Cover Image: A Very Dramatic Situation by Carlos Vela-Martinez
Cast (in order of appearance)
Jack Love: Mysterious Traveler
Paul Kim: “Paul”
Andre Amaral: “Andre”
Reneil, Philip, and Curtis: “Themselves”
Michael Tarantik: “Michi”
Florentin Hofmeister: “Florentin”
Sebastian Wimmer: Captain of Mountain Chair Guard
Georg, Brenda, Felix: The Guard
Lyssa Maurer: River Deity Lyssa
Steven Weijs: Mountain Man
Markus Morgner: Captain Morgner
Tobias Vetter: “Vetter”
Chapter 1: Vision in the Dunes
When we left our gay band of adventurers, they had fled King Nick’s winged and caped poetry assassins and sought refuge in Grustland. There, they convinced the Ozian Guard and Royal council to accept 4 QiQuac Highlander Editions as payment for safe passage. The QiQuacs were delivered in the nick of time, and our merry men (and woman) were just getting cozy in the court, preparing to put on a trained Duck + T-Rex show for the host, when the Pestilence struck, shuttering the city. Our heroes wandered the streets, but were shunned and cast out from every Inn and Tavern. Forlorn, they turned back to the road..
The twin suns of Fathomland, Minerva and Dion, were in perigee. This was the beginning of “The Warm Time”, a relative period of fertility and abundance as the two suns chased each other around the Fathomland sky. At times, Minerva would hide behind the eastern horizon, while Dion searched forlornly and finally set each day in the west, only to have Minerva, blushing red, rise in the east. This dance went on for weeks until finally Dion would see Minerva setting and speed up to catch her. These were days of warmth and light as the Fathomers watch the celestial courtship and did their own courting and planting. They say a new fathomlander was born for each night in Perigree.
Indeed, the land was also not shy as it gushed flowers, grains, leaves, and trees in abundance, with the attendant bees and animals. It was a long winter and the pestilence sweeping the land had made it seem even longer. Gone were the roving brigades of TP hoarders, replacing them were the tea totallers demanding the end of human contact, that the pestilence had been brought upon ourselves by a vengeful “Gawd” who was busy “reckonin’ and rapturin’. The local authorities took a more pragmatic approach, declaring in the streets and on Signs “1 Fathom is to Helde Distant, between All Fathomers upon punishment of Death and Torture!” You questioned the order of the sentence but understood the spirit. You also wondered if this was good advertising. A “1F-4ever” movement rose among youth as a pledge of abstinence.
One night, you found a meal in back alley taverne, one willing to risk the wrath of the Ozian guard in order to offer a warm fire and beer to weary travelers, not to mention earn a gold fathom or two. As you warmed your cold rear by the fire and enjoyed your lager waiting for your soup and bread, a hooded traveler sitting in a large leather chair addressed you.
“What brings a southlander this far north, if I may ask.” he queried.
“How do you know I’m from the South? Indeed, I have come from the south, but I was born north of here, near the Black Forests of Ikanbah. But for soothe, I’ve never felt so far from home. This pestilence has made travelers of us all,” you replied.
“Ayye, forsooth. It’s your loneliness that I recognized as a southlander. I too am from the south.” And he looked up at you to reveal a single eye and a cavernous socket. “I too long for home. But we won’t be going home soon, that much I can see.”
“Why is that?” you asked.
“This pestilence.. See, I’ve traveled o’r Fathomland, I’ve approached Ha Bek to search out the three powerful stones, searching for the betrothed Joo Dong. I’ve seen Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion, bright as magnesium. Word on the road is that this is the work of a powerful god, nearly forgotten, going by the name of Nei-Chure. One of the old gods, Sapien tongue cannot say her true name, very very old, long-before our language. Apparently, she is angry at the spread of the Sapiens. See, like all gods, she gets her strength from those that worship her. And her devoted are the trees, the water, the air, the critters. But us Sapiens are cutting the trees to make houses, polluting the waterways, fouling the air, eating the critters. So not only did the Sapiens stop worshipping her, they’re destroying her remaining followers. She’s not a happy camper.”
“Oh..” you said, not sure where to look.
“But listen traveler, there is hope. There is talk of a man, a learned man, a Wizard Chiogna, that lives in the Tirolean mountains close to Mors-em, on the border between Today and Yesterday, that can still commune with this old god. If there was hope, I’d put it on him. Don’t expect any favours from this man. Chiogna is the sage wizard of Lord Markus of the High Chair of Mountain Hydrology, a loyal patron of Nei-Chure. But this place is a long long-ways away.”
“How can I get there?”
“It’s too far to travel on foot, in these days with no food or shelter, you’ll need to take a salt portal.”
“A Salt Portal?” you prompted, on cue.
“They are spread throughout the land, you’ll find them in fire, mirth, and song. Now I must be on my way, I have far to travel tonight, and I must travel in the light of the full moon. Good night, and good luck traveler.”
“What’s your name?”
“Love.. Jack Love.” and as he walked through the light of the moon shining in the window, he disappeared.
“How mysterious,” you remarked.
When you arrived back at camp, there was a general malaise settled over your company, except one. “Where’s Joelle?” You asked.
“She left.” Replied Andre matter of factly
“Why?” you followed.
“She wanted to.”
“Paul is that true?”
“Uh, well, she definitely said she was going to leave and then she did, so yah, its true”
“Who are they?”
“Oh that’s Curtis, Reneil, and Philip. They’ve joined our party.”
“Hi,” said Curtis
“Hello” said Philip,
“Hey,” said Reneil.
“Hey Paul,” you took him aside, “How much food is left in the food bag?”
“Paul looked in your party’s stores,” not much: some bread, some mushrooms I found (but I’m not sure if they’re poisonous), some fish that Andre caught in a stream about 2 days ago (and it’s not smelling very good frankly), two slices of pizza left from the Poetrosseum stand.”
“You went out and bought pizza while I was being tortured?”
“It was Andre’s idea. He was really hungry and the excitement in the crowd worked up our appetite. We saved you two slices..”
“You looked over at your new companions, you could hear someone’s stomach growl.”
“We need to find more food..”
You travelled west to the furthest reaches of Fathomland. Not sure what you’d find, you reached the dunes near the coast of Fathomland. But still: nothing. So you set up camp. The warm breeze coming off the water, or the Zee as the flatlanders called it, was intoxicating and alluring, shown in figure 1. It rustled the beach grass and spoke of adventure on the zee, distant ports and fantastic beasts. But your band had no ship. So you gathered some dried beach grass and aromatic shrubs and lit a fire. Paul heated up the pizza and bread and burnt the fish to ensure it was cooked, and distributed it to the growing band of adventurers. You munched on the mushrooms.
The aroma from the burning shrubs and grass (and quite possibly some psychadelic effects from the mushrooms) mingled with the band’s hopes and dreams, ideas and desires, philosophies and accumulated misunderstandings. As conversation veered into the West and tales from mariners about zee-monsters, sirens, krakens, rich lands, and adventure started to churn, a magical thing happened. The last light from Minerva setting in the West mingled with the sparks from the beach fire, the voices of its citizens, and lo! a gate opened above the stones around the fire. “What magic is this!” you exclaimed. You were starting to understand how Fathomland works: the currency of courage, imagination, and work ethic always resulted in a passage here.
So with eyes wide open, you entered the portal and found yourself in…
Chapter 2: Munchenland!
You didnt know that MunchenLand even existed. Searching your map of Fathomland you can’t find it, but it’s south of Helmholtz Deep and East of the East Road. North of the dreaded Tirolean Alps. It’s a land of clever machines and fast trains, obedient citizens that never cut corners, athletic men and beautiful women. The streets are cobble; the air is light and warm.
As you emerged from the portal with your mates, two travelers were walking along the road, Michi and Florentin. Both handsome young men, they were confused by your appearance out of thin air and enquired “Wo zum Teufel bist du hergekommen?“
You looked at Paul who’s usually good at this stuff. He shrugged. Andre said “He’s speaking German” and responded to Michi, “Wir sind nicht aus diesem Land. Wir sind aus dem Westen. Wir suchen einen sicheren Durchgang.”
To which Michi replied “there’s no reason to butcher our language, we can do that all on our own” and he and Florentin laughed a long high pitched giggle. “No seriously,” and now his tone became more menacing, “Why are you here.” Florentin took a long metal rod from his rucksack. At first you thought it was a weapon but upon closer inspection it appeared to be a flute. You could see him slowly wet his lips.
After enduring the despair at the lips of King Nick’s poetry warriors you were in no mood to be further tortured by jazz flute, so you thought quickly. “We are here to speak to your leader. We come from the West and have knowledge and magic you don’t have hear in the east”
“Hah,” Florentin exclaimed, ”you speak in lies, we are the west! You come from the Fringeland where there are nothing but deviants and barbarians!” and he brought the flute closer to his lips.. and took a breath in…
“No! Wait! Further West there is a land where the double suns of Minerva and Dion shine longer and men and women work tirelessly on fundamental research, looking deeper into the clefts between reason and knowledge. Its from this land we come.”
Florentin had his flute at his lips and was ready to blow.
Michi looked skeptically at you, Florentin had his flute at his lips and was ready to blow, but Michi raised his hand. “If what you say is true, and there is a land more West than us, the Chair of Moutain Hydrology! .. will want to speak with you. Follow me.”
Florentin lowered his flute but kept it at the ready and he walked slowly behind us and we made our way to the great towers of TUM.
Chapter 3: Blur
You followed Michi and Florentin blindly through the streets of Munchen. It was quite late and the streets were dark. You turned from the main street into a wooded area. “Does anyone know where you are right now?“ Michi asked.
He took you to the Eisbach, an artificial river in Munchenland which is often covered in Surfers surfing the standing wave, and said “The way to Gabriele’s tower is though the Eisbach. Follow me,” and jumped in. You didnt want to lose sight of him so you too jumped in the swift flowing water and were quickly swept away. “Now keep your feet up here! Good, a bridge is coming up, reach up now! Ok, we wait for the surfers to leave, now is our chance, let go! Ok, we’re going through another wave here, don’t swallow the water! Ok. Now coming up is another bridge, there are iron bars that poke down, they’ll tear you to shreds, stay in the middle, oh yah, go under this chain… now! Ok. If we keep going we get pulled into the hydro power station so its time to swim out, grab this ladder.. now! Ok, good time to climb out. Good, you’ve passed the first test. Now for test two.”
“Now we ride the tram, Hop on now” and you both hopped in the tram. The tram started its clickety-clackity way through the cobblestone streets. It was starting to get light now and you could see great old buildings with magnificent statues, bakery after bakery, and many many cute little Munchenland homes as you passed from the city to the country. Soon the tram tracks started to climb. You were gaining elevation. Strangely as the incline increased, so did your speed. 100, 200, 300 kph! Looking out the window was a blur, as in figure 2.
Michi, seeing the look of evergrowing concern on your face said, don’t worry, I’m the Health & Safety officer for the Chair. After your ordeal through the Eisbach, which you did survive, you contemplated how good of an H&S officer Michi was.
Soon, up ahead you saw a great building high up in the mountain, perched on a cliff overlooking the valley. “This is the Hutte of the Mountain Chair“ said Michi. Abruptly the tram stopped and the handful of people still remaining climbed off. The air here was rarefied and sweet. The sun was just climbing over the top of the mountains and the shafts of light pierced the morning mist. “Now we must climb to get to the chair. Are you afraid of heights? I hope not. These are our Escorts to the chair, Felix, Georg, Brenda, and Sebastian. Felix stood a foot above the others and wore an amused grin as he ate an apple. Georg dubiously assessed the likelihood of this new visitor getting to the top. Brenda smiled amicably, which made the piercing stare of Bastian all the more concerning.
Chapter 4: Minerva’s Arc
Bastian said, “Tell us traveler, (H)why are you here?” (Bastian spoke in a crisp British accent, although clearly he was Bavarian. “For we do not wish to uselessly spend our effort delivering your body up the mountain unless your premise has purchase. If the quality of your garb is any indicator of the quality of your premise… then I’m afraid this will be a short meeting indeed, and our precious effort wasted.”
He continued to stare at you as he finished this sentence. Felix took a break from eating his apple to listen and added a resounding “Yah!”
You have found yourself in this situation before, unsure of what you were going to say as words started coming out of your mouth. Part of you sat back and listened with great interest, while another part scrambled desperately to form meaning and purpose1. It was beginning to be an enjoyable experience, aside from the sheer terror. “We seek the Holy Grail of Hydrometry!” You declared loudly. Brenda gave a visible gasp, and Felix following this cue did the same.
Bastian continued to stare skeptically. “We are hungry, like many, we have no food, and we have run out of toilet paper” Felix grimaced at this.
“We understand that the god Nei-chure has unleased this pestilence in order to exact revenge on the Sapiens. We also know that the Wizard Chiogna can commune with Nei-Chure. We think that we have something to offer in this dialog. ”
“Go on,” Bastian queried.
“We seek the Sage’s advice of how to use the tracer method to measure Q when mixing is incomplete.” Bastian smiled wryly and asked “That seems noble, as noble as the ant that attacks the bear. This is a fool’s errand and I’d rather be eating my lunch than watching you be devoured. So, without further ado, I bid you Guten Tag,” Felix also liked the idea of eating his lunch better than hiking up the mountain and again started munching his apple with an emphatic “Yah”. Felix and Bastian turned to go.
“Wait!” you stammered.
Turning back around, “Yess?”
-this part of the story has been redacted due to pending global patent applications-
“.. very interesting,” said Sebastian, “very interesting indeed, that may well work and certainly Minerva would be pleased with this outcome. But you are delving into the fringes of science. This is a very weak probability field, veering dangerously close to… magic,” and Sebastian’s eyes flashed a deep translucent green.
“That is precisely why we must seek the Sage’s advice.”
Felix now had not eaten his apple for many seconds and watched eagerly Sebastian’s response, “We will deliver you to the Chair, but be warned, he does not take kindly to strangers that waste… his.. time, nor do I, ours,” he smiled and paused. Felix smiled as well. “Come! We’ve not a moment to spare if we’re to reach the Chair by Minerva’s Arc. That bawdy brigand Dion follows closely at her heels and I fear he may catch her tonight. If that happens then a long dark night is ahead of us and we will not make the Hutte at all. They say the Mountain Men have traveled North from Mors-em, being driven out by the growing famine there as this pestilence lays waste to farmers fields. We will require all the help the Mountain deities can afford. Kommen sie!”
He turned on his heel and began hiking up the path. Michi turned to you and said, “Well traveler, you’ve passed the second obstacle. Sebastian is Captain of the Chair’s guard and rarely gives access, let alone hope. You’d best keep up with him.”
You quickly grabbed your rucksack and marched off along the path. Felix took a big bite of his apple and stared down at you as you passed.
Chapter 5: Hydrangea
Soon you arrived at a small mountain stream. Sebastian said “We will stop here. You must gain access from Lyssa, Goddess of the Mountain Stream. If we proceed without her blessing, ill luck will follow us into the mountains.” You looked at Felix, who was now eating a sandwich and staring at you.
“Ok,” you agree, “where is she?”
“She must be summoned.”
“From the Stream.”
“She lives in the stream?”
“No, she is the stream.” You looked at Sebastian quizzically. Sebastian knelt down and, cupping his hands, drank from the stream and motioned for you to do the same. You knelt down and did so. The water was cool and slightly metallic tasting. You looked across the stream at the hydrangea growing on the opposite bank. The light shafts piercing the glen reflected off the water, and from the shimmering light, Lyssa: Water Goddess appeared!
“Behold!” said Bastian. “Lyssa, we seek passage through your domain. We have brought a newcomer that requires your blessing.”
“Ha! I’m not in the business of handing out blessings. Don’t waste my time,” and disappeared.
“Oh. Well, that’s too bad,” said Sebastian and turned to walk back down the path.
“What, that’s it?”
“Apparently. Best head back before it gets dark. You can’t say we didn’t try.”
Felix, finishing his sandwich and turning to head down the hill agreed, “Yep.”
“No, wait!” you protested. “We’ve come so far, there must be a way to get across this little stream.
“Oh, you can get across, that’s not the problem, but without her blessing, you will find yourself in a well of water related woes. Bad Luck will follow you wherever you go in these mountains. I’m not a superstitious man, but I’ve measured this phenomena, in double blind tests, and found a bias of approximately -1.2 Glück at 2 sigma. Travelling with her blessing is +4.3 Glück. I’ve no clue why it’s skewed, but, well more research is needed. Tell me, traveler, are you willing to be that datapoint?”
“Um, what you said was in English, but I’m not sure I understand, ” you stammer.
“You see, we conduct research here on the mountain on luck, happenchance, good omens, etc. The accumulated impact of favourable or unfavourable events towards your ultimate goal. We’ve developed complex mathematics around probability of these events occurring. My colleague, Felix here,” Felix had started eating an apfelstrudel and nodded at you and smiled “is a foremost expert in the application of the Schrodinger wave function to Alpine Expeditions. At any time, he can calculate your position or velocity, but not both simultaneously, and determine the likelihood of you reaching your destination. It’s quite experimental, but he’s also solving the equation using your Altitude and Ape Index. Before you ask, the Ape Index is the ratio of your arm span to your height. A ratio greater than one improves your chances of reaching your goal.”
“We’re developing an app,” Felix added while chewing.
“If you like we could run your numbers, but until we cross this stream, I’m not optimistic. Another issue is Lord Hutchinson. Some say that this neck of the woods is his jurisdiction, and that he communicates directly with this water deity from his Ivory Tower. Look there, you can see the alabaster tower in the morning light. “
You looked north and could see the unnecessarily ornate tower in the distance, rising out of the forest mist.
You had heard of Lord Hutchinson while in the dungeons of King Nick. You knew of his need for recognition, hence the Ivory Tower, and had an idea. You reached down and drank the water again. Lyssa appeared from the glade, this time visibly annoyed.
“Look, she began, I have already too many streams to attend to. On the other side of the mountain they’re cutting the trees down in Mors-em right to the streamside, I need to protect this area for the critters, and for Nei-Chure. I don’t have time for every pissy request by..”
You interrupted “Fair Lyssa, I know you are overworked and undercompensated, this much is obvious. And while I know Lord Hutchinson is brilliant, he can also be a bit of a jerk. Let me help you.”
“We have heard of the greatness of Lord Hutchinson in the.. Fringes, and that his greatness is largely unrecognized. We also know that you are too busy in your work, for both of these, we have a solution…
“We have developed a machine, part magic, part clockwork, that can automatically measure the flow of the stream. You need not be there for this measurement. We call it AutoSalt. We can fashion one here out of branches, reeds, and beehives. If we do this for you, and it’s successful, you can tell Lord Hutchinson of the development and he can take credit for it’s deployment.”
“If it’s successful..”
“It will be successful. This fellowship cannot fail.”
Lyssa considered the proposal briefly. “If you build this clockwork magic here on MacKay Creek, I will grant you passage. But.. if it fails, know that I will make it my occupation to impede your way up this mountain, and you shall not reach its peak.” She raised her hand above the water and a water spout formed from the surface, spinning drops that splashed in your face. “You cannot fathom the power of water, traveler.” She flashed her eyes, and then she was gone, the water spout collapsed.
You and your companions set to work building an AutoSalt system. You collected branches and beehives, reeds and vines, bullrushes and spider silk. You wove them together, bound them with pitch and sap from a pine tree, and uttered the haiku to animate it:
Branches and Beehives
Within you I light a fire
That will burn brightly
The amber sap began to glow, the spider silk tightened, the paddlewheel fashioned from leaves and branches began to spin, and soon the salty mixture of fermenting mushrooms and streamwater flowed through the reed piping system.
“Impressive.” acknowledged Sebastian. “When we started, we were in a very low-probability field, I did not have much hope for success. But this has definitely improved your glück score.”
You again drank the water and the shimmering image of Lyssa appeared. She regarded your creation, glowing and pumping the brown liquor from the reservoir into the stream. She raised her eyes. “Well, traveler, what you’ve created I’m not certain, but I do like a good puzzle. Go now with my blessing, and she pointed her finger at you and you received the blessing, as in Figure 4.
Your party crossed the stream and began ascending the mountain again. After a while, you asked Sebastian, “You said that when we began, we were in a low probability field, can you elaborate?”
“You see my friend, ” Sebastian began, “we walk our life through a series of probability fields. Whether you fall off a cliff, or a rock falls from above and strikes you in the head, or perhaps you find the joy of your life, or a stranger gives you gift, these are all part of the probability wave spectrum. Most people wander aimlessly through this field, or worse stay on the high probability paths, knowing what to expect day in, day out; others begin to see the contours of the field. They can walk along ridges or descend into valleys. They explore the relief of the landscape.
The inverse of the probability field, is the Possibility field (his eyes flashed a translucent green). Imagine many layers of probability fields (he illustrated with his fingers overlapping), overlapping, and if the event peaks in these fields align, (he aligned his fingers) well, that’s when the magic happens. But it only happens if you are in the right place, at the right time. That’s where Lyssa, Nei-Chure, and other deities, do their work. You traveler, have made it here, which tells me that you have been riding a possibility wave. But where it leads from here will depend on your choices, your ability to find the footholds in the path. It will be steep, and oftimes treacherous, but what heights you may reach! If you don’t, how do you say in your language, blow it.”
“How will I know if I’m riding a Possibility wave, or in a low probability area?”
Sebastian continued “You will know when you’re in a low-probability/high-possibility region; time slows down, every detail is carved into your senses, the air is crisp, the light vivid, sounds are sharper, eyes are deeper, smells are intoxicating. When we climb this mountain, if we can, this is a low-probability contour. Death lies on either side of the narrow path. You must keep your senses alert. You must.. ride the wave.”
“Probability waves travel back and forth across the field, some times they generate constructive patterns, other times destructive and cancel out the other event. When Probability waves meet Opportunity, Possibilities arrive. Humans are one conduit for opportunity, at least one that we notice. If you are in the right place at the right time, you can catch one of these waves. I think you are traveling along one these waves. But beware the 7th wave. This is the Rogue Wave, the King wave. Probability waves travel in discrete packets and the wave in the middle is the King wave. If it catches you unaware, it can destroy you. But.. if you are alert and watching, and you get up to speed, and ride the King wave, well, that’s what dreams are made of, my friend. But look, enough talk, are men of action, expositions do not become us.
You silently agreed and walked on.
Chapter 6: Dr. Weijs
Shafts of morning light pierced the clouds and lit the alpen scene is soft yellows and greys. The cowbells of a nearby herd rang like zen chimes, animating the scene in vibrancy and immediacy. Your experience was further heightened when, rounding a rocky corner, something struck the ground in front of you. Michi held us back. “Just wait,” he said, “I’m the Health & Safety officer, I will assess the hazard,” and walked over to it. It was an arrow. He pulled it from the earth and said “this is a handmade arrow, the shaft is made of viburnum sapwood, the arrowhead (smelling it) flint. We may be under attack.” He looked around. Just then, another arrow came whistling from above and struck Michi in the thigh. “Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhhhhh!” Michi fell to the ground. Your instincts propelled you to help him, but Sebastian held you back.
“Wait” Bastian said, “We’re being hunted,” and he surveyed the landscape.
Michi continued to writhe in agony “Ahhh, that hurt like hell! Bastian, help me you bastard!”
Sebastian continued to survey the rocky outcrops, he smelled the wind, he looked at his watch, he did some quick calculations based on the angle of the arrow in the ground. “Wait,” he said. He picked up a rock, and hurled it towards the outcrop. There was a dull thud.
“Hufter!” came the reply. “Je bent hier niet welcom! Vertrek nu!” a yell came from behind the ridgeline.
“It’s a mountain man,” said Sebastian, “They’re very temperamental, but they can be reasoned with, I speak a bit of Mountain myself.” Sebastian raised his arms (which were unusually long?) above his head, “Hallo bergman! We zoeken alleen doorgang.”
A tall wild man with wild hair and wild eyes emerged above the ridge line, he held a long stick in his right hand. He looked at you intensely. “Waarom bren je deze stadsmens naar de bergen?!”
“He’s here to see the Mountain Chair. Do you speak English?”
“Of course I do, I just prefer not to speak the dead language of commerce.”
“Ahhh..” moaned Michi.
“Do you acknowledge the sovereignty of the Mountain Chair in this pass?” yelled Bastian.
“I acknowledge no Sovereignty! I am a wild and free Mountain Man! I go where I … What’s that Harvey?” Here he leaned in close to his stick, appearing to confer with it. “I don’t agree. They have nothing to offer us, I say we dispense with them! What do you mean they carry magic? Who does? Him?” he said pointing at you. “Well, let’s get rid of the others then. “
Look, Ik heb geen tijd om hier te staan en met een stok te discussiëren! (translation: I don’t have time to stand here and argue with a stick.)
“Friend!” called Sebastian, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but our companion is losing blood due to your excellent shot. Do you mind if we tend to his wound?”
Startled, the Mountain Man left his conversation and stared at us “Yes, of course, how rude of me, let me help you.” In three acrobatic moves he’d jumped, climbed, and otherwise descended the rocky wall much, like a Mountain goat. He was on us in an instant. He was dressed head to two in a patchwork woolen jumper, handwoven with a symmetric pattern. His boots were made from leather and around his neck he wore a talisman made of Ibex horn. He towered at least 1/4 fathom above Felix, and his stick, “Harvey” was at least 2 fathom tall. “Let me introduce myself, Dr. Steven Weijsman, and this is my companion, Harvey. ” We all stared at the stick. The stick, which had a pair of eyes drawn near the top, stared at us.
Nobody said anything.
Sebastian broke the silence, “You’re a doctor? Can you help our friend?” Michi was now clearly delusional, muttering nonsense about a Flying Circus and singing “always look on the bright side of life..”
“Well, I ‘m a doctor of Philosophy, which may be appropriate in this case,” he said examining Michi’s wound “I’m afraid your friend is beyond help. The most ethical course of action is to put him out of his misery. ” Dr. Weijs raised Harvey above is head to deliver his prescription.
This startled Michi who exclaimed “Wait! It’s just a flesh wound!”
“Just a flesh wound! You’re clearly mortally wounded. If you survive you’ll be horribly malformed. I’d rather take swift decisive action now than see you suffer through a lifetime of cruelty.”
“Wait, wait, it’s starting to get better. I can feel it healing very rapidly!”
“Starting to get better? Sir, it is my sworn oath as a Doctor of Philosophy to reduce the suffering of humankind. Clearly you are suffering and will continue to do so. Logic dictates that if I end your suffering, there will be less suffering. Now don’t be such a baby and take your medicine. It’s for the greater good.” With that, the Mountain Man reached down and, with his right hand alone, picked up Michi by his injured leg and walked towards the cliff edge. Michi screamed and passed out from the pain at this point.
Instantly, Georg sprang into action to protect his fearless leader. Georg clearly was trained in the martial arts and tried without success to topple the giant. Each blow against the mass of muscle landed ineffective, serving to amuse the mountain man, as he swung both Harvey (the stick) and sometimes Michi’s limp body at the attacker. Brenda, seeing Georg’s attempt start to falter, began a series of handsprings as she ran at the towering Doctor. Gaining enough rotational momentum, she flew in the air in a graceful arc and landed on the titan’s shoulders. Distressed, Dr. Weijs dropped Harvey and grabbed Brenda from his back as she delivered a series of karate chops to his neck, again, without effect. Removing Brenda, he threw her against the rocky outcrop, but Brenda quickly spun like a cat and absorbed the impact, clinging onto the wall while she planned her next attack.
Felix, for his part, had found a bag of potato crisps in his rucksack and had started to eat those while he watched. “This is awesome,” he was heard saying.
Seeing an opportunity for leverage, Sebastian swept in with a rolling lunge and grabbed Harvey where he, er, it lay.
“Harvey!” Dr. Weijs yelled. Give him back! or I let him go and end his suffering!” and he lifted Michi and held him over the nearby ledge with his powerful left arm. It was at least 400m down.
Sebastian yelled, “Wait just.. a.. moment!” pointing Harvey at the doctor where he crouched on the ground against a red and blue morning sky.
The tableau of the scene was very, VERY dramatic.
“Isn’t it your sworn oath, rather, to increase happiness?” queried Sebastian.
“What!? Oh, ah yes, another student of the philosophical arts, I see..” replied Dr. Weijs raising his eyebrow.
“Yes, I too am a Doctor of Philosophy.”
“Then sir, you know that we need to put the good of the group above our own, and sacrifice our own comfort to bring a greater happiness to the group”
“Ah yes, but as John Stuart Mills argued “The utilitarian morality does recognize in human beings the power of sacrificing their own greatest good for the good of others. It only refuses to admit that the sacrifice is itself a good. A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted.” By sacrificing our dear companion, you will indeed be increasing the collective unhappiness of our group, while reducing the potential suffering of an individual. And let me tell you, this particular individual that hangs limp and drooling in your hand, is a much beloved individual in our group. He is a natural leader, who brings joy and happiness to the many who know him. He is a gentleman and a scholar, an organizer and an athlete, a friend and a father. His loss would cause immeasurable suffering to others AND reduce the population’s happiness “
Felix had found a flat rock to sit on and poured himself a cup of tea from his thermos and began to munch on a pretzel, in complete and utter suspense over what might happen next. “This is quite entertaining,” he said.
“Well,” began the Mountain Man, “You make a good point.. I will release your friend, if you return my associate. ” Michi woke, barely grasped the situation, screamed, and again passed out.
“Simply place our companion back on the ground, at a safe distance from the edge, and I will return yours. You have my word as a member of the Alpine Mountain Chair’s guard.”
With a sigh, and great consternation, Dr. Weijs placed our comatose friend gently on a patch of grass, and per the terms of the agreement, Sebastian threw the stick to him. He took his wooden council from the air as he rose to his full 8′ 2′ frame. “Our contract is complete. I will now go back to my mountain stream where I’m trying to build a hydropower plant with little success. You may go in peace, but don’t expect the same hospitality should you pass this way again.”
“I can help you!” You again found yourself offering. You just realized that you’d pretty much stood idly by during the whole conflict.
Turning, the mountain man again raised an eyebrow, “How can you help.”
“I know the ways of the water, I can summon power from it, if you let me.”
Dr Weijs stared at you, Felix finished his pretzel and brushed the crumbs from his shirt, then Dr. Weijs said curtly to Harvey, “Yes, you don’t have to remind me. Alright sojourner, we will offer you a chance to do as you say. But let me warn you, I don’t agree with my friend here, but I’m willing to entertain the possibility of your success. Your friends can stay here and tend to your wounded. You, “he said, pointing at .. you, “Come with me.”
“Go with him, “said Sebastian, “And remember that the spirit of the mountain stream will be at your side.” With great trepidation, you approached the towering figure.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to help you up this cliff.”
“Uhh, ok.” And with that he grabbed you like a sack of flour under his arm and leapt from boulder to boulder up the face of the wall.
“Well.. that’s anti-climactic,” complained Felix.
Chapter 7: Sheep
Reaching the ledge, he began running in great strides across the alpine, hurdling sheep and cows if they came into his path. Each bound covered at least 10 ft, and soon you descended into a verdant ravine. A small alpine stream cascaded over ancient rocks into a translucent green pool. The morning sun shone through the mist and created a rainbow in the air. A few chocolate brown sheep looked up from eating. They each proclaimed loudly “Math. Maaaathh.”
“Here it is,” said the mountain man. “This is my turbine shed.” He opened the door to a rustic hut made from hand-hewn logs. Inside was what appeared to be an alternator from a Volkswagen (there was an insignia) attached to a cooling fan blade. Beside it a nozzle was shut off and dripping. Wires from the back of the alternator ran to an electrical junction box which were attached to headlights, apparently from the same Volkswagen.
“Woww, where did you get this stuff? ” you asked.
“I found the wagen near one of the magic gates. You’ve probably heard of them. They are spread throughout the land. Harvey was on a walkabout and found it and came back and told me about it.”
“Harvey was on a walkabout.”
“Are you a hufter? Yes, I just said that. Anyways, Harvey also suggested fashioning this hydroelectric plant from the derelict. but each time I open the valve, water sprays everywhere, the motor gets soaking wet, and I end up getting shocked. Quite badly. (he twitched) I’m at my wit’s end. Maybe I can’t live off the grid like a true Mountain Man, maybe I’m not a Mountain Man at all just like my father said,” and a tear fell from his enormous eye.
“Now now, Dr. Weijs, don’t cry.. It’s really close, but perhaps we can take an alternative approach, ” you consoled him. “Have you considered Magnetohydrodynamic power?
“Magnetohydrodynamic power, using the motion of the water passing through a strong magnetic field, an electromotive force can be generated across electrodes.”
“Math, Math, ” complained the sheep.
“What is it with these sheep and math?” you ask.
“Ah yes, that’s a sad story. You see, I used to teach Calculus IV and Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations at the Technical University of Delft. We focused on advanced closed form solutions using Euler’s Identity. Anyways, we were making great progress when one day, there was a flash of light and the Mountain Chair’s wizard Gabriele Chiogna appeared. He declared that the Mountain Chair had banned advanced Calculus from being taught. And furthermore that we should study the wind, waves, and weather, using wavelet analysis. All mathematics from henceforth should be descriptive and not analytical. He cast a spell on my entire class, turning them into the sheep you see before you. Dr. Chiogna said once I turn away from analytical math and embrace numerical solutions, only then would my students be returned to their original form. Well, that was 3 years ago. It’s been a tough go and I regret to say that, well we had some pretty lean years and I started out with 14 students, and I’m down to 9 of the original. I also don’t even know who is…was who. Also, on the bright side, we have several baby sheep now, see, there’s a few right there,” at this point you were feeling quite queezy.
“Math, math.” bleated the baby sheep, adorably.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” you muttered.
“Anyways, I’ve made some progress on the wavelet analysis as it applies to hydrographs, but I need to get power to my hutte so I can work later into the night without burning so many candles.”
“Where do you get candl… never mind, never mind..” (heave)
Once your stomach recovered, you disassembled the alternator and thankfully there were permanent magnets. You attached these around the pipe. You fashioned crude electrodes from the brushes of the alternator and sealed them in a penstock made of exhaust pipe and pine sap. After wiring the electrodes to the car battery, and converting the tailpipe into a tailrace, you opened the valve and … voila! Power! No moving parts, just clean, sweet green power. Dr. Weijs was very pleased.
He invited you into his log and stone hutte. The hutte smelled of pine wood, alpine grass, and mountain air. He lit his pot-belly stove (made from the gas tank of the truck, you also noticed Dr. Weijs had no eyebrows at the moment) and put on some tea. He invited you to sit in a comfortable lambs wool…You sat on the willow back chair instead. The scones were delicious, with jam made from wild blueberries, the flour from his his very own garden, ground by a rustic water wheel stone mill. “This creme fresh is delicious,” you exclaimed, “Where did you get the cream from?” you enquired and instantly regretted asking.
“It’s from sheep milk,” he replied. “Same as the butter.”
“You removed the remaining scone from mouth, and pouring fresh tea, without milk, you rinsed your mouth as politely as you could.”
Thanking your host profusely, you promised to speak to the Mountian Chair about reversing the curse on the, remaining, students as quickly as possible.
By the time you left the hutte, Minerva had set and Dion was sinking below the horizon. Dr. Weijs said “You won’t make it through the mountain pass now. It’s too dark and there are tiny dinosaurs and imps in these hills that come out after dark. You’d best stay here for the night. I’ll make fresh Poffertjes in the morning, with yogurt and peaches.”
“Ahh, I really should be getting back to my friends. They promised to assist me getting to the Mountain Chair and I have a mission.”
“Well, if you must leave, I recommend you stay off the mountain paths. There is another way..”
Chapter 7: Underland
“There is a land beneath this one, Underland. It exists outside of this timeline. It has a single sun, it’s own ocean, it’s own people. I can show you the way, I… I used to live there myself, but I had to leave. There is a danger.. if you go, you may never return.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, when you go, you must travel through a timegate, this is a much weaker Higgs field where matter takes on less mass. To account for this, your time slows down, and could run in reverse. Remember there is no arrow on time.. I could show you the equations, but it requires Ordinary, Imaginary, and Delusional Differential Equations, and as you know, the Wizard Chiogna has forbidden this math in these lands. There is also the matter of the low probability field associated with the timegate. It’s highly unlikely, extremely unlikely that such a thing exists. Approaching fantastic. As they say in Underland, “It’s far out, man.” There is an equally likely chance that you’ll win the lottery, turn into an octopus, become a successful jazz flautist, or become an exclamation mark, for that matter, or even become a showlace, or a neutron star, for that matter! When you delve into these low probability fields, anything is possible, and I warn you to have your wits about you, or you may end up a sleeping bag, or a forgotten song, a pine tree needle, or a fresh mountain wind.. The random signals can create Moiré patterns, and you may end up as something you never asked for, but always wanted.”
“How can I avoid this and get to where I intend?”
“There is a place in your mind, in fact, everywhere in your mind, where nothing is certain, but something must happen. Whether a neuron fires or not, the paths of current that are not traced, will allow you to go where you want. This is where, in fact, “you” exist. If you can navigate this boundary between the classical billiard ball world, and the quantum mechanical world of probable observation, you can go and do whatever you want. This is also called Magical Thinking.”
“Nothing makes me angrier than when characters are hijacked by the narrator to expound on some theory or another, let’s get going,” you explained.
So you set off in Dion’s twilight to find the timegate.
Soon you arrived at a cave in the side of the mountain. The low light from Dion cast long shadows all around you, the rocks glowed in reds and blues. Alpine grasses grew in tufts near the entrance. The soft sheep bells chimed nearby. Dr. Weijs said, ” here it is. When you enter, remember, you must believe you are entering a timegate, or you will be swallowed by the darkness and not escape.”
“Ok,” you replied uncertainly.
“Good Luck,” he wished you.
“I’ve already got that locked down,” you replied. And wishing Dr. Weijs’ confused look a fond farewell, you entered the cave.
At first it was dark. Very dark. Inky dark. But soon you could see your hand, or imagine seeing it. Water dripped somewhere nearby. Or, you imagined it was water. You made your way over uneven ground. Tentatively you put your hand against the wet rock wall. You’ve never been more scared in your life. “Why they hell would I be doing this?” you asked yourself. No answer was forthcoming. So you had to answer yourself “because this is my story.” This sounded convincing so you went on. “If I don’t take part in my story, who will?” This seemed superfluous, so to prevent your inner voice from waxing on, you tried to move faster and give yourself something to deal with.
Sure enough, it worked.
In the distance, you saw what appeared to be light out of the inky blackness. Faint at first, it was like a fire and it warmed your retinas. The bathing of your hands in the light felt refreshing and you craved more. You continued to feel your way along the cave and your eyes soaked up the light. Soon, you could make out a rectangle, perhaps a door. The ground became less rough and soon you felt your feet sliding along cobblestone. The walls became more regular and the rocks more hewn. You could hear the whir of a fan and the relentless precision of gears engaging. Before long, you were looking out a pane glass door onto what appeared to be a watery metropolis. Between you and a street of brightly lit shops was a watery causeway. As you approached the door, the ceiling above you opened up to reveal a myriad of gears, cogs, and levers. The door had a brass handle, which you turned. It opened in. A salty breath of air hit your face. A sweet warm sea breeze met you as you walked out of the clock onto a cobblestone pathway and you looked up at the clock face–11:10. 11:10? How is that possible? No sooner had you registered this than you were knocked down and hit your head, “Thunk” on the cobblestone. As the lights faded, you looked up to see the most beautiful eyes and set of teeth on a human you have ever seen in your life. In fact, the whole arrangement was pleasing..as..hell.
“Gaat het wel goed?” the teeth said.
“Oh wow,” you replied, “Please speak some more.. those teeth are soo perfect..” and you passed out.
“Hallo, hallo?? Wakker worden! Hallo?”
“You dreamed you were on a play ground, your childhood playground at your elementary school. You were only 3 feet tall. The light was strange, a deep red coming from beneath an overcast sky. The dark clouds moved by at an alarming rate, like they were time-lapsed. Crows cawed and cooed nearby. You noted there was a single sun in the sky, it didn’t look familiar.
A man was standing nearby. You were trying to play on the monkey bars, trying to swing across, but his proximity was disturbing. You could feel him staring at you. When you made it to the other side, you finally looked over and made eye contact with the face you recognized as your own, as you are now. You stared at him. He smiled and the wrinkles along his face showed a face worn by years and worry, the sunken eyes told of too many early mornings and too much coffee. He teeth were… not perfect.. but his eyes were kind. He was holding your childhood blanket.
“Hello,” he said in a friendly manner. You could tell he was nervous to speak to you.
“Hello, ” you replied quietly. He continued to smile nervously at you. You decided to ignore him and turned to climb back across the monkey bars.
The Crow nearby turned to you and said “Time’s Out of Phase, Cah!”
As you stared at the talking crow, the man grabbed you from behind with the blanket. Although you struggled, you could not free yourself from his powerful arms. Nor could you see anything. “Let me go!” you yelled and kicked.
“It’s alright,” he tried to console you, “I’m taking you to a safe place. You struggled and struggled but could not break free. You yelled “Let me go!” as water drenched your head.
“Well, that did it,” a man spoke.
“I’m awake!” you exclaimed and opened your eyes. Through the blurring of the water, you could make out a tall thin man wearing a green fisherman’s beanie, a green plaid shirt and suspenders. He eyed you suspiciously. The man closest to you wore a black ship captain’s hat, a dark beard and dark brown framed glasses. He wore a dark blue wool pea coat. To his right was the fair woman whom you recognized as the one with the perfect teeth. She wore a yellow, green, and white plaid coat and red cloth scarf. She stared at you with one eyebrow raised. And finally in the dark corner was another man with his hood over his face, a red beard could be seen on his wryly smirking face. He wore a grey sweater, jeans, and brown leather boots. You could not make out his face in the darkness.
You appeared to be in the hold of a boat. There were a number of round port lights letting in scattered light. You could hear the sound of waves lapping against the hull.
(The following is translated from German/Dutch, which you didn’t understand at the time):
“Where did you find him?” the captain asked.
“The hufter walked in front of me on the bike path near the waterclock. I whacked into him and bent my tire. Now I have to ride my skateboard until it’s fixed,” said the woman.
“But where did he come from?”
“I don’t know, I looked inside the clock, it was just gears and.. clockwork” she said.
“I see.” he said
“Where are you from traveler?” he asked you.
Suspicious, you decided to play your hand close to your chest “How do you know I’m not from here?”
“The captain took your hand and held it up to your face. It was somewhat… transparent, much like when holding up a finger in front of one eye. He then held up his hand, which appeared solid, but.. 1, 2, 3, 4…5 fingers on each hand! “You only have 6 fingers and 2 thumbs, your an octodigit. We all have ten. Same goes for toes.”
The others held up their freakish hands to show 10 digits. A shiver ran down your spine to see these deviants. And what did “ten” even mean? “Our numbering system is in base ten,” the captain took a pencil and wrote “10”. “We count to ten, what do you count to?” he said indicating the 2 digits.
“We count to eight,” you said and pointed to the same two digits “10”. You counted with your fingers to make it obvious. The Captain held up his two hands.
“Do you see Eight or Ten digits?”
“I don’t get it!” you exclaimed mildly. “I count unty-two. I don’t know ‘ten’.” It blew your mind. Everything you know about the world was in base 8. 8 groups of 8 was 1 Octet, 8 Octets was an DeusEct, etc. How could you develop advanced math on a system of unty-two, or “ten” as they called it? Half of ten would be 5, which is not divisible into whole numbers? When you wrote 10, you meant eight.
“He’s from the Fringes, Captain Morgner” said the green capped man “We should weigh him down and send him full fathom five. Let the fishes deal with him! We can’t risk him mating with one of ours and messing with the gene pool. I’ll do it.. ” He began to gather rope.
“Don’t use my name.. Vetter! Your time’s running out stranger, I’ll ask again, where do you come from and why are you here? Do you bring a message from,” and he looked up, “above?”
“Above?” you asked.
“Tell me, how many suns are in the sky?”
“Depends on the meta-season, right now we see two suns for much of the day during Perigree.” How did they not understand perigree? “How many suns do you have?”
“There is only one sun.. The Sun.”
“But, what is its name?” you asked.
“It’s name?” the captain looked at the green capped man, Vetter, who shrugged and kept preparing rope. Finally, the man in the shadows spoke.
“It has only one name, The Sun, or Sol to some. We are in a singular Solar System, we rotate around the sun. How is it where you’re from? What is the place you are from called? This is called Earth.”
“Irth?” you repeated, “I’m from Fathomland, but I don’t understand what you are saying. We have two suns, Minerva and Dion. They sleep in the west and rise again in the east. Dion is a saucy devil and continually chases Minerva the maiden, to do.. what men do with women, I presume. They are gods, so I don’t totally understand how it works with them. I can only imagine Dion would..”
The man in the corner spoke again, “You’re from a binary star system. Where that is, I have no idea. Nor do I know how you got here. I’m afraid I’m with Vetter, we should toss him overboard. The risk is too great, he may signal others to come, he may open the path for them. I believe we should treat him as hostile.” Vetter nodded smugly.
“No.. ” said the fair one, who had been largely ignoring you and balancing a ball on a small curved stick. “He is an interesting human, barely, but interesting. ” She bounced the ball into her hand and held the stick against your chest in a menacing manner. She leaned in close and her her cat-like eyes saw right into your shallow, empty, hollow shell of a soul. You felt exposed, invigorated, like a warm breeze blowing against your skin. “I think there is a way to know if he’s from the Highland.”
“How?” asked Captain Morgner.
“Einstein’s shoe..” she said, removing the stick and leaning against it.
“No!” said Vetter, shocked, “It’s too much. Who will clean up the mess? Not me, I refuse. What will we do with the body?”
She threw the ball in the air and caught it on the end of the curved stick, where she balanced it expertly. “There will be no mess. If he is not from the Highland, there will be nothing left.”
“And what is there to gain?” asked the shadowy man in the corner.
The fair one tossed the ball in the air and caught it in her other hand. She pointed the stick at you, raised her eyebrow, and said “Passage..”
Chapter 8: Einstein’s Shoe
There is a principle in Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity that states that deep within a gravitational well, such as on earth, or the sun, clocks tick slower, that is to say, time slows down. This is known as the Gravitational Redshift. The Einsteinturm was built in 1921, near Potsdam, Germany… Earth, to measure the phenomena and further prove, or disprove, Einstein’s theories. The tower architect was Erich Mendelsohn, considered one of the early expressionist architects whose forms expressed a dynamic functionalism. The astronomer who designed the observatory was Erwin Finlay-Freundlich., a jewish german physicist who was forced to leave nazi germany in 1933.
You now found yourself standing in front of building not unlike a spaceship from the Rebel Alliance, which by happenstance was in the same Galaxy Far Far Away as Fathomland.
You were hesitant to enter the bizarre looking structure, but the fair one placed the curved end of her stick against your spine and that persuaded you. You could feel the sweat from your back sticking to your shirt.
You entered the front door and were presented with a marble floored foyer. A bronze bust of Albert Einstein stared at you as if to say “Vhat are YOU doing here?” The curved stick against your back urged you on, however. Vetter and Captain Morgner lead the way. Beyond the foyer, a set of stairs with iron wrought handrail lead to the basement. As you entered the main tower, you looked up to see the optics of the telescope; a massive glass lens held in a steel frame. The light from the lens traveled down the shaft of the observatory where it met high precision mirrors below, before taking a sharp turn towards the receptors in the basement. A bead of sweat dripped down your face.
The fair one went to the hand rail and clicked her ring on the rail. The rail rang out. The fair one matched the tone with her voice until the ringing died down. “Did you know that everything has a resonant frequency?” began the fair one. She placed the curved stick in your back and pushed. You began to descend the staircase. She put her hand on your forehead and wiped away the sweat. “From rocks to jellyfish to waterbodies. Even we have a harmonic frequency. ” With her hand on the iron handrail, she descended. The acid and oil in your sweat created a fluid with negative coefficient of friction, that is, static friction is higher than dynamic. It takes more force to create motion than continue it. This leads to “stick-slip” behaviour and vibration, which in turn leads to sound.
“When a body experiences a harmonic frequency, waves become constructive, that is, their amplitudes add.” As you descended, you could see the image of their sun appear high above on the tower wall. “When you supply energy at the resonant frequency, you can create harmony. Supply too much and the bonds may break.” The ringing of the handrail grew in intensity as she descended the staircase. “Supply too little energy, or of another frequency, and the signals are out of phase and eventually become destructive.” She continued to descend the staircase at the same speed, the sound growing louder. You could barely hear her as she spoke.
“We live in a common time-space. You are from another. That’s why you’re semi-transparent here. Our sun is also in our time-space. It is the primary energy source on Earth. Most forms of energy, wind, wave, coal, fire, rivers, food, and of course solar comes from our sun. All life gets energy from the sun. It is a theory, that all life shares a resonant frequency with the sun, or rather shares the same time base. It is my theory, that if exposed to enough solar energy, YOU will either grow stronger, or be destroyed.”
You honestly didn’t like where this was going. “Buutt, won’t I just get badly burned?”
“No, because you we’ve removed the infrared from the light, we’re only passing radiation in a narrow bandwidth. Should just be really bright.” You were now now walking along the long-corridor in the basement of the Einstenturm. The light was being piped through several aparati. You could see the pipe pointing to a CCD (Charged Coupled Device) at the end of the pipe. Surprisingly you were going along with this plan. You seemed to be doing so because A) the fair one was one of the most beautiful creature you’ve ever seen and were willing to be burned to a crisp to support her research and B) you were curious to know if it was true.
The shadowy figure, who remained shadowy the entire time, decoupled the charged coupled device from its holder. He took a folding wooden chair from a nearby desk and placed it in the beam’s path. Looking back down the hall, you could see the light from the sun nearing the entrance to the pipe.
Captain Morgner and Vetter took you by your arms and placed you in the chair. An electric cord, or what you assumed was an electrical cord if you were from the future in another galaxy, was wrapped around your waist and a proper knot tied. The fair one put her foot, which was sandaled, on the chair, near your crotch. You were nervous… She placed the curved stick on your sternum and leaned in.
“I don’t have anything against you. But you don’t belong here, our time is out of phase. You are a risk to us and our existence. ” She leaned in closer. You could smell her warm skin, “but I like your face, and you have a kind smile. Good luck bello, ” she kissed you on the cheek, “tshuss.”
While you processed this, you saw the first beam of light from the tube hit your chest where her stick was. Where you were semi transparent before completely disappeared, the stick fell through and hit the chair behind you. “Ahh,” said the fair one. “It’s true.”
“Whaaa…” you said.
The light grew until it filled a semi-circle on your chest, and your chest disappeared. You looked to Vetter who seemed to be smiling with delight, “Clever.” he said. Captain Morgner was far more concerned. The fair one’s eyes had widened and stared at you in fierce interest.
“What does it feel like?” she asked.
“I feel nothing, but I can’t see my chest.., now, I’m starting to feel colder, my chest is cold. Now, now there’s a pressure on my chest..”
The shadowy one moved closer to you and the fair one, you could see his nose and cheeks above the red beard. The beam had expanded as it neared it’s central focus until your entire torso had disappeared from sight, yet you felt no pain or sensation. It grew in size almost exponentially, as it neared your face, you looked up to see the shadowed figure remove his hood. It was you.. younger, about 10 years, lighter, brighter, he approached the fair one and held her around her waist. She reached up and held his cheek affectionately and said to you “ciao bello.”
And they were gone..
Chapter 9: A Murder of Crows
You could hear soft chiming bells in the distance. “Clang, clang, clang.” Crickets chirped nearby. The familiar brown of sunlight through eyelids poured in and filled your experience. You could smell sheep dung and alpine grass. You felt a weight on your chest. You were cold.
“Hey, you alright,” came a familiar voice. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
You realized you had a body and opened your eyes. Above you stood the blurry outline of people. You blinked and could make the outline out to be your friend Michi, he held up the usual 4 fingers of his hand. To his right was Sebastian. It was good to be home.
“He seems to have experienced some kind of… extra corporeal astral projection. While not proven, it’s not strictly forbidden by the equations. It’s very difficult to design an experiment to either prove or disprove, however. Still, he wasn’t here a second ago, was he Felix?” questioned Basti.
“No, he wasn’t” Felix was just tucking into a piece of sachertorte from his rucksack.
“We had given up on you, ” said Michi. “We waited for you to return from the mountain man. We waited for 4 days. You never returned. We had given up. We were returning to the Mountain Chair. Then you were on the path here in front of us. It’s very unusual. Where did you come from?”
“Underland.” you explained.
“He’s delusional,” dismissed Sebastian, “Let’s continue on.” They hoisted you up to your feet. You wavered, but did not falter. They put your backpack on you. Again, you wavered, but did not falter.
“Where are we going?” you asked.
“There.” Sebastian indicated up the steep mountain pass. Above you, perched on a rocky cliff, was a hutte with flying buttresses and an imposing stone hall. Behind the hutte, behind the vaulting mountain peaks, were dark storm clouds moving ever faster towards you. The low light of Minerva shone across the rock face. A cawe was heard above, and you looked up to see a murder of crows flying overhead towards the hutte. Flying among the murder was the largest bird you’ve ever seen, at least 2 fathoms in wingspan, you could see it look down on your party as it passed overhead. Its head seemed unusually large. The crows reached the the back of the hutte and did not emerge.
As you stared up at the hutte, Bastian walked by. “Well,” said Bastian, “that’s either good news or bad news for you, depending on your glück.”
Georg walked by and said “Out of the frying pan, into the fire, hey old chum?”
Brenda walked by and said “Well, you seem like a nice enough guy, ” taking your hand, “I’m sorry..”
Michi limped by and said “Remember, don’t look her in the eye.”
Felix walked by, this time drinking a Grapefruit Radler, “If you have any requests on what to do with your body, please, just tell me soon,” and he slapped you on the shoulder. “I think this should be pretty climactic,” you heard him say to Michi.
And so you started the climb, a gaping hole in your chest where your heart was, towards the Hutte of the Mountain Chair.
- Indeed, this appears to be how language works in the human brain. There is an active “speaking” part and a passive “listening” part. This is documented with great acuity in “Other Minds” by Peter Godfery-Smith about how human (mammal) minds developed independently from Octopus (cephalapods). Think of Arrival (2016) directed by Denis Villeneuve. In this book Godfrey-Smith also references Blade Runner, the second instalment Blade Runner 2049 also directed by Denis Villeneuve.