Gnews (25.7.21)

Bloom buddies

Back in the day, at least as the case may be concerning yours truly, the Sunday Dallas Morning News was where it was at, and while some folks went straight to the Classifieds or to the Real Estate sections, I – being an intellectual of the highest order (cough-cough) – went right to the Comics section. Or, as we called them those days – to the “funnies…”

And yeah, I’ll admit it, I went straight to Peanuts, and if Schulz was still around I’d still be reading about Chuck and Linus and Snoopy. Yet my most secret pleasure was located on or near the last page of the ‘funnies,’ and that would be Berke Breathed’s Bloom County. There are more than a few anthologies that cover Bloom County’s run, which, by and large, was limited to Ronald Reagan’s years in office, as well as Bush 41’s first year, so yeah, the 80s.

And yup, that’s the crew in the image up top. If this motley crew is unfamiliar to you, well, you have my sympathy, because the irony and caustic empathy found in Bloom County is in perilously short supply these days. I have heard that there is some sort of reboot to be found on Facebook, but as I am morally disinclined to even open a link from FB this reincarnation will remain my loss. Maybe a print anthology of the FB years will make it to a bookstore someday. And yes, I recognize the irony inherent in that last sentence and I apologize sincerely, yet my hope remains the same. It’s time to revisit Bloom County, and I hope you’ll give it a try.

First it was seat belts…now it’s vaccines…

I have tried to make the case recently that roughly 18 percent of Americans suffer from an undiagnosed schizo-affective disorder, and if you’ve been reading along you understand why. First and foremost, please understand that the APA (American Psychological Association) came up with those stats years ago, so cut me some slack, please; I ain’t just makin’ up this crap as I go, or at least I haven’t been…up to now.

But now, I feel it’s finally time to make up some shit, because I am beginning to think that a really large number of people in the United States are morons. Large – as in 50% or more of the population. Large, as in all those people who still think the Republican Party is, well, you know, somehow interested in good governance. Is that polite enough for you? Hell, everyone knows the Republican Party is all about the money these days. They worship the dollar – not some feeble-minded God, and now believe that the quest for excess wealth is somehow the defining characteristic of all morally superior men. They have become Ayn Rand fanatics, through and through. But first, let’s get some definitions out of the way.

This, from Wikipedia: “Moron” was coined in 1910 by psychologist Henry H. Goddard[4] from the Ancient Greek word μωρός (moros), which meant “dull”[5] and used to describe a person with a mental age in adulthood of between 7 and 10 on the Binet scale.[6] It was once applied to people with an IQ of 51–70, being superior in one degree to “imbecile” (IQ of 26–50) and superior in two degrees to “idiot” (IQ of 0–25). The word moron, along with others including, “idiotic”, “imbecilic”, “stupid”, and “feeble-minded“, was formerly considered a valid descriptor in the psychological community, but it is now deprecated in use by psychologists.

And let me be clear. I’m in no way stating that you can only find such high percentages of morons only in the USA. No…they are everywhere, they breed like rabbits and they all vote. When Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos say they want to get the fuck out of Dodge, what they’re really saying is they want to get away from all the morons.

Well, Texas, Florida, and Mississippi each have Republican governors, and while the case can be made that all three of these politicians is a moron, the State of Alabama has a governor that requires special mention, as she is now headed straight for the Morons Hall of Fame, otherwise known as the 2024 Republican National Convention.

Kay Ellen Ivey is a class act, a Republican through and through. Refusing to take federal funds to expand Medicaid (which provides medical insurance and other assistance to the poor), she worked hard to make sure that even the disabled making less than 200 bucks a month have to work at least a part time job to get any form of public assistance. She’s worked equally hard to speed up executions in her state while making it almost impossible for a woman to choose to have an abortion – a dichotomy I have never been able to wrap my head around. And up until late last week, Ms. Ivey was a first class peddler of vaccine disinformation, not to mention the architect of a whole bunch of laws that prohibited mask mandates and other “common sense” measures to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Well, at a presser on Friday, Governor Ivey stated that the Covid-19 pandemic is now a “pandemic of the unvaccinated,” which means what, exactly?

Well, it means that the State of Alabama has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the US, and that almost all the hospitals in the state are reaching, or have reached, their breaking point. Their ICUs are full – of Covid-19 patients. And asked why this was so, Governor Ivey said she just didn’t know. And asked what people ought to do, she said that the Citizens of the Great State of Alabama should exercise a little “common sense” – and get vaccinated.

Truly, in a sane world you just can’t make up shit like this and get away with it, but Ivey is on MsNBC and on FOX saying this stuff with a straight face. And I’m here to tell ya, ladies and germs, that this woman has exactly what it takes to be the next Republican nominee for President of the United States.

You heard it here first.

Deoxygenation

Several years ago I wrote here about PPO2 studies (also referred to as PatO2) aka: atmospheric partial pressure of oxygen, which in the realm of climate change science this is the real doom and gloom branch. The last paper I read on the subject came out on 2016 and it’s a real page turner (not) though worth reading (LOL) titled The human physiological impact of global deoxygenation. Obviously, with a title like this, this work is a complete fabrication and just one more twisted maze of clever disinformation put out by the Fake News Network – in this case The Journal of Physiological Sciences as made available through the National Institute of Health (US).

If you are a SCUBA diver you learned all about Dalton’s Law and partial pressures in your Basic Class. If you are not a SCUBA diver about all I can say is “Why not?” Anyway…the basics: the amount of oxygen in the air we breathe is roughly 20.95% (or 209,460 ppm), and if this partial pressure of oxygen in our atmosphere falls just far enough I want you to visualize one thing for me. Imagine pulling a fish from your favorite lake or river. Now, imagine this fish trying desperately to remain alive, flapping around as it tries to get enough oxygen to flow over its gills. The fish is flapping around because the partial pressure of oxygen in water is quite different from the PPO2 in air, and after a brief struggle the fish is either returned to the water before it dies or is taken home to be fried up for dinner.

Or take another example: If you travel to someplace at a very high elevation the reason you might experience “altitude sickness” is because the PPO2 is quite different at sea level than it is at, say, 14,000 feet above sea level. The good thing about this effect is that if you can remain at that altitude your body will slowly adapt to the new conditions, assuming you live long enough, that is.

Well, now, the good news. The PPO2 is falling, and greenhouse gases are the culprit, but earth’s atmosphere won’t be completely deoxygenated for approximately 3500 years. The not so good news is that the process is already well underway, and sometime in the not so distant future life at sea level will be similar to what life is like at 15,000 feet above sea level today. And, oh yes, the human fetus cannot, generally speaking, reach viable maturity under such conditions.

Well, enough of that. If you want to read the article, here it is.

The limits of growth

That’s the title of a book that’s sold more than any other – in the climate change pantheon, anyway. And the publisher, such as it is, is an organization called The Club of Rome, and if you are unfamiliar with this group you should read up on them. The original paper was, however, authored by a group of scientists at MIT – the Club of Rome simply published the work.

Now, in new work reported in today’s Guardian (Yep, it’s bleak, says expert who tested 1970s end-of-the-world prediction, by Edward Helmore, The Guardian, 25 July 2021) states that a major new study has validated much of the work in The Limits of Growth, and that civilization as we know it will collapse by 2040.

In what I would call a companion piece, after reading this essay in The Atlantic (After 11 Minutes in America, I Got Hit by the Crime Wave, by Graeme Wood, The Atlantic, 22 July 2021) I was left reeling, breathless and reeling, and in the most horrible way imaginable I was transported deep within the tortured landscapes of this song.

Y’all be careful out there, and thanks, Bill, for being there when I needed you most.

bill-the-cat

BILL THE CAT – FROM BLOOM COUNTY

 

Gnews (22.7.21)

Red Dawn

“I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

That’s what ER docs are telling Covid-19 patients who present in the hospital with the debilitating respiratory collapse that accompanies many patients. It used to be just the elderly and the immune compromised, but now the infection is showing up in middle aged patients, those in their 30s and 40s. And this despite the almost unprecedented push by President Biden to get the population vaccinated.

So? What went wrong?

Well, in a word or two, this is what went wrong”

Vaccine disinformation, part of a growing Republican dominated propaganda matrix, has characterized almost all recent opinion pieces on Fox’s evening prime-time programming. And why, you might ask, would they do this? Well, one obvious reason is that fear sells, and stoking the fires of division helps keep their base energized, and fearful.

But these vast echo chambers are killing people even with Trump out of office, and these organs of Republican propaganda are utilizing the public’s airwaves to do so. Where is the FCC in all this? Why can’t they just yank Fox’s operating permits?

Well, because our First Amendment enshrines everyone’s right to disseminate information – at least until it can be shown to a court that a challenged media enterprise is no longer operating in the public good.

And guess what? Suits are being filed, two so far this week, to shut down Fox due to their heavily biased presentation of the vaccine’s risks. Will the courts act fast enough to prevent even more carnage? And anyway, just why is Fox really doing this? What on earth is the Murdoch clans real objective here? Tear down America? If so, they’re doing a splendid job of it.

Ever since Richard Nixon stood in front of the cameras pronouncing “I am not a crook” – while most assuredly being a crook of the highest order – Republicans have embraced deceit as the best way to get and maintain power. Obviously, a situation like this can not endure.

+++++

“I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

It’s not hard to imagine climate scientists not saying something along those lines right about now.

Tipping points? What tipping points? Seen the film Climate Emergency?

Let’s see, just in case you missed it, there’s over four million acres of forest on fire in northeast Siberia, almost two hundred wildfires are torching the western U.S. – including fifty fires classified as large and not contained, and Oregon’s first 400,000 acre wildfire. Smoke from these fires has spread across North America, by the way, with nasty air quality blanketing cities from the Midwest to New England. Northern Finland is roasting, but so too is Ireland, and our air quality is plummeting, our oceans are turning to acid, while arctic permafrost is releasing gigatons of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2.

And while the American southeast is catching one storm after another, leading to epic flooding, these storms are roaming right up the Atlantic seaboard and drenching cities from North Carolina to Maine. Not to be outdone, the worst flooding in a thousand years hit southwest Germany last weekend, and now, today, more epic flooding is hitting southeast China – just one more “thousand-year” event in a year full of thousand year events. But why all the rain? Because a warming atmosphere simply holds more moisture, so when a heat dome sucks all the ground water out of the western US the jet stream comes along and pushes all that moisture to Alabama and Mississippi. It ain’t rocket science, y’all. Been predicted for 70 years, by ExxonMobil scientists.

+++++

And our billionaires are at it again! Branson and Bezos have their astronaut wings now and yeah, sure, their accomplishments are real and in a way quite praiseworthy. I mean, well, it IS an accomplishment to start from scratch and build an entire launch ecosystem that actually works, but let’s hope these efforts lead to more than a handful of joyrides for the well-to-do and their mistresses. Bezos envisions moving all of our polluting enterprises to orbit and trying to keep earth pristine, yet energy is energy and moving gigatons of heavy machinery into even a low earth orbit would require gigatons of launch energy, said exhaust getting dumped into our atmosphere. One space shuttle launch dumped almost as much crap into the atmosphere as all the world’s automobiles in a day. How many such launches can the atmosphere take before it simply ceases to function in a way that supports life here on the surface?

Or is that the missing piece of the puzzle?

Elon and his Boring Company are rapidly developing the means to bore tunnels quickly and affordably into just about any material, so is it a stretch to imagine moving Los Angeles moving under the Santa Monica Mountains as the surface becomes uninhabitable (I know, that would make for an interesting problem in earthquake resilience, ya know…)?

+++++

Not unexpectedly, life expectancy in the United States is falling like a rock, with Covid-19 a leading measure in the latest increase. But do you have any idea what the leading entry was in our latest increase? How does ‘Deaths of Despair’ sound.

Deaths of Depair. Let that one roll around in your head for a day or two – as you tune into Fox News for your daily dose of fear. What? Me worry?

strange-3

So, when does all this reach critical mass? When will Millennials and the so-called Gen-Z exercise their Second Amendment rights? When will the 99% go after the 1%?

See the problem? Time waits for no one, not even Marie Antoinette, or Tucker Carlson.

Come Alive (34.3)

come alive magma art-1.2

Come Alive is rapidly winding down now. Just this fragment and perhaps two more, maybe one if I can economize a bit.

Music? Two songs rattled around in my mind as I wrote about Henry last night. Obvious stuff, really. Try this one first, then this one.

Chapter 34.3

Henry looked out over the space station, for that was exactly what this colossal thing was, and he felt a little in awe of the sheer scale of everything he had seen. If, as Bob had told him, the station was 1500 kilometers long, he was looking at a ship that was close to a thousand miles long, and that just seemed outrageous to him. He and Pinky were in a tower near the docking platforms at one end of the station, and though the tower appeared to be hundreds of meters tall he couldn’t even begin to see the far end of the station. What was weird, however, was the spinning cylinder below.

The tower they were in was decoupled from the main body of the station and from up here the station was moving and they were standing still. Yet just a few minutes ago, while in the station and looking up at the tower, it had felt as if the station was standing still and the tower was rotating away from them. And now he and Pinky were up in the very same tower floating around in complete weightlessness – and while Henry thought the sensation was exhilarating he couldn’t get over the scale of everything up here. Had it been built here, or had Pinky and her people traveled here from…

“Man, what a blast! I could do this forever!” he said to Pinky as he somersaulted and ricocheted off a wall.

“I thought you might enjoy it up here,” she said, casually smiling at him. “This is a good place to escape the effects of our gravity, is it not?”

He caught something in the tone of her voice and reached for a handhold, but his momentum was simply too great and he bounced along the wall until he finally grabbed hold of a handhold and stopped. Then he looked at her, trying to get a read of the expression he saw on her face.

“You okay?” he asked when he came up blank.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, are you feeling alright?” The question seemed odd to her, at least to him it did – if he was reading her reaction correctly, so he pushed himself away from the wall and on a trajectory back to her.

Then the look on her face turned to one of growing alarm – as she made a quick calculation of his mass and velocity – yet she was wearing a belt that appeared to allow her to move about the space with ease. “What are you doing?” she asked as Henry approached – and as she maneuvered away from a colossal impact… 

“I wanted to talk without shouting,” he said as he sailed past her, suddenly aware that the next wall he might grab hold of was well over a hundred meters away. “Well…fuck-a-doodle-doo…” he sighed as he sailed past – as Pinky receded into the distance. “That was real fucking smart, Taggart.”

Yet Pinky sailed past him a moment later and met him at the far wall; when he arrived she helped him stop and grab a wall anchor. “You want to talk? To me?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Why?”

“I told you…”

“Ah, yes, you told me that you love me. Don’t you find such talk a little silly?”

“Silly? I haven’t heard that word in years.”

“Well then, how about impetuous?”

“Not to me. Is that what you felt? That I was being impetuous?”

“No, not really, but I have no frame of reference, Henry. We do not pair bond they way you do, and our associations are more – structured – than yours appear to be. When you tell me that you love me it is as though I understand the words, yet the importance is lost to me.”

“You don’t – love anyone?”

“Not in the way you are speaking of.”

“Well, in what way, then?”

Pinky shrugged. “I am more interested in why you felt it important to tell me this.”

“Because I do.”

“But we cannot pair bond. We cannot produce offspring. We cannot cohabitate.”

Henry laughed. “Pinky, you may not know it, but you’re describing the perfect marriage to me. Love, without all the messy complications…”

“Messy complications? Do you not mean responsibilities?”

Henry scowled and looked towards his feet. “Yeah. I guess I do.”

“So, do you feel any sense of responsibility to me…or is it for me?”

“Both maybe, but I’m not really talking about that kind of love…”

“Really? So, do you mean to say that there are different kinds of love?”

“Certainly. Like…you can love some friends and not others, or you can even love a car or a painting…”

“Truly?”

“Oh, yeah, sure. Happens all the time.”

“So, in what way do you love me?” Pinky asked.

“You’re a friend, and I started to like you as soon as I got to spend some real time with you.”

“You don’t find me…unattractive?”

“No, not at all. You’re just different, but different isn’t a bad thing.”

“I have found myself wondering, since you first said you loved me, what it would be like to love someone.”

“I take it you mean you haven’t?” Henry said, a little sympathy creeping into his voice.

“No. Never.”

“No friends, then?”

“None,” she said – matter-of-factly.

“But…you’re an empath, right? I mean, you find it easy to feel what other people are feeling?”

“To a degree, yes, that is true.”

“Have you ever had sexual relations with anyone?”

“No, never,” she said again, and very matter-of factly – again, and yet completely without embarrassment.

“How do you reproduce?”

“You would call the process…artificial.”

“No shit. What a drag.”

“A drag?”

“Yeah. You know…a bummer.”

Pinky shrugged. “Sorry, you’ve lost me.”

Henry shrugged. “I guess, to me anyway, it feels like you’d be missing out on something important by not experiencing something so elemental as love.”

She nodded. “Perhaps because physical interactions are no longer of interest to us, or even what you would call a biological imperative. Also, have you ever considered just how much violence is associated with such acts?”

“Of course, but I think you’re missing a bigger point here.”

“And that is?” Pinky sighed.

“Why would love produce such a wild variety of calamitous reactions unless it was a pretty big deal…?”

She turned and looked at him, something like an alluring smile growing on her fine-featured face. “Henry Taggart?” she whispered.

“Yes?”

“I have a vagina. Could you show me this thing?”

Henry’s eyes started the whole semaphore thing again, and when he realized what he was doing he wondered if he was sending out an S.O.S., but then he saw something in her eyes that hit him in just the right place. Something vaguely human, and something truly lovely.

He nodded, and she came to him.

+++++

The Old Man and the Young Boy stood on the quay, looking at Rolf as he walked over to the boarding gate.

“Can I help you?” Rolf asked.

“Is Henry here?” the Young Boy said.

“No,” Rolf sighed. “Did you know him well?”

“Has something happened to him?” the Old Man in the Cape said.

And while he really didn’t understand why, Rolf felt ill-at-ease with the expression on the Young Boy’s face – as if there was something almost malevolent in the way he was looking around the deck of the boat. “He passed away yesterday,” Rolf said, still not taking his eyes off the Young Boy. 

“Oh?” the Old Man replied. “I’m so sorry to hear that…”

Now, as Rolf looked at the boy, he felt an overwhelming impulse to flee – or to fight.

“…We had only recently met, and we had a ripping good conversation a few days ago…”

And just then the Young Boy turned and looked right into Rolf’s eyes, and the sensation of evil he felt became palpable…

“…and I was hoping to continue our talk,” the Old Man concluded.

Rolf shifted his gaze and realized Tracy was standing beside him now, and again, without quite understanding why, he felt more at-ease.

“I’ve seen you before, haven’t I?” Tracy said to the Young Boy.

And now the Young Boy’s eyes drifted to Tracy’s, and a soul crushing smile drifted across his face. “I think you know the answer to that question, Tracy,” the Young Boy hissed –

And again, without knowing why or even understanding the feelings flooding through his mind, Rolf launched himself from Time Bandit’s deck, and he realized his intent was to attack the Young Boy with all his might.

Yet before he could cross the space between them, the Young Boy simply disappeared and Rolf careened onto the snow covered grass.

The Old Man held up his Cane, then apparently had second thoughts before he too disappeared, and Tracy came to him, helped Rolf to his feet.

“Aren’t those the people that shot you?” Rolf asked.

“I’m not sure, Rolf. I think so, but the last thing I remember seeing was a police officer drawing his pistol and taking aim…”

“At me.”

Tracy nodded. “Yes. At you.”

“And you pushed me out of the way. The bullets hit you.”

She pulled the boy close and held him tight, running her fingers through his hair.

“We should leave now,” Rolf said, his voice trembling.

“I don’t think that will matter, Rolf. I think they’ll be able to find us no matter where we go.”

“So what do we do now?”

“We finish reading Henry’s notebooks, Rolf. All of them. Everything he knew is in those things, and everything he thought we’d need to take them on is in there, too.”

He turned and faced her. “You’re not sick, are you? I mean, you’re not going to leave me too, are you?”

“No, I’m not sick, Rolf, and we’re going to get through this. You and me, together.”

“And Anton…right?”

“Yes. And Anton will be with us, too.”

Rolf nodded and was still holding on tight…when Dina walked up and out of the companionway. She saw Tracy and her grandson standing together in the snow and she cursed the day Henry Taggart had drifted into her life.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Gnews (7.17.21)

CCTanker

Oh, what a week. What a world we’re living in. Could it possibly be any more fun?

A little NightMusic, perhaps? Ooh yeah, baby…listen to the music.

Here in America (or is it Amerika these days?) revelations over the past couple of days and nights concerning our illustrious ex-president’s penchant for all things Hitler have come roaring back into the light of day, all of which begs a simple question. Hasn’t all this has been “out there” for years, decades even, and if so, please, what’s the big deal? So okay, yeah, Trump kept Mein Kampf on his bedside table, along with a book of Hitler’s Collected Speeches, because, you know, every aspiring dictator needs a little inspiration before hitting the sack. Again, so what? The pundit class seems to be falling all over itself concerning these revelations, with all its various practitioners rushing about in breathless angst while relating “how close we came to a coup!”

Really? Well, pardon my French, but WTF! That is SO ‘five years ago…’

Anyone with half a brain (and yes, I know, this almost entirely precludes anyone in California born after 1990) could see dozens of emerging parallels between Weimar and the Obama years on the one hand, and Trump’s ascendence as an echo of Hitler’s rise. So, yeah, Santayana’s Maxim applies and we were doomed to repeat our past from the get-go. Doomed by ignorance and a stultifying political malaise much worse than anything Jimmy Carter ever bemoaned, but let’s not digress that far. Not yet, anyway.

A brief sidebar here. Have you ever watched Jay Leno walking around the San Fernando Valley asking mallrats basic US Citizenship questions? Instructive, to say the least. Ask a college student which came first, the War in Vietnam or the Civil War? Fail. Hold up a map and ask a housewife to point out Europe? Fail. Watch a few of these and a general sense of helplessness falls over you, and soon the experience feels like watching a python devouring a small fawn…you don’t want to watch but you can’t turn away, either. Until its too late.

Bloom buddies

And so now, here we are. Neo-fascism ascendant everywhere. The western one third of North America is on fire, while water reservoirs are at record low levels and power grids have been stretched to the breaking point, and often beyond. Yet New England, and even New Jack City, appear to be drowning, victims of the same sort of record floods that have been plaguing the Southeast United States for almost a month. Oh, and please, just ignore that hurricane that rolled through one month early…

So all the Neo-fascist climate change deniers are having a tough time denying things these days, but that sure won’t stop them from trying. Just turn on Fox News and cringe for yourself. But see, the thing is, this whole “hot weather thing” is happening elsewhere. Like Lapland (that’s in northern Finland, Valley Girl, and not that new strip joint over on Sepulveda Blvd.), and even in Siberia, where hundreds of thousands of acres of coniferous forest and arctic permafrost are on fire. Or talk to people in southwest Germany about rain and flooding this weekend and you’ll probably learn a thing or two about climate change denialism. And gee, just for grins, did you see the one about the Gulf of Mexico being on fire? I mean, really, can it get more fun than that? Oceans on fire? Whoddathunkit?

Sure it can get more fun, because it seems we have an endless supply of populist neo-fascists out there just waiting in the wings to supply us with endless mirth and merriment. From Brexiteers in the UK to AfD lurkers in Germany, our MAGAesque brethren are lining up everywhere to provide us one and all with more good times than any of us can handle. A van-load of heavily armed pranksters headed to Boston for the 4th of July gets stopped – accidentally – by troopers and they scatter into the woods, while another group of merry marauders gets arrested before they can plant pipe bombs at Democratic Party Headquarters in California. The MAGA faithful have been sending death threats to anyone who hasn’t fallen in line and preached the Gospel According to Trump, so surely you aren’t surprised when…?

A lot of breathless reporting on the left assumes that right wing media pundits are simple grifters, but I’m not so sure. Voices on the right are a little too strident and, to me, anyway, acting like veritable models of singleminded purposefulness to be a chorus line of simpleminded hucksters. Something just feels a little too “off” right now. Like the left is being used and they aren’t even aware of it. Yet.

So, think about it – the name of the game is chess. You got to look not one or two moves ahead, but ten or twelve. You’ve got to be able to see beyond the horizon, and while an understanding of the past is certainly a necessary precondition to succeeding at this game, to win you really need to be able to ignore the past. To understand the lessons of the past, but to not let those lessons keep you from seeing what’s happening right under your nose.

So, what happens if Trump finds himself indicted and doing the perp walk into a federal pen out in Kansas? Trump, in an orange jumpsuit, if you will.

Sound good? Too good to be true?

Well, ever hear of the Horst Wessel Song? Or Hitler’s arrest and incarceration? How Hitler monetized and radicalized huge segments of the German population as a result of his conviction and incarceration? If you are inclined to see Trump’s arrest as the end of this affair, you just ain’t looking far enough ahead. You ain’t paying attention to the music in the background. You know, the line that goes “all for freedom and for pleasure,
nothing ever lasts forever…”

Ever since the French Revolution, every time liberals have gotten a little taste of power they’ve soon splintered, breaking up into factions that ultimately went to war with one another. They’ve lost sight of their objectives in the process, in the end dooming their efforts – and the cause they’ve claimed to best represent. Right now, today, a Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, is headed to a fundraiser given to him by his Republican opponents down in Texas. The reasons why are a lesson worth learning, because they illustrate the failure of liberal policymakers generally over the past 240 years, but the last time liberals stuck together and got the job done was in 1776, in Philadelphia. Without the bomb, maybe Truman would’ve lost his way, but who knows…?

And yet, amidst all this clatter I recently heard a voice. “Buildings don’t collapse like that! This is America!”

Stay tuned. More to come.

Bro love

Come Alive (34.2)

come alive magma art-1.2

A little music, perhaps? Beware of…?

Chapter 34.2

Rupert was deep into The Godfather, Part III, his eyes glued to Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone as he held onto Mary, his dying daughter – Michael’s silent howl of pure anguish a furious echo of all the infidelity and murder he has just celebrated inside Palermo’s Teatro Massimo. Maybe, Henry thought, Rupert was unaware of the converging arcs Coppola had presented in the final moments of his trilogy; if so…too bad. He watched the coda with an eye on Rupert’s reaction, with Michael sitting in a chair and passing away in utter loneliness, and again he wondered if Rupert made the connection – to Don Vito Corleone’s passing in the quiet loneliness of the garden in the backyard of his home. If so, Rupert gave no outward sign…he simply picked up the remote and turned the television off before the credits began rolling.

“You know, that’s the first time I’ve seen Part III,” Rupert said.

“Really?”

“Yeah. You know, the first one made sense to me. Even the second I could see, well, I don’t know, maybe what the writers were trying to get at. But not this one.”

“Oh?”

“Well, yeah, I mean the point of the first story is to establish the hierarchy of the Family in Sicilian life, and how that structure spread to Little Italy…you know, after the whole Ellis Island thing. To me the point of the whole thing is when Michael tells Kay she’s being naive, you know? That the Family is just another form of government, I guess, with a system of justice all its own. What more is there to say, I guess? To me, Part II was almost unnecessary.”

Henry nodded. “Ever read Buddenbrooks?”

“Budden-who?”

Henry shrugged. “Another novel about the decline of a family. A patrician merchant-banking family in Lübeck, Germany. A lot of stories like The Godfather and Buddenbrooks focus on the path of a family’s decline, usually as a metaphor of civilizational or cultural decay or collapse.”

“And you think that’s what’s going on in The Godfather?”

Henry nodded. “Yup.”

“What about your family, Henry? You never talk about them much…”

“Not a whole lot to say, Rupert. I’m the end of the line, which – as metaphors go – pretty much sums up this point in time…for me, at least.”

“No cousins, aunts or uncles or that kind of thing?”

“Oh, there might be someone in France, but if so they’re a complete unknown – at least as far as I know.”

“France? What’s the connection?”

“Oh, the usual, almost a cliché. My dad flew B-17s in the war. His aircraft got shot up pretty bad but he nursed it back to French airspace; he was the last to bail-out and resistance fighters picked him up and hid him for a while. He met my mom then and went back after the war and found her, and that was that.”

“Jesus, Henry! And you haven’t kept in touch with all that family?”

“My mom was an orphan, Rupert. The story she passed on, that she lived with, was that her dad was a physician and her mom a nurse. She had no trouble getting into med school, by the by. Guess that was in her DNA too,.”

“Too? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“She was dutiful, a good mom I guess you could say, but all I remember is she was never around when I needed her. Always at the hospital, nights, weekends. I have to struggle to remember her, ya know?”

“Your dad didn’t have family anywhere?”

“Nope. Only child, no known relatives, so I am what I am…the end of the line.”

Rupert sighed. “You know, I might as well be. My son is little more than a proverbial dilettante – like right out of the Old Testament, so I’m pretty much guaranteed there are no kids in my future. That’s the end of my line, too, I suppose?”

Henry shrugged. “You never can tell, Rupert. Anyway…you look like you’re feeling a little better today.”

“I am. A lot better, actually. Do you know what happened?”

“What happened? What do you mean?”

“Well, weren’t they having trouble coming up with some kind of treatment?”

Henry nodded. “Yeah, well, turns out they’ve been having trouble synthesizing certain types of proteins they needed to work out a treatment. Another scientist who’s been studying us told them where they could find a supply of the stuff…”

“Which is?” Rupert asked.

“Orcas.”

“No kidding?”

“Yup. Pinky and I went back to Friday Harbor and harvested some. Brought it back and here you are, feeling fit as a fiddle.”

“You…harvested some? Just what exactly does that mean…you harvested some…what?”

“It’s a liver protein found in their digestive system, in their bile, gall bladders, that kind of shit.”

“So, you mean you killed an orca?”

“No, no, not at all. Remember the one I swam with off the back of the Swan, that night we were anchored south of Friday Harbor, in North Bay?”

“You mean…you found the same whale?”

“Not exactly. Pinky asked him to meet us there.”

Rupert shook his head. “Shit, man, you gotta stop pullin’ my leg like…”

“Yeah? Well, anyway, she made me ask him, ya know, for permission to give it an injection, and that made him sick. One of the Blues with me, a guy called Bob, collected the specimens and we brought it back to their lab.”

“Wait one. You’re sayin’ you asked this whale for permission?”

“Yup?”

“So…now you can talk to whales?”

“Not whales in general, but to this pod of orcas, yes.”

“Taggart…you’re so full of shit your eyes are turning brown.”

“Well guess what, Rupert…you’re alive right now. And here’s another news flash for you… without that whale’s help you’d be in an urn over your son’s fireplace.”

“You’re serious, aren’t you?”

Henry nodded. “Yup. As a heart attack.”

“You’ll pardon me if I don’t believe you?”

“No skin off my nose, Rupert. I know the score, I know what happened, because I was there, and I saw it go down. And you weren’t, which is fun, ’cause basically whale vomit saved our asses.”

Rupert turned away and thought about that for a few minutes, then he turned back to Henry. “So…this cure? It works – in general, I take it?”

“Yup, they’ve already started distributing this new protein via domestic water supplies in Siberia and northeast China. Pinky thinks within a few years the mutation will burn itself out.”

“So…end of problem?”

“Probably. But not for us.”

“The radiation exposure? Alpha particles?”

“Yup. There’s nothing Pinky and her team can do about that.”

Rupert sighed. “You said ‘probably?’ What the hell does that mean?”

“It means there are some bad apples out there, Rupert. Other – beings – that aren’t so benevolent where things like us are concerned.”

“You mean…beings other than Pinky’s people?”

“Yup.”

“Henry, you’ll excuse the fuck out of me, but all this is getting a little…”

“Complicated, Rupert, is the word you’re looking for.”

“Not really, but it’ll do…for now.”

+++++

“If I make a big enough scene they won’t let me on the airplane,” Edith snarled – just after the Air France announcer made the final call for boarding the flight to LAX.

Mike looked at her, taking the measure of the moment, before he spoke. “You know, I don’t know you from Adam but I’m here right now because this is something Henry asked me to do. And guess what? Here you are claiming to be one of Henry’s closest friends yet you’ve been acting like anything but…so tell me? Just what am I supposed to make of someone like you?”

“Frankly, I don’t care what you make of me.”

“Okay. Fair enough. So, let me be equally clear. If you fuck this up, if you make a scene or make a run for it, let me tell you what I’m going to do…”

“Again,” Edith growled, “I don’t give a flying fuck what you do…”

“Oh? Okay, well, just for the sake of clarity then, here’s what’s going to happen. We’re going to get you in a taxi and head out into the countryside, and in a few weeks the police will find your body face down in a ditch somewhere out there. Got it? We clear enough for a flying fuck, maybe?”

Edith looked at this Captain Lacy for a moment, then she pulled out her boarding pass and walked to the gate.

Anton didn’t know what to think right about then, not after his own less than friendly encounter with Mike’s friends in the local intelligence services, so he walked along quietly and boarded the flight, not quite sure if this was the right thing to do, or not.… 

‘But anyway,’ he thought, ‘I’ve never been to America, and California has always like a kind of dream to me.’ Then he thought of Disneyland and smiled as he walked out the Jetway.

+++++

Pinky came in their room with several Blues and a Green. Henry thought she looked a little upset.

“Hey!” Henry said, with a little more enthusiasm than he felt. “It’s the Mod Squad! What’s up, guys?”

The Blue called Bob came closer and spoke first. “Protein synthesis is complicated but our distribution models are accurate, yet simulations indicate that we will simply slow progression of the mutagen…by perhaps two hundred years.”

“Okay. So…maybe we’ll teach the horse to sing by then.”

“What?” Bob cried, bug-eyed again. Pinky leaned over and whispered in Bob’s ear, and he nodded understanding. “Oh, really? Okay,” he said.

“Well, Bob, you look like you just took a bite out of a shit sandwich, so why don’t you tell us the good news now.”

Bob looked at Pinky – who simply shrugged – before he resumed. “We estimate the development of fatal tumors within two years.”

Rupert looked at Bob when he heard that: “Come again?”

“Three years,” Bob repeated. “You have a life expectancy of two years before onset, so a normative life span of, again, possibly three years. Our modeling indicates a 98 percent certainty for that figure, and a less than one percent chance of longer duration. I am sorry.”

Henry Taggart looked at Bob, then at Pinky, his eyes blinking like semaphores. “Well fuck me in the ass,” he said at last, perhaps a bit more merrily than he felt. “Ain’t you full of all kinds of good news this morning?”

“This is good news?” Bob asked. 

“Hell, yes, it’s good news!” Henry grinned. “That’s twenty, maybe thirty years I’m not going to have to deal with my fucking hemorrhoids – or buy Christmas cards, for that matter! Hallelujah Jesus!”

Rupert Collins was not, however, as amused, so he picked up the little black Sony remote and found his way back into The Godfather, Part I – and there he disappeared inside the snuggly warmth of the moral relativism it offered.

+++++

Rolf watched Anton and Mike escort Edith away from Time Bandits from behind the wheel, sitting in the cockpit while his grandmother cleared away the remains of the day down in the galley. Tracy had kept to herself most of the day, yet everyone had noticed how out of it she seemed. She’d lost Henry, and while that obviously had a lot to do with her growing funk there was more to it than that, and even Rolf could see that much – despite his youth.

The chartplotter started chirping, and because Henry’s phone was still synced to it Rolf wasn’t too surprised to see it was Henry’s phone ringing. Not knowing what else to do, he leaned over and answered the call…

 “Hello?” Rolf said, yet the first thing he heard was music playing in the background.

“Yes. Hello. Is Henry there?”

“No, he’s not. May I ask who’s calling, please?” 

“Is this Rolf?”

“Yes it is. And you are?”

“An old friend. Rupert Collins, over in America. I just wanted to wish Henry a Merry Christmas.”

“I see.”

“Tell me, Rolf, is he gone?”

“He passed last night, sir.”

“Yes. I think I knew that. Some kind of disturbance while I was asleep last night. Are you doing alright, young man?”

“Yessir. Fine.”

“Well okay. I’m sure you have a lot on your mind, but Henry and I became somewhat close over the last few years and I was just hoping to speak to him one more time.”

“I understand, sir.”

“There’s a lesson there, son. Don’t put the important things off, because time gets away from us in the end. We leave too many things undone, and important things left unsaid.”

“Yessir.”

“Well, goodbye Rolf. Take care.”

“Yessir. Goodbye to you as well.”

He broke the connection, but Rolf smiled when he finally recognized the music he’d heard playing in the background. Henry’s old friend had been watching The Godfather – and he thought that was a strange film to watch on Christmas Day. And it was then that he saw an Old Man in a Cape, along with a boy, walking up to the boat. The Old Man had a very strange looking cane, too…

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Gnews 12.7.21

Trump finger

You know, once upon a time the world was a simpler place, then it was like there was this colossal rip in the space-time continuum and out popped Trump – and the world just hasn’t been the same since. Hell, it’s not even his fault, not really. He is what he is and it’s not like people weren’t out there warning us. You know, like Mein Kampf on his bedside table? Really? Anyway, a few hours after the election in 2016 I churned out that dismal short story I titled Blood and as a result a bunch of the stuff I’d posted here over the years, anything with even the slightest hint of political overtones, I summarily trashed. I mean, really, what was the point? I don’t do Hate. It’s a black hole, and that’s no place to dance.

But I’m still kind of wandering in that desert, like many of us, I suspect. The whole Big Lie thing has left me feeling strangely empty, almost defeated, and in an ‘inmates running the asylum’ kind of way. The election was supposed to wipe all that crap out of existence, wasn’t it? But Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

Back in 2015 I liked to posit that there is, roughly speaking, a statistic (from the American Psychological Association) that claims something like 18-19% of the population of the United States could legitimately be classified as having an undiagnosed schizo-affective disorder. So go ahead. Do the math. Roughly 330 million people in the US and let’s go with 18% (just to be nice) and what do you get? Well, 59.4 million undiagnosed schizophrenics. How many of these folks voted for Trump is anyone’s guess but as far as I’m concerned I’d say about a hundred and two percent went for him – in both ’16 and in ’20…and there you go…the inmates are making a play for the asylum. When you look at things like Q-Anon and all the unfiltered propaganda being broadcast these days, disinformation that just about any sane human being ought to be able to see through, this little statistical anomaly begins to feel a little too weird for comfort. And these polite folk want to strip voting rights from a whole bunch of people, too.

But I’m no political pundit, nor do I have any desire to be so engaged. There are already too many illiterates out there spewing nonsense, so there’s no need to add my voice to the noise. Because…all you need is love, right?

arw-4

Yeah. Yes. Awaken. An image I took of them in concert in Denver in 2016 (above), right after the election. Someone in the audience was asking Jon Anderson what he thought about things now that Trump was (then) the president-elect. In typical Anderson fashion he said the best thing would be to just “surround yourself with Love” … uh-huh, that’s what he said.

Yeah, so after four years of Trump here’s the new Jon Anderson.

I mean really…what can you say?

bill-the-cat

So, lot’s of exciting stuff about voting rights in the news these days, right? But wait…go ahead and admit it, you’re a Doobie Brothers fan, aren’t you? Everyone is, right? Well, fresh off the press this morning was a new Doobies vid on the tube, and it’s worth a watch in a timely kind of way. Another blast from the past, ya know? The truth hurts, don’t it? Because every picture tells a story. At least when you open your eyes…

But maybe things feel so weird because, well, maybe we just need to reconnect with our past, ya know? I mean, right about now the past is looking pretty damn good…what with 1.4 million acres of forests on fire out west and with temperature records falling like dominoes day after day in cities like Portland and Seattle. And 89% of Republicans still think climate change is a hoax. Just like vaccines are a government mind control plot of the new Democratic Party SS.

So what’s next? Disco, perhaps, will make a comeback?

So, does anyone remember the Bee Gees? The Crown Princes of Disco? Well, apparently the Foo Fighters remember them, and the more comfortable times of disco too, because, well, hell, you just got to click this link and go see for yourself. And mark your calendars, please, ’cause they’re releasing a new album of this stuff on the 17th.

Really, you just can’t make this shit up fast enough. Reading the news these days is called Doomscrolling. Any wonder why?

So here we are. Is reading fiction our last refuge of hope? Is that why I’m writing, and why you’re reading?

Well, if you’ve read this far why not try something new, if you haven’t already. Michael Edwards is a reader here, but he’s also putting out some interesting stories you might find worth your while, so try this link and have a look around.

I’m not sure how many of you will take to this kind of post, but the last time I posted stuff like this I got an earful. But please, spare me the Hate, ’cause I’m dancin’ as fast as I can.

Come Alive (34.1)

come alive magma art-1.2

I’ll ask ahead for a little charity in case you run across too many typos; my eyesight is well and truly compromised right now and getting a paragraph down is often a perplexing challenge. Hopefully what is making it to the page makes some sort of sense, but I make no guarantees.

Just in case you follow along with the music, here’s a little to help chart these difficult waters. And if that doesn’t float your boat, try this one. Yes, yes, I know…long live discordant chromaticism…

Chapter 34

Taggart couldn’t sleep that night. Rupert was simply in too much distress and with the door to his anxiety closet now thrown wide open, Henry lay awake wondering when the same symptoms would come calling for him. Blues and Greens were coming and going at all hours now – ‘whatever the hell makes for an hour around this goddam ship!’ he thought as he turned away from Rupert’s sloughing skin and thrashing misery once again.

But at one point, just when about a half dozen Greens were leaning over Rupert and all of them looking quite concerned, the outcome appeared to be in some doubt. Tapes were wrapped around first Rupert’s wrists, then around his own, but while Henry seemed to improve a little, Rupert appeared to be out of control, caught up inside a very ugly terminal spiral.

Then Pinky arrived. With a companion Henry had never seen before.

Maybe a bit over a meter tall, this smooth skinned creature was riding in some kind of hover-chair as it came into their room, and when Pinky took this visitor straight to Rupert’s bed Henry tried not to stare at this newcomer.

Skinny was an understatement, Henry thought, but its hideously misshapen head was gigantic beyond words, its almond shaped eyes bulging from an otherwise featureless face. And while it was obvious Pinky was communicating with the being, they must’ve been doing so telepathically because the little newcomer remained silent and, indeed, almost motionless.

Then the little guy stood – with great effort – and used a syringe of some sort to draw blood from a vein in Rupert’s neck. When the syringe was full, the little guy injected the blood into a portable analyzer pf some sort, then he sat back in his hover-chair – again, with great effort – while the machine did it’s thing.

And that was when Pinky turned and came to Henry’s bedside.

“Who’s that?” Henry asked – nonchalantly.

Pinky shrugged. “If it has a name I am unaware what it might be, let alone how to pronounce it. His group has been studying humans for about seventy years, and it was decided we should ask them to help us understand what has happened to Rupert – and you.”

“What has happened? What does that mean?”

“This chain of events was not foreseen, Henry. Rupert should not be so ill.”

“Will I? Get so sick, I mean?”

Pinky nodded. “Yes, your team feels this is now inevitable.”

“Will I…die? Is Rupert going to die?”

Pinky turned and looked at Rupert, then at the other creature, before turning back to Henry. “Rupert is very near death, Henry. You will be too, perhaps within hours.”

“I thought you said this was a slow moving mutation…”

“It was.”

“You know…I’m not so sure I like the way that sounds.”

“Neither do I, Henry.”

“What does it mean? Regarding the existing infective mutation on earth?”

Pinky shook her head. “Unknown, but no other cases have been discovered yet, so this new pathogen may well be contained to you and Rupert.”

“Gee. Lucky us.”

“I do not understand your sarcasm, Henry. Truly.”

“Oh? Well, take my word for it, Pinky – it’s an acquired taste.”

“Acquired? A pun?”

Henry smiled. “A double entendre, I think you might say, mon chéri.”

“What is it with you and France?”

“My mother was French.”

“Oh? You’ve never told me about her, and I’ve always wondered why…”

Henry shrugged. 

“You are hiding something, aren’t you, Henry?”

“What would be the point of that, my love? You know what I’m going to think long before I do.”

But then Pinky turned to the Greens standing beside Rupert’s bed – they were clustered around the small white creature’s blood analyzer talking excitedly about the results amongst themselves before one of them came to her.

“We need this protein,” the Green said, holding up the display. “Do you recognize it?”

Pinky nodded. “Yes, of course,” she said to the geneticist before she turned back to Henry.

Only now she smiled warily before she spoke: “Henry? Do you feel like taking a little trip?”

+++++

Dina cut away the clothing around Tracy’s left shoulder and quickly found the first bullet wound, a through and through wound in the muscle just above her left clavicle, and as she’d lost a fair amount of blood already Dina pronounced the need to get her to the nearest hospital “in a fucking hurry!”

And that was all Mike needed to hear. He swooped down and picked Tracy up, then carried her right up the companionway steps, Anton and Dina following close behind…until Dina stopped in mid-stride and looked at Edith.

“Will you look after my grandson? We shouldn’t be gone long…”

“Of course I will,” Edith replied, smiling through her pain. “And thank you for looking after my daughter.”

Dina turned and followed Anton and Mike out to the taxi stand, and Edith turned her attentions to the boy and his new pup…

…only now there was something very strange going on between the two…

…Rolf had been staring into the pups eyes from time to time, but now she thought it seemed as if the boy was almost imprisoned deep within the pup’s gaze…

“Rolf?” she asked. But the boy did not respond; he didn’t even blink an eye. “Rolf? Can you hear me?”

Again, no response – so she reached out to break contact, to take the pup away –

Yet as she reached across the distance the pup turned and looked at her, and then she felt her hands fall to her side and an overwhelming sleepiness come over her…and she thought she saw the dog smiling as she drifted away…

+++++

Henry was seated in a hover-chair, waiting on a platform that vaguely resembled what he thought he might find at a railway station in the U.K. or France, only there were no tracks, at least none he could discern. Pinky and Blue were flanking him, a Green was handling the controls of his chair, and when he looked around he noticed – for the first time – that this ship was a kind of city and that one helluva a lot of people lived here. There were dozens of Them standing on both sides of the platform – Blues and Greens and a sprinkling of Reds, too – but not one other Pink, and he might have wondered why if not for the fact that everyone on the platform was staring right now, at – him.

Indeed, he felt a little like a bug under a magnifying glass. Very small, and definitely very fragile. And even though Pinky was there with him they hadn’t really known one another all that long, and being separated from Collins left him feeling suddenly more than a little naked and very alone.

But of course Pinky felt that and quietly she reached out to him. It was a feeling somewhat like comfort, he thought. Maybe the way an infant feels when picked up by its mother. A warm embrace, the certainty of belonging in just these arms, and he turned and looked into her eyes.

“How do you do that?” he asked as he stared into her pinkish-amber eyes.

“I feel your need, Henry,” she said as she spread her wings a little. “I don’t want you to be afraid.”

“Do you fly?” he asked, his eyes drawn to the spreading feathers of her outer wings. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do it, you know?”

“Someday I will take you flying, Henry Taggart,” Pinky said rather matter of factly, yet his Blue quickly turned and stared at her for a moment – like he had been more than a little surprised by her words, and while Henry wasn’t sure he thought he felt wonder coming from within the creature.

“I’d like that,” he replied, and her smile made him feel alive, like within her easy countenance  – out here among the stars – he’d found a precious, secret place all his own. Then he felt an electric hum and he turned his attention to the ‘railway’ – and he could see something in the distance that just had to be a train of some sort – then all the varied dozens waiting on the platform stood back a little and seconds later a glass tube hissed to a stop in the station.

And then everyone simply stepped through the glass and found vacant seats, the Green maneuvering his chair, finding a place to park him before stepping aside to let Pinky –

– then a Blue sitting close to him saw Pinky and immediately stood and gave his seat to her, then he turned and walked away – leaving Henry to mull over Rupert’s thoughts about castes and hierarchies within this civilization…

…then their ‘train’ started moving…

But there was no discernible change he could feel, other than he could see they were moving now… They were in the lead car and he noticed there wasn’t an engineer or any kind of operator up front, only what looked like an infinite stretch of tracks disappearing in the farmland just ahead.

“How long is this ship?” he asked no one in particular, and his Blue must have thought Henry had been speaking to him so he leaned over.

“The ship?” his Blue asked in rough, heavily mangled English. “Do you mean how long in time, or as a measure of distance?”

“Distance,” Henry replied.

“About 1500 of your kilometers, I believe.”

“Shit…” Henry muttered.

“Excuse me, but are you saying you need to defecate now?”

“No. Sorry.”

“But is shit not a word for excrement?”

“It is, true enough, but it is also used to express emotions like wonder and anger.”

“Really? How odd.”

“You got that right. Say, you have a name?”

Pinky leaned over and spoke to his Blue, who nodded and smiled. “You may call me Bob, if that pleases you.”

“Works for me, Bob. By the way, my name is Henry,” Taggart said, holding out his right hand. “Nice to meet you.”

“Is it?” Bob asked. “Why?”

But Pinky ‘said’ something to Bob and he quickly held out his hand, now almost apologetically. “Yes, nice to meet you, as well,” Bob said, in suddenly pristine English.

“Good. So, 1500 kilometers, you said.”

“Yes, and approximately half of the circumference is made of a translucent material that lets in sunlight…”

“I noticed that, but as I have no way of telling time…”

Bob looked at Pinky, who just barely nodded. “Well, you see, our day is roughly thirty hours, so we felt it might upset your sense of time passing. We have your time keeping devices in storage, by the way.”

Henry smiled. “So, how fast does this train travel?”

“Train?” Bob asked.

“This…conveyance. At what speed are we moving?”

Bob shrugged, and as Henry watched his wings lurch he tried not to laugh. “I do not know.”

“Where are we going now?”

But Pinky broke in at this point. “We are going back to Earth,” she said. “We must find your friend.”

“My friend? Who’d you have in mind, Pinky?”

“You will know, but we must hurry.”

+++++

Mike came down the companionway first, leading Tracy by her uninjured arm, and he was struck by the odd pose Dina and the boy had assumed. Rigid, staring dead ahead, and with the little pup returning their intent gaze – yet almost as soon as Mike gained the cabin the pup seemed to release them, and both came to as if coming out of a light sleep.

Yet a roast goose was now on the table, dressed out with stuffing and adorned with sprigs of dried thyme. Anton’s borscht was in a covered bowl, waiting for his special ceremony, while almost all of their Christmas presents remained under the tree, just waiting to be enjoyed – but when Edith saw everything out on the table she almost fainted.

“What’s wrong?” Dina said, coming down right behind Tracy.

“I don’t know who put all this food out,” Edith cried, “but it sure wasn’t us!”

“Mom?” Tracy said, “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that goddam dog put us out like a light and that someone else was down here, putting all this food out, getting everything ready for…”

“Borscht smell good,” Anton said, his deep voice grumbling with appreciative hunger. “What that in bowl? Round things?”

“Brussel sprouts,” Mike moaned before adding. “I hate those things.”

Tracy, still under the effects of a sedative, slipped onto the settee and slid over next to her mother, who now seemed quite put upon that someone had set the table – and done so quite meticulously – while she and Rolf had been out.

“Are you sure someone was down here?” Mike said as he started looking around for signs things had been disturbed.

“How the hell should I know?” Edith hissed. “Something like flipped a switch and I was – we were – out! How long have you all been gone, anyway?”

“About four hours,” Mike said, moving aside so Anton could help Tracy aft to Henry’s old cabin, yet no one said a word when he did, not even Rolf. Tracy had been Henry’s last girlfriend, so she could lay claim to the space – if she so wanted. Yet right now she too was simply out of it…

But a few minutes later Anton and Tracy came back to the salon and he helped her sit at the table while Mike started carving the goose, and even Tracy had to admit whoever had put this meal together had done so with real care to observe all the proprieties. Besides the goose – and Anton’s borscht – there was stuffing and a large bowl of buttery Brussels sprouts covered in what looked like walnuts and cherries, and there was a large oval dish loaded with portobellos stuffed with crabmeat drizzled with Hollandaise…a real sailors Christmas feast…then Rolf noticed an envelope under his plate, and he carefully pulled it free and began to look it over. 

And everyone else around the table looked at him as he opened the envelope.

He read through the letter, then apparently had to reread the letter again – before he looked around the table.

“Well?” Dina said.

“It’s from Henry,” Rolf began. “He wanted, he wants me to read something to you after we finish eating.”

“Nonsense!” Edith barked. “Read it to us now!”

But Rolf simply folded the letter and put it back into the envelope before he asked Anton to fix him a bowl of borscht, and the old aviator smiled at that.

“This special borscht,” Anton said as he started filling bowls. “In church, um, in orthodox church believe that soul of person leaves this, um, place, in steam from bowl soup, and us get last chance to farewell, um, to say farewell as steam rises to heaven. So important to wave, to fan steam over face, to over your faces, as says goodbye.”

And everyone did – except, of course, Edith. She scowled when she received her soup, then she took her spoon and stirred the heavy broth before she took a bite. Predictably, she wrinkled her nose and pushed the bowl away, then she leaned back and looked up at the ceiling.

“It is very good, Anton,” Dina said. “Classic ingredients, perfectly prepared,” she added, and Anton smiled graciously.

“Thanks you, Dina, and thanks to Genry for new life he make, for all help. He special so many way. No word expresses empty feeling now.”

Mike began preparing plates and passing them around the table, and while everyone ate they did so in silence, and it was as though everyone was eating with one eye cast to the onrushing wall of a dark summer’s thunderstorm. 

Edith, however, stared at her daughter with growing malice in her lingering eyes.

+++++

Even Henry could make out the landscape below. Coming in from the northwest, high over the west coast of Vancouver Island, then arcing across to Sidney as Pinky’s ship zeroed in on Friday Harbor…

“Can anyone see us?” Henry asked – and Pinky shrugged. “So, where are we headed?”

“To where you first met your friend, the orca.”

“The…what? That whale?”

“Yes. That whale. You are joined now, after that night. He will be waiting for you.”

‘And you’re out of your fucking mind,’ Taggart wanted to say, but by now he was getting to the point where he knew it was better to just sit back and enjoy the show, to let the world unwind the way the world was going to unwind – because he was – finally – beginning to realize there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it.

“You don’t say,” Henry decided to say, and that caused Pinky to turn and look at him again.

“I am not sure I understand that expression. I did say, yet you say I did not say.”

Henry pulled at an earlobe and scrunched his nose as he tried not to laugh. “Kind of an old saying, not sure where it comes from, but it means something like ‘Okay, I understand.’”

“Ah. You never fail to amaze me, Henry.”

“Yeah? Well, I love you too.”

“Like that. Why do you say something like that when you know and I know it simply is not true.  You do not love me. Correct?”

“No, that is incorrect. As a matter of fact, I do love you, and quite a lot, actually.”

This seemed to shake up Bob quite a lot, too, because he cast a quick sidelong glance Pinky’s way before settling in for a long stare at Taggart.

“Why do you say such a thing?” Pinky stated, clearly not amused.

“Because love is a feeling, Pinky, and when I’m with you this is what I feel.”

Bob turned away, appeared to try to solve a few quadratic equations in his head.

“Then I do not understand love,” Pinky said.

“Neither do I,” Henry added, “but I know it when I feel it.”

“Is love like…”

“It’s like friendship, Pinky, but stronger. It’s like caring for another person, and wanting to be with them – always.”

“You think of me as a person?”

“Uh, well, I’m not sure what else I could think, Pinky. Sometimes I’m a little in awe of you, but by and large I just think of you as a friend, but a friend I really enjoy being with.”

She turned and looked at him, her head canted to the right a little.

Bob closed his eyes, hoping she did not plan on vaporizing this impertinent human.

“Clearly I do not understand you, Henry Taggart,” she sighed.

But Henry just shrugged and grinned at her. “That’s okay. Hang around me long enough and you’ll catch on.”

“Catch on?”

“Learn. To understand.”

“Ah.”

“Ah, indeed. Say, isn’t this North Bay?”

“Yes. This is where you met your friend the first time. He is waiting for you here.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I asked him to, and he said he would.”

“No shit…?”

“Are you feeling constipated, Henry?”

“Chronically. But I’ll work it out.”

“Work it out?”

“Yes, like any good mathematician, I’ll work it out with a pencil.”

Bob went bug-eyed and slithered from the cockpit.

“Ah,” Pinky said. “This is a joke, correct?”

“Correct.”

“So…when you say you love me, this too is a joke?”

“Incorrect.”

She turned to the Red piloting the ship and rattled off something telepathically as the ship settled over the water. “There are a few airplanes in the area. We must hurry.”

“Okay…what’s the plan…?”

+++++

Rolf finished reading Henry’s letter to the people gathered around the table – his Christmas letter, as he called it – and Edith was the first to bust out in tears, holding onto her bandaged ribcage as she started to cry. Dina looked down at her hands crossed on her lap, then looked at Mike Lacy. She wasn’t exactly sure what she felt about the Navy captain, but there were times she had feared him and that bothered her, yet she also saw something else in him. Something that attracted her, and Henry had known that, he had seen it developing somewhere, somehow, and he addressed a part of his letter to her – and to Mike – challenging them to explore the possibilities. To Anton, Henry simply expressed that he regretted not knowing the Russian for longer than he had, and that he had felt real friendship for the aviator. 

Rolf’s part of the letter remained a private mystery, though when he finished reading Henry’s “public” musings he stood and handed out envelopes to everyone around the table. Edith tore hers open a found a single one dollar bill inside; Anton quietly opened his and found a check for two point five million dollars. Mike opened his and smiled a little, then pocketed the check. Dina and Tracy found seven figure amounts in their envelopes, but by that point Rolf had started handing out wrapped Christmas presents.

Edith’s one present contained a key and directions to a safety deposit box in Newport Beach; she slipped these into a pocket and smiled a little, lest she give away her mounting disappointment. Anton opened his first present and Tracy looked on knowingly; the Bulgari chronograph left him speechless and almost in tears. Mike opened a similar box and found an Omega Speedmaster “Moonwatch” inside – and he did burst out in tears. Dina and Tracy opened theirs and found modest Rolex Submariners inside, and Rolf opened a box and found one for himself as well.

Then came the “gag” presents – a parade of inside jokes that Henry had hoped might break the ice a little, maybe get his friends smiling again, and he was by-and-large spot on. At least until Rolf handed Edith one last envelope.

This contained a one-way ticket that evening back to Los Angeles, and both Mike and Anton were given explicit directions to get her to the airport and to personally put her on the flight. As the only way to do so was for Mike and Anton to board the aircraft with her, they each had round trip tickets on the same flight.

Completely demoralized, Edith went to her cabin in the forepeak and began packing her suitcase; a very subdued Tracy wasn’t sure what to think of her mother’s performance that afternoon – beyond seeing her mother as seriously damaged goods – at least as far as her past with Henry was concerned. Yet she had seen anew the corroded decisions of her mother’s teen years as recounted by Henry, and as she’d had no reason to doubt his veracity she believed his version of events. The portrait Henry had revealed over the past six weeks was not flattering, so much so that by the time her mother appeared on the scene Tracy wanted very little to do with her.

Mike and Anton knew Edith not in the least, yet their take on her was grounded in Henry’s explicit directions to them. If Henry didn’t trust her, neither would they. And Edith’s narcissism  simply didn’t stand a chance when put up against Anton’s and Mike’s resolute desire to meet Henry’s expectations. Maybe the checks in their pockets demanded no less, but in truth both felt nothing more or less than a real need to be true to their friend.

With a brand new Louis Vuitton suitcase in hand, Edith was escorted off Time Bandits; she hysterically demanded that Tracy come with her once again, and – once again – Tracy brushed aside her mother’s histrionics and simply bade her farewell. There really wasn’t anything left to say to her now, as her course was set now. Henry had reset all their courses that day, she realized, and now the greatest unknown imaginable lay ahead, if they had but the courage the moment required.

She knew Rolf well enough to know what he would do now, and even Anton. But Dina and this unknown Navy captain? What would they do?

There was real danger along the route Henry had charted for them, that much she knew. Her wounded shoulder was a potent enough reminder, she understood all too well right now, but would their resolve stand up to what Henry was asking of them?

She felt Dina’s stare and did her best to ignore her, but at length she turned her gaze and met the other physician’s eyes.

“Last night…where did you go? What happened there?”

But Tracy simply shrugged and shook her head before she spoke. “Whatever happens next, Dina, it has to be your choice.”

The weight of Tracy’s words hit her like a blow to the soul, and she seemed to wither under the weight of those words. “Tell me, if you can – did you see my daughter?”

Tracy did not flinch, nor did she look away. “What does your heart tell you, Dina?”

“That you were with her. That you were with both Eva and my daughter.”

“Then follow your heart,” Tracy said, smiling. “And…Merry Christmas, Dina…”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Come Alive (33.3)

come alive magma art-1.2

Once again, I have to apologize for the time between posts; life has simply intervened once again. And with that in mind, today we jump back to Henry’s story for a brief glimpse of the way ahead, so the music for the day is a little different – a little too discordant, a little too dreamy, but perhaps the perfect soundscape to get lost inside as possibilities dawn.

Chapter 33.3

The being that Henry Taggart called Pinky walked out of the ship’s genetics facility and began the long trek back to the ship’s central command facility. This involved a fifteen minute walk to what might have passed for a railway station – in Taggart’s worldview, anyway – then her walk was followed by a half hour ride – in something similar to a train – to the far regions of the ship. She was worried now. Too many variables were being introduced, and outcomes were no longer certain.

She looked out the window by her seat, lost inside the moment. When she’d first come to earth only a handful of scientists had joined her. These new beings were of a type, she had realized initially, that needed little study. Self destructive and violent beyond reason, she had caught sight of another side of them and wanted to know more. They were at times somewhat reflective, prone to introspective bouts of self analysis, and some of them had begun reaching out. She couldn’t allow them to pass into oblivion without first coming to understand what had gone wrong with them.

Their first ship had been almost tiny, but it had been large enough to allow her team to explore the earth. When her superiors realized what was happening on this “Earth” – when the true dimensions of the problem came into sharp relief – a succession of larger ships had been dispatched until, finally, this ship and her immense crew had been detailed to assist the academic teams already at work on the surface.

Arthur C Clarke just about had the design of this ship dead to rights when he penned the Rama series of novels…at least that’s what Henry had said to Rupert Collins after their first journey out to L3 together. The ship had looked, on that first approach, like a huge cylinder, but Henry’d had no way to wrap his head around the true scale of the structure’s size, not even after they docked their Boeing built ARV at one of the dedicated ports.

They’d made their final approach to an area indicated on the ship’s main display, to one of the ‘flat’ ends of the cylinder – and only then did Taggart begin to realize how big this thing really was, and how fast it was rotating. There were 36 docking ports arrayed around the axis of rotation, and Henry had correctly assumed the structure was rotating to provide gravity – yet the entire docking structure, as well as the port indicated on his central display, wasn’t rotating – at all!

Rupert had looked at the display, then at the docking port, before nodding appreciatively. “No need to match rotation, or rotation speed, for that matter. Clever…but I’ll bet it was a bitch to get the engineering right.”

“Rupert? You got any idea how big this thing is?”

Collins had leaned forward, trying to see any two sides at once, and when he realized he simply couldn’t he began to feel a little queasy. “I don’t know, Henry. I can’t make out anything but an endless expanse of white steel down there, almost as far as I can see. I got no frame of reference…” 

“There’s the docking facility, Rupert. It’s tiny. Yet there’s room for 36 ships, ships the size of this thing…”

“But…this thing’s bigger than the Nimitz,” Collins muttered. “Hell, Henry, the end of that tin can could be fifty, maybe even sixty miles across…”

“Which makes the cylinder…?”

“Call it five hundred miles long, maybe more. Sweet mother of Jesus, Taggart! I wonder how long this thing has been parked out here?”

“Rupert…we ain’t in Kansas anymore, are we?”

“I reckon you got that one right, Henry Taggart.”

“Well, Hell, Rupert…there’s a first time for everything.”

+++++

After Dina finished taping Edith’s ribcage, she helped get her blouse back on and they walked up to the salon.

“I so sorry,” Anton said to Edith as she gasped her way onto the settee. 

Yet Edith just smiled. “Accidents do happen, Anton. It wasn’t your fault, so don’t think anymore about it.”

She was, he knew, letting him off easy, and a part of him wondered why. Still, he returned her smile and noted a new warmth in her eyes, a feeling he’d never noticed before. Was that for me, he asked the cold, dark place that remained of this oddly hollow Christmas morning. “I put on borscht now,” he resumed – now more cheerfully than he felt, moving warily back to the galley, returning to the certainty of his beets and onions and cabbage. 

Edith sat beside Rolf – and his new friend – and she marveled at how much like the other Clyde this new, very little pup looked – then she noticed Dina staring at the dog, too. ‘Now that’s an odd kind of faraway look,’ Edith thought as she looked at Dina. And was that curiosity she saw – or was her curiosity mixed with a good measure of fear? She’d noted the same skittish eyes outside of the chapel in Honfleur while they’d been standing in the falling snow – and now she couldn’t help wondering just what this woman had experienced with Henry over the summer, and why she appeared to be so upset by the arrival of this cute little pup. The pup was now sitting quietly on her grandson’s lap…gently licking the boy’s chin while staring up into the boy’s eyes…just like that was the most natural thing in the world for a little pup to do. But, she wondered, was this just any pup?

+++++

Their second trip out to L3 wasn’t as pleasant.

Both Collins and Taggart were beginning to feel the effects of the heavy radiation exposure they’d experienced on their flight from eastern Siberia in the Tunguska craft, and even though they’d only been back at the base in Washington for a few hours, they both felt impossibly ill – a heavy, prickly feeling – like his internal thermostat had been dialed up to ‘High.’ Then Pinky had appeared and completely popped their bubble…

A Blue and a Green were assigned to each of them, and a whole team of Reds in special suits manned the stricken ship and took it away – leaving several four star types fuming as they watched their new plaything disappear someplace beyond the far side of the sky. 

Henry had never seen one of their ships before, perhaps because he’d assumed all their ship’s would be just like the Boeing ARV he was used to flying…but the ship they were carried into was several times larger than anything he’d seen so far. And of course this new ship hovered just inches over the base’s runway, and made not the slightest sound doing so, but for some reason that didn’t surprise him, not in the least.

Just before moving into the main part of the ship, the Blue with Taggart helped him into some sort of decontamination chamber, then, after he dried himself off, the Green with him helped him onto a floating gurney…which was then inserted into something that looked a little like a hyperbaric chamber. Henry’s ears popped after the chamber was sealed, and then his eyes began to water like mad, but after he wiped them dry had noticed the Blue and the Green were still with him inside the chamber.

The Blue looked down at him and smiled. “We’re equalizing certain gases now so you may handle our internal atmosphere better,” the Blue said pleasantly, trying to help Henry feel somewhat less ill-at-ease.

“Pinky said something about radiation – from that ship?” Henry said, suddenly feeling unbelievably sick to his stomach, but then the Green leaned over and slipped a mask over Henry’s mouth and nose; after a few gasps of an unknown mixture of gases a deep feeling of ease settled over him, just before sleep came.

When he woke up sometime later the sticky, prickly-heat feeling was gone, and he was in a large room – with Rupert Collins in some sort of bed next to his – and Henry was struck by how terrestrial the room looked, right down to the huge Sony flat panel television on the wall.

Collins was deep into The Godfather, Part I, entranced as Michael Corleone sat at that small restaurant table with Captain McCluskey and Virgil Sollozzo, in a sort of stasis of his own as streetcars and subways rumbled by while he waited for just the right moment to shoot his family’s mortal enemies in the face…and Henry couldn’t help but question the how or the why this film had ended up playing on a television here, of all places. Was it a local favorite, he wondered, smiling at the thought? If so, what a perfect presentation of the human species at work – and at play! No wonder they were bugging out…! Collins turned away a few minutes later, when Sonny got himself obliterated at the toll booth, and the ensuing conversation was one Henry never forgot.

“They all look alike, ya know?” Rupert said.

“Who? Gangsters?”

“No. Them.”

“Them?”

“Yeah. It doesn’t matter if they’re a Pink or a Blue or whatever, their physical features are almost identical. The only differences I can see are to the coloring of their feathers, and their eye color. That’s it, Henry, but think of the implications.”

“Such as?”

“Well, for one thing they’re functionally differentiated by color, as best as I can tell, by color, and by color alone. Think about it, will you? It would be like if we decreed that all Blacks would be railway porters and only Whites could be doctors. See what I mean? No freedom of choice, so…no freedom.”

“I seem to recall we tried that once…”

“Yeah, exactly,” Collins sighed, “but if you think about it doesn’t that kind of make us more advanced?”

Henry smiled. “I guess it depends on your criteria for success, or how you define a good life.”

Collins frowned. “I don’t think so, Henry. The Blues are deferential to the Pinks, but the Greens defer to Blues. Reds seem to be on the lowest rung, or Hell, maybe the highest, because they always get the impossible jobs…”

“How have you figured all this stuff out, Rupert?”

“Well, for one thing you’ve been out for a long time…”

“What? How long?”

“No idea, Shipmate. No clock, no watch, and the ship’s rotation has got to be a helluva lot faster than earth’s so that ain’t no help at all.”

“You been out of bed? They let you walk around?”

“No way, man. I got out of the sack and tried to stand and it felt like I weighed about a ton and a half. Gravity must be higher here; it’s that or we’re sicker than shit.”

“That would explain those zero-G gurneys, wouldn’t it?” Henry said. “Have you asked anyone about some kind of caste system, anything like that?”

“Yeah. Asked my Blue. He told me to ask Pinky, who I haven’t seen since we were on the ground at the base in Washington.”

“She hasn’t been by? That’s surprising.”

“I wonder…is it, really? Pinks are the Empaths so they probably have a hard time keeping things from people like us, but Henry…if that’s the case and she’s avoiding us then they are definitely keeping some very important stuff from us.”

“How’d you get so paranoid, Rupert?”

Collins laughed at that – as he turned back to The Godfather. “Forty years, Henry. Forty years of going toe to toe with those goddamn Russians.”

Henry nodded as he looked at Michael Corleone and Apollonia Vitelli walking along a rocky path, the way ahead anything but clear, then he wondered if Pinky had ever seen Dr. Strangelove.

+++++

Dina was taking cinnamon rolls from the oven when she felt the boat rock just a little, but she recognized the motion. “Someone just came aboard,” she said to Anton as she looked at the companionway.

“Da. I feel too.” He stood and went to the steps and slid the hatch back, letting a blast of cold air into the boat as he did, then he smiled. “Captain Mike! Merry Christmas! Come down, soon we have borscht!”

“Is that what stinks?” Mike Lacy said as he started down the companionway. “Sheesh, you can smell that shit all the way out on the street…”

But then his eyes went to Rolf, and to the new pup sitting on the boy’s lap – and right then he knew. He just knew. When he turned to Dina she met his gaze defiantly, and he met the protective embrace of her barely perceptible shake of the head with a nod of his own. And he couldn’t help it. He turned away, away to hide his tears, away to plead for more time to get his emotions back in check. Away – to help the boy meet the needs of the day.

But first he turned to Dina, and he handed her a little pale blue box, accented by a single white ribbon. 

It was, she saw, from Tiffany’s, and she looked at Lacy for a moment before she took the gift, yet she did so with the grace of a gentle smile. She opened the box and found a sterling book mark fashioned rather like a totem pole, replete, she saw, with prancing orcas…and the design took her breath away. She held the piece to her heart and her eyes filled as she nodded her thanks to ‘Captain Mike,’ then she went to him and held on tight as gales of loss battered her again and again.

They had shared so many sleepless nights worrying about Taggart. Maybe it wasn’t enough, but he had developed feelings for Dina and he wanted her to know.

Then Lacy turned to Rolf. “So, I see someone brought you a pup?”

“Yes,” Rolf said, grinning, “it is Clyde again.”

Mike smiled, then he nodded. “Perfect,” he managed to say before he turned away again. 

Dina saved the day by handing him a plate loaded with cinnamon rolls. “Could you put those on the table please, Mike?”

“Sure, yeah. Did you just make these?”

She nodded, her eyes twinkling.

“Well then,” he sighed through a deep smile, “this is the best Christmas ever!”

She smiled and slid across the settee to sit next to her grandson, and Mike slid in next to Dina. “Where’s Tracy?” he asked.

Dina looked at Edith, wondered how she’d handle this – until Anton broke the ice: “She gone, but back soon.”

“What?” Edith cried. “Why didn’t you tell me, Anton! I’ve been worried sick!”

“She tell me no, Edith. Hope you forgive.”

“Where is she?” Edith asked, clearly now very agitated.

“I don’t know name of place, sorry. But she safe. No worry now, Edith. Tracy, she safe.”

And as if right on cue, the boat rocked as someone stepped on board, but a moment later Tracy came down the companionway steps – almost at a run…

Edith seemed to fall into a trance, almost in shock, as she looked at her daughter…

…who was wearing camouflaged BDUs and carrying a Glock pistol…

And when Tracy saw that everyone down here was safe she turned and pointed the Glock up the companionway – waiting for something, or someone, to come…

Then Anton noticed Tracy was bleeding – from at least one gunshot wound – and he was about to say something when he saw Tracy grow unsteady on her feet, and he stepped forward to catch her just as she began to stumble to the floor.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

The Eighty-eighth Key (60.1)

88th key cover image

So, today marks a shift in the narrative arc. While Come Alive is not yet at an end, developments in both stories will start to come to light here, as we approach the 88th key. And a short snippet today, perhaps just enough for half a cup of cardamom tea.

So, ready for some music? Well, I am if you are, so let us begin again.

Chapter 60.1

Elizabeth Bullitt walked across Harvard Yard to the T Station, to the main entry just across from the Coop. She hopped on the Red Line towards Mass Gen, but got off at MIT; there she walked to the Physics Department in Maclaurin 4 and found the office she wanted, then she looked at her wristwatch and sighed. She stepped inside and found a few students already there, waiting – she assumed – for faculty office hours to begin, so she found an empty chair in the small anteroom and sat.

Almost two hours later the last legitimate student walked out of Dr. Deborah Eisenstadt’s office; when she heard the professor call out “Next!” she stood and walked inside, then stood before a completely disheveled desk, waiting to be acknowledged. 

The woman sitting there was tiny and seemed almost owl-like, with hot, inquisitive eyes magnified by eyeglasses as thick as a Coke bottle’s under a shock of unruly chestnut colored hair. Her lab coat was coated in chalk dust and her stockings were bunched in wrinkle lines around her ankles. The poor woman was, Liz could readily see, a total dweeb – and had no idea.

“You aren’t in my seminar,” the owl said. “Who are you, and what do you want?”

“My name is Elizabeth, and I’m an undergrad at Harvard studying music theory, and I wanted to speak with you about harmonics and quantum wave theory.”

The owl’s eyes blinked rapidly now. “Oh? And tell me, just how do such things apply to music theory?”

“They don’t, at least not directly.”

The owl shrugged. “Okay?”

“I’m more interested in harmonically induced states that might enable, well, ones ability to perceive time differently.”

The owl smiled dismissively. “Indeed. How so?”

“That’s what I wanted to ask you.”

“Well, such a thing is not possible…unless of course you are talking about the sort of metabolic dyschronia that accompanies drinking too much alcohol too quickly. As you go to Harvard, I am sure you are more than qualified to discuss such states of mind…”

Liz smiled back as dismissively. “Well, what if that’s not exactly the case. I mean, what if you could literally slip back in time, as an observer only, and that you could passively observe events in the past.”

“Again, not possible. If, and I mean if such travel was possible we could only journey to the future.”

Liz nodded. “Okay…but what if I told you that you could slip back in time, and do so with almost no expenditure of energy?”

“Then I would say you are wasting my time. You might also try reaching out to the psychiatric counseling available to you through your student health services…”

“Would you like me to show you how?”

The owl’s eyes began blinking rapidly again, but now she uttered not a word.

“All I need is a piano,” Liz added. “I can prove it to you.”

Eisenstadt stood and took off her lab coat, revealing an ancient cardigan coated with even more layers of chalk dust. “Come with me,” the Nobel Laureate in Physics sighed, as she took off for the Security office.

“I’d rather you not take me to the security guard, if you don’t mind,” Liz said.

“What makes you think I am doing that?”

“Call it a hunch, Dr. Eisenstadt. Look, I need you to trust me…because I need your help, and so do a couple of friends of mine.”

“Help? What do you mean by help?”

“Trust me, okay? Now, maybe you’d better come with me…”

+++++

The leather cup on Harry’s latest prosthesis chafed against the folds of skin on the stump of his thigh, and after only ten minutes of exercise the pain was so intense he needed to stop and pull the thing off. The technician examined Harry’s skin and made notes, then he and Ida helped Callahan back into bed. She wiped sweat from his forehead and got him a glass of ice water as he cried in frustration.

“What about my piano?” Harry asked her – again – a while later. “Any word from the moving company yet?”

“We have no room for such a thing here, Harry, and until we know how well you will be able to move around it is pointless to consider buying a house just yet.”

“It’s not pointless to me, Ida.”

“It is too soon, Harry,” she said, but she could see the pain in his eyes, almost like the pain of withdrawing from a powerful narcotic, and yet she’d never once considered that music could act like that on the brain.

“Well then, I’d like to return to California, back out to the house at Sea Ranch.”

“But I’ve already told you…”

“I know what you told me, but I’d like to speak to someone from the embassy about my passport. Now, Ida! Today!”

Ida stood, her anger on full display now, and walked out of Harry’s room.

She walked to a locked door, opened the lock to her “secret office” and went inside. She dialed Colonel Goodman’s number from memory.

+++++

They took a taxi to Kirkland House, her dorm, but once there she walked with Professor Eisenstadt to the music building. One of the piano rooms was vacant and they went inside.

“You’re serious, aren’t you?” Eisenstadt said. “I mean, you really think you can do this?”

“Why don’t you wait and tell me what you think after I show you,” Liz said as she sat at an old Steinway grand. She warmed up playing a few scales, then she turned to Eisenstadt. “Sit here beside me if you like, then I need you to clear your mind, so do whatever you need to do to get that done…”

“What do you recommend?”

“Deep breathing works for me,” Liz replied. “Then I’ll need you to think about someplace in the past you’d like to see. I’ll start playing a random piece of music, and when you’re really concentrating on that place I want you to place a hand on my shoulder – then relax.”

“That’s it? We’re going to think our way back to the past? No DeLorean required? No 88 miles per hour?”

“I’m not sure what does it, professor, but I am pretty sure the music has something to do with what happens next.”

“The music? Is there a certain piece you play?”

“Clear your mind, professor. Clear your mind, then think of a place, a time…while I start to play…”

Liz began a Chopin nocturne – until she felt Eisenstadt’s hand on her shoulder – then she drifted into Schwarzwald’s Fourth, into the critical Third Movement, and inside a shimmering instant they found they were hovering above a desk in a small office, looking down at a man as he worked in fading light on a series of equations…

“Dear God-in-heaven,” Eisenstadt whispered, “is it him? Is that really Einstein?”

“You don’t have to whisper, Professor. He can’t hear us.”

“Get me out of here, immediately!” Eisenstadt cried, so Elizabeth simply stopped playing – and in the next instant they were back inside the music room in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Eisenstadt backed away from Liz like she was a leper, blinking wildly now like some kind of trapped animal looking to escape a sudden trap.

“It’s alright,” Liz reassured the woman, “just breathe easy…”

“That was Imogen Schwarzwald, was it not? Her Fourth Piano Concerto?”

“Yes.”

“How did you come to know such an obscure piece of music?”

“My Godfather – is her son.”

“What?!”

“I grew up with him, professor. After my father passed away he taught me how to play, and you could say he shaped and guided me as a musician…”

“My grandfather,” Eisenstadt sighed, now more than mystified, “worked with Imogen when she was teaching in Copenhagen…”

“I know, Professor. And I think it was Schwarzwald who discovered this doorway, when she lived and studied in Denmark.”

Eisenstadt began pacing the small room, her eyes flashing like a semaphore beating out an SOS as she circled the floor in a manic frenzy. “This friend of yours, your godfather? Is it he who is in trouble?”

Elizabeth nodded. 

“Well then, I owe it to my grandfather to help Imogen’s boy. Tell me what has happened…and leave nothing out…”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

Come Alive (33.2)

come alive im2 HR57 small

If only because the music leads the way.

Chapter 33.2

Rolf walked down the companionway steps, then he sort of screamed as he jumped back up into the cockpit. “Holy shit!” he cried out as he tried to gain his balance. “Someone has been here while we were away…”

“What?” Anton snarled as he dashed over to the companionway and disappeared below. 

“Ha!” they heard him say a moment later. “Amazing! Dina! Bring boy and come!”

When the rest of the group made it below everyone stood in the salon with their eyes and mouths wide open – because the little space had been turned into an advertisement for all the excesses of a commercialized Christmas. Merry strings of multicolored light were strung about everywhere, and now there were also literally dozens of presents under the little tree that Edith had set up on the salon table. Even the galley looked – and smelled – like a riot of Christmas-gone-wild…

Edith checked the oven and found a goose roasting away, and that took her right back to their Christmas in the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird – where she and Henry had grown so close on another Christmas Day, but then everything seemed to grind to a sudden stop when the sharp, clipped barks of a puppy wiped away every other sound inside the boat.

And then Rolf dashed to the aft cabin, to Henry’s old cabin, and he found an absolutely tiny Golden Retriever puppy bundled up on Henry’s bunk, ready and waiting to face his life ahead with a new best friend. Rolf saw the pup already had a little collar on, and that the pup’s name was, of course, Clyde.

“It little Clyde,” Anton exclaimed as he came up behind the boy, “like clone, maybe…?”

The pup sat up and made eye contact with Rolf and within seconds that first vital connection was made, then the boy picked up the pup and some serious face licking got underway…

“Anton?” he heard Dina call out. “You’d better come up here and see this.” She was back up in the cockpit, and he found her pointing at Henry’s left hand when he arrived – which was now almost frozen to the snow on the cockpit seat.

“What find, Dina?”

“Look at his hand,” she whispered.

“Oh yes, I see…he write something in snow. B-e-w-a-r-e. Beware? What this mean?”

But Dina turned and looked around at the fog, wondering who was out there watching them right now, before she turned back to Anton. “This isn’t right,” she sighed. “Something about this just reeks of being staged – for us, like it wasn’t supposed to happen this way…at least Henry didn’t plan it this way.”

“What happen not right? You know something not say?”

“No, Anton, it’s just a feeling…a hunch…but this is all wrong…I mean, who could do this? Who put out all those presents? Where did that dog come from?”

The aviator nodded, because in the end he understood what Dina was alluding to, and he knew that intuitions such as this often meant the difference between life and death. “What does this word mean, Dina?” he repeated, pointing at Henry’s last thoughts.

“It is a warning, Anton. Henry must’ve seen something, or someone, setting up all these things, and he must have wanted to warn us about them.”

Then Anton turned and looked at Henry for the longest time, yet he sighed just before he leaned over and brushed the writing in the snow away. He looked at Dina and grumbled about not worrying the boy, then without saying a word he walked down below into the warmth of this suddenly very questionable Christmas…

+++++

Anton had gathered all the ingredients to make a ‘memorial borscht’ and after he made it back down to the galley he started cleaning his vegetables and simmering his stock…until Dina came along and began making her breakfast pancakes.

“Need bigger boat,” Anton grumbled as he sliced beets. “Too many arms.”

Dina laughed and leaned her head onto Anton’s shoulder, and while his instinct was to tense up and pull away, he found he simply couldn’t – not today…today of all days. “I’m sorry,” she added, “but when I get depressed I want to cook, and the more people I have around me the more things I need to cook.”

“Me too,” Edith said as she pushed her way through the galley on her way to Henry’s cabin. “Would anyone mind if I start using Henry’s cabin now?” she sighed. “I’m SO crowded up front…!”

Anton turned and looked at Edith, his face turning red as his fury built toward a chain-reaction: “This boat boy’s now. He sleep there with new friend.”

“What?” Edith cried maliciously. “That’s ridiculous! There’s no way Henry Taggart gave this boat to a fifteen year old kid!”

“Yes. Way!” Anton growled. “I witness paper lawyer bring. I call lawyer tomorrow and they come.”

Dina turned to Edith, pure venom in her eyes now. “Don’t you dare spoil this day for Rolf. It will be hard enough as it is, so hold your tongue…”

“Or what, you old shrew,” Edith cackled. “So, you think Henry left all this to you, do you?”

“I have no idea what Henry did,” Dina sighed, “nor do I care.”

“I do,” Anton said, grinning at Edith. “You wait. You see, then go home.”

“Oh, I’ll wait alright,” Edith smiled. “And we’ll see what my lawyer has to say about all this…” she said as she waved her hands airily about, indicating that inside her little world Time Bandits was her property now, and there was not a thing anyone in the universe could do about this one simple fact of life.

Edith started to head aft – but Anton stuck out his arm and blocked her way. “You talk about these things around boy and you go to fish in river. Understand?”

There must’ve been something in his eyes, because after she turned and looked at Anton she apparently decided now was not the time to challenge him, or anyone else, for that matter. She really, she knew, had only one justification to be here, and that was because her daughter had been Henry’s last close friend.

Only – now Tracy was gone. And for how long was now anyones’ guess.

She turned and fled up the companionway steps – and promptly screamed before she started falling back down the stairs. She landed on the cabin sole, pointing at something in the cockpit while she continued to scream, and Anton knew this was no act now. He bounded up the stairs and he too came crashing back down the companionway, with Edith unable to get out of his way. He landed with a thud on top of her, and both cried out in deep pain.

Then Dina slipped up the steps and quietly looked into the cockpit, and though her first instinct was to scream she remained calm…

…with her eyes locked on two aliens. Short, whitish creatures right out of a Spielberg film, down to the huge black, almond shaped eyes – and one of them was drawing blood from a vein in Henry’s neck…

She felt Rolf coming up the steps and she pushed him back before she too inched her way back down into the salon, holding a single finger up to her lips as she shh-h’d him to silence, shaking her head in an undeniable ‘no’ motion as she gained the floor.

“What is it?” Rolf whispered.

But all she could do was shake her head and shrug. “We’ve never seen these kind before, Rolf, but they are not from here.”

“What are they doing?” Edith moaned, obviously in real pain now.

“Taking blood from Henry,” Dina whispered again, and Edith’s and Anton’s eyes went wide at that…

…then came a bright flash from the cockpit, followed by a deep thunderclap…

…and after regaining her composure Dina went back up the steps…

The creatures were gone, but so too were Henry and Clyde, and without knowing why she ran out on deck and up to the bow…

…and yes, the orca was gone, too.

“Just like none of this ever happened,” she sighed.

“Maybe we weren’t supposed to find Henry,” Rolf added as he came up to her side.

“Beware,” Anton said, looking around the marina as the sun came out. “Now know what Henry want us to watch for.”

“I’m very confused,” Edith sighed, holding her ribs and doing her best not to cry.

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Oh, wait, just one more tune to get you through your day. Adios!