The Paranoia Chronicles, v3

Kind of difficult to know where to begin right now, because it feels like deja vu all over again.

Like “Hey, Dude! Welcome back to the 60s,” ya know? “Peace and Love, ya know?”

How many of you remember “duck and cover” drills? If you were in school in October of ’62 you surely do. When Khrushchev first sent IRBMs to Cuba and the world held its breath? So…wait one…you don’t know what an IRBM is? Well then, that means you probably missed the 60s.

So, welcome to the party!

Because we got your ICBMs, these being the really big missiles called Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, then we got your IRBMs (Intermediate Range) and your SLBMs (Sea Launched), then we got you Mark 61 freefall bombs and whole arsenals of short to medium range nuclear tipped missiles and rockets carried by all manner of aircraft, and we’ve even got your nuclear tipped howitzer rounds and even funkier nuclear grenade sized warheads that can be fired by troops on the battlefield. Yes, our nuclear weapons designers have been busy little beavers!

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I mean, really. Since 1964, when perhaps coincidentally Dr Strangelove came out, nuclear annihilation has kind of been where it’s at, especially for the power elite in Moscow and Washington. It’s where the big bucks are, I guess. They’re the ultimate status symbol, the plaything of the really rich and famous. “Look at me! I’ve got a nuclear football! Don’t mess with me or I’ll really rain on your parade!”

Which was where MAD was supposed to come in. It was our…Trump card…

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MAD, as in Mutually Assured Destruction. You nuke me and guess what? I’ll nuke you too, but two times over. MAD meant a stable, almost predictable relationship between the Soviet Union and NATO. MAD was, and is still predicated on the idea that no sane leader would ever dare invoke a nuclear exchange because the results are so dire. Go watch a video on nuclear fallout patterns or the specifics of nuclear winter and see if you can sleep tonight.

But an idea predicated on sane leadership has never some up against a leadership caste that believes to its core that a nuclear war is winnable, and that’s what we’re running up against in Ukraine. Right out the door Prince Vlad started rattling the nuclear saber, and that has been very, very bad news to those of us who see no upside to a thousand rad exposure to ionizing nuclear radiation. That kind of suntan will seriously ruin your day.

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But Ukraine is a done deal, the sacrificial goat, the canary in our coal mine. Ukraine is where we analyze the Russian war machine. Where we send all kinds of SIGINT aircraft to analyze Russian radar emissions, to watch their command and control networks in action, so when the real war starts – and start it will – we’ll know how to grind the Russian war machine to a quick and decisive halt. Because if we can’t, well, that’s when the real fun starts. That’s the long game Putin has been playing. This is the reason why Putin put so much into getting Trump elected in the first place. Divide and Conquer, right.

Boy, did that work out well, or what?

So the paranoid streak running rampant through my mind says we are sleep walking our way right into World War Three. We sat back and watched Prince Vlad while the Greek Chorus sang seductive songs of Peace In Our Time and, well, we got a little complacent. Trump help convince the White Nationalists in our midst that Prince Vlad was The One True Savior, and Steven Seagal fans everywhere rejoiced in a silent night. Trump belittled NATO as a bunch of deadbeats as he sang his siren’s song of Hate to authoritarians in Hungary and to the leaders of rightist parties all over Europe. He wrote love letter to the fat kid in North Korea while he pissed on the Japanese. He weakened us, because, well, that’s what Putin wanted him to do. Mission accomplished,

And so, now here we are. Tucker Carlson is calling the shots and Steve Bannon is helping run the Packers power sweep. Again. They’re dividing us, again. When we should be uniting we are being divided – by people enthralled by Prince Vlad.

And this is why war is inevitable. It’s inevitable because we’re playing by the rules in Putin’s playbook, not ours. Putin is acting, and we’re reacting. Never a good idea when nuclear weapons are involved.

So, do you know where it’s all going to go down? Where our little world is going to turn sideways? Well, ever heard of the The Suwalki Corridor? Read the linked article if interested, because it’s an eye opener, but the Cliff Notes version is this: the corridor is a 65 km wide swath of Poland that borders Lithuania. Cut off that corridor and NATO can no longer directly resupply the Baltic States (because Belarus sits on one side of the corridor and Kaliningrad is on the other). Both are Russian proxies. And when the next war starts it will start when Prince Vlad decides to continue his restoration of Greater Russian Glory by annexing Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, i.e., the Baltic States, and taking the corridor in his opening move of the second phase of his war.

With Russia now shooting journalists in Ukraine and about to declare martial law at home, smart Russians are heading for the exits. And the closest exit is Finland. Hundreds, if not thousands of Russians are lining up at border crossings on the Finnish border, trying to get out before the net closes. My guess? These people remember the Greater Russian Glory of the Gulag system and want no part of it, but hey, that’s just me.

And what happens when the Finnish parliamentarians decide they want into NATO? What happens when Prince Vlad says no to that? Care to guess?

Hey…I’m just sayin’…

Watch this video and tell me what your first reaction is when watching (and watch through to the end, please):

It is difficult to watch this clip without thinking the worst has already happened, but this was “just” a so-called thermobaric weapon, or a so-called fuel-air bomb. Their use is illegal, but hell, so is war. Then again, that little piece of work did just fine when we went into Iraq, but that was illegal too and some estimates put the number of civilian dead in that war at one million, plus or minus. And some fairly articulate people have made the case that a couple of American politicians should be considered war criminals. And hey, we Americans used thermobaric weapons in Afghanistan to bomb cave complexes, so you kind of have to consider that what goes around comes around. That Irony can come up from behind and bite you on the ass, but then again cave complexes are not European cities.

These are strange times. It’s 2022 and here we are thinking about the unthinkable again, like living under the threat of these hideous weapons for forty years wasn’t enough. Here we sit, fat dumb and happy and living under the most peaceful, let alone the most prosperous conditions in human history, then along comes a new wave of authoritarian leaders – and probably the most duplicitous of the lot was right here in America – and then a tiny little virus came along to remind us things really aren’t as settled and rosy as we might have liked to think they were. And that hubris continues to be our achilles heel. And who knows, maybe hubris is the one constant in our humanity we just can’t overcome. I know we can’t outrun it. I’ve watched and watched and no one has done it yet.

Because, when all is said and done, Vladimir Putin is one of us. He’s a human being. Outrageously flawed? Sure, maybe, and there seems little question about that, at least from where I sit. And who knows, he may be another Hitler, but when you get right down to it that’s a decision to made by historians writing the next chapter of our story, and saying that now means little more to this moment than hurling a hot fudge sundae at a cold brick wall. It’s impotence, at least right now it is, yet it’s also worth remembering that histories are written by the victors.

But what happens when there are no winners?

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So, who will write our epitaph? And…will it even matter? Will the universe care that one more species came and went with little more than a whimper in the night?

Ooooh…It really makes me wonder…

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Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Life, Chapter 14.4

Music spheres 1

Rabbit hole? What rabbit hole?

So, it may be time for a reality check. Or maybe even a few harsh realities, but we’ll see…

Regardless, time for tea, anyone? Or coffee, perhaps…with a side of Maltese Falcon…?

“Who knows?” said Mr. Cairo. “You better call Sam Spade, while there’s still time.”

(America \\ Daisy Jane)

(The Dream Academy  \\ The Love Parade)

Part IV: The Music of the Spheres

Chapter 14.4

Beverly Hills, California     7 June 2002

Ted Sorensen picked up the telephone and dialed Deb’s number at the house in Aspen – and still it just rang and rang. After twelve rings he gently replaced the receiver and wondered what to do next. The private detectives he’d hired to run her down had followed the trail to Seattle Tacoma International, but the trail had gone cold right there at the airport and that had been weeks ago. And that meant she’d been in contact with that fucking computer geek, Mr. Know-it-all Henry Fucking Taggart – but then that trail had led nowhere, too – and fast. A quick check at the start-up he was working for had produced no leads, only that he’d taken an indefinite leave of absence.

So…she was with Taggart but they were both otherwise “off the grid” – using cash and doing whatever they could to keep it that way.

And he had to admit…he really didn’t give a shit what she did, or who she did it with, but she was living in his house and keeping him “out of the loop” like this was, in effect, a declaration of independence. “So be it,” he sighed angrily, looking up the number for the largest realtor in Aspen, before he decided to call Dina Marlowe.

“She’s vanished?” Dina said, chuckling a little. “Imagine that.”

“Look, I don’t appreciate you laughing like that,” he snapped.

“Oh, Ted, I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you…”

“With me!?” he snarled. “What’s so funny about this?”

“Well, for one…you are, at least the way you’re overreacting to this – is kind of funny.”

He wanted to slam the receiver down but in truth Dina was about the only person left in LA he considered a friend, and you didn’t do that to friends. “You think I’m overreacting to all this?”

“Ted, she’s a big girl now. No more pony rides at her birthday party, okay? She’s stretching her wings, learning to fly, so just let her be. She’s been needing to do this for years, so just sit back, take a deep breath and let her fly for a while. Everything will be alright.”

He took a deep breath and shook his head, not sure how to proceed now. “Look, I called because I’m angry about the whole thing and I was thinking about selling the house in Aspen…”

“What! Don’t you dare!”

“Excuse me?”

“No, Ted. That’s almost…infantile! Punish her for trying to grow up? What are you trying to accomplish? Keep her in diapers? Maybe hire a nanny to breast feed her for a few more years!”

“What…I…”

“Really, Ted…seriously, just let it be. She’ll be okay with Henry. He’s good people, and you know that as well as anyone here in LA.”

“You think Taggart is a good person?”

“Are you kidding? He saved her life, Ted, in case you’ve forgotten all that crap in Bora-Bora, and I’m not even supposed to mention Catalina but he saved her life again out there…”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Look, I promised Deb I wouldn’t tell you so just take my word for it. Henry Taggart is a decent human being and leave it at that, okay?”

He sighed and involuntarily shivered, and then his right hand started to tremble. “How does a late lunch sound?”

“I’m free if you are.”

“Gladstone’s? In an hour?”

“As long as I don’t have to have that damn She Crab soup…”

“I love that stuff…”

“What’s not to love? It’s nothing but butter, heavy cream and sherry…”

“God, I love it when you talk dirty to me like that…”

 SV AquaTarkus   Little Refuge Cove, Desolation Sound, BC                   7 June 2002

Deb stood on deck, taking the fuel hose from Henry down on the dock, slipping the fill nozzle into the opening with practiced ease. 

“God, I love it up here,” she sighed, standing now and taking a deep breath.

“Yeah, I love diesel fumes as much as the next guy, but I think I smell cinnamon rolls.”

There was a fishing boat at the other fuel dock and a passing fisherman heard that and stopped to chat. “Great place up there on the hill, in case you don’t know Annie.”

“Good cinnamon rolls?”

“Yup. And I oughta know. I married the cook thirty years ago because of those damn things,” he said, rubbing his ample gut.

Henry grinned at that. “We’ll go check ‘em out. You wouldn’t happen to know anyplace around here to pick up some salmon, would you?”

“I got some fresh if you don’t mind cleaning ‘em yourself. How much you need?”

“Oh, two or three ought to do us for a few days.”

“I’ll go get you a couple. Out of the water this morning, too.”

“Excellent!” He looked up at Deb – who had out of habit turned away so the fisherman’s aura wouldn’t bombard her senses – but she turned around now and smiled.

“Sounds good,” she added.

Daisy Jane sleepily bounded up the companionway and took a quick look around, then settled into her perch in the cockpit, secure as she surveyed her new domain.

“Hear that, Daisy-Jane? Fresh salmon!”

Daisy’s tail started to thump-thump, indicating her solid approval of the measure, and when the fuel filler snapped Deb topped off the tank with two more quick squirts then handed the hose back to Henry. The fisherman came by with three fish as long as Taggart’s arm and he pulled out his wallet and settled up.

“You can leave your boat here if you’re just gonna run up to the store for a few minutes,” the fisherman added. 

“Thanks,” Henry said as he turned to Daisy. “You ready for a long walk, girl?”

Daisy grabbed her leash and hopped over the lifelines in one fluid motion, and the fisherman stood still and gasped at that display.

“You teach her to do that?” he asked.

“No, no we didn’t. She’s just a bright dog.”

“Bright? Hell, I’ve never seen any dog do that before.”

“Well, you’ve never met Daisy Jane then, have you?” Henry leaned over and snapped the leash to her collar then he turned to her. “Daisy, say hello to the nice man, would you?”

Daisy ambled over and sat down in front of the fisherman, then she extended her right hand as she looked up at him.

“I’ll be,” he said as he leaned over and took her paw. “You’re right. Never seen anything like that before.”

“She’s a good girl.”

Daisy turned and “woofed” once, then looked at a trail that led into the woods, and she looked excited, too.

“Alright, alright, don’t get your panties in a wad. I hear you, let’s go…”

+++++

They anchored out and Henry filleted one of the salmon, slicing up some sashimi with the best cuts and cutting up a few filets to broil that evening, and about that time Deb called out that she and Daisy were going to take the Zodiac over to the waterfall and go for a walk.

“Take the bear spray, okay?”

“Got it already.”

“Have fun!”

He heard her start the outboard and smiled. She really was getting into the groove of life on the water – almost as much as Daisy Jane had. But that was a different story altogether.

The pup was different after her night with the orcas. Different, as in smarter. Different, in that Deb reported her aura had changed – significantly. It wasn’t just brighter, no, she displayed more colors now, too, like the range of her emotional expressiveness had changed, had somehow been expanded. Had her base of emotional understanding been changed, as well? There was no way to know for sure, but where interaction with this pod of orcas was concerned Henry was learning to question his assumptions, because something more than a little odd was going on.

Still, this idyll had to come to an end, and soon. He couldn’t just quit work, at least not yet, but on the other hand he wasn’t sure he wanted this thing with Deb to end just yet. She’d made it clear she loved him and he was pretty sure he loved her too, but then again that really wasn’t the problem. 

Her father was. He always had been, and until she changed that dynamic, until she declared her independence from him – to his face – she’d always be compromised emotionally…and as far as Taggart was concerned Ted Sorensen was too dangerous to cross twice.

Because, yes, he’d already crossed the man once, and because Sorensen had enemies, Sorensen usually had people to do his dirty work for him. At least…that was the rumor…

After Papeete and after sorting through all the bogus claims about Ted wanting to get a boat, Sorensen had asked Henry to come to work for him at Paramount. And his offer was staggeringly generous, too. So he’d done his due diligence, had asked around about Sorensen and what he’d learned had been enough. He declined the offer, and in declining he had, apparently, offended Sorensen. Soon after that his dad had called and warned him off, told him to leave town and let things blow over, so Henry had quietly returned to Seattle. He’d only come down to do the dive class with Deb and the Kid because she almost begged him to, but he’d left LA as soon as he got Spree III docked and washed down.

Then she’d called two months ago and this time her call was really unexpected, like out of the blue unexpected, but it was the sound of her voice that had gotten to him most of all. Like there was some kind of damage involved, like she was pleading for help, for rescue…but then again he realized that was what he’d been doing ever since he’d met her. Maybe that was all he was supposed to be, too. Her knight in shining armor, on call to ride in to the rescue, to save her from her father.

“And that’s not the role I want to live,” he realized. 

Taggart was also smart enough to understand he was getting on in years and Deb was probably his last chance to do the whole settle down with a wife and have kids kind of thing, yet it just didn’t feel right. Yeah, he loved her. Yeah, she was cute in a measured kind of way, even if she was a little frumpy – at least according to the standards of Hollywood royalty she seemed to always compare herself to. 

And yeah, the whole aura thing was pretty confusing, if only because her ability made for a kind of lopsided view of things. He was, comparatively speaking, almost blind where her abilities were concerned, and he’d found it more than a little unnerving to find her staring at him and then feeling like he was being analyzed – probably because he was!

And now he wasn’t so sure that Daisy didn’t have the same sort of ability – or abilities. Ever since her night with the orcas he’d caught her staring at him, too – and he could literally see her reacting to him…even when he was sitting perfectly still. Then he’d found a paperback and started reading, his emotions tracking along with the story’s ups and downs, and he’d watched as Daisy reacted right along with him. After that he’d felt like he was under continuous scrutiny from them both, and he really didn’t like the way that felt – which of course created a whole new feedback loop of observation and assessment…so where would it stop? Indeed, could it stop? And if not, what kind of future was there for a relationship grounded in such iniquity?

The little Refuge Cove market had great produce and he’d gone wild buying pears and Brussels sprouts, but with sprouts on hand he’d had to buy cherries…so now he had everything he needed for dinner. He diced some bacon and put it on a low heat, then he cleaned and halved the sprouts and put them in the skillet face down with the bacon…and with a little butter and some brandy, too. He pitted and halved a handful of cherries and added them to the skillet; he covered the skillet and lowered the heat to a bare simmer while he prepped the salmon with soy and freshly grated ginger, then he waited for Deb to get back, opening a fresh bottle of riesling and slicing some kind of local cheese the owner had recommended. He heard the dingy arrive and set the salmon under the broiler just as Deb cried a miserable sounding “Help!”

Because Daisy had found a skunk. And Daisy had decided the skunk needed to be investigated, and before Deb knew what had happened Daisy came running out of the woods smelling like, well, just the secretions secreted by a skunk’s anal glands. 

And he could smell the true dimensions of the problem even before he made it up the companionway steps. So…he stopped and turned off the broiler and the fire under the sprouts, found the box of baking soda he’d put in the ‘fridge and two large bottles of tomato juice he used to make Bloody Marys – then pinched his nose and crawled out to the swim platform.

“What do you expect me to do with that stuff?” Deb squalled.

“Give her a bath!”

“Where?” 

“Right there. And for God’s sake don’t let her get below or one of us will have to buy this boat! You can’t get that smell out once it gets down below…!”

“I don’t know how to do that!”

Henry shook his head – because he realized there was no getting out of this one – then he took off his t-shirt and hopped down into the dingy. He poured one bottle of the tomato juice all over Daisy and let that soak in for a bit, then he grabbed her by the cuff and dipped her into the sea. He pulled her up and took the baking soda and massaged it into the skin where the skunk’s spray had hit, then a few minutes later he dunked her again. “Okay. That was round one. You do round two.”

“But you’ve already got that stuff all over you now…”

“Yeah? So do you. So you might go for a swim right now…before I toss you in…”

“You wouldn’t dare!” She looked at him for a moment – then said: “Oh yes you would!”

“Hmm. That worked out rather well, I think.”

Malibu, California                                                      7 June 2002

Ted leaned back and sighed. “Damn if that didn’t hit the spot!”

“Which one?” Dina quipped, grinning.

“You and your Caesar salads…are you always watching your weight?”

“Yes. Always.”

“Doesn’t that get boring?”

“Fat is boring, Ted. And fat means no more dating and probably no more clients.”

“You’re not serious.”

“Oh Hell yes I am. Architecture is all about appearances, Ted, and my personal appearance is just one part of the overall package.”

“You sound like you’re selling yourself, Dina.”

“And don’t you think for one moment that I’m not, Ted. From the moment a potential client walks in my door until my proposal is accepted and signed-off on, everything I say and do is judged, as is the way I look, and you know better than anyone that’s especially true in this town.”

He nodded. “Do you sleep with many of your clients?”

“Never, at least not until I met you.”

“Oh? And to what do I owe this honor?”

“Because we’re simpatico, darlin’. In case you didn’t know that already.”

“And you say that because…?”

“Just a feelin’ I had when we met. That’s why I invited you and Deb down to the house, and that’s why whenever you have a problem you can’t get a handle on you call me.”

“Do I do that? Really?”

“Really.”

The waiter brought his credit card receipt and he signed it and took his copy, then he looked up at Dina. “Wanna take a walk?”

“What? Down there?” she said, nodding at the beach.

“Yeah.”

“What’s wrong, Ted? Is it Deb?”

“Huh? Oh, no, not really. I was thinking about us while I was driving down here.”

“Us? As in you and me?”

“Yes. As in.”

“Uh-oh…this sounds serious,” she sighed.

“You know, in a way I think it kind of is. You’re the only real friend I have, Dina. You’re the only person I know who isn’t working an angle on me, who doesn’t want something from me…you know?”

“I know.”

“I’m just curious, but does that mean anything to you?”

“Yes, it does, Ted. It means the world to me, actually.”

“Come on, let’s hit the sand.”

She nodded and slid out her side of the booth, and he casually came up and took her hand as they walked out through the massed throngs of diners and people waiting in a long line to get in…and this was something new, something that hadn’t happened before…and never had when they were out in public. He wasn’t on the usual paparazzis’ radar, but they staked out this place and he knew that…so…what was he up to…?

He took off his shoes and she held on to him while she slipped out of hers, and they started down the beach towards Santa Monica among the last of the day’s sun-seekers and die-hard surfer-dudes.

“LA wouldn’t be LA without all this,” he sighed, watching a surfer riding a little two-footer into shore.

She squeezed his hand gently, felt the return pressure and smiled. “You sure it’s not the She Crab soup?”

“That’s a Carolina thing. I never knew that, but there you go.”

“Something’s bothering you today, Ted. You want to talk about it?”

“Oh, I was just thinking, you know. I woke up this morning worried about Deb so I called you. And yeah, you talked me down. But then again, you usually do. Maybe I’m a hot-head, I don’t know…”

“You do have a temper, Ted.”

“I know. But the point is, well,” but then he stopped talking – and then he looked down, almost like he was gathering his thoughts. “I woke up this morning and it was like I looked around and here I was in this huge house but now it’s just me in there. No wife. No kids. And no grandkids. And yeah, I know four other people live there but, yeah, they’re on the payroll so that doesn’t quite count, does it?”

“Probably not.”

“I think it’s the empty bed, Dina. Waking up to an empty bed, in that empty bedroom. That house. It’s like an insinuation now, an open sore that won’t heal.”

“I know.”

“And yeah, I remember you tried to talk me out of building it, that a more open plan would have made more sense, but right then it didn’t…”

“And now it does?”

“I don’t know. I’m not a romantic, at least not in the classical sense of the word, but I think I’m realist enough to admit that a house, any house, doesn’t keep someone from loving. Or even keep out all the prying eyes. Maybe that was naive…”

“Or wishful thinking?” she added.

“Or wishful thinking. Yeah. But every now and then I ask myself what impact that house has had on me. And on Debra.”

“I’m not sure you’ll ever find an answer to that question, Ted. It was always going to be an inward looking design – because you were turning in on yourself after Kathy passed, and even Deb was old enough to see that. And who knows, she probably even understood why you felt that way. I doubt she understood why the house is the way it is, at least not at the time, but I bet she does now.”

“That’s right. You two talk a lot, don’t you?”

“I wouldn’t say a lot, but…”

“But she trusts you, right?”

“I think so, Ted. Why? Is that so important?”

“In a way, yes.” He started walking along again, but he moved a little closer to the water’s edge, and every now and then the remnants of a wave made it far enough to cover their feet for a moment.

“In a way?”

“Well, say we were to, well, suppose, just for the sake of discussion, say we were together. She wouldn’t exactly rebel against the idea, would she?”

“Together? Like what, married?”

“Married, living together…whatever…she would accept that, right?”

“You might ask her, Ted, but I think she’d be okay with that.”

“What about you?”

“Yeah, I’d be okay with that, too,” she said, squeezing his hand again. “Have you ever ridden the ferris wheel at the pier?” she asked, looking down the beach to the Santa Monica Pier.

“You know, we never went, even when Deb was little.”

“Your mom never took you?”

“My mom was a shrink, Dina. There was no talk about amusement parks around our house.”

“Then your mom probably needs a shrink.”

“Probably, but she was always been concerned about appearances. The front lawn had to be immaculate but who cared what the kitchen looked like. Unless company was coming over, that is.”

“Ah, that explains why you’re so neat and tidy.”

“Yeah, maybe, but more than anything else I think I crave order. Everything in its place…”

“That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, Ted.”

He nodded. “I know.” He shuffled his feet through the surf a little, then he turned and looked at the setting sun. “You know, when that kid came here for William’s birthday, his brother…he asked if, no, he invited me to come along to Disneyland…and the funny thing is I think I wanted to…”

“You have been, right?”

He shook his head. “I think there was a class trip every year when I was at Harvard-Westlake, but Mom never signed off on it.”

“So…you’ve never been?”

“I’ve seen the Matterhorn from the Interstate…does that count?”

Dina sighed. “Well, that settles that. I know what we’re doing this weekend.”

“Dina…I’m not sure I know how to laugh anymore.”

She stopped in her tracks and pulled him around until they were standing face to face. “Well then, Mr. Sorensen…I think it’s high time you learned again.” And she pulled him closer still, until there was no room at all left between them.

And off in the distance they heard someone call out “Get a room!” and they both had a good laugh at that.

“The idea has merit, don’t you think?” she whispered in his ear.

“We could drive to Vegas, you know? Go to one of those wedding chapels on the strip?”

“Oh Ted, when all is said and done you really are a wild-eyed romantic!”

“What can I say? You bring out the Elvis in me…”

“What is it…a five hour drive?”

“Something like that.”

“You really want to?”

“No more empty bedrooms for me, Dina. I’ve had enough of all that.”

“Let’s drop off my car at your place,” she said.

“Our place,” he corrected in his best Bogart voice. “As in…just you and me, kid.”

They turned to walk back to their cars, still holding hands, still lost in the moment. Speaking to the silence of their need, friends for so long now that words hardly mattered. Her skin felt so good on his and that seemed to be the measure of the moment and the moment had nothing more to ask of him. They walked up to the valet parking stand and he paid their fares and then they stood in the little line there, waiting. Waiting…

“Hey, Sorensen!”

He turned to the sound of the voice like some might turn when it’s time to face the music and he almost had time to recognize the man, to put the face to the voice, before the first shot rang out. People scattered, a woman screamed, then he heard a second shot and he felt that one. ‘I’m burning,’ the little voice trapped inside said. ‘I feel hot.’ His eyes were wide open now but everything was white and that didn’t make sense.

No, nothing made sense now. ‘Why am I laying down?’

There were two more shots, then came the sirens. ‘Just like in the movies…’

“Dina?” he managed to say before the darkness came for him, but all he heard was a deafening silence beyond the gentle roar of all his yesterdays.

© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

Recommend you read the lyric to this one, preferably as you listen.

(Jon and Vangelis \\ The Friends of Mr Cairo)

Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Past, Chapter 14.3

Music spheres 1

Lot’s to ponder in our little world these days, most of it quite worrisome. Maybe nothing makes sense but it all seems to keep on happening no matter what we think or feel. I hesitate to mention this, but thanks for dropping by and spending some of your day with me. It is much appreciated.

So…these are Debra Sorensen’s forgotten songs and they always have been. Grab a cup of tea and settle in, ’cause it’s down the rabbit hole we go again, and it’ll be a bumpy ride for a while, so…hang on, because we’re gonna get wet…

(The Who \\ Go To The Mirror)

(The Beatles  \\ Fixing a Hole)

Part IV: The Music of the Spheres

Chapter 14.3

Red Mountain Road, Pitkin County, Colorado    12 April 2002

Debra Sorensen was sitting in the sun, enjoying the unexpected warmth slanting through her living room windows. There was an eight month old Golden Retriever puppy curled up on top of her thighs, and Deb gently rubbed the puppy’s soft white belly until, sure enough, the pup rolled over and stretched, probably startled out of dreams all her own – all while enjoying their mid-morning warmth together. Winter had come early and was showing no signs of leaving, and there was still more than four feet of snow in her yard, and yet another massive winter storm was expected overnight. 

Her shoulders felt tight, her neck like a hot steel rod had replaced her spine, and she knew she could never again fall back into the comforting arms of Xanax – but the temptation was always so strong…and it was always there wherever she went, an itch she could never quite reach. The pup had seemed like a good idea at the time, just like this house had, but now, after a long winter wrapped up in this stone and timber cocoon, she was tired of the short days and the oh-so-long nights and ready to go somewhere. Anywhere.

But that wasn’t really possible now, was it? And while she knew why, there was no comfort in knowing.

Because seeing people had become an overwhelming cascade of unwanted information, and after just a few days at her father’s house, the city had left her a breathless, anxious wreck. Even getting in her Porsche and running over to Gelson’s for a few things to make a sandwich left her reeling – because every soul she passed, either in passing cars on the street or while walking down an aisle in the supermarket, projected streams of relentless, undeniable emotion. 

Someone overcome with grief? She could not only see it, she soon realized she was feeling the other person’s grief. Debra soon realized she wasn’t just an empath…no, now she was like some kind of amped up vacuum cleaner, sucking up emotion everywhere she went. And while she’d always been a true empath, now there was no way to turn off the stream, no way to shut it down – without walling herself off from humanity.

She’d told her dad she wanted to move up to the mountains, maybe some place with clean air and close to someplace where she could ski in the winter and go hiking in the summer. So of course he’d called Dina Marlowe. And it happened she’d built a place just outside of Aspen back in the 90s but she never used it and yada-yada-yada. They all hopped in the Gulfstream and flew into Sardy Field, and Dina showed her around the house. She’d originally designed it for an actor – and no, she would not reveal who – but he’d had a heart attack and that was that. His widow had objected but the actor had left the house to Dina and yes, that too was that. She was, Dina hastened to add, still a rather striking looking creature and, well, she just left the rest to their imagination.

“How does five sound?” she asked.

But Ted had just smiled at her. “Sure. Why not?” he said.

And yet the sight of their emotional dance had left Debra revolted. His swirling black vortices intermingled with her purple greed and the sight had sent her fleeing to the emptiness of the road and, without knowing why she’d taken off up the road. ‘Maybe a bear will come out of nowhere and eat my fat fucking ass,’ she snarled as she walked along the gray gravelly shoulder, her brand new hiking boots kicking up tawny rivulets of dust on the side of the road. But no, after a couple hundred yards she came to a house and a happy enough looking family was out front, and just then a little girl held up a puppy and shouted at her…

“You here for the puppies!” the girl asked. Her aura was bursting with reds and greens, almost a fireworks display, and Deb pinched her eyes and tried not to stare.

“What?” Deb said at last, smiling as she took in the girl’s innocent if sparkling aura.

The girl’s mother turned and looked at Deb. “Sorry. We had an unexpected litter and we just put an ad in the paper…” Pale blue aura…so she seemed safe, for now anyway.

Deb walked down and looked at the puppies and then at the pups’ mom and dad. “They’re gorgeous,” Deb sighed, marveling at the fact that all their auras were tiny and uniformly blue. “Which one is your favorite?” Deb asked.

“This one,” the little girl said, and Deb knelt down beside the girl and rubbed the pup’s tiny chin.

“She’s really pretty. Have you given her a name yet?”

“Daisy. Isn’t that good name?”

“It sure is. And you know what? I’m buying the house just down the hill so anytime you want to come visit Daisy you can. How does that sound?”

The girl had jumped up and down at that…and Deb turned away from the intense display of joy.

…but her parents were a little sanguine about situation.

“Look,” her mother whispered to Deb, “if it doesn’t work out just bring her back. No questions asked, okay?” she said, her aura a cool, soothing blue green.

“Have you ever had a pup before?” her husband asked, and his question felt more like an interrogation. His aura flickered from maroon to gray, and Deb filed that away.

“Nope, but I always wanted one.”

The woman nodded, perhaps a little too knowingly, but then again Debra could see her reluctance, not just hear it in her voice. Her aura changed to bright lime green flecked with red, but it was a subdued display, almost trustworthy, and after Deb promised to come right back with her wallet she took off down the road, back to Dina’s house. Well, to her house, right?

And then she’d decided to stay at the house that night, no matter what. Dina took a guest room across from her father’s room, leaving Deb to sort out her things in the huge main bedroom. Dina taught her how to start a fire and how to work the appliances; she’d even made out a list of all the people in Aspen who could be counted on in a pinch, a list most notable for including not one plumber or electrician. Daisy, however, knew how to pee and set about marking the house with gusto.

And so, the very next day her father and Dina left and she watched his Gulfstream lift off and fly down the valley, turning to the left over a big red mountain and disappearing behind another wall of mountains, these kind of green, but a scraggly sort of green. And that’s when she realized she didn’t have a car, and that the nearest market was in Aspen, and that was about ten miles away.

She went inside and found a telephone book and looked under automobile – sales, and yes, there it was. A Land Rover dealer in a place called Glenwood Springs. She dialed the number and asked to speak to a salesman, and a few minutes passed before some guy named Joe picked up the line.

“I’m looking for a new Defender.”

“Yeah? Who isn’t? What are you looking for?”

“A Defender.”

“Yeah, yeah, but what kind? Three door or five? Inline six or turbo? Pickup bed or not?”

“What do you have in stock?”

“I got a three door with the inline six.”

“Uh, this might seem like a silly question, but do you deliver?”

“Excuse me?”

“And…do you take American Express?”

And three hours later she and Daisy Jane drove into Aspen in her shiny new Defender. This one was kind of slate gray with a white top, and it turned out that Daisy could pee just fine on her new seat, thank you very much.

+++++

Skiing was fun. At least she’d always thought skiing was fun, but then again…she’d never tried skiing alone. As in…by herself, because dogs weren’t allowed on the slopes, and anyway, Daisy was still too young to take up skiing.

But that had been her life in late autumn, and now it was spring. She had cabin fever. So did Daisy. And the idea of calling her dad and going home for a visit seemed a little like admitting defeat, and being in Los Angeles was asking for Trouble. Trouble – with a capital T. Yes, Trouble, because Trouble had come calling, and in the form of little .5 mg tablets. She’d started taking a smaller dose, a .25 mg tab, before heading into town to do her grocery shopping, and who knows, maybe these had worked. At least they had in the beginning. But soon enough she grew tired, then depressed, and then soon enough she was taking a .5 mg tab first thing in the morning and another one in the evening – whether or not she went into Aspen. She slept more, and the fifty pounds she gained after breaking up with William turned into a cool one hundred pounds, and that was before Christmas. Dina and her father came up to ski and after taking one look at her, Ted sent for a personal trainer from the studio to come up and take matters in hand.

The trainer, a hard bodied surfer named Stacy, had probably been a Marine drill sergeant in an earlier life, and by the time she left for LA in late March even Daisy Jane was drinking spinach and kale smoothies for breakfast. Stacy had ferreted out all Deb secret stashes of both Oreos and Xanax and after that Deb couldn’t find a doctor in Colorado willing to write her a prescription for the drug. Period. And she knew, because she’d tried them all. And a few in Utah, too.

And now she was, well, in a word – bored, as in bored out of her mind. And, yes, she was ready to spend some quality time with a someone of the opposite sex. Or even the same sex if the first option didn’t work out. But…William Taylor was…out of the question.

And that left…Henry Taggart.

So she called the studio, talked to one of her dad’s secretary and a few hours later she had a number. And, well, it had been almost four years. At least he’d remember her, right? Wouldn’t he?

She dialed the number. Her stomach started doing cartwheels. Then a few barrel rolls.

“Yello.” The voice even sounded like him.

“Henry?”

“Yo.”

“It’s me. Debra.”

“Sorensen? No shit?”

She laughed. He laughed. It felt good.

“No shit.”

“How are you?” he asked.

“Old and lonely.”

“Lonely? What happened to…? Oh, I probably don’t need to ask that one, do I? Your dad ran him off, right?”

“Pretty much.”

“Damn. I was hoping Bill would finally grow a pair and stand up to him.”

“Everyone has a price.”

“Oh, no. Now that I didn’t see coming.”

“Neither did I. And my guess is neither did Bill.”

“Geez, I’m sorry to hear that. So what’s up?”

“I think I just wanted to hear your voice, know you’re still alive.”

She heard him sigh. “Okay. Try again.”

“What do you mean, try again?”

“I’m not buyin’ it, Sorensen. If you’re gonna lie, at least make it a good one.”

“Damn. I never could fool you.”

“Okay. So…”

“Do you ski?”

“Water, or snow?”

“The white stuff.”

“Not too much these days. Bad knee. Wanna go sailing?”

“Any sharks involved this time?”

“Nope. Unless that includes me.”

“Mind of I bring a friend?”

He hesitated. “I don’t know. Hum a few bars and I’ll see if I can follow along.”

“She’s a Golden Retriever. Her name is Daisy Jane.”

“Ah, a flyin’ me back to Memphis kind of Daisy Jane?” he said, and she could feel his smile through the line.

“How did I know you’d be the only one who’d know that?”

“Because I’m the only person in the world who knows you, kiddo. I mean really deep down knows you.”

“Why do you think I called?”

“I was just wondering what took you so long?”

Vindo

Lake Union, Seattle, Washington                                                 15 April 2002

“Is this yours?” she asked when she saw the boat.

“No, it’s a dealer demonstrator but they charter her out from time to time. So, yeah, I made them an offer they couldn’t refuse and here we are.”

“She’s not like that boat in Papeete, that’s for sure.”

“The Clorox bottle? No, she’s not. Uh, you didn’t happen to bring a life vest for the pup, did you?”

“No, not many places in Aspen for those.”

“Okay, another item for the list.”

“How long did you charter her for?”

“A week. Sorry. Was that presumptuous?”

“Yes. But then again, I was hoping for two weeks.”

He nodded. And then he grinned.

“So, where we headed?”

“Once we head out, or right now?”

“Out there.”

“San Juans. Maybe Friday Harbor, then up to Victoria…assuming you brought your passport.”

“Yup.”

“Puppy chow?”

“Yup, in her suitcase.”

“I shoulda know’d it,” he said, chuckling as he helped her aboard.

+++++

Sitting in the sailboat’s pilot house after dinner, Debra told Henry about the events she’d experienced on 9-11…from falling to waking up and seeing intense auras and even the rather interesting results of her MRIs.

“So, let me get this straight?” Taggart said, “this doc actually comes right out and tells you that, quite possibly, you represent a new species, or sub-species?”

“Yup,” she sighed, gently rubbing Daisy’s belly under the light of a flickering oil lamp. “You know, it’s amazing down here, like a whole other world hiding in plain sight.”

Henry nodded. “Sailboats are weird. They’re like the opposite of a time machine.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. It’s more like they put us in touch with something we’ve lost. We move too fast these days, probably too fast for our own good, but then along comes a sailboat…moving about as fast as ketchup coming out of a bottle. Hell, some people jog faster than most of these things move.”

“Why don’t you have a boat yourself?”

“If you can’t use something almost every day there’s really no point in having it. You don’t own a sailboat, by the way. The boat owns you, and if you can’t get into that kind of relationship with a thing like that you’re probably better off with a puppy.” He smiled at Daisy, then at Debra. “You know, she’s almost as cute as you.”

“I’m not cute, Henry. I’m frumpy.”

He chuckled at that. “Been a rough two years, hasn’t it?”

“I don’t think I’ll ever get over the way Dad manipulated us.”

“Why do you think he did it?”

“Oh, I’m not sure, really. Once I thought it was because William wasn’t Jewish, but that doesn’t make sense. Not really. I thought about it a lot this year and I keep coming back to the idea he doesn’t like to see other people happy.”

Henry nodded. “I know the type.”

“Do you?”

“Yeah. They’re more of them out there than you’d think possible.”

“What makes someone like that?”

Taggart sighed, then took a sip of rum. “I don’t know. Maybe some people are born that way, while others just run up against people they’d like to trade places with, and realize that can never happen…”

“So, like jealousy?”

“Yeah, or maybe something more like envy. It’s a problem as old as mankind, and it’s one of the seven deadly sins with good reason.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, think of things like putting someone down, trying to ruin their reputation, or even finding joy in someone else’s troubles. Everyone from Aristotle to Thomas Aquinas has recognized there’s a big human tendency to do these things, to act like this, so they tried to enact rules to curb the tendency.”

“So it isn’t really a stretch to think Dad did this just to watch us suffer?”

Taggart shrugged again. “I don’t know, Deb. Maybe. Or maybe this is how he treats all people.”

“Doesn’t that sound a little like Hate?” she whispered.

“It sounds a lot like Hate, Deb, but think about all the people you pass out there on the street who walk along with a deep scowl or with a deep frown on their face. Frowns…worry like its been etched in stone by time, frowns that never go away. And I doubt those frowns are grounded in Love, ya know?”

“When I first saw Dad and that other man on the plane their auras were black, but it was worse than that, Henry. Their auras were almost alive. At one point Dad’s aura tried to reach into me, like it was looking for something…”

“Energy.”

“What?”

“It was looking for energy, at least that’s one explanation.”

“You mean you’ve heard of something like this before?”

Henry took another pull from his rum. “Oh, yeah. The Games People Play.”

“What?”

“A book I read once, The Games People Play. Eric Berne, a psychiatrist, wrote it in the 50s, I think, or maybe it was the early 60s. Something called Transactional Analysis, like Freud in a way but he looked at psychopathologies arising out of dysfunctional parent, child, or adult states of mind. Anyway, I took a social psych class and that was one of the texts. The other was this huge comic book, like 400 pages, called the Adventures of Con Man, which, like the titles suggest, lays out all the ways children learn to manipulate their environment. In essence, we learn to con each other at a very early age, and some cons are accepted by society while others aren’t.”

“That sounds cynical…”

Taggart nodded. “I’m pretty cynical. The problem is, I think we’ve all become cynical, and probably because we’ve grown tired of being conned all the time. I mean, really, look around and think about it. We live in a culture that’s absolutely defined by sets of ongoing cons, from selling stuff people don’t need to political parties that promise things we all know they have no intention of doing. Or try ‘Flying the Friendly Skies’ to the City of Brotherly Love on for size. Call it salesmanship if you want to, but we all live out our lives surrounded by an infinite variety of con artists and that’s not all that surprising because from our earliest upbringing we learn to con others to get what we want. Babies don’t usually cry from pain, do they? No, they cry because they want attention, and they want attention because they want something, something they need from someone else. Our humanity is rooted in that con artistry.”

“I was talking about my dad and you said ‘energy’; what did you mean?”

“Yeah. Ever hear of a book called The Celestine Prophecy?”

“I think so. Some kind of adventure story, wasn’t it?”

“Almost, but it builds on the same set of concepts, or in other words, people con because they want or need to steal energy from others. Take ‘drama queens’ and the ‘oh woe is me’ types, or interrogators and other bullies…because this theory says that in the end everyone is out there trying to pull energy from other people. We say things like “oh, it feeds his ego” or “that really brings me down” – but what we’re really referring to are energy states.”

“Energy states? Come on…”

“Sound far-fetched? Well, do you think ‘depression’ is an elevated energy state? Or what about feeling happy, or even being excited about something? Think those are low energy states?”

“No, not really…”

“Yeah, and that’s the problem, Deb. When someone isn’t feeling ‘up’ an easy way to get a boost is to steal someone else’s energy. To, in a sense, con them into giving you some of their own, so when someone does something that makes you feel lousy, watch how they react after they’ve pulled that off. Strutting around a little more? Becoming an even nastier bully? And think about it! All this goes back to our earliest recorded history, and the whole envy thing was such a problem it made it into the ten commandments.”

“What?”

“Yeah, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife? Covet is just another word for envy, Deb.”

“So…as far as energy goes…?”

“Those black tendrils reaching into you? My guess is you were actually observing an energy transfer of some kind.”

“Okay, that’s weird, Henry.”

“Hey, it’s just a thought, ya know. Unfortunately I took a bunch of psych classes, so weird comes naturally to me.”

“It kind of makes sense, though.”

“Maybe. But here’s the thing. You are probably in the best position of anyone in human history to validate this, because you can see this stuff in real time.”

“Yeah, okay, but what if I don’t want to?”

Taggart leaned back and smiled. “Who would, Deb? I mean, really, I’m assuming you can’t just flip a switch and turn this off, so going anywhere entails exposing your senses to all this extraneous information…”

“And now everywhere I go I’m going to realize I’m watching nonstop con artistry and there won’t be any way to shut it down, to turn it off…”

“Okay, lets change the topic a little. I’m tossing out some kind of aura right now, right?”

“Yup.”

“And?”

“Cool blue. As in laid back, no anger, just kind of mellow.”

“What about Daisy Jane?”

“Pretty much the same thing all the time with her, except when she needs to go outside or gets hungry…”

“And then what happens?”

“Oh, shit! You’re right. Her color goes from pale blue to cobalt, sometimes with little red flecks inside these spreading tendrils…”

“And where are the tendrils? What are they doing then?”

“Reaching out to me. Oh, Henry…it makes sense now.”

Henry nodded as he looked at his watch, then he sighed. “Well, we need to be up around four to make the tide at Shilshole. And that means we’ll need to make it to the locks before the heavy traffic, so we really ought to hit the hay.”

“Would you mind if Daisy and I stay with you tonight?”

“Ooh, you got to be kidding, right?”

Friday Harbor, Puget Sound, Washington                                     17 April 2002

The Vindo 49 sat on her mooring ball in the fairway between Brown Island and the village of Friday Harbor, and a little Zodiac was tied off her swim platform, adrift in the tidal stream flowing past her stern. Deb was sitting on the lowest step on the platform, her feet dangling in the water, and daisy was sitting beside her – looking intently at a sea otter swimming by. The otter rolled over on its back, revealing a clam in its shell – and the otter took a rock and began pounding on the shell until it broke the shell open. The otter ate the clam nestled inside the shell and Daisy sat up, whimpering at someone else getting something to eat and realizing that someone else wasn’t her! She sat bolt upright and barked once, causing the otter to slip under the waves and disappear.

“Care for some salmon?” Henry asked Deb as he came up the companionway.

“Sure. Is it smoked?”

“I got smoked and some sashimi.”

“Wasabi and soy?”

“You know it, Babe.”

“Any more riesling?”

“Coming up with the next load. Got bagels and cream cheese too, if that sounds good.”

“Better save that for breakfast, if that’s okay?”

“Right,” he said as he disappeared down below again. He came up with a fresh bottle and two glasses and set them out on the cockpit table, then he walked aft to the swim platform. “Okay, chow’s on,” he said. “Need a hand?”

“Yes, could you take her, please?”

“You do know she isn’t exactly a puppy anymore, right? I mean, did you see the size of those turds?”

Deb laughed. “She’s got big feet, that’s for sure.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She’ll be a big girl when she grows up.”

“Man, I hate to break it to you, but if she grows much more you’ll go broke trying to feed her…”

“So, what’s on the menu tonight?”

“I got some good cheese in that shop, some hummus and olives too.”

“Brie? – and what’s the other one?”

“Emmentaler. I wanted something firm and nutty…”

“Like you, you mean?”

“Oh, am I…firm?”

“Now I know what being saddle sore feels like.”

“Excellent. Damn! I forget the soy…”

“I’ll go down. I need to wash my hands.”

“Okay if I give Daisy some salmon?”

“I feel sorry for you if you don’t…”

“Come here, girl. Want some nice grub for a change?” Daisy sat up but she ignored Henry, and the salmon, instead looking aft to where the sea otter had been. “What is it, girl? Do you feel something out there?”

Daisy’s head tilted to one side and she sniffed the air, her eyes squinting a little as errant breezes woke up long dormant instincts, then she stood and pointed at something behind the boat. Taggart turned and looked – but even though he didn’t see a thing, he was hoping…

After they finished dinner and when the galley had been squared away, Taggart started the engine and cast free of the mooring ball, taking the Vindo outside the harbor first to the east and then south. They made their way to North Bey, just a few hundred yards north of Dinner Island, and he set the anchor in the rocky mud – just where he had last summer on his trip from Vancouver to Seattle on the new Swan. Daisy came up to him, her feathered tail swishing through the air – creating little hurricanes around his ankles – the he bent down to her level and rubbed behind her ears.

“You ready for a walk on the beach?” he said – and that was all it took. She dashed aft and literally dove into the Zodiac.

“You taking Daisy now?” Deb called up from the saloon.

“Yup. Why don’t you slip into that shorty now?”

“Now? The sun’s going down?”

“I know, but there’s someone I want you to meet.”

“In a wetsuit?”

Henry stepped into the inflatable and started the little Yamaha outboard and they puttered over to a rocky beach and Daisy hopped ashore, checking every rock and piece of driftwood for just the perfect place to pee, then she circled twice and dropped a load…

“God damn, Daisy! No more sushi for you!”

She looked crestfallen and turned away.

“Aw, sorry girl. Come here…give us a kiss. I know, I know, mine doesn’t exactly smell like a bed of roses…” They walked up and down the beach for about fifteen minutes, then Henry stepped into the Zodiac and Daisy followed without being asked. “Golly, you are such a good girl,” he said, rubbing her chin as he clipped her collar to a safety line. “Ready to go?”

The moon was coming up beyond Mount Baker and he watched Daisy watching this full moon come up and once again he wondered what kinds of instincts such sights might arouse in her? Where did these instincts reside? Inside a chemical chain on component strands of RNA? After all, she hadn’t been raised by a pack of Golden Retrievers that had somehow passed along such knowledge…no, the information was encoded in the history of the breed and only came into being when Daisy came into being. It was really kind of magical, Henry thought…

And, he wondered, what was being encoded within Debra now? What changes to the species would she engender? The ability to read people by seeing within them? How would that change us, he thought? When you could actually see someone lie to you, or when you could feel genuine love? When layers of deceit could be peeled away in a glance? Everything about us will change, won’t it? When we can read envy or greed or lust as easily as we read a newspaper…what will become of deceit? Will it simply cease to be?

But…

“What happens to us,” he mused out loud, “to people like me who can’t see the world the way she does? How will we survive in that world?”

Daisy turned and looked up at him then, and he saw the sadness in her eyes…like she had understood the nature of his question…and she knew the answers, too.

+++++

“What are we doing back here?”

“Oh, I thought you might like to go for a swim?”

“Are you nuts?” Deb cried. “That water’s like ice!”

“Yup.”

“You said you wanted me to meet someone. Who, for heaven’s sake?”

And as if right on cue the male orca slid up into the moonlight, his face a couple of yards off the Vindo’s stern.

“Oh, no…you’ve got to be kidding…”

“Nope.”

“Is that the same one from…”

“From Bora-Bora, and Catalina too, for that matter.”

“How do you know?”

“I just know,” Henry said as he slipped into the water. “Come on. I want you two to have a little chat…”

“A…what?”

“Just come on in, would you? If you stay close to him the water will be warm enough.”

She slid into the water – but Daisy wasn’t having any of it so she jumped in too – but the orca swept Deb into a kind of embrace and took off with her…leaving Henry and Daisy alone in the water, both looking at Deb as she disappeared into the far reaches of the sound.

+++++

She came back to them a few hours later. Henry took one look at her and dove back into the water, taking her from the male and pulling her over to the swim platform, then hoisting her up on deck. She seemed comatose, or at least completely out of it, as he got her into the cockpit, covering her with blankets then holding her close. She came to slowly, her movements glacial even after her eyes opened. She tried to speak but no words came so he pulled her closer still.

“Deb? Where were you? We couldn’t see you?”

She lifted her hand and pointed to the sky.

“What? What are you trying to say?”

She tried to speak again but her words seemed choked and dry, so he reached for a bottle of water and popped the top, holding the bottle to her lips as she tried to sit up. She took a tentative sip or two then coughed it all out, shaking her head slowly as her body rebelled against her surroundings.

Then her head fell back a little and she seemed confused for a moment.

“Do you know where Sagittarius is?” she whispered.

“The teapot? Yes, that’s it, right over there…” he said, pointing at the center of the Milky Way that was now just coming up over the central Cascades. “The asterism there, the teapot with the steam coming out of the spout? That’s it right there…”

She gasped once and nodded, then she spoke again: “That’s where we were, Henry. All of us. Right there.”

“All of us? Who else was there?”

“I don’t know, but there were two women there, and they were, well, they’re waiting for you.”

Henry heard the orca surface again, then he heard his blowhole open and he exhaled – just before Daisy ran for the rail and leapt into the water…

© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

(Thompson Twins \\ Hold me Now)

Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Life, Chapter 14.2

Music spheres 1

Off we go for the kettle…time for a spot of cardamom tea, if you please…

(Justin Hayward \\ And I Dreamed Last Night)

(Duran Duran  \\ Medazzaland)

Part IV: The Music of the Spheres

Chapter 14.2

Gander OCA, NAT D, Track TOBOR,  Fight Level 410          11 September 2001

Debra Sorensen squinted hard, tried physically pinching her eyes shut, desperately wanting to shut out the senses in this new world, but the more she tried to shut them away the harder it became. And just then her father leaned close and whispered in her ear…

“What is it, Deb? Does it still hurt?”

She shook her head as fingers of blackness reached into her – but the motion produced another concussive round of pressure behind her eyes, then an even more intense kaleidoscopic explosion of splintering light consumed her world. “I think I need to lie down, Daddy.”

“Carol?” her father said, snapping his fingers as he beckoned the woman. “Could you help me, please; maybe get Debra back to my bedroom?”

The flight attendant came and helped her to the little bedroom in the far aft section of the Gulfstream’s passenger cabin, then she helped Deb get settled on the bed, covering her with an ultra soft duvet. “Can I get you something?” Carol asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe a Tylenol, or maybe some water…I don’t know…?”

“I’ll be right back. Just you sit tight…”

“Okay…”

But as soon as Carol left Deb sat up and looked through the open passageway into the main cabin, and to the stranger sitting across from her father. He looked quasi-human but his form was covered by a dull, shimmering blackness…but no, that wasn’t quite right. It was almost like what she’d always imagined an aura might look like, but this thing surrounding the man was pure black, yet it wasn’t like he wasn’t radiating black. No, it was more like he was surrounded by dull black fingers, yet the blackness was attracted to him, like the man was sucking up this stuff, absorbing the goo-like substance right out of the air before spitting it back out…

Then she saw Carol walking her way and her body seemed to be surrounded by intense green and gold bands of pulsing radiation, like these bands were shooting out curly verdigris gouts of arc-like electricity, and the sight was almost too much to bare. She closed her eyes again and tried to turn away from the after-image, but the vision didn’t leave. Instead, the light lingered like towering waves breaking against a seawall, the refracted echoes bouncing off shadows inside of her mind…

“Geesh, Deb, but it looks like you’re in a lot of pain,” Carol said as she closed the door behind her, turning on a small overhead reading reading light as she sat on the edge of the little bed. “Can I see your forehead? I want to check that bandage…”

Deb closed her eyes again and rolled over on her back, and then she felt Carol lifting the bandage and looking around for a while before she pressed the tape back in place.

“Think you can sit up for me?” Carol asked. “Let’s see if you can get this down?”

“What is it?”

“Just two Tylenol and some Pellegrino. By any chance, are you hungry?”

“God no…”

“I didn’t think so. You took quite a hit, kiddo, but apparently the doctor didn’t think you had a concussion.”

“Where are we?”

“I think we just passed St. Johns, like maybe a half hour ago, anyway.”

“Newfoundland? London, right?”

“That’s right. Gordon says we have a pretty good tailwind so we should be there in about five hours. Now, let’s get those pills down and see how you feel in an hour.”

“Right. Thanks.”

“Did it feel better with the lights off?” Carol said, standing to leave.

“I think so, yes.”

“Okay…I’ll close the door, but it might be a little louder that way.”

“I’ll be alright.”

“Hit the call button if you need me,” Carol said as she smiled, then she closed the door behind her…and Deb turned on her side, looking up into the sky on the other side of the glass. Though it was only early afternoon, she closed her eyes and was soon fast asleep – a castaway on a sea of overlapping colors.

+++++

She woke with a start, felt like she was tumbling through the air and her first thought was that the airplane was about to crash…then she lifted her head and felt a little better when she saw a blackish-green landscape passing by beneath the wing. Then Carol came in and helped her out to the main cabin; she got her buckled into a seat behind her father’s then went to her jump seat beside the cockpit door.

She looked out the window again, saw the moon rising behind black, backlit clouds, and the few stars she saw seemed to be hollowed-out balls of ice falling down to a sunless sea…and she wondered again what was happening in her mind now. All the usual noises followed, the flaps extending, the landing gear coming down, then the bluish-white strobes bouncing off the runway threshold just before the little chirping sounds as the tires touched down, kissing the earth in relief. A few minutes of taxiing passed, then men and fuel trucks surrounded the jet as the airstairs came down.

She watched her father stand and recoiled in horror – because he too was surrounded by the same inrushing black aura as the evil looking man – but now she watched both of them deplane, her father not even acknowledging she was still on the airplane as he left – and Carol came back to help her stand and get ready to walk down the stairs.

“Your father is going into the city now. He asked that I help you get to the hotel and settled in.”

And then Deb only nodded as she gathered her thoughts, but she understood. Because her father’d always been like this, yet never quite so intently dismissive as he had been this summer. And in a flash she felt like a discarded prop, like something her father used from time to time, some kind of creature he trotted out in front of people he needed – if only to prove his humanity before moving on. She stood and another explosion of light wracked her brain, then she felt light-headed as she reached up to catch herself on the overhead.

“Oh no, you’re not alright,” Carol said, now clearly alarmed. “Let me go get Gordon. You…sit!”

She sat again and watched Carol walk away and she saw the same green and gold aura, only now it was flecked with blue streamers of sparkling light – then she saw Paul, the co-pilot, as he hurried aft – and his aura was intensely blue, a deep shimmering cobalt color that completely disoriented her. 

Paul saw her eyes roll back in her head and he just got to her as she started to fall…

+++++

“Where am I?” she asked.

“University College Hospital, neurological services,” some sort of – she guessed – technician said. “You’re going to feel a little pinch as I’m starting a line on the left side of your neck just now.”

“What am I doing here?”

“You lost consciousness and were brought in by emergency services. Are you an American?”

“Yes. Guilty on all counts, your honor.”

He smiled – then she saw his aura – a roiling wash of blues and golds. “What happened to you today? Do you remember anything?”

She closed her eyes and turned away from images of airliners smashing into skyscrapers, then she felt echoes of a sharp pain in her forehead before she was falling and falling and now she was laying on a cold steel gurney inside a cold gray room, then she tried to put all that into words. He listened intently, his aura a spinning whirl of intent listening and total disbelief, and then she realized: ‘He must think I’m mad as a hatter…’

“You say you saw an airliner hit the World Trade Center?” the man asked.

“Yes.”

“Where were you?”

“In my fathers jet. We were on the approach to LaGuardia at the time.”

“And then you hit your head?”

“I think I passed out first,” she whispered, “and Carol said I fell after that.”

“Carol?”

“Our flight attendant.”

“That must be nice. And these auras started after that? When you woke up from all that?”

“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but who are you?”

“Ah, sorry, Justin Holroyd. I’m one of the neurologists on floor duty tonight.”

“So, you’re a doctor?”

“Yes, again, so sorry. I should have told you that.”

“That’s okay.”

“So…what kind of aura do you see around me?”

“It’s gold next to your body, then it goes from emerald to kind of lime green – with red splotches here and there.”

“And you say it shimmers?”

“Not right now. When you came close and started to introduce yourself it changed. Like it went from nervous to calm.”

“Okay,” he said as he swabbed her neck with some sort of alcohol-smelly pad. “Here comes a pinch.”

She felt him insert the IV catheter and get it taped down, and all the while his aura changed, depending on what he was doing second to second.

“You did well, considering,” he said reassuringly. “You’re not bothered by small enclosed spaces, are you?”

“No, not really.”

“If you are we can sedate you a bit. Just let me know.”

“Excuse me, but are you nervous right now?”

“I am, yes. Can you see that?”

“I think so, yes. Why are you nervous?”

“I’m not sure. What do you see?”

“The red splotches are getting bigger now, and they’re very active.”

“Fascinating.”

“Not really. It’s actually very disconcerting.”

“Disconcerting? How so?”

“I’ve been nauseated since all this started, and it almost feels like I imagined vertigo might feel. But putting that together with all these other changes is really weird.”

She saw him writing notes then he looked up at her and smiled. “Okay, I’ll be in that little room over there. Just speak up if you feel claustrophobia coming on. This should only take a few minutes.”

+++++

She woke up inside reeling darkness. She needed to pee so bad it hurt – but when she sat up in bed the room started spinning, the kaleidoscopic pulsing started beating in her head again and she almost passed out from some sort over sensory overload. Alarms started pinging at the nurses station and several came rushing into her room – but when they saw the girl they came crashing to a stop…

“What the fuck!” one of the nurses cried. “Do you see that?”…

And everyone did, because the girl’s body was glowing brightly, and yet it appeared as if the light was coming from inside her body. Worse still, the glow was pulsing through a disjointed spectrum of colored light – from pinkish-amber one moment to blue-green the next…and it seemed as if the light was cycling between these two distinct phases of light over and over again.

“Is Dr. Holroyd still here?” the charge nurse whispered to an assistant.

“I think so. Maybe in the lounge?”

“Go…get him…quick…”

Holroyd was wiping sleep from his eyes when he walked into Deb Sorensen’s room, but after looking at her pulsing body – soon almost in a state of shock – for a moment, he rushed to her bed and grabbed her wrist…

And as soon as he touched her the pulsing light simply stopped. Completely.

“Fucking-Hell,” he muttered.

“Do you have any idea what that was?” the charge nurse said as she stepped closer to the bed.

“I have no fucking idea,” Holroyd sighed. “Was she like this when you came in?”

“Uh, excuse me,” Deb said, trying to sit up again as she spoke, “but I really need to pee?”

“Yeah?” Holroyd growled. “Well, join the club.” 

National Hospital, Queen Square, London                                             13 September 2001

Justin Holroyd was standing before a large screen, and several sections from an MRI of a human brain were on the display. A dozen neurologists and neurosurgeons were gathered around a fake wood table in a small conference room, and all were staring intently at the images on the screen.

“Just for reference, here’s an image from a normal optic tract within the brain, showing both lateral geniculate nucleus pairs, and here’s the image from Sorensen’s MRI on admission.” Using a green laser pointer, Holroyd pointed to the area of concern: “As you can see just here,” he continued, taking time to let the image sink in, “there is an additional lobe on each nucleus, bilaterally symmetrical I might add – and as I think you can readily see. Additionally, there are no tumor markers in the patient’s chemistries, not on admission and not as of this morning, and this is just an opinion but I doubt any sort of known lesion would manifest with such perfect symmetry. Additionally, there appears to be no additional vascularization around these nuclei.”

“So, what you’re telling us, Dr. Holroyd, is that we’re looking at some sort of naturally occurring structure? A mutation, perhaps?”

“We’ve performed two F-MRIs and these additional structures light up like a Christmas tree when the patient observes these so-called auras she reports experiencing when she watches people…”

“What about encephalographic studies,” one of the senior neurologists present asked.

“Yes, I’ve completed two to date. We ran a frequency domain analysis on the first run, with both linear prediction and component analysis on the second. Same conclusion, I’m afraid. Massive SNR on aura initiation, as well, almost an overload state with peak waveforms off the scale. If you get five or more people in a room with her she does in fact go into what appears to be a neuro-chemical overload of unknown etiology, and, well, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

“I dare say no one has, Holroyd,” the Head of Service stated. “Needless to say, the physical manifestations are completely without precedent, yet the implications of these visual phenomena are staggering…”

“You mentioned a mutation?” one of the surgeons asked. “What about reversion analysis and sequencing? Have you considered these?”

Holroyd sniffed once and rubbed the tip of his nose. “Indeed so, yes. I’ve asked Lucille St Cloud from Cambridge to come down for a consult.”

There were murmurs and nods of approval all around the table on hearing that.

“What about the patient?” the surgeon continued. “Is she in discomfort? What happens during these swarms?”

“She reports anxiety, almost like being overwhelmed with cascading stimuli, but otherwise she reports no pain.”

“Remarkable,” the surgeon muttered. “What about removal of the additional nuclei?”

“And what if these are normal structures?” Holroyd countered. “What might that do to…”

“Normal?” the surgeon cried. “Are you listening to yourself, Holroyd? If these structures are normal, well then, well, then she represents a new species, doesn’t she?”

And unseen by anyone in the room, a tiny blue mote pulsed once before it disappeared from the conference room.

+++++

“Dad, can we go home?”

“They still don’t know what’s causing all this, Debra…so I’m not sure we should even…”

“They aren’t going to find anything, Dad.”

“How do you know that, Debra?”

As she watched her father intently, the shimmering black swarm around him grew more opaque, almost more dense, and swirling vortices of energy seemed to appear around him, and she thought they looked a little like those vast loops of coronal matter that occasionally are spotted vaulting up from the sun’s surface, only these flared then abruptly withdrew back inside her father, and she squinted hard and turned away from the sight.

“Is it happening again?” he asked – and she thought suspiciously.

“No, it’s just a headache. I’ll be alright in a minute.” She was learning, day by day, to tune out the extraneous material in this new world, to focus on the people around her she thought she most needed to pay attention to, and she considered it was a little like her brain was trying to come to grips with an entirely new set of sensory skills. Like learning to ride a bicycle, whatever was happening to her wouldn’t come to her naturally, at least her mind hadn’t reacted like it was normal, so she was beginning to think it would just take time to come to terms with all this new stuff…

“Why do I get the feeling you’re not telling me everything?” her father added – and she watched dark vortices reach out for her…almost like the tentacles had come from inside him, the grasping claws of some kind of energy absorbing beast – and she wanted to turn away from the smooth coercion in his voice. “Deb? What’s happening? Why won’t you tell me?” A tentacle reached her and she felt her Will retreat – and she realized she was watching the physical manifestations of what amounted to a kind of psychological assault. She was supposed to trust her father, wasn’t she? So…why did she feel this way now? Had he…had he always been like this?

“Dad? Go find that doctor. Tell him I want to go home.” She watched his tentacles retreat, but she felt like he was pulling energy from her body and feeding his own as he did, and the idea was nauseating – yet she was watching it as it happened and the sensation was impossible to ignore!

“Okay, okay. I’ll see if I can find him…”

“I want to talk to him, Father,” she said, a deep force like anger emanating from within as she spoke, and she watched his tentacles wither then retreat inside his body, and for a moment his aura shifted to a deep cobalt color before the miasma of his suffocating darkness returned.

When Holroyd appeared his aura was blue-green, but when she asked to be discharged it changed to orange with dancing yellow fringes. “We still haven’t nailed down any kind of diagnosis, Debra. I think it’s too soon to talk about going home yet.” 

“Am I physically ill, doctor?”

“We’re not really sure what the issue is.” The orange shifted to red, and in an instant little sparklers of anger appeared.

“Then you have no idea if or even whether you can offer any kind of treatment? Is that about where we stand?”

The red began to shift to a deeper crimson, only now she saw black flecks appear. “I’m not sure where you’re going with this, Debra.”

“Going? I want to go home, and unless you have some kind of proof that my doing so would constitute a danger to myself or others, I’m not sure you have any right to prevent my leaving.”

His aura went from crimson to almost pure black, but almost as quickly it receded into the cool blue eddies he normally exhibited. “Yeah, well, that’s probably true, but that’s not the whole truth. You see, the thing is, well, I think you’re cute and I was kind of hoping we might, you know…”

His aura danced between cool blue and pink now. He wasn’t being disingenuous, he was being truthful…and she could actually see the transformation as it happened…

“…maybe go out to dinner once you get out of here…”

“Dr. Holroyd? Are you asking me out on a date?”

“Well, yes, I mean, if you wouldn’t mind…”

His aura went reached up into the red spectrum pretty quickly, but then fell back to the blues…

“No, I wouldn’t mind.”

“Good.”

“Good.”

“So. Do you like Indian?”

“I do if you do.”

He nodded. “So, California? Is that home?”

She nodded.

“Are you…watching me now? I mean, like my aura?”

“I can’t turn it off, Justin.”

“So, you can see…”

“I can, yes.”

“Oh, dear.”

“Yes, sorry.”

“No way to lie around you, is there?”

She shook her head slowly.

“You know what’s behind this, don’t you?” he asked.

She nodded and grinned.

“And you’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“Not yet.”

“Do you have any idea why it just started? Why you haven’t always seen the world this way?”

“No, not really, unless it had something to do with hitting me head…”

“Or seeing what you’d just seen?”

“What do you mean?”

“The airliner…all those people…”

She looked away, seeing that moment play out again, and then she saw all that human disbelief shrieking through the air before the building was enveloped in blackness. “That’s probably true,” she sighed. “Now, could you help me get dressed, please? I want to go home now.”

© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

(Sting \\ It’s Probably Me)