Reality Inspector, chapter 3
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
Copyright © 1982 John Caris
Five p.m. and government employees were beginning to leave the Mint. Perched upon a rocky base, the Mint appeared like a mountain fortress or temple, especially when viewed from Market Street. But its entrance was at the top of the hill on Hermann Street--133 Hermann to be exact.
John Ocean parked his car in front of the entrance. The first thing that he noticed when he approached the building was a large sign that stated "U.S. Government Property, No Trespassing." The sign stood above a low, stone wall, which was broken by a sidewalk leading to the entrance. The sidewalk, however, had been barred by an immovable gate. Glancing to his right, he noticed a driveway and a guardhouse. As he walked up to the guardhouse, a security guard stepped from the small building. After John told him that he had an appointment with Mr. Acorn, he waited while the guard phoned in a clearance check. When the guard waved approval, he walked to the entrance. The security system was certainly working, at least at this point.
A strange feeling caught John as he entered the Mint. Somewhere down below him was ZAC. Hidden from public eyes deep in its tomb, ZAC communicated with other computers throughout the U.S. and perhaps the world. Yet an outside power was now infiltrating ZAC; its closed system was leaking.
He stood in the lobby and glanced about. A security guard came up to him and, after verifying his identity, ushered him into the office of Mr. Acorn, who then escorted him to room 103 where he was given an ID. They took a special elevator, which had only one stop, down to the lowest level. Several people were waiting as the door opened; the day shift was leaving. John looked through the glass walls into ZAC's living room. The night shift was already on the job; human figures seemed to flow past the glass walls. Opposite the door was a security post; two guards watched not only the people behind the glass wall but also those who were entering or leaving.
John put his ID into a slot in the turnstile and waited until the gate opened and the ID popped out. Mr. Acorn followed him into the room. The sounds and lights were impressive, at least for a first visit. But it was not quite like his image, which was perhaps too science fictionish. He immersed himself in this light-sound environment during Mr. Acorn's instructive tour. One part of his mind was filing away the data that Mr. Acorn was telling him, but his conscious part was experiencing the new location. What were the vibes? Where were the negative and positive places? He sensed a quality of turmoil around the computer printout and keyboard terminal.
Oh, yes, Mr. Acorn was saying good night. And what were the names of the three attendants? Well, no worry; he would remember when necessary. Taking a chair, he placed it in a spot which had good feelings. The room, about forty feet long, was rectangular. The chair was placed about ten feet from one end and halfway from each side. He sat down on the chair.
Relaxing his body, he focused on some moving tapes ten feet away. Could he count the number of revolutions per second as da Vinci had counted the flutterings of a bird's wing? His senses were focused on the room's presence. He tasted it, smelled it, touched it. A tangy and slightly pungent flavor, he thought. The turmoil around the printout and keyboard terminal was only the impression left by different attendants, like superimposing several voice prints.
At first the attendants, curious about his strange behavior, gave John sidelong glances. They had been briefed; yet for someone to sit so still--it was different--the quietness of the seated figure.
John opened his awareness and felt the many layers of the room's presence. There were four distinct levels that he could associate with the colors blue, white, yellow, and red. What those dimensions referred to he did not know yet, but by morning he hoped to have some answers.
ZAC faced him with glass walls in between. The two doors into ZAC's suite were used by the attendants who groomed the computer: a queen bee in her compartment with her grooms. And was he her drone? He turned the analogy over in his mind. The bee's dance was an intelligent use of language. Communication could occur in many ways. Could he communicate with ZAC without the use of the keyboard? That was the challenge.
The terminal was of no use at that moment. He needed to go beneath the surface, to find the real ZAC. As he would with a human client, John wanted to find ZAC's essential part, its basic self, its soul. Descartes had said that the pineal gland was the main point of interaction between the human soul and its body. John had recently discovered that Descartes' idea had some truth, for the pineal gland was an important center for the soul's growth. In lower vertebrates it was a light receptor that seemed to affect certain bio-chemical cycles.
Did ZAC have a place that was analogous to the pineal gland? John decided to search for the computer's aura. Focusing his eyes on a point that was a few inches beyond his nose, he scanned ZAC's front side. He noticed a glow that grew bright and then dimmed; it flickered and quivered like a flame. Now he began to feel ZAC's presence. Grabbing hold of that feeling, he concentrated on it. Slowly, he sensed the feeling unfold, as a flower opened or an acorn sprouted. The oak tree grew from an acorn; the seed gave birth to the adult form. And the alien program--from what seed did it sprout? Who was the sower and who, the harvester? That was what he must discover.
His whole awareness was now filled by sounds, a polyphonic chorus of many frequencies. At first it was somewhat cacophonous; then different voices began to harmonize. Yes, voices. That was it. Could he hear the sounds as one voice? He remembered the time when Mary and he had traveled through Canyon de Chelly in Arizona. He had noticed a distinct contrast between the sounds of the car's engine and the environment. The engine seemed to speak. And for awhile he had thought that he understood what the engine was saying. It was not anything that he could put into words; it was just a different language, one that he was only then learning and so could not translate yet. And that's what real learning was, he thought--direct experience--immersion in the pond of life.
As he sat in the chair, the polyphonic sounds became one voice, ZAC's voice. There were many overtones in that voice, and they changed relative to each other. Sometimes the mixture changed frequently, and at other times it remained constant. Movement and rest, on and off---that was similar to brain waves in human beings. He turned off his thoughts and expanded his awareness: floating and undulating movement, soft and upward curving movement. Suddenly, tingles and gimbles shook the web. Sharp angles appeared and quickly became fluid textures.
Time disappeared. No part of his awareness was measuring anything. It was just being.
John turned around and looked at the clock. It was midnight. Seven hours he had been there. It was time for a break. Opening his attache case, he retrieved a cheese and cashew butter sandwich. With coffee from the dispenser, he settled back for a little repast. He recollected his experience of the past seven hours. ZAC definitely had its own language, which was different from the language of its program. But could he learn it so that they could communicate? Could ZAC tell him how the alien program continued to reappear?
Yes, ZAC, he whispered, where is the alien seed that grows into the inaccurate data? Are you aware of its existence, ZAC?
Just as he noticed that the graveyard shift was taking over, time disappeared. A still, small voice said to him--listen: he heard sounds that became ZAC, ZAC. Yes, ZAC was stating its name. So he thought his. It was a proper beginning.
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