It was the kind of a rain-chill that invaded every part and muscle of your body, regardless of a raincoat and other weather resistance clothing you might attempt. The persistent pitter-patter of the cold sheets of the downpour hit upon the oval pane of glass in the old-fashioned Victorian door. The door’s heavy frame was slightly more than a comfort against the dreary weather, and through the lace curtains frosty lines of rain could be seen trickling down the glass. Every now and then, a flash of lightning would cast a glow into the vestibule, quickly followed by a burst of thunder.
The front door would stand momentarily guarded by a deep silence: not a creak, rustle, or crack. Only the monotonous flashes of the thunderstorm and the cool chill of the dark day invaded the front hallway, tutored by the old Grandfather Clock which recited at definite intervals with it incessant tick-tock-tick-tock. The polish of its veneered surface gave a slight sheen that highlighted the masterful artwork of a by-gone era; it also gave a peculiar comfort and coziness to the evenings encroaching wet condition.
Without warning, the presence of someone had arrived on the outside porch. A heavy shuffle denoted a person arriving from a hard day’s work, and the hulk of a man in a grey overcoat vaguely appeared on the outside of the partition. A gust of moist chilled air rushed into the house as the man quickly opened the door and then abruptly turned and closed it shut. His shoulders tilted from side to side as he shivered from the cold air. He walked over to the coat rack standing desolately in the corner and draped his overcoat on it. The same action occurred everyday between eight in the morning to five in the afternoon—-or else, he was sure he would become heavily blotched from the rain, when it rained, and he was glad to get the garment off. Just as despondently, he placed the wet hat on the rack, it stood still for a moment and then sagged to me side just as sadly.
The man stood stopped and stood motionless to think for a few seconds.
Everything seemed to be as usual; thought a private emotional storm was raging and barely subdued beneath his chest; not quite able to mimic the downpour outside, however, the man was sure he had it under control.
The smell of a freshly cooked dinner; the deeply invigorating aroma of a roast overlayed with the delicious touch of hot, buttered rolls, coffee, and gravy.
He gave a sigh. It still was comforting to still be able to come home to the smell of a robust dinner. Perhaps it would be many years yet before that bit of tradition would be torn asunder. It was hard to tell.
Wiping his nose on the handkerchief he has drawn from his pocket, he began to part his lips, then stopped. He tried once again.
”Clarisse, I’m home!”
He combed his damp, shaggy hair into place. It was rich, dark, and sleek. He needed every bit of that professional ‘white collar’ air that he endeavored to project. He needed that aspect of that executive job, from eight to five every day, or else he was sure he would go quite mad—-if that term meant anything any longer.
He shivered again, then stepped away from the small puddle of rain he deposited at the door He took a few steps for the kitchen..
‘Hi honey, how’s the damp weather?” came the cherry response of his wife. “So far, so good,” Mark thought.
He stopped abruptly when he came abreast of the huge sliding doors to the front room. In the shadows and dark, the doors appeared as one darkened monolith. He wrinkled his brow as if to look beyond the doors into the room. There was a certain intensity in his glance. The he stirred himself and headed for the kitchen. What was laying in the front room would just have to wait—-wait a while longer.
“Eeeem, smells good!.” He glided up to the back of his wife and kissed her on the shoulder. He could smell his wife’s favorite perfume, the one he had liked to well. It was down-right titillating.
She twisted her neck to smile into his face. It was a modest smile, but he could see that she at least meant it. She kissed him on the cheek.
“I thought we’d have a roast tonight, Mark. Bobby said the other day that he’d like one prepared,” she said washing her hands beneath the sink facet. She routinely wiped her hands on her apron. Then she pushed a strain of glowing black hair from her forehead to smile at her husband. Mark had had begun to pick at a steaming bowl of asparagus.
“Stop that Mark!” she just looked at him with an almost unquestionably indifference. “We’ll eat in minute.”
“Ah…y….yes,” he smiled comically, glancing up into the small, fogged bay kitchen window, “and how soon will that be?”
“Any minute dear, any minute.” Clarisse chided with a pleasantness that was rare but quite welcomed to Mark. When she smiled , a sparkle would enter automatically into her eyes and ridges of skin would flow evenly back from the bridge of her long, narrow nose atop two thin lips that, when parted, would show rows of beautifully even teeth.
She placed another bowl of food on the table, then fell back into a routine composure.
“Where Is Bob, anyway? Home from school?”
“Yes, he’s up in his room. I promised him that if he’d get his schoolwork done by seven he could see Sherell tonight.”
Mark didn’t say anything, but he acted slightly disturbed. He eased himself into a table chair. The he folded his hands in an almost prayer posture.
“How did your day go, Mark?”
Mark gazed across the table set with food. Then he glanced at his hand which was resting on the table’s edge and he noticed the nervous tremble the hand had acquired.
“Not too well —- as usual. Not too well.” Mark’s dark eyes held a slight sadness at that moment. His olive complexion almost turned white. He rubbed his stub of a nose and folded his hands together again.
“Oh. As usual?” There was a certain pique in his wife’s voice, but also a bit of cold sarcasm, almost always. “Later, Clarisse.”
“Seems that’s all it’s been here of late. I hope they let up on you.” Now that was a bit more tender, thought Mark, a bit more sincere!
“It’s not them. I guess, it’s me. I’m just not a good accountant…I’m …” Mark stopped and gulped while lifting two watered eyes to look at his wife. She returned the probing glance. “Later Clarisse,” he pleaded.
It was quiet for a moment. She continued her activity by clumping two tablespoons into their respective bowls. It was obvious she had put some work into the dinner preparation. The curious way her almost coal-black hair rippled along her temple and stuck in the corner of her mouth was a tell-tale sign of her industry but also of her sensuality.
“How’s our box doing?” It had been on his mind all day. In fact, it was somewhat exciting, though a strenuous day at the office had deadened that excitement somewhat. But such natural, wholesome excitement was getting to be a rarity, and he hadn’t wanted to give it up that easily. But for now, it was at least a pleasant diversion to speak of.
“Still sitting there on the pedestal, still sitting there,” she said, gracefully stepping around the edge of the chair and neatly pulling it beneath her. When she had herself settled-in, she timidly gave a nervous glance at her husband , then busied herself with the dining utensils. “Look at him,” she thought to herself, “sitting there like a time-bomb, fuse-burning, waiting to explode!” “It’s people like him that cause all the terror going on today,” she silently annumerated to herself, “pushing , prying, tearing! Well, I didn’t cook this dinner just to see how much energy I could send. If he is going to pull his usual guff, at least my son and I will enjoy this meal.”
Mark gave a smile: “I wonder why grandpa did something like that? It’s so unlike him. I guess the old fellow had a sense of intrigue and humor to boot. Imagine, stuffing an old box behind some bricks and tying a mystery note, to boot. So mysterious.”
Lightning flashed through the windows and a moment later thunder boomed causing the usual drone of loose glass throughout the house. Clarisse glanced out at the storm having just set her first bowl of food down.
“Spooky!” she joked, referring to grandpas’ mystery box. Indeed, it was, they had taken the flowerpot off the wooden front room pedestal and placed it in the sun-room replacing it with the ole’ rotten thick oak-box. Its henges had become badly rusted, the latch to the lock still worked, though it was uncertain the key to the, now, red-crusted mechanism dangling in the loop would ever be found. It almost seemed unceremonious to attempt to open it without going the participance of a key.
Clarisse noticed that her husband hadn’t touched his coffee yet, so she indicated that he do so: “Drink up.” It was going all too well, thought Mark, it couldn’t last. If Mark could only tell her what his dictatorial boss, Mr. Ferrell, had said: gee, Mark pleaded to himself, If I could, just one time without an argument. Keeping on the topic and referring back again to Grandpa’s mystery box: “Thank you. Ah, what did his note say, honey, something about a Pandora’s Box?’’
Grandpa Bellinger had been a loner of sorts. It probably was because he differed intellectually with a large majority of his friend; an eternal beacon of something from frontier times like the old shod-shack hut, the buck-board wagon, the General Store, and, later, the Model T Ford, Racoon coats, and full-length swimsuits: some private idioms of his own personality in exchange for allowing the maddening world pass him by. Grandpa had a scientific bent, was a professional chemist most of his life. Towards his later years, grandpa had become a science-fiction reader. He once attempted writing a fiction story, but it was too nostalgically moral and a publisher accused it of being too bland; Grandpa Bellinger resigned it to the limbo of the trash can.
“The note’s upstairs,” her brow wrinkled for a moment, “ I don’t recall exactly. There was something about the latest Presidential Assassination; the nuclear conflict…”
She stopped for a moment. Mark imagined that he saw his wife shiver with a slight fear, the same as he also felt. “Well,” she continued, “it seems your Grandfather could visualize half the mayhem going on today—-the book burning, the body tattooing…”
“Pandora’s Box, Clarisse, what did it say about Pandora’s Box?”
“He said it just might be one depending on who found it.”
Yes, that sounded like Grandfather, thought Mark. Idealistic. Studious. And always fearful of mankind’s inhumanity to man and the various tyrannies about. But about Bellinger was also a kindness too, a sense of humor that was evident, so evident, when he died and bequeathed the old two-story, four-bed-room home—an old early-American mansion.
And there also was those old memories. Old memories and this ‘box’—-dredged from a cob-webbed hiding place in the attic and the chimney.
Thunder roamed the skies again, In the street, a car passed through a deep puddle of rain, spraying it upon the wooden porch. It resembled the thumping of fingers upon a table.
“Yes, well,” Mark gave a sigh as he licked a drop of coffee from his lower lip, studiously setting the cup back on its saucer with both hands, “there’s so darn much going on from day to day it is paranoia.”
His wife just kept intently looking at her husband. Her rich, sleek auburn hair somewhat tousled by homemaking, was lazily draped over the shoulders. The wash dress she wore had a floral arrangement with a backdrop of pink and white checkers. She had a small face sculptured with a thin mouth and smooth-running features that came to an abruptly pointed chin. Her brown eyes were saucer-large and floating in magical fluid: Her whole face revolved around those two beautiful ovals. Her face was sprinkled with dimly visible freckles on the slopes of her cheeks.
Don’t start, Mark, she sneered inwardly, please don’t start that infernal sniveling , that filthy tongue-waggling about the world conditions. Believe me, my husband, the only dirty thing is your damned evil mind!
“I’ll call, Bob.” She looked almost as if she were daydreaming. Perhaps she was concentrating on how well the dinner was harmoniously occurring? Mark spread his legs out under the table, laned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head.
“How’s the boy doing? I don’t hear that loud squalor he calls music. He must really be studying?”
“Don’t be sarcastic, Mark. I’m going to call him to supper now. He’s having a hard time here of late, just, just, let him be.”
That did it, thought Mark, what possibly could that bundle of cloth and hair be troubled about? Does he have a Mr. Ferrell breathing down his neck? “He’s having a hard time here of late?” Mark’s face reddened a little, “That kid has it so easy…ah, gosh, get the boy…” Mark sat straight-up and prepared to eat. Mark’s wife looked at him questioningly, slightly grimacing her lips. Mark just sat starring at her.
“Bob!” she called. “Bob, come and eat!”
A silence, then a muffled sound like “all right’’ or ‘‘coming.” It was Clarisse that sighed an eternal sigh this time. Her saddened look forced her husband to break his gaze at her as he glanced off into the raising steam of the food. He thumped the table nervously.
The endless melody of the Grandfather Clock weaved its sad song into the kitchen. Mark unbuttoned his coat, letting it slink off one arm, then the other, and wrapping it across the back of the chair. Just as rapidly he loosened his tie. He stopped to glance at his wife with a mute indignation, the said:
“Well, is he coming?” Mark quickly unbuttoned one sleeve and began to roll it up.
Clarisse resigned herself to the predicament, “I’ll call again.”
Mark repeated his glare and began to roll-up the other sleeve. “Bob, come on now, we’re waiting on you!”
The same low, muffled voice reached the kitchen and after a moment of silence heavy clump-clumps bounded down the stairs that led towards the second level. Into the kitchen bounded a rather tall youth of eighteen with long, shoulder-length hair. He wore a full free-flowing white robe, encircled at the waist by a red, silk-like cord. On his chest was an emblem of a blazing sun thrust through by a well-defined lightning stroke which gave the illusion to descend from the tip of his goatee beard. His feet were sandaled and dirt smudges were obvious between his toes.
Bob walked in clumsy steps, tripping over legs of chairs, scrapping the woodwork, and finally bouncing into a kitchen chair, but holding, all the time, a most graceful air of serenity upon his face to which his father gave a silent gasp and bewilderingly arching back and looking at his wife with raised eyebrows.
The boy shoved himself near the table and quickly began to grab a bowl of food, dumping a portion onto his plate. Before his long arm managed to lay hold another set of china smoldering in steam, Mark Bellinger forced himself to speak.
“How are you doing, son?” there was a barely subdued air of contempt beneath Mark’s words.
“Fine, pop. How are you?” Bob looked up only casually. His long lanky hair swung back and forth each move of his head. Mr. Bellinger hadn’t started to eat .
“Your mother tells me you have troubles here of late. What seems to be the problem?”
Mark Bellinger, his wife had once said, looked like the late actor Tyrone Power, though some pronounced wrinkles around hi neck, and laugh lines around his mouth, gave an appearance more alien than familiar to the forever-youthful Powers. Two large ears were part of that alienness, and his eyes had a foggy appearance which was created early in his youth when Mark put many hours working as a welder in the government’s production of nuclear submarines for the most recent African conflict—-the one that witnessed no less than six nuclear attacks, without the resultant worldwide conflict. The attacks had, however, left several emotional scars.
Mark’s eyes would cloud when in deep thought, but occasionally, in moments of joviality, they would sparkle and a crystal-clarity would arise to transcend the current confusion: they would sparkle with a touch of anger.
“Well, just that I like to help if I can, son. I might not be a college graduate – and I understand that High School today is along a college level…” with all the mayhem, confusion, debauchery and riots of the college of my day, thought Mark, “…but I did go to school, son, I did go to school.”
“Dad, the things we’re studying in school today are so far removed from the High School of your day that it would be useless to explain…” The boy stopped his eating to look at his father. Clarisse hadn’t taken a bite to eat yet.
“Boy, you can say that again!” Mark Bellinger flipped hi napkin open and spread it across his lap. He reached for some food. “In our day, we didn’t have half the crazy things going on that I hear about today. ‘self-instruction.’ Who ever heard about literally doing that?”
When Mark had graduated from High School, and years later was able to squeeze in a few night courses at a local university, he was often bewildered by the campus bulletin boards. Besides odds and ends for sale, there were ads about homosexual liberation, lesbian liberation, childcare ‘corrals,’ anarchy as a movement towards human freedom—-page after page, notices, postcards all thumbtacks in a confusing mosaic on the bulletin boards.
And then Mark woke-up to the fact that people took these things seriously, and not as a momentary aberration. He was happy to know he was morally able to feel nausea.
Bob Bellinger leaned back in his hair to look at this father in a more serious vain. Girlishly, he flipped his hair over this shoulder, caressing his moustache with his fingers.
“Pop, it’s a different world! The things you would never happen ten years ago – are! The things that I wondered about then – I am! We are moving! We are also evolving, Pop! You know how I feel on this.”
“Ya, I know! I know how you feel! Pass the spinach, please.”
Clarisse disturbed her short passivity and proceeded to reach for the bowl and pass it to her husband. The she folded her hands again and quietly listened.
“You’ve never been to a ‘Rata-Tal,’ have you, Pop?” The father just looked at the boy questioningly, his beathing growing heavier. Of course, Mark hadn’t! “Well, if you’ve never tried to transcend this material reality by attuning to the ‘all-soul’ Rata-Tal chants—you really don’t know what you are saying…” The boy excitedly turned to look at his mother. “You know. You know, Mom. Mom’s been to one.” Bob turned to look again at his father, while Mark suddenly found himself trying to cushion the shock of those words.
Clarisse lowered her head slowly and rested on the elbow-supported palm of her hand, as she played with bits of meat on her plate.
“Yes, I’ve been to a Rata-Tal , she thought. I didn’t understand it, but I know one thing, she informed herself. There was excitement there! There was people, there was noise, noise and fun. Anything – anything – but this infernal cemetery of an existence.
Then she almost allowed a visible smile: she recalled the tiny black ‘bat’ that had been tattooed on the bottom of her right foot. She remembered the exciting instance when she dramatically received it at the orgy of body-tattooing at the Rata-Tal; she was eternally vigilant to hide it from her husband. She invented alternate excuses to tell her husband since its implementation, should he discover and ask about it.
“While you say we are rapidly ‘moving ahead,’” Mark Bellinger put a contemptuous air to the words, “I see us ‘falling back.’”
“Look at the whole picture, Pop.”
“Listen, young man, I’ve been around…’
“You see what you want to see!”
“I see what is happening! It isn’t new!”
“Man is a freedom-loving, evolving animal!”
What was this, thought Mark, a conspiracy? Just why is it that so bad for hard-fought-for wisdom of a father to be accepted? Why, in the world, are these two lovely people wanting to destroy me in such an ugly manner?
The slam of the fork upon the tables startled Clarisse and her son. The mother gave a small gasp of surprise, coming to astute attention. Mark gained a slight composure, examining everyone’s face, now, in tension. Was he happy the conversation had come to an end! He released the slight tautness of his muscles. It was the same old thing again, he thought, why was it never any different?
“Aren’t we supposed to say a little something before we eat, or something?” Mark questioned.
“Like what, Mark?” his wife asked.
“Like – like – a prayer or something.” Mark pleaded, swaying his hand through the aroma of the food. He reached for his coffee and sipped it hurriedly.
The steam coming off the food had died down somewhat, and several nosy flies buzzed from dish to dish. One landed on the table and began scurrying between the bowls of food and plates. Bob eyed it casually as he routinely lifted a fork-full of food into his mustached mouth that existed below the two the two large eyes he had inherited from his mother.
His mother straightened herself in the chair. She held back a bit of tears in her eyes by widening them for a moment. She pushed back a cluster of curls on the side of her head. She attempted to eat and her small lips parted for the first bite of food.
“I could say a neo-Indonesian chant, Dad?” It was hard trying to interpret that remark, as to whether sarcasm or genuine concern, ‘’or, perhaps a stanza from the Kali-Yuille?”
A form of panic gripped Mark’s tender features and his throat suddenly became lodged with a flood of liquid as he gasped and nearly dropped the cup of coffee, pushing himself away from the table and letting out a string of coughs.
“Y — you — you, you see what, what (cough) – I mean – (cough) – Clarisse, the boy is half done mad!”
Mark pointed a finger at the flush-faced boy. It had arrived, Clarisse thought, it had arrived! His wife slowly turned her penetrating eyes to her plate, blinking them once or twice, and dropped her fork to the side of her plate.
“Kali-Yuille! Kali-Yuille! I never heard of such terms. It’s some of that crazy oriental stuff those kids down at the University Loop have invented,” Mark continued, “do you know that area was nearly quarantined, Bob, by the City?” Mark looked at his wife, who now had both hands clasped over her ears while gazing down to her plate. “Fourteen rapes, Bob, and three murders, Bob , not in one year, son, or a month my boy, but one week!”
“So, people have problems!” Bob interjected.
“People have problems. You are darn right!” Mark whipped the napkin off his lap and began to dab the spots of spilled coffee, “you’re darn right people have problems, and we have some right here. Right here!” Mark threw the wet napkin into plate with a ‘splat.’
Clarisse yanked on her hair, first with a whimper, than a chain of sobs, and finally a loud cry. Those at the table came to a halting silence.
She lifted her head to reveal two greatly watered eyes and the beginnings of two tear droplets on the lower lids of each that shivered and swayed when she shouted deliberately and somewhat crudely:
“Please, just be quiet! Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!”
“Mom!” the guru of Denver Boulevard started to rise from his chair. “Mom!”
“I fixed a roast, especially for Bobby tonight! It was hours in the cooking! I cooked a lot of favorites! It was going to be a nice dinner! A niceevening!” She pointed a tearful glance at her husband: “Why did you have to ruin it!”
“Me?” exclaimed Mark: This wasn’t just exasperation, it wasn’t amazement, but the usual tragedy warmed over.
“You come in here, moping like the dark dreary day outside, complaining your usual complaint about possibly losing your job! You started picking on the boy before he even got down the stairs! You can’t even…”
“Picking on the boy!” doggonit anyhow, thought Mark. “Now what a minute, this didn’t start tonight…”
“Oh sure, that’s right, you never did like the kid.” Streaks of acidic tears crossed her cheeks. “To you, he always was a gimpy screwball.”
Mark’s olive complexion had turned a shade of red, and his frustration at the swiftness of the change of circumstance had somehow turned into panic. Just then, a large boom vibrated the old house much like a heavy piece of furniture having been dropped onto the upstairs floor as a thunder-burst rolled the sky.
Mark began to swiftly scratch a sore on the back of his hand, and his Adam’s-apple groped in pain every few seconds. “Now, that’s not true! Why are you saying that?’’ Mark turned with a look of astonishment to his son who was now was sitting absolutely erect in stark silence. “Bobby , we always did things together. Remember?”
Mark leaned over to his son slightly, as if to place a hand on his son’s shoulder, but not daring to. “Remember the open-air circus they held every summer down at the Emmerson Expressway? You remember? And that big elephant you rode on, the one named Tiny. Oh, ‘Tiny’ was a favorite name of yours for a long time.” Mark tried to force a crude chuckle. “You even named your pet rabbit, your basement turtle , and a garden-snake you found, by that same name.”
The boy said nothing, just stared mysteriously with a vexation at his father. Bob’s small, rounded nose glistened under the kitchen ceiling light.
“Yes, pop, I remember!.” Bob threw his napkin on the table and tugged on his loin belt rather angrily. “I remember the time you killed that cat, little Clarabelle.” The thought of that little animated ball of fur hadn’t crossed their minds for some time now. Mark was shocked!
“What? I told you I did no such thing! That was a big misunderstanding!”
“Sure. Misunderstandings, like the time you slapped Mom, or the time you locked me in my room. We should have called the police, Mom.”’ He had turned to his mother who had finally lit her cigarette and was observing with curious but rapt attention.
“This is crazy!’’ Mark jutted up from the table, glanced down at the food, put his hands on both hips for a second, and then hurriedly walked away from the table, “This is nuts!”
Mark quickly rushed to the sink and gazed through the frosted windows, past the stream of rain and into the patio of the next-door neighbor. Twice now he had tightened his lips together, forcing them downward somewhat, stretching his neck muscles to abate the lump of fear in his throat; suddenly he became the prisoner in his solitary emotional cell again. He gripped the side of the sink.
No sound came from the family at the table for a second. A roll of thunder past overhead. Bob said in a more casual tone, “How’s our ‘box’ doing?’
“Still in there, still locked,” added Clarisse.
“Well, Grandpa was nobody’s fool Mom, I bet it’s full of money. No change, just bills,’’ Bob jested.
Darn it, anyhow, thought Mark. how can they be so casual about it all?
Clarisse was quick to laugh at the remark from her son, “sure, it would be nice. I wonder.”
That boy had no cause to say that to me, so easily, so quickly, thought Mark.
Mark noticed someone on the patio next-door. It was Mr. Maxwell, who had just finished his supper and sat down in his favorite easy chair, a glass of his favorite bourbon in hand. It was hard to make out everything plainly for patio glass was heavily steamed, but Mark believed that his neighbor had a look of contentment upon his face.
“I had to lock you in your room, Bob, you were doing some bad things at fourteen-years-of age. Some bad things. You should remember.” Mark’s voice was soft, listless, with a tone of frightening exasperation that trailed off into the corners of the house.
The other voices at the table stopped for a second; they surely heard what Mark spoke. Then they quickly resumed their conversation.
“Ah, I don’t think its money,” Bob informed, “but probably one of his inventions he made – one that he never told us about. You know, I went up to grandpa’s private laboratory in the attic once when I was six, and I remember,” the boy’s eyes rolled to look at the ceiling in deep thought, “ this big coil outfit he made—I didn’t know what it was for, at the time—but he said it had an ‘electro-magnetic’ output of such and such; you know the regular laboratory jargon. Grandfather was talking about making a larger condensed-model one day.”
“You think that’s what it is?” his mother smiled, blowing a puff of cigarette smoke into the air.
(Mark imagined that cocky, serene look which had suddenly grown on the face of his wife, and those two thin lips that moved indifferently to haunt him; what was that slogan: thin-lipped people are selfish?)
“Maybe not this big model,” the boy explained, “but maybe a smaller one?” His mother just lifted her eyebrows in question. “Boy, when he pressed this button I thought my short was going to be pulled off my body! I think it was kind of a force field!” The boy was excited in telling of the event.
(Mark saw their indifference as a continuation of the sardonic conspiracy to the genuine circumstances Mark was feeling and had experienced at other times: what was going on, Mark argued inwardly?)
Through the ‘crystal ball’ of a kitchen window, Mark saw the imagined face of his employer, and suddenly he was back at work, computers whirling invisibly beyond him as he busily punched a tabulator in front of him. The supervisor just stood there for a moment. A look of stark anger upon his slim face—-a face that seemed to have been constantly washed morning, noon, and night.
Mark hadn’t stopped his tabulating immediately. No, he wanted to be as casual as possible. Yes, through the corner of his eye, he could see Mr. Farrell’s tweed-like material of his suit coat. He could smell the strong fragrance of his cologne, but Mark didn’t want to appear too startled, too shocked, though he knew very well why Mr. Farrell stood there with his cheek bones slowly moving and protruding somewhat aflame.
“Damn it, Bellinger, can’t you see?” Farrell’s voice brought Mark to full attention. “You did it again! What’s got into you, man?” With a slap, Mark’s boss threw the file folder on Mark’s desk, causing the papers to spew over its surface. Mark investigated the man’s face. Mark did nothing, just pushed his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. Mr. Farrell looked at him questioningly. Then just as crisp:
“Be in my office in five minutes!”
The ceiling lights on the office became once again the many flowing raindrops upon the kitchen windowpane. His next-door neighbor had made it a short-lived habit of reading the newspaper this evening and was soundly asleep in his favorite chair, paper crumpled on his lap. The oval of his mouth denoted an active snore.
Mark tangled with a thick, heavy gulp in his throat. The emotion was hurting his neck as if it was cement. His lips quivered and the tears in his eyes made visibility almost impossible.
“Well Mom, I am sorry about dinner. I really am. I would have gabbled-down that roast —- well, it was good!”
“Sure. At least I tried, Bobby. You know I tried.”
“Sure, I know, Mom.”
Was there something in those surprisingly mellow voices that emotionally ‘included’ him, Mark asked himself? There must be! He suddenly felt a loneliness that quickly accompanied his growing freight:
“I love you, Bob!” Mark practically sobbed the words. Mark remained in his feigned position. The boy only stared at his mother’s pretended surprise glance. She looked back at her son just as tritely. A moment of silence stood between everyone.
“Well, can I leave for Sherell’s now, Mom? We’re going to have some practice chants in the oriental sketches we’re doing.” Bob prepared himself ready to push away from the table.
“Your homework done?” she eyed him with a half-hidden and warm smile, part-way disguised by the drawn appearance of her lips and the way she cradled the cup of coffee in her hand. Her eyes twinkled unexpectedly.
“Yes, Mom!” Bob answered a bit resentful as he stood; I have to get-going, he thought to himself.
Bob! Bob! Come over and pat me on the back, cried his father inwardly to himself, and take me by the arm, squeeze it, tell me that everything’s alright – it’s alright! If the porcelain of the sink were clay, it would have ten deep impressions from his iron squeeze. But instead of secret pleas being vanquished, a kitchen chair was pushed into the table and rapid steps headed for the hallway.
“Bob!” Mark blurted out, his had towards the boy as if to grasp him away from some deep precipice. “Bob, son, let me talk to you.” Small tears had formed in his Tyrone-Power-eyes, and somehow the strong smell of spinach, mash potatoes and rich gravy was so, so out of place as they now sat forlornly under the dull fluorescent ceiling light.
Bob Bellinger just stood there before his father. Tall, somewhat lanky, his hair draped over his shoulders, a look of feigned exasperation on his face, partially recognizing the urge within himself to do the duty he was neglecting to do. He fidgeted on the ruffled cuffs of his Victorian short; oh, how obnoxious it appeared up against his faded jeans; old, whitened jeans that protruded from the bottom of his gown.
“Not now, Father.” He said softly.
“I want to go, Pop!”
Again, a small but deadly manipulative silence filled the room forcefully touching all those in the room.
“You just can’t do this, walk away,’’ Mark flipped his hand in the air. He glanced over at his wife who had a look of growing sick anticipation, “Things have been said! I need to explain. Please!” Mark’s wife just looked at him, shockingly sedate and surprisingly serene, lipping the rim of her coffee cup.
The boy lowered his head and swiftly turned down the hallway to the coatrack and jacket. Mark raced through the kitchen doorway; the light threw a long, slender shadow that reached to the front door.
“Stop, son, let’s talk!”
The boy only gave the usual exasperated look, swished the jacket onto his back, pausing:
“See you later, Mom!” Bob jerked the door open and headed out into a continuing, somewhat subdued fray of lightning. The door shut with a clump.
The Grandfather-clock seemed unmoved, undisturbed by the household activity.
Mark noticed that the Sun had set, and the temperature had dropped significantly. He stood still for a moment, filled with the solemn silence of the moment as he glared at this shadow. He made a tight fist, then relaxed his fingers again. There was a clank as his wife set her coffee cup down to the saucer.
“Well, better get the dishes.’’ His wife voice was a vote for resumption of daily routine.
The panic within Mark was somehow fortuitously held at a subdued level but he knew it would somehow evolve into a barrage of words any second. He slipped back into the kitchen light.
“Clarisse – honey – talk to me! It’s not right!” How could he describe the tense knot in his stomach and what it meant emotionally? Nor was he able to explain the thousands of little prickling sensations of pain rushing up and down his flesh. His body cried out for justice.
“Go on, talk.’’ The drabness of her voice was as deadly and metallically cold as the lovely strains of her Cole-Dark hair that ran across her shoulders, down her neck all the way to the middle of her back. She ventured to the sink and moved the few dishes deposited there in the water. When she pushed the facet handle tight, drops of water still leaked through causing a lonely ‘drip-drip-drip’ adding to the solemn quiet. Mark’s throat was sore from emotion: ‘‘Can I be that bad?”
“Tell me, honey!”
“Talk to me – talk!” It was torture: his very being cried out for help.
“What about?” She quickly moved to the table, gathering dishes for the sink.
“Are you happy with things this way? Do you take delight in knowing that your son hates his father? What’s going on here, anyway?”
Mark’s thinking was a maze of confused. He had the impulse to run out into the rain: washing the frustration and hurt like just so much dirty muck out of his system.
She stopped her trips across the kitchen floor, holding a ‘mash-potato-caked’ tablespoon limply in her hand, then coming to a military ‘attention’: “You are what’s wrong!” She quickly continued her march.
“Your nothing but a big overgrown brute!”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that!”
“That’s not fair. W….w….what specifically are you talking about?”
“Everything? Clarisse, what are you saying, you’ve never said that before?”
“Money. You’re tight. We can’t even spare a dime for a candy-bar around here!”
“Clarisse! You have this house—ah! You…you have plenty of cloths. I don’t understand!’’ The knot in his stomach continued to twist and churn.
“Work! You need to quit your job! You want your wife to work; you are plain lazy!”
‘Lazy!’’ his voice exploded. “What, are you nuts….?”
“Ya! I’m nuts! Stark-raving-mad! Thanks a lot!”
“Oh, honey, don’t confuse things – I’ve got problems at work. Today, I wanted to talk, to…to…ask your help about…”
“All you want, mister, is to drive people batty!”
“Stop it, Clarisse! You make me sound terrible. That’s lousy! Let’s be fair!’’
“Fair!” she sardonically laughed.
“I love you and the kid.” This was awful, Mark thought, grabbing his hair and yanking on it. He gritted his teeth.
“You wanted to get rid of us all along.’’ Clarisse smirked.
Mark was beginning to think of his sanity holding intact in this Kafkaesque game.
“That’s crazy! Crazy! We’ve got problems, but Clarisse, we’ve had good times. We had fun, Clarisse…”
“Ho, boy!” She leaned her head back now and then to project her words to him. She had slipped her shoe from one foot and was messaging the other with it: was she enjoying this? “We can’t get up and go to sleep without getting permission from our Lord and king, Master Bellinger!”
You’re wanted to be cruel, thought Mark, you’re wanting to be!
“It’s hard times, Clarisse. Terrible things are happening. We must run a tight ship around here. You know that.” Silence from his mate. “All those laughing, hysterically silly people cabaret about the nation – their happiness is short-lived. You must have some long-range goals, a little disciplined….’’
“So, we can go around moping in tears like you?”
“Inflation has driven most the nation into poverty!”
Again, her sardonic smile, “That’s because you want to live like the poverty smut taking over the city, instead of moving out into the county, like I wanted to!”
Mark injected a slightly different view: “What’s wrong with this house! it was grandpa’s house! What a terrible thing to say about a wonderful gift from my Grand Pop! It was an upper-middle class house home at one time, you know.”
“And now, dear, it’s junk—in more ways than one,” she was running a wet kitchen cloth over the now cleared table.
“You’re confusing things, Clarisse! Darn you! Can’t you try to be helpful? Darn you, anyhow!”
“And damn you to hell, too!”
“You brazen little two-year-old!” This growingly grotesque slander had been too much for Mark, too darn much. Mark lunged forward at his wife, when swift jerks of her hand from her bent position revealed a dire look of hateful determination at her husband.
“Go on! Hit me, you monster! Hit me like you did before!”
Mark stopped dead. There was a sharp shooting pain in the back of his skull like bolts of electrical pings. Something like a huge, thick wall had been lowered in front of him. He was unable to move around it. He wrung his hands together, gritting his teeth, and then suddenly his submerged eyes burst into tears, and the corners of his mouth drew back into a painful sob.
“I didn’t plan this!” wretched Mark. “Oh, no! I didn’t plan this!”
Mark covered his face with his hands and felt himself fall back to the doorway, momentarily leaning against the wall, letting his chest fall into deep heaves till his muscles were sore.
It was almost as if his feet had a mind of their own as he lingered in the darkness of the hallway, he stumbled, swayed, and almost falling, and then he soon felt his nose against the cold glass of the front door.
It was lonely, a terrible loneliness that had become his companion and a reality. The darkness was lonely. The rain was lonely. The low rumble of the thunder and, now, infrequent flashes of lightning were— lonely.
Father! Father! He sobbed aloud again: Oh, Pop! What a misery your grandson must have been!
Mark’s hand slid gently across the veneer-wood of the tall clock. The strokes of its long pendulum could barely be made out in the dim light. He could feel the cool glass on its front and Mark rested his head upon it for a moment, as if were caressing an old friend.
Somewhere upstairs a light had been left on, probably in Bob’s room, for its rays could barely be seen on reflecting surfaces in the upstairs hallway and onto the wall. One’s eyes could move in the darkness till they came to rest on the thick siding doors to the downstairs front room; and it struck Mark majestically as if he were viewing the entrance to some ancient tomb: the analogy was absurd but the feeling was striking.
A unique chill ran through Mark as he approached the sliding doors; he touched them, momentarily listening to the cars splashing through the puddles on the street outside. He slowly pushed the huge door panels into their recesses, and a woody growl of sound came forth.
Mark fumbled his way into the room. The smell of musty old gray dust along with the invigorating smell of vinegar from the kitchen was a peculiar mixture. He glanced about the room; what a cemetery! He could feel his father’s presence there, almost as if he were sitting in his regular upholstered easy chair in the corner, his grandad looking at him casually, a small light smile on his aging but still pink lips. Grandpa appeared as he was in his late sixties. Whitened sideburns, and patches of dark on his hoary head. The smile would momentarily leave, fluctuating at times into a serious grimace—almost as if grandpa could see the aches in his grandson’s heart. Grandpa still fidgeted with the corner of the armrest, a usual habit of his that Mark had noticed during their many front-room discussions in year’s past.
Somehow these thoughts scared him, and Mark rushed to switch the small frontiers’-lamp on an end-table. The first thing that small amount of light revealed to his vision was the box! It sat smackdab in the middle of the room on an old wooden pedestal. It was obvious that Clarisse hadn’t been in the room to clean the for some time as a sizeable layer of dust covered it and most of the furniture.
Mark walked slowly over to the box. It was an ancient object; something you might find in an old cabin somewhere, during or before the civil war, or, even the Revolutionary War. Its metal parts were badly rusted. The lock and loop were a grisly red. Barely visible was a gold and silver trim, and a design of something like an American Eagle could be seen. It looked as if termites had attempted to invade the crypt at one time.
Mark ran his fingers gently over the side of the box. Though he had handled it before, it suddenly felt more significant to him this time. Grandpop! Something Grandpop left for us! Something special!
He let out a deep sigh: if only he could have made up to his granddad all that he had wanted to do. Mark glanced over into the partial cover of shadows.
“Oh, Grandpop,” he whispered, “what am I to do! Things are getting rougher all the time!’’
Mark was thinking, of course, of the vast economic and sociologic changes going on since his granddad died ten years beforehand. He and his grandfather spoke openly about some of the coming trends. He was thinking about some of the wild kids running around the neighborhoods beating-up everybody on sight. Half of them were brazen, loud-mouthed homosexuals. The other half were nothing but freaks who had marvelous means of inhibiting and ‘handcuffing’ the police whose severely limited capabilities were bought-on by the various radical ‘civil liberties’ of groups that had sprung-up-out-nowhere seemingly overnight.
The communal tribal life of people had finally arrived. It first was a few excited isolated ‘communities,’ but with the passing of Supreme Court laws, whole city blocks were rented and designated ‘A,’ ‘B,’ and consecutive letters, and soon numbers like 184, 185, till the cities became thriving ‘free-for-all’ areas of living causing havoc with real-estate and Credit businesses, the new census polls, and schooling. Delinquency would no longer be traced back to ‘families,’ only back to the ‘community,’ and the ‘community’ had an abysmal way of avoiding all responsibility.
So, with Dad and Mom being nothing but murky, changing figures and faces, the youngsters became nothing but a wild, undisciplined herd of animals.
The police department surrendered to the National Guard; eventually, the National Guard surrendered to the ‘people!’ The ‘people’ told the ‘peace officers’ when ‘when-to-and-when-not-to.’ It became so difficult , so enmeshed in red tape, that finally it was simpler to ‘brush’ a dead body under a rug and then call “the law.” Was he your husband? Well, there’s always another man. Was she only a mate? It was never too late to find another.
Libraries became the property of the ‘Liberated Peoples,’ and Oriental-Asian-type nomads, descendants of the contemporary ‘hippies,’ that made quick business of using them as “Outposts.” It was crazy! It was nuts! But inevitably, books were burned in protest in one town, and soon spread as a ‘fad’ through the states. Magazines were “narrowed-down” to a few who adhered to the “New Age-Politic.”
It was a society that had sprung-up over-night and with surprising fury, for even its far-reaching effects couldn’t be seen by everyone, everywhere. The Nazi swastikas, the witches’ lore and ‘bent cross,’ plus other pagan symbolism, again became common. Everything was quite contemporary, yet quite ancient and fantastic.
In New York City, a recent poll indicated that the ‘red’ Communist Party was inadvertently ‘in power.’ The traditional mafia had some of its tentacles into the matrix as well. And there was even talk that the Russians had postponed an “invasion” because of the rapid success of the American Communist Party; we’ll give them another five years, the mighty ‘Bear’ said.
But above all this, the city of Yorkshire stood out in comparative peace. The Liberated Peoples’ movement had gained access to only perhaps 15% of the City and 8% of the County. And not everyone had convinced themselves that they had what it took to drop old values and step-in with the new; at least, not yet, all the way!
The trends were well-set, Grandpop Bellinger had said one night, sitting in that very armchair. It was already upon them; and that was ten years ago, recalled Mark (who had become tentatively content with the weak ideas that he and his family had not yet, despite the tragedy in their pasts, succumbed to the New Age altogether).
Mark shook his head. His hand could feel the small, corroded keyhole in the lock of the box.
What would money do? Sure, we needed it, he said to himself, but he wasn’t sure that it would help. It’s meaning and purpose would be twisted and pulled around beyond all recognition, and in the end, Clarisse would swear up and down that it was some diabolical misuse on his part. It always happens. But, oh, they could use the money. They could move…
Move! To where? And who could save that it was money in the box?
Maybe it was blood and guts! Perhaps Grandpa Bellinger had fallen before the weight of the cascading wickedness about him and wanted to play a hellish joke! Maybe he, too, dabbled in the back rooms of the university laboratories, the same as the strange ‘people;’ trying to create Frankenstein’s! And here, as a last weary tribute to a forgotten page of history and a nostalgic way of life, were the actual entombed bits and pieces of that life itself. Blood and guts!
Oh, what a hellish thought cried Mark inwardly, shame on myself, grandpa, forgive me!
Then, though, who could say – who would say?
Mark listened to the drizzle of the enduring rain hitting on the two large front-room windows. Every now and then the shades would light up in a faint headlight glow as a car passed-by.
Dull clinks and clanks rolled into the front room from the kitchen as Clarisse washed the rest of the dishes. Mark sighed deeply again, continuing to rub the box. It almost was polished from his incessant handling. He reached for a cigarette out of his pack. It had been years since they’ve had a cancer warning in the news media, he thought, holding the white cigarette cylinder before him. He lit it quickly and blew a heavy puff of smoke over the box. Then he slowly backed away and set into the thick, padded armchair.
Mark could imagine his wife at the kitchen sink, where he had often watched her gracefully at work under the dim kitchen-window-light. She was lovely, thought Mark, somewhat petite and thin, but very shapely with rich, sleek auburn hair that gently cascade about her shoulders and down her back, smooth and lovely ankles that were accentuated by delicate, sensually bulging calves. Even in an old mini skirt (the modern housedress) she had beauty; a beauty that even her small breasts couldn’t detract-from; after all, thought Mark, they had fed two babies; a lovely boy and his sweet little daughter.
Mark’s throat choked again. It had been some time since he thought of his daughter. He loved his daughter, despite the animosity that somehow existed between them. And he knew, too, that he loved his wife; yet, their lives were such a panic at times. And his wife could be so devilish! But then, thought Mark, she was not so nice to some others all the time either. Oh, what was the answer? How did they get into such a mess? An early marriage? A child out of wedlock? A punk kid with no formal schooling? Yes, sure, all that was correct, he confessed; but then, there seemed to be more.
Mark gave another thick sigh. “Oh, Clarisse! If we could only step beating each other over the head!”
His chest still hurt but he had stopped his crying. He just wanted to relax the tension and frustration. Relax! Let every muscle ripple loose and flow into a magical state. Relax. Relax.
He puffed the cigarette again. Smoke gradually filled the air. “The key,’’ Mark whispered, “Grandpop’s key! Let me think. Think!”
The box sat immobile in its mute witnessing. A museum piece in a crypt from out of the turn of the century; my, how time flies.
Mark closed his eyes. His eyes felt heavy and sore. He placed the cigarette in an ashtray, and he was thinking of the place his granddad may have kept a key.
Soon his olive complexion erased its wrinkles and a serene look of peace passed over it slowly. His head slumped to one side. The rain had stopped. Distant rumbles could be heard in far parts of the city. Mark Bellinger had surreptitiously fallen asleep.
Soon following, Clarisse decided to sleuth the situation on Mark’s whereabouts. Her expression was suave and noncommittal. She walked over and turned the lamp off without saying a word to her husband. Then she climbed the stairs.
Mark didn’t hear the melodious chimes of the Grandfather Clock announcing that the hour had arrived. Neither did it cause the clock to change its routine. It only said:
A steady stream of clear day light came through the curtain on the big front door. It lit-up the parlor delightfully but not in the full burst-light of noon time. There was a vague, dull overcast outside, but it didn’t deter the squall of the blue jays. One could hear the coo of pigeons on the roof and the crisp chirps of those hundreds of little brown birds that seemed to be imperceptibly everywhere. There was a steady rustle of the autumn leaves causing a placid, dim sound, like a waterfall off in the distance.
Every now and then, a silhouette would pass down before the front door in a swirling, rocking motion as several more leaves came off their parent tree to join the companion blanket on the ground.
The quick, rocky ‘putter’ and rumble of an automobile was heard as it raced by the front of the house — and then another going in the opposite way. Only the Grandfather’s Clock made the sole conversation in the autumn afternoon symphony: its choice of words never changed.
The someone scampered up the wooden steps to the house; Rather briskly turning the door, turning the nob once, hesitating, and then going back to the steps, and sat down. He sat there and made no motion for a long while. Only the ‘chee-chee’ of a bird indicated that someone was aware of the person’s presence. When minutes had passed, the person got up, quickly opened the door, and holding its edge, peered in.
It was Bob Bellinger. He looked fazed, like he had the flu or a bad cold. There was no doubt that he was troubled about something.
“Mom!” he called, glancing back and forth through the house. He listened for an answer. “Mom!” Still no response.
This prompted him to come and shut the door. It quickly dulled the whine of a jet’s after-burner overhead.
Bob peered into the kitchen. No one. And no one was in the Sunroom. Upstairs?
Apparently, not, thought Bob, they surely would have answered by now.
He gave a short sigh, whipped the thin layer of sweat from the palms of his hands onto the stripped pants (pants designed by the elite of homosexual clothing designers). He started for the stairs – but suddenly stopped. He glanced for at the heavy sliding doors to the front room and felt a sudden compulsion to go in. Why, he didn’t really know, but within seconds he had the doors pated enough for him to pass through. He just stood there for a moment, casually scrutinizing the alien sight.
It wasn’t too often that he had spent any amount of appreciable time in the front room, it seemed so odd and outlandish. And for the most part, the heating was shut off there to help to reduce the heating bill — this was denoted by a sudden draft that wafted past him. Bob pushed aside the doors.
But still, it was quant, thought Bob, something nostalgic and reassuring. A symbol — a symbol out of the past of never-changing values – of permanence and even loyalty. As loyal as the musty old chopped and unlit wood in the fireplace; it hadn’t been disturbed in any great degree since Grandpa Bellinger died.
Bob shivered. His complexion was still flu-like. He let his hands slide from the edges of the thick doors to his sides with a notifiable tap: he rubbed the brightly decorated, thin satin material of his trousers, as if attempting to warm himself. The necklace around his throat was brassy but still distinctly appealing in color. His skintight, evenly creased trousers were the latest style among the ‘Ultras,’ a faction of the Liberated Peoples of America.
And, boy, did he need some reassuring!
How could such ominous yet commonplace things have happened so spontaneously and yet present so many difficulties? He wasn’t even sure it was happening! And Sherell, he thought in utter amazement, was giving him some fantastic doctrine about doing it ‘the correct way!’
Sickening, he thought, yet, there still existed laws that bound a man to marry a woman with children resulting, and the one party, usually the female, wanted to consummate the union because of children.
Such an anarchic law! Who paid any attention to this, any longer? And above all, why, in the world would Sherell – a princess-maiden in the American Liberated Peoples – pull-off something like that?
Bob just shook his head dejectedly at the floor, churning his fingers into his palm, all emphasized by the gulp of his larynx. In the next instance, his thoughts had become too overpoweringly bewildering. He shook his head again, and ‘swooned’ the few feet to the sofa, falling onto it, allowing his head to finally rest.
He peered up into the old venetian-blinds. Light streamed faintly though them making zebra strips across his face. Apparently, Mom had felt compassion towards the old place, for she had, almost despite herself, replaced the yellowed shades and the crinkled, bent venetian blinds, with brand-new ones. It probably took some effort to break-away from daily daydreaming to do that toil.
He slowly lifted his head; his vision was confronted by the old wooden box, situated no more than three feet from him.
“Boy! How can everything go so wacky?” he said aloud to himself, and suddenly he realized he must tell his parents about the cryptic happening, the sooner the better, he told himself. But how? Dad was out of the question, he reasoned, he could not bear to approach him. But what was more frightening, Bob Bellinger acknowledged, he wasn’t so sure his Mother would react according to his preconceived notion of what should happen.
Ah, Mom was a swell cooky, Bob thought, and she had many ‘swinging’ ideas. Bob Bellinger gave a wicked little smile: Ideas that would even have blown the top of Grand Pop’s head off. Oh yes, Mom had shared some of the current scenes: the ‘blood-runs’ outside the City Limits; the Rati-Tals; the various ‘New Age’ magazines and newspapers. She wasn’t completely alien to Bob’s private world. Perhaps she would understand. Perhaps. It was a secondary thought, but one of weird comfort, nonetheless.
“There will be help. Maybe, just maybe, things aren’t as bad as they seem. If I’ve known that stupid girl would pull something like that,” continued Bob in his dramatic thinking, “I’d would have dropped her long ago.”
He just shook his head again; it was useless to go on in this panic-like way. Mom would be home any minute.
He glanced at the old Grandfather Clock, the face of which peered at him incessantly, ticking off minutes and seconds like eternity dispensing through a box.
His eyes fell upon the decrepit construction of wood before him. He slowly lifted himself off the soft springy sofa and reached for the box. He noticed fingerprint smears over its polished surface. Mom had a remarkable job of cleaning and polishing the old relic, what a souvenir it had become. But ‘why,’ asked the rather stern-looking teenager, didn’t they open it? A hammer, crowbar, or axe – anything would do.
“Silly,” he whispered. He glanced around the room at the antique and vintage furniture, “dumb, crazy, idiocy,” he eyed the old fireplace, “nuts, gooney, stupid…” It wasn’t helping any. He dropped his hands down at his sides and looked back at the box. The afternoon stillness grew upon him.
And then his heart spiked, and immediately began to pound — someone was coming up the porch steps.
He tightened his forefinger onto the box. His throat went dry. A key turned in the door lock. There was the rustle of a paper bag, and soon his mother appeared in the parlor, headed towards the kitchen.
“Mom!” the words came out suddenly, almost unexpectantly. The fear that had been rising in him was coming to a quick peak.
Clarisee backed-up till she was in the middle of the doorway. She had a satin scarf about her head, and her slender arms looked strained under the load of groceries she was holding. It pinned her knit sweater up to her elbows. She looked at her son questioningly.
“Home from the scatter lands already, Bob?”
Bob was momentarily lost for words, and his mouth was gapped a space. His eyes rolled over the strained stance of his mother.
“Ah, yes, Mom.”
“No instructor today?”
“Yes, no instructor.”
“Boy,” she shook her head and smiled, “school sure has changed since my day. Didn’t one of the kids get up in front of the class and teach? They usually do that, don’t they?”
“Yes, Mom. Mom,” his voice picked up a slight sense of urgency, “could I talk to you?”
There. He was well on his way. It would be out in the open any minute now.
Clarisee’s forehead wrinkled slightly, “Sure, Bob. What’s wrong?’’
“Here, set the groceries down,” he approached her taking the bag and setting it on the sofa. Clarisee untied the knot of her scarf, whipped it off her head into her pocket. She shook her head, letting her hair fan out round her shoulders. There was a strong scent of beer on her breath. Dad had given up years ago to fight her lavishing alcohol; but it had led to their share of conflicts, thought the boy, and — well — maybe she’s just relaxed enough to take his message smiling.
“Well, go on.” There was an element of suspicion in her voice.
“Sit down, Mom.” Bob’s voice had turned somewhat somber. He pointed to the sofa for her to set as he turned to the musty old armchair. There was the perpetual chill to the room. It was almost as if the logs in the fireplace should have sprouted into flames out of desperation. But, instead, the unending sweeps of the pendulum of grandfather’s clock; the rustle of leaves along the street outside; and the forlorn melody of a popular song from someone’s stereo down the way, all indicted the unchanging seriousness of the moment.
Bob’s mother’s large brown eyes held the face of the boy seriously, who, now, nervously groped for words. She squirmed. Then crossed her legs in anxious suspicion.
“Mom. Promise you’ll try and understand that what I tell you is something that ‘can’ be handled.”
“Mom, I am sorry but Sherell Getigard…’’
“Go on, Bob! What is it?”
“Well, she’s having a baby…’’ The words just fumbled out. It was no use to decorate them by proper tone or volume of voice. Bob Bellinger felt suddenly nihilistic and just wanted time to ‘pass’ in a swift fashion; perhaps the universe would melt away.
(The shocked expression on his mother’s face didn’t change for a few seconds. Her lips were pressed together firmly and slightly wet. Her eyes didn’t move. She just sat looking at her son in a skillfully subdued moment of panic. She perhaps wanted to cry but something much deeper than fear flashed before her now; and for that moment, she saw, again, the flashing red signal atop the ambulance in front of the house: it was then that the neighborhood had gathered before the white picket fence — Mark Bellinger was holding the door aside in desperate urgency while white-smocked attendants handled the wheeled stretcher down the steps out to the sidewalk. Heavy sobs and an occasional sequel echoed from his wife’s throat as Mark pathetically hung onto the sides of the stretcher.
She remembered the heavy lines on the face of a father who had just lost a baby daughter, seeing Mark standing there in the flashing light sweeping through the dark night, falling on his solemn and painful countenance.)
“A baby?” she spoke painfully.
“A baby, Mom” answered Bob Bellinger, and she just as well had said ‘what’s new?’ – thought the boy – for all the fashion she was reacting to it.
Clarisee lowered her head slightly, turning it aside, and grabbed the bag of groceries.
“I’ll put these away.”
She hesitated only momentarily, and then rose slowly to head into the kitchen. Bob sat nervously in the chair, fidgeting on its upholstery.
A moment later, a strange howl rose from the kitchen — an almost agonizing whimper: a lonely, low scream, an agonizing moan of desperation, came from Bob’s mother.
Bob wished he could run; run quickly, immediately and without any responsibility or recollection as to what was happening. But as the voice of his mother shrouded his very being, he knew it was hopeless; and Bob knew she was crying for more than just any baby.
Amongst the ‘Liberated Peoples,’ and large segments of the American populace, children were far and few between. It wasn’t a need to curb the rise of venereal disease, but, moreover, it had justly become a look for more restrains for ‘lusty independence.’
When the ranks of the ‘LP’ decreased because of such regulatory and medical concerns, an added maneuver was instigated to bring about a second generation of children, prospectively trained and drilled in the Liberate People’s philosophy: the result was ‘Babylon,’ and children were mere chess pons on a diabolical chessboard.
Mass abortion was common, even the ‘Law’ in some cities. But more fantastic, there were rumors of ‘child sacrifice’ in some segments of the decadent society. How it came about was uncertain; but where power and prestige were at stake, anything was possible — even in a democracy of a neo-utopian-sophisticated-America.
And there where those, suspended in a limbo of confusion, who had not yet accepted the growing fads and trends of the new “Utopia.” Some were still single-minded – and aware of the sanctity of children. Some still cried when they died, and still fewer worried what would happen when they grew older.
It was baby ‘Margaret Ann’ that Bob’s mother was crying about, thought Bob, and in a sudden moment, a vast panorama of grisly gangs of punk kids; orgiastic pranks in darkened avenues; and the whole scope of his earlier private delinquency passed before his mind’s eye.
He quickly brought a hand across his face, and he, too, began to cry in hard, deli berate sobs and chokes.
“Oh, baby Ann,” he sobbed, “oh, baby Ann!”
Through watered eyes, Bob tried to drink-in every ancient and comfortable sight in the room. He was thinking, at one time the bookshelf held classic novels and stylish, contemporary stories, but now only a stack of the latest LP publications sat there, worn, and well read, but triumphantly quiet.
There was the old phonograph, dusty but useable, setting silently in one corner. The melodies that were played on it were something out of another world altogether; what was the one name — Glenn Miller?
A world that believed in fresh roses, goldenrod, and ragweed that once was placed on the tables throughout the room. A world that was as eloquent as the yellowed chandelier hanging from the ceiling…as majestic as the old Grandfather Clock…yes, a world as ancient and romantic as…as…
As the old wooden box setting in the middle of the room!
Bob rose from the chair and reached for the box. He pressed his fingers tightly onto its surface again, and then quickly turned away from the pedestal.
Why were they living as they were? Actors in a surrealistic panorama? A phantasmagoric drama?
Loud voices could be heard outside, about a block’s distance away. Chatting, singing and a general grumble came from a large crowd.
Bob Bellinger slowly made his way from the chilly room into the hallway. He glanced at the dignified sweeps of the pendulum in the masterly face of the Grandfather Clock, as he went about opening the thick front door.
He cursed at himself, suddenly, as he peered outside — he cursed at his stupidity and jeered at the impending doom about him: over the trees and housetops across the street, in the distant horizon, was a deep glow, a rosy, pink vapor enveloped amid thick black fringes and edges: somewhere buildings were burning; somewhere property was being destroyed.
Soon, a parade of screaming, jeering, chanting long-haired delinquents appeared. Youthful girls clad in plastic-like, clear one-piece jumpers made from the latest synthetic material in space flights, shielding their nude bodies from the cold about them. Many were carrying torches in their hands. Faces of boys and girls alike were contorted in savage teenage frivolity. Mouths were formed into large round ovals; it resembled an over-sized searching party who had gone out to get Frankenstein’s monster.
It was going to be a rough weekend.
“Bob, I don’t know what is going to happen. I just don’t know. I think, I might do crazy any minute.” It was the weak, sick voice of his mother. She was much smaller than her towering son, and she had to reach up to caress her boy higher on his lean back.
Bob could feel her moist cheek on his arm as the two peered out at the crowd passing in front of the front door window-curtain — the red infernal hovering on the horizon. His body shivered with a peculiar freight and pain.
“But I want you to go to your room,” she continued to speak firmly, “and I want you to stay there and not come out. You’ll tell your Father …no, I’ll tell your Father that you are sick. You’ll be in bed, too sick to see your Father.” She looked at her son with tearful eyes.
“Do you understand?”
Bob turned slowly, feeling the small hand of his Mother slink down his back.
It was a Johnson-Clark respirator that had been used on Baby Ann in the ambulance. Bob remembered the churning hum that emitted from somewhere inside the vented mechanism, and the red cross pasted on the side somehow stuck in his memory. A cross? He was not sure what it stood for; any more than he understood the real purpose for those round, heavy, brick, stone sculptured gothic structures the LP assembled as groups to practice their sundry rituals.
He walked towards the stairway. With painfully heavy steps, he crept up to the second floor. Then suddenly when he reached the landing — he raced down the upstairs hallway into his room, as his Mother had ordered.
Mark Bellinger had been such a dashing fellow, Clarisee was thinking, perhaps in a juvenile way, but he was the man-of-her-dreams. She had built her whole world around him in their teen-years. He was swell, good looking, muscular, and a man; how she needed some of that strength; beg, borrow or steal…
The parade of teenage libertines had left his street; only a bright red color filled the parlor hallway and door window, fading back and forth reflections as the furious flames fluctuated far out in the city.
The parlor clock chimed the hour, and the sound carried to other parts of the house, a sound that also seemed to dance about the patiently- waiting front room pedestal—–and the companion ‘box.’
The box—–it appeared stretched and out of focus—-being viewed through a female’s tear drop.
The light from the table lamp in the front room cast a cozy warmth into the parlor. It lit-up the face of the majestic Grandfather Clock, part of the front door, and the somewhat dirt-stained rug on the parlor floor.
It was pitch-dark outside, and the cold steady howl of the wind portrayed the winter’s coming intentions. The panes of the house-windows would vibrate forlornly under the wind’s persistent challenges, and every now and then, a gust of an additional turbulence would slash against the house, whipping it with snow and ice. In the light of the arched streetlamp on the sidewalk, one could barely make out the dazzling mounds and drifts of snow lying about. Tree branches were laden delicately with ridges of snow, and the silhouette of a large icicle could be seen protruding from the rim of the front porch, amidst an array of smaller icicles.
Nevertheless, it must have amused the Grandfather Clock immensely to be in the warmth of the house, as it just stood unalarmed and chanted its lullaby as it looked out over the passing vista of the household.
Mark Bellinger was busy about the old box. He had seen it sitting there long enough, and he had forsaken the idea of ever finding a key to fit the lock, if the lock was mechanical enough to even use.
Instead, he brought a hacksaw from the basement, and had placed the blade upon the corroded loop and was presently sawing it about a quarter of the way through.
But why was he prompted to such sudden action this evening? And why the drooped mouth and the sullen continuance? Was it just preoccupied worry about imaginary ‘blood and guts’ Grandpa Bellinger might have deposited-away to teach a cruel lesson? Perhaps, Mark’s grandfather had a few esoteric and cryptic tib-bits about his Grandson, Bob?
He did talk to the boy often – even when he had been arrested by the police for theft – and maybe the boy confided in the man more than they had thought: You know, “…here was the cruel information.” Ah, no, no! Grandpa Bellinger would have come right-out with it, right then and there.
But it was obvious that Mark was caught in a spastic web of deep thought – deep enough to prevent him from successfully completing his objective, for he would stop a few seconds and breathe deeply, his eyes agog, and looking dramatically at the box. And then he would move the saw a little more.
“I was a child once, just like Bob, like my wife, like millions of citizens. Now, I am a man,” Mark was instructing himself. “What is a man? What is a human being?”
In the silence of the cold night, footsteps were trudging the snow-covered sidewalk, making a crunching sound under the weight of the huddled form. The person quickly scamped-up the walkway to the house and pounded-up the wooden steps. A thick ridge of snow was knocked from the person’s boots onto the huge front door mat. Then suddenly —
‘Boy!” exclaimed Clarisee Bellinger, somewhat breathlessly, as she stepped into the vestibule, she shut the door with a big shiver. Mark froze still, quickly throwing the saw into the lap of the old armchair. He just stood there for a second looking at the fireplace. His heart pounded a little from the surprise.
Clarisee quickly dropped the coat off her back and proceeded to drop it over the coat rack. The fur cap followed just as quickly, and then she placed the goulashes and wet socks neatly into one corner. She stood by the old cast-iron radiator, barefoot, trying to grasp some warmth in the wavering air over its surface.
“Who’s in the front room?” she queried, trying to peer about the edge of the sliding door. A short silence followed.
“Just me, Clarisee.”
“Home early tonight? No overtime, eh, Mark?” Her conversation was unentertaining even though he attempted to be pleasant.
“Yes, honey, I’m home early tonight.” There certainly was no enthusiasm there.
The solemness of the remark sounded slightly peculiar to her, and she moved into the light of the front room doorway, her bare feet giving that sensuous ‘thud’ of a feminine walk. She stood there placing her weight to one side, outlining a shapely hip. The blurred redden appearance of her eyes and the heavy smell of Jack Daniel’s liquor rolled in waves to his nostrils, revealing that his wife had somehow left the Budweiser stage. Clarisee acted more sexually titillating when intoxicated, but Mark could help feel nothing but disgust. It was so brash, so careless of her; however, he held his peace.
“How come? Inventory over?” was her bland query.
“Yes, it’s over.” He said with a bit of sarcasm, and he turned to look at her. He casually walked over to the sofa and wearily slumped down onto its cushions.
“And you? I didn’t know you did your shopping today?”
Clarisee’s face went somewhat flush as if a forgotten moment flashed before her eyes, or an unspoken secret had been nearly disclosed. “Eh, no shopping. I – I – I just had something to take care of.”
“It’s cold out there,’ she exclaimed, trying quickly to change the subject, “feel my hands.’’ She approached her husband and rubbed her fingers over his cheeks. He dimly smiled.
“What in the world were you doing?” she asked, pointing to the metal filings on the table and floor.
“I’m going to open that darn thing,” he pointed a straight finger accusingly at the box.
“Why now? It’s been sitting there…”
“Clarisee,” he interrupted her with an outburst, “Clarisee, it’s happened!” His voice was filled with emotion.
“I’ve been fired!”
“And worse than that, Mr. Farrell has threatened that I’ll not be recommended for another job.” Mark didn’t really wish to, and he didn’t intend to, but his eyes rapidly filled with tears.
“But why?” his wife asked. “Why are they threatening you?”
He suddenly felt speechless, so he just shrugged his shoulders, looking somewhat desolate. Mark had been home long enough to change into an old knit sweater and casual trousers that lapped loosely around his legs. Perhaps he had worn these clothes trying to locate some form of comfort in doing so. His chin rested on his chest, and he looked directly at his slippers.
I cry too much, thought Mark, his eyes becoming increasingly watered. And what is Clarisee going to say, Mark asked himself, now that I need someone close – close at hand?
Clarisee straightened for a moment. A slightly worried look had come over his face, as she paced back and forth near the wooden pedestal in the middle of the room. She had a hard-time placing her thoughts appropriately on her husband now, and she found her thoughts were centered more on Jack Getigard – Sherell Getigard’s father.
Ever since the crisis that involved Bob and his girlfriend, Jack Getigard had been an understanding friend. Clarisee had been afraid to approach him about the problem at first. Apparently, Sherell had not confided in her father, and it was her mother who accompanied her in the intention of filing legal charges. But Jack Getigard spoke consolingly and assuredly – and then several visits had ensued, and several more, clandestinely, most private, and then….
Clarisee squished her eyes, biting her lower lip; Oh, boy! she thought, my, my, my, things are happening!
The wind buffeted the windows, and a whistling sound ensued around the house. The panes of glass in the room opposite the vestibule vibrated eerily.
Look at him, Clarisee jeered to herself, gazing analytically at her husband, like a child with his hands covering an embarrassed face. Jack Getigard wouldn’t act that way, not Jack!
She walked over to the fireplace and gazed aimlessly into it. Ah, what’s coming off, Mark, he yelled inwardly, you need help, I need help. Oh, if I could walk right out that door right now!
“What’s happening, Mark? I mean…things are getting so dog-gone confused.” I need someone to hold me, Clarisee secretly pleaded, someone to say the world is the same sweet country cottage I lived in as a girl.
“Your confused?” blurted out Mark. It was the wrong expression to use at that moment, but Mark had no idea as to what Clarisee had been thinking, ‘‘How do you think I feel? Eh, Clarisee? I’ve warned you. I’ve been telling you what would happen! Instead, all I’ve gotten back was a bunch of rotten names…now I want help!’
You want too much, thought Clarisee! She couldn’t help it; it was the way she felt at that moment. Mustering-up all the authority she could, she glared at her husband’s questioning face.
“You’ll get early tomorrow,” her words were slow and deliberate, “get dressed – and go look for another job! You understand? You’ll be a man and get out and find a job to support us!” It was hard to subdue the look of anger upon her petite face.
“Clarisee, don’t start that! Of course, I will! But you always start off on the same foot: I’m jut a dumb guy who just doesn’t do anything for you. I don’t understand how you can say that? Clarisee, honey, you’ve got a lot – really! This house! You’re not starving, you know!”
She rolled her eyes in disgust: “You’ll get up! Get dressed…”
“All right, cut it out! I don’t need that ! Not now, honey! Please…”
Clarisee mumbled the curse to herself and turned so Mark couldn’t hear the full expression.
Suddenly, the shrill ring of the telephone from the hall jerked the two to a sudden alert. It seemed to echo endlessly in the solitude of the large house. What’s that? Did the old parlor clock stop its relentless chant from the freight o the sound?
Exactly why, it would be hard to say, but Mark immediately raced to the phone before his wife reached it. When his hand was secure on the receiver, Clarisee froze in her tracks with a look of almost horror.
Oh no, Clarisee thought, oh no !
“Hello, Bellinger residence…who?…Sherell Getigard?…oh, yes, Bob’s girlfriend…I haven’t heard too much about you lately…what?…yes, go on, I’ll listen…”
It’s Sherell, Clarisee mumbled, what is she trying to do?
“What?…I can’t understand you…why are you crying?…Sherell?…Sherell?” Mark’s face took-on a placid expression, as if trying to fathom a deep cryptic message. His heart gave small thumps against his chest-growing-into-lead, as if a small animal were jabbing his breast with its feet.
He’s twisting the telephone cord, thought Clarisee, and he has a look of confusion and anxiety. What was he hearing? Oh, Mark, turn around and look at me! Look and see that my heart is hurting too! Oh, Mark, hang up! Hang up and come hold me!
“Yes…yes…a baby?…now, wait a minute, whose baby?…Sherell, Sherell, stop crying, I can’t understand you…yes, yes…yes…yes…oh, no…no, it’s notso!…angry?…Sherell, where’s your father?…yes, get him, please…”
Mark turned to look at his wife standing limply in the middle of the front room. His face had a peculiar exasperation, denoting the thunderous parade of thoughts running through his mind. Half of his body was cast in shadow causing an electric effect.
“Sherell Getigard,” the words just stumbled out, “she’s having a baby. Bob’s baby !” He looked as if he wanted to say more, but his lips stayed parted, his mouth dry, and he never continued more words; instead, his glaring eyes said all the words that were necessary.
Clarisee just tried to shake her head, her eyes stinging from the acidity of tears. Once again, those brown opals were filled to the brim like water filled and overflowing in a canister after an all-night rain.
Suddenly, she slumped to the floor, almost as if her legs had suddenly become stricken with paralysis, into a kneeling position, thrusting her hands over her face, and sobbing heavily into her palms.
Mark’s attention was suddenly snapped back to the conversation on the phone.
“What’s that?…he isn’t….he what?…who?…”
Again, a look of utter dismay came over Mark’s face like a cloud slowly covering a near beclouded moon. Astounded, he held the receiver away from his mouth as he clumsily formed words to his wife:
“She…she…she says to ask you ! You would know where the father is at,’’ Mark’s lips moved hesitantly, and his eyes squinted in deep puzzlement, “and that you had seen him earlier. That you would know!” She took her hands aware from her face, but did not say anything, only stared at the floor.
“Sherell!” There was deep panic in his voice. “Sherell, listen to me! Go find your father, you hear me? Find him, and you, your mother – all three – come here Immediately! immediately! Yes!…yes!” and then weakly, rotely, insincerely out of the range of the receiver as he hung up, ‘‘goodbye.’’
Mark stood immobile for a moment, then staggered back into the shadows and sat on the bottom of the stairway. He just kept shaking his head in steady succession. Eventually, he lifted his head, “Where’s Bob?’’
Hesitant at first, Clarisee made the insipid reply, “In his room.’’
“Bob!’ Mark called out a shrill command. Doggonit, this head aches, he swore silently! Pain!
A moment later a shadow appeared in the dim light cast -down the upstairs hallway. Bob gazed down at this father rubbing the pain in the back of his neck denoting his panic. Mark’s blank expression was hidden in the shadows. “Bob, come on down here!”
The boy said nothing but slowly descended the stairs. He passed his father, and when he had appeared in the light of the front room, it as plain that he was uncomfortable. He had been sleeping fully dressed his clothes were wrinkled and rugged. His face had a saddened drawn appearance; his hair ruffled and dislodged.
His mother was already seated on the sofa and was making faltering attempts to light a cigarette.
“Sit down, Bob,’’ his father gestured towards the sofa. Mark limped to the old armchair, as if attacked by insufferable boils – or maybe sore diseased muscles – or both – had suddenly seized his body: a body that seemed to have aged measurably within minutes. His throat gave a gruff crackle, as if to excuse the prickly salvia and its heavy warmth resting in his mouth.
Lost for words, they sat for a moment. The whistling wind about the house went racing at a furious pace. And every now and then the windows behind the sofa would bang under its force. The only solitary sign of warmth seemed to be the smoke-column rising from the cigarette Clarisee held precariously between her fingers.
Mark couldn’t discern the meanings on the faces of the two people before him. Either they, too, were filled with mutual hurt and bewilderment – or – or – the same old resentful indifference and hatred existed in each of them: ‘which?’ asked Mark secretly.
He rubbed his hands together tightly lacing the fingers between each other. That at least helped to abate that lump in his emotionally racked larynx. The panic within him had been gaining rapid momentum.
The sound of the whining wind outside suddenly resembled the heart rendering, distant, whimpering of a dog in pain. It drew his attention to the windows for a moment. A car had slowly passed down the snow-caked street, dredging its way along, with its headlights hitting the front room windows. It left the street with the constant ‘whirring’ of its tires all the way.
It only betrayed Mark’s utter frustration to find the proper words. In the silence of the room, he could feel that deep, heavy thud of his heart, a slight ringing was in his ears, and there was a deep pain behind his eyes along his temples; every time he gulped, the ache grew with the feverish fear of enveloping him.
“Bob!” Mark finally said, startling the young man sitting in fearful placidity. “What in the world is going on, son?” Mark shook his head painfully. “How about taking pity on this old man, eh? I can take a lot, but a lawsuit….from a bunch of legal gangsters…a baby…’’ He again was suddenly filled with emotion, rushing his hand to his mouth to ward-off a sob.
Clarisee dropped her blank look of numbed agony to flick the ashes off her cigarette. The she turned to her son.
“What is Sherell going to do, Bob? Does she still plan to get an attorney to file the complaint?’’
It’s not the right time, nor the right place, thought Bob. And perhaps dad wouldn’t like to hear what’s really been going on.
“Mom! Later! Please!”
“You might as well get it out in the open, Bob.’’
“Mom!’ pleaded the boy. He fidgeted with the thongs hanging limply from his feet. Finally, somewhat exasperated, he relinquished to the request.
“Dad, what I am about to say might sound strange, but try to remember, this has been going on for some time now.”
Now, Clarisee’s complexion took on a shade of pasty white from the drab pink that already resided there. The scanty vale of freckles that resided on her face became invisible altogether; and she suspected that she too was about to hear something altogether new – and perhaps frightening.
“When Sherell became pregnant, I didn’t think it very unusual, pop. After all, these things are happening quite regularly. I mean, the child could have been ‘sold’ to one of those full-fledged Liberated People’s regimes – and I might as well tell you – I’ve been trying to gain membership for some time now. Anyway, there are ways to handle this.”
Bob’s father just looked at him, wide-eyed, shaking his head. For a moment, Bob thought it was useless to keep talking, but he endeavored anyway. It would almost seem foolish to stop now.
“But when Sherell said that she wanted to marry, and to keep the baby,’’ he continued, “ I didn’t know how to handle that! I mean, Sherell never let on that she ever even anticipated doing such thing to me!”
His mother wearily forced her lips apart to peak. “Why, Bob, didn’t you use contraception?” Her large brown eyes seemed to be drooping somehow, and it was hard to carry on conversation.
“Why?’’ the boy refrained from commenting further for a moment, “I mean, gee, it is quite a thing to have a child. They are born, placed in a ‘circle group,’ and given care and guardians. I imagine, I’d see the kid quite regularly,’’
Are you serious? That’s all Mark could have thought to say. He wanted to scream something out to the boy but couldn’t.
Clarisee eyed the dirty, crinkled pole of Liberated People’s magazines on the shelf of the bookcase. She recalled reading several articles on the topic of children practices; but it was always in another part of town or a half-mile away; maybe only several blocks away that these happen…but…
Her ears had gone deaf for a moment. The words that were now rapidly tumbling out of the boy’s mouth were only silent vibrations to her. In a moment, the conversation will evolve to her. What will she have to say? And why did she alert the Getigard’s? Why did she not keep it a secret? Soon, there would be the sound of someone at the front door, and she realized that she didn’t have one idea of what to say. To say? It would be hell, she thought, for she would have to make a frightening decision!
Her vision slowly traveled over the old room. It passed over the partially lit parlor and the hypnotic sweeps of the Grandfather Clock pendulum; the pale, slightly yellowed, olden wallpaper displaying various colonial villages and wooded areas. A crack had developed in the wall, towards the ceiling, and a spider web could barely be seen at its apex. The dull light of the old floor lamp behind the antique armchair soon drew her attention, and then the rim of her husband blended into the scene, and she casually examined that familiar visage.
Oh, he’s trying to be serene, she thought! The poor guy, what in the world is going to happen? What can I do for him, anyway? Do I want to do anything? Ah, who cares? How hopeless, how utterly hopeless!
Mark’s sleek, shinning hair was accentuated by the glare of the floor lamp, and his face was split in a slicing contrast of light and shadow. Every now and then, his mouth would move to form words, and his lips would barely pull apart, as if a thin layer of glue impeded their movement. Multiple ridges ran across the dry surface, and the rugged appearance was only deflected by the small lines of wrinkles on his forehead. They were evenly and succinctly planted there by the heavy weight of words his son was now speaking.
“I thought you went out in the evenings to visit Sherell or a friend or two! Maybe you played basketball, or compared notes, you know, like I did when I was a kid!” Mark poked himself in the chest at this point. “Now you start all kinds of crazy talk about Eastern rituals, with long complicated phrases about Oriental Initiation. About…about…oh, gads, son…child sacrifice! Are you joking?’’
“Pop. I thought you knew it’s going on. I mean, what’s so strange? Mom knows…ah…ah…everybody…’’
“Everybody! Mom! Son, I haven’t read a book, seen a television broadcast, or read a legitimate newspaper since that cockeyed regime’ took over everything years ago. The last time I read a newspaper it was called the Tribune and its editor was Paul Darrell. Now, all I see lying about the streets are those bits of printed trash!” Mark indicated the magazines on the bookshelf, there lay pages of erratic faces and cartoons of blatant pornography and esoteric philosophies. “I suppose I’m still living in a world long passed, son. Why, I remember taking a stroll through a local park on a sunny day, and watching parents with children, who fed ducks. Now, it seems, all one thinks of when ‘the park’ is mentioned is horror and disgust.” Mark’s voice seemed to trail-off at the vision that paraded before him, heavily sensitive to those last few words.
“I don’t agree with everything that’s going on either, Pop. That’s why I – I — I want help.”
“Do you?” Mark’s voice was sarcastically quizzical.
“Do I?” the boy didn’t understand. He glanced suspiciously at his mother. “Tell the man, Mom, tell him that I can go to jail if this isn’t straightened out.”
Oh, how stupid, thought Clarisee, did anyone really care? Nothing was making sense, and everything seemed to suddenly swirl in the cesspool of humanoid confusion.
With one agonizing leave of her body, Clarisee lifted herself off the coach and made her way to the fireplace. She noticed that someone that someone had attempted to start the logs aflame at one time but had done an extremely poor job. Slowly, she stepped over to and opened the gas jets and then pressed the red button that ignited the fumes, shooting a burst of flame over the wood. Soon it would burn and send a graceful aroma and flummery of forest-perfume-fragrance into the chilly room.
Deep within the flames she could see the sun-caressed fields of wheat and clover that surrounded the old country cottage of her childhood. And beyond that was the small suntanned little girl that she recognized as herself. Yes, she was running swiftly after a beautiful Collie dog. And Clarisee’s heart leaped to run with that little girl!
The vision was suddenly cut short with the agonizing scowls of wind and snow outside the house.
“Bob, Bob, I keep seeing a little boy before me,” Mark’s stomach was catching up with the rest of itself in his mouth, “a little boy that had the sweetest smile. I used to hold and cuddle you, son.” His throat became thick, and he quickly cleared it. “I’d carry you around at the Zoo on those hot, sultry days, and we’d walk for blocks on end; go shopping on cold days….son, we need to get together again – in one piece!”
“Sure, Pop, but…”
“There’s a chasm. A big, dirty chasm that has descended between you and I, Bob, almost overnight.’’ Mark lowered his aching head to look at the floor for a moment, and then spoke more softly, “I – I – guess I’ve made mistakes. I did some lousy thinking at times, son. I suppose I’ve gotten desperate at times…’’
“Dad, Dad…I need your help! I…”
That’s strange, thought Clarisee, the boy is crying! I don’t recall ever hearing him, seeing him, act in such a way in front of his father lately: it almost sounds sincere, she told herself, without turning to look; for she too would see tht small four-year-old child stiffly sitting on the sofa looking wide-eyed at his Dad. But what was it that made it seem so incongruous? Perhaps it was the fact that Mark was, in her estimation, so unworthy of such loving glances. Darn it, why do I resent you do, Mark?
Clarisee bit her lip as he eyes filled with fluid; she hugged herself tightly. “Hold me, someone, hold me,’’ she barely said audibly, but it was the haunting visions that prevented comfort from forming before her minds’ eye.
“Oh, Bobby, son, I might be your idea of a perfect father – but I do care! I do care!”
“Let’s get this out in the open. Let’s get together, boy, and fight this thing!”
“Oh, Dad, where in the world do we start? I’m not even sure if the baby is alive…but if it is, can we bring it home with us?”
Mark was constantly whipping the sweat off his palms onto his trousers, he was at a loss for words. He feverishly glanced about the room, thinking, searching for something. And int the back of his mind was the almost imperceptible sound of a siren. The flashing light of an ambulance. A cry of a small baby. An agonizing whimper of an infant.
Springing to his feet, Mark began to pace the floor, his hands firmly entrenched in his pockets, toying with coins. A look of hysteria enveloped his wide-open-eyes, and he nervously ran a chaffed hand through his hair and then guided his hand back into its pocket-lair.
“Baby Ann,” he spoke softly at first, then he stopped and glared at his wife, “Baby Ann! Baby Ann!”
“What’s that?” came the voice from the wet face of Clarisee. She swung about to face him. He glanced at her quickly, and with no surprise, continued his pacing.
“Baby Ann,” he spoke just as softly at first, then he stopped and frowned at his wife, “Baby Ann! Baby Ann!”
“Oh, don’t shout!” Clarisee screamed back.
“Life, Clarisee! Love! That’s what that baby was! We’ve lost something, honey. It passed away quickly as that darling little baby.” Oh, Clarisee, he thought, can’t you understand? Oh, for goodness sake, woman, can’t you see?
“Don’t talk about Baby Ann! How dare you!”
“Ah, honey, please try to understand. Clarisee, we need to get together again. To be made whole.” He swung around to face his son, who was now standing, his face red with anguish, and two glistening tears on his cheeks.
“Bob, it can’t be straightened all at once, not tonight. But we’ll work on it, son. Believe me…” He unconsciously held his hand out.
The boy was caught off-guard for a moment. A bleak silence filled the room. Bob Bellinger glanced at the shaking hand, fingers stretched out to him. Seconds were swiftly passing, and the only sound was that of grunts barely emitting from the lips of the two.
Suddenly, dramatically, the boy plunged to the hand of his father! He grabbed it: It was warm, strong, and firm. The callouses he had achieved while he had worked at the government shipyards were still there at the base of his fingers. Mark grabbed his son about his back, and he embraced his cheek to his own, squeezing himself tight against the older man’s bosom. Then Mark cried! He cried like the four-year-old boy he once had been!
This is almost ecstatic joy, thought Mark, and he began to smile. He believed he could even laugh without much effort, if given more time. A laugh of love reclaimed. Oh, one giant step. The thin air at this height was exhilarating!
Then – the telephone rang! Mark, still smiling, released his son, to listen. The boy held onto the thick part of Mark’s arm.
The phone continued to ring incessantly.
“Oh, no!” cried Clarisee.
“What’s wrong?” innocently asked Mark.
“Oh, Mark, don’t answer it!” Clarisee raced to her husband. “Please, please, don’t answer it!”
The man looked down into his wife’s large brown eyes as they dramatically searched his face. A whole story had suddenly been written there. He was no longer smiling. His lips were straight and taunt; his face slowly lost all color.
The ringing of the phone not only was incessant but maddening!
“Why, Clarisee? Why shouldn’t I answer the phone?”
She brought her breast close to his body, and it seemed to Clarisee as if she would emerge into those two eyes of darkness.
“Because…because…I need help too, Mark. Mark, I … I…need you, too. Please!’
Her desperation was apparent, but of no avail. Mark slowly backed away from the two people looking somewhat aghast at him. A look of barely subdued horror was upon his wife’s pale features.
Mark’s hand groped behind him in the darkness until he felt the familiar coolness of the ceramic receiver. The shrill alarm of the telephone that had echoed insanely through the museum of a house stopped abruptly and the sudden silence came like the dead-end of a car crash.
The long cord lazily unraveled from the stairway booth and fell indifferently to the floor: Mark brought it apprehensively to his ear; tiny, almost imperceptible, beads of sweat had formed along his upper lip and forehead.
“Hel…hel…hello…Mr. Getigard?…yes…ah, yes…what?…your drunk!….I say, you’ve been drinking, man!…yes…yes!…is that right?…what?…how dare you, you, you!…shut up!…no!…no!…no!…”
Clarisee let the two hands that shielded her mouth beneath her wide-eyed expression slump to her sides. She turned her head aside as if in shame. The in an unexpected moment of compassion, Bob Bellinger stepped next to his mother, cradled her in his arms, and provided a nest in which she could rest her guilty sobs.
It was an agonizing reach, for Mark, to place the receiver back into its cradle. The sardonic chatter of Dave Getigard could be heard rippling tin-like from the phone still. Then it abruptly vanished.
Mark rubbed his stomach. A continued nausea had progressed and he had gained a serious headache. He knew he wasn’t thinking too clearly, but he also knew he needed to be left along…quickly. His body suddenly became gripped with an aching pain comparable to an attack of stomach influenza.
Mark touched Bob on the shoulder. “Please take your mother upstairs, Bob. It’s getting late. I’ve got a busy day ahead tomorrow. It looks like I’ll be pounding the street again, son. You old man lost his job today.’’ There, thought Mark, I made a complete unbroken sentence, statement, in fact, but I don’t know for how long I can keep such a steady voice.
“Oh no, Pop.”
Mark just nonchalantly waved his hand as a polite token of silence.
“Anyway, I’m feeling very tired. But Bob, we’ll talk tomorrow. Son, we’ll work something out. I don’t know exactly what, but something!” He squeezed his son affectionately on the shoulder.
The boy brought his mother up from the floor. The perpetually hidden ‘bat’ tattoo on the bottom of her foot relinquished its secret in the light of the fireplace. Bob slowly led her into the parlor shadows when her pleading voice resounded: “Mark, oh Mark!”
Mark looked sheepishly at her. He was feeling very sick. “All right – all right – dear – please – please – go upstairs. Get some rest. Enough. Enough. Enough for today.” Mark waved his hand sadly through the air.
Now Mark stood there in the mellow glow of the floor lamp, examining the box; he looked as if in a state of agitation and anguish. The flames of the fireplace lapped about the logs dutifully issuing the fragrance of the wood. Suddenly the room seemed filled with the invisible presence of Mark’s grandfather. He could sense that presence in the forest fragrance of the burning wood; the nostalgic crackling of its combustion accentuated by the cruel whistling of the wind, snow, and sleet outside, making the sweet features of the grandfather fill every corner of the musty old room. And suddenly, he realized how much he had needed his grandfather. His guidance. His encouragement. His – his – love.
He gripped the old box earnestly. He could almost feel his fingers slip across the heavy wood to the sides as if to grasp the contents beneath. First, a vision of a pulsating heart, alive, moist, and dripping, only kept active by a unique stimulation that Grandpa Bellinger mystically affixed to it. Yes, yes, Mark could hear the throbbing of it beneath the lid – then – then he felt its wet, smooth surface under his quivering grasp. No! Now it was documents, insurance policies, funds….
Mark gritted his teeth and squinched his eyes to halt off a cry of pain and anguish! He had cried too much. Too much.
Oh, granddad, what did you leave us in this box? What is it that you felt so important? Money? A special invention of yours as a token of affection/ Just what?
Mark’s chest began to heave deeply again.
I dare not cry! I dare not cry!
Mark raced for the saw nestled deep into the cushion crack of grandpa’s armchair. He grabbed it and swung back to the box, placing the blade into the grove of cut loop; he began to saw in even motions; now and then, Mark would stop and wipe the tears from blocking his vision. He continued to work the saw.
The Grandfather Clock urged him on like the drumbeats upon an ancient slave galley. “Loud, confound you, why are you so loud?” queried Mark. And why did his oar on that ship seem twice as heavy, twice as grueling? Ah, still the clock was masterfully authoritive.
It was almost something of a comfort, that synchronizing sound, thought Mark, as his breathing grew heavier denoting the near completion of his job. He again wiped the tears away.
“What’s in the box? What’s in grandpa’s box?”
His thumb was slightly scratched and drops of blood spread over the curve of his skin; but Mark tried to ignore it, swearing:
“The box! The box! Oh, God, open the box!”
Little more! Little more! “Bob, son, I love you. Oh, son, I am sorry, my boy, my baby. Oh dear! My baby! Oh gosh, oh my gosh! Get this darn thing open! Help me! Clarisee! Clarisee! Oh!”
Then, suddenly, the lock, almost unexpectantly, dangled for a moment in the eroded loop, and like a miniature drunkard, staggered off and fell to the pedestal, then to the carpet. The clock magically, triumphantly announced the beginning of the hour with vibrant, melodious chimes.
With fury, now, Mark flipped back the old lid on its scratchy hinges. He tearfully gazed upon a black ‘something’ – no, by the feel, it seemed like cardboard; like coarse hide – no – no – leather; the jacket of a – a – a book! Grandpa’s novel?
Mark tried to detect the greatly faded ‘gold’ lettering on the cover: O-L-I-E….ah, no, no, he couldn’t read it (“…darn, why do I cry so?”). “ The book must be ancient?’’
Swiftly he turned the cover back. “I can’t see,” he hysterically whispered between jagged sob of anguish. “I – I – can’t make it out! Granddad, I can’t see what it is!”
He tried to dilate his eyes trying to make better visibility. Then he ran his fingers over the smooth super-colander finish of the first page.
He would try to read. First column. First paragraph. It says…
“In a beginning created by the Alueim were the heavens and the earth. Yet the earth became a chaos and vacant, and the darkness as on the surface of the submerged chaos. Yet the spirit of the Alueim….”
Steve Erdmann – Independent Investigative Journalist
Martin Salisbury was a stalwart man, in his early thirties by the standards of the society in which he lived, rather tall, rugged, and dark-complexed with a bronze look about his physique. His face, the look of pure, untouched youth as if the purity of the honey of wild bees along with the scent of naivete’ as a graduate of the Parthenogenetic College of Imperial Dulmania. He was a ‘Dulmen’—a rather muscular specimen of the one world government. In his deep-red cape, knee high bronze sheen guards, the Dulman accentuated his uniform even more with his bold stance. The metallic sheen of his metal fibered clothing outlined well the emblem of the Dulmen government___ a sword crossing a nude female body in a reclining position, leg raised, knee bent; around this curious X was a striking 3-dimensional artwork of flames and famous individuals of the Dulmen history—a history that was so extravagant and inclement as the fury implanted upon the emblem itself, a history largely hidden and inconsistent to any student that might be fully Dulmen.
From Ambrose Hill he could see Maylar City below—a metropolis of gleaming synthetic steel-like tubes, a crystal-clear diamond dome of a glass-like appearance containing tube-shaped structures 2000 feet or more into the air, cris-cross lines creating a patchwork of squares here and there and ant-size dots steadily moving along their lengths: the speedway and their “Zot” Cars, miniature mobile-homes-laboratories built into cozy traveling vehicles; the ‘Zot’ Cars ran on pure atomic energy.
Here and there was a glitter, a gleam would shoot upward from the complex of metal and diamond inside their Bubbles (smooth curved Domes as if growing out of the ground and containing the uniform and expensive homes of the residents). Inside the Domes could be seen tall, stately mansions of Gothic-type architecture with many steps leading to Parthenon temples and Gothic forums, serenely constructed columns and spirals stood independently as if photographed from an ancient Roman city; flawless silver-like parabolic shaped constructions as long, low-radiused bulges of metal coming up from the ground; towering cubical superstructures of almost pure transparency; the ascending circular-levels of the ‘Arena’ distanced above each other. One could also see the crowds of people as floating specks using their transport aides— personal aerial transports mechanisms attached to their waists.
In other parts of the city could be seen two needle-type electrode-anode superstructures jutting crooked and jerking bolts of electricity between the two. These Domes were miles in radius almost nudging Ambrose Hill, and they held the city in a state of controlled air-conditioning and seasonal regulation and adjustment.
Martin took a deep breath of the crisp fresh air. He smiled smugly, then grabbed his cape and briskly swung around and marched into an archway-opening in the side of the cliff.
“Ground level please!” he snapped at the attendant. Attendants were necessary for their auto-air elevators, if only for policing purposes. The Department of Welfare had a high standard of vigil.
It had been a few hours since Martin had been released from his “perimeter of learning” at the University in Zerok, a sister city of the capitol Mylar. From the apex of Ambrose Hill, he could survey his homeland terrain like an inheritor of a vast fortune examining delicate fruit to be plucked at his whim. The enclosure of the elevator subdued his passion somewhat, but his spirits rose to their previous height of the excitement when he was confronted with the huge cinemascope Viewing Screenbefore him; an ingenious way of permitting the passengers to watch their ascent and descent as if they were virtually “falling” or ‘‘ascending’’ along the side of the hill (elevator was not the only mode of travel in Dulmania, but it was shared with several other modes that could have accidents and harm).
The cold, mechanical stare of the attendant was commonplace here in Dulmania—for years, human mice had been stimulated to do tricks and feats in their quest for a bit of cheese: now mankind had become the mice and his blind hopes and vain aspirations had become the cheese.
“Thank you.” Martin looked quickly from side to side as he stepped out of the elevator chamber onto the smooth pavement street which led straight to the city several miles away. A Zot Car of the Department of Welfare swung abruptly in front, its sliding panel moved rapidly (sometimes the Dissolve Mode would be used and an opening would magically appear), revealing the opening to the vehicle as several descending steps permitted Martin easier passage. The panel slid shut. The Zot Car practically made a 90-degree turn and shot down the stretch of highway towards the domed city several miles away.
Before the mighty hulk of the city, all terrestrial creation seemed to bow in ignoble servility!
“Martin! Martin Salisbury,” the voice was almost tearfully happy. An elderly, plump, ruddy-faced man came around his desk, a shining semi sphere suspended a foot or so above the floor, revealing an indented writing panel on one side.
Martin thought it somewhat comical how one looked as if he were sitting in midair aside one of these desks for one was suspended by scientifically controlled jets of air and laser light from vents in the floor as they cushioned one’s body in the air at various heights. This was one’s ‘chair.’
The ruddy-faced man grasped the young lad’s hand: “Martin,” he said again, this time with the concern of a loving father, “It’s good to see you. Please sit next to me.” He led the fellow by the hand a few feet to his desk and pressed a button. Martin smiling broadly was magically elevated into the air. The gentleman pushed another button and Martin floated within pleasant conversation distance.
“Uncle Redress— my friend —” Martin had wet drops of moisture forming in his eyes. He tried to hold back the emotion of tears. Their hands met — they spoke no more for a moment for fear of bursting into raw emotion. After a moment of calm, Uncle Redress spoke.
“Well Martin, tell me, have you really graduated from the Institution of Truth or are you still playing hooky with lush damsels of the Aroian Palaces?”
The remark immediately brought a recurring reminiscence consisting of mosaic gardens, dogwood trees and exotic scrubs, cool, refreshing fountains of sparkling water, giggling adolescence, all geared to counter what fears and frustrations an aristocrat may have in his bustling paradise.
Martin noticed the obvious humor and laughed, “No, Uncle, your Martin has finally graduated—graduated!” Martin slapped his hands almost fanatically on his legs with a sharp snap. “Uncle, you’ll not know the exhilaration I feel – like – like…”
“Like a superman?” It was a musing remark from his uncle.
“Yes! Like a Superman. I am a Superman!” He looked thoughtfully at his Uncle and leaned forward to him, “We are Supermen!”
“Right my son, right.” His Uncle reached into the storage boxes of his desk-sphere and pulled out a capsule of Z-BR8, a drug of mind-bending proportions comparable in utility to the cigarettes smoke several hundred years ago. First there had been the hallucinogens, then Peso Drin, Cobanarcin, till an altogether different specialty arose when the “drug complex” completely broke down and a policing of all used and registered drugs were quarantined by the Momads of the Kausar Regime which added a special toxin to be sold and exchanged in public consumption.
‘‘Care for one?”
“Yes, thank you,” Martin responded.
A quick snap of the capsules between the thumb and fingers and the Z-BR8 ingredient was suddenly absorbed into the bodies’ metabolism. It took only a fraction of a second.
“Tell me my loved one, just what do they instruct in those grand halls of teaching today? You know, it’s been over 130 years since I was strolling the great auditoriums and laboratories,” the uncle’s eyes searched the air longingly as he spoke. “Ah, thaw’s heaven itself! Tell me, please, is Professor Airheart still there?”
Martin was not sure he heard the question correctly for a generation of rewritten history had occurred since his uncle’s attendance at Zerok.
“Uncle!” Martin chuckled, “That was over hundred and forty years ago,” he sobered for a moment, “Professor Airheart was executed…” Martin quickly caught himself; what a foolhardy mistake—things had changed so much since then, one hundred and forty years, especially in Dulmen schemata, could be considered a long time, many generations!
“Executed!” his uncle thundered. “You are mistaken, my son!” Puzzlement shown all over his face, “Professor Airheart…?” Anger began to show on the uncle’s face: “He was one of the greatest political scientists…,” he stopped for he was overcome with his own emotion.
“Ah uncle let us not argue! It’s my first visit!”
Martin was being gracious indeed. He could have his uncle jailed for such arrogance. For a long time, it had been a teaching of the Dulmen government that the elders did not speak out against the younger. The youngsters were so much more previous. All the scientific Mind Control, the Hilam-Hick-8489-Abstraction-Mind-Philosophy was come of age. No oldster tasted of such ‘Truth.’ A knowledge explosion had been started without any scheme of where it would lead them, or who would be smashed beneath its crawl as it progressed. Wisdom and truth, at least that approximation that was deemed coaxial with Dulmen philosophies at that period, came at an earlier age in the Dulmen world – and earlier and earlier.
“I’m sorry! Sorry,” Uncle Redress lowered his head.
“Indeed,” Martin replied softly.
Martin reached over to the desk and took another capsule, doing the same as before releasing the toxin into his body. He looked rather coolly at this uncle.
“You asked about schooling. Many things have changed. Plane A of the early structure of learning has become compressed within a period of several weeks. As you remember, it took a year or more, “ said Martin. “They’ve done away with private isolation chambers. We are now all continued in gravity-free lines forming a ‘hub’ in the air and there are over six hundreds of these levels several miles into the air. This is called a Silo—miles of floating bodies, everyone lined to the ‘Brain,’ the Big Sire, as the students call it. It resembles nothing of the old system. Plan B: it reaches further. You remember the underground Hyper-Thought-Ocean where some four million minds floated in the electromagnetic fluid for at least three days? Now, over 60,000,000 – if need be – can be passed through in a steady flow.”
A receiver rang, a small red light on the desk-sphere was the only evidence.
‘‘Hello?” Uncle Redress spoke into the open air.
“Master Arian, Division G-2, wishes to speak to you and Sire Salisbury – both – at once,” came a clear voice seemingly from midair. “He will be coming along shortly, please,” instructed the midair voice.
Martin’s uncle smiled a bit sheepishly when looking back to the young man, and then almost with a sign of inferiority went on to explain, “Master Arian is also a graduate, short one year than yourself, Martin…”
“Yes, I’ve seen him over the years. I will be happy to confront a fellow student face to face,” confessed Martin.
“As a graduate with honors, Martin, he will soon take my place.” There was only slight shock to the words of the elderly officiate, for the new structure of government was happening so fast that nothing could surprise them anymore.
“He will direct your office soon?” asked Martin unnecessarily. His uncle nodded resolutely.
Within seconds Arian walked into the room. While all three persons present were dressed in the attire of the ancient Roman warriors of Greece, Martin had been the only one wearing the full array of leather-like vinyl-atomic-synthesized-breast covering, and plumed gold helmet. Arian and Sire Redress wore more comfortable clothing consisting of sandals, light metal-fibered clothing with the official Dulmen emblem. The clothing design was generally that of ancient Greece – though Martin, or any of the others, would have not invariably traced clothes to that time; neither did they know that such a country had once existed!
Martin was now holding his helmet in his lap. Martin didn’t stand; Arian bowed reverently to Martin. The young man nodded back. This much protocol was automatic and honorable as breathing to a Dulmen aristocrat.
Arian Yul was a fair complexed, slender, and broad-shouldered fellow. When he was a child of three, he had been the pride and joy of his alleged mother. While his mother had hopes of young Arian becoming an interplanetary pilot in the Dulmen military, Arian had different hopes and expectations. He envied the young bourgeois of the University Forums; these were the reckless and dramatic – ofttimes, violent – protégé’s of the various educational branches of special education. Some would become highly skilled politicians (after one or two scandals), some great doctors (after a murder or two), and perhaps even a few would aspire to engineers and chemical scientists only (following some form of mass destruction on their part; they would call it evidence of their skill).
But Arian didn’t fail on that point and had claimed several atrocities to his record before graduation from the Dulmen reorientation process—a process that was impregnated into every human creature on the face of the Earth. The process reached its acme in aristocracy and the demigods where Dulmania only could they give it the official enjoinment and “stamp of approval.”
“Have you informed Martin of the situation yet, Arian?” the uncle addressed the co-worker-aristocrat. He hovered directly in front of the desk where Uncle Redress extended the drawer exposing the stock of Z-BR8 drugs. Martin took another. Arian simply ignored them.
“Not as yet,” Arian began to realize the true purpose of the visit and needed to get back on track with the true sentiments, his face became serious. He subdued the ‘jets’ beneath him lowering him to the floor, pacing slowly as he spoke.
“Martin, I have a rather weird, complexed story to tell. I don’t really…” his uncle’s eyebrows rose and lowered “…know how to start…Ah…” he glanced at Arian “…perhaps because we don’t really know what we’re up against!”
“That’s what we hope to find out!” Arian added.
Martin noticed the slight confusion and used it as ample opportunity to inject a fresh idea. ‘‘yes, maybe we would go to a local diner for a lunch. Perhaps the atmosphere would be more conducive?”
It was obvious that the bulky framed Department Head had no intention of going into deep discourse now. Perhaps he had more hopes of soliciting the affection of his nephew more appropriately (the latest manufactured replica of Dulmania in human form on public display).
“To the Arena basement?” asked Uncle Mark Redress with a touch of pleasantry.
“Fine. That sounds nice,” Martin nodded. “but let us walk. At the Academy we were taught to walk, not for the fact that our physiques thirsted of it, bit out of the tradition of good health. And we are to walk as the gods we truly are – praise Vera, the heavenly seductress,” he smiled gingerly, “besides, a stroll in this great city would interest me!”
“Swell,” his uncle acknowledged, “we have some great points of interest for such a fine graduate.” There was a touch of humor.
“Come!” Arian graciously bid them to leave with a polite Julius Caesar-Shakspearian gesture of the hand.
Through the passageway thy walked, and just as quickly the wall reproduced itself into a solid mass, the same as before.
In full array, the three men briskly walked down the streets of the city, proudly and vainly, as the official gods they claimed. On their waists they carried small boxes that hummed slightly; these are the sensors – a micro spy agency in a box. Through these little boxes, information was fed to and from a central computer and Informational Brain in the Department of Welfare. Any detection of human forms and alien agencies following the three man with possible criminal intent would start the detection and then process the information. It could even smell the aroma of a person within miles, detect their nervous status and, eventually, criminal behavior or intent—then the following arrest! There was no predetermined range.
The mechanism worked in principle of using various sensitive substances and chemical reactions of micro pick-up plates which used electronic modulation of the atomic reactions as recorded and amplified crystal-clean.
(A very simplified example would be the way a sulfur dioxide chemical reaction to wet litmus paper breaking the beam of light to a device recording the intensity of the beam. Substances of various kinds could be used in various chemical reactions involving an accurate measurement of hundreds of odors. Dulmen science had refined it a hundredfold to ‘atoms’ being collected in the air for miles and then identified according to their molecular ‘beds’ — if they had highly classified material to discuss, an alarm would sound the minute any trouble was detected, they weren’t taking any chances.)
Martin was seeing a stunning avenue of white, silver, and green; largely fashioned after the architecture of the ancient Romans – one would think that Martin was on Rome’s Mars Hill but with weird abstractions of the ultramodern interwoven. The beast-like statues on each side of the wide expanse of steps leading to the hill that were skirting the entrance of the Department of Warfare were not lions or bears, but even more grotesque beasts: mutations created in the Dulmen laboratories for battle. The “Bors,” they were called, super strong, raging, furious masses of terror; hide thick, strong as steel (yet flesh); jaws as strong as that of a 20-ton steel trap; multiple arms and tentacles with the tensile strength of diamond that would sweep and slash flagitiously. The Boors, created as a scientists’ vain joke, had become centuries ago an indispensable weapon and had been used by the thousands in battle and herded into conflict to subdue and destroy cities and villages ahead of the on-coming armies.
The pillars of the complex were made of diamonds from the depths of Jupiter and Mars. The steps were carbon synthetics from Dulmen laboratories as if polished gems fit for a god.
Ahead walked the graceful bodies of the maidens of the city strolled; genetically bred, named after Dulmen goddesses of lust, perfect specimens of female invention—they were totally Dulmen in nature. Martin watched them as they majestically climbed the stairs into the shadows of the pillars and columns in their thin, transparent robes revealing their nudeness; some carried jars of perfume; some carried exotic drink—they all were meant to adorn the streets of Mylar City.
“I think you’ll enjoy our Arena Pub,” Uncle Redress informed. “Some of the more noted dignitaries will probably be there.” He was loosening up quite rapidly as denoted by a hidden smile upon his face. The three strolled robustly, capes flipping with vigorous rolls of the cloth in the city breeze. Here, there, the erotic maidens appeared; some childishly laughing as they stood near a well or a fountain or raced around green foliage or trees. Everything appeared programmed.
It was dusk and golden hues appeared in the sky outside of the domed city which allowed a majestic view of the setting sun. A flash appeared as Dulmen spacecraft passed silently over the domed city in perfect unison and coordination—small balls of light which suddenly veered in a 90-degree turn, then disappearing at great speed.
The city had begun to light up; fountains were rainbow colors; there were no streetlights—things lit up; a pillar there, a statue here; a tower; an archway; a stainless steel-like structure, a rotundum of many stories high and many hundreds of feet wide, lit up the city at night highlighting gigantic Dulmen emblems. People could be seen going up and down the structure, carried by the midair suspension mechanisms seen as thousands of dots moving uniformly.
If the three aristocrats could have known of previous eras in history, they would have known of an unknown Roman poet of the third century A.D lustfully wrote his verse on the Eve of St. Venus:
So, the petalled crimsons have unveiled their blush,
And a flame of roses breaks from the warm clusters,
The goddess herself has bidden the roses loosen,
The raiment from their maiden buds,
To be naked virgin birds in the fresh daybreak.
But since those millions of passing moments had been so fettered from their senses, they would probably espouse a similar poem of one their contemporary poets, Zol:
Computer quadrant A – strobe, strobe, strobe,
Take all that is within this heart of mine,
And feel the passion rise,
Computer quadrant E – connect, link, charge,
For before the night’s reprieve,
Our lusts will all run dry.
Poems were all usually synchronized with the deranged minds of the Dulmens’ Brain, an insanity that had become conformity and a berserk reasoning that had become the norm.
The men were in active conversation, Arian gesturing quickly with his hands as if in symphonic proportions, a thrust of his hands here and there. Uncle Redress was more consistent, his hands a steady shaking of his fists. Martin was a little more than interested in what was being said glancing down and forwards over and over in pensive thought ad serious concern.
(For they were but smothered, mindless creatures, totally under the watchful eye of that largely unseen but forever present Thing that was lurking behind all earthly creation whose astral eyes that treated mundane existence as if cogs in the overall sardonic game. To see them from the vantage point of our Hidden Jupiter, they are but synthetic manikins on a large chess board of human activity painted with realistic, sweet smiles and ostentatious glares, but nevertheless as empty as the clay and dirt from which mankind was once constructed. Even their language was styled and put-on.)
The story Martin was hearing unfolded before him was indeed intriguing—-for anyone who was aware of the Dulmen hierarchy and its exotic methods of espionage—-for anyone to escape the detection of The Brain stationed deep within the bowels of the Earth (far below even The Department ofTruth, its sister Department of Welfare, the Thought Police and The Welfare Patrol) was indeed fantastic. Dulmen people were not only watched, but their lives were programmed and computed!
But this is what the indications were: somewhere, somehow, persons unknown has been detected with no electronic linkage whatsoeverwith the Central Brain. How startling, for everything had been checked over and over; there were no flaws in the components of the computer; the hanumen monsters which crawled the limbs of the Big Sire reported resoundingly that all was well. The alarm systems were functioning perfectly. Everything was completely within the prescribed framework built upon Handleson-Berg system of failsafe.
One of the hundreds of new innovations in the Ultra Computer was that of Mean Time to Failure had been reduced to a nominal minimum by self-regulation of all electronic and mechanical parts of The Brain itself. The whole body of the computer was, in effect, a pulsating, scintillating organism mimicking flesh and blood organisms. The link-up leads were fashioned much after the nucleotides in the DNA arrangement of the human body; the electronic logic circuitry after the genetic chain that might be found in deoxyribonucleic acid; there were many more comparisons that were numerous and fantastic.
A ride through the computer shafts of the Big Sire was a psychedelic adventure to anyone of a knightlier bent. A full, three-hour excursion could be made in gravity-controlled projectiles in the shafts traveling through flashing circuitry and shimmering, crawling walls of flesh-like metals and synthetic ‘cells.’ From the middle of a shaft to the end of its radius was one mile: A multitude of Computer Projectiles traveled each shaft of the thousands of shafts throughout the computer.
No one knew the exact extent or range of The Brain but the Brain itself—-this audacity was tolerated only in the fairyland of Dulmenia!
Nowhere to Hide
“Just when was the first indication of a conspiracy?” asked Martin, sipping the nectar from the thimble cup.
About them was a rather dreamy scene of flowing curtains and polished metal mobiles and statues of abstract war-gods and lustful goddesses. Couples and citizens were reclining or seated around transparent tables — all suspended in midair on invisible suspending jets; some were at different levels; some separated by walls of flowing curtains. A large service bar was to one side, where barely clothed maidens floated to various parts of the room delivering the refreshments. Behind the service bar was an enormous telescopic view of the inside arena: some of the most degenerate debauchery was going on now in the Circus Maximus.
‘‘Well, you see, Martin – ah, we can call it a conspiracy – but we don’t know of it as such yet. All we can say is that these unknown entities – well, they’ve just escaped control, that’s all.” For a man of almost 200 years of age, Mark Redress spoke with the vibrant manner of a young Mus-chute, that band of Dulmen soldiers who stormed the hidden cities of the Vars deep within the mountains of planet Mars.
The Vars were the last of the remaining population of what was once the lower Eastern hemisphere of earth some 1000 years ago who had escaped to Mars for safety. And while Uncle Redress was somewhat heavy now, there wasn’t an ounce of flesh he couldn’t harden into muscle by tightening of his tendons in his youthful moments.
“Amazing! But why haven’t they been captured – at least one of them?”
Martin expressed a small amount of pique by flexing his fist and elbow on the table.
Arian was sitting cross-legged and in deep seriousness, then he shrugged. “Could it be incompetence?” he asked.
“Oh wait, my noble friend,” Uncle Redress swiftly informed, “let’s not speculate unnecessarily — you are speaking of the death penalty.”
Death in the kingdom was without hope of immorality. Only the Dulmen hierarchy had the power of continual existence (or not) of one’s personality being recorded on Atom Discs and played into a newborn infant when life was again restored. There was a slight psychological problem at first, but that was only temporary and Dulmen ingenuity again solved the problem. This immorality was the only kind offered to those who had lived devoted lives to the Dulmen government and bestowed upon a person in the name of one or two of the god or goddesses of Dulmen creation.
“It wouldn’t be the first time, dear Arian; though I must admit it was during the Xerion era that the last traitors were captured.” Martin paused and gave a slight sneer-like sniff while gazing through the transparent table. “The fools! My father spoke of how proud and vain they were while they feverishly worked at building that contrivance that purported to blast Mylar City off the face of the Earth.”
Martin’s vocal cord moved nervously at the utterance of the word father, for Misslou the Great was but a dark void in his memory—- the smile, the looks, the gestures of his father were vivid recollections, but they were cold, empty, almost like spurious food or the feel of a wet tongue against cold metal. The memories resembled as one viewing a theatrical presentation over the Thought Screen in his father’s lifetime, and it all seemed just as distant. Martin went on:
“They didn’t realize that they had been watched for over six months – clear on up to the surprise capture.” Martin summoned for another drink; the baldheaded man behind the bar nodded.
“But you see, Martin, this is so much different. No one’s attempted anything of the sort. We’ve found no evidence of infiltration. Sectors A through Q have been completely voided of Specs.” Uncle Redress went on, wrinkling his forehead in consternation as if to impress the problem upon the young nobleman.
“ I see. That leaves us without any available data?” asked Martin.
“Just some eyewitness data.”
“And what did it disclose?”
“A variety of individuals. Some elderly; some in youth; at least five altogether.”
“And they were seen only in the sprawling Flats and its Pit Areas, the Outer Cities, Bubble Cities?” queried Martin.
The Pit and the Outer Cities were those villages and hamlets outside the Bubble Cities; while these environments were policed regularly and scanned always, there still was a semblance of freedom, often just for the whim of the Dulmen aristocracy. Mylar police would gather Outer City citizens off the street to erase all control, speak rude and derogatory phrases, and deliberately throw them into a rage, only to kill them on the spot, or arrest them to be used as bait for the events in the Arena where the three men presently had the opportunity to be seated.
The Pit was a multilevel, underground city, sometimes stationed near Outer Cities as an extension. As one descended through the levels, one also descended the cultural way of lives within the subterranean shafts. Within the bowels of the Earth were some human animals in ghettos that still utilized the homes of the once rich some several hundred years previous, though savage hands and minds plied them to shambles and ruins, some more than others, though by Dulmen standards of its aristocracy, the homes were slums. These cavities became abodes of discarded creatures, while always under strict surveillance, were permitted to exist. One could enter these territories, these lost limits, when fooled that control might seemingly appear lax, but where laxity never really existed at all.
The ‘Flats’ were miles of nuclear bombed craters and peculiarly rearranged landscape having the appearance of the craters on the Moon.
“Apparently then,” Martin continued as he adjusts his sandal a notch, “it is these areas that must be closely watched.” Martin glanced into the serious faces of the two officiates. “There are several things we can do. We must program preliminary tapes into the Central Computer to scan those lower regions more fully. Then check again the Big Sireto see if any accommodative action was taken,’’ Martin smiled, “ we don’t want to infuriate the intelligence of the Brain, we’ll humbly suggest such, and, depending on this, we may send out patrols of police to those points of suspicion. From what I access, it doesn’t pose much of a problem.”
The others were obviously more vexed with Martin’s conclusion. “It’s outrageous Martin! I have no sympathy for any citizen who would dare to conspire – in anyway – against Dulmen authority,” Arian expounded.
“And you yourself know how difficult it is to break the Ring of Detection.”
“To do so, one would have to be one of the Hanuman Incubi that crawl in the flesh of the Majesty Brain hidden the god cities. No one has ever seen them, to my knowledge,” Uncle Redress was trying to emphatic, “indeed, their specific locations in the computer inner sanctum is unknown” Mark Redress was silent for a moment; was the young nobleman getting the proper perspective? “I don’t see how the possibility of Reality Escape could be.”
At the words “reality escape,” a low clicking could be felt in the back of young Martin’s brain. He subtly reared his head back, as if drawn from a magnetic to that sound. Perhaps it was a burst of electrical energy that was activated within the nerine matter of his brain (a common occurrence that was indicative of the detection of the Mighty Sire) to the ruling computer and its eternal vision. Martin gained his composure without indicating the slight intrusion; one would compare it to it to a hypnotic subject coming out of a session-trance without any awareness of the intervening time lost.
‘‘Yes, yes, your right uncle,” Martin added, “it is intriguing, I must admit. I make no pretention as to that fact. It is of great interest. I can only imagine how much it concerns you as the Caesar Officiate of the Department of Dulman Security. I imagine you’ve been pulling your hair out.” At Martin’s words, Uncle Redress lifted his eyes towards his forehead and rubbed his hand on a balding spot there in evident humor. “But I want to also impress upon you,” Martin continued, “the opportunity this gives us for loftier ambitions. I think it will brighten up your perspective, no end. You now think it is nothing but a threat. But it could possibly be an opportunity for gaining honors with the gods, such as not been seen since the Xerion Conspiracy. Did not either of you think of that?”
Martin glanced curiously at the two staring somewhat mystified back at him. Arian nodded in accordance. So, he was a graduate only greater than he by one year, thought Arian Yul, but he was not going to become the new Cesar Officiate of the Department of Dulmen Security. Even if the thinking of the younger graduate was fresh and active, Arian hoped that he need not worry as to the security of his forthcoming position. He could have said those words just as easily, he assured himself. But then, one year was only one year, and who was to say the Big Sire didn’t have something special in mind with this Son of Misslou?
A loud roar arose from the large crowds of spectators around the arena. Everyone in the lounge must have looked up at the Panorama Screens which had been giving them a full-length, cinematic, virtual reality view of the circus. Portions of the spectators were in frenzy, leaning over their fellow viewers and waving their fists and shouting profanities. Others were pouring aphrodisiac drink and perfumes into the air. Some were engaged in rather sensuous and activities in the spectators areas as well. In the Circus Proper below several hybrid beasts were devouring Dulmen maidens deliberately brought to the Circus in prospect of such erotic acts; they symbolized the fertility of maidenhood.
At one end of the circus, policemen were beating couples into doing sexual copulation; each being replaced by new couples while the exiting couples were taken to their destruction—-males to sadistic battles to their death, females to their death by beast. It was the height of perversity, and it was what everyone had waited to participate in during the Week of Preparation.
(Somewhere in the Dulman hierarchy, the ratio of human passion was recorded against the tolerance of Mind Control, supposedly for scientific purposes: it reeked of the essence of one European dictator centuries before, called Hitler, and for similar scientific experience.)
Martin was also gripped with the scene. It had been some years since his last visit to the arena. As a young boy of nearly fourteen – Dulmen time scale – he could remember the rote loyalty drills; these were bits of phonic, holographic testing and training that young noblemen were exposed to during their waking hours; the sole purpose being to psychologically train them to the Dulmen Imperialism as if a Father Image. Whatever self-esteem was involved for a young nobleman or women — indeed, any child, nobility or not — from a parent — it would be virtually traced back organically as a love for the child’s government, right or wrong, as a nostalgic and invincible ‘Father.’
Background music would be a steady beat of a monotonous thud of base sounds whenever the word loyalty would be shouted out followed by more successions of monotone sounds until sequence was repeated. Soon the word ‘loyalty” would flash on the Cinematic-Virtual-Reality-Holographic-Thought-Screen along with an audible production of the word. This would be repeated over and over. The words “loyalty Dulmania,” with the same pattern and sight variation happened (a quick flash of various current places and people of importance would appear for split seconds in screaming out to the audience seated in utter darkness): A plethora of gods, goddesses, battle scenes, Grand Caesars of Dulmania, various points of historical and contemporary prestigious scenery. One would suddenly find oneself flooded with an array of fantastic, scientifically timed portrayals of sight and sound.
At points, various pictorial and live action events happening within the arena where injected into perceiving minds; first, still- photographs, then live action, always decorated with corresponding slogans such as “love Imperial Dulmania,” “feel its Eagle Grip,’’ “ Eternal Dulmania, it is our life,” and other bombastic slogans.
(It would have been only with slight surprise that Martin would have previously left his small cubical chamber at his University to march rank and file, along with fellow students, to the Arena to their pretentious Forum area allotted for the University City, to find themselves wrapped up in the frenzied, exhilarating optative miasma as an evil aroma of lust and violence directed towards the love of a Fatherly Dulmania. The brutal Forum debates were only a childish form and preparation for the coition with the Arena. Martin had visited more frequently since those earlier visits.)
Martin sipped pensively on his capsule of drink, eying the Screen rather coldly but enraptured. The huge bulk of the muscular policemen’s back blocked the midportion of the view; every muscle churning, rippling, stretching with the mechanical lashing of the whip as it ripped up the flesh with bits of the metal knives protruding at the end of the whip.
The Screen was suddenly streaked with red drops of blood which rolled down as the Pickup Lens was within the range of the slaughter. Blood was starting to spurt everywhere, yet no one turned their heads away in disgust. No one winced. No one protested. There was nothing of protest or uneasiness that would have been representative of more sacred societies. Amid the screaming, shrieking mobs, one could hear the shouts of “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
“Wonderful!” groaned Arian. Arian lifted himself upon his knees placing one hand on the invisible cushion of thrust and leaned forward as if to fall into the three-dimensional panorama. Uncle Redress stood upright with his hands at his waists, breathing rather heavily, his fingers turning white from the taunt pressure on his belt; his complexion was more than ruddy, it was dark red; and it looked as if he had gone the limit of the mind-bending drug. Martin also stood upright, hand supporting chin, the other arm supporting elbow.
The ruffle of velvet and silk came from the shadows as a petite but charming face of one Countess Flora moved into the soft light, the stone white complexion of her pristine, cold but lovely skin was seemingly filled with an icy and penetrating radiance. As if drawn by the magnetic pull of her eyes, Martin rose to his feet, staring deeply into those eyes.
Countess Flora had obviously been informed of the new graduate and his title as the son of the late Misslou the Great. Already rumors had started to spread prior to his homecoming telling of his flighty, mysterious ambitions. Martin recognized the famous Countess immediately, the gracious Mistress of Mylar, for her prestige had spread far and wide among the aristocracy. For Martin it was a bit more personal as he gazed with awe, for the Countess had been the mistress of Misslou, the General Deluxe, and it was with a bit of nostalgic interest that she had her way to the Arena that day.
The Countess moved to one side of a dangling mobile of faces and shapes, smiling innocently at the young man, her blonde hair blown gently by the breeze. A juvenile handmaiden floated quickly to the nobleman and offered a perfumed handkerchief, which Martin took, and she receded back to the side of her mistress. Martin rubbed the material between his fingers and casually glanced to her for reassurance. Martin looked around to see many people staring in wonderment, as well as the bothered expressions on the faces of his present companions.
Someone switched the décor lighting, and the room was bathed in a seductive blue hue spotted by sparkles of light reflecting from revolving mobiles. Anxious swoons went out from the café’ crowd as they were drawn by more of the barbarous activity going on in front of them on the virtual realistic Thought Screen.
Martin sniffed casually on the perfumed handkerchief. He stepped away from his table and stood on his ‘palm’ of controlling jets.
“You know, gentlemen,” Martin spoke clearly and intentionally brisk with no sign of artificial phoniness, “a solider would certainly be worthy of such ecstasy if one paid homage in a special way to Great Goddesses Lucia, Vera, Donna, Sherell, and offer a gift of the highest order!”
Martin slowly took larger stepped forward, his face erasing each minute wrinkle one by one as growing rapture encased his face till it converged into a youthful sheen of fanaticism. “Not since the Xerion Era has such a challenge been. I’ll offer no stately mansion; no invention; I’ll offer no orgy; no new asteroid for a well-loved goddess.”
He was drawing as much attention to himself now as was the chaotic activity in the Arena to the attending viewers; In fact, his gestures and actions seemed to blend in perfectly with what had been going on before them. A neurotic feeling arose within him, a confused melody of emotions, partially dedicated to “ love of Fatherly Dulmania,’’ and partially to his own Superman lusts! Only in a world were satyrs, imps, trolls, ghouls, where all the Orient and Greecen monsters had truly come to be —-could such thoughts—-have taken shape.
The young nobleman steadily moved forward out of the shadowed area into the glow of the Viewing Screen, his face lit with a soft fluorescence as his steadily pounded his fist in the palm of his other hand.
“I’ll offer a gift worthy of a new Dulmen graduate! One that will show the true stature of this Prince of Duggar, Son of Misslou! Greatness as has never been seen will be demonstrated as a lesson to all!” Martin’s eyes wide with frenzied thought; his breathing labored and intense; Martin threw both arms above his head in a dramatic V as his cape swung to make a dark silhouette of the beastie god, solider policeman. “I’ll give them the conspirators! Soon! Here, for the Circus!”
In momentary relief from tension, Martin casually turned to the Countess who had lurched back into the shadows and was looking ominously at the graduate. He bowed quixotically to her with his helmet in one hand.
In the background continued the shouting and clapping of the Circus groan beating to the continued slaughter:
“Kill! Kill! Kill!”
Prelude to Destruction
In the dark surveillance room, the Spec Boards eerily glowed in the dark. The faces of the operators could be seen seated in front of the detection screens, oval graphs of sectors A through Q; these concerned the Pit Area and the Outer Cities and their Entrance Perimeters.
Martin hadn’t wasted any time: he had quickly posted police squads in various parts of the cities. Should anything be detected, it would be forwarded to the Brain when the Spec Boards located that particular white dot that meant a genetic-molecule arrangements not within the electromagnetic effect of the Brain—-police would converge on that spot within a matter of minutes.
Uncle Redress leaned close to one of the screens as the operator waited to point at an uncertain blimp. Uncle Redress smiled fatherly. Squeezing on the man’s shoulder as they both smiled: some aberration had appeared on the screens, probably due to an animal or bird that may not have pertinently computed.
Uncle Redress had spent many hours in such Operation Rooms during a battle some decades ago when they circled Mars and pinpointed the scattered number of Vars after they had smashed their major hideouts. The Martian surface had been broken up into specific sectors outlined by intrinsically accurate grids: down to the micro degrees (for the sake of the operators, not the computers, which needed no such illustration). It was only with the invention of the new Genetic Modulation Analyzer-Computer (G.M.A.C) that the blackout effect of the Vars could truly be combated.
Uncle Redress had gotten quite a thrill and become quite an expert at locating the white specs of light popping up on the grids, moving converging and spreading. He also directed the feeding of the computer with the grid information as well as the aiming of the Atomic Guns that propelled a stream of electromagnetically atoms from a circling satellite to those individual lights as an uncontrolled atomic reaction in the bodies of the victims and their total annihilation.
The defeat of the Vars was stupendous news after their escaping detection of some 700 years. Much hoped for ingenuity had been put into their Vars encounter. “To Find the Vars – To Destroy the Vars” had been a Dulmen slogan during those battle-lean years. Uncle Redress had found himself in such a unique position at the frontlines – it was only natural that his name was brandished about from every citizen and propagandist news film and Thought Record. His face loomed from many billboards and placards for some time as a national hero – as a well-trained graduate which earned him high places of esteem in the Dulmen government at that time.
The present episode had that atmosphere of suspense, that anxiety and excitement which could only appeal to a Dulmen soldier and his swelled pride. For a moment it seemed as if it was anticipation of locating Vars all over again. The Vars: who had journeyed to another planet to escape the consummate evils that had come upon them.
A Cascade of light appeared on side of the room wherein Arian entered and the opening vanished. “How are things, Mark?” Arian took a position next to Uncle Redress and began a casual examination of the Screens.
“Nothing, nothing as yet,” Mark Redress dryly responded. The snap of a Z-BR8 capsule was heard. “I don’t imagine it will be too much longer.”
“Well, I’m to meet Salisbury,” informed Arian, “he’s following the police squad through City A-1 now. I believe he feels that it will be in those areas that any response will be made.” One could almost become hypnotized by the soft glow of the screens with the tranquilizing aura they projected—-of course, that was impossible as the Brain would block it instantaneously. “By the way,” Arian continued, “police squadrons and Spec-Observations are being erected in the 200-odd cities in this territory. Should we find anything there—-well, it would only amplify the problem was much bigger than we imagined. To think!”
“I thought we’d do that, Arian, we really did,’’ Mark assured the group as he leaned on a panel of one screen into its in its glow.
“Well, I best go.” Arian broke his gaze away from the glow. “Keep in touch,” seeing the humor of the situation, chuckled, “No doubt.”
In the thinking of the two Dulmen Statesmen-Soldiers it would be a matter of minutes before another historical epoch in Dulmen history would be swiftly traversed.
City A-l was nestled in the rolling fills just outside of Mylar City. In fact, some of the suburban homes were only a thousand feet or so from the transparent dome of the Dulmen god-City. From where Martin stood it was many miles from the other side of City A-1.
From their elevated point the group could look down and observe the god-City of blinking lights, glimmering Zot Cars on streets, the rumble and haunting chatter of the neighborhoods below where lights and lit homes looked like many twinkling stars dotting the hills of the terrain. Further on the horizon, like some huge and gigantic, majestic moon beyond a horizon plain stood the magnanimous dome of Mylar; the tall, metallic and synthetic structures from within jutted up, slightly resembling the pock-marked features of Earth’s Moon at a distance; a rather awe-inspiring sight to those who were strangers.
Off in the distance a small globe of light was creeping towards them just above the glow of Mylar; it grew every second until the figures of the two men were seen in a transparent bubble of light—-it was Arian and the Globe Transport Operator that detected Martin and his group by Sensor and was guided directly towards them. The device quickly circled overhead and came within a foot of the street. A man-size section of the bubble dissolved and Arian stepped out, turned, and watched the transport quickly elevate, disappearing, jetting away to Mylar as a faint dot of light.
“Any minute now, my friend!” Arian spoke with the usual vanity of a Nobleman as he approached Martin with a Nazi-type salute that had become everything that Dulmania stood for. Martin did the same, but more casually.
“Yes, what did Uncle Redress have to say?” Martin smiled slightly. Martin could imagine the old fellow puffed-up with visions of military conquest. As a child on Leave from school, Mark Redress would tell Martin the most amazing accounts of Dulmen conquest and glory; often placing Martin on his knee and gesturing with vivid and darting hand motions as he portrayed some of his experiences.
There was “The Stone City.” Was it real? Was it a dream? Martin’s uncle did not know. It could just as easily be a heavenly reality, a bit of Dulmen Dream Candy, supplanted in his mind to treat him to reward him for a job well-done; or maybe it was real.
(Whatever the reason for this strange discovery, the Caesar of Security once trampled through the battle-torn cities of the Vars hoping to find some abandoned citizens who were left behind in their interplanetary escape. After several hours of relentless and anxious searching through the homes and streets that reeked of the Penetration Ray, Mark listlessly wandered off into the surrounding fields.
It had been near dusk, and several miles later, that Mark came over the rim of a grassless hill to gaze upon an amazing sight: there, for miles in a deep valley was perfect radius of stone monuments and pillars as if closely placed tree trunks. Mark could not see the center of this magnificent ‘wheel,’ nor could fathom the purpose for what purpose these constructions these had been built.
Mark noticed that the tips of the of the grooved pillars were broken off at irregular levels; it was almost as if a forest of stone trees had once existed here and due to some fantastic holocaust, only tightly packed, possibly underwater, pillars remained. Why? Who? What? Perhaps the Brain knew. “Do not worry about it too much,” Mark explained, “it was only one of the oddities of our society.”)
Martin smiled at the telling of his uncle’s past. Here would be another adventure the Caesar Uncle to brag about. Arian smiled too, “He’s busy now. Terribly busy. Say, what have we here, does she dance for you, the new Graduate?” Arian asked at the erotic movements of a maiden who now paraded for the three other men lustfully.
“No, Arian, she dances because she knows she is in the presence of a god! And she hopes to steal a bit of our gracious attention.” The men leaned on the pillar in a moment of sensuous relaxation. Each of their uniforms contained special compartments for these erotic times—-special elastic pouches that covered their genitals, allowing a comfortable erection of their organs. A small group of whispering neighbors had also begun to form on the Porta Walk along the rim of the street; they too had wondered why the ‘gods’ had chosen to visit their neighborhood. One of the persons who watched so attentively was the girl’s mother.
“Say, little one, do you think your arrogant little heart would beat so carefree if a god should succumb to your gift of gesture?” Arian spoke daringly, both hands on his hips. The girl, somewhat slyly, but brazenly nevertheless, danced over to the men.
“You may provoke a god’s wrath,” Martin continued, stroking her hair as she danced away.
Still, this was no time for teasing—-the time lapsed far above that which Martin had imagined for the capture of conspirators; his grandiose vision of jailing at least one conspirator soon was in doubt. He slapped his right fist around the handle of his sword in a sharp snap: “Blast it, oh Mighty Zerichonus! Why has nothing happened!”
“Take it easy, brother!’ Arian cajoled, “a gift by early morning would be great; but a gift presented to the gods by another day would not diminish the importance of your conquest.”
“You’re right.” Martin was encouraged by Arian’s remark. “But still….”
“Come Martin,” Arian enticed Martin’s mind to other thoughts, “let us take this young lady at her word,” Arian was led into other thoughts, “let us take this young lady at her word,” he gestured with an open palm into the lit patio. “So, you want to flatter the gods?” Arian smiled at the nymph.
Something akin to a Sex Flush came on their faces. Then came Martin’s single command: “Take her!”
The others immediately disrobed , and a subdued gasp came from the crowd eager to join in the game of lust from a god. The mother stumbled forward a bit as if by mistake to protest, but only whimpered, and placing her hand over her mouth, turning back into the crowd to hide. Martin glanced over his shoulder at the Mother as he disrobed.
‘‘Take care, Mother! Your child will be made blessed tonight!”
The countryside before the man was a beautiful subarctic landscape—-the Caucasus Mountains formed a majestic ridge before him with rich, green ferns and evergreens cascaded like a delicious balm on a buffet covering the whole panorama. The snowcapped mountains portrayed an undeniably dazzling emblem of sensuality and beauty.
This was the land known once long ago as Russia, specifically the Mount Usha territory.
“Coming little one. Elia is coming!”
Somewhere in that thicket, Elia thought to himself, up that mountain base about one-hundred-feet, was a lost lamb. It had been a last-minute decision that caused Elia to take the fold out this day. But now he had, and one was lost, he would attempt to find it.
Fighting his way upward through the thistles and lashing branches, slipping now and then upon wet and sometimes snow-covered ground, Elia progressed painfully. There was no sight of a beaten path. The tail of the animal protruded from Elia’s trench coat but had become somewhat of a stumbling block in the undergrowth of stems and branches.
It had been five years now that he had lived with that device grafted onto his body. And if it hadn’t been for the huge, thick lion’s mane around his head with his own furry body hair and full mustache, Elia would look as normal as any conventional human.
But many years ago, before he forsook Dulmen citizenry, he begged to become one of the Wild Ones—-those who sought the thrills of a lifetime by looking and feeling like an animal of their own choosing. Dulmania was filled with such mutates and genetic creations.
“Yes, I hear you little lamb!” Elia announced.
Oh, how foolish he had been, about as foolish as that lost sheep, now in some precarious situation in some gully, or perhaps in a thorn infested thicket—-one thorn had inflicted a cut on Elia’s cheek. Why did not the creature stay put, instead of sneaking off spurred by some kind of adventurous curiosity? Why did he not stay alongside of his brothers and sisters?
“Brother!” What a strange word to be using out of the clear blue. Elia had come to a dead stand still; the slope had become unbearably steep where Elia would have to scale a ledge of thick granite of about ten-feet high or maneuver around it. “Yes, I have a brother,” Elia thought to himself, “a flesh and blood brother, somewhere and someplace in this carnival world.” It struck him twice as odd that the last time Elia had seen him, his brother was but a small child, barely entered the instruction levels of education facilities, and he was about to be given and initiated under a new name.
“What was that name?” Elia asked himself. “Ah, I cannot think now! What was it?”
Breathing like these were his last sudden breaths of air, Elia pulled himself up on a rocky ledge that had become heavily infested with clinging vines. The lamb had obviously come away from the path and become snarled in the vines.
It was a small black lamb; not a pinch of white; it bayed forlornly as Elia stood smiling gently at the creature. Then Elia stooped to rescue the lamb.
What was my brother’s name? “What an indifferent relationship that one could not even remember your own brother’s name!” Well, there’ll
be no more ‘lost moments,’ if Elia could help it, “like this sheep,” he told himself, “ they’ll all be brought Home, if he had a choice.”
Stooping, Elia wrapped the lamb inside his toga beneath his coat near the thick hair of his body. Through a clearing in the towering trees his eye caught a patch of flawless, mild blue sky—-this struck Elia as odd because it looked so new and different. It was almost as if something were ‘out there,’ invisible yet real and dynamic, just waiting to burst through that serene atmosphere. Elia could also feel the tension, so solid, almost as if he could reach out and touch it but preventing his hand from doing that very thing. He turned his head from side to side, got up to leave with the lamb, taking the pathway he had previously missed finding.
Suddenly, Elia was struck by a revelation: “Arian! That was my brother’s name! Arian Yul, they named him!” He thought again, “too bad there wasn’t more there between us. Ah, but that is Dulmania. That is Dulmania. Arian, I wonder what he is doing now?”
The majesty of Dulmen Control was an art. Everyone proceeded under the phantom of Free Will. In the Dulmen Bubble cities the Brain did control and did interfere. The masses there were thoroughly indoctrinated. A world of Robots in the absolute sense was the last thing the pontificates of Dulmania wanted. What they wanted was the total possession of one’s being, not his total relinquishing of all creativity.
Oh, they tried it that way, but it was a defeat to their own purposes. For Dulmania had another foe—-the real foe—-and it kept demonstrating its reality in the human psyche. They had hoped to accomplish their goal by completely and totally channeling the creativity of the masses, not destroying it. To do this was quite an art. At times, complete control, Robotism, was necessary but the Brain was very wise in such matters: over the eons the Brain discovered that several personality traits were vital to the wellbeing to the Dulmen purpose—-an insane uncompromising desire for personal gratification, of lust and spirit, had led more than once to a person or person’s invention of a horrible weapon of conquest and destruction, and perhaps mayhem and havoc lie in the attainment of that invention or weapon; the Brain always weighed the alternatives, and proceeded accordingly.
Perhaps it wouldn’t have been but a mere starvation of several hundred people; the murder of one or more officials; the explosion of a SD-3 spacecraft or other mysterious sabotage (this happened when the great Dulmen Senator of Zeker City had overthrown a faulty system in the political structure; some wondered if it was an honest overthrow, or, what exactly was accomplished or the motivation behind it. Dulmen propagandists bannered the Thor affair as heroic).
There was the case of Terrace Merrion—the medical scientist of the academy of Vera . Merrion programmed a sophisticated plan for the renovation of a quarter of the outlying Cities. Merrion had for several years studied the growing number of genetic degeneracies in the Middle Class of the Outer Cities that was also becoming evident in sprinkled cases in the Lower and Slum residents. While not a direct threat to the most curious Statesman, the Brain had, however, perceived this more discerningly.
Merrion noted that the outer layer cells in the cerebellum and the spinal cord nerve column had a slight irregularity in the nucleon and other organelle. This was not true for those individuals whose physical constitution had been replaced by synthetic and mechanical parts, but since these parts were arbitrarily bestowed by the whimsical guardians in the god-Cities; however, but no such creations could elude the Brain.
The same irregularities had been associated many years before when large groups of the Outer City slum people rose in unrest, boarding overnight in revolt. The cause was completely unknown; nothing in the environmental-control tracings indicated an aberration. A few other more brazen slum dwellers began to rear up as spokespeople for the dwellers: they were all quickly collected and rushed to the Sector 5 encampments of the Dulmen Educational Enforcement—-here the anarchists were placed in the Hyper Thought Ocean. The ‘ocean’ was a huge abyss as part of the ‘transport tube’ (among other uses) functioning to permit travel to the multiple subterranean cities within in the bowels of the Earth. It was often referred to as The Pit.
Within hours, Big Sire has transformed their mental functions into a harmonious version of Dulmen Robotism; the citizenry settled into their routine lives; the irregularity in the nucleon soon disappeared—-so did 20 citizens in a mass arrest one evening—-without a trace. When questions arose, propagandist heralded that the Brain had it all under control.
When Merrion again studied this potential threat, hoping to find a noble place in the eyes of the Dulmen hierarchy, he ecstatically set out to heroically crush the hidden threat with all the might of a lightning strike. In programming the data to the Brain, Merrion asked that these conspirators be immediately sent to the Hyper Ocean for readjustment —- and then immediate shipping of the gang to the asteroid Phyllis for isolation —- an undetermined isolation.
The Brain reacted with enormous ferocity and contrarian action: the potentially threatening citizens were herded together within hours – sent to the Arena — while all news and communications media announced the surprise Circus. A gargantuan slaughter and heatless debauchery took place in a fast and furious arrangement which no one questioned (if any questioning was done it resulted in imprisonment in one of the labor camps). The Brain’s decision as final!
So, when a mother twanged at the sight of seeing the rape-seduction of her impish 19-year-old daughter by such stately and eloquent gods,
The mother’s emotions were viewed with suspicion; surely the mother realized that the suddenness, the bruteness, the utter disregard was mandatory for such a deed? These gods were involved in a big mission —- a whimper from a sibilant peasant was totally perverted to that line of reasoning. When the mother would eventually return from the Office of Welfare, the mother would mysteriously feel different somehow.
But there is more to happen this this night of nights —- the sky was a rather clear early autumn eve, and a somewhat crisp smell filled every activity, the sights, ambiance, the unusually warm season, and most citizens considered this all part of the unusual erratic weather they were having. A bit of frenzied, creeping excitement was in the air; and like the somewhat perfumed gust that melted across the face of the city with an ingenious feeling of frightfulness and a tantalizing, almost murderous, tension that filled the darkness and finessed the mellow streams of soft light from businesses and homes; the twinkling stars were heralding more stentorian Dulmen activity.
The square in the middle of City A-1 had an enormous statue of two beautiful goddesses. They were wrestling each other in a fight to the death in a magnificently efficacious battle that only the Brian could manufacture by its Control. The two lesbian ladies were fighting atop a withering snakelike creature that had synthesized human features to its arms and legs, and a weak human resemblance to its reptilian face.
Its arms were lifted in pain from supporting the weight of the ladies, and the appearance of its uplifted tail and the darting split tongue denoted its struggle to escape.
The exact meaning of the edifice was lost in meaning to the Outer City people, lost in antiquity for they did not know it proclaimed the death of three Dulmen god-goddesses. The Dulmen hierarchy created and destroyed their gods-goddesses, and the death of the three were memorialized in connection of with the surrender of the last remnant of a foreign government: it must have been quite an episode.
The status was bathed by light from the perimeter-base positioned behind exotic shrubbery in a purplish-white, green, and blue tinge that would throw one into ecstatic rapture should one gaze too long.
Around the lighted square was immediate darkness with the golden hues of squares and rectangles of light from the mystic silhouette of the homes bordering the square; columns flanked the perimeter of the square of the square, some casting long projecting shadows over the area. Men, women, children strolled across the square—-the children playfully chasing each other in laughter.
Suddenly, overheard several squadrons of Dulmen aircraft swept silently through the skies, rather low but swiftly: first one V – formation of oval blue-white globes, then another and another, each brilliantly lighting the square in white splendor as if smelted silver metal from some casting pot were poured over the intrigant scene causing by-stander-citizens to make exclamations of reverend awe.
The discussion that Martin and some cohorts were having denoted their restless anxiety concerning the delayed arrest of the unknown conspirators. As usual, their conversations surrounded their belief in the utter control of Dulmania and even how eloquent the conspirators were in their evasion.
‘‘You know, Jerald, should you drink anymore of that mixture, you’ll not be working with me tonight,’’ Martin threw the words at one of the intoxicated Mus-chutes who polished the golden jeweled handle of Martin’s sword, a young squire of a particular unit that accompanied him. The squire worked skillfully with a special buffing pad. Jerald stopped his boastful jesting to the others as he turned to a serious vein, allowing the bottle of liquor to lower to his side. He swaggered over to Martin.
“Ah, my lord, I drink not of my own accord. Tis, all the fine gentlemen with us tonight that are imbibing,” Jerald rationalized. “Why we all have noted the air is full of magic expectancy—-it is a night as tonight that moments are made of.” His drunken and relaxed body bobbed about as a puppet on strings.
“Clown! You celebrate much too early!” Martin pointed one finger at the man, this time in dire seriousness. Jerald’s flush face showed no alarm, he blinked innocently. “You all are about to fall on your honorable faces!”
‘‘Please Martin, it is not the time to chastise us, it has been sometime since such a memorable occasion has come about. Take it easy on your men tonight,” Arian moved to Martin’s side.
Martin rebounded: “ If it weren’t for the fact that within minutes, we’ll be busy in capturing conspirators, I’d have no need for any of you. I’d just as soon have you in jail for disrespect.” Martin swung his arm in a radius indicting the bunch of men before him. A unified murmur arose from all of them aligning with Arian’s merciful plea.
“Our hearts are heavy too, sire,” Jerald followed closely, moving next to the standing god, affectionately placing his hand on the man’s shoulder. The others suddenly commenced with laughter. Jerald looked, but twinged in surprise; he saw nothing humorous.
“Stop it !” ordered Martin. Jerald turned to expound further to Martin, “There is something here that is not quite correct….’’ Jerald was uncertain as to what exactly to say, wrinkling his forehead, gripping his sword handle, “this is different!”
“Different! Why different?” the Son of Misslou asked.
Jerald turned his head from side to side and if searching for words, “Why…why…whatever we are looking for—-hiding!”
“Hiding? Is it not true, sire, that within the last centuries, no purported conspirator has escaped detection? We have even watched before they made their final steps, is that not correct?”
‘Correct! It will be no different this time.” Martin glanced over to see that several policemen and soldiers had gathered to listen.
“ But it is different now,” Jerald confessed.
Martin could have easily become angered. This night had manifested itself to be an infuriating mess. In fact, in his own natural surroundings at the University he had only to visit the Aroian Palaces where lovely damsels could intoxicate him with all the erotic science at their learned trade. On a good night, Martin could cram into four hours what normally would have taken twenty-four. In his private chamber Martin could attach to the Main Stimulator and sleep the night in an ecstatic world of Ultra Make Believe; tonight, it was prevented by the serious business at hand.
“It is not different!” Martin slapped back, grabbing his sword from the stunned squire, slamming it into his sheath. “it is not different!” Martin raced a few steps towards the other men, waiting for a reply from Jerald.
“If you say so, sire,” Jerald gestured with an outstretched hand. He quickly put it to his waist. “But three hours have passed; to one as uneducated as I, that seems to be some kind of record!”
Martin tightened his lips over and over as he gripped his sword—-Jerald didn’t realize how close to death he had come.
Several of the City residents had gathered to examine the commotion. It was the first time some citizens observed these gods in their golden array.
Martin eyed a lady creeping within the crowd between the policemen.
“It is no different, Jerald, my friend, then one of these!” Martin grabbed the ladies’ hair with one big swoop of his hand, violently yanking her into the middle of the human circle. She gasped in pain as she crashed to a stop on her knees. An anxious murmur went up from the growing crowd. “ You see, Jerald, we have complete control over her and her mind. They are what we want them to be! Nothing more; nothing less.” He rammed her head to the ground with his foot and let it rest there.
“Because of Control,” Jerald mused almost sarcastically. That sarcasm would have long ago been intolerable if it were not for some common but whimsical decency of one god to another.
“Yes, Control!” shouted Martin.
“But tell me Prince of Dulmania, have they no guts in the middle of their skulls of their own?”
“None. They are slaves of the Brain.”
“Then you have nothing to fear of them,” assured Jerald.
“Nothing! What are you driving at, mad man?”
“Just this, Son of Misslou, there is something in that gray matter of these animals that has eluded genetic, synthetic, mathematic invention! Something different!”
Jerald threw both bottles of liquor at the ladies’ head, smashing instead in front of her, showering her in fragments of glass.
“Different indeed! If you have any facts, demonstrate them!” Martin’s face had turned red in anger. He gripped his sword handle with a whiten, clenched fist. His breathing was slow and deliberate.
Jerald had the limelight. He knew it. A cocky smile was hidden beneath his phony smoothness, and his eyes sparkled with sarcastic laughter. Jerald realized that he had not graduated with as many Honors as Martin; whatever the reason, this time he was out to teach a cruel lesson.
“May the gods of Dulmania forgive me, but what if…what if…Control were dropped from detecting these poor creatures? What if all electronic, vibratory linkups were ‘cut,’ and they could see for themselves for what they and we really are?” Jerald stepped a few steps forward with his arm outstretched beseechingly.
Martin didn’t like what he heard, at all. “What do you mean? What are we really saying here?”
“Naked! Naked in the sight of any!” Jerald rebounded. “Stark reality! All true history! All fact!”
Martin snapped back, ‘‘The Brain is fact! The Brain is reality! The brain is all there is! It is the total of existence. Outside of it will only be chaos!” Martin stepped harder and tightened his foot on the woman’s neck. She gagged. Martin looked down with a look of spite.
A large crowd of citizens had gathered flanking as a fence of golden policemen-Mus-chutes. An agonized murmur ebbed over the crowd.
“Then why do they rebel so hatefully against us when we Sport with them?” Jerald was referring to the many nights that gods from the Bubble Cities would roam the prosaic streets of the Outer-Towns and in jest or spite remove all seeming Control and allow them to see Reality as never seen before. Usually, it was done to a select crowd, and as the Dulmen gods threw vicious epithets are them, the crowd would grow into a rage and try to kill the harassers. Martin never had a participant to such events while at the University, but he had heard of such.
‘‘Are you saying such useless attempts against authority are beyond the knowledge of the Brain? It would know what and why these things would happen!” Martin angrily assured.
“Yes, but that same rebellion—That same defiance is there in our ‘new’ Conspirators,” Jerald looked coldly into the eyes of Martin, “yet we haven’t dropped Control!” Martin’s eyes bonded to Jerald’s as Martin finished, “they have!”
“Blast you, Jerald!” Martin’s voice rang out as Martin lifted his sword high into the air over his head, strangling the jeweled handle, swinging it about as if looking for a suitable target.
‘‘Drop Control, Martin! Drop Control and see!’’ Jerald chided devilishly, “drop it, Son of Misslou! Drop it! Now!” Salvia dripped from Jerald’s lips denoting his drunken frenzy.
Martin threw back his arms in a dramatic arc, jetting out his chest, and looking to the sky with watered eyes of agony; he resounded:
“Ye gods and goddesses of Dulmania: I beseech thee, grant the grace I ask! To prove the sovereignty of the Sire, give us power for Sport!”
Martin steadied himself in his footing, holding his sword high over his head in a tight grip as if he were expecting the sword to be struck by lightning. Instead, a loud rumble of thunder rang out; the Brain had consented! With that Martin brought the sword down upon the women’s neck! An insane yell went up from the citizens gathered in the square: all Control had been removed! The crowd lunged forward at the guards who barely had time to turn somewhat to see the wild-eyed, savage snarling, clawing crowd attacking at the some of the soldier-policemen.
The remaining policemen took a pace backwards in unison, swords pulled from their sheaths in a graceful and synchronized motion: the first layer of the mob was stopped; the bodies fell; in a second the full force of the citizen herd momentum followed, incited by the slaughter of their neighbors; for the first time, they viewed in an all-together different frame of mind.
Pointing their swords directly at the citizen crowd, the police began jetting-out green-white rays of death that disintegrated masses of citizens all around the square. Indiscriminate slaughter revealed deep, red crimson slabs of the square amid the shrieks and screams of ladies dying and raped, and the animal grunts and snorts from enraged men; the terrifying crying of children rent the crisp night air; a peddler’s wagon had broken loose from its ponies, rolling into the crowd, its crops strewn over the bodies of dying and mangled bodies.
“Mama! Mama! Mom! Mama!”
The large golden orb of the morning Sun filtered through the branches of trees and between the corners of houses in the outer limits of suburbia A-1. Zephyr Road was just off the lake where one could look downhill to see a blanket of morning mist arising into the cool fresh air denoting thin wisps of moisture rising. The dew filled nostrils. Down the road and towards the east below the valley lay Mylar City; the bubble was much smaller in view now than Martin and his cohorts viewed earlier.
Directly behind it, Ambrose Hill was sleeping beneath ruffled sheets ofMilky white clouds. Then, a flash; a spark; a small glow, would emit every few seconds. White humps dotted the green and brown, red hills of the Autumn landscape; these were the many homes of the Outer City. Zephyr Road jutted to the forefront of the scene. Birds sedately chirped rhythmically as a Zot Car smoothly climbed the road next to the lake and headed west through the city limits.
The only clamor this rather demure Thursday morning was that of an old peddler who was strolling the streets of the county road picking up bits and pieces of stray junk the children had thrown upon the street Porta-Walks hoping to sell them somehow later. Occasionally, he would walk over to a Disposal Chute at the intersection corner of the road and press the lid button to see if any miscellaneous paraphernalia had not been disintegrated yet.
As he traveled on, the homes became more spaced, and the spaces became more wooded. The clean-looking shrubberies and evergreens were being replaced by many large oaks and elms. Heavy undergrowth and thicket appeared generously.
Suddenly, the quick swish of a sliding door panel was heard and out of the semicircle domed shaped home on a slopped lawn came a happy sweet shriek of laughter and excitement, as two nude figures came bounding down the lawn, landing on the Porta-Walk; they preferred to run down the walk rather than use it, playing leapfrog over each other for several hundred feet.
The peddler took only a casual notice and then went about his business; the undraped appearance of the two teenage children were nothing new; neither were a pair of adolescent persons acting so brusque at an early hour. They ran one and on and came to a pathway leading off the road, the two trying to prevent each other from getting onto the pathway, tripping, and pushing each other amid childish squills and comments.
Finally, the one broke ahead, turned, kicked dirt up at the other and ran on. They soon disappeared in echoing laughter and romp. The path led up a hill for several hundred feet, then down into a gorge holding a little stream. The two ran down the hill and soaked themselves in the icy water (they had produced a sweat, even at that early hour).
“Stop it, you simpleminded thing,” the girl said in unconvincing exasperation, “stop it, Teddy.” The boy continued to throw water on her until she just sat there looking an insincere look of anger.
“Okay, Marian,” the boy took time out from laughter to help the girl up, “let’s see what is on the other side of that ridge,” he pointed to a row of trees outlining a field just above them on an eroded bank.
“You’ll have to help. It’s all loose dirt.” She placed herself in a position to be helped by his arm up the slopped terrain.
They continued through the field which was heavy with orchard grass; Ted tried to hide, and a game of Hide and Seek ensued. They must have had sex at least three times before exiting on the other side of the field.
Ted has the girl’s arm pinned behind her back and was smiling impishly as he put force into the judo hold. ‘‘That’s enough!” she winched. In that minute he let loose, she observed the look of impish delight he gave to her predicament. She slapped him. His immediate response would have been to throw her to the ground, it was prevented by her remark, “You get a real kick out of administering pain, devil of Darrigan, don’t you?”
He walked on in silence, and within a few seconds they both looked like two very bored souls. Marian was still rubbing her arm. The morning had turned out to be such a bore—-nothing new, just the same old things. But the two were just children of the lowly, uneducated class of the Outer Cities; already at their early age, the best they could hope for would be to die in the graces of a Dulmen god or be made a foster child of the Bubble City goddesses.
They came to a wider dirt road, one used by peasant slavery to haul produce, it hadn’t been used for some time. Clumps of crab grass and weeds readily covered it. They walked on.
“What bothers you?” Marian asked, “you act strangely, normally you would have passed up on the chance to slap back.” She threw pieces of gravel gently against him. He didn’t answer.
Broken branches hung out into the road. Occasionally a large insect would dart spasmodically over the road. A lizard darted off the road into the weeds. Sunlight threw a dark silhouettes on the road from large elms and oaks as lofty umbrellas. One could only wonder how the woods had not closed-in and swallow the road.
Marian muttered now and then about her cousin Xekter from Common, a city several thousand miles away. She was quite thrilled about her cousin for he lived in a city that was quite different. Xekter lived in an underwater city. Oh, how Marina loved to hear the thrilling tales of his boyish adventures: Imagine riding bareback on live fish!
Marian had never been outside of City A-1 by herself. So, this visitor from Common City was always a treat. The jealousy she was trying to provoke on Ted seemed more promising now.
Ted would glance blankly at Marian occasionally. Marian soon realized she was getting nowhere; she stopped suddenly; thrust her hands to her sides; and stomped her feet: “ May your heart be rent out by its roots – you — you…”
“Come off it, Marian! Please let’s just walk. For a change, let’s just be silent,’” he gently placed his hand on her chin and squeezed softly; this struck Marian as odd. They continued to walk.
After a mile or more they came to a smaller pathway that denoted an entrance to someone’s property ahead in the woods. On a small spruce tree next to the road was an old metal sign that had been affixed intothe tree, furrows of bark infringing the edges showing it had been sometime since it was posted: in large black letters, it read “POSITIVELY NO TRSPASSING—VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED—-Order of the Department of Welfare.”
They sat for a moment on the large stones situated to one side of the area as they gazed obstinately at the sign.
“Hey! We’ve never been in there!” Marian exclaimed tossing bits of dust in the direction of the path. Ted gave her a half sneer.
“Violators will be prosecuted!” Ted motioned with his palms upward as if lifting an imaginary boulder; he slumped back into his thinking posture.
“So, we’ve done it before, let’s do it again! They just put those signs up to scare people—-unless it is really offending the Brain—-they say nothing! You know that!” Marian was tugging on Ted’s arm, asking him to follow her down the path. He went limp and made the weight of his body a difficult object to lift.
“But what if it is wrong—-regardless!” Ted’s childlike innocence struck Marian as somewhat precociously odd. She helped Ted to his feet and the let go of him to give him a stare of curiosity. He long sleek, shinning black hair partially hung over her shoulder; for a child of seventeen she had developed voluminously according to Dulmania standards. To be less would mean she could not visit the Bubble Cities on the Eve of the Sun when Dulmen priests manifest a wonderous display of gods and goddesses as they stalked the Citizens’ Championship into the realm of the Lesser Human Gods: special invention of the Brain.
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and stroked a few bits of straw and weed from it. She cocked her head to indicate her curiosity. Ted felt her suspicion and anxiety bubbling up.
The two gained momentum until they stumbled into the folded legs of the towering statue. They stopped in fearful apprehension. They took a short glance of this beast, barely seeing the nose projecting over the statue’s folded arms.
“Shoosh! Be quiet!” Marian giggled as she pushed playfully on Ted’s shoulder. Ted returned the gesture.
“Looks like an opening there!” Ted pointed to a jagged opening in the base of the stature dividing the beast’s legs suspiciously. It looked as if the golden statue had been built over an opening to a subterranean cavern indicated by the jagged edges of stone protruding along the metallic opening.
The two had broad grains as they tiptoed into the opening. They were greeted by a soft luminous rock, a product from Dulmen space mining. There were steps leading to an alter patio on which was overlayed with lovely clothing and various materials. Containers spaced throughout with strings of beads and jewels heaped high into the air that decoratively lapped over their edges. In the middle of the patio was a table of stone. A rather awesome feeling was created by the stalagmites and stalactites doting the ceiling and base of the interior.
“A temple, Marian! A temple! Here they worship some secret god.” Ted exclaimed as he ran to the center of the patio and slapped his hand on the stone slab, his voice vibrated and echoed in the hallow chamber of the room. Ted took on a pensive stance as he looked bewilderingly at his feet, he wrinkled his forehead in deep thought.
“What if there was only one god? One god?”
“One god?” Marian shouted credulously; she raised her upper lip slightly in a sneer.
Ted glanced back at her, her feet together, her hands folded at the base of her stomach. Marian was so naïve; yet so full of knowledge in ways that Ted at first was only beginning to see as also terrifying: She was friendly; yet a friendship that would end with the first selfish whim. Faithful; yet always changing to new and dubious faiths. “From where have you gotten that idea?” Marian exclaimed.
“What if I said, ‘the Brain—-the Brain’ was not the final god?’” Ted’s hands began flaring about indicating his predicament of thought. Marian was trying to see through the quandary he created.
“But you didn’t, did you?” Marian remarked in friendly suspicion.
Ted hesitated. Could he? Could he speak as he felt? Surely Marian would understand. “No, I didn’t!” Ted exclaimed. He held a serious expression as he walked down the steps, earnestly looking for words. Looking directly into Marian’s eyes, he paused for a second, the spoke:
“ A man….a very wise man…so gentle and kind but unusual, had talked to me some time ago,’’ Ted held his hands out as if holding an invisible box, shaking it every now and then, glancing to Marian, begging for her understanding, “and as he talked, and I began to see somethings differently. He told of a tribe of people from many, many eons past, a people devoted to one way of life…to one god…a real god…I mean,” he was showing signs of exasperation at his inability to convey his thoughts, “A single god…a father god…these people worshipped no man, no manmade image. It is hard to explain, Marian, but they led a simple life.’’ He chuckled and looked back into Marian’s face, now standing with an astute expression, “ they marry, but only once, and to only one women whose life is dedicated to the same goals.” Marian opened her mouth in a slightly humorous gasp. “The children are subordinate, taught by command…and…and,” ideas were now raging through his mind until he became almost overtaken by the scope of the picture parading through his imagination. Then he slapped his chest in a sharp crack and walked aimlessly into the sunlight. Marian followed sheepishly as if to hear more revelations.
They spoke little as they steadily strolled towards the road at the top of the hill. Ted remembered the many childhood episodes he had when he lived with his parents. Ted was encouraged to rebel. Often, he would be viewed in his Block Room, a reinforced Cell with various pieces of fake furniture onto which he could vent all his anger and hate. Dulmania was preoccupied with such demonstrations as a bonus for either an aggressive solider, a Circus Torturer, or a stonehearted politician. This was all recorded-on circuits and all accompanying body-reaction was thoroughly studied. But unfortunately, Ted Andrew Zeo was not found of the aristocratic background and prospects, a fate of so many Outer City children. It was customary for children of Dulmenia to be born to the mortal gods, or not, and to practice hostility and rebellion; if they wouldn’t, how could they be expected to stand by their government in times of alien threat? (And, oh, those alien threats, all elusive, all unseen! Dulmenia had wiped-out all traces of or incorporated in any foreign government in the solar system; but there still seemed to always be an alien threat from somewhere, someplace).
Often when Ted’s parents and neighbors had engaged in orgiastic worship on the Special Day and in the pageantry and color of the Dance, some would rise into a rage and destroy objects inanimate or animate about them, things with life or not, Ted would gleefully yell, scream, or shout, destroying “playthings” laid about him; and with great strength, surprising for a child of three years.
It was exceptionally warm on this autumn day, warm enough to cause perspiration, and Marian proceeded to flick-off the weeds and grass sticking to her voluminous body as they strolled away from the road and down a slope towards a school building. Ted wanted to introduce some frolic to alleviate building tensions.
“Come on, let’s race down the hill!” Ted grabbed Marian’s arm shaking her out of her nonchalant sun-basking. She giggled and laughed and her muscular but feminine body dashed alongside Ted down the gradual slope to concrete pavement around the building. The asphalt-like pavement was hot but no hot enough to seer through their mud stained. Their voices and laughter echoed against the towering wall before them. Ted picked up a clump of tarred gravel and threw it at an imaginary “hoop.”
“Just like the primitive people did once, Marian, it was a game, but back then they used an inflated sphere.” Ted slapped his hands together, “Come! Let’s attempt to go inside!” He firmly took Marian’s hand and led through double doors outfitted with push-bars across them. He peered through the clear windows. A clink-clank rang out when Ted pushed the bar and to his surprise the door swung open. It echoed loudly in the sunlit interior hallway. They suddenly reared their heads back in disgust: “What a smell!” Marian choked, “This place must have dead vermin in the corners!” Yet, the walls and corners revealed a curious absence of spider webs, and there was no thick blanket of grey dust that would have indicated a lack of activity for some time.
Ahead, directly in front of them, wide steps led to a main hallway from which various other door and entrances could be seen. To their left, a concrete-like incline dropped off to what appeared to be a basement level. They had no idea as to why they walked into the area, but they advanced slowly into what apparently was a basement recreation area that contained a deep depression, apparently a swimming pool; two opposing doors on the other wall led to another segment of the gym.
The unusual stench was unrelenting. Both youngsters had their eyes completely smarted with tears. Flowing down Marian’s cheeks were tears as she gave soft coughs that echoed loudly in the lonesome surroundings. From the sunlight streaming through the basement windows, they both eyed a bluish-red ribbon along the rim of the pool. Hand in hand, they advanced to investigate.
The two became gripped in a frozen state of shock! They stood motionless and all color left their faces which shared each two dilated eyes; Marian slowly stared into the pool and then swung around to face away. Throwing her hand over her mouth to try and stop any vomit that would surely have happened. Ted churned his head from side to side in hopes of rejecting a steady stare. In the large pool where the mangled, blood-stained bodies of men, women, children of all ages and sizes were indiscriminately deposited here from a massacre: It was the result of the Sport of the gods from a night or two earlier.
The body of one Jerald Cosnic, a daring Mus-chute, could barely be seen in the mayhem.
The two stumbled feebly back up the incline by which they came. Marian had become a failure to her Dulmen breeding, whimpering like a child of three, and it was plain that something alien had invaded her psyche like a lightning bolt. For some reason, somehow, the Dulmen Circus didn’t compare, exactly why remained unclear, but something that Marian had previously said….something…!
“Ted Zeo!” The voice was booming and startling! Marian’s breath was frightened out of her. Ted squeezed her arm in the wake of terror.
Before them, one leg advanced, fist on his sword, whiten in anger, stood a muscular Dulmen soldier. Sunlight struck the gold of his helmet companying the purple plume. Further behind the soldier stood three other soldiers gripping their atomic-weaponized swords: a sardonic, dank expression on each. Outside, positioned about, were transport crafts.
“Come with us,” the soldier boomed again, “you’re under arrest!”
It was quiet. It was peaceful.
The rough branches of the maple tree rocked in the breeze that caressed the forest. The leaves would twist and turn, this way and then that way, as if to push themselves out of their branch sockets. The outer leaves would strive to clutch at the ancient Sherman Oak across from it, almost as if the two would clasp branches together in a handshake suited for nature.
Above their autumn green-orange-brown color was a pure light blue of the afternoon sky. The slightly chilled air gave the scenery a medicinal feeling. Extremely high in the sky was seen the thin vaporous white cirrus clouds. There were also large patches of mild light blue until the sky partnered with fluffy cotton-like cumulus clouds.
It was the freshness of nature, almost unbelievable in its beauty and delicacy.
What was once a heavy deciduous forest of broadleaf branches and sturdy oaks, tree seedlings, shrubs, wildflowers, and a forest floor of last year’s leaves (as well as many thousands of years past) had become the straggled, matted and weeded ‘lot’ that sat just beyond the industrial area on the verge of a major city. Its eerie but tranquil beauty of years past was lost, exemplified by a seriously rusted piece of metal obscured beneath the leaves, or a girder heavily coated with moss and autumn-stricken ivy; these were just a few of the tell-tale artifacts telling of the activities that once ensued over the millennia.
A crystal-clear stream meandered down through the woods carving a well-defined gully as it went. It was feed by an underground spring just over the hill to the north, and it lazily rolled on down to the granite and flint rock cliff and became part of an industrial waste pond a mile farther down the sloping terrain. How this natural beauty of pure, uncontaminated fluid existed in relationship to the turbulent history that occurred during the thousands of years at that very spot would be a difficult conundrum. But there it was: a small silvery, shinning ribbon of icy fresh water in a dying world!
Yet, it was quiet. It was peaceful.
A small pinkish form was making brisk jabbing motions at the bottom of the slope by which the stream ran. Two tiny hands were actively taking he mud and packing it tightly together to make a dam on the edge of the water; two small feet would dolt back and forth through the lip of the water, quickly grabbing small shinning crystals from the bottom of the stream and artistically place them on his handiwork.
“You are playing pretty, honey?” came the voice of the mother from the above tree line up above the stream. The mother was tenderly smiling down to the boy from her reclined position; she had put aside her paint and crayons from her work on the canvas she had placed before her to watch her two-year-old child. The mild blue eyes of the fair young child rose to look at her lovingly and a joyous smile rose to acknowledge her.
Then his glances were increasingly drawn to the majestic, lone Shermond oak tree that towering over his mother. It was his tree, he thought, his favorite tree. He has just claimed it. It would forever be part of him and his memory, along with the rosy complexion of his mother so lovingly looking at him; and all fresh smells of the damp living woods about him. A great joy swelled within him. He suddenly threw his mud pack onto his youthful creation.
“Ya, Mommy! Pretty! See house!” One or two more mud packs on his already cluttered creation and he would be finished.
He turned around in circles two times with a musical sound from his stubby little neck, only to be confronted by a rolling tumble weed which hit him smackdab in the face; the surprise of it caused him to fall on his backside, clutching the weed as if it was a ball. He began to laugh just as joyously as before. He saw the whole event as wonderfully humorous. The mother was also laughing affectionately at the episode.
“Okay now—-build a big castle.” his mother conjectured to the little toddler. I build ‘god castle,’ he announced back referring to the capitol Bubble Cities. I go there, Momma.”
“Yes honey. Now play pretty.”
The mother went busily back to her artwork, but the baby really wasn’t interested in creating anymore. The child had already gathered a small but unique collection of bits and pieces consisting of old Dulmania refuge and ancient debris, carrying the tumble weed to his spot and adding it to his collection. A small coil, maybe a gear that had been at one time from a lazar pistol that were in the army of the Quothian Empire. It was badly rusted and the twists of the coil could barely be discerned. Also found were a few bits of metal stripping and more recent pieces of film from the industrial laboratory only about two thousand feet away. The child cherished it with more vigor: It was to him the prettiest of the bunch.
Already he was conducting a new excavation on a new discovery. Several feet away, just to one side of a dwarf evergreen, he had found a rounded pebble and metal stone, overturned it, having been guided there by the sight of the dwarf evergreen. Such a tiny plant. He would make it his by uprooting it and bringing it to his mother, but when the task proved too complicated, the child went back to working the protruding object. He rested his small features by the rounded object and began to dig around what now actually was a crescent of metal in the dirt. Occasionally, the mother and child would exchange glances at each other.
It was quiet. It was peaceful.
To the south just barely over the slope of the hill at the top the curved top of the industrial complex was visible. The opaque material of the building would light up with a flare in minute intervals. When each burst of light occurred another atomic-synthetical ‘slab’ was created for the industries used in spacecraft and aircraft and other mechanical uses. The vast amount s of atomic radiation and waste was quickly dispelled through the affinity chute whence the contaminates were drawn into a fluid retainer and discharged into the waste pond at the base of the lot. Logically, the catalyst substance in the water was to hold and subdue the radioactivity…its success was very elusive.
The babe seemed to sense the awesome and terrifying prospect of the site, even though details were only vague recollections from misunderstood conversations.
He swung his little head away from the direction of the industrial complex; he wanted to concentrate on what on what was left of the beauty around him. And he found beauty everywhere as seen in the weeds, shrubs, that swarmed the dry and complexed ground; a milliped was briskly traveling the branch of a tiny beech tree seedling and he sat there and innocently stared at the insect until it reached the slightly brown and orangish-green leaves of the plant. He looked down at his project and began to circumnavigate the stick around his bit of archaeology.
Time had raced past this spot changing the forest mantle and at fantastic speed. At one time a giant Tyrannosaurus stalked these grounds. Beneath a thick layer of leaves, several yards into the dense brush, enshrined in hardened and fossilized rock many feet below, were the footprints of that mighty beast; indeed, twenty feet further away and fifty feet below the ground was the skeleton of a giant Triceratops. But no one will discover it at this time, far too secure in its tomb—-nor does anyone care.
And time had raced ahead bringing another collage and cinematic swarth of history: flint arrowheads, broken bits of clay pottery yet to be discovered by those with more able minds. For amongst the varied color pebbles that lined the stream the ancient settlement of an Indian tribe existed—-pulverized and camouflaged by times’ passage, but it was there.
If one knew where to look, he would investigate the hallow of the large maple on the edge of the brush, beneath a heavy muck of leaves and sediment, to find the remains of a rubber strip that once was part of an automobile tire. At one time a heavy rope held that tire to a thick lower branch on that maple; children would gleefully play and swung on it.
An active hangout for the neighborhood hoodlums during the mid-twentieth century, a campfire would be built near the deceased scarlet oak tree, only sixty feet from where the babe now played, the teenagers would sit and tell vulgar jokes and use gutter talk and drink heavily of the beer they had stolen from the back room of a tavern on the skirts of that woods. A foot further in the dry cracked soil was the end of a busted switchblade knife brought to that condition during the many boyish but dangerous scuffles around the campfires.
An even more current artifact was the riblike girders of steel that once was the supporting foundations of a field buggy factory where manufacture of a small compact mobile unit that once raced between the slender bodies of the R-Squad positions. It was destroyed one night during an apparent sabotage attempt: the white color of the aircraft pad was unrecognizable.
Though largely contaminated by the passage of time, the weakened forest still gave a gallant shout-out of its vitality. The breeze could still stir through the hues of colors and still play frolic with them. The old Shermond oak would smoothly bow its head in acknowledgement — and then bow, stand erect momentarily once again, only to bow routinely as if a conductor in a grand symphony of nature.
The smell of decaying leaves swelled-up in the child’s nostrils. It was a smell so rich and good, yet as symbolic of the dying world in which he sat and played, he had been raised in one of those families that had been relatively ignored by the multiple tentacles of the Dulmen spy world. He had an original mother, though the scandals in the life of such peons were so accepted, no shock had yet been etched in the mind of such a little one. His lovely mother was dying slowly of a venereal disease, that only the aristocracy, the rich and pompous, were allowed the luxury of a cure—that Dulmania mental sickness of mind of the power-hungry rulers had not yet become possible to medicate or cure. Indeed, during the Sedox Era, such diseases had been totally wiped out through prenatal immunization. With the advent of various Dulmen instruction only those politically favored received the ‘remedy.’
The babe had no need or capacity to be concerned with the problem, he was gazing wonderingly towards the sky. He watched the cumulus clouds pass over. He almost felt as if he could reach out and touch their serene, rolling surfaces. A gust of wind swept past him carrying the autumn aroma. He contently went back to his digging.
A red squirrel scampered up the trunk of an old spruce tree and made its way quickly through the branches. With a shove from the wind, the spruce hugged a dogwood nearby and intermingled its crimson-green leaves and red berries: the squirrel traversed through all this. The babe was still attracted to the mighty lone Shermond Oak hovering over the bank of the stream, to the child it stood out as the grand conductor of the autumn symphony of musical players of other oaks, scents of thistle and evergreen, maples, hickories, and chestnuts.
The wind died down, the branches and twigs and stims of the wild living that had been swaying around them came to rest. Birds with long, slender wings slid over trees and then ascended high into a patch of cloudless sky. The breeze started the second stanza of this nature song, leaves surging from one side to another, lulling momentarily, and then starting over again.
It was quiet. It was peaceful.
It was a special treat that nature preserved for the lonely and for the unfortunate; those who lasted through years of unending turmoil, revolution, and mayhem; of the same frightening faces and traumatic interludes: these also shared with nature the unfortunate struggle for life in their diverted innocence, this much was nature willing to give.
The lazy trickle of the stream water threw a blanket of comfort over the whole natural embroidery. The contentment of this favorite autumn day was reflected in the dirty little hands of the child who busily stroked his stick around that ancient object slowly emerging from the ground; his small stature only making that task much more difficult.
The breeze combed his thin blonde hair, and the child mumbled letters he was mimicking from the object—“A—D.” These were left over, but still largely used in various citizenry breeds ‘‘from the age of the Great Eagle,” the golden years of the Sedox Era, a preDulmen empire that had large hopes of a One World Society. The Sedox wanted the language to be short, concise, and very communicable: the Telephar alphabet. Each letter denoted a full syllabus of expression. What came to be neanderthal-like grunts, hisses, and whimpers, was said to be the most sophisticated language in the world. “E” – energy; power; force, and so on. “A” – atom, miniature; ash: all-encompassing, and so forth. Later, with the dissolution of that society, the Dulmen rediscovered the novelties in old, Anglo-Saxon twentieth century expression and created a whole mystique using proper titles and rank.
The rather snappy and melodic chanting of the child came to a peak as the babe finished his excavations. Nearby, the quiet crunching of a forest predator could be heard munching on several acorns; a hard low thud somewhere deep in the woods as a fox had scampered knocking a stone into the gully, followed by a refrain of a gust of air sweeping through the orchard grass; the yellow backsides of still green leaves fighting to parade their existence in the green and brown forest.
Somewhat breathless, the child began to tug at the object with both hands, his bare body had begun to show signs of chilling that even the early morning Sun wasn’t able to alleviate. The boy was too preoccupied to worry about his personal comfort. With a final yank, he pulled the badly corroded object out of the ground. In his tight little fist, he examined it closely, and utilizing two dirt caked stubby legs, he toddled over to his to his pile of findings, throwing the object down onto the top of his collection. The object sled down the heap into some autumn-struck Kenilworth Ivy. It was a round object, obviously having had a silver tinge at one time, and an image of a face could be seen against the corroded edges. It was an ancient coin, a coin from an empire that bore the words IN GOD WE TRUST on one side: a plaything that the child had no way of comprehending its true worth.
The mother now motioned for the little one to come to her. She stood up and held the outdoor scene she had created for the child to see: an exact replica of the wooded area about them with the white, fuzzy figure of the boy in the middle of the artwork. He smiled contently at his mother and began quickly to struggle up the small pathway leading to the top of the ridge where his mother waited patiently with an outstretched hand. When he reached her, somewhat out of breath, he firmly grasped her hand. As they turned to leave, the child held back to place his hand along the bark of the Shermond Oak. He looked straight up into the towering limbs above him with the fluffy white cumulus clouds passing directly farther above. It was his tree; his favorite tree; it would be his forever he told himself.
It was quiet. It was peaceful.
He turned to walk along with his mother. His small body busily pumping his short infant legs to keep up with her as they strolled home through the tall stalks of grass.
The Palace of Dreams
Across the snow-white pavement of the square strode three strutting figures with their uniform capes gingerly whipping behind them. A steady slap echoed against the whiteness of stone and marble as their sandals thrusted against the surface. The sun seemed to have darkened in the shade of the trees circling the large square. They appeared to be heading towards a large monument in the center. It was a towering pinnacle of stone with a small rectangular opening and around its parameter were windows spaced systematically of no great quantity; the monument came to a tapered point: It housed many privileged mortals which slept in the dreams of the gods—-and perhaps, just perhaps, reasoned Martin, a conspirator!
They passed several stone columns and large monolith slabs placed arbitrarily throughout the square that contained slogans and epitomes dedicated to privileged individuals as engravings heavily and gracefully on their front sides. For the fact, however, that greenery and shrubbery were suspiciously missing along with some architecture, it would have passed for a cemetery of the 21st Century.
The three soldiers marched briskly through the morning air, and with each step coming closer, broader in nearness, the top of the building seemed to rise higher and higher until suddenly they passed into the thick darkness of the interior. Martin notice that the stones lining the rim of the entrance were enormous and a stunning tribute to Dulmania.
They passed down an extremely large corridor that took several minutes to traverse. In the shadows of an immediate Entrance Room, they were met by blinking red, green, white lights on the face of the Computer Wall that scintillated the interior with the synchronistic pulsations of color. A smooth but varying musical hum weaved out from the guts of the Computer that nursed a collaboration of the many incubated individuals that were housed to live an eternity of many times, either for a service rendered or a debt paid.
“Welcome, gentlemen. Welcome to the Palace of Dreams. You have been announced. We greet you Son of Misslou, we hope you find the evidence you are looking for.” It was the voice of the Computer: its store of information was fantastically clairvoyant.
Martin smiled musingly, “Good morning.’’ Matin glanced around at his two companions who were also smiling. “May we visit your corridors?”
“Be my guest!’ The Computer spoke with a mellow but nostalgic frequency.
“Thank you.” Martin stepped a foot or so to enter a corresponding and ascending corridor.
”Please forgive the housekeeping,” it replied, “we don’t have visitors often.”
Martin glanced back momentarily, “Thank you. Thank you very much.” One didn’t have to know the age of a Computer to demonstrate politeness, it was just something about its manner that deemed it so.
The three started their journey up corridors of the temple. Suspended on the invisible Jets, they progressed up the passage of Cells. To one side an infrequent beam of sunlight flashed across the corridor from the “peep hole” rectangular windows; on the other side were synthetic viewing windows into the Cells allowing one to investigate the Sleep Chambers.
Martin would occasionally investigate a Sleep Chamber, and holding up his hand, the conveyer would slow, and the movement the movement of the suspending jets would stop momentarily as Martin would peer intrigued into the Chamber. Usually, the person inside would be laying in a silver suit, silent, and still on a metallic slab. On the wall above the person’s head, a roving Eye would pivot in its socket and scan every inch of the Chamber. Below, a Computer Unit showed signs of its existence by its scintillating lights.
The Dream Palace, or Temple as it was called, was the Dulmen way to reward those of a certain Elite with their noticeable and outstanding reward from this life (and the next). He or she may have been an Outer-City peasant – or a noblemen — of the Bubble Cities, a soldier who had done some heroism in outer space, or had fought in a success Dulmen battle, now being rewarded with ecstasy and sensuous delights of the senses of millions of years crushed into and capsulated into the matter of a few minutes. These individuals need not live out their normal life span. Normally, a person would die and the sum total of his existence, his personality, would be computerized and his identity would become a part of the Great Brain to live on eternally as a recorded memory bit of holographic information in the Nirvana of the dark depths of the awesome, master Brain: a scientifically verifiable eternity.
Halfway up the Memorial, the Computer spoke:
“Pardon me gentlemen, I have an irregularity located on Level 85. My information suggests nothing of alarm, but I suggest you check it out anyway.”
Martin arched his neck back and looked curiously into the air, “Thank you, it may be what we are looking for.”
Martin’s pulse stepped up slightly. His expression took on a more serious consternation clinching his teeth lightly together causing a drawn expression on his cheeks. It had been a full day – with much tension – under the weight of his promise to catch the elusive entities. His patience was gone and he was wearing a peculiar wrath at this point. Body upon body, face upon face, had appeared through the Chamber Windows as they swiftly ascended the corridor. Some had a pasty white appearance, others a soft pink. All were, however, straight lipped, unsmiling in their perfumed dreams.
The Suspension Platform slowed bit by bit until it stopped suddenly across from the hatch door to a particular chamber. The hum of the conveyer jets died down and then disappeared with a low hiss. The three men stepped over to the hatch-door, Martin peered in but suddenly reeled back, regaining his composure, and stepping again to peer through the diamond-hard viewing portal.
Inside, was a young lady sitting upright, yet unable to beak the straps around her wrists. By the expression on her face, she was in stark terror and physical pain, rolling her head side to side and twisting her mouth in agony. He long hair was pasted to her lips by her saliva. She gave a blank look, almost as if she saw them, yet didn’t, perhaps looking beyond them. Because of the soundproof enclosure nothing could be heard, but she obviously was in the struggle of a great tragedy.
“What’s wrong with her, sire?” a soldier asked stepping closer to look. Martin just shook his head.
‘‘She appears to be in agony! Is something wrong with the machinery or electronics here?” asked another.
“A malfunction! It can’t be corrected at this time. She’ll have to be taken out by our technician custodians,” announced the Computer.
“Has it anything to do with our quest ?” asked Martin rather loudly, still having difficulty viewing the horrid scene before him.
“None. She has not received the proper information feed,” was the Computer’s nonchalant response. “It is nothing more.”
”I don’t know. This has never happened recently. Most Dulmen are quite receptive.”
“Yet she is not !” stated Martin sarcastically.
“You say no conspiracy,” Martin was analyzing differently, “ I’ve seen this seed of rebellion lately and it indicates only one thing: a connection with the conspirators!”
“Maybe so,” replied the Computer, “ but we’ll never know for sure.”
“She is completely out of our reality!” challenged Martin as the Computer ended the conversation in sedate, human phonetics. Martin asked no more questions. He peered into the chamber once again: the girl was no longer young and beautiful but had magically turned into an elderly hag of many years, wrinkled and decrepit and barely able to hold herself upright. Martin saw something else: before their eyes, suddenly, her hair had turned gray and silver, bit by bit, it turned to white!
Martin glanced down at the Identification Label on the hatch of the cubicle, it read: Mary Longarm, 5890-892-4600, Sector 5, Level 85.
“Let’s get out of this horrid scene, leave.” Martin ordered almost begging. The military unit turned to descend to the ground level.
Martin was fearful. Something! Something different had been seen in that face of bedlam: it had signified something beyond Dulmania Control and he just didn’t know how to picture it. The face of the Outer City citizens, when soldiers had jested and played with the experimental release from Control, the experimenters could then see the reality outside of Dulmania; Martin grabbed his cape and sword handle in a tight and fearing grip.
Elia had the small lamb safely nestled in a bed of straw hear his slung hammock that extended along one side of the tent, while the other half housed a comfortable array of food, preserve, blankets, cushioned folding chairs, electric cooking stove (a rarity for a person as himself, and a well-cared for possession), plus a table and several stacks of clothing and blankets.
A hanging lantern descended a few feet from the apex of the tent and a cozy glow filled the weatherproof shelter.
It was early morning yet while the rising sun was only a few minutes away: stars could be seen clearly in the night sky above the pitch-dark forest. Not a speck of light could be seen through the hills and mountain sides. Not a campfire. Not a torch blaze. Not even the distant halo-glow of a Dulman city. No, Elia’s tent stood alone in the valley with a singular warmth all its own. The fire he had built to warm the sheep had finally died to a mass of glowing embers. The braying of goats and sheep denoted a restlessness for the coming morning.
It also was a freedom that Elia wouldn’t have dared exercise except for the fact that several unusually large earthquakes have suddenly isolated a nearby area with the Caucasus Mountains as the diameter. With the complete collapse and utter destruction of Mount Elbrus, the 18,500-foot mass of rock and earth dissolving into rubble as if acted upon by several mysterious forces, Dulmen citizens left with a rapid hast explicit of uncontrolled fear. The Officiates didn’t prevent the exodus, but rather aided it with great haste. The unknown was always a highly controlling factor.
Elia’s ‘people’ quickly converged in droves from their few isolated ‘spots’ in the continent. His ‘family’ had lived silently in the rugged valleys of upper Siberia. It was there he would return within a few hours to carry-out the assigned task. But now he wanted to mediate and contemplate first.
Combing his silky ‘mane’ back as best he could after taking a razor to his beard (shaving his face with the ancient razor; he had accompanied a disgust for lengthy hair of his more frivolous days), and washing his face, Elia went about the task of shutting down camp.
He will pack his gear on the three mules that accompanied his short journey from the ‘village.’ The small lamb that he discovered, he will carry; aside from minor cuts and scratches, it had become symbol of the unfortunate, the lost, and those who were possibly blindly chivalrous.
Soon this curious procession will be seen coming across golden fields and down a slopping pasture into the small street of the nearby desolate village.
“We have been given immunity” Elia would think of the ever-watchful eye of the awful Zeus, the Great Brain, “but why? And for how long?”
Quietly swishing his strong lion’s tail like a content cat, Elia glanced at the gentle lamb. He stroked the lamb twice. The desolate and uninterrupted serenity of nature’s quit was too good to be true, and the star-studded heavens seemed to hold back that potential, haunting fear that might break through any moment and cause even the embers of the campfire to extinguish.
But the moment also made Elia feel good. It gave him that extra bit of courage he would need when he will shortly visit the various citizens in Dulmania. It had been five years, but that was not long enough a period to wipe away the familiar faces and some of the happiness and even the sad and sordid past-times he had with those neighbors. How would they receive him?
What would he say?
Would he even finish the journey?
Or would it already be too late?
Uncle Redress had watched the faint glow of a speck of light on the scanner. Over a period of minutes, it increased in brightness. He checked the location as to the territory of the find. It had passed into an area that was Do Not Trespass-Restricted Area of the Dulmen government.
His face held a soft, low smile; but if one looked closely, he could note a sign of sardonic wickedness there also. He couldn’t help himself altogether because some baser instincts within his subconscious adhered to his Dulmen training – a mild ‘jerk’ of his head indicated as much—and he enjoyed it! Everyone had been allotted their potent of Z-BR8 capsules.
“Good! Good,” he muttered to himself as he jumped from one scanner to another, peering over the shoulders of the operators. “Fine! Fine.”
The room lit up with brilliance momentarily and then sled back into total darkness as someone entered through the dissolvable portal to the room.
“Police have been dispatched, Sire,” the person informed.
“Did you also inform Martin?” Uncle redress questioned.
“Immediately, sire. He has just been reached at the Palace of Dreams.”
“Palace of Dreams?”
Uncle Redress looked somewhat puzzled. What could Matin have found so interesting there? Surely, he didn’t think a conspirator would be able to hide in that scrutinized mansion.
“Oh well,” Redress mildly exclaimed and turned to look back at the florescent panels, “I suppose they’ll take the captors to the Hall of Criminal Detention,’’ then quickly declared, “yes, and let me know as soon as they arrive.”
‘‘Tell Martin, I leave within a few minutes.”
The room lit up again, and immediately regained it black solace. Uncle Redress folded his hands at his crotch and balanced himself on his toes, rocking, showing some childish smugness. This could be a big event for him! Oh yes, a big episode for a true god of Dulmania, one could become ecstatic within such wellbeing.
“I believe they are captured now, sire,” one of the operators informed, “the Pointer has faded.”
“Check back with me, informing me by Communications; if so, I’ll leave immediately.’’ Redress smiled confidently. The operator spoke swiftly into the Communications. Uncle Redress had begun to sway like a high-strung adolescent, partially singing a tune. He rubbed his hands his hands together in excited impatience.
“They are headed back, sire,” the operator announced.
“Then I go!” He informed his personnel of their further duties.
The room lit up again, and immediately regained its black solace as he disappeared into a fray of light.
The nude boy and girl stood before the semi-oval seat of the Questioner that swayed in midair before them. The Judgment Hall had a curious touch of Aztec and Mayan architecture blended rhythmically with that of ancient Rome (all of which was lost history to average citizens and some of those present). Martin sat there soberly tapping on his new black boots with his short leather whip—-an obvious distinguished aspect of the Questioner and Examiner.
Behind the two captives were several officials of the immediate Investigation Squad, which included Redress and Arian. They all stood in patient complacency, looking sternly at the two, for this was the break they had been waiting for.
The chamber was dimly lit in red that surrounded as a phosphorus glow in the chamber. There was also burning torches protruding from strange architecture in the crannies uniformly located on down the walls leading into the darkness at the far end of the room and contrasted expertly with the white glow of Martin’s throne.
Martin stepped from his throne and walked casually over to the boy; he glanced at him with great hate that impinged upon the limits of his psyche.
“Do you know why you are under arrest?” Martin snapped sharply. He had taken his allotment of Z-BR8 to curve his rage. He continued to pace in front of the boy.
“Yes, we trespassed on restrict and private Dulmen property.”
“Is that right?” Martin stopped to ponder the boy’s erroneous assumption, or lie, then continued to walk. “And nothing else?” His questions were brisk.
“I don’t know.” The boy was shaken with wrenching fear. His body had turned to a cold icy feel from the panic growing within him. His face was stained from tears. Their wrists were swollen where cords bound the two, but not necessarily out of necessity, but mockery.
“I doubt that!” Martin stopped to tap him spitefully with his whip. He continued in his restless pacing.
“It is much more than strange that the two found the unfortunate ‘burial’ site at the old relic?” interjected Arian, referring to the ancient school building that had existed in somewhat pristine condition. Apparently, its condition was due to use before by Dulman governmental agencies.
“Yes. Yes, it was, Arian,” agreed Martin. “And also find it interesting that it was in such a short matter of time, as well.” Martin paused his pacing and gazed coldly into the boys eyes, “ Was it because you had followed the solders from the Jest to the old relic—secretly hiding?”
The boy knew what the godman was driving at, and he rocked his head from side to side in utter disbelief, “No, no sire. It was nothing like that. It was just a morning stroll.”
“Just a stroll!”
“Just a morning stroll, nothing more?”
The boy timidly and hopefully glanced up at Matin, “Yes.”
Matin’s expression turned to dire hate, “You lie!”
This was not happening, the boy thought, it was not true, surely, surely someone could defend them, yes, someone—-the Brain—-yes, the Brain knows! “Ask the Great Lord!” the boy blurted out.
“Indeed!” Martin shouted out, raising his whip as if to slap the boy, the boy jerking back his head to absorb the potential blow. Martin lowered his whip to his side in more composure. “Indeed. You see, we have—-and you were detected!”
“As to what? We’ve done nothing. Said no…” He stopped, for he suddenly realized how strange and misleading it would have been to complete that remark. Mark saw his predicament.
“Yes, your correct child, you said and saw much—-it showed on our scanners! Trapped! Caught!” Martin stood looking dominantly at the two as he slapped his whip repeatedly in his palm. A slight smile of arrogant pleasure was on his lips. The girl began to cry aloud.
A moment of silence emerged, then Martin asked, “What have you to say for yourself?”
Ted’s thoughts were now rapidly envisioning that kind old man they had encountered, the visions of which had to have been detected by the Scanner-Sensors. He could picture his rosy complexion, his flowing white robes, his cane in hand, and that air of a personality associated with something outside of Dulmania, something totally disconnected with the mile after mile of stone and metal, synthetic construction, of Circus, of Jest, of the atrocities such as that Marian and he had stumbled upon previously; and he spoke of a Father—-a Father which sparked a warm glow within Ted’s heart that he never realized existed. Ted certainly never experienced it with his own father.
“It was nothing evil, Lord,” Ted pleaded, “we were just discussing an elderly man I had met. He was kind. A kind person. He spoke no harm.”
“No harm? We think differently. We Sensed differently. There is something there that is aberrative—-it doesn’t equate, it doesn’t compute!”
Marian was sobbing almost hysterically. She fell forward at the feet of Martin and began kissing them, pleading irrationally for mercy while visions of the fate to befall such traitorous action began to enthrall her thinking. Oh, how now she remembered the reports of slaughter in the Circus.
In Dulmania, one wasn’t just content to help the hierarchy capture potential conspirators, but if, within one’s self and own being, a person could detect any trace of rebellion, any smidgen of resentment or fear, that person would be disposed to turn his or herself over to the officials of the Bubble Cities!
From that point, a person would the go through Purgingand finally EcstaticDeath with the promise of eternal life in the Information Banks of the Big Sire.
Long lines of the confessors would line into flanks and march solemnly into the center of the Circus. There they would sing praises to the gods and goddesses of Dulmania of whom they wished to resign in eternity. Drugged into a state of sublime ecstasy with Z-BR8 and other hallucinogens, they patiently awaited their forthcoming slaughter into their eternity. It was hoped that this mirage prompted others watching to jump into the Arena as also confessors and receive the same ending.
At this point, Marian didn’t seek such a reality; she wanted to live her life out. She insisted, he had done nothing wrong.
“Can you tell us where you will meet this man?” Martin began questioning again.
“I don’t know, sire. That is, not exactly.”
“It was during late summer at the waterfall of the Lily Pads, the one decorating the Goddess Vera. I occasionally walk there because it is not too far from my home; Vera has been a patron goddess.” Martin sneered at what he felt was a dubious remark by the boy. “One day as I sat praying, I felt a presence behind me—-opening my eye to see a reflection cast in the water before me….” Ted was beginning to relax somewhat now, thinking he was doing something to please the gods, “….I was startled. In pure snow-white robes, the person was almost as if he had materialized. But I had turned only to see an old man balanced on a wooden cane. He looked calm and sincere. There was something about his deposition that projected great wisdom.”
“What did he say?” Martin looked casually down at the girl; she had stopped crying to listen. Martin nudged her to her feet indicating she should stand to listen; this she did revealing a dirty tear-stained face.
“The first words to come out of his mouth were, ‘If you must pray, why not pray to a real God!’” Martin stared ahead with resentfulness. “Then he proceeded to say that I was a ‘Son of Evil’ and would die in evil unless I came face to face with the ‘Father of All.’”
“A traitor! Truly a traitor!” Uncle Redress shouted. He stepped forward near Martin to speak. Martin bid him silent. “Go on,” Martin requested.
‘He said many things; some I cannot remember! He spoke of ‘another reality,’ one outside of Dulmania. He said we were ‘slaves of unreality.’”
“Blasphemy!” Martin shouted. Ted’s eyes widen in expectation. Something quite unexpected was happening here that neither he nor Marian had come to grips with earlier.
“He also said we were ‘servants of death,’ and that our freedom was only a ‘slave reality: real slavery.’’’
“Why wasn’t this old man detected by the Big Sire?” The Son of Misslou turned to accost his uncle, “Why didn’t the scanners pick him up at this point?”
“Perhaps if has something to do with this ‘other reality’ he spoke of,” Arian said. He came out of the dimly lit red of the back area into the white light of the foreground.
“You have ‘freedom.’ By the hand of the gods, you have complete, total freedom. Has anything been kept from you?” Martin queried. “In the Brain is complete ‘Truth.’ In the cities of the gods are complete reality. We create reality. We are reality!”
The allegation this old man made to young Ted made Martin quite confused, “We don’t deny you freedom, short of traitorous action to Dulmania….”
Martin jerked his head back, and then made several short jerks, stopping to gaze into the air over their heads of those before him: The huge letters M-A-R-T-I-N had materialized overhead: The Brain was about to speak, the Brain would sometimes make its presence known at surprising times and in often unexpected ways. Much like a tele-type of ancient times, a message produced in midair and passed before them across the room. “THERE IS A BIT OF INFORMATION THIS YOUNG MAN MUST RECALL.” A short and silent pause must have been on the lips of the Unseen Genius, “IF HE WOULD RECALL, SEVERAL YEARS AGO, AS A BOY OF FIFTEEN, YOU MADE AN ERNEST REQUEST OF ME.” Ted was now showing signs of trauma, now bending on one knee, “YOU HAD A BROTHER YOU HATED, HE WAS TO BE A SOCALLED ‘SON OF GOD.’ YOU WISHED HIM DEAD AND SWORE TO REVEAL THE SEEDS OF TREACHERY IN HIM. YOU ALSO SWORE TO THE SEEDS OF ANY FURTHER TREACHERY IN HIM—AND EVEN GREATER ALLEGIANCE TO ME.” Another pause before more frightening words, “YOUR BROTHER WAS DESTROYED SHORTLY AFTER, WAS HE NOT?”
Silence was a heavy camion in the room. Its drudgery lasted almost a minute. Martin was the first to muster a breath—-then words.
“Freedom! Total and complete freedom! Not slavery!” Martin’s words had been given an extra firmness considering the Brain’s equally overbearing expression. Ted Zeo no longer could speak. He was numb in the quagmire of confusion.
“Where are you going to meet this man again?” demanded Martin. There was only silence. Ted gazed blankly at the floor.
“Where are you going to meet this old man again?” shouted Martin grasping the boy by the hair and jerking his head back in a swift motion. The boy gagged. A look of fear and hate, both, covered the boy’s face. The boy clenched a fist. “Where?” Martin raised his whip; his eyes dilated with hate. Martin’s smooth childlike complexion had become contorted into a ruddy pink beneath the contortions of face muscles; fury was denoted by short snorts of air out of his nostrils; he was a magnificent example of Dulmen machinery functioning at its fitful best.
“Tell him! For the sake of the Dulmen gods—-tell him!” Marian became hysterical and moved towards the boy to add emphasis. “Tell him, you imp of a demon! Tell him! Tell him!” She began to beat the boy with her fists: harder and harder!
“Please Marian,” whimpered the boy, somewhat distancing from the control of the demi-god and was swaying with each blow from the girl. “Don’t Marian,” he pleaded, “please,” his nose began to bleed, “ please don’t,” he sobbed.
The guards grabbed the girl and pulled and pulled her back from her contortions of fear and rage. Her actions apparently verged on insanity (if that had any equivalency in Dulmania).
Martin relaxed momentarily and began to speak more casually. “I suppose this old man led you to believe that Dulmania was somehow not in your best interest.’’ Martin recalled how the main themes at the University centered on how all treachery and rebellion and how the overshadowing evidence of Dulmen benevolence transfigured that. “I suppose he told you how life inhabits not in the veins of Dulmania, but a Higher Power!”
Those words sparked some acknowledgement in Ted Zeo. He glanced up into the eyes of the demigod.
“Yes, that is correct.”‘ There was a twinge of spite in Ted’ remark.
“And that ‘killing’ at the hand of another mortal was wrong?”
“You are saying this, sire.”
“And that the gods of Dulmania are not really gods, but just flesh and blood such as he?”
Oh, how those ‘histories’ were now invading Martin’s memory. Like phantoms of the past come out again, but only to haunt a forbidden secret. And there was something being seen here now that he had not seen before that moment.
“And it was wrong to ‘hurt’ or ‘kill,’” Ted continued in his own words. Martin noted the arrogance of the boy. Martin’s contorted lips and his grip on his whip again highlighted his hate.
“Then tell me traitor, how long will you be able to watch ‘this’ before you divulge the information we seek?”
Martin dismissed the guards, bluntly faced the girl, and began to beat the girl mercilessly.
Saltarello – Moderato
The waterfall cascaded over the rim of the cliff serenely, melodiously; the flowing water sprayed about exuberantly on the rocks into the pool below. It narrowed into a stream fenced by lichen, foliage, moss, and other botanic vegetation. Stone benches had been placed now and then along its bank. Arching over the stream was a huge marble sculpture of the goddess Vera; she looked as if she were about to descend to the top of the stream and glide down the waterway: arms were at her sides and tilted gracefully. Her chin slightly bent towards the heavens and her cat-like eyes stared upwards with a look of longing. She was treading on hundreds of smaller stone images of human arms and legs.
In the spring of the year, the park site surrounding the waterfall was astoundingly beautiful. Lily pads covered the small pond pools on each side of the stream outlined by long lines of exotic flowers and plumage. The stream contained at some points blossoms from apple and cherry trees. Roses would pop through the climbing vines partnering closely with oaks and weeping willows. A few swans visited to dart back and forth and glide over the crystal-clear water. The fragrance of luscious wild fruit ad botanic redolence strode in the breezes. It was almost magical. Rhythmic chatter would issue from couples who sat and made conversation and prayer to Vera. Sometimes the dialogue became outrageous and the water would carry traces of scarlet and red. Often, in pure indifference.
Ted Zeo sat motionless, expressionless. His arms limp at his sides. He protruded one leg out from him in a relaxed manner. He obviously was drugged or under a form of Control. He wore a one-piece outfit like moccasin material or animal hide, simple with an outdoor appeal. His head was lunged slightly forward in his zombie gaze, and at the nape of his neck was a swollen red streak, a tell-tale sign of the whipping he received at the Crimson Corridor of Justice that night before.
As the birds chirped gently and cheerfully in the morning light, almost unnoticed came a ruffle from the brown-green ticket behind him. Then it stopped. It was followed by crunching, sliding gravel. The boy was being watched by invisible glances. Ted somehow perceived the projections for he knew the source. The gravel sound continued until a shadow fell across Ted’s lap. Ted cared not to move.
“My father could not be here, Ted Zeo, alleged son of Maccabee Zeo, child of destruction—but instead, I offered to come.” The voice was that of a much younger person. It had challenge to its tone, a crisp determination, yet with compassion and benevolence.
“Is that so?” replied Ted, coolly, calmly. He rotated his neck slightly, barely seeing the person behind him. “I’ve come to wait for him just as he said might be possible.” Ted turned back to his original position.
The other young lad moved directly in front of Ted to face him. “Why? Why did you come again?” Ted said nothing, just continued his trance-like stare. The new-comer gave his name: “My name is Matthew. That name is highly esteemed among my people. It had been given to those who hope to lead my people. I only hope that I hall earn that name.”
Ted raised his eyes only momentarily to gaze at the boy. He was somewhat near Ted’s age, but his look of youth was tempered. The boy obviously has seen work, hard work, revealed by the creases and wrinkles in his hands. His blonde hair was being tested by the wind and he appeared to be an outdoorsman. His dark blue eyes were clear and analytical. The thick cloak and robe-like mantle-toga were snow-white wool that almost glistened in the sunlight.
“You can offer me nothing any longer.” Ted remarked despondently, his eyes fixed upon the fair-haired boy.
“I offer the greatest gift of all.” The youth stepped closer and in an unsuspected touch placed his hand upon the shoulder of the hopeless Ted. “I can reveal to you the eternal love of an eternal Father.’’
Ted frowned again and lowered his head. “Father! What is a father? I am owned by a guardian who presents me twice a year to the Department of Welfare for personal initiation into various Dulmen rites,” he paused in thoughts that came sluggishly, “my mothers are many…no, my one legal guardian is a lady…”
“The true history of your family and ancestry is a confused and erroneous one — as is the fact with all of Dulmania. The truth of which you will not be able to bare at this time.”
“To bare…” murmured Ted, becoming incoherent in his thinking, “I must have you stay long enough.” Ted swayed slightly and appeared to gasp for air while speaking. He stumbled to his feet while Matthew graciously helped him. “You must stay just a few minutes longer—just a few,” Ted pleaded.
‘‘Of course, my…my brother.” Matthew smiled and squeezed Ted’s shoulder affectionately.
A moment of silence was broken by a low but audible high-pitched sound above their heads. The mellow-blue sky first appeared empty but then as if on an invisible angel’s harp strummed beyond vision, high in the placid sky, it became louder and louder into a noticeable hum.
The stranger quickly glanced over upward to see a silver speck zigzagging about a mile over their heads. It was soon joined by another and then another, and all three descended vertically downward —- Dulmen transport globes that separated about two-hundred-feet above, spreading into a circle on the ground, one on the far bank of the steam and two on either side of the boys.
At lightning speed, Dulmen guards seized the bewildered youths. Matthew jostled and pivoted on his toes much like ancient football players did when active in their sport, but it was in vain for his struggle was futile. They harshly and expertly bound his wrists together behind his back and shoved him into a craft.
Matthew slowly turned to glance at Ted from the transparent sphere. With two guards next to him, Matthew appeared to be calm, giving Ted a glance of pity and determinism. Ted was also bewildered by the arrest. Slowly, they also led Ted into the other Bubble Craft. A wave of a guard’s hand the crafts ascended slowly for the first ten feet and then picked up speed and rapidly veered briskly into the sky.
The arrest appeared to have completed more expertly and profoundly than their earlier expectations. They rewarded themselves with more Z-BR8 capsules.
In the on-going silence of the morning, a sparrow glided straight down the middle of the stream, banked, and fluttered to the bench on which Ted Zeo had been seated. The bird chirped frequently while pecking with his beck on the stone. Spying a small shiny object on the ground, the bird hopped down to it, eyed it suspiciously, and begun pecking it as well: It was a small medallion that had been lost in the shuffle of the arrest; sparkling clean and the silver circlet glittered with each turn.
To a discerning eye, one could see the miniature image of a dove descending upon a fish.
The Arena – Circus Maximus
The youth stood before two heavy metallic sliding doors, huge monstrosities with steady blinking lights around their edges. Outside the thick structures one could hear the low, thudding throb of beating drums; the steady ‘‘Boom! Boom! Boom!” A slow hypnotic moan. Guards stood beside the doors, awaiting to attend the matter of opening them and escorting the herd of homosapiens into the Circus Proper.
Firm fingertips were upon the individual as two guards jerked his wrists together and began to encase the cords around them. It hurt. It was painfully tight. They checked him over to see if his robes were straightened properly for this fashion, especially the blood stains from previous whipping. It was to be most illustrative.
“Stand ready to meet the gods!” the one guard sneered. He slapped the boy on the shoulder lunging him off-step and almost into the girl in front. “Father, have pity!” she sobbed huddling against the boy and supporting him to a standing position. Matthew halfheartedly smiled back to the tearful girl, who was, then, immediately forced to turn back around. In her face, though stained with from tears, and eyes that were perpetually moist, he found solace, and better still, remembrance of something soft, warm, and loving that he had felt only a day ago; and apparently, had little chance of immediately returning to.
The guards, presently stunned by their allotment of Z-BR8, continued checking the captives on down the line. Matthew’s mind was one big blur of colleting memories and events. His capture had been quickly followed by many others in his community. With amazing accuracy, scanners placed throughout Dulmania cities and rural regions begun picking out the, now, familiar white specs. Within hours the maneuvers of the guards concentrated upon descending about Conspirators in an accurate science after the first global arrests of the Hidden People that had been picked-up and transported to Mylar City for questioning.
Then, just as swiftly, those scanners stopped: no more traces were found! But Martin Seisbury was happy with his accomplishment. Apparently, twenty-five conspirators had been caught a few hours after Matthew’s arrest. The Judgment Halls, which Martin now actively presided over, became crowded with large amounts of officials in the dimly lit crimson light of the auditorium. One by one, the suspects would file before the brilliance of the Judgment Seat highlighted by the huge three-dimensional Dulmen emblem in the back wall. Each suspect was dressed in the clothes of plain and simple garb of the nomad. Each hung their heads in silence. Each refused to speak or confess anything, but would speak-out with such expressions as:
“Father have pity on us!”
“Preserve us to the end.”
It would infuriate Martin immensely, and the watching crowd (which often manifest itself as a violent mob) attempting to grab the prisoners and attempt murder but stopped by the mysterious and stunning flashes of large block letters overhead from the Brain: “ LET THEM BE!” And so, the mob would restrain their actions, drop their grips, fall back, and allow the nerve-shattered victims to remain to stand in silence—- silence or song —-for some would be so brazen as to sing sweet melodies—hymns praising a One God—-a Creator of All.
It would be at this point that Martin would beat them maliciously or have them beaten, yet they remained silent upon his questioning, or they sang until knocked into unconsciousness. This show of authority would come to an end when this giant-sized Dulmen ego was satisfied, and the victim finally sent to the Hyper-ocean where their brain patterns and memories were raped naked and minutely analyzed In the deep recesses of the Mighty Sire. Every crook and cranny of their ‘super egos’ were psychologically dissected—-and even then, there was something that didn’t compute!
Just when the patience of Dulmen gods were being irksomely tested, the needed information was discovered! The major source of this simple tribe was located—-somewhat unwittingly—-during Dulmen psychological and mental rape. The source was seemingly the cliffs and hills out on the far end of the Forbidden Zone near the edge of the Flats! The Flats were mirror-like Moon-like prairies created by the searing and hellish heat of the last atomic-nuclear war on the planet: a rough area of approximately 2000-miles square, pock-marked with deep dark craters—-centers of the various explosions that often evaporated-away rock, boulder, mound, bill or mountain!
It was only near the farthest edge of the vast area that a gradual hill or rock irregularity would appear, until knolls and then large, majestic towering and even spiraling cliffs, unnatural archways, windows, and icicle-like columns. It was within the corners, sinks and tight fissures of these cliffs that caverns had formed within the bowels of rock by means of the gyrations and convulsions in the earth from the nuclear holocaust; existing within these convenient caverns and stone hallows, the tribes of Conspirators had hidden for many, many eons—-secret, ever-elusive, ever watchful, yet never fully protected or invulnerable. The only protection they had was the rugged terrain and —– some Higher Source.
The area had been immediately quarantined due to the extreme radiation in the thousands of roentgens and desolation; the, then, present government posted stern prohibitions and limits. Any youth venturing into the areas would be almost instantly turned into a senile, deathbed patient displaying wet and grotesque burns and sores. The effects of the war could not be contained just to the Flats—-the governments did instigate a timely and ingenious propaganda as to explain away the global deaths which suspiciously appeared to be radiation poisoning. The profligacy of human governments had not changed that much in intervening years.
As Dulmania came into existence, various catalysts and Reducing Agents were dropped into the areas from orbiting spacecraft hoping to abate the radiation levels. A certain amount of success was obtained, but the area was still avoided as dangerous and plague-like. Children grew-up associating the area with the Dulmen god of War—-Maxz—-and the war-torn area was known as the Land of the War gods.
The fantasy taught to children was astounding, and the extreme to which the government went was significant of the huge statue which stood like a towering monster over a highway leading into the War Zone: a fanged, pupil-less, hairless monstrosity of a Dulmen solider with arms crisscrossed over his chest, disintegrator sword in his fist, and a metal-tipped whip in the other. The statue rose some eight-hundred feet into the atmosphere and the top would often be obscured by clouds.
A large stone dedication at its feet announced: MARXZ – ALL THAT IS HUMAN.
Chanting could now be heard through the large Arena doors. The audience of the Arena must have grown full and spectators impatient. There was no deed for citizens to be troubled by the weather growing cooler and their losing their sun-warmed afternoons with barely warming radiant heat from fall seasons —- to the contrary, the weather inside the Dulmen Bubble City was disgustingly mild and fair! Their blood was already stimulated by drugs and Z-BR8 intoxicants. Trumpets were starting to join the beats of the of the drums in a brisk and military style.
Directly in front of the metal doors, eloquently dressed, fully intoxicated ladies and gentlemen in elaborate garb danced in a childish fashion; their laughter was enough to cause horripilation and hysteria. The dancing crowd began to disrobe each other teasingly; Matthew could only shake his head in disgust, tears began to roll down his cheeks. Many of his people turned their heads in shame or disgust at such haughty display which gave little respect for the feeling of the new captives which were about to sacrifice their lives for some eternity in the memory of the gods. Many had come forth to confess sympathies secretly harbored within themselves and realizing this only upon hearing the announced arrest of the Conspirators: and now they wanted to make final restitution with the hidden rulers of Dulmania.
Matthew’s eye caught a familiar face of a boy dancing in frenzied rapture, the same boy who he had confronted on the day of his capture—-his very being was about to be consigned to the electronic circuits of the Ultra-Computer. Ted Zeo! Ted Zeo had finally made a ‘mark’ for himself in Dulmania eternity and legendary. Matthew shook his head: so near, yet so far! The fate of that young boy could have been different if….
Cries of horror and fear rose from behind Matthew and the snapping of a whip forced his attention to focus sharply on the new activity: large transparent enclosures had been rolled into place on each side of the line. Within them, hideous, snarling and grotesque beasts—-The Boors—-lashed their tentacles about like octopuses, revealing between lashes large teeth in a gapping cavity of a mouth whose roars could be heard even outside the enclosures.
Matthew’s people were in tears and cringing in freight. Thoughts of Lorna, Matthew’s sister, as well as his father, Paul, were painfully as well as intimately haunting him. But above all this was his vision of his sweet wife, Roseanne; he had felt her gentle fingers upon his hand numerous times in previous hours, looking up in expectancy of seeing her petite and smiling face, only to realize that this was a fantasy of his mind fostered by the fear of the forthcoming terror!
The men tried to comfort the women as best they could, handicapped by their imprisoned limbs. Matthew struggled back into the crowd to do likewise but was cut short of breath by a husky hand around his throat and forced back again; regaining his breath, he stuttered, and then shouted over the heads of those before him into the crowds of people:
“Sing! Sing! Loud, my brothers and sisters! Sing!”
Matthew tried to raise a clenched fist into the air in a show of brave expression, only to feel the pain of the cord around his wrists. Tears streamed down his cheeks instead.
“Sing to our Father! He has not left us!”
A large hand muffled his mouth, allowing only mumbles as he vigorously struggled, biting the hand of the soldier who grabbed his chin in pain. The boy jutted himself straight and continued:
“This has happened for a purpose! A new and terrible Age has opened! The time has come! It is here! So, sing!”
The citizens, soldiers and aristocracy of Dulmania perhaps were struck by the irony of the situation: The Brain, in its immense and total Power to Control, had allowed all players to exhibit a veneer of free actions rather than resort to rote zombieism, perhaps as a way of showing Dulmen eventual victory and Rule.
Matthew’s voice unexpectantly at last hit a noted of joy and he began to smile. Then, just as suddenly he was knocked to the ground and left lying. Immediately, voices rose in song, a stentorian melody, loud, vibrant; to the Dulmen, it was alien, incoherent , but to the persons of many centuries before, it would have been familiar.
“‘A mighty fortress is our God…,’ the song went, ‘a trusting shield and weapon,’ faces of the crowd and attendants became struck with surprise, ‘He helps us free from every need, that hath us now overtaken…’”
And on and on it went! The snapping of the indignant whip over their heads had little effect, neither the vile and nasty remarks of the soldiers, nor the slapping of the faces of the women.
“ ‘The old evil foe now means deadly foe: deep guile and great might, are his dread arms in fight…’”
The erotic dancers stopped suddenly in amazement and they began to study the strange chorus. Matthew regained consciousness and smiling was helped to his feet by someone unknown. Despite pain, he began to sing as well.
‘“…on earth is not his equal…’”
The guards, despite their confused expressions and murmurs of exasperation, were given a signal to commence. The Circus audience was impatient for their big event. A wave of the hand, a crisp, sharp monosyllable from the Centurion Officiates of the Arena Games, and the huge doors began to roll aside to reveal the enormous Pit Area of the Arena.
‘“ Tho’ devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, we trouble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us…’”
Whips lashed out overhead as the procession and signing continued. Yes, it continued! It continued into the loud roar of mankind at its animal worse.
‘“ This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will…’”
The jeering, the cursing, the throwing of urine and aphrodisiac-hallucinogenics increased, but the captives went on signing for as long as they could through exhaustion. The main terror was nearby.
“‘…he can harm us none, he’s judged, the deed is done…’”
They quickly prepared themselves for their final acts of loyalty as they strove to grasp each other’s hands to signal confidence and love to their religious tribal brothers and sisters.
‘“…one little word can fell him…’’’
Until the captives reached the point of unbearable exacerbation and passed into oblivion!
The Ascending God
Though huge portraits of Martin Salisbury decorated the pillars of the Arena, the whole of Mylar City Proper and continuing suburbs, Martin was feeling no warmth, contentment, or composure. And while the news dispatches had gone out in eloquent processions, and the Dulmen propagandists did more than their share to advertise this latest Dulmen victory, Martin felt something deep-down in the pit of his stomach that wasn’t the essence of victory. He had been fashioned into an overnight hero yet he felt defeated (feelings that were probably reviewed by the Brain), he had won the favor of gods and goddesses, yet he felt like an undeserving child.
In the early minutes before the Circus, Martin approached the Circus Proper through the Officials Chute-Corridor. The conveyor jets transported him and his personal guards to the praetorium of the mid- length of the Arena where the official Box was for honored guests and dignitaries. He nodded only halfheartedly at those who stood to greet him. Uncle Redress (smiling lustfully with pride), Arian, several Dulmen dignitaries and officials spoke:
“Congratulations,” slowly spoke Arian with a board grin. They shook hands, the rest nodded. Martin quickly swiveled and sat upon the suspending set that faced out into the Arena. Martin shaded his yes and solemnly glared at the Pit area.
The spectators appeared to be in a robust and wanton mood, and the seating-area was full; everyone rocked and bounced on the plastic-like Veri-Cushion (a flexible but invulnerable sheet or canopy that was in fact a spectacular Belt that could, at will, form into a ‘seat’ and backrest upon the presence of a body; it appeared as a popping motion about the Arena as various rows of spectators appeared).
Occasionally various citizens would light-up in an aura of blue-white light evidentially because of a Ray Device held by another individual. These were the Stimulation Devices that would suddenly throw the victims into a momentary frenzy of erotic and ecstatic delight. One could see a female arch up on her toes and heave her bosom into the air, musically weaving her arms through the glow while bathed in an eerie blue-white light hovering on top of the green halo a few inches from the skin of her body. Suddenly, the light would vanish and she would drop back to her original position, usually to comic with the provocatory.
The drums had stopped abruptly. Then the loud, clear blasts of the trumpets. The huge entrance doors sled open. Martin’s attention was enlivened — he sat up erect on his throne. Then it turned to dismay as he as he began to view again all the familiar faces that stood before him in the preceding hours. His eyebrows rose in serious consternation as he noticed the captives signing in jubilation. Then, again, he thought to himself, this was not so surprising given the irony of this band of ‘loners.’
Veronica, the dark-haired, hazel-eyed damsel who had stood before him for an hour, was again in his view. Unable to harass her into speaking, a guard slapped her. She only cried.
“Why does my God-given brother persecute me?” she sobbed.
“Brother?” the guard snapped back, “I would not wish to ‘touch’ the likes of you!”
Martin observed the incident, “A bit too harsh,” he thought to himself. The women stumbled forward. Martin noticed that here was a woman that was far too eloquent, of a majestic heritage, much more than those mechanical nymphs that decorated the Mylar City gardens. Here was a women whose face was ruddy from wind and not from the artificial color injections into the glands of erotic damsels. She had the strong, firm muscles from the many hours of tilling the ground, harvesting the crops, and rearing the children; not the mathematically and systematically developed thighs, hip, and breasts of the Mylar maidens; their physiques were calculated to produce desire of the human Dulmania gods. Her hair had the half-sheen of wind and dust after he a long day’s journey across the prairies, not the forever-sleek strands of the Aroian Palaces.
“Why — why does my brother persecute us?” she sobbed with large owl-like eyes.
Martin swallowed his saliva before speaking: “You are addressing a god!’’ He paused briefly, “I am not your brother.”
“You are a prisoner that you judge us so vainly.” The intense stare of her eyes continued their sober fixation. Her statement whirled around in Martin’s head that was the very essence of Dulmania (from his lustful nights in the Aroian Palaces to the mentally electric ‘throb’ of the Dulmen Universities). He could not comprehend.
He jerked his head back in several small flicks.
“You are far too wise a woman to be a traitor. If I could offer you your ‘freedom’—HERE—NOW—in exchange for your allegiance would you give it?” As if written there, Martin held his hand out flat and straight.
The women just wryly twisted her lips in a sly grin: “Why should I give up all that I have—all that I WANT—for a parcel of bead that is already rotten with disease?”
“You speak riddles!” Martin stomped from side to side. “You make no sense!” He looked at her in cold examination. “I could have your mind transferred in a twinkling of an eye!’ He shook his finger at her. “Your whole body molded into an exquisite damsel of Dulmania, every thought plucked, dissected, by the Brain, whether you liked it or not!” Martin looked at her expecting unusual reaction—-instead, she slowly tilted back her head and cogently, almost in pain and agony, spoke:
“There are somethings, my earthly brother, where you have no ownership—neither can it be bought—or sold—neither can you rob it. For ‘it’ lies in the protection of the Power of one much higher…” She stepped forward a few paces to deliver her remark. “…for our Father is not mocked, as you are doing unto your brother so shall it be done unto you! Sooner or later, it shall be done unto you!”
“Riddles! Confounded riddles!” Martin rose two clenched fists in anger, an angered god! But to Veronica he appeared as a lost child.
“Take her away! Let the Brain have her!”
Martin halfheartedly slammed his fist into the other hand as to not disturb those seated around him. His thoughts traced over the others in the procession. These few who were so enigmatic to his robotic mind. “Why?” The thought kept sneaking snake-like, rat-like into his mind. The question had no business being there, there should have been no question at all.
And “why” kept lingering there as he recalled another familiar face below in the Arena. That face was contorted in joyous song. It was the blue-eyed, blond-haired, lovely adolescent, Sandra. She had kept her silence and only tears betrayed her hate. But she tried to remain silent, though misunderstanding followed her aside the atrocious evens she had seen.
Sandra let her anger be known when she attempted to slap Martin’s face—-Martin at first felt a reciprocal rage, but it mellowed into admiration—and then haughty laughter. The Hall took its cue and began laughing as well. The cold, almost damp stone slabs that checkered the walls of the Judgement Hall echoed vibrantly throughout, rebounding the sound back and forth along the Malayan-type faces sculptured in the stones in the periphery of the reddish nocturne corridor.
This furthered Sandra’ s resentment, and she promptly spit in the man’s face.
“Take the brat!” He calmly further reflected examining his glossy whip. “Rape her if she refuses to talk. Then turn her over to the Brain,” he flipped the whip from one hand to the other, “that is all!”
Sandra was briskly escorted away. She expressed a look of ghastly horror as she disappeared into the mass of vultures lurking in the red haze of the Hall. Still, she shouted: “Dulmania will die! Our God is not profaned! Dulmania will die! Father, help us!”
There was Andrew: a husky and muscular specimen of the mysterious tribe. Clothed in the customary toga and heavy sheath with the emblem of dove and fish on the front, he now stood before the Grand Questioner. He also stood mute. In short order, Andrew had been flogged. It was obvious he had been flogged because of his muscular iron-like physique. Instead of the smooth, flawless skin seen in Dulmania, there were the scars and wrinkles of hard labor on his hands and neck. He was a man of 34-years-of-age but he appeared much older. He evidently was not a product of the Bubble Cities or even the Outer Communities.
Andrew had been in the last train of captives, and Martin had become quite proficient in the handling of the last few. Martin stood in almost bored tears as he watched Andrew grimace in pain. In great pain, Andrew recited some of the chants and prayers of his tribe; no one could understand them, but they were buffers to ward off the pain.
“Blast your god!” Martin cried out. Nothing could harm the man any more than he was hurting in the lashes of the flagellations. “It is trickery to delude us in the rebellion against the official gods of Dulmania!”
Andrew said nothing. He peered up at Matin quickly and continued to chant his sayings.
“Damned be your Father!” The last lash struck – the man was released to fall to the cold floor. He looked as dead. Martin went to stand by him and turn him over with the toe of his boot, but was startled to see Andrew attempting to raise, a slow eternal moment in which he rose a full arm’s length. His sweat and blood glistened as his dark eyes reached out to the Dulmen towering before him and he groped for words He murmured in a deep breath of exasperation: “He who is a friend of the world is an enemy of the Father…,” he paused, “…he who is against the Father…,” pause again, “…is an advocate of the world.”
Andrew’s head fell to the floor as a heavy rock, and then he lay unconscious.
The terror for the captives had passed. The slaughter was finished. Cheers were still ringing from the spectators around the Arena, many were climbing the inner wall to travel to the Pit area, all in frenzied excitement. Some were exhibiting cannibalism to the mutilated bodies strewn about. Small globe-transports zig-zagged about the growing mass of Arena spectators in the Pit area, like darting hummingbirds, they zipped about charging close to spectators as if to disrupt their activity, and then quickly moving to another spot. Trumpets were again sounding and the drums throbbed against this wall of anarchy with a jubilant resonance, the whole Arena was in a mass orgy. It wa a manifestation of Dulmen gods!
They were calling out Martin’s name!
“Stand forth Son of Misslou! Arise our Ascending god!””
Over and over went the chant, first low and feeble, then in unison, gaining in volume joined by the clapping of hands, into a thundering roar.
“Stand forth Son of Misslou!”
Around the inner wall of the Pit were wide viewing windows stretched around the four corners of the partition and in the midlenth sections. Around the windows a line of spectators could also be seen shouting and clapping; others held their children over their heads as if to give them a better view. Some had their noses pressed tightly against the windows.
“Arise our Ascending god!’
Banner-bearers held large flags of state and federal motto which waved back and forth gracefully and in unison.
“Stand forth Son of Misslou!”
Hands were being clasped onto Martin’s shoulders in friendly congratulations, and the dignitaries that were seated near him were raising their arms in salutations.
“Arise our Ascending god!”
Martin began to awake from the indifferent stupor he was in. His thoughts had been in a momentary battle and he was first aware of the complete scene about him. Unable to erase haunting faces that appeared before him during the last hours, Martin rubbed his eyes hoping the visions would go away, but they remained. He reluctantly viewed the shouting mob. He silently beckoned Dulmen gods to remove his disturbing thoughts. His vision ascended to the canopy of electrical static that branched out into the atmosphere of the Bubble City from the Purifying Tower that was visible just over the rim of the Arena bleacher-area, the jagged arcs of electricity would jerk out from the tower’s pinnacle, spreading white and blue spray and mist over the city.
Slowly, Martin banished his frame of mind and then stood silently and somewhat disinterested stood before the crowd. The roar of the spectators turned into deafening applause and shouting. Garments and various clothes were thrown into the air, stimulator-devices were activated in rapid succession.
Unavoidably, Martin’s eyes fell upon the Pit Area as the actions of a trained falcon as to what he had done. He waved his arms towards the crowd…once…twice…and then dropped them to his side in what appeared to be a forlorn droop, turning to those behind him in his mysterious melancholy. Slowly, he investigated the rancor of hysteria around him. The creases in his neck somehow now felt like heavy lead had been poured there. The dignitaries about him produced a sight that caused growing disgust to Martin: their occasional ‘jerking’ of their heads indicating the ‘Control’ of the Big Sire, the Brain. And then in ironic repugnance, Martin felt his own ‘jerk’ of his skull.
“An Ascending god,” he thought momentarily to himself, “indeed!” That was a rank signifying the evolution of a personality from the realm of the demi-god ‘humans’ that now ruled the Bubble Cities to an actual ‘real god of the heavens’ that came to walk amongst the people once a year at the Big Festival. It should have racked him with pleasure, but mixed feeling s and confusion were his only realism.
“Prepare to send our Special Police Squadron out…” Martin addressed Arian who smiled at Martin in dizzy admiration, “I will meet you at the Space Terminal shortly within the hour.”
Martin walked away quickly without further explanation! He was unaware of the looks of amazement and questioning that suddenly appeared as he advanced into the Officials Corridor.
These captives were not the only specimens to ponder — there were other mysterious organisms and threats to investigate as well.
Flashing images from the past, like delicate burst of color and shape, laughing faces and glaring eyes, confronted martin’s consciousness: psychedelic renderings from his ID: completely and totally Dulmania.
First there came the drawn face of one Professor Aultorixus, his rubber-tipped cue waving back and forth rhythmically at the casually grouped before him. His high cheek bones accentuated his pale complexion, and his quick movements of his thick lips resembled the mincing of a jungle monkey. An instructor of history, he had no peer, and no one could equal his devotion or mental dexterity.
“There were six consecutive governments,” he was reciting, “each with an inherent seed of weakness that made their downfall inevitable.” The smell of fresh fruit and floral perfumes were conductive to his low and melodious voice. “They all had essential structures which prohibited the ultimate discoveries of Power and Might.” Through the ivory columns that rounded the rather cool Study Hall, one could see warm sunlight caressing the evergreen shrubberies directly outside. Beyond that, in the Athletic Fields, students were engaging in sports of combat—while cheering females urged them on.
Aultorixus stopped to look his class over; he spoke again. “‘Let me illustrate a point.” He strolled over to Martin who was lazily reclining on expensive tapestry and linen sheets. He eyed Martin curiously. “In Dulmania we have evolved to a point beyond what Krendelson labeled the Psychic Apex, is that correct?”
“Yes sir!” was the snappy reply.
Aultorixus slapped Martin’s face, quickly and with might, while he gently shook the man’s other hand in a sign of deep friendship. Martin was only momentarily stunned. He had seen these acts portrayed on the visual units in his Learning Cubical, it should have come as a total surprise. The others were looking on with unemotional interest.
Professor Aultorixus did the routine again. Martin reluctantly tried to keep himself from emotion under the sting and radiant warmth of the slap in hopes that his cheek would stop quivering.
“So, your see that personal relationships are varied and depend solely on how much we can psychosomatically endure as well as project.”
The Instructor casually strolled to the front of the podium and began more of his insouciant conversation. The psychosomatic syndrome in other ages would have gone by other definitions and descriptions; two thousand years earlier, provided they were agile enough to recognize the syndrome for what it truly was, it would have been called ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘double-mindedness.’ It was essentially what led the Cyrenaic or Hedonistic school of thought by Hegasias to turn into a religion but with a new twist, yet already as ancient as the First Parents, to evolve and grow in ever more subtle ways of life until it became worldwide and incomprehensibly ‘evil.’
One could see the relevancy of this when confronted with the history of Countess Flora. She had become the perpetual ‘virgin’ (any comments to the contrary would have would have brought damnation in the Dulmen Laboratory Incinerators). She was a protégé of the goddess Vinos, a revolved form of the goddess Venus, and as such she was granted the perpetual grace of Holy Virginity; all eyes were fixed to that fact with demanded loyalty. It was an insane form of truth, for Countess Flora was far from a virgin. Indeed, the concubinage was starkly evident and her reputation certainly no secret and no disgrace by Dulmen standards, but inherent and necessity for a society where wickedness was so rampant that ‘virtue’ had to be invented, even if by insane measures!
These recollections of Martin’s faded suddenly.
“Better get in, sire,” came the request from a guard-attendant, “ you’ll be crushed to death by that oncoming mob.”
Seisbury ogled the murmurings of a group of people on the porta-walk that had noticed the ‘Ascending god,’ their new Caesar, and then their footsteps turned into swift running.
“Quickly, get in sire!” Martin became suddenly alert and stepped into the control seat of the Zot Car, a gentle purr and the car shot away.
Martin was again wrapped in reminiscence. He was envisioning a lovely maiden of the Aerion Palaces, involved in one of her seductive renditions, her long silken hair tumbled down upon his face enveloping him in a usual strong scent of aphrodisiac perfume. She began to laugh hysterically, a second group of women near them directed their attention and laughter to a visiting officer.
Suddenly, an earsplitting cry of pain and terror rang out, highlighted by insane grunts and squeals.
Martin grasped for balance as he tried to force himself upright as he threw the surprised maiden to the floor. Martin lunged forward to investigate, holding his Penetrating Pistol in front of him, the chaotic noise suddenly stopped, all eyes turned to Martin slowly approaching the encircled activity. Spectators backed away casually, almost purposefully as if planned, each with a mystifying grin on their faces that gave Martin a chill! When they had flanked back, the scene revealed a horrible murder; it was the mutilated body of the Head Officer of one of the nearby military divisions. It was just one of Martin’s deepest lessons in Dulmen morality.
Martin’s head began to ‘jerk’ incessantly, causing a slight ‘ache’ between his eyes and a warmth at the nape of his neck: The Grand Ruler, The Big Sire, the Brain was discharging Martin’s disposition of shock and Martin’s possible questioning the morality of the incident.
Martin’s thoughts continued to the days that followed that incident, he had the opportunity to learn ‘firsthand’ the justice of the Dulmen Empire, the rulers of that land in their most direct and perverted form.
Sandra, a particular maiden which had occupied Martin with her attentions during this murderous act, was set free, she was found innocent of any charges, and was said to be neither a witness to a crime or an accomplice. This struck all as odd, though none knew officially of such complaints.
Martin had testified that her behavior, before and during the act was indicative that she knew what was about to happen and that her hysteria indicated that much—a laughter which intensified before the act.
The prosecution immediately jumped upon this point. The prosecutor also questioned Martin that the girl’s physical position above him was suspect of the possibility that she was attempting to ‘pin’ Martin down while the homicide was being done. Martin collaborated that suspicion. There were no jurors — the Brain had made juries extinct — the Sedox Era saw the last real “Court of Jury,” for already seeds of inscrutable vanity had transformed courts into a whimsical ‘Kangaroo Court,’ resulting into Dulmen juvenilia bowing to the complete control of the mighty network of their Electronic Ruler. And when the Brain spoke, it was final! This much, Martin had been trained to believe. So, when the girl was found completely innocent of the charges, the only suspicion one could hold was against the prosecution for their incompetence.
Jess, Marine, Val, the three other female witnesses that been sought to testify—were condemned to death! The Officer to whom the witnesses had been assigned to for that evening, Thor de Charge (the grandnephew of one of the highest generals on the Martian surface), was soon to be placed on that planet in hopes of helping his Uncle solve a colonization problem. It was thought that the evening’s ribaldry would lend to that possibility. These girls’ legal distraction was considered an act of ‘treason.’
How odd, thought Martin, that he should look upon such tactics as of no suspicion! And why? Why was he even ‘allowed’ his suspicions? His head began to ‘jerk’ under the weight of free-thinking and the detection of the Brain. Susan, the sole maiden found guilty of the full charges of murder, was put to death, though there was no evidence to perpetuate that action. The other two women—-strikingly and beyond comprehension—were found innocent!
Inquiries were not permitted! Prosecution ordered a mistrial. The High Judge of the Department of Justice controlled the situation saying that no new trial was necessary. But the legal oddities continued. For the first time in years, a group of dissenters were found guilty of treason. They were no longer heard from. But a rumor already began to circulate as to the reason for the Court’s irony of justice: the two girls had more important duties the following night: two visiting, robust and gruesome officials from the city of Star of the far west!
Why? That thought came back again and again to Martin, why should he deem the situation so odd; did not the Great Computer actually ‘Know?’ Surely, Martin, of all people, should have known how Dulmen accomplishment hinged on the surreal and erratic timing of Dulmen jurisprudence.
There was, however, something here that made Martin’s stomach quiver, what if (and this very thought had escaped him for some time) Martin Seisbury had been attacked instead of the Head Officer? Martin’s thoughts were very confused. In the soft green glow of the Zot Car cabin, he could feel the perspiration on his face. Nervous tension brought nausea to his stomach, and that hadn’t happened in eons. His fingers stroked his sweat and he tasted It and the bitter salty taste.
“Are you in a hurry, sire?” the attendant asked.
Martin answered slowly and trancelike, “no, no.”
“Then I won’t bother to speed our travel,” confirmed the attendant. The Zot Car had the ability to ascend into the air vertically and then dart off, or, if it were wished, it would ‘dematerialize’ and ‘materialize’ and travel to one of several Electromagnetic Ports throughout the city (an engineering feat that the government scientists had quite a problem stabilizing and perfecting over the centuries).
Dulmen science, like Dulmen politics, didn’t always move in a straight line.
“Isn’t it great, Martin,” exclaimed the shinning face of one of his fellow students; it had been sometime since that pumpkin-face had invaded his memory, and here it was again, cascading across the motion-film and kaleidoscope of his mind’s eyes.
“Yes, Zon, it’s wonderful.” Martin remarked; the exact occasion had escaped him.
“I want to pull my hair out!”
“I want to run!”
“I want to dance across….”
“I want to pull my guts out!”
“I want to kill!”
Kill! It was a word that already had placed more than three punches to Martin’s stomach. Ironic for such a word in the daily life of the Dulmen totalitarian empire. It only added a notch in his stomach tension. Fellow student Zon’s plump face slowly faded. There was in preparation another psychic melodramatic event: this event had not been spied nor captured by the Great Erebus Brain that lucked everywhere, even beneath Mylar city —- indeed, beyond capture by anyone in the general citizenry!
Through transparent slots in the side of the Zot Car cabin, Martin could peer into the surroundings. They had just come along side of sterile white business halls, a huge pavilion supported by thick and designed marble columns. People and officiates strolled up and down the wide and long expanse of steps; most in discussion about some latest philosophy that had been aired in the courtyards of the Hall. Swankly dressed and pressed uniforms and cleansed capes, knee high boots that shined, paraded the lengthy expanse of the steps.
They didn’t always have that slow clip, thought Martin. His mind raced back to the time that the rank and file would line up in squadrons and march in union on the Arena plastic-like seating transparencies. Four, five, six or more levels, one above the other, back, and forth the soldiers would march like millions of ant swarming; several levels above and looking down it would appear as if a mosaic of red and brown and grey.
The soldiers would seem to march for hours. Stereophonically-methodically tuned for precise emotional reaction, such that by the end of a three-hour period the soldiers were entranced, and the herded off to the Aerion Palaces for a release to their frenzied state in a stampede that required utmost coordination, a Dulmen ‘creation,’ a dynamic ‘organism’ within an ‘organism.’
Martin’s Zot Car had turned onto an Express Highway that led almost directly to the Space Air Station; built so that the thick reinforced highway arched over an inner-city river, and then spiraled around a towering monument building—a similar innovation in other sister cities—the highway would level off and the arch down lower and lower till it became again ground level—spreading out for several miles till it neared the Space and Air Station .
As the Zot Car picked up speed along the highway, a steady blue light ‘beeped’ off and on synchronistical on the control panel. The green glow of the panel itself was throbbing from light to bright in rapid succession corresponding to the gathering speed. Sensor-Controls were placed irregularly alongside of the highway, they stood upright on a slender support and looked like a huge ‘eye’ gyrating in various positions. Along the highway were various ‘gardens’ and fields of commercial and laboratory crops and plants owned by the Department of Welfare. Every mile or so there were smooth slopping curves of an hourglass shaped structure which had ‘viewing windows’ at the top (the only sign that it might be occupied): these were the biological laboratories were bold experiments were performed.
Martin Meets the Brain
(Martin’s first encounter with the Brain, the Big Sire, was no gentle introduction; experiments indeed, thought Martin. What wild and wonderous history; just how far back in history did it extend? Again, his mind sank into the churning recesses of his aggregate of consciousness-subconsciousness. Martin was about 15 years at the time and had been told about these great moments. Lesson after lesson prepared him for these ventures, and he expected them to be frightful, but his teachers stressed his encounter with the Brain as a mystical parent, kind and loving .
(He suddenly found himself elevated to about 600-foot level of gravity-free. His head was shaved bald. Cold bits of metal, miniature electrodes, were gently placed to various parts of his scalp. The connections led to a central ‘spinal cord’ of the hub down which ran all the other electrical nerve-lines from the many other students located in the spirals.
(Suddenly, the gossip and murmurings of several thousand people shrunk to a whimper, and then, an almost invisible purr. A blackness descended over him as light was shut off by blinders over his eyes. A solitary ‘clunk’—short and metallic as if a lever or throttle were thrown. A fragile but frightening silence before a low glow of ‘creeping irradiance’ flowed into his brain: it began at the nape of his neck, the back of his head, and slowly crept across his gray matter to meet another ‘feeler’ creeping backward from his forehead. Where they met was a tingling as if a kindling of a small fire within his cerebrum until his whole skull was an imaginary ‘glow’ pulsating in synchronization to the electrical input.
(Martin had been blindfolded, he only saw pitch darkness and the usual imaginary green and red spots of closed eyelids, but strikingly an array of sparks emerged out of a white speck; then ‘stars,’ wind, lightening, and thunder! Faces, thousands of them, unknown and familiar, all thrown together in a matrix of color and sensuality. Voices, millions of murmuring and gibbering monotones and some high-pitched shrieking voices. Laugher, insane, hysterical, and then jovial, and pleasant. A large booming sound as if an explosion: a whole city consumed in flames and an exhibition of molten metal.
(The scene shifted to the underwater; a few escaping bubbles turned into a vast armada of rising bubbles, upward, upward; and far below were the marvelous Underwater Cities—semi-spherical metropolises that were several miles across and could travel the water at several knots of speed. [These were later destroyed in the global tsunamis and earthquakes – tossed about like seaweed.]
(This exhibition was destroyed by collapsing pillars and crumbling monuments. Millions of people in the early century Dulmania were racing madly across fields and desert terrain trying to desperately escape the repeated blinding flashes and searing heat of atomic bomb explosions that quaked the earth with a humongous force that dissolved a person’s flesh instantaneously.
(The drama quickly turned into a somewhat alien, more serene, panorama: Martin and several others were moving down a street viewing the odd architecture of the homes, buildings along the way. This was certainly outside the present era of Dulmania. Every conceivable architectural composition since the beginning of time. The homes were decorated in quaint yet bizarre arrays. Three-story homes with all sorts and shapes of windows, frosted, colored, multiple porches and patios of all designs, strings of lights around corners and down streets, beautifully decorated lawns with exotic and beautiful shrubs, plants, evergreen trees and strange towering prehistoric-like botanical monsters. Martin felt small and puny in this neighborhood.
(Thrown into a lightning-fast vortex, Martin felt as if he were punched in the stomach, a vertigo with gusts of air all around him, his arms and legs extended outward in weightlessness as he fell into blackness. A light suddenly appeared and he noted that he had passed into a cavern shaft, he was running down a cavern tunnel created by human hands, torches lined the sides, and his footsteps seemed to echo as his feet rapidly dug into the dirt. His heavy breathing was almost a prayer that he would find the end and burst into fresh air and sunlight, and when that happened, Martin found himself several thousand feet in the air over the side of a mountain from where he could observe the peaceful countryside spotted by white, red, and brown homes nestled next to the silver ribbon of a river—–then he plunged! A great sickness came over him, a belaboring nausea, a whirlpool of flashing green, white red and many colors, and murmurings, an occasional distortion of a blurred face, and finally a loud ringing that became intensified until……)
This emersion into the Brain would not be Martin’s last excursion, only his first, until the time the Brain was convinced that Martin was well-attuned into its grasp by its juggling chromosomes and DNA, synapses, and nerve paths, and at its satisfaction.
“Stop! Stop! Stop!” Martin screamed. His back ached and Martin felt the wetness of vomit upon his chin and chest and found his right leg in the awkward position of having been pinned over his head against the Viewing Slot of the Zot Car as he tried to prevent himself from falling below the front of his cabin seat. The attendant was trying to force Martin upright and trying to place a tranquilizing substance to him.
“Out!” Martin weakly ordered. The attendant failed to respond. “Out!” demanded Martin in anger. The curved hatch swung open and permitted Martin exit and a fall to the ground.
“Oh, the gods forgive me,’’ Martin whispered, “oh, the gods forgive me!”
He was sobbing now, and utterly ashamed of his condition. He was thinking how obnoxious he was. “Oh, forgive me!” With the strength of one arm, he nervously forced himself to stand erect. He glanced around to see where they came to rest, then began to rub himself as if to calm his nervous agitation.
The highway was deserted. Ahead, several miles, he could see the Space and Air Station which stood near the rim of a Bubble Dome. In the opposite was Mylar City canopied by waves of pink, green phosphorescence that rolled over the city from the electrical discharges of the Purifying System of its gleaming towers.
A cool breeze was cutting across the hydroponic fields they had parked along. It appeared that the Weather Control System sent a purifying air turbulences throughout the enclosed city as well as the surrounding areas. It felt good. It cooled Martin’s perspiring body. Martin slowly paced the gravel along the highway praying his stomach butterflies would calm down.
“Shall I call for medical assistance?” asked the Zot Car driver from the hatchway. It would take, upon request, seconds for the black Medic Craft to arrive.
“No.” Martin sedately replied continuing to pace and glance at the ground. Martin queried himself: How could this be? Why was the Brain’s method of Psyche Mind Control not operating at this moment? He knew how subsequent Control Operations went—-it was like passing into sleep and upon waking he would be something new and completely Dulmen. It would be like going to sleep at night and waking instantly without memory of the night’s dreams. Why should he now be bothered by this something inside—-something!
Martin paced in the opposite direction. He glanced about the highway to see where the Highway Sensors were spaced. He noted one appeared to be some distance from them, but Martin feared that al-controlling presence of the High God, The Big Sire, the Brain was ever-present. The best he could do would be to ask for pardon. What if Mylar City citizens had seen him at such a weak state? His fate would have been consigned to the dank and limitless memory banks of the Brain and its dubious ‘afterlife’ in the Dulmen eternity; and it would be rightly deserved.
Or would it? Would it?
Martin covered his face at the fright of having such thoughts. It was making him dizzy to wrangle with himself over such fuzzy thinking.
“Please sire, come back in,” pleaded the Zot Car driver, “you’ll want no one to see us standing here so questioningly.”
Martin would have struck-out with a reprimand at such presumptuous talk, but he was in no mood, he was exhausted.
“Alright. Alright.’’ He threw the small fist of gravel that he held to the round and stepped through the hatchway of the Zot Car. “I’ll want to change this uniform as well. It smells.”
As they turned to leave, the child held back to place his hand along the bark of the Shermond Oak. He looked straight up into the towering limbs above him with the fluffy white cumulus clouds passing directly farther above. It was his tree; his favorite tree; it would be his forever he told himself.
It was quiet. It was peaceful.
He turned to walk along with his mother. His small body busily pumping his short infant legs to keep up with her as they strolled home through the tall stalks of grass. (Chapter Eight, Alterno Sonata)
The sun had begun to set. Due to the promptings and urgings of the small husky toddler, the mother had escorted him to his novel playground just beyond the lengthy field of orchards and tall flowing grasses where, this night, the Sherman Oak could be seen protruding up from the irregular curve of the tree line.
He wanted to dive once again into the collection of odds and ends he had found. Perhaps some had blown away, his mother questioned, though the wind had died down to a small zephyr.
As they crossed the field their long shadows extended before them as the warm disappearing sun caressed their backs. They quickly kicked their way through yellowish clover; above them and to the horizon was a large soft white image peering down on them, the moon. The sky had become completely void of clouds and only a yellowish-white fog could be seen at the level of the treetops in the distance, a man-made smog circling in all directions. The air had a deceptive appearance of being clear atmosphere that one was accustomed to years ago — back then, one could almost feel exhilaration with every inhale.
They reached the mighty oak. The mother stood patiently as the babe scampered down the path to find his collection of odds and ends from the previous daytime venture. The rays of the setting sun lit up the trees, roasting them in the shinning of the golden orb. The branches allowed a trickle of red, yellow, and brown leaves in a contrast on the forest floor.
When the babe found his stack of souvenirs, he momentarily glanced at his mother standing atop the ridge. He glanced about the area with slightly drawn eyebrows. It was a pretty sight to see, the shadows falling upon each other through the woods as warm patches of sunlight still caressed some limbs. The stubs of grass quivered in the steady soft breeze beneath them.
For the child, life had just begun. It was good. It was real and mysterious. The babe could still smell the fresh juices of the spring before. As if a freshly moved lawn was still somewhere in the air somehow joined a haunting combination of thistle-evergreen and clumps of tall, towering ferns and evergreens in a slight rocking motion. Birds darted above high in the mild blue sky.
The child let out a sigh of anticipation, “ I play mommy?”
The mother sat beneath the oak tree and nodded her head in acquiescence. The babe contently went about his filling his bag with his souvenirs. He would occasionally pick a plant or a bit of goldenrod or Maple leaf viburnum about him.
It was still quiet. The peace was supreme. Life was good. The child’s thoughts were friendly: It was a forest all his own! If ultimately only a unbeknownst masquerade.
Suddenly, Elia was struck by a revelation: “Arian! That was my brother’s name! Arian Yul, they named him!” He thought again, “too bad there wasn’t more there between us. Ah, but that is Dulmania. That is Dulmania. Arian, I wonder what he is doing now?” Chapter Five, Prelude to Destruction.
It was nearly 45-minutes into the hour that Martin assured Arian to have the patrol squad ready. They had driven very slowly; Martin needed the additional time to alleviate his nervous condition. He downed the thin shells of several Z-BR8 capsules as he stepped onto the sparkling clean pavement of the take-off patio.
Stretched out for hundreds of feet in sheik symmetrical flanks were several squadrons of military space craft, slender windswept oblongs with translucent curving forefronts enclosing the crafts’ cabins. Four thin spidery telescopic legs supported each crafts’ weight.
The launching patio seemed to extend for miles in all direction. Along the rim were various humps of metal signifying the spacecraft hangers. To one side was a huge structure which appeared to be made of glass-like material with metal strips into large rectangles as the only signs of support. That was a spacecraft factory that ran uninterrupted for several miles along the highway at the east quadrant of the launching patio.
Through the various sections of the diffuse semi-transparent walls, one could see a bursting red flare along with a low hum and churning; at other points, a blue-white light, or, green, in shadows of the high-speed machinery.
The factory was only slightly obscured from sight by projectiles and missiles that radiated to the far edge of the humongous patio. They were all different sizes and diversifications. Most of them were of circular or globular types—a proven design for high-speed travel.
Arian waited patiently outside one of the crafts. His peripheral version caught sight of Martin and he stopped his conversation with the spacecraft crew and he went to meet the Son of Misslou.
“Greetings, Arian. Do the crew people need further elaboration on the purpose of the mission?” Martin raced to the grist of the mission. Arian noted the growing importance of the new ‘god,’ but was never presumptuous enough to bring it up in conversation.
“Yes, sire. We have brought every policeman up to date. The Mus-chutes have already been informed last night. We are to enter the ‘Flats’ in twelve squadrons each parallel to one another by six miles.”
Martin spoke with ease though he was impatient. “We’ll scan all regions as we go. Communications will be kept fluid through operations. At the least detection, each squadron will break-away to investigate, but all squadrons can be ordered to any trouble spot.”
Arian nodded in agreement. Martin dismissed the Zot Car driver. Martin’s darting glance at the driver conveyed his wish for strict confidence about Martin’s previous paranoia along the highway.
The two leading crewmen were dressed for cooler weather: new, glossy knee-high boots, sturdy thick leather visage and coat, all with the Dulmen emblem in front. Their suits squeaked from the newness. Their sword-weapons slapped slightly on their sides as they walked. A brisk salute went from the crowd to Master Seisbury. The crews scrambled to their crafts, inside walkways, and operation consoles. Martin and Arian vanished into the lead craft.
‘‘Martin! Martin! Martin!’ jovially laughed Uncle Redress coming down the center aisle of the control cabin. He grabbed Martin’s hand in warm affection and then bowed his head towards Martin’s feet and kissed his hand. “Martin, my nephew, what a day of bliss. I believe I could cry. Martin!” The man obviously was unprepared for words; those about stood in confused attention boarding on uninterest.
“Yes, Mark, we are all happy with this occasion,” Arian did not want to disclose any information about “‘the Ascending God’s” growing discontent, “I am quite sure he is most anxious to see this affair to the finish!”
Arian flipped his hand through the air signaling the start of operations.
The crafts rose from the launching patio one by one, row by row, as globular ‘bubbles’ wobbling from watery depths racing to the surface; the crafts all struggled to the Air Trap Chute on the slope of the cities ‘bubble edge.’ (The electromagnetic force field kept the pristine inside atmosphere from meeting the outside molecules.)
Upon slipping through the Chute, each craft waiting patiently outside the city forming the respective squadron units until their small armadas were formed and pointed towards the horizon. The mighty U-shaped armadas slowly began in sped which quickly exhilarated into the setting sun, a large orange orb slowly nestling up to the rim of the horizon.
The crafts’ wrap-around canopies of transparent synthetic diamond often switched to a polarized blue shade. Weightless and graceful globules, the crafts glided over the statue of a Mus-chute solider guarding the main entrance to the legendary ‘Flats.’
They passed over their first crater and its sleek, shinning sides that were formed by terrifying heat and enormous pressure. Deep shadows were thrust against their backsides from boulders and rocks. Soon the craters were many as if a newly created Lunar surface.
Martin viewed the odd and eerie sight. He was aware of the ancient legend telling of how men first placed their feet on Lunar soil and were told a mythical story of the goddess Luna caressing the earth and enticing men to her feminine charms. And then followed centuries of amazing discoveries and industry.
“Thinking of the goddess Luna?” queried Uncle Redress with his usual compassionate smile.
“You knew?” Martin replied. It was Luna here on Earth but only perfectly designed. A Dulmen production. Uncle Redress interjected: “She lured mankind from his birthplace to her boudoir like a lustful love adventure, but she beckoned them to their total destruction.”
It began to dawn on Martin that here, again, were bits and pieces of knowledge that his government-peers didn’t feel necessary to divulge to him.
“How was that uncle? I mean, her magnificent mineral resources, yes. The advantages of an eternal guardian Military Outpost, yes. A new domain for Dulmania, yes. But to our ruin? How?”
“Shortly before that, Martin, shortly before. It was the imperfect government that preceded Dulmen rule. Through their incompetence and impatience to compromise with other worldly competitors, a warring faction arose on the Luna orb. Global conflict broke-out on Earth, my nephew, it was amazingly easy to bombard their opposing party with nuclear weapons from the Moon. Within seconds the Earthly arm of that opposing faction threw at the Lunar civilization all the nuclear might they had. We are now passing over what once was the mightiest and the most glamorous civilization that ever existed —- except our glorious Dulmania —- which incorporated everything of wonder from that defeated civilization.”
Uncle Redress further explained that through the efforts of politician and military spy, Chardin Maxz, that the revolution was a smashing success and the beginning of Dulmania. Martin only stared in pensive thought.
“Ah, there is more, much more. The story of Chardin Maxz is an epic in itself,” Mark Redress continued.
But Martin wasn’t satisfied with such ‘history.’ For the first time in his new career, Martin felt as if a puppet in some secret plot in this marionette play. But should he be brazened enough to even question?
Leaning towards the Viewing Canopy, Martin still had questions. “When did they first land on the Moon—I mean, there must have been a time when they first transported human beings from earth to that satellite? What civilization was it? When did it take place?”
Mark continued adding more facts: “There were a few side effects to such disasters. As you can well imagine, the high radiation. This poisoning was a number one epidemic that science placed an all-out attack. Another was the ‘wobble’ of the planet; it was a serious threat. For a while, large portions of Dulmania were transported to the Moon for safety—-until the electromagnetic fulcrum could be invented.”
Martin jerked his head to stare at his uncle, almost in hatred. The Uncle seemed to be ignoring Martin’s remarks. Mark Redress seemed to stare beyond him, he wasn’t listening at all.
“When did they first land on the Moon?” demanded Martin. Mark may not have known, Dulmen brainwashing was often a fact.
“Of course, Maxz was challenged during the battle as well…”
“When did they, Uncle!” Anger was stirring in Martin that he couldn’t appraise himself, for there was a lot Martin couldn’t recently understand.
“The challenged government of that glorious civilization did dispatch four nuclear projectiles towards the vicinity of the Lunar dissidents and today we can see them seared into the Lunar surface—craters of the new government: Might, Supreme, Justice, New Order. Simple names appropriate to the occasion.”
Martin was about to strike his Uncle. The motionless and empty look upon Mark Redress’s face, he was not going to defend himself. Martin brought his fist to his chest, the incessant movements of his Uncle’s lips only increased Martin’s anger. He slowly brought his fist to head level and started to grimace……
“Scanners activated! Scanners activated!” It was the voice of one of the Console Operators. It broke Martin’s spell of anger. Martin stared at the console to his left.
“Close in!” Arian shouted. “Tell the rest of the squadrons to hold position.” Arian eyed the Scanner closely. “Descend to two hundred feet.”
The craft veered to a lower and newer location.
“Look!” shouted a soldier who was viewing through the Canopy. He pointed to a glassy surface below him. Soon Martin and several other personnel stood by the Observation Canopy. Below them were panic-stricken forms, humanoid in shape. Clothed in animal, rawhide clothing, they ran apelike showing dark strains of thick black hair on arms and legs.
“Drop down1 Let’s get a closer look!”
The humanoids scamped about looking for shelter; some behind a blast swept boulder where they huddled in fear; others stumbled as they ran throwing terrain objects such as stones, waving clubs in anger and freight.
“Look at their faces! They’re not human!”
“Mutations!” exclaimed Martin. “We’ve suspected as much!’
A few remnants of the pre-Dulmen civilization must have survived to beat-out an existence in the destitute environment. “just how many, for what end, we had no idea,” Arian interjected.
The small band of freaks eventually disappeared into hiding. ‘‘They’ll make good specimens,” Arian spoke, “ we can take care of that later, for we know those are not the ‘conspirators’ we are looking for now!”
“But the moment also made Elia feel good. It gave him that extra bit of courage he would need when he will shortly visit the various citizens in Dulmania. It had been five years, but that was not long enough a period to wipe away the familiar faces and some of the happy but even the sad and sordid past-times he had with those neighbors. How would they receive him?
What would he say?
Would he even finish the journey?
Or would it already be too late? ’’ Chapter Nine, Palace of Dreams.
Elia had no trouble Navigating the small Rugby Craft. Though it was centuries out of style, its simplicity led to no difficulties for even an isolated group of people to repair. Besides, when Elia glided into the snow drift landing spot several miles out near one of his old home cities, he knew he probably wouldn’t have any further use for it. But then, one could not be sure.
He left the craft below the white snow drift with the compartment lights running. The soft blue and white of lights shone through the veil of snow; It would make a good beacon upon his upon his search for the craft when he attempted to return a few hours later. He walked away from the craft into the whistling wind, leaving deeply entrenched foot marks—they would disappear within minutes in the downpour.
When Elia arrived in the city, he found large Portal Screens atop the maze-like cubical apartments that made-up most of this northern ‘outer city.’ The screens displayed a serenely smiling, nearly bald, gentleman parading a wide collar and a plump face that covered the screen. People were huddled in packed crowds earnestly listening while other were racing away and dashing madly about. All were heavily clothed as protection against the elements.
Elia kept to the shadows along the sleek cubical mosaics. Now and then he thought he had recognized an old friend or a familiar neighbor.
“Luzian?” he inquired of one mutate who was gazing at him from his lizard-like face. The cold, strange stare from two dark, beady eyes denoted unfamiliarity and they both went separately without further conversation.
Elia continued to slink down through shadows, occasionally bumped by hurrying citizens. The few people that he did recognize zipped into the nocturne of this of the almost perpetual ‘night’ of the artic. Elia was glad that not all the cities he planned to visit would not be so endlessly dark.
Suddenly, he caught sight of a lady he had not expected to encounter. She was no mutation, but a rather conventional but beautiful lady with rich auburn hair tucked beneath a Worker’s Cap. He had recognized her appealing form while she stood in the light of the Portal Screen. Elia took solid and deliberate steps to stand close to her; his frosted breath caught her attention.
“Elia,” she said emotionless with only a spark of surprise.
“Kathern, my wife!” a bit of heartsick longing rose within him. Elia recalled her as not being totally dominated by Dulmen propaganda.
“How are the children?”
“Fine. They’re somewhere in the city.” She kept her gaze to the screen with its reflection traveling across her youthful face.
“And you?” Elia asked, followed by a short silence.
“Fine. Are you listening to the orator’s announcements? Conspirators have been found in the recent earthquake areas. The Big Sire has had them under surveillance for days now!”
Elia might have known. Nothing less than an act of the Almighty might have protected the Exodus People. The ingenuity of the Big Sire had seemed to have overcome even that.
“Why did you come back?” his wife asked.
Elia swallowed, a hard knot in this throat, he wanted to say so much, it hurt. “I love you!” he said.
“We haven’t been to bed for years, my husband.” She kept her gaze on the screen.
“No, no, Kathern, I love ‘you.’” She gave him only a blank glance, then turned back to the newscast.
It was hopeless at this moment, he thought. Tomorrow Elia planned to travel to his other Siberian communities. Perhaps after hearing him in speaking to these others, Kathern would come back to him.
The Portal Screen was announcing certain persons that cogently struck Elia: “…officiate gods Arian Yul, Mark Reddress, Mylar City resident……” The words boomed in his ears from the orator’s narration. Elia stopped to listen; what an informative surprise; so, his brother was very much alive and active.
Perhaps they would meet on these matters so intrinsically important.
The young girl sat upon the level crag of a boulder. She looked over the silver-tinted wasteland. She was snugly enveloped by a woolen robe that was thick and heavy protecting her from the night cold. A bulky shawl shielded her head and neck and only allowing her rosy-windswept cheeks, full lips, and watered eyes shingled by visible dark long lashes; she watched the huddled sheep on the pathway and clearing at the foot of the boulder. A circle of stone and rock formed a small wall as shelter for the animals, protecting them the cutting wind that raced across the Flats. She listened to the baying of the sheep, stroking one now and then with her long wooden staff.
She would glance at the full moon peering over the wasteland giving it a silver glow and shadows. Although many miles away, two huge craters could be seen. Towering rock spirals wrestled thin by the elements and the extreme forces of atomic explosion. The night sky was a heavy mosaic of clear, sharp specks of light as scintillating, quivering stars. The cold nip of the icy air gave the scene a sanitary aspect.
The clinking of a bell on an old ram caught her attention. A burning torch in a crevice was the only light she had, but its glow covered several hundred feet. Softly she hummed a gentile, sweet melody.
Her husband had been gone for several days now though he meant to be back by the dawn of the preceding day from his short and unromantic task. Most of his latest missions for the Commune were strict business. Now, he failed returning at the time he had promised and she worried that he had run into some dire difficulties.
It was inevitable, she reasoned. It had to be done. The Elder, John Alexandrius, Matthew’s father, was presently incapable of continuing the missions in that area. His health at his age was not at its acme, Matthew would carry-out that program with dexterity But Matthew convinced the Elder that is was time for a ‘young blood’ to take responsibility and he assured his father that he was well-prepared to take on the hazards of the program. Because he was of married status, the father protested, though Matthew was without children, and it only took slight dispute to convince the aging man of the unavoidability of the situation. Already, younger men had been going on projects to various global territories; for its success for the Community Missions, Matthew said it was best that he took some of the responsibility without delay.
The young girl rose to her feet to stand, balancing herself on the long staff. She took one finger and whipped the chain of tears that ran down her cheeks, they would make her cheeks red and chapped in the cold of the night. Besides, if Matthew did appear suddenly, he would question her about the tears. It took several days for some of the Ministers to return from trips—-though Matthew had gone farther in distance this time and, perhaps, had several feats to accomplish. She leaned her head upon her hands clasped to the staff and cried in earnest:
“Oh, please come home, Matthew. Oh please!”
She gave a sigh of remorse and exasperation, letting her arm swing to her side, turning to step upon stones leading to a higher vantage point on top of another granite slab. The staff clinked on the hard surfaces; she raised the staff for a head rest.
“Such a lovely, lonely place for some to look upon,” she spoke to herself, “yet, should it be filled with the glory of love it would be boundless in beauty.”
She gripped her hands together around the staff in the posture of prayer and gazed up the multitude of glowing orbs across the sky, and spoke:
“It is written: ‘therefore, rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! For the devil has come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.’”
She closed her eyes in earnest expression and again her eyes began to water. “Oh, please Father, if it be thy will, if within thy purpose, return my husband to me.”
A hard knot appeared in her chest but she again spoke: “It is written: ‘ But take heed to yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils. And in the synagogues, you shall be beaten. And ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for testimony against them.’’’
Her mind was beginning to ramble over past events; cherished moments from years gone by. She began to taste the bitter tingle of human tears. She visualized a warm and cozy summer’s day and pleasant green vegetation and long stalks of corn. From Matthew and herself laughter rang out as they ran freely through the plantation. With dirty stains upon their hands from pulling weeds, they momentarily stopped to frolic.
‘‘We best get back to work, Matthew,” she had giggled as she dodged the boy as they bounced around a cherry tree chasing each other. The boy stopped to catch his breath and then he sank into a green carpet of grass.
“Come, set down. Rest a moment. We have all afternoon for us to work. Here, take a cherry!” He plucked one from a low branch. She nodded in thanks and gracefully sat next to him.
“It was only a few year ago that this planation was nothing but rock, dry brittle soil, but look at it now! A small paradise right here, only a half miles of so from the rim of the Flatlands,” exclaimed Matthew.
She smiled with a bit of reverence as she caressed tops of grass. “Yes, and by the hard work of the Commune.” She glanced over at the bobbling heads of crops. “Like so many things we’ve done, it was by hard work and the devoted love of our people.” Her eyes rose to meet Matthew’s. “If only it could grow the world over, we are so few.”
“It has grown, Christine. There are a few communities as our own. Not many, I’ll grant you, but there are a few,” Matthew assured her.
“Have you seen the others?” she inquired.
“No, but I’ll have that opportunity soon. I’ve heard so much about them, I just as well should have been there myself.’’ Mathew took on a worried look. “You know, communications at any distance is a problem. A big problem. But for the first time in years, we can make reliable contact within a reasonable time.”
“Is that who Tamor is?” she asked about a familiar name.
“Yes,”’ assured Matthew, “Tamor is an elder of the Commune which resides on the eastern quadrant of the Flats. He is a very courageous man. And a terribly busy one, I might add, for such depends on him.”
Christine shook her head in wonderment, “All this growth. I never realized it. Seems that when I been just a child,” they both had to smile because they both had not yet reached adulthood, “when I was smaller, I didn’t remember seeing this large plantation. We didn’t have any such thing, but perhaps a weather-beaten garden. Now, we grow our own produce in such magnificent numbers. Cattle and sheep, look at our herds!” She pointed to the brown and white animals strolling on a hillside.
“Em, yes. It is a warming thought if you should stop to really look at it.” Matthew had more on his mind. He smiled to himself and then slide into a more comfortable position to make a longer comment. “I’ve seen all kinds of growth within the past years. I admire the work of the Commune, what the beauteous labors that have produced. Some of the magnificent craftsmanship that our carpenters and clothiers have produced are marvelous. But the beauty of a ‘human’ is one that no man can match.”
Christine looked at Matthew in innocence, not knowing why the grin on his face.
“Take the growth of one girl that I know. Just a small, tiny little thing some years ago. Rather thin, but healthy. Very industrious. But all in all, I had little interest in her. She was a friend, true, but I had a lot of friends.’’
Matthew’s grin grew a little larger but controlling it.
“What little girl is this?” asked Christine in serious expression.
“Well, now, wait a minute. I’ll get to that shortly…time had passed on. I watched this little friend grow into a young maiden helping to make our Commune existence even more worthwhile. Struggling at the side of her mother and father to organize our way of life against the elements. Studious? Oh, what a student; and how often I was embarrassed by her as a rival. Dedicated. Charitable. Yes, I suppose she was all of this and more. But she was also ‘lovely,’ she had grown into a rose from the earth blossoming into fullness. No finer creation might be found on earth to herald the handiwork of our Heavenly Father.”
“Well, who is she?” asked Christine determined to discover her.
Matthew looked at her as if he wanted his eyes to speak. “You, my dear, you are the lovely one. And it is deepest wish, providing things are right, that you know my love for you. And, perhaps, one day, if it be your wish as well, we will marry. It is my highest compliment .”
Matthew leaned over her and lightly kissed her on her forehead, then he assisted her to her feet. Christine did not know exactly what to say. She was magnetized by his sweet words. She answered with admiring eyes.
“We will talk again, Matthew, I promise,” she assured him.
He understood. “Come Christine. We best get back to work. I believe your father is calling now.”
The memory vanished, and Christine found herself again gazing over the desolate wasteland.
Matthew wouldn’t have carelessly given up all this love, all this devotion here in the Commune to throw it away for some careless endeavor in the cities of the barbarians on the other side of the Flats, she thought to herself. If it took this much sacrificing, it must deserve the effort…and the risk. What was it that Matthew said right before he left? “It is written: ‘Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, nay, but rather division.’ It is also written: ‘Who when is that faithful and wise Stewart…blessed is that servant. Whom the Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.’’’
Later, in quiet study, Christine found the words so true, and the implications were so presently adequate.
In the frosty night breeze, the voice of the elderly John Alexandrius could be heard calling the girl’s name. He repeated the call. His voice was coming from over the rocky ridge to which the barren path descended. Christine realized the late hour, and she would have to stop her herding and gather the animals back towards their pens.
“Christine,” came the robust tone of the Elder, “gather your animals together and put them away for the night.”
“Coming father!” she replied, cupping her hand to one side of her mouth, “I hear you. We’re coming,” as the baying of the animals began their march back to the farm.
And it would be a good thing too; perhaps the warmth of her father-in-law’s understanding, his guiding and vibrant wisdom would be a welcome thing on such a cold night. She could visualize now his two dark eyes, singled by bushy eyebrows, peering at her out of a rosy-cheeked face haloed by his snow-white hair and beard. Often, his serious face would burst into a heartwarming smile.
A few minutes later, “Coming father! Let me shut the gates to the pens!” She felt the pain of remorse gathering within her, and the uncontrollable thickness of the anxiety in her throat forming tears. She thrust the long wooden staff over the boulder and into the wooden gate forcing it open. She again used the staff to check the amount of animal feed. Satisfied, she moved along the boulder until her silhouette disappeared into the ravine. All that was left was the last flickers of a dying torch and the low murmuring of huddled sheep.
But if the night quietude could speak, it would have uttered screams of panic and fear: for if one looked closely out over the plain in the direction that Christine had faced, out into the thousands of silver and white specks of heavenly lights, one would see a horizontal line of orbs growing in brightness, becoming more defined with each second. It was the StarCraft squadrons carrying the ineffable Dulmen with crafts that extended to the horizon!
Within minutes, the orbs of the crafts eerily covered the rocky ridge. First, one squadron glided gracefully in small groups of five over the farthest part of the ridge of jutting granite. Then five more floated over the ridge. Five more. The armada of crafts had broken into various groups of five, each dispatched into a particular sector; their Scanners fully activated. They came in a steady stream rapidly peeling off a main squadron group and proceeded into investigatory places.
The low-burning farmer’s torch, the sole illuminance for those baying gerus ovis, had already given one last flicker, and the crooked shadows of the animals quickly ceased. Christine summoned her loyal and trustworthy herd-dog to her side, and then dispensed the dog to rounding-up the animals for the pens.
The night waited for the next suspense-filled interlude!
The smell of cheap wine fumed up into the nostrils of any near passerby that could find his way through the cluttered walkway. Humped amounts of paper, wood, old paraphernalia from lamps to worn-out shoes, to dinnertime garbage, lay strewn up and down the alley and street. A floating lamp was the only light in that dark recess, and its low wattage have only given a person a headache.
The meow of an old tomcat accompanied a discovering of some human object beneath a pile of discarded papers and a large poster that had been hastily torn down to be replaced by a newer one at the cold metallic side of the building that formed part of an alley: the newer sign was a portrait of the expressionless, wrinkle-free, youthful face of Martin Seisbury. Oddly, the propagandist had invented a queer twist to these productions: they gave Martin shoulder length hair as a rather effeminate appeal, and a message introducing him as “The Ascending god.”
Arms and legs thrashed about to throw the awkward bulk from on top of him. Sluggishly, a gruff-faced man joggled himself upright and peered through heavy half shut eyes that were red with bloodshot and were watered in irritation, shingled by heavy and puffed eyebags beneath. A dark and wiry beard radiused his face looking as if someone smeared charcoal over his face, denoting a shave a lady hobo had given him days before. He lifted his redden hand, sick from sores, to straighten the beat-up old hat upon his head; the crown of the once stylish derby was bashed and creased all over. He deeply growled and coughed as if sick.
“Eeeem. Blasted place is about as comfortable as laying on a bed of nails,” he mumbled as he tried to lift himself up but only falling back into the trash, “Where is it? It was here before. Where is it?” He angrily demanded throwing the thick pulp aside and kicking a spilled trash can out of his way. “I smell it! It’s here!”
He forced himself to his feet and staggered across the alley to fall against a wall of granite that supported him from collapsing. He remained silent for five minutes. When he regained some coordination, he slowly pushed himself into the light of the main street.
“Forget it,” he slurred, “there’s another one—-there’s—–there’s…,” he nudged a bulky object in the pocket of his seamless one-piece jumper that was torn to smithereens from wear and tear, “What? What’s this?”
He dramatically grabbed the bottle of wine from his pocket, sniffed it, and proudly held it up as if a magnifying glass to a floating street globe. “Wine! Ah, wine!” He began to laugh hysterically.
He cupped the bottom of the bottle in his hands and reverently swung around in an arc to again raise it to the pulsating advertising light over a nearby tavern. A velvet-red glow shone on his face revealing a very sickly set of jowls and wrinkles from chronic illness. His tearful eyes gazed upon the red substance splashing about in the bottle. Above him was a three-dimensional nude female model gyrating within the advertisement-plasma beckoning passerby’s to come in for merriment and unrestrained pleasure.
With one brisk movement of his hands, he threw the neck of the bottle into his mouth, whimpering like a spoiled child, he gulped the stringent fluid down. It seemed to add metal to his body, and upon wiping his mouth upon his sleeve, he was ready to venture forth again—-at least, for the distance of a few feet.
The street upon which those nightclubs, taverns, and apartment buildings were situated ran for several hundred feet and then abruptly at an edge in front of him turned into a monstrous chasm that had been created by multiple earthquakes rendering the underground city into pieces. The cliff of that fault-crack had eroded into a steep slope with a few remaining trees, forest brush, that led down to more of the heavily destroyed city below.
High overhead was an orange ‘flicker’ as if a red-hot coal that was still slightly burning: It was the huge electrode of the Sol Globe situated at the middle-ceiling of the arching underground shaft. A buzzing sound crackled from it ever so often and thundered through the poorly lit cavern. The shaft was so poorly lit that the citizens of Feline were living in a perpetual night; it was the last city in the multilevel complex of subterranean shafts. The Department of Welfare having long ago neglected the public electrical facilities such that Feline, as a city, remained in a stupor.
The number of artificial lights could be counted in a matter of seconds
In the black darkness of the city staring outward like a stretched lattice of glowing eyes; more were the jaunting flickers of manmade torches and bonfires that glowed in yards and patios of vaguely visible homes accompanied to fluttering shadows of nearby people and things.
Here in this Alice in Wonderland world one could find the conventional Dulmen homes of synthetic domes and zigzags and squares, but even more so, were the homes that projected a lost page in time. Stately mansions with tall columns, elegant vines, evergreens, and then next to it an almost flat suburban-type home with an arching garage and wide yards: all equally ruined and devastated. And so, it went throughout the city. The gross deterioration masked the bizarre ruin of the homes. Even less occasionally would some light be seen from the interior of the homes.
The perimeter ledge of land on which Tom Longram took his drunken stance was strangely well lit, perhaps because it was a Dulmen estate that remained intact to the electrical apparatus coming from the main shaft. The earthquakes had well torn the subterranean metropolis but eventually the citizens of Feline returned to establish a ghetto-type of existence. Property, life, and limb had fallen prey to anyone’s whim, and what could be summoned by municipal police was far too lame to curtail any crime. Besides, it was much too convenient for crooks and even ordinary citizens and the police to take a hand in pilfering and the pandemic occasions of rape and mayhem. This all fit well with the general Dulmania lawlessness.
Much earlier, registered citizens left the devastated site in large droves carrying what property and possessions they could to settle in areas available in the neck of the shafts and in the cities above on the surface. Strangely, Dulmen permission was perfunctorily given but that usually depended on a citizen’s relationship or generic background to officials or citizens on the surface, which could be punitive and harsh, often involving enslavement or other dirty dealings.
Those that remained in Feline did so because of the uncertain reality on the surface which was viewed as another alien world. Few had ventured from Feline since their birth. Dulmania was satisfied to have them corralled in their present circumstance.
Many questioned the metaphysical aspects of the catastrophe. Maybe it was a warning from the gods! Perhaps they had lost favor altogether with the gods and goddesses for Feline had long ago been portrayed as an outcast city relinquished into Dulmen subterranean life. Although unknown to Feline citizens at this time, Feline one of the first cities that had witnessed the appearance of the mysterious and unique ‘conspirators’ from the shadowy ‘Communes’ hidden in the wildernesses around the globe. And it was in Feline that the Big Sire could be heard to occasionally rumble and groan, the same Big Sire that was part of the global computer-complex that ruled Mylar City and all the other regions.
Tom Longram shuddered to think of his reality as he stood immobile and pensively gazed at the dark vault of the sunken city. He leaned on a column from a ruined bannister, the only remains of an outdoor beer garden. That hazy glow might appear any minute in the far wall of the shaft, he thought to himself, and slowly grow into a golden swirling vortex almost as if something were trying to burn through the solid rock wall with a penetrating ray. That mass of radiance would turn into a drifting cloud of orange, green and red amid vapors of black smoke. Citizens would stop their activities to watch in horror at the grotesque mass of energy and see an odd human image forming: two blue dots advancing from within the vapors and growing into large catlike eyes that would shift about in its stare—-and then end in one spot. The apparition would let out a scowl, a horrifying heart wrenching yowl comparable to a cat or even a lion. Even after many such visitations, citizens never quite grew docile enough to see the Great Mind roaming about—-it was such cat-like locutions that priorates gave the city its name. The irradiance would diminish into a small globe of light and then slink back disappearing into the subterranean wall.
“Ah, Mary,” Tom sighed, “why did you have to go?” Tom bowed his head in grief and began to stumble towards a line of honky-tonks.
His wife had departed some time ago along with the vast crowds of citizens; Tom never did quite understand why although she seemed to be engaged in some secret project for the Department of Defense, Tom never felt obliged or was brave enough to question about the nature of the activity. He shunned the interim of the whole thing while his wife became more and more indifferent to him and the family. However, she was of the generic rank of the 21st level, and he only a servant class of Dunbar. She often spoke that she was destined for service in the higher ranks of Dulmania and she bragged how she had somehow obtained just that! Tom did not know what to make of her declaration; one thought he envisioned was the tales he heard about the Palace of Dreams on the surface, but it all remained confusing.
Whatever her secret project was, he understood that it was ‘big,’ and she had been under constant surveillance and control since the day of her inauguration into her new duties. At first, it appeared to Tom some type of tragicomedy, but the scene soon changed when Mary excited with the other citizens.
“Tom,” she said, “I must leave!” Tom had raised his eyebrows. He began reciting her words: “I’ve been asked to leave. Something ‘big’ is going to happen—-something ‘more.’”
The memory evaporated and Tom once again stood in the glow of three floating street globes. “Something ‘big,’’’ he said sarcastically, shaking his head and waving his bottle, ‘‘something ‘more.’” His sarcasm was filled with sadness. He began to stumble into the street, staggered back to the curb and fell on his buttocks with a thump. He slumped the bottle of liquor to his feet and then lowered his head into his arms and elbows.
“Why couldn’t that white robbed fella leave us alone? He started it, whoever he was!” His voice increased in volume, ‘‘Why didn’t he stay away? I knew he was trouble from the first time I saw him!” Tom took another swig from the bottle and allowed the puissant-smelling liquid dribble through the grisly stubs of his beard.
Two females had stepped away from the entrance to the smoke-filled honkytonk and were talking low but emphatically as if in a quarrel. They appeared to be youngsters in the latest gross tightfitting apparel. The two waved their righthand index fingers at each other and then parted paths.
Tom continued his thoughts. He thought at first that his wife had a genuine concern for him; how their saddened situation came about was hard to say. All he could related to be the afternoon she had returned from a trip to the Department of Welfare for ‘tax adjustment’ that this mysterious ‘sphinx’ of a problem appeared. They had been late in their tax payments. Usually, a monthly audit was asked, so she packed a small duffel bag and headed for the Subway Transport (a subterranean train and transport in the major shaft where ‘shock free’ projectiles would propel citizens to further transportation on the surface). It was a customary practice (depending on a citizen’s generic assets, as well as some physical ones) which might be pleasing to a ‘god,’ that payments might in the form of sexual prostitution.
This didn’t bother Tom, nor the children, nor, apparently, his wife Mary. The only fear they shared was that the ‘gods’ might tire of such compensation and demand their entire estate and then force them into physical slavery. This led into other difficulties. Some might even find themselves confronted by torture in the Arena or in the basement of some Dulmen officiate. This was the only real concern Tom could muster over the whole affair, and the implication was that Tom should not become too prying or concerned at the sentient issues.
He remembered the afternoon that Mary came running into their compartment cubical-living quarter, breathlessly muttering words about having been ‘wrong’ about something or another (Tom had been busily repairing a Viewing Screen. Dulmania no longer assisted in their repairs, though they always made it mandatory to have at least one functioning).
She sat down immediately and gleefully began telling him of a strange man who almost appeared out of nowhere and captivated her with a plethora of talk that was confusing yet startling. He seemed to know instinctively the personal plight they were in: their delinquency in tax and rent, the sexual prostitution as payment, the pilfering of food to avert starvation of the little children, he even knew a fact that made Mary’s skin crawl: that numerous faults and cracks were multiplying throughout the Earth’s crust and mantle and fissures of great pressure were appearing in larger and larger Dulmania ‘shafts’ (part of the Pit system) and bubbles throughout deep pockets within terra firma!
“He said: ‘Repent or there will be no way for you to escape! Neither will your goddess Vera, your Marxz, your Horus – nor any of your diabolical phantoms will save you! The Evil One had grown and reached the ultimate step – but the last – that he will take!’ I believe that is what he said. Quite sure. What does it mean?”
She leaned forward on the foam hassock and received her husband’s vaguely hidden bewilderment. He set the electrode that he was working with aside and kneeled before her, noting the quiet, impassive expressions of their children (these were ‘Rob’ children, the only children that Tom and his wife were allowed, artificially inseminated, by serial sequence and generic match in the laboratories of Dulmania, created by synthetic substances and energy: they were the only children that Tom Longram and wife will ever have!
“I don’t know, Mary,” Tom had said, “either he was a prankster or – or – or one of those poor individuals they will be sending to the surface laboratories to be exterminated. It is obvious he is ‘mad,’ completely discordant with Dulmen reality.”
“That’s what I thought. That’s what I thought. But he was sane enough to tell me about my personal secrets. And there has been many earthquakes, Tom. We’ve heard the reports, remember?” She pointed her finger at her husband in seriousness.
Tom’s robust face had appeared to her a masterpiece chiseled out of marble: piercing dark eyes, handsome features, but still being ruled by the whimsical dictums of the city prelates, though the wife often took the situation under her wavering control:
“Tremors have occurred – and I heard many more rumors!” she asserted.
“I’d stop that, Mary. I wouldn’t bother with that fellow anymore.”
Mary wasn’t really listening. Her mind was already visualizing some of the other things the man had said. She sat looking past her husband. Tom rose to go back to his errand. He glanced forlornly at this wife. They said no more on the topic for over a week. But he knew she continued to see this mysterious man; he even spied the two out in the garden of the patio Plaza of the apartment. The man appeared to be polite, clean and in a spotless white robe, features that were unusual in Feline. Mary had said that this mystery man had expressed the wish to speak to the whole family together. Mary prevented this for unknown reasons.
These memories and visions faded and Tom Longram found himself back in the present. Tom’s ears began to ring, louder and louder, and he quickly clasped his hands over them and closed his eyes.
“Oh no,” he thought, “not again!” He bit his lip in fear as this was a regular experience. The ringing would stop and then bleak silence. Yes, Tom was going deaf and there was nothing he could do about it. It was inevitable because his Class could not avail to profitable services, not until all past debts were ‘cleared,’ and even then, it would be necessary for him to perform some outlandish sacrifice.
Again, two females were in debate. His head swirled beyond that which his inebriated state would prompt. The glaring hologram advertisement of the tavern cast an unstable scenery. When he rose again there was only the tomblike deafness. He swayed as he looked at the two lesbian females in a physical brawl over a physical advancement that led to a slap. There was a swirl of a hand, a bright burst of light, and the one female slumped to the pavement—-dead—-lifeless—-while the other ‘strolled’ into the darkness at the far end of the street!
(The scientists of the Sedox era did a commendable job of hologramlike advertising where such utilizations of such technology in Mind Control were astounding in symphonies of light, shadow, and darkness. It was almost as if ‘time’ itself had vomited up a gasping plea for mercy: Stop! For heaven’s sake, stop! )
And then Tom witnessed a third sombrous interpolation that entered his scenery as a man and his lady friend, a group of homophiles, a few other people, all demonstrated the same indifference: a man came by and upon encountering the body, stepped over it, almost as if it weren’t even there; his face had hidden beneath the rim of his hat, of which he tipped the rim closer to his forehead so shadows would cover it even further. Soon he disappeared. A steady flow of people came down the avenue demonstrated the same indifference in a trail of mosaic orchestration and esoteric dance, but with no audible tone: a song of silence.
Tom could feel the heavy breathing from within himself; he placed his hand on his chest to see if his heart were still beating: the silence was so deep and so continuing he could not be sure of anything.
The street tilted more as he grabbed onto a railing that led to a basement cabaret which prevented himself from falling down the steps. He stopped short but swung himself onto a wall of the building next door. The pulsating glow of the advertising plasma illuminated a plethora of painted and scribbled symbols from hoodlum gangs that trailed along the street. Amid the expressions of vulgarity, bad humor, dissent, seven words struck him the most, even though it had been difficult selecting them out of the hodgepodge of scribbled éclat:
IT IS HE END OF THE WORLD.
And so, it is, thought Tom. His hand slipped on the railing and Tom Longram realized for the first time in many months that his wife and children had been, oddly, the only other living things that he had really cared about; why he didn’t realize it sooner, he really didn’t know, he only knew it was too late.
“IT IS THE END OF THE WORLD!” his voice rang out in a surprising vibrance despite his weak condition. The railing slipped away from his grip. Total darkness and complete silence descended upon him.
It was death!
The mother sat beneath the oak tree and nodded her head in acquiescence. The babe contently went about his filling his bag with his souvenirs. He would occasionally pick a plant or a bit of goldenrod or Maple leaf viburnum about him.
It was still quiet. The peace was supreme. Life was good. The child’s thoughts were friendly: It was a forest all his own! Chapter Thirteen.
The child’s plastic bag was filed with all the odds and ends that once were paraphernalia of the forest. The babe slowly made his way towards the path carrying his most prized possession: the ancient coin. The nip of the cold night air made his task even more awkward. The bright glow of the moon appeared to make ample light to work but the mother stood by sternly watching because she had just admonished the child that it was getting late.
The star-studded sky was a glorious sight to the child who had held out his hand as if to grab some of the points of light that were myriad in their appearance. The fluorescent moon looming above as if the child could grasp it as tied to its mother Earth by a thin umbilical cord of life. The face of the moon hadn’t changed noticeably over the eons allowing a child to question, still, about the proverbial ‘man in the moon.’
The twisting branches of the forest stood out as shadows against the dark blue star-filled sky, and the babe imagined all sorts of mysterious and prying faces composed by the forest.
He hurried quickly, sometimes stumbling in his task of carrying his bag of souvenirs. Here and there, creatures of the forest could be noticed in the tall yellow grass and pale reeds, only adding to his determination to reach his mother’s side. Dirt-stained, sweaty, with a slight cut on his fatty leg from swish of a thornbush, he eventually grasped his mother’s hand, his smiling out-of-breath-body finally rested his head upon her dress. She gently caressed his hair as she gestured that they should quickly leave, the chilly night air was more than she cared for. Together they grasped the bag and headed across the moonlit field. Suddenly, the boy tugged on the bag and asked the mother to stop walking. He turned to look back at the mighty Sherman Oak that guarded the entrance to the woods.
The silver orb of the moon seemed to protect his favorite place with warm care. It was quiet. It was very peaceful. The babe raised his arm and sadly waved at his new favorite place of play.
The two quickly scampered off to a warm home.
The Searching Party had been patient. They had crisscrossed the mountainous ridges over and over, covering the picturesque granite archways, pyramid boulders, towering plateaus of red rock, the maze of stone debris and explosion-torched earth. When they had no results, they spread the search farther beyond the sloping hills to where more comfortable terrain appeared of sleeping trunks and roasted limbs of trees and brush.
To not waste any further time circling the same incommodious area, the order was given to spread the five Group Squadrons farther down the range, and several to ‘trace-back’ across the Flats, and a few headed back to the point of their entrance. Martin and his craft remained in the immediate vicinity.
Their sprite-like globular craft glided over a crater rim, dipping down in between the spirals of rock and granite, down an eroded fissure of a canyon-size split in the side of a mountain, then up again and back towards the rolling hills.
“My Lord look at those zigzag lines of brown,’’ beckoned one of the technicians towards his Viewing Screen hiding him beneath a bright hue.
Martin turned from the Sensor Grid to visually observe the meticulously organized rows of brown below the craft. “Appears to be a plantation, I’d say from their arrangement,” and Martin motioned for a few others to look as well. “Why didn’t we notice it before?”
“I don’t know, sire,’’ came the excited voice of Mark Redress, “but all of your scanners have been activated as well.” And, indeed, all the scanners were suddenly operating. Small white lights could be visually seen, and then several more pinpoints of light appeared throughout the terrain.
“What’s that large luminous mass?” asked Martin about a definite glowing blob on the scanners.
“It denotes the largest amount of human or subsisting activity, Lord. We’ve circled closely in that area but a moment ago, and there was nothing! Nothing at all!” reported the technician. Martin looked at him in surprise.
“Alright! Circle that area—-then descend!” Martin stood erect from his stooped position over the consoles. His chest swelled with anxious anticipation. “To your battle stations! All stations alert!”
Their spacecraft was a small arsenal of atomic destruction, a virtual single-craft-Army that would be able to ward off any aggression till the other crafts arrived; notwithstanding, they could totally obliterate the opposition.
The craft turned back and dipped down to within feet of the crumbled, valanced face of a cliff. The scanners noted a small life forms, peering out of the cabin canopy, the crew noted the stampeding bodies of sheep. Martin threw his head back in roaring and uninhibited laughter:
“Found them! Found the rascals! Found them!”
He spun around, unsheathed his sword, and began to lightly tape the tops of those seated at the consoles. The technicians stared at Martin in confusion and fear. He swirled the sword over this head and then rammed the weapon back into its sheath. Here was the opportunity to relieve that oppressive pressure that had built within his physique and banish that bleak, untamed fury in his mind, establishing his sovereignty as a Dulmen god!
Martin glared at his technicians with a sardonic smile, snapping his fingers over his head.
“Set her down!’ A rise in the pitch of the craft’s generators, then it turned into a low vibratory hum. The craft nestled into a center of a boulder-nest and reduced its fluorescence to a bare minimum. Within minutes, the red capes and the brown-black vestures of the soldier patrol emerged from a hatch and down a ramp. Drawing their weaponized swords, they immediately dispersed in military fashion to boulders and rocks for hiding. The only visible sign of their entrenchment was their vaporized breaths in the cold-night air.
They were facing a well-chiseled entrance to a cavern beyond the guarding boulders. From within a dim glow emitted.
After a few minutes of silence, Martin and three-high-ranking soldiers ordered the patrol to slink into the cavern mouth. Martin raised his hand in a signal for his patrol to momentarily stand motionless. The cool expression on his face, the slow movement of his eyes from side to side, with an engrossed look of deep interest, the stark expectation that possessed him was evident. It was almost as if his mouth were salivating with the hunger of excitement.
They passed several sister tunnels running in various directions, but Sensors on their vestures told them that the main activity lay ahead. Arian and Mark Redress looked like some gorilla-warriors slipping into a forbidden enemy war zone. Arian ran his hand over his belt and a pea-sized light popped out of a belt-slot and continued to rise into the air. It grew in its luminosity until it was bright enough to cast a daylight hue that accompanied them at their side. The deeper they went in the shaft their Sensors became a steady pulsating green.
Low musical rhythm could be heard of voices in chorus, and with each step the words became clearer and discernable. A rather jubilant song. The diction was not entirely Dulman though similar; some of the men whispered that they only recognized a partial familiarity. There were words talking about a king which was in glory; they were questioning his name; he was promised for ages; his name was Emmanuel!
“THE KING OF GLORY COMES, THE NATION REJOICES! OPEN THE GATES BEFORE HIM, LIFT UP YOUR VOICES!” Such a haunting melody full of happiness and promise. ‘‘IN ALL OF GALILEE, IN CITY OR VILLAGE, HE GOES AMONG HIS PEOPLE CURING THEIR ILLNESS!” Again, a solemn refrain, ‘‘THE KING OF GLORY COMES, THE NATION REJOICES! OPEN THE GATES BEFORE HIM, LIFT UP YOU VOICES!”
Several soldier lowered their hands to the handles of their Penetrating Swords and fists whitened as they gripped the jeweled handles. They began to take a battle stance and with each step the chorus of voices grew louder. Tambourines could be heard mixed into the chorus.
“SING THEN OF DAVID’S SON, OUR SAVIOR AND BROTHER: IN ALL OF GALLIEE WAS NEVER ANOTHER! THE KING OF GLORY COMES, THE NATION REJOICES! OPEN THE GATS BEFORE HIM, LIT UP YOUR VOICES!”
They were beginning to pass chiseled sculptures of men on the sides of the tunnel and beneath each image, unknown names, in a forgotten language. Martin glanced back on his patrol to see if they were in a battle stance.
“HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US, THE PLEDGE OF SALAVTION…”
Suddenly, they turned a corner to be confronted by a large sleek velvet curtain, clean without the dust of the cavern, their guiding light produced a sheen across the flowing ripples of the luxurious material.
Martin order them to stop, and the line culminated into a position of soldiers who waiting anxiously to hear what Martin had to say. Martin felt that whoever was on the other side of that pendulous veil had to have heard them, but then, because of the volume of the conspirators’ chorus, he could not be sure.
“HE TOOK UPON HIMSELF THE SINS OF THE NATION…”
Somewhat breathless, Martin wished he could have prepared himself better against what laid ahead. He imagined that, now, steadily spreading from one Dulmen metropolis to another, propagandist would have heralded the news of the new “Ascending god,” about the epoch that was about to emerge upon the world; how the last remnant of traitorous conspirators ‘in all creation’ had been discovered and were promptly and invidiously being dealt with. The citizens of Dulmania would never have to fear of such a threat every again!
(The ‘programmed’ hysteria would not be a normal thing but a creation of the Brain. Madam Marza would dance nude in remembrance of the deaths of her husbands. The children of her neighborhood would prick her with pins and sharp objects as she danced hysterically about. The Rob children would march in long divisions down the street of outer cities; they would lift their feet up high and slap them to the ground in a march like that of infantrymen of a mad dictator eons ago, the Third Reich. The Rob children would converge on the properties and bodies, by their own request, and demolish them to smithereens. Other Dulmania citizens would offer on the day of the Jest remembrances of their family and friends to Dulmen gods and goddesses and the new Ascending god. Under the disguise of worship, their new god played with their minds and lives, while citizens told themselves it was all glorious!
(The hysteria, the debauchery, would spread throughout the globe: every home, every city, every place where people gathered, esoteric practices that usually were not practiced but at special times during the year, would be indulged in. Mothers and fathers would stand immobile before their sons and daughters and endeavor to sing profanities to the gods as their children slapped them in their faces, punched them in their stomachs and kicked them on the ground, again and again.
(Or the opposite would happen. Drunk with drugs and liquor, laughing fiendishly in the new festival, parents would sneak into the rooms or living areas where children resided and begin to throw stones and furniture at them, all the while jeering at them and asking the children to fall upon their knees and pray in thanksgiving to the gods, trying to explain in breathless anxiety the meaning of the festival. If a two-month-old baby were killed, well, the gods were at least appeased; if a son or daughter maimed, they would praise and brag about it as a blessing from the eternal gods and goddesses.
(Erotic orgies; sadistic murders; wanton criminality; in trees; in the torn openings of graves, amongst the corpses; bestiality among domestic and feral animals—often by moonlight and projected hologrammatic images; huge cinematic portraits of Dulmen officiates smiling down on vast areas along with bursting shafts of light in all shades of brilliance, rolling, tumbling, spreading beneath its umbrella over a world that had gone ‘mad.’)
Martin Salisbury’s thoughts revolved back to the task at hand: he rationalized that all the praise and commendations were for a job well-done. Then his thoughts were snapped completely back to the current situation by more chorus:
“THE KING OF GLORY COMES, THE NATION REJOICES!”
He motioned two soldiers to advance to the curtain. The others stepped back a few paces, and in unison they all drew their weaponized swords, pressing a tab on their jeweled handles by the weight of their palms causing the wide edges of their swords to glow with intense heat and light. “alright,” Martin remarked, stepping back a few paces himself.
“OPEN THE GATES BEFORE HIM! LIFT UP YOUR VOICES!”
With two swings of two weapons, from the top of the curtain diagonally to its lower edge, the laser-action of the swords ripped a neat “^” and the heavy material fell with a loud clump. With raised swords, all the patrol stepped into an immaculately clean chamber that had rows of torches extending down the sides of the cavity. A large fire was in the center of the area that housed a metallic-grid-fireplace with animal designs. A circular grid in the ceiling allowed the smoke to dissipate. Wooden benches, stone stools, table slabs, pieces of wardrobe and clothing were in the immediate area; and at the far end a flight of stone stairs leading to a leveled podium encircled by a wall of books (not the kind that Dulmania was accustomed to, but antique, ancient, and with binding including many pages).
Shrieks and gasps suddenly rang out! Women left their benches of decorating and embroidery to grasp the hands of their children and race towards another curtained archway on a far wall. Their panic caused some torches to be propelled onto the floor. Women and children, then, barely vanished through the second curtain leading to the other chamber. A handful of men swirled away from their tasks at the library shelves and in a defensive gesture attempted to hurry the women and children along.
The voices of the chorus that had introduced the soldiers into the cavern suddenly stopped and loud murmurs, whisperings, and crying began. Martin watched in suspenseful interest at the split-second response of the alien people. Martin snapped his fingers, and a few soldiers shot blobs of stunning energy disabling some of the scampering men to the ground. The second curtain was thrust to one side and out stepped a rather stern-looking male with white hair, long flowing robe and gown, staff in hand, and a medallion around his neck. Others peered through the archway in fear and shock.
The elderly man said nothing but stepped quickly thrusting his staff into the dirt floor with a ‘crunch’ with each jab. A barely subdued look of anger was upon his hoary features. When he came within feet of the brazen Martin Salisbury he stopped and looked at Martin with cold penetrating eyes. A strange uneasy silence came upon the scene, a silence that Martin had never encountered before. Martin felt that he had at long last come close—-very close—to the aching mystery that swelled up in the recesses of his mind.
“Whom do you seek?” Somewhere from beneath a cloud of white and slightly grey hair came the deep resonance of the man who obviously was high in authority. Martin really didn’t need the two muscular and stern Mus-chutes that stood at his side, Martin thought to himself, he had enough courage to handle an old man.
“You are addressing ‘the’ new god, old man!” Martin was mustering up a tirade of sardonic and crudeness to spew upon the patriarch but the old man’s face was too much of a unique reality to make that possible. “I am the Son of Misslou!”
No one moved. Then suddenly Arian and Mark redress became curious and confident enough to enter the line of confrontation.
“I know what you are!” The old man jobbed his staff angrily in the soil. “We’ve been expecting one such as yourself for some time now.” The old man spoke perfect Dulmen dialect for he had previously ventured into Dulmen territories many times. His rugged pink complexion and the calluses on his hands did show that he had not been averse to herding sheep in the cold autumn night, nor plucking crops in the blistering heat of a summer afternoon.
“We, old man, are your ultimate salvation or your destruction! We are about to save you or destroy you! Whatever I see fit!’’ Martin stiffened for the old man’s response. “What do you say to that, ancient one?”
The old man gave only a slight smile, realizing that much was at stake.
“You have not that power – you batch of mindless protoplasm – you empty vessel of vain temptress thoughts — you…”
Martin cut his diatribe short, “ Stop it!” Martin brought his hand up to swing it against the man’s face. John Alexanrius did not flinch, though a few female gasps could be heard from the other chamber. Some of his people scampered to his side in defense.
Martin forced a weak smile. “So, you speak riddles as well? Some of you people speak nothing but riddles! The empire will fall,” recalling that threat of the Circus victims, ‘‘your god is not mocked?” Martin spit upon the ground in contempt. “Bah! Do you realize for how long we have existed? Do you, old man? That is only one fact that says that my kingdom will go on forever.”
John Alexandrius saw an opportunity to factually educate Martin. “For some time now the substrata and core of this planet has been in dishevel; when our Lord sees fit within days – years – this planet will crumble into itself. The bowels of Mother Earth growls. You have seen evidence of that yourself.”
Martin pretended astonishment, “We’ve had no catastrophes!”
“None of which your Master Computer would allow to be known. What of Feline?”
“Feline?” Martin grasped the old man’s thoughts. “What of Feline? That city was ravished by the anger of our Great Mind.’’
“Not that master alone! Our all-mighty God destroyed her!”
“You old fool! I’ll strike you dead now if you speak as such again!” Martin thrust a finger at John’s face.
John Alexandrius glanced wearily to the ground, “You’ll not solve anything that way. What happened only foreshadows what yet is to come. It is written: ‘Nothing under the Sun is new, neither is any man able to say: behold this is new. For it hath already gone before in the ages that went before us.’’’ Alexandrius glanced sadly at the younger graduate-god, “‘The perverse are hard to be corrected: and the number of fools is infinite,’ so it is written.”
“We’ll see how your scorn stands fast when your homes, houses, and supplies are ravished! When your women and children are raped! When your able-bodied men are strapped to a stake and tortured for long, endless hours with ‘penetrating’ rays,” thundered Martin. “This cavern will crumble into utter oblivion! You must confess and relent your so-called ultimate reality peacefully.”
“And become mindless robots wandering the unholy streets of damned cities? To become puppet-people unknowingly acting out a fake life and death drama on a stage set with waves of cues and signs that flow relentlessly during a great sea storm,’’ said John. “We’ve heard it all too often in the history of your civilization: ‘Sit here, unholy child! Rise now, unholy child! Eat and sleep now, unholy child! Die, kill, worship me now, you ghastly unholy child! But please do not understand that your personal ‘freedom’ is truly only a wild slavery!” The patriarch’s mustache rose and lowered with his succinct expressions.
“Slavery?” said Martin sarcastically. “What freedom have you? Living like hidden rats, like wild prairie animals in a desolate wasteland, huddled like frightened beasts timid of any luxurious greatness.” He quickly glared at the faces peering from the adjacent archway. “Your women wear simple adornments of savages and your men attack us with nothing but burning torches! Your vocabulary is nothing but gibberish. You have substituted ‘evil’ for ‘live’ and ‘dog’ for ‘god.’ I’ve had enough of your ‘riddles’!”
“Then understand this, you Son of the Dragon, your civilization will die – will be utterly destroyed shortly – the One and only True God will demonstrate His universal greatness! Your livelihoods and bounty will be ravished! Your women and children will seek unrequited safety in the wastelands! The whole face of your civilization will be smeared over like molten tar! And our people will have no hand in your demise other than our God will be the one to wrought this. It is written: ‘“And the cities that are inhabited shall be laid to waste, and the land shall be desolate; and ye shall know that I am the Lord!’”’
Martin was wondering how the promised destruction of their god was any different than the Dulmen destruction this tribe was forecasting, but he kept the thoughts to himself.
“Yes, this little band of people,” continued John Alexandrius, “for all your pomp: all your garrisons, military, weaponry will be utterly helpless. His Greatness will be magnified by your rebellion. It has been long in waiting; it will be great in its Coming!’
Martin churned his fist over his sword handle, waving his head from side to side in exasperation. Martin queried to himself: Why did not the mighty Brain speak out now; indeed, it had been suspiciously silent in finding words or actions. Martin did take notice, as well, that the Brain’s ‘jerking’ of his head had ceased for some time now. Frustrated, he threw his golden helmet from his head to the ground. “Blast you old man! I’ll kill you I swear!” Martin strode down the dirt and rock chamber to the far end of the cavern and pointed up at the shelves of book. “What book? What book ‘whence it is written’?”
John Alexandrius could only look at Martin with growing sad pity; it was still a mystery why this ‘Ascending god’ appeared to them at this time, in this way.
In the quietude of the books on the rock shelves stood numerous titles long forgotten and largely unknown. The Dialogues of Plato, Jowell, I Led Three Lives, Herbert Philbrick, Critique of Pure Reason, Kant—-and many more, some greatly aged, some barely materialized—-but all miraculously preserved somehow by mysterious measures. The list of published valium ran on and on. Some showed signs of great age with a musty smell and a yellow appearance of antiquity; they couldn’t have survived this long if they had not been kept in a Preservation Vacuum Chamber.
“I’ll tell you of what is written in the laws of Dulmania, my white-haired Patriarch, I’ll tell you that!” boomed Martin. “It is stated that ‘…whosoever alienates the principal teachings and lessons of the gods and goddesses of Dulmania and willfully conspires to break the union to the government by secret or private meetings or worship to endanger the security of all Dulmania, shall be persecuted swiftly and as mentioned by other articles in the law…’” Martin smiled at the elderly man. “And that could begin right now!”
John Alexandrius moved his lips rather dryly as if mustering more strength: “It is written: ‘Mark them which divisions an offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them…’” Martin’s eyes narrowed into a glare, for Martin considered this semantical battle was almost wrung dry, ‘‘…It is also written:‘For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through such wantonness…while they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption.’”
Martin had lost all patience, lunging at the library, taking his sword in hand, pressing it turned-on, and wildly slashing it through the books, disintegrating many into vaporous dust, ‘‘It is written! It is written! Where is it written? Let’s see this book!”
“You out-Herod!” shouted Alexandrius raising his staff as if to give a defense. He stood in the white film of disintegration dust falling about them.
“Please, Father, no!” shouted one of the female Commune people. Two men dressed in knee-high kilts of sackcloth and rope belts quickly grabbed the old man, preventing any further disaster. Arian and Mark Redress drew their disintegrating pistols as a warning of their defense. The gathering Communities could only stare in anxious anticipation. Some helped others to their feet.
Martin no longer wanted to badger these people. His fascination now centered on this mysterious book and many of the esoteric sayings. Everything that this tribe of people stood for had been a rude shock to his sense of reality. He felt weary and somewhat tired. He released his tight grip on his sword handle, hearing it clump to the bottom of his sheath. He spoke to the old man who now was in prayer or deep thought.
“Would you show me this book ‘whence it is written?’’’ pleadingly asked Martin. John Alexandrius sensed the man’s change of attitude and lifted his head in small increments to stare at Martin in surprise.
“Yes, but you must send you’re the rest of your fleet back along with their crews, or I promise you, you will not see that book! You have no choice!”
Martin thought the ultimatum over, he bit on his lower lip in frustration.
“Alright, But I must see this book!!”
“No, Martin, don’t be a fool,” shouted Uncle Redress, “your whole future is at stake, don’t you see? You are able to receive the gift of immorality!”
Martin just looked at his uncle blandly. His uncle could see that Martin had not been moved by his uncle’s comments. Mark Redress made a few emphatic steps towards Martin, “Martin, Dulmania is at stake! You’re ushering a New Age, man, don’t go blind over a worthless bit of prehistoric parchment!”
“What possible interest could you have in a compilation of paper?’’ quizzed Arian swiftly, “ surely your Thought Inference Records would be much more useful just by its eloquence?” Arian patiently waited on Martin’s reply.
Martin pensively examined his crew and the cavern people. After a moment of silence, Martin pressed a button on his belt—a slight crackle went out.
“Patrol Ship No. 1!” Martin called out. “This is Martin Salisbury! This is an order: All Patrol Crafts are to return immediately to Home Base! Understood? Immediately!”
“Anything wrong, sire?”
“No. Have all patrol crafts return at once! This my personal command! That is all.”
Uncle Redress shook his head in disbelief. Arian gave a sigh of despair and folded his arms across his chest in a sign of disappointment. Arian stood mute in the glow of the leaping flames of the center gridwork, recalling soothing childhood memories of his revolving room he spent time in as a youngster, his tension release mechanism; but he also noticed that ‘he’ did not have the formidable body ‘jerks’ utilized by the Central Computer for some time now.
Martin appeared to be pleased with his decision. A curious calmness came over his person. Casually Martin walked over to where his tossed helmet in the dirt, staring at it momentarily as if to decide about his next action. Then he placed it under his arm.
“Uncle, I wish you to back to the Patrol Craft with the rest of the men,’’ Martin sensed a potential rebuff, “No, I want you to go! That is an order! Remain in the ship until further notice.”
His uncle tilted his head to one side in disgust and forged his way into the crowd of soldiers, policemen and crew outside of the first ‘arch opening.’ The order Martin gave could vaguely be heard repeated by his uncle to Martin’s men. And then they turned about and vanished taking the artificial floating canopy of light with them.
‘‘Arian, my friend, remain with me. I want someone other than myself to attest to these facts,” then struck by a sudden thought, Martin turned to the Commune patriarch for assurance, ‘‘Is that alright, Lord of the Commune? I would not want it any other way.”
John Alexandrius slowly nodded, “Believe me, it is not up to you to decide, but it will be permitted. But you must promise that no word of your finding this Commune will be sent back to your headquarters. You must promise!”
In Martin’s new and unusual demeanor, Martin nodded in agreement, ‘‘This whole affair is within purview of the Big Sire, you realize that!” It struck Martin that the Mighty Mind, the Brain, had been silent throughout this whole episode.
“Our God has protected us,’’ said John, “the Arch Murderer has been our enemy from the beginning. However, why was it not that you detected us earlier?” There was a twinkle of humor and irony coming from beneath the heavy eyebrows and the forest of a mustache and beard. Martin, on the other hand, only looked expressionless, perhaps realizing the implications of which the Commune patriarch spoke.
Martin nodded for the Commune leader to carry out his promise. Martin and Arian stepped closely behind John Alexandrius as Commune members stepped aside allowing the small procession to continue amidst the low, excited murmurs of the tribe. They traveled further down the tunnel being filled by tribespeople and they could see that ahead was a well-lit room. (Martin had become fascinated by these tribespeople: Human by every outward appearance, yet alien in their mannerism and attitudes; having both pity and fear; standing in direct conflict with Dulmania). The exit of the cavern was an oblong cavity with torches in many cracks and cavities. Stalagmites and stalactites seemed to be objects till suddenly the room was ablaze with hundreds of slender candles as a pyramid shape. Center of that soft brilliance was a dark form that could have been a human body suspended in the middle of some contrivance.
After a few seconds Martin could see more clearly: This appeared to be an image of a man, suspended with both hands high over his head, clasped together by nails or spikes through his wrists into a beam, and with what appeared to be blood running down his arm and seen on various parts of his body. His feet were nailed in the same way on a wedge and oozed more blood. A towel-like toga barely covered his pelvic area. His rib cage protruded, for his obviously was famished. The image’s head was slumped to one side; his hair was lengthy and matted, held in place by what appeared to be a crown of some plant. Blood leaked from various wounds about his body. He appeared to be totally exhausted and either dead or near-death.
Martin was not totally unfamiliar with crucifixion for he had seen it often in the Arena, but this statuesquescenery had a different quality behind it. It was, however, out-of-sorts with his conception of the Commune people.
“What is this all about?” asked Martin pitifully surprised by the sight. “’Why does this man hang like this? For what crime is he being punished? What has he done?” Martin was beginning to ramble, “Why did you do this to him?” Arian just held his gaze on this bizarre spectacle.
John Alexandrius turned to look at the Dulmen; John had the look of a prophesier. He was looking for words to describe the event to the obdurate Dulmen aristocrat.
“It is not real, my son. What you are seeing before you is a statue. A very real statue, yes, an unsurpassed work of art, I must grant to your astute senses, but only a manmade creation.’’ The words reverberated somewhat in the hallow underground cavity. “We worship no idol; it is forbidden to worship mere images; true art appreciation is another situation. What it represents is very real and greater sense. He lives today – He lives now! What happened to him is a story on a long continuum that has bespoken to the ages.”
“He looks dead! Was he rescued or pardoned?” Martin glanced back and forth from John Alexandrius’s face to the beautifully bewildering sight before him.
“No, no, young man,” said Alexandrius, “I suppose he never could really die. You see, his Father saved him for His predestined purpose, aside from his righteousness character and total faith. He was totally unlike any human that ever lived. He committed no crime; took no lives; murdered no one; He spoke no guile; He…”
“Then why was he killed? Who killed him anyway?”
“The official government!”
“Then he must have committed a crime. Probably he was a traitor! That is not that unusual, you know. I’ve had some study on this subject. I assure you: government has become such a science that no crime could go undetected.’’ Martin spoke with a certain pride in his voice.
“Oh, but you see, the greatest crimes were committed by the self-righteous hypocrisy of His friends and the community. One of His specially chosen followers, a disciple, betrayed Him for a handful of money. Another lied and denied ever knowing Him when He needed his support the most. Some fled away when He was arrested. A Judge could not decide to follow his own conscience…’’
“Conscience?” Martin broke in for the word was so unusual and bewildering. Martin felt that he was starting to learn a whole new vocabulary.
John Alexandrius continued: ‘“Conscience.’ He decided to leave his fate up to a mob of the community which released a hardened criminal to go free in his place as an act of appeasing the people,” Martin was visualizing some of the court proceedings that he had witnessed, “and then he had the gull to admit that he could see no evil in the man and he washed his hands as a symbol of avoidance of the affair.” John Alexandrius looked profoundly at the statue. “You cannot see them from here, but the back of the Man is slashed red with blood and raw flesh from the whip-thongs of the soldiers who beat Him! They hit Him! They spat upon Him! They jeered and called him names!’’ John looked seriously into Martin’s eyes. “The official church of that community turned against Him!”
“You mean that the ‘gods forsook him?’”
“You know what it is like to have one of your alleged gods forsake you?” asked Alexandrius. “Then you must know what it was like for His Father to have seemingly forsake Him. He called out a plea to that effect just before His death.’’
“Yes, I suppose I’ll never know that—I’ve never seen my father.” Martin was being startlingly candid.
“There is much you won’t be able to bare right now, but very few in Dulmania have real fathers.”
“My father was Misslou the Great, an officiate of the Imperial Army!”
“Could you bare the truth of your origin?” asked John Alexandrius. Martin nodded, no longer sure of what to expect.
“As far as we can tell, your real father was a political scientist in the halls of Dulmania learning. He was executed when he advocated a system of ‘family living’ which rubbed the grain of the hierarchy-aristocracy and common people alike: that of a more stable system of having one husband for one wife. He swore that a venomous poison had spread throughout the so-called civilized world and that mankind was devouring itself by catering to its own ‘lusts.’ A stable monogamous family was the solution.”
“That’s not so!” protested Martin. “How can you charge such a thing? You make me out a common citizen!”
“His name was Cornelius Airheart and…” The elderly man was interrupted by the shrill voice of the Dulmen graduate.
“No! No! No! Professor Airheart was a traitor!” protested Martin.
“He was your true father, the only father you ever had. Quite against convention he fell in love with a maiden who was an official liaison to the Aerion Palaces. He wanted to offer her more than was allotted to her in your despicable society. He offered her a monogamous marriage!”
“No! This can’t be! A traitor, yes! But not my father!”
“A child was born in hopes it would hasten that possibility. Instead, the philosophy of one Johnathan Airheart was condemned as age-old heresy. After his execution, a pseudo-legend was propagated: One General Misslou de Gallius, a great war hero, had died and had gained immorality as a god. He had a son by their mystical union with Madelyn Shaw-Salisbury who is well on her way to gaining a place with the god himself – through the lustful caterings to the officiates who visit the Palace.” (In Dulmania it was common for the child to take on the names or last name of the mother if the union was of alleged mystical origin.)
“What distortion of the truth!” bellowed Martin.
“It is the truth,’’ casually remarked the old man, “and your father came close to teaching what that crucified man on that deathbed also espoused for he saw monogamous marriage as a means of stability and much more!”
Martin’s eyes suddenly became a bulbous reservoir of tears. Martin’s hands were shaking as he pointed a finger in abeyance at the statue, “Who…who…is he? What …wh…what was his name?”
The history told in the last few minutes was taking a toll on Arian in its discourse on Madelyn Shaw-Salisbury. Arian recalled the many sensuous visits to the beds of the Palace where Mistress Nymphia – the late love of Professor Airheart – held a lot of his passing hours. It also began to dawn on him how much older he was than Martin Salisbury. The truth had jolted him to his core as he began to see the puzzle-pieces join so momentously and inconceivably!
“He is the Christos, prophesied through the ages, Christ, Immanuel!” proudly proclaimed the Commune superior. The candle pyramid highlighted the old man’s grand sculptured face. Together the two humans ponderingly gazed upon the statue.
“It is written: ‘And behold , thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus. He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His Father, David: and He shall reign over the House of Jacob forever; and of his Kingdom there shall be no end.’”
John Alexandrius pointed to a ’pyx’ at the base of the statue: A small transparent item with a generative apparatus to one side giving a slight purr. John motioned that Martin should approach the apparatus along with him. Together they stepped near the mechanism to look upon a large yellowed-brown book, much like those he had obliterated on the shelves outside of this Holy place. It was in fact a ‘vacuum chamber’ with a circulation system leading to the ‘pump.’ By turning dials on the front of the pyx, mechanical wires, threads, and tentacles would tenderly turn and lift the pages of the book. Martin was led to believe there were several such scared books stored in a special vacuum system deep in the cavern.
“What you see before you is the pyx of the Scriptures. It is a sole surviving copy of several sacred and original texts. Their existence and reality has long been denied and mention of them was even hidden, even before Dulmania arose it menacing continence.”
‘‘What is ‘scripture’?” asked Martin as he fought the gnawing pain in his stomach.
“The sole records of the history of the Heavenly Father telling of the times and death of His Son, the inauguration of his Commune and the Prophecy of its future,” John Alexandrius spoke naturally about the Books as if their existence was common knowledge to Martin as it was to Alexandrius’s beloved followers.
Perhaps such behavior would have seemed impetuous several thousand years before when the title ‘Christos’ was a household word, but to the Dulmen aristocrat — indeed an Ascending god — his great ‘conspiracy’ was being dissolved and demolished before his very eyes! Martin began to cry, then sobbed visibly, choking and whimpering, no longer a replica of a god.
‘‘Perhaps, my son, he is the only Father you have right now!” The stone-stare of the elderly man narrowed onto the Dulman, “And he is the only Father that truly loves you.”
“Then why did he leave his son to die such a torturous death?”
“Earlier, much earlier, mankind out of their own vain lust, rebelled against their Originator, unable to remain within the righteous and perfect guidelines of that Guiding Manifestation, mankind would have been resigned to eons of brute, carnal — sometimes perverted existence — if it were not for the perfect sacrifice of His very own Son Who performed that which any natural man could not !”
John Alexandrius looked upon Martin compassionately as tears rolled down his cheeks. Martin’s lips quivered in fear. Alexandrius continued: “His Son was resurrected from the dead right after His burial — gloriously and triumphantly!”
“Lived, not died?”
“He lives now near His Heavenly Father – and within the hearts and minds of his followers.’’
“What would I do to be included in these miracles?” asked Martin, still exhibiting some smidgen of doubt.
Alexandrius jabbed the staff in his tight grip into the dirt: “You must begin by turning your back on every evil, nefarious thing that your society that your world and your government exists on! Turn yourself over to a new way of life! You must turn your back to the evil lusts of your mind! Right now, people of this planet are killing, maiming, murdering each other, and even in the name of righteousness, and many are literally tearing each other limb from limb, in military combat, but also in the consumption of flesh in mindless orgies!”
A single figure emerged from the shadows of the back of the cavern; Christine said: “You must right the wrong you have done! First you must change!”
Martin was still gazing into the friendly glow of the transparent pyx, despite his blurred vision and tears, Martin tried to make out the strange language and writing. So, this is one of the books “whence it is written,” thought Martin. Arian stood with bowed head in deep thought. Christine went to her father and comforted him by her own warm hand.
“What’s wrong, my dear?” Alexandrius asked, fearful of the girl coming so close to the confrontation. Martin studied her with just as much curiosity.
“Father,” she finally spoke in broken and faltering Dulmen dialect, ‘‘father, does he know anything about my husband?” She covered her face to halt sobbing. The mutilated bodies that Martin recalled in the Arena in just the past day was thrust into Martin’s recollection. Martin shook his head in disgust. ‘‘Can you describe him?” Martin asked. Martin glanced downward in apprehension.
“Fair. Blonde. Dark blue eyes,” the girl momentarily stopped to swallow and stood still for a few seconds. “…a young adolescent boy, handsome…’’
“He is dead,” Martin coldly remarked. Christine visualized some executioner’s axe falling on the victim’s neck. Martin stood there and watched the girl tumble against the old man’s chest as he cuddled her and she wept in remorse and anguish. John’s face also turned from a rosy complexion to a very light pale pink: he glared at the Dulman in utter hate. The crowd of Commune members were also visibly upset. Echoes of dismay, protest and many female sobs could be heard down through the cavern.
Some member grabbed a torch from the wall and proclaimed a threat to avenge the death of the young missionary lad. Commune members protested against any further violence, and the member was restrained. Coincidentally, the smell of bayberry and thistle intermingled with frankincense incense carried through the sacred spot oddly signaling an interlude to gain control. After an undetermined period of silence, John Alexandrius finally spoke:
“It is written; ‘Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you and shall say all manner of evil against you…’”
“Please do not quote the book,’’ begged Martin. Martin began to feel a growing element of confusion, yet anger.
‘“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you’”
“Don’t! Quote! The! Book!’’ demanded Martin waving a clenched fist at the elderly leader.
‘“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.’’’
“Accursed be your foul book! Accursed!’ Martin threw his golden helmet back amidst the padded cushions at the base of the statue where the choir sat and sang. The helmet runed over and over and rolled up to the feet of Arian. ‘‘Accursed be your savior!”
Martin looked up at the statue and with his out-stretched fingers as to hide the image. Patriarch Alexandrius softly kissed his daughter-in-law on the cheek, huddled her close to his side, and began to lead her in the direction away from the statue. “Come dear, come.” said the elderly man in their strange language. Immediately the chorus of voices that Martin heard earlier upon his patrol’s arrival began once again to sing with vibrant courage as the choir marched for more distant and safe places.
John Alexandrius looked at the solemn and worried face of Arian and offered his hand and gesturing that Arian should follow. Arian hesitated for a look at Martin but gave a deep sigh and then quickly joined the throng of carolers and Commune spectators. Martin stood alone in the solitude of the Holy Place.
“I’ve jested and joked and blasphemed at that which was sacred to you, oh crucified man—for why and what now, it is no longer clear to me,” Martin continued his oration, and he was becoming increasingly aware that he was void of the classical ‘jerk’ of the Big Sire, the Brian.
“What you speak of as ‘holy,’ such as this special cavern, were meagre playthings for most Dulmen soldiers.” Martin stopped to slam his fist into the other hand. “Blast you! I cannot think! Your desolate crucified man hanging there chides me! His slumped head berates my mind! Your haunting old book of ‘scriptures’ scolds my Dulmania prestige!” Martin clasped his hands to his temples and shouted: “I cannot think! I cannot think!”
Martin heaved several gasps to ward off sobs. He remained silent for a few minutes. From somewhere in the bowels of the caverns could be heard the haunting trickling of cool underground spring water that echoed through the ancient subterranean world.
Martin lunged forward and with spread fingers he tied to cover the illuminance from within the transparent pyx. In his scrambled thoughts, now mysteriously void of the control of the Brain, questions came rapidly into the matrix of his mind. Why should I give up the power and glory of Dulmania to live in caverns in animal skins? Respect for life, they speak of killing as a crime. They speak of freedom, yet they live as impounded sheep. They ‘box’ this together under one god and one marriage? They say that freedom is not free.
Martin visualized the history of the riotous and frenzied crowds in the Arena. The screaming face of one Mary Longram in the Temple of Dreams. The cold electrodes of the ‘Hub’ programming being placed upon his skull. Thought eradication. And himself as a small boy running to the side of someone that he just could not now identify.
Martin glared hatefully at the statue of the crucified man. He raised the sword above his head to bring it with great force and full fury upon the purring pyx and its scriptures. Suddenly and in shock, he found himself weightless and the scene about him turned into a vortex of blurring black and white tossing his body against the sharp edges of rock. When he gained some sort of equilibrium of his senses, he was again stunned to find his sword embedded at the other end of the cavern – into solid stone!
But much more frightening: he could swear that the head of the crucified man, if only for a moment, turned erect to match the stare of the Dulmen demigod!
“The Portal Screen was announcing certain persons that cogently struck Elia: “…officiate gods Arian Yul, Mark Reddress, Mylar City resident……” The words boomed in his ears from the orator’s narration. Elia stopped to listen; what an informative surprise; so, his brother was very much alive and active.
“Perhaps they would meet on these matters so intrinsically important.”
Chapter Fourteen, The Search
Elia had grabbed at the shambles of a wall and fence, fighting away from the grips of the maddened citizens clawing at his flesh.
“They’ve got my tail,” grimaced Elia in in pain, “release my tail!”
Oh, how they hated what Elia said: It brought fear to some and hurt the arrogant pride of others. The crowds hooting and hollering made Elia even more determined to free himself. Kathern! His thoughts suddenly were filled with her remembrance. Did she grasp his last message, and would she try to find her way to the Rugby Craft and wait for him? Or was she now quickly making her way to the golden doors of the Siberian Caesar to denounce her own husband as a traitor? Which? And was there any real escape from the serpentine eyes of the Big Sire?
He gave a shove with this foot forcing his assailants to slide down the steeply collapsed rubble as he jumped to the top of the pile. Elia stood still for a moment, frozen, immobile, his tail swishing nervously back and forth, stooped as if to spring into a high leap, his viewing of the citizens fanatically scampering to their feet, and then up the incline in pursuit once gain.
Elia, however, disappeared in lightening fashion over the earthquake strewn rubble and down into the cold night and city below him to continue his prophetic mission.
The Winter months had been severe in that part of Dulmania; long and strenuous blizzards and snow falls that went on for months leaving a blinding white blanket over all visible terrain and superstructures.
But springtime had now come and it was an elaborately beautiful one. Perhaps it was trying to compensate for the pricks and pains of the preceding year. Here and there, vines of plants and freshly sprouting grass was attempting to grow on the lips and upper walls of deep crannies and gullies that were produced by the sudden and frightening earthquakes and tremors that had gripped the globe in darkening fashion.
It was a terrible sight in many places. Several Bubble Cities, Methorphoria for example, had been split asunder by the rippling of the Earth’s crust, aghast, looking like the shell of a cracked egg that was discarded on the ground. Many subterranean cities were destroyed; level upon level sinking downward upon each other with the shrieks of millions of men, women, and children! It happened instantaneously, dramatically, malevolently overnight. Huge clouds of dust and debris ascending even above the crust. Then came the secondary collapses with their thundering echoes over the Earth that continued to cause shudders in many that remained alive.
Wild Bors and various laboratory mutations had been inadvertently released from their captivities and now roamed the countryside devouring and destroying the garbage heap of mankind; terror stalked the planet. Famine now became the present problem, and even the utilization of synthetic inventions became a gross problem for the first time in eons. Most of Dulmen extraordinary projects were suffocated in their tracks by the chaos! Their ‘science’ became useless!
Like a mother bear, weak and out of breath from fighting foes against her cubs, Mother Earth stretched her aching and torn muscles and gave a whimpering sigh before she reclined back into her rubble for a suspicious nap. But for how long? And when the worst of winters came — and evenings held an icy star-studded sky over half-orbs of a few remaining destroyed but barely operable Bubble Cities — the only witnesses were the weak and famished citizens of Outer City homes and scarcely alive families. Most saw the planet as granulated!
But for how long would such suspicious quiet last?
And what would be the inventive explanation of official Dulmenia and its Brain conjure up—if, indeed, it could be said that these still existed at all? There was a myth that had started in the wisp of gossip to the effect that a god, Zerionus, would help the remnants of mankind search their conscience for a solution, for fear that the mysterious God would release Its Wrath once again.
On the outskirts of what once was Mylar City strolled a bearded man. His sleek shinning hair denoted much care; an emblem of a dove descending upon a fish was clearly represented on his robe. In the cusp of his hand was a booklet, rather small, but new and bound in leather. In keeping with the warmer weather, his feet were sandaled. As he walked along, he viewed the multicolored fields and hills that also included the tragically disheveled devastation where, now, miraculous sprouts of wild petunias, marigolds, zinnias, tulips, and lilies represented spring-time’s natural landscape had begun to forge again.
When the man reached a dislodged boulder that on side allowed a ‘table’ or platform, he cleared his throat and waited as the crowd began to gather. The sweet fragrance of spring rose into his nostrils. It seemed to give him courage. He placed his book upon a rotten tree limb whose branches made a unique podium at stomach level. He smiled now and then at the gossiping people as they gathered.
Now and then, someone asked him as to the purpose of the event, he would bend low to speak to them and explain that he had an important message he will give. Some would rush away to tell more family and friends. Wonderment as to the mystery man’s purpose began to draw more people. Was it a message from the gods? Was ‘he’ a god? Soon a voice rose from the crowd in protest:
“Come on, let’s hear what you have to say,” demanded a grizzly-faced man raising a fist into the air in protest. A sizeable portion of the crowd chimed in with agreement; a composite of what remained of Dulmania— the torn and tattered clothing, the broken and mended human limbs of those who miraculous survived the underground and worldwide havoc, the barely fed citizens of the Outer Cities, some trying to show emblems of their survivability with best stolen jewelry and linen. Intertwined, were some suspicious maggoty and strained-faced officials and members of aristocracy.
Finally: “Citizens of Dulmania! How many of you would turn aside from me, the one who tell you why your world has been so suddenly catastrophic? How many? Yet, I also will tell you that many ‘will be’ that foolish!” They all focused their attention on the man who occasionally swayed side to side; in the distance could be seen more people coming to investigate. “You would be that foolish because you have been blinded, your vision has been spurned from your faces; no, not your literal sight, though has been more than tapered with in the on-going destruction, but I am referring not to your faces, but your mind’s eye. Your heart cannot speak because of your lack of knowledge,” he lifted his opened book into the air, “here is that knowledge! Here is that Truth!”
The multitude began to murmur homogeneously.
“You have heard, no doubt by your propagandists,” continued the mystery-man, “that the goddess Vera, or the goddess Sherall, the god Marxz, or the god Zeronius cursed you,” he stopped to point a finger directly at the crowd, “you have cursed you!” A recondite smile arose and then vanish from his face.
“It is written: ‘For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness blasphemies!’I say that your Vera, your Sherall, Marxz and Zeronius are but inventions of your own diabolical minds, ushered through by the biggest imp – Satan – otherwise known as a diablerie of electromagnetic forces and collection of memory banks, pulsating circuits neutronic mumbo-jumbo! You have captivated ‘thoughts’ into ‘stones!’ You have harnessed power and energy into small atomic nooks! A person’s whole ‘personality’ can be written virtually upon the face of a few atoms and they can be forced to live a phlegm-like immorality; should a circuit be broken, an ‘energy-pack’ disturbed, a radio wave not transmitted from anode to anode of that monstrous computer, your makeshift heaven ceases to exist!”
The man wiped the sweat from his brow, and he could see that the crowd was becoming intently curious. Groups of adolescent children and their parents, some nude and painted in various psychedelic and opalescent colors as decorate ‘body painting,’ forced their way to the front to hear the mysterious speaker. Their body-paints were overlaid with the dirt of the recent tragedies and hung on the skeletons of famished bodies.
‘‘‘Versed in nothing but morbid questioning and controversies, out of which is coming envy, strife, calamities, wicked suspicions, altercations of men of a decadent mind and derived of the truth, inferring that devoutness is capital,’” he was again quoting his book, but he now continued in his own words, “…the god of this world is the only real ruler, the Trickster, and his demons are one vast organization! I say that he is the one that you unbeknownst worship! For he has substituted ‘life’ for ‘evil’—Hellenism disguised as philanthropy; death for life; hate for love; licentiousness and lawlessness for true brotherhood; his inventions are varied and inconceivably reminiscent but fluidly ‘evil!’’’
The somewhat youthful face placed emphasis on the word ‘evil.’ Evil had been turned in a reverse-pattern that meant anything that Dulmenia said was against that empire and out of their control. That logic had enabled whole races to be exterminated. It was allowed prelates and officials a greater insanity of ‘hero worship,’ an obnoxious horror that was shared in their blood. The man spoke of ‘thundering steeds’ rolling cross the skies that will bring even more worldwide destruction. The mysterious prophet said that there was a better way and that was entreating them to war against their innate lusts of the body, and to pray to a true Heavenly Father who would aid them in their fight.
One man pushed his way to the forefront, raising his hand as a signal to speak:
“Prophet, what do you suggest to one who owns you completely, even as not yourself? I am part Dulmania, truly a part…” he ripped open his coat in a fury, and the yanked a panel in his chest revealing the neatly packed glowing electronic coils that went into making his artificial inners—small scintillating lights blinking off and on in systematic, synchronistic rhythm aided by a soft purr of a miniature atomic generator. ‘‘…sixty organs are built like this, for it was either have this done to me or to be created again as an early immorality with the gods, a tape and film existence in the electronic records of the ‘Big Sire!’’’
The prophet only shook his head; it was true; only all too true—what had been so commonplace to him at one time was now a pretentious shock. He quoted his book again:
‘“Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Great Spirit? We are confounded because we have heard reproach; shame hath covered our faces; for strangers are come into the sanctuaries of the Lord’s house.’’’
“All in time,” spoke the prophet to the robotic man, “your Heavenly Father will restore you All in All.”
A beggarly and disheveled man forced his way to the front of the crowd and swiftly pointed a cruel finger at the prophet: “I recognize you! Aren’t you—yes, you are—the son of Misslou! I recognize you now!” The man turned to address the crowd with quick gestures of his hands. “Don’t you recognize him? He, whose face was so callously forced into our memories only a few months ago. The ‘Ascending god!’” The citizen took a cold and hard look at Martin. “The one who was to have fought and defeated the Conspirators in a ground battle! This is he!”
A low growl and convoluted murmurs went up from the crowd of Dulmen citizens. A slight anger built up within him, enough to sting his nostrils: It need not matter what his past had been; he was facing a much better future.
“Yes! Yes! You are correct! But I have chosen the name of another,’’ Martin’s face was flush for this was the first time he was visibly shaken, “Urijah! Urijah the prophet ‘who prophesied against the land according to all the words of Jeremiah!’’’
Henceforth, the name ‘Martin Salisbury’ was nonexistent just as the putrescence-like unreality of his past. But who did any of the citizens think they were fooling, blind sheep to the slaughter?
“ ‘And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies, but they are not valiant for the truth upon the Earth: for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me, saith the Lord!’’’
Martin- Urijah, grabbed small hemp bag tied to his rope-belt and jerked it off his waist. Glaring at the crowd, he spilled its contents into his moist palm and clenched it tightly. A dark batch of vapor-like whirlwind dredged up into the air the gray clay of the plains. This whirlwind, however, had a strange sound denoting that it was animate and artificial. Without warning, and to the far right of the crowd three swirls appeared forcing three separate clearings; the whirlwinds glowed with weak blue-white ionizations as a solid shadow formed within as three jostling Mus-chutes—official police of the Royal Imperial Court—emerged out of a materialization device; they could have come from the direct command of Martin’s uncle (many Mus-chutes resided deep within the lobby chambers of the vast computer and the atomic power plants of the Big Sire beneath Mylar).
Martin was observing all this activity taking place about him as bystanders pointed to the Bubble City about a mile away. Distant observers began to fidget as they observed a florid glow which many underground citizens of Feline would have readily recognized. The creeping Mus-chutes should have convinced Martin that his soliloquy was about to be cut short.
(Martin had done much study of ‘lost history’ in his discovery of the many manuscripts of the Commune; slowly Martin-Urijah became more and more sane. A certain anger came and went as he studied, but the warm hand of the Commune children into his hand dissolved any constant fear. Small children found in Martin an ideal companion to frolic and play ‘hide and seek’ in the early spring months. He had, also, learned of the worldwide network of prophets—– names such as Tamar, Sansabar, Theodore, Elia, Jefferson, Townsend, others—-and there always was his beloved, Christine.)
Having no fear of the visiting Mus-chutes, Martin continued in his rapidly produced lecture: Prophets hid in the Tibetan mountains of the Himalayas, worldly governments started to ‘invent’ miraculous tales to cause fear within the remaining populace of the Earth, the visitor and ‘Father’ from outer space, The Sun, Wandering Spirit, the announcement that Dulmania actually was the outcome of twelve successive authoritarian governments in the previous eons (all of which faltered and shared the same degeneracies). The sciences of Mind Control and Propagandism progressed and became perfected in the Dulmania’s Big Sire. This was the problem that Martin-Urijah faced: Compacting as much history to the ignorant populace in as short of time as was humanly possible before his capture and possible death!
The rear wall of the crowd developed into a terrified frenzy as most were aware of the Feline-City-type manifestation encroaching upon them. Many were running towards the surrounding mounds and hills, only to be captured by the bestial manifestation about a mile from the spot the prophet was situated. A soft rumble could be felt beneath their feet. The lion-like face of the blob of energy let out a high-pitch growl as it advanced and grew; Martin remained steadfast in his sermon:
‘“The fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the heaven, and the beasts of the field, all creeping things that creep upon the earth, and all the men that are upon the face of the earth, shall shake at my presence, and the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground!’’’
The onslaught began that very day around the globe! In Tamar’s vicinity large starving hordes had massacred an army of people in a blitzkrieg for survival. Their efforts were quickly wiped out by earth renting cracks and topsy-turvy fissures in the crust of the earth. Several cities vanished within seconds. The huge, towering statue of the War God Maryx had cracked instantaneously into thousands of fine lines, and then with a low painful rumble, shifted and fell into itself as a smoldering and cascading avalanche of stone, metal and pieces of rubble.
‘“I will fill his mountains with his slain men; in thy hills, and in valleys, and in all they rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword. I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return, and ye shall know that I am the Lord!’”
In John ‘Red’ Townstead’s Veron de Sheol, the prosperous and luxurious underwater city that traveled as a beautiful gem from aquarium port to aquarium port, its beauty and serenity was torn asunder by hurricanes and monstruous mystery waves of inclement wrath.
‘Red’ Townstead was stubborn in his prognostication of impending boom, as he left within an hour of the destruction of Veron de Sheol to the surface in an aqua ferry; only to learn of five other underwater complexes that were swashed in a maze of girders, plastics, debris that became swirling masses rocking to and fro in the turbulent waters!
‘“ I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until He came whose right it is and I will give it to him!’”
Elia vividly recalled the first few hours of the blizzard. He had been hiding in the local park, a beautifully decorated recreation area near the Imperial Bubble City nearby and he could see the first few flakes pass over the soft blue-white glow of the floating aerial globes throughout the park.
Soon, a velvety blanket of white lay over the landscape, delicately balanced on the tops of pine branches and the boughs of oaks. The statue of a once-famous Dulmen General, arched backwards upon the rearing stallion, had withstood the year round brutal cold. Quickly, the snow crystallized into frightening proportions of a whiteout. Not only was food a complete deficit in the economic-political confusion caused by the intrepid amount of meteorological flightiness, but lawlessness and anarchy stole across the blizzard-stricken domain forcing some into the few underground hideaways in those areas. Within minutes, these became their sealed ‘tombs’ that irreversibly cut their dubious and tenuous lifegiving umbilical cords.
In the silence that sometimes accompanies tumultuous blizzards with its blinding white snow-blanketed terrain, Elia wept—-hard and deeply till Elia’s chest ached and his limbs were in pain. The End was near and part of his life was tied with some of the rebellious breather buried beneath that cruel white crust.
(What was once South America in eons past, had come to be called Dano in the Dulmen international tongue—-meaning dynamic; atomic; negative; operation. Within its equatorial climate all that one normally could anticipate were hordes of nasty mosquitos and the savage vegetation, but the citizens of Katri were the meagre few that had still the semblance of abiding in what remained of a ‘god City,’ Bubble Complex. Then came the awful and blistering hot that seemed to rain down from above—and belch up from below—sprouting pits of volcanic openings in surprising places, spewing golden-red lava, and bellowing white steam.
(Within one hour, the jungle was a vast carpet of suffocating flame, huge, towering columns of smoke that choked the breath of life of all remaining creatures. It was only a matter of minutes before the unbearable magma pounded against the Bubble City until the metropolis succumbed to the twofold pressure of earth tremors and streams of lava.
(‘‘‘Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold, mine anger and my fury shall be poured upon this place, upon man, and upon beasts, and upon the trees of the field, and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched!’” )
Thus, Rob Jefferson gazed in pretentious discernment upon his home vicinity from his Water Scout projectile as it sped down the Amazon River. Jefferson’s apocalypse was one of earnest and dangerous appeal, but he found an indifferent and savagely protective audience causing a thin escape with his life from the irascible officials.
And so, it was for the encrusted Christos Prophets around the globe—-all increasingly becoming aware of their time for ‘departure.’
The scowling of Old Nick who was a “murderer from the beginning,” pruriently flaunting himself behind the back of Urijah, with Nick’s lion-like growl and a grinding, agonizing ‘purr’ that would cause any audience to fall to their knees and hold their hands over their eyes to shield themselves from the brilliant light of the swirling vortex of the gaseous and vaporous Monster. The catlike eyes of “the Prince of this World.” Assenting were the Hanumen Monsters aroused from their cubicles – their tombs of the undying dead – their hairy atrocious bodies dancing on spindle legs as if a bug intoxicated with an insecticide. This showed their realization that their time on Earth was over.
A hot wind mustered up by Old Nick’s anger crawled about Urijah’s back. The squall caused his hair to bristle and pull at his roots as the wind gradually grew into hurricane proportions. Urijah took capsules from his belt-pouch and held evaporating Z-BR8 out for anyone to see:
“Behold your god! And behold its designer!” Urijah pointed backward to the Satanic adversary. “We have awakened him from his hiding place and his brother incubus of electronic memory banks, transformers and atomic generators! He growls in pain for he knows his time is short!” Urijah suddenly realized that the Big Sire, a Dragon, may no longer exist considering all the total and utter destruction happening about the globe.
The ground was shaking mysteriously in the grip of seismic waves. Huge locusts appeared in swarms: escaped mutations from several destroyed laboratories that ranged about the globe. The pitiful remnant of mankind had no defense against these monsters.
‘“And there came out of the smoke, locusts upon the earth; and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.’”
Urijah allowed the few remaining Z-BR8 capsules to slip away in the wind. ‘‘And this is your refuge! You fight with this evil to appease your god!” The wind pulled at Urijah’s limbs. Some hair stuck to the corners of his mouth. “Disobedience has led to undeterminable lawlessness so you have hidden yourself in a wilderness of a makeshift fantasy world!”
Urijah, still a stalwart man with a rugged bronze appearance, but having lost the look untouched youth, the scent of naivete was no more. He was a follower of Christos! A follower of that magnanimous Kingdom. A Christos! In his mind’s eye, Urijah could see the smiling faces of those from the Commune, patiently waiting for him somewhere beyond all hills, beyond this time!
Despite the shrieks and cries of terror going on about him in the world being torn apart by invisible hands that rent everything asunder, Urijah prepared to make a liminal exit. ‘‘Asteroid Watch” programs disappeared days beforehand when civilization and its watchdog agendas disappeared about the globe totally unaware as humongous celestial rocks collided into the Earth’s crust producing absolute finality in a red mass that blocked out the Sun. That blinding flash ushered in of a new age!
“Oh earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord!”
The babe’s ‘special place’ was no more, at least not in a terrestrial sense. All the trees, scrubs, and hidden artifacts that the child discovered and had become so fond of, no longer existed. The skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus that had been undiscovered by human eyes, would never be discovered and seen. Beautiful roses, golden rod, white poppies, bloodroot would never be seen again. The Moon was a dark red and carried ‘splinters’ of Earth from the demolition of that planet and further decimation by atomic explosions thrown at the satellite by mankind’s last-minute madness they exhibited in their death-Theos and their calamitic ending. With the annihilation of the Brain, interplanetary Dulmania outposts and bases also dissolved rudimentary connections and vanished from sight.
Uncanny and majestic large white oblongs, like, but not identical to the Dulmen spacecrafts, abruptly began to create a ‘gap,’ some supernatural hole in the stratosphere. Huge objects quietly flowed out of that ‘vortex’ and filled the hemisphere in procession and ranks until that whole sky was filled with the purring mysterious bodies, horizon to horizon.
It was the beginning of a new and glorious Epoch and a creation of a neoteric world!
If we only knew what the next thousand years would bring; the next hundred years; the next day; the next hour.
If only the prognosticators of ‘hell fire’ and damnation would be quiet and allow us ‘fun loving’ people assume our toy of science and allow us to “get on with” our playing.
Perhaps all those other anguishing thoughts picking at the back of our minds would also cease: What of those quant and gothic-looking churches that are slowly deteriorating? Now that God is dead, how is He going to fix those broken glass windows? How soon will the utopia that our scientists predict finally arrive? When will the panacea arrive? Who will answer?
It is a rather fruitless quest, for the Christos told us not to say, “lo here’’ and “lo there,” for He was already among them.
Likewise, to ask when our fictional Dulmania will emerge, and will it have a resemblance of this futuristic science-fiction story, is also naïve. Just a passing glance at news dispatches and current historical events tells us that Dulmania has been in existence. It is now! We are the Dulmen!
In Communist Russia, ‘White Coats’ are the array of the KGB officers who inject aminazin and sulfazin into the bodies of the ‘political unreliable’ and dissidents who are out of step with Russian politics. Some spend their remaining hours isolated in an asylum for ‘defaming the Soviet state and political system.’
Several years ago, in New York City, the late Reverend Billy Graham declared to a 20,000 audience that ‘‘unless our nation turns to God, we will not be spared by God.”
A government study on Crime in America reported that the “U.S was a violent nation…violence persists in the U.S while diminishing in most other countries…Americans have always been a violent people…’’
The once sparkling jewel of midtown Manhattan, Times Square, has deteriorated to a district of sleazy movie houses, pornographic bookshops, prowling prostitutes, and has received the title of “Slim Square.’’
The Louisiana Judiciary Commission recommended that Judge Edward A. Haggerty, Jr., the presiding judge at the Clay L. Shaw assassination conspiracy trial, be removed from office for the willful misconduct…Haggarty was arrested in a raid on a stag party, charged with resisting arrest, solicitation for prostitution and conspiring to commit obscenity. John Haggarty resided at the trail whence Clay Shaw was found innocent of conspiring to kill the late President John Kennedy.
It would be superfluous to distil recent crime and murdering statistics and details which would outstrip the fictional scenes in THE DULMEN for their brutality, sadism, and horror. If the citizens of the world feel helpless and hoodwinked by terrestrial events, we can only hope and pray that the nihilism engulfing us will soon have a ray of hope to shine brightly through.
Stanton T. Friedman and Kathleen Marden are two of the remaining individuals who strongly defend the existence of paranormal objects flying in our atmosphere that many believe are extraterrestrial. The authors join together to state the various stages the phenomena has existed in since the 1940s. They also deal with the critics and debunkers of the phenomena and the UFO appearances.
Stanton Friedman and Kathleen Marden
(Fact, Fiction, and Flying Saucers, Stanton T. Friedman, Kathleen Marden, New Page Books, a division of the Career Press, Inc., 12 Parish Drive, Wayne, J.J. 07470, www.careerpress.com, 1-800-career-1, 2016, 288 pages, $16.99.)
The authors cite information about UFOs that many people are not aware of: there are more than 3,500 UFO observations by civilian and military pilots of “nonconventional aircraft”__also seen on radar__with behaviors that crafts from Earth cannot exhibit.
Out of 12,618 sightings recorded by Project Blue Book from 1947 to 1969, Battelle Memorial Institute said in 1955 of the “Project Blue Book Special Report – No. 14” that 21.5 percent of 3,201 reports were unknowns. Of 308 “excellent” cases, 35 percent were “unknown.” (pp. 11-17.)
(Unidentified [At the time called “unknown” was an Unidentified Flying Object [UFO] report apparently containing all pertinent data necessary to suggest a valid hypothesis concerning the cause or explanation of the report but the description of the object or its motion cannot be correlated with any known object or phenomena.)
The authors point out the large-scale research and development programs that were secret, many operating under classified code names, such as Need-to-Know, Confidential, Secret, Top Secret, Top Secret Code-Word Majic, Umbra, or Ultra.
In 1944, Project Manhattan was completely unknown to Senator Harry Truman until 13 days after he became president upon the death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. Then, Truman was given the startling facts, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.
Likewise, when the first atomic bomb test occurred only July 16, 1945, the cover-story was that it was an explosion of a huge ammunition dump. The wife of General Leslie Groves (Groves was in charge of the Manhattan Project for two years) had no idea at all how the general was involved until she heard it was on the news on August 6, 1945.
Such secrecy also permeated the government UFO projects.
UFO PROJECT SECRECY
Stanton Friedman is a nuclear physicist who has worked on a variety of advanced, classified systems for major industrial companies and has investigated high-caliber UFO cases as portrayed in his books Flying Saucers and Science and Top Secret/Majic.
Kathleen Marden is a best-selling author and award-winning UFO researcher and lecturer, portrayed on programs on History, Discovery, Natural Geographic, and coauthor of Captured!, The Betty and Barney Hill UFO Experience, as well as other books.
Two separate channels of UFO investigation came about with the closure of Project Blue Book: One, a normal and routine operation of “explaining-away UFO reports,” and, Two, a deeper channel to actually investigate more substantive UFO reports.
The Roswell and San Augustin, Aztec UFO crash episodes were both labeled Top Secret and Top Secret Code-word.
The 800 pages of secret UFO material as code-word Top Secret Umbra was eventually released as heavily-redacted with only a few words per page left and not blacked out (pp. 23-24).
The early days of ufology included the spectacular UFO crash around July 8, 1947, on the ranch of Mac Brazel 70 miles west of Roswell, New Mexico. Intelligence Officer Jesse Marcel of the 509th bomb group, along with Captain Sheridan Cavitt, senior counterintelligence agent, inspected the site and collected samples of the debris from a gorge three-quarter of a mile long.
Many details on the Roswell crash can be found in the general literature, but the authors highlighted one particular incident that should be noted as indicative of government manipulation.
Officer Marcel had placed some of the debris on the desk of Brigadier General Roger M. Ramey preceding Marcel walking down the hall to the Map Room to show Ramey the crash site location. When Marcel returned to the Ramey office, the debris had been ‘replaced’ by the remnants of a common weather balloon. This was touted in the press as the final explanation of the UFO.
Marcel, however, was very familiar with the appearance of weather balloons.
Jesse Marcel with Balloon Debris
Because of the Roswell Incident and the accompanying “flap” of sightings, the July 1947 Estimate of the Situation and the September 1947 Twining Memo, say the authors, these reports led to a secret “AMC Opinion Concerning ‘Flying Disks’” sent to Brigadier General George Schulgren (assistant director of intelligence), demonstrating the Air Force’s deep concern. This activity culminated in a February 11, 1948 Project Sign (Project Saucer) and a Secret and Restricted report of 243 cases concluding that the UFOs were probably extraterrestrial craft (pp.29-31).
The government saw their “disclosure mistake,” renaming Project Sign into Project Grudge during February 1949, introducing an era of denial and debunking.
In 1952, however, a year of high UFO activity, the Air Force Aerial Technological Intelligence Command (ATIC) received 4,000 reports out of which 1,593 seemed highly unusual with 26.94 percent termed “unknowns.”
This included a small “invasion” over the Washington Capitol.
THE WASHINGTON INVASION
Also, in 1952 the Washington D.C “invasion” appeared; it seemed to have begun about July 1, 1952, with jets scrambled to reports of UFOs over the nation’s capitol. Airline crews reported said objects on July 10, 13 and 14. Radar operators reported scanning the objects, one recorded at 7,000 miles per hour. F-94 jet pilots reported three targets. Major C.P. Carlson recorded said UFOs on July 25. Air traffic Control Radar at Andrews Air Force Base had radar scans of such objects with up to 12 returns between them and also jet pilot radar.
Two F-94s were scrambled at 11: p.m. At 10:30 p.m. a USAF B-25 was vectored to several targets. Major Dewy Fournet and Lieutenant John Holcomb called the observed objects “several good, solid targets.” Then a second jet was scrambled, only to have the UFOs disappear. The same thing happened on July 26 in a “creeping appearance” of the UFOs as an F-94 investigated.
On July 27, 1952, more of the same “solid, metallicobjects” appeared.
On July 29, 1952, Major General John A. Samford had a press conference where he declared “we have many reports from credible observers of incredible things.”
General Samford’s Press Conference, DOD, Minutes of Press Conference, July 29, 1952, www.nicap.org/waves/press conf_1952.htm.
THE WORLD OF DEBUNKING
Noted critic and general debunker of UFO phenomena, Dr. Donald Menzel, discarded the Washington D.C flap as “temperature inversions.”
Taking cues from Menzel, The Civil Aeronautics Administration Technical Development and Evaluation Center (TDEC) said in May 1953 that the Washington, D.C UFOs were “temperature inversions.”
The authors go into details that obviously belie the “inversion” explanation of the UFO “invasion.”
Dr. Donald Howard Menzel assumed the position of director of the Harvard College Observatory, the Paine Professor of Practical Astronomy, and also Professor of Astrophysics in 1954. Menzel worked previously in Theoretical Astrophysics at the Universities of Iowa, Ohio State and the University of California Lick Observatory. Surprisingly, he was later identified as a member of the secretive cabal Operation Majestic 12 Committee which was formed to clandestinely investigate UFOS. Menzel was also discovered participating in secret government projects (p. 61).
There was a Cosmic Watergate, say the authors, and Menzel was in the middle of it.
Another ‘turning point’ in ufology seemed to be the Tremonton, Utah movie of July 2, 1952, where Navy Warrant Officer Delbert Clement Newhouse and his wife Norma, witnessed and filmed a dozen or so disk-shaped craft milling about the sky north of Tremonton.
The USAF laboratory at Wright Field and also the U.S Navy’s lab at An Costa, Maryland determined that the objects were “…intelligently controlled vehicles that were not airplanes or birds in flight…defied explanation.”
In the middle of all this, the authors contend that the CIA been secretly monitoring the UFO situation since 1951 and utilizing studies such as the Battelle Memorial Institute’s Machine Indexing System of 1,500 reports since 1947 (of which were 20 percent unknown objects). This resulted in the CIA Robertson Panel’s Scientific Review Board of January 14, 1953, which eventually led to the August 1953 Air Force Regulation 200-2 (which allowed only ‘positive’ and/as ‘debunked’ identification of UFOs), as well as JANAP 146 and Air Force Memo 55-1 as further censorship.
Philip Julian Klass entered the UFO debunking scene in 1966.
One major UFO case he attacked was a sighting on September 3, 1965, outside of Exeter, New Hampshire when Norman Muscarello sighted extremely bright red lights along Route 150. Muscarello made a report to the Exeter Police Department, Patrolman Eugene Bertrand discovered a distressed woman who reported to him a huge, silent object with red lights that stopped above her vehicle.
Officer Eugene Bertrand and Muscarello went to the Kensington site and discovered the UFO rising above them as a dark form with blinding lights. Officer Bertrand drew his gun in defense. Dogs and horses apparently were disturbed in the area and made noises. Officer David Hunt arrived to see the object depart toward the coast.
The infamous Philip Klass explained the episode away as freak atmospheric electrical phenomena, a ‘plasma’ called ‘ball lightning.’ UFO proponent and researcher Dr. James E. McDonald commented on September 28, 1966, that Klass’s explanation was bogus because ‘ball lightning’ only lasted seconds, didn’t have windows with struts and structures, and certainly didn’t match all the reported details.
Thus entered another classical aspect of UFO debunkers—attacks upon and character assassination of those who opposed critics; this was seen as Klass attacked McDonald whom Klass pursued at every turn. McDonald eventually committed suicide. The authors give a history of the dreadful attacks by Klass.
Klass attacked several famous UFO cases. The authors contend with several of his peculiar explanations, as well as Klass’s affinity to an alliance with government skepticism. The reader can explore these sequences for themselves in reading the book.
One particular case Klass acted upon was the Lonnie Zamora UFO case of April 24, 1964, when patrolman Zamora spied a shiny aluminum-white-like object 12-15 feet big and about 200 yards in the distance. Zamora said there were two figures in what he mistook for white coveralls, perhaps small children. This was followed by metallic banging sounds, various frequency sounds, and then a load roar as the object took off in a swirl of dust and light blue flame on the underside. Before the object disappeared, Zamora sighted an “arrowhead”-type symbol or similar red insignia on the side of the object.
Art Depiction of Zamora UFO
Army Captain Richard T. Holden and FBI agent D. Arthur Byrnes found irregularly placed smoking vegetation and three smooth, circular marks 4-inches in diameter. Another UFO report came from a traveling tourist on U.S 85 who said he saw the craft before it landed. There were no human footprints or tire tracks (pp.126-134).
Hector Quintanilla of USAF Project Blue Book stated that there was no conventional explanation for the object that Zamora saw or the landing marks that were left behind.
Hector Quintanilla, Project Blue Files, “Studies in Intelligence,” 19961.
Klass suggested a “dust devil” plasma ball, on the one hand, or a “hoax,” on the other. Menzel also suggested a hoax. Neithertheoristcoveredthetruefacts.
Dr. Donald Menzel, left, Philip Klass, right.
Take Off Your Masks
The Condon Committee
In the government’s scheme to “phase out” Project Blue Book and give the outward appearance that UFOs were of no concern and they were no longer investigating UFOs, General E.B. LeBaill from the Secretary of the Air Force Office of Information, Scientific Advisory Board, also called the O’Brien Committee, investigated and recommended contracts with a few universities to investigate in depth certain selected UFO sightings in order to relieve the Air Force of further responsibility and also to determine a final solution to UFOs.
The University of Colorado was selected and Dr. Edward Uhler Condon was picked as its director. Condon had a meritorious background in science, including President for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Washington University chairman of Physics Department.
Condon had acquired a predetermined “bias” early on UFOs, and he often revealed it to the public with statements that clearly seemed prejudicial.
Many of the scientists on the Committee likewise carried a prejudice about UFOs. The ‘TrickMemo’ is quoted at length in Saunders and Harkins’ UFOs? Yes! (Appendix A, PR 242-244).
Friedman and Marden tell us that Condon’s emphasis was on describing those ‘seeing’ the UFOs rather than ‘examining’ the evidence itself (pp. 100-102).
Captain Edward Ruppelt had been replaced by Captain Charles Hardin who quickly reduced the previous 3 percent “unknowns” (was 20 percent “unknowns” in Blue Book Special Report No. 14 as based on Battelle Memorial Institute findings), and further reduced by the Air Force to 0.14 percent in 1957.
Condon demanded that the only ‘evidence’ he would accept was a physical spaceship or a body of an alien not of this planet (p. 97), though the findings of Roswell and other crashed UFOs were well-beyond his security clearance, such as Secret Code-word Majic, Umbra, or Ultra.
The authors lay out an epic portrayal of UFO cases that have stumped most investigators, and they also outline Phillip Klass’s ventures into some of them, beginning with his joining forces with the negativism of the Condon Committee. A “Klass–Attack” occurred in the Betty Cash and Vickie Landrum sighting of December 29, 1980.
A depiction of the Cash-Landrum UFO
Cash and Landrum, and Colby Landrum, were on a trek of a Bingo game and they were searching for Marker Road 1485. Coming towards them was a diamond-shaped craft belching flames from its underside. The night was about 40-degrees Fahrenheit but the UFO warmed the witness area. The craft gave out shrill beeping noise when it was not shooting flame. They hid Colby under the dashboard for safety. The witness found the door handle very hot, and then the interior of the auto just as hot.
The object gave out a burst of flame and departed to the south-west. Suddenly, helicopters came streaming toward it. The witnesses then made a turn onto Connector Road FM 2100 and again the craft appeared. The witnesses counted about 20 helicopters trailing the object. Some copters had dual rotors, some had single. Cash claimed to have seen a U.S Air Force insignia on one copter.
The witnesses were in comparatively good health, but about 9:50 p.m., blisters, and swelling began to appear on Betty Cash’s head, face, back and neck as she said she was “burning from the inside out.” The skin under her ring appeared unaffected.
On December 30, Cash began to get a blinding headache, extreme weakness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. On January 8, 1981, she was taken to Parkway Hospital for 12 days. The symptoms made her unrecognizable to other members of her family, and those symptoms included swelling and seeping sores on face and head.
Betty spent 15 more days in the hospital treatment, including examination by an ophthalmologist, radiologist, a neurologist, and an EEG for metal poisoning.
Records of early blood tests disappeared and other medical records did as well. The hospital checked her for whole-body radiation of a high level. Dr. Brian McClellan discovered non-ionizing radiation, but with an ionizing component: It had been permanent and debilitating with on-going severe headache and nausea, redness of the skin, scarring, loss of pigmentation, eye-inflammation, diarrhea, swelling of the neck, loss of fingernails, hair loss, weight loss, and fatigue.
Colby Landrum contacted stomach pains, diarrhea, weight loss, eye inflammation, hair loss, tooth decay, anxiety, and nightmares. There was temporary photo-sensitivity to the sun. Colby had nightmares that included a fear of helicopters.
Betty’s new 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass had multiple electrical problems and the steering wheel’s plastic material fell off in large clumps. Handprints had left permanent identifications on the padded hot dashboard. The windshield had exploded like it was hit with a baseball bat.
The attorney for the family felt that punitive damages went far beyond the $10,000 hospital bills and he filed Law Suite # 11-84-34B in the U.S District Court for Southern District of Texas for 10-million-dollars. The family eventually lost the suit because the craft and helicopters could not be proven to belong to the government.
The UFO witnesses cooperated fully with MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) investigator John Schuessler when Schuessler contacted the witnesses in February.
Schuessler discovered CH-47 copters at Ellington AFB-South Houston. Also, the Dallas Naval AM station Commanding Officer Major Dennis Haire of the 136th Transport Unit at the Air Force Base was aware of eight Chinook helicopters with the Army National Guard, as well as 16 of them in Dallas, and also four Hueys and four 58s assigned to Houston.
Major Haire, however, said that no CH-47s were involved on December 29, 1980. Twin rotor helicopters were seen at other dates at Fort Hood. CH-47 Chinook helicopters with Army markings were seen at Ellington AFB on December 28, 1982, but nothing was pinpointed to December 1980.
Later, Police Chief Lammar Walker and his wife claimed to have seen three groups of three Chinook helicopters flying in V-formation within 5 miles of the Ladrum UFO, but Lieutenant Colonel George Sarran of the Army Inspector General’s Office denied such activity (pp. 156-159).
Klass went to extraordinary lengths to obtain the medical records of the witnesses but was rebuffed on personal privacy issues. Klass used other ‘tricks’ to get the family’s medical files by claiming he was only interested in some vague “probability ratio” ruse and again rebuffed when ABC’s That’s Incredible show used a similar prompting on April 1, 1982.
“I will not be a party to this in anyway,” said the doctor.
Letter to Philip Klass from Peter Rank, MD, March 23, 1982, Lass’s Cash-Landrum Files, APS.
Dr. Rank believed some type of radiation was involved, though the precise manner could not be definitely ascertained, or whether the whole body was involved: ultra-violet, low-energy x-ray or some particular radiation was suspected, but he felt that the symptoms were consistent with exposure to ionizing radiation causing demagogic symptoms and “no healing ulcerative lesions.”
Robert Sheaffer of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal), of which Philip Klass was a guiding member, claimed Betty used UV light to induce her own injuries, an action related to some form of her portrayed and alleged “Munchausen Syndrome.”
According to CSI’s charter, the “Committee” maintains a network of people interested in critically examining paranormal, fringe science, and other claims, and in contributing to consumer education; prepares bibliographies of published materials that, supposedly, carefully examine such claims; encourages research by alleged objective and impartial inquiry in areas where it is needed.
Most researchers found Sheaffer’s summation of the Cash-Landrum UFO as slanderous and unscientific. Lieutenant Colonel George Sarran labeled the UFO witnesses as “crediblewitnesses.” (p.163)
Billy Cox, from the Florida Sarasota Herald Tribune, traveled to Texas to investigate the case and came away convinced that a “very real and tragic event had occurred.” Cox appraised Klass as “…a man who had a pathological disregard for the truth.”
Billy Cox, “Klass Act: No Principles,” Sarasota Herald Tribune, February 20, 2012.
CLASSICAL UFO CASES
The readers will be intrigued by the authors’ equally analytic treatment of other spectacular UFO cases, their particular investigations by proponents and cynics alike, and the growing realization that the anti-UFO factions can’t forever conceal a reality that even the corrupted and criminal thinking of our human ‘elites’ persistently but unsuccessfully continue to try and hide. Such a tacit and quickening realization of reality was encapsulated in the words of culprit Errol Childress to detective Rustin “Rust” Cohle when the sordid confluence of evil, crime, and noir-like bleakness crashed about them: “Take off your mask, little priest!”