find words to describe her, not because she is beautiful or plain, but because she falls absolutely into the statistical average. Oh, she's got this one strand of hair by the side of her face held with a metal band that looks like a sideways eight--that's the sum total of her physical description.

Personality-wise, Real World Lain is a non-entity ("Real World Lain"--sounds like I'm collecting a series of dolls!). I haven't spoken to her, but I've watched her in the train and walking to and from her stops, and it seems to me that she's not really there. If she really is Lain of the Wired, it would be like she permanently transferred her personality online and left the bare minimum amount of mind necessary to pilot a human body. So I can't really say anything about her in this respect, good or bad.

She has this peculiar way of walking (boy, I'm really beginning to sound obsessed, huh?). You know those scenes in old movies where a desperate character is walking in place as the world slides by on either side? That's how Lain walks, like she's not the one that's moving. She also stares a lot, like she doesn't quite get it. Shadows, the power lines, me when I'm trying to strike up a conversation...maybe she needs glasses.

OK, now this is getting way too frivolous. I start with the meaning of the universe, and I end up with the eyes of Lain Iwakura. Come to think of it, there's definitely something in those eyes of hers when...SNAP OUT OF IT!

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