|.|| Clearly Marked Fiction ..
by Michael W. Pearson
Are you breathing okay? Please stay with me awhile.
Soon we shall take a journey and find pleasure of a high sort.
We shall find all or most of freedom, rest and salvation.
They of your memories may be waiting for us in the place we are going. Shall we go a little way while you decide?
We enter the flow of this river now; here is an oar for you. We’ll go downstream for the ride and explore a wilderness of letters and numbers~ everything else may be there too.
They were there, last time I was here. The atmosphere may become crushingly heavy at times, but we'll emerge stronger for it. Just go lightly and you’ll be fine. As we go higher, the river will rise to carry us through. Things may get deep, but we have snowshoes in the boat. Just think for them. Now we are entering the current. We’re passing the bend, as you can see. Notice how cool the water is, and how beautiful the mountain scenery will be? This river is special: the beauty is more than the danger. How are you doing so far? Please allow me to explain a few features we’re passing; there might be no chance further downstream. There are rapids ahead, and a modest falls. This day we shall fly, and swim, and see friends -- true and fictional, and a little danger. See? There is the tributary of digression. Let’s take a look. You’ll see what you are looking for. As we pull to shore, I should mention our final stop will be back in the sleep of everyday life....unless you decide to stay in this wilderness, or go even further. How about telling me about yourself? Okay, how about telling me along the way as we go? When we separate, we’ll both keep talking, okay? I want to know if you feel as I do on this trip. Wait, please don’t go. This is not a ridiculous game~
The place we’re going is more than grand. We’ll be liberated with the option of becoming prisoners again. You’ll see what it’s about. You’ll be showing me, and everyone, without working at it. I guess you know a lot already. That’s one reason I need you.
Here’s the mouth of Digression. The land downstream washed into the River of Time here as floating soil, from the little ravine of digression, and flowed a ways and picked up soil and made solid ground. Flood season carried the most digression.
Up to here the River of Time is crystal clear; then this muddy little stream enters in. This whole trip we’ll be seeing ground which was in this ravine, long, long ago. The supply of digression seems endless, and maybe it’s a good thing. The world downstream would probably all be under the waters of time, without the digression.
There’s a cave up on the hillside of this valley. See? Up there. I believe it may be a holy place. I’ve thought of living there. It’s plenty big, maybe endless. We will go look at it on the way back if you want. It’s worth seeing. I’m not joking. It's the top of the journey. There’s a reason we’ll go there last, which I’ll tell you right soon. See how the trees look here? In this valley, some trees are family trees, and some are flow charts, and some are stories.
Most began as normal trees, but the soil of digression makes them change. Oh, see that one waving its boughs a little funny? I think it wants to talk to us. "We’ll be in touch," it seems to say.
I don’t know sign language very well, do you? Okay, let's go. We have an appointment downstream, or down-path, later.
The first hour is sometimes a little rough. A flood comes through here hourly We want to be through the rapids before the next _____ If you want, I'll just write the rest of this so you can pay attention to the wilderness and read this between the lines. And so we can hear the birds.
The sky starts changing here. This is strange country. We’re entering a big wide plain around that bend. There'll be lots of animals. Now, if you and I get separated, you don’t have much to worry about. I hope we don’t get separated permanently until we get back to the beginning.
I don't know where other people go when they need a moment, just to think. If you must, send someone with a message.
And you can always meet me where you saw me last. This place as seems to work that way. Don't believe You can't find me. Really, you can go where you want. Be sure to visit the cave if you can, before we’re through, although I hear, people find themselves at the cave through some whirlpool in the river. Ah, here it is: the Land of the Living. We’re entering an area called the Majesty of Physical Life. Most of the stories start here. Last time I came through here the boat swelled up and lots of people came on board, or I boarded their boat: It was hard to know from whence they came. All their stories were tangled like vines and bore fruit, wherever vines crossed each other. About the cave. I saw it my first time through before I went downstream here, but I couldn’t understand it. After I made the whole trip and went back, though, I understood. Maybe you’re more able than I. But we need to get through the rapids pretty soon, anyway. We’ll be an hour or two going through this main stretch of wilderness, depending on the pace of the river. Generally, the water speeds up and the rapids start where those mountains rise on the horizon. We'll be there much sooner than it looks, I think. I hope. I’m going to stop writing and concentrate on reality for a while, because it gets tricky around here. If you hear me muttering, it's because They’re like that on this plain. I guess I’ll be hearing you too. The solid things around us here are built of digression, and everyone’s thoughts wiggle around on the airwaves looking for which way to go; we can hear whoever’s in the boat with us. They should be arriving any moment. Remember: pleasure and a little danger. The freedom, salvation and rest are after the rapids. Shall we talk later?
Well now! Here come the people, and the other life forms. Wow! There are millions of them! (Is this a dream? I am pleading with someone who may not be listening. All I said was these ideas (what ideas?) are an alphabet and belong to everyone. The things each one builds with them, though, should begin their journey as that one’s things, to give or trade. Maybe the answer comes later. Does this make sense?)
Are you here? Which one are you? I don’t seem to recall your face. Which one am I?
We are at a table. The food is wonderful. Two of us have red wine in glasses. Two of us abstain. The woman is beautiful. The oldest man is speaking. We are listening, hands on smooth napkins, sweet music softly around us. A voice behind us drifts in. “The bus leaves in ten minutes,” says the loudspeaker, not very loud. The old man continues: “. . . Hasn’t it. Life has been wonderful to me. . . to all of us. Now, I agree we have lived wisely to obtain our good fortunes. Still, we have within us the power to do something wonderful for the Age in which we are living. . .
“Look at me. Look at all of us. We have the time no one else has,
|.|| since the Draftin Foundation took over our duties. We are, each of us, splendidly well educated. Between us we could found a small civilization and preserve the highest values in engineering, commerce and culture without spending half our money. Will we die without doing something fitting for our place in the whole grand marketplace? I mean something giant, something magnificent.” He paused, and waited.
“Bravo, will spoken,” said Ralley, lightly applauding. He is little tipsy, and begins to gently slide the two dinner candles closer together. The candles are emigrants from the gift shop at Mrs. Altho’s Wax Reenactments. Their elegant layers of color have retired after numerous appearances in wax dramas.
“I do hope you believe we are going to do something like that,” said Sharry Melton-Arthurs, “And we will finally begin doing it.” She seems to mean what she says. Talley leans over and kisses her lightly on the cheek, and she lets him, because he is a little tipsy. He needs her help after dinner, he hopes. “The question is, what will be grand to plan, and what will be truthful to intend,” said Chandler Dromedally. “And I have a suggestion.”
“Which I will place on the agenda,” said the oldest. “Let’s hear mine first.”
“Let’s skip all the roadblocks and holdups and hear the main part up front then,” Chandler almost snapped, then finished mildly, “My idea is so majestic it will cease to be mine as soon as you three agree. Why? Because no one of us could do it alone. Only the four of us. . . “
He paused, frowned a little. “The bus leaves in ten minutes? -- What confounded bus? Did you hear that. . . ?”
No, three of us said. Oh, yes, five minutes ago. That’s strange. A bus? No matter. But it did matter, and we began talking about it.
A digression. And the dinner candles seemed to sense an opportunity to talk among themselves. Without flaring up they finished a story one of them had begun.
Someone is writing by candlelight, in a cavern beneath a city, just before the year 200 A.D. Someone came knocking. . . Their breathing sounded frenzied through the door. Wavery stopped writing for a moment and shielded his candle. The pounding became harsh. Wavery answered, his voice breaking with despair, “Who is it?” He knew. This old man knew. . .
No answer came, but the crude, wide, splintery door burst into dust with little sound. And there was the one Wavery had seen before. It was Death in full costume, and Wavery was not ready to die. He was not finished yet with his life’s work. “Wait!” he cried. Death waited, enjoying Its’ moment of triumph. Wavery snatched up his manuscript.
“I’m waiting,” said the mocking visitor. “Oh, why do you put yourself through this,” It laughed. “Read this,” said Wavery. “It’s almost finished,” he said coaxingly. “You may like it; let me finish,” pleaded Wavery. “It does you no harm.”
“Does me no harm,” minced Death sarcastically. “Tell me something we both know and one of us forgot!” Death’s huge spiked tongue sprang out and poised for attack.
Wavery began to cry on his robed arm, and waved the papers at Death. “Read it!” he pleaded once more, weeping, enraged, like the other time. The times he had almost finished redrawing the plans for a Bridge to Heaven, which could transport all in freedom, embrace all. . . All, in Love.
The liar, Death, shook a grim finger at Wavery’s seeming cowardice and attacked the old man, like the other times.
The Bridge!. . . on paper, spinning with Earth and circling the Sun on its voyage on the River of Time. Floating in a foam of star droplets in a galaxy of traveling souls.
“Read it,” murmured Wavery, broken on the floor. Death answered with spiked tongue. Wavery spoke no more, was dying. “Nothing personal,” said Death. “I hope you’ll forgive me. You know,” It said, dipping the manuscript into the candle flame, “If you would stick with normal subjects, you’d live longer. You bring it upon yourself. You should know by now that I control everything and everyone beyond the frontiers of thought.”
Wavery appeared to be dead now, but a quiet, strong voice come up from the floor, “No, you do not. Everyone you have taken will find salvation.” Death raised an eyebrow. Then, as the papers burned in Death’s hands, Death’s puzzlement grew. Because where a hole burned in the last page, a light unlike flame was beaming an image to the rough stone wall. An image of a door, with writing on it. Death could read the writing, in faint but clear symbols:
Death withdrew its tongue. A hollow knocking sounded above, and Death looked up. Water had condensed on the stone ceiling, and dripped into Death’s hard eyes, and changed Its vision a little. A slight moan escaped the shrouded character. Death went home to suffer, as though that were perfectly necessary and normal.
She finally had to put the book aside, at 1:30 a.m. Her elbows were hurting from leaning on one, then the other. “Sleepy time,” she said to Claudia, the cat who had just jumped up beside her. She looked out the window as she shut off the lamp, and just then a lightning rock careened across the sky, within the frame. “Did ya see that?” she asked Claudia.
“Meow,” said the cat after a few moments, and laid upon the soft bedding.
“Right,” said the woman, and rolled into a resting pattern. She was ten miles from the vast bright downtown, where someone without a cat was packing his car for a final search for rest.
Night into day. Jisella Druthers called her new business partner on the intercom. “Bez, I’m out til four. How’s everything going?” Bezaire Mardel arrived in the doorway with folders, his first project for the office. “It’s all done,” he said, setting the folders on her desk, smiling. “I hope you have a big project for next week, because I’m pretty well caught up.”
“I’m thinking of taking a few days off next week,’ said Jisella. “You can look over the Happy Nappy project; we have some wiring to do for Mr. Lasting on that one. The sooner you can take over Happy Nappy the better. I need that time off. We’ll talk about it tomorrow, how’s that sound? We’ll have the place to ourselves; no one calls on Saturdays. How’s that sound?”
“Okay, great.” Bezaire’s face showed concern. Miss Druthers, formerly Mrs. Powers, was looking more tired by the hour. As she gathered her things to leave, Bezaire added, “Oh, and Jisty, the folder on top arrived by messenger a few minutes ago. I looked at the note inside the cover and I had to ask the messenger who it was from and who it was for. She said someone on the street paid her to deliver it here, and it looked okay, so she agreed. Want to look it over? It’s from a Mr. Wavery, or Wavery Something, the messenger said.”
“Okay, Bez. And since we’re working tomorrow, shall we beat the traffic and call it a Friday?”
“I’ll hang on another half hour or so,” said Bez. He smiled and waited for a reply. Jisella smiled gently through her tiredness and reached for the top folder Bez had brought in. “See you,” said Bez, winking, and he walked back to his office. When he sat down he realized how tired he was too.
At fifteen ‘til three, Jisella was looking blankly at a folder on the desk in front of her. She looked for a yawn to have some air, trying to remember how she had become so tired. Her years of sixty hour weeks did not bubble up in her memory. What she remembered was trying to cross a river against a stiff current. She had hardly touched her lunch. She had meant to go home around two o’clock, but changed her plans to do what need doing -- for the business. She had always aimed to serve high purposes, and this company did that.
At ten ‘til three, Jisella was flipping the cover of the folder gently open an inch or two as she recharged herself. She was picturing herself as a country girl. She felt like moving to a storybook world where she could lie in the grass under a tree after morning chores are done. She and her guy were together four years. Separating hadn’t hurt much, so they divorced. She felt swollen and tired since then, sometimes, though she looked healthy in the mirror. In six months since he moved cross-country, she had lost some of her insulation from the world’s raw pains. . . and lost ten pounds without needing to lose any. Why hadn’t things turned out better? At thirty-three, she was changing like a young child, learning a new way of seeing life. At five ‘til three she opens the folder gently to see a few thick, yellow-edged pages. The paper looks touched by a light rain shower. A thumb-size smudge overlaid with a plus sign marks the upper right corners. Short paragraphs stitch the paper in a sideways weave, in simple and elegant script. The words are in English, but for a moment they looked like some other language. We Shall make the whole of Humankind weep for joy and relief from the farthest places in our Bodies, and find Holy Joy on the Bridge to Heaven. Jisella halted. Should I read this? It’s time to go to my appointment with Doctor Trimost. This must belong to someone. Two Creations Whose writing is this? Oh, it’s probably a trick of some kind. She reads one more paragraph.
There are two Creations: one of senses and one of thought. Thought is the fictional Creation, like a floating platform for building and repairing the Creation of Living Truth.
She read the first paragraph again and sighed. She closed the cover slowly and rose slowly with the folder in hand. “I think I’ll take you home and spend some time with you, how’s that sound?” she said thoughtfully. She called her analyst to say she’d be right over. Picking up her things, she walked out for the fifteen minute trip to his office on the 12th floor of the Troposphere Building.
“Ah-HA!” yelled Death into the empty black sky at his home. “You’re trying it again. I told you to leave those living things alone!” From somewhere or nowhere, a courteous voice responded: Death tried to trace the source as it listened.
“I am only telling them stories, as you told me a story just now about leaving them alone.” Wavery’s familiar voice sounded renewed.
Death spoke from the eye of Its angry little hurricane, “Why don’t you just tell them the truth?”
“The truth in words leaves us still in fiction, ready to begin something,” said Wavery, from somewhere out there. “Every true thing you have said is fiction also; how we live the fiction makes our truth alive.”
Death snorted mockingly, “What a surprise to find I’ve been wrong all these centuries.”
“Why worry,” asked Wavery. “Now that you know this, maybe things are going to be better than you’ve expected up to now.”
“I already know how things are,” declared Death, wishing he hadn’t pretended to concede, seeing Wavery advance. “Might as well change our thinking,” said Wavery. “Why should our bodies, which are substantial, change more than our minds?” “I already know what belongs in the mind, and you’re way off,” Death snarled with finality.
“Wonderful,” said Wavery. “How about witnessing this whole story, and then tell me how I have strayed?”
“I’m telling you now, you’re too far gone to salvage. I must destroy you to protect the minds of my chosen ones from all these tricks.”
“In that case, pal, I agree with your goals, but your methods seem harsh and misdirected.” Wavery’s voice seemed to wiggle in space, and Death still could not trace it.
Death’s voice became husky with ridicule: “Oh, you should be paying me to listen to this much.”
Wavery saw a cup extended, in a manner of speaking, and poured into it, “Should I pay you for allowing me to serve you this food for thought?”
Death shot back quickly, “When the food is this bad, you should thank me for destroying it.”
“I’ll try to do better,” said Wavery. “Meanwhile, take all you want. Take it with you, and see if it won’t improve with age, like wine, or friendship.”
Death sniffed the bouquet of the fictional wine offered by Wavery and estimated the year it would be ready. Without answering the offer, Death launched into a loophole toward the year 1054 A.D.
“Take it easy, buddy,” Wavery said gently. “Won’t you give up disbelief even for a few minutes?” Hearing only silence, Wavery went back to his work.
Introducing. . . Oh, He’s Leaving
A strange Winter and Spring had passed, with much sunshine and not enough rain. Many in Lemkin’s adopted city were without jobs, and Lemkin gave up his job because he had things he’d rather do, he told four people. Four other people knew his next few days would be wonderfully adventurous. But even they knew only part of the ear-popping scenario.
On his last night, he packed his weathered sedan with his sparse belongings, working alone past the time for closing taverns along his block. The next morning, Lemkin was retreating to the forest. Five months ago he had taken a small room in a coastal metropolis and set about becoming a famous writer. He had much to say, plenty of interest, he thought, plenty helpful. He planned to churn out prizewinning novels, brilliant essays, and other stuff, and then go camping.
Alas, the traffic noise, days at the zoo, and the refrigerator made the weeks pass faster than his pen on paper. He began to see good writing is harder than it looked. He was running out of money, and piling up a few inspired pages. Finally, he decided to embark on the second stage of his plan, and go camping. He traded his solid car for a fleeting one and some cash to keep him going a few more weeks. He felt the sedan he received fit him well; both of them looked a little worried, but only when the light was just right. Otherwise they both looked pretty cheerful. He drove for eight hours across the scenes of this age; he saw mountains, desert and mountains again. For a while he began to forget the noisy asphalt and steel setting of his disillusionment. Only hours ahead were fascinating people he would meet and events that would astonish him. Lemkin did not know these facts. What he did know was he intended to force the issues of life with himself, by going into the wilderness alone. His innocence allowed him to believe it might work. Lemkin’s imagination made his future meeting with dusty country roads and calls of nature into a showdown with death. He ate on the road, and crumbs clung to ledges on his shirt. He was in his early or late twenties; it was hard to tell what age he was trying to be. Lemkin had the experience of age, with times of driving truck, lifting barrels, and flipping pancakes for his keep. But most of life was still ahead. He had solved the riddle of existence; now he was looking into saving the world. As he drove, he rehearsed a melodramatic journal entry, whipping himself with folly for having been foolish. It tickled. “I am Lemkin. I leave this tiny apartment empty. I close the door and walk through the rain to my car. “I drive for miles through the smoky traffic, past the thousands of boxes where people live, away from the clutter of proud human achievement. I am relieved to leave behind the last suburb. Now the highway is lined with trees. “I will never go back to the city. I could not find a job. They did not want me. I am good enough but they did not care. I was one of thousands who wanted to earn their keep, but only a few were chosen. “No, that’s silly,” said Lemkin. He began to sing songs since the car had no radio. Then he made a speech as if to a gathering of dolphins wearing earphones plugged into a cross-species translator. He wondered if the earphones were necessary. “There must be a way,” he reassured them, “To fish for the other species without catching so many of you in our nets. The other fish just don’t seem to mind as much as you do, with your intelligence. “No, that’s not quite sensible,” said Lemkin. “What can you tell me about it?” He waited for the translator to bring an answer. Meanwhile, he began humming and suddenly said, “I must make a note of that tune,” partly in jest. But he took out his pencil and scrawled on the notebook paper beside him, “a musical anthem for stirring fervor and loyalty to life.” Afternoon settled into evening as the slightly rusty sedan with slightly cracked windshield rolled over wet mountain roads. Lemkin’s long-clenched jaw began to relax as he tired. The endless highway droned in contrast to the wild changing scenery. Lemkin stopped for gas and then at a rest area where he ran around the far trees to wake himself up. His lungs were still nostalgic for the days before his casual smoking had begun. A mile up the road, Lemkin stopped for two women hitchhiking home to their small house along the highway, about twenty miles ahead. They’d been to an outdoor concert all day but left their car home, and their friend’s car had broken down. “I’m Symery, and this is my cousin-in-law, Plinker,” said the one climbing into the front seat. As they drove on, Lemkin found himself charmed by Symery, and when she smiled at him, her deep eyes turning pinwheels, he invited both of then along for the adventure. After much groundwork by Lemkin, Symery said she would go for one night. She was careful in her choice of adventures, and this would be a new high in boldness, camping out with a stranger. But he had made his karmic roots so clear she was sure she knew him already. It was like a storybook meeting. It was as if the two of them had a secret code from centuries past, and they had finally found each other. For one night of “good behavior.” Plinker was plainly upset in the back seat, and said so. “Symery, are you sure? Maybe he’d do better on his own. He said himself he’s going into the wilderness for prayer and fasting. Are you sure you want to interrupt him?” Lemkin answered, “Oh that was just one of my plans. I can do that another time. Besides, I’m always saying that. Being a failed writer, I’m casting about for a proper way to write the next paragraph.” Symery said, “It’s that little house right up there. I’ll go in and get my stuff, and you two can get to know one another, how’s that?” Plinker was sulking fiercely as they went inside. In the threadbare living room, Lemkin reassured Plinker and invited her again, saying,“Everything will be alright.” He was being a nice guy and was thinking of calling the whole thing off. He wouldn’t steal someone else’s girlfriend, even if that someone else was a girl too. “Oh, right, come to my one-minute emotional rescue,” snapped Plinker, hands defiantly on her hips and keeping her distance. “How’s your own trip going!” “Lighten up,” said Lemkin meekly, conscious of the territory. “You should be working somewhere, not running into the jungle,” she continued more than warmly. “It’s not even jungle, you lame-brained . . .” she let off her scolding, partly to mind her manners. “I bet your book will be like you. . . boring as hell.” “Yeah, people will probably. . . “he mumbled off. “Hey,” he said, “How about reading a little of my story and see what you think?” Plinky looked down the hall. “Sym, Sym-bo, are you almost ready? I can’t take much more of this guy. Okay, let me see it.” “Be out in a few minutes,” Symery called. She stepped into the hall and said, “How do you like these boots?” She had changed into tense trousers and held a muddy boot in each hand. “I just got these decorated this morning down by the creek,” she said lightly, peeling off a wet clod. “This is good creek-bed peat. My boots go through anything.” “Uh-huh, they look pretty adventuresome,” Lemkin said. “If we’re lucky, you might need them; maybe we’ll do some hiking.” He could see she was a little shy, but she was being really nice. She went back into her room. Plinker said, “Go get your story.” He brought in his second best one from the car. She placed it on the arm of the sofa and leaned over it while he tried not to watch. It began: “I was in my favorite place. An old injury was acting up. I was hungry for my favorite food. Just then a beautiful girl I recognized walked up to me. We talked happily. We left together and went to the mountains. We thought of sex but we kept talking. We cooked dinner and walked in the forest. She started acting funny somehow. I wondered if it were sexual tension. I could hardly believe that, since my body is built for a lower gravity world. I felt like a wimp compared to later after TV exercise program helped me straighten up. She walked out. I wondered why. I turned on the TV. Not really. We were in the woods. Besides, she wasn’t acting so funny. Not any funnier than I. We sat on the couch, on a log. We both leaned toward each other, and smiled sort of hilariously. . . “ “O-o-oh, this is go-o-d,” said Plinker, brandishing the story. Lemkin wondered if she meant it, He took no chance saying modestly, “I can rewrite it. That’s a rough draft.” “You already said so much,” she said. “Like you can see farther than I can.” “As Newton once said, ‘If I have seen far, it is because I have stood on the shoulder of giants.’ “Well, get down,” Plinker said helpfully. “Because for all your fine thoughts, most people only care if the story makes sense.” “And who will be the judge of that?” “How about the people who buy books? Or doesn’t their opinion count?” “Yes, but. . . “ She had him there, and he sent for reinforcements. “You’re right,” he started again. “But if the story doesn’t express my innermost purpose of being, what will I have done for my reader’s purpose? As the shining one, Buddha, has said, ‘One’s own self conquered is better than all other people.’” “Are you a Buddhist?” she asked kindly. Lemkin paused. This looked tricky. “I think the Buddha would still be friendly to me if I said I am his gentle reader. I am not in Buddha’s army, since he claims none. Will that do for you as well?’ Plinker lit into him unexpectedly. “Do you think you’re the only one who has these thoughts? Do you think they all emanate from you?” “Who, me?’ He rolled his eyes submissively. “No ma’am, I don’t make the truth; I just write stuff that sounds right and melt it together and pour it into molds.” Plinker looked disappointed. “Well, if it fails you can write a book about why your book failed,” “I’m willing to write a book like that.” “Well, good luck trying to make a living,” she broke off saying, “I have things to do,” and went back to her own room. Symery came out with her gear and some food, and they set off around sunset for the camp-out. Lemkin steered the car where she suggested since she knew these parts. Symery was quiet but cheerful along the way. By dark they were winding along a road beside a rushing river. He told her a story, and she smiled effectively. The story was of a man whose life got worse and worse. Finally he threw open the shutters on a night sky full of stars and walked right out among them. He is in a place with stars in every direction. They turned onto a one-lane road and kept going. The night seemed young, though it was pitch black under the fragrant pines that almost hung over the road. “What a breath of fresh air!” exclaimed Symery, opening her window and flying her arm in the wind. Lemkin and Symery went on, and Symery began to talk more. They talked bout childhood, intelligent whales and Lemkin’s problems. Symery said her life held few problems yet, and he wondered where she found the wisdom of her advice. Her advice seemed fine to him. She was warming his long dormant heart, seeing through his stage fright defenses to his all-out willingness. Her windblown hair seemed to wave at him from her shoulder, and her laughing eyes seemed an ocean of life. From the way she was smiling, he guessed he was acing pretty well too. As the road became rougher, with fallen branches and potholes, he told one more tale of his problems. “They knew I had potential. They knew I’d succeed some day and talk about it when I’m ninety. So they delayed me every way they can, and maybe they’ll never stop. Maybe they’ll just try to steal everything I ever do and try to make me a slave. Why should I even play their game. I mean,” he cast about for a metaphor, “Why even work the clay of creation. Do we just make clay pigeons for evil people to shoot?” “Don’t talk that way,” Symery said seriously. “Right, I should be telling them, not you,” Lemkin apologized. Symery said, “There’s a good campsite,” and he pulled off. She pulled his arm as he started to get out. “Look at me,” she said. “Why tell them they’re oppressive jerks when you can put them to work finding it out for themselves.” Lemkin bit his lower lip gently, thoughtfully. They built a small fire and she told him a memory from her far past. She was a baby of three or so and her family was in a room at night with only the outside twilight coming in through the window. They were all being quiet, talking bout God and Heaven. She saw visions of spirits and stars, and angels as yellowish, cream color light entities. She felt a stillness, a vibrant thoughtfulness, a breathy calm. . . He asked if he might write this down. “If you want,” she said. “Though if you want to make a living, you should write something people want to own, or admire, like a piece of furniture, like a reading light, or a floor cushion.” “Or a guitar,” he agreed. They kissed standing up, beside a smoldering fire, a long delicious embrace. Still, he was almost relieved when they crawled into their own sleeping bags. She was unsurprised; she took the lead. Still, the tent was small, and they warmed each other through the cloth, and dreamed a little. . . and the clouds rolled in over the treetops. The clouds told a story in whispers over Lemkin and Symery as they drifted into dreamland: About Earth and Sun, and their love affair, with Moon as a kind of mistress. No sex in this story: it was all flares, and lightning, radio and TV. They said they needed someone to write things down. Earth said Moon gives a nice massage. They all hope to be together again with the other stars and galaxies some day, however far into the future. Earth loves the feeling of Solar wind, and blushes at the poles, showing auroras now called Northern and Southern lights. A light rain began to fall on the tent in the forest. Sleeping, Lemkin clung to Symery lightly like a life raft that was plenty big. She slept more securely. This was her favorite campground, where she and Plinky and other friends often slept out and hiked a little. Lemkin began a strange dream he later remembered seemed to foreshadow the coming astonishment. He was aboard a ship on an ocean, at night. It was a futuristic Titanic, more like a yacht than a cruise ship, except it was immense. He climbed on a ladder which went from bow to stern over the top of the ship. Suddenly, as he expected, he was swimming in the ocean with the other passengers and crew, though he did not see them. He swam and swam, with no life jacket and no reason to hope. But he reached a tower rising above the water and climbed up to find a chest full of second-hand winter coats. He picked one his size and donned it, just as a cold rain and wind blew over him. He took that coat off and found one with a head cover, and put it on. He sat with his back to the wind and rain. There he was, atop a tower in the ocean at night, miles from land, in the rain with a chest full of winter coats. He wondered if he were safe, whether this was really happening or just a dream. He was answered by waking up. He was a little bleary for hours after that. Breakfast the next morning was brief, and that was unusual for Lemkin. Usually his camping trips ran short because the food ran low. But Symery’s company was more delicious than any camp fare, and she was the one who brought the food. As they washed the dishes, they talked about how to spend the day. They asked each other, “What did pioneers do?” for that was what they pretended to be. Up the road came Plinker. She parked and dismounted, anger flashing in her eyes. “Could you come over here a minute, Sym?” Behind the car they held animated council. “Blatey called me this morning at 5:30,” Lemkin heard Plinker say snappily, and Lemkin stopped listening. He finished putting out the campfire. Symery approached Lemkin gingerly, knees pointed slightly inward, tears in her eyes. “I have to go now, okay, Lemkin? Something’s come up, an old boyfriend. . . or something.” The last part slipped out like a sad accusation. “Can I be of any help?” said Lem. “Maybe,” she said, looking half shrewd, half disgusted. Plinker elbowed her, pulled her arm from behind. “Let’s go.” said Plinker kindly. “No, really, I better go,” said Sym, following her friend. Last night’s ocean rippled for a moment in her eyes. “I had a nice time, Lem-” her voice caught on the last syllable. “Maybe I’ll see you again sometime. Next year. Lemkin?” She looked deeply at him but coolly. He stood like a rock. A thick fog drifted around his lighthouse. For the last time Aerion looked out through the filtered porthole at the floating green and red cloud-swirled world that was Clover. “Farewell!” he breathed as a rush of sensation in the nerves of his brain paid tribute to memories of Clover. He waved out to all his friends, all his acquaintances and relatives on the planet below. Farewell to the plants and the animals, and the mini-forms, and the viruses. A long association of his chromosomes with all of theirs was ending. Aerion would be among the first of his kind to leave Clover for interstellar exploration. Thirty one people were “asleep” in “think tanks” to minimize the need for pressurized cabin space during the time jump. At the next port hole Zura was sending fond farewells through a trance state of directed bliss. Her large eyes were translucent; a tear trail crossed each cheek. Aerion and Zura met through the light of their eyes, and then pedaled their seats along the light track to the control panel. Their fingers touched spaces of light and the gray square come to life. It was the final message from Clover Space Center in Old Bodarna. The face of Thillers Chonbin came to them from the monitor room in mission control. Behind him were ninety men and women now watching their screens -- their active roles before launch fulfilled. Now they were seeing the faces of their astronauts for the last time on live transmission, assuming the last five time units of the countdown went through zero. Chonbin spoke: “Zura Sarpall, Aerion Jolpha, we wish you all the good fortune people can have out there. Have you anything to report?” “We are ready, the ship is ready up here; are you ready?” Aerion said, sounding almost like he had at end of childhood. “It’s been a pleasure knowing all of you; hope we can get together again somewhere soon, if not sometime,” Zura said in her rarest little girl voice. “Take care of yourselves,” Aerion added quietly. “Take care of Clover,” said Zura, with a touch of regret in her voice. “Be kind to the wild creatures, especially the wild Rilfers.” “We’ll standby now,” said another voice at the Space Center. “We await your next call; ‘course we’ll be slow answering from now on. But we’re with you all the way in spirit.” “Let’s get this show on the beam!” said someone over growing static. The ship named Ampala left its high orbit around Clover and went out to look for a job, in the galaxy. Back Then. . . 1054 A.D. The townspeople celebrated the sunny spring morning with its dewdrops in the grass. The medieval market booths held a good plenty of food and grain and cloth, for Winter had been kind. Wavery was there, standing under a tree. People played, danced, lay around on blankets. Jugglers and puppeteers showed some new fun, making people laugh. Musicians filled the air with their wood flutes and whistle songs, and strings a-plucking. They could not see Death, but it was there with them, in their own cells, and nearby in more personal form. Wavery could see Death by literal clues, enough to know It was behind the fabric, rustling impatiently. He shuddered. He wanted to warn the villagers but feared he might just spoil their happiness and draw Death’s horrible attention and wrath upon them. Could he recite his Truth well enough to protect them? Or would it be suicide to test too soon? The dilemma was too difficult and he gave up in favor of hope. A woman with a few teeth missing tugged at his robed arm, and he recognized her vaguely. “Hay, can you give me a hug and a kiss?” she said. She was such beaming, Wavery pulled her to him and hugged her with a thrill, kissed her forehead, then her mouth. She sang a lovely line from a local song and pulled to his side with her arm around his back. Wavery put off the question of Death for now. He remembered seeing her catch fish in the river and noticed she was often alone, though she seemed at home in the town. In his best accent he asked her name. “Mercedes,” she told him. “”S not really my name, it’s how I am. Since I was an orphan, I chose my own grown-up name. It’s my third name.” It seemed a little complex. “That’s like my name,” said Wavery. He hoped she’d stay with him a while, though he planned to leave by nightfall. Why? He sensed danger, and traveled often. Mercedes pulled him into the center of the booths where eight or nine other people were dancing, old and young. She showed him a short dance step and then they were both doing it, hand in hand. The milling crowd joined in and out of the dancing. Wavery looked into Mercedes’ eyes. Something she blinked moved his heart, and he felt the air warm his face. He’d looked into a woman’s eyes before, but not like this, had he? Something eternal welled up inside, more than mucus. It was as if she were as holy and vital to creation in her present form as he, Wavery, had promised and prayed to become. Is she so different from other women? he wondered as they danced, meeting eyes again. Suddenly she stood still, and tossed her gaze anxiously over his shoulder, and he looked behind him. Death! In a rare moment of clarity, Death hovered against the hillside above them. It grimaced like one forcing itself to follow cruel rules it had the right and power to change. Its mouth opened, and a disgusting spiked tongue spilled out and poised itself like a harpoon, like a deadly attack-parrot on Death’s shoulder. The music continued, the dancing continued, but Wavery felt the world shrink to a deep well with himself at the bottom and Death hurtling in toward him. Wavery closed one eyelid. The other eye saw Death stay Its own blow and stop Its rush. With a look of shame like a fiend fighting its first feelings of compassion, Death disappeared up the well and into the sky’s vast blue ocean. Wavery looked wide-eyed back at Mercedes then his eyes went even wider. Mercedes’ eyes glistened with sympathy but her face was a window to another place: a grand, roiling mural of creation. Wavery saw beauty in the mural, and the pain of strangers. He saw creation’s swirling canvass being tattered by attacks, and he heard millions of voices pleading in confusion and sorrow. For two or three seconds, Wavery’s heart and breath were squeezed by the vision of his eyes. Mercedes, or Someone, showed on her face a lifetime, a world, of past suffering and joy, mostly suffering. As her face replaced the mural, Mercedes herself smiled again through the receding pain at Wavery, still in some shock. “There’s Death, and their deaths,” she said, her smile becoming a memory. “I poured my whole self into Creation.” Had anyone else seen her? Or Death? The dancing around them continued to the same lively music. “Hey!” come a stern male voice from the crowd. Wavery turned and saw a rough-looking man try to pull Growee away with him. Before Wavery had a plan, the man stopped and smiled, gently saluted his apology, and left them alone. Wavery did not leave Growee that nightfall, nor did Growee leave Wavery. They stayed together and raised children and tried to show them goodness, strength, forgiveness and beauty. They learned much and taught the villagers in return, trusting in the power of the whole life force they poured into their love. Still, everyone who lived in 1054 A.D. may have had much more yet to learn when each traveled to the afterlife, most of them traveling in comfort. The World’s Fair End Hello! This is where the river pools up just before the rapids. I’m afraid we’re floating just right to have the big hourly surge of water come up behind us halfway through rapids. Shall we carry the boat a ways on safer ground? It’s really quite light. Have you seen the cave yet? I hear it has been moved downstream. How they did that, I want to know. Some lady has it. She may have it mass-copied. They say it’s up ahead somewhere. We may need those snowshoes from the boat to get there. Or is someone helping carry it? Whoa there! Feel that gust of wind. . . we’re flying. Over the treetops, up the ridge. Like hang gliding, but what’s keeping our grip on the boat? The boat seems to be steering. It’s headed into the sky! Do you see the light in the sky! Like a star, in the daytime. Or maybe it’s the intersection of two bright lines. . . All over the day side of Jakjar’s world, people were lighting battery lamps against the dismal loss of the power grid. Where it was night already, the stars were dimming out behind a dusty sky. The winds grew and howled in routine fear against the loss of the world’s atmosphere to space. Jakjar stood at the window watching the sky, away from the suns slowly growing brighter as the sky grew blacker from loss of air. Without air, nothing would be left to break the visible light into colors for Jakjar’s eyes. The once blue-green sky was now olive gray with dust. His cabin kept the pressure and breathable air constant as the world outside became barren. The atmosphere had begun to flow gradually away from ground into sky, into the outbound winds of Gaspel-Forlam, the two suns now flaring into their last minutes. Jakjar was not insensitive, nor was he numb with fear. He just stood and watched. He thought of Flourescia, his friendly mate, and their children who had all joined the world space migration, an interstellar grasping at straws. With modern rocketry still in early stages, hope was almost a matter of comedy relief. Jakjar had stayed behind to make room for others. That was how it was: a matter of choice, just as his world had chosen to thoroughly explore inside the planet before, exploring beyond the sky. Jakjar watched the alarming arms of solar flame flail in space through the viewer built into his wall. The suns looked at themselves through him, because Jakjar invited them. And Jakjar did not feel a terrible sense of loss or dying. He knew the event was approaching a climax which would last millions of Jakjar’s lifetimes. The suns were about to be seen by astronomers even in other galaxies, so brightly would they explode. And Jakjar believed the suns did not feel a strong sense of loss or dying. They would settle down after the bursting and become a lasting ornament in space, exchanging one form for another. During the years after Jakjar’s people learned what was coming, they had held essay contests to advance their world’s theology. The first year’s panel of 199 judges came from religions and cultural centers of the world, plus a few wandering poets at heart. The reading and writing of these essays united the world, with nearly everyone who was able entering twice yearly. Their years were 4.2 years Earth time, but their metabolisms were slower, related in part to their distant orbit around the suns. Gentle custom and desperation kept scandal away from the judging. People wanted an honest process. Each year the judges retired for 199 more: 99 winners of last year’s contest and 100 chosen by random sample from the population. It was a full-time profession to read and consider the essays. The word limit was 1,000, with exactly 999 a popular choice, or some other “interesting number.” Books of winning essays and highly mentioned runners up became popular. They raised their young with new dedication, for a last offering to conscience. Each year they held “seeding summer,” a time of international service and celebration for entering a stage of adulthood. Each person of age received a wonderful exposure to the world’s finest arts and states of the art in manufacturing, philosophy and science. Their minds were the garden for seeds of heartbroken but holy civilization. Jakjar had experienced one of the first “seeding summer,” and worked in the project for ten years since. He had also won a “high mention” in the essay contest. Part of his essay said: I made the inner journey when I couldn’t read the outer world. When I gave up my self for a moment, I found my true self in the inner cosmos. My outer skin had been a tender shoreline, eroded and borrowed away by flowing waves and drifting attitudes of other beings. When I surrendered the shore, with its tangled growth, into the stream, my new self rose like new skin under a scab seeing light during a shower. My new self began a new cycle of shoreline duty as the mirror of an inner essence found in all life. From my island center, I sent a signal to other islands: Please use well what your ripples carry away; I’ll see you all downstream some day. This left me free to sort and consider what I sensed, without the tangled growth to maintain and see through. My island shrank with the loss of shore but plenty remained for the time remaining. Like a candle and flame, I waxed and waned, shrinking, giving up my wickedness and hoping for more. But as the waiter said, “You can’t make coffee without coffee grounds.” Something’s wrong, but it’s okay. Something’s passing through us. We’ll be back around. Jakjar walked to his video screen and turned it on. A popular old movie was playing, with white-letter narration enriching the story. A waiter bowed casually and walked from a table of three men and a woman, who resumed talk. “As I was saying, only the four of us, who trust one another, and know each other’s secrets, could even attempt what I am about to describe. Yes, I’ve thought about this nearly half a lifetime, since before any of you were out of grade school.” He smacked his lips and picked up his wine for a sip. “Yes, I think you’ll like this. But let’s retire to our little hideaway where we can speak under the roof of stars.” Ralley frowned disappointment then cheered up. “We’ll have a cozy, dark evening, then under your window dome. Lead away. Wonderful! The air will do us all good, I’m sure.” Sharry glanced a giggle at him as he helped with her wrap, she accepting daintily, then athletically. They arose and only Chandler appeared reluctant as they pushed one another out into the slippery blue transformulation shower for the shuffle across three centuries. Chandler didn’t step into the shower after the others. Instead, he peeled off his historical packaging and went back into the cleaning closet. He found a bucket, and went directly to the kitchen. A famous author from another world was there, one in whom the others had shown little interest. Chandler sensed something giant, something magnificent as he entered the food preparation area. But something seemed wrong. Instead of smooth porcelain, he found a cavernous, rock-floored room. Chandler felt time surge, and there was the author, stirring a big pot of steaming soup over a low fire on the floor. The soupy steam rose thickly, as if steam were the purpose of the soup. The moisture was rich with the meanings of creation, and was condensing on the cave ceiling and dripping so fast, Chandler could catch much of it in his bucket. “Want to stir?” said the author after a few moments. “Okay,” said Chandler, setting the bucket in a fast drip area. He was almost to the pot, accepting the spoon from the still unnamed author, ready to begin a famous scene in movie history when “switch for news” blinked on the screen. Jakjar switched and walked to the window, watching both at once. An announcer, beloved to the world as were many, spoke plainly with sympathy and courage: “We have known for so short a time, and now we shall be leaving together on another of life’s long journeys. Our space relay stations have stopped signaling after rising shock waves were recorded. Many of us are gathered at point zero to greet the expansion of light in a special way as it comes from the center of the sky. there are no loose ends, for now. The governments have all lowered their flags. Symphonies and bands are playing around the world. . . I bid you farewell, with love. Perhaps we shall meet again soon, some. . . oh. . . Here it comes? Clouds of everybody’s souls, Raining like the end of all Ashes, embers, stars, we flash on, what’s the end of all? A few hundred years later, something faint from Jakjar’s world, and signals from its former suns, dropped in on a neighbor, a planet not so unlike Jakjar’s, but with a stable sun: a place called Earth. An elderly man watched twilight rustling the trees in the forested river valley, shaking loose the lines of luminous yellow-white so they seemed to follow their source over the horizon. This old man saw the stars wink in from his blanket, beside a waterfall, on a ridge. He asked a question of the sky, and heard an answer, “All your questions can be answered, and you are able to understand the answers, but wouldn’t you rather enjoy the beauty of this moment?” He made a choice. Flickering jewels of radiance reached a bleary star in Taurus, where expanding rainbow clouds of radiant dust more than encompassed the former area of a solar system. The clouds of dust pulsated powerful radio waves. Those waves were some of the invisible ripples entering Earth’s atmosphere every moment, along with ripples of light. The old man ceased all thought or reaction as he allowed his essence to take over the controls. Gently his awareness began a journey on the crest of a rebounding radio wave, at light speed, surfing between soft collisions of ripples in the space between stars. Imminence in the Boonies Lemkin was now a few ridges away from this valley, about 2,000 feet in altitude beneath the ridge where the Yogi had left his blanket behind. Lemkin was on the road, finishing a long talk with a hitchhiker he had picked up. Within two days, he would spend a night huddled in the same blanket, and meet Symery and Plinker again, and Wavery, and Jisella and maybe Death. In a way, he would meet nearly everyone. The waves of change were rising, caressing the tender shores of time, of worlds, of single people. Here comes the sky. A momentary dip from the jet stream, a whisk of wind brought faint angels through the high clouds to a view of mountains. They saw the valley come into view, saw a silver blue ribbon become a river, and a forest become individual trees. The floating visitors found a gentle breeze and drifted softly Earthward, their first planet since Jakjar’s world ended. During their journey, they’ve met others like themselves from other parts of creation, some of whom have traveled at near light speed for millions of years without much happening to them. Sometimes they had convened distantly in deep space for gentle councils, where stars are thin and their frail signals can penetrate the radiation background from afar. A highflying wedge of migrating geese met them descending invisibly on a wave from the frozen night blue. In that moment, wings stopped flapping and geese changed course slightly to glide gently downward. As each goose found its place on the crest of the wave, their honking began to blend into harmony, and their beeps became a choir of joy the faint angels could understand: Sunshine and rain! Thank you for forests For meadows and lakes Ribboned by rivers and streams, Being Born from snows and bubbling springs And living on mountains and plains! Near ground, the passengers popped off the wave and the geese landed laughing like children, on Performers’ River, upstream from where Lemkin was now setting up a lonely camp. The faint angels sifted like fine dust through the welcoming branches and needles, to the moist, shaded forest floor. Clusters of tender brush noted the newcomers among them. Peace continued. Chapter “I have good news for Growy,” said the merchant. “She asked for yarn and I have it now; the ships from Bamboola finally came in.” Merchant Pondul Erclarin paused in his writing of a contract for an expedition to the Far East. “Waveree?” Waveree had gone out for a few moments, down the clay-packed road to the shipyard where workmen were hoisting a wooden mast on a ship. He wanted to see how they were able to erect and secure such a mast, the biggest he had seen. He had already known the ships from Bamboola were in port from their familiar silhouettes and flags. The breeze blowing in from the green-rimmed bay reminded him of his own times at sea. He watched the mast go up . . . heard the men shouting the stages. In another moment, Waveree must return to the merchant’s office. Pondul preferred to have Waveree’s undivided fascination go into his office work during his half days. He turned up the street to go back to work. But a fearful sound halted him and he looked back as the blaring apparition came over the horizon. Waveree’s heart pounded in his throat and ears, and his eyes went circular as he watched a ripple, barely visible, brushing across the top of the sky in the shape of chariot without horses, the same color as the sky but outlined in shadows. Growy and the child, Ashra, watched from up on the hillside where they were picking berries. What Growy and Ashra alone saw was the mournful eye, bloodshot with fright, of the specter. The chariot and the sneering horn sound were near at first, and farther away at the last, and then gone. It happened so fast Waveree wondered if it were a hallucination such as people had from bad grain. But he could see the men on the ships looking up, and a silence had settled over the bay town for some moments. Back at the office, Waveree and Pondul talked several minutes about the apparition, unlike anything in either’s experience. “It felt like watching a tortured soul trying to claw its way out of a mirage,” said Waveree. “Will this be a symbol of things to come?” “If it’s the devil, he probably chooses any symbol he wants,” said Pondul excitedly, mopping his brow for the third time. “It really doesn’t matter which symbol, because it’s a lie anyway.” “Yes,” said Waveree. “And how do we know what it means if it’s a lie anyway. Maybe, if it’s the devil, his whole problem is that he’s not trying to tell the truth, so he never learns the right use of symbols. Sure makes me feel strange in my belly, though. I’d like to have something ready in case he comes back. You know, Pondul, I wonder if you and I might form a team on this problem. While the ships are out, we might look for a way to produce more art for the people to guide them in warding off symbolic lies. So if this was a mass hallucination, we solve the problem from inside. And if it was the devil, they’ll be less impressed with his stunts.” Pondul sighed and sat down. “Maybe. You always want to work in art, Waveree, and you haven’t answered my offer to become a full shipping partner. I appreciate your half days, I but you don’t really feel committed to this business as I am, are you?” Waveree listened, nodded. Pondul continued,“How about looking at it another way? Your talent could help this port, this city, greatly, if you would apply yourself more. The people of this town could prosper with your help. In two years you have shown much promise. In ten years this city could be another Florence, with your help. It’s tough enough finding people who can read and write as well as you and aren’t working for someone else. But you have a way of turning small details into tools such as I have never seen. What higher calling can there be than to use your talent?” “I thank you, Pondul, for appreciating me,” said Waveree. “You are rare yourself, and I am grateful, both to you and to the grace which led us to meet. I remember so many times when things seemed grim because no one understood.” Waveree sat down across the huge desk from Pondul, and leaned toward him. “As for becoming another Florence, Pondul, do you see those ships?” They both looked out the open doorway at the bay and its dozen or so ships at anchor, or docked. “What of them?” said Pondul. “They’re so beautiful, this view is so beautiful, and all the inland cities are deprived of this view. If we could reproduce this view in paintings, we would enrich the life of as many as we could provide them for. As for Florence, she is becoming a center for art now as well as shipping. You could help this town become a gathering place for artists, and a source of art for civilizations we trade with. This is a quest with me, Pondul, though I’m not sure of the way it unfolds unless you are involved. What do you think?” “What does the view have to do with making this town a center for are?” said Pondul. “Every place has a view. Your thoughts interest me, though. I assume you want me to provide support for artistic dilly-dallying, in hopes the art will pay for itself, when we find someone to buy it. Are we still talking about art to ward off the devil and his lies? And, could this art be a calling card to draw shipping to this port? Waveree only partially heard, though he had meant to listen. “This view is one of many beautiful ones,” he agreed. “Maybe it’s not the only right view. we could show views which are true, or are good enough to be true, and are beautifully shown. Any form of truth seems to repel the devil until it can be twisted into lies. “With art, we might make symbols popular. We can build a market where ordinary people exchange truth and beauty in symbolic forms as art, or something else. As people become more skillful with the truth, they have less chance to be fooled by the devil’s distortions.” “We’re wandering so far from clear arithmetic,” said Pondul. “Sometimes I am not so sure I believe in devils. Perhaps what we saw today was an errant brush with another coat from the Creator’s easel. Or something. And what will keep the devil from using our efforts for his own ends?” Pondul stood up and walked to the door. “Shall I support the profession of daydreaming and dabbling in cans of paint? I’ve seen artists work. Sometimes it’s hard to catch them at it. Perhaps I should take up painting myself. It seems to excuse all sorts of indulgences. I just don’t know about this. You’re a fine shipping recorder, Waveree. Why don’t you give it a try full-time and see what you can do?” “We don’t have to settle this today, do we?” said Waveree. “I wonder if you really are serious about taking up painting, yourself. It’s really not the lazy life at all, done right. It’s such a delicate balance between the artist and life in general. The artist must be partly responsible for what other people see in the art. A lot of soul searching goes into doing it right, and the search runs through dangers inside the artist. Some people go crazy trying to protect their audience, or from guilt at harming them.” The discussion went on the shelf. That night Waveree took six colors of yarn home to Growy, and she wove a view of the bay and its ships which is in a museum today. Waveree continued to work half time with Pondul even after his own art began to sell at a living wage. Death pounded on the abstract wall that separated It from Wavery. “I know you’re in there somewhere!” It snarled. “I heard every word and I did not appreciate what you said one bit! “I’m going to make you worry and then I’m going to destroy your words and stuff them down your gullet!” bellowed Death, turning Its head from side to side, listening for a response. “Don’t bother,” came the whispered reply, from an uncertain direction. “I’m going to get you too, to let you read my book.” Death guessed the directions, and dove headlong into the dark mystery toward the whisper. Chapter “Make yourself comfortable anywhere, Jisella. Take all the time you want; remember this is untimed,” says Trimost. The gentle music and lighting in this studio office sets a relaxing mood. Shrink Me Jisty vaults gracefully to a waist-high sofa in front of opaque window curtains. Harmonius settles into a throne-like piece, twenty feet away. Both are quiet for some time. She looks up at the clock and its little bird on a sofa with the sign saying, “It’s always time.” She looks at Trimost, a large-faced man with surprised concern written in his expression. She pondered, then plunged. “People seem to park a lot of cars with bent fenders in front of my house, and their bumper-stickers seem to be directed at me,” she said, wondering if she had said too much. “Like one says, ‘I can save the Earth.’ I wonder if anyone can. Another says ‘Hey, you, get off my cloud.’” “Are you able to choose your own interpretation?” asked the doctor. “I want to know what they are trying to tell me before I interpret,” she said. “Isn’t everything in the world trying to tell us something?” “These are more blaring, more obvious somehow, I don’t know,” she said. “They seem accusing.” What might they be accusing her of? They seem to imply she must do more to make the world right. Does she feel she is fulfilling her responsibilities? She said that’s a big subject. “How about sending signals back to them?” “I do, sometimes. They seem to respond.” “Hm-m. Just in case you haven’t considered this, may I pretend to cure you by calling your problem a delusion? Letting go of a belief can be like giving birth to a new person: you. And it can be so alarming to a mind that reasons may be made up subconsciously for believing the delusion is true.” “Maybe everything is an illusion.” objected Jisella. “But this is the illusion which is bothering me.” He writes something in his notebook. She said sometimes at night she feels the world physically calling to her for help, yet gently, as if the caller only asks for what she can handle. Would writing letters to the editor be the kind of help they mean? “I’m not sure, said Jisty. “I think it’s partly because I handle a lot of other people’s business and money. Sometimes I think there is a lot of hidden karma involved.” She caressed the fluffy part of the sofa. “I have a bit of a headache.” “So do I,” said Trimost. “Will you do the countdown now, and I’ll do the art?” “If you like. My pleasure. Ready? Fifteen.” “Cool running water.” “Fourteen.” “Cool green grass.” “Thirteen.” “Smell of snow.” “Twelve.” “Summer night sky. . .” When she spoke the word “karma,” Death had lurched toward a related thread in the fabric of creation and begun following the trail to Wavery. “Found you,” said Death, grabbing by unseen hands. “Look at you, hiding on invisible wavelengths here among the very people you misled.” They hovered, with Death slightly visible, above a battlefield in the Middle Ages. “I have only led by showing the best way in imagination,” said Wavery forgiving the clumsiness of his captor. “Each one chooses their own steps in this passage. Such is the first writing on the wall. As for this battle, I wish for them all to stop fighting and start creating a better history for themselves.” “You lie!” Death pulled Wavery instantly to a dark planet from which the galaxy shown like a deflated, fluorescent football in mid-punt in a forlorn black sky. “You cannot change karma with your lies. I heard the sound of failure out there,” It pointed at the galaxy. “First you lie to the galaxy for all time; now you lie to me to save yourself from due punishment.” “Now. . . you. . .die!” Its tongue grated out and cocked itself for launching, with Wavery at ten feet away. Wavery slowed it with a power beyond speech; the dagger in the air was still like a trap to be sprung. “Not yet; Death, you are lying when you destroy what you have not discussed truthfully, with love,” protested Wavery. “And when you have conversed, there may be no need to destroy.” “I can be reasonable,” Death replied warily. “I’ll give you a hearing.” Its spiked tongue pointed at Wavery’s voice box, Death said, “Speak.” “Thank you,” said Wavery. “I am concerned with the quality of your fiction, and I only want to speak with you concerning love.” Death spat, “Love is your fiction, not mine.” “Why do you need to kill me, when all I do is fiction?” asked Wavery. “Because you disturb the old religions and disrupt the philosophies which govern.” “Do you own religion or philosophy? And how can they be disturbed if they are fiction?” said Wavery. “All thought is fiction.” “If all thought is fiction, then you are the liar, not me,” said Death. “I deal in this world of the senses. My endings are true. And it is time for your ending now!” The tongue twitched, pricking Wavery’s neck. “Why not delay killing me long enough to see the truth in my fiction?” said Wavery quickly. “You can always kill me later, but you can’t unkill me. It’s such an inconvenience dying while I’m in a conversation with you. You keep distorting what I say. Don’t you understand?” Death withdrew an inch, then two. “Speak.” “My fiction serves truth because it exists for love. I try with love to shine beauty and truth into the Creations of the senses and of thought. “I brush with religion and philosophy because I was born into them, and they are soft to the touch, like watery paint. They seem hard like crystal only from a distance.” Wavery paused, wondering whether to continue the metaphor. Death bared scornful gums. “Everything you say is fiction. All religions and philosophies are clearly true to someone, and you say they’re mere fiction. That makes you a fool, ready to die for thinking you’re the judge of truth. There is a higher authority, as you’re about to. . . “ Wavery interrupted, “Everything you and I have said is fiction because words and symbols are all ever-changing. And knowing they’re fiction makes us able to appreciate them more because we can move freely among them, explore and question them.” “There are crimes I have traced to your rebellion,” said Death. “You must pay for the trouble you have stirred up throughout time. Your punishment will be permanent, no matter what. So, do you want permanent agony, or permanent death? Use your fine wisdom to choose,” came the sarcasm. “There is no love and little beauty in your fiction,” said Wavery, astonished at the cruel pleasure radiating from his adversary. “You’re in more danger than I, and that is true. Give yourself this one chance at least: read the writing now in the hands of a woman now in my thoughts. Follow my thoughts to her and see that every judgment is temporary but the judgment in the beginning.” “I see her,” said Death, “And I will have the writing destroyed before I destroy you, so you will know your crime was futile.” Death released Wavery. “Your fiction will not save you. I have the scent of your blood of this life. . . the last life you will ever have!” Then Death plunged into the fabric of time. Wavery finished the dialogue mildly. “See you later. Oh, and my fiction may not save me, as you say, but the woman is in little danger. The manuscript you will read over her shoulder will be elsewhere; my thoughts of the woman were fiction. That’s your reward for reading my mind!” Wavery entered the light humor he had created and beamed to Earth to watch over Jisella Druthers, the real woman. Wavery’s humor landed him correctly in time, but far away from Jisella’s city, in a mysterious valley. The joke was on him. A magnetic object had fallen from the sky carrying an explorer from the place beyond Earth. Wavery, with his body of electro-magnetic waves and gravity particles to keep him together, was drawn to this hidden forested valley by unusual forces of physics and an invisible Storytelling Mind, larger than all Creation in range if not in size. The Storytelling Mind is still hardly known here, so little can be made up about it. Wavery hovered lightly in cool green grass, beside cool running water, in the shade of pines, beside a small pile of dusty, left-over snow feeding the stream. Nearby was a circle of trees. “Too many subjects you haven’t covered,” said a small but wonderful voice behind him. Wavery turned to see a six-inch high person with an index finger to his temple, standing on a grayish, rocky globular cookie-like spaceship the size of a basketball. “What do you mean? And hello.” “Hello. I’m guessing, since I just arrived. I suppose they’re blaming their problems on you because you tried to fix everything, and some of them don’t feel it’s working. I find that’s usually the problem.” “Wow. Maybe. What’s your name? I’m Wavery.” “I can see that, the way your light shines., Uh, my name is a general term too, but that’s not my name. Where I come from, robots have names I just Am; call me Thontim, if you like.” “Well, okay Thontim. Do you know your magnetism is doing something strange?” “It’s more than magnetism, but don’t worry,” said the explorer from afar. “I called you here, but you don’t have to stay unless you want. The lady is protected, so I hope you will stay for a chat at least. You’ll see why. Something is about to begin, and your journey leads through it.” “How do I know she has protection?” asked Wavery, his power of knowing somewhat shaken for the moment. “I have no need to lie,” said Thontim. He showed Jisella’s image right here in this circular chamber ringed with trees. She was sitting at her table at home, reading. “Yes,” said Wavery, “I’ll stay.” The image faded. “Tell me, will you, about the subjects you say I didn’t cover.” “Someone’s coming for us to watch over in a big event,” Thontim said, “So we’ll just talk a few time units. We can talk more later, if you like. Anyway, for example: sexuality, a high place in sensation. People ought to play this for keeps in a way so the outcome is all right for everyone somehow, because the mind helps translate the senses into meaning, and that’s important. Half of the matter is the meaning of that person’s sexuality. Without this caution, sexuality becomes a pawn in a game too big for any of the players, whether they know it or not. They’ll come around to your pro-love way of life when they can comprehend it. Meanwhile, some think to win extra pleasure by folding the sensual to gain surface area for more sex in less space. What they do is create a place of convolution in the universe which has become more meaningful than themselves, and the pleasure leaves them to live a life of its own. They’ll come around to your pro-love way of life when they can understand it well enough.” “When will that be?” asked Wavery. Usually Wavery already knew what people were talking about, sometimes before they did, in a nice way. But Thontim’s surroundings seemed to bathe Wavery in a strangely bland atmosphere, one which let in no direction. Thontim had noticed the same about Wavery. “The time will always be now, so the question will answer itself as ‘How will that be?’ That will be very nice actually. A little joke - forgive me. The true answer lies in the centers of analogy, the source language of answers. When the analogies of the world have been hologrammed through one another, and understood, to that degree leaders will lead the way best. “Lead on,” said Wavery. “Though I don’t know what you mean yet. What’s keeping it from happening right now?” “The problem is impossible but the solution is very near. I assume you have told them about forgiveness.” “I’ve been writing about forgiveness lately in many ways,” said Wavery. “Writing? That’s different,” said Thontim. “This world must have a very good system of records to convince you to try writing. I just arrived by time leap from far worlds and haven’t even looked this place over. I was here just a few breaths when you showed up. Though . . . I believe it was I who called you.” “Fine, I’ll show you my writing if you like. The woman you are protecting for me has the manuscript. You were talking about forgiveness. Is this part of the solution?” “Forgiveness and virtue. Virtue is always now or never; now’s always the time, but the virtue is never universally agreed upon. Without freedom to experiment, who will consent to a system? Yet without virtue, how can there be a system. Total conformity is like a crystal: hard and clear and frozen. Total nonconformity might become a random field of dots. Virtue is good karma, and right choice. Experimentation leaves virtue behind but sometimes returns with new virtue. Forgiveness is the lever which allows the lifting of bad karma and freeing of new virtue. Karma is like the troubles of the world; they should be carried only to move them. Forgiveness allows the moving aside of bad karma like stones cast aside. But forgiveness requires love to repair the damage of bad karma. Because karma is also the nuts and bolts at the foundations of matter. It’s a basic arithmetic. Karma alone would just leave causes and effects to cancel one another in the final summary.” “So meanwhile, some people are following their own minds, and some are following the world mind and its various fragments. Followers of each are creating good or bad karma, influenced by what they understand. Usually something big is in the works, so karma operates at low levels in the world mind while upper levels are chaotic with love and forgiveness.” “The karma on this world seems to be operating at some high levels,” said Wavery. “Sometimes it seems to work fine.” “Oh? Well, maybe they like it that way,” said Thontim. “But without a lot of love and forgiveness, one half is often playing karma games to ‘show up’ the other half. That way few mistakes are made by the leaders, because they are partially frozen by the close attention they’re getting. They’re aware one tiny mis-step could ruin their best intentions.” “The humans who practice this karma say it gives them a predictable system,” said Wavery, “Where justice is easily understood.” “Can anyone practice justice without removing the causes of injustice?” said Thontim. “Their very existence is a gift, not justice. Energy from the stars flows through each of them in one direction, and how much value do they give back? Though they do very well, often, and have hard choices in their justice.” “Wow, you sound like me,” said Wavery. “I would like to see your book. . . later of course. Have you finished writing it?” “I am always rewriting. I am wondering about you, dear Thontim. Where do you come from? Why have you called me here? Oh, I meant to ask about the one we are to watch over. “I just assumed you are already doing that. Though if you are already watching over him, have you any need of me? I ask, so I may know our agenda, if there is one.” Thontim replied, “We have a big event on our hands, and you’ll be very valuable -- irreplaceable -- for having it go well for those involved.” “Having what go well?” “The judgment. We don’t want to do it without you. . . though we can, I guess, if you find you would rather not stay.” “I expect I’ll stay, while you and I make sense of this situation. It’s already far different than any experience I know, and I’ve known more than anyone I have met.” “I can tell you nearly all else you do not know,” said Thontim, gently. “You can? How?” Thontim showed both palms beside his face, a gesture Wavery wondered about. “Along with help from angels. . . “ “I know angels too,” said Wavery hoping to help Thontim past preliminary digression. “Along with angels, I watch things fairly closely, considering the size of things. Karma takes care of the rest.” Wavery asked, puzzled at the apparent identity Thontim claimed, “How do you get around so fast you can watch this world and the others too?” “I make very, very. . . very good use of my time. While you see light traveling in your mind, and hear of time slowing with your world’s theory of relativity, I see the same light’s origin and destination and I travel to both at the same time. That saves lots of time, and I do plenty of work and still have some rest. I don’t forbid others from doing those things, but so far they haven’t, to my knowledge.” “That sounds incredible,” said Wavery, interested. “It does?” said Thontim, disappointed. . . “I meant I was surprised at how you say things are set up. Do you say then that everything is relative? That would seem to mean fiction and falsehood and truth are just different places along the light’s journey. That sounds spooky.” What???? “Everything’s not quite relative,” agreed Thontim. “For example, harangue is spelled relatively well as harangue. But harangue spelled Bleepdip isn’t harangue at all.” Wavery sat quietly for a long moment beside Thontim and his ship on the rock. He looked at the Explorer at eye level, and at the trees filtering light around them in this circular clearing. Finally he said, “What of this one we’re watching over?” Thontim answered, “I have heard reports of the Lemkin for a long time from afar. I watch him sometimes, and watch over the ones who watch him at all times, even those who don’t report to me. “He’s an odd one. I like him. He has always depended on me, even when he didn’t believe in me. He took so many chances with his destiny. . . not his body, so much, but his destiny. And destiny finally gave up on him. “But he just kept plodding. He has a developed conscience, and follows it, without being extreme. That’s what I’m looking for. Though, I know some such people suffer because of misinformation, or even cause trouble themselves because of what someone did not tell them. “’Course, there’s lots of people with good conscience. He’s special partly because of his present situation. That’s why he’s coming up this valley right soon, up this ravine and into this stand of trees. Because his people raised a curious child, and because he keeps getting himself into these situations. “We have a special role for him in the decision-making tomorrow.” “What’s that?” asked Wavery, meaning “What decision-making?” Thontim missed the point of Wavery’s question. “The role we have for Lemkin is what’s known as ‘the devil’s advocate,’ though the term is a little silly. The key is that Lemkin has a way of seeing his world from several different points of view, including those of the world’s major constituents: the planet itself, life forms, the atmosphere, the various human cultures. He can be somewhat of a snot, too quick to disagree, just to speak of some matter from an interesting frame of reference. But he means well.” “Now, others among human kind are as qualified for this assignment. But he makes himself so available. No one told him to drive all the way out here, as far as I know. He’ll have help getting to this spot from his car, though.” “I meant to ask you,” said Wavery, “What you mean by ‘frame of reference.’ I’m not sure if I used that in building the Bridge.” “Like, what filter are you using on your lens?” said Thontim. “Does it filter out all but blue light, or all but blue and red, or what? In people terms, are we talking about what people look like, or what they think, or what their ancestors were like, or what they do now, or what?” “Thank you, said Wavery. “Just one more definition, please. What is a ‘lens?’” “Oh, I haven’t caught you up on things, have I. Would you care for a drink from my Blessed Fountain of Knowledge? You more than deserve this knowledge, Wavery. It would be yours already if Death weren’t always chasing you.” Wavery answered by extending his hand. Thontim gave a start on seeing Wavery’s hand free of the robe’s long sleeves. “Oh,” he gulped softly, his little eyes misting and drawing wide, lower lip drawing way up. After a moment he held Wavery’s hand in both his own and said, “I’ve been traveling so much and so long I forgot where I am. In all my visits I meet special beings who have raised their world in the cosmic conscience. Death chases them too. But you, my friend. . . ,” Thontim’s voice broke. “They hurt you, in your own beginning time, didn’t they?” What???? Wavery slowly raised his face to the sky, where a day’s sun was setting. His bearded face opened to free a baby’s cry from its long exile in a faraway memory. A long moment passed in a forest-filled silence. “You. . . You did. . . very, very well,” said Thontim huskily. “This world you are raising is a difficult one, a hard one.” He paused, mulling his next statement. “Many I’ve spoken with have worried that it might have to be scrubbed. The bullies are too persistent and the meek are too lazy, I hear. The meek who are energetic are isolated and too ill-informed, and the bullies are keeping it that way. Wavery heard Thontim’s talk with his eyes to the sky. Stars were slowly appearing in the fading blue. He asked Thontim, “Will this knowledge you have for me serve our purpose in Truth and Love if I have it? Because is it not so, in paradise we will not need these frames of reference, or lens?” “Yes it is so, though right knowledge can be nice wherever we go,” said Thontim. “How does this sound: we’ll wait a day or so. We have some major decisions to make about the human world soon, but not the final judgment on humankind, not this week. As we go you may decide for yourself whether you want this updated, local knowledge. My feeling is to invite you to come along with me when I leave. I’m going someplace very special: a place with no limitations as you know them, except no bad karma has ever been created there. And it is vast, incredibly so, even to me.” “I may be able to accept your invitation,” said Wavery. “Can we bring others along?” “It may take a little time, but probably yes. Here’s the key you may not have realized you already know. You know how you put your book together?” “I had faith it would all fit together, since Creation does, so I just kept recording and refining models and piecing them together until the book fit together,” said Wavery. “Yes. Now here am I, represented in the same alphabet from which you wrote your book. Is this Me? Am I ink and white space?” “In a way you are, Thontim, and so am I,” “Yes. Now, if there is an ultimate One, ‘You’ means the same as “I” at some level. So gradually, if I go to the new territory, and You go, we all go, the way you wrote your book.” “But Thontim,” said Wavery, “If there is an ultimate One, then who created it all?” “Dear Wavery, nothingness is no more natural than somethingness. Perhaps we chose between the two, or maybe both are with us now.” “Then is there a God besides You, or us?” “Your question is the question whose answer contains both yes and no in equal parts, in perfect balance. From there, yes and no move farther apart. In one direction, we have the line of operation, in the other, the line of origination.” “If you know all these as Truth, you must be the One who makes the answer yes. Then why do you look small, and talk plainly?” said Wavery. “Well, in fact, we all make yes and no. Yes is mostly the lack or shortage of no and vice versa. As for me, I could appear quite immense, so large the galaxies are like a grain of sand. Would that help? I like this size, and it’s about the closest I can be to yours because of range rhythms in Creation. “I could also speak flowery grandeur, or far above your understanding, if I wanted. But why do that? I am here because we are together in eternity, not because I want to steal your spotlight.” “Dear One, I believed in You, but did not realize it was You,” said Wavery. “You might have been a high angel, or a rebel or jokester. Please tell me, are there any mistakes in what You have said? Is there anything You do not know?” “Sure there are mistakes. For one thing, who’s writing this all down? For another, I have painted these ideas with broad strokes because we are somewhat hurried, with so much to do by tomorrow, so pressure may have left a few stray streaks on the canvass.” “I know pressure,” said Wavery. “I have had to hurry when it all seemed futile.” “That’s pressure,” agreed Thontim. “Please continue,” said Wavery, “and forgive the interruption.” “Sure I will,” said Thontim, warmly and decidedly. “Please know I am not asking you to adopt a slavish attitude toward me. Far from it. You are so dear to me, and all of those whom you claim as friends are as well, unless I know something awful you don’t know about them. Even then your true friendship toward you helps them with me. You have already served me so well before we met face to face. And I myself am serving too. “What I do not know is whether we can make selfishness and altruism blend into one to form a condition like the peace we had before our beginning, but with all the possibilities we have now. You will possibly have a great role in finding the answer, though it may take much time. Meanwhile, you have still a drama to finish in the past.” “Which one is that?” said Wavery. “Remember the time you almost finished a bridge to heaven, in a cavern, in the years before you met Growee?” “Yes, I remember,” said Wavery, remembering for the first time ever. “The time before that.” Last year at this time, six billion people were living on Earth. Many were homeless and some still are. Next year, who knows? A year in the Milky Way Galaxy is the length of time needed for the galaxy to complete one complete turn. That doesn’t take very long, since the galaxy is maybe about 100 thousand light years across. Earth and its neighbors, including Sun, are in the suburbs of the galaxy: not downtown, and not out in the total wilderness. Jakjar’s world and its suns, now a nebula, are a little further out toward the country, toward the wilderness between galaxies. One year ago, galaxy time, Tyrannosaurus Rex was a great celebrity and attracted attention everywhere he or she went. The first cone-bearing tree fossils were formed about this time, say scientists, and mammals were just emerging as a distinct line. Next year, who knows? Forgiveness, rather than karma, should rule a judgment when the person or species’ true condition merits it, and also during the time that person or species seeks the true causes of their shortcomings to correct them. “Do you eat?” Wavery asked Thontim. “Yes and no.” Chapter Ampala streaked through space in search of life. The field of suns, galaxies and dust floated almost motionless in the ship’s view, yet the craft was moving at half the speed of light. Ampala was the ship, a flying robot, one of nine tremendous creations launched by a civilization from a loosely bunched group of stars on the outer reaches of an arm of the spiraling Milky Way Galaxy. She carried the earnest greetings and messages of a race yearning for contact with another. She also carried thirty three sleeping people. In the 28th Jaspirit year of her search, her monitors noted useful signals from among the nearby stars. Someone was broadcasting language on radio waves. Ampala pinpointed the source, near a yellow star, and altered her course to investigate. She would arrive in the star’s planetary zone, if any, in about 56 Jaspirit years. Ampala’s long dormant language circuits blinked on to record the signals and translate into computer language. But here was no comprehension. The messages seemed funny somehow. What could Ampala make of the first regular television programs from Earth, rippling out into space? Later transmissions spoke to Ampala in binary, and Ampala understood. Chapter end “Let’s go down to the beach!” Cindy brandished the transistor radio at the trail toward the ocean. Sam slammed the door of the aging van and made sure it shut. “Okay -- let’s go.” He threw an arm around her waist, picking up the picnic bag as they started through the stand of short pines on the edge of the beach. They would spend an afternoon basking beside the blue unknown. “Do you have the feeling something is going to happen?” said Cindy. The feeling had been growing for several minutes. “There’s something in the air,” laughed Sam. They heard a light pop and above them saw a gleaming object descending by parachute. As they gaped at each other, the object suddenly flared like a defective 4th of July Candle and shot back into the upper atmosphere, and landed just a little roughly 1,000 miles away. Meanwhile. . . Chapter Lemkin had spent the day going from roadside restaurant to roadside country store, buying cups of coffee and food and trying to decide what to do. Around 5:30 Lemkin’s ten year old sedan without hubcaps veered to the highway shoulder where a young, bearded hitchhiker sat on his pack making a sign. The wheels hissed huskily and finally halted with a crunching rub and a lurch on the gravel. The hitchhiker gathered his pack and coat and walked to the peeling-paint-coated car. Lemkin reached across to the back door and opened it. “You can throw your pack on top of that stuff,” he said like a hoarse bass clarinet, tuning up for concert. The hitchhiker never said his name was Charles, but it was. His pack went on top of a box of papers with curled edges and a shallow box of precious-looking scruffy books of assorted shapes piled freely about four deep. Charles the hitchhiker climbed into the front seat, planting his treaded boots amongst scattered tiny scraps of folded paper. The car hesitated, then burped tunefully as the transmission scraped into drive, and they were off. “Want some lettuce?” said Lemkin. He opened a plastic produce bag as he drove and pulled out a head of long, grass-green lettuce. “It’s wilting but it’s still good.” He separated a leaf at the base, folded it once and rolled half into his mouth. The hitchhiker nodded slightly ‘no,’ looking like he’d just spent all day riding the range and the horse was still bouncing. He looked out the side window for a moment while Lemkin watched the center line dash by. After a few minutes, the passenger decided to be good company. “I like your bumper sticker, ’Where’s my car?’ What does that mean?” “Means, I may be crazy, but I’m rebelling,” said Lemkin. The hitchhiker knew then he’d been picked up by a rare bird. Not like the ride before this, with a salesman who was crisp and ordinary for an hour. He debated whether to pull the lever. Lemkin beat him to it. “Before long, I may be hitchhiking too. . .” The road whooshed by. “Like, I have to find the bottom of my nightmare pretty soon and bounce up or I could drown. I’d rather hitchhike than just keep putting money into this car. It’s about ready for a rest anyway. . .Pretty silly car, ay?” Charles could see the guy was struggling, and dealt with him sincerely. “What am I going to do about it?” he said. The road whooshed by. Trees whooshed by. Cars. “I liked them too much to stand for their harassment,” said Lemkin almost personally, as if he knew his rider. He felt the guy could always shrug off the conversation and that would be okay. “Maybe you just have a mission to fulfill before you get on with your life,” said Charles, trying to say it all. Lemkin sploshed over again. “Some people seem to think, if it’s within the human comedy, it’s worth repeating.” “I bet you don’t make friends easily,” mumbled the rider, his last hope of a quiet ride slipping away. “I want people to say to themselves, ‘I like this person.’ But I would be satisfied to hear they appreciate life,” said the driver. “Why not populate your universe with friends?” There. Maybe that would do it. Lemkin’s six cups of coffee lined up like two winning slot machines with a brilliant statement he’d just conceived: “Someone’s winding up toy soldiers to attack the innocent!” he said heatedly. “Oh. That must be why. Well, how about joining with people who are like spiritual Indians, and use every part of your mind for something useful?” Lemkin was impressed. He decided to attack from three sides. “Vows of Poverty are too easy. What’s difficult is persuading people to quit wasting their money and share it with you while you save the world.” Cars whooshed by. “You about said it all. Mind if I open the window a bit?” “Go ahead. Sometimes it’s not worth even presenting your case because you have no clout and they never listen even though you’re right. And then you get too exasperated to present your case right.” “Maybe they think your message will be used for badness.” The rider felt he had found the combination; just play along. “Then allow me to commit this blasphemy, if so it is. Though I do not think so.” Lemkin’s speech sounded grand and pompous except for the road noise. “Your sins may be forgiven, but will your body be repaired?” said Charles helpfully. “Some people are so afraid of dying, they can’t live right.” pronounced Lemkin. Billboards whooshed by. Trees. “My father,” Charles suddenly revealed, “Acts like the machine owns him on the job and off the job. He quit rebelling. He quit trying to change his own world.” Respect for Lemkin flickered in the passenger, like a spark from flint and steel. “Hard work tames some people; others, it just makes them tired,” said the driver. “Maybe all they ask if you be in sequence, or make your life a blessing somehow. Anyone can do that,” said Charles partly to himself. “It’s not so cynical to see religion as a packaging job,” said Lemkin. “Heck, our bodies are packages. But some of them act like they own the religion. And like the guy shaking his fist at the sky, they act like silence from above means it’s okay to run things as they do.” “Maybe someone’s just trying to help us flow through life,” “By flushing us down the toilet?” demanded Lemkin. “Well, sometimes they know things we don’t know.” “Uh-oh. They do?” “Hey, you can always type it up and send it in,” said Charles. “I’m writing down stuff all the time to read later, but someone is reading them without my permission. I must have somebody convinced.” The passenger had resumed his doubts about Lemkin. “They probably just want to know what you’re afraid of. That’s where they’ll attack. They chose you prob’ly ‘cause you’re easy pickins, and they’re afraid of everyone else.” Lemkin heard but insisted, “They steal your work, saying anyone can reinvent the wheel; then they bring you a round rock.” Whoosh. Whoosh. Charles caught himself chuckling. “Being a writer is about your only excuse, but it’s a good one. You speak any German?” “Some, how’d you know?” said Lemkin. “This girl I knew -- a lady actually -- she told me ‘Stille wasser geht tief.’ ‘Quiet water runs deep.’ Helped save my mind. You ought to watch out for yours.” “I knew a girl who may or may not speak German, but she knows we’re both infinite in a way,” said Lemkin. The rider went to puzzlement. “Oh, this is where I get off. Thanks for the ride. . . I’m turning you loose,” he added humorously. Lemkin pulled over; Charles pulled his pack and coat and leaned in toward his window for a last “so long.” His blue eyes were strangely warm, as if he’d absorbed colored lights. “Well, have fun, be interesting, but. . . “ He walked away saying, “Don’t be too ridiculous.” “See ya,” said Lemkin. “Maybe not,” he called to be helpful, and drove away. The hitchhiker waved to Lemkin and walked into a country store right next to a vortex where trees supposedly grow at strange angles because of a mysterious force in the Earth like a magnetic cowlick on a person’s hairdo. Lemkin wondered sometimes if he, Lemkin, were a mobile cowlick in the collective hair of human kind. There would be plenty of others he supposed. He napped on the front seat for a while up the road a ways. The day seemed a little sweeter and brighter when he awoke. He set off back to the campsite he’d left this morning after the women left him, by Performer’s River. Chapter Jisella’s drive from Dr. Trimost’s office began in rush hour and street repair. The hot afternoon sprayed through the dust on her windshield, making the drive almost unbearable without her sunglasses. At one light she fished for them, then gave up. “Where is that windshield washer,” she said, rummaging across the instrument panel. She’d only had this car a week. No windshield washer was labeled. At the next light she fished in the glove box for the owners’ manual, and out fell a yellow piece of paper, but no owner’s manual. The light changed again and she drove, keeping up with the cars ahead, and placating those behind. “Where is that thing?” she scowled, giving up. At the next light she glanced at the yellow paper and then stared at it. In the corner, a thumb size smudge with a plus sign marked the paper like the ones in the manuscript she’d just started reading. This one had only a few lines of writing: They became adept at one book and organized their group mind like a crystal: But is the light they see truer, seeing it through the crystal? Maybe the book was meant to help them who want to see into their own hearts and minds. I live to tell you more about love when we have more time. I wish for you to tell me about love. How else can we know what is so far above our understanding? Yet how do we know it is above our understanding? The car behind Jisty was honking, and she went through the intersection to the next little traffic jam. The car ahead of her now had its hood up and someone working furiously to get it going. The car beside her was waiting for a double parked truck. The dusty windshield was still glaring at her, and she was about to jump out and wipe it when she saw a man on the sidewalk with a sign beside a bedroll which said, “Windshield, $1.” She waved him over, and he threw a surprising amount of water across the glass and squeegeed it off in three seconds. He came to her window and she fished for her money. To her surprise, all that came up was a $20 bill, so she fished for change. She’d used it up in the meter, except a few pennies. She looked at the man; he was a little scruffy. “Do you have change for a $20?” she asked. The traffic was about to move. She’d take $15. “No ma’am, I have about $11. Just go ahead, you can catch me another time.” “Here, take it,” she said and thrust it into his hand. “Go ahead, I gotta drive,” she said, waving him back to the sidewalk. “Thank you,” he said with mortal, grateful surprise, walking away but watching her. She thought she saw the flame of a candle in his eyes. During the way home she was humming solemn sweetness, though she paused once to ask herself, “Why did I do that?” Half an hour later, she is home; she takes off her shoes, feeds Claudia the cat and talks to her, sets the manuscript folder on her table. She checks her answering machine. Benjy Leviath called to remind it’s Friday and there is a party at his house for Robin Roose before she leaves for Sour Australia. Her senior partner, Mr. Lasting, called from Wisconsin to change the message he left with Bez about Saturday afternoon: the client prefers the following Saturday. Mrs. Belgiff from next door says Jisella’s whole wheat garden variety pies are ready. The Belgiffs are retired: he from the military and then manufacturing, and she from office management. Jisty sees Blaine and Sterla Belgiff are in their back yard now so she goes out to see them. Mr. Belgiff is picking green beans from a bush surrounded by a terraced, salad bowl sort of garden. Mrs. Belgiff is cutting yellow roses when she sees Jisella. “Hi!” she smiles, and she waves and goes into her house saying, “I’ll get the pies.” Mr. Belgiff says the two of them may see a movie tonight. They had tickets for a show but it folded. Mrs. Belgiff comes out with a three-layer rack of deep-dish pies. “Is the filling all from this garden?” asks Jisty, accepting the rack of pies with a cheering smile. “Everything but the pineapple and the crust,” says Sterla. “Seven vegetables, grown just the way they told Blaine to grow them,” she said pulling on his cap. “They told me where to read up on them,” says Blaine, “and then they argued with me. I let them win.” Jisty tells them about a show opening tonight not far away, about a party of vegetables forming a government. Someone gave her two tickets which they can use, since she has a party to attend. “Sure, what time does it start?” “Eight fifteen,” says Jisty. “Well, we’d better be heading in; if we’re late, those vegetables will make a meal of us.” Inside, Jisella cuts a slice of pie and refrigerates the rest. Maybe Claudia wants some. Probably not. Jisty calls her car dealer, Fenley Jiantist, about finding her car’s previous owner. She wants to trace the manuscript, but her title has Fenley’s name on it. He says his assistant bought it months ago. Can Fenley call her back later? He’ll try. At her table, she pours tea, adds honey. She hears birds sing outside. “I found a story,” she tells Claudia. “It fell into my lap, just like you.” She opens the folder with her eyes closed and turns a few pages and points. She opens her eyes and begins reading. We Shall touch every thought from near to us. . . Explore Life as in a cave. We are each keepers of gems, reflecting the divine light through us into the cave of our conscience. Is there writing on the wall? Let us see it well. We find shortcuts through the reading to distant horizons, if We show enough light as We go. Now we are feeling the walls, exploring impressions. Here we find a vein of Truth We can follow, like a vein of precious metal, or gems, or paintings on the cave wall, but even more beautiful than these alone. Along this Truth We can find something ever more wonderful the more light we show, and the more lovingly We see. We are in a place of sacred memories, past and future, in songs, pictures and feelings. Jisty laid the cover closed and put the teacup aside and leaned onto the table. Thank God It’s Friday, she murmured. With her temple resting on a fleshy arm under soft black cloth, she went into reverie. . . and sleep. At 7:05 her phone rings and she answers, partly revived after nearly an hour lying across her dining table. It’s Fenley Jiantist. He has found the receipt for her car. His helper bought it for $2,000 out in Shroveway, on the country edge of the suburbs. Fenley was surprised it cost so little. “How’s it running for you?” he asked. “Oh, it’s fine. How about telling me the owner’s name and phone number?” “I tried calling myself,” he said, “Because water seems to have made all but the city and phone number impossible to read. I don’t know how. We can trace it Monday if you want. Their phone’s disconnected.” “Can I call you next week?” said Jisella. “Sure.” “Thanks, Fenley. You have a good night, okay.” “Sure. You know that’s about the tenth car you’ve bought from us. How about five more and we’ll give you one free?” “Sure,” said Jisty. She showers to prepare for the party. Of course she’ll go; an old familiar group is breaking up, spreading all over the globe. Not only Robin Roose but Ammany Wilthern is leaving, she reminds herself, quickening as she towels off. Ammany Wilthern, her friend from college and summer camp counseling, will be there. She said so in a letter. But then she will be moving to Europe with her engineer husband for three years. On her way out Jisty pats the folder on the table, fluffs Claudia, switches off the light and leaves for the party. Chapter end Harmonius Trimost sat in his comfy chair at home watching twilight fall outside through the drapes. His wife was out of town, his children grown and away, and this might be the night to read through some of that new material he received in the mail.. Switching on his lamp, he brought a sheaf of papers to his chest and began reading lightly: “To the afflicted: when was the last time you always felt good or normal? Was it in childhood? Let’s regress to those surroundings and explore for a turning point. This is a pursuit for imagination and not a guaranteed cure. . .” He put the top paper aside for a closer look later. He’d skim the whole pile first. He liked to keep up with the latest in mental helping. He felt the more he had explored, the less he would try to mold the people he was trying to help, the less he would place theory ahead of their reality. He put aside the next one after reading the first line in strange letters: Any theory can be mis-applied if you haven’t first cured the applicators. Harmonius had expected that company to change its advertising style. The next one looked fairly interesting. The typed cover read merely, “When you have seen through these delusions you will not have to see through them again, but you will have learned much.” Page two said merely: “The spirits may try to fool you many times, but are you willing to win them over? It may take much work, and they’ll want to see how thrilled you are when you finally succeed.” Harmonius frowned. Page three read: “Are you able to suspend disbelief? Imagine a ball only you can see. The ball really exists. It is Earth. You are in space.” “Oh, what is this?” Harmonius said, baring his teeth, ready to flip it aside. He turned it over for a moment to look at the back face. In the center, in small letter, it read, “THIS is They He It She.” “Okay,” said Harmonius. He opened to page four and began reading again. as he read, he leaned to one side and put a hand to his forehead. A few minutes later, the ever-upward narrative had him in a quiet sweat, because he had followed instructions and suspended disbelief. Then, he remembered his own cure and tapped his chest, saying to himself, “This includes that.” He read on, wondering if he felt reassured. Set the ball on the table and see what happens. If you wait long enough you may fall asleep, and the ball will still be there when you awaken. If you become jumpy you may bat the ball across the room. But if you are patient and mindful today, you may contemplate the ball long enough to see something strange happen. As you gaze steadily at it, the lights may appear to fade and spooky winds may blow about your face. You may forget where you are and have been, and for an instant you may wonder if you want to go on. If you have crossed that threshold, you will enter a journey from which there may be no easy return. Now you are in a tunnel, moving forward into an unknown darkness. A sweet scent reassures you, and you settle into a comfortable chair to watch the scenery pass. Faint sounds of delicate bells touch your ears, and your eyes grow heavy. Now you are in a strange place, but familiar. You feel small amidst a great expanse of soft-lit parlors partitioned by pillars and a nylon sail. You’re in the crow’s nest of a third century luxury liner serving wealthy tourists from Galaxy Central People are milling about, all apparently half asleep as you are, and then one by one they begin bursting like wet bubbles, and you realize that is all they were: bubbles with your reflection on them. You are climbing down the mast and thrashing about mentally, but you cannot wake up until your alarm goes off. Did you set your alarm this morning? Because if you don’t have a 24-hour alarm clock, you may have just bought a cruise into the windy star-speckled sky. You are floating head over heels, and you realize you are now awake, that this is really happening. You see other people tumbling along with you toward a warm yellow glow, swept along by an invisible, gentle but irresistible breath of wind. Your life passes in review, pausing at times to let you dwell on something happy. You see as a child, playing in the sand, making sounds and innocently ignoring your future. You see your people and friends from that time so long ago that you set the ball on the table. In that instant, you plummet into a magnetic fire which does not burn because you have no body at the moment. Great numb bites have taken you away yet you are still here. An unknown and insensible length of time surrounds you, jolting and rubbing with volcanic abruptness. Sensations occur and then reoccur in reverse. You wonder if this is going toward a fadeout or a blow up. You forget all and nothing. You have melted into the cauldron of uncertain nonexistence. You awaken on a grassy hillside, lying on a great slab of speckled granite. The sky is blue, and that surprises you. You notice your body is strange. You are in a new world with new rules. The air is hot with nitrogen and oxygen, and it pleases a sense organ centered on the front of your top limb. You have an urge to fulfill, to find an urge worth fulfilling. Only the best will be worth the cost to your surroundings. For you are no longer on your own territory. And you may never get back. Unless you never went. Chapter Sterla Belgiff peeled off the gardening gloves and went in for a shower before the show. Sterla switched on the TV and flicked through familiar channels, then dialed up the teleguide for 6:30; news, news, gardening, The Tooth Filling Dream Show, The Storjey Talks to Strangers Show. . . Sterla selects: (Drun roll, cymbals, xylophone music) “Welcome to the Storjey Talks to Strangers Show! With our special guest today, Mezore the spaceman! He’ll be telling us all about his life on the planet he calls home: He calls it Clover! Mezore is filling in for Dubilee the woman who kissed a frog -- she missed her flight and will be with us tomorrow, we hope. We’ll be back with Mezore in a moment. Now a word from the people who bring you back to life! From off-camera, a smiling voice danced into action with a film behind him. “That’s right, Storjey, the Life Givers, makers of Sanctimony, Video and Thump! bring you a long line of fine soul savers and health products since 198 A.D. Just kidding. Here’s a new one I know you’ll like: The new Personal Shame Repenter. Lets you declare your guilt in matters too terrible to bother God personally. God will know of your repentance before you admit the sin, and you will be richly rewarded with a chair in the Heavenly Choir. You eliminate the risk of punishment before you have time to repent! So many of us know someone who has sinned and then died unexpectedly without repenting. Oh, the loss of grace that an Unrepented sin brings to the transfiguring soul that awaits judgment in the infinite Hall of Justice the Mercy! And oh, the pain that accompanies the spirit into eternal torment, all for the needless neglect of sacred penitence! All you have to do to escape such an end is come on down and pick up one of these Gadgets here, and attach it to your nose, like this and praise God in your heart and you are saved! Without risk or doubt! And there’s no obligation. You may decide that you don’t want to go to Heaven. If you prefer eternal torment, just take off the Shame Repenter and say out loud, “Lord, I Have sinned. I have broken your commands and thoroughly enjoyed it. And I would like to see you lose your job.” So you can have it either way. Don’t miss this chance to determine your destiny, with the New Personal Shame Repenter, comes in gray, brown, sky blue, and nude, with a 2 meg modem and nylon strap. And for only a little more, you can get this easy to use, fully guaranteed, confidential erotic dream Monitor, so you can rest assured that you have apologized for everything when the Angel of Death jerks you out of your body.” Blaine is out of the shower, and Sterla moves around her kitchen counter to warm up some pie. “And now, back to the Storjey Talks to Strangers Show!” “Can you believe this stuff?” Sterla asked Blaine in horrified fascination. “They put anything on TV these days.” “Sure do,” said Blaine. “Makes you wonder sometimes, doesn’t it. Makes me wonder too.” “Hello out there. Our special guest today is Mezore Zith. Mezore says he is visiting us from another planet. He arrived yesterday and we are happy to have him with us. How about a warm welcome, Earthlings!” Storjey rolls his eyes and stifles a jeering laugh. “Hello, Mezore. Welcome to Earth.” “No Storjey, I am not welcome. Before your moon flattens out, I may be chased by mobs who want to be angry on me and eat my ship, if I stay that long. But hello anyway. I hope that make sense.” “Very interesting, Mezore. Nice name too. How about telling us about yourself, and why you’re here.” Storjey gestured to someone off camera. “Sure. I am a career spaceways monitor. I have been away from home, sleeping, for about eighty four of your years, about 1/20th of my expected lifespan. Until now my only assignments would have been to travel among the stars in this neighborhood, collecting and analyzing data on atmospheres, emission and signs of emerging life on the promising planets. Then, some years ago, I received a request from this direction to help in some struggle for control of a planet’s resources. . .” .” Mezore was quickly mastering the language. “You’re serious, aren’t you? What a guy. Well, gee, Mezore, why did you come here? As you can see, we are having no such struggle. We have made great progress in recent times toward permanent peace. The whole world is leaning to cooperate. Storjey was heaving as he tried to stifle an urge to all out laughter. “We’re glad to have you . . . but someone else must be . . . waiting for you to come and . . . settle their problem.” “Ah, that is nice of you to say. But the message came from here. I’m sure of it. There can be no mistake. The Astro Computer Radio Survey pinpointed this planet as the source of the message. You see, someone here wants help, and since I have come so far I am going to investigate their problem before I leave again. Let it be a friendly stay, so I can report back to my people the beginning of a new friendship between you and us. Storjey’s silly grin had gradually changed to playful seriousness. “I still can’t believe that message came from Earth. I should say, I am very surprised. I have never heard of such messages being sent, and I have always thought that our communications efforts all consisted of “Hello, is anyone out there, anywhere?” and taped music. How could anyone think of asking for help from outer space? Well, you have come, so I suppose it’s not necessary to ask any more. Can you tell us a little more about your home, your planet called Clover, isn’t it? “Thank you for that question. I can have the pleasure of remembering while I tell about it. Clover is a beautiful planet. From a short distance it looks like a glowing green and red Christmas bulb --” “You have Christmas? Pardon me, but we would like to hear about your Christmas. Do you celebrate the birth of the Messiah?” “I meant, to you it would look like a beautiful living light, a symbol of health, of holiness. No, on Clover we have no Christmas. To us, the Messiah never has left. When some one does a truly good thing, that is the Messiah. When we look out and see the stars at night, that is the Messiah. Just to see something alive and happy, or to help make it that way, that is our religious outlook.” What??? “Blaine,” says Sterla, “Do we have a way to know if trees can send signals?” “They signal me all the time. At least, I think so. Dinner ready?” Sterla turns off the TV. Storjey’s show is always strange. Maybe it’s a joke. We’ll tune in the late news, she decides. On the way to the show, the car radio tell of a U.F.O. sighting over a major city. Not a serious news story, but as rumor spread by an announcer. He believes his sources, but teletype is quiet. Mezore is being flown to Washington, D.C., without a complaint. This was his idea. His claims are supported by the finding of his ship, protected from approach by electron locks. Meetings are set with top officials of several governments. Back on Clover, a new generation of scientists and tinkerers has a new generation of space machines, and they’re about to blunder into a strange discovery after decades of careful work. And Mezore is about to find himself in a new mode of transportation. Mezore is just sitting down to discuss terms with a big group of weight throwers from all over the world. What of the other thirty two people aboard the ship? Did something happen to Zura and Aerion? They’re okay. They’re still in the think tanks. Mezore was first to wake up. He was due to awaken the others by pushing a few buttons which usually would push themselves if he did not. What happened? It may have been the mutant green mold which grew in his tank, just a dusting of it near his nostrils. Maybe the spores were in his breathing passages when they left Clover. They carried word of a distant cousin in distress, whispering molecular propaganda into his nose capillaries over the years. When he awoke, he knew somehow he would have to do this job himself. He used a rare “system override sequence” or SOS to reassure the ship computer, and left the rest of the crew to dream ever more interesting dreams for a while. He felt like a man on a crusade; in a way, he was. As the first VIP begins welcoming Mezore, a progress monitor named Pondul on Clover is repairing a switch in the Galaxy Untempotronic Monitor, or GUM, recently installed by a species visiting from Galactic Central. Pondul is a descendant of a man from southwest North America taken for a ride in 1534 by adjustors from GC on a side excursion before the budget cuts. GC agents haven’t been back to Earth since, but Pondul works for a company installing GUMs on Clover and elsewhere as a management tool to watch worlds from afar rather than visit them. As Pondul repairs the switch, someone upstream in the system allows the power to surge, and a big jot arcs from a live panel nearby to Pondul’s disconnected panel. Two people are affected the most. Pondul lands back on Earth in 1574 A.D., and Mezore, because of his tooth filling fitted on Clover, is pulled onto a quantum Moebius strip which is peeled clean inside his ship. A Moebius strip is a loop with one continuous side. Half twist and tape a strip of material into a loop and that’s one. Mezore landed in a heap among growing piles of clutter in his ship. He made a guess at which buttons to push and the effect stopped. Back in Washington, D.C., the conferees sit waiting politely for his return, while calls are made worldwide. Someone calls to say someone has broken the ship’s electron barrier, “But it’s not us.” And the ship has taken off! It’s Mezore. He knows they’ll be upset but someone else is calling, and the call is irresistible. After being seen near Omaha, Mezore’s ship, Ampala, is lost from view. Ampala is broadcasting electron vacuum patterns and general thought waves which can align mental activities of all who are nearby. They become like a blind spot in a rearview mirror system. The Ampala is already landing in an isolated area deep in Analogy National Forest. He’ll camp in the forest a couple of days, communing with those he believes called him. . . the trees. And how about Pondul? He lives on Earth for twenty years, in the sixteenth century, while Clover and GC investigators tinker with the equipment, helped by complete computer records of the event. He has just been the object of a further use of the GUM’s time teleportation. After twenty years, they find him and try to pull him back to the present. Chapter end Where’s Mercedes? “. . .Growee . .Mercedes. . .” Wavery called in dreams concealed even from himself. Only Story-telling Mind knew the full story. Mercifully, Wavery was busy with an urgent rescue mission: the rescue of Love. Chapter So Let’s Party The party was well-personed when Jisty arrived. Benjy Leviath’s ever-changing stage-prop estate was country-style tonight. She wondered if Benjy had changed his name to Leviath to honor the oceanic mammals, or just to be interesting. The crowd was mingling in the red barn, with straw bales and loose hay all over. “Hi Jisty!” There’s Philberta Cratchned, one of the beautiful people in so many ways. “Hi Berta,” said Jisella. “Wow! There’s a lot of people here.” “Robin and Benjy invited a lot of their best kept secret friends,” said Berta, slying her eyes toward a group of people talking like celebs. “Success might be a digression,” said a middle aged woman. “Someone makes the grade, and the next thing you see is their mind splashed across the media, and then here they come, you see them picking up the pieces of their lives.” “Yeah,” said another, “Who wants to be fresh grist for the bored-silly mill?” “Someone has to take the lead,” said a tall, thin man. “How about that writer over in Boscoville, plays the typewriter like a piano? He makes it up almost without editing, and it’s mostly true.” “I know a guy and a gal, they write together; they write slow and sloppy, and then they sift out the true stuff,” said a girl almost too young to be here. “They’re condensing philosophy and religion. They’re transist-o-rizing Scientology right now.” “Working over someone else’s philosophy is like disturbing a can of worms,” said a man. “Oh, everything’s a can of worms if you wanna look at it that way,” said the middle-aged lady. Jisty felt a tug at her elbow. “Come on, let’s have some punch. They’ll be at it all night, only sitting down part of the time,” said Berta. “Where’s Ammany?” said Christy. “She couldn’t make it,” said Berta. “She said to drink her a toast, and she’ll join us in spirit. They caught their flight this afternoon.” “Oh,” said Jisty. She slowly crumpled into the sofa where a few other disappointed looking people were reading the newspaper amid all the chattering and music. “Here,” said a nice looking guy who also looked like a fat wimp. He handed her the front section. He seemed pretty nice, and she almost started a conversation. “Thanks,” she said. He frowned in a friendly way as he continued to read. He looked ready to talk, pleasantly and easily. She glanced at her newspaper, then glanced again, and then read a story under a headline saying. Wildlife Showing off in Wilderness Area Animals are swarming in the forest near Splinterville, a tiny village surrounded by Analogy National Forest. Since yesterday, squirrels, raccoons, porcupines, moose, deer, bobcats, bears, many kinds of birds and other animals have been noticed in great numbers in an area along the Performers’ River. Just what is attracting them remains a puzzle to the rangers and the forest rangers who are now in a camp studying the situation. Witnesses report being surrounded by a great number of the smaller birds and mammals, and hearing choruses by several species in unison with a background hum by other animals. The sounds sometimes resemble chants. The songs are being recorded on sensitive tape and sent out to be analyzed by sound specialists. . . Chapter It’s sunset and Lemkin is throwing his box of writing into Performer’s River. He’ll keep the box. Now he fishes out the papers he can reach so as not to litter. “Dumb idea,” he says as his shoes take a soaking. He decides to burn the papers. That wasn’t be littering. He sets them into the fire one by one: least ones first. “I would never do this with people,” he assured the forest. “This is dumb,” he says, with his shoes steaming dry on a rock. He puts most of his writing back into the car. The Northern Lights are awesome later that night after he’s asleep. Lemkin sits near the fire, thinking what he’d do if he were in the city. He eats rough sandwiches, imitating a pelican. He tries to write. He is desolate. Cool drinks from the tiny, cold river are the splash on his face. Things are getting better. He feels something is going to happen. He is going somewhere. Tomorrow he will cross the creek. Before bedding down, he sits on a log by the tent and realizes it’s not so bad. He has no address; he has nearly a month’s rent in traveler’s checks and in the bank. He just has no desire, or not much. Someone else might interpret his condition as serious. He’d say they were about twenty years late. As soon as life had started clearly breaking its early promises, he had begun to see it unravel. But now, his brain sometimes seemed to be going haywire or else life was behaving worse than usual. Maybe the world was becoming a high-tech, no-exit haunted house. Or maybe someone had started a big snowball of lies with him as the destination. He breathed the cool air and wished that were all he needed. Other people could go fish. The air tells the truth, out here near paradise. Go easy on people, said an inner voice. They’re your audience. Don’t insult them. It’s your own attitude you have a chance to improve right now. You act like your shirt’s on so your head’s coming out the sleeve. Let your arms do that. Your head should be blossoming, not leafing. “Interesting,” Lemkin said aloud. “Anybody here?” A night bird sang a couplet a few trees away. “I want to end this life, but I want to go on living,” said Lemkin to the forest. A quiet listening seemed to begin between the branches. “They played with me,” he complained. “From their offices they proclaim, ‘You must make peace with us. We are the establishment.’ When I tried, they assigned me to take the blame why other people are giving up. They say this is the only assignment they’ll give me.” He listened for an answer in the growing darkness. But Lemkin was all alone in the forest. The last light of the sun was almost beyond the horizon which he could see up the tiny river rinsing the stones. Stars began to appear between the treetops above him. He sat with his back to the retiring fire, watching the deepness between the trees and the stars. “Something’s wrong, they told me. They argued between them while I waited. They said the problem is too much freedom, too many bombs, not enough rock and roll, too little freedom, too much rock and roll, not enough bombs. Or maybe the problem is our attitude. Something’s not working, they said. Maybe the problem is beyond our control, or something we said, what we do. Then they looked at me and said, maybe the problem is you. There. That’s it. We figured it out. It’s your fault. I don’t see how that helped. But it sure hurt. That’s why I rose up and soared over their heads. That’s why I’m here tonight. I’m worried my life’s best work will go into a book and then I’ll die in the mud after spending the tiny money they might pay me for it. I wish I could go back to the place I thought the world would be when I got to be this age. Back then, when they made love, it was consciously. Nobody in their right mind fucked their brains out and then made someone take the rap for their guilt feelings or their loss of brains. Or is it vice versa. I’m not very experienced, you know.” He was still for a few minutes, watching his breath faintly disappear into darkness a few feet toward the deep forest. “They told me how much they liked Melville’s digressions about whales in Moby Dick. Now they tell me to get to the point. Okay. I want to know, whether, I mean. . . Does fantasy, a sexual fantasy, if you mean it by the ethics you have in everyday life, would it be helpful to the receiver, the person it’s about?” Maybe you think too much after all, came his reply. Better put that shirt on sideways again and let your fingers do the talking. Lemkin thought of having sexual thoughts soon, in the tent. He just doesn’t feel like it now. He is oceanically tired; though mentally awake. Maybe later. Must have been the driving, the coffee. Wishes he could have a warm bath. Invent something you can write with in the tub. He crawls into the tent headfirst. He brushed the pine needles and soil from his pant legs and socks to the wet grass outside. Wiggling into his blankets, he then lay still. He listened to the deep, musical silence of the night. The river seemed to rub the stones the right way, making all hurry seem unnecessary. “We’ll get there, “ the stones seemed to say as they crept down river. All day long Lemkin had fermented his squashed dreams of success as a writer. As he lingered near sleep, so charged with the beauty of woods and the futility of life, memories bubbled up from the gently haunted depths of his mind. He saw his father and mother assuring him again and again through childhood, “You can do anything you decide, if you set your mind to it.” There were his grade school teachers, adding fuel to his fire, saying, “You sure have an imagination,” or “You write very clearly for your age!” Then came memories of his siblings, cultivating his mind with astonishing ideas from religion, philosophy, arts and science. There were his adolescent friends also trying with him to understand life as they tried to survive and have a little fun. And there were the books and TV. Then the noisy factory and hours of being a physical robot but partly free of mind. By now his head was full of voices and visions rising to a crescendo, and when he remembered his room in the city, himself sitting at a table clutching a pen, hovering uselessly over a notebook, he realized something new, again. No wonder he could not write, with so much self concept to filter it through. He decided to dump his personality. Some people had already suggested this to him. Maybe they were right, he almost said out loud cheerfully in the tent. Free now from his limitation, he wondered what he might do. With the non-personal knowledge still in mind, he saw there is still pattern to be recognized in the fabric of the universe. He could be any part of the pattern. In time, he probably will. It was a neat escape from neuroses, and it let him fall asleep. He awake several times during the night, rearranging his blankets for warmth. He kept reminding himself the sun will be back soon bringing warmth, and he could hardly wait. Br-r-r. The tent sheltered him thinly under a large pine by the river. Earth turned, scanning a faraway field of stars. A breeze came and went, and another. Many rocks entered the atmosphere, and much dust. Owls caught mice, the river flowed on, plants breathed, and Lemkin’s blood rebuilt and cleansed muscle tissue and finished much digestion. Lemkin dreamt about many things. He was on a motoring trip with his family, driving on a dirt road, in awe of the beauty. He remembered classmates from long ago. He awakened to hear howls and hoots and a quickening in the treetops. He slept again and dreamt of waterfalls and fountains. Chapter end Thontim told Wavery a tale in the circle of trees, about an animal which lives on the floor of an ocean on the planet Clover. The being is so dense and heavy it barely moves. But it has a nervous system which functions as a brain spread thinly through itself. The pressure of water is so great on the ocean floor, messages stream into its awareness as if by osmosis. The animal is emotional and intelligent, unknown to Clover scientists who gather and study its carcass to discover the secrets of high pressure survival. The animal sometimes wishes it could fly in the water like the life around and above it. It hears legends of light from molecular clues drifting down from higher watery realms, and it dreams of stars. The scientists on Clover use their sacred discipline to rip secrets from the anatomy of this nonscientific animal about how it survives at that depth. So far they are unaware the animal emits slow patterns of low frequency sound which, from Thontim’s translation, shows environmental metaphors which could provide common ground for talk between the two kinds of intelligent life. Why doesn’t Thontim tell them? He is telling them as well as he can, and in their future, they have finally understood. “May I speak to you concerning Lemkin and his mind?” Thontim asked Wavery. “I have many points to raise, but few words are needed. You’ll get the picture.” “Surely you may. I am a good listener when the speaker brings Love and Truth,” said Wavery, reclining on a soft bed of snow without melting it. “I have plenty of time, as you know.” “How about if I just reach out and touch you,” said Thontim, “and tell you everything at once, and you can use all your time solving the problem as you see fit.” Start here Wavery gave his own hand to the Thontim, and the telling was complete. “Lemkin worried because innocence of heart had not been enough sometimes to avoid punishment. And he disliked punishment very much. “They began the sacrifice of this innocent by saying his ideas were an escape from his duty to work. They were fleeing from knowing their own ideas had built a world of feast beside famine, of pride before fall. They so feared punishment for their shortcomings in creating this world, they looked for a way to fool themselves. A scapegoat does not remove the cause of evil, but only the fear of punishment among the pretenders. They chose him because he would solve the problem they had already chosen not to solve. . . the problem of evil. He was willing to speak and work in Truth and Love, and this they made a crime through distorting the telling of his speeches and actions. They followed simple falsehoods, pretending not to know better. Why? They were still playing the childish games of war which had won them childish reprieves from responsibility, and gained them childish honors. “He already wanted to do well for them, but they wanted to control him so they used tricks to whip him into submission. It delayed much of his work. Why serve a system which whips you for your efforts, and plays games with your mind instead of with you as a friend? “On their side, though, he had such a long way to go to fulfill his talent, and they were submerged in the failures of the past. His fate was beyond their control. They controlled him from below while those above him awaited his maturing. “In a way, Lemkin served as a scapegoat in training to be a leader. The reverse works as well.” “I know the feeling,” said Wavery. “I wanted to raise their understanding so we could live in friendship; they wanted to pull me down so we wouldn’t have to live in friendship.” “In a few ways he is much like you began,” said Thontim. “He sees the big one in everything. In a way he was right. And since they selected him as a scapegoat for a moral issue, he became a very big scapegoat. . . unnecessarily of course. Every major glitch in experience is treated as a moral issue until its true cause is realized. They degraded him for what they did not know themselves. when his sexuality went public, they whipped him to teach themselves discipline by an example of fear. He didn’t need it; they secretly believed they deserved whipping themselves. “They used a taboo as a scapegoat trap, then corked the bottle with him inside. They torture him in little ways to make him want to escape an impossible prison. They want to see a miracle they can learn by replaying the tape. They want his secret power. They work for Death, because they believe secretly they have committed fatal blasphemy and have no chance for eternal love. “Meanwhile, corked in the bottle, he makes the wine of his inner beauty even while all they see is the bubbles. Yet he could do much better. “While they maneuver his breakage of a taboo into major isolation, they let their own blame roll innocently onto his back. If they intended to cease their crimes, they would need no such system. But they are lost. “And Lemkin is still partly imprisoned by his lethargy. He has never employed himself to overcome the illusion of their trap. A few weeks of intense effort on his own life story as a link with creation is what will uncork the bottle. World willing, he may do it. The higher and better powers are always ready to help any who climb high enough to reach them. “Until then, they grind him under their stone wheels ant then punish him for being too fine. With one code for their own conduct and one code for his, they wait to steal the fruits of his conduct. They ignore his pleas and refuse his terms unconditionally. They ignore even pleas from above which only offer them the highest treasures by a map of existence. “In the end it hardly matters. All are destined to be interviewed for holiness and offered what they can comprehend by what they have become. The further question is, how much unnecessary pain did they experience before rising above it? In the everyday world, too much pain came from forgetting to teach even those symbols which helped a civilization rise. “By now they have forgotten they learned to read by teaching from helpful minds, and they have begun to read and write that wisdom is born and self-generated. No, it is more like a bridge, or a rope ladder across a chasm. If the gap is wide, the bridge must be made wide or the lands are separate to those who cannot fly. And why keep others in ignorance if one is so convinced of their own magnificence?” “There have been lives of people who would not say what they wanted of life, except that the world should be lifted above its present squalor, misery and strife. Both they and the world made many errors in the process, but improved in many ways. Their names were not always known to their benefactors, but they are in paradise now.” “Lemkin is this way, and so are his detractors in another way. All are lost by comparison to their future salvation. In some ways Lemkin’s persecutors merely prefer people unlike Lemkin. If Lemkin would cease hurting himself, he would measure up to their esthetics before long. But esthetics is a poor excuse for not helping bring out the beauty in others. In the end, all will have a good laugh as they blossom. But how long will they suffer through the torment of this slow game?” Home Time By 10:15 Jisella was home talking to Claudia, putting on some tea. Her answering machine says Harmonius called. That’s unusual. It’s okay. She’ll call him tomorrow. Pouring her tea over the sink, she sees a lightning rock skip through the pale sky. It seems to be going somewhere. At the table, she reads some more, with Claudia allowed to “help.” “I’m here to put an end to your rebellion. I’ve seen too much already.” “Rebellion? Like water, I look for a way past the obstruction,” said Wavery. “I don’t even rebel against gravity. I simply look for ways to transcend it while still following the rules.” “Here is my judgment,” said Death, raising an upper lip, releasing a spiked tongue. “You’re trying to do to much with too little information,” Wavery said quickly. “Can’t we talk, finish a conversation for a change?” “I’m here to help you finish something you’ll never finish for yourself: your eternal life,” snarled Death, “And it’s now time.” Wavery began stepping back, looking over Death’s shoulder. “Can’t you be satisfied with flipping to the back of the book? You can have an end to me as many times as you want that way.” “This includes that,” said the ill-mannered one. “This is the end of you and your book.” Its spring-loaded, dagger -tipped tongue seemed to quiver with anticipation. But Death had overlooked something and as time seemed to slow, was unprepared for something closing in. Death had met this Wavery many times, yet never had stopped seething and seen things from Wavery’s corner of the ring. Now, a light held its tongue, a light that seemed to emerge from the air itself. Wavery smiled sincerely at Death. “The truth is, you now exist only to the extent I do not exist. You are outside the ragged edge of my understanding. But my understanding has you surrounded. See behind you?” Death looked, and saw dimensions of paradise drawing around It like a rope trick and a net. “You can stay here and be changed by the beauty we have planned for us and for you, or you can jump out of this existence before paradise closes in,” said Wavery. The Death withdrew its tongue. The robots reveled in the Spring morning sun with dewdrops on the grass and abundance in the market booths. The performance had played smoothly. They could not see Death, though light entered their photo-receptors. Death smiled from among them with grim disgust, Its favorite attitude. Now Waver stood waiting to meet Growler, as always. “Kiss me,” she said, “Okay,” said Waver and they kissed. “Let’s dance,” she said, and they did. A rough-looking male robot came out of the crowd, and took Growler away from Waver. A horrible looking robot grabbed Waver and started a mocking dance, swinging Waver around like a sack of rocks. Death smiled and took Waver’s place in the dance. Waver sat down to mechanical applause. A curtain of night closed the scene, as robots bowed. Death stepped through the curtains at center stage, waving for attention through the cheers, “There is rebellion, and there is Rebellion,” said Death grandly. “I grant you the right to rebel!” The robots stood up applauding. Confetti from weeks of shredding fell everywhere as the band played. “From this day forward,” shouted Death above the din, “Paper shall have no mission greater than the increase of paper. The day shall come when the paper itself will be the master race!” “….and we shall have no use for people except as slaves!” “Hurrah, hurrah,” came the roar of approval from the metallic assemblage. Far from this isolated, dark planetoid, a whole galaxy’s Loving Mind began to coalesce, forming water-like beads of conceptual beauty between the star droplets. Bridges were being built between ideas and senses to let beauty flourish, and to let illness become well. The end of lives and the end of bodies became two different issues, all for the better for bodies and lives. Change became clearly known as the last words on a page before turning it. When scourge-bearing residues of the tragic figure, Death, were found, they were given the choice given the main body of that chewer of the pages of life. Meanwhile, new manuscripts were written, new maps were in progress. This time, someone nice comes knocking at the door most times. Someone has come seeking. They are asking to be let in. Who is it? Harmonius found himself on the floor with his shirt off, perspiration on the carpet like dewdrops. He was waking after a long dream, a dream of work and fulfillment and strange feelings. His clock showed 10 to 10. He felt twenty pounds lighter somehow. He checked his usually soft belly. He is twenty pounds lighter. He went to the bathroom mirror, and saw he had aged a few years, but very gracefully: he looked better than ever. He wondered if his wife would think he were an impostor. He could prove himself to her by knowing their most intimate secrets, he decided, and began selecting a few. Then he remembered much more of where he’d been the past few hours. Claudia’s paw swats the page as Jisella reads: A Miracle is Living Truth: Truth with the breath of Life. Living lungs are to rock as Truth in bloom is to Truth left standing. The Living Truth is for everyone. These words are not written in the rock, but we can breathe life into them. If error is among them, surely this is like Creation itself. We need not erase. The letters are not in error but only in an arrangement to be improved with Light and Love. Living Beings are an Alphabet of Creation, and do we have Truth if the letters stay only with their own kind? If anyone would say this writing is wicked, remember they have always said so. Long ago they used these maps to explore without sharing what the maps showed them. They made a cult of their own glory, while I plodded on into new territory. They did not quite understand and their successors often do not understand. If They do not understand now, the time will yet come. “Any set of symbols can be used rightly or misused in a cult of glory. They froze a system which can still be improved with honest love guiding information through the experiments of fiction at great velocity. With love as the energy, and matter as karma, fiction can be the drawing board for designing bridges. See beauty by seeing clearly. Cure trouble by seeing clearly and truly with love and doing something beautiful about it. For now is the gap between past and future, and as this writing comes from the point of a pen, so are we the point of Time: the place where The Ink creates a universe. And Life is Eternal, though Time seems to change. Ever notice, whenever we check, we are alive? Now please set this aside and go look at a tree branch, and a vine, or remember them. See how They attach to the branch and to each other. Thank you for indulging Me. Christy almost put the paper aside, fatigue calling her to rest. But she saw there was only one more page, and so skimmed it. When the family trees of thought and life grow together, as a forest of trees would embrace a system of vines, we shall connect not only in fiction but in our senses and truth. Let us distill the fruit of the vine, and turn the water of wisdom into the form which sustains us. If we stop creating and exploring, yesterday’s work fades. Today’s lifelines nourish the memory of the past, the stem of our flowering. If my analogies are the living trees and vines and the birds, who will deny them? Heresy is a political issue, not a fully divine one. Discussion would make the truth plain to all, yet can everyone understand? Still, until we all understand the Truth in bloom, We are as rocks and can only stand. Even they who have the maps are sometimes evil; they race ahead to claim authority. They do not understand, and race back to oppress explorers who only pause to see farther into the walls. What is evil but being lost around the bend. The lost are reading from the wrong side of a transparent page of our journey; They have become lost because their people left off the light and went ahead without seeing. They wandered into a neighboring fold in the walls of Our cave. It makes no sense to Them because They passed so much without understanding. When They shine their light on again but so dimly, how can They see where They left off? What is the Light? Is it a star like the sun? Could a star create all the other stars? There is another Light, deeper and brighter -- a Breathing Light. For those who are lost, let Us show Them the Light which was so misunderstood before We were shown. With this Light We have found the shortcut. Let each of Us tend this Light so none of us need be the karmic dishrag. Who speaks for the Breathing Light by saying what We must not think or say? When They point the finger, are they withholding the Loving words They know, and the Light They could show? There was trial and error even in this writing. This writing may be seen as fiction. But when fiction builds Truth, why deny it? Fiction and error are everywhere, but they are not evil. We can live with them. What is evil is remaining in darkness when Divine Light is willing to shine through us. “Uh-oh, there’s another page; they’re stuck together. I gotta hit the sack,” she tells Claudia. She tumbles lightly into bed. She breathes deeply without a ritual. A hush… a blend of light in the room connects to all existence. At 1:30 a.m. she wakes and looks out the window. Another lightning rock, and stars. She sleeps again, with Claudia at her side. One dream ended just before dawn. He pushed the tent flap open to peek outside. All was quiet except the creek. Lemkin crawled out into the moist chilly air to see the sky through the treetops. The stars were faint against a reddening night. His breath was fogging, and he curled back into the blankets to dream of an approaching dawn. When he woke again, the sunlight was trickling over the hill. It was hard to leave the warm nest. His night had passed with unaccustomed peace. But he rose and built a fire, and lingered there while the steam rose from his boots and clothes, and the sleep from his being. As he warmed up, a light frost that still capped the grass on the night side of the tree trunks turned to dewdrops. Birds flew in ones and twos among the branches. Sunlight streamed in, warming the air, and lightening it. Still the boy stood. The day loomed bright and scary, and he did not want to hurry through its preparation. Finally he stirred to take down the sleep-house. He made it small, and tied it to his pack frame. From the car, shining, with dew, covered partly with fallen needles, looking happier than it had in memory, the boy took his provisions for the next three days. There were red beans, brown rice, almonds., green split peas, a tube of peanut butter, raisins and dried apricots, salt, vitamins, and a small book on edible plants. Now the danger of the trip ahead swelled in his eyes and though he swelled his courage to oppose it, knowing his deathbed might lie ahead in some old grove, made the courage seem out of place. Then he remembered a resolution he had made to live and make the best of it. Plenty of time to be dead, later, perhaps all eternity. He straightened his back and looked at the forest around him. The morning light was now in full presence, streaming down in bright beams through gaps in the canopy. A squirrel chased another up a tree in front of the person who stood thinking at the edge of the wilderness. The person waved at a crow that landed nearby and then began to walk through the brush toward the creek. By midday he would have put two ridges behind him. But first he would have to cross the river. And before that he would have to fix breakfast. Morning feels like Springtime to Jisella for some reason, though it’s summer. Breakfast with Claudia. Well, not really. Claudia climbs up on the window sill, and looks out. Someone’s in the alley: that’s rare. He looks kind of scruffy; he’s looking at us. What is he, a tramp? Standing out by the garbage cans. He looks kind. Opening the door, she reminds herself: don’t try this at home. She calls to the man. He comes in for breakfast, declines a shower, says he’s just been swimming. Where? she wonders, but doesn’t ask. He’ll be leaving town for now. He has people to visit. Thanks her soberly. Oh, yes, he could be working in a job. It’s just that he has another calling too. He’s thought people were harassing him too: unseen people. But maybe they were friendly, he thought too. She asked if he has been in prison. “Sometimes I have been locked in, and sometimes locked out,” he said. He says he should be heading for the highway. Will he have problems getting a ride? Not too much, he says; it should be alright. There was something clear about him -- he was right up with things, and filled each of Jisella’s moments with a remembrance that joy and sorrow are sometimes together. She said just a moment, and left the table. He looked upon her kindly, said softly, “I’ll wait for you forever.” Her memory is a blur about that but she remembers hearing that later instead of right then. She looked in her purse, saw air but no money. She went to her cookie jar and looked inside. Empty. Oh. Underneath the rug was her “who knows?” money. She gave him the whole $30. As if from somewhere else in time, Jisella seemed to hear someone faintly somewhere: weeping, a voice. . . in relief, happiness. He was quietly grateful, almost more than grateful as he looked up into her face. He left. He went on down the alley behind the Belgiff’s yard. She watched his back through her open door, and remembers a faint impression of a plus sign on his coat. She heard him answer a chirping bird with a cheery, “Yes, uh-huh?” and then he was past the Belgiff’s back fence and gone? It was time to cross the river. Everything on this side was near the highway, and the women had said the trail began on the other side. Lemkin’s pack felt top heavy but acceptable. The log downstream across the river looked wide enough and the river was only two or three feet deep. He thought of wading across anyway, carrying his shoes and socks. But he could still slip and fall barefoot on worn stones, or bruise his feet. So he climbed up on the root end of that log bridge, and looked down. The stream was waving and swirling, and his balance let him down off the log. “Whew,” he said. “Good thing that was the dry run.” He was nervous now, remembering the times he’d fallen off logs. Then he remembered his decision of last night. He set out and walked the log like the first crossing before mistakes were invented. It worked. He had also been very careful. Her eyelids were heavy not glued shut. She’d love to sleep more but Jisella decided it was time to begin her Saturday at work. She took the manuscript, looked at Claudia, and drove toward the office. . Downtown, she sees an old lady with a full shopping cart. Her face is peeling from sunburn. “Oh, what’s it gonna take,” Jisella murmurs. She pulls into the parking garage. Her desk is sprinkled with notes to call. She calls one client, then stops. “I’m gonna look at the last page,” she tells herself, realizing her grammar is going to seed. Out comes the folder, she flips to the last page. Oh, there are two last pages she hasn’t seen. The last page is nearly blank. The next to last reads: How can We say all has been said? Has the Truth been repaired and completed.... Has everyone found their way? Let Us meet and enter the Light together. Somewhere up the way. The last page has five words at the top: Let Us Meet Write Here Jisella picks up the tablet under her elbow and takes pen in hand. “Fiction?” she says to the manuscript. “I won’t try to compete with you. Maybe that’s why they discouraged you. They were competing!” She started a story. Their new Rolling Bigtop motor home gleamed out front, and they rattled their maps in anticipation. We’ll avoid this area, said the man to his wife, circling a war-torn area with his big finger. Maybe we’ll see it on the way back, if everything’s calmed down. I do want to see Water Balloon Falls, she said. We’ve always said we’d go there once we retired. I hope they don’t get so worked up we have to sell the Bigtop, and skip the falls. They closed the lodge there. The graffiti was becoming too violent. It’s like the devil got into somebody. I don’t see how they think they’ll get anywhere by threatening to ‘severely edit’ the world. “Well, we’ll just tune in the news while we’re out wandering, and see if the war just won’t run out, he said. “I like your optimism,” she said. “Here, give me a kiss.” “Oh, this should have been better,” she thought to herself. “And it will be,” came the reply. “Try something else too.” She wrote some more. Those in love… who live love… need a bridge across the eroded canyon of karma. As Buddha said, Cause and Effect. Though only half the causes are one’s own, we are woven with the rest so we can pull nearby strings. By now Lemkin had put two ridges behind him but was still ambling along Performers’ River, following deer trails and small meadows to make log jumping less mandatory. He carried about twenty-five pounds on his back, food and warmth. City memories troubled him between wildflower reveries and times he bruised his legs going over logs. In one sunny delirium he wondered if the city he left were wondering about him. He noticed one bruise came when he was thinking bad thoughts about the people situations which had riled him. “I didn’t reject you,” he called over his shoulder. “I’ll come back. I love you.” He knew it would be tough if the city refused to change its kooky ways. just when he thought that he stepped in a muddy stretch of grass and fell on his butt. That was okay, because a fist size rock hit the ground in front of him, about where he would have been without the mud. It was a rich, sparkly brownish black rock with something like a croissant slice embedded in it. Lemkin looked around for a moment before picking it up but intuition was telling him this rock came from straight up, way up. Way, way up. His hand felt good about lifting it, while his mind said, “Wow. Wow, wow, wow.” A moment later he realized it couldn’t be a meteorite after all because the croissant-like wedge pulled out and opened in his hand like a time lapse flower. And it was a note. “Oh, I can’t believe. . . “ Lemkin started as he solved the prank and started looking around. Because he had seen his name as the addressee. But the name changed, from “Lemkin” to “Pondul.” Had he hallucinated on first glance? He read the note there beside the river on a flat clearing. Memo: URGENT Progress Monitor Cultural Transmigration Earth Dear Pondul, Something has come up. Please hurry up to the Entrance Hall. I’ll meet you there. The note was unsigned. That looked bad. “I don’t believe this,” said Lemkin to the birds and anyone who might be interested. “This is B-S.” After a minute or so, he put the rock and note in his pack, and went on his way; watching for strangers. Maybe it was a meteorite after all, he told himself. It came straight down, and went into the mud a little He walked another half hour into the noonday sun, across beauty and within it. His head was clearing, and so were his lungs, and eyes, and heart. His shoulders ached, and both boots were moist inside, making his feet spongy in his socks. “Time for a break,” he ruled, mildly, and peeled off the pack in a shady, fairly dry patch of thick grass. He looked at the rock again, and the note. “It’s almost enough excitement for this trip already,” he said to the woods, and the vast meadow across the river. “Anyone want to help me figure this out?” He spoke half in jest, and half in case he might appease whoever dunnit. Like he had sprung a catapult, two blue jays streaked by him on either side at eye-level, flying parallel and over the trees ahead above the path. They circled one another like a tight mating dance, then swooped up the hillside above the treetops to the left, and disappeared among the trees a quarter mile away. “Hm,” said Lemkin. Sensing no other response, he knelt in the grass and then lay carefully on the ground. He smelled the dust and felt the twigs and heard the pine needles under him, like a box spring with no mattress. No matter, he was plenty ready for a snooze. His head felt like a big, drafty palace just now, with the soft mountain winds whispering cool gentleness through his royal chambers. The walk and the companionship were doing him good. The city was far away, but he felt it as a dot on the far horizon, and it seemed a place of beauty surrounded by this near-paradise. And he did sleep, a swirly and strange but restful sleep. And clouds began to roll in again, this time only hinting of rain some day soon. They dropped off a few beads of moisture on the mountaintops, as a matter of custom. Clouds and mountain went way back together. Every year the rains took a little of mountain to the river. Every year the plants and rain and wind softened mountain’s rocky self into soil, a few thousand grains per square inch. Recently, people found mountains, and named them. The mountain beside Lemkin was on the map as Mount Metaphor. Some people say the mountain lives up to its name. Thontim and Wavery were beginning to entertain arriving guests gathering now just outside in the circle of trees. From Thontim’s rock-on-a-rock to the trees, nothing grew or sat but tiny things in the dust, because Thontim’s ship had landed there a century ago and spilled conceptual radiation purposely to reserve this site as sacred. The conceptual dust was from the stuff of legend, Thontim’s brand of story clay. He was sloppier back then, and used a little too much, one reason people had named the nearby mountain Mount Metaphor. Animals were gathering but not crowding throughout the woods, most of them easily supported by a surprisingly rich growth of food foliage. Large predators were fasting without meaning to, because of signals from Mezore’s ship about 100 yards away. Wavery, Thontim, and Ampala, the ship form Clover, were not seen by scientists or any human until that night. Thontim and Wavery had moved to Wavery’s life-and-death matter of Death’s behavior. “Have you asked him if his shoes fit right?’ asked Thontim. “Not his shoes exactly, but It knows I care. Death just doesn’t seem to consider any truce as being possible, and I just don’t see any other way.” “Death won’t respect anything It doesn’t understand,” said Thontim. “Though in a way, Death knows everything, but never says what It knows. Do you suppose human kind has neglected Death in their attention to everything else, and raised a wayward child? There is still time to raise your dialogue, Humankind too is still a child in the grand story, a character asking deep questions of the stars. Both human Life and human Death may change as the questions become deeper.” Wearing your snowshoes? Death came a-flying to the time of day and the place where Thontim said this. From behind a tree a few yards from Wavery and Thontim, Death listened without knowing who Thontim might be. “Sh-sh, Time to be holy,” Thontim whispered, and began a personal offering of chatter to Death, meant as fun. “If you grew fifty million times taller, Earth could be your face in the mirror. Moon would be about eight paces away, but you’d have to float to reach it. Moon could be your apple, but it’s not ripe yet, and very cold to touch. “That one really hot spot in the black, bejewelled sky all around you is radiant, yellow-white SOL, the sun. Take you the better part of an hour to walk there, if there was any ground to walk on. You’d need plenty of sunscreen starting around Venus’ orbit, even with your fancy costume. Don’t go too close: SOL has a long range pull, and you’re spread too thin to resist. You’re about Jupiter’s height now, but SOL has room for almost a thousand each of Jupiter and you.” Death felt mocked, and lunged into the circle where Thontim’s will protected all three from harm. “How much of the universe have you explore?” snarled death. “Oh, a fair amount, over a long while.” said Thontim. “Life is a gradual process. Stick with it, and you’ll get there.” “Oh, a power play,” Death hit every syllable. “First the advice, then the price.” Death was struggling with invisible limits on his behavior. “What do you want from me?” Death’s voice sounded fright within frustration as all attempts to attack ended in mere squirms. “I want you to read all the books and view and hear all the works of art, and report on them in breath-calmingly beautiful language,” said Thontim. . . “I want you to weep the hell out of your airways, and surrender to yourself.” A flick of Thontim’s hand, and Death vanished from the circle. “Where’d It go?” asked Wavery. “Home. It’ll be back. Sorry, but there’s a reason. Death has to grow up, just like human kind. Until then, both are troublesome.” “What’ll It be like when its grown?” “Mellow. A gentle rhythm of change. You have some grown-up Death with you now; It just blends in. Every change is a form of Death. Death is mature when it becomes merely a change of life. It’s like a pendulum, in a way, swinging between chaos and rigidity, and finally settling for gentle exploration. That’s why there’s no need to kill Death, only to stop Its momentum. If they try to kill death, they only shove the arm of the pendulum, and rarely do they manage both the direction and the level of force to any advantage. Death is sensitive enough to approach from fiction. This Death of present-day Earth, though, is several stories away from being a good reader or listener. I’m afraid I may not have helped you much in the short run. The seed of change has been planted but Death may feel it as a thorn in its side for now. You may face a major tantrum soon. I’ll do what I can for you, but it’s your adventure.” “The problems probably started after the beginning. That was the first problem: bad timing. Then, maybe we didn’t explain the truth well enough to someone -- you in your way, I in mine,” said Thontim. “Maybe we were so involved with details of our work we overlooked someone’s special need for giving and receiving more love. Maybe they loved so clumsily they hurt themselves and other. That will take time to heal. Someone has written hurting into the big story.” Faint angels were in the grass near sleeping Lemkin. The grass under him wanted to know what would become of them if they died from the breakage of his weight. The faint guest lecturers told them what they could tell. “Your parent plants begat you without knowing whence they came or where they would go, but you need not, since we are here. When your present form crumbles, you resume in forms of Earth, sky and star fodder. it’s not that bad. Joy will continue. You will see. Lemkin’s sleep was deep, and a dream concluded it. Millions of faces sang the song of ordinary life: “Hear we all the leafy grasses/Basking in the Summer Sun/Shorter nights exchanging gasses/Longer days for having fun.” A mosquito bit Lemkin, and he awoke. Jisella remembered she was going away -- not sure where-- maybe Monday. Maybe today. What an idea. She made copies of the manuscript and mailed it to three publishing friends she knew, and put a copy in a folder for Bez. She filed the original under “O.” This would be the one vaguely filed item in the whole office. She called an airline to check on flights to or near Splinterville. She’d like an airport where She can rent a car. There’s a flight at six, and she made a reservation to place a place fifty miles from Splinterville. She took the manuscript into Bez. “I’m knocking off early, Bez.” “Early on Saturday?” “I’m flying out to that wild life extravaganza. Might as well go see what’s up out there. I’ll call you Tuesday or Wednesday if I can. May be back by then.” “Fine,” he said “What do you mean, ‘If you can’.” “I may do some camping.” “You sure? I hope you’ll go with someone. Hire a guide, maybe.” “What are ya worried about. I’ll be okay. I used to hike a lot.” “It just seems so sudden. I’ll worry about you. Jernie will too.” Jernie is his more than legal wife. “Don’t worry. I won’t go in far; I’ll set sound traps; I’ll carry a protection. Anything to ease your mind. Jernie too. Be sure and tell her. If you want something to worry about, worry about giant hurricanes. Those could cut into our ten-year plan.” She caught her flight, and checked into a Splinterville Motel late that night. The motel’s mirror showed her an already happier friend. The local newspaper was five days old. An insect bit him and he awoke. The sun was past its high, and the air was sampling twilight under the trees. Lemkin saw two deer browsing in bushes. He stayed quiet, watching them. One lifted its gaze to Lemkin, then the other did. Then both stood full up, and to his surprise, approached him, one slightly to each side. He slowly arose and donned his pack; the deer halted, twitching their ears, and snuffing breaths. Lemkin reached out palms up and hummed. The deer came to him and muzzled each hand, watching his face, and then turned around toward the trail up a small ravine with a foot deep creek spilling quietly down its center. As they stepped up the trail, Lemkin followed, because it would be easy to stop. The deer stopped and looked behind them at Lemkin with expression. “This is really different,” thought Lemkin. The deer stepped ahead lightly, leaving him standing, until they turned their faces back again, and he decided to follow. This little ravine seemed pleasant. The air was sweet, and the light filtered nicely through the canopy. He might spend the night in this area, where the creatures were so friendly. He decided to follow the deer a little ways more, then say goodbye and stop and make camp. They passed a wide pool on the creek, with boulders covered with thick moss. A little further up the deer trail, a squirrel and a bluebird were chattering and chirping at each other and dancing around on the forest floor. They seemed to address Lemkin as he passed, then were quiet. The deer nodded their heads, and Lemkin did too. He was pretty amazed by now, by these little differences in animal behavior: or had he just not noticed this before? He was tempted to continue following the deer, but decided to stay independent. He bade the deer farewell, and turned to break eye contact, and walk away. They made a sound like baby sheep and he heard hooves and muscles coming after him. They loped past the startled Lemkin and then turned behind him, came up and nudged him up the trail. Should he be gentle, or should he fight like heck? He stepped around them said goodbye again and took off down the path, at a trot. He glanced behind him, and they were still standing, twitching their ears, noses in the air. Lemkin slowed to a walk, thinking, becoming perplexed. He wasn’t so sure he wanted to spend the night here after all. Wild animals were one worry; peculiar animals such as theses were another whole matter. “Oh, what’s my problem,” Lemkin suddenly said. “Wait a second,” he called to the deer, waving his hand. He laid his pack under a bush to lighten his load. “I’ll walk with you ,” he said, trailing off because the deer were out of sight. He walked up the trail toward where they had been, and then followed deer prints a ways up the ravine, which gradually became narrower in two minutes’ walk. Lemkin was ready to turn back, thinking of food. Some wild greens steamed with the almonds in his pack; some flapjacks with honey. Yum. Let’s forget this, he said, turning around. But he heard the sound of a waterfall up the ravine, and decided to go a little farther. Past the next tree he saw a narrow canyon between thirty foot cliffs, through which the creek flowed toward him and by him. He ignored a sight twinge of surprise when a bird seemed to call his name from that direction. On some impulse, he took out his compass for the first time since leaving the city. The needle swung decisively up the creek. “That’s not North,” he frowned. Now the urge to continue was stronger than ever. For some reason he could not pinpoint, he felt a new wave of energy sweep over him, and a sense of adventure pulled at him to explore the creek. . .now! Stepping to the canyon, he found room to enter beside the clear water, which now looked deep. Part way into the short passage, the way turned uphill, and there was no room to walk on his side of the channel. The ledge on the other side began about where this side’s left off, after a young pine’s sentry post in course soil gave way to sheer walls. Clinging to the pine without pulling on it, Lemkin took a deep breath and leapt across. One foot made it, and one foot landed in the water, so he fell forward onto the moist ground with a new bruise on his shin. Did that hurt? Now he could see another falls just thirty feet in front of him, around the curving walls. Behind the falling water was a hollow place, like a shallow cavern. In the cavern were fossils from a time when this ground was under an ocean. Did the deer go this way, he wondered. He didn’t think so. Approaching the falls, he splashed some cold water on his shin through his trousers. That helped. This next falls spilled down a slanted rock slab, then frothed against a boulder which stood squarely in its way. Globs of shivering bubbles flew up and fell around that rock. The ledge became a good ramp, above the falls. Soon he was in a lush area and the canyon was behind him. Healthy conifer trees shaded a bare floor, moist and soft with needles. Large yellow and white blossoms filled the air with scent. The ravine was wider here, yet another white waterfall fell ahead and ran still bubbling past Lemkin’s feet. He pushed on up the slanted floor, which again became a ramp above the creek to the top of the falls. As he reached the top of the cascade, he found a blanket wrapped around the base of a tree. A warm breeze brushed his cheek as he bent to check it. A cottony, thick weave with a fibrous, paper like lining made the blanket a good friend to a warm body. It looked abandoned, somehow. Lemkin felt alright about picking it up. As he lay it over his shoulder and continued up the trail, his mouth fell open for a moment in surprise at what he saw. He closed it but he was still overwhelmed with beauty. This morning Jisella had driven her rented car up the same road Lemkin drove yesterday. Now she was on the same trail, and looking at Lemkin’s pack. “That looks like his pack,” said Plinker. “Wonder where he is,” said Symery. Jisella had picked up two hitchhikers this afternoon after seeing Splinterville and fishing for stories about the wildlife behaving strangely. Other news people were in town too. Damesell had been heading toward the place where the situation was being studied, near the ranger outposts. But Plinky and Symery suggested a way to approach the area from the other side if she wanted to hike. No danger, said Plinky. I have this, she said patting her shoulder bag containing mace, a knife, bear repellant and assorted inventions. “We go there all the time,” agreed Symery. “Maybe we should stay here with his pack for a while,” said Symery. “Maybe he got lost.” “Ha,” said Plinky. “He’s on his own.” She walked up the trail toward the ravine. “Oh, we’ll check back later, after we make camp. Let’s get going up there. Never know, he may be up there himself.” The three women walked to the canyon and then stopped for a rest beside the first falls. Symery’s trail mix went well with the water from the creek, which Plinky estimated was safe. “The valley where we’re going is kind of a secret,” Symery was telling Jisella. “From the air it looks like just part of the ridge. But the trees in that little valley are so much taller than the ones on the mountainside. They even out on top. The soil seems to be so rich they just zoom up. The place is full of springs, and it stays warmer at night than the river valley, even warmer than Splinterville. ‘Course it will still be in the forties this time of year. Around August it stays in the fifties at night.” “One night of this might be all I need,” said Jisella, “I hope your space tent works as well as you say.” Lemkin saw the scene ahead stretched at least one hundred yards of gently sloping majesty. Widely spaced tree trunks supported a canopy of needles and leaves high overhead. The ground was clear of decaying wood as far as the eye could see, and carpeted instead with patches of ankle high grass bordered by giant pointing ferns and stands of tall thin-stemmed flowers of yellow and orange, with some purple. Mossy boulders rose in clusters, and varied hues of mushrooms speckled the scene. The valley seemed about sixty yards wide, coming against sheer granite cliffs on either side, just below the canopy. The creek flowed gracefully between the trees. A path wiggled up the valley, wide enough for two people. Lemkin’s feet were at the beginning, and he began to walk, a little stiff-legged like a child, still awed at the view. In spots along the path, pellets of dung lay among pine needles. Patches of bent grass were many, but Lemkin could see no animals, not even squirrels. It was like a greenhouse without a roof or floor or glass walls. Then he heard rustling in the branches above, and saw fleeting clues of birds. They seemed to be hiding, and Lemkin grew more and more suspicious this was a very unusual valley, Just as a murmur of genuine hunger sloshed into his tongue, Lemkin found the trail passing through a patch of berry bushes, and the clusters of blackish berries were being pulled by a large, cinnamon colored bear. Lemkin’s heart began to thump, and he prepared to run. . . back down this path, out of this canyon, and be satisfied with a modest, safe camp by the river. But the bear just sat back on its haunches and continued to pop juicy bubbles into its snout, peering at Lemkin in a friendly sort of way. Lemkin slowly lifted a hand and pulled some berries off the bush, still ready to run if the bear even shrugged, but not wanting to begin a chase scene. That was how much Lemkin knew about bear temperament. . . not a whole bunch. The bear looked impressive, broad and powerful with shiny fur and great whitish claws. But it ate like a six-year-old kid from down the block. Twelve feet away, Lemkin began to relax and eat berries. The bear took its eyes off Lemkin and grabbed another branch, peeling berries with its face, and looked at Lemkin again. It huffed a breath mildly. The whole situation bothered Lemkin. The bear seemed innocent. But he knew bears sometimes acted friendly in Yellowstone Park, but turned surly when a person got too close. Now this bear was sharing a picnic with Lemkin. This whole place seemed out of step with the world. He decided to leave this valley and never come back alone. The bear was still eyeing him. He pictured himself with an expedition into this valley he had bravely discovered. At that moment the bear huffed, and Lemkin’s reverie was pierced by its intense gaze. . . or glare. Lemkin shuddered and began running jerkily down the path back to the canyon. He had heard bears do not run well downhill, because their front legs are shorter than their hind legs, and they are liable to go tumbling. Lemkin hoped this gentle slope would be steep enough, as his heels stretched like a hurdler. He slowed enough for a quick glance over his shoulder when he didn’t hear it thundering along behind him. Then he slowed and stopped, and turned, because the bear was still in the berries, standing up, paws in the air, one hundred yards back. The bear bellowed a long wavering tone that sounded more annoyed than angry. And a startling thought came to Lemkin’s mind. Startling, because he had not thought it himself. “Hey, you come back here!” echoed in his hearing mind. Lemkin was stunned but leapted into full flight again at this happening that was somehow more frightening than a horde of roaring bears. His feet barely touched the ground, if at all. Tree trunks were zipping by like mallets which barely missed. He was nearing the waterfall where the path became a ramp into the canyon when the wolves appeared in front of him. They seemed to pour out of the walls which closed in here at the top of the falls. Lemkin later learned their dens were hollows in the wall at this end of the valley. There were twelve to fifteen light gray forms, ear tips waist high to Lemkin, and they were wolves. Some were facing him as he slowed down , and some ran in and out and around him. Lemkin turned to miss one, and his feet slid over his head. He went sideways and head over heels through a suddenly silent, long moment, into a mass of shaggy wolves. And then -- whump! A rough wet tongue across Lemkin’s forehead awoke him to a ringing, breathless vision of wolfish faces gathered around his aching head. He felt like lying still a while, but the prod of nudging noses along his body was so irritating he struggled to his feet to end it. Dizziness tingled all around, and still the wolves pushed. He took a few unsteady steps and fell across a wolf’s back. He felt no shame for his clumsiness; he felt hardly anything but dizzy and confused Somehow he got up again, and wolves were licking his hands and brushing against his legs, like tame dogs hoping for something from his pocket. At first he shuddered, having nothing to give them and thinking of their next option. But fear passed as he patted their broad, soft-bristled scalps and cooed to them. He wondered then if he could charm his way through the pack, and stagger the last few steps to the canyon ramp, where they might be afraid of height or something. He started to push through the frisking wolves; at once, they formed a half circle around his forward motion, barking furiously, eyeing him sternly, and swelling like a tide to push him back up the trail he’d just come down. His element of surprise was wearing thin, he supposed, and he gave in, palms up, saying, “Okay, wolves, I’m leaving.” Where he was going, he had no idea. Somewhere up the trail was a bear who had unknown business with him. He turned to walk slowly up the path. The wolves fell in behind him, all but two trotting single file, their huffs reminding him of their presence. The largest pair trotted on either side, erasing his chance of veering off the path and circling gently down the slope. When he tried it anyway, they firmly guided him back to the center of the path. Dread nibbled at Lemkin. He felt like a prisoner with no crime to argue against being blamed. How can I talk with wolves, he wondered. Yet they were as friendly as familiar dogs as long as Lemkin yielded to them. They might protect him from the bear, he suddenly realized. Wolves and bears are not well known as being pals. At the instant he thought that, he wished he had not. This place was so perverse, wolves and bears might well be in league. Maybe he was being brought to some kind of justice for offending the bear. The more he thought about it the more he stopped trying to make sense of it. He decided to make friends with his escorts. Scratching behind their ears, he told them how civilized he heard they are, and thanked them for acting as his guide, a lost stranger like himself. In fact, they had been rather friendly. He started to feel a real kindness for those wolves. Maybe they were just protecting a den full of pups. Maybe now they were just enjoying an evening of company before sunset. He hoped his smile by day would protect him by night. He turned to show them his best friendly smile. Maybe they could read sincerity. Animals were known to be sensitive. He hoped they liked goodness, since that would be his message. The wolves halted and grinned back. A shiver ran through the double line of lobos from back to front, and the head wolf woofed. At that, Lemkin stopped worrying, and then wondered why. A thought had appeared in his mind. “Don’t worry.” He reran it. “Don’t worry.” There was an unmistakable wolfish overtone. That shook him up a little. He turned back to walk up the trial. Birds were beginning to flock in from beyond the tree tops, flying down to perch on the branches. They were singing the chirping and calling, according to their kind. Then two deer, one impressively antlered, bounded upon the scene -- and then three more deer, including a snow-spotted, spindly-legged fawn --and they stood staring at us from beside the path. They were a majestic group, but Lemkin almost hoped they planned to lead the wolves away from him on a chase through the woods. Poor fawn, he thought. Then he wondered why the wolves seemed barely to nod at the deer as Lemkin’s party passed them. The way it looked, anything was possible here. Maybe an army of squirrels would dash down the tree trunks and tear Lemkin and the wolves to pieces, he thought lightly, the humor cheering him. But then squirrels did come head-first down the tree trunks all around them, and others scampered in from farther places, and still the wolves stayed in line. When Lemkin paused in amazement, they nudged him up the trail. Twilight began to roll in solemnly as they all entered a thick stand of woody bushes, and then a place of bare floor and big trees. Lemkin wondered why he hadn’t seen the bear. It seemed so long ago. There must be more than one trail in this little valley, he guessed. Only the wolves were still with him now on the ground, though the tree limbs were quite lively with numerous little creatures of many kinds, winged and not. The wolves halted, as if this dark clearing were the end of the trail. It was almost becoming too dark to be blundering through the canyon should the wolves release him. If they planned to eat him, he expected to fight, but winning seemed less likely through a war than through this peace. Maybe they plan to sleep in this grove, Lemkin thought, as they ran around in front of him, dipping into a resting position and then getting up again, one after another. Maybe I can sleep here too, if I have to, with this blanket I found. It almost seemed warm enough without it. This felt like the warmest part of the whole valley. The wolves pushed him on into the murky but spacious wood. The only sounds in here now are the breath of wolves and our footsteps. The shaggy foliage higher up on the trunks seemed to shut out light and sound, and the birds were not making a sound, if they were there. Lemkin felt an admiration for the trees in this grove, to be at the end of such an incredible trail. A mile behind Lemkin’s party, three women were just entering the valley from the rocky ramp out of the canyon. “Humans coming up the path. . . carrying camp.” “Hope they keep going, the dry woods already burned.” “Yeah, remember, only you cause forest fires. We sure don’t.” “easy there. Let’s not be prejudiced.” “Sunfia reports dry lightning on More Rain Ridge.” A peaceful afternoon had passed. Now a wind blew through gently, and the trees waved their boughs on the breeze, and gathered the last rays of sun in whispering silence. Twilight came earlier here on the floor of this valley, but later in the treetops. Day birds and furry animals played the last few minutes around their homes, or tidied them, or looked around for a last bite before real darkness. “Sunset on More Rain Ridge. Sunfia reports rain there, but no fires.” “Wish we could get some rain. My needles are dusty.” “You’re growing too fast, young Kalex,” said a bush to a seven year old pine. “Every sunset I get less light.” said the bush almost humorously. “If you like, I will walk over to the meadow, and you can have this spot to yourself,” said Kalex. “Well, here I go. See you later,” said a cluster of leaves on the bush, as a deer browsed them. The stars came out. The tallest trees, and those on the ridges, listened to a different kind of light now than by day. Invisible waves from many sources poured in with the starlight, and with them came faint murmurs of life elsewhere. Night is the best time to listen. The Day Star is behind Earth, and here in the forest, man’s transmitters interfere less with the calls from afar. Lemkin lay still in the grass where the wolves had dropped him with an old football trick. A wolf breathed nearby in the dark, but the rest seemed to have left. Lemkin hardly needed a guard anyway, so accustomed was he to less trauma then today’s. Morning might bring a new chance for escape, but tonight he was going nowhere. He had already slept an hour or more, he guessed. Back in Splinterville, fourteen year old Garney is fixing a fence around sunset when his friend Puldon comes walking up the country road on his way home. “Hi, Garney, How’s biz?” asked Puldon of the boy with nails in his teeth. Puldon is the man who just showed up one day three years ago, and said he couldn’t remember where he had been before. He was missing a lot of basic facts. He was plenty smart about machines and electrical things though. So he went to work for a contractor and settled in Splinterville. Discreet inquiries turned up no searches for him. Now he is likely to be married within a few months to a local girl. She’s away at college. “Biz is fine,” says Garney, mouth finally free. “How do you like them animals?” “I like them. They’re acting strangely enough. Times are changing; maybe they’re changing too.” “Look,” said Garney. “A comet. No, it moves.” A light in the sky was growing brighter. “Not an airplane,” said Puldon. “Not a spaceship,” he said joking. “What is it?” The light in the sky grew more intense, more different. “Maybe it is a spaceship,” said Puldon, changing to a quiet excitement. Something about the way it floated over the ridge awakened his buried memories. Puldon started to walk down the road toward the tiny flame in the sky. “Where are you going?” said Garney. “Stay and watch?” Puldon stopped, turned around. “Oh, sorry, ol’ buddy. I spaced out. Come on, let’s go see if it lands.” He believed it would, not sure why. “Let’s go to the radio station, and ask them what it is,” suggested Garney. The station is only a quarter mile up the road. Puldon was lost in thought or something. He didn’t answer. He watched the ship. It was a ship, from the planet Clover. He remembered. He remembered so much now. Almost too much. Too many changes he’d been through. Living in three different times on two planets. He’d never meant to leave home. And now he did not want to go back. He loved Fitencia too much to leave now. They had so much planned together. Besides, he reasoned, these memories might be someone else’s. If memories could be missing, then maybe memories could be misplaced as well. He hoped the ship would leave him alone. “I’ve got to be going home,” he told Garney. “It’s been a long day. Keep up the good work, buddy. I’ll see you tomorrow, what say you.” “Oh -- Okay,” said Garney. “Look! It blinked out!” “There it is,” said Puldon, pointing up the ridge. “In the trees up there. In the trees.” “That’s funny. It sure moved fast,” Garney said. “Are you sure that’s it?” “Not quite sure; maybe not,” said Puldon, as the light became faint on the ridge. “Heck, maybe it was a helicopter.” “I don’t think so,” “Neither do I.” What an incredible day, and what a strange valley, Lemkin thought, clearing his sinuses by yawning. The air felt warm, and sleep drifted back to him, bringing a saner world. The forest began to erupt in sound. Branches rustled, and a deep rumble of countless footsteps seemed to quiver the earth beneath him. Jumping to his feet, he heard as exquisitely tuned fanfare of birdsongs, and suddenly the trees behind him were bathed in streams of radiant yellow light. He turned and ran toward the light, joined by three wolf escorts. A hundred steps and he was surrounded by flailing fur and feathers, and the light dimmed. He was ushered from the shadows into an open, lighted space within a circle of tree-trunks about twenty paces across. In the center sat a boulder supporting a smaller, globe-shaped rocky object, and sources of the light but with no glare upon gazing at it. Now thousands of faces closed in behind him and all around the spaces and branches between the tree trunks. They were faces of moose, elk, and deer, bears, birds, wildcats and squirrels, and even some mice and gophers scampered around or sat up just inside the ring of enthralled-looking onlookers. Their faces and front quarters shone in the gentle light, and quiet added to the wonder of the vision. In every direction were eyes, of so many kinds, watching Lemkin, without fear. Lemkin’s brain was on auto-pilot now, and he wondered, “Who will be the first to speak?” A raccoon sauntered out of the crowd and walked up to him. It calmly sat on its hind legs and peered at him. Lemkin looked back, trying to think of something to say. “Say whatever you want,” came the critterish voice in Lemkin’s ear. The raccoon hadn’t moved. It rolled over on its back and scratched itself on the ground. A cougar came out of the crowd and walked up to Lemkin, who wanted to shy away, but there was no point at it. He couldn’t run from it, not with all directions packed with wild animals. They looked as if they might be a crowd with some backing and some depth. So Lemkin just sat and held his breath, until he remembered to breath. The cougar sniffed his hand and walked back into a fold in the crowd which parted and closed behind it. No one else made a move and the time passed as if in a dream. Lemkin wanted to say something, or make a gesture, but he was too amazed. Was he going mad? he wondered. Was this all a mirage? No, this scene made as much sense as everything that led up to it. The suspense grew, and Lemkin wanted something to happen, no matter how ridiculous. Then a section of the crowd backed into the shadows, and a murmur rippled through the crowd. The next moment was spectacular. Into the clearing came an elephant and a bear, walking side by side like two of either kind. The bear wore a holster with only a flashlight in it. The flashlight looked just like Lemkin’s and he wondered it they’d found his pack and gone through it. The bear and elephant both sat within the circle of trees, and a voice came from the direction of the rock, and Lemkin could see a place of light shimmering, hovering like a person above the ground. The voice from the rock was saying, “Though there is danger of mis-judging Earth’s humankind even by the best information, they would sit idle on a certain matter without someone for an audience. We are here to raise the standard of Earth’s care taking. Welcome, all. Welcome Lemkin. In a moment, we shall have three more of your kind in the audience; they followed you. Meanwhile, let us become acquainted with one another, not by introduction, but by entertainment. The judgment will not be tonight. We must know each other’s love. How do you answer this invitation?” No one else said anything; the animals were quiet. So Lemkin said, “I don’t know how normal people live, but this is really different. Sure, I’ll play. If I get sleepy, just don’t take it personal, okay?” ”Sure, that’ll be fine. Our show won’t be so long anyway, and you can be first performer, or second if you want.” “How about third?” “Fine. And here are your friends. Welcome, Plinky, Jisella, Symery. Please make yourself comfortable. Hope the air is warm enough for you. We’ll be light for another half hour or so. Then we’ll all bed down. You can comp right here in this clearing where it’s warm. Or you can leave if you want.” Entering the circle through a part in the sea of faces, all three women were amazed but appeared calm. Symery thanked the bear who showed them in, and patted it on the arm. Apparently they’d had a nice talk before they arrived. They walked over and sat down by Lemkin. Symery looked at him with reserved apology; Plinky with gruff interest; and Jisella with friendly distance. “The bears and elephant will translate for the animals,” said the voice from the rock. Tomorrow you’ll receive the same favor from the wilderness translators. Tomorrow you’ll know what they’re thinking. Now, our first performer. . . Wavery?” The shimmering presence moved gently a few inches toward the center of the hall of trees. A rise of cheerful sounds came from the animal crowd, and a breeze stirred the tree branches slightly. A voice like a rescuer in a cave drew all the echoes of the forest into a breath-calming hush, saying kindly, “There will be a time when no one is afraid to show the majesty of love to their peers. Until then, we can be faithful to arrange the coming of that time. Since our words have power, let us choose them for beauty or peace. . . “ The wavery light began a high toned but quiet procession of tones, “These Words are not tools they are seeds. . . borne on the wind from mind to Minds. . . If we perceive they may grow into weeds, we till with love for the minds. . . The garden is of our minds. . .” The animals somehow knew the humans were all changed somehow. Their faces glowed with inner light of a paradise somewhere. “Well isn’t that nice,” mocked the critic. “And now, the Planet Itself,” came the voice from the rock. A real breeze blew in for a moment, stirring the animals and trees again, and blowing everyone’s hair around for a few seconds. Then a sweet, mostly female voice sang through the forest from horizon to horizon, but not loudly, “I am planet earth, you know me. You are me, make me your home, my place and yours. Love me gently, use me wisely, know me well, And I love you. One who made me made sun too, and you, and you know who. . .oo. .oo” the serene last note faded slowly in all directions. The three women and Lemkin were crying now. Even the animals showed surprise, and forlorn gladness. “Lemkin?” “Oh; yes.” A long quiet followed. “I don’t have any objection to someone else performing,” said Lemkin. “Without an objection,” came the rock’s reply, “We have a truth which just sits there. If you will speak, I will give you the faith to say your best.” Lemkin took a breath and tried. “These are angels,” said Lemkin, taking another breath. “Us faint angels hover ‘roun’ you alla time Us learn about you, Us do, Cuz’ we love you, yes, serve and listen. Some us were chil’ren, some forgot but we forgiven. Now we still are liven, with you.” Several birds make happy encouraging songlets. “Maybe we can all swim upward in ourselves to a place of angels,” finished Lemkin, and closed his eyes, ready to linger on that. “A good day: we made peace; we remembered to make peace,” Plinky said, and Lemkin’s heart soared, and the treetops seemed to breathe applause. “The grapevine grows sweetness, and that’s the truth,” began Symery, “But crushing the sweetness makes pulp and some juice. The wine is not made ‘til it’s set awhile. By then most of the juice went to drink or denial.” She looked at Lemkin, put her hand on his leg for a moment, squeezed lovingly. “Would you believe a story,” she continued, “If it showed a way to understanding? A story about someone who suffered to save us from more suffering? Someone who would rescue us all from pain and prevent suffering rather than teach us lessons through suffering? The animals and the trees seemed to gather themselves for an answer, and made a harmonious noise. Jisella chimed in to answer her cue in case any came. “I’m writing this all down for the Splinterville newspaper.” “Beautiful, Jisella,” came the voice from the rock, and its little lights softened. “Thank you all for being here. Tomorrow we’ll begin the discussion. For all who seek rest, may you find the right comfort here and wherever you go.” “As I was saying,” said the oldest of the four, “and I’ll get to the point for Chandler here, before we lose him again. . . We have the chance to try to set in motion the conditions for a second coming of the Messiah which some people so fervently await. With our resources of genius, secret connections, total good intentions, and good faith, we may just be answered for our efforts. Wouldn’t it be fun to try?” “I have one objection,” said Chandler, “And then I’m for it. Do you think anyone is qualified to interview or screen applicants for the title role? Will he” “Or she,” said Sharry. “Or she have to satisfy textbook conditions? Would he, or she, have to be sexless, spotless of reputation, with an empty resume?” “Maybe we should try the second great coming of the Buddha instead, first.” said Ralley. “He did the material trip.” (Night falls)
A few more paragraphs were included at the beginning and end of the original book. The way this novel ends is really not the end. Updated: Sept 21, 2012: ….. Starts here ….. As the night is long, any poor sparrow can tell you it’s better to find a good pocket and sleep than to have stars in one’s eyes. But we don’t listen carefully to a sparrow and the sparrows know it, so nobody told Lemkin to go to sleep. (Later, his new friends told him they’d looked for him as the critters faded into the forest. “We saw your back and then you were gone,” said Plinky. “Next we saw you was near noon, when the bus arrived with You on it.”) “Lemkin, I saw You in the dreams,” said Sym (Sigh). This was the first time she remembered this. Lemkin raised an eyebrow. They were sitting on the TV set of “Morning Fresh Hour,” waiting to tell their story of the Whole World Decision Conference for the 10th time at least. By now, several countries were accepting the terms of the Decision Conference final report and things were looking fairly good for real progress toward a happier, better world. . . . And in the days to come, Lemkin’s biggest concern was his deepening interest in Sym. Maybe she was reeling him in, or maybe it was just for the duration of this media tour, but he was starting to feel that way all the songs talk about. We’ll go back to our account of that conference and some more of its participants, and how events folded, unfolded, refolded and all the fol de rol rol. So here was Lemkin’s night as an owl might see it. An owl sits on the branch near Lemkin, passing the time with its own priorities . . . sees Lemkin lying on pine needles with his head on a mound of dirt that is under a smaller pile of needles. He’s breathing deeply and letting the day’s tension roll out of him into the night air. And here is Lemkin’s night as a mysterious special friend might see it; some of the information is sketchy. Lemkin remembered wondering why he’d not been given a blanket. The forest became still and chilly all too quickly and the stars above his head absorbed his attention as if asserting themselves. That is because the trees around him were listening attentively and Lemkin felt new empathy for the trees. The stars were profoundly starry tonight. The treetops did not keep them from coming into Lemkin’s very presence. He was in an altered state of perception -- less than conscious maybe, yet also more. He was slowly falling asleep and didn’t know it. The day’s events were pressing him like friendly cats and dogs on his arms, ankles, chest, hands … almost licking his face with their lively ramifications. When he awoke, a glass of water was given to him and he drank thirstily. Hands eased him into a soft chair. He was in the presence of Zura and Aerion. He felt wonderful, basking in the effects of Ampala’s mental music harmonizer. Some of what he heard is in his memory as if it were his favorite symphony. And still, to this day, he is sure he was never programmed by the exploring starship’s (Ampala’s) device. All that was placed in his mind was that symphonic performance of all the creatures and plants, and the music was a miraculous harmonizing of the highest yearning of the ecosystems and players of the instruments therein. It was abstract and not merely metabolic. Life forms want to grow, it seems, and their plans are beautiful in certain translations. Ampala carried a device from the planet Clover which selected beautiful patterns found in every situation, then orchestrated an arrangement and broadcast the filtered composition. We might call the device “Ampala’s PR.” And although its electronics were less complex than a human brain, the intention of its builders -- to find common ground between life forms -- are what made the device into a source of beauty and understanding. And these patterns, which were passing through Ampala’s PR device, were allowing the Earth’s creatures to assemble in this great place for a convention whose purpose would be decided after the dawn of the coming day. (One part of the PR device, an error filtering gadget, recognizes the probable intended meanings of many levels of biological information. In the week since landing, its translation & musical creation process continued to improve. As days passed, more creatures drifted in like very fine iron dust toward a magnet. Ampala’s PR device was like a very faint radio station -- in Earth’s environment, its influence was strong for about an English mile (nearly two kilometers). No device of its kind in the known universe has any more range than that. ) If not for his encounter later that morning with the Thontim, Lemkin might have wandered away from this gathering and been a wandering music lover for the rest of his life, in a world that would still be collapsing into a jarring chapter of correction by Natural Selection. Instead, Lemkin will spend his later years as a kind of wandering minstrel who is always able to find a paying gig because he was an interpreter of that week’s events. It paid his bills forever after. Sometimes even the highest service one can perform is only a matter of luck. Interlude before the river flows more swiftly: I’m telling you this tale of fiction as if it’s a decorated Christmas tree and ideas are its lights and ornaments. Some ideas on the tree are from books I’ve read recently; mostly they’re the offspring of two or more ideas combined. Not all the idea pairs were male and female. Somehow they bear fruit anyway. That’s another subject. I’d gladly cite my sources later if there is any glory. In Yoga Bitch, for example, the writer is grateful to her mentor for guidance in how to breathe… just when she needed it. Very inspiring! and I knew breathing is important to this story already. I hope You’ll do this too -- pay attention to other people’s good ideas and promote the best ones. While we’re at it, let’s be generous about sharing any glory with each other. The faint angels from constellation Taurus region, and the happy geese who met them coming in, spent their day and evening within one ridge of the gathering place. A few hours before dawn, Ampala’s PR heard new, very subtle music on a gentle breeze coming over the ridge. Because these were no longer metabolic life forms, Ampala’s other communication jewel was implemented. The transition memory receptor could only record, not translate, the song of the faint angels from Jakjar’s world. In years to come, these very tiny faint angels would become part of Earth’s society. And without being detected by anyone else, today they’d be a fine influence for good in the Decision Conference-- improving the air and the energy fields for everyone. The geese were on a slow pond beside the river and were having an unusual night. Geese have few enemies in the wild. Do insects fear them? Fish? I don’t know. That night, their little brains were probably feeling especially insightful. Their little brains are wired differently than a mammal’s brain. Although this flock’s experience that night is not in the conference report, they were seen entering the ship, Ampala, voluntarily and with great joy, just before the ship left Earth a few days after the proceedings. It was a very special day, and maybe everyone loved hearing their honking celebrations at appropriate times. That’s what the one journalist said who was present with a friend. Millie Round was a star reporter for a college newspaper. Read her book to see how she penetrated the confusion barrier to be there. It’s funny how few human beings were able to see the conference in person. Major league news people kept trying to move cameras to the grove and meadow but kept getting lost and confused. They could spot it from the air but couldn’t walk in or drive in. Ampala’s two-way signal has a funny effect on minds that are very busy and aggressive. If You’ve ever been a teenager, by now you know that everything’s not right in this world. Experience is only one way we know this. News is another. Most of our story’s people were having trouble when this tale started. Lemkin, Jisella, and Dr. Harmonius Trimost were three suffering adults, and Millie was on her own quest for relief too. She was an exuberant person. Her primal glow was bright for she had spent much time optimizing her experience with running through the park, eating right, partying and laughing and loving. Her father and mother were quite healthy too and the community was sure she’d be married as soon as a wild enough man came along. One of her best friends was a middle-aged man who loved house flies. He really liked them in small numbers but he didn’t keep a dirty house to attract them. He liked when they’d land on him. He really felt better when they spent part of their so-short life keeping him company. Millie used to talk with him quite a lot -- a few hours a month -- and people who knew about it would have a funny expression on their face. The man was single and maybe lonely but didn’t put any moves on her because she wasn’t giving him a signal to do that, or if she was, we don’t know about it. Anyway, she didn’t mind the flies and she thought it was quite interesting that they lived such a short time with such gusto, buzzing around and sometimes bravely landing on her friend’s hand or face and crawling around or waving their little parts. And most of the animals at this conference live a pretty short life too. The trees live longer, and they die too. But our habit of thinking gives human beings a special opportunity for suffering as well as other emotions. And our emotional life is the final straw sometimes. We don’t go where we wanted to go in life. Authority won’t get the blame for everything, but they’re part of the problem too. About two weeks before Ampala landed, Millie Round interviewed a U.S. Secretary of the Interior at her school after the commencement speech. She asked two questions and the answers were desperately incomplete. She asked: 1) “How many people can live in the United States before it is too many?” and 2) “What is a good plan for keeping our ecological footprint from squashing the life out of our beautiful environment?” The Secretary answered with due gravity and sincere charm, but with no assurance that disasters will be averted in years to come. Nobody has solved these questions, and nobody is really answering them very well either. The only ray of hope was in the last thing which the Secretary said: “Well, I’m only the leader of ‘The Department of Everything Else,’ so don’t give up, okay? Keep asking around. If you find a good answer, will you please call and share it with me? Here’s my card.” Millie felt good about that answer, but not so good too. Her generation was already stuck in traffic in a world that was bogging down in game-a-tocracy. That’s where our new generation notices that everyone with the authority to do something has succumbed to a syndrome where they spend all their time protecting the system which gives them authority… or protecting their authority by playing safe and eliminating possible rivals by any means necessary. Usually it is only necessary to confuse or discourage any bright, questing disciple until they give up the brightness and the questing and fall into line to play the game of long-term retirement plans and no boat-rocking. Everyone knew this, and writers like Lemkin and Millie were keenly aware, as some writer are, that the main way you know someone is really a grownup is that a real blur has set in. The right answers have become too impolite. Even if they’re pure arithmetic, the right answers must give way to diplomatic answers. The grownup answer is, “Yes, the world can support any number of people, no matter how sloppy and careless we are.” That way, we don’t have to argue with anyone. Now that’s unfair to us grownups, and I include it because the new science of mathematical rhetoric has shown that any description of a group’s habits must be unfair or it is not rigorous. By this we know that all our theories of groups are fatally flawed. And this occurs because individual human beings are now known to be the largest unit of coherent intelligence in the known universe. We, as grownups, were very dismayed to learn there is no group brain. Our hive instinct is apparently only a wish to avoid responsibilities by delegating responsibilities to phantom team members who know just what they’re supposed to do. But even more painful than this loss of our favorite excuse for apathy…. is the feeling that we don’t belong to a well-organized group. We want to give ourselves to the pageant of society, and most of us don’t get a very satisfying part in the show. Most of all, though, we want to have a really devoted love interest who is okay with our being so interested, and it’s tragic beyond belief when we find we aren’t ready or have too much friction or it doesn’t feel good at all. Dr. Harmonius Trimost also was such a person. His psychiatry practice was pretty successful but now, after a five-year marriage, he had been alone again for ten years now. An account of his university teaching is interesting here too. Trimost taught one undergraduate course per year at his alma mater. The course was called: “Full Context Life for Mentors and Therapists.” There was a secret practical joke that he played on his students. For the first half of each term, he would cover the same material every week. The only difference was his choice of words. He had learned that students are distracted beings, and if the material is really important, why should they be allowed to forget it? His course was not technically part of the students’ majors. Their advisors would discretely recommend the course. That was one good university, playing that joke on them. Here’s some of what he taught them every week for five or six weeks: The world’s reaching a stage which, in a forest, would be called a climax community. We’re not in big trouble, since we’re all mortal anyway and it doesn’t matter how we perish. Or perhaps You do care. An unsolvable problem is given to us. Calculus was invented to solve unsolvable problems in math. Baffled by infinity, enabled by calculus. Maybe you can solve some of the unsolvable problems. Civilization may be crude but after all it’s very new. Its roots are in our own past. Our own people helped create it from a cruder past. Words are not literally true. They’re symbols. Context is necessary for any truth. There is no truth without context. Remember you are part of my context and I’m part of yours. Since people love dogs, maybe dogs know something important. Cats too. Horses too etc. And finally, remember that too much distraction is the end of your hopes. Sometimes a narrower focus is the price we pay for success. Trimost wanted his students to avoid making some of the biggest mistakes people make and sometimes never recover from. And here’s how Trimost came to the conference. When his patient Jisty said she was going to see the strange doings in the mountain country, he barely took note. Then his patient, George Papoon, came through the door with a rollicking tale of hippie enlightenment and whole Earth lollapalooza and said, “Doctor, you’ve got to come with me! We‘re going to the big event. The REAL big event!” Mr. Papoon was able to persuade the Doctor more easily after Dr. Trimost’s amazing Sun dream the night before, which we’ve mentioned several pages ago. Papoon and Trimost had worked together on a course called Designing Utopia but hadn’t gotten it going yet. They hoped some day to have a whole year of college courses in “designing utopias”. George Papoon becomes a central figure at the Decision Conference. We know some things about his background. He was either a hippie or a Walter Mitty character. Dr. Trimost’s oath of confidentiality makes it none of our business whether he is sane or not. But we do have a couple of stories about Papoon. He was the President of the United States at a neighborhood coffee shop. Other customers were cabinet members. Some people they knew the game, and some new visitors were quite alarmed at first when addressed as “Mister Secretary“ or “Madame Secretary.” Papoon got a little slack because he was getting pretty old. He looked older than he was. So did his girl friend Euphemia, but she was only thirty so that’s another story. She looked older because of her seriousness and letting her prematurely gray hair be its own color. She is an important influence in Papoon’s life and plays the role of many different cabinet secretaries but she was away on this particular weekend. That was why Papoon was seeing Dr. Trimost on a Saturday…. Feeling lonely and always wanting more of their brand of conversation too. Once you know that Papoon had a brain injury when he was a middle-aged biology graduate student twenty years earlier, it was probably an unrelated point to say that Papoon was always a friend of the environmental way of thinking. His own house was made up like a very miniature White House, although it was very, very innovative. It was an ecological invention site. With a very small fortune from the insurance and damages settlement-- and a decent work ethic-- Papoon built things and joined with visionaries in search of mini-utopias. These utopias could be as small as one’s back yard or the closet or one’s relationships with one other person. But there’s no doubt Papoon was a little, shall we say, “dotty” too. His cabinet meetings would curdle the cream of any new coffee customer who didn’t know what was happening there. Yelling was his worst sin there. But some good things were said in those cabinet meetings. So he and Harmonius Trimost piled into Papoon’s put-put van for the fifty mile drive to the site where we know the world’s first inter-species conference happened. Trimost was one of the few people who believed Papoon was truly presidential. That’s why Trimost had gotten in the van with a crazy man. And both were able to enter the circle and be part of this. Lemkin, on the other hand, had already arrived. He was very lucky. His other reason for the trip was social despair. He couldn’t tell anyone why, but things weren’t going well in the love department. If love isn’t going well, is there any worse despair? On top of this, he was feeling thwarted in some other matters. And getting into a car does not always lead somewhere better. Fortunately he had been a guest at some very nice ascetic way stations of life, and acquired depth. So here he was, communicating with non-humans and non-Earthlings too. And animals and plants were representing the world’s other animals and plants at the conference. Another book describes this -- The Flow of Empathy at DC Conference by Sarah Pashup. But we know they, too, were despairing in the love department. A species called mankind was very, very quickly over-running all the wild places of Earth and with a few exceptions, almost no species had a love relationship with mankind. While Natural Selection ran its course for millions of years, Earth’s creatures had not worried much; ‘til recently they had very little awareness of this situation. Dinosaurs and their contemporaries had come and gone without feeling too much of the mini-hell that comes from love affairs that are unrequited or botched. And all these aeons later, it seems we are still creeping up on the love thing. We’re not all the way up yet, but our biosphere might be moving that direction. And it was not only Ampala’s PR that made the critters and plants aware. With so much stimulation around them lately, Earth’s biosphere was waking up in ways we still don’t understand. So, in this one bright wet globe surrounded by far black space, we were having a strange love pain and the showdown would be today in our mountain meadow. We know from later accounts that a lot of love fury blew up in magnetic and abstract furls and wisps. Because You know what? Creatures do have hearts even if they don’t know exactly what’s happening. And with Earth’s whole panoply of “critter concerns” channeling through them, the site of our conference was plenty pregnant with revolution and dangerous to the existing order. If you have read the first part of this report, you know there was a serious suggestion that the purpose of this gathering was to decide that humankind should be replaced as the controller of Earth’s resources and highest form of life. With our representatives Lemkin, Millie, Harmonius Trimost and George Papoon there, the question was changed to, “How shall we proceed with the future of Life on Earth?” You’ve heard about the decisions made there and maybe You’ve seen the final report too. We include the summary of decisions with this story. The conference itself is one of history’s mysteries still. There is a secretary’s recording of it. We don’t know who the secretary was and the notes have a few strategic smudges on the pages of small faint writing -- smudges which are not giving up their code to any level of science. We draw our account from the published minutes and from a few interviews on condition of anonymity. In the following account of the conference, we take note of the adage, “The less one knows about a subject, the more confidently one may discuss it.” Now begins an even more telegraphic (terse) telling of the tale. Lemkin talked with Thontim. Waveree was there beside Thontim, still shaken. Human beings wondered if one of their Deities were present. Was Jesus making Himself felt? The mystery was too deep but the feeling was honorable, sincere and supremely comforting. Cameo appearances included philosophers and sympathetic innovators in history. A multi-media presentation via Ampala’s PR and whirlwind tour of human sentient activity. Jisella Druthers made friends with Millie and Lemkin. Symery and Plinky witnessed part of the conference but never saw Lemkin. He was in a special seat with George Papoon and was wired up with translator/facilitator gadgets. Harmonius Trimost made a tremendous speech which helped turn the tide when things were looking grim. There was debate. Death arrived in the form of anger, turf jealousy and across-the-board negation. Death tried being the boss. Death tried being a know-it-all. Death tried to suck up all the time in a filibuster. Thontim intervened. Death made concessions while retaining some dignity. The conference cooed its acceptance and moved on. War between Islam and other religions was knocked out of the realm of theological possibility on the spirit level by ancestors of the religious, helping bring a completely new contract between peoples. A bond of love was formed between peoples of various religions, between people who had already lived and died in times past. It was visible but only in the spirit world; and this momentous and permanent bonding happened in the skies above the conference at the time it was needed in order to make further progress. A new deal was forged with amendments possible in future. Some beautiful preamble words were sung by the PR device, originating with many different critters including the human beings. It was about welcoming the future, celebrating love, and promising to strive for improvement in Earth‘s ways of living. To avoid revolution and separation, a list of mutual rights and understandings was created. After an hour of exploratory buzzing, a consensus was announced without objection that there would, without any intervention, be a compassionate diminution of consciousness in animals and plants to the level they’d had before Ampala arrived. This was not an action but an awareness based upon consultation with Zura and Aerion. It seemed to be for the best too, since creatures will still be mortal and will still be eating one another, and plants will still compete with each other for nutrients and light in the foreseeable future. So it was comforting to know that after Ampala’s departure in a few days, they’d all go back to their sleepwalking mode in times to come. A list of current bottlenecks and crises was made, including: * overpopulation, ocean pollution, deforestation, over-fishing, lack of love, poor judgment in applying knowledge (by human beings); * poor distribution of available knowledge (among human beings); and * impulsive landscape destruction by humans -- an activity which seems out of proportion with our sentience. A list of suggestions was offered, including: * a series of temples that celebrate and teach advanced Breathing; * a new resolve in human universities where the goal of profound learning is re-doubled. * a new dedication to optimum consumption and use of resources; * increasing use -- by humans especially, but anyone really -- of reveries and creative leisure. * more effort in inter-species communication, with emphasis on finding mutual benefits of cooperation. * revisit the benefits of holy music for inspiring devotion to better living. When the report was issued to the public, some were skeptical. Some of the opposition was softened by their seeing Ampala make a few orbits, seen over many cities and towns at blimp altitudes, and upon hearing the song of Earth which she had composed during her visit here. Some say this conference might have created far better success for Earth’s future if the authorities and their minions had not been so stingy and short-sighted and crass in the years leading up to this event. Now we shall see how much these same people have been changed by being given another chance.