Reality Inspector, chapter 11
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
In the day's mail John had received the fourth clue. Or was it a threat? The envelope had contained only a copy of M.C. Escher's lithograph Dragon. In what way the picture was a threat, John was uncertain. It was obviously a clue, though. He remembered the advice that ZAC had given him. He could add and divide. The dragon was a unity, yet it appeared to turn itself inside out. Escher was known for his visual tricks. The clue was purely non-verbal; it had no written message to assist interpretation.
He replayed the clues in his mind: a message about his death, a pawn passed away, a choice between a box and a bag, and now a dragon turning itself inside out. If this new clue were a threat, then the dragon symbolized potential death. But, he thought, that was a very roundabout way of threatening him.
So far, his life had not been threatened directly. There were only the anonymous mailings. His opponent only wanted him to be afraid, to succumb to fear; but, then, he was not close to a solution. True, he and ZAC were communicating quite well, yet the problem remained that ZAC was ignorant of the alien program's presence until it was told, so John would have to rely on other means. Perhaps, he could use the clues and find the thread leading back to his opponent.
He looked through the window out onto his garden. The hollyhocks were about three feet tall; tiny buds were forming on the stems. After the ladybugs had arrived a week ago and had begun their feast, few aphids were now to be found. The ladybugs, though, had attracted many birds, which sat upon the telephone lines waiting for their chance. Nature was like that, he thought, an endless cycle, one creature feeding upon another.
He puffed on his pipe, watching the fog drift down Ocean Avenue. The alien program was feeding upon ZAC while his opponent was probably feasting off the increasing interest rate. Escher's dragon also suggested an endless cycle. Both cycle and spiral were important symbols in many societies. Hindu religion was based upon the idea of an eternal cycle of life and death, and so Buddha came to show the way out of that cycle. Western science with its big bang theory assumed a cycle of expansion and contraction for the universe. The spiral was a form frequently found in nature; it was based upon the mathematics of phi, the golden proportion.
John laughed to himself: now I'm back to ZAC, but have I advanced to a higher level of understanding? Can I use these clues to construct a model of my opponent's thinking? What kind of a mind would send me such threats? Understanding my opponent's consciousness will help me, for then I will have a better idea about the design of the alien program and its recycling process.
Fog was gently spreading over his garden, and he was certain that the ladybugs were now hidden in their sleeping quarters. He looked at the clock on the desk; it was time to walk over to the Rainbow Inn for some food and for the evening's chess game. Unlike ladybugs, human beings often fed after sundown.
Upon entering the Rainbow Inn, he looked about and saw Hank and Od at their usual table. John joined them after leaving with Helen his order of a glass of pinot noire and a Rainbow sandwich.
Tonight was the tenth game of the match. The champion had won the eighth game while the ninth was a draw, so he now led 3 to 2. Sam was playing white again tonight, but Mary was ready for him. She planned to show him how a queen could really be used. On the last move of game eight Sam had offered her his queen, and she had resigned.
As the championship match moved closer to the magic number of six wins, excitement increased. The Inn was packed as always, but a new subtle tension permeated the audience. John felt it as soon as he had entered the Inn. He noticed that Od was quieter than usual--quiet but not necessarily calm. Od's sharp features seemed to radiate an electric charge. Even Hank's normal calmness contained a new ingredient. What was it, he wondered? Perhaps, it had something to do with the strange winds that had blown into the Bay Area the past week.
The TV screen showed Mary and Sam sitting across from each other. Then the champion moved a piece, and the game was underway. He opened with P-K4 (e4), and she answered with P-K4 (e5). The first five moves were conventional enough, and then he devised a trap by taking her king pawn with his knight. But she skirted the trap by reinforcing her king file. On move twelve the champion created another potential trap; that was how Od saw it. Hank disagreed; he thought it was a weakness. He was saying, "Mary has a win if she can see it. Sam has made a monstrous hole at Q3 (d3)."
Mary (next move)
John looked at the chess board, beyond the pieces to the black and white lattice. One of the squares was a door; he saw the knob. He had always been fascinated by doors and what lay behind them. So he opened this one and stepped through.
John is walking along a flat highway which runs parallel to the San Christopher Mountain Range. San Christopher Mountain, lying ten miles to his left, reflects the warm afternoon sun. Lines of light mix, producing intricate and colorful textures. He is wearing the clothes of a pilgrim, a hooded robe and sandals. On his right is Lake Teresa, the main water source for the City of Twelve. It is a good five miles from the highway across the chaparral. The lake provides water for drinking, irrigation, and recreation. Forty miles long and seven miles at its widest, the lake is noted for its crystal clear, blue water. Its depth has been measured at six hundred feet. It is a haven for wildlife, both in the water and on the shores. The drought resistant chaparral gradually changes to towering evergreens, which form a half mile border around Lake Teresa.
Its major tributary Green River, like all the water which the lake receives, flows down from San Christopher Mountain Range where huge sheets of snow begin melting in the spring. Part of the moisture from the spring melting rises into the dry air, forming clouds which the wind pushes eastward across the temperate zone of Lake Teresa. There is a delicate ecologic balance here, but one which has held for hundreds of years.
This is the reason for the City of Twelve's existence and success, in spite of the official exaggerations cranked out by the chamber of commerce. All of the City of Twelve's amenities and renown are based solely upon a delicate balance with nature.
John arrives at the gate in the force field that surrounds the City of Twelve, protecting it from all its potential opponents. The gate is more ceremonial than functional. On both sides stand two guard towers, reaching twenty feet into the air and glaring brightly. The force field, because it reflects some light, contrasts with its slightly darker background. Between the towers he can see the City of Twelve with its half million people, and rising slightly above is the dome of the Shrine built upon a small knoll in the center of the city.
After his ID is verified, he walks among the smells of many flowers, which bound each side of the highway. Soon the highway leaves the fields of flowers and enters a grove of tall trees. Both the fields and grove are part of the City of Twelve's natural habitat program. One hundred percent of its yearly budget is devoted to maintaining an environment conducive to all living creatures. The City of Twelve's Department of Nature watches closely the delicate natural balance, hoping to nip in the bud any signs of imbalance. The citizens use their natural habitat for keeping their contact with the source of life.
The highway now goes through a meadow and some marshes. Bird songs float in the air. The sounds of meadow and marsh, of grove and field, ease the walker into a calm and open frame of mind, yet one where awareness is sharp and alert, not tense and anxious. The city wants one to enter in this fashion, leaving weapons and paranoia at the gate. No one in the city has weapons, except for the defenders who carry them only at times of emergency.
There are few crimes in the city; most are simple assault and battery caused by an intense argument. And there are many arguments, for the people are all agreed upon the need for freedom of speech, opinion, religion. Yet there are certain beliefs that cannot be challenged or criticized. One of those beliefs concerns the Shrine which houses all of the City of Twelve's religious denominations. There is no written law against criticizing the Shrine, for the law is imprinted in the citizen's heart. Woe be to one who strikes at the Shrine, verbally or physically, for the citizens will destroy the offender unless the defenders arrive in time. The defenders will then escort the offender to the gate and send him on his way.
Some citizens are not members of any of the twelve denominations, and so there is a special room in the Shrine for those citizens. The Shrine houses more that those thirteen sacred rooms; it also houses the city administration in four wings which radiate out from the center. Often, personal ambition makes clouds of tension and conflict arise between those in the center and those in the wings.
The highway now goes by residences and market plazas, craft and trade shops, and three story buildings into the plaza surrounding the Shrine.
John stops two blocks before the highway opens onto the plaza. At the Eagle Tavern he finds lodging, a small room with its single window facing the morning sun. After a three day journey he is tired and dirty, but a warm shower makes him feel whole again. He comes to the City of Twelve as pilgrim and witness. He has a message to deliver to the Shrine and a message to receive. Yet, he will also immerse himself in the city's gestalt and record his impressions. The Assembly of Yod will then interpret the message he returns with in light of his impressions. He has been given no secret knowledge; he relies only on his previous experiences in the City of Twelve, that and his trust in God.
John is awake at sunrise. He mixes and drinks a glass of dragon's milk (dry milk, brewer's yeast, wheat germ, bran and carob). The water of the city is noted for its taste and vitality; it gives the dragon's milk an extra lift. He stands at the open window, breathing deeply of the clean, morning air.
Out onto the street with his kit slung over his shoulder, John walks into the plaza and strolls along its three mile circumference. He notices people on their way to work, for here time is measured by natural cycles and the work to be done, not by a clock. There are few cars out on the plaza's boulevard. All cars in the city are small and electric powered vehicles with a top speed of twenty-five miles per hour. They are primarily for hauling materials. The cars seat two people and have a large carrying space in the rear. Most of the time the people just walk.
After completing his walk around the plaza, he pauses and reflects. There is something--something he cannot put his finger on--something that requires further watching. It is not exactly the people, nor the vehicles or buildings: is it the light? Whatever, there is something here.
John goes into the Shrine. The Shrine is the name not only for the building but also for the Holy Room in the center of the building. Around this latter Shrine radiate twelve sacred rooms, one for each denomination. The thirteenth sacred room, the one for those who are not members of the Twelve, is across the corridor from the Shrine. It was many generations after the twelve tribes had built the city that some citizens desired a thirteenth denomination. And so a thirteenth sacred room was added to the Shrine. But because the people's respect for the Shrine was so great, they could not alter its basic structure. So one of the waiting rooms was cleansed and turned into the thirteenth sacred room.
John is ushered into one of the waiting rooms. He has made an appointment for a visit to the Shrine. He sits down and waits. He relaxes into stillness and cautiously pokes at the atmosphere in the room where eight others also wait. What is that? Something. There it is again, but too fleeting to catch a hold of.
Numbers light up, and four people leave the room. Each waiting room can have no more than twelve occupants at one time. Each visitor is assigned a number and a waiting room. Seven minutes are allowed for one to be alone in either the Shrine or one of the thirteen sacred rooms. If one wants more time, then he must receive permission from the Office of the Inner One.
Number eleven lights. John gets up and goes out into the hall. A man hurrying down the corridor nearly collides with him. There is something about his face. The man seems about to speak.
"What is it?" John asks.
"Nada." And the man hurries on.
Nada. Hmm. John has felt a quality of fear exuding from the man. That is something.
He goes into the Shrine's antechamber. The door to the Shrine is lying horizontally, rather than vertically, in the wall. He walks up the wall a few steps, opens the door and enters the Shrine.
The morning sunlight showers over him. It warms his body. Taking off his kit, he sits on the cushion in the center of the Shrine. He glides into the still point and expands into a shower of light. He floats, rolling over slowly, feeling the light enter his whole body. And time is no more.
He projects his message: "Hear us, Living Light, and answer our prayers. The Assembly of Yod wants to build a new gravity dam. Shall we do it or not?" He is aware of each molecule in his body as the Living Light caresses it. A still, small voice says, "The dragon devours itself."
John feels the cushion beneath him. It is cool and dry. The first part of the mission is accomplished. Now he must become a total witness to the City of Twelve, and there is something here needing a witness.
He goes to the door, which is lying horizontally in the wall. Walking up the wall a few steps, he opens the door and leaves.
He wonders how the Assembly of Yod will interpret God's words "The dragon devours itself." He is against the plan to build a new gravity dam, for they already have enough energy for their purposes. And he sees no need for a surplus of energy. Besides, a gravity dam can change the reality of the environment, and those changes are very unpredictable.
Those wanting a new gravity dam have one reason; they want to change the reality of their community. John takes the opposing position that any reality change should come from one's inner self, and that is why he is sent as pilgrim to the Shrine.
The plaza is now bustling with people. Children are playing in the park. John walks into the park and sits on an unoccupied bench. He opens to the City of Twelve, his mind busily recording tiny impressions. There is something--like an invisible fog--something that obscures. Then it hits him. The city is out of focus. But why? Aren't they aware of what is wrong?
He leaves the park and strolls around the plaza. Perhaps, he can identify the cause of this--this something. He enters a pub and finds a table in the back of the room where he can observe unobtrusively. Here, where people are crowded together, is the definite odor of fear. People hold back as if they may stumble. Where does this fear originate, from within the city or from without?
He listens to conversations. Always something is implied without being mentioned; always something is hinted at or assumed but never named. Always people glance to their left when nearing the unnamed. His conversation with the waiter pays him with trivia, except for the reception of one word "nada," when he asks about the affairs of the city. Nada. Nothing. But there is something, something that has closed doors!
Leaving the pub, John walks throughout the City of Twelve, talking with people, absorbing impressions. Back in his room he reflects upon his experiences that day. The nada is something, and it is tagged with fear. The origin seems to be outside the city beyond the force field. But what out there can bring terror into the hearts of the people, can disrupt their focus, he does not know. So he decides to stay another day and visit a sacred room. But which one, he will decide at the proper moment.
The morning sun shines on him as he enters the Shrine. He will visit the seventh room. Going in, he notices an opaqueness to the light, a lack of clarity. Searching his memory, he visualizes last year's pilgrimage when he journeyed for his own purpose. The opaqueness is new since last year. A nada that produces real effects has come into existence.
He leaves the sacred room, and when he steps out onto the plaza, a wrongness clutches him. It tears at his heart; fear seeps in. Then it is gone. A nada. He realizes that at any moment this can happen again but probably will not until he least expects. Then its fiery claws will tear and burn. And the people of the City of Twelve live daily in this mental space. No wonder things are out of focus. Who can talk about it? Who can name it? Just nada.
He needs to witness nada again, but from a safe position. He walks into the park and finds a secluded place. Sitting on the grass, he puts himself into a meditative state where he can move into the still point quickly. He stops thinking about nada and concentrates on his journey back to the Assembly of Yod. Does God say yes or no to the gravity dam? How will the community interpret the riddle? He knows that three members of the community have gained recognition for their ability to discover hidden meanings in the words of God. Two of them lean toward building a new gravity dam. Teme, the third one, has not indicated any preference. John thinks about their personalities, and in particular that of Teme. Always keeping a distance from the daily affairs of the community, Teme is regarded with great respect and is noted for her wisdom.
Then it strikes. His emotions are a burning water that flows through his mind; his thoughts are jumbled. He lets go of his thoughts and jumps into it feet first. It is opaque and gooey, but he can move around in it. He floats through an icy corridor, being pulled by some unknown force. He comes out at Lake Teresa. He floats slowly above the lake. People are on the shore and out in boats. Everything looks normal.
He circles Lake Teresa several times before he sees it, nada. That is the best name for it, nada. It is an energy vacuum. Energy is pulled in and disappears; more energy follows. The amounts of lost energy are minute; but still, if the quantity increases greatly, the City of Twelve will collapse. The City of Twelve will be totally destroyed, nothing left but a large, empty space, a nada.
The energy vacuum is originating at the gravity dam. Of course, gravity flow is changed at the dam, and from the change energy is produced. It is that energy which generates the force field surrounding the City of Twelve, which gives it light and heat. Yet small amounts of that energy are leaking into nada and disappearing from this reality.
Certainly now, with his recorded impressions of the energy vacuum the Assembly of Yod will vote against a new gravity dam. And the two existing ones must be investigated. Before he leaves the City of Twelve, he will mail a letter, describing his experience, to the Office of the Inner One.
John sat back in his chair, feeling satisfied. Mary had won her third game of the match. It was now three even. She played a brilliant game, making a queen sacrifice at the seventeenth move. And with Morphy-like directness she went straight to mate; Sam Runner did not have a chance. There was no fear in her play tonight; she was at the center throughout the whole game. John wondered what music she was listening to during this game.
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