Ever watch those superhero movies? You know the ones, comic books on a billion-dollar budget. Something I don’t get about those, and specifically about the Incredible Hulk. You know, big green dude, super cut, magic pants? That guy. So, he’s supposed to be super-strong, super-angry, and all that stuff. The part I can’t feature is, he’s also incredibly sensitive to pain.

Sure, it’s not all the same sensation, I get that. Honestly, it’s a little weird that we only have the one word for it, don’t you think? I mean—let’s pick two examples off the top, an ice cream headache and the taste of wasabi. Sure, to some extent they both hurt for a minute, but are they enough alike that it makes sense to call both by the same name? I don’t think they are. I don’t even like ice cream all that much.

So then we have the Hulk, right? Sure, he can take punches all day from Hammer Jesus and that doesn’t even seem to faze him, but there’s the bit in the 2012 movie where whatsername, Black Widow?—where she shoots the steam pipe, right, and it blows in his face and that he doesn’t like. Granted, live steam isn’t anything you want to play around with, but it’s superficial, you know? And the guy heals like nobody’s business, apparently.

So why does it stop him? Why does it even hold him back, when he could go straight through it and never know the difference? The momentary burn would be worth it for a quicker route to the greater goal, sure, but the Hulk’s whole conceit is just Jekyll and Hyde in green grease paint, so you can’t expect him to be thinking that far ahead—I’ve seen these films called everything from the only hope for Hollywood’s future to neoliberal fascist propaganda, everybody seems to agree that they’re consistent in their characterization. So it can’t be that, right?

No, I think it has to be because these are different kinds of pain, and they just don’t feel the same. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have a glass jaw, but there’s still something special about one that lands right on the button. Even if you’ve never been laid out that way, you understand right away how it could. Too, that takes a little while to even start hurting, but steam gets you right away, and the relentless sting of a scald isn’t anything like the deep bone ache that’s left over from a good shot to the jaw.

So—different kinds of pain, but at least in English we use the same word for all of them and nobody notices how weird that is. I guess for most purposes it’s convenient enough, but it can get to be a real problem at times when you want to talk about a specific variety of pain. Like right now, for instance.

Granted, after all that buildup, it’s probably a bit anticlimactic when I go on to say that I can’t imagine any one word describing all of what I’m feeling right now. Maybe that’s why we just call it all ‘pain?’ But this is more like a symphony—whatever signal generator you’re using, someone must’ve put a lot of hard work into it. Obviously not you, though. Do you know which end of a soldering iron to hold? Oh? And how many tries did it take you, figuring that out?

Well, that’s just you being rude. But the odd thing is, we can use a musical metaphor here, everything from the low bass of muscles driven into tetany and unhappy about that, to the high flute and piccolo trills of amplitude modulation that show whoever built their equipment was pretty smart. Again, obviously not you. See, the nerve endings eventually habituate to a constant signal, so you have to vary the frequency or the amplitude or both to keep having a constant effect.

…oh, right, they did that bit in Star Trek, too. The original one—remember the mirror universe episode? Or maybe it was in one of the books, probably Peter David’s TNG one. Talked about how the Terran agonizers do the same thing, specifically because it prevents habituation. He probably just asked a neurologist or something, but hey, maybe he knows more than he means to let on.

Anyway, the whole idea here is obviously that enough of this will get me talking, and I guess it has because here I am doing just that. Probably not what you had in mind, though, right? You wanted everything I know about Project Arceus, and here I am in the middle of an extended discussion of different kinds of pain and what I’d call this one.

Look, I can see on your face that you’re dissatisfied, there’s no need for you to go and do that. Don’t worry, though! There is in fact a point I’m making here, and we will be getting to it shortly. I just want to mention a couple of things first, so that we all have the proper context.

The first thing is, there aren’t all that many important muscles in the sagittal plane. Oh, sure, the abdominal ones, that’s obvious, and perineal stuff, which by the way I appreciate that you have not overlooked. But you don’t really get much access to skeletal muscle with this kind of electrode placement unless you’re involving the cauda equina. Which you aren’t.

The second thing is, I actually do have a word for this kind of pain. Wanna know what I call it? What I call it is, I call it foreplay—

See? I told you I had a point to make, which is that you really should’ve tied me up instead of counting on—oh, never mind, I can see you’ve lost interest. No attention span, that’s the problem with people these days. Too much Internet, no doubt. Speaking of which, you’ll have a phone, won’t you? Or had, anyway. I guess technically it’s your inheritors I’m ripping off right now, but if it never gets itemized for probate then it doesn’t really count, that’s what I always say. Ooh, and look at that! Four bars—who builds a torture basement with a femtocell? Now, just to call this in, and…

(1058 words)

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